Transmodern Festival

Transmodern Festival
Baltimore, MD | April 28, 2011
curated by Stephanie Barber

Kirsten Stoltmann, "Post-Nothing"

Smelling Salts Amusements (Heather Romney and Peter Redgrave) take the train to their next performance.

Jesse Stiles and Olivia Robinson

Xav Leplae, "Rasmalai Dreams" -- the inset shows the artist projecting the 3D video from a projector mounted on a wearable frame.

Not pictured, Dan Conrad or KimSu Theiler's installation.


Megan Erwin

Get Ready

Get ready, Baby. It’s time to go get ready. Fire’s dying, sparks are catching in the chimney. It’ll all go up soon so we need to be ready, so please, Baby, go get ready. Get your boots and a jacket, a rope with some knots. Don’t forget your arrow or compass or book. Remember the metal lozenge that strips the poison from the water. Remember the metal lozenge that strips the water from your mouth. Don’t cry. We’ll both be just fine, because we’ll be ready. Please, Baby, come help Momma get ready. Take the hood from the hook and the gun from the drawer. Arrange the maps and the pictures just so. Lay the evidence out, and then lock all the doors. We must get ready for whenever we go. Because there will be wind and hours and miles of road. So many fires and so many fires. Because there will be wind and hours and possibly fires. Let’s straighten our collars, they’ll all know we’re ready. Because Baby, we’re ready. So ready to go.

Megan M. Erwin lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She edits Whiskey Island and is about to graduate from the NEOMFA. She doesn’t blog.


Boast Choan

Experience Points

A bird at the grocery store fed me hummus and beans at the same time.

I knew better than to accept food from a bird.

I learned that somewhere.

The bird was on the top shelf, a good distance away from the meats.

It’s where you would expect to find a bird in a grocery environment.

Either there or by the sad bags of frozen vegetables.

I told the bird I was going to yell at it.

It fake laughed.

I fake laughed to cancel it out then crazily snuck into another aisle.

There were cans there.

Boast Choan is a writer in Salt Lake City. He is the author of Darwin and Jonathan - Sea Ocean VI: The Time Is Right and has a blog


Richard Chiem

Leslie Cheung Jumps Off My Building Closes His Eyes and then Sings a Song We Both Know and Love

You leave the room and take the coffee pot with you to strange places in the house. I can imagine you with expressive faces holding coffee in the basement or the garage in the dark or outside near our tree. Sometimes, you say you don’t like me. I can imagine every single outfit you have ever worn.

The tragic scene in the movie in which love dies and hopes dies hardly moves us or causes sensation in our bodies. A good cry has not happened in years. I am wearing the same things over and over again. Together we drink diet soda pop spiked with good whiskey. I am petting your inner thigh with just the use of my fingers. It appears I am focused on you. Diffused light milks our vista from the bulbs with soft colors, brightness. You say I say the word milk too much. We pass hot popcorn with our hands. We are watching a movie we rented down the street a dozen times. There is moonlight on your face from the window. Even though we are angry we contemplate each other’s mouths holding our ground and principles. I like how firm you are. We both say I cannot believe you own this attitude/Attempt with me to make it hot/Tear the denim off your legs.

You have a dream about this. For the end of the world, everyone is having an end of the world party. Everyone we know is at this party. A friend of yours brings a megaphone to the party and intimately shares the fun with everyone. Voices are snowy and garbled with static. Alone with your glass in the corner, you look out and feel the scene to be surreal. You even move your hands forward in front of you and clench your fists. You notice colors and old memories. You say I can read your mind. You ask If you can read mine is it yours. I watch you drink and wonder when you will become dangerous. When I drink red wine I know I mumble too. You focus at squeezing the air at the bottom of your lungs, looking angry, walking past me three times. I follow you for a dozen laps around the kitchen, trying to hand you bread and call you love. Everyone else in the world is quiet in the living room in the dream. Your mother says she really likes me. Your boyfriend from the seventh grade is a real asshole.

I am distracted by a phone call for weeks. I think maybe the world has really ended but apathy is powerful. Do you remember how broadcast news used to make us cry. Do you remember writing a note down to remind your future self to love the future. The feeling collects and collects inside everyone. I have a craving. I make the mistake at looking up at our waitress last night while she is looking at you. She is not going to remember us. She comes up to us with more breakfast food and coffee. The steam from the plates makes the moment seamless. For some reason I remember you even calmer than you are. I am trying to tell you Leslie Cheung died almost ten years ago. We only have to wait a year or so to celebrate and rent Happy Together again. Yes, this entire time I have had some of your dress in my mouth. What is your problem.

Updated 20 May 2011: Hear this piece read at Orange Alert (Podcast).

