cc&d magazine (1993-2018)

The False Portrait
cc&d magazine
v281, March 2018
Internet ISSN 1555-1555, print ISSN 1068-5154

cc&d magazine

Table of Contents




(the passionate stuff)

Dan Fitzgerald Déjà vu Dreams
David Michael Jackson Diptych in red yellow and blue painting
Dan Fitzgerald Dust Gathers
Rose E. Grier Cedar Chest photography
Richard Stevenson Phantom Hitchhiker
Christopher Hivner Mouth
Christopher Hivner Transmissions of Genius
Patrick Fealey September 1 Pollock Krasner painting
David J. Thompson Not A Trace
Drew Marshall Everyone is Welcome Here
Aaron Wilder Decisions of Life Linoleum Block Prints 02 & 04
Ronald Charles Epstein Simon Le Bon and the Boys
Kyle Hemmings Spider Tint art
Ahsan Jilani The False Portrait
R. N. Taber Square One, Full Circle
Allen F. McNair Waterfall Rainbow painting
Michael Ceraolo It Played in Peoria
Cheryl Townsend No War photography
Michael Ceraolo from Eighty Days
Erren Kelly lake in the winter
Robin Barratt Haiku on the Edge
Thom Woodruff Come to the Woods
Brian Looney Entrance drawing

performance art


(poems in the 8/5/17 “Finding Peace
show at the Bahá’í Faith Center, Austin) .

Janet Kuypers Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison
Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)
Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace
On a High Horse Like This



(the meat & potatoes stuff)

Suraj Alva Flies of the Oasis
Üzeyir Lokman Çayci A318 art
Teddy Duncan Jr. occupational madness (parts 1 & 2)
Janet Kuypers escape haiku
David Turton Blind
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Blind Date art
Joshua Copeland In Care of
Janet Kuypers brain haiku
Douglas J. Ogurek Approaching Cloaked Figure
the HA!Man of South Africa Pine drawing
Brittany Micka-Foos Perdita
Eric Burbridge Old Acquaintances
David J. Thompson It’s Like Losing photography
Jeff Dosser The Story Box
Patrick Fealey from Bird Island, chapters
14: Devotion
15: The Mainland

lunchtime poll topic


(commentaries on relevant topics)

John Amendall Friend or Foe for The National Budget
NASA image of Mars
NASA image of the rover Opportunity on Mars

Note that in the print edition of cc&d magazine, all artwork within the pages of the book appear in black and white.

Order this issue from our printer
as a perfect-bound paperback book
(6" x 9") with a cc&d ISSN#
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The False Portrait
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Janet, Half Price Books Thanks to Thom Woodruff for taking 174 photos of editor Janet Kuypers reading from the cc&d 3/18 book “The False Portrait” 3/7/18 during her “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature March 2018 Book Release Reading.

Poetry (the passionate stuff)

Déjà vu Dreams

Dan Fitzgerald

They are coming back to me,
these dreams that seem
like I have had them before.
It has happened a couple of times now.
I am dreaming, thinking
I’ve had this dream before.
Why is this going on now.
It is not like they are great dreams.
I mean who needs dreams of India and cinnamon.
But there they are,
with me thinking
I’ve been here.
I’m not worried yet.
It is probably a phase.
I just hope it does not
mean I have run out of dreams.

Diptych in red yellow and blue, painting by David Michael Jackson

Diptych in red yellow and blue, painting by David Michael Jackson

Dust Gathers

Dan Fitzgerald

Dust gathers so quickly.
Lifting a seldom used treasure
from a table leaves a footprint of passing
in ancient tar pits.
That will be my legacy.

A house so immersed in neglect
of living, archeologists and anthropologists
will marvel, wonder and argue over
the artifacts being lifted from the deep debris.
Measuring the depth of each imprint
will reveal a precise time table of my past.
In the middle of it all, supine on a couch,
I will rest, smiling and forever asleep,
with the TV remote in my hand.

Cedar Chest, photography by Rose E. Grier

Cedar Chest, photography by Rose E. Grier

Phantom Hitchhiker

Richard Stevenson

Palavas-des-Flots, France,
May 20th, 1981, two couples
driving back from the beach
in their two-seat Renault
chance upon a young woman
wearing a white mack and headscarf
standing at the side of the road.

They stop to offer her a ride.
One passenger in the rear
steps out to let her in.
The driver says they᾿re heading
for Montpellier, to which
the hitchhiker says nothing,
merely nods her head in approval.

The car continues on its way
when they all near a sharp turn.
“Look out for the turn! You᾿re risking your life!”
the hitchhiker exclaims. The driver
slows down, and they make the turn
without incident. Then the couple in back
scream out, “The hitchhiker has disappeared!”

The two couples freak out, of course,
but a careful search of the car
and immediate environs reveal nothing.
Oddly, the police are not surprised
when they stop to file a report.
Seems our hitchhiker is the ghost
of a young car accident victim.

She had died on the very turn
and now appears to warn other
drivers to slow down. A revenant ghost
stuck in some sort of purgatory
twilight zone? Hold the phone!
My mind was blown too when I heard.
The very idea seems absurd.

But there you have it. Take it how you will.
At least she wasn᾿t a malevolent ghost...
More coffee? Are you sure you wouldn᾿t
like another piece of toast? I don᾿t know
what else I can tell you... You᾿re not the first
to see our phantom hitchhiker. Far from it.
We do have a book on the case for sale though.

image of Fountain Park in Paris copyright © 2003-2018 Janet Kuypers

Richard Stevenson bio

    Richard Stevenson recently retired from a thirty-year teaching gig at Lethbridge College. His most recent of 31 published books are Rock, Scissors, Paper, a long poems sequence on the Clifford Olson murder case (Dreaming Big Publications, 2016) and A Gaggle of Geese, haikai poems (Alba Publishing, 2017).


Christopher Hivner

your words dont deflate me because
I can see them for the worms they are
squirming through holes in your teeth
and the waste they leave behind stays
on your tongue to ferment into larvae
that feed from your saliva, growing
long and thick before spilling out of
your mouth, a dead thing no one trusts


originally appeared in Yellow Mama in 2015

Jocelyn image copyright © 1994-2018 Janet Kuypers

Transmissions of Genius

Christopher Hivner

No bodies,
only thoughts,
only intellect
for tonights
meeting in the void,
leave your corporeal form
in the gray
and send
transmissions of genius
to the church of
the inevitable.
We need fresh ideas,
brash theories,
amalgamated streams of consciousness,
we need
a mind meld
to survive.
Leave your monkey suit behind
in the mud pit,
send your imagination
to the party alone,
theres plenty of punch
to go around
but only if you bring
your own recipe.

September 1 Pollock Krasner, painting by Patrick Fealey

September 1 Pollock Krasner, painting by Patrick Fealey

Not A Trace

David J. Thompson

In bed late last night
my girlfriend whispered,
Gorillas don’t have fingerprints,
and started to cry. I tossed off
the covers, brought her a banana
from the kitchen. She stopped sobbing
gradually as she peeled it so slowly,
took, it seemed like nearly forever,
to eat it there in the near dark,
then rubbed the last bite all over
my chest. Like hungry monkeys,
we made love, leaving not a trace
of her tears or our most animal desires
for the coming light of morning.

monkeys image copyright ©23005-20128 Janet Kuypers

Everyone is Welcome Here

Drew Marshall

With affordable rents for working people disappearing
It’s no wonder The Big Apple is home
To the nation’s largest homeless population

I was checking out a book at the small community library
When I noticed the head librarian jump up from her seat
She pointed her finger at a man who was exiting the bathroom
“You were told you’re not allowed in here!”

Startled, he stared at her for a moment and quickly left
I had seen this guy sleeping in the street
Sometimes he begged for money
He had been around for years

Exasperated, the librarian dropped back into her chair
She returned to her work as I left the building

The library is in the middle of a promotional campaign
Posters are plastered all over the place declaring
Everyone Is Welcome Here

Everyone that is, except the homeless

Decisions of Life 2 Decisions of Life 4

Decisions of Life, Linoleum Block Prints 02 and 04 by

Simon Le Bon and the Boys

Ronald Charles Epstein

London in the 1980s,
the members of Duran Duran
made dinner reservations
at a West End restaurant.

For breakfast,
just black coffee.
For lunch,
nothing at all.

They arrived to dine,
hungry like the wolf.

Spider Tint, art by Kyle Hemmings

Spider Tint, art by Kyle Hemmings

The False Portrait

Ahsan Jilani

On a cold winter night donning a long coat walked a man as slow as a snail
Across a dark and lonely road late into the night shivering slightly
The entirety of the streets empty with tranquility all around
After yet another day of being masked as someone that he wasn’t
Enters his block creeping up the stairs towards his room exhausted
Unhappy with his life as it was yet living on as if it were a chore

Till when shall they persist with these false portraits
While craving another life from within

He wakes up another day lethargic but somehow forcing a smile
As he makes it to his office for another depressing day
Only to add up his sterling, not out of joy or fervour just desperation
He is surrounded by others there with journeys and distaste alike
Captives be they, the office their prison and the work cabin their cell
Yet showing their world as a paradise despite dwelling in confinement

Till when shall they persist with these false portraits
While craving another life from within

Nearly every act done to impress others or in least avert their disdain
From work, companionship, and wedlock to the decor of his dwelling
His choices reliant greatly not on happiness but society’s verdict
Living with regrets instead of dreams and compromise instead of resolve
Morals set by norms with most acts merely for the sake of praise
Evil being convenient if accepted good scorned if against conventions

Till when shall they persist with these false portraits
While craving another life from within

Square One, Full Circle

Copyright 2017 R. N. Taber

demanding we play our part,
do our best
to rise above the worst
society can throw
at us, contrive (or negotiate)
a winning streak
least likely to drag us back
to Square One

challenging us to do (far) better
than our peers
if only to earn promotion
of the sort likely
to bring in enough to pay off
the credit cards,
stop the bailiffsreturning us
to Square One

too soon for congratulations
on playing our part,
keeping society off our backs
(for now, at least)
long enough (we live in hope)
to take a step back,
get themeasureof ourselves
inSquare One

running a gamut of high hopes,
broken promises,
missed opportunities, pipped
to the post every time
by Fate’s favoured, among whom
we are as...chaff
in an ill wind blowing us back
to Square One?

Full Circle,
waking up to chinks in shutters
greeting us
with wicked winks and cheers
from townand field,
applauding our taking off (again)
on wings of a skylark,
if only to enjoy putting one over
on Square One

Waterfall Rainbow, painting by Allen F. McNair

Waterfall Rainbow, painting by Allen F. McNair

It Played in Peoria

Michael Ceraolo

July 4, 1876
Excerpts from A Centennial Oration,
a speech given here on this date
by Robert Ingersoll,
with commentary

“One hundred years ago,
our fathers retired the gods from politics”
[but their spokespeople on Earth
won’t let them remain retired
even now, a hundred forty years later]

“THE Declaration of Independence
is the grandest,
the bravest,
and the profoundest
political document that was ever signed
by the representatives of a people”
[I can occasionally be guilty of hyperbole;
after all, I called an ordinary politician
The Plumed Knight when nominating him
for President earlier this year,
I believe I’m correct about the Declaration]

“the representatives of a
real, living, breathing, hoping people
declared that all men are created equal”
[it was the standard usage of the time,
but as the standard usage changes,
and so that my belief be made clear,
this includes women and should be read as such
wherever the word men in mentioned]

“declared that each man has a right to live”
“entitled to the product of his labor----
the labor of his hand and of his brain”
[“The working people should be protected by law”]

“that every man has the right to pursue
his own happiness in his own way”
[“Happiness is the legal tender of the soul”]

“They laid down the doctrine that governments
were instituted among men for the purpose
of preserving the rights of the people”
[the idea that corporations can
commit human actions or have human rights
is a pernicious legal fiction
dating from my time and greatly expanded since]

“Our fathers founded the first secular government
that was ever founded in this world
Recollect that”
[“If the people of the Republic . . .
put God in the Constitution of the United States,
the experiment in self-government will have failed”]

“The history of civilization is the history
of the slow and painful enfranchisement
of the human race”
[“Republicanism means justice in politics
Republicanism means progress in civilization”
Should this ever change,
I could, and would, no longer call myself
“a good, square Republican”]

“It is not possible
for the human imagination
to conceive of the horrors of slavery
It has left no possible crime uncommitted
no possible cruelty un-perpetuated
It has been practiced and defended
by all nations in some form
It has been upheld by all religions”
[“Brain without heart
is far more dangerous
than heart without brain”]

“Let each man enjoy his liberty . . .
[but be sure it is not
at the expense of another”]

“It is a grand thing
to be the owner of yourself
It is a grand thing
to protect the rights of others”
[This is the ultimate balancing act,
protecting the rights of others
while simultaneously allowing
them to remain owners of themselves]

“I want you to go away with
an eternal hatred in your breast
of injustice,
of aristocracy,
of caste,
of the idea that one man has more rights
than another because he has
better clothes,
more land,
more money,
because he owns a railroad,
is famous and in high position”
[The particulars may change,
but no future changes will ever give
one person more rights than another]

“who freely gives to others
the rights that he claims for himself
is the best man”
[“I see a race without disease
of flesh or brain,
shapely and fair,
the married harmony of form and use”
I believe it can happen]

“What would we be without labor?”
[I know there are some who want to find out
the answer to that question,
but labor
“is helping to fill the world with honor,
with happiness,
with love and law”]

My full speech, an artifact
of the days when political speeches
were the entertainment equivalent
of latter-day movies and sporting events,
can be found in many places
It played in Peoria then,
and I hope it can do so now

No War, photography by Cheryl Townsend

No War, photography by Cheryl Townsend

from Eighty Days

Michael Ceraolo

July 3, 1881


Crete had returned last evening at seven,
said “I am here to nurse you back to life”
then said “Please do not speak of death again”
And merely by making it to today
my chances of survival are growing


“Two points will be accomplished”
“It will save the Republic,
create a demand for my book,
The Truth . . . written to save souls
In order to attract public attention
the book needs the notice
the President’s removal will give it”


Eighty Days” consists of dramatic monologues of varying lengths
for each of the eighty days from July 2, 1881 through September 19, 1881,
the period from when President Garfield was shot until he died.
Each date consists of monologues by Garfield and Guiteau.

Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan image copyright © 1995-2018 Janet Kuypers

lake in the winter

Erren Kelly

and the breath coming out
of my body
could lead a trail to god
from blocks away, i can
hear the rumble of
the el, which loops
the city and is the heartbeat
that holds it together
women walk to the train
some waifish and delicate
other big boned and impressive
like ella fitzgerald
not all women are beautiful
but all women are made
beautiful through love

we all wait on the platform
and catch trains
that will lead us to our dreams
the lake is an eye of god
watching in the background
all of us waiting to be embraced
by big shoulders
as the el comes to take us

l train image copyright © 2013-2018 Janet Kuypers

Mynx (cat) photo copyright © 2017-2018 Janet Kuypers Mynx (cat) photo copyright © 2017-2018 Janet Kuypers

Haiku on the Edge

Robin Barratt

Cats are so edgy
I bet the Ramones had cats
Do you want to dance

Mynx (cat) photo copyright © 2017-2018 Janet Kuypers Mynx (cat) photo copyright © 2017-2018 Janet Kuypers

Come to the Woods

Thom Woodruff

Before roads, one could get lost
Now, with SIRI & GPS & Google Earth
there is no secret spot sans surveillance.
Once, you could backpack into wilderness
Now your phone is a voicemail lifeline
You live as long as your battery life.
Once, there were places with no name.
Now hostels called THOREAU franchise “Adventure Travel”
Once, the Unknown awaited outside your door.
Now you need to see Moon and Mars for new adventures
Maybe open a Moon Motel with blinking lights
advertising, THOREAU SLEPT HERE!

Entrance, drawing by Brian Looney

Entrance, drawing by Brian Looney

Performance Art

Janet reading a poem in her show, photo by John Yotko

Protecting Peace
can Put you in Prison

Janet Kuypers

The first Nobel Peace Prize was granted in 1901.
The first Nobel Peace laureate to die in prison
was Carl von Ossietzky, detained by Nazi Germany;
he died in prison in 1938. But there’s a new death,
do not fret, because is seems that peace can be
squashed in any millennia.

                                                Do you remember
the Tiananmen Square Riots back in 1989? Or at least
the iconic photo of a student in front of a tank?
Well, the students didn’t battle the Chinese government
on their own and win, they had help from Liu Xiaobo.
This man for peace was revered for his work,
but the Chinese government stopped him in 2008,
because he was drafting and promoting a manifesto
promoting peaceful political change. And for this,
the Chinese government imprisoned him for “subversion”.

Yes, for “subversion”, this man was sentenced
to eleven years in prison, and it was while in prison
that he was granted the Nobel Peace Prize.

During that Oslo awards ceremony, they left
an empty chair for their imprisoned man of honor.

And now the Chinese government bears responsibility,
more than for imprisoning a Nobel Peace laureate
who only promoted peaceful politics, but for
failure to properly diagnose and treat his ailments,
because on 7/13 the imprisoned Peace Prize
winner died in detention of liver cancer at age 61.


And sure, we can look around the room and think
that we are nice to other people, that we respect
other people. And we may think as we look around
that other people feel the same way toward us.

And it’s wonderful to surround yourself with people
like you, who think like you, who cushion you
from anyone who may think differently. Because
when you stay in your bubble, everything seems fine.

But it’s only when we see those who choose to fight,
those who are trounced upon and downtrodden
only because they support a peaceful coexistence,
that staying with supporters is seldom the solution.

Peace with the ones you choose to know is one thing.
Peace with a mortal enemy is another, when others
decide you are at fault for some unknown reason.
So maybe the key to promoting peace

is not to share our ideas with those like-minded souls
you’re near, but to find the people least like you,
religiously, racially, politically, and just extend your hand.
In peace. And then see who will take your hand.

video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Leather Jacket” and “The Joshua Tree” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (filmed from a Panasonic Lumix camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Leather Jacket” and “The Joshua Tree” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (video filmed from a Sony camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Sony camera.)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Lumix camera.)
Download all of the poems from the free chapbook
the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook Finding Peace
of the poems she performed in her 8/5/17 “Finding Peace” poetry feature/show, including both classic and new poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”.
video not yet rated
See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” and “Questioning Creativity through the Cosmos” for her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (Sony).
video video
See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” and “Questioning Creativity through the Cosmos” for her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (Lumix).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems ““Saving Fingers and Scooping Ice Cream” and “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison” to show her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” 8/12/17 at Austin TX’s “Kick Butt Poetry(Panasonic Lumic camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems ““Saving Fingers and Scooping Ice Cream” and “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison” to show her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” 8/12/17 at Austin TX’s “Kick Butt Poetry(filmed from a Sony camera).
video See YouTube video 8/22/17 of the Janet Kuypers show “This Just In”, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Original Snowbirds”, “Ultimate Connectivity: a bird in the hand”, “erasure poem: A Poetic History”, “Just One Book”, “Newspaper Ink’s the Blood of a Dying Species”, “Elusive Imaginary Creature”, “Your Imaginary Soul Weighs 21 Grams”, “Yearning to Break Free” and “Just By Holding His Hand (extreme 2016 sestina variation)” (Lumix)
video See YouTube video 8/22/17 of the Janet Kuypers show “This Just In”, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Original Snowbirds”, “Ultimate Connectivity: a bird in the hand”, “erasure poem: A Poetic History”, “Just One Book”, “Newspaper Ink’s the Blood of a Dying Species”, “Elusive Imaginary Creature”, “Your Imaginary Soul Weighs 21 Grams”, “Yearning to Break Free” and “Just By Holding His Hand (extreme 2016 sestina variation)” (Sony)

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

Janet facebook cover image

Really Physically Heal
                     (2017 edit)

Janet Kuypers
8/1/06, edited 7/29/17 and 7/29/17 for 8/5/17 show

I’m an X Files junkie
still, years after the series finale
and I just recently watched
one of my favorite episodes
where Scully meets with a woman
affiliated with The American Taoist Healing Center
even though Scully is a medical doctor
and a scientist

she had to ask about a friend who was ill
you see, he had heart problems
and this man, this medical doctor
analyzed his symptoms
and admitted himself into the hospital

and shortly after he was admitted
he almost died, but was saved

well, Scully asked this woman
is he could be dying
from a more serious condition

that something in his soul might not be settled

and this woman that worked with the Taoist Healing Center
told Scully that she used to be a physicist,
she was successful
and all that time she thought that she was happy
but she had only cut herself off
from the rest of the world
and she was dying inside

she was in a relationship with another woman
but she couldn’t tell anyone about it
for fear of their reactions

and eventually she found out
she had breast cancer

and although the cancer is bad,
this woman said it was the cancer
that got her attention
where she then saw her destructive life she led

and after seeing a healer
who taught her to let go of her shame
and finally be at peace
well, that was when her cancer went into remission

and everyone looks for answers to problems
to be packaged in a nice little box
with a bow on top
that can just make everything better
but it takes a lifetime of understanding
to be able to not let illness effect you that way

and I’ve seen this episode before
but seeing it now, in these circumstances
knowing that my mother was dying form cancer
and there was nothing I could do about it
well, hearing this fictional woman say these words
made me almost think, almost start to panic:
maybe my mother had lived parts of her life
that she did not like,
that she did not want
but she did them because this was her life
and she had a role to play

I know she loves her husband
and I know she loves her children
but I really started thinking
that maybe there are things
unsettled in her psyche
that she needs to make better
and then she may be able
to really physically heal

I told my husband about this X Files episode
and I told my husband what I thought,
maybe there was something mom
had to settle with in her life, in her soul
maybe she had to come to peace
with some unknown something
and he looked at my doe eyes and said no, Janet, no
he said I’m sure she doesn’t feel anything like that

maybe I’m just grasping at straws
because she’s still fighting the cancer
and waiting to die
but I want to be that crazy one
exhausting every source
investigating every option
I’ll take an idea from a tv show
I’ll take anything I can get

because it just made me think
that maybe, if the key is
coming to peace with everything in your life,
maybe then all the demons will go away

video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Sony camera.)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Lumix camera.)
Download all of the poems from the free chapbook
the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook Finding Peace
of the poems she performed in her 8/5/17 “Finding Peace” poetry feature/show, including both classic and new poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”.

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

Janet reading a poem in her show, photo by John Yotko

Keeping the Peace
and Coming to Peace

Janet Kuypers

The father was a stern man.
Wait, that doesn’t sound nice,
but these are the thoughts
of a little girl afraid to confront

the boisterous booming voice
behind the judgmental man.
So she would avoid him, just
in an effort to keep the peace.

And the last time she saw
her father alive, she was
still trying to keep the peace
when he yelled at both her

and medical technicians
at his doctor’s office for tests.
But even she noticed
that he then apologized

repeatedly for yelling at her.
And afterward, this lifetime
concrete construction company
owner saw a tv show

on buildings around the world
that were engineering feats.
And she sat with him,
and she recognized one hi-rise

and said, “I photographed that,”
and he seemed a bit concerned
because these were buildings
in Shanghai, China. . . so the

father kept watching, and
the daughter found an art book
she gave him of her photos.
She walked back in,

holding her book that he never opened
to the building in question
and she handed him the book
and said, “see?” before

she walked back to her chair
to watch the show of
buildings around the world. The
father flipped though the pages,

more and more slowly, looked
at images from around the world
and portraits of his daughter,
then her models, “I was just

looking to see if I recognized
anyone,” the father said
at the portraits of people
before he said to her,

“You know, you are very
good at this. You are very
creative.” And with this he
stopped speaking, and

the daughter only said,
“Thank you,” before she
took the book back
to put on his shelf;

the book she got back weeks
after he died. Looking back,
all the daughter could think
was that this might have been

the father’s only way
to come to peace with
their lifetime of subliminal
tension, that this last night

together may have been
his only chance to connect
with his youngest daughter
in his only way to come to peace.

