Q uiet L ightning

as performed on May 3 10 @ Mina Dresden Gallery © 2010 by Evan Karp + Rajshree Chauhan

ISBN 978-0-557-43396-4 Design by Evan Karp Cover art by C.R. Stapor Back by Benjamin Berger
Promotional rights only.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the author(s) is illegal. Your support is crucial and appreciated. For information:

http://qlightning.wordpress.com lightning@evankarp.com

Quiet Lightning
is a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations you have to be able to be there to submit you only get 3-8 min submit ! ! each month 1 attendee of those who put their names in a hat gets 2 weeks to respond via mail or email to the last reading b4 break it will be published on the blog and read at the subsequent

Quiet Lightning
! !

nic alea
joan | backbone cave paintings 7 8

anhvu buchanan
hypochondriac | bipolar mornings post-traumatic stress 12 13 14

meghan thornton
the terrorist follow 16 22

julia halprin jackson
the dumbest parasite in the world granada 24 26

jerry ratch
pigeons having sex on an air conditioner in new york

man running from a bar

27 29 30

elise hunter
false advertising, or how I learned to love my feet 32

m.g. martin
a town called modernism 38

chris cole
let music make me whole again « there is wisdom in no escape the piano has been drinking 43 46 49

paul corman-roberts
ode to the invisible ode to my writer·s block 51 53

pam benjamin
all thumbs notice 55

amy e glasenapp
wizard son 60

ian tuttle
mixing with the regulators: a cautionary tale 64

roger porter
revelations from the inside 69

c.r. stapor
poor people 74

tess patalano
a day in the life of a day in the life 82

[ May 2010 ]


[ May 2010 ]

i heard that some women go crazy after childbirth, that pushinganother human out of them is sacrilegious and something clicks.sometimes these women kill their babies in bathtubs or in basementsthat have the drip drip dressed as prom queens. and the living have toshare their space with the dead because we are all just wanderingsouls picking up bread crumbs like pigeons parading on mass graves.and the crazy have to share their space with the verbal and if joan ofarc was a valencia street hipster she·d be popping pills forschizophrenia because when you talk to god it·s called praying, butwhen god talks to you it·s called insanity.

before your mother birthed you, before she even had thought you uplike a lucid daydream on a passenger train, she drew a picture of awhale with a charcoal pencil on butcher paper. she pressed her fingersdown on the page and ripped out the whale·s spine, shoved it in herbelly to form your backbone. and i know your backbone is nothing closeto human, so it must be rigid angel from the sea, malleable andtasteless and maybe i·d lay you down on kelp bed or maybe you·d takeme first and all i know from days spent shadow boxing your jaw line iswhen you cry it sounds like lights flashing underwater and when youmoan it looks like your voice in an alleyway and when you touch meyour eyes are two dead beads that need sun to melt away the grayspace.


[ May 2010 ]

the night my mother called me i had enough clouds in my chest to turn cumulus to nimbus raining, she said to me, baby, are you trans identity? i said, mommy, when they come for me i will be carrying baskets of barbies with circumcised gender. i will be ringing out rags of queer apocalypse that cuts from my clit to my breasts and i don·t need to show you anything i don·t need to show anyone anything that in this moment i·m content enough to not surgically change my body but conduct enough prayer circles and rituals to make sure my soul is full enough with neutrality and when you carve away at the sediments, chisel away at the fossilized sap there are cave paintings with drawings in red clay of men with breasts and women with cocks,


[ May 2010 ]
underneath the rocks of our foremothers we are all dancing zodiac believers that gender is just a mark on a birth certificate, choice is no matter until you·ve swung your first baseball in tomboy hat, painted your lips pink to over shadow the blue that was assigned to you, baby, you look so good in your identity. and i said, mommy, i am not i am not abutchlesbiangirldyke m a· a m s i s t e r d a u g h t e r m a m a and i·m especially not a lady carry me away in slick armor erect a queer umbrella watch he/she/ze pronouns do the drip drip off the tip of your nose if you need to define this being i·ll set myself up on the binary pick apart each pore on my body and my gender is human my sex is passionate and sweaty. and some boys cry over spilt poetry and some boys cry over how big their tits they don·t want to be,


[ May 2010 ]
but real boys don·t cry instead conform to gender roles that have machismo undertones because if you don·t have a dick then you are just a chick with a ´psychological problemµ. and i·ve seen flowers bloom out of the bruises from T shots and kade found his own name in a pocket full of prose lines i·ve dreamt of ashes falling down soft skin but i have never confirmed with myself which box of identities i·d like to be put in, so i·d say that if gender is two tin cans strung together like a telephone messenger then i am the vibration of secrets pulsating across this makeshift telephone wire, i·ve got not box to be fit in because i am switzerland i am handicap bathrooms i am yellow i am a milk hotel i am the collective tarot i am crater face i am diclinous flowers i am neutrality i am not

[ 10 ]

[ May 2010 ]
but i am identity.

[ 11 ]

[ May 2010 ]

I wake up from naps bloated with broken knuckles my spine tingles when I stare at goldfish and sometimes there is a pain in my side when I cook meatloaf my face is always flushed when I enter a bingo hall my throat gets sore when dogs bark at me my knees are stiff four days a week I yawn excessively but I·ve never seen anyone yawn before my legs swell up when I shower in the afternoon I lose a bit of hair riding in a taxi after board games I limp for five straight hours the tips of my toes get discolored in February I get shortness of breath eating at a salad bar my vomit is always blue but I can·t stop coughing when I listen to morning radio whenever it snows I have back pains my eyes bulge anytime I·m around squirrels I twist my ankle anytime I speak in public my skin gets itchy when I sit on hardwood floors reading the Sunday paper gives me the hiccups my face twitches on birthdays I always fracture a bone after shopping in thrift stores I have difficulty swallowing food in the spring every time I blink I think I·m dying I blink at least sixteen times a minute

[ 12 ]

[ May 2010 ]

This is my hand clutching the razor blade slicing off my left ear. This is the kitchen where I am dressed in nothing but bra and panties icing a cake. This is the heart of my father beating from the grave. This is a garage sale where I will buy all my Christmas presents in April. This is the yogurt shop I have decided to open up this morning. This is a howling baby, which I will ignore. This is my arm rummaging through purses and lockers. This is my weeping eye after ten straight days. This is the cigarette I am fiddling with while figuring out life. This is how I feel when I put on my silk dress. This is my leg made of bricks growing heavy with weeds. This is my brain cranking out essays and articles and speeches and letters and emails and poems and stories and notes. This is the way to misspell exact. This is my mouth moving. This is my mouth closed.

[ 13 ]

[ May 2010 ]

The windows are barely open and the sound of traffic is an alarm clock I couldn·t turn off. I woke up and thought of all the things people wanted to say to me but couldn·t the night before. There were times in my life where memory was a rainy day that would never come. The dog is nipping at my toes underneath the covers. I wonder if we dreamed the same dreams. If I was the poet and he was the show dog or if he was the playwright and I was Lassie. His barks are poems I wish I had written. There is a world still moving on outside my window without me. The newspaper readers and sandwich makers are playing their roles. My girlfriend and I fist fight for bathroom time but she always wins out. I was taught never to hit a woman so instead I sit on the couch in the morning with a bloody nose waiting to pee. There are things we all want to lock up in a dark cellar. The shine of the city light hits my eyes and all I can smell is burnt bagels. At the grocery store the eggs are hiding in the cooler. Because being hungry is hip again. One can only wonder how many starving words linger in the streets. The dog is chewing on a cow hoof next to me. And it is finally starting to rain memories. There was a book, a pat on the back, and bitterness in the berries. The berries sink to the bottom of my cereal. She comes out and tells me its all mine. Except I don·t have to pee anymore and she says I am strange with issues. I have issues and even more issues. The shower is still running. The apartment is now moist. Morning is morning and again the birds are chirping.

