Potluck

 

T H I S    W E E K

The Theorist by Bo Fisher

 

The Trees

 

 

            ‘You think that it will never happen to you,’ said the television, ‘but it may well. Divorce affects up to 70% of couples and your marriage could be next.’

            I span on my heel and pointed at the television.

            ‘Never!’ I said. ‘Did you hear that Honey-Bea? 70% divorce rate!’

            Beatrice couldn’t hear me. She was looking for Jason’s lunchbox.

            I sat down on the balding sofa.

            ‘With our new formula of sheen-tastic dye FOR MEN you can at keep yourself looking good.’

            A disembodied spinning head, covered in glossy chestnut hair appeared.

            ‘Uh-huh,’ I said.

            ‘Bye,’ shouted my wife from somewhere near the backdoor.

            ‘Goodbye Honey-Bea,’ I replied, my eyes fixed on the spinning head.

 

I asked Miranda what she thought about marriage in the cafeteria. We were eating white macaroni cheese. Miranda had some herbal tea that smelt like synthetic peaches.

            Miranda’s lips are so fat that the bottom one actually droops down a little. I’ve asked myself before; is that lip about to fall off of her face? I looked at her blouse, which was made from some kind of incredibly light material. It was blue. The peaches were making my eyes heavy.

            ‘You should try it some time,’ I said, drowsily.

            ‘Yeah, okay Richard, I’ll just try marriage,’ she said, laughing, ‘what, do I have lipstick on my teeth or something?’

            ‘No,’ I said and I blinked.

            ‘Your marriage in trouble, Rich?’

 

            There is a company in Milton Keynes called Trees for Love. This company take the two of your initials, for example, in our case, R.Y and B.Y and make a professional mould type thing, which they then stamp into a tree. It’s supposed to imitate the kind of thing you would do as a teenager, with your sweetheart on a summer evening, maybe after a dance or something.

            When Trees for Love have stamped the tree they take a photo and send it right to your home address and if you ever happen to be in the area you can even go and check it out and it will most probably still be there, (assuming there haven't been any property developments on the location).

            For our tenth wedding anniversary, I made an order and as luck would have it, the picture arrived on the morning Bea’s family turned up, her parents and brothers with their kids and a huge gift and all that. Tony and I knuckle punched like we do and then I got him a beer and Bea put all the juice and the sandwiches and everything on the table and took one of the kids upstairs to the toilet and then came back down smiling with the kid on her hip. Bea had a bit of toilet paper stuck to the back of her skirt, so I went to pick it off, but she swerved my hand and walked away to put the kid in front of the television, with the paper still stuck there.

            I've always kind of wanted to impress Tony, being that he knows a lot about sport and wrestling and that he is my wife’s father and I could see that he was made-up when she unwrapped the picture, which Trees for Love had framed with a really nice pearly border. Bea was staring at it for ages while everyone crowded round to see and I guessed that she didn't want to look up ‘cause there were tears in her eyes. So I took a couple of minutes to explain to Tony about what a great idea Trees for Love is and all that but then Beatrice looked at me coldly and asked me why I hadn't just carved the inscription onto the oak at the bottom of the garden myself.

            I spluttered a little and waited for Bea to laugh but she didn’t, she just kept on staring at me and I looked at Tony and said, “But...” and Tony just shrugged.

 

My wife was wearing a sarong when she told me that she wanted to join a pottery class.

            I said, ‘okay now, what’s going on Honey-Bea? Is something wrong?’

            She just shouted, ‘NO!’ and I went to work.

 

In the summer I drove from our home in Kent to Milton Keynes.

            I took a break at a service station on the way, to get coffee mainly and then to smoke three cigarettes when I didn’t really feel like driving off again.

            A man in a cowboy hat stopped to use the cash machine next to where I stood, blowing smoke at the sky. He looked at me and I smiled but after that he kept on looking at me and I couldn’t think of anything to say until I said, ‘Howdy,’ and wished I hadn’t. The cowboy observed me calmly and my heart beat very hard, once.

            ‘Howdy,’ he said, smiling.

            The cowboy’s voice was buried in a thick German accent and his face was free of lines, almost absurdly expressionless. He waited for me to say something else but I just looked back at him.

            ‘Did you need something?’ he said.

            ‘Yes,’ I said, surprising myself, what did I need? ‘I mean,’ I panicked, ‘do you have a lighter?’

            ‘Ya, I have a match,’ he said.

            ‘You just getting some cash out?’ I asked, stupidly while he looked for the matches in his jeans.

            “Ya. Family holiday,” he said, handing me a fold of matches from somewhere called Hotel Amour, and pointing across the pumps to where a Landrover rocked with the motion of children bouncing in the backseat. The German cowboy’s blonde wife was leaning on the steering wheel, her face to the children, fingers splayed out in animation, just like stars. The back door was slightly open and the lean foot of a teenage girl was cooling on the step. She was probably letting some of the noise out of the car, like you would let air out of a balloon.

            I looked back at the man with the cowboy hat while he punched in his pin. He pulled a thick wedge of notes out of the cash machine and turned to me, ‘Something else?’ he said.

            ‘What do you think about marriage?’ I asked quickly, looking at the black spot where I was grinding my match into the side of the service station.  

            The German cowboy shrugged.

            ‘Don’t worry about it, friend,’ he said.

            He clapped his hand onto my shoulder twice and then walked away.

 

I didn’t reach the Trees for Love plot until 8pm that evening but because it was the height of summer the sun still hadn’t given out to blackness.

            The trees were neatly initialed, each one roughly the same height and certainly the same kind (were they elm trees?) Each way I looked the neat lines disappeared to a point where I knew more trees stood. The sun went down while I fumbled my way down through the army of trees, pulling shadows out behind me. I couldn’t find a logic to the way the trees were marked; the initials would jump from A.A, B.A, A.A, B.C to W.I., L.I. I thought about the oak tree that was probably still standing in our old back garden and the pen-knife that I always kept in my desk in case any manly tasks needed doing, tasks that required a pen-knife.

            It was dark by the time I found our tree, R.Y, B.Y. The bark felt smooth like the granite on an expensive grave. The letters were printed perfectly and I stared at them for a long time, hoping they would tell me something in the symmetry of their curves, the smooth loops and lines. I’ll tell Beatrice, I thought, I’ll tell her that I could never have made the letters so neat with my penknife. But after that, the letters said nothing to me, they were just letters printed on a tree.

            I finished my cigarette and ran my hand through my glossy brown hair. The stars were twinkling at me calmly and a plane flew over the plot and over Milton Keynes and over, over, over, on and on. I stretched out my arms as far as I could, touching two trees, four strangers, and I closed my eyes to the sky.

            ‘What do you think about marriage?’ I said to the darkness.  

Four Poems

 

my boy back home doesn’t call it beautiful,
doesn’t say anything at all
hands like stone things I have forgotten like
grief in the snow his body
in my mind not a body still
how much will you ask me to hold
how much will I hold without you asking

 

 

 

 

 

i just want to quit looking at your horoscope before i look at mine
 

my mom keeps telling me i’m going to go bald before i turn 30
i keep pulling at my hair anyway

i’m thinking about shaving it all off
i mean it this time at least

that’s what i’ve been telling people, drunk at house parties
in a place you’ll never see

what you would think if i became a new self
can i become a new self

i wait til i think you’re asleep to text you
so i don’t have to feel so bad when you don’t text back

 

 

 

 

 

let’s pretend that every night is new year's eve        like
we finally  realize          the inescapability
of spring     so fuck it      let’s celebrate        let’s paint the moon
with glue       throw glitter at it        let it rain down all around
like some new bright thing         we can’t escape       

let’s kiss

with some desperation           like we still only know how
to fight

 

 

 

 

 

we don’t see the same weather patterns anymore
 

i still have your address saved
in my weather app

and i like to check your weather
when i’m checking mine

and usually when i’m sad
which happens a lot now

the last night i saw you it was flooding
but i didn’t tell you to drive safe 

after you left, i left. followed the lightning
to another place. the lightning is angry here

i would do it over
i would tell you to be careful this time

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Brown is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama, with work recently published or forthcoming from Skydeer Helpking, Alien Mouth, and Little River. They can usually be found on Twitter @notalake, or on Tumblr at notamountain.tumblr.com.

 

Meremac

The tables outside the restaurant were set up in a zigzag pattern, like huge footprints along the sidewalk, and they were all empty, all except for one.  A man and a woman sat across from one another reading their menus, and a frail, slender dog with wispy hair lay at their feet.

“Calamari sounds good,” said the man.

