The Literary Supplement
2 Literary Supplement Uncertain.
Accidental Traffic Signals
Ian Gerald King
The train has stopped. The rain still pouring, down Like canals across the window, dull. Town: Unknown – twilight hangs like a silent stone. Relent. Reflect. Embrace what time has grown.
I’m still around, breathing Although facts should argue against this. Those goddamn traffic lights let me live, an accident, I’m sure. They blinked and let me pass
A brief hiatus – a moment passing As a void of thought in dormant repose. His eyes are closed. Memories amassing As tears collect, visions emerge. He knows.
It was a fucking fatal night, Careless and young, bloody and drunk We were just kids.
Knowing, yet understanding not the cause; Like a face recalled and a name forgotten. Humble contrition; submission to laws Unseen. Arrogance, wise soul, let not in.
I stopped wanting death as soon as I had one foot in the door. One foot in the road in-front of that taxi cab.
Such faith, misplaced, in the power of self; Such ego, such pride, such ambition – wrong. But a page, in a book, upon a shelf Is a man. A note on a sheet of song.
It was a green light for go, it was an ex-lover grabbing the back of my shirt to pull me onto the sidewalk. I could have died, but instead I lived, I fell in love, I broke a heart, I broke my own.
••••••• The ev’ning sings; light grows dimly all around – Within, a light dimly grows. Five days pass’d. Among cobblestone paths – smoke, thoughts, and sound – Acceptance of self has freed the outcast.
Transit Max Karpinski Toddlers scream dialect in sleeping cars putputting through countryside tunnels. Villas and vineyards flit past like hairs on film reels. Concavernous hillsides and railroads: the city’s convergence. Circling Piazza della Repubblica as pigeons or scribbles on creased maps manufactured for tourists, miniature reproductions, Ponte Vecchio in pencil crayon drawn by a fifth grader. Or circling, of course, as the merry-go-round where riffs float from cafés and you feel underwater. On the train “Sorrow” begins with the patter of raindrops, speckle and run the length of our windows. The grass and the palm trees melt into flatness. The green a planed canvas, floating rectangles, flushed vague shades bleeding out to the edges. We mingle in the galleries, loiter and stare, talk about drunkenness, numbers, and rhythm. Noting progressions, space manicurated, looking for patterns in movement and chords. We saved fourty Euros by taking the local, slept among composers and children and nuns. A QWERTY keyboard tapping out piano sonatas, quietly played back so as not to disturb us, he hums sharps and flats under his breath. “Parla italiano
Joyful grief engulfs sorrowful pleasures In the abyss of blind hearing, deaf sight. Though betrayal may darken the treasures Of lords, vain malice taints not inner light.
con me” the sister said smiling, the little girl impish and hiding in skirts. ...
The trees sway sweetly to the voice of wind: Bodiless, yet felt like bodies entwined. Thus sages, the desires of the world rescind To embrace a life so simple – refined.
It always seems we’re sleeping, budget hotels, the glowing computer singing goodnight. Jet lagged watching traffic at the Finnish border, static and headlights via grainy green webcam. Vacations without wanting, random dots in a McNally atlas. When you were young and deciding where you’d live, spinning Replogle globes with raised reliefs like brailled texts, a place to rest your fingertips, the smalls of backs. Or sitting in the rynek with grandparents and coffees you might have finished. A sideways smile like from blistered grey photographs, grandma whispers blessings frozen in monochrome, rosaries clutched and dangling from wrists. Fingering prints around kitchen tables–quinoa tabouli, grains not quite like sand–we try not to dirty them, wipe hands on our pantlegs, imagine our lives transplanted or not. Rest in the garden among withering dahlias, keystrokes cross continents your moth floats international–or, how can we come to be together again.
••••••• Alone he sits on peaceful steps – above, Yet within a public stage. Puppets pull At their strings to no avail – only love Can cut such chains. Together with her – full. Effortless progression; mutual trust Beyond petty worries of yesterday. Truly the world gives you what it must For you to discover your rightful way. ••••••• The train in motion; valleys of verdure Blur into streams – streams of thought collide. Her Voice lingers now, always and forever, Within his heart. Two souls beat together.
