The Bicycle Review
Issue # 2, 20 August, 2009
Photography by Henry Avignon. Original Artworks by Marci Katz.
All Images copyright 2009 by Katz and Avignon.
Bicycle Review # 2
This is the serial poetry issue, sort of. It’s not an absolute theme, but it is kind of themey. Of course, we don’t just publish poetry…
We have a crown. We have a pecker(s). We have serial poetry of the non-crown sort. Eric Basso returns, getting all serial as well. We are starting to name names and now we will stop.
Thanks for coming. We were amazed by the response to BR #1. We thank you all for your comments and steady visitor-ship.
As far as the art and photography in this issue, we think it speaks for its own damn self, thank you very much. But many thanks to Marci and Henry; the Artists and Photographers really are the “look” of BR …pretty much entirely, and we are pleased to have these two unique talents, and all that sort of thing...except we mean it.
Share the Road.
- J de Salvo
THE PERFIDY PECKERS
She was a sad angry woman who lost her throat. She traveled to Uranus for help.
“How can I get my throat back?” She asked Uranus.
“Go home and plant my seed inside your garden” Uranus said.
The woman did what she was told. The charcoal colored seed grew into an infant neck. Inside the baby's throat slept a tiny dark cock.
“I will name you Petey Pecker.” The woman said to the cock.
Petey Pecker was a small black cock. He usually slept inside a fat brandy glass under the vulgar woman's bed. The young male cock liked to play war and lived a happy child’s life, while drinking plenty brandy wine.
Eventually, Petey Pecker grew large and handsome. The pathetic woman adored him. One evening while the woman snored a jealous rattlesnake slithered up the transparent crystal. The translucent glass of liqueur tipped and broke near Petey Pecker's head.
“Shh...shh... come with me feel so good. No one has to know” The Cognac breath snake whispered into Petey Pecker’s ear. A sharp piece of silica hidden under the reptile’s rattle. Petey’s pecker grew stiff. He and the snake kissed. The reptile and the male began to dance a certain Latin tango... cha cha cha.
When the moment seemed oh so right, together, they searched the body for a warm, wet hole to hide some of the broken glass. With excitement difficult to contain, Petey Pecker and the snake soon found a dark cave. The couple mounted deep inside her. Relief would come slow hot and creamy.
“Oh my sweet Goddess” moaned the cock.
Humping and pumping both would work a ripe sweat. Petey, finally dumping warm sauce and glass into her hot steam chamber felt so good. The act done. Time for one last performance.
The snake choked the dreaming woman then slit Petey’s Pecker.
Copyright 2009 by Ginetta Correli
MADE IN CAMBRIA
Language prevents visibility from failing
Language unpeels the immediacy
Ready to apologize for interrupting
Language speaks and having spoken,
diagrams the phony traps of grammar
Velvet moss succession, language
greens the laws of mutual addition,
stitching the preamble into your dress
Full moon towing a white carcass
across the vault-cracked slate sky
Language appeals to second nature
I woke up with Emily Bronte, asked
Why the art of writing is all a jangle
How are you feeling, ok, wanna tangle
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN CHINA
Come on down to my boat, baby
Ready to flame the lawless airbrake
Ready to dazzle the bedraggled marmadukes
Ready to fray the nightie of Big Foot
Tell me about it, Hermes
Chupacabre to the rescue
Because we have yet to reinvent the past
Ink from the pen the filthy sun begging
I woke as a carpenter measured my remains
Ready to rip the bark off the stars
And claw my way in looking for grubs
A psychotropic melody strips the veneer
Scrolling down Emily Bronte’s heart
Ready for anything you can see clearly now
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN CUCAMONGA*
Astarte walks through the Negro streets at dawn
I said a hey babe, you are everything you are to me
Let’s throw some darts at the imagination farmers
Taketh my hand and lead me on
Exult in your originality, phantom grafter
VISIGOTHS PLAYING AT HELL’S DRIVE-IN
Astarte lies under the stars in Bernadette’s dream
Camilla threw her javelin across the Tiber
I woke in the fugitive tunnel glow
Emily Bronte [mug shot] dying for sanctuary
Deserted abruptly Time’s raft pitch and toss
This is what they say about you, Astarte
The lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
*Shoshone for sandy place
MADE IN FLINT
My glockenspiel is better than your glockenspiel
Where are the morons when you need them?
