Archive | January, 2013

commonality in the lyric of purpose

Felino A. Soriano

commonality in the lyric of purpose.docx

in the sadness this death imparts

Felino A. Soriano

in the sadness this death imparts.docx - Google Drive

togetherness in the fathom of bodies

Felino A. Soriano

togetherness in the fathom of bodies

sans the rules of regulated being
earth
within a rotating spectrum within a
targeted rise of noon, its necessary role of time’s
relegated royalty: raised arms in the form of vertical halo

compiling mirrors of the human contemplation
say, noted by the biography of a hand’s waving,
thus
within the wave an ambulation of sadness speaks,
the goodbye engages oracle of unified hanker
exposed at the crossing angles
of a moment’s etched hover

mimicking an onlooker’s outreaching hand

rise rise

your distance is holding a spectrum of your
requisite becoming

A Midday’s Delirium

Ali Znaidi

after the indolent sun turned scorching, & lights
unsheathed at midday,
head spinned, anticipating dizziness & confusion
& these questions each a thistle
thorny and sharp
like a blade razor slitting wrists
& myriad questions dancing in front of an
overheated brain
& w/ the rain was boiling in the cauldron of the terrace
I wondered if we need a body, or a soul/a conformist
or a dissident/a wo(man) or a cross//transgender
I wondered if we need speech or silence/
a mathematician or a poet/ real body or a digital
flesh/an angel or a demon/a dictatorship or
a democracy/ululations or tears/
tear gas or thought gas

& if you ask would I join you under the shadow
under your cold umbrella
I’d say No

This Humanity, a Tale

Ali Znaidi

This humanity, this diversity
like endless lightning through
the night.

This humanity,
& its divergencies,
like a river w/ a delta at its mouth.

But how come water is always
down the drain?

This humanity, this diversity—
a tale that we still want to
hear.

The Angry Tramp

Ali Znaidi

A dandelion speaks impromptu,
& so does the angry tramp,
His words, sharp like a lion’s tooth,
[dent de lion]
& if there is something that amazes
it is the use of his hands to explain
his theories
& you can read anger in his hands,
though he is not violent
You can listen to a long extempore
speech full of names of revolutionaries, &
philosophers of revolt
& though extempore, his words
flow like steady steps in jagged terrains,
yellow, his jacket, a reflection of his
heart of gold,
but the holes in it are the injustices
of the institutions,

& his yellow jacket, still an incandescent
Bonfire for other tramps

We Were Irish, Don’tcha Know

Donal Mahoney

In 1948 Booger McNulty’s coal yard stirred constant gossip among the citizens who lived in the little bungalows on the narrow blocks in my far corner of Chicago. That was more than 60 years ago, a time when families took Sunday walks and went back home in time to hear Jack Benny on the radio. A Sunday walk didn’t cost a cent, a price my parents could afford.

My sister and I always had to tag along when my parents took their Sunday walk, and every time we’d pass Booger’s place, I’d hear my mother ask my father what could possibly be on the other side of Booger’s 10-foot fence. Hoping to avoid a conversation, my father would always say he didn’t know but he believed it couldn’t just be coal.

Back then, every kid in the neighborhood wanted to climb that fence and look around. But Booger didn’t tolerate visitors. According to the boy whose buttocks caught a chunk of coal from Booger’s slingshot, there was nothing on the other side of that tall fence except for pigeons and a lot of coal.

In the bungalows surrounding Booger’s place, immigrants from everywhere slept off beer and garlic when they weren’t working, which was pretty often, according to my mother. My father always worked, digging graves with the other men, most of them, like him, from Ireland. He dug graves because in his previous profession some big Bulgarian broke his nose, after which my mother ruled no more boxing. He’d been undefeated until then.

I was ten in 1948 and I’d climb Booger’s fence whenever I was certain he was gone for the night. Once inside the yard I’d climb the piles of coal until I got tired and then I’d go home and take a bath before my father saw me. My mother never let my father see me cloaked in the soot of Booger’s coal and she always made me promise never to go back to Booger’s again.

But on Easter Sunday in 1948, I went over Booger’s fence a final time. My mother had taken pains that morning to get me dressed for the Children’s Mass and sent me off with a caution to be good. I always went to Mass, every Sunday, and I would pray and sing the hymns and usually I was good. This time the weather was so nice I decided to go to Booger’s instead. He wouldn’t be there on Easter. It would just be the pigeons and me. I was gone for hours that day, and since no one knew where I was, a family furor flared.

At school on Monday, Timmy Duffy, unlike me a favorite of the nuns who taught us, told me that every other boy in our class had made it to the Children’s Mass on Easter.

