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Curbside Splendor e-zine June 2012


Curbside Splendor

June 2012

Curbside Splendor Publishing Curbside e-zine June 2012 ISSN 2159-9475 Poetry:

The Sun Will Rise Within Your Eyes Again by David Moran Fiction:

Leftover Ladies by Lucile Barker Savior by Joseph Celizic Preventing Splinters by Charles Bigelow South of the River by Efe Okugu

Photography and cover by Nick Morgulis Editor – Leonard Vance

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David Moran was born in a small Scottish fishing village. Since graduating in creative writing in 2005, he has traveled Asia, Europe, and North America extensively, living in cities such as Seoul, Toronto, Incheon, and London. In that time he has written and published poetry and short fiction in the following magazines: The View From Here (US), First Edition (UK), and The Dundee Anthology (UK). He is currently editing a novel about someone who can't stop.

Photo by Nick Morgulis

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The Sun Will Rise Within Your Eyes Again By David Moran My old man’s Pa was made of porcelain Ripped drunk bag of laughing gas Waist coat cut with faithful dreams Stuck out like an un-tucked shirt, The mind a wooden corkscrew. My old man’s Pa was made of porcelain From pointed elbow to pointed stare Experience a blinded truth Eternal for the sodden preach, The conscience laughs inside. My old man’s Pa was made of porcelain The pupils’ sweet forgotten glaze The shuffle of escaping traffic Hung on oak that hosts a pint, Sunlight on a wave. My old man’s Pa was made of porcelain Shattered like the window pane Silent when the boy was asking Witness to the sweating skin, Dear daddy of his day.

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Lucile Barker is a Toronto poet, writer, and activist. Since 1994, she has been the co-ordinator of the Joy of Writing, a weekly workshop at the Ralph Thornton Centre. Recent publications include the Danforth Review, Vox Poetica, Connotations, The River, Binnacle, Whistling Fire, and Apocrypha and Abstractions. She is also a two-time winner of Press 53’s 53 word story contest.

Photo by Nick Morgulis

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Leftover Ladies By Lucile Barker

It is a late Brooklyn Saturday afternoon in mid-August and it is too hot. St. Ann’s day is over, Labour Day too close. Twilight will be a benediction, evening a pure blessing, darkness heaven, and midnight bliss. The silent old ladies on the gray cement porches are sullen, carrying on a feud that started when Nixon was elected, a window broken by a carelessly thrown baseball. They are too hot in their perpetual heavy black mourning dresses, raging inwardly against dead husbands, negligent sons, daughters who live on Staten Island with non-Italian husbands and whine about the bridge tolls whenever they visit, and the shifty home care nurses who most certainly are stealing something, although they have never figured out what was missing, outside of time. The bells from a church on Fourth Avenue peal, and they shake their heads, knowing that they no longer have anything worthwhile to confess, outside of their rage against what has been, what could have been. The sky turns indigo and they go inside, claw hands pulling back curtains to see what is happening on the street, knowing that the other is probably doing the same thing. Finally the street is still; so quiet that the subway at Ditmas Station can be heard these three blocks away, the heat finally leaving the ground, rising more quickly than the bread they are leaving out to put in the

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oven in the morning. A few cars swish by hoping to find cooler air and hotter music in Coney Island; an escape from steaming pavement to hot sand. Late night or early morning revelers from a Manhattan wedding stagger down the street laughing and making mock of the bride and groom, who are heading to Atlantic City, gambling on a future that is as uncertain as a private poker game in a smoky hotel room. And then a rooster crows, startling the revelers, who never expected this sound competing with the far away traffic sounds from the BQE. A cat stretches on a porch, more joyful than the old ladies who will replace them in the morning. An ambulance shrills by and each old lady wonders if it is for the other one, breathing a sigh not just of relief, but survival when it passes, more quickly than the painful time they will not share with each other, remembering when their father bought each one of them a house so that they would be together for the rest of their lives. Maybe today I will go next door, try to smile, each one thinks. But they know that even the sabbath will not be enough to inspire the other to seek forgiveness. Soon it will be too late, and there will be bells again and the earth will be cool, as one throws a clod of dirt on the other’s coffin, the hottest thing on a windy November morning a sister’s tears.

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Joseph Celizic received his MFA from Bowling Green State University, where he currently teaches. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Coast, North American Review, Harpur Palate, CutBank, Redivider, and Rock & Sling, as well as other journals.

