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Q uiet L
ightning
sPARKLE
& bLINK
2.4
 

Sparkle
&
Blink
as performed on
May 2 11
@ Café Du Nord

© 2011 Quiet Lightning

art by Pua Logan


pualogan.com

edited by Evan Karp


evankarp.com

Promotional rights only.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be


reproduced in any form without permission
from individual authors.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of


this book via the internet or any other means
without the permission of the author(s) is illegal.

Your support is crucial and appreciated.


http://quietlightning.org
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

!
!
 
Contents

Kelci M. Kelci
Interview 8

Graham Gremore
The Destination Wedding 11

Mira Martin-Parker
The Present 17
Like a Poor Girl 19
Gifts for Guns 21

Josh Mohr from Damascus


One Mysterious Piece 23

Calder Lorenz
Confessions of a Baptist Janitor 29

Ian Tuttle
Space is Never Empty 37

Paul Corman-Roberts
My Mein Kampf 39
 
L

Josey Duncan
Dayshift 45

Matthew Siegel
Weather of the Body 47
Life Guarding 48
Such is the Sickness 49

Lizzy Acker from Monster Party


There’s a Drunk Lady Selling Jewelry
on QVC 51

Daphne Gottlieb from 15 Ways to Stay Alive


Carpe Noctem 60

Chris Cole
Everything He Touches Turns to Candy
65

Siamak Vossoughi
The Movie Quitters 73
 

The Secret Secretaries


WORDS
Shye Powers
Heavenly Things: Abandoned 79

Stellar Cassidy
16th & Mission 81

Nic Burrose
Kill the Lights 89
SOUNDS from The Secret Secretaries’ Poetry is Dead
Behind Closed Doors 93
Broken Record Blues 95
XOXO 97
Get Well (Soon) 99
untitled 102

COLLAGE
This is Our Time Down Here 103

info + guide to other readings 107

2.4

Pua Logan
Old Man Paneha
and the Angry Grass front cover
Boy in Meadow back cover
 
Interview

Thanks for coming


let's get started

Tell me about your history


whose affections
and whose vaginas

Who's lame
and who do you hate

Just be honest
it's the muscles around your eyes I'm
watching

Your weakness besides lack of experience


in drugs
I don't want to teach that

How do you prefer to communicate


body-language in-person mind-games

Your favorite fruit


I ask everyone about the fruit there is no
correct answer

Do you believe the bullshit


your passions what are they

How about the gnostics


8
Kelci M. Kelci —–––––––––––
 
do you carry a piece of spark in your
heart

Is your tongue a ginger mister exploring or


a determined bourbon pusher

Do you like tantrums


are they girlish and attractive

Yes make-up sex is a qualification

Really the right answer is you return the


question

Under pressure how do you deal with


difficult hormones

Would you say you're my duende instead


of you're beautiful

Would you write stories about me


because I can guarantee this poem is
about you

I don't know if I could love you your


proficiency is wetting

For dudes
isn't it all about sex anyway

Distract me
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from the love I'm coming down off

Banish my appetite
flutter my stomach
make me doubt the realness of your
allegiance

Never slip up
never say those three words just double
dip mouth to lip

Do you have any more questions

Thanks I hope to make a decision by next


ovulation

10
Kelci M. Kelci —–––––––––––
 
The Destination Wedding

It all started last November when I


received an e-mail from my older sister,
Georgia, that read: I’m engaged.
That was it. Just two words. I’m
engaged.
She didn’t even include a picture of
her and her new fiancé, who, by the way,
I had never met, or even heard of for that
matter.
In the spirit of her e-mail, I replied with
my own two word response: To whom?
Weeks passed before Georgia replied
back. Her second e-mail was even shorter
than the first. It simply read: Steve.
I replied to the e-mail with: Steve? but
never heard back. My sister has a history
of falling off the face of the planet for
months at a time then randomly popping
back up when you least expect it. It’s part
of what makes her so annoying.
Another few weeks passed before I
finally telephoned my mother to get the
lowdown on my sister’s new beau.
“Who’s Steve?” I asked.
“What?” my mother replied.
“Steve. Who is Steve?”
“Who?”
“Steve! The guy Georgia’s marrying.”

11
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 
“Oh, Steve. Right. Him. That’s
Georgia’s fiancé.”
“I gathered that much. But who is
he?”
My mother went on to explain that she
wasn’t entirely sure. All she knew about
Steve was that he was an Australian and
that he and Georgia had been “seeing
each other for a while.” Then she
dropped the destination wedding bomb:
“And they’re getting married in
Australia. Isn’t that romantic?”
A wave of dread washed over me.
“You’re kidding, right? That’s in an entirely
different hemisphere.”
“So what? It’s an excuse to go
somewhere exotic.”
Now, I realize that most people would
be thrilled about a trip to Australia.
Unfortunately, I am not most people. Not
only did the thought of spending an
extended period of time with my family in
a foreign land sound less than ideal, but
traveling, in general, is not an activity I
enjoy. I don’t like living out of a suitcase.
Not to mention, flying terrifies me. So
much so that merely thinking about the
act of boarding an airplane causes me to
tremble with fear.
It didn’t always used to be like that.
Up until my early 20’s, flying didn’t bother
12
Graham Gremore —–––––––––––
 
me. It took a sudden awareness of my
own mortality, along with a deep distrust
in strangers, to put me over the edge.
Now, in order to make it through even a
short domestic flight, I require two Xanax
and a glass of wine, and even that
doesn’t always prevent me from breaking
out into a cold, clammy sweat, which
more often than not leads to a full-
fledged panic attack.
“I’m going to have to think about
this,” I said to my mother, tentatively.
“It’s your sister’s god damn wedding,”
she insisted. “You can’t miss it.”
And she was right. Skipping my only
sister’s wedding was perhaps the worst
thing I could do as a younger brother. But
that didn’t mean I couldn’t put up a fight.
After hanging up with my mother, I
went into campaign mode. Plopping
down in front of my computer, I wrote my
sister the following e-mail:

Georgia,
Don’t you think it’s a little rude to make your
friends and family fly halfway across the world
just to see you exchange nuptials with some guy
none of us even knew existed up until a month
ago? Australia is very far away. I implore that you
please reconsider your decision to get married
down under.
Your brother,
Graham
13
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 

Weeks later, Georgia replied to my e-mail


with the following message:

Graham,
Don’t be stupid. Who wouldn’t want to go to
Australia? It’s all warm weather and koala bears.
-Sis

Georgia,
For starters, me. I don’t want to go to Australia.

Graham,
You don’t count. The wedding will be in Australia.
So either shut up and deal with it or eat shit and
die. Your choice.

Georgia,
I hate you.

Graham,
Likewise.

It was becoming abundantly clear that


my sister wasn’t letting up. So it was time
to alter my approach. I opted for a good
old-fashioned guilt trip.

Georgia,
Why? Why are you doing this to me? Why? And
after everything we’ve been through…
Your loving, hurting brother.

Georgia replied to my e-mail a month or


so later. She was completely unphased.
14
Graham Gremore —–––––––––––
 

Oh, Graham.
Stop acting like some sort of victim. There are
two events in your sister’s life that you must
attend out of brotherly duty, her wedding and her
funeral. I know the wedding is going to be
inconvenient for you so you can skip the funeral.

Georgia,
Don’t think I’m going to fall for your little trick.
Though I may be four years younger than you,
statistically speaking, women live seven years
longer than men, which means I am most likely
going to die five years before you. Therefore, I opt
to skip the wedding.

Graham,
Dumb fool. If women live seven years longer than
men and you’re four years younger than me, then
that would mean you’re going to die three years
before me, not five. Get a calculator.

Georgia,
You’re missing the point. What I’m trying to say is
that, regardless of when I die, letting me off the
hook for your funeral is no consolation.

Graham,
Whatever. I could get hit by a bus, or fall down a
well, or be eaten by all matter of ferocious wildlife.
You better get in early because the funeral may
be gruesome.

By this point, we had been going back


and forth for close to four months and I
had made absolutely no headway in the

15
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 
matter. Georgia’s wedding would be in
Australia and there was nothing I could
say or do to change that. So I decided
my best bet at this point was to try and
strike up a deal.

Georgia,
I've come to terms with the fact that you're
getting married in Australia and there's nothing I
can do about it. So I've decided that, whenever
this dreadful wedding occurs, I will be there;
however, my attendance is contingent upon one
thing, that all of my drinks be paid for. I think it's
only fair that if I am being made to fly halfway
across the world, I should at least be able to drink
for free.

Georgia’s response came a little over a


week later. It was clear and to the point:

Graham,
Fine.
Fuck you,
Georgia

16
Graham Gremore —–––––––––––
 
The Present

What does the past look like in the


present? What’s it like living up in the
daylight world when you’ve been
bumping around in the dark for so long?
You have to struggle to appear normal.
You have to learn how to set a table, how
to sit at a table, the proper placement of
the female guest of honor—of the knife,
the fork, and the dessert spoon. You have
to refrain from writing with a Sharpee on
restroom walls and smashing things when
you’re upset. Your clothing should be
more expensive than usual. It should also
fit better than usual. It should be usual, yet
slightly interesting. You should always look
out. But be careful not to look too long.
Avoid crying in public and getting in fights
on the train. Best limit it to two beers,
especially at work functions. Never say
what you’ve done, who you did it with, or
where you come from. Don’t let people
know your real name. Shorten it. Make it
sound normal. Make it sound Western.
Smile. But be honest inside. If someone’s
an asshole, keep that in mind when the
two of you are alone together.
Remember your blood is still the same—
part animal, part American Indian, a bit
white—just enough to let you slip through.
17
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 
Keep a lock-blade in your purse. Always
be on time to work. Speak quietly. Smile. A
lot. The past is the past. It will always be
the past. The present is rather
complicated. Which is why God gave you
teeth.

