Monday, July 4, 2016


(photo © Alan Semerdjian && sculpture © Eileen Karakashian)

Dregs by Forrest

One of the very last things he said to me before he died was, I'm never cleaning this cup out. He took it off the table and placed it in the cupboard with all the clean dishware, and there it would sit forever in filthy repose, if I believed him. But he died soon after this so I didn't have the opportunity to find out if he would keep his word. I nearly asked his family at the funeral if they had come across any unwashed coffee cups when tending to his personal effects. Nothing good would've come from that, I figured. His sister, in particular, seemed overwhelmed by the number of inquiries made about him, his failing health, what had he been working on, why his wife had taken the kids and was nowhere to be found. These, I thought, were good questions. Much better than mine. And over the next few days, I felt incredibly foolish for my boiling down in memory all the pleasant moments spent with him into a dirty coffee cup. That cup had meant that much to him dirty, and I was there. Did this mean there was something about me that made the cup so important then. Sometimes, however, I think that was the day he decided to give up. It just wasn't worth the hassle anymore. He was letting it all go, and it really wasn't important. Neither was I. It will be an adjustment, to be sure, but I'm willing to have other people understand less about me if they stop asking his sister so many questions. She was never skilled at creating distractions for herself.


Fortune Telling by Alan

To overcome some great sadness, the feathered thing will rise from the ashes and circle the sky seventeen times. After, rain might fall. Or perhaps what I see are little bundles of tears. Or money. Or children. Yes, they are faces after all.

The curse that was mentioned last year when you were ten is still in play only now it has transformed into flowers. Be careful about the need to bend over and smell them. Be careful about bending over. See here, in the corner. The man that bends is surrounded by volcanoes. Above him and to his side. There’s a trail that was left from the last eruption. That’s where the flowers grow. That’s what he’s searching for.

Because it’s summer, at some point there will be fireworks. Yes, yes. This is where they will start. In the thickest part. Bring it to your lips to taste the earth. Near a river in the northwest part of an island. It’s a little dark, but I imagine when the sky clears up…wait a moment. What’s this? Oh no, no, no. Vartuhi, can you believe this? Come Sona, look at its size. Do you see the eye, Sevak? I almost missed it, but from this angle it looks larger than life. Someone is watching you. Scratch your ass to keep the bad spirits away. What’s that you say? You want the spirits? Here? Now?


Future Seeing by Sherisse

He wanted to show her what he knew. Always the good friend. The light was on, the air conditioner off, rain coming down hard and making everything outside blink. The plants on the table had gone to sleep for the night. “Give me your hands,” he said. “You can tell a lot just by looking at the nails, like how far you've walked and through what desert.” She imagined it was something much more banal, like whether she chewed or filed or painted them and, if so, what color. What that revealed about her femininity. This was already boring to her, tedious. She wanted to hide. He could tell something had faded in her. He tried harder to be entertaining. She let out a deep sneeze and, embarrassed, she said in a timid voice: “Oh, please excuse me.” Making something out of nothing. If this were a first draft, she would have thrown it in the garbage. She switched her hands after the sneeze. He giggled and was amused. He wanted to make the moment more real somehow, to make an imprint, to be remembered by her. “When you were a little girl, someone hurt you very badly,” he said. She looked away; she had not given him permission to touch that place. “Now what?” she asked, her eyes challenging him. She didn't know how to swim, had no intention of learning. “Now I tell you how to repair it,” he said softly. Repair what, she wanted to know. “The thing that's knotted,” he said softly. She pictured an ancient tree, a fallen limb beyond fixing. “No. Not like that,” he said. “Together we close our eyes. We locate the heart and ask it what it wants.” The word permission came to her mind. She'd been handed a permission slip. The dissolution of some old heartbreak? She felt utterly naked, kept her eyes shut for what felt like a very long time. Her skin was hot, everything was red, on fire, glowing, spinning. There was more to say to him, certainly, and to herself. If this were a first draft she would title it before throwing it in the trash. So much to say that, for now, it demanded silence, cynicism even. She freed herself from his grip, looked at her hands. Her fingernails were long, without color. She was aware of her breathing, the oranges in the basket on the kitchen table, her tongue pressing against the roof of her mouth.


