Monday, October 31, 2011

“Cake” by Aarti Soni

Today wasn’t bad as far as her days went. But she was on a sliding scale of sanity. She hadn’t spoken to her mother today. She also hadn’t hated her mother today. Alisha sat at the bus stop – the one where the bus almost never stopped. The weather was almost perfect – a hesitant fall day. All the city girls were donning their latest purchases – toffee-colored boots, chunky cable-knit sweaters, in tone of pumpkin and shades of cocoa. She always thought it was funny how people rushed to wear new clothes at even the premature hint of the next season. Three months later they were fed up of these same things. People get fed up so easily.

Alisha was hungry, but not sure for what, which made her irritable. She stared at the homeless man sitting on the other side of the bench. He looked like a skinny Santa Claus, and had perched on his knees a black plastic platter with a cheap doily and a grocery store birthday cake sitting atop. It was dark chocolate on the inside – the cake looked crumbly and dry and on top of the glazed white frosting were purple and green flowers. He was grinning with delight and Alisha wondered what the original occasion had been. Did this cake ever carry any sentiment with it or was it a formality for someone. She often wondered things like this. Which decidedly got her nowhere.

A young couple waited standing as well. They looked to be in their late teens. The girl was tall and willowy in dark, skinny jeans and a coconut-colored sweater. The boy was wide-eyed and blushing. They were kissing and touching in the gentlest of ways – no matter what they did, some part of them was touching. Alisha stayed fixated on them and she wasn’t bothered. Today wasn’t a bad day.

Her mind drifted to touch and she thought about her own clothes – tailored black pants, a black v-neck sweater, and black ballet flats with a hole in the right toe. She was careless in her dress because she was cluttered in her mind, but she was protected in her clothing. She was safe. I am safe, she said as her fingers played with the white plastic button in her coat pocket. She flipped it over a dozen times – her index finger and thumb acting in concert. Why did I buy a white coat? Things get dirty so easily. They sometimes look dirty even when they aren’t.

She thought of a story her grandmother told her about a woman who was about to be molested by a gang of men and as they attempted to pull her clothes off, the fabric never ended. The fabric never ended. It went on and on until the men became frustrated. She fantasized about this tale throughout her day. Everyday. She was safe.

Today wasn’t a bad day so she dared to think maybe she would savor it. She could turn it around in her mouth and touch it with the tip of her tongue and tease her senses like she is about to swallow, and then hold it there for just a little longer. Just to taste it before it disappears. Again.

The homeless man motioned his fork in her direction as if to offer her some of his ceremony-less cake. She shook her head and smiled politely. The bus was approaching and about to stop. Today wasn’t a bad day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

“I Am Your Canvas” by Emily McGrath

You truly are an amazing artist. Your skilled hands capture the image of your anger, hatred and disappointments perfectly. I study your work with an open imagination as I allow my mind to search for what drove you to create each piece.

I am your canvas. You decorate my skin, creating patterns across my back and designs up my limbs. I display to the world what cannot be hidden beneath clothing, I flaunt what you have created. The dark purple and faded blue handprints that reach around my neck and the swollen splatter that curves around my back are the most interesting. I trace my fingers over them and close my eyes, feeling your emotions—feeling your pain.

As you near I feel fear begin to crawl up my throat, it scratches at my skin trying to escape. But why do I fear the artist, especially when I love you so dearly? Your heavy footsteps move unsteadily through the house. I crouch against the wall, my hands covering the prints across my neck.

I never dare to leave my room. For how will you find me when inspiration strikes? And if ever I do leave, I move silently throughout the house as to ensure that I am never caught.

I gave up talking to you a long time ago. You simply don’t hear, which I understand, of course. An artists mind is so full of ideas that listening as well would simply cause it to flood. But you talk to me as you create your art. I listen as you yell your words of fury or sob about life’s letdowns. I have learned to be the best listener, even as my ears are ringing with pain.

