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Spittoon      

Volume Two Issue Two after Spring 2012

 

www.spittoonmag.com

ISSN: 2166-0840

 


Fiction Editor Matt VanderMeulen

Poetry Editor Kristin Abraham

Creative Nonfiction Editor Berly Fields

Cover art by Dimitri Castrique Ploegsteert. Murdered Doll. 3072 x 2304. Digital photograph.

   


Table of Contents

Stephen J. West

Phaedrus 2

nonfiction

1

Vallie Lynn Watson

Something Better, Left Unknown

fiction

11

Waking Up in the Water

fiction

12

Nathaniel Tower

Suicide Prevention Survey

fiction

13

Farren Stanley

Handwork

nonfiction

15

Patty Somlo

GARBAGE

nonfiction

18

Michael Sikkema

Nel Meets BIRDBRAIN

fiction

26

Nel and the Boys in the Posse

fiction

27

The Big Three Seen from the Cricket’s Point of View

fiction

28

Francis Raven

Planetary Exposure

poetry

29

Ken Poyner

The Disunion of Harmony

fiction

45

Shitsugane Olembo

nigger, whore, bitch

poetry

47

We are leaving them behind

poetry

49

Lisa Luton

Almost Places

nonfiction

50

Brandi Homan

[Excerpts from The Johnny Postcards] poetry

62

Anne Germanacos

Just me singing

65

fiction

   


 

Jennifer H. Fortin

My Actions Have Consequence Again

poetry

76

Nothing Explained

poetry

77

Darren C. Demaree

A Bird on Warm Brick

poetry

78

Joseph Celizic

DSM-IV Code 312.345: Infant Intermittent Explosive Disorder fiction

79

Eric Baus

From The Tranquilized Tongue

poetry

82

Marcia Arrieta

letters

poetry

87

Contributors

88


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Phaedrus 2 Stephen J. West

SOCRATES: It’s good to see you, Phaedrus. Where are you going, and where have you come from? STEPHEN: Mmhmmm, huh—wha—who’s there? Phaedrus…

Phaedrus… my name’s not

SOCRATES: But don’t we still have to discuss whether or not writing is desirable— what makes it acceptable and what makes it undesirable? STEPHEN: I’ve heard that before, someone said that same exact thing… Socrates? Like, Socrates   Socrates—are you kidding! Wait—that was from a written work— Plato wrote that line for you, you were dead… does this mean I’m dead? SOCRATES: Well, I can pass on something I’ve heard from our predecessors. Only they know the truth of the matter, but if we had made this discovery by ourselves, would we any longer have the slightest interest in mere human conjectures? STEPHEN: What? Maybe this is some kind of dream or something—ha ha, yeah, like Plato’s Phaedrus meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure! Yo—“Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... San Dimas High School football rules!” SOCRATES: All right. The story I heard is set in Naucratis in Egypt, where there was one of the ancient gods of Egypt—the one to whom the bird they call the ‘ibis’ is sacred, whose name is Theuth. STEPHEN: Theuth? Like, rhymes with truth? SOCRATES: The story goes that Thamous expressed himself at length to Theuth about each of the branches of expertise, both for and against them. It would take a long time to go through all Thamous’ views, but when it was the turn of writing, Theuth said, ‘Your highness, this science will increase the intelligence of the people of Egypt and improve their memories. For this invention is a potion for memory and intelligence.’ But Thamous replied, ‘You are most ingenious, Theuth. But one person has the ability to bring branches of expertise into existence, another to assess the extent to which they will harm or benefit those who use them. The

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loyalty you feel to writing, as its originator, has just led you to tell me the opposite of its true effect. It will atrophy people’s memories. Trust in writing will make them remember things by relying on marks made by others, from outside themselves, not on their own inner resources, and so writing will make the things they have learnt disappear from their minds.’ STEPHEN: “Socrates, it doesn’t take much for you to make up stories from Egypt and anywhere else in the world you feel like.” Whoa—I just channeled somebody else, or somebody is saying things for me—like that movie Being John Malkovich! I think that was Phaedrus’ line in Plato’s dialogue— SOCRATES: Well, my friend, the people at the sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona say that the original prophecies there were spoken by an oak. STEPHEN: I don’t get it... oh—hey, low blow dude. SOCRATES: In those days people weren’t as clever as you young ones nowadays, and they were so foolish that they happily listened to oak and rock, as long as they told the truth. STEPHEN: Dude, how dumb were they! But how am I supposed to know if you’re being truthful? I still don’t even know where we are. Let me guess—I’m in Plato’s cave? Oh, please tell me I’m traveling through time in Rufus’ phonebooth! DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 1: …………mumblemumbl mumbembumble mrrmumbleocity, et al mumble mumble, therefore mumblemumble such that with and without mmmrrrmumblemurmurmurmur mumble and and what are we to make of all this? STEPHEN: What the—that is most definitely not Rufus. It sounds more like… like a disembodied critical voice using emotionally detached prepositional phrases and needlessly verbose sentence constructions— DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 1: Plato does not mean simply to dramatize Socrates’ own aversion to writing, without the reader being intended to notice that this condemnation occurs within a written work and and mmmmurmurmurmumblemumble that and that and therefore with the there for murmumble muckety murmumble murmumble……….. STEPHEN: You’re losing me… Condemnation of what—how people write, or why… or what? I mean, what about other creative dudes, like painters—they always get off easy. 2  


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SOCRATES: Yes, because there’s something odd about writing, Phaedrus, which makes it exactly like painting. The offspring of painting stand there as if alive, but if you ask them a question they maintain an aloof silence. It’s the same with written words: you might think they were speaking as if they had some intelligence, but if you want an explanation of any of the things they’re saying and you ask them about it, they just go on and on for ever giving the same single piece of information. Once any account has been written down, you find it all over the place, hobnobbing with completely inappropriate people no less than with those who understand it, and completely failing to know who it should and shouldn’t talk to. And faced with rudeness and unfair abuse it always needs its father to come to its assistance, since it is incapable of defending or helping itself. STEPHEN: It’s father? So, Plato, in this case? Or would it be someone else, hobnobbingly… So Socrates is Plato’s mouthpiece, his puppet—hey, Soc, you just gonna take that? Who’s your daddy! DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 2: …………mumblemumbl mumbembumble mrrmumbleocity, et al mumble mumble, therefore mumblemumble such that with and without mmmrrrmumblemurmurmurmur mumble and and if a ‘mouthpiece’ is a spokesman, a character whose philosophical views and methods are those of the author, then who is Plato’s mouthpiece in the dialogues? STEPHEN: Dude, two of them live and in stereo! Do you have names, or should I just call you “Disembodied Critical Voices 1 and 2?” And by the way, I think I just suggested the answer to that, but if you wanna beat a dead horse—the dialogue is a literary device, right? Can’t we see the form as the writer’s voice present on the page? Who speaks for Plato if not the form in which he presents himself? DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 2: Who speaks for Plato? STEPHEN: Yes. DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 2: The dialogues do, irreducibly. STEPHEN: I just said that. STEPHEN: I just said that! Is anyone listening to me? (A felt as much as heard prenatal “whoooooosh” and “mmmmmmm” shift into the guttural rumble of rolling thunder, that lovely formal announcement of a storm fast approaching…) STEVEN CONNOR: If a god or a tyrant wants to ensure unquestioning obedience, he had better make sure that he never discloses himself to the sight of his people, 3  


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but manifests himself and his commands through the ear. STEPHEN: Like the earworm in The Wrath of Khan? And tell me you did not just call me a tyrant… (A violent crack of thunder punishes your ear drums; a discordant violin wavers on a chord for an ungodly length of time, as if the bow were 25 feet long and made of radioactive horse hair, moving from right to left at just less than a visibly detectable clip; you hear the developing rhythm of boots goosestepping on loose gravel…) STEVEN CONNOR: Do we not call such a person a dictator? (The report of gunshots inspire an enormous crowd to begin singing an unidentifiable yet familiar national anthem...) ANDRÉ: Just prior to elections, in the first country which deems it worthwhile to proceed in this kind of public expression of opinion, have yourself put on the ballot. STEPHEN: Really? I couldn’t … but just in case, which country would that be? (The crowd erupts in raucous laughter.) ANDRÉ: Each of us has within himself the potential of an orator: multicolored loin cloths, glass trinkets of words… One night, on a stage, he will, by himself, carve up the eternal heaven, that Peau de l’ours. He will promise so much that any promises he keeps will be a source of wonder and dismay. In answer to the claims of an entire people he will give a partial and ludicrous vote, he will make the bitterest enemies partake of a secret desire which will blow up the countries. And in this he will succeed simply by allowing himself to be moved by the immense word which dissolves into pity and revolves in hate. Incapable of failure, he will play on the velvet of all failures. He will be truly elected, and women will love him with an allconsuming passion. SOCRATES: Well, is there any other way of using words? MARGUERITE: One foot in scholarship, the other in magic arts, or, more accurately and without metaphor, absorption in that sympathetic magic which operates when one transports oneself, in thought, into another’s body and soul. STEPHEN: Dude, this is getting out of hand—everyone, STOP! (A vacuous absence emerges in the middle of everything for five seconds starting right now: A darkened and empty stage appears; your ocular muscles twitch and your corneas pang with hunger; an oily board creaks somewhere, your pupils dilate in unison with the just primed orchestra, the plush seats all around you…)

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PENTTI: My handwriting crumples and shrinks, the writing is my skin at home I start making mushroom stew last year, I remember there were so many people in house and yard that now when there’s nobody the place seems crowded potatoes bubbling in the pot even those weren’t live people but ones that had died long ago, I talked with them and it wasn’t death that separated them from me life separated me from them STEPHEN: Boiling potatoes? (From the back of the stage, a cast iron cauldron appears, wheels rolling slowly over the stage floor, skipping from board to board; the cauldron begins to boil, erratically at first, as water is wont to do; slowly, the boil falls into an identifiable rhythm, ba-dum-dum, ba-dum-dum, repeat; potatoes jump and splash in the water; in a champagne popping flourish, the cauldron boils over and transforms into a vermillion timpani that glows like hot coals; the frenzy of potatoes bounce up and down on the stretched skin of the glowing timpani, at which point they transform into a group of human heads, faces prone but with jaws continuously jawing, hobnobbingly lip-synching along with the timpani; As the potato-heads bounce in a painstakingly choreographed pattern, the wisps of steam surrounding them morph into shrieking spirits that curl in rapturous convulsions to the rhythm of the potato-head melody…) Bodacious! HYPOTHETICAL LITERARY CRITIC: (Would probably say something at this point along the lines of, “this is frivolous, doesn’t develop a clear narrative, nor appears concerned with the pursuit of any identifiable essayistic virtue;” that’s just a suggestion meant to inspire; you go ahead and come up with your own here)____________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ STEPHEN: Duly noted. To which, I must counter with: HERACLITUS: The hidden harmony is better than the open. (The rolling rumble of thunder returns; a heavy door or book slams shut; the rhythmic stew of potato-heads and steam-spirits fizzle and recede behind a silver screen that falls from above, shimmers, and rests; seats creak; you hold your breath; a grotesque profile appears backlit on the screen, not unlike the wizard in the Emerald City…) STEVEN CONNOR: As a kind of projection, the voice allows me to withdraw or 5  