Richard Chiem (b.1987) is the author of the e book WHAT IF, WENDY, from Pangur Ban Party. He is the winner of the UCSD Stewart Prize in Poetry 2009 and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, kill author and decomP, and is forthcoming in Magic Helicopter Press, Mud Luscious Press and SLAB Literary Magazine. He is currently working on his novel, Blowing Up Los Angeles.


Mike Topp

New York Diary 2010-2011

Thought of the Day: It's okay to stare at a dog's dick.

From John Lurie we learn that just south of Madagascar there's a small, tiny little town where the people are made of rubber.

I used to be ashamed of my striped face.

A clown tied me up and started threatening me. I had to laugh.

I love Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Angry Birds."


Latest episode of GLEE made me laugh. But overall I was less engaged than usual. Maybe just a mood (had leg amputated over weekend).

I was an early proponent of the “Clean Sanchez.”

If you fall off your horse, get right back in your car. I mean, come on. Enough with the horse already.

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2011
What this country needs is a good five-cent space program.

Chicken fingers again. Trouble finding gloves that fit.

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2011
Submissive? You tell me.

Added buying a pail to my bucket list.

Mike Topp was born in Washington, D.C. He is currently living in New York City unless he has died or moved.


Matty Byloos


We stood so much that birds built nests in the couch cushions and took showers in the kitchen sinks. When we weren't standing, we were jumping up and down. Fleas were parasites, and nobody wanted them anymore. Instead, we wanted to believe that there would be a day when no one would take anything from us. We were suckers.

The fleas made it so we could no longer sleep; beds sprouted leaves, working toward a tentative peace with nature. I listened to the radio at night, waiting for a sign. A block away we saw the first tall man on stilts, his head bobbing above the rooftops, headed in our direction. He had built them from the picnic table that had become useless furniture in his backyard. We had all given up on sitting.

His features were smaller up there. A young boy said, He's made a fedora from the clouds. From our spot on the ground, we watched the fleas beneath us surrender or change strategy. It all happened in an instant.

Then we raided the hardware stores.

A neighbor sawed down the addition she'd made to her house, just for the wood. Platforms were added to buildings so we could order coffee without climbing down from our new perches. Stop signs were raised several feet so we'd remember the intersections in the neighborhoods. We parked our cars, agreed never to drive again, and forgot about them as they became sculptures.

When most of the town was up on stilts, the divisions began.

We fell down and got back up. Bruises healed; there was evidence to prove it. When the fleas began to disappear, those of us who'd fallen off our stilts in the early days came down once more. Most of the others stayed on them even when they didn't need to any longer. Maybe they banished us. Our small group believed in the power of gravity so much that it's possible we had already decided to leave together.

We created a tiny city somewhere off in what used to be the distance, a dot stretched thin into the horizon. No one here uses stilts anymore; we sit around at night and watch the trees grow, waiting for the public health official to make the rounds again, to see if we change our minds about being the only ones back on the ground. He warns us of foreign travelers, visiting our new city for the annual philosopher's festival. He warns us the fleas will be coming again, and everyone will be vulnerable.

One by one, we turn our eyes down to the earth, and settle into our shoes with that much more resolution.

Matty Byloos's first collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss, was published in 2009 by Write Bloody Books. His work has been published on or in: We Who Are About to Die, The Nervous Breakdown, The Fanzine, Orion Magazine, Pop Serial, Sparkle and Blink, The Portland Review, among others. He is the editor and publisher of Smalldoggies Magazine, and co-hosts (along with Carrie Seitzinger) the Smalldoggies Reading Series in Portland, OR, where he lives and works.


Brooks Sterritt


The man is in the room again. It is filled with telephones: black, red, beige, white, cordless, touchtone, rotary, wall-mounted, on tables and stools and on the floor. The room contains more than 900 phones. Power strips and multi-pronged phone-line routers line the walls to accommodate the wires that sprout from backs of phones. The room is a confluence. Its walls are beige.

The man was in the room before but he never lifted a receiver. He picks up a purple phone’s handset and listens to the tone. He picks up a phone resembling a banana. He leaves it off the hook. He tries a red phone, thinking “hot line.” He tries a white phone, thinking “Ralph.” He lifts several receivers, leaves them hanging, and gets a little wild in his indiscriminate grabbing. Phones begin to emit an engaged tone. Crickets being born. Cradles without handsets increase and sound fills the room. The man picks up a fortieth phone and listens. What if someone tries to call? He hangs up phones, sits cross-legged in silence. He sits in the room’s center, feeling its hubness. He is excited that the lines are free and revels in their potential. If someone calls he will be ready.

After many hours he falls asleep waiting for a call and dreams that a phone rings in the corner of the room but he moves too slowly to reach it before it stops, or that a phone rings and he can’t determine which one and he knocks over a cluster of phones and hears a voice which ceases when he can’t find the right receiver, or that he picks up a ringing phone but is unable to speak, or that he picks up a ringing phone but the person on the line is speaking a language he can’t identify, or that he answers a phone and it is someone close to him calling to tell him the truth about himself. He wakes up in the beige-walled room when all the phones, conduits of truth, begin to ring.

