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Editor: Chad Redden NAP Literary Magazine and Books: Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. WWW.NAPLITMAG.COM NAP Volume 1 Issue 3 ÂŠ 2011 NAP Literary Magazine and Books All rights revert back to authors upon publication. Cover by Francis Raven www.ravensaesthetica.com
BRETT ELIZABETH JENKINS GREGORY SHERL J. BRADLEY ADAM JEFFRIES SCHWARTZ DAN SKLAR ERNESTINE LAHEY PETER LABERGE M. CLARA WHITE MATT PETRONZIO NANCY DEVINE ANDREW BATTERSHILL KIM FARLEIGH BRIAN ALAN ELLIS LAURA LEHEW KENNETH POBO PARKER TETTLETON JEFFERY BERG JESSI MACEACHERN ISAIAH SWANSON HEATHER PALMER ERIC CAPRIANI ADAM GRAUPE HOWIE GOOD
5 9 13 16 22 24 26 29 32 33 37 39 42 44 45 51 55 59 64 68 72 74 78
BRETT ELIZABETH JENKINS SHORT POEMS I only want to read short poems by men, as I generally assume anything longer than twelve lines is a trick of some sort or a riddle with an unmade bed as the answer.
MACHINE During the day I carry around the weight of my self. My arms hung loosely about my torso. Bulb of head, my legs to get me there. What this machine can do for me. Open jars of pills. Slide a plastic card through a doohickey. It can make words to make my self known. At night I put down the weight of my self. Were that it so easy to mean what I say.
MATING HABITS OF WOODPECKERS Finally, a thing that begins in deep winter. A drum dance, a share show. Let him prove what he can do with his face. She scrapes her dainty feet on this bough balcony, side steps and swoops, a spectacle for jealous birds. His little red beard nods in concert. No other birds tweet or peck. The thing that continues through the dead of winter & will begin together each new winter & winter & winter.
Brett Elizabeth Jenkins currently lives and writes in Albert Lea, MN. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Potomac Review, PANK, G.U.D., decomP, and elsewhere. She blogs at http://brettejenkins.blogspot.com.
GREGORY SHERL WEEZER B-SIDES SUCK When I am not awake but thinking about her, there are woods and I am lost in them. The trees’ limbs are stereo speakers, like Sharper Image had a sale and the earth was like, Why the hell not? The trees only know Weezer B-sides. I am uninterested by the second verse. I turn the trees off, listen to the wind sigh itself awake or asleep, I’m never quiet sure. Eventually I see light and then I get to the light but it’s just a star that got worn out from constantly treading the sky. Imagine playing water polo, the star says, but you know, in space. I understand, I tell the resting star. I can barely sit down without feeling bled out.
TO ELIZABETH, BEFORE WE PRETENDED TO BREAK-UP FOREVER If I read newspapers, I would deliver babies. That’s how it happens right? A woman’s water breaks and someone goes IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THIS HOUSE/RESTAURANT/COFFE SHOP/HOME DEPOT? and I raise my hand, blistered from building orphanages off the coast of the Amazon River and say I found George Clooney to be meticulously lint free in his green scrubs. I tell the woman’s broken water I learned how to wash my hands from watching re-runs of medical dramas on TNT. If the kids are all right, let them take out the trash. Let these drugs make everything go away. Here’s the thing: I am sick of sleeping on the couch and not caring. The baby is born in a stack of newspapers, an op-ed in the center of its chest. We Are at War with War. The baby is born with black ink, tattoos that will wash out like a heart that always stayed ordinary. The kids! We are never thinking about the kids when football is on! If the kids are all right, build a raft, they will come.
OVEN TIMER I stare at wedding rings through glass displays but see no point. Six weeks from now I will be a sign on the side of the road: DRIVE SAFELY, DRIVE SLOWLY. Maybe: NEVER THINK ABOUT THE PAST UNLESS IT’S TO CRY OR AT THE VERY LEAST THINK ABOUT CRYING. Monster, I have bathed with the beautiful but my heart is still as ugly as ever. It folds into an origami toilet seat, flushes whatever I used to feel before you burrowed into me. This won’t make the news: kids eating Pop Rocks tear the sign down commiserating my death. Everyone forgets. Who was after me? I don’t tell my doctor he is silly for believing I leave his office built up. I don’t tell him I’m as stable as whatever comes out of an uncooked oven. She went away and never came back. Music, save me. I dialed her number and said This isn’t a horror movie, that’s not how this shit’s supposed to end. Monster, do people really just leave? Even poor people can watch the sunrise. Even the rich can drink a dollar coffee. I just want to blow up. I wish I could just blow up.
Gregory Sherl is the author of I Have Touched You (Dark Sky Books, 2011), Heavy Petting (YesYes Books, 2011), and The Oregon Trail Is the Oregon Trail (Mud Luscious Press, 2012). He lives in South Florida and blogs at gregorysherl.com.
J. BRADLEY THE MONOGAMIST FLUNKS BOTANY While you slept, I emptied the champagne bottle. I sat on the edge of the bed like a crow’s nest, peered at the television for shore. I rehearsed the way I would give you flowers; that’s why you woke up with an empty wine glass near your face, in my fist.
A LETTER FROM A FORMER FLIGHTLESS BIRD Once I was an angry penguin. I carried grudges on my back like rockets. I mainlined the ashes of the Wright Brothers. When I jumped off a chair, I still fell. My shoulders and arms didn’t take to wax, feathers, or sunlight; all I’m capable of piloting is wine. I named your arms ‘labyrinth’. I ate apples caught in mid fall.
J. Bradley is the author of Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), The Serial Rapist Sitting Behind You is a Robot (Safety Third Enterprises, 2010), My Hands Are As Thick As Dreams (Patasola Press, 2011), and the upcoming e-chapbooks A Patchwork of Rooms Furnished By Mistakes (Deckfight Press, 2011) and Our Hearts Are Power Ballads (Artistically Declined Press, 2011). He is the Interviews Editor of PANK Magazine and lives at iheartfailure.net.