The fear within me grows to be unmanageable as your footsteps approach the door. I hate the trembling that takes over my hands and I curse the tears that slowly drip down my cheeks. Why are you so afraid? my thoughts yell fiercely within the walls of my mind. Beneath his dark emotions is only love for you! I knew that’s why you did this to me; you saved your anger because you wanted to make me beautiful. You wanted to show the world that I am the only thing that makes you happy because I am what takes your pain away. I understand you like no one else.

I hear something heavy slam to the floor, followed by a shattering glass. I flinch. You let out slurred yell. Maybe today’s pieces will be enhanced by alcohol—the bitter thought crossed my mind before I had time to stop it.

I could hear you right outside my door, breathing heavily. Patiently I wait. The door swung open violently, and there you stood. Your tie hung loosely from your neck and your dress shirt was wrinkled and no longer tucked in. A small whimper escaped my lips at the site of you. Anger and a pleading desperation flickered across your eyes. You were begging me, you needed me. I slowly stood up, my frail bones, muscles and bruised skin aching.

As I stood I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Horror took over. I didn’t even recognize myself. My skin, mostly bruised blue and purple, clung to my bones. I had difficulty finding areas of myself not marked by you. Everything was decorated, everything was patterned.

I looked back to you, feeling a little more hopeless. It’s your love, I told myself weakly, it’s your love that covers me.

I took a step forward, steadily holding your pained eyes. Your pain is worse than mine, I thought calmly. I offered myself to you and once more let your art consume me. Once more I let myself become your canvas, because after all, you are truly an amazing artist.

Monday, October 17, 2011

“Laundry” by Rachel Mangini

Emptying the drier you find a pair of underwear that do not belong to you. They belong to your lover and she has left them behind. You’ve dried them accidentally, fraying the lace. Had you noticed them when switching the clothes from the washer to the drier, you would have laid them flat to dry. This action intended not only as a courtesy to your lover, but also to preserve the lace for the sake of preserving the lace. Its delicate pattern, so often described as spidery, not spidery in this case but pink and scalloped where it rested, yesterday, against the skin on her belly and lower back. Your lover now asleep on a plane pointed away from you and your clumsy laundering. From the clumsy way you said goodbye, again, at the airport because she stood so rigid and kept her eyes focused on something behind you. Her eyelashes also not spidery and not moist, though you imagine them to be when you reconsider the moment now as you fold the clothes you wore when you were with her.

Monday, October 10, 2011

“Them” by Laurie Blauner

Because I couldn’t help them I left. I could hear their clucking, beaks tapping on the cardboard box like someone knocking to get out. I knew their feet scraped the bottom in small, straight lines, directional lines on a highway. I knew without seeing them. I was ten years old when I turned the brass knob on the thick front door and walked away from the rented summer cottage perched on a sand dune, windows staring at the ocean where light stroked the surface of the water horizontally. I believed I could open a window at high tide and waves would pour into the house like soda into a thirsty mouth. But I left my parents’ house without knowing where I was going, on foot, without food, no stores or restaurants for several miles, only an expanse of packed sand and stubby grass, the shimmering curves of parked cars, the gray, weathered squares of other families’ houses. I left my little sister behind.

It was my mother. Her lipstick left red smears blossoming everywhere, white linen napkins, martini glasses, embroidered pillow cases, the collars of strange men’s shirts. Her tea-colored hair, the way she snaked her tongue into liquor while drinking it would interest neighborhood husbands, wealthier and more powerful than my father.

“Honey, we have to go now,” my father would say to Mother, whose glass sweated large tears down the length of her arm. Her red fingernails wrapped around the edge clicking a warning. The man she was talking to said nothing.

“Not now dear,” she would say, turning her back to him as though he was no longer there, as though she had forgotten his name already.

It was one of those parties where adults were in one room and the children in another. Where we grimaced at a clown who could barely tie balloons into the crude shapes of dogs or elephants. Smiles arranged on our faces, we waited for our parents to rescue us. Or politely excused ourselves to go to the bathroom. I spied my mother’s beautiful face hovering near men talking about Eisenhower, men nodding and touching the peplum suit encasing her elbow.