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retract myself. (Ba-dum-dum, ba-dum-dum, the potato-heads suggest from somewhere behind the profile.) This can make my voice a persona, a mask, or sounding screen. At the same time, my voice is the advancement of a part of me, an uncovering by which I am exposed, exposed to the possibility of exposure. (A sistrum shivers, your heart races.) I am able to shelter behind my voice, only if my voice can be me. But it can be me only if it has something of my own ductility and sensitivity: only if it is subject to erosion and to harm. My voice can bray and buffet only because it can also flinch and wince. My voice can be a glove, or a wall, or a bruise, a patch of inflammation, a scar, or a wound. STEPHEN: A patch of inflammation—most heinous! Hey Soc, this is your schtick—you know, voice voice, not the metaphorical “voice” that we get so hot and bothered over in a touchy feely individualistic sorta way— SO-CRATES: GEEK! STEPHEN: Dude! (The profile disappears from the screen in a dramatic poof and squeak of desk chair on linoleum; a moment passes, unacknowledged; a silhouette appears to the side, human, meager...) STEVEN CONNOR: The voice positions me in space, and establishes the space of social relations; but the voice also by its nature makes the positioning of the self less than wholly certain. STEPHEN: Oh yeah—like with ventriloquists! I really don’t know how they still get work. I mean, everyone knows it’s them talking while they move the dummy’s mouth... STEVEN CONNOR: The legitimate and familiar exercise of the voice is accompanied by the doubts and delights of the ventriloquial voice, of the voice speaking from some other place, reorganizing the economy of the senses, and embodying illegitimate forms of power. (Several shadows of limp dummies descend on nooses behind the screen, hang there prone; the silhouette begins gesturing with his hands in time with the ba-dum-dum of the timpani, like a maestro, calmly at first, then more and more aggressively; at the same time, as if a comforting offstage breeze has whipped up a stiff wind, the dummies begin to sway back-and-forth and bounce up-and-down, and the correlation between their movements and the silhouette’s gesticulations becomes quite obvious…) STEPHEN: I totally agree. I saw this ventriloquist on television once, he completely roasted a room full of powerful politician dudes, I mean tore them apart—and they laughed at him! He got away with saying some serious stuff 6  


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because of that ridiculous little puppet on his knee. But besides the puppet, he needed the stage and the audience to make it work—if no one were there to see the show, it wouldn’t matter what the ventriloquist, or the dummy… or whoever was saying anyway—there’d be no laughter, nobody to pick up on the irony —no truth to any of it at all—it would just be a pathetic little person talking to himself. (The screen and the stage vanish; Mel Gibson looks right into your eyes from six or so inches away, as if you were looking in a mirror, as if Mel Gibson were your reflection; you tense, are physically unable to break his gaze; you can smell his breath, see his thick stage make-up running with sweat, insincere tears welling in your ducts…) HAMLET: You that look pale and tremble at this chance, That are but mutes or audience to this act, Had I but time—(Mel Gibson disappears.) PENTTI:

Do I have to go through all the epochs to find peace I climb up to the roof of the university and shout logical thinking leads to wars and oppression no one hears me I toss roof-tiles down into the street as I get a foothold in the eaves, I think I should cut my toenails this society isn’t quite ready yet, he says

STEPHEN: Our society isn’t quite ready yet… We’re all stuck in this thing, this cave, this phonebooth or wherever, together, you know? Dude, I could totally go for some Kansas right now. CHORUS: (Sung as if written by Kerry Livgren in 1977, as if having peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of February 18, 1978…) I close my eyes Only for a moment and the moment’s gone All my dreams Pass before my eyes with curiosity MARGUERITE: What is ever left but crumbled walls, or masses of shade? CHORUS: Dust in the wind All they are is dust in the wind

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MARGUERITE: Here, where Hadrian’s life is concerned— STEPHEN: Hadrian? My name isn’t Hadrian, it’s not Phaedrus—for the love of Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour, my name is—waitaminute, Hadrian… Marguerite? Marguerite Yourcenar? OMG, I am such a huge fan! (Flashbulbs burst and crackle; the smell of old-fashioned handrolled cigarettes, freshly printed newspapers and caked lipstick permeate your nostrils.) Like, I am so totally star-struck right now! Wow, let me compose my self… I cannot believe you are here right now— MARGUERITE: He who seeks passionately for truth, or at least for accuracy, is frequently the one best able to perceive, like Pilate, that truth is not absolute or pure. STEPHEN: Excellent! Like what Socrates was saying about how people will foolishly listen to oak and rock as long as they tell the truth, and people will just eat it up like it’s manna from a false god! We just keep on believing anything that proclaims itself as sincere and truthful, and disregard anything that’s at all fabricated as being untruthful… just like that ventriloquist dude I saw on television, how he got away with saying that stuff. If that dude put his dummy in the trunk, left the stage, and approached those politicians on the street to tell the what he thought of them, secret service would totally put him in an Iron Sheik camel clutch or something. But behind the dummy and the stage, under the cover of the performance, he can get away with saying what he really thinks, what everyone really thinks—what truly needs to be said—because then “it’s just an act,” not truthful. Oh Marguerite— (CHORUS reaches the instrumental bridge which boasts an absolutely unforgettable viola solo by Robby Steinhardt…) PENTTI: I thought about the leaves of a tree and the branches to which they adhere I thought of the glances that reify me turn me into a commodity this is what I should undertake investigate the world, not myself STEPHEN: Yes! Investigate the truth of the world, not of our selves! We need to seek transcendental, eyes-wide, world-aware and Zeus-sized capital “T” TRUTH!

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CHORUS: All we do Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see STEPHEN: Thamous, or Socrates, I mean Plato…or whoever was right—we have put too much trust in writing. “Is this about writing, what makes it acceptable or undesirable?” How can that even be relevant when wars rage and oppression gains ground every day, all over the world? HERACLITUS: Couples are things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one. STEPHEN: Dude, what can I do? What can we do when our old logic has led us here? We young ones nowadays are too clever for this! I, we, we need to get ourselves out of this absurd situation, and stop telling ourselves the same foolish little truths over and over like skipping records, and search for Truth and Justice like we used to, and— SOCRATES: Then this is what you should tell your friend. PENTTI: One’s world view

one has to abandon to see the world the potatoes are scabby, the milk’s turning sour, if you want to cross the street safely go when the light turns red (CHORUS crescendos, a needle scratches vinyl and a record skips, likely prompting the repetition of “Dust in the wind/ (Everything is dust in the wind)/ Everything is dust in the wind/ (In the wind)”; as each of the lines below is read, that character, or person, or writer, or book, or idea… or whatever appears in your mind with a large grin and bows twice, waves enthusiastically, then bows once more, longer than the previous two; this process continues until all… whatever are present, they lock armsover-shoulders like a cancan line and bow in unison as the applause continues indefinitely, or at least until the page is turned...) ********************

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(In order of appearance) SOCRATES. From Plato. Phaedrus, Robin Waterfield, Trans. Oxford UP, New York: 2002. STEPHEN. Played by all… whatever. DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 1. Played by Rutherford, R.B, who, I am sure, is a wonderful man and scholar who by no means deserves the treatment he receives above, as far as I know. The Art of Plato: Ten Essays in Platonic Interpretation. Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA:1995. DISEMBODIED CRITICAL VOICE 2. Played by Nails, Debra, who, I am sure, is a wonderful woman and scholar who by no means deserves the treatment she receives above, as far as I know. “Mouthpiece Schmouthpiece,” Who Speaks for Plato? Studies in Platonic Anonymity, Gerald A. Press, ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Lanham, MD: 2000. STEVEN CONNOR. Played by Connor, Steven. Dumbstruck—A Cultural History of Ventriloquism. Oxford UP, New York: 2000. ANDRÉ. Played by Breton, Andre. Manifestoes of Surrealism, Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane, Trans. Michigan UP, Ann Arbor: 1969. MARGUERITE. Played by Yourcenar, Marguerite. Memoirs of Hadrian, and Reflections on the Composition of Memoirs of Hadrian, Grace Frick in collaboration with the author, Trans. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York: 1963. PENTTI. Played by Saarikoski, Pentti. Trinity, Anselm Hollo, Trans. La Alameda Press, Albuquerque: 2003. HYPOTHETICAL LITERARY CRITIC. Played by you. HERACLITUS. From his fragments in Hippolytus’ Refutations and Aristotle’s On the World, John Burnet Trans. SO-CRATES. From Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, played by Tony Steedman. HAMLET. From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, played by Mel Gibson. CHORUS. Played by 70’s progressive rock band Kansas. 10  


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Something Better, Left Unknown Vallie Lynn Watson

     

Spring surfaced but she wouldn’t use the double hammock on her back porch. Months earlier, in their secluded folds of winter, he visited her home for the first of eight times. It was the middle of the day, and she took him on her snowy back porch. He wrapped his hand around the metal chain that secured the hammock, said he couldn’t wait for hammock-weather. She stood, brushed snow from her knees, knowing what he didn’t, that they wouldn’t, couldn’t, sustain a different season. When seasons overlapped, it rained, hard, for several weeks. The woven cotton ropes became rigid, moldy.

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Waking Up in the Water Vallie Lynn Watson

           

 

He came over four consecutive Tuesday mornings, two hours before work, let himself in her unlocked front door. She was always in the covers as though just awake, hair pony-tailed, smelling, tasting clean. She always got up and showered, but got back in bed to wait, to watch him remove all clothes except underwear and socks, drop them on the floor. His beard smelled rich of coffee and she liked to suck on it. He’d leave her in bed, too, and use the restroom before he left. Once he looked behind the shower curtain, smiled at the beads of water.

