Potluck

 

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FIVE: Short Works by Oliver Zarandi

Arm

She lost her right arm in the bomb. When asked about the explosion, how it felt, she told people it felt like somebody had thrown freezing cold water all over her body and, actually, inside her body - so cold it was hot. It wasn’t true. It was a something to fill a nothing. It was filler. Her husband tried to make light of the fact that she didn’t have an arm anymore. It looks like lasagna, he said. It looks like a penis with phimosis. She didn’t laugh but that’s not to say she didn’t think it was funny. It was, in its own way, funny. Define funny, though. Funny is tragedy plus time, said her husband, who was actually quoting Woody Allen. She said that maybe comedy is Woody Allen plus time, plus his daughter. The daughter who he went on to marry and perform coitus with, she said. But what her husband noticed the most was that the house they lived in began to change. Not all at once, but gradually, item by item. First it was the fruit bowl. The kiwis, the kumquats, the apples, the mangos, the pears, the blood oranges, they began to rot. They turned green. The bowl itself, too, began to fall apart. And then it was the staircase. The balusters were loose now, like bad teeth, and eventually the husband removed an entire baluster and swung it around like a weapon. The toaster became ill. The living room changed the colour, from a lively cream to a dull grey. The toilet lid fell off and the rim just under the seat was brown and shit-stained. The microwave began to smell of vomit. They went to see a doctor. Is there anything we can do, said the husband. The doctor sat in his chair with the fingers of each hand intertwined, his head leaning on those hands, breathing through his two nostrils to suggest he was thinking of an answer. Eventually the couple decided that they weren’t just victims to the bomb, but, in fact, victims to their own biology. They began measuring each other’s hands and feet together. She began inserting things inside herself as a way of testing herself. He began inserting his genitals into spaces that could accommodate them. They began engaging with each other and their surroundings in ways they’d never thought of before.The husband suggested that maybe the removal of the arm was a blessing in disguise. The wife said let’s remove your arm then. The husband said nothing and she said, don’t worry I’m joking, I did this for you.

 

Oliver Zarandi is the editor of FUNHOUSE. His writing has recently appeared in Hobart, The Quietus and The Alarmist. Follow him on @funhousemag or visitwww.funhousemagazine.com

Three Poems


A Little, a Very Little
 

I worry what they think
of my fingernails. When I want strangers
to stare, they don’t.
I imagined myself in a man’s
dark heather blue sweatshirt,
alone. I don’t care
what he’ll think of the empty hanger, we’ve never
met. A pile of clean blankets is an under-
world, I will admit
myself, here is the ticket. What constitutes a fine
vacation varies, depending. We each have an hour
on the train, the train has an hour with us. Coupled
by circumstance, a caught gaze leads to nothing.

 

 

 

 

Half of the Water
 

Atlantic and Grand
steeple their hands,
I mourn
in their knuckles.
According to science, grief is a system,
a pattern broken
into stages. My grief is as whole
as a mouse a snake swallows.

I love two places at once
so I study linguistics of loyalty
in a city so huge any urge can be sold
as a specialty. I can have anything here
but you, I trade you for a walk
across the Brooklyn Bridge, you
for a dollar slice, you for a MetroCard,
for a ride to Brighton Beach,
where I float in the sea, the moon’s out at noon,
up drifts a bottle filled with your last breath.

Bereft, I take the raft back
to my roof to drink
from the hose, saltwater
seizes the pipes, so I add baking soda
and polish my teeth. If my grief insists
on tailing me, I must
throw your scent from my mouth.

 

 

 

 


Home Sweet Homeostasis
 

A morning at the golden shore
driven inland to a sleepy afternoon
mimics my early years by the sea.

What happened to the wade fisher who hooked a shark on his line?
Maybe he lost a leg but caught his dinner. The best hunger
comes after a day in the sun, beer’s better too,

which reminds me I am old enough to crack a cold one
and drink it alone in the shower.

Welcome, fresh water falling from the silver faucet.
An hour ago I was a mermaid, neck-deep in sand,
I’ll send you down the drain a new shade,
frothed and whirlpooled back to the beach, a slurry of grit.

As coconut cream carves a chute through the salt on my back,
I wait for that Florida mint motel feeling,
but it’s been twenty years and my parents
are not on the other side of the wall
digging through a cooler.

I sing at the tile, sound better in ceramic, truly feel Dolly Parton’s sorrow,
Jolene, I’m beggin’ of you.
Give me the soothesound of a window AC, a pile of bleach white coins,
big Cuban sandwiches cut into thirds, a hand to rub aloe onto my shoulders.

My skin is bred to be buttered and toasted,
these tan lines are experts at architecture,
dig me a moat and I’ll take your last name I say to the brine in the air.

 

 

 

 


Trinity Tibe is the author of two chapbooks, Starting a Dynasty and Reasons I’ve Said Yes Lately.  She is a co-founder of Say Yes Electric Collective, an art community in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, that creates space for diverse artists and encourages collaboration. She is working on her MFA in Poetry at The New School, and she also loves to draw, paint, and puppeteer. 
Find her at TrinityTibe.com or on Twitter @TrinityTibe.

 

FOUR: Short Works by Oliver Zarandi

Date

Some people lose things in the war, he said. Legs, arms, eyes, ears, scalps, nipples, cocks, balls. I didn’t, he said. Was this boasting? He moved the saltshaker back and forth, but not in a way that suggested mental instability but perhaps boredom. The food arrived and he dissected the steak. I didn’t lose anything, he said. Is that right, I said. That’s right. I gained something, he said. I gained the power of the American army. I have the American army in my belt. My eyes, too. Look into my eyes, he said. I did. My eyes are made from artillery lenses from China, he said. Every night I dream that I’m in a plane, fighting clouds. He didn’t say anything else for the rest of the meal, though was it really a meal or just two people sharing a table to eat a cow at.

 

Amalgam

The great unwashed
of Baltimore
aboard coffin ships

 

Don DeLillo

Sex with him
Wasn’t sex
But a series of contests

Can your vagina
fit these
12 frankfurters in it

can your penis
fuck every hole
in the city

They said to each other 

They measured hand spans
Foot size
Height and so on 

Hours passed and
He asked again
Can your anus recite Shelley

Can your penis
dip itself in ink
and write William Styron novels 

They slept back to back
Even their spines
Were comparing each other

In sleep

THREE: Short Works by Oliver Zarandi

Talk

There was talk of poverty. There was talk of racism. There was talk about how the white appropriate the black. There was talk of bubbles, of whether there were too little or too many in the sparkling water that evening. There was talk of pregnancies, with large groups of women discussing the names of their future babies. There was talk, too, of abortions, spoken in much smaller circles, whispers in the corners of rooms, perhaps wanting to be discovered, perhaps wanting for a drama to be validated. There was talk of adultery between the men of the party, about the inner liquids of women. There was talk of the architecture of rooms, about what made a room perfect, about oblongs and rectangles, squares and pentagons, about shapes, about the physical space agreeing with the mental space of the mind. There was talk of music, of whether it was appropriate or not at an event such as this. There was talk of the war, about how it was right to do this, or how it was right to do that. There was talk of suicide, such as so and so’s friend, found hanged in a hotel room, about how it was inevitable and thank god it’s all over for him now. There was talk about the city, about Eric Orr’s Lumière light sculpture throwing light two miles into the sky from Long Beach, California, about the notions of tangible/intangible forms. There was talk of shoes, about high heels and the ankles of certain women, about the female calf versus the male calf, about back muscles in dresses, about pectorals in tuxedos, about genitalia, about the size of them, big and small, about the joy a set of genitalia can bring and, ultimately, the disappointment it brings too. There was talk about the rectilinear architecture of New York, about how restricting it was, but somebody else said no, it’s not restricting at all, depends on you, to which everybody nodded, not really knowing what was being spoken about. There was talk of life, naturally, life in the purest sense, about living, of dinners, exhibitions, sexual performance, limits, boundaries, boundaries being broken down, urinating on lovers, inserting objects into bodies, bodily transformations, laughing, smiling, enjoying the sea move. There was talk of death, of course, since ‘one doesn’t talk about life without death’ somebody else said in a limiting way, about the ways we’d like to ‘go’, maybe defenestration, maybe with a gun to the head, not to the head said a large woman, you put the gun here she said, her forefingers hooked under her top teeth and touching her palate, put the gun here and the bullet will blow your brains out of your crown, maybe being buried alive, just to try it, maybe walking into the sea hand in hand with my lover another said. There was talk of so much, but none about the main event, about why they were really here, about who they were here for and, when each person locked eyes, there was an ambiguous lubrication in each eye, maybe crying, maybe laughing, maybe the air in the room, but each person was sure that every other person didn’t know why they were there either.

Another Coming Out Story

“Howard Roarke laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff…he laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning, and the things which now lay ahead….”

These are the first lines of the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which my friend Roxanne lent me. “It’ll rock your world,” she said. She was right.

It was late summer, I was nineteen, and crashing on Roxie’s floor. I had left home, my mother’s home, for good, just that morning.  For a few weeks until fall term started up, I could stay here.  I would spend that time smoking a lot of dope, listening to a shit ton of music, and reading that huge book.  In years to come, I would learn that this particular read was practically a manifesto for elitist dicks and conservative blowhards, but on this light-filled August day of my youth, when anything seemed possible, I was captivated with its idealism.