“Can’t you go out on the highway and play?” mother asked my six-year-old sister without smiling. My sister’s blue cat’s eye glasses lengthened across the width of her face and were studded with rhinestones. Her eyes swam underneath the thick lenses. She blinked at Mother’s moving lips trying not to hear the words.

“How about playing Parcheesi?” my sister answered without meaning to. We knew mother remembered she had children because you were supposed to have them then.

Soon afterwards Father brought them home. Three chicks with feathers that were still yellow fur, their wings were tiny letters lost in the paragraphs of their bodies, unflappable. Their feet were no larger than pennies. One walked from my hand to my shoulder without falling. Its small beak tapping Morse code against my palm. “Leave,” I thought it said without knowing why then.


“What do you feed them?” Mother asked Father. He ignored the question, telling her instead that she reminded him of a beautiful vase filled with lilacs, slowly dissolving in their own water. He loved: the ocean with its continuous waves; work at the clothes store where dresses wafted on mannequins like clouds in the sky; mother; cookies with marshmallows blanketed with chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.


I could taste the salt in the air that insidiously rusted metal, leaving orange crumbs in its place. Hansel and Gretel trails. Heat enfolded my body like a suit making it heavy, sweat staining my forehead, rivulets running down my underarms. I kept on walking. The stunted trees were bent into hands plucking at something just out of reach.

Sand shifted around my shoes, finding its way into crevices, in my elbows, at my knees and wandering between my socks and sneakers. Then I almost tripped onto a bright green square of freshly mowed lawn. A red convertible was wedged at its side like a dessert. A chubby baby girl threw her navy blue ball into a corner and she didn’t know how to work her legs well enough. No one was around. I quickly ran and slipped that ball into my shorts pocket, a companion. It bulged resembling a new limb. The baby screamed and I started walking again. I pulled at my bathing suit top to keep it from losing me.


“Bird food,” my sister and I answered, a chorus.

Mother grew tired thinking about it. She slipped into a room without Father, held the turquoise telephone against the petal of her ear. “I only want you,” she whispered to the plastic receiver.

This had happened before. Mother’s men overflowing, at a door or window or ringing the telephone. “Can’t you do anything?” I asked Father as if we had a termite problem.

“About what?”


The birds grew. They flitted between my knees as I sat cross-legged on the floor, bouncing back and forth, their wings propelling small gusts of air. My little airplanes, I thought.

“God Damn chickens,” Mother said, her red fingernails in the kitchen, flashing light in the silverware drawer. Rufus, Stan, Vivian. One too big. One too small. One just right.


Mother asked Father to move to a motel in another town. The word “separation” was mentioned twice. I thought about the waves coming and going, reluctant witnesses along the crooked shore. My sister and I practiced kicking sand backwards into waterfalls, pecking at the beach. We watched sand granules cascade through our fingers to the ground, imagining four ugly toes, soft, red wattle swinging at our necks. Our matching hair bands curled on the dry earth. My sister’s clear glasses tilted on her nose. She forgot to comb her hair. We held each other’s hands.


I was thirsty. Light dripped from tiny, twisted leaves, the roofs of houses, dark, rolling driveways. It was so bright, everything seemed to shift. I focused on a tree while I was walking. But it was always nearer or farther than it appeared to be. A tricycle was wavy in the heat as though it was moving of its own accord. When I neared I knew it was stationary. It seemed as though I’d been walking forever. No sidewalks, only the packed sand and earth pushed aside by the road.

The world was built for grown-ups. Their parties, their spidery talks, their seesawing with one another. Chairs and tables were always too big, the windows and doors to keep you in or out. Their gossip about money. The best part was toys. They would buy them for us. The hothouse colors of favorite jacks and Hula Hoops. The shrunken shapes of dolls or trucks or plush animals.

