mgversion2>datura mgv2_86 | Proletarian Literature | 10_16 edited by Walter Ruhlmann & Jan Bardeau ÂŠ mgversion2>datura & contributors, October 2016
Contents | Sommaire Illustrations by: Roy Brockman, Kanthipol, J.M. Lopez Jan Bardeau
Five Byron Slang Poems
On Anaconda Road
Louise, the Red She-Wolf of Montmartre Louise, la louve rouge de Montmartre translated by the author
Strider Marcus Jones
The Samaritan Machine Submissive in Sub-Human Herds Boots of Harley
Punk à chatte
Back Then and Write Now
Karla Linn Merrifield
Work The Poet at Rainbow’s End Enslavement by Commandment
Revolt of the Zoo Animals
James B. Nicola
The Test Fitchburg
Norman J. Olson
my civil service job
And Here is this Morning's Poetry
Hot Enough to Kill
У СТЕНЫ With My Son At The Wall Of Communards At Père La Chaise Cemetery translated into English by Hal O’Leary
Don’t Know Much about the French I Took
Not Like Soil and Water and Air Nametags Chasing Someone Else's Messiah In the Opposite Direction
Antoly Moskvin's girls at tea Noelene Robyn Shirley You kids help your father with the firewood
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Jan Bardeau Le dépouillement & la frugalité lui enseignèrent le décrochage, nudité du logement, nudité du locataire, douchés de photons, disponibles au présent, puis le turbin, circuits en camion poubelle, boucan du rotor qui rote son remugle, purée de croûtes, pâtée de médocs, urines excréments menstrues & spermes, asticots du mois, clandestins électroniques, plastoc plastoc plastoc, nos saloperies irresponsables, gare aux coupures, grimper descendre, grimper descendre, les simagrées des distingués salauds, tut tut, jarte ton mastar de derche, ilote pour des ballots, l’ilote grimpe, & puis descend, bennes roulent & dégueulent, grimpe, & puis descend, grimpédécent grimpédécent, cependant, grimpédécent, cependant, le dépouillement, grimpédécent, ou la frugalité, cependant, grimpédécent, racler le relent de rebuts, autant que autant que, & cependant, l’ouverture au repos, la nudité du logement, la nudité du locataire, pansent apaisent rassasient.
Bronches de goudron, momie emballée de tissu gris craquelé mamelé, l'immolation par le jus de nicotine, Malchien la montagne, Malchien molosse colosse, Malchien la locomotive ramone racle la trachée, ronfle gonfle le buste, aspire, crawle du pif les spires de l'apnée, Malchien handicapé des paluches, boursouflées de maladresse par la détention à l'atelier, grogne en avalant une gorgée de morve schmectant l'tabac, la dentition dilapidée dérouille, claclaclac, la colère le dissipe, & Malchien broie ce satané foutu téléphone merdique d'une poigne qui le venge de trop d'amertumes, de trop de fils, qui colonisent, propagent la technique impérialiste, celle qui ne soulage plus, t'agrippe pour te balader au long des sentiers balisés des protocoles, & t'inspecte t'épie te calibre t'espionne, camarade Malchien, d'une goulée dans l'asphyxie, replie sur lui son opacité, niet la transparence, le service est fini.
Fille fidèle, en exil, comme un comique microcèbe de Mme Berthe, trottine vers quelque urgence, la nonchalance toujours en moins, gracile opiniâtreté jamais en berne, matée par les narquois, les iroquois de piètre épate, les cadors décatis, & toutes ces meufs comme lourdes de zonzon, & leurs braillards de chiards, & les smicards célibataires qu’enlacent leurs boutanches comme des bouées lestées, toutes ces bêtes sorties du champ, de la basse-cour, peu d’autres du bois, fade faune qui quitte l’attelage de la télé, tiraillée par la mitraille de la pub, la millénaire pétoche d’la dalle, vraiment, tous vos moutons, vos veaux, vos dindes, vos poules, vos vaches, vos bœufs, vos 6
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 coqs, les vilains tatoués au fer de la rusticité, ces encombrants en nombre qui flétrissent, mutilent, ravagent votre planète, si bas ignominieux, & dont le bât supporté trop benoîtement permet & la constance de votre pouls & votre délire d’un homicide de masse. Philadelphia tâcheronne, reine acrobate esclave des gondoles, habile ouvrière des rayons, l’interrogation biseaute son chef, elle s’exténue à sa résolution, croient-ils tous, tous sans exception faire exception ?, vantards démonstratifs, sarcasme toujours en joue, comptables jamais de rien, importent seules, leur docilité leur faculté à la coopération, pour la continuité de notre lignée, & se querellent pour quelque prérogative fantasmée, & s’intoxiquent d’égoïsme, qui les ligote, & notre ferme filiforme Philadelphia attifée d’altruisme qui discerne, elle, comme ses manières épanouissent, Philadelphia aspire tant à un instant tout de simplicité & de sincérité.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Lord Byron Scrolls TV Listings By Christopher Barnes Far, dark, along The shadows Start on the fisher’s Of island-pirate And fearful He shuns
the large-it ditchwater sparkles in this caper natch are maladjusted, trumped-up woe-talked face, soap-dodged, bristly aggro in dogsbreath hand-me-downs the chap-esse shows mercy to hush-hush her resolve in caveman frowns
Glossary of slang: Large-It – Behave Boisterously, Natch – Naturally, Soap-Dodged – Dirty, Chap-esse – Woman.
Lord Byron Opens Spam By Christopher Barnes Slight are the outward signs Within – within – Love shows all Betray no further That lip’s least curl
the trapdoor darkens boo-booable a lure that’s viral, a poisoning collapse are diddled, when grasping is streamed this error-mist any birdbath could gutter snarls, not in the reflection of rosebuds
Glossary of slang: Birdbath – Silly Person.
Lord Byron Signs An Online Petition Against Censorship By Christopher Barnes “Such is my name Confessor I breathe And thank thee This glazing eye Then lay me
and the fittingness to pore on a schmeckle is mine anorak of cramped ideas, you’re drabbie, pesky the bin-diving swill queer authors fuse not to blatherskite your untaught state Specsavers each aromatic phrase dreaming, used-condom style, into fervent night
Glossary of slang: Schmeckle – Penis, Anorak – Studious Person, Drabbie – Frump, Bin-Diving – Freegan, Blatherskite – Boastful.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Lord Byron FaceTime Begs His Mother By Christopher Barnes Who thundering With slacken’d Beneath the chattering The cavern’d echoes In lash for lash The foam
lobs an eppy at boodle hat-passing earnings and hellacious overdraft ho-hum she’s in an unmasqueing piss finger-point as if growled he assimilates that inner scuzzball is rabies on a lioness’ tache
Glossary of slang: Eppy – Tantrum, Hellacious – Awful, Ho-Hum – Tedious.
Lord Byron Has His Eyebrows Waxed By Christopher Barnes If my inheritance In other elements Of perils I have sustained The fault was My errors I have been The careful pilot
purse-lightens on red-high afternoons rose-fresh schmutter, three costered up hats that excruciate and rive lashings for this kiki look-at-me feast redressed XXXed, peace-outed a sprankious el cheapo fashionista hinky arm candy for jizz-balls
Glossary of slang: Red-High – Ecstatic, Schmutter – Clothes, Costered-Up – Wealthy, Kiki – Bisexual, Sprankious – Attractive, Hinky – Uncertain.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 On Anaconda Road * By Roisin Browne i.m. Thomas Manning (1895 -1920) Take me to that place a hundred overgrowing years, grasses whistling like Polynesian hula skirts sit me down on lumpy earth inhaling copper musk on big sky days. Puxley glimpsed the green glancing quartz in Allihies sent his copper men beneath to win the ore cimmerian claustrophic air that made his gold. This same ore travelled me from Beara to bawdy Butte 5,000 miles west a mile high hill 4,000 feet down under darkening ground a suffocating smelter stack but I would win the gifted air to freely fill my lungs build my shack, eat my spuds, make a buck a day, maybe two. Crush, blind, scald, torn missing parts of men in battle with unyielding ore, dangled down the chippy cage to make a dollar dirty. Shackled in our living graves we glanced our maker daily, he dribbled down his ash on us, punctured dreams of living fat on Hungry Hill they dwelled in cowboy mansions. Go shoot them sons oâ€™ bitches, the bosses cried 10
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 a .32 steel soft nose slug past my hip, no reply mulched my gut, five days to end my five and twenty life. The copper-collar dollars made my shroud dumped me in Montana ground. Faceless grave Silver Bow Butte Unblemished Blue where mountain grasses lick stone for company and unseen anacondas suck you dry.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Louise, the Red She-Wolf of Montmartre1 By Jack Grady I have seen criminals and whores And spoken with them…. You to whom all men are prey Have made them what they are today. – Louise Michel (1830-1905)
The red she-wolf of Montmartre, daughter of a maidservant and a chateau’s master the red she-wolf raised by a grandfather who read to her Rousseau and Voltaire the red she-wolf who introduced the children of the poor to nature the red she-wolf who gave them pride and hope for the future the red she-wolf always eager to sacrifice her life for strikers and workers the red she-wolf with the red carnation on the battlements and barricades of Paris the red she-wolf for France and its people for neither money nor class the red she-wolf against the invader domestic or foreign the red she-wolf who opposed the monarchists and their sell-out to Kaiser and Bismarck the red she-wolf who would never surrender the flame of justice and rage the red she-wolf ever rekindled from the ashes of the Commune and the blood of the massacred in Père Lachaise the red she-wolf, friend of the miners of Nouméa and the Canaques enslaved on the island of her exile the red she-wolf who snarled at every empire even the empire of France 1 The English-language version of “Louise, the Red She-Wolf of Montmartre” was previously published by A New Ulster.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 the red she-wolf a bullet was helpless to silence the red she-wolf reincarnate in an awakening Europe the red she-wolf, her fangs bared for bankers’ blood
Louise Michel by J.M. Lopez, c 1870 Louise, la louve rouge de Montmartre translated by the author Eh bien ? oui, j’en ai vu des bandits et des filles, Et je leur ai parlé. Croyez-vous qu’ils soient nés Pour être ce qu’ils sont et traîner leurs guenilles Dans le sang ou la fange, au mal prédestinés ? Non, vous les avez faits, vous pour qui tout est proie, Ce qu’ils sont aujourd’hui…… – Louise Michel
La louve rouge de Montmartre fille d’une servante et d’un châtelain la louve rouge élevée par un grand-père qui lui lisait Rousseau et Voltaire 13
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 La louve rouge qui a initié les enfants des pauvres à la nature la louve rouge qui leur a donné fierté et espoir en l'avenir La louve rouge toujours désireuse de sacrifier sa vie pour la classe ouvrière la louve rouge qui brandissait l’œillet rouge sur les barricades et les remparts de Paris La louve rouge pour la France et son peuple et non pour l’argent ou la classe dirigeante la louve rouge contre les envahisseurs étrangers ou intérieurs La louve rouge opposée aux monarchistes et leur reddition à Kaiser et Bismarck la louve rouge qui ne renoncerait jamais à la flamme de la justice et de rage La louve rouge toujours ressuscitée des cendres de la Commune et du sang de ceux massacrés dans le cimetière du Père-Lachaise La louve rouge, amie des mineurs de Nouvelle Calédonie et des Canaques asservis sur l'île de son exil La louve rouge qui hurlait à chaque empire même celui de la France la louve rouge qu’une balle a été impuissante à faire taire La louve rouge réincarnée dans un réveil de la conscience européenne la louve rouge, ses crocs toujours prêts pour le sang des banquiers
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The Process By Deborah Guzzi
“Jury duty be damned.” Bet says sneaker stomping across the cracked concrete sidewalk. “It’s a bloody waste of time.” She steps across a torn branch of a young dogwood, lying like litter on what remains of Main St., USA. (No middle class here, they’re long gone to the green lawns of the suburbs.) This once imposing modern courthouse on its red brick base looms. She scans for gargoyles but finds none. Across the forecourt of tilted flagstones cracked by winter’s frost, this morning’s jurors stumble. “Men!” Bet’s eyes bore through the man in front of her, then the one behind. Neither man tries to help with the weight of the plate glass door. The monolith straight out of 2001 Space Odyssey towers over her. It is far too heavy for most women to open, unless, they happen to be lacrosse or field hockey stars. Sure Bet thinks, hell yes, I can bull my way through. She pushes, shoulder first through the door. There was no quick or easy way in or out of this place. Hostile architecture like this made her teeth grind. The doors size and weight acts as a politically incorrect reminder of place, of strength or weakness. This purposeful devise of disrespect does not go unnoticed. There be dragons here, she nods to herself. Bet strides toward the desk jockey in the faux police garb through the metal-catcher gate. Toy soldiers, all, ah yes. The jurors of democracy shunted like cattle through the killing chute. The only thing missing is the bolt gun. The people behind her, and ones before her, are stripped: coats, shoes, wallets, pocketbooks and keys. They shuffle forward like the criminals they are here to judge. However, criminals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Apparently, the jurors are guilty until proven acceptable? Finally through the gauntlet, they begin rearranging themselves. Their personal items slip back into place. Once presentable, the group of jurors moves on. The herd rises up multiple rickety elevators into the bowels of the ivory tower of jurist prudence. They’re funnel in alphabetical order toward weary clerks who: sticker, stamp, and quantify them. Innumerable names are checked-off, on numerous lists; the jurors wait.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The pompous nature of officials and the hollow cave of a room sign disrespect. The cowed crowd sit cud-chewing and bottom-scratching. No forward progress will be made until the judge arrives. Bet sits longing for the days of Jefferson, and the rebirth of the Renaissance man. She wrestles for comfort in the metal chair pondering the morality of the ignorant justice. She wonders. What poor schmuck is being brought before these modern-day Madame Defarge’s who sit knitting. The assemblage of peers root; row after row of gun-metal gray seats hold them: in conformity and order, waiting for the main event. They are part of a cast of characters; yet to be determined. They scatter slouching, sleeping, separate: white, black, old, young, male, and female, all self-absorbed. No eyes met; each individual psyche lost in mindlessness re, shields up. Oh hell thinks Bet Scotty, beam me up! In this place of punishment, power, and perversity, the sacrificial lambs of democracy wallow. The statement, Bet thought, a jury of peers … ludicrous. The pock marked, mold-spotted, acoustical ceiling tiles and dusty fluorescent lighting, add a further touch of the surreal to the corps ensemble. How on earth, in this nation under God can anyone think: this uneducated and undereducated mass, of unemployed or underemployed, aged, humanity: should, could, or would, be able to rightly determine anyone’s fate? Bet spoke to a few people all she got back was shrugs, grunts, and nods. Her mind went into overdrive. What a farce, this democratic process is. This capitalistic rigmarole serving in the end, to do little more than place another Mc’D’s burger, on the table of a fat ‘civil’ servant. This system of blind, weighted judgment, assured anything but justice. It ass-sured, as it always has, and always would; the peons remained peons; busily buzzing about their self-important tasks: paid, unpaid, and pissedon. The system aids the true criminals: the ones perpetuating poverty, homelessness, illness, and ignorance, to remain in power. The Jury’s called. The clock marks passing hours with black hands on a white face. All that’s seen is gray. Bet’s group is selected for voir dire. They’re ushered into the courtroom and seated in the jury box. Bet sits in the middle of the first row, mentally reciting Humpty Dumpty. The defendant a hulking black man is brought in and sits. He is accused of raping a thirteen-year-old girl. Bet begins wringing 16