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Suicide Prevention Survey Nathaniel Tower

Please answer all questions as quickly and honestly as possible. Don’t overthink your responses. Only check one option. If you aren’t sure, check the option that seems most like how you feel. All responses will remain anonymous. 1. How often do you want to kill yourself? ___ Always _x__ Most of the time ___ Some of the time ___ Infrequently ___ Never 2. How often do you have a detailed plan for how you want to kill yourself? ___ Always ___ Most of the time _x__ Some of the time ___ Infrequently ___ Never 3. Please rank from 1 to 6 each of the following causes for your desire to kill yourself (1 = least cause for suicide, 6 = greatest cause for suicide). Loneliness __6__ Money __1__ Stress __2__ Depression __5__ Love/relationship problems __3__ Other __4__ 4. Please rank from 1 to 6 each of the following methods you would consider to kill yourself (1 = least likely method, 6 = most likely method). Gunshot __3__ Wrist slitting __1__ Pills _6___ Hanging/suffocation/asphyxiation _5___ Jumping off a building/bridge __4__ Other __2__

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5. How many times a week do you think about killing yourself? ___ Ten or more ___ Five to Nine _x__ A handful ___ I can’t keep track ___ Never 6. Please rank from 1 to 6 each of the following reasons why you haven’t killed yourself (1 = biggest reason I haven’t killed myself, 6 = smallest reason I haven’t killed myself). Family __3__ Money __6__ Friends __4__ Religion _5___ Fear __2__ Other __1__ 7. Please indicate your race. _x__ Caucasian ___ Hispanic ___ Afro-American ___ Asian ___ Native American ___ Other 8. Please indicate your annual household income. ___ <$10K ___ $10K-$25K ___ $25K-$40K _x__ $40K-60K ___ $60K-$80K ___ >$80K 9. How likely are you to kill yourself right now? ___ Very Likely ___ Somewhat Likely ___ Not Likely At All

Thank you for your participation. This survey was prepared by the Institute of Suicide Prevention. Grants were made possible by a number of agencies. *Doctor's note: Survey results must be thrown out. Respondent too lazy to finish.

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Handwork Farren Stanley

In her fine, delicate hand: it has been too long since I have had a man in my bed. I need someone to sleep next to, to share my life and my things with. I want a man to hold me. It is the same refrain in every moleskine notebook I pilfer through secretly. This one tucked into an antique roll-top desk, constellated with tiny drawers labeled “eraser”, “tokens”, “fossils & rocks”, “pencils”, “airmail”. In each, a deviation–a roll of tape, metal bookmarks, half an unidentifiable pill behind a faceshape of binder clips. Empty. Empty. It is a woman’s obligation to give and give every bit of every place of her. That she has the privilege of ascribing meaning to the act means that she has been liberated, enlightened. This is her sun-flooded porch where I am folding sweatshirts and towels and stacking them on top of her dryer. Folding them in accordance with my mother’s method. Each woman is very particular about the series and orders of gestures she makes to shape a spiritless length of fabric. Last winter I stood on this porch in my college sweatshirt, folding a man’s sweatshirts and towels. I enacted each of these gestures I know by rote joyfully, mindfully. Made his things my shape. Thought he would approve of the way they creased, their new! improved! smell. In college I dated a man whose sister drove across town to do his laundry. He once insinuated that I ought to do it, that he would even pay me. Under my dismissive scoff, my insides were quaking. I could not have been able to articulate it then, but washing and folding his clothes felt like entering into some transaction I could not afford. This morning I am pulling a ratty purple towel out of the dryer. I am wearing a sweatshirt with the logo of a college I did not go to on it. I appropriated it from a woman I dated. The towel has finally been returned to me, having languished on the floor in front of a different man’s washing machine, abandoned there after a weekend on the beach. He carried me into the heaving ocean like a bride over a threshold. Married by the sea. It sounds rather romantic, doesn’t it? It’s meant to. It was. He was sleepy-eyed and steady. His body was very warm, his torso just slightly stooped from my weight, his smooth brown shoulders, the tufts of fine black hair all over his body. I do not see him in an abstract mind’s eye. There is a totality of bodily experience associated with this memory. The last time I felt real joy.

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A few days after that beach trip, I took a break from a round of unforgiving copyedits to fold laundry. His and mine, mixed together into a single load to save time, all of them having been shot through with the same salt and sand. I liked inspecting his things–noting the logos on his shirts, so massively broad to accommodate his 7-foot frame, his underwear in varying (but generally appalling) states of disrepair. He complimented the neat lines I made of his pants. He left the clothes there on his kitchen table where I’d folded and stacked them. He did not put anything away or hang anything up. Three days later he left me. He was, he told me, not able to be in a relationship. Not able to handle the responsibility. Of what? I am picturing now the handful of dry-clean-only sundresses I wore all summer— the dark green with pastel pink trim that snapped under the left breast, so fun to rip off my body; the black and white Mexican print with a shirred bodice that fell to mid-thigh, by far the shortest dress I have ever owned; the slinky black wraparound; the multicolored swishy silk that crossed my back; the crimson cotton that tied back beneath the breasts and faded down to white, the lightest-weight cotton, like wearing nothing at all; the girlish yellow (so yellow, so so yellow) with patchwork around the hem— handwashed and draped across the back of his couch, under the ceiling fan, to dry. I have had to wash this ratty purple towel because it was still shot through with the sand and salt, never having made it through the wash, and because it now after all these months smells like him — a smell I can objectively judge to be unpleasant: sweat gone rancid, cigarettes smoked so often and in such a confined space that the attractive waft of them has gone stale, and smells instead like the old aunts and uncles in my family who sit around and complain about their colostomy bags. Unwashed clothes. This phone used to be my mother’s. I picked it up to text a woman I know, another woman in whose notebook is written the lines I have been alone too long, I need to be held that I am feeling melancholy today and I don’t know why, exactly. I find a lot of photos my mother has taken with this phone. She must have been in a car accident she never mentioned because there are dozens of a white car that is not hers. In one of the pictures after the white car-series, I am holding up a cotton comforter I got for Christmas and had to put away and forget I owned for a long time when the man whose clothes I folded on this porch left me, so much did it remind me of him. It was, he said, too much. Too much responsibility. What responsibility? I have just received it in the photo, the comforter, and I am holding it wide, gazing down on it like a Waterhouse woman: serene, flushed, shot through with joy. It was, 16

 


Spittoon 2.2 Stanley, Handwork

coincidentally, a gift from my father. Who could not manage to make it to Christmas. The gesture I am making in the photo is as if I am about to halve it, and halve it again. Fold it down to its correct size and shape so that I can stow it in the rosewood trunk my mother gave me to store my folded linens. The man whose sweatshirts I folded sent his laundry out, to be done by fat laundresses who flirted with him and stared me down when we went to the laundromat to pick it up. He — only once — asked me if I’d like to combine loads, did I have any clothes that needed washed. We were on such sudden and perplexingly rocky ground that the transaction, once again, seemed too psychically fraught to navigate. I gave him one long-sleeved thermal shirt. I didn’t wear it again until I got home and ran it through my laundry. I was afraid of the way it smelled. I do not know if there is a way to be a woman without giving until you are gone. I do not know if there is a way to be a woman in the presence of a man without having to battle or bow to this implicit expectation. I do not know if there is meaning to be extracted from used up-ness, from the shapeless emptiness that comes after. I have decided I am done trying to do anything to death. I do not think I know how to be a woman without dying of it. …The walls are permanent and pink. See how she sits on her knees all day, faithfully washing herself down. Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah into their fleshy mothers. A woman is her mother. That’s the main thing. One of my closest girlfriends recently showed up to a dinner party I threw with a new man she has been steadily dating. He seems like a very nice man. He was wearing a yellow tshirt from one of those hipster tshirt websites: a grinning lion wearing big sunglasses, silkscreened on a bright yellow, fitted Hanes heavyweight. Before I even introduced myself to the man, I involuntarily blurted, “The last two men I’ve dated had that shirt! I’ve folded that shirt about 20 times!” He looked a bit lost, then a bit peeved. “Do you want me to uh…take it off?” “Yes, kind of,” I said, and everyone laughed aloud, but I wasn’t laughing.

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Spittoon 2.2

 

GARBAGE Patty Somlo

This morning Phil is having us do a garbage drawing. The assignment seems fitting on such a miserable day. Every couple of minutes the wind flings blankets of rain against the studio’s floor to ceiling windows. Enough water has collected to send puddles across the pavement, building into a river that’s migrating down the street. We’re to use the garbage drawing for acting out our craziest impulses. A wild impulse we might consider, Phil says, is sticking charcoal up our noses and exhaling onto the page. On one level he’s kidding; but on another level, he’s not. Throughout this class, he’s been teaching us how to act like artists. We draw for a time on a large sheet of white paper. Then we pick up a second sheet and try what we wouldn’t dare on the first one. In the next hour, Phil wants us to alternate between careful detailing of what we see to crazy experimentation. At the end of each class, Phil asks us to hang our drawings on the thumb-tacked studded walls, and he draws our attention to interesting aspects of every one. Today, we’re going to treat the garbage drawings differently. “No one has to see it,” he promises, before stepping over to the ledge and turning up the volume on the boom box that’s splattered with old glue, and green, yellow and blue paint. I hear the first funky beats of James Brown’s Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag and tap my foot, slashing lines across the page with a thick graphite stick. My torso sways in time with my hand. My model is two-dimensional – a black and white drawing of a young man in a plaid cap. I alternate between loose pale graphite lines on the garbage drawing and black shadows I layer in charcoal on the serious work. No matter what Phil says, I keep fiddling with the serious piece. I’m bothered that it doesn’t look like the drawing I’m copying. The eyes are not the same size. The left eye sits higher on the face than the right. I’ve made good headway on the lips, though, using an eraser to clean up places where the light slices across. After about an hour, I see that the light places create the impression of fullness in the lips. The nose, of course, is impossible, the bottom in the original drawing not a bulb, as mine has become. In fact, the original artist’s rendering of the nose is elegant and refined, the nostrils seed-like and small.