The man’s car blinded me. When it pulled up next to me the man that was driving opened his door and said something to me and unzipped his pants. Something soft and almost pink flowed out and began moving. He touched it tenderly. I thought about feathers. The other man got out of the car and came toward me. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He danced a little in the sunlight. When I threw the ball, hitting him hard in the face, I could hear him spitting curses. I ran fast through the short, biting grass, rounded pebbles and broken seashells shifting under my feet. I hid behind a piece of driftwood resembling a whale stuck in sand. I waited until I couldn’t hear voices any longer. Only the monotonous waves behind me like someone breathing. A butterfly headed straight toward my face. “Like Little Red Riding Hood,” I whispered to it as it veered away at the last minute.


Things disappeared. Where were the wings? When our chickens didn’t use them they were hidden under feathers, invisible, tucked in like luggage for a short trip. The beaks were hard, unforgiving. The chickens were nearly full grown. Their cardboard box was too confining and there was a flurry inside all the time. A whirlwind of pecking, scratching, and shuffling. I could see the box moving, bumping along the floor.

Father visited and explained that divorce was not such a bad thing. But I knew he meant that his heart wasn’t in it anymore. I wasn’t sure about mine either. I imagined mother crawling with men like ants at a picnic. I wrote in my diary: if only I had eaten peanut butter and jelly instead of tuna fish or cleaned up a little more. If only I had been better.

My sister stayed in bed where her uncombed hair snagged the pillow, her mouth opened and closed without words. She reminded me of a fish without water.

I placed a quarter on the beach one night. The deer-colored sand, the compliant waves with their unseen undertow, stars littering the water with light broken into pieces and scattered across its surface. The moon peered down into the face of the coin with a look of recognition. In the morning nothing was there, only soft indentations in the pliant sand.

Later I came home from a neighbor’s house. “They’re gone,” Mother said from her blood-red mouth, her red fingernails rubbing her arm, straightening her hair.

Silence overwhelmed the house, eddying into corners, sitting in the too large chairs, resting on my twin bed, spreading along the frilly pink bedspread. I tried on my sister’s glasses, pulling them on and off my nose. The world swirled, blurring everything together into long streaks. I tried walking around the bedroom, bumping into the furniture. I remembered pressing Stan’s tendons that opened and closed his claws involuntarily as though he wanted something he couldn’t keep.

“Dinner,” my mother called but I wouldn’t go downstairs, even though I could smell it was one of my favorite meatloaf TV dinners again. She was rushing around, getting ready for a date. Her features enlarged in the mirror where she feverishly applied make-up, darkness outlining the rims of her eyes. Tipping her head back, she ignited her lips with flame colors that would be smeared off anyway. Powder washing her face.

“Bye, Dears,” and then she said it in French. “Take care of your sister,” but I wasn’t sure who she was talking to. My sister and I watched TV and then watched sand enter the house, arranging itself in little piles, coating the wicker furniture.

I left the next morning, early. Before I had to see her smudged and stained and wobbling in her slippers, her body leaking from her terrycloth bathrobe. I didn’t think about destinations, where I could go. One day there would be nothing left of her.


Clots of weeds approached and floated by me. My thirst returned. I played games as I walked. Counting the number of boats I could see bobbing in the distance. Tracing the flights of seagulls in imaginary lines that tangled into knots. I repeated baby’s nursery rhymes. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall….” Sandy clumps fell from scabs around my knees. I had lightning bolt scratches on the backs of my legs from the grass. One shorts pocket hung empty and inside out like a useless tongue. My dark hair was matted down with sweat. When I passed houses I wondered what went on inside the walls, whether the family inside would mind another child. We didn’t have any living relatives. I would make my own way. That was how I thought.

Then I saw Jerry’s Beachcomber Hut with its stiff straw roof, windows without screens opening onto the beach.


“These mosquitoes are killing me,” mother used to say. “It must be my blood.” She brushed her clothes.

“Too sweet?” my sister and I said together, laughing.

Mother would look over the menu. “The food here is…cute.” And she glanced at Father, who twirled the miniature umbrella in his drink, the papery wings spreading and folding over the toothpick handle.