“Calamari always sounds good to you,” replied the woman.

“Well, what do you want?”

“For an appetizer?  Let’s get the tuna roll.”

The man looked up from his menu.  “Sushi?  At a… what is this place?”

“Italian.”

“At an Italian restaurant?”

“You never know,” said the woman.  “It could be delicious.”

“I’d rather get the calamari,” he said, and reached down to scratch the dog’s neck behind its thin, floppy ears.

“Your call,” she said, closing her menu.  “I’m having the lemon orzo and the chicken caesar salad.”

At that moment a car screeched to a halt in the street, thirty or forty feet away from the couple’s table.  It was bright out, mid-afternoon, and the man and woman both had to shield their eyes from the sun to see why the car had stopped so abruptly.  An old lady stood slightly hunched in the middle of the right lane, one hand on top of her white hair while the other hand pointed up at the clear blue sky.

The driver of the car, who’d been blaring the car horn for a good ten seconds, released the horn and yelled out the window, “What’s your problem, lady?”

She didn’t move, just kept holding the top of her head and pointing up at the sky.

The driver opened the car door and stepped out to see what the old lady, and now also the man and woman at the table, were staring at.  Way up in the sky, a commercial airplane was climbing straight up into space on a path perpendicular to the surface of the earth.  The plane’s engine was functioning at maximum capacity or close to it, as the vapor trail billowed out beneath it and made a stripe like meshed cotton balls.  The plane gradually grew smaller, a silver cross with tired arms, until only the vapor trail remained, and the man and woman escorted the elderly woman out of traffic and over to their side of the street.

“Oh, my goodness gracious,” the old lady said, fanning herself with her hand.  “What in the world…”

“I’ve never seen that before,” said the man.  “Strangest thing.”

“That plane took off like a space shuttle,” said the woman, squinting up at the now hazy vapor trail.

“What in the world…” the old lady repeated.

“They’re charting flights to the moon now, I suppose,” said the man.  “Call United, honey.  Let’s spend next summer at the Sea of Tranquility.”

“Oh, my goodness gracious,” said the old lady.

“What would we do with Rudolph?” asked the woman.  The dog’s left ear twitched under the table.

“Leave him with your sister,” said the man, “like we did last Christmas.”

“What in the world?”

Robert Lampros is a writer of poetry and fiction who lives in St. Louis, Missouri.  His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, Illuminating Sidewalks, and Eleven Floors, Part I.

Three Poems


Each Other
 

Icy weather – out breed the fuzzy bodies
pumping each other’s heat, guzzling contact,
furious and frost in the ground.

Summer – a mother pants her windows open,
wasps and hay in the June air,
bull heat gumming the casements

and her children running away.
The hottest months run us away from each other,
field steeped, blossom hugging, blankets off.

December stamps us close in village squares,
buttoned, cheeks ringing like clock towers,
pub cornered, breathing each other’s red faces.

Bickering under the gold solstice, the confusion
of wine, excessive space, burnt ears on lawns,
the tyranny of giddiness and communal time. 

The mother cannot see her children
from the window, flown, everywhere white sun. 
Something dies for autumn

and the end of light. 
Husbands and wives, forced and human,
held into each other by the year’s cold drop,
planted unions in our snow at night.

 

 

 

 

 

Distinctions
 

between the waking
and sleeping parts
of the damn day.

Get up, morning
prince, your kingdom|
not yet yours, five

Magpies, no milk
caps or treasure
stolen or raised

from birth’s deep home,
10am says
‘This is rising’ –

savannah, brood,
cathedral, up
in the air, there’s

hope when dawn does
its thing best, when
you can see it.

 

 

 

 

 

The First Walks
 

Home and very abroad, went king dreaming,
                 crowns sitting deep in the English soil, 
                 grass stubbornly up; frostless, it all waves
as one green orchestra, but the shining

single blade, oh yes! Field heavy days, 
                 brass clots held to the scaffold of trees, 
                 Autumn has it! Still plenty to say of
old leaves, the dead fire of neural pathways. 

                 A season where you burn things off.

 

 

 

 

Rob Yates has recently returned to the UK after 2 years abroad, moving and living in Indonesia and New Zealand. He has work forthcoming in Agenda and has had poems appear in various online magazines. 

Ditch Business

The man lied in the ditch. It was an uneven ditch. I was lying in there too as it rained. The hour was ungodly and so was the cold. My ears were ringing from the rattling and crashing and screams. But there was nothing to do besides lie there and wait and hope or whatever coping mechanism came natural. 

The man did not just hope. The man prayed. The whole time in the ditch he was crouched and praying. I must've heard Jesus a hundred thousand times. I clasped his shoulder and the praying paused. 

“What's so special about this Jesus?” I asked. 

“He is our savior. He is the way, the light, the shepherd.” 

“He's saved you before?”

“Oh yes. Many times before.” 

“He will save you now?”

“Yes. Even in death he will save us.” 

“Oh,” I said and he seemed to calm down. 

Then one came close. A little too close and he let loose again. This time with more urgency. He started crying and begging. He wanted to see his wife and his children and his mother and his father, back in New Jersey, huddled up beside a fire. He was shivering and the smell of urine wafted up into my face. 

I thought about all this praying business. Even in the ditch I hadn't gotten the urge. But then again I had never needed to be saved before. This man beside me must've lied in many a ditch. This was my first ditch. Maybe I should pray, I thought. But then I thought, I don't want to make this my business–lying in ditches. So I didn't pray. I just lied there and waited. Soon I realized it was quiet. I turned over to the man to check on him. His face was blown to bits. 

***

Sometime later I remembered the ditch. It was when I was walking to a subway stop and passed a group of pamphleteers along the way. One of them said, “Jesus saves.”

I walked by, thinking, I'm not so sure about that. 

Then I wondered why Jesus blew the man's face off when he asked him to keep him alive and why, when I didn't ask a damn thing, I ended up walking away unscathed. Maybe Jesus kept me alive to tell this story. Another of the pamphleteers said The Lord works in mysterious ways. That one, I nodded an amen. 

 

Kelly Kusumoto has been featured on the Story Shack, Bougainvillea Road Lit Mag, Linguistic Erosion, Speed and a few other literary sites. He is also editor of Cicatrix Publishing and is currently writing for an independent video game studio.

Pie Charts

 

"The odds are against us,” Randall says. “The way I figure it, a town our size is allowed one famous writer, two professional hockey players, and one disgraced politician…and we’ve already had all of those.”

He pours me a glass of home-brewed stout that he says has been aging for the past year in fine Kentucky whiskey barrels. “It’s got civet beans in it. You know those monkeys in Bali that digest coffee?”

I sniff at the black sludge, but don’t say much. I’m a writer, so I listen instead—listen and drink beer. Randall’s always trying strange things with the beer. He used to mix in maple syrup or the tips of spruce trees, while lately it’s been coffee beans chewed by monkeys and coffee beans chewed by koalas and coffee beans chewed by cocker spaniels; he even smoked one beer in his uncle’s shack while the carcass of a deer hung nearby.

Every Friday evening I show him my writing and he makes me try his new recipes. What had started as band practice ten years ago when we were still in high school had devolved into this weekly ritual of small town loathing. When we realized we’d never be The Ramones, Randall gave up drums, I gave up singing, and now every Friday evening after a few beverages I listen as Randall whines and moans about the lack of opportunities this place presents. He even has a chart.

“You see this? There are eight thousand people in our town and we’ve already produced one famous writer. I mean, statistically speaking, there’s no way another writer with any degree of notability can come out of here for at least another hundred years.”

I remind him that the local museum is full of books by hometown writers. Life on the Farm: Adventures of a Mennonite by Anna R. Berg. From Molotchna to Manitoba: The Lord Leads by Cornelius B. Friesen. Our town has plenty of published writers, I tell him.

“None of those count,” he says. “Self-published hackneyed pseudo-religious autobiographies that come prepackaged with cottage cheese at the Mennonite Village bookstore? Come on, let’s face it. We’ve only produced one writer of any worth and she lives in Toronto now. That’s where you should go if you want to make it as a novelist. That’s where I want to go; loads of beer lovers there.”

I tell him leaving for the city is about the biggest Mennonite cliché you can imagine. It’s about damn time all the rebel Mennos stayed in the small towns and wrote their trashy novels and made their craft beer and played in their punk bands and lived with their same-sex partners. The exodus to the city is so twentieth century, I tell him.

He uncorks—yes, uncorks—another bottle of beer. “Beer to me is so much more sophisticated than wine. Such a wide range of flavours. The people around here will never catch on to that. They’ll spit it out, say it’s too bitter, or too sour, or too dark. Half the old Mennos around here are teetotallers and the rest like their beer watered-down. They like their books that way, too.”