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

To please Phil, as I know he’s passing behind me to check out what I’ve done, I set the serious drawing down on the paint-smudged Douglas fir floor and lift the garbage drawing up to my board. I make short slashed lines for the right eye, as I wave my hand to the rhythm of the tenor sax. Through the vertical I add horizontal lines, so the eye resembles a hand-made asterisk or a star. I rub graphite with my index and third fingers around the cheek and add an ear, which I suddenly realize I forgot. That’s when I notice the slant of light across the nose that extends to the space above the lip. I see the nose has formed a shadow, leaning precariously to the right. I go back to my first drawing to fix these places again. Phil rattles on about art the entire two hours we’re here. It took the painter Willem DeKooning twenty years, Phil says, before he finished a canvas he liked. Phil reminds us that no one in the United States cares about art. That should give us the freedom, as he frequently exhorts us, to be like the people in France who wear no pants. Like most of the students who gather here early on Saturday mornings, I studied art once in a serious way. On campus at the Northwest edge of Washington, D.C., I stared at slides of Renaissance and Byzantine art and the dark Dutch masters, wondering how I would remember enough to get at least a C. In studios with lots of light, I learned about form, composition and perspective, while sketching wine bottles and apples, roses and calla lilies, and the thin naked bodies of fellow students. I studied the color wheel and mixed paints. Though I memorized dates, periods and styles, and covered canvases with colors, I never learned anything real about art. Instead, I accumulated piles of details. And I came to understand that the goal of making art was to sell. I also came to believe that artists were formed by God with specially adapted fingers for wielding paintbrushes. I assumed, as well, that no matter how hard I tried, I would never find my name among those passionate people who’d been born with the gift that transformed a nobody into an artist: Talent. In every studio class I took, there were always students who had it with a capital T. Starting the first day of class, the teacher would gather us around their drawing pads to admire work the rest of us would never have the skill to match. If the class was taught by a figurative artist or a landscape painter, the special student’s work would be eerily lifelike. In one painting class where the teacher arrived every day with a purple satin cape draped over his shoulders, students who did the most

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

outlandish work, such as a guy who had other students toss paint on his bare back, received the most attention and praise. The star students also seemed the loveliest. The girls were waifs, with thick untamed curls temporarily held back by purple silk scarves. They wore layers of leotard tops, flowing blouses and floor-length skirts pulled off thrift store racks and looked as if they’d stepped off a fashion runway. The guys were equally stunning. Most of them left a dusting of stubble on their cheeks and chins. Their hair was tousled and thick, and they sported worn brown leather jackets with small, necessary rips. My teachers flagrantly forgot my name. I worked in isolation, knowing I’d never merit a single word of praise. Instead of learning the most intrinsic lesson about making art, that one needs to work steadily and consistently to improve, I took on my teachers’ beliefs, many of whom were artists who felt they’d failed. Like them, I assumed that some had it and some didn’t, and I was one of the large uninspired group of humanity that didn’t. Once I left school it didn’t take me long to give up. The freedom I’d felt doodling outdoors or sketching quick portraits of my friends had been replaced by a tight timidity whenever I tried to work. I had the sense that when a real artist stepped in front of the canvas, divine inspiration spilled from his hands. I stood in front of my easel and listened to the hum of the refrigerator, wondering what might be in there for me to eat. I confused creativity with recognition, and ultimately stardom, early on. Late in December of my kindergarten year, my mom, dad, two older sisters and I were getting ready for Christmas in our duplex at Andrews Air Force, Maryland, the front of which was red brick. Snow had fallen two nights before and another dusting was forecast later in the day. It looked as if we might get a White Christmas after all. The star of the Christmas play that year was Suzie Warren, a Colonel’s daughter, and the most popular girl in my kindergarten class. I felt certain that Suzie had been chosen because cute girls like Suzie got picked for everything. As if her popularity didn’t make me envious enough, being the star of the play meant that Suzie got to wear a dress that resembled a cloud, white and full of fluffy chiffon.

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

For several days before the play, the dress waited on the coat rack behind all the scratched wooden desks, like a swan primping to sail across the lake. Our lined jackets looked dull and dark alongside it. The teacher wanted me to fill a minor role. My costume would be a pair of fat blue and white striped pajamas. I adamantly refused, flushed at the idea of appearing in an auditorium of moms and dads wearing a pair of pajamas. Not long after that, my mother got me a subscription to Humpty Dumpty Magazine. From the first issue, I adored one regular feature, “Boy was My Face Red,” in which kids shared their most embarrassing experiences. I loved laughing at other kids’ shame, because I lived in fear of my own. I worried all the time about slipping up, feeling the shame rise up to my tomato-red cheeks, then seep down to my crimson toes. Underlying my fear was a rule I’d learned at home: Don’t make a mistake because a mistake can never be undone. Like most children I was expected to do chores. Every Saturday morning, I cleaned up my room. I started by dusting the knickknacks. After that, I sprayed Windex on the glass case that held my Japanese doll. Then I moved on to my glass horses and the black lacquer jewelry box where I kept a pearl necklace and a ring. When I finished dusting, I vacuumed, sucking up the dust balls that collected underneath my bed. After I was done, my father would inspect. As he moved about the room, I usually stood at a safe distance to the side. At times, he would run his fingers over my horses or across the dresser drawers. Then he would study his fingers, like a doctor searching for disease. If he noticed any dust on his hands, he would make me clean my room all over again. It wasn’t only that my father had an exacting nature. My father was a career military man. A high-ranking officer and squadron commander, my father knew that a lapse in perfection could mean the difference between getting promoted or being forced out. My father also understood the reason for the military’s strict rules for ensuring a perfectly pressed, shined, oiled and readied command. Imperfection in combat could mean the difference between life and death. I knew this at an age I shouldn’t have. As early as the second grade, I understood that missing a leaf when I raked the front yard might keep my father from being promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel. At the same time, I was aware that

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

people were looking at us, in the Officers Club on Friday nights, when the Club served fish for the Catholics and roast beef for the rest of us. Afternoons and evenings, my father drank. He drank chilled dry martinis from a sterling silver shaker I polished on Sundays. The heavy top with the thick curled wire kept the ice cubes from tumbling into the glass. He sipped clear liquid from the thin-stemmed glass, saving the green olive on the toothpick for last. He drank highballs, straight scotch and bourbon over ice, with a splash of water or ginger ale. On special occasions, he sipped whiskey sours that he’d whirled in the blender with ice, topped with an orange sliver and a maraschino cherry. After starting in on his first drink, my father would slip into a playful mood. He’d turn in my direction, though his eyes would focus some place behind my head. Having traveled the world, my father had a talent for turning Greeks, Libyans, Hawaiians and Japanese into characters, whose stories he now liked to share. My father wasn’t accustomed to hanging around with me, his youngest daughter, so he treated me like a sergeant or airman in his squadron. I don’t think he would have even noticed, or been surprised, if I grabbed a highball, lit a Lucky Strike, and started puffing smoke rings into the air while he talked. I didn’t mind that my father treated me like one of the guys. The chance to spend a few moments in his orbit was enough. The rest of the time, he didn’t notice me at all. Once he finished his first drink, my father would leave the room and make another. Moments after he sat back down in the reupholstered gold chair that had once been olive green, his voice would take on a heavy nasal tone and he’d start clipping his words off at the end. The bitterness stinging his sentences would sour the air. As he raised his voice, the sound would make my ears ache. My father might toss his slippers at me next. Like a plastic doll in a carnival game, I’d topple from my pedestal as the star of the play. Curling into the couch, my shoulders rounded toward my chest, like a threatened turtle, I’d pull in my neck. The words would fly from my father’s mouth, sharpened stones aimed straight at me. He would find a reason to call me a moron. And then, as if I hadn’t heard, he’d spit out the word moron over and over again. At some point, he would walk across the room and pick his slippers up. He’d sit back down in his chair and cradle the slippers, like rocks he was winding in the center of a sling. That’s when he’d toss his slippers at me all over again.

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

The urge to make art came back to me slowly. I’d notice it coming on from time to time, mostly when I was outdoors. It would seize me like the desire for a fudgesicle or a vanilla malt, or the memory of a long ago afternoon relaxing at the beach. Decades after I’d given art up, the desire to paint and draw became especially strong. By then, I had taken to going on long walks, up and down the steep streets of San Francisco where I lived. As I climbed past the colorful Victorians in my neighborhood of Lower Pacific Heights to the mansions of Presidio Heights, the light before sunset would turn the white and pale yellow stucco walls golden. From my studio apartment, I hiked up and down hills, to the Financial District where I worked. On Nob Hill, I’d walk past old brick apartment buildings whose window boxes burst with blooms and the pink and purple butterfly wings of bougainvillea fluttered against the walls. I’d drop down Sacramento Street, stepping slowly because the incline heading toward Chinatown was nearly ninety degrees. I’d pass the sidewalk stands in Chinatown, with their stalks of deep green bok choy and beige onions and red peppers piled high. Old Chinese women would pass, in red and black silk padded jackets, their black pants stopping short of their ankles, and their feet clad in tiny blue and white Nikes. One day, seeing San Francisco didn’t seem enough. I needed to experience the physical act of capturing what I saw. The course description was upbeat, claiming everyone had the ability to draw. Drawing wasn’t, it went on, an innate gift, but a skill anyone could acquire. All one had to do was learn to use the right, intuitive side of the brain, instead of the left, analytical part. The class was held in the Sharon Art Studio, located in Golden Gate Park. By this time I had moved to a flat in the Richmond District, on a street that straddled the park. Each Saturday morning, I walked briskly over to the 25th Avenue entrance, on the north side. More often than not, the fog lay draped over the branches of the eucalyptus trees. I’d walk past the tall crane and stacks of metal and wood at the art museum construction site and keep going, until I passed the long green lawn spilling out below the fragile white Victorian Conservatory of Flowers. Here, plantings in clever patterns appeared each week, and the tourists piled off buses to snap photos. Then, I’d head over toward the children’s playground, next to which the Sharon Art Studio sat. In the first room, men and women worked with clay. After passing the clay studio, I would enter a dark narrow hall, where drawings from the life class hung on both walls. My class met in the first room to the right. 23

 


Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

Each week, we did exercises unlike anything I’d done as an art student. We held pictures upside down and drew what we saw, then flipped our work right-side up, amazed at its accuracy. We drew without looking at the page. We sketched furiously and fast. Instead of the Darwinish art education I’d had when I was young, this art training aimed at ensuring that we survived. Our teacher’s goal was not to weed out the smattering of students she deemed to have promise but to make sure we all went on to draw. And so I did. Tentatively, at first. I was so worried about repeating the negative experiences of the past, I had trouble moving on. So I took the beginning drawing class a second time. Eventually, I did move on. The next class I took, a one-day workshop on the figure in paper and clay, helped my spirit soar. Running my fingers through the damp gray clay felt like swimming back into the womb. Losing myself in forming the figure with my hands, hours passed like a minute, making me feel as if I’d been reborn. I am taking Phil’s Introduction to Drawing class for the third time. The studio where we meet sits on a busy street full of shops and restaurants in Southeast Portland, Oregon, where I live now. As I did in San Francisco, I walk to class. This time of year, the sidewalks are strewn with leaves -- red, bright yellow and brown. They say the third time’s a charm and in my case it’s true. I’m finally beginning to understand art. Art is garbage. It is, as Phil loves to remind us, committing to the monster. It’s crashing and burning, going down with the plane, because only out of the wreckage can we save ourselves. The world I enter when my fingers are black with charcoal and my torso sways in time with my hand is a soothing balm to the injuries the rest of life inflicts. The emphasis on the end product of art by my early teachers made me lose sight of this. Art, after all, is the voice that cries out over and over again, I want to make. It’s returning to the days when playing with clay and coloring, or smearing paint and glue across a page, felt like the most fun thing a kid could do. It’s about going to a place where the rest of the world stops and all that exists is you and the charcoal and the page.

