Shoots and Vines Issue 4 October 2009
Shoots and Vines Literary Fertilizer www.shootsandvines.com Editor: Crystal Folz Cover Photo: Justin Heifetz
Print and online submissions accepted. Shoots and Vines PO Box 489 Poseyville, IN 47633 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Editor’s Note, When I first began this zine, it was to satiate a need inside myself to work with other writers. I wanted to read new, fresh work everyday because I had grown tired of the shelves at the library. S&V was born with daily showing a must. Now I realize just how important it is to have an underground movement that is dedicated to individual writers and artists, not just to sticking it to the publishing industry en masse. Even as online zines have taken off and proven to be a great resource for writers who aren’t getting the attention they deserve from mainstream publishers, I am ever more certain that print is what sustains us. My focus over the next year will be to put out as much in print as I can, keeping the online version alive for a daily dose. This will take dedication from writers and artists, as well, because I will be putting out master copies of the minizines and newsletters in the hope that you will also copy and distribute. Although this is a movement, it will never be a movement that is greater than the individuals. Many times reformation looks great on paper but doesn’t work when activated. But we are writers and artists, are we not? Isn’t this what we know how to do? Take from life and apply to paper. Take from paper and apply to life. Always, Crystal
The Wake by Charlie Daly I woke up on my stomach, earlier than I wanted to be awake. It was still snowing outside. I got up and found my tie. ‘Round the tree, back into the rabbit hole. After a few tries I got it right. Already late, I skipped breakfast. No time for coffee, I almost fell asleep at the wheel on my way to the funeral home. The icy roads slowed me down. I slid all over, just missing snowbanks and telephone poles. It was the day of Janis’s funeral. On Wednesday, she had died of cancer. I arrived at the funeral home. There was an old man outside shoveling the walk and sprinkling salt on the ice. He stepped aside for me. The radiators in the place clanked and rattled. A few kids played in the front hall until a mother herded them into their seats. The old folks sat facing the casket. Some women who knew the departed stood closer, their husbands huddled in the back of the room around a small table with drinks and crackers. One man took a flask from his pocket and spiked his coffee. People walked up one at a time for a quick look at the body. A few paused to say a prayer. Owen sat alone in the center of it all. He kept staring at his mother in the casket. No tears, no trembling in his lip. Mourners came to him with condolences. “I worked with your mother, what a strong person.” “She’s with God now,” another said. “She loved, LOVES you very much.” I pulled up a chair next to Owen. Up close I could see that his eyes were sunken. He’d been doing some crying or drinking or both. “How you holdin’ up?” No answer. “You know you can always come crash at my parents’ place.” “I can’t believe it. I don’t know how to feel about it.” “Does everyone... Do they know?” “I don’t know. It’s really over...I can’t talk about it.” I got up for a minute. His mother’s book club was in attendance. His mother’s friend, Jill, was there too. She knelt by the casket, rosary beads in hand. At one time, she had coached our neighborhood soccer team. She used to take us out for Mexican food after
our games, whether we won or lost. Owen had been clumsy on the field and had insisted on wearing a long sleeve shirt under his Jersey. Jill finished her hail Marys and made room for more of the faithful. A woman held her daughter up to peek inside the casket. Owen still sat, staring. I went back to him and was silent for a while. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wanna get out of here? Have a smoke?â&#x20AC;? He nodded. We left. I handed Owen a smoke. I lit one too. It was cold and the wind was picking up. We buttoned our jackets. Owen didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak. We moved to the sidewalk and sat on the snow covered curb. Owen massaged the raised skin around his last scar, a deep burn from the stove top, all across his palm. He rolled up his sleeve and traced the many cuts and cigarette burns that ran up his arm. He took a final drag on his cigarette and blew hot smoke into the winter morning.