ADAM JEFFRIES SCHWARTZ TIME TO GO Your kid brother keeps whining, “It’s not fair. I want to go, you get to do everything.” You continue collecting your gear. From outside the walls you hear gunshots, mortar blasts as festive as a carnival if you didn’t know better. You double-check your backpack. You’re not scared, it’s time for you to go. You tell your Mom, “Don’t cry.” She has a knife in her ruined hands, You know she wants to make you a sandwich—if she could—if it would help. She almost speaks. You say, “It’s OK.” “It’s not.” Then you say, “It will be OK soon.” “You don’t have to go. It’s not too late. Your father didn’t go until he was much older.”
You kiss her on the top of the head as you hike up your backpack. You tell the kid, “You’re the man now. Don’t blow it.” The kid wags his tail and says, “Can I send him off? Can I? Can I?” Your mother looks away, goes to her room and closes the door. You strap yourself in, close your eyes and say a prayer, as your brother cuts the cord. You’re catapulted into the air: over your house, over the wall. You didn’t expect the beauty. You think, this is the last thing your dad saw. You pull the detonator and make a sound like fireworks—like the fourth of July as you fall towards them. You hope it helps.
INTO ORBIT My brother looks like an alien. His hair is gone, eyebrows also. Morphine and other poisons have made his eyes transparent; it’s painful to look at him. Dad stays with him during the day, because he doesn’t work. I stay with him at night because I don’t sleep and mom doesn’t come at all because she pays the bills. Narcissistic families look fine from the outside, better than fine—fabulous, superior, gifted. The only problem is we don’t exist—not really. We have no center, no values, no love, no hate either. We just have poses and indignation and touchiness. It’s like being stuck in Paris. We all live in our own private orbits, circling but never making contact. That’s probably just as well. Dad is in a new cult, the Ministry of Love or something like that. Love is OK with me. Lots of people believe in love— the Beatles of course, other people also. It’s the chanting that gets on my nerves This cult involves chanting, I can hear him all the way down the hall. “You are not you. You are not this. You are you. You are love. Love, Love Love. You are the spark of life, which is Love. You are not you…”
The kid’s asleep. Dad’s head is drooping, he’s put himself to sleep. It takes a special talent to bore yourself, but dad is gifted that way. He sees me in the doorway, “Are you color blind?” He means my shorts. I’m wearing plaid golf shorts. He’s wearing a sea foam green Armani suit of armor, a tie so subtle it has its own column in The Republic and a watch that costs more than I earn in a year, (much more). He takes my thrift store old man clothes as a personal insult, which they are. “What about Love, you are love. Love, Love, Love?” “Not in those shorts.” He huffs and he puffs and he’s gone. The kid opens his eyes, “Is he gone?” “Yeah.” “I thought I’d die. I mean even sooner. You see the kid from Jersey?” “No.” I say, I hadn’t “And you’re not gonna see him. He’s history.” The kid seems pleased by this. “And this is good?” The kid looks ancient, “We’re all goners. I know *you* are.” He cackles and holds out for candy.
THE STURDY BOY 7 March 2007 Sucre, Bolivia A boy sits next to me on the bus. His extended family is standing outside. His father is waving, his mother is banging on the window. There are other people: brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, who knows who else, all smiling and waving. It’s almost too much to take in; I try to remember the last time someone sent me off. The bus doesn’t break down as much as make regular pitstops. Every couple hours we stop to change tires. When, finally, we run out of spare tires, another bus stops and donates one of theirs. I ask the sturdy boy, You know when we arrive? He offers me a potato. I put on my sweater, it’s surplus German army. He asks, You army? He seems so excited. I don’t want to disappoint, but how to explain it’s just a sweater. This is my cultural contribution, I purchase things. Thankfully he speaks first, pointing at his chest. He says, Me, Army.
Then we go back on the bus and he immediately falls asleep with his head on my shoulder. Just one word about machismo, it’s homosexual panic. This sturdy boy has none of that, he has no doubts about who he is, where he’s going, or why. I envy a teenaged Bolivian Army recruit; in the darkness I wonder about this for a while before I drift off to sleep.
Adam Jeffries Schwartz is a writer & photographer. Children like him, dogs follow him, cats jump in his lap-- it’s just like magic.
DAN SKLAR A TIME OF HORSES I want to live in a time of horses, a time of horses. The country went to hell when the horses went away. You had to ride a horse to get to Appomattox when horses were still the principal means of transportation. I mean, what is more dramatic than Robert E. Lee riding his horse, Traveler, to surrender the southern troops to Ulysses S. Grant and the northern troops? You cannot tell me that Lee did not know this day was coming. Walt Whitman had a horse named Nina when he started The Long Islander before he wrote poetry.
He said the first time he knew he wanted to be a writer was when he saw a sailboat on the water and wanted to describe it. I imagine he had a horse named Prospero when he wrote Leaves of Grass. I think it is important that people ride horses to get to the places they need to go. Instead of a horse, I ride a bicycle. There is no hurry on a horse, unless it is the Pony Express or you are Butch Cassidy or someone like that, and there is no hurry on a bicycle. The only hurry is when you are going to see the ones you love.
Dan Sklar teaches writing at Endicott College. He is the author of two books of poetry, Hack Writer and Bicycles, Canoes, Drums. Recent publications include the Harvard Review, New York Quarterly, Ibbetson Street Press, and The Art of the One-Act.
