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Q uiet L

ightning
sPARKLE
& bLINK
2.1
Sparkle
&
Blink
as performed on
Feb 7 11
@ supperclub

© 2010 Quiet Lightning

art + cover design by Hannah Stouffer


grandarray.com

edited by Evan Karp


evankarp.com

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Q uiet Lightning
is

a monthly submission-based reading series

with 2 stipulations

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you only get 3-8 min

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Contents
Townsend Walker
Pow Day 7

Andrew Paul Nelson


Czechislowinstononovakia 10
Now is a Verb 12

Alex Rieser
Learning to Talk 16
Sorry, Caroline Knox
17

Liana Holmberg
Surface Area 20

Charles Kruger
In Search Of 24
Soul-Mending 26
Nitty-Gritty Haiku 29

Nic Alea
4 30

Andrew O. Dugas
Sizer’s Funeral 36

Candice Novak
Strawberry Meat-Smile 38
He Reminds Me 40
Wartime Bet 42

Catherine Brady
from No Other Life 44
Sam Sax
from Hella Gay Notes from Underground
From Monstrero.s Belly 54
We Swallowed Two Time Capsules 58
From that 1970 Bomb 62
We Are Bending 64
They Left Them to Die 68
A Prehensile Fairy Tail 72
They Buried Him Alive 76
I.d.z, Eros, & Superheroe.s 80
The Burning Girls 84
A Letter from J. Edgar Hoover 88
Mime’s Last Show 92
For Hart Crane 96

Info + guide to other readings 101

Hannah Stouffer
Spirit Quest front
cover
Summer’s 7th Night back cover
Blackest Night, Dark Mountain 52
Double Battle Axe 53
Pow Day

I’m upside down. In a tree well. Hanging


by my skis like meat on a hook. This
hole around the trunk; who knows how
far down it goes.
The storm dumped, really dumped
last night.
It was going to be the ultimate in
pow days, with a blue bird sky.
Following my buddy Mark on a tree run.
We were the first guys in. Perfection was
ours. Four lines in the snow: his and
mine. Him on the right, me on the left.
He didn’t stop when I fell in. Wind
blowing, snow silent, couldn’t hear. He’ll
be back soon enough though, get me
out of this. Nothing to do but wait.
Blood’s pooling in my head,
thumping, cannons in my ears.
Sometimes loud, sometimes low.
This powder cocoon is keeping me
nice though; just right, actually. And it
smells good: turpentine-ish, Greek wine.
Aim that boda bag at me, baby.
Where the hell is Mark? Off in his
own world again. I know what he says,
No friends on a pow day til it’s all skied
out.
I can hear the snow crunching
above me. People are close. Maybe if I
shout. Weird awkward caw crawls out of
my throat. They don’t even slow down.
I know, I’ll get out of my boots, fall
all the way down, then crawl up. I reach;
7
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
grab hold of my legs at the knee, inch
further and further. Touch the top of my
boot. Feet feel like a million needle
points sticking in them. Rest. Hold.
Blood rushes out of my head. Seeing
stars in this black white hole. Got to go
further. Get to the top buckle on the
right boot.
Shit! Won’t open.
Once more. Yes!
Next, top buckle on the left boot.
Then second buckle on the right one.
Reach for the second buckle on the left
Cramp!
Fall back down in the hole, bang my
head, powder falling all around, in my
mouth, up my nose, between my head
and helmet.
Be calm. This will work out.
God, I need to pee. Why not? Ooh,
nice, warm flood down my stomach.
That’s better. Don’t drip on my face,
pleeze.
Getting hot, really hot now, got to
get this jacket off. Good. I can breathe.
I bend up toward my feet again.
Can’t feel the top of my boot. Where is
it? Should be up there. Clear the snow
off my goggles. Still can’t see.
Very quiet. Only a barely audible
scrunch as each snow flake finds its
companion.
I’ll just relax a moment, sink back
on this soft pillow. Wait for Mark.

8
Townsend Walker —–––––––––––
Czechislowinstononovakia

/-easy was a place


you were there too/

once you are no more there is no more


hurt
no stupidity no moral no end no
cataclysmic founding no cold shoulder
no lights out no cover no over no lack no
space btw no smell no love no locust no
vampire bugs feeding on small amounts
of blood left in lungs

when you stop breathing there is no


breath left
when you don't imagine the world
the world is as dead as you are
you disappear and its not you
underground
as in - someplace not above/someplace
that isn’t

the werd too functions like this…and is


not anymore
not diction but contra
was itself wonders what happens
wonders what can and wonders when
time will start paying attention again
perhaps it's too late for us
since was killed herself
one mendacious millennia a minute
it's just physics man! don't be givin' her
a hard time
we can barely remember her first name
9
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
and how she was birth to stillness

and I took a vow of obsolete silence


nobody ever heard about and was
turned herself in but not before
publishing her diary in the newspaper
though nothing ever happens here…
except when you expect to stop
breathing
it's all names and places patiently
waiting for what was to return and
convince them of their non-existence
whatever I think about
that imagines
imagines space
and a giant gaping memory
that someday will be incapable of
forgetting

if you stop having the same


conversations over and over again it
becomes easier to start listening to
yrself

10
Andrew Paul Nelson —–––––––––––
Now is a Verb Not to Be Confused w/
Has

this collective cathexis stands


irreconcilably at odds w/ the
soberingly sticky
raw matter btw you & a moment in
which 'you'
(as in the werd) drip delicately away
from yrself -
uninhibited

only what is drunk is real


what is real is wasted like time
you stand alone as one w/ nothing

yrself is a verb not to be confused w/


the witness
you lust after

but if time is real


then causality is a pet
cemetery in space where we
manufacture mechanical bull meaning
in h o l e s that dig themselves
we who dig the dark
as in - we who suck truth out of
lies
we you lie to the real
yet remain still except for our
fingertips
where the moment fails
to now itself to
death

11
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
btw the shadow
and the sun
there are (will be) a million
more
h o l e s identical to
this one
before you fall asleep
(finally!)

truth is a verb not to be confused w/


itself

truth is two blind trumpet mutes


fingering each other’s h o l e s in the
dark
each thinking to themselves – ‘at last!
I've got one!’

the profound is a plunger to flush out


the sky
a light to intrude upon the unhappily
asleep

sleep is a sickness
that does not get better w/ time
the last time you fell ill
you began to love the fever
didn’t you!

but if god were real…


you wd never close yr eyes

lucidity is a verb not be confused w/


August -
12
Andrew Paul Nelson —–––––––––––
(the gerontophobe in my pre-frontal
cortex who
moves to texas w/ the sole intention
of drinking
himself into oblivion) & love is not a
verb
don’t confuse it w/
now
when one does not love
another
but only moments
& sounds

all werds are metaphors coming to


terms
w/ lucid lifetimes of languages written
by empty
dreams of an american genius
who thinks he
invented time

fool! - you didn't even


think before I thought you

13
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
14
Andrew Paul Nelson —–––––––––––
Learning to Talk

I am saying unconscious eschewals of


which you say
are between what occurred & what I wish
had occurred
though you are asking me to meet you
where honesty and fear converge
you say it is the only way to give the who
are yous
and get it right although incapable I say to
you a lie
is my way to add myself into that which
went wrong
after my telling is over you get the
impression of holes
what you are saying of these forming
moments
that it is cruel that we have to make
artificial our languages
to satisfy this illness of self-invention you
say from now and on
tell me what you need to tell me abridged
that we can be
the we that we are capable of being as
there is no need to invent it
no need to fill in the severed parts
even when this mortar of words appears
to so well do the job.