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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “My Blood” and “No Longer Pity You” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix camera).
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “My Blood” and “No Longer Pity You” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Sony camera.)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Lumix camera.)
Download all of the poems from the free chapbook
the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook Finding Peace
of the poems she performed in her 8/5/17 “Finding Peace” poetry feature/show, including both classic and new poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”.
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See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” and “Questioning Creativity through the Cosmos” for her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (Sony).
video video
See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace” and “Questioning Creativity through the Cosmos” for her book release “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (Lumix).

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

On a High Horse Like This

Janet Kuypers

I listened to a hunter from Africa
“all life is sacred”

and he said that after separating
a small, thin, non-venomous snake
from around a large African hawk-like bird’s neck

because you see, the bird attacks snakes,
but that snake couldn’t eat the large bird once it died:
that would have been a senseless death.

“all life is sacred,” you say.
so I couldn’t help but think:
as a hunter, do you pray for the sacred dead

after you killed it?

I mean, I don’t usually vocalize
when I’m on a high horse like this

and I’ve had to explain myself
to meat eaters:
no these aren’t leather shoes

I wear; I’m a vegetarian.
though I still have to feign a smile
to commiserate with men eating slaughtered

animal. cause you see, I’d look like a fool
for having beliefs. people don’t want to hear about
a moral choice different from their own.

I mean, we’re Americans,
if it’s not human,
or maybe a dog or a cat, eat it. it’s that simple.


but I married a hunter
a marine who served our country
and he told me

that every time he killed an animal
a part of him felt a regretful twinge of pain
when he killed his prey.

the prey that he searched for.
with a weapon he could use
before anything got close enough

to be an enemy.

oh, I’m sorry.
I’m getting on my high horse again.

it’s convenient that people
can get their kill from the grocery store
without getting any blood

on their hands.
anything to stop everyone from thinking
about what they’re doing.

because I’ve heard that killing something
makes you feel something.
And I thought:

Janet reading a poem in her show, photo by John Yotko

This poem was nominated in the Revealed 2014 release for the (40 year) Pushcart Prize
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See this YouTube video
(2:23) live 05/11/11 at “Elizabeth’s Crazy Little Thing” Chicago open mic
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Watch this YouTube video

read live in the show “hmmm” 11/20/11 at the Café open mike in Chicago
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Watch this YouTube video

of the entire Janet Kuypers show “hmm” live 11/20/11 at the Café open mike in Chicago
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Watch this YouTube video

read live at Café Mestizo 1/21/12, with music & video from the HA!man of South Africa (Francois Le Roux) open mike in Chicago
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Watch this YouTube video

of her reading “Upstage Everyone Else” and “on a High Horse Like This” live at Café Mestizo 1/21/12, with music & video from the HA!man of South Africa (Francois Le Roux) open mike in Chicago
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See YouTube video
of Kuypers reading this poem 3/18/13 at the Frankenstone art center in Chicago (Canon)
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See YouTube video
of Kuypers performing 5 poems (including this one) in a poetry reading to “Make people Think” 3/18/13 at Chicago’s Frankenstone art center (Canon)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poem On a High Horse Like This (in the chapbook “Attacking with Poetry”) 4/27/14 (C) at Chicago’s 2014 Poetry Bomb (in Lincoln Square)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poem On a High Horse Like This (in the chapbook “Attacking with Poetry”) 4/27/14 (C) at Chicago’s 2014 Poetry Bomb (in Lincoln Square), Threshold
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poem On a High Horse Like This from her book Bon Voyage! live 7/25/15 on Chicago’s WZRD 88.3 FM radio (Cfs)
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poem On a High Horse Like This from her book Bon Voyage! live 7/25/15 on Chicago’s WZRD 88.3 FM radio (Cfs200, FlCrSat)
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poems Everything was Alive and Dying and On a High Horse Like This 1/10/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (from a Canon Power Shot).
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poems Everything was Alive and Dying and On a High Horse Like This 1/10/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (from a Nikon CoolPix S7000).
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See YouTube video (Sony) of Janet Kuypers performing her poem “On a High Horse Like This” in the lotus position for her 8/6/16 showThoughts on Peace” at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin’s the Bahá’í Center.
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/6/16 show “Thoughts on Peace” at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin reading her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This(Cps).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/6/16 show “Thoughts on Peace(Sony) at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin reading her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This”.
Thoughts on Peace chapbook
Download all of the show poems in the free PDF file download chapbook
Thoughts on Peace
including her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This”.
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See YouTube video of Janet KuypersJune 2017 Book Release Reading 6/7/17, where she read her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying” and “On a High Horse Like This” for her “Bon Voyage!” book reading @ Austin’s Community Poetry at Half Price Books (Lumix camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet KuypersJune 2017 Book Release Reading 6/7/17, where she read her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying” and “On a High Horse Like This” for her “Bon Voyage!” book reading @ Austin’s Community Poetry at Half Price Books (Sony camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Sony camera.)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/5/17 show “Finding Peace” in Austin, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”, w/ music from the HA!Man of South Africa’ “Wayward Waltz of the Skewed Mind”, + cricket sounds (Lumix camera.)
Download all of the poems from the free chapbook
the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook the “Finding Peace” 8/5/17 chapbook Finding Peace
of the poems she performed in her 8/5/17 “Finding Peace” poetry feature/show, including both classic and new poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Really Physically Heal (2017 edit)”, “Keeping the Peace and Coming to Peace”, and “On a High Horse Like This”.
video video
See YouTube video from 12/9/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “on the Bridge”, then her poems “Upstage Everyone Else” & “On a High Horse Like This” from her book “Let me See You Stripped” at the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix 2500 camera).
video not yet rated
See YouTube video from 12/9/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “on the Bridge”, then her poems “Upstage Everyone Else” & “On a High Horse Like This” from her book “Let me See You Stripped” at the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).

Janet Kuypers Bio

    Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
    She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com,’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
    She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images. Starting at this time Kuypers released a large number of CD releases currently available for sale at iTunes or amazon, including “Across the Pond”(a 3 CD set of poems by Oz Hardwick and Janet Kuypers with assorted vocals read to acoustic guitar of both Blues music and stylized Contemporary English Folk music), “Made Any Difference” (CD single of poem reading with multiple musicians), “Letting It All Out”, “What we Need in Life” (CD single by Janet Kuypers in Mom’s Favorite Vase of “What we Need in Life”, plus in guitarist Warren Peterson’s honor live recordings literally around the globe with guitarist John Yotko), “hmmm” (4 CD set), “Dobro Veče” (4 CD set), “the Stories of Women”, “Sexism and Other Stories”, “40”, “Live” (14 CD set), “an American Portrait” (Janet Kuypers/Kiki poetry to music from Jake & Haystack in Nashville), “Screeching to a Halt” (2008 CD EP of music from 5D/5D with Janet Kuypers poetry), “2 for the Price of 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from Peter Bartels), “the Evolution of Performance Art” (13 CD set), “Burn Through Me” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from The HA!Man of South Africa), “Seeing a Psychiatrist” (3 CD set), “The Things They Did To You” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Hope Chest in the Attic” (audio CD set), “St. Paul’s” (3 CD set), “the 2009 Poetry Game Show” (3 CD set), “Fusion” (Janet Kuypers poetry in multi CD set with Madison, WI jazz music from the Bastard Trio, the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and Paul Baker), “Chaos In Motion” (tracks from Internet radio shows on Chaotic Radio), “Chaotic Elements” (audio CD set for the poetry collection book and supplemental chapbooks for The Elements), “etc.” audio CD set, “Manic Depressive or Something” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Singular”, “Indian Flux” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “The Chaotic Collection #01-05”, “The DMJ Art Connection Disc 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Oh.” audio CD, “Live At the Café” (3 CD set), “String Theory” (Janet Kuypers reading other people's poetry, with music from “the DMJ Art Connection), “Scars Presents WZRD radio” (2 CD set), “SIN - Scars Internet News”, “Questions in a World Without Answers”, “Conflict • Contact • Control”, “How Do I Get There?”, “Sing Your Life”, “Dreams”, “Changing Gears”, “The Other Side”, “Death Comes in Threes”, “the final”, “Moving Performances”, “Seeing Things Differently”, “Live At Cafe Aloha”, “the Demo Tapes” (Mom’s Favorite Vase), “Something Is Sweating” (the Second Axing), “Live In Alaska” EP (the Second Axing), “the Entropy Project”, “Tick Tock” (with 5D/5D), “Six Eleven” “Stop. Look. Listen.”, “Stop. Look. Listen to the Music” (a compilation CD from the three bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds & Flowers” and “The Second Axing”), and “Change Rearrange” (the performance art poetry CD with sampled music).
    From 2010 through 2015 Kuypers also hosted the Chicago poetry open mic the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting weekly feature and open mic podcasts that were also released as YouTube videos.
    In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), the three collection books from 2004: Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, po•em, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, the Stories of Women, Prominent Pen (Kuypers edition), Elemental, the paperback book of the 2012 Datebook (which was also released as a spiral-bound ISBN# ISSN# 2012 little spiral datebook, , Chaotic Elements, and Fusion, the (select) death poetry book Stabity Stabity Stab Stab Stab, the 2012 art book a Picture’s Worth 1,000 words (available with both b&w interior pages and full color interior pages, the shutterfly ISSN# ISBN# hardcover art book life, in color, Post-Apocalyptic, Burn Through Me, Under the Sea (photo book), the Periodic Table of Poetry, a year long Journey, Bon Voyage!, and the mini books Part of my Pain, Let me See you Stripped, Say Nothing, Give me the News, when you Dream tonight, Rape, Sexism, Life & Death (with some Slovak poetry translations), Twitterati, and 100 Haikus, that coincided with the June 2014 release of the two poetry collection books Partial Nudity and Revealed. 2017, after hr October 2015 move to Austin Texas, also witnessed the release of 2 Janet Kuypers book of poetry written in Austin, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and a book of poetry written for her poetry features and show, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” (and both pheromemes books are available from two printers).

Prose (the meat and potatoes stuff)

Flies of the Oasis

Suraj Alva

    Almost there, my right hand moves faster and faster-my heart racing, my senses poise for the climax closing my eyes in anticipation. A grunt. A flush. The opening and banging shut of a stall door. My hand now frozen in mid-motion on my erect cock, I wait, petrified.
    A voice, now talking to a phone, leaves. Alone again, I pull up my pants and peer through my stall’s door, just to be sure. No one. I head towards the sink, disappointed.  I didn’t finish. I could go back in to spurt one out. But the moment had passed-I didn’t have any masturbation aides.
    I walk out the men’s restroom into the conditioned air of Abu Khaled mall. Named so after the king who actually ruled this city-state.
    I am thirteen. I masturbate in public restrooms because I am not able to do so at home. I am not a pervert. It’s simply that I have no privacy where I live.
    I exit the mall, taking slow, deliberate steps. It is dusk and in the fading light, the city looks eerily beautiful. There is hardly a speck of sand to be seen, even though this is all arid desert. Anything that is not built upon or paved over is bursting with green.


    Oil. Black gold. It was what had enabled the city’s once nomad inhabitants to create a modern day Atlantis-ironic how the earth’s surface could be rearranged from the contents of her bowels.
    And it was the reason I was here. The construction boom that followed the discovery of oil brought hordes of migrant workers from all over. But most of them came from India. No different than the rest of the Arabian Gulf.
    A year ago, a severe drought in our village forced my dad, mom and me to step on a plane for the first time and journey to a strange place thousands of miles away.
    I will never forget the city’s welcome: a blast of hot dry air punched me in the face as I stepped off the plane. It was routinely 120 degrees in the summer.


    We shared a studio apartment with a couple, partitioning the room in two halves. It was not ideal but was the only thing we could afford.
    I was twelve then, hitting puberty hard, becoming sexually curious. But my options of exploration were limited. The sharia laws that governed the city called for strict segregation of the sexes. Most public places and schools-including mine-were divided along gender lines.
    Contact between the male and female world outside of marriage and family was limited to non-existent. I never met a girl once since I arrived. All I could do was masturbate; relying on scraps of porn I could access through the internet. A difficult task as the government blocked porn sites.
    Like I said, I couldn’t masturbate at home. Five people living in such a small apartment with only one bathroom afforded no one any privacy.
    Then, a schoolmate recommended that I use the public restrooms.
    “Are you crazy?” I asked, disgusted.
    “They are not like the ones back in India...the ones here are actually pretty clean.”


    I went to the restrooms in the mall whose arcades I frequented. He was right. The ones in Abu Khaled mall were clean. Very much unlike public bathrooms in India. The ones there made your stomach turn.
    I now jacked off twice a day. Once, before I went to the arcades and the other before going home.
    A few weeks into this routine, I noticed a man following me. He had been doing so for a few days but I didn’t think much of it at first. I soon began to worry and worry gave way to fright. Undercover agents of the totalitarian regime were everywhere. And I didn’t know if they put kids in jail for public masturbation.
    I didn’t go out for a while. But boredom soon forced me out, back to my old haunts. I was extra careful, looking around me every other minute. No one seemed to be following me.
    One day, to kill time, I went to the arcades in Abu Khaled mall. I didn’t have any money. I was just going to watch people play.
    I first stopped at Daytona USA. A virtual car racing game that allowed up to seven people to compete against each other. There were seven screens each with their individual seats and steering wheels. Only one person was playing.
    I watched from behind the seat. The player was decent, scoring enough points to go to the next round. Losing the second round, the game over sign lighting up the screen, the player began to get up.
    It was a man dressed in a local’s clothing-spotless white sheets. ‘Locals’ were citizens of the city. They made up for about ten percent of the population. The rest were foreigners.
    He turned around and I got a good look at his face. I froze in terror. It was the man who had been following me around a few weeks ago.
    I turned on my heel, ready to run when he shouted “Stop!” I stood where I was, the tears beginning to run down my face. He asked
    “Do you want to play a game with me?”
    “Ex-excuse me?” Stunned.
    “Play, race!” Emulating driving motions with his hands.
    “B-But I have no money”
    “Don’t worry.” Placing a few coins in my palm.
    I raced him two or three times. Before I left for home, he gave me some money so I could buy a shawarma sandwich. 
    That night, on returning home, I headed straight for bed. I didn’t tell my mom about my day as I usually did. She would freak out if she knew I had hung out with a local man. They were rumored to kidnap and molest boys my age.  They preferred boys from India and other poor regions of the world because the city’s authorities didn’t care about us.


    He was at the arcades the next day too. He invited me over to be his partner in a shooting game. This went on for a fortnight: me playing and him paying. After leaving the arcades, he would take me to a restaurant where we ate and talked.
    He told me he was in his mid-twenties, unmarried. He did something or the other for the government. And like me, he loved cars.
    He owned about twenty of them. His recent acquisition was a 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible. It had cost him an arm and a leg, he said.
    After dinner in one of the mall’s restaurants one evening, he asked me to come and see it. We stepped out heading towards the parking lot. Dusk was giving way to complete darkness. It was winter, so the air was cooler.
    The car looked like a green bird ready for flight. I had never seen anything like it and was beyond excited. “Get in” he said.
    He drove around, gunning the engine-calling on all horses. He was like a kid playing with, no, ‘in’ his toy. Finally, he drove up to an alley about six blocks away from the mall.
    Not a soul was around. He switched off the lights and the ignition. It was getting late. I told him I had to be home soon. 
    “I know what you do in the bathrooms” he said. I didn’t move, I couldn’t feel my legs. “I...don’t know what you’re talking about” I muttered, barely audible. Thoughts of police cars with sirens and flashing lights descending on me ready to take me to jail; ran through my mind. I had to pee.
    “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone, I promise” he smiled and put his hand on mine.
    “But on one condition” he added.
    “” I asked whimpering, frightened.
    “I want you to do it here, in front of me.”
    “Huh?” Alarmed, confused
    He took out two bills from his wallet-two hundred dirhams or about seventy five dollars. “This is for you, after.” Despite the situation, I was relieved. I was not going to jail. And I could make some money-it was a simple enough request. I put my hand on my zipper. “Wait” he said.
    He pulled a small plastic bag and put some of its white contents on the center console. He took out another bill and rolled it up.
    He handed it to me. “Sniff through this, its medicine.” I didn’t believe him. Why would I need medicine? I wasn’t sick. I did it anyways. My heart began pounding faster than it already was. But the terror started to creep out of me.
    I unzipped my shorts and pulled out my cock. I started moving my hand up and down it. I closed my eyes and tried imagining a girl. It was difficult. I hadn’t seen one in ages. Still soft, I began to grow desperate.          
    I tried recreating a porn scene in my head. A blond woman started taking shape. She had big boobs and a firm round butt. As she began to peel off a strap of her bright red lingerie, slowly exposing her left breast, she leaned over and touched my cock. She started fondling it, caressing it very delicately. She soon placed her mouth on it. I felt something warm and wet. 
    I opened my eyes, startled. The local was bent over the center console, his mouth on my erection. I shook violently. I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came.  I tried again but nothing came. I moved closer towards the passenger door. 
    The local just sat there, calm, as if he’d expected this. “Stay here for a few minutes, we’ll listen to some music, help you calm down” he said. He switched on the car stereo and turned it up. I heard a click coming from my door. He had locked me in.


    I am now 43 years old, a successful corporate lawyer living in the poshest district of Mumbai—India’s financial capital. I am quite attractive and fit. But single.
    My family and friends think I’m gay. The women who have tried wooing me think likewise. “Otherwise he would have gone all the way” they explain to their friends, or at least that’s what I think they must be saying.
    They all have a point. I have never had sex with any of these women on the husband hunt. In fact, I’ve never had sex with a normal, ‘regular’ woman-anyone I have had to have some sort of connection with.
    I’ve always stopped short of the final act—inserting my penis where it’s meant to go. Everything that goes on before, I’m game for-foreplay, oral etc.
    That is not to say that I have never had sex. I have, plenty of times. But it has all been paid for. It has to be. From the prostitutes in the red light district when I was young and broke to the high class call girls I can now afford, I have always paid for sex. I prefer it this way. I do not want any connection with the woman I’m fucking. It has to be simply a transaction, a financial one. No names and no possibilities for attachments. No memory.

A318, art by Üzeyir Lokman Çayci

A318, art by Üzeyir Lokman Çayci

occupational madness

Teddy Duncan Jr.

    He’d open the door and immediately be accompanied by that trademark ding that gas station doors tend to be equipped with, maybe a friend or two with him. He’d glance at the register (which is the same as looking at me, as a cashier I’m simply an extension of the cash register) with an impulsive head nod, searching my face for some trace of approval that I suppose I always relayed. It didn’t matter to me. Then he’d proceed to the far right of the beverage cooler and get a 38-ounce bottle of smirnoff ice or some other such drink, he could only manage the courage to get a bottle or two, for whatever reason. He’d come to the counter and dap me up, show me his vertical ID that I’d previously asked him to hand to me horizontally for the purpose of the ever-watching eye of the great camera glaring behind/above my head at all times, eternally, well as long as the circle k was in operation. I’d bag the bottles and whatever departing exchanges would take place and he’d leave. I remember once in the infant stages of my rehearsals of leaving circle k and becoming a drug dealer, I inquired if he’d like to purchase any pills, supporting my eminent quitting, I had uppers and downers, everything you can want as far as pills go, besides opioids, which at the time I wouldn’t be associated with for whatever strange reason. He declined and avoided the further probes of my offer(which simply consisted of me asking if he happened to know anyone else that did ingest chemicals that came in pill form— aunt,brother,friend?). I guess he didn’t do pills, just drank his liver rotting beverage of choice, smirnoff ice. That’s the misunderstanding in the western world about drugs—these constructed distinctions between drugs, if you ingest something in any fashion, whether it be through the mouth or rectum or intravenously injected, its a drug: pepsi, m&m’s, pretzels, bagel bites, muffins, xanax, coffee, water, they’re all chemicals metabolized in your body shifting your consciousness and perception however subtle or drastic through sugar, caffeine, h2o, alprazolam, fructose, they’re all substances. Ofcourse you aren’t supposed to pop xanax every day for any amount of time(unless ofcourse you’re prescribed them, then you’ll take it everyday and have your dosage augmented every three months), as you aren’t supposed to have a pepsi every day if you expect longevity.
    Me, I, myself, zeddy, never strove to achieve longevity, but if habitual usage of a substance was going to kill me, I was not going to let it be fucking sugar nor caffeine.
    Selling that underage guy that I faintly knew from art class in high school (whose name i didn’t even know) those smirnoff ices truly made me nervous, it was camera hysteria. The ever knowing, ever processing, ever recording made illegal moments forever. There really was a human eye on the other screen of the never blinking digital eye. I’d heard stories from the other cashier in the morning, chris, the shift manager who relieved me of my duties after the bulk of night when the sun would peek its shining head over the horizon, told me the security guard who supposedly constantly watched the camera called about non-threatening simple matters — he called just the other day when i caught two kids stealing, he’d been listening the entire time, making sure everything was ok. i was like bro really? what were those kids gonna do, but whatever, its good i guess—
    Chris also informed me of a former employee, riley, who was the preceding shift manager, before chris himself was granted the royal honor of 1.25 more an hour, riley was currently being taken to court by the state for selling cigarettes to a minor, possibly facing up to 5 years in federal prison, along with the unbelievable fines imposed upon him.
    Terrified of the charges that I felt were inevitably impending against me and terrified of being fired(I was a terrible worker, they made sure to tell me so), I was edging myself towards the precipice of quitting night after night, in a sort of purgatory, step by step, calf muscle clench and release towards my idealistic heaven of not having a time numbing 10pm to 6 am job, and instead selling pills to consenting adults or mature underage friends to sustain myself. I bought 100 xanax bars( xanax contains 2 milligrams of alprazolam- a substance of the benzodiazepine family prescribed primarily to alleviate the anxieties that one most undergo in the lacklove state of america)((dissolving all inhibitions, besides physical, physically it works as a sedative, yet mentally xanax induces a inebriation full of courage, saying and acting with no restraints of social structures)) for 250 dollars. Xanax bars currently sell for 5 dollars a pop, that’s a doubling of profit for a relatively low investment and weren’t at all difficult to push, just ask around and look at the excitement/apprehensiveness exude from their eyes, no grey area when it comes to drug users. If I could push 100 bars a week, every week, I’d make a check larger than 30 senseless thoughtless hours at circle k, plus I’d unintentionally gain some entrepreneurial skills, which in my mind, seemed much more useful than being a bottle stocker or computer. Along with the hundred xanax, I also had a friend who was prescribed vyvanse(a stimulant of the amphetamine family, lidexamfetamine 50 mg, equivalent to 30mg of amphetamine salts((adderal)) a tad more difficult to sell as it wasn’t the name brand amphetamine of choice by nervous mothers, but just mention ‘alike Adderall’ on a college campus and even the drug free will start frothing at the mouth in a study reverie frenzy) for ‘adhd’, and he had absolutely no idea the goldmine he refilled every month. So I’d buy about 15 every week off him for 40 dollars and flip them for 5 a pill. Normally aquiring that amount would be impossible, as it’s prescribed to be taken once a day, but his brother had a few months of untouched bottles, so he had a seemingly endless supply, a stimulant haven.
    I naturally was acquainted with people who had an undying affinity to drugs, especially xanax. After a few days spending time with friends selling them pills before or after work, I worked up the courage to quit the mandated shitty job.
    The only alternatives to humannesless for the unprivileged, is so.


