Q uiet L

ightning
s P A R K L E
& b L I N K
2.8


eOCÒg¤]
¡
`¤)Þg
as performed on
Sept 5 11
@
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

© 2011 Quiet Lightning
ISBN 978-1-257-99907-1

art by Tyler Bewley
tylerbewley.com

curated by Kristen Kramer + Evan Karp

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 San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

is

a summer reading series

this

is

volume 2

!
!

Contents

side Q

Meghan Thornton
from The Sword in the Cellar 7

Sherril Jaffe
A Little Bird Told Me 13

Nicole McFeely
you r 19
It’s walking away 21

Anna Pulley
You Call It 23

Chris Carosi
Wolf’s Speech 27

Joseph Lease from Testify
Lost Highway 33
Law and Order 47
Kindness 48
To the Dead 53


2.8

Tyler Bewley
Specimen Gallery 1 front cover
From above, from below back cover
solar, Wind, Water 6, 103
Fog Bank 67-8

side L

Siamak Vossoughi
Where I Come From, People Listen 70

Mira Martin-Parker
The Old Man in Her Closet 77

Nicole Henares
Sad Little Bitch Thoughts 81
The Dormouse Speaks 81

Marc Olmsted
Hong Kong Bardo 85

Janey Smith
shorts from My Life as a Cheerleader 87

Jason File
Vacation on the Baja Coast 91

Charlie Getter
Untitled 95

Michael Palmer
Fog in Berkeley 101

info + guide to other readings 103





7
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Excerpt from The Sword in the Cellar
Once upon a time, Aelin discovers a frog with glowing red eyes
in the woods. No one at school believes her story, and she and
her brother Finn are sent home to their mother, who is none too
pleased…

They were not allowed to play that afternoon.
Instead Ma made them dig stones from the garden.
After dinner they were sent straight to bed. Aelin
was frustrated that she hadn’t had a chance to
search for the frog.
She felt restless, lying in the dark, unable to
sleep. From across the room Finn spoke, “Tell me
another story about Eggy.” She heard him turn
toward her and saw the faint glitter of his eyes.
“I’m tired,” she lied. She forced a loud,
drawn-out yawn.
“C’mon,” he pleaded, “A short one. Eggy
should fight a dragon or something.”
“Eggy’s a duck,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, well, with the right weapons he could
still fight a dragon. Maybe he could—” He stopped
suddenly. “Did you hear that?”
Aelin listened hard. Through the draughty,
summer-thin walls the night sounds rang clear: an
owl hooting, wind rustling grass and leaves,
branches whining against one another, and then a
loud crack in the distance, like a tree being
snapped in two.
“There it is again!” Finn exclaimed.
She sat up. “What is it?”
“I don’t know. Something in the woods.
Maybe it’s your frog,” he teased.
They waited in silence. Several seconds went
by before they heard the sound again.
“I’ll bet it’s a boar!” Finn yelled. He hopped
out of bed.
“Ma will be mad—“
8
Meghan Thornton —–––––––––––
“No she won’t. She’s probably asleep.”
When they tiptoed into the cozy living room
they saw that not only was their mother wide-
awake, but she wasn’t even dressed for bed. The
dying embers in the fireplace rimmed Ma’s bent
back with orange light. She was looking between
the slats in the front door.
Aelin hesitated but Finn’s curiosity
overwhelmed any caution. “What is it, Ma?” he
asked quietly.
Their mother didn’t look back at them but
only murmured, “Strange.”
Finn shuffled past her to the small window
beside the door. Moonlight poured through its
half-open shutters and onto the floor.
Ma hissed, “Stay away from the window.”
Finn looked at Aelin and shrugged. He
moved over to where she stood behind their
mother.
“What do you think it is?” Aelin asked Ma.
She hoped it might be the big stag that sometimes
visited their woods. The last time she’d spotted it,
she’d counted sixteen points on its rack—the most
she had ever seen. But it hadn’t come around in a
while.
“It’s probably nothing. Probably just a—”
Ma’s voice was cut off by a loud thump that
sounded closer than before.
Aelin saw a thin spear of light puncturing the
darkness to their right. She tiptoed over to it. Cool
air slid into the house through a gap between the
stones, ruffling her nightdress. She crouched and
peered through the crack.
At first she thought a cobweb or cocoon
blocked the woods from her view. She realized
with a start that she was looking at a thick,
obscuring fog. As she watched, the old oak was
9
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slowly disappearing into the perning mist. Their
flag, still hanging where they’d tied it yesterday,
vanished behind a curling tendril. Within the fog’s
white belly, branches cracked and leaves stirred.
Whatever it was, it was coming nearer.
“Lemme see,” Finn said, pulling her aside.
“Oh…” His mouth hung open as he stared through
the gap. In the tiny slant of light she could see his
wide brown eye and the freckles crowding the skin
around it.
There was another loud thud. The floor
trembled.
“Maybe it’s a herd of deer,” she offered. She
tried squeezing in beside her brother but he shoved
her away.
“I think I see something!” Finn whispered.
“There’s something red—”
Ma suddenly whirled around. “Come on,”
she said. She grabbed Aelin’s arm and pulled her
and Finn across the room.
“What, Ma? What’d you see?” Aelin asked.
Their mother didn’t answer. She let go of
them and started pushing at one side of the ancient
desk they used for homework. Wood groaned as
the desk slid across the floor.
“What’s that?” Finn cried, pointing. A small
metal ring was set into the floor where the desk
had been.
Ma grabbed the ring in both hands and
pulled. A rectangular section of floor came up and
swung to one side. Aelin was stunned. A trap
door—in their house, all this time! She and Finn
had explored every nook, every cranny. Or so
she’d thought.
Their mother knelt and thrust her arm into
the dark hole. She withdrew something that
glinted brightly in the firelight. It was a sword.
10
Meghan Thornton —–––––––––––
The quiver of fear in Aelin’s chest dropped
into her stomach and curdled there.
“You have a sword?” Finn asked in disbelief.
“Get in, both of you,” Ma ordered.
“You mean into the—”
“Yes, Finn. Climb down. Then help your
sister.”
“But—”
“It’s not a far drop. Go on!”
Finn scrambled to the edge of the hole. He
threw Aelin a quick, worried look before jumping
into it. When he stood up again the top of his head
came just below the floorboards.
Aelin sat down beside the opening. Her heart
raced. “Ma…” She looked back to see Ma clenching
the sword, staring at the front door as if expecting
something to burst through it at any moment. The
house shook again. Her mother didn’t flinch, only
raised the sword higher. Then she noticed Aelin.
“I said get down there!” The eyes that met
Aelin’s were remote and frightening. “Now.”
Aelin dangled her legs into the darkness,
more afraid than she’d ever been in her life.
“Grab her, Finn,” came the order.
Finn gripped her beneath the shoulders. He
lowered her until her bare feet touched cool, damp
dirt.
Ma appeared in the opening above them. The
firelight caught in her tawny hair and cast a
brilliant halo around her unreadable face. “Now be
quiet. No matter what happens, stay down there
until I tell you it’s safe.”
“What about you?” Aelin cried. Terror
gripped her insides.
“Shh, I’ll be fine,” her mother soothed,
sounding again like herself. She ducked out of
sight. Aelin heard her warning in that other,
11
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
commanding tone, “Finn, watch your head,” and
the light above them fell away.
12
Meghan Thornton —–––––––––––
13
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
A Little Bird Told Me