Walking the Halls By Walter Conley I got so tight with My friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family His mother once invited me To visit Her youngest At a hospital upstate We drove for hours Chilled and winter slow Upside-down like astronauts Our feet Against the window Pooling blood Inside our brains And when I saw a reflection Of some headlights in the glass I convinced myself (And still believe) It was a U F O Oh, that hospital was Monstrous Set so far back in the woods Grout greening Between Leaning rows Of red brick and stone But nothing much at all like Christmas Except for the colors And sense Of not finding What I secretly deserved Then inside Where no one talked There was no music No announcements Just the suck of wet-soled shoes Leaving overstripped linoleum And wheels Awful squeaking wheels From carts Pushed by orderlies
With kids Who didn’t look like kids Just looking for a smile So we added Squeaking wheels Of our own By popping wheelies In stray wheelchairs Rock- and slide- and tip- and Laugh-ing, too From dark to darker Room to hall to room To Somewhere else And I panicked Thinking I was lost And never would get out While I can’t say where That dungeon is Or if it’s still around I often find myself Years later (Three good lifetimes In sick children years) Walking through those darkened halls Flipping every switch And Whole-heart wishing They could somehow know That I am smiling back
Esposar by Corinne Rizzo They found me wandering somewhere between here and there, you know, this and that. I heard that’s how they found you too, only you were in handcuffs. Did you know that hand cuffs in Spanish is esposas? Wife in Spanish is esposa. When I heard your story, I wondered why they were so closely related and realized that I don’t really have a strong grasp on the Spanish language so—they might be as far from each other as you and I are. Apparently I had lost a lot of weight. Apparently that’s a crime that no esposas can grasp, and so they took me in because I seemed light enough to just carry. They are always willing to take you from point A to point B as long as point A was a wrong turn and point B will correct it. Right now you are point A and I am point B. You said you like to invent states of being, but I don’t really believe you’re capable of creating any state of being that hasn’t already been. That was your crime and your wrists and hands were healthy enough for the cuffs to contain. It seems those were the only things about you that were healthy at that point. The report said anyway. That being said, I was wandering because I had to. I slept on the floor because I wanted to and I took what was given to me because I figured whatever you dished out, I deserved. The claustrophobia was caused by the ceilings, knowing they lead to roof tops. I wanted out from under that because I had never thought to do that before. I have always wanted to be responsible for my own destruction. You had been out from under a long time.
The Best by Anthony Liccione gave the greatest blowjobs on the block, in fact in town guys would come from all over to have her for the night, she was best known for her oral than her vagina that went away unsatisfied. she seemed to have kept humanity at harbor, a peace that came from the streets of war-guns and drugs seemed to vanish, for an exchange of intimacy when the boys would come to her door at any given time of the day with a smile and some cheap wine and stiff wood, they would come for the purpose of shooting for the stars.
I got up enough courage to knock at her door with aching blue balls, and a tremor in my nerves, it was the ninth trailer from the Circle Cemetery, that was known to where a black boy had drowned some years back. a blonde answered with an overly express of makeup, she came up to my neck and had huge breasts and said her name is The Best. I instantly looked at her mouth, the shape of her lips and coffee-stained teeth, wondering how many willies have wandered their way in there like a worm digging through the dirt to find ethopia. and about five minutes later, she emptied my sack of burdens,
in relief I was pulling up my underwear and pants, she wiping away the pearl river flowing down her face to the floor, that parted between our meeting of names and a bond of lust.
missing in Canada by Wolfgang Carstens when i was younger i stuffed some clothes into a backpack and boarded a Greyhound bus with a rail pass and no particular destination. i didn't tell anyone that i was leaving; i had no intention of returning - i wanted to disappear. as the bus carried me across Canada it stopped in many small prairie towns where i'd light a cigarette in front of shop windows and study faces on missing person posters. once i recognized one of the faces it was the photo of a young man who worked as a cashier in a gas station in one of the small towns in which we'd stopped. the man was neither missing nor dead nor in any kind of distress whatsoever in fact he appeared happy and healthy apparently the only foul play involved was his own desire to go missing in Canada. here is a man much like myself, i thought, as i entered the shop and put the poster inside my backpack. i found out two months later that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant - so not wanting to be like my own deadbeat father i jumped on a bus to take me back home into the city of my birth. as i passed again through that small prairie town i entered the gas station, handed the poster to the young man behind the register and smiled it's too late for me man, i said, but for what it's worth i hope they never fucking find you.
