hello. welcome to the first issue of dirtflask. we have been told that anger and sadness must be symptoms of an internal disease. we live in a place where the windows are kept sparkling clean and you can only ever see yourself. itâ€™s enough to make anyone sad and angry. the poems and stories inside of this first issue are dirt. smear them on every window. many thanks to the contributors and to david keplinger (for his cultivation of poets and poetics alike). love, the editors dirtflask www.dirtflask.com
contents 2 Hello. 4 Dirt 5 Howie Good “Love is a Dagger That Was Worn by Mussolini” 6 William Doreski “Dogtooth” 7 Benjamin Walker “On Malaise and Recovery” 8 Benjamin Walker “Doors Closing Under Washington, 2007” 9 Dirt 10 Paulus Kapteyn “June” 12 Raymond Keen “Irony is the Cross Upon Which Meaning is Crucified” 14 Dirt 15 David Pritchard “Dream Song” 16 David Spicer “Death Overlooks the River” 17 Contributor Biographies
LOVE IS A DAGGER THAT WAS WORN BY MUSSOLINI Howie Good
Have you noticed birds are increasingly reluctant to fly? I have. But whatever you do, avoid a two-front war. Thereâ€™s an art to throwing hand grenades (also to intercepting mail and tapping telephones). The sky has darkened over the spot. An only child drowned there some time ago. Come to bed. Weâ€™ll share the lonely society of the road.
DOGTOOTH William Doreski The tide comes in forever here, raging up the slope of bedrock, almost to Main Street where the spray cakes on the cafe umbrellas. A famous singer died while racing the tide across the beach. Tourists daily fall to their knees over there by that fang of basalt we call Dogtooth. The singer was an obscene teenage idol. I don’t remember his name. His band left in a bus painted electric psychedelic colors. They didn’t even claim his corpse, so we gave it to the medical school sixty miles down the coast. Every evening our brass band plays loudly enough to hear above the crush of the sea. Often at that hour someone, usually a small child, wanders to the moonlit beach and drowns. A voluntary sacrifice. Those drownings keep the sea from overwhelming the whole town. It would funnel right up Main, busting down School and Pine streets, then, choked with our bodies, withdraw past Dogtooth into the mud flats. There it’d lie sullen and digestive--maybe a bit rueful, but so abstract no one could rebuke it for exercising qualities we love.
ON MALAISE AND RECOVERY Benjamin Walker I dried out so much I grew a new skin, elephant-thick. I sat out the bars and restaurants, let my dirty dishes, even my own stove and oven languish, abandoned. I was ready to cede the battle of man vs. stinkbug, only watch old TV shows in rooms where I couldn’t hear them buzzing against my light fixtures like six-legged heralds of decay. Some nights, I felt so tired from mopping the cafe floor, I lacked the will to read or write that night or the next morning. I felt sympathy for the swelling, blocked veins of the Internet, running out of addresses, clogged by our love of posting each meme, of selling everything from clothes to genetic code. I was burning up, but shivered because my cottage was so cold. At night, I heard every creak and groan in the county. Almost called a friend over to wrap me in plastic, keep me in the fridge until morning. I felt so feverish, paranoid and bitter that Fox News Channel would’ve paid good money for my opinions. No wonder I’m so embarrassed reading the news nowadays, America, as the lines for gas and job interviews get longer, our representatives trim the fat off the pig they promised, as men across the ocean immolate themselves for want of bread, as their brothers and sisters gather, defying their despots and daring the riot police to halt the march of a new world. Can you see what an opportunity we’re missing while we’re satisfied just hearing that Kanye West is finally visiting rehab after abusing Auto-Tune? I’ve stopped listening to the background dross, started dreaming bigger, started taking amoxicillin for the mess in my lungs. I’m chasing down the stinkbugs with a plastic cup.
DOORS CLOSING UNDER WASHINGTON, 2007 Benjamin Walker
On the underground rail, the darkness deepens with each turn, punctuated only by slivers of light marking every third beat like a distant star loosening its belt buckle. The tracks shudder and the train stops. Light escapes from the tunnel. A tourist with a fanny pack gets hysterical. Security ushers us onto the platform. A man with middle-manager hair and Chihuahua eyes stands at the center of the delayed party, beckoning for our attention with a soot-ridden, gum-lined suit bought on some better day, thirty pounds ago. He clears his throat, invites us to follow him down the tunnel, marching “into the twenty-first century” while we take viral videos, giggling to mask our nervous breaths. “I know the truth of all matters,” he says, “what I can conserve with enough energy.” He jumps off the platform, into the gap. I grab his legs. The Metro Guard tries slapping his fingers away from the third rail.
