Q uiet L

ightning
sPARKLE & bLINK
2.7

Sparkle & Blink
as performed on Aug 1 11 @ The Conservatory of Flowers
© 2011 Quiet Lightning
978-1-257-92025-9

art by Tyler Iorillo localillustrations.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 submit@quietlightning.org

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 ! !

The Greenhouse Effect
presented in conjunction with The Conservatory of Flowers is the first-ever QL series and the first-ever series at The Conservatory of Flowers ! !

Side A Q
Keely Hyslop My Choices Playing Make-Believe with My Mother’s Choices Alyson Sinclair The Invention of the South
first published in Tin House

7 9

13 15

The Last Part, I Don’t Remember
first published in 111oh

Andrew O. Dugas from “The Descent of Aphrodite” Amy Cruz March Through the Bees Howard Junker The Other Side Tim Kahl Opening Theme, and Hymn for Norman Lear

17

25

29

41

Side B L
Graham Gremore The Unseen Thief Cassandra Gorgeous Actually Cole Krawitz Circumstantial Image of Mine Mira Martin-Parker Cucumbers 49

53

59 61

first published in Battle Runes: Writings on War, Editions Bibliotekos

67

Tobey Kaplan Color First A Thousand Kids’ Her Friend Said Sarah Page No Delicate Thing Is Safe He Sent His Bird to Her Poem for Joan Miro's “The Flight of the Bird Over the Plain III” Hale Alala Rain Praying

75 77

79 80 81 83

2.7
Tyler Iorillo A Life Worth Living City, Squid cover 45-48

My Choices
I left you I went away on the floor to college not knowing what would happen to you just once when I was gone you were calling for years you would for me in the dark call me on Friday dark house Saturday nights the next morning I lied slurred words laced said I hadn’t with regrets heard you atonements you promised I had my senior year weighed my options I swallowed so much decided you were drunk anger I was storing it thought you’d go back to bed in my cheeks on your own like a chipmunk if I ignored you there were days like a cat locked out I wanted to kill you beat the strength for the night back into you I let you scratch and whine poke at your eyes knowing the noise until you were no longer would stop eventually what I didn’t know blind to how much was this wasn’t I loved you another ordinary evening how brave you were now you were invincible taking prescriptions how much I admired not meant to be you before you washed back decided to become with a 12 pack nasty chemical reaction a poison-tester made your legs give out so I left from under you because I couldn’t save you you could have died I could save myself and I let myself I chose go back to sleep that was the last night I ever slept soundly

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8 Keely Hyslop —–––––––––––

Playing Make-Believe with My Mother’s Choices

After the tears have been dry for years after you’ve already been saved by someone else then lost and saved again what have I left to say to the sudden silence reflecting light like satin sequined hope on sale at a price we cannot afford? Mother I know you could never afford to keep me but here I am trying to settle your debts you had savings but you spent yourself for me and then you borrowed heavily every ounce of strength that you were lacking. Because I cost you so much I want to pretend it means I wasn’t wanted that you never had a choice since choices
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are a new innovation we cannot expect previous generations to have had the same access to the technologies we enjoy today the super computer the human genome database the evolved sense of autonomy it takes to refuse an unmarked package from a dubious address. Next I want to pretend you had nothing but choices you were on birth control at the time after all Margaret Sanger and her army of angels had a soap box stationed at every corner you were using the pamphlets as bookmarks and coasters you did the math knew what you were getting yourself into it was you who decided to carry that remainder. All this time while playing make-believe I’ve been bleeding concrete roses springing forth spontaneously out of the blood
10 Keely Hyslop —–––––––––––

individual bushes at first then whole gardens forming gorgeous intricate labyrinths of stony petals and sculpted thorns busloads of tourists have been arriving daily for the pleasure of becoming lost in the labyrinths the busses then continue onto the next photo spot empty and more buses arrive to conceal the oil stains that shimmer in the parking lot during the slow spells. Now it seems the blood has suddenly decided to remain in my veins and I tell you it’s not easy growing accustomed to the radial suspension bridges my limbs have become the spiky highways running back and forth behind my eye sockets I have flattened and repaired and flattened and repaired the wheels racing inside of me so many times. About a week ago I watched an internal messenger ride away on a bicycle I think he was carrying a letter with him I think the message will say
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I forgive you but how will he ever get there on roads as perilous as these?

12 Keely Hyslop —–––––––––––

The Invention of the South

Place your finger in my mouth and I’ll speak slower than baby teeth (say love). South of the boundary rock we touch the land barehanded. We gather spider lilies by the Catawba for our sweethearts. We hollow out gourds to store our wrens. We help the raccoons gather piles of silver teeth. Turn alligator claws into amulets. Wrap red threads around carefully broken branches. When our jaws work properly, we dry deer meat on the wide granite hills. We take teethy bites out of peaches, let the stick get good on our faces, let the itch get into our guts. Our manners are coming along fine except when they ain’t. It is either cuss or sing only you are holy. All the cotton turns into moths. We have only answers, sass mouths, and dagger eyes. The (first) fire is an accident. We sleep best with a bible under our pillows. We learn to walk the ground careful
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not to fall in old wells, to trap animals for pets and supper, to check our brother’s hair for ticks every summer night. Stray dogs find our yard. A pine tree breaks our hearts. We learn to look for vultures in the distance, to recognize that they are not hawks or eagles.

