12/31/09

Daniel Bailey

I LOVE YOU. THIS IS GOING TO HURT.
I rolled up your pant leg to look at the fang holes. Tiny red oceans that I wanted to swim through, bathe in.

You said, “You need to suck the venom out. Don’t let it spread through my body. Please.”

I said, “Hold on, let me spit out my gum.”

You said, “Hurry up, I’m dying.”

I said, “You’re really beautiful. I just noticed that. I think, one day, I might marry you.”

You said, “Goddammit, hurry.” Your face was flushed and pale at the same time. I didn’t know that was possible, but what isn’t possible with you?

I said, “Okay, okay hold still.”

I said, “I am going to suck your blood.” You always loved my Count Chocula impression.

I put my mouth over the tiny holes in your leg and began to suck the venom from your blood. I spit the venom into the dirt. I apologized to the dirt. I said, “Dirt, you are too amazing to be filled with venom like this, but my love for her is more than my love for you.”

I sucked and spat for what seemed like an eternity. It seemed exactly like an eternity, an eternity where everything happens at once.

Your leg kept getting bigger. The fang marks began to ooze. I licked the blood and the ooze from your skin. I was like a lion, but I was not a lion. Why shouldn’t I be a lion?

I said, “You’re going to lose your leg. The decay is too much.”

You cried for your leg. You cried because you have had so many beautiful moments with that leg. That leg brought you to the state track finals in high school. You lost, but damn if that wasn’t a close race.

I cried.

I cried onto the puncture wounds, just in case my tears have magical healing abilities like in a movie I saw once.

But my tears are not magic.

I began to chew at your leg, an inch above the fang marks, to stop the spread of the venom. It was such a beautiful leg, a leg that brought you home to me each night, a leg that worked the gas pedal like some kind of miracle.

I said, “This is a good thing. This is for the best.”

You said, “I agree.”

I continued to chew through meat, through bone, through meat, until the leg was off.

I wrapped your leaking nub in my tee shirt. I picked you up, your nub pointing at the sky like a canon that shoots blood and, oh, you’re so lovely. I carried you to the car. I sang to you. I sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but only the “Glory, glory, hallelujah’s,” You passed out in my arms, but I continued to sing as I marched up the hill toward the car. I put you in the passenger seat and we drove off and I sang and I sang and I sang.


Daniel Bailey lives in Colorado. He wrote a book one time. Another time he petted a dog. And another time he petted another dog. And another time he petted another dog and then the first dog again. And then he petted a cat. And then he continued to pet that same cat for a while. And then he petted a dog. And, and, oh boy, life sure can be something. I don't know what. Just something.

12/30/09

Robert Lopez

Contact

The gray wool ski cap James Henderson’s grandmother knitted for him when he was six and which was missing between the ages of eleven and fourteen was knocked clean off with the first blow. The second swing, coming only moments after the first and doing the most damage, broke three ribs and knocked the wind out of James Henderson. The only blood visible trailed from his right ear, staining his neck. Even as the assailant walked away, leaving James Henderson and the gray wool ski cap on the pavement, he could feel the tingle of contact up and down his arms.


This piece appeared in the second issue of Sleepingfish, which was staple-stitched and limited to 35 copies.

Robert Lopez is the author of two novels, Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River. His fiction has appeared in dozens of publications and he teaches at The New School, Pratt Institute and Columbia University.

12/29/09

Sasha Laing

I LOOKED OUT MY WINDOW AND SAW THAT IT HAD STOPPED SNOWING

The girl was short, although she appeared to be fully-grown, and had tiny ears that she drew attention to by leaving her head defiantly bare. It was January, and the sun was shinning but the air was cold, and everyone, looking at the girl’s tiny red ears, immediately thought: Frostbite! The simple act of uncovered ears bringing the passers-by who passed this girl by into communion in a way that neither politics nor music ever could. The girl sparked a desire to impart warmth. The girl was fully-grown, though short, and walked along the street with her ears uncovered. The girl was a woman. I wanted to cup my hands around her tiny ears and fill them with warm air. This desire quickly outran itself and soon I was fondling a fantasy of her in my bed, my breasts pushing up against her own; the warmth of women’s thighs. The woman showed a total disregard for reality. The woman had sat down on a snowy bench and taken a book from her purse. She was reading. The snow had stopped and a woman with tiny uncovered ears was sitting directly below my window reading a book. And (presumably) getting a bad case of frostbite. I imagined the woman without ears. I imagined the doctor who would remove the ears. I imagined the different sounds the woman would hear once the flesh that channeled sound into the hearing parts of her ears had been removed. No more earrings for that woman. I looked out my window to where she sat with her book below me, oblivious to her tiny red ears that were exposed to such great risk. I consulted the thermometer that hung outside. It read thirty below. The degrees were Celsius. I looked at the woman and her tiny red ears looked back at me and shouted: Frostbite! I wanted to bring her up into my bed. Her coat was red, a deeper red than her tiny ears, and I pictured the woman entering my apartment and unzipping her coat. Unzipping her red coat and placing it over the back of a chair and then putting her hands to her tiny red ears as though it were only cool outside and not dangerously cold. I wanted her to be warm. I knew that if I walked out into the street the snow would squeak under my boots. I put my hands to my own ears. The woman sat below my window, oblivious to me. My apartment, which I had selected for its view over the park, had become a prison. I reveled in the thought of her amputated ears. I dangled unwearable earrings in front of her face. I pushed her naked body out of my bed and into the snow, watching as her flesh became swollen and red. I turned from the window and went to my closet. In the cupboard a pair of black earmuffs hung from a hook. I went back to the window. The window was frozen shut. I put a kettle on and paced until the boiling began. I poured scalding water around the window frame. The heat fogged the window to opacity and sent a sharp jagged crack through the glass. The window came loose, and I stood with my arms outstretched, looking at a book abandoned on a bench. My fingers holding black earmuffs began to turn red.


Sasha Laing is from Meaford, Ontario.

12/28/09

Heather Christle

MOSS DOES NOT LOVE OTHER MOSS

It isn’t dark yet though it should be dark
The grass is bright you can still see it
and warm and you can smell it and
elsewhere two people hold one another close
in a darkness they have created They can feel
their insides turning to olive oil and late late
afternoon light It’s hard not to be them
to be like a fallen off piece of the mountain
to have traveled so far and still without darkness
To see the whole system the houses
pulling up from the soil and to want
the stars out now To want the stars out now
like a linen bag over the head



Heather Christle’s debut poetry collection, The Difficult Farm, was published by Octopus Books in 2009. She lives in Atlanta and is Emory University’s Creative Writing Fellow in poetry. More information is at heatherchristle.blogspot.com.

12/25/09

Amelia Gray

CHRISTMAS HOUSE

Christmas House is an interactive, inclusive holiday home. The House is home to an interactive manger scene, a Christmas tree gift exchange, a holly-hanging singalong, and traditions of the yuletide such as hot buttered rum and various nogs. Visitors to Christmas House are charmed to see such traditions carried out in the spirit Jesus Himself might have intended, had He been a businessman.

Christmas House is a truly participatory experience. If a guest wishes to act as if he or she is the first in the world to discover becoming profoundly drunk on warm egg nog, that is his or her right. If a cast member wishes to tear down the mistletoe and declare that no man will ever understand the sorrow that mistletoe holds in the center of its being, he should act on those motivations.

Christmas House is home to fifty-three poinsettias. One cast member's job is to dispose of these poinsettias in an efficient manner while maintaining the spirit of Christmas. The cast member must bring together everyone she knows, apologize for being a burden, and award the guests one poinsettia each. After their departure, the cast member must remove the leaves of the single remaining poinsettia, place them in a blender with warm water, and create a vitamin-rich paste for her face and neck.

Christmas House is maintained during business hours. Because the countdown to Christmas includes its own unique feelings at various hours, Christmas House itself never sleeps. Shifts run from dawn until dusk and again from dusk until dawn. Cast members must not exit Christmas House during business hours; cots and beds can be found upstairs. Children employed by Christmas House may sleep during manger shifts.

Christmas House sits at the far end of a firing range. At times, a bullet may shatter a window and nestle in an opposing wall. Cast members decorating windows must manipulate the sashes with boughs and hanging garlands while keeping their bodies tucked aside. For the safety of infants working manger shifts, the manger is bulletproof and hidden from the public.

Christmas House is not responsible for injury. If a nog-drunk guest is caught by a stray bullet, he or she must be carried to a location off the premises and allowed to seek medical attention independent to the operations of Christmas House. Cast members at Christmas House are permitted to treat wounds in the spirit of Christmas, for example by compressing a blood-soaked trouser with holly leaves while singing Silent Night.

In accordance with the true spirit of Christmas, all guests and cast members of Christmas House must balance illusion and truth. The tinsel is penance and the figgy pudding is suffering. The Yule log offers no reprieve. Carols are sung but nothing that rhymes is true. The manger is in operation at all times. Individuals doubting the mystery of the season will be escorted from the premises.