Sometimes I wonder why I still hang out with the guy. Heck, the one advantage of moving to Toronto would be the chance to make new friends. I wouldn't have to spend every Friday evening in Randall Dueck’s garage crammed up next to dirty plastic buckets and damp bags of barley. The place smells like a barn. It’s about the most Mennonite place I can imagine.

When I tell him this, he shoots up to his feet. “This, my friend, is the least Mennonite place in town.” I’m half expecting him to haul out a pie chart showing precisely how “Mennonite” or “non-Mennonite” a place is. “My garage is a beacon of civilization in a city stuck in the 1870s.”

A city? Did he just call this little hick town, a “city”? It is true, though—well almost. In a couple years, when our town passes ten thousand people, we get to call it a city—according to a Manitoba government technicality.

Now I stand up. He’s leering over me and shouting and I guess I’d prefer to be at eye level rather than looking him straight in the groin. Once on my feet I glance around the garage. I point out the aroma, the buckets, the pair of rubber boots in the corner, and tell Randall that, in every possible way, his house and attached garage is just like one of the Mennonite house-barns at the museum. This place is all Menno, I tell him, nothing hip or sophisticated about it.

He’s pretty sensitive about all that, wants to think of himself as the town’s Jay Gatsby or something…if Jay Gatsby wore Velvet Underground t-shirts and sported a Hitler Youth haircut. I can tell I’ve got to him because he immediately hauls out his notepad and begins madly jotting down lists and making bar graphs.

“Look,” he says. Actually, he says it three times, “look, look, look,” as he writes down the names of every famous or semi-famous person this town has ever produced, at least according to Wikipedia. Benjamin Reimer—leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Manitoba. Leonard Froese—played seventeen games for the Vancouver Canucks in 1983. Amanda Thiessen—wrote a best-selling novel about the town, essentially an autobiography with changed names. Henry Klassen—Minister of Finance, knocked up a twenty-year-old intern. According to his calculations, a town our size can produce precisely 1.3 notable people every ten years. This means I have no chance of becoming a writer. It means he has no chance of starting a successful brewery. Even his cousin Kevin has no chance of making it on Broadway.

I tell him his methods are about as reliable as a horoscope or fortune cookie and he says, “Well, facts are facts.”

I want to disagree with him, but the truth is I haven’t made it as a writer, and he hasn’t made it a brewer, so maybe his charts have some merit. Perhaps the key is to find some untapped niche, some type of notoriety this town has never produced, like an axe murderer or ballerina. How many of those have we churned out, I ask.

 “None. No axe murderers or ballerinas. No Michelin-starred chefs, either,” he says, “but that’s because the local supermarket never carries foie gras.”

Randall reaches over to the wall and taps the garage door opener. The door is loud and moves slowly, so we just sit there quietly sipping our beers and creating pie charts, mine to contradict his. We look out onto the street, which is lined with pick-up trucks and minivans.

I show him my chart, no names, no label, nothing, just the most prefect circle the bottom of a beer glass can produce. Randall wants to know what it means. It could be a chart of famous residents of Witmarsum, Netherlands or the customers Randall can expect for his civet beer. Maybe it’s the number of dates I’ve had in the last year or the contents of my credit union savings account. Whatever it means, I leave it for Randall to figure out. I wave goodbye and wander over to my pick-up truck. It’s time to go home. There’s only so much chart-making a young man can take.

The odds are against me in every way you can possibly imagine. If I believe the statistics, the great local novelist Amanda Thiessen has cursed the town—no more writers for a hundred years, maybe a thousand. The best I can hope for is they’ll turn her house into a museum some day. Maybe I can give tours and tell people that I was once a writer, too, but gave up on it all because of Ms. Thiessen’s success and a couple of pie charts.

I look back at my friend, standing there at the entrance to his house-barn. He nods, still holding a beer glass in one hand and a stack of pie charts in the other, while the garage door closes and envelops him in a world of malted barley and statistics.

Despite the odds and the pie charts, I think I’ll keep writing. Maybe I’ll branch out into non-fiction; write one of those family histories or something. From Prussia to the Present Day: A Fehr Family Journey. Or maybe I could write a novel based on my life; just change the names around a bit so Randall doesn’t get offended.

Honestly, I’m not really sure what I’ll do, but I know I’ll keep writing. And when I go back to the garage next week—if I go back next week—I think I’ll show Randall, in one precisely constructed histogram or flow chart, what I really think of his civet beer.

 

 

 

Andrew J. Bergman's work has appeared in Geez, Ballast, CBC.ca, Pictures and Portraits, and others. He is from Manitoba, Canada.

Three Poems


Burn Hazel
 

Nettles hide in high grass
You step         I run

               through nettle teeth
                  tiny needle hairs

To sing or to cry?

Twinkle stab
the soft underside

Cartoons at 10am         Feet swell
soaked in wine water

Sometimes I forget
what grade I’m in

I forget my whole life

 

 

 

 

Thud
 

the sun’s gold rays split tree heads
branches shake their redding leaf-hair
I want to be like the blackbird settling
errorless on the park’s power lines
through sirens’ neon thud a clean
lemon smell I mix up dusk
and dawn both so full
of birdcalls and day
digging me
a nice little
hole again

 

 

 

 

 

Paralysis Agitans
 

The body sends a text about how it is constant-

ly dying but T9 thinks otherwise. I’m trying to 

teach my father how to walk again. To heel-toe 

across the kitchen without tipping into rear walls 

or breaking plates. We step together, distracted

signals zone his limbs. He’s alone beyond his body.

He tries to use his phone to send a message to his legs

(move) but his bones have forgotten to read.

 

 

 

 

Ari Wolff holds a BA in visual art and poetry from The New School. She lives in Brooklyn where she teaches art and preschool.

Falling into a Hole Dug in 1969

 

On Keith Arnatt’s Self-Burial (Television Interference Project)

 

We were watching the news. It was just before 8:15pm. Dinner was long since consumed, washed up and tidied away and as the sofa attempted to ingratiate itself against my father’s discomforts, the television flickered and buzzed images of a growing war. As the evening slowly began to fall away, your image appeared: as if it might bring back the sharpness of a day already spent. I don’t know now if it came in a blink or in the fragile, semi-second of distraction or maybe I turned my head and looking back, your leporine face appeared, blurry in amongst the grains of the television screen. Perhaps it had been there for some time and I had grown accustomed to your presence without having known you were there. Nonetheless there you stood—your left leg somewhat awkwardly set forth aside your right leg. Your eyes were shadows and your hair neatly tucked, your backdrop a field. Looking at you, I thought I might have missed a whispered joke. Two seconds. That was all you gave us: two seconds and you disappeared, falling back, into the monotony of the evening news. Unexplained, unexpected and fast lost to the perfunctory trappings of a weatherman.

The next evening followed a predictable pattern. Giving ourselves over to the tedium of restful habits and passive ritual, the television was switched on at its usual time and you managed to find your way back a second time. Except you were buried deeper now. Your knees squashed into the folds of a willing sod of earth, your face carrying the self-same half smirk. And with a countenance, half way between joking and glaring, you offered a concentrated look toward the lens of a camera and came back a third, fourth, fifth and sixth time; each time, persistently there. In the seventh flicker of a photograph on screen, I laughed as I became witness to both a scene of absurdity and suffocating disappearance. All that remained was the head: obstinate and familiar. Your body was lost beneath the sodden ground an unknown field. Your torso buried, your neck peaking, given over to an earth that hadn’t perhaps quite wanted you yet.

The next night, you were a pair of eyes resolutely remaining towards the lens of the camera. In the eighth you had gone. You left behind a mound of earth and a flickering, extended concertina of images from a weeklong intervention. Perhaps you were laughing behind the grainy curtain? Each time, each night, you had dug yourself deeper. Yet you removed all satisfaction from falling at once, as each hit into the ground languorously stretched out across an evening until the time came where I expected you, perhaps even needed you, to be there. Once you had left, I closed my eyes and could see you again. Looking at you had been like deleting everything, where staring at the screen, I needed to erase all that I had ever organised or planned. A confrontation where I wanted to hurriedly pack everything away, willing it to disappear, willing it to fall into your pit of earth. As you flashed upon the screen you made me want to throw conversations into the ground and scream them away. You had made impressions on the earth in an effort to forget time – if only leaning out and falling away could be that effortless.
 

