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Q uiet L

as performed on
Apr 4 11
@ Mina Dresden Gallery

© 2011 Quiet Lightning

art by Michael Capozzola

edited by Evan Karp

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Q uiet Lightning


a monthly submission-based reading series

with 2 stipulations

you have to commit to the date to submit

you only get 3-8 min



Sarah Ciston
Fuck Everyone But Us 7

Lizzy Acker from Monster Party

Futurism 13
Bug Attack! 15

Siamak Vossoughi
Don’t Ask Me 17

Sherril Jaffe
Rest Stop 23

J. Brandon Loberg
Requiem for the Butterflies 29
from The 16th & Mission Review
But a Drop Upon the Concrete 35

Cassandra Gorgeous
Everybody, Look at Me 41

Donna Laemmlen
Invisible Parade 45

James J. Siegel
County Fair 49

Julia Halprin Jackson

Jenny and the Sea 51

Graham Gremore
One of Your Children Smokes 57

Nicole McFeely
No One Will Ever See This 61
Then 63

Shruti Swamy
Fever, August 66

Melissa Stein from Rough Honey

(How to Fall from) Grace 68

info + guide to other readings 74


Michael Capozzola
Stars on Sunset Blvd. front cover
West Texas back cover
Sentimental 39
Giant Fist 40
Fuck Everyone But Us

We. Plural Pronoun, Objective Us,

Possessive Our or Ours. Ars Poetica. There
is no we that excludes you.

We set out only to say something. No, only

to mean something. It didn’t matter what.
Only meaning meant anything. What
would it mean to truly mean what we
said? To mean it fitfully, violently,
transcendently, the way we jump off
bridges and crash cars and limbs into other
cars and other limbs, the way trees grow
up and grow down at the same time.
We wrote it down to pull it out of us—
long rainbow handkerchiefs of guts spilling
out and out. Or, we talked about it, even if
we did not, as it were, actually do it.
We were champions of the suffix, violent
amenders. We were convinced the
teleology of terminology was a dead end,
that definitions could never be shared, that
words did not mean.
We did not always operate like this.
Once, before language came between us
like landscapes, like distance, Once, we
believed that if we said a word and you
heard a word, they were the same word,
meaning the same thing, found in the
dictionary, in our every exchange. We may
not remember such a time (or may claim
not to) but that barely means anything
Sarah Ciston —–––––––––––
We existed in the era of -ish. Our totem
suffix marked imprecision and
impermanence, the vague existential what-
the-fuck of it all.
We decided (though there was no
committee, no consensus, of course) to
nevermind for the moment that our
tendency toward -ish—toward hedging,
toward fudging, toward noncommittal
nods to the transient universe—would be
our downfall. Our violent acknowledgment
of imprecision, of absent solid ground,
would become an enactment of it,
leading us toward lives and jobs and
relationships that embodied painful
transition and groundless shifting, that
created new false floors from our own
psychological trap doors, telltale hearts
thumping underneath to give us away, to
stave off any chance of connection or
purpose or hope or feeling with the
insistence that all was -ish, could only be -
ish, until calling it made it so.
We knew it was much easier to talk
about what we would do than to do
anything else. If only we were not bound by
one constraint or another—poverty or
tragedy or temporality or our own failed
skins or a childhood too kind to us or a party
next Friday night. This is how we would kill
Sarah Ciston —–––––––––––
darlings, with future tense: Someday we
would be really alive, someday we would
be really traveling and living and someday
would be put off and off again. We would
never age inside these cities. We would die,
but we would never age. We were
twentysomething. We were thirty, and still.
We were telling ourselves that, by the time
we were old, people would live to be older.

We were fascinatedwith our own

faces—arms outstretched to capture
ever-upward-gazing self-portraits before
parties. This is how we’d document the
night, not in the night itself but in the
looks on our faces before the night or in
its disheveled after. We were the best
minds of our generation staring at
ourselves, a constant character study, a
memorization, a fight to recall something
that would never happen to us.
We looked like idiots.
We spent nights after the night had
ended back behind our screens where
we began, following the computer trails
of almost strangers, as they sat at home
following our computer trails. We carved
out orbits of arms-length observation,
yearning for contact.

We are the pen you lent us, a matchbook

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
held on to for months now, clung to out of
boredom more than anything else except
a fear of having our hands free. We are
no good at standing still without a drink in
our fist, no good at not lighting up, at not
having some place else to be, at not
wishing you would say something else as
you say whatever it is you say (whatever it
is we do not hear through all our wishing).
We are not good at going before the
going gets however that expression goes.
We are not good at remembering things,
except the gestures and phrases you left
us, tongue in an ear for a time, tugging
hair, a comment about • ••••• •••••••
or the politics of sleeping—exchanges
made public record, later redacted or
encoded in track lists—appropriated
letters we should know better than to
read into but we will, the way your ink
bleeds on skin. We will absorb. We will not
be content wherever it is that we are.
When that wherever is near you, we will
know better. We will know better than
ever before that your teleology will
destroy us. We will hold on to it like a
breath. The strange nebulous Almost of it
will make pulses quicken from folded
messages on stolen time. We will not know
how to shrug you off for good, except by
finding someone else to shrug us off,
Sarah Ciston —–––––––––––
someone else who will make ripples in our
world again. If they’ll have us, if they
won’t make us too miserable, we will
make them miserable instead. We cannot
increase love in our universe without
increasing misery and entropy as well—it is
the law of thermodynamics that theorists
forgot, that quantum way we have of
never being able to get too much in our
lives that is good, the way moving forward
is also moving backward as seen from the
darkness of a space that contains all
unanticipated angles. We throw our
weight against all that is constant, the
rushing speed of light against fragile
bones and against trees dropping flawed
fractals on the ground. We are tugging on
the light we know will go out (slippery
chain wanting to click); we know what is
constant flickers and fades. We blink
against our own relativity, its too-tender
photosensitivity. Our eyes will not adjust.