There was a message on the machine from her
friend Rena. “I won’t be able to go to the museum
with you tomorrow. I have to go down to San
Diego. My aunt’s not doing well.”
Suddenly, Marianne had her day returned to
her. She had been looking forward to going to the
exhibit with her friend, but they could go another
time. And now she had an absolutely free day in
front of her.
The first thing she did was clean her house,
vacuuming, dusting, and polishing, and putting
last week’s flowers into the compost. She enjoyed
having a clean house but usually resented giving
up the time it took to clean it, but now she had
extra time returned to her, free time, and she
cleaned her house cheerfully and then stood back
to enjoy how fresh, lovely, and homey it looked.
Rena’s failing aunt had given this to her. In a
system of bartering, an old lady’s health had been
exchanged for an absolutely free day for Marianne.
And the weather was perfect. Marianne set out for
the park.
It was only two blocks away, her own
personal Garden of Eden, where she wandered
every day reveling in the forests, lakes, and
waterfalls, and the roses, lilies, azalea, and
rhododendron. How she loved to see the sky
framed between the museum and the redwoods,
the puffy white clouds against a baby blue gauche,
and, most of all, the birds soaring overhead or
standing in the fields or wading in the lakes. It was
the birds, most of all, that Marianne was looking
for in the park, and she commonly spotted red-
tailed hawks, great blue herons, snowy egrets and
once a pair of quail, and when she spotted these
birds, and when they allowed her to come quite
14
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
close to them, as often happened, actually, she was
sure she was being visited by her dead husband,
that he was looking out at her through the eyes of
the bird and watching out for her. And she would
speak to the bird. “Hello, dear. I’m doing okay. I’m
okay. ”
Today almost as soon as she entered the park
she saw an exquisite blue jay hopping towards her
on black pen strokes of legs, his feathers radiant in
the sunshine, his heart full of love and passion.
“Hello, my darling,” she said, and a thrill ran
through her. “I’m so glad to see you! Never leave
me!” The bird hopped toward her, bobbing his
head, and then away, into the darkening brush.
After her walk, it was time for errands. At the
post office, Marianne made her first mistake. She
saw the sign that said “Passport renewal by
appointment only” followed by a phone number.
She knew she should copy down the phone
number, because she was going to need a passport
to travel this summer, and hers might be expired.
But if her passport was still current, she wouldn’t
need the number, so copying it down would be a
gratuitous act. Later, when she got home, she
discovered that her passport had indeed expired
the month before. And she remembered the last
time she had used it, on a trip to Italy with her
husband two years before he died.
The second mistake she made was to go to
Trader Joe’s at this particular moment, the precise
moment when they ran out of albacore tuna salad.
It made such an easy supper with crackers! She got
some fresh flowers.
When Marianne got home with the groceries
she put everything away and the flowers in the
vases, and the vases in the fireplaces in the living
room and her bedroom. Then she sat down to write
15
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
this story. She had just finished, when her
daughter, Posey, came over to pick up a package
and make herself a salad. Marianne sat down to
have a cup of tea with her while she ate. Posey was
very tired. She had been up all night again fighting
with her boyfriend. She complained that the
therapist they were going to, who was an intern,
was no good.
“It must be hard for you to get therapy
without critiquing the therapist,” Marianne said to
Posey, who was herself interning to be a therapist.
“It’s just that she’s so bad,” Posey said.
“How can you tell, when all they do is sit
there, listening to you speak? I wish my therapist
would give me advice, like, do this; don’t do that.
But she just sits there and listens.”
“Therapy is subtle,” Posey said. “It’s working
in ways you can’t see. If it weren’t working, you
wouldn’t keep going back. But this isn’t about you.
It’s about my boyfriend and me. I just can’t
communicate with him,” she said, “and it’s making
me so frustrated.”
Marianne had no advice to give. However,
she thought that if they couldn’t communicate they
should stop trying because it wasn’t worth it to
stay up all night, because once your sleep was off,
everything was off, and it was hard to recuperate
from a night without sleep. But Posey was young,
so she could recover from such things quickly, and
if she and her boyfriend were fighting for hours, it
might be because she and her boyfriend needed to
fight for hours, and it wasn’t any of Marianne’s
business, anyway. She had heard of couples who
liked to fight; their fights made their relationship
exciting to them, and Marianne wondered if Posey
and her boyfriend weren’t a couple like that, but
Posey said they weren’t; she didn’t like to fight, but
16
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––
her boyfriend wouldn’t stop, and she didn’t know
how she was going to stop him.
“You’ve got to get some sleep,” Marianne
said, but then Posey’s phone rang, and it was the
boyfriend. Posey immediately started fighting with
him. Marianne began emptying the dishwasher.
Posey sat at the table fighting with her boyfriend
on her cell phone.
After a while, Marianne went upstairs. First
she gestured to her daughter to tell her she was
going up. Her daughter nodded her head toward
her mother while continuing to fight with her
boyfriend.
Marianne went back into her study and
worked on this story. She could hear her
daughter’s voice fighting with her boyfriend on the
phone rising up the stairs outside her study door
and getting closer. Then she heard her daughter’s
anguished and angry voice coming from the room
down the hall and around the corner that used to
be her room as she continued her fight with her
boyfriend.
After a while, Marianne went into her
bedroom and got ready for bed—removing her
contacts, brushing her teeth, washing her face, and
applying her night cream. Then she undressed and
got into bed with her kindle. After she had been
reading for a while and dozing, Posey came into
her room. Marianne prepared herself to talk with
her about her boyfriend, but Posey had not come in
to talk but to borrow her landline. Her phone had
died and she was not done fighting with her
boyfriend.
In the middle of the night Marianne woke up.
The light was on in the hall outside her door. She
turned if off. She walked down the hall and around
to Posey’s old room. The light was on, but she was
17
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
gone. Marianne turned out the light. Probably the
light was on in the kitchen, too, but she didn’t want
to go all the way down there.
In the morning, Marianne got up, went
downstairs, and turned off the light in the kitchen.
18
Sherril Jaffe —–––––––––––


