Monday, December 7, 2015

Round Trip

Away From by Sherisse

In other words, the car never worked right. Pipo just let it sit in the driveway so the neighbors would think we had money. The car was a metaphor for things that never ended because they never even began. Or the other way around.

Once the car did take us someplace but only because the wind was heavy that night and the moon new. That night the ancestors were pushing us along, Pipo said. That night he said, close your eyes, or I closed them without his permission because I wanted to forget what we were leaving behind, and I knew they had been shut for a long while because when I opened them again I was in the countryside, not Pinar but something like it. Maybe only as far as Hadley, Massachusetts. It smelled like manure and tobacco leaves. It was only slightly foreign.

It was in that place that Pipo’s wife planted roses of all colors. The rose is the flower of the homesick. It grows well in to winter. And because the garden is its own universe, Pipo liked to visit it often. Between his jobs as gas attendant and shoe salesman, Pipo liked to read with one leg hanging off the side of the patio chair.

When Pipo died the women in the house were all vertigo and tears. I don’t recall the year. Endings always want to belong to another lifetime. All men who remind me of him appear as if through a rearview mirror. In that car, I am the only granddaughter. Not yet an admirer of anyone except him. I am only the story of moving away from and not yet made for speaking.


Other Flying Things by Alan

Berry and The Olive were not quite ghosts but disappearing nevertheless. They had made a pact several years ago that if one of them were to hum the melody of that instrumental song that was on the radio that day, the other would have to come up with the lyrics on the spot. It wasn’t quite a test but more like mutual respect. They searched the county roads for traces of themselves to pick up and place ever so gently in the trunk of someone else’s car. They believed in the emulsive power of sunny days.

One was the parent and the other the child. And then, just like that, both grew up. It’s not so much that time goes faster when you’re older or staring at photographs…it’s more the act of giving, the monolithic transfer of it, unit by unit, from one hand to the next. There is so much to name in this exchange: the exceptionality of the oval face, the look into dimension, growing hair and the like. But mostly, it’s the emptying that repeats itself, love the bat’s echo to see where it must go, eat what it must eat, draw what it will always draw – these imagined rooms to fly through from time to time chasing memory, birds, and other flying things.


I. Am. Not. No. Longer. Lyle

No longer my memories. Or, could I remember, perhaps they never were. This accumulation of time and… space? Of matter, both vaporous and material. Such that it leaks, or seeps out of my ears like metallic silver, these photos, these memories(?). It does have it’s prophecy (drag your finger along its edges). Still(!), memory-less, memory-conveyance, in stillness, life-quality — necessity as some people call it. I am, in my psychosis, a non-sequitur. If nothing else. But, then again, memory is not. Sequential. And, therefore, I. Am. Not. No. Longer. My. Memories. Maybe you are

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Future Tense

In the Future Tense by Alan

You step into the future tense with no map or directions in hand. You recall a set of luggage - florid patterns, Russian-dolled sizes - that your mother brought from that other country you have yet to visit. You appropriated the space for something you were working on once, a long time ago. Songs maybe. Probably more like sounds. These are in the past tense in the future tense.

The path to the future tense is decorated with choices. You are like a Danish prince in the future tense in the sense that you will "lose thy name of action in resolution." You cannot kill the urge so you sit in front of it in the future tense. You watch it pray to other gods in your head.

You are a collection of hesitations and hiccups in the future tense, one that someone might consider studying but most likely will discuss over lunch. In the future tense, the lunch might be fast food or it might involve alcohol. In the future tense, your trajectory will be looked upon as more fluid than it may appear to you now in the present tense. It may seem like "he should have done this" or "he should have done that" in the future tense. In the future tense, hindsight is sitting pretty. It's your favorite dress. In the future tense, you will walk into the place where you met dressed as her and wait for yourself to walk in through the door.

In the past tense, you grappled with the appendages in a mechanic's bathroom in order to get out what needed to be gotten out. In the future tense, that will be considered "evidence" or "the way in." In the present tense, you are slightly embarrassed about the indentations or, rather, intonations of that number. But here's the thing in the future tense: there is no embarrassment. Only truth.

In the future tense, you will raise a hand in a classroom and volunteer for the experiment. It will involve a machine and the heart and wireless technology. It will remind you of this moment, half-buried between the present and the past, but alive yet still, tense, aching for new music to come.


Semantics in Florence by Sherisse

That was the year the men had all the words. The women were without mouths, tongues. They slept fully dressed beside the bathtub. They said their creator had made them do it.

That was year the fruit sat under the recessed bulbs of spackled ceilings. You could have been in a place like Florence, Kentucky, where the Duro paper bags are made and stamped, “100% recycled, please reuse.” Hot coffee on the stoves of the fortune tellers, untouched, and the matted trees laughing in your ears.

And salivating, you. Prior to lovering or fathering or friending. You are anyway as dear as they come. A word I can never entirely pronounce. To get at the violet in the body, discreet organ flower. These hands go looking for you who came and went, who I let split the stalk in two.

And the things you never let the other taste: ambient and parched the salt between it all, the white tip of your nail, the underarm. The very precious rupture into dis-order.

I heard you once sort of say: only the men who give the women back their magic are worth saving. Chalk it up to semantics, the open envelope let loose from plans. After hours, an emptied out shoe, double-chinned laughter in the factories.

How lucky, the places never even seen. That was the year of atoning for crimes not committed.


Moon Garden Tarot by Johanna

The Nine of Cups kicked back in her mushroom meadow, a recently emptied bottle of wine by her side. Looking up at the super moon in Taurus, she knew that everything would go her way. She was a brilliant social butterfly about to have her dream come true.

She gazed at the King of Swords in his glass throne in the sky. Dragons laid like old dogs, docile, at his feet. His sword was made of ambition. He was a competitive man, but sometimes his affections waned and she had to pressure him to stay focused. She dug his mustache. She made up stories about what she wanted to do with that mustache.

The King of Pentacles also had a good mustache and a very big castle. He was quite grounded and practical and his throne was made of stone. She eyed him longingly as he spun the world on his fingertip like a basketball. She imagined the stimulating conversations they would have solving problems of world peace.

For guidance, she visited the Fifth Hierophant. He always gave her comfort when she went to his gate. She waited for nightfall and used both the gold and silver key. She asked him for inspiration, “Tell me the truth, which one will it be?”

“Test them,” he said, “to determine the perfect one.” He shuffled the deck and three cups fell out. Each chalice filled with singing fairies. Their song entranced her as it amplified. She grinned, “That sounds like big ass love.” Rejuvenated, she decided to throw a party, the largest party anyone in the land had ever seen and she would be the High Priestess of the party. She invited the Hierophant, both kings, the fairies and everyone in Moon Garden. She wore a mermaid tale made of emerald scales and a crown bejeweled with the moon and sun. Dolphins served sushi and chocolate cake while whales sang in chorus. She rested blissfully in her throne of conch shells and listened to the melodic din of gathering friends.

Perhaps the kings would not arrive. Perhaps only one would come. She was sure it no longer mattered. She didn’t need to decide. She realized she could have them both.

The Hierophant leaned in to whisper in her ear.