Brooks Sterritt lives in Boston and blogs at His work appears or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Gigantic, Night Train, Barrelhouse, and Wigleaf.


Jo Gatford

Stamp a Little Thankfulness

He walked a mile in my shoes and returned them with cow shit all over the soles. After that, he started informing me when the hair became visible on my upper lip, “Time to wax, babycakes!” - and I was not in any moral position to slap him.

We synchronised the slobbery of our evenings – scuffling over snack selection, hands brushing the backs of each other’s fingers within the electric crackle packet. You can chew with your mouth open if your lover does it too – “Them’s the rules, kid!” - even if it makes me want to sew his lips shut.

I pre-empt the ends of sentences and interrupt half way- he does the same, but only because we know what each other are- and we communicate in semi-formed- and we frighten strangers with our- and our friends think we’re cute because- but they get annoyed too when- though, really, who gives a fuck? They’re not part of our universe. We’re smug. I know this.

“I like the extra junk in your trunk,” he says. He slaps my thighs too hard. They wobble. Something slithers into a neurotic pile of screaming frustration inside my muffin top. When he tries to slide his hand through the gap between my breasts I hunch my shoulders and say I feel sick.

My parents never liked him and I approve of that. That, sometimes, is reason alone. When we have children he will excel and my father will emerge with softness through grandparenthood. My mother will lean her head on her own shoulder in pathetic acquiescence at the sight of him with a baby on his arm. I will watch and be glad that his genes passed through me, and people will tell me how lucky I am and I will be lucky and I will have to be glad.

I forget sometimes that he found me raw. Fresh from the dirt. He cleaned me, chopped me into manageable chunks, tossed me in flour and braised my skin until it sealed, until I was safe to simmer, and I tenderised and melted in his mouth and I am grateful and I do sometimes forget that without him the dogs would have torn me amongst them and swallowed me whole - along with their own vomit and their own fleas and whatever leftovers they could find and the other stupid things dogs find palatable.

He left me cooking, squeezed into my shoes and went for that walk. I might have mistaken love for gratitude. I could live without him knowing my shortness, the perpetual cold of my hands, my wish for thicker hair, the tiring sadness he thought he healed.

I’m waiting for him to misstep. I will string his shoes upon my feet, wind the laces around my ankles like rollerskates. I will walk for days, until I can come back home and kick the love into him. Stamp a little thankfulness of my own onto his face.

Jo Gatford wants to live on your bookshelf. She has short works published in Litro, The Pygmy Giant, Metazen, Underground Voices, Short, Fast and Deadly, and was a finalist in this year's Aesthetica Creative Works competition. She lives in Brighton, UK, and is currently editing her second novel.


Karen Bennett

The Bride's Prerogative

Two steps inside Scanty Panties, the new underwear store, was the requisite damask arm chair filled to overflowing with a study of masculine disgruntlement. His eyes blind to the clouds of ecru tulle and shimmering satin teddies, he slumped like a punished child, and shifted his position. His woman appeared, clasped her folded pink bag, and signaled with her eyebrows to head out. Liberated, he leapt from his chair, and they were gone.

Waiting for my turn with the saleslady, I meandered to the wall of lacy bras and accidentally backed into a slender, bride-aged young woman. She appeared to be mortified at being inside a store named after dangerous underwear. She was dressed simply, with a large, swirly brown "M" embroidered on her sweater. She apologized at being in my way. Wringing her hands and twisting her large engagement ring, she took a step back. M shot a nervous glance to a tall, grandmotherly-type woman then ducked her head. Her shoulder-length brown hair with lusterless bangs fell forward and hid her expression.

The senior ignored the young lady. She wore a tailored gray tweed suit and had gray tweed hair sprayed into a neat 'doo. She held up two pair of lacy panties on little hangers and trumpeted to the sales lady, questioning which style would fit best with some pretty lacy bra, apparently already chosen. She looked past the affianced young woman, who was shifting her weight from foot to foot, folding and unfolding her hands, consulting her feet. Poor M’s suffering was in planetary proportions.

The bride-to-be didn’t seem to know that with her willowy shape, slender hips and long legs, she would look great in any style of panties. Without input from ‘la jeune fille’, the purchase was made, and she was escorted from Scanty Panties.

I watched them go, then turned to the twentyish sales lady who introduced herself as Penny and showed me to a curtained room. When Penny returned with her measuring tape, I asked, “Was that poor, embarrassed girl shopping for her trousseau?”

Penny’s eyes flashed. Her voice answered in a high whisper. “Yes, and the older woman is going to be her mother-in-law.”

I gasped. “Her mother-in-law?” I clapped my hand to my mouth. No wonder she was miserable. As I stood in my underwear, in front of a stranger, I ‘tsk-tsked’ and shook my head, pitying the almost-bride.

