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sPARKLE & bLINK
Sparkle & Blink
as performed on Mar 7 11 @ 15 Romolo
© 2011 Quiet Lightning
art by Molly Unquera email@example.com 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 ! !
Graham Gremore Humans are Actual Animals Renee Nelson Cock Blocker Sean Taylor Stay Rob McLaughlin My Place Russell Dillon Secret Damage Self-Portrait in Styptic Pencil Bled into Sepia Shideh Etaat Her Bloodstained Hands Clive Matson Song 20: When You Dropped Out of the Sky Song 17: Is this an Accident? 7
25 28 29
Elise Hunter The Lonely Psychic Chris Cole A White Sheet Over the World Don’t Look Down The Past is Just Ahead James Warner Excerpt All Her Father’s Guns Maureen Duffy Kanno Doko Susan Browne Buddha’s Dogs Mandolin Maureen Blennerhassett Tender 49
55 57 59
Info + guide to other readings Molly Unquera Fish. 09 Birds Moths Moth Eye 84
front cover back cover 46 47
Humans Are Actual Animals,
or Mrs. Hibbish Is A God Damn Idiot
In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Hibbish, assigned the class to write a brief essay answering the following question: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? This was my response:
That is a stupid question. What a stupid question that is. If I could be any animal, I would be the animal that I already am, a human. Why would any human want to be any animal other than a human? That doesn’t make any sense. That is a stupid question.
The next morning I handed in the essay. Later that day, Mrs. Hibbish pulled me aside. She crouched down to my level and looked me straight in the eye. At that moment I observed an imperfection about my teacher that I’d never noticed before: her irises were two different colors. One was a grayish blue color and the other hazel with flecks of gold. “I read your essay,” Mrs. Hibbish said, “and, Graham, I’m concerned.” “Why?”
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“Why do you think?” I told her I didn’t know, because I honestly didn’t. I had answered the question truthfully and in essay form as instructed. What was the problem? When the final bell rang that afternoon, Mrs. Hibbish sent me home with a letter for my mother requesting a parent-teacher meeting for later that week. “Oh, what did you do this time?” my mother asked upon reading the note. “I don’t know,” I shrugged. “She wouldn’t say.” “Well, you must have done something,” my mother replied, crumpling up the note and tossing it into the wastebasket. “I’ll cancel my hair appointment.” That Thursday, she met Mrs. Hibbish in the classroom after school. I was told to wait outside in the hall. A lazy-eyed custodian bearing a push broom made his way down the long and lonely corridor, a ring of keys jingling from his hip with every step he took. From the door, I listened as Mrs. Hibbish explained to my mother about the assignment, then presented her with the essay I’d written. My mother read it once and upon finishing it proceeded to laugh.
8 Graham Grenmore —–––––––––––
“So what’s the problem?” she chuckled. “Aside from being somewhat loquacious, I think it’s quite funny.” But Mrs. Hibbish felt otherwise. “Graham is the only student who said he wanted to be a human. All the other students said they wanted to be actual animals.” “But humans are actual animals,” my mother protested. “One student said she wanted to be a blowfish,” Mrs. Hibbish continued, disregarding my mother’s comment. “Another student said he wanted to be an elephant. And another, a duckbilled platypus. Do you see where I’m going with this?” My mother thought for a moment, then said: “No, I’m afraid I don’t.” Mrs. Hibbish let out a heavy sigh. “I’m a bit perturbed, that’s all.” “About what?” my mother replied, her frustration mounting. “He enjoys being a human. What’s the big deal? Frankly, if I were you, I’d be more perturbed about the little girl who wants to be a goddamn blowfish. I mean, what’s that all about?” Mrs. Hibbish shook her head in a condescending fashion. “Mrs. Gremore, there’s really no need for that kind of language.”
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On the car ride home, I asked my mother why Mrs. Hibbish was so concerned about my desire to be a human. It was raining outside. Heavy sheets of water whipped against the windshield faster than the wipers could whisk them away. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Some people are just idiots.” “But Mrs. Hibbish is a grown up.” “And Mrs. Hibbish is a god damn idiot,” my mother said, flipping on the blinker and switching lanes as we zipped down the soggy interstate and back into real life.
10 Graham Grenmore —–––––––––––
Why did the feminist cross the road? To suck my dick. —My tweeker boss at Sign Pro.
1 Past participle, my ass. Nouns are so post colonial. We go around pointing and naming things, as if some dude in charge said: go out and name things. god called; he wants his capitol letter back; but god’s a verb now, as in: I was godding. That’s godded up. Mistakes were godded. I’ll jesus you for real this time. I’ve decided and you can’t god me anymore. Future perfect this, bitches. 2 Don’t forget to read the nutrition label on your prescription. She goes on Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, counts points for her mayonnaise and her ass still looks
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fat in those jeans. I want to give her all the points in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shave a little off every day with a potato-peeler? This isn’t a question so much as a union dispute, a sliver of skin & blood on the linoleum. We want barbecues every night. We want them to hold our bodies like a six pack because in this way, we are perfect. We want to laugh because bare feet are so funny. We want the disorders and all the potential cures for them. We want to be Zoloftians from the planet Zoloft. We’re at war with the Paxilians and the Prozacans, Ambiens and Adavans. Tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow we will god out of our minds. I can bleed for five days & not die. Men are from Mars. Women are from Vagina. 3 There’s a little bit of tweeker in all of us. Inside each and every boy & girl is a bike thief waiting to happen, a scrounger, a paranoid flea market vendor selling cell phone car chargers, a boss who slips
12 Renee Nelson —–––––––––––
lesbian porn into your locker at work. Pop Rocks today, Meth tomorrow. Your bike called. 4 think of the moment between the past & future perfect, the passive form of finger curling in the killing position & polished metal passing like a solid specter through skull think of the corpse between the gurney & ground, the embalming moment of tube entering in the sucking position & makeup spreading like a new face think of the meth between the table & nasal cavity, the high of god entering the blood stream & a good idea at the time like a well thought out plan think of the good idea at the time & the well thought out plan, the event horizon of highs ending all other highs & the teeth like missing fence posts think of the sex between the love & fuck, the drunk cumming of cock saying he’s sorry he can’t & like you care like the bitch he knows you are
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think of a dream between 1 & penultimate, the co-worker with the semiautomatic & your cats who know the universe’s name asking for a pen & paper like they’re about to forget think of the needle & flush, the walkman motor of the homemade gun misfiring on the skin & the name it was supposed to deposit into forever but never did think of the name & body, the leg an amputation waiting to happen draining of blood sugar & the boss with “exit only” tattooed on his ass. He, too, was made in god’s image. think of the father, the son, & the ghost, amputations interrupting each other during dinner, having plagues with gravy, multiple personalities & wives, daughters with homemade tattoos 6 not in the business of telling the truth but if you want my opinion waiting in line for mythical part 5, for Lithium for Christmas, this gift punched in the horse’s mouth a ghost is just a dead guy with a hall pass
14 Renee Nelson —–––––––––––
fucked up the “1st part” of my life so I could remove quotation marks around the 2nd part bless me for: mother mary full of bitches; how ‘bout them hail graces, them our fathers the milk men of our generation. how many virgins does it take to remove the bitch in obituary? after a while you’re just ready for SSRI’s & cake Oz called.