Amelia Gray is the author of AM/PM, published by Featherproof Books, and Museum of the Weird, due Fall 2010 through Fiction Collective 2. She blogs at ameliagray.com.

12/24/09

Gabe Durham

Speak Up for a Treat

If you want fuss, I know a country where waiters will sing at you. If you come to this one place, it’s me and Dan and Danny and Pat and Dee and Allie who will sing. Then we applaud cause you made it, breathing and beating like you’re told to. Fitness helped, quenching helped, other deeds, and now you’re here. How good are you at happy? Or, I mean, how adaptable? Cause one year it’s graciousness—don’t fumble the bounty—and the next fourteen it’s stride—don’t hold your hands out like that. We don’t card so you might be faking and we’re pretty sure you are and you’ll never know we know, us being professionals. Singing away while presenting a flickering sundae with long shallow spoons to dilute the pleasure to all your little coconspirators. How we can tell is: real birthdayers emit a certain glow you don’t have. It’s their day, annexed for them. We could use a day—and believe me—we’d know what to do with it, the way our cheeks ache, the support our backs require.



Thanks Brother Dave for the Kind Introduction

Now heed. There was once a young man whose convictions led him to vegetarianism. At every feast he attended, even in the presence of potent men, he eschewed meat. What I’m getting at is: Are you daring to boldly go? Are you being spoon-fed, physically, in the spiritual sense? If you don’t have anything you would die for, where then emotionally do you make your bed? Was it not the One who Was who said, “You give them something to eat”? That abstinent young man’s name, by the way, was Hitler, but maybe we all could take a page—and hit the Devil with it. What’s your kampf? I mean that as a metaphor for struggle. You’re all at stake here, and I don’t mean Sizzler Billy I see Billy getting hungry over here don’t worry Billy not much longer. If you taste the voice of the Lord on your heart in this day or could just use someone to smack your lips at, won’t you come forward as we stand. And as we sing.


Gabe Durham lives in Northampton, MA. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Hobart, Keyhole, Fourteen Hills, The Lifted Brow, and elsewhere. These pieces are from a series called Fun Camp.

12/23/09

Rozalia Jovanovic


THE TROUBLE WITH THE EVE

The point is not being there, but to have a place to be. To have a place to be necessarily means you might not have a place to be. Because you are aware of this when you are there, being becomes hard.

It is possible to forget for a moment about being, and not being, when talking about new uses of "whale."





FRAMES

He said, "I only ask because you never know what people will tell you." Skills at deflecting inappropriate questions were not yet acquired by me. I admire this ability of other people.

I was eating whipped cream spiked with Grand Marnier--which I had scratch-made for the potluck. The loft was shared by four men. A good friend met his future wife while living there.

Many people in their early twenties have not been engaged. Also, the question of marriage was not important to me. Now, I can't imagine myself occupied by talk, the natural progression of which is the question, "Have you ever been engaged?"

I did not feel invaded. But he was attempting an invasion. These are different things.

I felt unengaged. He was eating Turducken.

Also, unexpectedly, I had a scruple based on little but my sulkiness to answer a question about my prior or non-existent engagements. (I just Roget-ed a word that brought me to page one. That was thrilling.) I was sidestepping some indefinable trespass.

After, I thought, 'There are people who ask questions only to acquire data. These people are successful.' I divide the world's people into two groups. Those who ask questions to acquire data, and those who ask questions in ignorance of the act of acquiring data. I thought, 'Every vouchsafing of information puts you at a disadvantage, if you are not, then, vouchsafed information.'

I blame this man for making me think of talk in terms of advantage and disadvantage. Blame for other divisions is as of yet undecided.


Rozalia Jovanovic is a founding editor of Gigantic, a magazine of short prose and art, the New York Editor of The Rumpus, and the Indie Books columnist for The Faster Times. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Columbia University. Her writing has most recently appeared in The Believer, Guernica, elimae, and Esquire.com. She lives in New York.

12/22/09

Carl Annarummo

selection from a failed novel


We barked into our portable phones and when the phones died we barked into our hats. Behind us were the graying stormclouds that’d been hung for the evening over our town. I thought about my kids and then my wife and then the rear side windows separated into thin black plumes of glass ponytails and all I could hear were the low rumblings of thunder off in the distance. Then the rains came and when I pulled over the stray dogs that’d followed us sought shelter under the truck. I watched in the driver-side mirror the stormclouds hack apart what was left of our town, whether prayed for or ignored. I shrunk the headlights. When the rain stopped Mustache got out of the truck and walked around the front of the truck to my window and rested his elbow on the mirror. He whistled to the dogs and then motioned for me to grab his phone which had been charging off the cigarette lighter. After dialing, a woman’s voice was heard. He said that all trucks were to rendezvous at daybreak and that we were to all park our trucks in order of registration expiration. He threw up in his mouth with laughter after hanging up. The wind blew his hat over the truck and onto the barbed wire that lined the interstate. There were several tire fires off in the distance not to mention the smoldering ruins of our town. Up the road was an abandoned pharmacy with a sheltered drive-thru where we unfurled our sleeping bags and laid to rest. When Mustache fell asleep I put on my jacket and crawled under the trucks with the stray dogs. This is the life. When the winds started the smoke from a nearby tire fire in our direction, I rounded up a few of the less mangier dogs and together we sat in the truck’s cabin illuminated by a faint light with a fly trapped inside.



Thee Death Well

The town selectmen had gathered around
the well. The issue of how to bury the dead
had been debated and rightfully popularized
on local talk radio. The selectmen, nodding
and arching an eyebrow towards the well,
reached a consensus: Magic! So they set up
a doorway in the shape of a coffin lid over
the well and charged families ten dollars to
properly give their loved ones a send-off. It
took a long time to get all the dead into the
first well. I say ‘first well’ because the dead
were so numerous that a second, and later
a third well was needed. The town became
soaked with freelance burial-well operators.
This led to unfair wages, labor unrest, and
eventually, a fourth well which was larger
than the previous three wells combined.





Carl Annarummo is the editor of the Greying Ghost chapbook series. He currently lives in Salem, MA where he tends to his collection of teddy bears on a semi-regular basis.

12/21/09

Mathias Svalina

from I AM A VERY PRODUCTIVE ENTREPRENEUR

I started this one business that builds skyscrapers in your likeness.

What could be better than a 500 foot building in the shape of you looking out over the expanse of vague lives down on the streets of Manhattan?

What says I am somebody more than 70 stories of you among the old crust of stone & steel on the skyline.

Picture yourself towering over the Chrysler building with a look in your eye that says “Suck it, Chrysler Building.” Picture your gigantic arms folded in haughty disdain, or perhaps casually holstered in the pockets of your slacks or designer jeans. Picture the cut of your coat writ Everestian among those elevator-plagued relics of history.

Picture the epic base of your feet, how the little people with their weeping & their children & their envelopes, how they pass by your feet, how their day’s path is defined by your feet, how some child would see the feet & slowly crane his neck up to look to your towering visage cast against the cadmium burn of the blue sky & how you would seem to be looking down on him both in inspiration & derision, how the mothers would never notice the burn in their throats, how the fathers would continue in their mindless urge toward prayer before meals & how the child would begin to cry like a dog that has broken its old tooth on a bone – what shoes would you be wearing?

But seriously, picture how big your dick would be. It would be useless to try & tell you this is anything but the grandest of vanity. But, I propose as counterpoint, what is the function of the human superorganism other than the extension of the few, lucky, brutal vanities? Where would we be without our kings & our popes? What a simper it is to believe another intellect lies behind those dormant clots of eyes? What form of cannibalism is this urge toward equality?

The avalanche of human history must forever self-propel, by which I mean that you must remind the people around you of your superiority. And yet to say it to their faces, well, that is out of fashion.

A skyscraper!

A skyscraper in the shape of you!

It is not only business, it is how art enters the daily life. Even Reubens of the beautiful bubble-butts was a diplomat, attempting to bluff the Dutch into Catholic capitulation. No ocean of luscious beaver pelts, washing into Amsterdam in creaky wooden tankers could keep this city from the resolute control of the British, just as no amount of blood assuages the fury of the heart. But again, I say, this is vanity but also allegory.

Not only do we build the skyscraper in the form of your outward likeness, we build the interior in the exact function shape & twirl of your veins & arteries & organs. The employees in the building of your body pass through your chutes & sphincters in their daily work. There are the obvious undesirable, one might even say officious, offices of guttural organ; the places for those who never dream of a desk at the command of the eyes. We have the finest conceptual architects constructing our skyscrapers with precision computer modeling – it is crucial that the buildings are not only structurally sound but anatomically coherent.

In a sense, of course, it is blood flowing through the buildings veins, isn’t it, in the sense of a suicide pact or an ocean voyage? For what is a man but the internalization of so many other humans, the little twist of the neck unconsciously stolen from a childhood teacher who could never remember his name, the fixed voice his father used just before the door was locked.

The true equality is the raising up of one, the increase of the individual into a monster of chrome & glass. Equality is not a horizon line. It’s not the connection between one person & another or the movement of water in an aquarium. We don’t ride the roller coasters for the loops & the splashes.