Penny jumped in with bigger news. “And the worst thing,” her blue eyes wide open, “the old woman jammed the shopping bag at the young lady and called over her shoulder, ‘This is really for him, you know’.”

My mouth dropped. “Well that explains the last thing I saw. As the girl slinked away, she neatly pressed the folded pink bag right into the trash container in front of the store.” Penny shook her head philosophically and together we mouthed, "Wow."

Karen Bennett has been writing about the human condition for six years and is happy to report a few prizes in that time, through the Maryland Writer's Association and the Wm. Faulkner annual novel contest. Her stories are plucked from experiences and observations while working in prison, her years in choirs, recent travel to Russia, Vietnam and South Africa, and from real life; marriage, kids, divorce and cello lessons.


Adam Robinson


Truth is subjectivity.

When Gotthold Lessing said that he would choose the left hand, he was right.

Truth cannot be expressed objectively, as though there is a logical system to make it clear (in a timely lecture after which we can all go home, contented).

Truth is subjectivity; it is found in turning inward, in reflecting upon one's own individuality. It is found in leaving the Sunday service and waking up depressed on Monday, but still striving to exist in a good and perfect way. Truth is becoming. It is not in a book which finds the proper place for every event in history -- that's objectivity.

Objectivity concerns itself with truth, but not reality. Objectivity looks to history, speculation, science, testimony -- all sorts of pre-fabricated places to find "truth." Instead of embracing their individuality, their cataclysmic/cosmic inwardness, objective people seek to base their truth on some thing -- and inevitably, by definition -- on something tremulous.

History -- is that grounds for faith? Can I base assurance of my eternal happiness on the fact that, say, Christianity (Christianity is spirit; spirit is inwardness; inwardness is subjectivity . . .) is the truth because the church has been around for 2000 years? What then of Buddhism, which is older? Are we thus convinced to rely more on its tenets? Also, how reliable has the church been throughout its own history?

Still discussing Christianity, then, what about using the Holy Scriptures as a basis for faith? The same problems arise. Not only are there continual issues criticizing and interpreting the Bible, but it is more to the point that faith does not come from an objective examination of the evidence which is what textual/Biblical criticism is. Faith only comes from passion, and passion and certainty never work closely together.

Therefore, the closest we can get to our eternal happiness through this historical opening is an approximation, and what kind of guarantee is that? If it were a matter of $10,000, this kind of objectivity would not suffice. Why should I base my eternal being on "practically sure"?

Another objective distractor of the subjective individual is the speculative point of view. Briefly, this mode of searching for truth "does everything. It doubts everything." In order to do this sufficiently, the speculator "steps back" and in that way removes himself from the topic (ie. the subject) -- which is, of course and essentially, himself -- so that he can remain objective. So he can see everything in consideration. In so doing, the speculator loses himself. Becoming pure thought means becoming non-existent. Which means: dead. Objective investigation of phenomena leads no where.

When, along life's way, the subject arrives here, despair is immanent. The subject says, "I have searched for answers in every logical place I can imagine or devise, and I found nothing there. My concept of reason is offended." This anxiety (is there truth at all? is life just a joke? what will become of me?) and despair is a ledge at an abyss. "I will face nothingness. I will rest here at this precipice.

"My thoughts until now have been trivial and I haven't known it. My life is aesthetic. I have chased my fancies and whims recklessly, even though I have been terribly pious and serious.

"But I keep referring to myself as 'I' -- this is wrong. There hasn't been an ounce of self-centeredness in me. If only there had been. I mean, if only I had observed life as myself. That's what I'm doing now, finally, I suppose.

"And I'm having quite a time of it.

"Yes, here I sit at this ledge, and I'm not resting after all. Turning inward, how can there be occasion for a rest? Rather, I feel passion. I feel strength enough to leap."

Having faced despair, powered now by passion (which is etymologically rooted in suffering), the subject makes a leap into an ethical stage of life. Indeed, without passion, the subject would have remained standing in the same spot. The dialectic from the aesthetic to the ethical (and later) to the religious spheres is not one of increasingly transparent justification or self-assertion. Rather, it is a giving up of those modes, as it is the giving up of objectivity. It does this for no reason and only with (and by) love.

Just as a ballet dancer's goal is to leap into the air and appear to never have been in a state of non-leap, and never seems to be in the position which she has leapt into, instead only appearing to have made that movement eternally, always gracefully suspended, the subjective individual gives up herself out of love and passion and aspires to float in that condition. But when the subjective individual lands, there is a slight stumble as she thinks, "Whoa, here's the land again. Here am I, back in temporality." The subject is surprised to receive back after giving up. This person might be called "The Knight of Infinite Resignation," suggests Johannes de Silentio, the author of Fear and Trembling.

