As I Am
You’ll get it early. It starts as a simple habit
with the daytime, parentally-approved TV shows, merely
something to do to fill the time, but it
becomes so inexorable that it
completely transforms you, infecting you to the crux,
with “Sesame Street” and “Arthur,” and “Spongebob” and “Powerpuff Girls,”
and “Friends” and “Scrubs,” and “90210” and “Jersey Shore,”
mindfucking your brain like oil and ink on a tablecloth,
making your knowledge of
Eliot, Poe, Fitzgerald, and Ginsberg
just a colossal sand dune—you know,
like those ones you saw in “Aladdin,” and that you’ve never
seen a real one of in your goddamn life—stored
in your hippocampus, blocking the signals to move your legs
because you’re too busy watching some
lovey dovey couple wrangle, and finally, when your mother says
you have to go so you’re not an indolent Patrick Star,
you’ll go with your family to see New York—
which you’ve only ever seen on “Gossip Girl”—
and you’ll stand on the top floor of the Empire State Building
with a pair of binoculars and a fanny pack
while watching the sun fall—
the pastel sky like cotton candy—
and the people below you lead their lives—the
authentic New York street-side cuisine; the fickle traffic lights
maintaining order; the jaywalking, subway-riding pedestrians;
the pashmina and “bargain bag” businessmen—
and you’ll watch the world go by as if it were
white noise, because frankly, you could never tell the difference.
Sarah Sassone loves writing, books, punk rock, hockey, cats, and teaching. She runs a magazine with a friend. Check it out: www.everest.nine-birds.com.
maybe not so brave
as we thought; now “big wave”
got twin meanings; yes, yes, shoulda
have lightened up, I guess more bra,
stopped to talk, especially
among the shattered
when dusk came, tide gone out
to ask their names, shout
SHOUT AT FIREFLIES!
have been a bettah brudda,
what I say, not hang
ten, or let the melancholy win,
strung out, pier one,
pooka shells upon
puffed-up pecs: every bad thing
I spat at howlies clutching life
vests, the sodden red and lumpy heart
shaped cloth stuffing things, stuffing
things instead of opening, pouring
out love …
now, sea bra, the sea
comes in, as sunlight
imagining a tubular
din, white water
a scarf dog so weary
curl the purple-painted toes
one by one, aborted
boogie board of obliterated
fish barbs blown
to sunder, and bubbles
on the water;
calm there, don’t
take that long;
I ain’t a scared
to meet the Father.
(image courtesy of pbfingers.com)
The heart box of chocolates isn’t velvet or ruffled satin. No bow either. It’s the cheap variety— drugstore or worse. Maybe he got it from the Gas & Go. Red faux foil coming off staining my fingers. These days I put nothing past him. He does what’s needed, expected; the bare minimum. OK. So I put all my bare skimpy things away. Shove them into a plastic bin under the bed. And I’ve got some pretty fine things. Little bustiers with garters and sheer white stockings. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday lace teddys. Cutie French maid stuff he used to drool over. Now its t-shirts and flannel bottoms.
I pick through the crappy chocolates eating the coconut clusters, the soft ones that aren’t cherry, the fake truffles, caramels. Next the nut clusters and caramellos. By midnight I’ve pretty much decimated the box. Brown crinkly papers overflow onto the comforter. He snores changing sides. His one leg extended out. He always sleeps one leg out of the covers. Says its how his father slept. Says it proudly. Like it’s a medal or something. Your father, I think. You mean the guy who stopped fucking your mother and then she went insane. You mean that guy?
Susan Tepper is an author, poet and editor. Please visit her website www.susantepper.com and peruse her awesome books. Her latest book is called “From the Umberplatzen”.
