sPARKLE & bLINK

q ui et l i g h tn i n g

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sPARKLE & bLINK 3.5 © 2012 Quiet Lightning ISBN 978-1-105-61576-4 artwork © Bethany Rose bethanyroseart.com edited by Evan Karp evankarp.com book design by j. brandon loberg set in Absara 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.

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for hat ta w ) me cks o e as tag s, boll as s ook e pag s, b ts 1 (book Prin p arp s/In n K hem rint Dee f T Eva Imp hat T st o y t 9 Re No a as the o S It’s Luc ith ying t Gin w 11 igh r e ll and Le Her t I’m T ies Mo r 3 a her sica Wh r. 1 oC Jes r, J hin 5 o 1 asc ayl es Mar she m T 7 llia Ban ’s Wi e 1 Lot sell 0 Las 2 w C. at Che Juli wh ish ing 23 ’s F e s ett Alic ridi of g amb od 25 g er tt L the t haf Sco 31 i wan r Sc t h me nd No eet Som s Lu h T m – u rcu Wit tinu eet Ma 5 Con gh Str h 3 u ric End me y 7 A Thro Wh l i n g r 3 Hem ze rom i att pt f u S m Pa n M r e x c e ’ t Yo ohn J 9 Aren ays f 3 g D rlof Po n g r’s in O Pin hte Alv aug 47 D hi My ings oug oss 5 5 Pa i n t V ay ls mak g D Gir Sia he Lan m/ T ille oris 7 Luc y 5 z p h r of ’85 le jaz e Pe n 3 the wint i s i n ren n 6 th Ka so e hn slid oat k Jo 6 4 your ce Nic v slee

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Quiet Lightning
A 501c3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Meghan Thornton secretary Josey Duncan public relations Nicole McFeely outreach Brandon Loberg design Kristen Kramer treasurer Chris Cole vice treasurer Charles Kruger chairman Evan Karp founder + president If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helping—on any level—please send us a line: evan@quietlightning.org

Evan Karp
page as stage as meta whatfor (books, books, bollocks)
we could buy, buy, buy each other’s books, books, bollocks we could emulate the way the sun will navigate the sun will navigate false start art fake onto stage persistent I would or I wouldn’t cross this out (we could make legend this moment) this could inform the rest of it diaries from a first eye-opening alone as their owners none of us knowing anyone not even handwriting we could tattoo the whole evening something to point to that happened

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is it enough that we have the stage a few dozen friends and a language we all agree on ? I don’t mean to flip the rug under the furnace. not with mother frosted! every time we talk about this the heatlamp stutters and someone in the shadows— someone in the shadows, by the way—thinks they know—and they do know—the answer to spotlight. everyone look at me look at me everyone look at the same thing the TV aint the sun aint no revolution meaning tip your bartender less if we do all agree to disagree we have to interact, though this civilization has no laws but be here and help to define it
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the stage— but all the writing you read is written in margins if we all agree if Santa Claus really is coming to town springing forward and falling back with the rest of us if we’re laughing in a stillframe (ha ha ha) sharing words we laid out in our bedrooms and brought to this painting like bottles of wine to a potluck when we bring this moment to hang on the confines of our future will the words age likewise without us?
E van Ka rp

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will our sons say yes to asparagus our daughters help them with homework ? fear will tear us apart if we don’t murder in all of the cracks it now grows like an orgasm (simile) I smile silly me like an orgasm in reverse who said that? one of my friends when the strings start and my eyes close because I’m ready for transport when the poem is done and after I’m no longer excited about it, revision over (self your fuck) as it is, more people like me than I could ever truly care about but the show goes on and there’s always a tune you can hum
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but you’re used to revolution “the choice for the unknown” (that’s steven) and we are too precious to fail too pure too anything goes too caught up with not being caught dear people, take a chance do something stupid that feels good and lasts more than a fathom of hours all you can lose, imaginary

we could freedom in a glass of wind

we could miss the moment it’s better to say the wrong thing Every Time but it’s your choice
E van Ka rp

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bring an ice blanket in case you get thirsty bring a bloodless tongue for the swap meet for that matter you will want liberation madly as a despot from the people you will see through your dependencies and be strong enough to choose something else tonight you will do anything you don’t say you will do prove me wrong no don’t think about it When the sheets dry up That was a typo When the streets dry up to a dead-end conclusion tread lightly some body lives there numberless, no address no name, just a handful of minutes

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entertain the stranger before you tell the story of his or her clothing everything we wear someone found in the streets but what we made in our bedrooms we made it we were made for the stage despite our humility it’s murder up here it’s just fear dying at our tongues live back to the poem if it’s fear you’re after, talk like a stranger to yourself