[ 14 ]

[ May 2010 ]

it·s the broken bulb in the back of the eye. the dirt beneath the footsteps, anthills like landmines ready to explode. it·s the lip service at the back door. it·s the soldier in the supermarket, restocking ripe rifles and tossing around the grape grenades. the gust of the garden hose dripping at the thighs. the camera in the clouds recording every move. it·s the splatter of fingers in the frying pan. it·s the wet anvils crashing down from the sky. the army of baby strollers approaching slowly like tanks. it·s the listening at the bottom of the stairs. the runny nose right after dinner. it·s the way the tires burn at dawn. it·s the fear in the ear, just before

[ 15 ]

[ May 2010 ]

Carrie glanced over at the young man nervously. His eyes were light but everything else about him was dark. Smooth brown skin, coarse black hairs along his arms. Spidery lashes and black flint colored brows. He was walking beside her in the narrow jetway. He did not appear to be on a cell phone, yet he was gesturing with his hands, muttering under his breath words that she couldn·t make out. He stuck his palms out emphatically, and then he seemed to sense her watching him and he looked over. Her eyes met his strange light hazel eyes as he regarded her with what she felt was uneasy suspicion. Then he looked away and kept walking down the seemingly endless jetway towards the invisible 747 aircraft. He flipped through his passport as though marveling at some novelty. Carrie felt a chill go down her spine. She put pieces together quickly: He was a terrorist who·d nearly gotten held up by security. Now he was checking his

[ 16 ]

[ May 2010 ]
passport again, looking at the perfect forgery, thinking perhaps of just how lucky he was for having gotten through. When she veered towards the business class entry, he followed. Carrie·s heart thumped in her chest. He looked so young³too young to be in business class. He was too underdressed in his striped hoodie and wrinkled trousers. But if he were a terrorist, it would be quite a clever plan. No one expects a terrorist in business class. Carrie listened to the dull thud of his sneakers on carpet behind her. Ahead loomed the smiling flight attendants. She thought about telling them³asking them to check the boy again. She could lie, say she·d seen a knife on him. Her conservative nature won in the end, and fear of being looked at strangely, and fear of being wrong. But still, she would watch him. She would keep a very close eye on him.

As it turned out, the dark boy with the light eyes was seated just across the aisle from her on the upper deck. She

[ 17 ]

[ May 2010 ]
watched him as he put his backpack in the overhead compartment, first removing a book. He settled in to the window seat and looked around. Carrie glanced away quickly. When she dared to look back he was reading. She pretended to scratch her neck so she could crane it forward to see the title. It was the Kite Runner. She hadn·t read it, but she·d heard of it. Wasn·t it about the Middle East? Her fears returned, multiplied.

When the first meal came she noticed he ate no meat. She thought that might be further damning but then realized she had no idea if terrorists ate meat. She didn·t understand them at all really. She stared at the boy, trying to picture him with a knife, or with a bomb strapped to his leg, and she found she couldn·t. But still, he had that twitchy, nervous flutter. She hardly touched her food.

[ 18 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Four hours into the flight he took the programming remote and hit it forcefully against his hand. He pressed many buttons at once, then resumed the pounding. Carrie frantically wondered if this was it³was the remote somehow a detonator? She sat forward in her seat. A stewardess caught the boy at it and blocked Carrie·s view of him for a while. When she could finally see him again the boy was reclining in his seat, watching the screen in front of him. His face appeared tranquil. Looks can be deceiving, she reminded herself.

Carrie·s nerves were on edge. She could not bring herself to tell anyone of her suspicions, could not imagine justifying them to anyone else. Yet she could not quell them either. The dark boy played at the corner of her watchful eye, every movement a cause for Carrie to look over. She braced herself in her chair when he tied his shoelaces. When he went to the bathroom she found it difficult to breathe until he returned. Her heart raced during their second meal as he cut his small

[ 19 ]

[ May 2010 ]
chicken fillet with a metal knife. Who had decided that planes should allow metal knives again? The boy ate sparingly and she wondered if he was dreaming of the many rewards he would have in heaven. She wanted to tell him it wasn·t true; that it wasn·t worth it. She thought now that he looked exactly the way she·d always imagined a terrorist to look³down to the striped hoodie and the wrinkled trousers.

The captain announced that they would be landing. Carrie no longer cared that the boy looked back at her as she watched him. She wanted him to know. Wanted him to see she had her eye on him. Wanted him to see that she knew. And then they were on the ground. Her body jolted at the touch down. She almost couldn·t believe that they·d landed safely. She looked at the boy and his eyes regarded her under furrowed brows. Had she single-handedly stopped a terrorist attack? Had he been unable to act under her watchful gaze?

[ 20 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Standing with her bags, in the throes of stilled passengers looking for an exit, she came face to face with the boy. He was taller than her and looked down at her as he spoke. ´Do I know you?µ he asked in a perfect American accent. But she·d heard that they were well trained. They looked and sounded just like us, that·s what she·d heard. She said nothing in return, but held her bag tightly in front of her body as though it were a shield, as though it could keep anything from getting to her.

[ 21 ]

[ May 2010 ]

I think in another time you were an elf or woodsman, perhaps the one who saved Snow White's life. How lucky I am to have you as my guide through these enchanted winter woods. Look,There are hoof prints. you say, pointing to the trodden ground, broken snow filled with upset mud and emergent, haphazard stalks And there,Droppings. drawing your arm up along the trail, You still quickly and I mimic reverently, your blue eyes and horse-bristle mustache working like a compass needle. Hear that? you ask. A crack in the distance. Another crack, then a smack. It's a bull³cleaning the velvet from its antlers. I try to picture that giant, muscular stag standing up to its knees in snow calcified blossom upon his head lowering then raising the rack to thwack against tree trunk splintering gray bark snow dislodging from branches above falling unnoticed upon the deer. Your breath comes out in a white cloud as you grin from ear to ear; your eyes wrinkling in that extremely Irish way and all memories of time between us less beautiful than this evaporate into the winter chill

[ 22 ]

[ May 2010 ]
to skate upon some distant ice pond. I grin back and giggle softly and I am twelve again³ lost in the wonder of that first hike through our new forest behind the cut ground into which all of your sweat and dreams were tossed then used as mortar, as bricks, as steel. We begin to follow the trail of the deer. Our boots marry snow and mud. My feet hurt but I say nothing. I would do this forever if I could³ follow you through clusters of pine, over bubbling icy streams, relishing the discarded bits of beaver dam, the relics of old hunting perches, the call of the hawk, the glimpse of the woodpecker, the dash of deer. I would follow you through eternity in my three-inch-thick green down jacket and red mittens, scarf wound tightly over my mouth and nose, moist against my breath, red and black striped possum hat pulled snugly over my ears, our thirty-one and sixty-seven years behind us, crusting over with snow.

[ 23 ]

[ May 2010 ]

He leans back in a sofa with the padding popping out of the seams like rice exploding from a stuffed bell pepper, And she picks off nail polish in even lines from the shells that are her toes, and they are sitting in the same room, sharing air more than words, when he expresses how he truly feels. You know what I really think about you? he says in a tone like the metallic flaking off of his 1987 Mazda She doesn·t look up and so he says, You make me want to light a match to my farts so I can shoot myself to the moon and before she can snort he adds, Before falling back to earth like a collapsed balloon Her eyebrows furrow like the San Andreas fault, and suddenly her earthquake shakes You are the dumbest of the dumb parasites in this house, and there are a lot of dumb parasites in this house, and as her voice rises so does her hyperbole: If there was a contest to see who was the dumbest parasite in the world, you would win, pincers down their scowls fuse in the chilled air, and the temperature drops so when they exhale, they can see the air escaping in blue bubbles from their open lips he leans forward in his chair like a stuffed bell pepper and she pulls her gaze away from her toenail polish (polish so red it is

[ 24 ]

[ May 2010 ]
called ´I·m not really a waitressµ) and slowly, slowly pulls a book of matches out of his back pocket. She makes no move to protest, so he leans forward, lights the match, and lets it dawdle over the open space behind his posterior. Just as he is doing so, she pulls a large trophy out from underneath her chair and places it on the table between them. ´The Dumbest Parasite in the World,µ it reads. He farts, and they kiss.