Simply Put by Lyle

Simply put, she will say rather loudly (at least for someone who stares into crystal balls in dark, cloth-laden rooms), It doesn't look so good. But she will be alone. Again. Perpetually? Who could say? She might have had something to say about that at one point, but not now (then?), to anyone who would or would not listen -- dead, alive or somewhere in between. That's crass of me to say, though. I'm demeaning her trade -- in the future tense, no less. Simply put, we don't know, as she will say as I've said. And we don't. Unless there is something built into our culture, into our cards, into our future. Something perhaps baked into the very nature of our jobs that will statistically suggest, no! predetermine outcomes, such as love affairs, morning routines, Alzheimer's and death (always death -- that's an easy one, she will say). Some trajectory that starts with a blue-bottomed bellow at birth. That's the easy part, she will say. Something simply put.


Brief Paths by Bill

Get yourself right with your maker. Maybe you have to buy a goat, or gather a bundle of holly tied together with a ribbon a child lost. Really that should not matter as long as the proper procedures are observed. You’ll know if you do it right because it will be as if you sat in the sat in the sand and felt the drumming of waves against the beach. Look in the windows as you head inside.

Sketch out her sign in front of you, draw the circle around it with the sweat from your brow and press the pad of your thumb to it as you close your eyes and set the empty glass ass-up on the table with your other hand. Remember her as a painting you saw walking in a waking dream, imagine the wind outside the building the day she gave birth to you and know down to the bone how it felt as she slipped away like a breeze.

Sit close to the fireplace listening to the stones warm. Be inside when you are outside, and outside when you’re inside, and flipped the other-ways too since the candle will stay lit all the way down until the very last sputtering spark draws in its final taste of oxygen in a soft sharp gasp before the thin rising curl.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Photo courtesy of & © Alina Noir.

Clasp Broken by Johanna

My husband’s lips are red with deception. They pucker and spit when he speaks. The blood rushes his mouth. He kisses hard like he is numb. He kisses soft when he is uncertain.

My husband drives my car to run errands. He fills it with gas. When it rolls into the driveway, the engine purrs and shuts off and there is silence.

In the winter, my husband lights a fire in the stove. He chops wood and covers it diligently. He takes care to keep the wood dry so it will spark faster and burn hotter. Sometimes, he forgets things. When the flue is closed, the room fills with smoke and our eyes tear. We laugh and laugh with watery eyes.

My husband writes the grocery list in red pen because it is convenient. The red pen sits otherwise unused. I moved the red pen to the car once, but the list still came out red.

The earring was red with glass beads. The clasp was broken. I pulled it out from between the car seats while searching for a pen.

By the window, a streak of sun cuts across my husband’s face. He is typing messages. His desk is made of pine. I touch his shoulder to wipe away the light and he flinches. His smile is broken and tethered. I want to strike the red from his lips. I offer him a glass of water. He watches for me to go before he gathers his words back up with his fingers.

He cannot see me in the unlit room, the glass between us, as he turns my car into the driveway. He checks his reflection in the mirror. He scans the seats. He picks up a weighted tote bag.

His door opens and he ducks to exit. His wide shoulders hunch slightly and his brows narrow. He pauses and smiles to no one.

The earring with the ruby red baubles that drip like blood stays safe inside my pocket. I will wear it in the dark while we make love and after he will scream and scream and scream.


Argument As Appendices by Alan

Three days after the towers fell, there was a silence in the streets whose only true sibling in the world is the silence realized when searching deeply for something one never quite had or, perhaps, understood. This idea, too, came and left massively, suddenly.

And so he went looking for you today. Not because of any after fight, imagined or real. No photograph that captured it in the mind. This was a surprise search. Figuring out that you‘re on one while on one. Found himself at the steps of a home you’d never inhabited. Near Park and something. Thought about what an argument might look like because, some might say, there wasn’t enough time. He wasn’t sure about this and the idea (cited earlier) by x…that without conflict there is no intimate.

One final note. The purpose of education is to eradicate fear, said Krishnamurti, so we can be free to love. One gets home and one does not always think of that though that is an answer in the frame, framing. So when two people inhabit the argument, the argument is not them. What is inside, rather, might be a series of carried objects so that the conversation is a lining up. A lining up and collapsing. Two dancers returning from the stage. Undressed by the things they’ve seen. Each other, even, is a thing when one lifts fear like a blanket in fall. Some arguments can go like this. Might go like this. And others, a different way for sure. (See R. Carver.)

It is at this point in the story (not nearly an ending) that the narrator wishes to take back what he said but not necessarily what he thought. (See C.)

A hypothetical: they’re told to argue, so they argue…not because they’re mad at each other or anything else, so inside the lips of the argument is something warm and right and unconditional and smile.


The Skin Where You Can’t Find It by Sherisse

We assume they’re lovers. Because one is a man and the other is a woman. We assume they must be lovers because they’re naked and alone, because the heart of one faces the heart of the other. And that if they’re yelling it’s because they once whispered. We assume that what is being said is private. We think that there must have been some brilliant beginning. We make up a story about how they met. We say they met on a Friday at Neptune, the diner on Astoria Boulevard, near the basketball courts, near the M60 bus stop, near the highway entrance. All the waiters at Neptune were foreign with thick accents, black vests and bow ties. She had stumbled in one evening, dizzy from the change of season and the soft death of post-summer nights. He had been her waiter: a little bit tall, a little bit handsome. She had had chicken soup and mashed potatoes. He had let her try the rice pudding, sprinkled cinnamon on top, handed her a metal spoon as if it were the first kiss on the cheek. He had reminded her of someone. A man she met once, as if by accident. A man she had had coffee with, or tea, in the dark back room of winter. Later on that evening she would imagine untucking the waiter from his trousers, joking with him about the feminine wedding ring on his finger, about the fact that she had had dinner alone on a Friday night while listening to people talk endlessly about steak and eggs and California pie. How had he put up with that for so long? The rants of children and the eerie lights and sop of loneliness. The very fat people and the mess they left behind. She would wonder what he had done with the Sunshine saltines left in their plastic wrap, the remaining and unused packets of butter. Later on that evening she would want to touch herself while thinking of him entering and exiting the kitchen with her food in his hands. She would want to see him again, but only to thank him. She was filled with gratitude but already she was afraid of going back to Neptune, already she was keeping secrets. No, she could only imagine his body permanently positioned near the dessert vitrine, slightly aloof in his black polyester vest. A middle-aged waiter at work exposing gently the monotony of desire. A man too cool for his bow tie.


When You Act Like That You're Ugly or Math by Lyle

When I used to think about farms I thought about barns and chickens or cows and overalls. That's not not accurate, I suppose, now when I think of it. But when I thought of it it was. Wasn't it? Maybe I misconstrued something, math-wise, to where it was cows and barns and overalls and consent. Oh, and a tractor. I think that was somewhere in the equation. The yelling was not in that equation and it makes everything all crooked. Like the farm house is not level and the barn is ablaze and fuck the goddamn overalls, you know? I eat okra and it's slimy and I don't mind it until you start yelling at me. Fucking chickens or cows looking on. They must know something I don't. About math, at least.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Swung As

What I Really Want to Know by Alan

What I miss most is swinging. It seems obvious to say and perhaps a bit too simple. Someone reading this someday might even say unearned (“too soon…wasn’t it just a few hours ago?”). But its steady pulse and gentle hand and familiar weight, mostly in daylight. It’s almost as if the motion were this dream in me diving and resurfacing, holding the breath and measuring the height.

