Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rudolph II

Dark by Ron Estrada

There’s another part in the Bible that isn’t actually in it.  It’s only there in the boy’s own imagination.  But it feels part of it, all in line; it’s when he’s praying.  His mom used to pray with him at his bedside when he was a kid.  She’d kneel, they’d both kneel and say the, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” part and then the boy would go and then she’d go with their own parts.  Over the years she would take a step back, then watching him do the whole thing by himself while she stood in the doorway.  And then she wouldn’t be there at all.

The room, to the boy, never felt like God.  Outside did.  And that’s what he started to do, go outside to pray at night.  He’d kneel on the garden ground, pull his sleep pants up to his thighs if it was wet or there was snow and would pray aloud.  He was alone; his mom still wasn’t around.  This was in one way.  In another, he felt less alone than in his room.  He thought of other kids outside saying their prayers, all of them, and him, alone, together alone.

He’d finish and wipe off of his knees, go back to his room.  He prayed for a lot of things.  He didn’t pray for this, out loud, but hoped it: that he’d be so tired when he got back to his bed that he wouldn’t have to think of anything.


Turning In by Bill

Greetings and salutations. I've got my hands clasped together, and I am kneeling on the box. My calves are cramping, and I just want to get home and open the box of cookies that I received at work today. I'm not going to share any of them either. They were given up for me, and that, for once, must be made whole.

Johns and solicitations. Send down another crate of nails, hammer together another dozen mangers, have some left over and throw them in if it starts to look low. Cash in hand as they open the door, cash in hand as they leave. Wreaths on the doors are ok, but never put one in the room. Orchids and daisies are a must.

Senators and procrastination. We are easy in the speeding, dangerous in our breeding. We gave up on the low-life a long time ago, lost our illusions that the hard edges framing the pimps was the cream we needed for our coffee. Where the dervish whirled we gave them the air from our lungs and the sweat from our brow. We ran our hands over them and set every nerve in their body blazing with our adoration. They spun us around and made us dizzy watching them. Our heads faded to weightlessness, the world that should have been still on either side of our ears spiraling downward. Their twirling ideas seemed to float across the air toward us. We raced out into the night and took to the roads drunk in amazement, ascetic in our contempt. We took the back tires off the road and watched the snow blow past the windows, paying for the gas with plastic coins and novelty belt buckles. The shopkeeps stared at us, bemused, wishing us away on whatever endless quests they never hoped to take.

Family drama and libations. Hate is just like love and should be saved for someone special, should be forced to gallop away to Mercia, perhaps Mantua, imagining in the fires stacked dangerously high with logs the world spinning in the heart of the nemesis. Bells ringing unstruck as boots scrap across the floor, we'll hang the cards around the door, sip from a warm mug, imagine chains rattling across the cellar, and sleep.


Some Other Family by Beth

My mother resented going to Canada for every family vacation. It was where my father had gone with his parents, and he loved it, and he was the one who made the money. Mostly we went to Prince Edward Island, with the wide beaches made of soupy clay, the lines of endless gentle breakers, the dune grass. Like my mother, I hated the ocean – all those endless waves going same, same, same, and over, over, over.

My mother sat at the picnic table in the shade, near the swingset, and my father and brothers ran around on the beach like idiots, and when my mother had cleaned up the cookout she’d cooked in the metal grate next to the picnic table, when she had settled back in the beach chair she insisted on carrying with her everywhere (even on the rare occasions when we flew somewhere), and had taken out the latest National Geographic, I would go away from her, a few feet at a time, until I was on the edge of the woods, and then until I was just behind the front line of trees that the park’s caretaker took care of, and then until I was all the way in the woods, so far in that I couldn’t hear the ceaseless sound of waves and wind and gulls and my mother angrily turning the thick pages of her magazine.

So far in that I couldn’t have heard her even if she noticed I was gone and called to me. So far in that one time I came out almost to the other side, to some other family’s campsite. And I crouched and watched the family, with their pop-up camper and their radio tuned to a baseball game, which I guess had to have been the Blue Jays, or maybe the Expos. Their kids were playing, jumping up and down on a board-and-rope bridge over a little stream. The boy jumped down hard and the girl popped up and laughed, and they did it over and over but the parents never yelled at them to cut it out. And while I was crouching down there, the back of my legs started shaking and I thought about what it would be like to be a major league catcher, crouching down all through a game. But I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t leave until I could see that the sun was going down, leaving only the tops of the trees still in sunlight. And the last thing I saw before I turned to go was the dad, throwing a baseball up high, so high it could still catch the sun.


Prayers from the People by Alan

“In that high place in the darkness the two oddly sensitive human atoms held each other tightly and waited.”
- Sherwood Anderson from Winesburg, Ohio

While Julio hoped and hoped and hoped for his hometown team to turn it around, the Vanderveese twins’ continued reverence for the saint hardened like a statue in the shadows of a sunny afternoon in Minnesota. They were identical but (remarkably) of different gender. If you don’t already know, this type of thing is quite rare. The miracle arrived after the zygote split. And some say they’ve been praying since. It was as if they weren’t meant to be, but yet here they were – two ghosts materialized, two platonic lovers swimming through time, two angels with one wing.

Meanwhile, half a country away, Julio resisted the urge to purchase season tickets because he didn’t want “that undeniably empty feeling that comes with deep faith in something that simple cannot and will not come true.” Apparently, money ups the ante in the card game of belief.

There is a third player in this tragedy. Her story is currently being written. But you, dear reader, can bet your bottom dollar that her address lies smack in between those of Julio’s and the twins’ and that she’s also searching for someone or something deeply, painfully, in the middle of the night.


Overshadows by Johanna

Moishe had been planning this since Black Friday, examining the architecture, street lights and general proximity of the courthouse. He had no doubts holding him back as he sketched out his plans – the approach, tools and timing of the particular deed. The day of was crisp and clear so that the night was just as he hoped it would be, a moonless sky embroidered with sequins. On the courthouse steps, he entered the display of the nativity scene and, with great care, moved baby Jesus into Mary's lap so that he could use the stool Jesus was perched upon. He tugged at his tzitzit, straightened his yarmulke, and stepped up onto the stool. The red and green lights reflecting off of the old stone building provided enough light for him to string his rope over the four by four framing of the manger and wrap it taut around his throat.

He thought of his mother, a long time ago, before he converted to orthodoxy, before he prayed and kept kosher, when Hanukkah was still an important holiday. He saw her standing over the stove frying latkes and singing the dreydl song on repeat; she only knew the first verse. The house was strung with blue and white lights and their menorah took up the entirety of their small kitchen table top. Over each candle, they sang prayers and when it was time to open presents, she beamed over her children with anticipation. The excitement of a new toy kept him entertained until bedtime when he and his brother were allowed to listen to one hour of radio. He put down his new set of Lincoln Logs and settled into the couch. From the corner of his eye, he could see a flutter of his mother disappear into her room as the story of Saint Nick played across the airwaves and captivated his young imagination.


Transcription by Lyle

Norman reads from a transcript in front of the congregation. On a large screen, a photo scrolls across a screen slowly, like a codex.

Concerning cement statue #4. Began Feb 9, 1959 by artist — same. Inspiration — same. Finished Feb 18, 1959.

Concerning cement statue #5. Began Feb 18, 1959 afternoon by artist — same. Inspiration — same. Finished Feb 27, 1959.

Concerning cement statue #6. After a brief hiatus, artsit — same — began Feb 29, 1959. Inspiration — varied them of same with geometric variables equal but inverse. Note light on subject cement statue #6. Possible ramifications of light: 1. enlightened status 2. severe torture 3. both 4. sunburn (holding some kind of cultural significance) 5. the cement equivalent to sunburn: fading. Finished March 17, 1959.

Concerning cement statue #7…

This transcription continues for three more hours at which point the congregation rises in silence, bows briefly first to Norman, then to their neighbors, subsequently removing themselves from the room in single file. By the time Norman comes out, the moon is at its apex and a single very dark cloud floats very slowly under the bottom edge of the luminescent tumor. Norman sighs in relief, closes the large wooden doors behind him and turns the key in the lock.


A Winter Intercession by Forrest

Hail Mary, I’m full of grapes, and my sled is with you. Tested are you among mushers, and blessed is my Fruit Of The Loom. Holy Shit, Mother of Mountains, pray for us sledders, now and at the hour of our descent. Ah-men!

Monday, November 1, 2010


The Night Sound of Soul Mates Finding Each Other by Arlene Ang

Before Cosgrove came to live in the park, he was a novelist. He had written so many books that he couldn’t remember where he sent them. The publishers and agents never called him back and, after a while, he decided that phones were superfluous. For that matter, they never mailed him back his manuscripts—which only proved that the advantages of having a mailing address were overrated.

Ferguson, the dog, found him just when he was at his lowest. Recent regulations prohibited all forms of writing in the park. In anger, he had thrown his writing kit—made up of scalpels, a ballpen, green spray paint, some pencils—from the ornamental bridge and walked away. Ferguson, dressed as Santa Claus, fetched it back and ran after him. Cosgrove touched the saliva on the leather. He was at a loss for words for the first time in his life. He took it from Ferguson’s jaws and smiled.

Later, he unzipped his pants under the sign: Do Not Write on Bamboo. By his feet, Ferguson raised a leg in unison.


Scene by Forrest

Max, old boy--on the Fourth of July I'm walking you over to the bamboo forest park. I got kicked out of there last year for trying to finish carving a heart around a lover's initials on a stalk. And if someone catches you with the Santa hat on, no worries. She'll know either of us can't change with the change of scenery, but the other only has to hang around to make it seem less foolish.