15
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Sorry, Caroline Knox

When I was eighteen I was hungry.

My favorite food was paper.

I’d stuff my eyes with paper


softening the pages with tears and drool.

Scoring books from trashcans


and charity drives.

Stimulants that depressed, and the


opposite.

Hunger runs in my family. My father ate


Hailey’s comet and model rockets. He
shot up with telescopes.

At my dealer’s house (the University)


I came across a pile of books in an office
I felt with my fingers that nobody was
watching

so I lifted one from the small wicker


basket
marked: “Award Submissions.”

Quaker Guns smelled of spices. I could


hear them crackle.

Caroline Knox hungered too. She ate


16
Alex Rieser —–––––––––––
China and garden weed references.

She ate chickpeas and Massachusetts.

She ate mirrors and translations.

She ate my father’s stamp collection,


willed to him in the event of his
mother’s death;
his brother got the house, my father got
the stamps.

Quaker Guns are wooden logs posing


as cannons
formaldehyde and wood finish,
glossy.

I ran them over my hands, &


kept them for reference.

My father’s mother smoked for thirty


years, liquored for forty
survived two heart attacks and a stroke.

She hungered for water.

She ate too much, and drowned in her car


on a bridge.

Most of the stamps disappeared


I don’t know where they went
not like you can use them to mail
something back to someone;

Queen Elizabeth’s face & a pound


17
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
sign old world.

My father’s thick-rimmed glasses made it


impossible for him stuff stamps into his
eyes;
he could not soften them because they
would begin to stick to things.

I saw as some were eaten by Quaker


Guns,

applying themselves to the shafts to


make the cannons appear to have been
fired recently.

18
Alex Rieser —–––––––––––
Surface Area

the house filled with water and as she


drowned
gills opened along her neck the skin
had always been rough there

she swept her arms


and turned a slow green circle
bits of coffee cup knocked against the
baseboard
sucked back and forth by invisible waves
above the stove spice bottles clicked like
shells rolled in surf and
three bright orange
fish nibbled
her uneaten toast
TV sounds dragged in from the other room
the remote control on the counter
right where he left it
below her a parrotfish
beaked the cabinet hinges
cruised the linoleum she followed
nothing to be done now about the dishes

the living room was a lagoon


green light poured
in the picture windows
a blue glow reflected off the wall
she’d argued against beige carpet
too hard to keep clean
but now it looked just right

several kinds of reef fish


fluttered around the bookcases
19
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
a large jack shot down the hall
kicking after it she
passed the couch
looked back saw

his ears had


disappeared his
ponytail with the white
streak he’d had since childhood
ran along the floor plugged
into the wall socket
his limbs
four hairy table legs
next to the old Magnavox
she circled stared didn’t
recognize the people on his screen
plucked a tiny snail off his limpid face
without touching the glass

the phone didn’t ring


no one came by
glorious quiet
days
she basked
on the couch
read magazines lay
on the sandy floor and watched
silver shapes play the surface above her
sometimes heard whale song
her gills pumped open shut
she slipped her finger
inside touched warm
folded tissue like
a pool filter or car radiator
20
Liana Holmberg —–––––––––––
maximum area in the smallest space
touching it tickled made her want

to cough
his brother’s truck coasted up
to the driveway geared
down roared past the dark house
she re-hung the drapes

in the dim light she


swam in circles there
was no place to get
comfortable not
the shipwrecked bed not the
furniture colonized by coral
black-spined sea urchins
a diatom bloom
made her skin itch she

emptied the fridge


fed the lettuce to the green sea turtles
bread to the moorish idols and yellow
tangs
chicken thighs to the young moray
that lived in the tub drain
she closed the faucet slowly
gave them time

she dressed brushed seaweed from her


hair
ducked her head through the long strap of
her purse
in the spare bedroom where she’d moved
him
barnacles obscured his screen
21
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
would someone find him

she locked the front door slipped


the key through the jalousies
smoothed the skin
along her neck
no one would notice

22
Liana Holmberg —–––––––––––
In Search Of

One time I took directions from a Santero


And left a coconut under a palm tree as a
sacrifice for Shango
I asked him to send me a lover and he did

I have a room in my house where I placed


a scary mask
Over the door to keep out evil demons

And once, I found two yolks inside a single


egg,
And when I eat a fish I always look for the
genie's ring

There was the time, too, when I sat by a


stream
Rubbing two rocks together for an hour
Hoping for a vision which finally came
In the form of a tree stump in the shape of
a bear
Who spoke to me of love and the future

And once on a country highway I tried to


hitch a ride
And nobody stopped but the trees and the
sky and I
Were perfect and will I ever get back to a
moment like that?

40 years ago and I cannot forget.

Give me significance, I cry out,


Even at the expense of truth,
23
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Grant me relief from doubt!

Parched for meaning, I would drink


Seawater and superstition for relief,
Oh, Lord, my soul is longing for you
Like a dry weary land without water.

Give me a horoscope
Give me a magic ring
A song to sing
A coat of many colors and
An eye to see

Oh, lord make me holy!


And what is holy?
Holy is that which signifies beyond itself.

That would be you.


That would be me.
That would be us.

Amen

24
Charles Kruger —–––––––––––
Soul-Mending

Sometimes, hell, often

We are afraid to write


We are afraid of what we might find out

Sitting in a coffee shop maybe


Dust on the floor
Flyers of words stuck on corner bulletin
boards
Next to the shitting rooms
Promising how someone will teach us
To write with a true voice
Or pretzel ourselves into yogic ecstasy
only 150 bucks once a month
special arrangements possible

I need special arrangements


Because

I am afraid to write
I am afraid of what I might find out

Afraid of finding nothing


But an empty room with
A slippery varnished floor

I will try to make my way to


The barred window hoping to look out
But only slip and slide
Tumbling and thumping against
The hard wood

Against the hard wood of my heart


25
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Which is beating in spite of the nails
Being pounded into its flesh

Writing is hard
No wonder we are afraid

I am afraid to write.
I am afraid of what I might not find out.

I sit in my room, maybe,


Bed unmade
Socks on the ceiling
Birds flying around trying
To get out the window
A hornets' nest in the eaves buzzing
Like the alphabet in my head
And the cup of poison on the night table
Just waiting for me.

We are afraid to write.


But we do it anyhow.

