For its 65th anniversary, New Directions has just released an expanded edition of Raymond Queneau’s classic Oulipean text, Exercises in Style, featuring 25 previously untranslated exercises by Queneau, as well as new exercises by Jesse Ball, Blake Butler, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, Harry Mathews, Lynne Tillman, Frederic Tuten, and Enrique Vila-Matas. If you’ve never experienced Queneau’s encyclopedia of ways to write the same scene over and over, each time new, there’s never been a better time.
On Feb 21st, at 8:00pm, there will be a launch party for the book in Brooklyn, info here.
Below, we’re happy to feature a few of the new exercises from the book.
COQ-TALE (first published in Arts, November 1954)
Ever since the bistros got closed down, we just have to make do with what we have. That’s why, the other day, I took a pub bus, at cocktail hour, on the N.R.F. line. No point in telling you that I had a terribly hard time getting in. I even had a permit, but IT WASN’T ENOUGH. It was also necessary to have an INVITATION. An invitation. They are doing pretty well, the R.A.T.P. But I managed. I yelled, “Coming through! I’m an Éditions Julliard author,” and there I was inside the pub bus. I headed straight for the buffet, but there was no way to get near it. In front of me, a young man with a long neck who hadn’t removed the Tyrolean hat with a plait around it that he wore – a lout, a boor, a caveman, obviously – seemed set on gobbling down every last crumb that was before him. But I was thirsty. So I whispered in his ear, “You know, back on the platform, Gaston Gallimard is signing contracts.” And off he ran, the sucker.
An hour later, I see him in front of the Gare Saint-Bottin, in the midst of devouring the buttons of his overcoat, which he had swapped for some
Translated by Chris Clarke
January 31st, 2013 / 2:25 pm
Manhattan between the wars was not made dull by death or dread: it sang. The pink-lipped living strode past the fresh monuments mounted over the new mica-glitter sidewalks, exclaiming over the stars at their feet and around the park, trolley conductors competed in bellringing as they took and mistook actual stars from far off California. Although liners could be heard moaning clear across town, exiting and entering with abandon, ironshod hooves no longer rang, only the occasional garrulous fruit vendor sang from his horse, making its last rounds, or a carriage-driver cursed at his plumed nag dodging motorcars, the last harnessed for the park pleasures of rubes or Frenchies–so much noise was made on the street that the pink-lipped living shrieked their gossip as they walked in twos and threes over the glittering sidewalks.
An odd couple shrieked down the street in tandem, not quite together, not quite incognito, one of them a deb. New York debs were covered by the press just like Grable, cited in columns and flashbulbed beyond blindness. With assets considerably less physical than fiscal, Dot had been debuted but not suitored. She directed the two of them south along the mica, south to where one could get a seat, more specifically, a seat on the stock market. A woman with a seat would be new. Toothpaste was new, most all of what stacked up beside a pharmacist’s till was new. Father, owner of all the sugar in the world, would know what a stake in clean teeth was worth and that she could handle such a transaction, and handle it best with a seat.
Today a company selling women’s items, Dot said, napkins they called them as if you would have them at table, was about to make a public offering of stock, and Father thought she might handle the delicacies. She had handled them, and then Father. Bid it up, she told him at lunch. Women aren’t having children anymore. A coathanger company could produce piles of profit too. READ MORE >
ALT LIT GOSSIP ran a live awards broadcast hosted by Steve Roggenbuck. Below you can watch the archive footage.
Following the break, an afterword by our own Jackie Wang.
[The following is a story originally published in Bald Ego magazine, and will appear in Lynne Tillman's forthcoming new story collection from Cursor in April 2011, titled Someday This Will Be Funny. The piece's title comes from Clarence Thomas's words in his testimony during the hearings, October 1991. Recently, Mr. Thomas's wife allegedly left Anita Hill a voicemail asking for her apology. The story makes interesting use of popular media snafu as subject matter, which made me wonder more about what other great books and stories are able to incorporate such into their bodies in a fictional sense fluidly. Thoughts? - ed.]