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16 Renee Nelson —–––––––––––
The things you keep because they mean something to you because they’re yours like bee stings or two dollar bills or the freckle on the back of your hand that you know so well and you fear you’ll forget but you couldn’t, and then you do, because of age so you tattoo where you thought it was in memory, dear freckle Then you run outside, carve your social security number into a tree in the park behind your house, in fear you’ll lose that too then the city sprays the tree in pesticide that paints it bright and neon green bright enough to cut down, to forget about, to mark the decay of, or perhaps just bright enough to read your privacy Yet if you took these numbers and ran the GPS coordinates you would find on the southernmost pearl beach of a tropical island
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that you’ve never dreamt of a treasure chest And in this chest there is a map of islands they float twenty miles south and their constellations strangely vaguely align in a formation that loosely resembles a collection of freckles on the perfect hidden patch on the lower half of your back that you’ve never seen but they look so familiar as if you know them, for some strange reason And this is how you know you(‘)r(e) home stay or yourself stay sixty-two years of cartography hands, and estranged mirrors lending their glance it’s how you recognized what you lost in the war to marriage stay to Alzheimer’s stay
18 Sean Taylor —–––––––––––
how handprints left in cement kiss the soles of feet that pass over them Without penance as if they are not walking on someone’s sometime Just treading on their now, once, and again And If you collected all the handprints in all the cement you might have something worth remembering Stay a mausoleum of fingerprints the walkway to last century but the freckles never show through them because they’re cancer We knew you by your scars they were never meant to stay like islands when the ice melts on a map made of raised skin on your lower back that you’ve never seen though you can’t forget how it feels, so you spend your whole life running your hands over it, saying, stay
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20 Sean Taylor —–––––––––––
This was in 1999, way before the health department began cracking down on all the groping and squirting going on in the bathroom. You’d peer into that bathroom and see men with potbellies and last season’s Diesel jeans all tangled together. You’d think to yourself, are they all clamoring for the same dot on a Twister mat? It was always so shadowy in the front room of the bar, the space lit almost solely by strings of Christmas lights and the glow coming from the TV showing lowrent porno, porno so bad you’d see pimples in places you didn’t want to see pimples. The bouncer, pig-faced and obese, with a long gray beard and constipated scowl, was the first person you’d see when you walked in. Imagine seeing this guy in the ugly light coming from a bad porno. I don't know what I was looking for. It wasn’t sex—the men who went there were either homely in a buck-toothed, backwoods kind of way or amped up on speed, with gnarled complexions and dilated pupils to act as STOP signs. I order a double vodka and lurk in the dark against a chain link fence arranged in the back for prison yard effect sexiness. I grow tired of the cruising, of watching all those
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sets of eyes slink by, eyes that could detach and gobble you up. Back and forth, back and forth—following all the movement in that bar was like being at Wimbledon. I decide to smoke because that's what you do when you drink. You’d have to walk down this hallway that had Day-Glo green and orange walls to get to the smoking patio, and the hallway was lit by black light. Pale, freckly people like me looked like pasty raver zombies flecked with specks of mud in this hallway. I light up and step down on to the smokechoked patio. Billowing clouds of smoke, basically. The sounds of Grace Jones and "Pull Up to the Bumper" weaving through a million conversations. I'm approached. This never happens, given my bad posture and the fact that I wear eighteen layers of clothing at all times that never comes off. I don't advertise. There's nothing to sell. The approacher is cute, a skateboarder dressed in a wife beater, with a ropey swimmers body and the face of a young Daniel Day-Lewis, swoon. We talk about music, my eyes all googly. A friend of his joins us. I can’t remember what he looked like. I was busy looking at Daniel Day-Lewis. All I can remember about this friend is that he kept smoking pot from a tin foil pipe. Laughs, more drinks, I choke on an ice cube. I
22 Rob McLaughlin —–––––––––––
remember why I came out—to get Saturday night drunk. It's closing time, I’m slurry and eating cigarettes, the lights come on and you don't want to see anyone's faces in that bright light OH GOD everyone winces and looks 200 years-old. What are you doing now I don't know what are you doing now? We stumble back to Day-Lewis' apartment and plop down on a corduroy couch. Beers all around. What's happening next silence. I'm feeling alcoholic-sexy and don't care anymore about my body. Worse-looking people than me get laid all the time, right? DayLewis tells me and his no-face friend to take our pants off. We do, immediately, like a drill sergeant just gave the order. I forgot I was wearing Easter bunny boxer shorts. A key turns in the front door. DayLewis' boyfriend. It's an open relationship, but it's not open right now, Day-Lewis says, literally pushing us out the back door. I'm in the backyard with no-face holding my pants and my erection is bobbing. We get dressed, giggling hard and steadying ourselves with the help of lawn chairs, and now he's leading me. Back to his Tenderloin studio. We wobble the streets for what seems like forever, unable to form sentences. He throws me down on his bed that smells like bleach
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and tells me the only way he can cum is if I fuck him. He lights his pipe and flicks on the TV and a Sunday morning church service comes on. Oh, you’re smoking crystal, I realize while watching the minister thump his hand on the podium. I get up and leave. I walk home as the sun comes up and watch fat seagulls swoop down onto street trash while thinking about my upcoming 27th birthday. This is my life?
