About Moonshot publishes diverse, powerful voices across traditional and digital platforms. As an independent magazine with no allegiance to any single aesthetic, we celebrate all forms of storytelling from both emerging and established talent. Moonshot encourages narratives from the experimental to the traditional. We create an equal opportunity space by championing our bold writers and adventurous readers. We want work that astounds. We want work that levitates. We want luminaries brighter than the moon. For more information, please visit moonshotmagazine.org. “Harlequin and Death” cover art copyright Konstantin Andreyevich Somov, 1907. All other content © 2013 Moonshot. No portion of Moonshot may be reproduced without permission of the magazine. Authors retain the right to reprint their work on the condition of Moonshot being credited with initial publication. All rights reserved. ISBN # 978-0-9837890-2-4 ISSN # 2167-1184
Masthead Ed i to r s
JD SCOTT & ALIA TSANG Fi c t i o n Edi tor
JOSHUA BOARDMAN Po et r y Edi tor
CARINA FINN C o m i c s Edi tor
Contents Jo hn Ma u k
C . J. Wate r ma n
FROM MY TEARY TV BREAKDOWN
D rew K a l b a c h
THE BOY IS LEWD
Ri v ka Fo g e l
Step h a n i e B e rge r
PIERCED LIKE AN OLIVE IN A DIRTY MARTINI...
DEATH OF THE GREY BIRD
STORM CLOUDS ENCIRCLE THE GREY BIRD
L a ure n H u nte r
A WOMB IS LIKE A SOUFFLE
Sa ra h C ro s s l a n d
Es hu B a n de l e
E . K. G o rdo n
IF GAY MARRIAGE WERE LEGAL I’D BE DIVORCED TWICE, AT LEAST, AND I’D HAVE A HOUSE 28 Ma r i s a C rawfo rd
J. Fo s s e n b e l l
ZIGGY AND THE INFINITES
Amy E i s n e r
THIS WEEK IS NOT AN AGE OF COMPROMISE
Vale r i e Hs i u n g
BLACK TRUMPET GIG
Jo d d y M u r ray
K at i e Wh e e l e r- Du bi n
Ri c k Wh i t a ke r
“LUCKY STAR” — CHAPTER 17 AN EXCERPT FROM AN HONEST GHOST50 Be n Pa s s mo re
THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE
Raua n K l a s s n ik
RELIEF62 Ni c h o l a s G r i de r
THIS IS A LONG DRIVE FOR SOMEONE WITH NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT
M i c h a e l Be r to n
BUZZ THE OASIS
Ro be r t a Al l e n
FIVE AMULET STORIES
Bi o g ra p h i e s 80 F i c t i o n Po et ry Comic
Jo hn Ma u k
THE GROUNDLINGS They concluded that Ran Manville had shimmied up the maple tree, crawled across the one low limb, and heaved himself onto Gwendolyn Lutz’s roof. As to why, no one had a good answer. It didn’t make much sense—a guy like him perched on a roof and singing “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello” so the whole neighborhood could hear. Granted, he was a little touched, in Tommy Pahl’s words, but Ran Manville didn’t seem like the type to express himself in such an outward manner or shimmy his way up anything. Helen Wheeler claimed it was some kind of romantic gesture. Calvin Sumner blamed the humidity—unprecedented soupy air that had been hanging around for weeks. Muriel Wonsettler called it a ritual of some sort. Her husband dismissed that out-of-hand and argued that not everything has to be a ritual. “Some things,” he said, “are just what they are.” And Marigold Holloway blamed it on liquor. “Everyone just accepts it nowadays,” she said. But the real question was how to get Ran down. He seemed beyond conversation. And even if he wasn’t revved up on Jacob McComby’s hooch, which was most likely the case, he’d always been the faraway type—the kind of guy who looked untethered and floating way out there in his own affairs. He’d been a calm boy and then a handsome teenager—dark marble eyes and a razor jaw. But in his twenties, something happened. His face expanded. He took on cumulus dimensions. By thirty, he was a mass. The dark eyes receded into a field of cakey flesh, and the thin-lipped smirk that had given him an aura of vitality in his teen years turned into a dunderheaded smile that made people reach quick conclusions. It was clear that he’d dropped out of school not because he had some other destiny but because his brain was tied up in business that made him unable to read and write. “Not a quite a retard” is how Calvin Sumner put it. Sheriff Douglas pulled up around 11:00. They watched him sit in the patrol car, study the roof, put on his hat, and get out. He nodded in their direction and walked up to the front porch where Gwendolyn Lutz met him. They couldn’t hear the back and forth, but the conversation didn’t seem like a good one—plenty of head shaking and staring at the porch floor. The sheriff went around back, and Muriel Wonsettler brought up the fact that there’d been an accident out on 576 already that
morning—that a couple of kids were racing and drove each other into a ditch, which was probably why the sheriff was so late on the scene and pretty haggard. And then Murray Wonsettler brought up the Ronnie LeCroix situation from the spring before. Everyone knew the story—how Ronnie got himself drunk, went out to the Gregorys’ pond, and announced that he was repossessing it on behalf of his ancestors. The sheriff had to intervene not only to keep Mr. Gregory from using his shotgun but also to pull Ronnie LeCroix from the water after he’d jumped in and sank. Granted, there was currently a 250-pound man perched on a roof, singing, and probably—almost certainly—drunk. But the sheriff had seen worse. Everyone agreed on that point. Even though they couldn’t see Ran from the grass, they knew he was way at the top—not on the mudroom, but the main slope, a good forty feet up. Gwendolyn Lutz’s house was one of those brick two-stories with a full attic, made at the turn of the century—back when people built toward the sky. “Especially out here on the flatland,” Murray Wonsettler said. “Especially out here,” Calvin Sumner said. “Anything to get away from the ground.” And Muriel added they wouldn’t be able to strong-arm Ran if it came to that. The slope was too much. Someone would fall. “It’s likely.” “Definitely likely.” By noon, the sheriff had conscripted the Wonsettlers’ ladder and climbed onto the mudroom. He stood with his face at the lip of the main roof trying to communicate with Ran, but it was a one-way channel. From the grass, everyone could see the top of Ran’s head and how he was scuttling away—casually scooting off like those pileated woodpeckers that know, somehow, exactly where your vision ends. That’s how Tommy Pahl described it. And everyone nodded or kept thoughts to themselves because they could hear movement—Ran’s shoes or pants scraping the shingles as he made progress along the peak. And then he appeared, his whole girth finally and fully visible, now resting against the chimney. He held the jug of hooch, sure enough, and stared out over the houses, oblivious to the huddle on the lawn below. The sun crested over the two giant cottonwoods on the east side of the street and shone on Ran’s body curled up against the bricks. Marigold brought up heat stroke. “Someone,” she said, “had better get up there and pull him down.” Frank Mallard agreed. “They wait too much longer and they may as well get a gurney.” Calvin Sumner wondered why they wouldn’t get the fire department—the 8 X John Mauk
cherry picker or even one of those trampolines. Tommy Pahl said they should let Ran fall asleep, which was bound to happen, and then roll off because quite often people don’t get injured if they’re entirely limp. The impact, he said, goes right through the skeletal system and into the air. Helen Wheeler thought they should bring out a couple of semi-truck trailers and park them on either side of the house. Muriel Wonsettler said they’d never get Mrs. Lutz to allow such destruction to her lawn and ceramics. And Frank Mallard said someone with authority had to end this foolery even if it meant getting out the handcuffs and billystick. “You have to take control,” he said. “That’s a sheriff’s job.” And so the talk turned to Sheriff Douglas and his particular reflexes. There was the problem a few months back at Shorty’s Grill involving the group from Indiana who felt like they could push some locals around and then come back the following week and do the same. And there was the situation with Greta Stenson two years prior. She’d announced plans to kill her husband—explaining her intentions and charting them out to everyone within earshot. And rather than intervene, Sheriff Douglas let it happen. “I can’t stop a woman from telling stories,” he said. So like Greta promised, she pierced Michael Stenson through the abdomen when he tried to mount her without asking. The weapon—as most people had heard—was Michael Stenson’s own scaling knife. By late afternoon, nearly everyone in town who wasn’t working had gathered on Avondale Drive to listen for Ran Manville’s voice— how it would blather out another line or two from that same song, the one he’d been singing in arrhythmic starts and stops for at least six hours. It had become sloppier, like he was arguing. In the lapses people nodded their heads, agreeing that he’d finally succumbed to the liquor and heat. But then a warbling tone would start up and roll out over the lawns. Marcus Jennings explained that Ran had surpassed normal human tolerance for heat. The Wonsettlers, who had a daughter in medicine, agreed. Ran Manville was plenty beyond what a body could take. There was some kind of endurance stored up inside him. Not everyone remembered seeing Ran grow into the thick and loafy creature above them. But Marigold Holloway said what a few others were thinking. Little Randolph Manville was one of those kids from the Church of the Nazarene, the one that Lorna Ferrick cursed with a bucket of river mud. It had been twenty years. Plenty of people never knew about the curse in the first place, and plenty had let it flutter away. There wasn’t any proof. No one could say for sure that Lorna Ferrick did what some said. But it was hard Moonshot W 9