Whole Stone by Bill

Live long in your growing green inches inching inch by inch towards the sky, signed, from one sexual tyrannosaurus to another. As I let go of the stone that was carrying me down toward the sea-bed a girl in white robes dove past me, and though I have already suffered for this I guess I'll come back up again out of the abyss and stand under the sky asking why it finds us free. Destiny on the wind, covered in oil, milleniums of decayed plankton torn up from their last resolve and spuming on the surface of our eyes, fettering the frills of our cap.


Feeling less Powerful by Alan

Victor Rasputin’s holiday commitments entailed a trip to his marginalized cousin’s two-story palace of sin on Lexington, extended conversations with his mother-in-law (who was, actually, a pretty “cool” woman by most standards), and several hours of godforsaken traffic between boroughs.  What made matters worse was that he had recently decided to stop smoking cigarettes in his car.  Irritable, beaten, and worn, he shut most of his windows without pressing “save,” blew off all new updates.  As the year grew to a close, he changed his status like he changed his underwear, but the result was the same: no comments.

In the evenings when his partner fell asleep, he would lie awake on the sofa in the living room dreaming of options.  He could smell them, trace their shapes, and discuss them with hoards of people (acquaintances whom Victor knew but kept at a distance) for hours on end.  These musings would stimulate a certain sense of euphoria in him, hark back to a more glorious time when he felt stronger, more powerful.  It was his faith in these stirrings – neither whimsical nor measured – that catapulted him through the day, a faith that ultimately was responsible for the only way Victor Rasputin was able to fall asleep in the days leading up to the most wonderful time of the year.


Dog Christmas by Johanna

Kibble. Kibble. Kibble. This hat is humiliating. I can't shake it. Stupid holiday. Bone. Bone. Bone. They think it's hilarious. They're flashing that light on me and laughing into it. Treat. Treat. Treat. I smell dominance and fear in this cactus atrium. The saguaro reeks of chihuahua. Play. Play. Play. This vest is itchy but worse is that thing on my head with the white pom pom on top, keeps screwing with my peripheral vision. Toy. Toy. Toy. It's tough enough being this close to the ground. Tree. Tree. Tree. Ah. Bamboo, my old friend, I've been looking everywhere for you. Leak. Leak. Leak. That's better. Go ahead laugh, but you didn't see that, did you? Wag. Wag. Wag.


Jolly Holidays by Beth

Yes, I would like to take you to a place with bamboo trees. It would have a boardwalk, too, with sand sifting into grooves on the tops of the screws that hold it together. We would walk on the boardwalk, holding hands (which we never do), and wearing flip flops (which we never wear), and sometimes I would feel my little toe slipping off the flip flop to touch the boardwalk, which would feel rough and gritty with the sand. I would be carefree about this, about my permeable skin touching a public place. About the possibility of cutting myself, or banging my toe on something. And you would not allow yourself to question your masculinity, just because you were wearing something on your foot that in some cultures and at some times has been called a thong. We would drift down the boardwalk, and maybe buy some ice cream, and I might even get a sugar cone, even though I’ve never liked sugar cones, just because I like the way the words sound when I say them to the teenage boy behind the counter. You would not get rum raisin, as always, and I would not get strawberry, as always, but instead we would get exotic flavors that I can barely imagine – ones that involve fresh mango or passion fruit. And yes, we would go there over Christmas, and although our families might miss us at the overheated family gatherings, they would understand that we are a family now, you and I, and if they had it all to do again they might just do it differently.


City Ordinance by Lyle

“Do not write on the dog.” City Ordinance 28.372c.

City Ordinance 28.372d. — “Do not write on other otherwise tethered objects including flora like trees or bamboo.”

A history of writing on bamboo (or otherwise tethered objects) has been inscribed in the margins of my copy of The City Ordinance (required reading for all City Employees). It begins at this Ordinance and continues, in the margins, through the tome (otherwise impossible to read). From the middle, somewhere:

Bamboo is lithe and supple. Reminds me of burgeoning youth. Though this is somewhat tautological, I heard it on an episode of NPR, I think. That bamboo is both lithe and supple, I mean, not burgeoning youth. They also said that it’s good for flooring because it’s renewable, but still kind of expensive and that it makes for tremendous torture devices — sliver under the fingernail. They still use it in places. Don’t know what the episode was about. Just bamboo, I guess. Very cost effective and

At this point the book has been torn in half — governmental Sharpie under close scrutiny. They haven’t replaced my copy yet, but they’ve left me the half up to that point. I was looking forward to getting to the history of writing on bamboo, as the notes had previously promised. So I have my own little revolt. My own writing on a dog. On bamboo. These photos. My voice. Writing = culture. I am not tethered. I hope they don’t trace it back to me though…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Prospect Park Map

The Map Maker by Ellen

The cops asked us to make a list of the things Dad had taken with him, and one of the things he had left behind.

Dylan and I looked at each other, dismayed.

We weren't familiar with Dad's things. He had treated his clothes and tools with no sentiment and certainly no interest in how he looked to anyone else. He looked generic. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium tall, white tee shirt and blue jeans.

We went through his room. It looked empty, but it always did. We kept looking for another hour.

Dylan looked like he was asleep on his feet and he had school in the morning anyway so I sent him to bed. Maybe I wanted to be alone.

In the closet was a pair of boots, beyond shabby. More destroyed than even Dad would usually wear.
There was a suitcase, plain black with little ineffective wheels, and bearded with dust.

There was a map folded in the drawer of his bedside table.

In the dresser I found underwear, socks, tee shirts and three pairs of Wrangler jeans that I recognized from a trip to Sears two years ago.

I looked at my list of things left behind. They looked like all the things Dad would need.

I showed it to the cops in the morning after I got Dylan off to school.

"Huh," said the lieutenant who I thought of as ours.

It didn't sound like a good or optimistic grunt.

"Want me to look for more stuff?" I asked. I played with the zipper on my jacket until I started to hear the buzzing sound myself and then stopped.

"No, no, that won't be necessary."

They didn't think he had run away like they probably had at first. They thought something had happened to him.

I went back to his bedroom. Dylan wouldn't come back from school for a few hours and I had taken the day off from work. On top of everything I could feel myself being mad that I had to use a personal day for this.

The room wasn't pretty but somehow it felt more special and glamorous than before. Something important had happened here.

I couldn't imagine Dad being hurt or killed somewhere. He was like a piece of nature, a rock, or a piece of machinery, a tractor.

I could see him my mind, alone, which was how he liked to be. I could see him walking down the street from work, and instead of turning down the street to our apartment, he would stop in front of the discount store and look at everything for a long minute. He would go in without really thinking about it. He would let his feet lead him, and not think too hard as his hands reached for a new backpack, and a sleek packet of white cotton briefs. He wouldn't need much, but everything fresh. One pair of jeans. Boots with good soles would be the highest ticket item.

I took the map out of the drawer. It was laminated, a tourist map, too small to have any detail or usefulness. But I could see the creases where it had been forcibly folded for so long, and I could see a burn mark, where maybe a lighter had been held up to read it some night when the overhead light would have been to conspicuous.

I could picture him making or buying a new life, the way he made or bought everything else when he determined he really needed it.

I took the map and put another clumsy fold in it. I put it in my back pocket, and headed out to the school to walk Dylan home.


Slash and Burn by Lyle

I slash and burn my way through the park and then take a rest. I hear my father: “What’re you sitting for you ninny? Get up. Pillage. Destroy. Your brother wouldn’t be sitting there like a bump on a log.”

“But he’s not here,” I say. When I stand and turn around, I see my father’s lower lip tremble just the slightest bit. Seconds before I cut off his head with one clean motion. I put it on a pike and write an exclamation point where I leave it.

This is where I call my mother. She hysterical when I tell her. But she’s hysterical anyway. I hang up. More pillaging. I am green around the gills. I am green with envy. I am green and sappy. I am charbroiled. Stomp stomp splash through the creek. Murder a couple on a picnic blanket but no picnic basket. Stomp. Chomp. Squirrel. I come back around after impaling a hiker (sure, waterproof shoes will keep your feet dry), to Midwood Trail.

This is where I feel safe. Midwood. Halfway. Neither here nor there. Unapologetic neutrality. No dragons. No innocent villagers. Nothing but the soothing quiet and the shade of flora.

Well, no time to dilly dally. Get up. Slash and burn. Slash. And. Burn. This is for you, John. I’m sorry.


A Few Areas of Note at Prospect Park by Forrest

Midwood Trail: Two things indicated on Visitor's Guide Map likely never to be found--that is, the cartoonish mystery of the White-Out exclamation point and soothing splotches of color. Various cigarette burns, however, may correctly show potential areas of bear attacks and / or beer can pipes.

Sullivan Hill: Named for the second explorer of the region who accidentally passed through in 1897 while trapping squirrels. But the original explorer's name was also Sullivan; he was very clever and wiped out a small Native village here in a drunken rage. The second Sullivan, by all accounts, never touched a drop in his life nor did he consummate his only marriage. Confusion reigns today regarding historical legacy of both men.

Ravine: Has no name. Park management still looking into this.

Prospect Park Zoo: New visitors find it strange how the green algae on Nanny the polar bear sometimes resembles the Virgin Mary puckering her lips.

Children's Corner: A complete misnomer. Children do not own anything there and thus can escape rather easily.

Carousel: Removed in July 2007 due to fatal unicorn accident, this despite large organized parent protest after public announcement of the decision. Temporary memorial erected by the deceased's family removed by legal injunction from state government officials. Plans to pave and convert into a parking area for Children's Corner put on hold due to massive budget cuts. Plot currently sitting vacant. It has not been mowed in quite some time.