Lazy Saturday by Michael J. Solender Summer hangs crooked on the mantle, peach and plum stones run from sharp Knives. When is where come November July's fickle friend only Today.
Whatever Happened to the Cheshire Cat? by Stewart Grant There is a darkness in this play Words and rhythm Lead me down the wrong rabbit hole Wounderland has scars I don’t remember Alice doesn’t look quite right anymore None of this world smells familiar Pluck out my eyes rather than sully childhood’s memory Nonsense seemed much funnier as a youngling The need for sense and meaning burrow into my self Slipping slick tendrils around my brain stem I dance to their logical beats of Meaning and direction Purpose finds a perch on my shoulder as we walk Slowly back through the looking glass Too certain too look behind I slip into the warm embrace of the Madd Hatter’s 9-5 logic
EARWORM by Kate Powell Shine The knowledge of it hangs around like a man in a noose - the secret suspended between us - but how am I to ignore a corpse when it's singing the blues? Ever since I entered your confidence I've been looping back around on his chorus - melodies that hook into me, notes that slur and nag like an empty glance from a barfly. Now our conversations tap out the rhythm of a syncopated shuffle: avoidance. If only I could belt it through to the end I could get it out of my head, but it's not my song to sing.
All I Did Was Admire Her Aloud by Donal Mahoney Rogers Park, Chicago
“Quiet, please,” I tell her, “I want to hear the music.” She is sitting next to me again, this time on a paisley couch, a woman I met only this morning sprawled in a lime bikini on the Morse Avenue Beach. All I did was admire her aloud, and not recognize her age, and an hour later she brought me home with her. Now she is curling into me again and moaning at a remarkable pitch. Finally she spits into my neck what it’s about this time and every time, “Honey…I am…coming.”
Warsaw Ghosts by Paul D. Brazill A shadowy melody lapped at the shore of Krystyna’s sleep until she awoke drowning in sweat and stained by sour memories. The night air tasted like lead as she sat on the side of the crumpled bed, trying to flush away her doubts and murky thoughts with Bourbon. . A sliver of moon garrotted the coal black sky as Krystyna’s high heels clipped across the wet concrete, echoing through the deserted Old Town’s cobbled streets. Her breath appeared and disappeared like a spectre as she stood outside the Zodiac Club, its shimmering and buzzing neon sign, reflected in a pool of blood that looked black in the moonlight. Krystyna felt the cold metal in her fist as she slammed on the oak door of the nightclub until it creaked open. She pushed her way to the bar, breathing in the scent of cheap aftershave, cigarettes and booze. A sultry Femme Fatale on a Chiaroscuro lit stage whispered a torch song that sparked the embers of a dream. ‘Bourbon?’ said Andrzej, an oak of a barman, his eyes black as bullets holes, his voice like sandpaper. Krystyna nodded, took off her raincoat, and draped it over a bar stool. ‘Is he here?’ she asked, downing her drink in one. ‘Of course,’ said Andrzej. ‘Where else can he go? The moment he sets foot outside he’s a dead man.’ ‘Give him this,’ she said. The shining wedding ring rattled and rolled along the marble bar. ‘That could be a big mistake,’ said Andrzej. ‘I just want to get clean for once in my life,’ said Krystyna. ‘No one gets out of life without dirtying their hands,’ said Andrzej, pouring himself a large Jack Daniels. ‘No one gets out of life alive,’ said Krystyna, as she dissolved into the Warsaw night.
Bleeding Black Ink by Chris Butler Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m bleeding black ink through scar tissue tattoos, from branded barcodes imbedded in barren portraits, as silver spikes stick stinking shells, stitching separated skinless cell secretions, all for you to look upon this pretty picture and judge.