“Another one,” he’d say to the waitress in frayed shorts and a round straw hat, pale blue flowers climbing her shirt.


I creaked the door open and no one was there. It must have been mid-afternoon, before the dinner crowd. I sat at the bar with its high chairs curling around the tall table shaped like a parenthesis. I was tired. My wet skin stuck to the plastic seat and I could feel my scabs, seams in my flesh.

“Hello, there.” It was Jerry, the owner, without his beachcomber hat.

“Can I have some water? Please?”

“Sure, little lady.” He placed the glass in front of me and I drank it quickly. He looked at me. “Let me get you another.” And he left while I sipped the water more slowly. This time I finished it and carefully positioned the empty glass on the slick bar.

He came back. “Your Mama will be here soon to pick you up. She’s sure a real beauty. Like some kind of exotic bird,” He smiled, his hands carving the air. He was missing a tooth. “Put in a good word for me.” And he winked.

That was when I began to cry.

Monday, October 3, 2011

“The Invention of Restraint” by Rich Ives


The crook of Billy Epstein’s arm was murdered first, followed by the hollow at the base of his neck, which had enabled him to open empty jars of sky without resorting to the corrugated flesh of his sleeping posterior. If he didn’t choose to do so, it was merely because the first act was not yet in the first place. Perhaps the odor was overwhelming.

With each further anticipation, the containers released a clear salty fluid, and the witnesses became less convinced of what they had seen. The investigation proceeded with several of the previously cloud-driven held in quiet abeyance.

At the intersection of the first murder and the speech to which it was attached, a small concern was uncovered and placed in the location formerly inhabited by that portion of the body once thought to have been capable of reaching away from the rest of the body. This delicate appendage was lifted at an angle that allowed it to precede the rest of the body, which held together several digits inside one of its pockets that had become joined by the porous stained knuckles of hardened experience that can be found at carnivals, carved into the shape of dice and garishly painted in numerical sequence using the tiny bowl-like declivities prepared on each of the six equidistant surfaces. The physical capacities necessary to pick up the resulting assemblage were said to create the appearance of a grasping of the kind found only in questionable museums and occasionally in bottles of amber fluid displayed in poorly lit tents by gypsies following in the wake of circuses and medicine shows.

All of the orifices are indeed edible. It’s the idea they represent that are indigestible.

In childhood, an old wooden rocking-horse waited on a slanted linoleum floor, patterned in a shifting sequence of Teddy-bear cowboys happily lassoing the battered legs of a generously abused crib, floating on swivel-mounted casters. A young outlaw named Billy Epstein, wearing a Carmen Miranda fruit hat and sporting an outrageous mustache, was still awaiting his fate in the grainy black and white photograph lying beneath the broken glass of the chocolate-stained wooden frame discarded along the worn linoleum trail.

The emotional positioning of the hopefuls has been identified in secret texts carefully guarded by practitioners, who meet in public only in order to pretend mockery and cast misdirecting dispersions upon the activities in which they are happily engaged. This has become necessary to dissuade the many aspiring hopefuls that have been drawn to these activities by dangerous misunderstandings. Witnesses seem not to understand the deep faith with which the participants perform these contradictions and view them as merely overzealous crusaders. The clear salty fluids surreptitiously recovered by low level “sanitary engineers” are rumored to contain valuable intellectual coloration pigments.

In this way, we may have surrendered some of our less conspicuous impulses and altered the densities of archaic tact, although they are still believed to have survived unaltered on the farmsteads of extreme northern South Dakota and extreme southern North Dakota, where artesian well water used for irrigation contains an absorbable constituent of sunlight that reacts to certain combinations of vocal patterns with roots in Scottish and Scandinavian subcultures of Viking and Celtic influence. These include the expressions, “By golly, and fiddlesticks, and wouldn’t ya know it? and you’ll be wantin’ some a that.

Scarring occurs when resistance is prolonged.

