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SLEIPNIR

paul ruffi n • lidia yuk na vitc h • jd sm i t h • he at he r t re sl e r mich ael wa ter s • ma r y mcmyne • ron co op e r • ron r i e k k i mih aela mo sca liuc • p o lina ba r skova • e r i c gad z i nsk i • chr i s tuthill • esteban rodriguez • pw covington • davis schneiderman alexan dru ta c u-zeletin • da niel d. m ar i n • l u ci an m e r i şca an n a ak ma htova • steve da venp or t • l i l l i an-y vonne b e r t ram

SLEI PN I R l i t /a r t s p a ce s

featuring art by izabela pavel joshua polinard raul vosandi ruth schnabl $12.00 ISBN 978-0-615-94377-0

51200>

9 780615 943770

1.1.

1.1


SLEIPNIR 1.1 lit/art spaces

Editors Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen Joseph D. Haske Robin Peder Andreasen Daniel M. Mendoza


Sleipnir

spring 2014

Contents Fiction and Poetry 1

Michael Waters Sixties Sonnet Tic Tac Toe

3

Mary McMyne The Birds Songbird Rapunzel Estate Sale The Bzou

9

Ron Cooper Return to Magdala

13 Alexandru Tacu-Zeletin A Hypothesis Experimental Science Claims Life Through Carcinomas By Way of Epigonic Parthenogenesis 17

Mihaela Moscaliuc You Ask Why I Buy Pineapples and Let Them Go to Waste Self-Portrait with Monk Lightbug

21

Lidia Yuknavitch Excerpt from Dora: A Headcase

27 Polina Barskova Manuscript Found by Natasha Rostova During the Fire


29

Daniil Kharms from Northern Tales Symphony no. 2

35

Heather Treseler En’tracter Vox Theater and Wien

39

JD Smith A Social Message Inquest Self-Help Section

45

Eric Gadzinski Eyes of a Dog Fool’s Gold Tattoo

51

Chris Tuthill The National

63

Esteban Rodriguez Equilibrium Diplomacy Zapper

69

PW Covington Requiem For Hunter Thompson Short Final (Somalia 1992-1993)

73

Davis Schneiderman Talk Dirty to Me The Social Evil in Chicago… Enter Key

83

Ron Riekki Towards It I Got a Writing Residency


87

Daniel D. Marin the collapse the patient how I killed myself match

91

Lucian MeriĹ&#x;ca What? (The Woman had a Dream)

95

Anna Akhmatova from Wild Honey Is a Smell of Freedom from Northern Elegies #4 They Don’t Understand a Thing

99

Paul Ruffin Black Gold

129 Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Steve Davenport At the Moment of Conception a Train and a Bird

Art Joshua Polinard Wind House Crocodile Izabela Pavel Landscape Country Landscape Raul Vosandi Sitting Ruth Schnabl Der Vorlaeufige Bruederlein und Schwesterlein


Michael Waters

Sixties Sonnet I have become handsome in my old age. “You’re cute,” smiled Denise, breaking up with me, “But cute is all you’ll ever be.” Denise who was so wrongwrongwrong, I miss Our Woodstock nights, half-a-million thumb-flicked Bics coaxed to climax by God’s thwapping bass, Hissing soppy Oms against the cloudmass. A drenched, naked hillside soulless and pure, Zonked, mud-caked, Yanomami, immature. I forgive Sly and the Family Stone. I slept through Santana, dreaming future Exes who might love me despite my rage. I have grown lonesome in my afflictions. I have become handsome in my old age.


Tic Tac Toe My son’s X’s resemble swastikas In his Tic Tac Toe boxes. Only four, He’s unaware of any history Other than his own, disinterested In a universe that doesn’t hold him At its vaginal and radiant core. I let him win once more, my wobbly O’s Each a contracting galaxy, ready To be rid of me. Futureless father… While a fathergone future gyres his way. 卐 卐 卐 † † † XXX O No symbol he pencils can make me stay.

Sleipnir—2


Mary McMyne

The Birds For the birds, is what her mother told her about the bread crumbs. For the birds, is what she said of the doctor, and her husband, and her marriage bed too. What isn’t for the birds, the girl began to wonder as she grew taller. What isn’t for the birds, when she saw them flying ribbons, straw, and nails into the wood. She had to ask, when she saw them pecking bones beside the water. Not even these eyes, her mother said, or these hands. Everything is for the birds, eventually, even you.


Songbird-Rapunzel In the Grimms’ 1857 version of her tale, Rapunzel informs the witch of her affair with the prince by mistake. They painted me an insipid little thing, nothing beneath my golden curls. Sing a song, little bird. Let down your hair. He said, she said. It wasn’t like that. The old woman stole me at birth from my real parents. I grew up with a kidnapper, an old crone who spent her days counting plants. My mother was lucky she only craved rampion. That garden was full of nightshade, henbane, black hellebore. There was foxglove, larkspur. I knew what spells the witch could cast. Listen to this song: the prince was my way out. I knew why my dress was getting tighter. It was no mistake when I told her of our tryst; her little songbird was singing an escape from her nest. They said I was miserable when she threw me out, but I flew from that window. My curls flapped like wings, and there was a song in my throat as I soared over the grass.

Sleipnir—4


Estate Sale Her clothes do not fit me. She was wire thin, a mannequin. I have no brothers and sisters. Seven black coats sway in the wind. I’ll keep the spectacles she died in, her favorite nightgown. But everything else, I tell the man I married late in life, has to go. On the card table, brooches, necklaces, faux pearls, an antique pin. The cold clear clatter of nickels in a jar. My breath puffing cold in the December air. Sell it all, I tell the man I married late in life, after I forgot everything she ever told me. Seven black coats sway in the end, then fly away.

McMyne—5


The Bzou Three times, he comes after me on the back porch. Three times. The first I’m just a child, pigtailed, six years old. My favorite show is Thundercats; my mother still tells stories about the Big Bad Wolf. I sit on the steps with a friend, eating popsicles. When he stands to go, I’m happy to stay behind and lick my popsicle, to feel the heat of the summer sun on my toes. Then he comes around the side of the house, the bzou, a hybrid of Liono and Big Bad, sharp-toothed, red-eyed, half-man, half-beast. I scream for my mother, but no sound will come out of my throat. The second time my friend stands to go, I sit up straight, ignore my popsicle. My skin prickles when I the door slams. I stand, the boots I wore in eighth grade pinching my toes. When the bzou comes around the side of the house, this time, he has become the American Werewolf in London, wild-eyed, long-nosed. He moves quickly, legs swiveling from great shoulders, his jaws opening in a bloody-toothed snarl. I run to the back door, cursing the knob that won’t turn, screaming for the mother who does not answer, as he lopes, red-eyed, toward me on the porch. The third, it is strange to be sitting on the steps at all. I’m wearing a blazer and dress shoes, bifocals I won’t need until my thirties. I set down my sticky popsicle to gaze, puzzled, at the yard I haven’t seen since my mother’s house sold. There’s the fig tree, the birdfeeder, the scarecrow she stood in the garden each fall, despite the fact that its arms were always covered in crows. Looking back at the screen door, behind me, I know that the knob will not turn, that my mother will not answer. When the bzou comes, this time, I will be on my own. But when he does come around the side of the house, he is smaller than I remembered, more man than beast. He walks slowly to the porch,

Sleipnir—6


apparently nursing a wound. He doesn’t want to meet my eyes. Look at me, I tell him. His eyes are bloodshot. He winces when I say, I don’t believe in you.

McMyne—7


Joshua Polinard

Wind from Tonalpohualli

Sleipnir—8


Ron Cooper

Return to Magdala from Gospel of the Twin Magdala was no different from scores of other decrepit fishing villages we’d passed through. The hovels, shops, and even boats seemed crooked like the backs of their inhabitants who labor daily just to put a plateful of scraps on their leaning tables. No cattle or sheep could be found. A few scabby curs eyed us from behind dusty shrubs. This place was so worthless that the Romans did not bother to patrol it. From half-dead hamlets like these my brother Jesus planned to gather his army to level the deadliest empire the world had ever known. Although I think others were fighting back their doubts, Mary was laughing and skipping with excitement as we got to the edge of the village. How could someone from such a desperate recess have the slightest reason to believe that God cared whether she lived or died? Nazareth was no better, and any of my moments of hope were soon replaced with hours of despair. I suppose that we had that in our favor—those resigned to this irredeemable life had nothing to lose by joining our ill-fated parade. Yet Mary was joyful. “There’s my aunt’s house where I learned to spin wool,” she said, clucking and chirping like a child with stolen sweet cakes. “Over there used to be an orchard that grew the fattest olives you’ve ever seen, back when Micah and his family tended it. See that little hill with the palms leaning toward the road just beyond the broken fence? My house is just beyond it. Oh, when my family meets you my Judas, my beloved!” She threw her arms around Judas’ neck, but he did not look happy about the upcoming introductions. We continued along the ruts Mary called roads. A group of a couple of hundred strangers usually draws attention, but the villagers here mostly ignored us. Dusk approached, and fishermen were returning from the water. Some cocked their heads and leered at us less from curiosity than with pity that destiny had driven us to their woe begotten land. Mary pointed out her house just as a man emerged from the door. “My brother, Samuel!” Mary squealed. She began to run towards him, but the man stepped back into the house. In an instant a stocky old woman ran from the house. “Whore! Why did you come back?” the old woman yelled. Mary


froze as the old woman grabbed Mary’s hair with one hand and struck Mary’s face with the other. The man who had been at the door came out of the house with two more. They yelled at Mary and the old woman. They tried to get between the women, but the old woman cursed them and yelled that they should help her “kill the bitch.” The oldest man yelled instructions that no one seemed to heed just as the old woman fell, pulling Mary on top of her. Judas jumped into the midst of the struggle. Two of the men grabbed Judas as a woman from our group tried to pry the old woman from Mary, who did not to try to defend herself. Judas broke free of one man and punched the other in the throat. The man dropped writhing to the ground. Jesus yelled something as James and John each pushed a man away from Mary and Judas while Andrew and I tried to separate the women without hurting them. Somehow between cursing Mary and calling me a demon the old woman managed to get her broken teeth around my hand. I yanked my hand away and felt a searing pain in my little finger. The old woman spat something at me that bounced off my face and hit my foot, and then she went back to calling Mary a whore. I looked down by my foot and saw a bloody fingernail. Judas slugged the man John held. Blood spurted from the man’s mouth. Two from our band pulled Judas aside as Jesus did the same with Mary. “Death!” the old woman screamed. “Did you come back to break my heart into smaller pieces and put me into the grave?” Tears ran down her face, and she waved her stumpy hands and appeared to draw in the air, perhaps tracing some kind of witchcraft signs. “And with this legion of whores and whoremongering dogs!” She hocked up phlegm from deep in her gullet and, demonstrating a technique with which she was surely practiced, jutted a rolled tongue through pursed lips, snapped her head forward, and with a thoo spat at Mary, fifteen cubits away. Mary ducked, and the glob flattened against Jesus’ cheek. Jesus did not flinch or wipe the yellow mass from his face. “Oh, Mother, do not speak to me like this!” Mary said as she tried to free herself from Jesus. “I’m not your mother! I did not birth a she-wolf! You are death!” I had an urge to laugh. This turmoil had struck us like an unseen snake, and I was taken by the uncertainty of things, by the blinding shifts of fortune that cancel out weeks of repetition. Which is closer

Sleipnir—10


to the ultimate nature of the world, unity or randomness? Hasn’t the story of Israel been a senseless mixture of the two so that we can learn little from studying the past? Is the proper response to shake one’s head and laugh, pretend to accept the fundamental instability of life, of history, of God? But I didn’t laugh. People crept from their shacks and sidled by us for a glimpse of the combatants. They squinted their eyes and searched faces and asked futile questions of Mary’s tight-lipped family. Only Mary’s mother offered clues, but her mad rant just produced more confusion. When it seemed the entire village had turned out, I saw Jesus say something to John, who scurried off between two shacks. Two men lifted the one Judas hit and carried him down the street. The man was unconscious, and his jaw hung limply to the side as if unhinged. John returned with a large, mud-covered urn, upended it, and helped Jesus climb up and balance himself atop it. “My good brothers and sisters of Magdala,” Jesus said. The slug of phlegm was still on his face. He must have left it there to make some sort of point. “This mother was unprepared for the return of her daughter. She has waited for her child, unsure of her welfare, unable to offer her the love that spills from her heart as from the heart of every mother. When love cannot find its true place and sits idle, it turns like wine to vinegar.” I expected the Magdalans to walk away or kick the urn from under Jesus, but they listened to him with implacable faces. “Listen: A man was plowing a field when he unearthed a jar. He wiped the dirt from it and saw that it was a beautiful jar with magical beasts in blues and golds painted on it. The man said, ‘I shall wash this jar and give it to my wife, and she will display it in our home and be happy.’ But when he returned from the field, he heard his daughter screaming. The girl was being attacked by a dog. The man threw the jar at the dog, and although the dog ran away, the jar was broken. As the man washed the little girl’s wound, he pointed to the shards of the broken jar. ‘Behold,’ he said. ‘See how the jar is now in its proper place.’” Our band all smiled, and a few wept, while the Magdalans questioned each other about the meaning of the story. “Was the man angry about the broken jar?” “Is the broken jar like the old woman’s broken heart?” “No, the jar is like Mary returning home, isn’t it?” “Where was the mother when the girl was being bitten by the dog?” “I think he just made up this story.”

Cooper—11


“Woman,” Jesus said to Mary’s mother. “Your daughter has returned to you with joy in her heart. She has brought to you her husband. See? She has given you another son!” “No! No!” The old woman screamed and hurled two handfuls of dirt at Judas. “You swine! I’ll not have it!” She stood up and lunged toward Mary but was restrained by her sons. Alone, Mary was a whore. Married, she was swine. What did the old woman want? Several of the villagers spoke to Mary and Jesus. They began to walk together, and Jesus motioned for us to follow. Mary’s mother yelled curses—“You will birth piglets from your polluted belly! Your husband is a goat-demon who lies with his own children!”—until we could no longer hear her. When the only sounds were sandals on the dry earth, I could repress it no longer and burst into laughter. Others soon joined in, and within seconds we all laughed so uncontrollably that we stopped in the road to keep from stepping on those who had doubled over and fallen. None laughed so loudly as Mary, who raised her arms above her head and twirled in glee. Only Judas refrained from the joy. “Mary,” Judas said, “how can you do this after your mother said such vile things to you?” Mary laughed even more loudly and placed her hands on Judas’ face. “What mother, my love?”

Sleipnir—12


Alexandru Tacu-Zeletin

A Hypothesis from Epigonic Parthenogenesis, or Biological Atheism The wondrous foundational deflection against entropy spurred the appearance of orbital eminencies: the EARTH and the SUN, and so on. In the celestial silence and splendor the being of Divinity ruminated on the successor to beatitude. and God made MAN in HIS form and likeness. In predestiny, in the void of the eighth day, pulverulent shadows of the detonating conflagration, imprinted themselves on the enigmatic peaks of the fresh being like ancestral vestiges. The immensity of time and the numeric quantity of happenings, fatally kept latent the templates of humanity sentenced to entropic shadows. In time, as they reached humans —their terminus— through networks of thousands and thousands of generations, they manifested lethally after certain collisions, organic intrigues and irreconciliations, within an orthoclinical subject.


Experimental Science Claims: a body shadowed loses its optimal warmth, consequently the vital palpitation. I feel as if I’m entering a mystery untouched from the beginnings of the world. I fear the dead that are picked like flowers for a bride who isn’t real. MAN is born a romantic, or, more explicitly, with the bizarre need to incite his being with the antinomies of greatness. The maddening whim takes shape inside a parasitical organ forgotten in the primal mold by the Creator, and abandoned to chance. When in his interior being man gets tired of beatitude, he lets himself lured by the temptation of the forbidden, like a restless child. He undoes the playful joints—simoniac shadows in filigree, the conch of imperceptible echoes: CAN I NOT BE MORE POWERFUL THAN GOD THE FATHER? The myth of that question became imprinted in the organs of THE FIRST MAN. Such a temptation overwhelms both the Creator, and the apprentice; in the case of GOD, for too much love for His masterpiece. Therefore, THE ROMANTIC MAN, in the kaleidoscope of humors, illusory, equals the power of his own PARENT.

Sleipnir—14


THE POWER TO GIVE LIFE completes the anthology of qualities, for every human being: Life through parthenogenesis. Life through sexual union.

Tacu-Zeletin—15


Life Through Carcinomas By Way of Epigonic Parthenogenesis. Man becomes the perpetual emulator of God, but, in all situations, against nature, incapable of capturing the ability to build symmetries, with the genius of the PEERLESS ARTIST! Dilettantism is punishable by nothingness. translated from Romanian by Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

Sleipnir—16


Mihaela Moscaliuc

You Ask Why I Buy Pineapples and Let Them Go to Waste Romania, 1980s This is that pineapple, western in beauty, hard as the country it rode in the belching Dacia, cozied in hand-me-downs impudent in their brightness. When they knelt in the German ditch, a quarter mile before the Romanian border, my parents wanted to forgive, the way they’d forgiven themselves, the decision settled like coffee dregs heavy with future. Defect save & send in time sneak in the children. Drive on unthink the West unthink dor bring home the pineapple. I imagine them there, in the shadow of words, fingers curled tight into each other’s palms, bare feet rooting the muck, the sun already west, nesting. Once he tore his younger sister’s only dress to make lampshades for his future wife. Once they buried flesh they knew their own, stuffed the hole with rotting apples. She fed him the must of her breast, painted his eyes with green colostrum. Later she would betray him and he would wail ca o bocitoare, break his wrist wrenching off the bed frame— but here, in this German ditch, details no longer matter, so they rise and push on in the Dacia groaning now through familiar potholes, the puckered face grinning in the review mirror. They’d almost lost it at the checkpoint, its unfistable heft lousy bribe material—You crazy, man? What am I gonna do with that spiky shit? This is the poem of the pineapple hatching on top of our rusting Frigidaire in 1985, darling kept whole for weeks by kids pouring in and out, the news of my parents’ visit abroad swishing like bucket water between the thin membranes of our prefab neighborhood. Children sucked in the tart air, stared hard, but never asked to touch. When hospital smells started taking over the kitchen, mother laid out the good china plates and father rubbed his palms


like a midwife down to business. You know what happened, you who know to core the pineapple as it peaks into sweetness, who can slide the blade so casually, as if it’s always been yours, this two for five dollars token of the exotic. The inside had collapsed into a vitreous mess, or so it seemed with all those bloated bodies trembling in and out of focus on the mute TV. Our latest casualties: How they’d pushed their luck, whispered love into the ears of the maligned Black Sea, promised hecatombs. How they were catapulted back to shore, nameless defectors discarded as shoe spit, ditch spit, spit on the clean-shaven face of (Ceauşescu) our handsome thief.

Sleipnir—18


Self-Portrait with Monk A bearded bride in black chiffon, lei of garlic dandling his neck like the pearl, ballroom choker of God, he prances across the cobbled path pushing a wheelbarrow stacked with freshly scissored lovage and marigold. I’ve been spying all morning from the terrace suspended mid-wall and when, halfway across the courtyard, my monk lifts his head, I abandon Eco’s In the Name of the Rose and bend over the wooden rail to flip a ladybug, sure he’ll notice my silky mane. He doesn’t, so I trail through the oak door into the dining hall, find him arranging frisky sunheads and mauve field tulips in clay pots. I have already retraced the salty route of his fingers on the spines of pickled grape leaves, in ground lamb hand-rolled in herbs sun-dried. He cooks and feeds and scrubs but never eats, my monk, spends lunch elbow-deep in suds or scratching the bellies of cats. No wonder he’s so famished by the time Cassiopeia arrives. Then black chiffon and ivory flesh stream upwards, shape-shifting in flight: raven, whiskered bat, pricolici, vârcolac. At dawn, he lands between two rose bushes, soot in his mouth, weeping who knows why, my celestial monk, torn cassock glistening with spent saliva, rapture in upturned eyes.

Moscaliuc—19


Lightbug He powdered his face with flour, lengthened his eyelashes with mud, plumped his lips with viper blood, then tried to slip into Heaven. He figured he’d give it another try, see how sexy he feels on the other side. Though he looked perfectly charming, old Pete recognized his cleft, grabbed him by one foot, and threw him from cloud nine. Snobby angels had no use for him. He shattered into a billion pieces that scattered along the path. This is who he is, the lover you keep suspecting. I gather him on the path to the kitchen door. In daytime, the shards lie low, dreaming up revenge. At night, they light up with desire, draw me to their fractured bodies, convinced I can will them back into some lovable wholeness.

Sleipnir—20


Lidia Yuknavitch

from Dora: A Headcase NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE ‘RENTS WERE PISSED, ABOUT THE whole Nordfuck’s episode. Father came home in the batmobile and went straight for a scotch—probably to wash the taste of Mrs. K. out of his mouth. Mother put down her spoons for a second and flapped her arms and squawked like a chicken—how I’d made another scene again in public—how I rode home in a cop car—how she can never shop at Nordtard’s again. Father said to her, and I quote, “Calm down. Would you calm down? Give me a minute to decompress from my day before you start claiming the sky is falling.” I stood in the hallway. Wished I had popcorn. I love their little dramas. “Ida, go to your room,” he said, his voice full of nothing. Ida go to your room? Whoa. Heavy. To be honest with you I didn’t think being “grounded” was around anymore. It’s so… retro. Usually I just climb out the condo window onto the fire escape. But tonight I sorta feel…I don’t know, home-y. At home in my room my walls kick ass. Lou Reed. Exene. Siouxsie Sioux. Kurt Cobain. David Bowie. Nico. Did you know Nico was fluent in four languages? That’s not what you hear about her. Typical. Marlene told me that. I lie down on my bed. I look at my ceiling. Hoping for a crack that means something. In my bedroom I write letters on the walls. Hidden underneath the wall posters. With a purple sharpie. Today I’m writing under Nico. What I write are Dear Francis Bacon letters. Francis Bacon the painter. You know, the guy who painted the screaming melting pope. Possibly the coolest painter in ever. Why? It’s the faces. He makes faces look like they can’t hold still. That’s so right on. Marlene gave me a giant Francis Bacon book a year ago and I just about peed. that Francis Bacon understood how faces are. For instance. When you get up close to someone to suck face? Their faces look like Francis Bacon paintings. No lie. I so get that. A face that just might smear off or explode. Underneath Nico I write: “Dear Francis Bacon: My face is an I hole.”