We try to write our way out of the prison


Of these rooms that are our too tiny
hearts
And find our selves somewhere

In a woods or
A mountaintop
Or a beach

Or, maybe, swinging on a log swing


On the porch of a country cottage
Among the redwoods or in an apple
26
Charles Kruger —–––––––––––
orchard
Where God is in the kitchen
Making soup or pancakes
And promising to keep our souls alive

27
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Nitty-Gritty Haiku

My father hates me
Because I have erections
Fuck him up the ass

Mothers want to play


With their young sons' penises
That's quite obvious

All our therapies


And all our desperate efforts
Will not ease this pain

This truth is quite hard


Parents don't always mean well
Some are murderers

Father god himself


Supposedly killed his son
And called it holy

He created death
Condemned all of his children
Then blamed us for it

My father is dead
And I do not have children
Why am I not free?

The love is complex


Between God and his creation
That crucifying bastard

28
Charles Kruger —–––––––––––
4

tap into your earliest memory


feel it like the first time
you ever felt yourself
and you discovered
that your body was more sacred
than those stone steps
covered in moss
like the temple
leading into your epiphanies,
more sacred than
the stillness of the ocean
two miles deep,
more sacred than

make a list of all the


things that feel wrong:

1. the sage you burn to clear


your negativity
is now a brilliant migraine
turning the sun
into a flaming pulse
of sensitivity you’d
like to pluck out of the sky
with your bare palms.
crush it in between your fingers,
watch it melt down the softness of your
wrists,
it burns less when there’s darkness,
it burns less when you can’t see it,
it burns less when it’s sunless

2. your father’s voice


29
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
on the line reminds
you of the dreams
spent sleeping
in pill induced coma
when the sadness
made your limbs too heavy to stand,
when the sadness
made the sunset
too ugly to justify,
you’ve become
too ugly to justify,
it’s easy to justify
why all the fog of this city
has embedded itself
into your head,
can’t focus on
breathing
without thinking
without thinking
about what it’d
be like to fly
300 feet
from steel suspensions
into the ocean of your dreams,
carve your name into
those cement waves,
whisper goodbye
to the sky
it only takes four seconds
before you hit,
1,2,3,4, seconds,
hit.

3. your typewriters broken now,


i think that you’re broken now,
30
Nic Alea —–––––––––––
can you tell me
what broken feels like now,
when you manifest all
the energy to reenact
the first boot
that kicked you
in the gut
like you were bully full of
yellow roses
ready to burst
into flame thrower spectacle,
because you’ve always been sad before,
not like this before,
because things get sad
before long they disappear,
you got to do something
to make it disappear

4. what’s the loss


of another night spent
breaking down in the shower,
are you going to cut again
or are you just going to cry,
disguise the tears
for soap in your eyes,
are you going to cut again
or are you just going to cry.

you are the wildest love


pulling pieces of dusk
from the atmosphere
bury it deep into your pockets,
collect enough,
make a blanket
and cover yourself from the
31
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
dirt depression of this city,
cover yourself from
the lists
of the things that make
you feel
like chain smoking the day
away on a white window sill
catching the rain on your eyelids,
water can be so heavy,
close your eyes
and keep the smoke
in your lungs
it might be the last
thing that’ll ever hold you

remember the first time


that you felt yourself
maybe your
hands felt like they
weren’t part of your body,
maybe you felt
like you weren’t part
of your body,
maybe you need to hurt yourself,
or psychologically damage yourself
in order to feel like you’re part of
your body,
can’t explain the haziness,
can’t explain detachment,
make a list,
this thing is endless,
get used to the sadness,
you’re sorry,
you hate everyone,
you hate every thing
32
Nic Alea —–––––––––––
just want to keep sleeping,
can’t make it feel better,
shit just keeps happening,
try to disappear
keep sleeping
tap into your earliest memory
of the first time you ever saw yourself,
the first time you ever saw yourself
how you want to be,
remember who you always wanted to be?
so be,
feel yourself the way you want to be,
so now every time you think
about flying
look in the mirror,
see yourself like the first time
and keep saying to yourself,
1. i love you,
2. i love you,
3. i love you
4. i love you
hit.

33
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
34
Nic Alea —–––––––––––
Sizer’s Funeral

(In February of 1991, Mike Sizer died after


ramming his motorcycle into a 71
Haight-Noriega bus that jumped a
yellow light at Gough and Page. He was
22 years old.)

when Mike Sizer died, about three


hundred people showed up for the
service at his Mom’s house on Guerrero
Street so they found (fast) a store front
church

fluorescent lights in threes, metal caterer


fold-out chairs, everybody piling in, suit
and tie disguises, general disorientation

we were five, just people who worked with


him, but Sizer being Sizer, insanity on
wheels (any number of them) our Sizer
with Sizer smile and stoney eyes,
coming in late— “poundin’ pussy till 4
am, boss” —not bragging, just
explaining, sheepish awshucks apology

Sizer being Sizer

so we had to go, even Paul who’d fired


him twice for not answering his pager

we didn’t know anybody there: young


tough boys with razor looks, latino
haircut city boys, fast bikes and broken
families, some bent over, crying,
35
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
a lot of beautiful—and when I say
beautiful, I mean gorgeous—girls, his
Last Girlfriend crying, Childhood
Sweetheart, too, standing together, they
said some words

but the Jesus people (his Mom’s people)


seized the podium, the preacher saying
he hoped this would happen at his own
funeral,

so many friends, what an honor to Michael


and wouldn’t Michael want us to learn,
all these young faces here tonight, from
his mistakes, follow a straighter path

(or at least wear a helmet, someone


shouted)

preacher not seeing why we were there,


Sizer being Sizer, our Sizer,

splitting lanes at ninety miles per through


rush hour dead stopped traffic jams,

splitting lanes and grinning right through


our souls, so bright we didn’t know what
it was that just now blew past us,

what was already gone

36
Andrew O. Dugas —–––––––––––
ErdbeerenFleischiächeln Strawberry-
Meat-Smile

She was a teenager and metal was


valuable.
It was WWII and she was the enemy.
A gangly girl on the family bike without
permission, on a dirt path between
bombed-out fields.
An American fighter plane with extra
artillery - too much to fly back to
England - almost picks her off.
Diving into a trench, she lived, but the
bike was riddled with bullet holes.
She walked the long path home
Verzeihung! Verzeihung Mutti - Ich wollte
nur – I’m so sorry! Mamma – I just
wanted to –
But her mother just stared at the hole
where her front teeth should’ve been.

Just a beard of coagulated blood, and a


strawberry meat smile.
What is she trying to tell me?
That your mother is a commanding fighter
pilot?
That metal is worth more than teeth?
It’s probably not all ethical or practical
I think it means: be wild, steal a bike if
you want, don’t worry about what your
teeth look like.
Because it you’re going to die, there are
no stories to tell
and it’s hell of a thing to take your teeth
37
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
out and dance around
and laugh like a mad woman with a
strawberry meat smile.