Photographs of the artist slowly descending into a hole where premiered on German Television in October 1969. A single photo was shown each day, for about two seconds, often interrupting the scheduled program at that time.

 

 

 

 

Bryony White is a writer based in London, UK. She has a Masters in Performance Studies from King’s College London. She has written for The Learned Pig, Full Stop, Funhouse, and Apollo Magazine. Bryony also currently teaches at a secondary school in South London. 

Two Poems


Brine
 

How many cups of coffee let cool
How many broken bottles left in the street
For two, three days—on my way to lunch,
I see the same green glass
Against the curb.

“Every year,” he says, 
“When I grow my beard for the winter,
I see more white.”

The only thing I do for enjoyment is sleep,
Although I do many other things
in order to sleep well.

There has to be a church for those like us,
Those who delight in the sight of the trash sifter,
We who pick at scabs and stickers
And cold wax.

A whiff of vinegar, some bite
Of salt, a holy brine
That I am gently let down into
Backwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Wink
 

There are no more political poems
There is no symmetry or density in a bomb blast
I only use the newspaper to line the birdcage
Somewhere, a star busies itself
Tucking into itself
I could watch it wink out
If I knew where to look

My lunch hour feels nothing like when
O’Hara stepped out for a sandwich
A paper and a bit of cocktail gossip
I hole away behind headphones
Avoid eye contact, try not to watch
The TVs in the subway
Factories are still tapping their cigarettes
Against the heavens
The sky says flatly “Sorry We’re Closed”
When I cough, I taste mulch,
Dead wet plants.

Every few blocks there’s another shop
Closed and gutted overnight
Rough bits of plaster and wood
Where shelves were wrenched from the walls
As if a tornado set down, spun around, and pointed;
No reason, it was just there
And it had to chew through something
Like a rat whose teeth will burst through its own mouth
Unless it constantly gnaws
On wood
On bone

 

 

 

 

Keegan Bradford is not into kids or dogs. He earned his M.A. at Liberty University and currently lives and teaches in Guangzhou, China. He has twice ghostwritten essays for friends and both times they received scores lower than if they had just written it themselves.

The Worst Hangover Ever

 

He was pretty hung over.

 

So bad that he was burping into a glass of water. He hadn’t noticed the waitress right away. She must have been new. It was wintertime. The morning after the Smart-TV Christmas Party.

 

Booger had secured the location for the station and he put together a very bad Christmas reel. The bureau chief cornered Booger at one point and asked what happened with the reel…why was it so lame? Booger was mortified and the only thing to do at that point was drink heavily. He ordered a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser and kept hitting the same number until the embarrassment gave way to stupor. He got home, smoked a bone, whacked off and went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning his mouth was full of cotton and his stomach was doing somersaults. He threw on a coat and went across the street to “My Most Terrific Dessert Company.” It was expensive but he could sit there order a soda and a croissant and feel a little better. The waitress moved across the floor like a ballerina. She was friendly too.

 

Very friendly, Booger thought.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“It’s Clara”

 

“Are you a dancer?”

 

“Why yes…how did you know?”

 

“Well, for one thing, you are standing en Pointe,” it was a trick Booger had picked up from dating dancers in the past. Like boxers they would stick their feet sideways instead of out front. Once a soldier always a soldier. Once a dancer always a dancer. He left her a $20 tip. The biggest tip in his life. He said goodbye and he bowed to her as he headed back home. Hit the can from both ends. Flushed and crashed on his bed. When he woke up it was dark outside his window.

 

Gotta love Saturdays.

 

The next day he got stoned and listened to The Doors and the Dead and made a pact with himself to forget the lame Christmas reel and focus on the future. The future to Booger, right now, was dancing across a restaurant floor across the street.

 

 

 

 

Monday morning. Booger dressed in a suit and long black coat with scarf. Walked into the restaurant and quickly sat down. He put his briefcase and another item on the chair next to him. Clara came by and quickly recognized Booger. Her delight when he said hello to her seemed genuine.

 

“Feeling better?” she asked him.

 

“Like a million bucks…you look great”

 

“Thank you…what can I get you?”

 

“Just coffee please”

 

“One coffee coming right up.”

 

Booger went into his briefcase and studied his work notes. He had an early edit scheduled with his favorite editor Drew to turn a package on a British novelty music act that had scored a hit song on MusicTV with a silly tune about shaking your little tush on the catwalk. The week was looking up and Booger asked for the check by looking up and nodding at Clara. She danced over with a smile on her face.

 

“By the way, thank you for that really generous tip the other day. No one’s ever left me a twenty dollar tip before”

 

“It was my pleasure. You helped me survive the worst hangover of my life.”

 

Clara giggled.

 

Booger laid a fiver down and then reached underneath the table. He took the single red rose and handed it to Clara.

 

“This is for you…I hope it's ok for me to give you this”

 

Clara seemed stunned and then a huge smile broke out across her delicate face. She had black hair in a cute page-boy style and she smelled like patchouli. Booger was smitten.

 

“What perfume are you wearing??? It has left me completely defenseless?”

 

Actually, Booger felt pretty strong at that moment.

 

“Its patchouli oil…I’m glad you like it…some people can’t stand it…”

 

“I don’t think I’ll be able to think of anything else for the rest of the day”

 

“That’s very sweet”

 

“So Clara...time for the 64 million dollar question…do you have a boyfriend?”

 

“Actually, yes I do.”

 

Booger’s heart sank.

 

“But we just recently broke up…it’s kind of weird right now…and you seem pretty nice…”

 

She handed Booger her phone number on a blank green receipt. CLARA and a phone number underneath. Even her handwriting was charming. Booger took it, nodded, stuck it in his pocket and said; “Thanks, are you free for dinner tonight?”

 

“Sure…I get off of work at six…if you want to meet me here”

 

 

“I’ll see you then…”

 

He looked her in the eyes. He liked what he saw.

 

The older lady who owned the restaurant looked on. Booger grabbed his briefcase and walked out the door with the scent of patchouli oil and Clara’s angelic smile on his mind.

 

Bus, subway, office.

 

Morning meeting, edit session, shoot for News with a political expert discussing the latest oval office indiscretions, some phone calls, a bull session or two with Chick about the weekend show. And then it was time, finally, to head back to pick up Clara at the restaurant.

 

Booger was funny and charming and he took her to a romantic, cozy little French bistro a short walk away. Booger couldn’t take his eyes off her. Clara’s positive energy was electrifying. Booger sat in his chair tingling all over. After dinner they took a short walk. Booger resisted the urge to kiss her. “Don’t do it” he told himself… hold  back…let her be the one to initiate it…she already knows how much you like her…hold back...she must know you find her adorable the way you look at her and she must pick up the exquisite yearning feeling that is wracking your body like you were in high school all over again.

 

“Please let me pay for your cab.”

 

“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”

 

“I insist.”

 

It was coming. She spun around and put her hands on both sides of Booger’s face and then kissed him so beautifully on the lips that Booger was speechless.

 

They smiled at each other and then Booger went toward her for another kiss. This time, she opened her mouth and slowly, languorously, and with a total sense of presence in the moment, passionately French-kissed Booger.

 

They stood there making out for about a minute.

 

Thankfully, the cab driver saw what was going on and didn’t honk or do anything obnoxious to ruin the moment. Booger reached into his pocket peeled off another $20 and handed it through the front window to the driver.

 

“Please take very good care of this passenger and please get her home safe.”

 

Booger was the gentleman. Clara smiled and seemed to appreciate the gesture. Booger didn’t care that she was a waitress. He was a worker ant at a different factory.

She twinkled at him and thanked him for a wonderful night.

 

“I feel the same way…I’ll call you tomorrow.”

 

The next day he called and there was no return call.

The following day he walked by the restaurant and looked through the window.

He walked in.

 

“Excuse me, is Clara here this morning?”

 

“Who?”

 

“The attractive waitress with the short black hair and beautiful smile?”

 

“Oh...no…she doesn’t work here on Wednesdays…she works at this bar near Penn Station.”

 

Booger knew the place. It was an Irish bar near Smart TV. Later that day on his lunch break, Booger decided to surprise Clara at the Irish Bar. When he met her there she smiled brightly and asked him how he knew to find her there.

 

“Around these parts a mere scrap of information can mean a man’s life.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t really talk right now they are pretty strict here, and the bartender is a friend of my old boyfriend so it would be kind of awkward if he sees us talking.”

 

Booger felt relieved to hear her say “old” boyfriend.

 

“Sorry to pop in on you…I work a few blocks away and I was on my lunch hour”

 

Booger actually never had a lunch hour. He just grabbed a bite whenever his hectic schedule permitted.