not to see a pattern—how the Polk kids flamed out early, how the Housmans withered away, and how the other Manvilles went crazy or off to jail. And it wasn’t hard to look at Randolph, the youngest in the family, and imagine that something unnatural had happened. There was a deep kind of trouble in all that flesh. As the sun carved its way toward the fields, Gwendolyn Lutz joined the huddle, which had moved further into the grass where the Wonsettlers’ house created a valley of shade. There was lemonade. Frank Mallard brought a flask and sweetened things up for anyone who wasn’t offended. And Mrs. Lutz explained that the sheriff had finally made a decision—that he could no longer hope for a natural resolution. Marigold said it was about time. Calvin Sumner agreed. He said that getting hurt was a risk you take for coming around and terrorizing a single woman, a widow for that matter. “That’s the risk of birddoggin,” he said. Muriel Wonsettler asked Mrs. Lutz if she intended on pressing charges. Marigold Holloway answered for her, saying she’d better get something on the books or else Ran’s excursion to her roof might well turn into something else, like, according to Marcus Jennings, an excursion into the living room. No one asked Mrs. Lutz why Ran had climbed up there—if she knew why, if she had a guess, if she wanted to offer one. No one asked but everyone watched the back of her head while she studied her own house. And Frank Mallard took the opportunity to get an eyeful—standing, as he was, behind and a little to the east where he could see the silhouette of hamstring—until he caught Marigold Holloway’s eyes watching his. Calvin Sumner decided he’d had enough standing, said so, and then walked off to join the sheriff. Twenty minutes later, they both came walking up the alley dragging a bare mattress, which flopped, resisted, and tried to pour itself free as they shoved it upward and onto the mudroom roof. From the ground, everyone understood the plan. They’d drag Ran to the mudroom. If he got too squirmy, they’d muscle him on down, let him flop the five or six feet and land, at the least, on some cushion. “It’s not like that ape’s made of glass,” Frank Mallard said. They waited. They felt an end coming, and it came in the form of Calvin Sumner’s body. They watched it spiral over the peak, tumble toward them, drop, and thunk onto Gwendolyn Lutz’s lawn. Other than Muriel Wonsettler’s outstretched right hand, an attempt, maybe, to grip the scene and twist it into something else, everyone stood like pillars. They watched the sheriff jump onto the mattress. They heard him yelling while he crashed his way down the ladder and ran to the Calvin Sumner’s side. They stood back 10 X John Mauk
because the sheriff’s hand was giving them the stop signal—shoving at them through the air. They didn’t turn away or move forward. They watched Calvin Sumner’s body stay bent and crumpled until the ambulance arrived, until two men in gray uniforms wedged a wooden plank into the grass and lifted him away. They watched the ambulance pull off, its sirens piercing the calm humidity. Marigold Holloway whispered something about the Sumner children—both so young. And before anyone could figure something else to say, they looked to see Sheriff Douglas already up the ladder, lifting himself onto the main roof, disappearing behind the peak. They heard three gunshots—a shot and then silence, another shot, more silence, and then a final shot.
Moonshot W 11
C . J. Wate r ma n
FROM MY TEARY TV BREAKDOWN I would fellate a gun but that wouldn’t be enough. I want explosions in my mouth to topple a city block. I want to pick small fragments of decimated humans from my scalp. The thrill would last longer than the smell. If I can design it I’ll supply it. If I can greet the smash with a smile on my cheek I’m a beast. My horns could grow wings & sputter without a squeak. Nearsighted & recorded, my creation is a casing, an outdated container for a spell of desolation. My lucky break is in the detonation. Reporters pigheadedly call it a blight, the emergence of a new sun to spell the start of night.
Twirled in a dervish & unaccounted for victims strode to the rhythm of combustion. A body count with no chemistry. A plastered to the ground configuration tinted with the hues of my television. At primetime I starred in an article. I cheated my way to hero or else hunted down an ash cloud. My sight could be escaped with napkins absorbent of disaster. I took hydration where I could get it, sometimes found unfit for teleprompter.
D rew K a l b a c h
THE BOY IS LEWD I had to live to eat face in cereal, formed in gif, blank stares and strafes, shuttle launched in miniature, minor fifth time you heaved, eat fence between the smell in open trashcan, in greased out burner tops smoking heavy with skin and teeth, my teeth chapped, teeth cut out and carved to resemble smiles, flashes of cell phone cameras all across this crowd, the heave renewed at lectures for the balding, dead skinned and peeling, handcuffed to sackcloth and stripped down to skivvies, Iâ€™m heaved toward harnesses and tied down to posts, lovely in lopsided inked skin, ribs all a-flutter while you whine about a funeral. I misrepresented myself. I cracked into my metadata and sieved through errors and overwritten drives, my self recoded, traded, made public and chastised with reblogs. Outdistanced force fields some playboys signify new bodies, furnish muscles with pink, skin with thin scars. The walls hold back air and wonâ€™t let our lungs mingle in the interim. These new bodies now plastic and hung to dry, alive and always groaning about cell reception in a bunker or water pressure down south. I press lips to glass and blow until puffed and bloated. Pan seared then steamed, lungs golden-brown. I have miles to go before Iâ€™m chic.
Ri v ka Fo g e l
MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS I like that you are. I like this (.) There are ten cars on the streetcorner and they are all red. I do not like to know. Often I have tried to keep you. This is a sad thing I investigate. You I mean toward the aim of discovering I am stuck with pronouns. I cannot get out. The audience is integral to the project. That the audience exists is integral to the project. Which. You say (I am manufacturing you. Understand) Very well then. I have begun and there are all these capitals. Capital! A monetary lone! Speaking (of which) I have tried to say goodbye to you. For example, I am very angry and I wish to throw the meaning out of the window. It occurs to me that I do not mean (I have just missed you) plural. I use lots of things and one of them is you. Before I discover you I write short poems. This is not a short poem. It is, for example, longer than fourteen lines and uses examples. Though I have nothing against the sonnet as I do against the meaning. Sometimes I think as now that I wonâ€™t weave you anything but this little jacket that is not the poem.
e in a dirty martini & A-OK k heart of a grey bird)
Step h a n i e Be rge r (with e m o ji text by Ca rina F inn)
e with a bang and then? Flooded by sunflowers. a rotten strawberry and get knocked out.
PIERCED LIKE AN OLIVE DIRTY MARTINI &Drop A-OK our burgerIN withA a fork and knife, gentleman that you are. new set, as if such deflation of the belly might be a real danger. (SAYS THE BEER-DRUNK HEART cannonball, I cannonball Aexplosion. GREY BIRD) perfectly OF green-lit
ife in the rims of our ruins. n, please do so in spoons.
On the court I deflate with a bang and then? Flooded by sunflowers. Stray cats prey upon a rotten strawberry and get knocked out. Sweet king, devour your burger with a fork and knife, gentleman that you are. Drop your silver, demand a new set, as if such deflation of the belly might be a real danger. I am a cannonball, a cannonball, I cannonball from the bed. I am a perfectly green-lit explosion. I have measured my life in the rims of our ruins. If you bomb me again, please do so in spoons.