Basically I’m making a book out of the walls of my bedroom. Something for the spawners to decipher after I’m gone. Some day the spawners will walk across the purple shag carpet and start the process of taking their daughter’s posters down for a remodel—my father wants a home office—my mother a fucking crafts room—that’s when they’ll find my words. I study my handiwork. Then I pull out the new book Marlene gave me—Fisiologia dell’Amore. By Mantegazza. Hope the mall chimps didn’t drool on it or anything. I open it. Yeah. So it’s in Italian. But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is, just underneath every line, and I mean every single line, there is another line. In pencil. For every line of the book. Translated by Marlene. Who, like Nico, knows four languages. Marlene’s lines under all of Mantegazza’s lines. Maybe she even rewrote some of it. The second cool as shit thing is the Mantegazza quote that opens the book. It goes: To the daughters of Eve, that they may teach men that love is not lechery, nor the simony of voluptuousness, but a joy that dwells in the highest and holiest regions of the terrestrial paradise, that they may make it the highest prize of virtue, the most glorious conquest of genius, the first force of human progress. I close the book and hold it on top of my chest. Daughters of Eve. Fuck yeah. That’s me. I don’t think of Eve as a twat that got tricked by a snake. I think Eve was a badass. I think she showed Adam what to do with his dick, and without her, he’d be sticking it in knotholes and goat butts and suckerfish. Without Eve? Adam’s just a guy standing around with a dick in his hands. Daughters of Eve. Wicked band name. And love: The most glorious conquest of genius. The first force of human progress. Fucking fuck yeah. I roll over and look at the ceiling. There is a crack in the plaster in the shape of a vag. Seriously. Under the sign of Vag, I feel positively dreamy with Marlene’s big book. Me and Obsidian. Obsidian Obsidian Obsidian. Daughters of Eve. I sit up and get the purple sharpie and write the Mantegazza quote on my bedroom wall. Under Nico. Vibrate. I grab my cell out of my back pocket where it buzzes my butt. “Obsidian?” Nope. It’s Marlene. She goes, “Lamskotelet! How do you find the book?” “Dreamy. I’m a Daughter of Eve!” She does the deep laugh. Even

Sleipnir—22


through a cellphone it’s something. “I just started it. It’s awesome.” We talk for a while and I agree to come over the next day to talk about the book. I lift Nico up again and write “Lamskotelet” in purple sharpie. Yep, me jailed in the daughter box writing up a storm. But that’s not all I’m doing in the daughter box. I’m listening for family drama. Household electricity. My dad looks a little like Daniel Day-Lewis so it’s easy to picture him in some crappy historical drama acting all serious and righteous and crap. My mom looks a little like Catherine Deneuve. If Catherine Deneuve was glassy-eyed from antidepressants and evening cocktails. I listen for hours. Just the buzz of condo appliances. The only other thing I hear my father say late in the evening is “I’ve got late work to attend to.” And my mother going, in a voice even I have to admit is filled beautifully with tiny nails, “Your work takes you from the house in ways you positively relish.” Then the door slams. Then I hear the sound of unscrewing. Vodka? Scotch? Courvoisier? What’r’we drowning in tonight, mother? I really don’t blame her. If I was stuck in some kind of psychotic housewife hell in a condo with nothing but rich people objects to clean while a philandering husbandaid escaped for his nightly escapades… I’d medicate the shit out of myself. Or just check out. For real. I open my bedroom door a crack to spy on her. Ah. Well, I approve. She’s gone with Jim Morrison’s favorite booze. Live it up, mother. Into this house we’re born, into this world we’re thrown. She looks… she looks like she’s melting into the chair. She looks like a Francis Bacon painting. She wasn’t always a melted face. My mother, I mean. She used to be wicked smart. Read all kinds of books. And she was a concert pianist. When they got with each other. Apparently. that’s why a baby grand lives with us in the condo. But I’ve never heard her play. When I was born she had some kind of breakdown. Then when I was ten she ate an entire bottle of sleeping pills. I remember watching my father slap her face trying to wake her up. I remember how she looked lying on the hardwood floor, her body in a little “s” shape. I remember going into the bathroom and eating toilet paper and crying. After that she just sort of became an expert at rubbing things clean. that baby grand? Silent but spotless. When I was five… jesus christ was I ever five?

Yuknavitch—23


I’m five and my mom and dad have me decked out in some kind of black velvety girl dress and black patent leather mary jane shoes and my hair is long and blonde and captured in a beautiful black satin bow. I have no idea what I look like to all the adults around us but I’m praying to the moon I look “pretty.” We are at one of my mother’s solo piano performances. My father and I sit on red velvet chairs, part of the “audience.” Everyone’s eyes are on my mother. Everyone’s heart is on my mother. Everyone’s leaning forward toward her, her face, her body, her hands, waiting to be pleasured. Her back is straight and strong. Her hair is wrapped and wrapped up and around in great swirls of French twist. Her gown, is off white silk and chiffon, and off of her shoulders, so that her shoulders look to me like perfect pearl drops. Everyone is holding their breath in anticipation. No one is everyone more than I am. I am hot underneath my black velvet and a little itchy and yep a little bit I have to pee but I’m also wanting. I could eat her. I want to run up that instant and crawl into her lap and fold my face between her jaw and collarbone and suck on her shoulder. When her hands lift and then lower onto the keys and the first notes sound I think I might die. I start crying. My father gently, so gently, puts his hand on my leg and whispers “Shhhh sweetheart, it’s OK, it’s OK” He puts his arm around me. He’s right, it is, but five-year olds can’t contain all the pleasure and pride and happiness I am feeling in their minds or bodies yet so now I’m not just crying I’m peeing, just a little, not enough for any kind of scene or anything, but enough to relieve some of this motherloving godforsaken pressure. She is beautiful. She is playing franz shoe burt. She is beautiful she is beautiful sheisbeautifulbeautifulbeautifulbeautiful. When she is finished playing franz shoe burt I can’t hold anything in any more and I leap out of my red velvet seat which has the faintest trace of girl pee on it and I squeeze through the aisle of pretty dressed up people clapping and I run up to the stage and I crawl on up her leg, knee, into her lap and she’s laughing and people are clapping and she’s kissing me and holding me and a little bit I put my mouth on one of her shoulders and a little bit I’m about to suck her shoulder and then we both stand up and she holds my hand and looks down at me smiling and signals me and miraculously I know what to do.

Sleipnir—24


We bow. Together. I punch her number into my cell. “Hello,” she goes. “Hello,” I go. “Ida,” she says. “Mother,” I respond. “Ida?” she asks. “Yes mother?” “Is there something you want to say?” She asks. “I just… just wanted to say hello, I guess…” I stare at my ceiling. “All right then,” she says, her voice barely audible. “Bye,” I go, but she’s already gone. I stick my phone in my ass pocket. I look up again at the vag crack on my ceiling. I dig inside my backpack and pull out a spoon. Yep, you know whose spoon. I put the spoon in my mouth for lubrication. I close my eyes. I picture Obsidian. Her hair black as a record album falling down on my face. The stone of her necklace jabbing my throat. Then I unzip my pants and pull down my deal and spoon rub my twinkle till it’s red. I’m a fucking daughter of Eve. Dizzy. White. Vibrate. I grab my cell from my backpack, my pants around my thighs. “Obsidian?” I go. Silence. “Obsidian?” But it’s just my own ass calling me.

Yuknavitch—25


Joshua Polinard

House from Tonalpohualli

Sleipnir—26


Polina Barskova

Manuscript Found by Natasha Rostova During the Fire I will try to live on earth without you. I will try to live on earth without you. I will become any object, I don’t care what— I will be this speeding train. This smoke or a beautiful gay man laughing in the front seat. A human body is defenseless on earth. It’s a piece of fire-wood. Ocean water hits it. Lenin puts it on his official shoulder. And therefore, in order not to suffer, a human spirit lives inside the wind and inside the wood and inside the shoulder of a great dictator. But I will not be water. I will not be a fire. I will be an eyelash. A sponge washing your neck-hairs. Or a verb, an adjective, I will become. Such a word slightly lights your cheek. What happened? Nothing. Something visited? Nothing. What was there you cannot whisper. No smoke without fire, they whisper.


I will be a handful of smoke over this lost city of Moscow. I will console any man, I will sleep with any man, under the army’s traveling horse carriages. translated from Russian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Sleipnir—28


Daniil Kharms

from Northern Tales        The old man did not know why he went to the woods. Then, came back from the woods and yelled:         - The old woman! The old woman! The old woman fell down. Since then, all rabbits in winter are white.


Symphony no. 2 Anton Mikhailovich spat, said “yuck,” spat again, said “yuck” again, spat again, said “yuck” again, and closed the door. To hell with him. Le me tell about Ilya Pavlovich. Ilya Pavlovich was born in 1893 in Constantinople. When he was still a small boy, his folks moved to Petersburg, he graduated from the German School on Kirchnaya Street. Then he worked in some shop; then he did some other thing; and during the Revolution, he emigrated. To Hell with him. Let me tell about Anna Ignatievna. Not so easy to talk about Anna Ignatievna. Firstly, I know nothing about her, and secondly, I have just fallen of my chair, and have forgotten what I was about to tell you. So let me tell you about myself. I am tall, not unintelligent; I dress prudently and with taste; I don’t drink, I don’t bet on horses, but I do like ladies. And ladies don’t avoid me. They smile when I go out with them. Serafima Izmaylovna has been asking me to her place, and Zinaida Yakovlevna implied she would have liked to see me. Then there is a funny business Marina Petrovna, which I would like you to consider. Quite an ordinary thing, but a funny business still. Because of me, Marina Petrovna turned completely bald—bald like a baby’s bottom. It happened like this: I went over to visit Marina Petrovna, and bang! she lost all her hair. And that was that.

Sleipnir—30


The Beginning of a Beautiful Summer Day (A Symphony) The rooster had hardly crowed when Timofey jumped out of his window onto the roof and frightened every pedestrian on the street at that hour. Khariton the peasant stopped, picked up a stone and threw it at Timonfey. Tmofey disappeared. “Very Smart!” laughed the human herd and someone named Zubov run full speed and rammed his head into a wall. “Oh!” exclaimed a woman with a swollen cheek. But Komarov gave her a quick slap and the woman run howling to the doorway. Fetelushin walked past and laughed. “Hello little ball of fat!” Komarov wakled up to him, and hit Fetelushin in the stomach. Fetelushin leaned against the wall started to hiccup. Romashkin tried to spit from the balcony on Fetelushin’s head. At this point, a few doors down, a big-nosed woman was beating her kid with a trough. A fat, young mother was rubbing her pretty little girl’s face against the brick wall. A pretty little dog broke its hind leg, and was rolling around on the sidewalk. A little boy was eating some sort of a revolting thing from a spittoon. At the grocery, there was a long line for sugar. The women yelled and hit one another with bags. The peasant Khariton, having drank some methanol, stood in front of the women, his trousers undone, and said bad words. Thus began a beautiful summer day.

Kharms—31


Old Ladies Are Flying An old lady fell out of the window, because she was too curious. She fell out of the window, and was smashed to pieces. Another old lady, stared down at the remains of one who was smashed, she stared at them, out of her excessive curiosity, and also fell out of the window, and smashed. Then the third old lady fell out of the window, then the fourth did, then the fifth. When the sixth old lady fell out of the window, I got bored watching them and went to Maltsevitsky Bazaar where, it was announced, they gave a woven shawls to the blind.

Sleipnir—32


Incidents One day Orlov had too many mashed peas and died. And Krylov, hearing about this, died too. But Spridonov died for no reason. And Spridonov’s wife fell off a kitchen cabinet and also died. And Spridonov’s children drowned in a pond. And Spridonov’s grandmother took to the bottle and hit the road. And Mikhailov ceased combing his hair and got ill. And Kruglov sketched a grandama with a whip and went crazy. And Perehvostov received four hundred roubles by wire and became so uptight that they fired him from work. Good people, they are all my good people, these citizens—but they can’t keep their two feet on the ground. translated from Russian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Kharms—33


Ruth Schnabel

Der Vorlaeufige

Sleipnir—34


Heather Treseler

En’tracte As in opera’s game of chutes and ladders: the soprano’s fruited bosom dangling just above her lover’s reach. Because we cannot help but slide or climb “armed all over with subtle antagonisms” according to Emerson, who knew how to befriend a hermit, skinny dip a springtime pond. Partners in the business of silent breakfast, I find my rest in the pocket of a left hand. In your right, a baton that lifts, beckons with surprising concordance of sound. * Largess, larghetto: how slowly a noontime phonograph plays with the imagined license of a traveling thigh, picaresque eye, a sloppy scotch had in the fair middling of May. Meeting among the biographies where I dropped a heavy Trollope on my toe, limped back to Beckett by way of Borges: thus far, you’ve been the gentler history. After thirty, the tenderfoot have won their shoe-shine and pleather. Futurity now comes with a broker and 401K. * Whatever then to risk—or leave unventured? Uncurled from sleep, drawn shyly into limbs’ counterpoint and turn, we make the gamble that they will not hear us: your children, tucked in pallet-rafts of dream. The bully raccoon or midnight snacker. Our elder neighbors, not yet hard of hearing. Staying as low, as close as each muffled sound: these arias nonetheless awoke, asked to be set down.


Vox Sad sipper, take your tea—and the pale light on the stairs that auras the hour before dawn (or dusk) with nearly the same tread. The Sun alone has no lethargy in its logarithmic course, appearing like some peroxide adage, some addled in-law tucked into the end of the receiving line. Go on, rend a little something from the sewn inevitable. Release a syllable above the law of averages. Assume the mundane gravities. You, who have envied the nuns’ mock-bridal vows, traced the port-of-wine on a boy’s otherwise porcelain face, denied the subway heretic his nodding apostate. You, so damn neat and budgy in your Comte comforts and quaint commonplace: answer to the lure of heat and honey in hand.

Sleipnir—36


Theater an der Wien You conduct a phalanx of violins, gadfly bassoons, grand tanks of bass and cello, a wry suite of clarinet anecdotalists: Ludwig, exhumed for a later century’s Sunday afternoons, duly rescores the Napoleonic War, legitimating a suburb of tyrants down both sides of the aisle. The audience offers its praise: country club handshakes, sonic and invigorated, and you bow from the hip, an ancient gesture of of surrender, coaxing me from weeks’ desuetude. Not that it has been a willed reluctance or a furtive change among instruments (my shoulders tautening against any other unresined touch), but grief at what the mid-winter steals without reason or real wound, without an enlarging theater of sound or its surcease.

Treseler—37


Sleipnir—38

Landscape

Izabela Pavel


JD Smith

A Social Message When the back door of the subway car strained open and clutched shut it attracted little attention. Police and maintenance men passed between cars all the time. So did high-schoolers looking to break another rule, and peddlers of various ages threading the aisles; some sold candy to fund one or another alternative to gangs and drugs. Soft-spoken panhandlers offered only an abject stare. Others, less soft-spoken, made each car in turn an audience for a “social message” consisting of an account of unmerited misfortune (housefires figured prominently) followed by an appeal for monetary assistance. Taking a breath that threatened to draw all the air from the car, the man at the back seemed to be one of the others. “Good afternoon-slash-evening good people. I do sincerely hope you will accept my apologies in advance for taking up a few moments of your valuable time between our workplace and your home, but I promise to be as brief as humanly possible.” Pages of newspapers rattled, and several musics seeped out of ear buds, but no one spoke. Though the man had not raised his voice greatly, its timbre made him impossible to ignore. Strangely, he was clean-shaven. He did not exude an aura of unbathed flesh, nor was there alcohol on his breath and pores. His shirt and slacks were clean if nearly threadbare. Slung over his shoulder was a well-worn courier bag. Palms raised but not thrust out, he resumed. “I would like to take this opportunity to provide a short social message.” “Here we go again,” a young woman said sotto voce, a rolling of eyes in her voice. She shifted her purse from the aisle to the window side of her seat. Other seats stirred with a bumping and rustling as passengers shifted their effects and hunched into smaller versions of themselves. The principle acted upon was implicit. Do not make eye contact. “Please do not worry or be afraid,” the man resumed, “I am not begging, panhandling, or taking up any kind of collection, and I definitely am not interested in perpetrating a robbery or other sort of crime. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, for each and every one of you I bring a gift that I truly deep hope you will share with those at the end


of your journey today and with everyone in your path from this day forward.” “Oh, God,” said another young woman, not without precedent. Some social messengers complemented their accounts of poverty with crisply printed and thoroughly illustrated versions of end times and future states, or distributed fervent and misspelled instructions on salvation. “I only want to tell you,” said the man, “something I hope you know already. You may have forgotten or been distracted in the course of your daily responsibilities, but in that event I would like to remind you of one small thing.” “This is a big speech for a small thing,” another passenger murmured to his seatmate. The man calmly paused, as one who had the objection before. “This is a small thing, but it is also a big thing, and it is so powerful that I have felt morally obliged—even called—to start this simple statement with a lengthy an introduction. “That statement, though, can be reduced to just a few small words. If you truly listen to the world around you and to each other, ladies and gentlemen, you will hear that you are surrounded by love. Great heights and depths and vaults of love. An immense sphere of love that you could not leave even if you tried. That is all I want to tell you.” “Thank God,” said one of the men behind newspapers. “I will not tell you who to thank or what to believe, but I want to leave you with a small token.” A second wave of shuffling and shrinking passed through the car. “Please accept an unmarked dollar bill that bears no additional message of any kind and that I wish to circulate as freely as the love that surrounds us all.” The speaker reached into his courier bag too slowly to be going for a gun, though a few ducked. He produced a rubber-banded stack of the promised bills, not new or crisp, but neat. The bills, like his hand, bore no trace of an exploded ink pack. He made a kind of bow and proffered a bill to a woman on his right. “Please accept this small token of the love that surrounds you.” “No, thank you.” He likewise addressed the man in the window-seat, who said “That’s all right. Keep it.”

Sleipnir—40


The speaker attempted the same on his left and then worked his way up the car, hearing “No, thank you” in so many words and in others (I don’t think so; Not today; Sorry guy; No).Some merely shook their heads or lifted a hand that meant “stop.” The resistance increased. “Don’t want it.” “Keep moving.” “Give it to your mother.” Near the center doors the messenger raised his voice again. “Please, ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to accept this one small token of love. There are no strings attached.” Voices rose in further phrasings of rejection. There was no agreement on which obscenity came first, but soon after came the first blow, a slap that made him drop the proffered bill. No one reached for it. The speaker peeled another off the top of the stack and repeated his pleas. He was answered with further blows: fists, feet, umbrellas and swung briefcases, a ladle still bearing a price tag. A tennis racquet was brought into play, and brass knuckles flashed out of a pocket. Strangely, no firearms appeared. From the floor the speaker restated his offer and stretched out his arms to hold aloft the bills. They fluttered from his grip like failed doves and covered the duff of newspapers and food wrappers, affixed to it with blood. “Did I say anything about wanting a gift” and “Here’s your gift” were heard over thumps and a clatter, then cracks. As the train moved slowly due to track maintenance, by the next stop the car was again still. The man was not identified for days.

Smith—41


Inquest The flesh is breached, The venom spread, The heart’s core reached, The victim dead. Attention then Turns to a cause. What beast again Might bare its claws? What hand might wield A doubled spike, One still concealed And set to strike? A board convenes, Investigates The motives, means And ending, states That policies, If well-defined, Need not appease The common mind. Thus panels form To formulate A law or norm To forge a state That would preclude The thought of wrath— Or set the mood To seek that path. As plans abound And measures crawl That gain no ground

Sleipnir—42


Fresh victims fall, And some perceive They hear a word Or may believe A voice inferred From field and brake As rattles shake: Make no mistake. There is no snake.

Smith—43


Self-Help Section The shelves are lined with tools and techniques ancient as tracking the sun’s path or following the mossy side of a tree. Others elaborate, like compass and sextant, or come recent as GPS. For now the spines can stay flat, the pages in a closed dark of concord or debate. Without them, I am already well lost.

Sleipnir—44


Eric Gadzinski

Eyes of a Dog I look in the eyes of a dog. We have a certain understanding about when to go out, when to eat, affection. It works most of the time, but I have no idea what’s in those brown marbles of attention, or what they see. I look in the eyes of a woman. We’ve lived together for a number of years. Words and gestures often cause complications. The silence of meanings gets garbled in the writhing of two different tongues. I have no idea what’s behind those dark lashes, or with whom she lives. I look in the eyes of a mirror. I’ve seen them before, like a stranger you always pass in a store, growing older— the glass will shine empty then, or the face of another. I have no idea what’s in that mask. I look at the world. I don’t understand why it’s so beautiful and so bleak and terrible: sunlight on snow on God-high mountains, or a skinny drunk dead behind a dumpster. I have no idea


what I’m looking at, or if it looks at me. I carry around this costume of flesh, desire and memory, thinking that I’m playing a role or game when I could be wrong, knowing if I were to fold it all carefully over the back of a chair there’d be nothing there.

Sleipnir—46


Fool’s Gold Pyrite looks like a shiny gold vein in quartz. It’s used, other than to mock miners, in cheap Victorian jewelry, and by the ton somehow rendered to make sulfuric acid. Its real value is for us fools; seeing it gleam in the shovel, and the glorious hours and days, before you take it to town to be assayed, when you’re a king.

Gadzinski—47


Sleipnir—48

I have no answers, but lie here, eyes closed, among talk of motorcycles and tarot cards, cartoons of tits and Christs, devils and mermaids, dreams of drunken sailors, while the needle hums, pausing to wipe the blood, the flesh of my heart burning so when they wash me, finally, they’ll see what I winced for love, crazy in my white skin indelible, your black and crimson flourish.

I’ve been accused of a “mid-life crisis,” even mental illness, by my ex-wife, her friends and others who’d justify their sag and cellulite, the paunched and graying resentment that locks their doors at night, frowns from their minivans, cell phones murmuring voyeur conspiracies.

I’ll admit that balance is a question, how to stand or lean to the plumb that pulls me down, but I don’t fight it--

my lost youth

rather, now, to consider how to prepare for the strange meeting, the row of folding chairs on the plastic grass that hides the wounded ground they’ll put me in.

Some would say it’s inappropriate, that I, at fifty, lie back with my shirt off, jacket and tie draped over a chair, in a tattoo parlor while a guy named Nicky cuts your name on my left breast.

Tattoo


Gadzinski—49 so when they wash me, finally, they’ll see what I winced for love, crazy in my white skin indelible, your black and crimson flourish.

I’ll admit that balance is a question, how to stand or lean to the plumb that pulls me down, but I don’t fight it--

something, at least, to replace all that troubled philosophy with the certainty of back ache in the morning, a gradual loss of hearing--

my lost youth wanders in the woods calling ‘till his voice fades and I hear only the wind--

dreams of drunken sailors, while the needle hums, pausing to wipe the blood, the flesh of my heart burning

the paunched and graying resentment that locks their doors at night, frowns from their minivans, cell phones murmuring voyeur conspiracies.


