Down in the Dirt

welcome to volume 117 (the May/June 2013 issue) of

Down in the Dirt

cover art by John Yotko

down in the dirt
internet issn 1554-9666
(for the print issn 1554-9623)

Janet K., Editor - click on down in the dirt

In This Issue...

Eric Burbridge
Marlon Jackson
Allen M Weber
D.S. Maolalai
Travis Green
Ben Macnair
Fritz Hamilton
Robert Heath
Janet Doggett
Mike Brennan
Michael D. Brown
Zachary F. Gerberick
Ryan Priest
Kenneth Schalhoub
Hannah Gaden Gilmartin
Eleanor Leonne Bennett art
Richard Lind
Kerry Lown Whalen
Tom Sheehan
Abir Wood
Janet Kuypers

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Eric Burbridge

    Dr. Stephanie Nagle, Anesthesiologist, double checked the ID implant to verify the inmate’s credit rating. 786! A cop killer with a high credit score. Insurance reform targeted surgery to save money. Good credit ratings meant good medical care, in prison or out. The constitutionality of health care based on credit rating stalled in the courts. Low rating low anesthesia, quick surgery, less money, but don’t wake up. A low rating increased those chances.
    Good, the vermin at Southern Region Prison deserved it. Although its surgical units ranked highest in the penal system there were mistakes. Thanks to Dr. Nagle’s minor adjustment to the machine’s software, a serial killer of young women regained consciousness just as the surgeon moved his liver. The muffled shouts bounced off the snow white walls; his tremors and convulsions demonstrated pure agony. Blood oozed from his mouth around the endotracheal tube. She pretended to care and worked as fast as possible. She put him back under, but too far. One down, more to come. Justice was served.
    She loved it!
    She secretly recorded the event and replayed the screams at home to amplify her rhythm while engaged in self-gratification. Nothing made her feel better.
    She cut her daydream short and looked into the eyes of this piece of crap. His rating was too high for an accident. Dammit. The conditions were right for a low one, because slow poke, Dr. Barry Hall was doing the procedure.
    The doors of the O.R. swung open. “Good morning, Dr. Nagle and team,” Dr. Barry Hall said. Just under six feet the obese surgeon stood over the inmate and adjusted his gloves and headset. “Is he under good enough, Stephanie?”
    “Yes, he’s a 786.” She smiled. “Can you believe it?” Of course he’s under idiot. Don’t take all day. She stepped back to the anesthesia machine.
    Hall eyed Stephanie’s lean well toned frame. “Dr. Nagle, you look fit as usual.”
    “Thank you, Doctor.” Now get on with it. The way he moved the scalpel said it would be a while. Stephanie did her job, but at the rate Hall was going she might be able to rid the system of the cop killer. Twenty minutes would tell the story. Seize the moment, Stephanie. Beep, beep. “Doctor, he’s reached the max,” she said. “How long will you be?”
    “A minute, he’s hemorrhaging. Give him a tad more, just in case.”
    “A tad?” Hall shrugged. Good! She keyed in the dosage; vapor worked its way through the tubes. And, on this machine it would be too much.
    Bye, cop killer.
    She finished the paper work and that ended the team’s rotation for the month.
    Stephanie kept her genius to herself. How many anesthesiologists were software engineers and a maintenance tech for several types of machines? She added her special code to a few machines at the main hospital and several others in the area to rid the world of undesirables.
    Dr. Stephanie Hall stepped off the Central Hospital elevator and a sharp pain hit her lower abdomen like a bullet. She buckled and fell flat on her face.
    Her colleague, Jasmine Smithe, an ex pro basketball player turned anesthesiologist assistant towered over the apparatus next to the bed. She checked the IV. “Stephanie, you’re having an emergency appendectomy. You’re going up in a minute. Girl, your chart says you’re only a 570.”
    Stephanie perked up. “What! How’d that happen? It must be ID theft.”
    “Relax, Dr. Proctor’s doing the surgery, you’ll be out in no time.” Jasmine got an update on her tablet. “They changed it, Barry’s doing it.”
    “Oh, no, not slow poke,” Stephanie whispered. The propofol slowly closed her eyes.


Marlon Jackson

Beauty lies deeper than the blood in our flesh
Spiritually it’s lifted each day we’re gifted with life
The founder of the earth is clothed with majesty
With much light that remains satisfactory, the world
Continuous to be fruitful-i wish it would trun in an
instant absolutely beautiful

Water Never Sleeps

Mrlon Jackson

Nature is at hand with the waves constantly moving
The sounds of them are loud and deep waters are stirring
Every single second, moment or hesitation of breath is
the ocean flowing long before human nature took its first step
but now it’s beyond where waves represent human emotions and identities;
water never sleeps

Acquired Tastes

Allen M Weber

If he’s perturbed at all by the drowning
wasp, twirling in week-old dishwater,
or dismayed at the ruin of what’s left

of their ficus—its leaves shriveled and
dropping like question marks onto the floor—
he refuses to concede any of it.

His was a talent for beginning; but once
past the shallow bluster of seduction
he found her to be an acquired taste, like

even a single malt Scotch. He’d deny
using the toothbrush she left behind
and claim that photographs of her, of them

together, didn’t upset him, that they were
taken down to mute the walls: he’d never
get used to the colors she chose.

And he’s been too busy to repaint,
so the unfaded rectangles still mock
the weakness of his endgame. Resigning

to suffer through her favorite Coltrane,
he sips diluted Scotch and wonders why
one wants to acquire a taste for anything.

Allen M Weber Bio

    Allen lives in Hampton, Virginia with his wife and their three sons.
    The winner of the Virginia Poetry Society’s 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Prize, his poems have twice appeared in A Prairie Home Companion’s First Person Series, as well as in numerous journals and anthologies—most recently in The Quotable, Snakeskin, Prick of the Spindle, Terrain, Loch Raven Review, and Unlikely Stories.

Love Shapes

D.S. Maolalai

She wanted this guy
who was with a girl
that I wanted
a pretty, pale girl
with a face like a vampire
and who wore artists clothes
and who spoke like cut glass
built herself into black lace poetry
rather than into a woman.

She wanted to be with him,
because he was tall
and nice,
he laughed at things
and loved to love, but
she was too young,
going towards fat
living with her mother in a small flat
that was never really clean, and
she said
“Fuck it, lets it be us for a while”
I was, what, seventeen? God I was young
but yeh, I thought, it’s better than
being alone.

There are a few things better than
being alone
but this was not one of them.
We would lay on her couch
with her fat belly on my belly
my cock shifting in her hand
and she would say to me
“What do you think they’re doing now?
You think she’s sucking him off?
You think they have whips and condoms?
You think she wears a mask and ties him down?”
I’d say “I guess he’s shitting on her chest”
because I didn’t want to think
about them, I wanted silence.
“Cant we not talk about this?”

It was all she wanted to talk about
and I just wanted to empty myself
into something
didn’t really want her,
didn’t want the other one so much
either, looking back.
I mean, at the time I did
but I’m glad it never happened.
It would have been like being with
a photo in a magazine
of an art-fashion shoot,
like a woman you never speak with
only look at.
But she’s a lesbian now - my girl,
not his one,
we no longer speak
but I’ve seen her pictures
and sometimes I wonder who it was
that she really wanted
to whip.

Across the Grassland

Travis Green

The ocean whooshes beyond the sunset,
Half-visible, clung to these drowning walls,
As I look across the grassland, galloping horses,
losing eternity into the silent sky,
I feel their pain and hear the cry of the waves,
their whisper close to my ears, trembling heartbeat,
drawing to their dimension, embracing shadowed landscapes.


Ben Macnair

To keep Parrots silent,
we cover their cages with blankets,
so that they think it is always dark.
We aim to do the same with our elderly,
only telling them what they need to know,
not saying that the panic they sometimes feel,
is what we think every time we see them,
not knowing what to say for the best,
knowing that if they were young,
this rudeness, this self-absorption would be a phase
they would grow out of, one day.
So, like those Parrots, with their catch-phrases,
learnt in their own way,
we keep them in the dark,
grieving what we are losing
with every passing day.

Janet Kuypers reads the Ben Macnair poem
from Down in the Dirt magazine
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading the Ben Macnair poem Shrouded in Down in the Dirt magazine live 6/5/13 in Chicago at her the Café Gallery poetry open mic (S)

I open my skull with a flower

Fritz Hamilton

    I open my skull with a flower, & a mad butterfly flits in. He brightens the black emptiness as the crow caws & sharpens Jesoo’s claws. Jesoo fornicates with the dirty bird, loving his neighbor as he loves himself (O probably not that much) & carries her off to eat crow. A feather sticks in his yellow molars & withers away from the bad breath, where all God’s creatures meet their death.
    Let the dead bury the dead, & my skull closes up entombing every dirty bird, which Jesoo thinks absurd. If there’s a whey, there’s a curd, & there’s onions & carrots in it, & when U finish, it produces shit that takes a whole shelf at the produce store, refrigerated to last some more, rotten to the core, but that’s how Jesoo likes to eat it before he bends over to manufacture shit. The butterfly comes out brown, who was the most colorful creature in town, before the flit turned to shit.
    The Lone Ranger is summoned & Batman too. Superman is in prison for robbin’ Robin, who was Katjanjammerkidnapped & tied to the transom for ransom, but the transom breaks in two.
    I open my skull with a flower, & a mad butterfly flits out. They cement my skull back together, & the worms inside are consumed in darkness ...


The kaleidoscope darkens its window

Fritz Hamilton

The kaleidoscope darkens its windows to
mourn the death of the earth that died
not long ago after birth/ now it rots with the

elephants that fall off the path into a gully too
deep to climb out, & the pachyderms howl &
unleash their bowels/ the smell of decay & shit kills

the gator & tit, the hippo that starves, & the drunk half-lit/
all because the earth is dead/ a world of problems
thank God is shed, as sick Jesoo takes to his bed/ he’s

in manger danger as Herod draws near, & Jesoo escapes
into his beer/ the elephant ferments with booze in
his trunk/ he steps on the hippo killing the punk/ the

stench gets outrageous when enters a skunk/ the world is a
circus, & the rhino’s its hunk/Magdalene drops her panties
in the ticket booth/ a buffalo charges in & knocks out her

tooth/ the wild people arrive & forsooth/ they kill all the
circus creatures & imprison the aardvark/ the doggies hear
of it & start to bark/ the word gets out to Luke, Matthew,

John, & on your Mark & go, round & round the dog track,
stumbling over bric-a-brac, up Mother Mary’s crack into
the womb boom where the earth is born, when the big

bang Eve, & the little pop from her womb like popcorn that
Jimmy pops, bag after bag at at the ragmop porn house of
Jim & Arty before Arty pops Jim in the head & Jim is dead.

Jimmy cracks porn & Artie’s dead, Jimmy cracks porn & all
is dead, Jimmy cracks porn & Jesoo’s dead, the masters gone
berserk - a mighty quirk for a soda jerk; so make a malt, Walt.

Who’s at fault?/ Jesoo’s
at fault; so nail the celestial fool.
It’s cool ...


Penny Arcade Inflated

Robert Heath

It‣s awhile since I‣ve been in an arcade
Ages back ” late 80‣s
The onset of Space Invaders
Appeared amid the fruit machines
Like visual cancer. All prophecy and
Pixelated death.
But the kids are yanking on my arm
Like a chain ” neon seduction
Bright in their faces
And I‣m like ” “Ok. Alright already.”
Inside by way of swing doors
With wire woven fire glass eyes
Not like saloon doors
Even though this is the land
Of last chances.
It‣s all changed so much
Whilst remaining identical in every way
Inflationary days having
Turned the penny arcade
Into the pound arcade but the premise remains
And where once it was one-armed bandits
Three reels ” nudges, a shuffle or two
Their fascia‣s browned and buckled
Like plastic lava -
Smokey topaz
Kissed with jags of burnt black
By endless cigarettes
Propped on them as guys dressed like Marlon Brando
Or Jimmy Dean
Jacked some change in and yanked the arm
All the while looking to see who was looking at them
As the reels spun
Bar ” Cherry - Bell
Followed by my era in their tartan trousers or
Endless rocker leather and
The mingled smell of petunia oil and dope.
Now it‣s multi-buttoned and busy-faced
With myriad vying options like a chorus line
Of temptation
And there are like rows of these
Things ”
Backs to the wall
Which is apt enough
Displaying their wares like whores in a window
In Bruges or Amsterdam or
Where the hell.
And the kids have long since fleeced me of change
Which is again ironic
When you think of what change is
And is not.
They are gone, playing
On racing games where
You sit down like it was
An actual car ”
Before flitting at games end to the latest beat-em-up
They don‣t bat an eye at the fruit machines
Wrong era baby
How many times you heard that in your life?
So it‣s just me like a lazy memory
Of someplace else, stood
In the middle of this emporium of the enchanted child
The disenchanted non-child
And it strikes me that almost nobody is paying
Any heed to these new-fangled fruit machines.
There‣s a guy or two ” late 20‣s, sweat-top
And Diesel jeans giving it a few quid
But they are by and large ignored
And in the centre of the room
Is the reason why
It‣s a big coin drop machine.
You know the sort?
Sure you do ” the one where you shove coins
In the slot and then they land on a ramp
Get pushed forwards until some tip over the edge
Onto a ramp below and then over again
And that‣s what you win ” the ones that fall
Off of the second ramp.
It‣s like slow dying
Feeding the call of the machine as they lurch
Forwards ” in a millimetre dance macabre
Every penny costing pounds
And its surrounded ” besieged even
By guys and dolls who hold plastic
Cups full of change ” And I watch as
This woman ” skinny as a buck-rake
Tired eyes like haunted hollows
Feeds coin after coin (10 pence pieces)
Into the slot and she don‣t even
Stop to check if she has won ” or plan when
To drop the coin or not ” what the best
Time is to let one go ” she just forces them
In as fast as her begging bowl hands will let her
No care
Every fucking place is hell.
Only when the tub is empty does she
Check her winnings, scooping up
The change and re-feeding it
Without a hint nor pause of
Any form and I wonder
How much of it is
Addiction - as God and any
Gambler will tell you the thrill comes
From the doing not the winning or the losing
And how much is symbolic ” Showing the world
Your real face any old fucking way you can
And I get to wondering what she will do
When she runs out of money
I watch as her tub empties out and she heads over
To the booth where this old guy sits
Like a nonchalant Satan ”
Observing the wages of sin
She passes him a £20
And he hands her back a bag of swag
And she‣s back ” feeding the habit
The habit of trying to be something else
Of trying to cross the invisible barriers
What the fuck will she do?
I mean truly ” what will she do when she
Runs out of a way to be who she is?
What do any of us do
I thought about hanging around to see
But the kids were back,
Yanking some more at my arm
“We want change.”
They said ” I grabbed them
Both and led them out the door
“Kids” ” I said, “I ain‣t sure
You gonna find it in there.”
There puzzlement pleased me
Proof that as yet,
The world ain‣t shit on them.


Janet Doggett

I had a friend once tell me
that in the quiet moments she liked to
push her eyelashes into her eye with a finger,
just until it hurt a bit and her eye teared up.
She had few such moments then with
three perfect little girls and a doting husband,
All those tiny white socks to wash
and nightly routines. She was always smiling.
But then one time she mentioned that as a child
Her father disappeared. One day he was alive
for his three perfect daughters;
the next he was found dead.
I don’t know all of the particulars ...
I do know the Devil is in the details.
He sits on the tip of a makeshift eyelash curler
that points as sharp as a whittled stick
into the soft egg-like white of one perfect woman’s eye
that has seen far too much.