I’m saying this because 1) I’m in a lineup again and it’s the heavy later summer air that’s readying the transition to and in between winds enough so that everything seems nailed down in thought and 2) time is precious and is moving faster than I can comprehend.

If I had a heart, I would talk about the child too new to fit but eyes, yes, eyes. If I had a body, I would ask for another push (even harder than the last). And if I had the guts, I would consider unhinging them all and seeing where we land. But what are we unleashed, my dear? Subject to gravity’s palm? Level with the earth? Staring at the stars? But this is fiction, so we are not. If this were a poem, the meditation would go like this:

A. Draw an arrow on a page that looks like →
B. Consider it a kite
C. Now cut it’s tail

How does that feel? I want to know.


Swingset by Forrest

Round and round we go and we end up. . . back here, the last place we met before not going anywhere. The community college. With the whole swingset empty you and I had taken turns with pro and con laying out the case for attending side by side in the dead of night: forward we stay home, backward we stay home, forward we stay home, backward we stay home, and that was it basically. Couple of high school grads laughing at their own stupidity. Not embracing it. Not us. I remember something about what was it parallelism but forgot the big word of it all. Or even symmetry. Worthless. Some teacher, I guess. You define both words at length while kicking your feet up and back up and back your hair along for the ride and I only watch. And I don't argue. You're having too much fun. I'm still trying to think of a book you had read for me.


An Unscheduled Moment by Johanna

After work, she went to the grocery store. She rushed home to make dinner and watch the baby so her husband could go to the gym. Her gym night was tomorrow, but she wished it was tonight. Her body ached from sitting at a desk all day. At home, she bathed the baby, played with her, read her a story and put her to bed. She pumped more milk. She thought about a book she started when she was pregnant. She yearned to read the end, but she fell asleep before the pages fluttered open.

She woke from a nightmare, a scream held tight in her clenched jaw. She checked to see if the baby still breathed. She could not go back to sleep. She looked out the window. The moon was full. She walked onto the front stoop. The air was pleasant. She walked to the park across the street. She sat on a swing and rocked a little.

A memory occurred from years ago, when she was single and lived alone in the city and discovered a dead crow on the sidewalk, peaceful and still, as black as night. She took it to the park, hugging it close to her chest and cleared a space in the brush to bury it. She said a prayer for the dead crow and so moved by the experience, she stayed in the park late into the night, watching for shooting stars, imagining how small she was in the universe, a piece of dust.

This memory made her smile. She looked up at the stars again. She was alone. When was the last time she was alone? She realized she loved to be alone. She never knew this before when she was often alone. She leaned back and closed her eyes.

She heard an owl hoot. What a beautiful sound. When was the last time her life was quiet enough to hear an owl? Was it an owl? She hoped it was an owl. The wind picked up. She felt a chill. She worried she was not alone in the park in the dark. What time was it? Did druggies squat in this park? Wasn’t there a mugging here last month? Her robe unfurled. She closed it tightly. Did she hear the baby cry? Was her husband calling her? The owl hooted again, louder, closer. She scurried back inside.


Mind Sets by Lyle

It's a lot like tennis, swinging. Like the US Open, say. Or the pretty girl sitting next to the drug dealer -- that guy must be a drug dealer to be sitting next to her. Or the nighttime sound of helicopters as you swing quietly in the dark waiting for them to find you, and off in the distance the light from Arthur Ashe stadium illuminates the night. It might very well be a hole in the ground all the way to the other side of the earth where the sun is shining straight through. It might as well be a swing set when you think about the nothing that is your life. This swing doesn't quite reach the light. Doesn't quite match the pop of the tennis ball off the racket. Not quite the big bang, but maybe a lot like tennis. You're ready for them, but they're not ready for you. They're ready for you, but you're not ready for them. It's all the same, at rest, between sets.


Swings by Sherisse

Andy was high up in the summer air, his legs were dangling, the cool chains making indents in each brilliant palm. This swinging he hadn’t done in years, this kind of love play. He was kicking like a child and, quietly inside, he was laughing. There, against the backdrop of windowed buildings and the hollow groans of the city, I could find him. Once I pushed and pushed until he almost fell off. I felt bad about our condition but I liked watching Andy’s body in motion, meeting him in the trying. From behind, I could see his spine through his shirt and I could see his bald spot. When I pressed my palms to his low back I wondered what it would be like to have Andy’s whole long body on top of my own, if falling in love happened even when you were holding back. I guessed that Andy smelled like grass and tasted like peeled grapes; that he would be all earth in my mouth. For his birthday, I made him a cake and I put fat church candles in it. I wrote in a card, “I had two children but they fell through the earth.” That was a dream I had once; I thought he would appreciate knowing me that way, through the strange ghosts in my dreams. From the swing, his hungry body ate up the whole cake with a plastic fork. When he was done I wiped his mouth with my blouse and gave him a good, hard push. He went up into the stars like a handsome and brave bird. The night was long and in it Andy stretched out over the island. I saw him go; he was magnificent even when silent and far away.


Eurydice by Bill

There is enough of a breeze to oscillate the seats front to back but the chains make little noise from this far away and it seems like a great deal of effort to move forward, walk into the shining hours of the night when the air is violet black velvet resting against our skin. Oxygen and ozone spiced and scented by a tomorrow justice has not written off. When we can leave the wondering to hang like raindrops in the air free to be plucked from the space before our eyes by the fresh faces who will come after and the measure of exceptionalism needed to persevere will not be quite as sheer, where it won’t cost so much just to be. The loose stones and the gravel will stay bright with the moon and starlight and slip and spill when we finally build up enough speed, get high enough to hurl ourselves out into the air and feel weightless just for moment until we touch down again crumpling up in a heap to channel all that energy down on the rocks, glad that gravity still wants us enough not to let us go.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Neck of the Woods

Giraffe by Alan

If it’s the nose that grows when a lie is told, what happens when a lie is not told? When it’s stored? When it could be told but instead it stays put. An urge in reserve. In the cellar an I could say but I’d rather not. An is anyone even asking.

Perhaps it’s the neck that grows then, so in love with the swallowing. Perhaps it grows to escape its circumstances, a natural evolution type of thing. Perhaps it’s in love with the sky. Another sky? The reason for the lie?

When the lie that could have been told is never told there is a breath of fresh air, but there is also a longing. Make it a lengthening. Because the lie was never told. Because the reason for the lie has never grown old. A fairy tale, almost. A tall tale. A bulging tall tale aching for release.

And in the conclusion, a sincere attempt to recast the purity of the introduction. And in the body of the tale essay, everything is what one might imagine it is. Minus the details, of course.

Still…the better to see you with, the better to eat you with, etc. There are so many wonderful things we can do with these extensions out in the wild.


Ways to See in the Dark by Sherisse

Ah, yes. The giraffe. You asked once about the animal and its extended neck and I never answered. I may have been asleep. I was not beside you. (Not ever.) What exactly is it that you wanted to know?

Of the sky, of the behind, of the underneath, of the texture of the invisible. What the closed eyes saw, to whom the meek voice was speaking.

What it said?

To itself. What it said to itself.

There is a place near the river that reminds the giraffe of…


I have never slept there. (Not ever with you.) From this spot one witnesses, if one is paying attention, the most gentle and the most violent gestures of the current, the turning on and off of east side apartment lights. With the spooned moon in view, the pastel bridge below and inside it. The nerve of endings: where the cars go.

