Affinity Konar

Monsters I’ve Known, Part One

1.When I was small the Ark of the Covenant loved to crouch beneath my bed. To make its sacred presence known it went ahem ahem amen. It sent up holy coughs in the direction of my pillow. I knew the Ark by its ahem; I would’ve known that face-melter anywhere. I tried to say my prayers over the coughs but my prayers were no match, especially when the coughing gasped into words and the words were about being lonely. I tried to tell the Ark of the Covenant that all people are lonely in their own ways, especially when they’re not real people, but real objects like you and me. The Ark of the Covenant liked the sound of you and me. You and me, it coughed, you and me. Beneath the mattress there occurred the veil-lift, the spark, the capture. It coughed that it just wanted me to take a look at it, but I wouldn’t. It coughed, hey, just for a second, hey please, just for a minute or a second. Just so I know I’m still here, ahem and cough and amen.

2. When I was less small there was a whistling hunchback at our place of worship. Later, he’d go to prison for his monsterisms against girl children. The monsterisms occurred behind the drapes during whistle lessons. The whistle lessons had been trilling along for years, ever since his whistle solo at the holiday show. The solo showed just how high, just how low, he could go. After the show, parents praised his talent and let him give their girls whistle lessons because his price was fair and because their girls weren’t trying to learn enough and because—in secret—they were afraid that if they weren’t sweet to the afflicted that God would make them hunchbacks too. And no one was interested in shuffling eyes-down to the earth in a lumpen manner, not in our town’s earth at least, because who wants to look at the two snakes fighting in the grass like that?

3. That’s what I was asking Hank when we were walking out of the hospital. My smallness hadn’t yet fallen away—I was working on it—and Hank had smashed his guitar hand. His index made a sick noise and his bones knuckled down in the muffle of a cast. Because Hank’s bones weren’t holding things together anymore the weather had to pick up the slack and the city went stupid with the air shimmers and the bottles wouldn’t spin in the right directions and the dust couldn’t decide if it wanted to settle or not. The weather didn’t care for this slack. In response, it threatened Hank’s plaster. The forecast for weeks was grim. We quit the weather by going into the church, mostly. Some days they’d let us dry up inside there. One day, they didn’t. Communion isn’t for everyone, the priest said. So we started to leave, to go home to home-knows-where, but leaving was hard because Hank kept stopping and pointing. I couldn’t see what he saw. Not at first. Not for a blink. And when I saw I knew why I hadn’t seen before. Because no one wants to see a quartet of misborns curled kitty-corner on the sidewalk, a pinker stillness stacked flank to flank, full of whiskers and earfolds and tail-starts.

Sometimes it helps to be part of the world because sometimes you have to bury something in it. Unable to bury, we stalked instead.

We stalked the cat-killer for the rest of that summer. We tried to distract him from his interests, but nearby the small and the slit piled up, the old, the catchable, the dim, the best. We left notes for him by his victims. At first, we were gentle, we wheedled, we negotiated, we invited. We wrote, come talk, here’s our address, and we suggested peaceable hobbies fit for any haunted individual: succulents, pills, telescopes, bathtub drains. We told him he was too good for all this, or at least, too good for the part that involved thumbing your nose at the pulse of a stray. We told him there were people who loved him. We told him that was probably a lie. We told him there might not be people who loved him, but we’d try to find someone who would. We promised.

I always did the writing because Hank’s writing hand was also his guitar hand.

And when the cat-killer ignored the notes, when he kept on with the minx and the manx, we informed him of himself, we wrote you sorry suffocator, you sick such-and-son and so on. We don’t believe in the goodness of you (you uneven shrug). We never did (you pale failer). And we continued: Hiatus! Goner! Drunk! We tried to call him the worst of the horrible that we knew, which was difficult, because back in those days the worst we knew was the way we felt ourselves becoming, and then finally, we just gave up.

We forgive you, we wrote.

After the last note, Hank’s cast came off and Hank was ambidextrous--he was gifted on all sides, he could do the right and the left and he could hold the things that he wanted to hold without too much pain--and this didn’t make matters easier always, but they were brighter usually, invisible less often, never really untrue.

Affinity Konar is the author of The Illustrated Version of Things, published by FC2. She's working on a second novel, One Trick You Can't Repeat. She has an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University.


Chris Kraus

from Summer of Hate

There are some people who, seeing themselves as alien in every sense of the word, have never wanted to travel.

At 7:30 sharp on a Thursday morning in March, Paul Garcia locks the front door of the blue house on Slate Street behind him. Before putting the key back in his state-issued windbreaker pocket, he presses it tight in his palm. How many times has he thought about this as he worked his way out of the Santa Fe Level 3, to the Farm, to parole? His own door, his own key. He’s been out less than two weeks and he’s trying hard to establish routines. As everyone knows, routines are the key to sobriety. Although – paroled back to Farmington – he has to be careful not to slip back into his old routines. After the relapse that ended in San Juan County Jail, these routines mostly consisted of stalking his ex-girlfriend Tanya and then getting fucked up on crack. Well. He’d been arrested for writing bad checks and credit card fraud, but at least, legally speaking, stalking and crack hadn’t come into the picture, because if they had, he’d still be locked up with the Level 3 rapists and gang-bangers.

The March sky is Navajo blue. There’s a thin coating of frost on the gravel yards that will burn off before noon. Slate Street is in the old part of Farmington, north of downtown: big cottonwood trees and a few small clapboard houses, mixed in with motel-like apartments. What a beautiful month! Paul shuts the latch on the old-fashioned gate in the tiny front yard. There’s even a rose bush. If you didn’t know better, you’d think an old lady lived here. In fact, the blue house belongs to his friend Jerry Koven. Jerry is also Paul’s boss at the Casa Bonita furniture store, and his former crack buddy.

At 7:30 a.m., most of his neighbor’s shades are still drawn. The big trucks parked in the yards probably belong to nightshift oil-field workers. Paul lost his truck at the end of the binge and he’s relieved no one who lives here is up yet to see him. Except for the Natives and winos and bums, no one in Farmington walks. Still, it feels good to be finally walking around. Ever since the Parole Board set his release date – March 8, 2005 – he’d been crossing off days on the calendar.

And now he was out! He’d stayed sober, done everything right. He had not lost one day of good time since the San Juan County jail guards woke him at 4 and drove him to Santa Fe in leg chains and shackles. With the good time, plus extra credit for Sober Living and Chapel and Bible School, he’d only spent 16 months being incarcerated – well, actually 20 if you counted the four months in jail waiting for sentencing. He’d nearly dropped dead when the judge gave him 3-5 years for Credit Card Fraud. His former employer had given the fuel card to him. During the binge he’d stopped going to work but they hadn’t shut down the card until the charges reached $937. By the time Paul stood in front of the judge he was already sober. The public defender had promised he’d get off for time already served if he accepted the plea. Except for a few DUIs, his record was clean. The whole thing was rigged, obviously. Halliburton Enterprises, his former employer owned most of this crummy town – 8 square miles of gravel and dust and oil and gas fields.

While it definitely beats being in prison, Farmington is never where Paul wanted to be. He’d driven up here 8 years ago after some trouble in Albuquerque thinking he’d stay with his sister Vivian. In the end she hadn’t taken him in, but by then he’d run out of money and he couldn’t think where else to go. In his 38 years, Paul has only left the state twice. Both of these trips were disasters.

Still, whenever anyone asks where he is from he says Silverton, Oregon. That’s where he was born and whenever he says it, he pictures big trees and cool misty skies, overgrown tangles of crabgrass, blueberries and grapes just growing wild: the opposite of New Mexico. But since his family moved back before he was 1 this can’t be an actual memory.

His sister Pam had one photograph from that time: a bunch of people – his family – standing outside a house, one of the siblings holding an infant. You couldn’t see much of Oregon there, nothing stood out. But the people looked happy. This wasn’t how he remembered his family. His family left Silverton after his mother became mentally ill. Depressed after Paul’s birth – her sixth child in a decade – his Lebenese mother heard voices that told her the fat lying whore who chaired the Jesuit College Spanish department was performing unspeakable acts on her husband. His contract was cancelled and they moved back to Albuquerque, where for the rest of his life he taught high school. Whenever Paul has to fill out a form that asks about ethnicity, he checks the box that says “Other.”

The corner of Slate Street ends at a high school.

“Seven days left!” Paul wrote on March 1 in the diary he’d kept in a notebook since his first day in Santa Fe. “This is my last week . . . I’ll try and write in you every day.” And then he’d gotten the flu. Two weeks out, he still can’t get past the feel of the dry Farmington air on his skin. It’s like being touched. (Paul doesn’t like being touched.) The cool wind makes him dizzy. It’s like being touched by a beneficent presence, or maybe by God.

Passing the high school is the worst part of the walk. In the morning: kids everywhere. In fact he feels pretty exposed the whole hour it takes him to walk to Casa Bonita: a slow-moving target. With his thick wire-rimmed glasses and dozens of half-thought ideas bouncing around in his head, Paul feels like an alien freak dragging himself through a nuclear desert after the world has been bombed. People are watching him from their cars! Not even 40, his hairline’s receding but he’s got a thick pelt of Arabic hair on his back, he looks like a satyr. His small feet are bunioned like goat-hooves, and the scar!

