Vol. 10 Issue 1
The Bitchin’ Kitsch (2010-present) or The B’K is a quarterly compzine edited and published by The Talbot-Heindl Experience, LLC in Denver, CO. The B’K is an outlet for people who may not be accepted or considered by more traditional publications. The B’K aims to have a diverse publication from a diverse set of voices and promises inclusivity, diversity, and respectful discourse. Issues are published in January, April, July, and October.
Editor-in-Chief and Design: Chris Talbot-Heindl Editor: Dana Talbot-Heindl
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About the Cover
Digital piece from Sasheera Gounden titled “Wallpaper.”
Table of Contents Art
Sasheera Gounden Keith Moul Olivier Schopfer Chris Talbot-Heindl
Christopher Aslan Overfelt DC Diamondopolous Nels Hanson Lazarus Trubman
Non-Fiction Clara B. Jones
Arif Ahmad Richard Dinges, Jr. Sydney Dudley Milton P. Ehrlich Donald E. Gasperson Maddie Giarrantano Adam Levon Brown DS Maolalai Mark Mitchell Michelle Moroses Simon Perchik Sam Rose Richard Salembier David Sermersheim Cathryn Shea Dorsía Smith Silva S. Sushant
cover, 23, 48-49 32-33 6-7, 39, 60 47
28-29, 52-53 13-15 24-27 31
18, 57 43 12 35, 58 8-9, 40 19, 41 36, 59 16-17 22, 50 30, 55 10-11, 42 34, 56 5, 38 20-21 37 51 4 54
For My Grandfather, Much Later by:
Dorsía Smith Silva You died when I was sixteen. At your funeral, I was quiet, brave, strong unlike a girl of sixteen. But I had wanted to ask, who was that man in the box with the heavy makeup? Was that my grandfather? Why were your cheeks so red? Why were your hands like wax, tightly folded into fabric? Questions like a child of sixteen with no one to answer. My father is comforting my aunt. My brother and I are listening to “Taps” and watching the folding square of flag become a triangle. I throw the white rose of goodbye onto your casket— desert dirt staining my dress unnoticed like grief at sixteen.
“desert dirt staining my dress unnoticed like grief at sixteen.”
the year fills with things that will rob me things that will pull pieces of me from the inside out not for the first time and I wonder if I will feel emptier / even emptier than before when they come for me again even when I am forgetting this I am remembering this the fear hovers in the background with patience, patience fear fills the gaps when I let it seep in but when I don’t: my elbow fits perfectly into the discreet curve of my waist like it’s your hand and it makes me feel full I hover my elbow beside my waist, feel its shadow, pretend it’s you leading me somewhere quiet where we can lie back and pretend none of it is happening put your hand on my waist and fill the gap
“fear fills the gaps when I let it seep in.”
create one less space for fear to creep in
Dori Elliott My brother was young with me. We spent hours hunched in our sandbox sculpting spheres with wet sand from the bottom, then rolling them in dry sand from the top. We vowed we would keep them safe in the corner of my underwear drawer, a multitude of magna opera. I held you to myself as though you walked right out of the pages of I Kissed Dating Goodbye instead of swiped right out of my shattered screen. Why even bother, the Wisdom goes, dating someone if you don’t see yourself marrying them. I rejected this and all the Wisdom of my youth. But to be clear: I did think that I was going to marry you.
Synchronicity. Carl Young believed that meaningful coincidence occurs at a greater rate than can be explained by numbers: Josh McDowell believed that the Lord was responsible: I believed that wanting to marry my first was fully coincidental. This served to appease my surface systems, yet my subcutis self was the one secretly satisfied. Was it meaningful then? That the sculptures I took such pains over crumbled within hours. That while I continued to hoard for safety, you grew tired of sand in your genitals, opened your drawer, and shook it out.
She looks just like a young Leonardo DiCaprio by:
She looks just like young Leonardo DiCaprio so really, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s fault for looking like such a lesbian that I’ve filled myself in for every love interest. First I’m Rose and I’m hanging over the side of a ship. I’m slipping and the water below is freezing and moving so fast it’ll kill me but it doesn’t. Nothing does for a long time, because she’s there to pull me back up. Later on and we’ve learned to move faster than the water; we’re spinning each other around and the world blurs. I feel my life in motion, my life unstuffed, my life taken off the display shelf and dusted off. Later still and she’s dead. No matter what I do she always ends up dead. I feel her icy fingers slip through mine. We were both small enough to fit on this raft, so why was it just me? We go further back to fair Verona and I make myself Juliet. We meet for the first time at a costume party, the angel and the shining knight staring at each other through a fish tank. She kisses by the book. I don’t know how I will stop myself from jumping off this balcony, even if it means breaking my body, just to be closer to her, just for the hope that she might be there to catch me. We end up dead again, but this time we’re dead together. I much prefer it that way. It’s like a dream; we could be asleep in each other’s arms the way it was never allowed to happen. My happy dagger wins the day, and next time, I swear, I’m going to save her.