Mathias Svalina is a co-editor of Octopus Magazine & Books. His first book, Destruction Myth, was recently published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

12/18/09

Ken Baumann

excerpt from Solip 

Children's Hour.  I feel I should fill in some philosophy, or a more formal advice; channels can be changed.  Here to.  Let it be known that a man in a box is yet a man.  A man buried is as lonely as he'll ever be, and ever was.  Walls move if you do not watch them.  Never take the pill.  Highly regimented diets of air will sustain us all.  Troughs are to be watered and pigged upon.  Mountains climbed are no less immortal.  The back of the hand is a ravine that should not be crossed.  Never touch.  The unremarkable sound that faints in your bedroom at night is glass shattering, distant.  Swallow when spoken to.  Spit when exhumed.  A tar-stained rope will never do.  A year's worth of salt will build upon dank newspapers left quiet, then ignore the patterns in the smeared print, as they will only forebode.  Askewed and stern, default.  Let the noises crowd each other; it'll be like tea leaves.  Turn to the stars.  Diviners are to be held in faith.  The most graceful motion is a slice.  The most noble motion is a feint.

Ken Baumann is.  For more information, visit www.kenbaumann.com.

12/17/09

Reynard Seifert

Mine Watery Eyes Bend The Sun Shapes You’ll Never See



Had a pack of cigarettes for lunch. Life is meaningless.


Crawled into a trashcan, covered myself in garbage. Scared the crap out of people walking by. A crowd gathered. People gave me lots of money.


Bought some crack & did a backflip into the lake. Held my breath. Looked up to the moon shining down, blurred to shapes by the water.


Looked down. Saw a pirate flag waving. Tried to swim to the bottom. Someone pulled me out.


Fell in love. Don’t fall in love.


Only problem was the breath. The breath. Asked him to try dry food. Barked at me. Cereal sucks, he said. Not too smart.


We played in a water fountain. Dried off in the sun. He licked every inch of my body. Humped my everything. People filmed us. Gave us lots of money.


Bought forty-seven lottery tickets & a large coffee. Mixed all the flavors & ran around in circles. 


Passed out, pants around my ankles.


Animal control took my love away. Slobbering too much. Life is meaningless again.


Climbed on top a Church’s Chicken. Gave a sermon. Don’t believe in god or whatever. My sermon was about chicken is better than beef.


Some bitch gave me five dollars to shut the fuck up. Gave her ten to hop on one foot. She did. She did that shit.


Fell in love again. Life is meaningless again. Something lacking. Nothing going.


Bought a pizza pie. Fed each other slice after slice. Threw up on the sidewalk. People wouldn’t give us no money.


Found a bowl: six-month old resin in a broken pipe. Stung our lungs like tiny daggers. Thought we were floating in the lake. Saw shapes. Got a migraine.


Found a drill. Made a hole in our temple for the resin to run out. Think that was a bad idea.
Lying on the floor. Can’t move. Lots of blood in our eyes & no money nowhere, we wonder: is that all there is.


Maybe that is all there is: blood in our eyes & on the walls. The ceiling. Maybe that is all there is: the ceiling. There’s no ceiling, she said. We outside.


Plunged into the water. Rushed over our head in sheets. Sucking air in waves rushing down, back & out. Colors becoming shapes becoming light, colossal nothing: air.


We held our breath. Swam to the bottom of the lake. Swam to a sunken sailboat sporting a pirate flag. Raised the flag half-mast. Water filled the sails.


The old boat set off on a stream. Creaking slow & stiff. An old man on a waterslide, hovering some fifty-odd feet above the muddy floor, I piloted the sailboat left & right, up & down, through the water.


Saw a mass grave. Let out the sails to stop the boat & swam over to the mound.


Gazed at the sun shining down, blurred to shapes. She crawled into the grave saying, Just leave me here. I like it here. Do that shit. Did that shit.


Picked up a stick. Left a note in the mud: Mine watery eyes bend the sun shapes you’ll never see.


Raised the pirate flag. Water filled the sails. Bent them shapes, like the sun in my eyes.


Reynard Seifert is the author of the chapbook How To Skin The Moon and the ebook zzzombiezzz. He’s been published by journals like Pindeldyboz and Hobart, with work forthcoming on PANK and Word Riot. He is a DJ on Viva Radio, publishes hahaclever dot com, and gives away music for books on his writer’s blog.

12/16/09

Phil Doran

RA RA RASPUTINA KILLER OF THE KGB

Matryona Grigorierna Rasputina loved the jellied heads of Moscovite children her father had the Winter Palace cook prepare. The macula was softer than Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy infected brain tissue, but not so bitter. Her father would clutch the head behind the ears, the only part you could grasp hold of without it slipping out of your hands, and bury his face into the child’s head like a rabid dog. The squelch that the monk made as he sucked out lonely eyes from their sockets always reminded Matryona of happier times.

In her twenties she ended up a night club dancer in Bucharest, then toured Europe and America as a lion tamer. The Daughter Of Famous Mad Monk Whose Feats Astonished Russia And World! would later get mauled by a bear in Peru under direct orders from Stalin. She stayed with the circus however until it reached Miami Florida, where she quit and began work as a riveter in a shipyard. One night she met KGB agent Georgie Bernadsky, second generation American Russian. In the mid-50’s he worked the plants as a trade union buster and McCarthyite stooge until he switched sides. He stayed married to Matryona for six months at the behest of the Soviet secret police. Settling permanently in the US to put clear Atlantic between her and her ex, Matryona was politically and sexually inactive in 1968 Summer Of Degeneracy, when she claimed to be a psychic. Betty Ford came to her in a dream with a recipe Spiridon Putin had cooked at the Astoria Hotel in February 1915 for Tsar Nicholas II. Spiridon, grandfather of Vladimir, went on to be the only Russian to have cooked for Lenin and Stalin.


Georgie died after eating the Kuhlich that Matryona had baked for Russian Orthodox Easter. Not receiving any of the State pension she would have been entitled to, had she stayed in Soviet Union, she was forced to work for CIA as babysitter of weapons and illegal narcotics in return for green card and keeping Interpol and KGB off her back.


The recipe remain classfied, but Matryona looked at the copy she had kept. For old time’s sake. She was sentimental like that. Just like her father.



Phil Doran (b. Liverpool 1963) is a stand-up poet, comedian, writer and teacher. He has been published by Cerebral Catalyst, Zygote In My Coffee, The Beat, The Times, Tenerife Holiday Magazine, Insurance Age, Midweek and The Liverpool Echo. He is a regular contributor to Sein Und Werden. He is the author of the two bumper collections of flash fiction and short stories: Spaghetti Fiction and Spaghetti Fiction Too. He is working on his new books Auntie Pastie (Twenty years of spoken word) and Spaghetti Fiction Freed. He lives on a 23ft narrowboat. 

12/15/09

Ben Mirov

Fallout

It's freezing in here. The guy in the ski mask to my right is dead, I think. I jab him in the ribs. He's only sleeping. Get the hammer, I tell him. He throws me a salute, like I'm in command or something. He goes over, gets the hammer, more like a sledgehammer really, and hands it to me. It feels good to hold in my hand. I sit for minute and feel the weight of the hammer. Then I stand up and start working on the big support in the middle. I whack away for a minute or two and no one does anything. Then, after a few minutes more, they begin to shout. They like what they see. They want me to try harder, try more. I hit the support again and the shelter shudders a little. I can tell something is happening, finally. I swing the hammer again and again. It's definitely starting to buckle, now. I'm about to swing again when Dad comes downstairs. He's sweating all over the place and gnawing on a bone. You’re fired, he says, and stomps back upstairs. I feel so ashamed. It's totally quiet. No one says anything.


Ben Mirov lives in Brooklyn, New York. His chapbook I is to Vorticism is forthcoming in 2010 from New Michigan Press. He is editor of pax americana (paxjournal.com). He is also poetry editor of LIT Magazine. Sometimes he blogs at isaghost.blogspot.com

12/14/09

Louise Krug

The Big Deal


The baby shower was in the middle of the state and we were in charge. We had to decorate the banquet room, rented in a hotel just off the highway. We built a cupcake tree and planned a game. We microwaved candy bars on white cloth diapers. This represented poop. The guests would guess what kind of candy bar was what, and the winner got a candle. The easiest way to tell was by the amount of peanuts. Our pregnant friend got the padded chair in the center of the room during the gifts. She was wearing purple, and all the women told her she was supposed to wear blue — did she want to jinx the football team on a game weekend?

You said what was the big deal with having babies, you never understood. You felt like you already had a baby and you had a dog! You said no offense, and smiled. Nobody knew what to say so enough time went by that you became right. 





Louise Krug’s work has been published in "elimae," "Glossolalia," and is forthcoming in the "Emprise Review." She is a PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas.