Sleipnir—50

Country Landscape

Izabela Pavel


Chris Tuthill

The National The National Golf Links of America is located on a pristine strip of land bordered on one side by the Peconic Bay and the other by an enormous private forest. The eighteen holes are each an exquisite homage to a famous golf course from Scotland, where golf was invented: St. Andrews, Prestwick, Berwick, Sunningdale, and so forth. The course is meticulously landscaped by a team of highly trained greenskeepers who each day cut and water fairways and greens, rake sand traps, change hole locations, replace divots, apply fungicide and fertilizer, and make the place look like a shining jewel of golf. The course is the complete reigning in and subjugation of nature, like some ancient hedge maze or intricate palace garden come back to life in modern day America. The idea, really, is to have a controlled environment that allows members to feel supremely important and masterful as they walk along its tranquil fairways making business deals, placing bets, and having the kinds of leisurely conversations that only the obscenely wealthy have. To become a member of this exclusive club, you must have connections to someone extravagantly wealthy or powerful, and if you need to ask how much the annual fees are, you can’t afford them. To be a caddy at the course is another matter altogether. You might need to know one of the caddies, or the golf pro, Mike Bishop, but some guys have been known to show up with a little experience under their belt and hang around long enough to get some work. Once you’re in, you learn the ropes and do the backbreaking labor required of you day in and day out, and you can earn some decent money during the summer months. I was lucky enough to live next door to Mike, and as a neighborly gesture he invited me to work there the summer I turned fourteen. My first week was a whirlwind of meeting people and spending long hours carrying insanely heavy bags over the four mile course like some pathetic manservant. I knew nothing about golf, but struggled through because my family needed the money. I never thought it possible to make a hundred or more dollars a day, but sometimes I brought that much home. After a while I started telling fibs about how much I made. Some weeks, when it was busy, I could gross more than my dad, who worked for the Long Island Railroad as a ticket


agent. The extra cash I made helped my parents support myself and my six brothers and sisters, but when I brought home more than my dad, I think he felt bad about it. Being a sensitive young guy, I would often pocket ten or twenty myself and hand over the rest. The caddies at the National were a different breed from the greenskeepers, and lived in another universe from the members. Many of them were drunk a lot of the time, or showed up to work hungover. As long as some member kept asking for them, they kept their jobs. They had nicknames like Manson and Rooster and Fat Eddie and Zeppelin Dude, the last of whom was stuck in 1979 and wore his massive, Robert Plant-like locks in a ponytail down to his butt. If he talked to you the conversation usually consisted of him telling you how sad it was that the mighty Zep was no more. He had a different Led Zeppelin shirt for each day of the week: Monday was Stairway to Heaven, Tuesday was Houses of the Holy, while The Song Remains the Same was saved for special occasions, like the annual Fourth of July tournament. Zeppelin Dude’s big claim to fame was playing guitar in a cover band called Dancing Days that gigged at some of the saddest, most disgusting dives on Long Island. On days when things were slow, this motley bunch sat around killing time in various ways. They played cards for huge amounts of money and smoked cigars, even the younger ones. They had push-up contests and played drinking games. They dared each other to perform dangerous feats of imbecility on speeding golf carts. Many of them were career caddies who followed the sport around the country, season after season. They were harmless guys, for the most part, but there was a mean and cruel edge to a few of them. The worst of them saw the world in stark terms, and though they hung around the course like pigs suckling at the teat of some beneficent sow, they at the same time resented the wealthy members who made their jobs possible. “You caddies are all whores,” Billy the caddymaster said one day, after he’d heard some of them bitching about their ill-treatment at the hands of some less than generous member. “You could caddy for Christ himself, and if he gave you a bad tip, you’d call him a cheap bastard. But you’ll keep working for the worst asshole out here, as long as he gives you enough money.” No one contradicted him, partly because he was the boss, but mostly because they knew he was right. The strangest and most terrible of the caddies was Michigan Bob. How he got the name none of us knew. There were rumors that he’d

Sleipnir—52


been born in Michigan, but Michigan Bob angrily dismissed such tales as outlandish fantasies. He was from Hawaii. He was not to be confused with Alaskan Bob, another itinerant caddy. If you called Michigan Bob Alaskan Bob he was prone to violent outbursts. Though he was known primarily for these fits of rage, there was another side to Michigan Bob, a quiet, contemplative mien that emerged when he was hungover (which was almost every day) or had quit drugs and alcohol, which he would periodically do. Indeed there would be entire weeks of the summer that Michigan Bob would stop smoking, drinking, and drugging, and consume only whey protein shakes and carrot juice. This gave him digestive problems but also had the pleasant effect of giving him ruddy cheeks, and made him look a tad hardier than usual. His hundred and thirty pound, six foot-two-inch frame would stand taller during these brief periods of lucidity, and an observant onlooker might perceive some glimmer of Michigan Bob’s previous life in the piercing cobalt blue of his suddenly lively eyes. On those days you might have seen the younger man he’d once been, the man who was not an utter disaster. Bob was once an excellent caddy who knew every inch of The National, and in that bygone era his services had been in high demand. Billy and Mike still thought of him as a knowledgeable caddy, and had a weak spot for him, so they let him hang around since he didn’t usually cause much trouble. Bob lived in his camper in the caddy parking lot. It was an old, rusted out vehicle with the words “Pappy’s Palace” emblazoned on the side in gold lettering. Every summer it would be there, and supposedly he drove it away when the season ended. In recent years, seeing him actually pick up a bag and caddy had become an increasingly rare occurrence. One day as we waited for work in the caddy parking lot, the door of Pappy’s Palace opened, and out shambled this withered husk of a man, Michigan Bob. I was half-heartedly reading the Saga of the Volsungs, a book I’d bought from a library sale because of the cool illustration of a dragon on the cover. I closed the book as Bob, shirtless and grungy, appeared at the door of his camper, the aforementioned Palace. His greasy, stringy hair was tied back in a bandana and it looked as if he’d been wearing his stained cutoff shorts for some weeks. He had on tennis shoes that didn’t match (one was red, the other teal). He stepped down from his perch regally, inhaling deeply and raising his face up to the shining sun. Bob walked to one of the caddies and asked for a cigarette. He lit

Tuthill—53


it and inhaled again. He gave off a musky scent, even in the open air. Diesel fumes and a mélange of manly odors: sweat, engine grease, cannabis, and just a hint of patchouli, or whatever oily concoction he’d decided would bring him strength enough to caddy this week. Bob was often trying out new fragrances that he believed gave him extra virility. He claimed they were sent to him by Ruby, one of the many girlfriends he told us he stayed with in the offseason. “The Little Hobo’s comin’ today,” he announced to no one in particular in his wheezy rasp as he sucked at the end of his camel. Smoke billowed from his nostrils and for a moment I thought of Fafnir, the dragon I’d been reading about in the Saga. Bob looked tanned, reptilian, devious. Something bad was going to happen today, I could feel it in my bones. “Who’s the Little Hobo?” Manson asked. Manson had been given this charming nickname by his own father, a legendary former caddy himself. Manson was unsuited for every kind of work known to man except caddying, and had inherited the job from his dad. He was a tall, brutish, beefy man of twenty-seven and like many of the caddies this was the only job he’d ever known. He showed up drunk more often than not, but everyone liked him because he had a sense of humor, and even when drunk he wasn’t surly the way Bob could be. “You’ll see,” Bob said with a smirk. With some difficulty, he removed an old, half-rusted ten speed bicycle hanging from the back of Pappy’s Palace. He mounted it, looking incredibly unsteady. The light breeze coming off the bay seemed enough to topple his wiry, dirty frame. “Damn, Bob, are you gonna ride that thing?” one of the caddies said, incredulous. It was hard to tell which seemed more unfit for riding, the emaciated man or the creaking, skeletal bicycle beneath him. Bob turned and began pedaling without a word. The bike careened back and forth down the gravel road that led from the caddy lot. Slowly and steadily he rode away from us, as his bike, which looked as if it hadn’t been used in years, squealed in protest. “Where the fuck’s he goin?” Manson said. The mysteries of Bob had to wait, though—Billy called me to work. I was a rookie, so he would usually stick me with the member who hated caddies the most. That day I had to caddy for Mr. Milliken. I’d caddied for him once already, and it hadn’t gone well. After he knocked his ball into the woods off the twelfth fairway with

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a five iron and I couldn’t find it, he began shouting at me. It was my fault that he was terrible at golf, apparently. In his fury he’d angrily asked me if I “thought this was some kind of fucking game.” “Yes,” I’d said, innocently. “It’s golf.” The other members of his foursome, including his son, began laughing at him, but Mr. Milliken didn’t talk to me for the rest of the loop and gave me a lousy tip. I thought it was a little mean of Billy to send me out with him again, but I had to earn my stripes. Billy was a former Marine and thought of the caddies as raw recruits. When he started drinking he would unsheathe his gleaming hunting knife and regale us with stories of eviscerating bear with his own hands. He spent his winters shooting any animal that was nearby—squirrels and deer at home, and bear and elk on hunting trips—and his summers breaking in new caddies while keeping the members happy. I’m not sure which was worse, but Billy seemed to enjoy both with equal enthusiasm. On the first tee, Milliken recognized me and gave me an evil look. He grabbed the driver from his bag and promptly sliced a ball deep into knee-high rough off the fairway. “That’s a Mulligan,” his partner said. A Mulligan is like a do-over in golf. Cheaters are the only ones who employ this kind of cheap maneuver. Milliken used them as often as possible. Milliken took another shot with his Big Bertha, a titaniumshafted, ultra lightweight, space-age technologic wonder club that cost him probably four hundred dollars. There was the satisfying sound of metal on hardened urethane, and I held my head high, shielding my eyes with a hand as I looked for the ball against the cloudless blue sky. My heart beat a little faster as I didn’t see it. Milliken was sure to be pissed if I missed it coming down. But an instant later we heard the splash. It had landed in a little pond on the right of the fairway. I tried not to laugh. In his anger, Milliken used words I hadn’t known existed before the first time I’d caddied for him. Luckily, I was ready for his tirade this time, and braced for it. He impugned the ball’s character and breeding in disgusting ways that I have since blocked out of my memory. The one phrase I do remember was ‘jackal-fucked son of a whore,’ and it was the mildest expression he used. He said many, many other things, used terms so vile and arcane and strange I am still not convinced they were real words. Milliken created a pageant

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of profanity after almost every shot. No person I’ve encountered since could hope to match his smorgasbord of filthy language. Milliken’s partner, a quieter man named Quentin, chuckled to himself, a tactical mistake he would soon regret. “What’s funny?” Milliken said, apoplectic with rage. His eyes were red, his lily white face flushed. He was not a large man—probably just five six or so, and thin, with a small pot-belly. His chicken legs were untanned and hideous to behold, prickly with stunted hair, the product of years behind a desk at a bank or law firm, perhaps. More likely he sat in the study of his Victorian mansion day after day, undisturbed, contemplating glass after glass of expensive cognac proffered by a subservient butler. But Milliken didn’t need to be big. All the members were afraid of him because, as Manson helpfully explained to me after the first time I’d caddied for him, “That WASP motherfucker’s great-granddaddy invented this place. He’ll boot out anyone who pisses him off.” Quentin silenced himself, but didn’t answer. “I said what the fuck is so funny, Quentin?” Milliken repeated. “Oh, come off it, George,” Quentin said nervously. “Let’s just get on with the game.” He waved a hand dismissively at Milliken and set his own ball on a tee. “Don’t ever call me by my first name in front of the help,” Milliken said, eyeing me with disgust. He slammed his club back into the bag and ransacked its pockets until he found a medicine bottle. I picked up his bag, and Quentin winked at me before he hit his shot, which flew straight and true down the center of the fairway, landing a very respectable hundred and eighty yards away. He admired the tiny white dot in the sea of green. At least half of my twosome was human. By the ninth hole, I wasn’t sure I could continue. Milliken was playing badly, was at least 15 strokes over par, though he would only admit to five. He was angry and had started to drink. He was starting to get hostile. I was a halfwit, a fuckup. He’d muttered these things under his breath, and hadn’t yet openly cursed me, but trouble was in the air. What would Sigurd do, I wondered, thinking back to the Saga that sat sadly unopened in my bag near the caddy picnic table. Probably he would just pull out his sword and kill these guys, or turn into a dragon and devour them. Men like Milliken were the reason I secretly enjoyed the days that I didn’t get to work, because it allowed me more time to sit in the

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shade and read. During my first week at the course, I was branded a book reader by Manson because I eschewed gambling and smoking for cheap paperbacks. “Hey, book reader,” he’d said to me, as I sat on a golf cart in the garage. It had been raining that day, and I’d made it several chapters into Isaac Asimov’s Foundation while successfully avoiding getting cheated at cards or being beaten up by the older caddies. “Yeah?” I’d said. “Whatchoo readin’ that’s so fuckin’ important anyways?” He sidled up to me, taking a seat on the white vinyl and feigning interest. “Uh, it’s Isaac Asimov,” I said. Manson had paid no attention to me up to this point, which was my fourth day at the course. It was better that way. “Isaac Jerkhim-off, huh?” He laughed at his hilarious witticism. “Let me see that shit.” “Um,” I said. He smelled like beer. I wanted to run away, but if I did I knew I could never come back to work here. The shame would have been far too great. “I said, lemme see that book,” Manson repeated. “OK.” I handed it to him. “There’s a whole series,” I ventured. “Foundation and Empire.” “No shit?” Manson said. He flipped through the book, nodding his head. He scratched the stubble of his beard. “Yeah. There’s this whole theory he has. About Psychohistory.” “Psychohistory. What’s that, the history of crazy people?” “Not exactly. Psychohistory can predict the future.” This was going better than I’d imagined. I thought by now Manson would have pummeled me, or thrown me into the rain. I’d never seen him actually do something like this, but from his nickname and size I just assumed it was how he spent his free time. “You hear that boys?” Manson shouted. Other guys were scattered around the garage playing cards and smoking. “Book reader here knows all kinds of bull-shit. Ha.” He looked at the book some more, eyeing it as if it were some ancient alien relic from across time and space. “Mind if I borrow this?” he asked. I wasn’t sure what to say. Manson didn’t seem like the reading type, and I wanted to finish the book before handing it over. “Well, how about when I’m done?” I said. Manson shook his head. “He says I gotta wait, boys,” he shouted.

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“I don’t know about that. I want it now.” He held it up for a minute and weighed it in his hand. “This book is too light,” he said. “Not enough words.” He tossed it out of the garage into the rain. I chased after it and rescued the book from a mud puddle. The cover was sodden, as were most of the pages. Manson doubled over with laughter, and the rest of the guys thought it was amusing too. But the next day, he’d brought me a copy of The Great Gatsby. It was a library book, stamped in back with a due date six years past. “Now this is a fuckin’ book,” he informed me. “Not some bullshit about space and green men.” I could tell he felt a hint of remorse about destroying Foundation. I didn’t like Gatsby much, but after that I thought Manson was OK. On hole sixteen Milliken lost it. “You stupid ass,” he shouted at me. “How the fuck could you lose my ball?” “What?” I said. “How did you lose the fucking ball?” I was getting tired of his abuse. “You hit it into the woods,” I said. “You lose a ball on every hole.” I wanted to say: And you suck at golf, you sallow-faced, entitled asshole. I could hear the low hum of a weed trimmer on the side of the fairway as one of the greens crew worked on the rough. The engine stopped and I could see him in the hazy heat, watching us. My humiliation was complete. Milliken was getting angrier. He popped one of his pills from the little medicine bottle. I needed the job, but not this bad. My parents would be mad, but by that point I didn’t care. I’d taken enough crap for one day. “You hear what this little shit just said?” Milliken yelled. Quentin shook his head. “You can’t talk like that to Mr. Milliken,” Quentin said. “Uh huh,” I said. “Apologize to him,” Quentin said. “Tell him you’re sorry you lost the ball.” As much as I needed the money, I had my limits. I said nothing. “Are you going to apologize?” Milliken said. “I’m sorry you lost your ball,” I said, scoring one for abused caddies everywhere. My heart pounded. What had I just done? “You little bastard,” Milliken said. He was seething. He gripped his club with two hands. I thought he was going to swing it at me,

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but instead he flung it down the fairway. I watched it bounce over the turf, then dutifully retrieved it. No one said another word through the rest of the loop. When we finished up on the eighteenth hole, beside the enormous, imposing stone edifice of the castle-like clubhouse, Milliken didn’t even make eye contact with me. Neither he nor Quentin thanked me or offered a tip. I’d sweated out in the baking sun for four hours with their bags. I trudged back to the caddy lot, sure I was about to be fired. Manson, oblivious to my troubles, had organized a game. I decided not to tell anyone of my problem with Milliken. For one thing, no one would care, and for another, I’d be hearing about it, and getting fired, soon enough. Until then I figured I’d do my best to blend in. “This is a little game I call Bats,” Manson said. He handed me a thin, yellow whiffle bat, and gave one to another rookie, a blonde haired boy he called Whitey. Caddies circled us like vultures around fresh kill. “You can hit each other in the leg, but only in the leg. Nowhere else,” Manson said, his eyes wide with maniacal glee. “Whitey gets a shot, and then book reader gets one. Now start.” Whitey hit me in the leg with the bat half-heartedly. I returned the favor. “Bullshit!” Manson yelled. “You gotta hit each other, man! Or I’ll hit you!” Whitey, afraid for his life, hit me harder. Enough to annoy me, though it didn’t really hurt. I swung my bat through the air and whaled him a good one on the back of the knee. He winced and his eyes teared a bit. Whitey was a little shorter than me, but he was stocky. I was worried that if he really laid into me I’d get a huge welt. He hit me back, and this time I felt the sting of it. My bat whistled through the air, and his left leg buckled. He then nailed me dangerously close to my groin, which released some primal anger in me. I swung with the full force of my body, using both hands, and Whitey crumpled to the ground like a folding chair. He held his bat up, feebly, and I hit him again. The blow caught him in the throat, and he gasped for air, holding his trachea with both hands and making an awful retching sound. The caddies hollered and shouted and wanted me to finish him off, I guess. “Holy shit!” Manson shouted, as he helped Whitey to his feet. “My

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man the book reader THROATED that bitch!” He slapped me on the back, as if he were Darth Vader and I his lethal apprentice. I got Whitey some water and apologized again and again. “I don’t know what came over me, man,” I said. “I’m so sorry.” “Ah, it’s nothin’,” he said, manfully. There was a red welt across his throat that is probably still there. “You rookies ain’t done yet,” Manson said. “We got more games. All you rooks better get in line, and I mean NOW!” There were eight of us, guys still in high school, pimply faced and raw and new to the National. We lined up as we were told in the caddy parking lot, even Whitey. I was proud of him, the way he stood there ready to take whatever was next. Manson brought forth a giant, clear plastic jug of what looked like red fruit juice. “This game is called The Spins. Rookie takes a drink, rookie does circles with the bat.” He demonstrated the spin by standing the whiffle bat on its end. He then bent forward from his waist and placed his forehead on the end of the bat handle. Next he proceeded to walk rapidly in circles around it. He stood up and grinned like a madman. “You do that until you’re dizzy,” he said. “Who’s first?” Whitey, hoping to appear strong in the face of his terrible throating calamity, came forward. He drank a shot of the red stuff—vodka mixed with kool-aid—and commenced spinning. One after another we took turns doing this, until we were so dizzy and drunk we could hardly stand. Then Manson placed us in a line for a zig-zagging, stomach-churning hundred-yard dash. Most of us collapsed before reaching the finish line. A couple of the boys vomited as they tried to stand, to the jeers and hooting of the crowd. One completely disoriented kid veered into the woods that bordered the caddy lot and crashed into some bushes, then lay on the ground moaning softly. Manson was getting ready to invent some new game of rookie hazing when we heard a terrible roar coming down the road. Amidst the beautiful, manicured greenness of the fairways, winnowing its way toward us on a strip of road beside the wine-dark bay was a motor home. It was an old camper, filthy with fumes and dust, rusted past all hope of repair. That it ran at all was beyond human comprehension. It had no license plates. The passenger side window sported an intricate spider-web of cracks. The driver’s side rearview mirror hung down by the door limply. Above the cab was a sign that

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mirrored the artfully designed gold-lettering of ‘Pappy’s Palace.’ The only difference between the two vehicles was that this one had ‘The Little Hobo’ printed in gold leaf, so all the world would know from whence it came. It made such a thunderous racket that every single person on the course must have heard it. Behind the wheel, of course, was Bob, with a stern look on his face as he approached us. He pulled up right beside “Pappy’s Palace” and got out, then immediately entered his other camper. He began shuffling back and forth between the two, carrying blankets and pots and pans and other junk as we watched, stupefied. “I told you the Little Hobo was comin,’” he deadpanned, as he held an armload of dirty rags. “I need more space.” “But this one’s no better than the other one,” Manson said. I eyed the two campers and thought I was seeing double in my half-drunk state. They sat side by side, their ramshackle appearance so hick the dueling banjos should have been playing. “Maybe not,” Bob said. “But now I got two of ‘em.” He sounded incredibly proud of this fact. I wondered for a minute where he could have found a second camper as old and weary as the first. Was there some black market for broken down RV’s that he’d cornered? He seemed like some feral animal as he stood before his homes. “The next time one of you dummies needs to sleep one off, you can do it here,” he said with an air of finality. I tried to imagine any circumstance that would cause me to enter for an instant either Pappy’s Palace or The Little Hobo, much less sleep in either one, but couldn’t do it. Everyone started leaving after that. It was getting near dusk, and there was no chance of any more loops. Tomorrow was another day. I walked to the pro shop as I did every day for my ride home from Mike, fully expecting the ax to come down, but Billy wasn’t around and Mike didn’t mention it. But on the ride home, he asked me how I’d done with Milliken. “Okay,” I said, looking out the window to the side of Sunrise Highway. I was surprised I hadn’t been fired. Maybe I’d hear about it tomorrow. “I heard he was a real prick,” Mike said. “Well,” I said. “He isn’t the nicest guy. Maybe you could ask Billy to give me a different loop next time.” “Billy talked to that dickhead,” Mike said. “He’s fucked with his last caddy.”

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I was silent, dumbfounded. After a minute I said, “But he’s a member. Manson said his grandpa created the place.” Mike shook his head and lit a cigarette. “Well, he didn’t invent it, but that’s how he acts. And he doesn’t have the right to abuse people. Ernie was there in the rough on sixteen when he cursed at you and threw that club. That ain’t appropriate. Milliken’s been pulling that shit for a long time. Billy spoke to him, and that’s the end of it.” I tried to imagine the conversation between Billy and Milliken. Knowing Billy, he probably didn’t have to say much. How would you like to carry your bag four miles every time out, Mr. Milliken? Maybe you won’t get a caddy ever again. Milliken was a member, he could mostly do what he liked, but Billy had the power of a caddymaster. “And your tip is right here,” Mike said. He handed me an envelope. Inside was a crisp hundred dollar bill. When I got home I gave it to my mom.

