8 Iss. 6 Jun 2017 Vol.
Cover: “Mighty Xeno-Morphin’!” by Chad Fisher. Mike Andrelczyk Michael Bates Heath Brougher Gordan Ćosić JD DeHart Gary Duehr Chad Fisher Anne Garwig Shirley Jones-Luke Sam Landry DS Maolalai Susan Monaghan Gabriel Patterson Olivier Schopfer Rebecka Skogg Steve Slavin David Thompson Dr. Mel Waldman Ken Williams
20 26 16 13 21 3 cover 4-5 15 28 19 6-8 18 9, 27 17, 30 10-12 14 22-23 24-25
Gary Duehr | Final Tally | Poetry All that is solid melts into air, Says Marx, Karl not Groucho. Everywhere A brand of fear Stamps itself on faces: on the bus, in a rear-view mirror, Poring over a café menu Or into the ice cubes of a vodka tonic. When you Consider all that’s happened since, Anxiousness makes sense. Time to wince As billionaires punch the Up button That takes them to the Tower’s top floor. What’s been done Can be undone, the arc of history Can be bent backwards until it hurts, until this story Ends unhappily: no hugs, no lessons. Only open lesions As the country tears itself apart. The final tally’s done. All those in favor of an open heart Say Nay; the Ayes Have it. Say yes to a world where big lies Become our daily bread. Say yes to letting the living dead Rise again to walk among us; we’re their feast. We’re their host, their yeast. A toast to the old guy, raise a glass. For whosoever’s first among us, it’s a gas gas gas.
Anne Garwig | Triptych from West to East | Poetry I
To be prepared in the eventuality of forever we need 90 years of activities I will delay this poem another 70 for fear of running out of occupancy for the time for getting old isn’t scary but it’s best to pack some food and maybe some Sudoku not scary but boring not knowing how long we will have to wait to reach with any certainty another coast manifest west by way of manifold rest stops
We crossed the street near Humboldt Park and you told me a nickname for Chicago as two men passed us in the crosswalk I did not hear clearly if one sai “Beatles” or “Foals” “rule” your shirt said Beatles mine Foals but you claimed it half selfishly half selfishly to protect you to protect me and the words on our chests and the breasts behind mine from intruder compliments
Once young enough I was caught in the street in front of a passing car the driver stopped after I chased the ball into the road before them my brother stood in the yard behind me in memory a prime and bright morning ours was four houses from the top of the street to the east the industrial park rose with the sun gleaming atomic-era lines the giant nuclear furnace chasing us from the east
Susan Monaghan | Dielectric Summer | Fiction The temperature of Charlotte’s bedroom averaged in the high 90s on most days. It was an add-on, disconnected from the protective reach of the house’s heater and air conditioner. Giant windows wrapped two of its four walls, giving it a sense of intimacy with the vulnerable desert outside, and the mountains beyond that. Her grandparents had called it the sunroom. A long-defunct hot tub, crowded by house plants of all sizes, filled the window side of the room. The other side was carpeted in vivid turquoise, its purity of color owed to the fact that it hadn’t been thoroughly lived on since it was fitted. Charlotte had five fans running at all times, but the room’s lack of insulation prevented them from doing much more than generate a dull roar. At night, the stars had been unobscured by clouds for a long time, and Charlotte could imagine that she was on top of one of those mountains just beyond her backyard, listening to the roar of freezing high-altitude wind. The bedroom connected directly to the house by way of a sliding-glass door. Before the add-on, it had been the door to the backyard, and therefore did not lock from the inside. Charlotte was at least grateful she had a curtain, but it did little to dissuade anyone from entering at will. “Charlotte, remember to water those plants, they’re sitting right in the sun. Honey how can you stand it in here, I’m already sweating.” “Ok mom.” “Come into the living room, it’s cool in here. Bring Hera.” “She hates it in there. The dogs make her nervous.” Charlotte watched her cat creep across the carpet from her couch, the only mildly cool thing in the room. Hera was a sleek, golden animal, but lately she was looking a little too slim. Charlotte noticed that when she walked, the tips of her hip bones jutted softly against her skin. She rolled off the couch and crawled across the carpet to inspect the cat’s wet food, wondering if the heat had spoiled it. Without her contacts in, Charlotte could not see the problem until she’d picked up the infected dish: the food was swarming with ants. “I’m sorry you didn’t get into Berkeley. But Willow actually isn’t that bad, you know? And now you won’t have to take out any student loans.” Charlotte’s friend Marissa lie on the couch with one foot planted on the carpet. From her vantage point on the ground, Charlotte watched a bead of sweat drop from the back of Marissa’s knee to her ankle. Finally she answered: “It’s fine, I’m pretty much over it.”