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Kill the Ghost Mark Iyengar There’s a ghost leering at me from the corner of the room. “Errol, look at me when I’m talking to you.” But there’s a fucking ghost in the room. How can I look at you when there’s a ghost in the room? “I’m listening to you.” “But look at me.” I glance at him then look back into the dark corner of the attic. There’s a leering ghost in it. “Fuck, fine. All I’m saying is you need to stop being so...emotional.” I’m not being emotional. I know I’m not. He just thinks I’m being emotional because I’m looking at the ghost and not him. Self-important asshole. “I’m not being emotional,” I state. I stated it. That’s how unemotional I’m being. I should point that out. “I stated that, in case you didn’t notice,” I point out. “What are you talking about?” “You never fucking know what I’m talking about,” I yell emotionlessly, “there’s a fucking ghost leering at me from the corner in case you haven’t noticed, asshole.” “Why are you letting your emotions get the better of you?” he asks, despite my calm demeanour. “Why are you constantly asking me questions like that despite my calm
demeanour?” I shoot back loudly and emotionlessly. “Errol, this isn’t my fault, don’t be angry at me.” “For the last time, I’m not angry. Why do you think I’m angry? There’s no reason to think I’m angry.” “You’re ye—” “For God’s sake, shut up. I’m not angry or sad or joyous or in bloody fucking loooove,” I interjected calmly, “I’m not being emotional, Casper just won’t stop fucking leering at me from the corner.” So he left, and Casper stayed. I named Casper for the same reason everyone else names everything, from children named Conor to turtles named Sheldon and bongs named Mystique (R.I.P.), I named Casper so he would have a sense of Identity. Identity that reaches up from beneath the soil, sprouting leaves and blooming red, white and pink flowers all inevitably connected to a system of roots beneath the earth shaped like his name, Casper. I named Casper so that he would have this beautiful and unique Identity attached to his beautiful and unique ghost name, because I know that there are only a select few things you can name a ghost, and that Casper is one of them. Casper is no longer leering at me from the corner of the attic. Now I can look wherever I want.
4 Literary Supplement Sung By A Fool Marcello Ferrara For whatever it is worth, I’ve tried to remember what happened. To me, my memory of those venerable years in my youth only comes up fractured and distorted, like the frames on silent film reels. Vaguely I can remember how I felt or imagine what I thought given what I think I know of myself back then. I’ve pieced this confession together, using what primary sources I could. I was seven years old when my grandfather died. He came from Italy during the 1950’s to escape the mass poverty after the Second World War. As a child, he worked on a farm with his father and was not allowed to go to school until Mussolini made it mandatory to attend classes. After the war he worked to bring over his wife and, after, his entire family to their new life in Canada. He worked as a technician for trains, fixing the engines and sucking in the fumes of the railroad, which combined with his cigarette use eventually lead to his death from emphysema. I visited him the day before he died. He held my hand and smiled at me. I don’t remember what he said; I wish I could. Growing up he did everything he could for me to be happy when I visited him. He forced my mother to teach him how to properly work a VCR so that he could show me the great children’s television programming at the time. He used to sit next to me and watch them, even if he could barely understand the language. I remember him smiling, his thin white hair, his broken nose, his crooked smile, and his serious but caring demeanour. At his funeral I saw my father cry for the first time. This came as I shock to me. I had always looked up to my father. He watched at the casket being stored in the gray wall, sealed shut, with a picture and an engraving to mark it. He closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them water swelled in the ridges of his pupils and started to drip slowly down his face. He looked at me with a forced smile and said it was okay to cry. I remember that. In the school playground my friends and I were daring each other to eat a leaf from a tree. Ancient history was the topic in the classrooms and the only information we seemed interested in was how