[ 25 ]

[ May 2010 ]

Granada is a pomegranate, people spilling out of the cathedral like little ruby seeds spreading over cobblestone, tacones clicking, smoke billowing, motos careening. I·ve never lived in a place where one can buy pornography with a Diet Coke, nor have I ever seen bull blood or ham bones like baseball bats hanging in every corner store. The air here rushes quicker to my lungs, the cigarettes make my eyes water and the fountains surprise me on every corner. I am a salmon pushing upstream, slipping in and out of the walking mob, fully aware that a Jansport backpack and pink snowboarding jacket (with lift ticket still visible) marks me as undeniably, embarrassingly americana. There·s this thrill of being anonymous and being conspicuous, as if the people who do stop me recognize me for a reason. Usually they want to sell me something³hashish, olive branches for church, pañuelos, pirated Black Eyed Peas albums. It·s funny what stays on my skin³Moorish tea and lentil soup and the scent of canela³and what falls off me as I walk: anti-war stickers and post-it notes with directions and fortune cookie messages. I·ve got a Nalgene of Kool-Aid, an inadequate cell phone, a SpanishEnglish dictionary and a map, and somehow I·m stripped bare, flayed open like a discarded pomegranate, ruby seeds spilling out for all the world to see.

[ 26 ]

[ May 2010 ]

´We can walk anywhere and we can stop at some new café where we don·t know anyone and nobody knows us and have a drink.µ -- Hemingway

At the center of the world our bodies float over each other near to everything, at the center of being Not like arrows pointing in three directions but like our own bodies pulsing in and out Laughter can cure nearly anything it is said it·s so precious It·s like an undiscovered metal no one knows anything about yet And when they discover how rare it is O look out! They·ll come to wage wars over it ² that·s how badly it is needed It·s widely known how we could live on laughter alone

[ 27 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Not air, not water nor land is more precious Who cares about the apples hanging from trees? Who cares about the lovely pomegranate? We come to care little for the perfect orange But for a small glassful of laughter we would kill. Yes, kill.

[ 28 ]

[ May 2010 ]

´The place is greatµ we told the rental agent ´except for one thing ´Pigeons are nesting on the air conditioner in the bedroom window ´At 7 a.m. the pigeons were having sex on the air conditioner ´They started getting really wild and throwing themselves against the windowµ There was a pause while you could distinctly hear the rental agent swallow He cleared his throat ´That sounds kind of hotµ he said

[ 29 ]

[ May 2010 ]

A man alone in his paid-for living room, with his hands folded behind his head A man running from a bar, a bald man seen from behind Someone who made a wide circle to avoid your laughter A man undressing at the side of the road saying: ´How you doing?µ ´Okay. How you doing?µ ´Okay.µ And we look ² both of us liars A tired man, eating pork chops. Someone who had to stop drinking because the wine that strengthened the heart, weakened the veins Because the time wasn·t right for acknowledging pain Someone who·s watching the rain fall in rivulets, when it·s possible for one·s innards to wander off among those tiny columns of rain and become lost Of being so lost, while the rain continues to drizzle down A long strand of hair hanging over the back of a girl·s chair at a reading A man sitting behind her, rubbing only the ends of it between his thumbs ready to let go Red dog, dog with big teeth

[ 30 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Golden toes on a clown Running man Clown with yellow hat Clown with red lips A woman fleeing Of course all of this presumes we have enemies Woman with a rag doll, a pretty woman with red straps over her feet Does she still cross herself before having sex? And what are they singing now on the way to the liquor store?

[ 31 ]

[ May 2010 ]

I felt his presence as a warmth, sidling up to the right side of my body. His footsteps were silent, or the plinking on my keyboard had drowned them out. I turned to face a paunch, and looked up to see a middle-aged man with wiry black hair and fogged glasses. ´Hi there,µ he said,µ look, I don·t mean to disturb you, but I·m really in a bind and thought maybe you could spare a few minutes to help me out.µ He rocked on his heels. ´Well, sure, I guess. If it·s just a minute.µ I said. ´I·m in the business school at State,µ he explained, ´and for our final project we have to create a poster and some brochures³marketing materials³for a fictitious company. My company is a shoe company, and my idea is to make a poster with pictures of feet, different shapes and sizes and colors of feet, with a slogan at the bottom, something like ¶We·ll Cover You.µ He cleared his throat. Was he asking for my advice? It was a stupid concept. Advertisements are supposed to tease the

[ 32 ]

[ May 2010 ]
caged beast in the subconscious that responds only to beauty and sex. Nothing could be gained from displaying those unsightly slabs of flesh that anchor us to the ground and destroy any fantasy of human elegance. ´And how would I help you with this?µ ´This poster is due in two days and I don·t have all the pictures I need,µ he said, ´I want them to be very tasteful pictures you know, well composed. And I noticed the light in here is good, and you happen to be wearing sandals.µ He glanced down at my feet, still pink and clammy from the rain. ´So you wish to photograph my feet.µ ´Yes, if that·s alright with you. We can do it right here by the windows. I would just take a few shots of your feet on that footrest.µ He spoke quickly, gesturing toward the armchair facing the windows. ´I·ll move the lamp.µ I saved my documents, closed my laptop and sat down in the armchair. The worn tweed engulfed me. It would be easy to nod off here and lose an entire afternoon. I had decided years ago that the Mechanics· Library armchairs were dangerously comfortable. Rain streaked the misty windows. The usual pair of gargoyles sneered up at me from their perch on the frieze of the law office across the street. My feet felt better, being elevated and aired out, away from my waterlogged sandals.

[ 33 ]

[ May 2010 ]
The man shuffled towards me, fiddling with an expensive looking shutter camera. My jaw tightened and I couldn·t muster the same surliness as before. I was immobilized. When he started clicking his camera around my feet like a hovering insect, I realized that I could not remember the last time someone took so many pictures of me at once. After he had flicked the shutter rapidly for several minutes, he stood up and moved the floor lamp closer. It was then that I noticed his face had flushed fuchsia and sweat beads had formed on his forehead. Dark spots bloomed in his underarms. He panted with labored heaves. I couldn·t determine if he had become so flustered from the simple exertion of pivoting, or if some visceral bandit had hijacked his bloodstream. I got my answer when he asked me to point my left foot, and when my adjustment was not to his liking, he grasped the arch and gently rotated it, fingers tracing the concave in an unmistakable caress. He knelt as if in prayer, whispered something indecipherable under his breath, and readied his camera once more. A combination of horror and pity yanked me out of my stupor. I briskly swept my feet down from the footrest. ´I hope that will give you enough material. I have to get back to my work now.µ I said, and stood up.

[ 34 ]

[ May 2010 ]
He looked up at me alarmed and walleyed, but quickly blinked it away. Sudden tranquility washed over him as he stood up. ´Thank you,µ he said, ´this will really help me out.µ I nodded and returned to my desk. I roused my laptop from its slumber and bent over it until my nose was mere inches from the screen. As the tips of my toes found my soggy sandals, my feet curled under the chair. ´Hold it, wait, don·t move, just hold your position,µ he warbled from behind me. ´It·s perfect.µ Grunting and quivering, he crawled under my chair and began shooting the creased soles of my feet. ´Just a few more, I don·t have any shots from this angle yet.µ I felt the chair teeter as he tried to shove his massive shoulders between the wooden legs. The chair creaked menacingly. I was afraid he would get stuck. I hoped he would get stuck. I glanced around the room for the librarian, a chess player, someone to save me. Enough. I swatted at the wagging torso under my chair. ´I said we were done!µ He squirmed out with surprising agility. Upon standing, he offered me his meaty hand. I did not take it. His gaze seemed glassy, faraway. He opened his mouth as if to apologize or explain, but then shut it. As he turned to leave, he looked askance at my feet and said, ´I·ve never seen their equal.µ

[ 35 ]

[ May 2010 ]
I watched him lumber down the stairs until his bramble of hair disappeared out of sight. I contorted my legs into a lopsided cross-legged position with my feet stuffed under my thighs. Trying to concentrate on my reports, I spent half an hour changing the colors on a pie chart from tropical scheme to primary colors, back to tropical. A few rows down, I heard the scrape of a book being stuffed back on a shelf, and I flinched violently, nearly falling out of my chair. My productivity had been derailed by a raw display of unorthodox fixation. I wondered about the man·s domain. Did he only troll within the exclusive halls of Mechanics,· or in the public libraries as well, where he would have to compete with chatty teenagers, schizophrenics and the children·s reading hour? Time to leave. I walked quickly through the haze lulling around the smudged concrete buildings toward my apartment. I thought about the object of the afternoon·s caper: my feet. Come to think of it, they were quite nice. They were symmetrical and narrow with deep arches, which were beginning to hurt from treading on the sandals· flat slabs. In these shabby sandals, my feet were a bargain, gold coins in a consignment shop. Any oaf with a camera and a psyche full of childhood trauma could indulge without hesitation. If what I had was valuable, I

[ 36 ]

[ May 2010 ]
needed to appraise them as such. That evening, I purchased the first of many pairs of long leather boots, the high-heeled kind with steel shank soles that reverberate every stomp. Footwear became a fortress, protecting the prized treasure within. I often think about the roll of photos borne of that afternoon at Mechanics·; I would like to see how they came out.