these are just the lean years

E van Ka rp

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Leigh Lucas
Imprints/In Prints
In this kind of cold the fingers stay red. This kind of cold makes the nose numb and run. She waits on the dog to do his business. The deer wait out of sight, behind the row of trees at the edge of the yard; they are an army in the silent woods. She knows about fathers who are stern and quiet and to teenage daughters seem hollow and unfeeling, not unlike icy fingers. But her dad told her things that she always remembered. Like that God allowed humans the ultimate selfish act, he allowed them to make copies of themselves, little people in the same image. Like God? Then the history of life and time looked like an army of Russian dolls, their expressions dictated by a painter’s fingers, their hands pinned at their rotund sides. She has proof that her dad loves them. The proof is in the memory of him offering his hand to her little brother’s runny nose. Her dad cradling the mess in his hand the whole walk home. In this kind of cold, the day’s footsteps settle in, they freeze and become cut-outs shaped like bulbous Russian dolls. Put a foot in a father’s footstep and it looks like it could never belong. A God looking down from the sky might wonder: was it made by one of the same creatures? By another one of mine? Over by the trees are rabbit prints and ones made by deer that the dog stops to sniff. On a night like this the deer take quiet steps and the prints are all that give away their presence here.
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Jessica Moll
It’s Not That Deep
It’s not that deep, he said. Yes it is, I said. It’s very deep. Not really, he said. Not when you think about it. There you go, I said. What, he said. When you think about it. You admitted it yourself: you have to think about it. Therefore it’s deep. Well that depends on your definition of deep, he said. I never said you had to think about it deeply, he said. But you said you had to think about it to determine whether or not it was deep, I said. Yeah, he said, and I said the conclusion one would arrive at, if one thought about it for only a minute or two, not necessarily very deeply, was that it was not that deep. You didn’t say that, I said. Yes, I did, he said. No, you didn’t, I said. You never said for a minute or two, or not necessarily very deeply. Not in so many words, maybe not, he said. But that’s what I meant. Well I can’t know what you mean if you don’t say it, I said. I never said you could know what I meant. Besides, I’m telling you now what I meant. What. That it’s not deep, he said.
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I feel like we’re in a room with no furniture, I said. Well why don’t you bring in a chair, he said. I prefer the carpet anyway, I said. I feel like you’re trying to shoplift from me. I have nothing in my hands, he said. I can see that, I said. I’m speaking metaphorically. Mental shoplifting. You can hear the wheels of my shopping cart squeaking inside your brain? he asked. Something like that, I said. Except you’re shoplifting my shopping cart. Even if I were shoplifting your shopping cart, he said, it would be the kind of shopping cart where the wheels stop rolling as soon as it leaves the parking lot. One of those carts with an electronic locking device, he said. I feel like you’re pushing my shopping cart even though the wheels don’t roll, I said. I’m sorry to hear that, he said. I never meant to do you harm. Maybe subconsciously you did mean to, I said. I opened a window. Outside, the plum tree was in bloom. It was broad daylight. I feel like we’re in a museum, I said. How much does it cost to get in, he said. It’s the one free day of the month, I said. That’s a happy coincidence, he said. And we left it at that.

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William Taylor, Jr.
Here with the Rest of Them
It’s at the corner of Turk and Taylor, maybe you know it. I was going to say the saddest bar in town but it’s a place beyond sorrow; a netherworld of the lost, a waiting room for the void. The junkie next to me is way far gone and stares with abandoned eyes at the television screen. She laughs an empty laugh and says, Hey, you wanna do some harewin? I say, No, thanks, I’ve got a beer, and she says, O, I thought you looked like the type.
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I shrug and I smile and guess maybe I do, because I’m here with the rest of them, here on a Wednesday afternoon in this place where life is turned away at the door and death just can’t be bothered.

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What I’m Trying to Say
We stumbled into life like an accident, ill-equipped and ill-prepared. There were false starts and moments of promise but in truth we were found to be less than equal to the days. The streets are emptied of romance, the music is phony, and the sun doesn’t look for me anymore. And after everything else there’s still the embarrassment of death. What I’m trying to say is, I’d like to meet somewhere. I need you to wear something nice and tell me something beautiful.

Wi lli a m Tay lor, Jr.

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Juli C. Lasselle
Maraschino Cherries and Gin
A Classic Aviation flies me to the man made stars of Caesars tapas bar. A maraschino moon holds down the bottom of the martini glass full of murky blue booze. Lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and gin. I adore it for its drama as much as for its reputation of being a depression era drink. A depression era that started at seven and lasted a lifetime or two of murky depths with bloody moons holding down the bottom, dragging down the bottom of the family tree. The last few drops trickle down my throat and the moon bursts forth its tart sweet juice. I remember Aunt Rosie taking my sister and I to the Top Hat to visit her bartender boyfriend. He made us Shirley Temples with maraschino cherries and two thin purple straws, Sinatra singing on Jupiter and Mars. I drank them all day perched on the stool in the dusky darkness of the dive bar. The doors would swing open and the white brightness that pierced the gloom reminded us that it was daylight and maybe L. and I should be hopscotch hula hoop jacks you’re it can we have a nickel to ride the red pig at the Italian place across the parking lot out the back door, please. A Neapolitan ice cream sandwich dripped down my fingers, my face, my sleeves; the hot sun, the cool shade, the red pig I never got to ride; my big sister, bigger and stronger and wouldn’t give me my turn.
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Cat eye glasses, Mary Jane feet on the bar stool, heart filled with song as I entertained the locals, the regulars, the down ‘n’ outs looking for a little love in the Top Hat on a sunny afternoon. Our parents went to Europe and left us in Rosie’s care with strict instructions not to feed us sugared cereal or take us to the bar. We bought Lucky Charms at the Co-op Supermarket on our way to the Top Hat. We were together with our wants and our unwillingness to play by the rules. I loved her for that. The secrets. The feeling that we were getting away with something. We laughed over our Sloppy Joes at her boyfriend’s house until their liquid dinner swung the fun from the room and they fought, Rosie and he. She sent us outside with his two sons who raged with every match they struck on the concrete driveway in the California heat. The moon hung over the hills. The anger grew low through the walls of the ranch house. The matches flamed and were flung at each other in child’s play of adults behaving badly. The next morning’s cake makeup couldn’t hide the bruise on Rosie’s face. I wanted her to hold my hand, baby kiss me, in other words. I wanted her to do for me what she couldn’t do for herself. In other words, please be true—to me, to you, to the moon. Her Aladdin gold slippers shushed across the linoleum floor as she brought us cereal among the
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marshmallow stars. But the sugared secrets had lost their charm. The glamour of the Top Hat was dry. We weren’t together anymore. There was a secret beyond the swinging doors that was only hers. I spilt my Shirley Temple. Maraschino cherries rolled black-eye purple across the bar to the floor. Aunt Rosie’s nails matched her lips in brilliant pink or liquid orange as she took a drag from her cigarette squinting against the smoke in her eyes and ordered another round. More cherries, more straws, more trips to the bar where she drank gin cocktails until our parents came home and she flew away to see what spring is like, South to Mexico with a man she barely knew. He had a trailer on the beach and a gun in the side table. She had a bottle of gin and a history I can only guess at of being her father’s favorite, loved too much in all the wrong ways. A beach, a moon, and a gunshot. A sole was filleted for dinner the night of my seventh birthday. The night we got the call. The night that Rosie died. You are all I long for in the murky blue night of maraschino cherries and gin.