We wait. The wait is hollowing. The wait

carves stalactites from our stomach lining
and makes the edges of night shudder.
Still we hover over messages, wondering
what will boomerang back. We know the
stars will disperse, and as we pass through
other constellations we will be pulled in all
directions, drawn and quartered like the
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
compass rose. We will board planes and
have conversations we don’t mention.
We will take apart a past still fresh and
hang it up in strips of film and come home
smelling of chemistry. We are cutting
room floors, frames snipped apart,
meaning dismembered. We do this only
to have something to lose, something to
come untethered and trail away from us
into the dark, something to long after. We
may have lecture notes and slides but we
do not have the universe they attempt to
explain; we do not have the very night
that makes them what they are. We are
merely a little bit of everything, which may
be made almost entirely of nothing.

Sarah Ciston —–––––––––––

On the Fourth of July I sat outside Hayden

Sweet’s house and blew democracy’s
mind by smoking five cigarettes at one
time. My brother’s girlfriend asked if it
wasn’t sort of dangerous to smoke at all,
let alone five cigarettes at one time but I
flicked some ash into her face and told
my brother to bring out the bottle rockets.
He looked unsure at first but I said, “Are
you a woman, kid?” and he ran off.

I took the beer his girlfriend was drinking

from her hands as she stood there staring
and I drank the whole thing in one gulp
and slammed it down onto the
pavement. A shard of glass flew into my
cheek and I laughed, wiping the blood
across my face. A tear rolled from under
my brother’s girlfriend’s right eye as my
brother ran up, breathing hard, holding
the bottle rockets.

“Hey what are you going to do with

these?” he asked.

“You know those are illegal, right?” said

his girlfriend.

I spit two of the cigarettes out because

they were done and took the bottle
rockets in my hand.
Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––

“Look out, babies,” I said as I took another

cigarette from my mouth and began to
light the bottle rockets one by one.

My brother started running and his

girlfriend started screaming and as
people streamed out of Hayden’s house, I
spit out the remaining cigarettes, lay to
the ground and put the wooden ends of
the rockets in my mouth. I heard someone
yell my name and someone crying but I
just lay there, sucking in the sulfur smell of
danger through my nose, waiting for the

Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
Bug Attack!

“Why is it,” Joe said to my door as I

pushed it open, “that there are so many
orange bugs all over the living room?”

I took the gourd from his hands and

sucked on the straw before answering:
“What the fuck are you doing here so

We walked quietly down the hall to the

kitchen to refill his cup with leaves from
the little white jar Joe always leaves on
my counter. I noticed that he was correct
about the bugs but I decided not to give
him the satisfaction of knowing that I saw
them too.

“Seriously,” he said. He was sort of

freaking out now because there were
about a trillion bright orange cockroaches
eating all my furniture. “Honestly, you
have to see those bugs!”

Nonchalantly I sipped the lukewarm

matte. “You must be sleepwalking Joe,” I
said, “I told you it was fucking early.”

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Joe started to cry as the orange bugs
seeped into the kitchen and began
gnawing our shoes.

I walked over to where my couch used to

be and crouched down like it still existed.
Now Joe was screaming, “LIZZY THEY ARE

