Potluck

 

We're making some fixes under our table...

Potluck 2.0 launching soon! See you in the new year!

 

The Theorist

            Compromise made Stacie angry. Her mother had texted her early that morning suggesting that they have lunch somewhere a bit more “traditional.” Apparently the last time the three of them–Stacie and her parents–met for lunch, her father was so lost in the Filipino menu that he was beside himself the rest of the day. Refusing to give fully in to her father’s parochial tastes, Stacie picked an empanada spot on the Lower East Side. Mexican was as “traditional” as she was willing to go.

            Stacie thought back on when she took them to the Filipino restaurant in Queens. Her father had sent the waiter away twice so he could continue “inspecting” the menu before finally asking for the General Tso’s Chicken. Stacie’s mother, noticing her daughter’s embarrassment, whispered to her husband that “they don't make that here.”

            “Oh, I’m sure they could,” he said, his eyes narrowed on the waiter. “It’s all pretty much the same, right?” Eventually, he settled for the Chicken Adobo but Stacie’s embarrassment had already turned into anger which would last for the rest of the meal.

            She welcomed her anger this time, though, with open arms. It was a distraction for her. She came to the restaurant straight from her college library and was immediately returning after lunch. For the past two days she had been working on an English paper that examines the ways female characters in the works of Zora Neale Hurston are silenced and how they find their voices. Having used her time until then re-reading Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mules and Men, she was ready to begin her secondary research and was meeting with a research specialist later that day. The paper was due in two weeks and in a strange way her anger ameliorated her stress. Not only was it a distraction but an affirmation, too; she was in control of something; her voice, like those in Hurston’s works, mattered and was going to be heard.

            So, when her parents walked in and her father smiled at first glance around the restaurant, she felt her lips purse with bitterness.

            “This place looks fun,” her mother said as they all took their seats. “Your father said he isn't going to say anything this time–that he’s just going to shut up.” Stacie laughed along with her mother.

            “He’ll have nothing to complain about,” Stacie said. “Just like he had nothing to complain about last time when–”

            “Okay, okay, that’s enough. We’re all going to be friends for the day and enjoy our lunch,” her mother said.

            Stacie handed the two of them menus. She periodically looked up from her’s to see what expressions they were making while reading over words like Chicharron and Arepas. Once or twice she caught her mother doing the same, peeking over her menu to read her husband’s mood. Her father for his part kept his word and said nothing. Stacie tried to convince herself, though, that she could see his mechanical smile tightening bit by bit the more he read.

            But he didn't ask for a cheeseburger or a t-bone; nor did her mother try to look over the counter to check the skin tone of the cook. He ordered the Pollo a la Plancha. She–the Pollo Guisado. And Stacie ordered two empanadas, one chorizo and the other just queso.

            As they ate, her mother asked her how the end of the semester was unfolding. Stacie began talking about the paper she had just come from working on. Gesturing excitedly with her hands, she spoke about the paper’s main argument and how much she loved her English professor who drank Campbell’s soup out of coffee mugs and had an erotic painting of Leda and the Swan in her office. Her father interrupted her midway through, asking what grade she was planning on getting in Organic Chemistry.

            “You know,” he said, “that class that counts toward your major–toward your degree.”

            “English counts toward my degree too, Dad. It’s a core class.” He nodded, smiled again. “And please don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.”

            Her mother started. “Stacie,” she said. “Your father’s just worried. We haven’t heard anything from you about your classes in months and once we do, you’re talking about a class that isn't even in your major. Are you thinking of changing majors?”

            “Jesus, Mom, no.”

            “She’s not changing majors,” her father said.

            “I just said I wasn’t.”

            “She couldn’t, it’s too late.”

            “It’s not too late, but I’m not. I just said I wasn’t.”

            “I heard you, Stacie,” he smiled. “What about Ecology?”

            Stacie took a drink from her water.

            “You know Dr. Jordan writes poetry, too? She was published in some really big magazine this semester, apparently. Mom, you should read her. I guess she writes a lot about social justice and civil rights. She even went to Standing Rock over winter break.”

            “This is a science teacher?” she asked.

            “No, Mom. Dr. Jordan is my English professor. I’ve been telling you about her class this whole time.”

            Her father motioned at the waiter for more water. “You’re not turning into one of those college students are you?” he asked

            Stacie waited for the waiter to fill all three glasses. She thought about the question, looked at her mother for clarification who instead looked at Stacie as if she, too, wanted assurance that her daughter wasn't becoming a college student.

            “What does that even mean?” Stacie asked once the waiter left.

            “You know, one of those college students,” he said, still smiling.

            “Dad, I am a college student. I’m in college. What’re you talking about?”

            “Your father and I have just been seeing a lot on the news lately about student protests and demonstrations.”

            “Yeah, like the ones we saw on our way here.”

            “Are you talking about the Black Lives Matter people in the park?”

            “Whoever the hell they are,” he said. “Sure. Crybabies. Professional protestors.”

            “Your father and I had dinner with the Jeffersons a couple weeks ago and Mary’s mom said that her grades have been falling because of all these protests she’s been involved in at Boston University. And we’re just worried that you may be distracted if you’re involved in the same sort of things.”

            “I’m not worried about that,” her father said. “I’m more worried my only daughter who has made it this far on her own is now going to revert to being a crybaby like the rest of these college students.”