    occupational madness part2

    Shower head throbbingly excretes lukewarm water through thin pasta straineresque holes and patters at my veiny ruddy feet. I piss on the inside of the shower curtain and observe the flood of my bodily process cascade down and the final leftover golden droplets of urine race to the tub’s pale white floor, I pick up my conditioner bottle and read the back cover- SALON QUALITY hair care system proven to moisturize your hair as well as Aveda® Dry Remedy® shampoo and conditioner/ This moisturizing conditioner is infused with 100% natural almond & shea butter, which are known for their rich emollients./ For stunningly smooth & moisturized hair: Apply. Leave for 1-3 minutes. Rinse. For best results, use with Suave Professonals® Almond + Shea butter Shampoo./- I momentarily ponder how long I leave conditioner in my hair, decide I’ll count next time and I exit the shower.
    In an anxious early morning stupor I’ve unintentionally/intentionally departed from my residence 30 minutes earlier than planned, forgotten to grab & chew & swallow breakfast banana and all. The fucking swine have me so nervous that I can’t eat for pure implacable fear that I’ll end up in a jail cell(cage) torturing myself with the thought - was that blackened banana worth this, you stupid scum-, ignoring the supposed supposed because i havent been to a doctor in four years, so i learned said ‘fact’ from body fat indexes online fact that I’m 50 pounds underweight for the sake of hysterical jailhouse paranoia. Glucose-less hallow minded muscle memory maneuvering, avoiding collisions and stopping at designated times. Driving towards interstate 193 and vine street. Utterly unaware of my daily passings; concrete sidewalks in downtown kissimmee being fractured and fragmented, torn out of it’s former position and replaced with more road and appended with intermittent white lines and a yellow streak at the edge, widening the berth so human-animals can flow free-er in their self-constructed land streams.
     Thoughtlessly passing /Sad closed independent businesses opened on a heavily interest’d rate loan and thriving multimillion dollar chains with 400 more locations— 2016 bmw’s wisping by crowded busstops, man with tangled, gnarled beard and in sandals, sockless and leather skin two hand clenching battered cardboard sign- hungry and homeless god bless- direct and humble and has religious appeal,(even when you have nothing to sell it all seems to be about marketing), smoke plumes rising from towering gatorade factory of humanless chrome, and a lone freshly birthed kitten scampering across busy, bustling car-stream./ godbless self interest and free enterprise. My automated awareness is interrupted by the sudden cessation of my zipping and (sweat brow) racing towards my 1st probation office visit, the causation is a blue nissan suv/van going 45 in a 45(mph, obviously)obvious to most americans, but that denotes a normative which can never be assumed so i will retain clarification of the mode of measurement and the obviously for self-defense purposes Vulgar insult-ful remarks instantaneously begin to spew from my oracle hole -you dumb fucking cunt!, asshole with no regard for other drivers!, self-absorbed piece of shit!- Amid my fully erected contempt, embarrassment and regret and a striking sense of silliness all flare within me, I am that 45 in a 45 driver, scoffing at the recklessness of drivers speeding past during my marijuana paranoia arrest-fear. Easy to forget that all of my outwards directed anger is pointing right back at myself, I not only have the capacities to be the outward party, but literally is that supposedly outward party, i am hitler as i am your father as I am the 45 in a 45 driver... im not exactly that person at this point in time, but to someone else speeding past waving their arms in frustration during my marijuana paranoia, i am literally that exact person, a hallow thought-image of some senseless asshole purposely baring you from your desired rate of speed, what the 45 in a 45 driver was to me moments ago, the only distinguishments between all humans is the genetic lottery, circumstance and quite possibly environment depending upon your personal beliefs.
    My cellphone GPS unexpectantly (by me)halts my music and commandingly shouts -your destination;.. is on the right;.. in;.. 450 feet-, adhering to the female computerized voice’s obtuse suggestion/instruction, I do so and turn right into a bleak shopping plaza containing what seems to be a food bank, a laundry mat, a cvs pharmacy and a cubicle like building with a decal that reads — department of corrections— on the darkly opaque tinted glass door. Consequently of my early departure, I’ve arrived 20 minutes early to my mandatory meeting with my probation officer. I venture into the corrections office and am greeted by dim grey walls and atleast 15 sullen scowls, including the front desk staff, I immediately sit down on one of the 2 dozen chairs, and after seeing multiple men & women sign a sheet at the front desk upon their arrival, I decide to do the same and sign the sheet by the front desk. An ever-looping video plays on the wall facing the chairs, explaining the functions of probation and the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the probation officer - probation officers are your personal jail warden, assuring the county you are following the conditions of your specific probation contract. granted a probation sentence is a pending jail or prison sentence, it is to the probation officers discretion if at any time they determine it beneficial to the county to terminate your probation and take your case back to trial. if you take part in any illegal or criminal activity your judge who assigned you probation will re-open your case and either lengthen your probation or sentence you according to what they feel just.- a brief, informative video repeating over and over and under and under and between filling the silence of the room, that and the outlined rhythms of reggaeton snares and rap bass blaring from a few persons high volume headphones.
    —Marquis Henderson! Alvin Santos! Teddy Duncan!- I stand up, and proceed to the lady that has shouted the bundle of names, she informs the group that she’ll be seeing us fairly soon.
     I sit back down and wait damn near another hour, through listless names being called and herded in, some looking animal calm, some looking animal slaughter house frantic, some saturating themselves with water bottle after water bottle refill after refill at the water fountain(attempting to dilute their potential drug test either to a false negative or atleast water it down enough so the results are inconclusive, allowing for an additional week of purging their body of all substances, or possibly just to make sure they can pee while someone is peering at their sexual organs)part of a probation officers duty is to watch the probationees of their same sex piss into a cup, in their presence. While you don’t have to face the officer there is a mirror directly infront of the commode in which you pee over top of slightly facing downwards giving them a clear view of the nervous dick/vagina that hopes they arent going to go to jail for whatever they may or may not have snorted or smoked.
    The glass doors open with an uncordial harshness and a young girl(seems recently out of highschool young) and older working man with white paint stained t shirt and beat steel toe boots emerge from the engulfment of florida’s raging sunlight, the girl is holding a large brown paper bag evident of a recent release from jail(the bag that holds all the items the incarnated person had at the time of arrest and returned to them upon their leave), the girl goes to the glass barrier that separates the clerk and the human animals (convicts) and begins to ask questions inaudible to me. The clerk tells the girl to sign the sheet & sit down, the girl is visibly perturbed by the creases on her forehead and clenched fist, she sits down but the older man continues to stand and ask questions that I can hear as the decibels have risen along with his emotions & blood pressure level. He says he has to go to work and just wants to make sure his daughter doesn’t go back to jail(the girl being his daughter) the clerk (her emotions also heightened by the onslaught of questions) retorts that she can’t promise anything. The father is juggling his discourse with the clerk with a call on his cellphone, the daughter gets up after a few minutes of this and says -my daddy just wants to know if when he leaves im finna get locked up for being late even when im on time AGAIN and yall cant promise that? im on time and following this bullshit..-
    The clerk responds by phoning a superior. The father continues - i just want to know my baby is safe so i can go to work, i had to leave work to go all the way to tampa to pick her up and they said we had to go to her p.o. before noon or she’ll go again, please just promise me yourself mam, she’s on time!- and side hugs his daughter, noticeably repressing tears.
    The superior appears(a skinny caucasian with short spikey hair and slender smooth face with a sharp chin and effeminately high cheekbones attired in a white tucked in office button down, like a woman attempting to resemble a man, but he was a man, so a man who looks like a woman trying to look like a man)and they all begin to look for the recently released girls file, which they are unable to find.
    The father expounds upon the past incident that led to his daughter’s arrest,- they came and took her from this place right here 2 days ago cause they say she was late, but she was on time! just like now, so i dont leave until i know she’s safe, promise me yourself mr-
    The man who looks like a woman attempting to look like a man (the superior) follows the narrative that they cannot promise anything.
    -mr i have to go to work, ive already missed most of the day because i had to go pick up my daughter, just tell me she wont go back... im a site manager and they need me there today, please mr-
    The father’s face exudes animal pain and again hugs his daughter. The daughter becomes agitated at the lack of cooperation - man, fuck! i just got locked up for no fucking reason right here and y’all finna do it again cause these bitches can’t find no file, the fuck yall get paid for!- (aware of her location she steers clear of any loudness throughout her statement, catching herself as her voice raises and lowering it only for it to raise again in apparent irritation) The father again repeats himself - i gots to go to work! just tell me my girl will be safe!, tell me so i can leave!- ( the man’s demeanor remains respectful, just emotionally heightened, and somewhat paternally animal frightened)((the easiest path to submissiveness is fear))(((that’s why jail is a thing))). The man look like a woman who look like a man superior, humanlessly sitcom smiles and coughs out a slight chuckle at the repetition, saying again he cannot do anything. After 10 minutes of this ordeal, with the entire audience members unswaying attention(the probationees) and even the probation officers peering in through the hall in the back where the hall of the probation offices meet the front desk office, a clerk noncommittally says that the man’s daughter will be fine. The father accepts this(by sheer force of mind) and after hugging and gently kissing his daughter on the forehead and telling her he loves her and again assuring his mind by asking the clerk to reinstate her vague promise, he vacates the building.
    Eventually my name is called and I’m escorted into the narrow alley of the corrections office, lebowski, my probation officer, directs me from behind, never allowing herself to pass infront of me and have her back facing me as I am a convict. (even if my conviction was entirely unrelated to any sort of violence, i suppose anyone who has seen the inside of a jail cell((not during a civilian tour)) is considered to have violent tendencies) When i enter Ms. lebowski’s decorless office (besides a few family photos concentrated in one huddle on the left wall and a poster that reads- live, laugh, love-), she begins fumbling through paperwork searching for my file— well, uhum, ive tried to see as many as possible today, tryna fit 40 in the next 2 hours, fallen a little behind...can’t seem to find your file, what was your last name again?- after around 2 minutes of desperate searching she finds my manila file and begins to fill out some hidden-to-me form on her pc. Meanwhile asking trivial questions surrounding me as a person and eventually ends up at the only question that really matters, what I’d been arrested over.
    —Alprazolam, that’s xanax isn’t it?—
    -yes mam, as far as i know-
    —You’re a user? It’s for the best if you’re honest with me so you can get the treatment you need—
    -I’ve never consumed drugs before-is it even considered a lie if both parties recognize the lie?
    —How many pills were you found with?—
    —And why would a non-drug user have 15 xanax pills on his person?—
    -I found them-
    —yes, ofcourse—
    *tense pause*
    —you see that picture on the wall?—
    —that’s my daughter—
    -oh-( i glance at the clumped family photos on bland wall and decide she’s talking about the photo that captures a woman in hospital gown sitting up lethargically in hospital bed, exhausted lifeless straight mouth expression on her face, holding what seems to be a new borne child on her lap, baby’s face strained shut and a red tint contrasts the white blanket delicately wrapped around head)
    —she had two kids..—
    -was that picture taken right after she gave birth?-
    —yes,.. she died two years ago from an overdose of heroin and cocaine—
    -oh-( i silently secretly wonder to myself how many times she’s employed this scare tactic on other probationee’s, assuming that atleast 80%((a vast understatement)) have been sent to her office for possession of, or sale of, or being around and wrongfully arrested, drugs. Although indeed a heavy statement and a vindication of her personal emotional proximity to her job and to her probationee’s, when coupled with the lack of elaboration/lamentation of/over her daughter and her indolent demeanor towards me(((using myself as a random sample representing the whole of her, umm, fuck can i call them involuntary clients.(?)))), and the abruptness of her statement, made the whole setup seem rather disingenuous.)
    Further unimportant unpleasantries take place, I agree to serve 100 community service hours, and to go to a rehab center so some professional can take 10 minutes to determine if I need to take an 18 week drug counselling course. I also agree to have no involvement in any illegal behavior,
     - even if you are with someone that is smoking marijuana and you aren’t smoking yourself, you are smoking and that will be a vop(violation of probation) and you will go to jail for the maximum sentencing of your case (since my charges were a 3rd degree felony ((possession of a controlled substance without prescription)) my maximum prison sentence was 5 years) along with the vop itself, just don’t take the risk -
    I consent to future drug tests and reassure her I don’t consume any sort of drug. Then she directs me(from behind ofcourse) to the scanner and printer room and gives me a copy of all of the documents, including my community service sheet I must fill out, and the specifics of my probation and the address of the rehab facility. When we reached the door to the lobby she apprised me that I resembled some tall lanky monstrous character from a play she was fond of, she asked if I ever heard of the play to which I truthfully responded -no-, she then bitched about the uneducated younger generations - this generation is so uneducated-an absurd extraction from me simply not knowing one single play, which unless you are apart of the acting classes, plays have no part in public educational curriculum (with the exception of shakespeare and very seldom occasional others) i coudve easily flattened her point by inquiring if she’s read several monumental literary works that i was familiar with and at her response of not knowing or reading one single work proclaimed- ahh another unintellectual old vile cunt- and then as I passed through the door I told her to have a great day.
    I withdrew and pulled off from the corrections office with court-arrest jail-cell horrors swirling in my 19 year old mind,
     adulthoods insolent introduction.

About Teddy Duncan Jr.,/h2>

    teddy duncan jr/ allen ginsberg disciple/ born and raised in poinciana florida/

image copyright © 1990-2018 Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

drink it, smoke it, snort
it or shoot it, now escape
with your drug of choice

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David Turton


    There was a loud explosion and a flash of brilliant white. Tom shielded his face with his forearm and felt a searing pain at the back of his eyes. Bright light was followed by complete darkness. Tom moved his forearm away from his face, but the black void remained. He pulled his eyes open, using his fingers to spread the skin away from his eyeballs, but could still see nothing; the flash of bright light had somehow plunged his world into darkness. Tom was blind.
    He crouched in the middle of Market Street and put his head in his hands. His eyes still burned and he had developed a stinging headache to accompany the pain. He heard a man near him shout “I’m blind! I can’t see!”
    “Me too,” Tom muttered. He was in too much shock to bring his voice loud enough for anyone to hear. He felt a hand on his shoulder and jumped, startled.
    “Can you help me?” the voice said. He turned his head in the direction of the sound. Still, he saw nothing, but he recognised it was an older man’s voice.
    “I... I can’t help anyone,” Tom said. “I can’t see.”
    “Me neither,” said the man. Tom stood and placed his hands on the man’s shoulders. The old man mirrored Tom’s actions and placed both his hands on Tom’s shoulders. Tom collapsed forward into the stranger’s chest and wept.
    To any passers-by, it would have cut a strange image. But Tom realised that wouldn’t be a problem. No one around here could see anything. He raised his head and faced the old man.
    “What’s happened?” he asked, wiping a tear from his face with the back of his hand.
    “I don’t know,” replied the old man. ‘But from what I can hear, it sounds like it’s happened to a few people. How old are you, son?”
    “I’m sixteen,” Tom replied. “I need to get back to my parents.”
    “Where do you live?”
    “I live in Westfields. It’s two buses from here.’
    Tom heard the man sharply intake his breath.
    “How far to walk?”
    “About ten miles. Never walked into town or back. I suppose it can be done but I wouldn’t be sure which direction.’
    “Ok, son. You stick with me. We’ll work this out.”
    Tom took his hands off the man’s shoulders and reached into his pockets. His fingers curled around the hard plastic of his mobile phone.
    “I’ll try and ring them,” he told the old man. He placed the phone in his palm and realised he was still trying to see it. He used the fingerprint recognition to unlock the phone and held the button down to speak. “Phone Mum,” he said, into the device.
    He placed the phone to his ear. After the third ring, a tearful voice answered.
    “Mum! Mum, it’s me!”
    “Tom... Tom. Me and your father are both- “
    ‘Blind? Mum I’m scared. I can’t see either. I can’t see anything at all. Mum what can I do?”
    “Me and your father. It’s all black. We’re scared too, son-” she stopped as the phone cut out. Her voice was replaced by silence, followed by the sound of chaos around Tom.
    He tried to call again but the phone was dead.
    “What did she say?” The old man asked.
    “They’re blind too.” He began to cry again.
    The old man clumsily reached for Tom’s shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. Tom smiled and thought of his parents sat together scared at home. He had never seen – heard - his parents scared before. Multiple thoughts swam around his head, eclipsing the rowdy background noise. What was happening? What was the flash of light? Was everyone blind? How far did it spread? His thoughts were interrupted by a loud, high pitched screech of tyres. He felt the old man’s squeeze turn into a grab before he was thrown sideways. He heard a loud crash followed by a yelp of agony. Then a steamy, sizzling sound. Tom tried to piece together the image in his mind. All his life he had interpreted his surroundings in the form of images. It was the only way he knew to understand what was happening. Despite his new blindness, he could picture the scene in his head. Someone had driven a car into the pavement that Tom and the old man had been standing on. The old man had pushed him out of the way.
    Tom turned and crawled towards the gassy noise on his hands and knees. He realised that he had never even asked the man’s name.
    “Mate?” he shouted. “Old man? It’s Tom. Where are you?” Had Tom even told the man his own name? He couldn’t remember.
    He heard the sound of a car door open and a large groan. It wasn’t the voice of the old man.
    “Shit. Argh I broke my nose. What’s happening? Why am I blind?” the new voice bellowed. Tom ignored it and crawled on. He felt the hot metal of the car. Tracing his hands around its shape, he identified the bulky metal in front of him as the car bonnet. He moved to his right and felt the crumpled front of the car and the wall that it collided with. His hands continued searching and came upon something soft and fleshy. He grabbed it firmly and realised it was an arm.
    “Old man?” he asked, quietly. His hands traced upwards onto the face. He thought it was a man by the shape of his nose and chin. His hand found the man’s hair; it felt thin and sporadic across a winkled scalp. Tom leaned forward and placed his ear over the man’s face. He couldn’t hear breathing. He placed his two forefingers on the man’s neck, where the pulse should have been. There was no pulse. The old man had died to save Tom’s life. For the second time in a matter of minutes, Tom buried his head in the old man’s chest and wept loudly.


    Tom picked himself up and walked in the direction of the bus station. He walked with his arms out, feeling like a zombie out of a 1980s movie. It was worth it; his hands felt lampposts, sign posts and several people running, panicking and bustling their way past him. Why didn’t I stay home today? He thought to himself. The idea of sitting with his parents working out how to get through this was much more appealing than the busy street he found himself in. He choked back tears as he felt the warm breath of a passer-by, who shouted piss off in his face. He heard bellowing screams of anguish and panic and more screeching tyres. His lack of vision had made his hearing extremely sensitive, to the extent that each high-pitched sound made him recoil in pain. His eyes still burned and his head pounded. He heard a loud sound from above, a whirring and mechanical sound. A helicopter? Tom wasn’t sure.
    Someone pushed past him, sending Tom sprawling to the ground. He landed on something hard. “Oi! Who’s there? Who’s that?” He had landed on a woman.
    “Sorry,” Tom said, pulling himself back to his feet. “You blind too?” he asked.
    “Yep. May as well lie down here and die,” the woman replied.
    “I don’t know what to do,” Tom said. He felt tears rise to his eyes once more.
    “Nothing you can do, kid. Terrorists have outdone themselves this time,” she said.
    “What else do you think this is? You not see that flash? That explosion? What did you think it was? Aliens?”
    “I suppose I just haven’t had time to think. My eyes really hurt.”
    “They’ve probably been burned out.”
    Tom felt his eyes. They felt normal. He flinched as his finger touched the wet front of his eyeball.
    “What do we do now then?” Tom asked.
    “Like I said. We die. Leave me alone. Let me die.”
    Tom stood up and continued walking aimlessly with his arms outstretched. Terrorists? Could it be true? It was better than any other explanation he could think of. Suddenly, walking onwards, his hands reached out and touched somebody’s face and he felt a sudden large dull thud in his nose, causing him to career backwards and lose his footing. I’ve been punched, he realised. He slumped against a wall and hit the back of his head.
    “Get the fuck off me!’ the unseen assailant shouted. Tom felt the warm, coppery taste of blood as it fell from his nose and dripped into his open mouth. He sat against the wall and made a decision to stay seated. Maybe help will come, he thought. Maybe staying still is safest.
    Tom put his head back and closed his eyes tightly. Opening or closing his eyes made no difference, everything was still black. Out of shock, or fatigue, he began to doze. Soon he was fast asleep.


    The sound of rapid gunfire woke him up abruptly. He felt a cold panic when he awoke to darkness, before his memory of the explosion returned. He heard screaming and more gunfire. A high, sharp sound pierced the air, like something finding its tune, a microphone that didn’t have the right setting. Tom heard a loud voice with an echo-like ring surrounding it. He realised it was some kind of megaphone. He shut his eyes tightly again in an attempt to concentrate on the words that were bellowing out of the megaphone. It sounded around half a mile away but was getting closer. It’s on a vehicle, Tom realised.
    “We have taken over,” the voice said. “Please stay calm. We have taken over your territory. We are Sirus. We have taken over your territory. Stay still and await further instructions. Your compliance will ensure your safety. I repeat, compliance will ensure safety.”
    Tom pushed the back of his head against the brick wall, causing a sharp bolt of pain. Pain was good. It was a feeling; it proved he was still alive.
    Sirus. Of course, it was Sirus. A growing terror organisation, they had caused several large-scale incidents around the world. A huge explosion in London, a plan hijack over Eastern Europe and a kidnapping in South America. They had been on the news several times over the last few weeks. Although Tom didn’t pay much attention to news reports, it was impossible to avoid all the social media posts to commemorate the victims. The piece that really stuck in Tom’s mind was the one by the BBC about how Sirus was an ‘unknown quantity’. They were not affiliated to any religion. They seemingly had no agenda. Their members were all recruited anonymously online. They came from all countries, all religions. They claimed the attacks in London, Eastern Europe and South America through videos shared on social media and their entire agenda appeared to centre around death, destruction and interruption. They committed acts of terrorism out of pure evil. But what could they achieve with this, an attack on Tunville, my little city? An attack to turn people blind? What could that get them? The thoughts raced around his aching head.
    Tom stood. The chaotic sounds he could hear before had been replaced by a low stirring, like the chatter that can be heard in quiet points during a football game. The muttering was silenced by a loud rattle of gunfire.
    “Listen up!” A voice shouted. This was a man, he wasn’t using a loudspeaker, he was shouting from less than thirty yards away. “We are Sirus. We have taken over this city. You will all be experiencing blindness. At eleven forty-two this morning we unleashed a chemical weapon that rendered your optic nerves useless. This is permanent. None of you will ever see again.”
    There was a large outpouring of noise. Tom identified several emotions including grief, anger and confusion. His own emotions were numb.
    “This city will be under our charge. You will line up on this street. You will place a hand on the person in front of you. And you will walk forwards on my command. Now. All follow my voice and come here.”
    ‘Why? Why are you doing this?” a male voice shouted to the left of Tom. The next sound he heard was loud, piercing gunfire and a cry of pain, followed by a slumping noise. The terrorist had shot the man stone dead.
    Tom walked towards the terrorist’s voice, holding his hands out in front of his body. His heart raced with terror.
    “Well done, kid. You’re first here,” the terrorist said. He raised his voice to address the rest of the crowd. “You all follow this boy’s lead. Come here!”
    Tom felt someone put their hand on his shoulder. The muttering sounds seemed to gather and increase behind him. I’m leading the way, he thought to himself with some panic. He heard more shuffling behind him.
    “OK,” shouted the Terrorist. “Everyone in this line will live. You are all going to the town hall at the end of this street. On my command, you will walk. Anyone not in this line will be shot dead in... Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven...”
    Tom gulped.
    “Six. Five.”
    Tom moved his head around, willing himself to see again. “Just join us. Come on!” he shouted to no one. To everyone. He assumed that there were people stood or sitting, refusing to join the line. He felt a firm hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, kid. That’s my job.” The terrorist’s voice was soft and calm. Tom felt the terrorist’s breath on his face. It smelt of strong coffee.
    “Time’s up!” the terrorist shouted. Tom put his hands over his ears as the sound of gunfire rang out in front of him, behind him and to the sides. They were slaughtering people. Killing them for not complying with their instructions. He shook his head, tears rolled down his cheeks.
    “No. No! This is wrong. You can’t-” the terrorist cut him off with a jab to the ribs. Tom heard a crunch as one of his ribs cracked with the blow.
    ‘Shut up, kid,” the terrorist said. “Shut up and you’ll live. Now walk!”
    Tom walked forward slowly, tears rolling down his face.