Order by Bill

Still worried. I could use some more hope in my oatmeal. You’ve dangled off the page edge again, left the window open for the last 29 months, so the entire sill is covered with that black city dust and looks like the ties holding up the subway tracks. Those big particles that get you coughing in the morning when the wind kicks in, but they say it isn’t gonna do too much damage to our lungs. I push the blankey you brought back onto the floor. Still too hot in here, and I might just be delirious.

Once again I’ve quit my job. Just checked out on the you need to find someone who comes a shave closer to giving half a damn. I think the term I actually used was half a two-assed rat’s taint. They certainly did not appreciate my decorating the office with burned up maps, and probably didn’t bother to say much on account of the battle-axe I fashioned out of the keyboard during our last conference call with the client. We still got the account, and that was when I knew it was time to leave. There can be no hope - not a pretty email address crumpled up on a napkin hope and not sunshine breaking through the rainclouds after a week hope - when people are willing to accept the removal of the barriers. Those kinds of people, who see you take the barriers down and like cows just start to mill blindly into the open space where you happen to be standing with the air hammers, they are the dangerous ones. You can drive them right over the edge because they will never know how far they are from where they should be.

For now I think I’ll clean up this place a little bit. I’m going to leave that black dust on the window sill, but I’ll wash the curtains at least. And probably the walls and repaint in here next week, but first I want to paint all over the walls and draw shit in markers. Maybe I’ll punch a whole in the wall and cover that up with a steel plate and hang your map up above it. And some day if you ever come home you can run your finger through that one small patch of blackness that I’ve left for you in front of the window.


Wild Like Fire by Beth

And sometimes she wants to get out of the car, right after they break out of the city or right before going in. Swing the heavy door out and open, sneaker scuff once and twice on the rumble strip, and then she’s on the shoulder, gray sand strewn with broken red taillight. She’s down the embankment, tall grass swishing around her legs, legs ahead of her, unbalancing her. The woods ahead, the places the sun reaches and the places it does not. Brittle sticks sticking out, low branches on the trees, she crashes through, she dodges trunks the way she has learned to dodge people on the sidewalk, her eyes low, anticipating.  Keeps on beyond the ding of the car door open, beyond the traffic river-roar, footfalls deep in pine needles and black mud that sucks at her shoes.

Once she saw a kid with a lighter, teenage, holding it up to the map of Prospect Park, flame close enough to melt the cover, the smell of plastic burning acrid. She saw him, one hand on the lighter, the other cupping away the wind.  She saw how bad he needed that wildness, a dusktime kid outside a park of paved trails, outside bikers and runners steady on the hamster wheel. A park full of city. A park with cast iron gates that locked him out at night.

Sometimes she wants to, but she doesn’t. She never does.


Park the Metaphor by Alan

Map the park, punk. I dare you. Go ahead. Try to navigate its turns and yearns. Begin to wade in some kind of body of water that is larger than most views you’ ve entered. Hike the hills, tag its trails, pin the genre on the pagoda. Balance yourself on the bridge, caress the gentle urgings of the carousel, sweet timely urgings. Run the arches to the drive. Compare them as destinations. Compare them to zoo. Compare them to the children’ s corner, to the children themselves. What’ s that? You once were? Think you still are? Map it, and see for yourself. Park it for a while. Then come back to me. We’ ll talk about it then.


XOXO by Johanna

Dear Manhattan,

I'm not old enough to remember you in your prime, but I still remember the eighties and nineties when you reeked of vagrants and streamed creative spooge. I miss the way we used to be, when juice bars were fronts for drug dispensaries, when a fifteen-year-old didn't need I.D. to get into your clubs, when artists could still afford to live in Alphabet City and Harlem, when you could drive through Times Square to laugh at heads bouncing off of Johns' laps, when taxis didn't take credit cards, when the Bowery was still a great place for a riot. I miss the way you were perverted and dingy, unpretentiously punk, and always, always, on the edge of something disgustingly spectacular. I'm sorry, but I can not forgive you your bourgeois homogeneity and double-decker tour buses. You may have cleaned up, but you're boring. I'm leaving you for someone else. I'm moving to Brooklyn.

See you on the Q train.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ghost Mule

Fishing Trip by Charles

Rocky Point. Puerto Penasco. Bring the whole family down this time. Why not? The Chrysler packed, water bag filled, trunk bulging. Drinking and puking and fishing. Fishing and puking and drinking. Throw the gas can into the bonfire and blow a crater right there on the beach. Howard’ll be bringing his new wife. She’s a Mormon but that’s alright. Howard’s a good man. It’ll be good for him to get off the logging truck for a few days. The old lady don’t care for him much but I’ll make it up to her. We’ll stop in Nogales on the way back and pick up something nice for her and the kid. Maybe get our snapshot taken on one of them Mexican donkeys.

Pablo, the mule needs to be painted again.


Tradition by Johanna

In the ninth grade, my family forced me to ride the mule in the fiesta parade. I tried to get out of it. “It's tradition,” they told me as they dragged my whining nauseous body out of bed. My father did it and my grandfather did it before him.

With my pants hanging low, my knees sticking out of the mules side like wings, earphones plugged in under my sombrero, I sucked it up and road my mule, Philemon, in the procession between the fiesta princessas and the local mariachi band. I didn't see much through the haze of humiliation except for my abuelita sitting on the sidelines, waving and smiling at me with pride. I threw her some candy even though I knew her old teeth couldn't handle it and watched as the children scattered around her for it like birds to crumbs.

Ricky Gallegos called me Mule Boy in 5th period Science class for the rest of the semester. My girlfriend, Stephanie, broke up with me, said it had nothing to do with the parade. She just wasn't into me anymore.

This year, my own son, also in ninth grade, had to ride the mule in the parade. Once he realized there was no breaking with tradition, he asked me if he could dress in drag – the whole get-up – gown, wig, make-up and heels. He said it would be ironic. I told him, “Fine, as long as you wear the sombrero.” He laughed his ass off the whole mule ride through the village. Thank god my mother wasn't alive to see it.


Zippy, a Short History by Lyle

Across the Rio Grande from the amorphous1 South Texas, there is a town that has become rife with amorphous2 hostilities. It used to be that a donkey,3 rescued4 from Boysville where he worked as a stud of sorts5, started a new trade at a slow touristy spot right near the rowboat landing. Zippy became restless, yoked as he was to an immobile cart, at this ghoulish business.

Part of the amorphous hostility that lingered in the town manifested itself, very clearly in form, in two ways.
Zippy, reverting to form, attempted to mount a little boy, apparently mistaking him for one of the slight women he was used to in Boysville.
The angry parents (with very little provoking) led a lynch mob to a nearby tree where they hanged Zippy and let the buzzards eat him down.

Aside from the tree, an impromptu monument on which people carve the name Zippy — just a name — he has been forgotten, as has his story.6
1Rocky, brush-covered land alternately sand colored and burro grey.
2Violence colored like the land.
4Some would say kidnapped.
5A nasty business — carnivalesque and rooted firmly in the freakshows of yore, some of which can still be seen in the Mexican countryside where many of these shows retired, unwilling or unable to make the leap to the sexually explicit (the bearded lady being the exception).
6The town in now known for its large population of fainting goats (and the Association headquarters), porous border crossing and gun battles.


No More Zippy by Forrest

Zippy, pinstriped pseudo-zebra/mule of Nogales--I consider you the fabrication to ruin my parents' marriage on that ill-fated border crossing when I discovered I was Patricia, not Patrick. Even had I been the teenage girl I was always meant to be and you trotted out before my maids of honor for a quinceanera delight, my father would have wept next to smiling Jesus in the afternoon. I do not mean to say he was prone to sadness or profoundly affected by hokey tourist opportunities (even when my mother had dressed up enough for his approval). If not for my operation, I think he could have saved our sombreros. I think he would swallow the worm again. But you, Zippy. Because I did not ride off with you, a charade of a lesser equine tethered to a wagon that was not a wagon, I never felt the hot, blazing pulse between my thighs which, I now read, makes scared boys into much lustful men. And you never took the bit that I keep wearing for them since.


The Bridesmaid by Beth

I had to go and get a bridesmaid’s dress at David’s Bridal in the suburbs. It was going to be dark purple, one of our high school’s colors, although the bride wouldn’t admit it. To her, it was Lapis, and there was a difference. I had to shave my legs and wear a nice-looking bra and go in there and get a short satin Lapis-colored dress and bring in my shoes from Payless that I needed to have dyed to match. I had to do it today, because the wedding was only a month away. They would need to alter the dress to fit me.

I shaved my legs and wore the bra and took the shoes and got in the car, started it and let it run for a while, because it had been so long since we’d moved it.  I left our parking spot and drove through our neighborhood to the outskirts of the city, to where I had to get on the highway that would shoot me out to the suburbs.  But before I got to the on-ramp for the highway I stopped.  I was in this neighborhood I’d never been in before. And I had to get to David’s Bridal before they closed early because it was Sunday, so I didn’t have time to screw around, but I stopped the car and turned it off and I got out and I walked, arms crossed, the breeze cold on my face.  I walked by a place that sold pulled-pork sandwiches and had a neon sign that was an outline of a pig. And I walked by an Irish pub with big-bellied guys standing in the doorway smoking and I turned down a different street and walked by some antique stores that were closed and a store that had big bolts of fabric leaned up against the inside of the window, which had a gate pulled down over it in case someone wanted to smash it.

And I stopped in front of this other antique store with a black and white picture of a family in a parade.  The sun beat down on them so they could just look up a little bit, under their hats. And this blond kid with the word Mexico stitched on his hat was sitting on a mule painted to look like a zebra, disguised as something it was clearly not. And everyone around it was smiling.


