Page 1

April 2009 Edition

April 2009 Edition

featured poet

spotlight poet

It has been said that he and his work are to English letters as the Best Allaround Rodeo Charles Potts Cowboy is to animal husbandry. Charles Potts is the most recent receiver of the Washington Poets Association Lifetime Achievement Award. His niche in the writing arts of our time and place in the American northwest corner of our shrinking, assaulted planet has been carved out and maintained by himself. The phrase on his card sums it up, “Spiritual solutions to political problems through artistic means”. Selected poem for the edition page 10.

Heller studies animal behavior in NYC. His poetry is published in over a hundred journals and magazines including Sulfur, Hunger, Talisman, the Laurel Review, First Intensity, Ampersand, The Wandering Hermit, etc. His most recent publication, Smelling Mary, with Howling Dog Press, has been nominated for both the Pulitzer and the Griffin Prize. Heller hopes to continue to make ground with Hinge Theory and its application in the arts and educational system, boasting rich new dimensions for the art of poetry. Heller attempts demonstrate an application of Hinge theory by brewing up the Monk in the selected poem for this edition on page 8.

featured artist

spotlight artist

Chris hangs his shingle at a local video shop in Edmonton Alberta, freelancing while working on Chris Labrenz Moocowkids, a graphic novel to be released in the near future. Along with being featured in this edition`s cover art, his work can be viewed online at devianArt and Facebook fan club under Chrisco Labrenz.

Thierry Tillier, born in1957 Charleroi, Belgium. His first foreign exhibition was in 1977: Fluxus and the new Realists, Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris. Tillier founded the 666 Network in 1987 with a manifesto signed by an international network of artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians. In 1997 he held an exhibition in Venice Beach, Los Angeles and is currently working on a Lettrist film, Devil/Paradis. Selected artwork for this Thierry Tillier edition on page 9.

Heller Levinson NYC

this issue About this Mag.............................7 Selected works.............................8 Art and poetry............................14 Stories, prose & fiction...............50 Book Reviews............................68 Essays.......................................70

... Heller and I met at Willy`s bar (PART I)... by Joy Leftow Heller and I met at Willy’s Bar & Grill on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to talk about hinge theory. Staff was gracious and didn’t mind that we had our long interview first and waited to eat. We both forwent drinks, sticking to water. We began with an application to put practice into action and to break the ice. Heller said, “Let’s use with as the pivot.”, “Sure, with celebrity, works with that.” I said, that led to bulbs flashing and purple irises. We then tried another. “With arson,” Heller said. “embers,” I replied and thus we jump-started our interview. Heller’s lust for this theory has taken (next page)

April 2009 Edition

on a life of its own, as has the hinge process. He’s utterly and hopelessly consumed by it or perhaps it’s the other way around, and the theory has consumed him and he’s become part of its core. I love being an observer of passion. True passion feels me. When someone has passion and conveys that passion, it’s infectious. I’m jumping a bit here and want to explore this organically without explaining what the theory is about, would like to begin where the passion lies, and that is in the possibility of causal effects triggered by using the applications of hinge theory in our daily lives. The dream is that Hinge Theory and its applications will have limitless effects on world peace, and creating cogent solutions in musical arrangements with the universe. Now that I’ve got my passion under control I can move on to discuss hinge and its applications. Hinge intrinsically has the ability to go into the language and reorganize the component parts: “one formal application of Hinge would be the continual fractaling of morphemes within words, to be found in successive words, or coming from past phrases … separating and reorganizing its morphemes, thus its meaning, into pivot, particle, and postulate.…” Hinge is not reducible in the sense of reducing it (the Theory) down to a static formula of linguistic operation, such as in traditional poetry “3 lines, 12 syllables per line, 4 stanzas, a, b, a,” etc., but neither is it “word salad,” since Hinge is not chaos, and that differentiates it from the more typical understanding of “fractals.” Above quotes are taken directly from Michael Annis’ Hinge Manual. Hinge is not reducible to smaller denominations; it is expandable. The title of Heller’s book, Smelling Mary, became clear as we spoke. Smelling is one of our six senses and is also investigative. We smell to explore and learn. Heller’s entire world is hinged on creating a new linguistic universe composed of modules (which are the pivots like with above). If we use language to cure our lives by expanding, enriching, enhancing and embellishing, our universe is a didactic dialogue. It gives us tools to use language cogently with complexity. It’s a stimulating mental exercise that is also instinctual, evolving from the human mind’s primordial intercourse with language; it could be termed “brain sex,” thus, obviously, Hinge Theory is not limited to linguistic applications, but potentially embraces nearly every human activity. If we stop to analyze the experience while we are practicing we may lose the preciosity of the moment. Continuing the analogy, it would be like stopping to analyze sex while in the midst of it. If we follow the flow organically, for example, navigating the circulating pulmonary rotators the hinge process is an investigative expansive living entity. Heller, the principal discoverer of Hinge, and Michael Annis of Howling Dog Press, his editor, publisher, and linguistic collaborator (“tirelessly suggestive,” as Heller quips), began developing Hinge Theory around the geometric/spiritual configurations and formulae of Pythagoras and the ancient Egyptian oracles and architects of the pyramids, incorporating the theories of mummification. This brought forth a more expansive and progressive understanding of the first verse in the mystical Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This Hinged naturally to a more mathematical understanding of the concepts and referenced the statement of the great graphic artist MC Escher, who said, “One cannot possibly understand mankind, if one doesn’t see that mathematics and poetry both have the same roots.” As Heller continued to work extending and inventing modular modifications, Michael became obsessed by the potential universalities of Hinge if it were to be moved from language to language. He began by offering out a single Hinge poem for translation, ultimately evolving it and devolving it through a series of Spanish/English/Spanish translators, back and forth through the two languages, noticing the remarkable Hinge derivatives that naturally unfolded. Yet, the nuances (and sometimes radical linguistic shifts) that grew out of this process offered an even greater proof: he observed that regardless of pre-meditated manipulation or not, Hinge Theory became proof of itself by naturally and automatically evolving simultaneously through multiple hinge sequences via language to language reverberation. This argued against traditional poetry’s “stultifying” demands for precision translation that many poets demand of their work. The objective became to expand the inherent scope and dimension of the poem through a theory that evolved and devolved instead of locking itself in a vain attempt at perfect meaning. Intrinsically the capacity Hinge Theory has to unlock and discover for the poet and translator is enormous, and supersedes the entire concept of “duende,” making it a far greater universality, because Hinge becomes the universal living duende, and those who practice it are seekers and miners after its revelations. (continued next page)

April 2009 Edition

Heller called the applications “a linguistic medicinal healer and mind expander.” How can anyone go wrong with an economic application used to enhance the spirituality of life? Heller spoke about how, as artists, we have power to spread spiritual awareness and to make the earth mellifluous and profitable for all species. Heller sees hinge as the antidote to the “Walmart experience.” He spoke passionately of the artist Chaim Soutine and referenced him several times as being inspirational to hinge and described how Soutine personally blew him away. Excoriate Exhale: Routing Soutine, Heller’s 22 page chapbook was the finalist for the 2008 poetry competition by Refined Savage Press. This made me research the Jewish abstract expressionist painter who died from a bleeding ulcer while trying to escape the Gestapo. I always feel more Jewish knowing how much prejudice there still is in the world against Jews even though I’m not a practicing Jewess. I have experienced a great deal of anti-Semitism first hand – right here in NYC. If hinge will cure prejudices I’m all for it. Hinge revolves inside of power systems so can affect our present world power and economy positively. Our political world is set up so that we little schmucks fight about B.S. while wealthy power mongers hold the power. The hope here being that the power of hinge may unhinge us from our parallel powerful past experiences. This ultimately is in reach for higher truth, and universal enlightenment radiating positive energy. I’m a sucker for this theory, Buster, I’m all for bettering ourselves and the universe too. I want world peace to be affected and effected by my artistic energy too. This is contagious energy. I ask about the title, Smelling Mary, since smelling is a sense and Mary is originally a Jewish woman’s name and she is Christ’s mother. Over years, Mary has become a Christian name, like John or James – which is Heller’s middle name. I wanted more. Heller provided it. Smelling is an investigative experience and Mary is a religious figure associated with purity. “In the beginning was word. Language found us. All species communicate through their own language. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for one hundred and eighty five million years before they died out – 40,000 times as long as recorded human history,” Heller explained. “This evolution transpired from original gases, ethers, thought; the earth, life, the human species, All emerged from original gases as did language. There is a symbiotic health between the universe, life, and language.” Hinge has unlimited possibilities in promoting world peace and solutions for global warming and world economy intrinsically built in to its usage. The spread of infinite linguistics will affect and effect social and behavioral phenomena. “This affirms what I already know,” I say, “We are entering a new enlightened age minus Reagan and Bush is what I say.” He agrees with me that hinge has emerged organically and simultaneously with a new political perception. This brought our interview full-circle and we ended where we began, discussing pivots modules and applications of hinge. As an example, the particle word "mermaid" has the potential to evolve through its own universe of applications (poems) and modules (poetic structural progressions). "Mermaids," a root particle to be followed or referred back to, extensionally and incrementally complementary, becomes the vehicle for the Hinge pivot, such as "with" or "like" or "in the," and so on. In my head I imagine a class of several six year or seven olds practicing word analogies based on mermaids. I imagine holding out linguistic delights poetically to our young ones with analytic descriptions of how limitless words can be intrinsically. I share these images. Mr. Heller laughed and agreed absolutely we could, that “everything in its complexity enhanced, everything specialized and distinct to a mermaid in her own existence, you know it’s all mupae.” I think my mouth may have fallen open here but I’m not sure. Heller didn’t tell me if my mouth was agape. “What,” I said, flabbergasted and intrigued, “what is mupae?” “Ah glad you asked,” he said waving his arm expansively “mutational update panel animation extenders.” Poetically leaving me at that moment, he piqued the obvious question, “what are mutational update panel animation extenders?” Hmmm guess that will have to be part II of this interview, investigating mutational update panel animation extenders. (Part II to follow in the next edition)

April 2009 Edition

About this Mag

The Cartier Street Review Bernard Alain Ottawa Canada Principal Editor Joy Leftow New York NY Production Editor Submission Guidelines Currently we do not offer payment for accepted submissions. We accept contemporary poetry, articles on contemporary poetry, short prose and poetry reviews by email only to with 'Submission' indicated in the subject line. We accept attachments or you may include the submission in the body of the email. There are no deadlines, we publish a new edition of the review based on sufficient qualifying content. Archives for the The Cartier Street Review can be searched at our blog site

Copyright Clarification The Cartier Street Review retains the right to display accepted submissions on the RSS feeds, uploadable PDF files and printed versions of The Cartier Street Review. Sub-mitters are responsible for securing and protecting copyrights before submitting and wholely responsible for their accepted and published submissions to the Cartier Street Review. The contents of this site as well as all associated printed or transmitted media are protected by copyright. Full or partial reproduction images or text without express permission from the copyright owners is prohibited.

Selected works brewing up the Monk with Heller Levinson with Monk, ... creamery field crops apace {anaconda} manage ment classes pole dancing & fire drills ragout toy metal NYC yellow cabs rope tricks to skyscraper time ornery yet udder the clunk per-Cussive squid shots single malt proprietary hoop dunks looping coiling iguana suns on parade rocking rupestral cleat rousing Scottish highland grouse sentimentality zithers trespassing on extracurriculars caution ahead sanctimony sagacity singularly scatting scrump-tu-Os-ities scrim – succulence gnarl fidelities fruct fornicative fricatives arrive jive festival smelling Monk gaily ganglion frieze stream clop lumber lank ladder pelvic roam praline perfoliate ravenous cavern twirl solar juleps snowball rhapsodies rock curly 1. rinse line dry peaches trampoline maze amazing zany zither plough brow trowel the road to holy road circumnavigate perambulate with insinuation roam the road resolute 8

the road to holy road sacredness circuitry leeward to spill into the envelope of holy (arousal’s concubine) A-strings on fire spun coincidentals scouting absence in the dish towel counting the exits in cessation where contiguity shades into analogy & metonymy morphs into metaphor & synecdoche scrambles suggestion the hegemonic solution is a slow burning intercourse upon the lingual mattress the road is both low & high circuitous & straight the road is both perilous & safe the command is to ascend in combinatorial seepage the road to resolute road radicals reconciled (reproach) vertebrae crunched allocative calcium sounding in the wings the masted country, the allegories halted, diseases examined, laid to rest upwelling congregations displace conjure hummeryhopping membracidae large in the jaw landslides expropriated


Infiltration by Thiery Tillier


Feast of the Dead by Charles Potts Feast of the Dead 1 October is the deepest month, The eighth ball of heaven (seven Days from Halloween) on the old calendar, Before the Caesars pried the year apart And set themselves down Astraddle the summer. I recapitulate two million Kelts Caesar killed bringing Christ and The Saturday night bath to France, To Gaul, scorched earth In the valley of the Loire. Thirteen years ago I stared stoned Off the top of the Frye Hotel Int the sealed beam Headlights of the traffic on Fifth Avenue. Seattle, it’s sinestre, The leftover years of death keep racking Up the marrow filled bones. Ayudame, mayday, help me, Bubbles off the lip. We saw our golden age Sawed off at the waist Shotgunned down on the street Wedded back to back with fools.