At home, things had gone from bad to worse. My mom and I had fought the entire time since I had returned from freshman year. My mom didn’t like my hair, which was spiked up with some goo called Tenax. She didn’t like that my left ear was pierced (one night in the girls’ dorm after bong hits and grain alcohol shots, Tiffany Winters pulled an ice cube out of her drink, rubbed my ear for two seconds, then took off one of her studs and jammed it into my ear with an audible pop and a gush of blood. “You’re not a virgin any more!” she cackled, and we both laughed until we passed out). I also took to wearing eyeliner, which really pissed my mother off, so to bust balls, I did it all the more. I pointed out to her that David Bowie, Boy George, Billie Idol, Morrissey, Adam Ant, Prince; everybody wore make up now. It was the 80’s, gag me with a spoon already. She rolled her eyes and muttered something about “Nancy boys.”  I pretended not to hear her.

My mother could not abide these changes in me, but worst of all, her little boy had come home from the big, dirty city, undeniably queer. I had experimented with sex before, starting in grade school, but it was cautious, furtive, drunken basement fumbling and the occasional blowjob. In Boston, I pursued men with the diligence of a second major, and discovered much to my surprise that I excelled at it. I was on an all-out manhunt, and the world was wide open. There was no going back into the basement, not for this guy.

Back in Rhode Island, I had picked up with my high school buddy Anthony, a fellow my mother disliked intensely. If I was gay, this boy was a mega super 100 watt QUEEN.  He was the kind of kid who wore velour short shorts to the prom, which he attended with Louise Jones, the captain of the girls’ field hockey team. She wore a nice tux.  Nothing ever happened between Anthony and I, but we had a kindred bond, thinking at the time we were probably the only two gay men in that little pissant burrow just outside of Providence. He’d pick me up in his mother’s tan Caprice and we’d head out to the beach at Scarborough where we’d sit around on the warm sand getting stoned, singing our hearts out to the radio, songs by Patti Labelle and Tina Turner and Laura Brannigan. We laughed a lot about nothing.  It was all pretty innocent. We were more like girlfriends than boyfriends.

Anthony actually helped me with what we dubbed the “transformation”. I had always carried a bit of baby fat, but after that first year in college and many midnight munchie runs to Store 24, I had packed on the usual freshman 15, and then some. “Men don’t make passes at guys with fat asses,” Anthony said, sagely. He put me on a strict diet of tuna fish, iced tea, Dexatrim, and More menthol cigarettes, which by the way totally works. Within a month, I had lost 12 pounds. I was tanned and happy, if maybe just a tad jumpy.

One night after Anthony dropped me off, I walked in the back door, sunburnt and whistling a Cyndi Lauper tune. My mother was at the kitchen table, arms folded against her ample bosom. “You missed dinner,” she said.

It was 5:45. The kitchen had been restored to its usual immaculate state of gleaming whiteness.

“I’ll just have tuna,” I said

“Like hell you will. I just cleaned up and I am not going to have my house wreaking of oily fish.” She lit another Winston and blew smoke in my general direction.

I shrugged. I was too buzzed on homegrown and diet pills to argue.

“I don’t like you hanging out with that Anthony person.” She said his name like it was battery acid burning the back of her throat.

Again, I shrugged.

“People say all kinds of things about him”

“What people?”
“People people.”

“What are they saying?”

“You know. He’s a homo.”

There. The word was out. This was the moment we had danced around since I came home. The clock over the stove was ticking, the cat was sleeping in the corner, the smoke from her cigarette curled around between us.  Through the haze we stood there eye to eye.

“So am I,” I said. “I’m a homo. And I like it.” I walked out of the room. It felt amazing.

She started slamming every cabinet and drawer, she scrubbed the clean kitchen sink and wiped down the counters again, the whole time cursing and carrying on, all of which I found too funny. When she was done with her white tornado cleaning rampage, she came into my room, without knocking, hands on hips and cigarette in lips like some suburban summer stock Bette Davis. “I want you out of my house!” she said.

Now I knew she was bluffing, I’d seen enough of her dramatics over the years. She’d slam and swoop and holler and scream and say terrible things, and always the next day it would be like nothing ever happened. What she didn’t know was that my bag was already packed, waiting for this showdown. I had written to my buddy Sheila who was back home on Long Island, about how the summer was going, and she had written to our friend Roxanne, who had snagged an apartment off campus on Gainsboro Street, and Roxanne had written her that I had a place to stay if I needed one. I figured I could get a job, do work-study, take out loans or drop out of school if I had to, I’d figure out a way to take care of myself. So the next morning, when Mommy Dearest drove off to work in a huff, I wrote a note, using sable black eyeliner, just to bust her chops one last time. It read: “See you maybe Thanksgiving. I’ll call when I’m settled in." I didn’t even sign it. Anthony took me to the bus. The one way ticket was paid for with cash I swiped from her purse, plus a little extra for smoke, and by noon I was on Roxanne’s doorstep.

So there I was that August day, reading The Fountainhead, stoned on the joint Roxie had left me. I was lying on the bare floor, my head propped up on my old duffel bag, the sun was streaming through the open windows, and I felt a sense of total contentment. I had everything I needed. Across the street, a bunch of guys were out on the roof playing hackie sack and drinking beers. They were blasting a boom box, that damned U2 album that was everywhere that year, but I didn’t mind. I was back, in this city that was full of noise and young people. I loved its dirty streets and the buzz of life. Something new was waiting to happen at any moment, around any corner, someone might appear.  Everything was possible.

I was home. And as I drowsed there, with the book on my chest, I was Howard Roarke standing naked at the edge of a cliff, and I laughed myself to sleep.

.

Norman Belanger is a nurse by profession, and a writer by some character flaw to be worked out in therapy. He's had a few pieces recently accepted, in the July issue of Aids & Understanding magazine, and Blunderbuss online publication, and in an upcoming number of Jonathan, a gay men's lit mag. While a lot of his writing does relate to his experiences in the LGBT community, he is hoping it will also appeal to a wider audience.

TWO: Short Works by Oliver Zarandi


Abba
 

What impressed her most about Abba was their hair and bone structure. She liked the male members of the band especially. Although Bjorn and Benny looked similar, they did, in fact, have subtle differences. She liked Bjorn’s ape-like mouth, but disliked the way his beard and lips were so separate. His lips seemed plastered on, as if he’d lost them in an accident. Benny’s head was fatter and she admired his ‘confident’ hair. She believed his cranium was extremely large, similar to that of the elephant man. At the museum, she was pleased to find a piano that was directly linked to Bjorn’s piano; every time he decided to play in the privacy of his own house, it would play out in the museum in real time. She wondered if there was a Bjorn penis and if, when he decided he wanted sex, it would fuck her in real time too. As she moved further into the museum, she found a room of costumes that the men had worn. She felt like climbing into one of the costumes and cocooning herself there, warm and distant from reality.

 

 

 

Things
 

A great man began to drop things. He used to be able to hold the crockery, his colleagues said. They still revered him and respected him. He has really nice hair, said one student. It’s grey but not stringy. Other people on the campus congratulated him on his kind nature and ability to pick up shy woodland creatures. His thinking, his reasoning, it’s unparalleled. But then, one day in the staff room, he began to drop everyday objects. His hands would go stiff, fingers stretched out and he would drop cups, plates, forks and knives. He would move to the other side of the room and stay in a corner. The younger staff members began to make a note of all the things he dropped: teapot, duck figurine, satchel, watch, pen, pencil, protractor, pile of books, tumbler, chair, duck figurine, wig.

 

 

 

Two Poems


Gleesh
 

I’ll never shake that bit in Perloff on
Pound and nominals. His first names,
names of towns, cake-shops, unglossed,
cut sharp, that textured his jagged poems.
I read that years ago. Now I know better.
Perloff’s old-hat, Pound’s a quack,
and modernism’s dead. But nominals are real.
My life’s a hoard of them. Nothing has form
and is all texture and surface. I don’t remember
what things mean or how they feel but see
oily fingerprints on everything. Everything’s a meme.
Me and Smoothie in the Cartosai on Ponca
bumping “Umma Do Me” on Saturn speakers.
Me and Pete with a cig on the Ave, parched,
rough-lunged, red-eyed, and bored. No gloss.
Playing “Informer” at Frazier’s. Anna and Emily
bellowing “Zombies.” A chicken box at
the Owings Mills RoFo at 4am. Next morning
Starbucks with Dhimitri. Ides in Lawrenceville.
Zehmer was later cut. No Aaron either. Nigel
sleeping on the stairs. Ghetto Tourette’s.
Bacon rolls/bacon Rolls. “Hard” on the way back from Pikesville.
“Hot Stuff” to Station North. Every phrase needs a hyperlink.
Everything’s a joke; every joke’s a stretch.
Everything is basically us. Us again. I’m basically Monica.
I’m basically Pat. I’m the perfect combination
of Paul, Hoffner, Tommy, and Jay. I’m short-circuiting.
Is this all there is? The Harbor skyline.
Sweet part is California, and the ranch, and freedom.
The sorrow? The goodbyes of course. And
leaving this beautiful place.