His family was in the iron and steel business
His mother ironed and his father stole, Lola said
at The Half Gallery for Rene Ricard’s show
What are the chances alive in the ruins?
“English Idylls” by George Butterick sounds good
Fusebound to Emily Bronte’s hot pussy snatch
I woke compressed blizzard violet in my glow
Hebe sowing discord among Maimonides’ followers
I wouldn’t have it any other way stomach knot
The river still polishes its pewter bowl
Carrying its bluejack face around, looking up
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN GAUL
You have to push yourself it’s all up to you now
We heard the Police, “Bring on the Night”
That’s what we came for into the north wind
On each foot a compass strapped down and wiggling
Ah, Penelope, we are undone by truth’s hope
How long my oars have slapped the sea’s wounds
Our greatness buried in tons of tongues
“Excavating the future” we prepare for the race
I cover the Chambre des Deputes with foxgloves
Now is the time to listen for the caterpillar
As weigela pumps May up pink and white
Poetry as a window wiper or comet’s tail
Lavender Diamond sings — “Remember our love”
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN HARLEM
Everything is dying to be different
Except the exceptional
Aim low and keep your good side to the camera
Between sartoris and satori
Waiting for the light to change
Lord of the wolfcoptors
“Take Me To the Riot”
A Norte to End On
Knocked off my perch
And the Karma Bus is playing Paradise Lounge
And Emily Bronte is ready for her rendition
Eyes full of clearness
Even when the phone is deaf
No one will erase the trace
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN HONG KONG
Come to me now, unkind whirlwind
Come to me now and unwind, wunderkind
Is it too late to come over?
Look for me in the crosswalk smackdown
Your eyes mimicking pullover lights
Come to me now doghouse central
Come to my innocent euphoria
Snarling hosanna in the crowded stairwells
All the prestige of a Truck Route
Come silently to the shadow dome
Savor without measure the daisies warbling
Redial the future fraught with spindrift
Come to me now on ruby wings
Enlist me in your arresting farewell
Essential as a permanent white twitch
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN ITHICA
As time trickles through the Chambre des Deputes
The tendrils of my nose crinkle at its acrid passage
Time empties out the notion of authenticity
Time, you are a nervous imposter
You can remake yourself in the blink of an eye
Rodin pestering Phidias, Nestor attesting to glory
Time loves the one who knows love
I guess you had better guide me through the ropes
I dreamed a white robe walking to Morgantown
My broken watch weeps in a false spring
I wake bound to the railroad tracks
Emily Bronte sitting beside me on a wasp nest
We wait inconsolably in our vast ardor
As time trickles through an excess of small delay
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN KHARTOUM
Locked in the clock factory running out of time
The gate welded shut with a human torch
The Kooks “just don’t care—do do dit dit dit dit”
I wake up exiled from immediacy
My eyes burning in Emily Bronte’s looking glass
Dire pleasures Hereabouts
A thousand friends, not too many
Hellbent on making a punctilious mess
Amid a welter of bruising wink shudders
CRY LIKE A TEENAGE ROBOT
Row on, my Myrmidons, the shore is a cheap toy
A fighting chance to star in a marathon of love
Where the screech owl meets the squeaking gurney
Gryphon wings shed hieroglyphs in the wind
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN LA
Narcissus has nothing on you, intolerable thing
WHILE YOU WERE OUT SUFFERING
“Don’t change, just lie.” Ryan Adams
WHILE YOU WERE OUT HUNTING FOR MONOTONY
STINKING WITH GRANDEUR
Don’t change the channel the coroner whispered
I woke up in a chamber of screaming bliss
Emily Bronte dreamed Larry Fagin at the Zinc Bar
and you were quoting Vanya in The Cherry Orchard
The bartender asked Piper for her ID
The thrill jockeys spiraled like zombie vultures
The driveway spouting lost foreclosure
A one-eyed seagull shone like a pilot light
Like a fossil injected into the La Brea Tar Pit
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN LHASA
The artist needs to whittle out a forest
Ebony, calabur, ash, pine and jacaranda
Become grafted to the crisscrossed limbs
I need to hang the light from my tongue
Slip back to a new version of the past
Fusebound to a white scar splice