38
Candice Novack —–––––––––––
He Reminds Me

He reminds me of my father because he


has a beard, and my father doesn’t.

His mouth is there and he can eat, and


speak, but I’ve never seen his front
teeth.
Even when he laughs it’s with his head
thrown back, just a gaping hole flashing
red and black shadows.

Because he never really looks me in the


eye.

Lies halt dein Buch / Sei rühig / Mach


einfach was ich dir sage
Just read your book / Be quiet / Just do
what I tell you

He never really looks at anyone, but then


he writes about them like he was their
guilt and their lover.

When he gets old he peppers and that


makes him look tanner, and better than
before.
He reminds me of my father because
wrinkles look good when you’ve
watched them grow.

His papery hands would sound like festival


crepe hanging over the streets of
somewhere foreign.

39
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
He could say “burn your suit” –
convincingly – while wearing one.

He reminds me of my father because I


don’t know him, only in passing. He’s
one in the group of faces you see every
day -- on your way to somewhere -- that
get familiar.

40
Candice Novack —–––––––––––
Kriegzet Wette Wartime Bet

Walking through the cow fields perfecting


the recipe for
Wild berry Schnapps

The best are hidden in the ditches


Between the fields – where the berries
and stories ferment

To support his six girls


during World War II,
he would get in on drinking bets
swallow a cup of cooking oil,
and his pride

The ditches are there to prevent flooding


from the North Sea.
These berries are meant to be poisonous

when they are red or blue but

black as night, when ripe

He would put down some money,


and take a lethal dose

win the pot


and puke everything.
And he never got back
His pride

When the Schnapps are done, they sleep


in the cellar in canning jars
41
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
With the other dusty, unmarked, batches

42
Candice Novack —–––––––––––
from No Other Life

Their neighbor a few doors down had


told Dorian about a farmer who had
fresh eggs for sale, and Dorian had
driven off hours ago with Anna’s
directions scribbled into her catch-all
notebook. She couldn’t read a map. The
notebook held diagrams of the route to
the market, to the school if she came to
pick him up at the end of the day, to the
post office, mixed in with grocery lists
and the titles of books she’d read and
other reminders. As promised, in the
months since her shock treatment she’d
recovered the snipped-out bits of
memory. But not her confidence in the
act itself.
If she was lost on some back road
she couldn’t telephone but would have
to pull over and wait for Ellis to come
looking.
Ellis thought he might catch Anna
at home on a Saturday afternoon. When
he got to the house, her husband, Rudy,
was raking leaves in the front yard, and
he called Anna from the basement
where she was wringing the day’s wash.
She came out into the light shielding her
eyes, her arms slickly wet and her dress
patched with damp spots. After she
gave Ellis directions to the farm—at
least three or four miles from town, too
far to walk—Rudy set his rake against
the house and said he was about to go
43
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
out anyway. Not three or four miles to
drive, but more, going back and forth on
a grid of back roads till you found her,
and these days you couldn’t pull in at a
station expecting they’d have any
gasoline to sell you.
—I’ll give her another half hour, Ellis
said.
Rudy had already fished from his
pocket the key to his truck. He grinned
and shook his head. —Well, professor, I
suppose it wouldn’t help her none if you
got her a compass to keep in the car.
Whenever Rudy called Ellis
professor it made him think of the way
people here used to call him the mister:
a wariness to it, a ‘let’s just wait and
see.’ Country customs were familiar to
Ellis but not the generosity of Rudy’s off-
handedness about Dorian’s habit of
getting lost. That had been the deficit in
Ellis’s childhood. Not going without new
shoes or wishing for a penny for candy
but scraping by when it came to such
impulses. The best his parents could do.
On the way out to the farm Rudy,
who worked in the vineyards, shared the
news that Edgar Winston, just around
the block from them, had been drafted,
as Ellis would be, sooner or later, and
folks were stopping in on his wife now
and then, to chop a cord of wood or
mow the lawn, and if Ellis couldn’t insult
Rudy by offering money for gasoline,
there was a net of obligations to which
44
Catherine Brady —–––––––––––
he was now, newly, privy.
The first summer he’d spent here
didn’t count. Dorian had stayed inside,
and when she didn’t, they’d dodged the
neighbors. After his college classes
started last fall he’d reverted to being a
weekend visitor, staying for longer but
leaving Dorian alone for three nights
and because they needed his salary
counting on Georgia to come in the
afternoon and this neighbor or that one
to look in on her, to materialize from the
blurred backdrop. He’d make sure to
stop by to chop wood for Mrs. Edgar
Winston.
When they were within a quarter of
a mile of the farm, Rudy began
crisscrossing back roads. He said his
Anna had started a vegetable garden
like Dorian’s, which made sense now
there was rationing, but if you said that
to Anna she’d get as stewed as a fresh
boiled owl. She wasn’t doing it to be
practical, she was doing it For The War
Effort.
People lived by slogans now,
warnings and admonitions posted
everywhere: Are You Helping? Turn
Your Dollars into Tanks Now. If you’ve
news of our position, keep it dark.
Salvage for Victory: Uncle Sam needs
your old paper, rags, and rubber.
When they spotted the car at the
side of the road, Rudy was once again
the soul of discretion, slowing to a stop
45
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
only long enough for Ellis to hop out
before he pulled away. The car looked
empty, but Ellis went to peer in its
windows anyway.
Dorian was asleep on the back seat.
To keep warm she’d pulled on a ragged
pullover he’d left in the car. When he
opened the door she stirred lazily.
And then she swam up from
blurriness to a raking sharpness.
—Why do I have to wait hours and
hours before you even think. Why do I
have to try and try when you never.
Why do I have to.
He offered a hand to help her out,
but she backed against the other door
and drew up her knees. She’d set off
this morning with her hair clipped back
from her face, but loose strands had
scrolled over her shoulders.
—I’m sorry, he said.
—You’re sorry, she said. Your all-
purpose answer to everything.
Careless to give in when she
insisted she’d find this place on her own,
but careless was what was demanded. It
went worse for her if he stood by
wringing his hands.
—I’ll bet that farm isn’t far from
here, he said.
—I need to go home and lie down.
On better days she’d drive back,
rehearsing the route for next time. But
cross out better, worse. Cross out
hoping, dreading, flinching.
46
Catherine Brady —–––––––––––
—Come sit up front with me, he
said.
He had to wait, crouched in the
space between the open door and the
car, his waiting a pressure steadily
applied to her waiting, which seemed so
slack but wasn’t.
When she scrambled out of the
back seat, he steered her around to the
other side of the car and opened the
front door for her, his hand on her back.
—Make the effort, he said.
Dorian got into the car and
slammed the door without answering
him.
He pulled onto the road thinking
about Mrs. Edgar and Hannah and Lonny
in his senior class, thinking about sooner
or later. For which his wife would not
hesitate to blame him.
He’d moved up just barely in time
to have to leave her. Their first summer
together didn’t count because then the
question of survival had been
immediate. While she was in the
hospital where there was no knife sharp
enough to do the job, she’d tried to
open the veins at her wrists. Nothing
fierce stirred in her that summer: every
day her why do I have to ____ , and he’d
known how to fill in the blank. But he
didn’t have the right to, only she did,
that closely held choice her one
condition for coming back to him.
He could not love her simply
47
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
because she’d suffered. Every small
pleasure since then, every moment of
ease, had eroded the absolute, the
heroic terms. He just wished they had
more days of their own devising to
shore them up against the facts. Her
brother remained her guardian. Her
need for Ellis was so literal.
Sooner or later, he’d have to tell
her.
He said, —Rudy told me the haul
from the last pancake breakfast was
seventy dollars.
Rudy’s wife would never answer as
Dorian did. —So we can send little
extras to our boys on the front. Gum
and candy bars. Do you really think it
matters?
He was silent. He wouldn’t goad her
by saying he was sorry again.
It was implacably truthful, her
illness. They were still figuring out how
to live against that and against all its
concomitant damage: her grief for her
father gone down its gullet, her lying
and cheating husband seizing on the
excuse of protecting her, her brother
forcing on her what his feelings
required. So much hurt it would have
destroyed an ordinary marriage and
might still destroy theirs. When he’d
married her Ellis had wanted a wife
unlike other wives. He’d wanted
difficulties, wanted to test his mettle
against some measure of exceptional.
48
Catherine Brady —–––––––––––
This was the exceptional he’d been
given.