Since no one in Farmington walks, there are no sidewalks. Twice every day he has to trot by the side of the road like a dog while oilrig guys drive past him like kings in their Yukons, Dodge Rams and 150’s . . . nice shiny aluminum toolboxes padlocked and bolted town to their truck-beds. The jeans Paul is wearing are not even a brand. He wonders if people can tell that all the clothes on his back are state-issued?

Chris Kraus is the author of four novels, most recently Summer of Hate. She is currently working on a new book of art essays, Where Art Belongs, that will be published by Semiotexte Interventions in 2011.


Suzanne Scanlon

Dreams of Return (II)

In the dream, she is back in the woodsy hospital. The one with acronyms. Maria is there, doing something with acronyms. She can see Maria write a title across the dry-erase board: “The Pros and Cons of Being a Drama Queen.”

In the dream, she is talking to Lyle on the ward payphone. No one is waiting in the hallway, outside the booth, the way she remembers phone calls. Before cell phones, patients had to take turns using a designated ward payphone, usually placed at the end of a hallway. It was the source of much conflict, waiting for the payphone, which staff tried unsuccessfully to make therapeutic fodder.

“How’s your father?” Lyle asks, as if it mattered. It had something to do with a camaraderie among physicians—the way her father instantly trusted Lyle; the way Lyle and the nurses paid enormous respect to her father. That, and he was Irish and Midwestern; New Yorkers generally found Midwesterners refreshing.

“He’s fine.”
“I should have been an ophthalmologist,” Lyle said, after a long sigh. “This Shrink business doesn’t pay the rent these days.”
“Dr. Randiack?”
“What do I do now?”
“Did you graduate?”
“I’m learning ancient Greek. It’s vitiating. What a language.”

Lyle was always telling patients about his extracurricular activities; he considered himself something of a Renaissance man: one week reading Proust in the original French; the next week opining on the teachings of Gandhi, and Gandhi’s correspondence with Tolstoy. He made copies of the letters, and brought them for the patients to read. She remembers a time when he brought copies of The Magic Mountain to pass among the patients on the ward. It was questionable therapeutically, but most patients didn’t read it anyway. She always did, though. Les said this intellectual kinship with Lyle was part of the reason she'd never let herself be critical of Lyle, or the place itself.

“He’s seduced you,” Les said, before she was discharged, “You’ll get it one day. I trust you. I believe in you, even if you don’t believe in yourself yet.”
“I’ve been thinking about Istanbul.” she told Lyle. She heard him cough.
“You remember what I told you, Katy?”
“It’s harder to keep a husband than it is to keep a therapist.”
“It was in Greece, once. I think.”
“Do you remember that?”
“Maybe I don’t want to keep a husband.”
“I didn’t think you were sick anymore.”
“I’m not.”
“What do I do?”
“Everyone has to grow up sometime.”
“They told me things would be different.”
“Health care is changing.”
“Life is short, you know. I have a page but you don’t have a say in these things.”

In the dream, she held the phone up to her ear for a long time, listening to the sonorous and insistent dial tone, looking toward Maria, who was dancing now, dancing ecstatically and far away from the dry erase board which remained mostly blank.

Suzanne Scanlon is a writer, actor, and educator living in Chicago, where she teaches in the English Department of Columbia College. Her writing has appeared in Pindeldyboz, Fail Better, elimae, 580 Split, The American Scholar and elsewhere. As an actor, Suzanne has worked with The Bread and Puppet Theater Company and performed in such NYC venues as Theater for the New City and P.S. 122, in a solo performance piece she wrote and developed with the performance artist Holly Hughes.


Janice Lee

Hungry Ghosts

I fall through a black hole, a black world. I fall through an ether of nothing, nothing, nothing. where am I where am I. mommy I want to go home. I’m sitting on the branch of a red tree. the tree is red. coated with red paint, red juice, red blood between my thighs seeps in to the pores of red leaves. curling threads of red wrap around my limbs, the tree’s limbs. I take my hands, scoop up blood and rub it into my face hard. my face is bleeding, my cunt is bleeding. the blood is my mask and it is here on the branch of this red tree that I am hiding from the colorless trees, the other half of the world.

in the Buddhist Wheel of Life there are hungry ghosts which are called PRETAS. these pretas, these phantom-like creatures with withered limbs, bloated bellies, needle-like necks, these hungry ghosts search for gratification for old unfulfilled needs whose time has passed. they are ghosts because they are attached to the past. they live in past wants and desires. they demand impossible satisfactions and so they have stretched necks- forever hungry and demanding the impossible.

my mother tells me she loves me.
I believe her but don’t care.
I say to her i love you too.
I lie, but she is satisfied.

later my mom calls me again and her voice is sad.
she is lonely. she contemplates leaving my dad.

I say nothing just uh huh.
I hang up and I start crying uncontrollably.
I lied when I said I lied.

paranormal lights, many of which are described as “little balls” of energy, have often been seen and recorded whizzing around the living. some claim that these balls of plasma energy are the negatively charged manifestations of hungry ghosts who are wandering around the earth trying to feed off the living in order to sustain their own existence and presence.

one enters the world as a flower child. I looked into the mirror and I did not see eyes but body and more body and I looked at myself and there were no eyeballs where the eyes should have been but when I looked into the mirror and why when I looked into the mirror couldn’t I see those body parts that I used to see myself with
because it is all scientific it is simply a scientific process that I had go through once in awhile and always.
why am I hungry.

my walls: covered with yellow wallpaper.

pretas are invisible to the human eye but some believe they can be discerned by humans in certain mental states. if you can make them out, they would look human-like, but with sunken, mummified skin, narrow limbs, enormously distended bellies, and long, thin necks. they have enormous appetites so their bellies are bloated but the slender necks prevent them from satisfying their appetites. their stomachs like mountains and their necks as thin as a hair from a horse’s tail, their bodies resemble teardrops. their mouths are like the eye of a needle, and some are known to have two or three knots in their throats. these ghosts are hungry but can not eat. these ghosts are thirsty but they can not drink.

the skin of the hungry ghosts is as dry as tinder. when their limbs rub together, there are sparks. a hungry ghost may see food in the distance but will probably not be able to reach it. it is difficult to move and even if the destination is reached, the food may suddenly disappear or transform into something undesirable. hungry ghosts see their desires manifest everywhere, but these desires can not be reached or they are simply illusions.

I’m trying out this apathy and rebelling against love.
I am only just giving in to my sentiments.

sometimes I pretend I am crazier than I really am.
my biggest fear is being normal.

I am greedy I am impatient I am mistaken I make mistakes I look into shadows and see nothing just symbols of restlessness I do not relent I am not free I imagine being taken for a moon ride by moonlight marked by the night the black from the black canvas from that place that I can not go I have been touched by the night turning its back on me only after the day told me I had too much pride because I mix love and pity and anger and lust and restlessness into the oceans as my heart pounds with the tide and a broken pot shows my reflection, cracked from the morning sun.

after undergoing unbelievable hardships to come all the way to where in the distance they have seen clear blue water, the hungry ghost arrives to find that the water has been filled with pus, blood, hair, garbage. there is nothing there to drink. some pretas find food and try to swallow it fast only finding that the food they eat bursts into flames as they swallow it.

in addition to hunger, pretas suffer from immoderate heat and cold. the moon scorches them in the summer and the sun freezes them in the winter. pretas may vomit fire that turns them to ash and some slash at their own flesh with their fingernails. because their mouths are as small as the eye of a needle, they are able only to emit but the weakest and eeriest of whistling sounds. silent and hungry, pretas are condemned to suffer perpetual thirst, starvation, and invisibility.

I wanted to know if I could be so clever as that girl with the big eyes and if I could strap myself into the chair and who are you to say that you can take my lightning my thunder and I have my eyes closed so that I can feel the words fall out of my fingers consciousness is not my friend and I want to smell the carpet where I walk and then I want to fall through the earth my hands reached upward reaching for the ground that would be above me and I want the emotions to follow me afterward and I wonder if there is something more under me as I fall and as the ground is further and further away it becomes closer at the same time I know the way I feel is not the way I fell because the carpet is not even the same color in certain spots and can I fall faster can I reach faster something more throw the rocks upward and downward and make it seem like I know what it is where it is I’m falling and its hard to say what is real and I love the way I’m falling and the music reaches an end and I know that the little bumps will trickle away and can I extract from things in extreme cases.

I continue to make the gestures out of habit.
do I continue to live out of habit?

some pretas are visible only at night.

Janice Lee is a writer, artist, editor, and curator. She is interested in the relationships between metaphors of consciousness and theoretical neuroscience, and experimental narrative. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Big Toe Review, Zafusy, antennae, sidebrow, Action, Yes, Joyland, Luvina, and Black Warrior Review. She is the author of KEROTAKIS (Dog Horn Press, 2010), a multidisciplinary exploration of cyborgs, brains, and the stakes of consciousness, and Daughter (Jaded Ibis, Forthcoming). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CalArts and currently lives in Los Angeles where she is a co-curator for the feminist reading series Mommy, Mommy!, co-editor of the online journal [out of nothing], and co-founder of the interdisciplinary arts organization Strophe. She can be found online at


J’Lyn Chapman


An inversion of nudity. The cloying pelt and underneath the body pubescent. Emanating, it reflected your love. Then later, I shed hairs and absorbed it.
Not a going into primordial but a return. Like the river followed through canyon, cresting and climbing, dismantling the way by which we come and engendering it.
I’m not saying we’re animals.
I’m saying, the strangeness of phenomena calibrated by the desire to invent a new experience.

