ISSUE THIRTY ONE
EDITOR’S SCRATCHING POST: CATATONICALLY SPEAKING
I don’t talk much about television around these parts. There is a reason for that: TV, especially of the network variety, is mostly a toxic vortex of pointless tripe designed to keep us distracted from things that truly matter (you know, little things like social justice). A handful of network shows throughout the years – “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” “Parks and Rec” and the various incarnations of David Letterman’s talk shows (there have been more than two!) – have allowed TV to gently brush the higher realms of art. This is because those shows employ a witty, sardonic surrealism that elude the moronic masses and yet push more discerning members of those same masses to greater intellectualism. Literature, naturally, is the pinnacle of intellectualism, and the wasteland of TV pretty much the abysmal polar opposite. But there are those shows and performers that redeem the format. David Letterman has been one of them. His theatre of the absurd may have been more mainstream than an Ionesco play, say, but it was the closest we will ever get to that, I think, on network TV. David Letterman retired recently, much to many viewers’ dismay. He was a subversive pop culture icon who fused the absurd and the Dada with acerbic, nihilistic anti-humor. I grew up watching David Letterman. I was fifteen when his show began. I owe my quirky humor and sarcasm to David Letterman: he helped shape that part of me. He taught me that it was okay to be wacky and witty and cantankerous. Yes, David Letterman was involved in a shocking sex scandal, and yes, I deplore sexist assholes. But his on-air apologies were sincere, if awkward. He’s always openly and achingly recognized his personal foibles. He’s had crushing self-doubts, and has not concealed those from his fans - or from himself, ultimately. I am uncomfortable with his transgressions – having sex with staff members is pretty gross – and yet his humanity in dealing with the scandal was humbling. What I have appreciated about David Letterman’s evolving persona is, in the early 2000s, three events converged to change him into a more soul-searching talk show host: the 9/11 attacks, his heart surgery, and the birth of his son. Too, he became more caustically critical of the right wing. Sure, he is a fan of the Clintons and Obama – Democrats who shamelessly bolster right wing policies – but I think it’s more out of naivety than anything. Or maybe that’s my justification for it. Either way, Dave’s tirades against the right wing authoritarian mentality were needed in late night TV. Fallon and Kimmel and Myers and Corden are sure to steer clear of such radical opining: They don’t have enough clout and are too busy indulging in network anal-lingus to want to frazzle the suits.
David Letterman is leaving a gaping void (far bigger than the gap in his teeth) in late night television. We are now inhabiting a world of colossally bland late-night humor. Maybe Stephen Colbert will manage to overhaul that, somehow. But there will never be another David Letterman. Here at Clockwise Cat, it has been our mission to promote inventiveness, a progressive spirit, and the absurd and the surrealistic. David Letterman was an innovator, a Dadaist, and spoke truth to power (even as a one-percenter), and for that reason, he merits this tribute in Clockwise Cat.
Top Ten Reasons I Am Distraught Over the Demise of The Late Show With David Letterman 10) No more puppies drinking vodka with their eyeballs (or the Stupid Pet Trick du jour) 9) No more Jack Hanna bringing exotic animals that end up pissing on Dave's suit 8) No more wacky, lounge-show Paul Shaffer asides 7) No more sleepless nights waiting up to see a hip new band or a cherished established one 6) No more hilariously surrealistic skits with Rupert G., deli owner, and awkward, purely Dadaesque moments like Dave's staff interacting with him on stage 5) No more thoughtful, meditative interviews 4) No more Tom Waits/David Letterman classic repartee 3) No more caustic, acerbic, at-times nihilistic humor 2) No more scathing excoriations of right-wingers 1) No more Top Ten lists
Editorʼs Note: The art adorning the poems in this issue are by female Dada artists Florine Stettheimer, Suzanne Duchamp, Clara Tice, Marie Cermínová, and Toyen, as well as by Dadaists Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp.
Jukebox Blues By Scott Thomas Outlar Snow melting in my brain leads to wormwood alcoholic pinpoint persuasion of passion focused in on the laser frequency of God rolling the dice and gambling away all dogma until all that remains is a filthy animal a bitch of a mutt of a bastard of a fool the butt of a joke of a jerk on the jukebox playing the sounds they all gather to hear listening intently until the funeral song blares left in the wilderness of a life gone too quick but we all get our kicks while we can until the shoes are too big to fill slogged down in shit every step of the way toward a victory march up on Plymouth Rock where patriots dance in harmony to the pledge given with crossed fingers while knocking on wood every cliché we could hope to burn down lit up in excess of the rogue’s final fire all red and blaze and war and glory all sex and death and drugs and candy worn out rhythms and days old patterns breaking habits like it ain’t no thang
Miss Bliss took a fatal shot to the temple but dodged the next bullet sent at her heart astray of the mark but dead center in heaven down here on earth where the kingdom resides Propped up by angels who belittle the fortune found where the rainbow ceases to glow A pot full of coal is better than nothing when gold is too heavy, canâ€™t carry the load an energy source lost to the ages comes back around with bones for the cycle kissing the cancer and holding its black tide back to the ocean with a wave of rebirth Author bio: Scott Thomas Outlar is a seeker of truth, avid walker, health enthusiast, and writer of poetry, essays, fiction, rants, ravings, and experimental, existential, hallucinatory, prosefusion screeds covering subjects ranging from the outer limits of the stars to the innermost depths of the soul. Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, and Hermann Hesse are but a few of his literary influences. His work has appeared at various sites. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
One poem By Simon Perchik Author bio: Â Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain. For more information, and free e-books, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com. So much dirt yet you cram as if these seeds would slip crush everything to bloom the way you pick out a loose stone hoping for an avalanche and the yard covers with flowers once your hands come together so the ground can't move or light up your eyes because it's easier than sorting --you don't cheat anyone :one seed next to another and another and another lowered so everyone is put back piece by piece and next Spring will climb out to look for you --you use colors! come dressed waving your fingers sifting the Earth whose light is wasted in the daytime counting, counting, counting.
Six poems By Felino Soriano In rain and the symbols of its sound Rain variations. The embrace, ocular inventions, eerie rhythms, all motivated movement. Unraveling. Why, wind? Whereabouts smell missing. Directive, find. When cannot is the gold medal word. Ascend, evaporate, dialectic advantage. All the shadows correspond and write their name, upward.
Injury to the interval of hope A hoarse echo drove in circled mention. Each emblem housed secrets, hung puzzles. The deaths oscillated environments, pulsed. Who knows what category of heal will envelop, obscure. The collocated mysteries Parades and their obsolete origins. Clarity though the white of housed eggs this dayâ€™s perspective. Sound cannot explain symphonies; jazz, though. All these wings collaborate in a humming mouthâ€™s vocal proposition: occult, or tremble.
Parallel “We two swim in reverse seas speak strange syllables and subtract the stars from the geometries of wind” - Alison Ross And we, as determined skeletons trimming fat from an existence of excess corrosion bend and become an organized contour of calligraphic, multilingual meaning wearing years as cane and altered believable beginnings— and though, within the limp of age’s cartoon depictions, what breathes well will fulfill lines and ordinary wings combining ascent within the spectrum of our acclimated movement toward rather than the disparate clarity found amid reflections of silent sadness Eyes’ intervals When I am listening, my good eye is at attention. To say, placement and palm-full of theories. The other is walking to choose a flower for my wife, and this listening is imperative in another formulation. Both, though separated, ejected homonyms. This morning, both were folded. Interior pleasure. Light hadn’t a body yet, hadn’t a species to have man misname, misinterpret. When climbing, light gradates, inspires syncopated crows to open into breath.
Meditation Music we need when language fails us - Cornel West the tongue needn’t dilute or decipher nor trim what landscapes appear across an eye’s version of an hour’s radial terminology— a focus begins upon the organic species of how voice inaugurates whisper:
wing to steer ascent toward a distance of a hymn’s open-gate experience, overcoming language to instill its original intent of unfastening devotion, /and within a theory of rudimentary escalation quiet’s needed spontaneity performs and approves through the narrative of answers leaning weightless as to not confirm pressure as a parental persuasion, purpling of ail shared onto what listens across all shades of noon’s deliberate momentary ruling Author bio: Felino A. Soriano is a member of The Southern Collective Experience. He is the founding editor of the online endeavors Counterexample Poetics and Of/with. Writing finds foundation in created coöccurrences, predicated on his strong connection to various idioms of jazz music. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and appears in various online and print publications. He lives in California with his wife and family and is a director of supported living and independent living programs providing supports to adults with developmental disabilities. He can be found at www.felinoasoriano.info.
The Silent Coup de Gras of America By Edwin L. Young, PhD Think about it. Who owns and controls the media? The major corporations!
Without a sound, no gunfire, no shouting, nor brick throwing, no whining and hand wringing - just a silent coup has occurred and our government 'of, by, and for the people' is no more. Here in the backwoods of Ignacio, in Emily's Patio, I hear it all the time, the parroting of what the major media controls and wants you to think. For these people, nothing has changed. They farm, work on oil rigs, drive to work, eat their usual meals, serve customers, all in all life remains the same. It all happened out of sight, slowly, with plausible justifications for vast unwanted interventions abroad, all of which seem so remote from their mundane daily lives. 1984, the dystopian novel by George Orwell published just 64 years earlier! Yet, here in the US, not a question was raised. We were lulled into acceptance by the omnipresent enchanting big media propaganda interspersed with beautiful people and their glamorous ads perpetually mesmerizing millions sitting eating chips before their oneeyed monster. Again, I repeat, the totally ignorant populace has gone down, not even by a knockout but, simply with a feint to the head. Remember this if you can: the major media is the last place to go to get the true, accurate, and awful US and world news. I must infer that the leaders of our nation allowing this quiet revolution must mean they were well recompensed. Letting a whole nation, furthermore a whole world, go corporate has to require cauterizing the consciences of those leaders who stood by and let it happen. Yet, as I read and listen to the intellectually great, but unheard by any
other than their small audience, protesting minds around the globe, I get more and more convinced that corporatizing the entire globe is inevitable. Ah well, intellectuals never, throughout history, have had a significant impact on the course of political and economic affairs. I am not offering them an excuse; however CEOs must focus all of their minds and energies on satisfying their corporations’ bottom lines and their preferred stock holders' desires or they are, without fanfare, simply swept aside. Still, the personalities of that entire class of people are oriented to acquisitiveness and power. They see themselves as a higher evolved species of homo sapiens as sort of supermen/women ordained by evolutionary fate to dominate and dispose of all the other low bred humans as they wish. Consequently, the other 99% are viewed as something like their 'livestock' to be used, allowed to be slaughtered in their wars of profit and for global control, tossed into the garbage pits of earth and, yet, with unwavering repetition, their beholden priests and preachers give these poor oblivious, macho male, dead ‘heroes’ their last rites as their country's heroes and patriots. All the while the top .001% do this sort of thing routinely without a smidgen of care. Of course, their corporate PR people are paid to make their images all appear to the public as though they are noble benefactors of those in least fortunate socioeconomic classes beneath them. How do ordinary citizens put themselves into the mind set of those on the Mount Olympus of devil-may-care dominance of all institutions on the globe? They do not, they cannot, put themselves in the mind sets of those out-of-sight, totally unknown, onerous Olympians. These guys, these self-identified (‘despotic’) supermen, even head the Boards of Directors of so called private and public compassionate welfare foundations and organizations. From their Chairmanships they doll out pittance to the downtrodden ‘tools’ whom they have running the lower rungs of their corporations and corporate controlled organizations and foundations. This minimally costing act of welfare magnanimity makes them look like their culture’s highest of holy icons, like unselfish benefactors, to be worshiped by the unwitting hoi polloi. What easy brilliance of public relations manipulations! These out of sight .001% who rule the globe are truly heartless and ruthless. The people of cities and villages around the globe have not even a tiny clue about the ugly, true nature of their existence. If you have read to this point, I thank you, especially if you have understood my thesis. Finally, my understanding of the dismal nature of the existences of our species has always evoked profound compassion and with it profound sadness. I grieve over the cruelty by so many of our species toward so many that are their powerless victims. I am distressingly aware of how the top .0001% deceive, exploit, and condemn to lives of destitution, pain, and death all of the populaces around the world who are so terribly
and unfortunately unaware of how totally their lives are being manipulated. The populace willing goes along with this merely for the pittance and medals they are made to grovel for. Sadly, they so willingly do the bidding of their ego-maniacal, yet imbued with ultimate authority, leaders who are subservient to the top .001%. The populace fulfills without questioning the grim and unwarranted orders of those subservient authorities. The unwary populace will carry out the meanest of deeds against their own vulnerable fellow human beings; all the while believing they are serving the highest of patriotic, even religious goals and ideals. Having committed those commanded, unimaginable heinous acts against their fellow humans, their consciences are, still, nevertheless clear while inwardly they souls are deadened, dying, wishing they were dead, or actually have committed suicide. Collectively, our species seems unable to reflect on these consequences or on the irretrievable path toward the dire destiny we are on. The top .001% seems unable understand or accept this inevitable dire destiny. They seem hell bent, regardless of all of the international conferences to the contrary, to continue the status quo of their national and international corporationsâ€™ goals and operandi. Our species, brilliant and successful as we are among all others that have evolved, is truly a grotesques curse upon our planet.
Our epic Femmewise Cat issue spurred us to continue showcasing females – cuz, like, we galz ain’t showcased enough in literary circles! Sure, there is an abundance of great female writing talent in small and large presses, but we need more more MORE! Women in the arts are still marginalized, and it’s time to remedy that. Clockwise Cat hopes to do its teensy part toward encouraging, if not full femme domination in the literary world, then at least femmehomme symmetry! We loves us some men, but women are where it’s AT, yo.
Susie Henry is this issue’s Featured Femme. We chose her because we appreciated the quiet longing rumbling through her poem “Missing Pieces,” and we decided to showcase more of her intriguing verse. About Susie Henry: Susie Henry is a wildly introverted woman who is happy to have survived for 40-plus years. She enjoys reading, writing poetry, photography, and hiding from people in general. She has had poetry published at Walking Is Still Honest, and hopes to write publishable pieces for years to come, but generally lives in fear of rejection in Florida with her two cats. Susie's love affair with poetry began many, many years ago, in elementary school. It has always appealed to her as a creative challenge to find unusual and succinct ways to capture a moment in time, much like a snapshot. Like photography, poetry has become a way for Susie to indulge her introspective tendencies by allowing a lingering, prolonged existence in a singular and fleeting
moment. Susie prefers to dabble in the art of brevity in most cases, taking a cue from (and giving a nod to) the likes of Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. She revels in the art of being different, which is really just being utterly human.
Missing Pieces The numbers fell into place as I smoked my last cigarette; a hateful Sudoku of love gone wrong. Smoke filled my lungs, my heart, my space when the door finally closed. Tumblers of tequila arenâ€™t enough to clear the air of the lingering stench; the cat ran away, too, but at least the litter box is clean. And jogging my memory is the only exercise I get.
Even the Vultures Her hands claw at the Earth â€“ vain survival. Her babies no longer cry â€“ theyâ€™ve surrendered. Delicate shoots parched even as they emerge from dead soil. No sympathy, no rain. Their struggle, her pain.