The Ladybug Murders by Nathaniel Tower On the afternoon of the seventeenth, I heard a gentle rasp upon the front door. One single rasp. I found it strange that the visitor would opt to rasp gently rather than use the doorbell or the knocker, but I went to answer nonetheless. My single eye through the peephole could detect nothing. Perhaps that knock had been caused by the wind or had simply been the product of my overactive imagination. Even so, I pulled the door slowly open, listening to the creak and thinking that I needed to oil the hinges. The visitor, had there actually been one, had left no remnants of his visit. When I was just about to shut the door, a tiny orange bug flew through the doorway and into my humble foyer. It was indeed a humble foyer. Other than a rug and an empty umbrella stand, there were no decorations or adornments to aesthetically enhance the appearance. Really, it wasn't so much a foyer as it was an entryway. "Shoo," I told the bug, but it listened not to me. It landed several feet away on the black doorknob of the coat closet. Before applying a forceful strike, I observed my guest, and determined it to be the small bug that most non-bug experts think is a lady bug. The resemblance is actually quite uncanny, but any simple-minded person with any experience in the arthropod knows the difference between a dull orange shell and a bright red shell. This was no lady bug, and this visitor was likely just the beginning of a much larger infestation. In quick anticipation, I shut the door. My anticipation had not been quick enough. When I turned back to the small beetle, I noticed a small flock had flown past my unobserving eye. I decided the best approach was to ignore the semi-spherical creatures, so I returned to the comfort of my suede recliner to watch the moving pictures flickering from the convexity of the television screen. An incessant buzzing around my head distracted me from the plotline and drove me to my feet. "Leave me alone," I cried in desperation as I took a few swings in the air. For a moment, the buzzing ceased and I again reclined. The ceasefire did not last long. Within seconds, the buzzing had restored fully, and I instinctively reached for a newspaper from the oaken coffee table. "Get out, get out," I cried, swinging the newspaper furiously. I didn't necessarily mean the diminutive noisemakers any harm, but I did want them gone by whatever means possible. During my careless swinging and flailing about, the newspaper struck one squarely from behind, sending it in a violent tailspin into the entrapment of the furry brown rug beneath my feet. Almost instantly, the rest of the bugs retreated, exiting the house through a tiny unsealed crack at the bottom of my front door. "Good riddance," I shouted before calmly returning to the reclining position, not bothering to remove the carcass from the floor. The ladybug poser laid lifelessly on the carpet, curled up like a fetus still in the womb. A half hour later, a violent poundingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;not on the knocker or doorbellâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;awoke me from a slight daze that had come over me. In a sleep-drunken stupor, I stumbled to the
front door, my bare toes sliding carelessly through the carpet, and pulled it open without bothering to first ascertain the identity of my late afternoon visitor. On the doorstep stood two of the bulkiest men I had ever seen, both dressed in the blue of the law. "Can I help you officers?" I managed to spit at them, my breath reeking from my open-mouthed slumber. "You're under arrest," the bigger of the two men curtly stated as he reached for his handcuffs. They did not wait for an invitation to step inside the doorway of my home. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or worry. Clearly this was either a practical joke or a mistake. I had committed no crime. I had simply been minding my own business all afternoon. "What's the charge?" I said with a slight smile that hid my fear. "Insecticide." By the time he had uttered the four syllables, I was turned around, cuffed, and slammed to my knees. "Insecticide?" I cried in disbelief. "But I don't even use pesticides in my garden. I think you have the wrong house." I gestured to my pathetic garden with a jerk of my head. "Tell it to the judge," the slightly smaller man clichéd before the two hauled me away, the door still standing half open as they placed me roughly in the back of the police cruiser. "You're going to let the bugs in," I screamed through the glass once they had slammed the door on my innocent body. As the cruiser began to pull away from the curb, a swarm of bugs swooped into my home and emerged seconds later with their fallen comrade placed on a tiny stretcher. In disbelief, I tried to scratch my head, but with my hands cuffed, I was forced instead to scratch my chin with my shoulder, an act that did not at all appease my confusion. *** "How do you plead?" "Not guilty." An uproarious laugh followed. "Not guilty? We have on record you saying that you killed a small bug in your home on the seventeenth. You even described, in detail, the violence of the blow you administered. How