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Rubber Lemon Issue 3 26/03/2011


Editorial Ed Cooke Mat Coward, in his writer’s vade mecum Success… and how to avoid it (TTA Press 2004), reckons many a magazine struggles to put out three issues. But here we are at number three, and it’s all down to our wonderful contributors. Economy-size thanks to the folks who’ve stuck with this project from the beginning and recommended us to their friends. ere are as many reasons to write as there are writers, if not more. Here’s a thought that’s helped me a lot: mixed motives are OK. You don’t have to put finger to keyboard solely to glorify God. If you can write, or do anything else, for one reason and one reason only, you’re an unusually single-minded individual and I congratulate you. If not, don’t let it get you down. Writers are an egotistical bunch, but that’s because they’re people. Few things will paralyse you more completely than striving aer purity of intention. I’ve seen far too many people, gied administrators all, struggle to

organise the simplest church event because they are terrified it has to be perfect if it’s for God. If you didn’t get the message that you can come as you are from the New Testament or the Nirvana song, perhaps you’ll believe it when Natalie Goldberg tells you so. Her book Writing Down e Bones has gone through umpteen editions. Its subtitle is ‘Freeing the writer within’ and it deserves to be read, even though it exhibits unhealthy preoccupations with divorce and doughnuts. Goldberg’s contribution to human flourishing is to assure us it’s OK to write complete drivel. I don’t believe she’s advocating the publication of said drivel, though—an important distinction to keep in mind. You won’t find any drivel in this issue. Our writers have given themselves free rein, but they’ve also reflected on what they’ve wrien and revised it where necessary. We hope you too will find food for thought in what follows.

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e Big Idea Len Kuntz A kid from Burbank found the big idea printed on a fortune cookie, but it was wrien in a language no one could decipher, not the CIA or FBI, not even Bono. How people knew it was the big idea became a non-issue. Everyone simply wanted solutions, a silver bullet, because the problems of the day loomed gargantuan. Mobs clamoured around state capitols. ey carried magnets and pea shooters, sling shots and water guns. ey staged sit-in protests and waved banners saying, ‘We demand to know the big idea!’ On its strip of paper, the big idea grew faint from all the fingering, the passing back and forth, and quite soon the big idea turned into smudges and smears, funky fonts, so that Fed bosses were forced to hire mediums and Shamans, witch doctors from Haiti and Baton Rouge, Dr. Phil, though none could decipher even an inkling of the ink-worn message. Someone suggested planting the big idea in a field of rich, fertile loam. It was a zany notion, but odder things had reproduced. Politicians posed on planting day. e President said, ‘Today we did not bury hope. We sowed solution!’ People cheered for the cameras but eyed each other dubiously.

Years went by, generations. e field grew fallow, became a roller derby, then a mall, and finally a double-decker cemetery. Shock of all shocks: aer so many years, one season the big idea started to sprout. Making up for lost time, it grew at an astonishing rate, breaking through soil and two separate caskets belonging to ‘Jersey’ Joe Baldacci and Shelby Lane, as noted by their headstones. People of the world freaked. ey’d forgoen all about the big idea. ey’d been busy being on the planet’s last day, imaging the windfall they might reap if they guessed the correct date. Locals hurled rocks and boles, Molotov cocktails and apple cores. e armed forces aacked the big idea in the same, absurd way that they fought Godzilla and King Kong in films, replete with vapid commanders-in-chief and lousy special effects. However, once out of its pod, there was no stopping the big idea. Besides, the big idea was huge now, its stalk wider than the circumference of Spain. Some people in Bosnia started a fan club for the big idea. Textile vendors turned out T-shirts and sweaters. Men and women had renderings of the big idea taooed across their entire torsos. A cluster of smart, sweet children in an eastern village prayed for the big idea’s return, but even so, the big idea was

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plunging farther and farther away from to Heaven, where its arrival was awaited, earth at exhilarating speeds, soaring past where it would be welcomed and put to the moon and sun and stars, on a mission good use at once.

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Come Forth Carolyn Agee Like Lazarus I came forth from my tomb, but cannot unbind myself. My graveclothes have become comforting, their every odour, tight rough edges a reassuring rest. But one cannot breathe in tombs’ robes any but the stench of death from ancestors’ inanimate bones, calcifying cadavers whose sickly smiles exhale contagious oxygen to the quick. Fresh air beckons freedom of movement, fullness of life, if I can believe these thin strips of linen are not the only thing keeping me from falling apart. To be dead, to be awake, each moment held in hesitation is a grave waste…

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Aer e Storm Robert E. Petras Aer the storm I hiked the country lane to my cousin’s house, past toppled oaks, poplars and black cherries, leaves and branches strewn and scaered as if it were a summer autumn. An ancient white oak was upended, exposing its root- clump to the searing sun like a turtle on its back, waiting. Inside my cousin’s living room I stared at his matchbox cars arranged by year and model, at the family portraits on the wall, a new one of a grandchild, at the Tiffany lamp casting its amber glow on his black boots, militarily shined, in the corner of the room below the purple heart where his knees should have been. My cousin said it was the strongest storm he had ever seen. It was not the war or the accident at the steel mill or the automobile crash that took my cousin’s legs but from the sap that flows through the family tree. On the way home I bowed my head into the cold aer-wind, my own limbs creaking from age, but I could not complain. I would not complain aer the storm.