18
Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––
 
Like a Poor Girl first published in Fall 2009, Diverse
Voices Quarterly, Vol1, Issue 1&2

I wear my jewelry like a poor girl—large


and real. I wear my clothes like a poor
girl—cleaned and ironed. My whites are
always whiter than white and I’m always
de-linting myself when I’m wearing
black—there’s not a spec of dirt or fuzz on
my sweaters. Like a poor girl, I am self-
conscious at formal tables. I lose my
tongue. I don’t order beer. Like a poor girl
I read Kierkegaard on the train. Because,
like a poor girl, I have over educated
myself. I am like a poor girl when I get my
paycheck. I spend it all at once, down to
my last ten dollars. I cannot save a thing.
For, like a poor girl there are so many
things I need, like a cashmere coat, tailor-
made in North Beach, with silk lining and
antique buttons. And it’s impossible for me
to imagine going without wine from the
wine shop, fresh baked bread, and
organic produce, since like a poor girl, I
must have the best of everything. My desk
at work is always clean, my bathroom at
home is spotless—I bleach each mold
spot when it first appears. Like a poor girl, I
live in the best city, in a lovely
neighborhood, in a darling apartment. But
in spite of all that I do, like a poor girl,
19
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 
nothing works, and it’s always apparent
right away to everyone that I am a poor
girl, and like the poor girl that I am I can’t
help looking into the windows of
Boulevard restaurant as I pass by on my
lunch break, even though I tell myself that
there’s nothing to look at inside but white
people eating delicate portions of salmon
and tossed greens, and drinking glasses of
wine. Still I can’t help but look in at them—
especially the men—because deep inside
I will always be, a poor girl.

20
Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––
 
Gifts for Guns

They said to show up in the morning. They


said to have it wrapped in a plastic bag,
and to put that in a gym bag. They said
that if you’re driving, be sure to put it in
the trunk of your car. They said to hand
over the other stuff, too—the extra clips
and ammo. But it can’t be loaded. You
have to take everything out and place it
all in a separate bag.
No problem, did all that, and I showed
up promptly at ten. I was the first one
there. The cops were still struggling to
hang their plastic promotional sign on the
side of their van: “Gifts for Guns—No
Questions Asked.”
The gift people were already
completely set up. They were standing
behind their table all smiley and cheerful.
Their sign was tied neatly to the tree
above them. So I went over and asked if
they were ready.
“Oh yes, they should be here any
minute. It usually takes them a little while
to show up.”
“Yes, but are they ready?” I asked,
pointing over at the police still struggling
with their sign.

21
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
 
“Oh yes, they’re definitely ready,”
looking surprised and suddenly realizing
why I was there.
I went back over to the police table
and waited patiently. Finally one of the
men stopped what he was doing and
gave me a funny look.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said, looking at me in
disbelief. “Hand it over.”
I opened by purse and pulled out a
small, but very heavy Japanese
drawstring sack and gave it to him. He
opened the bag and removed a black
22-semiautomatic. He quickly threaded
some sort of plastic device through the
empty chamber where the clip had
been. Then he put his hand back into the
bag and pulled out a receipt from the
gun shop where it had been purchased.
“Do you know this man?” he asked,
pointing to the name listed at the top.
“Of course I do,” I said with a smile.
“Can I have my gift now?”

22
Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––
 
One Mysterious Piece

A guy leaned out his car window a bit


past three a.m. and said to Owen, “Will
you blow into my steering wheel, Santa
Claus?”
It startled Owen, as he hadn’t seen
the man sitting in the car and also
because his niece, Daphne, was walking
out of Damascus with him. He bulged with
overprotection, despite the fact that
Daphne was a grown woman.
The streets were pretty quiet, except
for the occasional cluster of “friends”
heading back to somebody’s living room
for a few grams of cocaine, filibusters
about busted childhoods.
“What the hell do you want from
me?” Owen asked the guy, who was still
leaning out his car window.
“Blow into my wheel…” he slurred,
barely keeping his eyes open; Owen’s
anger withered when he saw the man’s
soggy condition. Too cooked to breathe.
Sometimes seeing people in this state
made Owen think that tending bar was
the meanest job you could have, worse
than working for the IRS because you
weren’t draining people’s bank
accounts—something that had the
potential to regenerate—no, you were
23
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siphoning their pride. The guy continued:
“Your reputation and generosity proceed
you, Santa… my car won’t start unless it
whiffs sober breath… they installed this
blowing thingie in my wheel so I couldn’t
drive drunk no more… but we can show
them.”
“I don’t think I can help you,” Owen
said.
“Why is everyone always saying that?”
“Take a taxi. Don’t get another DUI,
pal.”
“That’s why god invented chewing
gum, and I’ve got a spankin’ new pack.”
“I don’t think it was god who invented
gum.”
“The real Santa Claus would help.
What about you, lady?” the guy asked
Daph. “Wanna make a quick twenty
bucks? Easy money: just one blow in my
wheel.”
“Blow in your wheel? As a proud
lesbian, I take offense at your offer,” she
said, looking at her uncle, the two of them
laughing a bit. Daph knew she wasn’t
supposed to think this was funny, but what
could she do? Sometimes you crossed
paths with someone so down on their
luck, someone so far behind the eight ball
that they couldn’t even see the eight ball
anymore. It was a memory, miles away.
24
Josh Mohr —–––––––––––
 
“Thanks for nothing, Santa!” the guy
barked. “Who left you those homemade
fig bars in Patterson, New Jersey, back in
the ’80s, huh, Santa? Who stayed up past
his bedtime baking so your blood sugar
didn’t crash while delivering all those
presents? Byron Settles did, you selfish
prick, and this is the thanks I get? !”
“I’ll pay for your cab,” Owen said.
“Otherwise, you’ll need bail money for
Christmas. Here.” He pulled fifty bucks
from his pocket and held it out to Byron.
“Just let me be,” Byron said, rolling his
window up slowly, making a big show of it.
“Let me rot. Go on your merry way. If the
world is so fucked that Santa Claus won’t
help you out, I guess the apocalypse is
coming any day now. This is Byron Settles,
signing off, another goner in a world of
goners, so long, good night…”
Owning a bar for so many years,
Owen had spent plenty of time around
serial drunk drivers. He knew that Byron
would keep asking the few stragglers still
out this late until some imbecile agreed to
do it. Someone would think it was funny, a
hilarious story to recount to friends: the
time some helpless flunky bribed them
with twenty bucks to blow into his steering
wheel and went on his way, primed for
vehicular manslaughter. It made Owen
25
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sort of mad, actually, the idea of people
preying on this man’s vice. He wouldn’t
abandon Byron Settles to the cruelty of
strangers.
Owen knocked on the car’s closed
window.
Byron cracked it a bit and said, “Go
away, I’m having a private moment in
here that’s of no concern to you or
anyone else that won’t help me blow into
my wheel.”
“You wanna duck inside for a bit?”
Owen said. “I own that bar right there.”
“A bar?” Byron said, swelling with
awareness, flicking his eyebrows. “Well,
well, well…”
“Owen, this isn’t a good idea,” Daph
said.
“Go on home, good-looking,” Owen
said to her and kissed his niece. “Byron
and me are going to have a couple cups
of coffee.”
“Do you mind if I stick around?” she
asked, though that was the last thing she
wanted to do. But if Owen was nice
enough to try and help this guy, the least
she could do was show some solidarity,
tough down a cup of coffee, not make
him suffer through it alone.
“Byron and I would love to have your
company,” Owen said to her.
26
Josh Mohr —–––––––––––
 
“Ditto. I totally agree with all that,”
said Byron, still speaking through the
cracked window. Then panic crossed his
face, his one-track mind jumping away
from Daphne and now fixating on the
fact that his wife was going to divorce his
ass if he didn’t get home ASAP. “She said
it point blank. You go out drinking in
Sacramento; you come back to your
house in Sacramento. Period. Her terms
didn’t seem negotiable.”
“You’re a long way from home,”
Owen said.
“Where am I?”
“San Francisco.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Really really sure?”
“Yup.”
“Jesus, I’m deader than I originally
thought. How the hell did I get here?”
“Let’s call her so she knows you’re
okay,” Owen said.
Byron got out of the car. “You got a
pool table in that joint? They say I can’t
drive drunk, but I can shoot pool liquored
like a god damn shark.”
“I have two tables,” Owen said, “so
long as you don’t hustle me.”
“I was wrong. You ain’t a selfish prick.
I’m glad I made you those fig bars.”
27
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“Let’s go inside,” said Owen.

from Damascus (Two Dollar Radio), October 2011

28
Josh Mohr —–––––––––––
 
Confessions of a Baptist Janitor

You’d think each night would be the


same for a man who cleans up after other
people’s good times. Not much in the
way of complication. An endless routine
of sweeping and scrubbing and soaking
up puke until you run out of smokes and
the light reflects off the polished nightclub
bar. You might think each night would be
the same and most of the time you’d be
right.
My father in-law, a minister who lives
down near New Orleans, once told me
that you had to be cradled in the arms of
Satan in order to touch evil for yourself. In
a sense, he said, as he combed and
sculpted his black hair into a male
beehive, you’d have to taste evil so that
you’d know when you were in the
presence of goodness. I married his
daughter that afternoon. And in the
evening he held my head under water
with his muscled hands until I accepted
Jesus as my savior. I was twenty-five.
I’m thirty-three now. And about a
month ago, I took this job to pay the bills.
Pure and simple. I’ll confess that
preaching doesn’t pay, at least not for
me. I’ll confess my failures outnumber my
followers. I haven’t told Lena, but I see
29
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now that you need faith to fool folks, or at
the very least, you need the time to
practice. And I’ve got neither. Not when
the collection calls ring and ring and ring
and the debt I’ve got from trying to run
an online ministry doubles and doubles
and doubles. Not when Lena’s father
stopped bailing us out. Stopped paying
our mortgage. So I light up and snap on
my latex gloves and spray off the front
entrance where someone left a puddle of
piss. I collect the grease from the fryer
and haul it to the dumpster and then I
stack chairs so I can mop down the
chipped linoleum dance floor.