I sent a message to the blank face of the universe. It rose on the back of gaseous matter. It was something about survival, but I do not remember what.
My body was a different shape then, including the desire part, which was scabrous, wet, and infected.
Newer than the collusion of the past and the present, newer than disjunction as an ethics of boredom or acedia. An injunction to listen and receive it.
Three years ago, I detached from the stricken tenderness of all things. So I am no longer concerned with invention and transcendence so much as with possibility and pragmatics.
But that is not entirely true: first a lake wasn’t there and then it was. I was anxious because I wanted to admire it in the manner of grinding into it.
The urgency of happiness was a real dictum, a sense of variousness and sublimity.

I maneuvered into the quick by first feeling tender toward corners and then toward parameters. I did not know what belonged where and so misplaced it.
In fact, everything started to disassemble itself, tiny holes developed in leaves.
Debris and the familiarity of my garbage—I recognized and didn’t what I vomited—seeds so small my fingers hurt to touch them.
Everything began to disassemble itself. No it wasn’t fall. It was apprehension of the body. My tawny kneeling knees burned at their edges.
Everything started to disassemble itself, so I cased my body in caul. Mercurially, the fragmented world gathered into papule, and I asked:
but isn’t everything we love a sticky wound? and: is eating natural?
No eating is natural, the pets said. No manner of eating is natural.
So, I drank various milks. I craved something outside my body, which was flesh—scintillate, carnivorous habits. (I simply have no taste for you.)
I craved yellow, red, and fat. I savored sounds in trees. Fell asleep to anticipated rhythm.
My hunger often exhausted what remained. Paragraphs of sleep ran contrary to staccato movement.

I tried to teach myself discomfort or muted chewing.
I thought calamity of evening. I thought poison. I thought lead and mulberry.
Three years ago, I wanted calm detachment and then I wanted more.

J’Lyn Chapman lives in Boulder, Colorado where she teaches and advises in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Her chapbook, Bear Stories, was published by Calamari Press. Her work can be found in print and online journals such as Fence, Conjunctions, and not enough night.


Megan Milks

The Girl with the Expectorating Orifices

Once I was seeing this girl. She came on really strong, was the only reason I was seeing her. She came on with the snuffles, possibly brought on by cocaine. It was 2 or 3 a.m. in a late night goth club. I had received a text that said "help. eiunk." I called the next cab.

When I arrived, she was lurching out of the bathroom, having just vomited in the toilet. The vomiting had come from mixing alcohol and absinthe, she explained. Too much alcohol, was her reasoning.

Watery snot ran down her lip. She quickly snuffled it back up and into her nostrils, where it rested for a breath, then went running down again, as she told me she was Very Attracted to me, with a wobbly smile. I offered a Kleenex. She shook her head, snuffled long and hard.

The night we first attempted sex she had diarrhea several times before taking off her clothes. Nervous anticipation, she explained, only slightly mortified. She wanted it to go well. Soon she started crying, out of pain from her ravaged asshole. Mercy, mercy. I was being polite. The snot came down again. Laughing overhard at her lunacy, she pissed on herself, then, during our fucking, which I commenced in an attempt to distract her, ejaculated all over her bed.

She was so embarrassed by all of the liquids her body was expectorating, she started crying again, then laughing, and the cycle began anew.

It was like this for two months.

Twice during that time, she menstruated.

Artaud’s screaming body is the original, or maybe the original appropriated, or maybe the original applied, body without organs, screaming with suffering and the desire to end its suffering, though suffering is necessary for its survival.

The weeping body is similar, but not the same.

The weeping body is not important. What we have here is an erupting body. This girl had orifices that erupted as if on a lunar schedule. That is, when the moon was out, she erupted. Waxing and waning, no difference. Just eruption, and eruption, and eruption. Of the effects of cyclical time, she was exemplary.

Was the girl a trap? Would I fatally drown in her fluids? Is there a drowning that is not fatal? Why did she expel fluids whenever I was around?

These are questions I’ll never find answers for.

If I had answers, I would not be telling this story like a story, like this. Instead I’d develop a thesis.

Thesis: There is only me, the girl, and the girl’s erupting body.

Though I liked her violently, was fully and wholly in love, I didn’t know what to do with her, or with her body.

Though I also like violence, it was not a part of our relationship. The girl had a history of sexual abuse, which for her nipped sadomasochism in the bud, and for me softened my performed aggression into something gentle and weirdly maternal. I would say paternal but that would give you a different idea, even though paternal and maternal could mean the same thing.

In other words, the girl could not be contained, though I did my best to contain her. This is not the moral of the story, because the story is without moral. I started going to fetish parties and cheating on her.

Of course, I lived in a big city. If I hadn’t, I might have relieved my impulses in other, less accepted ways, like performing minor acts of violence upon strangers. Like stomping on your feet when I move to get off the train, like intentionally burning you with a cigarette. Like skipping, giddy, away.

The girl needed to be safe. I don’t know how she lived her life from day to day when she was not with me, because she never felt safe alone, or in the streets which wanted to fuck her, and did.

It’s like that guy who had the enormous mutated colon, which contained thirty buckets of shit when he died, from a brain aneurysm. How did he live? But he did.

The girl I was violently in love with erupted all day, every day, and yet was highly functioning. She left home three times a day. She was on a tightly controlled schedule.

As much as I loved the girl and appreciated her extreme differences from others in the world, which made it feel like we were unique and beautiful soldiers whose passion for one another was more intense and worthwhile than any other passion in the history of the world or universe, I could not explore my violent streak with a girl whose body constantly hurt. How could I explore it? Her eruptions were accusations of my selfishness. I never touched her like that, violently, I mean; and yet I always felt I had. I always felt guilty, as if the waves of fluid that erupted from her, that suffered her body, were my fault.

There is always blame in a world based on law.

The expectorating girl tried once to enter into violence with me. She told me she hadn't been entirely straightforward, that she had had a boyfriend all this time, then wrapped my fists in duct tape and told me to punch her in the face.

Role reversal. I started to cry.

I was to leave for Germany in a few days. We decided to break it off.

Megan Milks lives in Chicago. Her work has been anthologized in The &NOW Awards; Thirty Under Thirty; Wreckage of Reason; and Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire. Her work can also be found in Western Humanities Review, DIAGRAM, Sidebrow, Mad Hatters Review, Pocket Myths, Wigleaf, and The Wild. Her chapbook “Kill Marguerite” is available through Another New Calligraphy. She co-edits Mildred Pierce Magazine and co-hosts Uncalled-for Readings Chicago.


Caroline Picard

(Click image for larger view.)

Caroline Picard's work has appeared or will appear in in a handful of publications including the Phildelphia Independant, Ampersand Review, Artiface, the Chicago Art Journal Review and Proximity Magazine. She lives in Chicago, co-hosting a literary podcast reading series called The Parlor and works as the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery and Press.


Rachel Levitsky

Gaps and their Consequences

Our expressions, the laconic one and the one responsive to things, many things and every thing, did not read as contradictory. The huge spaces or gaps which either contained them or not made it difficult to reach and actually touch or even less, hold onto, and made this world in which we (still) find ourselves nearly impossible to capture—as it is and as it was—in our head, either all at once as unruly multiplicities and their desperately sought-after negations or as a distinct particular, a single absented thing once there and yet not, and not yet.

For a time we continued to flounder in these gaps, trying to get out from under our sea of stuff, reaching for these things neither there nor named. There, in the gaps, we first sensed that something wrong was being done to us.

Something, but not the thing. By way of invention or reinvention, I don’t know which, we began the morning, sensing that morning left us closest to the plume of history and abundance from which we’d been evicted. Upon waking we danced, together, all of us, sentient and being, our reaching and our touching issuing a violent impact upon the air and its imagined and imperceptible bodies and those that were actual and perceivable—body parts, shoulders, legs, breasts. Each gesture was experienced like a blow which we were accustomed to receiving and so would feel that something was missing if that gesture did not come, or did not come as a blow; this last a physical and psychic condition maliciously suggesting to us that we could not get so closely together, although we were formulating that very facility of close and intimate relations as the contribution we’d make to alter our original design, that which was made of us without us, brutal discomfort amongst ourselves despite regular and daily events—sirens which went off and to which we responded, dutifully, huddling, thrusting our bodies on top of each other, and the traffic jam that was metaphorically the same—which pushed away the morning, the dancing, our unfortunate disjunction and any feelings about all of it that could be left in us, those overflowing from inside us after dreams.