“Relax man,” I said as I felt tiny teeth sink

into my toes, “You’re just imagining

Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
Don’t Ask Me

I don't know. Don't ask me because I'm

the last person to ask. I don't know if the
purpose is to make the world larger or
smaller. If I knew that, maybe I could cast
an opinion. Maybe I would have
something useful to say. But I don't, so
there you go. If it's both, that's all right I
guess. If the idea is for the two people to
make some kind of rhythm together
between a larger and smaller world, to
move together, to look at the world and
say this is the lousiest place I've ever seen
and the most wonderful place I could
imagine together, then I can understand
that in theory. I can understand leaving a
house with answers and coming back
home with questions that get answered
some time in the night. Where I get
stumped is whether or not a person is who
they are standing still or if they are who
they are in motion, because love seems
like a place where we tell each other: I
accept you standing still, I accept you
when you are not reaching or trying and
you are asking the world to be the one
doing a little reaching and trying for a
change, and yet there is something so
unspeakably beautiful about motion,
about always being the one doing the
reaching and trying, and I can remember
going all the way back to when I was a
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
boy and there was no time that I felt more
like my role was to love as when I
watched girls playing soccer, and girls
that I did not particularly notice standing
still would suddenly look so beautiful in
motion that I wouldn't know what to do,
almost like they had reached it, they had
reached whatever a girl could reach to
match the grass and the sky, and then as I
got older, it was the motion inside, it was
the way she could try to stay one step
ahead of her own thoughts and feelings,
it was the way she could struggle with
them, the way she could keep them and
still stay light on her feet, and she could
have her beliefs but she knew that she
could hold them just as tightly to her heart
when she held them like feathers as when
she held them like boulders. I don't know if
I should not be expecting feathers in a
world that was building up boulders all the
time, building up boulders in girls and
women that I don't know the first thing
about, and maybe the idea is that there is
a man or a woman around whom the
boulders feel like feathers, and nothing
goes away, it's just that the boulders turn
into feathers, which would be all right
because at least the common
understanding there is that the purpose is
to fly, which is the best kind of motion
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
there is, and I'm glad there's that to agree
on at least, it's just a question of what kind
of flying, and where and when and how,
but what I don't know is, what if you've
already been flying before you meet?
What if you've already been flying
because that's the only way you had left
to move? Because down on the ground
you were carrying boulders till you felt like
a boulder yourself, and you were looking
up at birds like a stranger, instead of
seeing them as only a slight variation of
yourself. What if you had to fly and stay
flown and a woman comes along and
says, Come down here on the ground
with me, because you have boulders that
are like my boulders, and we can do
some great things with them together?
We can laugh about them and we can
cry about them and we can know that
they are there in each other. We can
develop our own secret language with
them, so that there won't be a great need
for words, and even just a few words will
tell a story that goes far back in ourselves
about them. We will learn about each
other's boulders and we will learn from
each other how to carry them. And what
if you want to tell her that when you look
down on the ground from above, you
can see your boulders and everybody
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
else's, and from that height they all look
very much the same? They look very
much the same and they all look very
beautiful from up there as well. What if
you don't know where you're going to be
able to get to without that view?
I don't know. I'm not the one with
answers. If the man feels like singing, he
should sing. If it's just after she's asked him
a question, that might be a little awkward.
Then again, if she joins in, they might have
something. The song is always going; they
just happen to be joining in for a while. If
the two people hear it differently, it is
good to acknowledge that what the
other hears is still a song. It is still an effort
to be a part of something larger. It's the
rhythms that are different. I've looked up
at birds and thought that I've wanted to
move like them. And I like the way there is
a soaring between each flap. It's not with
any expectation that there's going to be
soaring forever. They know that they're
going to have to flap again as they go,
but that doesn't take anything away from
the soaring. They know there's going to be
a few moments there where they are the
masters of it, and I've watched them do
the same thing in whatever kind of world it
happens to be. I don't know if the two
people are trying to make a larger world
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
or a smaller one, or if they are trying to do
their best in the world that happens to be.
I just don't know what they are going to
do in a world that is going to outlast them
if they don't begin with the premise that it
is a world that is going to outlast them.
And then whatever they do after that,
more power to them. I wish them the best,
through and through. I wish every one of
them the best, and I wish myself the best
too. We aren't birds, so it's difficult to
move with that kind of grace for even a
few moments, let alone forever. It's nice to
think that the pursuit of that grace is the
same for everybody, but you'll be talking
to her on the phone one day and you'll
say something that is indicative of your
pursuit of grace, and she will say
something that is indicative of hers, and
you will pause because there is grace at
the end of both of them, but it is two
different worlds. And you'll know that your
world is based on motion and hers is
based on an intimacy in standing still, and
there's no question that each one is right
for each person, and there are even times
when the two worlds are only a hair's
breadth away from each other, and it
beats the hell out of me whether or not it
has to be the same world for it to be love.
I don't know and I'm the last person to ask.
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
They are both going to be struggling in
whatever world they are living in. They are
both going to be looking up at the birds
and wondering if only their own lives
could travel a course as clean and
purposeful as the bird's path in flight, and
they will harbor a secret belief that they
do, that they do only they just can't see it
yet, and what I am prepared to say is that
there is love in that wondering and secret
believing together, and I don't know if it
has to be the same wondering and secret
believing or not, but there is still love in
that, and that's just about as far as I can

Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
Rest Stop

Lester and Miriam had been on this road

many times on their yearly trek up to
Oregon for the Shakespeare festival, so
many times that the years had mounted
up, and now they were quite old. Lester
still had his hair, but it was all white; Miriam
had become quite frail. She now walked
with a slight stoop. But they both still
looked forward all year to this trip. Thinking
about it all year filled them with romantic
anticipation. The first years when they had
come they had gone river rafting as well
as to the plays, but they stropped that
after Lester’s back went out. Since those
days he had had two operations—one on
his back, and the other on his knee, and
Miriam had developed a heart condition,
but perhaps because of their infirmities
these getaways had become even more
precious to them. After all these years,
they were still in love, more in love than
ever. And each secretly wondered what
they would do if anything ever happened
to the other.
They hadn’t been able to see Mount
Shasta on their way up to Oregon; it had
been shrouded in cloud. Usually they
could see it looming dead ahead of them
all the way from Red Bluff. But this year
there had been thundershowers.
On their way back, clouds were still
clinging to the mountain, so that only the
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
snowy peak peeked through, but as they
came around its other side they saw it in
its full glory, the snow still halfway down its
flank, covering the heart. It took their
breath away.
They always brought a picnic with
them in the car, never stopped for lunch
or for any other reason. But this year, they
took a slight excursion. Miriam had
wanted to see the new Sundial Bridge in
Redding; she had read about it. To their
surprise, it was a footbridge over the
Sacramento River. It was high noon, so
the sun beat straight down upon them as
they walked down the middle of the
bridge arm in arm. Miriam was nervous
about getting too close to the edge. They
decided not to go all the way across and
turned back.
When they got back to the car it was
radiating heat in the un-shaded parking
lot. At first they didn’t know how they
were going to be able to touch the door
handle to open it. Miriam rummaged in
her bag for a tissue to put over it, and this
worked, but the car was a furnace when
they climbed in. Thinking ahead that they
might get tired on the drive, Miriam had
packed some Pepsi’s to drink for the
caffeine. But now the sodas were
disgustingly warm. As soon as Lester
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
started the car and the air conditioning
started blasting, Miriam held hers against
the vent. The air it was spewing would
soon be icy.
“Do you want me to drive?” Miriam
asked. If Lester was more tired than she
was, then she should.
“No, that’s okay,” Lester said, “but this
is our last stop until we get home.”
As they drove back to the highway he
took a long pull on his Pepsi. Miriam
decided not to drink hers, even though
the air conditioner soon cooled it so that it
was tolerable. If she drank it, it would
make her want to pee, and Lester didn’t
want to stop any more until they got
home, which wouldn’t be for four and a
half hours. They rode along happily in
silence, every so often stealing tender
glances at each other.
After several hours, however, Lester
needed to pee. “I’m going to stop at the
next rest stop,” he told Miriam. “It was the
The rest stop was in the middle of
nowhere, and it was like any other, with
places to park, a picnic table to sit at, a
men’s room, and a ladies’ room.
“Are you going to pee, too?” Lester
asked, as they both got out of the car.