2 In the beginning there was at stake, On fire through the hearts and twined To make the muscle fiber sing— A jolly day, filed with carousing and cajoling. The calliope of summer With its tiny northern night Beat the cantelope and corn Up out of the top soil With goatshit and water. Raspberries, peaches, filberts, Mature on my land To fill the watering mouths. Under the empty moon We get to watch The dead running backwards In their grade B movie of time. Their once lively images In the quick lime of celluloid Sucked back into the projector And wound up with nitrite on their wienies. Indian Summer rained out. The dead will not fall down. They march like an army Of poets from the past. Uder the sacred skirt of literature, Their abortions are fully performed.


3 Winterkill is the subject of A few degrees in purpose. If death did not exist Voltaire would have to invent it. Death is as democratic A process As you will be subjected to On curvilinear earth. Love is cruel but ignorance is rampant On Woden’s Day in Springtime. The snow by heat relinquishes Its crystal crust and puddles up Like ordinary water. Woden was preoccupied With poetry and War, And lost both through fatigue To organized dullards with suspended Sentences and feelings. Night before last, He babooned out with anger, As his dreams toss and heave Their unexpected parts out Through the sleeping picture window On the world. Chanukah begins today. Next week the winter solstice. I’m wrapped in the calm At the bottom of the year. History and its speed Is a perpetual embarrassment. The weather has been wonderful. Let the blizzards begin. First published by Druid Books Ephriam, Wisconsin, 1991 ISBN 0-912-518-08-1 first edition, 64 pages Split leaf philodendron cover by Emily K. Potts website:


Art and poetry Submissions by author Randall Radic Kyle Hemmings Dubblex Sofiul Azam Dr. Kane X. Faucher Joy Leftow Edward Sobanski Elaine Rosenberg Miller Jenny Dayton Stephanie Edwards Carolyn Srygley-Moore Engin Korkmaz Renee Dwyer Valery Oisteanu Jeff Crouch Steve Nash Don Schaeffer Ruth Ă‚ Ellen Kocher Sharon Boyle-Woods Stephen Murray Dibyajyoti Sarma Helen Peterson Dana A. Campbell


Expressing Oneself by Randall Radic Randall Radic is an Old Catholic priest, former pastor, and convicted felon. He lives in Northern California, where he reads, writes, smokes good cigars, drinks wine and visits San Francisco as often as possible. email:


one poem by Dubblex DubbleX currently resides in New York and has been writing his entire life and playing music. His artistry helps keep him sane. DubbleX teaches special education students in public schools.

So a black man is president We hold these truth's to be self-evident When they wrote the constitution a black man could make no contribution After the Emancipation Proclamation We were still the problem and not the solution Legally declared 3/5ths of a man only good for a slave hand There were only whites in the white house now a black man his kids and his spouse I wonder what Jefferson Washington and Lincoln would think Would they toast him with a drink or think the country will sink We’re already on the brink of another great depression Our recession is now in session from segregation to Brown Vs. the Board of Education Mr. Obama will you help me to get my reparations from this nation My 40 acres and a mule or am I just a naïve fool Because this country is still cruel We've come a long way from slave ship days From cotton picking plantation ways From strange fruit hanging high above tree roots From Jim Crow laws to masters whipping slaves backs bloody raw The atrocities this country claims it never saw slaves to servants to president But aren’t you half white and all of us blacks are any color but black - different shades brown from all the raping and mixing gone around come a long way since lynching in 1868 back in slave and free states Still suffer from hate crimes in 2009 From bus boycotts to riots in Watts To Medgar Evers and Malcolm getting shot Now we all looking up to you standing on the top spot The Japanese during World War II got their dues so did some Jews So I just wonder if it could be true that you could come through For all my ancestors in 400 years of oppression deservers some type of compensation I know you will be busy trying to clean up 8 years of republican misery Try to mend our relations with other nations getting our soldiers out of Iraq Bringing our boys back The banking crisis and the economy giving Iraq its true autonomy your family comes from Kenya you bring us hope of a Kennedy This once in a lifetime opportunity hoping this country and congress you can bring to unity From fighting for civil rights to KKK burning cross and throwing bombs at night. From Dr. King let freedom ring To Rodney King 1992 Cali riot swings all these things


Nat Turner leading slaves to rebel David Walker encouraged those enslaved to break from their cell John Brown and Fredrick Douglas the abolitionist To black power raising Olympic fist John Carlos and Tommie Smith Black panthers Angela Davis and Huey Newton patrolling with a shotgun To run Jesse run To the underground-railroad with Harriet Tubmon This is where we come from Never succumb to oppression fighting for freedom We will not panic or get frantic You Mr. President will fix up this country like a political mechanic Yes you did I never thought I would live Long enough to see a black man in the white house crib but there it is Everybody got to do what he says cause for the next four years he's the pres-ident, it's no accident some meant to lament and resent but this is your moment Been waiting since the thirteenth Amendment Singing we shall over come from marching in Selma Alabama now we got Barrack Obama From protest and picket lines to jail cells and welfare lines now it's our time to shine From niggers to negros Dreadlocks and Afros Look how we grow From African American to American Yes we can yes we can To listen to the funked up musical version of this poem please visit


one poem by Kyle Hemmings Kyle Hemmings wishes he could play surf guitar like Dick Dale and sing like Brian Wilson. He sometimes sings in the shower, but never in front of others. He lives and works in New Jersey, but does not surf there.

The Night Shift In this hospital of non-refundable lives limbs useless as rusted bottle caps, I work the night shift wax the floors buff the silence wipe the saliva from a child's mouth, only one or two in this whole ward of bleach and Bo-tox and pretty bows can verbalize. Hey Mister, one says, luring me in with a slacker smile put in that Scoobie Doo CD for me would ya? Sure, I say, and I carry his frozen eyes around with me for days, somebody pissed him off and he held his breath, turned blue and stiff as some plastic flower, if I had this magic formula a secret machine that could recycle life could free these children, prisoners of corrugated tubing and synchronous breathing modes a life sustained within the beep and blare of high and low pressure limits, I would, I would. But I'm only the night porter, at the end of my shift I close the doors inhale their last collective gasp cut my feet on the Formica-hard edge of morning.


two poems by Sofiul Azam Born in Sherpur District, Bangladesh, in 1981, Sofiul Azam has earned his Honours and Masters in English Literature from Rajshahi University. He authored a book of poems titled, Impasse, published by Pathak Shamabesh in 2003. Home Thoughts from Home is his second collection of poetry published by Ulukhar - Little Magazine Publication in 2009. His poems have appeared in the literary journals, Poetry Magazine, etc. In Love with a Gorgon, his next collection of poems. He also writes short fiction. Of late, he is

working on a novella, Ashes of the Cremated Dead. He loves to write creative non-fiction as well; his first non-fictional prose is A Double-born Kid’s Tale, a work in progress. His research interests include postcolonial theories with reference to cultural politics and emancipatory aesthetics in the domain of postcolonial literatures across the globe, and he is writing Not Afraid of Double Rejections: Notes on a Cultural Translation in Postcolonial Literatures. Now he lives in Dhaka and teaches English at Victoria University of Bangladesh, having taught it before at Southeast University and at Royal University of Dhaka.

The House of Rumours (for Monira Qais) I had just slipped straight from my mother’s womb into this house where rumours breed like spawn, and the grown-ups grinned as I stood like a torso; my eyes blinked at the dazzle of their carnival lights. And the lords of life told I’d just be freaking out; like a trapped mouse, I stiffened with starlit fear. Grappling with a lot of traumatic rumours at home, I came of age and slumped as a column in the quake. In all my autumns when the sky fell dripping blue, I didn’t see ripples of rapture on pools ever spread, suffered year after year a burn in the flames of fire, long tortured by fabrications and lack of tears. My life tells of the slow burn in the snaky flames; and now there’s my body fills with blisters of grief.


Guilt and the Icebergs After that in the curtained room, our throb cooled off, you with tears in your kohltinted eyes said You never loved me. I got on top of you staring at me blankly and lightly slapped you on your left cheek, sweating. Nipples felt like beads in my fingers, I thought How does it fare with you, the life that’s been cruel or we make it so even if we don’t want it this way? Skyscrapers fall, imitating us going down in despair and in desperation; I’m afraid even oceans may dry out, xeroxing the drought in us. As you texted how I got to brutalities under fine clothes, Et tu brute, stunned for seconds letting you lose the faith in me, I had myself blown away by that mess I did about it all. In the cab dashing out of the traffic, I felt the icebergs I’d inside of me, melting into tears: Love’s crucial, and itself translated into compulsion. Reaching home late, you showered, scrubbing a bit longer on every inch of you, guiltsmeared. I knew you’d a means to shut off my fertility in something other than love, easing into what we hold against each other.


one poem by Dr. Kane X. Faucher FIMS/MIT Instructor, The University of Western Ontario. Freelance Writer, Scene Magazine. Coeditor: The Raging Face, The Drill Press, Sorrowland Press, Interview Editor: Ditch Poetry, Proctor: IELTS (British Council). Author of Urdoxa (2004) Codex Obscura (2005) Fort & Da (2006), Calqueform, Astrozoica, De Incunabliad (2007). Jonkil Dies, Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass: Travel to Romania (2009) The Vicious Circulation of Dr Catastrope (2009). Aide de Memory From profania to profaniac. To gutter from snipe. A dictionary full of guff. Serpent sex. The simplicity of authorship maintains That words break backs And pens clutched make for fists To pound out rhythms On the heads of literary clochards. You can copyright all you want And make everything legally irreproducible Save for the one narrow channel Of permission purchased. It is either an island of excrement served up Or it is far too fringe to accept. Conservative mandates closes too many doors And throws open its windows too high Save for those on the wing. Words that flounder in water Will one day bubble up and have their day, --it is hoped� But the fool's ruse gives less comfort Than a cord of applewood in winter. We, the condemned at cross-purposes I have only this spreadsheet that tells me You are in temporary possession of some words That I spilled and are now in their perpetual Nomadic transition. Back to me, my own words, with an added one: No. 21

one poem by Joy Leftow Currently at work on The Cartier Street Review and Street Literature Review, I am production editor for both. Writing is breathing. My writing ability is a mitzvah, I am the instrument. Writing is my love, the finished products are my offspring. I need it to live, to survive - it's my water, my air, my first love. Some say I'm not "a real poet" and accuse me of being post modernist. At open mics I have been thanked for my heartfelt style and others have mimicked me. Long ago I decided to take that as a compliment. About being post-modernist, I only began to read other post-modernists after I'd been accused of being one. The thrust of my prose is on the harder sharper issues that cut us to our core.

Bluetry Coming Full Circle I Smell Smoke I'm blown away in the smoke of my mind created by the smoke of the eye mind of your mind I'm gonna take a sip of that southern smoked cooking, finger lickin' chickin charcoal broiled smoke embers rising from ashes I'll meet you there after I get me some smoked salmon mr brant, i love me some smoke dreams, with perfect seams, flawless rising in silver swirls Frenetic – full of poetic madness I arise out of smoke flowing from discarded disregarded embers of burned words. My bluetry emerges at that speak-easy softly lit smoky lounge on the left where the mood is set with red and orange burning embers candle lights giving off smoke rising in silver swirls. The crowd inhales my words and exhales patchouli oil scent silver swirls of smoke rising. Wow, I’m on a roll – jelly-roll - my bluetry spell has taken its toll, let the good times roll, and forget about sorrow or tomorrow, think about today. I'm too busy, come tomorrow there's a lot more networking to do, lost in a series of masquerades, delusions to who I am allusions and illusions - let er rip for old times sake daddy sing me those blues tonight! Under the magnolia tree I fell skinned my knee, the sky ripped open clouds burst and the street went up in smoke I thought I must’ve toked some real good stuff because next thing I knew whole city was up in smoke and I was with a chartered band going nowhere fast but an open wound read my prayers going somewhere those blues those blues were wailing, the trombone feels my blow as my words flow to slow the utterance of my soul, the whole world is up in smoke unless you stop try the tracks we’re on. I’m sorry I gotta move on – all this smoke is getting in the way of my living. Living aggrieved in poetic frenzy- I give my life away up in smoke going once twice sold, I can’t capitulate capitalize civilize cooperate encapsulate, insulate any more, just let go let the good times roll you can’t always get what you want and if you try sometimes you may just find what you need and so lady smoke had her way with me, she got to me finally in my ever evolution I keep searching for solutions.


I just need someone to love, fit me like a glove, turn down that candle now it’s giving off to much smoke I can’t inhale, I wanna make some love now, and play those blues in the background while I wait put my life on hold sit here waiting for you to get your shit together and taken aback by constellation of fate I’ll read the emancipation proclamation to see if I understand you I’m a jew you know and they been trying to eliminate jews a long time from the main stream Keep all us quiet with our little asses fighting each other to keep our masses down, we stay redundant reducible to molasses while the conspiracy roars in my ears we keep fighting one other instead of taking their asses down a notch or two I’m so blue I can’t breathe. All that smoke – the whole world is up in smoke, not a joke, up in smoke. Leftow also has audio and music available at her blog at


Babe Ruth by Edward Sobanski Born during 1957 in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains of Poland in the town of Zakopane, he has been an artist for over 25 years working as a master sculptor in wood, which is reflected in his very fine museum quality works. Then he turned his attentions to painting. website:


one poem by Renee Dwyer Renee Dwyer writes while working at her job as a purveyor for the Transit Authority of Dreams. She will graduate from Ramapo College in 2009 with a degree in Literature. Originally from South Korea, she now divides her time between New Jersey and Elephant Island, Antarctica.