Scotty, who manages the bar, is still


hanging around long after he should be.
I lean on the mop and watch him
count his money. He works over a huge
stack of twenties and then moves to the
tens. I finish my smoke before I start back
on the floor.
I’ll confess that I admire Scotty. His
youth. His upright and sharpened blonde
hair. His silver piercing below his lower lip.
The certainty I have that he’s slept with
every young waitress who works in this
black hole. He doesn’t just touch evil. He
fucks it. Wallows in it. And looks good
doing it.
30
Calder Lorenz —–––––––––––
 
“I got a surprise for you,” he says from
behind the bar.
“A real treat,” he says without leaving
the money.
“Ok,” I say. “Be done soon enough.”
“Take a seat,” he says. “Have a beer.
It’s on me. I owe you a tip for taking care
of the piss out front.”
“Almost done,” I say.
I go wring out the mop head and then
slide the bucket into an empty stall. I
dump the black muddled water—
crumpled business cards with washed out
numbers floating like the chunks of
styrofoam I see accumulated in the dead
creek behind the bar. The creek where
I’ve been instructed to dump anything
the garbage men refuse to take.
Scotty slaps a five dollar bill on the
bar. He throws down a coaster and
follows through with the beer he
promised. “That’s your tip for the piss.”
“Thanks,” I say. “Every bit counts.”
“You bet it does,” he says. “I barely
cleared three bills tonight.”
I drink my beer.
He’s finished counting and I know
what comes next.
He slides over a plate. He says, “My
guy says you shouldn’t use bills, even the
hundreds can get you sick, hepatitis you
31
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know.” He says, “I cut you your own
straw.” He says, “Wait until the surprise
gets here.”
I bow my head to the bar. We take
turns bowing our heads, sniffing and
bowing until I say I need to finish
scrubbing the toilets.

It’s well past four in the morning when


Scotty’s treat arrives. I’ve completed my
janitorial checklist and stand behind the
bar with Scotty, drinking and organizing
bottles in the smaller cooler under the
whiskey shelf. Wasting time when I’d
normally be on a vacant bus, riding on
home, scribbling down notes for my
wretched sermons. My words dribbling out
and forming into something as uninspired
as restacking toilet paper or hanging
greased slick pots.
I’ll confess I’m intrigued by Scotty’s
proclamation. I’ll confess I want a treat.
But what did I expect to walk through that
door? Whatever it was, Scotty’s not
impressed. He frowns. Brian, a lumpy man
in a brown leather jacket and potholes on
his face, sits down at the bar.
I’ve noticed that this oddly confident
man comes in after hours once or twice a
month on the nights Scotty stays late to
count his money. But this time he’s not
32
Calder Lorenz —–––––––––––
 
alone, followed by two young girls who I
assume work for him at the strip club
down the road. They wear matching grey
sweat pants and baggy sweatshirts. They
have neon gym bags. Their faces are
sullen and tired and their make-up is
missing. Their hair is greasy and pulled
back.
“Christ,” Scotty says, “You girls look like
crap.”
The girls flop down on bar stools next
to Brian. They drop their bags.
“We’re tired.” The girl next to Brian
says.
Scotty shakes his head as he holds
Brian’s hand. “I thought you said we’d get
a show.”
“You will,” Brian says.
“You girls want a drink,” Scotty says.
He starts to pour from the tap without
waiting for an answer. “Sorry girls. It was
one of those nights.”
“Can I have a bottle instead?” One of
the girls asks. “I like imports.”
Scotty nods at me and I hand her a
bottle. Her lips are tight as she smiles. She
squints and says, “Thank you mister.”
Her voice saturated with the tone of a
tired child.

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She takes a drink and then turns back
to look at Scotty as he waves the girls into
the men’s restroom.
I’m left with Brian who rubs his swollen
forehead.
He says, “Hey, friend. Pour me a shot!”
He doesn’t look at me. I put down two
shot glasses and I tell myself that life is a
test. These are the moments when we
achieve a higher level of understanding.
This is how we taste. How we touch.
Maybe I’ve finally been given the
opportunity to learn about darkness so I
can wallow in redemption, be reborn with
the ability to annunciate my faith.

Scotty opens the front door and I’ll


confess that I feel elation despite how the
morning light blinds my swollen view of
the nightclub. I can see Brian’s green
Camaro sputtering and groaning out
front. The girls wave dismissive goodbyes
as they labor to the car. The horn blares
and blares and blares.
Scotty holds the door. He wears a
weary smirk, a look of brotherhood
formed by crossed boundaries and
degradation. He says, “Sorry about the
mess, man.”
I block the light with my hand and it’s
all I can do to nod.
34
Calder Lorenz —–––––––––––
 
He says, “See you tonight.” And the
door swings shut.
I lean on the bar, surveying the broken
bottles and upturned chairs and then I
peel my forearm so I can wipe my hands
on my shirt. I stagger into the back kitchen
and turn on the faucet where they wash
the pots and pans. A huge steel sink
wiped clean with bleach. I take a rag
from the clean stack on the shelf and I
plug the drain. I wait until the water rises,
until it stops just inches from overflowing
onto the tiled floor. I grasp the sides and
drown my head until the cold water soaks
the entire upper part of my shirt. I hold my
breath until I re-emerge, gasping and
choking and then plunge again. Time
stops and all I know is gasping and then
plunging, gasping and then plunging, until
I fall backwards slipping on the flooded
floor.
I leave my resignation in the form of
my soaked shirt. The fabric marked with
spots of blood where the leg of a storage-
rack inserted into the skin of my shoulder
blade. I confess that I leave without
setting the alarm, without cleaning up the
mess, without guilt, carrying only a stolen
pen and a generous handful of cocktail
napkins for the bus ride home.

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36
Calder Lorenz —–––––––––––
 
Space is Never Empty

In our new apartment


my girlfriend and I
stretch a tape measure
from wall to wall
across a bright floor
as clean and bare
as a tiny beach

These empty rooms promise


lifetimes of new years
every wall
is a resolution

I think of kites and crisp white sheets


room service
unopened letters sealed
with sterile dabs of eggshell paint

Standing there
with my foot
on the tape measure's zero dash
I straddle our unmade future
and this apartment's past
like a man between two mirrors
reflecting a private infinity

She asks about a loveseat


and I cannot reply

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Empty apartments are so full
there are many ways
a life can go

38
Ian Tuttle —–––––––––––
 
My Mein Kampf

The whole racial, national, “ethnical”


purity thing isn’t what I find attractive
about Fascism.
No, instead I’m tired of Democracy.
Or perhaps what I should say is, I’m tired
of the lie of Democracy.
Because you see, I found my voice
last night at the library. Not the big fancy,
downtown branch Library, with its
endowments and dedications, but the
smaller ramshackle, hole-in-the-
neighborhood-block-next-to-the-
afterthought-playground branch where
you’re more likely to see the widowers
and bookish spinsters occasionally looking
up with a yearning that is not at all carnal
at the bored young temp librarian nearly
falling asleep as she dreams of
somewhere else to be. They were there
last night.
You should have been too. You would
have dug it. It was full of pissed off
everyone: Orange totalitarian lesbians,
cheating red nationalists, self-entitled
purple socialists, sober pink poets, blue
and improved Mormons, over-defined
tribalists, under-wrought tattoos & their
spawn who are the product of endless
interbreeding of all the mongrel races
39
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which has wickedly turned out to be a far
more beautiful species of homo-sapien
than the vast majority of today’s Aryan
bretheren who, unlike the original upper
echelons of the Third Reich, more closely
resemble the endless interbreeding of
their own individual families.
Hot, annoyed and thirsty for more
than water and for more than wine, but
those things too, I held up the rhetorical
mirror of our time like an Austrian corporal
named Schikelgruber did almost ninety
years ago in a beer hall sardined with
angry jobless Bavarians.
My populism prosed forth molasses for
seekers. Agitated rhetoric served as a
congealer of disparate propagandistic
euphoria. It lined my poems up like
obedient SS soldiers. My turns of phrase
were party hacks ready to crack skulls.
Enjambed words shattered crystal in the
night; while lines of lilting grace
denounced dissenters with an impunity
held only by the desperate appearing
sure.
Actually it wasn’t all that big of a deal.
This being the United States of America,
we couldn’t even convince any of the
cops to come on down for a good old
fashioned San Francisco freak show beat-
down. We just wound up being an
40
Paul Corman-Roberts —–––––––––––
 