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
“As long as we’re here,” Miriam said,
over the top. “And, dear, I’m going to
leave my purse in the car, so be sure to
lock it.”

Lester locked the car and went directly to

the men’s room where he relieved himself.
It was hot here, out in the middle of
nowhere, he noticed, as he made his way
back to the car and unlocked it. He got
in, put on his seatbelt, and headed out
down the road. He was not heading
home; he was never going to get home.

Miriam found the ladies’ room clean

enough. There were paper toilet seat
covers, and there was toilet paper and
soap in the dispenser. But there were no
paper towels. Miriam dried her hands on
her hair, giving it a little curl. It was so hot
and dry out here in the middle of
nowhere that her hair felt brittle. She
made her way back to the car, but the
car wasn’t there.
Lester was gone. The day she had
dreaded for years had finally come. She
stood there in the middle of nowhere with
nothing. She had left her purse in the car
with her cell phone and ID.
After a while, she went and sat down
at the picnic table. Night began to fall.
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
Finally, she got up and began making her
way through the dust.

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK

Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
Requiem for the Butterflies previously published
in The 16th & Mission Review No. XIII – Chalk Outlines

Years ago,

Alone in the quiet of the coming night

and gazing ‘cross the bay

Placid, dark demure

and sequined with the silent lights,

bridge traffic and brightening Berkeley


i took this picture

a sliver vestige of the gone world, starlight

against the dark tide

and days bereft of butterflies

Now they’ve gone

without leaving

a note or an inkling

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
of where they went missing,

No maps traced in dusty wings

say they’ll return to me,

And i’ve got this notion

my smile’s been lying

But i’ve been biding my time

Coz you know what they say

about dead men

and the tales that they tell…

The rain drowns the gutters

Pooling heavy as the sky in my hat

The ursine embrace

of the sidewalks’ cement shoes

It’s cold

But i don’t want to feel better

J. Brandon Loberg —–––––––––––
The rain hasn’t painted

this desert face since i remember.

i told you when you said

i seem so far away sometimes:

i’m sailing,

with the world at a distance

this mosaic of broken time

Every shard,

clinking to glint again upon the sidewalk

has a story

These long nights always find me

There on the quay

Fingering an old photograph

the past recaptured

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
staring holes in the sky

for a glimpse of the stars.

All we ever see of stars

are their old photographs,

The pictures you found in the attic

Parents smiling together

Dressed in decades out of fashion

But mostly wearing new love

from ear to ear

in every grain of those old Polaroids,

or your friend who

checked out long before

anyone thought he had the right to.

You can’t go back.

J. Brandon Loberg —–––––––––––
Everything electric,

kindled in the brilliant

butterfly dust of nebulae,

slowly rends itself apart,

and in this flicker of a lifetime

we might never see the pictures

to prove that it happened.

All we have in the slow collapse

Are a few slurred sincerities

Between friends, between lovers

And when Cosmia flutter

in the inkblots of last night’s wine-stains

i hope i never get sober.

But if we can elongate the seconds

We might lie in the grass,

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Linger in the cracks

where the light gets in

and the asphalt flowers grow

We might hold more

than just one another’s

farewell gazes, forget

to remember that every connection

is just the portent a long goodbye,

And i might spend my days accepting


instead of making rain.

Keep me awake ‘til the stars burn out

J. Brandon Loberg —–––––––––––
But a Drop Upon the Concrete

i noticed the tears

you tried to hide
in your reflection from the backseat
with the city lights ahead
and with a sleeve, you dried your eyes
and said “I'm sorry—
I've crossed this bridge
on so many drives
but the light still catches me
and that's
how I know
that I'm home.”

This is where you'd hang your hat,

you said,
No further West
beckons your heels
So why not leave some footprints
on the beach
and disappear inside a bottle
As the night descends
without a star
And the wind steals all your songs

Through the rain-glistened windows

the city is electric
with the friction of a furtive gaze,
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Neon and glass smear together
in slow exposure,
fire escapes cling
skeletal to buildings,
phoenix talons
clawing toward the sky
to fall one day and burn again.

She takes my hand,

Hers coursed in a tarot of frayed lifelines
Queen of Cups runneth empty
But she smiles
One good eye shrinkwrapped in tears
A glass half full
Belying all the years
Curled in doorways
Concrete never grows softer,
But some hearts
shine the brighter for their breakage,
and bittersweetly
someone put hers back together
before the end.
We'll miss you,

Now i'm standing on the roof,

the foghorns in the distance
calling weary hulls to berth,
and in the company of friends
i'll swear my face
J. Brandon Loberg —–––––––––––
was only wet from sea breeze
knowing too well
where the hell i've left my heart.

So when you get here

pluck two petals
from an asphalt flower
She loves you...
yeah...she loves you

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK

J. Brandon Loberg —–––––––––––
Everybody, Look at Me

There is controversy brewing in the heavily

gay populated Castro district in San
Francisco. A group of nudists have
descended upon the newly installed
piazza at the street closure of 17th and
Market. The piazza has become the new
town square. Young drag queens run from
bar to bar, trying to hustle up an
audience. Some even climb up the NO
PARKING sign in front of the Subway
sandwich shop to perform impromptu
pole dancing. You never know when a
poet or a performance artist will put on a
little DIY show where the F-line ends. There
is a renewed feeling of excitement:
something may happen if you linger.
Everyone wants a little attention, it seems.

Although there has been no local

opposition to the nudists, outside
influences have been stirring the pot. In
the 2/10/11 San Francisco Chronicle,
columnist C.W. Nevius suggests that gay
residents are as offended as he is but
simply too afraid to speak up. Nevius
argues that the Castro has evolved past
its legacy as a bastion of gay liberation: it
now includes parents with strollers. To
protect 7-year-olds from the sight of
grandpas in wrinkled birthday suits, Nevius
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
urged residents to lodge complaints to
the police.