Marissa exhaled in response and stretched her legs out further, bending her head back until she could see the hot tub across the room. “Does that work?” “Not really.” “I have a weird thing I’ve been meaning to try. Or at least, I think you should try it. It’s called sensory deprivation.” “Uh huh.” “Do you have a pool thermometer?” “I haven’t seen one.” “Nevermind, I’ll be right back.” Charlotte watched Marissa gut and pour fifteen bags of epsom salt into the lukewarm water in the tub, awkwardly stirring in the clumps with a puny wooden ladle. Charlotte stuck the thermometer in the water to gage its temperature as instructed, and read the numbers aloud: 99 degrees. The sun was halfway set. “That’s close enough I think.” Marissa threw aside the last dripping bag and stirred in wide, fast circles. “Are you nervous at all?” “No, I mean I don’t think I will be. But I don’t think I’ve ever been in that tight of space.” “I’ll keep talking to you until you’re used to it.” “Ok.” Charlotte lowered herself into the tub one leg at a time, sitting upright as Marissa walked around the side to get a hold of the tub cover. Marissa lifted one half over the side Marissa sat adjacent to, bracing the other half to be flipped closed. “When you’re ready, just start floating. Is there enough salt?” Charlotte had to bend her legs at the knees to avoid touching the staggered floor of the tub, but found that her head and back were easily supported.
Susan Monaghan | Dielectric Summer
“I’ll stop when it’s a few inches from closing.” Marissa swung the cover over the rest of the tub, until Charlotte could only see a sliver of Marissa’s face and the orange light of the sunset flooding through the windows. Something about the contrast between the sliver and the surrounding darkness felt Biblical. “Are you ok?” “Yeah.” “Alright.” Marissa dropped the cover. Marissa heard a great splashing sound, followed by a thud on the inside of the cover so forceful it was almost dislodged, and another deep thud from the bottom of the tub. Charlotte’s mother laid her back on her bed and carefully untangled the strands of her hair that were twisted into her emergency room bracelet, drawing a throw blanket over her despite the formidable late night heat. Charlotte was not, as usual, woken by the temperature spike in the late morning, or the unencumbered light of the sunrise streaming directly through the big windows. Over all other stimuli came the tingling in the atmosphere, and the dancing of bizarre lights just beyond her closed eyelids, and the adrenaline-induced anticipation of experiencing something that she had never experienced before. Her eyes opened. Six ovular patches of rainbow, big and small, hovered in the air, shimmering with a texture made of finelywoven crossing lines, and Charlotte was struck with the sick suspicion that no one in the house, nor anyone else that she knew, would be able to see them at all. Charlotte observed with awe the largest of the ghosts, hanging in the air mere feet from her bed. Standing on shaking legs, she took one step towards the finely-textured prism, lifting her arm half the way towards making contact. She could hear someone walking through the living room, no doubt coming towards the sliding-glass door, where the curtain inside had accidentally been left open just enough for Charlotte to be seen with her arm half-bent towards the empty center of the room. In one fluid snap, she extended her arm to its full length, and for the first time Charlotte felt something meaningful.
Olivier Schopfer | Black Hole | photograph
Steve Slavin | the prognosis | Fiction 1
When we’re dying, we can’t pack a suitcase. As they say, “You can’t take it with you.” Let’s consider a somewhat less drastic decision. If you had to give up every person or thing in your life but one, who or what would that be? For me, the answer to that question was a no-brainer.