Abraham is a "Knight of Faith," meanwhile, one who has transitioned into the religious sphere of existence. He leaps and when he lands he does not stumble. His story revolves around a task assigned by God. God said, "Abraham, kill me a son" and Abraham went. He did not put it off or go early. When he held the knife in his hand, when it glistened and caught his eye as his arm grew tense, ready to plunge into Isaac, Abraham did not pause to look for a ram or any substitute offering to make. He knew God demanded Isaac, but he had faith that Isaac wouldn't be taken. And when he had that long-awaited son tied to the rock altar, an angel appeared and the boy was spared.

"Wait," says the ethicist. "First, why should Isaac need to be killed? What is the point of such a duty, and anyway murder is a transgression. Oh, God demanded it? Then I would do it because God is a greater good than any of my whims. But, secondly, whoa, woe, I would not be able to receive back Isaac. How could I look him in the face? I would have convinced myself to despise him, and I could not reconcile myself otherwise. Abraham is truly a wonder."

Abraham made the double movement of faith -- the giving up and receiving back -- and he did not stumble. His move is balletic. People say someone may have a little of the positive and a lot of the negative, but Abraham had just as much positive, just as much negative.

For many it seems that the positive and negative distinction is impossible to move around. They are contradictory. How could a moment be infinitely important and infinitely insignificant? How can the comic reality -- that 10,000 years is a moment -- be as true as the pathos, that a moment is insurmountably important? Hegel synthesized a response to this by illustrating that at some depth of thought, the difference between the negative and the positive are superficial. At some height of thought, mountainous discrepancies are flat.

But there is no idea here at all. If the negative does not exist, then finitude, temporality, particularity (the radical other of the universal) and so on do not exist. Therefore, the subjective individual (and the objective speculator) does not have a place to exist. Trying to make these abstractions thinkable means trying to make them possible, and that neglects to consider that not only are finitude, temporality etc. possible, they actually are. A better form of dialectics needs to be rendered than Hegel's in order to reconcile the positive and the negative.

Once again, faced with the abyss, it is passion which makes it possible to go on. And when a profoundly interested seeker cannot resolve contradictions objectively (and he can't, which is what makes her infinitely interested), it's passion that reconciles the difference, through faith. There is an even more notable point at which this passion becomes infinitely and eternally necessary: when confronting the absolute paradox.

Johannes Climacus points out in Philosophical Fragments that the absolute paradox is an offense to the senses. It is the most offensive thing possible, and no matter what, all thought turns away from it. Here is the absolute paradox: God became man and lived for a few decades and then left. The ancients laugh. It's stupid. It defies reason.

Gotthold Lessing said this. He said that contingent historical truths cannot be a valid representation for faith, but faith is brought about only through a leap. Lessing said that only Jesus' contemporaries could know historically if Jesus was this absolute paradox and others must rely on their testimony. Climacus rejects this, saying instead that modern Christians need to become contemporaneous with Jesus.

If truth is subjectivity, and cannot be grasped or known but only found along the path, in glimpses, through existing, how can a person express this? Wouldn't arguing the point make it a result, an end, and in so doing render the path supercilious?

If a person wanted to say that truth is not the truth but the way, and therefore results are not the truth, he would have to find a form of communication which did not betray the double reflection with which he perceives and apprehends his point of view, and doesn't betray the point of view of others (by making them followers of Lessing and not of the truth) and doesn't betray the existence of God. This communication would have to be indirect, or else what is being communicated would be changed. In his journals, Kierkegaard said that "the fact of the matter is there ought to not be teaching; what I have to say cannot be taught; by being taught it gets turned into something else."

This statement is bound to disquiet anyone who attempts to underwrite Kierkegaard's philosophy. This is especially true when I try to encapsulate it in a brief essay, since Kierkegaard cannot be grasped and reconstituted and wedged into pages. This is precisely what he is rebelling against. In one poignant section of the Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments, he shows how if a movement rises up against the systematizing of history and truth, then the movement will receive a paragraph in a book systematizing history. THat the main reason that this essay is insignificant. Even if I understood Kierkegaard best of all, and was the best writer of all, I still could not capture one iota of that one, that subjective individual, as the Dane's say "hiin enkelte," or his life.

How much more daunting is it, then, to attempt to get at truth with thinking and writing? To issue a thesis is to suggest a result. And how can there be results if the speaker is speaking? How is there being when there is becoming? The inward person captures both being and becoming in the passion of her positive/negative relationship. To express results would eradicate the becoming. Luckily, it's only the objective person who will make that step, and he lacks the passion to do what expression being actually entails.

The result of existing is death.

That is what Lessing means when he says that if God offered him his left hand, filled with constant striving, and his right hand, filled with all truth, Lessing would choose the left. To choose otherwise would stop the process of becoming and take on pure being. To do that and continue to exist is only for God. Humankind has a different choice to make: whether or not to know the results of their life. When some do, like Hegel, they are either fools who amount to nothing or briefly passionate and then dead.