            “Oh my God, Dad, they’re not crybabies, they’re just–”

            “They’re not? What’re protesting then? What’re they trying to achieve? And these idiots in the park? Black Lives Matter. Ha! They’re accusing all of us of being racist–the police, all of us–and then they make a slogan like that? What does that tell you about what they think of equality?”

            “Dad, it doesn’t mean–”

            “And they’re killing cops, too. They’re complaining about police violence and the police are the ones being murdered by the protesters. They’re all thugs. They should all be–”

            “Dad, shut up!”

            “Stacie,” her mother started, instinctively pinching her daughter’s thigh under the table. Her dad sat back and smiled after a moment or two of obvious befuddlement. Perhaps noticing the window of silence at the table, the waiter delivered the check. Stacie sat forward in her seat, forcing her mother’s cautionary hand off of her knee.

            “It’s okay, Margaret,” her father finally said. “If she wants to tell her father off again, I’ll let her.”

            “Look, Dad, Black Lives Matter does not mean that black lives matter more than any other life. It means that for years now black lives have been treated like they don't matter, and people want to remind everyone, especially police, that black lives are just as important as every other one. They aren't killing police, either. Those people from Dallas or from Louisiana aren't a part of Black Lives Matter, no matter what they say. They aren't thugs. They’re just angry people who want to be heard for once and inconveniencing people through protest is the only way they have left anymore.”

            Once she was finished, and after a moment more of silence, her father sucked his front teeth in supposed acceptance and put his credit card down on top of the bill.

            “Alright, Stacie,” he said. “We hear you loud and clear. I guess we’re all just old racists.”

            “Oh, Daniel,” his wife lamented. “Would you, please, just?”

            “What do you want? I’m agreeing with her? I’m agreeing with her and hoping that I can now hear how my money is being spent at that college. Will you tell me now how you’re doing in Organic Chemistry?”

            ***

            Stacie was sure to hug her father before they parted ways at the D train. She had won in more ways than not and had to exit with grace. It’s not that she was convinced her father had become more accepting of Black Lives Matter or more willing to concede to the existence of police brutality; but she made him listen and that was at least a win for her.

            Back at the library, she met the research specialist she was assigned to–a young woman named Kara. Kara wanted to begin by having Stacie describe her paper’s aims so that they could settle on a number of key words to search for in the library’s online databases. Explaining her paper, Stacie couldn't help but fixate on the fact that Kara was coincidentally black, and she wondered how excited she must have been to hear that Stacie was working on someone like Zora Neale Hurston.

            Kara, having heard the parameters of the paper, began first with a simple search of the words “Hurston” and “voice.”

            “What do you think of Hurston?” Stacie asked Kara.

            “Um,” Kara thought as she scrolled online. “I think I read a story or an essay by her for a class a long time ago.”

            “But you’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

            “No, I never actually read that. I don’t really know anything about her work, to be honest. So, this should be fun learning a bit about her.”

            “Wait, so you’ve never read anything by her? You’re kidding.” Kara glanced sideways at Stacie, smiled slightly, and shook her head. “Oh my God, you have to. You seriously need to read something by her. Read Their Eyes Were Watching God, oh my God, I can’t believe you didn't even know who Zora Neale Hurston was.”

            “I didn't say that I–”

            “Come on, Kara,” Stacie laughed. “You’re lying. You’ve got to be. Oh my God, this should be like required reading for you. Their Eyes Were Watching God is all about a black woman’s search for her voice and how she uses her voice and her anger to empower herself as a woman.”

            “Sounds fun,” Kara said.

            “I mean, we could all be a little angrier, don't you think? We’ve all got to be angrier. You. Me. All women. I promise you, you’re going to read some Hurston this weekend and you’re just going to start, like, unleashing your anger on everyone. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds.”

            “That’s nice,” Kara said. “How about this article here?”

            Stacie looked at it and nodded. Kara opened an email, copied the article’s link, and pasted it into the email’s body. Then, she continued scrolling.

            As she watched her scroll through the article titles and abstracts, Stacie examined Kara’s face to see any sense of mutual excitement. Nothing hinted toward such emotions, but she did take note of Kara’s pursed lips, which reminded Stacie, for some odd reason, of her father. And for the rest of the appointment she sat there, in silence, wondering what that reason was.

***

Bo Fisher lives somewhere in Queens, New York. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Monkeybicycle, Potluck, The Fordham Observer, Contraposition, and The Underground. He can be found @BEdward26 more often than not threatening to fight Mr. Met and reminding Mike Huckabee that he's going to hell. 

Illustrations

***

Stewart Wayne Fanning is a graphic designer and illustrator. He is currently living in Sarnia, Ontario, and received a BFA from N.S.C.A.D University in Halifax, N.S. His work can be found here.

DAY FIVE: Featured Work by Bud Smith

Poem for Whoever

I write your name on a balloon with a blood red marker and then I release it up into the sky

I watch you float away, you look happy but it might be because your balloon has a smiley face on it.

As I'm standing there a person is beside me all of a sudden and says, “That thing, when it lands, is going to kill something.”

I look at the person and at the ballon, incredulously. “Kill something.”

And then I feel like yes it will kill something, it may be that all of earth is suddenly so fragile that all of it will wiped out by your balloon, so I start to run.

I run down the block underneath the balloon and I remain underneath it as it rises up and up and becomes a small speck. 