When we got home from the doctor’s office, Robert needed to lie down for a while. I made some tea, but Robert didn’t want any. I sat at the edge of the bed, and reflexively placed his hand on his forehead. “You know, Craig, you don’t get a fever just from visiting the doctor.” I smiled. “Well, I’m certainly glad to see that you haven’t lost your sense of humor.” “No, not at all! They say you keep it right up to the end.” “Please, Robert. Spare me the melodramatics.” “Fine!” “Can we have a serious conversation?” “So talk!” “You heard what the doctor said. If the lump is malignant, she’ll operate, and then she’ll do more tests. That’s not exactly a death sentence.” “No, but then, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be back in her office, and she’ll tell us a few cells were found in my lymph nodes. And then ….” “Yeah, I know. You’ll need chemo and radiation.” I waited, but Robert didn’t reply. He had a far-off look. Finally, he rolled over to one side to face me more directly. “I don’t think I can go through that again.” “Are you saying that that wasn’t as much fun for you as it was for me?” This got a smile. “I know I’m over-reacting. Maybe they can just cut out the tumor and that will be the end of it. But this time I’m expecting the worst.”
“No, the worst – the absolute worst, was the third time.” “Agreed. But in retrospect, had I known how awful the treatment would be, I think I would have chosen to die instead.” “Maybe. But that was before they prescribed medical marijuana.” That got a chuckle out of him. “Seriously, Robert – and I am being selfish about this …” “Yeah, I know: You never want to lose me.” “Well, I’m glad to hear that even you listen some of the time.” Robert didn’t answer. When I noticed his regular breathing, I got up, tiptoed out of the room, and shut the door.
An hour later, I found myself lying on a couch in the living room, a book on my chest. It had grown dark outside, and I could hear the rush hour traffic. I thought about how Robert and I had met at a ridiculous dinner party in Brooklyn Heights. I could not remember who invited me, but after a few glasses of wine, it felt like we all had become great friends. We decided to drive across the bridge into Manhattan. There was a piano bar on Grove Street in the Village. It was called The Five Oaks. Anyone could go in there and sing his heart out. No matter how good or bad you were, everyone generously applauded. You could walk in alone, with another guy, or maybe with a whole party of friendly people – and you would quickly feel right at home. Robert was with someone else, but he and I had been eying each other all evening. When his date went to the bathroom, he slipped me his phone number. As I took it, I squeezed his hand and he blew me a kiss. That was thirty-seven years ago. Who knows? We might have saved each other lives. We had met just when AIDS was beginning to reach epidemic proportions. We lost dozens of friends, but like other monogamous couples, we were spared.
We had our fights, but who didn’t? Since the early nineties, we’ve been living in Chelsea, where the you-know-who have practically taken over. I guess you know that’s happened when no one notices you strolling around the neighborhood. I wondered if Robert intuited something – something that even the doctor couldn’t know. Maybe this time he would not be able to dodge the bullet. Perhaps he was just tired of trying. I tried to picture life without him. Would I expect him to be there when I got home? Would I imagine crawling into bed with him -- and waking up in the morning expecting to see his face? Just then, I heard the toilet flush, and then Robert’s feet padding down the hall. He looked a lot better. He was even smiling.
A week later his doctor operated. After she finished, and Robert’s chest was stitched up, she asked me to join them in the recovery room. She explained that because he was coming out of sedation, he might not remember everything she said. The entire tumor did not need to be removed – just the malignant part. So, while Robert lay on the operating table, slices of tissue were sent to the hospital’s pathology lab. That’s why the operation took almost four hours. While she was confident that they had gotten everything, the lymph node test would be crucial. If no cancer cells were found, we would be home free.
A few weeks later, it was time for the test. That morning, I had a revelation. Did it really matter how the test came out? Would Robert get a new lease on life, or perhaps a conditional death sentence? Would we be able to go back to how things were, or would we see our life together coming to an end? It was just then that I realized an important truth. You know those “crazy people” holding signs proclaiming, “The end is coming”? Well, they’ve got that right! One day, the end will come. But in the here and now, while we still have each other, we have everything that life could offer.
Gordan Ćosić | Kolevka | Photograph
David Thompson | Government Cheese | Poetry I work off my community service hours playing ping pong with delinquent boys all afternoon down at the group home. Sometimes I stay for dinner. Meat loaf. White bread. Wax beans. Government cheese. Irregular Oreos for dessert. It can be a very long day.