Hatmakers Aboard the SS Forgo why are there hatmakers on board? the jealous mechanics want to know. for chefs hats! the cook says for smoking hats! claims the tobacconist for love, the romantic sighs. everyone turns and looks at him. then looks away.

every night a movie shows, memory squeezed from tear duct onto film where a girl leaves housewifery for a scene in Titanic

the iceburg threatens a heart attack a man shouts is there a skeptic in the house? the admiral raises his hand.

below deck, our fingers glisten with mercury. the band plays on, a cello suite meant to drown us all in threats of stringed suicide, each with its own hat.


one poem Elaine Rosenberg Miller Elaine Rosenberg Miller is an attorney living in West Palm Beach, FL. Her essays, memoirs, poems and short stories have appeared in Allgenerations, Brooklyn Voice, Jewish Magazine, Miranda Literary Magazine, Museum of Family History, The Binnacle (University of Maine at Machias), The Forward, The Writing Room, Up The Staircase Literary Review, Wilderness House Literary Rewiew and Women In Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal (University of Toronto). The Good Name In the midst of the forest, she stood. In a dress one might have worn to a party. Surrounded by others, hurrying, engaged in their own thoughts. Beside her a woman, a tightly tied scarf encircling her skull, her expression guarded. Some rise with their backs turned to the camera, others recline on the black and white grass. Was it warm that June day? Was there a sweet breeze? Or was the air heavy with ash drifting down from the nearby smokestacks? Heavy, greasy flakes? Redolent? There she was, her short blonde hair framing her sweet face. The topknot. Long after she had left Europe, my mother continued to dress our hair in the manner of the little girl standing in the woods of Birkenau, my sister and I. Waiting for her turn to go into the gas chambers. Her gaze direct. Her hands grasping each other in an effort to calm, comfort, query. Alone. At the age of four or five. Was that her mother behind her? Before her? That? That? Had her mother been chosen for slavery? Was she with her grandmother? Neighbor? Stranger? The week before she had been in her home. Warm. Loved. Adored. Now, she stood by herself. Demanding, in her sweet, innocent manner. Were we substitute children, my sister and I? Had my mother, age nineteen, been on her train? Seen her in the locked cattle car? Perhaps. They came from the same region, at the same time. It's possible. Had my mother admired her, cared for her, wanted her? Nameless. Her dress. Likely sewn by hand. Lovingly. 26

I will name her. Chanahle. Little Hannah. She must not go to her death unremembered. She will live on in our daughters and the children they bear. In her name.


Strong Man by Jenny Dayton Born and raised in Austin, Texas, I currently reside in Alaska. I am an artist because for me there is no other option. I have always drawn, painted, created, and have always wanted to continue doing so. Seeing a drawing materialize is the only thing that makes me feel content in my skin. The ideas in my art are as much an abrasive surprise to me as they are to some others. Most of the time the meanings become apparent long after a piece is finished. website:


three poems by Stephanie Edwards Stephanie Edwards was born in Lansing, MI and is a senior at Albion College, pursuing a double major in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and Economics. At Albion College, she is president of English honorary Sigma Tau Delta and works as a Poetry & Fiction Editor on the Albion Review, a nationally circulated undergraduate literary magazine. At school, she also works as a writing consultant in the college's writing center. She spent the spring of 2008 semester interning with Member of European Parliament Peter Skinner in Brussels, Belgium, where she wrote political speeches and press releases. She spent the summer of 2008 as a research fellow at Albion College, researching the effects of place on the poetry of James Wright.

Fawn Encounter I see a lone fawn with his spotted coat still on trampling through the remains of our summer vegetable garden. I would like to go outside and run my hand over his head, scratch a little between the ears. I wonder if his hairs are coarse like a horse’s, bristles scratching my open-blister palms, strange stigmata holes from cutting wood for my parents’ woodstove in winter.


Dear Third Eye Blind: Play me 90s. Play me displaced angst. Play me sitting in her basement, her strong hands vigilantly leading my fingertips to find frets, strange vertebrae I massaged, fumbling toward something cerebral, something that ran my head through walls. Play me the stench of cigarettes and cocaine. The mustiness of Michigan basements. Play me her mother’s alien face, skin pulled back, spread over strong cheek bones, barely contained. Play me nostalgia of believing ties could ever be cut between lives. Play me not knowing Christmas Eve could shiver her into the mental hospital. Not knowing the smell of bullets I emptied from her barrel. Not knowing her hands’ steely coldness after failing at death. Play me not knowing the loneliness of being her only fettered tie left, of trying to breathe her hands to warmth with summer, humid music. Of trying to eradicate blueness from winter skins.


Young, Single Woman Seeking— I like long walks on the beach, but in Michigan they’re all frozen these days. I used to go to Florida to escape this cold, but once, while strolling a jellyfish stung my left foot. Now I don’t go there anymore. I do not understand foot fetishes. My feet are cracked, mangled from high heels. Toes long and skinny, the second a little longer than the big toe. My father used to say an orangutan left me at the doorstep— that my toes could grab branches. These brown sneakers have stood on the grounds of the Roman Forum, carefully avoided dog shit in Paris, and carried my wobbly, drunken body safely home at night. My tongue just loves the rich coffee flavor of a good dark stout or five. Yes, I drink for flavor. My father is an alcoholic. He is a copier salesman and hates his job and life. I am trying to find a job and life I do not hate. Care to join me, stranger? I have nightmares of managing a clothing store for the rest of my life. Neatly folded jeans jump from shelves and chase me, threatening to strangle the resplendence out of my soul. I’m not sure if anything holy exists in this day and age, but I’m willing to give your creed a try, especially if you don’t like feet (or other kinky shit).


two poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore Carolyn Srygley-Moore is an award-winning graduate of the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars, & a Pushcart nominee; her digital chapbook Enough Light on the Dogwood is available as part of Mimesis' 2008 chapbook competition. She has been published in a number of journals to include Antioch Review, Eclectica, The 4 AM Poetry Review, Mimesis, & two anthologies: Identity (Gold Wake Press) & the antiwar anthology Cost of Freedom. She currently lives in Upstate New York with her husband & daughter. Waiting on the Grave’s Edge Waiting on the beveled edge of a grave, feeling the certainty of wind; a certain Absence of self, of boundary. Waiting for meaning without changes: sorrow, you Feel it, earns its own time, bears it like a cello’s bow. This is it, running out of Luck like water, even as laughter plumps the garden with iron tongues of bells & a crimson nightingale strays from myth, perching the turbines of your hand. Waiting the gash of a feral cat’s eye flash in the complex shadings of a temple As a tear, true water – you taste it – traces the gouged laughlines of God’s mouth. To reject everything is to be found; is to happen upon a doorway torn in the paper Map, leading to the sea where the casualties of plagues are thrown; is to drum Your fingers on the doeskin drawn taut over the surface sheen of void: its triangle, Its tambourine. Waiting the “you” that is not you, the “I” that is not I. Constructing The treehouse as a child, like a painter’s palette, only to tear it down plank by Stolen plank, nail by driven nail. & the violent violet crosshatches the hand, as If the hand is a river without boundary, as if the grave is a doorway to fall into Through a sphere of the plastic world globe spinning on the television set. Yes, A doorway, waiting, like the tumor expanding around the brain stem, growing There for a decade, cell splitting after cell – until it reaches the mass of an orange Tree’s fist one sunrise, unnoticed, & change manifests, meaning is not the same, & will not be, as the grave edge is changed, like the grooves of the kitchen table.


Hunger & Thirst I lie down alongside the body of the butterfly, as I was taught to do I curl the way my dog curled once he was hit by a car & pulled from the muddy ditch & his black tongue hung like an inert pendulum I hear the noise of the birch trees molting their bark the noise of the lizards pretending to be something else for a while I stare up at the apple boughs, the limbs that bear no fruit & are to be chopped away come nightfall to make room for the light I know the pain by which we know oneanother the hunger by which I know I’m alive I see the man across the aisle on the way to the revolution who had scars on his skull from beatings whose gait was unyielding from tortures inflicted How he gathered my hands into his hands & kissed them How he was the very weight of beauty, an absolute When I finally fall asleep I dream I am with my father, & he turns on me again & again he holds my head underwater, as if with mercy as if he believes I am an animal, needful of only water As he drowns me I feel the thirst by which I know I’m alive


RESİMLERİM by Engin Korkmaz website:


two poems by Valery Oisteanu Valery Oisteanu is a writer and an artist with an international flavor. Born in Russia (1943) and educated in Romania and France, he has adopted Dada and Surrealism as a philosophy of art and life. He is the author of 10 books of poetry, a book of short fiction and a book of essays: The AVANT-GODS. For the past 11 years he has been a columnist for New York Arts Magazine and an art critic for Brooklyn Rail and He is also a contributing writer for French, Spanish, Canadian & Romanian art and literary magazines: La Page Blanche, d’Art international,, Viata Romaneasca, Romania Literara, Altitudini etc. As a performer Valery Oisteanu is well known to downtown NYC audiences, performing original Zen Dada multi-media shows in his unmistakable style of "Jazzoetry."

The Glass Insects Glass insects invade museums and galleries in Zurich Some ancient, some fragile, some young and colorful Kirila Faeh created a small collection of glass-bugs Hanging either by a tread or in an invisible web “Bug of Love”, ruby-red with six skinny legs Two for holding, two for feeding, two for body language Each leg attached to a white wheel, with black center dot A green long zebra like insect: a “Bug of Trance” Float in the air, floating in the no-time no-space bubble Transparent bodies reveal their hearts and brains I adopted some of them and they start to breed Translucent insect-airplane as a Queen of Eggs Cobalt-blue spider with five red legs scurrying around Looking for a partner to lay some rainbow eggs The bug of ignorance: four-legged multicolored, Headless motion freak, rotates constantly White wave caterpillar with colored sprinkles Rides on red eyes-wheels through the air The insect of hidden sexual dependency Blue worm-bug, two front legs, and brown eyes Descends from above on a translucent fishing line “The Bug of Priapism” in the absence of sexual desire They all unquiet quiet disturb my irreversible dreams.


“Looking Under the Skirts”—Street Sunset in Central Park; ten to eight Sets my eyes aglow On the Great Lawn thousands of city folk sitting on the ground Sailors, monks, culture whores, all listening to Winton Marsalis Look to the sky, balloons and flying shoes High platform shoes kicking sand Boats sporting terra cotta sailors with a hard-on And mermaids with tattoos on their breasts The Opera from Shanghai goes non-stop for twenty hours The grand piano is equipped with a strap-on vibrating dildo The statues are collages with cut-up words all over their bodies Right below is a fire alarm; pull the handle Attention! Hot Brazilian girls are on the move They bring samba and hammocks to the park And they’re wearing beaks and night-vision scopes If they miss, you can receive your exotic pleasure by mail-order catalogue In the other corner, water-pipes and folk music for the deaf It rains with panties and female pubic hair It rains with rose rosaries and crooked crucifixes Everybody’s nude, except those with broken nipples & torn testicles Blue waves of wine wash out of a Kings burial place Slice Buddha’s head in half An erupting of saffron rice will follow A total melt down of the red sky The Great Lawn becomes a boiling cauldron of pheromones The trees are crumbling with laughter Satanic, tyrannical, diaphonic, organic, galvanic, in a total panic Walking down the erotically charged street Dropping to the ground and looking between legs Looking, looking, looking under the skirts . . .street.


the bad taste of history by Jeff Crouch An internet artist in Grand Prairie, Texas. Google him.


one poem by Steve Nash A writer from York UK and author of the blog starlight to casual moths. He is currently working on a PhD thesis, published in Read This Magazine print and online, London Grip Magazine, Ouroboros Review forthcoming and the Poetry Warrior.

Lion and Unicorn on a Train Lion – Unicorn – Kafka - Murakami Through the mud-flecked window the world struggles for air beneath the asphyxiating cushion of snow. The train tilts through an impulsive hollow, an old lady falls and a young man catches her. The tendons of his arm strain like the veins of red and blue wires fixed with adhesive faith into a life-support machine, chugging onward with its lonely beep toward the edge of the world where the land’s lungs open as free as fresh snowflakes.


two poems by Don Schaeffer Don Schaeffer established Enthalpy Press and has published 5 chap books including Time Meat and The Word Cow and the Pig O' Love ISBN series: 0-9687017 Recent poetry has been published in The Writers Publishing, Lilly Lit, Burning Effigy Press, Understanding Magazine, Melange, Tryst, Quills, and others. His first book of poetry, Almost Full was published by Owl Oak Press early in the summer of 2006. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from City University of New York (1975) and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife, Joyce.

A Stranger Who Melts into Acquaintance He wears a woolen, cone-shaped tuque which fails to confine his rebellious hair all during lunch and keeps his parka on. He is an alert man who makes jokes. His glasses are large for his face, covering most of his cheek. His eyes flicker from the top of the lens and most of the glass is wasted. Always at the edge of discovery he seems to be toying with the world as if he wielded its handle in his hands. He always chews something which appears to taste good and that makes him look optimistic.


My First Indoor Game of Marbles You beat me there in spite off all my reputation. I hated you and wanted you. You reached into my deep need for proof that I can not fulfill my promise.