Afterwards and before we’d formulated this morning ritual, there were many sorts of conversations we knew how to have which were also brutal attempts that left us looking bruised and feeling like strangers to ourselves, as did our actions late in the day, outside, in the evenings, the heartbreaking and exhausting manner in which the many arms belonging to the group of us flailed though the air at riots, demonstrations and orgies, demonstrations of our attempt to remember that day and the images in which it bathed as it was beginning, because memory held out something to us who were looking for a thing; for why would we recall a thing if it weren’t even a little bit true?

Rachel Levitsky is the author of the book length serial poems Under the Sun (Futurepoem 2003) and NEIGHBOR (UDP 2009), as well as five poetry chapbooks. Her prose publications include Renoemos (Delete Press 2010) and a novel, The Story of My Accident is Ours (forthcoming Futurepoem 2011). Four mini-essays on The Poetics of Confinement can be found online at the Poetry Project Blog. She teaches Writing and Literature at Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, Bard Prison Initiative and Pratt Institute. She is the founder and co-curator of Belladonna Series.


Colleen O’Connor

Excerpt from “Essay In Which the Author Remembers Herself”


At fourteen a boy touches your hair—twists his fingers in its brown and pushes it gently behind your ear. Your hair belongs stuck to the sides of your face: slim, pointed, shiny as ice. But instead it’s long and looped under your chin and so he touches it—puts it behind your ear where it gets stuck on the pewter back of your earring. You ask him to leave. This is not loneliness; it’s piety—the tainted bit of hair, a sacrifice. Scissors cut it off quickly in your bedroom upstairs, where the door is closed, where the windows are painted shut, where the twin bed waits for you—narrow, sheetless—the quilt bunched and shaped like a skinned pear.


Fist-pumping, knuckle-cracking, fingers through hair and palm-slapping. At eighteen you become so good at being the only one in the room, so visible they can see through you. On a sofa, crumpled, you are surrounded. Someone passes around a magazine, rips out its centerfold, sits her next to you. They discuss: her thighs and your thighs; her lips and your face; her chest and your front. You look nothing like her; you don’t bend or fold. They dissect her image and your lack. You remember the time in high school when the hair prickled on your legs. You crave that sharpness, the itch of hair sprouting through skin. You start to count your bruises, the number of peanuts stuck in the shag rug. You start to count the cracks in the wall, tug on the peeling paint.


At sixteen you go down on a virgin with a physicist mother. His hands are miniature, hot—the pads of his fingers gorge your scalp, blister. He sweats. His thighs slide across your cheeks and you hum the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents and wish he’d put on some music. Beyond his hunched shoulders, the red numbers of his clock radio blur and glow. You watch them change, watch their timekeeping colon beat in time with your song. He is afraid his mother will come home early. He rushes, lunges for the back of your throat. You can’t stand the warmth. Later you will wake up hoarse, an ashy rash spread across your face. You’ll pick at the bumps, peel the flaking skin.


At twenty-two you fall asleep in the bathtub, half-clothed and bloody. The thin green cotton of your t-shirt sticks to your ribs and billows at your stomach; the fabric collects filthy water and balloons. Your skin peels and flaps at the slits in your arms and thighs. Water seeps in and blood leaks out; the cold, white porcelain stains red. You are not dying. You are trading fluids, transfusing. When you wake up the water is cold and half-drained, your wounds puffed and gaping, your shirt heavy and soaked. You get out of the tub and remove it. You try to tape the cuts.

Colleen O'Connor is a writing student at Columbia College Chicago. She is also the editorial assistant for Switchback Books.


Jennifer Karmin

America, A Love Poem

i barf america and america barfs me

don't leave me
ooh please don't leave me
all by myself

i've got this burning burning
yearning feelin' inside me

ooh deep inside me
and it hurts so bad

where did our love go
ooh don't you want me
don't you want me no more

i fart america and america farts me

good morning
today we present this report
a failure of imagination

19 armed with
knives and box-cutters
mace and pepper spray

penetrated the defenses
turned the order
upside down

we ask each of you
to remember
how you felt that day

i fuck america and america fucks me

drill baby drill
baby drill baby

drill drill baby
baby baby drill

drill baby baby
baby drill drill

drill drill drill
baby baby baby

i piss america and america pisses me

i’m a mother
and a waitress
i enjoy what
i’m doing

but wouldn’t want
to do it
for a lifetime

i’m divorced
and find it difficult
to meet men
who want to have
a relationship

i’d like
to go back
to school

i shit america and america shits me

a steady diet of misinformation and threats
leaves no physical marks
force nudity

eliminate all noise and light sources
bind blindfold earmuff
force sexual acts

strap down to a board and dunk in water
lock in a small hot room
force smearing of menstrual blood

bring back
to surface

i spit america and america spits me

















Jennifer Karmin is happy to be part of your summer reading. She is spending July 2010 conceiving, installing, and performing Unnatural Acts at LACE in Los Angeles as part of the Les Figues Press text project Not Content. Taking its name from the historic collaborative writing marathons led by Bernadette Mayer and others in NYC during 1972-73, Unnatural Acts will explore the themes of hunger, war, and desire through public acts of collaboration. Jennifer lives in Chicago and is the author of the text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice (Flim Forum Press, 2010).


Roz Ito

The Extra

I stand idle on the set, serene in my peasant togs, my feathered headdress, my suit of armor. Celluloid ash dusts my eyes. As the cameras roll I lumber into action, gathering force with the mass of my company, many-bodied and faceless as an Asiatic horde.

Invisible in my visibility, I stare out from the screen with the equanimity of a nobody. I am a supernumerary.

The Brothers Lumiere premiered me, strolling out en masse from a warehouse. Vertov captured me unawares, head turned the other way, shuffling to the rhythms of the Soviet quotidian. Act natural, don’t ham it up, don’t look straight at the man with the movie camera.

The director abhors self-consciousness. Self-consciousness abhors a crowd.

Like Poe’s man of the crowd I wander from reel to reel, seeking heat and action, following the surges of humanity that repeat from one frame to the next. When the epics faded I vanished into the backdrop of an opulent speakeasy. Gangsters and their molls bantered at top speed as I populated shot glasses and whiskey bottles, a glint of moonshine to illuminate the peripheries of my non-speaking part.

Remember how Cagney and Muni swaggered into their spotlights of crime, Public Enemy and Scarface brutal in their moxie, deathless and unkillable? I was right there behind them, feeding them ammunition, polishing the rapid-fire words of their machine-gun talkie.

The women come next. The women who follow nobody.

I became a mote, a sign of excess. See me take up residence in the waves of Barbara Stanwyck’s hair in Babyface, a hard-knock girl with a hard-knock life serving up bootleg to a clientele of sweaty, horny factory men. The father who bosses her, the father who molests her. Her only allies: the whimsical black girl who busses tables, and a kindly, avuncular Nietzsche enthusiast who urges her to make her own way in life. Use men! he exhorts. Use men to get the things that you want!

When her father perishes in a fiery explosion of grain alcohol, freedom and hope light up in her face, flickering with the flames that dance out from the ruined tanks.

In a train yard, the whimsical black girl (who will later become the whimsical black maid when the goings get luxe) grins with satisfaction as Stanwyck lures the night watchman to a bed of hay, in exchange for safe passage in an empty boxcar. I pack my bags and move into the shine of the black girl’s grin, the bright starched collar of the black maid’s uniform.

Race, class, sexuality. Ambition and revenge.

I’m not supposed to be here.

Three years before Mata Hari, Garbo plays another spy-seductress in The Mysterious Lady. Soundless and implied, her silent voice assumes a higher pitch as she sings at the piano, head thrown back in assured triumph. Her song tempts the appetite of a sensitive young man, an army officer entrusted with a top-secret document. She lures him back to her apartment, bedecked with luxuriant curtains and polished china, a stack of poetry on the crystal nightstand. A woman’s power is enfolded and covert; empires and campaigns are decided in her bedroom. She leads the helpless officer to the supper table, sets out a pair of candles. As she lights a match her silent face fills the screen, ravishing and sublime behind the faint veil of rising smoke. How many conquests will it take to win this war? Her lips curl up in a knowing smile. She blows out the light.

Did they call it a church, a temple to the celebrity of fleeting spirits? Did they call it a black box? A theater of projected potential?

Figures trudge across the monumental face of the screen.

Not a line of flight but a line of sight.

I resurfaced in the Technicolor musical, cast in a chorus of Navy nurses, prairie pioneers, Yiddish village folk. But the New Wave auteurs spliced me out of the picture. I was the missing shot in Godard’s jump cut, the cardboard telescope tube that guided Jean Seberg’s gaze to the enclosure of Belmondo’s rogue smile.

The blur of trees as the boy runs through the woods at the end of Truffaut’s 400 Blows. The blur itself.

Desperate and determined, running to the sea.

Another sightline:

The teenage quartet in Techine’s Wild Reeds, three boys and one girl, caught in a slow snapshot of changing youth. Sensitive François who sleeps with his roughneck friend Serge, and mutters I’m a faggot, I’m a faggot over and over again to the bathroom mirror. His best friend Maïté, the headstrong daughter of a Communist feminist intellectual. She despises Henri the French-Algerian colonialist, but can’t stop her attraction to him. Beneath a grove of trees, they lose their virginity together. He’s about to leave town, leave forever. She will go home, but it won’t ever be the same. Overcome by the experience, overcome by the tremendous knowledge she has just been given, she jumps to her feet. She’s about to burst, she needs to be seen.