“And where were you?” he asked. I told him I’d been sick and that I figured with all the polio going around, I didn’t want to cripple anyone on Easter. Timmy accepted my explanation because we were all still praying in school for our classmate Mickey Kane, who had spent a year, so far, in an Iron Lung.

“And so,” said Timmy, “even though you weren’t there to help, we sang as loud as we could on Easter,” but that was something our class always did to keep the nuns in the aisle from paying us a visit.

I may have sung no hymns that Easter but I probably looked pretty spiffy scrambling over Booger’s fence in my new blue suit, white shirt and tie. I had a wonderful time in the sun with the pigeons careening in the air and my imagination soaring up there with them.

I was free to climb my favorite pile of coal, toboggan down on my duff, and then climb a different pile and toboggan down again, far more fun than any sled in winter. Hours later when I got hungry, I went back over the fence and headed home for dinner.

Every Easter Sunday that I can remember, we’d have ham and yams, Brussels sprouts and rutabaga, favorites of my father from his youth in Ireland. But when I got home that day, we didn’t eat right away after my father saw me. As I recall, his reaction was more Neanderthal than usual.

“Molly,” he roared to my mother, with his hand gripping the back of my neck, “the little bastid says he went to Booger’s! He never went to Mass!”

And then, despite my mother’s protests, he grabbed a belt from behind the attic door that had been hanging there for years, waiting for a felony like mine to occur. I knew right away what I had to do and so I dropped my pants and bent over at the waist as far as possible. Without a word, he stropped my arse.

I didn’t cry, gosh no, since tears would have brought additional licks. We were Irish, don’tcha know, so we didn’t cry and we didn’t watch English movies on TV, either. The accents of the actors would remind my father of the Black and Tans, the English soldiers sent to fight in Ireland after the uprising. They imprisoned him on Spike Island, off the coast of Ireland, when he was just 16. They grabbed him barefoot in a stream sneaking guns to the IRA. In 1920, Irish boys ran guns for the IRA barefoot through the bogs and streams, provided they were big enough to carry them.

Decades later in Chicago, a stranger, dressed like a Mormon on an urban mission, rang our bell and told my father he was from the IRA and had a medal for him in honor of his service 40 years earlier. The man said “It took a while for us to find you.”

My father hung the medal in his closet next to the tan fedora he wore to Irish wakes. He always went to Irish wakes, even if he didn’t know the deceased, hoping to meet someone “from home.”

So there I was that Easter Sunday, standing in our tiny parlor with my pants napping at my ankles, bent over at the waist and with my arse in the air, like a small zeppelin at moor. My predicament was the result of a wonderful morning at Booger’s and a terrible afternoon at home. Now, 60 years later, when that Easter Sunday comes to mind, no matter where I am, I whisper, just in case he still can hear me, “Pops, I haven’t missed a Mass on Sunday since I
got that Easter stropping. I guess I learned my lesson.”

And then I tell him, as politely as I can, that if he can get a pass from wherever the Lord has stored him, he can verify my Mass attendance with my wife and kids, the last of whom, a son, moved out on us last Christmas Eve, 2010, even though the boy had promised his mother and me a ride to Midnight Mass in his new Hummer. Two feet of snow we got that evening.

My father would have loved that snow. Back in ’67, when we got 30 inches of it, some of it in drifts as high as Booger’s coal, he was just delighted by the winter scene, so much so that he had the two of us shovel frantically for hours, albeit in our usual Trappist silence.

When we got back in the house, he told my mother, with more than a dollop of flair, that the hairs in his nose were frozen. Thank God my mother had his tea ready, steaming hot, as it should be, in its cozy next to his favorite chair. And she gave me lots of cocoa, swirling hot with a zillion marshmallows floating on the top.

Now every New Year’s Eve at midnight (and this has been going on for years), I can see in the labyrinth of my mind those same marshmallows swirling when it’s time for me to raise my glass and toast the past–Holy Week 1948, the week my butt survived Booger’s slingshot and my father’s belt.

“Praise the Lord,” I shout, “and pass the ammunition.”

As the years go by, fewer guests know what I mean when I offer my toast. But most of them never had a chance to hear Jack Benny on the radio. The young ones always ask where I got my old fedora. A couple of them have even said I should have it cleaned and blocked. But most of them, I’m certain, even though they went to college, never saw a relic. They think this old fedora is just a hat.

The Dun Raven

Ashley Bovan

Claws on bough,
A beak ready to serrate your eyes,
Prepare your heart through ribs,
Milk your stomach for liquid and fragments,
Flaps of tongue,
Genitals.

A blood darkness screws your thoughts,
Clamps your softness in iron,
Wires a mismatched love into ice,
Drugs your light.

Ugly pain stops your air.
Just sleep.
Break this year like a bottle.