One poem by Dibyajyoti Sarma Dibyajyoti Sarma works as Copy Editor with a national daily published from Pune, India. He wrote his pre-doctoral thesis on western queer theory and how it differs from Indian queer experience. He has published a volume of poems, Glimpses of a Personal History from Writers Workshop, Kolkata, in 2004 and a volume of interviews co-edited with R Raj Rao, Whistling in the Dark: 21 Queer Interviews from Sage Publication, New Delhi, in 2009. He is currently working on his first novel, Being Alive. Night Something's wrong with the moon tonight How it's running around inside my eyeholes Like a drunkard returning home late at night His wife wouldn't open the door But before I could shut my eyelids It was inside my eyes And what a hullabaloo! As if it wouldn't leave me till I cry Till I die. What's wrong with you, my desolate moon? What do you search? Those flowers of hope wouldn't bloom again No more are monsoons of tears Those grasses of dream are now dry What do you want my desolate moon? What do you search? Shall I give you my endless nights Unfinished lines of my palm? Something's wrong with the moon tonight.


three poems by Ruth Ă‚ Ellen Kocher Ruth Ă‚ Ellen Kocher is the author of One Girl Babylon[1] (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2003)[2] When the Moon Knows You're Wandering (New Issues Press, 2001), winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry, and Desdemona's Fire (Lotus Press, 1999), winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Washington Square Journal, Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, African American Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Antioch among others, and has been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine She'r. She has also worked as a fellow in the Cave Canem Workshop and Retreat. She is an associate professor of english at the University of Colorado at Boulder where she teaches an MFA program.

Stealing a Woman in Broad Daylight Near Teatro di Marcello, noon on a very hot June day A man on a vespa attempted to steal me. Ciao, Bella So obvious. Hello, hello. You speak Italian? Yes, You do. Oh, a little. Near Teatro di Marchello, near An old church also, Roman pillars exposed at its sides. E molto caldo, I say clearly. He nods. Very hot it is. E molto caldo.


Translation Exercise 2 31 year old Black Man in Lombardy, Italy Looking For: Women or Couples (2 women) for Erotic Chat or Email, Discreet Relationship, 1-on-1 sex, Group sex (3 or more!) Or Other "Alternative" Activities My desire How are they? I do not know! I can speak only for myself, heard, that is, I can tell as I see others. Some people I sweet, delicate, who would aggressively animaleschi, who would elegant, refined, who would sport, it seems to me that oguno exactly as you wish. I like to go to the bottom of things, innovation and novelty attract. I like space, living sometimes totally opposed to. I assure you that I like the game and fun, the transgression, me irresisitbilmente, provided no sections codified, approved, stereotyped, I do not think that I am boring One that resembles more to normal, not so studied. If I propose to transgress so original and spontaneous, I hardly shot back.


Transatlantic Catalogue with Distant Voice Refrain dominico brings the fig tree from calabria neighbors laugh fratello joseph pines the wife lost to his brother, large hands slapping flour her cast vowels widening the echo of the hall I. those arms and chest sit high up their stupid girl broke hearted over suede shoes and those cheekbones stupid girl white blues girl dominico brings the fig all the way from… he ignores pennsylvania’s cool nights (chill fall wraps it) builds a fire to warm fruit from home deep dreamed II. girl’s man plays piano plays women plays soul’s bringing them bringing them bass shadow paris lamposts swooning dominico brings life with him neighbors laugh his daughter bites the fruit’s dark skin round bruise filled with sugar. His daughter tastes Motown tastes white blues broke hearted that piano that broke hearted broke hearted girl.


The Path by Sharon Boyle-Woods An American currently living in Doha, Qatar. She has spent the last 29 years overseas. Her work is an organic process that begins with a central concept and evolves as her emotions blend with your intellect while she works. Her work is unplanned beginning with a central concept, and the actual painting take shape as she applies paint to the canvas. Ms. BoyleWoods begins with blocks of color (sometimes these can still be detected in the finished product) and allows the painting to emerge. Sometimes sculptors talk about finding the shape in a block of stone, and although it doesn’t make as much sense, Ms. Woods has the same experience with finding the subject in the canvas and the paint. This definitely happened with On The Path.


one poem by Stephen Murray Stephen Murray is a multi-award winning poet and writer from the West of Ireland. He is the author of two joint collections of poetry, with fellow poet Neil McCarthy. Both collections, Voicing the Bell and Naked in Vienna, were published by Maverick Press and both books have been translated into Magyar and Romanian. He has been published in numerous journals in Ireland, the UK and America including The Argotist, West 47 and Hot Press. He has also just completed his first novel: The first-born bastard of a battered wife.

Naked in Vienna On the day we fell into that black place where the peach sunset melted like a golden tear, welling up in the black eyelid of the Viennese horizon. The bulrushes of the Danube rose up like Nefertiti's eyelashes the moon plucked a silver hare’s head from the black top-hat of the sky and we prayed (for what it was worth) for time to stop a while, and it did. The sky (it seemed), had shed its veil and paused a while to observe with us, the universe and stars reflected in the water’s surface where we plunged our naked bodies heart-first-in. I see those moments enshrined flashed-back in an instant, every time I blink, the gentle waltz of our pale limbs our laughter stripped naked of hesitant thought, and the mantra of the mating calls of frogs, crickets and creatures whose names I hope I never know. Each moment was a Galilean whore to bathe our feet, a Goddess to bow to, a lover to pine for on winter nights, a mother to take us to her breast and a friend to know us beyond the boundaries of self. 46

two poems by Helen Peterson Helen Peterson is the managing editor of Chopper Poetry Journal out of New London, Ct, and has previously published in Fell Swoop, Wildreness House Review, Battered Suitcase, diddledog, Hiss Quarterly, Right Hand Pointing, Elimae, Haruah, Zygote in My Coffee, Pedestal Magazine (book review), Literary Fever, Debris Magazine, Images Inscript, and Poetrybay. Her work was also featured in an anthology put out by Poet Plant Press last Fall. For more information about Chopper, visit the Myspace page

Night. Mare. (sleeping) Again, 8 years old, above buckskin (sheets cold, knotted) freshly bitten pounding the road stirrups tossing and turning (eyes flicker open) a foot caught between the leather and horseflesh (pillowcase digging) fear buzzes in on tiny shiny wings (catch a glimpse of 1 am) the rider lunging from the saddle, (not sleeping)


Oral Fixation He calls my teeth sheep astray, jagged pale ghost girls white chrysanthemums


one poem by Dana A. Campbell Dana A. Campbell is a UCSC student majoring in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing Poetry. She has been previously published in Myriad and on She plans to pursue an MFA in poetry in 2010.

There will be No Periods Because I Don’t Want this to End If you are a hyphen uninhibited reaching across oceans your fingertips brushing against mine then I am an ellipse … holding my breath… paused… waiting… for you to… come back and we will have commas ,,,, dimpled smile, knowing wink, locks of hair, and, exclamation points !!!!! begin! again! be new! again! and we will have dashes — oodles——— ———and oodles—— ———of dashes—— ——— like Dickinson—— punctuating—— ——our lives——


Stories, prose & fiction

Submissions by author Marco Kaufman Max Dunbar Nabina Das Craig Woods


two flash fiction stories by Marco Kaufman Marco Kaufman is the author of the chapbook Family Ties of the Tattooed Lady ( and has had his fiction published in the Six Sentences, Glossolalia, and Robot Melon. He is currently working on two themed volumes of flash fiction, as well as his first novel, all being published in process at his blog, The Big Book of Grievances ( A native of the Bronx, he lives in Philadelphia. Millard Fillmore Like his more illustrious successor, Abraham Lincoln, Millard Fillmore was born in a log cabin. Like Franklin Roosevelt, he was born in New York. Like Harry Truman, he worked in the clothing industry. Like George W. Bush, he served in a state militia. Like John Adams, he married a woman named Abigail. Like Thomas Jefferson, he founded a university. Like Zachary Taylor, he was a member of the Whig Party. Like Theodore Roosevelt, he served in the New York State Assembly. Like George H.W. Bush, he was a member of the House of Representative, but not the Senate. Like James K. Polk, he served as Chair of Ways and Means while in the House. Like Richard Nixon, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of his home state. Like John Tyler, he succeeded a miliary hero as President when that hero died prematurely. Like Lyndon Johnson in his first term, he served without a vice president. Like William Henry Harrison, he had Daniel Webster serve as his secretary of state. Like James Monroe, he appointed only one Supreme Court justice. Like Andrew Johnson, one state was added to the union during his tenure. Like Gerald Ford, he was not re-elected. Like Martin Van Buren, he ran for a nonconsecutive term and lost. Like Woodrow Wilson, he was a widower, and when he remarried, like George Washington, he married a widow. Like William McKinley, he died in Buffalo, N.Y. Like Chester Arthur, most people know nothing about him.


The Necklace (With Apologies to Guy de Maupassant) Her grandmother had left her a sterling silver necklace, which she wore often and he liked. They always made love completely nude, except for the necklace, which he thought made a stunning contrast against her body. One evening, as she got into bed with him, he realized the necklace wasn't there. Where is your grandmother's necklace? he asked her. Oh, she said. The clasp is broken. I have to have it fixed. I don't like you not wearing it, he said. You sound more upset about it than me, she said. I think I am, he said. I always felt like your grandmother was watching over us when you wore it. But you never even knew my grandmother! she said. She died five years before I met you. I know, he said. But I always wished I'd met her. Why? she asked. Because you loved her so much, he said. She kissed him. She would have loved you, she told him.


one short fiction story by Max Dunbar Max Dunbar has been recently published in Black Market Review, Dogmatika, Off Magazine and Ambulant. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently the regional editor for Regional Editor for Succour Magazine.

The Assassins The kid had been missing a while before he became news. Conor Shaw was from the Anderson estate, one of the toughest in Brinnington, and children went missing from that area’s homes and residential care centres on a regular basis. Most of them were found within twelve hours, sitting in some park smoking low-quality resin and drinking cider from plastic bottles, drunk and combative but otherwise okay. It was rare that the parents noticed their absence long enough to make a report. On the second day of Conor Shaw’s disappearance the family contacted the police. There began an exhausted manhunt across Greater Manchester. Missing person reports were taken seriously, especially when the kid had been gone over a day. Most such cases were cleared up within twenty-four hours. A week after Conor vanished, his family staged an emotional press conference on Channel M. Appeals were broadcast on the regional news and advertised in the local papers. Officers questioned students and teachers at Conor’s school, where he was said to be something of a bully, and searched the homes of the teenager’s known friends. Registered sex offenders in the area had their bedsits raided in the hours before dawn. When no witnesses came forward to claim sightings matching the description posted on countless lampposts and noticeboards, the investigation lost its focus on the outside and looked inward, to Shaw’s family. The Matthews case had made officers wary of council estate dwellers making missing person claims. Conor had two sisters and at least four half-siblings. His father was currently in Strangeways on possession of firearms. Since the old man had been incarcerated, his mother had moved in a new boyfriend, a man named Colin Pattison. Col Pattison was a lanky guy with long, stringy hair that looked ash-blonde from neglect. He listened to emo music and read books on paganism and spoke in a wavery, ponderous voice. His most prized possession was the pink Peugeot Sentinel his father had left him, and it was this that started his criminal career, driving around the Cheshire villages trying to chat up fourteen-year-old rich girls as they walked out of school. This approach brought him some success in the nineties, but he was forced to abandon it as awareness of paedophiles grew. Two beatings and one suspended sentence convinced Col Pattison that he would stay away from the schools, even if it hadn’t been an explicit condition of his parole. Currently his MO consisted of approaching the single mothers of attractive teenage girls on the Stockport estates. After screwing the mother for a while, he’d move on to the daughters, with wildly varying results. One advantage was money: Col Pattison had been awarded fifty thousand pounds from a dubious personal injury claim against the local council, and the cash ensured his generosity with petrol, cigarettes, alcohol and skunkweed. The police knew who Colin Pattison was and theorised that he might be the abducter – even if not, it would be good to give him a proper sentence for a change, instead of the perfunctory and unattended community punishments and offender awareness courses dealt out by the courts. Detectives picked him up on the A6: that bright pink auto made Pattison easy to find. Yet Pattison had a strong alibi for the night of Conor’s disappearance. He’d been in Christie’s A and E department, receiving treatment for a fractured skull, sustained when Carole Shaw had come home from her job at the garage to find Pattison in bed with her adolescent daughter, and in her pique had attacked both lover and child with a socket wrench. Many suspected that Conor Shaw was not just missing but dead, yet no one guessed that the killer wasn’t Colin Pattison or Carole Shaw but a boy no older than Conor himself. The assassin was in Conor’s class, and he had been planning to kill Conor Shaw for around a year. He was angry at Conor for ruining school; from turning it from a place of exploration and wonder to a labyrinth of fear. He was angry at himself, too, for not having the strength to beat Conor in a fair fight. Every morning he did