On schooldays the Malt-o-meal sits silent in a fat warm bowl circled by small plastic boots filled with milk and orange juice and a pale blonde saddle covering three pieces of toast with liberal doses of marmalade applied, all awaiting the soft slap of footed flannel pajamas from the small room at the end of the innocent hall.

An illegally immigrated dog tributary originally located in the homeland and now activated by latent desires within the uncle begins a low wet moaning related to cries of ecstasy emitted by mating centipedes but without the intellectual discussion. Some witnesses have suggested that the movement contains an aural color of visceral iridescence reminding them of squeezing fireflies, but the lazy trajectory of the tributary remains much larger and does not attempt to rise from the lowest possible declivity.

Viewed from the wing of the local crop duster, the barking can be seen to exert a unifying influence on the chaotic testimonial of the contemporary family, but there is no discernable greening of the offspring, which remain sullen and moist, a condition which makes the occasionally wind-disturbed deposit of crop dust adhere in potentially dangerous quantity. From this tendency to normality we can extrapolate a cultural perspective towards survival, which might allow the density of territorial imperatives to overlap and thus exchange relatives.

Small green birds remove the chewing gum from the young boys mouths and plant it. Pecking begins when a donor resists and can result in tap dancing, stomach nesting and, eventually, death. The introduction of handcarts into the recovery efforts has proved useless.

All feminine models have been endowed with a masculine component. All masculine models have been endowed with a beast of random selection.

The voice of the mother is watery and cool. The father does not participate until the mother’s resources have been depleted. Artificial elevation of the body is adamantly resisted.

If the heart is missing, you must attach a wire to the finger to determine sensitivity. If the wire discolors, the specimen is polluted. If the body lights up, it is not to be trusted. Disconnect the wire before explaining what is required of the specimen. Some specimens will provide service only when they believe they have been lied to. These are particularly desirable as they seldom believe the truth.

This is where you will find the women weeping.


The reformed transgressor gives his little sermon with heated passion edging his knowing chill. A lighted match falls towards the fireplace, already roaring with hunger.

Big and tentative, three boys, simple with yearning. The fat wet flakes of snow hold apart just long enough to fall. The boys are laughing at a joke about their shop teacher, a jovial amputee.

A Volkswagen, farting through the snow, like a dispeptic overturned motorboat, plows to a thick crunching halt and disgorges an excited nervous couple of surprisingly diminutive stature. They’re chattering like sparrows planning a vacation.

The boys who wish to become men have been drinking, dared into a pub where a woman’s life was recited in fits and starts and boos and guffaws, a beautiful tragedy where the heroine does everything wrong, and everyone cheers and begins singing. It hurts the boys to want that.


What is behind the strategy of such an author?

The freedom of the mind, not the tyranny of the body.

Why does he admit this?

Because it is not possible without complicity.

Why are his tarnished dreams so transparent?

The polished window does not see itself clearly.

Are there others like him?

Yes, too many. And they all want attention, though there are many who seek it in other ways.

Why are they not satisfied to be alone?

Some are, until the mind wants to hear itself think.

And if you ask these questions, have you not added another layer of difficulty to the problem?

Yes, but the layers existed before the problem did.

How do we know this problem really exists?

In someone else’s dream the library is closed. A column of ants has been working on the steps where a sweetly flavored text has fallen.


In the schoolhouse between the wheatfields, a priest is eating the onion raw. Behind the schoolhouse the boys are solving a problem with recently introduced foreigners and telling a joke about a burping monk. How much fear does it take for them to forget themselves?

Something backfired and the boys jumped. They were hoping it was a car.

Hobbed up and enlisted they were. As if they were talking to a masculine pearl.

The pale pink panic of flesh.

Fugitive, Warholed out of context, a bolted daisybuff began boxing his way to Lapland.

A truancy of one after one among many. Its ruffled pelt on the imaginary cabin door.

“Give the dodger yer bleedin’ chit,” said the foreign silence.

Wait. Someone is coming, someone who is holding his head as if it might fall off and break. Clockmouthed and doggo, a one-man zoo.