49
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50
Catherine Brady —–––––––––––
From Monstrero.s Stomach
thanks to carlo collodi and carrie rudzinski

i never wanted to be a real boy

i was born with a two by four for a sternum


woodchip on my shoulder / driftwood for legs
and matchsticks hiding in these fingertips.
it seems i have always been destined to burn

trapped in my mother.s belly


something woman and blue
hid life inside my tinderbox gut
barely the size of a whisper
as she breathed this firewood
form into bloom

i am told they all thought


i was such an empty and beautiful child
a hand puppet waiting to be filled

so they would tell me


cautious as a chainsaw.s
bite into bark

samuel,
you will one day grow into a man
now you are still too gentle with dirt
too god and sex in the same word
men are hard as petrified forests
they do not soften in the rain

so in classrooms i learned how to carve


my name into the faces of plywood desks.
53
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how to not look away as i tore into it.s flesh
always jealous of the ease with which these
other boys seemed to fit into their bodies

no hinges where their joints should be


no strings tied at the wrist

those rock and scissor boys


forever burning on the playground

i never wanted to be them


‘cause real boys become men
and i always found more of myself
growing gentle in the dirt of my neighbor.s
garden
than in the hard bodies of my blood relatives
somehow distant so distant from them

i am told
men are dogwood made.
we are played by the hands of a world
that never knew how to hold us.
are meant to make marionettes out of women
play heart strings like handcuffs

there is a fire in the wild eyes of a boy


who knows he will one day grow to become
manacles
my desire has always been to find a way for
them to fill
my softness / fuck me ‘til i am rosewood paper
cut my strings ‘til i am tree rings in their chest
i am a special puppet

54
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
trapped in the belly of a whale
i met my maker, his hands held the touch
of redwood and resembled my own.
his legs // also driftwood

and beneath the cathedral


of the beast.s rib bone rafters
he told me cautious as slash and burn

samuel,
you were such an empty and beautiful child
what have you let yourself become filled with?
you are still too gentle with dirt / still soften in
rain
you have grown into the shape of a man
without root or veins
each gesture painted onto your skin is empty
performance
grow your bark until it covers all of your
silence
hide inside the shadows of your body
learn to speak gasoline
never have any children
you will not know how
to teach them to be men

i am a special puppet
who never wanted to be real
whose whole life is his performance

55
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56
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
We Swallowed Two Time Capsules

[germany. 1941]
remember the night we wrapped
ourselves in gershwin scores
and smuggled our bodies
across the berlin border.

when streetlights were still


made of candles

and a family
who did not share our god
let us hide beneath their stairs
we got drunk on their communion wine
kissed in the shadows

and though our dancehalls


have been replaced by gas and spark
we found in the quiet still
be slow-dancers in the dark
in the dark still men bound together
like the pages of a banned manuscript

remember how you said to me


we have been here before.

[colonial massachusetts. 1692]


before. bound together in salem
as flame filled with oxygen and us then with
flame
we two women were witchcrafted perfect
became a body of burning books
spells hidden in secrete under our tongues.
each finger an index pointing toward countless
57
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
anthologies

we were a lone cigarette in a pack of wolves


with ragged coats grown green howling envy.

watched as our knowledge turned to smoke


a firestarter pistol / this tinder in our bones,
we left our ribs behind. interlocking
like the skeleton of a book burning

[new york. 1959]


several centuries later
our ashes fell over harlem
i was a bottle of bourbon.
you the right hand of a left-handed writer
remember how you brought me to
his lips the night he wrote,

quote:

people are trapped in history


and history is trapped in them.

each of his tears pulling


a verse into both of our waiting mouths.
we drank till we got drunk,
kissed in our shadows.

[new york, 1969]


ten years and a hundred blocks south
i was that same bottle now filled with gasoline
and you a drag queen had grown paler with a
painted face
nails polished the color of destroyed
dancehalls
58
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
hair the size of the compton cafeteria riots

and we became gods


you hanged a hunger banner
across the face of an apartment
so people could read the structure.s
expression

and from somewhere on the rooftops


you cast me out onto a cluster of police
officers who cried out like burning ants
as they felt me explode into them
shame filled with fire crying below streetlights
dollar signs burning in their eyes

[washington, 1992]
it was that same look you gave me outside of
seattle
as you held me like a shotgun
your form filled more with heroin than blood

we made love for the last time


in a green house over the garage
i hated my body / wished i was more guitar
than firearm
you stroked my ego till i calmed against your
chest

wished i was more a way out of your problems


than a way out of your body

for twenty years i have lived


in this evidence locker at
some nameless police station.