DEATH OF THE GREY BIRD
The grey bird dies and dies and dies a little, asks for a moment, four dancing girls, and a hammer. Brunch too ends, like love. But never the photo feed. The grey bird dies like a good idea, asks for a moment, an emergency room; a cautionary rainbow appears, waves the flag and the horses are off... Perhaps they suffer for the lunar tide! Does the sun still shine? Yes, the sun shines. On the bird, yellowing its back like the belly of a pretty maid bathing in the garden. Her schools of lovers lined in rows like children, flowers pink and dried up already, so young. Massage my skull, stranger. I smell ok, your heart seems ok, & mine is a two-piece. Swim beyond this charming song. Graduate already!! Time is a gift. And itâ€™s drunk. It lets go of its balloon and goes home.
STORM CLOUDS ENCIRCLE THE GREY BIRD
staring out the window of my bedroom as the grey bird winds its way through the wheat, the fires in the sky, and the one red balloon floating closer to the storm! Compactly spinning my disks until you return.
Twas the light from the telly that first we destroyed with our drunken, panoramic hammers. We removed our dress shirts and dresses in favor of kimonos. Surely we thought we eould dress and then marry the princess! But we dressed too much in French. Where hospitals house brothels, dead lovers, sad miner. Under umbrellas, two sad cats rode the waves to the sun, caught the first whiff of storm, bringing moonlight. They were dazzled, hypnotized by the toad prince & piglet. Enter the grey bird. Offering his worm like a bouquet of seashells, I found myself in the UK, throwing confetti like fire, bamboozeld by the gift. I am muscular as a mountain range, I suddenly thought. Number one! My biceps are twins! You will not beat me, dead lovers, dead holy men, you fat jolly corpses. I stand on my own with the trees I cut and light, a schoolgirl in school clothing, staring out the window of my bedroom as the grey bird winds its way through the wheat, the fires in the sky, and the one red balloon floating closer to the storm! Compactly spinning my disks until you return.
18 X Stephanie Berger
L a ure n H u nte r
A WOMB IS LIKE A SOUFFLE yeah, i’ve been slinging that disco wand around like it’s no big thing but look at my toes i’ve been cloned twice but still all three of me want to go the same wheres, so i ate them i don’t consider it cannibalism if it’s eating yourself, but i could see someone calling foul i can’t go on, i’ll go on, if i must i’ve got your god particle right here, if you know what i mean i’m literally bottomless and i mean that, literally i do not end INSERT: (where someone says something about punching something) (where i’m standing in a cranberry bog full of liars) (where my watch is ticking backwards so i never live another new second) I HAVE BEEN COLLECTING ALL YOUR THOUGHTS IN MY HEART
Sa ra h C ro s s l a n d
Es hu B a n de l e
SCOTT FREE “Check da bird!” And that’s exactly what Aisha was doing to the customers, flippin’ ’em off, shootin’ ’em da bird! instead of responding to their inconsiderate questions. She merely, and rather poignantly, referred them to the overhead menu board. “Do you have Mike and Ike candy?” “Check da bird!” “Do you have gummies?” “Check da bird!” “Any Goobers?” “Da bird!” “No Raisinets?” “Bird!” “I’m sorry, but I don’t see any Milk Duds in here?” Check da bird already! The way she said it was machine-like, but she could flip it right quick if you pissed her off. During those times, she directed you to the glass candy case rather than da bird! “My dear, do you, by any chance, have Kit Kats? I simply won’t be able to enjoy my movie without my Kit Kats.” “You see Kit Kats in dere, girl? Check it out!” I spit laughter on that one, and she joined me, chuckling to confirm that she knew how funny she was being. The gray-headed white woman—whose spectacles sat rather typically on the bridge of her nose—was certainly no girl. Combined with her affected aristocratic tone, the white woman was easy fodder for two smartalecky, poor, and black concession-stand workers. I never asked Aisha where she was from in India, or really anything about her background. Even now, I’m only thinking of her as half of our comedy team. I balanced her brusqueness with my goofy humor: “Are you a large cappuccino?” (as I handed the customer his drink). “That’s funny because you don’t look like a large cappuccino!” That had ’em rollin’ in the aisles! As soon as Aisha saw me arrive for my shift each morning, the first thing she’d say was “Scott-T, come over here and let’s giggle a little.” She had lots of funny little phrasings like that, like the way she’d complain about a coworker, a slob named Norman whom we secretly called “FatNasty,” who lusted for her but nevertheless was 21
too intimidated, and generally too shy, to get around to asking her on a date. “FatNasty’s really chatting me up this morning.” (By the way, FatNasty was hella-funny too, lazy. Whenever a customer requested something that had to be made, like a cappuccino, he’d inevitably respond with sputtering lips and then sigh all through the making of it.) Rounding out our day crew was Kimmy, who was Black American like me, and jealous of my routine with Aisha. She tried hard to be funny with me too, but lacking a certain subtlety, she’d more directly offend the customer, which wasn’t my style. I’m considering one regular moviegoer whom Aisha and I dubbed “Lady Hawk” because of her hawkish nose, and while we usually acknowledged that with winks and smiles (and on occasion barely audible squawks), Kim would squawk and flap her wings in the background while you waited on her: “Awk, awk!” (Kimmy wore slippers while she worked and once removed one to kapow! a cockroach in the middle of a transaction.) Yeah, I guess we were all funny, and terribly obnoxious too! I’m thinking of this now because I’m trying to recall what I was doing in New York right before I left, and why I left in the first place. I mean, I was actually having a pretty good time. Granted, I was a near-thirty, overeducated usher at a movie theatre, but it was a high-end independent, so I got to see the best independent and foreign films for free—and I’m sure that helped me in my aspiration to be a movie director. I watched Tous les Matins du Monde, like, fifty times! (I even learned how to pronounce the title properly, in French!) And, yeah, granted, I was living at the Harlem Y, having lost my place after breaking up with the so-called “love of my life” (which we’ll discuss later), but I was spending, during my final days in the city, a lot of time at my new girlfriend’s apartment in Hoboken, Jersey. Straight up, my girl Patti had a big booty. Mucho junko in her trunko! And she was damn near ghostly, what you call a strawberry blonde. And, oh snap! she possessed, like, the prettiest pink love canal—wide and wet too—covered with soft strawberry hairs. At home I called her “3P” for “PrettyPussyPatti” and “Patti-Pow-Pow” for da trunko (both names she resented, being somewhat feminist, and adult!). Oh, I almost forgot, she was studying lingerie design at FIT! I met Patti while I was working my evening job as a security guard in the garment district. I threatened to kick this racist white boy’s butt because he kept calling me “bro” every time he passed the security desk: 22 X Eshu Bandele
(1) “Wassup, bro?” (2) “Bro-Man!” (3) “How’s it hangin’, bro?” Of course he was workin’ my nerves, so after about a week of it, as Patti was passing (I probably planned it that way, didn’t I?), I said to the white boy: “Every time you call me ‘bro,’ I think you’re tryin’ to call me nigger. You callin’ me a nigger?” Before the big lug could stammer out his response, I finished him off by saying: “Because if you are, I’m gon’ whip yo ass!” The funny thing is that the punk starting whimpering, and Patti, a tough kid, originally from Brooklyn, found the whole thing hysterical. I found out later that dude was a delivery boy who sometimes made deliveries to her office and harassed her every time. Patti (oh, Patti!) was reading Malcolm’s autobiography at the time (why do we call this man Malcolm as if we know ’im?), and seeing my fire, she started callin’ me “Malcolm,” which of course was ridiculous, and ironic for a variety of reasons, but I didn’t really care because me and my man Malcolm was in there like swimwear! And, whoa! Patti (I’m spending a lot of time on Patti, right?) was like porno. She’d gobble you whole (yup, you guessed it, no easy feat in regard to a Big Bobster like me), and she blew you ’til your eyes rolled. I mean, ’til you couldn’t stand it, ’til you just snatched her up and hammered with as much passion and stamina as you had—her reward—whatever she wanted, however, ate fur burger even if you didn’t like it, and I hated it, but did it, like, every time! Patti! One time when we were doggy-style and diggin’ ourselves in the mirror, she noticed how much I was getting off on it and turned to me and said: “You like that big white butt, don’t you?” (Oh, Patti!) Patti was a sweetie, and she really loved me. And I loved her. I actually slept with Patti, and at that time in my life I otherwise rarely slept. As Milan Kundera writes in The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman). Moonshot W 23