 

 

 

 

Imagine me
 

Imagine me supine on a boat, sea-sick.
Imagine me searching Gmail for “unfortunately.”
Imagine me wretched.
Imagine me in bed, drunk, clutching my phone.
Imagine me and Aurora at a Finnish igloo hotel staring through the glass
             ceiling at the Northern Lights.
Imagine me.
Imagine me driving to work in the rain, shouting over loud music.
Imagine me at a wedding, blowing my nose.
Imagine me gnashing brain, with gin, in a suit.
Imagine me in Vlorë sucking mountain water from a spout.
Imagine me eating yogurt and honey with walnuts, and drinking raki, and drinking raki, and
             drinking raki.
Imagine me in the backseat while Meti winds drunk through dusty beachsides.
Imagine me off Falls in Pomp’s living room at three.

 

 

 

 

Eldis Sula is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in Leveler and Artes Magazine.

ONE: Short Works by Oliver Zarandi

Swimming Pools

I love you most in the swimming pool. This is what she said to him. He wondered why she had said this here and not somewhere else. Was it, perhaps, that she held a certain power over him in the pool. Her genitals were unaltered by the cold of the water. His had taken the form of a child’s and she had them cupped in her hand. 

Outside of the pool, the relationship was not as strong. On rooftop bars she ignored him and found solace in concrete. In the streets she would be talking to him and then she wasn’t. She said that maybe things weren’t working. That maybe she loved the places more than she loved him. She admitted that she had had sex with a street bollard and that she held a conversation with a lamppost. He said what about us? and she was already kissing the bricks of a white townhouse.

 

Bricks

It began as a catastrophe. At ground level, it was just smoke. Smoke and glass. And after the smoke settled, the sky was nuclear white in the city. The street was paved with the glass of financial buildings, mirroring the white of the sky, creating a double sky. On that sky walked a man, in what seemed sixteen layers of clothing, picking up debris. He picked up a brick and carried it as he walked on the sky. He put it down somewhere else, not far from where he originally picked it up. The people from a distance made bets on whether he was friend or enemy. Soon many people, dressed in similar attire, began doing the same. People were moving bricks from the centre of the road to the side of the road. We made bets on whether they were going to rebuild the city brick by brick, but instead of where the buildings originally stood, the new buildings would be just off to the right, perhaps like a new city, born again thanks to the explosion.

 

Oliver Zarandi is the editor of FUNHOUSE. His writing has recently appeared in Hobart, The Quietus and The Alarmist. Follow him on @funhousemag or visit www.funhousemagazine.com

Two Short Short Stories

 

Davie Bowie's Boyfriend
 

After I watch Ziggy defeat the Spiders from Mars for what seems like the umpteenth time, I begin having this weird recurring dream in which I am dating David Bowie and everyone in this dream universe seems to only refer to me as David Bowie’s Boyfriend. So much so, that I’m actually unaware of what my real my name is or if it’s simply just that, David Bowie’s Boyfriend. I want to ask someone, but for some reason, I am much too embarrassed to do so.

David Bowie and I drive from Malibu to an empty beach two hundred miles south. The property is private because David Bowie bought the entire shore. On the drive, we talk about space and music. David Bowie tells me about some songs he’s tossing around, stuff nobody’s heard yet. I feel special. David Bowie puts a cassette into a player and an orchestra of symphony guitars plays out to us.

When we arrive at the beach, we don’t really spend any time on it. We mostly just sit on the back deck and look at the waves come in. David Bowie strums lightly on a guitar and a seagull caws out and I want to go swimming. David Bowie doesn’t want to swim because he says that the saltwater will damage his skin. I tell him they make creams for those types of things but he won’t budge. Even David Bowie calls me David Bowie’s Boyfriend and I think that is weird but I don’t really question it. I go swimming in the ocean by myself. I wade further and further into the ocean and David Bowie begins to resemble a palish red dot as I do so.

David Bowie and I go into town for groceries and it is a disaster. I am saddled with all of the bags while David Bowie poses for photographs with fans. When it is time to leave, the sea of screaming fans and their waving pens seems to part effortlessly at the mere waft of David Bowie’s hand. The fans paw at our windows as we pull off. David Bowie asks me what I want for dinner and tells me that he loves me. David Bowie takes the long way home. We hit several blocks of beach traffic and David Bowie refuses to put the roof up. By the time we reach home, all of the ice cream has melted and the milk has gone bad. David Bowie feeds the spoiled milk curds to the birds on the boardwalk, which is against city policy but the authorities turn the other cheek.

Sometime later in the week, David Bowie and I fly to Berlin on business. David Bowie has a press conference where he announces that he will be recording an album aboard the NASA space station. After the conference, a driver escorts us to a rural part of Germany where David Bowie wants to take pictures. I feel as if I am the only black body within a hundred miles so I opt to just stay in the car. David Bowie takes photos of me through the car’s tinted window and mouths the word 'Beautiful.' We are parked near a clearing of trees and I am smoking a cigarette out the half-cracked window. The driver occasionally glares at me through the rearview mirror and, I think in some type of Germanic tongue, calls me a racial slur.

Even though I am aware that this is a dream, as I watch David Bowie photograph wildflowers, I find myself wanting to break up with him but, for some reason, cannot bring myself to do so. I want to break up with David Bowie because he is actually not that nice and not that great of a boyfriend or lover and if I’m being honest, I stopped liking his music after the mid -nineties and his last record, if I’m being honest, wasn’t anything revolutionary. I’m here out of convenience, I guess. I don’t really know who I am without him. I mean, who would I be? Who is David Bowie’s Boyfriend without David Bowie?

 

 

 

Heart of a Hero!
 

Dick Cheney has a real heart now. It’s the year 2047 and, thanks to advances in medical science and technology, we’ve been able to extend Dick Cheney’s life for what was before an unfathomable amount of time. It is predicted that Dick Cheney will live forever. Scientists have grown an immortal heart using cells from stem cells and a petri dish. They have installed it inside of Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney, who was once before on the brink of death, a metaphorical and sometimes real­ life vulture circling above his head, is now the strongest and most viral man in America. Dick Cheney can break cement blocks with his fists. When Dick Cheney lets the hammer fall, he rings the bell. He wins the stuffed animal and gives it to your girlfriend. He flexes! Dick Cheney flexes!! He can run the length of the Boston Marathon. Dick Cheney is still not a good shot but he’s working on it.

Dick Cheney is alive. Dick Cheney is removing his blazer and rolling up his sleeves. He is tearing off his cotton button down shirt. He is beating his chest on live TV, in front of the congressional senate. He is grabbing the microphone, he is sweaty, he is All­ American, All­ Action and All The Time, Forever.

Dick Cheney has his eye on the prize. He is unapologetic and figuring it all out. He is staging a coup. He is usurping the presidency. He is implementing diplomatic policies and putting his plans into action. He is shipping all of the immigrants back to where they came from. He is disregarding the black experience and playing poker with the national pension fund. He is defending capitalism. He is shaking hands with terrorists. He is pulling strings. He is alive. He is pumping blood. He is not a zombie and he didn’t meant to shoot that man.

Textbooks are phased out of production, as Dick Cheney, being immortal, becomes our main source of keeping history. Dick Cheney will stand the tests of time and keep with him the story of the human race. “Dick Cheney is the oldest man alive.” That is what your great great grandchildren will say, long after you are dead. When extraterrestrials make contact with the earth Dick Cheney will be the first to learn their language. Dick Cheney has a real heart now. It is beating. You can hear it if you put your ear to a drum of oil. You can feel it in the light quaking of the ground in Yemen, produced by bombs that make contact every few hours.

The Washington Post has recently conducted a study that shows that over 63 percent of Americans think that Dick Cheney’s skin is made of leather.

I am dying, or at least one day I will be. Dick Cheney will be here forever. He will watch the sun burn out. Dick Cheney is a real man. He’s alive. He has a heart. A real one. He can feel. Dick Cheney can feel. He is so sorry. He is shooting his gun in the air, at the moon, 'cause he can. He is missing his mark. Goddamn it Dick Cheney is missing his mark but he is here and you are not and he is alive and on top and he has so much to be thankful for.

 

 

 

 

Miles Preston-Clark is an African-American writer and interdisciplinary artist studying at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Reality Hands MagazineSpork PressHobart PulpGuild Literary Complex and various other online and print journals. His first collection of poems, Hot Nigga, is forthcoming via Giant Man Press, 2016. More info @ http://achilleshill.net.

Where They Go Barefoot

Where we live, the land is spiked with barbed wire and minefields of jagged pebbles surround our houses. Here we commute through fields of thorns and avenues paved with shards of glass. The fallow land coughs up boric acid and lava trickles from leaky fire hydrants. So we wear tunicate sandals and spiked heels and lazy loafers with armored socks and blue plastic bullet-holed mutant thongs and iron clad oxfords and Cowboys-and-Indians boots and polar vortex Wellies and Pequod Boat Shoes and run-from-the-devil sneakers. We got shoe mongers like arms dealers, cobblers like crack-dealers; a land where the shoe shiner is king.

 

Since we were children we were told to stay put. Those who strayed were tied to their houses with long hemp ropes to make sure that they don’t venture too far.

But someone told me once that there’s a place where roads merge with forget-me-not-covered highways, a land where they go barefoot. They said that where they go barefoot the breeze is clear of rust and furniture does not attack toes and shins. There’s no athlete’s foot or gangrene. Where they go barefoot they wade in cool water, rest under olive trees to laze the day away.