Pyrotechny by Lyle

When I looked up from my cup of coffee, the fireworks had started. Maybe they’d been going on for quite some time. I couldn’t see them from where I was, but I could hear them thudding in the distance. Occasionally one of the few slow-drifting, dark-grey clouds would light up — it’s belly orange for a split second. But mine wasn’t a fascination of pyrotechny in action, rather it was the pre-detonated state. All of that potential so quiet, so grainy. I reached into my cup and pinched some of the fine coffee grounds lining the bottom of the cup between my index finger and thumb. Rubbing it there I considered the Hot Wells Coffee factory explosion. How unpatriotic to disturb that latent energy. How unpatriotic that we watch fireworks instead of mounds of gun powder! We shall to consider the mockingbird before it takes flight — sitting quietly in the tree before song bursts forth. That is the symbol that must be considered, but perhaps after another cup of coffee.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Beginner by Sherisse

I’d like to go back to the fractured knot of silence, the rental furniture dimly lit, un-mended kitchen light bulb. That vacation spot in winter, the faraway and steady hum of bridge traffic, uncertain and queasy inventiveness, the pause before the tug of that boat⎯obligation.

Imagine you can’t bring the car or your shoes. You can’t tell her that she’s a product of exile, tan fea y tan contenta, or a damsel in distress. You can’t dance in the disco while high on anise and elderflowers. Or talk under a table about poems on fire, hard fingers reaching for a lick.

Imagine some long list of things to recount, the absence of witnesses, my redundant use of the triad. Imagine the anonymous hand cutting the sentence in half, emptiness that later blooms into ashes transported across oceans.

And imagine the old people that brought us here, below the big bed a stash of hand tools; recycled Danish cookie tins; a collection of quarters for spending at the casino or county fair.

“This, here,” you said, arriving and splayed and already on the way to tidying up. Only once, these elaborate deaths, particular coordinates. From now on I’d like to play the part of hysterical, bereft.


So You Try to Build a Wall around It by Alan

I ask the gentleman about it and he politely excuses himself. In the bathroom, I imagine, he’s reminded of his last escape and makes sure the drop is not enough to break a leg this time. Meanwhile, I eat through my own jail cell while someone laments over a Chapman Stick thick with delay.

Days later, I pretend to be frozen on my parents’ lawn. Having decided that they’d have to sell the place like so many others have gone on and done, we settle on emptying out the garage to tidy things up a bit. The visitors come like dial up (end of a court, no time for signage), but the idea lights of the suburbs for miles. It’s a storage facility. I have a tag hanging from a cuff. I wish you were here on sale too.

On the loneliest of islands is a harbor where all the boys and girls would go to kiss and smoke cigarettes and get away from the calendar for a while. Here the secrets that crawled in between garments would bite later and eventually but leave no visible mark. Instead the bump and gong of boat material against wave and itself, others. Some fool decided to build a wall around it.

My history and your history and everybody’s history rides through the night sky on the backs of meteors. And if you think we’re going to crash into a ground someday, you’re probably right. But I want to add that the ground is not solid enough to contain our histories, love. The ground is no stopping place for comets like us.


Now pass the wine by Lyle

Is it too late, once there’s blood in your wine, to contemplate god or some semblance thereof? If you own storage, is it too late to consider life at home? What about after the lights go out? Are your prayers overdue (but not before)? Has the chance gone to say I love you? How will I know? That dividing line that is all or nothing? Can monogamy be rekindled once the flame of syphilis has burned out? How long before all the stars are counted? Surely you will balk at all of these questions. There is not even the space for you to answer them. What if I say I’m sorry? When you read this (though I know you will not), will you be filled with anger? Surprise? Disgust? Or is it even too late for any of that? And when was it too late?

Answer carefully. Your life depended on it once the question was asked.


Delicate Invitations by Bill

This plane seems ordinary. Painfully so in so many ways. The lines are so often straight, collecting perpendicular angles into collapsed too small spaces, bringing what is naturally rare mundanely to wide true vistas and coaxing shadows into definite shapes. They pillared the world with uniformity.

They would be tried and charged to the end of existence if this were the merest conception of their enterprise and our initial verdict was nearly such. We must have standards after all.