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Esteban Rodriguez

Equilibrium Pretty soon it felt like I was always on my father’s boat, convinced there was no difference between land and sea, just rumors spread by maps and outdated globes. That everything, regardless of its roots, was caught in a blinding current, swaying back and forth, bobbing up and down, performing almost every adjective and adverb that best describes the aching feeling of flux. That sense of unevenness sprung from the Galveston Coast, from a string of summer days spent catching wind when I was twelve, clutching a rod too big to cast, bait too wet to hold, afraid, that like Medusa I’d gaze over, see him cased in stone, interrupt the instant he was reeling in some time for himself. ‘Daddy’s little girl’ for a tom-girl was responsibility I didn’t want, an assumption I’d grow to claim my title, learn to cross my legs sitting in a skirt, erase the urge to spread them wide. But when we’d come home, the smell of fish on my father’s fingers, my feet couldn’t find a horizontal surface; my patella, calves and hips,


doubting gravity’s promise to remain heavy, to anchor my body so it wasn’t stranded like a storm-beaten buoy, far from that elusive tide of equilibrium. I thought perhaps the moon rebelled against its own compulsive orbit, or the drunken earth fell off its axis, but no girl I knew succumbed to the same shaky side-effects, no Ruth or Sally Jane had memorized the imprecise rhythm of waves, the steady rocking from side to side, foreground shifting focus like a broken camera, a feeling captured sitting in a boat with my father, dropping naked hooks into speechless waters, waiting for a sense of balance to come along and bite.

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Diplomacy The sand in the pixilated hourglass is quickly falling. Dinner in ten! yells his mother from the kitchen, where she labors over cold Tupperware containers, prepares to nuke spaghetti from the night before. But from the shelter of his dark, messy room, from the headset drowning out his presence at the table, he is nowhere near the state of starving, nowhere near concerned with the politics of lukewarm noodles, the indigestion after soggy meatballs form a coup inside his colon, trading playing time for time spent sitting on a toilet. No, tonight diplomacy has failed his online planet once again, and sanctioned by the powers of suburban boredom and a plastic joystick, he commissions himself to save his country by invading others, by tapping the X Y Z buttons like Morse code, machine-gun fire sprayed across a busy plaza; his squad bent low, fast and focused, sniping out jihadists lined like pigeons on alley rooftops. Every boy his age knows the consequences of a stiff thumb, the wrong clicks that thrust his soldier’s body up, expose his head above a bullet-beaten wall, that Pop-pop-pop! before his skull bleeds out. But in this world, where drones hunt heavens above Helmand province, striking empty mosques and highways sparse with cars, tribal fields where boys once played soccer with the same adrenaline he plays his game,

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life is lived with the comfort of long pauses, the relief that M1 tanks, IEDs, WMDs, and KIAs are all acronyms as meaningful as simulated experience, as suspenseful as the last kill before he gets killed, before he laughs, shakes it off and starts again.

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Zapper And when the Ambien peters out, and I’m left to entertain delirium like one entertains a mother-in-law overextending her stay, let my eyes bathe in the blue sunset shining from the screen, let the barrage of blinking infomercials flood every scene, as bearded men explain why I need their kitchen knives, Foreman grills, their sweater/blankets trademarked with names too ingenious to forget. Let me memorize the 1-800 numbers flashing like a fit, the exact size and color now slipping from my head, as I thumb my remote with a Channel Per Minute Average of 96. Channel Surfing League, it’s the kind of thing only insomniacs invent, the perfect sport for an undrafted middle-aged male, who’s greatest talent lies in keeping seats warm; gluteals shaped like slabs of brick, hardened by a broken office chair, by the memory of every high school team’s second string bench. When numbness soothes the tendons in my hand, and the couch sinks me deeper in its grave, let me sit through marathons of cancelled sitcoms till the rise of the early morning news, let me strive for the Channel Surfing Hall of Fame, so my heart enjoys those lonely weekend nights when the bags below my eyes melt further down my face, when I surf through thousands of cable channels

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that don’t even work, somehow hoping the distance between me and my TV, amounts to a life as meaningful as the black and white static laughing madly on screen.

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PW Covington

Requiem for Hunter Thompson If journalism is to literature What prostitution is to making love, Then you were God’s Own Whore! I’ll never fail to think of you When I’m hauling ass East out of Barstow And the desert’s heat is crusting over The half remembered stains of Last night’s excess Or in mid-October of an election year, When I’m busting my ass and Sleeping under a desk, fighting the good fight With burgers and beers and cheap truckers’ speed Flying a fool’s flag from the Gonzo parapet Ready to Fight Ready to Die Ready to Fuck Ready to Cry All to stop the bastards…the evil spawn of drug-free America I feel you coursing through my veins Like a bump of ten dollar smack Rolling around like an empty bottle of Puerto Rican rum on the floorboard Mixing with the Fear and Loathing of what’s to come FUCK YOU, Dr. Thompson Fuck you and all the dope All the guns The midnight faxes The rumors The unconfirmed And the flat ass lies Go quietly, Hell!


As they blast you high into the sky, Higher than any plant or chemical or book tour ever could. Celestial junkies and faggot cowboys And copy editors for columns not yet written: Receive this man, This light in the desert This Mountain Miasma Let him tear ass through heaven In a big, red convertible With a pack of horny angels in the backseat Up gold streets and around the corner of Paradise‌

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Short Final (Somalia 1992-1993) How old were you in 1992? I was 18, and I was not an infantryman Yet at Christmas time I flew to war On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner, and Blitzed in… …Into Mogadishu on a Hercules I was not an infantryman News cameras and equatorial black faces Swarmed us at the airport Chanting USA, USA! At night, mortars would fall Shaking the ruined walls we reclined behind, Death, daring us to sleep Always the shit-smell of the air Would hang visible on short final Short final—about to hit ground In 1992 I was 18 And I was not an infantryman That place couldn’t keep up with all the death I saw Bodies would lay atop each other in the streets, Along with camels and dogs, And brass shell cases and spent RPG tubes It would percolate and boil and bake and steam, And sometimes explode We’d scramble for cover I was not an infantryman I was not an infantryman, Any killing that I did Came later In a bottle, In a letter, In a whorehouse, In a thousand ways, Thousands of miles away,


After friend and foe, Lover and stranger, Right and wrong and Jesus Christ Just didn’t matter anymore. I was not an infantryman I didn’t get to fire back When sniper fire would shatter the ramp concrete into powder at our heels As we worked to offload the tools of conflict Or upload the injured and the dead… The only spoils of war I ever saw, but… I was not an infantryman That little war of my youth Gets lost, overlooked Between the faded flag confetti Of so-called desert victory And this current sticky mire I’m left to soldier on But I am not an infantryman And short, short final Can last for decades Like a freefall of free-floating detachment Still airborne Still hanging somewhere over East Africa A mist of useless, irrelevant, dismissed regret Just a few colored ribbons to my name I have nothing heroic to tell you about I was not an infantryman

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Davis Schneiderman

“Talk Dirty to Me” (lyrics) by Bret Michaels, C.C. De Ville, Bobby Dall, Rikki Rockett, Translated to English to Yiddish to Afrikaans to Urdu to Bengali to English You do not know I’ve never seen you looking so good You do not have to be But I like it And I do not know I like the way you I need you. Oh, I will be able to You do not know I stay out too late, you can not I can hardly wait for you to know that I see you And I know that you can not wait I am waiting to see I will contact you Course: We are children of the In continuity Old Man Ford Back Book As long as it is for skreamin ‘is - more Basement floor Close the basement door. And child Talk dirty to me Do you know what I’ll call I was asked to phone IM-only, you can expect that your home I can hear


If you told me, the word I whisper and soft I’ve heard Course K.K. Pick guitar, and I speak People, We are children of the Course And baby, talk dirty me 2 x A High S & T child’s death

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Joshua Polinard

Crocodile from Tonalpohualli


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The Vice Commission, after exhaustive consideration of the vice question, records itself of the opinion that divorce to a large extent is a contributory factor to sexual vice.

She is driven to excessive indulgence in all kinds of vice, besides the one particular vice so abhorrent, in order to bring extra profits to her keeper, and to the men who profit off her sin and shame.

These attendant vices, such as drink and the use of drugs, coupled with the demands upon her nervous system in performing the services demanded of her, soon render her the most pitiful of all beings.

The very commercialization of the vice would tend to strip it of the dangerous connection with crime. No doubt men befuddled by drink will always be regarded as victims by vicious women, but the chances of their being unmolested are certainly greater in a regular house, than when they associate with casual acquaintances in vice.

We thus have, dealing with the police list only a grand total profit from the two factors mentioned, from tolerated or regulated vice in the city of $7,865,144.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

The social evil in Chicago; a study of existing conditions with recommendations by the Vice Commission of Chicago: a municipal body appointed by the mayor and the City Council of the city of Chicago, and submitted as its report to the mayor and City Council of Chicago


Schneiderman—77

We thus have, dealing with the police list only a grand total profit from the two factors mentioned, from tolerated or regulated vice in the city of $7,865,144.

These figures speak for themselves, and show in a startling manner why vice exists in Chicago, why it is allowed to exist, and why politics and graft are inseparable from it under existing conditions.

These saloons, with rear rooms frequented by prostitutes soliciting men to buy drinks and for immoral purposes, either directly connected with rooms or hotels in the same building, or indirectly with others in the near vicinity are virtually houses of prostitution, and the nuclei of vice, the places where many take the initial step, and on the hand the business headquarters and rendezvous of the lowest characters of both sexes.

"The Profits from Prostitution in Chicago," naturally suggests the inquiry Who are the supporters of this vice, and how many must there be to keep it up?

And thus the question arises, "How immoral is the average man addicted to the indulgence in vice?"

5.

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11. Only recently a representative from a well-known brewery has purchased four licenses from owners of saloons in the South Chicago vice district.

10. Bawdy houses found by the Commission were appalling enough, but the abuse of liquor selling privileges is equal in viciousness through its open and alluring flaunting of vice and degeneracy, and in its destruction of the moral character of men who frequent the saloon primarily for drink only.

The very commercialization of the vice would tend to strip it of the dangerous connection with crime. No doubt men befuddled by drink will always be regarded as victims by vicious women, but the chances of their being unmolested are certainly greater in a regular house, than when they associate with casual acquaintances in vice.

4.


Sleipnir—78

And thus the question arises, "How immoral is the average man addicted to the indulgence in vice?"

14. Among the recreational conditions directly tributary to the increase of the victims of vice, are the privately managed amusement parks; dance halls, where bar permits are granted, or which are in the vicinity of saloons; candy, ice cream and fruit stores used as pleasure resorts; immoral shows, theater plays and moving pictures; saloons where music, vaudeville performances, and other recreational attractions are accessory to the drink habit; drug stores, where gambling devices and the selling of cocaine and other drugs are accessories. (d) Procuring. The supply of victims of the social vice, both female and male, is increased and perpetuated far beyond the number whose vicious inclinations lead them astray, by the direct, persistent, often concerted efforts of procurers.

13. Here they are also isolated and of necessity live together in large groups in neighborhoods where they are exposed to vice.

12. Without this accurate economic data, it is practically impossible to establish a firm foundation on which to deal with the sources of vice in its various forms

11. Only recently a representative from a well-known brewery has purchased four licenses from owners of saloons in the South Chicago vice district.

10. Bawdy houses found by the Commission were appalling enough, but the abuse of liquor selling privileges is equal in viciousness through its open and alluring flaunting of vice and degeneracy, and in its destruction of the moral character of men who frequent the saloon primarily for drink only.

9.


Schneiderman—79

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16. "Some of the profit sharers must be dispensed with through the force of public opinion or by means of heavy penalties, before the growth of vice can be checked. These include those who profit off the place the landlord, agent, janitor, amusement dealer, brewer, and furniture dealer; those who profit off the act the keeper, procurer, druggist, physician, midwife, police officer, and politician; those who profit off the children employers, procurers, and public service corporations; those who deal in the futures of vice publishers, manufacturers and vendors of vicious pictures and articles; those who exploit the unemployed the employment agent and employers; a group of no less than nineteen middlemen, who are profit-sharers in vice."

15. We have also found that associations and clubs, composed mainly or wholly of those profiting from vice, have existed, and that one such association still exists.

14. Among the recreational conditions directly tributary to the increase of the victims of vice, are the privately managed amusement parks; dance halls, where bar permits are granted, or which are in the vicinity of saloons; candy, ice cream and fruit stores used as pleasure resorts; immoral shows, theater plays and moving pictures; saloons where music, vaudeville performances, and other recreational attractions are accessory to the drink habit; drug stores, where gambling devices and the selling of cocaine and other drugs are accessories. (d) Procuring. The supply of victims of the social vice, both female and male, is increased and perpetuated far beyond the number whose vicious inclinations lead them astray, by the direct, persistent, often concerted efforts of procurers.

13. Here they are also isolated and of necessity live together in large groups in neighborhoods where they are exposed to vice.


Sleipnir—80

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Ron Riekki

Towards It Ten octogenarian northern Chinese women wearing surgical masks and dressed in slightly tattered, thin summer fabric weak pink and even weaker orange dresses line-dance in two rows of five to Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” but it’s not so much dancing as a Hitler-style march without the Heil hand raise. Their faces are studious, committed to this bonding out on a lopsided sidewalk in front of a permanently closed bank with a security guard strangely still posted in front. They ignore me, Mark, and Jin, my only friends in Pudong. We cross the street. Mark advised me to always cross the street with women, to keep women near you, that the taxi drivers won’t hit a Chinese woman, but they will run over a foreign man; they’ll even take pride in it. “And the ones with friends in government, they’ll get off with a warning, even if they kill you.” I use a midget size grandmother (who is normal size here) as my safety body. She walks at turtle pace so I take my time too. She helps me across the street. Mark and Jin stand, arms folded, until I arrive. We walk down a long empty street, 9 p.m., as dark as the basement of our barn in Alma where I grew up. The apartment shops fascinate me. They’re so compact. With either see-through front glass or no doors, you can get glimpses inside, see flashes of exchanges—a watermelon stand’s family crouched around a box to eat a smorgasbord of bright green and red foods in oily sauces, a man with a ripped and faded brown T-shirt pulled up to show off his big belly as he sleeps on a broken lawn chair in a used television parts shop, a pet store the size of two closets with a mud-pawed white poodle yelping like a mad prisoner. The next three stores are massage parlors, darkened inside, lit by a solitary red or blue light bulb, the women with eyes begging, frightening, store after store after store of these women all wearing black, mourning their own lives, all Thai or Filipino or Chinese, all with poverty eyes saying “please.” “That building there,” Mark says, “you see. Up top.” I look higher. Its top has tattered black curtains waving in the wind, curtains in every window, the glass all shattered, gone, no remnants. “The building looks like a massive dead woman waiting to dance,”


I say. “Sh!” Jin says. “There was a fire,” Mark says, “Many people killed. Many. They jump from up there, to here. They die. Here.” Mark motions to the ground. Jin picks up speed, crosses the street at a diagonal. We catch up. “They never make that into a new building,” Mark says. “Don’t,” Jin shushes, “They can hear.” “Who can?” Jin frowns. A bird chirps. Jin stops. “What?” I ask. Jim holds his hand up like a traffic cop. The bird gives another chirp. “That’s good,” Jin says, “A bird chirping is good. Luck. We are hao de.” He continues on. Mark goes after him, hurried. The building towers, its mouths of windows wide open, yawning and crying and yelling and hungry. I walk towards the building, the revelation that my mouth too is open. I wonder what might have crept in. I keep walking.

Sleipnir—84


I Got a Writing Residency

in China. I’m from the U.P. There’s no jobs there. They only give them to people who aren’t from the U.P. If you’re from New York or Chicago, they’ll hire you. But if you’re from the U.P., forget it. Maybe they’ll give you an adjunct job, live in poverty. Maybe. If you’re lucky. So I moved to China. Where everyone smokes. I hate smoking. The first thing I had to write for my residency was a smoking commercial. I really hate smoking. I wrote the ad. It sucked. I tried to be too poetic. “Just get to the point,” they told me. I mentioned a Buddhist monk in the ad. “You can’t do that,” they said. “Why not?” “It’s China.” “What does that mean?” “You can’t talk about religion.” “Why?” “Or sex.” “Why? They don’t have sex in China?” He frowned. “There’s over a billion people here. Someone had to have had sex.” “No sex.” “What else?” “What else what?” “What else can’t I write about?” “Lots of stuff.” “Like what?” “Tibet.” “Tibet?” “Tiananmen Square, …” He listed off names I’d never heard of, things I’d never heard of, events I’d never heard of. It was a long list. I told him I didn’t know what he was even talking about, that the names meant nothing to me. “Good,” he said, “Better you don’t know.” The window was open. I looked at it. “Don’t worry,” he said,

Riekki—85


“We’re not bugged.” “You had me worried.” “Just don’t write about it.” “Ever?” “Ever.” “Why?” “Trust me.” Now I’m worried that I wrote this. Very worried.

Sleipnir—86


Daniel D. Marin

the collapse he thinks and feels in enormous amounts. in his brain connections multiply and the information is transmitted almost instantaneously. in his heart the blood smashes with energy and fury into the artery walls. he seems calm. he walks down the street his hands in his pockets and creates complex rationalizations about everything he sees, about anything he imagines about what he sees and about anything he imagines about what he doesn’t see. his rationalizations are interwoven exactly like the wires of an invisible network from his heart flows a wave of fluid blood that floods his brain releasing serotonin and oxytocin. he thinks he loves the world and actually loves it. sometimes he imagines he lives in a complicated world in need of simple explanations or complicated ones, then he imagines he lives in a jungle among tribes of cannibals and everything seems impossible to explain he opens wide the eyes of his mind and of his body and he sees himself alone even though he is in a crowd. people point insistent fingers at him and accuse him. his brain looks for an explanation, the information is transmitted instantaneously and he becomes acutely aware that he is far from indifferent. his heart beats furiously and the very next moment it stops.


the patient I awake after a long time in a hospital bed incapable of movement in fear I look at my body and I realize I no longer have a body I close my eyes again thinking in amusement that I must be dreaming I fall asleep and when I wake up and open my eyes the same state of affairs I try to shout but in vain I don’t even have a mouth anymore only my eyes are still there I am nothing but eyes and I see in slow motion how a walrus in a white coat enters the room he has round glasses with golden rims and a stethoscope he walks to me analyzes me with a solemn air he writes something in the clinical report sheet and leaves terror fills me and I fix my eyes on the ceiling instead of a ceiling there’s a huge plasma screen on which it is written: “please calm yourself, you are in good hands, even if you suffer from an atypical disease our specialists will shortly find the most efficient remedy” and the screen goes away I close my eyes again and I tell myself: “wake up, you’re having a nightmare!” I count in my head until I fall into a deep sleep and I wake up in the same place same bed the walrus in the white coat is busy writing something in the clinical report sheet then he comes toward me with some surgical instrument that gives me the creeps and with sadistic precision he takes out my eyes

Sleipnir—88


how I killed myself every day I received a postcard from a European town from an unknown person probably the guy was touring Europe and thought it appropriate to send me these sweet mementos on whose backs he would write with a trembling hand and in capital letters “I’ll come to you soon, get ready” it sounded a bit like a threat it also sounded a bit like a message from a psychopath but just as easily it could have been something harmless I tried to imagine if by any chance it was someone I knew who was playing pranks and I burst out laughing then I imagined that it was someone I didn’t know for whom it would be very hard to reach me at the time I lived in a neighborhood on the outskirts with countless little streets even the postman would sometimes confuse them and I burst out laughing although yesterday I had received a postcard that said “tomorrow I’ll be where you are, get ready” and as I’m elaborating these plausible scenarios I hear the interphone I slowly go to it and ask who it is and a metallic voice tells me without vocal inflections “it’s me, are you ready” unbelievable I tell myself everything is so damn real and not quite like a joke “no, I’m sorry, I’m not ready” I say to the guy in a stern voice meant to disguise my fear “tomorrow at the same time I’ll be back, I want to find you ready” I’m shaking and wondering what he meant by finding me ready This means something is awaiting me or rather someone I don’t feel like playing charades at all so I pack my bags I take the first train and go to my secret cabin in the heart of the mountains and walk in taking a breath of relief when I see on the table a postcard I freeze I turn it and read on the back “be ready, today I’m coming to you” impossible I tell myself and put the gun to my temple

Marin—89


Match where does Match sleep where does he come from what does he eat whom does he talk to who is Match why is his name Match and not Bratch the retired women wondered coquettishly taking their afternoon coffee when the entire neighborhood on the sea side was dozing off and the shadows of the fig trees were as small as someone’s palm and when the shadows became long in the red light of evening there he was Match showing up from behind a thick bush limping along smiling wickedly with his hat tilted and a cigarette butt in the corner of his mouth waving hello to everybody people were whispering and Match was quiet and puffed heartily from that cigarette butt he had found on some sidewalk he inflated his chest and walked proudly as a pasha sometimes they would hit the patchy seat of his pants but Match didn’t care at all nobody knew where he was going and what he was doing except one day Match failed to show up as if the earth had swallowed him or maybe the sea the previous night a tornado had swept away everything they didn’t find his body anywhere the retired women gossiped a few more days then they moved on to other topics the children waited for him all summer then they forgot him in the end who would care about Match and why would anyone care about him anymore translated from Romanian by Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