19
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
you r
even when you don’t want to ____.
even when you feel you have nothing to ____.
when you feel your ___ isn’t good enough, or
profound enough,
prolific enough.
your ___ doesn’t touch people, even those you
love, even those who try to take an interest in
your ___.
even when your ___ feels stranded in a crowd.
even when your ___ isn’t yours. even when
your ___ is repetitive. even when your ___ is
repetitive. even when your ___ is wrong.
even when your ___ is supposed to be having
the best time ever. even when your ___ is only
a part of a program.
keep on ___. keep on ___. keep on ___.
even when your ___ can’t distinguish between
the many voices speaking. even when your
___ is sorry.
especially when it isn’t.
even when your ____ is broken glass. even
when your ___ says “some day” too often and
isn’t sure when. even when your ___ is last in
line.
20
Nicole McFeely —–––––––––––
keep ____.
it will happen. it will happen. at least, it has before.
21
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
It’s walking away/
It’s knowing when to/

I wanted to have something beautiful to say to you
but lately, I'm all moon
full floating though shadowed
far off and frowning
watching men babble, battle
back and forth, quiet then blind
pouring their lives into illustrations and illusions,
poking at progress with the point of a stick sharp-
sharpened to wound

that is in error
that is a mouth fumbling
at coattails

the highest criticism backwash

and I way off
off mighty
casting light not crafted directly
majestic in sky
dreaming of life, quiet and blind
sucked, stuck to earth by my shine
gravitational pull, pulled back into
22
Nicole McFeely —–––––––––––
this curious pestilence of colorful emptiness

a new creation, eclipsed, grown weary of
passions not known
or known too well
falling like a madness: heads or fails
sickened suddenly with unlimited possibility
expressing nothing, seeing the object as it is:
heads
whispering without words
1000 things not present
bearing the resemblance of my face in yours
and one message to deliver
to the critic:

I wanted to have something beautiful to say to you,
but great things less noble take its place.

life cheats us with shadows.

23
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You Call It

He puts on a pair of shorts after you’ve made love,
grabbing at the piles of clothes in the dark by his
bed until he finds something suitable to cover his
nakedness. That’s not what you call it, of course,
making love. You call it what it is: an affair. Still, you
resent him for covering himself. He is always so
covered. Since your own clothes rarely come off
during these exchanges, however, you can hardly
fault him. Not out of prudishness, mind you, but
urgency. You tug your skirt around until it’s facing
the right direction, but remain topless, to prove…
something… that you are, if not quite an open
book, then a topless one at least.
“Is that a tattoo?” you ask, suddenly quite
aware of how little you know about him, his body.
“It’s a joke,” he says.
“A joke,” you repeat. That’s exactly what I
am, you think. What this is.
“It says ‘Sí Se Puede’ in henna. Or it did,
rather. My brother and I got them when we went
to Mexico. Then I got tan. Damn thing still hasn’t
gone away,” he says.
That’s not a joke, you think. In this moment,
you think you might hate him, even more so than
when you first met, for coming between you and
your real, actual boyfriend; hate his flat Mexican
ass and one-dimpled face; hate that you are drawn
to him still, across cities, countries even, lovers old
and new; and now you definitely hate his stupid
reverse henna tattoo.
“Do you have any tattoos?” he asks. He plays
with the beaded curtain masquerading as a
bedroom door.
“No,” you say.
“Oh. I didn’t think so.” You stare at his
stomach, at the space where the henna ink used to
24
Anna Pullley —–––––––––––
be, looking for nuance, for a hint of something
behind his words other than what he has actually
said. You try to remember if his expression ever
changed, when he bent you over his bed, when he
pressed himself into you, when he said hello. You
remember him always looking composed, though
surely that couldn’t be the case.
Then you think: Could this really be the
conversation that two people who’ve been sleeping
together on and off for a decade have after sex?
Was it because you had so little time together? That
your boyfriend knows about the affair now and
that this may be the last time you ever see him? Or
was it that adultery made for terrible icebreakers?
You try to think of something to ask him, but can
only manage, “Do you know what time it is?”
“Quarter till,” he says and pushes himself
onto his knees. He stops playing with the curtain
and begins tracing words on your back. You want
to know what he’s spelling, but do not have the
courage to ask. You’re not sure you like this,
actually, this feeling of intimacy. You once
preferred these interactions to be like grocery
shopping—in and out, with as little crying as
possible. There were few pleasantries exchanged,
save for the necessary words, Yes, Please, A Little
To The Left, and now the presence of cordiality has
started to make you uncomfortable. You must have
something in common, you think. A ritual, a
ceremony other than sweat, that strange fruit, and
the chemistry you can only refer to as destructive.
You look at him, on his knees, the beads still
swaying gently from side to side. For the first time,
you realize that you’re in this together. This is not
just happening to you alone.
25
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
In the middle of this struggle to find meaning
and common ground, he says, “Want to go again?”
and you hate him all over again.
“No,” you say, calmly. “I should be going.”
You break from his touch as if scalded and dress
carelessly, throwing this on, and that. The beauty
of his studio is that there are very few places to
hide.
He walks you out, his bicycle on one side,
you on the other.
“Where are you going?” you ask.
“For a ride,” he says, and you realize he isn’t
obligated to tell you anything. That, in fact, your
relationship depends on not expecting any answers
from each other.
“You should wear a helmet,” you say, less
out of concern for his safety, and more because that
is what people say to people who don’t wear
helmets.
“I know,” he says, ignoring you and placing a
foot on the pedal. You turn to leave, feeling the
cold lash at your freshly chewed lips, and try to
remember the last time you’ve worn a helmet
yourself—surely it has been years, you think.
“I was hit by a car,” you say, feeling now as
though you need to explain yourself, and your
sentiments.
“That sucks,” he says, and gazes at you
steadily. You want to say more about it, that you
fractured your skull, that you couldn’t walk for
eight days, that when you called in to work,
everyone thought you were joking, even though
why would anyone joke about that? And why
doesn’t anyone know what a goddamn joke is?
But you don’t know where to begin. He looks
down at his bike, then back at you. He’s clearly
waiting for you to release him. Yet you can’t. A
26
Anna Pullley —–––––––––––
woman crosses the street and gets into a car to
drive away. You wish you were that woman. You
wish you were any other woman. You even wish,
for a moment, that you were the Other Woman.
Then you could just flit away.
“I told him,” you say.
“You told him?” he asks.
“We were eating dinner,” you say, as if this is
a relevant detail. “Clam Chowder.”
“And what did he say?” he asks.
“It doesn’t matter,” you say.
“He said it didn’t matter?”
“No, I’m saying it doesn’t matter. What he
said,” you say. “I just thought you should know.”
Eventually, he says, “It’s really cold out
here,” and breathes into his hands.
“I wish you would have said something
else,” you say.
“Like what?” he asks.
“Like anything,” you say. “Like you can
never see the stars in the city. Like the snow is still
pretty, even when it gets trampled on. Like I’ll miss
you.”
“I will miss you,” he says. “I miss you
already.”
You smile at him, even though the cold hurts
your teeth. “I haven’t left yet.”
You’re still smiling when he bends down to
kiss you, and for a brief moment, his warmth
spreads across your whole face. Then is gone.
27
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
WOLF’S SPEECH

1.
“Wolf, do you see?”

