Pour Vida Zine 3.3 (Winter 2016)

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Table of Contents “Le Caveau des Oubliettes” by Anna Escher………………………………………………….p.3-4 “Driving Lessons” by L.D. Zane…………………………………………………………………….p.5-7 Selected Poems by Simon Perchik………………………………………………………………p.8-10 “The Necktie” by John Swan…………………………………………………………………….p.11-15 “an inner look” and “the giants rumbled” by Adam Middleton-Watts…………..…p.16 “Pansy” by Adam Wagner………………………………………………………………………………p.17 For all inquiries or if you wish to contribute: pourvidazine@gmail.com


“Le Caveau des Oubliettes” by Anna Escher The second glass of wine consumed in Le Caveau des Oubliettes becomes the difference between forcing yourself not to care, and simply forgetting. And forgetting is exactly what the silent Parisians with their knee length dresses come to do in this hidden jazz club. Young, beautiful people line up at the entry today, but some would have once given anything to escape its cement confines. The building was once a waiting cell for prisoners who screeched like owls as they were tortured and beaten in the stone basement dungeon. French counterrevolutionaries, sentenced to death, waited for La Guillotine knowing that there was no escape from the violent fate of Rue Galande. Once a wartime death row, this street is now home to bar after trendy bar. Rusting handcuffs dug into their wrists and one by one the war prisoners were beheaded as troops battled on the cobblestone streets outside. Two hundred years later, enter the Caveau des Oubliettes, translated for an expatriate American as the “vault of oblivion.” And a vault of oblivion it is – surrounded by thick European air that seems to sweat the steam of the metro itself. A midnight arrival is considered early by the security prison guard who charges 10 euro for entrance. The Latin Quarter of Paris is packed with silent people. Few are speaking, they are aloof, but they are there and they want to be seen. Cigarette smoke escapes downturned lips, slowly spiraling and evaporating into the ninety-degree air. They inhale these cigarettes and leave appetizers untouched, determined not to over consume. Try not to fall down the claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase that makes you feel like a suffocating giant, and make your way down fragile floorboards that creak in disagreement with your steps. Enter the dance floor, where a lanky French man smiles with his eyes and breathes indecipherable jazz vocals into a microphone. The Caveau des Oubliettes is still referred to as “La Guillotine” by the bohemians and young bourgeoisie who frequent it. Bare feet of straight faced women patter on the dirty floor in swing rhythm, bra straps slip down shoulders. Rebels were barred in these cages in between bloody torture sessions, and one by one, were dragged to the guillotine. Heads rolled to the floor, and now it is not certain if these bare feet scuffle and splinter over careless stains of 11 euro Bordeaux, or 200 year old revolutionary blood. The vault of oblivion is where you go to swing dance with strangers. No one in this establishment seems to know one another. The singer has loosened his tie and undone the collar of his shirt. His Adams apple juts out as if to bend the sound waves of his baritone voice that sings,


“Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa? Or is this your way to hide a broken heart? Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep They just lie there and they die there� He closes his eyes and shakes his hips where the tortured once screamed. Heavy breathing dancers illuminate the human instinct toward life, the tendencies toward survival, pleasure, reproduction, creation. One hundred years after the blood bath of the French Revolution, Freud argued an opposition of this human instinct toward life and pleasure, suggesting that human nature is governed by a death drive, a tendency toward self-destruction and a return to the organic state unbeknownst to the human being as death. We do not envision death as something that will eventually happen; rather death resides within us as we drink ourselves dizzy and let our eyes wander across the primal, red interior of the Caveau des Oubliettes. We all crave it and chase it and try to get closer to it before the 4am bar close. That is why these dancers grip each other and twirl, crashing into each other, chasing sex and life. All the while longing for the inexorable, irresistible escape of death in the Caveau des Oubliettes. The stand up bass player cradles and spins the large instrument as if it were his tipsy plump girlfriend. The drummer transitions into a samba. Patrons swirl wine and fade further into anonymity. Fingers grip partners fingers and they loosely separate and then turn, dancing front to back. They twist, chasing the organic state of nothingness that only love and sex can bring. They chase death, through each other. They kiss and the guillotine swings.