the human tribes would have to hunt in the wild for meat and gather in the woods for greens. My friend picked up the leaf and showed to me. I remember his smile. “Eat it,” he said. I grabbed it with curiosity, examining the lines that ran out from the middle stem, and ate it. It tasted dry and awful, like nothing I had ever eaten before. I spat it all out near them. They laughed and cringed at the same time. “Now your turn,” I said, still recovering from the ordeal. My friends all shook their head smiling. When it was time to go back to class, all the children were lining up on the asphalt drive next to the entrance back to the school. I was in the middle of the line waiting to go back to class when the girl behind me called me a nickname. All the time the girls would tease me with this name and I would run off and be alone, ashamed, and angry. Whenever anyone tells me what I did next I always remember for some reason the casket sealed away, the picture of my grandfather, and my father with tears and smile saying “it’s okay to cry”. Everything became more significant for me. The stretch of asphalt in front of me became longer. My classmates’ faces looking at me became distorted. Everything was slower and quiet. The name was the only thing I heard. I turned around slowly in the quiet. I saw the girl who, with a smug look, continually called the name as if to never make me forget it. I haven’t forgotten. I curled my fists and hit her. Everyone moved back and turned as she screamed. I pushed her and she fell to the ground, hitting the pavement hard. My hand was shaking; I felt nothing. I lifted my leg and stomped on her nose before she could scream again. Then there was blood. I stomped again. Something pulled me back. A forceful grasp held me by the chest and pulled me away from her. She began screaming and crying. Suddenly, everything was normal: the asphalt drive was maudlin, the stunned faces of my classmates were clear, and the noisiness of the world returned to my ears – everything – was the same again. People didn’t look at the bleeding, screaming, crying girl; they looked at me with a frightful awe and weird curiosity. I remember the silence. There was sort of silence even when she was screaming; there was silence even when the teacher was yelling for help. They took me to the principal’s office. I sat in a chair looking at a light blue wall. The principal bent his knees and got down to my level and looked in my eyes. “Son, we’ve called your parents and they’re on their way.” I wanted to cry. I didn’t know why but I was in trouble. My mom would be mad and I didn’t want that. I don’t remember anything. There is this feeling, a memory that perhaps I invented: I’m staring at this light blue wall and feeling for the first time in my life, that I am alone. I wanted to cry. I don’t know if I did. I want to remember, but I don’t remember anything. I remember my hand shaking. I remember the faces of children, scared, excited, and curious. I remember feeling alone. I remember eating the leaf like an ancient caveman and it tasted awful. I remember my father crying. I remember my grandfather smiling but I don’t remember what he said. I remember seeing him the casket. “It’s okay to cry”. “Eat it”. “Your parents are on way.” I remember my social worker asking me why I hit that girl. “I don’t know” I said, and tears finally fell from my innocent eyes.
Rabid Song James Farr The sky is black like sickness tonight From the eroding cliff-tops you can see An ocean that stirs like a fretful child Will you foam at the mouth for me? Carried away by this current gloom To the heart of some black brackish river From quiver to bowstring I’m shot into the dark With the decaying sound of the bowstring’s quiver Hemorrhaging black I soak the page With a pen that’s barbed as the tongue it’s from But now I write in octopus ink To divert you, to disguise what I’ve become Like initials carved in a table-top This was once an innocent effigy If these words are all that’s left for you Will you foam at the mouth for me? Another man would have buried these shadows In the backyard next to the childhood dog But they’re bleeding bear-trapped in my brain I’ve gone bloodlust blind in this nauseous fog If you become a witch to burn at a stake Or a lady to tie to a railroad track Or a goat to gut for a primeval god Remember my magic was not always black And if I never land on ground again If I remain until I’m taken out to sea And if my lungs are lost to choke-black waves Will you foam at the mouth for me?