But even the vultures have a song. And even the moss carves out a life. The sting of the wind spins the skies for the babies who no longer cry. No sympathy, no rain. Their struggle, her pain.
Leaving the Market
Last Sunday I watched from the parking lot as you left the market. The asphalt melted under the judgment of the sun, and the stench of the tar rose in a vaporous, shimmying entity. Your arms laden with the makings of a feast, I wondered why you didn’t use a cart. I wondered if you knew I was there, and if you had something to prove.
Ruby When she gets bored with one job or one friend who isn’t really or one professor’s style or lack of it, she packs up her books and garments her mother calls rags and she starts something different. But it’s usually the same. Only with different props and sets. This one a little smaller
and that one a little lovelier than the last. And all the while she totes notebooks stuffed with scraps of paper. She clutches them so tight her knuckles turn knobby and white, and sweaty fingerprints appear on the covers. She invariably grows tired of where she is and wants to pack up and go again but sheâ€™s afraid to try new books. She clings to the worn copies she read years ago and reads them again when the mood strikes her. Thatâ€™s just how Ruby is. Wilting Marigolds He wept for you when you couldn't see his resplendent tragedy unfold a banner of delicate silver and demure sapphire which smelled of wilting marigolds. He wept for you before you left the door unlocked
and the ants marched in. They rioted and plundered the cakes you baked, but left alone the pies. He wept no more when you went away in the screaming car. He was finally freed of the tiresome toil of guarding you from the scabby throng. He watched the fire list in the grate like wilting marigolds. On Being Still She sits idly in an idling car Staring, starving Wanting tomorrow to be yesterday, the way rain is sunshine and tears are joy. Ashes grow and fall from her menthol and she waits for the darkness She waits for tomorrow to be yesterday
Sassy you and your prodigious love of hugs and fistfights you and your cracked lips
and dirty feet you wouldn't wear dresses or comb your hair you wouldn't follow the rules you trampled tradition you crushed conjecture and ran wild in the sun you wore bruises as badges you treasured the earth left beneath your gnawed nails you darling, daring girl you won
Two poems By Alan Britt Author bio: Preferring to "lean and loafe at [his] ease," Alan Britt is troubled by the corruption and ambivalence that permeates the Great Experiment, so politically speaking he has started the Commonsense Party, which ironically to some sounds radical. He believes the US should stop invading other countries to relieve them of their natural resources including tin, copper, bananas, diamonds and oil, that itâ€™s time to eliminate corporate entitlements and reduce military spending in order to properly educate its citizenry, thereby reducing crime and strengthening the populace in the manner that Jefferson envisioned. He is quite fond of animals both wild and domestic and supports prosecuting animal abusers. As a member of PETA, he is disgusted by factory farming and decorative fur.
INK Ink the color of heroin travels across your anger like a blue point hound chained to backyard insidious shed, patio stones & picket fence collapsing before plastic garbage cans moaning like woodwinds in a Mahler Andante, lamenting growls & groans, leaving paw prints in saffron sand between fronds & pine cones the size of beehives . . . ink with antlers infested, invested, infested, invested, antlers with ball bearings, cobalt blue, bearings with balls, balls with bearings, cobalt flu, cobalt that begs the question that in turn begs a half crown with Elizabeth's gold countenance & blank stare into the future.
ALBATROSS Plus a plethora of poets, not to mention orchids quivering in sticky breezes, orchids that resemble bitten mantis wings. Chameleons, take notice, poets are on the prowl. Three-piece popes are out of style, including Wall Street scams; how else do you think one family could become a blip on the GNP, much less actual percentage points? Don’t fret. Poets are on the prowl, antlers razor-sharp like antennae in the cosmic breeze as condors or supersonic rockets cracking the sound barrier 10 times, if necessary, or 20 billion god-forsaken times; some of this is on you, I’m afraid; that’s right, the ones navigating the DNA highway of sorts are poets, all eschewed inside a two-tone pecan-brown VW bus, blowing their brains out on the latest Canadian derivative of socialized behavior. Poets.
Art by Allen Forrest Artist bio: Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College. He currently works in Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas.
Vancouver Gas Town #2 (oil on canvas)
Fe-lines, Tabby (ink on paper)
Fe-lines, Tiger Springs (ink on paper)
My tongue is furry from smoking too much; you love me anyways: By Jeremiah Walton I promised to visit every sunset I want to kiss you sunset in the rain I want to kiss you with clouds between our lips Sunset, I want to kiss you in Denver We will die some day but Sunset, I want to kiss you in Denver with clouds between our lips in the rain in wet pine in new sincerity.
Author bio: Jeremiah Walton is 19. He founded Nostrovia! Poetry, The Traveling Poet, W.I.S.H. Publishing, and runs Books & Shovels, a traveling bookstore. He posts poetry and thoughts at Gatsby's Abandoned Children.
Evening Wear By Sid Orange She had humour. She did. It was pink. Dirty, warm and pink. Dirty and buttoned. In steaming water, he soaped every witticism. He squeezed, twisted and rinsed them. As he scrubbed, the water blackened. Then onto a clothesline, he tossed her jokes. Their limbs snapped, like beating wings. When they dried, he smelled sunlight and garden flowers. She was nude as egg yolk. She oozed back into that clean, fluffy satire. But she said nothing funny after that.
Author bio: Sid Orange was raised in London, UK, but now he lives in The Cotswolds, UK. Always an autodidact, he has previously been published in The Voices Project, Straight Forward Poetry and Brickplight.
Three Poems By Deborah Guzzi
Too Dumb to Lie Down Down, so many things forced down, they force you to look down, force you to lie down, even music tracks “comma, down doobee, doobee down.” The tracks the coyote left in the slightly frozen lawn drew my eyes down, for the cat is missing. Poor half-bitten stray, already a gimp, I bet he was overcome and went down. Yes, the down-drums, the riverside, I ain’t going to worry war no more, I ain’t going to worry war no more. Yeah, right— Of course, there are some good downsides like when a lover goes down, but all and all, I prefer the upbeat, the backfield in motion and the suburbs to the downtown.
Manscaping Over six foot of smugness sits there beside his trophy wife; he’s trained her to wear what she’s told. She smiles. If her slick lips lose shine; he’ll be sure to tell her. Head-honcho, Super-Pig, dresses for public consumption. He pouts showing his soft side, when it gets him what he wants, usually, a side-show.
Oh, the joys of manipulation, to blind with a handsome grin, to lead a crowded room—with state orchestrated pap. Only his snout can spout this, policeman are your friend crap toward the desired effect, memorization of the masses. A spit polished, jar-head-do, bristles on his crown— reminiscent of Frankenstein, occasion-ally dressed in flam-boy-ant purple. Damn, the man can strut sitting down. A right fine, over-stuffed, half-drunk, continuous steam of bull-shit pours from each orifice, apparently all this is possible with shaved balls, who knew? Mr. Community Liaison can sure lay one on, especially after the obligatory six or seven bottles of Bud Light-beer, the man gives pussys a bad name. Oh, he’s a fine man, a brave man—so he tells us, a defender of the weak, savior to the powerless. It wouldn't be surprising if he wore his wife's underwear. Yet, the blind eye of justice chooses—to give him a gun. PS He has now retired and is working for a girls prep school. (No gun except the rocket in his pocket.)
Dogma’s Bite false-teeth gnash blue-green putrefies on grinding surfaces white collared, black cloaked, digestion resists in each over-fed paunch peas porridge is regurgitated each Sunday from dogmatic mouths Jack-in-the-Pulpits Right—the eternal topic of each castrated bull their eye teeth pulled—their seeds unsown
Author bio: Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator. She spends her days giving healing touch through massage, Japanese Shiatsu and Reiki. Occasionally, she writes for Massage and Aromatherapy magazines. She travels the world expanding her knowledge of healing modalities and writing inspiration. Her poetry appears in magazines in the UK, Canada, Australia, China, India, Greece, and the US.
Two Poems By Sam Campbell Author bio: Hailing from the dirty suburbs of Chicago, Sam Campbell is a young journalist lost in Northwest Montana. He drinks too much, sleeps too little and doesn't care about anything. A self-loathing ignoramus, Sam's fiction and poetry has appeared in literary journals such as Full of Crow, Poetry, Kerouac’s Dog, Negative Suck, Breadcrumb Scabs and Misfits Miscellany. The Fuck You Poem Satan’s too cliché, man. We’re neither up nor down. We are the in-between. Like the spec of grime impervious to the cleaning man’s rage, we are too robust for the bottom shelf, but our imperfections lurk in the soggy part of the poor man’s mind, encumbering his bliss while blindly forging the ceiling of our own Are you okay with a life of purgatory? Fuck you! Purgatory is life. From the bank clerk turning in his two-week notice just before the raise, to the CEO overdosing before her anniversary, to the teenage girl dead on the side of the road after soccer practice, everything happens while nothing happens. So you’re embracing the depression of nihilism? Fuck you! Labels are futile, like naming a star that’s been dead for thousands of years— your ignorant shrine is not the past it’s your future— your super nova explosion into nothingness forever. Why don’t you just kill yourself and get it over with? Fuck you! We’re already alone.
My absence would only show the ugly narcissism in those who knew me. To ascertain why I would do such a thing, projecting a false selflessnessâ€” what heroics you would have shown as I lied dying, squeezing the unknown depths of my subconscious, like popping a zit through a fading tattoo, only to awake in the same world while arriving in hell for the first time. So you have all the answers? Fuck you! I am all the answers And so are youâ€” A paradox that could save the world if we looked in the right light. But that has burned out many years ago. Embracing the nothingness Was deemed impossible by those frightened by the vastness of their insecurities, by those who believed they had not enough time to get it right, by those who became the majority Like a plague spreading while you rest in the night Fuck you.
Poem for an ex whose suicide into the pen factory smoke stack left her to be, once again, held in my hand Hide her in the words, plutonic camouflage of ink. Alas, she fades as it dries but never disappears.
SATIRE: Maim Street By Douglas J. Ogurek
“And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.” - Mark 9:45
Maim Street’s performance at the 2032 Grammy Awards begins with marching music. Children sing, and their shadows march in place on a glowing blue wall. A deep guitar note smothers the singing, and a light reveals Mage Guillotine. He wears a wizard’s hat and robe, and plays beside a guillotine. Drummer Slaybraham Lincut wears a stovepipe hat topped by a hand, and bassist Delete is covered in eyeballs. Splegos, lead singer of Maim Street, charges onto the stage. A metallic horn juts from his forehead. Moving robotic infants are skewered on his scepter, which is capped by a scaly hand extending a long-nailed middle finger. More infants dangle from his robe. Splegos smashes an infant on the floor. To the drumbeat. He opens his mouth, revealing fangs, and then bites off the infant’s leg. He lights the infant on fire, then throws it into a fan above the stage. Blood rains on him. The music accelerates. Splegos hoists a machine gun, then shoots the blue wall. The children’s shadows fall, and black splays over the blue.
Splegos sits on a throne decorated with the heads of past Presidents. The throne, connected to a track, launches over the audience. A seven-foot-high glass replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on stage. Dead animals surround it. Mage Guillotine’s guitar notes sprawl, while Slaybraham Lincut pounds ploddingly. Delete crunches out a bass riff. Lincut raises a drumstick. He chants, “GanGRENE…GanGRENE… GanGRENE” and the audience joins. Splegos, riding his throne over the audience, hoists his infant-loaded scepter to the chant. He brings the middle finger on his scepter to his mouth. What comes out merges a shriek with the sound of blades chafing. Incomprehensible. But the lyrics appear above the stage: “Sports fans: ignoramuses/Businesspeople: greedy scoundrels/Stay-at-home mothers: prostitutes.” The throne swoops to the stage and the guitar’s drone deepens. Splegos picks up a sledgehammer. His voice shifts to a growl: What you buy is who you are. What you buy is who you are. What you buy is who you are. America: I’m disappointed. He hits the statue and the glass explodes. The band plays a variation on the march that started the performance. Mage Guillotine grates the guitar, and an elderly woman with a fur coat and a cane shuffles out. The march stops. Lincut pummels the drums, Delete slashes at the bass, and Splegos hammers the Presidents’ heads. His horn reflects light. He gargles, “Your child’s not special; he’s a brat./Makeup presents a false appearance.” The voice deepens, and three times he roars, “Pregnancy decreases brain size.”
Mage Guillotine kicks away the old woman’s cane, forces her into his guillotine. He grips the lever and his hat and robe flicker. Splegos growls, “Don’t fail…to act, don’t fail…to act, don’t fail…to…” He hurls one of the infants. It splatters against a glass wall. Splegos’s voice resembles a jet engine when he completes the lyric with the last “act.” Mage Guillotine pulls the lever. The blade falls, and a bass note drops. Splegos tosses the old woman’s head to Lincut. Lincut holds it by the hair, bangs it against the drums. Extended deep notes buzz from the guitar, while the cymbals hiss and the bass plays an upbeat melody. Splegos’s voice shreds the auditorium: Woman meets man at university. Marriage, children, she stops working. He seeks a new seed depository. She buys makeup, furniture, jewelry. Splegos whispers, “I do I do I do I do.” The guitar grinds. He pulls an infant off his scepter, hurls it onto the floor. He stomps on it. His voice changes. It resembles a harvester machine. “Betrayal. Prostitution.” Darkness covers Splegos, and his last word echoes. At stage right, a deejay inside a glass box plays dance music. Glowing sheets bulge and move on three beds. Each has a sign on its footboard: “Homo,” “Bi,” and “Hetero.” Stage left: spotlight on Delete. He has a shotgun, and the eyeballs that cover him gleam. He starts toward the beds. Mage Guillotine plays a guitar solo. Delete runs toward the beds, leaps, and then, fifteen feet above the beds, he flips backwards, and the shotgun explodes three times. The bumps on the beds stop moving and dark splotches cover the sheets. Delete plucks an eyeball form his chest. He throws it into the glass box. The deejay waves his arms. The box explodes.
The bass, while the guitar and drums play softly, emits a scraping sound. Splegos sits on his throne of Presidents’ heads and sings in a clear countertenor into his middle finger microphone. “I drive a Mercedes, look at me./Makeup and heels, low self-esteem.” The auditorium darkens. Marching music overtakes the other instruments. A woman with a glowing blue purse skips onto the stage. A bloody lamb’s head hangs from the purse. Slaybraham Lincut climbs off the drums. The hand atop his hat points at her. He flicks the back of his sleeveless suit jacket, pulls out a sword. The woman stops, hoists the lamb’s head in one hand. Lincut raises the sword, strides toward her. The march grows louder. The guitar makes the sound of a sword slowly unsheathing, and the bass mimics a distant battle. The spotlight shines on Splegos. He stands on his throne above the audience. He pulls an infant from his scepter, bites off its head. Red liquid spurts from its neck, rains on the audience. He throws George Washington’s head into the crowd, dropkicks President Fulton’s. The march weakens. The bass and guitar get louder, faster. Splegos’s fangs gleam. His voice resembles explosions. “Everyone…here is…a fool.” He sits. The throne plunges toward the stage. The throne reaches the other side of the stage, stops above a clear tank filled with ice and water. Its display says, “30 degrees.” Splegos jumps into the tank. Splegos climbs out of the tank. His roar matches that of a tyrannosaurus rex: “I am at fault I am at fault I am at fault I am at…fault.” Mage Guillotine hacks the guitar. Delete threshes the bass. Lincut reaches the woman with the lamb’s head, brings back his sword. Splegos sprints toward her. He lowers his head. The lights go out. The bass slices, the guitar whirls.