Janet Kuypers reads the Janet Doggett poem
from Down in the Dirt magazine
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading the Janet Doggett poem Punctuation in Down in the Dirt magazine live 6/5/13 in Chicago at her the Café Gallery poetry open mic (S)

Home Sweet Home

Mike Brennan

    Asides from his bluish pallor, the hardest thing to deal with was my bottle of pills on my brother’s nightstand. It was my stolen medication that was sitting right next to the bloody syringe he obviously used to inject my now crushed pain medication in a blackened Coke can that lay by his right side.
    “Fuck,” I thought, I had only been home a week.
    “I can’t deal with this shit. I have already dealt with enough.”
    I remember flying into JFK from Ramstein, Germany, and catching a red-eye flight to Los Angeles, and the only thing I can speak of the unbelievably long trip is I indulged in a couple cocktails, which I gulped down as if it were the first water an Arab could sip once his camel died in the middle of the desert. I dreamed of home the entire time I was deployed, and all of its double bacon cheeseburgers, vanilla milkshakes, fancy civilian clothes, and high priced cheesy movies playing the usual Hollywood bullshit which I would happily take a girl to see before making out with her in the backseat of my beat-up old Saturn. I thought of my mother’s steaks, my father’s pride, my brother’s homeruns in little league baseball, and my sister’s eventual marriage to someone far richer than any of us could ever hope to be.
    It always seemed strange to return somewhere familiar after a lengthy absence. This was my second tour but while two years away from home seems lengthy to most, in my experience time passes like rapid eye movement. It just goes and goes until you can’t remember what you saw or learned or dreamt or wished. I consciously knew my reasons for leaving. I was a young adult, semi-self-reliant, half-heartedly believing I loved my country to death, and absolutely felt an ingrained, probably premature desperate need to vacate the nest I was nurtured and peacefully yet subtly tortured in. In all actuality, it now seems less a nest but rather a prison which once radiated bizarre fun house illusions of familial and familiar loves and hates.
    Sometimes I feel that the constantly televised warzones I encountered personally, physically, and spiritually in the Middle-East seem less treacherous than my own immediate family’s comfortable suburban home. Most don’t know how quickly any suburb can suddenly turn into a warzone before an insurgent could even pull the pin off an aging and haphazardly discarded Russian hand grenade. The unspoken truth is that death tolls are just kittens, candies, and hefty paychecks to newscasters, politicians, and paperback writers. No matter where you are death always follows- I’ve almost died, watched plenty of others die, and know that it will always follow me like a ghost that continuously wears the guise of my own face.
    It’s a horrible feeling when the first thing you see returning home is your mother’s tears. I knew I was missing a leg but her reaction to my appearance made me feel like I had no life left within me. It wasn’t as if it was too obvious. I had a top dollar prosthetic to limp around upon. My father quietly hobbled over to me. His gout was acting up again and I was sure he had been drinking. The old man definitely wasn’t what he used to be. He saw the medals pinned upon my Marine Corps Dress Blues, and I could tell that he intentionally forgot about the third degree burns scarring the right side of my face.
    “How you doing Sergeant?”
    “Fine, Sir?”
    My father for whatever reason pretends that he was a Marine Corps Officer but in all seriousness his discharge papers I came across in the attic stated that he was nothing but a common E-4 Corporal, but the mind always has a funny way of changing things if you really want it too. I knew I out-ranked him but he would advance himself to a fucking general if it wasn’t too outrageous to anyone who met him. He sure never received the Purple Heart as I unfortunately had. He sure could still walk and move his right side better than I. He sure never saw real combat. He surely doesn’t know anything about this war, me, my generation’s America or my present condition.
    I spent about fifteen minutes in my childhood bedroom until it turned into an electric sand dune. Everything was melting. There was sand in every crevice of my body and I could hear the shouting, the gunfire, the screaming, and the roar of copters over my helmet contained cranium. I felt the sand shriek in my ears, nose, mouth, and all through my ragged unwashed uniforms, and I felt the wrath of the F18 air cover overhead. I saw my best friend Sean screaming as the business end of an RPG tore his limbs apart from his body. It was just a few days before it happened to me but he lost his life and I only a leg. God, what a hell of a tour I had survived, it felt good to be safe and stateside.
    I wandered around my house. Everything was wrong. There was no childhood scent of cinnamon French toast. There was no dog I could pet or comfort because my beagle Buster had died a year after I had deployed. My sister walked through the door after a drunken college party. She hugged me and told me how much she missed me. She was more fucked up than I was even with all the pills and booze that were consistently coursing through my system. I remembered how she was a popular pillar of the high society of high school, but I could immediately tell she was damaged in ways that I probably could never know. I did know that she had a filthy rich psychiatrist she saw and scammed pills from. It must have been really hard being a cheerleader, but I knew this was also probably because she couldn’t confront the difficulty of seeing me as I now appeared.
    Our relationship had always been complicated and I knew she was a bit superficial when it came to appearances. She takes at least an hour just to put on her makeup in the morning. I said goodnight, kissed her cheek, and watched her stagger off. I drank a couple swigs of my dad’s scotch in the small bar of his study. The taste was fantastic and something I had dreamed about often during my forced periods of desert sobriety and subsequent rigorous physical therapy. Taste is a wonderful sensation, and I absolutely love the taste of finely aged scotch. Oh God, how much I’ve aged, although it is hard to believe that I still was only twenty-five. I knew it was unhealthy to continuously dwell upon the past but it is the only thing besides assholes that everyone has. I headed back up to my bedroom, still getting used to my new leg on the winding oak staircase, walked into my bedroom, and opened my drab olive sea-bag. Right on the top of the gigantic pile of dirty sand-strewn uniforms were the pills I needed to live my life peacefully and relatively painlessly- Xanax, Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Soma. They all weren’t prescribed but the patients in the VA hospital were all too willing to trade or donate. All those pills helped with my varying complaints so I took one of each. I lit a Camel Light and hoisted myself upon my bed and drifted off into pharmaceutical oblivion after putting out my smoke when it scorched my fingers.
    Thanks to the drugs I didn’t dream. That is always a relief because all I dream about is being stuck in the desert all over again. Despite my very real psychological and physical reminders of what I had lived through, beyond all else I now had an absolute fear of dreaming. I never thought I would take narcotics never less absolutely need them but now they were a necessity. It is so much easier to swallow a couple pills and fall asleep into nothing then it is to wake up, rattle your bones, and confront the whole fucked up universe once again.
    I headed into the kitchen where the smell of bacon and eggs had instantly enticed me to enter. The whole family was sitting there. It had been years since I had sat down to eat with my entire immediate family.
    “Good Morning, Sarge,” My father gaily greeted me. He was already drinking screwdrivers at eleven a.m., and was still insisting on calling me by my military title. I was done with all that and officially honorably discharged. I’d have rather have been addressed by a nickname reminder of my distant past such as a “squirt” or the much dreaded “junior” than a rank I really wished I never held.
    “Fine sir, It’s nice to be in my old bed again. It sure beats a tent and definitely a fox hole.”
    “I bet,” my sister giggled, while concealing her clandestine hangover. She then gave me a look panning down my anatomy from my forehead to my false foot. “Are you Okay?”
    “Sure. I’m alive aren’t I?”
    “Yeah, you are,” she responded, before slumping down and returning to shoveling her food in her mouth in a manner that revealed her well known struggle with bulimia.
    My younger brother John was always the quiet one of our three siblings. He dressed in an outlandish fashion, got shitty grades, had the obvious beginnings of a drug problem, and was the self-proclaimed black sheep and constant scapegoat of most of my family’s problems. He asked the question that civilians always ask and I hate more than any other and try to never answer.
    “So how many people did you kill?’
    I stared down and looked at my plate. The ketchup I always put on my eggs proved too much. I began dry heaving and passed out while still sitting prone. It was only lasted a few seconds before I managed to open my eyes again. I shouldn’t have taken my morning pharmaceutical cocktail without any food in my gut.
    “Are you all right?” my mother asked, with her face betraying her fearful curiosity.
    “Yeah, this happens from time to time.”
    She kissed me on the forehead.
    “It’s ok, you’re home now honey. We’ll make it through all this.
    I retired to my bedroom again and turned on the television. Reality television, juvenile romantic comedies, and war movies- that’s all I had to choose from. I turned to a History Channel program about the Civil War, caught myself trembling uncontrollably and unintentionally passed out. My brother shook me awake.
    “You want to get high man?”
    No, Bro, maybe tomorrow, I’m still all fucked up from the flight.”
    Despite my brother’s constant fuck ups, I knew he was waiting for the day I could smoke weed with him because I had to be drug free and randomly tested throughout my tour in the military and never really smoked much of it before. I didn’t really want to, I was always fairly anti-drug, and from what I remembered from high school, weed made me way too paranoid. Paranoia, right now, was the last thing I needed. I needed calmness and tranquility. I popped a Xanax and tuned in to something about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination before I drifted off again. I woke up when my leg started tingling despite the fact it wasn’t there, so I took a Vicodin and a half of a Percocet. I needed a bit of rest and relaxation, and honestly because of my wounds and this trip down memory lane, I had no other way to relieve my pain.
    It was around that time that I heard the screaming. Despite my sedation, and because of my experience in the battlefield, I knew what a scream really could signal. I struggled out of bed. My family was encircled around my brother’s room. I was pushed through the crowd with an ease that scared me. John was lying still on his bed with the bloody hypodermic needle besides him.
    “You motherfucker!” I screamed at him, while I noticed that my mother was on the phone with the paramedics.
    “This is all your fault!’ My sister shrieked, as she pulled me away, still perusing my Oxycontin prescription bottle.
    Fifteen minutes passed that I couldn’t describe, as if I was ensnared in the numbness of panic and confusion. The paramedics arrived and lifted my brother into the back of the ambulance. They said he would survive and would be stable within the hour. They all quickly roared off into a dismal sea of sirens.
    I tuned to my father and we caught each other’s crippled eyes. He was obviously intoxicated and locked in a whole other plane of existence. I hardly saw or felt his fist connect with my nose. It didn’t really register until I saw the waterfall of blood splash across the front of my plain white t-shirt, and caught sight of my broken eye-glasses on the floor. It was now impossible to not react. My subconscious being had become a standard knee-jerk display of rage.
    My fist met his face and just started pummeling away. All the lies I ever heard from him in my life just seemed to flow through my fist. I heard several more screams, yet they weren’t from him. This wasn’t anything about my father as much as it was about my whole spirit crashing and disabling without the possibility of salvage. My entire life had been built upon lies, despair, dismemberment, and disappointment. I just kept punching away at all that was supposed to be saving me but was devastating me. I slipped away again and slumped to the floor exhausted to the core.
    I awoke from my stupor to the discomfort of a large knee lodged in my lower spine. My hands were cuffed behind my back and I was dragged up to my feet. Two muscle-head policemen kept me balanced upon my prosthetic leg. My anger was overwhelming. The whole world was awash in blood red sand. Everything boiled down to a cacophony of voices.
    “Get the fuck out of my house and don’t come back.”
    In an instant I was methodically drug downstairs, through the front door, and wedged into the hard plastic backseat of a black and white patrol car. I had for a long time had the feeling that I could never go home again. If I only had a leg up in life, I would rather go back to the war than back to where it all began. I could never go home again. From the womb to the tomb, distracted by disarray- I can never go home again.

Mike Brennan Bio

    Mike Brennan was born in San Diego, lived in London for seven years, and then spent most of his formative years in Los Angeles. He was honorably discharged from the U.S Navy in 2009 (which forms the basis of some of his short stories and a novel he is desperately trying to complete), and is currently a Freshman Composition and Narrative and Descriptive writing instructor at Northern Michigan University while completing his MA. After that who knows what the future may hold during these bleak times.

The Nomad and the Dromedary

Michael D. Brown

The camel in his kindest tone
requesting relief from his master
-From the desert night’s cold.
Hard pressed to decline a plea
for help, the nomad reluctantly agrees.
The camel squatting thru the archway
of the tent almost straddling limbo
carries his single hump inside;
morning with its heat arrives
the Nomad waking finds himself outside.

Michael D. Brown Bio

    Award winning American author/poet of 17 books, including 6 volumes of poetry, Michael D. Brown, PhD currently lecturing and providing literary reviews internationally is teaching Chinese PhD’s English in the former capital city of Nanjing. Brown’s latest book, “Brown’s Simplified English Grammar.” Is available with Mandarin translation. Brown’s new poems have been featured in 22 journals between November 2011 and June 2012. His work appears in: The Tower Journal, Igdrasil, Mad Swirl, and Velvet Illusion.

The Hole

Zachary F. Gerberick

    The man stroked the lacquered wooden handle; hoping a small piece of eucalyptus would splinter off into his palm. He examined the shovel, about four feet in length with a varnished black steel head curved to a dull point, a spade. He removed it from the garage wall, releasing its D-shaped handgrip from the metal hooks that held the shovel for so many years. He tested the weight of it by carefully lifting it up and down, then, finding the fulcrum point of the shovel, he balanced it on the palm of his right hand. He valued the shovel, how it always got the job done. The man slowly walked to his backyard, broke open the earth and started to dig.
    The man’s son quietly observed the digging through his bedroom window. The man’s wife died when the boy was born and the son always felt like he was the one thing that kept his father going. The man always did try his hardest to stay together emotionally. He always went to work. He would take his son out to the zoo and to the movies. He even started to date again. But for the past few weeks things began to change. The day before, the boy found his father lying on the floor of the kitchen grasping an old black-and-white photograph. The boy walked over to his dad and joined him on the cold tile floor, resting his head in the pit of the man’s upper arm.
    The next day, the father decided to take the day off from work. His son was at his aunt’s at the time, and the man called her to ask if she could drop off the boy for the day. Recently, she had been taking care of the boy more and more. She reluctantly agreed.
    The boy arrived at his father’s house right before dinnertime. The man microwaved an old box of scalloped potatoes and a few hotdogs. They decided to eat in the family room so they could watch T.V. during their meal since the man wanted to avoid any kind of a conversation, even with a nine year-old boy. After dinner the man put his son to bed and went out to the garage. He picked up the spade and continued his digging.
    A few minutes later, the boy got up from his bed and walked out the door wearing his pajamas and sneakers.
    “What are you doing Dad?” the boy asked.
    After a few seconds the man answered, “I’m digging for treasure, but it’s your bedtime now. You can help me tomorrow.”
    “Let me help you now. Just for a little bit,” the son asked.
    “Okay, just for a little bit.”
    The man went to the garage and looked for another shovel for the boy but could not find one. He ended up grabbing a small garden spade made of stainless steel with a dark green, rubber handgrip. The man gave it to the boy and they dug together.
    The father brought out a large, ten by ten foot tarp and laid it next to the hole and would toss the dug-up dirt onto it. The hole started to get deeper and deeper into the earth. The man ignored the salty sweat in his mouth and eyes. The boy wanted to ask his dad what they were looking for but he saw how absorbed he was with his digging. It was almost midnight when the man abruptly stopped. He looked up at his son, who was sitting in the grass playing with the leaves. The man looked startled and confused. He almost yelled at the boy for being up so late until he realized he was the one that let him stay outside.
    “It’s time for bed, kiddo. It’s really late and you need to get some sleep.”
    The man carried his son into the house and up the stairs and plopped him on his bed. He tucked the boy under the covers and sat down next to him.
    “Dad, what are we digging for? What’s in the treasure?” the boy asked.
    “Just wait, you’ll find out soon enough.”
    The boy didn’t want his father to leave. Other than his aunt, his dad was the only person that ever comforted him. When the son was younger, the man would crawl under the boy’s bed to prove that there weren’t any monsters. They would lie together and the man would tell the boy the same stories that the man’s father told him, stories of the past, about the Egyptians, the Romans, and the Indians.
    The father stood up and kissed the boy’s forehead, “Goodnight, son.”
    “Please don’t leave yet dad, stay with me a little longer,” the boy pleaded.
    The man looked out the window at the hole then back at the boy.
    “Okay, son.”