So what happened then? Oh, I know, I’m such crap! I was feeling superior to her, wasn’t I? My crap education! (two useless master’s degrees!), “wannabe” me! and who was I? A damned usher and security guard, director of, count it, ONE FAILED MOVIE, a lifelong chump who was made a real punk by a vindictive creep (love of my life, ugh!), and there I was feeling superior to awesome Patti because, what? She had a Brooklyn accent, designed lingerie, thought my dumb ass was Malcolm X? (Oh, and did I mention that Patti was an aficionado of classical and jazz music? I mean, none of that “high art” nonsense; you should listen to it because it’s good for you, good for the soul. Patti was enraptured by Mozart’s hella-weird “Requiem,” and she turned me onto Mingus (whom I also thought was hella-weird), but Patti told me to think of his work, such as his “Haitian Fight Song,” as a “Fuck you! not only to racism but all those god-awful jazz clichés.” *** I felt guilty about leaving the job. I got along well with everyone. Actually I think I made it more enjoyable for them, including the boss, an old eccentric named Thoms who made his money from a variety of undisclosed investments but spent the majority of his time at the theatre, his disclosed passion. He took a special interest in me, and he clearly had plans for me—this, to the chagrin of the Caribbean theatre manager, Roger, who competed with (noncompeting) me for Thoms’ affection. Thoms was always chatting me up about the movies playing at the theatre, which he knew I watched repeatedly. He took me aside, whether I was busy or not, to elicit my opinions. I impressed him by pointing out how Gerard Depardieu’s desperate scratch at the door during the resolution of Tous les Matins du Monde was “absolutely breathtaking,” the most brilliant way for the remorseful music student to communicate to his obstinate teacher. “Scotty, I always enjoy speaking with you. You just see things differently.” I took that as a compliment. I also flattered him, telling him how I much I appreciated the way he ran his business, how warm and wonderful a working environment he created, and he was, like: “Terrific, Scotty, and you know you can have all the popcorn and soda you want.” White man! How ’bout a raise, nigga?! I wrote Thoms and the crew an elaborate resignation/ “goodbye” letter, going on and on about how “destiny was calling”—I was 24 X Eshu Bandele
off to Hollywood—and how they were “great” and “special,” and how it was the “most fun” that I’d ever had working. I didn’t want to face them to say good-bye, and I was sure that Thoms would have tried to talk me out of quitting, maybe even offered me a managing position (poor dumbass Roger!), and perhaps I would have considered it. Moreover, in some ridiculous vein of self-importance, I thought that maybe the concession crew would be less content at the job without me around, and I didn’t want to upset them. I felt sorry for them, stuck in a dead-end job serving popcorn, sweeping the careless spills out of narrow theatre aisles. I believed my silliness made it more bearable for them. I decided to leave without saying anything to anyone. I would mail the letter from Patti’s after I was outta there. Roger, who seriously feared that I was after his job, was determined to give me hell on what turned out to be my last day there. Thoms had unwittingly set me up. Like a bad parent, he openly compared us, scolding Roger about how he could learn a thing or two from me in regard to his “people skills,” and so after Thoms retreated into his office, Roger went on the attack. “Where you from, boy?” “135th and Eighth.” (I decided to let the “boy” slide, thinking it cultural.) “Harlem.” He smiled after spitting out “Harlem.” “There’s something about you Harlem Negroes,” he said, shaking his head, lamenting our existence. Boy? NEGRO?! Roger kept me away from the concession stand all day, made me sweep out all five of the theatres alone (it was usually a job for three of us while the fourth manned the stand); he made me clean throughout the theatre, picking up stray popcorn and such, and finally he insisted that I give the bathrooms a “once-over.” (When I reminded him of the nightly cleaning service, he held that they were “too dirty to wait.”) I did the work dutifully, without providing him a glimpse of my annoyance, though I considered sticking his blockhead in the toilet after he stood over me and told me, with a smirk, and in the most clichéd way, that I’d “missed a spot.” In the end, I decided that he was too pitiful to be bothered with, and it was my last day—and to be honest, I didn’t mind doing the actual work. I liked that kind of mindless, repetitious working because it allowed me to reflect. I was more annoyed at being punked by him, or by anyone for that matter. Moonshot W 25
When I finally arrived at “check da bird!” a big smile captured my face. That made Aisha smile too, since I hadn’t been smiling as I worked even though she had been encouraging me with “thumbs up” from the distant concession stand. “That Roger, he’s a real stinker, man. I offered to do some of the work—we all did, even the FatNasty white boy, but he said you should do it, that you ‘like’ working alone. The stinker called you a ‘loner.’” FatNasty and Kimmy eventually joined Aisha and me in what would be our final clowning of the customers together. At first they all seemed tentative, standoffish, maybe embarrassed for me— maybe afraid they’d get a dose from Roger if they appeared to be on my side. I feel so lucky that in my last hour, the customers were forced to repeatedly check da bird!, endure furiously propelling lips, and Kimmy even said to one, “Just don’t stand there like you’re stupid, order something!” She turned directly to me after saying that. She was dying with laughter! As I headed toward the door, Thoms trotted over and asked me to accompany him to a private showing of a French new wave film that he was considering for the theatre. I told him that I would be happy to attend, and even though I had no intention of showing up, I was pleased at the opportunity to offer him genuine thanks. You like that big white butt, don’t you? I arrived at Patti’s place and found her in the kitchen preparing our farewell dinner—nosily frying chicken and, ew!, funky collards greens (hahaha!, had she assumed?). She was wearing cutoffs that barely cut off a third of that big butt, and certainly any blood that might try to circulate through there—and it was propped up on leopard-spotted high-heeled slippers that she’d designed in class. As she used a miniature pitchfork to prod the seriously frying chicken, I hugged her (really out of the sheer joy of seeing her) cautiously about the shoulders, afraid to subject her to third-degree burns, but in my awkward, careful position, I brushed against her bottom. A moment later, I slipped my hand in between her thighs and discovered her wetness (Why do I think of Patti as always being wet? My fantasy?). She smiled and casually turned off the fires, and, after imposing upon me a playful whiff of the greens, she proposed that we eat later. And so later we had to deal with my leaving: Patti casually stopped, pressed down my jimmie with her hand, and asked me with her most mischievous smile if I was, indeed, “Still leaving?” 26 X Eshu Bandele
“It’s a funny time to ask.” “You know, if we were married, I’d do this every day.” She released me and went back at it. “Every day?” “Uhn-huhn.” “Weekends too?” “Uhn-huhn.” “Holidays?” “Uhn-huhn.” “KWANZAA?” (Following her gurgled responses, on that one she gagged with laughter.) “Yes, darling,” and then she went at it more intensely, showing off even. No hands! Patti wanted to marry me? She was going to blow me for KWANZAA? (For which principle, Kujichagulia?) “I mean, I don’t know what’s going to happen out there. I mean, I could be back in a week.” She was quiet in response to that, and you could feel the tension between us. It was time for me to invite her. “I’ll write as soon as I’m settled.” Patti stretched out on the bed and lay heavily on her stomach. After a still moment, she allowed herself to enjoy the massage I gave her. “Too bad I can’t go with you. But I got too much going on here— school, work. You expect me to trade Hoboken for Hollywood?” Good old Patti. As I hugged and kissed her, and then used my thumb to trap one escaped tear, she ran thick fingers over my face and eyes searching for something within me. I couldn’t bear it, so I slid down and sucked her for even longer than she’d sucked me, and joked that I, too, would do it every day if we were married. I’d thought to make the obvious joke about “Saint Patti’s Day,” but it was too obvious, and Patti really didn’t like to consider our relationship in racial terms.