“Driving Lessons” by L.D. Zane “Your father taught me how to drive on this very road. And I had to learn on a stick shift,” Gertrude proudly proclaimed, looking straight ahead while riding shotgun in Ian’s car. Ian had heard that proclamation countless times—every other Sunday, in fact, for years, when he and Gertrude traveled that road to visit Ian’s son and granddaughter, her grandson and great granddaughter. Each time Ian would roll his eyes. Then, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster would say, “Really. Tell me about it.” Ian always talked to the windshield. He rarely used the title ‘Mom’ when talking to his mother. Ian didn’t like her, let alone love her. The feeling was mutual, but he still felt some obligation to cart her along whenever he would visit his son and granddaughter. Now in her nineties, and a widow for thirty years, Gertrude wasn’t sure how many more visits were left, and neither was Ian. He never pondered that thought very long, being afraid in which direction his thoughts might take him. She would drone on, sometimes for fifteen minutes, sometimes longer, but the story was always the same. The only difference was the length of her pauses as she searched for the right words, or perhaps thought about the relationship she’d had with her husband. “He was always so patient,” Gertrude would say in a halting, slightly haughty voice, “especially when I was learning how to start from a dead stop going up a hill, or how to slow the car going downhill, by shifting into a lower gear instead of using the brakes.” The only time she would look over at Ian was when she got to this line: “Your father would always touch my hand and say, ‘You’re doing great, Gertrude.’” Ian never took his eyes off the road. She would continue with a smile and a distinct pride in her voice: “I was the very first person who took the driving test on the State Police course, and I passed it on the very first try. I owed that success to your father—his knowledge, his patience, his gentle but commanding touch. There was even an article in the paper!” “I know. I’ve seen and read the clipping,” Ian said slightly above a mumble. It was becoming more difficult to hide his bored expression as he thought, exasperated, How many more times do I need to hear this story? Our responses are always the same. It’s like Groundhog Day. He continued to address Gertrude: “It’s the one you had laminated and sits next to dad’s laminated obit, in the hutch.” Ian asked himself, But where are the articles of me serving in Vietnam, or how I was wounded and spent four hellish months in a military hospital in Hawaii learning how to walk again? As far as Ian was concerned, there was only one article of value. “I would like that obit, if you don’t mind,” he said with a clipped tone. Gertrude always responded in a taunting manner, her nose tilted slightly upwards, “Perhaps someday, Ian.”


Then she would say no more, yet was still telling the story quietly in her head. Perhaps she just didn’t want Ian to know that much about her relationship with his father or, then again, perhaps there was nothing more to tell. But Ian thought he knew better from what he had witnessed as a child, then through adulthood, before his father’s death—the looks his father got from other women when he entered a room and his quick glances of acknowledgment, or the longer-than-expected hugs and kisses women gave him without any resistance on his part, or the lack of a response from his father when Gertrude would say she loved him as he left the house for work, or that when offered the day shift at the post office, he chose to stay on grave-yard—that maybe she wasn’t the love of his father’s life. Gertrude felt differently. She always professed that his father was the first, and only, love of her life. Gertrude never dated another man after her husband’s death, or removed her wedding ring. A confession Gertrude made to Ian, on one occasion several years after his father’s death, led Ian to believe that perhaps she knew more than what he thought, when she stated matter-of-factly: “I believe that had I died first, your father would probably have remarried within a year, or at very least, would have taken up with another woman—or women. And that’s assuming he didn’t leave me first.” Ian wanted to retaliate to that revelation by saying, ‘I believe you’re right,’ with an ear-to-ear-grin. But he held back, because he had no interest in continuing the conversation, as it now became apparent—to his great satisfaction—that Gertrude witnessed the same events. Instead, his only thought was, Let sleeping dogs lie. Ian had his version of the truth about his father’s true feelings toward Gertrude, and Gertrude had hers. Much to his dismay Ian couldn’t confirm either, as that secret was locked in his father’s grave and now inside Gertrude’s head. Two weeks passed. The next time Ian stopped at Gertrude’s house to pick her up for their Sunday journey, she was staring at some pictures of herself and her husband which hung on the living room wall. There were a few portraits: one of the two of them after their wedding, with Ian’s father dressed in his Army uniform, and another taken on their fortieth wedding anniversary, which was about a year before he passed away. There were also various pictures of them dancing together at celebratory events. She turned to Ian, and with her wrinkled, left hand pointed and said commandingly, “Please remove these pictures, Ian— they’re just collecting dust.” At first, Ian was shocked, hurt and angry, but hid it. He wasn’t one to wear his heart on his sleeve: How could she do this to my father? he asked himself, and closed his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief. Whatever his faults were as a husband, he more than made up as a father. He always stood between me and her when I got in trouble as a kid, and he was the only one who visited, or wrote or called me when I was recuperating in Hawaii. Not one lousy word from her. Not one. She never gave a shit about me and still doesn’t. It’s always been about her, or her fucking driving lessons.