    Tom walked forward, still holding both hands out. He felt the grip on his shoulder from the person behind him. The presence of the terrorist to his right was heavy. Even without his vision, Tom could just sense he was there.
    “Why?” Tom asked, through tears.
    “Shut up, kid. This is your last warning. That’s official.”
    Tom obeyed. What could they be gaining from this? He wanted to know. Wanted to find out. But he didn’t want to get shot doing it.
    “STOP!” shouted the terrorist. “RIGHT TURN!”
    Tom turned right and continued walking. He was guided through a doorway and then through to a room. The reverberating echoes of the terrorist’s voice made him realise they were in the town hall, a large, dome-shaped auditorium.
    “Now sit!” shouted the terrorist.
    Tom sat and heard several people sit down after him, in the same row. He could hear faint gunfire in the distance at the same time as people behind him took their seats.
    After several minutes of shuffling, he could hear some furniture being moved at the front of the room. From previous visits to the town hall, it was where he remembered the stage to be.
    He heard the now familiar sound of a microphone finding the right tone. This time it was a real microphone, not a megaphone.
    “Hello, ladies and gentleman!” a voice spoke. It was a different accent to the terrorist that had spoken to Tom. “Welcome to Sirus Headquarters. You’re watching us as we take over the city of Tunnville. Look at these people.”
    Tom listened and realised that the people in the room were not the intended audience for this speech. They were being broadcast to another audience.
    “We have rendered every person in this city blind,” the voice continued. Each word was enunciated clearly and powerfully. “Look at them. They are weak, powerless and pathetic. This great city of fifty-thousand people. Each one now impotent. This is what we can do. This country. This world. We can bring it to its knees.”
    “You can piss off!” a voice shouted from behind Tom. A huge crack sounded immediately, a gunshot. Tom assumed the worst had happened to the dissenter.
    “We will broadcast this live on social media in five minutes,” the speaker continued. “If we get over ten thousand likes within ten minutes, we will kill this city. We have aeroplanes ready to fly over and drop tonnes of explosives. Each person in this city will die. If we get less than ten thousand likes, we will put our guns away and leave. These people will live with their blindness. But they will live all the same. And you will treat this as a warning. Look out on social media. Five minutes. You decide if this city lives or dies.”
    Tom put his head down. What were they trying to achieve? Disruptive Terrorism, the newspapers had called it. Terror for the sake of terror. He laughed, more out of fury than humour. Why me? Of all the cities in the world, all the times, all the people, why me?
    “What... what do you think?” he said to his right-hand side.
    It was a female voice that answered, through thick sobs: “We’re gonna die.”
    “No,” Tom replied. “No, of course we’re not. Do you really think people are that bad? You think people would press that button? You think they’ll kill us using their phones? No one will even tune in. You really think ten thousand people will choose to kill us? Anyway, the social media companies will turn it off straight away.”
    “I don’t know,” she sobbed. “But even if we live, I’m blind. I’ll never see anyone ever again.”
    Tom put his arm around her and pulled her close. Of course, she was right. Life would never be the same again. No more sight. How would he even get back to his parents? Would the terrorists even let them all go alive anyway?
    “Right, here we are!” the terrorist at the font of the room shouted. “The moment of truth! We are live and direct, ladies and gentlemen. We’re waiting to see how far you will go to see the death of these people.”
    Tom squirmed in his seat. Surely people would switch off? Surely people would see reason?
    “Thank you, thank you! For the benefit of our live studio audience, we are two thousand likes up, within a minute. A fifth of the way there. Keep going! Remember, ten thousand likes sees the death of this city.”
    Tom heard a humming sound above. Aeroplanes? He gulped.
    “Four thousand likes, ladies and gentlemen. Four minutes gone. It’s going to be close!”
    The woman next to Tom started shouting: “No! No! It can’t happen it can’t- “
    “Shut it, lady,” a voice came from Tom’s left-hand side called out. “One more word out of you and you’re gone.”
    “You took my eyes. You took my-“
    A flurry of gunfire silenced her. Tom cried in agony as white hot pain seared against his elbow. One of the bullets had grazed him.
    “Another dissenter gone!” shouted the man on the stage, “How many more? Seven thousand likes and we have two minutes left. How many of you want to see these people die? This city will explode with another three thousand likes. The death of fifty-thousand people will be on your hands, ladies and gentleman. Their blood, your hands. If you like it, press like. If you want them to die, press that button. Go! Go! Go!”
    Tom put his hand to his right and grabbed the hand of the dead woman next to him. The hand was cold and already beginning to stiffen. He wept.
    “Nine thousand likes! Ladies and gentleman, you are witnessing something historic here. Something that will change the world forever. A few more likes and this entire city will explode. I will die. Everyone in this room will die. Everyone in this city will die. And this is in your hands, ladies and gentlemen. It is in your hands. Only you can kill these people. This is Sirus. This is not terrorism. This is democracy. We stand for the voice of the people. If people say we are evil, we are a reflection of society. If we are wrong, you are wrong. If we are evil, society is evil. We have left it up to you, ladies and gentlemen. And you have spoken.”
    Tom grabbed the dead woman’s hand tighter. Surely the likes would stop. Was it a hoax? Would they let them go regardless? Were they lying about the number of likes?
    “We’ve done it!” the voice said. “We’re on ten thousand likes and rising. The people have spoken. And we will live forever. See it. Hear it. Feel it.” Tom got the impression that the terrorist was outstretching his arms and rolling his head back, based on the tone and velocity of his voice.
    “Remember this day. Remember this time. The day the people ordered the annihilation of a city, the day the people spoke and the word was death. Goodbye.”
    Tom squeezed the dead woman’s hand tightly as a soft rumbling sound became louder and louder. He felt the sudden and agonising experience of his body ripping into several pieces with an explosion of bright white light.

Blind Date, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Blind Date, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

In Care of:

Joshua Copeland

    I sat in a hot tub with an old man. He was nude and leathery and raw and scrawny. The skin on his neck hung like a turkey’s. His elbows dangled off the edge, his biceps were wiry, and his fingers mingled with the water. The bubbles jiggled his sexual organs. His rib cage showed through his chest, shiny and wet. He smiled and was at peace. His dentures sat by the side and his mouth curled up into itself. Then the heat woke me. Tiny patches of sweat covered my pale gray undershirt. The sun had just topped The Highpoint Baptist Church spire, so the time must be around seven forty a.m. During spring, my foil covered windshield sun shade I bought at Walmart for sixteen dollars had blocked the light till about ten a.m. But now, come summer, the earth had tilted, and the sun shone through the driver’s side window, so I’d be getting up a whole lot earlier. The air was hot, I breathed it and it circulated through my lungs, ballooning into my body. The car smelled of body odor and the talcum powder I had dabbed under my armpits.
    I unlocked the door by my feet and opened it. The air outside, not as hot as the car, I felt as cool. I lay back down. My shirt chilled. I ripped off a Diet Mountain Dew bottle from the six pack under me and opened it. Some of the soda exploded out. I chugged. It was warm. The caffeine high hit, and I slowly woke up. I just stared at my dirty Nike tennis shoes by my bare feet. They were laceless, so I had to wrap them in duct tape. My jeans were too long for me. I was a size thirty length. These jeans were size thirty four. So the cuffs were scuffed up. I climbed into the driver’s seat and drove to the Y on Bigelow.
    Jackson, Tennessee was filled with good people. I wasn’t used to the kindness after growing up in Pittsburgh. The ‘Burgh was a racist city, a corrupt city. The citizenry hustled around moody and ill mannered. Always frowning, chips on shoulders. The Justice Department had investigated The Pittsburgh Police force more than any other city PD in the nation. Six times. Some of my “friends” referred to me as a Heb (Hebrew). I can’t count the number of fights I got in. And Northern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Outpatient, where I spent most of my time, was crooked to the core. Previous to entering the program, I had been friends with one of my counselors there, Rocco Marciano. In a private session I told him the only semi-thrilling times at NPIC were when clients cry in group. So in a group session he laid into an old toothless woman dressed in mismatched clothes that hung too loosely. He did it on the pretense of “tough love.” He belittled her, and warned her she’d never get sober if she kept living with her son. She cried. After, he elbowed me in the elevator and smiled, “How’d you like that, man?”
    “Damn dude. I didn’t tell you to make clients cry. I said it broke the tedium. I meant that and nothing more. Christ.”
    A female client with better sense than everyone else there approached me later and said, “I heard what you two said in the elevator.”
    “I know, I know. But it was Rocco who did it. I didn’t tell him to rip into her. He did it on his own. It’s not my fault.”
    Soon after, my parents kicked me out after they went into my diaries and read I was snorting coke. I was twenty eight. I drove haphazardly and at random, first to West Virginia, then Kentucky, then South Carolina, and ended up in Jackson. It had lots of hotels and lots of churches and two main streets and a bus system.
    At the Y, thankfully, the locker room was empty. I undressed and turned the shower to cold. Even the AC there wasn’t enough. I cupped a hand under the powdered body wash dispenser, pressed the lever a few times, and soaped up. I stepped out, dried off, dressed, pulled my brush out of my duffle bag, and combed my hair. My hairline receded day by day. This happened every time life ate into me. The hair had backed up on my head and revealed a dry and flecked scalp. I checked my wallet. Eight dollars left.
    I drove back to the Highpoint Baptist Church, sat in the pews, the scent of Monastery incense in the air, and read Factotum. There is nothing romantic about being homeless. Bukowski wrote on and on about the sly misadventures, the comedic drunken outbursts of love, and the streetwise innuendo of life on the boulevards. If anyone looks back far enough, the worst times turn golden. He was smart enough to know better.
    The reverend sat down next to me. I smelled cologne. He was a black man with a slight paunch, a blue and white checked button down shirt and a red bow tie with white polka dots. His eyes were set far apart, almost to the point of being feral, his forehead was broad, and his head was shaved. His hands were large and veiny. “So, Mr. Derek,” he said. “I smell you’ve been to the Y.”
    “Yeah, I needed it.” I folded the corner of the page, closed the book, and laid it down.
    “Look, you can’t keep this up. You can’t keep using the charity jar for gas money. They’re hiring over at The Holiday Inn. Housekeeping. They pay well. And you’d be working in an air conditioned environment.”
    “I can’t hold a job. I always fuck—excuse me, I always mess it up. It’s my Avoidant Personality Disorder. I can’t stand the scrutiny. Been that way my whole life. You don’t want me in your lot anymore, is that it, sir?”
    “We want you here, but you, you don’t want to be here. I mean, how long can you keep living like this? You don’t belong there, in that car, every morning. You need to find yourself a god fearing woman to live with. Don’t you have any friends back in Pittsburgh you can call on?”
    “I’m too embarrassed to tell them I’m vagrant. All my Pitt friends would look down on me if they knew what I was now.”
    “Have you thought about social security?”
    “I don’t have enough jobs behind me. The payout wouldn’t be much.”
    My face stung from shaving at The Y. I had used hand sanitizer as aftershave, but it only eased the sear a bit.
    “You need to move out of your comfort zone. In a mental hospital you’d have all your needs taken care of. You’d be safe. And healthier. A lot healthier than you are now.”
    I slouched down and sighed. “You’re right, you’re right. I got to make a move. Do something.”
    “Try going into Western. You’d have a bed and three square meals a day. Think of it, all that food, all that air conditioning. Right now you look like a Serbian death camp survivor.”
    I smacked my hands on my thighs and sighed again and looked at the bible stuck in purple velvet in front of me. I couldn’t keep this this lifestyle going. Hanging at the church and the library and Starbucks all day. I was in a rut. I needed change. Thing was, as hard as life was being homeless, it seemed so easy compared with the straight-edged discipline of life in a mental hospital. My freedom would be gone. But I had no choice.
    “You’re right, you’re right,” I said for the second time, not knowing what else to say.
    At The Madison County ER I was so dehydrated the nurse had trouble hitting the brachial artery. It took quite a few pokes and some fiddling. I told the doctor on call I wanted to kill myself. Always be sure to say you’re suicidal, or else the bedlams of the world won’t accept you. A Madison County deputy drove me the hour and a half to Western in Bolivar. I had to undress in front of a tech with a five o’ clock shadow and a weight trainer’s build. His eyes brightened at my body and his face shaded red as a tomato.
    If Jackson was Christ loving, Western was hellfire. State hospitals are weatherworn and decrepit places, but that hospital took the cake. Some big oaf with crooked teeth and an alcoholic’s paunch always tried to take my food in the cafeteria. He would sit across from me, zombie-like, medicated up to the eyeballs, dribbling out of the corner of his mouth, and just stare at my tray. I had to be aggressive and say, “Now look me in the eye. I’m only going to tell you this once: Keep your fucking hands to yourself.” (Profanity was imperative). Patients tried to take my shoes. To them anything was better than the hospital issued slippers with just a thong around the toes to hold them in place. I remember a gangly patient in transparent boxers crept into my room at night and grabbed my sneakers. I leapt out of bed and tackled him. The tech wrote both of us up. After that, I slept with my shoes on. The mattresses were hard as mineral. My arms and hands would fall asleep quickly if I didn’t lay in the exact right position. The patients always stole other patients’ mattresses for extra comfort. Lots of fights, especially over the black and white TV that only had basic cable. Barret smashed in Peyton’s orbital bone with a red and white striped number seven billiard ball. All this made me claustrophobic. I had a yellow pass, and that allowed me to wander the yard during the day. I’d jog circles around the hospital—it was big and shaped like an octagon. But that didn’t help much. And the patients complained about my body odor. I needed to get out of there.
    Shari (rhymes with sorry) O’Daniel was a weighty grandmother topped with a helmet of gray hair and a face that looked like it was pressed up against a window. She walked into Western looking to take someone under her wing into her group home, called Farmside. The techs brought up my name. My counselor, Jillian Morris, told her I was one of the few there who could function on the outside. Shari interviewed me and I fit the bill. I was peaceful and mostly followed the rules.
    The only problem was money. Shari took SSI and SSDI checks as payment. I had neither. She contacted my parents, but I was nonexistent to them—not only was it the coke, but they stood as Conservative Jewish, and my agnosticism irked them to no end. I told Shari about my sister, Rebecca. She had written a Sci-Fi novel and at the time worked out in LA for the Writers Guild of America. Her job was to give advice online to aspiring screenwriters (She always lamented that a lot of their questions were mundane, that they were nobodies going nowhere). Shari called her, then Bec called me at Western and asked, “Why didn’t you call me before?” She agreed to pay the seven hundred a month. Shari would in turn provide food, shelter, and a dab of spending money.
    Farmside, smack in the middle of a forest, sat on the outskirts of Paris, Tennessee. The closest stores were an hour away. The driveway was an endless labyrinthine gravel road. The house was one floor. A small bedroom for four women, a small bedroom for four men, a living room with a big screen TV, a kitchen, Shari and her husband Bill’s bedroom, and a teeny tiny office where Shari surfed the web all day. The whole place smelled strongly of soil. Shari had a son, Dane. He and Reba lived a football field away. They had two children: Boone and Callie. Boone was eight. Callie was fourteen. My first night there a dying water bug slowly crawled up to the gravy simmering on the stove.
    To call Farmside a farm was a joke. Three goats, a mule named Jack, five chickens, and a cockerel. The mule was kept far away in a cordoned off, small area. He whinnied every time he saw someone from a distance. The only contact he had was when people fed him his timothy grass—and that didn’t happen a lot. When you tried to pet him he chewed on your shirt sleeves. He wanted to play. I heard that when Bill bought him from the King’s Valley Mule Ranch , Jack refused to be pushed into the roped off area, so Bill buckshot him in the ass, and there was a lot of blood. The goats were dying when I arrived. They just laid there and wheezed, yellow and red mucus dripped from their noses and mouths. I had seen “Animal Cops” on Animal Planet. If your animals grew sick, the law obligated you to call the vet. They can arrest you if you don’t. Those goats died a slow death in the hot, humid air. A lone goat lived for a while. I became hopeful. It seemed to take strength, and wandered around the yard a little bit. But it soon died too.
    Steven was a red haired housemate in his late teens. One morning, he began to tell us—no one had asked him—“Hey y’all, I’m just going to relax and take a long shower tonight.” And this went on all day. “You know guys, I’m just going to take it easy in the shower for forty minutes. It’ll calm me down.” “Yep, I’m looking forward to it. Forty minutes in the shower.”
    Apparently he didn’t tell Austin, a hulky, tough, chubby kid in his early twenties. Steven hit the shower. Austin needed to urinate. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes go by. “MISS SHARI! MISS SHARI! STEVEN’S TAKING A LONG TIME IN THE SHOWER! STEVEN’S TAKING A LONG TIME IN THE SHOWER!”
    Shari banged on the bathroom door. “STEVEN! STOP TAKING A LONG TIME IN THE SHOWER!”
    “Sorry Miss Shari,” he said after he got dressed. The next couple of days Steven lumbered around sullen and low. He had trouble looking the rest of us in the eye.
    Boone slept at Shari’s house at night on the living room floor. With all of us sitting around the TV, Shari was unrolling the sleeping bag. “How long will this go on, gramma?”
    “Well, until Callie stops doing all those mean things to you in bed at night.”
    Boone would sit all day at the foot of the big elm tree in the middle of the front yard—he always looked like he was squinting, like he was looking into the sun—and play with fist sized Hot Wheels toy cars and action figures. I would sit and play with him. “Whatcha doing there, Boone?”
    “Messing around with my Minecraft guys”
    “You need some friends.”
    “I got friends.”
    “Go play with them.”
    “They live too far away. In Paris. Dad won’t drive me.” Pee wee, his puppy dog, ran up to say hi to me. Boone picked up his metal toy cars and threw them with an umph at the dog. Pee Wee yelped and tried to hide behind me.
    Our day would begin at five a.m. Shari would make us breakfast. I would try and read; I plodded through The Idiot. The book was senseless. Jesuit nonsense. Add to that the writer was psycho. (The characters paid way too much attention to the itty bitty details of strangers, people who in real life they would care little about). I just got used to the mosquito bites. The itching was white noise; it was just there. I was constantly applying Vaseline to deer ticks latched on to my legs—it suffocated them. Shari prohibited us from drinking coffee and my only chance at generic diet cola was when Shari drove us in the white Nissan NV Cargo Van—which was a wreck of garbage and empty coffee cups inside—into Paris. The town didn’t even have a main street. And at The Jarvis Convenience Store, the only convenience store, the product pickings were slim.
    So I’d chug the whole two liter and a minor caffeine buzz would ensue. With a high, I sat outside on the porch swing, mosquitos pecking away at me; I looked at The Confederate Roses in the garden and The Eastern Red Cedars and The Bald Cypresses across the yard and the pile of smoked tires that the mosquitos laid their eggs in, and I coached myself: Okay, as long as I have this high, I can do this. As long as I can chug generic diet cola, I can do this.
    But most of the time I couldn’t. Each second there lasted a minute, each minute lasted an hour. It’s like my loony bin friend Mikey Zelig back in Pittsburgh said, “The days go by so slow, the years go by so fast.” He’s not around anymore. In Jackson I could read the paper at The Madison County Library, browse their books, get on the internet there, sit outside Starbucks with a Vente cup of coffee, free refills, or get as many trips to the salad bar as I wanted at Pizza Hut. What I liked to do was sit with the city cops on Willows Avenue as they waited for speeders—the drivers who exited off 40 and forgot to slow down. At Farmside life was endless monotony. As if to underline that, the clock on the wall in the kitchen didn’t work. Always set to three thirty-two a.m. All my friends from Pitt ran the rat race, working nine-to-five jobs, copulating, making babies, arriving in skirts and suits to wine and cheese parties. If I called them they might accidentally find out I was in a group home. Paris lacked an exterior social life, no one to date. All the pretty girls in small towns are spoken for by age twenty. And what would I say? “So yeah, I live in a group home.” I looked at the hamster in the critter cage and just stared, bewildered. How did it make it through the day? He just sat there and ran the wheel and did nothing, twenty four-seven. We all need devices to make us forget our lives are worthless. I wanted to die.
    Shari and Bill and the housemates were virulently Christian, so the only shows we ever watched were on CTN, The Christian Television Network: shows like, “The Glen Campbell Variety Hour”, “Davey and Goliath”, and “The 700 Club”. I wanted to watch other shows, like the news, to find out what was going on with the DC Sniper, but the housemates always outvoted me. On one CTN soap opera, “Another Life”, a girl who looked like Alanis Morissette sat around looking glum. Her mother walked in and said, “Britney, what’s the matter?”
    “Mother, why does God bring us hardships?”
    “Honey, God doesn’t bring you hardships, God brings you through hardships.” The bang of a firecrackers snapped from outside, then a yelp. Boone had taken to tossing Mighty Might firecrackers at Pee Wee. I called my sister and begged her to give me the money to set myself up in a trailer in Jackson, but she said the group home would keep me away from drugs.
    The radio stations picked up mostly static—sometimes snippets of songs would break through. I tried to escape CTN by sitting on the porch with my cassette player and playing Guns N’ Roses or Metallica. But one of the housemates would always walk out with their own cassette player and sit down on the green and white patio chairs and play sermons from Reverend Harry H. Ironsides or C.H. Spurgeon or William T. Redbud. There was no escape from the almighty. He was omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnivorous. Were they trying to convert me?
    Missy’s hands shook out on the porch as she talked: “Derek, Jesus is a power beyond words. If you let him into your life he will cure you everything.”
    “I’m agnostic.”
    “What? What’s that? Ag-agonistic?”
    “I was Jewish. Now I don’t know about anything?”
    “Goodness. Your ancestors killed our savior.” She turned the sermon up.
    I had a history with mental health hospitals. The courts had committed me to the children’s unit at St. Francis when I was in fifth grade. In tenth grade my parents sent me to a special high school with only fifty kids in it. I couldn’t hack the crowds at Middleton High. Too many eyes. The special high school was super expensive, and lots of organized crime families sent their kids there because other high schools kept kicking them out. Pitt was a Rorschach blot. I drank my way through most of it. It’s when you graduate college, and you can’t coast anymore, that testosterone is needed.
    I drove cross country to make it as a screenwriter. To write well, you have to write terribly first. I couldn’t get past the “writing terribly” part. Hunter S. Thompson used to type out Hemingway to practice. So I tried typing out Queer. The first paragraph was about a boy Burroughs wanted to screw. The boy didn’t reciprocate. The starting line read, “Lee turned his attention to a Jewish boy named Carl Stienberg, whom he had known casually for about a year. The first time he saw Carl, he thought, ‘I could use that, if the family jewels weren’t in pawn to Uncle Junk.’” I typed no more of the book.
    I drove back home and lived with my parents. For the next few years I worked on and off. Many bosses fired me for twisting up and out and baring my teeth and making my coworkers walk on egg shells around me.
    My dad took me aside one evening after dinner and sat me down. He said, “You’ve hardly even ever had a girlfriend. Don’t you want to make it in the world?” He spoke plaintively. “Look at your friends. Rob. Scott. Zoltan. They have families. They have full time jobs.” I was already aware. Hyper aware. “Don’t you want to become something? Establish yourself? Remember high school? You liked your Rite Aid job.”
    “That was different. My boss was a Mormon.” He had that Christ-like smile and dough-faced simplicity and was always kind and generous. I told my mom what my dad said. “I don’t need this now, mom.”
    “I’m sure it was just a little pep talk. Maybe you misunderstood him. I’ll talk to him.”
    The next day he told me I had read his diatribe the wrong way.
    A few weeks later my mom left to Beaver Falls for three days. My dad invited me out to Katz N’ Kids Deli for dinner. He downed a few Dos Equis and in a total non sequitur, he said, “You know what? Let’s talk about your friends. How about...Scott. He has a job, doesn’t he? He has a family. Who else? Let me see here...Rob. He has a nine-to-five job and a boy. And how about...Zoltan...”
    In Western I met up with a housewife who didn’t belong there. Sandy Neergard. She was a nurse at the Southwest Mississippi Regional Center in Olive Branch, Mississippi. She and her husband Lonnie lived on a farm. Lonnie brought me OR scrubs to wear when my regular clothes reeked too much of sweat. Sandy wrote down her address and phone number for me before she left. She told me I could live with her and that there was a lot of work to do on the farm. I’d be around rational, reasonable, well-adjusted people. Within the walls of civilization. That meant I could call my Pitt friends. And with a little luck, I could watch what I wanted on TV and access the internet. But I blew it. I lost the address and phone number.
    I told Shari about Sandy. “Miss Shari, I like living here and all, but I think I’d do better on Sandy’s farm.”
    “Now Derek, don’ you worry. My hubbie has connections with cops all from here to Saskatchewan. I’ll call up the Olive Branch PD and get her number for you. Alright?”
    The next day Shari ran up to me enthusiastically, like she was playing a game. “Bill called the Olive Branch PD. They didn’t want to give out Sandy’s number. They said she unlisted her number because of a stalker.”
    Finally Shari agreed to drive me the two hours to Jackson to pick up my car at The Madison County ER. So now I could drive places to escape Farmside and all the requisite vegetating that came with it. But there was nowhere to go. I spent some time in the microcosmic Paris library and tried to find decent, unchristian books to read, but the pickings were scant and sparse. I surfed the web there. I googled “Scarlet Fever”, curious to learn more about the disease. I clicked on the first hit, and that landed me on the adult film star Scarlet Fever’s web site. I kept clicking the back arrow but the site didn’t let me leave. It didn’t even let me close AOL. I had to unplug the computer. The next day I walked into the library, and the librarian, who looked like her name was Hortense, called me into her office. “We can’t have you in here anymore, sir.”
    I grinned. “How kind. Why?”
    “Oh, do you really need me to tell you?”
    “Yes, as a matter of fact I do.”
    “You’ve been using our computers to search for pornography.”
    One day I sat out on the porch swing, listening to “Welcome to the Jungle”, and Shari stepped out of the door and beckoned me in with a hand. “Come on in, son. I got something to show you.” She carried a hard drive, monitor, and then a keyboard out of her office. She set everything up on the living room floor. We both sat down. She hooked all the devices up and turned on the monitor and hard drive. “You want to be a writer, don’t you? Well here’s your chance. Write your heart out.” She stood up with effort and walked back into her office. There was no Word program, just a Notepad icon. It was almost impossible to click on it because there was no mouse, so I had to use the arrow keys. The pointer on the screen didn’t move fluidly. It jerked. I pressed an arrow key and held it down, and the pointer crossed the screen exponentially, first a centimeter a second, then two centimeters a second, then an inch a second, then two inches, three inches, ad infinitum. There was no printer. The Marquis De Sade and Jean Genet wrote on toilet paper in gothic prisons that dripped with sewage, but I couldn’t do it. And who cared? I was too frazzled to write anything anyhow.
    Austin had spent most of his life in Juvey and prison. Sometimes I’d drive to the Jarvis Convenience Store with him to keep me company. When I got to the register with my two liter of diet cola, he’d come up behind me with bags of candy, sandwiches, and ice cream treats, and dump them all the counter. “Hey partner, I’m broke. Pay for all this.”
    “Ah ah. You pay for it.”
    “I don’t got the dollars. You pay for it. Now.”
    “No. Put it back on the shelves.” His ruse never worked, but it still agitated me.
    One time I was at The Jarvis Convenience Store alone. “You from that farm-mentally ill home, ain’t you?” the teenaged checkout girl asked, not without sympathy.
    “Yeah. I feel so honored.”
    “So you know Callie? Dane and Reba’s girl? Walks around with a smirk all the time?”
    “Sure. I see her every day.”
    “The only reason that devil girl and that poor boy Boone wasn’t separated for good is that Bill O’Daniel was top cop here in Paris for twenty years.”
    “I didn’t know Shari’s husband was a policeman.”
    “He’s a PI now. Before, he was Paris chief of police. So now you know.”
    “They tried solving the ‘problem’ by Boone sleeping over Shari’s at night.”
    “And ain’t that the biggest bullshit you ever heard. She still got access to him during the day.” She shook her head.
    “That’s Callie. She’s always getting belted. She can be hard to deal with.”
    “Hard to deal with? She needs a exorcism. She has a rep already at Taylor High. Always getting’ sent down to principal Brill’s office and getting the paddle. Always. It’s permanently marked into her behind. That whole God forsaken family is white trash to the core.”
    I remember when Austin and Callie wandered off into the forest. Shari lost it: “AUSTIN! YOU DON’T NEED TO BE WANDERIN’ OUT THERE ALONE WITH CALLIE!”
    Her voice was operatic. She called a house meeting and chastised Steven. “STEVEN! STOP USING SO MUCH TOILET PAPER! I’M DARN TOOTIN’ SICK OF TELLIN’ YOU! STOP IT! THIS INSTANCE!” Steven walked around downcast the next few days.
    Our bed times were at eight p.m., so Shari didn’t want me driving around at night. And she told me to curb my driving during the day. I think she was worried I was untethering myself to the farm and she’d lose me as a client. And so began The Great Crackup. Off the wall, into little jigsaw pieces of bone, no one could put me back together again. My skeleton shattered. I’ve never been right since. My sleep took a nosedive and went haywire. Five hours sleep a night. Four hours sleep a night. Three hours sleep a night. It was like “Restless Body Syndrome.” I was up at all hours, standing, bouncing from foot to foot on the balls of my feet, swinging my arms up and down, squeezing and opening my fists, the same verse from “Sk8ter Boy” repeating itself in my head: “I’m with the skater boy. I said see you later boy”, over and over. They had me cornered. Now I really prayed for death. I meant it this time. Steven put his hand on my forehead and tried shouting out the demons, but it didn’t work.
    There was the night I tried to leave. Jumping up and down in place in the bedroom, I realized I needed to drive, hoping that would ease the tension. Make me more elastic. Shari would just have to deal with it. My clock read one fifty-five. I walked the stone path to the driveway and stepped on something that made a really loud crunch. One of Boone’s plastic toys. A pink and white weasel, now in pieces. It wasn’t there during the day. Bill and Shari’s light flipped on. And then I could see my car clearly, and a large tree branch sat a few feet in front of it and a large tree branch sat a few feet behind it, so if I tried to drive away, the branches would scrape the gravel, and I’d make a huge racket. Shari stepped to the window in her nightgown. “WHAT DID I TELL YOU? JUST WHAT DID I TELL YOU? NO DRIVING AFTER DINNER! NOW YOU COME IN HERE THIS VERY MINUTE!”
    “Sorry Miss Shari, but I can’t sleep!” If I was with Sandy Neergard I’m sure I could go on all the midnight drives I wanted to. And I’d have the chance to watch TV all night. TV shows the rest of America watched. So this was how Bill O’Daniel, the inveterate private investigator, was handling me. When Shari was out, it was his job to make us meals. He made us bacon sandwiches. Three pieces of bacon on two slices of white bread.
    Sometimes I’d drive to Jackson. So I’m driving down Highland, my eyes on fire, and I saw red and blue flashing behind me in my rearview and heard the squelch of a siren. A Madison County deputy pulled me over. “Sorry to tell you this, brother, but you’re driving without a plate.”
    “You’re kidding me. My plate’s gone?”
    “Yeah. I won’t write you a ticket, but don’t come around here no more without a plate.”
    “Yes sir. I didn’t know.”
    I told Shari.
    “You don’t need to be fixin’ to take long drives anyway. Not with your sickness. Stay home.” If PI’s want a surveillance target to stay in one area, they’d “steal” your plate. They’d unscrew it and rip it off in the black of night and hide it somewhere in your car, somewhere you’d never think to look. If they stole it away from your car, that would be actual theft, i.e. unethical and illegal. I searched under the back seats, the front seats, the trunk, the spare tire compartment, but I couldn’t find it.
    “Miss Shari, can you take me down to the Paris DMV so I can register a new plate?”
    “Now hold them horses there. I’m gonna be busy this week and the next. Stop bothering me about it. You don’t need no plate no how anyway.” Every day it was a new excuse. But soon I thought, why bother replacing it at all? Bill would just “steal” it again. When I stoked up the courage to tell Shari someone on the farm took it, she said, “Maybe you need to take your medication. No one here ripped off your gosh darned plate. Must’ve been done in Paris or Jackson.”
    I was tachycardic day in and day out. I’d pace the stone path back and forth from the front door to the gravel driveway all day, that same shard of song ringing through my head. My paroxysms disturbed the housemates, but they loved Shari, and they always sided with her over me. I bought a Walkman and at night I’d listen to it in bed, rocking back and forth.
    It was three o’ five a.m. Enough knocking my knees together. Time to do circles around the living room sofa. I stepped out of bed in Sandy’s OR scrubs and walked round, round and around. I noticed a heap of trash dumped on the floor. I walked over to it and uncrumpled some papers and studied them. Everything I’d thrown away from the past few weeks: SSI applications, SSDI applications, Medicare statements, bills from Madison County ER, a letter from my parents, two letters from my sister, a Writer’s Digest magazine, and lots of Kleenexes. Why did Bill and Shari save up and then show me all my detritus? What was the take away moral? They knew I lapped around the sofa at night. The next morning I called Olive Branch PD. I asked the secretary for Sandy Neergard’s number.
    “Sorry. We can’t give out citizen’s numbers. That would be illegal.”
    “Did a Miss Shari O’Daniel call you a month ago, asking for the same number?”
    “No sir. Not that I can recall.”
    Then the perdition kicked into high gear. I went from little sleep to no sleep. Shari and Bill paid that no mind. I tried to nap during the day, but Shari said that wasn’t normal, so she’d send in a housemate or two to strike up conversation or bang their belongings around. I counted a lot in bed, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud. I’d get up into the three thousands before I lost my place and had to start over. On my fifth all nighter a long string of tapping sounds came from the corrugated tin roofing above me. It would palpate in time to my heart. So I clenched and unclenched my bedsheet until my fingers hurt.
    During the day I tried deep breathing out on the porch swing. It did no good. A huge Daddy longlegs bathed in the sun on the wooden rail by the swing. Its body segment was a bumpy gray, and its legs were striped gray and black. I said out loud, “Okay, so that means that on the opposite side of the porch there’s another Daddy longlegs on the railing. Yes. Of course.” I stood up and walked over. I was right.
     I hadn’t eaten in eight days. Shari occasionally offered me a Boost, a nutritional supplement, but I always refused.
    On my seventh day up all night, an idea popped up above my head. If I could get to a General Hospital ER, maybe they could do something for me. So I poised this to Shari. She began to accommodate me. “You know, oh to heck with it, I can let you watch TV for a couple of hours after we all go to bed.”
    “No. I need to see a doctor. Please.”
    “Don’t you worry now. I’ll make you a cup o’ coffee. That caffeine will make you so uppity that you’ll get all tired and sleep like the dead.” It was like running a gauntlet. “Derek, I don’t got no time to drive you there. St. Mary’s is eighty miles away. The stuff they give you, you can’t drive yourself home. You need someone to take you. And Bill’s on assignment.”
    “Your son can do it. Dane.” I badgered her and she shouted back, but I was too burnt out to care. Excuse followed excuse followed excuse. Finally she called Dane, and he said he could drive me. Around ten at night he drove over. Shari took him aside and whispered to him. Then she steered me into her office and shut the door. She hugged me and sat me down. “Now watch what you say, Derek. There’s a whole lotta love for you here, and we wouldn’t want to see you go back to Western. Don’t do any badmouthin’.” As she spoke bright flashes blinked on and off, first in the corners of my eyes, then the perimeters, then my whole field of vision, like walking the red carpet at a gala.
    So Dane drove me. He was really friendly. We were the same age. He wore a beard, a “Don’t Tread” baseball cap twisted back, and a purple and whitely squared lumberjack shirt. He sniffled a lot. The waiting room at St. Mary’s ER was empty, save for a woman with a narrow face, model’s cheekbones, and wraparound sunglasses. She wore a fat suit and ate potato chips out of a small foil bag. The munching and crackling filled the room. Soon a nurse escorted Dane and me into a waiting room. It smelled of disinfectant. The man next door kept sneezing and coughing. “Damn niggers,” he said. We waited. Dane was fidgety.
    The doctor walked in. He was Asian American, short, in his mid-fifties. He had graceful, large, friendly eyes and smiled like a missionary. Before he could say five words, Dane said to him, “Sir, can I speak to you outside?”
    “Yes, by all means.” They walked out. I heard murmurs and whispers. When they walked back in, the doctor asked, “So, you hear voices?”
    I have never heard voices in my entire life. I’m not schizo. I’m neurotic, not psychotic. “Um, no I don’t.”
    “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
    I explained my insomnia.
    After doing a quick physical he said, “I can help you. What we usually do in these cases is shoot you up with some Valium.” If this was a big city hospital they wouldn’t have given me anything. They would have thought I was medication seeking.
    “Thank you, sir,” I said. The doctor asked a few more questions, patted me on the shoulder, and left.
    “See, I told you they could help you here,” Dane said.
     “Not really. Benzo’s don’t do anything for me. I’m in for more hell when I get home.”
    “Come on, man. Lighten up. It’s not that bad.”
    A male nurse walked in. He asked me to pull down my jeans and boxers part way and lie on my side. He shot me in the hip. I was fucked. For life. I’d be up forever, wishing for death, counting up to a googolplex, never to sleep again. Dane drove me home. Back to the maelstrom.
    Then, in the car, it was like a whirlpool of euphoria sucked me down into the depths. I realized the nurse hadn’t shot me up with the equivalent of one or two pills, but like twenty pills. I cackled. HAHAHAHA! I went from fireplace to AC in no time. I felt so good I felt guilty.
    “So what’s up with the DC sniper?” I asked.
    “They caught the dude. It was terrorism. They’re trying to cover it up by not using that word.”
    “Well that’s wrong. The country has a right to know.”
    “No they don’t. If they did, the people’d be running in the streets, shouting their heads off, going bananas. Got to keep ‘em in line.”
    I turned conversational. We talked about Atari and Intellivision, games like Combat. Asteroids, Pac Man, Activision Triathlon. He laughed too. We arrived back at the farm around one a.m. I got in bed, chuckling.
    “Come on, man. I’m trying to sleep. Don’t make me come over there,” Austin said. I shut my eyes for a few hours and opened them. Three forty. I flew. Life went white. I shut them again.
    After a bit I looked at my clock. Four o’ five a.m. I had never popped acid before, so hallucinations were new to me. Right in front of my pillow was a slide show the size of a twenty-seven inch TV. Flashes of aisles in a drug store. A cottony wisp of cloud framed each image. What was happening to me? I saw hairspray, shaving cream, toilet paper, six packs of soda, candy bars, toilet bowl cleaner. My brain made up the names: Vive Amour Extra Hold Hair Gel, Maximum Security Shampoo and Conditioner in One, Mr. Crackle Potato Chips, Mexican Water Stool Softener, Smoothy Shaving Cream, Sleepy Head Benadryl, Mississippi Cola, Lou Ferrigno Power Drinks, Mr. Crunch Chocolate Candy Treats, S and S Sun Screen, Whistely Clean Toilet Paper, Sweet Stripes Candy Canes, Ocean Kettle Tuna Fish. The final shot was of the drug store itself at night. It sat on a ridiculously steep hill, and the store was not horizontal but sloped with the hill. A sign lit up in spring green and marine blue read, “Silverscript Drug Store”.
    Dawn lightened the windows. The cockerel sung. Sprinkler water caroused through the pipes. The coffee machine clicked on.
    That morning Shari drove us to the St. Nicholas Church, about half an hour away. It was small and lost in a wilderness of Asparagus ferns, Dragon Trees, Ficus vines, and ivy. Daddy longlegs covered the creaky double doors. White paint crackled off of the wood. I was high as a kite. We sat in the backroom for bible studies, just Shari, the eight housemates, and I.
    Austin said, “I can never sleep. How come every time I want to go to St. Mary’s ER, they put me back in Western?”
    Missy said, “I worry when I can’t sleep and I ask a doctor for sleeping pills that they’ll put me back in Western.”
    Julia, a spinsterly woman with an austere haircut and a strong southern belle accent, said, “Western is an awful place. A dang roach motel. I’d never want to go back there. But I’m afraid if I go to St. Mary’s I’ll end up back in that heck hole.”
    “That’s the way the ball bounces,” Shari said.
    “God is a bluff in a poker game,” I said.
    Later that evening I sat on the porch. The sun shone spokes of orange through the trees. I felt my pineal gland throb. Three dust devils appeared in the front yard. They didn’t have mass, kind of like an image through static. They mixed, partnered, spun clockwise, then counter clockwise. “Where’d you guys come from?” I asked. A dusty hand poked out, its pointer finger aimed at the horizon.
    A huge tornado twisted there, snake-like, a living thing. The sun hued it copper. The twister boomed that she was the mother of the all and the every, and that Shari, Bill, Austin, Callie, Boone, Reverend Harry H. Ironsides, all the saints, even God, answered to her.
    That night in bed, still high, I saw books in a book store. Shelves surrounded me. My brain provided the names: The Forecast of Tantalus, Atheism is Unstoppable, The Thesaurus from Hell, Twisted Train Tracks, That Ever Present Hole in the Floor, Slit Wrist Lit, De Sade’s Ghost, Brainstorming Detritus, To Tremble before a Monolith, Computing Forever, Ogden the Antitheist, Branded, Poke and Peek. I didn’t fall asleep.
    The next day, still drifting on Valium, I called 911. I lied to the operator I had fractured my kneecap. I waited in the yard, sitting cross legged. The ambulance arrived an hour later. I heard the sirens for a while as it made its way carefully up the gravel driveway. It parked in front of me. Shari walked out. “Now what’s this all about?”
    A paramedic stepped out. “Who has the busted kneecap?”
    “It’s not my knee. I lied. I can’t sleep.”
    “You made us come all the way out here for that?”
    “I’m sorry.”
    Shari said, “He don’t need no paramedics! He just can’t cop any Z’s! That’s all!”
    I said, “This wildebeest hippopotamus doesn’t understand my situation.”
    He took mercy on me. “Well, we’ll get you on up and strap you in and take you to St. Mary’s. I’m sure they’ll give you something for it.” Farmside receded into the distance, with Shari standing there, her hands on her hips. At St. Mary’s they admitted me as an inpatient and shot me up with more Valium and I still couldn’t sleep. They tried other sedatives: Depakote, Trazadone, Clozeril, Buspar, Serequil. Nothing worked. And I couldn’t have cared less. Eventually they shipped me to Methodist North Hospital in Memphis.
    That’s where I am today. Doctor Trellis keeps me high on huge doses of Atavan and Klonopin and Xanax via intravenous. The medical world has made a minor celebrity of me. The guy who just doesn’t sleep no matter what they inject into his blood. Famous doctors who specialize in insomnia have visited me: Dr. David Patz, Dr. Robert Kresh, and Dr. James Wellington. The orderlies set up an Xbox One on my TV and my parents buy me all the new games: Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon, Destiny, Halo 5: Guardians, Fallout 4, Battlefield 1. In 2009 they bought me a laptop, so now I can do all the writing I want. My Pitt friends have visited occasionally. Lack of sleep has sharpened my sex drive, and the nurses leave me alone to masturbate under the covers. I get hard when my Serbian masseuse works on me. She doesn’t care. She’s a stripper by day and she feels sorry for me—she even offered me a hand job. The Marriott Hotel on Beale Street donated three pillows.
    One night—or day, it doesn’t matter anymore—Scotty, an orderly, walked in. “And how’s Derek doing tonight?”
    “Reading Justine.”
    “As long as you’re keeping occupied.”
    “Can you turn the thermostat down a bit?”
    “Sure.” He walked over and turned the knob down with his thumb. Then he sat down on the chair next to the bed. I smelled his aftershave. I put the book down on my lap.
    “Scotty, will it always be like this?”
    “Everyone grows into their nook. And they become that thing, whatever their DNA shapes them into. Like me, I’m on the night shift and working on my second wife, and it’s like, this is my position, to work nights on a long term care ward as a divorcee and for my wife to keep the kids. You drift and drift, and gravity settles you into your own personal niche. So what if you’re eighty years old with your dentures lying in a glass of water beside you here? You were never meant to run the rat race.”
    Derek Stienbrenner
    C/O Methodist North Hospital
    10th Floor
    Long Term Care Ward
    6019 Walnut Grove Road
    Memphis, TN 38120
    Write me. Better yet, come up and visit. I’m semicoherent. Writing is getting difficult—my hands don’t always obey my brain. I’m losing the ability to talk. My mouth feels like someone else’s muscle, something foreign. I spit a lot when I speak. Visiting hours are from five p.m. to eight p.m. I’m not going anywhere. I have the feeling I’ll be here for a long, long time.

image copyright © 1988-2018 Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

brain stays forced into
constant maze with all of life
only wanting rest

video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 7/23/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poem “brain” during the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (filmed from a Sony camera).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 7/23/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her 3 haiku poems “escape”, “brain” and “enemy”, & later her poem “Cast in Stone” w/ people on stage for the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (S).