a hundred press ups but his body remained weak and slim. One time he had attacked Conor anyway, in selfdefence, and Conor had left him lying facedown and humiliated in the rutted path alongside the canal, children’s laughter in his ears. It seemed that school would last forever, and that his own personal duex es machina would never come. Breathing mud, he had thought to himself: Use the anger. Let it build. He knew that Conor spent almost every evening on Challenger’s Park, drinking and smoking dope with his posse. At half six one night the assassin got to this park early and concealed himself in the thick scrub that surrounded the park. He sat and read his Philip Pullman book until he heard the gravel laughter and unsubtle tread of Conor and his boys. It could be no other: no one, child or adult, went near this park because it was known as a Shaw haunt, and the Shaws were a close family. Over the next four hours Conor and his friends drank and smoked and cackled over mobile footage of bullying and beatings. At last there were the sounds of the group breaking and departing, and the assassin put the book back in his shoulderbag and took out the spade. He got Conor just after he split from the rest of his gang, in one of the Anderson Estate’s many narrow and twisting alleyways. One crack on the head and the kid dropped. A dog walker passed him on the way back from the canal, but by then the assassin was empty handed. Killing Conor didn’t feel good for long. His sense of triumph soon subsided into a quiet dread of being caught. The manhunt didn’t slow down over the coming weeks: if anything it grew in scope and intensity. It seemed that he could not turn on a television or pass the rack of front pages in Shalimar’s without seeing Conor’s headshot. He knew it was over when the police finally dredged the canal. He had worn rubber gloves, but he knew now that these had been precautions of laughable naivety. Vague and troubling ideas of forensics he’d gleaned from CSI and Diagnosis Murder raced through his mind. The worst thing of all was that he could have outlasted Conor. He could have endured another year of school and then they would have separated, Conor to the life of benefit scams and short sentences and the pubs that would replace the parks as his old and childish haunts, and the assassin himself would have let his efforts and talent carry him through to places of light and laughter. Now the deux es machina would never come, even if he was not caught. For he had discovered too late that it is one thing to fantasise of murder: quite another to actually go through it and live with the consequences. Now every night the little assassin quailed in his bed, waiting for them to come for him. And one night, they did. His parents were out in town, his brother was at Scouts, and later it would occur to him that his family had been gone much later than was normal for a weeknight. He would wonder if this was coincidence. At eleven he climbed the long steps to the bedroom dark and lay there, waiting. After some time – five minutes, half an hour, who knows in the dark? – there was a splintery crash from downstairs. The police, breaking down his door. And then, the pounding of footsteps. Might as well face the music, he told himself, and he put on the light and pulled on some weekend clothes. When he opened his door, there was a woman in front of him. She looked official, but not in the grey and resentful manner all officialdom – teachers, housing association clerks – had always represented itself to him in this short life in Stockport. The woman had shiny blonde hair in a curious curtain style, and her jumpsuit was made from a glowing fabric he didn’t recognise. ‘You’re dressed,’ she said. ‘Good.’ Then she unhooked what appeared to be a radio from her belt and spoke one word into its speaker: ‘Transfer.’ At this point the ceiling caved in. Great folds of it peeled outwards; mortar fell onto the landing carpet. He looked up, astonished, and then wished he hadn’t, for a great white-yellow light was coming through where the sky should be, pulsing through the roof with its force. He could see nothing else, and thought the light had burned him blind. He closed his eyes and he could still see it.


The little assassin awoke. He looked around, relieved that his eyes worked. He saw gunmetal walls with dials winking and pipes snaking in and out. Above were shiny steps that made him think of London cocktail bars, leading up to some sort of gantry. Through it he could hear conversation, but he could not make out the words, although languages were his best subject at school. He hoisted himself up with his arms. He realised he was lying on some kind of elevated metal platform. Below was a roughly circular floor. ‘Er… hello?’ he called. The strange conversation stopped, and he wondered whether it had been a good idea to speak at all. The blonde woman reappeared in the doorway. ‘Ah, he wakes!’ she said. ‘Lossario will be pleased.’ ‘Who?’ ‘I’m Carilli, I’ve been with the company for six years, I’m going to be doing your orientation. Our scouts were very pleased with the job you did on the Shaw boy. Showed great potential, Lossario said.’ Horror must have shown on his face, for Carilli said: ‘Don’t look so scared! We’re not going to punish you. In fact, we may have a job for you. Much work, across many worlds.’ The assassin noticed for the first time that the gunmetal walls had a curved quality, and that the air he was breathing felt frosty and recycled. There was an undeniable sensation of movement that made him think of the one and only time he’d been on a plane, flying on a school trip to Switzerland. A background hum that only just penetrated his ears, and it must be generated by the (engines?) but to him it was the delicious golden hum of the morning. No, more than that. The sound of home.


one short fiction story by Nabina Das Nabina Das lives two lives, shuttling between Ithaca, NY, and Delhi, India. Her short story Tara Goes Home has been selected to appear in a winning collection of fiction by writers from India as well as around the world (Mirage Books). Her poetry has appeared in the “urban” poems anthology SHEHER (Frog Books), in Kritya Poetry Journal, Lit Up Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly and Muse India. Earlier this year, she was declared one of the winners of the 2008 Book Pitch Contest at Kala Ghoda Literary Festival in Bombay. Nabina is also a 2007 Joan Jakobson Fiction Scholar from Wesleyan Writers’ Conference, Wesleyan University, CT., and a 2007 Julio Lobo Fiction Scholar from Lesley Writers’ Conference, Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass.

The Farrier Was Russet to live her life between the legs of horses? She could get kicked sometime, although I’m sure Russet never expected that. It’s a job she had for a long time. Russet had big hands. Her hair cut like a duckling’s tail caught in a twister. She was a farrier. With an uncommon but musical name – Russet. That’s what she told me. We spoke while rummaging through old books on sale downtown where they’d let us take a bagful for a dollar. Shivering in the line outside on the cold concrete, for it was late November in this little Upstate New York town, I rubbed my bristly palms inside fleece gloves to a frigid drop falling from above, listening to the drone of a man explaining to someone the intricacies of a Russian fireplace. Once inside, we rummaged and I saw she held this Alberto Moravia I wanted, Two Women. Like a predatory animal I eyed her. Silently pointed towards the Moravia. She eye-browed towards the flat thin book I was holding. “Horses.” She said. “You like horses?” “I don’t mind them.” I said. Why talk of horses? This isn’t a farm fest. It’s a book sale. “You’ve a horse here,” she said, leaning over and touching the book I was holding. Tock tock. She knocked on the cover twice. The flat thin cover indeed had a horse snorting in a yellow-green cornfield. I had no idea if horses liked corn. Suddenly it hit me why horses were the topic. “Okay,” I said, sheepishly. She handed my book to me. “This is about women,” I explained. “You like women?” She asked the same way she had asked if I liked horses. Yes. No. What do I say? I’m a man! I nodded. I liked women only because they are there, all around. Not in the same way I’d adore a race car. It was tough to explain. “He’s a European writer, this Moravia. He must like women a lot … he writes a lot about them,” I said. “In Europe they make cheese at home,” she said tilting her funny looking head to one side. “They also name their women Nana.” “No, that’s Zola.” I said, trying to be polite, adding, “A writer by the name Zola called his heroine Nana. In fact, his book is called Nana.” At that point she abruptly announced that she was a farrier. “What’s that?” I was sure I had heard the word but I’d never met a farrier before. I noticed she had big hands, a bizarre hairstyle plus walked with webbed gait and the stolid expression of a bored farm animal. “Russet,” she said, holding out her right hand. I thought she was talking about the evening sky, which we couldn’t see it from inside this book-filled musty hall. “Fall evenings are great, especially evenings,” I said. “Do you take walks with your horses on russet evenings?” She looked at me as if I were a silverfish worm who eats away old book pages. Tiny slithering insects you want to thrash whack whack whack, until you’re satisfied not a single one exists among your priceless collection. “I spend most evenings working with horses,” she said. “And my name’s Russet.”


I squirmed like that silverfish worm. Oh, that was her name. Before I could say my name she spoke about the evenings she had spent under and between horses’ legs, shoeing them. This triggered some strange scenes in my mind. Horses’ legs were spindly and long. Not humanlike. They even had hooves. Russet could get kicked. Between human legs it was different. Humans didn’t require shoeing. Still one could get kicked, even with humans. “But of course,” she said. “I could get kicked even between human legs!” I didn’t comment. We roamed the hall filling our plastic bags. I noted her choice of books about farming and automobiles. She told me she drove an old truck and managed a farm alone. I pictured this slightly Mohawkhaired woman on a farm, grime and mobile oil all around, the hay smelling of horseshit, and her banging thud thud thud on a horseshoe. “You do that for a job?” I said. “Shoe horses?” These were horses whose owners found them too old or useless, she explained. Farm horses that’d never again pull carts. Racehorses discarded after they got burnt out. Show horses whose mane grew coarse. Russet made them shoes to walk in and gallop and play and she didn’t mind as long as they didn’t roll on rain-soaked hay for her to clean too often. There were days when she drove to the city to browse shops. She wore her old work jacket because she had no dates these days. Her twister-caught hairstyle didn’t have to be trimmed because there was no one to appreciate. Coming to rummage book sales was the only thing she had permitted herself in a long time. Books made her put aside her grubby boots and stack away her ‘Fresh Corns’ sign at the roadside. Driving down the winding road, doing a casual fifty-five over the forty-five-mile per hour, swerving by blackened squirrels stuck on the yellow dividing line, she came down here for books. Meanwhile her horses lounged or dozed on fresh hay that had been spread out that morning while waiting to feel her big hands. They enjoyed sniffing her and responded in charged hee hee hees. While she worked between their spindly legs, hay stalks cut her fingers, mosquitoes bit her buttocks and ear lobes, and sawdust rose in little clouds due to hammering and hitting. And the horses neighed happily. What if the horses kicked her head or chest, I imagined, shuddering. “I like it alone,” she said. She had a man for six months. A man who preferred worn out camel leather gloves in winter and a limestained jacket smelling of wood rabbits. He didn’t like horses. “A farrier’s job doesn’t pays,” he grumbled. He wanted to sell horses, the cornfields and the truck to go do city jobs. He drank and fell asleep when she was off to town doing chores. The horses went hungry many times and the two fought bitterly. “It had to be him or the horses,” she said. “I chose my horses.” Her four-legged friends – brown and mustard and chestnut, a few velvety black, were joyous about that decision. Russet’s horse book reminded me of Le Cheval Blanc where the white horse looked painted green. Maybe Gauguin too had lived near a green cornfield. “What’d your type of women do in this situation?” Russet asked me abruptly. ‘Your type’ sounded like she belonged to another world. This was my chance to tell her about my world, a college professor’s world. Well, my kind read made-up tales. Zola, Moravia. Normally, my type of women would want to keep a man. They’d try very hard. Shop for pretty dresses, colors for their cheeks and tiny shoes – human shoes – to please their man. For a man they’d re-do their entire life. “Of course, they wouldn’t know the difference unless they kept horses for a few years,” I said. Quasiapologetic. She eyed my trimmed hair, my pleated professorial pants and my leather moccasins, my cheeks still fragrant from my morning shave. I knew she could smell my powdered chest – we stood so close– and feel my elbow brush her hard sides. Her eyes were wide realizing that a man like me, a reading and college-teaching type, was not someone she usually met. That hurt me. I pined to tell her I loved hay, but on a painted canvas. And horses were okay as long as I didn’t have to wash or shoe them. Le Cheval Blanc wasn’t to be touched and sullied. “Yeah, it’s different elsewhere,” she said, as if farriers lived by a separate book. I tried convincing her otherwise, this woman with big hands who could be made to feel good and wanted. A woman named Russet, like the fall evening. Our plastic bags were full and we’d part having spent only one dollar a bag. The conversation was several more bags full.


“Mind if I invite you?” She threw the words out of her mouth with the invisible stuff she was chewing. “Bring your Moravia book to my farm. Will ya?” I stood on the wintry sidewalk not saying anything. Her truck spewed smoke in a volley of vroom vroom vroom. She yelled: “Can I call you Vandyke, after one my horses?” “My name’s Ludwig,” I yelled back and saw her gesture. “Where did you get that? That’s a horse name too!” Suddenly unspoken warmth surrounded me. Ah, she was joking. In a good way. All my life I thought my parents were silly to name me like that. As if they knew for sure I was gonna be a sad little professor. The women in my life and in the books I read kept cats or dogs. Fluffy, silky creatures bathed in lavender shampoo. Coats combed to a perfect gloss, fancy ribbons tied round their necks. The women talked to them in foreign tongues – oh mon petit chou. Made love while their pets watched. None of them lived by a cornfield and heard neighs all night. Alone. “So long Vandyke!” Russet sped up. The pickup disappeared around the bend. A russet sun gobbled it up. Her hammer striking new metal, raw and chiming, the farrier would have a visitor soon.