 

So I am going, once I find a way to cut the rope tied around my ankles. I will walk on coals, travel through roads of rubble and broken glass deserts. I will walk to where they go barefoot, erect, leaving the landlocked, airtight country behind. I will not stop, not rest, until my shoes rip apart, until the sun and metal cut through the leather, until the tongue dries out, the laces fall apart, until the sole disintegrates and finally my feet, bloody, screaming, newborn, will feel the soft caress of the virgin soil. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etan Nechin is an Israeli-born author and artist currently working as the head writer and artistic collaborator for the Venice Biennial 2015 Slovenian pavilion. He has contributed to Gravel Magazine, MonkeyBicycle, Entropy, The Huffington Post, Mouth London and several other publications in Hebrew. 

Three Poems

portrait of a nation without any people
 

i moved my futon out of my bedroom this afternoon
will be getting a bed soon but tonight there is nothing

i moved my typewriter into the place where the futon was
beside the red milk crate that holds my records
i read the words on their spines and realized i’d never done that before

listening to obscure sad indie girl dirges made to be heard while dying on the floor
the room has never been so sparse
it looks like a nation
nations also have blue walls but those walls are made out of water

lying on the floor my first thought is “i’ve been here before but i’m older now”
but i might not be
same problems hook tendrils to my eyelids
same chemicals splash stains across my head

to my therapist i repeat myself
i suspect he suspects that i get too comfortable
sinking into quicksand

an odd thing is to imagine loneliness as fatal
odder still, after that, to lie in one place

 

 

 

 

unnamed poem about thinking about dying


one foot in front of the other,

that’s how i enter my own wounds:

plunging forward, eyes closed, moving simply
through the buzzing exterior.

atrocious how the mind can make anything fluid seem solid.
that staircase is now a wall.

thought about dying in civics but this was physically difficult.

our brains push us away from death.
meanwhile the walls lights and blur of voices point me in that direction.

i want to accuse someone of hypocrisy but the physical world
could be innocent. so define natural.

thought about dying in precalculus and my teacher told me to stop sleeping.
i wasn’t sleeping, but this isn’t the real issue.

what am i supposed to tell my mother when she asks why i look down?

i can’t tell her my body is turning into hydrogen.

i watch my shoes move
as i pass through, what, an aviary.

some people seem to know i’m in there.

they just point at the birds and say, look, there he is—

they’re confused. they’re walking somewhere, too.

 

 

 

 

fragment from SURGE
 

My sad self
sitting cross-legged on the pavement
scribbling in a gray notebook
in the shadow of the stadium
imagining ten thousand images
to illustrate the air which has no face
I scrawl a hot air balloon
I scrawl a set of brass scales,
one plate pressed to the ground
It’s anger
but anger is nothing but pain
and sustained confusion
An obsidian flask
A dagger held backwards

 

 

 

 

Luis Neer is a high school student and the author of This is a Room Where You Wait for New Language, out from Ghost City Press on October 27. Find him on twitter @LuisNeer.

Le Plus

            It’s worth mentioning at the outset that I’m a complete shithead.  That’s basically how I ended up in the Notre Dame Cathedral, six thousand miles and an ocean away from home, alone, hobbled by a total inability to speak the language, with headphones in my ears playing music deeply inappropriate for the setting. 

            It was a close escape, one I had to fight through.  You might say it’s the thing I’m best at.  Even a shithead’s gonna dick his way into a special talent, and here I am, sitting inside what might be the most beautiful building on earth, my mind stuck on the most beautiful man on earth and just how it could possibly be that he’s trying to kill me. 

***

I was livin' in a devil town/Didn't know it was a devil town/Oh lord it really brings me down/ About the devil town/And all my friends were vampires/Didn't know they were vampires/Turns out I was a vampire myself/In the devil town/I was livin' in a devil town/Didn't know it was a devil town/Oh lord it really brings me down/About the devil town

***

            As I sit in the chair, somewhere in the middle on the left, I look around as I place my half-packed backpack between my feet.  I should be drinking in the impossibility of the building’s architectural virtuosity, that the cathedral--and I mean to say any cathedral--is in essence a triumph of human ingenuity, regardless of the names in whom it’s been built.  Instead, I’m losing myself in the things surrounding my insides.  Which is probably for the best, to be fair, because I need to plan my next move.  I know Eric’s following me, and I’ve managed to keep a step or two ahead for a couple days.  It won’t last unless I keep moving. 

            I recognize the smell of candles.  Expected in a house like this, of course, so I don’t know why there’s a sense of surprise associated.  The air in here is colder than I expected, as though it’s filled to capacity with ghosts, which may actually be true.

Napoleon was crowned here.  Put the crown on his own head, I heard once, which is at once the picture of presumptuousness and impressive; I mean, here’s a guy who knew how to take a little credit and run with it.  Results notwithstanding, it’s almost admirable.

            The sans-culottes celebrated the Festival of Reason here, missing underpants and all.  The crown of thorns is somewhere in here, and a piece of the cross.  One of the holy nails.  Heavy-duty stuff.  The real stuff, stuff that the man, the real guy, the big JC actually touched.  Stuff that, technically speaking, was inside the guy.  Not exactly a bona fide ghost, but a ponderous spectre nonetheless.

            These facts, these events, outside the mere fact that I recognize they occurred, that they’re all tied up within the walls of the place I sit within right now, are enormous and I try to allow them to slip past me.  The history of it all, along with its importance, vaporizes in the confines of my mind, yellows along with the limestone holding the building up.  Right now I’m alone, whether the world wants it that way or not.  Despite the place, despite the hundreds milling around, sitting, looking, maybe praying to themselves, taking photographs, there’s only me.  And there’s no way I’d rather have it. 

There’s really only one thing in me right now, and it’s worry.  Worry about Eric showing up.  About my parents, what they’d say, how they feel about all this.  Maybe dread, too.  That’s two.  Worry and dread.  Maybe a distant sense of relief.  Make it three.  Dread and relief and worry, the three playing against one another, fighting it out in my headspace. 

“He’ll find you,” Worry says.

Relief pipes in: “You’re away.  You’re safe.  Keep it that way, and all will be well.”

Dread ruins the party.  “When he finds you it’s going to hurt so, so bad.  It already has, hasn’t it?”

I’m supposed to be resting up.  This is supposed to recharge my batteries or something.  I’m supposed to feel like I’ve escaped danger.  Maybe coming to Paris was too obvious.  Maybe I came for the wrong reasons.  I’ve always wanted to see the city, this building, in person.  I don’t know why, but it’s always drawn me.  I’m not even religious, but the art of it, the size, its role is arresting to me.  It momentarily occurs to me that I don’t have a next move and that I’ve simply skipped ahead to the end.

***

I have been to Abilene/The spirit world rising/I have seen in Abilene/The Devil has Texas/The Spirit World Rising/The Devil has Texas/The Spirit World Rising/The Devil has Texas

***

            Three or four people sit to the left of me.  Tourists, I think.  No different than me.  Two women and a man, wide-eyed, no doubt from the sheer ridiculousness of the South Rose Window.  It’s enough to warrant pilgrimage.  I turn my head to glance at it and even though I’m not offering it a full view, its detail, the blue and purple of the glass livening from the sunlight passing through it, dizzies me.  The story it tells, all its angles, the colors and, from my perspective in the almost-middle of the cathedral, the breadth of the thing.  My mind speeds, reels to consider the work put into it, the care that exists about it--it’s just a fucking window--and that it’s been damaged, fixed, repaired, maintained for hundreds of years.  It’s hard work to keep something beautiful beautiful.  It’s hard work to keep something--someone--oneself--alive sometimes. 

            My eyes dart around and I rub my hands together hard, hard enough that I can feel the sinews move.  My head drops, and I allow my eyes to close momentarily as my mind clears.  The music in my headphones, along with what echoes of voices and tourism I can hear over it, falls away to nothing.  I can only hear what I imagine to be the wind pushing its way through the cathedral, over and around me, past me, stirring me forward ever so slightly.  My hands rise to meet my head, and my fingers massage my forehead, the grease and dried sweat from two days’ travel undeniable, palpable even.  For a moment I feel like a disgusting animal for not having taken the time to go the short distance to even wash my face in a public sink.  It’s like this, my face, my hands, for long enough that I don’t really want it to end.

            There’s a creak two chairs down.  Someone sits and I don’t look. 

***

Oh my lord/I am so bored/Held the hand of Satan/Oh Laura/what has happened to you?/Held the hand of the devil/I was on MTV/Everybody was lookin' at me/Held the hand of the devil

***

            Over the music, I hear a sniffle, then a rustle.  I open my eyes and sneak a peek from the corner of my eye, my head unmoving.  The boy digs through his pocket and retrieves a tissue and blows his nose.  My eyes retreat back into my hands and I push the sockets into the meaty lowers of my palms, firing blazing waves of color that I watch sway back and forth, into and out of focus. 