Day Trip/The Chasm

Ashley Bovan

From Greenbank and Freedom Fields
to Cattedown Wharf
then up to Deadman’s Bay
where even the rats die
Walk along Teats Hill Road
over the bridge to the Barbican
Mayflower Steps
and the ferry to Kingsand

It’s great at that age
when you don’t even care
When it’s all open books
and truth and clarity
before the second-talking begins
You’re not stupid
all you have to do is think of the city
and you know the way it will all turn out

For today, you wander the coastline
take the path across the beach
look around the old harbour
watch reflections warmed by sun –
like a visitor

Back to the Market

Ashley Bovan

Early pm:
our dialogue floats and trails, rambles
along the circular path that follows
the stream, forks
around two houses, turns
back into the main road.

The regular odours
of engines hang
around the close, percolate
through our hair.

We stand on the apron
next to the stalks of wind-wrecked tulips,
ticking moments of staunched hypocrisy.
We mouth our humour,
voice the usual suspicions,
fix the mix.

Later, at home,
I think about the For Sale sign
nailed to your wall.

Until You Remember

Claude Alick
Everything seemed very quiet until that black man entered the room carrying a clock with big bright numbers in one hand, and a calendar decorate with images of little ceramic tigers in the other. He placed the clock on a table to my right, turned and pinned the calendar to a corkboard across the room, and then he looked at me and smiled.

The tag on his shirt read, Dr. Nearpass. Recognizing the man set off an alarm. I knew I had gone full circle, back to where I had started. Attempting to move, I came to the realization that I was strapped to a bed, totally restrained, feet, arms and everything else. The image of a cop with a gun standing on the other side of the door flashed across my mind. There must be some kind of guard out there. The doctor must have recognized panic because his first words seemed measured.

“How you feeling this morning, Nelson? I think we can remove those. What do you think?” And he started to take off the straps.
The doctor’s casual approach offered some consolation.
Oh Lord, what have I done? The details are sluggish, fragmented, like looking into broken glass. I feel this grief all over, especially inside, way down in my bones, and I’m unsure about so much. I know I did something wrong, very wrong, but what, what did I do? I remember this need to run away. A long, winding road stretched out before me like a grey snake and night was coming. I’m tormented by the night. That’s when the bullies converge, conversing between themselves, commenting on my thoughts, all rude and ugly, talking about me as if I weren’t present.

I recalled an impulse, an urge to get off some shoulder-less road, find some level ground to pitch my tent, rest my bedroll and crawl in, take my tongue lashing, let the darkness pass. And the bullies in my brain were agreeing with me: walking this road at night, not safe, not safe at all, visibility would be sketchy and if one of these cars or trucks passing, coming around a bend, brush you in the dark, knock you into the brush, they would assume just another deer, a glancing blow, and keep going. Weeks later your stink will draw scavengers, insects feeding, maggots crawling out of your nostrils, eyes, mouth, not a good way to escape the harpies.

When the voices are present they call me by name, and that would remind me; who am I, where am I-pills twice a day, and those people, trying to make me talk. I’m a listener. What the hell do you want from me?
I’m no lover of drugs and I know there is nothing wrong with me, memory gets fuzzy now and then, but… silly bastards trying to rob me of all familiarity, telling me, take this medication, it would help to soothe your mental agitation. Nothing wrong with me mentally, I see things as clearly as the other guy, sometimes even more clearly, and the critiques from the bullies, even from them, nothing as succinct, but after the pills, just silence, such a lonely place, so I had to leave. I had no idea what time it was or where I was headed exactly, but I had to go before they pull the flesh from my bones.

Crows were cawing in the fading light, flying low over the cottonwoods down near the river. At the edge of the highway a tall snag stood there, black bones reaching towards the sky as if daring the lightening that had killed it once to strike again. When I reached the dead pine, I stood there in the evening light admiring the scars in the rotten bark and trunk where heavens fire had traveled through to ground and expire. I just couldn’t believe my luck, a dirt road led down to the river, must be some level spots down there, away from the road, away from the noise of passing traffic and inquisitive eyes.

“You look like a man in search of a place to spend the night.”
The voice reached me just before I saw the man sitting near the dead tree. He was a young man, about my age, dressed in cowboy boots, jeans and a striped denim shirt, the kind of clothes you see fake cowboys wearing on television. Strange, I was a little disappointed that he wore no hat. He stood, dusted the dirt off his pants with the palm of his hands, but avoided looking at me directly. He seemed vaguely familiar. My skin itched and the bullies began casting doubts: Don’t even think about it. How will you sleep? What are you going to do when you wakeup with a gun or a knife in your face? What are you going to do when he tosses you into the basement and locks the door? How are you going to handle it if he’s a pervert?