[ 37 ]

[ May 2010 ]

she collects them& leads them into the shed behind the slaughterhouse. they are taken into the night when the winds run east to west in opaque sheets. they are given one last drink of brandy before it all begins. a bonfire grows at the edge of town; its glow is blurred behind the slow grind of the wind & rain. from our lens we see a girl no more than twelve. struggle walking through the night she is wearing an overcoat & smoking a hand rolled cigarette. she lives in the slaughterhouse. it·s simple really, she had a mother & the shed.

father, but now she doesn·t. they were thrown into

now she assumes their duties. she stops & looks back at the slaughterhouse. she lets the cigarette drop from her lips. the rain is running horizontal, now. she takes off the overcoat & kneels. digging her hands into the earth, she slides to the ground & writhes, naked, in the mud.

some of them have prepared for this night since they could operate a typewriter. some have locked themselves in linen closets, petrified, clinging to hardbound anthologies of 20th century poetry. others have no inkling of what this night will

[ 38 ]

[ May 2010 ]
bring. they are the laureates, the formalists, the professors. they are expired. when her parents died she had not yet learned to read. she still doesn·t know how to assemble letters into pictures.

these last eight years the girl has done nothing but collect them on the nights when the rain & wind fuck. she remembers that her parents were the collectors. the girl has no other memories,

memories, but the ones she has made since. these

all of them, are of her wandering around the slaughterhouse, scavenging for flowers & grass. flowers & grass are the only things the girl eats. this floral diet & the collection nights are

all of the memories that make up her ability to remember, to reference. if she can reference, she exists. none of them know exactly why the collection happens. but these collections are as much a part of their small town pastiche as modern plumbing & they accept it. like the way the fly will, after hours of struggle, accept the fate of the web. on the nights when the rain & wind fancydance the whole of the town organize their writings & wait. some of them wait to be collected. some wait for the girl to pass by their houses without incident, without the knock of collection. without being collected they can write until the next storms when they will, again, cease their writings. when they will organize their writings as they choose & wait.

[ 39 ]

[ May 2010 ]
naked in the electric mud, the girl·s body undulates like an ancient earthworm. her arms burrow into the wet

ground. she pulls up small roots, the rain erasing the silt from the roots before she brings them to her open mouth

which closes once the roots are inside of it. her earth craving satiated, the girl rises, as slowly as the sun, from the ground. still naked, she stands & from our lens, we can see a faint smile born on her mouth as the rain swallows the last of the roots. this town that they live in takes its name from Modernism. it was a charter town, established by writers seeking to make the written & spoken word new. established by writers seeking a community of literary totality. these people, the they, the them drew up a contract of residency, an ordinance of justice built upon the sustainability of the written word. it was written into Modernism town law that if a resident had ceased to produce writing with the virility of spring fruit, then they would be banished. mortally banished. as the town Modernism was established during the birth period of the literary movement of the same name, we know that Modernism is an antiquated place. pummels her, as she

[ 40 ]

[ May 2010 ]
from our lens we follow the girl as she walks toward the town. the rain is harassing her body, but the wind blows so hard that the rain skids off her body keeping her in a state of constant dryness, constant nocturnal warmth. as our lens zooms in on her body we see that the girl is running an unwinnable race with pubescence. her hips have swollen some since the last collection, her buttocks now take the shape of two small pears, her breasts have grown to resemble infantile cloud pockets & her pubis now sprouts a handful of hairs, like an archipelago over a vast ocean. she will soon collect them as a woman. tonight, however, as the wind & rain try to breed a new elemental element, the girl walks slowly towards them, towards the they that have & will always perish for their writings. after over a century of existence, the they, the them, the people of Modernism know not why they all will expire in the same way. they know not why a nude girl will come during the night to collect them; they know not why they will have organized their writings which they will bring with them; they know not why they will build their own mausoleums out of their own writings;

[ 41 ]

[ May 2010 ]
they know not why she will lead them to the slaughterhouse on the edge of town where this will happen; they know not why they will willingly, completely & exceedingly, willingly walk into the shed of fire where their ashes will mix with those of their neighbors, with the other they, the other them of Modernism town. but they&them are like us, the people of the world who don·t understand & don·t remember our own histories, our own small town pastiches. but we &they& them accept the hell out of them.

[ 42 ]

[ May 2010 ]

inside the pockets of jeans that i wore for three days or more before they came back to life and walked away on their own the scraps of paper are still there where i wrote your name in so many different ways stuck together from when you tried to make them clean and if i tried to pry them apart they would just dissolve like all the thoughts in my head that never make it out 'cause things fall apart otherwise they would get stuck and never fit through the tight spaces

[ 43 ]

[ May 2010 ]
that we have to travel we are a part even when we're apart even when we come apart and sometimes i just want to hold you and to be held without holding on i practiced different ways to be natural only to find out that practice makes perfect and perfection has no place in art the letters that connect to form a pattern are uneven the words that bind feelings to meanings often have no meaning at all poetry destroys the pattern and sets our language free it breaks the glass so that we can find our words out of context so that we can find our selves out of breath so that we can find out who we are and who we are not

[ 44 ]

[ May 2010 ]

how many times have you woken up and realized it was just a dream how many times have you lost track of which is which reality doesn't need a resurrection it needs a burial and then once it has come back once it has risen we will know it for what it is and what it is not

[ 45 ]

[ May 2010 ]

there is a wisdom in no escape when the wild wolves surround you and there is no chance for survival the opportunity to be torn to shreds the lessons that it gives for the little that it takes there's nothing left after they're done except what can't be consumed what remains is who we are as the flesh of our ego is ripped from the bone more than death has its teeth bared so much more than muscle and blood is at stake when we hear the call from the next room we know it's a power we can't contend with a god that we have made as much as one

[ 46 ]

[ May 2010 ]
who has made us who just wants to talk but whose teeth are so sharp and whose claws seem to call ambulances to take us away but each of us is a flower reaching up through the earth where we have buried ourselves alive out of ignorance out of shame out of boredom out of our minds reaching out with petals as pretty as we can make them for a way out for a way in always on both sides reaching for someone who cares too much to just leave us there buried in the dirt someone who will pick us up and give us the water and light that we need to survive that we need

[ 47 ]

[ May 2010 ]
to grow 'cause we all need to die a little every now and then so that we can learn how to live

[ 48 ]

[ May 2010 ]

my arms aren't long enough to reach you right now but my desire is it won't let go even though it's gone you're gone these days, i'm gone i walk the night and sleep with eyes open in bars named after streets that no one walks anymore why in the world doesn't anyone walk anymore i knew the song the singer was about to sing before the first notes stumbled out of the drunken dime store piano i watched as they spilled across the empty room like an accident no one was rushing to clean up we didn't so much end as stop beginning i have always been moving towards you even as i pulled away the best parts of me are still trying to find you in the places i thought you would be the other parts are thinking maybe you·re hidden at the bottom of this glass or maybe the next one

[ 49 ]

[ May 2010 ]
you are so much closer now that you've gone i can finally see the color of your eyes without having to look and i can trace your shape with an anatomical certainty on the back of this barroom coaster your dna is in every fiber of my clothes an emotional crime scene with forensic evidence that there was something there something more than circumstansial i carry a scent that was left from the last time we touched we brushed up against each other as you were making your way out the door into the wild i want to brush up against you again even if it's just in passing even if it's not really you at all at some point i forgot who i was i lost the me that knew you i am around here somewhere though the city isn't big enough to hide me from myself and when i find him maybe he'll know where to find you