Meso Nikolay Shargorodsky The tools that built themselves inside my arm created outlines of a simple town and mapped the irrigation all throughout the earthy flesh that came unfounded, but by petites Berbers here and there, those bullets and bacteria I love to kill. My arm’s a maniac of God. It doesn’t know the veins it gloves. It doesn’t know what makes it up. It eats the channels of my blood and gives it back to feed my heart. “God in Sheba made these tools,” the doctor-friend, a fool, told me. This doctor didn’t see the towns, the simple ones that came to be from all this war outside. I’m a little more than scared to be a patient of this man, but I’m healing and it feels to me like nothing all again. I’m an excavated amputee. I lost a war. Two wars, in fact. It’s seeming more and more like I will never know myself inside and out.
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When you, polar bears Max Karpinski
You in smoked air and the couch. Gary Busey on Youtube saving grizzly bears with white dye. David Attenborough and polar bears still, still-hunting. The Trials of Life marathon, we own the boxset, twelve VHSes and only one double (“Fighting”). Value Village or Village des Valeurs in italics, want to say it only cost 7$ but honestly can’t. Seven tapes in and time passes like faucets on full. Smushing together, don’t understand or remember where “Fighting” turned into “Courting” and eventually “Continuing the Line.” “When you” you begin, full pause. “Polar bears.” Smushing together, like sandwiches: American cheese, mustard, pickle, white bread, don’t question it. This apartment on edge, even the chairs are comical. Pouring glass on glass of cold tap water, holding glass on face smushing condensation, perspiration, some drool. This sandwich is disgusting. “When you,” you begin, again pause. “How is it?” Still, chewing. “This sandwich is disgusting. But the pickle. The pickle is crisp and cool.”
Avanti is Dead Amelia Cardiff I think about my father And the loss of his And the horse I’ve know my whole life laying dead in the pasture. And I think things like, “What a terrible fucking year” I worry. He’s crying on the phone His crying at the funeral parlor Him crying with a shotgun in the field
I think about him packing up that house Singing Elvis songs into tack boxes With the ribbons What a terrible fucking year. I wonder what he’d hoped for When he was a hockey star When he was a millionaire When he was the king of that town.
6 Literary Supplement Exposed Julia Edelman “Hola Signorita!” “Hay-low Allen!” she said, smiling that familiar smile of overcrowded teeth. Her heavy accent vibrated within the elevator. The two other people in the elevator, the tall, lanky teenager and the wrinkled old woman, stood silently and stared at us. “¿Cómo estás?” I asked her dumbly in my embarrassing American accent. She laughed sweetly like she always does. “Estoy bien, Allen! You has learned spaneesh?” Yes, sadly, and all for her. All for these elevator rides every morning. I imagined the strong smell of turpentine and the sound of scraping palette knives as we drew closer. “Si signora!” I said. “Verrry good, Allen,” she said, rolling her R’s with distinction, something I could not seem to master. Since the first day she had started modeling for his painting class, I had fallen in love with her. I was in love with the contours of her body, the shadows that fell across her thighs, the way she parted her lips and held her pose for eternity. “You has spoken spaneesh for long time?” The worst part was that I shared her with the rest of the class. There were ten other people in the class, and they all saw her, naked and exposed to the world, only not as I saw her. “Si, muchos años.” I didn’t even know if what I was saying made sense to her but I spoke to her and that’s what mattered. My hands began to sweat and I wiped them on my pants. There was a sudden jolt and the elevator stopped climbing. We all looked around at each other, wondering what to do. For the first time,
the old woman spoke. “This happens all the time with these elevators. You just have to wait it out.” We all nodded and waited. I turned my attention back to Maria. I could feel the man behind me snickering under his breath, thinking what a fool I was to be trying so damn hard. I was too old for such a gorgeous creature. “Allen, fo-err how long you paint?” I wanted to take her to dinner, go for a walk, go dancing and then after a while I would finally be able to see her naked, my ultimate reward. And yet, the whole order was reversed and it was fucking everything up. “Ten years.” The worst part is how dehumanizing it is. Here was this beautiful woman exposing her sacred body to complete strangers. They all look at her with a cursory glance, sometimes studying her in detail for the lights and darks as if she were an apple, lying blankly on a table like an empty still life. “It eez a long time, ten years, yes?” “Yes, it is a long time. But I love it.” And then, it is humanizing as well. Although paradoxical, her naked and innocent body forces you to appreciate beauty in simplicity. She is simply there, sitting, waiting, and yet it is intoxicating. “You paint so great when you paint me,” she said, her eyes shining. The elevator began to move again, and we continued to climb onward. I laughed nervously. We reached our floor, and everyone piled out of the elevator. I walked with Maria, side by side, to class. A man and woman both trying to be something they’re not, in languages they cannot comprehend. We entered the studio, and everyone greeted her warmly, some asking why she was late. I took my seat and set up my paints.
