Synesthesia Literary Journal 4:1 ÂŠ Christopher H. Gorrie and Seretta Martin 2016 Printed in the United States of America All rights reserved. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Patent-Paradigm Publications All inquiries or other correspondences should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org Front and back cover artwork by Gina Williams.
Table of Contents Instructions for Swimming Before the Rain
Koi Pond, Norton Simon Museum of Art
Death Approaches Face to Face
Blue Glacier Beer
I Write a Forest.
The Meaning of Marlboro
Lights of Innocence
Very Hot Summer
Sermon of the Dead
Notes and Acknowledgements
Instructions for Swimming Before the Rain John Brantingham The tide that has risen, the tide that might kill you and certainly will if you stay out after the wind has ruined the swell, can also draw you out past the breakers into that world of slow motion rolling. Let it take you for a while until you rise and fall with the dreaming heartbeat of the Pacific until you can relax into your own steady rhythm working arms and legs gently into the deafness of nature's middle distance. Crawl out there on a day when no one else would even think to go. Swim far enough to feel how extraordinarily small you are, tread water and watch the shore, staring at that city you have spent every day in. Think about how it moves with the same rough love it did ten minutes ago when you were inside it. When something nudges you, do not imagine that you have been warned. It is only that you have entered the dream of the ocean. You are a part of it as you once were a part of the dream of Los Angeles. Its citizens bump you the way Angelinos did. You are one of them. Now float.
Koi Pond, Norton Simon Museum of Art John Brantingham Stare at the perfection of the lilypad pond as you wait for your parents. They have wandered off with their friends to talk about naked men frozen in time. Lose yourself in the dream of hiding behind that statue for an hour, the one of the cougar with his elongated back, energy poised for the kill. Imagine waiting for that moment when the old men stare at the flag, and the families talk about marble, and you exist to no one but yourself. At that moment you could slip into the pool, float unnoticed among the watergrasses, those giant goldfish accepting you as one of their own. You could submerge into those dark waters, open your eyes to a world that is green and perfectly still.
Chac/chac Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois 1. The tears of the Mayan god Chac filled the oceans. He cried life into existence, so much harder a task than Jehovah gave himself with his magic wand and his dry-eyed self-satisfaction. And God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good. Chac’s salty tears made life tragic. We had to rise to the surface, float on our backs and be warmed by the sun for joy to emerge. 2. The gold stars embroidered on the Son of Chac’s blue robe fell to the ground and, wherever they landed, a corn stalk grew. Deer came and ate the corn and, as they digested, they became enlightened. They went into the fields. They approached deer stands where hunters chewed tobacco and drank bourbon. The hunters looked at these deer and could not pull the trigger. If they pulled, their weapons jammed. They were shaking so hard, they could hardly climb down their ladders. They lurched across the fields toward their homes. Their wives were waiting for them with coffee. They put away their guns and never hunted again. 3. Anthony of Padua will not put down the Son of Chac. He carries him wherever he goes. Together they pose for sculptures. The Son of Chac is far more photogenic that the Son of Jehovah God, more sculpture-genic too. That is why Anthony abandoned the Son of Jehovah God, though he fears that Jehovah God will fuck him over in revenge. Jehovah God has a mental disorder that compels him to destroy those who wrong Him, or whom He thinks has wronged Him, or who are preparing to wrong Him, or who are related to Canaanites, who He fears and despises. When Jehovah God thinks of Canaanites, lightning explodes out of His ears. Padua Anthony wants Joseph to step up, man up, father up, but Jehovah God doesn’t really care what Anthony thinks. Jehovah God is prone to making excuses for Joseph, because of something undisclosed in their pasts 4. Baby Chac, like any baby, pisses himself and poops his diapers, and Mrs. Chac is grateful to Anthony of Padua because he is not squeamish, and feels honored to change the Son of Chac.
5. According to the Prophecy of Chac: In the next flood, the final one, people will turn into fishes. The myth that humans are prey for sharks will finally become true, because, as stated, humans will be fishes. Global warming and evolution (or was it devolution) will deal us a cruel blow. Millions of us, billions of us, will become dinner for the sleek toothsome eating machines. Because, if you werenâ€™t listening, we will be fishes. Some of us, according to our temperaments will be barracuda, some trout, some tuna, salmon, Jewfish, dogfish, bottom fish of all varieties, including French Grunts, yellow snapper, and so on. The list of fish is endless, and humans will fill all the ecological fish niches. Some people will turn into octopuses and live in holes. They will only venture out when it is safe. Their judgments wonâ€™t always be foolproof. Still, they will be the lucky ones.
Death Approaches Face to Face Harry Calhoun A glow in its eye when you’re near. Death has a sparkle, a luster in its pallor. Walks the tunnels of your inner ear, footsteps muffled by mausoleum dust. You hear, or imagine, a knowing chuckle as rats chase you into your nostrils. Chin up, you should face this with valor. But the glimpsed face falls invisible. You remember reading something about hair growing on corpses being an illusion; it’s just the flesh shrinking. Strange thought on facing the end. But maybe you’re not facing it, focusing on delusion rather than your certain fate. Death’s face looks so much like the one you had before you were born: That which you glimpse in dreams and rare flashes of waking insight. The face you see in the mirror is not yours. Life, death and the face before birth are reality, for now your certainty.