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

Approaching Cloaked Figure

Douglas J. Ogurek

    “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” - John 9:3

    Poppies covered a hill. At the top of the hill, a woman and a man sat on either side of a picnic basket.
    She studied her lips in a compact.
    He talked monotonously into a phone. “An XME? Some brigand carjacker isn’t going to take my XME. That’s my XME. I’d toss the keys.”
    The woman closed the compact.
    “He wouldn’t shoot me. Some brigand? This is just me, but that’s my car.”
    She took a picture of the flowers.
    “He placed second in regionals. It’ll likely be in the paper. You should have seen the winner, Pat. Jesus. This monster.”
    A cloaked figure stood at the bottom of the hill.
    The man ended his conversation.
    She touched a poppy. “You were talking about Brandon.”
    “A wise deduction. It’ll probably be in the paper. I saw a couple reporters. I suspect they’ll do a comprehensive profile of that goon that won. Probably on steroids. They better talk about Brandon too.”
    The figure at the base of the hill held a weed whacker.
    The woman stroked a flower. “They’re beautiful. They make me think of weddings. Of our wedding.”
    He thumbed his phone. “They’ll be here in fifteen.”
    The woman squeezed lotion from a bottle labeled “Pt.” “C.C. says Glask tests on animals. I don’t get it.”
    “Pat’s wife’s into this flower field motif. She’s into Monet’s Poppy Field.”
    “Glask makes my lipstick. This lipstick I’m wearing?”
    “You think Monet’s is a restaurant, I’ll bet. Who’s this rogue?”
    Circular mirrors covered the figure’s cloak, the collar of which swept wave-like over his head.
    The man sighed. His voice did not fluctuate. “If Pat sees this rogue, he’ll think I’m a fool for suggesting this place. I need Pat to . . . what’s this about?”
    “Let’s ask him what he’s doing.”
    The man viewed her through his phone. “Let’s not egg him on, Petal.”
    Petal rubbed the lotion into her legs. “But this testing . . .”
    “This is a good shot. But your hair. Why don’t you fix your hair? Kind of putzy-looking.”
    “Why do they have to do that?”
    He lowered the phone. “I suppose you didn’t learn about Monet? Despite your eclectic liberal arts undergraduate education?”
    “Is he just going to . . .”
    He studied the lotion. “How much did I pay for this?”
    “Forty, I think.”
    “Petal, you are beautiful. My Petal.”
    The weed whacker started. The figure, spinning, slashed flowers and moved ten feet up the hill. He stopped.
    The man’s voice did not fluctuate. “Absolutely putzy. What’s he . . . I’m absolutely beside myself. This rogue, Pat’s going to . . .”
    “They’re so beautiful. Why’s he doing this?”
    The man pretended to calculate an equation. “I suspect it’s because he’s a rogue. You went to college, right? Rogue? Do you know what rogue means?”
    “Yes.” Petal compressed her lips. “They put chemicals in rabbits’ eyes. Glask?”
    “C.C. tells you this? She goes and gets a pit bull. Jesus. People see that? They think low class.”
    “Do they have to do that though? With the chemicals? I don’t get it.”
    “Take some more forty dollar lotion, Petal.”
    “It fills the gaps.”
    The man answered his phone. “Mr. Kudolla, I’m working on it right now. What do you think so far?”
    Petal sipped water from a glass bottle.
    The man frowned. “I told Paul to put them in. I’ll take care of it.”
    She traced the gold “Define” script on her bottle.
    He put down the phone, then watched the cloaked figure. “This is just me, but those pit bulls? I suspect they ruin the perceived value of a neighborhood.”
    The weed whacker resumed. The cloak’s mirrors flashed and the figure severed more poppies. He ascended ten more feet, then stopped a hundred feet from the couple.
    “Way, he’s destroying them. Why’s he destroying them?”
    Way raised the volume of his voice, but not the pitch. “Sir, would you mind taking your performance elsewhere?” The figure did not move. Way spoke to Petal. “This isn’t fair. I set this up. What’s this about?”
    Petal, not looking, set the bottle on a poppy. “Those rabbits. I don’t get it.”
    Way sighed. “C.C. and her cartoon character obsession. Lumpulp or Lempalp or whatever it is.”
    “Lampelp. He’s the streetlight in The Skyscraper and the Shelter. That cartoon movie? He’s the streetlight that helps the skyscraper change?”
    “She’s what? Twenty-five now? This is just me, but isn’t it time she moved beyond cartoons?”
    The figure destroyed more poppies as it moved twenty feet closer to them. A wavering line resembling a seismograph reading marked the front of the cloak.
    “Jesus Christ. Pat’s going to be here in ten minutes and I have this rogue to contend with?” Way looked at Petal through his phone. “Will you please not sit like that?”
    She shifted, then spilled on her blouse.
    “Now that was slatternly.”
    “But it’s brown. And it’s just water.”
    “Slatternly. Do you know what slatternly means?”
    “I don’t know why.”
    Trumpets sounded on Way’s phone. He swiped it and sighed. “Can you please fix your hair there? It looks putzy.”
    Petal retrieved her compact.
    “Paul, you’ve done an outstanding job so far. But I need you to put those skylights back in.”
    Petal touched her hair, but tilted the compact toward her mouth.
    “Now I know I suggested taking them out, but Jim Kudolla, he really wants them in.”
    The weed whacker buzzed and the figure resumed his destructive ascent. He stopped fifty feet from the couple. The material of his cloak resembled molten lava.
    Way addressed the figure. “Okay, the performance is over. You’ve established your mystique. Will you please move on now?”
    The figure remained still. Petal swallowed more Define. “Way, what does . . .”
    “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” He sighed. “Today of all days. I’m absolutely beside myself.”
    “Can we talk about Glask later? About the testing?”
    “Petal, that’s enough. I hate this. You’re being unprofessional.”
    Petal smelled her hands.
    “I did an interview. For the N-Choir Building? The dark one I showed you? I wonder what they’ll say about me. What do you think they’ll say about me?”
    “How great an architect you are. Maybe how professional you are.”
    Way sighed, and then sighed again. “Brown? Why did you wear brown? Brown doesn’t convey a very cosmopolitan image.”
    “It’s in. The clothing stores, they all–”
    “Do you know what cosmopolitan means? And I’m not talking about your magazine.”
    “Testing on rabbits isn’t cosmopolitan.”
    Way’s thumb twitched. “Pat. You should’ve heard Pat. At their corporate meeting, when I discussed N-Choir? He went on and on about me and the design.”
    The weed whacker destroyed more poppies. The figure stopped twenty feet from them.
    Petal swiped the water stain. “Way, Way, please Way. That testing?”
    “Do you see this rogue? Jesus. Do you see what’s happening?”
    “I don’t get it.”
    “Jesus Christ. What’s this about? I work on setting up this goddam thing. This isn’t fair. Goddammit. What’s this about?”
    Petal tried to straighten the poppy her bottle had wilted.
    “I’m going to talk to this rogue.” Way rose, then approached the figure.
    Petal smelled the gas from the weed whacker. It smelled inexplicable, and unavoidable. She watered the wilted poppy. Then she brought a tissue to her lips.

Douglas J. Ogurek Bio

    Douglas J. Ogurek is the pseudonym for a writer living somewhere on Earth. Though banned on Mars, his fiction appears in over forty Earth publications. Ogurek founded the controversial literary subgenre known as unsplatterpunk, which uses splatterpunk conventions (e.g., extreme violence, gore, taboo subject matter) to deliver a positive message. He guest-edited Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #58: UNSPLATTERPUNK!, the first ever unsplatterpunk anthology. He also reviews films at that same magazine. More at

Pine, drawing by the HA!Man of South Africa

Pine, drawing by the HA!Man of South Africa


Brittany Micka-Foos

    “Welcome to your first act of civil disobedience.”  She beams at me, and I feel like I’ve been flung headlong into a brick wall. Her smile is dizzying.
    I watch her flitter into the human mosaic that congeals around us. Perdita’s patchwork skirt billows up in the sudden gusts, briefly revealing the sweep of her thigh. When I first met her, I made the obvious comparison, and it rang true on every level: My hair pulled back in a bun so tight I suffer constant headaches, versus her self-cut strands that curl down her cheeks like ivy, resistant, untamed by her headband. My sullen personality versus her free-spirited wiles. Perdita is bubbly. Frankly, I’m boring. In a competition, any competition, Perdita would win every time. But I’m content right now, alongside Perdita, basking in her excitement and indignation. Somewhere outside myself, a drum beats boldly, and my heart leaps. The drum signaled the march—the blaze came later.
    We march down State Street. I’m entranced by the haphazard drumming that regulates my steps. I haven’t felt this defiant since college. I haven’t felt this meaningful since bible camp, so I know I must be getting old. Tomorrow marks my five years as Inventory Manager II at the Auditor’s Office. Tomorrow’s my anniversary party. I’ll receive a slightly bigger plaque for my desk and a slightly more expensive cake. I’m eagerly anticipating my 20-year anniversary: it comes with a stainless steel pen-and-ink set. I’m not sure what kind of cake you get, probably a fancy ice cream cake, Haagen-Dazs or whatever. Sometimes I sit at my desk and daydream about that pen-and-ink set. My boss has one; it’s quite smart looking, actually. Very professional. Besides, I get so fucking fed up with the cheap plastic Bics. They always run out of ink at inopportune times or get lost or stolen. Some days, I catch myself thinking about that set, that amalgamation of processed pieces of earth. To think that a fancy pen could justify 20 years of hell seems silly, even to me. But sometimes I let myself get away with that kind of thinking. Especially on Mondays. Whatever gets you through the day, that’s my mantra.
    The drums halt, causing me to stop awkwardly, my feet mechanically marching in place. The group gathers in front of an abandoned building that I’m sure I’ve never noticed until this very moment, even though I’ve driven past it every single damn day on my commute. I smell brimstone. Perdita releases my hand, and I find the sudden distance from her jarring. Tonight had consisted of her leading me, pulling my hand in every direction, and now I’m lost without her. She leaves me standing there stunned, as she confers with a group in the center of the mob—a few very serious-looking girls in skirts shouldering a drunk boy, and a stoic older man with a black bicycle and a baby. I watch her converse with the man as he cradles the infant in one arm. His expression tells nothing, but something in his brief glances ignites flames of jealousy inside my stomach. I want to walk over to her and kiss her on the mouth, with every hippie and hippie’s baby a witness. But I can’t, so I keep marching in place to the beat of my own mantra.
    Inertia’s a funny thing. Essentially, it means that an object will stay at its constant rate of movement, unless acted upon by outside forces. It makes sense, though I never really had much of an interest in physics. Nowadays, I can’t recall anything I would term “an interest.” Drinking, I suppose, if you define interest as blandly as “what you do in your spare time.” Drinking and work, which seems pathetic on a level I can’t even stomach. It’s hard, going to the same place, seeing the same disinterested faces, thinking every day “so this is what my life is going to be like from now on.” And I’m 27, so I have a lot of that life to look forward to.  Working in a nondescript, white-walled office, associating with more paperwork than people. It’s really rare for me to meet people—I mean really meet people, not in the robotic, perfunctory sense. Even when you’re all jammed together, it’s rare to meet someone who you actually connect with.  That’s what I told Perdita anyway, when she led me into her bedroom, telling me I had nothing to worry about. Thinking of that, it’s difficult to concentrate. I feel warmth creep up my leg as I realize the bush next to me is on fire.
    Under normal circumstances I would find arson alarming, but the way tonight is going I genuinely feel I have nothing to worry about. At this point, two of the boys begin to scale the walls of the building. The old man with the baby looks on in stern approval. Perdita explains that the structure is abandoned and closed off, that we are attempting to reclaim it. I almost ask who we are claiming it from, but I bite my tongue instead. I don’t want to seem ignorant or offensive. Perdita is gleeful at this point, fluttering around and asking strangers for a cigarette.
    Everything about Perdita screams of fire. Her smile could light up an abandoned building. Her tongue flickers over her lips whenever she is deep in thought. Her skin is always warm and her eyes shining. I know I’m staring, and she looks back at me, searchingly, tilting her head. Every movement makes me want to grab her hand and tell her she is the only woman I have ever loved. Instead, I look back at her and shrug. She winks impishly and flashes a grin that would make Mother Teresa wet. She gestures to the boys, who have succeeded in gaining entrance to the building, opening up the main door for the eagerly awaiting mob.
    Shortly thereafter a window explodes, sending shards of glass and boxes out onto the parking lot lawn. A few boxes rupture on impact, scattering a variety of office supplies on the ground. Soon, the small lot is shrouded with papers—unsent memos, outdated calendars chock full of meetings long passed, dentist’s appointments, all of junior’s unwitnessed Little League games. I mistake a flaming office desk for another burning bush. I watch its paint slowly peel away, revealing charred drawers overflowing with work and ash. Doing my part to assist in the bedlam, I kick the rubbish at my feet, inadvertently unearthing a familiar pen-and-ink set with a metal plate bearing an unfamiliar name. Picking it up, I run my finger over the metal, surprised at its heat. Its surface renders a vague reflection of the flames surrounding me. The bottom has begun to blacken, but it’s not yet falling apart, even in the midst of this anarchy. It might withstand. As I hold it, I think about my life up until this point. Admittedly, it isn’t everything I envisioned in college, maybe a six on a scale of ten. It could have been a nine. I could have gone to art school. Or could I? I could end up better off, sure, but I could also end up at a one or two on the scale of life. So, most times, I think I’ll settle for the six. But at times like this, I wonder. I can see the flames and police sirens reflecting in the metal, and I can’t tell if this is a promising vision of the future or a terrible omen. Things have been strange lately, one more smile from Perdita and I’m going to want to write poetry, I swear. I stand in the midst of the maelstrom, wondering if it’s simply inertia keeping me here, or if there’s something larger at stake. By the time I decide, the pen set has cooled and darkened. Desperately, I fling it through one of the last untouched windows and into the inferno. As it makes impact, it echoes.
    Perdita lights her new-found cigarette in the burgeoning office supply fire that blazes right before my eyes. A car passes by warily. Perdita claims with supreme disinterest that the cops will arrive any moment. God, she looks so beautiful holding her convictions and her cigarette, surrounded by the conflagration. I pull her in to kiss her and taste the lingering tobacco on her lips.

Old Acquaintances

Eric Burbridge

    The day started questionable; a stubbed toe, dropped medication in the toilet and alarm test failure. Discouraging, but I refused to abandon the plan.
    The plan; reconnect, instead of going out of town with the family, with people who I shared my younger years. Why? That question I asked myself sitting at the bar of Missy Black’s by my favorite window where the neon sign still crackled every ten minutes, the universal tavern smell still lingered and my head hit more times than I cared to remember. Deep down I wanted to gloat about my recent retirement from the city. They bragged about chasing skirts, clothes, cars upscale addresses, hustled like mad, successfully the majority of the times, and got respect and admiration. Decades later I’ll see who’s still around. Will I recognize them and vice versa? Deep down I wanted to gloat about my recent retirement from the city.
     “Still digging ditches for the city, Phil?” They asked while getting lap dances. If asked this time what will be my answer? “No, but you should see the pension.” And then I might not get asked anything pertaining to the past. Okay by me.
     Back in the day our crowd opened the place daily around 11:00am. Strange hours, but most of us worked evenings and nights. Two females sat at the far end of the bar. One with graying short cut hair, the other appeared to be a younger version and they filled out their silver studded jean outfits with authentic curves, not padded. I tried not to stare when I caught the older one’s eye. She turned on her stool and shot me a cold, but analytical, once over. Now what? A quick glance elsewhere didn’t mean a thing. Her eyes were locked and loaded when she stood and headed my way. The back door opened and shed light in the place while a guy pushed a dolly full of beer kegs. That couldn’t be Mira? I heard she got killed in an accident years ago. Well it was; tall, elegant with that intense air about her. My heart raced for a minute. “Hello, Phil, it’s been a long time hasn’t it? You look good.” I thought so for fifty-six, but fifty pounds heavier, half bald with grey hair and good skin tone. Her voice was as pleasant as her blue eyes. Virtually no crow’s feet for her age and that white blouse revealed cleavage that wasn’t wrinkled. She looked great.
    “Thanks and yeah, it has.” That’s all I could squeeze out before clearing my throat. “Good to see you.”
    “Thanks.” She kissed me on the cheek. She smelled younger, that best describes it. I pulled her to me and gave her a peck on the lips.
    “Where do we start to catch up?”
    “Don’t know ask my hubby; want to meet your daughter? That’s her right down there.”
    “What? Hubby and my daughter?” That was Mira, bold, impulsive, to the point, no bullshit regardless what could happen.
    “I know you don’t believe me. Shocking, aint it?” My mouth opened but nothing came out. “Your eyes blink twice when you’re shocked.”
    “They do?”
    “Yeah, they do, Phil. I remember after all these years. I should remember something about the guy who got my pregnant.” Mira had that sinister ‘gothcha’ smirk on her face. “Well do you? And, of course, I’m not introducing you as such, but it’s a start of sorts.”
    “Uh, okay, why not?”
    “You want a beer or what? You look like you need one.” She giggled.
    “Miller in the bottle.” After what she told me a double shot of anything would do. She signaled the young lady built like an earlier version of herself. “Miller.”
    “You the boss now?”
    “No, the owner, Missy sold the place when her health started failing, ovarian cancer, came out of nowhere.”
    “Sorry to hear that, Missy was cool.”
    Her, our daughter sat the beer on a coaster and smiled. “Pam, this is Phil, a long time back in the day friend. The stories we could tell.” Mira giggled as I shook Pam’s hand. When she arched her they way they say I do my heart sank. Could Mira be telling the truth? I hoped my nervous grin wasn’t obvious. She excused herself to serve another customer. She had the same nasty inviting walk as her mom.
    “Damn Mira, she’s a chip off the old block as they say.” Her cold expressions were hard to read.
    “Off our block, Phil.” She took a sip of my beer. “Um, good and cold.” The yuppish crowd started to trickle in and go to their favorite tables. One thing about Missy Black’s. she didn’t invest in contemporary furnishings, plain wood tables and chairs with table clothes and a lengthy bar was satisfactory. The atmosphere kept it popular with jazz, soft rock and R&B playing daily. “If what I think brought you here—”
    “Old acquaintances.” I interrupted.
    “Ok, well OmaR’s around, Pablo’s in super max or probably dead and Wesley I don’t know. And, before I forget I say Pam’s yours, I was with four guys during that cycle.”
    “Yeah, you know I like men like you like women. Guys don’t realize, well some anyway, we’re sneaky and slicker then you guys think. Anyway, all have been DNA tested negative that leaves you and her mannerisms are like yours.”
    “You didn’t do one of those ‘you are or not the fatheR’ shows did you?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
    “No, I didn’t silly.” She punched me lightly in the side.
    “Ma, you’re needed.” Pam waved for her mom.
    “Gotta go Phil, good seeing you. I know I dropped a bomb on you, but you know me, to the point. If you accept it or not it’s cool.”
    “Wait a second, what’s your cell?”
    She gave it to me and I put in memory. “I’ll be in touch.” She looked at me with that ‘yeah right’ expression. By the time I finished my beer I was on my tenth question. Why didn’t I listen to myself? Don’t go dredging up old memories. You should’ve gone to Iowa with the family. Did Mira try to find after or during her process of elimination? Would she tell Pam later? It was obvious she didn’t need the support if she bought Missy’s. I didn’t know where she worked I assumed for the city like most of us who hung out there. Was she trying to play me; was she a grifter? Pam’s eyebrow did it. The introduction couldn’t have been rehearsed nobody knew I was coming. The main question, now what? If she wanted back support all I have is a thirty-five year marriage, pension and a mortgage.
    Relax Phil, she means you no harm.
    Mira was smart and well known she could’ve found me if she wanted.
    Don’t blow your buzz, Phil!
    I downed my beer and spun on the stool to leave. An athletic built six foot plus guy, his air said medical profession, walked behind the bar and kissed Mira. Her husband or what? Perhaps. I knew one thing she hadn’t looked my way since she left.
    Nope, Mira didn’t need a thing from me.


    I stood at the trolley stop to The Pier a half a block from Missy’s. A ride on that new Ferris wheel would do my inner child good and give me a chance to try my newest camera phone. All the windows on the vintage bus were open when it pulled up. The breeze and sun improved my mood from the assault by Mira. Should I be upset or what? If yes it hadn’t hit me yet. Good, now go enjoy yourself. The bus driver wore a throwback nineteen twentyish uniform and spoke into the microphone, “The Pier the next stop. Watch your step.” That voice sounded familiar. A couple of oversized teens jumped in front of me, but I was polite and waved a couple of older ladies ahead making me last. I sat across from him and tried not to stare. The driveR’s hair was in a small blonde ponytail with a mixture of grey with sunglasses perched on a broken nose. He looked like Omar plus thirty years. He glanced, pulled the door control and pulled into traffic. When he turned to check his mirrors.
    “Omar, is that you man?” He shot me a look and smiled.
    “Yeah, yeah it’s me, Phil.”
    “Damn man, I just left Missy’s. I heard Pablo and Wesley ain’t around, but it’s good to see you.”
    He accidently laughed into the microphone and apologized to the passengers. “I guess Mira told you that, right?”
    “Um...maybe, what difference does it make? We got catching up to do. When is your break, lunch or you getting off?” I was thrilled to see him again. He was smarter and more informed on current events then the rest of the crowd.
    “This is my last run then lunch.” A car cut in front and he hit the brakes. He instinctively covered the mike. “Asshole!”


    We pulled behind a row of other buses. “The Pier, good people enjoy yourselves and be careful.” The door swung open and they disembarked. Omar took his tablet and entered whatever info, I assumed, for that trip. “Phil, I got to give this to the boss. I’ll meet you by that table.” He pointed to a shaded area behind a wrought iron fence “employees only” set aside for his company. I sat on a bumpy concrete bench that felt like little needles in my behind, but the shade was welcomed. Several drivers gathered around a stocky middle aged guy who scanned their tablets and handed out envelopes. A thin young guy with a shaved head tore open the envelope and snatched out the contents. I wasn’t close enough to hear, but he was pissed. I caught a glimpse of a pink sheet of paper.
    Did he get a pink slip... a real pink slip?
    I thought that was an old urban legend.
    The boss said something, shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Omar looked my way...I quickly looked the other and pretended to search on my phone.
    No Omar, I didn’t witness you being fired or whatever. He sat with an embarrassed grin on his face. “Lucky me, I got the rest of the day off, let’s go get a beer.”
    “Ok.” What else do you say to a guy who just got fired? But, at his age it might not matter. Omar was a journeyman plumber, or so he said back in the day. Was that true?
    The Pier, like all big tourist attractions, had the best bars in the city. And what employee didn’t have a tab at, at least, one of them. We walked past several where a few of his co-workers, or should I say ex-coworkers gathered. My guess; Omar wouldn’t be stopping today. They didn’t notice us and he didn’t look their way. We strolled by dozens of unescorted shapely tanned bikinis. A few winked. Brings back memories. Finally, we stopped at one of the upscale places, “The Ritz on the WateR” — fvnot many customers, but the price of one beer equaled two elsewhere. Who’s buying me or him? We’ll see. But, before we get started I sent the wife a text. “Bumped into an old friend. Interesting with more to come. Miss and love you.”     “Beers and cognac.” Omar said.
    “You heard me, but you don’t have to drink cognac, I will.”
    I placed the order and Mary set things up in front of me with a fresh bowl of popcorn. Omar reached over me a grabbed a handful of kernels. Rude, no excuse me or anything and then the shot of cognac disappeared down his gullet. He gagged then smacked his razor thin lips. “Ah, that hit the spot.” He pointed at his glass for a refill. “I try to expose you to the finer things in life, Philip, but you were always, common.” He laughed, but it was no joke.
    “You’re serious aren’t you?” He nodded and that sadistic grin ticked me off. Surprise! Omar was never the snobby type. He was level headed, no airs unlike a few others who hung out at Missy’s. He was a tradesman, but he managed from a desk.
    “Common. What the hell is common? You guys thought you were some kind of royalty...royalty amongst the blue collar workers. Don’t flatter yourself; none of you or me, for that matter was raising any hell.”
    “Appearances mean a lot.” Omar said and gulped his brew.
    “Being a player wasn’t, as they say nowadays, a priority of mine. New cars every year and fancy expensive clothing living in the YMCA, but nobody was supposed to know that right? Didn’t make sense to me.”
    “We know.” He continued to giggle and ordered another drink.
    I didn’t want to hurt his feeling by telling him I saw you get fired, but he’d have a line for that too. This was what I feared if I ran into the old crowd, ridicule. Why do that after all these years? “You invited me to have a drink so you could talk about me. Why?”
    Omar shrugged his narrow shoulders and continued to drink. I caught Mary’s eye and signaled no more shots. “I remember you as being reserved, not a braggart like the others, what happened?”
    “Nothing, I’m still not even though I owned my own company.” He slowly exhaled. “It was hard work, good and bad times, but I retired a successful entrepreneur.”
    “Who drives a trolley bus? Oops, I’m sorry. Who formally drove a trolley bus?” I couldn’t help but to throw that one in. I didn’t mean too. I laughed while my friend turned red with rage. “You ever see any of those old players we hug with at Missy’s?”
    “That wasn’t a convincing lie, Omar, try again. Be back in a minute gotta go to the used beer department.” I laughed a hurried to the bathroom and hoped he didn’t drink my beer. Every drink he had taken increased the sorrow in his eyes. I tried to keep in mind, not my problem.