Contrast by Bill

See such sun high overhead piling light on the girl I remember sitting behind me in another picture like this, covered in the old light of those days as if it were painted onto the two of us sitting on a horse and not this poor painted burro with the girl missing from the picture with her arms around my small body, the tiny person I had been surrounded by the young woman she was with long straight hair helping to erase my fear and smiling like this boy in his giant hat.


The Photographer by Alan

Charlie and his mother had never been outside of the country, and by country I mean state, and by state I mean city, and by city I mean town, and by town I mean street, and by street I mean house, and by house I mean room, and by room I mean corner, and by corner I mean space, and by space I mean home, and by home I mean space, and by space I mean corner, and by corner I mean room, and by room I mean house, and by house I mean street, and by street I mean town, and by town I mean city, and by city I mean state, and by state I mean country. Never been. Nope.

So upon arrival, they hired a man with a steady hand – that’s me – to show them around and give them a few memories to bring back home. I did just that. Yes. Just that and more.

You see, traveling is a lot like breathing. You’re only used to one kind of breath pattern, and that’s yours. Takes someone to come along and show you another way to inhale and then exhale. Inhale and then exhale. Yes…just like that. You can’t learn that yourself. Nope. The deeper the breath, the farther away from home you can go. Takes someone to show you that. That’s what I’m here for. There are just some things you can’t learn on your own.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Jolene by Deborah Poe

Jolene was inebriated to the point of hallucination. Was it a meteor shower above, or was the sky falling. Whatever the case, it seemed an apocalypse in indigo.

Sure, she’d had songs written about her. She’d seen signs in the stars. Had held hands while Dolly sang on stage in a navy blue pantsuit. At the show, Jason had his hand on her chest, as they both swayed among the midnight fans. She always believed he had loved her as much for her breasts as for the song that shared her name.

Tonight she was as far from Parton’s stage as she was from him. For the latter, she was grateful. She was thinking of her mom who had birthed her under a cloudless sky in east Texas field, with the newest boyfriend in one hand and a cigarette to ease the pain in the other. So the story went. Before her mom passed, she begged Jolene to set up the record player. She must have played Dolly’s forty-five fifty times before her mother threw her arms in the air and finally forsake this world.

Tonight, Jolene lingered under cobalt light, a streetlamp seemingly intoxicated with upstate New York. Barry brought her to this party in the middle of nowhere, and she had slipped out. Barry wasn’t that different than Jason she realized as she made her way down the black pavement in her two-inch, open-toed heels. Despite the slate color that matched the air’s bite, the shoes were seasonally inappropriate.

Four boys were coming up on her; they were probably 16. If they were more antagonistic, she wouldn’t have crouched at water’s edge. In the middle of this deathly silent neighborhood, they paused then passed. The worst thing they did was look at her; then they laughed. Bent down, she took out her compact, looked at her lines of grey eye shadow and then slammed the compact down against her hand. Glass shattered.

Barry was a lot like Jason in that he’d belt out her namesake song in bizarre contexts. Barry did so when things got tense where he was. Barry too was a heavy drinker. She pulled back her bottom lip with top teeth when she thought this and persuaded her body to sit up straight. The palm of her hand was bleeding, and she scraped it across the dried leaves to try and clean it off. The lake was already iced up two feet out.

The boys passed by, and the winter meteor shower took off. The boys had started screaming, when she heard from down the hill Barry’s version of Jolene. Jolene, Jolene. Jolene, Jolene. She heard Barry’s ex approve of his singing with an exaggerated howl, annoying even from this distance. There was a pregnant pause.

It was lip numb cold. She was too old for this. Jolene took a sip from the plastic glass she’d sneaked out. The boys were well on down the road, she noticed. She could see the tallest swinging a baseball bat and clowning around, a many-limbed shadow.

Jolene burrowed into her fake mink coat. She gazed at her steel-blue shoes and considered the white stitching along their edges. She looked at her hand again.

She heard the crunch of leaves and didn’t turn around. She could feel Barry’s breath down her neck before she turned. Fuck, Jolene. He was trying to hold his voice down. He dragged her up from underneath an arm and then lit a smoke. A heel came unhinged. Jesus, careful, she mumbled. Why the fuck did you have to go off like that, he said. His car wasn’t too far away. He’d parked at the bottom of the hill, by the basketball court, so they didn’t have to walk back up to the house.

She stumbled and felt the shoe disengage from foot. When she cried out, she had the J— out of her mouth, almost saying Jason instead of Barry. Barry pretended not to notice and tugged her close. He didn’t catch the careful earlier, thank god. She pulled the jacket tighter, forearms cradling her belly.

She reached for his cigarette and scowled, I couldn’t handle the party. She tossed her head back, standing lower on one side, and exhaled in a singsong voice, here you come again.  You could have your choice of men Jolene, he countered. She turned; kicked off her other shoe, and it went sailing back over the ice. She didn’t have far to go without her shoes. And the pity factor would work in her favor, when she told him the news she’d been dreading to disclose.

She flicked his cigarette a few feet away, and hobbled toward the car. Can you drive, he asked, and threw her the keys. She unlocked the doors and got in. As she put her seat belt on, she told herself this was not the night to tell him anything. Not at all.


A Small Blue Thing by Alan

The shoe that broke the camel’s back was tossed out the 4th floor window onto Mermaid Avenue two blocks away from the premiere party. One lover had had enough. The other lover, apparently, couldn’t get enough. This was grounds for said tossing. The windows were open. The lovers were, if nothing else, very environmentally conscious, and therefore in constant reconfiguration of proper ventilation.

Out the window and into the street where the noise from the premiere swept through the streets of Coney Island like a wild summer storm, seven guys were having a deserved moment in the metaphoric sun. It was evening. Several onlookers danced outside the fence, outside the glow. Some shot photographs. One wandered off.

It is in these moments that we lose ourselves and enter the dreams of others. Gerry left the celebrity and followed the shoeless woman. A plane flew by overhead. Something about a “new show”/“tune in”/“next week.” Neither noticed. When she found the shoe, she looked up protectively as if it was hers to have lost. As if someone else were waiting for her to do so. As if someone had planned it but didn’t have the right. What did they know about being hungry? she thought. Other questions. Then silence.

Gerry followed her over a bridge, past cities, through mountains, for weeks, a month, seasons. Always a few steps behind. Always with an eye on the shoe. And when she took it off from time to time, on a hill or behind some locked door, he would not think of her but of it. A small blue thing. A space to enter. Grounds for a kind of divorce he could never build up the nerve to consider himself.


The Pumpkin by Johanna

It was difficult to slouch in heels. Forced upright, she didn't tire as easily. The reapplication of lipstick was her jolt of espresso. She couldn't go home if she had on a fresh coat of cherry red. So she continued to dance with the charming man who she found she had so much in common with. She noticed when he glanced at her left hand and found no ring or tan line that he smiled. She thought she might stay in this state of enchanted grace ever after, until she realized the crowd had dispersed.
“What time is it?” she asked.
“Midnight,” he responded, looking at his Rolex.
“Oh, crap, I'm sorry, I've gotta go!” She grabbed her clutch and ran for the exit doors.
“I'll call you!” he yelled after her as she left the club and hailed a cab.
The babysitter answered the door. “I'm so sorry I'm late. I lost track of time.”
“That's okay Ms. Tremaine. He's asleep now. Bobby was a prince all night. No problems whatsoever.”
“Thanks so much.”
After the babysitter left, she wiped remnants of lipstick from her mouth, kicked off her heels and collapsed on the bed. Drifting into sleep, she suddenly realized, I forgot to give him my number.


Disembodied by Lyle

Shoe, out of context -- or rather off the foot on which we assume such a shoe should reside. That or on the rack where it waits to be bought, to be worn, to be replaced. It is like a shoe that has been shucked into the closet after a long day of work. But in such a copse it is a different context entirely, so it is not like a shoe that has been removed after a long day of work. We then think trash or, better yet, for this story, murder. Not trash so much, think think think, because it doesn’t look destroyed, eaten, unravelled (though all trash has to start somewhere) and so we move to murder. In what other state, but that of panic, would such a shoe be displaced? The body, we are ingrained to think from crime dramas and news reports (those grainy shots of bodies half hidden in the weeds) and books about serial killers, must be somewhere close. Just off camera. Just outside the frame. We can sense its weight almost bowing the edges of the picture -- or forcing it to flicker and project, movie frame, and pan over. There. In the slightly pixelated weedy twigs at the edge of the image. Partially covered by leaves. Her feet (one bare, of course) protrude from the fallen dead foliage. Her calves, knees, thighs silken and smooth. Blue dress hiked up from the fall. Torso and chest still covered but one strap snapped. Lipstick, deep red, evenly lines her lips, but her mascara streaks down her face. From exertion or tears. Her hair is done up still half in a bun. Not far off, through the undergrowth, a highway. And beyond that, a field of budding wheat. Then the sky. All of this is outside the photo. But where is the wound? Where is the crime? No wound. No crime. Only a shoe -- somehow out of context.


Unrequited by Forrest

It meant either not being fair to Bertie or us looking for her shoe we had to find in the woods. It meant either not looking for the shoe we had to find in the woods or racing Larry back home. It meant either not racing him back home or downing him into muddy leaves some more. It meant either not downing him into muddy leaves some more or watching him damn us. It meant either not watching him damn us or finding the rest of Bertie out there. It meant either not finding the rest of her out there or stopping Larry’s mouth up with her fishnet stockings. It meant either not stopping his mouth up with her fishnet stockings or him playing electric guitar with two-finger chords. It meant either him not playing electric guitar with two-finger chords or us setting ablaze the soft mountain that was Bertie’s chemise collection. It meant either not setting ablaze the soft mountain that was Bertie’s chemise collection or Larry making another heartbox out of a boneyard August. It meant either him not making another heartbox out of a boneyard August or us being to fair to Bertie.