24 Rob McLaughlin —–––––––––––
Welcome to the re-instatement of corporal beauty. Welcome to the well-arranged room, the shallow gorge, a moon rampant in the wispy vespers, and the dream I have had about your body for each night of the recent age. Here, a tin bird rusted by specific rainfalls, exacted through the bronze cage bars. Do you still anticipate, at least, a tiny earthquake? Us, adrift in the orchard, shaken in the middle ground: fruit to the earth, that bird to the sky. I apologize. I was darting. I was shifty. I was shaking in my feather-suit, preening by the water’s edge. The myth had been the human being, the being becoming the mythical and look, I am invisible; unwatch this bad dream waking. The man, born fortunate in his shipwrecks, rows solely toward a deserted island, to atone for the
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luck in his life. He carried the last of the love notes, not in a bottle, but tacked sturdily to the naked mast, his useless wooden leg. This, the story from when I held the king’s favor, this, the narration from such fickle gallows, and I will miss that horse most of all, how he believed, again, in a humdrum ecstasy. It was my belief in the other worldly astronomers, love, and it sealed my fate. The way our world blinks on, blinks off in their eyes. I am sorry for the metaphors I’ve tried to live and make a life in, and how I’ve tried to take you with me. I’m sorry for the way I become a boy in each stranger’s hand. Welcome, again, to the cloistral nature of mishappenings, to the maelstrom of the equine, to the big empty world of oceans. My light, this morning, appears broken, and yes, this is the small sound I make in the world and how I timidly step away from it.
26 Russell Dillon —–––––––––––
Once was, when she whispered a simple thing towards the sail it set forth the boats, and I, the navigator on the endless lesser journeys. I am sorry, as the ship’s log reads, as punctuates the orchard, so punctuates the ocean, the horse, the plainest of english.
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Self-portrait in Styptic Pencil
Landscape, apothecary. Ungather us now, come loosed and chanting something orphic. Unlikely, and yet hermitted in weather’s full broadcast. Each ghost preserved in the certain mouth, stretched further, to fiber, missing muscle unto bone. Small mercy of dirt, scarred strange, as now, and of maps, the mountain stars and hundreds of ways they’re saying, “goodmorning” in the palace, making mirrors out of everything and its prisoners. Such victory, historic, sweeping diamonds from this all, the crematorium.
28 Russell Dillon —–––––––––––
Bled Into Sepia and the Jesus Year
Blessed are we in the stamped tin and our homemade particle accelerators. We, on this one small shelf for years and holding onto it, exhibiting fear unabashed as a lion towards its Christians, only hungry and I’m saving the fire from our old photographs, to burn those saints with other things, a bug’s tiny atmosphere of windshield, the thresher tearing on more late season’s harvest, then stopping to enter its new life of tenuous inducing plaything. From these morning doorsteps we raise the sun, the deep plastic of autumn which makes even being here a crime, never certain we would live this much among the willows and the unmoored boats, the broken chains and the tyranny of the aquatic. You may follow these rules or shatter, fall like the sky for rain or blood for every cloud of wolves undressing by the tide.
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Whole moments possessed by an uneven temperament, the throne of my tiny king and his matchbook kingdom, where one can remember when we both made mistakes with those lifetimes, where now there are monsters retiring beside our dead parents, magnifying their hurt with our own, their ledgers of brail and the early accounts of spills before spills were importantly hushed in the senate of antique dreams. Now, the one tiny rocking chair at the forest’s edge. One branch between a bird, the frequency of matter, and an embarrassed boy with the need to obscure. We are running towards a transitive closure, expansion and what we are touching, we become– the ambition of string and the perils of salvation, how it left your loved ones in smokey hope when they should have just run from the flames. I surrender now, to the age and its theories,
30 Russell Dillon —–––––––––––
acknowledging how one day we will look back, and seeing how lost we are, and once were, forgive nothing for its pain.
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32 Russell Dillon —–––––––––––
Her Bloodstained Hands
It was rumored that on March 26, 1839, on the tenth day of Muharram when the Muslims mourned the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, when men whipped their backs with chains or blades until their skin ripped like new limbs were forcing their way out and blood gathered on their backs and onto the ground like a trail of repentance because a single tear shed for Husayn washes away a hundred sins, Khorsheed had discovered lesions on her right hand a lighter color than her earth colored skin. Dr. Hoessini thinking it was the first sign of leprosy, had advised Khorsheed to kill a dog, to cut its belly open and dip her infected hand deep into its stomach, to let the warm blood from within the coil of its intestine lift this disease from her body. Because this, you see, is what smart men thought back then. Khorsheed followed the doctor’s orders because he was afterall a doctor, a Muslim doctor for that matter. She found a stray dog in an alleyway and stuck a blade into his beating heart. As the dog whimpered she said a prayer for him, it was a love wound and the smell of it echoed through the alley.