Naked, her face wet, she runs downriver, reenacting the flight of Truffaut’s boy hero, only her flight is not an escape but an offering. She runs straight to François and collapses in his stupefied embrace, willing him to help her support this consciousness, this overpowering consciousness that she has taken into her body like a fire. François stops in his tracks and glances over at Serge who has also stopped short, stunned by the sight. They exchange looks of half-confusion, half-understanding.

This is Roz Ito's first published creative piece, although one of her dreams recently appeared in the Annandale Dream Gazette . She lives in California where she rides the rails daily and tends the blog Supernumerary.


Vanessa Place

Excerpt from The Gates

El Paletero had a confession. He’d worked it up over time, then worked it back down, figuring the shapes of it while he waited for whatever, which were a ton of fucking wait. EP’d pulled a li’l bitch for a bunch of punk shit, and things hadn’t worked out, you know, appeal-wise. That was good: appeal-wise. EP made a mental note, and kept walking. When he was out in Chuckawalla, he’d sussed out whole chunks on the yard, circling loose packs of guys, dodging the strays and the spun out, the Nortenos, the Border Bros, the Black, White, Other motherfuckers. No eye contact, P-ace, just keep walking.

He’d first got the notion standing in the Chuckawalla chow line on September 23rd, at 1310, when he spotted the snitch. His snitch, the one that flipped him, ratting him out for a couple of dimes run side by side, meaning the bitch’d bought himself a parole date within what could pass for a life, assuming no ax-ee-dents, planned or otherwise. His snitch, cause the bitch thus belonged to him, i.e., he’d bought & paid for that joto with the dimes taken soon as the man took the stand, he was his, life-4-life, and ain’t nobody’d argue otherwise. Chili con carne, like in what, sixth grade. Some smells never change. Taste do. True. Snitch trying to cop a double scoop, greasing up the hype with the spoon. Bullshat, shrink-rapped. Dude’s’all bobbing his knob, smiling, locking eyes with the twitch in the hair net, other dude dripping red sauce down the ladle, grateful for the show. Any show for Showtime. Still, he saw. Once you fuck a man, you look for him like he’s your mama, cuz he is. Got the rights to life: gave you yours, get take it right back again. Snitch spots EP, EP hawks back, super slow. I got time, man. Nothing but. Death’s a motherfucking surface cut. That’s the first hit, in the neck. No big bleeders, though. Knee-deep’s worse than six feet. You ever stab a guy? Most do it quick, makes sense, the old in&out&on the way, man down, Jose, and you’re already down the line, having ditched the shank and put the hairs in place, smooth inquisitor, that’s what they’d say, and you’d go straight up, puttock, & I make change. But there’s another technique, if you’ve got the big guts, slow & steady, it is, death by peering pressure. Each inch in, another out, look ‘em in the eyes as they go down for the l-o-n-g-e-r count. That’s frozen, that’s ice cream, that’s EP’s specialty and the birth-point of his sobriquet. Time, that’s the point of it, death by degrees, death by inevitability. The slow fade of hope itself and the sudden understanding, that sweet tipping moment when their pupils gape at the infinite present, and the inutility of all memory.

Chuckawalla was a kind of pretty, way out there near Arizona. Shitload of palms, rowed, though, showing some planning, which he did once appreciate. Though EP’s forgotten mo’sly bout the hate of the heat. How the hair on his arms recoiled, and his back shuddered from the chill of the sun. Processed into Pelican Bay about ten shades darker than his jacket photo, baked near-black just by being. All of them were. Go into the visiting room, some body’s mewing about how all women’re white by fair comparison, all them wives, rides, -litas and mamacitas, even the mom what wears the red and black like Xmas sweaters, even in June, cold in her mind like he was from the sun, she kept saying how could you do this to me son, son’s undone, shaking his shaggy knucklehead, I don’t know, ma, I don’t know, he stands to reason, EP figured he was some sort of special needs, but come to find (trustee ships it) that Shaggy’s busted his nut on a score of old ladies, one of them took the licking but didn’t keep on ticking, shit like that, EP thought, dropped too perfect, no art to it whatsoever. Barren summer. Round about then, warden decides to trim to two plug-ins per customer, fellas got to decide between see-through TV and clear radio and transparent CD, or maybe a personal fan, he could play the guitar, classical, or the harmonica, blue, or a combination of the two, turning himself into something else, but at temperatures over one hundred degrees, it’s the freeze that comes first, you choose to see or not to see, dreamboy, and such fell choices up the ante, boredom-wise, substantially, cuz without substantiation, there’s no reason to go on as before. Besides, since they ditched that free book program (he’d gotten through two Laughing Policemans, few vols of Gibbon and Golding’s trans by then, T&C, no shit), few itchy Aryan Bros decided to give clapper what process was due, cld have been stopped, most can, but that’s not entertainment. They blanketed the sob, beat him, and set him afire, sort of a giddyup to his hereafter, skin bubbles before it gets goopy, some patches go black or white, chill-bitten, goosepimpled like it was freezing felt instead of pure heat, the smell sweet, not cafeteria unlike. That’s good, cafeteria unlike. EP missed the red & black Xmas sweater though, she always said hello, and left a shoebox of oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips at the end of each visit. He’d picked a fan and a coffeepot.

His snitch kept closer watch after that, playing fitful sentry, startling at silence, shaking at shadows. He made sure not to be in the chow line at the same time, or in the same part of that scrub they called the yard, still, it was too easy, his cellie was The Parrot, for his habit of squawking what was said and sitting on other men’s fingers. The Parrot said the snitch was scared, scared he said, and the deal’s dealt then, over & done, that’s a bargain bitter made, scared means the fight’s between your ears & bell’s done rung, you’ve bared throat & split belly in the cranium, your thoughts’re running salted & clear as fear itself, and the sour part of tomorrow coats your thin frightened tongue, for fear, as any dude with a cleft bum can testify, mean’s day’s pinched by the perineum, buddy boy, cuz soon as you think you got something to lose, you do. Like a baby eating chocolate, it’s the taking away that’s the treat of it.

Oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips are better than good. Once they had potato chip cookies which come dusted with confectioner’s sugar and crunch like crazy. Once there were hermit bars with plumped raisins and a whisper of mace, then marshmallow clouds, melaninized with cheap cocoa powder. Ten days after EP saw his snitch, someone’s old lady brought macadamia nut brittle and ribbon candy, red & green, piped in white, like a grandma would keep on a glass Santa tray for the holidays, flanked with a bright peppermint pig and cracked buttons of Pfeffernüsse. Sweet tongue-tipped patience, drizzling caramel shelled onan, right on right on.

EP bided his time. That was a line from something, though what came too loose to catch. He found a book with a Bic inside, what book, do you remember, not God’s, or any other thin conforming copy, but a water-logged work what changed everything. He lost that pen, copped another, then retrieved the first from the seam siding his mattress and used the small heating coil on the coffeepot to slowly soften the plastic. Super-slow, stopping whenever there was an aroma of something more than apprehension, he was the model of patience, sipping seconds like a hot Swiss Miss, draining hours of their grotesque design, playing divinity, claving days from days into drunken infinity. As the clear plastic starts to curve, remove it from the heat and press it against your thumbnail quick, quickly, not on the floor or wall or the shining silver side of your toilet bowl, hanging legless from the wall, nowhere to leave a mark or smear or the scent of burning. That’s not flesh. Sure it hurts, but better now than later. And if you fuck up and there comes that sour smell, by all means, melt yourself a little bit, that’s copacetic, that passes as payback, one thing no one shits about and everyone wants, freedom, that is, to burn, like in that other Eden, to drown, in a pool of septic eyesell, to stagger, like our Savior, through the walk of the innocent, or at least the not proven to be. And you burn and bide and burn and bide a few hundred times, that’s small exaggeration, man, and not by sensation, for the hot ache in your thumbs turns constant, and like any constancy, becomes your beloved companion. Proof of transcripted peace.

Vanessa Place is a writer and lawyer. She is author of Dies: A Sentence, La Medusa, Notes on Conceptualisms, co-authored with Robert Fitterman, and The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law. Forthcoming is Exposé des Faits (éditions è®e), and the triology, Statement of Facts, Statement of the Case, and Argument (Blanc Press). She is a regular contributor to X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, and is co-founder/director of Les Figues Press.


Hildebrand Pam Dick

excerpt from ALP HAIR

This one’s black. As outside chance. Also bigger and unruly.

I don’t want to be locked up!   I can’t quit     thinking     tone

      Notebook hair mood

Doubt or teeth. Truth under fingernail. Tighter interval

    Dirt under

    Don’t eat that! But I am starving.

I forget the taste of Bounty. I could walk on 5th Avenue. I don’t listen to their Snickers. I look up at the Milky Way.

    The same but darker. No, it’s lighter, cloudy

Then saw a comet

      The thing about not cleaning himself

Girls are supposed to clean. I mean be clean.
        But I am called Hildebrand.

        Unless Holden Brent.
There’s constant changing.