I run into an apartment building and the elevator is broken so I run up the stairs and there are very many stairs but at the top of the building, once on the roof, I see your balloon right there.

oooolala. 

I throw a brick at it but the brick just bounces off and falls to the street below.

Shattering things. Splattering stuff.

I'm embarrassed to say, but I carry an unregistered hand gun. 

So I take the gun out and fire a few shots at your balloon. 

The first five shots miss, the sixth nicks you.

And you fall fell down to the street.

When I got back down to the street I find the balloon and the brick. 

The brick is fine. Your balloon is flat but still smiling. 

And the person came back over to say, “Thank you for your heroics.”

So I folded your balloon up and put it in my pocket and I carried it with me for a long time.

Carried it until just yesterday, when I finally arrived in paradise and reached the edge of the blue blue surf and the dolphin said, ahh-cacacacacacaca, with its head popping out of the water, pulling you from my pocket 

smiling, as it swam away with you into the airbrushed sunset.

Bud Smith's books are I'm From Electric Peak, F250Calm FaceEverything Neon, and others. His writing has been at Hobart, Smokelong, The Rumpus and Wigleaf. He runs Unknown Press, works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

DAY FOUR: Featured Work by Bud Smith

Okay

The ceiling in the kitchen begins to drip. Then it’s like a small waterfall. Then it stops. Then the ceiling in the kitchen crashes down and kisses the floor. Okay. The bathroom ceiling gets jealous. It falls down too. Okay. Our Super is from Eastern Europe. He says, “What you think ceilings don’t fall on you in Eastern Europe?” Me, I lived in that big dumb city for years. I couldn’t get mail there. Okay. Sometimes I had to wash my clothes in the bath tub. Okay. There’s would be a slip from the post office that I had a package. I’d walk over there but I couldn’t get my package even though I waited in line for half an hour, because fuck you, we hate you, we hope you die without knowing what your snail mail was. Okay. Once upon a time I moved out of that city to a smaller city. I could get mail again. The ceilings were cool. I liked the smaller city because I’d gotten married there and when I flipped on the light switch it worked because sometimes I was sent to the power plant to fix the power plant. Okay. But now they are demolishing the power plant. Okay. Whatever. I still like it here. People mailed their books to me in the smaller city. I got them. I got it. Thanks for mailing me your book. I don’t like it. I carry my clothes down to the laundry room. I pay two dollars and seventy five cents to wash and dry my clothes. Okay. This is nicer than the bath tub. I leave your book that you sent me that I don’t like down there in the laundry room. Okay. I give the book five stars on Goodreads.

Bud Smith's books are I'm From Electric PeakF250Calm FaceEverything Neon, and others. His writing has been at Hobart, Smokelong, The Rumpus and Wigleaf. He runs Unknown Press, works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

DAY THREE: Featured Work by Bud Smith

Horse Pistol


My wife wakes up and her left leg doesn’t work anymore.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

“What does that mean?” I say. She pulls the cover off the bed and looks scared, points at the normal-looking leg and says, “I can’t move it. I’m trying but it won’t move.” ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I say, “What do you want to do?” The word hospital eventually comes up. Hospitals are horrible. But thank the blue sky they are there. ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Ambulances, though. ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

We are so broke. An ambulance will bankrupt us. I go downstairs and try to find a taxi cab. But we live in a bad neighborhood and taxi cabs don’t come to the bad neighborhood. Down the block I see an ambulance. There is always an ambulance in front of one of the buildings. I want to talk to the ambulance driver and try to convince the driver to let us do, like, a carpool in the ambulance. Drive down the cost. They are all going to the hospital anyway. But the window opens up above and my wife yells out, “Just come carry me down the stairs. We don’t need anybody.” It’s not that far, really. It’s like six blocks and two avenues. We live pretty close to the emergency room when you really think about it. Walking distance. ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I carry her down the stairs. Three flights. No elevator.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A neighbor sees this. The neighbor says, “Is everything okay?” We point at the leg that doesn’t work. The neighbor looks at the leg, like, ‘Wait? What’s the problem?’ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

After a couple blocks I’m huffing and puffing. I set her down. She leans on a streetlight. She says, “It’s probably a complication from birth control.” I nod. It probably is. We were having hard sex before, her legs worked fine. Her life is the same. I say, “Is legs not working a common side effect of taking birth control?” She says she doesn’t think so, but what does she know, she went to art school—and a leg ceasing working is certainly artless. I carry her an avenue. People on the street are staring. I’m sweating. Getting every day angry. I set her down again and go inside a bodega and buy two Gatorades. An orange one and a red one. We drink the Gatorades. “Maybe you’re dehydrated,” I say. She says, “Just do it.” I say, “That’s another company.”  She says, “I’m lovin’ it.” ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


There’s a revolving door to get in the waiting room. 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

We struggle through the revolving door. Shoes clanking against the glass and metal. The nurse at the sign in station sees us struggle. She finally says, “Didn’t you see the automatic doors to the right?” ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

It takes a while but it’s nice to be there. An answer is coming soon. The people in the waiting room are all dying and injured. And we are dying an injured, too, in our own simple way. But medicine is nice. It’s cool that we left the cave and invented medical science. Her leg is propped up on a little table I’ve dragged over. Someone asks for a magazine. I move the leg. Set it back down. Popular Science. You’ll love it. One by one, everybody goes through the curtain. Then it’s her turn to go through the curtain. They let me push the wheelchair. Triage is fun. Medical science is a big fat blast. ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