Photo by Nick Morgulis

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Savior

By Joseph Celizic Fire scales both stories of the narrow duplex in quick steady licks, darting in and out of windows until their walls mimic blazing Vegas. You mistake them for waving hands, vacancy signs, advertisements. The fire is quiet, breathing deeply with wheezing, hissing. The only sound louder is a balding woman yelling for someone to help her son still stuck inside. You don’t think twice. You’re drawn to the heat, the sound of breaking. You foot the weakened steps, skim across the hot floor with your shoes. Inside, the flames congregate in worship. They savor the expedited death, behold the gray ash made before its time. Their dancing is anxious, desperate. They gnash their teeth at you before nipping your arms, your knees. Even as the fire singes your hair and cuts at your skin, you move up the stairs, searching for the boy. A wall of flames engulfs his door, flaps like a blanket in the wind. But you’ll walk through it. You’ll pull the boy out, the one who thought he was already dead, half-dreaming of a hell made for those like him. You’ll restore to him nearly everything he’d thought he lost. And it will hurt. You will be scarred.

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Charles Bigelow lives in the Charlotte, NC area. His poetry and fiction has most recently appeared in The View From Here, The Gloom Cupboard, The Shine Journal, The Scrambler, Indigo Rising, Litsnack, Sister Ignition, Full of Crow and FeatherLit.

Photo by Nick Morgulis

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Preventing Splinters By Charles Bigelow

My son Zak is cuddled against me, just his nose jutting through one of the many holes in my tattered Salvation Army blanket. He’s dreaming – the thin lines of steam from his tiny nostrils illustrating the action. I hope it’s a good dream. Every five year old deserves good dreams. The brutal wind whistles through wide gaps that surround the windows of the crumbling storefront, winking at the frozen rags I’ve shoved in, as it ices the room like a freezer. Lou Rawls was correct; it is a hawk with an insatiable appetite and a warped sense of humor. Chicago winters are punishing. They are a constant reminder that when everything in life is broken down to basics, survival is heroic. Zak stretches and moans, then settles into a deeper sleep. He snores with a growl. Since survival has become my main goal, I have to leave it up to his mother to make sure he flourishes. A towhead, his skin is luminously pale, which in the cold, turns shining red. I pull him close to me to transfer what little warmth I have. My bony frame cracks under the pressure – I can feel the bruising begin. Goosebumps are a defense against the icy draft, generating energy which generates some warmth and it takes all my courage to emerge from the covers. This is our last morning and I should shake him awake, tickle and kiss him all over his pudgy body. His high-pitched giggle cracked like broken glass as we rolled around in hysterics all over the carpet. He was three then. I can still feel him mounted on my back, his knees pressed tightly against my bony ribs as I make like a horse to

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his cowboy. Darlene’s laughter serenades us like a racing spring – her joy ebullient and full of hope. She wears an apron, the one with red flowers that Zak and I gave her for Mother’s Day as a joke. Even Zak got the joke. Domestic isn’t in her vocabulary. Her work, sprinkled with adjectives about Zak make up her vocabulary. Even the cockroaches are freezing. Piled high, two or three on top of each other, they block the neon numbers of my clock radio. They crawled inside the plastic cover in search of warmth. I can’t read the time, but the sun is up, the cutting light barely able to pierce the thickly iced windows. The wind continues to whistle. Slipping out slowly and regrettably from beneath the blanket, I sit up on the bare mattress. Streams of breath chug from me and I try and catch its heat in my hands. I still have heat inside my body. The gnarled wood floor stretches in front of me like a glacial pond, etched with shadows from the myriad of ice graphics on the storefront window. My ratty sneakers offer little warmth, but they do prevent splinters. Aches and pains accompany my sour stench. The pipes are frozen so showers are out of the question. I have convinced myself the sheen of greasy dirt covering my skin provides an extra layer of warmth, like a sweater. Darlene is arriving later today. Her reaction to this place will not be good. Her mouth will drop and she will gag. Because of Zak she’ll bite her tongue when she surveys the cracked plaster walls, the cobwebs hanging like thick rain clouds, and sniffs the frozen musty mildew. Her long, manicured nails will nervously scratch her designer jeans as she expels a long, throaty sigh. In her raspy voice, she’ll say hello and ask how things went over the weekend. I will nod and hold back tears – gulping hard in the intimidating face of her dark beauty. I’ll invite her in and she’ll shrink against the nearest wall, hugging herself to ward off the cold, wishing she hadn’t left her gloves in the car. I had hoped to travel on