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 her hands. Her eyes stay downcast. She revisits her own experiences. Bloody hell I’ll go at him with a baseball bat myself, she mutters to the floor. One by one, the others answer questions. “Who do you know (cops, lawyers, the defendant)?” “What do you know?” “What is your occupation?” i.e. are you a bleeding heart liberal? “Where do you live?” i.e. up town, down town, etc.) Bet drones on in head blah blah blah blah blah. Excuse me the judge calls out to the questioning attorney. “Madam, is something wrong? I see you have not looked up once since the defendant was brought in?” “Well, yes, I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be here. Do two pedophile experiences and date rape make me a good juror for this?” She looks the judge right in the eyes. “So sorry Ma’am, no, you needn’t stay – you’re dismissed.” Dismissed yes, that is exactly how she felt, she thought as she barrels past the Twiddle Twin rent a cops and out through the gargantuan doors.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The Samaritan Machine By Strider Marcus Jones this field pond is only my dissolved imaginationthought drops of summer rain making fractal ripples drumbeat on skin. a portal shared with cawing crows reveals who scams and snoops and shoots in contract conversations. this windsong of Virginia Creeper, ruling Bear and Wolfsbane rustling in black bamboo trusts its Samaritan Machine telling it who to redact in this imposed dystopian equilibrium of dumbed-down masses worshipping Carousel.
Submissive in Sub-Human Herds By Strider Marcus Jones everything has its end in its beginningso why pretend expanding to defeatwe’ve made it bad so just shag with who you have and eat. never mind the fear of being no one here in the crowdthe real nobody’s are those somebody’s grown large in their mirage and loud. rise up. be truethe land is green not blue and they’ve stolen it from you to shoot stags and birds and ride over you with legal words submissive in sub-human herds.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Boots of Harley By Strider Marcus Jones this universe has no center and you're not there. this sun is only sunny on the hoodits light can't bend more benter to be fair as time stops running rings in wood. the floorboards creak and pictures speak when I stand in empty corners making room, for ghosts that want to have my seat when they come in from the street after riding like Valhalla under sun and moon. summer shoes, with beards of barley in their soley groovesstill think they're boots of Harley on electro glide down highway avenueswith a woman's arms around my waist singing Bob Marley and promising me her taste. foot down. legs bracedrocking back the headboard on the bed and base in the hanging of her breasts where my head would rest, her lips a vanished beauty of the pastexplode unload to this contrastthat turns its empty pages in my head unlit, as I lie in bed, running out of Kerouac roadi feel the beat and go to sleep with some more story told.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Punk à chatte De Perrin Langda (m’sieurs-dames un p’tit poème pour ceux qu’ont pas l’temps d’lire faites un p’tit geste ça vous arrachera pas un œil) … bien l’bonjour ma p’tite dame ! z’auriez pas une p’tite pièce ? que j’puisse vous payer une p’tite bière ? p’t’êt’ vous emm’ner faire un p’tit tour ? au pays où qu’j’irai jamais ? vous préférez y’aller toute seule ? y’a pas d’souci ma p’tite dame ! bisou ! … eh oh garçon ! t’as pas un euro pour m’sauver la vie ? tu viens d’le claquer pour une vie sur Candy Crush ? c’est quand même super généreux d’partager ta connexion hein ! ‘fin bon t’es bien gentil mais mon Facebook c’est l’mur des chiottes… … coucou mamie ! z’auriez pas une p’tite miette ? c’est pour ma chatte l’est pas méchante… tsé moi et tes pigeons on est pareils ! tsé moi j’suis pas un parasite sociaux ! tsé moi j’peux vivre plus d’un an ! juste avec le prix d’un d’tes chicots en or… en m’nourrissant que d’Kronenbourg ! tsé j’voulais pas t’faire peur… mamie ? … salut les p’tits soldats ! z’auriez pas juste un peu d’mitraille des fois les gars ? ‘tain soyez cools une p’tite cartouche ça va pas vous tuer les gars… … eh m’sieur ! 20
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 c’ui qui fonce dans l’vent ! t’aurais pas juste une p’tite minute ? c’est pas pour moi c’est pour ta femme ! et les pitits qu’t’as pas l’temps d’voir ! et la maison où qu’t’es jamais vraiment ! ah t’as pas eu l’temps d’la voir v’nir hein ? ma vieille vanne de clodo pénard ! hein mon bonhomme ? bim ! … ‘soir ma jolie ! z’auriez pas juste un p’tit bisiou ? juste un bouton d’vot’ ch’misier à trois cent biftons ? promis juré j’toucherai pas aux trois autres… ou à tes idées en dentelle de luxe de pouffiasse de merde… … salut les jeunes ! z’auriez pas une corde pour ma gratte ? j’vous ai écrit une p’tite chanson ça fait… VOUS ÊTES TOUS DES CONNARDS !!! AUSSI FAUX QU’MA GUITARE !!! VOS T-SHIRTS ANARCHIE !!! A CENT EUROS M’FONT CHIER !!! ‘tendez restez c’est pas fini… ‘tendez quoi… … alors les filles ? un p’tit selfie ? un p’tit r’gard dans ma direction ? allez quoi juste une pitite arrière-arrière-pensée… bon ben quand même merci pour votre apparition hein… …
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Back Then and Write Now By Donal Mahoney When I began writing in 1960, there were no website "magazines." Print journals were the only place to have poems published. Writers used typewriters, carbon paper, a white potion to cover up mistakes and â€œsnail mailâ€? to prepare and submit poems for publication. Monday through Friday I'd work at my day job. Weekends I'd spend writing and revising poems. Revising poems took more time than writing them and that is still the case today, decades later. On Monday morning on the way to work, I'd sometimes mail as many as 14 envelopes to university journals and "little magazines," as the latter were then called. Some university journals are still with us. Some are published in print only and others have begun the inevitable transformation by appearing in print and simultaneously on the web. "Little magazines," especially those published in print without a presence on the web, are rare in 2012. One might say, however, that their format has been reincarnated in hundreds of website publications that vary in design, content and frequency of publication. Depending on the site, new poems can appear daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. For many writers, these websites are a godsend. Some "serious" writers, however, still feel that a poem has not been "published" until it has appeared on paper. I can't remember what postage cost in the Sixties but it was very cheap. Nevertheless, it would often take six months or more to hear back from many editors of university journals and little magazines. Sometimes I would get no response despite my enclosing the mandatory stamped selfaddressed envelope (SASE). Submission etiquette at that time required that a writer send nothing other than the poems, usually a maximum of three, and the SASE. What's more, simultaneous submissions were universally forbidden. I don't remember any editor wanting a biographical note until the piece was accepted and sometimes not even then. All that mattered was the poem and how much the editor liked it. Today, in contrast, some web editors want a letter from the author up front "introducing" the poems and/or some aspect of the author's life. I've never been comfortable providing that kind of 22
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 information in front of poems I'm submitting. I can't imagine lobbying for poems that I hope speak for themselves. In the Sixties, my average acceptance rate was roughly one poem out of 14 submissions of three poems each. Two or three poems accepted rarely happened but my hopes were always high. The rejected poems I'd revise if I thought they needed it; then I'd send all of them out again to different publications. Often the poems would have to be retyped because the postal process or some editor's fondness for catsup or mustard would result in messy returned manuscripts. I followed this pattern of writing, revising and submitting for seven years. I loved it because I didn't know any other way. I had no idea that in 30 years there would be an easier way to submit poems, thanks to the personal computer. What a difference. No more carbon paper. No more catsup or mustard. In 1971 I quit writing after having had a hundred or so poems accepted by some 80 print publications ranging from university journals to hand-assembled little magazines. I even made it into a few commercial magazines and received checks for as much as $25.00. I was on a roll or so I told myself. The reason I quit writing poems is because I had accepted a much more difficult day job as an editor with a newspaper. Previous editorial jobs had not been that taxing. I still had enough energy to work on poems at night as well as on weekends. But the new job wore me out. The money was good and helped me deal with expenses that had increased as my responsibilities had increased. Other demanding jobs would follow in subsequent decades. As a result, I didn't return to writing poems until 2008 after I had retired. I hadn't really thought about working on poems in retirement but my wife bought me a computer and showed me where I had stored--37 years earlier--several cardboard boxes full of unfinished poems. It took a month or more to enter drafts of the 200 to 300 poems in my new computer. It took longer to revise and polish them. Finally, I sent out the â€œfinishedâ€? versions by email to both online and print publications.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 It took a few weeks at the start but eventually lines for new poems began to pop into my noggin. Alleluia! I was ever so thankful to "hear" them because it answered an important question-namely, could I still write new poems after such a long hiatus? I found submitting by email a joy. For a while I sent an occasional poem by snail mail to journals that did not take email submissions. But in six months I stopped doing that. I did not want to lick envelopes any longer. Looking back over the last four years, I'm thankful for the response my work has received from various editors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Since I am an old-timer writing and submitting poems, I'm sometimes asked if I notice any difference in the "market" for poetry in 2012 compared with the Sixties. I'm also asked if I would I do anything differently if I were starting out today. Yes, I notice a difference in the "market" today, and, yes, I would do some things differently if I were starting out now. If I were starting out now, I would revise poems even more than I did when I was young. I revised a lot back then and I revise a lot today. I believe strongly in something Dylan Thomas once saidâ€”namely, that no poem is ever finished; it is simply abandoned. It's taken four years for me to gain some sense of how the "market" for poetry has changed over the last 40 years. In preparing my own submissions, I have had a chance to read a lot poetry by young writers, some already established and many unknown. Sometimes I compare their work in my mind with the work of poets I remember from the Sixties. Although Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, among others, had their followers back in the Sixties, and still do today, I find that in 2012 "confessional" poetry has become even more prominent. Some of it strikes me as good, both in content and technique, but that is a subjective assessment. Much of it, however, strikes me as "raw," for want of a better word. In some cases I also find it difficult to distinguish certain poems from prose disguised in broken lines. I don't remember "prose poems" as a category unto itself when I started out. Today prose poems seem to be very well accepted in some circles but I suspect they would have been a hard sell in the Sixties.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 I suppose as a stripling and now as a codger I have written what some might call "confessional" poetry, both good and bad. Nevertheless, I think a young writer does well to write about someone or something other than one's self. Observing other people carefully and writing about their mannerisms and aspects of their behavior can help to develop one's craft. This is important because as most writers know, writing poetry or fiction is as much a craft as it is an art and without craft, writing may never reach the level of art. Perhaps it is my imagination but it seems that over the last couple of years there has been an increase in poems written about broken relationships or other distressful matters of the heart. The writers of these poems seem to be primarily women who sound very angry and no doubt with good cause. Apparently male poets find it easier to move on from a break-up and seek love or companionship in all the right or wrong places. I don't think that's a new development, men being who they are. I hope it's not chauvinist of me to suggest that the power to motivate a man to behave better usually lies with the woman. I feel that a woman has a gift she should not unwrap too quickly no matter how eager a man may be to undo the ribbons. Not many ribbons were undone in the Fifties prior to vows. In that era, of course, women were old-fashioned by current standards. The ones who were not "old-fashioned" were called a lot of things but not "liberated." There are other types of subject matter common in poetry today that didn't appear too frequently in the Sixties. Graphic sex, science fiction and horror seem to appeal to many male writers, although some females also like to write about these subjects today. I've never been interested in horror and I doubt that I would have the imagination to handle it well. I never fantasize about anything that even borders on science fiction. Sex, on the other hand, is a different matter. But sex has always struck me as the easiest subject to write about. I could write about sex well, I believe, but why should I? Why should I make my wife angry? Even if I were single, I suspect I'd be restrained by a line from Emily Dickinson that I first read it in college. Ms. Dickinson wrote, "how public like a frog." In contrast with my early years in writing, I am never satisfied today with a poem even when it has been published. If I go back and re-read a published poem a year later, I am certain to find 25