A young doctor comes to the exam room. He asks what the problem is. She says “My left leg doesn’t work anymore.” He looks at the leg, like hmmmm. But after minute or two of easy lil’ tests he’s decided that she’s lying about her leg not working for some complicated reason. ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I’m kicked out of the room. When I’m gone, the doctor asks my wife if I beat her up. She says I don’t. The bruises on her arm are from where her mother’s cat, Wilbur, who latched on and bit the hell out of her and kicked his back legs as he was fought like a maniac. She tells the doc how she had to smack the cat against the plaid couch to get it to let go, and seriously what the fuck is wrong with felines? He asks her if she is on drugs. She says, “Just birth control and an anti-depressant.” The doctor wants to give her a vaginal exam but she declines. He says, “We’re all done here then.”  ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

The doctor comes and gets me and says, “Okay, you can come back in the room.” I wheel my wife back out. We sign some paperwork at the desk. The diagnosis is: Keep an eye on things and see what happens with your life and health and stuff. I carry her out through the automatic doors this time. Fuck an automatic exit.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

There’s taxi cabs waiting in front of the hospital. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

We take a cab home. You negotiate the price. I say a five they say seven, I say four they say five I say free, they say four and punch the gas. My neighbor is smoking a cigarette on the stoop and I carry her up the stoop. He says, “What’s the matter?” My wife says her leg isn’t working. The neighbor says, ‘Oh man, that’s a total bummer, feel better.’ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I carry her up the stairs. Three flights. No elevator. ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

We go lie down in the bed. We talk about what happened. It’s all just such helpless bullshit. Being alive is such a joke without a punch line. It’s so lousy and there’s no answers. And fuck it all, we start to laugh about it. We laugh until she asks isn’t here beer in the fridge. And of course there is. So I get it. And we tell each other horror stories about other people putting their lives against our lives in such a hurtful way and no witnesses or friends there to slap a bitch. But you know what you are? You’re a friend. You’re a witness. Nothing bad will happen again. We talk talk talk but even though we fight it, we fall asleep in our narrow bed. It goes like this: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-zzzzzzzzzz, like sinking into pleasurable quicksand and doing nothing about it. I hope tonight in your dreams your leg is fine, sure is a fine fine fine fine leg. ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

In the morning she can kind of move her foot a bit. ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The next day she can move her whole leg. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s so hot in the apartment and we can’t afford air conditioning or even the wish of air conditioning so we consider going back to the hospital just for the air conditioning. Sit in the waiting room and cool down. Instead, we walk down to the river and there’s a little breeze. We watch the people fishing for whatever kind of fish come this close to the city. I don’t know—Dumb Fish. And we walk on the rocky path that leads through the sad city trees. And it’s quiet there and private so we have sex in the grass. But I wear a condom because we still don’t want to have children. I pull out and cum on a dandelion and it’s dead and ruined after that and now I’m sorry. No more dandelions.  ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


And then we walk back to the hot apartment and up the stairs and onto the roof of the building. We watch the airplanes fly up over the city and into the sky. It’s the magic hour. The airplanes are making all kinds of horrid noise and leaking all kinds of vapor across the sky. My boys. And then its night. Everything cools down again and it feels like the troubles of a life are peeled away and all that’s left is sweet fruit. Eat the fruit of the ordinary evening and try to heal all the scars in your mouth. But no luck. After a beer or two, she can do jumping jacks again. She’s happy. She’s spotlit in the beam hanging over the emergency door. And she’s perfectly American. And magnificently flawed and utterly perfect. She shows me. Look at this. Look at this.  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Topless jumping jacks—I meant to say. Legs like springs. Breasts smacking atogether. Gravity and joy. I take off my dress pants. I do jumping jacks too. You would think evolution would have fixed this by now. Jumping snakes on the roof hurts. It hurts. Oh this beautiful fucked up worthless limitless beautiful kiss right on the split lips existence. I hope we somehow somehow somehow make some kind of spastic baby for you to hold. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

Bud Smith's books are I'm From Electric PeakF250Calm FaceEverything Neon, and others. His writing has been at Hobart, Smokelong, The Rumpus and Wigleaf. He runs Unknown Press, works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

DAY TWO: Featured Work by Bud Smith

Fiction

‘of course I 

call every

thing fiction

so that helps’ 

my friend

the florist  

in Kansas 

texts

 

I picture him 

surrounded 

by flowers 

for everybody’s

birthday 

or wedding 

or funeral 

or or 

or.

 

Bud Smith's books are I'm From Electric Peak, F250Calm FaceEverything Neon, and others. His writing has been at Hobart, Smokelong, The Rumpus and Wigleaf. He runs Unknown Press, works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

DAY ONE: Featured Work by Bud Smith

RABID

I know a rabid animal that is in love with me
it’s simple how to love back, just be rabid too
sometimes we discover a table on the street
and sip as the sun pinballs down the buildings
we could still be there in a hundred years
and the table may still be wobbly, the air conditioner
still rattling above the trash cans
I got bitten by you and I don’t care, I didn't see a doctor
we went and got hamburgers; we saw a dying man
sing on a stage to a bunch of dying people
but I was alive and so I bit you back
and here you are, foaming at your happy mouth
and cheers to you, cheers to me, wash the pain of life
away with this cold cold glass, if we kiss hard enough
to chip a tooth, believe it will be medicine. 