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the train out to the suburbs to drop Zak off, as I usually do, but she is too curious. It is her last chance to see it. I wonder what he’s told her about this place. Hell, what could he tell her that wouldn’t scare the shit out of her? The floor creaks as I scurry through the piles of my paintings on the way to the galley kitchen across the room. Glancing over my shoulder I’m struck by the soft light draping the stacks. I should paint the scene. They rise like headstones in a cemetery. Each had its life and now lies dormant, maybe dead. Dead or dormant, they are proof of my existence, the only ones outside of Zak. He used to watch me paint from his playpen in my studio. He would bounce up and down, laughing and drooling as I stroked thick, broad lines of oil paint across a barren white canvas. I named one Zak’s Folly. I’ve never seen him so entertained. One thick stroke of red after another. The red was my anger for Darlene, but he laughed louder after each one. My anger had vanished by completion. He isn’t even curious about the stacks of paintings anymore, but then, neither am I. Mother Hubbard’s cupboard holds one thing, and one thing only – my bottle of Methadone. A lonely clear plastic container of red liquid sits on the skeletal stainless refrigerator shelf. Because of it, I’ve kicked my heroin habit. Now I have to kick the methadone habit. Darlene recently asked why I can’t develop good habits. I didn’t tell her that good habits require too much work while bad habits let you look forward to accomplishing something without ever actually working. Course the accomplishment drifts like a rainbow after a spring shower – beautiful but never reachable. Then she asked me why I didn’t want Zak to have a role model. Ever had an eight-inch blade thrust into your stomach? I am a role model of what not to be, but if I admit that, she’ll go into the whole crap about alcoholic’s children more times than not, grow up to be alcoholics. She’s probably

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right. She’s smart. She’s beautiful. She’s way, way too much work. And I can always argue that I don’t drink – never have. As I swallow my dosage and feel the warmth and relaxation I think about kicking the habit. The thought sends me into mental hysterics. When I get right down to it, the only time I even think about it is when I’m high. And look what good it has done me. I haven’t sold a painting in a year. My gallery doesn’t call me and doesn’t return my calls. I’m heading for Phoenix. Winter avoids that part of Arizona. In fact, I went to school there and have decided I miss the desert. It has occurred to me that I am heading there because of its extreme nature. Maybe that’s it. My existence breaks down to survival – first in extreme cold and then, maybe in extreme heat. Its barren beauty appeals to me. As the meth works my mind and body, I search for the root cause to my addiction. It is an ongoing riddle. Darlene usually ends up the answer, which isn’t fair. The queen – strong, determined, vivacious, well on her way to accomplishing all her goals, unable to understand my needs and never afraid to question them in that condescending tone. She is quick to blame my friends. They did have the dope, but I took it. The biggest riddle is our relationship, or what used to be a relationship. She did help me to try to kick it. She tried harder than I. Often she says she blames herself, and as much as I’d like to grab that excuse and run with it, I know better. Tears are very painful in the storefront. They freeze into bubbles that rip my eyelashes. “Damn roaches! Get the hell outta here!” Zak is beating the mattress in frenzy, sending clouds of dust into the icy air, shaking his head with disgust. “Monsters!” he screams at the line of creatures scampering across the floor toward a crack in the outside wall.

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Wrapped in the blanket, he rocks back and forth on his haunches. Lips purple and quivering, he gazes up at me with innocent blue eyes, which stings me with guilt so tenacious, I know I’ll never forget the image. There is a chance I won’t see him ever, or not for a long, long time. He’ll grow up thinking I left him because I don’t love him. “Scarecrow?” His name for me. My bony frame is the reason. I lift my eyes. My lids are sluggish as snails. “Why don’t you come back home when Mom comes today? She’s bringing her car.” I look away. More freezing tears and a jumbled sigh. I shrug. This is a time for silence. “I asked Mom.” The blanket is over his head like a hoody. “And what did she say?” He yawns, his little tonsils appearing like rubies. Rubbing his eyes with miniature fists, he sighs, “She said she isn’t sure. Something about you giving up the fight.” I wince as I light a cigarette. A padlock clamps my throat. No Maas! It was the last day I lived with her and we watched a replay of that famous fight on TV. I couldn’t understand Duran doing that and I was in a rage in front of the TV screaming, “he can’t give up,” even though the fight had taken place decades before. I turned to Darlene and screamed, “How can he give up the fight?” “Scarecrow, are you crying?” Forcing a swallow, I nod. It does no good to lie. He’s way too sharp. After studying me a moment, he scratches his button nose and announces, “I’m hungry.” He said the same thing when Darlene handed him off to me on Friday night at the train station. The least I can do is buy him breakfast at the IHOP a couple of blocks away but before we head there I’ve got to