The Canadian Maidens Gillian Massel O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise; To keep thee steadfast thro’ the years From East to Western Sea Our Fatherland, our Motherland, Our True North strong and free – forgotten verse of the national anthem found in the 1967 Canadian Centennial edition of the Gideon Bible The Canadian maidens are singing in the pine trees. combing their hair with a beaver’s claw. Backpackers hear them; lured from their trails. The maidens skittering from birch to spruce giggling like jays. You can’t photograph a Canadian maiden because they are made of sunlight reflected from snow. Most of the time they are mistaken for flashes of silver tossed in the air by the scales of migrating salmon. A lucky grizzly could catch one (feed her cubs) but we fished all day and caught only minnows melt water artic char. Once we saw the Canadian maidens dancing; sparks from bushfire and birch-bark strip-teased from trunks.
But when you called to them they drove us away with pinecones, porcupine quills, manic like a dog with burs.
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The first boy I ever saw cry In the chapel, with hands folded over in prayer. I remember thinking his cheekbones were scripture poetry. I watched the salt solidify on his face through my peripheral gaze, Side-longed stares The way his eyelashes were being weighed down by the sorrows of the Lord. I bit my fingernails so I wouldnâ€™t cry too, Thereâ€™s enough loss already, and The thin winter light sliding in through the stain-glass windows Made my insides ache, I love you so.
Joan of Arc was on my doorstep in the rain asking me to climb the cross. She had whiskey on her lips and her eyes glowed like amethyst. Through some sanctity I refused (Come inside, warm sheets wet windows Her dress white as clouds, ribs of plowed soil) We looked toward the mirror and Her hair turned to brass. Seeds sprouted from my skin: rose-apple rashes. Geranium vines grew through the doorway. I knew then that when I kissed her, I would burst into heavenly light.
Your poetic cheekbones, your salty skin, Your empty grasping hands, Your,
8 Literary Supplement
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Keep spitting Sean Lamb The girls in their one-tone dresses shirts extended to the bunion, (one-line) And my voice floating on yellow helium dip Their heels dribbling fluorescent dye on the grain of the asphalt And their voices thin fogs dropping to the height of little distant hay bails (in my head) Their lips melting encaustic napthol, some pure tone.
Lost gone lost gone somewhere else someone else walk by long fingers walk by again & wait again. They spit! those girls young enough to be indistinct, all straight-leg some in teal some seafoam cushioned bras deep relief & shorts frayed in the same places
Breathe deep when I find that they cut their hair & grew old & are always two-thirds covered in flower petal-prime rose bush licking the edge of their half-rim glasses when they are hot-faced, and now predictably hot-faced, twice a month. Their little buttons propped up, and the curve in her nose shallow opened line, she shows the thing that used to be frayed â€“ freckled I used to think of your chest as a scoop, curved stretcher of eggshell, & now you have confirmed it. Thank you.
I used to think of your chin as greatly exaggerated, parabola nose & that shimmying exponential forehead, little dips of helium, red hair make-up, mannequin strong-bone, not yet confirmed, but, Thank you. You wear a muzzle now, black-on-black striped metallic thing, hasnâ€™t seen the sun in days. His hair is stapled hourglass wood More or so, sign off, Thank you. stippled dot, spit and spit, girls spit and spit and walk on by me again and keep spitting.