[ 50 ]

[ May 2010 ]

«and still I can·t help but think you contain not multitudes nor all races nor all genders nor even all worlds but all galaxies all universes and all meta-universes. These spiral patterns of yours, which manifest and echo in each and every medium we can speculate, are not motion so much as they are frequency. Bits and pieces of you cramming themselves out of and into the perceptible reality and it is there between your Scylla of wavelength and your Charybdis of shadowed anti-matter There, where all the philosophers & shamans & alchemists & visionaries & poets rend their hearts and dash their minds against the impossibly dense contradiction of existence. It can·t be easy cycling in and out of the dimensions relative to your own journey through the realm, but I wanted to be among the first to thank you for all of the hard work you·re doing to forever birth an armada of Prince Caspians, who are themselves forever sailing toward the gravitational barriers,

[ 51 ]

[ May 2010 ]
where oceans of poppies and poesies inevitably smother our brave and lonely vessels in a coat of pollen and nectar«many of us, never to return. Around and around you go you little foundations with whom I surely share bits with Whitman who inhabited all or Christ who tried to show us we were everything; or Buddha who tried to show us we were nothing; or the first opposed thumb primate who discovered the practical value of murder it is you whom we all share. So here·s to your long night·s journey into day preoccupied as you are with eddying in the fringe cul-de-sac·s on the edge of town, on the perimeter of the campfire where cold and dark things reflect just enough of the candescent light to make them hypnotizing, horrifying and everything between just long enough to keep all of you hanging around«and maybe this would go a long ways to help and explain everything.

[ 52 ]

[ May 2010 ]

Every morning we get up and fight like this: You screaming in your sleep Me pretending to be awake« It was all so promising just a few hours back. Now it·s 11:12 in the afternoon I stare a thousand yards Into a neon acoustic Mordor With long legged lightning gods gettin· down gettin· funky In the goat dog·s backyard New Brunswick And you Slip through the comforter As if in my mind you had never existed. So we pour out of the futon And you·ve really left me for good now, Other than the glimpses I catch of you Naked and prostrate on the floor, screaming GRAB ME! PICK ME UP! PICK UP A GODAMN PEN AND WRITE SOMETHING...ANYTHING! But by then we are so sick of one another. We distract and distance ourselves Convince each other we·re separate and individual

[ 53 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Got to have that space you know. Perhaps some time later this evening we can crawl back to our mutual pining society But for now I feel I should be completely honest Yes, I should be brutally frank and let you know I wrote something really very compromising and revealing about you. I·m feeling pretty special about it, I·m feeling pretty full of myself, So leave me the fuck alone now.

[ 54 ]

[ May 2010 ]

Susan spent three hours cutting the carrots into tiny orange diamonds before tossing them with the peas, butter and salt to accompany the apple stuffed pork loin with mashed potatoes. She loved her family and refused to stop chopping when she sliced an inch off the top of her thumb. She placed the white lifeless tip in a jar of salt water, wrapped her throbbing stub in paper towel and continued with the diamond shapes. Three drops of blood marred her crisp apron; no blood escaped into dinner. She didn·t have time to make the apple brown betty with crunchy sugar topping; hopefully, they wouldn·t notice. Susan didn·t tell her family about the thumb incident. She refused to look at it fearing white bone peaking beneath French manicured nail. They didn·t ask about the red paper towel swaddling her left hand. She ignored the pain and tried to eat right-handed with pearled smile; no one noticed the diamond carrots. ´What·s for dessert, mom?µ Margaret spit ribbons of pork onto the starched tablecloth. Susan hoped to get another night out of this embroidered heirloom, but would have to wash and iron tomorrow. ´Mom, I finished all my peas and carrots and potatoes and I want dessert.µ She whined and pouted and slammed her chair into the table with a pre-teen huff.

[ 55 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Timothy said nothing but Susan could hear the squeaking shriek of his knife against the china. He slid his pork fork through the potatoes, chewed with force and swallowed.

An hour later, as Susan one-hand-washed dishes, Timothy slid up behind, grabbed her hips and whispered, ´The pork was over-done.µ He slapped her tush and returned to his televised something and gin.

Susan didn·t go to the doctor. She waited three days and slowly pealed the painful red towel from her gooey mangled thumb. The Valium helped her ignore the skin sticking to the paper mess, and she barely winced when holding it under the kitchen tap. She needed to deal with this quickly, the laundry called from the garage and dinner didn·t exist. ´Fuck the laundry; call out for pizza.µ ´But Margaret doesn·t like pizza. She says it makes her feel fat.µ ´Fuck that little ungrateful cunt. Wash her clothes with hot water. Shrink that shit and don·t tell her. You make her feel fat.µ The thumb opened its red skin mouth and laughed until she silenced it with band-aid. Susan shrunk the clothes and giggled with the thumb, ´They never notice anything. Let·s see if she feels this.µ She

[ 56 ]

[ May 2010 ]
folded Margaret·s smaller clothes into piles and hung tight dresses into closets before dialing pizza delivery. ´Mom, pizza?µ She rolled her almost teen eyes and flounced to her seat spilling diet something brown to the newly pressed table cloth. Grabbing hungrily for the pizza, she didn·t notice the pepperoni oil slither to the once white cloth; Susan had new laundry for tomorrow. Timothy said nothing through chomping jaws.

The screaming felt sublime. ´MOM! WHAT DID YOU DO?µ Susan sauntered up the stairs holding pressure to the mouth of the laughing thumb. ´What dear? What·s wrong, Sweetie?µ ´My clothes!µ She shrieked. ´I·m fat. Look how fat I am. Nothing fits.µ She crumpled to the floor clutching too-small outfits and sobbed. ´I guess we·ll have to go shopping this weekend.µ She answered buoyantly. ´It must have been the pizza. What are you eating these days? Are you sneaking seconds on dessert?µ Her voice was sweet and caring and she tried not to giggle with the thumb as she descended the stairs. ´Another gin, darling?µ Timothy grunted and raised his glass; he hadn·t noticed his daughter·s crying shrieks.

[ 57 ]

[ May 2010 ]
Susan retreated to the kitchen and noticed her old thumb in the jar. Had she cut off that much? It was the size of a full thumb and seemed to be sprouting finger nubs from the hilt. She ignored its growth and un-wrapped her little friend who loudly sucked in air. ´Why do you wrap me up? It·s hard to breathe under that plastic thing.µ ´Shhhh. I can·t let them know about you. They·ll send me away.µ ´You need to leave.µ ´I love them.µ ´You put the Valium in the gin and mix it all up. You put the Valium in the gin and put them both together «µ The thumb sang and jiggled until Susan re-wrapped him in brown bandages. She could barely hear him singing as she moved to the medicine cabinet. The little blue pills tinted the alcohol slightly but Timothy wouldn·t notice.

He slept sounder than ever off two glasses of gin. He and Margaret refused dinner, so Susan ate off paper plates and had no dishes. She wouldn·t have to wash and press the tablecloth tomorrow. She smoothed the covers over her passed-out husband, smiled her perfect smile and crept down the darkened stairs into the kitchen. Before she removed the

[ 58 ]

[ May 2010 ]
covering, she looked at her old thumb in the jar. It was a full hand now, with wrist, complete with wedding and large diamond rings. She wanted to ask the thumb what was happening, but she knew her replacement was coming soon. ´You hate them.µ It grimaced. ´You could be free.µ Susan watched her clone grow with every word from the thumb. It was a full arm, then a breast, a belly button, a hip. ´You and me, we·ll leave together. We·ll go to Mexico and sleep on the beach, get sun burnt and rub aloe on each other«µ A fuzzy bush, perfectly manicured, a leg, a foot, and toenails grew. ´No more laundry, cooking, cleaning for ungrateful slobs who never notice your perfect details«µ The other half of her new body materialized. The last part of the new Susan was her right thumb. She looked at her new self, then to her talking thumb. ´I·ve taken the liberty of packing a bag for you.µ The thumb and new Susan tandem spoke. ´It·s under the stairwell. Everything you need: clothes, cash, jewelry, passport, bikini. It·s time to go.µ

Susan grabbed her bag. Her thumb laughed as she slammed the front door, but no one noticed.