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Spittoon 2.2 Somlo, Garbage

Phil says it takes three hundred figure drawings before you ever make a good one. At our last class, he shows us the video I’ve seen twice before, of Pablo Picasso painting. Every time I think Picasso is done, he covers the canvas in white paint and starts the painting over again. After all these years, I am learning what Picasso must have known: Mistakes are what count. That’s what Phil means by committing to the monster. That’s the point of garbage. The session is over and our mad drawings taunt us from the walls of this room. Phil holds his hand above mine, like Dick Clark on American Bandstand, waiting to hear the rousing applause that will signal the winning couple. Every hand in the room goes up, except mine. Phil walks over to where I’m standing, the heat in my face certain to have turned it a shocking shade of pink. Then he hands me the prize -- a tiny, black plastic gorilla. “For courage,” he says and grins. My fellow students have not raised their hands in recognition of my talent or for the exquisiteness of my technique. I have won this prize because I was willing to let go and have a ball. That, in the end, has made me feel that I have at last captured the starring role.

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Spittoon 2.2

 

     

Nel Meets BIRDBRAIN Michael Sikkema

Neural telegraph attracts a different species of fowl, or BIRDBRAIN. In light of recent advancements: “not a cage” he'll scream, “a house!” “Come and go! Ground and Sky! Branch and branching! I'm housing!” In truth a cage open doored and charged, needing half a flock to think up a ladder, an accident with legs, a Dunn creature, dead for left. Nel walked up on BIRDBRAIN as an empty cage, head loop hooked on a broken tree branch, legs dangling, mouthpiece silent, upturned, but Nel knew and heard the flight paths echo like insect song. She stooped behind a poplar log in rot and wet and waited. Crows, two or three at a time, started winging back with bright bits of wire, string, glass, and lit on the perches. Nerve twitch started in finger and toes, til the legs were dancing like a hanged man, and the arm lifted the body-cage up off its hook. BIRDBRAIN walked straight over to Nel, each crow staring one eye at her two. “Fifteen! I need fifteen to scene and dance be all the eyes together for them. This fifteen I'm housing! I want my last five! You hunting? You pebble-shot? I want my twenty!” BIRDBRAIN shouted. Shaking now, teetering, loose feathers and bright treasure messed along the newspaper on the bottom of the cage. A single crow flew out then into a stand of millet and everything got quiet. Nel looked at her hands, and asked “how many do I need?”

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Spittoon 2.2

 

Nel and the Boys in the Posse Michael Sikkema

Morse taps a train report while the wire is alive with thunderstorm and iron stutter. Nel can track a flock of birds by hum in their heads, so the kids' magnet toys hurt her teeth sweet as Grimm stories. True North pulls her blood to three points and first time she thought she was turning back to stone and water. A daughter of fizzle pop, she hears the ambush broadcasted like bushwhack, circles behind, lets fly with her buzz baton and drops the posse like carousel dandies.

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Spittoon 2.2

 

The Big Three Seen from the Cricket’s Point of View Michael Sikkema

According to Korus, Ray-Ray Dios carved lil Nel from a gold mine canary and three kinds of honest mud. There was valley given to echo. Scouts note territory up under Ray-Ray's skirts remains reconnoitered not at all. No one even got a deep eye lock. Korus is truck stop romance metal and saddle-bag ballads. You should know. I'm trying to carry you, carry over you. Frog song is Ray-Ray and the sun's tuned pitch is. Things are, thing is, wave-to-wave-to-wave, Ray-Ray reverb by and by and by. Stone-birthed, hill-born, with no past under the vegetal thought, a little Andrew Marvel comic, is lil Nel, antennaed and gold-veined made seer, more receiver of planetary talk's accidental orchestra. Nel was made aware, a ware, and wary. She broke the serving dish she didn't wish to be served upon. She swung up rode away on a horse all haptic and hinges.

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Spittoon 2.2

Planetary Exposure Francis Raven

multiple exposures of the foreign

orbit of the given within the given

twist of our language within the porous other

I will not wait for it

the vending machine is what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll remember

it has given us shortly

we have offered nothing above

the frame is the matter that fills the eye

she was looking out

he was looking in

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

there was no quiet there

we were shocked to discover

discovery is a shock

itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not quite open

the line has formed

the line is behind

what you have seen

you have seen behind

how does the circle stick to the sphere

shocked that discovery was a shock

though through the dust pencil has answered

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

they’re always asking how to make the scrapes look more natural

less planned, less intentional

they’re always asking how to ask less

while others are asking about the relationship

between the process and the image

what is it that makes this a photograph

for he has chosen each layer

scraped each layer of its dirt

of the dirt that was there

actually there

and isn’t a photograph what is actually there

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

and not much else besides a caption

to mislead leaders into war

captains into capture

the beloved into waiting

finally, the line is moving and we can see what we came to see

though it disappoints, the spirit disappoints

and we are disappointed with our disappointment

though now at least we know what it actually looks like

weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve never known before

and never even really imagined

that is, we could never be the one to make these images

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

we have no biases concerning the galaxy

we are pure and lack insight

or we penetrate and we ride the data into oblivion

we are oblivion, we shakes tree within

and allow them to fall within poems made of steel

every letter is cursed out, crossed before, comes between

prayer and pure thanks, just the journaling impulse

to set us free, though we arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t very, we began

and then had no time, we have very little time

with which to exclude ants from our computers

they are valuable: full of meat and memory

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

leading the momentary to the momentous scrap of hotdog

to the word less spoken or half of it

you can’t make it out

it could be many things

you have to decide

you’re not ready to decide what the planets are

they’re not even asking you

and you’re giving it, offering art where science was the love of numbers

that finally hand over their insights

whose surface is pure sheen, purely scrubbed

purely waxed

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

purely plucked

purely doubted

finally retrieved

we’ve asked for it back

asked to be scrubbed like frozen dunes

whose apexes have finally thawed

and pink like bodies though the scale is impossible to gauge

we’ve only recently allowed ourselves to send waves within the earth

to pulse extinctions, the dented realm

though in the corner something manmade remains

the power source is always visible, we retain the need to capture

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

in order to move

the microscopic oceans within

that have each and apparently separately flipped the negative

such that valleys appear as ridges

voices as silence

and we just use the thesaurus

to demonstrate that the faults between our decisions

are deeper than the products that express them

and yet lips are lips, we can read the gazeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s downward meander

we know what our earth means even when it is under pressure

but there is more, more that flares in coils as it cools

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

and the entire idea of ideas is something that orbits the Milky Way

behind things there is always another moving part, we’re scared of the rest

we’re scared of bodies at rest

happy, in a way, to know that we’re genetically similar to bananas

separated from rocks, cleaved

like the screws making new holes in the cheap pine of our changing table’s drawers

first the wood is pushed out

before it is decidedly pulled in by the spiral of our tools

but its tenderness means its ability to be split

and pretty soon the idea pops through the surface

and the purchase is useless

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

pretty soon, we are useless

pretty soon, we must be surpassed

just as the line of solitary cells will soon be surpassed by the individual

with the ability to duplicate and divide on chromosomal lines

like some sedimentary layer making way for the long sheet of copper

whose hardened ooze seems impossible to extract unless

every ancestor was too soft to provide any resistance

unless weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all just waiting for what comes after us

waiting until what we are has the opportunity to become something else

compressed and combined, but wait

what is living now will soon become stone

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

that is, what is like us now will soon bear no relation

we will soon have nothing to do with ourselves

the pity

the shame

there are so many stones left unturned

depending on the scale

but why should we care

they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t offer much

the space race felt like everything depended on the marginal mission

until it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t

until nothing did

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

nothing depends upon where you go

but what I’ve never understood is whether

you’re going places when you’re deep in the screen

or if, instead, it’s all coming to you

which is much more troubling since we’re here with everything else

history tumbles simultaneously with the future

it’s all here and then not really at all

because it’s just a photograph that’s been doctored

and your grumpy face when you discover that the process of belief

is just indoctrination and rationalization, just covering stuff up

to yourself

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

which makes our own rebirth into ourselves

just that much more troubling

it’s all pretty troubling

one second she didn’t believe anything and was sort of a really rational

scientific person and the next she was a full on Catholic

who had some strange belief that it was important

to have the same thing to hate, like the orthodoxy of the church

which made her want to venture inward for her son

at which point the conversation stopped

when I asked if she’d had him circumcised

there is a wall at disagreement

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Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

but the moat is more worrisome than the wall

it provides the only real example of an American ruin

which makes it all the easier to finally say that we’re not that young of a country

I mean Germany was only just reunited, Italy was another thing

I’m not entirely sure what, but it wasn’t what it was

though the language might have been

but maybe it’s just that we name languages genetically

which makes the face that people make if you call English American even stranger

who said we shouldn’t rename who we are

who said the way we look at the planets now

will be the way we have to look at them forever

42

 


Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

who even said that we will remain

I have my doubts about it

but I think I want to call my language American

we’re the power and that’s presumably why it was called English

the people are the power

which is why they should really call it something like Latino rather than Spanish

why should you have to speak the language of your conqueror

why should you have to call it that

why do you even need question marks when there is no hope of an answer

why do you even need cream to make the truth weaker

what he’s done is to remove all of the noise

43

 


Spittoon 2.2 Raven, Planetary Exposure

all of the pollution that might be beautiful

and what you see is pure nature

purely as if you weren’t there

or even here

as if you couldn’t see it

one day, you’ll see, it’s better than you could put into words

it’s better than what you say, better than what you could

but you could say other things

I still have hope

44

 


Spittoon 2.2

 