Give Us Some Dirt
On long, summer nights in Pin Point, the Georgia air hung still as a corpse, and they’d wait for a breeze to save them. The heat felt like another skin on Clarence. His Mother would say, Clarence, what have you been up to? Playing by the river again? Oh Lord, we’ve got to clean you up for church, but aren’t you something to behold? And his mother would clap her palms together or spread her arms wide, like their preacher. Oh, Lord, she’d exclaim. Sometimes she’d point to sister and lovingly scold, “She doesn’t get up to trouble like you, son.” Clarence scrubbed the mud off until his knuckles nearly bled, while his sister giggled.
These days she wasn’t laughing so much.
The dirt couldn’t be washed away, not after Clarence kneeled in their white church, and they slimed him with derision. They couldn’t see who he was, how hard he’d worked, what he’d had to do, but he knew how to act. Behave yourself, boy, Daddy would say. Clarence’s grandfather, Clarence called him Daddy, was a strict, righteous man, who never complained, not even during segregation times, didn’t say a word, so Clarence wouldn’t, either. Those days were over, and they had their freedom now. He set Daddy’s bust on a shelf near his desk in his new office.
The D.C. nights mortified him, the air as suffocating as Pin Point’s. Clarence couldn’t free himself of history’s stench. On some interminable evenings, he nearly sent that woman a message, made the call, because she’d dragged him down for their delectation. He would pick up the receiver and put it down.
The noise of the ceiling fan assaulted him like a swarm of bugs. Clarence’s jaw locked, and his strong hands balled into fists. Every pornographic day of his trial, Clarence’s wife, Virginia, sat quietly behind him. She barely moved for hours on end, didn’t betray anything, and he worried that, if she had, the calumnies would have spread even further. The sniggers and whispers would have ripped her and him to pieces. He rubbed his face, recalling her startling composure. Rigid, at attention, a soldier in his beleaguered army.
He didn’t tell Virginia what the senators whispered — if he’d tried to marry her, if they’d had sex before the Court decided Loving v. Virginia, they’d have been arrested, and wasn’t it ironic — the Court made Clarence’s dick legal in Virginia, in Virginia? The Capitol’s dirty joke. Their dry Yankee lips cracked into bloodless grins.
The room’s high ceilings dwarfed him. Clarence glanced at a stack of legal papers. His wife was unassailable and white, but under their vicious spotlight her skin looked pasty and sick. She clung to him through his humiliation, even when disgrace lingered like the smell of shit. And now she bore the tainted mark with him.
Clarence wouldn’t say anything. He’d absorbed Daddy’s lessons, he could keep everything inside, all of it. He watched his grandfather’s bust, half expecting it to move, but it only stared down at him from the shelf. Clarence picked the receiver up again and put it down again. He was in that weird trance, and breathed in slowly, to calm himself, and breathed out slowly, to stay calm, and then closed his eyes. Clarence would leave that woman alone, leave her be, and, anyway, what was the sense, what was there to say years later, and there’d be consequences.
He was weary of scrubbing.
When he won, when the seat was his, he watched his friends’ joy, black and white, and they embraced him, slapped him on the back — remember what’s important, what it’s for, our principles, it’s all worth it. Clarence was the blackest supreme court justice in the land, the blackest this country would ever see. He knew that and held that inside him, too. Nothing and no one could whitewash that.
Clarence patted his round belly. He liked to joke about his heft, his gravitas, with his friends and the other Justices. When he delivered his rare speeches, he occasionally mentioned his girth, which drew a laugh, since his body was a source of mirth. Sometimes his hands rested on his stomach during sessions, when he was courtly if mute. The court watchers noted that he never asked questions, they remarked on it until they finally stopped. Clarence felt he didn’t have to say a word. He’d talk if he wanted, and he preferred not to.
When his hair turned white, like Clinton’s, that other fallen brother, Virginia said he looked distinguished, not old. Still, she worried about his weight, she didn’t want to lose him. He hushed her. He intended to be on the bench as long as he could, at least as long as Thurgood Marshall. He looked at Daddy again, eternally silenced, and sometimes talked to him, telling him almost everything. Clarence could hear Daddy, he could hear his voice always. He knew what he’d say.