The lights return. Splegos’s metal horn has impaled the woman’s neck. The instruments churn together. Lincut hoists her severed arm. Her stump squirts blood. Splegos pulls out his horn. Blood erupts. She falls. Splegos rolls in the blood. Lincut’s gold watch chain flashes. He throws the arm against Mage Guillotine’s guitar. The music stops. Splegos, covered in red, speaks into his microphone. “No people or animals have been hurt during this performance. Please keep in mind that this was an act, and that we played characters. All proceeds from the sale of this single go to the International Wildlife Preservation Association.”
Author bio: Douglas J. Ogurek is a dink. Though it has been banned on Mars, his work appears in Clockwise Cat, the British Fantasy Society Journal, The Literary Review, Gone Lawn, Morpheus Tales, Wilderness House Literary Review, and several anthologies. Ogurek founded the literary subgenre known as unsplatterpunk. He is the communications manager of a Chicago-based architecture firm, where he has written over one hundred articles about facility planning and design. He lives on Earth with the woman whose husband he is. They are owned by a pit bull named Phlegmpus Bilesnot. Ogurek also reviews films at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. More at www.douglasjogurek.weebly.com.
FILM REVIEW: Grief is a Monster By Alison Ross
The year 2014 was rife with exceptional movies. I did not see them all, of course, but among the ones I did see, I especially loved the coming of age epic “Boyhood,” the ethereal Hollywood/Off-Broadway parody “Birdman,” the hiking manifesto “Wild,” the slapstick drama “Grand Budapest Hotel,” the timely civil rights tale “Selma,” and the cerebral horror film “Babadook.” Indeed, “Babadook,” while it may mine familiar horror movie tropes, is possibly the most indelible of any in the scary-movie genre that I have ever seen. Sure, there's the discombobulation of “The Shining,” there's the freaky gross-out factor of “The Exorcist,” and the heart-stopping terror of “Amityville Horror.” But “The Babadook” is infused with the keenest verisimilitude and psychological symbolism that I have witnessed in films among its category. As a rule, I shun most horror movies. I don't like to be scared for the sake of being scared. I am, of course, a big David Lynch fan, who has an affinity for weaving horror elements into his surrealistic cinema. But Lynch is heavily allegorical, and whatever devices he chooses to use are in service to his sublimely warped vision.
“The Babadook” has been relentlessly compared to “The Shining,” and justifiably so. It's more in the realm of psychological horror than it is shock-value horror, the latter of which is cheap and viscerally thrilling, but not intellectually satisfying. “The Babadook,” put simply, is a metaphorical and metaphysical exploration of the devastating reverberations of grief due to loss, and the implications of such a loss on family dynamics and cohesiveness. As I mentioned, “The Babadook” uses some of the contrivances of generic horror films, which has earned it some negative criticism. But I say, rather than the film resorting to gimmickry, it bravely employs a few tools from the shed, but in a fresh fashion that precludes rendering the movie as a pale, stale imitation of other genre pals. Those tropes are not mechanically rolled out; they are organically blended into the mix, along with mundane quotidian details, which allow the movie to respire and establish a realistic aura. The movie does not, like so many horror films, suffocate us in trying to terrify us. So, yes, the movie’s “fright worth” is secondary to its metaphorical concerns. Sure, it's designed to scare, but the terror factor is subjugated to the pathos factor, in that the story is so universal, and the acting so believable (the young child, in particular, is phenomenal), that the movie wrenches our hearts appealing to our empathic emotion rather than to our crude sense of fear. Director Jennifer Kent’s movie is a cautionary tale: The creepy creature in the children's book, The Babadook, is the black shadow that haunts our psyches when grief looms, and if we don't dispel the monster, it might overtake our lives.
Photography by David J. Thompson Artist bio: David J. Thompson is a former prep school teacher and coach who has been traveling since October 2013. These photos are from a trip to Spain in the winter of 2014. His interests include jazz, postcards, and minor league baseball. His most recent poetry/photography chapbook, And Thou Upon Earth, is available from Nerve Cowboy in Austin, Texas.
Photography by David J. Thompson
TWO POEMS By Dr. Mel Waldman THE CURIOUS PHRONTISTERY Drop-outs & drop-ins come here, to hang out, & kill time inside the cacophony, & swallow divine coffee brewed from Heaven, & drift off into Dream Land; or taste Sweet Phantasmagoria, a transient delight of Purgatory; or swiftly swirl Divine Ecstasy, brewed from Hell, around their phallic tongues. Some shattered souls come to this unearthly kingdom to smell the seductive aroma of escapist thoughts, inhale unreal dreams, & exhale the contagious toxins of the eerie day. But I come here to think freely in this curious phrontistery,
within the chaos, & embrace the cornucopia of whirling noise & confusion; & letting go, sail around the whirligig of Existence, the circular labyrinth of cosmic conundrums, & in a high-risk, thrill-seeking, mad-dog rabies moment, leap into nowhere, steal a ride on the merry-go-round of non-existence, & plummet into non-being; & still, I rise from the dead, swallow divine coffee, taste Sweet Phantasmagoria, & swirl Demonic Ecstasy, &
not knowing what to do, or who I am, or where I belong, I ponder everything & nothing in the curious phrontistery, my thinking place, inside the cacophony & chaos of, perhaps, the chimerical coffee kingdom of my universe, a strange & unfathomable, beautiful & grotesque, eternal home for a thinker immersed in multicolored, coffee-scented dreams; here in my curious phrontistery, I inhale a cornucopia of celestial & subterranean scents, ponder & question & search for the invisible Source of
my unreality, a delicious but sometimes eerily obscene flavor, & I listen to eldritch voices dripping into my coffee cup, dripping again & again for Eternity
THE RETURN OF THE UNCANNY Holy, holy, holy, the pristine landscape, in the winter of the return, & the heavy snow falls interminably holy, holy, holy. Hello, stranger, hello, unreality is an abyss, the universe-indecipherable, & Einstein, unholy prophet of science, licks his lips, & sticks out his swirling tongue at me, in the eerie storm, unearthly tempest of divine beauty, & a celestial voice from beyond whispers,
in the winter of the return, ensconced in the deep snow, hello, stranger, hello. Now, the mungo, unholy dumpster diver, drifts in the sweeping snow, follows his curious instinct, into the cul-de-sac, & finds his oasis, in the wasteland of the blizzard, & within the whirling whiteout, extracts buried treasure from the trasha Marie Antoinette drinking bowlinvisible in the storm, exquisite
object, observed & swallowed only by the Creator, simulacrum of a sensuous succulent breast, & he touches the beautiful, uncanny thing, covered & trapped in the spectral snow, like a cold Mustang subdued & enclosed in a frozen corral, the magnificent power of the beast concealed in a phantom tomb of snow,
but still, he clings to it, & clutches the earthly-divine object, a supernatural conundrum & paradox of duality & oneness, & he tastes the sweet soothing snow & licks its fantastic flow & unreal fortress, that separates him from everlasting love, until the holy unveiling, the haunting, & the return of the uncanny.
& hidden in the storm, I listen to the ferocious silence of the uncanny, beneath the sprawling canopy of snow & cosmic design. I listen, holy, holy, holy, & the heavy snow falls interminably & I listen.
Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have appeared in numerous magazines. His poems have been widely published in magazines and books. A past winner of the literary Gradiva Award in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in literature and is the author of eleven books.
Two poems Linda Spolidoro Author bio: Linda Spolidoro holds a very expensive yet tauntingly useless B.S. in Psychology, is a writer, poet, melancholic, full-time yoga instructor and dedicated yogi. After years of questionable decision making, she found the yogic path, gave up smoking, drinking, swearing, and sex … just kidding, but she did quit smoking. Even so, the need to make sense of things persisted, and like tossing a blanket over an invisible entity, writing became her way of creating a tangibility out of her internal, often disturbing, but mostly entertaining thoughts. It took a few years, but Linda has finally embraced her uniqueness (weirdness) and remains hopeful that one day she will rediscover her home planet.
That Girl Know That girl know how to crow preen, proud, pitch a perfect O That girl know how to glow ain’t no dirt her hands ain’t been in dig down, earth bare, cool soles That girl know how to be beat hands up, head held high tough girl, thick skin, smooth sway That girl know how to know sees you coming, backward facing eyes tough luck, slick guy, straight on hand held high, head up slow that roll, kick those rocks That girl know how to duck your sly give you the slip, sideway eye hang that whistle, heed that sign
That girl know how to hold canâ€™t be shook, canâ€™t be told Starts with a fight, every single day ain't no wave coming to sweep her away That girl know how to sing stop the storm, the rain, mid-stream That girl know how to roar That girl know how to soar That girl know how to be seen hands held high, hips sway low one stomp for YES, two stomps for NO That girl know how to crow
Kneeling Pulling wool socks over the sharp angles of her boney child knees she kneels on marble stairs usually reserved for holy men only men the specter of Christ dead or dying in the throes of a last ecstasy rains down upon her breath and sickness and the truth about us all I have done nothing wrong Her eyes close in mock prayer her legs tingle with the quick pricks of spider bites her heart so full that it spills into her belly where the spiders have laid eggs, hatching and filling her with poison rising into her throat and passing effortlessly through the porous blood barrier like the veil of a bride or a widow obscuring just enough of the truth she herself is in ecstasy
POLEMIC: Human Evolution Is on a Two-Track Trajectory for the Next Millennia By Edwin L. Young, PhD
For all species that have inhabited our volatile planet from their arrival upon our barely greening new earth in its far distant hazy past, with its long and chimerical geological history, to its present which has now been made so precarious by our own species myopic, impulsive, gluttonous and all too often recklessly ruthless behaviors, their life spans have been ephemeral at best. Shall our own species suffer a similar ephemeral fate? If fickle fortune prolongs our own lethal denouement, then we may have one or more millennia before our own expiration date. Between now and when the curtain comes down on us, I am envisioning that our own species will diverge and eventually become two distinct species. I can see, from what I gather by studying televised pictures of humans of all socioeconomic classes in most of our many variegated cultures strewn around the globe, signs that even now we are in the process of evolving into what will become two separate species of humans. There are those rich and powerful men and beautiful and brilliant women inhabiting the skylines of metropolises scattered around the fertile regions of north and south continents. Below them, beyond the skyscrapers and neon lights and off into the far away desolate, marginally civilized hinterlands, away from the gated and policed wealthy communities, out in outlying crowded and impoverished ghettos of cities, and even those snuggled in carbon copy middle class Levittown neighborhoods, there you will find the beginnings of what would become an antiquated and growing inferior breed of humans. Off in the distant future, all of those within the inferior breed will even be given a name to distinguish them for the small but dominant superior breed who, now, will also have their unique classification. The two-track trajectory of evolution will have been complete. Intelligent time travelers from today will probably be shocked and even self-incriminating for not having seen in its inchoate form emerging one or several thousands of years earlier. On second thought, these time travelers will, like an epiphany, grasp what had to be the inevitable trend of evolution. It will dawn on them that their day should have been seen as an irretrievable blindness, a complacent worldview, of their time on earth as an eternal blissful existence with its denial of the brutal, value neutral, irresistible course of evolutionâ€™s principle of natural selection.
Socioeconomic class interbreeding would have ceased to exist and intra socioeconomic class would have been increasingly selective with females choosing to breed almost exclusively with the richest and most powerful males. Rich and powerful males would have bred with the most beautiful and comprehensively engaging females. The gap of wealth, power, education between Western males and females would have vanished. Western woman would have trained and hired extremely skilled and dedicated women from among the best of the inferior species to raise their children. In the not too distant future, almost all forms of manual labor in Western countries will be done by robots and mechanized procedures run by extremely efficient algorithms. Electronic communications between Westerners will be through embedded devices, many of which will even be thought controlled. Food production and preparation will be scientifically designed for maximum nutrition and weight control, thereby reducing illnesses caused by obesity and malnutrition to almost zero. Exercise for health will be available universally and at no cost and will have been made fun through enchanting entertainment devices. Human intelligence, abstract thought expressed in written language and mathematical symbols, technology, and scientific methods adapted to the proliferating disciplines, all will have been incorporated into the medical disciplines. These factors have been applied to human reproductive processes. This highly sophisticated development has also had an enormous effect on human births, birth rates among socioeconomic groups. This trend has also dramatically influenced the rate of defective births, especially in Western countries. The differentiation of classes among, especially, Western humans would have eventually resulted in a minimum of defective birth rates in upper class females. The science of genetics has led to genetic selection and modification and fertile females would have been resorting to genetic screening and early on aborting fetuses that intrauterine X-ray technologies were revealing as having defects increasingly earlier in their term. Western human’s births, in contrast to underdeveloped countries, would have been selecting defect free, genetically superior children. Methods for preventing the harmful effects of rays, such as gamma rays, were in the early stages of development. This scientific endeavor would eventually prevent such rays from damaging the conception process of impregnated Western human females. While these trends were advancing in the Western countries, underdeveloped countries would have been increasingly plagued with unbridled birth rates, with poorly nourished and poorly cared for infants. Among these excessive numbers of births there was an increasingly greater number of defective children. All of these factors would be skewing children in underdeveloped countries toward lower average I.Q.s in their populations. This tend meant that children in these countries were increasingly intellectually inferior to advantaged children born in the Western countries. The ultimate effect of these reproduction related sciences would be the rapidly increasing divergence of humans into two or more separate trajectories. Science would, therefore, have been a major force in shaping human species into at least two new classifications of species. The inferior brand(s) of human species would be viewed somewhat like animals meant to do the drudgery work of the superior brand of Western human species. In the long history leading up to this radical divergence, humans viewed as inferior in every country, even in Western countries, were being treated somewhat like beasts of burden put on treadmills in factories and the many other forms of menial labor. Their testosterone driven, macho, young males were being inducted in each countries military service. They were made to feel patriotic by fighting in ‘manufactured’ wars and for putting their lives at risk. They had no way of knowing that the hidden, underlying purposes of these wars were for increasing the profits and power of the military-industrial complex of imperialistic Western countries. The brutal, megalomaniac political, military and corporate leaders of these Western nations were callously sacrificing these ‘patriotic’, naive young men (and women) in all countries around the world as,
what they would refer to in private, cannon fodder. These top level Western leaders regarded themselves as architects of a better world; what they referred to as a ‘New World Order.’ That label had such a nice ring to it that the populace below them readily believed and adopted it as signifying some grand and glorious new purpose for the world. Their own leaders were the Avant garde in this new wonderful challenge for the betterment of humanity. Of course, the corporate owned media would cleverly shield Western populaces from the nasty, gory truth of the combination of Western corporate aggrandizement and the ruthless killing, slave labor, exploitation of their natural resources, and their near universal impoverishment. All this macabre historical drama is merely for the pleasure of and for the sake of Western fated imperialism and its goals of historically unsurpassed global power and wealth. The great caveat for all of these futuristic trends is that the time-bombs of climate change, pollution of earth, air, and sea will have continued almost unabated. The natural resources such as oil will have been depleted. Space industries will be searching for meteorites, comets, and extra-solar system planets for sources to be mined and brought back to earth to replenish our own depleted natural resources. The search for a reachable, habitable planet elsewhere in the universe would still have failed. This is the legacy the newly evolved superior breed of human species can complacently look back upon and read or hear about in one or two millennia from now. Unfortunately, for the superior human species, time will probably have run out. The material universe does not weep any deaths of living or stellar ‘objects.’