I swear to God that I’ll die before I’m Daisy, that we’ll never get quite so old that a harbor grows between us. I’ll leave my green light on all night long until I can come to her. All the money in the world is just paper, that’s all it is. The parties will stop and we’ll run away to the west. I drive carefully, so carefully and she dies anyway at the bottom of a swimming pool. God, I’m shit at this.
“...and next time, I swear, I’m going to save her.”
Paradise White by:
Sydney Dudley I lay my head on her bare midriff, my cherry hair stark against the starless sky of her skin. Her open mouth was red, a waterfall of blood draining from her sinuses, and I knew if I were to kiss her it would taste of crude chemicals and rust. Her stomach rose and fell, rocking me gently to sleep as if I were floating on my back in an endless blue sea, and by the time I had completely dozed off, I didn’t realize the rhythm had clearly stopped.
Welcome to The Shady Lady, a queer bar in San Pedro, California, across the railroad
At the time this piece was published, we were unaware
dive where dykes and problematic drag queens hang. So(racist, you didn’t think they mixed? of the pieces transphobic) that theWell, think again Daddy-O.author Over there, against the jukeAfter box, learning listening to was slouched publishing elsewhere. ofGogi Grant croon
these pieces, we decided to remove this author from our issues.
a lick. Her hair is greased with pomade and combed up on the sides with a pompadour the inside her stomach is doing wheelies. You see, a bust is about to happen, and she knows it. Stormy yanks the jukebox plug from the wall. “It’s the fuzz!” she shouts. small wooden tables and bar stools.
“No sweat,” someone answers.
apple. Her short, Italian-styled wig is from Max Factor of Hollywood, and her layers of
Blue and maroon vice cars surround the seedy bar. Parked outside the lonely hideaway,
city where the heat gets their kicks hassling stompers, fems, and swishes. “Okay motherfuckers, let’s go. The freak show’s over and the paddy’s outside,” a cop shouts.
VaVoom hits the breakers. Blackout! Crash! Boom! Bam! Pop!
At the time this piece was published, we were unaware of problematic pieces (racist, that the author this ain’t no the movie. This is where dreams turntransphobic) to pulp. was publishing elsewhere. After learning of these pieces, we decided to remove this author from our issues. A scream freeze-frames the moment. It’s our heroine VaVoom, holding the bloody cue. She shoves open the back door, swings the pole across the face of the cop guarding the exit and knocks him to the ground. “Ahh,” he cries and covers his broken nose. VaVoom grabs Stormy. “Follow me.” “Where to?” Stormy asks. down the back street like Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch.
hangs in the air. The two escapees turn the corner at a cannery and dart
the Daily Breeze under perverts. Lives ruined. Stormy catches up to the towering drag queen. “Where the hell are we going?” “To my boat,” she says in a high-pitched breathy pant. “It’s fabulous.”
“You have a boat?” forward with one hand while dangling the straps of her heels with the other. “And sail here.” She hurries toward the wharf.
At the time this piece was published, we were unaware of the problematic pieces (racist, transphobic) that the author was publishing elsewhere. After learning of these pieces, we decided and gurgles. She opens the door to the cabin and disappears inside. to remove this author from our issues.
Stormy climbs into the boat. The cruiser laps from side to side. The door creaks back and forth.
Stormy swings open the door and steps inside. The crossdresser sits at the helm with her
tenth-grade math teacher. “It’s good to see you again, Mary Louise.”
Mom Doesn’t Know I’m Gay by:
Adam Levon Brown Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, she hides behind bibles wrapped in Camel Cigarette packages. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She talks to her friends and forgets my birthday. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She makes me presents which I keep on my bookshelf. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She cries at night praying that she receives dollar bills from my brother. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She laughs with her friend in her nursing home. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She hates water and the sandwiches her foster care makes for her. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She misplaces her tissues which she uses to remind herself. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She lights candles marked with Jesus to signal love. Mom Doesn’t know I’m gay, She loves Johnny Cash and Freddy Fender, and knits.
Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She loves Tweety bird and mimics her voice. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, She always burnt everything she ever cooked, and I ate it. Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, and she never will, because her memory has returned to Jesus.
“Mom doesn’t know I’m gay, and she never will, because her memory has returned to Jesus.”