anomaly for some bored readers & the
slack jawed librarian who merely seemed
annoyed enough to glare at us but not
enough to do anything about our
makeshift movement. No one went to jail.
No one got hurt. So I apologize if you are
finding my Mein Kampf, which you are
currently reading, to be lacking in action
or spectacle.
But I swear, you should have been
there. It wasn’t the ranting itself that
caused a ripple, but the aftermath.
Beautiful women wrapped themselves
around my tirades against the elitist
corporate establishment. Black jacketed
hipsters snapped their fingers in response
to my call for a democracy of fascism.
“A democracy of fascism?”
You know.
The Mob. Not the crime syndicate, but
the mythical “people.”
Don’t you remember the people? You
saw them in the beginning of the French
Revolution, and they rallied around the
doomed idea of pure Democracy. They
were also there at the beginning of the
Paris Commune when they rallied around
the doomed idea of excess. Then you saw
them kill the Czar, and they rallied around
the doomed idea of Communism. A
puppet show reflection of them
41
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succeeded in torching the Reichstag, and
they rallied around the doomed idea of a
cult of personality. And here they are
even further down the timeline trying to
hijack the Democratic Party in Chicago,
and they rallied around the doomed idea
of their immortality. Lately they have been
rehashing the ritual of a tea party that
never would have had anything to do
with them back in 1773. And they rallied
around an America that never existed,
before or after.
But we also saw them take down the
Vietnam War and the Soviet Union. We
see them taking the first real steps toward
the first seminal democracies in Latin
America and the Middle East. And
nowhere does any community in the
United States seem to be involved in
anything that would resemble the act of
freedom outside of a mall or a church,
where real freedom is discouraged in
favor of subservience.
The mob isn’t a fixed group of people;
the mob only looks to provide a quick fix
for the groups of people who have
themselves become broken for better or
worse. And you see; we have become
broken, and are in need of fixing.
So last night (and tonight, and
tomorrow night and the night after that) I
42
Paul Corman-Roberts —–––––––––––
 
told a very small mob to rally only around
the idea of themselves as “The Mob,” the
only one that mattered in this time and
place. And we chanted repeatedly:
“Fuck the Neo-Cons! Fuck the Neo-
Libs!”“Fuck the Neo-Cons! Fuck the Neo-
Libs!” Even the annoyed librarian joined in,
caught as she was, like all of us
somewhere between hope and despair.
And it felt so good. It felt like it meant
something. So we’re going to do it again.
Because in this day and age when we are
all shouting, there is no fucking reason any
of us shouldn’t be heard. Go ahead, let’s
all step up to the pedestal; with the wisest
parlayed right next to the dumbest; yet all
the while resolved not to dissolve,
because it won’t matter how differently
everything is said, because we will be the
Mob, and the real job of the Mob is to
bring kings to the guillotine, and to bring
Czars and the Commissars down to the
bars to dig it. The real job of the Mob is to
rip fuhrers out from their furors, because
we were told there were no more Kings or
Czars or Commissars or Fuhrers; and yet
here their asses are all over again
avoiding the jailhouse dogfights that they
so richly deserve.
I found my voice last night, and my
poems seduced the beautiful interbred
43
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people into offering me their phone
numbers, offering me their living spaces,
even offering me their bodies and offering
their children and even in some sick scary
situations the bodies of their children.
And yet they were all just as happy
when all I asked was that they show up
the following week with their study
materials (chapbooks, Agitprop visual aids
and a free copy of the illustrated “Marx
for Beginners”) back at the neighborhood
library, and the week after that down at
the laundry mat, and the week after that
down at the corner book store.
Armed only with the knowledge that
the Mob is not the lie of Democracy, but
the truth of Democracy and the
intoxicating revelation that REAL
Democracy isn’t as pretty as Wall Street
and the Beltway might like to think it is.
& this is how power gets inside us; how
it gets inside the individual wielder. This is
how that siren song sends the creator
down that road.
Go ahead. Call me corrupt, though I
have no money, and have no authority,
because it’s still fucking true. But I have
grown tired of the lie of democracy, and
judging by the agitated mass forming on
the periphery of this campfire, I am not
the only one.
44
Paul Corman-Roberts —–––––––––––
 
Dayshift

Dayshift: we hear spy planes circle low


over the bay and see their shadows climb
across the tops of the three metal bridges.
Dayshift is where limbs turn to pins and
needles and eyes nod no. A wet scream
from a mouth with no tongue. The spy
planes fly through the napes of our necks
and emerge through our open teeth.

Dayshift: in the back room, the bass


breaks behind the velvet curtain. Nails
break and the ice rattles in its glass
toward open lips. They warm in cold
chairs, in terry robes, and in draped-
blankets fuzzy with bright-eyed cartoons.
The bass breaks at his voice before she fills
with white smoke and purses red lips to
grease the mirror. A happy birthday
banner, half-fallen, skips further down the
wall with each clicked step. Each letter its
own page. The bass paints brown eyes
black, and winks, and glides back out into
the darkness.

In the back room the bass ate a burger


with bacon and cheese and a slice of
orange tomato. A sheet of lettuce tucked
the meat tight into the bun. She discards
limp strings of white onion on the side of
45
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her plate. She throws up in the black
plastic bin by the door and cries that the
bacon was raw when she knows it’s the
vodka’s fault. In the flickered back room
bass spits Listerine. And in the dark boom
she confesses her morning bottle to a
stranger over Chardonnay, and the bass
breaks.

The tapping is enough to drive the spy


planes away. We shout at the phone on
her desk like it’s a lion. Our ankles twist
and crack in unison and the spy planes
forget what waves and salt and seals are
and dive at their shadows mistaking them
for enemies.

Dayshift: She sucks her sixth White Russian


through a straw. She curls her feet
beneath her body so everyone can fit
together on the gray and neon couch. In
the dark room the spy cameras train their
glassy eyes on hers and she waves, and
she breaks, and she breathes the white
smoke, and she rises and glides across the
soft floor. The bass breaks in the back
room and is born in the darkness.

46
Josey Duncan —–––––––––––
 
Weather of the Body first published in Cimarron
Review

I was smoking pot in the kitchen with my


mother
when my sister, wrapped in clouds, filled
the room
with lightning.
Her words moved through my stoned
mother,
a wire pulled through a lump of clay;
her body held together
by the terrycloth belt of her bathrobe.
Each vertebrae in my spine tingled like
radio static.
I closed my eyes, my teeth fell out.
I ran outside to my car, startled a bird
sleeping beneath the undercarriage.
It fluttered up and out as if from within me.
Its wings, so frenzied with movement,
broke apart right then and there;
my mother grieving her failed marriage,

hail cascading down her face, my sister,


her mouth wide open and electric
shouting at me –
you don’t live here anymore, Matthew,
you don’t understand.

47
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Life Guarding first published in Salt Hill

My sister tells me to turn up whatever it is


I’m listening to
because my mom is sobbing in her
bedroom with the door half open
and we’re in the kitchen trying to fix our
dinners. I fight
with my father the next morning about it; I
curse,

slam doors. He comes down from his


home office,
slices a cantaloupe for me. At the pool I
open one umbrella,
fumble with locks. I don’t water the plants;
it’s been raining.

I drop little white pills into test tubes,


crouch and wonder
if I could reassemble my mother, if the
day could loosen
its grip. I sift a dead bird out of the water
with a net.
I chase the opened umbrella as it lifts,
tumbles through the air.

48
Matthew Siegel —–––––––––––
 
Such is the Sickness first published in Mid-
American Review

I read her a Duncan poem. We’re stoned


and she’s eating pizza.
I’m in love with her and because of that
she doesn’t want to be dating
anyone right now.

All the flame in me stopt/


against my tongue

I read that line three times aloud and she


nods at me.
I look up at the corner of the room, down
at my water-glass beading
on the counter next to the oregano.

She doesn’t love me even though


on our first date
we stood on top of a bluff on a foggy day
overwhelmed with the enormity
the rocks and the sound they made when
the muscular waves
pulled them in,
we could hear them
clack underwater

her face was an open window and my


face was an open window
and we were the same house and the sun
49
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shined through us.

My heart was a stone, a dumb


unmanageable thing in me, I read

and she shakes and shakes the oregano


onto her pizza,
asks me what I am thinking about. Such is
the sickness
of many a good thing.
I am thinking about
walking out of here

leaving her with a greased paper plate


but I don’t say that.

50
Matthew Siegel —–––––––––––
 
There’s a Drunk Lady Selling Jewelry on
QVC

Lizzy and Joe were sitting in Hayden


Sweet’s living room, watching QVC.
Hayden was gone, out picking up beer
and the couch they were sitting on was
orange, old and small. More of a loveseat
really. But they weren’t touching at all.
There was a lady selling jewelry on
television. She dropped the necklace she
was holding and then laughed too loudly.
Joe said, “Oh, she’s definitely drunk.
She must be.”
Lizzy laughed. “Obviously that’s a
glass of vodka.”
Joe said, “You’re right. Nobody drinks
water like that.”
Lizzy said, “Nobody sells jewelry like
that either. Not even on the Home
Shopping Network.”
Joe was quiet. He stared at the TV
and absent-mindedly unzipped and
zipped Lizzy’s backpack, which had been
sitting on the ground. Then he said, “I
should get rich. I need a couple things.”
Lizzy said, “Me too. We should
become billionaires. Soon.”