Couldn’t this just be a teachable

moment, à la Obama?

See, kids, this is what happens when you

don’t exercise and don’t wear sunscreen.

Nudity doesn’t harm children, no matter

how grotesque. After all, we encourage
our kids to visit museums, where there are
nude drawings and nude sculptures.
Many children take baths with their
parents. Nudity, in all shapes and sizes, is
on display if your child changes in the
locker room at the local pool.

When adults voice their objections to

public nudity, they do so because it
offends their tastes and sensibilities. Gay
Castro residents are not well known for
being timid and reticent on social issues.
We speak up for our neighborhood when
the issue warrants our attention. These
nudists, as unsightly as they may be, do
not offend. As the saying goes, it is the
Castro. With its historical legacy as a
bastion of insouciance and iconoclasm,
we celebrate the Castro as an
undisputed ADULT space.

Cassandra Gorgeous —–––––––––––
When tourists go to North Beach, they
expect pastas and espressos. When they
venture into Chinatown, they buy back-
scratchers and comment on the
obnoxious smells. When they come to the
Castro, they want to see the weird and
wacky. They aren’t coming to check out
Pottery Barn.

If we banned the three nudists (count

them—just three!) in the name of
protecting the children, perhaps the gay
porno cases on display outside Superstar
Videos will be the next to go. Anal beads
will no longer be sold in Castro sex shops,
if any will be allowed to remain open. Hot
Cookie will be precluded from selling their
gigantic penis-shaped macaroons.

The Castro will have been completely de-


This way, well meaning parents can safely

take their kids on a tour of a sanitized
Castro. They can pride themselves on
how enlightened (and progressive) they
are when they announce, “see, kids,
being gay is completely normal.” And
utterly boring.

When I think of San Francisco, and the

Castro in particular, I think it is a magical
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
playtime for adults. When the fog blankets
down the hills of Twin Peaks like cotton
candy, I wonder if the gold rushers of the
Barbary Coast, amidst all the sex and
gambling, stopped to admire the view.
Did the same shivering summer cold greet
the Haight-Ashbury hippies of the sixties,
when people wore flowers in their hair?
When I read Tales of the City, and how
much energy these characters had—to
go dance at the Endup, to go to a
specific Laundromat for sex, to shop at a
Safeway all the way across town for the
pickup scene—I sometimes wonder, was
San Francisco a warmer city then?

In the age of social networking on the

internet, there is less and less need to go
to the town square to check out the
scene. Especially in perpetually cold San
Francisco, the sleepiest city ever after the
fog rolls in. Drag queens, poets, musicians,
and yes, even the nudists—they’re like
cartoons popping up in real life. They
make the Castro the place to go for
something unexpected. Something
exciting may yet happen if I venture out
and play.

It almost makes me feel like a kid again.

Cassandra Gorgeous —–––––––––––
Invisible Parade

Every visit to this city begins in the same

way, by driving past a chunk of redwood,
the words “Welcome to Centerville,
Gateway to the Sequoias” carved into its
lacquered bark, revealing the city to be a
portal to another place as much as its
own destination, making it difficult for the
city to craft an identity of its own, its
identity as shifting as the string of
businesses that have flared through it,
leaving behind barren structures and
vacant streets, chasing the expanding
highways and multiplying subdivisions,
imagining it will be better the next time, in
that place, on that road.
So when this city cobbled together
what was left and went back to the chore
of defining who it was, it struggled, stifled
by the mishmash of architecture and
purpose rising up from Main Street, the
terra cotta columns of a former bank now
flanking second-hand appliances, the
neon drive-in sign buzzing above
treadmills and stationary bikes, the
marquee of the movie theater advertising
used cars. If it hadn’t been for the citizens
and their persistence in maintaining some
semblance of their former life, lining up
every morning to buy pastries at the old
newspaper office, where they’d
Donna Laemmielen —–––––––––––
exchange ideas for shaping the city’s
identity, perhaps a farmer’s market to
replace the desolate packing houses, or
a fiesta to bring back the city’s diverse
culinary talents, the city wouldn’t have
had any identity at all. The longer they
brainstormed, the more the ideas
mushroomed, until they imagined a city
that could sustain itself simply on the guts
and imagination of the few citizens left, a
vision just believable enough they began
the hard work of turning the deserted
bowling alley into a flea market, the
empty car lot into a carnival, the defunct
library into a haunted house.
Soon, the city settled into a meager yet
comfortable rhythm, slowly regaining a
sense of purpose and well-being, the
citizens confident they had managed
their crisis as well as their city council
would have, if they still had one. It wasn’t
until they gathered along Main Street for
the Fourth of July parade that their
optimism faltered again. In spite of having
allowed fireworks inside the city limits and
the selling of beer on the sidewalks, their
celebratory spirit plummeted when they
saw the parade itself, suffering from the
same blow as the rest of the city, a
parade gutted of its purpose, to
showcase the high school band marching
at the front, trumpeting the floats covered
Donna Laemmielen —–––––––––––
in metallic fringe and glittery Styrofoam
cut-outs, representing the Boy and Girl
Scouts of America, the Parent-Teacher
Association, the 4-H club and the Order of
Odd Fellows, the Chamber of Commerce
in their restored Chevys, the policemen
touting their sirens and the firemen their
shiny red trucks. They were all gone,
relocated, disbanded, dissolved.
So empty was the parade the citizens
were left with only each other to watch,
and since they still had their beers, they
did so intently, intently remembering until
they began to see themselves in each
other and moved across the street to
shake hands, not too unlike any other day
of the week, only now they shook hands
with their younger selves, on their way to
deposit money at the used-furniture store
or to mail a package at the corner bar,
carrying their bowling balls to the flea
market or their overdue books to the
haunted house, all moving with such
purpose they finally understood: the
portal hadn’t been to the Sequoias after
all. It had been to the city itself.
In joyous recognition of this hard-
earned lesson, they made dates with
each other to celebrate their new
independence, some to eat caramel
sundaes at the gym, others to watch a
double-feature in the used car sales-
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
room, and still others to buy champagne
at the wedding dress shop, having all
agreed to meet back on Main Street by
midnight, where the parade would
resume, but this time, the citizens
themselves would march, banded
together as their own float, carrying giant
sparklers and covered in crepe paper
streamers of red, white and blue.