I see horses without collars
driven to the river yes the river

I see water flicked like sparks
delivering & quitting the radio

I see the rams standing in briars
silent storm clouds with gold horns

I see brass in only light today
the shine of declawed houses trimmed with
grass
there is only an illusion sight brings
—the safe haven—

I see the bird on the electric wire
out of the stationhouse’s window

the heat of phone wires
people’s mouths make
is under its feet

it stands up on it then it leaves
the names’ travail must’ve spoken
28
Chris Carosi —–––––––––––

2.
“What is a home?”

when they disguise their ignorance
when the wind has dresses
when the meaning of fire is lost
when the trees burn in winter

when they go there they need a dog
when asking the trees their name
when they sew the feet into the ash
when they follow the bark taking the path

when they purge creation
when they cross the firebreak
when I go
when I step crumb by crumb






29
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3.
“Do you hear?”

I hear the fabrics are winding me
and the trees protect every seed

I hear the wind in the bandages hanging
on the studs in the axe-handle shed

the state-made say
“Don’t stay here”

they say don’t stay here wrenches
in the corner felt to make a face

do not pass through, outsider
your brown hair is caught in the catch on the
gate

cannot find the latch
separated from speech with a fence (that no
one understands)

they say count the objects with your 11
fingers
you may pass, strength, mind the mouth of
the lion

the cat-ghost that bats at silence
hoof-palm across the knuckles a plaything
over the seal of door

say you are, now don’t, don’t say
don’t wake the pigeons’ sleep on the curls of
twigs

the nests are hollow on the elms
30
Chris Carosi —–––––––––––
plastic is sewn thru the nests

“I cannot rest” breathe, talk, stand, sit, teach,
wham, drip, dark, coin, cry, crap, yawn, or
bitch

it gets dark and the rooster says
that he’s the loser of the dawn
31
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK

4.
come back sleepwalk to the roost
(a pile of sticks and bandage forms)

come back to the house the house
we unlock our jaws there we breathe again
there

we say, “You all live the best” as we excurse
we feel the grass worry about it, as we
trespass

we say, “The white smoke you all exhale
dangles
from your mouth which is sweeter than ours”

we say, “No one creeps here to spy us”
not welcome we approach the heavy doors

touch its void with our eyelashes
with our eyelashes touch its void

a person is asleep we touch careful
this phrase on the stair

the morning is asleep the nighttime we hear
breathing look the fragile the knee-back of
neck

lie down lower a thousand ways find us
just like keepsakes on the floor
32
Chris Carosi —–––––––––––


33
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Lost Highway
branches
paradise
unbuttoned
she turns on the light: to have seen what is wet,
to have known what is wet, to have seen what is
loose, to see the climb, rain-spine: she turns off
the light—it's dark on your shoulders, it's night
on your chest—the way, the way we live in
bodies: oh snap, oh scatter, and to your scattered
bodies go—it's dream inside your face; it's night
inside your morning—are you architect, are you
sound, are you blue, are you green, are you fire,
are you gold—
34
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
When he was

In his prime—
When he was

In his prime—
Break

Summer—
Paint

Fear—
He was wild—

A little wild—
He’s dying—
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You can’t exhale—
He’s dying—

He’s asking
Why

You
Love

Him—
36
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
It’s dream inside your face, it’s night
Inside your morning, are you blue,
Are you green, are you fire, are you
Gold:
Have you
Come, have

You
Come, to
Sing to
Me, to

Sing

To me
37
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Lost Highway
Kisses that we share across the sky, he is the
drunk lane, the mayor, drunk lake, drunk in
the lake, he’s so tired, and he can’t—what?—
my father just feels Sidney Bechet, Hart
Crane, Krazy Kat—now he doesn’t have any—
he gives life—kisses that we share across the
sky
38
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
The book will save the book; oil will kill the world:
he’s just trying to see, pay attention,

He said, he said joy, he said feel this, blue-green
voice; he said, violet, blue wind pushes, river light,
maples, he said
39
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Lost Highway
And any dead man sad enough or
Free enough, confused enough or
Safe enough or running home at
Last enough—
40
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
He’s dying in a town full of rabbits

He’s dying

Lying on the couch
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Lost Highway
He hates “sentimental slop”—hold his hand—he’s
from Coney Island—he’s tougher than you—he says
when I squeeze your hand I’m squeezing her
hand—his mother in the room—his mother’s me—
tell him, tell him, your mother loves you
42
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
Drunk like coins, like coins: “Our lifestyle is
wrecking the planet for Christ’s sake,” she’s drunk
like a gold coin, he’s drunk like a gold coin: the TV
says the TV: farmers are farmers: corporations eat
them: rabbits are perfect, there was always all this
death, there was always a photo, a photo and
money, rain in the street, a bus and a photo of
money—ice and the river
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Lost Highway
blue
night
comes

No

No one

Nobody dies

Nobody loses
44
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
Where is the distance, where are the toenails,
where are the gym shoes, where is the pain,
where are the toenails, please stop this
screaming, please breathe my newsprint,
my
eyes don’t fit
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Lost Highway
joy could

blue fire torn blue

you

dear one
dear smart
shining you
dear you
my father’s
what
my father’s
rain
becoming
rain
46
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Lost Highway
Soft wind like a road

Done

I wrote done

I tried to write don’t

Don’t

Don’t

Don’t
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Law and Order
Ghosts, revolution: everything means you in that
dying you dream blue snow in desperate rooms:
like tattered worlds in streets in blue snow, the
revolution, the world: he’s a good ruin, he’s a
fool, night runs away: night face to face: write
May, write trees, write laughter, other rooms:
what is your face—what you threw out—drugs
understood: snow like that, impossible rooms,
people will die: and parties paint pictures, and
mystery, depravity, the lost one, the fool: fathers
lost in blowing snow, fathers drift in blowing
leaves: and all the lies in any town, in any
house, in any moon, and all the lies that fly
away, that fly around in blowing snow: the ones
who died, the ones who froze: you crawl awhile
and then you end: you fall awhile and then you
end
48
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
Kindness


so
willows
so
lost
49
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no
in waves you
must
paint—from
plenty to
nightmare—
all
brightness—
you must
pain—
no—paint
angel—
flesh—
paint—
50
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
so
willows
so
lost
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just
squeeze daylight

from
your finger

just
spill lifetimes

on
the floor
52
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
so
willows
so
lost

so
open
so
long
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To the Dead
I said, “I’ll see you in the morning”: he said,
“Even on mornings when I don’t see you I’ll see
you”: I was crying why not admit it:
54
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
Soft
Wind like a road