(photo belongs to www.gflstudy.org)
Abstractions excite me. I can’t say why. There are treasures in the mountains. Extremities and peaks. Romantic cures and the curious juice of blackberries. The truth and authority of rock. It feels impersonal, and tilts into eccentric configurations. What is purpose? What is ambition? I’m enthralled by the interior of a foxglove. I’m ravenous for emptiness of mind. Wrinkles flower like consonants on the vowels of the face. The ultimate presence is sunlight. I live in the acuity of a moment scratched in ice. The vertebrae of a ram. The audacity of crickets. I venerate the integrity of the waterfall. Not because it is beautiful because it is naked in the rain. And falls. And falls. And falls. And explodes into horses at the bottom. I am an amalgam of blood and bone. Life is an enigma. Pain and pleasure are twins. As soon as one piece fits, another piece has the right image but the wrong shape. Sexuality is the greatest mystery of all. Talk turns to the folding of sheets. The secrets of the blood writhe in the shadows of a nocturnal emission. The ghosts of a dead language arrive in a limousine of ice and denim. Pink cuticles shine at the tips of tan fingers. Have you ever had a feeling too nebulous for words? The mind is a metaphor. Pronoun sawdust. Meat in a skull. Depth is sometimes revealed at the surface. The shine of a word lyrical with curves and protuberances. The scripture of the mountain is moss. It is held together in uneasy equilibrium and translated by the fingers. The message is simple: buy the cereal for the cereal, not the toy. The key to success is in wearing the right kind of camouflage. And letting the words go to extremes. Confused, dirty, subtle and veined. Keith Richards on lead guitar. Heat and bone pleading redemption. Sharp and hard and cutting. The way a knife sinks into meat. The way a river meanders to the end of the horizon and touches the sky.
John Olson is the author of numerous books of poetry and three novels, including Souls of Wind and The Seeing Machine from Quale Press, and The Nothing That Is from Ravenna Press. Larynx Galaxy, a collection of essays, fiction, and prose poetry, was published by Black Widow Press in 2012.
She wore no bra. As she jammed the truck into park and pushed against the heavy door, he saw the points of her nipples against her dress. Ice filled his belly, the most beautiful pink-colored ice.
"Look, it’s free," Libby said. She circled an ancient organ, the plastic keys ivory with time, wood panels dried and split in the heat of its tubes.
He shut his door, rounded the bed to shut hers, and approached the instrument. “What makes you say that?” he said. “There’s no sign.”
"Well, it’s just sitting on the curb. It must be free." She formed chords on the silent keyboard, punching down dramatically with both hands. James wasn’t sure—he wasn’t a musician himself—but it looked like she had no idea what she was doing. "Good fucking Christ," she said. "It’s heavy as hell."
She let the organ fall back onto all four legs and turned to look at him. “I need a smoke, hey what?”
He followed her to the curb and sat beside her, smoke haloing them both. He’d known her for three months and although he would swear he fell in love with her at first sight—were he brave enough to tell anyone he was in love with her at all—the truth was that her smoking had repulsed him until only a short time ago.
"Do I need an organ?" she said. "What makes me think I’ll play it?" She swung her knee out, brushing it against his, pushing her dress between her thighs. "I mean, I’m a sculptor." She looked at him again, cleared her throat, pulled her knee away.
James would not disagree; she was a sculptor. She poured cement into molds of two by fours, built pink and bluish cairns, cemetery-like slabs. He didn’t care for them, much, though he cared a lot about how much she cared.
"Yep. It’s true, you might not play it," he said. "In fact, it’s pretty doubtful." He shrugged. "If you’re anything like me."
She stood and went to the organ again, leaned against it. “I won’t be much help with this,” she said. “Let’s get that dude on the corner.”
He turned to look up the street, at a teenaged boy smoking a cigarette, squinting under his cap at the sky. The boy’s shorts came to his ankles.
"He’s hardly bigger than you," he said, but she was already on her way, the swish of her dress against her legs.
"Hey," she said, and the boy startled, dropping his cigarette.
"What?" he asked.
She pinched the cigarette off the cement, handed it back. “Have one of those? I’m out.”
The boy fished his Camels from his shorts and held them toward her. James came up and stood next to them.
"Thanks," she said. She smiled, her loosely set teeth taking the light. She let the boy’s eyes crawl across her chest a moment. "Can you help us? Lift that organ into my truck?"
The boy blinked. “I guess.”
The three of them traveled the half block. They stood around the organ, pressed its keys, measured it against their palms.
"That too heavy for you?" she said to the boy.
James and the boy stood at the opposite ends. “You gonna help?” James said. Libby’s hands rested on her hips. “Or probably not?” The day was getting a little hot, he could feel the sweat on his legs. She glowed a bit, her earlobes pinking. “You do want this thing?” he said.
She laughed and opened the hatch. “Okay, boys!”
They found another kid, wispy beard, smoking another cigarette, and he helped James carry the organ up the three flights of stairs to her place. She offered the boy a glass of water and a pear from her countertop.
"Shit, girl," the boy said. "You giving away fruit?" He took it, red tongue a dart around his teeth. "I’ll eat your fruit any time." He skipped away down the stairs, singing with the echo.