 

Bud Smith's books are I'm From Electric Peak, F250, Calm Face, Everything Neon, and others. His writing has been at Hobart, Smokelong, The Rumpus and Wigleaf. He runs Unknown Press, works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. www.budsmithwrites.com

Two Poems


to kill a cockroach

before he could ask
I would say kill
the two black balls
hunting for a final
escape from the
steady steps of the
man behind
             I want to challenge the murder
for the last time
just in time to think of the shredded vests
inside the trunk of bleached shirts
and dry-cleaned cardigans
automatically pausing the ‘bleeding heart liberal’
from putting the rest before the self
like in most places
training the head to look
the other side of the lifeless eyes
hurrying one’s pace
to get to no-where
a classic case of momentary guilt
welling up to save the day
but not enough to act on
that day

 

 

 

 

nights
 

last night after I slept,
it rolled into a sun-torched morning.
alliances are made in the darkness
as a stolen glance under the yellow lampshade,
quietly hidden from view at the edge of the mirror.
from where I sit, it is a floating light
easily manipulated,
compressed into darkness with an extra sheet.
then the conversation is real:
nothing about jobs, and ‘short-term contracts.’
we speak about intergalactic kinship,
‘how many of us in the many more of us?’ She interrupts me
before I could fabricate. And when I start,
we would have moved to phantasms and shadows that imitate us
in the boulevard, and how we take a quick turn to tease
those who follow, only to crane our necks
and regain the few friends we have.
as the light grows dimmer, we hear strange noises in the backyard.
we dwell a bit longer before we announce the howling wind
redundantly reminding us the broken shade that needs repairing.
as we run out of urban mysteries and feigned disaster,
we swing our heads inside the refrigerator.
we make a lonesome sandwich of leftover vegetable curry and tomato sauce,
revel at the finality of scarcity.
how the crescent moon clasps our choices,
from this world to hers.
each time she peeks through the curtain of clouds,
we two get lunatic.
long nights are for witches.
more puppetry with the lamp,
less of awkward silences

 

 

 

 

Maitrayee Deka has a PhD in Sociology. Originally from Assam, she works as a researcher at the University of Milan. Her pieces have appeared in OpenDemocracy, Asia Times, and Seven Sisters Post. She is currently working on her poetry manuscript, Litmus Paper.

 

Waterslides in Auxiliary Hospital Washroom

I’m on the topside of the slide. In the throat, at the threshold of revelation, making an inventory of everything I see. Mineral deposits in the sink, loud graffiti on the walls. Urinal cakes emit the chemical scent of agent-orange flowers. There’s one fogged up window, a small toilet stall and three large tubes where urinals should be, wide enough to crawl through, to sit upright, to kneel, like the ones that vent air in hospitals, rise out of the roof and bend at right angles in the open air. 

Flowing through corridors of familiar institutions. A toilet flushes in another part of the building. The sound draws nearer, impossibly close, trickling down the inside of my skull. I put my ear to the wall. Water falls along the long axis of my body and passes through the floor, dragging my bladder, seized in an uncontrollable urge to urinate. I step foot forward toward one of the tubes, tugging at my waistband in preparation of a flood.

Threading consciousness through the eye of a needle poked myself to see if I’m alive and bled; it’s the game over threat of living my final life. I can’t remember anything too specific. There’s a game we play in there. Its name incommunicable and keeps us coming back to find it. Once inside it’s easy to forget where I am. I come and go as I please, but never stay in either place for long. Commanding attention to bring information back with great effort to recall, contents of a room itemized in the dark behind eyes, before eyes, how they evolved in response to other eyes because there’s something out there watching us. Detects me beyond the threshold, across the placenta-like partition wall.

Waterslides in auxiliary hospital washroom, the janitor rushes in, tries to stop me. Wants me to pay a toll. I put my hand in my pocket. Feel the small, hard shapes of coins fizzle into non-existence like seltzer tablets. “I don’t have any money,” hands held out, palms up, universal sign for no money, but he keeps coming. Blue dickies morphing into form-fitting policeman’s blues, big black boots rapidly outstripping the size of his feet sinking into a grid of floor tiles as the room closes in, curling into n-dimensional space (anything above 4 presenting difficulties to physical objects so accustomed to occupying the more or less flat Euclidian plane) some kind of hyper-dimensional construct experiencing a break down or contradiction, as in the same matter occupying the same space. The skin of reality come peeling off to reveal the operations behind smooth exterior walls made more permeable to waves, light. The whole building, save for the roof, visible from any point inside or out, openwork steel girders bowed like the struts of a barrel or cask. While what should be the static, immovable fixtures of an institutional washroom—mirror, urinal, stall—shift with every angle of my approach, disappearing and appearing halfway up the wall and on into velvety darkness; the limit of programmable space. Blacked out to hide the deep structure of things I am used to seeing (or not seeing) here inside the box. Not even objects or shapes, just atoms, bonded in electrical night: the dark interior of a machine’s head tuned to a quiet station, nothing, not even cosmic background radiation nothing. ‘Nothing’ as far as I can conceive of nothing, but that may be something to something else, unable to raise my eyes higher than the top of the wall and the drop ceiling. 

Footsteps echo in layered delay of no-time, hard and wet; assumes a grating, industrial sound.

The janitor reaches out to grab me.

I give him the slip—slide through one of the tubes.