Sleipnir—90


Lucian Merişca

“What?...” (The woman had a dream) from Vincent and Karlenstein: Good Death, Children— “Anyone has the right to dream, even if his dream can seem, or become, a nightmare for others” Even while he was relieving himself, Vincent had a feeling that something was happening behind him. What an unpleasant situation. He felt his whole body cringe and he had barely finished the job when he started feeling around in the dark, looking for the doorframe to the bedroom, the same doorframe that he’d gone through just three minutes before. It wasn’t, after all, too great a sin to go to the bathroom every night at three o’clock and not turn on all the lights as you walked around the house, since the route was so familiar to your body, to your movements, just like funerary reins to the horse. Or blind people! Do they even have light bulbs in their houses? He never turned on the lights, actually, so he wouldn’t wake up completely—that was his rationale. Although, the roaches— …Who knows what else, meanwhile… In fact, this was no sin at all! SO WHY WAS HE BEING PUNISHED FOR IT? Between him and the bedroom a WALL had suddenly grown, which by no means had been there three minutes before. He continued to feel around, conscientiously, and he couldn’t believe his fingers as they kept gathering wall paint, his nails bleeding at the corners. The structure of the house had changed completely, making it tempting and at the same time frightening to turn on the light, to see the new architecture, the hall that turned in a completely different direction, leading to a completely different bedroom, toward a completely different bed… Joy?… Fear? He felt around some more, then he knocked lightly on the wall and realized he would never make it back to the place from which he’d left. That’s when he conceptualized, suddenly filled with a new light, or darkness, that he had gotten rid of the woman. He had become free. Free of the daily fights, lasting from evening till night, fights that of course could be heard by all the neighbors in the surrounding


apartments, free of the careless, lukewarm love, later the hate and despair for the fate that kept him so closely attached to her. And now—the hope that something could still change one day, one night, this very night!—and that it wasn’t just a dream—this made him almost tremble with excitement. Without an accidental fall from the train, without an overdose of sleeping pills…How many times had he thought of suffocating Cristina in her sleep, to make her shut up all of the next day, and generally all of forever. And, well, now that was no longer necessary. He went back to the bathroom, flushed the toilet—the noise of the water, at least, was the same, pleasant noise he was used to—and he sat on the plastic toilet seat, dreamy and happy, to ponder on what had just happened. And what he should do. From now on. A lifetime. A new life. It was hard to figure out what had in fact happened to him. It was so easy to think about what to do; to enjoy, simply and stupidly; to find the other way, to the warm bed, in which a completely different person slept. A daydream in which you were given the chance to start over. From a different starting point. All he had to do was walk matter-of-factly to his bed, his new bed, and to go back to sleep. Back, and next to whom? The something else that he’d always wished for was now becoming real, concrete, concretely-growing from the walls and from the darkness of another house, another family, another dimension. Another world. Of course, it had to be better than the first. Of course, better than the first? His steps could create, at any moment, a different destiny that now seemed even more terrible—a nebulous (“?”)—than the first, a devil he knew, at least. The man condemned to prison knows that the greatest punishment a jailer can inflict is changing his cell, his companions, good or bad, the ones he’s used to. And then this terror pierced his soul. The ships, the masts, the food rations, the words, everything drowned in the Maelstrom. While up to that point, the warm body next to him had been imprinted into the folds of his unconscious mind with the nostalgia of a presence, wanted or not, day after day and night after night— now his memory (or his imagination?) refused to conceive of the new partner, the new bed partner. “Why?…” he screamed, fearfully and happily, in his mind. Maybe fear rather than happiness. Maybe organic, visceral disgust

Sleipnir—92


rather than cavernous, virile excitement. Distrust to the max, not curiosity. This was his sin…His sin was that he’d wanted to change something. That he had not loved his fate and his partner in fate just as they were, not some other way. That his happiness had been sincere when he’d gleaned at the change! He was almost ready to feel sorry for himself. Was this his punishment for the initial joy, for his curiosity, for a desire so hidden that it never came out to see the light, under the light of the stars that pierced through the window screen, except in such moments of uncertainty in his consciousness, his conscience? Once in thirty years? As he was sitting just like this, on the toilet seat—he started praying for everything to turn back to what it used to be, and he crossed himself. A roach fell noisily from the wall to the floor. A new star lit up behind the window screen and behind the watery clouds. “God! I’d be so unbelievably happy if everything went back to normal! Even with the flaws! Even!”—maybe he had dreamed it all and it was time now to break the spell of this nightmare that his most secret of dreams had become. Out of superstition, he stood up, urinated again and flushed the toilet again. (He went through the ritual, unconsciously thinking that he’d end up at the real starting point.) The water had stopped flushing, but a slight wave of warmth began to caress his hopes, frozen with expectation. He turned on the light and he witnessed the miracle! With his palms stretched, Vincent felt around for the brown door, which had reappeared in its place, its regular place, quiet and friendly, docile and familiar, leading toward the domesticity of everyday life and the sweat of every night. Should he open it to go back? He was ready to open it. Should he open it? He looked inside, cowardly, for the most recent memory, the hope that had turned to a memory, the memory leading to the other side, or that could have taken him to the other side, his secret door. He smiled to himself, slightly embarrassed, and he opened the door. He tiptoed to the bed and he snuck in. They had fought just before going to sleep, but what did that matter now? He embraced his wife in her slumber, gratefully, as she

Merişca—93


freely wallowed in who knew what domestic or unfaithful dream… Was this her, the one and the same, with her trifles and her cheap tenderness, with the decibels of her voice and the warmth of her touch, with her fried onion smell and feel-like-fighting, with…a new, heavy bun in which she’d gathered her greasy hair? Was this her? Cristina never used to gather her hair in a big, heavy bun…This woman, whoever she was, growled slightly, apparently surprised and annoyed that her hair was being touched in the middle of the night. “What?...” she started a sleepy question, turning toward him, at the same time groping for the lamp’s switch on her side. The man moaned and started writhing between the planes that, at that point, had become juxtaposed. Was this a dream? What if it wasn’t even his dream? The woman had dreamed something. That wasn’t a sin. Anyone was entitled to dream that, once in a lifetime, something could change. He pushed the light switch, to bring some light into her life. Click. Click. translated from Romanian by Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

Sleipnir—94


Anna Akhmatova

from Wild Honey Is a Smell of Freedom Wild honey has a scent—of freedom Dust—a scent of sunshine And a girl’s mouth—of violets. But gold—nothing. Water—like mignonette. And like apple—love. But we have learned that blood smells only of blood.

Akhmatova—95


from Northern Elegies, #4 As for memories, they have three parts— the first is only yesterday when laughter is still heard, but our cheeks are wet— this part doesn’t last long. Already
 a different sun is over us; not far is an empty house,
 walls are frozen in March and in August humid, where spiders are dust and chairs are dust and doors, photographs are transformed into photographs, and people come to this house as to a cemetery,
 and, back at home, they wash their hands, breathing, not breathing. But the clock ticks, April
 becomes April, the sky is sky, cities change to cities, witnesses die,
 there is no neighbor to cry with, no face to spit at. And the our dead slowly walk from us,
 to our dead. Their return to us would be terrifying.
 We find we have forgotten
 even the highway number that led to the lonely house,
 and, choked with shame or anger, jump in the car and drive to it,
 but all (as in our sleep) is different:
 neighbors, chairs, walls, and no one sees us— we’re foreigners. We got off on the wrong highway exit and now we stand here and we realize that we could not contain
 this past in our lungs, our hands,
 it has become almost as foreign to us
 as a deaf neighbor in the next apartment is foreign.
 And yes, we would not recognize
 our own dead husbands, mothers, wives, children; and those whom God separated from us, got on splendidly without us—all is for the better…

Sleipnir—96


They Don’t Understand a Thing I walk into the barber’s and whisper: “Be so kind, comb my ears.” The smooth barber begins to grow pine needles,— his face droops, like a pear. “Red-haired idiot! Nut!” He tosses saliva, he yells, he squeals, and for a lo-o-o-ong time someone’s head in a crowd giggles like an old radish. translated from Russian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

  

Akhmatova—97


Paul Ruffin

In Search of Black Gold Derrick is the one that brought it up. It’s not like I’m blaming him for what happened, but everything’s got to have a beginning, and Derrick is where this all started. We were out at the Tombigbee Waterway dam, right outside Columbus, Mississippi, drinking beer off my tailgate, which I think is against the law but we were doing it anyway, when he just up and said he knew where there was this abandoned nigger cemetery over across the Alabama line, just south of Millport, that just might be a gold mine waiting to be worked. And how come he mentioned it was that we—me and him and Jimmy Pollard—were discussing the rise in the price of gold. This was the late 70s, and it had shot up to around $800 an ounce. Folks were selling everything from class rings to gold fillings at pawn shops. Hell, I had sold my old class ring and my grandmother’s plain gold band that I managed to steal just before they closed the lid on her for good. Sometimes you gotta think quick. We were all barely getting by, financially speaking. The two of them were married, with two kids each, working on the line at General Tire and Rubber, and I was divorced and paying a hell of a chunk of child support from what little I made trying to keep my old man’s service station alive in a time when I had already read the writing on the wall about service stations without even squinting. And him so fucked up in the hip from falling off a ladder that he wasn’t much help anymore at doing anything but opening and closing the cash register and spending hours on the station commode reading Outdoor Life and Field & Stream and dreaming about actually killing something bigger than a squirrel. I spent most of my time fixing flats or changing oil and doing a little welding on the side, which is where most of our income come from. We didn’t make shit off gas or soft drinks and candy and crackers, stuff like that, not with a convenience store two blocks down selling gas for a nickel a gallon less than we could afford to. Hell, we didn’t even have a ice machine that worked. So it was just natural that we’d all be looking for a way to bring in a little extra change.


It was when I told the others about stealing that ring off my dead grandmother that the subject come bobbing up. Pollard said, “I wonder just how much damn gold and silver is in all them graves out there.” He waved his hand in a big circle, like he was covering the globe. “A hell of a lot,” I said. “I got the Goddamn ring off of her, but she had a gold bracelet on the other arm, the one I couldn’t reach before that lid come down. Pissed me off, seein’ that big chunk of gold being hauled off to be put in the ground for eternity.” “Where she berried at and how deep?” “That’s not funny, Pollard.” “You rekkin do undertakers steal that jurry sometimes before it gets berried?” “Sometimes I bet they do,” I said, “especially them big old necklaces and bracelets and rings big enough to choke a horse. I imagine the temptation’s just too much for’m to handle.” “Rekkin they knock out them gold fillins and shit?” “Well, now,” Derrick said, “they just might. Y’ever seen a corpse smile?” “Not a whole lot to smile about, I spect,” I said. Pollard nodded. “I’d damn sure knock that shit outta their mouths. Damn if I’d let it get berried.” He shook his head and pointed the neck of his bottle down. “Tons of gold right there in the ground, just layin’ there till the end of fuckin’ time and not doin’ nobody no good. What kinda damn sense does it make? For centuries people have been diggin’ it outta the ground, pannin’ it in creeks and rivers, meltin’ it down into something purty and then they go and let other people berry it again, where can’t nobody mine it. What the fuck good does it do down there? Like a worm’s gon’ quit gnawin’ and say to the one next to him, ‘Good Lord, Maggie, look what a purty rang is on that womern’s fanger.’ Or she gon’ flash that thang at St. Peter when she gets to the Gate, wallerin’ it around on her fanger bone like a hula hoop?” He shook head again and finished off his beer. Then he started up again. “Niggers sure do like gold in their teeth. Stars, crosses, diamond shapes—they get’m laid right into their front teeth so that when they smile, everbody can see it flash. Whole crowns too made outta gold. I seen one one time downtown there in Columbus that had all her front ones in gold, top and bottom. If the sun woulda hit her just right, it coulda blinded somebody drivin’ by,

Sleipnir—100


make’m have a wreck.” This was when Derrick brought it up, pretty much out of the blue. “Me’n Daddy was squrl huntin’ over there on what he called the Old Home Place, a few miles south of Millport, a few years before he died, and the dogs take’m off after somethin’ that sure as hell didn’t act like no squrl, and we musta scrambled across them hills a coupla miles before we finally caught up with’m. Daddy threatened to kill both of them for fuckin’ up the hunt, but he didn’t. He just couldn’t stand for a dog…” “What the hell has huntin’ squrls got to do with gold?” Pollard asked. “Well, on the way back, we take’n this loggin’ trail that Daddy said would lead us back to the truck, only it just got us bad lost. By the time we got back to where we had started at, it was almost dark. Them damn loggin’ roads run all over the place back in there, but he said that eventually they all led back to a gravel road. There must be—” “Fuck the loggin’ roads, Derrick. Did y’all run across some gold, or what?” Pollard never did have a whole lot of patience. “We might of, but I didn’t think about it then.” He got real secret at that point and started whispering, like somebody out there on the damn river might be listening. “We was walkin’ down one of them loggin’ roads, and I looked over and seen some kinda old buildin’ in the distance through the woods. It was almost burnt down.” “And y’all found a bushel of gold in it, right? Was there a fuckin’ rainbow or whut?” “Shut up, Pollard,” I said. “Get on with the story, Derrick.” “Well, Daddy said we didn’t have time to check it out, but I told him that it prolly had a road runnin’ to it that would get us out faster to a main road than one of them damn loggin’ trails, so he said OK, we’d cut across and see what it was, which we did. “It was a third—more or less—of a nigger church, we judged, since there was still a pitcher hangin’ behind the altar of a nigger with some kind of white collar and the name Rev. Bunch, or Burch, somethin’ like that printed on it.” Pollard had opened another beer and was acting like a boy that had been promised a look at his substitute-teacher’s pussy. “Where’s the gold come in, Goddamn it, Derrick? Did y’all find some or not?” “I’m gettin’ to it, asshole.” He reached for another beer. “Stories

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about burnt nigger churches make you thirsty.” He uncapped it and took a slug. “Daddy decided to rest hisself and the dogs, since he figgered that nigger church road would lead us out pretty quick, so I roamed around a little. After I decided there wasn’t nuthin’ of interest left of the church, which had burnt about two thirds of the way from the front, leavin’ just the altar and all covered, I walked out back. “What I seen was a graveyard that was bad overgrowed with vines and shit. Maybe a hunderd graves or so, lots of’m caved in, most of the stones layin’ over or broke off or just gone. A bunch of the dates was from the early part of this century. 1920s, 30s. Some was from the 1800s.” “So you found a nigger graveyard. What about the gold?” Pollard asked. “Did you find some?” I stopped them at that point. “Guys, you can’t say nigger graveyard anymore. If y’all had any education at all, you’d know that.” They hated it when I rubbed it in that I had almost finished high school and they didn’t even get close. They looked at me. “So what the fuck do you want us to call it?” Pollard asked. “Nigger cemetery,” I said. “Yep,” Pollard said, “it’s a shame that we missed all that education. It sure does civilize a body.” Then he turned back to Derrick. “Did y’all find some gold or whut, Goddamn it?” Derrick shook his head. “Naw. Didn’t have time to look. When Daddy got ready to go, you got ready to go too, or you got left. He called me one time, and then him and the dogs headed off down torge the gravel road.” “So what’s that nigger church got to do with gold, if anythang?” The more Pollard drank, the meaner he usually got. “The church ain’t got shit to do with gold, but that graveyard—uh, cemetery—might.” He really didn’t have to say anything else. Gold, buried niggers: We might be kinda slow, but we got it. Blacker’n the inside of a Goddamn coal mine, I figured, not that I had ever been in one. Black as a nigger graveyard on a moonless night in the middle of no damn where at all in the hills of northwest Alabama was what. Derrick had managed to get us there, over some of the worst damn roads I’d ever drove on.

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Finding the Old Home Place was easy enough, since he had been out there a whole lot over the years, but he had a hell of a time in the dark locating the road that the nigger church was off of. You know how it is when you’re trying to find some place in the dark—everything looks different than it does in the daylight. We must of passed that road five or six times before finally he said the he believed it had to be the right one and we turned down it. Then we had to find that damn driveway that led to the church. Whoever the folks in that graveyard belonged to must of been on a once-every-century cleanup schedule. Hell, Pollard had to chop down a four-inch-thick gum tree growing right in the middle of that rutted-out piece of shit of a trail that led up from the gravel road, and that was just the biggest—there was so many saplings growing in that driveway that I needed a bulldozier. At least the damn roots it from washing away completely. Him and Derrick cut down the heavier stuff, and I drove over everything that I figured wouldn’t rip the axles and gas tank out from under my truck. Before we finally got to the graveyard, at least an hour after we left the gravel, I wished a thousand times over that I had just left the truck down on the road and we’d lugged the tools up there. But, then, there was always the chance that some sonofabitch would come along and steal the tires off of it. I had some real expensive off-road big-lugged bad-ass tires on that thing. After we got around behind the church and parked between it and the graveyard, I killed the engine and cut off the lights. Like I say, it was pitch-ass black. “Well, like it or not,” Derrick said, “we gotta use flashlights to find them graves. I ain’t stumblin’ around in a dark nigger cemetery without somethin’ to go by.” Pollard snorted. “Damn right we gon’ use flashlights. I bet there ain’t nobody livin’ closer than ten miles from this place. Even if somebody seen us and ast what we was doin’ here, we’d just say we’re nigger graveyard inspectors from the guvment.” “Arright,” I said, “we’ll split it up into threes, more or less, and each of us will work a section. We’ll get it done faster that way.” “I finally get a graveyard shift,” Pollard said. “I been wonderin’ what that’d be like.” “OK, y’all ready? We each take a light and axe or hatchet and a shovel. You find a grave and dig down in front of the headstone— that’s the side with the writin’ on it, Pollard—and that ought to put

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you in the right spot. And y’all keep up with them damn tools that belong to me, which is most of’m.” Derrick grabbed a shovel out of the bed. “I’d suggest that we do one grave at a time, with two of us diggin’ and one holdin’ the light. We go down from both sides just in front of the stone. See what we hit, and go from there. It ain’t no way you can dig and hold the light. My way’ll just be faster.” “Who gets to hold the light?” Pollard asked. “We rotate, fool,” Derrick said. “Two dig for a while, then one takes the light and holds it where we’re diggin’, and then the other digger takes the light. We just keep rotatin’ like that ‘til we get it done. That way don’t nobody give out completely. Make sense?” “OK with me,” I said. “Fine,” Pollard said, “but I ain’t sure exactly what we gon’ do once we hit the casket. We just gon’ bust it open with the shovels or whut?” “Shovels, axe, whatever we need.” Derrick was pointing his light out toward a stone with a long swag in front of it. “Let’s start with that one. I bet there ain’t no casket left, the way that’s sunk in.” So, with Pollard holding the light and me and Derrick with shovels, we set to work on the first grave. In what I would judge to be less than two minutes, Derrick leaned forward on his shovel and whispered, “What the fuck are we diggin’ in here, concrete?” “Red clay,” I said. “Just a little softer than concrete. A little less aggregate.” “Well, this ain’t gon’ get it. We could be here all night workin’ on just one grave.” So I went back to the truck and got the pick, which I had the common sense to bring, and the axe. I knew how damn tough that Alabama clay could be, and I figgered there’d be plenty of roots. Right on both counts. I didn’t count on us having to clear the driveway. Then I rearranged the work detail. I’d loosen things up with the pick, and Derrick could shovel it out. We’d go on that way until we got the first grave finished, then we’d rotate, with Derrick using the pick and Pollard shoveling and me holding the light, then Derrick holding the light and Pollard using the pick, and… Get the picture? In right at half an hour we had broke through into the cavity left where the casket had rotted. It was mostly caved in, but we managed

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to get to the head easy enough, and we shined the light down and saw that there wasn’t any rings on the fingerbones. We couldn’t tell what sex it was, not that it mattered a whole hell of a lot. Well, maybe to Pollard—he’d hit on any female. “Don’t smell the way I figgered it would,” Pollard said. “Smells mostly like dirt, kinda musty, like a closet that’s been shut up a while.” I shook my head. “Naw, it stinks, just not as bad as we thought it would. If you got a closet that smells like that, Pollard, you got real prollems. Thank God we didn’t decide to do this in the dead of summer. It’s hard enough as it is. We’d of burned our asses up a few weeks ago.” Derrick had put on gloves and was leaned down, rolling the skull from side to side while I held the light on it the best I could. Finally I said, “Just yank the Goddamn head aloose and get it up here to where I can get some light on it.” “How the hell am I gon—” And then he was on his knees, holding the skull in his hands like volley ball. “Hell, I didn’t know they come aloose that easy.” “What the hell you figger is left to hold it on?” I asked him. “Them worms has eat everthing but bone.” He held the skull this way and that in the light. “Can’t really tell too much about the teeth. We gotta scrape some of that stuff off and pry the mouth open.” Pollard was spitting off to the side. “Man, this is some gross shit. Like you say, glad it ain’t the dead of summer. You got any whiskey in the truck?” “Yeah,” I said. “Under the driver’s seat. Got two half pints. Bring’m both back.” While Pollard was fetching the booze, Derrick worried the mouth open with a knife blade to where we could see the teeth fairly well. “Got one gold on the bottom here.” He looked up at me. “What we gon’ do, pull it out with pliers, or whut?” “Hell, I don’t know. I really ain’ got that much experience doing this kinda thing. What I do know is that we gotta move quicker. If we gon’ do a dental exam on every one of’m, we’ll be here for a month. We need to hose the dirt off these Goddamned things is what.” “Fine with me. You get the hose and squirt it while I hold the head.” “Very funny. What I’m thinking…”

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Then Pollard was back with the whiskey. He opened a bottle, took a deep slug, then passed it to me, and then I passed it to Derrick after my shot. “You rekkin we can catch any kinda disease from these people?” Pollard asked. “Prolly not,” Derrick said. “I imagine time is what killed most of’m. Any disease down there woulda give up long ago and headed out to better pickins.” “What I suggest we do,” I said after the bottle went around again, “is just put the heads in one of them garbage bags I got in the truck and take’m back with us to someplace a little safer and take our time getting out the gold. Take all the jurry we find and the heads. We can bring’m back after we’re thoo and leave one hole open and dump’m all in there.” Pollard snickered. “Can’t you imagine how sprised the guy’s gon’ be that happens to dig into that grave. All them Goddamn heads in one grave. Like they was having a Amway party.” “Hope he ain’t looking for gold,” Derrick said, “or he’s gon’ be real disappointed.” We had already decided to reshape the graves the best we could before we left so that by the end of October, a little over a month away, leaves would cover everything over pretty good. Hell, after winter rains and all, nobody’d be able to tell we’d been digging there. For the next six hours we dug and cussed and sweated. Pick, shovel, axe, axe, pick, shovel, on and on and on. Goddamned tree roots everywhere. Red clay hard as month-old concrete. One aluminum casket that we had to chop open with the axe and peel back like a sardine can. After the eighth grave we just collapsed in a heap and decided that that was it for the night. We had eight heads in the bag, along with two gold rings and a silver bracelet, which we put in shotgun shell box. The second bottle was long gone, and we were dying for some more whiskey. I decided right then and there that I’d have a lot more onboard the next trip out. We voted to leave the bag with the heads in the woods, since it would be pretty hard to explain to a cop—or, hell, anybody—what I was doing with a garbage bag full of skulls in my truck. “You know,” Derrick said after we’d hid the bag in a big clump of underbrush and was trying to clean ourselves up a little with some

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water from a plastic jug, “I was sprised that they didn’t berry them people deeper’n they did. I thought they was sposed to be six feet down.” “Well,” I said, “I guarantee you they never dug no holes six feet deep in that damned clay. Not back in here. Not without a fuckin’ backhoe. It’s a wonder they didn’t just thowe leaves over’m.” Pollard laughed. “Prolly just deep enough to keep out the possums.” Derrick looked at him. “Possums eat people?” “Hell, possums’ll eat anythang,” Pollard said. And I’ll bet he knew. He’d eat plenty of them. Derrick pointed in the direction of the bag. “Rekkin they’ll mess with them heads?” “I doubt it,” I said, “unless possums back in here have found a use for gold fillins or human teeth or bone. Ain’t no meat left.” Everybody was too tired to laugh at that. We gathered the tools and threw them in the bed of the truck and left for a few hours of sleep. The next night we’d try to do ten or twelve more, and I’d have enough whiskey along that the work would go a little easier. Them sonsofbitches were lucky I didn’t have a wife and kids to keep up. My truck, my tools, my damn whiskey, but bet yer ass that when it come time to split the gold, everbody would be bitching to divide it even three ways. Saturday night things went a little better. You know how it is with any job--the more you do it, the better you get at it. We spent six or seven hours and a quart of whiskey opening ten graves. We didn’t run across any more metal caskets, and only one of the wooden ones caused a problem, mainly because they had apparently soaked it in creosote before putting it under. Only two were buried deeper than a couple of feet. I got a real spooky feeling a couple of times that somebody was watching us from the woods, but I didn’t say anything to the others and shook it off. Around two o’clock we knocked it off, hid the heads back in the woods, and threw our stuff in the back of the truck. I couldn’t speak for them, but my ass was flat dragging. Robbing graves is hard work. On the way back, Derrick opened the shotgun shell box and examined our treasure. “Seven gold rings, two gold bracelets, and that one silver one. Not bad for a couple of nights’ work.”