one short story by Craig Woods Craig Woods was born in Scotland in the late twentieth century and will die sometime in the twentyfirst. He currently resides in an abandoned railyard depot, conceiving of ways to propagate new humananimal hybrid species who will weave webs of light around rusty pylons. His hobbies include the yo-yo and firing guns indiscriminately. BLOOD AND HONEY AT THE HORIZON, THE HORSE SAID Rain fell hard on Lake Pontchartrain. The disgruntled sky swirled and bellowed, a heat haze shimmering odiously above the brackish water like the afterbirth of a strangled dream. Matthias stood statuesque and watched as Jensen’s ruined body - entrails spread out in a visceral collage - began to sink into the softening clay. For the previous six carny years, this bold black horse had been his closest compatriot and the only living creature he considered his equal. Now the noble beast lay slain, his magnificent form defiled by the vicious geek child who, clearly having harboured her plan of sabotage for some time, had now robbed Matthias of everything he valued. In an aberrant moment of uncontrolled anger, he raised his pistol to the sky and fired as though attempting to blast a hole in the firmament itself. His eyes wept red with frustration. Over the course of his wayward life, Matthias had made himself an enemy of many. But caring nothing for the underlings he offended or harmed, he neglected to return this sentiment. To identify another human being as an enemy required some recognition of their influence upon him. Until that rainswept morning of 1911, no living soul had proved a worthy enough adversary to warrant the title. Now though his vexation had a name; Soledad Cuervo de Perdido. He had acquired the child as part of a disreputable deal during a season tour in Mexico City four years previously. Some big time industrialist down there by the name of Velasquez had a thing for freaks. Seemed the big shot’s illicit dalliance with a local dog-woman had produced this illegitimate child whom - though boasting no obvious deformities herself - was nonetheless a massive inconvenience to such a respectable pillar of the community as Sr Velasquez. Much of the man’s public appeal rested on his carefully cultivated image as a steadfast husband and father, embodying the traditionalist ethics of loyalty and honesty. An affair with a peasant maid or prostitute would have inflicted damage enough but were it to become common knowledge that the man had a penchant for slipping his mannerly meat into seamy circus oddities then he would be surely ruined - the fact of his mutant offspring the bitter icing on a gravely unpalatable cake. “Please, Senor Matthias. I pay you good money to make these… problems disappear.’ Sceptical at first, Matthias was swayed irrevocably when Velasquez had introduced his canine mistress, Dolores Cuervo de Perdido. The dog-woman had been quite sublime; an elegant figure layered in coarse hair with a proud aquiline muzzle protruding unapologetically from the malformed face. Dolores could understand the Spanish language perfectly but her deformed vocal chords ensured that she could communicate exclusively via guttural croaks and barks. Matthias was quite smitten. His sideshow already boasted its fair share of distinguished freaks but Dolores was truly exceptional. Velasquez offered to sell the specimen to him but only on the condition that Matthias also accept the bastard child as part of the arrangement. Matthias was deeply reluctant. The child, a bedraggled urchin with matted black hair hanging perpetually over her sharp features, not only displayed no obvious symptoms of freakism but she seemed of a wretchedly reticent disposition. The carny-master could conceive of no way he might 59

possibly make productive use of the girl. Nonetheless, Velasquez was insistent and Dolores appeared quite attached to her daughter and so Matthias found himself leaving Mexico with both in tow. If nothing else, he decided, the girl would provide another pair of hands in shifting and dropping the awnings from one place to another. Besides, once she was a little older he could always rent her at a fair price to the local clems if things got tight. Whatever hand fate might deal, he was going to make sure the girl earned her keep. How he now regretted that decision; the first true regret of a life spent on the world’s darkest margins. If only he had followed his initial gut instinct and turned his back on the wonderful dogwoman and her vicious daughter. If he had only refused to permit Soledad a claim of influence upon his existence, for this was the greatest affront of all. For the first two years Dolores proved the jewel of the sideshow, wowing crowds throughout the southern states as the Matthias entourage developed a robust reputation as one of the greatest travelling shows in the Americas. From Texas to Missouri, the dog-woman was greeted with the same awestruck mixture of fascination and disgust. During this period her daughter remained silent and sullen. Matthias put Soledad to work as a rousty and, though barely an adolescent, the girl worked her diminutive body thoroughly in any given task. She learned the ways of the awnings quickly, becoming something of a tent expert in a very short space of time, her nimble hands seemingly carved for the express pursuit of grim and arduous tasks. Moreover, while her mutant origins had neglected to endow her with any obvious deformities, she nonetheless revealed certain talents which were undeniably canine in nature. She could sniff out a cheat like a bloodhound and, hairs rising on her thin arms, she would grow stiff and emit a low growl whenever she caught the scent of the law closing in. Additionally, Soledad was a born prowler. Crouched low to the ground, every muscle hard and tight, nose turned stridently downwards, she could move swiftly and silently through shadows and crowds without ever being spotted. It was on account of this particular ability that she was eventually assigned the prime duty of marking, for none other of Matthias’ employees possessed the dual gifts of deft perception and inconspicuousness that so allowed Soledad to identify potential vics and mark them undetected. As an added bonus, Soledad more than proved her expediency in the event of trouble. During a spontaneous ‘Hey, Rube!’ in Mississippi, she was revealed to be a ferocious and remorseless fighter. Matthias could still conjure vividly the broken bloody face of the dumb yokel who’d wound up taking on a lot more than he’d bargained for when he picked a fight with Fiery Jack the Blade Glommer. Soledad had launched herself teeth-first at the townie’s crotch, clamping herself there like a vice. Screaming, the hick attempted to push her away only to lose three fingers to the girl’s snapping snarling jaws. She had then grabbed her victim’s head with both hands and slammed it repeatedly against the hard ground, blood spraying from the torn scalp, the skull cracking audibly. The incident had meant an immediate circus-jump but the fool had been lucky to escape with his life. While her manner remained perpetually aloof and her animalistic tics occasionally proved unnerving, Matthias certainly could not complain of the girl being lazy or without use. He would never be fond of Soledad but he soon accepted her as an asset. Things took a turn for the worse during a term in East Texas through the winter of ‘09. Dolores’ health had begun to ail and her mood spiralled downwards. She would spend her nights coughing sleeplessly, a terrible bronchial sound that turned the stomach to hear it. Before long it was affecting her performance as she refused to stand for the onlookers, instead sitting sulkily with her back turned and her canine features concealed. When Matthias had attempted to cajole her into a standing position she had snapped viciously at his hand, drawing blood. Enraged and despite himself, Matthias had proceeded to whip the dog-woman into obedience. This drew a hugely hostile reaction from the onlookers who roared and spat at the carny-master as he beat the cowering and yelping figure who was now coughing up copious amounts of bright red blood. He could remember glimpsing Soledad’s face, 60

her eerie dark eyes peering from the edge of the awnings as he violated her mother, an unreadable expression claiming the young features half-hidden by the curtain of black hair. The episode was a disaster and the entourage was forced to circus-jump the very next day for fear of reprisals by rowdy locals. Later the following night, an audible commotion from Dolores and Soledad’s carriage disrupted the caravan’s collective sleep. The dog-woman - her pent-up rage at having been so publicly humiliated now seemingly erupting - beat her daughter mercilessly. Soledad’s cries and yelps lasted for over an hour but not one in the caravan dared or invested enough interest to intervene. Eventually, the blows subsided and Dolores’ bronchial snore sputtered upon the night air while her brutalised daughter lay snivelling. The caravan came to rest four counties later and a local croaker was recruited to examine the dog-woman. Turned out poor Dolores was in fact suffering from consumption and was not long for this world. Worse still, there was no way of knowing how many others she might already have infected with the disease. The croaker gave the entire entourage the once over. There was no way to be conclusive but the Doc identified five other employees with suspect symptoms. Curiously, Soledad, who had slept beside her mother since day one, appeared completely unaffected and remained vigorous. However, this was little comfort to Matthias who was forced into an undesirable confrontation with a cataclysmic truth; his prize freak had become an unaffordable hazard. “We gotta get rid of her, Boss” Harlan the Pitchman, his oldest associate, said with wide-eyed regret. “She’s a good freak but she’s gonna drag the whole show with her to Hell.” “Give it a name. What you reckon be the thing to do?” “She ain’t lastin’ much longer, that’s for sure. But we can’t afford to keep her and there ain’t noone in these states gonna take in a dyin’ contagious freak. We got no choice, Boss.” “Let’s sleep on this thing, Harlan. First thing tomorrow we do what needs doin’.” Harlan was right of course and Matthias knew it. But the Master was a proud man and felt hugely wronged by God on this matter. If his prize specimen was going to be taken from him, he intended to make sure it happened on his own terms and at his own leisure. The ominous drum of the East Texas rain throbbed against the canvas as he drifted off to a haunted sleep, his heart an inferno of anger… He walked through red awnings into a strange tent. He was on another Master’s midway it seemed. The drums of rain reverberated in that scarlet amnion, announcing the destructive heartbeat of some unknown monster yet to be birthed. The tent was empty of townies, no audience for this anonymous sideshow. At the end farthest from the opening stood seven upright mirrors, each the height of a man. Approaching cautiously, he noticed a banner hung above them, red letters on a gold background: ‘THE SEVEN WINDOWS OF ENTROPY’. As though slipping in through some crack in the fabric of space itself, the dog-girl materialised before him. She stood to the left of the scene, one arm extended and beckoning him towards the shimmering glass panels. “Mire y vea usted” she hissed cryptically from behind a tenebrous shade of raven hair, her young face obscured and inscrutable. The panes were those of funhouse mirrors, each reflecting an image of his face and body disfigured by tricks of warped glass, a cheap gimmick he knew too well. Surveying these tawdry depictions of himself in varying states of corpulence, gauntness, elongation and compression, a smugness asserted itself in his mind. Clearly the girl had sought to unnerve him with this substandard parlour device. He made to cast a disparaging gaze in her direction when his attention was seized by a flicker of movement in the central mirror. There his image appeared aged; elderly, frail and broken. This in itself wasn’t so remarkable; in his time he had known many a sideshow trickster capable of illusions more elaborate than this. However, the clarity of the image perturbed him. Gazing intently at this warped mockery of himself, he could make out the fine detail of each crease in the sagging skin, the alarmingly exact 61

rendition of liver spots and discoloured patches. Then there was the smell… a pungent ammonia stench like stale horse-piss assaulting his nostrils and coaxing tears from his eyes. In spite of his seasoned resolve, terror seized his heart with a keen frosted claw. The haggard reflection seemed to press against the glass until finally it pushed past the boundary of the frame. Inexplicably, this travesty of his own image emerged slowly but deliberately from an alien realm of inverted dimensions - yellowed eyes filled with malign intent staring deep into the lining of his soul. Terrified, he thought of spinning on his heels and bolting but some unnameable force fixed him to the spot, rendering him utterly immobile. Behind him, he could sense the girl approach, could feel her hot animal breath blazing a hateful hex against his back. His frail, twisted doppelganger collapsed towards him like the dead trunk of a diseased tree. It was only as the girl lay a hard heavy hand upon his quaking shoulder that he was finally able to scream… A rifle shot split the night air like brittle glass, propelling Matthias from the nightmare and into a swamp of sweat-soaked sheets, a silent yell trembling upon his dry lips. Denying him any opportunity to review the events of his dream, the real world of wakefulness swept it brutally aside in a flurry of commotion. Alerted by the report of the anonymous weapon, the carnies jumped out of their beds and carriages in instant defensive formation. A second shot sounded, followed by a muted cry. Matthias shouldered his holster and strode out into the midway where the rain was turning the soft ground to a brown mush. A third shot drew his attention with its accompanying cordite flash. Standing there in the mud was Soledad, her diminutive form silhouetted iconically between the sideshow tent and the Spinning Jinny, Harlan’s Lee-Enfield rifle gripped gracefully in her muscular young arms. The bodies of Dolores and two of the infected rousties lay facedown in the mud. The remaining three unfortunates stood by the Jinny, hands tied behind their backs and wailing for mercy. The girl fired a fourth time and the rousty on the far right collapsed like a sack of potatoes. Matthias knelt by Dolores’ body and looked into the dog-woman’s one visible eye which now stared lifelessly into the tenebrous depths of the sludge which claimed her. Spinning around on his heels, he saw that Soledad - aware but evidently uncaring of his presence - was commanding the rifle expertly, putting its owner to shame. As the girl hoisted the barrel a fifth time, Harlan appeared from behind her and attempted to wrench the gun from her grip. Soledad wriggled lithely, raising the rifle butt and slamming it forcefully into the Pitchman’s face. Bringing a hand to his wounded mouth, Harlan collapsed on his rump in the mud. In less than a second, Soledad reasserted her aim and sent the penultimate rousty to the stars; blood and brain tissue splashing into filthy puddles. Quite a gathering had formed in the midway by now and several eager carny faces burned with tension in the night as they crept nervously towards the young assassin. “Leave her!” Matthias bellowed finally. “Let her finish it.” Soledad regarded the Master silently, a fierce wind casting a torrent of wild raven hair across her impenetrable features, dark eyes burning with an eerie animal wrath. Again the girl handled the weapon with illogical precision. The shot shattered the night with infernal thunder and sheared off the top of the rousty’s head, fragments of scalp and skull spattering the seats of the Jinny in red clumps. Business concluded, Soledad lowered the rifle with a casual sigh and bowed her head as the rain seemed to strike her for the first time. Matricide and murder evidently came to her as naturally as breathing. “Where in the Devil’s Hell did you learn to shoot, kid?” Soledad spoke softly but self-assuredly with the first complete sentence he had ever heard her utter. “No tengo maestro… Acabo de saber.” With his prize freak dead and staff depleted, Matthias began to re-evaluate his lot. Though he had little affection for her, Soledad had more than proved her worth in the most dire of situations. He had acquired enough respect for the girl to assign her a new set of duties; she was now put in charge of managing the freaks. An unruly lot, the sideshow performers were at best reluctant to 62

accept instruction from the Master whom they knew had just as much to gain from them as they from him. Soledad however remained something of an unknown quantity and, despite her brief tenure, it was evident that the freaks held her in an exclusive esteem. It was no secret that both Fiery Jack and Aquinas the Fish Boy had developed something of a muted fondness for this strange Mexican urchin with her veiled bestial fury. It was this untamed quality to the girl’s character which also encouraged Matthias to assign her as personal caretaker to his loyal steed. Jensen was a strong beast with an unpredictable temperament and as such it had long been left to Matthias to cater for his horse’s every need, a desperately timeconsuming responsibility for a carny-master who must ideally be free to keep his eyes on every corner of the midway. However, the horse seemed unperturbed by Soledad, even going so far as to allow her to pet his dark muzzle - a luxury once afforded exclusively by Matthias himself. With the girl to engage in the menial duties of feeding Jensen and maintaining the sheen of his proud black coat, the Master was permitted a far more open management of his time. With the ensuing months, Soledad appeared to slip more comfortably into the carny lifestyle and could be found to engage with the patrons in a more direct manner. Indeed, she now adopted the self-assigned role of freakshow geek, utilising her agile form to perform a series of screwball physical comedy routines, all of which were entirely improvised. The twist was, of course, that Soledad only ever spoke in Spanish. While she understood English unquestionably, she refused to speak it. This rendered her constant in-performance commentary entirely incomprehensible to many of the patrons and only contributed to her appeal as an oddity. Whether they understood or not, the customers invariably laughed aloud at the girl’s spontaneous routines which added an energetic backdrop to the meticulously rehearsed and otherwise static performances of the freaks. All in all, Matthias was pleased with the result. Though the loss of his prize freak remained an unhealing wound, he nonetheless congratulated himself on having carved something positive from a disastrous predicament. How foolish and short-sighted he had been to assume he could so easily contain that vile creature. I should have grabbed that rifle from her when I had the chance and sent the bitch to Hell with her dog-faced mother. It was during a tour of Florida in October of 1910 that the seeds of the girl’s treachery were well and truly sown, though Matthias had not recognised it at the time. While Soledad was engaged in one of her absurdist routines, the Master had been humouring some nearby patrons with idle small talk as they prevaricated around their exit from the freakshow. “That girl you have there, the geek. She’s Mexican?” “Oh she’s from all over. As are we all, eh?” Matthias was already bored of this banal discourse. “Ah well,” the clem had continued, “Something of a storm brewing down in the Latin country. I hear Madero escaped from prison and is hiding out somewhere in these states. Word has it he’s issued a call for revolution against Diaz to start next month. Looks like big changes are afoot.” Soledad fell suddenly mute. She gazed at the clem and hushed a small gathering of patrons at her side with a raised palm. The dead weight of silence filled the tent. “I’m sorry,” the clem muttered awkwardly, “Did I say something untoward?” “Think nothing of it,” Matthias addressed the crowd, “It’s alright folks, carry on.” He turned sternly towards the girl, “Sol, you may continue with your routine.” Soledad remained still, her dark eyes squinting at the clem. “Immediately, Sol. That’s not a request.” The girl fixed her gaze upon Matthias and glared for a moment before turning her back reluctantly on the clem and resuming her showpiece lethargically.