To Whom It May Concern by:
Arif Ahmad I, me, my, mine is my predicament honest, stripped this is who I am I can’t help it I am such programmed thus disrespected, discounted bounced around used for granted I refuse to realize the advantage of many over a few ever a person never a nation then I complain
The Plastic Spoon by:
Donald E. Gasperson a schizophrenic’s faith the plastic spoon in a padded room and innocent enough choking on a flesh made up of flies a cold, dank hank of hair the devil’s carpe’ diem that abortion of meaning offending the incredulous with incomprehensible truths and impenetrable insights existential medicine in practice where the failures hemorrhage pain and when meaning fails only method remains band aid therapies ad nauseam so give me the grace of my own understanding every day amen
Dead Reckoning by:
1. Prelude - Dawn Denham’s Dentifrice
oh no - forgot to brush my teeth gosh Mom told me and told me now I gotta go see the dentist I gotta remember next time ‘cause I hate that drill boy do I hate that drill and the look the dentist gets in his eyes like he knows that you know then you know they want you to forget so they can see the look in your eyes I won’t forget next time gosh they even say it on TV the mind is a terrible thing to waste
2. Morning All work and no play… “Do you want to go see a ballgame? You can ask a friend.” Me and Bob are going to the bathroom, Dad. “Hey kid, gimme all your money or I’ll…” “Wanna play some baseball?” Yeah, lemme get my glove and bat. “You mean to tell me that you hit him in the head?” uh huh “With a bat?” uh huh “Would you kindly tell me why?” I dunno You know, I never could remember why. “Well, we all carry our own demons around with us, I guess. Very simply, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
When spring hath sprung just smell the dung now climb the last rung and see who they hung
3. Noon Weekend cures
“Hi there, how you doin’? Do you come here often? Wanna buy me a drink? You’ve got the most gorgeous eyes. Did anyone ever tell you that? It’s your eyebrows that set them off, y’know. Such big blue eyes… Green? Oh sorry. You sure have nice teeth, too. Care to walk me home? You’re pretty drunk, but you’re cute. Are you usually this drunk? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, y’know.”
They cut out his tongue he was oh so young and away it was flung when spring had sprung
4) Twilight When the music’s over…
“Plugged ‘em full, they did, yep, just like ripe melons sittin’ there oh so pretty, they couldn’t identify anybody. Scrambled eggs and ketchup they were, yep, darnedest thing, too, they looked like they said ‘Eat at Joe’s’, you know, in them big neon lights, seein’s how they skim off the top an’ all. Yep, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.” 21
Her poems by:
DS Maolalai she tells me she wants me to make a book of her poems. she says it, casually but often enough that I think she really wants one. she doesn’t know how much of a prick I’d feel presenting her with my musings on her. nobody writing a poem would ever get it right anyway, would ever get the complexity and beauty down on a page without clipping things and simplifying, as though her neck or the way she moves or even speaks could ever be anything so simple as words. and also: the dirty secret about poetry. all of the poems I’ve wrote about her are really about me and how special I am for noticing things.
There and Back Again by:
Nels Hanson How Things Are
For quite a while he’d had strange thoughts, his mind began to drift like an old hawk rising on a thermal, like when his broken leg and foot made standing hard and he reassured himself he didn’t tread a circus high wire without a net. Shaving, he cut his ear that dyed a white towel red but luckily not in ancient times when mad tyrants sliced off a nose and ears for petty theft. The downpours of stormy days reminded him of the drowned ones Noah refused cabins on the ark — he sat propped before his kerosene fire, around him scattered pans that sang as rain fell past split shingles from the ceiling. Hot days, sun burning furious on the cheap duplex without a cooler, he felt fortunate he didn’t ride a camel across a desert’s scorching sands with Lawrence of Arabia. A crew in hardhats removed his lovely larch on orders from the city — not the German’s sacred oak of Odin the Roman axes chopped down to kill a people. Bills came due he could hardly pay and he thanked God he’d never made a dime, no multimillionaire charged on the evening news with bank fraud and embezzlement. About the fate of others he was less detached, gave what money he had to noble causes, wrote letters to the newspaper when lives of the innocent were threatened and in doubt, limped a five-mile march to demand release of children refugees the cruel president kidnapped from mothers and locked in prisons. All in all, all went well for him until the day police knocked and for half a second an envy stirred, of citizens in another country 80 years ago, who never spoke a word as justice died and finally next door the long black car with men in black long leather coats arrived to take the neighbors away.
At the tallest officer’s request he held out both bare wrists and like Socrates, like Christ, other good men wronged, certain of his destiny, he wept, then smiled, never regretting anything as the same sunlight fell on his bowed shoulders.