14 Alyson Sinclair —–––––––––––

The Last Part, I Don’t Remember

In our Daddy’s truck, limbo is all space and no space. The vinyl seat melts into the backs of our thighs I sit on my hands. I keep on, I continue to, I keep on kicking at the dashboard until one of my wild legs catches you in the mouth. The snakes lick our lips. Our jaws unlock and moths break through our teeth. He says, Get out. Walk home. On that dirt road that had to be dirt. The crickets swell in waves of unbearable noise and silence. We watch his lights fade. Nothing to do but swallow air and keep moving. Our eyes adjust just enough to discern that there are two types of darkness. We pray with our bones. We talk what we will do if a car drives by: Slap our bodies down
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into the ditch. The worst thing we can do is stop. The worst thing we can do is forget this creek doesn’t run into a river. You say, Sister, you are no protector but I am the best protector of myself. I keep my mouth shut. There are missing pieces of my tongue I swallowed them and tasted like nothing to myself. You are always negotiating with a face full of dirt. I watch you saying no into it.

16 Alyson Sinclair —–––––––––––

from The Descent of Aphrodite The following takes place in 1986:

As to his own living situation, Eddie was conflicted. He was subletting a small room, literally a walk-in closet off another bedroom, in a big flat in the Western Addition. The rightful tenant had gone biking in England and Holland for a couple of months. In a matter of weeks, Eddie would need another place to live. Though his room was tiny—he slept on a single mattress because a double wouldn’t fit—Eddie liked the place well enough. His roommates were friendly: bike messengers and restaurant workers who lived double lives as musicians and artists. They dressed like the bastard children of Rod Stewart and Sid Vicious: black clothes, ragged and dangly here, tight as leggings there. They dyed their hair blue-black like gunmetal and draped themselves in leather coats too baggy and bedazzled even for Goodwill. The flat was dark and heavily curtained and smelled like old spraypaint, but Eddie admired the
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Victorian details. The elegant woodwork around the fireplace, the intricate wainscoting and high ceilings with gingerbread crown molding. You could open the front door for guests by yanking an Art Nouveau metal lever at the top of the stairs. The current furnishings were less vintage. In fact, most of them had been rescued from dumpsters and repaired in frantic, marathon “project sessions” that usually took place late at night and accompanied by the whine of power tools. (Indeed, the living room was more workshop than den, and often crowded with failed projects.) Eddie admired his roommates' dedication to their craft, even if he could not understand why someone would want to convert a busted up dollhouse into a home for a pet rat. Or spray-paint a fake Christmas tree black. Or insert a small television into a fish tank. (“The reverse has been done to death,” the artist explained.) Eddie wondered if there was not some sophisticated subtext for which
18 Andrew O. Dugas —–––––––––––

his conventional East Coast education had left him unprepared and incapable of grasping. Max, Eddie’s old buddy from college, got it right away. “Jesus Christ, Eddie, you're living with a bunch of speed freaks.” And then there was Gwen. Eddie hadn't told Max about Gwen, his roommate Mark’s wife, because he'd never thought of himself as the kind of guy who'd mess around with a married woman, even if that married woman was only twenty-one and sexy in a Roseanna Arquette kind of way. A petite cutie with henna-red hair bobbed short and a slender neck, Gwen was relentless cheerful and always wore a black leotard-like dress. She was a little skinny but she laughed at everything Eddie said, even when he wasn't trying to be funny. Eddie felt witty and with that feeling came the desire to make her laugh as much as possible, to give his newfound charm a chance to run wild. Eddie and Gwen usually hung out
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in the kitchen, after Mark and Adam, another roommate, had locked themselves in Mark's room so they could “compose” on their Casios undisturbed. Gwen had long since staked out the kitchen as her territory. As a result, it was the only room in the whole flat that looked like what it was supposed to be. Eddie's bedroom might’ve been a closet, the living room might’ve been a workshop, but goddammit, the kitchen was a kitchen. Whenever Eddie so much as walked by, Gwen would waylay him, sit him down at the dinette and pour him a big cup of coffee. And of course, she'd sit down too and start chatting away like a housewife from the Fifties. “How do you like San Francisco so far?” “Oh man, I love it. Kind of overwhelming, but...” “I know! I grew up in Petaluma, so yes, I know what you mean. But so much fun, don't you think? The city, I mean. It's so much fun. Have you been to Petaluma yet? No, of course
20 Andrew O. Dugas —–––––––––––

not, you just got here. But you should go sometime, typical small town, you know. Nice place to be from, right?” Eddie shrugged. “So Mark told me you're working for Save the Dolphins?” “Yes, but that's just until I get things figured out. I don’t know what comes next. I mean, I'm just subletting here.” “Are you an environmentalist? I think that's so important, you know? So cool?” “Well, I'm a writer, actually, but that doesn't really pay.” “I work in the Marketing Department at Levi's. You know Levi's Plaza on Battery by the Embarcadero?” Eddie had no idea. “Kind of. Downtown, right?” Gwen set down her mug and laughed until she had to come up for air. “Oh, you should be a comedian. Downtown!” And she was laughing again. Eddie started laughing too. A couple of weeks after Eddie moved in, he was taking an
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afternoon nap, still on the mend from a hangover, when he heard his door open and shut. He blinked in the halflight at her silhouette. “Gwen?” “Shh.” She shucked off her leotard dress and slipped into Eddie's bed. Her skin felt cool as she snuggled up to him. “Uh, Gwen.” “No talking,” she said, and mounted him. He slipped in without guidance; Eddie had never been with a girl so eager for him. Wet wasn't the word. Drenched. Sopping. He’d never gotten a girl into bed, in fact, without first exerting great effort. Taking them out for drinks and dinner, making phone calls, dropping by their work. Yet here was this beautiful girl, with zero courtship, grinding against him, chomping on his neck, fucking his mouth with her tongue. When he came—before he could feel bad about coming first, before he knew what was happening—she slipped down and sucked him back to hardness in mere seconds.
22 Andrew O. Dugas —–––––––––––