    The man grabbed an old shoebox from under his bed. He emptied its contents, which held different color shoe polishes, two shoehorns, and an ivory hand brush. He inherited the brush from his father, who traded a stainless steel lighter for it while in South Africa during the First Great War. There was an African landscape engraved into the brush, with a giraffe eating from an Acacia tree. The man rubbed his hand through the horsehair bristles and remembered when his father taught him how to shine shoes when he was a child.
    Set a towel on the ground so you don’t stain the carpet.
    Wipe the dust off the shoes with a horsehair brush and a damp rag and let them dry.
    Make sure the shoe polish is the same color as the shoes, and if you have to, mix and match the polishes to create the correct color.
    Cover the entire shoe with the polish, making sure you get down into the seams and wait fifteen minutes to let dry.
    Dip cotton balls into water and polish the shoes in a circular motion, using new cotton balls for different areas of the shoe.

    The man carefully went through these steps while realizing that he had never taught his own son how to shine shoes. After the man had finished, he carefully placed the shoes under his bed and walked outside so he could continue with his digging. His fingers began to bleed, staining the eucalyptus handle a dark burgundy. The only time he would stop digging was to pop the blisters on his fingers using a razorblade from his toolkit. But for the most part, the man ignored the pain and went on with his digging, pulling up pile after pile of earth. The dirt was dark brown and moist at first, but it slowly changed into a reddish clay-like soil the deeper he dug. Every once in awhile the man would hit a root and would have to use all his strength to break through it. The man’s sweat blended with the dirt on his face, creating a thin layer of mud. After so much digging, the man’s arms and legs began to numb. The shovel became a part of his body, an extension of his arm. He began to lose control of his movements and the shovel took over.

    The sun started to rise when he heard the voice of his neighbor.
    “What the hell are you digging for?”
    Hearing the voice startled the man. He looked up at the neighbor confused. The hole was about five feet deep so the neighbor could only see the father’s head. This caused him to focus on the man’s eyes, and the bewilderment within them.
     The man stumbled in finding his words.
    “I’m trying to fix one of our pipes. They’re so old that they should be cracking any day now. Figured I would get it done before winter comes.”
    “Why the hell didn’t you say something? I have a friend who owns a backhoe. I could have him come over today and dig it up in minutes,” the neighbor said.
    “Well...I don’t know. I thought I would do it myself. I don’t have much money to spend anyways.”
    “Hell, he wouldn’t charge you. He loves doing stuff like this. It’d be on the house.”
    “Well, I’m almost done anyways. Plus I need the workout. But thanks for the offer,” the man said.
    “Suit yourself. But I know what you mean about the workout. My wife has been nagging me about exercising ever since we got married. I tell her I exercise everyday; I do arm curls every time a put a beer to my mouth. You know what I mean?” the neighbor asked.
    The man tried to laugh.
    “Yeah. I definitely know what you mean. But I better get back to work.”
    “Come on, take a break, drink a few beers with me. It looks like you need the rest,” the neighbor said.
    “Thanks for the offer, but maybe some other time. I really want to get this finished by tomorrow.”
    “Come on, you party-pooper.”
    “Not now, maybe later,” the man said.
    “Well, just stroll on over when you’re done and we’ll watch the game. Hell, bring your kid over if you want, he could play with my son,” the neighbor said.
    “Okay, I’ll try to stop by. Nice talking to you.”
    “Ya, ya, ya,” the neighbor said as he walked away.

    After another hour, the boy came back outside and sat down next to the hole. It was getting so deep that the man was having trouble tossing the soil out of it. The boy had brought out a piece a paper and some crayons. He tried to draw a picture of his father digging. He then started to draw a picture of his mother lying down on a bed. He tried his hardest to draw straight lines but was unsuccessful since he didn’t have a flat surface to draw on. He only had three different colors: Asparagus Green, Macaroni and Cheese Yellow, and Wild Blue Yonder. He used the blue for his mother’s dress and the yellow for her hair. Every few minutes he would look up and watch the dirt soar through the air. The father exited the hole to get a drink and saw the boy’s drawing. The man tried to quickly walk away.
    “Dad, why did mom get sick?” the boy asked.
    “ can happen to anyone. It just happens sometimes, that’s just how it is,” the man said.
    “Did I make her sick?”
    “No, son. Of course not. It had nothing to do with you. People live and then they die, and some people die earlier than others. But it’s not your fault so don’t think that. Okay?”
    “Okay, dad.”

    After some more digging, the man’s shovel hit something hard. It made a loud, hollow noise that rang throughout the hole. The man struck the object a few more times. The son jumped up to see what it was.
    “Well dad, what is it?”
    The father wiped the sweat from his eyelids, “Rock layers are deposited from the bottom up, so the deeper we dig, the farther back in time we see.”
    “So it’s a rock? How are we going to dig deeper, Dad? What are we even searching for?”
    The boy looked down at his father, barely able to make out his face.
    The man looked up at the boy with the sunlight blinding his eyes. “We’re not searching for anything, son. We’re burying something.”
    The father had set a ladder down in the hole earlier in the day since it was getting too deep to climb out of. He rose from the hole and walked straight to his room and collapsed on the bed.
    While sleeping, the man looked as though he was preparing for something, as if he was trying to acquire strength and energy. The boy entered the room and sat down next to his father. He started to brush the dirt and grime off his dad’s shirt. He walked over to the bathroom and wetted a cloth and wiped his father’s forehead. The boy examined the man’s wrinkles and the bags under his eyes, which made his dad look much older than he actually was. He then observed his father’s hands, gently rubbing his fingers over the man’s blisters, feeling the elevated crevasses of his fingerprints. The boy grabbed some disinfectant and bandages and applied them to his dad’s hands. The man woke up during this process, but closed his eyes and acted as if he were still sleeping. A draft was seeping into the room from the open window that broke on the day of his wife’s death, which the man had never fixed. The boy tucked his father in under the covers.

    The father woke up an hour later to his son’s face, which caused him to smile for the first time in weeks. They quietly stared at each other. The father watched the boy slowly fall asleep. As the boy started to snore, the man began to talk.
    “I could hear them come through the window. I was downstairs working on a presentation while your mother was in the bedroom with you. You weren’t born yet; you were still in her belly. I heard every shard of glass from the window fall on the ground one piece at a time. I heard the footsteps and I could tell that there was more than one of them. I heard the screams. She yelled for me and I could not move. There were too many of them...and I wasn’t there to protect her. I was frozen. After awhile I heard them walk out the back door. The sounds of the sirens began to get louder and louder, but your mother made no noises.”
    The man remembered how a neighbor who heard the screams had called the police. They found his wife on the ground, surrounded by a pool of blood, holding her belly in hopes of protecting the boy. They took her to the hospital. They knew she wasn’t going to make it but they thought they could still save the boy if they hurried. The man hid in the crawlspace the entire day. None of the policemen knew he was home. Everyone thought he was gone on a business trip and he didn’t tell them otherwise. The next day he walked upstairs and acted as if he didn’t know what had happened. He tried to forgive himself and let go but couldn’t, it wasn’t something he could control. The pain worsened each day. Every morning he would have to remind himself what had happened. At first he didn’t believe it, he didn’t think he was capable of such weakness. Every morning he prayed to God that it was just a dream, but he knew it wasn’t. He knew what he had done. And not only did his pain grow, but also his love for her. Each day that passed he missed her more and more. His love for her became more powerful than the pain and the regret. He couldn’t stop thinking about her; she lived in every thought that ran through his mind, refusing to leave, refusing his apologies. One day he realized it would never stop. He realized he needed to take action. He tried to make it go away but he couldn’t.

    The next morning, after watching the boy sleep, the man grabbed a lawn chair from the back porch and set it next to the hole. He stood up and started to pace back and forth around the ditch. He stared down to the bottom, not able to see anything but darkness. Walking over to the pile of dirt, he grabbed a small handful of soil and let it gradually fall from his hands down into the hole. He then began to slowly push small amounts of dirt back down to the bottom. At first just a few grains, he then started to kick more and more soil down into the hole. He eventually stopped and walked back to his room.
    The bedroom hadn’t changed since his wife died. It was near the back of the ranch house so no sunlight ever entered the room. The ceiling light was dimming out, making the robin’s egg blue seem darker than it actually was. The wife’s grandfather clock still occupied the front corner of the room. She inherited the clock from her mother, which was passed down from previous generations. The clock didn’t look as though it belonged in the room or even the century. It was a Comtoise clock, a French grandfather clock that is more curved and rounded than a normal one. This one exhibited a striking resemblance to a potbellied man. The clock seemed immovable, as though it had roots that went down into the ground for miles and miles. It was as though they built the house around it. The face of the clock was shattered the day the man’s wife died, splintered into hundreds of irregular shapes. The hour and minute hands remained in the same position ever since. Shortly after visiting the bedroom, the man returned outside and started to dig out the dirt he had kicked down into the hole just before.

    Once the boy woke up, the man presented his son with a cake. It was chocolate with vanilla icing around the edges. The man had put ten red and white striped candles in the center.
    “Happy birthday son. Now make a wish.”
    The boy waited a few seconds and then blew out the candles.
    “Since it’s your birthday, you can do whatever you want.”
    “Lets play a game,” the son said.
    After browsing their board game closet, the boy decided he wanted to do a puzzle. It was a five-hundred-piece three-dimensional puzzle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The pieces were quarter-inch thick, made of lightweight foam. They dumped the pieces on the kitchen table and began to flip them all over so they were the right side up. They started off with the base of the puzzle, and built up from there. The puzzle began to take shape, slowly growing in height and beauty.
    “You’re not really good at puzzles, are you dad?”
    The two laughed, “No, son. I never had the knack for stuff like this, but your mom was really good at them.”
    The two told each other stories and shared memories throughout the entire day. They finished the whole cake and the man cooked the boy macaroni and cheese, his favorite meal. The boy told his father about school, and how his favorite class was social studies. The man teased the boy about having a crush on a girl from one of his classes.
    “So girls don’t have cooties anymore, do they?” the man joked.
    “I remember when I first met your mother. We were in high school and she was one of the most popular girls in school, and the prettiest. I was always too scared to talk to her, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I wanted to stop because I thought I didn’t have a chance, but you can’t control love. Luckily, after we graduated we both got a job at Archie’s Fish and Chips and the rest is history.”
    The two continued the puzzle, reaching the spires of the cathedral before the boy started to get tired.
    “How about we finish this up tomorrow. It’s almost your bedtime,” the man said.
    “But we are so close. Come on, dad. Let’s finish it really quick.”
    “Tomorrow, it’s bedtime now. Go upstairs and get ready.”

    After the man put his son to sleep, he walked over to his closet and grabbed his best suit, a silk tweed jacket and a pair of gray trousers. The jacket was the color of the earth, with two wooden buttons underneath the collar. He took his time putting it on, making sure every crease and wrinkle was flattened out. The man then grabbed the polished shoes and slid them onto his feet. He carefully tied his shoelaces and slowly walked toward the window. He stood there for a minute, feeling the icy draft blowing in, eventually pulling down the blinds to cover the broken window.
    The man walked over to the hole and grabbed a tape measure from his toolbox. He measured the depth of the hole. It was exactly ten feet deep. He figured one foot in depth was equivalent to one year in time, which made the hole precisely ten years deep, exactly the day his wife died. He tied a thick rope to the tarp where the dirt was placed on and threw the rope down to the bottom of the hole. He slowly descended down the ladder one year at a time, and arranged himself on his back when he got to the bottom. He reached under his back to remove some small stones that were protruding into his body. The man moved around for quite a bit trying to find the most comfortable position on the rocky floor.
    The man then grabbed an old black-and-white photograph of his dead wife from his coat pocket. He studied the photograph for a few seconds and placed it on top of his heart. He then grabbed the rope with both hands and started to pull as hard as he could. The dirt and tarp wouldn’t budge. He scooted down and put his legs on the wall of the hole so he could have more leverage. He tried again. This time the dirt started to move inch by inch. A few grains of dirt started to fall into the hole onto his chest. The man stopped. He felt something sticking into his leg. He let go of the rope and reached his right hand into his pants pocket. The man pulled out the engraved, ivory hand brush. He studied the brush, moving it around and tracing the engravings with his index finger. The man climbed up the ladder and when he reached the top, he started to pull up the rope. After the rope was completely out of the hole, the man stood at the edge looking at the photograph of his dead wife. A few seconds later, he let the rope fall from his hands and watched it descend back down into the hole.

* * * *

     “Okay, son. I don’t have much time, but the first thing you should know is to always place a towel on the ground so you don’t stain the carpet. This stuff doesn’t come out if you spill. You follow?”
    “Yes,” the son said, still in his pajamas and half asleep.
    “Good, now wipe down the shoes with the brush. Make sure you get deep into the seams.”
    The man grabbed a box of matches from the kit.
    “Okay, son, now for the fun part. Grab the shoe polish and open it up for me. Now, have you ever lit a match before?”
    The boy shook his head.
    “Well, there’s a first time for everything. Now, set the polish down on the towel. Take this match and hold it tight. Now strike the match against the side of the box.”
    The match caught the flint at just the right angle. The red phosphorus quickly turned into white, and sparks flew, igniting the sulfur and potassium chlorate. The smell of the sulfur spread throughout the air.
    “Perfect. Now hold the match still. Don’t drop it; it won’t burn you if you’re careful. Now grab the shoe polish and tilt it into the flame.”
    The polish ignites.
    “Good, now blow the match out and put the lid back onto the polish. See how the polish is a bit melted and runny? This makes it easier to polish our shoes. Now grab the cloth and dip it into the polish. Just a tad. Now start rubbing in a circular motion. You’re doing great, son. Now push down hard, you want to make sure you get into those seams.”
    “How’s it look so far?” the boy asked.
    “It looks as if you bought those shoes just yesterday.”