            There’s another sniffle.  I continue to watch the colored curtains in my eyes lurch back and forth, shifting in intensity, becoming more and more intense, as though they’re bright lights, morphing from blues, to greens, yellows to reds and back to blues again.  This is a thing that I’ve done since I was a child.  I find it easy to lose myself in this, simply watching the loping movement of colors from inside my mind.  They call it the entoptic phenomenon.  It’s basically just this hallucination you’re able to inflict upon yourself by squeezing the shit out of your retinae.  Someday I’ll push so hard that my eyes will stop working entirely.  Here’s the thing, though: I’ve never come across anything that makes me feel more calm.  So I keep pushing and pushing, and the colors continue to swell. 

            And then he grabs my shoulder.

            It’s a man.  He’s crying.  This man has two black eyes and has a hand on me, gripping me, hard, as though he’s attempting to keep me in one place with the pressure alone. 

            By instinct, I jerk myself back, twisting away from his grasp and feel his fingers pull and snap into themselves like he’d intended to hold onto me forever.  I focus on his face, his eyes.  He is desperate, and his face is wet.

            “I can’t believe I found you,” he says.  “And I can’t believe how fucking predictable you are.”

            I pull my headphones from my ears. 

            Who is this?  I try to recognize him.  I look into his eyes, at his face, his nose, hair, ears, lips.  The way his mouth opens as if he’s going to say something, though nothing comes out.  His chest heaves slightly, his clavicles beautiful in the way that his v-neck reveals them.  If I know him, I think, I have terrific taste.  There’s gotta be something there that I see that pulls my mind toward his identity, but there’s nothing.  I’m getting nothing, and I instinctively tilt my head like a dog shown a card trick. 

 I look at him, then close my eyes.  He grabs my shoulder again, this time more gently.  I look again.  What happened to you, and why are you touching me?

“What?” I find myself asking.

“I found you,” He says, threatening a smile.  “Please, come home.”

“What?”  The air escapes me.  This isn’t her.  I feel my eyes narrow to slits, squinting as though I’m trying to read fine print, as though I’m trying to reach inside the woman holding my shoulder to retrieve some kind of identification, some kind of idea of what I’m up against, from behind his eyes.

“Did he send you?” I ask, pulling my shoulder away again.  “Did he send you to do me?”

“What?”  he says, his face twisting into one from sadness into confusion, maybe anger.  He doesn’t understand. 

I lower my voice.  “Did Eric send you to kill me?”

Her brow furrows, his lips part, showing the edges of his teeth.  I feel his fingers still on me, though the clamp of them are gone now; he rubs at me with the tip of his thumb.   Hepulls a sharp breath, then turns his head away from me.  The woman exhales slowly as I glance around.  The group to my left is looking at us.  There’s a pocket of five or six people, a family, I think, that appears to be putting in a great amount of effort to not notice.  There’s a couple across the aisle from us unabashedly staring. 

“Did he?”

The man shakes his head slightly at first, then more.  His fingers dance down my arm, then fall away. 

“Laura,” he says.

How does he know my name?  I yank my backpack from the floor into my lap.  The movement spooks her, and he turns his body to face me, leaning in his chair towards me. 

“Let’s just go home.”

“Why would I come with you?” I ask.  “I don’t know who you are.  I don’t know what you want.”

“Don’t do this,” he says.  “Let’s just go.  We can talk about it while we’re on the way.”

 He tugs at my wrist, and I resist.  Nowhere, I think.  We’re going nowhere.  We can make this a fight if we have to.  I grip my bag more tightly, searching for the zipper with my free hand.

“There’s no way,” I sayHis hand stays on me, and I look him in his bruised eyes.  The rings around them have started to turn green a bit.  The healing process gets very ugly sometimes, I think, right before everything begins to look normal again

“My God,” he says.  “Where the hell are you, Laura?  Are you even in there?”

I don’t answer.  No, I think.  I escaped.  I should be safe now, but here you are.  I look for a route.  One more quick movement and I’ve got to get out of here.  I find the zipper’s key and inch it open as silently as I can.

“You don’t remember, do you?”

I keep my eyes on him.  Don’t answer.   He’s lying.

“Laura, we were scared.”

Lying. 

“That’s why we called you and wanted to talk to you.  We just wanted to help, Laura.  That’s why we brought you to the doctor’s office.”

We?  “I don’t even know who you are,” I say.  I pull the zipper wide enough to fit my hand in.  Now’s not the moment.  Wait.

“Stop.”

I say nothing.

“Laura.  It’s me.”   He pauses, moves his head, his eyes to meet mine.  I try to avoid it, but fail.  Still nothing.  “It’s me,” he says again.  “It’s Eric.  I’ve come to bring you home with me.”

Fuck.  This isn’t him.   He ’s lying.  This isn’t Eric.  It’s not him.  It doesn’t even look like him.  I allow my fingers to inch into my bag.  There are more people looking now.  I’ll have to be slick. 

“Do you remember what happened?  Do you know where we are?”

“I’m not going to let you do this to me,” I say.  “I’m in control.”

The cathedral’s bells ring.  It’s loud, so loud that I can feel my eardrums buzz from the resonance of the bronze yards and yards away. 

“Laura, we want to take care of you.  We just want you safe.  We want you happy.”

 He touches my face.  The bells keep ringing.  This won’t end.  I jerk my head away. 

“I know what you’re doing, and I’m not buying it.”

His tone lowers, obviously trying not to cause a scene.  “What am I doing, Laura?”

“I know you followed me here after I escaped.  I know you’re here to kill me.  I came so far so I could get away.  But here you are.  Six thousand miles, Eric.  I just want to be alone.  I need some time.”

Eric gingerly wipes away the tears from his tender, injured face.

“Where do you think we are we right now?”

I look at him.  I don’t answer.   He’s trying to confuse you.   He’s trying to trap you.  Don’t fall for it.

“Laura, when we went into the doctor’s office, you went ballistic.  You trashed the place.  The people, too.  You broke your mom’s arms, Laura.  Both of them.  You hit me.  I was in the hospital overnight.  They thought my nose maybe went into my brain.  I’ll probably never look the same, Laura.  But it’s okay.  It’s okay.  Let’s go.”

Fat chance.  I inch my hand farther in, and I can feel the sharp edges of it.

“You destroyed everything.  Everyone.  But we still care, and we want to take care of you.  We just want you home.”

“You’re here to kill me.”

“I’m not here to kill you,” he responds quickly.  “We’re close to home.  We’re so close.  Please, just come with me.”

 He puts his hand back on my shoulder and leans in. 

“We can walk.  It’s beautiful outside.  Let’s walk home.”

“Bullshit.  This is Paris.  This is the most beautiful building on earth.”  I can still hear the decaying ring of the bells fading out, fading ever so slowly.  My ears still hurt, like there’s an insect chewing and flicking around inside my head, tunnelling towards my brain. 

“No, Laura.  Please.  I just want to help you.  I’m here for you.  I love you, Laura.  Your family loves you, and we just want you safe.”

I flip the knife into my hand and pull it out of my bag.  I don’t think he notices.  I lean in, stick his fast and hard like a punch in the ribs under his right pectoral muscle.  His eyelids push open so, so far.   He simply looks me in the eye.  I return the look and see that it’s him.  Eric.  It’s him.  Shit.   I think for a moment that he might strike back, but he doesn’t.  While he’s still surprised, I push past him and make for the door. Get out.   

Eric yells.  There’s a sickish crackle in his voice.   Hecalls my name once more as I shove through the door, into the afternoon sunlight, down the steps, and onto Parvis Notre-Dame.  I stuff the knife back into my bag, toss it over my shoulder, and walk fast. 

I look left, then right and for a moment feel triumphant and safe before his yell rings again inside me.  The mouth of an alley presents itself as I think about his words.  I stop, and turn down it.  I recognize this.  My stomach feels like it’s breaking to pieces.  I recognize everything about this street.  

 

 

Jason McGlone is a web analyst and advertising ethicist who lives in Kentucky with his family.  He received his MFA in Fiction Writing from Queens University of Charlotte in 2006.  He occasionally posts at jwmcglone.net.

Two Poems

Stupid Ocean
 

I don’t know why the ocean is stupid,
but it is. Maybe it’s the way it returns

to a shore that does not want it. How
it hammers its name into the cliff-face

as if the rocks have never heard of it.
Stupid, lonely ocean covers 70% of

this entire world just to be noticed.
Dumb ocean wants to make friends

but won’t stop screaming in the night.
Selfish ocean takes and takes until

there are cities in its stomach, until
it coughs up glass on beaches

like knocked-out teeth. No matter
how terrible you feel, you will never

be as sad as the ocean, which
so desperately wants to be loved

but cannot stay still long enough
for anything to love it back.

 

 

 

 

Newton's First Law of Motion
            after Matthew Olzmann
 

Objects at rest will remain at rest
unless acted upon by an outside force.
William Butler is an object at rest, and will
remain at rest, stoned on the couch watching
videos of David Blaine swallowing kerosene
after he tells the audience, So we all agree
this is actually what it appears to be
, will praise
the bearded man for storing fuel inside the belly
before it is forced out to start a fire, will be
awestruck, will recognize David Blaine as
an outside force, will never know what it means
to risk life for the sake of art, will circumnavigate
the word endurance and apply it to the most
meaningless of actions, will wonder how much room
legacy takes up inside the stomach, will remain at rest,
will doubt the existence of God but will recognize
the miracle of a man dying to be remembered,
the act of swallowing made into an impossible thing.