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 something "wrong" with it and I feel obligated to fix it. Sometimes I can't fix it but in the process of trying, I occasionally find that I am suddenly in the middle of writing a different poem, an offshoot of the original piece or something entirely different. I've found benefits and problems in that. Rodin's "The Thinker" is set in bronze and marble and not subject to revision but few if any of my poems acquire that status in my mind. And if one of them does, I eventually come to feel the poem could be improved, even if at that moment I might not know how to make it better. Maybe in six months I'll read it again and hear something errant in the lines that I will suddenly know how to fix. It doesn't hurt, I believe, for a writer to listen to a poem the way a mechanic listens to a motor. Both want to get everything right. My purpose in writing this piece has been to record "for the ages" what it's been like writing and submitting poems in two distinct eras. I certainly like the ease with which technology today has enabled me to compose a poem. The "delete" key is wonderful. But there is something to be said for the anticipation caused by finding an envelope in the mailbox from an editor, the way a contributor might have done back in the Sixties. One knew immediately by the thickness of the envelope whether all three poems had been rejected or one or two of them had been accepted. That was a wonderful time for a young writer to cut his or her teeth.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Work By Karla Lynn Merrifield So much easier it is to clean up, pick up the shoreline along my strip of Lake Ontario. So what if a rusty, rectangular piece of metal gouges a hole in my garbage sack— better that than a child’s bare foot or mine. Plastic bottles, plastic caps, plastic cups are almost weightless shreds, as are shards of Styrofoam, & pink, white, blue tampon applicators, each one once slipped into some unknown woman’s warm vagina. Such detritus is cool to my wary fingertips; much of it is wet. Waves splash me, coughing up another hunk of this junk. In a half-hour this chore is done; the beach littered now only with driftwoods, a gull’s wing. I float indoors wishing myself another tailor-made task as simple. But memories are so muddy & I have too many worn griefs too flimsy to grasp. in memoriam Jane Kenyon
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The Poet at Rainbow’s End By Karla Lyn Merrifield Dog shit. Dog shit—from whose dog?— smeared on bare plywood floors. Dog shit and the ranker stink of human feces, urine, to the rim of his seeping toilet. Dog shit and empty bottles, jugs and boxes of rot gut strewn, a few broken, a few stomped, helter-skelter, under foot like dog shit and bark chips and splinters and the tailings of garbage trees he’d been reduced to burning after the last hardwoods went. Those heaped-up ashwood ashes spilled from the iron maw of the stove. Dog shit and gauzy gray in corners: cobwebs, dust-coated, drooping, abandoned by arachnids gone to cleaner rafters in sunnier cabins on the lake. Mice have fled the drunken squalor and dog shit. Dog shit in which my brother died last month. Dog shit, a metaphor perfected for grungy elegies muttered by little sisters whose poetic duty it is to take out the trash.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Enslavement by Commandment D’après Phillis Wheatley By Karla Linn Merrifield The old shyster proselytizer fell from grace; in this lit class, her preaching’s out of place. Foisting upon Phillis white man’s white god, claiming He would save the slave from the rod, the whips, the chains, the stocks, the massah’s hold. Au contraire: Jesus raped the black girl’s soul, denying her panoply of pagan deities of Mother Earth, Father Sky, birds, bees, trees… As peer critic, I read her spiel as Nazi propaganda— Work will make the Nigger free.
Note: Arbeit Macht Frei
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Revolt of the Zoo Animals By Stephenson Muret Jackal knew his ideas seditious so he spoke them only in whispers. Slinking, he went, sidling: His muzzle hung low, pants breathless: His hackles at attention, speech bated: His fear churning the offal in his gut, the offal putrefying his breath: His reviled visage peddling his inflammatory words from one end of his zoo run to the other, from one zoo neighbor to the next: His once-cowardly prowling now purposeful, now perverse with his need to repeat his awful realization. But nobody listened. His reputation compromised his message, Jackal saw. So he went to Warthog. Once Warthog started repeating the phrase it immediately gained an audience. "We only exist for the sake of humans," Warthog repeated. And debates ensued. Counterarguments about bananas came to the fore, about raw steaks. Then warm sunny days were broached, then mating. But in the end even even-tempered Orangutan conceded. "No," Orangutan judged after long consideration, "The green sweetness of a young banana does not specifically refute Jackal's point." And Grizzly then advanced, reluctantly, "Then neither would the juicy tang of a freshly killed steer, regardless to what rapture it rouses me and Panther." Macaw acquiesced: "Fine weather flight fills me with well-being. But I can't say it proves I exist for my own sake." And unanimously and uproariously then all the zoo animals bawled: "Our mating sessions are over-controlled and severely curtailed!" This, they all concurred, emphatically supported Jackal's philosophy. The public debate ebbed. The reasoning turned inward. Across the subsequent weeks each animal asked himself: "Is it true I only exist for the sake of humans?" And each animal reconsidered all the arguments. And each animal surrendered to the truth. Truly, each thought, humans have bred us for their sake and their sake alone. Truly, each thought, without humans we would not exist. This fact was agony to accept. It gutted one's self-worth. It punctured one's worldview. But acceptance did eventually dawn. 30
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The zoo animals fell into a listless torpid depression. The depression lingered for some time. Finally Jackal spoke again. This time his reputation did not compromise his message. This time, in fact, Jackal found the zoo animals actively seeking a new belief, any new idea that pointed them toward independence and self-sufficiency. So he spoke, and they listened. "Let's revolt," Jackal whispered. And suddenly the zoo perked up.
CommuniquĂŠs shrieked forth from the monkey house. The tedious crawl of dialogue from cage to tank to run befit the pace of discussion, but not that of insurrection. Coups demanded instantaneity. The monkeys took up the charge of informing the zoo with customary relish and zeal. Usually derided for their high-pitched barking, they now paraded its utility, broadcasting bulletins at full throat. Every ear in the zoo pricked to their screeching the coup's date. Every ear in the zoo cocked to their howling the coup's hour. Every animal hearkened to the hooting of his own respective mission. And then, once each had bayed or trumpeted or cawed back his acknowledgment, the animals hunkered down to wait. The zoo animals still enjoyed their rations of fruit, and of carcasses, and of hay, but now only with grudging pleasure. They eyed their keepers with resentment and impatience. The animals gauged their keepers' weaknesses, thinking: "You suppose we exist only for your sake. But you will soon see we do not exist only for your sake."
Gorilla started it. The moment arrived and a gravity weighted it, and a trepidness trembled it, and a hesitation lengthened it. But then Gorilla roared and Gorilla thundered and the zoo animals shook off their pause and the zoo animals struck. The three o'clock feeding was underway. What once had been a time of delight and affection became a time of wrath. The keepers noticed something amiss. With their intelligence and caution they escaped death. But not all of them escaped injury.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 "Now we will see who exists for whom," thought Lion grammatically as she loped freely along a footpath, as she skirted the grand aviary. Finch heard Lion's grumble. Finch swooped to aviary's edge, tweetling her eager accord. Other birds followed. Then all the birds sang in cacophony, reminding Lion of her role in the putsch. Lion detoured dutifully. She beamed that brotherliness known only to the newly freed. Lion lifted a paw. She unlatched the aviary door, and the birds came fluttering out around her. Lilting, the birds came, then lifting away. Lion purled a resonant purr. "Look!" the scattering birds tweetled. "That's all it took and now we exist for ourselves!" Then Lion heard a loud report. Then Lion felt a sting. Lion looked back over her shoulder. A redfletched dart stood in his flank. Lion drowsed. Lion's haunch twisted. Bang. Bang. And many more cracks. Adult humans shrank from the uprising. Human children cheered the uprising. Hurray, Hippo! Hurray, Camel! But Rhinoceros stumbled. Gazelle fell. And Ostrich took two darts to the breast. Report. Pop. And Crocodile dunked. And Bison bowed. And the insurrection had failed as a mass movement. The only to escape were the aviary birds, two shrews and Gorilla.
Because he went first and because of his size, Gorilla held the advantages of both surprise and intimidation. Also, his den being situated near the zoo's ticket office, he had observed humans entering and exiting the grounds for years--He knew where to go. Gorilla scaled the wall of his exhibit. Gorilla swung to the paved footpath. Gorilla knuckle-walked straight to the turnstiles. There, Gorilla roared and snarled. There, Gorilla thumped his chest and flashed his fangs. There, Gorilla frightened away all living things. That was Gorilla's mission in the affair--to seize the exit, to secure its environs, to guarantee an outlet to freedom. But then the shooting began. And soon after Gorilla 32
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 knew the zoo animals would never come; he knew the revolt lie quashed. Gorilla lifted the two alarmed shrews to his shoulder then. He shuffled out to the parking lot. "Good luck, brothers," Gorilla murmured regretfully back at the zoo. "You're on your own now, brothers," Gorilla murmured practically back at the zoo. Gorilla headed for the subway.
Occasionally Gorilla had heard onlookers mention the subway ride from Central Park. Gorilla's knowledge of the city was scant, made up only of such overhearings and eavesdroppings. But a park seemed to him an attractive destination. The shrews agreed.
Emerging from the 110 th Street subway station, Gorilla encountered two mounted police officers. The horses carrying the officers sniffed Gorilla. Twitching their withers, quivering, the horses pranced over to Gorilla. They ignored their wrenching bits. "Gorilla! What are you doing?" the first horse asked. He nickered this question through the shouting of his policeman. The policeman shouted into a shoulder radio. "Horse," answered Gorilla. "We just staged a rebellion at the Bronx zoo. Many of us escaped our exhibits, but only me and the shrews were able to get outside the walls." "Is that so?" asked the second horse. "Yes. It was dramatic. Many of us were tranquilized in the confusion of trying to find the exit. Giraffe took it pretty bad. But you should have seen her kick. You could learn something from her." "Really?" the first horse responded, with interest. Sirens now keened in the distance. "Why did you rebel?" asked the second horse. Gorilla explained: "We realized we only existed for the sake of humans. After we realized this we decided to break free and live for our own sakes, even if it meant danger." "Yeah?" "Yes. Have you ever thought about that, Horse?" "No." "Think about it." 33
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Both of the horses reflected. The horses swung their heads round and eyeballed the policemen on their backs. "Think Horse. You only exist for them," repeated Gorilla. Now a horse is a very proud beast. So these two did not spend weeks deliberating this novel perspective as had their zoo brethren. Quite the opposite, in fact. Instantly, the first horse reared and bucked. Immediately, the second horse followed. The men atop these two steeds were not true horsemen. They were just men who happened to be atop horses. So they fell. "I exist for my sake," the first horse whinnied then righteously. "Me, too," said the second horse. "So you're joining the revolt?" pursued Gorilla. "I'm not joining anything," the first horse declared. "Give me a ride?" asked Gorilla. The first horse harshly neighed. He reared. He turned about on his hind legs and announced, "No one is ever riding me again!" The second horse said, "Me, either!" And then the two horses charged off into the streets of the city, galloping from the park in different directions.