51
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“Or maybe just famous,” he said.
“Let’s be famous. People should know
about all our sweet stuff.”
“What stuff?” said Lizzy. “Quit playing
around in my backpack!”
Joe reached into Lizzy’s backpack
and took out her pencil case.
Lizzy said, “What are you doing with
my things? Stop it!”
Joe started unzipping and zipping the
pencil case and then said, “Maybe we
should get drunk and sell jewelry on
television. That’s kind of like being famous
and I doubt it’s that difficult. Look! She’s
talking shit about her ex-husband now.
We could get drunk and air our
grievances on QVC.”
For a moment, Lizzy forgot about the
pencil case. “She’s rich, sure,” joked Lizzy.
“But is she happy? Her husband got the
plates.”
Lizzy stared at the TV. So did Joe. And
then, methodically, without looking down,
he removed the items from the pencil
case, laying them side by side on the
coffee table. Glue stick, blue drawing
pencil, gum eraser, fine point drawing
pen, Exacto knife.

52
Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
 
When Lizzy noticed what was
happening, she said: “Hey, quit playing
with my shit!” Joe ignored her.
Instead he said, “True. We’ll have to
weed out types that will just want to get
with us because of our money.”
Then he looked down at the supplies
he had lined up on the table.
“What is this for?” he asked. “Why do
you need a knife?”
“Graphic Design class,” she said.
“Where we cut things up.”
Lizzy changed the channel.
“Hey!” said Joe. “Go back to the
crazy drunk lady.”
“Put my knife back and I’ll do
whatever you want,” said Lizzy.
“But wait,” he said. “I like your knife.
Can I have it?”
“Are you drinking vodka from a water
glass?” Lizzy laughed. “Of course you
can’t have my knife.”
Lizzy continued to flip through the
channels until she got back to the lady
selling jewelry.
“Nothing is as funny as QVC,” she said.
They sat for a moment and watched
as the drunk lady displayed a pair of pink
Diamonique Mother’s Day drop earrings.

53
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Then Joe said, “Can I cut you a little
with this knife?”
Lizzy was quiet.
So Joe said, “No, just a little. It won’t
hurt at all.”
Lizzy was still quiet.
Joe said, “Just like a little tiny baby
cut.”
Lizzy said nothing.
“You can even cut me first if you
want,” said Joe.
Lizzy said, “Why would I want to cut
you? Why would I want you to cut me?”
“Because it could be fun. You know,
blood equals entertainment, right?”
“No, wrong. That’s completely and
totally fucked up. I mean, I’d understand
if you wanted to be blood brothers. Do
you want to be blood brothers? But it
sounds… Are you some sort of serial
killer?”
“I just think, you know, it would be
fun.”
“QVC is fun. Not cutting people with
knives.”
“We’d just test it out. Do you even
know what your knife is capable of? Do
you even know if it works? In an
emergency, could it cut skin? If it had to?”
“It works for my purposes. Which are
cutting paper not people.”
54
Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
 
“But you sort of want to try it a little,
right? You sort of wonder what it would
feel like and you definitely wouldn’t mind
the scar, right? I know you love scars.”
“Shut up.”
Lizzy watched the drunk lady for a
second.
“Why do you want to give me one?”
she said.
“Look,” said Joe. “Not only will this be
fun but also nobody has done this before
so we’ll be pioneers. It will be a
completely original thing to do.”
“And you want me to cut you first?
That’s it?”
“Easy peasy. You cut me; I cut you.”
“But, I don’t know, why would I do
that? It makes no sense. I’m just not sure I
want to make you bleed.”
“What else are we going to do?
Watch TV? This is a new fun thing. A better
thing.”
Lizzy tried to turn his attention back to
the television.
“But look,” she said. “The drunk lady is
selling rings.”
Joe rubbed the handle of the knife
and looked at her.
“Why do you want to cut me so
badly?” she said.

55
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“I want to try things,” he said. “Like
cutting your skin. I think the world needs us
to try this.”
“And then after can we be blood
brothers?” she said.
“I don’t know. What if you have a
disease? I have to think about that. Cut
me while I take it into consideration.”
Joe handed her the knife and Lizzy
held it for a moment, feeling its smooth
metal weight in her hand.
“This is going to be awesome, believe
me,” said Joe. “And totally original. And
better than QVC.”
She rubbed the handle of the knife
with her thumb and Joe stretched out his
arm and she held the blade up in the air
and looked at it.
“Where should I cut you?” she asked.
“Will this hurt a lot?”
“Not much. It’ll just be a little cut.”
Then he said, “Do it on the underside.
The soft part.”
Lizzy said, “Okay. I mean if you really
want me to do this.”
She held up the blade to the
underside of Joe’s arm. She pressed down
slowly and cautiously. Nothing happened.
“It’s not working,” she said. “Maybe I
can’t do it. Maybe the knife can’t cut
human flesh.”
56
Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
 
“Press harder,” said Joe. “You just
have to press harder.”
Lizzy tried again, this time pressing
harder. Slowly she started to saw the knife
back and forth a little. Joe grimaced. She
kept trying. Lizzy sawed at his skin for
about fifteen seconds. Finally little dots of
red started to appear.
“There. Now you’re bleeding. Can I
stop?”
“A little more,” said Joe. “Try to get it
deeper.”
Lizzy continued to push the knife into
his skin. After a moment the cut started to
bleed more strongly.
“Okay, I’m done,” she said. “I guess
it’s your turn now.”
Joe looked approvingly at the blood
and took the knife from Lizzy’s hand.
“I better clean it off then,” he said. “I
don’t want you getting any horrible
disease.”
Lizzy said, “Well, if we’re blood
brothers, it won’t matter.”
Joe wiped the knife off on his pants.
He spit on it and wiped it off again.
Lizzy said, “Okay. I guess you get to
cut me now.”
Lizzy extended her arm. Joe took her
elbow and twisted it a little so the soft
inside part of her arm was exposed. Then,
57
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in one fast movement, Joe swiped the
knife crossways across her inner upper
arm. For a moment there was no blood.
Then Lizzy’s arm started bleeding. For a
second they both stared at the blood.
Someone handed the lady on QVC a
pitcher from off-camera and she filled her
cup.
“Okay,” said Lizzy. “Can you and me
be blood brothers now?”
Joe was quiet.
“Well, I’m bleeding, you’re bleeding,
why not then?” she said.
Joe was quiet for a second and then
said, “It’s just not the best idea, you
know?”
Joe wiped off the knife again on his
pants.
Lizzy said, “No, I don’t know. I mean, I
let you cut me. We should at least be
blood brothers now right?”
Joe licked his fingers and pressed
them into the cut. He lifted them up and
looked at the blood. Then he licked them
again and put them back on the cut.
“Why not then?” said Lizzy. “I just don’t
get this at all.”
Joe was quiet.
Lizzy said, “I let you cut me, which is
not exactly a normal thing, and now I
want to be blood brothers. Why are you
58
Lizzy Acker —–––––––––––
 
making me beg? Am I asking you to do
something awful?”
“Well I mean, there’s the fact that
you’re a girl,” said Joe.
“What?”
“Well technically we can’t be blood
brothers,” he said.
“Fine. Okay. Can we be blood siblings
then?”
“I just don’t think it’s the best idea.”
“I didn’t think it was the best idea to
let you cut me but I let you do it anyway.
So what about that?”
“No. I just don’t want to do it okay?”
Now Lizzy was quiet.
“Look, leave it alone,” said Joe. “The
drunk lady’s back.”
Lizzy was quiet.
“She’s talking about her husband
again,” said Joe.
Joe continued to watch the drunk
lady, laughing a little bit. Lizzy stared
straight ahead for a long moment. Finally,
still looking forward, she put the palm of
her hand on the cut to stop the bleeding.

from Monster Party (Small Desk Press)


 

59
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carpe noctem

Once upon a time,


your parents were a time bomb
written in lipstick.
Now you are a love letter
written in blood.

No one wants to think


about their parents
having sex.

My mother told me
the last time she and my father
had sex was after his chemotherapy.
He insisted they use a condom.
He said, I don’t know what’s in me.
He said, I don’t want it in you.
They were going at it when
the Jehovah’s Witnesses
knocked at the door.
It’s a message from God,
they said, and laughed and laughed
and then they didn’t.
They started kissing
again.

You are now the age


your parents used to be.

We did not know we were


60
Daphne Gottlieb —–––––––––––
 
beautiful at 20, our radiant
skins still new, we had lungs and heart
and breathing, we had coil and electricity
and spark. We proved our bodies
against each other in twos
or more and faster, or just
by ourselves, our skin
some fresh toy, our lips wet
with sun

to act
as if our bodies
are messages
from god

Things go wrong over time.


The back doesn’t twist or bend,
up things don’t, and the wet things
aren’t. Bodies stutter and fail
and then sooner or later, they
stop failing at all. The point is
before that. The point is, yes.
The point is

There are many things I have done


to bodies. I have held, kissed, caressed,
sucked, licked, bitten them. I have stuck
things in
them. I have tickled and hit them
and tied them up like trussed chickens
and made them cry. I have loved them.
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I have loved them. I have found shelter.
I have gone to church. I have gone
home,
my lips wet with sun.

to act with
the knowledge
that our bodies
are god

I’ve been told I fuck too much,


too hard, too fast for a girl, but I’m not
a girl anymore, I’m a woman and my
heart
beats like a prizefighter’s fists and I have
not
stopped yet, I will not stop.