12/11/09

Mike Young

GIGGLE OR STOP IT
for C

I will, of course, be there for whatever.
But only if I'm so famous I can't be held
against myself. My sense of humor in
real life is like the street person who
convinced you to give him money after
he moonwalked explicitly into your heart,
I mean tripped on a pigeon, I mean off the
pier to float above the invisible seals of
thirty-nine obligations, where we steal those
yachts and stand on our decks in bathrobes
trying not to acknowledge the In-And-Out
neon or the other quite entirely, quietly,
like trying to erase the word you from all
promotional material. We never did see
Laundromat Jesus or those tinfoil shoes
that weather divine since they would be
lying anyway, which is another way to say
trying too hard. "Let's ride the BART to the
airport," you said. "Then what?" "Germany."
Bravery's a lot easier under your ushanka.
Push the option on me to stop the orbit I take
around the tiny dwarfs of preoccupation.
Which sounds like a big halve-the-tides-via-
eye-games, but it's really just a need for an
alternate light source. Really I just want to be
quiet for a little while inside your quiet too.


Mike Young is the author of We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough (PGP 2010) and the chapbook MC Oroville's Answering Machine (Transmission Press 2009). He co-edits NOÖ Journal and Magic Helicopter Press. Visit him online at http://mikeayoung.blogspot.com/ and links to his published work at http://mike.noojournal.com/. He very much swoons over the company of carrot cakes.

12/10/09

Kathryn Regina

something wasn’t right

when i woke up i couldn’t see my arm.
i felt startled. i felt like the time
i showed up to an empty tent revival.
or the time i woke up and i couldn’t see
my leg.



kathryn regina has chapbooks from the greying ghost and publishing genius. she lives in chicago and blogs at http://www.this-is-not-poetry.blogspot.com/. she was born in ft. lauderdale, FL in 1978.

12/9/09

Jac Jemc

Trap

When Cassowary was pope he would tumble over all of a sudden like a cardboard cutout. When I was pope I kept crawling out from behind furniture like I was coming back from the dead. Always though we made sure to capture a dove, to shove it indoors and make sure it had places to perch so it wouldn’t freak out the whole time we were trying to play, “Pope.” The dove was the holy spirit. In the mornings we gathered the twistiest sticks we could find, branches that looked more like arterial growths than the thin limbs of a tree. To counter the white dove, we also had a black iron bird we’d found in the attic. Maybe it was supposed to be a lawn ornament or something. We had the live white dove and the black iron bird. One of the birds meant something we hadn’t defined. We were winding wild coils around everything. We were wrapping up the world and getting ready for a surprise. The only light in the room was fluorescent, stringy and sickening. I made papal decrees and then Cassowary would secede me and counter-edict and our congregation of birds would confuse what the current law of the church happened to be. When we took our turn as pope we placed on our heads a hat made of reinforced mylar. When I looked at Pope Cassowary I could see the world which was behind me. Pope Cassowary would reprimand me for not looking him in the eye, but he knew from when I was his pope, how hard it was not to see what it was to be always before something. Why that hat was so much more enthralling than a regular old mirror, we couldn’t say. When I was pope I would make Cassowary, the dove and the black iron bird line up and I would listen to them confess their sins. The angles of their shame were always downward and shadowed, even in the ill light of the tubes overhead. I would absolve them by speaking to them through the coil and tapping the curled branch upon their shoulders. The dove was the only one who seemed bothered by this absolution. Even if we could get him to stand in line, he never sat still for the pardon ritual. We did not recognize that we were forcing forgiveness on the Holy Spirit. No matter how many times I was pope, I was still made nervous each time I placed the mylar cap on my head. It was so light and yet such a heavy burden all at once. I tried to avoid the feeling that there was nothing to do. Pope Cassowary decreed: “Be not afraid of the broken or restored!” We were trying to make faith a series of guesses instead of a practice. We stayed up all night and lied to each other.


Jac Jemc's first novel, My Only Wife, is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in 2012. She is the poetry editor for decomP and a fiction reader for Our Stories. She blogs her rejections at jacjemc.wordpress.com.

12/8/09

Prathna Lor

Bibblebabblesquawk

Since yesterday, I had never been in more want than now for a good-sized peach. I tell my mother my name is Harem, she asks me what I do, what my vocation is, I tell her I throw buildings off cliffs, sever melon heads and attach them to other severed melon heads—these ones slightly more deranged, not decomposed, but fucked enough to look like I ate a cunt with my elbows; you know, the saying, what a lark!—until them melon heads start looking like one or the other. I don’t eat no melons but they sure eat me. My mother says that I got a mouth worth centuries. Says I talk like I lived to see her death and came back to tell her about it in riddles and demon tongues—harbingering, thaumaturgy. Lampooning the stalk of a giant. Says I’m just as bad as Koockstin when it comes to trying to describe a good day. Often I hear her at night, coming into my bedroom when the moons full; creaking up against the floorboards I can hear the dead skin of her ankles. I can smell them in the morning, her footprints, thick as snow. She always lifts up my shirt, looking, I guess, for scars or new hair. Maybe thinking I’d turn into one of them wolfbears. One time a bloodstain and she whacked me with a paddle—she always be carrying some cooking utensil in her apron that apron never coming off—don’t know what she’s thinking going to church with a pot in her belly. Told her I swallowed a tooth that time. She kissed me and let me touch one of her painted fingernails, for hours. Stroking it, I thought it’d catch on fire. I’m a porous body, but don’t you dare hold me like a sponge. Beetlebulbs and flowers. Rosewater and saffron. Don’t know what else she’s looking for. Checking to see if I’m still a man. So many things can happen in a night. You got a pause in your heart she says when I’d done something bad, but that don’t stop her from hitting me with a spade. One time she chased me down to the river with the hunking metal, yelled out my name, my real name, as if I’d disappear or turn into fine powder—she’d like that, she would; be worth more to her than anything I’d ever done so far. What good is it trying to talk with a mirror? Trying to speak faster than you can see your lips move, oh, it’s haunting! I have nightmares where I outrun my shadows, and then what?


Prathna Lor lives in Toronto, Ontario.

12/7/09

J.A. Tyler

a chipmunk

I tug at the lining of my pocket, the unwrapped candy there, sticking only a little to the inside, coming out into my fingers covered in fuzz, goose down or feathers. I throw it in my mouth when no one is looking, the pocket lining coming off on my tongue.

MR. TEDDY BEAR LOVES YOU she says to me when the covers are up and the glowing stars on the ceiling are turning their green, their way of lighting up. I am over this bear, the one I used to call Mr. Teddy, the one I used to hug and cuddle with when the covers were up and my mom was brushing hair from my forehead. She makes him dance, tapping my bed’s edge, my mattress. The bear reminds me now of the drool that I wipe up in the morning, using his furry arm, and the burn of firecrackers I shot off the last fourth of July, when I held one too long in my hand and it went to explode, exploding right by my ear, leaving it ringing.

I think of burning, Mr. Teddy on fire in my head, his plastic eyes melting, the fuzz old candy coming off on my tongue, the chipmunks searching half peanuts from the ground we walk on, my mom still imagining me smaller than I am.



J. A. Tyler is the author of the novel(la)s INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (scrambler books, 2009), SOMEONE, Somewhere (ghost road press, 2010), IN LOVE WITH A GHOST (willows wept press, 2010), & A MAN OF GLASS (fugue state press, 2011) as well as the chapbooks ZOO: THE TROPIC HOUSE (sunnyoutside, 2010) & OUR US & WE (greying ghost, 2010). His work has appeared recently with Diagram, Sleepingfish, Caketrain, Hotel St. George, elimae, & Action, Yes among others. He is also founding editor of mud luscious / ml press. Visit: aboutjatyler.com.

12/4/09

Joseph Murphy

That Time of Night

You are lying on your back three feet above the floor. You are resting on a poorly-made table that I’ve pulled into the center of the dining room. Above you, there is a chandelier, but it is not on. Around you, I sit at the head of the table; your daughter, not mine, sits at your left shoulder—watches you through her glasses, which came from her real father. Our son is at your right shoulder, licking his lips and banging the table with the end of his knife. Your father sits at the other end, across from me; his white sideburns reach down his neck and loop beneath his ears. And his new wife sits beside him and beside your daughter. Your father’s hand is on his wife’s knee; she is younger than me, but just barely older than you. You are lying on the table in between us all.



Joseph Murphy's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Northville Review, The Legendary, and Prick of the Spindle. Letters to Famous Dead can be found here: letterstofamousdead.blogspot.com.

12/3/09

Alina Gregorian

Boise

This machine fixes your dreams.
If you want to see a globe
you are surrounded by bricks.
As you wander around the bathysphere
you count the falling stars.
When you hear the radio
you dream about marshmallows.
This is the way your emotions
are whittled down to wheat stalks.
This is the way you don’t wake up
with your hand on your forehead.
I want to place a bucket of affection
on your doorstep. I want to walk
around the galaxy twelve times.





Alina Gregorian holds an MFA from The New School. Her poems have appeared in Caketrain, Juked, Fou, Elimae, The Best American Poetry Blog, and Pax Americana. She is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets College Prize. This is her blog: alinagregorian.blogspot.com.