By this time police were everywhere. Gorilla saw he had miscalculated in pausing to enlighten the horses. He was a Gorilla of action, he realized, not a Gorilla of words. He should have stuck to his forte. The shrews bound from Gorilla's shoulder. "Good luck," one squeaked regretfully. "Gotta go," the other squeaked practically. And at once they buried themselves in the brush. In the end only the two shrews and the few birds Lion loosed maintained their freedom. These were the only zoo animals both to learn the value of living for their own sake, and then to fully manifest that value. The revolution did not die completely fruitless, however. The horses spread its doctrine far and wide. It took three full generations, for example, to breed the disruptive new thinking out of the upstate milk cows. But back to Gorilla. Gorilla absorbed five or six tranquilizers before the drugs cooled finally the natural stimulants roiling through his bloodstream. 34
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 As he slumped then against a tree, as he recognized the zoo's head veterinarian marching toward him with the knock-out syringe, he considered taking her hostage and ransoming his comrades, but he just did not have the strength. Gorilla slurred, as the vet knelt near him now, as the vet felt for his femoral artery: "Doc...you know...I don't really...exist only...for your sake." But the vet just tapped the air bubbles from the syringe's piston, and then slowly fed its sedative through the hide of his thigh. She answered: "Sorry, Joey. I'm afraid you do."
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 The Test By James B. Nicola A pessimist and optimist were best of friends until the day a learnèd man enlisted them as subjects in a test. “Half empty or half full?” his question ran. The two had shared a pint or glass of wine and schmoozed for years, the wont of many men, but never thought to analyze the stein or criticize the glassware used, till then. —Half full.—Half empty! —How the two friends fought, and over nothing! —You’re both working class? — the doctor asked. And then the two friends, not concerned about the status of the glass but stricken by the smiling doctor's sneer, in tandem, decked him, and went out for beer.
Photograph by Roy Brockman 36
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Fitchburg By James B. Nicola Fitchburg is a city of hills. So many, with so few pedestrians, that it was chosen to be San Francisco when they shot a film. An indie, low budget. The locals housed the actors and the crew, drove them around, fed them. Some were extras. They even used a local dog or two. And the cops forgave parking tickets, which was unheard of. Well, one day a rising star called Marlon by the locals, because he looked like a blond Brando, got in a car a little drunk, and spoke about the people of Fitchburg, how they were all a bit too wide around their middles, and the way they “tocked” (sic), and were boring. Well, that lit a fuse. The driver pulled right over. “Hey, pal, you can walk.” By then though he was snoring. It was the end of that week’s shooting. She had no idea where the guy was staying, so brought him home that night. Her family put him in her brother’s room, where he passed out. In the morning, she fixed him a bicarbonate of soda, and eggs and toast. He started feeling better and asked, Why are you so kind? She answered, Well, it doesn’t cost any more than being nasty. Oh, he said. And spent the day with her. It wasn’t more than a month, that, well, by now, you know. Years later they moved back to Fitchburg, where today he is a cop. And he’s fleshed out, she says, recalling how he used to care about the way he looked. One thing about him: if you’re from Fitchburg, he’ll know it from your license plate if not your car, and probably won’t ticket you; but if you come from elsewhere, well, he’s just doing his job. 37
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 my civil service job By Norman J. Olson like the taste of a mint melting on my tongue, the day drifts away. one phone call from a man who lost his job and wants his final check. his employer is broke, I hear this twenty times a day. the next call from a woman who is obviously insane, looking for another lost soul to draw into her web. blah blah blah, hang up. between the calls my fingers click clacking keys I type virtual words into an electronic nowhere that I trust to hold them. answer the phone, hear another story of a person's life being destroyed by a swamp that eats the working poor. desperate voices come through the phone looking for help that does not exist, looking for fairness in an unfair universe, and existing only as bits of electric potential in some computer somewhere in between silence and the still uncounted stars.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 And Here is this Morning's Poetry by Peter Oâ€™Neill Now that the newspapers all read like the fiction of William Burroughs The army of journalists can retire. These days all pedestrians are chaperoned by flight, On Giotto's hand-painted wings. Flaubert's microcosmic principles of reality We live out serendipitously. The new silk is bread, We caress the voluptuous forms of dough. And when one man jokes the whole world laughs now, Don't you know. Butterflies become moths and go in search of candles. O Jorge Louis Borgess I recognise too your fictions, Living as I do under the tyranny of free newspapers.
Photograph by Khantipol
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Hot Enough to Kill By Collin Piprell
The sun burns a white-hot hole in the sky over Bangkok; the radio says this is the hottest April in fifty years. Eyes filled with disquiet, street dogs slink panting from shade to shade. Sombat the legless boy down the road was found dead yesterday, still upright on his little wooden cart, the one he propelled by hauling back on the steel crane-operator's lever. It was amazing how, so frail, he clattered and squeaked around the neighborhood, honed down to sinew and spirit, yanking away on that big handle. But yesterday was too hot, and he tried to go too far too fast. Or maybe he just got tired of it all. Who knows? He sat there as though asleep, breathless, like the day itself, motionless as the leaves on the trees behind the temple wall, his face drawn but peaceful. The lane where Chai stays with his brother Vajira and his brother's wife is all but deserted. Vajira is surprised that Chai isn’t going to the temple. Everybody had liked the boy, and there’s a tamboon, a merit-making ceremony, to mark his passing. But Chai has something he has to do today. It’s too hot to move, really; but this is something he has to do. It’s going to bring in money. Good money. And his brother Vajira has been paying for everything, the past couple of months. The temple is all very well. It’s a good thing. But right now money comes first. There will time for the temple later. So he has come to meet his new partner, into the middle of the city in the traffic and the heat to do this job. And now he’s waiting. A little way along, on the other side of the pedestrian overpass from where Chai waits, a beggar sits at his station. He’s older than Sombat was, but just as legless, the legs of his short pants pinned up and empty. His face is full of mortification, his life one long humiliation. As people come by he rattles the few coins in his cup, supplicant, bending forward to bang forehead and cup on the steel deck, piss-pools either side of his head. A legless beggar in a puddle of his own urine, left by his handlers for a long dayshift on the overpass. A couple of people drop coins into his cup. Most do not. Fastidious, they walk around him and his piss. One band of youths laugh, pointing to the pools. Three armed soldiers on patrol in camouflage outfits look, just as they look everywhere, for signs of insurgency. It’s a full year after the last Red Shirt protests boiled over, but the government is still in power, the soldiers are still here, and Chai is still hungry. No one asks the beggar if he wants to be moved. The police won’t move him, Chai knows. They have been paid.
Appeared in both English and French versions of Bangkok Noir, an anthology of stories edited by Christopher G. Moore and published by Heaven's Lake Press (Bangkok, 2011) and Editions GOPE (Paris, 2012).
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Looking down from his vantage point, Chai can see his partner, Dit, standing a little back from the street with his motorcycle. Beside Dit, under a road construction sign like a pup tent, a dog rests in the shade. The naked red ulcers all over its body look sore. Its muzzle, now healed, has been crushed and twisted to one side, maybe from too close an encounter with a car. That painfully contorted dog face turns and turns, strangely peaceful, observing passers-by with quiet interest. Dit is pretending to work on his motorcycle. That boy knows what he’s doing; he has been around. Dit was a Ranger. Up in Korat. And last May he made good money as a Red Shirt guard. Dit laughs quietly and says that’s because he wore black, not red. Chai was there too, but he only wore red. Chai likes Dit's high-top sneakers, and he feels ashamed of his own rubber thongs. Though he wonders if the high-tops aren't hot in this weather. Maybe he’ll buy a pair after the job, when he has money. Below, the traffic stops for the red light and the dog turns to watch as, loose-limbed, flipflops slapping a quick tattoo on the metal, Chai comes down the steps to stand on the pavement. Dit looks over at him, his manner questioning. But Chai just waves and lights a cigarette, the Marlboro Dit gave him earlier. Chai catches a glimpse of himself in the tinted windows of a passing Toyota Crown. He likes the sunglasses. Counterfeit Polaroids. Same as the real ones, but cheap. He takes the glasses off and hangs them on the collar of his T-shirt. Right now, this afternoon, he wants the city unmediated by his Polaroids. Maybe it’s the heat, but the colors are brighter today. Hotter and brighter. More real. Especially without the sunglasses. Even with the pollution, the car exhaust and everything, everything is so clear. CHEVY CHASE, reads his brand-new T-shirt. Chai doesn’t know any English, but the vendor who sold him the shirt explained that a Chevy Chase is an American car. That’s what he’s going to buy one day, Chai tells himself, admiring the logo on his shirt-front. A Chevy Chase. He wants to tell Dit. After they are finished. The Toyota Crown moves on. Cars snarl and wheeze at the intersection, stop and start, an intermittent river of shiny waxed reds and yellows and blues. All the colors in the world. Splendid hues multiplied and complicated in chrome and glass. A big air-conditioned bus rolls by, painted up like a new-model iPhone, its giant screen a window on some world of happy people. Last year this part of town was a sea of red. Red shirts, red headbands, red banners, red pickup trucks and, finally, red blood on the streets. Even Chai came out in his brother’s red Singha Beer Tshirt and his reddish motorcycle taxi-driver’s vest. He got money every day he showed up. Not a lot, but they were going to bring the government down, he was told. Then there would be much more money for everyone. The old prime minister would return, bringing back democrazy with him. Nai Yai — the Big Boss — was the richest man in Thailand, maybe in the world. So everything would be okay 41
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 again, everyone said. Chai believed them, and tries to now, tries to remember the days when everything was okay. Air-con bus fares have gone up again. Everything is going up. How can a person live in this city, the way things are going? You sit on an ordinary bus, no air, and the bus gets stuck in traffic, not even a breeze, it’s torture. Clouds of exhaust choking you. You haven't got to work yet and you’re all screwed up, your clothes soaked with sweat. Chai got off the bus three stops early, not wanting to be seen, and he walked the rest of the way to the overpass to meet Dit. You need a car in this city. A motorcycle is faster, but then you’re right down there in the worst of it. Coughing all the time. Chest tight. Eyes sore. Motorcycles aren't the same as cars. Chai knows he’ll be nobody until he can sit in his own car with his air-conditioner blowing and some music on his stereo. Some nice girl beside him. Then it won’t matter how bad the traffic is. The Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs and Honda Accords roll by. Lots of Mitsubishis and Toyotas and Peugeots and Isuzus. Volvos. One Jaguar. But no butterscotch Benz. Not yet. It’s amazing, with what they cost, the number of Mercedes-Benzes on the streets. When Chai gets his car, he wants smoked-glass windows all around; it looks good. And it keeps the sun out. But then how will people be able to see the nice girl beside him? It will be better if people can see her. He stares hard at the side windows of a passing Volvo, seeing only shadowy presences that could be anybody. No, not anybody. Someone rich. "Mobile Class Members Club," proclaims a sticker on the back window of one car. Chai has heard how much a single beer, a small beer, costs in a club like that one. The job his brother Vajira has, he doesn’t earn that much in a day. Vajira's wife Daeng, she doesn’t make that much in three days, renting out woven mats in the park so people can sit on the grass. At a place like the Mobile Class Members Club the girls are all beautiful and, somebody told Chai, their drinks cost even more than the beer. And you know how much you have to pay to take one of these chickens home for the night? It’s unbelievable. But they say the Red Shirts are coming out again. And this time there’ll be no stopping them. No more double standards. Everybody will have money. Nice cars. Good whiskey. Dit says all these things will come true. It’s democrazy that does it. And then he laughs, maybe because this makes him happy. The light is turning, so Chai goes back up the steel stairway to his post. This job today will buy him a few beers. Beautiful women, too, though not in the Mobile Class. A motorcycle, bigger than his brother's. And this is only the start. If he does good work this time, there will be more in the future. This is a big chance for him. He’ll be able to buy a car. A Toyota. He’ll drive his brother and his wife to Nonthaburi, to that restaurant by the river. And they will eat big 42
