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.

Volume 218, March 2011

The Unreligious, Non-Family-Oriented Literary and Art Magazine
Internet ISSN 1555-1555, print ISSN 1068-5154

cc&d magazine

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

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the passionate stuff


Oz Hardwick

We walk in soft shoes on fragile floors,
doors locked to left and right.

Embarrassed eyes avoid each other
and ourselves. There are no mirrors.

Empty shelves, warped with the weight
of absence, warn: do not touch.

Sometimes we recall who left us here,
how long ago and why. But

it’s better to forget, to accept our state,
repeat the mantra: we are safe here,

surrounded by stained glass birds,
watched over by a clock with no hands.

Oz Hardwickreading his poem
in a 2011 issue of cc&d magazine (and also available in the 6" x 9" ISBN# cc&d edition collection book Literary Town Hall
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 04/19/11, live at the Café in Chicago

SRed Wing Shoes, art by David Thompson

Red Wing Shoes, art by David Thompson

The cross falls off my wall, &

Fritz Hamilton

The cross falls off my wall &
shatters in the firmament, shards of
Jesoo sticking in the harsh flesh of the earth.

Worms & blood gush up in geysers to
rain down on all God’s creatures.
God-the-devil sucks all the

corpses into his vaccuum cleaner &
shoves it over the edge of the world/ the
eagle stops devouring Prometheus’ liver long

enough to devour the vaccuum cleaner/ his
pecker is clogged with the filth in its bag, &
he smothers to death as the

shards carve up the eagle &
Prometheus chomps down the bird cold
turkey, which he gobbles up

quickly in sandwiches served to FDR in
the oval room to celebrate his #1 rating as our
finest President ever &

Ronnie Reagan, rated #18, is his skullery maid/
George W is #39, Clinton #13, etc until
the vaccuum cleaner explodes, &

the world drowns in gore, as
God-the-devil tries to clean it up, but
of course fails ...

! again ...


Dr Kevorkian enters with Jesoo in restraints

Fritz Hamilton

Dr Kevorkian enters with Jesoo in restraints/
as God’s son babbles, the good doctor gets
out his 6 ft OD needle & loads it up to

take care of sweet Jesoo before
they put him on the cross/ he’s dead like
his Daddy, but for the sake of his image, he

has to get nailed to look like he’s suffering for
our sins, knowing damn well that it’ll change
nothing, but he might get Jesoo Inc out of

it, & the corporations have it all these days/
Dr Death rams the needle up his bottom & into
Jesoo’s brain & squirts about 10 gals of

hemlock into his love cortex/ Jesoo
jumps around for about a day of excrutia before
he finally manages to kick the bucket of shit &

spill it on his giggly subjects/ Jack can’t
stop laughing because this is his most merciful
murder of them all, & he still hopes to

euthanize Zoroaster & Janus before the sun
goes down/ he has a barrel of pussy poison just
ready for Janus to obliviate that old homo/

Kevorkian takes a bromo to alleviate
his headache from all his mercy killing/ I
leap on his needle & get skewered to the

heart/ Jack gives his hyodermic a
a squeeze, & my heart goes all a twitter, &
I’m one dead critter, but

I always was, & the game gets
boring/ so
IT’S BACK to the DUST, &

DR DEATH administers



Knowing Kevorkian

Janet Kuypers

Oh, I knew Kevorkian
he used to be a pathologist
he used to do autopsies
for my precinct

what I remember about
was that he’d go out
with us, for drinks, you know

and he’d get a gin martini
but he would always have
just one, and he’d never
join the conversation

I never thought he had
anything to say, never thought
he’d have a cause
well, I guess he did

Janet Kuypers reading her poem
Knowing Kevorkian
(with John Yotko on guitar)
from the 03/11 issue of cc&d magazine (which is also
available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
video videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
(1:23) read from the 03/11 issue (v218) of cc&d mag, live 03/15/11 at the Café in Chicago

witnessing hitler’s reign

Janet Kuypers

I’ve watched the hopeless struggle
for so many years
knowing their fate was ultimately sealed
just for knowing him

i cry, but no tears come out

Watch these bonus videos of Janet Kuypers reading
Witnessing Hitler’s Reign
video Watch the YouTube video:not yet rated

Live at the Cutting Room Floor at the Palos Park Public Library, live 10/07/09
Order the LIVE track on CD 12 from the CD set Live
(an extensive 13 CD 2010 CD set)
iTunes link to the CD set LIVE  (1:17, live)
(Because of the extensive size of this CD set, the easiest way to find the track in iTunes is to open iTunes, go to the iTunes store and search for Janet Kuypers and the title of the track, and it can find the track for you)
See the YouTube video of the 1st ½ of the shownot yet rated

Live at the Cutting Room Floor at the Palos Park Public Library, live 10/07/09

learning how to die

John Thompson
author of ‘black petal rose’

i’m learning how to die.
it’s very easy    the lesson explains:
‘hold your breath and lie real still.’
i’m learning how to die.
watch me. watch me
learn how to die. watch me
lie real still and hold my breath.
it’s very easy. to hold my breath.
to lie real still. it’s very easy.
it’s very easy learning how to die.
watch me. aren’t i getting good.

Janet Kuypers reading the John Thompson poem
Learning How To Die
from the March 2011 issue (v218) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/15/11, live at the Café in Chicago 03/15/11

When the Kingdom Comes, art by Mark Graham

When the Kingdom Comes, art by Mark Graham

Fine Ground Journey


I have a hard time believing that
The wheel in the sky
Keeps turning,
Because I ain’t Copernicus
As far as I’m concerned, it just sits there
Killing us with a staring contest
Anyway, let’s not be frilly with our metaphors
It’s not a damned wheel
Unless you’re going to assert that
A millstone grinding is
A wheel turning
I mean,
That, I buy

Sunday Lunch


We tell ourselves to live a little
After a week of skipped breakfasts, and
Fasting an hour before the Holy Eucharist.
Coming to a democratic decision,
It is usually a toss between Chinese food —
Flat rice noodles and beef soaked in gravy,
With the crispy allure of fried squid,
Maybe salt and pepper pork chops;
Or, Filipino food — adobo or mechado -
To take us back to a Sunday in Manila.

When father was still alive,
We would have the luxury of time
To walk the beach, get some air and digest
Whatever greasy lunch we had after mass.
When he passed away, we would take time
To pray at his gravesite after feasting
On the luscious invite of savory sauces.

Natural Cycles

Jon Mathewson

So, I’m sitting on sagging lumber, hoping to not
get stuck by the random rusty nail, thinking about
all those great poets who received inspiration from ruins -
Wordsworth & Tintern Abbey, Frost & the forty cellar holes,

The never abandoned lines, look upon me and
Despair, from ashes comes renewal, and find myself
Totally unmoved by those sentiments.
What to do after making the best
Of what is still around? Rage to what purpose?

Slow decline numbs some, confuses others.
I sit on a shore land grabbers actively seek, where
Boats once stayed in the winter. I think of the hard
Labor needed to bring the materials here, and then construct
This large boathouse, and the shame of the waste through disuse.

There is no more need for this boathouse, just as there
Is no more need for the pained expressions of loss when
Nature retrieves. Moose forage nearby, I hear the call of
The loon. The land grabbers and their
bulldozers blast and bumble over the hill.

Mr. Flip as a Dollhouse

Kristine Ong Muslim

And Mr. Flip opens his mouth—
a book of dolls with teeth—
until he has nothing to say.

The sides of this small big box
are built around Mr. Flip’s world
so that nothing spills out

even the things we used to say to take the words back
even the small bitter loves that matter so much
even the darkness, the stolen lights, the whimperings.

The loneliness catches him off-guard.
He rehearses entering the tiny door.
He rehearses getting out of it.

From the dollhouse balcony where
even doll-fingers cannot wiggle in,
Mr. Flip imagines waving goodbye

to passersby on their way to work.
As usual, with their blue plastic eyes,
the doll-neighbors pretend not to notice.

The Laughing Baseball

Michael Larrain

for Wilder Kathleen

I’m the guy who can alibi god
my name in the Sioux Nation is
No Fixed Address
So I touch my guitar
like a woman
whom gold pans for
and cleaner tomorrows
are here right now
in my daughter’s eyes
God’s cup size changes with the seasons
the Earth pulled one way by its rivers
and another by its birds
sleep-tousled as a wild boy
My strength is as the strength of ten
Unfortunately they’re ten extremely weak men
weak minds, bad knees, Tommy John surgeries
on their masculinity
The Sisters of Mercy take their lunch money
You get the idea
But what do I care
when women laughing on stairways
are translated into waterfalls
in my daughter’s smile?
I’m her father
so maybe there really is
a just and merciful
something or other
after all

Author bio

    Michael Larrain was born in Los Angeles in 1947. He is the author of three collections of poems: The Promises Kept in Sleep, Just One Drink for the Diamond Cutter and For One Moment There Was No Queen. Rainy Day Women Press of Willits, CA, has released a CD of his reading of selected love poems called Lipstick: A Catalogue for Continuous Undressing. His novels are South of The North Star, Movies on the Sails, and As the Case May Be. His children’s storybooks are The Girl With the Loom In Her Room, Heaven & Earth and Homer the Hobo & Ulysses the Goat.
    He lives in Sonoma County (California) with his wife and three year old daughter, Wilder Kathleen the Rage of Paris Larrain, and has long been a senior partner in the Way-Up, Firm And High-Tail It Bright Out of Town Detective Agency, a loosely aligned confederacy of shady characters devoted to the complete discrediting of reality in our time.

The Small Stuff

Robert Lawrence

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, Bobby.”
I’ve be hearing that since the Year 1.
But the small stuff still
drives    me    nuts.
I’m at the supermarket in the express lane
The sign says 10 items or less.
I’m within the limits,
a bottle of beer and a bag of chips.
But the guy in front of the line
is unloading 20 items
onto the conveyor belt.
Can’t you count past ten?
Did you flunk kindergarten?
Or do you put your convenience
ahead of everyone else’s?
Mr. Cashier, why don’t you
do your job? Tell this guy
to move his massive order
to the next aisle.
You don’t want to offend him?
Well you’re offending me.

I’m riding the L
pushing out of my mind
the big stuff that can go wrong:
The train lighting on fire.
The tracks lighting on fire.
The train falling off the tracks
The train attacked by a terrorist
or a run-of-the-mill nutjob.
Merrily I ooze into my crossword puzzle.
when a shrill voice shatters my peace,
a woman screaming into her cell phone,
“Oh, David, you know that I love you.”
I hope David knows,
because now the entire traincar knows
Does David have a hearing problem?
Or do you enjoy exposing your voice
the way a pervert exposes his body?
Next time, send a text message.

The small stuff, the small stuff
Like I’m waiting in the left lane
for the light to change. The car
ahead of me signals a left turn
after the light changes
and I’m stuck behind him.
Why don’t you signal before
you reach the intersection?
Afraid of wearing out the light bulb?
Whattaya think it’s there for?

I’m in the public washroom—
really gotta take a dump.
I slip into the stall and look
down, at a seat speckled
with droplets of yellow liquid.
Hey, bad enough you’re too squeamish
to pee at the urinal like the rest of us,
next time lift up the toilet seat
you disgusting, thoughtless boor.

It’s 2:45 in the morning,
time to snooze; I lie down.
The sweet summernight breeze
blows somnambulantly across my cheek.
Then the birds start chirping, real loud.
What is wrong with you feathered fiends?
It’s another two hours before dawn!
Those are streetlights, not the sun!

I ask myself why, why
am I so upset by the small stuff?
Do I have a rage for order,
a loathing for absudity?
Is each little item a splinter
and I hurt covered with splinters?
Or am I walking on a path—
the only way to walk is forward.
The small stuff—the little things
—are pebbles cluttering my path.
I kick the pebbles hard, and their clattering
distracts me from what’s waiting
at the end of the path:

a gaping, unforgiving abyss.

Bob Lawrence reading his poem
the Small Stuff
from the March 2011 issue (v218) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/22/11, live at the Café in Chicago 03/22/11

ART439 AK1, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI


GPA (The Poetic Unsub)

he told her than she wouldnt ever be
her love misguided but strong so she believed it
made it easier to rationlize when she got hit
pastor preached prayerful perseverance
after three broken ribs, a broken arm, and two black eyes, she was no longer hearing it!
grab the kids, keys to her car, and the bank card to the hidden bank account,
heart beating damn near out of her chest as the pressure of racing against time began to mount,
he met her as she was coming out the door
said that she wouldnt be nothing without him;best she could do was be five dollar street whore
swung and connected to her jaw
that was the last of him she saw
save for his bloodied, bullet filled body on the floor,
her son shot stepfather cause he tried to hurt his mama; there is a dreamsnatcher no more!

a deer at Puger Sound, October 12th 2006

Deer Head

Judith Ann Levison

In the woods of our youth
There was a tree strung
With an antlered deer head.
We played beneath its hollow gaze,
Threw nuts at its gaping mouth—
Fog seeping from its nostrils,
Its fur burnt by ten winters.

Now we cannot find the tree,
Let alone our tracks;
Yet we yearn
For that gaunt, near-human watch
That set us free from evil—
We being on the ground
And it up there, once
Whacked with sticks
That thing which stared.

whitingin, art by Nick Brazinsky

whitingin, art by Nick Brazinsky

On Vacation

Joy Davis

has nothing to do
with fire
It’s a place that’s beginning
to feel like home
littered with trash
beer cans.
Slender women
run cheap men
Because they can.
Men cower in fear of being
the next fool on the list
as Lady Luck,
Lady Lust
Sneaks up
Pulls you in.

By the window,
the sun is rising
in full


Maxwell Baumbach

there are
jungle gyms
drenched in lighter fluid
next to
swimming pools of fire
thumbtack covered
monkey bars
attached to
razor blade slides
stove-top tire slides
above shark infested waters

this is one
beautiful playground
we have given our children

enjoy video of part one of
the Maxwell Baumbach Feature

which includes this poem
(and also has an intro of Maxwell Baumbach poetry accepted in issues
of cc&d magazine by editor and the Café host Janet Kuypers)

video Watch the YouTube video not yet rated

Maxwell Baumbach Bio

    Maxwell Baumbach is a writer from Elmhurst, Illinois. You can see him at www.youtube.com/MaxwellThePoet. He is also the editor of the new publication Heavy Hands Ink. His work has appeared in Opium Poetry 2.0, The Cynic Online Magazine, Thunderclap!, Record Magazine, Black-Listed Magazine, and Five Fishes Journal. It is upcoming in vox poetica, Yes, Poetry, Clutching at Straws, and The Shine Journal. He enjoys watching pro wrestling, which is totally real, as well as reading obscene amounts of poetry.

Vogue, art by Cheryl Townsend

Vogue, art by Cheryl Townsend

New Brighton

Lucy Winrow

Amongst the clunk of metal
Dock yards and bitter sand storms
Our feet dapple the spongy sand
Marking, that we’ll get washed away
Breathlessly pressed up against the fort,
The rock at my back
Seaweed soaks me to the scalp, tainting it green,
Blunting the back of my head
Crispy salt crumbles on eyelashes and lips
The sea sprays us
Against the wind we breathe cold air
Like needles up nostrils

To walk alone,
And stand looking at the sea
Knowing my eyes have moulded to sights
That a year ago were unknown,
Never pictured or imagined
Facing the sea, I struggle to breathe
Icy socks pushed down my throat
I’m pulled back by the sounds of you and your dog,
Pinching my calves, fingers chasing
Swooping across the sand, my coat a low dark blaze,
A flag flying
Powered by something

I come down alone at night
And walk out so far on the rocks that in the end,
All there is, is sea
It blasts my head clean with striking tentacles,
Whips of water just missing
As I’m touched only by soft parachutes of spray
The rumbling belly of the sea demands to be rubbed and felt
A desire to be swallowed whole,
Pulled into the sinking black, face up at the stars,
The glittering office blocks
And the spiky cathedral.

cool globes 451, Chicago cool globes 478, Chicago

the confusion of global warming

Dennis Kerr

it seems the leaves
on the trees,
and all the birds
that take vacation
for the winter
are suffering
from something
like mass confusion

none of these things
seem to know when
it is the right time
to strike for they’re
natural occurances

i too am very confused
this beautiful autumnaand i don’t think it
has anything to do
with global warming

cool globes 517, Chicago cool globes 530, Chicago cool globes 535, Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day 2002

Dan Fitzgerald

Drove a long way listening
to jigs and reels and ballads,
sipping whiskey,
celebrating Ireland.

Brought back corn beef and cabbage
to eat in front of the TV.
Watched people
die in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Somalia,
in Israel and Palestine.

Saw more had died in the fog
of Georgia, of Minnesota, of Illinois,
crossing highways and rural roads,
going home.

Watched the BBC
on public TV.

Didn’t see any dead
in Ireland.

A good day.