Donna Laemmielen —–––––––––––
County Fair

Those red tents have been resurrected

off state route 25. They fill the sky like rust-
colored clouds,
like a summer storm sliding off the lake.

It’s a sure sign the town will die

for a day or two at least
or until the fairground closes its gates.

It has never been my thing—

the blue-ribbon pigs,
the kids with their cotton-candy hands
screaming on the tilt-o-whirl.

I would rather go downtown

where it looks like The Rapture has come.

All God’s faithful rising

and falling on carousel horses
as sinners wander the streets.

Shuffling shoes down the avenue

every ordinary sound seems sacred—
the leaves dragging their dead bodies
down the block,
the flag at the post office flapping its

The wind carries a jukebox tune

from one of the corner bars
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
and I swear I can hear the record stop,
and begin to play again.

It should seem that the world has slipped

with the banks and bakeries left behind,
the drugstore windows filled with dust,
but it’s never seemed more within reach.

And at night from my bed

while the fireflies cluster like galaxies,
the earth will echo back
the fireworks display,
the grinding of gears from the tractor pull,
and I will drift away.

James J. Siegel —–––––––––––
Jenny and the Sea

The week Jenny left Fuengirola, the entire

town was whisked up by the wind. She
had a going-away party in her apartment
along the Paseo Maritimo. Jorge, Juan
and I holed up in her third-story flat,
playing cards and drinking beer as we
tried not to address the inherent tragedy
in her going away. Jenny was my one real
American friend, the girl who I met in the
bathroom in Granada two years ago, the
one who, like me, had experienced Spain
first as a student, and loved it enough to
return as a teacher. Except Jenny had
also fallen in love, truly in love, with her
language partner Juan, and so she had
so many more reasons than me to stay in
Spain. This just made it all the worse when
the news came that her father had a
second bout of lung cancer, terminal this
time, and she was given a week to say
her goodbyes, lease her apartment, and
bid farewell to her friends and boyfriend.
I loved Jenny too, in that way that one
loves so desperately the first wonderful
person who offers a kind word or gesture. I
was her little duck, and she had left an
imprint. Jenny was loud and gregarious
and had a thousand random passions.
She liked stargazing, and together she
and Juan set up a huge telescope on the
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
roof of her apartment complex. One night
she invited me over and the three of us
stood there beneath the stars, Juan and I
quiet observers as Jenny made the sky, so
disparately white and black, into a
multicolored, living breathing thing, filled
to the brim with archers and their bows,
gods and their belts. She had bought a
mountain bike and often spent the
weekends traversing back-country
Málaga with Juan at her side. She, like
me, was obsessed with Spanish and
making it her oxygen. Her apartment was
littered with little white sticky notes, labels
for every noun: frigorífico on the fridge,
cortinas on the curtains, lavadora by the
washing-machine. Jenny was from a small
town outside Boston and had never lived
so close to the sea; more familiar was she
with cranberry bogs and wooded forests.
That was why she had opted for this three-
bedroom flat directly opposite the
beachfront: the views were spectacular,
especially on hot autumn days when the
surf was good and the fishing boats were
out in full force.
We used to swim together, maybe
once a week. I’d meet her down at the
front of her apartment, ring the bell in my
bikini and board shorts, and wait for her
happy sing-song voice to buzz down ya
me voy! We’d go down to the gritty sand
Julia Halprin Jackson —–––––––––––
by the harbor and wander out into the
shallows, the water clear and cool. On
weekends the beach was crowded with
topless women and overweight,
sunburned men, and yet so few people
actually went in the water. Jenny didn’t
understand this. The water es perfecto!
She’d delight, and while I was still
shimmying in ever-so-slowly, she’d already
have cannonballed her way in, cutting
the Mediterranean in two as she swam
out, out, out.
The day she found out about her
father, it was a rainy, overcast day in late
January. She called me and said simply, I
need you to come over. And so I went,
with my swimsuit in my backpack, just in
case. She let me up and her voice had
deflated, her entire being small and
almost voiceless. The holidays had come
and gone and she had decided to stay in
Europe with Juan, and all the while her
father was undergoing tests, hoping the
best. Why did he ever have to smoke, she
said so angrily, and I got angry too. Let’s
We put on our suits and wandered out
to the Paseo, but the sky was already
darkening. We walked down by the
karaoke tents along the water, where
tourists came on weekends, but no one
went regularly. How hard Fuengirola tried
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
to be entertaining. I didn’t know what to
say as Jenny talked of her father, and
how he loved to fish, and how when her
sister called, she’d just said, come as soon
as you can.
While she talked, I watched her very
vitality alternately rise and fall. I saw in her
the weekend hikes, the mountain bike,
her job at the local high school, which she
loved, the beach and how many dozens
of little white vocabulary cards she had
tacked up around her life. And now she
had to pack it all up and go home.
We circled the little shacks at the
beach and at long last put down our
things and approached the water. The
night was cold and abrupt, the water
unwelcome. Everything was harsh. Jenny
walked straight in, cut through the water
with a ferocity that might have been
cathartic, but more than anything
appeared like an attempt to control
something, anything. I waded in and
followed her, waiting as always to follow
her lead. When she did cry, it was amidst
the overall weight of the water
surrounding us both. He’s never met Juan,
she said, he probably never will.
I remember in that moment wanting to
offer her something—a small part of
myself, perhaps, a nice dinner, a stack of
new vocabulary words, words that might
Julia Halprin Jackson —–––––––––––
place a name to whatever feeling it was
she felt right then. Instead I just continued
treading water, my teeth chattering as
the night wore on and the universe
burned on without us. We both still had six
months left on our teaching contracts. I
worried about her and her father, and
also about what I’d do without my one
true friend for six long months.
A few days later we were all over at
her house for her farewell party. By then
there was some pretense of normalcy. In
one short week, Jenny had informed her
school, given up her apartment, begun
shipping her clothes and books back to
Juan and his sister Felicia came down
from Granada that last night. Jorge, the
language partner I wanted to be my
Juan, had come along as well, and the
five of us stayed up late, rowdy and
ruddy-cheeked with the flush of liquor and
forced laughter. That night the winds were
so fierce that her windows and sliding
door whistled. Jenny found a stick of duct
tape and together we taped the sides of
all the windows and door shut, muting the
screams of wind and sand. It seemed
Fuengirola was purging itself of us—we
were taping back more than the weather.
I spent most of that night trying to get
Jorge to kiss me, although when he did,
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
he bit me hard, and like a fool I thought
that was a good thing. By the time
morning came, we were all hung over
and weather-worn, making the goodbyes
worse. I remember wanting it to be quiet,
wanting Jenny to know that I wouldn’t
have the courage to swim through the
harbor without her, that I probably
wouldn’t ever find a Juan like hers, not in
Spain anyway, wanting to be up on the
roof with her again, looking for some sign
that the universe has a design no one can
keep up with, and when we try to, we find
only the visceral things: salt, sweat, tears.
The imprint of friend upon friend, the
impact of words as we learn and use
them, the memory of the beach on a
night when the world is terrifying—these
were all things I still lacked the words to
describe, words I’d have to find on my