With already five dead books: Oscillator, Ruled Notebook, Unruled Notebook, Flaming Sword, Hildebrand’s Travel Diary
          die tone

  so worn out

      I can’t keep saying     red

Also my v-neck sweater. It’s grey wool, I lent it to my little brother. Except he took it without asking. Also my pants that zip or my maroon nylon jacket that zips like before.

        But brother and sister/brother should always share, especially if they exist in the
        same dimensions.

          I unzipped my chest

      I am not sure about the spacing and the timing.
      Immanuel is useless here.

There is no God here. Wait. Excuse me, what does God mean?

My little brother is named Gregory unless Stevie. Unless he is my friend, like Fredric was Fredrick’s. I.e. Shelley was Hugh Dillon’s—but possibly not Holden Lem’s. Ditto Georg Howel was.

      Isaak becomes Zak or Igor or Grégoire or Bogdan or Stevie
      Fredric becomes Stevie
      Friederik becomes Stevie or Cyrus or Cyril or Sheila
      Georg becomes Gyorgy or Georgie or Grégoire or Stevie
      Grégoire equals Stevie
      Grégoire should be Gregory. No, Grigory!

I don’t know who my friends are. Are there friends? Or only rooms? They have books with names who can befriend you. Only the ones in books or who write them are my true friends and comrades.

  A friendship could go down the drain of the sink. Then the drain is slow and clogged as if from lost hairs.
  Your big head could sink low onto your weak chest, weigh it down.

  Some people are funny and comfortable so the people laugh at them and adore them.

  Some people have a system or found one so they are very popular.

  I thought, Quit laughing at me. Forget your Aufhebung! I don’t want to be liked anyway.

  It isn’t charming when no personal hygiene of the Jesus tits with the halo nipples. He was trans when they sewed him.

      The problem is with reason i.e. discursivity

I don’t want to think anymore!

    I need to eat. I am starving from a longing

    Jeanne D’Arc was given bread and a tower and rhythms with repeats by Robert.

        No guards to bring me toast
        I am not protected here
        She was not protected there
        They spied on her through the small hole in the defense

My room is getting very serious like a situational semantics

  I never read that book. It was brick red and thick with technique flakes and pump fakes.

    Forget the logical machinery, it’s too heavy now that I am weaker. It hurt my wrist’s ambivalence

    Weak sex

Hugh lost his Susette. Once I had a Suzanne. Later I had a Liliane i.e. a Lili. She would’ve made me toast.

    I stand up to go eat. I miss my grey v-neck sweater.

  There is no first principal but there is a first poem. Is this it?

Hildebrand Pam Dick (aka Mina Pam Dick, Nico Pam Dick et al.) is a writer, artist and philosopher living in New York City. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Tantalum, BOMB magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, The Portable Boog Reader 4, Aufgabe and The Recluse; her latest piece is forthcoming in EOAGH. Her philosophical work has appeared in a collection published by the International Wittgenstein Symposium (Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria). Her first book, Delinquent, was published by Futurepoem Books in late 2009.


Danielle Dutton

from S P R A W L

We have arrived at a place based on the idea that the past never existed. We set out intentions for public imagination, educational software, rumpus rooms, etc. Haywood makes dinner on an indoor grill. A bee flies up and down outside the window, bumping the glass, hovering above plates on the patio. Fruit is rotting on the trees, and the bee lives on after the death of the fruit. He is rejuvenated by past forms in my yard. He’s a good sport. Just then a shy bird lands in the branches. I’m so near the bird we’re practically neighbors! All of a sudden there’s another bird, a black one, and then two red ones, and then another that is both red and black. The two red birds face the black one and I watch as they roll and wrestle among the leaves. Then a fallen petal signals some sort of retreat. The red birds spring past me and out of the yard entirely. It was the only battle I’ve ever witnessed. That night Haywood seems to move toward a derisive nickname. He’s perfectly right to do so. In the morning heat I look like pudding, or I sound like a mosquito squeaking under a mattress, or I fuck like a secretary with her hands full of paper. But I have sudden ideas like a fox, so many ideas, scenes, sudden beauty. So I sit on a cushion and write a letter to the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painters grouping them according to taxonomic phenomena: animals (pheasant, gorse, dogs, cow, stag) and plants (melon, sweet cherries, leeks, gourds, pumpkin, blue grapes, lettuce, brambles, berries). The table has all its own categories: stale crusts of bread, wine stains, orange peels, stacks of plates, crumpled pink paper napkins, strawberry stems, dirty flatware, cat hairs, walnut shells. I answer the phone twenty-seven times. “Who’s there?” I say, but no one answers. It’s like a sick and moody privacy, so I wear ruffles and read alone in the afternoon, fully absorbed by dangerous propaganda and fits of laughter. I flip through magazines that advise about weight-loss, fashion, sexual dramatization, what is “hip” and what is “square.” Unhappy people are analyzed with the latest vogues in impersonality. I eat a banana on my side by a tree. I smack my lips and shout at people who ride by in cars. This is incredibly exciting for me. Among certain groups of women, shouting at strangers has become a way to contrast oneself with particular social pressures. Lisle and I used to drive up and down Main Street on weekend nights in a kind of parade of increasing and decreasing speed, contraception, and overall total movement. Haywood, at that age, drove a motorcycle and played two outdoor sports. Today he is unlikely to participate in such customs. So I send him to the store to shop for milk, flour, and eggs. These are my own ideas about modern cake decorating: after baking cool thoroughly, remove with caution; use the proper icing; the rose is the loveliest flower made with the tube. At different parties I see cakes that look like Barbie, or grand pianos, or golf courses, or Holiday Inns, or silver bells, or bowling alleys, or carousels, or hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds, or guitars, or Bibles, or flags, or flowers, or duck hunters, or French poodles, or holiday baby booties, or hands in prayer, or horseshoes, or girl scouts, or clown heads, or patriotic fish, or racecars, or woven baskets, or country scenes, or psychedelic dancers, or the moon. There are different cakes for different occasions, some involving children, or sleeping children, or monster trucks, or battles for statehood. Meanwhile, there’s a spatial plunge behind the dark oaks on the edge of town. The mayor wants to shut it down or build a fence around it. “It’s like a dead word,” he tells us. It’s rumored all over town he cries in his sleep: “Wasted space!” Preparations are made. Grim men gather at City Hall. This is only the first meeting. After a few days they manage to successfully redecorate the interior of the city offices. These are events of large civic significance and depend upon progress and reasons. That’s the exciting thing. The whole town is interchangeable. Everyone listens to the same song at the same time, so we dance together under the stars (gold flecks in the ceiling). In bed that night I imagine a complex floral design with thin patches and some complete holes. I crank my arm faster and faster without brakes. Haywood says, “You are the victim of some mechanical metaphors.” He has many possibilities available to him, things to talk through, and reasons to be suspicious.

Danielle Dutton designs books for Dalkey Archive Press and is editor of Dorothy, a publishing project. Her first book was Attempts at a Life. Her second, S P R A W L, is now available from Siglio Press.


Danielle Pafunda

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

You took us out of the freezer, unwrapped, split our sticks.

We still get eventide. We still get luminescence. We get our feet caught, sometimes, in the ropey intestine of your funny little dream. You think you’ve found the sweetest hole in which to bury your craggy face, and then out pops the rabbit.

The double bunny. Its many red eyes giving you a good scorching.

Whatev, little legs. Make with the running. Up the sheets
like a ladder, everything horizontal will beckon
your wreck.

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

We can’t bear.

Your chatter.

Any longer.

When you say no, we say now, when you say sorry, we say sack.

Hey hey.

Ho ho.

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

We have been crammed full of your unwholesome piggeldy.

Today’s lesson, a lesson in stripping.
First you apply the glue, then you scrape the glue,
and with the glue goes your grief.

Tra-la, tra-la.

In the dander is your grief.

In the grit is your grief.

In the aching margin of your failed relationships
is your grief and your stench, but you know what is lacking?

Of course you do.

We are lacking in you.

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

On the front page, everything has smeared.
We get no news down here, no news of home,
no news of before, no news of the new us
on the surface of things, all polish, all shimmer,
all expertly applied crease and pucker.

We get nothing but the center of each o
eaten by a worm, relinquished by a worm,
traveling from the interior to the exterior
of a worm, by way of our sorry conduit,
by way of our wish,
our sleaze and scrap nostalgia.

Danielle Pafunda is author of Iatrogenic: Their Testimonies (Noemi Press 2010), My Zorba (Bloof Books), Pretty Young Thing (Soft Skull Press), and the forthcoming Manhater (Dusie Press Books). She's an assistant professor of gender & women's studies and English at the University of Wyoming.


Bhanu Kapil

Notes for Ban: an infantile bank.


Or diptych. A presentation, pre-soaked. Quiet. It's so quiet before a book begins.

So quiet that when my nervous system hurts, so does the sentence, because that's all we have: each other. The sentence and I. We cope.

Met Andrew W. at Coda and after we'd settled down with our millet scones and tea, we made a pact to meet in Colorado, or virtually, a year from now, with novels. Novels set in the UK and that we have not written yet. Why? Some ideas: "Lazy." "Time." Andrew makes a list and when we part, I tuck it in my bag, which rips where the arm of it, the strap, meets the red cloth of the torso. Who wants to pay through the nose for new accommodations? Not I.