12/2/09

Ryan Call

How To Use This Guide


Example 1 – A small funnel forming at the base of a cumulonimbus cloud

You and your sister are driving through north Texas to visit distant family, relations through your father’s side, and you hear on the radio that a tornado warning has been issued for all citizens in your area. You scan the sky to discover that a small funnel has formed at the base of a thick, castellated storm cloud over the road ahead; it seems to approach quickly.

1. Turn to the index and find the term ‘funnel cloud.’ The index directs you to the entry on Tornadoes & Other Whirls.

2. In the text, you read that Tornadoes are an error of the deceased farmer’s jealousy, and that through his funnel cloud, the deceased farmer can again take hold of the earth, for good and for evil. Your sister weeps in fear, for she once dated a soybean farmer. He had enormous, callused hands and used her roughly.

3. As you try to calm her, you immediately reverse direction in search of a suitable shelter: a farmhouse, a ditch, etc. The horizon, far and flat and empty of any feature, mocks you.



Example 2 – The distant sound of thunder; a dark, menacing cumulonimbus cloud approaches

You have just received news via telephone that your mother and father have driven their newly purchased recreational vehicle nearly six hundred miles to surprise you for your twenty-sixth birthday. They carry with them a number of acrobatic kites, which they wish to fly with you this afternoon, despite your having repeatedly informed them that you had long since abandoned that childhood hobby. The sky has considerably darkened, is punctuated by the occasional flash of lightning, and menaces the neighborhood; you desperately replace the telephone in its cradle, wishing upon your mother and father a blown tire or some other mechanical mishap. Your wife angrily peers into the storm, awaiting the sweep of headlights up the drive, as the first heavy drops of rain splat themselves against the living room window.

1. Turn to the index and find the phrase ‘parental malaise.’ The index directs you to the entry on Thunderstorms, which surprises you, as you had expected to read about Hurricanes or Hailstorms.

2. In the text, you read that thunderstorms represent a familial convulsion, often symptomatic of repressed childhood memories, the wicked burdens of maturity, and the guilt that comes of fleeing one’s family. You become disheartened by this description, ignoring the thunderstorm’s capability to create positive transformation in its wake.

3. You and your wife secure the storm shutters, retrieve candles from the pantry, and await your parents’ arrival.


Ryan Call lives in Houston with his wife. Excerpts from his ongoing field guide to North American weather have been published by mlpress, Lamination Colony, and sleepingfish.

12/1/09

Drew Kalbach

from THE JOYOUS CLOUD PARADE

Your expectations lead you out of the clouds and into a place where water runs down the walls and your voice echoes all night.

Nothing could be better than here. My hands inside an overcoat grasp at the seams.

The enormity of the distance between your legs makes me cross my ankles and cringe.


*
Falling wasn't hard when we were together. I took off my pants and covered myself with a cloud.

We left my house and walked slowly through traffic. You wanted to tumble over and over and over hundreds of cars.

I wanted to watch!

The bees that were my hands swarm into my closet at the first sign of loneliness.


*
In the real life of anything I would think this place is beautiful.

I'm wrapped up in strange hair and my feet feel all tingly and alive.

I can't walk from one place to another without moving my arms together back and forth in step with my legs, and though this grabs the attention of everyone around me, I feel more alone walking through cotton bodies in crowds than I do sitting in a fountain scrubbing my face with bleach and chunks of fallen clouds.


*
When we have sex, it's always dark. You ask to crawl under my bed afterwards, and that's OK. I want you to burrow into my rug. I want you to make friends with the mice underneath my heater.

I know I will.


*
My lungs are full of water and failure. Breathing is difficult inside a cloud full of geese and screaming children.

If I could reach my hand through your lungs, I would.

But I need fires and waves. Long rolling waves of burning clouds, my hands in your lungs, the basement steps thin and cracked.


*
My ears hurt so I take them off. It’s the only sensible thing to do. I try so hard to be sensible! When the clouds reach into my bedroom at night I curl into a ball and pretend to be asleep.

Really, I am dreaming about your ears. The tight spiral of them, the deep handshakes they make in my direction.

I hide from the clouds to be a part of your skull.


*
I need the future, already determined, to shift quietly into the past.


*
It felt good, tearing myself apart. The moon was up and purple. We were hundreds of feet above the ground. I straddled your body and
sang:

Love comes to those that don't deserve it, love comes to those that never need it.

And the bright corners of your lips kept my hands in line as I stitched around my wrists and across my fingers.

We fell through lightless clouds together as you vibrated like a washing-machine.



Drew Kalbach lives in Philadelphia. He is the author of the chapbook THE ZEN OF CHAINSAWS AND ENORMOUS CLIPPERS (Achilles Chapbook Series 2008) and of the e-chapbook THEATER (Scantily Clad Press 2009).

11/30/09

Jensen Beach

We Cannot Cross the River

We cannot cross the river until it freezes. Bekker predicts January. For food we gather leaves, berries and roots from the thick forest behind the cabin. Suarez boils what we find into a revolting paste that we spoon into our mouths with dirty fingers. Winslow ate a spider he plucked from the web that now covers the ceiling and much of the north wall. We are retreating into nature. Being swallowed up by it. A colony of roots has broken through the tired plank floor.

We are without electricity. It is hot but we feel the cold coming. It is September. There is sadness thick as the river. At night it is so dark we write on the blackness. Molineux succumbed. He forced a rock into his throat and choked a horrid, slow death. Suarez buried him in the soft dirt. Winslow said a prayer. Bekker spit jealous spit on the tilled earth.

We wait. We are fathers but do not remember. Winslow has taken to singing “Little Red Wagon” in his deep rattle. Bekker found a glass jar, which he blackened with soot. He stalks the darkest corners of the cabin for dust and discarded web, for pebbles, for secrets to keep. He places them in the jar and sleeps with it in the crook of his arm. When it is light, he peers inside and tempts us.

We have new feelings. We sit so close we feel our bodies. They do not belong to us. Bekker snores. Winslow cries for his children. We are amazed he remembers them. Suarez speaks Spanish in his sleep, crawling home to the womb he will never see.

We are fathers. We came here. We just did. One by one to this cabin by the river. We cannot go back. Winslow was the last to arrive. We are inevitable. We must move forward. Over the river. Past its muddy shores and the insistent twang of its current. Bekker, who has vision, says he can see what’s waiting for us on the other side and it is what we need. He swears it.

We must conquer. We must cross what we cannot so that we cannot come back We are weak and fear failure. We are pioneers of static expansion. We remain.

We are men. We claim what we see. We invade. We defend to the death our stakes in the dust and the dirt of our shrinking world. Bekker’s jar is full. He sits in his corner with it, unable to move. We are bones. We strike hard.

We collect sorrows in the room. We toss them back and forth in such a way that they have become unrecognizable. We recognize this because we are this. There is comfort to be had.

We feel the cold come. We count the days. We are less protected from what we fear. The leaves have fallen. There are new smells. Bekker claims to see farther than he ever has. He tells us he can now see how much perfect the other side holds. It is much. He stands at the door of the cabin with his hand up to his brow, looking. Just looking. For opportunity, maybe. Irrevocable change.

We grow weary. We regret but have forgotten for what. Suarez has stopped feeding us and we have stopped gathering. Winslow tries his luck in the river. It is so cold. He refuses to go back. He is a torso. He is a head, floating on the black water.

We are in reverse. Suarez dreams of spring and thaw. He wakes terrified and calls out to us.

We see. There is snow today. Bekker is at the door, the open mouth of his black jar pointed up toward the hoary sky. A tree has lost a branch. Dumped its load of snow to a mountainous pile atop Molineux’s grave. Just beside this, in the place where we raised a cross of two sticks in memorial to Winslow, there is ice.

We are impatient executors of our shattered wills. Two days, Bekker tells us. We talk about the other side. In spite of the cold, we keep the door to the cabin open at night and we watch, hopeful for a blistering storm.

We are on our feet. We are fathers. There is a light snow. It collects on our collars and in our hair. Snow produces sound beneath our feet as we walk. We are electric. Bekker slides a large rock out onto the ice. It does not break through. Suarez throws a handful of dirt for traction. We agree. We are men and we keep our eyes on the rock. We follow Suarez’s trail. The snow is wet. Soon there is water. We can feel the ice bending, flowing with the current. We are slow and all else is rapid. There is a loud noise around us, and we have nowhere to go. We cannot go back. We step. We know. And one by one we break through the thin ice and we are gone.

11/27/09

Milo Lev

Action at a distance

It was a pleasant surprise to walk indoors
where they found the gently whirring shadows of chromatographs.
The day had been one of action at a distance
facial expressions beamed across outlandish chasms
each test case increasingly difficult for the particles of sentiment to master.
O gentle particles, what you understood
at the outset has been badly undermined! There was consent
of sorts, but only in the most rudimentary way.
He was seated on a molting kind of chair.
The ancients used the term anting
to describe, among other things, what the light does
or any irregular radiating motion; in the wake of which
the scrubbing of teflon pans commenced.
Scrubbing dishes in someone else’s sink is always fraught
with very specific anxieties. So the formal period
of experimentation had ended, but a solid taxonomy
was far from their grasp. The faucet spluttered ink.
No one in this world has seen it, though systems
of refracting surfaces claim to achieve almost perfect resolution.
All he could do was point to the relevant passages,
and there was a certain pathos to that. This yellow piece of piss-colored
drapery was doing most of the work, filtering objects
from the air. The rest of the work was being done by means of reluctance.
At some point progress reached a standstill:
it was in those moments of leaning together at right angles
without instruments, or inventing together
the things which they did not have the courage to investigate
that the worst kind of futility set in.