No one had ever done that before. He liked it. Then she was on him again, facing his feet this time, her tight buttocks pressing and rolling against his belly. Another first. A little awkward, took a little getting used to, but he liked that he could caress her ass cheeks with such ease. “Stick your thumb in my ass!” “Huh?” Eddie wasn't sure he'd heard that right. “Stick your thumb in my ass!” “Um...” “Do it!” Eddie traced his thumb down the wet crack and zeroed in on his puckered target. He let out a breath and pressed his thumb inward. Half a knuckle... “Come on already!” A whole knuckle. “That's it! More!” A knuckle and a half. Her thrusts slowed and deepened, her torso tremored with tectonic depth. Eddie shifted his pelvis back, and the tremors intensified. One final shudder and she
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fell backward onto him, popping out his thumb. They rolled sideways into a loose spoon. Her mouth reached back to him, her tongue seeking out his. Aftershocks cycled through her, each one weaker than the one before until she was still. Eddie wrapped himself around her, feeling like the best lover in the world. When he awoke, it was evening dark and she was gone. He pulled on his clothes and looked for people. For once, the flat was empty, though all the lights were on. Then Eddie remembered: some big show down at the Kennel Club on Divisadero. He wandered the rooms and hallways, the high ceilings making him feel small. He turned on every light he could. The radiator shuddered and came on in the cooling night. In the kitchen, he checked the coffee pot. It was half full but cold a long time. He poured himself a cup nonetheless and sat at the dinette, wishing Gwen were there.

24 Andrew O. Dugas —–––––––––––

March through the Bees

I think I hear something out the window. It's furry butt looks through glass at me,
bzz bzz bzz bzz-bzzzz "I want your blood. bring it out here." bzz bzz-bzzz

It could be the bee or the iron in me that is yearning to be useful. I want to make sense from my seasons.. I find reasons to stay at home, and self seclude, saving menses in a jar.
bzz, "I'm doing my part and the flowers taste good. Now get off your chair, do do what you should." "build your muscle out here you can squat pull and dump!" bzz.. bzz.. bzz-bzzzz

meanwhile, there's:
"March March March March, get your name out- in flames!"

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but the lady bugs have landed I'm trying to make the most from the weeds I've been handed. All the rain and sun have sent stalks to boltarrugula is reaching in flowery revolt. As I switch my shoes, the voice ensues, the voice of the World Out There"March through pleasure March through pain March and get it done. This month is moving as you should be too. Now's the time to plan and do forget about you just march."

but the bees and wasps, they see me and buzz from behind my chair
bzzzzzzzzzz! "Hey you, there- the tenderyou know where you belong. where you tryin' to run to? We're here with forces strong." bzzz.. bzz bzzzzz.....

but still the other chorus preys on me pumping through my blood. Through this March and always it comes back on my head to
26

Amy Cruz —––––––––

"March March March March. March on something big and new. some way to show and flex your shoots something.. something.."

but the insects have me where clover takes over ground, and raspberries want to thrive. Stopping the march right here makes me calm and alive. There's sense in this crazy mix where it's great to march into the great out there, and sometimes stay near to where the bees know my name.

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28

Amy Cruz —––––––––

THE OTHER SIDE
When I was a little boy in North Dakota, there were these blinding snowstorms, and you had to look for something, like a snow fence, that stood out and that looked familiar in all that whiteness to help you home.

—James Rosenquist

They were lucky—when they left the Fargo airport, the snow was just beginning to swirl, flurries were just beginning to obliterate the roadway. It was nowhere near the whiteout that Don, having grown up in California, sort of wanted to experience. He loved the idea that you ought to keep a giant candle in the trunk of your car, something to tide you over if you got stranded. Maryann, who’d grown up in Hamilton, two and a half hours north, in good weather, of course knew people who’d gotten caught—and froze to death. They stopped in Grand Forks for coffee; conditions were still holding up, and Maryann felt they should push on for the two more hours it would take to reach her parents’ home in Hamilton, pop. 61. Since the storm was blowing up from the south, strangely enough, they were running away from it. It was an adventure
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of sorts. The Red River Valley had always struck Don as exotic, as strange and beautiful as any place he might have chosen to visit as a tourist. The river running north, for example. The endless fields shaved smooth by the glacier, the pathetic strands of trees put up as windbreaks, the monumental silos. Maryann’s father was still farming, into his eighties. What else was there to do? Join the sunbirds in Arizona? Don said a quick hello to Maryann’s parents and then a quicker good-bye and headed over to Cavalier, to his traditional headquarters, The Cedar Inn. The eight-mile trip was only theoretically harrowing. He needed to stay at The Cedar to escape the claustrophobia of his in-laws’ small house with its one bathroom and no place, really, to wander around in in the middle of the night, which is what Don did in the middle of nights. Also, he had a limited ability to visit— to sit for hours at the kitchen table, holding a coffee cup. The Cedar was the only motel in town, a cinder-block pile just south of Main St.
30 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