The old couple upstairs, she’s
Walking back to him, he’ll live
Longer if he eats more, we’re all
Doomed, he says, so, yes, joy

Soft
Wind like a road
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To the Dead
Leaves and moon
Dead again
Sing me home
Just say when
56
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
If anybody needs me I’m a hawk
If anybody needs a branch in light
If anybody needs the lake’s glass
Skin
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To the Dead
USA was a parasite, a way
of happening, a seizure floating between word
and meaning—
we
are
running
out of
eyes
58
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
Death is here, you took a photo, sure, death
Is near, remember, remember, today we fight
Like birds, fight like burning rags, today we
Fight like gods, today we die for gods, how Much
is that Ahi in the window, here you
Are, here we are, no mercy, no future, lots
And lots of turkey sausage, death tangles, Death
shakes, death breakfast served all
Night, death tangles, death shakes, death-
Flavored ice-cream, deathberry gum
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To the Dead
Can you slide inside some wind,
Can you slide the sun back home—


You want
to glint Electric rain, it’s hard to think of anyone
but You, hey shadows playing shadows, say the
Names, I’ll try to flow like hair, like wind, like
Gold,

I’ll try to
glint like Birds behind the rain
60
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
You want me to have health care, right—
America equals ghost—I tremble
for my country when I reflect that
God is just—
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To the Dead
bright
branches

Secret name like love like dust,
Ash, lavender ink: voice

Moon

Stay in love
62
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
They had a body crammed into a mailbox
and it was just a brown suit with bones
sticking out

prisoner /
citizen

Dear You,
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To the Dead
Soft
Wind like a road

The old couple upstairs, she’s
Walking back to him, he’ll live
Longer if he eats more, we’re all
Doomed, he says, so, yes, joy

Soft
Wind like a road
64
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
To the Dead
Leaves and moon
Dead again
Sing me home
Just say when
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To be continued—
66
Joseph Lease —–––––––––––
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70
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
Where I Come From, People Listen

One day a guy brings a frisbee to school, and then
his friends are throwing it around at lunch, and
then pretty soon they're playing a game with it that
they're not sure if they learned about or invented,
and then next thing you know they've graduated
from high school and gone to college, but all that is
how I found myself on the University of
Washington ultimate frisbee team, the only brown
fellow on a team of white graduate students.
The game itself was beautiful. There was grass
and running and diving and all along I was
making a study of how the grey sky over Seattle
could look so magnificent, and I was beginning to
theorize that it had to do with what was happening
on the ground. There was a connection there, but I
hadn't quite figured it out.
And the players themselves were more like
who I had hoped to meet in college. They had
something slow and unrushed about them, and
who they were seemed to take in more than just
the school and the party over the weekend. The
team was co-ed and the men and women were easy
around each other.
Every other Saturday, I would go home and at
some point while I was studying up in my old
room, my sister would come in and tell me about
life in seventh grade. It was a hell of a relief to hear
about it. It was a relief to hear that somebody was
struggling with life besides me. It was the same old
stuff. People and what were they trying to do in
being how they were and what was anybody
supposed to do about it. It happened to be a
seventh-grade version of it, but that was where she

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happened to be. She didn't have any other version
of it to speak from. I'd listen to her and the grey
sky would do that thing it did again and I'd make a
mental note to give it some more thought again
later.
The frisbee team would practice on Fridays,
and on the way back from the field, they would
stop off at Big Time Brewery, a pub that I dreamed
of someday entering. But I was too young and they
were strict about I.D., so I would walk home with
Laura Cary, the ex-girlfriend of the team captain,
Mike Tunica. She told me that she felt okay to play
frisbee with him but not to drink around him, and
when she said it, life seemed wonderful and
mysterious.
On the way home, she would tell me about her
and Mike. She started telling it and I listened, so I
guess she decided to tell some more. She wasn't
desperate about it. She had already given her
feelings a lot of consideration. She had given the
relationship a lot of consideration, and the chance
for reconciliation too. Still, I knew her and I knew
Mike, so I was somebody to tell.
I liked listening to her a lot. I like the
difficulties of feelings. I liked complexity. It felt like
something that matched the grey sky in the
afternoon, the way it was something that nobody
was supposed to like but somehow I did. I would've
been happy just to go on one date at the time, but
somehow the language she spoke in wasn't
unfamiliar to me. It was something I had always
thought people had in them, all this time that I had
been walking around the campus looking at the
hundreds and hundreds of them. It turned out that
here was where they had it: in their relationships.
It was as good a place as any. They were absolute

72
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
geniuses in it when they were given a chance.
Laura Cary was, at least, I thought. It wasn't so
much the content of what she said as in her tone:
How do you ever really know one way or the other
when it comes to human beings? That's a good
goddamn question, I wanted to say.
We got into a routine with it on Fridays after
practice. I looked forward to it as much as the
playing itself. She was twenty-four years old and
when she told me about her relationship with
Mike, I felt like I was going past the school and to
the world, which was all I was trying to do all the
time.
At one practice, Mike and I were warming up
together, tossing short throws. He jogged over to
me.
"Sorry about Laura," he said.
"What do you mean?" I said.
"She's been talking your ear off about us."
"It's all right."
"You can tell her you're not her therapist, you
know. She's probably right about everything she
says about me, but if you're getting tired of it, you
should tell her."
"It's all right," I said. "Where I come from,
people listen."
"What do you mean?"
I didn't know. I had just felt that I wanted to
say it.
"Iran," I said.
"Iran? How long did you live there?"
"Until I was two."
He looked at me funny and we went back to
throwing. I didn't know where else it was that I
meant but I made a mental note to think about it
some more later.

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Laura had to leave early that day because of a
sprained ankle, but the next week when she and I
were walking home again, she said, "I don't mean
to be taking advantage of you if there's some
cultural reasons why you feel obligated to listen to
me. You can tell me if you're tired of hearing about
me and Mike."
"That's the thing," I said. "I don't know if there
is or not. But I really don't mind hearing about it. I
like listening to you."
"Thank you."
"I have a question though. What exactly are
you supposed to do if you don't listen?"
She laughed.
"You don't know how good it is to hear you
say that."
At the next practice, Mike was warming up
with me again.
"I'm going to say something that is going to
sound very mean, but I am going to say it," he said.
"You are going down a dangerous road. You are
going down a dangerous road listening to women."
"I am?"
"Yes."
I knew where he was going, and I even
thought he might be right about it. It was just that
not listening to women felt like a dangerous road
too, and I felt inclined to go with the danger that at
least felt less dangerous.
"How come you and Laura manage to find a
way to talk about me but not about each other?" I
said.
"Well it's different. We like you."
"You like each other."