Julia Halprin Jackson —–––––––––––
One Of Your Children Smokes And It’s
NOT Your Son

When my old sister, Georgia, was in

elementary and middle school, she was
what most people would consider a good
girl—a straight-A student as well as a
member of student council, she played
the piano and the violin, and participated
in sports like gymnastics, volleyball, and
horseback riding. But as soon as she
entered high school, she was immediately
swept up in the grunge movement of the
mid-1990’s. She quickly traded in her
leotard and riding pants for ripped up
acid wash jeans, ragged flannel shirts,
and combat boots. She stopped playing
the piano and started listening to bands
like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. She also took
to dying her hair unusual colors, and once
went so far as to shave half her head
“You look ridiculous,” my mother
“I’m rebelling,” Georgia replied.
“Against what?”
“Society. What a stupid place this
world is.”
I blamed my sister’s sudden
transformation into an angsty teenager
on her new best friend, a girl named
Poison, who Georgia had met during her
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
first week as a high schooler. Poison was a
chubby, dark-haired girl who wore too
much eyeliner and always seemed to
have a disenchanted expression on her
face. She only ever wore the color black
and had aspirations of being an exotic
dancer when she grew up. “Fuck my
parents and fuck the world,” Poison
proclaimed. “As soon as I turn 18 I’m using
my tits to make money!”
One summer afternoon I secretly
followed my sister and Poison down to the
local Dairy Queen, where I observed
them purchase soft serve vanilla ice
cream cones. After finishing their ice
cream, Poison reached into her
backpack and pulled out a pack of
Newports. Then both she and my sister lit
“I am so addicted to these things,”
Poison said, taking a drag then
immediately exhaling.
“Oh my god. Me, too,” Georgia
replied, following suit.
As soon as I got home that afternoon, I
wrote my parents an anonymous note
exposing Georgia as a smoker. It read:
One of your children smokes and it’s NOT
your son. I left it next to the telephone
where my mother would find it. That
evening at the dinner table, she and my
father confronted Georgia about her
Graham Gremore —–––––––––––
smoking habit. My sister immediately
confessed, claiming that Poison had
stolen the cigarettes from her mother,
who kept a carton in the freezer of the
mini fridge in their garage. My mother
burst into tears. She took the fact that
Georgia was a smoker as a personal
failing on her part as a mother.
“Where did I go wrong? I raised you
better than to smoke cigarettes!”
Meanwhile, my father mentioned
something about how smoking damages
a person’s taste buds.
“Pretty soon you won’t be able to taste
anything,” he hollered. “Can you imagine
not being able to enjoy food?”
He spoke as if losing the ability to taste
was the worst thing that could possibly
happen to a smoker.
Afterward, Georgia was grounded,
forbidden from watching any television for
an entire month, and advised not to hang
around Poison any longer.
It wasn’t until years later, when we
were both in our 20’s, that I confessed to
my sister it was me who had outed her as
a smoker all those years ago. I was living
in Los Angeles at the time and she was
visiting me at my apartment.
“You fucking piece of shit!” she snarled.
“I can’t believe you told on me!” Then she

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
threw a hairbrush at me. And that was the
last we ever spoke of the matter.