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Word spread quickly, because back then this was the only speed words knew how to travel, like a lightning bolt through Idgah and the other neighborhoods in Mashhad, and suddenly the screams and cries of the mourners came to a halt. The city was bloody and silent. What had this Jew done? Why on this of all days? It was a mockery of Husayn, of Islam, and particularly offensive because dogs were so goddamn dirty. Had it been a goat, or a lamb, or a graceful horse, perhaps they could have forgiven Khorsheed. But a dog was unacceptable, a dog turned a rumor into rage and soon an angry crowd stormed the mahaleh, burning down the only synagogue they had, destroying the Torah scroll, breaking into homes, and looking for Khorsheed, the woman, and her bloody hands they were set on destroying. Hearing word that the men were coming for her, Khorsheed blocked her door with a heavy wooden table and wrapped her hand which was now a deep red almost turned into black from all the blood and guts of the canine, around her two daughters. There was only a small window in her home, but a ceramic vase filled with Jasmine flowers sat on the table and brought a freshness inside the space giving them more air to breathe. The
34 Shideh Etaat —–––––––––––
angry men stormed into her home, knocking over the table and the vase, and as they stepped on the flowers with their boots they released the scent into the air and Khorsheed’s daughters suddenly transformed into pieces of her body. A liver. A heart that she needed to protect in order to survive, to keep breathing in this world. Her very eyes. “Give us the pretty one,” they yelled, pointing to Hannah, Rabbi Kohan’s aunt who had light hair the color of wet sand and eyes that looked like two green moons, “those eyes are so beautiful, they look edible,” they said. They were unaware of the tiger stripe that went through Touran, her other daughter’s eyes making her look like some kind of exotic animal. They forced Hannah away from her mother and Korsheed shrieked as if her two eyes were being torn out by their roots. It was a mother’s shrill cry and one that for a moment, and really it was just a moment, made these men with their knives think of their own mothers and of Husayn, the martyr, and it made them ask themselves if he would in fact have approved of such a brutal act. But it really was just a moment, one that passed as quickly if not even quicker than the smell of an innocent fart, and as Khorsheed held onto what was left of her35 —––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
her very heart, Touran- Rabbi Kohan’s mother, they brought a cold knife as if it had just been dipped into a stream where even the fish had stopped in their paths from the sharp readiness of the blade, up against Khorsheed’s neck. Her husband, Koorosh, had been there the whole time, but watched from a darkened corner where he looked upon his family and silently wept because he was a coward. Because even during sex he could not speak, would not make a peep, had never said to Khorsheed one nice thing, had never made her feel like more than a woman who washed things. As a child his father had beaten his voice out from him and he never really could find it again. The men presented a Torah to Khorsheed as graciously as if it was their own holy book and the man who held Hannah’s hand with his bloodied one, the one whose bare back had been scratched up and torn open from his own abuse, his nose hairs almost merging with his mustache, demanded that she spit on it. And the other one who had blood even in his eyes presented her with a plate. On it was a skewer of sweaty meat, a perfectly formed piece of kabob and next to it a few spoonfuls of yogurt- the nemesis of any properly kosher Jew.
36 Shideh Etaat —–––––––––––
“Eat this meat with the yogurt,” the one with the bloody eyes said. Khorsheed didn’t budge. “It is the only way to know you believe,” the man continued, “that you are willing to become a woman of our faith.” Khorsheed looked at Touran’s eyes which were so wide now it seemed the gold stripe that went through her brown pupils were in fact covering her entire eye. Hannah screamed and the man with the nose hair mustache slapped her, leaving a streak of blood across her lips, which made her face look rosey and grown up. Although Khorsheed was an illiterate woman, a woman who had believed the doctor because he was after all a doctor, and she was a fat woman who loved kabob more than anything in this world, she could not let her daughter see her become this, a woman who merely washed things and ate meat with yogurt when a Muslim man told her to do so. It was the woman’s job to preserve their culture and their religion, this she believed with all her heart. With the ferociousness of some wild beast she gathered spit in the back of her throat and with dry eyes she turned her face slightly and spit into the man’s bloodstained eyes,
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“Take my God from me you khar, you ass, and you take my life.” They slit her throat in front of her two daughters and her husband Koorosh, and before her eyes closed for good she noticed a small figure jerk its body away from the men and towards the door. A little boy, not more than four years old, who had come in with the men, but who she had not noticed until then. A little boy who when Khorsheed finally fell to the ground had already begun to weep. When Koorosh saw the trail of his wife’s blood that reached his feet, he finally screamed, a sound they both had been waiting a long time for. The walls could not contain the sound, a long crack began to form on the washed out greynesss, a crack like a line on the palm of a hand that predicted longevity and a strong will to live. But there was only silence after that, even after his wife’s eyes closed and Hannah was taken to Imam Jom’eh’s house where she was given a pretty necklace with a ruby in the center and wedded to him, still Koorosh remained silent. Forty others died that day and Jewish leaders climbed onto the rooftops of what was left of their unsturdy homes and announced that all the Jews of Mashhad would convert. The Jews
38 Shideh Etaat —–––––––––––
believed they deserved this, that this was God punishing them for their sins. Koorosh lived a quiet life with the only other person left to him, Touran, and in fresh air and rain storms, or when the sun hit his hot, black head he bowed and prayed on his knees when the other Muslims did, changing his name from Koorosh to Ali Reza. But when he came home to Touran they would light the Shabbat candles and she would prepare Kosher meals for him, and Touran would ask him questions about what being Jewish meant because she knew she was the only one who could save it for the both of them. Her father began to talk to Touran, would tell her what he knew of the Torah and the stories of their people and more personal stories of her mother Korsheed and how much she had loved her daughters, but more than that her God. Touran wished to know this God deeply. Her father began calling her Khoshgel, Pretty, instead of Touran, and even though she missed her sister she was happy to be considered the pretty one. Father and daughter preserved their religion through these simplistic rituals. Ali Reza and Khoshgel lived as Muslims, but many years later when they finally moved to Isfahan, they had survived as Jews.
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If This Is An Accident
You think this is an accident? You think striders circle their rippling pools and rhubarb roots along steep ledges by accident? If this is an accident how can you step in these heavy currents and not smash bones when your feet slip on the wet boulders? We make love under willows by the water. Droopy branches over your shoulders and their narrow leaves float in the irises of your eyes. Where did this stream come from? You climbed on the raft traversing two worlds. Rough bark scrapes your elbows. Heartwood bends to your hip. My thoughts enter crevices and take root. A dozen soft and tawny beings spawn and show their bellies while we warm in the finest of bare skins. What accident could give rise to this? An accident, you say, because anyone
Clive Matson —––––––––
can carouse through playing fields where hot streams browse over cold rocks and willows sing. Then it goes away. You come and I come and I come and you come in the meadow again and again. Not by accident did fire marshals in secret stations along thigh bones and in bottom spine
hear the alarm and warn of coming combustion. "Bring on the bringers of warmth," they said. The bringers said, "Do that again," and they turned on their voltaic cells and sauteed us in the muscle tickle of electricity. I draw you in to test the current. I toast in your elements. My lightly burned flesh asks more heat and this voltage fires the furnace in my rib cage. A flower in your chest unfurls its petals orange and sun yellow with scallops. How fast they expand
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in our hot house! Each petal has a mind and hundreds live in your body. Each has its reason for this to happen. My soul has 10,000 reasons to love you. It needs only one. We meet across distant lands where skies spread out iron gray and chunks of mountains protrude through flat plains. All obstacles to our soul's journey have routes around. I come and you come and you come and I come in the meadow again and again. If this is an accident then octopus arms in green sea, glaciers loosing mountain-size slices into surf are accidents too. If this is an accident so too the earth circling the sun and how dawn mimics the salmon color rising in my breast. An accident the sunset matches my love with its crimson.