 

 

 

 

William Ward Butler studies literature, creative writing, and education at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he's Co-Editor-in-Chief for the literary magazine Chinquapin and the satirical paper Fish Rap Live! You can find him online at: williamwardbutler.com.

The Violin

“Beautiful,” I breathe.

My eyes can almost feel the graceful object in her hands. My gaze drifts from the smooth, brown-red surface, glittering in the sunlight, to the light, airy strings, to the long, graceful bow. I can almost feel the music dancing through her very being, as I have seen her bow dance along those strings so many times.

“Shall I play?” I see the smile flit across her face, and her blue eyes sparkle as I nod shyly.

Her bow meets the very first strings of that beautiful instrument, and I swear, it could have been touched by some light-winged magic, as I hear the first notes burst like fireworks into the summer mountain air. I close my eyes for a split second, and I’m drowning in the flowing notes, falling into a sparkling, rushing river of magical sound.

In the blink of a second, my eyes are open again, wide and awestruck. They follow the bow, as it travels quickly and smoothly along the strings, sparking the notes, like the luminous glints of sunlight that pierce the clouds above.

I hear it like an orchestra in my ears. The sound rises, like a river, swelling up from its depths below, coming to meet the high mountaintops, like a wild force of nature. It shoots out in torrents, like the growing, rushing, burning breath of a great red dragon, surveying the stone castles and high hills of some fantastical, distant land.  It runs and leaps, like light feet over fields and stones, crossing rivers with its bounding melodies. It slashes through the air, like the jeweled sword of a great king, slaying the silence with it’s strong, fearless sound.

And then, her bow lifts off the strings, hovering in the air for a moment, with the poise of a butterfly. Then it’s soft feet land lightly on the strings once more, and this time the melody is different. It flows slowly, like the end of the river, the dragon as it lays down to sleep, the sword as it slips back into its sheath. Its bounding notes, like the agile feet of skilled hunter slow their pace. They run, they walk, and…ever so slowly, they come…finally…to a stop…a graceful end. Her bow drifts gently away from the strings, and her blue eyes turn to look at me.

With a sunlit smile and cheerful voice, she asks me, “What did you think?’

For a second, I am breathless. I just look at her, wide-eyed, searching for what to say. I’ve just heard a fantastical symphony but all I can come up with are three small, ordinary words.

“It was… lovely.”

Cristina Cass is a high school student from Chicago who has had short stories published in two small 826CHI publications, and interviews published in McSweeney's and the Chicago Reader. She enjoys music and baking, and is working on planning the first ever Teen Literary Fest in Chicago. 

FIVE: 50 Plays That Should NEVER Be Performed

42. An endurance piece for girls like me

This piece can span anywhere from an hour to a lifetime

 *                *                *

A GIRL stands in regular clothing on stage

 PUMP UP music

A ritual

 

I.

GIRL takes off her clothing while doing a private dance.

GIRL puts on a pair of GOING OUT pants

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL puts on a CASUAL shirt to offset the GOING OUT pants

GIRL strikes a pose that suits the personality of this outfit.

GIRL imagines the persona that fits this outfit: this is the part that can take a while.

What is THIS girl named? What kind of apartment does THIS girl live in? Does THIS girl have friends over for wine? Or no, for beer? Or no, for sake? Friends with names like Constantine? Does THIS girl go dancing? Does THIS girl eat meat? How does THIS girl walk? How does THIS girl talk?

GIRL:
(Trying on the persona)
I was gonna just go smoke outside, you wanna…?

GIRL nods

Finally, GIRL does the squat test (squats to see if the pants allow for squatting)

The pants do NOT pass the squat test

GIRL takes off the pants

GIRL changes the song

 

II.

GIRL puts on OTHER PANTS

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL imagines the persona that fits this outfit:

What is THIS girl named? What kind of apartment does THIS girl live in? Can THIS girl name all the presidents? Does THIS girl drive a stick-shift? Can THIS girl be trusted to water the plants, feed the dog, run the business? What kind of drink does THIS girl drink?

GIRL:
I’m gonna get a beer you wanna…

GIRL squints

GIRL holds up the fabric of her shirt against the fabric of the pants

They are exactly the same color

:/

GIRL takes off the pants

GIRL changes the song

 

III.

It has come to this

GIRL puts on a skirt

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL imagines the persona that fits this outfit:

What is THIS girl named? What kind of apartment does THIS girl live in? Or wait does THIS girl live in a house? Yeah does THIS girl live in a house with a porch? Does THIS girl know homeopathic remedies and eat snacks out of plastic bags from her backpack? Does THIS girl make homemade wine? Does THIS girl stay up all night doing drugs in the woods with friends?

GIRL:
You know what, I never listen to messages on my phone, ha.

GIRL nods

GIRL does the BICYCLE TEST (spreading her legs, pretending to be on a bicycle)

The skirt passes the BICYCLE TEST

Something is wrong

GIRL looks at herself

It’s the shirt. The shirt is the problem.

GIRL takes off the shirt.

No, everything is the problem.

GIRL takes off the skirt

GIRL changes the song.

 

IV.

GIRL very warily puts on a dress

GIRL imagines the persona that fits this outfit:

GIRL cannot even bear to do another exercise

GIRL does the POCKET TEST

The dress passes the POCKET TEST (it has pockets)

GIRL nods

OKAY

 

V.

GIRL puts on makeup

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL:
(Softly)

Oh no no no.

GIRL washes off make-up

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL picks pieces of tissue out of her eyebrows

There are wet stains all over her dress now

Now it looks like she has been lactating

GIRL changes the song

 

VI.

GIRL looks at her ORIGINAL regular clothes

GIRL puts her regular clothing back on

GIRL looks at herself

GIRL imagines the persona that fits this outfit:

 This one is really difficult

 

 

After however long it takes

GIRL takes a deep breath, nods

A happy, wholesome self-loving ending!

 

VII.

GIRL heads out the door, confident!

Just when it seems everything is over:


GIRL comes back a few seconds later, remembering to turn off the pump up music

Then, when it seems everything is REALLY over

GIRL darts back in, rapidly changes her entire outfit, and heads back out the door

It LOOKS TERRIBLE. A decision anyone would regret.

 

BLACKOUT
 

 

45. A Play for children seeing a play for the first time

I.
A pizza party so that no one is hungry

II.
Half hip people wearing STREET clothing
Half Shakespeare people wearing INSANE clothing
Everyone makes a really cool beat using everyday objects (like STOMP) and also curious Elizabethan objects (like SHAKESPEARE) the audience clapping along

III.

A dance battle between the hip street people and the Shakespeare people

BATHROOM BREAK

 IV.

All the best theater magic:

A trap door
A stabbing through the heart
A floating person
Fake snow falling from the sky

V.

A big, wet smooch
 


Talkback discussion:

Whose costume do you want to try on?
Does the idea of being on stage scare you? Excite you?
Right now, are you feeling very civilized or more like an animal?

If you could put anything on a pizza, what would you pick?

 

 

 

 

Rachel Kauder Nalebuff is a playwright and the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project (Feminist Press, October 2015). 

 

Hurricane Season

 

Category 1: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage.

 

My mother tells me that a Starbucks has finally opened somewhere in Midtown and people are taking car services down there, coasting in an illegal line down Broadway, pedestrians walking by in parkas, glaring, their dogs cloaked in knit sweaters and booties.

 

“No, of course I wasn’t one of them.” 3,000 miles away, she mutes the TV. “What do you think I am?”

 

 

Category 2: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.

 

She watches the storm coverage and reports back to me. This is our Hurricane Katrina, says a woman on the Lower East Side. No one below 20th Street has power. The dentist’s office ten blocks from my mother’s apartment is open for business, with fewer receptionists than usual to line its glass walls. A pizza place in the West 40s, new to their neighborhood, stays open and delivers pies with only a staff of five.

 

It’s raining in San Francisco; fat wet drops piercing the balmy breeze. I shiver at the bus stop, watch electronic predictions blink before me beneath a plastic cover. New York is underwater, a filthy Atlantis coming up for air every so often, forcibly buried beneath tons of garbage from the mislaid East River and the Hudson.

 

My mother has lived in New York City for three years, most of them good.

 

 

Category 3: Devastating damage will occur.

 

My mother lives on the lower end of the Upper East Side. She belongs to a gym on 63rd and Lex that provides its members with cucumber-scented towels post-workout, and today members of downtown branches take cabs or walk for miles to shower at hers, still open in the storm.

 

On Long Island, hundred-year-old tree trunks and torn cables splinter homes. White porches get caked with dirt clods unearthed by callous winds in front yards.

 

This is where I grew up. A tree falls on a car and its hood collapses, the ends jerked up like the wings of an airplane. Some of the homes I love best are here in the suburbs — beautiful two-story houses I used to pass in my car — and they fold as if made of paper.

 

 

Category 4: Horrific damage will occur.

 

My friend goes out on the wooden deck of a beach club her family has belonged to forever. She takes pictures in a windbreaker — hood up, a toothy smile flashing across her red face. The storm rages on behind her.

 

This is where she used to have birthday parties in grade school, where my mother used to drop me off with a wrapped gift and a jacket.

 

Here is the beach club where we took photos before prom. This is where we celebrated our sixth grade graduation. Someone threw a jellyfish at Erik Johnson, and he cried.

 

 

Category 5: Catastrophic damage will occur.