The shock quickly vanished, but not the hurt and anger. He was sobbing inside, still mourning his father as his thoughts rambled on: I’m glad she’s taking down these pictures. He was too good for her. I’m surprised he stayed with her as long as he did. She should have died first—at least then he would have had a shot at being happy. I don’t ever want to see the two of them together again. Ever. Ian stood bolt upright, and was resolute in his response to her request: “My pleasure.” As he took down the pictures, he still found himself fixated on the image of Gertrude’s left hand when she pointed. Something was different. But what? Reality struck and Ian’s eyes grew wide. He asked flatly, “Where’s your wedding ring?” Gertrude reached into her right coat pocket and produced the ring, then went to the hutch and retrieved the laminated obit; a three-by-one inch article. Ian stood motionless, a silent spectator not knowing what to expect. Gertrude walked back to Ian, opened his right hand and placed both objects on it. She looked squarely into Ian’s clear, hazel eyes and spoke softly, but with a slightly aggrieved tone: “The obituary is for you. Give the ring to your granddaughter when the time is right. Perhaps she will have better luck than I did. Let’s go. And, Ian…please take a different road.” THE END


Selected Poems by Simon Perchik * Ice and the afternoon reaches shore the way each grave grows a far-stone and nights that have no ships, no barges and salt no longer beautiful –you come here alone to feel at home, naked sure the sunlight is melting flowing over her, darkening in the small stones that never ripen cluttered this sea with your fingers still wet carried off on a plank held close while you wait for her to become water let you drink and her mouth freeze with you in it. * Because rain no longer dries these finger-bones reach up the way all hillsides are forced open just to water a single fire with open eyes –are emptied by winds, pull the sky along letting it fall away as cries and riverbanks though every tree now is hollowed out –you are not buried here there’s no wood on the ground.


* Though every night is sand the slightest breeze stretches out on this rickety bedside table starts a fire in your chest :a single landing light and the smoke from some plane circling tighter and tighter, lost with you in its mouth as songs about waves oceans, butterflies –you need this beach –a waterline can save you now let you softly down, tied hour after hour to the widening stone overhead no longer the silk dress that opened with just your breath and in your arms the charred guitar still trembles when wood comes too close and string touches the pillow or your fingers.

* This grave gives thanks and it’s sad –her name hollowed out from the bone in your body not connected to any other though help will never come –your throat gave up everything just to dig itself in and yet this dirt still changes hands empties the Earth into a few small stones already a necklace for this headstone coming by to make her look her best as if you were going somewhere together dressed warm with flowers and kisses where your arm used to be.


* Tied to the ground this shovel relies on the heights though it’s your arm spreading out –you whittle off pieces the way its long handle shaped the Earth opened its slow roll-over for wood that will become a second sun yet February is already a single day warmer than all the others expects you to remember, dig till a hole rises alongside as a few hours where none was there before.