Blue Glacier Beer Tom Sheehan And so it had come to this… nothing would ever take him from his steely promise to extract, once and for all, total redemption from his old pal and teammate, Geg Lumbada, payment of the highest order, Amontillado on the instant air. So be it. When Danton Fuller took his first taste of Blue Glacier Beer he experienced, that very night, the first of his memorable dreams. It did not take him long to discover the beer was the instigator of his wild dream of comeuppance. This was a brew he could always count on for diversion. The quality taste grabbed him with an old-world power, bringing back memories of beer in a crock his father had kept in a back hall, “for visitors,” as the old gent had said. To himself he said, “It has deep character.” To begin with, he acknowledged, the dread amber was a knockout color in a tall glass, the words eye shattering, staying on his tongue. The sun jumped through Blue Glacier Beer at crazy angles, made assumptions of deeper prisms and geometric shapes, sometimes loosed curves in the straightest world. Did he find things he was not initially looking for, or did they find him? He was not sure. Yet it was like a collar had been snapped about his neck, as if all had been ordained. And in all of it, Greg Lumbada came second to none in ceremonial matters. Life had deemed revenge appropriate, though it need be covert and consume years of planning. In the brightness of that following morning, Fuller held the empty bottle up to the sunlight, studying the label, trying to remember why he had chosen a brand of beer unknown to him until the fateful moment. The glorious, blue glacier on the label, looking as though it actually was moving toward him in its glacial speed, or summoning him into its depths, with the sun explosive behind its apparent brute force, had slowed his thought process to that same immutable movement… locking his mind on an image of Greg Lumbada gripped by eternal torment. Fuller was not sure if the glacier’s depth was ocean-blue or sky-blue but, without a second’s hesitation, he realized schadenfreude at an nth degree held him tightly in place… froze him there with that feeling pervading his energy, his spirit, his standing as a man. Total consummation, for one man, had begun. And on the coming nights, when Fuller reveled in Blue Glacier Beer and all the ideas it spawned, of the past, the present and the future, he leaped a long way into the future because of the capacity of his mind.
Fuller and Greg Lumbada, as history unrolled it to me from a variety of sources, some personal and true, some inflammatory, had been classmates, and teammates in Pop Warner and Little League, from their eighth year on the planet. And as make-up and happenstance comes to the fore in strange accommodation, the two boys, tight as fingers of a fist through a portion of high school, came asunder when each one claimed the same girl, Elsa Bourque, on the same night, physically and emotionally. It was only the beginning of the grand separation, for character had inserted its way into the friendship in matters and ways never dreamed of… Greg eventually thinking Fuller, rather than an athlete, was a total nerd, and Fuller sure that Greg had cheated him numberless other times besides the affair with Elsa, and thus had rotted the friendship at its core. When Greg left Elsa that night he said, “I will love you forever,” and when Fuller left, he patted Elsa on the backside and simply said, “You’re really my kind of girl. I ought to keep you.” The impressions were lasting. The duo passed through high school, no longer teammates, but each excelling in their own way; Greg became the best of the good local-level athletes, and Fuller the superlative student: “The best,” Principal Harkness said of Fuller, “that we have had here in a hundred years of this school. Of that there is no doubt, his mind is so special, and at such a highly advanced level.” Greg thereafter played college ball, in a mediocre career, content with knowing that the teammate who played ahead of him each time was better than he was; he himself was part of the team, never missing practice, getting into games often after outcomes had been decided, filling in on two momentous occasions when injuries demanded. Eventually, locked up in a down-to-earth love from the first night, he was the one to marry Elsa Bourque, have three children, and find sure content with a career as a high school coach. Life for him was not a rocky road after the rocky start. Fuller, on the other hand, was a rising star at every effort and every interest. His mind was miles ahead of cohorts about him, often solving the most difficult problems after sudden and deep contemplation of all he knew and all he suspected might be known. His mind was ferociously active, as if he never slept without some pondering working on him. The day came when he was appointed head of the laboratory where he worked for only three years: he had shown them the way in outstanding matters. Only his secretary, Maisie Burton, had seen a continual expression on his face. “He has such intensity it cannot be measured,” she said on a few occasions, somehow adding a mere qualification that few listened to: “I often wonder what even a minute failure might do to him.” 12
She never knew the failure had already occurred. All the time Maisie thought the intensity to be a mark of Fuller’s determination, and his endless searching for the solution to a current problem harassing the whole laboratory. He was, in her mind, an indomitable force ever working at solution. She had no idea, not the slightest, that schedenfraude, in its simple beginning, had become an indecent mark on her boss’s soul, never guessing for one stable minute he was possessed by anger and madness. As part of his derangement, but in sync with his mind set, he began to send small, neat, conciliatory notes to Elsa and Greg, all part of the Machiavellian drive working on him. He’d spend hours on the most simple messages and ruses; intrigue, caprice, outright deceit often coming to the fore to make them look the other way. “Hey, Guys,” he once wrote in his heavy-handed script, “Glad the team won the big game, Greg. Congrats,” and continued with, “The kids sound like chips off the old block, Elsa. Keep at it. Know that in this corner envy lasts forever.” He sent such notes on a regular basis, and on all anniversary occasions. Maisie, in her own motherly way, also saw to it that he never missed anything special in the way of congratulations on those special occasions, birthdays or other events. The messages after a fashion became another specialty. All of it was worth it. Time would prove him