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Shoun Otis-Editor/Publisher

Growing Strange Vol.1 Issue 6 Š 2008-2010 All Rights Reserved. Published by Shoun Otis. All other copyrights or trademarks are the property of their respective creators/owners. No reproduction of any content is acceptable without the written permission of Shoun Otis. Some content in Growing Strange or on this website may appear shocking or offensive and no warranty is made with regard to the suitability of this material for your viewing. Any and all suggestible ideas or comments made within the images presented that could be considered offensive or insulting are of the opinion of the individual artist and not of the publisher or website host.




Charly “The Citymouse� Fasano Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez Sweta Srivastava Vikram Ayn Frances dela Cruz Sherry Crawford William Tooker Chad Knapp

Front cover by Melissa A. Valle Back Cover by Chad Knapp


Sweta Srivastava Vikram

A Misfit Branch

It’s not that I find luck easily as pennies strewn on streets, so stop treating me like an alien on the brown-train. I know and love the man, loyal like the stars on a moonless night, responsible for my birth. My mother didn’t live in a hut with fifty ants and two snakes slithering and depositing eggs in her. My brother didn’t tear up the dawn of his youth by getting involved with gangs and guns. I can smell memories, sweet like cinnamon, of my grandparents while wiping dust from picture frames. My family built a fence around the swimming pool so the coyotes couldn’t hurt the smiles of my childhood. I didn’t choose it this way, but if it helps, we all own dirty laundry. Have you seen the backyard in my house of adulthood where soil reflects the color of my sacrifices and gender bias whispers to the tree and hawk: here comes another victim.


Sherry Crawford


Chad Knapp


Charly “The Citymouse� Fasano

When It Rains In Chicago

When Chicago rainsChicago Rains. The sprinkle doesn't last more than a few drops. One thunder clap is the only warning. Down pour sounds like tap dancers and cloggers battling in the streets. Panic! Streets are manic, Violence like a fire alarm. Pedestrians run for cover like they're allergic to water. Corners flood, Penny loafers and high heels wade through cross walks, The scatter and sprint of students wearing back packs full of library books, Guitar cases strapped to backs of bicycle riders pumping through puddles, Post Office truck puts the splash on people waiting at the bus stop, Taxis stalk soaked walkers, Rats scamper dumpster to dumpster. Streets are manic, All the dogs are calm. An old man sits on his porch stepsCane rests across his knees, While he watches the moist bustle, Taking in all the wet, Thinking about the days he used to chase the rain.


Ayn Frances dela Cruz

Vertigo I. A feeling of suspension as if everything hangs forward filled to the brim everything is water everything translucence splashing on weight. II. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie showed a man moving up innumerable steps. Why do we go up only to look down with such sickening certainty? We are nothing but gravity.

III. The Tower of Babel showed man reaching up, as if when you touch the clouds you touch the face of God. Everything touched by the wind becomes fluffy. I give you my hand where drops of water fall outstretched as if from a high surface. Going up, everything is steep. IV. I awake from a dream of surfaces. Everything touches me with certainty. There are surfaces that only water can level, and the body proves it is capable of catching what is left untouched.


V. There is a house in the middle of the sea and a boy who dreams of fishes. When he wakes from his dream of the sea, the fishes have eaten his eyes he will wonder why his feet are dissolving in water. VI. I know of sadness that corrodes the heart, black acid that embitters the lungs. Vertigo, vertigo, My mind takes shape only to come up with an image of you. VII. Shrouded in wind I alone am heavy. All that is free, is free in this breath. The I that no longer cares. So vertigo is a myth. And only these feet are real. VIII. Sunspotted I blink back the stain of years.


Sherry Crawford


Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez


I was wrestling with religion and its relevance to diaspora when it hit me: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if a Mexican Cardinal were elected Pope? The entire sketch just wrote itself. Hysterical masses of Mexicans crying

Viva Santo Papi! Viva Santo Papi! as the newly-christened Most Holy Father El Tigre VI waved to his children across the world most of them residing in L.A. County now with children of their own. I was at historic pilgrimages in container vans before I realized: Religion equals Pope. Diaspora equals Mexicans. It was too linear for a laugh. It was too obvious to be funny.