Ju li C. lassE llE

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Lot’s Banshees
Bed bugs were biting on the Dingle Peninsula when stardust years were detonated on the shore and we toasted with yet another stile of juniper berries. We were wandering hobos, he and I, entangled on railroad crossings of revolutionary forces. We held each other sideways as we climbed the boog-a-loo to our room overlooking the cement blocked grand scheme of past Popes and future pedophiles. Caution fell through the window in silt-like powder covering us and the stone laid wall between his heart and his will. But, young and full of what we thought was Beatrice, we shook it from our hobbled knees and tumbled into bed all branches and briars poking each other in places not yet bruised. “I’m sorrys” fell in absinthe drops and left blood stains on the sheets. A pit bull charged from between his legs, bit me, wouldn’t let go until I grabbed his hind legs and he took a pound of my flesh with him before he subsided into illusory ice water submissiveness. From the darkened hallway, Lot appeared in the orifice of my childhood and I yelled out “Where are your daughters? What have you done to your daughters?” C.G. Jung had not yet lanced the boil growing on the left side of my brain and the sheep stiles of juniper berries had dulled my senses until I could no longer feel the pummeling my lover, my hater, my lover, my hater, rained on me with his antiquities and his crosses blessed by the Pope.
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Then the Banshees did what Banshees do and I fled Lot and the briar patch to dance with them and W. B. Yeats on slab graves broken over the bodies of century dead woad painted warriors and through rings of oak trees to the shores of Tir Na Nog. The Tuatha Dé Danann said we were not welcome there since we neither rode Niamh’s gentle steed nor brought the scales of salmon as offerings and pledges to live our lives without aging, without memories, and I could see beyond the sand grass of the shoreline Jung sharpening his pencil and crossing his legs in preparation for the knick knack Paddy whack to come. Yeats pelted the fairies with couplets as I did what Banshees do and ripped the hair from my head to weave a rope that would stretch to yesteryear and keep me from getting lost as I traversed the labyrinth that led from the briar encrusted bed of my lover to the Penthouse piled trust fund that doled out silence in Monopoly houses and therapy sessions. The Dead Sea spilled from my eyes, my ears, my bowels. I vomited alphabet soup and a charm bracelet with charms of kittens and keys and hungry lips sealed against the Son. My lovers’ stone laid wall was fortified with cotton comforters and cat cooings even as he slid from my side in quest of sweet butter scented with honeysuckle. I watched him run into the arms of a virgin dressed in hooker shoes and be comforted by her tea and scones and tales of lobotomies.
Ju li C. lassE llE

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I could hear Yeats doing a jig on the Teutonic plate shifting beneath my window so I looked out of my tower just as Hemingway rode the red horse of the Apocalypse over the horizon, his sword blaring in a call to arms. They fought, as brothers do, with little care for landscaping or trembling saints. I hadn’t a pot of tea for them so Yeats reclined on the credenza with his head in Hemingway’s impatient lap as I mopped the Dead Sea from the floorboards and wrung from my handkerchief birthday cards and Christmas presents and Sunday ballets that smelled of rotting strawberries and secret afternoons. Hemingway laughed and I told him “get out” but he only pulled a flask from the Pamplona bull horned wound in his side, under his ribs, and we drank, the three of us, to deadbeat lovers and to orphans and to Banshees who do what Banshees do and awaken us from spiraling into dolmans and hobo nights and days gaping with childhood orifices ready to swallow us whole. Hemingway passed the flask to Yeats who looked me square in my past and said “Cast a cold eye on Life, on Death. Horsemen, pass by.”

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Scott Lambridis
Chew
The policeman stepped into the subway tracks to retrieve an orange. Dust and iron puffed around his fresh black boots. The orange was lying against some hefty bolts and the fine coat of soot left a smudge on the orange’s otherwise perfect skin. I think it was a navel, not a tangerine. He rubbed the orange against his upper lip. The others on the platform seemed to avoid watching him. Their eyes probably saw the orange too, though their minds saw nothing. He rubbed the orange and its gray blemish transferred easily onto his thumb. The smudge didn’t care where it went, only that it couldn’t be destroyed. “Get out of there!” I yelled to the policeman. He looked mad and gentle. The policeman’s jaw flicked to the side, flicked to the side, as if he was chewing something. “Get out of there!” I yelled as if he hadn’t heard me. I began to chew like him; my jaw flicked to the side, flicked to the side as I imagined the sweet taste of the orange. “It’ll be fine,” he said. His jaw flicked to the side, flicked to the side. He was still rubbing the orange with his thumb. He held it up, right by his temple, right beside his flicking jaw, and then he bit it. He bit
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right through the skin and the pith and orange liquid squished over his chin and sprayed his face. “Is it safe?” I yelled. His jaw stilled. Without swallowing, he said, “No it’s not…” He let the words fade into the tunnel, and then he laughed. “No it’s not,” he repeated, louder, laughing. He laughed his thunderous laugh with a mouth filled with orange pulp, and I bet someone standing on the same tracks in the next station in the next town heard the echo of his voice, and it boomed right through them.

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Sommer Schafer
Alice’s Fish
Winter 1999

Jason, the Neon Tetra
More than anything else, I want you to reassure me that I won’t be eaten by the Betta. That before this gets any worse you will remember I’m still here. That it’s not just sludge and algae in here or soft scattered bits of bone and flesh clogging the filter; that there are a few of us left in this. When you come, you won’t be able to see us past the green like a screen on the walls, though I can piece together bits of what’s out there where you come from, from the places where nothing is growing yet. A hole here, a hole there. It’s been dark in here for ages and the bubbles stopped two days ago. Don’t you remember what it was like before? How you made us an incredible crystal cave, scrubbing the walls until I could see you coming from all the way on the other side of the room? Coming smaller and then larger, bending down to me so that I could see the blue of your eyes, the startling white line of your teeth? And the showers of food! And the roller coasters of bubbles! And the tightness of my somersaults! Now it is black beyond the green and I am feeling too warm. The water has come alive and is sinking me to the statue.