Graham Gremore —–––––––––––
No One Will Ever See This

everyone keeps their secrets close

keeping secrets is simple
secrets aren't like skyscrapers
they don’t tower out and off the earth as
they tremble
keeping a secret is the easiest thing
its the easiest thing
next to cowardice

and what could possibly be left to hide

that i couldn’t have read in the vibrations
of the room
the moment I exited the womb?
something in the atmosphere telling me
that maybe
maybe I shouldn’t be here and
maybe all those machines they used to
keep me alive
maybe they've made my destiny
slave to the machine age,
mothers milk gone dry in breasts
sucked up to nourish her near spiritless

they said they could prescribe nothing

to stop her sobbing

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
perhaps, I've been wailing ever since

Nicole McFeely —–––––––––––

When we must shuffle towards almost

feigning the desire to do so softly
when we must sit on the floor all day to
count the sand of our fathers
finding their failures more numerous

(you will learn to peel back this scene at

the corners and see what is called by
some "smile")

when we lose patience

our easy chairs begin chewing
we can't wait anymore, can't stay under
the day grabs at us, pleading:

"when? you?"

when we cease to think, weightless,

cease feigning affection,
say, "fuck our counterparts"
take to the streets to translate what the
sighs mean

(you will become timeless,

caught up in thoughts pleading to resound
outside of a rhyme scheme)

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
when we root out tragic infection
bleed out all that has happened to us
when we cease to do what we believe
we must do
and respond to the resounding sound of
the clock knock knocking at the door

(you might really begin to ask:

how empty do you need to be until your
beer is full
how often do you seek to regain the
you thought you forfeited,
fumbling over words somewhere while
clutching an empty wineglass,
watching time second guess itself as it

and, you might see yourself,

frail, yet unhealthily happy,
staring back in the mirror for the very first

and you won't end then

not on the note they expect you to)

Nicole McFeely —–––––––––––

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Fever, August

august had a name, it came: a wildfire

spreading through the forests
of our fingers, red tongues, worries,
nights between sheets of paper
pressed together like drying wildflowers

august made us weep, it hurt our teeth

we spilled into each other
shining summer flus
bathed in hard backyard
hummed honeybee suicides

august, aguey tendons, up the spine

pumped my limbs full of gold blood
spirit combustion, ginfire
eyes dilating together

Eduku paakamaatai ennai

Oru murai paakakudada ennai
Oru murai orey oru murai

august was a thorn a storm

we were torrential
our parents were worried
nights spent awake and breathing
afternoons dog-loved in lust

deathless august, hot-ash trees

blood roses blooming on pellucid sheets
Shruti Swamy —–––––––––––
the untethered hills
started to wander, dry, restless
at night moon beautiful
itched my eyes and I unraveled

like a mother-made sweater, a too big day

snapped the record in half,
a swan song star keening
at the edge of a constellation
the eyes burned out, body wet
won’t you look at me for once
won’t you just

august, the long cry of you at night

starts me awake and glues me there
a bed stinking with memories

the world is full of other lovers

my skin turning translucent

underneath, the dark rot
cut me open and it smells of wet leaves

don’t you see what’s underneath your

what you are crushing under your heels
leaves not dead just waiting—

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
(How to Fall from) Grace

It’s as easy as whistling

to a man in a pickup truck, letting him
put his hands on your hips,
letting him touch your face
with his whiskery lips

it’s as easy as listening to the nonsense

of somebody oh,
so much younger than you
as he traces the map of spider veins
behind your knees, and up your thighs
entranced by the way the blood ends there

easy as whispering
to the pear trees i once fell here,
ripe as a felled pear,
sticky with wasps—
i once lay here
with a boy
on top of me
in the sun
in the slatted light
that comes between the leaves
in the latest afternoon—

it’s as easy as forgetting

where you put the keys
and it occurs to you it’s just the last
in a string of things
your mind has let go
Melissa Stein —–––––––––––
dropping like marbles
in the spaces between your fingers
one by one to roll away in clear glass

as easy as turning over a shell,

flipping it over to see what’s underneath
and pocketing it, and walking away
across the aching sand

it’s as easy as—once you get a grip

on the tip of one feather
of one wing—pulling him down,
putting your hands on those shoulderblades
keeping him down, it’s as easy as stroking
the feathers of the angel
till he does what you want, till he wants
exactly what you want

as easy as taking
the hand of a boy
and walking through the orchard, stepping
each shadow of each trunk, the
keeping the luck that you have
as the hair sweeps across your shoulders
& your back
and he puts his hand in your hair and
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
pulls you to him by the back of the head
and you sway in the orchard light
and you kiss in that orchard light
and the air is still and silent
except for a pair
of redwinged blackbirds
off in a tree at the edge of the stand

easy as the way your thighs

stick to the seat on a searing summer day
the way your skin seals to the vinyl
and the noise it makes
when you peel yourself off it
and slide your hands down
to pull off the sweat
that’s gathered there

it’s as simple as taking the curve too fast

so the tires squeal,
hands gripping the wheel so tight, almost
almost going too fast
and just violating the center line
just transgressing the center line

simple as buying the most expensive meat

the largest, leanest cut of filet mignon
pointing and saying that one, please
at $26.99 a pound, that one’s for me,
i deserve that

simple as throwing out a pen

that isn’t finished yet,
Melissa Stein —–––––––––––
that’s been used to wish things
away that you didn’t ask for,
that’s been used to ask for
what you’ve never had
that’s been used to build words
out of strangers, out of the backs
of cars, out of bracelets dangling silver
and light on the most delicate wrist
held very softly
by a rougher hand
warmed by the sun
scratched by dried grasses and straw

it’s as easy as wanting too much

as the sun sears the grasses
to straw, bleaches them gold
and aware, gold and awake,
bleaches them to brushfire, waiting
to happen, in the core,
in the seeds, in the hollow
in the center of the straw

as easy as wrapping your legs around

a boy you now love
and pushing harder, saying for me, for me

easy as dropping what you’ve worked on

all these years as if it were a marble falling
from your hand, as if it were a straw,
poised at the end of a lit match
as if it were a bird with one wing
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
clipped, lurching in the air-earth air-earth

as cleaving to a remembered night

in the stiff summered air
hands sliding past your waistband,
warm and urgent, drawing closer
in a quiet
punctuated only by katydids
announcing themselves
in the blackness

and letting him

for there’s no moon tonight
to show what goes on between the rows,
the spiders strung across
and holy
in their appointed tasks—
ours, too, to thrash
wholly in the chaff
with the beginnings
of gratefulness,
with a whole life

most of which
is still ahead

Melissa Stein —–––––––––––

—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
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