Now, the terrestrial animal of your mouth, its hesitant urgency.

For what do you believe it hungers?

The teacups were all along too small, the hall too narrow a place to say farewell. The giraffe wants back the hand and the lip and the little distance. The critique, the lap.

What asks?

The circuitry of the body; its continued looking. Or the gentle curiosity of just being. The question performs as if an actor in a theater. It feigns loneliness, competes for attention.

Why come back to it at all?

To know what it is to be a thing in progress that paws itself into earth and puts off dying but does not fear it.

Surely there are things missed in the interim?

If so, here, you will speak to me of them.


Serengeti Wax Animals in Their Natural Habitat by Lyle

Did you know it takes a minute for saliva to trickle down a giraffe throat? No swallowed saliva, you understand. Just dripping saliva. This was not the tour I was expecting. We’d already gotten the rhino scatological leg over with. And the elephant scrotal exhibit. Not at all what I was expecting from the Serengeti Wax Animals in Their Natural Habitat tour. And how was this wax still so… Not melted? When it was my turn to ask my one question, that would be it. That or, Why does the female water buffalo have such a large — no! Melted wax. Definitely the non-melted wax. Still the life size statues did beg the questions. The guy next to me asked about the erogenous scales of the Nile crocodile. Sucker. No one would ask about the wax, that’s for sure. I had that one. But what about that water buffalo. I mean, look at that thing! Surely there’s an interesting explanation of that particular feature. Dammit, man. Focus. Wax. Certainly, the odd postures were something, all these animals toppled. None grazing like I had read about as a boy. Or was this the way it was? The water buffalo turned up on it’s back, legs splayed. Then it was my turn to ask my question.


The Kitsch Giraffe by Forrest

Nobody believed me. Nobody wanted to go home. All we had—all we had ever had, according to them—was the kitsch giraffe, and they loved it more than home. For several days, reduced to camping out in the station wagon, relying on the convenience store for meals and washing up, my wife and children hovered near its hooves, stood underneath its pre-molded torso of fiberglass, and pondered the mysteries of its empty head as I watched. To tell them the vessel was empty was pure folly. A trucker from Texas tried his luck, first with amazement, then profanity, but I could do nothing to prevent the spectacle. It had seized them with merely a sunbeam glinting off its yellow neck. Did they still want me, the father, to stay in the picture, or had I lost my place to the kitsch giraffe. They considered this carefully at first. My feelings were at stake: I did, after all, drive them to the kitsch giraffe. I deserved some adulation. They waited for instruction, however. Something filled with that much kitsch must have a message. My wife flagged down drivers to lay Spanish candles before it. My children began constructing messianic chants out of doggerel from Bazooka Joe comics they bought in the store. We would wait, they said. And when the police arrived, they set up a cordon to safely demarcate our area, later arresting me as I tried to ram our station wagon into one of the kitsch giraffe's leg. Let me save my family, I begged them, can't you see. Can't you. Yeah yeah, we see, buddy—you've got yourself a beautiful giraffe here. You should be really proud of yourself.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Anacoluthon by Alan

When Aram Zohrab woke one day from deep in the reverie of the much-longed-for-and-recently-realized kiss, he found himself changed into a knobby and irreconcilably amphibious toad. The path that led to this discovery was, it seems, the only point. And a man becomes a toad as if a toad becomes a man. And a frog becomes a ravine in the way that I think I love impossible you and will always love the idea of.

The first thing he did that day was consider the circumstances. Like other sudden discontinues, there is no other way to say it. No familial dream, no going backwards in a fairy tale. The water flows one way and inside the most sensitive cavity an aching transformation.

The rest is, as one likes to say, historians, not so much history. He thought about the kiss much, the lips, interruption. We’re always interrupting or interrupted, aren’t we? We shift through points of view only to arrive at a single moment whose beak is both lovely and sharp, whose feathers for fancy and flight. When Aram Zohrab woke that day, he found himself. Still, but no lay trap. Just a refocusing, a conflagration of the soul in order to understand this desire, which is always reason enough.


She Tells the Houseguest by Sherisse

That still she derives some pleasure from knowing this man even though she can no longer sit in the same room with him or listen to the sound of his voice. She has had to make his aches and pleasures irrelevant. But she keeps him near her neck and ear and she imagines that he whispers something about Césaire or Tranströmer in the middle of the night because he suspects that she is particularly interested in the aesthetics of loneliness and in her mind, or someplace, they go on together about what is real and where the real resides. The conversation was charged, made her spine light up like a thing on the brink of death.

He was the kind of would-be lover who could, without knowing it, make her feel acute grief and if not grief then pure and pungent longing. She would tell him this; she knew that he was amused by it. And once they walked together along that stretch of highway where all things appear trapped beneath the earth and asphalt and on and on that summer just after the baby, several babies not belonging to each other, were born.

And all the items that once must have belonged to nature, or the absence of it, the possibility of it, now organized themselves into shapes not that orient but that absorb noise and imagination and all the rest of it. She had asked this before: what would be there now if they returned to it, what odd creatures and non-native trees and what stars and what atmosphere of innocence and would it be enough to get them lost in that whisper just under the things not said.

The actual lines were strewn throughout the house, the fragments and notes and bits of his beard. The awkwardness of sudden closeness, like looking into a mirror and seeing your own ghost. The shock, finally, of his presence. How visible she had made herself.

But now she was repeating things. The houseguest with the toad around his neck had said nothing this whole time, not even when desperate she asked like a sick child for a cure. He inquired instead about her dreams. He was interested in the dialogue and laundry of sleep. She was suddenly possessive, unable or unwilling to give anything away. She didn’t have the courage to apologize. In this country there could be no proof of his ever having been there. The houseguest would have to leave and return empty-handed.


Conviction by Forrest

Toads are not the best of animal friends one can stumble upon in the forest primeval, but sometimes it's best to make a go of things with them when you're lost because ugliness, too, is entertaining: it makes you feel less stupid for getting lost in the first place. The rough part comes when you unlose yourself by finding a cabin inhabited by a pair of convicted criminals on the lam. Taken by surprise, they'll see you with the toad in hand and ask, Whatchoo doin with that toad in your hand, mister? Now since you may not know that these two are escaped cons (though the matching jumpsuits are trying to tell you otherwise), you would be inclined to say, Bad luck repellant; however, following a newfound instinct being slowly sharpened by your current predicament of walking lost in the woods, you say instead, That's between me and my toad. The entreaty of privacy, though resembling zoophilia somewhat, could, in fact, earn you a certain respect with these two—and sure enough, it does. They start laughing wildly. A stupid question to begin with. We're all friends now! Bring the toad inside—we got plenty a dead bugs for it. You politely turn down the offer. It's getting dark, you explain, and you've been wandering lost long enough. It's time to get home. They stop laughing. The short one looks at the tall one, and it's the tall one says, This is your home. It occurs to you then that these are the handsomest strangers you've ever been suspicious about. Maybe the tall one is right. One place is good as another, and you seem to forget at that moment any of the former comforts you enjoyed at wherever you were living before you got lost. You're just as handsome as these two men—perhaps more so since, unlike them, you have a full head of wavy hair. Three handsome men living in a cabin in the woods. There's a poetry to this scenario you can't recall from something you've read before, but it doesn't matter. Feeling a tinge of jealousy, you place the toad on the ground; immediately it bounds away from you. The short one slaps you on the back. Tells you it'd be happier outside instead. You would very much like to believe him as you walk up the wooden steps to the entrance with the tall one right behind you, watching the toad knife into the bushes from the clearing, but the cabin feels so much warmer. There's a fire waiting inside. Yes, there must be.