“I’m the prize, Puckerbutt. Suck it up,” said the green voice clothed in caution, ya cheeky little bleeder.

Thusly spills forth the meadow drugged in fog, somnolent.

Twigged with the recurrent her, I was, a paltry sod.

To see was there anything worth taking.

“It’s yer own doin’ then, enit?”

A dodgy scam, okay, Y’d have ta sidewalk a contender.”

“Shut yer filthy gob, ya wanker.”

Pucking the horse turd around like a cricket match.

Bulbous, ham-headed. Three dolts on their way to a discovery.

Don’t believe a word of this. Somewhere deep inside the mastodon, the father lights a green candle. The flame is red, of course, but it helps to know it’s a green candle because it’s so long ago, because the father is naked among stones sitting in a circle.

The boys form a circle outside the circle and begin dancing. It’s a dance of defiance. It’s a dance of helping each other separate.


There’s a hole in the dark that leaks more darkness. The inner walls of heaven are flesh, the outer the flesh of another, separating us from air. The boy’s feeling at that moment is a small furry thing caught too far from its hole.

Them as knew ‘im’d take is face off ‘im fer a lop hole. ‘E thought ‘e loved ‘er ‘e did, the sorry sod. She weren’t no woman but a platoon. Tiny little acorn shoes on a rainmarch, eh. And that there’s Gobble the Muffin, a bloke on the lam, that one. I seen ‘im do it and the Bobbies not far behind. Heard ‘e was from the states, ‘e was, and bound ta go back. I didn’t hang aroun’ none with the dead one needin’ a killer ta point to. I was gone before I knew what I knew.

The wind testified while he lay awake that night, the truth of her in his nostrils. “How surprised you seem to find me here,” he says to himself.


Rich with absence, an ambulatory garden, the evening lanterns’ tasty suggestions of bearded whaling ships slip off into the welcoming fog. His tired furry hull draws him on. His closed eyes brighten, as if daylight had been dreaming its own echo.

1) An amelioration of the cloud’s fickle justice.
2) The intimate architecture of reluctant flounders.
3) Grandpa Epstein still tuning his waldzither.
4) The intimate truss of surrender cupping defiant necessities with a beggar’s hand.
5) My throat full of rose petals grabbing at my breath.

Every word I have written is brown. Each one chased by a gray wolf that never catches it. I was glad to be in that life, though I knew it would not stay in me. Burnt oil and bone dust, the fire was talking. It was rarely a happy thing. I was a brother just like me. And another.

Maybe you died and then kept going, the bump in the road a missed signal, like so many, but what ever really ends beside the moment?

And the woman opens to let you out, not in.

Rent asunder has been thy darkling plain.


Nothing holds still for long. Just when you think the shell you saved won’t sink, boytoy Neeson the Neighbor shovels the drunk’s wet spot into the rosebed, thinking tomorrow you’ll be smiling acid love, and soon there’s kisses for stolen redness, soft unprotected petals folding out, flatter and then flat, on the water, crystal-coated, circled round, but to breath its mouth fragile, it opened and was pleased with its tongue, previously conditioned to wait just like Neeson.

Something whispers I love you, and it’s not yours, but it’s there for you to leave alone and witness and to experience as if it had been. Probably it wasn’t aware of your existence and therefore maybe honest, which you took away with you, leaving the thing that carried it, where it couldn’t hold even the end of it anymore and had to move on right there, where it had happened and then lost the ability to contain itself.


Billy Epstein tried to keep from placing his finger upon the end of the assemblage, which had not yet been fully identified as Neeson or any other manifestation of his unexamined childhood. He held himself not in abeyance but in Billy, in what Billy had become and not in what Billy had done.

One need only speak of blue to redden the lips, the words (first upper and then lower) open between the open pause (here and then here again) uncontained and certain only of a delinquent fleshy punctuation dampening the area of exchange.

The inspector’s raincoat began leaking. Shiny black shoes. The confident tip of a fat-brimmed mobster hat.

Sleep began bumping against the pier.

Sleep was the first thing that occurred before that.