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come clean with the little guy. An IHOP is not conducive to heartfelt conversations. Not everyone gets dealt the hand he did – but at least he has his mother. I have a mother too, yet here I am. The fact we spend every other weekend together is going to change, but it is part of my survival strategy. Is having a deadbeat dad better than a dead one? I’ve been putting this discussion off all weekend –yet here I am – can’t get off the pot. “You still crying?” His face is scrunched in serious consternation. I have given him the gift of an early adulthood. “Not anymore.” “Why not?” He tilts his head and his eyes are lost in the blanket hoody. Clouds of stream freeze in front of his face. He doesn’t complain about the cold, just the roaches. “Aren’t you sad anymore?” I inhale the frosty air. “I’m always sad when you go home.” I kneel in front of him. “Me too.” He shakes out of the hoody, blonde curls reaching wildly into the air. “Mom always tells me it will get better by Tuesday.” “Does it?” He pauses to consider. “Sometimes it takes until Wednesday.” I smile. “But it does get better?” “Probably, but it would be better if you moved back in.” I gulp as I reach out and grasp his arms. “I was crying cause I’m moving out of this place.” He smirks and shoots me a look that could best be described as “Are you crazy?” He leans over and kisses me on the lips. “Nothing to be that sad about, Scarecrow.” He glances at the pile of cockroaches in the clock. “Think they will miss you?” He bursts into laughter – a deep buzz that ends in a lilt, and then falls back into the blanket with glee. I

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used to have a sense of humor too. He lifts onto his right elbow and through his smile asks, “So where are you moving?” He certainly doesn’t suffer from procrastination. Because of his straight forward innocence I decide to address my move without any crap, which he probably could see through anyway. “Arizona.” “That’s what Mom said last week.” I climb onto the mattress and sit next to him. I’m not shocked. Probably be more shocked if she hadn’t slipped him some warning. After all he is the kid, not me. I want to ask him what else she said, but that would be taking the coward’s way out. “Cause it is warm?” I nod. “I also know some people out there.” He leans forward and points to my paintings. “How you gonna get them on a bus?” He has his mother’s sense of logic and organization. “I’m sending them out in boxes on a moving van.” He ponders this for a moment. “That’s good. I wouldn’t want them to be damaged.” Tears well in my eyes again. How can I leave? I’ll be leaving the only person in the world who loves me unconditionally. The only person in the world who understands me. He startles me as he slams his shoe on the ground. “Missed!” We watch the cockroach scamper across the floor and disappear into the same crack in the wall. “Is the place gonna be better than this?” “Yep.” “How we gonna see each other?” “You can visit if you’d like?” “And Skype too…”

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I’ll have to get a computer, but there is no reason to build roadblocks now. “Will you get better?” he asks with no emotion. He stares at the sun reflecting off the thick ice on the windows. “I plan too.” I do. He climbs onto his knees and grabs my shoulders this time, squinting and sticking his lower lip out at me. “You can go if you promise to get better.” After a pause he adds, “I mean it.” Tears flow until they freeze in puddles on my cheeks. How can I refuse? I nod. Then nod again. He does what he promises to do and has faith I will too. He struggles to get a sweater over his head while I dig around my pockets for cash. “Put on your shoes before we get your coat. I don’t want you getting splinters.” After I button his coat and yank his blue stocking tightly over his ears, I push on his matching blue mittens. I force the warped door open with a screech. I hold on tightly to keep it from slamming against the wall in the wind and Zak, head down, mittens posed like boxing gloves, ventures out ahead of me into the howling gale. THE END

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Efe Okogu is a Nigerian Writer, Anarchist, and Hobo. His published works include “The Train Game” in the anthology Diaspora City, “The Birth of the Blue” in Chimurenga, “Cigarette” in The Ranfurly Review, “Taxi Girl” in Thieves Jargon, “Deathpat” in the anthology Best New Writing 2011, “Restless Nature” in Decades Review, and “Sweat and 419” in NigeriansTalk.

Photo by Nick Morgulis

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South of the River By Efe Okogu

When Mohammed prophesies in his soft rumble, you have to hush up to hear him. Focus on our collective shadow, our communal darkness. “You were born under a dying star. Your living comes easy and your despair easier. When faced with a fork in the road, divergent paths that lead into an uncertain future, you always walk barefoot the shortest path.” “Nothing is real to you. You believe everything is possible and if you fail, all you have to do is insert more coins. But those shiny silver discs that you spend so freely are not endless. Like the happy-chemicals in the brain, released by the drugs you consume in excess, the lake is not bottomless; it will dry up. What then becomes of your precious pink flamingos?” “You have the soul of an addict. Every few years you may trade one for another as a defense mechanism but deep down you know the truth. You are the battered wife who changes the locks but gives away the keys.” He ends as suddenly as he began, a fallen Rasta who reads fortunes to tourists on the South Bank when low on cash. He's probably right but then a bird winds up and begins to sing and I realise she's been singing all along and outside, the sun is shining and the weather is as sweet as it'll ever be thanks to the rain. Somewhere out there are krusties, pretty