 

“I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed our date the other night particularly the end of it outside the cab”

 

“I know what you mean Craig, I’ve been thinking about you all day”

 

Booger smiled.

 

Maybe after all the messed up one night stands and short lived relationships he had found a girl that would be the one. She made him feel so utterly alive...maybe he was in love…maybe it was the patchouli oil and her smile maybe it was that kiss.

 

“Thanks for visiting me...I’ve got to get back to my tables”

 

Booger smiled and nodded and walked out the door testing the sidewalk outside to make sure his legs would carry him all the way back to work. When he called her answering machine later that night, he got a strange message.

 

“Hi this is Ilene…I’m not home.”

 

What? Why did she tell me her name was Clara? And now her answering machine said:“Hi this is Ilene...I’m not home.”

 

Ilene? What the fuck was that? He didn’t leave a message. She wasn’t at work the next day. Booger started to feel desperate and confused. What did it mean? Was Clara her stage name? Why did she seem a bit uncomfortable at the Irish bar? Was she still seeing the old boyfriend…was he still seeing ILENE? It all started to make sense and it was a horrible feeling. Booger felt like he had been punched in the stomach. The perfect romance story was starting to feel like a psychological thriller with a weird and unhappy ending. When he saw her the following week he had walked by the restaurant as he had done every day until then, peeking in to see her. She waved. He was looking good. Inside he felt torn up…tortured and confused…such drama and mystery.

Booger imagined a tattooed Irish hoodlum watching his every move from across the street…like in the movies…Seamus Muldooney…ready to show this fancy boy in the suit and tie how we do things in Hell’s Kitchen when you try to steal a feller’s girl…

 

“Hey Ilene. What’s up?”

 

Clara’s face froze.

 

“I guess I should explain.”

 

Booger was heartbroken.

 

“No need to…I pretty much figured it out.”

 

“No, it’s not what you think.”

 

Booger was pretty sure it was exactly what he thought it was. She was still seeing the “old” boyfriend and she had given Booger a fake name. Booger had to appreciate the drama, mystery and imagination this girl possessed.

 

“My real name is Ilene…but I sometimes also go by Clara”

 

“Why? Are you wanted for murder in three states?”

 

Booger looked in her eyes...he saw embarrassment.

 

“Um…not really…”

 

“So, you’re still seeing your old boyfriend.”

 

“Yeah…I guess we are still…”

 

Booger felt his heart drop once again like a boulder in the ocean.

 

“But I really like you Craig…it’s just kind of messy right now.”

 

“I understand Clara…my good friends call me Shaka Zulu instead of Craig…”

 

“Really?”

 

“Actually, no they call me ‘Booger’.”

 

“Really? …that’s a funny nickname… how’d you get it?”

 

“In college…my last name is Bugowski… one day a friend called me Booger and it just kind of stuck.”

 

”…wasn’t that a character in Revenge of the Dorks, the guy who picked his nose…”

 

“Oh yeah that’s another thing ...I like to pick my nose all the time.”

 

“I don’t believe you …you’re just being silly”

 

“I guess so…so…uh…where does this leave…us?”

 

“Well, I’m working a double if you want you can pick me up after work and we can get a drink”

 

“Are you sure that’s ok?”

 

“Yeah …I’m sure”

 

She started to twinkle again.

 

“By the way do you want me to call you Clara or Irene?”

 

“Whatever you like.”

 

“Ok, I’ll think about it.”

 

He left the restaurant.

 

Bus, subway, work.

 

Asked Chick what he thought of the whole mystery and drama and Chick laughed and told him; “Looks like you picked a real winner there Romeo”

Booger didn’t feel like a winner. He felt like he had a ticket for the second place prize, a lifetime supply of, “I’m still fucking my old boyfriend, asshole, but thanks for the 20 bucks and the rose” When he picked her up they went back across the street to Booger’s bachelor pad. They made out passionately and one more time Booger felt that amazing tingle of mystery and danger mixed with patchouli oil and lies. He would leave messages on her answering machine for a week until she finally called him back.

“Sorry, I’ve been really busy…but I’d love to see you tonight…why you don’t come to my place I have a surprise for you”

It could have been a severed head on a stick or a home cooked meal, Booger had no clue, he just knew that he wanted her more than he had ever wanted a girl. All the cat and mouse had aroused and startled him.

When he got to her apartment it was a dingy walk-up.

He rang the bell half expecting to see a gun pointed at his face. What he saw was a candle lit room. Clara or Irene, whatever her name was, came out wearing a black fishnet body suit. It was sexy as hell and Booger or Craig or whatever she felt like calling him didn’t need an engraved invitation.

He savored fucking her and kissing her and smelling that patchouli oil as he fucked her from behind and marveled at her beautiful, pale, heart-shaped ass. He was stoned so he lasted a while.

He couldn’t sleep over though because he had to be at work very early the next day.

It was a “happy ending” to a rocky relationship.

When she didn’t return his calls for the next week and a half, He knew she had gone back to her other boyfriend for good.

That’s ok, Booger told himself. At least there was that one night. She had helped him recover from the worst hangover in his life and she woke him up to the fact that telling the truth is important or some such other lesson or moral. Whatever.

He would trade away all that valuable knowledge just to be able to kiss her again and again.

Some years later he would find her name and number on that old green receipt. She would pick up phone and say “Hello?” in that same sweet, melodic voice. After an awkward silence, Booger heard a baby crying in the background. He quickly hung up. Walked over to his window and looked out at New York City in the dark orange haze. He could make out homeless squatters perched on public property and a garbage truck gliding down glittery garbage stained asphalt.

 

Adam Kluger is a New York writer & artist.

 

Three Poems


Ode to Wellbutrin
 

Heat pours into this bowl
of valley, and no one points a finger. 
It makes dried fruit of the living room,
jerky of meat, empties the dog’s
water bowl. Not a scorching, 
but a burning off of early morning
fog. This is hard to explain.

What is love if not something
you can count on, something
that has always been there?
White pills and brown pills
that siphon light for the kiss
of white noise. A hymnal of radio
static. A storm softly breaking.
This is almost a feeling.

When I am with you, time
splays out like a flat gray circle.
Something like a headache
that never takes form. 
My sweet, my succubus, 
if we were to point a finger, 
where would we point?

 

 

 

 

 

God with a Small Face
 

I imagine God is like me, when it’s too cold to move
from the boy’s bed to the bathroom, and I get to thinking
about how many people that really love me, know me. 
I imagine God prefers anyone to Ginsberg. Has a best friend
out of town. Can’t find car keys, too wasted last night. 
Averts the swarm of eyes on the first bus home. Understands
no one is looking, no noun is permanent, nothing is all there is. 
My God likes film, hates dark theaters. Heightened awareness
promotes anxiety. The world at small feeling large. A desert
weighted on the shoulders of every passerby, and God, always
last to leave bed. I imagine God at the bus stop wearing shorts, 
having underestimated the cold. She pulls her socks up
for warmth and feels embarrassed about who knows what. 
Oh well, God says, Some days this, other days that.

 

 

 

 

 

Blesséd
         after Sam Sax
 

Blesséd  is  the  synonym  &  the  man who said  it  first  &  blesséd is
the prose poem  &  the  flagrant  plagiarist.  Blesséd  is  the  vessel & 
the  buoyancy  of  blood  &  blesséd  is  the light  that leaves the eye
an  aqueduct.   Blesséd  is  the  meter  maid  &  political  correctness
&  blesséd  is  the  seventh  day  &  those that  it’s  afflicted.  Blesséd
are   the   mournings    &     blesséd   is   this   ground    &     blesséd   is
Trayvon  Martin,   forever   seventeen.   Blesséd   is America/    land
that I love
/  stand beside her/  & guide her  /through the  white-fanged
night/  godless & guilty & hungry for more.

 

 

 

 

 

Robin Estrin doesn't have much to say, and would rather not. She is a student of literature, creative writing, and politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has work forthcoming in Miramar Poetry Journal. She tweets occasionally @robzmobz

 

 

Area Man's Death

The author hopes to write a book of "found obituaries." And this would be the first entry.

***

Jon MacRandall, 56, passed away this Labor Day weekend, leaving behind a wife, Cheryl, 54, and twin daughters, Rachel and Amber, 27.

MacRandall was traveling north on the lengthy stretch of US 29 between Greensboro and Danville on Saturday when he began to feel an intense thirst, possibly a side effect of a popular blue-pilled medication he was prescribed in preparation for his 25th wedding anniversary. He set his Hyundai Elantra on cruise control, stood, and reached back to the chest of light beer he was bringing for the occasion. Finding one, he returned to the wheel and began to imbibe the small can—a firm faux pas that we even regret being forced to write into this account of Jon's precious, final moments. The alcohol impaired his vision and general motor skills at a time when his trek into the Blue Ridge Mountains became treacherous.