The Disunion of Harmony Ken Poyner

It is not the Red-Ferin that you have to worry about. Not them as they stand aloof, nor their law clerks, nor their secret police, nor their legislatures. All of these are pitiable minorities, small subclasses that build one upon the other to a random apex that, at this moment, are the Red-Ferin. It is your peers you have to worry about. It is your peers who do not think they are your peers. It is those operating a shovel no finer than yours, whose backs strain against the same muck taken from the same holes as the muck you toss workmanlike out of everyone’s way. To them, this station is only temporary. To them, the passage of time will bring their elevation. You know there are no feathers to your labor, only Olomong muscle and bone, and without the labor of the great mass like you, the Red-Ferin would have to come down, descend from the canopy and corner their own food, compete for nesting materials themselves, become just one in the crowd cleansed by migration. But your peers, who are not your peers, see great plumage in their labor. They see themselves one day, for no particular reason and through no particular accomplishment, raised by the recognition of the Red-Ferin to the status, if not of the noble, at least to the rung between their once fellow workers and the noble. In this great station they would sing the songs of territory, of possession, of the great mystery of Olomong becoming Red-Ferin. While they dig, or stack, or arrange, they secretly expect to have within them the spark that will push them to superiority. The Red-Ferin encourage them with slogans, with myths of equality, with unnecessary accomplishments to strive for. On their upper perches, the Red-Ferin engage in status dances, pretend the steps can be understood by anyone who is willing to sweat in serious study. Your peers, who are not your peers, click in astonishment, click in awe at the recognition of their stolen songs, beat their wings in imitation and allow that imitation to become customary. It is they who make the policies of the Red-Ferin work. It is they who provide the dull armies of support for the unequal distribution of proceeds, who find arguments for the merit of your masters. Perhaps it is their wanting, and not having, while all the while believing that they merit a higher post, which makes them such fierce

45  


Spittoon 2.2 Poyner, The Disunion of Harmony

advocates for the abuse of themselves. Theirs is the pride of an unseasoned bird that has mated unaware with his own fledgling. They strut. They are an aviary of prepositions. They are quizzically expectant of an outcome that requires incubation. And they do not recognize what they have done, even if the entire flock is aghast at the familial similarities in coxcomb, the set of the eyes, the mottle in the beak. These are the birds that do not share your circumstance: they endure and observe it. They expect better. Secretly, what is theirs is theirs and what is yours is theirs, too. Workday after workday, it is their voice they cultivate the most. At our lunch breaks their boastful songs litter the ground like nests broken in a storm, and they puff up with the pride of alignment. Fear these birds. Fear them as they settle to one side of the flock. They will do anything to hold onto their fantasies.  

46

 


Spittoon 2.2

nigger, whore, bitch Shitsugane Olembo

I have always liked, Defiant Africans, Nelson, Patrice, Kenyatta, Martin Luther King, Groovy black men, Niggers with attitude, But they intimidate me, Black men. Freedom fighters, Bar room brawlers, And I rise from sleep, Sheened in sweat, Running away, Scribbling my number, On scraps of paper, On foreheads and trousers, On outstretched palms, And I'm breathing heavily, Feeling stained, Because, That one there, The white man in Navy uniform, With hair on his balls, I know him

47


Spittoon 2.2 Olembo, nigger, whore, bitch

-conquistadorHe smells of garlic and grease, And my black friends call me, Nigger, whore, bitch. Will he take the lion tooth offered, Will he make the tribal dance? -I can teach him to love the earth, Teach him to plant his feet in, deepI masturbate from sleep, supported By thick, colonial, muscle. I am forging steel, Industrial iron, I am engineering a white lover Beneath the sheets, whilst Apologizing to freedom fighters, Who call me nigger, whore, bitch.

48


Spittoon 2.2

We are leaving them behind Shitsugane Olembo

Never mind steel, We are creating new materials, Carbon nano-tubes, poly-ceramics, Twirl a ball above your head, we are Building elevators into space, Stringing massage parlours around the earth, We are engineering ourselves, Computer worlds and, Selling real estate, we Are leaving the old people, Behind, Stained curtains and they are, Walking into forests, In Japan.

49


Spittoon 2.2

Almost Places Lisa Luton

Coffee Shop At the coffee shop, you tell me about Death Cab for Cutie, about The New Yorker, and about alligators. I like you best the way I met you, the way I make you. Did I think of you last night, running my fingers through my husband’s beard? No, I almost did when he touched the almost place above my knee, almost my favorite place to be touched. Yours, a line connecting your hipbones. Does she know this about you? Does she know what I know? What we call our almost places. I want to tell your wife I’m sorry, but I don’t know her name. They—your wife, my husband— call our names in the metallic clash of mismatched wedding rings, our hands having an affair of their own. I cannot have you, not for guilt or pain, but for concern that having makes the wanting disappear. I can taste you on the rim of your coffee cup. I offer you a taste of me. You decline, “It tastes like grass.” You’re right, but I suck it down anyway.

50


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Gone I dreamt of your name last night, stuck between the empty lines of a poem where no words would fit. When I wake, my husband is gone and my mouth is hot and sticky. The empty space around me engulfs the dream, and questions arise about whether I called your name. The unusually mild weather this late January makes the house humid and moist, uncomfortable. I’m not emailing you back, and I’m a little pissed that you responded to that email, but not the one before it, the one where I tell you about my daughter and my job. My favorite line in any book is “I think you might turn into a potted plant you’re doing such a good job of not listening.” I wish it would snow so I could remember.

51


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Chasing the Ceramics Room Did I ever tell you that I know where the ceramics room is? On the sixth floor, behind the upstairs walls of the art gallery. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s where it is. If I didn’t tell you, it’s because I like chasing it with you. There are biological reasons we chase each other, reasons our genetics decide. Something about your jawline, which I can’t see through your burly-man beard, and my childbearing hips, my mother’s hips, which I flaunt in tight jeans through the empty stairway like disposable art. Like the vase you spent hours forming on the wheel only for the professor to slice in half with a wire, revealing the undesirable thickness of the walls at the bottom that taper upwards to meet the pretty rim that made you proud five seconds ago. You told me the word for that thickness in the wrong place, but for the life of me I can’t remember. I imagine it’s the disappointment we’d feel if we ever saw each other naked. You’re just another naked man, whose naked parts look like any other man’s, and I’m just a woman, body riddled with loose skin and stretch marks from having a baby, standing in front of you naked, tits down to here. Both of us overworked clay ready to fall centered on the potting wheel, where we could make something the professor would call art. If we could just find the ceramics room.

52


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Zen Garden You led me that night to a zen garden nestled between the campus buildings. There, in the dark, we picked the best places to sit, places where we could rest our heads and observe the rocks, meditate on poetics and on each other. My place was best because when I laid on my back, I could see a star. Was it a planet? “That’s not a star, it’s a satellite.” I don’t have to know exactly what it is to know it’s beautiful. When it snowed, we noticed the spiral pattern in the rocks of the garden.

53


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Bowling Alley You throw so hard, the pins fly past themselves, always leaving one or two standing alone, out of place. Out of frustrations, you throw harder. You almost strike, and I almost hit any pins at all. Two right gutter balls. Two more before you tell me to stand left of center. Bowling balls in public alleys are not made for left handed people. One pin down. You talk to someone next to us about your college days, over a decade ago, and it’s the first time, half-way through our stay at the retreat, that I realize you’re that much older than me. Like my bowling average, I’m embarrassed that I hold such a low score. Tenth frame and a dozen gutters before I strike. You throw down the gutter.

54


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Ledge I wondered if you would kiss me and you wondered if I would let you. There is a picture of you on my cell phone on the ledge we weren’t sure if we could access, the one that looks over the garden we visited several times before. There was a railing between us and that ledge, and I threw my leg over, metal rubbing in an unpleasant way as I slid across to the other side of you. You held my hand as we walked to the corner of the building, to the landing where we could rest. A few years ago, I hung my feet over the cliffs at Dun Aengus overlooking the Atlantic off the shores of Ireland, and didn’t feel nearly as scared of the height as I do now, standing on this ledge. Viewing the vast ocean at a fatal height isn’t as terrifying as viewing my comfortable world from a distance that would break bones.

55


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Theater I took theater in high school, and I can’t remember if I told you that. I spent most of my time behind the set, a techie, except for one play, I Never Saw another Butterfly. We thought we snuck into the wide open doors of the theater in the middle of a practice, but sneaking is hard to do when the doors are wide open. Drawn by the music and the heat, we stood in the lobby and watched the players play. The cold draft from outside blew up our coats while the heat made our faces sweat, caught in the middle, almost where we wanted to be: on stage. Before they take us away from each other and burn us alive, I want to give you “all the flowers—all the butterflies.”

56


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Tractor Supply Company Your daughter would like that kid-sized tractor to ride, you tell me. Mine would want that rocking horse and a goat to feed. I used to live on a goat farm, a fun fact you dismiss. We retreated to the Tractor Supply Company to escape the cold and the snow. Walking each isle, you laugh at our ignorance of parts for farm equipment, and I scan the room, on the lookout for people I might know. Between Aisle 5 and a horse feed display, you tell me I’m “heaven sent.” A honk of a laugh— one that you mistake for being directed at you, but really it’s just the odd setting for such a declaration—escapes my throat and you laugh, too, negating your claim with “until that noise came out of you.” We never went back there with five dollars to spend. You still owe me that. A promised date. I would buy some pellets to feed the goats we might have, had we ever reached a point where we might have considered buying goats.

57


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Magnolia Tree Large magnolia trees line the sidewalk through the middle of campus. It’s too late for students, and it’s winter break anyway. A hole tears in the crotch of my old jeans when you pull me by the hand to the lowest branch of the magnolia tree. A custodial woman in a nearby building and I make eye contact. There’s a place too high for me to climb that would be the perfect place to sit. I could get there, but she’s coming out the door to interrupt. I hop down to the sidewalk, and you give me that you’re-nofun look. There’s already a damn hole in pants. What do we look like climbing trees together?

58


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

The Olive The cactus stem on your usual margarita glass makes it clear that you don’t drink much. I have to stuff my finger in my vodka tonic to soothe the throbbing caused by two bar tables coming together against my will. The black spot on my fingernail suggests that pain was once felt right there, but I can’t remember what that pain felt like. Throbbing, I think, and it felt bigger than it looked. Even if I could remember, pain is nearly impossible to communicate accurately and comparatively. What is my pain compared to yours? Eula Biss says “Through a failure of my imagination, or of myself, I have discovered that the pain I am in is always the worst pain imaginable.” And there you are, the black spot on my fingernail, the worst pain imaginable. But how can I call it pain when I wish it would stay? Four weak shots and another vodka tonic and I almost forget the throbbing.

59


Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Truck “Let’s play a game,” you say, but I don’t think I like where this is going. You tell me to count. Three seconds. The time our hands have to penetrate this space between us, to touch each other anywhere, anyway we want. One. My cheek. Two. My lips. Three. My neck, and gone. Snow falls through the open sunroof and lands on the shoulder of the wool coat I wish you’d take off. Instead, I spend the better part of two seconds wrestling with the tangled scarf around your neck before I get one awkward second on your skin. After that, we stop counting. When I’m in my room again, alone, I try to release my frustrations with thoughts of what we would be like together, but I spend just short of two hours working towards nothing. I take my mind back to the truck, the snow on hot skin, our sticky hands, and your voice whispering “almost, almost” in my ear. I come in three seconds, so hard I have to change the sheets.