ERNESTINE LAHEY NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT HERE Elbow in his ribs. Awake. Scuffing in front pews. Organ-wail. Brilloshine shoes pad along after coffin. Cortege – ribbon of automobiles, loosening. Pricked grass. Pull a hangnail. Elbow. Fungal earth, exhaling. Sob-stopped larynges. Spiky pump-heels slicing fresh sod. Zippers fussed. Kleenex handipacks. Snot-scalded upper lips. Scads of clean dirt. Open lilies, stamens erect. Amen. Worms feasting in eyesockets. KFC. Chicken and fries in little white boxes. Florence. Fingers rubbed into good skirt. Hem streaks of skin-fat. “I hope no one saw you,” she says. “I was resting my eyes.” Class. Arms raised. Fingers pointing to God. Fingers rolling in burnished hair. Twisting tight strands. Young breasts in t-shirts. “Yes, Marjorie?”
“I don’t get that thing about ‘here’ being there if you say it but here if I say it.” Laughter. Okay. From the top. Indexicality. Symbolicality. Words. Symbols agreed by convention. Arbitrariness. Words. Containers. Bodies. Minds. Projectors. Reality. Here is empty. Driving. Grey saltwater road. Fog climbing up from coastlines. Radio. Can’t stop this thing we started. Headline: Questions raised following third student suicide. Arms raised. Questions raised. Literality. Metaphoricality. Questions raised. “You seem to take it so lightly.” “It happens.” This his fifth campus. It happens. Nothing special about here. Denise Fraser, Carly MacLeod, Fiona Drinkwater. 1 – 2 – 3. Symbols agreed by convention. Florence keeps his good shirt ironed.
Ernestine Lahey was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. She currently lives in The Netherlands, where she teaches at a liberal arts and sciences college. Her fiction and poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Montreal Review, Boston Literary Magazine, blue skies poetry, and Red River Review.
PETER LABERGE BLUEBERRIES cut into fragments as though we were speaking words fruitfully in a conversation & bucket drawn to the counter to wash them before we eat them like one eats smiling & we hadnâ€™t saved some for now
THE LITHUANIAN face showered in wrinkles pauses like a period interrupted what he was about to say, but hissing from his afternoon snack of sea salt and lemons is the real culprit every shade of blue ruby devours his cheekbones, which protrude as if a malnourished clichĂŠ of poverty printed itself like counterfeit across his face his lips part as if the red sea came to visit, and the scraggily flecks of ginger choked into his cinnamon beard warn to leave before i hear the story of his death
Though Peter LaBerge was introduced to writing poetry recently, several of his poems are featured or forthcoming both online and in print. He is also the editor/founder of The Adroit Journal (www.adroit.co.nr), a literary publication dedicated to charity. His previous publication credits include Leaf Garden, Burnt Bridge, The Blue Pencil Online, The delinquent, and many others.
M. CLARA WHITE BARREN Her belly pulls down heavy. It plumps Low, earthward like a lowing sound, An urge to plie, encircle the pelvis with wide Arms soft elbows incline the head on one side To somehow support a something, A something not there. A stone? No matter. A something to make One suspicious of intrusions, fibs or bruises Plie, en bas, it slips away inside Inside where it ushers home foreign Gold its spoils: Semen? A stone nesting doll? Girl inside girl inside girl inside girl inside
VITAMIN B COMPLEX There • • • •
are those you should consult about the fit of your Jeans Dutch Cap Workplace Cock (length and girth)
Flaunt: your reproductive choices, your heritage, lineage, home décor, pictures of old dead dogs, the things you’ve made by hand (those should be many in number and unparalleled in quality) Get angry at your man as long as he thinks it’s cute. Take a family photo. Let us be clear: You pose for that. There are foods you should put in your body
There are times you should give away your win
M.Clara White is a graduate of the Bennington Writers Seminar. She lives in Newfane, Vermont. Other poems can be found in RHINO and Zouch magazines.
MATT PETRONZIO TO THE GROOM You would hear the wind even if it didnâ€™t rustle the oak leaves or rattle the eardrums. You would hear her breath as if she still lay on the pillow next to you. You would fill your pockets with stale air and dead flowers and turn your blazer insideout. You would keep your windows dirty so youâ€™d own art on sunny days. You would plant your fingers in the garden and wait for a green thumb to bloom. You would write grocery lists on old swatches of lace. You would sail the kitchen cabinet into the night and anchor the wood to the seafloor. You would drown with the diamond, not float with the ring.
Matt Petronzio is a poet living in New York City. He was the recipient of the 2011 Academy of American Poets Prize at Fordham University, where he is a creative writing student and an editor of multiple publications.
NANCY DEVINE WHEN I WAS 24 She closed her eyes, grabbed at bits of air as though purple and heavy grapes were strung along a rope bridge The boards beneath her feet, soft as wet toast, over a lake full of weeds, loitering fish. That darkness immaterial, trees behaving near the water, stars worth hunting for. I was 24 would never have a flat stomach a brow without winkles believed I could become a virgin again rasping in the heavy fog.
APRIL DARE Sure, Iâ€™m crouched down by a gray pale wall for writing graffiti on knees tight in like a corset nervous, willing air so that you might find me out. Sure, I do like the sun want brown legs, brown stomach flat as a mahogany dinette with a drop leaf. My eyes are shielded by a salute. Salute! Count one, two, fiftyâ€Ś keep on rolling words on your tongue, dough in your hands, the stone in your ears. The buds on the trees are all knotted up, waiting to roar with a tongue.
HIDING An urge to give as strong as the muscles in our legs, a neighbor boy and I crouch inside our pulses behind a cinder block retaining wall, whoever’s it a driveway or so away calling “starlight moonlight.” We are tense as young lovers first touching one another, sweet fish young in the dark “I hope I see a ghost tonight.” This is the very last moment of before, a curve we hold our breath against until we’re caught, something I missed but remember.
Nancy Devine teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she lives. She co-directs the Red River Valley Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project. Her poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in online and print journal.