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“And eighteen heads in the bag,” Pollard said. “No tellin’ how much gold we got there.” “There’s definitely some,” Derrick said. “I seen it shinin’ in some of their mouths.” The plan was to come back for one more run on Sunday night, but we all had to get up and go to work early Monday morning, so we decided to hold it to four or five hours. Then we’d haul the heads down to our swimming hole on the Luxapalila, stash them in a safe place I knew, and the next weekend go through them very carefully in the light of day, with proper tools and a sheet of plastic to work on, thowe everything in the river when we got through. If the pickings was good, we’d make another run. Well, a damn front came roaring through Sunday night and really screwed up our plans. We managed to get just a few graves opened before the bottom fell out. I was afraid we’d get stuck on that piece of shit road on the way back out to gravel, so I finally told Derrick and Pollard to thowe the tools in the truck. I grabbed up the heads, which we had divided into two garbage bags and then triple-bagged’m. Some of them still had lots of dirt and crap jammed up inside them and clinging to them, so they were heavy as hell. I got Pollard to help me hoist’m into my toolbox. I damned sure wasn’t going to leave’m bouncing around in the bed. What if I got pulled over? It would be hard enough to explain a bunch of watermelons or a couple of hogs in the back of your truck, but two sacks of skulls? Niggers or not, you’d have to come up with a purty good story to get that by a highway petroleum, which is what we always called’m. Since the weather was so bad, I decided I’d just leave them in the toolbox until the next day and then haul’m to the river and hide’m. On the way back Derrrick inventoried the stash in the box. “Got three gold bracelets and two silver, nine gold rangs, two silver rangs, two gold necklaces. One big ol’ earrang—gold, I thank.” “You know,” Pollard said, “I find it hard to bleeve that them folks, pore as they musta been, let all that jurry get berried.” I nodded. “I been thinking about that myself. Only thing I can figger is that they was convinced that these people would eventually get to Heaven with all that stuff on.” Derrick said, “Musta seen eight or ten knives.” Pollard laughed. “Hell, yeah, but they wudn’t worth a shit. Rusted

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plumb up. Rekkin niggers knife-fight in Heaven?” The next afternoon, after work, I drove down as close as I could get to our old swimming hole on the Luxapalila and unloaded the heads from the toolbox and lugged’m, one bag at a time, to the place I’d found to stash’m, a sort of cave formed by the root system of a big tree that had blowed over. Damn, them things was heavy. I was tempted to go ahead and start looking for gold fillings and crowns, but I figured that Derrick and Pollard would get pissed off if I did, so I pushed the bags way up under the roots and squirted some diesel fuel around the edge of’m, which I figured would keep possums and coons and dogs away. I threw a few handfuls of leaves over’m for good measure. The sun was barely up Saturday morning when we got the first of the bags out and dumped onto a sheet of plastic I had spread far back in the woods in a thicket where I’d never seen anybody else go. Each of us had a pair of pliers, needle-nose and regular, screwdriver, and a ball-peen hammer, and I had gone by the folks’ house and sneaked out what I called their nut-buster, one of them little kits with a tray and some pinchers for cracking pecans and some picks for gouging out the meat. It was in the kitchen closet, and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t miss it for a few days. “Don’t look like we’re plannin’ to do no brain surgery here, does it?” Pollard was holding a head in his palm and staring at it. “What you grinnin’ at, nigger?” “They’re all probably laughing their asses off at three desperate rednecks kneeling on a piece of plastic trying to find gold in their teeth,” I said. And I wasn’t smiling. I dreaded what was coming, even more than I dreaded what we had just been through. There were fourteen heads in the first bag. I slid five over to Derrick and pulled five over for myself and gave Pollard four. I figgered he couldn’t count above four, so he wouldn’t feel cheated. Then we went to work. I doubt that in the history of the universe the sun ever shined down on a weirder scene: three guys hunkered over on a sheet of black plastic prying open the jaws on a stack of man skulls, now and then yanking a tooth with pliers and cracking it open, and gouging out little chunks of gold with picks made to dig out pecan meat. I just wished I’da hosed the damned things down before I

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brought’m to the river, scooted out some of that clay that was packed in their mouths, but I figgered that might have drawn just a little bit of attention. There I’d be on the patio blasting away at a line of skulls with the water hose and some damn meter reader would show up. It would be hard to explain, I’m saying. What would have been even better was a power washer, but the one I had that I used ever year to clean the green off my trailer was broke down, and I sure as hell couldn’t imagine hauling’m to the local carwash—talking about drawing some attention… By noon we’d gone through both bags, a total of twenty-three heads, and three quarts of whiskey, which was as much a part of our lineup of tools as the pliers. Ever time we finished handling a skull, we’d take a slug and then pour a little over our hands. We had flecks of tooth and bone and shreds and smears of all kinds of shit on our faces and arms and clothes. Gross—it was just gross. I kept thinking about what we would have smelled like if it had been summer, with all that heat. At one point Pollard took a double swallow of whiskey and said, “Rekkin what would they do if somebody was to come up on us here?” “Nobody’s gonna be back in here,” I told him. “What if a game warden was to stumble across us? They all over the woods.” “Then, Pollard, I spect we’d be in bad trouble.” “I bet it ain’t a damn thang in the Mississippi fish and game laws about yer havin’ nigger skulls in yer possession.” “Maybe not, Pollard,” said Derrick, “but somehow I just can’t see a game warden overlookin’ what we’re doin’.” “If you was to rob a live nigger, you might get in trouble, but I bet it ain’t on the books nowhere that it’s a crime to rob a dead one. Besides, we ain’t stealin’ nuthin: Them famblies done thowed it away, berried it in the ground, like you would garbage.” Derrick stared at him. He already had a whiskey haze across his face. “Pollard, it ain’t like somebody delivered the Goddamn heads to us. We dug’m up. We stole’m from their graves. Separated’m from the rest of their bones. What they gon’ do on Judgment Day when everbody else’s skeletons rise and head off to Heaven? They’ll be lookin’ everwhere for the rest of their bones. ‘Who got my bones? Who got my bones?’ You remember that old ghost story about the golden arm? ‘Who’s got my golden arm?’”

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“I don’t remember that story. How’s it go?” I glared at him. “Pollard, shut up. Derrick, shut up. This ain’t no story here. This is reality. We gotta get thoo here and dump this shit in the river. Now y’all get your heads right, and stay the fuck away from the whiskey. You both drunk as coots.” Derrick held up a skull. “Got my head right. Right here.” But then they shut up and got to work, and by one o’clock or so we had been through the heads and had maybe a tablespoon of fillings and crowns. We stood up and knocked all the crap off ourselves as best we could, then sloshed the last of the whiskey over our hands and faces. We were smeared from head to foot with all kinds of slimy shit from the skulls—I’m just glad I didn’t know what most of it was or I would have thowed my guts up. I caught myself gagging several times while we were working on them heads. The water was too damned cold to jump in the river, but I sure as hell thought about it. We’d slugged at least a pint and half of whiskey each, but I could barely feel it. I suggested that we haul the heads down to the river and throw’m in, so we loaded our individual piles into three sacks, then rolled the sheet of plastic up and stuffed it into one of’m. Then we lugged the bags to the river to a deep hole I knew about in a bend a few yards down from our swimming spot. I had the little pieces of gold rolled up in a bandana and shoved down in one of my pockets. Pollard first suggested thowing’m in the swimming hole, but I flat slapped down that idea. I could just see some fool kid comin’ up from a drop off the rope, holding one of them skulls up and sputtering, “Alas, poor Rastus, I knowed him, y’all,” or something like that, not that I said that to them. I went halfway through my senior year before dropping out and going to work at the station, which give me roughly twice the schooling of the two of them put together, and I doubted that either of them had read a word of Shakespeare or even heard of Hamlet or a skull named York. I figured that Rastus worked better than York, which sure as hell wasn’t a local-sounding name. We stopped at the swimming hole, which had a tall tree leaning out over it and a rope hanging from it. Under the tree was a clay bank slicked down over the years until, when it was wet, you could sit down and slide on it and get shot halfway across the river if the water was down a good bit, like it was most of the summer. Even divided up and with most of the clay and crap knocked off, them skulls was still heavy as hell, so we sat down and rested a spell.

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We crossed a sandbar below the swimming hole and clambered up a high, rough bank, then found what was left of an old path that led to the bend where that deep hole was. Anybody that knows about rivers knows that when they take a sharp turn, they’ll thowe up a sandbar on the inside of the bend and gouge out a real deep hole on the inside. Huckleberry Finn talks about that. There’s prolly a term for how it works, but I don’t know it. High above the deep hole we threw our bags in a pile and rested. Pollard was on his back, looking up into the deep blue. The day was real cool for early October, “You don’t rekkin we’ll go to Hell for this, do you?” “I don’t know,” Derrick said. “I doubt that God’s too pleased with what we done. Graveyards are holy, especially one that’s right behind a church.” Pollard snickered. “That one’s damn sure holey.” I stood and hefted my bag. “Y’all think we ought to weight these down with some rocks or something?” Pollard pointed to his bag. “Shit naw, that sumbitch must weight forty or fitty pounds.” I eased toward the bluff. “Well, far’s I’m concerned, the sooner we get this stuff at the bottom of the river, the better.” There I was, poised to sling my share of skulls off into the deep hole, when something whizzed over my head and splashed down halfway across the river. I didn’t have to wonder what it was, and I was pretty sure where it came from. I spun around. I narrowed my eyes at Pollard, who was standing there with a big grin. “You dumb sonofabitch! What did you do that for?” “Wanted to see how far could I thowe it.” “Now you know, Goddamn it.” “It was kinda like that that thang at the Olympics where they thowe that ball… .” “Shot put,” I said to him, “and they thowe a steel ball that weighs a Goddamn ton.” “It’s what it felt like to me, I’m sayin’.” “How the hell would you know what it feels like to play any kind of game at the Olympics? And, this, by the way, ain’t a game, Pollard. That wudn’t no steel ball you thowed in the river—it was a nigger skull that we stole from a graveyard. That thang better not wash up on a sand bar.” “You thank that could happen?” Derrick asked.

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I just rolled my eyes at’m. “It might could, Goddamn, it just might could. Be just our Goddamn luck.” I pointed to their bags. “Now, you dumbasses quit foolin’ around and bring them bags on over here, and we’re gonna dump’m in the river. Tie the tops tight and then poke holes in’m so they’ll sink. Then pitch’m upstream as far’s you can so that they’ll settle down in the deepest part of that hole down there. I took my bag and twirled it underhanded four or five times, then let it sail upriver. It splashed down, bloused briefly, then sunk. Derrick’s followed, then Pollard’s. All went down fast and deep. I got that weird damned feeling again that somebody was watching us, the way I felt in the graveyard that night, but I kept my mouth shut. Had to have been the guilt. “You got anything in the truck t’eat?” Pollard asked me on the way back. “I ain’t had nuthin’ since last night.” “Lick yer fangers,” Derrick told him and snickered. “No, I ain’t got anything t’eat in the truck or in my pockets. Not even any whiskey left. We can stop by Johnson’s and get somethin’, if y’all want to, but y’all gonna pay for it. Mainly I want to get the hell away from this fuckin’ river and take a show’r.” “You got the gold, right?” “Naw, Derrick, I thowed it in the river with them bags.” I pulled my bandana out and handed it to him. “Here’s the damned gold.” “You know,” Pollard said after they had studied our meager treasure, “even considerin’ the bracelets and rangs, I don’t think it was worth it.” He knotted the bandana and handed it back to me. “I know damned well it wudn’t,” I said. “Time I count the Goddamn gas and whiskey and one broke shovel handle…” Then I drove out of there as fast as I could without getting pulled over. The way my luck had been running lately, whoever stopped me would prolly have a cadaver dog riding with him. Drive him crazy tryin’ to figger out which one of us was the corpse. We got together the next weekend at my trailer, since there wasn’t any women or kids hanging around, and discussed how we were going to go about selling the gold. We had our whole stash on a platter on the dining room table: rings and bracelets and dental work. It didn’t look like a whole lot to show for the time and effort it took us to mine it. Derrick and Pollard

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had cups of half whiskey, my damn whiskey, and half coffee, my coffee, and I had a beer, which I thought was classier. I said, “Seems to me that the first thing we gotta do is melt this shit down, since whoever we take it to to sell it is gon’ wonder about all them fillins and stuff. And the rings. You don’t find gold fillins just layin’ around, you know.” Pollard snorted. “We talkin’ about a pawn shop here. Hell, they ain’t gon’ care where we got it from. They wouldn’t care if we killed twenty-three niggers and knocked them fillins out.” “Still,” I said, “we ain’t takin’ a chance on bein’ questioned about where this gold come from.” All we need is for some nigger to run across a ring from his grandmomma’s finger in a pawn shop and go asking how come it’s in that pawn shop, since the last time he seen it, it was on her in a casket.” So we put our heads together and decided that the thing to do was use my sinker-casting outfit to melt the gold and pour it up in the shape of a lead weight like you use on a fishing line. I had a little cast-iron melting pot that you could hold over a propane torch until the lead melted, then you poured the liquid lead into a mold that clamped together in two pieces. When the lead solidified again, you cracked open the mold and dropped out the sinker. That simple. I set everything up on the deck, and in something over half a hour we had our gold melted down and poured up. After a few minutes of cooling, I dumped a two-ounce gold sinker out of the mold. After that we went back inside and drunk some more and tried to decide where to take the gold for pawning. Pollard said he had a buddy that run a pawn shop up in Aberdeen, but I figgered that any buddy of Pollard’s would like as not fuck things up somehow or try to fuck us over. I told’m I thought it’d be best to pawn the stuff over in Tuscaloosa, where there was a pawn shop that I bought an Army carbine one time—that was a long way from Columbus. And in another state. “Them niggers was berried in that state,” Pollard pointed out. “The state they was in was dead,” I said. “We’re takin’ the Goddamn stuff to Tuscaloosa.” And we did, the very next Saturday. We loaded up in my truck, naturally, and drove over early that afternoon. We had the gold weight in a little box I found in a drawer in the bedroom and the silver in a plain white envelope. I didn’t have any idea whether the

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silver would be worth the bother or not, but we’d get what we could for it. When we got there and walked in, I didn’t recognize any of the guys at the pawn shop, and I was purty sure they didn’t recognize me. I hadn’t been in there but that one time, when I traded a crate of carbine magazines I’d managed to steal from the National Guard armory for an old pitted carbine missing the front sight. This old guy with a white mustache that looked like he’d lost a fair amount of food in it had eyeballed us big-time when we walked in, so when he had wrapped up his business with another customer, he come over and asked what he could do us for. I told him that we had some gold and silver for sale. He took the little box and removed the gold weight from it and examined it closely. “I’ve seen some odd-lookin’ pendants in my time,” he said, “but never nuthin’ like this. It looks like a fishin’ sanker.” “For good reason,” Pollard said. “That’s what it is.” The old man looked at me. “Did it come this way, or whut? I never knowed anybody rich enough that they used gold to weight a fishin’ line.” “No,” I said. “We melted down some gold nuggets and jurry and poured it up in one of my molds. Just some family stuff we had layin’ around, you know.” “How come you melted down the jurry? It’s usually worth a lot more than just the weight of the gold.” I shrugged. “We just did is all.” “And where’d y’all get nuggets at? Ain’t been no pannin’ goin’ on in these parts that I know of.” “Does it matter?” I asked. He give me a look. “I don’t know. Does it?” “Hell, gold’s gold,” Pollard pointed out, “no matter whut shape it’s in. And there sure ain’t no nuggets there now.” The guy hefted the weight in his palm. “True, but I’ve never seen a gold fishin’ sanker before.” “So what do you think it’s worth?” I asked him. “The gold weight and the silver that’s in the envelope?” He picked up the envelope and stirred the pieces with his finger. “Silver ain’t gon’ brang a whole lot, but this chunk of gold could be worth quite a bit. Since I got no way of knowin’ what kinda gold is in it, I’ll have to get somebody to assay it.”

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“Gold is gold, ain’t it?” Pollard asked. “Nossir. You got 24-karat at the top, which is might near 100% pure gold, and it goes down from there, dependin’ usually on what the gold is used for. Gold jurry, for example, is usually a higher grade than, say, the gold used in dental work.” Oh, man, did I flinch at that. But I didn’t have a chance to say anything. Pollard beat me to it. “You sayin’ that gold fillins ain’t as good a gold as a rang or bracelet?” “Of course not. Gold in a tooth has to be hard enough for you to chew with it. Hell, pure gold would flatten out the first time you cranked down on a chicken bone with it. It’s got to be hard enough to do what teeth do.” “But it looks the same—” Pollard was getting too edgy for my comfort. “Them rangs and bracelet looked the same…” The old man studied him a few seconds. “So you tellin’ me that this gold sanker has got dental gold in it?” Pollard give me a quick look and then said, “All’s I’m sayin’ is that I thought all gold was the same.” “Well, it ain’t. Y’all want me to get this piece here assayed or whut? I can’t offer you nuthin’ for it till I know how much pure gold is in it. As for the silver, one of them bracelets is plated, which means it ain’t worth much at all except as cheap jurry. I can weigh these other pieces and give you whatever the going rate is today, minus my cut.” I looked at the others and then told him to get the gold assayed and pay us what he could for the silver. He said the guy who valued the gold was off on Saturdays but would be back in Monday, if we wanted to drop in then, but I told him we were from Columbus and worked every day and wouldn’t be able to come back until the following Saturday. He wrote down a brief description of the gold weight and signed a receipt and slid it across the counter to me. Then he went to weigh the silver. “That silver sure didn’t brang much,” Pollard bitched on the way back to the truck. “We couldn’t get much more than a hamburger each and some beer for what he give us.” “It ain’t the silver I’m interested in,” I told him. “I’m goin’ for the gold.” “Yep,” Derrick sighed. “Our own gold fishin’ weight.” “How much you rekkin it’s worth?” “No way of knowin’, Pollard, but I wish you hadn’t of said

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anything about dental gold.” “Well, hell,” Derrick said, “he was gon’ have to have it essayed anyhow, so it don’t make no differnce.” We were in the truck then and headed home. I leaned and looked over at Pollard. “You can’t tell me that if you was him you wouldn’t be wonderin’ where we might of got our hands on some fuckin’ gold fillins that had to of come from somebody’s mouth.” “He can wonder all he wants to. Far’s he knows, they come from our mouths.” “Well,” I said, “we may be hard up, but at least it ain’t got that bad yet.” After that we settled into our thoughts, and I could just imagine what theirs were. When I called over to the pawn shop along toward the end of the week, the guy said his assayer still hadn’t gotten around to putting a value on the gold, that he’d run into some kind of problem with it and had to send it off to Montgomery for “further analysis,” which sounded to me like we might ought to readjust the size of our dreams. But, hell, we still had to have a fair amount of money coming… The next week, on a Thursday, I got a call from the pawn shop that the final assay was finished and we could come over Saturday to settle up with him. Yessssssssssss… You know that Burns guy that wrote about the best-laid schemes of mice and men sometimes turning to pure-dee shit, or something like that? Well, he was dead-ass right on target for us. And there wasn’t no way that we was expecting it. Hell, the guy that had handled our gold was just bubbling when we showed up. Eyes had that twinkle you see in Santa’s eyes, you know. Thinking back, it was that “I know something you don’t know, doo-dah, doo-dah” look folks give you who are about to rip you ass-under, as the preachers used to say when they bragged about what they was gon’ do to demons. He led us back to a cramped office cluttered with all kinds of shit you’d expect in a dumpster: boxes and papers and burger bags and paper cups and crap all over the place. He dumped stuff out of a couple of chairs in front of his desk and motioned for us to set down.