Milo lives in the United States.

11/26/09

Brian Heyboer


(Click image to see larger.) (Happy Thanksgiving, America.)
Bryan Heyboer is a cross-genre artist based in New York City. His paintings, drawings, and performance pieces have been featured in a variety of venues such as the Museum of Sex (NYC), Performance Studies International (Providence, RI) and the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (Grand Rapids, MI). Bryan’s current work, assembled from sewn scraps of fabric, reflect his ongoing interest in “anecdotal storytelling”. He hopes to challenge the limitations of his “text-pieces” in an upcoming cultural experiment that will involve driving through Eastern Europe in a very small car.

11/25/09

Edmond Caldwell

Story

And it came to pass, in the fullness of time . . . but we’ve had enough of that.


Edmond Caldwell writes fiction and drama and lives in Boston. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, 3:AM Magazine, Sein und Werden, and elsewhere, and his short play, "The Liquidation of the Cohn Estate," was produced in the 2009 Boston Theater Marathon.

11/24/09

Jeff Landon

CLYDE

She hates me. The woman that delivers my newspapers hates me. It’s my fault, probably—I forgot to give her a Christmas bonus, and now I am paying the price. Some mornings, I wake up afraid as the newspaper bangs on my front door like a scorned lover. Other mornings, she tosses the paper into a bank of ivy, and I have to search, out there in my bathrobe and my doughy flesh.

Today, I wait. Under my bathrobe, I wear my best pajamas. On my feet, my finest work shoes gleam. Hair combed, teeth brushed and flossed, I wait, and here she comes now, driving a little too fast, tossing papers into driveways, thwap, thwap, thwap. When she sees me waiting, I wave and smile and wonder if she’ll stop, but does she stop? No, she tosses the paper over my head and onto my dewy lawn. She doesn’t smile, doesn’t wave, doesn’t even tap her brakes. She is about my age, with short, no nonsense hair, and strong forearms. We could be friends, in a better world.

Can’t you see, newspaper delivery woman? Can’t you see that we are all connected and that we live together in a fragile knot? Can’t you look beyond my gaffe and find your warm spot of forgiveness?

Apparently not.

I sit on my front stoop, and open my damp paper. The news is mostly terrible, but the front page features a dog, an overweight beagle named Clyde, that walked in winter from Kansas to Virginia to reunite with his family.

The family, they had moved here for the father’s job, and in the story they claimed that Clyde ran away from home a few days before they had to move to Virginia. They were shattered by the loss, but had to move on.

There’s a picture of the family with Clyde, and I want to believe this story, but something is fishy here. Frankly, and I am sorry to say this, but Clyde’s face conveys neither intelligence nor determination. Clyde is the type of dog that barks like a lunatic when someone rings a doorbell on a TV show. Also, he’s fat. Wouldn’t a dog that traveled halfway across America be lean and mangy? Wouldn’t a dog like Clyde feel betrayed? This dog, clearly, was no king of the wilderness, this slobbering, cross-eyed, wobbly liar.


Jeff Landon lives with his family in Richmond, Virginia, and teaches at John Tyler Community College. His stories, online and print, have appeared in Mississippi Review, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Other Voices, New Virginia Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, FRiGG, Smokelong Quarterly, Night Train, Quick Fiction, Phoebe, and other places.

11/23/09

Ben Brooks

10 girls from Albuquerque

I would lead them home and play
Spank theatre
They cry sometimes but I am wise beyond
Sympathy, no
And when you hold them
Plastic, they breathe fumes
And when you sew their lips,
Ivory, they wish marriage.

Victimise me.

She was 1, ebony and wideness
A canvas painted
Blind and wild, with
Dappled skin, repulsed I cut
Notches in the corners of her
Eyes and pulled them wide,
Her before mirror,
Look, I tell her, look you
Are beautiful, you have eaten
The world,
So selfish, I am self
Less and teacher, hold this
Book for me, don’t
Touch your eyes.

I was shaking, had to pass
Out make coffee smoke
Black and collect myself.

Firstly.

She was brine and stifling,
Didn’t shout, there is
Some honour in
Pavement business;
Not enough! No the child
Was no child of God,
Her church is jade
And neon.

Vigilante.

Lastly blowing with
Steel to skull, she falls
Ungraceful and out flicked
Her eyes for kitty, here
Kitty, starve no longer.

Was cut and kept in
Blue rubber crate.

Then 2, copper roots and
Freckle, a slight sliver of
Stem grown grudging,
Perhaps a lack of light
And so to rectify
I tore her,

In sweat and half-sleep
I shower, bloody balls,
The oil less caress of soap
And wine, fresh flesh
Supple.

Took toenails, slow count,
So lined from ill health
And easily plucked,
Slept with an iron rod
Sent in through ear
Drums.

Cut her into nine
And blue barrel.

Oh 3! Latin tangle of
Coy tan and denim,
Held her in duvet, reading
St Paul, taught her
To see him in spaces.

Carved a cross into
Blades of the back then
Off with breasts and arms
And heart.

Inside of blue.

A quiver of black, see nothing now
But numbers, smokescreen,
The man below sings opera,
The widow above breaks
Glass, odorous almost, perhaps
It permeates the brick, drink oil
And run.

4, aged dispassionately, blank
Strands of hair and fungal folds
In skin, she dreams in concrete
Corners.

Her face made again
With rouge and ochre,
Painted lips russet and
Eyelids dawn, hips out she
Dances, knees to breasts, for
Applause and delay.

Then the lifted face, skin
Peeled from arched
Cheekbones, broken
For luck.

Hide beneath bed.

5,6,7 in lines and groping,
Full house? Then her! Ah,
She is flushed, take the
Bleach, fork,
Prick and chastise! Start
With thighs and climb, 7,
She left us too soon.

Attic.

5,6 please launder and
Polish while I search
Out marbles, gracious,
How many of these
Will your trachea take?

Extra. Pillows.

Now 8, here are two nails,
A plastic ball and a newspaper,
Do your best, if you don’t then
Peeling and salt,
Worse.

Good girl.

Ah, 9 & 10, the clock in perfect
Symmetry, you both look…
In woolsacks. Here are matches.
Distraction. 9 please with the
Skull beneath the foot
Of 10. Go! Yes, yes, yes
You do well. Scarlet soles!

Marriage.




Ben Brooks first novel is called Fences and is out on Fugue State Press. He has two other novels forthcoming. His furniture is oriental.

11/20/09

Robert Bradley

Insubstantiation

Barlow coughs into his hand, bothered by the smoke coming from the woman across the bar. She looks hideous, otherworldly. He thinks she must be an angel. He imagines the things he would do to her if that were true. He takes the time to study her profile, her movements. She looks human, like a man. She has smooth skin and a long neck, like a woman.

“I don’t understand your hair,” he tells her.

“Holy, holy, holy,” she says, brushing ashes off her sleeve.

He leans towards her. “Nothing’s forbidden down here.”

“I don’t need that.” She continues to brush her sleeve.

To Barlow she looks pasted to the wall behind her. Her colors are chrome and rust.

“What are you made of?” he says.

“Buy me a drink and I’ll show you what I’m made of. I’ll need smokes, too.”

He stands, drains his mug; imagines her naked above him, singing, “Make way. I am an angel of the Lord.” And splitting him in two.

“Gotta go,” he says and staggers out of the bar.

He stumbles and falls a few feet into the road. A black Mazda pulls up beside him. The driver wants to know what he’s doing there. Barlow stares up at him, gets to his feet.

“Can’t a person pray, anymore?” he says.

The driver says, "What's your name? I don't recognize you from around here."

“Hey, Bub,” says Barlow.

"I know you.” says shotgun. “You’re that gym teacher."

“He looks like a gym teacher. You a gym teacher?” says the driver.

“He looks like the gym teacher raped my sister,” says shotgun.

Guy in back says, “He’s the one raped my dog. She was never right after that.”

“Is that true?” says the driver. “Did you rape this man’s dog?”

“Did your doggie have a name?” says Barlow.

“Fucking rapist,” says the driver, reaching an arm out of his car window and grabbing Barlow by the coat.

“Alleged rapist,” says Barlow, and puts his hands in his pockets, signaling his defenselessness.

“We’re going to fuck you up, anyhow,” says the driver and gives Barlow a shove. He falls backwards over the curb. Full moon tonight. No clouds. Stars like lasers. The three of them get out of the car at once. A few punches land here and there. Some rhetorical questions are posed in regard to the beating he’s taking, punctuated by thuds.

There’s a clatter of tires on blacktop as a truck comes skidding around the bend, sending the idling black Mazda careening down the street. The truck flips on its side, scattering glass everywhere.