I dreamed of Adolf Hitler twice, terrified met pure immortal evil, depthless hate, greatest power firsthand. I stood alone with him in a locked garage in Berlin as seconds turned to millennia and I waited for his next instant’s whim to murder me casually as a gnat. Second time the black motorcade approached, down a road through bare California hills, and at the halting limousine’s lowered rear window I saw his hungry gaze impatient for the kill. Maybe those nightmares were sparked by a war movie I’d seen — or worse, by a buried memory from years before, of a short man and wife from another country who knocked at my door. They’d come to visit their son at Stevenson College in Santa Cruz, and he’d given them instructions where to wait until he was through with class – their boy was older and had made friends with the professor who supervised our dormitory. As the resident assistant, I let them into the preceptor’s apartment with my passkey, and as they entered I noticed they both wore spiked dark numbers like tiny slashes at their wrists. In sleep, after I moved to Colorado, I entered a study or library, medieval, on oak table a finely woven striped linen mat, to the right a large stoppered laboratory jar filled with tan discolored alcohol, stuffed full of snakes curled around floating baby shoes. Beside the bottle lay an open book with parchment pages, scarlet ribbon for a marker, the print perfect tall black gothic script penned in an ancient cruel alphabet I knew only Lucifer and his awful deputies could read and that for certain the devil was real. I sat up in bed, turned on the TV for news, to a laughing cartoon red
baby Satan prodding with a pitchfork’s barbs and worried an hour my dream was true. Age four or five, I ran from something as dark came on, down a vineyard row to my grandparents’ house. Relieved and safe now, I climbed the tall kitchen steps as the door flew wide and in my loving grandmother’s place laughed a carrot-nosed witch worse than in “Wizard of Oz,” so I woke screaming, forever wary such things occur. First year at college away from the farm, I realized my aunt and my father’s father, who both died of cancer the year before, were alive again. It was Christmas or Thanksgiving, and they sat at the holiday table but with little expression, their loved familiar faces a sepia, almost blank, and they spoke hardly a word or two in a murmur I couldn’t make out. They seemed tired, only partly there, unable to live or stay. I knew they knew it wasn’t any use returning, no matter how much I wished them to. I met them later, in better, happy dreams that from the start we understood were sad, unreal.
Peeking at a Book on Amazon
“As above, so below,” wrote the master of all powers, wisdom and sciences, of astrology and alchemy, medicine. Who is Hermes Trismegistus, Thrice Great Hermes, author of the Corpus Hermeticum, the Emerald Tablet? Sara, wife of Abraham, found the green book in a cave after the Flood, in Hermes’ dead hand. Great Alexander discovered it under the Sphinx’s feet. Hermes invented hieroglyphics, etching his truths in stele to preserve forever from destruction. He built the pyramids. He created the fantastic city of Adocentyn, where talismans regulated the flow of the Nile, turned the citizens virtuous. A tower’s beacon flashed a new color each day. He was Adam’s grandson and carved his words on two columns, one
brick, one stone. Cicero said there were five Hermes – the fifth killed a Greek giant, the hundred-eyed Argus, and fled to deliver letters and laws to the Pharaohs. Was he Enoch, interceding with God to save the fallen angels thrown from heaven for intimacies with the daughters of men? Cosimo of gilded Florence felt death’s approach and ordered Ficino his scholar to lay Plato aside and quickly translate the works of Trismegistus. A Jesuit priest wrote to Leibniz that Hermes wrote the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes. Or was he Christ’s contemporary, Apollonius of Tyana, who prayed, “May justice reign, may the laws not be broken, may the wise men be poor, and the poor men rich, without sin”? One man claimed The Book of Thoth contained the secret process to regenerate mankind. Eliphas Levi believed all magic was written on a single page. Some thought that book the Tarot pack. No, Levi countered, “The monuments of Egypt are its scattered leaves, the capitals are temples, and the sentences cities punctuated with obelisks and the Sphinx.” Perhaps the Thrice Great Hermes was wave and particle, as in Heisenberg’s tiny world, where energy and matter are Janus-faced and only God can track place and speed at once.
Anatomy of a Scream by:
Christopher Aslan Overfelt
In the deepest cavity of the deepest bowel, tender tissue begins to weaken under stress. Muscle fiber begins to unravel into thin strands as the contents of intestines are pushed through their walls. It is a violent force that vibrates the tissue, shaking it loose from its fixed foundations. The force pushes up through Christopher’s diaphragm, rupturing the muscle around his sternum and ribcage as his lungs are violently contracted, sending a gale force wind through his trachea. Larynx and vocal chords are stressed to the breaking point as air is compressed and molded like molten metal into the shape of a scream, bursting past his wall of teeth and ejaculating into the air. Christopher watches as the scream grows sharp wings and skims just above the distant city skyline until, from its metallic underbelly, a payload drops and explodes in the streets below. Fire leaps through the city like a plague, devouring wood and glass and metal with a ravenous tongue. The hollow structures are left burnt and scorched, their windows eyeless and their skins peeled and tattered. In the air, the smell of roasting flesh is rich and succulent. From his window perch, Christopher watches the glow that is reflected in the sky. It is a pale glow that hangs above the inflamed skyline like a halo, ringing the horizon with angel hair. Now he lets out another scream, only this time from the doorway behind him come four men who grab his ankles and wrists and lift him onto a bed where is strapped to iron railings on each side. Into his arm a long needle is inserted and the convulsions slow and stop and the screams go quiet and then he sleeps. When he wakes up, there is a man in a white coat sitting on the bench beside the bed. Through the window a strand of sunlight falls onto the man’s hair and illuminates it like a halo. Christopher’s wrists and ankles are no longer strapped to the bed as he turns his head and looks at the man. Am I in hell? he asks. No, says the man. You’re in the VA psychiatric ward.