This would have been fine, however, (MacRandall's ability to drive proficiently under the influence being a talent known to several of our surrounding counties) if not for the interference of an amateur skydiving instructor. Anna Stygil, 26, was on a routine dive when her chute delayed in opening, sending her miles off course and squarely onto that very same stretch of US 29 that MacRandall was traveling. Stygil passed through the open passenger side window of MacRandall's Elantra and continued on through the open driver side window, leaving not a single scratch on the interior. The chute, though, did turn the steering wheel just enough to run the silver coupe off the road. Stygil's recounting:

"I mean, really, he would've been fine," said the teary eyed young instructor, "if it wasn't for those gosh darn wildcats on the side of the highway. These public zoos just have no standards. They'll let pretty much anyone transport the animals to and from the zoo.”

“So when Dale Johnson (38, unconfirmed) put 'em in the back of his F-250, we were all a little wary. But after he let 'em out and said ‘[screw] it’, the wildcats had free rein on the highway shoulder. When that poor man ran off the road and crashed into the pack, the mama got real angry. Pretty much over from there."

Pretty much over, yes, but not over yet. MacRandall, a renowned recorder player, turned to his plastic instrument (one that gathered him much scorn from fellow townspeople) to soothe the mother wildcat. And soothe her he did. The mother wildcat, which MacRandall named "Linda" shortly before his passing, laid with him next to the cold, sweet bodies of her young as they both wept (unconfirmed) at the loss of such beautiful life. Consumed with such mourning, the two had little time to notice a large, eastern-looking man, clothed only in white robes, approaching.

"Probably God, yeah. Or Jesus. I don't know." Stygil recounts, pausing to recompose herself. "Beautiful, though. And straight up."

Straight up. An intriguing fact to mention. Unless, of course, you've read the biblical account of Enoch: a classic tale in which God takes Enoch, a faithful man, directly up to the heavens in lieu of the man’s death. According to Stygil, MacRandall's experience was "not like that at all. That man screamed all the way past the clouds. Even tried to hold on to that poor mama wildcat's tale. Too bad he was a real butter fingers." Here, Stygil wiggled her fingers. "Just got taken up somewhere, I guess.”

But where could that “somewhere” be? Well, in a strange display of cosmic irony, or the cosmos’s cold, dead apathy, MacRandall ended up in the plush green grass of his own front yard at the exact moment that the local USPS driver was making his final stop at the family's home: 776 Joyce Street.

"He just looked at me, his mouth all drooling, and said 'angel? i just wanted to get laid.' and that was it." MacRandall died at his home from an apparent heart attack due to a medication he was taking.

***

C.T. McGaha is a writer from Charlotte, NC, whose work has appeared in Word Riot, Potluck, 90s Meg Ryan, and others. His hobbies include: lying to customers. He has HBO so Curb Your Enthusiasm & Chill is always an option. Please don't repeat that. 

The Writer and the Prostitute

Our town had one star prostitute who was truly a hard working girl. She took no holidays and always stood on the corner of the bar most favorited by our construction workers. She could take seven, eight men a night and still show up on the corner the next evening wearing her widest smile. And her smile was very wide. It was rumored that she worked every night, did everyone and everything, happily so. However, mothers and wives hated her and would often sue her for home wrecking. Children of unfaithful fathers, as well as their friends, would throw bricks at her windows or steal things from her house on a daily basis. Thus, she was always in debt.

One night, a local teenager finally threw a Molotov cocktail at her living room slash kitchen and her house burned down while she was at work. When she came back to the ashes of her house, she calculated that she will be homeless forever and crawled into her vagina for cover, head and arms and all. With most of her torso coiled into herself, she walked around on her naked legs, stomach curved unnaturally, her body forming a P.

The night of the fire, she had been with the town’s famous writer, who, despite his success in the literary scene, had long been deemed unrespectable. He was a drinker of all, smoker of all, swore like a sailor, was generally inhospitable to adults and kids alike, and when he showed up at his mother’s funeral with a notebook and a pen and sat there scribbling through the whole ceremony, it was generally agreed that he had no heart.

Nevertheless, after the fire, he took the prostitute into his home, from which she continued to come to work. She could be seen, a peach-hued capital P, standing all the more provocatively at her corner at night. Mothers and wives, previously filled with a communal hatred for her, now sometimes visited her and tried to talk to her through her womb, offering condolences, apologies, warnings about the writer, and so on. The prostitute never showed any sign of reaction whatsoever, but would only wrap one of her legs around one of the women’s, which they took as a hug and awkwardly patted. In truth, she did the same gesture to male customers when seducing them.

When a daring and lonely bachelor took the chance and the word got out that the presence of her mouth and breasts in her vagina made her ever more pleasurable, perhaps the most special experience, and many a fight occurred to take her home, the visitations of the mothers and wives stopped entirely. Hatred for the writer grew even more among the construction workers, because now the prostitute took holidays off and only accepted maybe three or four men a night. It is said that the writer himself enjoyed her services all day, for his generosity.

Apparently they were a happy couple though, because on weekends they were often sighted sitting on park benches, the writer feeding the prostitute pieces of pear or pomegranate through her vagina into her mouth, most of which sloppily juiced down her thighs and left the wooden seat quite sticky. She never ate bananas, and would spit them out as whole as she could without even taking a bite. We postulate that she thought they were penises in the darkness, and some confirm this, but we can never be sure. I certainly have no clue.

The womb kept this going for a while, then, on the ninth month, spat her out prematurely at twelve contractions per hour. As soon as she was delivered, the writer kicked her out and moved to another state, and the house was occupied by a new family the very next day. Some who were there to witness this say that she walked through the seedy neighborhood naked, her bare feet slapping onto the cracked asphalt, leaving red footmarks and her hair dripping constantly. Presumably, no one raped her because of all the blood.

She continued to work with her wide smile, but the number of customers decreased significantly upon her return to a regular woman, to less than even before the fire. Other prostitutes had taken up many of her customers, and since she still had no home, it was difficult for her to keep herself clean. By the third week of sleeping on benches, she finally crawled back into her vagina, which managed to earn her just as much money as she used to.

A few months later, a detailed but largely dramatized account of this story was found in the writer’s new book, Pregnant with Me-ning, which was received with much praise in various literary magazines and granted our town much tourist revenues. The prostitute regained her stardom and earned and received enough money to buy herself the writer's previous house, driving the new family out of town. Although she had a home now, after her second delivery, she again crawled into her vagina and continues to do so every ten months. She can presently be seen at her corner by the same bar, where she reports to duty every evening as a dashing capital P. She is due next Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 


Soeun Seo is a poet, a fiction writer, a freelance translator and a lost soul in Seoul, though she has been lost in other places before. With the poet Jake Levine, she has translated the Korean poet Kim Yi-deum and she translates the Korean cartoon artist Peong’s comics. Her poetry has been published at Potluck Magazine and is forthcoming at Witch Craft Magazine.
 

Three Poems

 

Pneumatized
 

       uncrack
       my bird
         bones;
          watch
       my yolk
         miscar
        -ry mar
       -owless.
         Be hel
       -ium; la
    -tex; pop
  -ping heat
         of sun.

 

 

 

 

 

Near Her
 

The smoky bar between an Office Building and a Sex Toy Shop:
where you couldn’t smoke cigarettes; couldn’t
drink beer;
brewing hushed phrases over grainy laughter:

Confess then:

Because sinners
make better poets
and we can go back
to being whores
on Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

Precipitation
 

I focused on the flakes.
My depth perception,
troubled by baby ghosts:
Ash of an entire carton of 120s.

If love was our accident
it was-no-head-on-collision—
mundane inter
section: I’ve never been good
with maps. I was a glove compartment.

In me a flashlight, a flare gun
you didn’t know how to use.
Night a salt-n-pepper fight
television screen, dead cable.

No point in seeing where
we were headed. Wherever
it was we were going
to get there anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Mandee Driggers is a queer writer residing in the Twin Cities where she balances her disdain for winter with her love of community and craft beer. Her work has been published in BlazeVox, Bitchin' Kitsch, and is upcoming in CrabFat Magazine.

Expect Chaos

 

 

       A black helicopter with a skull painted on the door hovers over Quick Routes Computer Company in Yonkers.  A siren extends out of the aircraft emitting a deafening shrill.  Everyone working in the building collapses except for Jack Murphy.  Jack is taking the readings for the generator and wearing his protective ear muffs. 