Clive Matson —––––––––
When you dropped out of the sky had your wings stopped working? Had you fallen asleep? Did you slam into a cyclamen tornado? You fell out of the sky like an ax. You broke my life apart when those downy wings tipped with carbide spines struck and you gave no warning. I've seen the moon cradled by mountains. My arms unfolded a strong embrace. Was I wending through aisles of a market? Fussing with a computer? Dipping sprouts in water, green trowel in hand? What are these arms that knew how to catch you! Sudden your arrival. The bus hadn't reached its stop. The blade hadn't reached its block. The sun swatch hadn't made it across the room where Adonis and the Maiden unlayer their orange and red scarves. Nothing was ready.
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Everything was ready. You split my day like a wedge splits a log open and I saw the world had been waiting a long time. You'd forgotten how to love. Those walls lining your aerie, those same concrete slabs march up sides of buildings and jetties and bridges where sand nudges the ocean's skirt. Was I unaware of turbulence, serenely walking alongside water where mirror light frets and dances? Those sparkles are a sly code, each line a chain of blue-white diamonds signaling, "Wake up! Wake up!" Something pushes at the eyelid of the world. Something swells under the scree's pointed rock. Some netting lifts like blankets as red as the cloth draped over Adonis' loins. "Get ready! Get ready!" Your blood will warm to paradise. You'll need all your strength to keep balance. Earth's tough mantle masquerades as rose
Clive Matson —––––––––
petals. The lit waters say these things and I didn't notice before my feet were trined and flexed. We will dance and love and sleep until you open wings and lift again into the sky. On that day I'll stretch on tiptoes and raise my arms, fuel the burgeoning itch of feathers and rise into the heavens.
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Clive Matson —––––––––
The Lonely Psychic
When Eli moved to Guam to finish his doctoral research, he declined the gloomy biological station run by his university and instead rented a room in a ramshackle house from a woman named Carol. The house was painted a cheery yellow-orange, and wind chimes made of beach glass hung from the eaves. Carol’s accent was vaguely Australian, but when Eli asked where she was from, she merely said, “Oh, here and there.” Deep lines traversed her face, and her body had the wiriness of an aging marathoner, but her blond hair still held a deep sheen. She smiled warmly for everyone but her eyes were always darting, jumping from one person to the next. Her tenants never stayed long, presumably because they were transientsbackpackers, temp researchers like Elibut the real reason was that she could read minds, which is not a desirable quality in a landlady. Carol rented every room in her house, and she rented the back porch too, to a bedraggled man named Linus who supposedly ran an online pawn shop. He sat out there all day long, his extension cords snaking back into the living room. He only showered in the middle of the
50 Elise Hunter —–––––––––––
night. When he needed to take a piss, he would just lumber to the edge of the porch. Sometimes no one saw him for days. Eli returned home each day sweaty and covered in cuts and scrapes from stalking the endangered Micronesian Kingfisher through the dense forests, a cheeky little bird that would perch on branches just above the reach of Eli’s net, and would look down on him, tittering. Sometimes two of them would crowd together on tree limbs, grooming each other’s bright yellow feathers with their oversized beaks. He often wished he had a tranquilizer gun, but those practices were forbidden by his project committee. He often complained to the other renters about the crackerjack birds, how he hadn’t been able to capture a single one. He was supposed to be putting foot tags on three birds per day. “Bummer,” or “that sucks,” they would say, gulping down beers. His housemates were always sunburnt and too skinny, like him, and doused in a tang of sweat, ganja and insect repellent. He would hang out with them for a couple of nights, swap some stories, but they always left hastily, scrawling their emails for him on napkins for him to find in the morning. He wondered why they always departed so quickly.
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Carol spent all day packing boxes, slowly and methodically. She was moving to the mainland, she said. She had friends there who would take her in, who had connections to jobs. On his day off, sometimes Eli would help her get the heavy things off the top shelves. She lovingly wrapped every chipped coffee mug, every flimsy wine bottle opener in tissue before placing them in boxes. The living room was always littered with cardboard. One night Eli came home after trudging through the brush until after dark. The wet air draped around him and his clothes clung to his thin frame. He felt clammy and feverish. He entered the dark house and noticed a single kerosene lamp flickering in the kitchen. Carol was unpacking her boxes, undoing her work of the day, shuffling back and forth, placing her knickknacks back on the shelves so gently that no sound escaped. He tiptoed behind her, hoping she wouldn’t notice him. She was like Penelope, he thought, unraveling her tapestry every night in secret, to stave off suitors and stall time. He wondered if she was waiting for an Odysseus. “Homer, huh? How original,” she said sharply, without turning around. Eli hurried into his bedroom.