This is a bank for sentences. All the tellers are out to lunch. Customers purge on Newsweek and cappuccinno in a central lobby designed so poorly that sometimes, before the agent returns, they leave. Some places, like the sloping bar-stool seats McDonalds pioneered in the late 1980s, eject you from your childhood position.

Anything but talk about Ban. I would talk about pedophilia before I talked about Ban. Her left leg or arm. As a child, I lay down on the bed like a sentence not written yet. Out came a pen. Out came paper. I have a memory of the paper slipping under my hips, for example.

To historicize a somatics is to have a memory of public events that supersedes, perhaps, the grid of touch. Flowers, electricity, and even herbs. I place them in a vase. I flip the switch. A foreign body is a frequency. It's a body flaring with violet light when you look away from the sheet and its matching pillow. These are notes, so I don't have to go there. I don't have to lie down with you. And I don't.

Just as I never write.

Just as I prevent myself from writing at all costs.

Just as I do not love.

Just as I substitute fiction for prose, and prose for the sentences that, like animals.

Like schizophrenics.

Like wolves.

Emit light. Perceptible to the ones who also. Lie down on the ground. Lie down on the ground like that.

I think of a person I loved between the years 2004 and 2007, which were not years. They were hours. "Little hours," as Andrew called them in Coda, a word that bears repeating. I think of how I lay down on the ground for him, thinking he would come, with coffee, and a blanket, but how, when morning came, I had frozen into a new position.

On a bank, where the stems transplant themselves upon our skin. Because we're dead. We lay down on the riverbank and never got up again. Our [*******] turned into red flowers that flared then rotted away, in the banal image of the body's reproductive system appearing outside it, as a gent. The yellow stamen that stabilized the parts of the page that looked boring, when we glanced down at the page, just lying there, with its legs open.


A book of time, for time and because of it.

A book for recovery from an illness. A book that repeats a sentence until that sentence recuperates its power to attract, or touch, other sentences.

A book as much poetry as it is a forbidden or unfunded area of research. The first thing to go when the bank fails. When the bank manager books his vacation to Costa Rica and blanks it out. His commitment. The strength of the British pound. An attendant menagerie of quotients, HR tips, and downtown rent.

I think of Roualt, who burned his paintings "due to criticism." I think of Barbara, who went to the Art Institute of Chicago sixty years ago. She's eighty, I think. Her husband has dementia. He's an alcoholic, in fact, and we're meeting about that. We're meeting in a room. Barbara and I annoy the group when we veer off into conversations about art. Barbara says: "I painted rocks at the Art Institute." She says: "Sometimes I can't draw but I get some nice lines." I invite her to my house and somehow she drives from Fort Collins, shaking like a leaf on its stem. It's Barbara who tells me about Roualt, and about her marriage, which dominated this other part of life. Its feathers. Feral moments so valuable you never share them with anyone else.

Like finances.

Like the writings of Melanie Klein. They are a deep orange with a cream border and though I don't open the book, I keep it next to me as I write.

I go to the cafe to write, but am boxed in by two women close to my age. A bit younger or older. I can't tell. The first one says: "He makes me feel like I'm smart and uber-attractive. Sure, I'm thirty-seven but I look like I'm thirty, don't I? I have to show my ID every time I buy alcohol." And then: "Here's what you'll see. About twenty per cent of the females will be uber-pregnant. The thighs, lard ass." In time, I understand that they are discussing an up-coming high school reunion. "They'll be pregnant," says the second woman, "and fat. Unattractively fat."

Perhaps, I think, I'll set the bulk of my book in Haberdasher's Aske' School for Girls.

Perhaps Ban will be dark, but also crystalline, like a high-school vampire. Like blending something in a pan.

The paper that lines the pan.

For cookies.

"I hate cookies almost as much as I hate white people."

Says Ban, to begin.

To write a sentence with content more volatile that what contains it.

So that the page is shiny, wet and hard.

So that sentences are indents not records; the soulful presence of a vibrant man or girl rather than persistence.

Their capacity to touch you in the present time.

Bhanu Kapil is a British-born writer of Indian origin who lives in Colorado. She recently became a U.S. citizen. She is the author of three full-length collections of experimental prose: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006), and humanimal [a project for future children] (Kelsey Street Press, 2009). Another prose work, Schizophrene, is forthcoming from Nightboat in 2011.


Ariana Reines


when my boyfriend called the cops on me
i waited in my room for them to come
i waited a half hour and then another half
this naked whiteness i could contrive to cleanse me
officer i am in love and now my lover hate me
always having dreamed of being a monk in a cell
if i eat celery for ten days and with an ether commingle
i could sit in the seat of rocks and razors
standing on one foot for ten years near the gingerlight
where the lees of my mind would fizz and then unto heaven sail

everyone i know beats up their lover and their lover beats them up
and the cops come and the cops go and sometimes someone passes a night in holding
i saw a shade pass across his face when he said he loved me
and he would not tell me what that shade was
i’m just a lover officer
but they never came though later they would come for him and i looked at my computer
and the internet was so depressing
then you wrote me a message like
call me sometime
and i think i chatted like how about right now
and you were like
do it
call me right now
when you walk in the rinsed orange light
shining like rotting tangerines picking up a deck of cards
low mean cards a low mean deal
twos and threes of clubs
which is pretty much what we got
blood is a spangle
bright colors are hidden deep in the body
fruits impossibly moist
trees blow out their hair along a furrow
i’m sick of eating beans in ugly light
i should not have spent my friend’s money on a miniskirt
but this is the future
the insects are dead in the cupboard
and dead on the floor
and i left one over there
alongside a clot of strawberry jam
to write this down

the small ones and the fat orangeish ones
they die through the holes in the ceiling
and they live and die upon me no matter how much love I make
sleeping like promises when I have to go
to sleep against the future which is not
going to come to term today and not tomorrow either
why would you sit down and write it
this is the total experience
we’re too big to fail

ariana reines is the author of the cow (alberta prize, fencebooks: 2006), coeur de lion (mal-o-mar: 2007), the play telephone (produced by the foundry theatre february 2009, 2 obies, + published in play a journal of plays: 2009), and the forthcoming save the world (mal-o-mar: 2010) and mercury (fencebooks: 2011).  two translations have appeared: the little black book of grisélidis réal: days and nights ofProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 0an anarchist whore by jean-luc hennig (semiotext(e): 2009) and my heart laid bare by charles baudelaire (mal-o-mar: 2009).  in 2009 she was virginia c. holloway lecturer in poetry at uc berkeley.  she has a new tumblr, and sort of lives in la.


Janey Smith

Vignettes: Short Fictions on My Life as a Cheerleader

(for Erica Eller)

1. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
I stood in the parking lot under that tree, waited for the bus, saw all
these people not only in doorways, listened to Styx. There was this
bird. It said, “Tweet, tweet.” I held the bird in my hand. The bird
looked small, like you. But, you were nowhere, though. So, I took the
subway. There was a man on the speaker said something, beepbeep
signals. The bird got scared, bumped into a window, fluttered its
wings, got caught for a second in the door. I said, “Oh, shit.” The bird
didn’t know what to do, I think. The train stopped, the door opened. It
flew. It flew and it flew. I got up real fast to go find it, bumped into
something, found you.

2. What She Said
I walked to the top of the stairs, stopped in front of the locked door,
knocked and listened for your footsteps. You knocked back. I could
hear your voice, kind of, thought you said, “Help.” I ran down stairs to
find hammer to break door down, find you. When I came back, I got
lost. The stairs were all messed up. The door which was there was
thirty feet up in the air, in a tree. You kept knocking, though. I looked
at the sky, saw bits of my pom pom, I think. I started to believe
strange things. Started to believe that maybe my pom pom took you
away. I played with a loose thread on my skirt, the one you liked. I am
afraid of what might happen if I keep trying to stand on Marsha’s

3. Last I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
Light shone through branches. Then, my pom pom’s shadow,
blended with branches, swooped into sky. My pom pom traveled
super fast, made me think about life, if I still had my bus pass. I put
my arms out with longing eyes, watched my pom pom disappear. It
came back, flew away again. I was happy to watch it do that. I kept
my arms out. We would soon share the darkness, I thought.

4. Panic
The baby birds lifted their little wings, flapped wildly like moths stuck
on my cell phone light. I tried to call Marsha. The baby birds swooped
all around me, made me feel light-headed, like a million spinning
halos on my hair. I stood there, waited for the bus. The woman next
to me stood there, waited for the bus. The baby birds stood there on
the bus stop hutch, singing happy songs. Cars passed. The cars
made the woman’s hem-line quiver. I studied her purse, carefully,
noticed it still contained my one pom pom that, I knew, she took from
me. I stepped towards her, grabbed the purse like a crazy woman,
ran away super fast, bits of pom pom floating in air. I went into an
alleyway, sat near a gated door, my pom pom slightly worn, but still
warm, still warm.