Clarence’s trial bulged fat inside him. He’d never forget his ordeal, not a moment of it. He closed his briefcase and felt the urge to push Daddy from his perch. He would never let anyone forget his trial. Clarence chuckled suddenly, and a harsh, guttural noise escaped from him like a runaway slave. He’d have the last laugh, he was color blind, and they’d all pay in the end.
Lynne Tillman has published novels, story collections, and works of nonfiction. Her novel No Lease on Life was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006. Her most recent novel is American Genius: A Comedy.
Everyboy comes to me at a church potluck
perfumed with frankincense and lasagna.
He believes I am a gentle bird girl
in my tulip sweater and raincoat.
I am not so gentle, but I act as if
and what I act as if I might become.
He says: Let’s be still and know refreshments.
Tater tot casserole is wholesome fare.
Let’s get soft, let’s get really, really soft.
I do not say: I am frightened of growing plump;
something about the eye of a needle
and sidling right up close to godliness.
Instead I dig in,
stuff myself on homemade rolls,
tamale pie and creamed chipped beef with noodles.
I eat until my bird bones evanesce.
I eat until I bust from my garments.
I become the burping circus lady
with meaty ham hocks and a sow’s neck.
Everyboy says: Let’s get soft, even softer.
We vibrate at the frequency of angel cake.
Our throats fill with ice cream glossolalia.
The eye of the needle grows wider.
There is room at the organ bench.
Melissa Broder is the author of the poetry collection WHEN YOU SAY ONE THING BUT MEAN YOUR MOTHER (Ampersand Books).
While we fucked, I’d hold his baby. To keep the baby off the dirt. Clean babies are happy. I’d hold the baby out in front, and he’d fuck me from behind. The baby never cried. The baby wandered. I mean its eyes. The baby appeared unfazed. I mean by the fucking.
We fucked in the park, in the tall grass. When my arms that held the baby bounced, the baby laughed and laughed. And while I got fucked, while I was holding the baby, I’d wonder about the baby’s other daddy. This was what I assumed, that the baby had another daddy, because unlike his first daddy, the daddy who fucked me, this baby was brown. I figured the baby was adopted. Something about the daddy, I could just tell, he seemed like the kind of man with a man at home. Even though he never talked about himself, he didn’t seem like he kept any secrets.
I wanted to ask him, Bring the other daddy to the park! One daddy to kneel on the ground and take me in his mouth. The other daddy to fuck me. And me to hold the baby. To keep the baby clean. But I never had the guts to ask.
That was a few years ago. That daddy disappeared. Now that park has fewer babies. Now those babies toddle. Oh man, those babies are getting big.
Tim Jones-Yelvington lives and writes in Chicago. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Sleepingfish, Annalemma and others. His short fiction chapbook, “Evan’s House and the Other Boys who Live There,” is forthcoming in Spring 2011 in “They Could no Longer Contain Themselves,” a multi-author volume from Rose Metal Press. He is editing the October issue of Pank Magazine to feature Queer poetry and prose. He contributes to the group blog Big Other.
Poem text first appeared in an e-chap published by Gold Wake Press.
Rauan Klassnik’s book “Holy Land” (http://www.blackocean.org/holy-land/) released from Black Ocean in April 2008. Rauan’s currently working on a book of monsters, pacing back and forth in a fever, pitching up higher and higher: “slave ships moor inside me. And daisy rashes.”
Note: This is a collaborative short story. The authors produced it by sending work back and forth over email, based upon the authors’ experiences with the most ridiculous intellectual posturing of the academy. This story will be incorporated into a larger text called The Book of Methods, featuring a series of collaborations between Schneiderman and other writers, all powered by “machines” particular to each writer.
a matter of degree
Exhibit A: This book hurts. Like it’s made of sand. Coarse sand. I can’t finish it, because it hurts so much. Sand running over my gums. Emotionally, physically. A durian fruit lodged in my pyloric valve. I just have to stop reading and sit by myself all slugabed in the dark with a tumbler of ice-cold, mint-infused faux-Darjeeling listening to Charles Mingus’s Ah Um, no, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and whispering my oh-so-calming mantra.
