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Q uiet L

ightning
sPARKLE
& bLINK
2.2
Sparkle
&
Blink
as performed on
Mar 7 11
@ 15 Romolo

© 2011 Quiet Lightning

art by Molly Unquera


theclockworkmasquerade@yahoo.com

edited by Evan Karp


evankarp.com

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reproduced in any form without permission
from individual authors.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of


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lightning@evankarp.com
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

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!
Contents

Q
Graham Gremore
Humans are Actual Animals 7

Renee Nelson
Cock Blocker 11

Sean Taylor
Stay 17

Rob McLaughlin
My Place 21

Russell Dillon
Secret Damage 25
Self-Portrait in Styptic Pencil 28
Bled into Sepia 29

Shideh Etaat
Her Bloodstained Hands 33

Clive Matson
Song 20: When You Dropped Out of the Sky 40
Song 17: Is this an Accident? 43
L
Elise Hunter
The Lonely Psychic 49

Chris Cole
A White Sheet Over the World 55
Don’t Look Down 57
The Past is Just Ahead 59

James Warner
Excerpt All Her Father’s Guns 62

Maureen Duffy
Kanno Doko 70

Susan Browne
Buddha’s Dogs 74
Mandolin 77

Maureen Blennerhassett
Tender 80

2.2

Info + guide to other readings 84

Molly Unquera
Fish. 09 front cover
Birds back cover
Moths 46
Moth Eye 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 —–––––––––––
Cock Blocker

Why did the feminist cross the road?


To suck my dick.
—My tweeker boss at Sign Pro.
(Eugene, OR)

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

11
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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 & make-
up 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 semi-
automatic & 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.

15
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16
Renee Nelson —–––––––––––
Stay

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 —–––––––––––
My Place

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 low-
rent 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
21
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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 smoke-
choked 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? Day-
Lewis 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. Day-
Lewis' 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
23
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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 —–––––––––––
Secret Damage

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.

27
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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 her-
35
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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 blood-
stained eyes,

37
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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.

39
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Song Twenty
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


40
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
41
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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.

42
Clive Matson —––––––––
Song Seventeen

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.


43
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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
44
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.

45
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46
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 transients-
backpackers, temp researchers like Eli-
but 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.
51
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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.
53
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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 standard-
issue 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 —–––––––––––
55
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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

57
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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

59
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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


61
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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.
63
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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 work-
related 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.”

65
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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.

67
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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 so-
called 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 late-
returning 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
69
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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

71
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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
73
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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 —–––––––––––
Buddha’s Dogs

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

75
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
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.

77
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Mandolin

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 polonium-
210, 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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—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
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 —–––––––––––
Tender

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


81
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
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
83
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
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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