The croak hinges of my throat crack
Black anthem of the veined runway
This is where they’ll finally bring you
Place of the gods where Padmasambhava
(Born on a lotus pad on Lake Dhanakosha)
Pinned down the earth demoness
Dancing with the nickled silence
Once more to center stage, whales in space
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN PAMPLONA
Stick with the problem, buster
Nor mock the humming futilism
Nowhere is Phaedra more afraid than here
in the open air, avec despaire
With my oar steaming I press on
Far from the Rappahannock, my own
seaward tilt doth pull away
Never too much love beyond forever
Pipsqueak and the Melody Harvesters
Ever since Cinderella smacked you
Buffeted by a horde of chic tramps
Each one a symbol of uniqueness
Lost in the barrel of empathy
Like asking for a loaded blank
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN PERU
Crash cultivate a casual countenance
Zombie amoebas taking over Paradise Lounge
Instigate a No Holds Barred policy for guests
Long Live the Nitro Hawks and all their ilk
Emily Bronte — give me your furlined poon
I’ll hound you till the ends of encroachment
No sooner said, than done in with a shovel
Bury my heart where the wild things are
at the intersection of knuckle and sandwich
No longer will I fight from here to wherever
The poem as a recording from your mother
The poem as a giant jabberwocky in leotards
What Ho! Take me to your leotard, starmite
Dance with the nickled silence reapers
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
MADE IN WALES
Thence it was you embarked upon a lark
You put on a glass slipper, thence t’was clear
Honor-bound, you’re here to see it through
Crepe myrtle whipping the air you breathe
Gorgeous whelps sucking at your eyeballs
Annihilation ticking its black fever clock
Whence — whither — witheringly winsome
Phaedra has nowhere to hide so come here
Minos will judge only the dead, so live
Remain where you are — don’t try anything
Relax; you’re the sexiest thing around
That’s what AND HOW as well for aught
Each cell hooks up to a rogue star direct
In time’s furry ear plant your winter crop
Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
It starts up again when I’m in the grocery store, begging for my tongue as I sort my way through a bin of sorry-looking eggplant. It only gets this way, fueled by such incessant urgency, when It’s out in public, never when tucked away at home, in the privacy of our own apartment. No sir. It – this urge; powerful and pulsating; a gleaming, cherry-red conductor of throb-action distraction—becomes uncontrollable the moment I have an errand to run or an interview to conduct. This morning It’s not causing any real physical pain, unlike last week, and I take pause for a brief moment to appreciate this minor shift while thumbing the soft spot in an over-pale eggplant; I remember to count this as a blessing. The eggplant is out of season and, along with most of today’s produce, looks wilted and frail. I lack focus. I can’t concentrate. The strong, consistent measure of radiant pressure stems from my mouth, but It goes much deeper.
Come on, just do it, It says, You’ll feel soooo much better; the idea ribbon weaves its way through the curls of my brain. It’s a small gap, a shallow space, an emptiness, an absence, a nothing, really. Upper left side, way back, tucked between the very last molar and what is left of the second-to-last molar, which now contains a thick protuberance that the dentist refers to as a “build-up.” My mouth is an über-expensive, small-scale construction site. Stretchy yellow caution tape should crisscross my perpetually chapped lips. I am a work in perpetual progress. He doesn’t talk much—my dentist. Not like the last guy. He just does his job. He wears powder-free latex gloves, has spiky hair, and peers deep into my mouth using a super-deluxe, extra-magnifying, two inch-thick binocular-type attachment that is temporarily fused over what might be his everyday glasses. I assume his vision is poor, and that he wears even thicker lenses in his “real” life, and that he was probably made fun of before his years of dental school paid off and his colleagues, not to mention all the women who like to date dentists, started taking him seriously, but it’s not like I’ve run into him at the dog food aisle at PetSmart and can tell you, right off, exactly what he looks like without the latex and the baby-blue exam mask.