Don’t Stop Believing (#2)

Kenneth DiMaggio

The playground
where you smoked
your first cigarettes
and saw a ghost-face
fiend with a needle
dangling from an arm
after an overdose
are the swings
from which a generation
about to disintegrate at thirty
dangle after an
earlier keg party
which failed to erase
the dishonorable
discharge or the
divorce from a marriage
that still abuses

From lives
slated for greatness
(like moving out
of your parents’ basement)
Sal & Frankie
who flank Marie
(who dreams about
owning her own
dog grooming business)
can at least still
any rippling
from their swings
keeping awake
the baby she is holding
while with gentle
Marie briefly stops
a disintegration

Save Me

Jenna Mary

I’m so tired already but I’ve barely been alive,
just twenty years, what about twenty more?
No, I’ve been cripple

ever since I knew what God was.
That’s why nobody danced with me.

I tried calling for an ambulance once
or a fire truck
but they all hung up.

I know the sirens won’t come for me,
that’s what I want.

Janet Kuypers reading the Jenna Mary poem
Save Me
from the March 2011 issue (v218) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/15/11, live at the Café in Chicago 03/15/11


The Ceiling Fan and the Fire

Peter LaBerge

A ceiling fan hums a light simple verse,
Blades slicing the silence suspended in the air
Staccatos skittishly shiver throughout the measures
With each chop of the blade
Sounds want to escape silence’s sturdy prison
My teeth confine the words super-glued to my palette
Unspoken poetic verses flutter around the room
Breathing with the cleaved oxygen from the blades
Fire wails from its sooty domain
Quietly and nervously at first
I start to speak
The melodic chars scar each syllable of each word
Fire spits into my lungs
Whispering to my raspy voice box
As it slips down my throat
A simple phrase: “stop.”
Exhaling soot and my scarred syllables
My heart gallops at three hundred paces
Desperate to escape
I shriek and shout, my organs dancing in a fiery blaze
And that ceiling fan, still humming,
Moves on to the chorus
And then the bridge.
And then
the end.

Peter LaBerge Bio

    Peter LaBerge is currently a sixteen-year-old high school student. His writing is featured or forthcoming in:Burning Word Magazine; Indigo Rising Magazine; The Camel Saloon; and more. He is also a photographer, with photography appearing in This Great Society.

Cleveland Cinquain #26

Michael Ceraolo

shopping center;
empty, that is, except
for the armed forces recruiting

Resisting the Taliban, art by Aaron Wilder

Resisting the Taliban, art by Aaron Wilder

Wipe the Snot off Your Face, Girl

Linda Webb Aceto

Struggle, stay on the ground,
first safe and warm,
then up on my toes,
lost in a swirl of abandonment.

Go on, throw in the trowel...
this dirt is enough to fill wheelbarrows
of shame,
while my tears rage into mudslides,
choking back my blooms.


Janet Kuypers reading the Linda Webb Aceto poem
Wipe the Snot off Your Face, Girl
from the March 2011 issue (v218) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/15/11, live at the Café in Chicago 03/15/11

Show Me The Midway, painting by Jay Marvin

Show Me The Midway, painting by Jay Marvin

Yuck Foo, Buddy

Michael Battram

That morning on the street, I guess we sized
each other up almost immediately——
I recognized his pasty, needy look,
and he must have seen in me the wariness
and resignation of the easy mark.
He cut across the corner, caught me at
the crosswalk, sounding breathless but rehearsed,
said, “Hey, buddy, sir, you got a buck to spare,
some pocket change? Lately things’re tough,
I need a meal, a little change of luck.”
“Well,” I said, “you look more like you need
a drink,” and then I saw his hopes rise like
a barmaid’s smile. “You got it, man,” he grinned.
“But,” I went on, “you look like you need
that meal a little more. So, how about
we get some breakfast, then attend a meeting
where I go sometimes. That’s where your luck
might really start to change.” He coiled back like
a frightened snake. “Shit, I should’ve known!
You AA types think everyone’s a drunk.
I don’t need to quit, I only need
a little drink, a taste to get me through.”
“Well, you don’t have to quit,” I said, “you just
don’t drink today. I’m saying just this day,
it’s one day at a time.” “You’re saying no.”
“I’m saying yes to everything but booze,
my friend. I sure won’t help you kill yourself.”
“Yeah, one day at a time, my rosy ass.
I’ve heard it all before from pricks like you.
Keep walkin’, fool. Thass right, you heard me, Jack.”
My good deed done, I crossed the busy street,
still hearing his angry words against my back,
my reddening neck. “Cheap asshole, twelve-step fag!”
Well, maybe I’m an asshole, in spite of good
intentions——maybe I haven’t earned the right
to judge. But I don’t beg for money, or scream
hangover curses at strangers on the street.
Not lately, anyway. Not today, so far.

Michael Battram Bio

    Michael Battram lives in Indiana, works in Kentucky, and writes in his car. His poems have appeared in a wide variety of forms, styles, and publications, from academic to alternative to “ashcan,” and someday he hopes to find out if he’s the only poet to appear in both The Lyric and Wormwood Review.

Hand Shadow image by John Yotko

Hand Shadow image by John Yotko


Michael Lee Johnson


she has lost
her shadow.

and now

she stands

with nowhere
to go.

Janet Kuypers reading the Michael Lee Johnson poem
from the March 2011 issue (v218) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Fear the Forsaken
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/15/11, live at the Café in Chicago 03/15/11

Orbiting Bodies

Christy Hicks

One day, I noticed another human
sitting right next to me
and I thought -
“Have you been there the whole time?”
I smelled mortality -
and stopped believing in all things that orbit.

He had a second mouth.
It spoke in tongues of folk songs,
ballads of the miserable.
Yet he did not know that the world
sang his language.

It was when I stopped
feeling alone in this world
that my faith in it



the meat and potatoes stuff

The Funeral

Barbara Villemez

    They filed past the open casket with brief sidelong glances; some cried, sniffled into tissues, or wiped their eyes. Others with quiet introspection paused to gaze at the old woman lying inside.
    The dim lighting and flickering candles cast a soft glow on the surroundings. The flowers, all colors and shapes grouped on either side, filled the space with a rich, sweet fragrance adding a surreal touch of gaiety. The room was large and filled with burgundy plush seating scattered randomly. Gold lamps and sconces completed the formal funeral parlor look. The casket was placed at one end of the room close to a wall.
    People stood in small clusters whispering in quiet voices. Sadness wafted through the air like a soft gray cloud, landing on first one than the other. This old woman had been an important part of many lives. As such, the turnout for the viewing was huge with many people of different ages and generations paying their respects.
    People had been arriving and leaving in controlled chaos all evening. Some only saw each other at weddings and funerals. They tended to connect with hugs, kisses and handshakes. They came from near and far. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, old friends, young friends, they were all here. They came to grieve the death and celebrate the life of the old woman.
    She had always been there for them. It was as if she had no life of her own. As if her life had been dedicated to taking care of others. Each one present had benefited in different ways from knowing Emma. Their stories were known to many in the community. And they were proud of their association with this old woman; the good she had done not only for them, but for many others. Her kindness and compassion was known by all who were here, so they came to show their love and respect.
    No one noticed the shadowy figure leaning against the wall nodding and smiling as each person filed by the casket.
    She appeared young, perhaps in her twenties, dressed in the era of the 1940’s. She said to her companion, “Oh look, there’s John Ratcliff. I haven’t seen him in years. He’s holding up pretty good for his age.”
    Several women stopped close by and whispered in quiet tones.
    One of the women leaned closer, “She looks peaceful, doesn’t she?”
    The other women nodded.
    “It’s a shame she never married.”
    One shrugged, “I know, but she had a good life. What would we all have done if she hadn’t been around to help with our kids. God knows, she took care of mine when they were young and never asked for anything in return.”
    The figure watched and listened as the women talked. It was Pat, her sister Betty and their friend Millie.
    Betty said, “I heard from mama that Aunt Emma had a lover, when she was in her twenties.”
    Millie raised an eyebrow. “Really, I don’t think I ever heard that story.”
    Betty continued. “Well, it was hush, hush in the family. Mama said that she fell in love with a fellow she met when she went to teacher’s college. He enlisted in the war and was killed over there in Europe. They were engaged before he left and he gave her a ring. There was also a rumor that she was pregnant and miscarried. She was pretty torn up over his death and went away for a few months. That’s probably when she had the miscarriage. She went to Dallas to stay with a friend. Mama said she had a nervous breakdown after he died. She came back after a few months and finished her degree.”
    Millie asked, “Do you think that she was secretly married?”
    “I don’t think so. Mama said she never collected any money from the government as far as she knew. I think the Army gave widows some insurance if their husbands were killed in the war. I don’t really know, I was just a kid then. I think it was World War Two, but it could have been the Korean War, y’all. Mama said she never talked about him again.” Betty gave a sigh. “That’s so romantic.”
    “What’s going to happen to her things? Is your Mama going to have a garage sale after the estate is settled?” Betty smiled and said to her companion, “Millie loves to go to garage sales. Her house had been almost totally furnished from garage sales.”
    Millie shrugged and said in a defensive tone, “I’m on a budget and sometimes it’s the only way I can get things I need. I don’t mind other people’s castoffs. I’ve found some really good stuff at garage sales.”
    Pat said, “Mama told me that Aunt Emma’s ring was going to Charley’s little girl. You know, the one named after her. She always wore that ring. I don’t think anyone ever saw her without it. You know now that I think about it, that ring could have been the engagement ring that fellow gave her.”
    Betty interjected. “Mama said she was very attractive when she was young, but never dated. Guys would ask her out, but she always turned them down. I guess she just had that one true love in her life and was never interested in anyone else. That sounds romantic, but it had to be lonely. Though, she taught school until she retired and always was willing to take everyone’s kids. She babysat for me many times and never would take any money. She always said, it was fun taking care of the little ones.”
    Millie rolled her eyes, “Can you believe her cat’s being buried with her?”
    Pat shrugged, “Well, she loved that old cat.”
    Millie looked around then whispered, “My husband knows old Doc Griffin and he told Ray that the cat and Emma died about the same time. It’s like one didn’t want to go without the other. It was lying on Emma’s stomach when they found them. You know that cat was almost thirty years old. It was pretty decrepit.”
    Betty said, “y’all know the story about that old cat, don’t you? Pat nodded and Millie shook her head. “Mama said the cat was found crawling on the highway outside of town. Someone had thrown a bag of newborn kittens on the side of the road. They were all dead except this one.”
    Millie was indignant, “That’s awful. I just don’t know how someone could be so cruel.”
    Betty continued, “Aunt Emma fed that cat with an eyedropper and it became her constant companion. She used to bring it to school and let the children pet it.”
    “Still, it’s a little creepy having your cat buried with you.” Millie gave a little shudder and looked down at the small bundle in the coffin.
    “Mama said that Doc Griffin and her lawyer, old man Stanley, conferred and decided to do it if mama, as her closet kin, agreed. Mama thought that Emma would want that, since she’d put in her will that if she died before the cat, that mama would take it. She said it was right and proper that the cat be buried with Emma because she loved it so.”
    “I don’t think the preacher liked it too much. He thought it was a pagan practice.” Betty put her hand to her mouth to hide a smile.
    Millie grinned, “He’s Southern Baptist, they think everything fun is a pagan practice.”
    Pat gave a soft chuckle. “I don’t think the Reverend Baker would know a pagan practice if it bit him.”
    “I still think its creepy seeing that little bundle next to her.” Millie turned toward the door.
    Betty and Pat followed her to the front entrance.
    “Millie, are we still playing bridge on Thursday?”
    Millie stopped and turned around. “It’s supposed to be at Angie’s house this week, but I saw her daughter at Safeway and she said her mother was sick. I guess I’d better call her. I’ll find out and let everyone know, okay?”
    Pat said, “Good, call me.”
    The women went out the door, waved and hurried to their cars.
    The figure walked to the door and watched them leave. She stepped back as several men approached.
    “I remember Emma when she was in her early thirties. She was a great looking woman. Good figure and a set of tits on her that were mighty fine. No one could get a date with her though, some story about a lost love. She’d just smile and say she was busy.”
    The second man said, “I remember when that lawyer, Pitcock, came to town. He was divorced and hot for her. Really went after her. She’d be nice, but she’d turn him down every time. He’s the one that started that rumor that she was some kind of lesbian. Nasty fellow. He didn’t do well and was gone inside a year.”
    The men stepped out on the small porch.
    “Jim, it was good seeing you again. You should come to town more often.”
    “Well, you know Ginny’s been pretty sick lately. That’s why she wasn’t here tonight. I don’t know if she’ll be at the funeral tomorrow, but I’ll be there. She’s having a lot of pain in her hip. Looks like she’s going to have to have a transplant.”
    “Do you mean a hip replacement?”
    “Yeah, something like that. She’ll be eighty next month and I worry about her having an operation.”
    “Who’s her doctor?”
    “Barone, he’s an orthopedic doctor in Dallas.”
    “Yeah, I’ve heard of him. Supposed to have a good reputation.”
    They continued talking as they walked away from the building.
    The figure returned to the room and saw a young woman kneeling in front of the casket, tears streaming down her cheeks. She was praying.
    A couple standing close by watched her. The man turned to his wife, “Who’s that.”
    “Oh, that’s Nancy Ogle. Emma took her in when her parents died about ten years ago in that murder suicide thing. She didn’t have any other relatives and you know Emma. She couldn’t bear for the girl to go into a foster home. She lived with Emma for a few years and then Emma paid her tuition to college. I bet she left something to Nancy in her will. Emma was a good woman. She lived a simple life, always helping someone. She’ll be missed by a lot of people.”
    The young woman brushed away her tears, rose and went out, stopping to say a few words to a group by the door.
    People began moving out of the room, talking to friends and relatives as they left. Some tarried a little longer, gazing at the woman lying in the casket.
    Bessie looked on Emma’s face one last time. She brought her fingers to her lips, kissed them and placed them on Emma’s lips.
    “Goodbye, dear sister. Goodbye, Emma darling.”
    She turned and walked away.
    The figure stood against the wall and watched as everyone left. The silence was palpable, a hiss from a flickering candle as melted wax ran down into the sconce was the only sound.
    The figure went to the casket and looked down on the old woman.
    “Goodbye, old woman. I have no regrets for how I lived my life. My friends and family may feel that my life was wasted, but I know that my life in this world was fulfilled in many ways, maybe not by other’s values. I have to say that I achieved a sense of contentment over the years. My greatest joy was with the children. But my obligations for this life are through. I’m not going to miss you, even though we had a good, and as the lady said, a simple life together. She leaned down and gently kissed the lips of the old woman.”
    Standing she smiled broadly and clapped her hands, “Come on Muffin. We’ve got places to go, someone special to see and things to do.”
    With a bounce to her step and Muffin, prancing with tail held high, they faded into the wall. They were gone, both anxious to start their new adventure. And if one looked closely in the coffin there appeared a slight smile on the face of the old woman lying there.

Sad Cat, art by the HA!man of South Africa

Sad Cat, art by the HA!man of South Africa

The Playground

Anne Turner Taub

    Marnie Brown sat on the park bench and watched the children playing on the swings. You don’t commit suicide because things are terrible. Things usually aren’t terrible. It’s just that you feel terrible about things. Jobs that never go anywhere, romances that never go anywhere, days after days that never go anywhere. It was not a bad life—it just didn’t go anywhere.
    She often went to the playground now. A last touch of real life before she entered that long dark tunnel with no end. She couldn’t help envying the mothers who sat in a row on the benches like the pigeons on wires above them and cooed to each other about toilet training and breast feeding. When it was time to go home to make dinner for their husbands, they flapped their wings for the children and left in a flock, and the benches sat there empty again just as when all the pigeons flew away from the telephone wires above.
    What did it all mean? Why did people think children were innocent? The ones that were too young to hold conversations ignored each other—so they either played, cried, or slept. If the older ones were boys they hit and pushed each other, and if they were girls, they selected a scapegoat and giggled and made fun of her. And would they be different when they grew up? Nothing went anywhere.
    Marnie’s eyes moved to the swings. She watched the legs and hair flying as the children were pushed by their nannies—some mothers never got to see the park at all. The bright colors and clever sayings on the children’s clothes belied the seriousness of their play—children in the playground never laughed. Again, it was a world of nowhere.
    Today was the day to do it. A plastic bag or seconal—one of these—or both. She actually looked forward to it now—to have made the decision. At last, it would be an end in a world where there was no sunlight—only the tunnel.
    Her eyes had been busy with self-talk, looking at the inside of her head, but just then a movement on the swings arrested her. And she saw something she had never seen before. A woman in a wheelchair was pushing a child. What right did she have to be pushing a child in a swing? She should be in a bed somewhere waiting for her life to end. And the child was laughing at something the woman was saying. She wasn’t a young pretty woman. She was a fat woman with straggly hair and painfully thin legs, and she was laughing at something the child was saying. She heard the child laugh back and address her as momma, so she wasn’t even a nanny. Although the woman was obviously having a wonderful time, Marnie could see that pushing that swing was not too easy for her. She had to raise her body in her seat so her arms would be high enough to push the swing and she had to constantly move her wheelchair back, so she wouldn’t be hit by the swing on its return journey.
    Impulsively Marnie got up. She couldn’t take it any more. The woman was going to break her back if she kept this up. Marnie went over to her and asked, “Can I help swing your little girl for you? It looks rather tiring.” The woman smiled at her, “Oh, heavens no, we’re having too much fun. But thanks anyway” and she ducked just as the swing returned.
    Something was wrong here. That woman should be miserable, envious of healthy people, berating her fate, and here she was, having the time of her life. She would probably give her eyeteeth just to walk out of this playground on the healthy legs that Marnie was about to send packing. Marnie was upset. She asked the woman again. “Are you sure I can’t help you?”
    The woman stopped the swing and looked at her. “I don’t really need any help. Perhaps there is something I can help you with?”
    Marnie was taken aback. “I wish you could.”
    The woman looked up at her quietly and said, “I love life. Perhaps you should appreciate how much you have just by being alive. My daughter and I are just about to take a walk and look at the spring flowers that are just coming up. Have you seen them? They are beautiful.”
    Marnie looked around the playground. True, there were flowers all around, tulips, forsythia, crocuses—strange, she had not even noticed them. And the children in the playground—not all of them were fighting or making fun of others. Some of the boys were laughing as they ran. Some of the girls had their arms around each other, talking excitedly about something they were all deeply involved in. But Marnie had to express what she felt:
    “I have to say it, forgive me, but you are in a wheelchair, look how much you are missing of life.”
    “My dear, I have missed nothing in life I ever wanted; Each day that comes again is a blessing. What more could I ask for? Besides, there is nothing in life that anyone else has that I can’t have or haven’t had.” Maudlin nonsense, thought Marnie, she is just kidding herself.
    The woman paused for a moment, saw something in Marnie’s face, then added, “If you don’t mind, may I ask what you feel that you have in your life that I don’t?”
    Marnie closed her eyes in pain. All she had was the tunnel.
    The lady in the wheelchair looked up at Marnie, waited for a second, then she said, “My name is Edna, my daughter is Bonnie. Come on, let’s all go look at the flowers.” At that moment, a long-buried ghost of a longing for her mother came back to Marnie. Mommy, mommy, she cried inside herself, and she followed docilely, like a lamb. She watched Bonnie, who had run ahead, pointing excitedly at a very purple crocus, and suddenly the tunnel had come to seem much farther away.