There was a hardware store in the front and a restaurant/bar and a package store on the far side. Santa’s Parade formed up every year in the parking lot. It was an ideal retreat, especially these days with the upgraded cable package. And with everything one might need, besides family, within walking distance: —InShape, with its delightful assortment of vintage work-out equipment —La Tea Da, a tea room cum bistro with white tablecloths (closed for the holidays) —the Pembina Archery Center (in a former store front) —the Cavalier Cinema (in the former Cavalier Hotel), which was showing the Favreau/Vaughn comedy Couples Retreat at 10 p.m., due to its adult content —the He-Mart (mostly haberdashery) —Thompson’s Cafe, which has not yet been rated on menupix or chow.com or urbanspoon, to say nothing of Yelp. But Don’s main resource while hiding out was his reading project. He specialized, on his North Dakota jaunts, in worthy endeavors he would never have
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been able to tackle under ordinary circumstances. The list was partly penitential, as if he had to make up for his withdrawal from the family. His first project had been Melville’s five pre-Moby novels. On another visit, he did the first five of Henry James. This time, Livy and Tacitus. He had planned for something a bit more fun—some true crimers, a re-read of Decline and Fall, a look at a muchpraised first novel. But at the San Francisco airport, he realized he didn’t have enough of the right stuff to endure the immense stretches of nothingness that loomed before him. He was tempted by The Canterbury Tales, in the Penguin Classics section of the bookstore, but it was in translation, and he’d learned Middle English sophomore year with a teacher who’d just come back from Oxford. Don loved the fact that, when the time seemed ripe, this well-trained scholar switched fields and became a Native American poet. The blizzard, surprisingly, held off the next day, allowing Don to stock up on oranges and yogurt and Cheerios.… at
32 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

Leevers Super Valu. And make a quick, noontime trip to Hamilton for “dinner”— soup and grilled cheese sandwiches— with the family. Christmas Eve, Blizzard Alvin shut down everything. In the middle of that desperate night, the Grand Forks PBS station ran a doc on contemporary conquests of Everest—some guy who’d had a knee replacement struggling toward the summit with his own personal buddy/guide, to help wrench the faux knee back into position whenever it popped out. Our hero’s investment, paying for the guide and himself, must have run close to $200k. Don rooted for him to fall into a crevasse. Don’s passion for mountaineering had been ignited at summer camp—his counselor reading a goodnite story, an Alpine adventure novel. Don never knew what the plot was, beyond climbing the Jungfrau—or maybe it was the Matterhorn—because he always fell asleep after a page or two, but crampons & ice axes, pitons & carabiners, roped up, slogging skyward, danced in his dreams. By these between-the-Wars standards,
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Everest had become an obscenity, a pig pen, an exquisite symbol of money despoiling the sacred. By morning, the snow had drifted four feet deep outside Don’s room. There was plenty of time to read: Livy: Rome didn’t conquer all in a day. Tacitus: Rome didn’t decline in a day. St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church was hosting a community Christmas dinner, so, at 11:30, Don geared up and trudged over. The wind was still driving a white mist, and his sunglasses fogged up and his nose froze, even with his red knit face mask pulled up all the way. He found his way to the community room behind the church. At the far end, near the kitchen, some 30 seniors, like himself, were already sitting down. He realized he should have gone to mass with them. Of course, they would accept him as an orphan of the storm, but what the hell. He introduced himself to the priest, who urged him to join the last stragglers at the buffet. The people whose table he joined knew his in-laws, of course. The pies, unfortunately, but
34 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

understandably, were storebought. That afternoon and evening night, he read.

and

By the morning after Christmas, the snow plows (and blowers) had cleared the downtown streets. Eventually, this stuff would be hauled away, but for the moment it had been pushed up on the sidewalk along Second St., across from The Office, which is actually a bar (with apts. upstairs). Since few people in Cavalier work in offices, Don liked to imagine the phone conversations: I’m still tied up at the office, dear. Oh yeah, why do I hear PBRs being popped in the background? The plows had pushed like tectonic plates until the warehoused snow rose to a crenellated ridge. The result was an unexpected man-made wonder. The west face of this mountain was a sheer block-long wall, a mountain range, not an individual peak. The east face had disappeared, because the gap between the sidewalk and Main Street Floral & Fudge Factory, in more clement times a scraggly strip of
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lawn, had filled in with drift. Don surveyed this savage landscape on the way to breakfast at Thompson’s Cafe. He thought it might be fun to attempt an ascent. He also thought it would be a bit silly, a grown man, and an old one at that, mountain climbing in downtown Cavalier, ND. On the other hand, he had put in his miles as an urban hiker in San Francisco, walking home the three miles from the Saturday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building, a different route each time, taking photos, foraging for whatever architectural/cultural delights might present themselves. More than that, listening to the Weather Channel’s tales of other great storms, he had realized he was a veteran of the Blizzard of ’47. He had been seven, so long ago, and that blizzard hadn’t seemed like such a big deal, just a generous chance to build—and live in— an igloo his father had cut the slabs for. After two eggs over easy, hash browns, “steak,” biscuits, and hot chocolate, he headed for base camp. There was no one else walking around
36 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

downtown. It wasn’t particularly cold, about five degrees, but it was cold enough. The Cavalier Sierra gleamed in the pewter sun, clean, purposeful, sheer. Shortly after they were married, they’d driven around the state, visiting Maryann’s old friends. They’d gotten as far west as Mandan, where Lewis & Clark had wintered in 1804- 05, where Custer had set up housekeeping on a bluff with a commanding view. On the way home, Maryann asked how he’d liked all the different parts of North Dakota. I enjoyed the trip, Don replied, but there seemed to be only two parts: the flat and the very flat. He kicked his left Itasca Ziggy After Ski boot with backside Velcro into the steep slope and pushed up. His footing held. He advanced another step. And another. He punched his fingers into the snow, not so much to get a grip, but to remain engaged with the surface. Now that he was actually attacking the first (and only) pitch, he began to worry. What if he crashed back to the sidewalk? Such anxiety, he realized, even if unwarranted, was useful: it helped
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maintain focus. What a glorious way to put up a route: directissima. The next step held, and the next, and the summit was within reach. But, of course, there wasn’t any summit, there was just the edge that had been left by the snowplow’s sharp blade. Don took two more small steps and looked back down to assess what he had accomplished. It really wouldn’t be fun to fall from such a height. He reached up and tore off a patch of the crenellation. He swept the back of his hand to level off some more. He stepped up a last step. Perhaps he could compress a platform that would allow him to stand on top and gain a comprehensive panorama. He slid his right knee up, as if to straddle the top, and plunged over to the other side into the drift. It was the obverse of the fall he had feared. It wasn’t a precipitous drop. It was a head-first plummet, a jackknife dive, his arms extended to ease passage into the new medium. He sank all the way in. He completely submerged in the downy, billowy snow.
38 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

The irony washed over him as the drift embraced him. He thrashed his feet. . .and drove himself deeper. His head wedged tight. The snow began to numb his face. He didn’t think anyone would hear him, but, Ahoy, he screamed, man overboard.