I’ve been in the company of strangers before, handled all kinds of weirdoes. I checked myself, looked at the fellow’s reaction to see if I had allowed my thoughts to escape my mouth. I saw nothing.
But this one, the bullies continued, no telling. You sure? How safe are you when he knows where you are camping? The voices streamed through, an odd mix of advice and accusations. I tried to appease them, tried to integrate their opinions.
“I’m alright. I’ll find some place further up the road,” I said.
“No place to camp for another five miles. Darkness will catch you.”
Now, even his voice sounded slightly familiar. But the circumstances eluded me. Where have I seen him, where did I meet him?
“I don’t like being a bother…”
“No bother at all, man. The house is just below that rise, near the river and I can use the company.”
“I’ve a problem, can’t sleep inside of houses,” I said.
“Don’t worry. You can pitch your tent, but the ground could be wet.”

Just when I was about to decline his hospitality his remark registered. Great mounds of clouds tumbled above as if boiling. A crack of lightening shredded the sky, and then thunder cracked in the distance, a prolonged rumble that started up high and then came down and echoed across the valley floor. Startled crows took to the air. The drops came quickly, driven by a determined wind; big fat sags of rain pelted the top of my head and back.
“Seems as though the heavens have made this decision for you.” Still doubtful, I loitered between, but he started walking away in a hurry, and I followed, intending to stay dry, hoping the boom of the storm would drown out the chatter of the bullies in my brain.

He reached the structure before I did, ducked inside and left the door open. The place was not a house really, more like a shack, galvanized roof, uncured pine logs walls; nothing matched any aspects of the man. The bullies were screaming at me now, but I ignored their commentary on my foolishness. Wet, shivering and apprehensive, I stepped inside to avoid the lightening, the thunder and the rain.
The floor groaned under my weight, the place smelled of wood-smoke, everything stale and off. I took in the rest of the place in one glance, the man stood in one corner, engulfed in the shadow, near a cast iron stove that rested on a concrete slab. A heap of split wood and a small ax near the stove, a table and two chairs wedged up against the only window, a bunk bed built into another wall and two cupboards over a sink.

The man turned, brushed by me, and kicked the door shut. A streak of lightening illuminated the window and the interior of the hut. I tried to get a look at his face, initiate some eye contact. He moved by me again, back towards the stove. I threw off my bedroll and tent, sat down in one of the chairs, listening to the wind and rain whipping the trees. Water streamed from the roof, beating the ground and the walls of the structure. I wanted the stove to roar to life, combat my shivering innards and bones, heat the place. But then I noticed the host not approaching his own stove. He spoke for the first time since we had entered the place.

“We should start a fire.”
“Yeah,” I said, and moved towards the stove and the small heap of wood. The man moved again, and sat down in the chair I had just vacated. I filled the stove with wood, grasped the ax and started chipping some kindling. A dull thump on the tabletop drew my attention, a gun sat near his unfolded right palm. I continued to chip away at the wood as if the gun held no importance. Another streak of lightening lit the place and that time I recognized him, from fourth grade. I was nine years old and this fellow and his friends tormented me daily, all the way into middle school and beyond. Does he recognize me? Does he remember?

I nursed the fire to life and watched as it worked its way into the bigger logs. The stove began to kick off some heat. I moved to the table and sat down across from the man as the storm raged outside. We both sat there looking at the gun, not saying a word. It was a big old gun, looked like the weapons you might see in a western. There was something familiar about the gun.
In the dim light, I looked at his face and it became distorted, like an old television, it changed from one bully to another and the faces were speaking to me: Your mother wears combat boots. Another sneering face: Shit for brains say something, you queer. All those boys who had tormented me in school streamed across his features, speaking and laughing at me: Let’s see what you brought us for lunch today, not another bologna sandwich. Get that shit out of here. feed it to the crows.

An urge to just grab the gun and start blasting away at the tumbling visage almost took control of me, but another voice started speaking, sinister and cold, it dared me: Go for it, pick it up, pick it up, you yellow belly, coward, coward, that’s what you are. Pick it up. My fingers were inches from the gun and trembling when suddenly, palms slammed down on the tabletop. The gun jumped off the surface. When I looked up, the face was now my father’s and he was holding the gun. His voice began speaking loud and furious as if to combat the storm: Only cowards use guns. I know I taught you better. You can’t be a coward, boy. You can’t let them see you cower. Pick the biggest one, punch him in the nose hard, very hard and don’t stop, beat him into tears. When you make that fist, make it hard. Clinch it tight. A slack fist will do no damage. You can break you fingers with a slack fist. Expect to take some blows. It won’t kill you. Keep beating the bastard until he cries. I’ll back you up, I’ll tell them how you have suffered at the hands of these…
I can’t do that, dad. I’m not like you. I’m afraid.