They sat on her couch then as the new heat glimmered between the plaster walls. Cement dust from her sculptures swirled in little eddies across the floor. She leaned on a pillow, the puffed sleeve of her dress slipping down her shoulder.
He nodded. “You’re losing that.”
She shrugged, her shoulder baring another inch. “That okay?”
"No," he said. He tried to make it bright, playful, though it graveled in his throat.
"Well," she said, "okay." She tilted her chin toward the slabs of concrete, the haphazard piles in the corner. "Should I work then? If it’s ‘no’?"
He measured the distance between them, the two and a half feet, the beer bottle stuck between the cushions. The organ stood quiet near the wall. “No,” he said. “Don’t work.”
Joseph lives in Baltimore. His book of microfiction, Easter Rabbit, was released by Publishing Genius Press in 2009 and stories of his have appeared in such magazines as wigleaf, Mississippi Review Online, Lamination Colony, and elsewhere. He also makes visual art—appearing in art shows in Baltimore and elsewhere—and has curated a number of art shows. Visit him at verysmalldogs.blogspot.com.
- Ah bonjour my young friend! I must confess that no kindness has come out of me today! I’ve only been able to harm any person willing to come close to me. Don’t look at me that way; it is no surprise what I am saying. My fits of rage are increasing over time, but let us come back to the topic that brings us here, my friend. After breakfast I sat next to the window watching the stillness of the city under the rain as if a spell were cast over the entire town. The grey skies produced in me the most subtle of yearnings. No colors, nor melodies nor shapes nor words can interpret my feelings; my salvation lied in the eyes of someone out there. Oh but I am tired of searching my good friend, I feel as lost as Dante. I wish I could rest my whole life in front of this window, watching Salvatore play with his moustache while he waits for the families to arrive at his funerary parlor. Maybe it was the lack of tobacco that sent me into this state of frenzy. Look at my hands! They can’t even hold my tea, they can’t stop shaking. The doctor never mentioned this sudden loss of composure. How shall the great Andreas Weisheit appear in public in this state? Or maybe it’s something much more obscure and terrible that has taken me through this path of inevitability. I hope you can forgive me, no, no, please stay, it is still too early and your presence makes it so much easier to be, my patient friend. Surely it is a great coincidence, my trembling body and you, I mean. It all seems like a dream; come closer lad, let me hold your hand, closer I say! I am still very much afraid and I think it may never drift away. Behind that door where you have appeared, there is nothing for me, nothing that is real. What obscure secret do you bring to me from outside lad? Why are you smiling? Have we always been this frivolous? Today I confirmed my suspicions, ah; rather I must say it was good old Kirilov. Such a curious character if I might say so. He would not stop blabbering about the pain and terror that invades him; he kept insisting that our liberation comes with self inflicted death. Bullocks! Plain bullocks! Of course I can live without fear, but it is so beautiful to feel its weight over my eye lids. This afternoon I sat in the drawing room facing my great grandfather’s mirror. I laughed like a madman observing the reflection of a coward and a hoax. So I’ve launched my own personal rebellion, with nothing more than a whisper so that I do not awake our jealous Gods. Listen well to my words: I shall not die tonight, young lad. I laugh into the night because no blackmail will make me change my mind. If dying means living with no pain then I shall fight to extend this frivolous and meaningless life. Ah, good old Kirilov! But I sense a tremor in your soul as well, young friend, a yearning of some sorts.
The lad suddenly lowered his eyes, unable to face Andreas’ powerful eyes. He concentrated on his hands that fiddled nervously with the porcelain. Whenever there was a pause in his voice, his hands would dance clumsily as if trying to track the melody of his thoughts.
He preferred to rest silent that night, understanding that whatever he said would be of no importance. He let his old friend continue his rant until he fell asleep on the sofa. Afterwards, he covered him with an alpaca blanket and kissed him goodbye on the forehead. On his way out, something appeared in the corner of his eye. It was the grand mirror.
He stayed still for quite some time analyzing his dark reflection. His eyes said nothing or maybe too much. There was certainly ambiguity in them, within his ice cold expression there was some sort of yearning buried by a life full of nonsense. What questions could emerge in this silent dialogue and at this point of his life?
The sudden shattering of glass woke Andreas from a deep and meaningful dream. He caught the shadow of his friend disappearing into the night. He wiggled slightly under the blanket until falling asleep once again.