52 Elise Hunter —–––––––––––
The next morning he emerged from his room and the house was silent. The sky was an odd hue of bluish gray. The door to the back porch rattled, as it couldn’t be secured all the way because of Linus’ extension cords. Eli heard a chirp, and then another; they had a ragged timbre, an urgency to them. He cautiously stepped out onto the back porch. The humid wind whipped through his unruly hair. Linus wasn’t there, but his tarp was laid neatly over his lawn chair, laptop and grubby sleeping bag. The chirps got louder, originating from the corner of the porch. He turned to look, and saw a wrought iron birdcage, and in it, ten kingfishers, more than he’d ever seen in one place. They fluttered anxiously, jumping from perch to perch. This was an offering from Carol, a gift, or perhaps an apology. A packet of foot tags was placed next to the cage. He carefully unwrapped the foot tags, opened the cage door and caught ahold of a kingfisher. The bird easily submitted. Eli stretched out its leg to fit a tag, and noticed its fragile throat heaving in and out. It knew its own captivity. Without knowing what he was doing, he hoisted the cage up the ledge of the porch and let the birds go. He watched them scatter through the forest below the house.
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Eli left that morning, leaving nothing but a check for his remaining rent. He spent the rest of his time in a standardissue bunk at the bio station. He thought often of his former landlady, the lonely psychic, and her revolving crew of tenants, driven away by her unsettlingly sage gestures. Her fantasy of departure that will never come to pass, when what she wanted was for someone to convince her to stay. Eli finally started catching and tagging kingfishers, though he didn’t meet the season’s quota. He netted only ten, to be exact.
54 Elise Hunter —–––––––––––
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Like Someone Dropped a White Sheet Over the World
there's the red glare like rockets in the whites of your eyes and i know shit's about to go off i see you turn down the sound and i know what it feels like like someone's dropped a white sheet over the world it makes it hard for anything else to get in but that's the way you want it a flash of light and then a slow fade "it's a parade in here" you say as you gesture towards your head with the palm of your hand i have something to show you but not here somewhere far away everyone seems to have a place they fit how do they know where to go they all seem so useful even if i can't figure out what they're doing
56 Chris Cole —–––––––––––
sometimes my hands feel like they weren't made for this world i can't always grasp the things in front of me it's almost as if they weren't there at all like when you and i sometimes pass right through each other without even noticing
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Don’t Look Down
she remembers when each breath needed to be forced like she was pushing them out a window onto the street below we were given eyes so that we could see them as they left and didn't look back we were given ears so that we could hear the door shut softly enough to believe that it might open once again we were given this sense of smell to remind us what was left behind clinging to the places that you can't reach and we were given the ability to taste the words that rest on the back of our tongues coiled like a snake that's always late for dinner if only we were given another sense
58 Chris Cole —–––––––––––
a sense of how to put them all together in a way that would bind them like a chain that we could wrap around our dreams so that they couldn't get away not without a fight
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The Past is Just Ahead
we drove from the airport cars parked on the freeway which has never been free we took a road that used to be an orange grove decades ago before the roman calvary before bugsy siegel before reality was televised back when you had to be there we tried to find the house i was born in and it took us ten trips around the block to realize that we kept passing it back then it took up a whole city in my mind now it's squeezed between rows of houses gasping for breath bumper crops of stucco planted in concrete soil
60 Chris Cole —–––––––––––
it is an orchard once again of human waste and architectural indifference our childhood is consolidated objects in the mirror are closer than they appear yet they are so much smaller than we remember memories go on for miles but reality stays in one place dehydrated like so much fruit sealed in plastic our dreams deflate as we get older so that they take up less space and what do we do with the room that is made with the space that is left we fill it up with whatever they have to sell us fast food that seems to take forever slow sex that's over before we know it tinier lives in bigger houses and when we made love
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on my childhood lawn as the sun came up over the valley you said "the past is always just ahead waiting for us to catch up”
62 Chris Cole —–––––––––––
Excerpt All Her Father’s Guns
I took the scenic route up the coast. Manzanitas and lupins grew along the roadside. A mile before I reached 101, a psychic sat with a FUTURES FORETOLD sign, and cars pulled over for her. Two years before, she’d been the CEO of a San Francisco multimedia startup. I’d have stopped to consult her myself -- venture capitalists can be as superstitious as actors, baseball players, or combat pilots -- except I hated waiting in line. My photographs of Lyllyan, aligned along the dashboard, all captured her in the act of turning her back on the camera. My daughter had always been hard to figure. Why was her hair such a mess? And what did she see in that kid Reid. Where was the hustle in the guy, the fire in his belly? There was an entrepreneur from San Diego I used to meet at industry functions, who founded a dot com back in the boom years, got rich after the IPO, and bought a big house up in Shasta County. He walked out into his garden one Sunday, tried to brush the snow from a low-hanging sequoia branch, and brought thirty tons of snow clumping down on him. Weeks passed before they dug out his body.
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Reid reminded me of that guy. Somewhere along the line, the British lost their killer instinct. Probably started when they outlawed guns. It took me thirty minutes to reach north Berkeley. Bouncing over speed bumps, I passed clapboard churches, Berkeley brownshingles, and stucco bungalows shaded by persimmon and monkey-puzzle trees. Dr. Kescu’s office sat above an empty café. Ivy crawled up an old slat fence, reminding me of the house in Ohio where I was raised. The scent of freshly mown grass was everywhere. I climbed a staircase, walked down a narrow corridor past tables stacked with old fashion magazines, and edged my way into a room overflowing with trailing ferns. Viorela was forty, but she looked younger. Even wearing a tweed suit, she was a head-turner, with green eyes and dark hair. “Reid says you’re from Bucharest?” I said. Viorela nodded. I sat back in an armchair. “Would you mind not smoking?” I asked. Viorela said, “I would, yes, mind. And do not fidget. It is imperative to turn off your cell phone for the duration of the therapy. Also you will be aware that Lacanians use variable length sessions.
64 James Warner —–––––––––––
This means, I will decide when the session is over. Some sessions will last less than a full fifty minutes.” “Will any sessions last more than a full fifty minutes?” She shook her head. “I don’t really know why I’m here,” I said. “No therapist I’ve hired so far has been worth a damn. They only tell me obvious things, that I’m under workrelated stress, that I have difficulty communicating with my daughter, that I'm afraid of burning out. They wanted me to take anger management classes, but I’ve known a lot of people, and the ones who weren’t angry were the ones who never got anywhere. Are you lighting another cigarette already?” Returning my stare, Viorela took a drag on her Lucky Strike as if it was her final request before facing a firing squad. "My daughter had a healthy upbringing near Phoenix," I said. "On her thirteenth birthday, I gave her the complete works of Ayn Rand, bound in sealskin. The Christmas after that, there was a Remington 20-gauge waiting for her under the tree. Nothing brings more security to a father’s heart than hearing his daughter operate the slide of a shotgun.”