Then you will suffer, suffer like a dog then, I’m telling you what my father told me. I did it and it felt good. That’s the remedy, take it, take it like a man. End your misery.
A bubble of rancor detonated in my throat, sloshed around my esophagus and I belched a rancid taste onto my tongue. I swallowed to rid my mouth of the aftertaste, and unexpectedly my voice poured forth with rage and clarity, strong over the clatter of the rain.
Yes dad, yes dad. I’ll beat those bastards, I’ll stomp them into the ground. I’ll fight for my life. No guns, no guns. Thank you dad. Thank you. What took you so long…
That’s my boy. That’s my boy. Fight em.

My father sitting at the table with the gun in his hand made me nervous. The feeling that he would do something with the gun, something that I didn’t want to witness churned my blood. The fire in the stove was burning low, so I used that pretext which allowed me to separate myself from my father. I placed more wood on the embers, and then I went to the bunk, crawled onto the old mattress with all my clothes still on, closed my eyes and tried to sleep. Escaping my father’s rage and the gnawing in my brain became my primary consideration, but my father’s voice continued to drill me intermittently, sending shivers deep into my bones. Toward morning, the rain ceased and a mixture of heat from the stove and a noxious silence doubled around me. Languishing somewhere between half-sleep, and an edgy awareness that felt a lot like a dream, I told myself at least I was getting some rest.

When the sun finally broke through the trees, I felt relieved. It was morning and I had survived. Feeling clammy and wet from the heat of the stove, and the sunlight curving through the dust-filled windowpanes, I sat at the table wondering where my father and the bullies had gone. And then I noticed the gun was still there. I pondered all that had transpired the night before, my father’s advice, the bullies taunting, must have been a dream because my father was dead, killed by his own hand and with a gun just like that one. What next, where do I go from here?
You need to get moving, get far from this place. One of the bullies spoke to me.

I stuffed the pistol into my belongings, strapped the bundle to my back and went down to the river, skirted the stream until I came to a spot where the shoreline gave way to a slope of sand and rocks. While rummaging to find my crusty towel, the gun slipped slowly into my hand with the towel, and I pulled them both out of the bag. I spread the towel on the sand and rocks, put the gun on the towel, used the weapon as a weight to keep the towel from being blown into the river by the temperate breeze.

I stripped bare and wadded in until the water reached my waist, and then I ducked under. The water felt invigorating. I came back to the surface with water streaming down my face, looking through the haze, and contemplating the deliberate wind on my skin, I imagined how a baby might comprehend the world for the first time. Cold, shivering and through a miasma, I saw a man scurrying toward me with an object in his hand. And my first response to his presence was fear. Moving calmly, I got out of the water, put on my pants, picked up the towel with the gun, started drying my hair and face as I waited. What the hell does he want? I asked myself.

“Who the hell are you? How did you get here?” The man shouted his questions and kept stomping toward me with determination.
“I don’t want any trouble. Show me the way to the road.”
“You can go back the way you came. How did you get down here? I don’t see a raft. You must have crossed private property to get here. No public access, no public access. You didn’t read the signs?”

The man looked enraged. He stopped a few yards from me and I realized the object in his hand was a gun. He started waving the gun at me as if it was a piece of stick and he was chasing a dog. Suddenly the gun the man was carrying discharged, the bullet zing past my ears and I fired twice in response. The man dropped his gun, grabbed his chest and fell to his knees. He knelt there for a moment, looking at me with a surprised expression, and then he toppled over onto his face. For a moment, I doubted that I had hit him because I never took aim.
“Harry? What’s happening? Harry?”
The woman came running out of nowhere. She screamed and threw herself on top of the man, turned him onto his back.
“You killed him. You killed him, you son of a…” she grabbed for the gun on the sand near the man. I fired again, with aim this time and she collapsed in an awkward sprawl on the man. For a moment it all seemed unreal, but as it sunk in, sheer terror came with it. I dropped the gun and started to run away, leaving my belongings behind. I had to find a way up to the road. I remember scampering up the embankment, over some shale rock and then I slipped, started falling backwards into the river and the world became black.

“Nelson, you kept rambling about two people you killed on the Huntley River.” Dr. Nearpass was speaking as he released the straps that held me. “The sheriff did a search, as they do in all these matters. They found nothing. When do you think you did this?”
“Yesterday. What time is it, what day is it?”
“There’s the clock, that’s the correct time. Today is Wednesday the twenty-seventh of May, nineteen ninety-two. You have been in this bed for the past three days.”
His words struck me as if I had been held by one arm and one leg, spun around a few time and thrown. It took me some seconds to believe him; I finally did, but some uneasiness still remained.
“Doctor, why do I feel this… this guilt, this remorse.”
“You had a psychotic break. Don’t worry it’s normal to have feelings of false self-accusation, guilt, sin, that too will pass. Memory is a powerful thing. You’re stable now. Your mother wanted to come out, take you home for a while. I think I convinced her that we have things under control. You can resume your classes in a few days. We’ll talk again later.”
I watched him exit the room and it occurred to me that I could never be certain about reality, not ever again. He could have been a figment of my imagination, this building, this hospital room, all of it, imagined. Once that line is crossed can one ever go back for sure? A car horn sounded on the street and I got out of the bed, crossed the room to the window, and looked out at the buildings, the cars, the people moving about like ants; I saw all of it in a whole new way.