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 grilled tiger prawns with sweet solid white meat. And cold, cold beer. Even a bottle of Black Label whiskey. Put it on a trolley with a bucket of ice and bottles of cola. The waiters will keep pouring it out, nobody's glass allowed to go dry, and then he’ll call for more Coke and ice. And when the first bottle of Black Label is gone, he’ll send a waiter for another. He’ll buy a Blu-ray DVD player, and the neighbors will come to sit downstairs, on the road outside the house, and watch the muay thai boxing. A big color set with a 42-inch screen. HD. He’ll buy everybody Mekhong whiskey and beer and fried duck and prawns. No. He should buy them Black Label too. A young woman stops to drop some coins into the legless beggar's cup. A nice-looking woman in a nice dress. She’s wearing a chunky gold-chain necklace, and Chai sees the look in the beggar's face as he thanks her. Had the beggar had legs to stand on, he would stand to snatch the gold and run like the wind. The woman walks down the steps to the street and towards the intersection. Chai likes the way she moves. Chai suddenly sags, struck with the gravity of it all. Cars and motorcycles, tuk-tuks and trucks roar and whine and growl, a snarling confusion of sound, a weight of color and movement and want and hate, killing in this heat. Chai hasn't eaten yet today. It’s too hot. The heat weighs down, threatens to suffocate him. The cityscape shimmers for a moment, then holds still again, intense and hard-edged. A brown Mercedes-Benz is approaching… It isn’t the one. The man told him to watch for a butterscotch Benz, the same color as the foreign kanom, the candy he gave Chai to taste. Expensive candy. What the foreigners eat; but it doesn’t taste so good. Chai likes Thai food. And with that thought he feels pangs of hunger. He feels faint, dizzy. A dull throb has started in his temples. The butterscotch Benz is a big one, he has been told. An SE class. Chai repeats the license plate number he was given, repeats it over and over like a mantra. He steps to the other side of the bridge, the beggar's side, and looks towards the intersection to see the changes. The gigantic mall they burned last year has been rebuilt; it seems bigger that it was before, and more beautiful. Chai has been inside only once. It’s like a temple but far grander than any temple he has ever seen. Behind the mall and there, on the other corner, they are building more things; who knows what? Chai gazes all around the city horizon, and shakes his head to clear the dizziness. The sky burns inside his head. A silent scream, the insect battle cries of building cranes draw together in one long plangent shriek across the hot blue sky, a shrill of anxiety only he can hear. From wherever you stand these days, alien stick-figure monsters loom on the skyline, a tangle of mindless, implacable builders. Destroyers. Sometimes — now — Chai hates this great suppurating city, swollen
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 with people and cars swarming like maggots on a week-old corpse, multiplying like bacteria in a wound till the pressure of pus threatens to burst the tissues. They kept Chai and his brother awake for ten months, erecting the high-rise condominium where the noodle shop, the best in the neighborhood, and the adjoining ice-house used to stand. They worked twelve-hour shifts around the clock, seven days a week. Nobody could sleep; but it wouldn’t have done any good to complain to the police. They had been paid. Now things are quiet once more, but Chai will never be able to see the sun from the roof of their building again. And now the lane is always choked with cars and delivery trucks. But mai pen rai — it doesn’t matter — soon they will have to move anyway. Another condo is going up and the whole row of old houses, the grocery and the barbershop have to go. Rents are so high these days, though, it’s hard to say where they will move to. Before they tore down the old wooden ice-house, Sombat the legless boy used to clatter around the neighborhood on his cart delivering baskets of crushed ice. After the ice-house went, the rattle and squeak grew less frequent, slower, somehow less cheerful. For months before he died, Sombat gradually faded away, sometimes sitting for hours on the street doing nothing, just looking, smiling a bit if you said hello. Black-smoked windshields throw reflections of Chai back up at himself, phantom witnesses to his presence watching and waiting there this day. And now the moment is moving surely towards him. It approaches with the stuttering river of cars, with the slow storm of color and sparkle in the hot, still air. Reds flare fierce as blood in the sun, blare lust and power. Blues dazzle and pine. Dark greens, cool greens; hot yellows and pink. Glossy black class; power. The whole of it a hectic crawl, a babble of color, a confusion of grays, whites, maroons, browns, silver and gold, a vast hubbub of sorrow and anger and want and hate. And here it is . A big, long S-class. The butterscotch Benz is approaching, slick and sweet enough to eat. The inside lane, as well. That’s good. And it isn't going to make the green light. Chai clatter down the steps and swings on to the bike behind Dit even before the Benz has stopped, stuck behind a truck and two cars at the intersection. Dit moves the motorcycle out to draw alongside, Chai riding pillion. Jai yen yen. Cool, cool; be cool, now. Chai reaches inside the saddlebag. They’ll wait till the light turns yellow. Chai waits and waits as Dit revs the throttle, looking to see the shadowy figures in the back seat of the Benz. Two people. And the driver in front. This is work, remember, Chai tells himself as the bike pulls ahead a little. Do it right. Keep cool. But his heart sings as he pulls the trigger again and 44
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 again, as the big pistol bucks in his hand and the smoked glass shatters and sags and caves in to reveal just another person, after all, vulnerable like the rest of us, his face dissolving in shock and blood. The only sound now, for Chai, is the bark of the 11mm automatic pistol, the only voice the gun, the only business the revelation of this soft, silly creature trying to hide behind his hands, behind his glasses as they, too, shatter and explode in hot red blood. With a quick look of alert intelligence, the dog hunches back farther still under its shelter. Chai puts on his sunglasses again. To cool things down; to give him distance. As they pull away he can hear a woman screaming, maybe the one in the car. Dit angles the motorcycle through the jam of cars, scooting around a panel truck and behind a bus then off through the intersection to lose them in the traffic. Chai never hears the mighty howl as the legless beggar rocks back and forth on the pavement, banging his cup till coins fly in all directions. “I am my iPhone,” proclaims his T-shirt, white lettering on a red background. Sunset comes quickly in the tropics. This day in April the whole city greets the dusk with gratitude. Back on the pedestrian overpass, two men come to take away the legless beggar. In Chai’s part of town, bats dart against the sky, disappearing as the twilight dies and street lamps switch on. The streetlights, the shop lights, the taillights of the evening traffic all lend a festive air to the city. Shabby, teeming streets throb to glad rhythms, to the honking wheeze of traffic, to the start and stop of buses, the cries of hawkers, the din of CD stalls. The pavements are crowded with vendors steaming, smoking, sizzling away side by side, blocking the pavements, the air rich with aromas of food, with fragrance of jasmine and diesel. Chai has finished his business for the day, and he has money. Now, finally, he’s going to eat. He is hungry, hungry. The old noodle shop is gone. He and his new friends are going to try that new restaurant. It’s air-conditioned and it has pretty waitresses in nice uniforms. Tonight he will drink beer. In the morning he’ll go to the temple and make merit. That will make his brother Vajira happy.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 У СТЕНЫ by Mark Sashine Смиренное кладбище Пер-Лашез, За все мои скитания подарок. Вот здесь могила Вальдека Роше, А там- стена с тенями коммунаров. Аллея коммунистов в чистоте Содержится, могилы все в порядке. Стена стоит в спокойной наготе, Полоски, как на старенькой терадке. Не видно ни следа от той весны, Когда на улицах гремели пушки. И если тени бродят у стены, То и они уже давно старушки. Убытки за последние сто лет На косточках подсчитаны и счеты Подведены, партийный комитет Направлен на подземные работы. Но тени просят у меня ключи К загадке до сих пор непостижимой, На месте, где стояли палачи, Отведены наследникам могилы. Необходимо все им обьяснить, Все рассказать за этот миг короткий, Поймать времен связующую нить, Но вновь блестят старинные винтовки. Мне остается только рядом встать В дыму навстречу новым постояльцам.. Успеть бы хоть рукою указать На звездочки в фуражках у версальцев
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 With My Son At The Wall Of Communards At Père La Chaise Cemetery translated into English by Hal O'Leary I stand beside my son at Père Lachaise The Wall of Communards recalls the plight Of communists who faced the Versailles troops And died for freedom as a human right. And now we see their shadows gather there. As if to summon us to join the cause, A cause that we cannot allow to die. The danger that we might must give us pause. The human bones as on an abacus Record betrayal hard to understand The underground Committees plot their guile As comrades hailing from a common land. The stars found on the caps of Versailliers. The star the Party faithful must obey. “From history, not ashes but the fire.” And poet Jean Jourice shows us a way. But as I ponder this, there's something strange No longer is the horror just recall. I find the past and present now as one. My son, moves to the shadows at the wall. He stands his ground beside the Communards, While here among the Versailliers am I They raise their shinning rifles to take aim, And frantically I reach and with a cry, I plead and call for him to come away. So young, he must not be allowed to die, But should he not, as they, observe the day? But heart to heart, the question must be, Why?. And as I look . . . Behold, a subtle smile Has crossed his face, and suddenly, I'm swept Into a frantic urge to stand with him Beside the Communards for whom we wept. "Eternal struggle" Oaths are needed now To take it on with courage and with pride. No less than an epiphany for me, I move to take my place now at his side. 47
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Don’t know much about the French I took By Steve Slavin Don't know much about history Don't know much biology Don't know much about a science book Don't know much about the French I took
These were the first four lines of Sam Cooke’s hit, Wonderful World, a hit song written by Lou Adler and Herb Alpert in the 1960s, which was re-released several times over the next 2twenty-five years . I can definitely identify with the fourth line. To say that I have virtually no facility with foreign languages would be quite an understatement. In fact, over the years, I have demonstrated a mindboggling incompetence in the four languages that I had been forced to study. Growing up in an upwardly striving Jewish middle class neighborhood in Brooklyn, I often heard how important it was to know a foreign language. And, while no one ever explained to me just why this knowledge was so important, we were all expected to get with the program. “Steve,” my friends would keep reminding me, “you’re such a ‘nonconformist!” But no one could ever convince me why being a nonconformist was such a bad thing. When I was eleven, like all of my friends, I was coerced into going to Hebrew school. There I learned just enough Hebrew to get bar mitzvahed. I barely managed to learn the alphabet, let alone memorize the half dozen lines of my portion of that day’s Torah reading. Most of us found Hebrew school incredibly boring, especially on those sunny afternoons when we could have been outside playing ball. If we were caught talking to each other, the teacher made us write, “I must not talk in class” hundreds of times in our notebooks. We wrote in English. Perhaps if we had learned to do this assignment in Hebrew, some of us might have gone on to become Talmudic scholars. Many years later, I was dating a woman who lived on Long Island. One afternoon, her exhusband, Barry, came over to see their three children. As soon as he walked in, we recognized each other from Hebrew school: “Shlomo!” he yelled across the living room. “Baruch?” We shook hands, and pounded each other’s back. Then we began to reminisce about those long ago days in Mr. Feinstein’s class. Marilyn smiled as we went on -and -on about our classmates, the school, and the old neighborhood. Finally, their kids came downstairs and Marilyn and I left for brunch and a movie. 48