Sherbet Green

Sara Basrai

    Sherbet Green cries more than she did an hour ago. She sits by the window of her living room and ignores the sun that heats the glass. Mid June and temperatures are already in the mid eighties. Beads of sweat irritate her scalp and drip down the nape of her neck. She cries more than she has in seven years, since her mother died.
    Three hours ago, Steve tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry, Sherbet.” All happened as she’d imagined it would, only worse: the walk to David’s office – the Global Head of Equity Derivatives - and the words spoken that she couldn’t bear to hear. All she understood was, ‘you’ve lost your career’. Afterwards, Steve led her away. “How could you?” she asked and he shook his head.
    He walked her to her desk so she could pack her things in the cardboard box provided, including her favourite photo of her mother, and then escorted her across the trading floor, while others stared with a look that said, “Will it be me next?” Yes, it probably would. She stood beside Steve in the elevator. “How can you do this?” she asked again, pressing her hands against his chest before withdrawing them as if burnt by fire. He shook his head. Security asked for her pass. She handed the laminated card to a guard thinking, ‘why should you morons hold onto my photo?’ and then walked through the doors of the investment bank for the last time, after six years of service.
    Tears stream. The phone rings. Probably her father in England. News spreads fast. He most likely wants to find out whether she is okay and whether she has kept her job. He has plagued her consistently over the past months to pressure the bank to speed up the green card application, so, “In the unlikely event of the bank firing you in the current financial climate, you could remain in the USA, love.” Dad invested a lot in her career. He put her through top British private schools and through Oxford. “A bright lass like you ought to go far, but don’t abuse your privileges,” he’d say. She had. She ate out every night of the week, though often with clients, shopped at Barneys at the weekend and took regular breaks in the Hamptons. Spending money was as easy as it was hard for her parents to pay the bills.
    Just last weekend, Steve and Sherbet stayed in the beach house in East Hampton and discussed plans to go on safari in Kenya. Steve owns three places - his penthouse apartment in Manhattan, the ski place in Vermont and the beach house. She part owns the ski place.
    The doorbell buzzes. Odd. Usually, the concierge calls her on the intercom. She lets the phone ring and gets up from the leather couch, dries her eyes with the cuff of her sleeve and walks over well-varnished floors to the front door. She chose to wear a blouse rather than a summer dress today out of habit rather than thought. There is the oily self-portrait of an up-and-coming artist she found in SoHo and the anthology of American Short Stories she never finds time to read. She can’t discipline herself to focus on a story, but recently joined a book group because she thought she should. Twelve women belong to the group, and only one other is a banker. She trips over the New York Times. The cleaner should have placed it decoratively in the paper rack.
    She opens the door onto the back of a man who stands well over six foot with a flock of dark hair and is dressed in the grey uniform of the apartment building’s handymen and electricians. It takes an army to keep the forty storeys in good working order.
    The phone stops ringing.
    “Yes?” Sherbet asks. He turns with the grace of Fred Astaire and smiles, revealing dark brown eyes and a missing front tooth. If he wasn’t a handyman and without a missing tooth, she might consider him attractive. But as he is, he reminds her of the garbage men in My Fair Lady.
    “Mrs Green, I’m here to change the filters in the air-conditioners—”
    “Ms Green.”
    “Miss Green. I’m so sorry,” he says in a foreign accent. There is something cheeky about him, perhaps the way he holds her gaze. “I am him to fix your filters.” As she doesn’t say anything, he says, “It will be a hot summer the TV is saying.”
    “The TV doesn’t need to say.”
    He nods. She wonders if he understands her.
    She beckons him to follow and indicates the air-conditioner in the living room before sitting at her desk and picking up and then replacing the receiver. She ought to phone Dad, or Steve. No, Steve can wait but Dad deserves to know she’s lost her job.
    “Are you okay, Miss Green?” the air-conditioner man asks. She smells his cheap aftershave, which reminds her of Darren, a boy she once dated in England and whom she hasn’t given a moment’s thought since they were both about fifteen.
    “I’m Ms Green. I’m not married, nor am I a miss. I’m a Ms.” He looks confused and she decides it’s fairly unlikely a foreigner could understand such subtleties, especially a foreigner from a male dominated third world country. He’s probably Mexican, though he’s tall and not indigenous looking.
    “Just call me Sherbet,” she says.
    Amusement replaces confusion. So he is familiar with the word sherbet. Well, if he understands the silliness of her name, he is probably fluent in English.
    “My father liked sherbet. He wanted an energetic daughter. When you put sherbet powder on your tongue, it fizzes. I think sherbet is something different in the USA,” Sherbet says and turns her back on him and lifts the receiver.
    “I have a funny name too. Well, Americans find it funny.”
    Sherbet sits at her desk, switches on the PC and hopes the tall Mexican will quiet.
    “I’m called Fatmir. Luck is I am not fat. I am buck.”
    Sherbet turns towards him again. He stands against the window with his hands pressing against his shirt-covered abdomen. “See I’m buck.”
    “You’re what?”
    “Buck. You don’t speak American? Where are you from?”
    “I speak English and I’m from England.”
    “I see,” Fatmir says and grins. He is enjoying himself. He switches on the air-con and listens as if tuning a piano. He raises a hand towards Sherbet to stop her speaking, so she asks, “Where are you from?”
    “Hush please, Sherbet, I have to listen to the machine. They are very delicate and make quite different sounds. This one tells me, ‘Fatmir, I am sick and need some replacement.’ Come over here and listen.”
    She ignores him and dials her father’s number. Maybe he’s out. That would be a stroke of luck, but he picks up. Damn.
    “Dad? It’s Sherbet. Did you call?”
    “Yes,” Dad replies with the smoker’s voice still intact. “I was worried, love. I heard there were major layoffs at your bank today. I told myself my clever lass wouldn’t be laid off.”
    The clever lass with all the education Dad never had.
    Sherbet remembers Dad saving every penny, telling Mum not to expect a holiday or new dress until Sherbet had gone through the best the United Kingdom had to offer. Mum asked what was wrong with the local schools and Dad said, “They’re the schools for defeated miners’ kids and I want one of my family to escape.” He’d wave his hand in this air and circulate it round and round as he said escape.
    In his youth Dad worked down the pit with the best of the men, and voted Labour and was a union man, but Margaret Thatcher and her pit closures put an end to that and then it was time for reversed psychology. The only way to beat the bastards was to join the bastards. His bright little girl, a whizz kid at math, short with a fragile frame, wasn’t going to suffer northern English humiliation. No, she was going south to join the privileged. So he worked her and himself hard and got her tested to Cheltenham Ladies’ College, the best girls’ school in England. The school accepted her on a scholarship. Sherbet joined the ranks of the well-to-do. If anyone should be cast in My Fair Lady, it is she. She is a right regular Eliza Doolittle.
    While Fatmir considers the air-conditioning unit, Sherbet says, “All’s well Dad, they wouldn’t lay me off.”
    “Good,” Dad says, “so relieved to hear.” There’s still an edge of doubt in his voice.
    Sherbet rests her head in her hands. “Bye Dad.”
    “You must come here,” Fatmir commands and she jumps. “Sorry to scare you Miss Sherbet, but you must learn to hear the air-con. It is important.”
    When Sherbet shakes her head, he pleads again telling her that sound is at the heart of all healthy machines and convinces her that a lonely woman ought to recognise the telling signs of a problem. What does he mean by calling her a lonely woman? “You live just with you, no?” he asks and grins again.
    “Yes, just me.”
    Sherbet crouches besides Fatmir on the floor and feels ridiculous when he tells her to place her ear against the unit. Once she is accustomed to the sound of its motor, or what she thinks is its motor, he asks her to follow him into the kitchen and repeat the procedure.
    “See this is how a healthy air-con should sound. There is a music, yes?”
    She turns to face him in a crouched position and he says, “I come from Albania. It’s near Italy.”
    “I know where Albania is,” she says, immediately changing her view of him. Now he is European and culturally closer to her. “I often holiday in Tuscany with Steve, my boyfriend...my ex-boyfriend, who has a villa.”
    He encourages her to listen further to the air-con, which she does, until she realises she is face to face with him. He must realise too because his eyes take on an intensity. This is crazy. She looks down. He stands and reaches a hand to help her stand. She takes his hand and he pulls her up.
    “My country is very beautiful. I have a house by the sea. Well, my father does anyway. I miss my country very much. Do you miss England?”
    “Not really.”
    He continues to speak of his family and of the Mediterranean beaches he loves and the fishing boats his father owns. He tells her there is a good time to fish and a bad time to fish. He stands before her, looks down on her from well over six foot and she feels shorter than she has in a long while - and she often feels short - and tells her the fable of the fish that grants wishes, though she thinks he reinvents the story to meet his own needs. His story-telling voice is deep and soothing. “The fish says to the tall Albanian man, go to America if you wish, find a pot of gold but remember America is a far away land without European princes.” She laughs when he says princes. Even though she is miserable, she laughs at the absurdity of listening to an Albanian man’s fairy stories in her luxury apartment in New York. Then he says, “I find America very hard, but I like it.”
    “Where do you live?” It occurs to her that she never asks repairmen and doormen where they live. They just live.
    “I live in Harlem opposite a playground called Crack is Wack.”
    “The playground is called Crack is Wack?”
    “Yes, Sherbet.” He looks at her in a way that says ‘I know something you don’t.’ She finds that aggravating and vaguely ridiculous.
    Sherbet leaves Fatmir to complete his work in her bedroom. She sits at the computer and drafts an email to her father explaining her situation and her mistake. Tells him she will need to return to England as soon as possible as she no longer has any legal right to remain in the country and yes, she shouldn’t have bought the apartment in Manhattan or part of the ski place before securing the green card. She will make sure to rent out the apartment and sell her share of the other to Steve. The apartment will fetch a high rent. Tears threaten to flow again. She saves the draft.
    “Have you ever been to the botanical gardens in the Bronx? I saw it advertised on a bus.” Fatmir asks, returning to the living room.
    “No,” she wipes a hand across her face. Fatmir holds a filthy filter in his hands.
    “This is very rude of me, but would you like to go with me there? I understand if you say no. It is not every day I ask...but like your accent and you seem sad. The fish in my story-”
    “What are you talking about?” she asks.
    “I am sorry I have overstepped the starting point.”
    She laughs at his charming use of English. She wants with sudden urgency to go to the botanical gardens. Not that she’s interested in plants, but wants to escape her apartment, the internet and hours tossing in bed going over the last moments at work and Steve walking her to the door. She wants to escape the shame and anger that makes her hot from her stomach to her neck. “Can we go now?” She stands up and he takes a step towards the front door.
    “Now? I think the gardens will be shut. It is late, Miss Sherbet...and I have to work.”
    Fatmir retreats further towards the door, clutching his air-con tool bag. She thinks him alarmed.
    “Yes, I would like to go. I’m so sorry if I’m coming on a bit strong. I lost my job today. I’m a bit off my trolley.” He looks blank. “I’m tired, Fatmir, but would love to go to the New York Botanical Gardens with you.” A sudden smile stretches across his face and he says, “Then I will come and pick you tomorrow morning at...10 o’clock?”
    “Yes, I would like that very much.”
    In the cool of the air-conditioned apartment, Sherbet sends an email to Steve telling him she wants no more contact and that she will sell her share of the ski place to him. When the concierge calls up to tell her Steve is downstairs, she tells the concierge to ask him to leave.
     At nine o’clock the following morning, her father phones again to check if she is okay. She tells him she is and reads the draft of her email, but cannot send and cannot tell the truth. She walks to the fridge and pulls out an orange Fizzy Lizzy. There’s nothing to eat, just a jar of pickles and a pack of butter.
    At nine thirty, a bouquet of flowers and a box of Godiva arrive from Steve with a note: So sorry darling. I had no choice. I suffered a hellish conflict of interests. I love you.
    Had no choice? Had no choice to warn her she was about to be fired? Steve is her boss’ right-hand man. He talked about going on safari in Kenya when he knew she was about to lose her job. The cuts and who to cut must have been on the agenda for weeks. She throws the flowers in the garbage and eats the chocolates until she wants to throw up.
    At ten, Fatmir rings the doorbell and she opens. He is dressed differently today. He wears jeans - cheap jeans - and a t-shirt with Brazil written across his chest. The scent of cheap aftershave is stronger than ever. He has made an effort. She grabs her Armani bag and leaves with him.
    On Third Avenue, she jumps into the road to flag down a cab. A car pulls up, but it’s not a taxi and a body in a bag is raced out of her apartment building on a gurney and shoved in the back. She shudders despite the intense heat. “The old man in 24G died. Too hot. He didn’t like to cool the modern way,” Fatmir says. He lowers her arm and says, “Don’t flag down a taxi.” When she frowns, he says, “Let this be my treat today. And because this is my treat, let’s take the subway.”
    “Some treat!”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Poor man dying like that. Who are those people?”
    Fatmir shrugs. “Come on the subway with me. I want to show it to you.”
    She agrees to take a subway, agrees to stand crushed against him as the train sways towards the Bronx and faces get browner and blacker and she feels conspicuous in her whiteness. But Fatmir doesn’t care and talks about the Albanian government and the past dictatorship of someone called Hoxha. While she takes in the faces of a family with two small black children, he explains his father, a former university professor, got into trouble under Hoxha’s regime. “My father was followed and arrested by the secret police. He was hurt. How you say?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Yes and had to spend time in hard prison camps. Sometimes, I think air-conditioners hard work, but it is nothing really. He was chained to chair and given electricity. I was a child, but I remember the stories and when we -”
    “I am so sorry. That is so much worse than the story about the fish,” Sherbet says. She no longer notices the people around her, only the eyes of the man in front of her, whose arms trap her against the wall of the train and for the first time in ages she feels young. Young because the words he speaks shake her. No one has said words like that to her before. She’s read about political prisoners but has never met one. Young because she has not travelled in such close proximity to other people in a long time. And because she wants to kiss him in a way she hasn’t wanted to kiss anyone in a while. Not in the way she kisses Steve, after dinner and lots of wine and a sexy movie. No, she wants to kiss him like she did her first boyfriend, Darren, years ago on a trip home from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to the mining town. They bought beer and got drunk in the front garden of the pub. Everyone did the same thing. They must have been fifteen. They kissed between slurps of beer and at one point, they couldn’t stop.
    “Yes, far worse than the fish,” he says and looks puzzled.
    “I’m an idiot. I’m sorry. I lost my job,” she says.
    “I understood that last night, which is why I want to treat you.”
    “I will have to return home to England.”
    “Because I’m illegal now. Well almost. I have three months to leave the country.”
    “I’m illegal too, Sherbet.”
    “You are?”
    “Yes, I come as a student and stay ten times as long as my course. Most of us in the building are —.”
    “How?...But I’m different...” She closes her mouth before she says something she regrets. She senses he understands, but chooses to ignore her.
    “If you like it here, stay.”
    “That’s easy to say. But do what?”
    “Now you are an idiot,” he says. “Life has lots of roads. Do you understand?”
    “And you’re a philosopher.”
    Outside, flat roofed buildings and rail tracks pass by. Communities of people walk with a swagger not on view on the Upper East Side. They look brassy and cheap. They remind her of her mother who used to go to the pharmacy and buy lousy hair dye. Mum always went for the obvious - platinum blonde. All these people have an air of the obvious about them and they don’t even know it. Could she live here? Fatmir must read her thoughts because he says, “You could take a little time out and travel across America and find out what you want to do. There is a huge land out there to see. There are tall rocky mountains and hot deserts. There are beautiful beaches where you can swim.”
    “Have you ever done that?” He shakes his head.
    “Then why do you ask me, Fatmir? I’m not lazy.”
    “Why do you care about lazy?”
    “Who doesn’t?”
    At the botanical gardens, Fatmir treats Sherbet to his knowledge of plants and trees, which isn’t extensive. They wander along forest tracks that once covered the island of Manhattan and enjoy the shade, which Fatmir says is nature’s only air-conditioning. They walk over a wobbly bridge, which a kid with learning disabilities shakes furiously and shouts, “I hate this bridge.” His father pulls him away by the arm and apologises. Fatmir finds it easier to talk of Mediterranean vistas and fishing boats than plants. And Sherbet finds herself talking about the mining village for the first time in years. She talks about leaving the village to go to boarding school. Everyone hated her accent and teased her. Fatmir laughs when she says this. “Kids are fucking mean,” he says. At one point, he talks about Hoxha again.
    Then over a sandwich lunch, out of the midday sun, Fatmir discusses the sound of the restaurant’s air-conditioning and the more he speaks the more Sherbert knows she cannot be with him. When he lays his enormous paw-like hands on the table, she knows she needs to go home, pack up her apartment, and return to England. When he suggests with sudden enthusiasm, electric lights shining in his eyes, that they could travel across America together in a truck and work, and pay their way - everyone needs air-conditioners - and stay in motels, she knows she left his world long ago. When he takes her to his apartment in East Harlem with one of those air-con units in the window, and cooks spaghetti in a pan, she knows she can’t kiss him. She can only kiss men like Steve with yachts and skis.
    Still, she watches him slice onion and garlic and chop fresh herbs. And she laughs when his roommate, Edon, adds a touch too much chili and the two men choke and speak what she supposes is Albanian and play fight. Outside, kids play basketball at the Crack is Wack playground.
    She tells Fatmir she still can’t believe the name of the playground and he shrugs and says, “Kids need to understand Crack is wack. You know wack means bad?” And something in the simplicity of his words arrests her attention. He winks at her and she sits back on the green, once plush velvet couch and listens to the hum of the air-conditioner. He tells her the history of the playground and tells her how an artist painted a mural on the wall to teach children not to take drugs. That was before he died of AIDS.
    The meal is delicious. The mural on the playground wall is inspirational. The poster of Che Guevara over the kitchen table is cute. The kiss when Fatmir takes her home, which he insists on doing, is long and lingering – pleasant. The gap in the tooth adds character. The kiss ends the evening with a touch of long forgotten innocence.
    A month later she has packed her boxes, sent them to the UK, officially ended her relationship with Steve, sold her share in the ski place and packed her passport in her bag. She still hasn’t sent the email to her father and still hasn’t secured a new job in the UK. Banks aren’t taking anyone on and she has no transferable skills. All she has ever done is bank. At four o’clock in the afternoon, Fatmir arrives at her door, knocks, and says, “I got a car. We are going to travel across America together.” Sherbet Green wonders whether she should change her mind.