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E . K. G o rdo n
IF GAY MARRIAGE WERE LEGAL I’D BE DIVORCED TWICE, AT LEAST, AND I’D HAVE A HOUSE Celia, you know I would have gone down on one knee and given the four chambers of my heart to you in a setting made of the circle of all my years and you would have said no and I would have known sooner. I should have let you give me the VW, should have given you the cat. You know my family never asked What happened to that Celia? Five years. Did your father ask about that shiksa who blushed so easily? I still have the little Yiddish he gave me, still have him. Diane, I know you loved me. In Colorado, when we lay on that house of a boulder watching a summer storm cross the plain like a ship of lightning you might have asked what could not then in any state be asked and I would have said no and you would have known sooner. Thank you for teaching my brother to use your camera. Thank you for sending the pictures when he died. Thank you for the picture of him you keep in your mind. Kaki. Six tiny diamonds from my great aunt Helen’s ring, three to each silver band to unite us in the holy river of our state park campground where the current knocked us nearly over. A job the years completed. I call you X, call you often, call you friend. Not long ago I had a great blue heron inked into my back, for a big birthday I thought, but the blades of grass, meant to show the heron hunting in a marsh, came out an X over and through that heron’s heart, 28
divorce papers from a universe that knows we were married. I don’t do commitment that well I guess but maybe if I’d had the decorated hall, the layered cake, the guts to ask or be asked, to say no, yes, wait, change…. Oh what does it matter? Marriage equality comes too late for me. It’s a summer storm I watch alone on a boulder, calculating not distance but the alternate universes that keep remorse so busy.
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Ma r i s a C rawfo rd
DREAM GIRLS When I wandered around the neighborhood for an hour, chasing Mr. Softee trucks. I’m at a loss, I guess. My loss. How we’ll never be able to scream “Spring Break” ironically from car windows while driving down Frat Row again 1) because of the movie. 2) because of the date rapes that got it shut down. 3) because we’re women and we’re older and we don’t live there anymore. I have several favorite memories. One is when Jya and Marc and I were watching Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Marc fell asleep at the same time as Mark in the movie fell asleep, and the girl in the movie starts screaming at him, “Mark wake up!” And we were laughing so hard that Marc did or did not wake up. Another is when me and Seth were driving up Highway One and listening to Prince and a purple convertible pulled up next to us with a license plate that said, “Grape Juice.” These are the memories that I have and I have nowhere reasonable to put them. That same night when Jya walked into the room and said, “you’ve got the body, and I’ve got the brain” at the exact same time as Freddy. Girls are dying out. Girls are dying off. All these people yelling at girls in their bodies. All these songs about dying young like it’s gonna be so epic. But it’s just a trick to get girls to die off. Let’s make the most of this night like we’re gonna die young. Outside my window there are bubbles flying up from the sidewalk.
I was all, “don’t my highlights look natural?” Fell back into a pile of dead leaves. Tears getting caught in my fat, stupid lashes. My mom calls me to tell me that the NY Times says people are trying to think about Sylvia Plath’s poems more seriously. I’m wearing the Betsey Johnson dress that Anais gave me at the clothing swap. It looks 90s and also Matt says emotionally dark. Our bodies going numb/ we’ll be forever young. If your body is numb it’s important to say grounding things to yourself. To stay home from the party. Or force yourself to go to the party. When you’re thirty something special’s gonna happen to your body. Marc’s asleep and I’m awake. Marc’s asleep and we’re awake. Mark’s asleep and we’re awake. I am interested in my own body. I am
in my own body.
DJ turn it up. And up and up and up.
PEOPLE POWER I bought the earrings ’cause I was sooooooooooooooo bored that the boredom carried me into the earring store. I’m sorry to the giant antique urn. I’m sorry to the magic. That every single day I obscure by floating above the sidewalk in all black like a ghost on my way to buy the earrings. Every time you were above me it was like there was a spirit hovering over me. Like there was a demon inside me. I don’t know where you are and the search for you possesses me. The search for you is rattling in me. When I first met you I was like oh, I found you. Thank god I found you. You’re finally here, I am finally here. I am floating toward the earrings and I am pulling toward the world. The hot pink flowers like rich girls. Ripe fruit. Who sit outside all day with the flowers. I was so scared. I pulled the car to the side of the road. Where the Indians used to live. Where the insane asylum used to be. Where the white lady used to glow in the mist. When we were on our way home from Newtown. And I tried to smoke the bowl. I was scared there was nothing left.
32 X Marisa Crawford
J. Fo s s e n b e l l
ZIGGY AND THE INFINITES
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34 X J. Fossenbell
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36 X J. Fossenbell
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38 X J. Fossenbell
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40 X J. Fossenbell
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44 X J. Fossenbell
Amy E i s n e r
THIS WEEK IS NOT AN AGE OF COMPROMISE For this is the age of election. Much can be said but nothing is heard that has not been agreed upon. Still, we have to talk about the rabbit, if there is one. Hung from the rafter. You keep saying and Fox keeps saying there’s a rabbit hung from the rafter. But your rabbit isn’t my rabbit, friend.
Vale r i e Hs i u n g
BLACK TRUMPET GIG The bear approached me during my black trumpet mushroom gathering gig. I was young and easily influenced by bears. I had taken the advice of an old woman who was later found dead. The cause was a combination of dementia and optimal weather. She probably walked for a few hours and then grew tired and warmed herself in stillness, the weather a purple eye, one-eyed. A few miles away from where I’d received the woman’s wisdom, I came to a part where the edge of a highway touched. It was there when I’d to decide truly where to go that the dinky bear approached me. I was relieved it could not fly away as I met it halfway. I told the bear about a pain and then we shared black trumpets and the bear put the mushroom basket over my head to shield me from a dinky asteroid rock that 46
happened to land right where I was. A dinky bear knows a dinky asteroid and it was healing to wear a basket for a helmet at the behest of a dinky bear. After all, we were both banned from our own respective civilizations but we werenâ€™t going to dance right then or spend our whole lives with each other. The dinky bear gave me some crucial items, a whistle, a rain coat, mace, endless water. It knew I could not fly away anymore.
Jo d d y M u r ray
EMPTY, OPENED Spider eggs webbed to the trashcan, eyes of diaphanous silk with crazed, veiny networks, legs balled into a dot, dead or about to be. My open mouth against the sun, teeth solar collecting waves of air, non-filtered, thinning. In your bag there is a wrapper. The wrapper once held something closer than it does now.
K at i e Wh e e l e r- Du bi n
IF SIGHTED You appear from the peripheral. You are nothing in focus, nothing substantive, you’re only the glimpse of a cat, running under a car or wingtip crooning, passing high overhead. You are not real because she does not see you. You have been eyeing her, tracking her for seasons now; she’s as real as it gets. You’ve been waiting for her to notice, but you remain nonexistent. If she were to remember you, she’d be remembering someone else. This truth is throwing its weight against your ribs, you are asking yourself, how do I become real to her, whom I want more than ginger or sleep? And if I’m not real to her, do I exist at all—does this matter—these eye-ticks, these clammy palm-lines? Yes, you want to dissipate, or melt, or drip into some kind of creature that exists for the subterranean, but you are freckled flesh and blood and you aren’t meant for smoke. Yes, this has made you head-dive into parking lot stains, made you bike so fast downhill, your tires burped and left the pavement, made you drink until such doubt could not find surface, it was ugly. You commit these acts of recklessness to convince yourself you are not just a pile, to remind yourself your behavior has repercussions, that maybe she will see you. She has not. You cannot exist on your own. Your identity is formed from a series of parental stories spoken slow from the mouth and Sunday horoscopes and gossip you heard from other people about yourself— your identity emerges from this composite of outside perceptions, continues to with each body you meet. How people have thought of you, how they perceive you, it is the only thing that matters. You are no owl, no fox. You are pack wolf, you are hive wasp. You need affirmation, and right now, at this moment in time, right here in this garage, you are seeking hers. To become more than shadow: to become a sensation within her memory, this desire burns you. You want her to cut your name across her teeth. You want her to feel you like leftover sauerkraut on her tongue. Wanting doesn’t do shit. She does not know your name or your face or your scent. Your talons are sheathed. Stop skirting the edges. Hunt her down.