As Earth Had Shaped Them by Bill

Simple and shaped by calm as the rolling of stones through the ages of the earth, collecting rainwater in time’s basement, listening as it flows down the face of the rock, seeps through the stone to drip a far falling echo when it lands, the humming murmuration of it in the pipes once the walls have closed in on mornings framed by progress. Understanding taking the shape of people, mimicking their behavior while struggling to act in accordance with the rough chaos of their logic. A quiet response to a call it took a long time to make. There is a bit of the stretch left and the frustration of hope.


Qualia by Lyle

The old toad froze, contemplating, one might imagine, life. Not in that fight-or-flight way of most amphibians but in another way all together. Considering the afterlife, such that it is (it is!), of a toad. Surely swampy. Filled with those fast moving challenges to satiation -- making them all the more tantalizing and rewarding (one might say, more heavenly, even). Or perhaps we image this old toad contemplating the wind-skimmed, fractured reflection of the pond. What would it be like to hop on a ray of light? What is this qualia qua qualia that is perhaps something other than just fight or flight. What is this leaping sensation?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sugar, Chef's Quality

Maybe, Sugar by Alan

Sweetness, why do we sway in the trees so? Where is it that those sudden wings fold in genuflections over hidden earths? What is it that the thirsty man said to the breeze before it lifted his desire and turned it into a dove?

This month we want nothing but questions, for the child has not yet begun to read. One might be a photograph, a play of light. Another the trace of a breast. There are things sought after in this world, and there are things that never leave one’s side. This is a kind of maxim he will most assuredly learn, another punctuation mark with which he will fall in love.

Can we meet again? At the end of this month. At the counter where we first met. I’ll be done with a set of words and walking home. It will be spring, finally. I will stare through the glass and look for you amongst the faces. There we will find a space in the dark to exchange dresses. I always thought there was a chance that you were the voice I spoke to long ago, the one in the perhaps dream. What is it about memory that leaves certain probable holes - space for the tasting, taste for lasting – that are inevitably filled with sugar, more sugar? I will meet you there.


Some Other Ghost by Sherisse

Over crepes, Ellie said that she believed her husband was falling in love with me and asked whether I, too, was falling in love with him. There were pink peonies on the table that looked as though they had just bloomed. Outside it was hot and we’d agreed we would sit indoors where it was air conditioned. We were both wearing dresses that covered our knees. I laughed when I heard the question, or just a moment after. Ellie’s face grinned but only slightly. I looked over at the bar and the band performing Chris Isaak’s, Wicked Game. I noticed how few people were dining at this early hour on a weeknight. I was chewing and pointed at my mouth to indicate that I would answer her question but needed more time. Her gaze was fixed on me but friendly. It was as though she’d just asked for something that belonged to her and was simply waiting, patiently, for me to retrieve it.

We'd been seeing each other, the three of us, for several weeks. I wasn’t yet sure if this was a relationship, if I would even call it that, nor what was expected of me. And it was that thing – expectation – which I had been trying to deflect since the first conversation. I had wanted to be a passerby, or a participant from a distance. But now we were here, she and I, on a date that started with a stroll through Chelsea and would end with a kiss on the Highline. We hadn't gotten to that part yet. Soon we would order coffee. The coffee would arrive in bowls. She would add sugar to hers and I would have mine unsweetened. This detail seemed to signify some greater difference: the fact that Ellie had a husband and I did not or, perhaps more accurately, that she had made a choice to become someone’s wife whereas I had not ever believed I could fully inhabit such a thing.

Eventually some words strung themselves together. “I may be falling in love with him,” I said, “but we can’t yet know what is reality and what is fantasy.” I paused there. Ellie seemed satisfied as she exhaled. I thought her satisfaction might have more to do with the fact that she had asked the question in the first place, found a confidence she didn’t know she possessed.

After the Highline I found my way back to my Queens apartment. In the soothing dark I wept for some past not yet washed away or disposed of or gone. It was as if Ellie had asked what other secrets I'd been keeping. I hadn't realized I'd been keeping any at all. I may have been falling in love with her husband – with her, even – but there was some other ghost. I took the peonies home with me that night, not the flowers themselves but a photograph. I would go on looking after them in solitude as if they were an extension of our own – Ellie’s and mine – forgotten, or lost, beauty.


Sweet Tea by Lyle

Sweet tea with Susie under the pecan trees in the afternoon when it was still not so hot to sit out under the trees and drink sweet tea with Susie. But that was some time ago before the rain. Before the rain was sweet tea with Susie. And then the rain left us separated; a rain is a sliver that separates. A woodpecker in the savaged trees. The foreignness of bridges. Homes stolen for bridges. Sweet Susie under a pecan tree, still under, where I drive a nail into the trunk and think about sweet sweet tea with Susie. No more with sweet Susie.


Sweetness by Johanna

For the first eighteen years, I lived in a marsh. We ate rice, mushrooms, watercress, fish, frogs and ducks. My skin flaked with green scales. I made friends with flies and lizards. My eyes yellowed and twitched.

I picked my mom a bouquet of asters, marigolds and rose mallow. They dried to dust under the window. The only music I knew came from my dad's fiddle and he never played it very well. I found a magazine once at the side of the old county road. The pages torn and wrinkled from rain. I brought it home and hid it under my pillow. At night I searched the pages in the moonlight. It was all about cars. Red cars. Fast cars. Electric cars. Trucks and wagons. I was shocked to learn that people cared so much for cars. So much that a whole magazine could be devoted to them. We never had a car. Only a row boat.

My dad found the magazine and burned it in the yard with the trash.“It's just trash,” he said. “You don't need to be reading that junk.” I couldn't read anyway.

Then there was the fisherman. He called me pretty. News to me. He saw that I was feral and he pulled prizes from his pocket. A wooden token, paper clip, pen cap, rubber band, glass bead-- his pocket seemed infinite-- brass key, earring, button, broken chain, and the best prize of them all, a dirty, torn packet of sugar.“Try it,” the fisherman said.

He took me away that night and I never returned. I had never known such sweetness.


After a Dying Ray by Bill

It’s a sweet chance and we had to take our shot. The train was getting ready to leave, ahead of schedule, a bit of secret advance we’d managed to scrap up. Normally we were all thumbs on the pulse of things, and our hearts were never that strong to begin with – often we got knocked out before we even knew we didn’t know anything. But the train was a change and the train was the whole bowl of wax where it wouldn’t matter why we couldn’t hack it. If we got this one thing right, had a choice between the convalescent and the moribund then it was worth it to take a roll of the bones and see if it came up white.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Options by Alan

It was 1995, and the world seemed fine. After they got off the plane, the boys rented a car to find James, who was said to be at the Peace Festival at the foot of the range. A totem of sorts. Some place where the placards would go. A makeshift town circle. These were the notes. See you there in the morning.

For city folk, the mountains aren’t that unfamiliar. The steel is traded for soil…the height is still an inclination to believe in God. People still like to climb. The smells are different. That’s about it, might be a conclusion. But for suburbanites, there is something alien in the purity. A shameful dislocation for at least one in the group. He did not mention it to the others.