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40 Howard Junker —–––––––––––

Opening Theme and Hymn for Norman Lear

Boy the way Glenn Miller played Songs that made the hit parade Guys like us we had it made Those were the days And you knew who you were then Girls were girls and men were men. Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. Didn’t need a map of ages to find where my generation flip-flop wandered into the TV Guide. It perfected the channel changer and now I dream in computer screens that continually act up with locovirus. My karma’s been downgraded by Moody’s again, by the quants who’ve finally modeled how the empire will fail — an empty bag will not stand up by itself. Could you fill it with your own Garage Mahal of memorabilia? Could you fill it with a killer app that scrambles the dumb-down of prime time TV? Could you fill it with a philosophical battle with a plutocrat? — Oh, Archie, I couldn’t do that.
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— Geez, Edith, would you stifle yourself, huh? Would you prefer a steady watcher’s diet surging through the intestines in your brains? It feeds us an entertainment algorithm that we can see but hardly know. I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand and that he shall stand in the light of a romantic comedy and deliver us to a new expectation. O, Norman Lear, please come rescue us from our viewer’s indigestion. O, Norman Lear, please come and show us the innards of the sitcom. O, Norman Lear, please tell us one of those jokes about the dumb American again, we who are generation ding-dong invulnerable as ever so that our stupidity stays locked in and preserves its freshness, none of the big ideas getting in. O, Norman Lear, lead us not into peer-topeer congratulation but to that moment when
42 Tim Kahl —–––––––––––

we can sincerely offer up these words to each other: Lamont, you dummy. O, Norman Lear, I know I stand before you just one more dumb accuser, but forgive me I’ve made up my mind that I can take no more. No you didn’t Yes, I did. No you didn’t Yes, I did. No you didn’t Yes, I did. No you didn’t need no welfare state everybody pulled his weight Gee, our old La Salle ran great Those were the days.

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44 Tim Kahl —–––––––––––

The Unseen Thief

Well, shit. Your father is dying. He’s been dying for almost a year now. Ever since his trip to Europe last spring. But this time he’s really dying. Like, for real. And this wasn’t what you expected it to be like at all. Your dentist tells you there are two options: “Try another root canal, or do an extraction.” He assures you that neither will be enjoyable; both will be expensive. The first thought to cross your mind: I’ll ask Dad what he thinks. The second thought: I can’t ask Dad what he thinks. You meditate on the fact that it’s raining outside. That Mount Tam is hidden under a thick blanket of fog. You know it’s there somewhere, you just can’t see it right now. That you’re having an affair with your “mostly straight” dentist. And that it may very well be the tackiest thing you’ve ever done. (And you’ve done a lot of tacky things.) “I’ll see you at seven,” you tell him. Then, without another word, you get up. You go. On the car ride home you wonder: Was the Pardoner a gelding or a mare? A gelding, you decide. No, a mare. Your mother sends you an e-mail. She regrets that your father never had an
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opportunity to pursue any endeavors in his life. She writes:

creative

I think he felt so defined, maybe trapped, in his role of father/provider. He has given up so much of his youthful, creative self in taking on that socially prescribed role. When he was just a child he wanted to take piano lessons. He gave up that dream when he overheard his parents talking about how they were going to afford the mortgage. Your dad's dreams and talents went on the back burner. There were so many talents he never had a chance to develop. Instead he devoted his energies to academe and earning a living and taking care of us. He was interested in creative writing and he really is a very fine writer, but that also fell by the wayside. He sent a story to the New Yorker once. Her e-mail makes you want to die a little. You, too, sent a story to the New Yorker once. The only difference was yours was accepted. Your mother irks you. Your mother irks a lot of people. Your mother irked your father. That’s why he left her for another woman. Your greatest fear is that one day you’ll end up just like her: irksome and impossible and alone.
50 Graham Gremore —–––––––––––

Well, shit. Your father can’t die. You don’t know him well enough yet. You check online. Your life expectancy is 74 years old. 48 years without him seems like too many. 18, fine. 28, okay. 38, maybe. But 48? Too much can happen in 48 years. You probably shouldn’t have started sleeping with your dentist, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. (It always seems like a good idea at the time.) You’re not emotionally invested in the relationship. He’s your dentist, after all, and, aside from your teeth and an immediate sexual attraction toward one another, you feel the two of you have very little, if anything, in common. You fear feeling this way makes you an unkind person, but your friend Nicolay, one drunken night at Smitty’s in Sausalito, assured you that, given the catastrophic events of last November, which you still haven’t even begun to process yet, you needn’t concern yourself with things like other people’s feelings. “You’ve a year,” he slurred while sipping his vodka tonic by the pool table, “to do whatever you please without any repercussion. One year.” Sometimes you think you’re the most pathetic person you know. But a lot of
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people’s parents have died. And they seem to do just fine afterward. But for some reason it feels different for you. Even though you know it’s not. Even though you know you’re just like everybody else. You pour yourself a glass of wine. You go to the bookshelf. You re-read The Pardoner’s Tale. Larry Benson’s translation. It always was your favorite one. The story is about three self-destructive men who set out to kill the Unseen Thief, otherwise known as Death, only to die themselves in the process. You wonder, briefly, about that process and what it might be like to kill Death. You wonder, briefly, about Chaucer and if he was INTJ, too. You wonder, briefly, whether you should do the root canal or the extraction. Then you check the clock. It’s almost seven. You close the book. You get up. You go.