The first time: Oh yes, the new Chair of Graduate Studies. Yes, him. Can’t you see that he’s a minion of the University’s privatization plan? I don’t care if he is a “Marxist” mother-fucking editor of Radical Teacher. I’ve written a poem where he appears around town: at the Laundromat advising you on how to get your whites even whiter while he fondles your unmentionables (I struck the line where he licks your undies); at the grocery checkout—no, not Shop N’ Save, but Aldi—bagging your generic navy beans, and there’s a good chance you’ll find cricket parts in there. It happened to the retired classics professor with the glass jaw. He found the whole thing strangely thrilling, and I kissed him at the Halloween party. Yes, him.
II. I went on this, like, really life changing journey to the Taos Pueblo and I could really feel the power of the land there. Everything was so colorful—like living inside of Frida Kahlo’s head if she was possessed by a really wise animal spirit. A Pooka. Like Harvey the invisible rabbit. I took this jar of dirt because it has magic healing properties. Every time I start to feel sick I just sprinkle some of this dirt in my water bottle and hold a swig in my cheeks until it mixes completely with my spit and then I drop a little into my palms and rub across my cheeks while swallowing the rest with my eyes closed.
Alpha: It’s like the end of Finnegan’s Wake, where the two women narrating the universe weep in their Guinness like children—turn to stone—and then feel like the calcium-rich lampreys running thick through the Liffey jump into the effluvia of language permeating their own experience. That’s what this book you’re reading now reminds me of in a weird way.
Item C: What do I find funny? Sometimes when I listen to Ravel, certain movements take on personalities. They just have this jaunty sort of persona that reminds me, for some reason, of certain Dostoevsky characters. Especially Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, or the father in The Brothers Karamazov, you know, the one whose serfs choke him with vodka passes through a funnel. I always imagined him as looking something like Julia Kristeva with Rosacea. When I hear those characters channeled through that music, I smile to myself a sort of knowing grin. I’m very content.
For consideration: I like to add Toni Morrison, maybe Song of Solomon, to the syllabus to spice things up a bit. It’s not as good as Deliverance with that piggy-squealing ream action, but hell, I’ve been teaching that one so long I can almost see Ned Beatty getting all glassy eyed. What’s that you’re humming? “One toke over the line”? Yeah, I like that (singing): “One toooke ooover the liiine…” Ok, my eager grad assistants, let’s get back to the lecture class. I think those kids have had enough time to talk among themselves.
4. At first I wanted someone to ask him to speak louder. But then, the musicality of his voice, I felt myself being lulled in. He spoke so softly I loved having to really focus, like I’m in a small cellar trapped by someone whose footsteps move so across the floorboards that they may not be there are all.
&: We’ve got to take a stand now, my brothers, my pistol-whipping mutineers, against the administration’s limits on our constitutional rights involving photocopying. Bullshit capitalist marionettes trying to squelch the free speech of our mimeograph machine. They are brainwashing the undergraduates by the omission of knowledge and withholding the symmetry of the dialectical materialist critique. We’ll strike, we’ll refuse to teach, we’ll write a strongly worded letter that begins, “Dear Sir or Madam,” but then, get this, goes completely hard-core anarcho-syndicalist on their asses. Fight the father-fucking powers that be….boooyeee!
Article E: I put his handouts on my fridge at home. I look at them every day, each time I go for the milk or to grab leftover coq au vin. He’s been to prison before. I really respect that.
6) I think I need a personal drummer, some sort of iPercussion section to really tie me into the spirit world. Cause I think I am—you know—tied in to a spirit world, but not this one yet. I’m riding with valkyries, doing the star-scattered two-step in the vaikunta with Ndjambi when I need to just be rolling a phat blunt with Manabozho. Right? A repetitive beat could really focus my energies towards the eightfold path the golden mean the middle way a sort of laid-back nirvana where everything is brilliant whiteness.