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Spittoon 2.2 Luton, Almost Places

Library “Do you see those tall windows?” you ask. Of course I do, the two of them. “That’s all one room. That’s how high the ceiling are,” you say. I raise my eyebrows as high as the ceiling and don’t notice whether you can tell that I’m interested in you more than the building. The day I meet you, you ask if I like libraries. I don’t, but I tell you that I do because, well, I want to have everything in common with you. Really I just don’t like libraries you don’t visit, a detail I don’t realize until you make me promise to go with you to the old library on campus with the tall windows. Inside, the space dwarfs the bookshelves holding heavy texts from years ago. You slip to a picture on your cell phone of the theater across the courtyard. It’s a picture of a building, just a brick building hiding behind the falling snow. “A photograph needs three focal points to be considered beautiful,” you say. You have to zoom to illustrate your point. I came here, to the artist’s retreat, to be something unapologetic, to stand on my own—not mother or wife or teacher, not three but only one. But it’s impossible to stand alone without creating space around myself for the quiet snow to fall. You fill that space, and when you zoom in past the snow, the building has three doors: one closed, one half open, and one fully opened. These are your three. If three focal points make a photograph beautiful, what is so beautiful about the two of us? Incomplete, really.

61


Spittoon 2.2

 

[Excerpts from The Johnny Postcards] Brandi Homan

     

Johnny— Cleo’s tonight—J chainsmokes for days. The patio a wooden field, gridlocked gridiron. Inside, black like a mouth without teeth. Warm and gritty, I can’t tell rhinestones from diamonds. Do I love you, Bunny * Johnny— Did I talk poetry to you here? A dream once, maybe. At Danny’s looking for salvation and found language a church. Candlelight and the girls stoned in back. He agitates my hair, a whip to the face. Smiths Night, the masses ask, “Will he love me?” What is love? Bunny *

62


Spittoon 2.2 Homan, [Excerpts from…

Johnny— Him again—sweet tea eyes, concave chest, three digits. Pee-Wee Herman as Patron Saint of Failing Organs. Jamesy O Your Women! Green (Eye) is jealous, life, I am an other and another. Fucked beneath the Blue Line. Midnight Arturo’s, stuck between. Turbo says hello, and xo, Bunny * Johnny— Little Joe’s karaoke. Apparently I sing showtunes, can’t not talk to him. Taylor Street never before, each quote a different movie. They just keep playing and playing. Take the cannoli, Bunny p.s. You know what to do with the gun. *

63


Spittoon 2.2 Homan, [Excerpts from…

Johnny— Honky Tonk Happy Hour at Empty Bottle. Who can two-step? His girlfriend across from me on the stairs. Low Places, Bunnicula * Johnny— Cowboy Bingo at Pontiac. Card tables steaming on asphalt, music of passing cars. Every night is bingo night. Vroom, Bunny *          

64


Spittoon 2.2

Just me singing Anne Germanacos

This isn’t old—it’s just me singing. (I aim not to stop.) * Incapable of going away without bringing back a fistful of souvenirs? * Is this just religion or something at the edge—a real place? * You ordaining the fickleness of me: a couplet. * Sex and brain—what they spew. The two are aligned, tires that take me. Have we pushed me toward a different hesitation, clad in syllables? * It’s about letting the mind spin; this may be where you came in. * Good things come raining down; I open out—an umbrella. * My hair: not quite right. A little shaping (we could all use) *

65


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

The being of us opened out, made rain! That’s a god, isn’t it? * Sometimes he soaks me, sometimes the mist of you * I was aiming for something concrete, squared off, shape rather than ether. But I can skate my own heart. * The roles that impinge, aid, make and keep. If only I could say: When we’re friends * This is the place where I make things for you. It’s also where an index finger, a thumb, together, pinch a nipple—a kind of arrest. Then, his mouth. Still here, making things. * Up all night with fast-racing heart. Here goes nothing, I said, then had to explain. * What I'm afraid of: that I won't know the answers to my own questions. * Trying for the impossible? 66


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

It may require an adjustment of expectation. * You're lodged here in my stomach—a long series of cascading gurgles. A presence, albeit an uncomfortable one, to keep me company. To remind me that you are. (that I am) * My sister—blond and beautiful. * This book, a little like you, (who are) a little like me, and so the three of us mix and blend. * I offered him something from within this white hotel robe. Pale globe—he took it in his hands. We shared a moment, and then I took it back, saving it for my audience. I now assume a public. * My children are somewhere, I know. * They say it will be beautiful up north. This weather--drizzle and now rain--is for the birds. We haven't seen blue sky since we left California. * There are ways and ways of saying a thing. A division at the heart, forked forks. Our tongue. *

67


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

He paces, not I. * Sometimes any human, even a husband, is too much—you want a cat. * Stars may console—or not. * 3:21 Not a bad time as long as you can make something of it. * I had to say to my best friend: When I saw you in June, I had a mother. Now I don't. * What time does the sun rise here? * Falling apart a little or pretending to or forcing it, apotropaically. * This plane sways, banks. Is that the word? * New York City-bound—thank god. * It took us a while to cross Fifth Avenue. The Americas were parading. * 68


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

You have to make yourself immense, porous, all receptivity. Otherwise, you may miss every boat. * Either I am allergic to green, or to Vermont. * We can't hear the ocean but even up here, on the 40th floor, I hear the steady clipclop of horses. I see buildings in other buildings; I see the park there, too. * Am I helpless to keep you from fading? Like a color in a fabric? Green, for instance? Does the green of grass fade? Or is it only manmade color that is bleached by time and the sun? You are not an old dress! * Clip-clop, it goes. * That's all I'm after, reallyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;an enticing mouthful (or two). * Bathing in the sun of him, digging around in the center of me. Dig harder, please! * The fact of a you offers every possibility. * This morning's view of a misty-faced Manhattan. 69


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

But there's something about a minaret that has no equivalent in this architectural vocabulary. A skyscraper is immense and self-important, but not the same as a needle aimed at Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye. * I still know you; distance may not mean a thing. * He's gone to the Met to look at the Antiquities. I am here, left to my own devices. * "Housekeeping--" in a bit of a lilt. She goes door-to-door, announcing herself. (Is there anything she's still scared of seeing or has she seen it all?) * This tautness suits me: no more striving. * Up in the clouds, almost there. * small windows (large lives) * You said: I can almost hear that sound made when the last bit of liquid is sucked from the bottom of the glass. But you're not made of glass or plastic. Fleshâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;butted, nuzzled, sucked sounds different. That's the sound I hear. 70


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

* I should say: I'm happy to remain uncategorizable! * The point is: The more naturally it is made, the more beautiful it will be. * He is up a street. * You, an ultimate resourcefulness. * I waited. I paid some form of dues. * Lined up on the runway. Faint blue skies and early morning drifty clouds. * Cracked wide open, I spill. But this spilling is differentâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;never a waste. * On a plane, you think you've forgotten about nature, intent on the force of gravity. * I'll give you alternate names, (discreet) alibis. * Not giving up this story, this thread, this youâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a posited soul to look into (mine).

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Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

* Does real come in different shades? * Home. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll capture it in Times New Roman. * Winter coming on. * What it was like? Becoming myself in my life. * Orgasms of space and time: a chemistry of merging, a physics that cancels the frame. * She, what remains of her, in that smooth box. I remember the day, blue. * Sometimes you want too hard, too baldly; donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t abandon grace. * There are times when sex is so much itself that it's not open to interpretation. * I've jumped fifty and still need to suckle a mother's teat in order to give him suck? *

72


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

Oh, making love to an audience. It comes naturally to you, he said. * Fall is here, almost crisp. That dog’s ears touched the leaves, swept them around. * I can be solemn or less solemn. * Calm is once again a viable alternative. I could bask in other presences; I could drift. * Mangled pigeon on Masonic. Made sure I looked carefully. * You believe in the immensity of the thing; you taste its overflow. * Talk about slippery slopes. Coffee and chocolate are nothing next to this. * (My secret? I float in a syntactical sea.) * He was crying in his dream—I heard. * Still a love song, everything muted but desire. Turn up the volume! I can’t hear the news! 73


Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

* He asked: What if I live another ten years? What if I can't get it up more than once every six months? I said: You can choose a replacement. * Beginning to suspect this style, the ostentatious chattiness, this usurping of a hardly surmisable you. * Pinning down voraciousness. * (There may be nothing so mortifying as wanting to want: a crushing deletion.) * Money raises its shaggy head. Winks. * I sometimes order fish, now. A compact unit, we're happy on trains. * Is this edging toward the pathological? Imaginary? (no friend) * Up in the air. (Aren't we always?) * We sanctify every hotel bed with a bang.

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Spittoon 2.2 Germanacos, Just me singing

* Mississippi to my right and not one but two American flags, swaying in the breeze. Clouds moving north, swiftly. * New Orleans airport. A Muslim or two praying while the kids run wild. * Will I ever write without a you? * He says: You turned me inside out this morning. * Emergency vehicles sped down Michigan Ave all through the night. * Decadence, he said, digging in. * Ovulating? Or just eager to return to the nest? * My mother is gone, her house has been sold. I put myself in the garment of her, weep into a pocket. * Am now returned to you on this borrowed book of time. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;also a library? 75


Spittoon 2.2

My Actions Have Consequence Again Jennifer H. Fortin

It was a situation like all situations. In the middle of the night I woke not knowing where I was. Onward like an impossible arrow it continued, the not knowing, through atoms of tar. After pale day had broken, the not knowing continued. I was untouchable. I broke regrets over one soft knee. In equal measure I wanted to save a life or to die. Then my friends started making themselves known. P.J., saying if he subtracted two hours from each workday, a decade of worth would result. Karen, telling me of the toddler repeating, “But I have to talk.” The day paled. Two other friends put me on speaker phone and made fun of my emphasis and length. They put me on speaker phone to make fun of my emphasis and length. More: Meagan, winded, as frustrated with her achievements as most people are. Alec, to avoid the riots. Eric, whose last visit with me took place in America, which was different. Naturally, embarrassment surfaces and resurfaces, because it is confusing to take so much of the world in and to presume one’s relationship as observer has any value. Then the strangers came and behaved. Everyone was present. That day, it seems, we had all woken up not knowing. Since no one knew, but we were all either friends or strangers, our actions had consequence again.  