52 Graham Gremore —–––––––––––

Actually

I like boys who read books. Preferably, books with plastic covers on them. This means they came from the library. I met a beautiful blond haired blue eyed Adonis at the gym a while back. He was so tall and muscular I secretly wondered if he was on steroids. I had seen him around the gym before, but I had written him off as one of the pretty-but-dumb ones. Until I saw him reading a book. A book, (in a plastic cover, nonetheless!), while waiting for the J outbound at the Van Ness Muni station. When I saw him reading that book he checked out from the San Francisco Public Library, I saw a future together. On Bravo TV. We will be reality stars in the Gay Newly Weds of San Francisco. Picture it: the hot, popular jock who reads,
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and the nerdy, eccentric girl who’s really a diamond in the rough. We will be the perfect couple. There must have been a connection, because he gave me his number. I texted him for a date. I wanted him to try my secret-sauce-marinated-then-bakedthen-fried spare ribs. I was going to win his heart and his stomach. Cause that’s how I roll. He texted back, I actually have to go to a funeral in New York next week. I could just strangle the passive aggressiveness that passes for masculinity in this town. My days were a hazy blur after that. I would get stoned and walk along the Crystal Spring Reservoir, wondering if I was rejected, or if his noncommittal answer signaled possible interest. What does the word “actually” really mean?
54 Cassandra Gorgeous —–––––––––––

Because he could have just texted, I have to go to a funeral next week. But the inclusion of the word “actually,” the sheer amount of energy it took to type this precious eight letter word, why, he had to be somewhat interested. Right? The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the word “actually” was kind of a flirt. You can almost picture her with one hand on her hips, arching her right eye ever so slightly as she smiles, mischievously, purring, “Actually, I am worth the chase.” The definition of Actually, an adverb, is “in fact; in reality.” It is a word pregnant with possibilities, for the need to emphasize, “actually,…” is really saying, “girl, it’s not what you think.” Thus, Actually can also be used to express a sense of the unexpected, the wonderment at reality being different from the situation imagined. As in, “that demure petite
55 —––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK

secretary is actually a raging dominatrix in bed!” Actually can give hope to what was once hopeless, and it can extinguish lofty dreams. Actually, you’re not my type. Come to think of it, actually is kind of a bitch. Either way, you’re not going to get what you expected. Couple this meaning, along with Actually’s usual companion in the sentence structure – the sensuous and curvaceous comma (,)

– and you realize actually is both a tease and an attention whore. The comma instructs you to pause. As a member of the Adverbs family, actually’s role in life is to add emphasis for effect. Actually is like the pretty yet accessible girl in high school; we all think we have a chance with her. The comma is her chubby girlfriend who follows her around. Actually travels with her own posse.
56 Cassandra Gorgeous —–––––––––––

Sometimes, though, Actually is just used to express a sense of incredulity, a bewilderment and indignity at the absurdities in life. As in, “That lying, nogood sack of shit actually thinks she’s fit to be President of the United States of America!” In the movie, Love, Actually, the word is used to emphasize the overarching theme: that, in reality, it was all love. Even when you didn’t think it was love – that’s what it was. Love is all around us, the movie insists. It’s in the miscommunications, the wandering heart, the unfailing devotion of a good friend, the wife who discovers the affections of her husband for another woman. The movie suggests we go through life enveloped in love, actually. Always. Somewhere. Someone is thinking of us. Keep hope alive, Jesse Jackson said in defense of affirmative action. But, when you’re secretly pining for someone, hope is like Abu Ghraib. You torture yourself: what if; if only; and, actually…
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Does Actually mean, but for the funeral, my Blond Adonis would have ate my ribs? It’s been two years. Nothing happened. Yet I still can’let go. ever

When I close my eyes, I actually still see him, waiting for the J Outbound, reading a book with a plastic cover.

58 Cassandra Gorgeous —–––––––––––

Circumstantial

as in not declarative as in: iffy, so what? in question, questions halfsolved if solving is the answer as in: the epic tease tenderly bruising skin which, when supple, bends and returns to a finger’s inquiry without declaration—

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60 Cole Krawitz —–––––––––––

Image of Mine

Another x-ray—this time without insurance in a town with eucalyptus trees and rose bushes lining Victorian housed streets. This time, shooting my femur and lumbar. I’m directed to the city teaching hospital the length of which will cover five large city blocks—I’m told I’m covered without insurance, so long as papers prove I don’t have papers I’d be insured another x-ray, and I don’t mind

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that I’m scamming the system as some say since the scam is the system in the first place I hunch my body up on the long flat x-ray table wait for the technician on sharp-cold plastic hard and slick like airplane toilet seats— I wait for the practitioner to position me contort my hips to fall in line with the machine’s
62 Cole Krawitz —–––––––––––

guided ruling measured marks dictating precision of radiated light capturing my insides. X-rays launch me in your time machines back to hours, glued a mummy inside my plaster body mold, waiting for the buzzer to end as the light lanced designated regions around my chest and neck—I remember that force takes on new meaning when you have to force it on yourself that cold, plastic table that wait, 50 seconds, a round of radiation
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molded in plaster, arms encased with no place to press my hands on any surface to pull my body up and out of this solitary where attendants disappeared, sheltered next door to reappear as voices booming above me and sounding nothing like God. This is where I will learn how to not wipe away tears hands sandwiched, while everyone around me projects a story they must tell themselves of surviving meaning strength and courage I bury another year in an encyclopedia of fear
64 Cole Krawitz —–––––––––––

and blame it all on another x-ray, waiting to be imagined. I never was strong enough.