Cinderella Attends Her Twenty-Fifth High School Reunion

Dianalee Velie

I walked into the room and everyone rose,
being their queen now, I expected it.
Prince charming had died, of a concussion,
after losing his balance dancing around
in my eight inch heeled Jimmy Choo,
emerald-encrusted shoes, custom made
of course and one of a kind like
the glass slippers my kinky old
fairy godmother set upon my feet
more than 25 years ago.
Ever try to walk in glass? Eight-inch
heels feel like slippers in comparison.

I should have known about his foot fetish
then. Who else would have run around
the realm looking for the other shoe?
For his own benefit, he kept me exquisitely
shod, so I never complained.
My fairy, ball gown also enticed him.
He wallowed in its magical layers, dying
to duplicate the mysterious sparkling fabric,
but never could, so he donned it in
his private chambers every night until
my treasured keepsake now looks like trash.
It will never be viewed in the royal museum.

All of you knew the prince was dainty.
Whispers abounded, in that slum school
I was forced to share with you all, about his
sexual preference and they were correct.
Happily ever after left me with no children
but a dynamite coach man who disappears
at midnight. Perfect set up, Godmother,
you are pure genius! But now for the real
reasons I am here. I look great for my age,
daily massages, pedicures, facials, manicures
and a few nip-tucks have kept the royal plastic
surgeon and his entourage quite busy.

I needed to show off and launch
my new shoe line, Cinderella Slippers,
fit like a dream; feel like a queen.
Godmother has perfected her design sense
and will invent them all. Try them
and feel enchanted. The new manufacturing
facility will be built on your confiscated lands.
We will be hiring many of you as compensation.
Applications may be picked up at
the drawbridge before the castle moat.
So, ta-ta, my coachman awaits and I must scurry.
before he turns into the stallion who pulls my surrey.

Nepal

An excerpt from the book “Save Send Delete

Danusha Goska

Look – it’s fantastic: a carpenter in Israel two thousand years ago is crucified, and that fixes everything, everywhere, for everybody. Do I really believe that?

I have been obsessing on that question for days, and I have not come up with a “yes” answer or a “no” answer. Rather, I’ve come up with yet another story. Can you be patient and hear yet another story? Honestly, this is the best I can do.

Years ago I was a teacher in a tiny little outpost in Nepal. It wasn’t inhabited enough to be called a village, but let’s call it one. There was no electricity. No running water. No one had a radio. No planes flew overhead. It took me five days from the nearest dirt road to walk there.

There were only about four inhabited houses, in a rough scrape of yellow dirt, on a tongue-shaped plateau hanging seven thousand feet in air. On three sides, the earth dropped very steeply down through three thousand feet of zigzagging trail. First were pines and rocks. Rhododendron blazed up crimson in spring. As you climbed down through the thickets, careful not to get lost on woodcutter’s trails that meandered into mazes of brush, you heard peacocks whose lovelorn cries rippled curtains of monsoon rain.

You drank from waterfalls so pristine their exquisite beauty made you regret all of civilization. Up above you, gray langur monkeys shot the breeze. Their faces and hands are black because Hanuman, the monkey god, burned his face and hands while rescuing Sita from the fires of the
Ten-Headed Demon.

Wearying, you blessed chautaaras, platforms that pious souls erected around the base of pipal trees. Buddha achieved enlightenment under a pipal tree, a sacred fig, 2,500 years before, and travelers now rest at their bases. Chautaara platforms are built of stone and perfectly calibrated to reach just to the height of a load being released off of a weary traveler’s back. I can feel right now the rearrangement of muscles and bones after I backed up to a chautaara, placed my backpack on the platform, released the waistband, shrugged off the shoulder straps, and stepped forward. Refreshed, and climbing all the way down, you reach the
crashing white water and the foam of the Dudh Kosi, the river of milk, one of seven sister kosis.

There is also the Sun Kosi, the river of gold, and the Arun Kosi, the river of the dawn. The Milky Way is a reflection of these seven rivers; they are so full of reflective bits of mica from the Everest range of mountains which they erode.