JUNE Paulus Kapteyn June thinks about having been hurt when she thinks about someone else’s good luck. Observing her think about herself is painful to see, not that she knows that I can see her thinking. She thinks that her thoughts are invisible when they are as visible as the two large moles that sit like a house fly on her face. I like her. She reminds me of my mother whose throat would close but not completely when she ate food that she was allergic to or wasn’t aware she was allergic to. The list of food inimical to her existence was always growing, at one point she subsisted on water and nuts. I suspect that she is very good at being mean and that life has made her this way for life can make people ugly. I asked Bobby if he had anything special going on today. I have mental exercises to do he said. Bobby posits the smile that is forty percent there. I want to buy one of his drawings. I haven’t seen them. I know I will like them not having seen them and having talked about them with Bobby in great length. Even if I dislike them I will like them because Bobby made them and he can’t do wrong in my eyes. I barely know him. He will be the butt of my generosity. I may not molest him with my compassion. I asked for his phone number. He gave it to me on a shred of paper from the cash register he stands behind when I pay for my coffee. I doubt I will call him. I may leave a short message. I’m greedy I want him to be happy when I’m happy and I’m happy because I’m going to show my work in June’s gallery. I called Bobby and left a garbled message. I should leave him be. June calls him dark and modest. He struggles financially. He’s homesick for Indiana. He misses the one small room that he could call his own two blocks from his work. Currently, he lives with a friend from back home whom he can confide in. I feel that something bad could happen to him or he could do something untoward when he falls under the spell of his waywardness. I have seen him walking down the street on his own in the meager dignity of his second hand blazer and layers of shirts and sweaters and hat and realize that I never see anyone on their own in quite the same singularity.
An errant vehicle totaled June’s car. June doesn’t shy from the eleven bridges in Portland, mostly she frequents the Burnside bridge. When she looks down at the glare of the river she fights the desire to let go of the steering wheel. June smells of comely soap that she also applies to dishware. June is in her car. It doesn’t have a sun roof. She thinks of how she can’t remember the names of the objects around her when she wants to think about what to do with her day. She doesn’t know why she has to think of the color red. She doesn’t feel anything, there isn’t a feeling that corresponds to the color. For the most part her sense of smell is dormant. Every once in awhile an odor does overwhelm and she feels nauseous. At such unpleasant moments she thinks of the Burnside bridge as a rainbow. June reclines in her seat and masturbates to the smell of leather. June climbs onto the unquestioning penis of a homeless man.
IRONY IS THE CROSS UPON WHICH MEANING IS CRUCIFIED Raymond Keen Walt Disney said, “When your values are clear, your decisions are easy.” Why is it easier to lie than to tell the truth? Can you really confess if you do not really believe? Yes, of course! And your confession can be published as literature. Really! Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified. Tammy Faye Bakker said, “I’m giving up religion to do sitcoms, talk shows, game shows. I can make millions.” Yes you can. You can make millions. And so can any one of our millions of American women viewers, shitting and pissing in the privacy of their own homes. Where is the irony in that? J. Robert Oppenheimer said, “If the experiment is sweet, one must pursue it.” “Is it the truth that will set you free? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. So let’s just go with the flow.” Who said that? “God has us hardwired for self-destruction.” Who said that? Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified. Professor Irwin Corey said, “Language is only necessary when communication is endangered.” Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade asked, “Is there mucus in paradise?” In any case, what could be more humiliating than death? Where is the irony in that?
Francois de La Rochefoucauld wrote, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” Albert Camus wrote, “Men die; and they are not happy.” Where is the irony in that? Franz Kafka wrote, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.” “You must turn your writing over to the authorities,” They said. (Let me say that again.) “You must turn your writing over to the authorities.” “Thank you.” (Men exit.) Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified.