But worlds exist within worlds stretching between infinities running in every direction and you do not see and what I have found inside these straight lines of ubiquity are a thousand oceans from long dead worlds suspended in air in the clear light teaming with life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


© Sherisse Alvarez

Ascent by Sherisse

The glass door had a neon yellow sign above it that lit up the sidewalk. It read: FOOT & BACK RUB. There was a framed poster hanging of a young woman wearing a bikini and an orchid in her hair. A video was playing in the second floor window: two hands pressing firmly into skin as if it were dough. This massage spot was near the subway right above Palermo Fish, between the shoe repair and the post office. All the shops were closed now but the street smelled smoky and stale from the meat and onions piled up in food carts. You could still hear the train rattling overhead. Some guys at work had told me about this place; they said for twenty bucks you could get a “happy ending.” I was sore from all those hours at the nursing home bathing men twice my size. I wanted something extra before going home to my roommate and his silence. I didn’t want beer and chips and porn. I was sick of the hangovers and shitty headaches in the morning. I was tired of the pills and the doctor’s visits and the leg cramps. I’d never gotten a massage and my palms were sweaty. What if I farted in the damn middle of it? I decided to call the number on the door. A man answered and when I asked if someone was free, he said with a heavy accent, “Okay, okay, come now, yes, we see you soon, okay, okay” and hung up. I checked my wallet to make sure I had cash. I pushed open the glass door and stepped inside. I could hear something like music coming from the massage parlor upstairs, the sound of water and bells and birds. When I got to the top of the stairs I saw a fish tank and some tiny frogs in a bowl. Two women scurried off and the man said, “Hello, friend” and pointed with his hand to a small, dark room. I went inside and he closed the curtain behind me, leaving me alone. I felt too tall and scrawny and pale. Too bald. I took off my shoes and placed my socks inside, then I set my jeans and underwear and t-shirt on the metal chair. I got on the table and put my face in the doughnut shaped pillow. My stomach growled because I hadn’t had lunch. My dick was hard. I thought about Vili, one of the nurses at the home, and how she liked to play Solitaire in the lunchroom on her break. And Chase, my roommate, eating microwaveable meals in his room in front of the TV every night. I felt a chill from the curtain opening and closing and then I heard the beeping of a timer being set. The girl covered me with a towel then coughed before she ran her hands down my back. I could feel her long hair brushing against the side of my neck. Through the doughnut hole I could see her feet, her short white socks and plastic slippers. They squeaked as she moved. I tried to close my eyes but felt like I was falling.


Can't be sure by Lyle

We weren't sure at first if he was dead. Or that we understood anything about it.

There must have been precedence, but not any of which we were aware. Someone brought out Robert's Rules of Order; it was, unusually, unhelpful. Debate-VII 43 was pretty close, but...

After the meeting -- unresolved -- I went home. The next day I went to my mother's husband's service (funny possessive, that). We chatted with his daughters about the weather. So much snow -- it doesn't matter.

But later, as I descended the stairs from the x street stop, the black slushy snow piled up next to the street -- it had frozen and unfrozen time and again and I un-understood.


A Close Accumulation by Bill

Lord Vairochana comes to escort you between the straits. He whispers in your ear the sound of wings. The words are without meaning, shapeless as thought. But the air around you is filled with feathers.

Many birds can be heard because the words did not form in the mind but in space and the intangible walls take form and draw between them a door. The light is unbroken, the shadows full because this in-between has no time for separations.

Colors cannot exist. The wind is full roaring outside and the stillness oppressive inside such that the table in the corner explodes from the pressure. It is here and now that you stare.


The Architect by Alan

Inside the head, the architect spins a web, takes on the shape of a fear, and a few other unnamed provinces. For what is this life if not directions from angels meant for entrances via staircases. The young get younger as we never age at the top staring down. The light is our flattened halo.

Before any bottom is the drop. Before any swallow is the mouth. Gentle, swallow...he is new to this taking. Patience, swallow...there is no true hungry mother waiting to steal away your kill to feed her cub.

The final draft may go like this: he may turn one way or the other, but he must never be afraid of the dark or the edge of a crop. For the time being, he will sit at no desk while investigating the middles. One is a path he sees (through dim light) from time to time. The other is that very room in which he both drew and lost his heart.


Architecture by Johanna

Before this, the mountains called her down and drew her into their belly where she found a small house made of bricks. Each year, for one hundred years, a brick came loose from the architecture and she used the clay from earth to replace its mortar. Inside the house, she built a fire. She threw in every bit of paper she could find. Photos from childhood, books of poetry and her passport were the first to incinerate. Later, she burned the toilet paper. There was nothing left to burn.

She rubbed her face in the cold embers. She ran in the yard and splashed in the mud puddles She turned cinder grey and adobe brown. She called to the coyotes to join her. The coyotes mistook her for one of their own, until the moonlight revealed that she was only human.