    Where did Omar go? I scanned the area on the patio. I asked Mary. “He said to tell you thanks for the drinks.” She continued to wipe the bar. “I’m not surprised. I see that often people duck out and leave others with the bill. She reached in her apron pocket and handed it to me. Eighty bucks! “He staggered that way.” She pointed toward the entrance. That dirty SOB, I’m glad he got fired. I put it on my card and left.
    Retired successful businessman, my ass.
    I couldn’t run with a cane and if I caught him then what? I started to feel the alcohol with every step. Either the walk and heat would sober me up or I’d pass out.
    What a day. A kid, allegedly, I didn’t know about and a snobby used to be businessman who conned me into getting drunk. It could be worse, Philip. I got on the same kind of bus Omar drove headed for Union Station. Traffic slowed to one lane due to the cops pulling somebody over, blocking the right lane. A guy stood at the rear of an early model Toyota Corolla. The closer we was Omar in cuffs. The bus inched along the side of his car that had to be twenty years old, peeling paint from hood to the trunk, two mini spares and the front and rear windshields were cracked. An instant ticket. I stared at Omar.
    Look at me, please look. But, he didn’t.
    A pro football player sized cop spun Omar around to escort him to the squad car and he looked up in my face. I laughed and waved. FU rolled off his lips. Bye, bye, butthole.
    Would the wife believe this?
    Did I believe I have another daughter? No, and if I did after all these years when I could’ve been told. What was the reason? A cliché kicked in from an old timer. “Let sleeping dogs lay. Remember that boy it’ll make sense one day.”


    I settled back in my seat for the commute home. A clean cut young guy sat next to me and asked. “How far you going?”
    He sniffed and offered me a mint. “Boy you really hung one on didn’t you old timer?”
    Old timer! Did I look that old? Well, if I did so what. That experience made me appreciate my common accomplishments more. “Wake me before you get off or by Palatine. I’d appreciate it young man.”

It’ls Like Losing, photography by David J. Thompson (cover of the David J. Thompson cc&d poetry/photo chapbook “It’s Like Losing”)

It’ls Like Losing, photography by David J. Thompson
(cover of the David J. Thompson cc&d poetry/photo chapbook “It’s Like Losing”)

The Story Box

Jeff Dosser

    January clouds hung pregnant and gray as Beth slid from her car and set off across the parking lot of Sunny Springs Living Center. Living Center, she’d always hated that name. She’d disliked it since the day she and her brother, Seth, decided Father couldn’t live on his own and moved him in. It sounded so Orwellian calling a place like this a ‘living center’; a place where families shelved their loved ones and waited for the end.
    Every Sunday on her drive to see him, it wasn’t without a twinge of guilt that she didn’t wonder if dad wouldn’t be happier at home with her and her husband. But after the episode when he and his car went missing for two days, it was decided a home was the only route they could manage.
    She tugged her collar tight against the plucking fingers of a chill North wind before shouldering her way through the double glass doors and stepping into the urine-scented warmth of the Sunny Springs foyer.
    “Good morning, Sasha,” she called, crossing the white tiled entry to the front desk. She paused long enough to peer into the commons room where an elderly trio was engaged in a lively game of cards, the couches, and chairs in front of the TV filled with gray haired residents.
    “Mornin’ Miss Beth.” A beefy dark skinned nurse rose from her chair and stepped around the counter. “Always a pleasure ta see ya. How’s things been?
    Beth gave her a hug and stepped back. “Busy, but good. I’m glad the holidays are over, they always wear me out.” She rubbed a hand across Sasha’s soft round shoulder. “How’s Tyrone? Did he get his cast off?
    The big woman brushed away a lock of hair and leaned an elbow on the desk. “Yep, he got it off last Tuesday.” She shook her head, her round face breaking into a wide grin. “I swear, that boy’s gonna be the death ah me with his skateboardin’ an’ tricks.
    Beth laughed. “I know what ya mean. When my boy, Gavin was little, it was those BMX bikes.
    Sasha stepped behind the counter and bent to retrieve a worn shoe box kept there for Beth’s visits. She set it atop the counter and dropped into her chair.
    “How is he today?” Beth asked.
    “Better’n some days, worse’n others.” Sasha’s gaze drifted to the commons room. “He was a little agitated this mornin’ durin’ breakfast, but I tol’ him he was gettin’ a visitor if he behaved, and that seemed ta calm him down.” 
    Beth pulled the box over and removed the top, the smell of old cardboard and lost memories filling the air. She sifted through the things inside, a smile creasing her lips as she lifted out a dried chunk of bark the size of her palm. 
    “Enjoy your visit,” Sasha said as Beth made her way past the card players and TV watchers to an old man seated in a wheelchair at the end of the room. He sat staring out the window as flecks of snow peppered the sidewalk, his once powerful shoulders thin and bowed with age.
    “Hey, Dad, how are you?” She dragged over a chair and sat down beside him.
    The old man glanced up as one might when disturbed from deep thoughts, his brown eyes considering her from a sea of wrinkles. “Do I know you?
    “It’s me, Beth.” 
    He studied her for a long while then shook his head. “No, my Beth’s a young woman. You couldn’t be her.
    Ignoring his remark, she took his hand and turned it over placing the bark in his palm. 
    “I found this at the nurse’s station,” she said. “I was wondering if it was yours.
    He brought his hand closer running fingers as bent and parched as old sticks across the bark’s rough surface. “I remember this.” He turned it with hands he sometimes didn’t recognize examining the smooth back and the rough brown front. “Yes, this is from our house on Twelfth street. A piece of that big ol’ maple that grew out front by the drive.
    Looking up, he stared out at the snow but saw instead a distant summer day. “I was teaching my daughter, Beth, to ride a bike.” He chuckled, the sound of his laughter dry and pinched. “It was so humid and hot, I think it was July.” 
    “That’s right, Dad, July tenth, three weeks after my birthday.” 
    He bobbed his head in assent. ”That’s right, July tenth.” Leaning back, the chair groaned with his weight. “Boy, you thought you were ready to ride. Got that new bicycle on your birthday and after two weeks, all I heard was ‘Daddy, training wheels are for babies’. All week long you said it, you remember? Wanted to ride your bike like a big kid.
    “Yeah, I remember. You told me I needed another couple weeks of practice, but I wouldn’t listen.
    “By God, you wouldn’t. Stubborn as your mom. Always have been.” He looked up and met the eyes of the woman beside him, eyes of a girl he’d spent a lifetime loving yet now seemed so foreign. “It was your brother that started it,” he said. “If Peter hadn’t been up that tree yellin’ for you ta go faster, you’d have never wrecked.” 
    He could see himself jogging behind the bike, one hand gripped beneath the seat, the sweat beading his brow, his shirt sticking to his chest. And Peter, just six years old, scrambling among the branches of the old maple. He yelled and waved, his shirt so red against the lush summer leaves.
    “Come this way, Bethie, go faster,” he yelled.
    He’d let go as Beth wobbled along the road, striking out on her own, yet somehow she’d managed to make a turn and aim straight for the tree. He’d run after shouting for her to put on the brakes, but she’d peddled all the faster. Then the wavering collision with the tree, the girl tumbling one way the shiny new bicycle the other.
    When he reached her, she was already on her feet, face flush with anger as she yelled up at her brother. 
    “You all right?” He brushed the grass and dirt from her knees and back finding nothing worse than a couple scrapes.
    The bike and tree were another matter. The front wheel was smashed, the handle bars bent, a chunk of bark shaved from the tree and laying on the ground. He’d picked up the bark, the sweet tang of sap and the laughs and shouts of his children filling the air. He’d shoved the bark inside his pocket and stashed it in a box he kept atop his closet, a box filled with bits of memories snatched along the way.
    “Do you remember, Dad? Do you?
    He lifted the bark to his nose, the smell of that summer day distant and pale.
    “Yeah, Bethie, I remember.” His gaze drifted to the falling snow, and for a long while, they sat in silence. “I’m feelin’ kinda tired,” he said. “I think I’d like a nap.
    She rolled him down the long white corridor and tucked him in easing the bark from his fingers before kissing him on the cheek and returning to the lobby.
    Sasha looked up from her computer as Beth stepped up and placed the bark inside the box, fitting it alongside a pair of plastic vampire teeth, a child’s plastic ring and a boutonniere in a scratched plastic case. Then she replaced the top and slid it across the desk.
    “See you next Sunday,” Beth said, slipping on her coat and stepping through the doors.
    Sasha tucked the box under the counter, watching as Beth crossed the lot and climbed into her car. In moments she was gone, her taillights dwindling over the hill, her snowy footprints lingering a while longer before they too were etched away by the wind.

Bird Island, Chapter 14: Devotion

Patrick Fealey

    The tv is lighting and talking. Jess is looking at papers. Wawp faces the wall with eyes open, very still. The bottle is by Wawp’s feet and Wawp drinks the wine from a glass. Jess puts down the papers.
    “I’m so ugly,” Jess says.
    “You’re not ugly,” Wawp says. “You’re beautiful.”
    “I’m ugly.”
    “Shut up.”
    “No, you shut up.”
    “You’re talking nonsense. Isn’t she, Bird? You are a fucking model with your own look. Don’t compare yourself to some other model.”
    “I’m not talking to you,” Jess says. “Or him.”
    “No shit!” Wawp says.
    “You’re not talking to me either.”
    “You’re just sitting there,” Wawp says.
    “So are you.”
    “Why can’t we just talk?” Wawp says.
    “Because you’re in a bad mood.”
    “No, I’m not.”
    “You’ve been, I don’t know, awful all night,” Jess says.
    “No I’m not. I’m okay. I want to be in a good mood.”
    “Really,” Wawp says.
    “So what do you want to talk about?” Jess says.
    “I don’t know. Anything.”
    “Is this wall pink or peach?” Wawp says.
    “I need to go shopping,” Jess says.
    “New ones in the mailbox every day, models piled in every corner of the house. I hate those fucking magazines and the stupid souls who lend them their flesh.”
    “60 Minutes is on,” Jess says.
    “Morley Safer watches out for the little man through the windshield of his Ferrari.”
    “Everything pisses you off,” Jess says. “The tv does. Work does. The world does.”
    “Do you think I have a problem?”
    “You’re a little neurotic,” she says.
    “Yes. You.”
    “I don’t think so,” Wawp says.
    “Are you kidding me?”
    “I’m normal. I just have reactions.”
    “Reactions to what?”
    “The world around me.”
    “You shouldn’t take it so seriously.”
    “I don’t. It’s in me.”
    “You’re neurotic,” Jess says.
    “I think I’m right.”
    Jess laughs.
    “You really think I’m neurotic? You don’t think the world is a cluster-fucked circus?”
    “I think the world is crazy and you’re crazy.”
    “Is that why you don’t talk to me?” Wawp says.
    “I am talking to you.”
    “You are? When?”
    “Right now.”
    “So you really think I’m crazy?” Wawp says.
    “No. I wouldn’t have stayed with you this long if you were.”
    “Unless you were too,” Wawp says. “Bird thinks I’m normal. I don’t even have to talk and he understands. Our conversations don’t turn into arguments. We talk about the weather and food. Life and its craziness, opinions about looks and neurosis, Bird could give a shit. It goes nowhere. Bird!”
    Bird flies across the room and lands on Wawp’s hand. “Bird understands existence and has not yet committed suicide. How are you, buddy? Give me a kiss.” Wawp strokes Bird’s head with his lip. Wawp breathes warm in Bird’s eyes and then holds Bird high and looks at Bird. Wawp lowers Bird to the wine glass and Bird drinks. Bird drinks and pauses. Wawp watches through the glass. Bird drinks until Wawp takes the glass away and says, “Bird, you have to pilot yourself.”

    “You know, after almost five years of sharing everything, five years of ecstasy, it’s a bad sign if it comes down to this.”
    “It was your idea to talk,” Jess says.
    “Alright, that’s it. I’m going over to Nat’s. C’mon Bird. We’re on a mission for a conversation worth having, apparently unavailable among all these model citizens.”
    “You are crazy.”
    “How about a new topic?”
    “You’re too generous with your time and money.”
    “Here we go again. Now you’re going after my soul.”
    “I work for that money too,” she says.
    “I know you do and I’m glad.”
    “You give away your money. You take off your shirt and give it away.”
    “When someone is cold.”
    “You’re schizophrenic.”
    “We’ll be at Nat’s. Don’t worry. I won’t buy any paintings.”

    The street is quiet. The cars are still. Bird rests on Wawp in the glow of the gas lamps, on Wawp’s shoulder into the night. Wawp shakes Wawp’s head, “long -legged women . . .”
    Light shines through the windows onto the street. Wawp takes the door and pushes it open. Wawp and Bird walk into the light.
    “Hi Tom.” a human says. It is sitting at a long table with a cup. A female.
    “Oh. Hi, Rachel.”
    “He’s upstairs. Working. Nat didn’t tell me you had a crow?”
    “This is Bird.”
    “Nice to meet you, Bird.”
    “Bird, this is Rachel, Nat’s uh . . . Boston chick. He and I feel as if we were just chased out of the house by a female, so forgive him if he is hesitant.”
    “Of course.”
    “You come down today?” Wawp says.
    “I got in around midnight,” it says. “Nat doesn’t know I’m here yet.”
    “Does he know you’re coming?”
    “Oh, yeah,” it laughs. “So how did Bird get dragged into your domestic situation?”
    “Collateral. He and I were enjoying some wine when all of a sudden – one of those arguments out of nowhere.”
    “How long have you been together?”
    “About five years.”
    “Yeah, that can do it.”
    “And, we’re moving and she’s nervous.”
    “Where you going?”
    “We’re driving out to California.”
    “Are you bringing Bird?” it says.
    “I don’t know. I wanted to talk to Nat about it.”
    “Does he belong to this place or to you?”
    “It won’t be easy to take him,” it says.
    “No. Nor to leave him. If I knew he’d be alright without me, I’d give him up, leave him. I’m not going to bring him just because I want him. This is his hometown He knows his way around the island. It’s just that he has stuck to me his whole life.”
    “How old is he?”
    “About nine.”
    “He’s pretty old.”
    “I guess he’s had help. In captivity, they live 25 years or more.”
    “You raised him?”
    “You ever hear the story of The Rainbow Crow?” it says.
    “The Rainbow Crow? No.”
    “It’s an Indian myth about how the crow got to be black,” it says. “It’s cute.”
    “Tell me.”
    “Well, before humans walked the earth, the animals were warm and happy. The crow was all the colors of the rainbow. But then it started to snow and snow. It got so the animals were getting burried in snow and freezing. The crow bravely volunteered to fly to the Wind Spirit to ask for a reprieve. No luck. Then the Snow Spirit. No luck. She then flew for three days to reach the Great Sky Spirit. The Great Sky Spirit could not stop the snow, but gave the rainbow crow fire to bring back to earth. Flying back to earth, soot from the fire blackened Rainbow Crow’s tail feathers. Next day, the smoke made her voice go hoarse and crackly. By the third day, Rainbow Crow was completely back . . .
    “When she reached earth, all her friends were covered in snow. She flew low next to the snow with the fire and melted it away. Then she flew away and cried. The great Sky Spirit came down and told Rainbow Crow, now just Crow, that the humans would soon come and take the fire and rule all animals. But because of Crow’s bravery and the sacrifice she made to save her friends, she would be free from humans. Humans would not hunt her because her meat would taste like smoke and fire. The humans would not want to capture her because her voice was no longer beautiful. The Great Sky Spirit told her that her black feathers would reflect all the colors of the earth. Crow looked, and saw thousands of rainbows reflected in her feathers. She was happy again.”
    “His feathers do reflect every color, like an oil slick,” Wawp says. Even at a glance, he’s more purple than black, his wings are green.
    “Are you saying you think I should leave him here, free?”
    “The way he’s watching and listening to us, I think it’s too late for that.”
    “We stay or he comes with us.”
    “See what Nat says.”

    A car outside the house . . . Wawp and the human look up . . . Silence . . . Then a car door shutting. The door opens and a human walks into the room, “Oh, Hi Tommy.” It is a second female. The first female looks at the female. “You’re here?”
    “Hi Sharon,” Wawp says.
    “Hi Sharon,” the female says.
    “Hi Rachel,” Sharon says.
    Sharon’s long black hair is streaked white. She looks at Bird with green eyes. “Bird. What are you doing up so late? Nat didn’t tell me you were coming. When did you get here?” the woman asks.
    “I got in from Boston at midnight,” the female says.
    “Where’s Nat?”
    “Haven’t seen him, but his car is here, so all bets are on the attic studio.”
    “He’s up there. I have a sandwich here for him.”
    “I’ll give it to him.”
    “I can wait,” the first female says.
    “What kind of sandwich is it?”
    “Scallion and cheddar. He’ll come down soon. He gets hungry and he knows I’m coming. I asked him today if you were coming.”
    “He didn’t tell you?” the female says.
    “When he got home from here this morning . . . All he said was, ‘Do we have any coffee?’” the first female says. The second female smiles.
    The first female says, “I got him a new can and he got the pot going on the floor. I asked him twice. ‘Is Rachel coming?’ He stood there, picking clay out of his fingernails. Then he lit a Lucky Strike.”
    “How is he?”
    “Nat expects everyone to understand and accept. He looks pale and tired.”
    “He didn’t know I was coming until later.”
    “What time is it?”
    “I don’t even know.”
    “Maybe one-thirty,” Wawp says.
    “He’s been really excited about these new sculptures,” the first female says.
    “He showed me one last week that looked like a giant knife, something from the Yucatan,” the female says. “It was frightening and beautiful.”
    “That’s one of my favorites,” the first female says. “Looks like someone just dug it out of a tomb and polished it. Looks like his dry spell is ending. Just the other day he was saying he better sell something soon, in that roundabout way of his. ‘The Alfa’s coming up for an exhaust system. I can hear a buyer coming every time I downshift.’”
    “He’s funny,” the second female says.
    “He says the universe balances things out. But it works the other way too. Right after he sold a seascape for $4,500, the dentist told him he needed a root canal. The IRS took 25 percent, the gallery took 40 percent, and the dentist got the rest. So you know what Nat says? He says, ‘Jesus Christ, I only made $2.50 an hour painting that thing. I’d be better off having all my teeth pulled.’”
    Laughter. Bird moves on Wawp’s shoulder.
    “Maybe he should get insurance,” says the second female.
    “I said that and he said, ‘Then I won’t sell any paintings.” The first female looks across the room past the tables and into a dark room. There is a doorway with lighted stairs. “I thought I heard . . .”
    Wawp lowers Bird to the table. Bird jumps from his finger. Bird walks for the female.
    Wawp says, “Nat works up there to get away from the members of this association. He told me the kilns are so full of coffee cups and dishware he almost can’t cure his sculptures.”
    “He’ll get discovered,” the second female says.
    “You mean rediscovered,” the first female says. “How old are you?”
    “Christ. He was showing at Meisel when you were three.”
    “Meisel. New York.” The first female smiles, her voice fresh: “Nat went down to New York a few weeks ago.”
    “He told me. Hey Bird. How are you?” Bird climbs onto the second female’s finger and it raises Bird to its blue eyes.
    “Did he tell you what happened?” the first female says.
    “They wouldn’t look at his slides.”
    The second female lowers Bird and holds Bird against it, warm, stroking Bird’s head.
    “I’ve never seen him so calm with a stranger,” Wawp says.
    “One gallery,” the first female says, “The guy opened a drawer and showed Nat all the slides they had that they were not looking at and then invited Nat to leave his if he wanted.”
    “He didn’t tell me that.”
    “He hasn’t told you a lot.”
    “What did he say?” the second female says.
    “He walked out.”
    “It doesn’t matter. Nat doesn’t care.”
    “Yes. He does.”

    Bird stands on the table in the neighborhood. Bird walks across the table toward the street. Bird walks to the edge of the roof. The street is below. There is a yellow water tree and a car turned red with rust. The street is stained black with oil. It is morning light. Bird does not hear birds. Bird watches for people or a cat.
    “Looks like he might be fooled,” the first female says.
    “Bird’s had a few,” Wawp says.
    “That wall hanging makes me dizzy when I’m sober,” the second female says.
    “Nat had a buyer for that and chose to go without heat,” the first female says. “He refuses to sell it.”

Bird Island, Chapter 15: The Mainland

Patrick Fealey

    Bird should be in Bird’s tree. Wawp is walking with Bird in Wawp’s coat. The lights are above them, but it is a death sky. Wawp is breathing clouds.

    Wawp is following a human and a human. The human is tall and has a white head. Its mate is short and its head is big and round. Wawp and Bird and the humans move for a building with lit windows at the edge of the cars. Beyond the building is the night, the stars bright and hard in the cold, the moon high out of the east. Bird smells wood fires. A metal sheet claps in the wind against a wire fence. Bird wants to go home.

    The human opens the door and Wawp and Bird and the humans go into the building. The light hurts Bird’s eyes. The floors are wide wood planks. A water bottle stands against the wall. The seats are empty. A human appears inside a small window and says, “The eleven is running late. It just pulled out of New Haven.”
    “Fifteen minutes late?” the white head says.
    “Fifteen minutes,” the human says.
    Wawp marks his paper.
    The two humans go back outside.
    Wawp follows.
    Behind the building, looking into the night, Bird sees four metal bands shining on the ground, silver in the moonlight.
    The white-head and the mate go to a car and get in. It is a big car. It has more shine than Wawp’s car. There are two humans inside already. Wawp climbs inside. It is warm. The other two humans speak and smell like females.
    “I can wait an extra 15 minutes,” the white head says. “I’ve been waiting 50 years.”
    “Dad, you are going to meet your nieces!”
    “I wish my brother was on that train. It’s 33 degrees right now. It’s supposed to get down to 22. It’s supposed to get down below freezing.”
    Wawp says something.
    “I spent the day with a news crew, down on the beach. The last time I saw my brother was in the orphanage in West Virginia in 1943. Friday, we found out he died six years ago, after a year of searching. We located his family, two girls, two boys. Stephanie and Nicole are on the train that just pulled out of New Haven.”
    Wawp’s hand jerks.
    The car door opens. The females make room for another human. It announces it is “Charlene, a reporter.” The white head opens its door and gets out. Wawp gets out.

    Inside the building, the white head human has dark skin. It is tall and has its neck wrapped in black. New humans shine more lights on it and flash light from shiny glass boxes. The big quiet boxes light the room. It is a trick. Bird should be in Bird’s tree. “Cattle probe!” the white head says. “It’s my southern upbringing.”

    The females come inside and stand with the white head and chatter about it.
    “Nicole has a cardio-pulmonary problem,” a female says.
    “Uncle Rob died of a massive heart attack six years ago,” the other says.
    “I had a triple bypass two years ago,” the white head says.
    “Nicole is the one who can’t have a baby, because of the pressure.”
    “Stephanie says, ‘I can’t sleep,’” the white head says. “She hasn’t slept since Friday. She took sleeping pills. I can’t wait to see my telephone bill.”
    “That bypass doesn’t make you immortal, dad.”
    “I smoke, but I quit drinking.”

    Bird should be in Bird’s tree.