Juan Carlos is a young Peruvian author of poems, scattered thoughts, short stories and not-so-short stories. His stories carry a strong element of surrealism by which he tries to enter a world of dreams and unorthodox rules where many questions remain unanswered. His body of work is written entirely in Spanish but he is in the process of translating his own work into English. He has never before shared his body of work as he wishes to remain an anonymous night-time writer for the time being.
Once upon a time,
In a land far away,
An ordinary girl skipped through the streets.
Quite unexpectedly she fell into a well,
And no one pulled her out.
Once upon a time,
In a dark green forest,
A wise woman gave advice to all comers.
'Of course life is thus,' she said,
'If it wasn't I'd know.'
Once upon a time,
On a dry dusty road,
People trudged under the weight of their bags.
Some lay in the dirt shoving rocks in their pockets,
'If you loved me,' they cried, 'you'd carry me.'
Once upon a time,
At the city gates,
A king called, ‘Cast away Fool’s Gold and come inside.’
One child had turned to stone, and said,
'Give me Fool's Gold; I'm not going anywhere.'
Once upon a time,
In an ivory tower,
A queen brushed her long auburn hair.
'I weep for my poor face,' she said,
'But then, I see you've had it worse.'
Once upon a time,
In a deep clear pool,
A host of merrymakers splashed and played.
One woman stood with her lip above water,
Sobbing, ‘Please don’t make waves.’
Out one day I saw her,
knee deep in shit and shovelling;
making a pile, a wide deep pile,
that sunk beneath its own weight,
pooling around her legs.
“Moving this shit.”
“Well, I can’t leave it here!”
I rode my yellow bike -
to the park, to lie in sun,
and laugh at birds.
Back one day I saw her,
waist deep in shit and shovelling;
making a pile, a wide deep pile,
that sunk beneath its own weight,
pooling around her middle.
“I can’t leave it here, can I?”
Circled round, my yellow bike -
to look again, to quiver lip,
and dimple chin.
I wish I had some shit.
Sheer force of will held him aloft,
suspended over gaping death,
and how he wished the will to live
was not so strong in human flesh.
I spent our years together
being someone you’d approve,
and all our years apart
hating you because you never knew me.
Fold in the edges.
Creases marked and thumbnail pressed.
Don’t look up.
Fold in the edges.
Turn and fold again.
Run down the thumbnail.
Watch the angle.
Fold and crease.
Turn in the edges.
Don’t look up.
Fold in the edges.
Don’t look up.
I thought there’d be more to it
I thought and did not act
I thought it would be bigger, somehow
I wondered if they all knew
I wondered if they saw it
I wondered far too far in
To see clearly.
I spoke too loud, too often
I spoke thoughts like headlines
I poked at crusty chancres
I thought were mud.
I called it Nirvana and Elysium
I called it Bountiful
I called you to come forward
One, two, three, four
Corners and walls
If you have enough barbed wire you can claim anything.
Letitia Coyne is alive and well and living in Australia. She reads, writes, paints, draws, sews, restores old wooden furniture, revives jewellery, and sings very loudly. When not doing any of the above, she watches endless movies, feeds multitudes of pets, wildlife freeloaders, and stray adolescents. Or sleeps. Letitia’s book Touchstone is published by 1889 Labs, http://1889.ca/touchstone/
He was friends with assholes, so they gave him terrible advice: “If you really want to know if he loves you, be disgusting,” and so that’s what he did. For days he didn’t shave, and refused to shampoo or use soap. When they were going to go out for coffee that one Tuesday, he didn’t brush his teeth and spoke close to his face, but the guy just looked at him and smiled while he spoke of his rashes as if that happened all the time, and finally he did what his friends told him to do as a last resort. He said, “I’m going to poop.”
The guy said, “Ok. I’ll wait here.”
“I’m just going to poop, ok?”
“To POOP,” he said, standing up, facing the restroom. “I am going to defecate in a commercial establishment rather than in the privacy of my home, which is how the homeless and uncouth do it.”
“No problem,” the guy said crossing his legs and picking up a magazine.
“I can’t do this,” he said, sitting back down.
“What do you mean?” said the guy. “It’s no problem. It’s just like how you do it at home. Do you need tissue paper?”
“No I mean I don’t really need to poop,” he said.
“Why would you lie to me like that?”
“I said it so you’d love me.”
“You told me you’re going to poop so that I’d love you?”