She returned to the house and took a brick from the wall. She ate it crumble by crumble until it filled her belly with its weight. She felt full and grounded. She ate another. She ate the whole house, which rebuilt itself inside her gut, the fire rekindled. She was still hungry. She took a bite from the mountain. She ate and ate, but the mountain did not change. She climbed to the top and reached to the sky. She pulled down the stars. One by one she ate the stars, but there were never any fewer. She walked to the ocean and drank and drank until she was finally full.

On the shore, she fell asleep. In the moonlight, her skin glowed iridescent. The moon called to her, mistaking her for a star. The tide pulled her out into the belly of the sea. When she awoke, she was cold and wet. She turned herself inside out and sat by her hearth. She blew great puffs of stardust at the fire until it exploded, and the cosmos consumed her completely. A single speck of ash floated down to the mountains and fell through an ancient fissure. The last known particle of her breath settled.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Playing with Spirit by Sherisse

There were spirits in the house. All around, you said. The doctor was called in. They gave you little pills in big bottles. Your hair fell out. You were still beautiful.
Or, perhaps if you had come to me as a woman...
I don't know what the deal is with the ligaments, tendons, or the lemon in the water. It hurts. It hurts very much when I use the semi-colon. There's space between the land and us and it's all right here.
Words are for spirits. Grandmothers. Hair pins. Cervical spine.
You went there and were so very pretty. In the interim. Dot, dash, delicate as a furry lick. Fox.
Come again, spirit, to the palm of a hand. Break into pieces, break, break, break into nothingness before the curl of goodbye. Pin me to that moment.
Spirit is for romance. Music in the hollow of the contractor or the silence at the other end of an e-mail. Discussion. Thursday, then.
Items: font, air, follicle. Spirit is for muse. Spirit is for banal and bendy truths. So ticklish, in your grip. Hello again, hello.
I could go on like that for strings. Long elbow-bends. Into regret and asterisks. Into such goof. Lend me the play and in springtime I will wear it.
Rheumatoid ladybug. All up my sleeve.
Where does breath go? I'm wanty for white space and un-editing.
A man is at home, turning carrots into soup.


Top of the Stares by Alan

To walk into a room and. The dipoff led to a drop that was about. She had no care for stairs, but that was the only way to. Look, I’m not telling you to, yet. Instead of a flashlight, he flashed some form of.

It was a haunting, this. We are told we meet all manner of people when. We are told not to deny them and then. Follow the middle way as stuff arises in. If this sounds familiar, it is because. Searching these dark rooms for traces, for. Wisdom, the voice, its echo – a family unit since. I, by.

It is in the story that we will finally begin although. We will read and reread what has been written so as. The top of the stares, another. Should the height dislocate you, find footing beside. We must not look down or up, only. If fonts could speak, what conversations throughout. What conversations against and within. Everyone is partial sometimes over.


Wind by Lyle

Vitex trees curved under the insistence of the wind outside the window that day that we first met. And again on our last meeting. Neither of us doubted that it would end, but the wind — so insistent, so hegemonic — both times! That was something to dwell upon. The way it picked through the leaved while forcing to inflection boney limbs. That we were in a hollowed out whiskey tank hardly crosses my mind — the dim whiskey glow of filament bulbs. That crystalline glint in your eyes as we talked to death, us. I just remember that wind, the wind up and release. It’s windy now, you know. You don’t know — insensible as you are in the wrinkles of my brain. I believe also that there are gusts there that occasionally blow you about like an empty beer can. But the wind doesn’t blow the wind — that at least is a constant. If there was nothing to blow around, what difference the wind? How you used to complain about my complaining about the wind! Remember? That IS the wind, blowing unto itself. You are no longer you. You have been blown ragged, the cracks in your face filled with sand. The tank, as we entered, said SPIRITS above the entrance. I remember that. But now I remember the wind instead of you.


Spark Joy by Johanna

Once the Konmari had taken over, there was little she could do to release it, but to clean. From every dark cabinet corner, she wiped, dusted, swept and whistled away the accumulation of years of solitude. She had lived in her house for so long that some corners had been forgotten. She found a shard of sea glass in the bottom of the drawer where she kept her playing cards and had no recollection of its origin. She held it loosely in her palms and focused all of her attention toward it. She let go of any reason that might seek to supersede her intuition and decided that, yes, this miscellaneous shard of sea glass did spark joy.