Shirley Jones-Luke | Even when we didn’t have anything, we had something | Poetry Hardwood floor, stained, edges charred black years of praying, of playing, of crying Cobwebs in the windows, roaches on the walls, mice commuting between rooms, remnants of their travels cover our feet Wild cats commune in the backyard, meowing at the moon, stray dogs lurk nearby, growling, hungry for dinner The kitchen is quiet except for the steady hum of the refrigerator, loaded with government cheese, hard as a brick, giving us belly aches as we stand in the bathroom, staring at the cracked plaster, dirty tub and dingy toilet, mom was too tired to clean today, or any day A spider captures a fly in its web home, an old lamp shade, the fly’s struggles are futile, but it still struggles, so do we My lap is a desk as I write a story, a narrative of poverty my young mind seeking meaning, it’s elusive Books surround my body as the TV blares in my brother’s room our mother sings hymns from a church we no longer attend I am the center of their universe and they are the center of mine we revolve around each other like planets around a sun
Heath Brougher | The Rotter’s Field | Poetry A buying of society’s wheels, its gadgets. It’s an endless inundation of junk mail, both corporeal and cyber. The majority always wants more, is always unhappy with what they have. They have the right and of course that burning desire to have an endless procession of possessions. Marx was wrong. Religion is not the Opiate of the masses. Religion is the Amphetamine of the masses. The true Opiate of the masses in this postmodern Day and Age is materialism, consumerism, a hollowness of Heart, but a plethora of Things. It is sad to prey upon the simple-minded lives with an endless barrage of advertisements that are more like instructions. The typical American doesn’t know any better. They’ve been bred for this above all things else. A world made of endless thoughts of personal property is the world they were taught. Consumerism has tricked these gullible people obsessed with these abstract manmade illusions of reality. These once-verdant and beautiful open spaces give way to the Ever-Present Malls and Gas Stations that now speckle the countryside like pimples upon once pristine skin.
Rebecka Skogg | Untitled | Illustration
Gabriel Patterson | The Em Dash Council— | Poetry We— the prognosticators of pause— rebels without a cause or just—cause We imbue presidential speeches and imbibe celebrity blogs intending to split haiku in two— and interject sentences through and through— stopping on a dime—Kyrie Irving to give immediate directions: STOP—I’m burning!! —IMMEDIACY is not our only nature but to indent or accentuate human behavior— Sometimes we rhyme and sometimes other to dirt off the shoulder of En—our brother The Council will henceforth pause break and break north halt FB and Twitter— The grammar pick of the litter So if you need a long pause and a comma won’t out-last You MUST enlist the help in the Council of Em Dash—
DS Maolalai | One for Jack Chick | Poetry His real life started when he was doing ordinary joke a day cartoons for the local paper before graduating to religion, fervor and strange hate, late in the 50s I never liked his viewpoint much; it seemed to me that to scorn anyone that hasn’t hurt or somehow abandoned you is more or less a waste of what valuable passion you have, but he took that hate shaped it and made what some could call art of it and I admired that if nothing else about the man. To burn with such fire that even the disdain of continents is of no more consequence than dropping your toast in the morning; that is a gift which few will ever possess, and for that his little hand-drawn scissor-cut hatecrimes had verve. One day we will stop by a museum glass and look at them pinned on a corkboard and our children will say “Did people really think like that? That’s crazy. Who even thought like that, even in those days?” and we will just say “Yes” and walk along but the point is we will look at them.
Mike Andrelczyk | A backwards Insect | Poetry Unabridged Brooklyn full of rusty armor condominiums. A mystical pizza man wrapped in a trance of chanting mobs. A gadwall sharing gnocchi with a gnome in the happy warrior harborage. My purple pillow is filled with feathers that turn into a ziggurat that never stops adding levels upon levels upon levels upon levels. Stacks of Xanax. A Xanadu in my dome. This is the worldâ€™s worst palindrome.
jd dehart | everybody loves bob ross | Poetry It’s a well-known or little-known fact that everybody loves Bob Ross. He has such an easy and pleasing manner. His voice is so quiet, calm. Listening to him is like to listening to the air after a massive storm has gone through. Marvel as he dabbles some paint, a little bit here, a little there, and creates a fast masterpiece, fanning his brush to create trees. Sometimes we want to stop him. What are you thinking, Bob? You just made a big jagged line of dark matter there. But don’t worry. Don’t interrupt the master. Relax. That little bit of mistake just became the ancient tree you didn’t know was part of this painting. See now? It looks like it’s been there forever. Take a nap under its shadow.