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One would have to stand, and that was Pollard, simply because he was slower than me and Derrick, in more ways than one. Once we’d settled down, he took our gold weight out of its box and laid it right in the middle of the desk. He pointed to it. “You gentlemen will agree, I think, that this is the piece of gold that you left with me. You’ll note the missing part of the eye where you didn’t quite finish fillin’ the mold.” We nodded. “Would y’all mind tellin’ me exactly what all you melted down to make this, uh, sanker?” We looked at each other, and then Pollard spoke up. “Wudn’t nuthin’ but gold that we melted down. Why?” The old man looked shrewd. “Well, that ain’t exactly the case. The assay tells a different story.” He tapped the weight with the tip of a pencil. “Says there’s brass in here too. And platinum, tin, copper, and I don’t know what all. Most of that comes from the dental gold, but not the brass.” “Goddamn it, y’all, I told you that a couple of them rings looked like brass. They had corrosion, and gold ain’t supposed to corrode.” Pollard glared at me. “They melted the same.” The old man laughed. “Gold and brass have meltin’ points not that far apart—just under 2000 degrees. Easy mistake to make, if you don’t know what the fuck yer doin’.” “So whut’s it worth?” Derrick asked him. “Don’t matter,” he said, putting the weight back into its box and dropping the box into a drawer. “Because y’all ain’t gettin’ a penny for it.” Because he was standing, Pollard managed to get clear across the desk before me and Derrick could stop him. But not before the old man had snatched up one bad-ass looking black pistol with a barrel that looked big enough to stick your thumb in. He had the pistol cocked and aimed right between Pollard’s heavy eyebrows. “You settle the fuck down, big boy. You look at that cylinder, and you’ll see I got holler-points in this sumbitch, and it’s a .44 magnum. You wanna decorate my office with what little brains you got?” Pollard backed up until he was against the opposite wall. Derrick and I just sat there and stared at the pistol. I don’t know about him, but I was thinking about how little gold would be worth where that gun could send us in a heartbeat. He lowered the pistol but kept it in his hand. “Now, if you boys are

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calm enough to talk binness, we’ll get on with this thing.” It was like the whole roomed sighed with relief. I was flat scared shitless, and I know the two of them had bit button holes in their shorts. It’s one thing to be told you ain’t gettin’ anything for a whole lotta labor and another to realize you about to get your head blowed off for a whole lot less. The old man picked a newspaper up from the desk with his free hand and held it up for us to see. “You boys read the papers?” Then he give us this look that said he figgered we didn’t read much of anything. We just looked at each other and wagged our heads no. I hadn’t touched a newspaper in years. “Well, y’all shoulda been keepin’ up with your hometown paper. Three days ago it seems like a fisherman down on the Luxahatchie River, or something like that--” “It’s the Luxapalila.” Of course Pollard had to open his mouth. “It ain’t but two rivers over there, the Tombigbee and Luxapalila. Indian names or somethin’.” The old man nodded. “I sit corrected. Luxplia… Luxa… Lux…” “Luxapalila,” I said, “and it is a Indian name.” “Rekkin what does it mean?” Pollard asked, but the look I gave him made him wince. His mind could jump from the universe to a fleck of gnat shit in a heartbeat. “So this here fisherman was thrashin’ around for catfish on that river, and when he thought he got a bite, he yanked and then reeled in somethin’ that wudn’t no fish. Guess whut it was he caught.” There was that looking at each other thing again and shruggin’. “He brought in a human skull. The hook snagged it in a eye socket. He thought he had a purty good fish on, but it was a skull. Don’t that beat all?” At this point he laid the pistol on his desk, reached down and fished a whiskey bottle out of a bottom drawer, uncapped it, and took a drag. He belched and continued. “When he got home he called the Law, and they come down in droves to try to figger it all out. Hadn’t been nobody missin’ lately, but when a skull shows up like that at the picnic—uninvited, so to speak—they got to try to figure out where the body’s at that it belongs to. It’s part of a set, you see. Got a head, there’s got to be arms and legs and backbone—but, hell, even y’all know that. “They called in a search team with nets and drag-hooks and all

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that shit and set to scourin’ the hole the head come out of, and lo and behold, brethren and sistren, they come up with some garbage bags full of skulls. They didn’t say the exact number in the story, ‘cause they still investigatin’, but it was a bunch. And here’s another guess whut: Somebody had knocked the teeth out of a lot of their jaws. They could tell where somebody had been at’m with pliers and screwdrivers, and they was all kinds of pieces of teeth and stuff wadded up in a piece of plastic. Wudn’t nuthin no worms done.” We just listened. There wasn’t a whole lot to say. What I wanted to do was knock the shit out of Pollard for thowin’ that damn skull in the river. “It’s downright m’cobber,” the old man said. Pollard’s look let him know that he had no idea what that meant. “M’cobber. It’s a Frog term. Means real strange.” “Real strange for sure,” Pollard said, “but what’s frogs got to do with it?” “That’s what folks call the French. Frogs. Everbody but the French theirselves.” “Why the hell do people call’m--” I poked him in the side. “That don’t matter. Let it go. We got more important fish to fry.” I didn’t bother trying to explain that, since I figured that even Pollard knew what I meant. But I’m not sure. Sometimes I figgered that he barely knew he was alive. “If y’all would kindly pay attention… Now, the kicker is that just yesdy there was a foller-up story that made the first one make sense. A constable was patrolin’ out in the sticks south of Millport—and we talkin’ about Alabama now, of course—and he seen to where somebody had been goin’ up a old abandoned road that led to a burnt-out nigger church, and it seemed strange to him, and what with all the mari-juwanner growin’ that’s been goin’ on back in them hills, he decided to check it out. Know what he found?” Shrugs, silence. “He found where somebody had dug up a nigger graveyard behind that old church. Don’t that beat all?” “Cemetery,” Pollard said. The old man stared at him. “Whut?” “You can’t say nigger graveyard. You gotta say nigger cemetery these days.” The odd thing is that I remember thinking that didn’t nobody in the room think he was trying to be funny. It was not a time to

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be funny. This was some serious shit that was beginning to gather weight above our heads. The old man studied him a few seconds and went on. “Found out that whoever had robbed them graves had took just the heads out of’m. Just the heads. Don’t y’all find that strange? And they could tell that some jurry had been took outta them graves too. Them boys is sharp at whut they do. And I bet that whoever take’n them rangs and bracelets didn’t bother to clean’m up to where there wudn’t any dirt left in the little grooves. All they need is a speck, them boys, and they can match it with the grave it come out of. Sharp is whut. “Now, I know that you boys ain’t perfessers or nuthin’, but y’all do the math here. A whole bunch of skulls shows up in the river. And then the Law discovers that a bunch of nigger graves has been robbed of nuthin’ but skulls, and the number of skulls matches the number of graves that skulls come out of. And them heads has been—whut’s the term the paper used? They been de-filed. Had the teeth knocked out of most of’m. Now, whut do you rekkin anybody would want with a bunch of teeth out of dead people’s skulls?” He reached into the upper drawer and pulled out the little box again and removed the gold weight. He laid it on the desk and curled his crook-neck lamp down so that the light was focused on it. Then he took out the envelope the silver pieces were in and scattered them under the lamp. “Just a few days before them stories broke, you ol’ boys show up here with this chunk of melted gold that you admit has got dental gold in it, and you got silver rangs and bracelets and stuff. Y’all from the area where the skulls was found, and you know all about the river they was found in. Whut conclusion do you rekkin that I have done come to when I add all that up?” “It ain’t no way—” “Shut up, Pollard,” I said. Then I looked at the old man. “I see whut conclusion you have come to, but you can’t prove that we had a thang to do with any of that. You are just speculatin’.” He picked on one of the silver bracelets that had vines and flowers engraved in it and pointed to a spot on it with a pencil tip. “They’s enough grit down in that groove to where them old boys trained in the frenzic sciences can match it with whatever grave y’all take’n it out of.” He dropped his head and leveled his eyes at me

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across his glasses. “You done it, and I know it, and that’s that. Now we got to decide how to handle this.” Actually, he’d already figured that out too. Here’s the deal he cut us: In order for him to keep his mouth shut and keep our asses out of prison, we had to forget about the grave goodies, including the mixed-up gold weight, and also give him five hundred dollars apiece, which was a pretty damn heavy fine for the three of us. It’d be easier for me than for Derrick and Pollard, with kids and all, but, Lord, them child-support payments of mine… He had us by the short hairs for sure. It was all Pollard could do to keep from busting a vein. I stood up and made him take my seat. All we needed was for him to lose it and tear the old man’s head off with one blow from one of his big fists or get shot trying to. I motioned for him and Derrick to keep their mouths shut. “So, whut you’re tellin’ us is, uh, Mr., uh—shit, I don’t even know your name.” “Lipsey. Mr. Lipsey. I own this place.” “OK, Mr. Lipsey. So whut you’re sayin’ is that instead of us walkin’ out of this place—your place—with money for all our work, we are goin’ to have to give you that gold and silver and pay you fifteen hunderd dollars to boot?” “You finally got it figgered out,” he said. “But that’s just part of it.” “Part of it? What the hell else?” Now I was about to lose it. He stood up, slid the pistol into a drawer, and walked to the door and whispered to somebody. A few seconds later, he brought an elderly black man into the room. “Reverend Barge, I’d like you to meet the three fine gentlemen from Columbus, Mississippi, who heard about the trouble your church is in and has volunteered to rebuild it completely, right down to wirin’ it and puttin’ in new pews and a kitchen and a indoor bathroom, both complete with plumbin’. They’ll have to finish tearin’ down or burnin’ up the old one, a’course, and put in some new piers. Futhermore, when the construction is complete, they are goin’ to clean up that old graveyard—uh, cemetery—and put new tombstones on all them graves that got, uh, de-filed. They also gon’ work with the Law to match the heads with the graves they come out of and put’m back where they belong at—you know, the best they can.” You coulda heard a dead gnat drop on that floor. We just stared at

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them for a few seconds before the preacher quit grinning and reached out to shake our hands. Even Pollard didn’t know what else to do but shake back. I can’t begin to imagine what was going on in their heads, since I couldn’t get a fix on anything going on in mine. “The Lawrd do work in a whole bunch of mysterious ways, his wonders to p’form, don’t he, boys?” Lipsey said. Then he turned to the preacher. “I’ll write down how for’m how to get in touch with y’all, and y’all can work out a schedule that suits everbody. I’ll tell you, Reverend, it is amazin’ these days to see whur all Christian charity arises from. These ol’ boys read about your prollems, and the Good Lawrd pointed’m to me, and the rest is histry, as they say.” “Bless you, Mist Lipsey, and bless you kind gentlemen for yo’ service to Gawd. You will be blessed many times over, I promise you.” Lipsey then ushered him from the room and turned again to us. “Far’s the Law’ll know, y’all just three fine Christian gents who done dedicated part of your life to helpin’ others less fortunate than yerselfs. And whutever you spend on the project can be wrote off as charity on your income tax. “Now, I know what you might be thankin’, so let me re-direct yer thoughts. I got all kinds of kin in the Dixie Mafia, which I figger even you all have got enough sense to know about, and they owe me favors galore, so don’t you thank for one minute about not payin’ me that cash or not doin’ ever damn thang I told you you gotta do. Them folks don’t mess around. I don’t care if you have to hock your trailers and trucks and kids and household pussy to get all this done, but it is gon’ get done. And don’t go figgerin’ that you’ll drag it out for eternity neither—the grand openin’ of that new church is goin’ to be next Thanksgivin’, and the cemetery will be finished by then too, which gives you a year to get it done.” Then he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down a name, address, and phone number. “This here’s Reverend Barge’s address and his nephew’s phone number. You can get in touch with’m either way you want to, but I’d suggest that you get on with the Lawerd’s work purty soon so’s you can make that deadline. I’m gonna be right there at Thanksgivin’ for the grand openin’. Y’all got any questions?” “One,” I said. “How do you and the Reverend know each other?” He narrowed his eyes and grinned. “Oh, the Reverend Barge is a undertaker too, you see, and he’s been snatchin’ fillins and crowns outta dead niggers’ mouths and stealin’ their jurry for years and

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hockin’m with me. It’s a lot easier stealin’ that stuff before you put’m in the ground. Oh, and, don’t even thank about usin’ that information to yer advantage. We’ll just deny it, and I’ll spill the beans on y’all. I just thank it’s funny the way this all worked out.” “Yeah, damn hilarious,” I said. “And I think you’re bluffing about them being able to trace the rings back to the graves. We did clean on’m some. I don’t think they can pin a thing on us.” He gave me a shrewd look. “Uh, there’s one other thing I failed to mention.” “And what the hell is that?” “The reverend’s house is just across a holler from that old church. It seems he seen some lights down there behind it one night and got his grandson that lives with’m to go over and find out whut was going on. And guess what he seen. He seen three white guys diggin’ up graves and pluckin’ off heads. He slipped around and got the tag number off yer truck and everthang. The boy’s purty damn sharp for a nigger.” “Goddamn it,” I seethed. “I knew there was somebody watching us.” “Whut?” Derrick and Pollard said it at about the same time. “And that ain’t all. They found out from the tag where you live, and the reverend had somebody watch you ever day, and the day y’all went down and de-filed them skulls, somebody was watchin’, and he seen y’all thowe them bags of skulls in the river too. And that sangle skull. You don’t figger some damn fisherman just happened to hook that skull, do you? Hell, it take’n five niggers almost a whole day thrashin’ that water to catch ahold of it and brang it in. They prolly snagged them bags a bunch of times, but the hooks tore out. “Niggers can do math too, and they finally figgered out what y’all done. And that’s where I got involved. The reverend knowed y’all would try to pawn at least the jury, so he tipped me off, and I got in touch with ever pawnshop in Columbus and all the towns around it and told them to be on the look-out for three white guys tryin’ to pawn some strange stuff like that. “And lo and behold, brethren, y’all showed up here. Like I always say, the Lawerd does move in mysterious ways.” “But what does rebuildin’ the church and all that other shit have to do with it? You gon’ get yer money, no matter what, but--” “Like I say, me’n the reverend goes back a ways. Niggers do math too. They knowed that they had all the free labor they wanted, the

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money for materials, everthang. Looks like to me that slavery is back in, only this time is ass-backerds. At least you’ll be free in a year. Maybe not financially, but you know what I mean…” At that the room got quiet as a, as a church. I just stared at the wall behind Lipsey. “Besides, it was one of yer kind that burnt that church to begin with. If a damn storm hadn’t of come up while it was burnin’ and dumped three or four inches on it in a hour, it woulda burnt plumb to the ground.” “How you know somebody set the fahr?” Pollard asked. “If they was a storm, it coulda been lightnin’.” “Lightnin’ don’t come in the form of a Mollytof Cocktail is how come I know. The dumb shits used a reglar Co-Cola bottle, with that thick glass, and it bounced off the church when they thowed it. The gas still sloshed out of it and started the fahr. The feds sent a team of investigators in a few days later and figgered it all out. The reverend was settin’ on his front porch and seen the church a-burnin’ and called some of his congregation to see what they could do, but by the time they got over there, it was goin’ purty good. Then the bottom dropped out and it poured for over a hour. Put that fahr right out. Like I say, the Lawerd does work—” “If he was lookin’ out for the church all that good,” I said, “he woulda let the lightnin’ strike the guy that done it before he slung that bottle.” “It was a old church. Now they got a new one comin’, with a inside bathroom and kitchen and water and electricity and all. I’d say the Man is lookin’ out for them niggers purty good.” “How did the figger the Co-Cola bottle was one of them cocktails and not just one that a nigger dropped?” “Mollytof Cocktail, Pollard, Goddamn it,” I said. “You put gas in a bottle with a piece of cloth wadded up to make a wick and set the wick on fahr and thowe it against somethin’ hard. Only a wine bottle is better because the glass is thinner.” “You sure know a lot about’m,” Lipsey said. Then to Pollard: “Like I said, the feds figgered it out. They got ways.” “I watch a lot of war movies,” I told him. “So it’s kinda like a grenade?” “Shut up, Pollard,” I said. “This ain’t turnin’ into no lesson about how to burn things down.”

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“Naw, you boys best be thankin’ about how to build a nigger church, not burn one down.” “Just one more thang,” Pollard said. “Is they anythang else you gon’ lay on us before we get outta here? I feel like I just got sentenced to prison.” “Naw, whut you gotta do is gonna keep you out of prison. And you remember that too, you dumb sonsabitches. You actually got a Goddamn good deal. They’s some skin off yer asses, yeah, but for whut you done, you could be over in Parchman or St. Clair, dependin’ on whut state you got tried and convicted in, for a real long time. You gotta remember this, too—if the feds found out about all this, they might could match that Co-Cola bottle to one of yer hands. They’d damn sure try. They prolly got fangerprints and all. And then there’s that Civil Rights shit that’s still goin’ strong. I spect the govment wouldn’t go too easy on three white boys that robbed a nigger graveyard.” Thank God Pollard didn’t correct him with that cemetery shit. “You boys have learnt a life lesson here, and bet yer ass it’ll stick with you. And you didn’t have to go to no collitch to learn it. You don’t have to thank me right now.” Then he added: “But there is one other thang…” “Wh…whut else?” I felt like somebody had run over me with a bulldozier. “That church ain’t never had runnin’ water, so y’all gon’ have to get a well dug and put in a pump. They’s service to a pole down on the road, and the pire compny will run a line up to the church once you get it wahred in.” We started edging out, hoping to hell that that was it. Not a chance… “And you need to work up that driveway some. Get all them damn saplins cut down and pull up the stumps and level it out and get a good spread of gravel on it. You might can get the County to help you with that.” We stumbled out of his office while he was taking a breath. Hell, we didn’t want to wait around for another layer of punishment, like having to build a fucking pyramid right there behind the church. On the way back home I drove real slow as I tried to recall everything that was said in that room, and Derrick and Pollard were prolly doing the same. Finally Derrick spoke: “Well, that didn’t turn out exactly the way

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we had it figgered, did it?” “It sure as shit didn’t,” I said. “Broke as Goddamn convicts when we went to work diggin’ for gold, and now we got nuthin’ to look forward to but years of payin’ off loans to build a nigger church with a kitchen and indoor shithouse, electrify and plumb the damn thing, and then dig’m a fuckin’ well and build a driveway—just to keep from bein’ Goddamn convicts… .” Derrick snorted. “And have tombstones made for graves that most of’m never had one on. Somethin’ ain’t right about all this. I thought you wuz supposed to get punished for your sins after you died. Good Lawerd, y’all, we’ll be old men before we get out from under this cloud.” He drew in a long breath. “And under the threat of the Dixie Mafia and the Feds. It just ain’t right.” Then Pollard spoke up. “Do either of you know how to build a Goddamn church?” “Naw,” I said, “but I spect we gon’ be learnin’ how. Wirin’ and plumbin’ and all kinds of shit.” “I guess we can get some friends and fambly to help,” Pollard said. “Yeah,” Derrick said. “My brother-in-law has a uncle that’s got a well-diggin’ outfit, so maybe we can get him to help us out.” I looked out at the sorry-ass countryside sliding by. “I’m worried most about the money.” “Yeah, I been thinkin’ a whole lot about that too. But that same brother-in-law that’s got the well-diggin’ uncle has also got a Amway operation, and he’s done purty good at it. Been after me for years to get involved. Maybe now’s the time, only I ain’t got any money to get started with.” “I’m worried too,” Pollard said, “but I got a buddy that was tellin’ me last week about a Vietnamese shrimp boat that sunk in a storm down there off Pascagoula. Did y’all know that them people carries family jurry and money with’m on them boats. Got safes onboard. Could even have gold onboard. We could maybe try to find it…” I just shook my head.“Like everbody on the Coast ain’t already thought about that…” After that I didn’t even bother to look at either one of’m again. None of us knew shit about divin’ either. I figgered that all three of us were about to do a whole lot of learning about things we never knew about before. I kept my eyes on the road ahead. About the only thing I knew for sure was that it eventually it would lead somewhere.

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Ruth Schnabl

Bruederlein und Schwesterlein

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Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Steve Davenport

At the Moment of Conception a Train and a Bird My body the long oath browning the red pages of his ledger red as the town’s young glass is red. The brown beginnings of our math grinding bone on bone, the snakemouthed night closes in with its small winds, its blue bottles of every size, and its songs, bird song, train song, each divisible by the other.


Sitting

Raul Vosandi


Review of Harold Jaffe’s Revolutionary Brain: Essays & Quasi-Essays from Guide Dog Books, 2012. How many ways can a brain revolt in a technology-obsessed culture? Why do we avert our eyes to the profit-mad corporatization of culture, fruitless recidivist wars, and irresistible climate change? Can “engaged” artists and writers make an impact? What good will peaceful protests such as the creation of “crisis art” do in a culture without compassion?  “It is the gesture that vibrates irrespective of results,” Harold Jaffe asserts in this collection of essays and “quasi-essays.” In his signature style of “docufiction,” Jaffe’s precise prose merges fiction and fact, treating them critically, with a melancholy beauty and comic irony that is clean and sharp, intentionally catching us off guard. Jaffe’s 20th volume, Revolutionary Brain succeeds in seducing us into seeing by using the very mechanisms by which our own culture subjects us not to see.   Opening with “Death in Texas,” Jaffe depicts an unforgiving culture of imprisonment and execution.  Delivering a deadpan list of last statements from various death row prisoners, primarily impoverished Latinos and African-Americans, whose ill-fated deaths will go unrecognized, Jaffe gravely cites date of execution, offender’s name, and serial number.  Whether or not “justly” sentenced, Jaffe doesn’t indicate, allowing the prisoners’ voices to resonate, sometimes with remorse, other times with anger, disdain, and even a moral philosophy, as with the eloquent last statement of Adolf Wölfli, #999666, who laments:  “You gentlemen and ladies of quality who frequently don’t know yourselves what Christian virtue and justice are, look at the sunken, deep set eyes of the lower classes, where you can see all too clearly the sorrow and misery that weigh on their hearts. Not everyone who sees his grieved and martyred face in the washroom mirror in the morning is a murderer or drug addict.  On the contrary, the grounds for his misery are to be sought elsewhere… If among you there is anyone without sin, let him come to me and I will implore him for compassion and mercy.” The challenge for compassion and sacrifice prevails throughout Jaffe’s large body of work—if readers look closely.  In Revolutionary Brain, the “Animals” are sacrificed to grant virility: a virtue unattainable in an “impotent culture”; a Muslim teenager wearing a hijab, or veil, who is harried by a French Technocrat refuses to remove her

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veil. Referring to the 1935 film, “Bride of Frankenstein” Jaffe implores compassion for the monster, who will “perish, ultimately” while “monstrous acts fester.”   “Sacrifice,” Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1986 film of the same title, relates our history of fruitless wars to the artist’s sacrifice, then questions the author as to whether his own writing “counts…as a species of sacrifice.”  The indirect response is that “it is the gesture that vibrates, irrespective of results.” In certain instances sacrifice is equivalent to death.  In “Anal Acrobats,” for example, Jaffe suggests that excrement, as it is used in “hetero” pornography, represents a sublimation of the very death “official culture” forbids us to address, even as the author demonstrates his brilliant, cutting irony against that culture (“When I hear the word culture, I reach for my iphone”).  The narrator in “Anal Acrobats,” a self-described “hot-blooded, post-menopausal hetero male,” quickly gets our attention by describing the (free) extreme porn he is viewing behind his bolted door.  Emblematic of Eisenstein’s montage technique so skillfully used throughout Jaffe’s oeuvre, where unexpected, incongruent images and references seemingly conflict—layered one on top of the other, Jaffe suggests it was “the Puritan church fathers who established the hetero male code”; that American mega corporations such as Disney, Walmart, Toys R Us, Starbucks and Google can lay claim to ownership, if at least indirectly, of profit shares within the extreme porn industry, monitoring subscribers even as they preach societal morality.   In the porno-virtual world of “Anal Acrobats” the “real world” has been all but deleted, especially with regard to Nature.  Climate change largely ignored, animals on the brink of extinction, the “tormented, blighted globe” dying, real time  fading fast.  As consumers of virtual culture we are forbidden to confront the truth, Jaffe suggests.  Unobstructed views of, say, real excrement or real bodies, appear instead as photo-shopped artifice as we surf the Internet under surveillance. Subjects such as the marginalized poor, the institutionalized, the dispossessed and even visionaries (as in “Salvation Mountain”) are suppressed as “real time” becomes a circus of useless distractions in a sanitary, falsely virtuous, cyberworld of air-brushed models with squeaky clean assholes. Tension builds high in Revolutionary Brain in narratives such as Iso, Sacrifice, Truthforce, Hijab, and Russian Roo, where Jaffe