In the far recesses of her linen closet, she found her childhood doll, Mimsy, the one with the missing eye, the one she held onto since childhood, hauling it from apartment to apartment, wrapped in tissue paper. She held it quietly and to her surprise discovered there was no joy. She let the doll go. Someone else could love it more. She did not cry. In fact, she felt relief, amazing relief. She felt more encouraged than ever to complete her task. The Konmari spirit was strong in her.

No corner could hide from her cleansing hand. For every shelf, cabinet and niche she tidied, another would appear—darker, dustier and more crowded than the last.

And when she was done, she sat in the quiet and waited. The whole house felt light enough to drift aloft into the ether, to release her of all her earthly burdens. She waited three days before she began again. The Konmari spirit never rests.


Hit On by Bill

Robert Cawling thought he saw the shape of his dream inside. He took a step and as his foot touched down he felt a spark in the sole of his foot. He wanted to stop but he took another step before he could help it and his other foot landed hard and echoed along inside. Now he tried to stop again and could not, his leg moving heavy and slow it lifted itself and came down a step higher with great noise like two stones punched together. And again his leg moved though he could barely flex it it had grown so stiff and solid.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Smile by Alan

The emoticons seemed to jump off the rack these days, thought Racine to herself shortly after returning from lunch break. Not like last season at this time when everything was a series of slow and deliberate hesitations. “More like indecision,” was what came out of her mouth suddenly but with an air of waking to a new day after serious time spent traveling in a car perhaps or on a plane. All of a sudden whether people were more or less in touch with their emotions became a game of intuition she would play with herself. This one, with the heavy eyebrows. He will want the tongue. And this one, shy and in the grey, the turd. And so the hands of the clock would turn and a face would wink and a blanket or two would be sold and she would sneak off for a cigarette and never tell the woman who worked at the kiosk near the exit door about her musings even though she wanted to.

She knew immediately that the older woman in the kiosk had a crush on her but it wasn’t confirmed until weeks later into that season when her phone lit up out of the blue. They had never exchanged numbers (though she recalled one instance in which she had said her number aloud to a customer, an old classmate, yes), so at first there was some confusion. But the signal was unmistakable. A series of faces and symbols coming in just after midnight. They fell on her lap like haiku, and she spent time trying to make sense of the message. This life was funny at times, she thought it said, and other times filled with a sad kind of mystery and charm. Musical notes might ring out from a hand gesture if we’re lucky, there is a green tree at the top of a hill that is the arch of your back (which is also where some champion would like to ski), and, most of all, mask on or mask off…there really is no difference in the rain.

After that night, there wasn’t a palpable silence or anything like that as much as there was a slight but definitive shift in the taking of inventory of the day. Nothing came of the text message because Racine never answered back. It was difficult to make eye contact going forward, but there was a comfort in the knowing that the other existed as well. And every attempt to intimate a feeling thereafter was charged with memory’s afterglow, which can light up a room, she began to understand, as well as any urge to get in touch and say what we really feel.


Middle Name by Sherisse

The spider as well as other, coiled, insects have shown up in my dreams. Recently, while in a foreign house, I held one in the white palm of my hand. I felt like a man then, bold, but wasn’t wanting to injure or kill. I simply needed a morning shower and solitude. To not be in occupied space, to expand. This has nothing to do with the question you asked: what’s behind the smile? Or whether I buy things in stores or from the open air markets at the center of town. Well, if you must know and if you insist on knowing, I live like a criminal. Or the descendant of one. There is no furniture in my place, only stacks of unopened letters. To match the distance, a kind of emptiness. But you have always liked that word so much better in another language. Sunyata. And the grownup word for spider? It came through a woman whose middle name is Josephíne. A police officer, over a telephone, says so. Her word for spider is missing. In my little shit mind I hear hissing, kissing. It wasn’t the right way, a phone call. Water would have been better. To fill me up with it. To watch me pop like a birthday party balloon. To be that loyal to god, or grief.


Seven Tentacled Lightning by Bill

You say it your way and I’ll say it mine. We’re all going to heaven if we can get out just fine. The days make me sleepy even when I stare at the sun; using your ass as a pillow is just a better sort of fun. The kink shop is up and the poor are way down because the bankers expect a wet kiss on top of their crown.