Ri c k Wh i t a ke r
“LUCKY STAR” — CHAPTER 17 AN EXCERPT FROM AN HONEST GHOST David gave a great sigh. “But where are you going, Eleanor?” At first, he was so overwhelmed by her beauty, her charm, and her powerful personality that he could scarcely speak. Suddenly their eyes met, and she smiled to him—a rare, intimate smile, beautiful with brightness and love. Now that this handsome young man was proving himself a reality she found herself vaguely trembling; she was deeply excited. Please, David, she pleaded, you mustn’t feel so badly. We only want to make you happy, to make you finally you, David dear. Now he’s really in trouble. The deeper you go, as a writer, into the minds of your characters— the more detailed and refined your registration of their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, scruples—the slower the narrative tempo becomes, and the less action there is. I was in the kitchen fixing iced concoctions. I will not let any gloomy moralizing intrude upon us here to-night. I remain a while feeling deeply, or at least trying to feel deeply. I returned to David, and asked him in a low voice whether he would give me a kiss. “Oh, don’t be tedious,” said David. For now was no time for romance or enthusiasm. As soon as the conversation reached a certain level he would murmur: “Oh, no dreams and utopias, please!” The sense of love stirred in him, the love one always feels for what one has lost, whether a child, a woman, or even pain. But instead of being down in the mouth with fear, he felt elated by it, living, as he did, in a deep, violent and finally organic belief in his lucky star. His life has been an attempt to realize the task of living poetically. Poor, ridiculous young man. “He has a lovely smile,” my mother liked to say. And David did some adorable things. 50
They danced at arm’s length, their teeth bared in hostility. They attacked one another with obscure allusions and had a silly quarrel. “Do you think,” he said to her, “that I might come and live with you in your house?” When it was quiet, she turned towards him with a guilty laugh. She hadn’t said, “Oh, yes, darling!” but it was understood. “What the hell are you laughin’ at?” he asked. “Do not talk nonsense,” said Eleanor, in a low tone. What if, for some one of the subtler reasons that would tell with both of them, they should tire of each other, misunderstand or irritate each other? She spoke amiably, yet with the least hint of dismissal in her voice. “Do you know how many men I’ve slept with the last two months?” Somehow she managed to look sleek and disheveled at the same time. It left her feeling slightly upset and annoyed, first with him and then with herself. He listened carefully, as always, putting in an appropriate word or two. “In future we’ll do our best to spare Mademoiselle’s nerves.” The night was full of an evil she didn’t seem aware of, and he had failed to exorcize. They were young and seemed to be in a bad mood, but at the time I felt they had sprung from a dream in which good and bad moods were no more than metaphysical accidents. One of the defects of my character is that I can never grow used to the plainness of people; however sweet a disposition a friend of mine may have, years of intimacy can never reconcile me to his bad teeth or lopsided nose: on the other hand I never cease to delight in his comeliness and after twenty years of familiarity I am still able to take pleasure in a well-shaped brow or the delicate line of a cheekbone. She spoke of his many manly virtues, and extolled the human qualities which made him a helper of the weak and frail, because he himself was weak and frail. Kindness personified; very capable; dapper through and through; antique-loving. “The trouble is, my dear, that he has not yet found the right woman.” She really knows how to exasperate me. They agreed on all points, and aroused each other to a ridiculous pitch of enthusiasm over nothing in particular. “And now you are 51
going to have a change,” said Eleanor, with a condoning smile and a sense of relief, as solemn spirits on seriously joyful occasions affected her as they did most people. One of the three silver rings she wears is taloned, like an obscure torture implement. “Just like a mother,” he said. She is nothing but sexuality; she is sexuality itself. He withdraws again, nibbles her ear, moves to her neck and traces, with his tongue, the exposed part of her chest. Then there was silence; and a cow coughed; and that led her to say how odd it was, as a child, she had never feared cows, only horses. “That’s why I always like Englishmen.”
52 X Rick Whitaker
The following contains all of the quotes, in order of appearance, that make up “Chapter 17” of An Honest Ghost. Each quote is followed by the author who wrote it; the book in Rick Whitaker’s library from which the sentence was taken; and the page number on which it appears in that edition.
David gave a: E. F. Benson David Blaize 46 “But where are: Jane Austen Northanger Abbey 161 At first, he: Gilbert Highet Poets in a Landscape 26 Suddenly their eyes: D. H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers 136 Now that this: Henry James The Europeans 48 Please, David, she: Rob Stephenson Passes Through 30 We only want: Philip Roth Professor of Desire 192 Now he’s really: David Thomson Have You Seen…? 37 The deeper you: David Lodge Consciousness and the Novel 109 I was in: Victoria Redel Loverboy 21 I will not: James Joyce Dubliners 86 I remain a: Alfred Chester Looking for Genet 173 I returned to: J. M. Barrie The White Bird 98 “Oh, don’t be: E. F. Benson David Blaize 45 For now was: Sylvia Townsend Warner Summer Will Show 90 As soon as: Gustave Flaubert Sentimental Education 69 The sense of: Graham Greene The Heart of the Matter 225 But instead of: Jean Genet Querelle 181 His life has: Søren Kierkegaard Diary of a Seducer 11 Poor, ridiculous young: Gilbert Highet Poets in a Landscape 25 “He has a: Aidan Higgins Scenes from a Receding Past 127 And David did: J. M. Barrie The White Bird 9 Everybody is feeling: Gertrude Stein Wars I Have Seen 75 They danced at: Aidan Higgins Scenes from a Receding Past 181 They attacked one: E. M. Forster A Passage to India 122 “Do you think: D. H. Lawrence St. Mawr and the Man Who Died 25 When it was: Nathanael West Miss Lonelyhearts 38 She hadn’t said: Patricia Highsmith Tremor of Forgery 43 “What the hell: Paula Fox The Coldest Winter 51 “Do not talk: Ivy Comtpon-Burnett Parents and Children 19 What if, for: Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence 41 She spoke amiably: Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence 105 “Do you know: John Fowles The Magus 20 Somehow she managed: Paula Fox The Coldest Winter 42 It left her: Rachel Ingalls Mrs. Caliban 12 He listened carefully: Mark Merlis American Studies 115 “In future we’ll: Gustave Flaubert Sentimental Education 124 The night was: Patrick White The Vivisector 445 They were young: Robert Bolaño By Night in Chile 83 One of the: W. Somerset Maugham The Razor’s Edge 188 She spoke of: Charles Warren Stoddard For the Pleasure of His Company 181 Kindness personified: Glenway Wescott Continual Lessons 165 “The trouble is: Blair Niles Strange Brother 132 She really knows: Lydie Salvayre The Company of Ghosts 16 They agreed on: Charles Warren Stoddard For the Pleasure of His Company 88 “And now you: Ivy Compton-Burnett Parents and Children 276 One of the: Michael Cunningham By Nightfall 11 “Just like a: Hans Keilson The Death of the Adversary 17 She is nothing: Ray Monk Ludwig Wittgenstein 21 He withdraws again: Ralph Sassone The Intimates 35 Then there was: Virginia Woolf Between the Acts 3 “That’s why I: Fyodor Dostoevsky The Gambler 158
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Be n Pa s s mo re
THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE THE APOCALYPSE IS A LONELY PLACE
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56 X Ben Passmore
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58 X Ben Passmore
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Raua n K l a s s n ik
THE BABY I held your hand. The baby sits in the lilacs. And calls to the world which pours in like hard vomit. It wasnâ€™t easy. The Rabbis arrived. The night a bowl of milk, turned, into acid. I kissed your forehead. The baby laughed. It was a beautiful, violent laugh. A cauldron of boats, stars and crocodiles. A real broth. And they took you away.
THE BIRD You walked around and around in tightening circles till finally they drilled you down into a courtyard twitching like a crying river. And your dad says, come let's go. And your mom says, come let's go. And the world plays, forms, about you, more and more effortlessly. Footprints. Flares. And dust. It opens inside you like a thrown-up seagull. You are hanging in every tree.
RELIEF The last two children on the train passed from soldier to soldier at it rose up through the echoing hills. In the dark center car thereâ€™s a 500 lb woman who relieves the soldiers one by one. Gently one by one. Our bones splayed up in a swollen heartbeat. An old stone bathtub surrounded by a bunch of dark, smiling rabbits.
62 X Rauan Klassnik
Ni c h o l a s G r i de r
THIS IS A LONG DRIVE FOR SOMEONE WITH NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO Rest stop. Don’t starve. Beautiful scenery, beautiful gas station, beautiful candy bar. Everything far away. Everything not far enough away. NEBRASKA, IOWA, AND ILLINOIS He keeps driving. He’s still moving. Los Angeles to Milwaukee. 1800 miles. Not much else to do but get from here to there. Ignoring the local detail. Fixating on the pavement. Forgetting about everything, including whatever might happen next. LINCOLN, NEBRASKA Lincoln, Nebraska is a king-sized question mark. LOS ANGELES If he didn’t want it he wouldn’t have been there. He was probably asking for it. He maybe brought it on himself. And all this just about when he was supposed to leave anyway. Retreat. MOST OF UTAH The most beautiful minefield on earth. Almost wish you were here territory. Somewhere to live if you were someone else. Most of Utah means gasping at the ghost rock landscape and holding your breath as long as you can. RICHFIELD, UTAH IN PARTICULAR Both the site of the Best Western owned and operated by his biological father and the farthest he thought he could get the first day. Even pulling into Richfield still as far away from his father as if it were oceans. And yet you reserved a room.
