Monday, February 1, 2016

Speakers Corner

Cornered by Johanna

Hush, she whispered.

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

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

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

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

Mother released her grip and sighed.


The Steps Up the Mountain by Bill

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

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

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

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


Speaker Before and After by Sherisse

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


Cornered by Forrest

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


The Idea by Alan

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

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

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

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

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


@SpeakerzCorner by Lyle

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

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

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

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

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


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

  Really —