Chad Knapp


Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Astray is this thought

like the female stray dog under the manhole near grandma’s house on the ancient streets of saliva and rocks - surviving on torn pieces of bread pity left for her – every cry muted by the stars. Should I ignore the thought like others with fingers and toes assuming that it might bite or should I dive into the pool of my schedule and analyze why my brain had an illegitimate child?


William Tooker Misleading Lizzie

Back in My San Francisco days I had a roommate named Dave. Dave was a good guy if a bit empty in the head sometimes. He stood about 6 ‘5 and was missing all but about three teeth. Dave, while a fascinating character, is not the point of this story. This is more of a story about an evening when he was out and I received a call from his little sister Lizzie. Lizzie was sort of fascinating in herself she was somewhere around 6 feet tall and ran marathons all the time. She was worth a few million dollars and was also, regrettably autistic. Sometimes if you ran into her casually it was hard to tell she had that handicap, she seemed a little odd but not so very out of it as she was in her more intense moments. Once a year there was some insane family drama based around Lizzie’s bad day like the time Dave went missing for a couple days because Lizzie had gotten depressed and wacked herself in the face as hard as she could with an iron skillet. She threatened to do herself in because Dave didn’t pay her the agreed upon $2 for doing his laundry (yes, I said worth a couple million dollars just with no concept of money) and the list goes on and on. This one particular evening I was home reading and the phone rings. I picked it up and it was Lizzie sounding distressed. “Is David there?” ”No, he’s out on a date.” She immediately hung up. So, five minutes later the phone rings again. ”Hello.” ”Is David there?” This time there’s a tremble in her voice. ”Nope, still on that date. He’ll probably be out past midnight if he comes home at all.” ”Oooooh God!” and she hangs up. So, fifteen minutes later the phone rings again, “hello Lizzie.” ”Is David home?” “No. He’s still on his date. You know, sometimes he calls home to check in. Can I give him a message for you?” ”Oh no,” she half sobs, “I’m just going to kill myself.” Now I know full well she means it. She means it every time she says it, but from the stories I also know that she can be distracted from it. Understand, I don’t especially want to entangle myself in the life of Dave’s crazy sister but I just know I won’t be able to live with myself if I hear she’s dead the next day, so I decide to see if I can defuse her. ”Kill yourself, huh? You don’t say. What makes you want to do that?” ”I deserve to die,” she shrieks at me. “I just don’t deserve to live!” You’re probably thinking like I did, that explanation was on the vague side and not really much to work with. Those of you who know me will be familiar with my helpful conciliatory response. “No, you don’t deserve to die Lizzie. There is a list of people in this world who deserve to die and you’re not on it. I promise you.” The pause that came did not right away tip me off to what I had done. In no way did I think that my off hand attempt to console her had derailed me into the wacky fantasy land I had just stepped into. “How do you know I’m not on the list,” came the tentative reply. 16