Sara Basrai bio

    Sara Basrai is a UK citizen who lives in NYC. Before moving to the USA, she worked in schools across London and worked with children from different cultural and social backgrounds. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in 34th Parallel, Outwardlink.net, Battered Suitcase, Cantara Press and in an anthology called The Cloud. Her poetry will be published in Grey Sparrow Press and Nefarious Ballerina. She has also presented work on sites supporting biracial couples. Sara’s desire as a writer is to present stories, which surprise and raise questions.

botanical art by Eric Bonholtzer botanical art by Eric Bonholtzer

botanical art by Eric Bonholtzer

Cutting Sixxis, Chapter 1: You don’t Belong

Rufus Ryan

    After the jury reached their verdict, the “honorable” Judge Bukowski addressed me. “Ronimus, the jury has found you not guilty, because they believe that you were insane when you attacked the victim. Therefore, I am required by law, to send you to a mental hospital. Where you will have to stay until a psychiatrist convinces me that you won’t attack people who call you names.” He shook his head. “You don’t belong in my society, Ronimus.”
    Bukowski stopped talking; he just glared at me for a few moments. Then he continued. “I truly feel sad for you and your family. And I just wish that your mental illness could have been cured before you—”
    I abruptly stood up. “THERE IS NO CURE FOR MY RAGE!”
    Bukowski started banging his gavel. “ORDER IN THE COURT! ORDER IN MY COURT!”
    Bukowski was showing everybody in the courtroom that he clearly had anger issues, too. And I just laughed as I thought about his temper.
    Bukowski banged his gavel a few more times. “Stop laughing, Ronimus! And don’t interrupt me again!”
    Bukowski pointed at the identical twin brothers: the sheriff deputies that took me to the courthouse for all my hearings. Roy and Ray grabbed my arms and forced me to sit in my chair. With their hands still on my shoulders, I gave both of them a “fuck-you” smile. They responded with a “we’ll-get-you-later-fucker” smile.
    I turned my attention back to the judge. I grinned at Bukowski. He shook his head. “Ronimus, you severely beat an innocent man for no reason. And I think—”
    “FUCK THAT!” I stood up. “He hurt me with his words. He called me—”
    The power-tripping bailiff, Ray, silenced me by using his dirty hand to cover my mouth. Then Roy wrapped his arms around my torso. Bukowski stood up from his throne. “RONIMUS! I told you not to interrupt me again! Now let me FINISH!”
    With Ray’s hand still covering my mouth, I nodded my head as I made eye contact with Bukowski.
    Ray removed his hand from my mouth, and Roy released his grip on me. Roy told me to sit down, and Ray told me to shut up. I obeyed their commands. Then I grinned at Bukowski. “Sorry, Your Honor.”
    With disgust on his face, Bukowski shook his head. “There are no excuses for what you did to that innocent man. But unfortunately, under the law, your behavior is excusable.” He cleared his throat. “If I had my way, you’d be going to PRISON! But I don’t, so I am sending you to an institution called Nobla.” He took a drink from his cup; that I suspected had alcohol in it. “Your mind may be sick, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to violently attack people. You have been arrested over and over for fighting, but this time you almost killed a man. And because of your actions, I’m taking your freedom and liberty away from you. And though I am disgusted by what you did, I sincerely hope that you get the help you need at the hospital. So you can return to society as a productive citizen, and not as the same violent criminal that you are now. Do you have anything to say for yourself, Ronimus?”
    I let out a loud, annoying laugh. “Yes...yes I do, Your Honor.” I grinned. “AHHHHHHHH!”
    Roy and Ray quickly shut me up and subdued me. Bukowski banged his gavel repeatedly. Then he yelled at me. “RONIMUS! STOP YELLING!”
    With laughter in my mind, and with my eyes looking at Bukowski, I nodded my head. Bukowski motioned to Roy and Ray, and they took their hands off of me. I sneered at Roy and Ray. Then I turned my attention to Bukowski. I smiled. “Judge Bukowski, Your Honor. I don’t give a fuck if you send me to the hospital for the rest of my—”
    Before I could finish my sentence, Ray’s dirty hand covered my mouth. Then Roy and Ray started to escort me out of the court room. But right before I was almost out of the court room, Bukowski ordered them to bring me back to the defense table.
    With Ray’s dirty hand still over my mouth, Roy and Ray dragged me back to my chair. Ray whispered in my ear, “If you disrespect the judge again, I’ll rip you out of this chair and drag you out of here by your feet. And later on I’ll kick the shit out of you.”
    Ray took his hands off my mouth; then he smiled at Bukowski. Under my breath, I said, “You’d probably like to drag me out of here by my prick.”
    “What did you say!” snapped Ray.
    “I SAID...you probably would like to show me a magic trick.”
    Ray put his hands on my shoulders. “Stop trying to be funny. Just chill out, Ronimus. Got it?”
    I laughed. “Yeah, I got it.”
    I smiled at Bukowski. He shook his head. “Ronimus, take that stupid smile off of your face and listen up. I am going to let you finish what you wanted to say. BUT, if you disrespect me again, you’re out of here, bud!”
    I took the smile off my face. “That’s fair Your Honor.” I grinned. “I don’t care if you send me to the hospital for the rest of my life, because I don’t want to return to your society that’s full of inconsiderate, greedy sociopaths who don’t care about anybody but themselves. And here you are, doing what you do for a living, taking freedom away from people. Well, I don’t really care if you take mine away. Because there is not a lot of freedom in the free world anyway. At least not in the societies that you and your people control. I want to live in the mental hospital. So, I’m denying you the satisfaction that you’re used to getting when you take away someone’s freedom. Take my freedom and liberty and shove it up—”
    Ray covered my mouth with his hand. Bukowski’s face turned red as he banged his gavel; he looked like he was going to explode. He said, “You don’t care if I take away your freedom, huh!” He shook his head. “Balls!”
    Judge Bukowski got up off his throne and he started walking towards his chambers. As he walked away, he ordered Roy and Ray to remove me from the court room.
    After I was taken from the courtroom, Roy and Ray put handcuffs and leg shackles on me. While they were putting on the shackles, a beautiful woman wearing a skirt-suit walked by us. Roy looked at her; then he looked at Ray. Roy said, “I’d eat the corn out of her shit.”
    “So would I,” said Ray.
    I laughed. “I think you guys should be the ones getting locked up in a mental hospital.” I shook my head. “You sick fucks.”
    Ray punched me in the stomach. “Shut up, Whitey!”
    Though I could barely breath, I was still able to kick Ray in the leg. Ray pulled his baton from his belt ring. “You son-of-a-bitch!”
    Roy put his hand on Ray’s shoulder. “Not now, brother. Not here!”
    Roy and Ray took me outside and loaded me into a van. We left the courthouse and started heading towards Nobla: the oldest mental hospital in the state of Oregon.


    When we got to Nobla, Roy and Ray dragged me towards the hospital’s entrance. As I was dragged along, I looked at my new home and its surroundings. The exterior of the mansion was ugly. The only beauty I saw was nature’s; the trees, bushes, and flower gardens that were everywhere around the property.
    Despite what I told Judge Bukowski, I really didn’t want to be locked up in a hospital. Especially, because I knew I would be there for an undetermined amount of time. Which was a scary reality to me; I knew it would be like life: I wouldn’t know when it would end.

The Distant Road

Sonia Segura

    I guess I should have seen it coming.....trouble! It seemed to always follow me. My first instinct told me to ride away into the sunset, while the going was good! My Mama always told me that the T in my middle name should have stood for Trouble not Theodore. I didn’t mean to cause trouble; it just followed me everywhere. I sure enough proved my Mama was right.
    It all started the day I rode in to the sleepy town of Broken Arrow. I had been on my own since I was no bigger than knee high to a grasshopper. My folks and sister had died in a fire and I was left an orphan at six years old, with no other family to speak of. Our closest neighbors and supposed friends took pity on me. Or so I thought. But, then they found out that I could be used as free labor for their fields. I guess I grew up a bit rebellious. It didn’t help having no affection from my so-called new parents.

    Meanwhile, a few years had come and gone. I was a bit older and able to understand that if I didn’t high tail it out of there my life would be over! I decided to borrow their best horse. I figured I deserved it! Out here in the West you were considered a man at fifteen years old and - yes, Sir I surely did think of myself as a man.
    I had traveled far during the two weeks I had left my old life behind. I had tried to avoid the big towns. I spotted Broken Arrow in the distance and it seemed like the answer to my prayers. It was the kind of town I was looking for to settle in. As I rode into town I received the usual look over when someone new is in town. The people appeared to be friendly enough, with a smile here and there. I had never seen so many people in my life. I was in awe!
    While I had taken provisions and a good horse, money was another matter. I thought the saloon was as good a place as any to ask about a job. I was so hungry, I felt my innards were about to bust out. Also, I had no place to stay the night. I got off my horse and tied it to the hitch-rail. I walked into the saloon, the swinging wooden doors hitting me as I went in. I heard snickers from the table closest to the door. Trouble makers was what they were. I ignored them and decided that my growling stomach was more important than retaliation. I walked up to the bartender and asked, “Mister, you know anyone that’s hiring around here?”
    He replied, “Son, you better get out of here. Those boys back there are looking for trouble. They already have an eye on you and have marked you as the target for their games.”
    I looked back and sure enough they were already making their way towards the bar. As soon as they reached the bar they surrounded me. The one that was acting as their leader pushed me and said, “I hear you are looking for work.
    Well, we have a job for you. All you have to do is beg for it.”
    I knew they were not serious. They just wanted to mess with me. I tried to not mind them. But, like I said before, trouble seemed to always follow me around and it had found me. All I had wanted was a good meal and a place to stay! I guess that was not happening! When was lady luck going to show her face?
    I said, “Look, I ain’t looking for trouble here. I was just leaving.”
    The bartender said, “Boys, just let the fellow go.”
    Of course they didn’t listen to him. All of them ganged up on me and threw me through the swinging doors. I fell on the ground and was about to get up, when I looked up and saw an angel’s face. I thought I had hit my head really hard and was having some kind of vision. Because that’s what she looked like to me - a vision! The sun was hitting her hair at an angle and it looked like spun gold. Her eyes were the color of the purest blue. That’s what had made me think of an angel. Because when I had looked into her eyes I had thought of heaven.
     She extended her hand towards me and said, “Hello? Are you alright? I overheard you asking for a job? I think I can help you there. My name is Emily. My uncle and aunt are looking for someone to help them at their general store.”
     Hallelujah! Lady luck had finally decided to make an appearance! I wanted to go back to the saloon and rescue my dignity and balls. But looking at this angel of mercy made my mind up for me. She helped me up. I thanked her and cleaned myself up as best as I could. We headed down the street towards the general store. I felt very proud to escort Emily down the street to her aunt and uncle’s place. Emily and I walked into the general store.
    I have to admit I was nervous and scared. I was not used kindness from folks. This was all new to me.
    What I saw almost blew my boots off! This was my first time in a place like this! This was the most amazing place and with such a variety of things to eat. I don’t believe I had ever been to such a place where they sold so many things! Then I looked at the food and my stomach started to protest. I felt a bit embarrassed about that in front of Emily. I sure was hungry! The little food I had taken when I left home had kept me for a couple of days. I had eaten whatever fruits and berries I found and had also had trapped a few squirrels that were good eats. We approached the counter where Emily’s aunt and uncle were helping some customers. They looked like nice folks, but I had thought that of my adoptive parents. Boy, had I been wrong about that!
    Mr. Walker, Emily’s uncle said, “Emily, dear? Who do you have with you?”
    Emily told them about the trouble I had had at the saloon and that I was looking for a job and a place to stay.
    He asked me, “Son, where are you coming from?”
    I felt a bit intimidated by him. I had not been around too many people in my life. I told him I had come a few weeks’ ride south from here. Then I said, “Listen Mister, I’m hungry and need a place to stay and I’ll work for it”.
    He answered, “My wife and I have been looking for some help with the store and you are a godsend!”

    It had been a long time since I had heard any kind of praise from anyone and it sure made me feel good. He suggested that, if I didn’t mind, I could stay out in the back store-room.
    If I didn’t mind? I was grateful for the offer and the trust! And it sure beat sleeping in a barn full of animals as I had been doing before, while living with my adoptive parents. That night I had supper with Emily and her uncle and aunt. I finally felt like part of a real family. I would try my darndest to not let these people down. When Emily and I were grown up a bit, we fell in love and married. When her aunt and uncle passed on they left us the general store. We raised our four children with love. My life had come to the end of the road and my distant future was sure looking bright.