By Bob Heman
A STORY She was wearing a big head when the farmer saw her. He was sawing wood inside the wood shed. She came out of the woods and took his breath away when she entered the cold shed. Her arms bled with desire as she motioned him near. He did not fear her arms only her huge distorted head. But that was where the story led. from The Bride's Pillow Book If she finds his techniques to be inadequate, or selfish, she will conduct a series of lessons for him, to improve his skills and sensitivity. And if he is a slow learner, or lacks sincerity or a desire to learn, she will administer the strap or the hairbrush to his bare bottom in a serious and thorough manner, just as she would to any lazy or stubborn young man who did not apply himself to his studies. This must be done each time he shows no improvement. Eventually his passion will increase, and with it his focus on both the lessons and their teacher. In this way a most thoughtful and caring lover can be created. Author bio: Bob Heman has been writing prose poems seriously for over 40 years, and has appeared in such journals as Sentence, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Mad Hatter’s Review, Caliban, Otoliths, Skidrow Penthouse, Artful Dodge and Hanging Loose.
Two poems By Brennan Burnside
Mel Gibson’s Good Friday-Themed Bedroom Crushed marble flooring, 15’X25’ concrete walls, thirty-three wooden crucifixes conjoined by hemp twine in single pile in north-west corner, 1’in length each, cement ceiling with single crack, dripping water on single floral-design Serta twin mattress at center of room, blue granite bedside table 6” high, 3” purple candle burning in 2” brass candle holder, twenty-three green Holy Bibles underneath the bed.
Josef Mengele’s Playroom Teak wood floor with 3” space between wooden panels, right triangular-shaped room, cherry wood walls, southwest-facing hypotenuse wall 50’X20’, east and north walls 50’X15’, florid
light from lamp under flooring, two matching cream-colored mats with swatiska embroidery, marble stone bookshelves along along east –facing wall, top shelf: two matching Raggedy-Ann dolls middle shelf: two matching fulvous stuffed puppies bottom shelf: two matching lavender stuffed rabbits, small reflecting pool 2 in circumference (20°C), border of granite stones each 2”X4”, two matching pink rubber duckies floating in pool, small closet on hypotenuse, doors ripped off, no shelves, white plastic shoe container, two blue left-foot Keds, two yellow left-foot Nikes, two left-foot red Dockers boat shoes, two doors respectively red and black, red door with black doorknob, black door with white doorknob, muffled trumpet blast far away.
Author bio: Brennan Burnside has worked at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Waffle House. His work has been featured in such online and print publications as Gold Dust, Lyre Lyre and 3 Elements Review. His chapbook, Room Studies, will be published next month. Watch him blog at burnsideonburnside.tumblr.com.
POLEMIC: WHO'S TO BLAME? by Fred Russell In an age of punditry where almost all political and social criticism in the media is in the hands of journalists who are unequipped to understand how societies become what they are, and lack the courage to call into question the foundations of American life, it is not surprising that almost all such criticism is directed against politicians and other public figures. What the journalistic profession is clearly incapable of understanding and certainly does not wish to understand is that America's problems – the crime and poverty, the violence and bigotry, the ignorance and apathy, the greed and selfishness, the resentment and frustration, the anxiety and depression – are not the product or fault of incompetent or wrongheaded government but a direct result of the values and character of the American people.
The fiction that the People are never at fault, that the People are great, that the country is great, and that it is their leaders who let them down may be necessary to enable Americans to maintain a good opinion of themselves but in and of itself is one of the greatest obstacles to the healing of America. When people locate the ills of society in government rather than in themselves, they are in effect dooming that society to perpetuate everything that is rotten in it.
It is of course true that America is poorly governed and it is also true to a large extent that politics attract an inferior type of individual, whether in terms of morality or ability, as do entrepreneurship and journalism itself for that matter, so that, ironically, it may be said that the three most important functions of society – its overall management, the provision of its material
needs and the control and flow of information â€“ are in the hands of people who are the least suited to carry them out. But at the same time, the problems of America run so deep, are so deeply ingrained in the character of the American people, that the country is virtually ungovernable.
This, however, does not mean that it is not as tightly controlled as the harshest dictatorship, not by brute force of course but by the rigid proceduralization of daily life. All Americans live by other people's rules â€“ rules that are established primarily for the convenience of these other people â€“ and therefore Americans are led around by the nose whenever they come into contact with the bureaucracies that administer and control public or any other kinds of services. The man in the street thus enters a world where rules of behavior have been laid out for him by those who control given segments or sectors of the society. Paradoxically, too, it is Western societies that have the most rules, for they are far more sophisticated in organizing society than less developed countries. Computerization of course augments all this significantly. Everything comes with instructions which we blindly obey. It is in fact virtually impossible to interact with the outside world without acting in a prescribed way.
As for journalism, it is true that the demands of the media, the need to fill time or space and their engagement in meaningless competition with one another, encourage the sloppiness and superficiality that are the chief characteristics of the journalistic profession, and it may well be that in the absence of such constraints, a small number of journalists might emerge as real writers or even historians, just as a small number of bloggers could conceivably emerge as real writers if the absence of standards on the Internet did not encourage even greater sloppiness and superficiality. Of free enterprise and the market economy, the meat and potatoes of the American way of life, the less said the better, for they thrive largely by seducing or manipulating consumers into buying what they don't need or can't afford.
It is truly discouraging to run one's eye over the headlines in the press and on the web or to listen to the sages on the talk shows without ever encountering the suggestion that something is wrong with America other than Washington or Wall Street. This is the great failure of American journalism, a failure of nerve and a failure of perception. Needless to say, novelists and social scientists have done a much better job of representing the realities of American life, but relatively few people read them, and even those who do fall into the habit of viewing America through the eyes of its journalists after being exposed to their "stories" and "opinion pieces" day in and day out for years on end. The blissful ignorance of Americans is thus assured from one generation to the next as they wait to be informed each day about what other people are doing wrong.
COLOSSAL HELLO KITTY ROBOT By Frank Grigonis
First thing I did after hitting the number was pay some out-of-work robotocist to build a colossal Hello Kitty. She was my first robot and considering what happened next, she won’t be my last. Acclimating myself to the owner’s manual tied my brain into long, blue balloons. But I eventually broke through and had her walking upright and flying too. Then I asked some pissed-off genius GI Joe selling homemade grenades in front of the VA if he could load the robot’s arms with surface to air missiles, and he said he’d try. But adding that feature to the remote control was yet another matter, which led to that unfortunate incident involving the Boeing airliner packed with traveling bankers. Collateral damage, if you will. And we did, Hello Kitty and I; but our main mission would occur come Super Bowl Sunday when the New York Jets were to battle the Cleveland Browns. My initial plan being to fly the robot onto the field and to have her flip off some fans and maybe a Fox TV cameraman or three. But when I spotted all the cow-faced, sign-waving Michael Vick supporters, I knew that a mere gesture of contempt just wouldn’t do. So from my nearby yet undisclosed location I had the big Kitty extend her arm, then shoot the first missile out through the opening in her palm. Without going into gory details, let’s just say that it shocked the nation and that if I felt like Clint Eastwood it was because those Vick lovers had made my day. But even so, I wasn’t finished: I hadn’t yet “spoken” to my hometown, so I had the kitty extend her other arm, toward the Cleveland side this time, and the second missile sang across the rusty sky. Soon after, at some greasy spoon, as I was savoring my decaf coffee, the boob one booth over disrupted my reverie by asking if I’d heard anything about the game, and what I thought about this or that player, as though I asked random strangers if they prefer Wendy Xu to Charles Bukowski. And when he said “Too bad I couldn’t get tickets” I simply nodded, smiled and agreed. Author bio: Frank Grigonis writes fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in PANK, Whiskey Island, Bareback Magazine, Every Day Fiction and other journals.
something you caught from Richard by Cade Quinn
/my name is moon/ /i will fuck your gravity in ways it has never been loved/ /and i will eat you. slowly/ /the way sky has eaten God/ /the way a cat will eat a shrew when no one is looking/ /the way ocean has eaten history/ /this is something you do not run from/ /the ground is just like air only thicker/ (do not believe what I say). /if i am a liar (believe me) /then I am all of the children you will never have/ /obese sin kids/ /then I am not in the walls/ /the walls melt to uncover more walls/ /when he touches your breast/ /i am the heat in your stomach/ /the windows of your car fog/ /you could write words/ /but instead you write nothing/ /if the space between the breaths gets/ /wider, are you dying / /or becoming more alive?
Author bio: Cade is not a writer at all, but the sewer-‐dwelling ghost of someone's pet ferret who haunts the plumbing of Seattle. When he's not haunting sewers, he's drinking at bars. Come say hi. Look for the ghost of a ferret.
Record Review: A Riotous Good Time By Alison Ross The Original Riot Grrrls are back, with invigorating vengeance! They insist, of course, that their new album, "No Cities To Love" (NCTL) is not a comeback album, but rather, a perpetuation of their musical legacy that was begun in the mid-1990s. In other words, Sleater- Kinney are a continuum, and their ten-year "hiatus" was really just a blip on their trajectory, a static phase in an otherwise fertile career. The new album by the fearsome threesome is as vital as ever. But though SK is known for fierce artpunk anthems, NCTL is, in a sense, an anti-anthemic album, relying less on accessible fury, and more on eccentric, no-wave stylings. In fact, the song, "No Anthems," encapsulates that ethos. The Sleater-Kinney ladies sound more grounded and yet more mercurial on NCTL. They have always had a slightly unhinged quality, but now they seem savvier and more assured - and therefore elegantly feral as opposed to raggedly so. This gloriously refined chaos is contained within these ten pristine punk prisms, refracting multifaceted moods. Sociopolitical ideals have always been scattered liberally among SK tunes, but now progressive tenets have taken on a new hue, as the women have experienced family life and alternate careers. Songs like "Price Tag" and "Bury Our Friends" tackle such themes. Each SK release has always been an accumulation of searing assaults, tempered by a melodic interval or two. Each one has also featured heavy doses of zig-zagging harmonies, vocals bouncing back and forth between Corin and Carrie, like crooning conversations. NCTL mostly lacks the mellower moments that provide the pillow to cushion the blow of the seething sonics, and also is noticeably amiss in the signature vocal-switching. But these elements, though treasured trademarks, aren't necessary to the Sleater-Kinney redux. "No Cities to Love" revels in punk ferocity and even allusions to metal and progressive rock, but it is refreshingly free of retread-fever, which infects so many "reunited bands." Sleater-Kinney isn't cheap like that; in order to trade in the currency of relevancy, the band must go full force and craft a fervently inspired collection. And indeed it is. Sleater-Kinney: three ladies to love.
By Alison Ross I have been a Giles Watson fan for some years now. His vibrant and prolific artistic output encompasses nature photography, drawings, watercolors and pastels, poetry, and music. He also, as a teacher, has directed and acted in school plays. Furthermore, he participates in erudite scholarship of anti-war poetry and Medieval literature. And, finally, Giles is a wildlife rescuer. Suffice it to say that the good Dr. Watson is a true Renaissance Man with enviable gifts.
The downside to Giles' relentless creative fertility, of course, is that it can be exasperating to keep up. The Green Pulse, a book that celebrates trees in all their convoluted glory, is one of Giles' many collaborative efforts with the gifted visual artist John Lincoln. This is an ekphrastic exercise, and the idea is that the poems directly mirror the paintings, to the point that it becomes almost a symbiotic situation where neither image nor verse can have a solid solo existence. Sure, technically you could read the poems separately or view the art on its own - and each experience would be a rewarding one - but when verse and visual are taken together, the impact is doubled, or, rather, deepened.
John Lincoln's paintings saturate the senses, and Giles' verse feeds back into the sensory saturation, weaving lush description with narrative imaginings. For example, in the poem, "The Corner Tree," he writes, "Here at the field's edge, the tree is dancing, full of xylem and phloem, her cleft bole glowing." Later in the poem, the narrator proclaims, "I can only stand, exult, cry out at her golden vortex, as she drinks, thick as syrup, the honeycombed sun." This approach seems to mimic John Lincoln's own approach to painting the trees, for his trees are not merely representational, but, rather, have symbolic qualities that suggest something outside or beyond themselves. True, these arboreal creations are mostly recognizable as trees, but John Lincoln portrays them as wildly colorful, fantastical, and mystical creatures, with sentience, seemingly, as they appear to feel pain, joy, and the whole spectrum of emotions. Certainly both Giles and John want us to see trees as extensions of ourselves, as metaphysical metaphors for our own lives. In "Fen Thorn," Giles writes, "... a thorn tree squatted, almost leafless, a half-known form that played upon my mind: not quite the thorn I knew, for I went loveless...and something in my soul was turning lifeless: a nest of tangled dreams and spent desires." Here, the poet shows us how a nest of thorns can represent both harsh beauty as well as our own frustrated aspirations. "The Singing Tree" is perhaps the centerpiece of the collection, insofar as it is a lyrical lament beautifully executed. The musical verse evokes the rhythmic limbs of the tree in the painting, which become twisted around in a tangled tango, and the wispy swirls and streams of light flow melodically around the tree base. All types of trees are catalogued here, and notes at the end give some scientific details about the trees and also discuss the inspirations for both poet and artist, which give an added, if more sobering, dimension to these otherwise sensual and synaesthetic collaborations. Both Giles Watson and John Lincoln are avid nature-lovers who revel in imparting their passion to others, so that we too may feel fused with trees, the natural world's most precious gift. As Giles writes, "I lean out, reach for silence, and the tree is towering, the locus of my dreaming. I let go, blend with silence, and the tree is looming, the woodland gleaming once more into being."