The top 5 causes of death


in the United States are heart disease,
cancer, stroke, respiratory
disease, and accidents. The only cause
of human life, so far, is orgasm.

The point is
to learn that
we are radiant
now.

Once upon a time,


your parents were a time bomb
62
Daphne Gottlieb —–––––––––––
 
written in lipstick.
now you are a love letter
written in blood.

There is a message from god


inside my mouth.
You can only read it
with your tongue.
The word is,
the point is, yes.

“Carpe Noctem” © 2011 Daphne Gottlieb. Reprinted


from 15 Ways to Stay Alive (Manic D Press) with
permission of author and publisher.

63
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64
Daphne Gottlieb —–––––––––––
 
Everything He Touches Turns to Candy

It was in a manila envelope. Plain,


addressed to my father and my mother. It
had the word "confidential" stamped on it
in red ink.

"What the hell is this?" I asked myself.

I was alone in my new house tucked


away in one of the most secluded part of
Marin County. It was night. Earlier in the
day I stopped for coffee and outside the
market there was a weathered, sixty-
something Irishman, in paramilitary gear
with black Air Jordans, holding court with
a few of his friends. There were guns and
ammo magazines splayed out across the
table. "That'll folking cut through just about
anything," I heard before I walked on
down the road up to my house.

"Wow. You're not in San Anselmo


anymore," I said out loud to myself,
referring to the yuppified town I had
moved from, just fifteen minutes’ drive
down the road. Everyone there talked
about mountain bike parts and the stock
options they were going to cash in on
after their company got bought by

65
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Google. "Where are you, Chris?" So many
answers to that question.

I opened the manila envelope marked


"confidential" and slipped out a stack of
papers stapled together. I noticed
another confidential stamp and then
read down the page:

Name: Christopher Cole


Age: 7 years, 8 months
Grade: 2
Referred by: Self
Reason for Referral: Psychoeducational
Evaluation
Examiner: Dr. Catherine Parker

Psychoeducational evaluation? Am I
crazy? Yes. But how do they know?

I checked the box where this came out of


before reading further. It was a box of my
mom's stuff. She passed away, out of the
blue, a few years ago. She was young,
healthy. But all of a sudden she was gone.
This must have been one of the boxes I
hadn't checked yet. No other confidential
or interesting looking envelopes, so I read
on.

Behavioral Observations:

66
Chris Cole —–––––––––––
 
Chris was a blonde-headed, snaggle-toothed, big-
for-seven friendly youngster with a gleam in his
eye and an impish grin. He was a delight to work
with, conversation was no problem.

Not much has changed there. Except


what braces fixed, at least before I
disassembled them in eighth grade with a
pair of pliers. They were mostly straight by
then anyway.

He chattered away easily, volunteering


information about himself and his activities and
asking appropriate questions about the center,
the testing situation and why he was here. though
he made every effort to appear nonchalant and
somewhat "world-weary" he was anxious to do
well on most testing tasks.

I'm still big on the volunteering information


about myself. But, world weary? At seven?

In the afternoon, after the morning sessions, it


was difficult to engage his attentions.

Hello! I'm friggin' seven, doc.

He referred to his "after lunch malaise" and


suggested that he might need a "siesta."

I don't remember knowing the word


malaise. As I read on, I realize that I have
no memory of this test or this day
67
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whatsoever. This may seem normal, but I
remember a lot about my childhood. In a
bet with my dad a year before my mom
died, I told him I remembered my mom
singing "you are my sunshine" to me in the
master bathroom of our house. I'm always
reminding him of things. I remember the
blue tiles with the sun reflecting off of
them as it went down over the San
Fernando Valley. He said no way. "First of
all there were no tiles, second of all, no
one can remember anything from when
they're one." We called my mom and she
concurred—the tile, the song and her
predilection for that large bathroom with
the sun-stroked, blue tile and picture
window. That's where she would put me
down at night.

On the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children


Chris scored in the superior range both verbally
and overall. In no subtest score did he score
below the 90th percentile. However his anxiety
about not being perfect and his unwillingness to
become more involved in a task which he feels
unsure, however, result in variable attention and
inconsistent functioning.

What the hell does that mean, lady?

Chris's kinetic family drawing was done to the


following narrative: "first myself—just walking; now
dad—he's tall and powerful—lifting weights. The
68
Chris Cole —–––––––––––
 
baby's sleepin'. Here's mom (draws full figure,
then scribbles out the lower portion to make a
sink) she's doing dishes." Salient features of the
drawing included Chris and dad drawn at the top
of the paper, mom in the middle, and baby
Jonathan at the bottom. Chris drew himself in
profile and walking away from the rest of the
family; Jonathan had neither arms nor legs, and
both mother and father had their hands fully
occupied by something else.

Oh.

Heavy shading suggests that mother's


preoccupation is particularly distressing to him.
His wishes to be "45 years old" so as to be older
and more powerful than his mom and dad and "to
be the most powerful person in the world; to live
in a mansion; and to have everything he touches
turn to candy" emphasize the dichotomy of his
need for mastery combined with his still childish
need to be nurtured and fed.

Childish need to be nurtured and fed? I'm


seven. I am a child, is that really so
unbelievable that I'd want to be nurtured
and fed? What is this shit? I read through
the rest. Twenty pages. With more tidbits
like Chris' mood clusters are low. He is liable and
tends to overreact both to success and criticism.
Emotional response is unpredictable and he may
fly off the handle easily and without provocation. I
become angry at Dr. Catherine Parkins. I
become angry at my mom and dad, for

69
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putting me through this. I wouldn't let
anyone do this to my son. No wonder I
don't remember this day. Why exactly did
I need psychoeducational therapy, and
what the hell does that even mean—

"Wait" I say to myself.

I'm silent, not answering myself right away.

"This is you."

I pour through the pages again. It strikes


me, how accurate it is. I shudder. I haven't
changed at all. And this test is completely
on the money. Dr. Parker nailed me better
than anyone has my whole life. I mean, I
don't really fly off the handle like getting
mad at people. But I do send reactionary
emails to girls I like. And stuff like that.
"Look at your last week, dude." Holy crap.
I'm psychoeducational.

Last night I went to Quiet Lightning, a


reading series I'm involved in. The first
place I published, the first place I read
what I wrote to people I didn't know. The
place where I just met some of the best
friends I've ever had. People I've known
from before we ever met. I am now part

70
Chris Cole —–––––––––––
 
of the board for the non-profit
organization that the founder of the series
and publication just created. We went to
Zeitgeist for the afterparty. It's a Mission
District bar built around the messenger
bike ethos, whatever that is.

I end up talking to a writer, an author,


who I respect immensely. We talk for an
inordinate amount of time given the
flittering social turbulence occurring
around us. Among other things, such as
running a website and working on a
movie adaptation to his book, that James
Franco is making, he writes what he calls
"an overly personal email" to a
subscription base of around 6,000 people.
I relate to him completely, even though
we're different. At least I think we're
different. But our similarities keep coming
up. I tell him about the
psychoeducational evaluation I found the
night before. He smiles and says he had a
lot of those done. In fact, he constantly
had them done. Part of his childhood was
spent in group homes. He said they're
always right. Despite what he thought
about them at the time. He told me about
when he was twelve, he would go to his
friend's house and read poetry to his
friend's mom. She would be smoking pot,
71
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offering him some occasionally. He said
"she wore tight jeans and listened to me.
That's why I'm a writer."

I woke up this morning and saw his daily


email in my inbox. And there was our
conversation, toward the middle. I felt a
sense of pride. And I realized that I seek
attention. I seek perfection. I want an
audience. I realized, that this is part of
what Dr. Catherine Parker was saying was
my problem area. I don't think it's a
problem. And if it is, it's okay with me. This
is who I am.

I put the confidential document in a glass


case, that I could display in my living
room. I wanted to be able to always
access it, to share it. To learn from it. With
one document, I just saved six figures in
psychotherapy.

Thank you Dr. Catherine Parker, wherever


you are.