The mission to find James began with a map, several hoods, understanding of one’s breath at these heights, and ended with a tent tucked into the folds of the earth. He was with a lover, and so easily he made his departure, as if it were premeditated by at least one of the two of them. Then the options. Boys always like to believe in options. It’s almost as if their world depended on the right to view the land, the world even, from some serious and foreign height. They wore boots for it. They came prepared for what they thought was necessary, part of the deal.

For a moment, everything was still, and something felt familiar. It may have been the way the clouds descended over the tip of the thing and came to a spot just above the heart. And the way what was below was firm and hard. The top, the thinking, a mystery. The ground, an exhortation, a plea. Somewhere in between blood and guts. Branches reaching for understanding.

James placed a hand on a shoulder. Let’s get out of here, one of them said, the words like striations of earth carving out the landscape, which was otherwise miles of intractable snow.


Eloquent Disappearance by Sherisse

They could see from the bedroom window that the light had changed and the sun had started to set. Although she couldn’t navigate very well in the dark, not even with her glasses on, they decided to take the drive anyway. She had wanted to see The Cloisters, she said. She had not visited the gardens in over a decade and she missed their private and quiet beauty. She had not intended to arrive necessarily; she knew they might have to turn back. She wanted at least to experience the drive and, if lucky, to experience the reconfigured landscape, even if only from a distance, to rearrange the body according to elevation. To fall, obedient. She had kissed her first lover there (in a parked silver Honda beside the museum), a French-speaking girl several years older. In the middle of that darkness existed a more subjective longing and she wanted to go back to it again, to show him its lush and organized interior. There she had known, felt more directly, the true clasp of desire: they had fogged the windows and laughed, taken their clothes off and climbed on top of each other. This – the drive on this particular night – felt like a study, an academic experiment. There was the timing to mind, the now unfamiliar road, the limited light and all the other facts, how the car would have to be parked – and then what? She had pondered these things prior to the climb with him. Earlier, she had pressed her mouth to his fingertips and tasted into despair, into their needing a way out of stillness, the pursuit of some less linear ascent. They had agreed: if the top of the park was reached, they would not abandon each other. Instead, at the point of entry, they would disappear – one and then the other or both simultaneously – and they had discussed how the signage on the road would fall from view, all forms of report. The days between then and now would stretch sorely into some lovely birth, a more endless reflexive looking. Into their unspoken words, a timid light would pour. “Try it,” she had said, the mouth already filling with absence, folding in like a loose and tender leaving. The car would remain in neutral; some previous and perfect version would find the evening, reach in to rescue the blessedness of its architecture.


Past Due by Johanna

The only skin exposed burned at the top of his cheeks where the eyes begin their thoughtful burrow into the skull. The blowing snow pounded on his chest (his heart just a mumble) so that he had to hold his head down to withstand the force. This was the way home, or so he hoped. The landscape barren of markers, a white horizon blurred with the sky. He turned left at the last sign of civilization long ago and followed the sun (a muffled glow in the clouds that must be the sun) westward, back to her. He remembered her plum lips and the way she always kept a candle burning in the window for him. He shivered. His feet disappeared deep into the numb of snow. His pace slowed. He wondered if she’d ever forgive him.


Arms by Lyle

In the light of the TV, which flashed blue light across his legs outside the covers, he considered turning up the volume so he could hear what statistics they found about the batter. Maybe that the last time he was up and it was his birthday, he had hit a home run. Or had been beaned. Haha. Yeah, maybe that was it. What are the chances he gets beaned again? Very slim. Very slim that he would be here. Alone. Watching baseball. But there he was, a thousand miles from everything wishing that he wasn't. Somehow the tilt and pitch of the television light helped. Somehow the blur of arms and then getting ready again for the blur of arms... What was he thinking anyway? He sighed and turned off the TV. Outside, moonlight off the snow.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Two Chairs

Untitled by Sherisse

Someone in the house had just died. Dropped dead, in fact. In a closet of a bedroom with the clothes still hanging above, shirt sleeves hanging neatly from their hangers, dresses draped one each beside the other, no bodies inside of them, their colors and cotton, their simultaneous shape and shapelessness. In another room a couple was making love, their bodies clotted together, nude, out-loud moaning that puffed them up and colored their skin crimson, moaning that made the heart accelerate and the toes and fingers go numb, cold. From the center of the house, one could not gather, only guess, who they were; their anonymity had rendered them temporarily invisible or forgotten, and what was certain was that on this particular day they could not be known, not by their names or addresses or interests. The elegant pursuits and intricate schemes of the living: they didn’t matter now. What mattered were the items abandoned, the bag left on the bed, the upside down cups, two of them, the spaces that could not be occupied except perhaps by music, by space or emptiness itself, like a vitrine cleared of its contents, chairs reserved not for sitting but for some not yet fully formed future, some prognostication of sitting. The soul of these things. And the someones who occupied this day, their locutions, you might say they had been cruel and unnecessarily so. Their various vague and foreign disguises: moustaches, hats, trousers, footwear. There were no punched tickets in the pockets, only receipts collecting light creases, a little bit of lint.


The Lovers by Alan

Sometimes it takes a window to understand light. Sometimes it’s like I can’t believe I’ve been living in all this dark. It’s like what’s there, through curtain and glare, is a kind of fuzzy invitation to look inward and make sense (as in shadows, take inventory, check the mail) of the later frames.

The letters won’t read themselves, you know. It’s knowledge of the other that stands up the characters, aligns them with breath so that they rise and dip like a kite. Without is not tearing open. Without is just sky.

I want to tell you all why I left, but first I have to arrange the study. Then I will return to the table we inhabited and wait for the sun to go down. I will imagine us a pair of chairs separated by our desire for a sense of place. Here we are now. We offer the nape, half-lit, on the one end and then almost everything but some definition on the other. Be careful not to disturb the universe, my love. I will be careful not to disturb the universe.

Slowly the sequence to the season: Is there any other way? we think, on good days. Is there any other way? First to each other and then to ourselves. Moving in and then moving out.


Defying Evolution by Johanna

Charles Darwin invented the office chair. He placed wheels on the bottom of an ordinary chair. In this way, he could move faster from specimen to specimen. And so the chair evolved. Humans have evolved with the office chair. Necks and shoulders hunch over. Pelvis tilts back. Nerve compression in the lumbar. Pain in the coccyx. Muscle degeneration. Obesity. Early death.

“Sit anywhere you’d like.”

“I’d rather stand.”

I’ve given up chairs. Like some people give up chocolate or cigarettes, two vices of no interest to me. I’ll stand at counters. Eat at the bar. Type at my standing desk.

“Rest your feet.”

“I’m resting my tailbone.”

No one understands. My mother says I make her nervous, always hovering. In my office, I tower over cubicle walls. Co-workers hunch deeper as if hiding from me. My boss eyes me suspiciously. After work, I run ten miles. I eat one fish filet and one cup of salad. I sleep on my back.

“Have a seat.”

“No, thank you.”

I only sit in my dreams. There is a lounge chair. Plush and brown leather. It reclines. The chair is placed next to a window. The light comes in low and illuminates my elevated toes. I sink into the chair. The cushions fuse to my spine. I wake up restless and sweaty.