     "Expect chaos," says a hooded man.   He's wearing sunglasses from the helicopter and holding a megaphone.  The helicopter ascends.  Similar helicopters fly throughout the area.

      A frigid morning gust slaps Jack Murphy in the face as he runs from a screaming mob.  "We're going to kill you!" a woman says.  The people chasing him are his co-workers, but now they are raving maniacs and he doesn't know why.  I have become a manager, start making six figures and everything goes to hell.  It figures.

      Jack clutches his cell phone as he runs from the mob.  His terrified eyes scan Professional Avenue in Yonkers for a place to hide.  He sees a large building behind a water tower. 

      A cold hand touches his neck.  "Leave me alone, I worked too hard to get this job!"  His legs push harder.  How am I getting out of this?  

      Jack's ankle twists as he turns.  The crowd behind stumbles like a basketball player who fakes left and goes right.  It gives him precious seconds he needs as the horde loses speed.

      Looking ahead, he sees a loading dock door.  He tries the door, but it's locked.  He finds a smaller door open to the left.  Jack feels a knot in his hamstring and his back tightens up.  I'm no spring chicken.  I wish I was twenty-five instead of forty-five.   He grips his chest as his heart is pounding.

      A man behind Jack seems to know what Jack is trying to do.  "You're not going to make it!" says a man.  Jack's long legs run up the stairs, reaching the door.  His momentum carries him from the door, but he pulls himself in the building.  A hand makes it through as the door shuts and he hears a shout of pain.  The bloody hand pulls back outside and he hears the pounding of several fists against the door.  He breathes hard and the screams of the mob echo in the room that he is in.  

      Jack hears a dragging noise.  His eyes widen and look into the blackness.  Where am I?  How big is this room? 

      Jack hears the noise gets closer.  "Who's out there?" 

      The pounding of fists on the door stop.  Jack's hands grope around the walls for a light switch.  He trips and lands on the floor.  He touches a hand.  He screams and recoils trying to figure out the original spot where he came in, but the gloom isn't helping.

      Jack stands up and feels the door where he came in.  He wants to open the door and run.  But, he remembers what waits for him out there.  Jack pulls at his drenched shirt and licks his lips.  I would love a cold beer.  

      Jack listens and the noise is closer.   This room is bigger than I thought.  I want this nightmare to stop.  What are you going to do about this Jack?

      He feels along the walls for a light switch.  He's careful where he walks feeling where the body was and walks over it.

      He powers up the light switch.  I hope this is the correct one.   No lights turn on, but the loading dock door begins to open.  Streaks of sunlight come into the room and he sees a man with a cut throat.  He's wearing a white shirt and black pants.  The word SECURITY is on the shirt, but the blood that is dripping down from his neck blocks it. 

      Jack looks up the hill and can see his co-workers huddled together like a football team.

      A man dressed in an Armani suit points a finger at Jack.  "We're going to get you," he says.  The mob runs at Jack and he slams the door.

      A door opens at the back and the lights turn on the loading dock.  Jack sees a white-haired man gripping a pipe with the word SECURITY on his shirt.  "Who's in here?"  He says.  His belly sticks out and from a distance and he looks like Santa Claus without the beard.

      "There is something else in this room, watch out," Jack says.

      Now, the source of the dragging is visible.  A fallen man lunges at Jack with his right hand while his left hand is pulling his body along with two broken legs.

      "I thought I killed this maniac," says the guard.   He walks behind the man on the floor and raises the pipe above his head.  A shirt button pops open from his huge gut and brings the pipe down on the man.  The skull crunches.

    "That should take care of that," the guard says.  He wipes sweat and blood off his face.  His cheeks sag on his face and his eyes fall back in his head.  "This guy tried to murder me and killed my co-worker over by the door.  He is a member of our engineers then he goes nuts.  You're not one of these lunatics, are you?"  He points the bloody pipe at Jack.

    Jack puts his hands up.  "No, I haven't lost my mind yet.  I'm Jack, by the way."

    "Oh, that is nice to hear.  My name is Frank."  

    Frank puts down the pipe.  Frank and Jack shake hands.  Jack's muscular arms tense as they shake.  Frank's flabby triceps swings back and forth like a pendulum.

    Frank sits on a crate, putting his hands on his belly.  "So Jack, do you have any idea what is going on?" 

    "Frank, I'm in the dark as much as you, but what I remember is taking the readings on the generator.  I wore my ear muffs and when I came back out of my office everybody collapsed.  A black helicopter was flying away and I heard someone from the aircraft say expect chaos.  Somehow I wasn't affected."

    "That is strange and I had a similar situation.  I was monitoring the building and looking at the cameras.  I wore my headphones and listening to music.  A couple of minutes later everybody passed out.  There was a black helicopter hovering over the building and then it took off.  I had the music on too loud, but that is the way I like it."    

    Jack rubs his hands through his blond hair trying to make sense of the situation.      "We were both wearing ear protection and nothing happened to us.  "Did you call the police?"

    "Yes, I tried several times.  I can't get through.  I keep getting a busy signal."

    Jack dials 911 and gets a busy signal.  "Impossible, you're not supposed to get a busy signal for 911!"  

    Frank rubs his chubby fingers across his face and then through his thin white hair.  "Perhaps, this is a terrorist attack. We both saw strange helicopters in the sky and now people are running around crazy."

    "Where does that stairwell, go?"

    "That goes to the roof."

    "Let's check it out and see if we can figure out what is going on."

    On a cloudless day in Yonkers, several black helicopters loom as if part of an invading force.  Jack and Frank look down and view a woman with her hands up.  A truck runs her over. A group of shrieking maniacs chases a man who tries climbing over a fence.  Before he can get his foot over the fence, they grab his leg and he slams to the ground.  They beat him to death and move on.  Several buildings are on fire and coarse smoke rises, blackening the sky.

    "Everyone has lost their mind," Jack says.  He holds the edge of the roof staring at the mayhem.

    A blonde haired woman with soot on her cheeks and a ripped blue dress approach them from below.  One of her heel breaks and she clops along with a mob close by.  

    She waves at them.  "Help me!" she says.

    Frank grabs Jack's arm.  "We have to go down and help her."

    Jack pulls away from Frank's arm.  "Hell no, if we go down there we will get ripped to shreds.  We can't chance it."

    The woman pounds on the door below them.  "You've got to help me; they are going to kill me!"  The crowd approaches the woman.

    Frank goes to the door that leads downstairs.  "I'm going to help her.  Are you coming?"

    "Save your breath, it's too late.  They have her." Jack points and they see the woman dragged away. 

     "Noooo!" she says.   The mob drags her away.  Her shoe with the cracked heel drops and lies forlorn in the street.

    Frank grabbed Jack by his shirt.  "What the hell has come over you?  We could have saved that girl."

    Jack pushes his arms up to break free of the grip and backs away.

    "If we went down to help her we could have let those crazy nuts inside with us.  Then we would be dead now too."  Jack says.

    "You have a great deal to learn.  You are all about yourself."

    Jack towers over Frank.  "I don't believe so, old man.  My father, Sean Murphy, came over from Ireland with nothing.  He finds a job as a cop in the city.   He busts his ass helping people for twenty years in the worst neighborhoods so he can get a pension at the end.  On his last day of work, he helps an old woman across the street in the projects in Harlem and gets run down by a truck.  The driver takes off and he lies in the street bleeding to death while nobody raises a finger to help him.  He dies three days later.  My mom is heartbroken.  Anytime I come over to visit her she gets upset because she says I remind her of my dad.  I'm an only child so I don't have much of a family.  I wish I could have saved my dad."

    Frank looks at the smoke-filled sky.  "I feel sorry for your dad and God bless."

    "Yeah, thanks.  I'm not entirely sure I believe in God now after everything that has happened to me and now this disaster.  That's why I'm watching out for myself and you should as well.  I'm never getting married and bringing any children into this cruel world.  I'm working out, playing the field, hitting the bars and not getting too attached to any woman.  I worked hard getting an education through high school and college in management and computers. I got the manager's job at Quick Routes which is the leading computer and router company in the world.   I like to do everything myself and be in control.  My next step is to get my boss's job, and I plan on owning this company one day."

    In the distance, a building explodes, which shakes the foundation they are standing.  Swirls of red fire rise and a cloud of ebony smog billow up.  Out of the soot and smoke, a police car streaks down the hill toward them and crashes in the front door of their building.  The drivers head and hands fly over the wheel and lie there.  On the door in large letters, Jack sees YONKERS P.D. LOYALTY AND VALOR FOR THE COMMUNITY.  The crowd sees the police car and run towards it.