Am I here because I’m gay? No, says the man again. As the days pass, Christopher’s senses begin to return to him and he feels the hot water of a shower sting his skin and the smell and taste of hot food as it fills his stomach. He lies quietly on his side in a hospital bed as a long needle is inserted into his back to withdraw spinal fluid. In the white hallways of the ward, faces begin to take shape on the heads of people around him and he recognizes the drone of a television but he can’t decipher the words. On a white countertop sits a telephone and he takes the receiver in his hand but he can’t read the numbers. He watches as the receptionist presses a series of numbers for him and then he can hear an audible ring in his ear. It rings and rings until suddenly there comes a voice and in a moment of clarity he recognizes it from another world, a distance of time and space that feels geological in scale, like he had been connected to it once eons ago. Mom? he says, furrowing his brow and blinking his eyes with new found comprehension. From the distance, across the interminable gap of time and space comes a cry, a sobbing that can only be found in the grief of a mother.
Previously published in As You Were, Vol. 9.
Procrastinating Angels by:
Mark Mitchell They had their orders: Clean up the whole universe. They lolled among cans of star polish, lunar abrasives, galaxy mops. And they waited, looking down, but it never seemed dirty. So they chose a small planet and went out to play. Previously published in Jet Fuel Review.
If I had to draw up a balance: there is nobody at the moment whom I hate; only a few I should prefer not to meet in case I should find myself hating again. My hates are not rare, but short-lived. Perhaps it is mostly just anger. No instance of life-long hatred. Above all, I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people I hate. Hatred as a flash of flame, leaving me afterwards feeling stupid, due perhaps to the fact that the hater is more eager for reconciliation than the hated. . . When I realize that someone hates me, I can more easily evade the issue: I simply stay among people who do not hate me. Despite a natural dose of self-hatred in my makeup, my first reaction when I find myself hated by somebody without provocation is irritation. Had I been reckoning on sympathy? No, not really...The irritation is due to the unexpected intensity of a one-sided relationship. The reaction to it is not counter-hatred, rather dismay, and, above all, self-awareness – or I can forget my hater. Not, however, the other way around: when I am the hater I cling to the person I hate, and it does not help me at all when he takes evasive action. On the contrary: the less I see or hear of him, the more thorough my hatred becomes – that is to say, the more harm I do myself. Another point: hatred toward a person obliges me to exercise a certain degree of justice, which I never achieve and which exhausts me. Usually there is no need for a definite reconciliation: my hatred eventually becomes too expensive for me, stands in no sorts of relationship to the person concerned, who, whatever he may have done, eventually becomes an object of indifference to me. . . It is otherwise with hatred that is concentrated on a group rather than an individual, or on an individual who is simply the representative of a group. My only lifelong hatred is a hatred of certain institutions. Then hatred becomes itself an institution. Even in that case hatred harms me more than the object of it, but I accept this, because here hatred can be seen as conviction, which permits neither indifference nor reconciliation…
Simon Perchik And though the stars came by what you hear stays wet for your hands on the rope waiting till it’s dark — you hang the wash at night, sure the clothes will dry — by morning you’ll fill the tub again with her dress and stir till the water turns black smells from sleeves and the same shoulders that were always there with grass that you add later.
I Don’t Mind Dying by:
Milton P. Ehrlich I just don’t want to have a stroke that renders me speechless, and all I can do is cry, wah, wah, diapered again, kept alive with feeding tubes and breathing tubes. You can keep my broken old life If I stroke out. Read the directions in my living will to find out how I’m anchored In the final moment for my curtain call.