Untitled by Bill

Wouldn't know my name. Could not catch hers. Crouched down and plucked at the weeds, ripping them up one by one. Everyone kicked quietly at the ground, the leaves, the fields tamped down as lines dispersed when the band goes home without setting foot on the stage and the lights stay dark. Staying by the window despite the chill, dreaming awake of places we will never have the chance of running back to.  Rendering the word locked away from itself, climbing stiffly into bed still wet with the curtains blowing, dreaming of elsewheres without ever falling asleep. Dusts off her hands and knits her fingers together, curling her legs underself, seemingly to effect pose, but more to warm her feet.


And The Future Is by Beth
We bought the shoes together, while shopping at T.J. Maxx on a Friday night with Mandy’s mom. I loved Mandy’s mom, partly because she looked like Demi Moore in Ghost, but also because she was younger and cooler than my mom. My mom would have laughed if she saw the shoes, and also if she saw my bangs curled into a poofball by Mandy’s mom the next morning (it had deflated by the time she came to pick me up). But Mandy’s mom was used to things like this from Mandy. We put our money together to buy the shoes, but agreed that Mandy would have custody, because I didn’t want my mom to laugh at me, and because Mandy’s house had better floors for practicing our runway walks.

When we were eleven, Mandy was Debbie Gibson and Exclamation perfume and a tiny flower of a body that got heat rash when her parents grounded her and she had to stay inside one week that summer. She was a note-writer, a pink-pen user, a girl who used stars as punctuation.

But she was also born on Halloween, and dressed up as a sluttier witch every year. She bought me a Ouija board for my birthday when I was thirteen, then borrowed it the next year for a party I wasn’t invited to and never gave it back. And then she was on drugs, and then she was pregnant, you know. You know.

In high school, Mr. Floyd said to never wear shoes you can’t run in, and that’s me now. Maybe it’s partly because of Mandy, although I hardly ever think about her anymore. But when I see that peekaboo heel alone in the woods, I sit down in the wet leaves next to it, touch it gently like I touched Mandy’s heat rash, keep it company for a while.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Wind by Claudia

In our grandmother's kitchen, for as long as I could remember, we had special placemats for the oak table with the captain chairs.  My brother's was a picture of deep meteor canyon left in the desert; mine was the lighthouse on the rocky coast of Maine; my cousin's, windmills in Holland in a field of tulips.   We'd had them for so long, we could not remember if Grandma had assigned us the mats or if we had chosen them ourselves.  She served us windmill cookies on little green plates.  For special dinners, she used the Fiesta Ware.  The kitchen was Harvest Gold and Avocado.  Inside the pantry were glass bottles of maraschino cherries, and a two year supply of canned goods.  She believed in preparation for disaster, and in saving. 
In the living room, a braided rug and a color television in polished wood, a fine piece of furniture.  The plaid scratchy sofa, big enough for all three cousins and a medium-sized dog.  In the corner, our Granpa’s Lazy-Boy recliner.
We had not been to the places on the placemats, but we said we would each go there someday.  Outside the kitchen window, long white blonde grass went on for miles.  Now the house is gone, but not the grass, and there are windmills. 


Manmade by Beth

Five months after she moved in, she found out why the house had been so cheap.

It started with a couple of white pickups with amber lights on top, rambling past on the dirt road. The next week, it was flatbeds with Caterpillars, and then, months later, the white blades covered in shrinkwrap like wintering boats. She watched the procession from her front porch, coffee in hand, as spring turned to summer turned to fall. She didn’t like the feeling that she’d been tricked, but didn’t mind the construction so much. Sure, it was sad to see the big pines fall, bounce once or twice, lie still with the dust swirling into the air around them. But at least the saws were too far away to be loud. And everyone said that windmills ruined the view, but it meant nothing else would be built on that ridge. They were better than skyscrapers, or Wal*Marts. So she watched, and rocked in her new painted rocking chair, and drank her coffee, and loved being in this house that was all her own.

For a long time she was alone, but then she met Pete at the coffee shop, and then she started seeing him there every week, and then she started going every morning, when he was most likely to be there. And then one day he said, hey, want to go see the windmills up close?

They drove up in Pete’s truck, a red F-150 with the kind of paint that loses its shine after a decade or so. Pete’s hands were tanned, rested casually on the steering wheel. They listened to K100, and he talked back to the DJs. The power company had done a good job with the wide, flat, road, which was smoother than the town’s potholed asphalt.

She saw the first one when they rounded the corner, bigger than she had expected, like a lighthouse. Then when she stepped out of the truck, and the wind hit her full-on, she felt a rush of fear. When she got closer, when she looked straight up at the windmill and it seemed like it was falling toward her, when she saw the shadow of it against the trees behind, when the alien whirr filled her ears like it might never stop, when Pete came to stand beside her, she started to think that maybe none of this had been such a good idea.


Dust Devil Calling, or Hiding From Nowhere by Bill

The ears sparking, hopping sounds from the ribs of the djinn next to her. She stopped running towards the horizon. She let her eyes clear of the moisture in them, drying salty and stinging. With the flat end of a stalk she carves his name into the earth next to an ant-hill. He smiled, his alabaster lips parting, the milky substance of his body wavering close to the ground reaching out toward the earth and fading into nothingness just at the place gravity should have touched him.

The sound of his call became like spinning of a windmill far off and a little dust devil wandered near, tracing over the marks she had left in the sand towards where they'd come. A fatter little twister came loping in and the two of them wound together into something as tall as the cactus, capering off into the wind. The ants meanwhile had nearly shifted the sands back into the grooves she had carved and his name faded once they'd broken the ring on the hoop in the center so they went back to work collecting food and digging tunnels and making ready their wars on the surrounding hills.

His face turned again, his voice became the sound of a sheet hung from a line drying in the wind, and he followed her again, weaving against the currents of the air while she dug in her heals against the sand.


Let’s Take a Walk by Alan

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You may be Catherine, but I’m not Newt.” He stood at her door with a bunch of wind toys tucked into his back packet. She didn’t expect this visit.

“Let’s take a walk,” he said as he revealed to her his gift. She reluctantly agreed. “But I need to get back before sundown,” she said, “or else I can’t go.”

“No problem,” he said. “We’re just going to take a walk.”

“To where?”

“Wherever you want to go.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere, not anymore.” “You’re not planning to kiss me, are you?”

He didn’t answer. They walked for hours, past the road that lead to their old school, past the gas station, past the junction where they used to watch the trucks whiz by.

“How did things change so fast?” he asked her.

“Why were you so indecisive?” she responded.

Neither could answer. At some point, he made a move for her hand, but she resisted. They sat there awhile, holding up their wands against the horizon, trying to match the toy to the actual windmills miles away. “This is how things go,” they both began to think – two sentences independent of one another happening at the same time in two different heads.

The sun went down, but the wind continued.


Destiny by Johanna

Destiny kicks off her sandals and places her feet up on the railing, noticing the tan lines from her straps, a contrast made deeper from all the summer dirt her toes accumulate. The bus stops twice on its way out of the mountains, once in Penasco, once in Mora. Only one or two people get on at each stop for the weekly route to Oklahoma. She lowers her feet for them, pretends to sleep so they won't ask her to move over. Through shuttered lids, Destiny sees the old lady quivering against a willow cane and thinks, she's going to see her daughter in Oklahoma City whose married to a rich rancher, but still never visits her mamacita. Destiny watches the young man with tattoos up his neck, holding onto his waistband as he limps down the aisle and she thinks, he's running away from something, a pregnant girlfriend or a drunken crime.

When the craggy peaks and their rolling foothills are nothing but distant hazy shadows, the windmills come into sight. The plains open wide, fields of dry grasses waving forward from the horizon like an ocean. She is standing on the beach hoping for what lies ahead. If the windmills are turning, she will stay on the bus, continue beyond this expanse, beyond what she knows. But the windmills are never turning. So, like each time before that she was able to pilfer the necessary change for the long ride east, she exits the bus in Clayton, crosses the empty highway and waits for the next bus home. Destiny stands and stares, imagining what those turbines would look like spinning into a kaleidoscope of light, pouring energy through their veins, but the winds never change.


The Department by Lyle

The processing of negative space into pieces falls under the current regime’s Department of Localized Anesthetization for Migratory Thought Patterns. “Final compartmentalization of concatenation,” letterhead, name of officer. “Few of us have the faculty to do our job,” one employee is anonymously quoted as saying. Windmills circulate slowly as a man records the negative space every second. He files reports hourly wherein the windmills are given a break from the relentless process. A bird is caught in the mechanism during this time but goes unrecorded. The photos he takes before the hour and after the hour are always blurring, as per department mandate. Jacob Quixote, another member/employee (it is more than just a job) of The Department, is giving a lecture about negative space in thinking and the detrimental effects, when it is uncompartmentalized,  on local housing patterns. The Department is dark, having been cloaked by an anti-mitigation device (the mitigation of darkness having been covered in several memos of late). It has, in essence, classified itself: an inclusive set of one.


Windmills by Forrest

She’d slide herself and me off from town to get me my turn, but not my no-other brother. He got the waterbowl. Wooden alphabet blocks. For him I’ve wanted remembering this: she drove out any time except high noon and after if ever she had cared, pulling up to uncleared brush casting small shadows out by roadside as she readied a lit cigarette in her right hand. He might’ve liked the darker blue ridge of those remote windmills of hers turn and cut and keep cutting into a lighter shade of clear sky. I’m not sure. On the hood of the car she’d sit, smoke, consider the spinning blades, and not talk about Luther since I think men didn’t need mentioning for her fascination there. They don’t do nothing, she often griped, looking over the far distance between. They’re just for show. Big fucking show.