74
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––
"We like each other, but we don't like that
third thing that's just sitting there. Everything we
have to talk about. I don't at least."
I felt like I liked people for having those third
things, as hard as they were. They really went a
long way in making them who they were.
"Well," I said. "It's not going anywhere."
The next day I went home and when my sister
came up to my room while I was studying, I told
her about the frisbee team and walking home with
Laura and everything that Mike had had to say
about it. She listened the whole time and then she
told me about seventh grade and what her friends
had been saying that she didn't like about some
other people. I listened and wondered if our
listening could be from Iran when all we did was
speak in English and all we talked about was
trying to understand people here in America. It
was still possible. But it was also from itself. It was
from a second ago and a day ago and a year ago. It
was from itself because there really were some
parts of life that moved in a straight line, as
impossible as that seemed, and you learned from
them as you were doing them. You might even
learn word by word, as it was in our case. It
sounded precarious when I thought of it like that,
but not if my sister and I were both doing it.
It was the same thing with the sky over Seattle.
It was beautiful because it had other grey skies in
it, all the grey skies I had seen in Seattle, which
meant that it had me in it, it had more of me in it
than a sunny day would, because the biggest thing
I believed in without actually knowing it in those
days was that what was actually happening was
bigger than anything I wished was happening, and
I didn't know how to tell anybody that, even my

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sister. I didn't know how to tell anybody that when
Laura Cary was telling me about her problems
with Mike Tunica, it was bigger than anybody I
could wish was telling me about anything. But it
was why I couldn't get behind it when there was a
feeling in people on a sunny day that everything
they were waiting for was finally here. I hadn't
been a fool on those other days. I hadn't been half-
paying attention to life. There had been worlds and
lives affected by those other days, and my only
wish was to know about every one.

76
Siamak Vossoughi —–––––––––––

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The Old Man in Her Closet

Her living room smelled of old wool and
sandalwood. I desperately wanted to open a
window and let in some fresh air, but this was the
first time I had spent an entire evening at her place
and I didn’t want to make myself overly
comfortable. She lived in the top flat of an
Edwardian building and her apartment was in
immaculate condition. The fixtures and details
were all original, the wooden floors were freshly
polished, and the antique furnishings were from
the exact period as the house. Along the far wall
there was a bookcase full of nineteenth-century
literature, mostly Russian. I scanned the titles for a
while, settled on Fathers and Sons, and sat down on
the couch to read.
An hour quickly passed, when suddenly a
rustling sound came from a closet in the corner. I
ignored it at first, assuming the noise had come
from the apartment below. Then a couple of
minutes later I heard it again, only this time it was
followed by a loud thump. I went to the door and
put my ear against it. A gruff male voice could be
heard muttering curses and shuffling about inside.
I dashed back to the couch, grabbed the book, and
pretended to be reading. Seconds later, the door
flung open and an old man emerged, unshaven
and wearing a dirty gray trench coat. He looked at
me, said nothing, and headed straight for the
bathroom, leaving behind the overwhelming smell
of stale tobacco and liquor. After finishing in the
bathroom, he opened the front door and left.
Once I was certain he was gone, I went over to
the closet and peeked inside. Her closet was the

78
Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––
size of a small bedroom and the racks were packed
with clothing. Everything was neatly separated by
type and color. There were long black cashmere
coats, short black wool jackets, vintage furs, camel-
colored blazers, 1940s gabardine jackets in jewel
tones, and 1950s cropped jackets in black wool.
There was even an entire shelf with handbags lined
up like soldiers—black leather, black alligator,
brown alligator, patent leather, brown suede—she
must have had one to match every conceivable
type of shoe. Resting atop a small built-in bureau
was a jewelry box overflowing with jeweled
broaches and strands of pearls. It was in every way
the closet of a princess. But off in the far corner,
beneath the long black coats, the edge of a green
military blanket could be seen poking out. Sitting
beside that was a rusty tin can filled with cigarette
butts.
When she finally woke up that morning, I
made us both a pleasant breakfast of coffee and
toast; I never mentioned anything about what I had
seen. But that night, while enjoying a lovely meal
at Boulevard, I made the mistake of bringing it up.
We had just polished off two New York strips and
a bottle of Bordeaux, and were discussing
Dostoyevsky (all of our discussions had always
been kept rigidly confined to either Russian
literature or the psychology of twentieth-century
totalitarianism, her two favorite subjects). She was
in the middle of telling me something having to do
with the bordello scene in Notes from Underground,
when finally I got up the nerve to ask her.
“By the way,” I said, pouring the last few
drops of wine into her glass, “do you know you
have an old man living in your closet?”

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She raised an eyebrow and stared stone-faced
back at me. “And?” she said.
“Oh nothing, nothing. I just wasn’t sure if you
knew, that’s all.”
She must have felt sorry for me at this point,
for I was clearly embarrassed (my cheeks turned
bright red and I began anxiously looking about for
the waiter). Then her face softened and the smallest
hint of a smile appeared.
“So you want to know about my old man, do
you? You want to know about all that,” she said
with a laugh. Then she quickly changed the subject
to Grushenka in The Brother’s Karamazov.

80
Mira Martin-Parker —–––––––––––

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Sad Little Bitch Thoughts
first published in the Instant Pussy No Mas Uterus Anthology

Never mind, never mind, never mind.
It’s silly. But,
I bend sound the way I choose,
not up and down, like most iambs, perfect
but strange, creating spondees from madmen, accented
the ways madness almost always equals man but
never more.
The words quell me and I quell the words.
Lipstick. Hairspray. Max-factor Red. Curlers.
Conveyer Belts.
Complacency. Polyester. Bloat.
Juan Granada starring as Johnny Pride
will light a cigarette and howl with the bats
who hide in the Laugh ‘n Scratch theater at the end of
Alvarado street.
FUCK THE STOPLIGHTS!
Who cares at this ungodly hour of the morning?
All there is is fog and seagulls and bird shit.
So throw a card throw a card any card.
The widows of Cannery Row are in black and
weeping on the graves.
Only their grand-daughters can speak of their grief.
Tralalalala, (this is the sound.)
Tralalalala, this is the roll of death kissed mouths
bitch lipped prim,
ears plugged, ignoring death and
the ghosts
who offer only the silence of the dead,
from a playground cemetery and tombstone
photographs
of the workers when they were young and
beautiful.
(I notice, I have a phd in such vanities.)