Dr. Mel Waldman | coming home, rushing slowly through the cosmos of yesterday, almost there & far away | Poetry (on reading Joanne Kyger’s poem It’s a Great Day) Here, where I am Who am I? in this tiny space where olive flesh sleeps, my unholy temple where I belong, the place I call my home, here, where I am Who am I? my gold eyes swallow Lilliputian visions & through the ice-covered window, I watch the snow fall & the furious snow falls forever, a ghostly voice inside the storm reveals, & I sit alone with my frozen self raw & naked in my womb chair & look out at the slashing, lacerating snow until a thick white curtain covers all— conceals the unending world outside-covers the window of inner space too & suddenly, I gaze inward, & listen to the silent sinuous music of my mutilated mind, bathed in melancholy blue brainwaves floating in the blues & dancing slowly in the swirl of a dream, & follow the sad beautiful unreal beats to you-the one I know, for I’m coming home, rushing slowly through the cosmos of yesterday, almost there & far away, coming home to you-the one I know,
& here, inside unreality, the Beat Poet Joanne Kyger comes forth out of nothingness, climbs through the tiny window of inner space, taps me on my shoulder, & says, “What is this self I think I will lose if I leave what I know.” & still, I must go back, & coming home, rushing slowly through the cosmos of yesterday, almost there & far away, shall I find you in the Vanishing House of My Youth or in the vast womb of tomorrow waiting to be born in a place I’ve never been?
Ken williams | Ancient Language II | fiction I wasn’t sure at first if the voices weren’t all in my head. Then again, I wasn’t sure if they were in fact voices. The pounding that threatens to shatter my skull has something to do with it. All sounds are muffled, distorted by the ringing in my ears. What are they saying? The blast that shattered my life into two dimensions—before and after— was the loudest thing I have ever heard. Thinking about it, I mean that I have experienced. Never before had noise had such a physical presence, occupying space as well as time. It was alive. Like I could reach out and touch it. The very air warped, rippling before my eyes as it roared out from the center of the explosion. The building I’m in literally jumped, tearing loose from its earthy mooring before falling down in pieces reminding me of my childhood days playing with Legos. Floors landed at ninety-degree angles. Backs broken. Doors buckled. Hanging at crazy angels. Windows blew out embedding glass shards within hurricane force winds. Furniture turned up side down. Shattered to pieces. Legs, armrests lay amputated about. Wood splintered. Caught up in the onslaught of wind alongside the glass shards. My mother’s prized dinner ceramics crumpled into a thousand pieces. “Mother.” The soft word hurts when I speak it. My voice is unrecognizable. She had been standing by the kitchen sink. My father. My two brothers sat at the dinner table. I, being late as usual was running into the dining room from the hall when hell erupted. I remember her eyes flying wide open as she tore her manic gaze from me to father, brothers. Back. Knowing what she had been seeing for years happening to others finally came for us. I try swallowing my saliva hoping I can call out to her but to no avail. My mouth is full of soot. So is my nose making breathing even more difficult. Large chunks of concrete and stone surround me, pinning my body to the rubble. Time stands still. Passes. Moonlight creeps in casting my small survivor’s cave in an eerie glow. Looking through crevices all I can see is the dark wreckage of what once was my family’s home. “Home.” To speak it out loud hurts even more—a stabbing pain. Searing in intensity. Tears flood my eyes blurring sight. It is a word without meaning anymore. The remains of what once was. Yet I have faith that my mother, father, brothers are safely cocooned as I am. We must simply wait out rescues. We have faith in the White Helmets.