[ 59 ]

[ May 2010 ]

The great wizard Moltzav lived for centuries in a cave up north. You might be wondering if his cave was in, like, Finland or Iceland or Siberia. And that·s not important, but I·ll tell you, it was father north than you·d ever imagine anyone living. I am his son, Flexniprov. Yes, it sounds like one of those new arthritis or osteoporosis or osteoarthritis drugs. But it·s actually totally original, and really, how could he have known about the future of the drug market way back in the seventies, when he named me? Yes, he named me, because I don·t have a mother; wizards are generally hermaphrodites. I am not a hermaphrodite. I am, however, polysexual, polymorphous, and polyamorous. Meaning I can have sex with a number of people and love them all for their many differences while I myself am turning into other people. Sometimes my partner-of-the-moment looks up or back or to the side or under his/her blindfold and doesn·t recognize me halfway through intercourse. And I know this sounds like a lie, but it never scares anyone away; in fact, I have had my fair share of stalkers, anonymous letters sealed in pink envelopes smeared with perfume, and strangers offering to buy me dinner after midnight.

[ 60 ]

[ May 2010 ]
This is always good because, being a wizard son, I don·t have a quote-unquote job. Neither did Moltzav, and I suspect that was why he lived in a cave all those years and never had sex with anyone but himself. I say it like that, but self-love is not really that funny or strange, like everyone pretends it is. I practice self-love up to five times a day, as a rule. It is as important as any aspect of grooming or hygiene, and more so than stale traditions such as manners and etiquette. I also practice an au curant offshoot of Buddhism called Cubhism, wherein I try to cure all the world·s pain through self-love, polyamory, and the vision of many, dueling perspectives coming together in perfect harmony on my living room sofa. Warren G is one of Cubhism·s many monks, though I am just a follower. Former president Bill Clinton is also affiliated with the religion somehow. I didn·t know I was in any way like my father until after he was killed in 1984. It was your typical auto-da-fe, the way wizards, witches, spinsters, drunkards, adulterers, and other social deviants have been disposed of since the early days of the dark ages. A local mob, maybe they were Scandinavian, maybe not, heard him making noise up in his cave dwelling and took him down for questioning. He wouldn·t answer them³he didn·t even speak their language³but he kept shooting black dust out of his wand, which, when he was

[ 61 ]

[ May 2010 ]
nervous, was about all he could muster of his great powers. The dust made one of the babies in the hall sneeze, then cry, and that was it for my poor father³he was dragged out to the village square and stoned to death. I wonder if that little baby grew knowing she was indirectly responsible for my father·s death. Anyway, it happened when I was fourteen, when I·d been traveling for a while in Nepal, and when I came home, I found the cave empty but for a note stuck to the icy wall with a sword: Dear Son, it said. Please take care of Lefty. When I·d heard through the grapevine what had happened, it not being widely known in the village that the wizard had a son, I wondered how on earth he had managed to leave me that note. Then again, he was magic, which explained pretty much all the inexplicable things I·d ever wondered about him, except for why I wasn·t magic, too. Lefty was my father·s pet snake, who veered perpetually to the left and went round and round in circles whenever you picked him up out of his glass-walled habitat and put him on the floor. When I had nothing left to do in town, I gathered him up, put him in my knapsack, and left the cave, never to return. Since then, I·ve found out more about myself than I ever would have as a hopeless apprentice, a fate I·d have been doomed to fulfill as the son of a living wizard. I moved to LA, into an apartment with the woman who created the Thighmaster

[ 62 ]

[ May 2010 ]
(although I will not say her name out of respect for the dead). Then we went our separate ways, and I had a string of faceless lovers, all of whom let me bunk with them for a time. I started finding out I was magic in these little ways, like smiling to get a free cup of coffee, or brushing my hair one morning before going out and getting practically abducted by a modeling scout. Also, I·ve been doing these little dances for Lefty, turning on his favorite salsa music³this one Tito Puente song he goes crazy for³and now he turns to the right. It is a tragedy my father did not live to see this, because he thought his way was the only way. He·d been working on a Lefty-righty spell for years, but his abilities were really bottoming out after his threehundred-year tenure on earth, hence the nervous wand-dust. And some time after I fixed Lefty I realized that this was what my father had wanted all along³a wizard son³but it was many more years before my religion let me adopt that as my official title.

[ 63 ]

[ May 2010 ]

DJ Couch Wing leaned back in his chair as the first strains of his sign-off trademark sang through the radio station·s speakers. It was the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme, meowed by the Christmas jingle-cats. On the other side of the studio·s glass, in the patronless adjoining cafe the barista Donna stuck her tongue out and fake-wretched along with the cat choir. The jingle-cats did sound like they were throwing up a little. DJ Couch Wing shot her with a gun made from his thumb and index finger. Pow. A single lock of her short, chlorine-blue hair fell in front of her shining eye as she wiped down the espresso machine·s steamer, tugging at it suggestively. Things were good. Couch Wing, just thirty-two years old, was riding up the DJ escalator; tomorrow he·d finally take over the prime time golden broadcast hour: 5pm to 7pm. ´Oh bring me the bumper-stuck and homeward bound, the locked-in and beaten down!µ He·d croon in the shower. For DJ·s are anointed ones. After all, the world has deemed their taste top

[ 64 ]

[ May 2010 ]
notch. To rise through the disc jockeying ranks is to bask in the praise of the listening masses. A properly cued playlist can and will induce the whole glowing spectrum of emotion: love, sorrow, hypnosis, and allegedly, even sex. Couch Wing dreams of sex as, culling from the muck and dirge of wheedling indie bands and noise-fuzz wannabes, his private longing cries: Oh lick the sweetness from my breakbeat thighs! I comb the honey tree to play you the best! There is power in music. Even more so in other people·s music. Why waste time learning and practicing when you can just hit play? And that is where the true test comes. For anyone can just hit play. But only the greats get paid. The only thing that had blocked Couch Wing·s rise through the local radio station·s ranks was his great nemesis, DJ Driller. Driller with his pop, his techno, his Coldplay and his Kesha, Driller with his top20countdowns to platitudination. But that smarmy spinner had finally fled back East from whence he came for his Freshman year of college. Driller·s privileged summer reign was over. Couch Wing ticked his many hatreds off on record-stroking fingers. Hate Number 1: Driller had poached every single one of Couch Wing·s little-mermaid-eyed interns. Every single one. Well, except for Donna. But she was a lesbian so that didn·t count. Oh Donna, I·d amputate myself for you. Hate Number 2: Driller once hijacked Couch Wing·s tracklist, played it

[ 65 ]

[ May 2010 ]
backwards at doublespeed on air, then corrupted the file. His most honeycombed playlist ever, mocked and flayed before the world·s upset ears. Hate Number 3: Driller had the primetime slot because his uncle owned the station. He hadn·t even interned! He never did his time! And Hate Number 4: Driller had, during one of his shows, auctioned off Couch Wing·s reproduction Mao jacket for seven measly PBR tallboys. It was an eighty dollar pleather jacket. And Driller stole it then traded it for fool·s gold. He wasn·t even of legal age. But the vile DJ Driller had left this morning for college. And DJ Couch Wing had sent him a parting gift fit for the king of the douche bag kingdom. Smiling at the thought, DJ Couch Wing cinched his messenger bag to snug his vinyl in. Loose LPs singe hips. He scooted around the mixing board, opened the studio door, entered the attached cafe, and froze. DJ Driller was standing right there, clean shaven face, popped collar, docksiders and all. Driller! He was spinning an espresso cup like a top on the counter. He said, ´Ah, Couchy, nice to see you again.µ ´Thought you·d be back in Providence by now.µ Couch Wing kept his voice steady, but barely. Beautiful Donna stayed

[ 66 ]

[ May 2010 ]
neutral as cool milk, studying the adversaries. ´Me too,µ said Driller. ´Turns out there was some trouble at the airport.µ Couch Wing twitched. He gripped his shoulderbag·s strap. Driller said, ´Know anything about the TSA?µ His accusing tone made Donna look from one DJ to the other, unsure who to root for. ´Uh, just that they, ah, keep terrorists off planes.µ ´Know why they might think I·m a terrorist?µ Driller didn·t wait for Couch Wing to answer. ´Cause it turns out I·m on the watch list. Someone made a phone call and put me on the watch list.µ Couch Wing·s palms were getting sweaty around his bag·s strap. ´Good thing,µ said Driller, ´that I·ve got a cousin in TSA management, Rocky Mountain division. He pulled some strings, traced some calls, couldn·t get me boarded ¶cause this is out of his territory, but he found out who called me in.µ Couch Wing started backing into the broadcast studio. Public service announcements were playing now, promoting pet neutering, spaying, general hygiene. The next DJ would arrive in ten minutes. Donna was friendly but Couch Wing