    The door opens. With the cold comes the white head’s mate with the big round head, talking, “Everybody’s asking me ‘What do you feel?’ Ask him!”
    “I’m gonna go get my coffee,” the white head says.
    “Talk to Charlene,” its mate says, pointing to the female with it.
    Wawp is keeping Bird tired with light and loud humans. The white head is talking to the one it called Charlene. It is scratching on paper the way Wawp makes Wawp’s marks. Wawp listens. “It turns out we were both in Vietnam in ’68 and ’69, both in the Mekong Delta. Amazing. I was an Army chopper pilot and my brother was a Navy Seal. We used to fly Seals in on covert missions, drop them behind enemy lines in Cambodia and Laos. Top secret stuff, then. I probably flew him on missions and never knew it. We used to put Seals in. I might have put him in.”
    Wawp and Charlene are looking at it. It stands. It looks down.
    “He liked jazz, Notre Dame football. He was a big scotch drinker. This is what my nieces have told me. We have a lot in common. They told me their father had been a cop. I was a cop. Amazing.”
    “What else?” the white head asks its mate. “Oh yeah, and we both had moles on our lips. I had mine removed. When Nicole got on the phone, she started crying. She told me I sounded like her father. I can remember him in the orphanage. ‘Toughie’ they called him because he bit a bully’s finger off. He was only three. His name then was mark, mark Goode, and he was the first of the family to be adopted. I was five. From what we were able to tell from orphanage records, our father was an Irish iron miner and our mother was Armenian.”
    “That’s why Bill’s skin is always tan. Until we read that, we thought he was Greek.”
    “In the orphanage, mark lost one of his own fingertips to a bedspring. I was able to clear that mystery up for my nieces. Their father could never remember what had happened to his finger.”
    “How’d he die?”
    “Massive heart attack,” the white head says.
    “He’s already had one,” its mate says, looking to it.
    “But I wasn’t drinking a gallon of scotch a day.”

    The room crowds, boxes flash light at the human and its mate and the two females. Wawp stands, never far from the white head.
    The white head moves for the door, opens it and slips outside while its mate is talking: “The girls are staying until they get done talking. With Bill, that could be Easter.” Wawp moves fast for the door and Wawp and Bird are outside in the cold and dark and Bird cannot see. Wawp is walking, carrying Bird in the wind when Bird should be at home in his tree sleeping. Wawp drinks from the bottle and puts it back. Bird can see cars and Bird and Wawp are at the big shiny car. The car is purring. This car shines under the lights. The white head is sitting in the car. It is alone. Bird sees the glow of a cigarette and smells coffee. Warm air comes into Bird’s face through the open window.
    “I’m just letting the butterflies settle. I told my wife, it’s like a first date. You have to make a good first impression. I’ve talked to the girls a lot these past four days. It’s like talking to my own kids.”
    Wawp’s hand and arm are moving. Then Wawp is still. The human is silent. Wawp is silent. The metal flaps against the wire fence.
    “They keep asking me, ‘What do you feel?’ I don’t know.”

    One of the females arrives and gets into the car with Wawp and Bird.
    “I can’t believe the way this weather’s changed,” the white head says.
    “Is channel 12 gonna go live from here?” the female says, bringing a box of lights from its coat. It hits the lights and puts the box to its head. “Are you watching channel 12? Because Dad’s gonna be on channel 12. We are at the train station. He is? You’re on right now, Dad!”
    “I am?”
    “Dad, you’re walking on the beach!”
    The sound, low in the earth and rising, low and coming, something. The long silver tube comes from the north. The sound turns Bird into Wawp. Bird trembles and feels Wawp’s hand press Bird against him. Bird is safe.
    “This is them!’ the female says.
    “That’s not them,” the human says. “That’s coming from Boston. A fine co-pilot you would have made me.”
    “It’s okay Bird. It’s just a train.” It is quiet. It is quiet. Bird looks out and the female is getting out of the car with its box of lights.
    “I see you’ve got a co-pilot of your own tonight,” the white head says. “I honestly hadn’t noticed until just then.”
    “Well, it’s night, it’s a pea-coat, he’s black. He’s been my co-pilot all day and he hasn’t done anything yet. He followed me to work. Then we came here. Then it got dark on him. They don’t like the dark.”
    “Flying at night is a different game. For most of us.”
    “Chopper pilots in Vietnam didn’t have a great life expectancy.”
    “I was the youngest captain to make major at the time,” the white head says. “I got out after ten and a half years. It was a totally ridiculous, stupid waste of men. Everybody made money off it but the men . . . I want to meet my nephews, Brandon and Joel. They’re in school and were unable to come. I want my sister Barbara to come out from Kentucky. I want to find my other brother, John, if he is still alive.”

See past issues of cc&d and future issues
for additional installments of the
Patrick Fealey book “Bird Island”.


Lunchtime Poll Topic (commentaries on relevant topics)

Friend or Foe for The National Budget

John Amendall

    The Clinton Administration (1993-2001) provided a balanced National budget. The Obama Administration (2009-2017) did not. The National debt increased from $10 trillion to almost $20 trillion. The Trump Administration (2017-    ) proposed reducing the National debt in the next four years. It remains to be seen how this will be accomplished.
    The National budget yields friends and foes. Some department levels remain the same from the preceding year while others decrease or increase. Tax paying citizens favor the mission of specific departments. Some prefer emphasis on military spending. Others prefer emphasis on pollution control, climate change or medical research. The following discussion focuses on science and is based on proposed draft budgets (circa May 2017) by the Trump Administration and Congress. Emphasis must be placed on draft proposals because the Administration and Congress will engage in uninspired trash talking, useless arm waving and outrageous arm wrestling before the 2018 budget is realized and revealed.
    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) accounts for about half of all civilian basic research dollars. The Administration proposed cutting the NIH budget 22% ($7.5 billion) from the preceding year. The House proposed a 3.2% raise to $35.2 billion. Moreover the House measure blocked the Administration’s plan to reduce payments to cover overhead costs of research from 28% of NIH’s external research spending to 10%. The House bill also dismissed the Administration’s plan to abolish NIH’s global health center.
    The Administration proposed $19.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its overall budget while the House proposed a record $19.9 billion.
    The Administration proposed a reduction of 1% to NASA’s science office. In contrast the House supported a 1% raise to $5.9 billion. This increase was prompted in part by a $220 million increase for a planned multibillion mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa.
    The Administration proposed a 19% reduction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) which includes funding for climate science. The House bill would impose a 14% ($710 million) reduction to NOAA’s current $5.7 billion budget.
    The Administration initially proposed a 11% decrease for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The House reduced NSF’s current budget $7.47 billion by 1.8%. The above proposed draft budgets were gleaned from an article in Science (July 7, 2017). The following reflects the author’s interpretations and opinions.
    Sentient beings must take issue with any Administration proposing to reduce NIH’s budget by 22%. While all government agencies would benefit from more accountable business practices reducing a budget dealing with human health is unresponsive to its citizens’ needs. The House bill is clearly more proactive than the Administration’s.
    Still the House bill favors existing overhead payments for external research spending. For example, as a former science researcher with a $100,000 grant I might witness approximately $20,000 to $25,000 taken off the top leaving $75,000 to conduct the research. Presumably the overhead defrayed the cost of my release time from faculty teaching and maintenance of laboratories already in existence. In a public institution faculty salaries were already provided by the state. Overhead provided by the grant was designated to hire a temporary instructor for the class time I was missing to conduct research. This simply wasn’t always done. The saved money was used by chairs and deans to promote their favorite projects.
    Over the years colleges and universities have argued overhead rates with federal funding agencies. With overhead from multi million dollar grants new laboratories were constructed and new buildings were initiated. The Administration’s proposed overhead reduction is more favorable to researchers and tax payers than chairs and deans.
    The House bill also ignored the Administration’s plan to abolish NIH’s global health center. While an affluent nation may help undeveloped ones with consulting and visitations by specialists it is difficult to reconcile permanent financial support when we can’t presently accommodate our own children’s afflictions. TV presentations featuring bald headed children experiencing side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment should not be ignored. Funding allocated for medical research for our children should be a priority. The Administration’s position is consistent with this theme.
    In regards to NASA I stand in awe and admiration at what scientists, engineers and technical staffs have accomplished. Further I support their research efforts. But presently space funding far exceeds terrestrial funding. Does a multibillion dollar mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa or even a more expensive mission to Mars to determine whether it has water or ever any evidence of such make sense, when sections of the U. S. experience drastic costly droughts on one hand and life threatening floods on the other.. It would make more sense to focus on the conditions producing these droughts and floods and how we can mitigate these problems. Both the Administration’s and Congress’s proposals fly (no pun intended) in the face of these proposed flights. Moreover cost overruns for NASA equipment and flights are legion. Apparently cost overruns don’t bother politicians in states benefiting from NASA’s activities.
    Critics have charged that NASA’s effort is a disguised preparation for war in space. The nation that rules space would have a considerable advantage over nations with little or no experience or appreciable technology. Additional nations are gradually entering the space race.
    Both the Administration and the House proposed reductions of 19% and 14% respectively for NOAA’s current budget. In view of President Trump’s dismissal of climate change it’s not surprising that the Administration would propose such a reduction. However, it is curious that his most ardent House opponents have also imposed reduced funding for NOAA including climate change.
    Interaction of atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial natural forces has been well known for years. With climate change the effect of these interactions is becoming more pronounced. Coastal states are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, hurricanes, associated storm surges, increased beach erosion, and coastal flooding. The East and Gulf coasts are more vulnerable than the West coast. Several major cities, Boston, New York (Hurricane Sandy), Miami, New Orleans (Katrina) would be targeted and greatly effected. Further extensive effects of climate change would not be limited to coastal areas.
    Tornados and increased heavy precipitation producing widespread flooding in the southeast are consistent with conditions of climate change. In the U.S. more people die from flooding than from any other natural agent. In the face of demonstrated natural processes and future predictions the Administration and House proposals have imposed reduced funding for NOAA. In addition the United States Geological Survey (USGS) which is responsible for research and monitoring terrestrial processes including coastal erosion, inland flooding and hydrography consistently receive level funding or reduced funding. NOAA’s and the USGS’s research have natural interactions. With the specter of increased flooding in the southeast and droughts in the southwest this is another example where public policy has ignored or poorly understood useful scientific input. Both agencies would benefit from a modest reduction of NASA’s massive budget.
    Spending bills for other important agencies have not yet been released at this time (July 2017). The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been targeted for large cuts by the Administration. The Senate’s budget bill still remains to be reviewed which will add another important development in the budget enterprise.
    As of now the proposed budgets overwhelmingly favor NASA and NIH with NSF holding steady. NOAA and the USGS are outside looking up and in.
    In summary the proposed budget has been friendly to NASA and NIH, neutral to NSF and negative to NOAA and the USGS. While the Trump Administration deserves credit attempting to reduce the national debt, some of its budget cuts are considered way too deep and ill conceived. It all depends whose ox is gored in terms of friend or foe.

NASA image of Mars

NASA image of Mars

NASA image of the rover Opportunity on Mars

NASA image of the rover Opportunity on Mars

Dusty Dog Reviews
The whole project is hip, anti-academic, the poetry of reluctant grown-ups, picking noses in church. An enjoyable romp! Though also serious.

Nick DiSpoldo, Small Press Review (on Children, Churches and Daddies, April 1997)
Children, Churches and Daddies is eclectic, alive and is as contemporary as tomorrow’s news.

Kenneth DiMaggio (on cc&d, April 2011)
CC&D continues to have an edge with intelligence. It seems like a lot of poetry and small press publications are getting more conservative or just playing it too academically safe. Once in awhile I come across a self-advertized journal on the edge, but the problem is that some of the work just tries to shock you for the hell of it, and only ends up embarrassing you the reader. CC&D has a nice balance; [the] publication takes risks, but can thankfully take them without the juvenile attempt to shock.

from Mike Brennan 12/07/11
I think you are one of the leaders in the indie presses right now and congrats on your dark greatness.

cc&d          cc&d

    Nick DiSpoldo, Small Press Review (on “Children, Churches and Daddies,” April 1997)

    Kuypers is the widely-published poet of particular perspectives and not a little existential rage, but she does not impose her personal or artistic agenda on her magazine. CC+D is a provocative potpourri of news stories, poetry, humor, art and the “dirty underwear” of politics.
    One piece in this issue is “Crazy,” an interview Kuypers conducted with “Madeline,” a murderess who was found insane, and is confined to West Virginia’s Arronsville Correctional Center. Madeline, whose elevator definitely doesn’t go to the top, killed her boyfriend during sex with an ice pick and a chef’s knife, far surpassing the butchery of Elena Bobbitt. Madeline, herself covered with blood, sat beside her lover’s remains for three days, talking to herself, and that is how the police found her. For effect, Kuypers publishes Madeline’s monologue in different-sized type, and the result is something between a sense of Dali’s surrealism and Kafka-like craziness.

Debra Purdy Kong, writer, British Columbia, Canada
I like the magazine a lot. I like the spacious lay-out and the different coloured pages and the variety of writer’s styles. Too many literary magazines read as if everyone graduated from the same course. We need to collect more voices like these and send them everywhere.

    Ed Hamilton, writer

    #85 (of Children, Churches and Daddies) turned out well. I really enjoyed the humor section, especially the test score answers. And, the cup-holder story is hilarious. I’m not a big fan of poetry - since much of it is so hard to decipher - but I was impressed by the work here, which tends toward the straightforward and unpretentious.
    As for the fiction, the piece by Anderson is quite perceptive: I liked the way the self-deluding situation of the character is gradually, subtly revealed. (Kuypers’) story is good too: the way it switches narrative perspective via the letter device is a nice touch.

Children, Churches and Daddies.
It speaks for itself.
Write to Scars Publications to submit poetry, prose and artwork to Children, Churches and Daddies literary magazine, or to inquire about having your own chapbook, and maybe a few reviews like these.

    Jim Maddocks, GLASGOW, via the Internet

    I’ll be totally honest, of the material in Issue (either 83 or 86 of Children, Churches and Daddies) the only ones I really took to were Kuypers’. TRYING was so simple but most truths are, aren’t they?

    Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, CA
    Indeed, there’s a healthy balance here between wit and dark vision, romance and reality, just as there’s a good balance between words and graphics. The work shows brave self-exploration, and serves as a reminder of mortality and the fragile beauty of friendship.

    C Ra McGuirt, Editor, The Penny Dreadful Review (on Children, Churches and Daddies)

    cc&d is obviously a labor of love ... I just have to smile when I go through it. (Janet Kuypers) uses her space and her poets to best effect, and the illos attest to her skill as a graphic artist.
    I really like (“Writing Your Name”). It’s one of those kind of things where your eye isn’t exactly pulled along, but falls effortlessly down the poem.
I liked “knowledge” for its mix of disgust and acceptance. Janet Kuypers does good little movies, by which I mean her stuff provokes moving imagery for me. Color, no dialogue; the voice of the poem is the narrator over the film.

    Children, Churches and Daddies no longer distributes free contributor’s copies of issues. In order to receive issues of Children, Churches and Daddies, contact Janet Kuypers at the cc&d e-mail addres. Free electronic subscriptions are available via email. All you need to do is email and ask to be added to the free cc+d electronic subscription mailing list. And you can still see issues every month at the Children, Churches and Daddies website, located at

    Mark Blickley, writer

    The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing her book.

    Gary, Editor, The Road Out of Town (on the Children, Churches and Daddies Web Site)

    I just checked out the site. It looks great.

    Dusty Dog Reviews: These poems document a very complicated internal response to the feminine side of social existence. And as the book proceeds the poems become increasingly psychologically complex and, ultimately, fascinating and genuinely rewarding.

    John Sweet, writer (on chapbook designs)

    Visuals were awesome. They’ve got a nice enigmatic quality to them. Front cover reminds me of the Roman sculptures of angels from way back when. Loved the staggered tire lettering, too. Way cool.

    (on “Hope Chest in the Attic”)
    Some excellent writing in “Hope Chest in the Attic.” I thought “Children, Churches and Daddies” and “The Room of the Rape” were particularly powerful pieces.

    Dusty Dog Reviews: She opens with a poem of her own devising, which has that wintry atmosphere demonstrated in the movie version of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The atmosphere of wintry white and cold, gloriously murderous cold, stark raging cold, numbing and brutalizing cold, appears almost as a character who announces to his audience, “Wisdom occurs only after a laboriously magnificent disappointment.” Alas, that our Dusty Dog for mat cannot do justice to Ms. Kuypers’ very personal layering of her poem across the page.

    Cheryl Townsend, Editor, Impetus (on Children, Churches and Daddies)

    The new cc&d looks absolutely amazing. It’s a wonderful lay-out, looks really professional - all you need is the glossy pages. Truly impressive AND the calendar, too. Can’t wait to actually start reading all the stuff inside.. Wanted to just say, it looks good so far!!!

    You Have to be Published to be Appreciated.

    Do you want to be heard? Contact Children, Churches and Daddies about book or chapbook publishing. These reviews can be yours. Scars Publications, attention J. Kuypers. We’re only an e-mail away. Write to us.

    Brian B. Braddock, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

    I passed on a copy to my brother who is the director of the St. Camillus AIDS programs. We found (Children, Churches and Daddies’) obvious dedication along this line admirable.

    Mark Blickley, writer
    The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing her book.

    Brian B. Braddock, WrBrian B. Braddock, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

    Brian B. Braddock, WrI passed on a copy to my brother who is the director of the St. Camillus AIDS programs. We found (Children, Churches and Daddies’) obvious dedication along this line admirable.

    Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, PA
    “Hope Chest in the Attic” captures the complexity of human nature and reveals startling yet profound discernments about the travesties that surge through the course of life. This collection of poetry, prose and artwork reflects sensitivity toward feminist issues concerning abuse, sexism and equality. It also probes the emotional torrent that people may experience as a reaction to the delicate topics of death, love and family.
    “Chain Smoking” depicts the emotional distress that afflicted a friend while he struggled to clarify his sexual ambiguity. Not only does this thought-provoking profile address the plight that homosexuals face in a homophobic society, it also characterizes the essence of friendship. “The room of the rape” is a passionate representation of the suffering rape victims experience. Vivid descriptions, rich symbolism, and candid expressions paint a shocking portrait of victory over the gripping fear that consumes the soul after a painful exploitation.

    want a review like this? contact scars about getting your own book published.

    Paul Weinman, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

    Wonderful new direction (Children, Churches and Daddies has) taken - great articles, etc. (especially those on AIDS). Great stories - all sorts of hot info!

the UN-religions, NON-family oriented literary and art magazine

    The magazine Children Churches and Daddies is Copyright © 1993 through 2018 Scars Publications and Design. The rights of the individual pieces remain with the authors. No material may be reprinted without express permission from the author.


    Okay, nilla wafer. Listen up and listen good. How to save your life. Submit, or I’ll have to kill you.
    Okay, it’s this simple: send me published or unpublished poetry, prose or art work (do not send originals), along with a bio, to us - then sit around and wait... Pretty soon you’ll hear from the happy people at cc&d that says (a) Your work sucks, or (b) This is fancy crap, and we’re gonna print it. It’s that simple!

    Okay, butt-munch. Tough guy. This is how to win the editors over.
    Hope Chest in the Attic is a 200 page, perfect-bound book of 13 years of poetry, prose and art by Janet Kuypers. It’s a really classy thing, if you know what I mean. We also have a few extra sopies of the 1999 book “Rinse and Repeat”, the 2001 book “Survive and Thrive”, the 2001 books “Torture and Triumph” and “(no so) Warm and Fuzzy”,which all have issues of cc&d crammed into one book. And you can have either one of these things at just five bucks a pop if you just contact us and tell us you saw this ad space. It’s an offer you can’t refuse...

    Carlton Press, New York, NY: HOPE CHEST IN THE ATTIC is a collection of well-fashioned, often elegant poems and short prose that deals in many instances, with the most mysterious and awesome of human experiences: love... Janet Kuypers draws from a vast range of experiences and transforms thoughts into lyrical and succinct verse... Recommended as poetic fare that will titillate the palate in its imagery and imaginative creations.

    Mark Blickley, writer: The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing the book.

    You Have to be Published to be Appreciated.
    Do you want to be heard? Contact Children, Churches and Daddies about book and chapbook publishing. These reviews can be yours. Scars Publications, attention J. Kuypers - you can write for yourself or you can write for an audience. It’s your call...


    Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, PA: “Hope Chest in the Attic” captures the complexity of human nature and reveals startling yet profound discernments about the travesties that surge through the course of life. This collection of poetry, prose and artwork reflects sensitivity toward feminist issues concerning abuse, sexism and equality. It also probes the emotional torrent that people may experience as a reaction to the delicate topics of death, love and family. “Chain Smoking” depicts the emotional distress that afflicted a friend while he struggled to clarify his sexual ambiguity. Not only does this thought-provoking profile address the plight that homosexuals face in a homophobic society, it also characterizes the essence of friendship. “The room of the rape” is a passionate representation of the suffering rape victims experience. Vivid descriptions, rich symbolism, and candid expressions paint a shocking portrait of victory over the gripping fear that consumes the soul after a painful exploitation.


    Dusty Dog Reviews, CA (on knife): These poems document a very complicated internal response to the feminine side of social existence. And as the book proceeds the poems become increasingly psychologically complex and, ultimately, fascinating and genuinely rewarding.
Children, Churches and Daddies. It speaks for itself.


    Dusty Dog Reviews (on Without You): She open with a poem of her own devising, which has that wintry atmosphere demonstrated in the movie version of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The atmosphere of wintry white and cold, gloriously murderous cold, stark raging cold, numbing and brutalizing cold, appears almost as a character who announces to his audience, “Wisdom occurs only after a laboriously magnificent disappointment.” Alas, that our Dusty Dog for mat cannot do justice to Ms. Kuypers’ very personal layering of her poem across the page.
    Children, Churches and Daddies. It speaks for itself.

    Debra Purdy Kong, writer, British Columbia, Canada (on Children, Churches and Daddies): I like the magazine a lot. I like the spacious lay-out and the different coloured pages and the variety of writer’s styles. Too many literary magazines read as if everyone graduated from the same course. We need to collect more voices like these and send them everywhere.

    Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, CA: Indeed, there’s a healthy balance here between wit and dark vision, romance and reality, just as there’s a good balance between words and graphics. The work shows brave self-exploration, and serves as a reminder of mortality and the fragile beauty of friendship.

Children, Churches and Daddies
the UN-religious, NON-family oriented literary and art magazine
Scars Publications and Design

Publishers/Designers Of
Children, Churches and Daddies magazine
cc+d Ezines
The Burning mini poem books
God Eyes mini poem books
The Poetry Wall Calendar
The Poetry Box
The Poetry Sampler
Mom’s Favorite Vase Newsletters
Reverberate Music Magazine
Down In The Dirt magazine
Freedom and Strength Press forum
plus assorted chapbooks and books
music, poetry compact discs
live performances of songs and readings

Sponsors Of
past editions:
Poetry Chapbook Contest, Poetry Book Contest
Prose Chapbook Contest, Prose Book Contest
Poetry Calendar Contest
current editions:
Editor’s Choice Award (writing and web sites)
Collection Volumes

Children, Churches and Daddies (founded 1993) has been written and researched by political groups and writers from the United States, Canada, England, India, Italy, Malta, Norway and Turkey. Regular features provide coverage of environmental, political and social issues (via news and philosophy) as well as fiction and poetry, and act as an information and education source. Children, Churches and Daddies is the leading magazine for this combination of information, education and entertainment.
Children, Churches and Daddies (ISSN 1068-5154) is published quarterly by Scars Publications and Design, attn: Janet Kuypers. Contact us via snail-mail or e-mail ( for subscription rates or prices for annual collection books.
To contributors: No racist, sexist or blatantly homophobic material. No originals; if mailed, include SASE & bio. Work sent on disks or through e-mail preferred. Previously published work accepted. Authors always retain rights to their own work. All magazine rights reserved. Reproduction of Children, Churches and Daddies without publisher permission is forbidden. Children, Churches and Daddies Copyright © 1993 through 2018 Scars Publications and Design, Children, Churches and Daddies, Janet Kuypers. All rights remain with the authors of the individual pieces. No material may be reprinted without express permission.