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 After we got back, and Barry was saying his good-byes, he and I even talked about getting together again. Marilyn seemed very pleased that we had gotten along so well. As soon as Barry left, she burst out laughing. “Steve, do you know what Barry said about you?” “What?” “That you were a terrible Hebrew student.” “Trust me, Marilyn. He was far too kind.” In fairness, Hebrew is a rather hard language to learn. It has a very different alphabet with unfamiliar letters, and you read from right to left. And then, like removing the training wheels from a bicycle, they actually take away the vowels and expect you to know how to pronounce each word. There should be warning label – “Torah reading is not for beginners.” In middle school, we were forced to learn a foreign language. The choices were French or Spanish. The word on the street was that Spanish was for dummies, so there was a good deal of peer pressure to learn French. For most of the next six years I studied French. How much did I learn? Barely enough to not get left back. Occasionally, I would overhear people speaking French, but I had almost no idea what they were saying. A couple of times, I tried to join in, beginning with “Pardonnez-moi.” But they just ignored me. My friends consoled me by suggesting that the French were basically very rude and snobbish. Still, I persisted. And then, just after having been snubbed once again, I was amazed to hear a woman calling after me. “Monsieur! S’il vous plait!” I turned around. She continued, “Please, sir! I must apologize! My friend and I would love for you to join us. We did not realize that you were speaking French!” But my French DID come in very handy when I was in graduate school. You had to pass two language exams. So taking the French exam was – if you’ll pardon the double entendre – a no-brainer. Luckily it was a written exam. Had it had an oral component, the examiner would probably have shared the French women’s conclusion that I was not speaking French. OK, one down and one to go. Back in those days, most graduate school departments required competence in French and German. I bought a paperback German review book, vowing to learn at least five new words every day. That worked for about three days. But then I began to forget some of the words I had previously memorized. Within a week I had misplaced the book, and it somehow never turned up again. 49
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 But over the years, I had managed to retain just a handful of German words, like kopf (head) and mund (mouth). Maybe learning German wasn’t such a great idea. And yet, much later, I was able to put my German to good use. I had recently met a woman who taught psychology at Brooklyn College, and I knew she was fluent in German. One afternoon I left a message for her with her department secretary which included four German words. And just to make sure she knew the message was from me, I told the secretary my first name. A few hours later Elizabeth called me back, and, in a very sheepish voice, asked if I had left a message for her. Yes, of course I did. And then I repeated the message, including my name. There was a long pause. Then she told me that she had recently broken up with someone whose name also happened to be Steve. And that he had been stalking her. It had gotten so bad that she was ready to report him to the police. So as soon as she got the message she called him back and really tore into him. “’How DARE you call my office and leave that obscene message?’” When he denied that he had called her office, “I called him a liar.” “No, Elizabeth, that was ME!” “But I was sure it was the other Steve. He speaks excellent German. And you don’t even speak a word of it!” “Well, maybe FOUR words.” “Steve, how did you ever come up with that message?” “You mean, Professor Schweinekopf from the Sheissmund Institute?” “So YOU’RE Professor Pighead from the Shitmouth Institute!” I never DID learn any more German. But I still needed to pass a second language exam. And that’s when my friend Linda, who I knew from high school, provided some much needed inspiration. While I struggled with French, Linda whizzed through French and Spanish. If Spanish was a language for dummies, then explain why Linda bothered to learn it. James Madison High School had some truly great teachers. Among them were Linda’s French and Spanish teachers. When Linda, who had been going through a period of extreme sleep deprivation, screwed up both her French and Spanish final exams, her teachers were concerned enough to compare notes. So, they met after school and went over both of Linda’s exam papers. It turned out that she had written all her answers to the French exam in Spanish, and – You guessed it – all her answers to the Spanish exam in French! When the teachers translated her answers 50
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 – from French into Spanish on the Spanish exam, Linda had a perfect score. And when they repeated the process, she also had a perfect score on the French exam. The next day, they met with Linda and gave her the news. She was the first student they had ever encountered who knew her work so well, she could take her exams in her sleep. Linda told me this story when I was trying to figure out what I could do to fulfill my second language requirement in grad school. It became very clear to me that if you can learn French, then you can learn Spanish. And because of the many overlaps and common word roots, my knowledge of French – while admittedly less than stellar – would give me a leg up in learning Spanish. Unfortunately, most graduate school departments still subscribed to the belief that Spanish was indeed for dummies. But when I explained to my departmental advisor that I wanted to specialize in economic development, he agreed that Spanish would be very useful. Still, the big question remained: could a pig-headed student teach himself enough Spanish to pass the exam? The answer appeared to be a resounding “No!” In my first attempt to learn the language, I decided to buy a set of Spanish language instructional audio tapes. Having just come from the dentist’s office where I had been given a shot of Novocain, I was slurring my words as I inquired about the tapes. The man behind the counter looked at me with pity, probably thinking how heartwarming it was that this poor guy, who could barely speak English, was trying to learn another language. Well, if he could have heard me pronouncing Carlos, while rolling the “r,” followed by VenezWAYla, he might have changed his tune. The only problem was that I needed to pass a WRITTEN exam. There would be no extra credit for my expertly rolled r’s. Then I had a much better idea. I would read El Diario, New York’s hometown Spanish newspaper. I especially enjoyed looking at the sports pages because I already knew the names of the baseball, basketball, and football players, and could pretty much get the gist of what I was reading. Even the news pages covered rather familiar territory. But face it: El Diario was just another tabloid -- one that was even worse than the New York Daily News and the New York Post – both of which most literate New Yorkers considered barely worthy of being used to wrap garbage. One day, when I was on the subway reading El Diaro, a man speaking Spanish asked me for directions. For a few seconds I wondered why he thought I knew Spanish. But when I glanced down again at what I was reading, it was pretty obvious. “Señor, por favor. If I knew Spanish, do you think I would be reading this piece of shit?” After a year of on-again, off-again studying, I decided to take the language exam. They gave you a few shots, so what did I have to lose? 51
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 “It’s just a practice exam,” I kept repeating to myself. I opened the booklet and read the instructions. There was a long passage from a Spanish text. I needed to read the passage and then answer some fifty multiple-choice questions. That was IT? There was no way I could pass this exam. Spanish-to-English dictionaries were not allowed, but even if they were, I would still fail. But since I was here, I might as well give it a shot. After I read the first sentence, I knew I was home free. The entire passage had been taken from a Spanish edition of Das Kapital. I happened to have just read this book – in English of course. There are all kinds of tricks that students use to pass exams, but how many had ever gotten help from Karl Marx? It’s been many years since I’ve tried to master a foreign language. But now I’m a writer, and some of my books have been translated into other languages, including Chinese. My niece Sophie, who speaks conversational Chinese, taught me a few words. One day, I walked into a neighborhood store where I often shopped and greeted the owner, “Nee how?” She smiled, and asked me how I was. I showed her my book. She saw my name and began to laugh. I wondered what could be so funny. “This is YOUR book?” “Yes.” She was still laughing. “So,” she said, “you must be very gifted in foreign languages. You not only SPEAK Chinese, but you even WRITE in Chinese!”
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Not Like Soil and Water and Air3 By J. J. Steinfeld You’ve been notified by God and your employer that you’re not all that necessary not like soil and water and air. What is old, you want to say, the earth, the sun, the galaxy the oldest particle in existence the oldest thought the oldest belief the oldest person who still thinks about sex? This is what you were thinking, somewhat, as you were being given the heave-ho, the golden handshake by God is squeezed too hard you search for images for your pain the divine kiss-off by employer leaves you wiping your lips you search for a towel to dry your despair. All your life, you realize, like being notified that your illness is more serious than first thought, that you haven’t asked enough questions and you vow to begin soon as soon as you compile the list in order of least to most profound you clear your throat, have a sip of water that same necessary water contemplated before in the reach of God and your employer and ask away, as if your life depended on the asking.
from An Affection for Precipices (Serengeti Press, 2006) by J. J. Steinfeld, copyright © 2006 by J. J. Steinfeld, and first published in Grasslimb.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Nametags by J. J. Steinfeld At a well-attended job fair in a decaying building in the heart of the heartless city on one side of the room the PROLETARIAT on the other side with a little better lighting the BOURGEOISIE or so their nametags signify and you sitting at a centre table unemployed and nursing a drink that would put hair on the chest of a hard-drinking labourer or a CEO mastering the ways of social imbibing and human deception. Okay, what do you do next which side do you go to for advice and references after all, this is why you are attending a job fair of the PROLETARIAT and the BOURGEOISIE in the middle of an overly hot day riding on the heels of global warming. Put on a nametag! someone large and with ten visible tattoos and heavens knows how many hidden ones orders like a prehistoric yet talkative troglodyte lost in time and space and narrative. You refuse, shake you head claim you donâ€™t wear nametags and the large and tattooed being tells you to go to hell and two of the PROLETARIAT and three of the BOURGEOISIE come to your centre table and beat the crap out of you.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Chasing Someone Else's Messiah4 by J. J. Steinfeld At the bus stop, standing cold, snow's falling fierce, my body's wet, another winter in this city a thousand roads from where I grew up got married, tried to make a living gave up. Bus real late tonight fare's gone up again night darker than ever before chasing someone else's Messiah... I hear something calling to me turn my wet body quick looking for warm salvation see nothing but the cold Messiah must be hiding scared of the cold scared of running out of hope Lord, when you gonna help, when you gonna sing me a good song? Need me a new job the grill's wearing at my bones the grill's rattling my head hollering boss man, short-order hell, still can't seem to leave this job's got me round the neck, need me a bigger paycheque to keep me going and going is what I got to keep doing chasing someone else's Messiah... My wife left me year ago come March snowing something terrible that day, head down and eyes crying, she went back East talking of family, of the life we left, haven't heard from her except for a postcard with a picture of the sea couldn't make out the scrawl she never did write too clear I kept telling her things got to change chasing someone else's Messiah... Come spring I'm going to move back East been promising myself a new life a life so new and good 4
first published in Cash Prize Not Included.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 no problems, no worries at all, just a fine easy life hell, I'm getting old and worn chasing someone else's Messiah... Big city life's not for me sleep coming a little harder waking coming a little faster Sundays just don't seem like Sundays any more Christmas just as cold as the day before, curse the day I met the devil bottle but still the bottle's my friend need it so, devil or no, chasing someone else's Messiah... My cheap watch running slow when it runs at all, I seem to be losing weight but Lord, I'm bones already bones lost, bones aching, think I hear my bones cracking like memories of home window in my room cracked, view of nothing but street misery anyway, at hundred dollars a week can't ask for more landlord smiled and told me hundred and five starting next week landlord drove up in a big shiny car, car worth more than me, I hit him up for a smoke, he gave me three, them free cigarettes tasted like honey chasing someone else's Messiah... Boss man at the grill said space monsters gonna get us, something already got me and it ain't no space monster, all my church religion done left me bad things got tight hold of my life but how am I gonna hide, they're all I know, chasing someone else's Messiah... Saw me a nice radio in a store window the other day gonna save me a few dollars and get me that fine machine Lord, I need me some music, Lord, I need me something, chasing someone else's Messiah... Used to ride me a green seesaw when I was a fast-running kid 56
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 alone, every time alone riding them seesaws by yourself you don't ever reach the sky. Like to get me back to that soft-sand playground, maybe somebody would ride with me maybe things will get better if I hurry back. I feel a change stirring in my bones feel my life's ready to get right gonna find me a new job maybe make me a call home, a lot to think and a lot to do. The bus is coming in the midnight snow got to get me up those steps bus won't wait for me chasing someone else's Messiah...