Shakespeare wrote, “Down from the waist they are Centaurs, Though women all above… …Give me an ounce of civet; good apothecary, sweeten my imagination.” There is no love in the animal kingdom. Her animal crotch is like any other animal crotch. Is there mucus in paradise? “They were butchered like animals!” they said. “But humans are animals,” I said. Where is the irony in that? Christ was born on Christmas day. Le progress vous savez. Why have you unhooked your plastic Jesus? “We do not come from monkeys!” she shrieked. Did you say that you don’t plan to see your mother in heaven? …or our blind fathers. Perhaps death is not so bad after all. Is there mucus in paradise? Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified. After terrible things happen, we always thank God. All the churches in America thank God for Alzheimer’s disease. All the churches in America thank God for emphysema. All the churches in America thank God for cancer. Why is everybody smiling? Don’t they know they’re going to die? In any case, what could be more humiliating than death? Where is the irony in that? …or getting your bone marrow from a baboon. “My gorge rises at it.” …or your drunken father, spitting blood, pissing in the sink. …or your angry mother, born with her intestines outside her body. Have a nice Christmas. Have a nice Christmas. Have a nice Christmas. Beware of people who don’t believe in God, and beware of people who do. Needless to say, the hearts of most of our citizens are mostly filled with hate. Remember Socrates, agreeing to drink the hemlock? Please give him a warm, warm welcome. Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified. Irony is the cross upon which meaning is crucified.
for Walt Whitman vis-Ă -vis John Berryman
Articulate the disjunctive synthesis. Have we only our beards in common, Mr. Bones? Henry cannot make good in makeup, dancing ladies, more different from before, something else, desire. The child walks down the street. Say to butterfly with hat, O well. A history of mouths shut, stitched that way. Inventiveness pulls Mr. Bones and Henry. Argumentative turn stomachwise. Must Henry? Mr. Bones cold tophats the mourned mandibles along, discern the altitude of making meter. Ideal mirror. Simultaneity and sleeping in cars. How come know the wader in the flask? Tell to the steer Tiresias shouldnâ€™t be driving. Henry stands in cold field and I: grass.
DEATH OVERLOOKS THE RIVER David Spicer
The stumblebum spectator at the Chelsea truck stop watched the spider break dance on his trouser leg and waited for the red light to insult his twit of a girlfriend. She called him an Hispanic fat boy with asthma, and a kite curtsied in the stoned tequila parabola of the afternoon. A toilet would dazzle my navel right about now, he thought, a gentleman who still loved smut on his New York table. No longer a blond teddy bear, he shoved garlic into the pothole of his heart attack queen. He was a cowboy again, a falcon riding a deer, a hippie angel in his Corvair driving toward the Reverie Club. She threatened to take a taxi to the Caymans and return a mule with a gaggle of surfboard studs trailing her. He was her only keepsake, she barked, a fedora on blue hair, an ice cream cone skidding like a domino on a treadmill. He stuck a finger in her rubber eyes, and she blew bubbles at the door of the harbor view garage before he tightened the cord around the tree limb of his final trophy, her snobby neck.
bios DAVID W. PRITCHARD is many things, but certainly not David W. Pritchard. Whoever told you that was lying. He has published poems and has an essay on Buddhism and deconstruction forthcoming but remains in a shanty sipping filtered water. WILLIAM DORESKI lives in rural New Hampshire where bear and deer have been messing with his garden. His work has appeared in many journals. He teaches at Keene State College and rarely combs his hair. PAULUS KAPTEYN is a writer who resides in Portland Oregon. He has had work in Lungfull Litmag, Cleveland Review, Bad Penny Review, Monarch Review. DAVID SPICER lives in Memphis, where he's working fiendishly on his fifth unpublished book. He is the author of Everybody Has a Story, a full-length collection, and four chapbooks. Heâ€™s published in many journals, including The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Alcatraz, and others. HOWIE GOOD, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the full-length poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), and Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011). RAYMOND KEEN has recently completed his first volume of poetry, Love Poems for Cannibals. Five of his poems appeared in the July/ August 2005 Issue of The American Poetry Review. Since 2010 Raymondâ€™s poems have been accepted by 13 online literary journals. Raymond spent three years as a Navy Clinical Psychologist with a year in Vietnam (1967-68); the rest as a School Psychologist in the USA and overseas. He lives with his wife Kemme in Sahuarita, AZ. BENJAMIN WALKER hails from Central Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. His poetry appears in Breadcrumb Scabs and is forthcoming from Blast Furnace Press and PANK.