In the mornings we drink between a fit and a shit, and get dirty looks from some uppity tit. We slap ‘em and spit ‘em with a kick for good measure, we’ll harass your grandma in all kinds of weather. We’re here to be crude since that’s how it’s done, the price to be paid since Reagan won.

We’re keeping the world strange, exciting and weird, we’ll show them the cost of not keeping their word. It’s a fascinating time so look all around, at the stars shining out or panties dropped to the ground. We can sing between planets, we can dine underwater, we just have to pay attention, to what really matters.


Say Cheese, Weirdo by Lyle

You gotta look at the camera. Otherwise this won't work.

Of course I know that, but I can't make myself looks at the cyclopic, myopic, disembodied pupil. And so it doesn't work and we are disappointed and I am depressed and terrified that I have been consumed anyway. At last we are silent and old and the biophony has returned to it's natural state and there is only a slight sheen in the darkness.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Speakers Corner

Cornered by Johanna

Hush, she whispered.

The closet was dark except for the lines of light that shone through the cracks in the door panel. I could make out the silhouette of clothes draped over hangers. The smell of mildew burned my eyes and caused tears. Or maybe it was the pressure of her hand over my mouth as we crouched on the floor. Or maybe it was fear.

Outside the closet door, the men rustled through our belongings. I was asleep when mother grabbed me and carried me in there with her to hide. I didn’t know what they were looking for. I couldn’t ask her. I hoped they weren’t looking for us. I hoped they didn’t want whatever else was in the closet with us. But then the door unhinged and I watched a pair of muddy boots step forward as mother pulled me back. I felt the corner of a box, maybe one used to store out-of-season shoes or old photo albums, stab into my back, but I didn’t dare complain.

I was sure he would hear our breath or my heartbeat. My heart was so loud in my head I thought the whole room echoed with its vibration.

He rapidly pushed aside the clothes. A shirt fell to the floor and landed at mother’s feet. I thought for sure then that he would see us. Another man called out, and the muddy boots turned briskly away. There was silence then. The quietest kind. Quieter than the dark closet, quieter than my internal organs, quieter than snow.

Mother released her grip and sighed.


The Steps Up the Mountain by Bill

We settled on the mountain looking down and saw the seasons turn below us. We settled on the mountain to watch the stars in the night spin away in the heavens. We settled on the mountain and watched the stones and the stones watched us back. We sat there and stopped thinking of where we had come from, where the old king had been born and marched ahead of his columns as the body and mass of it moved away further and further, climbing high into the thin air full of wind. We listened to stone and wind. We were still but moving.

We sent a message to the forest people down below. Give us your treasure.

Eventually their response arrived. They sent their old woman back up the hill without a horse because the rocks might be found too treacherous and they could not ride one anyway for that is something we had learned after we marched away. The rams who leapt among the rocks lived too high for them to catch and tame, and the rams would not let them ride in any case so she came slowly but sure, steady on her sturdy legs. She came wrapped in scarves and her fur and glasses over her one good eye and the other fixed with a patch. She came up the mountain and passed through the walls and all of the people talked about the treasure but few followed her out of their fear. She entered the castle we had raised up on top of the stone and walked up to the king. He stared up at her and she down at him with her good eye. She swiped her paw across his neck and tore out his throat. Blood ran down his chest and she ripped open his ribs and ate his heart.

She turned to look at me and I did not know if she would kill me too. She reached out her bloody paw and touched my face leaving the bloody mark. She walked back out of the throne room with the blood still wet on her muzzle, the treasure delivered, a grandmother’s duty to her family fulfilled.


Speaker Before and After by Sherisse

I was set to quit. The walls had started closing in on me. Sitting in my desk chair hurt every bone in my body. I'd had many dreams about my boss screaming in meetings and jerking off in boardrooms. The day I planned to tell him I was leaving, my dog died in the corner of my kitchen. I took off so I could bring his body to be cremated. When I went back to the office my boss hugged me and I knew I didn't yet have the balls to tell him I was done. He wasn't all bullshit. He had a heart sometimes too. He'd been in the army. He'd seen stuff. A few days after Darby died, my parents called to say they were getting divorced for a second time, my brother went into rehab and my niece told me she was having an abortion. I went home that Friday and considered never leaving the house again. On Monday I went in and my boss didn't know who I was. My co-workers didn't know who I was. Had I changed that much? No. I had gotten new glasses and my wife had threatened to leave if I didn't get help but I was still the same man. "It's me," I said, "Howard. I've worked in HR for eight years." Nothing. Blank stares. Security was called, then the police. I was handcuffed, stuffed into the back of a cop car, searched at the station. I wasn't a ghost. I had just run out of time.