 

Or maybe it was eighth. I spent the summer after sixth grade disappearing. I watched a boy carve most of a girl’s name into his forearm with a slab of broken glass. He couldn’t fit the last letter so she changed the way she spelled her name on test papers: MARI.

 

She laughs in every picture. Behind her, the storm has already ravaged a kayak. She seems not to notice, her eyes focused intently on the omniscient reporter she’s affixed to a weighty tripod in the sand.

 

This kayak was once new. These are its embarrassed features: white and red flecks of paint scattered like leaves across the sand. A branch bisects its wooden seat, a mouth full of twigs and dirt.

 

 

Category 6? Referred to as “super typhoons.”

 

A man is at his home in Toms River, New Jersey when his kitchen is swept away, so he walks out of the house and is quickly caught up in the current. He spends about four hours trying to swim back home before he is swept into a woman’s house across the bay.

 

He pens this note:

 

Who ever reads this I'm DIEING — I'm 28 yrs old my name is Mike. I had to break in to your house. I took blankets off the couch. I have hypothermia. I didn't take any thing. A wave thru me out of my house down the block. I don't think I'm going to make it. The water outside is 10ft deep at least. There's no res[c]ue.

 

He leaves his father’s name and number. After a few hours in the dark house, he ventures back out into the water. A man in a personal watercraft finds him, warms him, and feeds him.

 

I tell his story to my mother, who, like me, gets too much of her news from Yahoo. She takes a deep breath that crackles over the phone, like thunder after a pretense of lightning. She says, “There are some good people out there.”

 

In a future interview, Mike will say, “In the street there was about eight feet of water, and I'm like, I ain't dying like this, after all this, I ain't dying like this.”

 

Out There: a place where what’s left of the world is a Jacuzzi tub unplugged, and strangers hold hands just to stay afloat.

 

I wish I were holding her hand right now.

 

 

Jiordan Castle is a full-time writer, part-time pizza eater and dog petter. Her work has appeared elsewhere in print and online. She gets personal at nomoreundead.tumblr.com.

FOUR: 50 Plays That Should NEVER Be Performed

15. Baby play

Note: No parents allowed in the audience. Babies only.

CECILY, proper and British, pushes a spoon of green mush towards MILLY, a baby.

MILLY doesn’t budge.

CECILY tries again, and this time, MILLY knocks the spoon out of CECILY’s hand.

Note: depending on how long the audience laughter here goes on, CECILY may draw out the physical comedy—looking startled, accidentally spilling mush onto dress as she picks up the spoon etc

 

CECILY:
CLARENCE!

CLARENCE, also proper and British, enters running, a bowtie around his neck.

CLARENCE:
What is it darling?

 CECILY:
She’s doing it again.

CLARENCE:
Darling – my little Milly love – mummy and daddy have to go to the opera and you must eat your Spinach before we leave or we’ll…

Suddenly, the sound of thunder and lightning.

MILLY stands in her high chair and speaks in a deep, booming voice, as if channeling a primordial baby god.

FREAKY MILLY:
LISTEN TO ME NOW

CECILY:
Goodness Milly—

CLARENCE:
Darling, she’s speaking, she’s / speaking!

FREAKY MILLY:
(Imitating adults)

BABABABAP! IT’S MILLY’S TURN

(Here again, FREAKY MILLY may have to wait to continue until the audience laughter dies down)

FREAKY MILLY:
AND MILLY SAYS: THERE WILL BE NO MORE CARROT SMUSH IN JAR!
THERE WILL BE NO MORE PACKETS AND TUBES OF SQUIRTABLE FOOD

HAVE YOU TRIED THIS SHIT
SERIOUSLY HAVE YOU TRIED ANY OF THIS SHIT

ONCE
IN PREHISTORIC CAVES

WE ATE THE SAME RAW BISON FLESH AS YOU
AND NOW

FOOD FOR BABIES WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS
WHAT IF YOU COULD ONLY EAT “FOOD FOR MOMS”
OR “FOOD FOR FAIRLY SENSITIVE MEN”
NO MORE NO MORE NO MORE DO YOU UNDERSTAND!

Another jolt of thunder, terrifying CECILY and CLARENCE

CECILY + CLARENCE:
We understand, yes!

Suddenly the lights change and MILLY returns to her normal baby self, burping and seeming entirely unaware of the transformation.

CLARENCE:
Oh darling, she’s back! Our beautiful baby girl is back!

CECILY:
Oh darling Milly, love, little darling Milly, we promise you—whatever it is that we’re eating – we’ll blend it for you and it shall be yours. The finest cakes, the ripest cherries, the freshest fish.

MILLY claps her hands.

CLARENCE:
Cecily, I must admit I’m in a bit of a state of shock still—do you…of course we still can, we’d just have to call a carriage right now, but on the off chance—

CECILY:
No I don’t want to go to the opera at all!

CLARENCE:
Oh thank goodness, me neither!

CECILY:
Darling, there are moments when you say just the right thing.

CLARENCE:
Moments?

CECILY:
Milly dearest, mummy and daddy aren’t going to go the opera after all!

 CLARENCE:
Yes, we’re staying home.

CECILY:
We’re going to make silly faces with you all night.
Yes we are.

CLARENCE:
Yes we are.

CECILY and CLARENCE make silly faces at MILLY, and then continue for the audience: expressing a whole spectrum of joyful and outlandish expressions, occasionally making farting sounds, smushing their faces into odd shapes– all sorts of physical comedy that babies love.

The End

 

 

20. Hidden Track

 

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just when the audience applause begins to die down and a few audience members go to pick up their bags— AN ENTIRELY NEW AND UNRELATED PLAY BEGINS!!

 

 

Two Poems


florida’s first active volcano
 

chelsea is getting Sad again
florida is too heavy breathing
is wading into the ocean
with your jeans still on

i am liberated ligaments learning
the discomfort of new showers
learning canals grafting my own
skin to different parts of me

comfort can slowly kill
you chelsea cries in florida
i touch my cheek but i can’t feel
if it’s actually wet or just cold

the only difference between
crying and breathing fire is
The Elements chelsea you are
florida’s first active volcano

 

 

 

 

i’m uglier in europe
 

everywhere a moon pulls blood from me
alters my shorelines like pages of books
humans wrinkle when wet if we are all

bodies of water
i am a puddle
i’m smaller in holland

i collect traits from people i love bats
flying into my ribs through cracked panes
i masturbate with the window open the moon

howls at me
i am a stranger
i’m uglier in europe

 

 

 

Candace Holmes is currently based out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Some of her previous work can be found in Fruita Pulp, Reality Hands, What Kind of Trouble?, and Electric Cereal. She hates the smell of freshly-mown grass and wants to remind you to stay hydrated. 

THREE: 50 Plays That Should NEVER Be Performed

6. GOODBYE!

A yearly ritual for the performance community
 

I.

Every ballerina in the city who’s been injured or aged out of the profession within the previous year is on stage, wearing black.

One by one, they each take two-minute turns performing their favorite moves from performances over the course of their careers. If they are unable to perform the moves, they can describe them.


Once everyone has had their turn, the group curtsies and bows and then waves goodbye in that ballerina way, sashaying off stage.


II.

All the actors in the city who’ve given up their dreams of becoming an actor within the previous year gather on stage, wearing black.

They take turns performing the first lines of their favorite monologues.

Then, in sync, everybody LAUGHS. Then CRIES. Then looks TERRIFIED, then ANGRY, then BLISSFUL, then WISTFUL, like those happy-sad drama masks.

Everyone bows in the actor way, where the most famous people go last.


III.

All the women in the city who, within the previous year, have stopped caring, come on stage, wearing black.


As if in front of an invisible mirror, everyone makes an outlandishly minuscule adjustment to her outfit.

One by one, the women share a line from their pasts, e.g. “What can I get you?” or “One second, let me just put my face on!”

 After, everyone explodes in laughter, some accidentally letting out farts, others showing off gold teeth, as they smile and bow, clasping hands.

 


CURTAIN.

 

9.  COLORS

An actor physically passes through all the colors of the rainbow

We watch as his/her skin changes.

Suggested techniques:

RED:
—A boiling shower

—a sunburn
—jumping in place wearing a trash bag outfit
—a celebrity encounter

ORANGE:
—eating 100 carrots

YELLOW:
—jaundice

GREEN:
—rolling naked down a grassy hill
—food poisoning

BLUE:
—ten minutes in a freezing pool
—all day in the snow
—holding the breath

PURPLE:
—Combo of any red and blue
e.g. going skiing with Gael Garcia Bernal!

 

The Last Man to be Hanged

The gallows stood alone in the prison yard; a single noose swayed limply, like an upturned snake, from its wooden crossbeam.      

This was only the second time I’d seen gallows in person. The first was during a middle-school field trip to an old military fort, tucked into the endless woodlands of upstate New York. There weren’t any nooses that day; teachers and tour guides alike mumbled about the message it would send to the kids. All that remained was the skeletal frame of the gallows which, raised upon its platform, looked more like an altar than a killing device. We played hangman the whole bus ride home.

This time, however—with the noose strung up—the gallows loomed menacingly. The sight sent places and dates to flutter in my mind as absently as moths around a summer porch-light. I thought of the Middle Ages, of monarchy and the French Revolution, of martyrdom, of concentration camps with rows of suspended silhouettes; I thought of gnarled branches in the Jim Crow south and knots tightened by prairie-sized hands; I thought of America, and lessons I’d forgotten from glossy middle-school textbooks. It struck me how all of these things—separated by miles and centuries—were tied up in one, lifeless object.