“The Necktie” by John Swan The necktie that I’ve purchased today, the type made of several small pieces of tightly woven hemp; the type bound together to form a rope, it now hangs from the rafters in my basement. Neckties like this have been mass produced for centuries, typically fashioned for men whose business it was to manufacture atrocities or else staggering levels of anxiety culminating in deep depression and a subsequent early existential departure. … You have to understand, my wife, or more accurately, my ex-wife, she has an inoperable brain tumor and it’s grown in size at a significant rate. Sometimes this will happen. If this were all a television program; if this were all in some low budget film full of actors that no one had ever heard of, I’d be made to laugh at the fact that the rate of growth of this tumor had only declined after it had put a considerable amount of pressure on my wife’s frontal lobe; only after all of the substantial damage had already been done. At the point of vomiting and complaints of headaches, I had not yet been suspicious of a tumor, but instead, had thought that we would be bringing life into this world, symptoms of pregnancy being what they sometimes will be. I later learned that damage done to the orbital frontal lobe can result in peculiar sexual habits, which would explain her infidelity in the earlier days of her ailment. No, that’s not why I left her. Truthfully, she had also thought herself to be pregnant. It’s peculiar to her case that she vomited specifically in the mornings. I had attributed the headaches to stress, and I didn’t know this until much, much later, after enough pressure had been applied to her frontal lobe so that she had developed dementia; had lost complete control of her ability to filter thoughts from becoming words, but she had also attributed the headaches to stress. She had figured that, in the event that she was pregnant, the baby would have belonged to another man. I imagine that thought to be particularly stressful.


It was, of course, all very exciting in the beginning. Yes, she was vomiting, and yes, she had severe and frequent headaches, but this was a chance at rectifying our worldly wrongs by beginning a family; by creating a potential force of good and sending it into the planet with our names attached. This was before I really knew anything about her waning faithfulness. This was before the dementia. So we visited our local obstetrician who, of course, notified us that she was, in fact, not pregnant. “I don’t want to worry you,” he said to me, out of earshot of my wife, after he had pulled me aside and into the hallway. And I’m not so sure that any of my college credits would have been very useful towards a medical degree, however, there’s a sense of urgency in beginning any sentence in that manner. “I don’t want to worry you.” He went on to tell me about the potential severity of my wife’s symptoms, providing me with a phone number that would connect me to a colleague of his who may be of further assistance. “Good luck,” he said to us as we left. I believe it was a Sunday when I finally made the phone call, the doctor telling me that he had spoken with our obstetrician, me saying, “I think that’s against the law.” He told me that he’d like to see us at our earliest convenience. It must have been the following Monday when we returned to the hospital for a CAT scan and it must have been that same day that the doctor said “I have some unfortunate news.” It must have been that same day still that I said, “Yes, Doctor, that is very unfortunate news.” He provided us with some pamphlets and phone numbers of various support groups in our area, and while I don’t believe that any of my college credits would have been very useful towards a business degree, just as they aren’t likely to have been very useful towards a medical degree, I do believe that pamphlets may be more effective than billboards in the field of marketing. They made chemotherapy look very attractive. Of course, my wife refused to attend the advised support groups, which, I’m sure, was for the best.


Probably, the coffee was watered down. Now listen: As the tumor grew, my wife became further and further detached from reality. As I’ve said, she had, by now, developed an advanced case of dementia; had begun throwing things at me from across the room. She began swearing at me and, on some occasions, attacking me, declaring me to be inadequate. Effectively, the woman that I loved and married, the woman who I called my very best friend, had become only a big bully. Maybe I am inadequate. Probably, I am inadequate. As you might imagine, this became quite a lot to deal with. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, under the guise that I was working late, I began seeing a local therapist who told me that I needed to live for myself; that I deserved to be happy. Well actually, he first said, “I don’t really know that I can help you, as I am a behavioral therapist, not a psychoanalytical therapist,” which didn’t matter to me one iota. To his credit, I never told him why it was that my wife had become so abusive. He likely would have been interested in that piece of information. About his status as a therapist: I don’t know that any of my college credits would have been very useful in the direction of psychology, just as they aren’t likely to have gotten me anywhere as a businessman, just as they’d be about as useful as shit towards a medical degree, but I do know that nobody cares what kind of therapist you are. Nobody even cares that you’re a therapist at all. I’m very likely to make more money in a hotel room, pretending that I am a therapist, than ever I stand to make doing what it is that I do now. And what is it that I do? Well, I’m a lawyer of course, so none of this really matters. All lawyers go to Hell. I continued to see my therapist and I continued to omit the same vital piece of information; that my wife was now clinically insane; that I was selfish, too