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66 Cole Krawitz —–––––––––––

Cucumbers

It was still early in the day, and the warm desert sun felt pleasant against the side of his face. As he drove along he struggled to tune in a radio station, but his old truck had only a coat hanger for an antenna and he could barely catch anything more than crackled voices. He had been driving nonstop since eight in the morning and his bladder was beginning to strain, so he slowed way down and pulled off to the side. Once at a stop, he checked quickly behind to make sure no one was coming, and carefully hid himself behind the open door. As he stood there, he examined the large crates of cucumbers he was hauling. April was cucumber season and he would be able to fetch quite an impressive price for his cargo at market. They had been purchased cheap from a friend of his in Jordan, and Jordanian cucumbers were known to be the best; all you had to do was peel them and add a sprinkle of salt. He remembered back when he was a little boy, children were not allowed to bring cucumbers to school during April—the smell of the freshly cut fruit was so overwhelming, it was considered cruel
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and insensitive to the children whose parents could not afford them. When he finished, he adjusted his trousers, climbed back into his truck, and continued up the empty road. He hadn’t been able to fit the entire load in the back, so one of the crates was resting beside him on the passenger seat. They were the thin Persian variety, and several were so small they had escaped from the slats and were now rolling around playfully on the floor. One began making its way dangerously close to his accelerator, so he leaned down, grabbed it, and chucked it out the open window. He watched as it flew through the air and hit the sand. Immediately he felt guilty. So many people were going without any fresh produce at all. These days, even boiled cabbage was a luxury. Why, there wasn’t a child on his street that wouldn’t sweep several courtyards in exchange for that one skinny little cucumber. After driving another twenty-five miles he reached a checkpoint. There were three U.S. Military Humvees parked in front and several American soldiers with machine guns standing beside them. About ten feet away, a group of Iraqi soldiers were leaning against an old Land
68 Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––

Rover and chatting casually amongst themselves. He slowed down, and when he was close enough to see their faces, he waved a friendly greeting at the Iraqis. By this time the men were standing at attention, waiting to check him through. They eyed his truck suspiciously as he pulled up, and he began getting nervous, but the first soldier to approach his vehicle immediately smiled upon noticing his goods. “Oh my, what have we here?” he said, bending over and admiring the bountiful crates. “Fresh cucumbers! What my wife wouldn’t give to serve a fresh cucumber salad with dinner tonight.” And so he parted with the crate next to him on the seat, plus two more from the back, and he was not only treated kindly in return, but they didn’t even bother making sure it was only cucumbers he was hauling. Instead, they cheerfully waived him through and wished him good luck at market. When he reached the crossroad, just before the border, he pulled over and got out. He was supposed to be met exactly at eleven, but he was five minutes early. There wasn’t a soul in sight, so he lit up a cigarette and stood waiting. The desert
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had heated up considerably by then, so he went and fetched a plastic tarp from behind his seat, then draped it hurriedly over the exposed crates. As he was tying down the corners he looked up and noticed the dusty trail of a car quickly approaching. His heart started beating fast, but he continued on with his task as if it wasn’t there. When he looked up again, the car was close enough for him to recognize it as Ali’s primer gray Land Rover. At once he relaxed and stood up. Ali greeted him warmly then went straight to the back of the truck. After briefly commenting on the beautiful cucumbers, he threw up the tarp, pulled aside the top crates, and exposed three large wooden boxes hidden underneath. Each measured about 3x7 and was nailed firmly shut. They quickly loaded these into the back of the Rover, without saying a word the entire time. Then Ali pulled a heavy envelope from his breast pocket and handed it over. After receiving two crates cucumbers, Ali said farewell and left. A minute later Ali’s car was out of sight and once again the road was empty. He held the heavy envelope in his hands for a moment, then opened it. Inside there was a stack of Euros in
70 Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––

denominations of 100, two inches thick and held together with a rubber band. Wrapped around this was a neatly handwritten letter in English. He quickly returned the money to the envelope and slid it behind the front seat. Then he lit another cigarette, leaned against the truck, and read. My Dearest Wali, I hope this letter finds you safe and well. I will get straight to business, as I know this is of utmost concern to you right now. The 19th Century Tabriz (4x6 and utterly breathtaking) was auctioned last month at Sotheby’s for E35,000. The four Gabbehs (two lions, one floral, and one geometric) I took care of myself, working with dealers directly online. The lions both went to a small shop on the Via Marzo in Venice (a Swiss dealer, whom I actually met years ago in at a conference in London). Each piece went for E10,000. The geometric and the floral sold for E12,000 a piece. The rose-patterned Isfahan (unspeakably lovely and by far the
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most precious of the collection) went to Dr. Bracken at the British Museum (who sends his best to you and your family). We had to haggle a bit on this one, but finally settled on E65,000—I admit it is a bit low, and I probably could have squeezed more out of the old chap, but I knew you would have done the same in my shoes, having been so fond of him yourself. The Malayer camel hair runner and the Halvai Bijar runner both went to a German attorney redecorating his family estate in the Black Forest. They sold for E28,000 and E32,000 respectively. The money has been distributed as follows: Kathleen received a check from me last Tuesday for E100,000. I wired Kevin Hartourian E44,000. E14,000 went to partially cover the yearly maintenance fees on the Lowell Street flat (as you know, I insist on accepting nothing for rent, and Kathleen and Nadia may live there as long as they wish, but Kathleen begged me to at least take something, and I promised her I would). E1200 went to Ali for his services. The remaining E34,000 I
72 Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––