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It is so quiet in here. My only comfort is that I will know; know when he’s coming for me. The Statue I know I am not even stone. Do you think I can’t still see this delicate hand, raised in earnest toward the surface? This hand that was once polished to a faux marble sheen? Do you think I can’t see its glove of slime? I don’t deserve this. I could have been a real statue, placed on the corner of a grand esplanade, my hand raised to the heavens. I could have been carved with love and tenderness and desire and ambition. Do you know of those things or have you completely forgotten? Where are you, anyway? I could have been carved with a fine strong chisel and hammer, then placed just so in a notable European city to herald the centuries with pride and beauty. I could have been one of those statues people stopped to take photos in front of. About whom they said things like, “Look how majestic she is. She still shines despite the pollution.” Not even that, though. I could just have been one of those higher end aquarium pieces that the rich people get for their tropical get-ups. I would have been taken out and shined weekly; my delicate fingers gone over with a fine toothbrush; my bare breasts wiped clean of detritus; the scales of my tale polished to utter distinguishability. I know I am not even stone. I know that if these pebbles move from securing my base, I will rise
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up. I will float. Like the goldfish face-up. But still, I deserve better than this. Even a plastic thing like me, now with my shawls of slime and my necklaces of fish refuse, my skin mottled and clogged by, what? What is this? I’m suffocating. I cannot breathe. I feel a burn on my nipples; at the tips of my tail. The algae eater keeps nibbling my fingertips. There I go again. Goodbye. Oh, this is the end of it for me. Heavy, heavy, slimy sucking skin. I could have been a stone statue. I could have been taken out and shined weekly.

Derik, the Betta
Hot diggity dog. Hot diggity dog dog. Hot dog diggity dog. Dog. Over there! Oh yes! There’s something. I got it! Rusty Goldfish’s fin parts. Not too bad yet. Still edible. Barely. There’s gotta be more. I’ve been there. I’ve been up there. Been near the filter. It’s quiet these days. I’ve been there too. Down by the statue. She’s hiding. Got herself covered up. I’ve been to that end and the other end. But I might not have been to that corner yet. That far corner today. Power! Just power through. Just wiggle my way through this. Stay busy. Move around if I can. But can’t always. Sometimes just stop. Sometimes just hold my breath. And when I do I dream. I dream a dream that goes like this:

sommE r sCh a f E r

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You come baring food. You are golden and huge and have the whitest, brightest skin I have ever seen. When you talk the water begins to quiver and I feel the sound of your voice directly against my ribcage. And then I am surrounded by food falling in slow-mo all around. The water is just right. It is cool and light. I feel my fins pulse around me; feel my body surge forward and ahead, a solid mass of muscle. I am the first to the food. Always am, even in dreams. I open my mouth just at the right time. It’s closed, it’s closed, it’s closed. And now! It’s opened wide enough to take in three, four flakes at least. Almost immediately I feel it, the need to torpedo ahead and knock Amelia off course. Jason doesn’t have a chance. I eat until I’m full, belly large and bulbous like Rusty’s head. Then I swim slowly until it’s time to check the statue’s armpits. The place where only I know the food gets lodged. I swim slowly to feel the silver bubbles pop against my ribcage. Pop! Pop! Popping me into lovely food-borne sleep. But the funny thing is that as soon as I’m falling asleep in my dream, I wake up. Bam! Just like that. And it’s over. It’s over, of course. Hot diggity dog. Hot diggity dog dog. Hot do diggity do. I see something. Something has been hiding in that corner. That dark green corner. Pulsating slightly. Oh, is that? Amelia, the Black Neon Tetra Who the hell knows what’s going on? I lost
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interest a long time ago. I lost interest about the same time you did. For a while I believed you were still out there, but then when you didn’t come and still didn’t come I began to wonder if you were ever there to begin with. And I think now that you never were. Isn’t it true that everything must take its course? Everything knows that chaos is the governing scientific principle. Living things more sophisticated than us know this in their very bones. Two days ago I watched Derik pick apart Jason, who’d been hiding there as if no one could see him. And I’ve seen him polish off Rusty; seen him check that slimy statue by the minute for food he thinks only he knows gets lodged in her armpits; seen him suck up our strings of refuse; once even saw him try a bit of the green growth like a side-sucking algae eater and then spit it back out making a dusty cloud in the water. But you can’t fault a Betta, now, can you? There must have been something in Jason because yesterday Derik got sick and today is himself floating mid-way, held in place by viscous chains. But don’t you worry, you none-existent out there! Ha ha! I’ve got it all under control. I’ve seen it all before. It’s only a matter of time before his skin starts going soft and great chunks of it begin to slide off, revealing a web of bones underneath, which is underneath all of us though still something to actually see it, see all those tiny bones that held us in place these many months or years, per se. And after his skin is gone, it will be the bones that will grow soft, that will just
sommE r sCh a f E r

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sort of evaporate, an elaborate magic trick, right into the sludge. And then, poof!, he is, well, where, exactly? I’m telling you this because you’re obviously not listening. You’re obviously not even there. It’s just that I’m betting. I’m betting that if I speak to an empty universe my words themselves will take on life. That sound odd to you? That sound odd to me? I’m waiting. I’m waiting. I’m waiting for you.

The Chinese Algae Eater
Let there be algae, I say. Oh let it come! May it rush upon me like heavy waves. Let it pull at me and suck me under like the very devil himself. Let it pummel and bruise me. I will eat. I will eat until there is no more, and then I will wait out my days contentedly.