*: No, it’s not ‘hate’ on the other knuckle, it’s ‘true’. My knuckles ground me and remind me what’s important in life. They’re like gravity stabilizers for when I feel myself getting caught up in other pursuits. All I have to do is look down and see ‘true love’. That’s what it’s all about. What’s that? Yes, sometimes I do wear gloves.
**: When I read Blanchot, it really makes we wonder, why write at all? I mean, why fucking write? Why construct a sentence if it’s only going to get fucking deconstructed? Do you fucking understand what I am fucking saying? There’s like no fucking point. And reading? Well, I guess that’s a fucking steaming fucking load of shit too.
–for the Nintendo Entertainment System, by Wisdom Tree, Inc., 1991, unlicensed
Your enemies are not killed; they are converted.
Occasionally, a convert will leave behind Spirit Points,
which you can use to purchase things like fruits.
Each fruit has its own unique method of attack.
Pears, though weak, come in handy in the Slums,
since they can destroy large weeds and junk piles.
Vials of the Wrath of God: these are basically bombs,
purchased in groups of three or seven. Samson’s Jawbone
acts as a boomerang. You’ll need this to get the Raft.
To begin, enter the red door and receive an apple
from the Christian Helper. The basketball player
you come across in the Park is of no consequence.
Do not go into the Bar in the Shipyard; you will lose
the Belt of Truth and have to go to the Pawn Shop
in the Slums to retrieve it. Using the Raft, cross the lake
and search out the Grey-Haired Man in the Airport.
He is slow and weak; it takes only three Vials
to convert him. He will drop the Helmet of Salvation,
which renders you invulnerable to dynamite.
The Church is to the east. Here you can buy grapes
for 75 Spirit Points. Grapes travel through solid objects.
Once you have beaten the Man in Black Robes
and obtained the banana, pass through the Woods
and enter the Prison, under which lies the Demon Stronghold.
The demons are vulnerable only to the banana.
You will now be in a blue room (aren’t you glad
you brought that key?) with the Demon Master.
He can be defeated with persistence. You will know
you have damaged him when his color flashes from red
to a lighter red—an almost imperceptible change.
James Davis was Mr. December in American Short Fiction’s Pinup Series. His interview with Idra Novey will be up on the Subtropics website any second now. He is an MFA candidate at the University of Florida.
HTMLGIANT is holding a writing contest.
The prize is the Dalkey Archive 100 books for $500. If you want to contribute to the prize pool, let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to the package.
We want your writing, up to 3,500 words however you want to assemble them.
The theme: love stories, however you interpret those two words. The numbers 100 and 500 should also somehow be involved in your writing and not just as an afterthought.
HTMLGIANT contributors will select 10 finalists. Special Guest Judge Rick Moody will determine the winner of which there can be only one.
The winning entry as well as the work of the finalists will be published on a sweet website to celebrate their words.
Send your entries both in the body of an e-mail and as an attachment (.doc/.pdf/.rtf) to email@example.com.
There is no fee to enter.
You do not need to submit a cover letter.
You do need to include your name and address so we know where to send your prize(s) if you win.
Deadline is Midnight, Sunday March 21. Winners will be announced on Tax Day, April 15.
Questions? Ask them in the comments or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
from Jeremy Schmall & the Cult of Comfort
finished off the Creek Indian
civilization after fighting beside them.
& he puts his finger in my nose.
To the gods goes my excess asparagus,
linoleum tabletop & coffee-bruised newspaper.
I say the mountain’s not coming.
I say “the traffic,” and shrug.
There’s just not enough Vaseline
for the whole room.
I do apologize.
If the presentation never ends maybe
I can keep this laser pointer.
Rabbit under truck tire
by the high school
Socks up to my teeth.
Electric drill to the avocado.
Striped wallpaper behind a plastic folding chair.
It’s certainly not always the case
that infidels will stalk the dumb hallways
rimming the family manor
but we’d like to believe
our cheap picture frames & outdated
electronics are at least worth stealing.
There is an exercise inside everyone’s skull
that forces them to stop slathering
lotion on their hands and wonder
what we can’t know until next March.