Cornered by Forrest

One of the worst things about Speaker's Corner, other than that the street lights have never worked there, keeping it preternaturally dark throughout all hours, including daytime, strangely enough, because of it being situated next to tall buildings that also keep their lights off most of the time, which often gives me the impression the financial district is always abandoned as I pass through it on my way back home on foot, raising the distinct possibility I will be mugged or worse though, thanks to the security cameras installed, the perpetrator of this hypothetical crime will be indentified, to be sure, so I may be avenged by Law or public outrage, assuming, however, those security cameras actually work, which is uncertain to me, as those dark, beady eyes which I never see moving in any direction or showing a pulse of life, and are not there for mere subterfuge to make said perpetrator think twice about what he or she is about to do, assuming criminals do think twice about their crimes, and I've assumed they do sometimes because, avenging aside, why bother putting up a security camera to when something more beneficial and practical like, for instance, working street lights can be put up instead, and for the reason that I'm a statistical anomaly, someone who has never been the victim of a violent crime despite passing through Speaker's Corner at the worst time of night all by myself, alongside those shallow glass buildings, in the absence of those working street lights, is that I seldom meet anyone interesting there.


The Idea by Alan

1. Somewhere in the modern city, a man gives himself to an idea. That all people should have a voice in the conversation may not sound like the most radical notion, but to those who are comforted by the exact location of their desks, floor, amount of sunlight, etc., it’s that one tiger in the show that refuses the hoop and waits a little longer to step up to the stool.  

2. “This is the new architecture,” he imagines her saying, her fingers wetting the tips of the pages with each turn.  The manual, an irrepressible thing yearning for actualization, prods the sensitive executives in her office who are hiding a little more than encrypted messages on the refrigerator wall.

3. The Speakers’ Corner would be a democratic space, open to all who needed it, very much like the Garden of Lovers flashing outside city hall or the Riverside Arches moaning somewhere north of the predetermined spot.  The invitation would always be there, a short step up from the concrete on a five by six wooden palette, just large enough for two but mostly/inevitably occupied by one.  And it would transform.

4. Amidst the planning, the thought comes to her.  It is a noble insertion.  There is no great poetry without great audiences, no matter the integrity of the corner or the room.  We cannot all be waiting our turn at the mic if we want this thing to work.  

5.  “But what about audience?” she asked one night.  And then “Surely we can’t stop needing each other?”


@SpeakerzCorner by Lyle

*SpeakersCorner __ Silence is key. Pauses, crescendos, glottal stops, caesura, that red, blinking hand at crosswalks. Baffled silence wasn’t particularly frowned upon by the mute crowd, gagged as they were by legislation. And so they called it Speakers’ Corner. The grass was never watered.

*OfficeOverlook __ I would watch them down there from my office window. Babbling! I, of course, didn’t know what they were saying until I bugged it. Right behind the “R.” And then there was no stopping them. My magnetic tape would be full when I came in in the morning. And this wasn’t a cheap “hobby” — I realized too late.

Of course the first thing I did was hire a linguist — after I felt like I had enough evidence.

The first guy thought I was crazy. So did the next few — I lost count for a while. So I finally decided to linger amongst them.

Someone did, ultimately, speak my language and so I hired him. And thus we have the following manuscript:


It is some micro speakers’ corner gibberish. It has to be, but my translator swears that it is inconsequential. He said inconsequential. I don't know that that was a translation.

  Really —

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Water Fountain

Thirst by Forrest

One is thirsty. There is only one place because it should be only one: a fountain installed, and this is all thirst needs. On a hot day, everyone who is thirsty will line up to observe the thirst of others, how it makes them social, complacent or petulant, how it makes them eager for converstation or willing to ignore it altogether, only to have a drink when it is their turn. One will move on quickly from drink, the line is grateful; one lingers, there becomes impatience, soon uproar. One should not be thirsty forever. Cannot be. One in line says this. The thought sends a commotion down the line, especially for those confused at the very end. One can be thirsty forever, it seems. There is only one line. There is only one place. One cries and wails, waits for waiting itself, though no one ahead listens. One is almost there, thinking, I'm happy that I won't be the one thirsty for much longer. Even a glimpse of a fountain during that thought can be beautiful. All cries and wails are forgotten, the line itself. One thinks thirst is understood then. Far and distant down the line, thirst seems to beckon, return, because there is a line still which will make the absence of thirst a pleasure later. Even during a glimpse. Even during a drink. One may stay thirsty forever. A commotion begins at the front of the line. One has waited for nothing. The waiting at the front is the same as the waiting at the end. One has the next turn but waits, looking at the only fountain, seeing it. One has the place. One does not want to know what remains after thirst. One will remain thirsty. The rest will remain thirsty forever.