IMITATIONS OF JACQUES CORRIDA by Michael Paul Hogan
1. The tightrope walker despises the elephant The aerialiste sleeps with the tightrope walker The acrobat reads Baudelaire in his caravan The ringmaster wears a coat like a tuning fork The ringmaster’s wife is a Chinese parasol The Chinese parasol balances a seal on its nose The audience pays to throw nuts at the elephant The elephant sleeps with the ringmaster’s wife. 2. Consuela, you are more vanity than a tangerine. When we walk together among the broken tortillas you imagine yours breasts torn open by the teeth of accordion players,
you imagine your nipples being spat out on the wet pavement like strawberry stalks (although your own teeth lie hidden in the lipstick-lacquered cavity of a castanet) 3. The slender gipsy dances with a bear and the night’s a shattering of champagne flutes and the firework festival begins… Come, dance with me, dance down this alleyway inbetween top hats painted with violent windows violent and violet and aubergine I shall bind my heart with your bear’s blue chains while we dance down the cobblestones of the Boulevard St. Germain. 4. and came out suddenly the sun like a painted bicycle and the zinc table of the pavement café glistened like a well-shaved armpit smeared with coconut oil. 5. Father, must I repudiate you again and again? (though to repudiate is to be
repudiated). When I sit at my typewriter I know that you who survived Guernica cannot survive the anger of my love / my verse. Is it because of you that elephants are seldom (nearly never) aubergines? Father, why, when I married Consuela, did you lay the table of your heart with just one bowl of miserable paella? Truth, if there is any truth at all, must be begat by understanding; no father should have sons who are matadors or undertakers, least of all literary ballet dancers. Let us agree, therefore, to love and misunderstand one another, for we are all of us broken elevators trapped between each otherâ€™s floorsâ€Ś
Author bio: Jacques Corrida was born in Madrid in 1902, the son of a Spanish diplomat and a French ballerina, and published his first book of Surrealist poems, Elephants Are Not Aubergines, in Paris in 1924, after falling under the influence of Andre Breton and Jean Cocteau. His subsequent feud with Cocteau, that led to a duel fought with French baguettes and wheels of Camembert outside La Closerie de Lilas, is too well-known to need expanding on here, as are his affairs with Lee Miller and Anais Nin or his involvement, on the Republican side, in the Spanish Civil War. Less well-known is the fact that on May 7th 1964 he walked into a mirror and re-emerged on the other side as the poet and journalist Michael Paul Hogan...
A WOMAN IN SWIMMING By John Grey Pipe dreams against the underwater loudness, smoky dreams amuse themselves in a giant fish tank, a scented fare, straining and finally - a dawning that fills the air back down to your shoulders as, behind a cloud, bubbles erupt from your open mouth I sit wowed by children diving, simply mystified - come on! I get it. On all sides of you, water flapping, the faces of coins turned to break the surface I never knew as you chose falling from the sky, high-pitched, your hair - no, wait, I don't get it! So you and waves pose like two girls giggling laughter lips that mirror in bare bellies red and salty, a vixen exhibits a pop-eyed world to a sophisticated guy.
Author bio: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Rockhurst Review and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.
Two poems By Katie Jeddeloh Author bio: Katie Jeddeloh currently lives in Northfield, Minnesota where she is a student of English, Political Science, and Philosophy at St. Olaf College. Her permanent residence is in Denver, Colorado. She has been published in Black Heart Magazine and the Manitou Messenger.
Luminosity “the light poured in on me again” it is not upon such a light that the words find their way out and onto soft, gentle lichen, the ilk of which hazes and dazzles, aggrandizing sophist which it seems to exude. where the regime of the laughably opaque resides your very innards collapse with ephemeral delight, the[y’re, ir] temporary and unfortunate fate. (possibly) the decider refuses it, under most inquiries, anyway, save perhaps moses, maybe ezra. where it seeps through the cracks, sly and demure, luminous pulsing electricity, yellow and, unceasingly, charging through the night, like a chorus.
the third in the saga of electra it was the unearthly ruptur ing of senses it was the click of her heels it was impossible aggravation of her sublime, her beautiful , her quiet it was the tangle of cottons it was her disjointed chaos it was her clerical thinking if you insist it was her wistful dreaming her agonizing thirst it was unsaturated , momentum always so contemplative it was the celestial ballroom of her gleaming limbs it was dust it was the clumsy fumb ling of dropped fingers a large preference for your aura it was the nexus of her indigo gaze it was uninhibited, primal, sensuous fear it was crushed up, parallels on glass tables tomorrows left standing it was impious glory Editor’s note: “the third in the saga of electra” was previously published in Black Heart Magazine, though not in its full formatting.
NEWSSPEAK by Fred Russell
Journalists talk and write in platitudes. This is not surprising. They are not, after all, writers. Their command of the language is limited. Their minds are commonplace. They are also not scholars or political scientists. I occasionally watch Fox News, but what is true of Fox is true of any other news organization. The ideologies may be different but the mediocrity isn't, except for a kind of starry-eyed machoism among Fox's noncombatants whenever the subject is the military or national security, and hence their breezy, insider-ish tone and the penchant for hardass army talk, referring now to soldiers as warriors and speaking incessantly about boots on the ground, gridlock, lockdown, Intel, recon, choppers, nukes, and all the rest. It is true that journalists lack the talent to invent anything. They are the middlemen of language, picking up on words and phrases that are in the air and wearing them out through excessive use. The Bush administration, for example, gave them troop surges and enhanced interrogation techniques, which sounds a lot better than reinforcements and torture, though it is supposedly the job of journalists to cut through the crap and call a euphemism a euphemism. Fox fields an all-star
lineup of nonstop talkers. What they say doesn't have very much value or meaning. It plays to the biases of their viewers, gives them new scandals and new arguments, but doesnâ€™t have the slightest effect on how the country is governed. On the whole, in their superficiality, journalists contribute only to the ignorance of the public and of course to the degeneration of language.
It is sometimes hard to distinguish between an idiom and a platitude. For this reason, one of the few real services that journalists provide, aside from giving us the weather report and ball scores, is to draw the line for us, as though they were themselves lexicographers. A platitude then becomes simply a word or phrase used repeatedly by journalists, which grates so abrasively against the ear that no real writer would ever think to use it. Here are a few: slippery slope, fiscal cliff, crunching numbers, growing the economy, do the math, level playing field, cutting edge, no brainer, game changer, harm's way, take a listen, sound byte, outside the box, under the radar, in the loop, proactive, Obamacare, outsourcing, win-win, toxic, viral, uber, czar, buzz, spin.
What kind of mind uses such language? Clearly a lazy one, and that is a fair characterization of the journalist's mind. Because his use of language is so narrow, and his ideas are so banal, the first word or phrase that pops into his head when he tries to express a thought is naturally one that he has used before, that is, a platitude. Unfortunately, he lacks the critical sense to reject it and look for something better. He finds the familiar comforting and feels that he is using the language well when he comes up with a hackneyed phrase. For the journalist the platitude represents clear and incisive language. It would never occur to him that it is dull. This is the standard. When he reaches into the barrel, nothing is there. That is why he is a journalist and not a writer.
The news networks and journalists in general are forever assuring us that they are keeping an eye on things for us. That is their job, they tell us. They are always working for us, bringing us the news, so that we can – what? The idea, I suppose, is so that we can make the right decisions at election time, penalize the politicians who let us down and reward those who don't. But of course the net result of the entire political process is to elect representatives with whom the public is invariably dissatisfied and holds in very low esteem, so it is hard to see what the news networks accomplish other than sensationalizing events to hold our attention until the next commercial break – now a scandal, now a decomposing body in someone's garage, now some disaster footage from Nepal or New Orleans, and then the endless commentary, day after day with the same tedious arguments – Benghazi, ISIS, the IRS, the Ebola epidemic, whatever. They never let up. They are like dogs with a bone.
If any of this did some good, made a difference, gave us something other than drama and spectacle – that is, entertainment – then there might be some justification for the enormous price the media demand for their supposed services. The price they demand is the right to invade people's privacy and to conceal sources of defamatory or illegally obtained information. That is quite a price, but since they do not really deliver what they promise to deliver, they are in effect engaging in a species of fraud, representing themselves as the guardians of democracy and of the public's "right to know" when they clearly are not. Both legislators and law courts have been completely taken in by this deceit and habitually pay lip service to the notion that the press really is the watchdog of democracy and thus deserving of the widest latitude. But the cornerstone of a democracy is in fact its legal system and the traditions that sustain it. The guardians of democracy are the courts. All the investigative reporting and all the talk shows in the world have not had the remotest impact on how governments operate. I am not suggesting that we shut down the news organizations, any more than I would suggest that we ban poorly written books. By all means, let them go on doing exactly what they have
always done if that's what people want or need, but without their special privileges. Let them be hauled into court for hounding and harassing whomever they deem newsworthy and sued, fined or prosecuted for stalking them. Let them pay a price that hurts for their gossip, innuendo and calumny.
This would obviously inhibit them. The question is whether the public would suffer, no longer know what is really going on, as if it does now, become more ignorant than it already is, as if this is possible. The answer is of course no. It wouldn't make the slightest difference. It would not make the slightest difference if people were or were not told who smoked marijuana thirty years ago or slept with his neighbor's wife, or for that matter were or were not told what is going to happen in a week or a month by talk show sages who don't know what is going to happen in the next five minutes. We think we are being kept up to date when we get the news. What we are in fact getting is a kind of alternate reality, the journalistic equivalent of pulp fiction where "stories" are selected for their dramatic value and seldom coincide with real historical or social processes. This too is not surprising. Journalists are not equipped to give us anything more. If they were they would be historians or even novelists.
He Who Hides By Stephanie Sarwal
Memory triggered like a shotgun I am back there where I did not want to be at the Beginning of Time before supermarket checkout lines Disco ameobas dancing under the glitter ball Two codependent amoebas slimysexy in semi-fitted rayon, One goes on Zoloft the other stuffs himself on himself-He denies the existence of Christ but hates Him just the same. Bloated and exhausted, he climbs back into the Muck and spawns more of himself eating them as well Author bio: Stephanie Sarwal was previously a big firm tax attorney who wrote creatively and surreptitiously in between client projects and is currently a mother of four who writes creatively and only slightly less surreptitiously in between diaper changes and carpool runs in and about the suburbs of Our Nation's Capital.
Staten Island Ferry By John Greiner
You lined your coat with so many thousands of seconds of pandemonium that I got lost in the talk of hours. Short of breath I headed down to Battery Park to fling oyster shells at pigeons until they saw shadows cooing. In the days of the two Sneaky Petes we placed pennies on our eyes grander than the grandeur of the far off Indies and Spanish Harlem, now our quarters aren't worth a dime. At the least the Staten Island Ferry is still free for the cheap thrill seers of the Statue of Liberty. Sadly, your avowals no longer hold historical precedent, so I shall use them in the prelude to the opera of your life, or at least in the epilogue to the melodrama of my reign. Author bio: John Greiner’s poetry and fiction has appeared in numerous magazines. His chapbooks, pamphlets and collections of short stories include Bodega Roses (Good Cop/Bad Cop Press), and Relics From a Hell’s Kitchen Pawn Shop, (Ronin Press). Greiner's most recent chapbook of poetry, Turnstile Burlesque, will be published by Crisis Chronicles in September of 2015.
A Natural History of Ireland By Robert Ensor Guinness, ceilidh, coddle, poetry, art, all created by a hand divine, sublime; the freckled heifer pales beside the rampant bull, calm before the storm; weeping willow sheds shamrock tears for the unrequited love of a leprechaun; a weary, wary lough-laid trout basks in sunlight, contemptuous of a poaching gypsyâ€™s dead bait; in the cities, multi-cultural mime-artists, jugglers & buskers perform in polyglot; birds & bees recite verse from trees, mother natureâ€™s original intention; and miraculous noise: a new-born baby sighs, cries & sounds like a soprano singing.
Author bio: Robert Ensor's past is clouded by history; his present is surrounded by surreality; his future is shrouded in mystery.
BOOK REVIEW: Alan Britt’s LOST AMONG THE HOURS By Cindy Hochman
A carpet shadow resembles a tiger moth. Rumi says, It could be the Holy One, or it could mean that your carpet needs a good cleaning … —Alan Britt, “Rumi Speaks” I love it when I wake up and a collection of Alan Britt’s poetry falls from the heavens and lands in my lap. Okay, so Lost Among the Hours actually arrived via the U.S. Mail, but Britt always puts me in an imaginatively beatific mood, his poems lying somewhere on the cusp between Surrealism and Pantheism, with a snappy dash of Ogden Nash. As I sit here today I cannot say if the east side gets better sun than the maple-infested west side of my brain . . . In the 1999 film Being John Malkovich, patrons are afforded the privilege of gaining entrée into the actor’s mind. For the price of this book, the reader becomes privy to Alan Britt’s musings, which are infinitely more entertaining. The hallmarks of a Britt poem are his avuncular tone and conversational call-and-response inflections—his demeanor suggests the good-natured cynic—but however jaunty and jocular they appear at first glance, these non-censored, no-holds-barred non-sequiturs actually make a lot of sense, and buried at the core of them, the poems contain simmering truths. In one fell swoop, Britt can take us from grapefruit trees to genocide; from tranquil landscape to the killing fields (“These words herded families into Viet Nam trenches//One thimbleful of written words can be deadly!”) From his vantage point at the intersections of philosophy, politics, and pop culture, Alan Britt blurts out observations, both esoteric and accessible, with childlike wonder but adult
resignation. Life’s absurdities demand absurd poetry, and Britt is a masterful chronicler of life in all its lovely, lonely lunacy. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt all that much; it resembles a Novocain needle or a Lewis and Clark expedition through the remaining vein reminding us that life sucks. The influential Surrealists themselves had influences. One of those visionaries was the Comte de Lautréamont, whose oft-quoted sentence as beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table exemplifies the oddity of image which so defines poetry of this ilk. Britt does not stray far from this aesthetic, which is why “a Novocain needle” and a “Lewis and Clark expedition” can converge harmoniously as a single train of thought in one poem, and these eccentric combinations, along with a liberal and literal dusting of commonsensical rationality, lead Britt’s readers to wend their way through a circuitous, but delightful, odyssey. A Very Bad Poem (for Alan Britt) That poem had its war bonnet on. Its bald eagle feathers bloodstained, with some quasi Duende hissing at mythology. It even waved its spear like Blake shaking his fist at the wretched stars! Yes, sir. That poem had all the right intentions. There aren’t many poets with chutzpah enough to dedicate a poem to themselves, much less one that is characterized as “a very bad poem” (a characterization with which I would adamantly beg to differ, by the way). While Britt indulges in a wide range of topics, one can point to his own craft as being the central theme of this book, and he approaches it with equal parts passion, scorn, and self-deprecation. In stating that the poem “had its war bonnet on,” but inferring that it did not quite win the battle, Britt is acknowledging poetry’s inherent limitations, however noble its intentions are. At the same time, he recognizes the true blood that practitioners of the art must shed while baring their souls on the frontlines of confession (“I gave myself to the universe//What more can I give?//I’m down to one eye and one lung”). So, too, there are the more tender aspects, as when Britt pays homage to African-American poet Langston Hughes:
Reading Poems (for Langston Hughes) Your poems shattered sensibility . . . your poem, friend, with its sultry Harlem rhythms, shivered the cactus spines of my soul. Your poem kissed me square on the mouth, then invited me up to its room above a juke joint . . . Context is everything when it comes to titles. While the phrase “lost among the hours” might be interpreted as a metaphysical rumination on the part of a spiritually conscious poet, one need only read the title poem itself to realize that Britt’s waggish emanations can be traced to man’s best friend; in this case, a four-legged blonde with a distinctive pedigree (“She’s probably chewing someone’s underwear right now//she’s unaware she represents an entire generation of fawn Bouvier des Flandres//You can’t blame her for that”). Here, Britt demonstrates that, in his realm, basic humanity extends to all creatures, whether poet or canine. Twist of Fate Did you feel that quake, that transition into a new age? A minor speed bump, as reminder? Me, either . . . Here comes that taxi, that checkered caterpillar, skittering across winter cobblestones, Louisville, early 1950s . . . Those sad life and death reserves spoon-fed like cod liver oil by judges’ black wings folded tightly against the Bible? So many yachts weave the Milky Way. Too many to count, like bobbing senators on Long Island Sound after midnight The takeaway from Lost Among the Hours is crystal clear: Whether you are riding a checkered caterpillar or a yacht, Alan Britt’s poems, full of goodwill and philanthropy, make everyday living a little less mundane, a bit more kind, and truly more profound. Editor’s note: Lost Among the Hours is available from Rain Mountain Press
“Saddam Hussein Captured Alive!” by Hiromi Yoshida
The Associated Press captured a snide snapshot of a disheveled fugitive in cold December dawn’s red enchantments & tinseled gloriosas (prime time holiday entertainment and an awesome alternative to that cheesy Jimmy Stewart flick on cable TV) for an American populace of hyper-ventilating supermoms Republican dads Payless holiday shoppers overtime caterers makeshift Santas & photogenic children (both naughty and nice). So let’s give the bearded Ace of Spades his DNA shave (gotta look spiffy for that war crime tribunal) and let the President of the United States eat his Christmas cake with his name in silver icing, too, spell out the ultimate penalty (while the Democratic opposition decks the White House halls with ambidextrous
ad libs & extra-strength eggnog spikes.) Give the Secretary of Defense his brand new mojo while he flips the bony bird at the Geneva Convention (we now know his renowned unknowns too well) Sit down at the family Christmas table (Father knows best how to say grace) count our blessings, ask each other: â€œWhere were you when Saddam was jacking off in a 6-foot shithole with his castrated angels & dynamo dreams?â€? Stock market indices rise to new zenith heights & predictions cast long cadaverous (and carnivorous) shadows in the wake of a dawning gladiator spectacle of dirty demise when the dude porn stars in the Congressional Record. Author bio: Hiromi Yoshida was probably ordering late night pizza and working on a paper when Saddam Hussein was "captured alive." Winner of multiple Indiana University Writers' Conference awards, Hiromi Yoshida's poems have appeared in The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society; Borderline; Evergreen Review; Bathtub Gin; Flying Island; and the Matrix anthologies of literary and visual arts. She loves the smell of old books and pending rain.