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Viorela blew some smoke rings. She made me feel like I really was having a mid-life crisis after all. “Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my grip,” I told her. “The whole business is emotionally biased towards the economic downside right now. That's just not what I'm about. I’m worried Igloo’s pissed with me. Igloo's one of my partners.” “What are you doing to piss him off?” she said. “Following hunches. Igloo wants to play by the rules. He’s the kind of guy who keeps all the money in his wallet facing the same way. He cuts his steak into little cubes before eating it. He can spend weeks reevaluating our screening metrics and valuation formulas. I’ve always said, when you look at companies, you’re looking at the people. Early-stage investing is supposed to be a gamble. It’s about feel, knowing when you’re in the zone. Isn’t there a law against smoking during therapy in Berkeley?” “You are free to look for another therapist.” “Aren’t you supposed to be improving my health?” “There is no such thing as health,” Viorela said. “The only alternatives are
66 James Warner —–––––––––––
hysteria, obsessional neurosis, psychosis, or perversion.” “Which is better?” Viorela shrugged. “You are searching for something that does not exist,” she said. “Maybe I’m just looking for a woman.” She nodded. “La femme n’existe pas,” she said. “Lacan said that. Woman does not exist. Your session is over now, Mr. Lyte." "But there’s something I have to tell you. I had… Tabytha and I had…” Viorela stood up. “We had a son.” “Your session is over,” she repeated. “A son who...” “You may go home.” “But it’s only 6:15.” “I decide when we are done.” “But I thought… I never even mentioned Dale to my other therapists… Are you totally winging it or what?” Back outside, cardboard notices advertised yard sales and bake sales. A tricycle had been upended on an otherwise perfect lawn. A woman put down suitcases on the porch opposite, before knocking insistently on the door. Some barbarian had slashed the tires of my BMW, and they’d keyed the paintwork too.
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A homeless guy asked me for spare change. I thought of the sermon Pastor Joey gave the Sunday before. He said today’s liberal bureaucrats were like the monks of the Middle Ages, and their socalled charity served only to breed legions of beggars. Pastor Joey learned all about history as part of a Deliverance Ministry extension course. After calling a garage to tow the car, I returned to Viorela’s door and pressed the buzzer. "Hello?" she said. “Sorry I came unglued there,” I said. “You know what they say. Americans think problems have solutions. Europeans think solutions have problems.” “What happens,” Viorela told me, “is one desires a solution, then to justify imposing it, one fantasizes a problem.” I grappled with that for a while. The business mindset is there's always a solution. "My car's out of commission,” I said. “Since we both know you’re not doing anything for the next forty-five minutes, do you know somewhere good to eat around here? And do you want to go see a movie first?” “There is a late Godard film playing at the Pacific Film Archive in half an hour.” I'd been thinking more along the lines of “Mutant Arachnids 5,” but I said, “Sure.
68 James Warner —–––––––––––
You'll have to drive though. And let’s get something to drink first. I’m parched.” Once the garage owner showed up in his tow truck, I signed some forms, then Viorela drove me in her white Subaru to a café in Albany that was known for defying the California smoking ban. She’d changed into a black skirt with a red top, and a jacket with a zebra-skin pattern. She also wore leather boots. As we entered the café, the waitress recognized Viorela and hurried over with an ashtray. The place was closing already, and somebody was stacking plastic chairs. Past the café windows swarmed latereturning commuters. Viorela ordered a vodka straight up, and I asked for a Gatorade. She rested her foot on top of mine. “Why don’t you run your own business?” she asked. “Instead of helping other people to start theirs?” “You run into more liabilities that way. I guess I’m happier coaching people? But maybe you’re right. Maybe I’d be happier as an individual private investor, you know, an angel.” Viorela said, “You’re already an angel.” A bearded man in a lumberjack shirt sat reading a book of poems by Jimmy Carter. On the sidewalk, a child strapped into a high-tech-looking stroller let out a
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wail. “What’s your deal?” I asked. “I don’t get you at all.” The moon was already visible in the still-blue sky. “Early-stage is meant to be a gamble,” Viorela said and, leaning across the table, ran her hand breathtakingly through my hair.
70 James Warner —–––––––––––
Kanno Doko I extend my hand to the world for help and the world responds …
My love lives on Page Street — barefoot, slender, in robes as dark as kelp still wet from the sea. “Does it hurt?” I nod to the cut on his shaved-smooth head and he guides my hand through the collar of his robe. Here, his hair feels like silk. “What do you think?” he says and when I kiss him I receive the taste of salted plums in honey. My love lives on Page Street in the shape of a bell I strike in the evening, once, twice, and again as the world gathers in robes of black and green filling the Buddha Hall above me. Here, I feel the rhythm of his
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steps against the cadence of the bell and I pause “in perfect oneness” with the bell I stand before— At the signal, I give the final strike: Once, twice, and—the echoing waves carry me, too—up the stairs to the Buddha Hall where I pause, enter, barefoot, wild, ready for the silence within the bell’s resonant end— noting the taste of iron. My love lives on Page Street — barefoot, slender—skinny, really. No, he says, just right, and I agree— the tatami mats an open field that radiate in all directions, no matter where we place our cushions. My love lives on Page Street in the shape of a cup
72 Maureen Duffy —–––––––––––
I keep empty— Fresh water—hot water—flows through leaves of green tea— Here— the scent of cherries. My love lives on Page Street in the shape of a key, resting in the pocket of my bell-shaped sleeves. In the evening, I take the back stairs to his room— two at a time, in robes of moss and ash: “Lovely,” he says, “made of linen.” In the morning we walk— in silence, in kinhin, one behind the other— only our robes murmur, only our robes sway. My love lives on Page Street in the shape of a bell, a cup, a key— “Does it hurt?” He nods to the cut on my shaved-smooth head
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and I guide his hand through the collar of my robe. Here, my skin feels like silk. Here we kiss and receive the taste of cherries, salt and fresh green tea.