82
Nicole Henares —–––––––––––
While the widowers will vindicate themselves
and scream at their sons when they die YOU IDIOTS
and I’M NOT READY YET at her spirit:
Everything is hummingbirds,
hummingbirds, hummingbirds!

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The Dormouse Speaks

The Knave of Heart’s obelisk hovers soft
In the distance, pulses
a spangled treacle. The mercury of the madman’s
hat works
slow like the rest of me. I have given up
all attempts at communication. Yes,
the roses must be red.
Yes, mice can fit in a tea-pot.
When did you leave the party? Why
didn’t I notice your arrival?
I might snore, I might even be
solipsistic and therefore mean
but I always remember
to bring bright yellow tulips.
Though the roses must be red,
Must be red,
Must be red.
Must always be red.
I beg of you to spare me
My paranoia, my perceived wrong-doings.
Late winter rains bloom
leaky hearts. My mouth
is a faucet.
When I do, I speak too quickly.
My letters may punctuate,
But my meanings only murder the time.

84
Nicole Henares —–––––––––––

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Hong Kong Bardo
Flitting through Hong Kong airport
a leaf-blown ghost confused by my karma—
standing in the wrong line
or frozen in one spot check-in
while secret calls are made
for the 2 gigantic
Indian men gorged to bursting, petulant—
but a few hours in the Hong Kong airport
will make a petulant unhappy ghost
w/ huge stomach & tiny mouth—
scratchy bored explanations that are incoherent—
prickly sweat gathering at the memory of a neck—
the STARBUCK’S croissant a Chinese lantern
dissolving into dust
fingers of dust
tongue dry hanging cow-like—
eyes blurring
as this world goes away
in a whisper of desperation—
the black out preferable?
the kiss-off preferable?
get me to the church on time
station to station hearse to hearse
black plume lady won’t you go out tonight?
nova moon collapsing black tar black hole
Black Sunday I am my own Barbara Steele
gigantic eyed B-movie scream queen
staring into the empty mirror
of dissolving stars, falling sputniks—
a brief quiet in the industry of the dead
hurtling to their destinations

86
Marc Olmsted —–––––––––––

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Vignettes: short fictions from
My Life as a Cheerleader

Marsha didn’t need to tell me. I thought it up on
my own. By Friday we had formed a club, but
things changed. Marsha got back together with
Jimmy and Sally started sleeping with Roberto. I
quit the club because I was the only one without a
boyfriend. I looked at myself in my mirror, had
thoughts about Mr. Linker, my second period
chemistry teacher. Mr. Linker passed very near
to me in the hall. When he came closer, almost
bumped into me, he said, “Excuse me,” and
smiled. As he moved farther away I watched him.
I put my books in my locker, wished I was putting
him in there so I could see him everyday between
classes smile at me. I like that he’s black. It
makes him dangerous.

I walked to the top of the stairs, stopped in front
of the locked door, knocked and listened for your
footsteps. You knocked back. I could hear your
voice, kind of, thought you said, “Help.” I ran down
stairs to find hammer to break door down, find
you. When I came back, I got lost. The stairs were
all messed up. The door which was there was
thirty feet up in the air, in a tree. You kept
knocking, though. I looked at the sky, saw bits of
my pom pom, I think. I started to believe strange
things. Started to believe that maybe my pom
pom took you away. I played with a loose thread
on my skirt, the one you liked. I am afraid of what
might happen if I keep trying to stand on
Marsha’s shoulders.

I was reading over Marsha’s shoulder, waiting for
the bus. A dark, shaded building was reading over
my shoulder, wondering about us. It leaned way

88
Janey Smith —–––––––––––
over, made me wonder about modern buildings
on the upper west-side. Without even looking at
me Marsha asked, “What are you doing for
summer?” I said, “Spending it with you,” so quietly
that the modern buildings on the upper west-side
relaxed into place, and stayed hushed.

Light shone through branches. Then, my pom
pom’s shadow, blended with branches, swooped
into sky. My pom pom traveled super fast, made
me think about life, if I still had my bus pass. I put
my arms out with longing eyes, watched my pom
pom disappear. It came back, flew away again. I
was happy to watch it do that. I kept my arms out.
We would soon share the darkness, I thought.

The baby birds lifted their little wings, flapped
wildly like moths stuck on my cell phone light. I
tried to call Marsha. The baby birds swooped all
around me, made me feel light-headed, like a
million spinning halos on my hair. I stood there,
waited for the bus. The woman next to me stood
there, waited for the bus. The baby birds stood
there on the bus stop hutch, singing happy songs.
Cars passed. The cars made the woman’s hem-
line quiver. I studied her purse, carefully, noticed it
still contained my one pom pom that, I knew, she
took from me. I stepped toward her, grabbed the
purse like a crazy woman, ran away super fast,
bits of pom pom floating in air. I went into an
alleyway, sat near a gated door, my pom pom
slightly worn, but still warm, still warm.

I make a snow angel in the snow outside our
window. Sometimes I can hear you breathing. I
push record on my new digital camera, stare at
the stars. It’s a clear night but so cold. I listen to
the sound of the stars. I wonder why there are no
people around, only empty streets, blue-white

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snow. I push rewind on my new digital camera. I
listen to the sound of the stars. I will bury the
sound of the stars with us when we die.

Sometimes I am upside down. When sun moves
through Marsha’s hair at noon and I watch it,
lying beneath her, doing my stretches, I am
upside down. When a fly lands on the wall in the
gym, and I’m alone listening to band practice, I
am upside down. For me, a storm on the sun is a
fly on the wall. It moves a little, I believe, makes
shadows here on Earth, where I lose things, like a
single, solitary pom pom—alone and I am upside
down.

90
Janey Smith —–––––––––––



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Vacation on the Baja Coast

Day 1
We crossed the border and I quickly got us lost
but not for long. Tijuana went by and after a while
Rosarita Beach. I kept the pedal to the metal
along the coast and down through Ensenada. The
destination I had found in the guidebook was a
long way off, considering we would only be gone
for a few days. But I was insistent on getting us
farther south. I wanted to camp on the Sea of
Cortez. I was already so familiar with the Pacific
Ocean. In the car you were mostly quiet and,
when we began to drive inland, complained of a
headache. I was tempted to say, “It figures.”
Instead, I suggested that perhaps you simply
needed some coffee. A half hour later I pulled
over and made a cloud of dust in front of a cinder
block cafe with a big Starbucks logo hand-painted
on its exterior. Inside they served Nescafe and
after a couple sips you said that I could have the
rest. Outside I took a picture of you near the road
with your hands on your hips and your head
cocked to the side, indulging me. Back in the car
you put your bare feet up on the dash and closed
your eyes. “Hey,” I said, “don’t forget we’re going
to have an entire beach to ourselves.”