Pop out in the poplar grove. 

Behind the mirror is a room. A screen hanging from the roof displays the poplar grove in two-dimensional interactive computer game interface from the eighties. Something watches the screen, images of me as a stick man strolling through the knit graphics of a softwood forest. Flame leaves forever on the verge of exploding into pure colour. Tandem-walking on two legs, dragging my shadow, lagging along behind me. 

Trees thin out to a field of tall grass. I wade through with swimming motions of my arms, sweeping the ground for rocks, holes, obstacles in my path. Emerging at the edge of a precipice where I join or am joined by, ‘the teacher’. Manipulating the environment through metaphors. Parallax prospectus of mental pictures pro specere the future. Flipping through photographs held up to the sky, taken from different angles, heights, POV of a bird in flight. 

Sky spout.

Rainbow waterfalls from spout in the sky, wellspring at headwaters of cloud pitcher pouring milk through cleft columns where sky meets earth. Beading off leaves and rocks finding fissures contiguous through cracked and uneven slabs of stone. Flowing in the dark undetected until it bursts forth into the worn crease of a stream, rushing toward the heart—center of the mandala. Shared affinity with municipal drains, crossed X streams, the one taking on the burden of the other, burrowing into habitat for humanity; the dank basement of a house built into the side of the mountain. 

I feel around in the dark. The cave is dry, just the water sloshing inside my skin suit. 

Old haunts.

Nobody home. No home should be without a body and nobody without a home. Our bodies and homes are the same sort of thing. Temporary, we’re always moving on. When the second little pig moved out he bought a bundle of sticks and built a house. 

The house teeters on the edge of its foundations as if the ground will open up and swallow it. House with the false bottom, digging down; further excavations reveal damp grottos, a parking garage, a skeleton beneath the floor. No one can recapture the psychosis of that place. No one is willing to go to such lengths. Enough to scare even ghosts away. Those with a propensity for such things might call it haunted: the house that haunts the town, the house that haunts itself. A long legacy with the realty company, defunct, de-fucto heap of rubble driving down the value of houses around it, hedges raised to block it from view.

Wake up… and the tragedy that befalls me is my folly.

If I were an animal what would it be?

Sheep. I sleep, enough. Counting. It’s time. Wasted.

I want to wake up in a past locus of time, as a child crying in a twilit room, mom and dad rushing in to tell me it’s alright, that it was only a dream, not a clock or a bomb about to go off…

The radio chirps 6:30 bluebird world report Pacific-standard-time to wake-up. Snoozing through news, weather, traffic, sports. Just over one million civilians… did I hear that or was it part of a dream? I turn off the radio, but the voice is still there. Could be the stereo? No. Must be the fillings in my teeth.

I search the house, haunting, hunting for a place without reception, but it’s hard to find a spot with no signal at all. Data floating around in the cloud until I hit the right place like watching home movies of myself tottering around a destroyed room, camera shifting amoungst the rubble, solastagia in condemned homes so we can’t move out or away. A ghost with no choice of which places to haunt, magnetized to a system of leys free of hunger, disease; supplied only with what a ghost needs, to relive old memories, pine and long for in autochthonic recursion of seasons—resurging streams, recurring dreams.

I crouch in a corner beneath a tall tropical plant. 

The chattering stops, but I’m left without a voice in my head.

Just waking up? You should be hearing alarm bells.

If I am to keep this story going I will need to say a few things, otherwise I will roll over and go back to sleep. 

Our lives online, games to kill time, games about killing. Blinking, cursor, ready… now there’s a game, its name a secret. Ticket, a token, I took the ride. The stub left in my hand spelling out the last few letters of the word, the name of the game—the other half of the story.  

 

 

 

Daniel is a graduate of the Creative Writing program from Vancouver Island University. He is a reader and contributor to the Tongues of Fire reading series and has appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Clockwise Cat, Crack the Spine, Grey Sparrow and the Gyroscope Review. He has written several books (novels), all currently seeking publishers. He lives in Victoria, B.C.

A Life in Fruit

Part 1

Even as I knew this plant’s growth would take over my land, I couldn’t afford another year lost. Would dad prefer a land that is bare to one that is bearing fruit? Something that’s profitable and somewhat sustainable. A fruit that doesn’t require much gas to run the machines since the plants have a near self-maintenance capability. I’m really just there to water as needed and monitor when to harvest. Plus it’s such a conversation piece, every time I mention my grove I hear how it’s the ‘go-to’ fruit for headaches. So now I reduce my headache with a field that yields a crop. 

When I first brought the fruit to the farmers market, the head of the market asked if I needed a bigger tent. I told him that wasn’t necessary since I planned to make trips back to my truck. My process is to keep a tally during those trips and maybe squeeze in an extra crate or two near the back of the tent. But it’s a delicate balance since having too many together in the tent attracts ants. But it’s the price I pay to selling the sought out sweet juice. 

Maybe half would be easier to sell at a time? As recently customers appear to spend money as simply an afternoon away from the couch. I admit I fluctuate the price depending on the demographic as here they sell eggs at top shelf price, so I follow suit. But most of the consistent customers here are encouraging their well manicured kids to eat balanced, so when those small glossy eyes register the iconic shape while their parents sink their teeth into the meat, it’s a guaranteed sale. 