weak a man to deal with mental illness; that, essentially, I wanted to let her die alone. In turn he continued giving me the same pieces of self-indulgent advice. And the advice was good for me, in that, the woman, my wife, she may as well have been dead. It must have been a Monday when she died, that same Monday on which the doctor delivered to us such rotten news. Naturally, she didn’t physically die, though she may as well have. That’s what I keep telling myself. That’s what I keep telling my therapist. That’s not what I tell her. It’s true that my wife and I said that we wouldn’t part until death. We agreed on that. Actually, we made that agreement specifically on our wedding day. Though, what we did not agree on was our definition of the word “death.” That’s what I keep telling myself. That’s not what I tell my therapist. I sure as Hell don’t tell her that. So when my wife died; when she cognitively passed, I filed for divorce. I used my therapists’ words; that she was “emotionally, psychologically, and otherwise physically abusive,” and I cited infidelity and irreconcilable differences as further reasons for our separation. I left her the house, as she would need somewhere to die, but she won’t be getting any money. Admittedly, there was very little paperwork involved. We never had to step foot in a courtroom and attorneys were never actually hired, let alone contacted. How did I manage that? Well, I’m a hell of a lawyer. I don’t even think my wife ever realized I had left. Having just returned from the store with my new necktie, having just hung it neatly from my rafters, I’m in the basement now, readying for my departure and I can hear my wife; my ex-wife, upstairs, swearing through the halls, around corners and down flights of stairs at me. She’s telling me that her mother was right, that I’m only a monkey in a very nice suit, and all the while I’m only whistling and tying knots, tying knots and whistling.


I’m only thinking, “You’re not getting any of my money.” Maybe I should stick around for her deterioration and subsequent death. Maybe there’s money in it for me. Legally speaking, it’s too late now. It doesn’t matter. All lawyers go to Hell. For several seconds after kicking the chair on which I stand I can still hear my wife, my ex-wife, hollering and swearing at me, her nonsensical words bouncing off of, and bellowing into, the walls of a house that I pay for, and all I’m thinking is, “Please don’t let this necktie break. Please don’t let this necktie break. Please don’t let this necktie break. Please don’t let…”


“an inner look” by Adam Middleton-Watts behind the eyes of mirrored glass the deeper truths reside troll-like things that churn up lies in unwashed skulls “the giants rumbled” by Adam Middleton-Watts it was a day painted from faithful fingertips still air kind skies sun enough to kindle thoughts of walks without gloves hands dipped through the river's bright skin birdsong without lamentation and then it was gone a clash of suddenness and we looked to the gray flesh of sleeping giants roiling in the swirling dark of their long and brutal dreams


“Pansy” by Adam Wagner The petals of pansies are round—three in front, two in back, with exploding centers of color fading to a solitary border. Pansy petals are extremely thin, and such fragile life is hard to maintain throughout the summer heat. My boss refuses to grow pansies because they never sell— loss of profit. They’re too weak. Pansies are from where we derive the insult. “You’re a pansy.” Usually attributed to a weak, feminine man. * When I was in seventh grade homeroom, I sat behind Julius Turner. I slicked my hair to the side with hair gel, a perfect comb over. I wore a sky blue polo tucked into pleated khakis. Julius turned around. “You look like a pansy today. You’re so gay.” The next Saturday, I sat at the bottom of our basement steps with my Playmobile mansion toys. I wouldn’t answer my mom, yelling at me from upstairs. “Julius said I was gay!” She was pissed. I cried. Pansy.

In eighth grade, Jalen Welborne was openly gay. Julius Turner said to him: “You’re such a pansy, dude. Stop being such a fag.” Jalen punched Julius. They both got suspended.

* It’s a stereotype that gay men love flowers, and I’m a gardener.


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