59
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i couldn.t even say that i was sorry.

maybe this is an apology disguised as poetry


for the one time i let you fall from me

i imagine soon we will hold each other


along the pages of this book.

i ink the color of evening.


you wearing my poems across your face
children will dog ear our tangled limbs
and scrawl promises into our margins

they will take us into their mouths


as if we were a thing to be saved

and with bellies full of love


they will continue to speak our
names into quotation

60
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
From That 1970 Bomb to Three Members
of The Weathermen
Forcing The Rest Of Them Underground

tonight will be the end of the world

i was born laughing in your hands


in this greenwich apartment
when you left a fistful of nails in my abdomen
and wrapped wires so tight around my chest
i became volatile

as my biological clock tics


toward some unknown oblivion
i lie supine and prostrate on this oak table
and feel you slide into me / oiling the crank
of slow metal gears shifting onward,
soldering my heart to this ridiculous circuitry

when things like me explode


they get to know so intimately
whatever flesh they penetrate

i am eager to see from these wall.s eyes


to read the stories polluted onto it.s face by
previous wealthy tenants
to taste each memory from your spine as i
slice through your stomach lining

i do not know if you deserve to die


but i know you are planning on leaving me at
some military dance
where i would spend the rest of eternity
reliving gaunt flowers
wilting skeletal on some vietnamese hillside,
61
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holy men mistaking themselves for book
burnings,
and live rounds fired into dead cadavers…
not all that misguided beautiful hiding in your
belly

you can call me selfish


if selfish is not willing to let go of love

tonight / after you three are done writhing on


the floor
mistaking the confusion of multiple orifices for
words like revolution.
after you are finished typing some manifesto
that will never be read.

you will try to slide my fire into a foot length of


water pipe
with shaking hands i will call out to whatever
horsemen still know my name
and lift this metal veil to expose my seraphim

62
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
We Are Bending

we are bending
kneeling before alters ‘til our toilet bowls
sparkle with sterile forgetfulness
trained as children to be
hygenisists
scrubbing flesh to bone until our skeletons
are clean enough to be eaten off of

we are folding
hands into gloves so these five finger
sweat lodges can touch spirit
without ever becoming unclean.

when we make love


it is to latex smoke screens

we are brushing teeth, shoulders, and hair


we are washing speech, feet, and stares

my gender is a sealed plastic bottle labeled


bleach
sitting unopened between plastic bed sheets

was only ever compelled to open it


when i realized this skin
how it.s wrapped on so tightly
while the entire fucking world
continues expanding inside of me

when i decided to end it all


i drank the entirety of the
bottle.s contents to find it
was only filled with water
63
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so i washed my hands clean
and tucked them into the drawstrings
of anything with gut and bone

we are bending
prayers into stilettos to punch
holes through the kitchen linoleum

cooking feasts from stone


and a handful of dirt grown vegetables

we are folding
our clothing into instrument cases
to runaway on this music

there is a place inside of a payphone


that is neither here nor there …
we are making a home
inside of that soft metal intermediate

where strangers place their mouths


to our ears to pour unfiltered dirty talk
into the brainwash mix

remember that sti.s are viruses often passed


on through orgasms
that they are a tradition that has lived for
generations in our blood and our spit
they know no city, state, or geographic
boundaries
this is how we are trying to live

in the ribs of landfill churches.


on the lips of foul mouthed children
64
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
always talking shit.
on the backs of trash heaps

we are neck deep in dust pyramids


singing praise songs to the rain

we are bending
our bodies into mason jars
to put our hearts on display

we are folding
soap bars into bed sheets
to meet the street sweepers gaze

tell me i.m not a hurricane!


tell me the sterile rooms we are born
into are meant to prepare us for the rain!
tell me i know no god when
my fist is wrist deep in the earth of my love!

we are all born


screaming
and covered in blood

let.s not forget where


it is that we come from

65
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66
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
They Left Them to Die or One.s We Left
Behind

the only story you ever hear is the survivor.s


story
of the ones they left to die or the ones we left
behind

according to my family there was no


bergen.belsen/no neuengamme/no
auschwitz
in the bizarre of a time when we in eastern
europe scuttled like roaches to where we
would most likely survive,
my grandparents had no brothers/no family/no
neighbors.
lucky. we.d say. that the fallen have no last
name, no covitz/no perez/no cohen.
that the faces only resemble our own.

in atlanta an old man who would boast


of the elasticity of his asshole told me they
were all gone.
in new york a man my father.s age who
carried his chin in the same way told me
they were all gone.
in san francisco a man on muni whose hands
had prepared molotov cocktails for cops to
imbibe told me they were all gone.
lucky. we.d say there is only a handful of quilt
and a handful of human to remember them
by

i saw a whole generation go down. he said


i saw the best minds. he said
67
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i saw heroin turn heroes into stuffed
junkyards.
but i.m still here. he said. i.m still here.
he said i.m still…

here where we unbury our dead by building


them coffins made of words
of photographs, of endowment and foundation
here where monuments are only built to honor
the living
here where presses fold like flowers and
people get fat off anthologies

even the few that trickle through are soon


forgotten for more profitable histories
no anita dorn/no essex hemphil/no david
lerner
even the few that are republished only exist in
vacuum
no david/no anita /no essex
even the few who remain to tell their stories
can only speak from their own jealous eyes
no tom/ no dick/ no harriet

every one
pimps the dead for a richer today
or maybe for the chance to join them

in the land of the colorblind printer


the used bookstore is king/ the television
68
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
movie/ the wikipedia page/ the syllabi and
sanitized holiday

according to my family
there was no body/no way out/and no thing
that can be done besides honoring the lie you
remember

we.d say,

hush samuel. you are lucky to have survived

69
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70
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
A Prehensile Fairy Tail

bonobo chimpanzees
resolve almost all their conflicts by fucking

i am not so lucky

i have a storeroom
in the belly of my tummy
marked this is where you
store all your bullshit…
do not enter on pain
of enlightenment.

the last time i found myself


grinding my shame into the living room carpet
i left a magic wine stain markered mural
of what had taken over taken me.

remembered how once upon a time daniel and


i
had mad scientist experimented on our
monsters
on that same square foot of carpet
like two boys
trying to fuck their way out of a monkey cage

childhood is just a laboratory


for our hormones to go ape shit in
a pillow case placed point blank
over the heads of test specimen
made more of libido than flesh.

it is here that i found that this world


is a white coat and rubber gloves
71
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same as the sterile hands we are born into.

and inside of it i have learned to


give birth to my desires and swallow them
silent
as a mouthful of children’s tylenol,

daniel and i.s first experiment


was a pillow placed between adolescent hips
so there would be some semblance of
distance
as we thrust our lowbrow lust into that bag
full of feathers
knowing like us… it would never fly

the very next day he came to me


with words like a chimpanzee
brandishing a machete.
sharp and wild
the way love should be

claiming he would never come


back to our laboratory

taught me to lock and key my stomach


to bend my gender into the shape of any
bushmeat butcher.s convenience

these calendars burning cold in the stove


and you samuel – are alone
trapped in your monkey mask masculine.
trying to crack this safe with a plastic pen

you guerilla warfairweather friend


72
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
look at the monster you have let yourself
become.
a butchers knife in a veterinarian’s palm
samuel you are drag king kong
samuel you fat fuck ape.
samuel you missing link between yourself and
your pain.

you have built a golden gate


monkeybar bridge between
your heart and your ribcage.
daily throwing yourself from it
only to climb your way back out
of my mouth.

and when you speak


it is with the sound of a thousand
howler monkeys clawing at the ground
loud enough to reawaken this skin
as an instrument of touch instead of statistic

you darwinian misfits


shaking your reckless fist
at the polished stone sky

apologize to your nature

i.m sorry

i think i mighta mistaken you for someone i


loved once
i think i mighta fell too quick to my knees
like some backwards dog
i think i mighta lived the whole rest of my life
73
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down on all fours

i know that i.m


supposed to walk upright
but most times my spine feels less like a
telephone line than a storm