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girls, stray cats and lunatics of all denominations and I've spent half the day getting monged with my dealer. And I remember it's gyro day so I jump on Rick as in Slick – South London International Crustie the Klown - and I'm offski, cruising on the bike, hoodie up, hands in pockets cause the Smoke got stood up by Spring and now she's finally here but has yet to drink her morning coffee and her smile is weary. I don't mind, I'm overjoyed to see her. Rolling north through yupsville from Balham to Clapham and soon I'm in traffic, overtaking worker bees on their expensive rides, all lycra, neckties and locked shoes then - rush of air, quick jerk to the outside, legs pumping, overtake the oil beasts and their prisoners, run a red light, slide between a white van and some Babylon on bikes I didn't notice before better get scarce, remove their temptation to fuck with a brother - so cut across the wrong lane, uphill the side streets 'cause they'll be too lazy to chase, then down Brixton Hill and I'm no longer cold, lost in the rush, the freedom, burning calf muscles and hot joyous breath as I overtake everything, faster and faster than all the slave bees cause I be a free bee, bumbling freaky on freebies. But I'm deafened by the buzz of the hive. It's monstrous. Teetering on the verge of collapse, the machine is an orequake waiting to happen and it needs slave bees to keep it running and thug bees to give beat downs when we step out of line. We need to stop consuming the soma, rest our mandibles and go on strike; halt construction on the combs. Just take the honey and fly; blow up a pentagon on the way out. Fuck a five-sided die, it's loaded to ensure the bums will always lose. Scientists still can't figure out how us bumblebees do our thing. What does that tell you?

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And it's Brixton intersection and my eyes flash through all five exits and even though I'm at a red, there's a disappearing path between that flashing yellow light and that flashing green man so I shoot through, hop onto what used to be alki square before the bastards cut down old oak and planted some youths, branches tortured into right angles by metal wires. Nothing left but a bland beige yupped up plaza with single chairs bolted to the cement facing away from each other so people can't sit together and commune. I lock Rick up and walk into the library, check my emails, watch some riot porn then check out a backpack full of books and the fine sister ahead of me in line. I almost say something but I get shy when she smiles at my choices. I walk out and see that Life and Debt is replaying at the Ritzy and I should be able to make the next show after getting my money if the queues aren't too long. The gyro office is packed with the disillusioned out on parole, shuddering junkies of ‘no fixed abode’ – what a joke; they’re homeless but the system obfuscates the truth with bureaucratic double speak – and bums without bank accounts, staring at the window at the far end, grey curtains like metal shutters down behind bullet proof glass, embossed with the word, CLOSED, in large black letters as if any further reminder were needed other than the beige walls streaked with the grime of decades of angry foot scuffs and weary shoulders. A harried mother half drags a toddler in fishbowl glasses into the room, his little legs pistoning to keep up. They join the queue that now threatens to snake out onto the street as she glances repeatedly at her watch while yelling at some poor bastard on her hands-free set. Her man by the sound of

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things didn't get the money owed him by his boss and his blaahd claaht is gonna pay when she gets home. Fucking money; my instinctive reaction is to fling it from me in all directions. After all, as Bacon said, 'Money is like muck, no good lest it be spread'. Her weave alone cost 500 quid and you can tell the man on the other end of the line isn't running his fingers through the rewoven locks of a thousand Dharavi girls. But is she to blame for all the little black girls across the world who wish to be Barbie, cursing the melanin in their skin, black loving sun that blesses from within? We all know walls have ears in Babylon but tune into the right pirate station and you'll hear them scream, for real. The boy squirms from his mother’s grasp and goes exploring. There's not much to see but at that age, every experience is potentially wondrous. He walks down the line, a midget anthropologist studying our beaten down faces etched with quiet desperation. Suddenly he gasps, takes a startled step back as if he's jut realized, 'good god, they're all insane'! He reaches out to make sure the wall is still there, pulls back as if electrocuted, eyes manga large behind glass, takes a deep breath and screams. Lucky bastard. Not yet grownup, not yet saturated with the linotype of the machine and the mad scribblings of his own ego. His vision isn't clouded by a haze of preconceptions. How can you hear the universe inform you of your slavery with your fingers in your ears and the white man’s jungle blasting at brain-blood clot inducing levels? Of course the kid screams; we're in a temple built on a dark ley. Truth is we're all screaming, the whole mess of us but it's the young and touched who are most sensitive; they walk naked and are the first to be cut down in the never ending