74 Maureen Duffy —–––––––––––
I'm at a day-long meditation retreat, eight hours of watching my mind with my mind, and I already fell asleep twice and nearly fell out of my chair, and it's not even noon yet. In the morning session, I learned to count my thoughts, ten in one minute, and the longest was to leave and go to San Anselmo and shop, then find an outdoor cafe and order a glass of Sancerre, smoked trout with roasted potatoes and baby carrots and a bowl of gazpacho. But I stayed and learned to name my thoughts; so far they are: wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, judgment, sadness. Don't identify with your thoughts, the teacher says, you are not your personality, not your ego-identification, then he bangs the gong for lunch. Whoever, whatever I am is given instruction in the walking meditation and
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the eating meditation and walks outside with the other meditators, and we wobble across the lawn like The Night of the Living Dead. I meditate slowly, falling over a few times because I kept my foot in the air too long, towards a bench, sit slowly down, and slowly eat my sandwich, noticing the bread, (sourdough), noticing the taste, (tuna, sourdough), noticing the smell, (sourdough, tuna), thanking the sourdough, the tuna, the ocean, the boat, the fisherman, the field, the grain, the farmer, the Saran Wrap that kept this food fresh for this body made of food and desire and the hope of getting through the rest of this day without dying of boredom. Sun then cloud then sun. I notice a maple leaf on my sandwich. It seems awfully large. Slowly brushing it away, I feel so sad I can hardly stand it, so I name my thoughts; they are: sadness about my mother, judgment about my father, wanting the child I never had.
76 Susan Browne —–––––––––––
I notice I've been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around the same park most of my life, notice the leaf tumbling gold to the grass. The gong sounds, and back in the hall, I decide to try lying down meditation, and let myself sleep. The Buddha in my dream is me, surrounded by dogs wagging their tails, licking my hands. I wake up for the forgiveness meditation, the teacher saying, never put anyone out of your heart, and the heart opens and knows it won't last and will have to open again and again, chasing those dogs around and around in the sun then cloud then sun.
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Rain like soft bullets on the roof under which I don’t sleep, thinking about cruelty as subtext, thick and sickly courteous as marmalade jam laced with polonium210, the scintillation cocktail given to Litvinenko. Be careful at work, be vigilant about who would prefer you dead. It’s easy to kill a person and unfolds in the flesh like a series of bureaucratic steak knives. I wish I liked drugs more, I wish I could take a sleeping pill, but even Dayquil makes everything look like a postcard bought in a bus station with nothing behind it except stale air. I wish I were more spiritual, but belief is like making your cat wear a sweater, or having sex with your socks and flannel pajamas on although I’m jealous of the nonviolent faithful and wonder whatever happened to the pale blue cross that used to hang on the wall above my childhood and adolescent pillow. Every night I prayed to little gold Jesus, saying one Our Father and one Hail Mary and blessing everyone
78 Susan Browne —–––––––––––
until I didn’t so much stop as forget, too busy with familial fear and dread. I used to be nicer, I used to cry more. I wish I didn’t live only once, I need more practice. Each morning, I should wake up, saying, “I died last night.” Remember when we sat in the bar, and while I complained, you sipped your martini, then pointed behind my head. “What? What?” I asked. “Look! Look!” you said. I stared at rows of bottles backlit and glowing, they made me giddy, all that possibility, but they were only bottles. So?” And you said, “The world didn’t have to be here but is.” If I had to have a religion, it’d be you. Do you still want to hammer another nail in your father’s coffin? My soul is five parts mandolin and two tin whistle and not for any planetary reason; it’s further away and deeper. Today the clouds are dark blue with a furious gold splitting the seams. My friend lives in a hospital bed,
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and her lover wheels her into the living room so she can see more stuff and it’s brighter. For six months, a balloon lived in the pine tree outside my bedroom window. It was green and tender and kept me company while I did sit-ups. And then the wind came, but in its absence, I see it.
80 Susan Browne —–––––––––––
There are no bone boxes buried in San Francisco Once upon a time they unearthed their dead brought them down to Colma Stay alive in Colma Die dirty in San Francisco There are no bone boxes buried in San Francisco but the shallow smell of cemetery sidewalk at the corner of Turk and Jones is a holographic radiance visible only to those who know its scent where makeshift coffins of sleeping bags and shopping carts are marked by tombstones of aluminum refuse and cigarette butts Disdain for indulgence is unwelcome here in the place where indulgence is no longer a choice but a lifestyle where the morning sun is greeted with a dose
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of poison where the day is spent wasted escaping responsibilities evading our fathers’ high hopes once held in esteem, now crash upon the pavement with cold shouldered velocity this is a place where sunset is embraced with an involuntary movement: thumb flick to bic lighter/ flame turned up high/ meets glass stem filled with/ inhale. artificial smoke fills charred lungs/ eyes bulge/ heart stirs/ exhale. Only live in these fleeting moments but find solace in routine: 1. open piss stained eyes 2. disable fear mechanism 3. vomit unholy bile 4. crawl into eggshell blankets 5. pray to a god not listening 6. thrust back a wakeup shot of whiskey 7. crawl back into cardboard coffin
82 Maureen Blennerhassett —–––––––––––
On Turk and Jones Listen to pigeons recite psalms and pray for those unlucky enough to wake up the pigeons coo pseudo symphony laboriously flapping their wings making their heavy bodies airborne mocking laughing these are street brethren competitors in the quest for a decent meal they may be able to fly but loiter loyally in the neighborhood At the corner of Turk and Jones there stands a graveyard where change is a hollow word coated in nickel that clinks and proves this salty existence to be ironic when you beg for it to be imparted upon you where favors are tricks to be avenged later where family is yr coppin’ buddy yr mate in the doorway is the Virgil to yr Dante
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waiting with you at the River Styx predators are those that find you worthless— everyone is a predator But know that inside everyone is the same— filled with shit, all too eager to let it out.
84 Maureen Blennerhassett —–––––––––––
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