Ultimately, Kierkegaard's indirect dialectic wasn't the pseudonyms he used, it was the fact that he wasn't communicating anything. Arguing is nothing, knowing something objectively is less than nothing. Because even when I know that truth is subjectivity, for that to matter even a little, I need to live that truth --

Adam Robinson lives in Baltimore, where he runs Publishing Genius Press. This article was written as the final exam in an undergraduate special topics in philosophy class in 1997. The test had one question: "Explain what Johannes Climacus means when he says 'truth is subjectivity'."


Peter Schwartz

bachelorhood: a self-prognosis in 5 parts

strange, how comfortable with mourning you've become
we tell you picture a jar of sunlight and instead you see
acres of minefields with half-wanted carrots

poking up at their edges, you hypocrite
discussing your losses with your mouth full's disgusting
spitting at the wrong side of the school bus

because one of your hearts finds learning distasteful
wasting our time dreaming up new ways to offend yourself
can't you see undressing is the only freedom

in this maze of overdone inklings and autumns
can't you just see that jar of sunlight
and just, for once,

break it open?

you talk about being unable to breathe
knowing music is about so much more
than breath, but if you'd blink like you

used to, not soft and tired but with the power
of our western mountains, you might find that
floating is itself an occupation

and that your hands feel like hammers
not because you were born in a warehouse
but the eggshells in your eyes

so can't you just see, for once,
how this closes your lips?

we really wish you would stop aging into yourself
you're not a tree and you're not abominable
just because it snows

in fact, your obsession with the weather
has hit a real nerve here at the hospital
how you think everything's

a form of pollution or politics, the many sidelines
you weave into our conversations to protect
your pets from drawing the pictures

that would free them, burying that jar
of sunlight in those minefields is your way
of transmitting your dying utopias

like commercials for a failure
that doesn't have to happen.

this is how you avoid fathering yourself
by locking your keys in a spaceship and calling it lost
by obliterating your own horsepower

with crumbs and crickets, raw amnesia
snapping like an unnamed sunset, the black wheelbarrow
of one too many abandoned nights

fills your foxholes and punctures your umbrellas
making you miss the very magnetism that first
brought you to this perch-turned-cliff

as you dump whatever junk's floating through
your circulatory system, as you relapse into nothing
and turn toxic, as you kill the very seeds

that grew you.

you talk about gravity, footholds, hurricanes, missing
landmarks, droughts, cradles, pedestals, poverty and shock-
waves of shadow and ransom

but don't see how that makes you an ostrich
by the sea, a drowning sound bubbling in the fog
of your own animal doubts

another curse rehearsed behind the curtains
pushing an even sicker aftertaste down your throat
because you won't digest

can't you just let go of the rain and statues
sitting outside your window, that dark scene
of good and evil

that forbids you from
loving anyone?

Peter Schwartz's poetry has been featured in The Collagist, The Columbia Review, Diagram, and Opium Magazine. His latest collection Old Men, Girls, and Monsters was published as part of the Achilles Chapbook Series. He’s an interviewer for the PRATE Interview Series, a regular contributor to The Nervous Breakdown, and the art editor for DOGZPLOT.


Joe L.

Washington Crosses the Deleware

(click to image to view.)

Joe L. lives in New York City and likes baseball.


Suzanne Marie Hopcroft


Who cannot be bothered to uncoil it the real and
vivid mass of strands that lie beneath a disembodied
hair sculpture isn’t made of breath and blood they

tell me not really male to catch a lover’s chin in hand reel
in with touch then draw flesh away from warmth but

he’s not he to me but I and beneath these brocade
mounds and down I’ve seen clear enough what could
be steel growing into ribboned guts the waste of

man in pretty comfort woven doves and bubble
ambrosia that sates too quick to stoke

Suzanne Marie Hopcroft is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Yale University and writes from New York City. Her fiction has appeared in journals including LITnIMAGE, > kill author, and elimae; this is her first published poem.


Masin Persina

On My Way To School

A tiny spider swung into the passenger seat,
brandishing its tiny arms like a hijacker.

It had spunk, I'll give it that. I made a stain of it
with my monogrammed mug: MEP.

Some coffee spilled but it was saccharine stuff anyway.
I thought of the invalids in this world--

this hurt my head like a theoretical abrasion--
then, of the many uses a mug can have.

Originally from the East Coast, Masin Persina moved to California in 2007 to attend the UC Davis MA poetry program. He currently resides in Oakland and teaches English and Creative Writing to high school students. His poems have appeared in Leveler, Nthposition, Sixth Finch and Sycamore Review.