[ 67 ]

[ May 2010 ]
wasn·t so sure she·d die for him if the opportunity arose. There was nobody else around. Driller loomed. ´So the number that placed the call was this one. And when I listened to a recording of the call, sitting in the TSA office under armed guard, guess whose voice I heard? Go on, guess.µ Driller was in the studio doorway, Couch Wing was up against the matte black wall. ´I·ll give you a hint. The jingle cats were singing in the background.µ Couch Wing dashed for the microphone. Maybe he could put out an S.O.S. Maybe at least he could name his killer. Driller didn·t budge from the doorway. He stood there coolly. ´Well, after my cousin talked to the SFO Lieutenant, we all concluded that I was a victim of genuine treason. Citizen abuse of the TSA special alert system is a federal crime, after all. So I felt it my duty to aid them in capturing the culprit.µ The small station cafe darkened as outside three navy blue vans halted at the curb, eclipsing the lone window. ´It·s curtains, Couchy.µ

[ 68 ]

[ May 2010 ]

There comes a time in the life of the young black man when he realizes that nothing stands in between himself and the fate of the many thousands of black men that have failed in order for him to be here. This is the moment where everyone who loves him begins to share in the hopelessness that he has always had for himself. The teacher who used to give him several warnings about his behavior before losing his cool now quickly kicks him out of class shortly after the bell rings, he whispers in his ear as he gives him the referral; ´Maybe you shouldn·t come back.µ It was the only class that he actually went to³now he goes to none. The young man·s mother no longer screams at him over his poor grades nor does she ask to see his report card. When he doesn·t come home for two days she does not call around

[ 69 ]

[ May 2010 ]
to find out his whereabouts. She does not mention his name to his younger brothers and sisters and neither will she allow them to speak of him. If he wants to be a thug then let him be a thug, she says, for there is nothing else she can do. He comes home and smiles at his little sisters then finally at his younger brothers who smile back before looking at their mother; then they promptly stare down at the carpet. The oldest boy who is standing in the open doorway looks down at the carpet as well but then something in his mind starts to change. He looks up and stares his mother full in the eyes. She has no more tears to cry and no more questions to ask. All she has left is one final demand. ´Get your black ass out my house and don·t come back.µ The oldest boy says nothing. He looks down at his youngest brother who he catches looking up at him, but he still says nothing. He walks back out of the open door, up the street and back to his place on the curb. The other boys on the curb see him and they see the fully realized look on his face. They need not ask him any questions for they know that he·s all in.

[ 70 ]

[ May 2010 ]
This moment comes after DARE when the young man held the profoundly naïve idea that it was cool to not do drugs and it was alright to talk to cops. This moment comes after boy·s camp, after juvenile hall, and after youth authority. It occurs sometime in county jail when he dials the number to the only home he has ever known and no one accepts his calls. He sits in his cell and languishes month after month without any visitors and not one letter. He comes to understand that his mother was really serious this time. There will be no double shifts worked, the house will not be put up, and there will be no money borrowed to raise his bail³he·s all in. He consorts with people who have done far worse things than he has; they break bread together, they work out together, and they sit down on the bench in the yard together and share stories. There are four of them and one spins a story about a carjacking, the other about a home invasion robbery during which he kicked in the front door like the police, the second to last guy tells a story about a shooting he committed

[ 71 ]

[ May 2010 ]
during a turf dice game. The young man listens when appropriate and laughs when necessary but now all eyes are on him, the stage is his. He begins talking about a time in elementary school when he got straight E·s on his report card. His mother kissed him five times on the cheek and gave him a long hug. She squeezed him so tight, the young man told the other inmates, that she cracked his back. Then she took him and his younger brothers and sisters out to eat. As he recalled this moment it occurred to him that his mother was trying her hardest to hold onto something that she knew would disappear. He concludes by saying this was the last time he had ever made his mother happy. It was a terrible story to tell and when he finished there was silence on the bench and no one would look in his direction. He went quietly back to his cell to think about it more but the more he thought about it the more it bothered him. He honestly could not understand how he had arrived at this point

[ 72 ]

[ May 2010 ]
in his life. After he got that report card it was as if something unseen and unknown began pulling hard at him like a B.A.R.T train being sucked through a pitch-black tunnel. He got under his cover and cried onto his pillow. For it is at this moment that he realized his failures were as inexorable as fate, and his life felt like something used. Like some old filthy thing that had been lived a thousand times before it was given to him by a pair of pale hands, with an almost unbearable repugnance.

[ 73 ]

[ May 2010 ]

(A dialogue on inequality between Jermaine DeSantis, 14 & Chester Wickfield, 15 while walking home from band practice September 17, 2009. Overheard and recorded for posterity by C. R. Stapor.)

> Poor people are dumb as hell. > Poor people are for the poor. > Yeah, poor people are so stupid ² > ² That's why they're poor! > I know I know I was just about to say that poor people are so stupid that they're still fucking poor. > Fucking idiots. > Right? How hard is it, not being poor? > I bet poor people are so fucking retarded that they don't even know that they·re poor. > Poor people don't even know what money is. > Poor people think money is magic. > Or science. > Poor people think science is magic. > Poor people think rich people are magicians. > Rich people aren't magicians because magicians don't exist but they are rich as hell and that's why God loves them. > Fuck 'love'. God is money!

[ 74 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> Poor people are always crying about work. > Like work is so hard. > 'Oh look at me I'm poor as fuck and dumb as hell and I have to work all day and I don't have any time to see my family or work out or get an education or stop being so fucking poor.' > Ha! That's it. That's exactly how they sound! > Fucking slackers. > Poor people are so stupid and ugly and diseased that they expect every one else to take care of them like every one else gives a fuck. > Who cares about poor people? Can't even wipe their own ass and we gotta do it for them? What the fuck?! > Poor people never wipe their ass. > Poor people have crusty asses. > Poor people have swampy asses. > Septic tanks are cleaner than poor peoples asses. > Poor people could live in a septic tank and not even notice. > Fucking disgusting. > Poor people have no idea how goddamned good they have it and still they're always complaining. > Like anyone gives a fuck. > Poor people are too stupid as hell to realize that no one gives a fuck.

[ 75 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> Fucking pathetic. > That's fucking poor people for you. Dumber than hell. > Poor people are so stupid they don't even know what hell is. > Yeah, they're all like, 'I'm a freaking retard and if I can't touch it it don't exist blah blah yap a yapa do doo.' > Fucking poor people make me sick. > They all have fucking aids and diabetes and hepatitis and cancer and are illiterate and have small dicks. > Yeah, I bet poor people like to suck small dicks. > They have to, that's the only dick they can get. > Right, like a rich person is gonna whip out his big dick and say, 'Here you go Mr. Poor Person, why don't you suck on my big rich dick for a while.' > Poor people have tiny dicks and flappy cunts. > Poor people like tiny dicks and flappy cunts. > Probably don't even know the difference they're so dumb as fuck. > Poor people waste anything that you give them. > Can't give a poor person shit before he spends it on crystal meth or moon pies. > Some bullshit truckstop tee shirt. > Fucking dollar menu diet. > Faygo.

[ 76 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> CDs. > Shitty pot. > Pork rinds. > Fucking pathetic. > Fuck poor people. > Poor people are always crying, you know, like the whole world owes them something or something. > I know, like when that hurricane came through and they were all stranded and helpless and drowning and dying and their bloated bodies were everywhere fucking up the place. > Fucking right on, I mean, you didn't see any rich people getting all fucked up and drowning and crying about how no one ever does nothing for them. > Fucking A, because rich people saw it coming, and because they're so fucking smart and wise they got the fuck out of there. > And if they have some disease or get fucking sick because they're so shitty they all go crying to the doctor and want to get better but not pay anything for it. > Fucking idiots. I heard one of them crying the other day 'Oh I don't have any insurance and if my daughter doesn't get this surgery she's going to die. Boo Hoo. Blah Blah.' And I was like, that's the fucking point cunt. You're poor as hell and deserve to die, not get better.