That’s when it occurred to me that hyperbole was lost on Lizzie. I was certain that in this fragile state I did not want her to think I was making fun of her by trying to explain that the list was just a metaphor. ”There’s this guy I used to work with and he sees the list all the time. If you’d been on there I’m sure he would have mentioned it.” My hand was on my forehead and ‘what the hell are you doing?’ kept running through my head. ”I should be on that list!” ”Well, you’re not…what can I say!” There was a heavy sigh and Lizzie muttered to herself for a minute and then came back with, “Well, what do I have to do to get on the list?” Really, in context, it was a reasonable question. What would you have to do to get on such a list? Shoot up a McDonalds? Telemarketing? A lot of my usual smart ass answers ran through the filter but I decided that I didn’t need to be aiming this ticking bomb at anyone so I went with a simple solution. ”Well, you have to go to where they keep the list and apply. You’ve got to have references of people who think you deserve to die, and fill out tons of paperwork it’s a real pain.” Lizzie, not to be deterred, “Well, where do they keep this list?” “Bogotá,” I said. It was the first remote sounding place I could think of, “there’s this room in the basement of city hall where you have to go and show them ID and everything. There’s like a 6 month wait…it’s a real hassle.” “Well, if I tell your friend I know you could he get me in?” I’m thinking, this girl REALLY wants to die. She is going to figure out a way to get on this list come hell or high water. ”Lizzie, I am not going to tell him to get you on the list. You’re a nice girl and you don’t deserve to die!” ”I’m going to get on that list and you can’t stop me! I’m going to Bogotá and marching into that room and making them put me on that list and I don’t care how long it takes me!” Then, having been given my comeuppance, she slams the phone down. At this point, I don’t really know what I’ve done. She was pissed, that much was clear. Lizzie was one pissed off Autistic Amazon and I didn’t know if there was another self inflicted skillet to the face makeover coming or not. I got this kind of sick dread that in trying to help I had done a really bad thing. It just so happened that Dave did call to check in about an hour later. This was the mid 90’s and not everyone had cell phones yet, they were still kind of a rich kid’s toy. And Dave, though he was close to money, never actually had any money. ”Hey man,” he said when I picked up the phone,” did Lauren call?” Lauren was Dave’s pseudo girlfriend, they had the relationship Shirley and Carmine had on Laverne and Shirley. But she was always trying to bust him with other girls. She was a bossy Philippine woman who allegedly wrote some smutty TV scripts for HBO or Skinemax…one of those. “No, but your sister called and I think I may have done a bad thing.” So, I explained to my roommate how his autistic sister had declared her intention to climb every mountain to get to Bogotá and find some fictional list in the basement of some government building. After he caught his breath from laughing about it, he assured me that it was fine and he was sure everything was all right. He didn’t come home that night, but the next afternoon he showed up and walked in the door with this huge grin. “What,” This was one of those bemused smiles he saved for buttering me up for cash. “I stopped by my parent’s house this morning.” “Yeah? Did Lizzie flip out last night?” 17

“No,” he drawled, I could tell he was savoring it. “I guess she was upset early and about ten she came downstairs very calm.” ”Oh, well that’s good.” ”Yes, she started asking questions about our family trip to Hawaii this Christmas.” He was already starting to giggle. “Okay Dave,” I said, “drop the other shoe.” ”Then she casually asked my mother what the penalty would be if someone were to try and hijack the plane to Bogotá.” “Oh for fucks sake.” At this, he burst out into a full blown belly laugh. He holds his giant hand up in the air and shakes his head. “I told my parents what happened last night and they were still laughing when I left. They want you to come by for a barbecue.” So, in the end, Lizzie did not end up killing herself or hijacking any aircraft. I did hear, however, that she did ask the flight attendant if there would be any layovers in Columbia.


Sherry Crawford


Charly “The Citymouse� Fasano

Mommy's Eyes

He has the best beard and creepiest glare on Colfax Avenue. He has his mother's high cheek bones and deep set eyes. All white Hypnotic Seem bleached Reflect sun rays Glow under street lamps Look like flash lights playing tag in the dark. He stares through people like he's stealing their DNA. Holds a sign that says, "Too ugly to work, too pretty to be ignored" More eyes than brain, Set deep against the back of his skull, Can see inside his head, Can't tell what he's thinking.


Chad Knapp


Asterio Enrico N. Gutirrez


Science is racist, I tell you. What they want to sound dangerous, they prefix ‘African’. With a word, fever turns fatal. Flowers, carnivorous and predatory. Toads, even more ugly. Even those so obviously deadly— As if lions had earned their title by popular vote. As if ‘killer’ bees still lacked that ‘possibly unsafe’ subtext. And the snakes, did you notice? The deadliest they twice prefixed: African, Black, Mamba. But you see, if they were so dangerous, why do I only have African classmates in Theology? If they were so evil, why the devil take Theology?


Sherry Crawford


Ayn Frances dela Cruz


Form is only a function Of air, to give shape To a space that can contain It. Even the heart knows This reason, listen to it Beat, confined to a wall Of muscle and skin, taut As nightmares and as real.


This catastrophe Was started in verse- -the waves Loved the poets- -so


Chad Knapp


Sweta Srivastava Vikram

An introduction to My Self My well, an appetite thirsty for words. Seasons don’t affect my nomad hunger for dreams of a permanent address.