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drive-bys between rival multinational corporations and their puppet governments. The mother kisses her teeth loudly and calls out. He backs away and she's forced to leave her place in the line and go after him but the boy keeps screaming, no matter how hard she slaps him. I flinch in memory, deep my voice and call out, “stop smacking that boy� and she does. The curtain whips open and the scowling face of the overworked underpaid drone emerges from the fluorescent cage, all middle aged despair, a prisoner stamping number plates. As the first man in line shuffles forwards and the repetitious sign here, here and here and can I see your id bullocks commences, I wonder if the drone is ever overwhelmed by a sudden urge to murder the pathetic losers whose lives depend on the measly crumbs it's her duty to dispense. Longing for a bomb, even more trapped than we are, the hardest part of her day is probably the haggard face she sees in the mirror every morning as she forces herself to leave her council flat, replacing one shithole for another. A face reflecting the mute suffering she sees displayed before her each and every single day for she knows the truth: in that line, but for blind luck, stand I. The little boy has wound down to whimpers as he's dragged back to the line when one of the junkies begins to moan, jingling and jangling off key, his bones visible through his paper thin skin, aged like vellum on which is writ his story. Whatever his name, everyone in Brixton knows 20p. Prince Reagent of the land of nod needs it bad and hearing the kid, he can’t help but let loose a low wail in answer. It feels good, takes his mind off the shakes and aches, the snot and want.

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Everyone's watching 20p, nervous that if shit escalates, the window will close on that much needed cheque but surely I can't be alone in cheering him on. Someone else must be thinking 'fuck shit up!' The boy is making a screeching sound like a train on emergency brakes as he listens to his mama who he loves but who's always angry at him for being a bad bad boy even though he tries so hard to be good but mama's saying he's got the devil in him and she's always trying to beat it out and he doesn't want the devil in him which I imagine as a little rat with sharp teeth and claws scuttling around inside his guts and I flash back to my abortion of a childhood... Woah. Slow down sonny Jim. Step away from the memories. Let the boys in the basement deal with that mess. There's some middle class wanker behind me, yapping to any who'll listen that he's there to pick up his first ever gyro, a crisis loan till he gets back on his feet. His name is Clive he tells us and he can't believe he's been reduced to this, after SJC and LSE, despite his LLB and MBA. He's smiling but his eyes are terrified of the dregs of society that surround him, feeding at the hard earned trough of honest 100% British factory-farmed taxpaying beef. To be counted amongst the bottom feeders shakes him hard so he talks and talks to drown out the voices in his head. 20p has lost it, he's wailing in a high pitched voice and scratching a pustular abscess on his neck and the security guard is trying to kick him out but is afraid he'll catch something if he touches him and then it's my turn at the diseased teat. The civil servant and I spend a few minutes lying to each other and I grab my gyro, leave as 20p begins to tear off his clothes and a couple of coppers show up, ride

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down to Kennington post office to cash my cheque then back to Brixton where I bump into Sayid. He's dressed smart, man's got a job these days, working for a dodgy cockney teaching English to rich Chinese kids. I'm chatting about the gyro office and he asks me why I don't just get a bank account and avoid the drama. What, I laugh, and miss out on my chance of being gunned down when someone goes postal and sprays the room with an Uzi. Anyway, fuck a bank account. First up, you need an address and unlike you my young friend, I don't have a family home at the bottom of the cliff, soft and full of hot air to catch me when I hit rock. Second, I'm ranting now, you need a bank account to do anything in this fucking system and goddammit, stubborn is just another way of saying there goes a man of style and conviction. What, I won't be able to chain myself to a desk, take shit from a retard who does less work and makes more money, pay the descendant of slave owners to live in a tiny cage, spend all my dough on overpriced clothes and food while watching Pop Idol and my life pass me by? No, say it ain't so. Sayid laughs and says fair enough and I calm down and remember why I love him. He squats round the corner but has never snuck in to the Ritzy so I slip him in, glad to share urban survival skills cause the kid has taught me more than he'll ever know. We watch the machine annihilate Jamaica with an endless barrage of genetically modified bananas, encoded to strip topsoil and contaminate fresh water with toxic chemicals. Afterwards, we grab a couple of cans each from the offie and head to the rooftop of his squat, several blocks of tall slender