infallible yet again. Sometimes for Fuller, but not very often, there were idle moments when he could feel the claws being retracted. Fuller’s career specialty advanced rapidly to propulsion into space, the movement of splendid and streamlined bodies into the far reaches of the universe, certainly where such bodies would languish for all eternity; that or be crushed by other spatial bodies at collision. “Such endings,” he said on numerous occasions, “are fitfully better than earthly graves, junkyards, or boot hills of any sort if you will just stretch your minds for that reach.” He had become a specialist of the first order. “Listen,” he said another time when addressing a large audience of college students, “there is a grace to any meteoric collision of bodies allowing the mind to grasp the beginning of Earth and, therefore, life itself, life as we now have it. We might never know what such impacts can bring again to the annals of mankind itself.” Some people fidgeted at the stressed word, feeling he always knew more than they did, like some unknown space vehicle or space rock was even then into the keenest orbit; that the “time” of man, as it was then known, had merely climbed into the foothills of humanity, that other vast mountains of mankind were to be climbed, or those of peoplekind or creaturekind, whatever 13
else lurked or was fashioned or came from the newest Big Bang out there on the hillsides of space. So it was, maneuvering and fortressing his lunge at revenge, he purchased a lonely and isolated piece of property, at the far end of the state and deep in the Rockies, where he spent countless weekends and vacation weeks on his demanding project. The property was in turn supported by a few small and widely separated shops and transport centers where he collected a maze of material. Every effort, every piece of supply, had to be appropriately camouflaged, hidden from the knowledgeable. Everything he eventually and clandestinely touched came to feed the project, and his inner drive. Time passed into years. Never married, no other hindrances weighing on him, his progress along with his madness was electric. While he did not extend himself physically out into the hinterlands of space, he instead dug deep into the earth; and after laborious and time-consuming efforts his own space silo came into being, smooth, deep, perfect in all its properties. He called it Gregory I, tittering each time the name crossed his lips or found a whisper in his throat. A few cohorts at the laboratory might have exchanged sly glances when he excused himself from certain social functions because of his ongoing Gregory I commitment. “It may be the salvation of my soul,” he confided once or twice.
Eleven more years passed, the madness and reprisal unabated, unfulfilled. And the hole down into the earth became deeper, more secure, smoother than any aluminum gullet, streamlined for velocity and escape. In a word, perfect for redress. The Lumbada children rushed into teenage. His teams had won one state championship and three conference titles. His job was secure. One son was a superior running back. One son was a formidable student who loved soccer. The lone girl, Alma, was the image of her mother and the belle of her school. Her mother worried about her popularity; her father never worried. And Fuller, on the sly, saw Alma often, on many occasions parking not far from her school as she walked with a bevy of friends, male and female. All action seemed to generate about her and her personality. Fuller, on those clandestine outings, on top of all other emotions bestride him, discovered hatred. He thought her to be a “chippie,” nothing more than her mother had been at almost the same age.
The conciliatory letters and notes continued, however, and Lumbada was further drawn into a spell of admiration for his old pal. “He’s such an intellect, Elsa. He’s so far beyond anyone we know, it’s unbelievable. It’s a wonder you married me instead of him. I somehow know he’s loved you always. He’s never forgotten a single birthday or an anniversary. Not a one. Let’s face it… there is no one like him.” Elsa’s eyes would lift in judgment at husband’s words of praise. She’d nod her head once or twice, look off as if into the distant skies or into the distant past, and say, “We’ve done well, Greg. We’re happy. There’s no alternative. Nothing could make it any better than this.” Her hand circled in a slow arc, in the graceful way she had of expressing herself. And now he saw she was, as he’d expected, a little rounder, with a motherly fullness, yet still beautiful. He melted each time she accepted her place in life with him. She’d always told the truth, since that first night, and he knew it would always be so. And at the other end of this spectrum of lives, Fuller’s prowess and intensity had finally reached an apex. It had demanded every minute of spare time away from the laboratory, in truth, his life and all it could summons. Inroads had been made. On his mind, of course, but also on his body. He had become bald as a mountain top, his eyesight poor, his glasses thicker, strange tingles coming now and then from some unknown source. Minor arthritis in one hand stunned him on one mad weekend he had trouble forgetting. His sole company all the time at the lonely site was a series of Labrador Retrievers, the most trustworthy creatures he’d ever come across. Two of the dogs had disappeared in the wilderness, both chasing after some kind of animal. Another was electrocuted by accident deep in the hole. A sweet Golden bitch named Rusty had died trying to give birth to a litter of other Goldens. He buried all their remains, and never looked back at the side of the hill where he had dropped them into a hole. Five utility vans had fallen to the wayside in his journeys back and forth, though parts from the vehicles were often salvaged for use. The whole system he had created eventually sat under the roof of a haphazardly constructed but weather-beaten shack, which with the simplest provocation could be torn asunder. A small pit near the shack was filled with empty Blue Glacier Beer bottles, hundreds and hundreds of them. Some days, at noon, the sun drove deep into their midst, penetrated glass, made sounds, popped loose caps that had been randomly replaced. In time such orchestration became sweet music to him, vitalized him. And the deep, smooth silo now bore a vertical vehicle that with sufficient power could be launched into space. It was a one-man vehicle right out of a Buck Rogers Saturday serial. It was gray. It was neuter. But it was deadly looking. 15
He had built it for one purpose. And its time was coming close. He was ready.