DILLON, COLORADO Use the boxcutter? Or does the local Target carry X-Actos? Or no: you have an old X-Acto in the glove compartment for god only knows what other use. No need to do anything but go down to the car and then come back to the lodge and get to work. NEBRASKA Endless, nameless scenery. The beauty of the forever straight line. LOS ANGELES New graduate, fast learner, unwilling to leave, has to leave, gets nauseous at the thought of both. And a certificate in hopping bed to bed, in hoping, in taking what you can get. Honor roll in taking what you can get. And then what do you get. He had you down on the bed and your hands were tied. You let him do the tying. Or was it handcuffs? Details. Details matter if you want to tell the story but you don’t, can’t, tried and it didn’t work. LOS ANGELES Palm tree tufts against silver-gray sky. RICHFIELD, UTAH His father isn’t at the counter when he checks in but his father’s newest wife is and then soon his father knocks on the locked and chained door, and then when you open the door he doesn’t actually come in, he adjusts his baseball cap and folds his arms and leans casually against the doorframe, inspecting you. The first thing he says is so how in the hell can you afford a room. The second thing he says is looks like you’ve lost a lot of weight so how did that happen. LOS ANGELES AND MAYBE UTAH Where’s the boxcutter. Where’s the X-Acto. EASTERN COLORADO, WESTERN NEBRASKA He doesn’t stop to think unless he has to stop to be a person.
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LOS ANGELES And he reached down and played with your cock. As if. As if. DILLON, COLORADO Donâ€™t linger over an awkward encounter. Encounters. Donâ€™t let it get to you, again. He tries not to let it get to him and sits at the small table with his laptop checking his small amount of email but not paying much attention to its bright minor entreatments. DILLON, COLORADO A resort town minus the resort. Big, too. No visible corporatelooking buildings or factories or warehouses but a lot of commerce and a lake the town seems to ignore. Dillon, Colorado, in the middle of the Rockies, a solid hour west of Denver, a decent drive from Richfield through spectacular scenery, a resort town without a resort but with a sizable outlet mall styled somewhat like a Japanese fishing village. Time for a new shirt? Time for a new shirt. LOS ANGELES His face pressed down so hard into the bed that he began to see gray mist and lose contact with consciousness until it was almost over and he was partially lifted and pulled forward with hands dug in his armpits and told to open his mouth. IOWA Like Nebraska, but geographically closer to having to explain things and do things and shoulder certain responsibilities. Iowa like Nebraska but with a blue-sky dark cloud, but not as bad as Illinois and Wisconsin. MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN Everyone waiting. Everyone who mattered waiting. If you could call it that. WISCONSIN Irregular terrain. Mixed emotions steadily getting louder as you drive up from Beloit to Milwaukee along I-43. Moonshot W 65
LOS ANGELES, NEVADA AND SOUTHWESTERN UTAH An everything everywhere that hurt to look at and made him tight followed by a nothing much to look at that calmed him down and let him sing along, for a while. RICHFIELD, UTAH The third thing his father said to him was that no he wasn’t going to get anything out of him, especially money or a free room, that he got done being a parent a long time ago and you’re an adult so whatever mistakes you make are yours to handle. LOS ANGELES A mistake. Perfect. Almost perfect. Endless horizontal life, endless living, being alive, being somewhere instead of nowhere. Maybe not entirely a mistake. A perfect mistake. Millions of people and still he feels singled out for grim events but can’t explain why. LOS ANGELES He let the man tie his hands because that’s what he’d wanted. DILLON, COLORADO He goes and gets the X-Acto, he thinks briefly of his father, of being an adult, of making mistakes, and then he goes back into his second-floor room at the Dillon Best Western and closes and locks and chains the door and his body takes over. EVERYWHERE Noise. Fiction and longing and noise. RICHFIELD, UTAH (MAYBE) Maybe he loses track of what’s not fiction and still argues. Maybe his father died a long time ago. Heart attack. 1994. Maybe the Richfield, Utah Best Western is owned and operated by a nice Indian couple.
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LINCOLN, NEBRASKA Lincoln, Nebraska is an aftermath. An afterthought. A quiet nothing save a few minutes staring into himself in the Lincoln, Nebraska Best Western bathroom mirror. Fiction, longing, noise. Tomorrow the last leg of the drive. Someone who looks like you arriving at what looks like home. LINCOLN, NEBRASKA He’s too exhausted to do anything, to eat, to check his email, to care. Instead he pins down a too-big bed. UTAH AND COLORADO A postcard kind of unreal. No room to linger in the majestic, though, the desolate, all you can do is keep moving. LOS ANGELES Maybe that kind of thing happens to men like him all the time. EVERYWHERE Too much time to think. Don’t starve. Stop conjuring ghosts to argue with, alive or not. Stop conjuring men you can handle and just avoid men altogether. Stop conjuring Steve and Dad and Greg and Uncle Alex and stop thinking. Fiction, longing, noise. LOS ANGELES He’d met up with the guy before. He didn’t see it coming. Maybe you saw it coming during previous encounters. But maybe you had no idea what to do. Except keep going. RICHFIELD, UTAH Could be a town on the interstate with a Best Western and a mountain backdrop and the constant companionship of ghosts. Dead or missing or drifted away.
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DILLON, COLORADO X-Acto knife in hand. Enough work to get him to tilt away from himself for a while. RICHFIELD, UTAH Maybe his father just shakes his head and walks away. LOS ANGELES A beautiful car crash. A slow-motion explosion. An expansion of something. Endless. Nameless. Maybe you shouldn’t ever have been there to begin with. Maybe you loved most of it but the part of it you didn’t love was too heavy to lift. Maybe you’ll be back someday, solved like a puzzle. Answered like a question. EVERYWHERE He keeps moving. EVERYWHERE You keep moving, until.
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M i c h a e l Be r to n
BUZZ THE OASIS A Berber man contemplates the nod of his composure pounds his Marlboro cigarettes upon the Koran thrice in a cloudy haze of blue indigo smoke his eyes crossed up on kif wasted vapors of djinns reciting Rumi the bitter saliva remnants backwash from the waterpipe bubbles in his mouth psychedelic dyes frosting his beard with drool hustlerâ€™s scam quickens like kefta sizzling on a grill licentious odors entice dazed travelers frenzied tourists coming upon the medina chaotic forms brush by to the snapping lens catching henna on the eye whiffs of brutal dissonance a mirage of stench from the oasis a camel draped with rugs yawns reeks an onslaught of tremendous boredom then burrows into the sand
Ro be r t a Al l e n
FIVE AMULET STORIES To Ward Off Poverty The islanders rejoiced when Terry arrived on Kharis with an amulet to ward off poverty though the Kharisians never considered themselves poor and were unsure why they were rejoicing since they were happy living simple lives. That was before Terry, a charismatic trickster, convinced them that money would make them even happier. Immediately, dollar bills sprouted like weeds. Bank notes grew on trees. The money was fake. But to islanders who used only seeds for trading, counterfeit currency was as real as the seeds they now trampled underfoot.
To Ward Off Regret What’s that? asked Horace. Sally held in her outstretched hand a piece of nothing. At least, that’s what Horace would have called it if he had called it anything at all. Throw that away! You can’t just pick things up off the ground like that, he said. But she just stood there staring at it. They were about to announce their engagement on the island of Kiobo. But since the night she saw this amulet in a dream, she had her doubts. Throw that away! he said again, as her palm closed around it.
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To Ward Off Confusion No one was particularly concerned when Celeste put her pajamas in the refrigerator. But when she cut her napkin with a knife and fork during lunch at a fancy restaurant, the inhabitants on the island of Siroca took notice. After the meal, they strode in a group to consult Consuela, the Wise One. Sure enough, she gave them an amulet to ward off confusion. If you give this to Celeste, she said, she will be fine but her confusion may spread to all of you. What can we do to avoid that? they asked. Give it back, Consuela replied.