This much I had learned already from her. I drew large circles around her car in the dust with the heel of my sneaker. I’d start with the left headlight, make my way towards the back while she was distracted, eventually come to where she sat, her legs propped over the grill, pale yellow bruises scattered across her knees, and I kept drawing around her until she’d grab my arm and press me up against the hot fender and tell me to watch the goddamn useless windmills—less you’re rushing to get back? she asked with the cigarette tip an inch from my face. Then she threw her arms about my shoulders. It’d let her nuzzle my ear. Didn’t think so, she giggled smoke into me. Now you try spotting another road to those, sweetheart, cause we’re still not finding them yet, but I once gave her up and pointed out the road we both came on.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


(Photo by Stephanie Mazzotta)

Security by Mike Imondi

The bicycle looked like it grew straight from the ground, a sprouting of sorts, a sign all by itself, too high for anyone to reach. We searched the park for other clues of fantastic behavior, but the only other fantastic behavior happened between our thumbs, entwined with the rest of our fingers, the roots of continued growing.

I learned once in high school about friction and surfaces and—shit, what was it called?—the place where two objects meet. We met in the park that day on a blanket, the ground under us jabbing at our bottoms every so often. We were quietly uncomfortable under a too-hot sun, the backs of our shirts stuck with sweat.

“That’s a safe spot,” I said, considering the bicycle’s perch on a street sign.

She wordlessly agreed, a small noise, maybe pitched for only me to hear, escaping from somewhere inside of her. It was like that between us often: the smallness of the intimate, the miracle of insideness.

✠ ✠ ✠

Dirac by Bill

This hand too high, so I cannot feel any kind of authority. Inescapable and anemic sense of knowing, slowly draining, rain washing down the sides of it, dirt slowly building up on the bottom edges and spreading out. Spun round once on atomic rotation, twice, unreachable, cycling toward a tunnel in the sky, drawing down the heavens and passing it through the weave of the planet. Riding risen into the evening, legendary warriors standing atop narrow spans, in seiza, leaving behind any knowing, abandoning awareness, unburdened by thought and ready to go.

✠ ✠ ✠

Man, Things Were Getting Good, by Beth
The night had been work, dinner with friends, a bottle of wine on Fitzie’s fire escape. The stack of ones Chuck gave her when she cashed out was too thick for her jeans pocket.  She loved the regulars at the restaurant: Matt with the long eyelashes and the moleskine next to his place setting, Carly with rockabilly hair and a green bowling ball bag, Kevin sharing a clove cigarette with her on her fifteen-minute break.
It was the first night that didn’t end up too cool for short sleeves.  Everything was thick with that early-summer heat, the smell of asphalt and jasmine as they sat on the back steps smoking, and she licked her lips and watched the woods for fireflies. 
Dinner was the new guac and basil burger on special, browned just through but juicy.  Chuck comped all her friends as a thank you for the double she’d worked a couple days before.  She flirted with Jimmy, the new dishwasher, before they left, because it made her feel that everything was hers, everything could be conquered. 
They watched The Last Picture Show for the hundredth time over at Fitzie’s, all of them crowded together on the couch, the smooth skin of their legs and arms brushing against each other, tangling in different combinations over and over.  And then after the movie, on the fire escape, she sat with her legs dangling, looking far away to the quiet lights of Center City.  They passed the bottle of chianti, hand to hand, mouth to mouth, and she could still taste everything from earlier in the night, the clove and the basil, the butterscotch cannoli she’d sneaked when she first got in.  They talked about going down the shore on Friday, about Andrew’s band’s show at Johnny Brenda’s next week.  And just before it was time to get on her bike and head home, Dino put his hand on her waist, just for a minute, as he kissed her cheek goodbye.  She could smell the spice of his cologne, and she wanted to grab his bicep and squeeze it hard, run her hand down his arm and hook her fingers around his leather belt and pull.  But that would be another night.  She could wait.
* * *
In the early haze of the next morning, a dog-walker found her.  Naked and splayed behind her stepfather’s townhouse, bruises all over, she looked like she’d tried to crawl into the bushes at the edge of the parking lot.
Seven days later, the police made their arrest. The kid had confessed after fifteen minutes of questioning.  It was random, he said.  He saw her bike and wanted to steal it, she fought back, and then it all went bad.

✠ ✠ ✠

The Conversation by Alan

There was this guy that I met when I was in New Orleans. I was 23 or 26. It was Mardi Gras, pre-hurricane and the metaphors that came afterwards. We were young enough to drive around the world but not old enough to understand where we were going. The guy I met was protesting the festivities; he had no beads. Only a sign that read, “God will still forgive you,” or something like that. We ditched our car for rented bikes that day of the trip though we didn’t get very far.

We got to talking about music somehow. Me being a musician and an Aries sometimes does that…forces a conversation. But isn’t every conversation at least a little forced. And if not forced, perhaps jostled? Anyway, we got to talking about music, and he told me that God made the B and the Bb and every other note every created sound the way they do because they’re perfect and so is he. And when I say “he,” I mean “He” as in God.

I listened for awhile, and then I asked him about the other notes. And when he didn’t understand, I said that there were hundreds, millions, billions of other notes in between a B and a Bb. He asked me why he couldn’t see them on the piano. This made me happy because we were really getting into it now, and I responded by telling him to think about halving a piece of paper continuously, forever.

“That’s impossible,” he told me.

“Not if you believe,” I said.

We kept at it for hours. Man, sometimes I think we’re still there. Bikes left suspended against a wall or a post; the music from the bands endlessly spinning; us inventing ways to convince each other; the invisible still invisible, reposed despite the parade.

✠ ✠ ✠

Joe Mike Explains to His Boss Why He Was Late For Work by Johanna

“I'm sorry, Mr. Wong. I know. I'm late again. Well, it's a really interesting story. I mean, you're never gonna believe it.

“Okay, well, you know how those poles have been showing up overnight all over the city since the Chinese occupation, I mean, Chinese Liberation. Yeah? Well, I thought someone was just sticking them in the ground for some kind of sick joke or something, but actually, it's more like they are sprouting up. Yeah, just coming right out of the ground. I know this because one sprouted, or sprung up, from the sidewalk last night right under my bike, took it 12 feet into the air, broke the lock and everything. Yeah, crazy, right?

Well, ever since oil was outlawed for American citizens, I mean, American subjects, and the Great Urban Migration and everything, I can't afford any means of transportation other than my bike. I asked my neighbor Lisa if I could borrow hers, but she had a flat tire. She directed me to Leroy who spent, like, half an hour just going at that pole, solid as steel, with his hacksaw while Lisa and I stood ready to catch the bike should it fall, but he just couldn't get through that shit, I mean, pipe. Then, this homeless guy, I mean, a comrade, was watching us and said we should climb on each others' shoulders and push the bike off the pole and then he would catch it. Well, it's not like me to take advice from just some guy off the street who looks like he hasn't bathed in a month, but I was desperate and didn't have any better ideas. So, I got on Leroy's shoulders and Lisa got on mine and pushed the bike off toward the, uh, comrade guy and he actually caught it. We were cheering for, like, a second before he took off on my bike laughing like a crazy dude. I chased him for a while, but he was way faster than me. I always said that bike was fast...

“Yeah, I'm almost at the end of my story. Anyway, I borrowed some money from Leroy to take the light rail, which will probably take me the better half of next month's salary to pay off. No, sir, I don't mean to say that you don't pay me good here, the pay is good and all. Just that, you know, I'm an American capitalist pig and all, spending my money on fast food and porn and, anyway, I'm going to borrow my brother's bike until I can save up for a new one and...

“What's that, sir? I'm fired? Oh, shit.”

✠ ✠ ✠

In Memoriam by Lyle

The man told his children the story of the statue. His story started:
Early one morning Rosdahl rode his bike to work, in the dark, as usual, even in the summer months. Rain. He had tried hooking his umbrella under the right side of the handle bar as he rode, but fell. He spent quite some time in a ditch by the road. His leg healed and he went on. He limped. He sold his bicycle because he thought it might kill him. Though he didn’t really care about life, he also didn’t want to die. At work his limp became worse and he had to push himself around on his wooden desk chair. He pushed himself backwards with his one good leg and the chair legs screeched along the wooden floorboards. Soon he found himself at the bottom of the stairwell looking up. Somehow the chair had stayed under him during the tumble and his back had been broken by the back of the chair. After several hours, he turned himself, turtle on its back, so that he lay prone. Using his clawed and tortured fingers, he pulled himself toward the exit.
This was his memorial, the man told his children, shrunken, dead children.

✠ ✠ ✠

Vondelparkpaniekaanval by Forrest

Oh tame thineself, tourist horse’s constipation were it expelled mid-trot. This lone terrible verliezer from Champs-Élysées carries dispatch for only thine superlative and pedals he alongside and twixt flowers steaming, “Vonderfullest Thou!”—would it not be finer to succumb for a cycle riot’s sake, or be worse in thine own dirty bathwater? But truly very sorry appears our modest evening dog park. If thou arrive there rose-laden of another alias less dry, perhaps a leash will falsen thee for Cranial Dutch then?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Dark Section by Dennis E. Bolen

Far as I know we never knew each other before that moment whenever the hell it was but it is known that Bill—the guy writing notes—died 1988 of AIDS in San Francisco. 
There was a dark section in his history but his sister sent a note to the reunion so we know what happened. The guy next to him, Al, worked his dad’s quarter section outside Estevan until a tractor rolled on him so now he hobbles around and manages an apartment building in Regina.