Barlow looks up; the three are backlit, a hulking tableau. Dazzling white lights broadcast the arrival of some alien intelligence. Barlow gets to his feet, shields his eyes, and limps away. Cautiously, the three approach the driver who is now scrambling out of the shattered upside window of his truck. When they see that he isn’t hurt they curse and punch him.

Barlow’s a block from home when he’s pelted with hail, a sudden downpour. He trudges up a hill with no thought of running. Once inside he shakes the stones out of his hair and vomits into the kitchen sink.

His wife’s in bed. He lies beside her, stares up at the ceiling fan.

“What’s the matter with you?” she says. “How did you get those bruises on your face?”

“I can’t say,” he tells her.

“Try,” she says.

“They’re just . . . appearing,” he says.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m being persecuted.”

“Persecuted?”

“Tormented and pummeled.”

“Punished by God, you mean?”

“Maybe.”

“It’s about time,” she says.

He gets up and shuffles out through the kitchen into the yard, barefoot in the pre-dawn of another day. Opening his hand, he finds a stone. He must have picked it up in the brawl. He carries it inside. Sits at the kitchen table and listens for what to do next. Birds arrive, one, two, three. Their voices are almost human.

“Do you know what makes it difficult for people to like you?”

This turns out to be his wife talking. She stations herself across the table from him. He can see the shadow of her vagina through her thin cotton T. He stares at it.

“When you say 'people' you mean you, right?” he says.

“This is what I’m talking about,” she says.

She gives off a soft, unearthly glow.

“I’m just trying to help you,” she says.

He feels the smooth contours of the stone in his hand; places it on the table top between them.

“What’s that?” she says.

“Pick it up.”

She sits, looks down at the stone, then back at him.

“Pick it up.”

Instead of picking up the stone she puts a napkin down and takes an orange from the fruit basket. She digs a nail into its pith, peels, and pries the pulp apart with her thumbs, revealing what, up until now, was unimaginable; a center, soft and white.

“What are we made of?” he says, reaching for her; his voice, a buzz, a fly caught in a jar.

She slips away, stands with her legs spread and her hands on the countertop behind her.

He picks up the stone, places it on his tongue, and lets it rest there.

“What are you doing?” she says.

He spits the stone into his hand, says, “I don’t know anymore.”

He wipes the stone with his shirt front, weighs it in his palm, feels less solid in comparison.


Robert Bradley is published in various online journals.

11/19/09

Christopher Newgent

A Trifle


When he fell to the ground clutching his wallowing chest, she almost told him he wasn’t funny. But it was the fingers—something in the color and the hue. She’d seen them before, in her mother. They were heart attack fingers. She didn’t know why she asked if anyone was a doctor. It was silly in a place like this.

Cheap Bob, he called himself, to promote his car lot. He had those sausage thumbs and walrus body. Every time he sat in Mary’s section. She hated the way he wheezed as he spoke, as though reciting lines. He smelled funny, too, like greasy breakfast and spicy cologne. But he tipped well.

She was walking towards him as it happened, swinging the pot in that lazy, diner way, hanging limp in her fist. Bob was smiling at her, had opened his thick, moustached lips to speak. Maybe to comment on the sun, “Nice day for the brim of a hat, eh Mary?” Had he known then, maybe instead an apology for his wife, for their fight that morning, for every fight they’d ever had, for never getting to the café in the postcard—the baguettes all in a row and the Tower so nonchalant. But he gagged on the first word. He lolled out of the booth and into the aisle.

Mary ran to him, her diner heels clacking against the startled tile, sloshing coffee to the floor. She knelt beside him, checking his wrist. She’d seen this on a tv show, a vague shadow from nursing classes at the local college, years ago. There on the floor, trying to find a pulse, anything to count, she could see the rust along the bases of the barstools, ten stools in all. She stared, this metal slowly turning to oxygen, the coffee steaming on the tile, all these things turning into air.


Christopher Newgent stomps around in Indianapolis. His work floats around in Poetry East, Copper Nickel, Freight Stories, and wigLeaf recently liked it for their Top 50, which was, "Wow. Really? I mean. Wow. Okay. Cool. Thank you." You can blogstalk him at www.theidiom.net.

11/18/09

Shellie Zacharia

Maybe the Moon Fell

I think the moon fell from the sky last night. Maybe there’s a scientific explanation for this, but I’m no scientist and don’t even like science all that much. I’d rather think it something poetic, the moon falling from the sky, like it was curious, or full of sorrow, or better yet, madness – yes, lunacy! Maybe it fell playfully, performing loop-de-loops or swinging back and forth, or maybe just a quick drop so not many would notice, but it hit the ground with a thud, which is what I heard outside my bedroom window. Not too loud, oddly soft, but definite, an almost pretty thud. I couldn’t see anything when I got brave enough to peek outside. Such darkness! I hopped into bed and thought about that thud and decided it was the moon and I only hoped someone would throw it back before morning because folks would be freaked out if the moon was just sitting there on the ground. And I started thinking how the moon was big and it didn’t make much sense, but the way I pictured it, the moon had decreased in size as it fell from the sky, so that it was like the size of a beach ball with a good amount of air or even smaller like a bowling ball, all pearly, swirled, no monogram, when it landed. I don’t know what time I finally fell asleep, but when I woke this morning I went outside to look and there wasn’t anything by my window, just a small pressing of the grass, a slight dampness, perhaps a luminescent flake or two. I figure it was Ray in 7B who helped the moon back up into the sky. He gets up early to run and he has great arm muscles and I bet he could toss the moon pretty high.



Shellie Zacharia teaches in Florida. Her story collection, Now Playing, is forthcoming from Keyhole Press in October 2009. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, Opium, Keyhole, The Pinch, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, and elsewhere.

11/17/09

John Dermot Woods








(Click image to enlarge.)



JOHN DERMOT WOODS is the author of the novel The Complete Collection of People, Places & Things (BlazeVOX, 2009). He writes stories and draws comics in Brooklyn, NY. He edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes and organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast. He is a professor in the English Department at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY.

11/16/09

Kuzhali Manickavel

The Ash Eaters

We drew maps. We made a Power of Positive Action Map to show how sand from Parangipettai pushed its way towards Chidambaram. We made a Heartless Fuck Map from diagrams of reproductive systems while suicidal ash trickled from our lips. B. Lakshmi said the ash came from cremation grounds and we were going to get massive bad karma anemia. We said vasadhi mappillai, dragging out the words like we were going to rape her. Then we made an Anemia Map filled with islands of hard-boiled eggs and rivers of iron tonic. B. Lakshmi drew stick figures drowning in the river and said that was us. A year later her body sat up in her funeral pyre like she had suddenly remembered something. Fat flakes of ash hung in the air while a man beat down her burning chest with a stick.


Kuzhali Manickavel's debut collection “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings” is available from Blaft Publications Pvt. Ltd. and can be found at Powell’s Books and Amazon.com. Her work can also be found at Subtropics, Per Contra, anderbo, Quick Fiction, Caketrain, The Café Irreal, Annalemma, FRiGG and Smokelong Quarterly. She lives in a small temple town on the coast of South India.

11/13/09

Fortunato Salazar

SAND, WHILE BEING MOLDED

You, my friend, are the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. Soon you'll be called upon to solve a case. But first you almost set off an alarm. That's right, you get deep into your work. It's provisioning time. So deep into provisioning that you almost walk right through the door, head buried in the sand.

The victim is a textile artist who constructs linen replicas of the most infamous of human shadows. That's how she made her mark, the origin of her éclat. But before she made her mark, she toiled in obscurity, constructing hemp replicas of shrunken heads.

The victim's fiancé: When he underlines, he underlines with a ruler. The black sheep of the family. Mother's vanity plate reads "Chu-Teh." All the daughters marry Canadian fishermen (the family spends each summer in a hand-hewn cabin on Cape Breton Island). A prosperous eccentric clan, pious in their nonconformity, dominated by a powerful mother, a dynamo, the founder of a school for children who are nicknamed Flash. Every student who matriculates goes by the name of Flash. Few who graduate do.

The only witness is a Japanese proctologist, one of a group of Japanese proctologists who make a pilgrimage to see the world's largest impacted bowel. Of the group, the witness has the weakest bladder. He apologizes as the group reverently admires the renowned impacted bowel. He must make a visit to the men's room. He makes a visit to the men's room and discovers the body of the textile artist.

The textile artist had cold feet. The textile artist invited her first-year roommate from Smith, not expecting her to attend. She attended. Feelings long dormant revived in the museum. The textile artist nonetheless ascended to the hall to tie the knot. Excuse me, you're doing that again. She descended and considered her cold feet. Everyone has cold feet at the last minute. Excuse me, you're doing that again.

How badly I feel the need to go to the Amazon where hands with gout aren't capering at night, liberated from their case by other hands with gout, capering by sketching portraits in the venerable 17th century tradition of deforming famous healthy specimens like quarterbacks or linebackers, or any other non-deformed celebrity.