The Sell-Out

Ryan Priest

    The seats were made out of hard orange plastic. The ground was concrete, like a locker room with cracks and stains all over its otherwise smooth face. Thirty-years old and in a bus station, was this failure? Max ran his hands heavily down his face trying to wake himself up a bit.
     He looked at his watch. Twenty-three hours awake, forty-five minutes from his bus out. He looked around and saw the relative things one expects to see in any gathering of the poor: A drug deal of some sort was going on outside. Someone stood inside talking to himself angrily. He looked familiar to Max.
    “I’ve known more madmen than millionaires.” Max whispered under his breath and thought, he may not have even known one millionaire.
    He got up taking his only bag with him. His only bag, a black gym bag with a Misfits patch sewn crudely onto the side. His only bag with his only possessions left in the world inside. A few shirts, a Discman and toothbrush.
    There were other items of property but not in any one centralized place. He had a DVD player that was at a friend’s house. He’d left it there planning to come back for it a few months before. There was a Playstation he’d chipped in on upstate while he was staying with five other guys and two girls in a three bedroom apartment. He doubted he’d ever see that Playstation again. Everyone had scattered the day of the lockout eviction. People in Max’s circles never leave a forwarding address, so when one goes they’re lost to time.
    Some unattended children stood in the way of the brown bathroom door. As Max tried to get by them one of the kids decided it’d be fun to jump in his way. Max hissed at the child and stepped right past him.
    The sight of a six-foot man in snow-camo pants, a black Marilyn Manson T-shirt and a leather trench coat, with long hair down his back but shaved on the sides hissing usually made noisy kids or staring housewives shit themselves. Max smirked to himself. People shouldn’t leave their kids unsupervised in the middle of the night at some bus station. Max hated kids.
    The white tile of the bathroom floor was anything but. Grime, feces and blood from countless unmentionable moments had rendered the bus station facilities a vomit inducing pit of stench. Max looked at the urinals and, incidentally, the glistening puddles around each. The kind of puddles where you had to mosey on up to the urinal with splayed legs like a saddle sore cowboy just to avoid standing in someone else’s piss. None of them had been flushed, for some time, and the white porcelain was imbued with shining, miniscule pubic hairs sticking out every which way. Not only did the poor have bad aim but apparently genital mange as well.
    Max needn’t wonder why he never found stockpiles of pubic hair in nice toilets. For two months when he was twenty six he’d shacked up with a girl and they, in exchange for fifty-bucks a week and a room all their own, took on the maid services of a small inn. Two months of urine soaked pubes every day and drunken sex during the night. Max didn’t know whether to think of it as good or bad times. The girl, Melissa had told him she was in love with him. The day they were kicked out (they hadn’t cleaned for a week.) Melissa took off to stay with some friends in Akron. She was supposed to call Max’s friend, Ragged, when she got set up with a number. The phone call never came but two years later Max saw Melissa at a nightclub. She looked horrible and she was pregnant by some fuck buddy. The two made small talk but it was only strangers passing pleasantries. Neither one felt the slightest bit connected to the other anymore.
    It was only now that Max felt a sort of sorrow about her. Maybe if he’d found a way to stay with Melissa then things would have worked out better a couple of places in his life. Max stepped closer to the urinal and then realized he didn’t have to pee. He tried to remember why he’d even come into the bathroom. Probably something to keep him awake. He decided to clean up a bit.
    The water out of the tap was cold but that didn’t matter, he’d taken cold showers before. He took a handful of the pink soft soap and smeared under his left arm, then his right. It wasn’t deodorant but it did the job for a while. He hadn’t had a real shower in three days. Three days prior the water had been turned off in the apartment he was staying in with a couple guys who were friends of friends until twenty-three hours ago when they had been evicted.
    “You have five minutes, take what you need.” Were the words that had awoken Max. They came from a silhouetted figure standing in the doorway who seconds later turned into the apartment manager.
    Max held his toothbrush under the cold water facet. You can still brush your teeth without toothpaste if necessary. Max looked up ready to brush his teeth and he saw something he’d dreaded his entire life in the mirror. An old man.
    He immediately threw up in the sink.
    He cupped the iron tasting water from the faucet and rinsed his mouth out. The sink was still filled with the puke that had yet to make itself down the drain. Max wondered, with a bile taste in his mouth, how many others had puked in that sink. He’d have bet money more people had vomited in that particular bus station sink than had ever heard any of the five bands he’d been a part of play a note of music. Max took a deep breath and looked back into the mirror.
    Here’s my life. Here looking at me is my thirty-year contribution to the world. This is my middle age and what have I done with my life? Not a mother fucking thing.
    The lines under his eyes weren’t just bags anymore, they were wrinkles. His dyed black hair had three week brown roots growing at the bottom, with spots of gray sprinkling them. His long hair that had gotten him so many women was looking thin. The high cheek bones the same women had all said they loved now just lent themselves to concave, sunken cheeks.
    His nose ring, Jesus Christ! What was a man of thirty doing with a fucking nose ring, he asked himself. He took the ring out quickly with disgust. When he was younger he’d always laughed at the middle-aged goths. They were jokes. Hanging out with people ten years younger, smoking pot with eighteen year olds and working on the same pay scale as high school students.
    He’d never meant for himself to end up like them. He’d had a lot of plans just none that saw themselves through. He knew why too. For the first time looking in the mirror he realized what factor had sabotaged every single undertaking he’d ever tried at. That culprit was none other than one Maxwell Redding, himself. He was a loser, he couldn’t hold down jobs because he was too impulsive. He couldn’t get off of his ass to do any of the necessary leg work it takes to get something done. He relied on the flakes and was himself an unreliable flake. He’d fucked over in one way or another everyone who’d ever been taken in by his hard luck tales. He was the roommate who never had rent, the guy without a car who always needs a ride. He’s the guy who’d take an evening at a club and find a way to move into your house and sleep on your couch for a month.
    He once met a couple, Josh and Sandi, they were new to the city, they had no friends and they’d been goth at their home. So Max met them, he’d just been evicted that day from one place or another and had subsequently lost his job. They took him in and were happy to let his friends come over to play video games. Josh even sometimes ordered pizza for the guys and even found two of Max’s friends work at his company.
    Josh had gotten Max a job interview as well but Max overslept and said fuckit to the entire process. Instead he stayed home and slept with Sandi. Josh found out a week later and there was a fight from hell. Max and Sandi had both been kicked out. They went to stay at a friend of Max’s but then Sandi slept with Max’s friend and there was more drama. The last time Max had ever seen Sandi she was at a bus station with a ticket back home. He had no idea whatever became of Josh.
    Now Max was at a bus station, with a ticket to Oklahoma City. He had some friends who lived there and he could probably crash on their couch until he had a job and could find a place of his own.
    It was like looking into the future, or more appropriately, the past. Max could already see himself without work, in Oklahoma, being kicked out and forced to move into some one bedroom apartment shared by five people, one of which would inevitably be a speed dealer or some such. He’d spend his time there getting high on free pot and playing video games in between reckless and unprotected sex with the eighteen year old girls of the area who thought it was so cool to be hanging out with ‘adults.’
    Max unzipped his bag, put away his toothbrush and fished around for his plain black t-shirt. Surprisingly or sadly, however you choose to view it, this was not the first time Max had ever changed clothes in a bus station bathroom. He was hoping it’d be the last.
     The camo pants and three concert t-shirts went into the trash. Now Max was wearing a plain black T and black jeans. He had no other clothes left to his name. He took his clippers from his bag and attached the biggest of the unused guards. The first run was the hardest. He ran those clippers directly over his head lobbing off over a foot of black hair. Then again, and again until the man left looking at him had only a short butch brown crew cut, shaved on the sides.
     He had forty dollars in his wallet and the leather jacket would pawn out for about fifty dollars of its three-hundred worth. No matter, Max would never be returning for it. He’d take his ninety dollars and buy a white button up shirt with it. Perfect for desk job, waiter or fucking dish washer if that’s what it took, but there had to be a change. Those friends in Oklahoma would just have to go wanting. He’d rent a motel and stay there until having enough saved, in a bank, to get an apartment of his own. His ticket was to OK so that’s where he’d start. Sooner or later he’d get a job that allowed a transfer elsewhere.
    Max stepped out of the pile of shorn black hair and left the bathroom leaving only his opaque mane, vomit-filled sink and a torn Misfits patch behind. The time to grow up had come a long time ago. Age had rung his bell several times before but finally, Max was ready to answer the fucker.

Rebuilt Parts

Kenneth Schalhoub

    My disassembled life happened not suddenly, although it seemed it had. I somehow lost my attention. The time-distended rush of pot and the warm flow of Scotch whiskey distracted my senses. How did this happen? I ask my therapist, the one who will not take money from me. She always answers me the same way: “That’s the way humans are. We are a species of deniers. Don’t criticize yourself; we just need to work on it.”
    I am working on it. My search began in the local newspaper personals, not for a therapist, but for a companion. My ad was a simple request for a woman to share some time with me. I waited in my current environment, the one that is devoid of richness. My solitary room (a kind of cave) is dust-filled with microscopic particles that challenge my nose’s ability to hold back each imminent sneeze. The window is basement sized with a northern exposure. The walls are off-white, not because they were painted as such—years of neglect allowed the white paint to turn into pale gray without guilt. My bed is cot-like in size with a three inch mattress. When I turn from one side to the other, I must take care to keep from falling off the edge. I dare not let my face leave the pillow and be exposed to the sour odor of my stale neglected mattress. There are other rooms that I no longer use. I used to sleep on a king-sized bed with pale blue silk sheets and a two inch comforter. A cold female body maintained its position just enough distance away so as to not risk touching me. The body had once been warm. “Why did it turn cold?” I ask my therapist. Her answer is direct and lacking in emotion.
    “People change.”
    “But I didn’t—haven’t. Why did she?
    “I cannot answer that question,” she says, “I can only help you now.”
    “You are not yet helping me,” I say every day.
    “But I want to. I will if you let me,” she says every day. And as I lie on my three inch mattress, littered with dust mites, I understand that I must find all the parts again.
    “We must work backward,” my therapist says. “We must separate your life into sections to determine how you came to be here with me.” She calls them Personality Parts, and they are numbered.

Part One: My therapist

    The personal ad I placed only attracts one response, not by phone call, but rather in person. She rings my doorbell at 8 A.M. on the morning she calls “the only right morning.”
    “Yes?” I say.
    “Hello. I am Dr. Eleanor Durand, your in-home therapist.”
    She asks me if I know what her name means and I do not. She tells me that her surname means “make strong,” and she plans to make me strong. She asks me if I know what an in-home therapist is and I say no, again.
    “That is how I can help you,” she says as she slips past me and eyes my environment. She tells me that she is sure that I was different and strong at a time in my past, and that together, through working on all the Personality Parts, we will rediscover my strength. I trust her, although she shows me no credentials. Her way sooths me and she calls herself a doctor. I lack the energy to doubt her.
    “What shall I pay you?”
    “We will work out the details later.”
    I ask her why she does not take payment from me now and she smiles supportively. “You may pay me when I help you. And there are many methods of payment that we shall discuss in the future. I will leave you now to decide.”
    “I have decided.”
    “Eight then, tomorrow morning?” she does not ask, but expects.
    “Yes,” she says as she leaves my home as confidently as when she entered.
    I escape to my room to think for the hours that remain in the long day. I am emotionally juxtaposed. She is an answer, but not the answer I wanted. She excites me and scares me. I decide to medicate until tomorrow.
    The first session begins on a personal level. I tell her that it seems an odd way to do therapy, and she insists that it is a way to make the conversation more friendly and comfortable for us. Eleanor is not an unattractive woman, but I doubt she turns heads. Her clothing is professional, almost matronly. I wonder what her hair is like when she is in her home. In my home it is tied in a tight bun, medium brown with some strands of gray. I notice how well groomed her clear coated nails are and wonder if her toenails are as attractive. She wears no noticeable makeup or hides it strategically. Today she asks me if I like her appearance and I admit that I noticed her attention to detail.
    “Good,” she says. That means you are observant. A very good sign for progress.” It seems we talk about her when we should be talking about me. I say that to her and she assures me it is the process.
    “Shall we begin with your loneliness?”
    We talk for hours about as much as I am willing to admit in the first session. She assures me she will be back at eight sharp, same day next week. I watch as she disappears into the night fog. Is she real? I ask myself once my evening of solitude begins. I research techniques of therapy to determine if Eleanor (she insists I call her by her first name) is conducting herself in a professional manner and find that her technique is not used by others in her field. I sleepwalk through the week awaiting her return. The second session begins at 8:05 A.M. exactly one week later with her appearance identical as last time, as if she never changed clothes or has a closet full of identical business suits. When I confront her of the oddity of her techniques, she insists that she is unorthodox, but that I need her method.
    “Where were we?” she asks.
    I talk for hours as she prods and pushes. She never smiles, only nods and writes. When she finally leaves in mid-afternoon, I am too fatigued to see her to the door.
    “No worries. I know the way,” she says and touches my arm. It is a touch that is not professional. But I think about her stated methods and feel a growing warmth. Is she my friend? I sleep with a guarded feeling about the next session.
    She arrives, again, one week later at the prescribed time. It is our third time together and she asks me what I think of her face. I do not want to hurt her feelings and decide to tell her that she is a handsome woman. She asks for details. I analyze her facial structure and itemize my observations to her. Oval shaped, with plump cheeks, she appears gentle, but not delicate. She seems to like that.
    “And my eyes?”
    “They are just brown,” I say
    She smiles but seems disappointed. “Tell me about my lips.”
    I do see they are quite succulent and tell her so.
    “Should I wear lipstick?”
    “That is up to you,” I say.
    “And finally my ears?”
    I tell her they are nicely shaped with pinchable earlobes.
    She laughs. “You have passed your first Personality Part. You are beginning to see life again,” she says.
    She leaves my home after the third session and I feel as if I have moved forward. Eleanor believes I have made progress. After I smoke my evening joint, I lie on my cot and stare at the peeling ceiling. I have not felt any feelings for a woman since my descent. Why am I not able to clear my mind of Eleanor? Seeing her only once a week is too infrequent—an interminable wait. It is late evening and I am holding her number suspended in my mind; I call her; she answers.
    “You said I could call anytime,” I say.
    “Of course, Joseph.”
    “I want to start the next Part,” I say.
    “And when would you like to begin?”
    I want to say now. Why am I so needy? “Tomorrow?”
    “I believe I can clear a spot. 2 P.M.”
    “You have nothing earlier?”
    “I can see you at 8 A.M. if you are available.”
    I tell her I will be waiting for her to arrive at eight. I lie awake watching the clock.

Part Two: How the color in my life left me

    The doorbell rings at eight sharp. Her presentation is new; more casual and interesting. She is wearing noticeable eye makeup, red lipstick and nail polish, jewel studded earrings, and open-toed heals with equally painted toenails. Her top is flowered silk with two buttons open just enough to show she is a woman. Her royal blue skirt is mid-thigh.
    “You may stop staring,” she says.
    “Please explain.”
    “You are about to begin to explore Part Number Two, color in your life and I am the first to bring some back in.”
    We sit in my dank living room as always, but this time she opens all the shades and curtains to let in the morning light.
    “Sun is good,” she says.
    We begin to explore.
    “When did you close the curtains?”
    That one question starts a floodgate of thoughts that I did not realize were still in my memory. While I talk, she sits listening with legs crossed and shoe dangling the way women do when they want to get a man’s attention. I try to ignore her enticement.
    I was married once and it lasted for twenty-six years. We enjoyed a good life but could not have children. It was my fault. She nods with each revelation. I was completely dependent on my wife for emotional stability and day-to-day happiness. My job was demanding and I needed my wife to keep my spirits level. We smoked pot every day and always had cocktail hour.
    “Do you like pot,” she asks.”
    “Who doesn’t,” I answer. She smiles and I fantasize smoking with Eleanor. Does she know?
    I reveal with raw emotions that a day came when my wife and I realized that all we had were pot and alcohol. I came home from work after the revelation the next day and the living room curtains were closed. I asked her why and she said our lifestyle was smothering her and she wanted to show me how she felt. As the days passed, one room at a time became closed off. She told me it was her way to shock me into understanding. She stopped smoking, I did not. She left. I closed the remainder of the blinds and curtains and quit my job.
    “Is that all?”
    “Should there be more?” I ask.
    “Next time.”
    “When?” I ask.
    “Tonight. You will cook me dinner. You are moving to Part Number Three: re-establishing having fun. I will be back at seven with the food that you will cook. And please clean the kitchen.”