Kevin O'Cuinn


I thought about what the envelope might hold, and the mood it might give rise to. The return name and address read Frederick Manuel of Landshut. The writing was thick and looped and all too decorative for my liking. The stamp (first class postage) celebrated a seventeenth century Viennese wheelwright, of whom I’d also never heard. He had a thick gut and an eye patch. I pulled up a chair and rolled one cigarette after the other until I had enough for the day and started smoking my way forward. Manuel, I thought, Frederick Manuel of Landshut. What news out of Landshut could possibly concern me? My mind wandered—I thought of Landshut’s proximity to München, and a Sauerbraten I had eaten there when I was still an enlisted man. I remembered the lisping etymology professor at the next table, and the waiter with the red sideburns. Who was this Frederick Manuel? What could he want? Did he represent others, perhaps? If so, who? I feared, I admit, the unleashing of the unknown. I made fresh coffee and stoked the fire. Later, when the postman passed by at the end of his shift, I gave him the letter and advised him to return it. Nothing in Landshut was of any concern to me. The postman tucked the letter inside his coat and continued on his way. There was not much left of the day, not enough to begin anything worthwhile, so I smoked the last cigarette and watched the fire die.

Kevin O'Cuinn lives and loves in Frankfurt am Main.


Feliz Molina


Timber licks the sun drenched comma parade

wow wee father breathes, child swing hold onto me
eat the calls we freed the cords

from heavenly vagina waits. Linking me this or linking the cat
table manners and long distances kisses

show me your skin
under ampersand stars, what? I can't hear you

walking around with broken connection cord
so heaven can wait oh damn where are we.


No sails set forth the winged
Internet stars owed us more years to live
the bowler sits in his syntax my eyes dissolve
in limitless surrender a row of people
bowling their hearts and disgust for life out
for what, I don't know, the three-hole signature
kept us pure and common
that heavy plastic ball
shot up towards angel pins
Oh life, oh death--what things to stuff
between headless origin; someone strikes
where I could have died in the arms
of some ghostly gerund for the fun of it
it seems the sun rises for the sun of it

Feliz Molina recently earned an MFA in poetry from Brown University. She has appeared and is forthcoming in Dark Sky Magazine, Jellyfish Magazine, Titular Journal, Shampoo #39, Electronic Literature Organization vol.2, and others. She lives in Buffalo, NY. You can look at her drawings at Museum Of Expensive Things at: Her blog is The Undercastle Radio.


Steve Castro

Two different options or so it seemed

The rain, it’s intolerable; what should we do master?
It's simple my loyal subject; you could either take out our umbrellas that I told you
to store in your military backpack, or you could simply turn off the rainmaking machine.

I’m truly sorry gracious master, but I forgot to pack our umbrellas and
the rainmaking machine switch seems to be stuck on tropical rainstorm.
Well then, our only remaining option is to take shelter in that abandoned
and haunted castle up ahead that will surely disappear once we step inside.

Following a sermon on the book of Job

I knew he was addicted when he lit a cigarette during mass;
at least he waited till after communion. No one said anything,
partly because there were only six people in attendance;
after the end of mass, he walked up to the priest and said, “Father,
I've decided to never smoke a cigarette ever again” and then he reached
into his sole front shirt pocket and took out a pack of crushed Camel Lights
which he gave to the priest; it was the first time the former
University of Notre Dame theology professor had held a pack of cigarettes
since he quit smoking nine months prior.

Steve Castro's poems have appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Underground Voices, Splash of Red, ASKEW, Chiricú, Divine Dirt Quarterly and Andar21 (Galiza / Galicia, Spain).  His flash fiction can be found in This Great Society.  Steve Castro was born in San José, Costa Rica.


Mark Cugini

Aprile del 1524

We had been anchored off the isthmus’s coast for three weeks but today there is reason to celebrate: we finally located the sound this afternoon and I can assure you that my men were gleeful. I think we have discovered a gateway to The New World! Antoine--normally so stoic, so even-keeled--even put his arm around my shoulders and beckoned towards the coast, grinning like he was holding his first born. Although I was less willing to express this publicly, I share this jovial mood with my men, even more so after the violent and insufferable storms demolished our other ships and sunk them to the bottom of the ocean.

The gateway is nestled between two rolling hills of green pasture. You will be pleased to hear that each mountain seems so barely inhabited, and I assume they are still full of minerals and botany unique to this region. So much potential, your majesty! and I doubt the Indians have the wherewithal (or intellectual resources) to notice. To think that we are the first Europeans to stumble across this marvel.

The Indians, again they paddled thirty or so of their small boats towards us--as was to be expected, what with our previous documentation of their welcoming nature. I must admit, though, that these particular tribesmen appear to be of a different nature, seeming almost more cheerful than the ones that were indigenous to Arcadia. I must assume from their gay expressions that they would be welcoming had we set anchor near their coast.