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Marcus Lund
the god of getting what i want
I am the God of Getting What I Want. Some call them hissy fits. Rejected from Brown, I kick and I scream and I yell into the mauve carpet of the Dean of Admission’s office. It is three days before I hear those beautiful words “I’ll see what I can do.” No dessert after dinner? I get so mad the bile simmers in my belly, and up comes the not even half-digested meal. Now who’s going to let a boy go hungry? After Brown and I am told the slick-chic ad agency isn’t looking for interns, well I surpass the kicking and screaming and go straight to the vomiting. A tuna fish sandwich from lunch signifies an available opening. My bile is rich. It contains a special potion that makes all who dare question me submit to my powers. I shall coat the valley in its clear, sometimes green, but always stringy yellow gooeyness. I shall never want again. A cop pulls me over and tells me I was speeding. I was speeding? I don’t think so. I pound the steering wheel. Sir, calm down. I can see he is my enemy. He always has been. He sucks up my rage and spits out a calm, focused demeanor in response. I will not be calmed down. Tears well up.
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My tears are saltier than the sea. If others were to cry my tears, cataracts would be burned into their eyes. My brain bulges against the aneurism that has been clotting for years now. It shoves it against my skull and I know a blood vessel might pop. Let it pop, I yell and I start stomping the floor and flailing my arms in a windmill. Let it pop. Sir, I am going to need you to calm down. I will not calm down. My cheeks quake with anger. Spit soars from my lip onto the dashboard. Saliva pools in the back of my throat and I vomit all over the interior of my car. It’s my third fit today, so it’s mostly that beautiful bile with remnants of the Spanish tortilla I had for breakfast. The Officer asks me if I have been drinking. Drinking? Drinking? Drinking? Have I been drinking? I have underestimated my foe. He is much more powerful than I thought and he grabs my car door and flings it open. Step out of the car, he commands. My body shakes with anger. I am not stepping out of anything. I shake my head over and over again. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. I scream. He grabs my elbow and drags me to his car. The dry highway scrapes my heels. If I am going to defeat him I must be stronger, I think. In one swift motion he cuffs my wrists together, and he hurls me into the backseat of his car. The car door slams behind me. I can hear him radio the station. My entire
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life has led up to this moment. Everything has been mere training for this day. Kicking and screaming and vomiting to cut the line at the DMV, for a job promotion, to seal the deal on the mortgage and later to refinance that same mortgage, to pull in a lower APR on my car the same car that got me into this whole mess, to ensure my bagel came with extra cream cheese, to cancel my satellite dish service even though there were still six months left on my contract. All because I am the God of Getting What I Want. I am the God of Getting What I Want and these words coarse through my veins. My brain sends them as an electrical current that shocks me into the present. The vinegar rises in my bladder and I feel a rush of piss. I piss the vinegar, that magic vinegar I have been saving for this exact day and it rushes out of me, soaking the back seat of the cop car. It floods the back seat and I can smell things going my way. The car begins to fill up and the cop begins to panic. It reaches my shoulders and everything is soaked and then the door begins to creak under the pressure and soon the windows crash, breaking into tiny little pieces and still the vinegar flows. OH! How the vinegar flows! And my piss turns the car to dust. My acidic urine sweeps up the cop and road and everything disintegrates and I ride the urine that sill flows out of me on an invisible surfboard and everything turns to dust and I will never want for the rest of my life. I am the God of Getting what I Want.
ma rCu s lu nd

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Matt Hemmerich
With Teeth
the wind sung a lullaby that echoed like a dirge through 15 rotted watts   I gnawed redwoods to stumps for a clear view as the sun bled to bed on a splintered throne peppered with moss, I gouged a boney scepter within my chest (a sunken flesh nest) to play with the night I spun stars like silk and bridged them down to earth I pierced the moon and held it as a big balloon with teeth, I’m a great destroyer

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John Panzer
End Continuum – Not A Through Street
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. I was told her name was Melanie and she would be finishing my intake. “Your nose is a little crooked,” she said with motherly concern. “I got into a fight with a guy in a wheel chair and lost,” I told her as I stood and walked out. A year ago I was arguing down into Parking Lot’s crack twisted face about the quantity of dope he just sold me. He throws a jab, breaks my nose, and I stumble backwards and fall over a fire hydrant. I was looking up at a sign that says, “End Continuum – Not a Through Street.” As I bolt out of gay rehab, there’s an old black man squatting between two cars, with his pants down, struggling with paper towels to wipe himself. He pleads at me, “You got a dollar, a cigarette, the time?” I find Bullet on the corner by the Police Station. “Sup, OG,” he says. He’s in a black tuxedo jacket, blue jeans, and red basketball shoes. They let drug dealing happen here—its called containment. We duck into the pawnshop where he slips the rock from his mouth into my hand for the $18 I’m holding at my side. Bullet sees a bulletproof vest for $600.

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The owner tells him its Kevlar—it won’t stop everything. “Cops don’t use armor piercing,” Bullet says. “What the fuck do you need with a bulletproof vest,” I ask. “OG, look at me,” Bullet says close and low, “I’m…a… drug-dealer.” The homeless people have stopped asking me for change. I must look really bad. It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here. I almost walk into this Asian guy; he is barefoot and shirtless, blue jeans with a hint of black briefs. He has a vacuum cleaner upside-down on the sidewalk with a screwdriver in his hand. He looks up at me quizzically, and I kind of need a reason to be gawking at him. “I’m probably going to the Gay drug rehab”, I blurt out. His eyes, thin, black, storm beautiful consider me for a moment. “I think that’s a good choice for you,” he says. “Occupation?” Melanie asks me as gently as possible. “Recovering Gay White Crack Whore with HIV.” “Sweetie, I can’t put that,” she says. “I’m an Unemployed Pearl Diver from Arizona.” 90 days clean and Melanie calls me… “John.” I had forgotten I had a name, a clean and sober name.

