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).