By Allison Grayhurst Author bio: Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. She has over 450 poems published in international journals and anthologies. She has eleven published books of poetry and five collections, as well as six chapbooks and one e-chapbook. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com.
Forest Fire Faltering in this season on the hook like a sandpiper never sure when the mountain stops or if my sedentary position is really a bird in my hand or a dream I cannot force. Where I crawl from ignorance and dry despair, my mouth is finished with kissing, finished with speaking its voice of obscure ecstasy.
Because it is finished, it is night and my plight is solitude. I have lost my home and clothes of wild colours. I have lost and cannot gain a chance to govern the crowd within. My foliage is painted. My sun is slaughtered, but still so much heat remains.
The Mind That Sings The mind that sings the stolen dream, remains free from all that thievery. I wait on tomorrow, though I know life should be more than waiting. So I paint the cupboards in rainbow hues and I speak the hidden part to those I love, so no mistakes will follow. I open doors Iâ€™d rather close just to trace an answer.
Book Review: The Sting of Things By Alison Ross
"Tails and Stings of Insects and Things" is a deliriously demented journey into the black heart of the universe. Think Dr. Seuss on an acid trip, and you're halfway there. Think anti-war poet Wilfred Owen for jaded toddlers, and you're much closer to penetrating to the truth of this cryptic, though electric, tome. It reads like a claustrophobic nursery rhyme.
"Tails and Stings of Insects and Things" is a collaborative effort between JD Thurston and Giles Watson. Thurston provides the verbal substance, while Watson provides the visual nourishment. And nourishment, really, is an apt metaphor for this story that relies on the concept of nature and nature's creatures feeding into human fears, as well as feeding on them for their own sustenance. Nature, it turns out, can be just as much an enemy to humanity as humanity can be an enemy to nature. Or, at least that is what I got from the story. Nature's creatures - flies, bees, ants, worms, crows, rats - betray humans. They "sting" them. Of course, nature's creatures are also probably symbols for the corrupt humans among us. JD Thurston starts the tale ominously: "Let me take you on a journey; it doesn't end well." He then launches into a dizzying, deadpan musical of sorts, regaling the travails of a hapless narrator who encounters creatures who pretend to befriend him but who ultimately betray him to the cruel world of war.
The text itself is a visual feast, for it is written almost as concrete poetry, with large and smaller font sizes intermingling for dramatic emphasis, and some lines splayed across the page in verse-like form. The real visual treat is Giles Watson's colorful chalk-sketches embellishing the lines: Darkly whimsical, they provide a solemn and soulful echo to Thurston's vertiginous verse. At times, even, one could be reminded of Poe, with morbid rhythmic lines like, "I passed by a Crow who loosed a great caw-caw. A deathly song of deathly creed; it knocked me to the floor. While I lay upon the hay, he told me something more." Of course, ultimately it's Seuss we recall, but a more sinister Seuss, with lines like, "He yawned a yawn, smiled a smile. Said: I haven't seen a face like yours for a while. So fresh, so brave, so fit for the grave." "Tails and Stings of Insects and Things" is ultimately a devastating diatribe against war, told in a psychedelically entertaining way. By the end, the words and visuals have wasted us, just as the war has wasted our hapless narrator.
Standing Outside Society and Civilizations By Edwin L. Young, PhD What makes me irreconcilably incompatible as a friend with almost everyone, even if simply as friends? The reason for my status in relationship with others is that I stand outside of society as a critic of American and all other cultures, furthermore as a critic of all civilizations from their first forming on this planet until now. While the populace here in the US, on the other hand, had made themselves into masters of modern American conventions, values, family life, the multitude of mind numbing gadgets, I have spent my life disparaging the very same things. There has been a positive correlation between the success of this gaudy trend of US’s culture of consumerism from the gluttonous economic status of America’s upper, upper socioeconomic classes down to the showy pseudo glamor and gadget craziness of the ordinary upper lower classes. This exhibitionistic, materialistic trend in America has been true since its earliest days, especially since the 1920s. It became true for increasing percentages of virtually everyone throughout the whole of the structure of American life as well as of all other modern and past Western societies. That trend is now, in a harsh and frightening way, reversing for the economic status of the populace as the main beneficiaries of this global sybarite emulating trend has become the exclusive characteristic of the multinational wealthiest around the globe. As machines have become less expensive to do the menial labor and laborers’ wages have increasingly declined, the world’s less wealthy are feeling pinched, oblivious to the cause of their decline in status and well being, and yet impotent to do anything about it. As the larger structures and systems around the globe advance resolutely in this way, the status of the populace in every nation has fretfully declined.
Understanding that all humans are products of the structures and systems of their societies, I neither blame nor praise any human behavior, no matter how onerous, evil, or pitiable nor, at the other extreme, no matter how magnanimous, altruistic, heroic, or
how much even is the defiant persistence of those at the pinnacle of success, the causes for their decline in socioeconomic status and the degeneration of their outward plumage which, for all of these, are accompanied by anxious, and increasingly waywardness of their behavior, it is the causal nature of the structures and systems of cultures that are, in each case, essentially the same. It is not their free will, not their choices, that are the agents of the causality of their decline. Again, the populaces all are in this deceleration of status together. Their common fate in life, for them all, is simply and unwittingly, the product of the immediate and encompassing structures and systems which have evolved and within which they are born, and now are trapped, and within which they will have to live out their lives, in short, in which all humans now coexist and must painfully endure or, as is the case with the outrageously rich, enjoy. This is the inevitable nature of human social evolution and what has become the status of human existence on earth. This is what human civilizations around the world have come to. This trend was in its earliest embryonic form for the first dawning civilizations and has been accelerating in this way, in its now clearly horrific way, over entirety of human history. With such a philosophy, or point of view, that I hold, I remain incomprehensible to all but a tiny few of my fellow humans. Human self reflection and attempts to self correct and to be better individuals or reformers of societies' institutions, these are all, and always have been, products of and essentially conformed to their tiny circumscribed lives and their, determined by the structures of the upper social strata, as evidenced by their local circumstances. For each, their own and all humankind's as well, life circumstances are and have always been products of the structures and systems of their cultures and always within each particular era of their evolving cultures. Thus, the few people like me, inevitably, would have been, are, and will remain, irreconcilably incompatible with the worldviews and conventions of the populace as well as the elite in every nation and period of their history. That fact does not obviate my understanding of, compassion for, and love for all of our ill-fated, common, fellow humankind. That nature of my love remains constant for all humankind.
Book Review: The Glorious Madness of New Wave By Alison Ross
I listen to all kinds of music, from Chopin to Tupac, from Johnny Cash to Bessie Smith, from Slayer to obscure no-wavers - and on and on and on. I have a large collection of tapes, vinyl, and CDs. I am a music geek who giddily gobbles up gems from all genres. But the music from the 1980s new wave scene holds a special place in my life, and not just because I grew up listening to it. Nostalgia plays a large part, of course. But I have grown to love songs from many eras that I did not inhabit, so nostalgic rumination is not the only thing that compels me to squeeze these songs a bit closer to my heart. The fact is, songs like "Tainted Love," "New Life," "(Don't You) Forget About Me," "Poison Arrow," "Cars," "Blue Monday," et al have transcended the confines of time and place to become the new classics. And the book, Mad World, capitalizes on that idea. People often refer to classic rock as, well, the classics. Sure, the Led Zeppelins and Pink Floyds merit massive recognition, but equally deserving of abundant accolades and a solid niche in the pantheon of classic songs are these new wave staples, which were infectious and innovative and got our legging-adorned booties out onto the dance floor and our Ecstasy-enhanced emotions in a swirl. For the pathos of these songs cannot be denied: they induced euphoric dance moves and melancholic moods, often all at the same time. People vacillate between revering the 80s for its fertile musical output and deriding the era for being one of artifice and cheese. Well, yes, it was, and it deserves both reverence and derision. There were a lot of sartorial transgressions - shoulder pads, anyone? - and synthesizers did usher in a more processed sound. But out of these
synthesized sonics came a wildly inventive approach - the unholy fusion of the reigning 70s styles of punk, glam, and disco. I have often thought of new wave as being a mural of glam-punk with disco graffiti-splattered onto it. The buoyant rhythm and blues beat married with ragged punk inflections propelled a thoughtful, accessible sound forward and established the new wave. The ingenious Mad World relies on often-humorous author meditations and unfiltered anecdotes from actual band members to flesh out the story of how the songs came to life, came to impose themselves so forcefully onto the collective consciousness of music lovers, and came to live on as the aural emblems of a troubled time. Indeed, it was the Reagan and Thatcher dual political rule - a reign of error that furthered the terrifying tenets of imperialism - that provided the backdrop to these songs. Some of the songs directly reflected the political turmoil. Songs such as, "I'll Melt With You," for example, were influenced by the specter of a nuclear holocaust. The anecdotal evidence is juicy here - it is part gossip-tabloid fodder, as it revels in revealing (potentially embarrassing) details about tensions between band members, and also surprising tidbits. For instance, did you know that Duran Duran were actually made uncomfortable by the naked models in their infamous "Girls on Film" video? I did not, and I am now happy to own that piece of monumentally worthless trivia. The 1980s were about more than just lipstick and leggings, chaotic coifs and jangling jewelry - and there were musical genres galore thriving during this time. But the new wave songs of the 1980s - the good ones, that is, the ones that live on in cover renditions, movie and TV soundtracks, as satellite radio staples, as the fuel for reunion tours, and as the templates for an era's signature sound - were colossally influential, and the reverberations of them can be heard today by musicians as diverse as Beyonce, Interpol, The xx, Taylor Swift and Moby and his ilk. Indeed, all modern music owes an enormous debt to the new wave innovators. Mad World makes sacred these timeless tunes, and legitimizes their impact, and their authenticity. For though the pervasive use of synthesizers was the subject of much mockery at the time, and the bands such as Human League and others making new wave music were skewered as being puerile and plastic, the fact is, everything else imitating them just sounds disingenuous. In other words, they were the real deal, and it was a mad mad world, indeed.
Music Mini-Reviews: Swans/Lucinda Williams/Torche By Alison Ross Black Swans
This is perhaps going to be the most roundabout review of all my mini-reviews, because I have found it nigh impossible to articulately capture the sonic impact of Swans. Swans have more of an existential-experiential effect rather than one that lends itself to facile conversion to words. To put it another way, one doesn’t so much listen to Swans as absorb the experience. I recently saw them live, and I stayed for an hour of a two-hour-plus show. It wasn’t because my senses were brutally assaulted or that I was bored; though Swans are infamous for their sensory attacks, and I suppose some could feel a certain apathy or even antipathy toward their live show, relentless as it is, I was fully engaged during the performance. However, my feeling was that an hour in Michael Gira and company’s presence was enough to convey to me their aural purpose. And just what is Swans musical mantra, you ask? Well, again, I cannot accurately transport that into a verbal venue. I can say, though, that the newest Swans album appears be a predictable continuation of a pummeling sound established in the 70s and 80s that has been evolving and devolving ever since. I say devolving because Swans started out as scathingly no-wave, then grew to be mildly more accessible, then swan-dove back into their no-wave roots, but with less menace than previously. That said, Swans’ music never strays far from their core of resembling not so much like the soundtrack to hell, but rather the soundtrack to the black bewilderment of pre-coherent times. It’s pristinely primeval and completely wrong in all the right ways.
Torching the Competition
I have always seen Torche as a buoyant Black Sabbath, if you'll allow me such an inane oxymoron. Where Black Sabbath was suffocatingly doom-laden, Torche infuses its doom with a dose of glucose to sweeten the mood. Torche does not traffic in heavy sugar-pop, to be sure, but its songs have that semi-sweet flavor that edge the band towards the pop
realm, while containing enough sludge and thrash to anchor them in the metal genre. The band's latest, “Restarter,” however, is probably more sludge and less commercial confection, unlike the previous Harmonicraft, which was more inclined toward hard-rock of the head-bobbing radio-friendly variety, ala Van Halen. Instead, “Restarter” seems to harken back a bit to the days of “Meanderthal,” which was gloriously mired in shimmering muddy hooks and growling choruses. “Restarter,” though, is less mired in the muck than its predecessor, but its pace is sluggish and its hooks not too blatant. But that does not mean “Restarter” does not snag the listener's attention; what it does mean is that it is a more involved listen, which can be a relentlessly rewarding experience. Here, as previously, one can detect the tangled threads of shoegaze influence - and this time, even the thick fog of 80s goth hangs in the air. “Restarter” does not necessarily do as its title suggests and restart the band on an unplowed path; but it does propel the band forward in its quest to reign as the masters of a metal template that is both accessible and fun.