That’s me in the middle, you all know my story. Goofy Sandor to my left went into accounting but tossed it to make zillions in the tech boom, lost it, then made it back. He had me down to Miami last year after our get-together and we tooled around the Keys in his Tollycraft 53. Had my own cabin. Cooked in the gourmet galley. Tended the best-stocked boozebar I ever saw. But all those women. Too young for one thing. And too many. I mean you get to a certain age.

Out on the end Roy of course had those wives and lost all his real estate then came up with some kind of internet spamscam and got sued by several governments the world over. Last time anybody saw him he was going by another name—funny enough there’s a dark section in my head—I can’t even remember his real one.

But one thing distracts me looking at this blurry moment from so long ago. It’s the reflection in the windows above us. An opposite-bound train. Oblivious though we were, there we stood smirking at a kind of crossroads. It wouldn’t have made any difference to us. I know now as I did then that we would never have thought to go any direction than together.


Big Men’s Uniforms by Bonnie Nish

They had plans in their big men uniforms. Big plans; beer and poker at the back of the bar car, if they didn’t get carded. Who would card a guy in uniform anyway? It was unconstitutional. One by one they left the bright sun to board, leaving behind the town which they never felt did them justice somehow. Parents who couldn’t see beyond the great divide that was the sign on the highway out and the cemetery that was the locked door in. They were leaving no matter what, even if it meant a burial at sea or a bullet through the head on some foreign beach. They made a pact to one another never to look back.

Unbeknownst to them, these five best friends from public school became the nameless billboard for the good times of war. Caught on a passing photographer’s Polaroid, this moment was plastered on city buses in a place none of them had ever even been. Their smiles and easy going manner made thousands of other boys want to grow up and become just like them. Suddenly every boy over the age of 12 wanted to leave behind their families and dogs and baseball teams and go off to kill some evil enemy. Only that evil enemy had a gun and a tank and didn’t think twice about killing a mamma’s boy.

If only these friends had known what was in store for them, they would have shouted at the top of their lungs, not to do it, not to go. They would have told them not to leave their mother’s embrace and the warmth of their beds. The horror of the trenches, the smell of death, knowing it is ending even before it began, well they would have made a different pact. They would have thought again before heading to the back of the bar car. They would have hugged their mothers longer and taken the dog for one last walk. But then again maybe it is best they didn’t know. After all they had their plans in their big men uniforms. They had their smiles and the moment of ordering that beer and never being asked for identification. They were men!


Smaller, Prouder by Forrest

A photo kept man to man by the occasion a missed birthday is celebrated, having survived a tornado, two Midwestern floods, one very angry conversation, and now it’s being used as a coaster by Anselm’s daughter. I want to talk to her—nothing else but that. Anselm has me let it go. Time for blowing out Bobby’s candles. His cake sits a few days short of nineteen and we still recognize it as ours: broken neck during a drill, not long after Peterson snapped us at Central Terminal. We all looked at his camera better then. A world of boys off making our smaller wars. Not so proud, I had thought. The daughter shakes the water off sheepishly without a word, dismisses herself outside to the patio with her ladyfriends. They have a fresh round of pink champagnes. Guess we don’t command much flair, fellas, Peterson tries salvaging, as I hand the photo to Fitz with the first slice of Bobby’s cake that I can muster.


A Few Extra by Bill

Before this one there was a picture of Russell, who was my mom’s uncle, sitting in a chair in his officer’s uniform with a dachshund on his lap, but I don’t know these guys and need to look closer to see they aren’t guys, not yet. Or I can’t tell, just like can’t tell what year that bus is from. And this is the only one of them, of these kids in the stack in my hand, taken from the box at a yard sale where I’m buying back pictures of my family from a stranger.

Russell had a mustache, a good old boy like Lancaster, and he draped his left leg over his right and looked like he was always going to look from that moment on. The dog seems to like the attention. They have a frame too of another photo of his, a bust shot of head, shoulders, the cap pushed back just a bit to knock off the shadow on the forehead. The frame is a billfold with the facing pane the notice from ’44, but that was an earlier photo the air force used.

They want a quarter each for the photos but $5 for the frame so I can take it home and stick it in a drawer. There is another picture of a kid standing beside a wall covered in ivy and I take that one too and another single pane frame for a buck. These kids by the bus and the kid with the ivy we’ll probably hang on the wall.


Putting it Back by Beth

Her favorites are the ones with flashes of light, like this, with the sun shooting off the bus’s window.  In another, a pregnant woman in a dotted dress holds something she must have moved quickly: cupped in her hands, the light tinders, flares.

The room is small and off the kitchen.  For another family, it could have been a mud room, or a walk-in closet, or even plumbed to be an extra bathroom, something useful.  She keeps the door closed to company, but when she goes in she opens the curtains to the row of icicles, gleamed and dripping.

She's stacked the pictures in shoeboxes, tied them with twine. On each is a piece of an index card labeled “Luggage” or “Garden Hoses” or “Fur Coats”, “Dogs’ Collars” or “Adventure Books” or “Fishing Trophies”. “Rhinestone Sunglasses”, “Crocheted Blankets,” “Costume Jewelry”.

The night of the fire had been humidity waiting to break, the stream running high, frogs calling from tree to tree.  She woke first, to the campfire smell, the smoke rolling low over their beds like fog through the islands.  She had dreamed it many times before, many times since, the slow-motion burn, the what-to-take.  She didn’t take anything.


The Warning Track of Summer by Alan

Late August always brought with it a kind of post-supper glow. Though everybody was about to go somewhere, the leaving we took was slow. Our bellies were full, our hearts were leashed, and our minds were on fire. This was the way it went every year. This is the way I remember it.

There’s not much else I can say about those days. We were thirsty for starlight’s drip because we believed we could catch anything with our tongues. We believed we were pioneers when we stared at treetops at three a.m. We were formed by a kind of unconditional love that only a few feel - mostly boys, sadly. And this is what shaped our future relationships. This democracy. This recess. This at bat. This swing. That fly ball shooting way past the warning track of summer. We watched it fly straight out of the park and into the atmosphere. And, god, did we want to follow it. This was the start of all things beautiful that will eventually pass. That should pass. That pass whether we like it or not.

There were a few who stayed, of course. It’s hard to leave something this good. Even if it broke their mother’s backs (instead of their hearts), they stayed. They stayed. And we left. Sort of.


Boys by Johanna

He was always writing in that book. Sitting across the table at the diner, he scribbled in that book with crinkled brow, each stroke of the pen stabbing at the pages, filling them up with inexplicable urgency. I wanted to slap him hard with my extended palm across the flat plain of his cheek. Sometimes, while on break from working the line at the factory, he would smirk while scrawling down seemingly genius ideas in that book. His pen couldn't move fast enough for him as I chocked on my cigarette. I daydreamed about putting my butt out on that book, watching it burst into flames. I laughed maniacally. On the weekend, cruising down a back road, the windows rolled down on the Packard, Glen Miller Band blaring from the stereo, his pen caressed the pages of that book with whimsical grace while his up-curled lips revealed a wondrous world inside his head gushing out through his letters. I wanted so much to swipe that book from his hands and kiss his smiling mouth while speeding dangerously through dense forests.

One day, while he was in the shower, he carelessly left that book out on the bed-stand. I finally had my chance to open it up, read the secret passages that consumed him. Lifting the leather bound pad, I sniffed at the cover, ran fingers over the soft pages. Then, I shut it and shoved it inside the drawer. That was when I realized my greatest fear, not that those pages would finally affirm how much he despised my presence, but that there would be no mention of me at all.


Boys to Men by Nicole

I am not a boy in the picture. I am from the outside looking in. I am thinking this could be my grandfather but it isn’t. However some of the boys or all of the boys were eventually  grandfathers to someone. Or maybe no one. Maybe one was gay but didn’t say it to the friends standing there in the 40s. I am thinking it is the 40s. Not now; then. I like that the bus seems to be chrome or silver in this interpretation: in my creation of the story. I notice the one who is reading and writing. The one with the photo and the pen in his hand. Is it a checklist? Is it a To-Do or the writing of an address? No No. It’s a photo of him with a girl and maybe he is signing I love you. See you soon. I’ll miss you. I will never forget you. What was it that he wrote to the woman taking the picture? If only I could know. If only I could see in. They appear not more than 18 when they left on this day in the photo. Did they come home men with amputated limbs, holes in the heart where love once lived? I assume they had too many experiences imprinted in their brains of the many things they never ever spoke about. They lived a lifetime of silence because of the war because of the images left to haunt them. The ones of the one who didn’t return and the many others reasons that turned these boys into men.


Photographic Memory by Lyle

In that instant I took the photo, the sun came out and the glint from the train blinded me temporarily. I closed my eyes and lowered my Spotmatic. They laughed at something and then a train pulled out of the station on the platform next to ours, deafening me with its blaring horn blast. Fumes coughed up out of the locomotive formation and swung down in the breeze along the platform. I disappeared for a moment in a state of sensory depravation and I knew at that instant I wouldn’t be coming home. I remember that thought as I look at the photo so many years later. That glint brings on the same thoughts ending in sensory deprivation every time. One of the boys — Frankie — sent the photo to me. I don’t know how he found my address. Surely he hadn’t hired a PI.

When the horn stopped and I opened my eyes, the boys were still there, in the thinning, twisting mist of exhaust, but they weren’t laughing anymore. Or rather they had no expressions. They scintillated, phantasmagorically, all looking off in different directions.