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I Carolyn Agee From loam, the dust of the earth. Rib bone. Redeemed by crimson libation pooling at the base of torture.

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Holy God, Reverent Plea Abbey Swanson I’m becoming impossible to please Longing, hurting Avoiding camel knees I lay on my bed and weep Large tears David writes Trapped in a distance I alone keep Fix me and leave me be Stay far away Come into my bed Lie prostrate before our God With chutzpah fearlessly tread Keep up the angels and heavenly hosts e persistent widow of whom He boasts Window open wind rushes over leaves rough Your Book I hesitate to read Plough me over Holy Spirit

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Cold Concrete Abbey Swanson Our black and white stroll Down sidewalk grey and cold Maddens this artist. Verbal palate of colourful words Turns grey. Feet avoid puddles As your wet reality Confession splashes in my ears. Imagination drowns In cemented syllables. Cold and hard beneath my feet I paint it and kick it. It remains grey Immoveable Freezing wind Breaks my façade. Aempt a joke as feet slip On slushy snow. But the hard stuff remains Firm under my feet. A whistle blows announcing Salvation from tied tongues. Mechanical centipede devours conversation On a track firmly set. Fleshy feet quicken home Before steel feet finish singing. Burnt orange thorax Taooed ‘Santa Fe’ Jack ‘Cowboy’ Kelly’s Ticket to freedom. Whatever I escape Concrete reality or bier cold -9-


Please get me on that taooed thorax. Fly me away from here Forever free from your confession. Freezing wind numbing nerves Ignorant of what lies beneath my feet. Blind to grey concrete.

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Geometrics from a Pharisee Abigail Knutson His oblique questions try to make us think the law surrounds us so that these people can stand on it to find God, as if arms outstretched can triangle with heaven. e crowds can’t hear his logic’s brokenness above roar of relief that gluts their ears. ey listen to us but can’t seem to change and then land squarely right back in their sin. His love, feigned bribe, spills hope into these sick, and somehow healing comes. Our silence means only that we know we cannot win out here in crowded circles, but we’ll find a straight line leading from him to his silence. Mark 3:1–6

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King of Storms Abigail Knutson Tossed in a cup so full of pelting rain I feared the sea had crept into the sky and pounced. No land in sight, just roaring darkness stabbed with intermient fire hungry for boats and men. I clasped the rope with stinging hands that slipped as though wet demons pried upon my grip and howled. Fear tossed and blind, I stumbled to the stern to find that one still dared to lie in peace and snore. ‘My Teacher, we are perishing,’ I yelled, tumbling to the rough deck slick with rain and tears. One look from eyes with lightning in their core seared me with shame as he stood to brave night and wind. ‘Hush, be still.’ e shrieking gale curled up into its shell and sunk beneath the waves and calm. In silence, we received the just rebuke: ‘Have you no faith?’ each man asked his own flesh and soul. Our eyes full as the sky beheld each face that watched the sea slink like a dog before Rabbi. Mark 4:35–41

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e Evangelist Rachael Churchill Jesus said: ‘Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.’ Lucas had spoken against the Holy Spirit when he was eleven, for a dare. Now he felt his unforgivenness keenly. Some nights he would lie awake thinking about hell. Other nights he’d lie awake thinking about heaven, and those nights were worse. His sense of condemnation lay heavily upon him, and he knew it was too late for him, but he could still save others from sharing his fate. He knew what it meant to be cut off forever, and this lent a compelling urgency to his efforts. He was a commied student of theology and apologetics, and he had led dozens of

people to faith in Christ. He prayed for people, too. He knew none of the promises about prayer applied to his prayers any more, but he reasoned that it couldn’t do any harm. He had prayed for his friend Jenny morning and evening for a year, and now she was a Christian. is comforted him enormously. He may be an object of wrath doomed to destruction, but at least he could do some good on the way. Sometimes, aer a long day, he would begin to wonder. Maybe God would see his tireless efforts, and have mercy on him. Maybe God would count his altruism in his favour. But he knew he was just fooling himself: salvation wasn’t by works, and he couldn’t earn his way to heaven.

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e Shrewd Manager Ed Cooke I am the shrewd manager, quartermastering glimpses of God to last me through the winter, striking bushel aer bushel from the debt that would have quenched the smoking flax. No more must you bake beliefs out of fancies like bricks without straw, no more make do and mend, fashioning blessings out of evils like serpents out of stones. I am the shrewd manager, one finger in the financial pages, the other probing the wounds in his side, finding too oen fresh air. I trust I have made friends with my reasonable religion, my comfortable convictions. I am the shrewd manager. If you hear from my master you are probably deluding yourself.

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Rubber Lemon issue 3