Spiritual Bones When I saw Lucinda Williams in concert for the third time a few years ago, she sang a thenunreleased song, “Compassion,” with lyrics adapted from a poem by her father, Miller Williams. I had not heard of her father, but recently, when he died, I decided to give his verse a whirl. I only read a few poems, but I was impressed with their surface-simplicity that harbored a deeper dimension. Indeed, that is how I would describe Lucinda's music as a whole: It's deceptively unadorned, but peel away the facade and you divulge layers of meaning and emotion. Her new album, “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone,” whose title echoes a line in “Compassion,” is perhaps the one album that doesn't boast the simple/deep paradox; rather, the album sags with the weight of existential Meaning from the very first note. “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone” is more intimately immersive, more raggedly raw than her previous albums. Lucinda has always released albums that are clever balancing acts between sizzling country-rockers and sultry slow grooves. But here, the prevailing mood is languid Louisiana rumination. While there may be some up-tempo songs on this lengthy double disc set, those are swallowed by the swampy, woozy, bluesy ballads that slosh through the album. Lucinda's voice has never sounded wearier, to intoxicating effect. For a wearied Lucinda is an evolved Lucinda; she has finally ascended to the point where her songs have a transcendent poignancy, her vocals heavy with despair, but never cheapened with maudlin angst. Her spirit is authentic and her bone is exposed: this is Lucinda as she was meant to be.
Truth. Advice. A Small Psychedelic Trip By Oliver Hobbs Blue veined cigarettes Smoke towards a greatness Seen on the tops of cop cars Or following down the arms Of limp wristed teenage dream girls. I touched another side of a brain cell Not yet strong enough to digest Such images, Sip cat like licks of whiskey And shoot up. The image clears but Hazing shadows from budget store bought lamps Add to the beauty Of women, more beautiful than the last. And pushing peddling lines Form to arouse the nostrils. The scent of her unwashed sheets Blackening under tobacco smoke And spilt wine. Small arms intrude from the Corner of the room Tapping Tickling Rearranging pieces of paper Scattered on my floor When outside the howls cry out Looking for another kind of death. Mirrors, Spoons, Taps and Toilet bowls, Merge and entwine through visionary Snap shots quickly shutA lens thicker then Buddyâ€™sSo when the waters boiled Iâ€™ll apply it correctly to my skin. Slow long drops of red burns Melting Skin and flesh And I will laugh at the idea Of listening to advice
Given by men who have never even Singed a hair, Broke a bone Or fought fist fights In the E2. Because if we canâ€™t even trust our eyes Half the time Why trust another living soul?
Â Author bio: Oliver Hobbs is an Englishman from London now living in Paris. He has previously published poems in Paris Lit Up, Underground Post, and has written a weekly column for just over a year in (the now deceased) Brooklyn High and Nine Post.
These are the animals and these are the personalities of the animals
By Jon Bennet I was watching a crow play with a dog the dog would mouth it and let go the crow would fly a couple feet roll on its back, wait for the dog, then fly off again. They were friends, made me think about the penned pigs idiot chickens the blood and death, of course, and of the people more barbaric than a pig eating someoneâ€™s baby like in Grapes of Wrath because of the cruelty or not, I donâ€™t know, all I know is there were the animals and there were the personalities of the animals and the more I knew it the sadder it was.
Underground Art in Montmartre By Deborah Guzzi
soak up the side streets of Montmartre, of Paris, Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy class less art combusts then drips - street beggars & tourists cant writer Rubbish pastes lace traceries ala mode decoupaging decay his cut-paper layers grace anoint no longer anonymous walls stencilist C215’s “simply a cat” defies sourpusses not to smile—see heaven art yes art with style the banality of poverty held at bay pureed souffléd by life wolfed-down colors synced spray-cannoned Lothario’s like David Walker entrance Picasso’s on the brink, Romani-hearted paint peddlers for the Republique - street beggars & tourists can Thom Thom’s décollage rip-cuts the billboard scene titillates unseen —culture-lovers—can-canned Lautrec’s bedded with Che Guevara politics
come tilt with the masse come play your part in Montmartre near Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy where wicked pissers defy the clichéd Author bio: Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator specializing in Shiatsu and Reiki. She writes for Massage and Aromatherapy Magazines. She travels the world to expand her knowledge and seek writing inspiration. She has walked the Great Wall of China, seen Nepal (during the civil war), Japan, Egypt (two weeks before ‘The Arab Spring’), Peru, and France during December’s terrorist attacks. Her poetry appears in Magazines: here/there:poetry in the UK, Existere - Journal of Arts and Literature in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha:Asian Literary Review, China, Latchkey Tales in New Zealand, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, mgv2>publishinging, France, and Travel by the Book, Clockwise Cat, Liquid Imagination, Illumen, Sweet Dreams and Night Terrors, Dead Snakes, Literary Hatchet, Silver Blade and others in the USA.
TO THE VICTORS By Lee Todd Lacks I wish Ebola were big, Big enough to see great, green protoplasms, with glowing red eyes, gurgling and belching loud threats of contagion. Then, we could fight them like Jehanne d'Arc and Makeda, with lasers, and syringes the size of harpoons. Ukrainians and Russians would all stand together as Vladimir Putin tore off his shirt, and roared like The Hulk, "Me squash puny virus!" Al Franken and Ben Stein would come on like ghostbusters toting HEPA vacuums with all the attachments, debating about which of them sucked the most. Blobs of Ebola would gather 'round the Dalai Lama as he gently advised them to be less pathogenic. All over the world, we'd transcend our agendas, joining forces until the virus relented. Then, we'd celebrate like rockstars for weeks upon end, and the talk would get real in a thousand different tongues. We'd tell stories of triumph and tribulation. We'd get weepy when our stories sounded very much the same.
Maybe then, we'd wonder how we managed to survive, impossibly divided for so many millennia. Would we recognize each other as the reasons we're alive? Without a moment's hesitation, all humanity would reply, without a moment's hesitation, seven billion times, yes!
Author bio: Freely incorporating experimental music and spoken word, Lee Todd Lacks seeks to blur the distinctions between rants, chants, anecdotes, and anthems. His work is informed by his experience of living with significant vision and hearing deficits. Mr. Lacks is a practicing music therapist and clinical counselor, who resides in South Portland, Maine with his wife and young son. You can access his work here: https://leetoddlacks.bandcamp.com/.
BOOK REVIEW : On Parson’s Creek by Richard Sutton By J.S. Watts
It is 1967, the U.S. is waging war in the jungles and forests of Vietnam and young Jack Taylor is having to settle in to yet another new school in yet another new town because his parents are always packing up and moving on, but this time things are slightly different. His family are relocating, no change there, and this time they have moved near Parson’s Creek, deep in the heart of one of America’s own forests, but from day one something isn’t as expected. The deer are behaving oddly and there are strange scents and shadows amongst the trees. Jack wants to understand what is happening in the woods and in the process he comes across adults who know more than they are saying, old native American myths and more recent tensions, as well as cataclysmic historic accidents. He also has to deal with a first Homecoming Dance date, the ongoing uncertainties of a new school, learning to drive and the fact that not everything in life has clear-cut answers and explanations. The mysteries deepen as Jack penetrates further into the woods and the locale’s past history, but it is possible that the mystery is, in return, insinuating itself in day to day life (and death). This is an atmospheric tale for young adults, set deep in the wilderness myths of America. I confess to being well past the young adult stage of my development, but as far as I can tell Sutton’s novel seems well–pitched at its intended audience in terms of tone, style and subject matter. The story is relatively simple, but the underlying explorations of American history and the nation’s relationship to its past (and its present) are intriguing. Indeed this is a very American novel. Yes, its author, Richard Sutton, is American and yes the story is based in the States in the Cedar forests of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, but it’s more than that. In its woodland/wilderness setting there are echoes
back to the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. Given Emerson’s belief that truth could be experienced directly from nature, it’s interesting that one of the more knowledgeable adults says, “there’s lots of different kinds of truth out in the woods, you know?” Then there is the telling juxtaposition of the forests of Vietnam, (which American troops were defoliating at the time) and the white pioneers’ use (and abuse) of their own forests. Jack’s constantly moving and somewhat dysfunctional family is a reflection of the pioneer’s stated approach to their environment, “ “They came in during a time when there was always some other place to go once a place had just been used up... you know? Pioneers. But always having the ability to just pick up and move isn’t always the best way to build a society. Sometimes, you gotta stay...” She seemed at a loss and rested on her elbows while staring at the blotter on her desk. Then a bell went off in my own head. I knew a phrase my grandfather had used once in my presence. He was a dairy farmer and it seemed perfect for the situation, even if it used a bit of profanity. “You don’t shit where you eat, Mrs. Lynch. Is that what you meant to say?” ” An approach that contrasts negatively with the long term empathetic approach of the Native American tribes to their environment, which seems more akin to the views of Thoreau and Emerson. Within the book there are also social references to historic and present-day tensions with (and within) the tribes and, of course, the ever-present myth of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, in contrast to references to more modern white settler folk tales such as Casey Jones, who is name checked at least once. All of which serve to make this a very American story, in more ways than one. Editor’s Note: On Parson’s Creek by Richard Sutton was published in 2014 by Saille Tales and is available from www.sailletales.com and www.Amazon.com. Author bio: J.S.Watts is a British writer. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. J.S. has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications, as is a subsequent multiaward nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her first novel, A Darker Moon, a work of literary fiction and dark psychological fantasy, is published by Vagabondage press. Her second novel, Witchlight, is due out in Spring 2015. For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk
POLEMIC: By Alison Ross
The time has come for the testing tyranny in public schools to end. Of course, instead of ceasing the perversely perpetual cycle of standardized testing, schools are increasing the amount of homogenized drilling that takes place. This absurd and sickening scenario should not be tolerated, as it's suffocating the very soul of education. As always, money is the motivating factor behind the repressive push toward ever more drill-and-kill. Textbook publisher Pearson and other profiteering testing companies, along with privatization rogues such as Bill Gates and his corporate hoodlums, along with a government who salivates at the mere mention of for-profit charter schools, are all in collusion to destroy public ed as we know it. And this is not some kooky theory cooked up in paranoia labs; this is reality, and only the dumbly deluded would deny it. Take, for example, the testing scandal that has plagued Atlanta Public Schools (APS) for the past quasi-decade. The APS educators were found guilty of racketeering, a charge previously tacked onto criminals such as the Gambino Crime Family (as slyly noted by the Gad Fly on The Wall blog). Sure, the educators indulged in some pretty malicious deception - altering test answers so as to boost the student scores, ensuring the school would fare well on its annual evaluation, thereby precluding its closing - but should we really equate their actions with those of, say, the mafia? And, as Gadfly points out, homicide results in a less harsh sentence than cheating on standardized tests. Some of the APS educators face up to 20 years in prison! Um, WHAT? So the testing companies, who prosper obscenely from these flawed assessments that are held to be the Holy Grail of student and teacher accountability, and the charter school movement, who funnel taxpayer dollars into their own coffers, and Bill Gates and his cronies who created the overtly corporatized Common Core standards, can do what they will, regardless of the legality of their methods, to undermine public education, but teachers and administrators, in the face of
unreasonable demands, who are desperate to keep their jobs and keep their schools open so that students will have a place to learn, are publicly crucified? What kind of backward-ass bizarro world are we inhabiting, anyway?
Granted, it's hard to have much love for school administrators, because they are often the ones bullying teachers into subjugation, but ultimately, it's the government, and their corporate overlords, who are to blame for this fiasco. It's an outrageously unjust system that puts irrational pressure on teachers to show progress among students who struggle due to poverty. (It's not that they cannot learn; it's that the odds are stacked against them, heavily, because they live within a economic system tainted with bigotry). And it's this educational system, bolstered by the likes of Bush AND Obama (Dem hands are JUST as dirty) that is the ultimate culprit. But, as usual, it's the teachers who are scapegoated, and who must pay the price by going to prison - alongside murderers who may very well be released before they are! It's a cruelly corrupt system that is relying more and more on a standardized, diluted curriculum, zombifying our students. Creativity and critical thinking are relics of an idyllic past: welcome to the future of corporate drones! Editorâ€™s Note: For more on this subject, please visit the excellent blog: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/wanted-progressive-candidatewith-the-guts-to-stand-up-for-public-education/
FILM REVIEW: The Marching King By Alison Ross
Martin Luther King's legacy has been tainted by time. Sure, people revere him, but the man's memory has been commodified to where he is become a caricature of the deeply authentic, looming figure he truly was. MLK was a convoluted, furiously radical character. He would have abhorred parades conducted in his name, such as the corporatized, sanitized ones in Atlanta, his home city. MLK was about results, not hollow idol worship. And since race relations have not been repaired, MLK would have shunned such parades in favor of persistent, assertive, creative nonviolent protests until change - seismic change - occurred. A parade is for celebration, and as long as minority groups - the oppressed of any and all ethnicities - are still struggling vainly, there is nothing to celebrate. That would be MLK's stance. â€œSelma,â€? the movie, expertly navigated by first-time director Ava DuVernay captures the compelling complexity of MLK. Actor David Oyelowo does not ever resort to gimmicky imitation in his portrayal of him. Indeed, Oyelowo sets a new standard for such portrayals. Where many actors would attempt to mechanically mimic the gestures and vocal inflections of MLK, Oyelowo harnesses the fiery spirit of MLK, and never seems like a cheap facsimile. Oyelowo's MLK is imbued with an urgent lust for justice, and his oratory is lyrically searing. This may have been the case with the real MLK, too, but Oyelowo makes it his own, and creates a much more believable character than an actor who might robotically replicate MLK's persona.
“Selma” has been criticized for "playing with history" and disingenuously revising it a bit to suit its “agenda.” LBJ, for example, or so accusers assert, is portrayed as being far less sympathetic to the aims of the civil rights movement than supposedly he truly was. But I say, toy with the "facts" all you want, because I am sure that deep down, LBJ harbored antipathy toward black rights like all the other Anglo-centric politicos. He probably cultivated a facade of sympathy and sincerity, as they all do, for political expediency. I am sure that gains in the civil rights movement would not have been half as sluggish without the obstruction of the presidency. Presidents and political leaders rarely are the ones who effect true change, as we learn from Howard Zinn. It's the people, and their relentless pressure, that push political leaders toward progress. Without justice movements like civil rights, the suffragettes, labor, and so on, we'd be stuck in reverse forever. “Selma's” climax - the march on Selma - is powerfully subdued. Indeed, it's an anti-climactic moment in the best sense of the concept. Just as Oyelowo does not resort to gaudy simulation, so Ava DuVernay does not resort to garish Hollywood melodrama. “Selma's” potency is in its restraint, which mirrors the civil rights movement. The civil rights activists were righteously indignant, but sublimated their rage toward a higher action: that of peaceful resistance. “Selma” is a monument to peaceful resistance, and a stirring reminder of how far we still need to march to reach the coveted mountaintop.