Day 2
You had not said much all morning. The air was
hot but this was okay because we were walking in
the baby blue water of the Sea of Cortez. We
were heading toward a small and isolated bay,
hidden around a rocky point. I was in front of you,
maybe fifteen feet, when I stepped on a broken
shell that was partly submerged in the sand. The
porcelain-like shard punctured my soft skin and I
bent awkwardly before losing my balance and
falling into the knee-deep ocean. I spent a

92
Jason File —–––––––––––
moment flailing around in the water and then
watched as three drops of my own blood floated
by. When I got up and kept walking you said, “That
was dumb.” That’s all you said to me. I turned
around and wiped the salt water out of my eyes. I
could see how you were trying to hold back a
smile. You looked dirty and nervous. Your hair
was blowing around your face. I wondered if you
could see how I was trying to hold back my anger
and how I could actually feel the anger inside of
my mouth, like it was pushing up against my
teeth, wanting very badly to come out. That was a
specific kind of pressure. Right then I felt so
goddamn fragile, generally speaking, that I was
amazed I had managed to live successfully for 21
whole years.

Day 3
You were lying on your towel near the campsite
and the tiny waves kept pushing up against the
beach like, “Shhhhh, Shhhhh.” The wind had died
down and it was even hotter than yesterday. I
didn’t know what you looked like, maybe a corpse
or something. You had been on your towel the
entire morning, occasionally drinking a beer but
barely moving. I was bored but—even worse—
anxious, so I put on my shoes, grabbed my
canteen, and swung my backpack over my
shoulder. Quietly, I set off into the desert. Behind
the beach I walked over a bunch of dunes. Hot
sand fell into my shoes. I wandered through an
old forest of Cardon Cacti; their big green arms
were bending and flexing in the air, like
bodybuilders. At one point I crossed a dirt road,
only lightly suggested. I took a long drink of water.
There was no one around so I felt like this was all
for me. When I later came upon a pile of trash I
said, “Fuck.” The brittle plastic bags and rusty
cans of beer were slowly blowing away. I kept

93
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
walking and found a sprawling Prickly Pear
Cactus, totally alone and heavy with fruit. I felt
self-reliant and purposeful as I picked the red fruit
from the spiky green pads of the cactus. When I
returned to the campsite in the afternoon you
were sitting up and looking scared. In the sparse
and neutral landscape your big, bewildered eyes
stood out. “Where were you?” I pointed vaguely
behind me, then opened my backpack. I took off
my shoes and grabbed two beers. We sat close
on our towels and slowly peeled the skin from the
fruit.

Night
There was no one around us for miles and the
wind was blowing hard. We were having sex in
the tent. It was the first time we had slept
together on the trip and I was eager even though
I was pretty sure we were now broken up. Maybe
that’s why you felt kind of new. Your eyes were
closed but I could see you just fine in the
moonlight. I thought you looked peaceful on top of
me, moving with precision, with your hands firmly
planted on my chest. I felt happy to be
deliberately and successfully causing you
pleasure. The end of a relationship is mostly so
sad and stressful. For a brief time this trip
became what I had hoped it would be; I was
connected to you in a simple way that I had not
felt for months.

Day 4
When I came out of the ocean I heard music. I
took my snorkel mask off and saw you in the car,
dressed only in your bikini, feet up on the dash,
the windows down. The car was parked so that
you were looking out toward the Sea of Cortez.
You were listening to the iPod hooked up through
the car stereo. I dug my feet into the sand for a

94
Jason File —–––––––––––
moment, then walked toward you. When I was a
little closer I could tell that you were listening to
good old Jao Gilberto. He was quietly strumming
his guitar and singing softly in Portuguese. I
touched the hot steel of my car roof and leaned
down. “You probably shouldn’t listen for too long.
If you kill the battery we’ll be stuck here.” You
turned your head to the side and said, “OK.” Two
syllables, not bad. I stood outside the car and
listened for a while with you. I even put my hand
on your very smooth arm and you didn’t move.
There was a chance that I would hate you when
we returned home but for now I felt all right. A
pelican flew gracefully over the water, then shit
into it. I walked toward the campsite, in order to
dismantle it.


95
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Untitled

Whether you believe the
mythology or not,
it is no accident
that Eden
is a garden.

One time
all of the earth
was divided by a line
that ran the middle
of the Atlantic Ocean

The Pope was worried
that Protestants would
convert all the brown spaces
filled with other races
to the wrong Jesus

so he split the world
from left to right

Soon after,
the world was criss-crossed
with European lines
saying who was whom

depending

what color of earth
was under your feet
on a map
in Europe


96
Charlie Getter —–––––––––––
Before that
the middle of the world was Jerusalem,
or in China,
or in the Valley of Mexico,
or wherever you were at the time.

Now every man, woman and child,
when they stand, sit or lie down
do so directly above
the center of the earth

more or less
I guess
that's progress

is it?

in the sky
there are lines
now

I worked for a pirate radio station

and the monkey who ran things
(named monkey)
had to hide from the feds

because the government
(of the people, by the people)
sold the sky

to whom?

hmmm

& they build buildings

97
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
that climb into the sky
and sell slots of them
to people to live above the fog

and cast shadows
on the little people below

& some people shout and scream
owning the air
with their pain

I don't want any more air than I can breathe

and no lines on a map
can keep me inside them

my mind circumscribes
myself much better
than any cartographer can

no wonder Eden is a garden

then what is heaven?

& what good are clouds for
anyway
if not to build castles upon

so they can evaporate
into nothing

their battlements soon
a ruin like so many battlements
over so much time

in the hills

98
Charlie Getter —–––––––––––
on the coast
north of the Gate

old gun emplacements
look out over the Pacific Ocean

& you can climb within them
and look out of the narrow shoot holes

at the sea and the sun

but the concrete is cracked
as the tree roots
grow through the roofs

and some lay open,
bare to the sun, salt spray and air

and for real
we’re just as permanent
as those cloud castles
I build below the firmament
with my mind
but what is a garden?

if not the fulfillment of our hopes?

when every clipping
stops everything slipping into chaos
pulling life from loss
making dirt into tomatoes
giving quince trees
for snakes to climb
and flowers in lines
that don't divide
but revive and imply

99
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
that we can make something of this time
something sublime

something that's something


100
Charlie Getter —–––––––––––

101
—––––––––––– sPARKLE & bLINK
Fog in Berkeley

Massive
slow moving silent cloud
starting from somewhere
in the Pacific.

Advancing ghost legions
passing over
the mansions of the rich,
the homeless cocooned
in doorways.

Voices of the drowned
drifting
past streetlamps.

Unavoidable, cold
rolling field.

Blinding,
dangerous to drive in.
Like thoughts or
the memories of our families.
Or our fates.

Risen smoke of our cremation.


102
Michael Palmer —–––––––––––


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