Fountain by Alan

The school was built with the intention that the learning would revolve around the gathering and redistribution of gifts given during a particularly joyful season that would otherwise never be used. The first to go was his son’s cordial sweater adorned with proper insignia that was not really going to be his style and then several boxes of chocolates from coworkers and a crate of compact discs from the past three decades of bands that never quite made it to wider circles. The moving was done on days off, and “the company,” which is what they decided to call themselves, would post pictures of the work in the hallways in between classrooms while school was in session and on their periods off. It’s no coincidence that they fell in love. Love is what happens when people decide to, finally, commit themselves to something far greater than their individual selves can commit to. In other words, love is born in the classroom if the classroom has no walls. Knows no other vows.

There was no end specifically listed in the initial proposal. The business at hand was everything. They would stop occasionally and drink from the fountain installed in between Biology and Man’s Inhumanity to Man. It was the cleanest fountain they knew of in the building or anywhere else for that matter. And they would approach it with a thirst for the ages, lingering longer to rinse out whatever tiny flavor was left from the last meal (or maybe to feel it, know what it was differently), hoping to not offend others. These were moments of reflection on what’s on the inside of these bodies, what highways, what channels, and what bones that emerge from the deepest slumbers. Because of the nature of their schedules, they were alone mostly while drinking. And it could only have been that way, for God’s singularity is what, ultimately, is the impetus for its creative impulses (one student had said in seminar) and, perhaps, ours. And what is it that the prophet had said, that to love is to make the other feel free? All this while the world outside made preparations for the turning of the calendar year, stacking presents they received and presents they had yet to give, some of which would ultimately be targeted by the company for new addresses. But first the fountain.


Decadence by Sherisse

At the water fountain, I waited and let you drink first. I’d forgotten how to write you. I’d wanted to speak of the white of your shirt, tell you how it may have been all along about beauty (and fathering).

Eyeglasses on a table.
Cups. Plates.
Thank you.
A way in.

As the water pours, my right becomes my left. I sip five, seven, five. I am reading Nin and the lunchroom ladies call her crazy.

I am planning to give you my men. To be old in you. I am hoarding the cotton of your clothes and watching all your quiet carnivals. I am lending you my women, their taut and nervous muscles.

And. Or.


Longing by Lyle

Why is it so hard to look to the future with longing, while seeing the past that way is so easy?

I am reminded of a culture that believes that past and future are like a stream (not unlike our own culture, of course) but that they stand looking downstream, the past having washed over them -- in front, not behind. While the unknowable (and that's all right) future rushes - no - drifts toward them, backs turned. Royalty would have servants stand upstream and put drinks in little boats, which would float past occasionally, and irregularly. Surprises from the future. I love this thought.

How unlike a water fountain that we face, head-on with such obduracy - and disappointment when it is dry.

Expectations are such nasty creatures. But then so are longings for something that has floated past you. Ineffable even at that moment of passing.

This water fountain must be dry. I will not even twist the handle. You can not long for something that has not and will not happen.


 STOP/GO by William

She’s gotta think about the life ahead of her, about the shapes of tomorrows and the beginnings of wilder planes of existence full of inconceivable geometries and more easily understood trigonometries, where the vocal cords of highways sing long, sweet songs.

We are out of time at the edge of the map and the edges are singed, crisp and flaking off leaving little doubt there was one more instruction we needed. We are past the point when a pint will settle our stomach, calm our nerves, and solve the most pressing of problems. We see only the light shining in and miss the shadow it casts, see the moon but miss the dog chasing it.

She stops for a drink. The rest of us miss it, don’t notice she is gone until we are too lost to do anything about it. Thing is she knew where she was going. She will find it no matter what, step up to the edge and walk over out of whatever that simple way of being we take for granted is. We thought we lead the way but she was steering from the back. We will be lucky to get out of the basement, to make it back to a window in time to see her in the sky, shoeing the wolf away from the sun.