Part Three: Re-learning how to have fun

    Eleanor returns at seven with a bag of food. She is dressed in tight spandex jeans, cut sweatshirt, and pumps. Her hair is in a ponytail and she has very little makeup on. She kisses me on the cheek and says that’s just to make sure I’m relaxed. She has brought steaks, potatoes, pre-made salad, and a bottle of red wine.
    “Where’s the pot?” she asks.
    I say I’m surprised that she would smoke with a client and she assures me it is only for therapeutic effect. We sit in my opened up but filthy living room; the same room we have been having our sessions (call them meetings now, she says). She closes the curtains (for privacy, she says), and I light the pipe. She smokes in the style of a seasoned pot user, does not cough, and exhales after many seconds. We both become very stoned but she maintains her physical distance.
    At her insistence I cook. I have not cooked good food since my wife left me and my skills do not return in time. I burn the steaks and undercook the potatoes.
    She laughs. “You’re rusty. That’s cute.”
    “I’m confused.”
    “About what?”
    “About you. About you saying I’m cute.”
    “You are and it’s my job to reinforce you.”
    “I haven’t interacted with a woman in some time.”
    “I know”
    “Are you flirting with me?”
    “That’s your interpretation and I know it makes you feel good,” she says. Her statement floats in front of me. She does make me feel good, but she scares me. How can a person who answers a personal ad and claims to be a therapist (no credentials shown) seem to know so much about me?
    We smoke many more times at her urging, but she never touches me. At midnight she informs me that she is too tired to drive home but she planned for this possibility.
    “I will sleep on your sofa tonight and we can begin your next Part at eight tomorrow morning. I expect you will be a perfect gentleman.”
    I assure her that I will remain in my bedroom and will be showered and ready by eight.
    “You may use the guest shower down the hall,” I tell her. She kisses me on the cheek one more time and thanks me for accepting her methods. Apparently I am making great progress.

Part 4: Work and money

    When I emerge from my stale sleeping room showered and ready I see her already seated in the living room chair—the one she always uses during meetings. She is not the flamboyant partier from last night, but rather, she is dressed as a professional again; hair back in a bun, gray business suit and medium black heals. I ask her why the change?
    “Today we talk about your work, professional career, and money. We cannot be meretricious for this Part Number Four. Shall we begin?”
    This meeting lasts all day and I wonder if she has any other patients. She spends all her time with me. Fear returns with a hollow sickening in my stomach. I’m being controlled; I like it and fear it. Her method is relentless, but not cruel. She asks targeted questions with insistency.
    “What’s your degree in?”
    “What is your career?”
    “I have no career.”
    “What was your career? You must be honest with me. This Part is critical to your therapy. It is absolutely vital for your recovery. There is a reason why you have this mansion, even if it is covered in filth and in disrepair.”
    I spend undetermined time chronicling how I came to be this rich. It is a boring story in my mind and my narrative lacks verve. I was simply very good at buying and selling stocks and bonds. She asks me if I liked my career.
    “In the beginning I did.”
    “It became boring.”
    “I don’t know. It just did.”
    “Things do not just happen. Was it your medicated lifestyle?”
    I do not answer because I don’t want to admit it may have. She asks if my wife had liked the lifestyle.
    “In the beginning she did, and she spent money without regard.”
    “She became bored of the lifestyle, is that not true?” Eleanor asks.
    “She never said that. She did begin to resist the excessive medication.”
    “She became bored with you.”
    Her comment is unexpected. Eleanor has never criticized me in past meetings. I am hurt and confused. I ask her why she would say that. No answer is proffered. She then floats a very personal question in front of me.
    “How much money do you have now? Are you independently wealthy?”
    Why would she ask me this? Is she planning to send me a bill that she’s afraid I cannot afford? My fear becomes focused as I realize this woman has become a needed person in my life. I have substituted a chemical dependence with an emotional dependence; an unplanned consequence.
    “I have enough money to live any way I desire. My investments are stable and always growing. Are you planning to steal from me?” I ask, but not seriously. She looks at me with her steely therapist eyes (not her party eyes) in admonishment. I apologize. She nods and smiles.
    “Why did you stop working?”
    “About what?” she asks.
    “About whether I should be excited about my work. I believe the pot may have had something to do with it. I don’t know.”
    She asks me a question that I had never considered. She wants to know if there is a connection between my ambivalence and my wife’s insistence to close the house from light. I ask her if she thinks my wife caused my malaise. Did my wife take advantage of my changes? Was she simply being malicious knowing that she would get a generous divorce settlement?
    “Possibly she was, Joseph.”
    Hearing the words from Eleanor, two conflicting emotions hold me in confusion. I know that therapists are not supposed to give succinct opinions. I also know that I have needed someone to validate that thought since the divorce.
    “Are you allowed to give me such an opinion? Is it allowed?”
    “I do and say what is necessary to help.”
    “Is this meeting now over?” I ask.
    “We have made great progress. This Part has been the best one for us. Tomorrow we begin at eight with Part Number Five, your mother. I must leave now.”
    She quickly leaves with a curt smile and I retire to my cave. Become blissfully stoned and think of one word: “us?”

Part Five: My mother

    Eleanor returns dressed in a simple cotton green and yellow quilted day dress not unlike the type my mother always wore. Her feet are hidden by simple flats and her hair is pulled into a loose French Twist helped with bobby pins. She brings eggs, bacon, and white bread.
    “Breakfast?” she asks, and without letting me answer, she begins frying the eggs and bacon. I must stay in the living room until I am called. The scent of the splattering bacon fat makes me feel like a pre-teen boy waiting for his mother’s perfect breakfast. How does this woman, my therapist know these things about me? My daydream is interrupted by her calling me to the kitchen.
    “How did you know I would want this breakfast? How did you know about the dress and hair?”
    She looks at me with the look a mother would at her son. “Women know. Do not forget what I am.”
    I want to ask her what she is, but instead I eat her breakfast while she watches. I finish feeling stuffed as a dutiful son.
    “What did you mean by ‘us’ yesterday,” I ask.
    “It will become apparent as we proceed. Now let us begin today’s interlude.”
    “I thought they are called meetings.”
    “That was before. Now we have moved into interludes.”
    The hours are grueling. I must tell her everything about my childhood. I have no choice.
    “Were you a happy boy?”
    I tell her I was until my father died. I was twelve.
    “Did you love your father?”
    What boy doesn’t? I question her.
    “How did your mother behave when your father died?”
    This question engenders an hour of admissions. She listens with caring eyes as I tell her of my mother’s need for me to always be at her beckon call. I could not play sports; I might get hurt. I could not date girls; I might like one more than her. She insisted I study many hours a day; she needed me to take care of her.
    “There is one more thing, is there not?
    “Is there?” I ask.
    “Yes. I already know, but I must hear it from you,” she says with arms crossed.
    She knows somehow and I do not want to admit it. I had never told my wife, but Eleanor is my therapist. I must tell her. “She made me sleep with her.” There, it is admitted.
    “How far?” she asks.
    “Did you like it?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Did you resent it?”
    “Did it cause revulsion?”
    “I was her son. It was my duty. Dad was gone.”
    “Did she tell you that?”
    “Yes. She said it was what everyone did, but no one admitted it.”
    “Did she take care of you, sexually, as you liked it?”
    “I was too young to know.”
    “What about when you were a teenager?”
    “She met someone when I was sixteen. I could no longer sleep with her.”
    “She rejected you.”
    I cry after her questions and she lets me. She waits until I recover and begins her next inquiry: sex with my wife. This only lasts a few minutes. I have little to say. The reason we did not have children is because I could not have consistent sex with her. I was only able to think about my mother.
    “And you were angry by her rejection,” she finishes for me. Then she says what I don’t want to hear, but must admit.
    “You must admit this one thing, Joseph. It was not the pot, it was not the alcohol, it was not ambivalence about work, it was all about your mother keeping you from becoming a man. Your marriage was doomed from the start. Your life has been under the cloud of your mother’s selfishness.”
    I nod. That is all I can do. Eleanor has picked apart my life as a master locksmith.
    “We are done with this Part. Tomorrow we have a day off. I want to you purchase cleaning supplies. I will be back the day after tomorrow for our final interlude.”
    I spend the next day shopping for every cleaning supply I can imagine she might want. I make myself eggs and bacon for dinner, pot for dessert, and fall asleep on the sofa with one word dancing in my mind: “us.”

Part Six: Us

    Eleanor Durand arrives at the prescribed time, on the prescribed day in jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers, ponytail, with two suitcases. I stare at her and she laughs.
    “Close your mouth, silly and listen to me.”
    She outlines all the work for the day. I am to clean the master bedroom and living room. She will clean the kitchen and bathrooms. I am to lock the cave door. “That room is off limits,” she says. We do not speak for the several hours of cleaning. Once we complete our respective jobs, she disappears in the master bedroom with both her suitcases. I hear the bath water running. I sit thinking. Where has this therapy brought me? What does this woman have planned? Have I been manipulated as my mother did to me all those years ago? I should be feeling fear, but an odd warmth fills me when I see her emerge from the bedroom. She is done with her bath. Her hair is still wet and she is wearing a white terrycloth robe.
    “Your turn now and please shave,” she commands.
    I do as she says quickly. I must find out what she has planned. What is Personality Part Number Six? I find my silk smoking jacket that I have not donned since my divorce. I return to the living room. She is drinking scotch on the rocks and one is waiting for me.
    “Sit, please. This is our last Part and it is called ‘Us’” I know you must be a bit confused. It is time for me to explain.
    I listen with a mixture of wonderment, relief, and fear. She is not a therapist, she was one years ago. She is a person in search of someone who will take care of her. She has found that person in me.
    “You see, Joseph, I understand you. I know you will always be in love with your mother and I don’t care.”
    “My mother used to say to me that if I loved her I would make love to her. I didn’t understand it meant sex until it already happened.”
    “I know. When you look at me, I see in your eyes that you see your mother. You need your mother; she’s gone, but I’m here.”
    I am confused and she knows.
    “I see you’re confused. Your wife couldn’t step in for your mother because you were not ready to admit what your mother had done to you. I brought that out.”
    “Are you saying that I love you?”
    “You will.”
    “I feel scared of you now.”
    “You shouldn’t.”
    “Because I am exactly what you have needed since your mother left you.”
    “You’re controlling me.”
    “Of course I am. That is exactly what you have always needed. Your mother knew it, and I know it.”
    I want to say something, but I have no words. Eleanor has all the words now.
    “You will care for me because you must. You need to take care of the woman who controls your life. I am now that woman.”
    “But I wasn’t able to have sex with my wife.”
    “She wasn’t your mother, I am now.”
    Eleanor, my one time therapist who is now my substitute mother leads me into the master bedroom. She takes me to bed in the same gentle way my mother did years ago.
    “When you make love to me you may see your mother. I welcome it. When we climax, think of how you used to make your mother feel. I will absorb all the emotions. And I will never leave you as your mother did.”
    “You’re staying?”
    “Of course.”
    “Have I invited you?” I ask. Have I forgotten something in my medicated haze?
    “You owe me now, Joseph. I have rebuilt all your parts.”
    She stops the conversation and removes my smoking jacket. I am a naked boy standing in front of the woman who has shown me who I am and what I can only be. Her robe drops to the floor and I realize the beauty she has hidden from me. As she brings us to climax I close my eyes and see the person who was my first love. When I finally open my now wet eyes and look at her with the emotions of a son, she holds my face with both hands.
    “Remember ‘us’ and remember that you will never leave me. You cannot let go of me.”
    And I know at that moment that I am not leaving this house and I am not leaving Eleanor. My path was established before I had a choice, and that has not changed. I will always be the dutiful son.

The Big Duck Opines:
A Few Good Men


It’s true
We DO live in a world of walls
How we got here, begs the Q
As for those walls having to be defended
By men with guns,
They don’t have to
But, there are thrown few meet and greets
So genteel, that
Someone doesn’t snarf the last cheese stick,
Pick your (80’s) movie, where the one guy
Pretends to put down the gun, and-- --!!
That’s somewhat xenophobic, yes, it’s true
But test the theory, sometime
If a single wall remains
One man on that one wall
With one gun with one bullet,
A man named “Gymshorts”, let us say
Five hundred years from your reading this,
Your descendents will call this postulating,
And they will burn this thing of paper
As a part of their daily sacrifice
To their idol of the most Divine Gymshorts,
god of Ea...uh, Gymshorts Planet

Better than STAR WARS, but Only for a Minute


You don’t “get” Christian reality, do you?
End of the world, my ass
It’s the culmination of the Ages
If you hoopjump and make it,
At the end of it all,
You enter thou
Into an end scene to the original STAR WARS
That makes STAR WARS look like
...well...what it really looked like, I guess...
And you stride past the cherubim
And the seraphim
And the ophanim
With the “castle” music from Sega Genesis’
Sword of Vermilion
Played by the very AIR, googol-bit Tomita
And The King awaits you, It is Your Time
And you kneel like a character in fucking-Ivanhoe
Not saying a whisper of a word,
But your stature is at once that of a Goliath
And your beauty is that of a Helen
And you are indeed the mighty white light of
Resurrected Flesh as Diamond
Whereupon Allness as anthropomorphic
Looks down into every intrinsic you are
And He knows and You now know
It Is For Sure For Certain Absolutely Put Paid
It is, yes, culmination, completeness
(“Perfection”, in the original, means, “completed”)
Perfection gently touches you
Completes you            And
You stop existing
Like everything does        Everything
End of the world, Hell!, you morons
It’s the end of Everything Including You
So, I totally “get” why that would piss you off
It does Me