Once you weren't the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. But then a suspect stood you up. You wandered in out of the heat and took in stride—you were a detective in a violent precinct, after all—monstrosities of every kind, including the world's largest impacted bowel, though to be fair to those who make the pilgrimage, "monstrosity" should be reserved for exhibits that pilgrims merely nod at. But wait. As a detective you learned to listen carefully for truths. A truth spoke. You gazed at shrunken heads and did not nod. You weren't a pilgrim but you had the sense of arriving at the place toward which you'd been traveling for a long time. You gazed there for a long time. Then you stood a suspect up and began a very quick journey.

The victim made a point of flouting the convention of separate rest rooms for men and women.

So now you face a decision, my friend, because the world is never fair, and worlds that shouldn't overlap become close pals, and if you stay the course and press on with your task you will provision, yes, you'll go deep into the territory of the shrunken head, your comfort zone, your world of choice, oh yes, but then again the other world was once your fortress, it had appeal, no one is stood up in a world in which appeal is absent. Soon you'll be called upon to remember that you wore a badge.

The roommate hailed from Barrow, where one may walk across the street into the dollar store and purchase a firearm.

The matriarch we may check off because she saw her offspring underlining with a ruler. Just imagine.

What kind of student chooses to become a specialist in proctos? The very fact that the question occurs to me betrays my status as a layperson. The pilgrims spoke the language of the bride who had cold feet. That is not a language that I speak. Who knows whose finger probed whose distant kin? Candidly, and anthropologically, the proctos question is the one I'd like to follow up, but take note, dear friend, I can't be sure that I'm even saying proctos the way it would be spoken by the grotesque incarnation of Demosthenes who wears a tumor on his neck.

In another and better world you would be so deep inside your own head that you would walk through the door and set off the alarm. Marriage would follow (a flautist had ducked out for a smoke) and then tragedy, a son would drown or a daughter would electrocute herself while reaching blindly behind a cabinet for a spear.

No, no, no. Your wife will drown. You'll make a pilgrimage into the woods to the very special retreat where she fluted on the afternoons you drove her crazy with your restless frustrated need to provision. Your intention, to commemorate the dead. The matriarch knows the same oak. To her it's just an oak she knows, but well enough to visit. You meet by chance and what do people do who meet by chance? They nod, sometimes they say hello and converse. Sometimes it turns out that they speak the same language. Listen for the truth, my friend. As if you need me to give you guidance. I not only walked through the door, I walked through the window. I brushed off the glass and nothing has been the same since, except that I take care, take care.



Fortunato Salazar was born in 1990 and lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Nerve, McSweeney's, FRiGG, Sleepingfish, Wigleaf and other journals.

11/12/09

Edward Mullany

American Gothic
A woman with a gun, and a man

with a gun, and a child with a gun, and a dog with

a gun held between its two

paws face

the camera.



Ragtime
We forget in which zoos foolish
humans have caused their

own mauling. A philosopher sticks
his head in the fire, so

what? Here is an earth. Here is another
earth. Here is another earth.



Edward Mullany lives in New York, where he teaches literature and writing at College of Staten Island. He grew up in Australia. He writes fiction and poetry, and is an associate editor at matchbook, an online literary journal.

11/11/09

Meg Pokrass

Birds

The fourth month, one of her tricks was being his nurse. She would bring a towel and put it on his forehead. She noticed he preferred pencils to pens, made shopping lists, "Please, please buy these things!" the lists would say at the very top.

She could see he erased at least half of the items.

Q-tips for paint brushes, the list would say.

Later, he'd paint with them, make homemade paint from coffee grounds.

He painted birds, mainly.

"Honey," she'd say, "this is better than anything."

"Please," she almost said, "teach me."

They were in line for a movie when she felt her dress was beginning to pillow.

It looked like a dishrag covering a small bowl, but she didn't say anything about it, and all that mattered were his brown birds. The way he believed in vitamin D and ultraviolet rays.


Meg Pokrass’s story Leaving Hope Ranch in Storyglossia was chosen for Wigleaf ‘s Top 50, 2009. Lost and Found, in elimae, was chosen in May 2009 by Storyglossia for Short Story Month showcase. Meg’s stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Gigantic, Annalemma, 3AM, Monkeybicycle, The Pedestal, Matchbook Lit Mag, decomP, Pank, JMWW, Mud Luscious, Juked, Pindeldyboz, Wigleaf, Elimae, Keyhole, FRIGG,Wordriot, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, Kitty Snacks, and various upcoming anthologies of flash. Meg serves as a staff editor for SmokeLong Quarterly, and is currently mentoring with Dzanc’s Creative Writing Sessions. Her blog, with prompts and writing exercises can be found here: http://www.megpokrass.com.

11/10/09

Scott Garson

Meliana Says
The larger ones you could crawl inside. And in some you'd be shaken and flown. Always at first the blindness of it would scare you. Later no. Later you would feel in yourself how there was not a thing you could do.

Adrienne Says
Wherever I go is wherever I go is wherever I go is wherever.

Martina Says
Would you like to know what I have in this box? Stop blinking! Yes or no.

Kristen Says
So then he came to our school. Just before lunch. Our teacher was going to give us to him, I saw. My sister said, Shh.

Sheila Says
An interesting subject, I would agree. But you might want to think about kissing me now.

Jacqueline Says
I woke up nervous and lifted my head. I heard something hum in the walls. The glowing red lines of the digital clock were blinking in sudden Chinese.

Scott Garson's American Gymnopédies will be out early next year from WWP.

11/9/09

Greg Gerke

WE WILL NOT BE COMING TO YOUR PANCAKES

I don’t really have the words to comfort you in your time of loss. My wife is not happy and she doesn’t even know your father went for the colorectal thing but on the way his heart gave out because of a triple shot of Epinephrine. I wish I could have pointed you to the right hospital with warm people but I don’t know many people who give deals. I know Klecko. I know Klecko can get a TV or radio going, but Klecko couldn’t have helped with this. He still owes me money. He smells like a barn.

I’m a distracted person and I’ve much too much clung to the Charles Bronson way to be the caring kind. By the way, I might have left a pair of socks at your house about ten or eleven months ago when we saw your slideshow on the flowers of Ohio. The socks are brown with triangular white fuzzies running up the ankles. Don’t ask me why I took them off or why I didn’t put them back on. I guess my sister-in-law bought them for me and I’ll never hear the end of it. I don’t like jello.

An old man in my childhood neighborhood told me death comes for all. I was always afraid of him and the horseflys surrounding his head and crotch and that was before he ever spoke. They said he was troubled and his stomach had been stapled twice.

You ask me what a real man is? I can’t tell you. I like guys who work on things and keep busy. I like old people too, like your now dead father. They don’t bother others and they don’t have extensive wardrobes.

I’m pretty glad you’re not so worried after your trauma and that you have stayed single for so long. Now you can travel to interesting restaurants and go to French movies. As I said my wife is not happy and I would like to bumrush a kangaroo and take out all my anger on something strange and cuddley—something our children used to go ga-ga over. Just don’t ever get cute with someone who likes to change the curtains every year. Be a cautious person, go into a darkened room to pick your nose and make sure all the pens in the house work.

I suppose pancakes are alright. A nice, bland enjoyment at a funeral brunch. We haven’t had them in this house for a while. If I were a woman I’d tell you to freeze me a couple but I’m not a woman and I’m sorry about your father.


Greg Gerke lives in Buffalo. His work has or will appear in Gargoyle, Rosebud, Fourteen Hills, Night Train, Flash Forward Press 2009 Anthology and others. There’s Something Wrong With Sven, a book of short fiction has been published by Blaze Vox Books. His website is www.greggerke.com.

11/6/09

Kathy Fish

Movement


The baby cries. A fax machine starts up, humming. The man with a lopsided walk comes into the room and reads. He leans over and touches the cold window glass. The baby pulls himself to standing in his crib. The man with his head down, lopes away. The baby twists and falls on his wet bottom.

A woman calls out.

The baby pulls himself to standing in his crib. He leans over and touches the old window glass. A man with a lopsided boot comes into the room and reads. The baby twists and falls on his wet bottom. The baby cries. The man with his head down, lopes away. A fax machine starts up, humming.

A woman lifts the baby from the crib.

A woman and a man enter the room. The baby cries lopsided. A woman starts up, pouting. The man twists and falls. The fax machine leans over, lopes away. A woman calls out. The baby with his head down, reads. The man cries, touching the glass cold window.

The man pulls himself to standing.

The lopsided baby starts up. A woman leans over, calls out. The fax machine cries. The man enters the window and touches the cold glass room. A woman with her head down, reads. The man cries. A woman pulls herself to standing. A woman twists and falls.

The baby lopes away, humming.

The baby enters the cold glass room. The lopsided man pulls himself to standing. A woman cries. The man calls out. The fax machine falls. The baby twists and falls. A woman leans over and lifts the machine from the crib. The man, loping. A woman falls. The baby falls. Humming.



Kathy Fish's stories are published or forthcoming in Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, New South, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. A collection of her work is now available from Rose Metal Press in a book entitled “A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women.”