Matthias had experienced a bizarre sensation as the girl had stared at him, a subliminal chill shaking him to his bones. But after a few moments it seemed normality had reasserted itself and he thought no more of it. What a mistake that had been. He knew now that, from that day forward, Soledad had been planning her escape and devising a means to cause him as much grief as possible in the process. For the next few months, the girl had maintained a façade, attacking her work with a new fervour. Her routines grew more raucous and Jensen’s coat boasted a gleam never before attained. As the caravan travelled across the state line into Alabama, she proved a relentless worker, enthusiastic to an almost ludicrous degree. Her impending treason should have been as predictable as the sunrise, her motivations as transparent as the water in Aquinas’ tank. But alas Matthias found his judgement clouded by the overpowering force of his own self-righteousness. It was to prove his downfall. By now it was no secret that Matthias was illicitly employing the use of flat joints. Many of the carnival games were routinely gaffed, something which was illegal in most states. It was not unusual for some sour-faced townie to scream “Gaff!” if they failed to win a single game, regardless of this being the case or not. Thereafter the law would come snooping around and grill the Master with a selection of ineffectual questions. When they were unable to prove anything amiss, they would then search the tents and booths for cranks and stroms as well as any evidence of illegal substances. Over the course of the previous three years, with Soledad’s sensitive nose to warn him of the approaching law, Matthias had branched confidently out in this direction and there were now several booths which performed a covert under-counter service as providers of hashish and opiates. With the girl’s warning, the carnival was afforded plenty of time to conceal the goods where they would never be found before the heat closed in. This was all to change… Some Alabama townie had went into a gloom after playing a whole day and failing to win a single game anywhere on the midway. This toothless chump-sucking clem had run off, jerking his head self-righteously towards Matthias as he went; “You’re fuckin’ finished here. You’re rumbled, y’hear? I’m goin’ to the law right now and they’re gonna expose your fixed games, you get me?” Matthias had heard a billion of these kind of threats throughout his life and knew that the vast majority of them transpired to nothing. Besides, he had under his employ the best nose on the continent who could smell the liquor on a lawman’s breath from a hundred miles out. He warmed himself with a self-satisfied smirk as the disgruntled townie disappeared past the front. And then, only an hour or so later, two lawmen appeared, censorious eyes scanning the games and sideshows as they patrolled the midway, six-shooters hanging odiously from belt holsters. Matthias had to double take. He simply couldn’t believe his eyes. How could Soledad’s nose have failed her? How could she fail the carnival? The answer struck his heart with a sobering black bullet. She knew they were coming. She wanted them to come here. Sweet fuckin’ Jesus, she wants to ruin me! The carnies went into cover-up overdrive, attempting to pass packages and illicit objects into one another’s pockets while each performing a pantomime of innocuous daily carny routine. Matthias approached the two officers with a gesture of wide open arms and an ingratiating grin. “Gentlemen, how good of you to stop by. We’re always happy to welcome the guardians of the local community into our little world here. I do hope you enjoy.” The man on the left - the older of the two - was clearly impervious to the Master’s charm. “We have reports of rigged games here. And the use and sale of prohibited substances. We’ll be taking a good look around.” “Well of course you may look around as you please,” Matthias maintained his façade, “But I assure you, you’ll find no evidence of anything illegal here, gentlemen. This is a respectable business and you’ll uncover nothing here but the finest in legitimate entertainment.” 64

The two men began to inspect the games more thoroughly. Matthias’ heart thundered in his chest, threatening to tear through his ribcage. For the first time in his life he came close to something resembling fear. He peered across the midway to the sideshow marquee and met Soledad’s dark eyes glinting in the dim afternoon light. She stood by the entrance, arms folded across her chest, staring into her Master’s soul. You little bitch. You’re finished. I’m going to hang you with your own guts. Miraculously, the carnies did an immaculate job in concealing the goods. The officers found nothing. A wave of relief washed over the Master’s body and he allowed himself a victorious glare in Soledad’s direction as he reconvened with the two lawmen. The girl stood rigid, her eyes narrowed to slits. You can’t beat me, you little whore. “Well, sorry to have bothered you here, Mister…?” “Matthias.” “Yes. Well. Sorry for the inconvenience but, as officers of the law, we do require to be thorough…” “I quite understand, gentlemen. And we appreciate your diligence in this matter. Please, let me offer you gents the opportunity to play on the house.” “Ah sorry,” the older man, more relaxed now, smirked jovially. “I’m afraid in the line of duty there’s no…” From the corner of his eye, Matthias perceived a lightning blur of movement as Soledad retrieved a steaming coffee pot from the counter of the direct sales booth. With a vicious speed, the girl threw the contents over the head of a nearby townie who squealed in agony and shock. The scolded man turned to see the girl drop the pot on to the ground and yelled at her in equal parts rage and pain. “You little bitch!” The man lunged at Soledad and she raised her face to the sky, emitting the first English words that Matthias had ever heard her speak; “Hey, Rube!” The call went out and a gang of carnies dropped what they were doing and ran to the girl’s aid. The townie was pulled to the ground, punched and kicked. “What the Hell?!” The older of the two officers dropped a hand to his holster. He was taken aback as Soledad came rushing out of the rabble towards him, a feigned expression of distress upon her young features. “Chester! Chester!” she cried, pointing to the man being thrashed upon the ground. “Violador. Molestero!” “That filthy…” The lawman strode towards Soledad, extending a benevolent arm. “Come here, darlin’.” Before Matthias could intervene, the girl reached out with unreal speed, grabbing the sixshooter from the officer’s holster. “What the-?” Thunder cut the question into dead air as Soledad blew the lawman’s guts out through his back with his own gun. In a flash, she spun and fired a second round through the forehead of his partner. Both officers crumpled to the ground as gracelessly as abandoned marionettes. Twirling the smoking gun expertly in her lissom hand, Soledad glared into Matthias’ stunned face and, in a voice thick and black as crude oil, spat out words which would remain with him for the rest of his days. “No voy a ser enterrados en la tumba de mi madre.” With that, she turned and sped out of Matthias’ reach and on towards the pen where the horses rested. The crowd screamed and yelled, men and women grabbing their children and ducking for cover. “Stop her!” Matthias shook with rage, his voice reduced against his will to an animal snarl. 65

Soledad pulled a knife from her belt and cut a rope causing the gate of the pen to swing open. Wasting no time, she grabbed hold of Jensen’s noble black mane and climbed lithely on to the beast’s back. Harlan the Pitchman emerged, Lee-Enfield primed and shouldered, along with several other carnies now conscious of the situation and armed with pistols. “Kill the little bitch! I want her dead!” Soledad spurred Jensen over the fence of the pen with a sharp jab of her bony ankles. As the horse raced towards the front of the midway, Harlan and the pistol-packing carnies sent a volley of bullets through the air which whizzed past the girl. Each gunman fired several times, missing Soledad with every shot as she clung low to Jensen’s mane. A single bullet struck the horse in the side causing the beast to whinny in pain and rage, but it sped on. “Not the fucking horse!” Matthias wrenched the pistol from the grip of the offending gunman and slammed the heavy handle against the dumbstruck face - a yell of pain stifled behind burst lips and broken teeth. Within moments, the noble horse had disappeared from view, taking the mutinous girl with him and leaving Matthias and his carnival in a town full of panic and hatred with the heat closing in fast. The entourage had packed away in double time and Matthias ordered the whole caravan to head back east and lay low in Gibtown, Florida. Meanwhile, he and Harlan would track down Soledad and make an example of her. “Where you think she’s goin’, Boss?” Hazily remembered words came floating towards Matthias as if sailing in from another time track; Latin country… call for revolution… next month… changes afoot… “She’s gone west, Harlan. She’ll be making her way back to Mexico any way she can.” “Well if you’re right, the law could likely catch up with her first, Boss. Maybe we should just let…” “She’s not getting away from me!” Matthias could not recall the last time another human beinghad caused him so much rage and pain. “If she’s going to die, then it will be at my hand. I’m going to drag the little cur all the way back to Florida and put her in the stocks and let all of Gibtown throw their shit at her, you hear me? And then I‘m going to slit her little spic throat and let them all piss on the bleeding wound before we burn her alive! Got it?” “Hear you, boss.” While Harlan had known Matthias to be vicious in the past, his viciousness usually proved a rather cool and rational variety. He had never before witnessed his employer descend into such an uncontrollable state of anger and vitriol and this unnerved him. “We’re going to split. You’re going to follow the route of the Mississippi, I’ll stick close to the coast and we’ll reconvene in New Orleans. Understood? If neither of us finds the little whore on the way, she’s bound to show up there. Even a runaway circus freak can find a place to hide in New Orleans and she fuckin’ knows that, she ain‘t stupid.” Over the course of the following week, Matthias rode relentlessly across the mud flats and swamplands, setting up camp in the undergrowth. On the way, he stopped to ask each and every innkeeper and smalltown drunk if they’d seen a little Mexican bitch on a big black horse. “Kinda thing I’d remember don’t ya think?” said a particularly disrespectful civilian in Asshole, Mississippi, careworn by the Master’s belligerent questioning. Matthias had smashed the dumb hick in the face with a rifle-butt for his trouble. By the time he reached Louisiana, Matthias was fatigued and saddle-sore, eager for rest but still burning with the desire to exact revenge upon the defiant girl who had wronged him. He made his way through central New Orleans, stopping in at favourite haunts in attempts to locate both Harlan and Soledad but his search bore no fruit. Finally he headed northwards to the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain where his company had traditionally set up business on many previous visits. There was 66

a chance that Harlan may be found there. And indeed, he did find Harlan on the muddy banks of the lake, and Jensen too. But Soledad was long gone. Matthias rode over the vast patch of pasture which had previously acted as his midway and his blood ran cold as he glimpsed the dark shapes lying by the shore. He dismounted and ran towards the horse’s heavy corpse and the stricken figure of Harlan who lay soaking and shivering in the merciless rain. The sopping red maw of a knife-wound yawned wide in the Pitchman’s stomach and blood trickled from between his lips as he struggled to speak. “Boss… the girl… she g-got m-m-me… she got me good.” The man was doomed, there was no doubt of that. Matthias wasted no time with compassion. “Harlan, what happened exactly? Tell me.” “I found Jen…Jen…” he pointed feebly at the dead horse. “ There was n-no sign of th-the girl. I sat down next to him, cou-couldn’t believe he was gone. And then…” a lucid expression of horror broke through the pain on Harlan’s face as he recalled the terrible moment, “His body just… just opened u-up an-and this… shape came flying ou-out of his stomach totowards me. I had no idea what I was s-s-seeing… this thing just c-came out at me and I felt a pain… a pain…” His shivering hands fumbled at the mortal wound. “She was inside, boss. In… in the fuckin’ horse! L-like… like a f-f-fuckin’ dog!” Harlan spat the last word like a curse and, with a few more unintelligible grunts, the Pitchman passed away, empty eyes locked in a perennial stare towards the angry Louisiana sky. Jensen’s ruined body lay gracelessly oozing red mush upon the soaking ground like a scene from an abattoir. Clearly the wound he had sustained in Alabama had guaranteed the animal’s downfall. All things considered, it was remarkable the beast had made it this far west. Matthias could only assume that Jensen had developed a far closer and more loyal bond with Soledad than it had ever felt possible to share with him and it was this loyalty which had seen it carry the wretched girl all these weary miles. Affronted by this betrayal, Matthias kicked at Jensen’s dead skull and spit into the white unseeing eye. In spite of everything, the carny-master remained in awe of the girl’s survival instinct and incredible resilience. Where most her age would have panicked at their steed’s demise and ran off blindly into the rain to meet their doom in the southern wilderness, Soledad had recognised the horse’s potential to keep her alive even after its death. With her humble hunter’s knife she had slit open the beast’s belly, removed the innards and climbed inside the still warm cadaver to shield herself from the elements. Concealed within that wreckage of flesh and bone, she had waited patiently for the storm to subside or for another mode of transport to present itself. How eerily appropriate that Harlan should have stumbled across the ruined horse and provided Soledad with the perfect opportunity to continue on her journey while also inflicting another wound upon her former Master. With cold-blooded instinct, she had plugged Harlan, relieved him of his pistol and rifle, claimed his horse and vanished into the storm like a dark wraith. All things considered, the girl had declared herself a formidable adversary. Matthias roared and shot at the sky a second time.