The kite String Broke

Hannah Gaden Gilmartin

    The beach was huge, wide but empty. That was why we had come here today, rather than yesterday, or tomorrow, or next week. We didn’t need other people to be here; we didn’t need their noise or their smiles or their muttered greetings as they passed us by. My father had always preferred solitude, and so did I.
    Perhaps that was the reason why we rarely spoke, even though there was so much to say, especially after last night. Today, we had brought a single kite – a striped triangle, with a yellow sun in the middle – and we took turns to fly it. The wind was strong; it always was here. The huge waves helped us break the silence as we unravelled the string and threw the kite into the air. My father ran a few steps until it caught the wind, his raincoat flapping because he had forgotten to do up any of the buttons. I ran beside him.
    Another wave broke behind us, spilling cold water over our feet and pulling back the pebbles and seaweed. It didn’t matter; I’d left my shoes in the car, though the path to the beach was covered in stones. I knew how to avoid the sharpest ones, and I had not faltered once.
    When it was my turn to hold the kite, I ran on until my father’s figure grew small, and then I turned, ready to run back to him. I stopped for a minute to catch my breath, and watched as he continued to walk towards me, slowly and carefully. There was another reason for our silence today. I knew the decision he wanted me to make, and I knew how long it would take to make it. I paused before beginning to run again, just long enough to look out at the sea, and back to the tall sand dunes behind me. Between the sea, dunes, and the cliffs at the end of the beach, obstacles stood on every side, holding back the sand, but I didn’t feel trapped. Instead, the sea, reaching on forever, and the dunes blocking anything else from view, gave me a sense of new things just out of reach. Perhaps that was why my father had brought me here today.
    I ran back, and it took less time than I thought it would. For just a moment, I remembered what it had been like to run as a little boy, when everything around me seemed so much taller. My new height reminded me that, in the eyes of the law, I would be an adult soon, and running would be an action reserved only for emergencies.
    I handed the kite back to him, but he didn’t move. Without much thought, he tilted his hand to one side, raising it a little, until the brightly coloured kite could twirl in the wind behind him.
    “Did you think about the course we were talking about last night?”
    “Yeah.” Actually, we had barely talked about it, and I had tried to think of it as little as possible. There were so many courses available in so many colleges in so many parts of the country. I had no idea what had led him to suggest this one.
    “What did you decide?” He passed the kite back to me, though he hadn’t moved a step. For the first time, I realised he had been doing more thinking about my future than I had today. The need to decide felt like a tight coat, and I couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how much I tried. Yes, I had been thinking about it for months, years even. But not today. Today, my world had been full of sand and yellow suns, and that had taken more effort than I was willing to admit.
    “I don’t know yet. But I’ll think about it. Promise.” I paused, and he didn’t respond. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, tired or had just started thinking about something else. “Really. I’ve been thinking about it. It’s just a big decision.” I turned to run again, but he caught my arm, and the string that trailed from my hand jerked wildly around, throwing the kite in a violent circle.
    “I know.” His voice was gentle, telling me he made the same crucial decision years ago, that it was hard but it could be done. He never did use words to say it.
    “I was thinking maybe we could talk about one of the other courses tonight.” Without meaning to, I leaned forward as I spoke, nodding my head too enthusiastically. It was my offering for the day, my promise that someday I would learn to make decisions bigger than I was. My father nodded, looking straight at me. Soon, I would be taller than him.
    Another strong gust of wind rushed in, and I pulled the string down a little. The kite strained against my control, trying to pull itself out of my grip. And then, suddenly, the tugging stopped.
    The string trailed from my hand now, and the kite was high above us. A gust of wind blew it out to sea, and it swooped down, then up again, like a bird. If the wind here wasn’t so unpredictable, it would have sunk under the waves. My father nodded, and I knew he would end the conversation now. Finally, the kite fell into the water, floating like a piece of lost clothing, a torn shirt ripped from a drowning man.
    “Go and get it back, and we can fly it some more.” He pointed to where the beach curved around before reaching the cliffs. I would be able to catch the kite at the bend, if I ran quickly.
    “But Dad, the string broke. It won’t fly”
    “We’ll fix it.” He barely paused. “Go on, run.”
    I did. The ground disappeared quickly, stretching out behind me, and I felt like I was flying. The wind drove me forwards, and for a minute I felt like this was all that mattered, that I could get away with never deciding what college to go to, or what to study there, or what I wanted to do afterwards. The multi-coloured shape floating in the sea, still just out of reach, drew my eyes towards it, and I didn’t see the rocks until they were under my feet, making me stumble. I couldn’t see anything but my prize, and I could hear nothing but the wind and my father cheering me on from somewhere far behind me.
    I caught it before it moved past the bend. I saw it coming, had just enough time to roll up the ends of my jeans before stepping into the water to catch it. The waves were usually smaller at this end of the beach, and I had never been able to figure out why. A small ripple brought the kite just within reach. I dragged it out, and it felt heavier than it had before, dripping water onto the sand.
    I began to run again, without waiting for my heartbeat to return to normal. With the wind against me, it took a little longer for me to reach my father. I met him walking slowly in my direction, as though pulled by an invisible thread. He looked at me panting, with my feet covered in damp sand, and smiled.
    We returned home less than ten minutes later, when my father realised he wouldn’t be able to fix the kite there. On the way home, I thought about the decisions I hadn’t made. I thought about the feeling when the kite string broke, when all the resistance suddenly fell away and the kite flew higher than it had when I held it. I thought about it sailing on and on through the sky, out of sight.
    If I hadn’t made a decision today, then perhaps I would tomorrow. If I hadn’t by then, I would next month, and if I thought very hard, maybe sooner. We would talk tonight, like I had promised. My father seemed more at ease than he had before; his hands held the steering wheel in a loose grip as we drove home, and we didn’t talk about college. The kite lay on the back seat, the water draining slowly out of it to soak through the cushion beneath. We would fix it tomorrow, and maybe it would fly again.

bbab, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

bbab, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Eleanor Leonne Bennett Bio (20120229)

    Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old iinternationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.

In The Mind’s Eye

Richard Lind

    Deep Blue Ocean waters lapped against the bow of the tiny wooden lifeboat.

    Inside lay, a large blond man dressed in a dirty white shirt and tattered black pants, sleeping. A particularly large wave struck hard against his safe haven causing him to waken. He did so with an audible groan.
    Christopher Grissom sat up slowly wiping the gum from his eyes. He glanced up squinting at the giant cycloptic eye staring down at him, unrelenting, as it had for the five previous days.
    His water had given out three days before and he knew what that meant. He just preferred not to think about death, if that were possible.
    For lack of much else, left to do Grissom turned his mind back to the sinking of the Sandobar. It had been a nightmare. He could still hear the screams of the dying. They haunted him not just when he slept but in his waking world as well.
    The fire had been quick and harsh sparing none of the twenty-crew members, save Grissom, who had somehow fallen into the ship’s lone lifeboat. They had been taking cargo from England to South Carolina. This was to be his last voyage. Now, he lay in the tiny bit of humanity floating in the Atlantic. He felt like a fly in a coup bowl.
    He thought of his good fortune turned bad. Yes, he had survived, but now he would die a slow painful death.
    Grissom smiled making his swollen, chapped lips crack. He could taste blood in his mouth. He spat once.
    Gulls flew overhead calling to him waiting. He rose with the final fury of a man dying on the battlefield wanting so desperately to live.
    “Get away! Damn you! Get away! I’ll not die like some damned fish. Do you hear me you bastards!” The gulls flew higher.
    “Get away! I swear to God that you will not have my carcass! You will not have my-” he cried and fell back down in the boat his voice trailing off in a small choke. Grissom felt sick and forced his head over the side of the boat. Grissom wretched four times, nothing but foul smelling yellow bile exited from his insides.
    It was then that he saw the sail of the large ship. It was coming for him.
    “Thank God-” he whispered his greasy hair hanging in his face.
    He put out his hand, getting ready to wave and then quickly recoiled in horror. “Lord no,” he said his eyes getting wide.
    He could almost see the tattered remains of the main sail ad the rotted wood on the bow. Every man who sailed had heard of it. It was the Styx come to take him away.
    The ship had been sailing the oceans searching for sailors about to die. She would take them as crew torturing them until Judgment Day when the craft would lurch down into ocean and sail to the depths of hell. The Styx was an unholy terror that made all men cringe.
    He could see the small dots pointing at him from the fore deck. He screamed and then forced himself to remain calm. It was his only chance.
    The ship came for him like a cat to its prey. 100 yards away and closing the ship lowered a long boat.
    Grissom waited in his own smaller craft, a hapless victim. He whimpered once before setting himself straight. He could see inside the boat as it came aft of him. Six small heads stared at him; worms crawled around in their eye sockets. They stared back with cold pitiless faces. Sailors damned for eternity.
    The long boat was not on the port side. Hands rotted and fetid with decay reached out and grasped the side of Grissom’s vessel. The smell of their decay threatened to overwhelm him. He saw odious flesh fall from a hand with a sickening plop.
    Grissom screamed with stark white terror and crawled back as far toward the bow as possible.
    Two sailors, damned, climbed into Grissom’s craft.
    Grissom snarled at them with the sound of a feral animal.
    “Weee’rrrreee hhheeerrreee tooo heeelp yooouuu,” one said through a mouth of scum and filth.
    “Get back! I am a Christian man!” Grissom bellowed.
    “Yeeesss,” the other said.
    The second dead sailor backed away as Grissom drew a wicked dagger from his belt.
    It perplexed Grissom for a moment. Then, he realized with mounting joy that his knife was blessed somehow! “God be with me!” He shouted.
    Like a lion, he leapt forward grabbing the nearest dead man and driving his dagger through its rotted chest. He screamed in rage and hurled the dead man at the long boat that now backed away. The other dead man pushed the carcass of his mate away and swam for the long boat.
    Grissom screamed in triumph as the Styx hauled the long boat up and the ship sailed past.
    He howled and thrust his fist up in the air feeling his glory. Grissom began to paddle away...
    ...The sailors climbed back aboard the whaling vessel in shock.
    “Wot the hell happened?” Bellowed Captain Manhue.
    “Don’t know sir. He’s touched in the head. Killed Jones and we backed away. Should we go back for him?” One shaken sailor said licking his lips nervously.
    “Naw, hangin’ too good for that sot. Helmsman hard ta port.”

Seeking Solace

Kerry Lown Whalen

    I recall the sounds of childhood. The tick of the mantelpiece clock. My parents’ exchanges. Unremarkable murmurs. Occasional laughter. Then a change, a nuance, making the hair bristle on the back of my neck. Just as still desert air presages a storm, raised voices in my house foreshadowed war.
    When I was thirteen, my childhood ended. I remember waiting, heart smacking against my ribs, praying for divine intervention. It did not come. The inevitable thwack rang out as fist pounded flesh and Mum hit floor, mouth leaking blood. An exultant warrior, my father stood over her, red-faced, words ratta-tat-tatting from his lips. I’d seen it before. Too often.
    ‘I’ll come and go as I please.’
    ‘Slut,’ she muttered, before unconsciousness closed her eyes.
    What could I do? If I acted, we’d both be laid out like the dead.
    Seeking solace, I sneaked out the front door. I passed little kids in the street shrieking their joy as they played, riding skateboards and bikes, and kicking a ball around.
    Chrissie stopped playing. ‘Katy. Play with us.’
    I shook my head and hurried to the ocean.
    The children’s light-heartedness compounded my misery. I wanted to join them, share their happiness, but I was older and our lives were different.

    Wind-whipped waves frothed on a brooding sea as I mooched along the cliff top. Through a rocky opening I slid feet-first, my toes finding the ledge beneath. Waves roared below, scouring away seaweed and snarled fishing line. My foray demanded careful timing. Salt stung my face as I crouched, ready to jump once the water drained to thigh level. When the moment came I leapt into the swirl, fighting the power of the sea. From the fray the cave beckoned, its footholds leading me upwards. Panting, I scrambled inside and looked at the gale teasing the waves, tossing them in foaming plumes onto rocky platforms. I fixed my gaze on the horizon. It seemed as straight as a ruler, but nothing was what it seemed.
    In my shelter I imagined a place where people cared about each other. It was possible. I had glimpsed it sometimes. But my reality was powerlessness and the need to keep things to myself. I cringed when the neighbors heard the abuse hurled in my house and Mum’s epithet for my father – slut. The dictionary muddied my understanding. ‘Prostitute, whore, streetwalker.’ How did this relate to my father? Who could I ask?
    Waves eddied and sucked at the cliff base as I plunged knee-deep into the receding tide. My gut fluttered as I headed home. When I turned the corner, ambulances and police cars lined the street. Behind the blue and white tape of the crime scene, police officers congregated. On shaking legs, I approached.

    Adulthood claimed me when I was thirteen.

The Old Man Who Hid Music

Tom Sheehan

        One day at the little house where the dowser used to live a kind-looking man with a beard came carrying all he owned on an A-frame on his back. He set the A-frame on the ground and looked at the small house needing much work. Muscles moved under his shirt.

    “Whose house is this?” he said to some children playing at an edge of a field. This was the place where the mountain came to a rest, but the river had not been found as yet.
    One of the boys said, “It used to belong to the dowser, but he went away.” The boy used a stick to walk with as one leg was slightly crooked and made him lean.
    “Why did he go away?” the man said, looking closely at the stick the boy had to use.
    “People laughed at him,” answered the boy. When he looked at his friends some of them began to chuckle and grin. “Don’t,” the boy said. His sandy hair caught the wind; his eyes were hazel and steady.
    “If I want to fix this house up and live here, tell me who I have to see.” The children could see some of the tools hanging on the man’s A-frame. On edges where the sun touched them the tools shone brightly as if they had been polished with gems.
    “See Macklow the mayor. He lives down there where those walls meet.” The boy pointed across the wide fields. “He’ll be on his porch listening to the birds of the fields. My name is Max. What is your name?”
    The man of the tools smiled at Max’s description of the mayor. “My name does not count, only what I do,” he said. He walked across the fields and soon had the house to work on. At first it was just the children who watched him fix doors and steps and windows, but soon other people, including Macklow, came to watch. All the time he used tools the man whistled different tunes. At his work he was a happy man.
    The house was soon a sparkling and cozy place with no lopsided boards and no broken steps and no windows free to the air. When the man needed wood, he put the empty A-frame across his shoulders and walked off toward the mountain and the forests. In the evening he returned with a pile of wood of all lengths sitting across the back of his shoulders.
    “Some day, perhaps soon,” he said one day to the children watching him, and a few of the older people, “I will have a surprise for you.” As usual, just at dusk, the man took some of his wood he had been working with and brought it inside the little house. The light went on inside so they knew he was still working.
    Nobody knew what he was working on. But the light burned long into many nights.
    And soon, to everyone’s surprise, a garden was also blooming behind the house. Macklow was really surprised because his own fields were slow. Nobody had seen the kindly man walk out of his little house at night, time after time, and put buckets of water on his little garden. The dowser’s well was right inside the little house and those who had laughed at the dowser never knew about the well and the sweet water it gave up.
    One morning the man came out of his house and gave a new stick to Max. It was much better that Max’s old stick, and was smooth and polished and very strong. Max was proud of his new stick and could walk faster with it. Over his head he waved it and showed it off to his friends.
    On each morning from then on the man began to build a fence around the house and the garden. At first he put up strong posts, then mounted stringers between the posts. When all the posts and stringers were mounted and connected, he began to place upright pickets on the stringers.
    Now and then one of the pickets would cause someone to laugh and titter about its strange shape. Some of the pickets were not as pretty and straight as others. Some indeed looked odd and out of place. But the man kept adding both straight and odd-looking pickets to the fence.
    “See,” Macklow said one day when village people were talking about the fence, “he brings out what he brought into the house the night before. What he does to it is a mystery, but let us not laugh at him. We laughed at the dowser and he went away in the night. This man is a kind man and has promised us a surprise. Do not laugh at him, no matter what his fence looks like.” When he looked at little Max with the new stick, Max and Macklow swapped nods, as if they shared a secret.
    But laughter, though, did come each day, at the way the fence looked, at crooked or bent pickets, at the weird shapes of some of them.
    Then the day came when all the vegetables in the garden were ripe and the bizarre fence circled the house. The man seemed pleased and put his tools down except for one knife and walked off toward the forest. He came back with one small piece of wood. From that piece of wood he whittled a small whistle. When he blew into the whistle he found only one note, a pure note, but only one note.
    There was more small laughter and chuckling, but Macklow, remembering the dowser, thinking about the new ripe garden and his own slow crops, would not laugh. Nor would Max with his new walking stick.
    One morning the man spoke to some people looking at his crop and studying what he had done to fix the house and the fence he had placed all around it. “I have hidden the music here. Music is a part of the soul. Music is part of the water too. And water is part of the soul. Whoever finds the music I have hidden can have this house, for Macklow says it is mine to give.”
    Macklow nodded his head.
    In the morning the man was gone. The tools were gone. The A-frame was gone.
    People pored over the house trying to find the music. They did not know what they were looking for. But they found the dowser’s well at the back end of the house and wondered at that. Macklow marveled at the well. However, he made sure none of them disturbed the things the man had done to fix the house.
    It was curious. Nobody could find the music. None of them knew what they were looking for. But Max kept playing the whistle and kept hearing the note. He would sit on the porch and blow the whistle until people began to be bothered by it and asked him to stop.
    But Max also knew that note deep inside his head.
    For weeks people looked for the music. But they did not know what they were looking for.
    And then, one morning as he walked past the house, Max hit one of the pickets with his stick.
    Oh, how his heart pounded in his chest. How it grew it seemed that it might explode.
    It was the same note from the whistle. The exact same, beautiful note.
    Back to the gate he went, at the same note-sounding picket and began to walk around the house, his stick slapping against each picket in turn, the way boys have done ever since going by church and school yard fences.
    And Macklow looked and the people looked and they all heard the music coming from the fence pickets as Max, walking without his stick support for the first time in his life, played elegant music on the ugly looking pickets with the stick the man had carved. The circled fence played out a whole lovely tune.
    And Macklow saw to it that Max and his mother had themselves a new house to live in, at the place where the mountain comes to rest and the river is not yet found.