On the fourth side, behind the village, the earth rose in wrinkles like a bunched-up carpet. This ridge blocked the sun; we always had an early sunset. Kids gathered firewood up there. Jackals ate one of the kids. His father wandered around, very sad, for days. People called out, “Hey! I heard a jackal ate your kid. I’m really sorry.” And he shrugged.

Wildcats stole chickens. This happened even as you watched. You knew you were watching five chickens and you’d not see a darn thing – they were that fast – and suddenly there were four chickens. Tracks of cat paws and chicken wings traced in the dust, but the cats were the same golden color as the ripe grain out of which they materialized.

During the day, sometimes, I heard clack, clack, clack; a weaver weaving homespun. I heard one isolated bird’s song. This was a wagtail, a small, gray, white, and black bird that patrolled the stream and ate its bugs. Some days, that bird’s song was the loudest, most significantly patterned sound I heard. Wind. Rain. Every night, the jackals, yelping.

Every now and then, someone would go down to the center of the settlement, and start hollering for all she was worth. I theorized that this might be a form of mental illness unique to this village, or a religious ritual. After I’d been in the village for months, I heard, way off in the distant hills, another person hollering back. Previously, I had not been acclimatized enough to hear the other half of the conversation.

I slipped a lunghi – a tube of cloth – over my head, dropped my sari to the ground, and walked into the wagtail’s stream. One day I washed my underwear before washing myself, and placed my underwear on a rock. By the time I was finished bathing, my underwear had frozen to the rock. I chipped them free with my Swiss Army Knife.

I had fleas. Everyone had fleas, but around me everyone had fewer fleas. Something about me was very attractive to fleas. When I slept next to others in tea shops, they would awake in the morning and bless Buddha for how few bites they had received in the night. My sleeping bag could practically walk.

For about a month in late winter, we could buy tangerines in the market. They were the best tangerines, ever, anywhere. I ate the peels. I can’t say that the peels tasted good. I can say that I was hungry. As the days become milder and winter loses its grip, the old harvest’s crops have all been eaten, and the new season’s crops are not yet in. Spring’s wild berries, fruiting from snow, tantalize your tongue, but cannot fill your stomach. I collected alien leaves along the path.

My test: if they looked benign, I ate them. My neighbors warned, “Miss, that stuff is poisonous!” I survived.

I had a favorite student. He was dyslexic, and I am, too. One Friday he gave me a marble; a rare gift in that village. I still have that marble in my backpack. Monday he did not show up for class. “Stomach ache.” Dysentery. He was dead.

In the United States, my brother became fatally ill. Within thirty-six hours of sleeping on a clay floor, under a wattle roof, where mice ran along unfinished rafters peeling bark, I was in the United States. I saw people so fat that they took up the space that two or even three Nepalis
take up. People complained of headaches, took aspirin, and were well. Homes were outfitted with curtains and wallpaper and picture frames and slip covers and bed sheets. An American room had more to protect it from mere air than my students, who were, as often as not, barefoot, with just their one ragged garment, day in, day out, between them and wind and sun and snow and rain. Americans threw away more manufactured objects in a given day than most of my villagers would touch in a year.

I was looking out the windshield of a car driving through Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. Pedestrians crossing the street, shoppers on the sidewalks, everyone, without exception, was acting out dramatic unhappiness. Their faces and postures told individualized accounts of bitterness, disappointment, paranoia. Shoulders slumped. Parents jerked children by their wrists.

I kept toting up all they had that most people in most places during most times in history never had: calories, choices, warmth in the cold, the ability to read, access to information; they could vote; they could drive; they could drink water from a tap; they could close a door and be alone on the other side of that closed door.

I didn’t want them to be better people. I didn’t want them to accept Jesus. I didn’t want them to box their old clothes and canned food and bandages and send that package anywhere. I just wanted them to be grateful. The car moved on through Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.

My brother died. I flew back to Nepal. In Peace Corps, there is a story that volunteers tell each other; often an old-timer will tell this to a new trainee. I don’t know if it is true. A Peace Corps volunteer comes back to the United States and goes mad in the cereal aisle of the supermarket.

I did not want to go mad. I wanted to be a good sister to my brother and daughter to my parents, and so I flew back to America when my brother was dying. I wanted to be a good teacher to Laxmi and Raj Kumar, and so I flew back to Nepal. I feared that I could not hold those two worlds in my mind without going mad. I did not even try. I said to myself: “When you are in this village, no place else exists. Once you leave, this village does not exist.”

Rand, I have had moments when I was as sure as I’ve ever been sure of anything that Jesus Christ is true man and true God, that he lived and died for you and me and that faith in him is all that is necessary. Those have not been moments of bliss. They terrify. Surety that God
suffered and died for *me* defies everything that I mime believing so that I can survive consensus reality. Belief in Jesus Christ violently wrenches me out of what I’ve come to nestle into as moorings.