72
Chris Cole —–––––––––––
 
The Movie Quitters

The movie was wonderful, beautiful,


heartbreaking.
"The hell with this," my uncle said. "I'm
tired of being moved to tears by
American movies. When are they going to
be moved to tears by Iranian movies? It's
no good."
He wiped his eyes. "I've had it. I've had
it with their joys and sorrows and their
music in the background. It is too
beautiful. I do not have the room inside
myself any more. I have seen too much."
"It was a good movie," my aunt said.
"Of course it was a good movie. That's
the whole problem. William," my uncle
said to my cousin Niloufar's husband
William. "When are your parents coming
to visit?"
"Three weeks."
"Okay. When your parents come to
visit, we are going to watch a sad and
beautiful Iranian movie. I am sorry. It has
come to this. Look at me. I am crying. I
am crying over an American movie. I am
not going to feel good until I see an
American man crying over an Iranian
movie."
"What about an American woman
crying?" my cousin said.
73
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"That will help. But a man understands
another man's tears."
"That is a man for you," my aunt said.
"Even when there is something that you
do not do as freely, you think that there is
something special when you do it."
"I did not say that it is special. I said that
I understand it."
"But the underlying point is that
women cry too easily."
"I am not smart enough to have any
underlying points. If I knew about
underlying points, I would've noticed what
all these American movies are doing to
me."
"What?" I said.
"They are making me nostalgic for
memories I don't even have. They are
making me remember things I don't even
know. 'Ah yes, good old America in the
1950's.' It is ridiculous. What the hell do I
know about America in the 1950's?"
"Isn't that the point of a good movie?"
my cousin said. "To make you feel like you
are inside it?"
"Yes, of course," my uncle said. "That is
why I am crying. But it is not a two-way
street. It is not a free and open exchange.
I am through. For my part I am through.
Until I see an American man or woman

74
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
 
cry over an Iranian movie, I am done with
them."
Over the next three weeks my uncle
read seventeen books. He told me about
them when I came to visit.
"Did you know that there are more
sheep than people in New Zealand?" he
said.
"Yes," I said.
"I have been sticking to it. No movies. I
have been remembering myself."
"That's good," I said.
"Yes," he said. "Come on. Let's go to
the video store. William's parents are
coming tomorrow. We need to find a
movie that is sad but not too sad. It
shouldn't take our saddest movie to make
them cry."
"I don't think there are any Iranian
movies that are sad but not too sad."
We went to the Iranian video store in
Bellevue. My uncle explained what he
was looking for to Mr. Houshang, the
owner.
"All movies are sad," Mr Houshang
said. "American or Iranian. Do you know
why?"
No, we said.
"Because when we watch them, we
see how hard we have been trying. Look
at them. Look at how hard they have to
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work to make a movie. Look at how many
people it takes. What is all that work for? It
is to try to be us. Good God, we have
been working hard."
He gave us a movie that he said was
sad but not because of anybody young
or beautiful dying.
"I think he is a wise man," I said when
we left.
"Yes," my uncle said. "I was not
prepared for that much wisdom. Maybe I
have been thinking about this all wrong. I
have been thinking of how much I have
been giving of myself to American
movies. I have not been thinking of what
American movies have been giving me."
My uncle was quiet for a while.
"All right, all right," he said. "But is it a
lot to ask for a two-way street? Is it a lot to
say that I would like to see an American
man cry as I have cried?"
"No," I said. "Or a woman."
"Or a woman," my uncle said.
The night that we watched the movie,
I was trying very hard to not look at
William's father and mother to see if an
American man or woman would cry
watching an Iranian movie. William's
father did not seem like the kind of man
who cried very often. He seemed like the
kind of man who cried over a movie
76
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
 
hardly ever. I thought my uncle was up
against it. He was going to be reading
books for a while.
The movie was wonderful and
beautiful and heartbreaking. My uncle
cried and I did too. It was our country and
we missed it and we didn't care what
anybody else thought.
"The hell with it," my uncle said. "I am
not watching any more Iranian movies. It
is too sad."
It was too sad. I didn't like to think that
there was a people just like us in every
way except for everything about us that
was from living in America and everything
about them that was from living in Iran. It
didn't make any sense. I understood why
my uncle had decided to quit watching
American movies. It was a lot just to be
from one place and watch the movies
from there.
"I wish I knew how you felt," William's
father said.
"What do you mean?" my uncle said.
"I would like to know how it feels to
feel a movie is too sad," William's father
said. "I have watched movies that are
sad, but the movie ends and I am back in
the world."
"What is it like when you are there?"
my uncle said.
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"Where?"
"Back in the world."
"I don't know. It is the world. I have
always been there."
"It is not the movie, it is the world," my
uncle said to me that night after
everybody had left. "It is like coming back
from a trip and seeing where we live for
the first time."
"Where do we live?"
"We live in America. But we also live
everywhere we've ever been. We might
also live in places we've never been. I
don't know. Sometimes I suspect that that
is the case. But the movie touches those
parts, those parts that have lived
everywhere. It is a very lucky thing to have
lived in more than one place, Hamid. It is
sad too, but in this world, it is a very lucky
thing."
I couldn't explain it, but I knew that he
was right. I thought that maybe I should
give up movies too, if it meant
understanding things like that.

78
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
 
WORDS

Heavenly Things: Abandoned.


“and talk about precious things, like love and law
and poverty. Oh these are the things that kill me.”
— The Smiths

I jumped into the sky


and caught one.

it was small and dying


a wilting breathing gardenia
struggling to catch air
heaving like a dog
in a rabbit chasing dream.

so small, this orb.


slowly turning to
ash. a bitter rock
cursing the lifespan
of younger ones.

I tried to save it
by boiling it in water
but flecks of magic
fell and sizzled alongside
the grease by the flame.

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i do not like it.


i can no longer wish upon
a corpse of a what-once-was.

No romance in this crying


shriveled stone.

it can do nothing for me


it is not flat or smooth

no skipping along the lake


where i use to paint the moons
and visions of Love.

what can one do with a


broken star except throw it
back and hope it lands in the sun.

80
Shye Powers —–––––––––––
 
Stellar Cassidy
English 470
Prof. Van Meter
11 April 2011

16th and Mission

About seven years ago a few folks with


overflowing stacked milk crate
bookshelves, negative balances in their
bank accounts, countless blisters on their
inked-stained fingers, degrees in Poetics
and Experimental Arts, a taste for Fernet
on payday and two buck chuck on rent
day, and imaginations that border
between genius and lunacy, decide to
transform the template of the open mic.
No more introductions, no more set list, no
more sleeping, no more mic. Let’s
replace these things with a Bart station on
a busy street corner, a chalk circle, an
unwritten code, and a lot of heart. Seven
years later it’s a mecca of organic
creativity more packed than the Beauty
Bar right up the street on the same night
when its happy hour and they have their
one dollar special on PBRs.

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The corner is not just any busy street
corner, it’s a two fifty out the door malt
liquor-soaked corner oozing with angry
fixes and broken dreams, cigarette butts
and egos too big for their boxes. This
corner, a chalk circle for the excluded, a
soapbox for the mad, a stage for those
who desire an audience; a corner that
glows under orange streetlights,
sometimes rain-soaked, wet with the
tears of Bacchus and we have to replace
the chalk with candles on those nights,
but man is it tough to brave it on those
nights—rain or shine we still gotta go!
poets aren’t made of salt—Charlie
always says. Now Charlie is a character
that is hard to color and if you try to color
him you’ll probably have a hard time
staying inside the lines, but the best I can
say is that if the corner were an
orchestra—performers, spectators,
drunks, crackheads, passers by,
prostitutes, and police included—then he
would be the conductor. He helped build
this church, and he very rarely misses
those nights, even when it rains, and he
convinces us to sit on the wet pavement,
82
Stellar Cassidy —–––––––––––
 
engage in one round, then head over to
the pub for some warmth. Those kinds of
nights are especially common during
those winter months, but damn is it cold
during those winter months! All bundled
up with layers and layers and hats and
scarves and gloves and a bottle of
whiskey in a brown paper bag with a little
bit of soda to chase; and I’ll pull the
bottle out from my rain-stained ripped
bag and the bum next to me will say,
that’s the anti-freeze right there! I’m
trying my best to stay warm, so let’s sit a
little closer and get warm. But keep an
eye on your stuff ‘cuz some crack head
who lost their mind just a moment ago in
the alley up the block is looking for
anything to sell so they can get their two
bucks to score their next hit and they
might swipe your bag so keep it close.
Fish for another cigarette ‘cuz the
midnight mission wind ain’t got no mercy,
who’s up next? Is it that girl with the
melodica and heart shaped sunglasses,
you best not come to this corner with an
instrument and not play it, and you’ve
been here for an hour already girl, this
83
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ain’t no fashion show, everyone is looking
at you which means you should probably
get up there. But no, it’s your first time
and you don’t know the rules yet and
you can’t get over your stage fright—
someone get that girl more whiskey!—
and we’ll all listen to the notes you’re not
playing. Everyone knows if you can
perform here then you can perform
anywhere, it’s a tough crowd but if they
dig you they’ll let you know. So, the
young man with the curly hair and the
fancy guitar that he spent all of his
student loans on has been here before
and been here for a little while and is
jonesin to get in that circle. When you’re
jonesin that hard you better have
something brand spankin’ new or
something genius cuz we’re all here
sitting on the sidewalk in the cold
waiting…everyone here is waiting for
something…waiting for BART, waiting for
MUNI, waiting for art, waiting for the
second coming, waiting for a fix, waiting
for someone, waiting for something to
happen, which is why you gotta be
quick, like a praying mantis. Feel the vibe
84
Stellar Cassidy —–––––––––––
 
out, jump in, do it, own it, and leave ‘em
wanting more. The collective mood of
the entire night is based upon whoever is
in there right now and there are a lot of
people here right now so don’t fuck it up
‘cuz crowd control is tough, and this
crowd is cold, high, and waiting. So the
young man with the curly hair and the
fancy guitar starts playing a tune and
people start quieting down a bit, this is a
good start. He belts out the lyrics like a
poet on his way out of hell and the
crowd starts nodding their heads in
approval, but goddammit the sirens are
on their way, PAUSE.
WoooooooooOOOooooo… and for a
second you can’t hear anything except
for the obnoxious blare signaled by red
flashing lights, two cop cars and a fire
truck, three times as bad. Those who got
something to hide call five-oh and
bounce to somewhere more secret—this
a rough block—but that’s the corner
man, you gotta compete with the street
sometimes, and the fancy guitar’s still
going and he’s now stomping his feet for
some solid percussion, nothing’s gonna
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stop that man from playin’ and he’s
made that very clear. Then the sirens turn
the corner, and PLAY. We’re back. The
crowd starts clapping to help the guy
out. Rule of thumb: when in trouble, turn
to percussion, cuz audience participation
works on you side, and you’d surely be a
square to break a beat. Then an older
street thug approaches me, hey pretty
girl you need rocks? No thank you I say,
no rocks for me, I got my antifreeze and
my moleskin open and bookmarked cuz
I’m trying to get up in that circle but the
girl with the melodica and heart shaped
sunglasses just now got over her stage
fright—someone must’ve given her some
more whiskey—and now she’s waiting
patiently at the outer rim of the circle so
by the unwritten code, she gets to go
next. Fancy guitar is now finishing up his
song and managed to collect a little bit
of sweat above his top lip which speaks
in volumes on a night as cold as this…
at this street corner,
where the booze is cold
but the chalk is hot,
a bird box in the sky,
86
Stellar Cassidy —–––––––––––
 
a church for the ravenous
and the high,
a corner that we keep
brown paper-bagged
in our back pockets
to pull out and keep
ourselves warm.