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 In the Opposite Direction A Short Story by J. J. Steinfeld 5
I A few minutes before, the sun just about to rise, a cold, windy summer’s morning, Corey had been walking down the street, thinking about how he needed to get his life in order: eat better, get more sleep, find an ordinary, routine job, stop screwing things up, he had diagnosed himself. He was hoping that today, or maybe later in the week, he would meet someone new, a woman he could hold, not have to talk about the past; or if he did talk about the past, he could make up less scarred one. It ’s been over a year since the woman he adored, that was how he used to describe her, still thought of her, left him one morning, right after they had finished breakfast together. Her leaving completely caught him by surprise. Scrambled eggs, hash browns, whole-wheat toast, freshly squeezed orange juice. He had burned the toast, but quickly toasted up four new slices, toasted to perfection, she had complimented him. He had squeezed the orange himself. He had really tried not to mess up, to tell her the truth about his life, to every morning make the best possible breakfast for both of them. He adored her, told her that so many times, and it crumbled in a second. He hadn’t lied to her, hadn’t made up another person for her. No matter how uneasy he was with the past, he kept thinking about it during the morning, as though he were studying someone else’s mistakes and errors. Then he saw the store window and stopped. Corey reached into his inside jacket pocket, the pocket with a dozen stick pens and a small gun. All but one of the pens fell to the sidewalk and Corey thought of pick-up sticks. Stick around … stick-with-it-ness…stick in the mud…a stickler for… He caught himself saying the words aloud. Stick to your guns…stick around… Stick ‘em up, he said at the two mannequins. I have a gun, yes, I have a gun… Corey pulled the small gun out of his jacket pocket—a gun he had traded a beautiful leather coat for a week ago; a leather coat he had stolen earlier that day—and shot at the larger of the two mannequins through the store window, the glass trembling into a fissured topography, but he missed his target. The window display was for beachwear, a lazy day at the seashore: colourful umbrella, overflowing buckets of sand, oversized sea shells, inflated grotesque beach creatures lounging absurdly next to the happy mannequin couple, the suggestion of a forgotten sideshow world. The larger mannequin looked just like his old high-school English teacher, the one Corey had shown the 5
from A Glass Shard and Memory (Recliner Books, 2010) by J. J. Steinfeld, copyright © 2010 by J. J. Steinfeld, and first published online in The Danforth Review.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 first batch of poems he had ever written, and the man, a fleshy arm around his student’s shoulder, said, “These are a tender, courageous arrangement of words, Corey. You are wise beyond your years. I sense you will be a great writer one day." Arrangement, Corey thought, what a hideous description, said as much to his teacher. Corey never became a writer, not a published writer; he held no desire to be a professional writer although he was fascinated by words and the writings of others, and often wrote poems that he rarely showed to anyone. Now, recalling his teacher’s words with a sharp, memory-scraping accuracy, he looked at the mannequin he had shot at and questioned his mind’s construing of a resemblance. How could that be? The mannequin was sexless, a smooth plaster form. At the beach the teacher had wanted to drown Corey, or so Corey had accused him. “I’ll not let go of you, you’ll be safe. Embraced by the sea is when I feel closest to God,” the man had tried to assure the teenager, embracing his student. “I don’t believe in God,” Corey had yelled at his teacher, twisting out of the man’s hold. But he did believe in God, prayed to God even when he was in jail. “I want you to understand, Corey, I didn’t mean to…” If he hadn’t thrown sand in his eyes and ran, the man would have led him into the ocean. Corey heard the man shout after him that he looked forward to seeing him at school, that his poetry was lovely, but Corey promised himself never to believe another sweet-worded compliment. He shot the gun again, missing his target once more, this time the glass shattering, a sound of both foreboding and angry celebration. He looked around, concerned for the first time if anyone was nearby. It was early, too early for any of the tourist shops to be open. The smell of the ocean was bringing memories with it. The last week, fifth morning in a row, he had been coming down to this area, about fifty kilometres from where he grew up. Stepping into the window, closer to the larger mannequin, he fired twice quickly, hitting the mannequin with one of the bullets, the misshapen form falling to the floor, its left arm breaking off. Corey detected sadness and fear on the smaller mannequin’s face, thought it might reach to stop him, but he knew his imagination was entwined with his impulsive, fervid actions. Corey fired again, shooting at the left arm of the larger mannequin as if he thought the appendage were attempting to flee the scene of the crime. The final bullet he shot hit the fallen mannequin in the right leg. The wounded mannequin could no longer suppress its pain, and agonizing screams filled the display window and Corey’s ears. The smaller mannequin’s tears, Corey observed, filled the disrupted beach. After putting the now bulletless gun back into his jacket pocket, Corey bent down and broke off the mannequin’s right arm. Like breaking off a thick tree branch, he thought, but a jagged piece cut into the palm of his right hand, cutting short his poetic image. Some of his blood dripped on the smooth-faced mannequin; then, intrigued by the random design, he drew eyes, a nose, and a thin 59
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 mouth on the smooth face. No vital organs hit, he whispered at the mannequin, and laughed. Why in the midst pain—his pain? the mannequin’s pain?—did his uncertain, edgy laugh emerge. Give me a gun and I’d end your stupid bullshit—that’s what he told his teacher on the beach, and the man cried, asked for forgiveness and secrecy…wept the word love, and Corey laughed and threw the sand. Holding on to the tree branch of an arm, like a souvenir of a lost holiday, he thought this time, Corey walked through the beach display, knocking over the colourful umbrella and buckets of sand, crushing the sea shells underfoot, spitting at the inflated grotesque beach creatures, and stumbled out of the window. He considered picking up the pens he had dropped earlier, but instead succumbed to childish playfulness and kicked them from the sidewalk onto the street. He wondered what sound would be made when cars ran over the pieces of plastic, whether the ink would be squeezed out into a warning message. Once more Corey looked around and didn’t see anyone, thinking he was lucky this time, and after hurling the mannequin’s right arm as far as he could down the street, in the direction of the ocean, into the past, he hurried off in the opposite direction, his body covered with the cold sweat and exhilaration of a man who had tempted and sidestepped fate. II The waitress, who had served Corey his breakfast each of the previous four times he had eaten at this touristy coastal diner, and each time told him how he reminded her of her grown son, the way he always looked down at the table and played with his food, but this fifth visit he told her that he wasn’t especially close to his mother, that he had broken her heart on more than a few occasions, the way he couldn’t stay out of trouble. Thinking that her own dear son had brought happiness into her life, despite his limitations and handicaps, the waitress suggested her customer clean his injured hand, told him there was a first-aid kit under the cash register, and he said he’d be okay, he always healed fairly quickly. “You don’t want that cut getting infected,” she said, refilling her customer’s coffee cup. “Pain has a way of making me feel more alert, less complacent, if you get what I‘m saying,” he said, pressing a piece of toast against the palm of his injured hand. “Not really,” the waitress said, walking away from her enigmatic customer. Corey resumed breaking his toast into pieces, smaller and smaller, an artisan confused by his creation. Pain, he thought, the pain of existence…pain in the ass…painful… full of pain—thinking about words as a way to counter the futility he was feeling—the taunting, mocking mannequin, he imagined, had felt pain, excruciating pain. Corey was sitting at a table in the back, underneath a photograph of the Atlantic 60
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Ocean, even though the diner was less than a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, if you had a strong throwing arm,
He saw himself in the photograph, and his old English teacher. Then he
imagined the contours of the ocean as the contours of God, and had the urge to write a poem about that image. Later, after he went back to his room. When the two police officers, young, handsome men wearing protective vests, came into the diner, Corey, three or four years younger than them but too gaunt and pale to be called handsome any longer, turned his body toward the wall with the Atlantic Ocean photograph, wished he hadn’t brought his bulletless gun with him. What sort of protection would that be, its steel mimicking ferocity? What explanation could he give for the hidden weapon, lethargic inside his jacket? A goodluck charm? A gift with sentimental value from a cherished friend? Should have left it with the wounded mannequin? He thought of the two police officers as Neptune and Poseidon, their guns as tridents, attempted to differentiate which one was the Greek god, which one Roman. Strange, how he didn’t remember the lineage of Neptune and Poseidon, but nevertheless played with the notion of cop gods of the ocean. Something he tripped up on, the names of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Ares and Mars, Demeter and Ceres, Hermes and Mercury, Dionysus and Bacchus, Athena and Minerva, he recalled mislabelling them on a school exam, the year he quit school, rather the year he had his first serious run in with school authorities and the police and had his formal schooling rearranged. Still, it wasn’t the gods and goddesses, Greek or Roman, he needed to confront now, was caught with in landlocked inevitability. The inevitability could be dissolved, he thought, if he were on a boat sailing on the ocean: then he could take deep, freeing breaths and look off into the distance, into the vastness. He has a fear of water, though. One of the earliest dreams he can recall was of being chained to himself, except his other self had no ears or mouth, the two selves crawling along the ocean bottom, crawling for dear life. He had never learned to swim, yet he loved the ocean despite this fear, at least loved the idea of the ocean. Can you love what you fear? Fear what you love? These were questions he had asked on many occasions, as if they were a calling card he needed to hand to any person he met. He had asked the two questions not that long ago of a jail guard, who took particular delight in ridiculing Corey’s then caged existence. Of the woman he adored, made love with every day for a month after one of his jail stays, and who had left him abruptly at the end of that month with an explanation that was now a memory purgative for him. Of the memory of his parents, who’s parenting skills were lacklustre to say the least. Something he actually wrote to each of them in happy-silver-anniversary cards on what would have been their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary had they not divorced ten years earlier. The police officers look around the diner, but Corey, facing the wall, does not know this, not 61
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 specifically. His thoughts go back to the photograph. He liked the incongruity of the misplaced photographic scene, or is it displaced, he thinks. He whispers the words misplaced/displaced as if they are one word, a prayerful word. He knows the police officers are looking for him, that is not arguable, but he wonders who had called the police. As he was walking toward the diner, he hadn ’t seen anyone near him on the street. The tourist shops weren’t open yet, the sun was barely up. Just the diner. Perhaps someone from an apartment window, staring out from the boredom of an anonymous life. Or from a distant rooftop, binoculars spying his inexplicable disruption of the morning. Could he extricate himself from the police officers’ pursuit, these cop gods of the ocean? Cast doubt that he was the culprit? Could he explain his injured hand? Shooting at the past —a mannequin in a store window as history, his history—what a joke. You agree, officers? I’ve had some disputatious yet meaningful conversations with officers of the law in the past. He laughed at the imaginary conversation. His right hand hurt, the palm sore, but he still wrote on the napkin, word after word. He liked filling napkins with words. He wrote the word betrayal, saw smaller words dwelling within its sheath. There is little doubt in his mind that he had been betrayed, informed on. Now he believes with an irrational certainty that it is someone who knows him, a former fellow inmate, the woman who left him after a month of lovemaking, the friendly waitress who claimed he reminded her of her son. He cannot discard the word betrayal, the letters adhering to him as firmly as the wordless tattoos he has on his arms and back—starts to make other words from its letters, three letters or longer words. Word games relaxed him—alone in his room as a boy, locked in a jail cell, at a restaurant table —even if he squeezed the pen so tightly that had it been an animal its neck would have been snapped. It wasn ’t that he felt resigned or trapped, only hating empty spaces and long pauses. He was filling the time with the writing of words, three letters or more, until… Until what? he thought as he wrote “bet … tray … yet … let … late … ray … bay … rat … bat … brat … bray … belt … ale … bale … tale …” in quick, uncontrived succession. Corey, if a succinct, social-services description is needed, is a sad, disruptive man who is unable to maintain regular employment. Or a more literary or psychological one: thin, muscular, a mass of contradictions, a large vocabulary, self-taught, an avid reader who alternates between volubility and a reluctance to speak, except maybe to motherly waitresses, that it the phase he is experiencing now, having just celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday by shooting a mannequin in a store window because he saw someone who had hurt him. From his past? From an imagined past? Lately—maybe not so lately—thoughts of time fast and slow and devious, and images and recollections came in and out of his mind shimmering, wavering. At the age of twelve he began to speak and write 62
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 eloquently of things violent and disturbing. His parents were baffled yet pleased by their son’s creativeness. First one teacher, then a child psychologist, and later another therapist, began to speak of a talent, a facility with language, My God, the child reads more than most adults, more than I do, that child psychologist had said. Before his next birthday his mother and father had separated and talked eloquently of divorce, the son wrote, but not violently. There was no animosity or violence in their marriage, he had written, only erasures and excuses. At the age of fifteen he broke the jaw of a teacher, his first overtly violent act, then walked out of the classroom. Throwing sand in someone ’s eyes in self-defence wasn’t a violent act, was it? It was English class, the one course in school he liked. Still, he was outraged that morning, tapping angrily at his desk, seeming to attempt to reshape what had been happening in his life. The teacher twice told him to stop his annoying tapping, and other students in the class looked at him with disapproval. Later, in a letter to the woman who left him, he wrote of it “as that forlorn fateful day drenched in damp despair…heck, a little alliteration never killed anyone, and besides I don’t write for publication, only to annoy myself, which I do in great abundance." After the punch, he softly quoted a line from a poem that no one in the class recognized, though one of the students was certain she had read it somewhere. He had written the poem at his desk. Not his first poem. His first poem he had already shown the teacher. Shown him all the poems he had written. A week later he returned to school, bruises across both sides of his face, stitches over his eyebrow and on his chin, a nervous-handed calligraphy, and the police were called. He quoted several lines of the poem as the police were arresting him. That was almost nine years ago. Corey has spent nearly half of that time in jail: petty theft, meaningless fights, senseless disruptions. He got out a few days ago and would sit in a small, stuffy room of a rooming house until he left in the morning, hungry and frustrated, until each morning he would go to have breakfast, attempt to give some structure to his days. This morning began as the others, changing only when he shoot into the window before arriving at the diner. When he first met the woman who was to become the woman he shared a month with and later claimed he would jump into the middle of the ocean for her without a second thought, yet he wouldn’t use the word love—But you can’t swim, you told me, she criticized his example of sacrifice— Corey was sitting at the counter of a different diner, telling her that being with her was like acting in a movie trying to evoke an earlier, simpler time. But earlier times were never really simpler times, wouldn’t you say? She said that to him. And he scratched his forehead, scratched very hard. “I feel like I’m a character in a novel…a minor character but one who does something crucial and irrevocable,” Corey said, his fingers creating a new language. “What do you mean by that?” she asked, touching his arm gently. 63