Yes, Rand, I do. At this moment, as I write to you, and I inhabit my left brain, and run my sharpened pencil down the inventory of things I believe and find plausible and things I find fantastic and too painful even to contemplate, I believe. I don’t believe because it makes any sense in a world where rape and murder and war crimes and child abuse are rampant. I am as if a receiving clerk checking off a bill of lading against all my expectations of what a convincing deity should be and do.

That receiving clerk finds this story pretty outlandish, and, frankly, full of holes. But, even at this moment, when I inhabit my inner receiving clerk, I know that, while walking down modern streets in modern cities, against my attempts to forget her, to sequester her behind an impenetrable ghetto wall in my mind, for no better reason than my own cognitive convenience, I remember Nepal.

I remember hungry peasants who gave me their food, expecting nothing in return. I remember vivid joy and vitality in the faces of my students, filthy and barefoot though they were. I remember moonlight on that massive curtain of ice and rock, Nuptse Ridge. I remember the deafening silence and the blinding azure sky that became louder and more overpowering the closer I got to Sagarmatha. I know that that other reality exists.

I know because I was there.

A Red Cherry On A White Tile Floor

for Maram Al-Massri

Dianalee Velie

Vibrant sexuality explodes
in your poems,
ripe and passionate
against your chaste
Syrian upbringing,
a stark dichotomy
like the title of your book,
the borrowed
title of this poem.

In a cult of veils you clung
to the idea of liberty, fleeing
eventually to Paris to bare
you arms, your thighs, and
your blood red heart
on the page.
Flirting with freedom
brought euphoria
mixed with sadness

as you unified
the sights and scents
of Arabic traditions,
dressed them in mini-
skirts and high heels
and strutted through
the literary world
a mix of racy rebellion
and subdued submission,

every woman relating:
Madonna and whore.

Aurora Corporealis*

David Radavich

We need to grieve a while.

For everything we are

and have been,

dark reality

of our fantasies

that all too frightening

come to life.

Someone makes money

from our fears.

It’s all paid

for in flashback.

And now the cortege

rolls by

with our hearts

in it

witnessing ourselves

laid out

in the hot sun.

*Following the massacre in Aurora, Colorado

Labyrinth

David Radavich

So many streets have vanished,

signs stolen by vandals

or turned around, north and south

confused into up and down,

yesterday or tomorrow,

my best friend’s face has melted,

the war heroes of childhood

have been caught behind enemy lines,

weight stays the same

but the brain is noticeably lighter

like a plane with less ballast

flying new and sudden

routines, even the skin thins

and bruises show themselves baldly

almost as paper being folded

with headlines,

the lingering body

simmers in its dark cauldron,

cabernet swallows direct

into blood, knees wade

through the turbulent river,

sun emerges a stern lost teacher—

soon I shall learn

who I am.

34.

Sergio Ortiz

birthday morning….
I no longer care
for this old love of death
the cold angel whose ruin
I learn to accept

Ode to Ravioli

Joan Mazza

Square pasta pillows filled with ricotta, mozzarella,
and flecks of parsley, sealed and bound with a beaten egg,

boiled until they float, rolling over each other until
tender, drizzled with sauce from jars I canned

last August when vines were heavy with plum tomatoes.
First snowflakes fall on the garden’s brown remnants

while we gather at a long dark table set with mom’s

Waterford and the Noritake china she bought
for my engagement, and Grandma’s silver, brought back

from her cruise to Italy, where she saw family
after forty years, wearing a dress and shoes without holes.

We serve them up on the oval platter that belonged
to Aunt Sarah, sprinkle Locatelli Romano.

Though you’re not here, I set your place at the table.

Write Something

Joan Mazza

I tell myself
every morning. Don’t think
too much. Don’t expect
to make sense. Start with
an image or a phrase
that’s bumping your forehead.
Grab it by the smallest
thread and pull gently.
Keep tugging as it unravels
into wavy curls in a heap
at your feet. Sort colors later.
Snip or knit them
in a few months.

Just show up, the muse says.
And, I told you so.

My muse doesn’t sweet talk,
won’t make deals, refuses
to say my words are eloquent.
She never promises prizes.
Rework that; it’s a mess.
At least you have
something to revise.

True Love

Michalia Arathimos

Why don’t you pay attention?
You are too cheap. The air

keeps on moving into you anyway.
This is the way the world has of

touching you, even when
you are looking elsewhere.

Even then, it loves you.
Even then, it forgives you utterly.

In Conversation

Michalia Arathimos

This eye has lost itself.
This one will sit next to me.
This glass of wine
explains my eye’s absence.

Now we revolve
around the grand circle
describing such
fascinating things –

And it is understood!
This one’s hands promise.
We are here to lick
salt onto the earth’s edges

together, all oceans
in us consoled.