The assignment now is to ruin the face
of your opponent with a grapefruit spoon.
There’s a certain trick to remaining
calm while a grizzly claws
through the meat under your ribcage
but no one’s ever lived to tell it.
Jeremy Schmall is the founder & co-editor of Agriculture Reader, and author of “Open Correspondence from the Senator, Vol. 1: But a Paucity of His Voluminous Writings” (X-ing). His work has appeared in PEN America, The Laurel Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Juked, and Forklift Ohio. He lives in New York City.
Valentine’s Day is coming again, so i’m going to write a love letter. Anyone can use this love letter for their lover.
There are a lot of butterflies on the planet. But none in the winter. You are my winter butterfly.
I want to lick the inside of your belly button. I want to lick the lint out of it and then kiss you. Then you have the lint in your mouth. We are naked and you laugh.
[If you are a straight man or lesbian] I want to grab your pussy. I want to cup your naked pussy in my hand. Your pussy is like a leaf with dew on it on a July Morning. That means I like when your pussy is wet. I like your pussy more when it is wet than when it is dry.
[If you a woman or a gay man] I want to hold your soft penis in my hand. Then I want to caress it until it becomes hard and then I’ll call it a cock. I want you to do things with your cock that will make me moan and make strange sounds.
I want to eat candy with you and check our facebooks sitting close.
We need each other like poor people need food and politicians need votes.
We need each other like cell phones need signals and books need readers.
Right now I’m yearning for your genitals to be near by, for your laugh, for your arms, and your legs to wrap around me and pull me deeper.
I can never get deep enough into you.
I want you have my babies. I want our babies to look like us.
We will raise our children to be nervous and strange and to love music like we do.
I keep seeing your belly in my mind, your belly flat, I rest my head on your belly, your belly is soft and we watch a movie. A movie staring Will Ferrell. Everything is right with the world. We have good credit and our grades are good.
I want to fuck until both of our genitals are chafed and sore.
There are a lot of butterflies on the planet. But none in the winter. You are my winter butterfly.
(Originally posted here.)
Noah Cicero has several books published on several small presses, The Human War, The Condemned, Treatise, Burning Babies and in a short while The Insurgent will be released. Noah Cicero is currently spending his days snowblowing his driveway. Noah Cicero stands in the snow, in the freezing cold weather, looking around, he likes at night in the winter, when it is quiet. There are no birds, sometimes the wind brushes over the snow, making that sweet sound that politely touches the soul of the kindest and even the meanest of souls. If you ever meet Noah Cicero you should first fist bump him, then give him a hug, he likes fist bumps and hugs. Noah Cicero voted for Barack Obama because he smokes.
An hour passed, and soon
my mind, and yet, in the
mouth is in an order. One could
be one, it is true, sensibly
in mathematics. It cannot be
more. The expression is what
will say it is not telling
everything, in a certain
sense—that from the dark red
trees—all this makes that sun.
He was then outline, a single
form of wax or a little boat
with a sheet. The dead
instigated me and hovered round.
What there is of consequence
was not in the boat. Zapata felt
gratitude towards those shores which formed
a calm far more monstrous.
toward the sea // and the sky, threadbare, // is the new // flag // that flares //
over the city.”
MANUEL MAPLES ARCE
This state of active occupation
stood in the house and sometimes
with the blood from it. After all,
its productions and features may
be called a precipice.
Gaze on the trees, all the firmness
of deformity. A curve, no
doubt, of the church. And in it
no peace. “We have failed” they shout.
I grew feverish. It stood.
When he returned to us, he was
bigger, not merely a
He did not feel for those
on the top of affairs
who could perceive his calm
in leftover bundles.
I sat up much longer,
conversing with his desires
like a flood of strangers.
Chad Hardy is a contributor on the Gnoetry Daily website (gnoetrydaily.wordpress.com) and blogs infrequently on his own Male Cousin (malecousin.wordpress.com). In 1999, he voted for Jerry “The King” Lawler in Memphis’s mayoral race. He is currently completing an MFA at Purdue University.