Minuteman by Forrest

For this work, meeting another morning, without him: notebooks, ledgers, the last legal pad she had from the office. A small table for that very reason. Imagining him seated before her with nothing else, no notes. Only what was inside him. He had experiences, once he recollected over trust fund certificates with his deceased wife's name, with another woman; and these she wrote down, instead of numbers, as numbers. Hotel rooms. Tallies. Barometer pressure. Algorithms forgotten. She hated them, all the numbers, and all their blind spots accordingly. The measurement of the inseam of his pants, for instance, the way he shifted. She saw it shift. It looked different at the table. All the numbers, these not belonging to him. All on the legal pad. He sold all the possessions. There was only the paperwork, and that in itself keeps the paperwork, she thought. Between them the little ill-stacked pile of All she tallies, trying to remember whether sunrise today is sooner or later by a minute.


I Know Where She Keeps the Key by Bill

The door closed behind me with the almost exact amount of force required in one quick touch to push it shut, overcoming the friction of the latch against the strike-plate and settle secure in the frame without undo noise on impact with the jamb. I did not remove my jacket or my scarf. The air in the apartment was warm and the discomfort and itchiness if I stayed too long seemed desirable, necessary. Deserved. The windows being closed kept a scent of toffee and clove in the place from candles I could tell let off their scent even when unlit.

I used scent in place of odor intentionally.

Though the actual consideration was fractional at best – happening in my mind in a sequence of calculations underwritten semi-consciously by what I am now reviewing in a somewhat reductive loop to attempt to unpack – it was consideration none-the-less of what I can only best describe as political mixed with personal appreciation. It was responsible and irresponsible. Hell, it was personal and odor felt too judgmental, like a mischaracterization.

The chairs too I am trying to decide between. What is it that I can infer from this? What is here? A single occupant at the table keeping the present focus in front of them and the less exacting concerns at arms reach? Or were there two?

Which didn’t push the chair back in? And the table. Is there a folder on that table with briefs on pending legislation? Committee and donor dossiers? Is there a ledger of clients? A calendar with regular appointments, doctors visits? How closely does one profession mirror the other on paper and how silly of me to have never realized before.


It's almost as if... by Lyle

It. Is. Almost as if something started here with people. But there's nothing that has to make it that way. Residue, invisible, of human-ness like sallow, sick fucking ghosts who were never human to begin with.

Let's start over.

Sometimes in the right light, I can barely see him and sometimes in the right light I can still... It doesn't matter anymore anyway.

The Singularity occurs every day. Every goddamn day forever.

Sometimes a pile of books on a table is just some books someone doesn't want to read even though they tell you that they do. It's not about desire so much as it is about comprehension. You moron.

And people in general. You know what they're like. People. Hellish. You understand, don't you?

What was your name again? I don't remember anymore. But there you are. In the window. In the wind. Disappeared.

It's almost as if things get away from you and no matter how hard you try you can't get them back.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jury Duty

Sailing The Painted Gliders by Bill

I sat down on a stone bench. I thought of laying right on the ground, imagining wetness out of the earth pushing up around me instead of hard concrete against my shoulder blades all the ballooning sections around my middle. Helen wandered off and we could hear her for a while pushing buttons on a console for information. I thought about offering to take some pictures of Melanie and Hank, but they probably would have taken me up on it and I really didn’t want to risk dropping my camera. I guess we expected rocks to stack, but there were none. Rather they were already done, already stacked. Made to look solid like it wasn't ready to fall over in the full course of time. The building was saturated with existence belying time. All the buildings, the whole city, thick and full and immobile with constant motion. Then one day it will all settle back down into the muck, push up more mud, wait, push down and push up again. Eventually the whole city will be a swamp again we might wander through if we choose to wait long enough. All the moisture will pull the heavy stone down into itself, using the weight of itself and its sheer mass to rise up again. What a city is, a swamp can be to, and what a city does a swamp matches just as well.


Decisions by Alan

Above us all only truth and sky. And if truth is sky, then is it endless? Does it stretch and bend into the nothing that is infinity? And if our understanding of infinity is limited, is truth a compartment in which we store our nothing?

We ‘re on line for jury duty today. My lies and me. We walk into a building made of sky and the proportions outlast us. A man with a gun for an arm directs us to disassemble. There are tourniquets pinned to the wall for emergency use only. The crowd waits to be named. The waiting is a pillar.

When we’re called, it’s a choice to run or not. We will dash the fastest in this race. Take the liberty and press it firmly against the face and run to river and liftoff in grace one final jump, which will not be final but obsolete save for the few breaths of fresh air and the imagined sequence of wings.


Guilty by Lyle

Call it a placeholder. We find dogs to feed on the perimeter. We eat dog at night around the fires in barrels when we can no longer stand the sound of our own hypocrisy. Shorthand. What's shorter than guilty? We all know that one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ruins & Remains

These Trees by Alan

In the incandescent rumination of “god’s inner country,” as it was referred to by those who lived just outside of it, we all stretch our limbs toward the sky. Our days are filled with memories that scorch and nights that last just long enough to cool them. We are this family of stiffened longing. We dress desire up in gold and send it into the earth. It stays there while we whisper for some unnamable season to return. These poses we hold with bated breath.


Lake Atitlan by Johanna

The lake shimmers just beyond the forest dense with chacas, the tourist tree because its skin is red and peeling. We prefer the hardwood of the pine that burns longer. My husband chops at the trees, splitting the logs into small stackable pieces. I lay out an old blanket. I remember when I spun the cotton, my oldest son, Pedro, suckling at my breast. I wove the yarn and dyed it bright blue from the indigo plant. It was so dark then, the white pattern, so clear. But I have had six children since then. I have draped this blanket to carry them on my back. I have wrapped it to keep us warm. I have covered their little bodies with it while they slept. Now, it is faded and old.

My husband places the small logs with great precision on top of the blanket so that there are barely any cracks between them. He heaps them three feet high and I tie the loose part of the fabric tightly into a strap before he helps to heave the band up and across my forehead. I can feel the rough wood pile against my back as I lean forward to counter the weight and keep from collapsing into the lake. Though, the day is so hot, the lake looks welcoming.

The lake gives so much and takes so much away from us, like Ernesto when his fishing boat capsized and Angelina when she was bitten by a snake. Their spirits always walk ahead of me as I follow the trail, surefooted through the woods, carrying my load as I have for all these years.


No Home by Lyle

Since I've been gone: fingerling potatoes and carrots and baby's breath and nails. There is dirt on my headstone but none on my grave. I consider myself mutually exclusive. The inevitability of home. The inconsistency of home. Come home. Never come home. Neither bread nor fire in my hearth and the wind blows inconsolably. Worse yet, the thought of the pantry – potatoes and carrots – is ash. The memory of the path to the splintered door – baby's breath and nails – nothing but cinders. Since I've been gone, everything is still combustible. Take precautions: there is nothing more incendiary than time.