[ 77 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> Ha! > Fucking stupid. > I like it when they say they can't get ahead because no one will give them a chance or they can't afford school and I'm all like, if you went to school you'd just embarrass yourself because you're so fucking retarded anyway. > Poor people going to college, that'll be the day. As if rich people could learn anything around a bunch of idiot faggot poor people always sniffing each other's assholes in the library. > Or that fucking tsunami couple years ago. Didn't see any rich people getting fucked up. > Hell no you didn't. The rich people were all like, 'Hmm, seems that the Wrath of God is approaching, maybe I better leave.' > Right, it's like, 'Maybe this isn't a hard choice, but, let's see; A, I could stay and get fucking murdered by Mother Nature. Or B, I could get the hell out of here before Mother Nature fucking murders me.' > Rich people are smart as hell. > Yeah, rich people don't take shit from Mother Nature. > Rich people aren't lazy and ask the government for everything.

[ 78 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> Hell no. They fucking go out there and make that money. > Rich people get paid while making money to get paid. > Rich people don't flinch at shit. > Fuck no. They hire some poor person to do all their flinching for them. > Fucking idiot flinching poor person getting paid to flinch. > Then going home to some shithole to complain about everything while he puts his tiny dick in his whore wife's flappy cunt. > Poor people make me sick. > Fuck poor people. > Poor people don't have souls. > Right, like, if a poor person starts talking you can be all like, 'I'm sorry, but you're a fucking monster and poor as hell and I can't be seen talking to you because I have this dog to pet who actually does have a soul and isn't fucking poor.' > Poor people throw up in their mouth and call it dinner. > Poor people are too stupid to call it dinner. But they do throw up in their mouth all the time. > And swallow it back down. > Poor people love that shit they're so disgusting. > Poor people should be put in cages and dropped in a volcano.

[ 79 ]

[ May 2010 ]
> Poor people should be shipped to China. > China's already full up with poor people. > Fuck China. > Fuck poor Chinese people. > Fuck. > Poor people are dumb as hell. > One of these days I'm gonna be rich as shit and then I'm gonna fucking kill every goddamned poor person I see because I can and because no one will stop me and because rich people will call me a hero. > Dude. > Fuckin' A. > Fuck poor people. > Poor people are dumb as hell.

(The author should note that at this point he had to throw up behind a lamppost ((a most disagreeable, yet unavoidable, consequence of drinking champagne till six in the morning accompanied by a sashimi tasting buffet)) and as such missed what was said next, suffice to mention that when he did turn back to these thoughtful stewards of sociology they were engaged in a very bitter argument which seemed to revolve around some tiny object being held in Mr. DeSantis' hand. It was then his most extreme displeasure to witness Mr. Wickfield pick up a rock and crush Mr. DeSantis' forehead rather crudely through his frontal [ 80 ]

[ May 2010 ]
lobe. The gasp of horror that escaped the author then was enough to frighten the assailant away before he could claim his prize, and as he was scurrying off the author made haste toward Mr. DeSantis to see if he could be of some assistance. Sadly, by the time he arrived the victim was most dead, and spilling out of his coveted hand was the grand total of seventy-two American cents.)

[ 81 ]

[ May 2010 ]

a dAY iN tHE lIFE oF a dAY iN tHE lIFE
´Hey Johanna, this is your old buddy Dr. Strorke, I noticed you had an appointment today at 3:20, it·s 3:40 right now so if you don·t show up just give me a buzz sometime soon. It·s hard to get an appointment so call my voicemail, I hope all is well.µ My first contact with the outside world comes through a prerecorded message on my cell phone. Old buddies, like good friends die hard. And friends shouldn·t let friends sleep through appointments but I couldn·t get up this afternoon. The bride·s son was a loud tie in my dream and his come-ons kept me sleeping. Every time I hit that fucking doctor·s office and they ask me for that list, you know, that list of medications you·re on before they prescribe you that drug for the sniffles I have that can·t be mixed with certain other drugs, I shudder. I sound them off, thirty milligrams of this and a sprinkle of that, and nothing else, I assure them. ´Well that·s enough,µ sometimes a nurse practitioner will scoff, but I·m usually answered with a downward glance due to my downward appearance. Then they wax all sympathetic. No one else seems to mind, which is nice, especially not Mike. I found him traveling through the dark

[ 82 ]

[ May 2010 ]

one night. He·s been sleeping on my couch for a few weeks now³he really doesn·t seem to mind much. My couch has outlines of liquids that dissolved there. Amorphous watermarks, I·ll call them watermarks for the sake of euphemism. Crusty caked and gross. I walk past him sleeping during most daytime hours, this hour being one of them. My phone rings. ´Come downstairs and I·ll tell you all about how I got arrested today.µ Oh Dave this is exciting. How could you have possibly broken the law this time? Then again if noise was a function of weight, you are a pretty good target for anyone to notice. If I saw you driving a truck, I probably wouldn·t look twice either. Maybe you were speeding and after you were pulled over, got out of the car and started to talk to the officer about how you hated the snow, and how difficult it was to drive in this sloppy sludge, the police driver really loved the snow, and it was a fucking disgrace to comment otherwise, so the cop turned you around and PRESSED your face on the hood of his car with his hand splayed on the back of his head. Back and forth, like the hood was a toilet, rubbing your face on the hood. This is what I think in the elevator. I meet him in the lobby. ´This is the third time, I·m a veteran at this stuff, I guess I should be a little more surprised, or at least peeved. Look my thumb is still inked, I knew the drill, followed them around the

[ 83 ]

[ May 2010 ]

precinct like I was their bomb-sniffing dog or something. I·ve really got to get my intolerance up.µ Still wondering what happened, I interject during his ejaculation. ´I was going door to door giving people literature about 2012.µ Apparently you·re not allowed to scare rich people after six o· clock at night, only during dinner hours. He works for a charity that collects money to build this spacecraft type thing that can send enough people into outer space on December 28th, 2011. All contributors are allowed on board. He bums enough cigarettes from me that I·m pretty sure I·ve paid my way on board, maybe just a backspace standing area, but salvation all the same. ´I don·t feel bad when people turn me away because they·re gonna die,µ was how he made himself feel better when not getting a sale. I·m disappointed that the arrest wasn·t a little more violent and that I didn·t have to bail him out and I·m pretty sure it showed on my face. Also the wind is making me wince and I wish facemasks weren·t just for skiers and bank robbers because then it would hide my ruddy cheeks and I·d feel better about walking around with him for a while, no one staring at those pink puppies. We start to walk down nineteenth street passing strings of rushing cabs, water rushing streets rushing canals. He·s talking about the normal stuff. Ranting about the hexagon on Saturn that is visible from

[ 84 ]

[ May 2010 ]

satellite pictures and is way too perfect to be the product of a natural coincidence. He swears he·ll show me the literature someday. Seeing is believing, believing is casting a net over everything I see and calling it truth. ´Truth is for people who die, who aren·t getting on the spaceship,µ Dave once mentioned.

[ 85 ]

Subscribe to http://qlightning.wordpress.com for info & updates Each month there is a raffle drawn from subscribers. Winner gets 1 ticket to the current play @ American Conservatory Theater (www.act-sf.org). All who attend Quiet Lightning events have their choice of free books. First come, first serve! Also, feel free to bring a book to put on the table. You Might Also Like rEADING sERIES Monthly Quiet Lightning | 1st Monday The Rumpus | 2nd Monday Why There Are Words | 2nd Thursday Literary Death Match | 2nd Friday Writers With Drinks | 2nd Saturday Portugese Artists Colony | 3rd Sunday Porchlight Storytelling | 3rd Monday InsideStoryTime | 3rd Thursday Quarterly Babylon Salon Bang Out East Bay on the Brain [ just google it ] Evan films these and other things and talks about them @ http://bit.ly/sflitter and evankarp.com http://therumpus.netquality writing about all things literary + cultural http://instantcity.orga literary exploration of san Francisco