ANDREW BATTERSHILL BLIMPMALLOW Today a man bumped into me on the street. He was wearing a puffy jacket, the kind that make the people wearing them look like less cool than average blimps. The guy gave me a dirty look after and walked away with his head half turned towards me. He didn’t seem very nice. I mean, sure, I’d been looking straight up at the sky because there was a half-moon in the day time and the clouds were moving around the moon and making it look like it was orbiting, but in real time and not just abstract space time. So it was my fault that we accidentally bumped shoulders and chests, but the look he gave me was still not called for. I forgave him instantly though, because he smelled like twenty sweet marshmallows all melted together. Even his mean-spirited goatee must have smelled like it, so I walked away smiling. Earlier I implied that blimps look cooler than people, which is true, but to further clarify my position I’ll say that even the world’s coolest, sexiest blimp will never smell so sweet. And sometimes even angry looking people in the street, somehow, do smell like the twenty sweetest marshmallows ever all melted together.
Andrew Battershill is the co-editor of Dragnet Magazine. He was the 2010 winner of the Irving Layton Award for Fiction. His stories have appeared in Untoward Magazine, Burner Magazine, Soliloquies Anthology, Glossolalia, Headlight Anthology, and The Moose and Pussy.
KIM FARLEIGH CHOREOGRAPHY OF CONTROL The bull’s broken-rope tail brushed the sand, like a pendulum marking time. The bull’s was soon going to be over. It was a good bull that ran in straight lines, its steady horns heightening its master’s elegance, the bullfighter’s blue suit flickering like a diamond sea in the ring’s yellow lights. The bull’s squeezing sides lifted its stomach, fiddlestick banderillas shaking upon its sides, the bullfighter shuffling with little steps, keeping the cape behind his back, the bull’s head moving with the cape, the cape moving out from behind the bullfighter’s legs, a cape like an independent entity, the bullfighter’s right leg going out as he yelled: “Vamos toro,” the bull charging, its lowered head pursuing the cape, the bullfighter, hand on hip, turning, two quick steps back, the bull charging, lowering its head to pursue the cape, the bullfighter’s back upright, a flickering diamond-sea suit turning in half-circles, the bull defining half-circles, the bullfighter, two quick steps back, turning in half-circles, bull and man describing half circles. The turning cape, showering elegance upon man and beast, was a physical ramification of a harmonious force, the bull oblivious of its role in this choreography of control.
The bull’s flank’s squeezed in and expanded out, its tail brushing the sand, a toiling bull unconsciously enhancing his master’s status. The bullfighter faced the bull that rushed and turned, turning and leaping, the cape flowing, like a spirit, over horns, the bullfighter’s suit flickering as its owner turned. The bull’s ignorance had kept this dance alive, the bullfighter standing side on, legs together, turning face on, the sword, going up, then coming down beside the matador’s eyes, the matador lining up his target, a man, holding a steel blade, like a humanoid insect ready to strike, that man rising onto his toes, then going down on the soles of his shoes, then rising again and stepping forwards, the bull rushing forward, its head going down with the cape, the bullfighter slotting the sword into the bull’s back between the shoulders, stabbed right in the back, the bull turning to face the matador, turning confused, legs wobbling folding collapsing, the tail finishing coiled on the ground, swaying days ended unexpectedly, a bull that had been so good, having done what it was supposed to do, but now dead meat that had once been so good, its killer circling the ring, flowers, clothes and hats landing at the killer’s feet, the crowd’s waving white handkerchiefs signaling blizzard appreciation, the bull hung up in the ring’s abattoir, its head cut off and tossed into a corner, the butcher chopping through its spine, splitting it in half – dead meat that had once been so good. The killer was carried out of the ring on his admirers’ shoulders, like a Roman general, his liberation complete. A man said: “Bullfighting is now different for me.” The bullfighter, who had been carried out through the ring’s main doors, was now being carried back in by distant, indistinguishable people.
“Because you lost your job?” “Yes.” They entered a bar. Bullfighting photographs adorned the walls. A mounted bull’s head sat beside a photograph of a bullfighter who was holding up a bull’s ears and a tail to an appreciative crowd. The presidents of bullfights award ears for excellent performances. Two ears and a tail is miraculous. The ears’ first owner had also charged with courageous ignorance in straight lines. “Most people,” the man said, “are just bulls being played with. Premature death can come to them at any time.”
Having a taste for the exotic, Kim has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. His stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Whiskey Island, Southerly, Island, Haggard & Halloo, Sleet, Descant, The Red Fez, Red Ochre Lit, Write From Wrong, Full of Crow, The Houston Literary Review, Unlikely Stories, This Literary Magazine and others.
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS CAN’T TELL YOU ANYTHING Sera calls up Drew to tell him about this girl she has just met and is really into and how she doesn’t want to rush into things, and Drew tells her to go for it, to not waste time, that she or the girl in question could die tomorrow, that “life can be taken faster than the flick of a switch,” and Sera gets upset and tells Drew to quit the “death talk,” and Drew says, “After seeing friends of mine in boxes, as motionless as caged flesh in a meat cooler, I just can’t do that,” and Sera says “God, I can’t tell you anything, can I?” before hanging up, and Drew, ignoring this sudden silence, starts thinking about the clay morticians use to mask the truth about dead things.
Brian Alan Ellis lives in Gainesville, Florida. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Skive, Zygote in my Coffee, Monkey Bicycle, Persepolis, Fast Forward, Thieves Jargon (as Brian Rentchek), Corduroy Mtn., The Big Stupid Review, Dogzplot, The Splinter Generation, Flashquake, Underground Voices, Midnight in Hell (as Alan Shivers), Glossolalia, Conte, Fiction Fix, and G Twenty Two. He wishes you a fine day.
LAURA LEHEW TRIBULATION rising melt water lapping at my kneecaps between corpulent and bony the siren song of a lush grilled cheese sandwich
Laura LeHew is an award winning poet with ~300 poems appearing over 100 national and international journals and anthologies She edits Uttered Chaos www.utteredchaos. org and was guest editor for The Medulla Review. Laura has one husband, seven cats Tessa, Mr. Socks, Baby, Dorian (yes he is grey), and the Army of Darkness (Raven, Shadow and Smoke)] and never sleeps.