sun’s travel by:
Maddie Giarrantano the earth’s bathtub cobalt blue to magenta to coal every inch falling deeper with the next van Gogh’s day-old palette splatters in the sky almost home in a temporary home final goodbye with lilac lips and a plum smothered tongue
Tell Me About You by:
David Sermersheim tell me about you I don’t care what you like or how you feel tell me what you do how you think what you believe and what you can do without I don’t care where you’re from or where you went to school I don’t want to know what you eat where you go when you want to be alone where you hide what you conceal and what are the secrets you don’t want revealed gestures are affectations questions have no answers are you present when I speak will you reply what’s worthwhile meaningful provocative irritating are we in the same place at the same time if you could do it over what would you preserve return or what would you leave behind
Therapy Trees by:
I am writing too much about the same harrowing things and it is time to look at something different so I choose trees. There is probably therapy in trees. There is probably something in the fact that leaves are more poetic when they do the thing they are named for, rather than living in static. As if they have been told: This is your name, this is what you are meant to do, but don’t – not straight away. Make people want it first. Look beautiful first. Then perform your colour-changing show. Then perform your acrobatics. Then leave, leave like they always said you would. Because there are so many more of you to come. You are not the only one of your species. And that’s okay. That’s how it’s meant to be. Now when I look, when I feel things are going better, the leaves are beginning to turn orange-brown. You’re doing it wrong, I say to them. You’re going backwards. Things might be starting to go right for me now. In my world, the leaves should stop falling, rise up, begin repopulating. Regain their velvet bodies, soften, become uncrunchable. They should be turning from brown to green, ready to cast an emerald glow on December snow when it comes. But they know their beauty is in the crunch of their orange bones as much as it is in the dappled sun poking between their entwined skins. And that’s where the therapy is, in trees. It is when they are full, and when their skins have slunk to the floor, and when they are coated in frost, and when they are naked and unashamed, unshivering. There is therapy in trees because there is beauty in trees, always, and they know it. Oh, to know your place in the world as a tree does.
Dori Elliott Fall and then save yourself. breath then breath then push off not a push a forward breath then limbs to gravity I do not see but sense stage floor coated then recoated with paint then repaint pushing closer I wait until the last possible moment my hands fly forward my feet fly too and I fall forehead against paint coats. Good courage. Save yourself.
Tongue Tied by:
Donald E. Gasperson being tongue tied who will hear me that isn’t my guest how I walk steadily and mindfully gaining on myself finding peace my beliefs folding into tidy origami politely announcing the quiet with a bell let it be the way that my feet hit the ground
Blood Relatives by:
mother, I am not yours. I don’t belong with you, or any other soft-heart, any pair of sheltering arms. I think I’m the descendant of a long line of angry, vitriolic, caustic women. I think I was born of the fires of Hypatia, of Joan of Arc, of Salem. I think I saw myself dancing with the devil in the wood. Goody goody. I go into frenetics at the drop of a hat, you know this. You did this. Your pain is my pain. It’s genetic, like our hooked nose, like our increased risk for melanoma. I carry you and all your life on my shoulders wherever I go, even the parts I know nothing of, and it’s awfully heavy. Here’s what you don’t know: I think I’ll never shut up. I think the cuts in my lips were made when I pulled the stitches out. I have red stains, red marks on my hands that will never wash away. They are ugly to you, you want no part of them. They are a part of me, they belong wholly to me, I wouldn’t change them. I will rub them on everything I want changed. I am obsessed with cleanliness because we all want what we cannot have. I am obsessed with love the same way. I still remember when I said, you can’t miss what you never had, and you told me, that’s not true.
Stripes Forever by:
Richard Dinges, Jr. No points in blue words penned by white stars about red heroics, color of dried blood and rotted flesh. A fiery plume against a cloudless sky at sunset glares too bright to see. A blind star-shaped hole in a far horizon, we never understood it would be so permanent
some time we are heroes: a review by:
Clara B. Jones
“I’m interested in a poetry version of what free jazz is to jazz.” Reuben Woolley “No good poetry is free.” Reuben Woolley The first time I read, some time we are heroes, my reaction was: “Ah! Some time we are all heroes!” However, to attempt to read the author’s intentions too closely would be to lose a sense of poetic improvisation inspired by the substance and flow of jazz. These are collage poems woven together by a tale of two broken persons struggling to communicate. At points, the story is heartbreaking, and the experimental nature of Woolley’s writing befits the indeterminacy and mystery evoked by each piece. Paul Stephens, Natalia Cecire, and others have pointed out that the “experimental” in literature is difficult to define. Historically, the genre, Experimental Literature*, was a reaction to the subjective nature of writing by Romantic poets (e.g., Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats)—attempting to be more objective, more scientific. Gertrude Stein took this task literally by conducting research with the psychologist, William James, at Harvard, and her characteristic use of repetition in her works reflected the role of replication in validating scientific experiments. For purposes of the present review, I follow Theodor Adorno’s somewhat imprecise definition discussed by Stephens whereby experimentation is “a method by which the artist seeks unforeseen outcomes.” Reuben Woolley, a Brit living in Spain, is a highly-regarded poet who has been featured in publications such as jacket2. He edits the online journals, The Curly Mind, a venue for innovative poetry, and, I am not a silent poet, an online journal dedicated to poetry addressing all types of abuse, an overtly political mission. Although, the poems in some time we are heroes are not explicitly political, Woolley has published with Erbacce, a widely-recognized progressive press in the UK, and his poems have appeared in the online journal, Proletarian Poetry. The author communicated with me recently that, “Among the influences on the work are a wide range of British, American and European poets, writers such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, whose plays I consider to be among the greatest poetry of the 20th Century, and musicians such as Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, Roy Harper, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Terry Riley.” Though the epigraphs to this review may appear to be contradictory,