“No,” he said. “I mean look at me. Look at me for a second. I’m ugly, and fat, and that one time I spoke in your face when I didn’t brush my teeth. You really must be something to like me. Even I don’t like me.”
The guy smiled. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s said to me. No one pretend-pooped for me before.”
“Let’s start over tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow I take a shower.”
“That’s great,” said the guy.
P. Rafael Mercado is a writer from Manila with a degree in literature. His work can also be read at Fictionaut, an online community for writers.
I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.
Jean-Paul Sartre (via flentes)
(photo from flykavoo.com)
It was a pleasant time and my thoughts were mostly good ones, with little time wasted in regret. For these reasons I found myself searching the walls for a pay phone. I had just arrived in Chicago, en route to Seattle by train, and as scheduling goes, I had a layover. I had not seen my father in five years.
I could’ve called him the night before, but I didn’t want to seem eager; I was curious to see him, but not desperate. “Andrew?” I asked upon his answer, even though I knew it was him. I had abandoned the more endearing term dad years before in favor of his first name, but when I heard his voice, like a sad and forgotten old record, I was drenched by a deluge of pity and I offered it up as a gift: “Dad, it’s Stephen.”
“Stephen?” he asked. “Son, are you okay?”
I didn’t answer his question. To answer would’ve been to forgive, and I preferred to keep him at a remorseless distance. “I’m at the station,” I said instead. I was yet to tell him which station, and I was unsure if I should. I had just referred to a stranger as dad and he replied in form. So peculiar, I was puzzled with the sound, like I had been living in a silent world and these were the first words ever heard. They hung before me in alternating images: first I saw a masterwork, beautiful and intricate; then I saw a noose. I studied the sound and allowed myself to feel what I would, and then continued: “I’m at the train station. I’ve got some time. Why don’t you meet me, we can have lunch.”
“Yes, dad, lunch.” Again, I called him dad, likea Rembrandt tacked to the gallows.
“Sure, son.” And he called me son, like a van Gogh in the arms of a hangman. “I’ll take a cab. About ten minutes, okay?”
Ten minutes can be lengthened in many ways, all of which were at work that afternoon. I had dismissed his ten-minute arrival as it was heard and doubled his offering; it would take him ten minutes just to find his hat. These minutes, now standing at twenty, would double again through the course of anxiety. I paced between two ornate columns that seemed to support nothing and was struck with the comparison: my father, nothing more than an ornate column, served no purpose, a non-existent man in Chicago, a city I had never visited, never desired to visit, yet he was on his way to meet me for lunch, a lunch that would take an hour at most, and then he’d be on his away. I had phoned a stranger, no different than if had I picked a number at random. Except that he was my father.
When I caught sight of him, I saw something unexpected: he was nervous. His kerchief wiped his brow and he shifted as he walked, his eyes darted left and right.
The other recollections were what one would expect: he had gained weight, lost hair. The lunch was also what one would expect: little said, less eaten. To recall the details now would serve only to tarnish his memory, and I see no reason for that. He was my dad, and for that hour, we sat as father and son. As I walked away he called out, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” Even still, I’ve no idea why he said that.
Foster Trecost started writing in Italy and he’s still writing, but now from Germany. Sometimes he works paying jobs that involve corporate taxes.
white surf dancing
under the roof of summer
Source: Shinshi, 2011
Illustration: The Great Wave by Hokusai
Pass This On
Spy the beguiling eye
Entice us to that blazing cave
Yes, they’ve done it yet again
The sun’s gone round
Now another earth holds up the veil
of counterfeit voices
Festive generals pinch the dreams
Of widows, squaddies, thieves
and black sooted bandits.
Faces of the mob become
nodding ripe plums at brave Oracles.
Then that fertile dove of death
A drone descends in a whisper
at a remote distance.
Mutual sighs over bodies become howls
Rotten fruit now scatters the streets.
We are lizards in our long crawl
on Libyan shores
to the light of
Sanskrit on the metallic dome
of orbital glitz.
And I lay me down.
Come forward the bitter beauty
of cheap wines and tax collectors
But we shall soon return
to the ebon shores
the shades of Jordan
Cameras carry justice closer.
Witness the times.
Lucien Quincy Senna is a writer, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford University. Her writing has been published in an anthology “Jazz Poems” by Kevin Young, she has featured online in Fictionaut and Kaffe Kathmandu and she is published by Red Lemonade.