KENNETH POBO GHOST MAN I’m the kind of guy who is a kind of guy. I have few opinions. Ask me about politics and I’ll say “whatever.” Ask me about religion and I’ll say “I believe in Jesus but it doesn’t affect me much.” Ask me about movies and I’ll say “I quit going when it took more than seven bucks to get in one and I just don’t do DVDs.” Records are the exception. I am nutso, passionate, coocoo for records. Put me in a used record store and I’ll spend the better part of a day getting my fingers dusty from riffling through old singles and albums. I never buy CDs and I don’t understand mp3 files. I love Angie almost as much as I love records. That sounds bad, I know. We met when we were in college. We married and have two sons who love sports. They want me to come to their games, which I rarely do. I’m not a bad dad, but it’s kind of boring to watch kids play. I’d so rather be home checking out “Ghost Man,” a 45 on the Laurie label I picked up in a bin for three bucks. I bought it because it was on Laurie, the same label that had both Dion and The Royal Guardsmen, by a group called Endless Pulse--I liked their name. It’s interesting, like another Laurie group, The Balloon Farm.
I wouldn’t mind living on a balloon farm. Instead we live in a turquoise-shuttered suburban house on 721 South Applewood. It’s fine. I mean, it’s not a lot of bother and the boys keep it shoveled and mowed. My wife isn’t like me at all. She’s passionate about everything. She never says she “likes” something—if she does, she “adores” it. If she dislikes something, she “loathes” it. Sometimes she says she adores me. Other times, she loathes me. I maybe adored her at the start. I’ve never loathed her, I don’t think. That’s why I was kind of shocked when I came home from work (I’m a pharmacist, it’s OK) and I noticed the boys didn’t greet me when I walked in. “Where are Brian and Steve?” “I sent them to Aunt Mary’s for a while.” “What did they do?” “It’s not about them. It’s us. It’s time we talked.” I knew what was coming. She’d been giving me hints and I found her reading a library book called Once You Divorce. She wanted a divorce, not a separation, a “clean” break. She didn’t raise her voice or cry, kept very controlled, which was spooky. A little sexy. I felt like I should have felt much sadder than I did. “You’re not here, Bill. You’re a ghost. Living with you is like living with a disembodied spirit.” I remembered how I liked watching Caspar as a kid. Sliding through walls—what a neat trick. If he was dead, he didn’t seem concerned. Angie set our split up and I eased out into a world of signatures and departures. We decided we would be “friends.”
The boys said little about it, though Steve’s grades fell. I went to a few more games. I am fast becoming a ghost to them too, the drop-in guy who takes them out for dinner or maybe to crash around in bumper cars or to do some miniature golf. Brian loves bumper cars. He looks like a rabid wolf as he bumps Steve and me. I don’t take it seriously. Steve likes it at first, but he withdraws. They need records. They need to find salvation in music, the way I have. I’d sneak them money for songs, but they just think I’m weird for my “hobby.” They know the ipod I got for Christmas three years ago is still in the plastic container. Brian “likes” music as does Steve. How can you “like” music? It’s the one thing you can’t be ho-hum about. It’s kind of like God. But what do I know? I’m a ghost and I reside between the grooves of old vinyl. I’m a friendly ghost—not overly friendly, but I don’t get cranky. I hear the Angie’s got a new boyfriend. Steve likes him. Brian says “He’s OK.” I might get married again, but so far I don’t think it’s legal for ghosts to marry the living. The best we can hope for is to be friends. It’s something. I’m kind of down with that.
A DOPEY WISCONSIN TOWN If Bette Davis isn’t in the film, or maybe Barbara Stanwyck, why bother? Give me life in black and white. Color calls up a headache. I went to a Harry flying about and Hudson feed her much interested.
Potter film, I forget which one, there was magic, and not one time did Baby Jane crippled sister a dead rat. So, I wasn’t I went with Phil, our first date.
Dear, wonderful Phil, boring, sedate as a wind chime on a still day. “D’ya wanna see a film. Harry Potter’s playin’.” I lied yes. Afterwards we went back to my place and I told him in no uncertain terms that there would be no fooling around, that we must not move too quickly. Clothes came off like dresses from paper dolls. Ten weeks later we were done. In. I admit that Phil was approaching stunning naked. But clothed, I found it hard to “engage” him in any conversation that went beyond the weather, TV, or sports. “Phil, are you happy?” “New York Yankees.” “Phil, are we good together?” “American Idol.” “Phil, were you wounded as a child?” “75 degrees, partly sunny.”
I’m 36 now. At 20, that seemed old. Even 25 seemed old. I look ahead to 40 and think “That’s not old. It’s mature.” I remember I’m not mature, never have been, never will be. Some part of me aches for color. Phil didn’t need color—but he didn’t care about black and white either. He was water, bloop-blooping like a creek heading for a river. I’ve become a serial monogamist. Phil was several boyfriends ago. After a while, they become hard to remember, like faces of grade-school classmates. I heard from my friend Wanda, who I call Wandawoohoo, I don’t know why, that Phil ended up married, literally, to some Vermont guy. An actual native of St. Albans. Wandawoohoo says they met at a ski resort, became chummy, and the rest is anniversary cruises and shared underwear. I want Phil to end up divorced and buying milk that he forgets to put in the refrigerator so it goes bad and he says “Shit, not again!” Wandawoohoo says I should become a Christian. That way Jesus would remove those jealous feelings, which, she says, must be a burden. She herself is an atheist. Burdens. I line mine up on the shelf and toss cat toys at them. They never break. I put an old film in the DVD player, Beyond The Forest. Bette, as Rosa Moline, wants to get to Chicago from some dopey Wisconsin town no matter what. She dies of peritonitis (wink, wink, a botched self-imposed abortion) trying to make her getaway. Her perfect husband, reason enough to want to leave him. I don’t think I’m Rosa. Certainly not the perfect hubby. I’m the dopey Wisconsin town people try to escape from. Every now and then someone new moves in, but they rarely stay.