74
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
They Buried Him Alive
for maxwell rafkin

one. they buried my grandfather alive with


his entire library

two. the last time Harry Houdini walked


beneath stage lights
he knew that he was going to die.

the doctors warned him in plain


english
another blow to the chest and you.ll
be finished kid

three. maxwell had a smoker.s heart the


size
of a skyscraper
massive. empty. and seemingly only
good for casting shadows;
beating proud and cold against that
crooked cityscape.

the doctors warned him


in plain english

when they found him in a pool of


himself
beneath that queen.s streetlight his
face
still held surprise – a child.s hand
holds illusion.

four. after Houdini.s first escape from his


casket magic trick he is quoted as
75
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having said
‘the weight of the earth is killing’

five. they buried him alive with no


photographs of his family

beneath that hillside


overlooking the city of his birth
inside he can almost taste his
childhood
in the dark stale air he.s learned to
treat like a woman

from within his office of coffin and


paper
there is no skylight cutting knives
through the darkness
no light to read by and besides the
suffocation
this is the hardest to breathe

how oxygen must look from a gas


chamber’s belly
a family.s forgotten tongue,
a phantom limb twitching with a
dance still in the blood

so instead he studies his memories


fingers the damp pages folding
careful into anthology
slow catalogues the cartography of
his family
six. the magician performed his own
burial
a total of three times, always barely
76
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
surviving

seven. he remembers the child conceived on


a bed of rye whiskey
the woman with shotguns for eyes
that bloomed
when ever he.d caress the trigger,
and the three sons he treated as a
dictionary

he remembers them now


as a pasture of forgotten sunflowers
faces bent in mourning to the ground
a field of forgotten immigrants
detained by chain links in the armory
of his house.
learning to pull dead rabbits out of
empty
to feed his children.

eight. the weight of the earth is killing.

nine. each time my mother pulled her


father from the drunk of his car
where he had been living dead for
years,
stale cigarettes floating in an ocean
of mistakes,
a bottle of gin in the shape of a
woman,
and a shredded manuscript stained
as his teeth.
he felt this weight.

ten. as far as i know i have never died


77
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but have often been mistaken for
dead
and often been buried alive
baptized in a bottle of bottom shelf
whatever

i am this constant apology to my


mother
this hijack of grandpa.s hijinks and
stage tricks
this pulling pigeons from mouth and
naming them poems
sawing myself in half with a
microphone
to show there is still a still intact

i know what it feels like to be


drowning in earth,
clawing my way through dirt toward
surface,
always barely surviving

i call this magic

78
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
I.d.z, Eros, and Superheroe.s
for the neighborhood

i saw an octopus
pregnant with television wires
clinging to the side of a brick building,

a man blows his shofar


into the hollow of a dumpster

and a car
filled with nothing but light
drives through darkness

sometimes this world


does not make sense.

at the corner of alabama


and cesar chavez there is
a contradiction

a condominium made of skin


climbing sideways out of
the pavement

growing toward the shadows


of police light eating oxygen
and the freshest canned vegetables
from the corner store.

the structure.s key corner stone


is a human tooth covered in gold
mined by the hands of forty-niners
hands still wet with the blood of newly spanish
mouths
79
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there is a mural in an alleyway
that portrays this monster of capitalism
lurking in the foundations,
claiming buildings for limbs
and pig.s revolvers for tongues
that speak dollar sign and breath eviction.

in this wet dream of gentrification


i wake covered in my shame stained
low thread count bed sheets.
wash them clean daily before work
at the intersection
of hipster and human

there is a dance hall


made from the body
of a converted nazi bunker

at night. german children


dance their grandparents
dances to music made by
the descendants of auschwitz

the bible tells us that


it took white jesus
seven days to colonize
san francisco.

at the intersection
of hipster and human

there is a dance hall


made from the body
of an old spanish church
80
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
of a methadone clinic
of a santaria ritual site

at night, white children


fill it.s belly with black music
and dance whiskey lullabies to bedlam

children dressed in their grandparent.s


prejudice
press dollar bills into the barrels of riot cop
guns

then run home safe as a house


to plant flowers in the mouths
of gated gardens

it is here i saw a church bell


shaped like a fist

a molotov press conference


occupying the silence
of a repossessed stairwell

and a car filled with nothing


but police light profiled in darkness
most times this world –
it does not make sense

at the corner of alabama


and cesar chavez there is
a contradiction.

i live here.
on a border.s edge
paying a boarder.s rent
81
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for four walls and a floor
as dirty as my mind is.

at night my neighborhood
is a beehive filled with high
fructose corn syrup

it is a syringe injected into


the limb of a city park tree

a pair of duct tape handcuffs


placed on the mouth of a river
paying dowry to this hungry city
that never
lets it
sleep

82
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
The Burning Girls Were Once Public Art

i have heard they.ve moved the burning girls


out of san francisco
the sisters were separated when the city
unbraided their hair
now one rests in an abandoned park parking
lot in west oakland
the other held hostage in a rich man.s
warehouse at some undisclosed location.

before they were taken apart


i have heard they were disrobed in plain sight
cars gaggled exhaust past the naked
sculptures
and the neighborhood men did their
tee.kettle dance
of the dead – with high pitched dog whistle
and
appropriate lack of interest.

i have heard that when they left


the girls took more than themselves with
them.

if you feed enough money into a juke box


it will stop playing music altogether

san francisco – do you notice when your artists


break
your marriage for cheaper rent and better
sex?

that your epicenter has been disestablished


by the fault lines lying just beneath your skin?
83
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
what does it feel like when you are abandoned
for far less desirable women like los angeles
and portland.

i nearly punched a poet in the face


in st. paul to defend your honor.

he had come to haight st. like so many others


in search of the images they.ve used to
market you

probably wearing a tie-dyed smile with long


dead songs in his head
he saw where you have fallen to this religion
of capitalism
and felt cheated by the advertising campaign

and i wanted to say


you can.t be bitter when you are trying to
relive
an era that never existed. and if you keep
judging
cities by their monuments you will
undoubtedly
be horrified by the histories you find buried
beneath them

i also wanted to say


i understand

there used to be a lake where my


neighborhood now stands
there used to be a jewish cemetery beneath
the park where
84
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
my friends go to get fucked up on stolen
spirits in the dark
there is a mall that grew from the ashes of a
riot

every block is a museum whose walls are


buried
in the guts of some building.s demolished
blood line

but this is also true of the world, is it not?