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council flats lost in a bureaucratic loophole. Been going for 15 years but today is her last. He and a bunch of others received court papers a while back but no one showed up for the meeting to discuss the problem. Nevertheless a party has broken out and we struggle up the stairs past the lust and through the haze of smoke, pushing beyond the teeming mass of young flesh up to Sayid's flat. I feel old and out of touch. Who are these kids? Clifton Mansions is doomed and they’ve all gathered to dance around the flames and watch it burn. It’s Friday and I’m praying for a riot. Above the mess, we hop up around the connected rooftops, all chim chimeney stacks and narrow gaps then sit and watch Brixton babble on. Roots Reggae from the Rasta record shop, an old aunty cussing out a rude boy, a horn blares and a siren screams past. Police... no, ambulance. It's good to know the different screeches otherwise you get pissed off every time you hear the wail thinking it's old bill out there fucking with a brother when it's actually the fire department and they're mostly all right. We feed a cable up from Sayid's flat and lug his speakers and old-school radio with it's heavy dial up the rickety ladder then catch a pirate airwave and surf the vibrations into the dusk, regaling each other with tales of yuppie stupidity and ideas for scams. By now guitars are strumming, beat-boxers and MCs are dropping bars and Sayid's talking about seeing his son yesterday for the first time without a filthy minded social worker crowding him and his eyes light up and I'm thinking he's just a kid but he'll make a great dad if he ever wins

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

custody from his junkie baby mama but the court case has been dragging on for months and I wanna cheer him up but don't know what to say that I haven't said a hundred times so I give him a hug and crack some dirty jokes and every time I look at my gnarled hands, they're rolling another spliff cause we both need to get higher than a rooftop, high enough to rise above the Smoke and escape our heads, just for a while. A pretty light skinned teen, all bleach blonde buzz cut and artfully ripped threads comes up to me and says, “Can I neck on with you?” I have no idea what she’s on about. Not had a lot of chances recently and I don’t wanna blow yet another one but her words come floating in on some wavelength I'm not tuned into. “Can I neck on with you?” she repeats and I just nod too confused to do anything else. We kiss for a few breathless moments and I grip her tight in response to her soft moan. She smiles, says “Lol”, flips out a sidekick and begins to type as she walks off. Welcome to dissidence in the pop culture age – chewing gum and inhaling laughing gas, keeping the coppers updated with live tweets and snapping incriminating evidence to be plastered on facebook in the morning. Can I blame her? No but I do anyway. Let me explain with a meaningless aside: the other day I tripped on a curb and accidentally fell into a church. I sat listening to the seventh day adventists, black to a pew bound starched and pressed cloth wrapped arse begging the lord to be washed clean till white as snow. Today I'm watching the mostly white crowd around me in the heart of Brixton –

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

supposedly the heart of black Britain - ogle a real live squat like it’s a movie they’ve stumbled into. Some guy walking past says “snooze you lose” to his mate and when I turn back, the lass has melted into the crowd. It's probably for the best; I think we spoke different languages. Back in the flat we rip up a bunch of newspapers and fill up a wastepaper basket with confetti. There’s some worthless Indian rupees that the last tenant left behind and we add that into the bin then rain paper out the window over the heads of the gathered masses below. There’s a roar of approval and then a fight breaks out between fake anarchists as they scramble for the money before they realise it was printed where the resources are plentiful and the cash is therefore worthless. Welcome to the tupsy turvey world. Sayid: South London is paradise; people smile every day because there’s just too much joy in their hearts. Every day I wake up and thank god, I can’t believe I am so lucky. I never have to think about how I’m going to have fun because everyone here is so friendly. Girls are happy to drop their knickers at the drop of a hat, Rastas hand out spliffs on street corners and the fountains spring rum and coke. As long as you don’t cross that river, Jah reigns. Me: I got munchies, let's go skipping. Fights are breaking out on all the floors, every home is trashed and punks and rude boys are mugging art students and trustafarians as frayed nerves and rage blast from behind unhinged doors. Broken glass and spilled beer, blood, vomit and other bodily fluids; in the end, it’s just another fucking facebook party.

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

The coppers will be here in a few hours, the barricade is a pathetic joke and a journalist high on ketamin is taking pictures of a couple of angry kids kicking in a load bearing wall. The outcome was decided long ago he says with every snap of his camera. He tries to steal my light but my hand flies up in time to block the image and I wanna headbutt him but don’t. What good would that do? Media boy's just another tool. The police will extract this beautiful gem as if it was a rotten tooth and there’ll be that little less light in Brixton, that little bit less life in our grey lives. We ride south through Streatham but it's the poor section of society so all the food packages have been meticulously slashed open and drenched liberally with blue dye. 'Where to?' I wonder aloud. “Tooting innit”, says Sayid and sure enough the petrol station bins are good. Six different varieties of sandwiches - including nice one, my favourite, cheese ploughman - and onion rings, jam filled donuts, apple juice, flowers and fucking hell, we're drooling already, a dozen packets of mussels. We're loading up our bags when one of the workers comes out and threatens to call the police. Sayid's “Come on mate” is all cheeky chappy. “You've chucked it in the bins. What difference does it make. One love, brother, one world”. “No, it is not one world!” the worker yells, clearly angry about more than a couple of scavengers but we're fully loaded anyway so we walk away, gifting the monotone streets with flower arrangements, in letterboxes, phone boxes, doorways, arches, on traffic lights, lampposts and walls, hoping to brighten someone's morning and there's no one but us and the foxes on every street corner, loping over