Or if they stay, they disappear into houses and wait for tornados to shake things up. I hear swirling wind. It may get too close, might destroy me. What can I do? Give in. Hope that enough people will care enough to rebuild.
Kenneth Pobo has a new poetry chapbook out from Thunderclap Press called Closer Walks. His fiction can be read online at Word Riot, Glossolalia, Flash Fiction Offensive, Bananafish, Blue Lake Review, and elsewhere.
PARKER TETTLETON AROUND I hate this place or what I’ve done in it. I can’t make English after backing into things. Every distance is a home, a girl & another. Unless you’re you. Me.
COPPERHEAD There are three elevens above this. The ten is yours, asleep. Liquid-filled glasses in Arizona bead less. Do empties sweat? Put yourself out there.
SEAFOOD I listen to a thump & shave my heart. There isn’t much to miss -- it’s baby-faced like I am. Or maybe my face is babyhearted. If you flaunt like David Bowie on coke keep it up. There’s a restaurant on a lake & I don’t mean danger, I mean us.
POP I donâ€™t want a cell phone or a weakness. A trash can full of pink post-its. Itâ€™s warmer when I forget to turn things on. I lick my lips & forget your genealogy. I lick again & remember mine.
Parker Tettleton writes more than he remembers. His work is featured in or forthcoming from Mud Luscious, elimae, > kill author, & decomP, among others. He is the blog editor at YesYes Books. http://parker-augustlight.blogspot.com
JEFFERY BERG DISCO DEMOLITION Spectacles live forever. Leisure suit commentators explaining the freeze frame of bodies on the field, vinyl aflame. For the punks breaking records with their boots, pumping their fists shirtless, there was no mooting differences between “Shame Shame Shame,” cutting rugs, Chic, or the Sugarhill Gang— whatever had funk, a solo for flutes a monotonous beat was doomed. One drunk broke away, climbed the stadium steps watched the crowd scatter below. He had some dope and sat alone, out-of-step, in a funk. He sensed this mess would soon be swept— like a rollerskate craze vanishing in smoke.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY Tonight, Voyage to Space on the screen, I’d like to think that we are no longer lonesome in this soon-to-be-demolished theatre where you go down on me while I cover it up with your black cowboy hat. Some cum gets on jacket fringe and then it dries once I fall asleep in your lap— a print on my cheek from your belt buckle. Before I slip you some folded bills, before you go on out into the streets with your blond sideburns, with your soon-to-be-pawned transistor radio, a cop will slap my seat with his stick and I’ll jolt, stiff, upright, eyes on the widescreen where a spaceman falls into the stars.
THE PASTOR comes in the bookstore on Fridays when the magazines come in. For him, I ring up 2, Honcho, Latin Inches, Freshmen, and Blue. He wears a shirt and tie, a wedding ring. He asks me to ring the magazines up under the counter. On Sundays, some locals tune to ABC to see his sermons at First Baptist Church. This Sunday, I wake and look at my sleeping boyfriend. I tune to ABC, watching the pastor read from The Bible. Last Friday, he was just an eye staring at meâ€” a sliver of a face behind a bookcase.
Jeffery Berg received an MFA from New York University. His work has recently appeared in Harpur Palate, MiPOesias, Ozone Park Journal, Burner Magazine, Gay & Lesbian Review, The Comstock Review, Inertia Magazine, and Softblow. He lives in New York and edits poetry for Mary â€“ A Literary Quarterly and the online journal Clementine.
JESSI MACEACHERN IMAGE OF THE BREAST
after George Oppen
Nipple spitting nylon sutures when the light catches and is caught in the missing steel blade against faceless flesh, catching, finally caught, light pouring from the idle eyes, she will feel his fingers lose their compression. No excellence of compression could grasp the inclusive force, narrow and vast, with all its adequate notions of resection and tissueâ€” If there is someone beneath this skin, red and so vulnerableâ€” Perfect container, incised skin lifted.
On that flesh the woman ventures her fingers and squeezes. Let me ask something important. How do you feel about fake tits? Thus far Iâ€™m undecided on fake tits. He gazes upon her empty dress, or holds dear the incision in the breast.
ABSTRACT MATTER AT HAND The day suggests an ending: an ending already where a beginning should be. The girl nods back into sleep. She dreams of flesh eating insects where her palms should be. She wakes screaming at the ending of day. She puts her eye to the glass of window. She cannot see the street below for the smoke issuing from her mouth & clouding the room. The cigarette drops rolls, lit against wooden floor. In a moment, the embers go out. She is sure she has not been made to last. She takes pleasure in this. With this thought, she smiles. She dreams again. She dreams of him, and of another, and of her self. It would be better if she did not dream at all.
THE CANADIANS She stands in front of the black and white print after everyone has gone. She reads the white print in the bottom left corner: Amsterdam. The revelation is finally made simple after the embarrassment of an acquaintance saying ‘Don’t you recognize the canal?’ To the question ‘What city is in that photograph?’ she had only shook her head, closed her lips, grabbed the wrist o -f her right hand, balanced on her tiptoes, widened her eyes, looked politely confused, & said nothing at all.
‘Don’t you recognize the canal?’
But of course she did not and now she thinks the proper retort might have been ‘Oh all the canals in Europe look the same.’ She thinks the retort would have been crass, but it is what she thinks. Every fellow tourist thought this too. All the canals in Europe look the same. Anyway, the black and white print is of Amsterdam. She thinks the bicycles were meant to be a clue. Anyway, the solution to avoiding embarrassment would have been to rea -d the white print. Anyway, she is happy to have a little piece of Europe on her otherwise plain white wall.