He took the day off from work. He’d done a lot of that lately. The first thing in the morning, after checking all the input data from a hundred sources, some of it all the way from a pal in Australia, Danton Fuller knew he was ready. All was ready. He called Lumbada at the school. It was 12:45 and the sun boiled overhead. From the pit of waste he heard bottle caps popping free from their grip; it was music to him. He tried to find a song in it. No lyrics came to him. He cursed instead. “Coach Lumbada here.” Greg’s voice was cool but solicitous and the tone angered Fuller, just as it had for such a long time. “Hi, Greg, old buddy Fuller here. I have something special here for you, out at my place in Mesquita. It’s really special. Has your name and Elsa’s name right up front on it. You’re going to be famous, old bud. Real famous.” “Oh, Danton pal, have you forgotten it’s football season. I couldn’t get away if I tried. A big game for us tomorrow. I’m deep with the kids tonight. A late walkthrough at the field. A rally at the school gym tonight. You ought to come in here. Elsa’d be glad to see you.” Damn. He had forgotten all about football. It had never entered his mind. “You can’t tell Elsa, Greg. It’s a big surprise. Promise you won’t say a word.” “Okay, I promise. But if you want her to see something, then call her. She loves all those cards and notes you send on special days. Shoot, man, you’ve never missed a one. Call her. I won’t say a word until you tell me it’s okay. I have to run now.” When the phone rang Elsa was just finishing her ironing. Tea was puffing away on the back of the stove. The sun was dropping rays across the table and glinting in her china cabinet. The individual shine played tricks on her eyes. “Elsa, your old pal Danton here. I’m trying to keep my mouth shut about this, but you know how I am, never letting an opportunity go by to do a little favor.’ “What’s on your mind, Danton?” She knew she was never as enthusiastic about him as Greg was. It shook out something more than notes and cards. It was deeper than that.
“Out at my place at Mesquita I’ve got a surprise that will make you and Greg famous. It’s out of this world if I must say so myself, and you know how far my mind can travel these days.” “Oh, I couldn’t go all the way out there, Danton. A big rally tonight. One of the boys making a speech, Greg right in his limelight. He’s got another grand team. No, I couldn’t leave here for any length of time, and that’s a pretty fair drive out there, isn’t it?” “Oh, okay, Elsa. I’ll save it for another time. I had forgotten all about the football. Didn’t dawn on me for a minute.” The lies kept coming. He paused, measured a few breaths, and said, “I’ll get back to you.” Damn football, he muttered to himself. All Elsa could remember were his words from long ago, words she had never forgotten, not for a day; “You’re my kind of girl.” She even felt his hand on her backside. She’d never forgotten what it did to her, how her head had hung down for days.
Fuller pulled up beside Alma as she turned down her street. He had easily spotted her confident saunter, the way her hips swung ends of a rope, the sun walking in her blond hair, so much like her mother had been. “Alma, it’s me, Danton Fuller,” he said through the van window. “I’ve got a great surprise for your mom and dad, but I have to get a family blessing on it before I cut it loose. I swear, it’s going to make them famous. Has their names right up front on it. Real special, but it’s out in Mesquita, at my special laboratory. I know there’s a big rally tonight and I can get you back here in time for it. But I really have to know, from you of all people, if it’s right for your folks. Believe me, I think it’s real special, but I need another opinion. You know how we scientists are, all brain and no feelings.” He let go of a smile that hurt all the way back. “Oh, we talk a lot about all the good feelings you have. Practically every night. Dad thinks you’re the world’s number one genius, and mom does too,” she quickly added, as if she had made some simple decision on her own. “You can call your mom and say you’re staying over with some friends.” He smiled at her again.
At Mesquita he showed Alma the vertical ship with the names prominently painted on the front: Gregory I and Elsa, too. She loved his subtle humor with the names. It gave her a deep feeling of satisfaction. Fuller, on a last few moments of inspection said, in the confines of his small laboratory, “I have to make a few checks down there in the missile chamber. I’ll be right back. I am just going to check and make sure everything is a go and then you can get a closer look at ‘Gregory I, Elsa, too.’” He chuckled happily, and added, “Make yourself at home in my quaint home. I’ve practically lived here half my life” His smile again was as authentic as he could make it, even though it made his face feel cold. Then he disappeared behind a wall. Alma checked out the one room of the building that sat, housed, over the vertical vehicle, like an unborn creature, sitting in the pit in the middle of the room. Awe piled atop her as she saw what one man had done. It was incredulous and so plain in one quick view. In the far corner stood a simple cot and a burnt-black stove alongside a simple coffee table with a coffee pot, plain as a dent, sitting on its center. A cord was plugged into a wall socket. The contrasts wowed her so much that she had trouble framing any complimentary words. Sparse living,” she said in a muffled voice, “the dedicated scientist, probably living on bread and water.” She hesitated, reassessed and added, “Or most likely living on coffee and crackers.” Not the slightest odor of food crawled on the air. No sweetness. No chocolate. No quick sustenance for the driven man. In truth, she felt, a kind of barrenness existed. The late sun in a wide angle ran in through one window and lit up her blond head. The warmth teased her as she reached for measurements of one kind or another. Doubt, in its edgy matter, began to seep its presence. Wandering around the edge of the pit she was amazed to see a television set on a small bench in another corner. Within easy reach was the prevalent shape of a remote control for the set. It produced an immediate smile. “He’s human, after all,” Alma said half aloud, and picked up the familiar black remote control. The numbers and letters were worn down with use. “I wonder what kind of stuff he watches.” I bet it’s like Star Wars or something out of this world.” Looking back over her shoulder at the panel where Fuller had disappeared, she clicked the “on” button. Five full seconds passed. The screen was a sudden jumble of numbers, figures and symbols, a black chalkboard’s mad hieroglyphics. Deep below, at that exact same moment, there was a slam, a bang, a thrust of noise. Under her feet the whole earth shook. The thought of an earthquake ran up her backside. Then came a huge ungodly sound that frightened her. 18
She leaped to the door and raced downhill toward Fuller’s van. Her breath came heavy and gasping and fear pulled at her backside. The noise was building behind her. Louder. Heavier. Terror riding in its breath. She ran harder and harder, trying to get as far away as possible. Then, behind her, with an extraordinary boom and an accompanying roar, the whole frame of Fuller’s laboratory shack came into naught but smithereens as the roof blew away, the sides blew outward, just missing her in her flight, and “Gregory I and Elsa, too” shot into the sky. When Alma got to the van, the entire shack gone, the noises now way over her head following behind an almost lazy trail of vapor and smoke twisting across the sky, she realized the TV remote control was still clutched in her hand, the remote which had ignited the lift-off of an occupied missile now rushing into space.