But I regret to inform you, my majesty, that this is about the most I can report of this discovery, since a most unfortunate series of events has befallen us: the very moment we were about to throw down our grabbling hooks, a terrible and sudden burst of wind shook our vessel. We tried desperately to maintain stability and hold our position, but the elements were proving too difficult a task, forcing us to raise mast and leave that marina almost as immediately as we had entered it.

I was not content leaving the Angoulême Harbor so suddenly (which we named for you, Majesty, because this is a land full of the same superfluous potential that has been in Spain since your sovereignty began), for it appears to be a land of such great commodity. I will not rest easily until I can step foot on its soil, until I experience the great pleasantness of the Indies and reap her benefits for myself.

-G.V. de La Dauphine, buque insignia: par ordre de sa majesté Franqois

Mark Cugini never been tooken out. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Stymie, Device, and Petrichor Machine, among others. He is working towards his MFA in Creative Writing at American University. The managing editor of Big Lucks, he lives, teaches and eats eggs in Washington, DC.



Sean Ulman

Vouchsafing Visit

Bigwig Pig leaves plastic palace once a fortnight
to keep appearances, toss Hungry last
batch of syrup-soaked scrap
metal, gloat his bloated load
servant litter shoulder ceramic cart
lug unfamiliar familial luggage
offspring gnawing bacon blankets lucent, pig-tailed harem grinding pickled pork shoulders
Bigwig doffs uranium-lined top hat, lifts mercury-crusted scepter
intercepted in coup of less porky predecessor – 5 sporkfuls
hawks gristle phlegm gob, attempts speech
swallows tongue
squeaks by un-throttled
inane speech squelched to gagged belches

Sean Ulman, worder birder baller server, is writing a novel about Seward Alaska and Art. He recently saw a pileated woodpecker, dunked a tennis ball and butlered spring rolls at a bar mitzvah.


Thomas Mundt


Our household is down to a single car, a sign of the times, so I agree to drive Amethyst to community college on the condition that she not cast a spell on me.  My father promises nothing but expresses a desire to see me get off easy, maybe just the recipient of generic bad luck wishes or Athlete’s Foot. 

“Maybe you’ll end up married,” he continues.  “Maybe you’ll have your own Carol.”

Carol is our mom but she doesn’t live with us anymore.  She’s in Albuquerque, servicing pottery wheels and chasing her dream of one day becoming an honorary Pueblo.  She’s already drawn blood, filed the paperwork. 

“Maybe you’ll be a Mortgage Man like your dad.”

I grab the keys to the Murano off the kitchen counter and pray to a god I haven’t communicated with since the third grade, hoping to counteract what’s coming.


“Didn’t think Goths ate that shit.”

Amethyst is gripping a breakfast burrito like it’s a flute, its molten innards oozing from both ends.  She at least has the foresight to tuck a napkin into the drawstrings of her cloak. Otherwise, she’d have pico de gallo and cheddar cheese down the front of her purple, crushed-velvet bodysuit. 

“I’m a High Priestess,” she replies.  “I do whatever the fuck I want.”

“Your Christian name is Claire Fogel and you once shit yourself on Batman: The Ride.”

Amethyst has no retort.  She’s more interested in the various goings-on of the White Glove Car Wash on the corner, the application of terry cloth to glass and the chain-smoking of Kools. 

“INS could have a field day at this joint.”  This she manages between bites of egg and tortilla, sending gummy fragments of both into the dash. 

I move the swinging shade so that it’s against the driver-side window, blocking the white light refracted off of all the snowdrifts along Route 83. 

“That’s pretty Republican for someone who spills hot candle wax on her boyfriend’s balls.” 


I pull into the circular drive at the main entrance but Amethyst doesn’t get out.  I expect her to crack, to tell me in the strictest confidence that she’s carrying a baby she made with a dude with a sword collection and a True Blood fan blog, but she does nothing of the sort.  Instead, she takes her sweet time getting her shit together, beatboxes a syncopated meter that could’ve only crafted by human traffickers sequestered in an Austrian sex dungeon.  When she finally slings the last of three canvas knapsacks over her shoulder, presumably heavy with an assortment of amulets and potions, she turns to me with leaden eyes. 

“She was right to leave, you know,” Amethyst deadpans.  “You two don’t deserve her.” 

“We deserve a mom who wants to be a mom.” 

My sister shrugs, exits the car without another word.  She doesn’t bother to shut the door, just lets the winter squalls slam it shut behind her.  The thunderclap of impact with the door frame gives a few classmates pause as they pass her on the sidewalk.  Her cloak billows in the wind and, after recklessly eyeballing her get-up, the kids look me dead in the eyes through the windshield. 

Say something, I want to scream.  Say something about my sister and I’ll kill you all. 

Thomas Mundt lives in Chicago.  His new(ish) stories have found homes in places like The Cleveland Review, Burnt Bridge, Bartleby Snopes, and Kugelmass, all less-than-meticulously collected for your convenience at  He is currently completing his first story collection, You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.