Another horn blast shimmered through the air just as I opened my mouth and said, I’m through. We boarded the train shortly after. That’s the last thing I remember from this photo.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dead End

dead end: a movie by Lyle

Pan down from the starless night sky. Stop. This is real life on a dead end street. The sign at the end of the street — if it is to be called a street — looms large and yellow and. The viewer feels restless in its brightness. Stop. A plastic bag, color indeterminate in the light, lies deflated and still against the curb on the right. Vague linseed and fluorescent street lights tawny the asphalt. Dead End. This could mean so many things and so few. In a backyard that may or may not be on the Dead End, a small dog yaps at something unseen, unheard. “A thoroughfare (usu. including sidewalks) that is lined with buildings.” The houses lurk in shadow, as the camera rolls down the Dead End, swings, around the plastic bag, brushes under the hackberry leaves and comes back out. Stop. The dog has stopped barking. Pan up. Stop.


Live Ends by Forrest

I check the handbook: Yellow diamond indicates motorist general warning, but nothing’s general about a Dead End. The terminus is specific while trapped speeding in a vehicle, to be sure, though I am a pedestrian who carries DMV materials while jogging at night. And, no, I am not running away from imminent danger here. I am brushing up on warnings. This tired neighborhood won’t imitate a cheap horror show, I keep telling myself. It can’t be so bloody obvious.

My wife, on the other hand. She had suggested needs while jogging with me, that I search for a Live End that leads elsewhere but still concludes abruptly. Yet I liked the idea. I thought I could startle her by the random cul-de-sac. A little entertainment. Change of the dial.

In pointing out Live Ends to others—assuming I find any—I will use orange to indicate them. Orange signage for maintenance appropriates more caution, I think, since an impending development can’t be specified beyond familiar appearances or the expectation of a self-regulatory barrier. That tucked-in sidestreet way, way down by the dry reservoir, for instance. The cheerless bungalow. It has the makings of a deviation taken at my own peril for another person who will remain unknown to me.

I don’t believe I’ve been regarded the same there before.


The Super Eights by Bill

Not sure if I am being unproductive, maybe I am being preproductive. Uterproductive. We are of course Samsar-productive. We manage. Time manages. Same thing. All in all it has to be easier out there someplace. Maybe on the thunder road. Maybe in the sun where the boats weave on the sands and the memory of water. Your choices weren’t the best, but whose are? Ok, maybe you clogged the rivers with excrement that smelled like hexane and turpentine and we didn’t really do much to stop it (learning to drive a back-hoe was fun), and we were busy pumping enough nutria-sweetners into our blood we were embalmed with metabolized formaldehyde by the time we learned Reagan wasn’t going to die and spent the next century posing in wax museums while we waited for that plastic sheen to wear off our bodies.As I said, we manage. If you ever manage to evolve again, well, hopefully we’ll have kept the lights on for you.


Stealing Signs by Beth

My boyfriend’s parents’ Airstream trailer was full of signs he’d stolen. The trailer was parked for good at the end of a narrow dirt road, and his parents never used it anymore.  The coffee table said Stop. Frost Heave hung on the bathroom door.  He’d stacked orange cones in a kitchen corner, and one morning we woke up to a Railroad Crossing pole stuck six feet out into the pond.

I yelled for an hour when he brought in the purple garden ball on the sandstone stand, stomping up and down the trailer’s tiny hallway. Stealing from the town was okay, but I didn’t like him making off with things from people’s yards. I didn’t want him to be that person.

On summer weekends he had parties at the trailer.  His parents bought the alcohol, delivered it to us, and then left us alone.  He was their youngest child by eighteen years.

Later I read in the newspaper that four kids went to jail for stealing a Stop sign because somebody ran through it and got killed.  But it’s all so arbitrary, you know? What counts as a crime and what doesn’t.  What can be stopped.


Lovely by Alan

Lovely is the sign that exits the road. Lovely is the notion that serves to protect. Lovely is the miracle that makes the cul-de-sac. Lovely is the evening that surrounds us when we’re thinking. Lovely is remembrance. Lovely is the court. Lovely is the cars parked in a circle for summer’s final note. Lovely is the night as black as crow’s dreams. Lovely is this is why we came and for safety and for peace. Lovely is the nearsightedness. Lovely is the far away. Lovely is the immigration from highway to this way. Lovely is the stationary. Lovely is the sway of maples when it’s dark and we’re asleep. Lovely is this memory. Lovely is this street. Lovely is the way we grow up and think back and reconsider and never leave.


Untitled by Nicole

I have American Syndrome. There are no pills to take for this. It’s as if one day I hope to arrive at life but I know it won’t happen but yet it happens all the time. It’s the moments of satisfaction akin to a stuffing, a feeling, and fullness that I want to feel constantly. But each moment arrives and becomes the past that becomes the memory. So we move on to more and more of the future, forgetting. And we repeat the pattern again and again. And I think I am circling a cul-de-sac like a mouse on a wheel, a person on a treadmill, or a pinball stuck in the chamber without enough force to push it.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Untitled by Nicole

It was the fourth of July in Nederland, CO. One of the biggest days of the year for the town. Every year my husband and I liked to have a party. People always drive from miles away to enjoy fireworks over the reservoir. The reflection provides another view of the spectacular event. We invited Mike to come. He said he would bring the fireworks but we didn’t realize exactly what he meant. The fireworks from our deck were the town’s sideshow. We had a hose to make sure we didn’t burn the house down. Some people were surprised that the cops didn’t come. But it was Nederland on the fourth of July.


Glare by Lyle

The bamboo rustled and glowed brightly. Sean moved quickly to light the second “flare bomb,” a concoction of his own devision (we knew there was alcohol in it and maybe magnesium). We all knew that it would end badly someday, but no one ever even protested his, “All right, check this one out” or its inevitability just before the parties broke up. The flinty flick of the lighter and then the glare. Sometimes they were too bright to look at directly, like life itself. So we watched the bamboo flare up, dance and die down. Someone took a picture. Sometimes we conjectured about our presence at his next party. We hummed and hawed, but always ended up going. For all of its absurdity and repetition, there was a certain allure. I found myself particularly drawn to the tail end of these “experiments.” The ebbing of the experiments, the party, the night. The burning out of our lives always left us quiet, listening to the bamboo rustle, the remnants of color in their leaves.


Measurement by Forrest

Can’t earn bitemarks yet. Magnesium settles that, Bill. It’s only two traps sprung same place. You run off and I search anyway—even if that is your car. When Dina slummed, I’d figure when to stop asking. I got, you realize, moods flouting me. A fucking blue aura taming her. She insisted. Loved hands. What are still called hands. And I know she’d known our Bill grinning easily for us. I think you might pose courageous in the dark as well.


Maker by Bill

Here is how it opens: yawling collapse. Earplugs become necessary. The application of knowledge come round, butts against edge of the pit. Stick your hand in, tip over. This is how it sticks: neo-agent orange. Where would you like it to burn if not in your dreams? Do recover gasping for breath without knowing the shore and wake unsure whose bed you want to be in, sweating, shaking, feverish?


Soon, You Will Have to Worry by Beth

The night has chilled enough for sweatshirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, after a long, cloudless afternoon in which you lay on the grass with Sean and Sam and Mike and Josh, arms spread out and fingers almost close enough to touch.  Mike grabbed one of your flip flops and wedged it beneath his head for a pillow, and you were glad it was new enough to smell more of Wal*Mart than of bare feet.  Looking up at the sky through the high branches tossing in the breeze, you knew how lucky you were.

Now the wind swishes through the pines above the back deck where you are drinking a glass of wine and smoking a clove cigarette so slow that it keeps going out.  This afternoon, everyone was still, and you could imagine that they were imagining their bodies sinking into the grass and the dirt, like you were, and when Josh said, “what was that poem where the bodies become part of the ground?”, you said “Thanatopsis” without even having to think.

This afternoon you didn’t have to think too hard about anything, hold on to anything, but now Mike is doing that thing again, that frenzied thing, and even though you can smell the pines and see the stars overhead when you lean back in your lawn chair, you can also smell the lighter fluid, the hair Mike burned on his arm, you can see the bright flashes of the fire.


Alone in the Woods by Alan

Once upon a time, alone in the woods thought it was alone. Alone in the woods believed that every single thing is alone, ultimately, until it is not. Alone in the woods took this philosophy with it one day to a secluded area in the country of red. It brought some friends with it. Drink was one of these friends. Think, fire, and smoke were the others.

They decided to have a conversation. Alone in the woods suggested that they not use words. This was tacitly approved by all the parties present. On the deck of a state within the country, all the borders were called into question. One by one, they appeared and took the stand. So it went like this for several hours. It was alone and then not alone. Alone in the woods in the woods and alone one moment, then alone in the woods in the woods and not alone in the next. This went on for a very long time. The end.


The Last Bonfire by Johanna

The sky was full of tiny night dust, flaming stars falling to ash. Resounding putter and proceeding puffs before the last gliding cascade into infinite nothing.

After the alcoholic frenzy, after the insane tirades, after the sophomore orgy, after the naked dancing, bodies sprawled about, their consciousness having left them hours before, the fire still burned. The smoke had weakened to a bitter thick and noxious gray, a scent which would stick to our flannel shirts and jeans until laundry day. Someone had to snuff it out. We turned our backs to the struggling flames and began to unfasten our buckles, only slight turns of the neck to ensure we were united, no movements that may suggest doubt. Pants down, bending at the knee as if in a deep bow of reverence, we could feel the dim flames still hot enough to penetrate our skin, imagining the possible singe of hair. Quickly, a mass release of urine, a splashing yellow cascade with the odor of beer, left our bladders causing the fire to scream and hiss as if calling out for help. Dripping dry, we pulled up our pants, turned back to the smothered pit of warm coals and laughed. Dark then, and chilled, we returned to the distant light of the dormitory, hoping not to step on anybody.