The Destruction Loops, Parts 1-8
I’ve let my blood out in a steamy bath
I’ve jammed a butter knife into the toaster
Lied down on my back and dropped a shot put on my face
I stuffed balls of newspaper print in my mouth
And spelled the state capitals in alphabetical order
I allowed myself to be hypnotized at the count of 8
The snap of my neck like the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers
The hypnotist showed me the earth as the angels see it
The streets are a twisted maze and we are lost in the maze
We are born walking into the world’s maze
At the count of 4 you will forget your confusion
The bathroom is filled with steam and the mirrors are steamed over
You cannot see yourself or your face in the mirror
The maze is all right angles
You are born into a confusion of angles
You will realize your confusion at the count of 4
1 – turn right
2 – turn right again
3 – turn right again
4 – turn right again
You are where you began
You must make this circuit twice
You are no longer lost in this section of the maze
I hear the snap of fingers like the snap of my neck
I am alone in a great square in a gray city
There are clouds adrift in the swollen sky
The clouds are swollen with acid rain
The gray city is one of many on an island in the ocean
The ocean is green
Its green waters are a bath of acid eating away at the coastline
You cannot see yourself in the mirror
Soon the clouds will open up and let loose their rains
You will strip naked and let them eat away at your skin
In the morning your skeleton will be found by a group of hungry lions
The lions will have ribs like wishbones pushing out at their fur
And they will pick you clean
You have given them a fullness
The meat on your bones will have completed its circuit
You will feel that you have done the right thing
You will feel an angel place a heavy hand on your shoulder
You will close your eyes and count to 8
You are clean now
You have smeared jam on your toast
You are no longer hungry
It is warm here in the lion’s den
David Peak is the author of a novel, The Rocket’s Red Glare (Leucrota Press), a book of poems, Surface Tension (BlazeVOX Books), and a chapbook, Museum of Fucked (Warm Milk Press). He lives in New York City and blogs at davidpeak.blogspot.com.
The Oregon Trail is a Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Eve
From Independence it’s a shit ton of miles
to the Kansas River crossing.
Child #1, Christopher, has a broken leg.
Christopher is sad he has a broken leg.
He’s like Shit, my leg hurts something awful.
He’s like Shit shit shit.
We ford the river but the river’s too deep.
We ford the river & you’re like Why
the fuck are we fording the river?
The oxen can’t breathe. The oxen can’t
breathe under water. They’re chewing
their tongues off trying to breathe.
Wendy, child #2, her face is a waterfall.
Christopher is vomiting from a fever.
He’s vomiting all over Wendy’s grave.
On the seventh day God rested.
Christopher has died of dysentery.
Gregory Sherl’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Gargoyle, Columbia Poetry Review, NOÖ Journal, and PANK. He currently lives in Virginia and blogs at http://gregorysherl.blogspot.com/.
All The Ways I Have Failed You
finding him under the piano
was not the most alarming part of
the day, that day
finding his waifish
six year old body
in my underwear and
costume jewelry was not
the most alarming part
what worried us all the most
was his inability
to pronounce the syllables
that didn’t really
various things are real
the cloak he wears while
walking down lake street
the antipsychotic pills
i’ve seen them,
they are pink
his inch long finger nails
humming birds that move very
fast, yes we saw that together
your arch angels
the ones that tell you
that you are beautiful
yes I will always believe you
they are real
and that time you
screaming in tongues
that was real too
where is zack?
did you leave him
in the courthouse
but its christmas!
he needs to be here
so we can
sit in front
of the fire
and build the alamo
together one more time
the rainbow wallpaper
but we all knew
that all the rainbows
made of light
belonged to you
everyone could see it
because the secret
was hiding in your teeth
Kendra Grant Malone lives in Brooklyn with her cat Delores Grant Malone. She has been widely published in web and print magazines and has an assortment of e-books and chapbooks including Conor Oberst Sex, Rape Children, and Love Your Friends And Not Your Lovers. You can go to her website, www.kendralovely.blogspot.com, to read more about her, her cat and her work.
from I Don’t Mind if You’re Feeling Alone
Have you lacked power?