SATIRE: “A Modest Call To Action” by Brad Nolen “You read constantly that banks are lobbying regulators and elected officials as if this is inappropriate. We don't look at it that way.” (Jamie Dimon) “Lobbying is not a bad thing. I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't have lobbyists or we shouldn't have lobbying to petition our government. It's in the Constitution, and it's something that should be honorable and good.” (Jack Abramoff) “Now there’s people – and I know ‘em – who’ll pay a lot more than $25,000 for a healthy baby.” Leonard Smalls (Raising Arizona)
Friends, we have a problem. There are nefarious deeds being done in the dark that threaten our very existence here in God's-most-precious America. Powerful, ruthless cartels of unscrupulous and amoral swindlers are selling our future for their short-term gain, and our long-term loss. We are losing what we hold most dear, and something must be done to stop this madness! We can no longer let this evil exist in the shadows, undermining all our best efforts to build a society of which we can be so proud! At least if we regulate this horror, maybe then we can keep the worst of these thieves away from the posterity of this great nation! We may not be able to eradicate it entirely, but we can control this beast ... and tame it. We can and we must!
Just as we did when we tore down the walls of that old black market on political influence, when it was exposed to sunlight and rinsed of its crucial taboo, made plain through the innovation of the
Lobbyist’s Profession, maybe it would again be useful to employ this same method that brought those Graft-Merchants, those Dark-Money-Dealers out into the open and allowed them to hold their heads high as participants in an official, if not reputable, profession.
Yes, the lobbyist can now walk in the light of day and freely exercise vast influence on the shape and course of civilization; and so too can this other villain find his way, just as the lobbyist before him, to having his very own street in our nation’s capital …. just as the kleptomaniacal lobbyist saw his black market moved to "K Street," maybe, with our help, the Live-Baby Salesman can see his profession legitimized and sanctioned.
Why! A reformed black market on Live-Babies would make a perfect neighbor to the lobbyists. Why not give say a parallel avenue of prominence that we could then dub "BS Street," for “Baby Sales” of course. Heaven only knows what the “K” in “K Street” stands for. Probably “kosher,” to be indicative of legitimation.
Now, I admit this may at first sound extreme, but I offer in example those very lobbyists I’ve already mentioned, who for so long had to practice their arts in back alleys and seedy motels, environs unhealthy for both briber and bribee.
Well friends, it is currently those very same sordid places, where our dear, sweet Live-Babies are having to be sold right now, a situation that is most unsanitary and not at all color-coded in the appropriate pinks and pale blues! I say to you, we must act now to bring some sanity to the inevitable, if unfortunate, trade in Live-Babies.
We successfully relocated the much-maligned lobbyists from the hidden recesses of our democracy to the very heart of this great society, where they ply their trades daily in plain sight; and we may as well do the same with the Live-Baby Industry too.
If we act decisively to bring these would-be business-people into the marketplace proper, then one day, maybe, Live-Baby sales will be just another job-creating industry, like being in the Lobbyistâ€™s Profession; and then Live-Baby Salesmen, exactly like those lobbyists themselves, will be working to keep America strong! So please, join me, because sanity dictates that we permit, but regulate Live-Baby sales now!
Author bio: Brad Nolen lives and writes from the shore of that combination gas-pump and shrimp cocktail, commonly called the Gulf of Texaco, oops I meant Mexico. He is a founding member of the Lizella Independent Poets Society, the finest bunch of inebriated dilettantes and semi-professional osculators this side of Hopewell Church Road.
SATIRE: 36 HOURS/YOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL LANDFILL A Trip You Can Take Over and Over Again By John Alexander
A visit to your Psychological Landfill is the ultimate “staycation.” Every point of “interest” is accessible for the complete thirty-six hours- regardless of where you are- and you can spend as little- or as much- time as you like without it costing you a dime. That’s right! No plane or cab fares, no room reservations, no sleeping in strange beds- no going out to eat exotic foods to tear up your digestive track- and probably your pocketbook, too! Oh, no! This is the ultimate in costsaving vacations. So, read on to discover the wonders- and disasters- that await you. And, if at any time you feel uneasy or uncomfortable with what you are experiencing, just remember what Alfred Adler, the psychoanalyst, once said- “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well”and that includes you! Have a nice “trip.”
[STATE DEPARTMENT UPDATE: YOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL LANDFILL IS TOTALLY WITHIN THE TERRITORY OF YOURSELF. AMERICAN CITIZENS TRAVELING TO THEIR LANDFILLS- REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE LANDFILL CONSISTS IN TOTAL OR IN PART OF THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCES IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY- NEED NEITHER A VISA NOR A PASSPORT.] GETTING THERE Therapy is the most expensive way while fresh trauma is the least predictable. The most tried and true way is through alcohol taken in sufficient- but moderate- quantities. ARRIVAL “Arriving” is at the other end of “getting there.” Sounds strange, doesn’t it- almost convoluted? Sure it does! But that’s the unique “charm” of your “trip.” Do know that, you will, undoubtedly, be unpleasantly surprised once you arrive, but, like it or not, you’re there for whatever amount of time is necessary. WHERE TO STAY There are a range of accommodations to fit your psychological budget. Obviously, the options are many depending on your memory and toleration of discomfort. You can, for instance, stay in your baby crib, your childhood bed, your first dorm room, prison cell, apartment, the bed you shared with your first (or subsequent) lover(s), husband(s) or wif(e)(ves), the back seat of your car, a bus depot bench, an unlit doorway or any other place of your choosing. Your comfort- or lack thereofis entirely your responsibility. WHAT TO DO Most travelers favor digging, wallowing, reminiscing- or some combination. Laughing or breaking
down and crying are permitted at no extra charge. However, for periods of profound sadness or second-guessing, additional psychological costs are imposed. TOURS AVAILABLE (with complimentary video upon completion) - Circle Route Bus Tours- a chance to re-experience those “going nowhere” moments in your life. - Walking Tours- countless opportunities to walk around through any phase in your past. - Beyond the Safe Harbor Boat Tours- sail through the tempestuous- and dangerous- swells of forgotten nightmares.
PERFORMING ARTS The performing arts take place at the “This Is Your Life Performing Arts Complex.” There, you can watch- and relive- any- and all- of your stellar moments in the following venues.
(A) DRAMA: The Way-Off-In-Your-Own-World-Theater has feature running concurrently and continuously.
(i) (ii) (iii)
Comedies/(you really were that stupid); Tragedies/(every negative thing that happened to you); Absurdities/(historically nonsensical and inexplicable decisions you have made); (iv) “Dance”/(a quick review of every person that you could have shared part of your life with- but didn’t). (B) CINEMA: A vast archive ranging from shorts to the epic tales all about you. RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES Recreational opportunities abound throughout the landfill. You can-
run in place tread water enjoy the slippery slopes of your life hold your breath simulate drowning
HEALTH ORIENTED EXPERIENCES Everywhere you turn during your 36 hours, you can take advantage of one- or all- of the following health oriented experiences-
increased pulse rate elevated blood pressure nausea hyperventilate afib anxiety sweating clamminess severe migraines nail-biting and many, many more.
SHOPPING Regretfully, the only stores that are open are the ones in which your emotional and psychological credit is insufficient to purchase any of the life-enriching products that are for sale. SPECIAL EVENTS Special events are constantly ongoing. You can pick from-
ridiculously absurd arguments that forever haunted you dinner parties that were a mistake forgotten birthdays and anniversaries ask to speak with our counselors to tailor-make any event you wish.
LECTURES Lectures of varying lengths- covering an infinite number of topics- presented by your parents, siblings, wives, husbands, lovers, attorneys, judges, teachers, ministers, doctors, law enforcement officials- to name just a few- are available. RELIGIOUS SERVICES
Religious services are offered in every denomination. Four of the most visited houses of worship are-
The Temple of the Sullen The Morose Mosque The Church of the Most Sacred Bad Luck Saints Anguish and Woe Chapel with the Weeping- For You- Statuary
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK Some of the more popular establishments to eat and drink are-
“The Taiwan On” (Chinese) “Le Faux Pas” (French) “Breakfast By Yourself” (American) “You Got the Blues Club” (Tapas) “Laugh at Yourself Comedy Club” (Short Order) “The Drunken Stupor” (drinks only)
SPECTATOR SPORTS A wide range of spectator sports are available. Some of the more widely attended sports are-
divorce court family court unemployment office parole hearings disciplinary hearings AA meetings group therapy sessions anger management seminars Saturday DUI classes
OTHER ATTRACTIONS Your psychological landfill has countless other attractions that you might want to visit and experience. All attractions are open 24/7/365. They are-
The Museum of Your Biggest Mistakes The Cemetery of Guilt-Ridden Relationships (tears and flowers expected) The Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Memorial in the Fantasies of Your Life Park The Center for Regret and Longing
The Academy of Repetitious Arts and Sciences The Society of Self-Serving Behaviors The Institute for the Pursuit of Existential Angst The Association for the Perpetuation of Sorrow The Obelisk of Futility Conservatory of all the Money You Spent on Therapy Library of Ignored Advice
MEDICAL AND/OR PSYCHIATRIC EMERGENCIES In case of medical and/or psychiatric emergencies, please go directly to the emergency room at the Clinic for Heartache, Anxiety and Related Problems, located at the far end of your psychological landfill. BEFORE YOU LEAVE As you prepare to depart your psychological landfill, please take a moment to fill out our Visitors Questionnaire so we can better evaluate and, ideally, make your return stay more troublesome. In the meantime, as Howard Payne told us in his lyrics to the song, “Home! Sweet Home!” that “…there’s no place like home”- and although Thomas Wolfe did write “You Can’t Go Home, Again”- and that may be true in a physical sense- however, notions of home can be revisited through- and in- your memories at your Psychological Landfill. So, as they so often say elsewhereY’ALL COME BACK NOW! YA HEAR?
Author bio: After spending years in New York City, John Alexander has temporarily relocated to the hamlet of Getzville, New York. He lives- and writes- there in the company of his two favorite pets, “Bunny” and “Roma.” Most recently, John Alexander has appeared in Straightjackets Literary Magazine (for a real-time email exchange- called “Between Friends” http://straitjacketsmagazine.com/support4/between.friends.htm starting on the afternoon of 9-11 and continuing for a year) and Hackwriters: The International Writers Magazine (U.K.). He also co-authored the online novel, entitled, “A Vow of Silence.” (www.avowofsilence.net)
POLEMIC: The Ocean Through Ninety Degrees By Giles Watson
Here is the opening page of Alister Hardy's classic on the science of plankton, The Open Sea, published in 1956, and one of his colour plates depicting some of the microscopic organisms upon which all life in the oceans depends. The insight of his opening paragraphs is even more urgently important now than it was then: if we were able to tilt the surface of the ocean through 90 degrees, so that we looked straight into it as we do a window, as opposed to across it as we do a floor, the inhabitants of the ocean would not seem as remote from us as they do. There can be little question that this remoteness causes many of us to accept or ignore acts of environmental vandalism under the surface of the sea that we would never countenance on land. There are people whose pathological lack of vision and empathy would permit them to accept these acts wherever they occurred, but the majority of us are not like that. Most people would reel with horror at the thought of the Geelong Star, or of Deepwater Horizon, or of the dredging of Abbot Point, or of the dolphin hunt at Taiji, or of the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroes, or of whales being tortured by naval sonar, if only they could look into the sea, as they walked along a beach, as people look into an aquarium. An aquarium is, of course, a travesty of this dream. If the face of the sea was vertical, light would only penetrate to a distance of around five metres; at that point, the creatures that happened to swim past would vanish back into their wild, free obscurity. People who look at a dolphin imprisoned in an aquarium are tempted into judging her or him in human terms. It would not be like that if you could see a dolphin swim past you in the wild, and then vanish into the unfathomable distance, you still in your element, and the dolphin in an element entirely other. It would instead be a glimpse of an animal, swimming on a level with us, yet utterly free to exercise its prodigious intelligence as it was evolved to function, rather than simply to please or impress us.
We can become divers and invade the realm of these creatures - up to a certain distance - but we do so as aliens, sequestered behind our portable panes of glass, affecting the marine environment by our very presence. The glimpses we are afforded as divers are not chance serendipitous glimpses of this other world; they are deliberately sought, and we have to make ourselves mechanically amphibious in order to achieve them. It is only through the imagination, and through empathy, that we can begin to bridge the ever-fixed gulf between our lives and the lives of ocean creatures - and it could be argued that never was a work of imagination more desperately urgent. Hardy's colour plate highlights the enormity of this imaginative task, for if we are to truly empathise with life in our oceans, we need also to be able to visualise the teeming organisms which are too small for the human eye to see unaided, and yet which sustain everything else that lives in the ocean. These creatures are doubly invisible to us, and the crimes we, as a civilisation, commit against them are also doubly invisible. The actions of oil companies in particular, and of all of us insofar as we contribute to global warming, are causing the extinction of species that have not yet been "discovered", and in the meantime, our own State government's attacks at the top of the food-chain contribute to dramatic changes in the ecosystem as the top predators are destroyed, preventing the trophic cascades that ensure the health of all ecosystems. Given that we cannot wait for our irresponsible governments or the actively criminal corporations to change this state of affairs, we all need to make the imaginative leap which will tip the ocean in our minds through 90 degrees. Scientists clearly have a primary role in this, but because a work of imagination is required, so do artists. At a time when the Minerals Council of Australia is lobbying for environmental groups to lose their charity status, it is desperately important that there should be a groundswell of public opinion which sweeps away the fundamentally infantile assumption that there is no object-permanence when an animal or plant slips beneath the surface of the sea. We can't afford to let the dictum, "Out of sight, out of mind" govern us any longer, because the profiteers will exploit it until the ocean is purged of every wonder - even to the point at which their depredations endanger the future of the human species. I am currently in the process of recording an album with Simone Keane, which is an attempt at such an imaginative engagement and communication. We are trying, in our own limited way, to tilt the ocean through 90 degrees - or perhaps, better, to tilt our listeners through 90 degrees. We don't want our album to fall only into the hands of the converted - the ones who are already imagining. We need its message to break through the barriers that separate the political and cultural enclaves in this country. The direct effect we have might be considerably less than a drop in the ocean - but at least it will be an effect. If other artists can pledge to do the same, we might start a chain reaction. A chain reaction is what we need if we are going to save our oceans. Time is running out - quite possibly much faster than we think - and time is the other dimension which needs to be tilted through 90 degrees. It is imagination which is required once again in order to look into the depths of the future and envisage the toxic soup, inhabitable only by jellyfish, which our children will inherit as their "ocean" if this cultural sea-change does not come. But we will not effect this imaginative revolution if we only prophesy doom. It is not fear of loss, but joy at wonder and beauty which motivates. How many will join in singing the wonder and beauty of the ocean?
Author bio: Giles Watson was born in Southampton, emigrated to Australia at the age of one, and lived there for the next twenty-five years. In addition to poetry and painting, he writes essays on natural history and mediaeval visual culture, is an avid walker, photographer and amateur naturalist. Much of his work is infused with an idiosyncratic spirituality: awed by nature, steeped in history, and inspired by a quiet sense of the spirit of place. Until November 2013, he lived in rural Oxfordshire, where the landscape, archaeology, flora and fauna provided continual inspiration. He now lives in Albany, Western Australia, and enjoys collaborations with musicians (Kathryn Wheeler, Simone Keane and Freya's Bounty) and artists (Buffarches and John Lincoln). He is also a campaigner on environmental issues.
Clockwise Cat Issue Thirty One: Spring/Summer 2015. Verse/Visuals/InVective/ReViews by scandalously savvy scribes the world over.