Again, garbled voices make their way past the ringing in my ears, past the relentless pounding in my head. Fading now. Weaker. Incoherent— without meaning. Coming at me from all angles. All sides. Not words really. They are more fundamental than that: The syllables, the syntax of the language shared by survivors of war for millennia. The voices of the innocent caught up in mankind’s cruelest and most fundamental invention: War. The Mother Tongue of victims: Perhaps pleas of mothers, the unanswerable questions of children—the anguish of fathers’ broken hearts. Again, time, cemented unmoving to concrete, stone advances. Something small shines, reflecting the morning sun. It hurts my eyes. But if I want to live, to get out of here… Struggling, I reach out a few inches. Pain courses through my body. I am just able to reach it. Perhaps I can use it to signal for help. To let the rescuers know that someone is alive in the rubble—that I am alive. First I must make myself as presentable as possible. After all I am a thirteen year old girl still possessing all the insecurities and delicate ego of one my age. At least wash the mud like substance from my face. I bring the jagged piece of mirror up. At first I am unsure where the horrifying scream comes from? The mirror drops. Shatters. I do not need to look around for the source. I know. The malice wind of glass shards and splinters has gauged my face from my body—mercifully—or not sparing my eyes. There is no possible way to make myself presentable to my rescuers. My face looks like raw hamburger. My nose is gone. Lips disappeared. Cheeks nonexistent. Here and there bone is exposed. My scream gives way to sobs. My tears sting as they navigate down my raw, mutilated face. I know now the message imbedded in the ancient language. It is clear—no longer hidden from me.
Michael Bates | reel to Real | Poetry She’s waiting in a small cafe, sitting near the bar. He’s late. Behind her a Cinzano logoed clock comes into focus. Now she looks more worried than angry…on weekends the curfew begins in half an hour. They´re lovers. He´s also a spy for the allies. She doesn´t know that; nor what´s going on and on, under orders. Two men in trench coats had dragged him off a trolley, into an idling car. Tires squealed. An armed guard raised a gate. The interrogation scenes were too painful to watch. Close ups showed the agents beating him–with their fists, then truncheons. They wanted names, dates, not bon mots about the weather…
It´s Sunday. After the matinee we always stroll around the mall, window shopping, looking for bargains. All aisles cross the food court. Anyone on our trail would see us stepping into Hollywood, where the burgers are named after movie stars.
Olivier Schopfer | Berlin, Germany | Photograph
SAm Landry | Thoughts About the Days Before My Time In Bayridge Hospital | Prose To be a farce: I am the stuffed bird, I am a head on the wall, I am cotton in your cheeks, I am the bloody tooth on the paper towel, I am show and tell when you lose your teeth, I am the boy with bruises on his body, I am the man who crumbles at the sight, I am the broken nose, I am the head, I am the butt, I am diarrhea in a sub shop, I am meatballs sauce and a soggy bun, I am hunched over and spewing, I am fingers over the mouth, I am the slit that speaks, I am a box that vibrates, I am speaking like AM, I am mouthless and I am screaming, I am eyes exploding in a vacuum, I am no longer afraid to leap, I am free falling, I am a leaf, I am the fall in new england, I am a palette dabbed from clay, I am shoes sliding holding a racket, I am solo, I am against, I am the wall with holes, I am the splatter of thrown eggs, I am juvenile, I am still the boy afraid, I am always the boy afraid, I am always the boy afraid, I am not him in strike, I am struck, I am waiting for the call, I am waiting to be numb, I am not the needle, I am the nostril, I am turned to dust, I am the bird, I am stuffed.
History — The B’K
The Bitchin’ Kitsch (2010-present) or The B’K is a compzine edited and published by The TalbotHeindl Experience, LLC in Denver, Colorado. The Bitchin’ Kitsch was created as a monthly zine for artists, poets, prose writers, or anyone else who had something to say. It was born out of a necessity to create an avenue for editor, Chris Talbot-Heindl, to remain artistic after school, with her subversive style, while continuing to live in Central Wisconsin. It exists for the purpose of open creativity and seeks to be an outlet for people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to show their work. Although the idea was created as a “what-if” brainstorm between the Talbot-Heindls’ whilst in bed and sort of groggy, it has since blossomed into a legitimate publication that has gone international Through the grace of the Internet, The B’K has had the opportunity to create a juried book and the opportunity to publish four juried chapbooks. Here’s to the past seven years, and hopefully many, many more.
Rebecka Skogg | Untitled | Illustration
The Bitchin' Kitsch was created as a monthly zine for artists, poets, prose writers, or anyone else who has something to say.
Published on May 28, 2017
The Bitchin' Kitsch was created as a monthly zine for artists, poets, prose writers, or anyone else who has something to say.