Maybe I should give an option for purchasing only half, to customers who aren’t family sized and simply want something to snack on during some binge worthy series. Or I should sell half as a solution for the morning-after, as it’s been told to me it’s a cure to some hangovers. I can’t confirm this fact as I avoid getting hooked on my own harvest.

The samples are hard to prepare but sometimes if a long weekend is coming up, I’ll bring one of the men from the fields to join me. He can slice one in half from a single motion making nearly no noise whereby to customers passing the tent, the silence is filled with the spray of juice and pieces of meat trickling off onto the table. It’s both artistic and catches the eye for a quick sell. I sell the pieces in a cup for a hefty price to end the day with a profit- to tip the help from a would-be afternoon with the family. It looks like it’s working as a woman is coming up with nearly no fruit.

“Do you want half or whole?” There’s no way she wants a whole one.

“I’ll take a whole one.” I smile with embarrassment and give her a good price.

Sure, when I was growing up I didn’t think one day I would be harvesting pineapples but the truth is no one knows what they’ll be doing at what point in their life. Most people are like the fruit, adaptable to the region. I’m very lucky to have stumbled on a guru of the trade when I went another year in the red, helping me change course and dodge the disapproval of my father. To have a grove that can maintain my stay in the sunny home I grew up in, paying the employee’s and the taxes, one slice at a time.

~~~

Part 2

I really should stop partying and focus on something else during my evenings. But what else would I do? Sit at home and count how many episodes- on whatever season- of whatever show I am on. To rewatch and anticipate to nearly perfect timing the delivery of witty comments. I do that enough over dinner with date number, oh god, let’s not think about that number. Fuck, I’m still dehydrated from the tenderloin. I hate ordering tenderloin, it’s one of those items that remind the date how I love meat in my mouth encouraging some lude comments. At least that’s how my recent dates have been going, the ones who have yet to figure out what it takes to land a third (most crucial) date. 

I should buy a centerpiece fruit, something that says, “she was not out late last night, it was a Thursday, how many women do you know with her caliber can go out on a Thursday?” I need a piece of fruit to speak on my behalf of all my good intentions. Something that evokes pictures of perfection. Nothing complicated like a pomegranate or symbolic to boozy brunches like the avocado, something that says, I am here to put together your life. I am strong, brave and can defend myself.

My bag looks too empty, everyone else at this farmers market has their never-limp chard or heirloom carrots. I have a few pink ladies, blood oranges and a jar of honey. One date told me how putting a spoon of honey in whiskey is the new craze, although it sounds like a cop out for those who can’t stand the strength of a good pour. Who buys eggs at a farmers market? Like how much better can they be? It’s not like we see the chickens to inspect their well manicured feet. That’s just a little over the top even for the Westside.

Mom is coming to visit during the long weekend. So I should probably buy something that’s going to keep her busy or at least something to cover her wondering eyes while she hyper analyzes my kitchen space. A kitchen to her that is lacking a proper pitcher, lazy susan tray and decorative charger but is fully stocked with mugs, bowls and spoons- I can never have too many spoons. She likes things sweet, so maybe we can blend it into a drink? Maybe if I have to find something that screams mom.

Honestly, I hate how things are going right now. I have a dumb job but with great pay, which sounds ideal but offers nothing intrinsic to my life. How many times do people say, ‘wow, that living room is so amazing, I am so impressed by the way that curtain goes with that rug.’ That never happens and it’s still the client’s choice. I simply give options surrounding their taste. I should have options, ones that are laid out like potential coffee table pairings and I simply listen to their height, width and depth. To chose one and bring home, one that is ripe and ready to be presented on my countertop. I also want that weight in my hands, to feel the pressure on the crook when I take it out of the bag. 

“Do you want half or whole?”

“I’ll take a whole one,” I say while placing the pineapple in my tote bag.

This piece is full of life in its juices and will keep questions to a minimum. A fruit to bring home and have ripen over the next few days. To leave out for potential mates and I to savor in its picturesque. Until the long weekend when mom comes to visit and is fully prepared to slice the both of us- open. 

 

 

Trista Hurley-Waxali just finished a stint living in LA for 6 years and is looking forward to her next adventure. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal in Ireland and for Helsinki Poetry Connection. She writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.

Felicita

No street lamps line the streets of the town. None stands before the grocery store, or the welfare office, or any other before the Peachtree bar and poolhall.

Every turning moment comes back to this one, passing more quickly than the previous. Even on those nights that never seem to end when Felicita finds herself eying the men at the Peachtree to the door of the single-use toilet or wends them in her heels to a trashcan alley and uses her mouth.

Sometimes she is stone drunk when she has to do it.

Other times the men are too drunk or horny to notice or care to be spooked when they grip her between the legs.

And more often she just wakes up exhausted, cold and alone. Rank strands of hair iridescently cling to her forehead like strokes of seaweed to mother of pearl. Bodily she is glowing with night sweat, bedsheet oil, succubus vapor, in the nacreous 4-o-clock dwindling chill above the diner in the hiemal pre-dawn glow of this eastern night amid the sound of the dump- and sump-trucks and the smell of frying food and coffee. In that first instance of getting-up she thinks she is still in the primal cocoon of her sleeping roll in the vinyl nest of the tent at the camp for women, wanting to be lulled back to sleep with the clamoring of pans, woodchopping, water-carrying, before they found her out, before she was removed from the women’s camp.