The Very End by Forrest

Down to two is nothing much for, they say, survivors. Anything looks well, any tree is a periscope for an ant. You lie down on felled branches et voila. And, yes, we have been here forever. Or at least for a time. A meteor broke straight above us while we watched, and you quipped, Tunguska. So we both should be dead, in other words. Yes, yes I think so, though it's still light and airy about and we haven't forgotten about being famished. We did forget about all the others who wanted to be here at the very end of it, though you and I only look out for each other. Eating can wait. The fire, after all, did put itself out.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pet Shop

The Pet Shop by Alan

To make amends with his imaginary friend, the illustrious and forgiving (to most) Van Hulsitor, Jeremiah decided to visit the local pet store, which all the boys in his grade had dubbed “a weird vibe” based on their respective mothers’ lay evaluations in between car rides to and fro matches. The first thought was something in the reptilian family, but the stock was slim pickins. “Be careful for Solomon,” the disenchanted man behind the counter warned. “He’s a bit temperamental these days.” Solomon was busy negotiating a deal with a small albino mouse it seemed. Something serious. Jeremiah chose not to disturb him.

Then there were the crabs. Buckets full of them. They seemed to converse with one another in a series of gestures and genuflections. It was like church, thought Jeremiah. The congregation, the pews, one on top of the other. Van Hulsitor might like that. It was, after all, in church when the offense took place. Somewhere between the sermon and the trip to the bathroom. It was quiet. So quiet in the hallway. No one but the two of them. Until Jeremiah, once again, made the mistake of turning on the light.

There are some creatures that are nocturnal. The man behind the counter had loose and flexible handwriting. The characters seemed restless. The room in the back had no lights. Jeremiah entered cautiously, dared not let his friend know what he felt he had to do.


Clever the Dog by Johanna

Clever sat in front of the barber shop on the third block from the painted boulder two blocks from the smashed guardrail one block from his home. Home was a new word for Clever. He had spent most of his life roaming the streets of Grainville, the next town over. It was in Grainville that he got into his first fight and tore the ear off of a pit-mix trying to steal his garbage pile. It was also where he conceived his first litter after a late night howling. In those years, he had managed to escape Animal Control six times without a scratch. But the winters got colder, the scraps sparser and he slowed down. They found him jaywalking at dusk. He swore they gloated as they threw him into his cell at the pound. Steady meals and warm shelter aside, he hated being behind bars. He was a vagabond meant for the streets with freedom to roam. When they put him on a leash for a walk, he struggled futilely to tear his head from his infuriating collar.

When the little girl came in on that fated spring Sunday and begged her begrudging father to take him home, he finally saw his escape. He wasn’t fazed when they took him to a new town or when the little girl named him Clever and expected him to sit for regular grooming sessions. He knew his time would come and it did. One day, she opened the door for a package delivery and Clever cleared right past both sets of legs and kept on running. Of course, before long he was lost. He had never been to Red Crest before. He had no idea where to go.

It was early evening when the car lights rolled into the alley where he hid, trapping him. The father grabbed him by that blasted collar and threw him in the car. As tough as he was, the large hands of the father on his nape discouraged any fight he might have had left after his great escape. The father did not take him straight home. Instead he took him here, to this spot in front of the barber shop. They sat in the car in silence for a while with the heat running until the father finally spoke.

“See those two storefronts there, across the street? One’s a pet shop. You’re too straggly a mutt to go there. That’s where the fine breeds are sold. That’s where I wanted to buy a dog. Lucky for you, my daughter insisted we get a stray from the shelter. She’s got a big heart that girl.”

Clever listened intently. For the first time, someone spoke to him without yelling or condescending. The father lowered the fan on the heater and continued, “See that other storefront. That’s where they butcher the meat and that’s where you’re going to end up if you ever run away again.” The father turned to look him straight in the eyes and what he saw there must have convinced him that his message got through because he started the car and drove home. Clever did not take the threat lightly. He had no doubt that the father meant it.

At the house, the little girl squealed with delight to see her dog again. Father glared sternly from above. Clever hung his head low and obeyed. After a few months, he got used to the comforts of home—the petting, the treats, the yard where he could bark at pedestrians. But every once in a while, when he got an itching to run, he’d walk here, sit and stare at the two storefronts, remembering his inescapable fate.


The Late February Sunlight by Bill

Trumbling into the parking lot the big pick-up with the quorum of us in the back kicked up a fart of dust after I knocked on the window indicating we should stop when I saw the sign for the pet shop figuring this strip mail ought to be a low-key spot to wind down and regroup. Of course he tossed us a bit against the side of the bed with a sharp left turn to come up short of a sudden right in front of the coffee shop. The truck’s owner sure had a black hand sense of destiny about him.

Who knew what town this was, hours from the capital. We’d beat a hasty retreat from the conference on the advice and seeming concern of someone I had to try hard not to think about. Despite the suddenness of our arrival to this nowhere place, Rob yawned ambitiously against the sunlight and the rest of us moved a little slow and chilled, clutching a bag here and there began to shift upwards, Gail and Cliff jumping off the side edge of the truck under the propultion of caffeine promise and the rest climbing down off the rear bumper. The driver stood by his open door, stretching big and yawning in his jeans and tucked in western shirt and not to be outdone by his truck he let a loud fart rip in the wind. A few more days like this and I'd hire him full time but for the moment it was all I could do except wonder if another UN delegation had ever arrived in such a fashion anywhere. Probably.


The Red Crest Pet Shop Review by Lyle

The Red Crest Pet Shop, is difficult to describe. The front sign, of which I have provided a photo, contains two perfect circles, as if wormholes from (to?) another time and place. But the shop itself is orally inimitable, and thus, indescribable, especially as the shop owner forbade me from using metaphor (they are not animals to be understood as anything other than themselves, he told me) or from objective description (these are exotic animals, the likes of which you have never seen, he pressed — they must be experienced first hand), which precluded photography inside the shop. So I am left with the shop sign itself. The images on it are not accurate in the least — such common animals as snakes or cats or goldfish do not exist in Red Crest. They are otherworldly animals of which you have not heard. The best indirect referential statement I can make is that only the sizes of these images come close to how different these “pets” are from your pets. Look at the sizes! In relation to each other. In relation to their representation. I have inspected this image for far too long as I have nothing but memory and radio silence to report otherwise. I have been constricted, so to speak. Go see the place for yourself; though be forewarned, you may return with nothing — that most absurd of all animals.


Who Doesn't Love Sausage by Forrest

Because stories are the worst possible vehicle for sincere confession: I haven't been the only proprietor of the Red Crest Pet Shop to pass off expired merchandise to Farmer Jed's Meat Market next door. In fact, I've been told by my wife's grandmother, a clandestine arrangement has existed between the Pet Shop and Farmer Jed himself since Red Crest's incorporation in the 1940's, mostly in the form of Jed sending business back to us—senior citizens stocking up on ground chuck who miss the presence of a cocker spaniel, foodie hipsters buying python meat who are overly curious, that sort of thing. There's an odd correlation between the two that people who never run a pet shop are aware of: the devoted carnivore needing animal company. You'll see what I mean, Jed told me once as he picked up some rabbits laid low by a malfunctioning A/C one night out back. I still didn't feel very good about it. Only because the whole arrangement had a certain sense. Maybe Jed's customers knew what they were buying. Or none of it made any difference—we're better off that it came from next door instead of Argentina, I can hear the good folk of Red Crest say. I'm not really speaking any revelations here. That's what bothers me. What good's a confession, I tell my wife, when no one in town cares one way or the other? Feeding our lone goldfish, she shrugs her shoulders. She thinks it'll grow large enough someday to set it free somewhere. I doubt it has any conception of the outside, a world where there are always honest people lurking.