I Write a Forest. Emily Pittman Newberry Wordless, the page stares at my silence. Deep fibers reach out in hunger against vacant eyes. Cold keys and stale office air encourage my morning walk.
* I follow drafts into clearings. Scattered thoughts worry leaves. I sit where pine butterflies dance meanings. Pungent reminders of past fires cushion thoughts; Branches scratch words across dry memories. I chop wood, mash vein and flesh into bright sheets that await endings.
Breezes wave careless words into thoughts that draw me back to this chair. Memories vibrate my keyboard. They capture my fingers; I write a forest.
The Meaning of Marlboro
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois 1. As a teenager, in his bedroom retreat, my buddy Eric built model airplanes, got lightheaded on the glue, listened to Odetta as he built, listened to Ledbelly, Muddy Waters. His schizophrenic sister skulked in the hall. Her complexion was pitted and she wore thick glasses, but I found her attractive, an older woman with secret knowledge I would never have. I wanted to be misled. I wanted to be detoured by someone whose life was a detour. I wanted to get high on airplane glue without ever building an airplane. 2. I’ve got two medical conditions: (1) high Uric Acid in my blood. I take Allopurinal to prevent gout or painful kidney stones. (2) I’ve also got an excess of Words. They are sandwiched in the layers of my dermis, interlarded through my deposits of fat, crosshatched on the surfaces of my organs like lichen on a limestone boulder in a Southern forest. I expel as many of those words as I can into my laptop. It’s a relief as they flow through my fingers into this machine, a medical miracle like the Iron Lung or the MRI machine that takes you in like a bundle of dirty laundry. But catastrophe—I was hacked. When I turned on my laptop, the tides had been reversed. All the words I’d deposited came flowing up my arms before I could even think to snatch them away, and I was refilled with all those cursed words. I staggered away from the machine, dropped to the floor, crawled under my library table and yanked the plug from the wall. I lay panting like a woman in labor, working hard to deliver, never expecting that the baby could jump back in, requiring her to endure the birth process all over again. 3. I put Bay Rum in an empty eye drop container, half an ounce, enough for the two week trip I was taking with my wife. I marked the bottle with a big B to distinguish it from the bottle of eye wash that was really eye wash. I showed it to my wife. That’s clever she said. It was among the jumble of my stuff on the hotel sink. Somehow she forgot, or maybe wanted to forget, that it wasn’t eye drops, that it was marked with a B. She has many physical afflictions and likes to wallow in them, likes to wring all the sympathy she can from them. She gets me to do things for her out of consideration for her suffering. She put the Bay Rum, R, in her right eye, just a drop, but enough to hurt like hell. Her cornea turned from brown to blue. No harm there, said the ophthalmologist. 23
She was having a gallery opening the next week. Her sales had always been negligible, but the gallery owner was a childhood friend. Now that my wife looked like an Australian Shepherd, art aficionados found her fascinating. Her work had always been Warholesque. Now, like Andy, she was suddenly a cult figure. Some people thought her a voodoo priestess with supernatural powers that animated her brush strokes. Her work began selling hot and heavy as a summer afternoon in New Orleans. She painted day and night on a Picassoesque schedule, and her gallery owner supervised. A muscleman in a blue work shirt carted her canvases away. Money and fame rolled in. She was a national figure now. She appeared on late night talk shows. The cameramen zoomed in on her mismatched eyes. The audience nearly swooned. The host lost his train of jokes. I bought an expensive tie but my wife yanked it from my neck. We’re done, she said. I’m not staying with a man who sets me up to put Bay Rum in my eye, who conspired with himself to damage me. 4. The Marlboro Man is no pussy, no metro-sexual who lubes himself up with mousse and psychotherapy, who obsesses about what his mother did to him and what his father didn’t. The Marlboro Man might feel like shit all the time, but that’s the booze and the women, the ex’s and nex’s, the bad news coming down the pike. A cactus doesn’t feel great either, standing in the middle of the desert with his shoulders frozen in a shrug, arms outstretched in a way that means: Look, I did the best I can. Sure, I made mistakes, like with that bay rum, R, but I couldn’t do no better. The Marlboro Man doesn’t even smoke anymore. He quit after one of his lungs shriveled up and fell out on the road, looking like a charred marshmallow. His cow dog stopped to sniff it, then moved on, gave it less attention than a dried turd. The Marlboro Man hates being called The Marlboro Man. That’s bullshit he says. He rides down into the wash looking for a lost calf or a good place to kill himself.
Lights of Innocence Edilson A. Ferreira On Sargentâ€™s â€œCarnation, Lily, Lily, Roseâ€?