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stealthily and skillfully finds culture’s seams and plants his guerrilla mines, slipping away unnoticed.  His use of montage here to imitate, then deconstruct in an unapologetic attack on culture, is a tour de force.  The carefully constructed sentences zoom in, illuminate, refer, return, then zoom out again, consistently with an eye for aesthetics and an ear for language.  Jaffe is like a boxer dancing: as he scatters his trail of revolutionary breadcrumbs, never meaning for them to be precisely followed, the reader is left—as if in a nod to Brecht—pent, rather than purged, with no rest along the way.  It could be argued that Crisis Art is the most straightforward of Jaffe’s texts in the volume, and best conveys his choice of epigraph, from Julia Kristeva:  “As abject, so the sacred.”  Here, he cites examples of “crisis artists” such as Polish born, Krzysztof Wodiczko, who projected revolutionary images upon well-known public buildings, often without permission; Rirkrit Tirivanija, the Thai conceptual artist who used abandoned corporate megastores (The Gap, Rite Aid, Home Depot) as “canvases” where he would feed the homeless; the women of Greenham Common, Berkshire, England, who in 1981 set up a “Peace Camp” just outside the fence of the Royal Air Force base, adorning it with deliberately mundane objects such as baby clothing, eggs, hand-written notes and funny toys; and the Chilean, working-class women whose complex tapestries depicting harsh conditions of life under the Pinochet regime widely influenced a Chilean and international audience, as well as preserving the memory of “los desaparecidos” and the hardships suffered under Pinochet.  As Jaffe puts it, “Preserving this collective memory was itself an act of art-as-protest,” but it also empowered the women, “many of whom experienced a liberation through their work and became involved in further protests against Pinochet’s regime.” Jaffe maintains that crisis art responds contextually, collaboratively, creating a dialogue that might not otherwise arise were the crucial issue at hand not addressed.  Before becoming art, however, the crisis artist must “swallow the poison in order to reconstitute it”; only then can s/he “expel it as art.”  In other words, crisis artists should “make art, not avert their eyes.”  But what good will art making do?  Jaffe’s response is that “serious art of any kind has been rendered negligible in the marketplace, which in the US epitomizes the country’s ethos.”  Nonetheless, “art produced rapidly under crisis conditions will sometimes have more lasting power and even esthetic appeal than the painstakingly created seemingly disinterested art

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that most people identify as quintessential. “Crisis Art” is a call to writers and artists to act authentically, irrespective of official culture’s dictates, implied or otherwise. In the book’s title essay, “Revolutionary Brain,” Jaffe begins with a detail about German revolutionary Red Army Faction (RAF) founder Ulrike Meinhof and her “gang,” whose brains were extracted purportedly to be medically scrutinized.  After detailing the facts of the RAF’s execution and brain extractions, he switches gears to what he calls “Revolution Post-Mill,” a relentless ticker-tape of porn websites including graphic descriptions with (fictively) attached MPEG photos of all colors, ages, sexes, shapes, and sizes.  As site after site of extreme porn is listed, Jaffe transforms each into individually sordid objets d’art, ultimately arguing obliquely for outing pornography as another form of mainstream culture’s institutionalized discourse.  Just as we read the news, connect with social media, defer to religious institutions, or follow cultural theory, so we become consumers of extreme porn, like it or not, as consumers of culture. Insightful, potently on target, in his 20th book Jaffe cites our collective addictive behavior as being fed by “extremity beyond extremity to dodge the torment we are forbidden to acknowledge,” The author excoriates our culture, calling it out as the spectacle it has become.  Revolutionary Brain is a call to reflect on what we have become and to take action, if by no other way than through the use of dialogic art-making. -Carla Wilson

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Review of Richard Burgin’s Shadow Traffic, Stories from The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011 American contemporary fiction seems to be leaving behind the postmodern brand of experimentalism, at least as a main focus, and is now reinventing realism, minimalism, urban romanticism, magical realism and modernist introspection, on the backdrop of ethnic diversity and globalization. The result is organized chaos, more mature than the postmodern one and more tolerant toward urban proliferation than in the periods of rapid industrialization. In the cybernetic era, identity becomes more complex: on the one hand it is easier to disguise it in the space of infinite communication between cultures and social strata, and on the other hand it is harder to define it in the era of information explosion. Shadow Traffic, a collection of short fiction by Richard Burgin, is an enticing mélange of contemporary identities filtered through the confused prism of characters that migrate with ease between sobriety and narcotic madness, between emotions and states of absolute detachment, between living spaces, meteoric loves, continents, and between reality and dream. What gives Burgin’s stories their unique charm is not only the beautifully flowing, well-chiseled narrative style, but also the subtle way in which the urban world of these stories turns inward, not in a modernist, stream of consciousness way but with the quiet, keen spirit of observation of first or third person narrators who mostly realize they cannot change the way things are, but still continue to pursue their dreams. We witness the world from the perspective of mostly melancholy characters confronted either with themselves and their failures, or with a colorful cast of people from different social classes and with strange, dark life trajectories. His stories are not oriented toward realism per se, but seduce the reader through the fine, jaded eye of desperate, disappointed characters caught in yet another attempt to truly participate in the world around them. The interiority of the urban landscape is perfectly reflected in the story “The Interview,” for example, where characters gravitate around the glamour of Hollywood. While interviewing an aspiring actress, Jaime reflects on the nature of being in the world: “He felt he was in a movie himself, not acting in it, but photographing it and not as the photographer exactly, but more like a magical camera floating invisibly in space.” This is exactly what Burgin’s characters are:

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magical cameras recording our world, at the same time as they try to find a place in it. In the mosaic of selections we can see the intriguing reflection of a union between literary traditions and concerns at the beginning of the 21st century. Among them is the commodification of human life and feelings, presented to us with astuteness by a lucid writer in the age of globalization. In a time when banks control the destinies of the planet, some of Burgin’s characters (many of them middle aged, relatively wealthy) seem lost, and in continuous search for their humanity, in their relationships with others and especially in romantic relationships. Nostalgic for inaccessible passions, they try to compensate for the lack of depth in relationships by buying and selling commodities, or even commodified identities. For example in “Caesar,” Malcolm, who has inherited some family money and with newly found illusions of grandeur, tries to “buy” Chris, a strange Christ-like avatar with failed musician’s ambitions. In his turn, Malcolm is accosted by a sadomasochist and seems utterly lost until, in a climactic moment in the story, akin to the epiphanies of Flannery O’Connor’s characters, he finally regains a sense of self in an altruistic gesture towards an old woman, whom he carries back home when she collapses in the street. After such self-revelation, “It would not be quite so bad to go home now, he thought” (23). Other stories descend into the world of obscure organizations and conspiratorial fantasies. Burgin reminds us that our deconstructed reality has become a space of identity-erasure. Without definite selves, the characters in some of his stories are drawn into strange organizations that function parallel to reality and that offer, at least on the surface, the structure that is lacking in the real world. Yet what happens, which is Burgin’s own commentary on the trap of such easy answers, is ultimately that such conspiratorial societies do nothing but enlarge the gap of identity within the characters. In “Memo and Oblivion,” for example, Andrew is contacted by two organizations: one distributes oblivion pills, the other, pills that intensify memories. If not forgotten, some intense memories end by turning into routine, or lead to madness. Andrew chooses to forget, and just as in “Caesar,” that allows him to conceive of a way to return to the safety of a home, a sense of self with a modicum of balance: “If I think about my home, things will get better, he said to himself, already forming an image of his aging mother’s welcoming arms, as he got in the elevator and began his descent” (103). It seems that

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many of his characters long for some home-space within a chaotic world, and may have a way to find peace even as they continue their “descent” into the darkness of the world they are part of. This is, perhaps, the fate of the writer as well: to long for a home within spaces of violence, envy, selfishness, drugs, oblivion. In some of his stories, Burgin creates a hallucinatory portrait of the writer, perhaps in part a self-portrait of sorts. In such reflections, he meditates over the narrowing of the literary world in the global era, so that the writer finally is forced to wander in a vicious cycle of ambition and loss of content to write about. In “The House,” Tyler is planning his next novel: it will be a meditation on the creation of towns and on the institutions that are absolutely necessary for their functioning. During a visit to an incredibly sophisticated and artistic house, Tyler decides that he will include this house in his novel in a prominent role, since every town needs a model/peak to aspire toward. Tyler becomes the prisoner of the house—and ultimately prisoner of himself. Yet even in this prison, Burgin reminds us that there still is the possibility to find miraculous life, which is the realization of the creator’s dream: “Then he thought of his dream again. It was like a glimpse of paradise.” For, indeed, Burgin’s grim, hallucinatory world is ultimately not hopeless. We are left with the feeling that hope lies precisely in the longing for unity in chaos, for self in dissolution, and for family in a scattering world. This is how we can still glimpse at remainders of a spiritual life, even as characters have nowhere to retreat in the face of darkness—not in emotions, not in creation, not in the family unit, not in justice and not even in religion. Relationships between people are ephemeral, and even God is replaced by pacifying pills, and psychiatrists take the place of priests. Yet the characters are not defeated, as in story after story, there is a sense of continuation, persistence, a glimmer of hope. In “Mission Beach,” for example, the character misses a great sexual opportunity because of his concern for his son, the child of his broken marriage. Yet even loss is a victory in the end, because the character is not the sum of his defeats, but the sum of his memories, which are more precious than any conquest. This gives him (as a former child and a current father) continuity and clarity of mind: “You look at Andy and wonder again how the jumble of adult and childish things inside him will turn out… You feel a great clearing in your head then while you watch him.”

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What definitely pulls the reader into Burgin’s fictional world, in the end, is that it isn’t hard to find ourselves there. Every text offers a door to something else, to a new search after all other searches have failed. The urban landscape of the collection’s fictions is mirror to an exterior and interior landscape of failure and hope, a literary contrast befitting the dawn of a new century. -Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

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Review of Ron Cooper’s Purple Jesus from Bancroft Press, 2012 Ron Cooper’s darkly humoristic novel Purple Jesus is the ultimate metaphysical egg hunt. Set right before Easter and not making any secret of its questioning of faith and of the human need for transcendence, this book engages its characters in an elaborate game of life, death, and love. The central “symboling” figure is a grotesque Jesus sculpture that was not intended to represent Jesus and may or may not look like Jesus, but which opens the door toward a speculation constantly switching between eros and thanatos, abjection and salvation, between a phenomenological involvement in the real and the foolishly idealistic engagement with metaphors. Martha, a woman of mysterious ancestry living in a trailer-trash environment with tribal-like dynamics, a world that she despises, is the Heideggerian aletheia. She is the veiled, secret “truth” behind the real. She captures the attention of the two main male characters: Purvis, a young and unfocused (or so his father says) man with a strange fondness for metaphors, and Brother Andrew, a monk who has taken a vow of silence, and who has a fascination with the pantheistic journal of a long-dead monk. After witnessing from afar Martha’s river baptism (a cultish ceremony she goes through to appease her family), the two men slowly but surely converge toward the great secret they intuit in Martha’s detached and dangerous beauty. Crude Purvis decides he is the man who will do anything for her, even let her in on his so-called secret that he has tried to rob the house of her dead great uncle, Armey. Little does he know that Martha’s involvement in her family’s affairs is larger than he can imagine. In his turn, the silent monk, the strange hairy man of the river, develops a strange fascination with the baptized woman and seems to see more possibility of transcendence in her than he’s found in all of the years of religious questioning. The book progresses toward the final confrontation between the three characters, replete with arrows and milk cartons, all under the purple gaze of the distorted Jesus. Aside from this unlikely triangle, the book is ripe with savory characters involved in their own, familial games of control with sinister implications of abuse and in-breeding. The characters’ names are part of the game: the Wright family is “off;” Necessary is a name meant to bring confusion, reminiscent of Nobody, the name

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Odysseus uses to confound the Cyclops; Gamewell, Bunch, Rondeau and Driggers are all hilarious comments on the characters’ flawed perception of themselves and others. The writer does not dwell on the darkest side of the various family histories, most notably that of the ironically named Wrights. His tone is not light-hearted, but the humor lifts the narrative from darkness as he lures the reader into a sublimely grotesque whirlwind. The characters’ petty squabbles preoccupy them more than old Armey’s murder, and the biggest question seems to be who will help 400-pound Ruthie get up from her chair and who will stop Larson, “a boy what ain’t right,” from swallowing fish bones or knocking down wasp nests. Physical comedy undermines the seriousness with which the characters try to deal with faith, love, and death: how can Purvis win the heart of his mystery woman when his lip is double in size from the wasps’ stings? How can Martha feel a spiritual rebirth during her baptism when the priest is groping her underwater? How can the old man remain dignified in death when his body is rendered like a dead mule? This is a most delightful way for Cooper to unfold the philosophical core of his novel. Yes, there are very serious metaphors and transcendent symbols at which the characters glimpse, but they appropriate such symbols to suit their lust and greed. The Jesus sculpture is an avenue for Purvis to explore his spirituality and transcend physical desire through love, but the same sculpture is the occasion for crude remarks between Lum and Purvis about female anatomy. This is why purple, the sculpture’s color, becomes a token of the antinomy that sustains the book’s contradictory quests. Purple is the color of lust, of mystery, of drunkenness, of death, of Jesus, and of love. It is a vital color, akin to Tom Robbins’ earthy symbol of the beet, “the most intense vegetable” in his Jitterbug Perfume. The main game in town is, as I mentioned, the metaphysical game of finding meaning in the real. Yet all the characters who believe they have found it are tricked by their own discovery and realize the meaning is somewhere else. Brother Phillip, the bird-watching monk who wrote the journal, is in search of The elusive Bird, but the absolute truth in nature “remained obstructed.” More and more his Platonic, Ahabian quest to find The Bird ends in a worshipping of real, flesh-and-blood birds. The woodpecker is a bird that he admires for its “work” (just like Joseph Conrad’s Marlow saw work as redemptive). Purvis has no use for the journal’s idealism and sees

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both the good and the bad in nature. Ironically, however, when he is confronted with his own ideal (Martha), he fails to read her “secret,” even though he convinces himself that he is “worthy of witnessing a secret moment of her.” Brother Andrew believes he is “at the edge of human,” but finds himself precisely in the human, coming from the edge. All the characters misread each other, have problems seeing themselves and others (there is a focus on eyes in the book), mishear what others say (Purvis’ ear is stung and punched), so that the question “Do what?” literalizes, through flawed sensory perception, the constant misrecognition of reality and truth. Thus, the characters are frantically seeking relief from an existential angst of finding out whether there is, or there isn’t something behind the veil, something outside the cave. In fact, the novel ends with a direct reference to Plato’s shadows. There is, however one character who sees more than the rest. Martha is able to veil herself while reading the others perfectly well. Yet this has come at a cost, for she has had her share of suffering, which makes her perhaps not the wisest player, but the most aware and ironically the least metaphysical. Others see her as out-of-the world, but she is in the world and knows what she wants. Very “Southern” in the colorfulness of his flawed characters, in the tradition of Faulkner, O’Connor, McCarthy, and even Twain, Cooper knows how to challenge his readers with fundamental questions, without losing the charm of a story-teller who digs deep into the soul of his character and unearths the contradictions inherent in human nature. Aside from a certain plot resolution, there are no answers in the end, except for an awareness of the complexity of the real, whether or not one is “of” it or “in” it. The more one tries to push the boundaries of knowledge, the more the truth becomes elusive and the questioning itself becomes apparent. -Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen

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Contributors Anna Akhmatova was a Russian modernist poet. Some of her most celebrated poems include “Requiem” and “Poem Without a Hero.” Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen is originally from Romania, and teaches English at South Texas College. She has published fiction in journals such as Fiction International, Mobius: the Journal of Social Change, The Raven Chronicles and scholarly articles in journals such as Alecart, Texas Review, and The CEA Critic. Polina Barskova is a contemporary Russian poet, usually regarded as one of the best poets writing in that language under the age forty. She currently lives in USA and teaches in Hampshire College. Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise, winner of the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award. She was a 2009–2011 Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow at Williams College. Ron Cooper has published philosophical essays, and is the author of Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience (1993). His fiction has appeared in publications such as Yalobusha Review, Apostrophe, and Timber Creek Review. His novels Hume’s Fork (2009) and Purple Jesus (2010) are available from Bancroft Press. PW Covington has been called a leader in the Beat/military counterculture. A service-connected, disabled veteran, Covington works in the mental health field assisting fellow Vets and their family members. Steve Davenport is the author of two poetry collections: Overpass (2012) and Uncontainable Noise (2006). He’s received a 2011 Pushcart Prize Special Mention in Fiction and a Notable listing in Best American Essays 2007. He keeps a website at http://gasolinelake.com/ Eric Gadzinski teaches at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. His poems have appeared in a variety of journals. He was a finalist for the Upper Peninsula Poet Laureate award in 2013, and his work has been nominated several times for a Pushcart prize. He has written four chapbooks, Lotus Eater, X, Sweet Grass, and Road’s End, and is currently fretting about a book length collection. Daniil Kharms was an early Russian absurdist who was one of the co-founders of OBERIU movement. Mary McMyne writes prose and poetry. Her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Painted Bride

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Quarterly, Pedestal Magazine, and a number of other publications. She currently holds an assistant professorship in English and creative writing at Lake Superior State University, where she edits prose and supervises student interns in fiction for Border Crossing, a journal of literature and art. Daniel D. Marin made his debut with the volume Oră de vârf /Peak Hour, which received the Poetry Prize at the “Duiliu Zamfirescu” National Festival in 2003, and he was nominated for the “Mihai Eminescu” National Poetry Prize–Opera Prima (the most prestigious literary prize for a first work in Romania), in 2004. He is the editor of the first retrospective anthology for the 2000 generation in Romanian literature. He is Associate Editor at the journal Zon@ Literară, where he initiated a section for contemporary Italian poetry. The poems selected for Sleipnir are part of the book Trupurile care nu ne vin niciodată bine/The Bodies that Never Fit Us Well (2013). Lucian Merişca is a well known Romanian science fiction writer and journalist. He published the novella Deratization in 1987. He was the first Romanian writer nominated for the Hugo Prize, in 2008. He is considered the father of Romanian punk and of postreality, postvirtuality as cultural movements. His other books include: Adventures in the Exterior, Deratization, and Vincent and Karlenstein: Good Death, Children—. Mihaela Moscaliuc is the author of Father Dirt (Kinereth Gensler Award, Alice James Books, 2010). Her poems, reviews, translations, and articles appear in The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Izabela Pavel, lives in Bucharest, Romania. She studied at the Technical University of Lisbon. Joshua Polinard, artist, lives in South Texas. He is inspired by iconic representations of figures and archetypes venerated by ancient civilizations. Ron Riekki edited The Way North: Upper Peninsula New Works, (Wayne State University Press, 2013). He wrote the novel U.P. and is editing books upcoming for Michigan State University Press. He’s twice been nominated for the Pushcart (once for poetry, once for fiction) and Verse Wisconsin nominated his poetry for Best of the Net. Esteban Rodriguez works as an elementary reading and writing tutor in the Rio Grande Valley, promoting both English and Spanish literacy. His poetry is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, The

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Country Dog Review, and Huizache. He lives in Weslaco, Texas. Paul Ruffin has published two novels, three collections of short stories, two books of essays, six collections of poetry, and eleven edited or co-edited books on such topics as Southern fiction. In 2010 TCU Press realeased his New and Selected Poems as part of their Texas Poet Laureate Series. Ruth Schnabl, lives in Olympia, Washington. She earned a PhD in Comparative Literature at SUNY, Binghamton, and has since enjoyed the “right side of the brain.” Her work was recently on display in Olympia. Davis Schneiderman is a writer and multimedia artist who teaches at Lake Forest College. His works include the novels Drain (2010), Abecedarium (2007), and Blank (2011), collections he co-edited such as Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization, and shorter texts in Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, and TriQuarterly. His series Busted Books can be enjoyed on YouTube. JD Smith writes and works as an editor in Washington, DC. His third collection of poetry, Labor Day at Venice Beach, was published in 2012, and his first humor collection, Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth, is forthcoming. Awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, he has also published the essay collection Dowsing and Science (2011). Alexandru Tacu-Zeletin is one of Romania’s most persecuted poets. In 1952, he was imprisoned in the regime’s most notorious prison, Jilava, for his anti-communist views. He maintained his connections with the Western world and, in the 1980s, he was about to move to the United States with his family. Under heavy surveillance by the secret police, his plans were thwarted when his son, Malin Tacu (also a poet), was assassinated by the communists in December 1986. His poetry collections include The Forbidden Man (1992), Tenebra Flute (1996) and Epigonic Parthenogenesis, or Biological Atheism (2010). Heather Treseler is assistant professor of English at Worcester State University. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Pleiades, Southern Poetry Review, among others. Chris Tuthill received an MA in English from SUNY at Binghamton in 1999. He is a librarian at Baruch College in New York City, where he also teaches writing and research methods to undergraduates. His work has appeared in The Foundling Review, The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies, and other venues.

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Raul Võsandi lives in Estonia. He embraces Christianity, Shamanism, and eclectic postmodernism, and generally leaves it to the viewer to build stories around his art. Carla Wilson is a MFA candidate at San Diego State University. Her writings and visuals have appeared in Poetry International, Fiction International, and Black Scat Review. Michael Waters’ recent books include Gospel Night (2011) and Darling Vulgarity (2006—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), both from BOA Editions, as well as Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Pushcart Prize, and in numerous other journals and anthologies. “Sixties Sonnet” and “Tic Tac Toe” have previously appeared in The American Poetry Review. Lidia Yuknavitch is an author based in Oregon, where she teaches writing, literature, film and women’s studies. She has published The Chronology of Water: A Memoir (2011), Her Other Mouths (1997), Liberty’s Excess (2011), Real to Reel (2003), the book of criticism Allegories of Violence (2013), and numerous texts in journals such as Ms., The Iowa Review, and Fiction International. She is a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards and winner of Oregon Book Award Reader’s Choice 2012 and the PNBA Award 2012, and she has received awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc.

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SLEIPNIR

paul ruffi n • lidia yuk na vitc h • jd sm i t h • he at he r t re sl e r mich ael wa ter s • ma r y mcmyne • ron co op e r • ron r i e k k i mih aela mo sca liuc • p o lina ba r skova • e r i c gad z i nsk i • chr i s tuthill • esteban rodriguez • pw covington • davis schneiderman alexan dru ta c u-zeletin • da niel d. m ar i n • l u ci an m e r i şca an n a ak ma htova • steve da venp or t • l i l l i an-y vonne b e r t ram

SLEI PN I R l i t /a r t s p a ce s

featuring art by izabela pavel joshua polinard raul vosandi ruth schnabl $12.00 ISBN 978-0-615-94377-0

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