Jessi MacEachern writes poetry in Montreal, QC, where she is currently completing her MA in English (Creative Writing) at Concordia University.
ISAIAH SWANSON TUMBLEWEED Tumbleweed Pinned Him to Wall—novelty epitaph. Bled Him Out. Newspapers change tense and one word: “Tumbleweed Pins Man to Wall.” Omit blood in an obit. Easier to read. Thirty-two, too young to die! And still a virgin! Of Tumbleweed: an object > I; Scientists will declare: “Dimensions: five feet seven in height, eleven feet diameter.” Of me: Last year, Doctor announced, “Dimensions: five-foot nine, three hundred and seventy-four pounds.” Light bundle of brush, but tumbleweed crushes heavily, forced by wind. Sticks to; stops at; squeezes in—pins. One collected branch punctures somewhere down there. Wound bubbles up. Things don’t drip. They percolate! Broken ribs make space. And how:
well, do broken bones collect at the bottom of my stomach like ballast? Does done blood drop down like bilge water? Quite a vessel, tumbleweed! Sand surf on that thing, takes you all the way across desert; with proper locomotion, sea! Tumbleweed: wild, eternal, a growth, a misstep. Epitaph continues, spouts out falsities! Hard work, bootstraps boy, loved life, much loved, missed much. It’s not an epitaph… It’s a book of lies! Printed for publication! MAN, 32, DIES OF TUMBLEWEED (exposure to, inherent character trait?). Double-yew, tee, eff, he could hear hipster Sister exhaling from a sofa, tossing newspaper to bi-annual/ sexual Boy Toy. Boy Toy wipes his nose with it and passes out. TUMBLEWEED TAKES FIRST VICTIM!!! I bet Sheriff, inattentive, runs me over driving to this spot. Tabloids are closer to truth, but also lies. “BEST SCIENTIFIC TEAM ON CABLE NEWS” Gets it wrong; story becomes team’s forty-ninth victim this year. Freak accident, says them. Never seen anything like it, says them…EVER! What? Giant tumbleweed? Fat man dying? Foreground: tumbleweed; upstage: big brick wall crumbling. A desert is just that. No person in periphery (five hours since), but company nonetheless. Snake, sand. Lizard, rock. Eagle, dry sky—pity
city boy without these views…
…desert boy sans delivery service.
Pity desert no has water, rasping, no has sippy cup. Snake doesn’t slither—it struggles, pushing. Tongue flicks, licks poking-out-of-shoe toe. Eagles soar, but this eagle merely tilts. Lizard basks atop flat rock, limbs positively akimbo. Fabulous! Squints at scorpions, passerby; it could almost talk and say, scowling, “Beat it, heathen, and wall and weed with you.” Mother’s headache will compound (italics hers). Pills her takes when her forgets other pills. Must have warming pills. Must pop pretty pills that make blood warm. Blood is coldest thing in desert. What if, in death, and because of that undigested something, I performed “number two”? Would it resonate in desert? Would plop? Would there be some kind of an echo or lie there limp like an unused penis? Lagging? Must resist interrabang! (“Must resist interrabang!”) Panicky. Settled in, lagging. One year short of holy. Some argue I’ve kept holy, but this is that system’s natural opposite. I’m short. There’s a black bird in the distance. Call to it hello? Bah-ha, cawed the crow. No one is dead, but everyone is wounded.
Isaiah Swanson is from South Carolina and spends most of his time writing and living in Memphis, Tennessee.
HEATHER PALMER FIONN’S POLITICS Fionn stares at his dog jealous in love. Fionn talks about Ireland like a character that’s a story. He’s large, bearded, fundamental, bulking sidewalks, long arms entangling the space around him. My taste is for bright woman with large eyes. You have to see if they’re looking up or down, and how they treat their nails. A woman’s nails prove emotional growth relates to physicality. See the cohesion? Fionn pulls his pocketknife, blade swipes air, Pat’s leash frees from Fionn’s hand and the dog’s in the street again, peeing. Tomorrow I will find women in Ireland! We salute the women. Come Pat. Pat! See, dogs don’t know the difference. Fionn leans on a bench at the stoplight, combs his hair and a woman passes, looks, moves on. His teeth grit, smoker’s teeth, ex smoker, he sits up, crosses a leg, uncrosses. Pat— he calls out, the dog listens, comes. Pat rushes by. Fionn takes the tail and pulls it through his fingers, feels soft, he says aloud.