Two girls lighting Japanese lanterns, early evening in an English garden, late nineteenth century. Preventing from dark night, arranging for so happy a party. The painter has had no opportunity to speak, but now we know, like old Greek priestesses in white gowns, also offering prayers on glowing tapers, relieving unsure forthcoming days. The purity they have lighted that night persists until our present days and nights.
Haiku Son Elizabeth Davies Pain suddenly dissolves, stomach deflates, releasing the childâ€™s first cry of rage. Dawn birds filter through the soft cracks of the curtains bringing in the sound of light. Drops of water in the winter cherry blossom catch my eye and splinter into blue light. A tall man separates from the crowd and, as he moves to greet me, I recognise my son.
Very Hot Summer William Cass It was Sunday, mid-August, and people at the twelve oâ€™clock Mass sat in folding chairs in the little school hall waving their missalettes to move the air around. There was no church because that far out in those northern Connecticut fields, there wasnâ€™t funding or demand for one. So, the congregation sat in folding chairs in tight rows or stood in the back or along the sides waving their missalettes. Usually, the altar was arranged up on the stage, but in those hot months, it was moved to the opposite end on the linoleum floor where it gained the tiny breeze from the open doors on either side. Three little girls, sisters, sat in a row on the stage in chiffon dresses, black plastic shoes, and short white socks, and dangled their legs over the side. The youngest girl in the middle was in Kindergarten; she was small and pale and had Downâ€™s syndrome. Her hair was cut short and she held a beige blanket with a pattern of ducks on it around her knees. The older girls were a couple of years older, twins, and very pretty. They wore red dresses and had their hair in sausage curls. The youngest girl had her head tilted back and looked like she was laughing hysterically, but no sound was coming out. Father Buffani stood in the kitchen that served as the sacristy looking out at the congregation shuffling in the folding chairs or the wings waving missalettes. A few were tobacco farmers, but the majority were Puerto Ricans who went to New York City or returned home in the winters, and then began their way back up the agricultural route along the Eastern seaboard in the early spring. Because most of them knew only Spanish, they understood little that Father Buffani said, and sat respectfully in hand-washed work clothes, or the men stood along the perimeter holding their caps in front of them. Father Buffani was a young priest from Marquette, Wisconsin. He had been in Connecticut for only four months and had red hair and a weak voice. He wanted to say something to them today about the heat; with the way it had lingered miserably on, he felt he needed to. He stood at the opening to the kitchen sweating in his robes and was aware of flies buzzing and flitting in the still air of the hall. He walked past the choir, which was twelve people sitting next to the kitchen and a tall man standing before an electronic keyboard, and began the Mass. The twins sat very still with their hands folded in their laps, their legs moving like scissors over the lip of the stage. The youngest girl put her chin in her hands and looked out the open doors up front, then laid down on her back on the stage and watched the flies.
Father Buffani mumbled through the opening portion of the service and then stepped to the lectern where he’d arranged his old bible from the seminary and the notes for his homily. He’d found the bible the night before in some packing boxes he’d stored away in the double-wide trailer that was his rectory. While leafing through it to find the readings for the next day, he’d come across a letter he’d written but left unsent to his mother just before his ordination. In it, he’d finally tried to tell her of his longstanding doubts about his calling and that he’d decided to not become a priest. But in the end, after picturing her receiving it alone in that old apartment building along the river upstate, he couldn’t bring himself to send it, and had tucked it away. After reading it again that previous night, he’d considered throwing it away, but instead had replaced it in the pages of the bible and returned to fashioning his sermon. Father Buffani cleared his throat and read the epistle. Then the congregation rose and he read from Luke’s gospel, which was short and began, “…but if God doth clothe the grass in the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more shall He clothe you. O ye of little faith…” When he finished, they sat down and resumed using the missalettes as fans. Father Buffani had the homily written on a pencil tablet in front of him. He read it quietly and raised his eyes rarely. He said that they must trust in God’s goodness and intentions. He told them that the heat would stop and that there would be rain; he prayed for it every night. God’s challenge, he said, was a just and fair one. He said that God’s will was beyond question and not to question, but to serve. The last thing that he said was that God was a gentle and benevolent father who loved them. When he said that, the youngest sister jumped up from the stage and said, “Goddamn it. Goddamn it to hell.” Her voice was loud in the small confines. The congregation turned at once, and some of them stopped waving their missalettes. The little girl stood up and began skipping on the stage. Father Buffani said, “Please…” The girl shouted, “Goddamn you all!” And then she fainted off the edge of the stage onto the floor of the hall. Her mother ran to her in a shimmery dress from where she was sitting nearby, and her sisters climbed down from the stage. Two men lifted the girl under the arms and legs and carried her from the hall while her family followed. Father Buffani finished the rest of the Mass as quickly as he could. In less than an hour, he was in the kitchen changing out of his cassock while the 29