can you now plead 'not guilty' to the charge of insecticide that has been brought before you?" "Because what I did wasn't a crime," I whined to the judge. “I simply killed a bug that had invaded my home. People kill bugs all the time.” "Sir, are you unaware that it is a felony in this state to kill a lady bug?" the judge asked under a short brown hairstyle. This trial was so archaic that I was surprised that his head was not adorned with long white curls. "No, I was not aware of that, and it was not a ladybug that I killed. Besides, that is a foolish law. People kill bugs all the time." "You are in no position to judge the laws. There is no such thing as a foolish law. There are only fools who break the laws." The judge's face turned red as he roared at me. For a moment, I wished I had exercised my right for an attorney, but I hadn't realized the gravity of the case until I stepped into the courtroom. I was surprised to see throngs of people forced to stand in the back because the seats were so full. I didn't even know but a
dozen people. I worked from home, lived far from any family, and rarely talked to anyone outside of the occasional cashier at the grocery store, but that was only to say “plastic” or “thank you”. How all these people came to know I was on trial was just baffling to me. It was even more baffling why they would at all be interested in my fate. "Well, regardless of the law, it was not a lady bug I killed," I said defensively, expecting the crowd to take my side. They murmured in disgust. Before I had even finished my declaration, a giant metal table fit for a large human body had been rolled out to the center of the courtroom with a tiny lifeless orange body resting in the center on top of a pillow of the finest silk. For a brief moment I recalled the swarm of orange bugs carting the dead carcass away through my opened door. In disbelief that this could possibly be the same corpse, I leaned forward and squinted my eyes. Upon close inspection from my seat, I could tell that a solitary fuzz from my brown rug remained on the creature's orange back. For a moment, I thought I even saw a slight imprint of news, but I couldn't make out what it had said, and I didn't remember for sure the headlines from that day. "Are you telling me that this is not a lady bug?" the judge sneered at me. "Ladybugs are red. That bug is clearly orange." I expected this would wow the audience. It did not. "And how do you make red?" the judge replied arrogantly. "I don't know." "Yes you do. Every human soul learns that by the first grade. How do you make red?" the judge violently pounded has gavel for seemingly no reason as he repeated the question. "By mixing red and yellow," I stated without confidence. "By mixing red and yellow," the judge echoed, emphasizing the word red. Clearly I was not getting a fair trial. The judge was distorting the evidence. There was a long pause while the judge either decided on his next question or waited for my response. "Ladybugs have larger and fewer spots," I finally chirped from my seated position. I had to come up with a strong line of defense, although I was certain the penalty would just be a small fine. "And when things die, what happens to them?" "I don't know." "Again with your lies. Everyone knows what happens to dead things. What happens to bugs when they die?" Again with the gavel pounding. ''They shrivel, I suppose." "Yes, they shrivel. Orange comes from red and dead bugs shrivel. Anything you would like to add to your defense?" I hesitated, which the judge took as a clear profession of guilt. "Has the jury reached a verdict?" "Yes, we have your honor," came a voice from my side. I glanced at the jury and noticed that all twelve members were wearing some shade of red. A verdict? How could they have reached a verdict? They spent no time deliberating. I was convinced now that this trail was clearly a joke, but nonetheless I stood and gulped, ready to hear my sentence. "We find the defendant guilty of insecticide, a crime punishable by death."
"Very well," the judge said. I started to chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all until I saw a swarm of tiny beetles suddenly emerge from behind the judge’s bench.
The Last Drive by Alana Dakin The frost-coated grass crunched Under our shoes as we walked to the car, The volume of our lungs revealed in white puffs Of condensation that twisted and disappeared Into the clear air like smoke. Delicate crystals covered the windshield like spider webs, And before the engine warmed the inside of his Cavalier We were both so cold we could only sit in silence And listen to the static of the untuned radio. We drove down winding, unpaved Appalachian roads, The black expanse of the winter sky exposed In flickering patches as we drove silently Underneath the skeletons of trees. Our numb hands bumped against each other As we passed the pipe, the sound of steel against flint Echoed by harrowing coughs. We spoke as if we had found the answers To God and Love and Life Like only young people can, Our words sliding back and forth Like Newton’s cradle. I thought we would stay that way forever— Two orbs in perfect rhythm, Two people loving madly under a February moon.