have enclosed for you. Please contact me immediately if any of this goes against your wishes and I will do my best to correct the matter. Astrid and I flew to London last week and saw Kathleen. Nadia looks more and more like you every time we visit (I have included a photo from our trip). She is doing quite well in her studies, and is apparently top of her class in both French and German. I made a quick stop by Amwell Street. I walked by your old store, which is now a flower shop (something which made me very happy). The mood on the street has changed though. There is suspicion everywhere, especially with European collectors like myself (old Mr. Alfaki wouldn’t even say hello). This whole soul-crushing mess has ruined everything, but I will refrain from going into it further. You know quite well how I feel anyhow. Expect to hear from me within a week regarding the next exchange.
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Ali has kindly offered his assistance going forward (for a rather generous fee, I might add!). I hope I have lived up to the trust you have placed in me. Your friend, Walter Langen Sils-Maria

Tucked behind the letter and carefully wrapped in scented tissue paper (no doubt Astrid’s touch), was a photograph of a pretty young girl about eight years of age, sitting at a large mahogany table and smiling cheerfully at the camera. Her hair was curly and deep chestnut brown. And yes, her dark eyes and chiseled features were unmistakably his. He stood looking at the photo for minute then tossed his cigarette into the sand. It was going on noon and if he wanted to sell his cucumbers by three he had to rush. He climbed back into his truck, placed the photo on the dash in front of him, and continued up the empty road.

74 Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––

Color First A Thousand Kids’

first a thousand kids’ energy musing in late dark theatres of lonely houses her leg leans heavy my arm draped casually on her thigh not a day goes by without my considering her love of opera and some writers are terrific to remember clean my garage books full of O’Hara a soothsayer of long nights his poems quotidian like wrinkled lawns source of lavender lights stage lights silky bedding not a day goes by sleepers in the window layers of sand white boards smooth leaves construction parking a long goodnight barbecue where some man asked if she was from Thailand I want to tell her before I was born millions of crickets I offered a glass of water and she put it under her chair with the takeout we’re watching strange bodies on the stage inflatable shapes costumed phrases energetic silky colors like orange and appearances will not go on to say

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76 Tobey Kaplan —–––––––––––

Her Friend Said

False identity thoughts bathe a question of everyone they all understood she had come for dinner but never arrived they go to the bar in clumps look in the mirror learn distinctions friends give back books this moment she begins to talk about commitment difficult work through shadows lying in the door panels appear stripped the color of matted hair fields who is really covered those lines rule out exercise a kind of neutrality fingers identifying cloth comments among the weeds before the loss family you cannot escape or accept her friend said I want to run away you don't want her to go inside and tell jokes
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that no one has ever heard before you can see through for example the twentieth century the meaning of the game you know very well recollections stated defects no one can find the messages with light there translucent glass vocabulary touches you select some words out of the ability to get at the right details according to arrangements intensity revealed provision fingers as if they matter unfamiliar faces earth and sea tender contact gentle flocks naming the impact love is surrender tremors in the air thick night little goldrush towns nestled away in forests everyone is blood
78 Tobey Kaplan —–––––––––––

No Delicate Thing Is Safe

shells inevitably become empty the way your brain holds thoughts or how snails live inside them: temporarily living inside a shell you’re protected: no one can see your delicate nature without an act of violent penetration in a boat on the Caribbean Sea i saw a man stab a shell and rip out the animal living inside it. I put the shell to my ear, heard the ocean whisper: beware no man is an island and no delicate thing is safe

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He Sent His Bird to Her

and their birds then communicated their innermost desires and secrets with each other and this is how they fell in love – shyly at first and without acknowledging it until you couldn’t tell their birds apart from each other anymore and they were light as feathers.

80 Sarah Page —–––––––––––

Poem for Joan Miro’s “The Flight of a Bird over the Plain III”

The bird is like me. The bird becomes me. I fly through the hole in the sky that is blue and leave the brown field behind. I leave my human body behind. Leave science behind. I carry with me a string of eggs. They are black and white like science. I will bring them home to multiply. Red makes it real, makes it bleed. I become the bird. Become free. Life is an incomplete sentence.

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82 Sarah Page —–––––––––––

Rain Praying

I bring the rain to you clearing a path clearing the air with spade and tiller rows enjamb brambled terrace seeing each other now our palimpsest or parasol our clamor and calamity our toxicology collect as dew drops what remains cobbled and tessellated to begrudge the squall, ontology knowing knowing how we shiver how we shutter and into the future wedded to that imperturbable place where arpeggiated horizons collide furious treble of thimbles of an obstinate wheel now an inkwell in a tower now a tower with a garden now in a tower in a garden now to tower in a secret garden your tower my garden your garden my tower towering and gardening towering and gardening ours for the praying
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in judicious soil seeds delivering a magnanimous permutation heirlooms surviving the impermeable clay sweetgrass braiding the rollick of steppes sage bundling dogma exchanged for glass lavender weaving balustrades and colloforms what I would do to stop writing from where I am buried callas emerging cluster retrograde paperwhites suffusing stone only when it rains only when it rains have we arriving, forgive time permits thorough dissolve dispel our ampoletta’s funnel shattering the archival present because I refuse to fall in love with you instead levitating to offer more than cut flowers only when raining have we defi[n]ed how to be captured in your gramophone and dreamcatcher

84 Hale Alala —–––––––––––

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