87
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88
Stellar Cassidy —–––––––––––
 
Kill The Lights

Kill the lights


Turn off your tubed
world
And give yourself a second...
Stretch that second into a minute
Syphon that minute into a moment
Turn that blink into a think
Now... drink it down
Uploaded,
downloaded, sideloaded, cut, pasted,
stripped, teased and streamed
Become
the kaleidoscopic tears of
dear caught in
the head lights of an oncomming Big
Mac truck
Caught between the
end of days drawing ever nearer
just over the hills of
next year's rear view mirror
And faces booked in spoon fed spoonfuls
of insomniac newsfeed dreams
Brains bleeding out pyramiding
flashing neon penis-pump Ponzi schemes
From ear to ear
89
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We are clearing the


slate for
Two-dimensional
trees scrawled in disappearing ink
We are
paving the way from
Vanishing all-
ages venues in the city of San Francisco
To silicon boob seas
Interacting and distracting you
From the fact that a generation raised
playing video games
Have been acting out the third act on
the stage of... fill in the blank...
For longer than the patriot actors who
make our Dade County decisions for us
care to remember
No matter what you think
You are no longer
Christian or Buddhist, Anitchrist or even
anarchist
The expiration
date on your binary belief system came
and went
And you
didn't even know it
90
Nic Burrose —–––––––––––
 
When was the
last time you ate Cornflakes or the
breakfast of champions?
Wake up and smell the
naked lunch cooking in
Mario and Luigi's kitchen on the
dark side of the spoon
Can you smell it yet?

We have committed criminal acts


Both physical and subliminal
These things are beyond
anyone's control now
But this is not a
confessional
Just another
case of God sitting on the side lines

Watching us get stupider, as usual


Probably
laughing his ass off, as usual

You'll know where to


find me
When the power grid fails and
the balloons fly into the air next year
With my guitar, my girl, a bottle of beer
91
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And a tribe of monocle-eyed mutants
gathered 'round a single lit candle
Down in the sewer
So don't say you didn't hear the
trumpet call coming
Cause Dylan became a
prophet when he wrote hard rain's a-
gonna fall
And when it
does, it'll be heavier than cats and dogs
and even frogs comin' down

And so
when Mikey says,
"This is our time,
This is our time down
here"
Through an asthmatic wheeze
in The Goonies
I hear that as prophesy too
I take that line to mean that
All we really need is each other
To get it right the next time
around

92
Nic Burrose —–––––––––––
 
SOUNDS from The Secret Secretaries’ forthcoming
album Poetry is Dead

Behind Closed Doors

Come into me rain


my existence without you
is to blame for everything.

I believe I'm in need


of a good washing

I'm quieter when it's cold outside


nicer by the fireside
I love better when my
make-up's smeared.

I will think clearer


when I am cleaner.

We all disappear
so far from here
Above the atmosphere
we will disappear

Settle your flows


once your inside me
93
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I'll lock my pours
these are the doors I
wish to close.

94
The Secret Secretaries —–––––––––––
 
Broken Record Blues

This one's for the honey's with the flames


in their
hair
Pump up yr hearing aids, dentures in
wheelchairs
Downtown, the shoppers are so perky
and bright
Twitchin' headless chicken flappin in the
night

Now you got nothing else to prove


Needles skipping in the groove
When you got nothing left to lose
You got the broken record
Broken record
Broken record blues

His lobotomy left the building in a taped-


up
baseball hat
Scribbling in the gutter watching androids
getting
fat
Yuppies on Segways out the window
rolling down
95
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a one way street
Passing Garbage Pail Kids spittin rainbows
and
broken feet

Chewing up computer chips: delete alt


control
Concentration level: approaching zero
Sheep counting sheep and the wolves
just lick their
teeth
Something tasted funny in yr drink as the
shepherds
fell asleep

96
The Secret Secretaries —–––––––––––
 
XOXO

there's no need
to be sad baby

so don't go giving me
those sad green eyes

cuz i tried to ap.p.p.p.p.pologize


not once but t.t.t.t.t.t.twice

oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

don't lock me
outside your stupid house
it's cold and quieter then
a m.m.m.m.m.mouse.

oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

you don't care, you don't care


that I smoke.
you don't care, you don't care
that i'm always broke.
but when it comes to ap.p.p.p.pologize
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you n.n.n.n.n.never look me in the eyes

oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

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Get Well (Soon)

Heard he dropped his hourglass and got


sick yesterday
He slammed his last shot last night and
now he don’t think he can go out and
play
He’s got some change left in his pocket
and a butt in the ashtray
He slept in his clothes again to keep his
bones away

His trackmarks are haikus and pawn


tickets for instruments
Says he’s gonna kick tomorrow and hit
the methadone clinic
But he’s looking for a man with a cane
down on jones street again
‘Cause you can’t draw a “Get Well
Soon” card up in a syringe

Johhny, Johnny wake up, please


We can cure this disease
We can fix this broken machine
Johnny, Get Well Soon
Well, I hope you Get Well Soon

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His girl up and left one day and
cheatin’hearts burn bad when you’re
alone
his best-friend took a ride to the hospital
and never returned home
He stares into his broken bathroom mirror
and he sees a ghost
Lights a Bic in a bathroom stall, shaking in
his bones

If the clocks stopped tomorrow


We could run wild through the pines like
deer
If the clocks stopped tomorrow
We wouldn’t have to borrow time next
year

It all went wrong when the man caught


hIm buying a bunk script and half a gram
He was already in chains when the
policeman threw him in the can
Did you find hell or halos in the lightbulb
of your secret cell inside?
Were Chist’s hands painted red in the
cave you’d never seem to find?

When you were just a kid you asked mom


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why the sky was so blue
And you didn’t care about anything but
playing and watching cartoons
Remember when Flinstones vitamins were
sweet as candy
Seems so long ago now those days got
behind me

Johnny, Johnny wake up, please?


We can cure this disease
Fix this broken machine
Johnny Get Well Soon
I hope you Get Well Soon

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untitled

when she was born she flew out


decided to be prom queen
thanked her people when she was living.

i was in bed
you thought i was reading
you thought i was dreaming
but i was just sleeping

go ahead choose a new name


what did you come here for?

when she was gone she paid it no mind


maybe she remembered the repleted
sun
running out of hours to shine.

when you take that last step


it's a long way down
and when you take that last step
you'll be falling forever

forever

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COLLAGE

This Is Our Time, Down Here

Kill the lights


Turn off your tubed world
And give yourself a second...
Stretch that second into a
minute
Syphon that minute into a moment
To close your eyes
Turn that blink into a think
And drink it down

i asked my girlfriends
what they thought of you
they whispered bad news

That shade of green experimented


upon the tureen,
diluted
stroked
seen
the proper hue was easy to find
unique, and most pleasing

We committed criminal acts


Both physical and subliminal
These things are beyond anyone's control
now

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But this is not a confessional

what should i do
they whispered
cut him loose
i can try
but i’m not promising anything

We are clearing the slate for


Two-dimensional trees scrawled in
disappearing ink
We are paving the way from
Vanishing all-ages venues
To silicon seas
Interacting and distracting you
From the fact that a generation raised
playing video games
Have been acting out the third act on
the
stage of… fill in the blank…
For longer than the patriot actors
Making our Dade County decisions for us
Care to remember
We are no longer Christian or Buddhist,
Anitchrist or anarchist
The expiration date came and went and
we didn't even know it
When was the last time you ate
Cornflakes or the breakfast of
champions?

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So strangely,
one is tempted to believe
that nothing is happening;
and they are told as
encouragement to seek
in hopes of finding

provincial you
unnamed me
no more shadowing
something that doesn’t move
anymore
provincial me
you so bred right
no more hiding in the light
of something that doesn’t care
about losing
anything

A mirror came as a gift.


It regretted the absence
of the lost or
destroyed

And so when Mikey says,


"This is our time,
This is our time down here"
Through an asthmatic wheeze in The
Goonies
I hear that as prophesy meaning
All we really needed was each other
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To get it right the next time around

Not long afterward, the mirror


was changing, had come to be
much more curious

Once upon a time,


we
matched

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