When you were in the mall, I was drunk, looking for the toilet, photocopies following me everywhere. When you were brushing my teeth, I was in the Oldsmobile, the cold water flushed over my face like a flash of light in the woods.
I could see you there, watching me with your ugly lens, my body bent into the ice chest like a baseball bat. The baseball bat wrapped out of a tree into the angles of my body.
At 4 am we’re crossing the street as if it were a river. Your eyes watching me like the eyes of a water beetle. I turn around twice, tabs of mint against my cheek.
I tell you how precise I am. I touch the neck of the steering column. I laugh to myself, folded like a gerbil. I touch your thigh which trembles with your bones. I’m trying to sand this down, dropping each telescope into a glass, carrying a small bag between my fingertips.
Did you ever wonder if you were crazy?
I walked and walked to understand blood oranges and avocados. I walked until perhaps I thought to keep walking north until I became a mountain. And when I became a mountain you looked at me in the morning, I was obscured by clouds, but you saw me beautifully—my new hair style, a pair of pants, my tie perfectly knotted.
Did this seem normal?
Feels like a film. Mostly rock stars, stairs, boots, coats. Shadows covering the street. Cold like a walk-in. I am saving the milk, breaking a box apart. Smiling at you. A leather strap across your chest, a melon beneath your arm.
Have you experienced any cravings?
Once, I’m like a twenty-dollar bill. I can’t find you anywhere. I go around and around. At the store I see a girl with striped arms looking into the glass at a bottle of seltzer. I go back to your house and find her drinking alone. You’re there too, smoking, staring through a kind of enlightenment, looking like a peachy finger, brush strokes of smoke crushed against your forehead.
What is an allergy?
Or once, I am in your car driving through the woods, hot air kicking in at us through the windows, we have dust in our mouths, I cannot see but watch the ghosts jogging on the roadside.
Your lover turns to me, her hair like the discarded shell of snake skin, and she tells me that I am small, that I am inside her box.
I close my eyes and watch soccer players silhouetted against a wall. I feel like a rapist. Maybe my throat closes up and I can’t breathe, maybe my heart rate increases, maybe I see the morning in her chest, coming at me like headlights through the trees.
Are you convinced that your life can hardly be successful?
Please understand, I tried to find the perfect place to sit.
I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I sat on the floor, folded back the cover of a coloring book. Your tongue came later, after it was in Charlie’s mouth, after it licked the gummy insides of a shot glass.
I still worry about my breath.
I sat under the pool table, then on a rock in the yard. You might have found me like that, your hands running across my shoulders and down my thighs while I thought of my grandmother with her hands of crucifix wood.
Later, with the crucifix in my mind, I would remember that I was wearing fishnets and high heels, that you were moving not like a whore but like a drapery. I buried myself in you, a game of hide and seek.
I went upstairs to sit in the folding chair, tried the recliner, walked home, frustrated.
I furiously wiped the surfaces in our kitchen. You came home late and found me strangling around the apartment like a weed, a muted cooking show on the television.
Are you on your way?
It was late. You had spent all day like this. I cut a lemon, put it down the drain. I wanted to break you like an axle. I went outside, drove my fingers through the bark of a tree as if my eyes were made of trees.
I thought you only cry at night. I felt like breath, I took off my sunglasses. I thought you will never change and drove into the mountain hoping for a truck to come between us.
Do you understand that self-knowledge is insufficient?
I was worried I wouldn’t wake before the fish started swimming. We had been around your yard all night, started in the grass and went through the cellar door as we began to hear them waking.
One day, you said, the fungus just started going away at your brain, saw them coming up from the ground each week, watched the gardeners hack them down.
One day, with your eyes flushed like the burn of a cigarette, you said you woke and couldn’t get your feet down on the world.
They came down later and called us fucking freaks.
I was on the couch in a trench coat, my heavy boots dug into the cushions. I rocked back a little bit, thought about walking outside across the street, into the stream near the train tracks, into their pink sky.
A native of New Jersey, Thomas Patrick Levy now resides in Southern California. His work has appeared widely across the internet and in select print journals. For more information visit him at www.enumerations.org.