Consent in October

Abir Wood

    For years, I have watched her hunched over the old sewing machine, with her lips pressed tight, almost pouting, and her eyes intensely focused, as she grew ancient under layers of time, fate, and circumstance. I have repeatedly been swept by waves of guilt as I watched her, the beauty of Angel Creek, wither behind her silence. I remember Lily the cheerful young woman with the broad smile and the twinkly eyes that lit up her round amiable face. Like the spring creeks dry up in the summer, her gushing smile dried up one day and her long season of hushed existence started.
    My cousin Lily is the oldest of eight children. All her brothers and sisters fared well in life. The youngest three brothers were the first in our family to graduate from college, thanks to her hard work and generous hands. Over the years, her siblings have dribbled out of our small town and moved on to better and bigger things. Yes, they still visit, like the rain visits the desert! They have changed you know. The adoration in their eyes has faded. The defiance in their manners glares shamelessly, especially at Lily. The three college boys are the worst. Now each one drives a shiny car, totes a fancy city wife, and flashes a movie-star smile. Our ways are not good enough for them anymore. The sight of children with no shoes on scares them to death as if they were never without shoes, that is before Lily started working and pumping the money in. Now, they screw up their faces at the sight of her chili and cornbread, that same stuff they gobbled up in the yesteryears. They’d rather drive twenty miles to eat Chinese food. Gosh, nobody seems to remember all the hard work and the sacrifices. Glued to the sewing machine for years, she fed, dressed, and paid for schools. Now it’s all forgotten, not even a thank you or a card on her birthday. Lately, whenever the family affairs are discussed, she sighs and says, “The rosary is broken and the beads are scattered all over the place.” Lily deserved much better than that, but it all never happened.
    Lily has been the only tailor in Angel Creek for over twenty seven years, and a darn good one too. Her store, located a quarter mile south of the town’s main square, was a convenient meeting place. Women flocked to it in the late mornings, bringing in loads of worries and joys that come with life and the latest gossip, along with the pans of half-peeled potatoes and the trays of to-be-inspected beans. Little girls, fascinated and attracted by the seemingly endless supply of colorful scraps of cloth, flocked to her shop after school or all day long in the summer. They busily worked on making rag dolls or sewing clothes for a favorite store-bought doll if they had one. As a child, I spent many happy hours in her store, working on one sewing project or another. As a grown up, I have been working for Lily six afternoons a week for the last fifteen years. This job helps me boost my husband’s skimpy earnings, keep up with the latest gossip, and, perhaps, keep an eye on her.
    Tall and curvy, Lily stood in the women’s choir to the right of the altar. Mark stood to the left of the altar in the last row of the men’s choir. His dark complexion and high cheek bones gave him an air of mysterious majesty. Their gazes locked in long embraces as they sang. After church they strolled down Main Street, two love birds in perfect harmony. They kept their relationship low key to curb any nasty gossip.
    Mark grew up in the house across the street from the house where Lily grew up and later opened her shop. Her sewing machine was strategically located to overlook his mother’s front porch. Mark visited his mother almost every afternoon and on his way out dropped by to chat with Lily and her customers. Often times he brought flowers from his mother’s garden to beautify the shop. He one time surprised her with a bench he had made. She placed it along the south wall of the shop and draped it with green velvet. I was the first one to try the new bench. It was soft and cushy. At that time when I was thirteen and she was twenty-two, everything was going very well for her, a booming business and a sweet romance.
    That unusually cold day in early October is still so vivid in my memory. I was at Grandma’s house doing homework on the dining room table. It was so cold that I kept my coat on. My mother and Aunt Darlene were helping Grandma can the last of the green bean crop. They were talking about all sorts of things and I kind of tuned it all out.

    My eyes widened with curiosity and my heart jumped with joy. They were finally getting married.
    “Are you crazy? What’s so wonderful about blessing a disaster?” snapped Grandma, to my great surprise and dismay.
    “I don’t understand,” said Aunt Darlene hesitantly. “He’s a good man and a reputable carpenter. They love each other. Where’s the disaster?”
    I heard Grandma snap her fingers three times, something she did when she was annoyed. “In love, eh,” she said. “Damn all that love nonsense the youngsters are seeing in movies. Wake up, Darlene. Do you know what’ll happen when Lily gets married? Do you think she’ll keep giving you all she makes? I bet you’ll not see a red cent. Edna is already married, but you still have six children. They need food, shoes, clothes, school supplies, and all kinds of crap. You think your husband is going to pay for all that? He’s a bum. All he does is sit in the sun and tell tall tales.”
    Aunt Darlene whimpered a little, then said something in sort of a shaky voice that I did not catch. I moved to the end of the table closest to the kitchen.
    “Ma is right,” I heard Mama say. “Remember how many times you all went hungry. Rodger was never able to keep a job. Darlene, you need to deal with things as they are. Once she’s married, she’ll have children and everything she makes will go to her new family. Mark may not even want her to work.”
    “But he’s a dream husband,” said Aunt Darlene tearfully. “How are we going to explain not blessing such a marriage to her and the town’s folks?”
    “Oh, he’s too old for her,” replied Grandma casually.
    “He’s eight years older than her,” replied Aunt Darlene. “Pa was thirteen years older than you.”
    “Darlene, in this day and age every year counts,” said Grandma thoughtfully. “The age difference should not be more than two years.”
    “Will she buy that?” asked Aunt Darlene doubtfully. “Suppose she insists on marrying him. She’s old enough to marry him with or without our blessings.”
    “Then it’s either us or him. Make it clear,” said Grandma adamantly. “She’ll never give up her family, her flesh and blood for a man. Trust me.”
    “What about Lily? How can I threaten her like that? It’ll break her heart,” said Aunt Darlene, her voice trembling.
    “She’s too young for real heartbreak,” said Grandma, softening her tone. “She’ll be upset for a little while, but soon enough she’ll forget all about him. In a few years she’ll find a much better man. By that time all your children will be grown. Think about it, Darlene. It’s the future of six children. Let your brain lead you at least once in your life. You married sweet-talking handsome Rodger and what did you get? A bunch of good-looking children and lots of heartaches and growling stomachs.”
    I heard my aunt whimper again. Maybe she was crying.
    “Enough of that. Look at those black clouds creeping from the north. You two better go back to your homes,” said Grandma firmly.
    I felt very antsy, yet I couldn’t move as if I were paralyzed. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t see Mama walk into the room.
    “You heard everything,” she said.
    I nodded. She quickly pinched my ear. “Don’t you dare breathe a word to anybody,” she said.
    She then hurriedly stuffed all my books in my sack and we left through the back door like thieves.
    That evening while helping Mama fold the laundry, I gathered enough courage to ask, “Do you think Lily will elope with Mark?”
    “No, eloping is for wild girls,” said Mama. “She wouldn’t want to lose all her family for a man. Besides, your grandma has this soul-reading ability and she knows all about what folks will or will not do.”
    “Suppose she’ll marry him no matter what?” I said with great defiance. “Well, you know these are the sixties and things are changing. Even the colored folks want to be and will get to be equal to us. That’s what Mr. Arnolds said in English class, just last week.”
    She mulled over my words for a moment, meticulously folding the towel in her hand. Cold sweat ran down my back as the gravity of what I had just blurted out gradually sank in. I shrank in place and waited for one of Mama’s juicy slaps.
    “Settle down, child,” she said with embellished patience as she fussed over another towel. “Lily and the colored folks are none of your beeswax. Let the grown- ups take care of them. You go now to sleep and forget all about grown-up stuff.”
    As I stood up to leave the room, she added in a soft but firm voice, “Georgiana, don’t let that Yankee fill your head with his nonsense.”
    It wasn’t nonsense. Mama wasn’t there. Mama didn’t look into his eyes. She didn’t see that gleam. She didn’t see that genuine deep yearning for what is to inevitably come. Anyway, I was glad to escape without a whipping, but from Mama’s excessive patience and polite words I knew not to ever restart this conversation.
    Following Mama’s advice, I went to bed early that night. Settling was what I could not do. Unable to bear the motion of tossing and turning, I sneaked to the living room, paced around for a while, but could not settle down. I stepped outside onto the back porch and stared into the darkness. A fierce blustery wind blew from the north.
    “Yes, times are changing,” I whispered to myself. “She surely must rebel and marry Mark. Maybe they’ll never speak to her again. Grandma is so willful and pigheaded; she’ll make everybody stay away from her. Well, then she won’t give them any of her money. No, Lily is too tenderhearted to abandon her family. Mark is so wonderful. She’ll marry. No she won’t. What about the colored folks? The grown-up folks in this town are not like Mr. Arnolds. Are they? Oh, shit. They are still crying over a plantation they never owned.”
    The northerly wind froze my face, but failed to freeze what raged inside my head. I saw the first rays of light penetrate the cloudy sky. I sneaked back to my bed, hid under the covers and pretended to be asleep.

    In the days that followed, I spent all my spare time in Lily’s shop. She was very pale and silent. Often times she would go to the bathroom and return red around the nose and the eyes. I was sure she made those trips to cry. Mark stopped visiting the shop. I wanted to say something, but I never did. I waited for the subject to come up so I could drop a hint or two, but it never did. I was burning on the inside. I came up with many schemes to save their wonderful love, but the only thing I ever did was ask, “So, Lily, do you think Mark will make another bench?”
    “I’m not sure,” she replied faintly.
    In church the following Sunday, Lily kept her eyes fixed on the music as Mark frantically tried to catch her eye. She left church in a hurry, leaving the rest of the family behind. He followed her and so did I, but I made sure to keep some distance. They walked down Main Street. From behind they looked stiff like walking statues. I wasn’t sure whether they were talking or not. When they reached the hardware store, he led her onto the dirt road in the direction of the creek. They walked about half a mile before stopping in the shade of a big oak tree. I hid behind another oak tree. Some kind of a heated discussion went on, but I couldn’t hear much. He held her hands with both his as if pleading until she abruptly pulled them away and ran in the direction of Main Street, one hand covering her mouth in an attempt to muffle her cries. He sat under the tree, his head buried between his hands.
    Before October was over, Mark left the town and Miss Bethany Huff returned from retirement to replace Mr. Arnolds, whom we were told had to go back to New York for health reasons. A few weeks later, we heard through many grapevines that Mark was working for a big construction company in St. Louis. No grapevine ever mentioned Mr. Arnolds again. Margie, Mark’s baby sister, brought Big Melvin to Lily’s shop to take back the bench. Grandma happened to be there and chased them away with a stick. She swore she’d call the sheriff if they ever attempted another broad-daylight robbery again. Leaning on her stick, Grandma stood in front of the shop panting, narrowing her eyes and sucking her toothless gums in a theatrical display of anger.
    “She thinks she can scare us with a hired hand. Some big Melvin!” Grandma bellowed. “The mother hides and sends her wild girl.”
    “Grandma, please calm down,” said an aggravated Lily as she walked out of the shop and stood next to her. “These are Margie’s ideas. Her mother is way too dignified to do such things. You know that, don’t you?”
    “He gave you a few pieces of cheap wood nailed together,” said Grandma, totally disregarding Lily’s question. “It’s a piece of junk. The value is in the upholstery. You bought the fancy velvet and did the hard work. It’s yours.”
    “Grandma, it doesn’t matter. Let her have it.”
    “She wants revenge because we dumped her spinster brother.”
    “Grandma, you don’t call men spinsters.”
    “Yes we do!”
    Lily sighed deeply and shook her head in despair before returning to her sewing machine, where she sat looking limp and defeated. Grandma remained perched in front of the shop for over an hour, refusing to leave until Lily promised not to give Margie the bench.
    Margie went around complaining about not being able to retrieve her brother’s bench. Grandma went around explaining why the bench was a piece of junk without Lily’s upholstery. Between Margie and Grandma, the town was entertained for weeks. In the midst of it all, Lily withdrew and threw herself into her work. She expanded into the wedding gown business. Boy, was she busy.
    Mark did not return to town for over two years. When he returned it was around Christmas. To the town’s great surprise, he was accompanied by a wife. According to Melba, the town’s chatter-box, his mother knew as much about this July bride as anyone else in town. His woman was short and stocky with piercing blue eyes. A mass of short blond curls framed her expressionless pale face. Her name was Susan and she was nothing to look at. At the time I felt he betrayed Lily by choosing somebody so drab. He deviated from everything Lily was. He moved away from the long auburn hair draped over narrow delicate shoulders, the rosy cheeks, and large curious green eyes. Lily came in Technicolor and this Susan came in white on white. It was all so wrong. On that dark day when Susan showed up in town, Lily looked pastier than a corpse. Her vividly colored hair augmented her pallor.
    Melba came to the shop the day after Christmas.
    “Susan,” she tittle-tattled. “The Ashton’s new daughter, bless her heart, she didn’t enjoy a single bite of that Christmas dinner. Darn that morning sickness.”
    Lily was too pale to turn paler, but she made frequent trips to the bathroom and came back red around the nose and eyes for a few days afterwards. Perhaps Melba’s news cut the last thread of hope Lily ever had or threw her into a deep pit of regret.
    Margie went around bragging about her sophisticated sister-in-law. Grandma went around poking fun at Margie’s bragging.
    “Her sister is nothing but a milkmaid,” she’d say.
    I did not understand at the time Grandma’s fervor and her relentless campaign against Margie. Any reunion between Mark and Lily was impossible. She got what she wanted. Why could she not let it all go? In hindsight, I reckon bashing was her way to make Lily despise Mark and ultimately forget him. Lily fought Grandma back with intensified silence. She worked longer and harder. Her shop remained a crowded hub, but she hid behind transparent walls. She was in the middle of many people, yet she floated in her own world. She was supposed to be the money-making machine and she did it to the point of perfection. Droopy eyed and gaunt faced, she continued to plow along. She was a crucified Madonna withering from within. I was the silent waiting witness. Waiting for what? I did not know.
    The past week had been quite hectic. The mayor’s daughter was getting married in late September. We’d been working until dark almost every day to customize and hand embroider ten dresses for the bridesmaids and flower girls. Lily was still single at forty-four despite a fair number of interested men over the years. None of them caught her attention or heart. Margie was now on her third marriage and had been living across the street from the shop since her mother passed away eight or nine years ago, that same summer Elvis died. Grandma had passed over eleven years ago, ending an era of back-and-forth bickering through grapevines with Margie.
    Since Mark lost his wife to cancer a couple of years ago, he had visited Margie seven times. I’d been counting. Before that he visited town only once a year, mostly around Easter. His wife found the nine-hour drive exhausting. Melba had a feeling that Susan wanted to spend the vacations with her folks up in Illinois because Angel Creek was too backward for her. Every time he visited, he parked his station wagon in the same spot, across the street from Lily’s shop. His hair always seemed thinner and his face more strained with every visit as Susan got heavier and bulkier. All her weight went into her rear. At one point, it seemed as though she could use two chairs to accommodate her behind. Mark and Susan usually unloaded the car while their three exuberant boys dashed out of the car. All three boys had their father’s complexion and their mother’s build.
    During his years with Susan, I don’t recollect ever seeing him look in the direction of the shop. I don’t even think Mark and Lily ever crossed paths for all those years, not even in church on Easter Sunday. Somehow they managed to melt into the crowds. Anyway, by the time his second son was born, Lily had stopped showing even the subtlest reaction to his presence in town. Surely she saw his wagon across from the shop. The last two or three visits he seemed to linger a little bit longer around his car. I even caught him a few times peeking into the shop. Actually, during his last visit, he looked into the store for a while. He seemed to be mulling over something. I was too busy spying on him to tell if Lily noticed him or not.
    Yesterday was another late day in the shop. The dresses were due the next morning. By the late afternoon, both Lily and I were exhausted, but we had to continue working into the evening. We kept the shop’s glass door open, allowing the evening breezes to cool down the shop. I saw a figure with the corner of my eyes. I barely managed to lift my head to examine it. Lily did not flinch. It was Mark strolling into the shop, the same way he had years ago. My heart jumped. Mark did not seem to notice me as he moved towards the sewing machine where Lily was working.
    “Good evening,” he said as he elegantly lifted his baseball cap, revealing disheveled stands of thin gray hair. “How are you, Lily?”
    Color crept into her face as she looked up. “Fine, and you?” she answered softly, almost bashfully.
    “I’m enjoying the cool evening breeze. Didn’t mean to distract you. Just wanted to say hi.” A boyish grin filled his face. “Now, ladies, have a good evening.”
    He turned around and walked out as easily as he had walked in. Lily followed him with her eyes until he disappeared into the darkness.
    Last night, I saw a new gleam in her eyes, a gleam reminiscent of what I’d seen in the eyes of a young English teacher from long ago-that genuine deep yearning for what is to inevitably come.