I Could Kill Us Both

AE Baer

    The human experience- a beautiful bastard child of chaos and order, bent in all the right places, spent believing in the certainty of an uncertain moment that will never come, one that will change everything. A miracle, prosperity, understanding, perfection, success, love- the pinnacle of a want so severe a child’s Christmas appetite couldn’t compare. But it’s there, always, and that expectation in the end will remain only hope. For we are otherwise too busy painting the uncertainty of the only certain moment we can be sure of, death, with the colors of a lullaby. The question until then, one we all must answer is: who am I? this fleshy puppet, this orchid with lungs, this symmetrical being, me.
    Me. Ha.
    I roll the cigarette between my fingers and watch the smoke sink into the room, my pretty, pretty room. It holds me; it’s the only thing that really knows me, that listens to me, that keeps my secrets and my self-abuse quiet.
    I love it, if love is anything, even, I love it.
    The walls are like old skin, scarred, with pretty ornaments for show-and-tell, but it stinks of its owner’s insecurities, my oiled perfume. Did I hang the Wittgenstein poster because I’m a desperate fan or because I’m desperate for affection, for admiration, to be considered something like a street philosopher, a savant? Oh, I just want you to say I’m brilliant, damn!
    The ‘Pulp Fiction’ poster is honest. I adore Tarantino. Mostly because he’s mad and I’m mad and we could get along. And I like the film because it’s gritty and black. It’s about people and their twisted convictions and opinions and how they parade around with their hands in their pockets as if the whole damn world turned and turned just to warm the soles of their miserable feet.
    What was that quote- sit we upon thrones but still sit we upon our own behind- I think it was Montaigne who said that.
    You see I’m polished, and civilized, I remember the voices of brilliant dead men.
    It reminds me of when I was young and bold and believed in the animal of politics. I spent a summer campaigning for some flat-faced white woman with all her hounds, sitting in her palace sipping coffee and pretending to understand their Latin and their French and golf and Picasso.
    I prefer Salvador Dali. The Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by the Horns of Her Own Chastity. It hangs above my yellow mattress in the back room; I can see the virgin now, staring into the canvas.
    What else is there in my room, that you would care about? Nothing, nothing, nothing.
    The floor is half-carpeted with used shag. I go through phases of caring to clean and making the effort of dirtying every inch and not bothering to care at all. I’m in between phases.
    I’m always in between phases, I’m never in one. The ideal of yesterday becomes the vice of today. Until night, when I no longer believe in anything anymore, and it all becomes a hole of sound, swallowed like the sun.
    I suck on the cigarette and hope the smoke rakes my lungs; I need a physical reason to bitch about, something concrete, instead of all this abstract garbage I often invent, through circular reasoning, I know. But I’m not miserable, it’s true, I’m miserable, and I choose to be.
    Isn’t that wonderful?
    Choice, choice, choice.
    I hate choice. All it does is remind you of everything you can’t do, everything you’ll never be able to do, and everything you wish you could do until you wake up and damn it all because you’ve been kneeling in the middle of a disintegrating road your entire life.
    But you have a choice. Which side to leap off.
    I snuff the light on my coffee table, dramatically, so I can feel alive. I’m so human, like you, I’ll go out of my way to create a scene. Otherwise, life is boring, and raw.
    Life: drifting down a tunnel of love with death sitting beside you smiling and smelling of woman- and you’re well aware, but you have only the freedom to pretend, that maybe, in the end, everything is going to be alright.
    Certainly. Ha.
    I laugh because that’s all I can do and she understands, she tugs on the corners of her infected lips and smiles like a whore who orgasms sincerely. She can’t imagine what it feels like, to become gradually worn and festered and worthless until your shadow weighs more than your skin and your memory runs with color, but she doesn’t need to slip on my clay boots anyway and play altruist. My submission to ruin is her heroin, the un-tethered kind, where no one is an addict and the needle builds pretty basements in her skin instead of wormed holes. Besides, it’s a matter of self-purification, preservation, and deification, death knows she’s got me by the balls, so why make room for sympathy?
    I want none anyway.
    Let her come with her honey comb lips and newspaper-colored skin and skittle walk, her toes fashionably pearl like a lady in a nightmare, to tear me down layer by layer, thought by thought, being by being, until there is nothing left in me but- succumb.
    I stand and feel my legs creak, and I’m tired, in the mood for nothing, but maybe to stare out of my window into the whirl pool of everything I hate.
    The city.
    What a wretched stone doghouse, a sluggish festoon, with streets for guts and shadows for sinew. A hive, with a million faceless men pacing its avenues, constantly busying themselves with personal obsessions, flux, and red-flag routine all provided by their urban mother, the alchemist of whatever, happiness? I don’t know- the city.
    What drives a man to embrace a community of strangers who keep their faces in an urn by the door anyway? The disquiet of the self? A fear of loneliness or a vague sense of being? The inability to enjoy one’s personal company in nowhere? Or the continuous need to occupy one’s thoughts, desires, and actions between the time of existence and the time of no more, without ever having to embrace actuality?
    But I must admit, I often walk the streets with spliced disgust and discrete admiration, for the city, even in her darkest hour, black as a mausoleum for the masses, is a Helen, captivating like crippled romanticism, sadistically arousing, and a machination of humanist occult beauty. And the collision of life within, a moments intertwining of beings who will never cross paths again, is such a terrifying reminder that no matter how high we climb we will always be but a splinter in a wooden heart stilled by a world of goliath proportion.
    How I love all the beautiful city people.
    The taxi driver with his personality on his dashboard, a Moroccan flag, a Bob Dylan t-shirt, and a clay face wrinkled and torn by the razor wire of time. I love to wonder, what kind of man is he, what are his passions, how about that darkest secret all men carry, like lead, to the grave.
    What about the street vendor with mustard on his hands, waste-deep in a ratty copy of the Wall Street Journal, a Camel Meth hanging from his mouth like a smoking ornament? What are his gravest fears and his heaviest ambitions? Was he a man who’d lost the dreams he had as a child, diluted by the tempest doubt, scorned by the reality that he could never become who he always wanted to be?
    Probably. Mediocrity is subtle, warm poison, we share.
    And the tourists with their ball caps and accents, free for a time to lose themselves in a foreign dark room, flooded by the enthusiasm of escape and porous adventure. What are their thoughts and sins, their opinions and beliefs, their disgusts and lusts?
    The city depresses me like the memory of old love. You cup it in your hands and hold it close to your riddled heart, desperate to forget, desperate to remember, but as time drags on it becomes a ghost without color, a pain without closure, never ceasing to remind us all that life is laced with sudden dark beauties, escapable.
    I have become amused with the world, that she could be so cold toward her greatest species, that we who learned to skin her mountains and forge temples of steel and conquer her oceans and sky and cultivate language and war become nothing but rotten fodder and mildewed thoughts on the bottom of a casket. And is that fair? That in the beginning we mingle and live among each other, trading hopes and ideas, but when the final grains of sand slip down the neck of an hour glass you have only yourself.
    Yourself and nothing more.
    And here, in the epicenter of humanity, I find and face the constant realization that men, no matter how important or accomplished they become, are still so miniscule.
    Maybe I’ll wander the streets tonight after the sun stops bleeding, to be entertained by the peep shows a block from a cathedral and the homeless lying in gutters as limos passed by. Or I’ll listen to the Dead Weather and ride the subways and bus, studying the stenciled faces of my companions in travel, all different shades and shapes and colors, all occupied by different thoughts and stale daydreams. We’ll tour the congested commercial streets together, the ones prettied by décor and the ones trashed and reeking of sweet piss and the alleys where the corpse of an unwanted fetus attract flies and rogue dogs in a trash bin. Or I’ll just sit on the stoop of my building and burn one down and watch the faces of depravity and drug addiction linger in clam-colored window panes across the way while bell boys cart around the leather bags and aged chardonnay of capitalist barons and celebrities in the pretty part of town just a block up.
    My phone starts ringing, but I’m not in the mood to answer it. I know who it is already anyway, probably my roommate to let me know he’s off work so I can pack a bowl or pick up beer or run my ears into the ground about some lame whatever.
    I’m just not interested, not tonight; I prefer myself and my misery.
    Grabbing my coat and slipping on my moccasins I make for the door and head downstairs and out into the city streets, the veins of my dear stoned mother.
    The closest bus stop isn’t far, but I think I’ll take the one on eighth. I’d rather not run into anyone I might know and it’s only an extra block or so of dragging my feet.
    Or maybe I’ll just walk the few blocks to the bridge and sit and stare.
    I light another cigarette just to give me something to do because I haven’t got anything to think about right now. I hate that. When my head feels empty. Because then I don’t know what to do and I bite my fingernails and shift my hands from pocket to pocket and flip through my phone and stare at the cement because it’s awkward to look anywhere else, I suppose.
    I hate myself, this whole routine of my being. But doesn’t everybody?
    I think so.
    Everybody hates who they are just as much as they love who they were, what they’ve become, where they might be going- if any of that exists at all in some contorted positive limelight. But I wonder, at times, rather always, if I am the only one so twisted as to constantly consume my conscious being with doubting, that I am even real.
    Or if you are real. Or if this, this everything, is real.
    What is real?
    If, as people argue, you cannot know good without knowing evil then how can we understand what is real without understanding what is unreal? Clearly something unreal cannot be. It cannot even be nothing. Because nothing is real. Nothing is everything that everything is not.
    Unless the nature of something is exactly what it is not. Like darkness. Darkness does not actually exist, rather it is only a lack of light.
    But maybe I question too much. I dig too deep. Am I the only one damned with this kind of obsession, this typified desire to know meaning, even the meaning behind meaning? No, no- it’s this I’m certain that has driven mankind more than anything else, or at least those of intellect. The rest seem to latch onto whatever they are conveniently born into, whatever seems to satisfy their dullness.
    I think it’s unfair. That they are so easily amused and I am not. I wish I could be dumb again, a canvas without will, mechanic, letting the paint run so prettily across my skin to form whatever portrait my painter wants to see.
    I remember searching for such an institute, one that could flatten me to a point where money and fashion and politics no longer seem like the plastic games they so obviously are. Of course no such institute exists, at least not for people like me. You have school and church for the rest, institutions that fit you snug into a pretty umbilical cord where you can have all the crooked fact you want for a slice of your time and your individuality and your natural, pure humanity.
    They never did teach me who I really was, they just suggested what I could be, a shadow in their dark room, how courteous. No, instead they revealed what I could not be, who I wasn’t- a disciplined contributor to society, a citizen, a man, the epitome of their proper labels.
    Most people want all their lives to be grand, known, loved. I just want the crazy to go away, exeunt please the creep who sits behind my curtain laughing and laughing because I can’t enjoy anything, I can’t sit in a moment without realizing I’m a clown drowning in a pool of nonsense.
    Like this moment. The one now. Of me walking and walking down the street with these thoughts and a lot of sour plastered across my face so no one looks at me. Some still do. The ones, I know, stare at me cross as if their happy bubble is bothered by my obvious dismay. Sometimes I try staring back but I have this terrible habit of shaking uncontrollably when I feel like I’m attracting too many eyes or any eyes or however many.
    Sometimes I imagine them commenting to me, something like ‘Smile boy it’s not that bad’ or whatever. It’s usually absurd dialogue, nothing real. Then I become the witty one who snaps back brilliantly with some kind of retort like ‘It’s not that bad? Have you read the news today?’
    I guess that’s a poor example. But if they did slam me with one of their favorite small talk lines I’d counter perfectly, so I imagine myself to.
    Why do I need to even imagine such a thing? It’s self-gratifying, me pitting myself on this hypothetical throne. How come my own legitimacy must derive out of fantastical cynicism?
    I know, I know what you would say if you were here. It’s only a matter of attitude; think positive, hope, all that garbage. I hate that happy nonsense. It wouldn’t be a matter of attitude, it would be a matter of pretend. I can’t pretend, I can’t be like you, if you are even pretending that everything is so pretty. Or at least bits of it.
    And I hate how I go on these random tangents, especially when I read. I read and read but slip away all the time. I’m reading now, ‘The Adolescent’, it’s good really. I can relate. Maybe that’s why I’ve always enjoyed reading all that posh everybody else considers boring required reading while I find all the best-sellers more or less baboon material in miniskirts.
    I must admit, though, that I make a conscious effort to flash the covers of all my books when in public. Or I stick it in my back pocket, as if it’s an accessory, an expression, so you can know who I am and that I am literate and intellectual. Again, self-gratification, as always.
    Damn I’m no different from the rest, from the doll who paints her face so she can be beautiful. Or how about the slug who cuts his sleeves so everyone can admire his oversized triceps or biceps or whatever. We’re all walking sculptures it seems- vain- we’d love to all sit in a gallery somewhere to be admired wouldn’t we.
    It reminds me, I forgot to bring something to read on the bus...
    But, again, the tangents and the tangents, are you beginning to understand my problem? Perhaps. Perhaps it might help if you knew who I was. Perhaps I could help you if I knew. Maybe I should go with the basics, the things they used to ask you on your first day of elementary school, like what’s your favorite color-
    Favorite color. How can anyone even favor a color? What’s a color anyway without the rest? Why should I even bother wasting my thoughts on figuring out what color I should favor?
    Blue is too common. I know too many people who love blue. Nothing is really blue anyway. The sky isn’t naturally blue, the ocean isn’t naturally blue, it’s more or less just a game of light. But every color is a game of light isn’t it?
    I remember when I was young and bold I loved green. I’m not sure why. I don’t even remember when green was no longer my favorite.
    Pink was my favorite once too. Because I love being the antithesis of what I should be. Clearly, pink is not masculine. Though muscles are pink. Pink, they say, is a girly color. I remember in third or fourth grade a girl claiming that purple was girly, not pink. I think her mother loved purple and hated pink.
    Subtle conditioning.
    If I ever have children I’d teach my son that pink is masculine and tell my daughter that blue is feminine. It would be an experiment, of course, a derivative of amusement. I find it funny that as a child you are so convinced that colors correlate with gender. Don’t you recall all the berating and arguing revolving around color?
    It was suicidal for a boy to even find pink agreeable when I was young. I remember throwing away pink crayons and laughing at the other boys who wore pink and hearing the parents inquire from one another about whether or not that boy there on the playground with the pink gloves was a blooming homosexual.
    Whatever. These tangents.
    I fall out of my head and find myself on the bridge, my cigarette long dead.
    The sun finally starts to sink, its tangerine coils evaporating and succumbing to the black licorice cantina of Artemis and her ebony funeral dress. I let my feet hang off the bridge and watch the city begin to spark and smolder.
    Gulls sing and crash into fire water illuminated by lights, the smell of sewage and bay is thick, as grease, and the needling breeze fat with musk, Italian food, and smoke forces me to bend my shoulders in like a fetus.
    This is the city I suppose, as beautiful as sin, with her guttural lullabies, always alive and ready to accompany the living on their pursuit to distract the senses and the mind from death and truth.
    But as I sat under the bridge in the bosom of an unsterile human ant farm, I had to thank the city for its constant single and gross realization, that this is why the whole operatic show is so utterly fucked up. Because as long as humanity has an excuse to distract itself with gauche materialism and a drugged sense of worth and being, the impossibility of harmony remain as concrete as city bones. I can’t blame us anyway, for humanity alone is too dull to deserve a charge for flaws designed by a Cronus in black furs.