    Frank grips Jack's arm and loses his balance.  "We have to go help him, Jack."

    "What are you saying?  What is wrong with you?"

    Frank grips his chest and falls to the ground.  "My heart, so much pain."  Frank's right cheek scrunched.  "You have to save him, Jack."

    Jack grabs the pipe from Franks' fingers and looks over the roof.  He sees the police car.  The specter of his father, Sean Murphy, hangs over the police car like an omen.  He remembers his dad dressed in his blue police uniform.  His dad had dirty blond hair and wore a military buzz cut.  His dad held him in the air and laughs.   His Father had a heavy Irish brogue.  "That's a fine lad," he says.

     Several hands pound on the police car.  The cop is motionless.  Jack fingers run down the stairs and goes outside.  If I can't save you, dad, maybe I can save this cop.

    A stunning brunette, wearing a blue business suit sees Jack first.  She points at him with her left hand and her pink lips sneer.  She runs at him.  Jack's fingers clutch the pipe.  His muscles clench and swing the pipe at her attractive legs.  The woman's purple nails, try to scratch his face.  Her diamond ring glints in the sunlight.  He slides like a base runner stealing second and knocks her legs.  She lands on him and scratches his forehead with her ring.  Jack pushes her off.  His eyes sting from the blood and sweat. 

    Jack grabs his forehead and tries to contain the blood.  He gets up and cracks her in the head with the pipe.  She lies motionless.  He feels a punch in his back and realizes that the others are attacking him.

    The crowd looks at each for a moment and Jack realizes that he knows all three.  Fred Sampson, his assistant manager, has his shirt torn open with specks of blood on his chest.  Fred's eyes glare and his fingers dig into his hands.  Phil and Henry, his technicians, are both wearing a contorted mask of rage.  What is becoming of these people?

A bullet whizzed by his ear.  "Sorry," the police officer says.  The cop's arms draped over the door with his gun in his hand.  Blood drops out of his nostrils.  He looks eerily like his father.  Jack sees the same blue eyes and short dirty blonde hair as his dad.  

    The enraged mob approaches Jack.  The cops aim is better and wounds Fred's leg.  Phil and Henry look at their fallen comrade and Jack hits them both in the head with the pipe.  All three men lay motionless on the ground.  

    Jack sees a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter approaching one of the black aircraft like an eagle closing in on a crow.  They open fire on the enemy helicopter; deafening machine gun fire pelts the whirlybird.  Smoke seeps out of the enemy helicopter and it starts to whirl.  It crashes into the woods and frightened deer scatter.  Army helicopters and jets are on the scene taking out the rest of the enemy helicopters.  Some of them are able to escape.

    Jack notices the people running around like psychopaths have changed.  They stopped their destruction and look around as if they have come out of a dream.  He sees them dropping sticks, knives, and bats that they have taken.  They return to their jobs, unsure why they have left.

    An Army truck rolls up to Jack and the Police Officer.  "Thanks for assisting me,"  the cop says.

    Jack helps the police officer out of the car.  "I'm Ron Dean," he says.  He shakes Jack's hand.  "I thought I was a dead man when those lunatics came at my car." 

 "You're welcome.  My father was a police officer in the city and you remind me of him."

"He must be proud of you."

Several soldiers step out of the truck and go towards them.

"Is everyone okay?"  "I'm Lieutenant Jones from the Westchester National guard."

"This police officer needs help," Jack says.  Jack has one of the cop's arms over his shoulder.  "There is also a security guard on the roof that appears to be suffering from a stroke."

The soldiers help the officer and run up to the roof to help Frank.

"Lieutenant, do you know what caused this chaos?"  Jack asks.

"We believe it was a terrorist attack.  But no one has claimed responsibility, including Al Qaeda and ISIS.  We think they used some type of ultrasonic weapon to brainwash people to carry out their bidding.  This group managed to cut off communications in this area.  But we were able to return everything to normal.  These people had no idea what they were doing and were following the commands of this secret organization."

    An ambulance arrives and the soldiers are carrying Frank on a gurney.  Jack walks over to see him wearing an oxygen mask.   "You're going to be okay."  Jack shakes his hand.  

    Frank takes off his mask.  "See, you can put others ahead of you and don't always have to act like a selfish jerk."

    Jack smiles.  "You're lucky you are in that stretcher, old man."

    Frank grabs Jack's arm.  "Why don't you go see your Mom?  It's not too late."

    "That's a good idea."  Jack turns to the police officer and sees the ghost of his father smile.

Jim Keane is a fiction writer with a BA in English from Mount Saint Mary College.  He's attended several fiction/creative classes.  He lives with his family in Westchester, New York.

 

Four Poems


Ouroboros
in response to “Still Life with Skulls and Bacon” by Richard Siken
 

I.

I cut off my head and threw it on the ground
except my head was a cobra’s
and this was a reoccurring dream I had
based on a true story
and by true story I mean
when I was seven and watched someone
cut off a cobra’s head         throw it on the ground

 

II.

If you repeat the same word
over and over and
I mean really repeat the same word
over and over
does it lose
its meaning because
I’ve said a lot of words
done a lot of words and
today is one of those words
yesterday was one of those words
what I am
feeling now         is one of those words

 

III. 

Weeds you tear out
heads you cut off and
everything thrown on the ground
has a way of finding itself back to you
has a way of finding itself         back to you

 

 

 

 

 

August
 

But some days
you will feel
your pulse
in your teeth
while making coffee,
barefoot in the kitchen
because you like
how the linoleum feels.

On such occasions
you earn your laurel
discovering meaning
in dog-eared pages of books—
this is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

a poem that’s trying to tell me something
 

but it is the  atmosphere  that  makes me lean over  and  say  ‘we
should  go  to  a  psychic.’   you agree,  but  what  i meant was ‘we
should go to  a  psychic,   not actually inside,   i just want to  take
pictures of the  neon  lights for  my  instagram.’  you  look  at  me
funny but give  me  kudos  for  being  honest.   i  went  to  a  palm
reading once and the lady said something about lifelines. what i
heard  was   my   diagnosis:  the  line  is   short,   life   is    certainly
shorter.   to be  honest  with you,  i’d be  better  off  in the dark.  i
don’t want to know.  one of the itchiest feelings  is  when  you’re
driving in the  car  at night,  somewhere new,  and you get off an
exit that goes around and around and around and suddenly you
think ‘oh right,  home is just up ahead,  almost there’  but déjà vu
is strange,  memory  is  strange,  distance  is  strange.   you  didn’t
grow  up   here   but  suddenly  the   whole  world  smells  familiar. 
nothing is new.

 

 

 

 

Onism
‘-n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that  inhabits only one place at a time’
 

Listen: I don’t know if you know this but—we are floating in space. On a sphere of metal and water. Really. Look around the room. Really, look. Where does it all begin and end? Sure, there are corners and edges but nothing has outlines. No black stencil. Not like a coloring book. What keeps us on the ground? Newton’s theory of gravity? The ‘atomic weight of love’? Probably ourselves. I think if we really wanted to float away like those vagrant satellites we could. We should. But none of us want to jump. None of us want to be lost. We are too afraid—afraid of space. Of John Cage’s music and the breadth of silence. Of the outstretched muscle of time. Of all the ‘known unknown’ terra incognita of the universe. A girl was ‘staring into space’ last night at a party and everyone waved their fingers in front of her face. There she was, floating away. Why the need for temporary fortresses? Why the need for a body at all? And we brought her back—the heroes that we were—to our beloved earth. To accessible, grounded experience. To corporeality. And then we climbed up ladders to the rooftop to look at the stars and talk about the meaning of life, which I guess is a different thing, and is okay. But here is some breaking news—‘Stars [Are] Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, Nobody Need to Worry.’ This is also okay, but they are a lot farther away than we thought. This probably upsets you. We want them to be closer, to exploit the exotic beauty of starlight. We love the stars, and all things placed beautifully in the distance. We constellate and map them. This is how we exist—we map and measure and mark up the world. All the time. So let’s map the distance. If I could hold the tiny particles of light, I’d take them and draw a meridian from me to you through our zeniths all the way to the edge of the universe.

 

*References John Koenig, Tomaž Šalamun, Hans Zimmer, John Cage, Rebecca Solnit & a 1919 New York Times article headline.

 

 

 

 

Yaz Lancaster is a student at New York University studying music and creative writing. When she isn't violin-ing or writing, she sometimes does other things.