choir sang, “Ave Maria”. He called the local hospital from the phone in the hallway. A woman’s voice answered and said, “Hello, this is the Windsor Hospital.” Father Buffani asked, “Did someone bring a little girl in a yellow dress in?” “They brought her in,” the voice said. “Is she all right?” “Yes. They brought her home.” “I’m their priest. Do you know their name?” “Harrison.” “Mitchell Harrison?” “His daughter,” the voice said. Father Buffani finished dressing slowly. He walked back through the hall and saw the little girl’s blanket lying at the foot of the stage. He picked it up and went out into the empty parking lot, then got into his pick-up truck and began to drive through the dirt roads of the tobacco fields. Dust followed him and covered lightly the tobacco at the sides of the road. He watched the tall, leafy stalks flit by in endless rows and the long barns that appeared now and again that were black inside from the gas that was used to dry the leaves. Some of the barn doors were propped open, and he could see the workers hanging the big leaves out on the high racks to dry. There were other workers stooped over in the rows with nets over their heads and straw hats over the nets. It was very hot and bright, and the dust that came through the open windows got in Father Buffani’s mouth and made it dry. Towards the end of the fields, he drove up on three rows of shacks. Some of them were made from wood taken from road signs, and others were constructed out of sheets of rusting corrugated steel. None were big; they sat in a clearing of dirt up against the rows of tobacco. Children sat in the dirt playing with sticks and looked up as Father Buffani drove by. He recognized many of them from church as the dust rose and covered them. When the road stopped, a large white house sat perched in front of him with green shutters. A grass yard in front of it seemed like an island among the sea of fields. Two maple trees stood in front of the house with the early propeller droppings that fell from them on the grass. A large silver automobile gleamed 30
in the driveway and there was a small statue of a Black stable boy with a black cap and red coat on the grass. Under one of the trees, the two twins sat in tulip-backed chairs in their red chiffon dresses eating crustless chicken salad sandwiches and drinking lemonade. They smiled at him as Father Buffani parked the pick-up truck. He nodded to them as he carried the blanket to the front door and then rang the bell. Mrs. Harrison opened the door. She was an attractive woman in her midthirties wearing the same blue satin dress from church that clung to her. She smelled like flowers through the doorway and held a tall glass with ice cubes and limes. “Why, Father,” she said smiling. “Hello.” He handed her the blanket and said. “This was left at church. Is the little girl all right?” “She’s fine, Father. She fainted with the heat and took a fall.” “I hope she’ll be okay.” “She has a bump.” Mrs. Harrison pointed to her head. “She took a fall, but she’s fine. She’s resting in her bed.” “Could I see her?” “That’s very nice, Father. Let’s see if she’s awake.” They walked through the dimly lit house where the windows were closed and the curtains drawn. It was drafty cold from air conditioners that he could hear blowing, billowing some of the drapes. Mrs. Harrison opened a door in the back of the house. The room was pink and held a pink bed with a canopy. The little girl was sitting propped up in bed under pink covers that were matted thick. “This is Violet, Father,” Mrs. Harrison said. Violet looked at them with her short hair disheveled and smiled with all of her teeth. She tilted her head to one side. Mrs. Harrison stayed in the doorway and Father Buffani passed through her floral scent as he walked over to the bed. Violet looked up at him with her flat face.
He stood next to her with his hands in his pockets. Her tongue hung out of her mouth, and drool trickled down her chin. The ugly lump on her forehead looked very purple against her pale skin. “You took a fall, didn’t you?” Father Buffani said. Violet shook her head. “How are you doing?” he asked. Violet shook her head again and laughed. “I know you,” she said. Then she climbed under the covers and Father Buffani could hear her laughing. “Are you hiding?” Father Buffani smiled and looked at Mrs. Harrison who did the same and sipped her drink. “What are you hiding from?” Father Buffani asked. “Can you come out here, Violet?” “I have a lump,” Violet said from under the covers. The sound of her voice was muffled. “How does your head feel? Are you feeling better? Please come out.” Father Buffani moved back the covers and Violet was not laughing, but was crying with her chin down in her neck. He brushed the hair back gently from the bruise on her forehead. “God loves you, Violet,” he said quietly. “He loves you very much.” Violet shook her head violently. She cried louder and pulled the covers up around her shoulders. “What is it, Violet?” Mrs. Harrison said, “Perhaps we should go, Father.” Violet turned over in her bed. She shook her head back and forth, crying into the pillow. “All right, Violet,” Mrs. Harrison said. “Let’s leave her be, Father.” She left the room and Father Buffani followed her back through the house. The satin dress rustled and moved as she walked, and the glass 32
dangled next to one slim leg between two fingers. In it, Father Buffani thought he counted two limes, but there may have been three. When they came to the front door, she opened it, and Father Buffani stood partly in the sudden blast of heat and partly in the coldness of the foyer. “What was the matter?” he asked. She sighed. “I don’t know, Father.” “Did I say something?” “No, Father. It is hot, isn’t it?” “Yes,” Father Buffani said. He looked over his shoulder where she gazed at the tobacco fields. He heard her shake the ice in her glass and sip again from it. “This heat is going to kill my potatoes,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt the tobacco?” “It hasn’t hurt the tobacco yet. It won’t hurt it badly if we can get it picked and hung.” Some of the workers were closing the big wooden door to a barn. Gas from a propane tank hissed on. “Do they have to work on Sunday?” Father Buffani asked. “They don’t have to work, Father,” Mrs. Harrison said. “But we pay them better on Sunday.” Father Buffani nodded and looked back at her. “I don’t think I’ve seen your husband at church.” “No.” “I’ve heard of him, but I don’t think I’ve met him yet.” She shook her head. “No. He’s not around much.” They looked at each other while Father Buffani nodded some more. “Would you like something cold to drink, Father?” 33
He watched her tilt her head and pull a thatch of her long hair behind an ear. She shifted from one hip to the other. They looked at each other until Father Buffani said, “No. Thank you, though.” He watched her tip the glass to her lips, but there was only ice left in it, and she lowered it again to her side. They regarded each other until he stepped out into the heat, then turned to steady himself and asked again, “What do you suppose was wrong with Violet?” “I don’t know. She was upset.” “I hope she’ll be all right.” “She’ll be fine. She took a fall and she’s a little upset. That’s all. Thank you for coming, Father.” He nodded again and watched her close the door slowly. He walked to the pick-up truck, climbed inside, and sat for a moment in the heat. He looked at the twins who were in the same lawn chairs reading picture books. They waved at him as he started the truck and then turned back to their books. Farther Buffani began up the long dirt road. As he drove, he watched workers sitting in the shaded rows with their children or stooped over picking. He could see some of them hanging leaves inside the barns, the backs of their shirts stained with sweat. He watched a man pour a pail of water over his head on the side of one of the barns and shivered as the man shook his own wet head in relief.