Woolley has made clear that his writing process and conventions, including his use of white spaces, is intentional. Indeed, the poems in this collection are carefully crafted examples of innovative literary minimalism. Within the genre, “experimental,” some time we are heroes can be considered a collection of collage poems for which words, phrases, and sentence fragments do not necessarily follow logically from one another, having the effect of isolating the words in a manner that makes them more or less equivalent in weight or importance to what a typical SENTENCE might be in a more traditional poem. In some ways, this is similar to the weight or significance given to single lines when the first letter of the first word of a line is capitalized for each line of a poem [as per, for example, many poems by Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery]. Collage elements are, particularly, enhanced by the use of white spaces that might, also, be viewed as erasure and that highlight the rhythms inherent to jazz’s improvisation [“ i just tick/for syncopation/ he says.who cares/for words”]. Some critics have suggested that using white spaces may indicate a subject that is otherwise absent, perhaps suggesting all that goes unsaid between mary and john, the central characters of the book. Woolley’s use of periods between words, also, highlights rhythmic components of language, creating chord-like components, similar to chords in a traditional piece of music or to the typical 12-chord structure of jazz compositions. Other features that mark Woolley’s collection as “experimental” include titles that, for the most part, bear no apparent relationship to the poem that follows. Further, the absence of caps throughout the text is a convention having the effect of not privileging one word over another—even “given” names: mary, john [“nothing is a name.say nothing”].
Like Stein mentioned above, repetition plays a central role in some time we are heroes. The couple, mary and john [“sad john/said mary”], appear over and over as their troubled relationship is depicted, including, references to alcoholism [“& how john/was always there/with an ear & a drunk”]; allusions to mary’s addiction [“the show/couldn’t start.mary/had to place/ the needle/ just so/the tracks.the traces”]. Within these disturbed and disturbing scenarios, a baby appears [“ I bear/a daughter/a john/& stitches”]—perhaps evidence that john and mary still maintain some level of physical intimacy in an otherwise fractured bond. The repetition of wet things—liquid things—is ubiquitous throughout the text, [ e.g., water, blood, rain, beer, breast milk, ocean, liquor, tears], and the occasional use of “cut” or “cutting” introduces dark elements. Woolley’s symbolism is understated though one cannot overlook biblical meaning in mary’s and john’s names and references to a life force by employing “blood,” “red,” and water. Of course, the color, “red,” also, indicates, danger, a signifier for the perilous emotional path upon which the couple treads. On balance, some time we are heroes is the most impressive volume of poetry that I have read in some time. Because of thematic and symbolic repetition, the book coheres as a unified text despite collage and other innovative, experimental elements. Woolley’s reputation as a mature poet is well-deserved, and I look forward to reading his future work. * For a broad overview of this topic see: The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature, edited by Joe Bray, Alison Gibbons, and Brian McHale. A copy of some time we are heroes can be found at http://www.corruptpress.com/.
Two American Pika by:
Smithfield Market by:
I must have been maybe 5 years old. my dad had brought me out to the smithfield market. there was noise there and it was loud and it was everywhere. horses pulling and driving at their ropes. and a smell in the air which hung like cut grass mixed with desperate acid. my dad talked to people since he could; we weren’t going to buy a horse but I guess he wanted to show me. and I was shown.
hay bowled over in barrels and was crushed by teeth big as icebergs. feet like cookingpots banged against cobbles. people drank cans in the sun, ate burgers, talked, and all looked pretty good. now it’s all apartments there. I walk through sometimes and can’t afford any of them, any more than my dad could buy a horse and just as tempted to look.
Evolution of a Diet by:
After millions of years evolving as culinary gastronomes humans regress to the dietary habits of the Paleolithic, known politically incorrectly as the Caveman Diet, which in enlightened circles would be the Caveperson Diet. I can just see Neanderthals and our ancestral hominids gnaw on pork rind pancakes. In their hunting and gathering they search until exhaustion for any food thing they would be allowed to drag back to the cave that would not provoke a severe clubbing by their mates. They tiptoe past a prehistoric mama goat. Dam, they grunt. (A mother goat is a dam after all.) They see the kid drinking milk. We can’t have that, one of them mutters eyeing the milk-laden udder. Dairy is verboten. They pass up meadows of spelt and oat grass, patches of peanuts and potatoes. Not on our list, they grumble. Grains, legumes, and tubers are taboo. Where they happen to live, there aren’t many juicy steaks running around. They’re sick of picking through sparrow feathers. If they eat one more carp, well you know they’ve had it with choking on bones and scales. And leftover insect casseroles, yuck. It was tough living through the Paleolithic. Ezekiel offered some relief when he and God lifted the ban on gluten and ordained bread “the staff of life.” Or maybe it was the “stuff of life.”