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Spittoon 2.2

Nothing Explained Jennifer H. Fortin

The hidden cost of having family photos taken is having a family. Truly those are dear shots. Families are one more species facing extinction because of whatâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;sport? Hunting? Although I never say self-defense aloud, I allude to venom, going on and on and explaining nothing like a wet lid at bat. Tomorrow we will revolve more directly around collapse rather than around the sequined family. Collapse introduces an important ecosystem of ideas. About a woman in peril, we say cross her, we say complex, noting the cobra coiled at her small foot. Note the double use of complex (complication, obsessive fear) and cross (crucifix, betray). She who, at the beginning, is happy to explain ends up happy to conclude her journey. The stomachs of the people on the trail where the cobra rests in the bush look like a group of human faces. This world is fast becoming populated by an ugliness that points to the existence of human features where there shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be human features. Are we happy as our straps break because we are free from their restraint, or because weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re now bound to lose form, to die? Naturalists study nature, things in their natural environments. I bring you the intelligent cobra that initially seems unnatural. It is in its surprising resemblance to a human that the snake is hooded and ugly, in its considerable deviation from the snakeness we expect of it. These days when you say natural, it barely means anything.

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Spittoon 2.2

A Bird on Warm Brick Darren C. Demaree

I have questions about the soul, the yanking free of the blanket during winter. It is always winter & the wings on the sidewalk, though they never touch the brick of our small town, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re limited in daring, by the sheets of ice that fall when the run rises & the sun always seems to rise.

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Spittoon 2.2

DSM-IV Code 312.345:

Infant Intermittent

Explosive Disorder Joseph Celizic

Affected Population Young. So young that they are still eyeing their fingers suspiciously as they move them, are still pleasantly perplexed by the disappearing act of peak-a-boo. Typically this runs from 4-10 months after birth, but can also be found in older children; the physical world is not always uncomplicated, no matter how long we’ve been here. For the infant, the concept of a body is fresh, only semi-conceived. It seems a separate force to wrestle with, the stomach demanding and selective, legs not yet able to support one’s weight. It’s not surprising that the infant’s rage feels just as new, uncontrollable. Diagnostic Features IIED criteria include discontinuous outbursts of aggression that often result in violent assault and the destruction of property: cribs, clothing, rubber pacifier nipples ripped from their bases. Witnessing an episode may be both a shocking and humorous experience as tiny hands attempt to snap crib posts in two or rip playpen mesh into tattered wisps, all with varying success. Though the intent of the rage is always disconcerting, the results are often less so, and the way the infant’s head burns into a deep red like a tomato can create uncontrollable giggles from viewers, further perpetuating the frenzy. Witnesses must protect themselves throughout the duration of an episode. The infant will throw, punch and kick. They will stab. It is appropriate to think of the violence as impulse, involuntary but nevertheless dangerous.

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Spittoon 2.2 Celizic, DSM-IV Codeâ&#x20AC;Ś

Despite limited language skills, many IIED sufferers speak in dead tongues over the duration of an episode. Unintelligible curse words and guttural protests are peppered throughout their cries. The wrath seems to afford them a new set of skills, indeed powers of expression. They sign derogatory remarks to their caretakers. Perform complex hand gestures as if finally possessing the proper motivation to communicate, a message they desperately want heard. There are no precipitating psychological stressors galling enough to warrant such an episode from those diagnosed with IIED: no hunger too great nor gassy build-up too strong. Still, burgundy cheeks gleaming with tears are just a lukewarm lunch or unwanted bath away. They are actively destructive against the world around them, as if attempting to reshape it into a more suitable state. Their failure to make such corrections only adds to their frustration, their desperation, their fury. Post Episodic Reactions Upon inflicting minor cracks and scratches, finger-length rips and quarter-sized bruises, the infant enters a state of remorse and confusion. Perhaps more surprising than the infantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s violent outburst is his or her subsequent self-loathing. They curl into balls, hug their knees. They shake their heads, ruminating on the unbecoming state of their actions. How could they let themselves lose control like that? Was it really their hands that broke the rattle in half, threatened to use it as a weapon if they were force-fed mashed peas one more time? What will the family think of them now? Unlike IED sufferers, there is no relief of tension. The infant remains ashamed for hours after, blushing just as violently as their original outburst. Their head continues to glow deep red, the blood rushing around the brain, swirling in a great vortex. They are betrayed by their own life force, often collapsing in a dizzied fatigue. Their lips tremble as they lay defeated, silently mouthing what appear to be apologies as they fade into sleep. They crave forgiveness when they awake. When they come to, they crave understanding.

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Spittoon 2.2 Celizic, DSM-IV Code…

Behavioral Treatments Grace has been found the most effective form of therapy. An undeserved amount of attention and patience, love and sincerity. The infant’s reaction is no doubt inappropriate, the child out of line. Still, all they want is to be taken seriously: their wants considered and fears addressed. They’re disappointed. The world is not right, and perhaps even more upsetting is their own fragility, their soul assigned to a body that depends on every breath. The most successful administrator of grace will be able to forget what it’s like to accept these truths. They will sensitize themselves again to the failings of world and self until the weight of all-that-shouldn’t-be-but-is clings to their chests like globular tumors. They must feel enough pain and rage and disappointment until all explosions are rational and justified responses, until the administrator is nearly ready to burst themselves. So it means to understand the pain of another.

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Spittoon 2.2

From The Tranquilized Tongue Eric Baus

The fauna machines oxidized the bodies of beasts. The fur-covered eclipse blinded the sky with blisters. The blood hibernated in a passed out star. The peregrineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s aluminum claws unclasped.

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Spittoon 2.2 Baus, From The Tranquilized Tongue

The eggshellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fissures entered the word ocean. The latent spikes of the tide became bulbous. The scared phonemes frayed. The molting ohms mated. The migratory mouth coalesced in a voice that loomed above the umbrellas.

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Spittoon 2.2 Baus, From The Tranquilized Tongue

The cross-section of a dead pumaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s twin mirrored the vines surrounding the palace. The split brain rendered a lizard in roses. The animalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s implicit plumage wore wolves. The scarred ivy opened. The amphibian fell. The fur of the damaged mirage rained.

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Spittoon 2.2 Baus, From The Tranquilized Tongue

The lion collaged its exhaust with the frozen-tongued music of desert vines collecting water. The ur-rain flooded the forest with flames emitted from the soundtrack of a flag machine. The captive voices of branches split the waves in a pair of giraffes into the first eruptions of statue moss.

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Spittoon 2.2 Baus, From The Tranquilized Tongue

The recessive films synchronized with the water in the conductorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bones. The stunted scenes nested in baroque ocean vessels. The host bottled the scarlet phoneme in a submerged physicianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chest. The acoustic net dispersed a long pause. The tattered surface of a purr survived the sigh.

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Spittoon 2.2

letters Marcia Arrieta

paper boxes. cabooses. long rides in the night. today rilke appearsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;his face collaged as a mirror. we discuss the earth in spring. metaphor reflection. short journeys of the soul. abstraction the ordinary quite unordinary. like trees in a meteor shower or old poems found in a book of art.

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Spittoon 2.2

Contributors

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Spittoon 2.2 Contributors

Stephen J. West lives, writes, and teaches in Morgantown, West Virginia. He also writes a column and edits creative nonfiction for THIS Literary Magazine. If you want to chat about this essay--or anything at all, really--you will make his day. You can reach him on Twitter @LOAFbyLOAFWEST. Vallie Lynn Watson's novel, A River So Long, is forthcoming from Luminis Books. Watson is an editor at Blip Magazine, teaches creative writing at Southeast Missouri State, and flies hot air balloons. www.vallielynnwatson.com.

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm. Farren Stanleyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s place-of-origin is Santa Fe, NM, but her heart followed her body to Tuscaloosa, AL. A former editor of Black Warrior Review, she lives under a magnolia tree with her dog, cat, 7 orchids and 2 goldfish. She is published or forthcoming in elimae, RealPoetik, Marginalia, Caketrain, H_NGM_N, PANK and at Greying Ghost Press. Patty Somlo has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times and is the author of From Here to There and Other Stories, http://www.paraguasbooks.com/. Michael Sikkema is interested in hockey and tectonics, sailing stones and lost poems. He wrote some chapbooks (Lame House Press, HNG MN, Black Warrior Review, Grey Book Press, Horse Less Press), and a book, Futuring (Blazevox). He had to claim $98 dollars on a 1099 this year and list his business as "poet." Francis Ravenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s books include Architectonic Conjectures (Silenced Press, 2010), Provisions (Interbirth, 2009), 5-Haifun: Of Being Divisible (Blue Lion Books, 2008), Shifting the Question More Complicated (Otoliths, 2007), Taste: Gastronomic Poems (Blazevox 2005) and the novel, Inverted Curvatures (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005). Francis lives in Washington DC; you can check out more of his work at his website: http://www.ravensaesthetica.com/.

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Spittoon 2.2 Contributors

Ken Poyner splits his time between working in Information Management, acting as eye-candy at his wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s power lifting meets, and writing. He has published infectiously during the last 40 years. Shitsugane Olembo is a 42-year-old Gay Kenyan Film Director who has been writing poems since he was 23. He is part of the New Poetry coming from the Literary Collective, Kwani (http://kwani.org) in Kenya. For Shitsugane, the personal is political, and personal stories matter. He holds a B.Sc. Pharm/MFA Film, and can be found at http://kolembo.wordpress.com. Lisa Luton is a school teacher in rural Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and young daughter. She is an MFA candidate at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and her work is forthcoming in New Madrid. Contact: laluton711@gmail.com. Brandi Homan is the author of Bobcat Country (Shearsman, 2010) and Hard Reds (Shearsman, 2008). She is a cofounder of the independent feminist press Switchback Books. Anne Germanacosâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; work has appeared in over eighty literary journals and anthologies. Her collection of short stories, In the Time of the Girls, was published by BOA Editions in 2010. She and her husband live in San Francisco and on Crete. www.annegermanacos.com. Jennifer H. Fortin is the author of Mined Muzzle Velocity (Lowbrow Press, 2011) and a few chapbooks. She lives in Syracuse, NY. For more information, visit www.jenniferhfortin.com. Darren C. Demaree is living in Columbus, OH, with his wife and daughter. He is the recipient of two Pushcart nominations. Joseph Celizic received his MFA from Bowling Green State University where he currently teaches. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Coast, North American Review, Harpur Palate, CutBank, Redivider, and Santa Clara Review as well as other journals.

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Spittoon 2.2 Contributors

Eric Baus is the author of Scared Text (Colorado State U. Press), Tuned Droves (Octopus Books), and The To Sound (Verse/Wave Books). He lives in Denver. Marcia Arrieta is the author of triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme (Otoliths Press 2011). She edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry journalâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; www.indefinitespace.net.

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Spittoon 2.2: after