Sermon of the Dead Ajise Vincent Again, I alone canâ€™t fathom this hatred dispersing like whiffs from belching-cigars. This mistrust, for which the wings of cherubs are being clipped by propagandas. Tonight, I sit on the caricature of this caliphate built with muds of our primitive past and regurgitate the rituals of our tradition. Of how love, unity, peace were tattooed on the sinews of our hearts. Of how our elders killed the god of war just by breaking the endocarp of the kola nut But now, love is a corpse that we embalm with attars of fear, blood, shrapnel. Wirra! Love is now dead.
Contributor Biographies Gina Williams lives and creates in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured most recently by OkeyPankyCarve, Carve, The Sun, Fugue, Whidbey Art Gallery & Whidbey Life Magazine, Palooka, Great Weather for Media, Black Box Gallery, and theNewerYork among others. Learn more about her and her work at GinaMarieWilliams.com.
Tom Darin Liskey spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the Crime Factory, Driftwood Press, Mount Island, The Burnside Writers Collective, Sassafras Literary Magazine, and Biostories, among others. His photographs have been published in Hobo Camp Review, Roadside Fiction, Blue Hour Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, and Midwestern Gothic. He lives in Texas where he tells his children that he has done worse things for less money.
John Brantinghamâ€™s latest collections include Dual Impressions: Poetic Conversations about Art and The Green of Sunset. He is currently a professor of English and creative writing at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over eight hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.
Harry Calhoun has received several Pushcart and Sundress Best of the Net nominations, as well as publications in many poetry journals, books, and chapbooks. His chapbook Failure is Unimportant came out in 2013, and a full-length poetry book, Alarmed in Space and Other Poems, is expected by the end of 2015 on the Unbound Content imprint. Another book, Camouflage, is also due out from Dark Angel Press this year. Harry lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Trina and his dogs, the Labrador and hound mixes, Hamlet and Harriet.
Tom Sheehan served in 31st Infantry in Korea in 1951, and graduated from Boston College in 1956. His books include Epic Cures, Brief Cases, Short Spans, Collection of Friends, From the Quickening, The Saugus Book, Ah, Devon Unbowed, This Rare Earth & Other Flights. In the Garden of Long Shadows, The Nations, and Where Skies Grow Wide were recently published by Pocol Press. His eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award) and The Westering (National Book Award nomination). He has 28 Pushcart Prize nominations.
Emily Newberry is a performance poet living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing explores the challenges of living as spiritual beings in a human world. OneSpirit Press published her first full book of poetry, Butterfly A Rose, and a chapbook now used in art therapy for elders. She wrote poetry for the artist Shu-Ju Wangâ€™s book Water. Her work has appeared in journals like VoiceCatcher, The Tishman Review, and Kind Of A Hurricane Press. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. Her website is www.butterflyarose.com.
Edilson A. Ferreira is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than Portuguese in order to reach more people. Has been published in four printed British anthologies, online or printed reviews like Cyclamens and Swords, Right Hand Pointing, Boston Poetry Magazine, The Lake, The Stareâ€™s Nest, The Provo Canyon, Amomancies, Snapdragon, The Gambler, Whispers and some others. Short listed in four American poetry contests, Ferreira lives in a small town with wife, three sons, and a granddaughter, and began writing after retirement as a bank manager. He is collecting his works for a forthcoming book.
Elizabeth Davies is an academic public health physician working at King’s College London. She has published short tales from her medical training in the British Medical Journal. “Haiku son” is among her first poems ever submitted for publication.
William Cass has had over eighty-five short stories accepted for publication in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies including the winning selection in The Examined Life Journal's writing contest. He lives and works as an educator in San Diego, California.
Ajise Vincent is a Nigerian Poet. His poem “Song of a Progeny” was a shortlisted poem at the 2015 Korea-Nigeria Poetry Feast. His works have been published in London Grip Magazine, Kalahari Review, Sakonfa Literary Magazine, AfricanWriter, Indian Periodical, Social Justice Poetry, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Afrikana.ng, Poetry Pacific, The Poet Community, Whispers, Commonline Journal, Novel Afrique, Black Boy Review, Tuck Magazine, and other various literary outlets. He is currently finishing up a major in economics at university.
Notes and Acknowledgements — Front and back covert art, “In Spite of Everything” and “Forest Woman” respectively, as well as page 10, “Secret Door,” page 25, “New Buddha with Tree,” and page 35, “Middle America,” by Gina Williams. — Photographs on pages 6 and 20 by Tom Darin Liskey. — Page 26, “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” (1886) by John Singer Sargent. (http://lh6.ggpht.com/GF3sVn8AVyw1ze556xrknWAEJ29pbrRlJzIFud3omwplJMs7tu Ni2UEaX0z40g=s1200)