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

hedges and sliding through fences, out there skipping just like we be and I'm thinking how much I love these moments with Sayid cause his joy in being a bum inspires me to hug every tree we pass as he graffs little slices of random thoughts on walls then we stop off at the organic bins behind Spoons. They've been raided already but there's some palettes which we grab to start up a fire in the pit Woodsman and I dug one awesome autumn afternoon. Soon there's a dozen of us round the pit sharing the food and I'm lost in the flames, watching baby dragons spark into life and fly away with my conscious thoughts, crackling and vanishing, an endless wave of subatomic particles chasing quantum winds into the sky and I'm curled up alone round the embers, dawn dew tickling my nose, a thick blanket cocooning me and a baby fox is sniffing my feet. We kotch, my chest too narrow to contain my contentment before he bounces off to join his family and whatever else lives at the bottom of the largest back garden in Balham. Spring, glorious spring! The large tree at the bottom of the garden shimmers with a million green butterflies in flight; last week her branches were bare, exposed and yearning for a lover in lock up. Now a bird orchestra nests within her loving embrace, singing at the top of their voices, with all their hearts, 'Spring, glorious spring!' A pair of golden butterflies spiral each other above my face, fighting or foreplaying, I neither know nor care for they're alive and so am I. I love squatting; how else could a bum like me live on an overgrown abandoned bowling green worth ÂŁ3 million. I gaze over the patchwork of buttercups, lilies and daisies as a bumblebee lands on my shoulder, licks my stained shirt and moves on to other flowers for I am become

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

a sunflower, the petals around my spirit unfurling to follow the sun. Sayid walks out of the old clubhouse we've renovated into habitable shape and asks if I'm up for skipping Waitrose. I yawn awake and nod and we rush over to beat the rising sun. The bins are behind a ten foot barbed wire fence but I jump into the gated community next door then over a low wall and open the gate for Sayid from the inside. The bins are locked but I have a key which I nicked from B&Q a while back and we're in, making as little noise as possible cause we can hear workers preparing to open shop. The bins are empty save the last, which is full to the brim with Ben and Jerry's ice cream and it's all in date too. Sayid reckons the fridges must have broke down or something and we scarper, excited as kids who've just stumbled, well... on a stash of free ice cream. Sayid says life is like skippin', you never know what you're gonna get and I groan at the terrible pun as we sit on a low wall outside a church and dig in. My taste buds weep like lovers reunited and practically porn the swirling sweetness that flows over them. Right now, nothing compares to cold nectar sliding down a parched throat. I let out a moan of pleasure and my knees actually buckle. After a couple of cartons each, we're stuffed and decide to give out free ice cream to all passer-bys but the drones keep refusing. Their instinctive reaction is a clenching of the body and a hurrying of the step. They don't hear the words 'free ice cream'. They act like we're trying to sell them something and doesn't that just tell you everything you need to know. There's a little girl practically in tears when Mom says no and

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

I'm saying, really there's no catch and then the kid with the fishbowl glasses toddles by with his mother. I hop off the wall and give him a carton of Chunky Chocolate Cheer. He takes it and looks to his mother for approval. She searches my eyes then shrugs and I can't tell if she remembers me from the gyro office or not. I ruffle the kid's hair and he grins all gap toothed as he licks his spoon and his mother smiles a thank you before they carry on their merry way. Wow... for a moment there, I almost felt human. Sayid's on form, suggests we sell some of the stash so we walk over to a corner shop and walk out with 40 quid and there's still enough ice cream left to last a few days after we spread the love and we're full of ideas like toasting skipped sandwiches and selling them outside the Tube for double the taste, half the price; and I know it's going to be... a lovely day :)

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

About the Photographer Nick Morgulis is a writer/director/photographer originally from Chicago, but lately in FL/NYC/Moscow. He wishes to pinpoint the humor, pain, love, dreams, and beauty that is the substructure of our lives. He has just wrapped up his latest directing effort with the black comedy, "Peter the Great."

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Curbside Splendor

June 2012

www.curbsidesplendor.com

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Curbside E-Zine - June 2012