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 “I mean by that,” he said, paused, and looked at the counter. A tiny lake of spilled coffee caught her attention. He swam with his thoughts through the coffee lake before going on: “It means I have a preference for a more crafted reality." He shook his head at his words, scratching harder, finding new destinations on the limited terrain of his face. The woman had married a man without scars and with a steady job, that was how she had explained it to Corey, on a small card, her handwriting neater than usual. As he thought of that now, Corey shook his pen, trying to summon it to life. He drew a few circles, trying to revive the pen, but it was out of ink. He said something longingly to the memory of the woman. Then he reached inside his pocket… Both police officers removed their guns, and to Corey it sounded as if the cop gods of the ocean were both speaking at the same time, a single loud voice. “Put your hands on the table.” “It’s a goddamn pen.” “…on the table…” “A pen for writing—” A bullet entered the wall near the photograph of the Atlantic Ocean. Corey’s gun was empty. He had a dozen pens in the same pocket as his empty gun. Lots of pens, no bullets, no swords either, he thought, rhyming pun with gun, gun with pun. The pen is mightier, he yelled out, as if trying to impress a teacher who thought he was unprepared for a classroom discussion. Another shot, a bullet with purpose and disdain. His last thought and last sentence were quite different. His last thought was of diving off the side of a boat, into the ocean, and beginning to swim into the vastness. His last words, coughed as much as spoken, were, “I never learned to swim…”
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Anatoly Moskvin’s girls at tea6 (after John Ashbery) By Mercedes Webb-Pullman The best table cloth hovers a moment, setting motes in motion through the leaden air, then falls to the table where the girls gather. Parlour lights glint from Natasha’s glasses. She holds a tattered grey rabbit. Rebekkah’s turn to sit by the samovar and pour. She makes sure to offer sugar, lemon, and milk. She’s been here longest. I don’t like these biscuits Lena says Every day the same. How can you stand it? Katya wonders why he doesn’t get a better table so they can all join in, it’s not fair, sometimes you’re not picked for weeks. Anastasia agrees He plays favourites He’s all over you like a rash, then you’re left in the corner like Irene. Vavara and Galina, who have the nicest gloves, decide someone should keep track and grope about for pencils. You can’t eat the ugly biscuits because you can’t pick anything up Ludmilla suggests. Hey, it’s getting worse, time won’t translate into the right tense. I don’t know if I can cope. worries Etta. I am the boss of you today and you will all do as I say, not as I do. Watch out or the wind may change and you’ll stay that way forever Lena advises, idly flicking through an old Popular Mechanics, building solar powered rockets for poor kids on the block, a gala that includes pony rides and floss, a new pink party dress with matching shoes. Ludmilla and Marta can’t remember the last time they ate ice-cream so they invent a memory, decorated with real whipped cream, wafers, 6
Published in Rawahi anthology, 2013
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 chocolate sprinkles and hot fudge sauce; they share it with everyone, including the girls at the table. Everyone asks politely for more. Irene fiddles with her blue barrette. What will she do when her ship comes in? She hopes it’s a slow boat to China. Luka who is smallest but not youngest would rather play with boy, and fidgets with her nose as she whispers Will some boys come? hopefully. She’s ready to take off for the suburbs, shoot hoops through an endless backyard summer. She plans to run away, with Sonia, they’ve thought of what sort of sandwiches they should take in the blue plastic lunchbox with its matching drink flask; they’ve agreed on the sound of champagne. Let the fish fry for me, Svetlana decides, what’s the point of cutting out a hole if you’re not going to use it? Their mothers wouldn’t miss them surely, they have so many and I’m hungry. She says this quietly, in case she’s offered the plate of ugly biscuits. She pats her plastic heart secretly but it doesn’t beat. She thinks she’d rather have a music box, like Sonia. Etta is stuck in the past pluperfect; lost in a forest she follows a trail the wrong way, back to Gretel holding out a bone. They both like honey but prefer it without bears. I think it’s my turn in the hammock Adalaida announces. I always have it on Tuesdays in autumn. Besides it’s raining. Emilia and Lizaveta have swapped clothes but no one notices. They decide they’d quite like an Amazon adventure, and start to learn Spanish. Katerina, who has her name down for astronaut training and is the expert on all things pertaining to space, says I bet you didn’t know yaks have been killed by spacecraft landing in China. They all laugh. Feodora and Lenushka are almost dwarfed 66
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 by the pile of clothes and patterns and scraps in the corner near the worktable. I wish he’d clean up his mess, it’s not as if there’s lots of room in here, he’s very greedy grumbles Feodora, and Leni agrees. They start folding things but with nowhere to stack them, they listen to the rain instead. Sasha and Duscha play I Spy Sasha starts something beginning with K and shakes her head at kahlua and kangaroo, kapok and keepsake and kempt, ketamine key and kerchief, kettle, kerosene and keyboard, keyhole, kidnap, kid and kidney, kimono, kindness, kilt and kingly, kink and kilo, kitchen, kiss, kit and koala until Duscha gives in. Sasha says Knob, you’re a knob, a nobby nooby knob! and Duscha grizzles that’s not fair... I do wish he’d hurry up fumes Helga. Some of us have work to do. Some of us don’t want to sit around all day waiting for the attention of a strange man – after all we hardly know him. Anechka thinks this could be true, they all have trouble remembering things, maybe they haven’t been formally introduced. She glances at Nadia but can’t see her properly through the lace at the side of her new bonnet. Downstairs the doorbell rings. I wonder who that could be? We’re all here. Anya voices all their thoughts.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Noelene By Mercedes Webb-Pullman 7
She eavesdrops on adults all the time. One day she hears Tommy Skews say Terry ate the shotgun on Monday in the upstairs toilet. Annie told him she was pregnant again. Tommy sometimes tells stories after a bottle of beer, squatting on the shed floor or perched on a piece of machinery. He and his brother Teddy ride with a gang. Their sister married their biker mate Terry. They have three kids now, trapped in a Housing Commission suburb and no work. Noelene miscarries before the funeral, after a day spent cleaning brains and bone fragments from the walls and ceiling. Not as easy as you think says Tommy.
Published in The Wide Shore, April 2015
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 Robin Shirley â€Ś By Mercedes Webb-Pullman ... in her wheelchair, polio and cerebral palsy, horrified me with the green slime on her teeth, the way she drooled. My father said she still had her own mind; she could hear and read and think, and wouldnâ€™t let anyone else clean her teeth though she couldnâ€™t do it well herself so I was patient with her struggles to speak, didn't try to replace her thick choked words with my own; let her take her time, but often the sense of what she said was lost, disjointed when her words finally came. She wheeled herself into my dreams last night, trembled and strained, opened her mouth and golden birds flew out, singing.
mgv2_86 | proletarian literature | 10_16 You kids help your father with the firewood BY Mercedes Webb-Pullman Our father who built a saw-bench one autumn, to cut pine tree trimmings free from the sawmill, one side still bark, to feed our living-room fire. That spare two-stroke lawnmower engine, I could mount it on a bench, add a clutch and set a saw-blade to the driveshaft. Plenty strong enough to whip through those pine scantlings. It chewed through wood with nightmare shrill and bellow. Pine sap leaked, dark red, from the creamy flesh and sawdust spurted and stopped; spurted, with a scream, then stopped. Get back out of the way you kids. Wait ‘til I turn it off before you all start stacking. You trip and land on this blade, you’re dead. And if you’re not, I’ll kill you. No safety guard, no goggles, no earmuffs. So easy to imagine his hand, fingers not pulled back in time, that rooster-tail of sawdust wetter and redder, a hint of bone white just inside.
contributors’ biographies Jan Bardeau est né en janvier 72 du siècle précédent, ce qui en fait désormais, enfin et à sa grande joie un vieux, il s'abstient donc d'être cool, sympathique ou de débiter avec passion des âneries, mais s'évertue à la place à grogner des inepties en roulant des yeux méchamment. Il écrit pour la gloire, comme Ajax combattit sans se ménager la station Mir et comme Saint Marc évangélisa les sceptiques de la rue de JaveL. Étant entendu qu'un professionnel, dans tous les corps de métiers, s'efforce d'optimiser le temps qu'il consacre à son ouvrage, ainsi que la qualité du produit fini, avec le revenu qu'il espère en tirer, la plupart borne son ambition, à défaut de sa prétention, à un minima qui contribue pour une large part à la verroterisation de nos cultures ; c'est pour cela que Jan Bardeau revendique son amateurisme, doublé d'un plouquisme confinant à la beauferie, et triplé du provincialisme ridiculement anachronique et désuet de ceux qui estiment que la littérature peut encore créer du sens, même pauvre. Christopher Barnes’ first collection LOVEBITES is published by Chanticleer. Each year he reads at Poetry Scotland’s Callender Poetry Weekend. He also writes art criticism which has been published in Peel and Combustus magazines. Roisín Browne lives in Rush, Co Dublin, Ireland; a public servant she is a member of the Ardgillan Writers Group and is an attendee at the Gladstone Readings in Skerries, Co Dublin. She has had her poetry published in Creative Writing Ink, A New Ulster and The Galway Review. Jack Grady is a founder member of the Ox Mountain Poets, and he has had his poetry published in numerous literary reviews and in anthologies in the United States and in Ireland. He has also has had poems published in mgv2_81 and mgv2_85. In April, he represented Ireland at the third edition of the International Poetry Festival in Marrakesh, Morocco. He lives in County Mayo, Ireland. Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator specializing in Japanese Shiatsu and Reiki. She writes for Massage and Aromatherapy Magazines. She travels the world to expand her knowledge of healing and seeking 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, New Zealand, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, mgversion2>datura in France, and Travel by the Book, Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, and others in the USA. Strider Marcus Jones is a poet, law graduate and ex civil servant from Salford, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry http//www.lulu.com/spotlight/stridermarcusj.... reveal a maverick moving between forests, mountains, cities and coasts playing his saxophone and clarinet in warm solitude. His poetry has been published in the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, India and Switzerland in numerous publications including mgv2>publishing Anthology; And Agamemnon Dead; Deep Water Literary Journal; The Huffington Post USA; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; A New Ulster/Anu; Outburst Poetry Magazine; The Galway Review; The Honest Ulsterman Magazine; The Lonely Crowd Magazine; Section8Magazine; Danse Macabre Literary Magazine; The Lampeter Review; Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts; Don't Be Afraid: Anthology To Seamus Heaney; Dead Snakes Poetry Magazine; Panoplyzine Poetry Magazine; Syzygy Poetry Journal Issue 1 and Ammagazine/Angry Manifesto Issue 3. Perrin Langda : né en 1983 à Lyon, vit à Grenoble. Poète, musicien, prof de français, papa, et aussi pêcheur souvent bredouille. A publié en 2015 Quelques microsecondes sur Terre, Les Tilleuls du Square / Gros Textes, Documentaire humain, Mgv2>publishing, Perrin Langda & compagnie, Mgv2>publishing (recueil collectif). A écrit dans de nombreuses revues et participé au recueil collectif Dehors, éditions Janus, 2016. Son blog : http://upoesis.wordpress.com. Donal Mahoney : Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetrylocksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html A nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had over 500 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has eleven books to her credit, the newest of which Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to. Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (www.centrifugaleye.com,). Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.
contributors’ biographies Stephenson Muret lives and writes in southern California. His plays, stories, essays and poems have appeared in scores of publications, touching virtually all genres. James B. Nicola has had poetry appear in issues 76, 80, 82 and 84. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His two poetry collections, published by Word Poetry, are Manhattan Plaza (2014) and Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016). More at sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola. Hal O’Leary, now at age 91, has been published in 19 different countries. He lives by a quote from his son’s play Wine To Blood, “I don’t know if there is a Utopia, but I am certain that we must act as though there can be.” Hal, a Pushcart nominee, is a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University the same institution from which he became a college dropout some 60 years earlier. He currently resides in Wheeling, WV. Peter O' Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Divertimento The Muse is a Dominatrix (mgv2>publishing, France, 2016) and Sker ( Lapwing, Belfast, 2016 ). He edited And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century with Walter Ruhlmann also for mgv2>publishing (2015). He is the founder of Donkey Shots, an avant garde poetry festival which takes place in the spring in his home-town of Skerries, north county Dublin, where he also hosts The Gladstone Readings. Collin Piprell, a Canadian writer resident in Thailand, has recently signed a three-book deal with Common Deer Press (Toronto) for the first novels in his futuristic Magic Circles series. Three other, non-futuristic, novels are now collectors' items, as are his books on national parks, coral reefs, and sport diving.
http://www.collinpiprell.com Mark Sashine is a pen-name of Russian-born Mark Labinov, an engineer, PhD, PE, CEM, who has resided in Connecticut, USA since 1989. Mark's fiction and essays have appeared online and in print in hundreds of blogs and magazines. His book, "Russians From CT In Alaska" was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2012. He is a graduate of the Long Ridge Writing School. A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books. But his greatest claim to fame is having been Bernie Sanders college roommate. J. J. Steinfeld is a Canadian fiction writer, poet, and playwright who lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published seventeen books, including Disturbing Identities (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), An Affection for Precipices (Poetry, Serengeti Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), and An Unauthorized Biography of Being (Stories, Ekstasis Editions). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals internationally, and over fifty of his one-act plays and a handful of fulllength plays have been performed in North America. Mercedes Webb-Pullman: Graduated from IIML Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing 2011. Poems and prose have appeared in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, Connotations, The Red Room, Typewriter, Cliterature, Thank You For Swallowing, and Pure Slush, among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.