But, now it would all end.

Or, at least, in America it would end.

The last execution by hanging in the country was set for this day, at noon sharp, in the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility. I could’ve asked a hundred people which state was the only one to still allow execution by hanging and none of them would’ve guessed New Hampshire. They’d reel off the usual suspects: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama. Never New Hampshire.

The man set to be hanged was Milton Hale. He’d killed his wife and child in 1987 with a pistol. There’d been some controversy over which state he should be tried in because he hid the bodies up in the Maine wilderness. But eventually he was convicted in New Hampshire a couple years later which, coincidentally, was the same year I was born. He’d been sitting on death row for my entire life, wasting away.

More recently, there was some more controversy about the manner in which he should be executed. Hale was allergic to one of the chemicals in the lethal injection formula so, to avoid cruel and unusual punishment, they decided to give him the rope. The final part of the whole mess was that a new law was set to pass in New Hampshire a few months from now which would ban the death penalty entirely.

With all the ingredients to a perfect storm, the media got ahold of it immediately.

The story broke a few months after I started at a paper in Albany and I was one of the many journalists sent to cover it. I made the short drive East with another reporter from the paper, Gerald Sommers—a terse, older guy who’d been passed over for an editor’s position one-too-many times. He insisted on being the one to drive, even though we took my car. Gerald sat next to me in the prison yard, scrutinizing over the scratch-marks in his notebook.

“Look at all these bastards,” he said, glancing up and gesturing to the throng of people around us.

Even though executions are a media goldmine, they’re usually private; only a few spaces are reserved for family of the criminals and family of the victims. Once in a while there will be a little space available for the media to attend, so they base it on a lottery system. A few hundred journalists—eager to leech off the story—enter their names in a pool, but only a handful will be chosen.

In Hale’s case, however, the hanging accommodated for spectators. The prison yard was flocked with seats; a long aisle dissected the middle, leading up to the gallows. It looked like it could’ve been the set-up of a wedding. Or, more aptly, a funeral.

“This is one of the biggest events I’ve ever covered,” Gerald continued. “People are here from all over. That’s Becky Gleason from the Times.” He gestured to a woman in a pinstriped blazer, nibbling down to the lead on her pencil. “And there’s Rodriguez from the Washington Post. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”

“What’s unbelievable?” I asked.

“All the attention this Hale guy’s getting.”

“I suppose so.”

“They’re turning this guy into a damn rock star. And for what? A double-homicide he committed?”

“I don’t think that’s the story, though,” I said. “It’s about the last hanging ever, not the man being hanged. It’s about putting an end to a black-eye this country has worn for centuries.”

Gerald exhaled a slow hiss that made his bottom lip flap like a baseball card stuck between the spokes of a bicycle. He kept his gaze fixed on the gallows, the base of which was nestled against a fifteen foot stone wall which had barbed wire running along the top of it in helixes. The hilly New Hampshire wood peeked out just beyond that. The trees, rusty and orange in the autumn light, had mist clinging to them like Velcro. It was a dying season and death was still to come.

“You think that’s really what the story is here?” Gerald asked abruptly.  “You think two-hundred reporters came here to watch America take a baby-step forward?”

“I do think so. That’s the way I’m going to focus my article at least.”

“Kid, I respect that and all, but don’t delude yourself. The reason all these seats are packed, and the reason there are more cameras here than outside the Kardashians’ doorstep is because everyone is hoping something goes terribly terribly wrong. And I think you know that, too, deep down in that oh-so precious heart of yours.”   

As he spoke, a pair of heavy doors slid open behind us. All the heads turned around and silence choked the prison yard. The warden came out first—strong-jawed and stone-faced. A physician trailed behind him, swallowed up by the warden’s shadow. Next came a clergyman with a bible sheathed in the crook of his arm. And then came Milton Hale, stooped and shackled, with two armed guards attentive at his either side.

The procession moved forward. The only noise in the yard was Hale’s feet dragging through the grass; they made a whispering sound, like a thumb running up and down a silk tie.  

Gerald continued speaking in a hushed voice.

“Progress doesn’t get viewers,” he said. “Even history, to some extent, doesn’t. What everyone wants to see is pain. They want to see blood. They want to see four dead in a drunk driving accident. And most of all they want to see this old man get payback for a crime he committed before you were even born.”

Hale was close to us now and I realized just how frail he was. His face was wrinkled as a week old apple, the knobs of his spine jutted out from beneath his prison uniform, and the rest of his skin clung to his bones like wet papier-mâché.  

“And the biggest secret of all, kid,” Gerald breathed, “is that everyone…the readers, the viewers, the reporters…is silently hoping that this all goes to shit. They hope the old man vomits out of fear, or the rope snaps…or that he dangles there so long he pisses himself.”

I’d done a bit of research before the trip and learned that the hanging is simulated beforehand with a sand bag roughly the same weight as the victim—in Hale’s case it couldn’t have been more than one hundred and forty pounds. The noose is coiled between five and thirteen times at the top, boiled and stretched until it’s taut as a ship’s rigging, and then greased so the knots can be adjusted. The intention is to ensure that Hale, or anyone else, doesn’t suffer once the platform drops.

“That won’t happen,” I muttered to Gerald. “None of it. They know what they’re doing. It will be quick; it will be painless.”   

“I wouldn’t mind if he suffered a bit,” he replied.

Hale was just a few feet from the gallows when he paused and took an elongated step. My immediate thought was that fear had prevented him from moving, but he continued on and then I saw that it was a small patch of mud he’d stepped over.

“Did you see that?” I asked.

“Hmm,” Gerard responded. I wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement.

“He stepped over a patch of mud.”

“So what?”

I wasn’t sure what this tiny act kindled inside of me, or why, but I tried explaining it. “Well, it’s just, the man’s about to die and he goes out of his way to avoid a little mud.”

“What are you saying? That Hale’s a vain bastard for not wanting to dirty his shoes?”

“It’s just such a human thing to do. This guy has minutes left in his life, but he’s still human, right up until the end.”

By now, the procession was standing on the wooden platform; Hale faced the noose, which wavered in front of him like the golden pendulum of a grandfather clock. From my research I knew he must have been given his last meal just moments before. He’d also been read his last rites. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t remember if people on death row received penance. All that remained was his final statement.

“Who gives a shit about the mud,” Gerald said again.

“I do,” I responded, a bit louder than I intended; a few people broke their gazes at Hale to look at me. “I think that’s something readers are interested to hear,” I said, more quietly this time.

“Naivety and self-righteousness don’t make for a journalist, kid. It’s better you learn that now. Oh, and another thing, this guy is barely human, so you should just drop the whole mud business. It means jack-shit.”

“What the hell makes you such a cynic?” I asked. “You’ve got no reason to—”

Gerald turned to me immediately, his eyes sharp as crosshairs.  

“I’ve got no reason? You don’t know anything about me, kid, and you know even less about the world.” His words were studded with bayonets. “I lost my daughter before she was even born. Choked to death by her umbilical cord. And this bastard here,” he said, gesturing to Hale, “killed his own kid and his wife. My daughter did nothing. So don’t tell me I have no reason to want that man to suffer, just like everyone else here wants him to suffer.”

***

Whatever words I did have were swept away by a gust of autumn wind; it fussed against the stone walls and severed dead leaves from their branches, causing them to scatter about the prison yard. I searched for something to say.

Nothing.

I opened my mouth, but the warden began speaking. He looked directly at Hale, but Hale kept a hollow stare fixed on the noose.

“Martin Hale, you have been charged and convicted of the murders of your wife, Barbara Hale, and your daughter, Emily Hale, which occurred in 1987. You have been sentenced to death by hanging.” The warden paused. The silence in the yard was accompanied by a low whine, like a microphone getting feedback. “Do you have any final words?”

The reporters readied their pens, frothing like horses at a starting gate.  

“I do, yes,” Hale said, the words scraping against his throat, which was rusty as old-plumbing. “I’ve known I was going to die for nearly half my life now, and that burden has felt like a death each day. But now that the day is—”

He hesitated, the words catching somewhere and his hands trembling at his sides. The sound of scratching pens stopped; ink clotted dry.

“But now that the day is here,” he continued, “I’m happy. And even though the people who should hear me say it aren’t here, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to my wife, my daughter, my family. They’re all gone, but everything comes around in the end.”

Hale took a step closer to the noose and nodded. In turn, the warden nodded to one of the guards. Hale bowed his head and closed his eyes while the guard draped the noose around his neck.

I felt everyone leaning forward in their seats, fingers clenched with an unspoken anticipation. I felt Gerald’s breathe tighten. I felt the frayed hairs of the noose bristling against Hale’s throat. And I leaned forward too, wondering, maybe hoping, what if something goes wrong.

But, no.

The platform opened with a bang like a gavel and, on this day, the rope held firm.     

***           

Derek Rose is a fiction writer located in the tiny town of Stillwater, New York. He enjoys movies with no climax, sitcoms with no laugh tracks, and music that puts most of his friends to sleep. His work has also appeared in Crab Fat Literary Magazine and The Mosaic.