Standing from the bed, she pulls the nightgown back down around the soft skin yeasty with sleep like just-risen dough and goes to the bathroom urinates then showers her body in the pink shell of cold blue light, the curtain pulled only halfway to, then dries off shivering, lowering and raising, cowering on the flat round mat.

There it was, if only for a brief glance in the mirror, staring her back in the glass, this one, her own.

The wind threatens to shear the open bathroom window from its frame and she closes it. Then dissolving the powder distributed from the Madriola nuclear plant around to the people in the district into half a glass of milk and scraping and clawing on whatever clothes this skirt this shirt still-warm from before the two hours of sleep are at-hand hanging on the drying rack throws on the man’s jacket from the back of the kitchen chair and is out - out! - into the icy street piercing and windwoven with low darting birds and last autumn’s brown faded leaves, sailing plastic garbage bags, bins from tree lawns timbering into sidestreets, banging against treetrunks, imperiling passing cars and the lonely early morning pedestrian traveling toward bus-stops, as the still partly risen sun begins sheaving its rays sidelong into the town turning the furrowed aluminum of house sides brooding against thrown cloud shades thrust zephyr ward, on yet another one of these early spring days racked with windblown trash and felled tree branches, with the oppositely swerving twin forces of traffic jousting one another down the exact equator of town under the bright eye of god.

Today she is off, but goes into the restaurant where her co-waitress Miranda is standing at the counter playing with the top button of her uniform blouse idling through a magazine at the patronless counter shining with disinfectant when Felicita comes in and “I need twenty dollars,” she says, “and a coffee,” crushing her red fakeleather bag on the first seat at the counter - “please,” - and sitting down begins grousing through its contents with her overlong hands and Miranda snaps her gum and fills a mug from under the counter with the carafe says “I haven’t got twenty dollars” and Felicita “How much have you got?” and Miranda skins out of her pocket two bills, a five and a one, and hands them rumpled over to Felicita and Felicita kisses Miranda and puts the money in the pocket of the man’s jacket and drinks her coffee and the doorbell chimes and a patron walks in and over to the counter and sits down and Felicita looking forward not knowing if she has taken this man to the corner of a bar or a grocery store backlot before and she finishes her coffee adjusts her lipstick at the mirror by the door and leaves.

And then is out again pummeling the pavements of these populated streets already sifting with head-lowered workers and appointment-keepers and grocery buyers threading through the windy mid-morning daze of the ascending sun.

She walks to the farm where the man who found and was also kicked out from the women’s camp works shucking pigshit and horse manure from stalls, feeding chicken baling hay splitting wood. He doesn’t see her where she stands watching in the open door of the barn his swooping back as he shovels with a pitchfork in the hay. After he sees her they wordlessly ascend to the hayloft and come back down he’s buckling his pants she’s pulling straw from her hair and putting her boots back on and he goes back to work. She watches for five ten minutes then leaves, back the way she came, towards chiller climes, she is going and not looking back, only maybe once though possibly just fixing her hair, deserter, pulling at her skirt and then is one jot dissolving into that finely-drawn stripe of muddy unglowing horizon, once more, into this other night, another dawn, a midway borealis, of anesthetic calm and marooning passed the plastics factory towards town, she goes, cast off castaway.

***

Quinn Hull was born in Cleveland, OH.  He attended Kent State University and acquired an undergraduate degree in English and a Master's of Library and Information Science.  During his time as a student he travelled and helped start the short-lived publication Flyover Country Review in Kent, Ohio. He has previously been published in Kent State's literary magazine Luna Negra, the online publication Hobo Pancakes, and Aries: A Journal of Art and Literature. The writer lives in South Euclid, OH with his parents and their five cats.  He works in a library.  He is 27.

Three Poems

i. vague body

imagining myself as a sketch of a person
messy strokes around a vague outline
the details fill out when you kiss the space
between my neck and collarbone,

they fade when the woman at the grocery store
asks if “that will be all today, sir”

i’m tired of feeling broken by language
when it is the only safe place i’ve ever known;

wrapping myself up in its coat to feel secure,
digging its fingernails into my skin to feel held

surviving on the promise
some elusive cryptographic combination
could make things right

that i could articulate the things
words don’t exist for yet;
how having a body is exhausting

people assume my problem
is that i’m a woman trapped in a man’s body
when the problem is more like,
i’m trapped in a body

to become is to break yourself apart,
i remind myself each time i leave the house

it’s supposed to hurt this much

 

 

 

ii. morning body

a banana smoothie
with a crushed up estrogen pill
for a healthy body & soul

the sunlight lingers on my skin,
i swell and expand,
fresh emergent sapling - (i can become)
something beautiful (or
maybe I already am)

but when will i burst;
i wonder

o goddess,
please let me
stay in the light

o goddess,
please carve warmth
into my transient shape

 

 

 

iii. survival body

fresh bones like a makeshift sanctuary
built on the precipice of a bottomless pit

you breathe in and out, trigger
minor earthquakes on someone else’s
disputed territory

the red rock falls from the red rock face,
vestigial memories clung tight to a cliff wall
slow-motion nosedive into whatever oblivion
sits below

years later,
you make a home from what’s left
of those disaster relics; holding tight
to the things that make you whole

 

 

 

Allison Gallagher is a writer and poet based in Sydney, Australia. Their work has appeared on i-D, Overland, Scum Mag and Moonsick, among others. They tweet at @allisongallaghr.