8 to 89

Stefan V.S. Gibson

    Im drunk. Brain bashed off beer and whiskey backs. Behind the wheel pedal to the floor windshield wipers whipping wet rain every which way vision blurred seven ways to eternity and invincible. I have a vendetta and I aim to crash into it tears mixed with broken glass streaked red with the dark side of every commercial that romanticized my state of being and ended with the perfect punch line: Drink Responsibly. Youre shotgun. No seat belt. Knuckles kneaded into white fear stomach heaved up to your throat forcing the screams out of your ears and the blood from your brain. But its not your time to die. Or mine. Statistically. Way back when before I ever touched any form of liquid that could alter your state of stop and go and send you into hysterics haphazardly singing your silly soul into a stinking microphone voice amped up on short circuit speakers wired wrong into the sound system only making it easier for those that were on the edge of puking to do so while your friends gazed on under ugly green lights and tilted highball to eyeball putting his hand on your girlfriends thigh if refused could be blamed on what the bar man gave him while the other lusty friend waited his turn on the too sticky stage so you could do the same thing while he goes up there: I met a man.
    Hot sun blazing down on hard slabs of concrete pushing the already climbing heat index dangerously up and past full melt down raining merciless heat on me bummed out on a bench. Sweating it out. No reason. Fleeing the great depression of the overused oversold cliché of the fulltime picked apart patricians of office cubicle sprawl headache inducing repetitively bland screen savers muted white light hanging above my head with the menace of the pendulum trudging in the malaise of trying hard to do nothing because the four year degree final exam up all night studying student fees loans near pregnancies and endless doubt chains of fate ending up like your parents dragged kicking and screaming across that stage to smile politely as some bald scholar handed you a diploma knowing his life was no better and should have been screaming at me run! But couldn’t because he had to keep up appearances with peers his age that seethed and hissed behind frozen masks of complacency to do the same thing Bald Man couldn’t because doing what you wanted with your life was not deemed irresponsible so every one just hopped on the same merry-go-round of a life time ahead of self loathing because they ended up the way they didn’t want to because they did everything they were supposed to do staring right back at me reflected through the glass sitting on my desk punching me in the face from that monitor.
    Twenty six stories of constructed slab rocks mortar and steel twenty feet behind me enduring the sun on my collection of fabric from the Mens Warehouse two for three deal heating up my torso while a popcorn kernel came to mind and that’s when he sat next to me. His eyes were clear. The lightest gray I had ever seen. Big ears. Not much hair and what was there was kept neat. Tall. Stocky in a skinny way. Maybe military. Maybe not. Id bet on it. Five minutes passed in dead silence. Shoulder to shoulder on a bench too small to be complaining about it because you sat on it and should have known what you were getting into. A graveyard of decorum. The pigeons could have been buzzards of conversation picking at the spare bones of two people with nothing to say. Blue skies no clouds broiling sun and the air was head stuck in an oven hot when he spoke. “89.” He said. I had half a chug of water snailing down my throat from a designer water company that distributed water that tasted like they got it from a rusty tap somewhere far off in a third world country with dark complexion ethnicities and naked babies playing happily flies leap froging off their baby fat in the dirt in a place where traditions still stood the test of time and nobody gave one thought to the weekend box office totals and people watched in horror through television tubes that transported themselves there and only showed the “savagery” they would never have to endure with their ass plunked happily in Lazy Boy luxury happy not to be there while two blocks over someone took a revolver to the roof of their mouth and blasted big bits of parts of something they used to think with across the family portrait above the fire place where it would eventually be discovered by the wife and kids coming home from a soccer game they almost won but lost and because this water was stuck in my throat I arched a brow.
    “89.” The same epitaph jettising from that bottomless lexicon of word verbiage that represented the entire subliminal neurosis of this born world past the partially parched lips held in form by porcelain teeth yellowed and eroded from decades of coughing up phlegm and sending it projectile two steps ahead of him only to step on its slick soiled mass leaving wetted footprints of partially detectable DNA for at least six steps as he walked on various surfaces of the span of his life adhering to the rules of gravity that held him fixed there under the rules whether he wanted to or not until they day he died and then he continued. “Its what I heard or read somewheres. 89. Statistically. That’s how many a times a drunk driver can get behind the wheel of a car before it all finally takes toll squares away and gets accounted for.” He squared his clear gaze on me. Silent. I gulped. Wiped brow. “I don’t drink.” I remember saying. “Never have.” He rolled his tongue underneath his lip rippling the skin a tidal wave of wrinkled elderly flesh vulgar as anything and I had never been so unaroused. He coughed and nodded. “This aint no pissing contest. Im just stating facts.” Whatever contest it actually was I never found out. My break was over ten minutes before he sat down though I was hoping when I returned to be greeted by an old fashioned midshift firing that would never come so I lingered with the man. “You smoke?” I told him I didn’t. “You got a quarter?” I told him I used plastic for everything. The man winded up his scraggly bones yawned and got up hacked phlegm stopped to itch his crotch then proceeded to just barely side step his phlegm letting it glisten and coagulate under that dead yellow star. He uttered something. A lie or a prophecy Ill never know because I stopped listening just at the point of the hack staring at that mass of him that was no longer in him but out of him. He about faced and started walking away. I kept being hot wondering why I wanted to hold on to that quarter that had been sticking me in the leg sense well before lunch and then opened my mouth and exhaled for the first time since that stranger sat down next to me.
    It’s the opposite of stifling in here. Frozen air flittering full blast from fractured fans forcing furious frost against the windows. Booze goggles at least six packs stacked in six pairs flawing flat faltering vision. Wipers whipping wet and wild fighting a frantic and fabulous hail storm. Cackling laugh kicking out crazy staccato all in effort to keep me alert. Not because Im afraid of what will happen to poor intoxicated me but what would happen to the car. Wrapping warped wrapped steel and wrecking a perfectly good lamppost would be murder. Me alive before 89 and the car totaled would dissolve all intimacy created to this point. Spine ringing roars kicking out of my orifice as I turn to you and ask “What do you know about love?” Hold on. Lets push past this perfectly perched and placid red bulb bucking into the into intersection of our own possible pointless demise.
    Horns blaring. Cars screech and swerve. Tires skidding on slick oil slip sliding and side swiping careening out of the way of my sorrowful sad eyed delusion of self. Is this in the name of love. No wait let me tell you what I know about the big “L”. That word that cant be recognized alone. That we don’t know apart. That we cant feel without touching with something our hands can never grasp. That thing that greets with a seductive soft swooning wet kiss right on the mouth of our naivety and wantonness so helpless to give a God damn thought to the consequences. That notion that makes a man want to dyke out just to grab a bright brief glimpse of what she thought it was before her ten inch tall spiked tipped heels tip toed all over your heartbreak and tap danced away with apart of you forever. That L shaped two inch lacerated blade she sticks in your gut and twists slow and lifts tailing crimson colored trickles of lust and life right to your big bright red blood beater and bats an eye it would take an eternity to forget. That. Yes Im talking about that. Immoveable invulnerable subtle cord she can wrench right out of you and drop in the perfect paper shredder not meant for pulp paste making you wake up and realize what they truly meant by heart strings. That. I loved her. I really loved her. That.
    What day was it? Or was it night. I don’t care it was a nightmare so who cares if my time is right. Soft eyes dark skin and a smile from heaven that sent heat into your heart like it was burning in hell. Everyday I saw her she was right there. I closed my eyes and she was right there. Her voice was a melody and I like when she talked and the sound. She wiped the whole thing away from me fanning dust from our monument to the things leading up to the moment that fissured and quaked crumbling into tiny fragmented pieces of memory that would never come together again the way it had before because at that size and that height things crashed hard. Her hair was pulled back dress plain no shoes barefoot sitting at the foot of my bed me propped against a pillow naked under a sheet behind her waiting for her to turn and look back at me so I could see her face and match it to the face last night when we were one comparing them enabling me to come to a conclusion I demanded but she wouldn’t so I laid there waiting for what was coming to me even though I thought I knew. She sighed when she said it. Going back in time with adamant refusal to do what was right a broken ticking clock as she took toll of all the reasons. One after another of what she had done wrong. Of what I had failed to do right. Of how what held us together no longer did and she was remorseful. No air in the room all gone evaporated now saturated with hate and self loathing breathing in those exhaust fumes choking on bile and resentment and ache and pain blowing gaskets in my soul. I erupted so destructive and sudden and savagely to extremes so quietly within myself eyes wet and mournful charged with impulses of destruction and let her hand rest on my face as I said “I know.” That’s when she looked at me and said what I felt would unwind the chord tightening against my grief but only added uncountable knots to the sadness and she got up and took her coat from a chair and walked out of my life without her shoes.
    I found myself at a bar. Dull brazen lights. Mirrors distorting a place that didn’t need to be distorted unless that distortion came from cigarette smoke that wasn’t allowed anymore because peopled organizations determined everyone should fear dying dismal deaths from something that couldn’t be anymore harmful in the long run that extreme heat and wasn’t allowed. Liquor was new to me and I didn’t know where to start. My dad died in a mysterious way. A note by the side of the bed only he was missing a pulse and the letter half finished made out to some woman that was not my mother and the coroner couldn’t determine for anything what killed him. So I sat there at the bar ordered some drink promoted by some woman that God had smacked in the face with attractiveness she could profit from my money contributing to her pay check in some complex way that only an economic wizard or man with the basic black and white thought of a child could pin down because I couldn’t on the sole fact that by the time I even thought about it I was drunk urinating at a stall urine sprinkling my starched pants ruminating on a pretty girl that popped my binge drinking cherry. I stayed for hours drinks and tips draining a bank account I disavowed all knowledge of and that’s when I thought of that big eared old phlegm hacking gray eyed old man and the number 89.
    I didn’t believe it. I didn’t care. And I didn’t have a thing in the world to live for. Statistically a drunk driver can get behind the wheel of a car 88 times and no harm will come to him but the 89th time some mortician somewhere would have his hands busy gathering coffin nails. You can take your fate in your big fat fingers ball it up and throw it into the vast vat of the unknown creep under a desk forever jump out a window set yourself on fire and theres a statistic for how long how painful how depressed and how unchanged the world would be after you were gone. So I took shot after shot point blank and fast dumping it on my digestive system unaccustomed to it from a lifetime of sobriety so when I pushed back from the bar colors where fuzzy words were wavy scenery sashayed every which way and the few people that were there turned beautiful. It was magic and that anonymous bartender with four day foul breath back bent over the counter asked if I was fit to stand. I tipped my top hat that wasn’t there glinted Colgate smile on beer backwash and slid him a napkin I mistook for a mint five dollar bill headed for the door without a word spoken then turned around at the stern stench sifting so suddenly from the mens lavatory turned the opposite direction passed the barkeep once more and left leaning to and fro from there to my correct destination. My car.
    Sweat saturated hands and a steering wheel made of sleek slick synthetic plastic shit. This was drive number one made in sinful heaven. Keys in the ignition knowing full on that farewells were far off. I had the distinct defacto dynamic that I unlike most brain dead demented drunk drivers could keep count accurately from the very first drunk dredge on dry roads to the very last with forewarned knowledge that no number need mean more than 89. Then I twisted key pulled R and punched gas. Hello lonely road hello.
    I wake up head hollering hell and murder. Last nights shirt still soaked and soiled in late night stench stink and sweat. Barely a memory hooking the day before to the now after. A few colors. A table and a urinal all the pieces I have to patch back parts put out of order placed and scattered swirled around and wretched on. A hangover that fell off forcing fowl familiar not forgotten things farther forth toward forgotten and I never felt so bad feeling so far gone and good. Then She steps out mist following her ghost presence all to real naked from the waist up unrecognizable with glasses stuck to her face fogged forcing those phantom faux eyes behind circular secret mirrors and I admire her. She asks if Ive seen her shirt this female stranger stranger even more because how she arrived in my home I don’t know but even knowing wouldn’t affect a thing because this strange strangers shirt I couldn’t even fathom to recite some sort of repulsion reeked response to its location so I shudder in my sheets and turn over from the light. Is this an alcoholics life man made and moist with soaked shower air clinging close cloud style to fleeting framed moments? She drapes herself in a shirt that isn’t hers grabs knob opens door and says “Call me”. I never knew her name or her number.
    At some trendy restaurant chain people populated by hoaxing hip hicks posing as hip hick hipsters ordering clandestine wine leaving tips too low for their bill. Hovering over my half empty highball at a dark dank table all by myself. Swirling the soft slight condensation in small semi circles ruminating on just how far gone I am. Not enough. No eyes eyeing me at peace with no purpose I hoist hand until a waiter places palm and drinks pile and pour at my table. A song breaks. Accompanied by a neophyte. I look center stage and see an angel her looks landing lead heavy on my frozen face. Her eyes and her teeth and that mask made mint by natures neat hands gleamed goddess rays from far away. Pulling strings somehow at a vast void place where something used to be and could care no more. A siren more than songstress softly supplying all my terrors trembling triple time till I couldn’t bare burden and I screamed and then there sat still in the silence. I swiped sweat stood staggered appalled poised and feeling fantastic to know now I was broken from her trance and screamed again. It was done. It was finished. I took a full drink made it empty and then made my way toward my angel demon. A linguistic torrent of curses and compliments trailing and tripping tongue slurred and lucid along my footsteps origin to the microphone. Yank grab mic. Her eyes not even giving glimpse to second guesses for her to stay stern and still for my serenade of sobs sung slow to mile mellow melodies of What if God was One of Us? Old audio audience fave. When I was done I collapsed cold on the stage. Rolled up rolled over realizing my decline I reclined in my car propping myself close to the steering wheel reached turned ignition and was off way past plastered on the road my birth right redemption to hell.
    One hour nineteen calls and no name number left or numb needy message after non dial tone no. On my dresser drawer her picture frame with her picture in it a smirk smile sneer snarling snake eyes kind giving to me what it took back never to give again and I know this. Four AM sun bomb blocked back by cut cloth curtains shutting out what has left from inside me in my hollow cave poor self pity anger aching angst. But those tears haven’t come yet and I wont let them now those are my perfect precious cut stone diamonds price pressed past priceless that maybe she deserved at one moment before I decided not. Hand slow swipe searching through sweat soaked sheets exactly where exactly did I dump that bourbon bottle?
    This is what it feels like when the needle flies into red chug churning one million RPM windows down air howling holy hell plowing pure rage power through a moon lit park where are the people? Trees blur. Park lamps bushes meld into one mad mosaic music pumped as far as decimals dare dying out and lighting fires far behind me. Eyes glazed over all out of breath basted with countless cold cocktails engine revving ramming right through dark benches and plywood dirt grass and gravel trudging triumphantly under tire. This is not death Im taunting but a number you know it fine 89 well what happens if I bite it can I retake it? No this is not a test taken told nor passage from a bold bought book pages torn ripped and revised by the author. This is my misgiven life and far fetched flight into light dark total totality so as I skid scared screeches without bothering to brake back on the worn ugly road just know yes know this will be our end.
    I take it slow today. Deeper into the count down than before last still regrettably not in a state that would have been that state that had it been that state I would not have been able to state this to you. This place has sharp angles. Hexagons and prisms. A triangle. Moody mood music meant to manipulate moodless meanderings to moods of something hard to alter but with meaning. At least it isn’t loud. At least Im not loud. At least the ice tinks against the inside of whats inside my hand letting my thoughts coarse away as it goes down my throat. At least. Its good the waitress doesn’t smile at me. And she smells of a scent that could be something from a moment when she was something close to love and released to whats real perfumed by the memory it belongs to and she is not even aware but I am. So I think its really good she doesn’t smile at me. I think its good that I don’t want to touch her and feel the silk that is her skin and see the scenery in her eyes lush and lavish with emeralds rare and raw. I think that’s a good thing. This place with its rectangles and octagons. Its shapes. And when she passes by I brush my hand against her arm and she stops. And her face. There. A million possibilities and infinite expressions and Im looking down into my glass and I see only one. And then I raise my head to the shapes. My shape shifting shapes and shes gone but her scent is there. The sensibilities. The focus of the loathing. And I don’t mind it. Her lost in the polygons me afloat in the hexagons just wading and I don’t see the harm in it. Not too much at all. And the music. Well the music I could do without.
    The job called. I didn’t answer. I called back and hung up on whoever it was.
    Sixteen calls no answer no nothing. Just something fair faint and faking her voice which wasn’t truly hers recited by some sick solemn sardonic soulless machine.
    I left the bar because it had people in it. And I didn’t want passive participation in people populace penetrating my fragile wall so I left alone and entered darkness. Somewhere under black tall city buildings and pale moonshine shone and shoved as shameless replacements for broken street lamps that failed. Not a place for those who shouldn’t wander wondering body wrought right through the rails perception ruined rotten by something bought and bottled in blown glass and sold to those people back there that wouldn’t mind at all if it took their soul. Holding hands and hard smiles. Opposite opposed forces sexually hoping that mad motivations marching headfast and headlong in opposite directions would some how someway someday collide in the middle and maybe will. But this magically tragic miracle callous cold and calculated will have casualties for those forlorn former lonesome lovers need look else where because that which they wished was theirs was now someone else’s sold sealed certified and cemented with a ring that was made of sand. The air was cold. My skin felt a draft an omen of what was left passing on blown winds toward idealized abysmal replacements of mass made up mockery assimilated as this man that stood before me. He said something. Something maybe this man should not have said right then or maybe something I heard wrong now and I was reminded of that number that brought me back and bounced me out time after time from my isolation. 89. My fist clenched. Blood pulsing through veins vile as venom with the value of what was vulnerable to me at an all time high. I lashed out lost in downtrodden delirium dazed drained and done wishing for an end. My fist missed. His didn’t. Muscle bent bone and blind white light multiplied many times against my face. My agony was my own and I horded it in heaps halfway hoping that this angelic advisary would never stop. The wind blew faint across my exposed bloody body and my extremities would not respond the way I wanted them to. I laid there and tasted the ashes of my passion passing past my swollen tongue missing my teeth. Moments passed moist mild nightmares awaiting as they came. A man and a woman weeping about the broken bits beneath them represented by a bloated bust of bones that wasn’t me and was. As he dial dial dialed I died died died when she looked at me and said that tomorrow was their wedding day.
    From my point of view bandaged bound to a stretcher blood bags bouncing gurgling boiled blood to my system sirens railing racing ravaged roads savagely thrashing me to the methodic mayhem of the EKGs.
    This bed is not comfortable. It isn’t mine and I don’t want to be here. Confined with my spirit but free to go. Is this what they would define as a wake up call. I wouldn’t pay it much attention ignored because my life is in the state of a coma. Nerves on fire with pain. Bruises on top of bruises my left eye swollen shut a split lip and slashes across my face. A doctor entered white hair and clipboard a carbon copy cut out of cliché and redundancy said his name was Dafner then kept his mouth open. I remember snippets of our short hand conversation.
    “You lost a lot of blood.”
    “Feels like it.”
    “We shaved your head. Twelve stitches in the back. Its going to leave a scar.”
    “I don’t care what it leaves.”
    “You should care about taking care of yourself.”
    “I did that for a while and it didn’t get me anywhere.”
    The doctor tucked the clipboard under his armpit and rested his hands against the foot rail of my bed leaning in.
    “Youre on a trainwreck heading to a dark tunnel nowhere good.”
    I looked into his eyes. Analyzing him. Trying to see him from all angles. Tuning my moral antennae to the intent of his intentions and then said what was on my mind.
    “Do you know where they put my keys?”