Good Morning Neighbor by Ivan Brkaric Piss in a plastic bottle I brewed and the smell, oh the smell. Late at night when you slept, I poured it upon your door. And in the morning the flies gathered as I passed by to wave and say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Good morning neighbor.â&#x20AC;?
On TV by Chris Butler The people on TV, aren’t like me. Oh, they’re so pretty, boney bodies costumed, for my easy amusement, and they’re so happy, sneering bleached teeth, canine fangs dipped bloody, but I can’t be like the people on TV. Oh I’m so ugly in the dusty screen, daydreaming of dreams where I’m not me. The people on TV, will never be like me.
THE WELL by Anthony Venutolo Now and again, all writers go back to the well - that place they tap into where inspiration and dreams are born. Like an assembly line in a jailhouse cafeteria, the well gave Hemingway his graceful brevity, it's where Dante Alighieri first drummed up that wretched descent and where Fitzgerald conjured his flights of fancy. Edgar Allen went there frequently but one night after dipping his hand deep into that chasm of creativity, he came back with something not exactly suited for him and was perplexed. Leaving, he passed William Sydney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry, who didn't look exactly thrilled himself. "I've got a collection of tales here," Poe said, "they're whimsical, optimistically charming and ironic. Useless to me." "I have something quite disturbing," O. Henry replied, "a ghastly poem tracing a man's slow descent into madness. Let's trade..."
Interference From An Unwitting Species by Robin Stratton He bought special ingredients to make soup for his sister who was ill but she recovered too soon and he performed an ancient releasing ceremony and watched them swim away. Years later it was discovered that vicious pointy-toothed fish were taking over the pond devouring all the other fish and multiplying swiftly and could live three days without water because of a rudimentary lung some said they could walk across land and they became known as Fishzilla. Man watched as Fishzilla destroyed its pond killing smaller fish without remorse and leaving fewer and fewer resources so that only the biggest could survive' and then they began to turn on one another. From his great height, man plunged hooks into the pond abducted Fishzilla and with oil of clove, sedated the struggling, wriggling, terrified creatures and implanted a device so that their position could be tracked then released them back into the pond and watched them swim away. And you can imagine the fish stories that were told and the other fish who refused to believe such a thing could happen. Where is this radio transmitter? I can't see it!
I want by Serena Tome I want to feel again without the pressure of responsibilities humping my back I want to experience midnight from a fulfilled woman’s perspective holding the moon at bay until the sound of ripples fade I want to dialogue with someone who can touch my intellectual hot spots void of implications of temporal vanities If, I don’t get what I want I would rather close my cage throw away the key because you won’t get me for free
Chord and Cage by Justin Scott Heifetz She is a spinal chord tacked with straps – Tissue on tapestry bound with a hair tie I am a rib cage pierced with a pledge pin – Mucus and marrow stuffed into a loafer We are nerve endings coiled in barbed wire – Skin caught between backpack zippers And standing amongst the backwaters – Bleak wash-up far from Atlantic shores Somehow we stay safe from the flood – Clutching onto a luxury sedan.
Found Photo by Michael Jay Tucker Shortly after her deathâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;she refused to give up cigarettes, even as she was on oxygenâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; you are going through her papers and you discover that she had only one photo of you. You almost over-looked it entirely (it was mixed in with her clippings, newspaper accounts, reviews of her second book) and it fell into your hands by accident. It showed, however, you at about age four, maybe three. In any case, you are very young and you are seated at the kitchen table in a booster seat. You are weeping. Your hands cover your eyes and your mouth is open. It must date from just about the period of their second, and in the end, final separation. She told you, in fact, that he had died, and later, when you discovered otherwise and sought him out at sixteen, your going to him was an act of real courage, rather like visiting the dead. But, how strange, you think, as you throw the photo away, that she had no pictures of you laughing, even though you distinctly remember being able to do so. But, no, only this. Your tears as bright and savage as molten glass.