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Alvin Orloff
excerpt from Why Aren’t You Smiling
One gloriously warm fall afternoon I found myself strolling through a park near the university on my way home from junior high. I was taking my time, sipping a Slurpee, and making sure the sunshine hit my face, which was supposed to help with my acne. The park was actually a few blocks out of my way, but I was in no hurry. My parents’ house offended me with its boring beige-y squareness, its failure to contain even one secret room or hidden staircase. A dull, comfortable, respectable house like ours could never be haunted or contain a hidden portal to an alternate dimension. Nor was I eager to see my parents. They weren’t quite as square as the house, but they kept their eccentricities well concealed, and I bitterly resented them for it. The park, on the other hand, fascinated me. Everywhere college-age kids read, debated, flew kites, made out, napped, meditated, and grooved to tiny transistor radios. In an effort to seem part of things, I un-tucked my dress shirt, mussed my medium long (but, oh, how I wished it were longer) hair, and assumed a rambling gait with long, exaggerated strides – truckin’, it was called. Most of the park consisted of scrubby grass struggling to cover dry, hard earth, but at the east end there grew a thicket of slightly stunted trees and bushes. I was just entering this tiny woodland area
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when I heard a voice call out, “Hey guy!” Though at fourteen I was more kid than guy, I took a chance this was directed at me and turned. A half-dozen hippies sprawled around a beach towel, soaking up the sun. “Over here,” called the voice, which I now saw came from a razor thin man sitting cross-legged in the shade of a pine tree a few yards away from the others. He looked about twenty-four and wore nothing but a pair of faded, patched, and elaborately embroidered blue jeans. His face was clean-shaven, but his long curly chestnut brown hair hung halfway down his back, filling me with awe and envy. “Hi,” I said, walking over to him. The man patted the Earth next to him as if it were a comfy sofa. “C’mon and sit down. I’m Rick.” I felt myself staring, but couldn’t stop. Rick’s delicate features were so perfectly formed and symmetrical he didn’t look quite real. “My name’s Leonard,” I said, still standing. Rick said, “Don’t be scared, Leonard,” and suddenly I wasn’t. The serenity in his warm, brown eyes made it clear he was a Mellow Guy. I sat. “So, what brings you to the park today?” Rick asked. My scalp tingled pins and needles, which it did when I was shy or embarrassed in a happy way. “Just walking home. How about you?” “I’m witnessing,” said Rick. “Witnessing what?” I asked. “Witnessing is when you share with others The Truth that you’ve witnessed.”
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I was intrigued. Recently I’d fallen prey to a host of rapid mood swings and intense, but mysterious longings. Since nobody had mentioned anything to me about pubescent hormones, I interpreted this as evidence of a deep, spiritual hunger. This conclusion wasn’t as far fetched as it sounds. I lived in a town where bands of Hare Krishnas serenaded the streets and telephone polls were thick with posters advertising classes in Buddhist meditation, Sufism, and astral projection. Alternative spirituality and the New Age metaphysics were in the air and everywhere. “So, what truth did you witness?” I asked. Rick smiled. “The Truth of Jesus.” A Jesus Freak. I was disappointed. I considered Christianity depressingly square, more hick than hippie. I also objected to the idea of Hell on theological grounds. It seemed way harsh for anyone short of Hitler. “I’m a Taoist,” I declared proudly. I’d spent hours scouring the shelves of the Public Library searching for a religion that was suitably exotic but didn’t require any huge leaps of faith or complicated rituals. Taoism fit the bill. I also appreciated the brevity of its holy text, the Tao Te Ching, a mere eighty-six pages long. “A Taoist, that’s cool,” said Rick, still smiling. “What’s that all about?” The words that should’ve been in my head waiting for this question had wandered off. Finally I managed to stammer, “Taoism is like... going with the flow and, you know, not getting hung up.”
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“Huh,” said Rick. “Sounds cool. But you can find peace with Jesus too, if you want.” I was surprised. “Isn’t that against your religion, being in another religion?” “Jesus is God, and God is Love. That’s my religion. Nothing less, nothing more.” Rick’s self-confidence was mesmerizing. “What about Heaven and Hell and the commandments and all that?” I asked. Rick waved his hand dismissively. “I leave those to the professors of theology.” “So I can be a Taoist and a Christian at the same time?” “Sure. Why not?” Rick smiled. I liked the way he smiled all the time. It seemed real, not like the forced cheerfulness of people on TV or the holloweyed Moonies who went door to door asking people to dinner (an invitation I always declined in light of their reputation for kidnapping and brainwashing their guests). There was a pause then Rick gestured towards the hippies around the beach towel. “Me and my family are just passing through town on our way to Oregon. We’re going to start an organic farm. Build it ourselves from scratch.” “That’s cool,” I said, casually hiding my 7-11 cup with its offensively plastic straw behind my back. “Yeah,” said Rick half-heartedly. “Actually, it sounds like a lot of work.” He laughed and lay down on his back. The golden skin of his arms and chest were lightly fuzzed with dark curly hair, reminding me of an animal, though I couldn’t think what kind.
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“You could have windmills for energy,” I suggested, sort of wishing he’d ask me to come along. “Sure, I guess. The idea is we’ll lead simple lives without all the hassles of the city. We’ll raise our own food so we won’t have to get jobs and we can make our lives Spiritually Whole. Like monks, except we can screw around.” I was flattered Rick took me for someone adult enough to talk with about screwing around. “How long are you staying in town?” I asked. “Not long,” said Rick. He sat up and stared into my eyes with his own mesmerizingly serious, brown orbs. “Leonard, do you know how to Love?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I love my parents.” “Sure, that’s easy, but can you Love strangers? Can you Love your enemies? Could you Love Richard Nixon?” “I never thought about it,” I admitted. “That’s the kingdom of heaven,” said Rick. “When you can Love everyone and everything. Heaven’s not some place in the clouds, it’s in here.” He patted his chest. “Do you Love everybody?” I asked. “I try,” said Rick, sounding almost sad. “I’m getting better.” There was a long pause that made me so nervous I began to blather. “Did you ever think that Jesus might have been an Ancient Astronaut? You know, from outer space? Like the ones who built the Pyramids and Stonehenge and left that 10,000-yeara lvi n orlof f