Ugly House
or how a place holds a feeling

Janet Kuypers

    This is an ugly house. I hate the wallpaper in the spare room. Those stupid miniature rooms on the shelves in the spare room, stupid ugly miniature rooms she made, why would anyone want a box of a miniature room anyway? She takes up all the space in there, gets mad at me when I put a flower arrangement in there. I’m sleeping in the room, let me at least put something in there so I don’t feel like I’m sleeping in a hotel that chose a decorator with no taste. Why does she have so much stuff anyway?? She’s got a third of her jewelry and half of her clothes there, and I’m the one who sleeps in the room.
    I hate the multi-colored carpet in the living room, the barrel chairs with turquoise and melon vinyl coverings. The ugly statues mom is drawn to. A statue has to be inherently ugly for her to like it, I think. The lights hanging from above the bar, the lamp shades are Harvey’s Bristol Cream canisters. That mural of the 5 kids above the couch. I’m at the bottom. I look ugly. It was when I was subordinate and meek and stupid and helpless. Like now.
    I hate the stained glass hangings in the kitchen windowsill. And you can see the black paint chipping off the refrigerator door so you know mom tried to cover up the turquoise. Silk flowers that look really crappy. The kitchen flowers are the worst. I hate the wood-branch-tree she decorates for any pagan season she thinks of, even if it’s not pagan, let’s decorate the tree anyway, no one will know the wiser. Or the fact that there are nice things in the house, like two Dali prints, but they look ugly here. Art even looks like trash in this place.
    I hate the lamps hanging in front of those ugly melon colored front doors. And that wind chime hanging from the lamp in the front hallway. That rock garden in the front hallway, it used to have a working fountain in it, but I was too little when it worked, but that’s okay, because I think it would be even more frightening with water running down it.
    And I hate the playroom, the room i’m sitting in now, look at how cluttered it is, all the jewelry she’ll never get around to selling, all the fabric for clothes she’ll never make, all the exercise equipment that collects dust because she feels she can WALK her way to a perfect body. You know, she doesn’t like me using the treadmill because she thinks I’ll wear out the motor. What difference does it make? Books she’s collected because I collect books. She wants this of mine, I owe her this, I adopted this from her... She’s so petty, and no subtle hint I make makes a difference. She slams on any idea I ever have. She makes me feel I can never be creative, because it won’t work out. And she wonders why I’m insecure. Don’t you get it? You made me this way, I hate what you’ve done to me, I hate what you’ve become, and now I have to sit here and live with you, in this ugly house. And when I move out I’m going to still have to live with myself, with all this insecurity, with all this anger. And I’ll still have the memory of this house in my mind.

How You Looked Then

Janet Kuypers

    I take snapshots of these things in my mind. I rifle through them.

    I never told you that I loved to watch you in the bathroom, getting ready to go out. It would usually be after you shaved, or even after you dressed, when you were almost ready to go but had to fix your hair. And you’d look in the mirror,and you’d be brushing the sides of your head with your curved fingertips, and you’d be scrutinizing yourself, eyes just slightly squinted. I always thought you looked most handsome when you did that with your eyes, squinted like that, like you were looking for something, searching.
    When I’d see you in the bathroom mirror like that, I’d usually wrap myself around your arm, lean my head on your shoulder, and just stare. I don’t think you ever noticed how I’d look at you at those time. Like you were my mentor. My savior.

    Or when we were at that restaurant and you were sitting across from me, wearing the denim button-down shirt I bought you, and you were eating, and you were slouched over your plate, elbows on the table, and you were just eating, not paying attention to much else around you. And you hadn’t shaved in a few days, and the copper-colored stubble was every once in a while catching the light. And in between bites you kept combing your hair back with your fingers, because it kept falling while you ate.

    While you were eating, I just had to stop, lean back, and stare at you for a while. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget how you looked then.

How You Looked Then

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A Letter

Janet Kuypers

    I was looking through some old photographs of mine the other night, and I came across a photo of you. A snapshot, by the pool in Florida. Years ago. Those were the days when you thought you were cool, when another gang broke your ribs, when the cops chased you down the street for trying to steal a car. They caught you because you slipped in your two hundred dollar boots. You had to sell your stereo to pay your lawyer.
    And things do change. You wanted to go back to school, you worked full time, you kept away from the drugs. And your back hurt all the time, you felt too old, you wanted to start over again.
    I still remember that photograph. I was dating you then, but you never told me you had another girlfriend. She wrote me a month later, telling me you were engaged.

    It’s funny to see that I lasted longer than her, that I still have a hold over you.

    Did you ever give her an engagement ring? Was it an emerald, too?

    I remember once, in the hall, after you took a drag from your cigarette, leaned over the pool table and made your shot, you told me that you would do anything for me. I asked if you’d give me the diamond earring in your ear. You remember the one, the one a married thirty-five year old woman gave you when you were sleeping with her. Yeah, that one. And you told me that if I needed it, you’d sell it and give me the money.
    Christ, the pool table, and the pool cue that was your grandfather’s that you got after he died. You loved him, and he wasn’t even related to you, your step mother’s dad. But you never liked your family.
    You never liked anyone, unless it was convenient. You never liked anyone, unless you weren’t alone.

    Someone told me last spring that they heard you say, “Have you ever decided that you wanted something so much, but you knew you could never have it?”
    They thought you were talking about me. I think you were, too.

    Yes, it was nice to see a change, it was nice to see you sitting in the mornings with your coffee and your cigarette drawing in your book, creating. You have potential, you’ve got a genius inside you that’s been beaten up by too many gangs, screamed at too many times by your family, hardened by too many pains, hurt by too many insane nights.
    You once knew a pharmacist, one who liked to steal stuff and mix it with anything else he could find. You befriended him quickly. You think I don’t know these things, but I do. You think I don’t know you, but I do.

    You used to always tell me I was the only person that knew you. You wanted someone to talk to, and you wanted it to be me.
    And then we’d argue, and you’d get defensive, and the first thing out of your mouth would be, “You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.”
    Don’t try to separate yourself from me. You can’t do it.

    It’s not love. You should know that by now. It’s two people, from two different countries, from two different worlds, who can read each other’s minds.

    Less than a week after you stormed out of the bar, someone came up to me and asked, “Why are you still wearing his emerald ring?”.
    I shouldn’t have to explain. They might not understand, but you do.

    When you stormed out of the bar a few months ago, I didn’t think you were leaving town. But you were gone. Damn, you’re such a hot head. But I know you. A few months will pass, maybe a year, and you will call again. You will say you want to be friends. But it’s more than that.
    It’s like we’re connected. It just feels different when we’re in the same room together.

    And when you can’t stand it anymore, when you need that feeling again, you’ll call.


Janet Kuypers

    Sometimes, when I get behind the wheel of a car, I feel like I’m at Six Flags Great America Amusement Park In Gurnee, Illinois again and I’m thirteen years old and I’m able to drive one of the bumper cars. And it’s such a thrill -- because, I mean, I’m thirteen years old and I can’t drive, and I’m now in control of this huge piece of machinery. Granted, there’s this wire sticking up from the car that gets electricity from the ceiling, but for once I feel free, that I can just go, go faster than I ever could by running, or even if I used my roller skates or my bicycle.
    And when I get that feeling and I’m behind the wheel of my car I want to drive really really fast out on an abandoned road, blare some rock music, roll down my window, and turn up the heat, since it’s the middle of winter.

    Sometimes, when I go out on a new date, I feel like I’m sixteen again, and I’ll rifle through my closet, deciding I have absolutely nothing to wear. And he’ll pick me up, and we’ll go to a restaurant with deer heads on the walls, and we’ll have whiskey sours, and we’ll struggle with the lettuce leaves in the salads because they’re too big, and when we’re done with dinner we’ll go to a bar that’s so crowded and so loud that we won’t be able to talk to each other, but we’ll have to stand real close.     And then he’ll take me home and I’ll invite him in, he’ll sit on the chair, I’ll sit on the couch, and he’ll ask for a glass of water. When we can’t think of any more small talk, and the clock says 3:12 a.m., I’ll see him to the door, he’ll kiss me good-bye, and I’ll lock the door after he leaves. And when I’m sure he can’t see me through the window, I’ll turn on the stereo and dance in my living room before I go to bed.

    Sometimes, when I’m having sex with someone, I feel like I’ve done this for years, like I’ve been married to this man for twenty years, and I still don’t know him, but I’m still there, night after night. After the wedding, after the new house, which was a little small, but we’ll get something bigger when we have the money, after the two kids and the fifteen pounds, after I lose my job, after we don’t get that new house and after the kids complain about their curfews, after the dog dies, hell, it was only trouble for us anyway, after the sinus headaches, the back problems, that all-over sore feeling, you know, it’s harder to wake up in the mornings now, after it all he still has the nights, the sex with the woman he knows all too well but not at all, and we do it, as we always do. It becomes memorization. It becomes like a play, that I act out night after night.

    Sometimes, when I get home after 10 o’clock from working overtime on the computers, I just want to retire, to quit the work, to stop it all. I see my parents, after a life of working at the construction site and raising five children, now beginning to relax, buying a small home in Southwest Florida, playing tennis in the morning, playing cards in the afternoon, drinking with other retired couples in the evening. Sometimes another couple invites them out for a boat ride off of Marco Island, where they smoke cigarettes, drink a few beers, and drive slow enough to make no wake when they’re by the pier.
    Sometimes I look at the computer screen I work at and remember how computers used to mean video games. I remember when I was eight and I would sit with my best friend in the upstairs den on the floor in front of the old television set and play table tennis on our Atari. Times change, I suppose, and I get old. This is my life.


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Espanola Island 12/25/07, Galapagos Islands)
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live at the Café in Chicago 02/25/10
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Leaving for Work

Janet Kuypers

    you’re walking down the street, it’s morning, and a man tries to mug you with a knife. it’s a nice street, you’re thinking, there’s no litter here. their garbage day is the same as your sister’s in the suburbs. how strange. you pause, don’t know how to react to this mugger-guy, and another guy walks up behind you, another regular joe, he’s not with the mugger-guy, trying to jump you, he’s just walking down the street, probably on his way to work, like you, so then the mugger-guy tries to mug him too. so the other guy pulls a gun, this regular joe, and then a lady from a house on the street calls 911. and you’re thinking to yourself, why does this regular joe have a gun? and who should you be more scared of now? is any of this real? it almost seems like tv. then the police come in two minutes, you’re safe then, and the mugger-guy is still there and the regular joe with the gun is keeping him there by holding the gun to him, and so then you’re talking to one of the officers. and then the other officer on the scene sees the mugger-guy stab the regular joe, the guy with the gun, and then tries to wrestle for the gun. the mugger-guy then shoots the guy with the gun while in the struggle, then the cop, the other cop, shoots and kills the mugger. and you’re just standing there, on the street, less than ten feet away from all of this. all of this just happened on the street, right in front of you. you didn’t even get to say a word. who is dead? who is alive? what just happened? are you scared? this is america, you think, and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. then you hear a car engine start, and you look and just a few cars away a person is leaving for work.

Leaving for Work

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05/31/11 at the Café in Chicago (from her book Close Cover Before Striking)
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video See YouTube video (19:36) of Kuypers 05/31/11 at the Café reading her writing:The Carpet Factory the Shoes, Taking Out the Brain, Tell Me, All the Loose Ends, Filled with Such Panic, Leaving for Work, Accounts for the Need of Gun Control, January 1995, Me or Him, Gun Dealers and Gas Stations, and Domestic Violence in America Nashville TN (stick)
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Janet Kuypers Bio

    Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
    She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com,’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
    She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through and She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images.
    Since 2010 Kuypers also hosts the Chicago poetry open mic at the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting the Cafés weekly feature podcasts (and where she sometimes also performs impromptu mini-features of poetry or short stories or songs, in addition to other shows she performs live in the Chicago area).
    In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, po•em, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, the Stories of Women, Prominent Pen (Kuypers edition), Elemental, the paperback book of the 2012 Datebook (which was also released as a spiral-bound cc&d ISSN# 2012 little spiral datebook, , Chaotic Elements, and Fusion, the (select) death poetry book Stabity Stabity Stab Stab Stab, the 2012 art book a Picture’s Worth 1,000 words (available with both b&w interior pages and full color interior pages, the 2013 ISSN# color art book Life, in Color, and Post Apocalyptic. Three collection books were also published of her work in 2004, Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art).

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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


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.

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 or (202) 289-0061

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