Wearing Weariness

Destination drags predictability though lines on the hands change like moods of New York winter.

Monotony meanders like train tracks - every stop, a pre-determined assassination of imagination.


Charly “The Citymouse� Fasano

Gasoline Fumes I remember laying in the back of a green Ford Eco-line van built in 1975. Must have been 1983 the first time I smelled gasoline. Nothing more American than the smell of gasoline. We were heading to Tulsa to visit Aunt Daisy. The sliding door was open and Dad was filling up the tank outside of Oklahoma City. Mom stood outside the bathroom door telling my brother not to touch anything. Gas was a dollar and a quarter. Free two liter bottle of cola with each fill up. Small truck stops like these were sprinkled along interstate highways throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It was called Stuckey's and they were famous for their rubber steak and cheese sandwiches. They had a gift shops full of t-shirts and nick knacks that proved to family and friends that we had driven to Oklahoma. Nothing more American than the roar of motorcycle caravans and tractor trailers off in the distance. Dad slid the door shut. Mom made everyone wash their hands. I pretended to drive our van from the back seat using a roll of duct tape as a steering wheel. Watching stories blur together at sixty-five miles per hour. We listened to 1950s songs on the radio and tried to get every trucker we passed to blare his horn. Looked at houses in the middle of nowhere and wondered why anybody would want to be so far away. Tried to count endless oil wells. Thought I could listen to conversations from phone lines if I followed them on the window with my finger. We drove everywhere. Rolled across most lower forty-eight states. Mom and Dad wanted us to see places most people only get to visit in photographs. That summer my brother and I got t-shirts that said we went on vacation in Oklahoma. Gasoline smells different next to an interstate. Nothing more American than an interstate. Nothing more American than watching America move.


Sherry Crawford


Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez


(after Joanne Diaz)

Then take away everything that is not elephant. - Japanese anecdote

Before he can cast cloth off stone-born conception the sculptor must destroy everything of the stone. With pick and mallet, strip limestone, marble, granite until nothing remains but chiselled torso, smooth limb, proud bust emerging from cracked amniotic slab. He must forget the stone’s history and ruthless raze temple to fashion idol, reduce city to rubble for hero to ride horseback. He cannot care for the ancient hands that came before him, river forming slope, blunt edges perfected by packed earth, accepting he can know truth only after destruction, find beauty in the wreckage of another’s creation, almost like my father on his birthday, ripping Mom’s delicate wrapping paper off his new George Foreman grill.


Chad Knapp


Ayn Frances dela Cruz

Mice The poet of beauty Sees mice at the table So white, and frail, Red-eyed, glowing How frequently through Opium eyes, I see Only what is on the other Side of me. That wall, So dark and dank and Locked with moats, only Mice can get through. What wall, what mice, What eyes gets through To you?


Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Realization I wake up. The bed sheet, cold from covering my limp body looks crumpled like my shoulder-length hair. I pull on it with one hand and with the other, rub my throbbing temples, hoping to trace back the happenings of the night. I remember snippets – pictures in the scrapbook of an obese seventeen-year old: colorful liquid swirled in glasses of middle class; music touching hips smelling flavors of freedom. A six-feet tall man, with body sculpted like five Greek Gods, smiling at me. I check my breath to ensure I didn’t smell like clothes in Mumbai monsoon. He pours his charm into my refills. A breeze. Adam & Eve lose humility. Stairs seem crooked. My heels poke the bubble of teenage desires; the moon, a witness of what the night was to bring. My comatose body doesn’t know right from wrong. I feel hot hands bite my limbs of innocence. And rest I blank out until the morning when I see the monster who stole the night, turn into the shadow of his clothes. Lips quiver, but we exchange nothing. A flood of shame drowns my youth and I wear a noose around my neck, a sorry note written with remorse. So you don’t become a wave of solitude, DadAdy, I don’t attend college rave parties.


Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez

S W I S S F A M I L Y P H O T O S So in this particular collage-frame I am five or six and apparently Caucasian. Holding up daisies I must’ve picked from the meadow fronting our chimney-fitted farmhouse. My older brothers are teen-aged twin sisters and holding hands by the Eiffel Tower like that, I would never have predicted a falling out over who gets the hardware store. Now it appears Papa is a cowboy. Of course, the way he fills out those dungarees, it’s clear he isn’t really a cowboy but an underwear model posing as a cowboy. Mom though, is convinced he’s for real. Why else would she be made up in her best Brooke Shields, her pretty mouth half-open as if whispering, Well hello there cowboy,

where’ve you been all my life?


Sherry Crawford


Ayn Frances dela Cruz


The bones came too late Tiny and Spandau were far gone Both caught up in their merry-go round Whirling, like a trapped dervish Both hands out trying to catch The sleeves of time. Tiny was Madness itself, racing like Flash Gordon outspeeding Himself and never quite Succeeding. Spandau held both Arms out, a gesture of mercy His bones regurgitating inside Him. The left-over vegetables Tiny liked so much, were left On his food bowl, while he like A whirlwind, a sandstorm, swept Away so much So much. At SM, weeks later, Papa’s hand Grazed the bottles of dog food, Which Tiny and Spandau Would never eat. Asking where they Were, he said “wandering The fields”. Late night, imagining I heard their barks, I opened the gate Only to realize they were gone. Papa showed me their graves, Buried with them the packed lunch We were able to ask from the butcher. At least they had something Those two fallen soldiers. Riding, riding (for what it’s worth) Eternity.


Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez


Mark-down tags on his first novel: scabs itching to be picked.


Ayn Frances dela Cruz, 25, is a lecturer at De La Salle University Manila. She is currently taking up her MA in Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Her recent work was published in Espasyo zine, Taj Mahal Review andSnakeskin Poetry Web-

zine. She has work forthcoming in Tangway at Tagaytay and The Tower Journal. Charly “The Citymouse” Fasano lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.

Asterio Enrico N. Gutirrez has published poetry and fiction in the Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian-American Poetry, Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, Sunday Times Magazine, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He’s also been fortunate enough to win a few writing prizes and receive fellowships to national writing workshops along the way. Sweta Srivastava Vikram ( is a multi-genre writer and marketing professional living in New York City. She is the author of two upcoming chapbooks of poetry from Modern History Press: “Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors” and "Because all is not

lost”. She is also the co-author of a forthcoming collection of poetry titled “Whispering Woes of Ganges & Zambezi” (Cyberwit 2010). Her work has appeared or is

forthcoming in literary journals, online publications, and anthologies across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, New Zealand, and Philippines. Sweta has held recent artist residencies in Portugal, Ireland, several within USA, and worked on collaborative projects with artists from Zimbabwe and Australia. She was offered a part scholarship for a workshop with the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation in San Francisco. She is a graduate of Columbia University. William Tooker is from Marysville, OH. And currently lives and writes in Denver, Colorado. Sherry Crawford Lives in Denver, Colorado and enjoys knitting, snorkeling, scuba, and macro photography. Chad Knapp Born: Denver Colorado Lives: Phoenix Arizona 33 years old Graduated 1999 University of Northern Arizona, Bachelors of Art and Education. Chad Works in pen and ink as well as Oil paints and Water colors and is represented by Art One Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona Melissa A. Valle was born in Sierra Vista, AZ in 1978. She has engaged in painting, drawing and sculpting since a young age and her artwork consists mostly of oils, pastels, watercolors and pen & ink. Her biggest influences in her life are her family and friends and supports humanitarianism beliefs. She has lived in North America and Central America, and has traveled South America and Europe. Melissa received her Bachelor's degree at the University of Arizona in 2000, and a few years later moved to Denver, Colorado, where since, she has been working as a paralegal helping injured persons. Shoun Otis is from Chicago, lives in Denver, and is going through his 5th regeneration. He has a thing for butterscotch. Growing Strange first appeared online in 2008 and is driven by artists and writers contributions from around the world. The issues of the magazine are offered for free @ Submissions are welcome year round and each new issue will arrive when enough submissions are acquired. Thanks for stopping by the site, and or contributing you wonderful works.

Please send all submissions to with a short bio about yourself. Thanks for stopping by!



Growing Strange  
Growing Strange  

Volume 1 Issue 6-Fall Issue