that every city block is a cemetery
and our memory is just the dirt and tongues of
archivists
who draw their own past imaginings into
pages
like a bathtub full of somebody else.s blood

if the burning girls could talk they would likely


say:

when i sold my hair to make rich girls wigs


i never imagined they would know how to
wear it well
that the world would praise them for their
beauty
and scatter my skin across every continent
expecting it to grow into a heart chamber
philharmonic
instead of the morgue.s whispering name tag i
have become

everyday we are listening to this coroner.s


orchestra
play the encore to a movement that was
85
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
never composed.
no overture written, no notes played along
these sheet music streets
no anthem strung across this city like
some disemboweled poem

if you feed enough money into a jukebox


it will stop playing music all together

but fog drunk ladies


women always in waiting
siren apothecaries
please never forget your song

86
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
A Letter from J. Edgar Hoover
to Former Republican Senator Larry
Craig

dear dear friend,

sloppy sloppy sloppy.

you had potential kid but look at you now.


dancing your wife in front of cameras
thinking folks
wont recognize that old play.

things are different these days.


you can not so plainly shout macbeth
in the home theaters of america
and expect them on your side

i have always prided myself


on being a man of discretion
and how you did // not the way it.s done.

back when i held the world


in my sweaty palms like an
unwilling orgasm

when we knew that money


is a brick wall that can be built
around our own inadequacies.

when presidents were like latex


useless and easily obtainable.

there was enough power


in my limp wrist
87
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
to make the strongest men
quake like a coiled snake.s seizure

understand that freedom to be yourself is


expensive
that many of us do not come out unscathed

you had potential kid / but look at you now


caged by the camera.s stage light
blacklisting fingertips smudging lipstick across
your mouth
i never forgot to wash myself clean

wrestling with your demons in public arenas


is trying to knot barbed wire around the wind
it is a losing battle. you have not come out
unscathed.

things are different these days.


should have learned from the last time
when cowboy became cocaine
and your shaking hands grabbed at
that unnamed teenage boy in
the blood pages of the jew run papers.

understand we can no longer bring our kites


into lightning storms as umbrellas.
understand when burying your self hatred
inside of strangers you must cut
their tongues and bind their mouths before
you cum

this type of love is expensive.


lives must be lost in order for us to live.
88
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
you had potential kid
but look at you now

saw things started to change when roy cohn


caught
that faggot disease, and we were forced to
watch
as a pillar of reason began to crumble the
structure
of our playground.

he fell into that same


shame filled casket
that you will larry

unless you understand that this desire


is a giant lying dormant in the mountain of our
mouths

and when he rises from out of us


as myth from bullet wound
as news print from the typewriters of
blackmailed journalists

you must let his footprints


shake the ground elsewhere

dynamite exploding where you.d least expect


it
a flurry of bullets scorching a frozen chicago
decemeber
an oakland free breakfast ruined, caged
panthers,
and marilyn fucking john and bobby kennedy
at the same drunk time.
89
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
dear dear friend
you can still be a mountain again
just take it from me
just do as i did

take that self hatred


that could so easily destroy you
and turn it out against the world.
your move cowboy.

best intentions,

__________________________________

j. edgar.

90
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
Choreography for a Mime.s Last Show

a clown sits
nursing his cigarette
wet with his flower.s water.
slow keeps flame alive.

sits. mugging an audience of mirrors


drunk stubble stumbles matinee awkward
caught in five o.clocks laughless shadow

how long have they been watching for?


is anyone still there?

the theater of his darkened bathroom,


save the vanity, plays a prerecorded preshow
rag.
thinks, never enough time till show time

he paints on his face


as he.s done every morning since he can
remember
dips sponge into whiteness
but somehow different

the flower.s filled with whiskey now ‘steada


seltzer water
and the flask is embedded deep in his small

could never fill his own shoes,


the too big coat. even the suspenders
were a joke like he wasn.t always
trying to grow into himself.

91
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
remembers the first time he swung
suspended from the circus rafters
that lax tight rope couldn.t hold him on
purpose

and the children would clap


and the adults would laugh
knowing there is always enough
time to feel like children again.

remembers how each night he would


discover bruises beneath his made up white
skin.

knows what it means


to feel invincible to feel invisible

the crowd of mirrors is waiting


his wig of flame crowns him stage light
gobo king bozo whose big nose is blown
red from too much crying

'cept he knows clowns don.t cry


least not real tears
least not public

he places his palms to the mirror


careful of the electric pulse hidden
in hands

they.re playing his song now.


stands slow.
checks the thickness of the rope.
it swings low from the circus roof restroom
rafters.
92
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
smells forgotten birthdays
grotesque plasticine balloon animals.

could only ever make dogs.


never nothing that might fly.
but that all changes tonight.

are they still watching?


is anyone still there?

stubs out his smoke for frank oakley


lowers the twine rope collar around
his banana cream pie neck

they.re playing his song now.


stands slow.
up high on his porcelain pedestal throne
never enough
the lax tight rope tightens
never enough time
steps out to greet his public
never enough time till
snap. laugh track.
show time.

93
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
94
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
For Hart Crane on the 78th Anniversary of
his Death
And On My first Learning That He Had
Ever Lived
“the bottom of the sea is cruel” – hart crane

before our worlds turn


into wormholes

and our typewriter.s block


builds a death sentence
into our young queer hearts

spelling our self destruction


giant big across that silent sky

you word spoke an antihero poetics


through a broken telephone to nowhere

borrowed a lesser pen


to stroke the paper grid
into accepting your ink

think there is no place


for square pegs like us, hart
i know this

this. sinkhole decoder ring future


depuzzle the present and jigsaw
through what remains

blame the world for not letting you fit into it


neat enough
for never letting you write the waste land
happy
95
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
our tamed tongues
our borrowed parting words

in the accident that followed your final speech


act
you sight sang a swan song to a life that
looked
more like a pigeon park dance party than any
first flight

suicyanide swollow
all your poems till your gut busts
book binding thick

this is a reason to write


this is a reason to live

get dead then get published, i know this


but weren’t you curious how your life would be
read
by a world that might curl your every word
around their tongue?
that could love you as much as you hated
yourself.

they have erected your golden statute of


limitations
in a parking meter.s playground
feeding coins into capital mouths
waiting for your work to expire
for you to run out

96
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
but you were born
with a silver gun in your mouth.
and have been waiting your
whole life to make love to that trigger

never knew the splatter paint ricochet


would leave you here
empty in the cannons of
children.s curriculum systems
stiff in teacher.s rulers
chalk outlined on the whitewashed whiteboard
basically invisible
but still bursting through the surface

i too have had to learn to speak


cursive in order to hide better
in my words

i too know what it is like


to live in a world where our love
letters are read as ransom notes

tell me hart,
was your new york
on the horizon when you
spoke your final opus?

said “goodbye, everybody”


then dove head first into the
gulf of mexico never to resurface

you deep sank quick


into quick sand sleep

97
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
died in the same history thick waters
where all queer writers go to rest in peace

know our love has never been cheap


know our poems know how to code switch in
their sleep
know this, that beneath the cold salt water
ocean
is an auditorium packed past fire code
waiting to hear you speak.

98
Sam Sax —–––––––––––
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