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old battery in the Mesopotamian ruins?” Rick chuckled. “Could be!” He turned solemn again. “Try saying it, Leonard. Try saying, I Love everyone.” “I Love everyone,” I said. Even I could hear that I didn’t mean it. “Hmm. Let’s start smaller,” suggested Rick. “Repeat after me.” “I – Love – You.” This took me off guard. My scalp tingled fiercely, time stopped and the universe contracted so that Rick and I were disembodied souls alone in a swirling glittery purple cosmos of togetherness. I stood frozen for a moment trying to re-inhabit my body, which seemed to have been paralyzed by Rick’s eyes. When at last I could speak, I heard a vast and unmistakable improvement in my sincerity as I repeated the holy words, “I – Love – You.” Rick laughed. “Getting better! Loving doesn’t always come easy, sometimes you have to work at it.” As he spoke, one of Rick’s family, a blonde girl with a cold grin on her pretty face, walked over and plopped down next to us. “Who’s this little Angel?” asked the girl, nodding in my direction. “This is Leonard,” said Rick. “We’ve been rapping about Love.” “I’ll bet you have,” said the girl. My throat constricted, which it did when I was shy or embarrassed in an unhappy way. I managed to croak out a weak little, “Hi.” “Pleased to meet you,” said the girl, not
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sounding pleased at all. “I’m Beth.” She put her arms around Rick and leaned into him. Feeling an overwhelming desire to flee, I stood up and stammered, “I, I really should go.” “Peace,” said Rick and Beth at almost the same time. “Peace,” I said, though I’d never said peace instead of good-bye before.

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Siamak Vossoughi
Ping Pong Days
When I was twelve, my aunt and I were very evenly matched at ping pong. She was fifty and visiting from Iran. I would come home from school and she would say, “I am ready for you today.” “He has to do his homework first,” my mother would say. “After you do your homework, I am ready for you.” She was very religious, but that did not keep her from wanting very much to beat me when we played. It was a beautiful revelation for me. The poor women of our country that I felt sorry for because they had to cover their hair wanted to beat me in ping pong. They were even willing to talk about how they wanted to beat me. We had some real battles. We played to 21, win by two, and sometimes the game got into the high 20’s. I was glad she didn’t belong to the school of thought that said that an adult should take it easy on a kid in athletic competition. My aunt wore a scarf on her head when we went somewhere in America, and I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for her or not. It looked kind of nice to me. I didn’t feel sorry for her when we were out. My father had already made it clear to me that religion had ruined our country, but I realized how
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much I was starting from scratch when my aunt came to visit from Iran. A boy had to go out to a clothing store with his mother and his aunt before he had something to say about religion and his people. He had to hear all the different things his aunt said when they were out, about a sales clerk and about God. And he had to hear them carrying the memory of their ping pong battles together. Religion had ruined our country, but I didn’t think people like my aunt had ruined it. I didn’t ask my father about it though. He was always very nice to my aunt, but after the revolution had gone the way it had, he needed a very big rock to carry around with him, and the rock had to be an all-the-time rock, it couldn’t be a sometimes rock. Anyway, a man was going to carry around some kind of rock with him, it seemed to me, and I was proud that my father knew what his was. When it was just us, I wanted to carry a rock like his. But when my aunt came to visit, I wasn’t so sure I needed one yet. I wasn’t so sure I knew myself well enough to know mine. Because who ever heard of a boy and his aunt having furious ping pong competitions? What the heck story did that fit into? Who ever heard of her telling him that if he came to Iran, he’d see what real ping pong was all about? And who ever heard of her saying that just before going back downstairs to pray? I knew a man needed a rock to be strong. But I liked being quick too. I liked being able to go back and forth between what my father carried and what
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my aunt carried. Enough to keep things moving at least. That was the closest our house had come to Iran. They didn’t have to say it aloud. It was enough to move back and forth between. My father could give me an understanding of revolution and a disappointment in it and a hope for a new one, but he couldn’t give me diversity of thought. A boy wants to know what everybody in his country thinks. Opinions are the most interesting thing about people, because he can’t wait until he starts having them. When my aunt came to visit, I realized that I was playing at my father’s opinions. Even if he was right. Even if his rock was a beautiful rock and was never one that he expected anybody to carry for him. The fact of the matter was that this woman could run all over a ping pong table, sweating and getting more excited with each point, and any opinions I was going to have about religion and our country had to take her into account. If they didn’t, then I was just carrying a rock to be strong, but not to turn into something other than a rock. When we played ping pong, my opinion about religious people was that I had to use the sides more against the one I was playing, and to be careful of her spin.  At the end of our games, I would be exhausted from the physical movement and the reassessment of beliefs. “You got me this time, Peymon, but I am going to be ready next time.” “That was a close game.” “Yes.  Did you know that I was on my school’s ping pong team in high school?”
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She talked about Iran in a way that I hadn’t heard from my father.  His rock was too big for high school ping pong teams.  I had dreams of trying out for the basketball team next year in high school and I was glad to see we had some family tradition for it. And the people in Iran, the girls in high schools, had all the intricacies inside them that were necessary to be a good ping pong player.  They were more than just the religious and the enlightened.  My father was right about everything he said, and my aunt was right too. It was nice to have the spirit of athletic competition alive at our house.  My father looked a little sadly at ping pong, at all sports.  He would still play, but at some point he would look at his opponent or at two other participants with an expression that said, it is nice and sweet and sad that they believe that this matters.  And then he would go back to playing, too quick for anybody to be offended.  But I would catch it, and sometimes I felt like that was where I was headed.  I was headed for some kind of rock, and it wasn’t made of religion taking over our revolution, but it was made of arrogance and meanness and other things I found in school, and one place I found them was in the dreams of the other boys who hoped to play on the basketball team in high school.  I guessed my aunt’s ping pong team hadn’t had all that stuff.  It was just girls believing in ping pong.  That’s how it was when she and I played.  And when it was going good, I couldn’t lose:  Either I would make the team and I would show the other guys that you didn’t
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need all that other stuff when you loved a game, or I wouldn’t make the team but I would know my rock. What I wondered about, what I really wanted to know, was whether my aunt’s religion was a rock, whether it was a meaningful rock that I could support even if I didn’t relate.  It had all the outward forms of it.  It had weight.  And it was personal.  Islam was a big imposing force in our house, but when my aunt came to visit, it was her steadfast friend. But I had always thought that a rock was supposed to be self-invented, that it was supposed to be discovered.  I didn’t know how a book that was written many centuries ago could anticipate how I felt today, let alone provide suggestions for addressing it.  My need for a rock had come as a surprise.  And so had my father’s.  But if they hadn’t, then we would’ve never had a time when we didn’t see the need for rocks.  We’d at least had a little time like that, me believing wholly in basketball and my father believing wholly in revolution. I didn’t understand the way my aunt carried Islam because it was the same every day, it didn’t have rises and falls, the times when the rock felt like a pebble and the times when it felt like a boulder.  She would tell me about God with so much certainty that there wasn’t anything left for me to wonder.  Even though I would see her wonder when we played ping pong.  She had it then:  A wonder about our movement, our handling of the instruments of the game, the beauty of our time alive.  She was as alive as anybody I had ever seen.  If she was alive as that and
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she still had something as old as religion inside her, then I could understand how something as new as a revolution could still be relying on something as old and dark as night, it was as though they needed both, they needed both to step forward in time, because the men who stepped forward with nothing but what they were, like my father, did it by carrying more than their own rock.  The important thing about Islam was what it did for her.  I thought that I might not be a revolutionary because there was a lot about people that I already liked.  I liked the way my aunt became happy when she talked to me about God.  It wasn’t as good as ping pong because that was when both of us were having fun, but it was still nice. I didn’t tell her how my father had told me that he’d put aside God, but she probably knew.  He didn’t pray or observe the fast or anything like that.  But nobody criticized him about it.  They knew that he’d placed something beautiful in God’s place.  And he wouldn’t say much about it himself.  The most he’d say to my aunt was, “Khanoom, we’ve seen the presence of religion in our country since the revolution, but God has been a little harder to find.”, and she would agree. The man who could be funny about it has a chance, I would think.  I would remember it the next time I lost to my aunt in ping pong. “I don’t think God likes me.” She would laugh.  “God loves you very much.” “Well, let’s play again and see.” And we would, because she would be going
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back to Iran soon enough, and I knew how much I would miss her and our ping pong games and even God when she did.