Book Reviews one book review by Dave Besseling Born in 1979, Peterborough Ontario, Canada, Dave Besseling is currently interloping in Bangalore, India, living and traveling in a variety of countries in the last 9 years, nurturing a lateral appreciation of human diversity/mania and to some degree a relevant capacity for self-awareness. All this and a deep appreciation for pretentious headshots. He has four publications in circulaton, Nakayubi One: the cynic, the critic, the masochistic anemic. (poetry), Nakayubi Two: The Barnstormer. (poetry), Nakayubi Three: the unmeaning and the holy city (poetry) and Kusuriyubi One: Fun With Memes! (prose).

Ghost Train to The Eastern Star, by Paul Theroux. American author Paul Theroux’s 1975 book, The Great Railway Bazaar, made his name as a travel writer and effectively created an entirely new genre of writing that has often since been imitated but never wholly surpassed. 30 years later, the famous novelist sets out to re-ride the rails that took him overland from London to Japan and back with Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. But 30 years of wars and politics have made an exact retracing impossible, so Theroux improvises, and along the way gives us some taut descriptions of lands most of us will never see. His observations on Azerbaijan and the former Russian Stans are a worthy diversion for the author, who couldn’t travel parts of his original Silk Route leg, like Afghanistan. Instead he gets as close as he can, and takes a flight into India.. He obviously flies from Sri Lanka to Myanmar, but the book doesn't offer much on this, preferring to just leave out uncomfortable concessions in service of the book’s mystique. These things are forgivable The book contains some of Theroux’s most lyrical and descriptive passages in a career of descriptive lyrical passages, starting from the first page, where he almost self deprecatingly writes “Little better than a license to bore, travel writing is the lowest form of literary self indulgence: dishonest complaining, creative mendacity, pointless heroics, and chronic posturing, much of it is distorted with Munchausen syndrome.” That he does not include or disclude himself as one of these people either excuses him for any indulgences in the same vain, or asserts he has paid his dues, and is experienced enough to be able to shout form such a pedestal. 30 years has not only changed the world enough to alter Theroux’s itinerary, but the three decades since the book that established his name have changed the author as well. When he made the first trip he was broke, unhappy, and would return to London a cuckold for having undertaken the lengthy ordeal. Today, the Blackberry-toting Paul Theroux is a famous writer, and he is able to drop in and chat with some of the most well known literary figures along the way. Theroux waxes literary with Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul, cruises a sex shop in Tokyo with Haruki Murakami, gossips with Pico Iyer in Nara, and even drops in to find Arthur C. Clarke almost incoherent with old age in Colombo. These meetings of minds are certainly a treat for the reader, but with Theroux having travelled so much, some of his shorter excursions in certain cities, though consistently well written, seem glossed over and fail to penetrate. In Bangkok and Bangalore, for example, his practiced aloofness causes him to miss the mark somewhat. 68

He lazily describes the significance of the Thais wearing yellow shirts. He calls it the Royal colour, but in fact the colour is that of Monday, the day King Bhumibol happened to be born. He writes form Southeast Asia in 2006, but passes up the chance to dig deeper into the implications that caused the military coup d’état that fall. In India’s Silicon Valley, his two-day investigation doesn’t quite get him enough for the chapter to carry the impact of his longer stops in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. The fastest-growing city in the world didn’t seem to interest him much. But when you’ve been around as much as Theroux, the fact that his latest tome—the thing is huge— still contains so much fresh observation proves he hasn’t lost his trademark flair for detail, even if his ego does get in the way once in a while (he loves writing about spotting travellers reading his books or checking which of his novels line the shelves of far-flung bookshops). While the India section of the book seems rushed, he must have been taking notes—his latest work of fiction, The Elephanta Suite, combines three narratives that take place on the subcontinent. Ostensibly he was hoarding material for that. Theroux’s love of train travel is well known to his fans. He is always extolling the pleasures of sitting for days on end looking out the window, and this time, on his way back to England from Japan, Theroux sets out, for his third time in print after Railway Bazaar and Riding The Iron Rooster, over a third of the earth’s surface on the Trans-Siberian Express. If you’re planning such a train journey yourself, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, while definitely not a guidebook, makes for an engaging read and a worthy travel companion.


Essays one essay by Randall Radic Randall Radic is an Old Catholic priest, former pastor, and convicted felon. He lives in Northern California, where he reads, writes, smokes good cigars, drinks wine and visits San Francisco as often as possible. MALTHUSIAN CHAOS Las Vegas, Nevada. Sin City, it used to be called. Now it’s glimmer and glitz, plastic flesh and plastic credit cards. Where America, and most of the world for that matter, goes for fun. But fun, I have discovered, can be a very passive program. In the summer months, it’s hot in Las Vegas. And bright, because the sun glares down as if through God’s magnifying glass. Sitting in the midst of convection waves, as the heat bites the white dust and then shimmers back up, is Paradise. Paradise Memorial Gardens, a cemetery. Like the Garden of Eden, this Paradise has its serpent, too. A bad boy. His grave marker stands white in the sun; it is a simple headstone. Beneath it rests the bones of a large man – when he was alive anyway – who had the disposition of a rhinoceros. The epitaph on the stone says it all: “Here lies a man.” The by-God truth – and what a man. Charles L. Liston, aka Sonny Liston. May 8?, 1932 – December 30?, 1970. The question marks indicate a lack of certainty. For Sonny didn’t know precisely the day and the year of his birth, giving different dates at different times. Some believe he entered this world as early as 1927. And his death, well, even the authorities don’t know for sure. When his wife discovered his body, he’d lain there dead about a week. Finding no hint of foul play, the police declared his death the result of a heroin overdose. Some doubt this, suspecting Mafia intervention. So what it comes down to is this: no one really knows, or cares. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is this: Sonny was born in the wrong time and the wrong place to the wrong parents. And Sonny was born old. The kind of person people are talking about when they say someone is an “old soul.” What the right time and right place would be, or who the right parents would be, even the right age, I don’t know. Even as a youngster Sonny was like the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit: “He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces.” The wrong place was Arkansas, one of those places that are so podunk they’re not even called cities or villages. They lack so much status they’re called townships. Indeed, my dictionary defines a township as “a division of a county, constituting a unit of a local government with administrative control of local schools, roads, etc.” Johnson Township, St. Francis County, Arkansas. The wrong parents were Tobe Liston and Helen Baskin. Tobe, abusive and crude, taught his progeny the effectiveness of violent force. They acquired it through a sort of personal apprenticeship: Tobe hit them and they learned. Sonny was one of seventeen children. No glamour at all. To those who knew him, close friends and family, and children – especially to children – Sonny was gentle and kind. But to the world, he was a barbaric process instead of a description. And 70

descriptions are much easier to deal with than processes. Processes have a nasty habit of continuing even when you don’t want them to. Liston’s eyes: the eyes of a dog that’s been abused, chained, starved – sad yet resolute in their desire to please, to discover what needed to be done to receive affection. Incarcerated for robbery while in his teens, in prison he learned to box. He discovered the power in his fists. After his parole, like Prometheus unchained, he battered his way through the amateur ranks of the boxing world, eventually winning the Golden Gloves. Between 1953 and 1960, Sonny rocketed up through the professional boxing ranks, and served another nine month stretch in prison. Defeating Eddie Machen, Sonny wanted a shot at the title, held by Floyd Patterson. Patterson, though, alarmed by Sonny’s sheer physical power, avoided the fight, saying Sonny was Mafia owned and managed. This declaration, an example of informational hygiene (also known in some quarters as bullshit), camouflaged Patterson’s intra-racial attitude toward Sonny: that Sonny was unfit, as a black man, to be champion. Patterson, who was black, had decided that the world champion of boxing must be moral as well as a skilled boxer. Even then role models were in vogue. And Floyd Patterson, when he looked in the mirror, saw a worthy role model. Whereas Sonny, when he looked in the mirror, saw a snake coming out of the darkness. His self-perception was modeled after those around him, the way they perceived him. So much for role models. When Patterson could no longer dodge the fight without appearing a coward, they fought. Sonny knocked him out in the first round. Liston was the new heavyweight champion of the world. Sadly, most people viewed him as an animal, vicious, uncontrollable, amoral. And Liston did little to change this perception. Uneducated and shy, he didn’t know what to do or how to act. He had two skills: hitting people and surviving. Besides which, he was surrounded by smooth operators and exploitation artists, men who only wanted to use him to make money, then toss him aside like an old rag. To these men, and to boxing in general, Sonny wasn’t a human being. He was a commodity, an investment opportunity, a way to make a lot of money fast. Sonny, starved for kindness, desperately needed some PR. Someone to teach him what to say, when to say it, how to present himself. He needed some nursery Magic. But it wasn’t there. Ten months later, in Las Vegas, Liston and Patterson met once more. And once again Sonny decked Patterson in the first round. For a fact, this time Patterson lasted two seconds longer than the first time. He was improving steadily. The next year Liston fought Cassius Clay in Miami. At the start of the seventh round, Sonny remained in his corner, surrendering his title by default. Later, he claimed an injured shoulder had prevented the continuation of the fight. Many doubt this, saying the fight was fixed. I believe it was. So does Nick Tosches in his wonderful book, The Devil and Sonny Liston. The powers that be, and the Nation of Islam, had entered the picture. A new era of fight promotion, and a new agenda: the star was to be Cassius Clay. Sonny fought Cassius Clay, now known as Muhammad Ali, in a re-match, seventeen months later. Clay, as a member of the Nation of Islam, had a new name, a new attitude, a new style of boxing, but the same agenda. Two minutes into the first round, Ali, dancing away from Sonny, threw a punch that appeared to miss altogether. Called the “phantom punch’ because of its elusiveness, it is still discussed. Sonny, the boxer who had never been down, dropped to the floor of the ring. While Ali danced around the ring taunting the fallen Sonny, the referee tried to get Ali into a neutral corner. The count never began. Sonny regained his feet and the fight resumed. A sports writer 71

seated ringside shouted to the referee that Sonny had been down for more than ten seconds. Shamed, the referee halted the fight. According to George Chuvalo, “It was a phony.” Floyd Patterson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney and Joe Louis cried fix. Sonny, after a year’s vacation, started fighting again. He fought until 1970. But effectively, his career was over when he lost the re-match to Ali. Nevertheless, he kept fighting because that’s what survivors do, they survive, they cling to life as they know it. Was the fight fixed? I don’t really know. My personal opinion, based on the available evidence, is, yes, it was. But once again, it doesn’t really matter. Because either way, Sonny didn’t care anymore. Lying prostrate in front of the dancing Ali, Sonny’s story was over. And it wasn’t much of a story. Oh, he had been the heavy weight champ of the world. Then lost it. But so have many others. What could have happened did happen. His life couldn’t have been written any other way because he never had a chance. The abused child, one of seventeen siblings, from a hick township in Arkansas, he had no past, no present and no future. No history, no faith, no connection; no ability to make another choice because survival doesn’t include preferences. Survival is a habit, with no room for alternatives, like a room without a light. There’s no switch to turn on the lamp because there is no lamp. The room remains dark. “’Why don’t you get up and play with us?’ one of them asked. “’I don’t feel like it,’ said the Rabbit, for he didn’t want to explain that he had no clockwork.” Like the Velveteen Rabbit as it sat in the bracken with the two living rabbits, Sonny had no choice. He had no clockwork. Just like Marilyn Monroe and Edie Sedgwick, Sonny’s legend lives on, impoverished by the passing of time. Just like Sonny when he was alive, his legend, too, has no choice. It simply survives. Appropriately, his likeness resides on the cover to Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band, the famous album by the Beatles. And Sonny qualifies as one of life’s lonely hearts. He’s mentioned in Wu Tang Clan’s song Triumph. In Roll Deep’s Badman; in the Sun Kil Moon song Glenn Tipton, which song was also sung by Mark Kozelik; and in Billy Joel’s song We Didn’t Start the Fire. Mark Knopfler’s homage, Song For Sonny Liston, is found on the album Shangri-La. Additionally, Sonny is the subject of songs by This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Morrissey, Phil Ochs, The Mountain Goats and Eric Burdon and The Animals. Sonny’s most singular appearance can be viewed, forty years later, on YouTube, in a Braniff Airlines commercial. In the commercial, a stoic Sonny is seated next to, and totally different from, because of his implacable personal force, a garrulous Andy Warhol. Warhol is albino white, while Sonny is black. Warhol is emaciated and Sonny is huge. Warhol is effete, Sonny is the definition of machismo. Both died grimly. After death, both their legends live on. While alive, they were both survivors. Braniff was not. And might I suggest that the next time you are in Las Vegas you visit Paradise Memorial Gardens cemetery. Stand there in the bright physical heat, gaze upon the white marker with its inscription: Here lies a man. And feel…


The Cartier Street Review  

April 2009 Edition

The Cartier Street Review  

April 2009 Edition