A streetlight turns green but he waits till it cautions stop to walk. Fionn’s heavy steps crowd walkways, ox-sure and unobservant, a stride like music runs his mind, whistling mind. To Fionn the world is a marble and he is a swirling blue stripe. He walks as the sun of his world because his body’s born for nudity. His body goliath-heavy, mind moving, always moving, yet still in its rapidity. He’s human and he’s god, and he’s going to be both, he is. He is god, he yells, and so is everyone else. He sheds his cloths at the town fountain, Pat already soaked and splashing, and wades through kneedeep blue. Children hoot and laugh and he laughs, a child. You’re a child, a woman shouts, shrieks for authorities, but Fionn answers Don’t’ you think it’s time to take off those old cloths? Fionn, nude in the center of a sunbeam, sun striking him blind to onlookers, a lady removes her hat, waves it in front of her face to shade her eyes. He cannot speak in anything but monologues. His language with other people consists of long-winded stories about himself. He is the worst type of egoist, but his ego forgets itself after every word. Is Fionn relatable? He is you. Yes, and you know, the weather in Ireland is exactly like the weather here except it is completely different. Someone told me once it’s all the same, the weather, because it changes all the time and that’s all you need to know about it. And I completely agree. It all changes all the time so that when I get to Ireland it won’t be the weather anymore, just the way it is. I used to think a man should shut himself from others in
order to hear himself answer. But I’ve since learned silence in crowds and silence in others and silence in noisiness is exactly the same as silence in silence, and the only difference is a person’s hearing abilities. That’s right—hearing abilities. Because if a person can hear he can hear all the time and if he cannot he simply cannot. Just today I was looking out a window watching children play and I couldn’t even hear through the window but still somehow I heard them. Isn’t that strange how you can hear something even when you can’t? That’s what I’m talking about. As far as Fionn is concerned there is only one story in the whole world and that story is the only one he tells. He thunders in. God, he calls allowed! I can’t believe in this much brightness. But that’s all life is….a blinding sort of painful in all that it opens to a person. Fionn walks out of a shadow trying to escape. He believes seeing is lightness and all light is irrelevant without eyes. He lies on his back uninspired, a dried worm after rain, body growing up from the ground. If ever there had been a girlfriend he was unable to remember. His identity rests in his ability to lose himself, loss so utterly forgetful that even his nails flake off. Marriage is his relationships with words. Ireland is another name for himself. Fionn has been going there for so long he has lost his ability to move. Worship, he hollers, is man’s ability to admit godlessness. If a man can find something to worship he is closer to becoming God, because godlessness and godliness live on a spectrum of polarities that circle back around. A man admits through his worship the desire for something larger, better, bigger,
purer. This admission is holy. Why is confession so important to Catholics? Not for the forgiveness at the end, but for the knowing. Known by oneself. The truth shall set you free indeed. A man who slithers on the sidewalk has been defeated into godliness. You might as well kneel before that slithering man. Offer him your entire being. Or how my dog lies in constant worship of the sun. He is closer to god than I shall ever be, his body a vat. I mimic his moves not because I want to be a dog, but because I can never become one. I am a man. Curse it! Everything I know about myself I must admit.
Heather Palmerâ€™s book works include the novella Complements: of Us (Spork Press), the echapbook Mere Tragedies (dispatch litareview), and the online novella Charlieâ€™s Train (the2ndhand). She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Find her at http://girlswithinsurance.com/heather/.
ERIC CIPRIANI CAN’T THIS WAIT TILL I’M OLD Remember the bats in the trees by the pool house where we had our first beer, how dark it was because the lights brought bugs and those Tiki torches never stayed lit, how the gin tasted the same way air fresheners smell and the water was so cold. Veteran’s Day, no Labor Day, whichever one’s at the end of summer when it’s sticky, that old Greek guy was there, sweating and drinking and smoking cigars. What was it he said? Life is just a bunch of jumbled events. That’s a fact you can take with you. Then he laughed or choked, or maybe both; it’s hard to say. Remember those smoky rides on the back roads behind the high school before basketball games, taking your Jeep down dirt bike trails just to see if we could, how it all seemed worth it, how it all felt real.
People like to tell stories about Richie Bailey’s homecoming party but I’m not sure I was there. I remember a bonfire and a garage and throwing an empty bottle into someone’s driveway, but that could’ve been anywhere. Please don’t forget the things we used to say and the way we used to say them. Don’t forget the bats in the trees.
Eric Cipriani resides in Morgantown, WV where he studies at West Virginia University and frequently trips over cracks in the sidewalk. His nonfiction has previously appeared in Xenith and Calliope.
ADAM GRAUPE MEAN Jack and a few other guys pointed and made fun of a deaf coworker, Larry, behind his back. I always thought it showed great courage to make fun of someone behind his back. Act kind to his face but the minute he’s out of earshot make fun, spread gossip and lies. With Larry being deaf, they didn’t even have to wait until his back was turned or out of earshot. I knew I shouldn’t have said it, but after Jack finished making fun I said: “you’re mean.” Jack’s right eye twitched. He gave me a blank stare then shouted, “I’M NOT MEAN!” I didn’t say anything. I was kidding and yet I wasn’t kidding. Not at all. What’s wrong with me? “FUCK YOU!” He shouted. “FUCK YOU! I’M NOT MEAN!” I just stood there. “I’M NOT MEAN! AND YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE!”
Jack turned and said goodbye to Mitch; it was Mitch’s last day with the company. They hugged. I stood there like the idiot I am. Jack wiped away a tear, turned, and said to me, “HEY, HEY ALAN?” I looked up. He frowned and shouted, “FUCK YOU.” He turned his back and walked away. My life has gone on this way.
GERM-X I saw two prostitutes standing on a corner and they held bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer I chuckled but thought, oh, they are human too Ran into a friend from long ago and we shook hands and then he pulled out a bottle of Germ-X and rubbed plenty on his hand that had shook mine Clerk at Target dumped my change on the counter but I accidently brushed her hand. She glared at me and then furiously pumped her Germ-X bottle I sneezed at the DMV. A woman screamed “germs!” the way women used to scream “rape!” Her kid was protected by a plastic cover about an inch thick. Two policeman burst in and she pointed at me and They cuffed and sped me to a hospital A doctor with a gas mask asked what my symptoms were. I told him I had sneezed and felt a slight tickle in the back of my throat. He gasped and transferred me to a sanitation ward I can’t blame those people for not wanting to get sick but then, who does?
If you would like to have Adam Graupe come read his unpopular book, Neglected Neurons, to you in person as an audio version, please contact the editor. Please, we beg you, anything to get Adam away from visiting our editorial offices.
HOWIE GOOD SONG IN CASE OF FIRE I Google myself and sing myself. Sniffer dogs find our abandoned idols in year-old rubble. The triumph of iron is temporary but perilous. Planes intended for India fall on office girls out buying lunch. When the sea is rough, there are no newspapers. To name an object is to suppress threequarters of it. Or so the doctor glumly says. The dancers have sewn it into a pink satin bag, faded pink satin, like their ballet shoes.
REGRETS ONLY Cops stand over a humped sheet tangles of shadows breaking apart and no sound but the birds in the trees and a faraway dog
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the full-length poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), and Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011), as well as numerous chapbooks.
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