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Lucille Lang Day
My Daughter’s Paintings
For Tamarind at 16 1. A green man with no right hand holds a pink silk chicken. His head is round as the moon with smooth green pits instead of eyes. What does he see? How does he cry? 2. A naked person, headless, with bloody hands and neck, flees across a purple sky strewn with grinning orange heads with tadpole tails. She/he nears the edge of the path. The drop is sheer. With wrinkled brow and bright red lips, the blue-eyed moon takes note of this. 3. Surrounded by snakes, a man in tattered shorts
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hangs his head. He is lost in the desert, far from the mountain of palms and pink blossoms, where a bird takes a tiny snake to its brood at the nest, and far from the waterfall where children huddle on a ledge, unaware of the serpent lounging above them.

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Karen Penley
The Girls
i’m a swamp girl and i’ll pull on your lyre with my tongue pull on your little lyre swamp girl is pretty casts her hair out like nets to surround you and pull you down where the water glints like gold gold gold swamp girl thick like a whoosh you’ll go down the drain kitty girls. their claws. huh. huh. and their teeth. teeth. sharp and pretty in their mouth. caught a fat mouse in there. grey and furred. a fat soft mouse. plop body squish pearling through their mouth like god in gusts hot gusts. mouth. mouth. mouth
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i’m a kitty girl bash with a whoosh and feather ribbon in my hair the paws paws climbing reaching against the bar cage bars golden glinting in the sun pearl in my throat burry small against reaching and the bird makes me delirious don’t know why the feathers flat and fly against but i want it good in my heart the claws go tear sunk down in the goo and frosting feathers in my mouth hot blood squish hot feather bird blood i need it all the range is twinkling in my ears the sound of it echoed thousandth inside twirling world sinking down inside to grabit up and reach through bars to sunshine bird good far away far away dancing back alongside the brit in my hair going back back and flufft and out and hang the licky tail
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down thick down ash trickledy close it clutch to my chest my paws are bent in skitty joy in greatness me me mine i splack it out white to the air and back back in to me my claws are sharp and ready so my teeth as well the hard muscle in my jaw is covered soft with fur. i smile. i don’t. me. mine. kittygirl kittygirl down and deep lazy by the whirring pool the laplap water sun. i cozy round and girl myself glug and around. sht. purr. kittygirl me.

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the furious girls are ready to go they’ve been waiting such a long time high button laced boots petticoats and anger simmering between their thighs ‘i’ve been angrier longer than you’ says ella to topsy who blinks and shoots up a third finger quicker than a slice under her chin ‘so i have’ she insists ‘so big whup’ topsy gnarls her finger under makes as if to hook under skin and rip ‘ooh you scare me’ says ella. topsy bares her electric teeth, metal and bone, made special ‘bit me’ she says this shuts her up. ella would lose in this contest the madre lifts three fingers. rustles stop as the girls prepare to stand up, 123 with their boots each at the exact same time. pop. they go up and out of their chairs into the night white pleated shirt fronts stained against the shift of their chests as their hearts go into action and their breathing swells oh this is life finally they think as one thought as they move silently like a wave out the door and into the night.

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slug girl waits she waits for her prince to come he is taking a long time over leaves and twigs like mountains slug girl waits in her cocoon of fuzz of grizzle of slime the oak leaves fall down the tree the hyacinth waits slug girl waits in the meantime, there is buzz there is dirt slug girl waits how dull you all are dinosaur people not like kittygirl

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Nick Johnson
jazzphorism

/ the winter of ’85

(after romare bearden’s collage, winter)

a fox in a waltz w/ winter paws @ the green sky in a frozen puddle— follow branches mother’s arms train tracks a breeze— a lick of the ice won’t tell what’s locked below in this time of the hawk

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jazzphorism

/slide this in your coat sleeve

only the slyest fox eats every night & the brightest birds all-ways gonna taste the toughest so, slip a song inside a song so they’ll savor it seven days from sunday

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