A Nihilistic Catfish by:
Christopher Aslan Overfelt
While he is fishing a small pond, Christopher sees his dead father. He walks out from the midst of a herd of cattle gathered at the top of a hill and follows the dirt path through the grass down to the pond. The copper sun sits on the surface of the water like a kettle of fire and Christopher’s father sits down on the bank beside him squinting into the light. Anything biting? asks his father. Christopher reels his line in slowly, shining water lying on the line as it travels down the pole to the winding reel. Nah, says Christopher. How long’s it been? asks his father. Christopher’s lure comes up out of the water and he resets the reel and casts the line back out into the pond. Twenty one years, he says. Ya, says his father. It’s been that long. The reel sounds like a dry throated frog as it clicks with each revolution of the crank. Floating on the water’s surface, the lure wiggles in a line that sends ripples throughout the copper sheet, dimpling it like hammered metal. I know I left you early, says his father. Is there anything you want to ask me that you couldn’t before? Is there any point? asks Christopher. Point to what? To anything. Up from the muddy depths of the pond comes a white bellied monster that takes the lure in its cavernous mouth. The hook sets into the smooth skin and tears through the fish’s mouth until it catches the cartilage around its lips. Christopher pulls the fish towards him and when the white body is visible at the bank he lifts it up into the grass. As
the fish writhes uneasily out of the water, Christopher puts his thumb into its throat and pinches it up to hold it. The long fish is still and streamlined in Christopher’s hand and then from its mouth a small voice issues and says There is no point. Turning away from the fish, Christopher’s dead father walks up the dirt path in the grass and then the setting sun swallows him along with the herd of cattle. Christopher sets the fish back down in the grass and, squatting over it, he watches it squirm and gasp for breath. Digging through his tackle box, he takes up a blade and plunges it into the white belly, cutting a line down to the tail and then turning the skin inside out and peeling the meat from it. He follows the same routine on the other side of the fish until he has two bloody fillets and then he tosses the head and bones and guts down the other side of the bank for the scavengers to find. Holding the two bloody fillets beneath the water of the pond, he watches each of them grow a spine and a stomach and a head and they slip from his hands and swim into the muddy depths.
Previously published in Eunioa Review.
One Day by:
S. Sushant One day I said to the calendar — I am not available today, and did what I wanted to do. One day I said to the wrist-watch — I am not available today, and was lost in myself. One day I said to the purse — I am not available today, and exiled the market from my dreams. One day I said to the mirror — I am not available today, and did not see its face the whole day. One day I broke all the hand-cuffs I had created. I freed myself from all shackles one day.
A Token Demon by:
Mark Mitchell (Dinanukht) By the water where Babylon once rose, rests a demon. There, between time and that which is whatever is not, he sits. Half of him is folded flesh— The rest, the pages of a book. He’s settled on the vanished river constantly reading himself until whatever this might be is swallowed by whatever sea might want it.
Simon Perchik Half iron, half oak, the bed all night honed on what went wrong — it’s an axe, striking upside down though you sleep facing north side by side an empty dress shaped into bulls and chariots with your mouth wide apart louder and louder getting ready for the slow descent — you sit on the edge, trying to bleed to open the sleeves still reaching out in the dark.
For All Its Criticism by:
the culmination of the moment of fair chase hunting our American pride, the whitetail deer king of friends, the earth, the experience, the fellowship without wings or legs climbing, staying stealth 25 feet up in the tree archery at close quarters is never easy the meat going to the local food pantry yes you read that right the meat serving local Americans food inadequate, protein deficient and hungry and some deer kabobs for you and me
Hot In and Hot Out by:
Milton P. Ehrlich My love of Texas Red, Thai lime chili cashews, Indian curry and kimchi adds spice to my life and always cools me off. Ice cold beer puts the fire out. On the throne with my ass on fire will never stop me from relishing the burning pleasure in my mouth.
scratches on stitches
you dragged the tips of your olive fingers against my neck spilling feelings down my spine and whispered dead air into a decaying body the corners of your rose lips move gently pulled by a string orchestrated in a way you scratch nervously attempting to escape you always hated tension especially the kind you created
“you always hated tension especially the kind you created”