5. I Know It’s Over
Sometimes I am upside down. When sun moves through Marsha’s
hair at noon and I watch it, lying beneath her, doing my stretches, I
am upside down. When a fly lands on the wall in the gym, and I’m
alone listening to band practice, I am upside down. For me, a storm
on the sun is a fly on the wall. It moves a little, I believe, makes
shadows here on Earth, where I lose things, like a single, solitary
pom pom—alone and I am upside down.

Janey Smith lives in San Francisco, California. Her work has appeared, or will appear, on Nothing To Say, PANK 5, HAHA Clever!, Big Other, Artifice Issue 3, and Stymie Magazine.


Laura Goldstein

from nestpaper

A first year anniversary calls for paper in civilized circles. This past Friday, citizens received a threatening paragraph, small and concise. A day later there were roadblocks. This is all just a result of the times, a failure of fundamentalism, a misunderstanding of history. Who else will create a generation that will contribute to our winning? Will the young people crowd around the leaders and flirt openly with the news? Tens of thousands of letters flood the buildings, all anonymous. They begin to decide to go out, it was a small situation in the world that attracted images. One life is a symbol of the ten around it. In recent weeks the fear spread from the bottom to the top. In rain a mask covers the face. The rain right here is a calm mask with anger underneath. Your location, right here, will be transmitted in about a year. A year later, you’ll receive an anonymous text message asking you to reconsider. Will you? The map folds slowly into light paper lining, brows come out over the eyes and sweep up the details.

Laura Goldstein has two chapbooks, ice in intervals and day of answers. She has published a lot on the internet, too, most recently in EAOGH, Requited and Little Red Leaves. She teaches writing at Loyola and the School of the Art Institute.


Rachel Gontijo Araújo

[emesis] –from primary anatomy

07:11 a.m.
I wake up to a wind of blowing pee.

07:13 a.m.
A knock on the door retracts eyelid to open eyes. Vertigo makes me see objects doubled. Four hands and legs, twenty fingers and finally, two doors. I progress to the edge of the bed and look around for my clothes. Heart nears chest. In a 7-second fit of paranoia I consider not answering door. Truth is, Justine and I were never intimately related, our only point of association being that I had fucked her sister. Perhaps that was the latest pre-requisite for familiarity: fucking. She knocks again. I get up and with half-buttoned jeans walk towards the door.

Justine suffered from the most scientific of the humanities: narcissism. Her encounters were mostly performances in which she always preferred to take from behind, a position from which she could not see or be seen in. For her, to share was to be robbed. Her smell, peculiarly earthbound, moved between semi-virginity and pharmacy. Whenever Chloe and I were together I could feel her intrusive, accompanying motion of lips, my hands, her body. I knew she had some interest on the effects these motions had on her sister’s skin; not for love but for self-enjoyment. Most times, I felt Chloe aware of her appetite.

I unlock. As a well-dressed courtier she advances through the door wearing a hard, rounded pair of black pearls she most likely wore to bed the night before. Never too modest, Justine looks me straight in the eye and runs her hands over my torso kissing the rim of my mouth. I look at her as if I had just come across a great longitudinal fissure. She smiles. I try greeting her with neither indifference nor interest. She smiles again and sits on the undone bed placing her butt on the exact same spot my head was. I study a tear in the fabric of her dress.

“Here is the book you asked for. Chloe says hi.”
“Thank you.”
“It’s good to see you.”

I smile. It would be impolite not to acknowledge her presence.

“Are you ok? You’re sweating.”
“I’m still hungover.”
“What’s that smell?”
“I don’t know. Possibly aldehyde ”
“No, it’s drier.”
“Yes, blood. Are you bleeding?”
“Now and then.”
“Where? Let me see it.”
“I can’t fuck you.”

She laughs and lets me know I’m abnormally sensitive, places her legs over mine. I glance at her feet and watch her body double. Her smell, color and shape change as if to incite procreation. I make an effort not to heat. Justine lays down, offering me physical distance from thought. She keeps smiling as she closes eyes. Genitals rip through denim.

Before I’m able to voice any objection she takes hold of my right hand and places it at the lowering of her costume, asking me to hold it. I hold it. First as an objective data; a canal that connects the superficial to the cervix of the deep uterus. Nonetheless, being a vagina rarely compatible with scientific objectivity, I start to participate in her motion, from inside. As I move hands, a hint of roasted Mayan scarlet peppers discharges information from skin, enabling me to identify direction, locate obstacles and simultaneously adjust to both. The background level of illumination changes drastically. Effectively blind, I feel no definite boundary between atmosphere and outer space. To reset sensitivity, I push hands as far as they can possibly go. Prehensile thumb is freed for walking requirements. An increase in blood flow reddens her skin. What usually remains hidden is now visible. Her clitoris, for no particular evolutionary function, erect. Accessing anterior wall I touch the behind of her pubic bone, palpating in clockwise fashion. Left hand draws around nerve endings bordering anus. As she continues to lengthen in response to pressure, I catch sight of Chloe, transferring all her vulgarity to a large group of young animals. The bulls differ from the oxen and the geldings from the stallions. She’s the only sexed mammal. Not fully formed she seizes the first ten, speaking seven hundred mutually incomprehensible languages that resemble prostitution. Expressing an urge for natural variation, I face her. Her vagina is not affected. There seems to be a delay between giving and receiving.

RACHEL GONTIJO ARAUJO speaks Portuguese, writes in English and is located at an unequal distance between. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from the School Art Institute of Chicago and is the co-founder of A Bolha Editora, an in translation press with headquarters in Brasilia.


Rebecca Loudon



My tongue’s clapper honeypots shed sticky bodies on the sidewalk an eel pie inside the mute dwarf her gladiolas followed me I prayed to Tip eventually revealed to be a girl begged the Little Sisters of the Poor for one blasted bite she looked too much like the king crying in her nightie froze my garbage in bundles so the not so kindly neighbors could have their way bought this hat in Portugal no Germany I was German then no Hungarian now I am a Japanese soldier terrible things happened to my children America TAKE NOTE I am hungry and won’t stop one night I went on drinking far too long and alone a war held me hat and boots AIM! STRIKE! I practiced on the furious girls the gold girls wrapped their wings in electrical tape you with your eye switchers we’ll feed the next patient wild garlic paste and lily of the valley pirate radio waves Henry Henry-Hank-O-Hank I lived in Beijing Montana with Robert Pershing Wadlow Illinois’s TALLEST MAN he died of a blister furious furious girls then I drowned in a movie where they said made up things or static storms tonight I laid low under fifteen blankets war horses running past on fire I was a whore in Topeka a prostitute with lemony ripe hips and them hearts unpracticed swimmers red hands gold not warmed in the crook of my arm I think of them like whiskered rawfish horses in mud horses on fire I was a priest a detour in France my face blown clean off in a public kitchen those horses! flames jerked across their bodies let’s talk about my huge hoary lump don’t can’t can’t thicket tree swung up hard it was my hole IDEA gold and frothy air I had to skim the cream a hungry flicker with a sweet tooth under the poison what about Penrod he was a badger in the marram grass revealed to be most dangerous after I loved him when we crossed the river naked


The orchard now full of them girls crying a red darkness I tried ice cream and rubber stoppers but they stayed dreadful quiet when I helped them ignite chicken eyes lit up fruit in all directions fully de-thinged and brown-hearted there was life in Violet lifting buckets of pears over a wall a stutter of music I made when I spoke farted burped rubbed whose room is this how do I look some lippy kid to smack my face or dredge my stick mocked in terrified pursuit a second language child dive in thrash GOD sees everything blast bung hole when the mast leans down for seeds in your pocket broken matches she was not welcome mocked my overcoat bulging pockets territorial cow dipped into my soup the gypsy’s din and crash gave herself to death like that clucking the hole time I leaned out the window all my whiskers between a wedding like a jerked-out baby I and her it was a hot time lickable polished shoes a white sheet tied tight in the heartland seeds and beans Hettie's pitted face called for tumor called for kelp land-locked as she were in me I danced a long time before I remembered the sweets and their secret brother


a concentration camp for dollies that opened closed their fists corn trembled skinny legs while herself slippered applauded by princes hung sheets to dry their urine smell carried on aching legs yellow hair little socks those girls were not soldiers under my thumb my stained thick THUMB I told them time and agin hush now you be hush or there will be no more horse or ice cream I disliked children my entire life and now they crawled over me like barnacles I knew the sea in Mongolia slapped with sticks raised in the river gave me Shaman powers it was my heartland power over horses and noises of all kinds I made a GREAT SACRIFICE a perverse gift of wooden boxes paint boxes milk boxes the ribbon from a coat submission of the flesh God’s breath enraptured through my hair and I breathed it into them my own my gold creations fair girls pink ears the flowblow of their lungs HUSH NOW I’VE HAD ENOUGH I strode on my rush horse strode and never looked back I was not a general my eyes too bad for seeing battle I was there to witness to pluck children like almonds put them in my box no myth no muse milk-swarmed insects in the wounds like a FATHER so many so many so many nights when breath pinched my throat I picked at the seams of my coat pulled my whiskers to the side tried to talk not bash my head into the wall in case the whole shithouse blew up in flames

Rebecca Loudon lives and writes in Seattle. Her latest book is Cadaver Dogs published by No Tell Books. She is a professional musician and teaches violin lessons to children.