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To Ward Off Worry The islanders of Tivi Velu were worriers. They worried about their families, their health, their finances, their friends, their futures, the weather and every possible catastrophe--even those they had yet to imagine. One day a pelican arrived on shore and held in its beak an amulet to ward off worry. Some islanders worried that it might not work, others worried that it would. What would they do if they didnâ€™t worry? While the pelican waited, a debate ensued, so heated in fact that no one noticed the bird fly off with the amulet still in its beak.
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To Ward Off Aggression Savoy, the island spokesman, was engaged in the new culture of tourism on the island of Nilow. But what does Nilow have to offer tourists? asked the newscaster. We have snorkeling and diving, guest houses with ceiling fans, good restaurants, beautiful beaches. What about crime? the newscaster asked. He had heard about drugs, burglaries, murders, rapes, satanic cults and beheadings. That doesn’t happen on our side, Savoy said. The clan on Nilow who catch sea urchins to sell and live in huts by the water still practice “primitive” rituals, he said. What’s that you’re wearing around your neck? the newscaster asked. Savoy touched the chain with the amulet to ward off aggression. That’s how we keep the peace, he said.
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BIOGRAPHIES Roberta Allen is the author of eight books, including two short short collections, a novella-in-shorts, the novel, The Dreaming Girl, reissued by Ellipsis Press 2011, and Fast Fiction, the first guide to writing short shorts. A visual artist as well, she has exhibited worldwide, with work in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She runs private writing workshops. Eshu Bandele is currently an adjunct literature professor at the New School’s Eugene Lang College. He has two novels completed, and he is the author of three screenplays: World Enuf, Da Beast, and the Writer’s Digest award-winning Love Therapy. His work has appeared in Moonshot Magazine. Excerpts from his novel, The Ape Is Dead!, have appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Crescendo City and recently in great weather for MEDIA’s Fall 2012 anthology, It’s Animal but Merciful. Eshu lives in New York City. Stephanie Berger is the Executive Director of The Poetry Society of New York, co-founder of the New York City Poetry Festival, and The Madame of The Poetry Brothel. Her poetry has appeared in Fence, Similar:Peaks, Smoking Glue Gun, La Fovea, H_NGM_N, Coconut, and other publications. She published a chapbook, In The Madame’s Hat Box, on Dancing Girl Press, and she is co-editor of the new photopoetry press, #wtfislongsdrugspress. Michael Berton is the author of a collection of poems, Man! You Script the Mic (New Mitote Press). He has had poems published recently in Yellow Medicine Review, Line Zero, Legends, Pacific Review, And/Or, and Volt. He lives in Portland, OR. Marisa Crawford is the author of the poetry collection The Haunted House (Winner of the 2008 Gatewood Prize—Switchback Books, 2010), and the chapbook 8th Grade Hippie Chic (Immaculate Disciples, 2013). Her work has recently appeared in Fanzine, Bitch Flicks, Boog City, Delirious Hem, HER KIND, Action Yes, and other places. She lives in Brooklyn. Sarah Crossland likes to write poems about dead people, holiness, roller coasters, and love. The recipient of the 2012 Boston Review Poetry Prize, a 2013 AWP Intro Journals Award, and the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize, she is currently working on a book about disguises and forgeries called Impostress. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and you can read more of her poetry at sarahcrossland.com. 80
Amy Eisner teaches creative writing and literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Rivka Fogel studied poetry at Penn and its Kelly Writers House, that is to say, formally and informally, via forms and the breaking of form. You can find her work online and in print, in Little Red Leaves, at NJIT, in Peregrine, and more. She’s also in marketing, which makes sense, because Plato wanted to kick out the poets from his Republic because they talk too much. J. Fossenbell’s poems are hanging around at Short, Fast & Deadly, Whole Beast Rag, ILK journal, Everyday Other Things, and Wazee Independent Journal; essays and translations can be spotted at Radioactive Moat, Delerious Hem, Parabasis, Cerise Press, and The Word magazine. Originally from Colorado, J. currently lives in Minneapolis and attends MFA school at the University of Minnesota. E. K. Gordon lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley and teaches writing in the online division of Northampton Community College. Recent work by her has appeared at Salon, Moonshot, Viral Cat Press, and IthacaLit. Her nonfiction narrative Walk with Us: Triplet Boys, Their Teen Parents and Two White Women Who Tagged Along won an Indie Book Award. Love Cohoes, her first full collection of poetry, is due out in spring 2014 from CDD Books. As elizag, she regularly dons the persona of a slam poet. Her poetry has “won bouts” at Women of the World Poetry Slam, the International World Poetry Slam, New York City’s Urbana Slam and elsewhere. For more, ekg3.com. Nicholas Grider is the author of the forthcoming story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object) and his work has appeared in Conjunctions, Caketrain, The Collagist, and other journals. He’s also a photographer who has exhibited internationally. Born into a family of political exiles from Mainland China and raised between Las Vegas and Cincinnati, Valerie Hsiung is a poet, playwright, screenwriter, performer and musician. Her writing appears in American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Juked, Mad Hatter’s Review, VOLT, and other print and online publications. She has two books, incantation inarticulate and under your face, out October 2013 from O Balthazar Press. At the moment she works as an urban naturalist in the U.S.A. Moonshot W 81
Lauren Hunter is from North Carolina and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in poetry from The New School and works with the team at Telephone Books as their Managing Editor. Lauren is the co-founder/curator of the Electric Pumas, a reading series/ revolution in New York City. Her chapbook, My Own Fires, was released by Brothel Books in 2011. Drew Kalbach is from Philadelphia. He is the author of one chapbook, two e-books, and several poems in journals both online and print. He holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Notre Dame and writes about contemporary poetry and media for Actuary Lit. His work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Fence, Radioactive Moat, Cabildo Quarterly, Whole Beast Rag, Tarpaulin Sky Press’s The Magazine, and others. Rauan Klassnik has two books from Black Ocean: Holy Land (2008) and The Moon’s Jaw (2013). He likes to tweet, blog, and lives in Kirkland, WA. John Mauk has a Master’s degree in literature from the University of Toledo and a PhD in rhetoric from Bowling Green State University. His chapbook, The Rest of Us, was published by Michigan Writers. His forthcoming story collection, Field Notes for the Earthbound, will be available on Black Lawrence Press in 2014. He currently teaches at Miami University of Ohio. For more info, please see www. johnmauk.com. Joddy Murray earned his MFA in poetry at Texas State University, San Marcos, and his PhD in composition and cultural rhetoric at Syracuse University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 65 journals, including American Literary Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Bluestem, Texas Review, and Wisconsin Review. He currently teaches writing and rhetoric at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Ben Passmore is a Massachusetts native living in New Orleans. He was awarded a BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His comics have appeared in the Savannah District, NOBODIES, and the sequential art anthology Discovery. Ben’s illustrations have appeared in the South, The Raging Pelican Newspaper, and Recess Magazine. Written works by Ben have appeared in Artimus and on normalwords.com. He is currently working on a graphic novel called The Gospel of Tug Benson to be published by Slave Labor Graphics, and DAYGLOAYHOLE published by DRAWMOREINC.
C.J. Waterman has not found Providence though he lives nearby. He has an MFA in poetry from Notre Dame. Recent work appears in Deluge, Metazen, and Gobbet. Poems are forthcoming in SCUD, Whole Beast Rag, and Everyday Genius. Katie Wheeler-Dubin, born and raised in San Francisco, enjoys collaboration, ginger, lucid dreaming, and film projects. She has been published in Sparkle + Blink, Poets 11 2012, Carry the Light, and TheNew and has read at numerous Bay Area reading series, such as Porchlight, Quiet Lightning, Portuguese Artists Writing Colony, LitUp Writers, and UC Santa Cruz’ Literature Undergraduate Colloquium. She won the UC Santa Cruz Deans’ Undergraduate Award (2011) and the San Mateo County Fair Best of Show (2012). She pays homage to all indigo children following their hearts. Rick Whitaker is the author of Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling and The First Time I Met Frank O’Hara: Reading Gay American Writers. He is Concerts and Theatre Manager of The Italian Academy at Columbia University, New York.
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Published on Oct 16, 2013