    Night. Half dressed and bare chested. The TV glares a glow glowering mesmerizing those suitably susceptible enough to have their mind melted fools of folly unwittingly detoured and distracted from the option to turn it off like myself. A newscaster. Big eyed. The face on that facey envied by all that don’t know how half the things he spews are hack hack sawed and rigged together in holsom false fallacies engineered to entertain. But for a monumental moment a misguided minute he finds a way to sift sewage pop news and stick staples down in reality and reveal some stapled truths. Partly paraphrasing the message he snottily snorts is of some mad manic maniac crusing cursed city streets road rage reckless obliterating property causing carless carnage and not for a minute giving a good goddamn about man woman child and his holy holistic hell-bent heathenism has yet to perk part interest by the cities pissed police patrol and is there nothing they can do to stop this man? The car has yet to be indentified. I laugh loud. Its been conspired and confirmed Im a phantom false God negating peace with destruction and I don’t dare stop because this is something more than trite trash news am I the selected single subconscious of the peoples all out anger more pure in purpose than that of something I used to be? My curdling cry out in empathy has garnered gnarling visceral laminations from a public that is now aware of someone drained of half their soul and that is when I remembered the sharp sparks flying as I crashed and careened against that railing coming off the highway bottle in hand shirt half soaked sopped in some sick sinister mix of domestic foreign badashery hog wild with no collusion to my control rocked right up on solid cement barreling down hill with fire fueled combustion jolting as I swerved and missed that kid. He wouldn’t have had a name to me. No one nothing close to it and the chalk outline stained burnt burgundy would have been washed off and wasted what was the only other evidence of him being there save for me. I mulled on this. Consequences for questions that would lie lame and answerless because at sometime there may not be anything left to make of me. 89 was a number. A finite finalized fate a dark doomed destiny chose choice and right as was meant for me for whatever laid ahead I could never turn back. What would be done would be done as my final act. I had a place waiting for me a seat next to those who couldn’t count on blessing that would wander close breaking to the tune of liars promises kneeling before judgment I would answer the truth that I was unoccupied forever fated to remain unwhole. I yank cord and lift set smashing it against the floor crunching glass beneath shoes aching with a reminder that I would not know the outcome of my share and toll. Sink water cools my face. Mirror report. A carless cocky cool chasm of nothing that I see that could glad hand grief as the dark replaces light and I go out again.
    In a unsanitized urinal stall puking my guts out and my aim is not true. Clutching hands clasped around the rim of the throne with no crown part of my pilfered person pushed off the pedestal by me: ex-king and queen of black hearts. Lime tile underneath me cold slick slimy scuffed scratched filmed over by scum. I didn’t lock that latch door and occasionally theres a knock or tug and I tug back proving my polluted pathetic persona occupies something close to what I want to call my makeshift personal confessional. These walls close in on me from four ways formless and fixed on hinges sunk in screwed and secure rebuking my plea for a quick collapse. The stench is unmerciful unflinching and unforgiving. I don’t dare leave this is peace. This is home. A predetermined perfect picture reflected on my current state and status and I want to save savor its scent this scene and all. Reading my surrounding signs and bic pen and magic marker markings on stall walls form faceless phantom folk artists long left and over it the joke lost on an inside punchline that missed its mark trying to hit below the belt and no one cared. In my bottomless basement left to brood. Heart as dirty as the inside of this porcelain pit pitiless to my condition and why shouldn’t it be? I hurl again and this time it is from the heart. Where is she what is she doing right now. I like the poison taste from my parted lips cool colonizing clear memories of the warm words she used to say to me and wonder worried who she was saying them to now. Who was receiving her smile now and returning it with a kiss causing them to caress soft mutual skin and sighs seduced into moments that were once exclusively ours now extinguished with a gust of fraying feelings disdain and that unrequited so called feeling it would always hold out affront available unwanted as the stink of bad perfume. I flush fluids water swirls silly and some of me that was in me goes down with it. What happens when the confessed receives the confession from the confessor that he was not listening? Who decides who is forgiven. I pick up my glass swirl what is left listening to the music slow sifting from there beyond the door from beyond the door where the source of my sado seeking sado therapy touch teases economizing my fate with hours lost painted with smiles with faces and behind that hidden the means to do what can not be done without a cloak. I kick door rolling out numb new to nothing wearing old stink of falling fast failure welling up well worn and well past the geyser levels wondering what went wrong with my wayward ways the angel without wings that was her. I step past lost looking ladies while stock shocked stares come at me as I vacate their private pink palace really wondering how I got there back to my place proper in its purpose to alleviate the deviate as soon as I find my stool.
    Im not stopping. I am not stopping. Not for anything or anyone. Im pushing into the red. Im pushing into the red and well past it. I am not stopping. Everything is a blur. All I see past my windows is a blur. What was once in my rearview no longer is fading speedily into my past disappearing into the line under the horizon just in front of the sun that has yet to rise on my world at 135mph and I am not stopping. When I let the window down the air rushes in howling swirling with rage forcing its way into my nostrils I swallow it in gulps swelling up my lungs with softer smog drained of yesterdays toxins just filling with the toxins meant for today. Im late into the countdown. More than halfway and I can see the tip of 89 in front of me a startling moment of awe chilling and disturbing a decayed rotten hand bursting from the grave grasping for my neck to pull me under. Tires scream flooding the night air with skids smearing the road with rubber scrapping paint against graphiti ridden medians the sound and signs of chaos do not belong to me. They belong to those that had to be there for a random series of events brought on by personal agendas of greed lust envy honest love and loss tying them together with my line of inevitable actions to bare witness to the gaping wound I represented going head long directly into their path. I was not going to stop. I was not going back home. There was no home left to go back to. Only the living had homes. I was no longer alive. I was on borrowed time. A life on loan a hand me down condemned and boarded up already to be replaced and would not stop for anyone. Street lamp glare whipping up my windows flickering with the intensity of jumping fire across my face. Turning my eyes away from the road resisting any impulse to ease up on the gas I plunge my hand into the ocean of empty bottles filling up the passenger side foot well searching for what has become a substitute for my everything. My pain. My feelings. My happiness. It was now the fuel that kept me going and I was grateful. From the well I pulled up something warm wet and faded. It was an old picture of her. I thought I lost it. I thought it was gone forever and now there it was in my hand sagging and soggy. Alcohol bleached around the edges giving the image of her face a badly chosen backlight of gloom. This is what she was to me now. A vodka soaked memory and when I heard that familiar sound of a Semi I didnt look up. I rose her picture to my lips and closed my eyes.
    Waking up to the sound of a street sweeping sentinel sending scents of sullen trash into my nostrils I was having sweet dreams sinful and sinister sex laden sensual and not of her. My car reeked of rot rising restraintless from every point of putrid packed pleather bile rising in my throat then somebody cut the cable cord to my lacerated lungs and kept it cool calm and right where it was. I took toll of bottles mixed a mock cocktail of malice into a half empty pint of potent pale pick me up gasped down gulps to push back the bile and give my lowly liver an even further smacking around without a fighting chance. It was at that point it fully registered I was no longer in the drivers seat. I was put down plowed seven ways from Sunday bound bent broken between the back of the front seats and the front of the back seat stuck staring at the roof semi-sedated and sublime. I had yet to discover how what when and where I was and too damned determined not to care drunk drained debilitated debauched and not really seeing any fault in it. Whatever clues could clear clouds of mystery collecting truth were beyond my windows and I was simply too low to see out into the real world. The gaping gap of general good graces was widening one wrong choice at a time not needing neither mine nor the lords to decide I didn’t have anymore favors coming the clock closing in quick on my end time merely meaning I better take these tasks however menial and meaningless with well weighed weight and caution because a peek just past my window might be Hell itself. So I could wait. And I did feeling the sun heat hot hyper activating my hangover hammering havoc hacking hostile hard and harpoon sharp into my lacerated limp frontal lobes. Then the rapid rap of wrist on glass jumpstarted the jolt that jumped me up into the eyes of the world staring from the outside to within. A bearded man beclothed in bathrobe butch burley and all the same anger etched on every inch within his face. Laughing loud and loose I finally fingered my position lost no more parked planted preened and primped on his front lawn. He yelled and kept on doing that. I came to the daunting dark deranged conclusion that there was more than a plexiglass worthless window muffling the scornful screams that separated his sad world from mine. Then I noticed her photo was gone.
    She hadn’t called there was no message. I sat sunk still mulling melancholy melting into the middle of my couch muffling whimpers into my pillows messed in mildew. My throat was raped raspy by relentless reaches for unrequited love. And alcohol. Bottles upon bottles of body bludgeoning alcohol. I had no idea what time it was or day and the month manifested into something with no meaning. I was in a purgatory prison paradox past the point of peaked formalities falling freely into frothing jaws of detrimental decisions and out of booze. And all too sober. 89 is not for the sober man. Its for that instant innate ill insanity deviating thoughts divert goodwill towards deranged and slightly lying beating better judgment. The mist that held my mind suspended in the depths of outer dark depleted dissipated detached deserting my shriveled protests for no more. One hot blazing belligerent truth shined down and deep within me intense as dessert sun heaped heaven high heaving heat at high noon. She was never coming back. I would falter fumbling forward failed and futile frustrated fighting fits of fury unable to move forward forever. I wept into the couch and just accepted it. I was tanked out trashed and thirsty bars beckoned yet they were closed. Too early now blocked and boarded bound with locks still not open not the time for quite some time. I was at the very farthest point from what some might say was a dead run away from recovery. A sit down on a barstool. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but what was willing waiting ready to put an end to my molten misery really maybe could just make me force a smile.
    The Boss didn’t have much to say to me. He sat there behind his too clean desk eyes gleaming ghastly and not much there but guile. Justified in judging me in my actions or lack there of from his point of view. His stare wordless words wafted whistled hit floor withered right there in front of me his yack hole wide open barely waiting for a practical pace to start up from this pause. Then he spoke. He hand selected me. I was hand selected. So he said and so that’s what it was. He might have mentioned that he made me though met at moments like this those thoughts are thus omitted from ones own mind. What would he have made like this that thought to tear rip toss and ruin his regard. Something sad sorrid and sort of strange admittedly. He was down and disappointed asking if I needed healing help he knew of people poised and ready really able to do something because I was not nearly close to what he proclaimed my normal self. I told him that what was normal numbed me down next to nothing nearly killing me while idle at my desk. Dealing down in life defeated doing nothing next to feeling unrewarded was life in sadistic slow motion merely managing minutes into barely breathable bleak black oblivion. He didn’t understand my phrasing. What Im saying is what I said next is that I was currently loudly living life in real time unmonitored unchecked of my own will not accelerated just more elevated even in evaluation and before you I bare the burden of you seeing your reflection if you simply set to live your life unchained. He rose from his desk and crossed it. Settled back down in front arms folded frosted breath breathing deeply up and down and down and up he looked at me. This was his response: “What I really whish no what I really wondered is if this failed and fragile form I suddenly see in front of me has forged these false beliefs because he believes them or wants to. Your narrow new narcissistic negligence to your well being is nothing next to pure painful selfishness. You have dwindled dearly down to nothing nearly here and hearing only what you wrongly refuse to not believe is nobility. Its not. No. Its not. I was once your reflection wearing rueful wrongs and burden dolling out what havoc I could carry on my heart. Then the day came sudden without warning not a holy calling clean and clear seen or said to you by others trying to bare witness to salvation. The day I died I died that day and somehow certain saints or sainted sinners saw me from my death back to bare this burden you call life. From that point bold braver grasping the parts of me guilt ridden getting rid of them I pulled my merely meager means and started something to sooth my soured legacy. This business you see is mine and mine alone and free from future failing because the life I have I have control on all my own. So tell me this I wonder really how can you be anything almost acting as some sordid seeming sack of something that comes nothing clearly close to what is me and a reflection of myself you are not?” The instant impact of his statement sent me sailing down the hallway hollering halfway on the inside in search of my next drink.
    I never sucked down so quickly so many cigarettes solely to sooth slowly slipping cemented sentiments of my once secure self determination in my own damnation. Brought down bleakly bothering both my belligerent battles within myself and my intent. It didn’t last long. I sunk my sobriety deep down the shimmering pool inside myself keeping up my low self esteem with a good faith of high end hooch from a low end convenience store thanking God they had it. Inebriated stuck in traffic night time highway bumper to bumper to bumper broad side to broad side beamers beaming backing up the blackness blasting with light the darkness that was my barrier losing my way on a highway to nowhere going nowhere sipping slugs from a barely broken in bottle my second one brilliantly beckoning the thought I needed all anew to resuscitate still debilitating my conscience constitution. The radio played several songs serenely each successing the one before in innate emotions playing chorus to the horrors so secluded in my car. I turned it down. Listening to the world around me making mental notes of nothing really. Then I noticed there were actually cars with people all around me. Blocked off boxed in worlds of those behind idle engines lifes sad survivors in the very vehicles that surrounded the circumference of the space I occupied. I spilled ashes on my lap looking loathing loving these brief glimpses into life. The Oldsmobile. An old couple parked but partially moving baring down in my direction barely blinking staring blankly if I saw their mouths move once it was a moment I could question as if I didn’t see it at all. They were in my life alike as I was in theirs the existential perfect picture painted perfect for our fates planned. They would never know me nor I know them as well yet our history forever tainted with each others presence we knew not there forced to face each others flaws from far away. Next to me or next to nothing at my side its placement placed in my peripheral a middle aged woman with haircut short gripped in gridlock dealing with it grabbing wheel with well worn hands. Her attitude was nondescript I assumed guarded from gangs of thoughts either guilts or faded glories unexplained to what went wrong whether it didnt or not was not mine to decide on even if I tried. My acumen for attitudes unampliphied by altered answers unaided ailing those assailed assessments accumulating then turned rotten descending downward past my smoke straight into the dust. And behind me was a man. Behind me there was a man. I choked on chosen choices drained down my throat and liquidated emptied then tossed to steel rendered roadside busting into broken shards of glass as the cars slowly separated relieved of resting and back to rushing never looking never wanting to look at the man that was behind me. Then I searched my mind for her location.
    Sitting behind my pain. Waiting for her to wind up at her window. Parked in front of her parents house placing down my piss poor drink in the darkness of my car within the shadows. When she walked out on me this is where the ending of us ended up. Remembering her kindly kisses caresses the clothes she used to wear beneath them was her softness I enjoyed. Just to see her silhouette eeked out inch by inch from light that lit the length of window that represented her room. Her smile and laugh echo endless in my mushed up memory more of her than anything I want is what we had and have no more. Where is she is she in there wrapped in arms that are not mine giving him her pure perfections to me this is worse than death 89. 89 my only outcome at once her substitute because having had her and then no more it’s the only thing to hold on to. Where was I what happened what went wrong the hows the whys the answers only she now knew not giving reasons any more. Tears tumble toward my lips moistened more by her mystique the mysteries turn the floodgates open welling up my well worn eyes flowing fast free falling rivulets turning into sobbing cries. The door opens and its her pressed peering past the screen does she see me do I want her to I wish she does but these are lies. The door it never opens though I want it to to see her face to face her would free the fear inside my heart. I dry my face of sorrow grab handle unlock door open it kicking back bottles that threat to spill upon the street. I close door quiet clasp my feet upon the ground giving over to the impulse and beckon begging from the door for that thing that I don’t own. Getting closer resisting reservations to undo my course of action drive off and not return. The light comes on upstairs. High off on the second floor her bedroom shades drawn light flushing frame from inside seeping out from strips to stream. That entire moment I held my breath baited by the instant born her beauty bathing basked in the glow of something like my love. The seconds passed their own eternity twice that length and longer still I waited on a road wrenched wide enough to be the crushing chasm that caused our cold clear complications lost inside heartbreak falling into canyons claim. The ground dropped from beneath my heart sank my sweat too cold with my soul on fire when I saw the saving graces the shadow hers but seemed still mine. I didn’t move I didn’t think a thought at all all at once I gave attention to the image of my idol letting go and letting die the nihilistic 89. For the first time moments fleeting feeling joy in since forever finding meaning in the mess that made this world to be. And only from her form her shadow the light went off and she was gone the return of picked remains of calling came collapsing back around constructing cages not meant to leave. I turned back to my permanent home possible coffin kicked the engine in ignition next to that I pressed on forward not looking back for love or her and what I passed on my way to away from her was painted plain a premonition plain to see. Amber lamps. Revolving glow. A car crashed into a wall its driver halfway through the windshield pushed down flat against the hood. Paramedics huffed heaved huffed to resuscitate a man past recessed a man that could have been any man but at that moment was not me.
    Riding along the river bank banking up the bridge wrestling with what waits up next killing time blowing steam sipping sin from sixteen six packs of beer burning down my throat. It wouldn’t take much to touch turn the wheel well willfully taking me past the patrician that separates wheels from whats below. 89 not far away not far away at all with all that rests there beyond that nothing else if statistics hold to measure. I trail my hand through whisping hair whispering reasons to resist what is so tempting and the well that is my soul is far from full most of the reasons hardly helping how I feel. Her image silhouette set in stone solid standing there and seeing nothing the nothing that is me. Mostly what I want is everything Ive never had the helping hand that refused to reach out resting my hand in its palm soothing softly sharing secret shames I couldn’t quite get myself to admit to for they amounted to failures within myself. Bridge and cables coiled tightly my anxiety taunt against the tension why not fool those phony numerical figures proving that they are so wrong. The demon deep within me making measured moves to surface surging shrilly through my veins vexing volatile and vicious making more these mad malicious intensely intense initiatives more possessed in need of exorcism insight of only one way to really die. There are no prayers to pull me back from the edge of what is greater than depression forced upon me by a decision so far disconnected from the way my plans where and a future I thought mine. The beast inside screams out the engine harmonizes howling burning fuel mixed with agony the glint of light deep down that tunnel representing hope has just snuffed out the void that’s left behind now matched my mood of mind leaving now the business that’s of hand all in all of my invention suspended simply by a tug to the left off the side of the bridge just to the left and what could feel so right. I rolled closer to the median meeting metal as close as I could just to feel the frozen seconds separating me from my call the cold and the grave there was nothing left to do the moment finally here veering left I hit the gas leaving the bridge alone again.
    I awoke. Barely a scratch or dent or mark at all from my cars’ short plummet dipped into a ditch barely missing the angry current of the river drowning just my screams. I don’t know how I ended up outside the car the chirping chime of my open door waking me back into the night of a different day which might have never existed at all. I returned to my car. Reversed rolled out reborn conducting the preplanned plot of events to happen next letting rituals erupt at random taking me to plains I couldn’t foresee. I drove away from that the tires lopping listlessly against the road approaching lights hazed in the distance a lot with cars a parking lot a mass of people entering the archway of a reception knowing wishing that this was all for me. My car was parked among them and I left it there. I staggered amongst the crowd faces forged with smiles melting into laughs sharing hugs glancing for stolen moments at someone across the room. Then I noticed more than anything a lady in a bridesdress beloved by those around her blushing brightly at their words while whipping back her tears of joy. I found the open bar surrounded by familiar strangers golden oldies played for purposes of keeping time tuned tied to the movement of savored affections encased in fragile glass. Detaching from society lusting for maximum intoxication to take me away again liberating the shrunk down short spirit inside me. The room went dark lights strobed people danced I sat there no one close around me my emotions flooding into my body escaping further deep inside myself these truths were worse than lies. People holding each other close slowly dancing dancing to the music talking softly as they moved hands joined together joining them matched together magically made for one anothers lives. How could a fantasy too frightening feeling right and feeling wrong as ever evil even if I was never to be invited to the illness of illicit isolation biting snarling showing teeth sharpened seething spitting venom redness splashed across the perfect picture of which I didnt trust this part I was witnessing hacked off from me. The lights came up my glass went down across the bartop and shattered bits of glass impaled my skin that I didn’t try to hide I waved Hello and then Goodnight turning to leave parting past the pit of people trying to stop me I refused repeatedly I was injured and it was mine this injury was my own.
    My next ride is when I met you sloshed sick silly off Segrams Seven searching for companionship and when you asked me for a ride running up behind me from the gas station me pumping gas and pulling gin under ugly swollen lights I granted your request because the basic nature neatly put was there had to be someone listening not so lightly to report my tale and all I found was you. So as I asked before pleading pressing needing answers all at once what do you know about love? To put yourself on the chopping block blacking out from beatings bruised and blistered begging for it to go on because after that there is nothing you will feel. The veil pulls back ripped from the rafters exposing the empty insignificant essence of the vexed and vicious gray mass no more your heart so dead this is 88 there is one more drive to go one more road to run red lights to live or one day to die. If I somehow stay alive I may look again for myself that went away that deserves to fall to be rebuilt if fate does not have its way. I pull up to a house that’s yours hop curb belch and wreck the fence and before I let you out I take the time to look at you part mouth slur words to speak asking while Im telling you did I say my name is Jane?

Pink Car Wash, painting by Brian Forrest

Pink Car Wash, painting by Brian Forrest

Pain Speaking

Paul Sohar

    The button by the front door of the brownstone made no buzz, yet soon there was a voice in response.
    “S’that you? Alice’s friend?”
    “Yes, that’s me.”
    “Come on up.”
    The door to the apartment on the second landing was already wide open. The visitor walked in and stopped hesitantly in the shadowy hallway where none of the shadows turned out to be the host. There was light filtering in from the front room as well as from the back, probably the kitchen. Or a bathroom.
    “Come in, come in,” the voice appeared from the back, trying to steer the visitor into the smallish front room with a fireplace blocked off by a TV set and video equipment. The sofa across the room had the coffee table on the side, not in front of it; an uneasy looking easy chair, book shelf sagging with paperbacks and artistically stylized plastic genitalia completed the furnishings. Two cans of beer on the coffee table, right next to a heavy glass art deco ashtray.
    “Sorry I forgot your name, I always make up my own names for people I know, and I’ve toyed with a few for you but the choice is not clear. Let’s see where tonight takes us... You want to sit down and rest for a few minutes? Catch your breath?” the host waved hospitably, taking in the small living room with one sweep of a bony arm that slipped out of the short sleeve of the bathrobe, and the belt began to come loose over his modest pot belly. “We are not exactly strangers, it’s not like we were sort of getting to know each other, and so feel free to make yourself comfortable.”
    The host tightened the belt of the robe as he sat down in the easy chair covered with a thick Navaho blanket, probably to hide the holes in the upholstery. He took a sip of the beer can and pointed at the other one. Now with light on his face he appeared less threatening, his apologetic looking mustache seemed like an afterthought, and his small goatee was rendered harmless by the silvery tint.
    “Have a sip but make it last, we don’t want to overload ourselves, only moisten our mouths as we go along. And perhaps it’s best if you don’t get undressed yet, not before we get some of the basic ideas clear in your mind. When you come out of the bathroom with all your clothes left in there I want you to be fully in the spirit of this scenario we follow, because I want to be in my role and don’t want to be distracted by further explanations and instructions. For starters let’s get an unpleasant question out of the way. You are not hustling, are you?”
    “Noooh,” came the lighthearted reply. “It’s not that I don’t accept gifts and perhaps a little stipend now and then, but I am here at my own pleasure...”
    “Good. We don’t want to end up with a one-thousand-dollar misunderstanding on our hands,” the host nodded with approval. “More about pleasure later, but first one other thing. We’re both here for our own benefit. By nature I’m not an altruistic person, I need to assert myself and my needs. And I assume, at least for tonight, your needs include obedience and willingness to take direction. You follow me?”
    “I guess so.”
    There was a short pause with both of them sitting there as if waiting for someone else’s voice to emerge from the traffic noise of the street below.
    “You know that I know that you know what this session is all about, and what I am about to say may indeed be to totally superfluous, but bear with me for a few more minutes, in most cases I still find it useful to clarify some things. If you don’t agree then regard it as a part of the script for the session you sought with me and just follow the scenario I work out as we go along. This is the way I like to get going, with a little talk that establishes my position, it helps me overcome my usually mousy nature and start growling like a lion. Of course, that’s not the only role I propose to play, just one in my repertoire . There are others, the mouse in the lion skin, the lion in the rabbit skin, etcetera, etcetera. The possibilities are endless, and I like to let them play themselves out rather than forcing them on a particular situation. That’s why I am not presenting you with a script to follow, only a few basic principles to keep in mind.
    “Number one: We are not here to enjoy ourselves. So don’t try to pretend to me you’re having fun, you’re going into ecstasy. No, you are here to suffer, to endure pain. You agreed to endure but not to enjoy it. So feel free to scream, cry, whimper and whine, do whatever the pain makes you do. But I repeat, don’t pretend to be enjoying it. That defeats the purpose of the proceedings, the whole game, the sacred ritual, so to speak. It’s amazing how many of you beginners don’t get this point and try to play along by begging for more even while writhing in pain. Are they trying to fool themselves or the partner who may be a potential customer? A good question.
    “The same principle applies when the roles are reversed. Actually they are not reversed as much as us taking turns, the prisoner takes over and takes revenge until order is re-established and authority reasserts itself. Retribution ensues. So when it comes to your turn to do the spanking , you have to do it for real. Don’t just pretend to do it but put some spirit into it, do it as if you meant it, as if your life depended on it. Or my life, for that matter. If I scream out it doesn’t mean you should stop, it doesn’t mean I’m begging you to show mercy to me; it simply means I am still alive, still feeling the whacks, and it’s your job to keep delivering them. Each whack is a moment of eternity. So listen to me now when I outline the approach to the ritual, but don’t listen to me while we’re in the midst of it. Then only God can save me, but of course He will not because I’ll curse Him and implore Satan to come to my help. You are to be my Satan. You are to save me, deliver me from goodness and let me enter the pure world of evil. The power of evil. Let’s not make bones about it, power is evil, and if it’s not evil, it is not power. And power is the most basic manifestation of the bare will to live. That’s how our little ritual will formalize, dramatize our sensation of being alive and bring it into the center of our consciousness. Pain is the purest manifestation of life, both physical and spiritual. The way to heaven is through the gates of hell. And when I talk about heaven I mean Arcadia, or the Elysian Fields, the ancient idea of eternal youth...
    “But remember, pain is not real unless it’s shared with a partner, tossed back and forth between consenting adults, between two enlightened seekers of immortality. And of course, in the end we’ll be all right, more than all right, but it’s mandatory to let the spirit of Arcadia flow through us, to let ourselves become springs of joy, the living proof of redemption through pain. Contrary to popular beliefs, joy doesn’t come from love, especially not from phony, mawkish enactments of love, and so forget about playing the part of a lover...
    “As we agreed, there’ll be no lasting injury, but the pain will be real, and it will be endured and allowed to drive us out of our minds, and the one meting out the punishing blows will have to watch the limits, not the one receiving them. While receiving them we must feel free to take leave of our senses, escape our scheming little minds and become real through pain. Did I make myself clear? No clumsy play acting that you may be used to, no fun and games, no feigning pleasure by hiding pain. I want to see the pain I inflict, and I want to feel the pain inflicted on me. No wet noodle treatment here, it’s the real thing. No pleasure until afterwards when I give a signal. Of course that’s optional, but it should be uncontrollable by then. And we each take care of our sexual release in our own way. Is this understood? Then let’s get started, let’s get undressed and be vulnerable. You want another beer? There’s more in the refrigerator, help yourself. And help me to one too while you’re at it. But the joint we share will be lit up only by me when it is appropriate for both of us. Later we go out for a little din-din, and if we feel like it, we might come back here for a nightcap and check each other for possible bruises and apply ointments as necessary. And do whatever the spirit moves us. Recapitulate. At that time you may feel free to improvise, keeping in mind the ideas I outlined here...
    “Yes, the light is already on in the bathroom to your left. You may want to take a shower, and come out here in your birthday suit, as if you had walked in here from the street just like that, possibly an escaped criminal or an innocently persecuted fugitive from justice, seeking shelter at any price, seeking the comfort of pain, the comfort of human contact. That’s why I use mostly the palm of my hand and only occasionally a slipper or a ping-pong paddle, but ...
    A few minutes later the visitor emerged, naked and cringing, but still managed to hold two cans of beer.
    “Put the beer on the table but then stay standing like this. That’s good, slightly bent over and sideways, looking furtive and lost. Perfect. So what’s your story? Why did you break into my apartment? What? You were drugged in a bar and found yourself naked in the alley? With amnesia? Can’t remember your name and address? Is that right? Sad story, but I’ll still have to punish you. After all this is the house of pain that you stumbled into. You’d better bend over...”
    The late afternoon was dimming into evening. A streetlight directly in front of the windows transformed the walls into the remains of a ruined castle in perpetual twilight, with ghosts on them projected by the passing headlights below. But still, there were some dark corners that remained undisturbed, and where silent shadows were watching the parade of ghosts. Then one of the shadows began to move, and a scream rose up from the another. Or maybe it was a cat.

About Paul Sohar

    Paul Sohar got to pursue his life-long interest in literature full time when he went on disability from his day job in chemistry. The results have slowly shown up in Agni, Chiron, Churches, Children and Daddies, Grain, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Poem, Poesy, Poetry Motel, Rattle, Slant, Wordwrights, etc, and seven books of translations from the Hungarian, but now a volume of his own poetry (“Homing Poems”) is available from Iniquity Press. His prose is featured in “True Tales of a Fictitious Spy”, a creative nonfiction account of prison life in the Stalinist gulag (SynergEbooks, 2006).

Lock and Key, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

"Lock and Key, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz


Philip Kuan

    Within beams of sun, the little boy monk scrubbed hard at the murals of the temple with wet rag fragments of discarded monk robes. The mural was expansive, reaching from floor to ceiling, from eastern wall to western wall, depicting ancient wisdom and ancient writing that the little monk couldn’t quite yet understand, but scrubbed at anyways with respect. The mural itself was old, ruins really, and as he scrubbed away a rather conspicuous chunk broke off, crumbling onto the floor.
    He panicked, picked up the pieces, and then panicked more when he saw important-looking writing on their surfaces. Fitting two of the largest ones together as best as possible, he tried inserting them into the crack on the wall, then stopped and peered into its crevice. The hole, though subtle, penetrated surprisingly deep.
    At the very end of its natural scope was nothing, initial darkness, almost enough to lose the boy’s interest. As he almost backed away, the darkness opened, unveiling a gray eye staring back from the other side of somewhere, staring then blinking, either angry or stern, before disappearing into a flood of white that overwhelmed both fear and curiosity. The muffled sounds of stomping footsteps could be heard.
    When his sight adjusted, he peered again, into a place not his own. There was an ineffectual concrete building in an overcast open courtyard. A masculine parade of the tepid living appeared, marching by, filled with faceless carriers of rifles and supremacy and to a lesser extent, mutations in their cells. Some gripped flags without the wind to unfurl them. Immediately after came the elephants, massive scarring behemoths with sharpened tusks augmented with spears ridden by the prideful, lucky few. Something galloped by nearby, blocking the peephole momentarily, but there could be heard a deep, guttural groaning that drowned out the marching, bellowing out discipline. Other groans responded immediately.
    Then, came the buzzing the deafening unforgiving unnatural buzzing coming from several sources within that horrifying place, that land of strangers and concrete and invention, and the little monk knew then that he had to warn his home. As he wretched himself from the wall and turned tail to run, his reality collapsed, his temple’s lone exit fell beneath crumbling beams and rocks. He dodged as much of the debris as he could, weaving until he found himself cowering beneath the temple’s protector, an inanimate brass statue of master in its prime meditating years. Now he collapsed beneath it, attempting his own meditation, vaguely ignoring the remaining daylight as it became expunged from the temple’s decomposing sanctity.
    He prayed for a miracle, a simple way of warning others of what was behind the mural. He prayed hard for a clever way to escape his imminent collapse, to exist long enough to pass on his important message. And so then, like most miracles, something or someone responded.


    A clique of friends loitered in a kitchen on an afternoon, sipping sodas, deciding. Somebody suggested bowling, and garnered enough half-hearted agreement for a tentative plan to form. That same somebody finished up his drink, only to notice something peculiar.
    “Watch out, they’re coming.” read the can’s inside bottom. The text was written where a promotional code was supposed to be.
    “That’s weird.” He shrugged and navigated it towards the garbage, but an arm shot out and blocked him. With a stern and angry stare she pointed at the recycling bin.

photography from Oaxaca by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden

photography from Oaxaca by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden

Great Wall of China image by John Yotko Great Wall of China image by John Yotko

Great Wall of China images by John Yotko

    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?

what is veganism?

    A vegan (VEE-gun) is someone who does not consume any animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans don’t consume dairy or egg products, as well as animal products in clothing and other sources.

    why veganism?

    This cruelty-free lifestyle provides many benefits, to animals, the environment and to ourselves. The meat and dairy industry abuses billions of animals. Animal agriculture takes an enormous toll on the land. Consumtion of animal products has been linked to heart disease, colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and a host of other conditions.

    so what is vegan action?

    We can succeed in shifting agriculture away from factory farming, saving millions, or even billions of chickens, cows, pigs, sheep turkeys and other animals from cruelty.
We can free up land to restore to wilderness, pollute less water and air, reduce topsoil reosion, and prevent desertification.
    We can improve the health and happiness of millions by preventing numerous occurrences od breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks, among other major health problems.

    A vegan, cruelty-free lifestyle may be the most important step a person can take towards creatin a more just and compassionate society. Contact us for membership information, t-shirt sales or donations.

vegan action
po box 4353, berkeley, ca 94707-0353

    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 ccandd@scars.tv... 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 http://scars.tv

    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.

MIT Vegetarian Support Group (VSG)

* To show the MIT Food Service that there is a large community of vegetarians at MIT (and other health-conscious people) whom they are alienating with current menus, and to give positive suggestions for change.
* To exchange recipes and names of Boston area veg restaurants
* To provide a resource to people seeking communal vegetarian cooking
* To provide an option for vegetarian freshmen

    We also have a discussion group for all issues related to vegetarianism, which currently has about 150 members, many of whom are outside the Boston area. The group is focusing more toward outreach and evolving from what it has been in years past. We welcome new members, as well as the opportunity to inform people about the benefits of vegetarianism, to our health, the environment, animal welfare, and a variety of other issues.

    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!!!

    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.

    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.

    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.

    The Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology
    The Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation (SEREF), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., established on Earth Day 1993 the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST) as its central project. CREST’s three principal projects are to provide:
    * on-site training and education workshops on the sustainable development interconnections of energy, economics and environment;
    * on-line distance learning/training resources on CREST’s SOLSTICE computer, available from 144 countries through email and the Internet;
    * on-disc training and educational resources through the use of interactive multimedia applications on CD-ROM computer discs - showcasing current achievements and future opportunities in sustainable energy development.
    The CREST staff also does “on the road” presentations, demonstrations, and workshops showcasing its activities and available resources.
For More Information Please Contact: Deborah Anderson
dja@crest.org or (202) 289-0061

    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 2011 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 unreligious, 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, poery 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 monthly by Scars Publications and Design. Contact Janet Kuypers via e-mail (ccandd96@scars.tv) for snail-mail address 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 Copyright © 1993 through 2011 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.