I like to imagine he wears those powder-free latex gloves everywhere—golfing, fancy dinners, the opera, home alone in his kitchen, finely slicing organic Japanese cucumbers with an extra sharp paring knife.
Finally, my tongue gives in to Its pressure, seeking out the gap and pressing itself hard into Its deep recesses. My tongue is like an octopus, like the rounded body part of the marine animal, not the tentacles, but all squishy-purple and relentless. Stale blood, like ink, still coats the fresh hole. I can taste a kind of outdated saltiness erupt on my buds which, controlled by my tongue, operate just as separately from my command. My dentist didn’t tell me how much the procedure would hurt once the numbness wore off. He doesn’t tell me much of anything, just hands me back over to the hygienist after each procedure. I found out during the long drive home through heavy afternoon traffic, as the thickness in my cheek turned to tingles turned to throbs turned to the raging anger of scraped-up gumline.
“That’s what this new dentist is lacking,” I told my friend, who came by to comfort me after the first half of this two-part procedure. “A good bedside manner.”
“Does that term apply to dentistry?” she asked. She had brought me a six-pack of Snack Pack pudding, the suspicious kind that doesn’t require refrigeration, and asked if he’d given me any Vicodin for the pain. She loves Vicodin. She’s also convinced I may be harboring certain feelings for this new dentist of mine. I held the room temperature plastic pudding container against my cheek, as if it might administer a cooling relief. She suggested I use a bag of frozen peas, instead. Luckily, I keep several bags on hand.
He’s all hands and fingers and squeaky plastic, my dentist. Wordless.
My mom had me believing, when I was a kid, in the notion of squeaky clean as more than just an abstract concept, or something people say without really meaning “squeaky” clean. But listen, she’d say, while she washed my dirty hair, then rinsed it under the tub tap. Listen. I was sure I could hear it squeak, once all the conditioner rinsed out in the drain. You’ve all been told this, I bet. To listen for that particular squeak.
The squeak of powder-free latex gloves against teeth and along numbed gums provides a strangely pleasing internal thrum and echo, like a straw being quickly pulled and plunged into the plastic top of a fast food soda, only better, as the dentist works—silently. I imagine he’s got boxes of them at home. A room just for gloves. Boxes stacked floor to ceiling. Some lined in vitamin E to keep his hands well moisturized. Boxes sent by pharmaceutical companies across the country, hoping to become the brand that beats all brands. All of them engineered with a fully textured finish, allowing for the best, most powerful grip. They can’t all have the best, most powerful grip, can they? My dentist—his grip is powerful. No on could deny that.
Besides, there’s no way you can lay there on your back, head tilted at a strained angle just barely narrowing in on the very edge of slight discomfort, while this man, this man leans over you, his hand firmly gripping your jaw, forcing you to tilt a little more sharply, a little more discomfort, a firmer hold as your lip quivers from the stress of being wrenched open too long, but you keep it open just the same, because his hand says so, until finally, he releases pressure and you’re allowed, finally, to rinse. No way you can go through all that with someone, share something so intimate and bodily, and not have certain feelings for your dentist. Am I right?
I test the skin of a sorry-looking batch of pale Roma tomatoes—even sorrier looking than the eggplants—with puckered red skin, slung loose from withered vines. This is not a good season for produce. It’s been a long time since I’ve even bothered. My spongy tongue is working the hole, pushing at the teeth, curling itself around the build-up. This is no time for inferior produce.
“Can I help you?” a slightly chubby produce stocker eyes me as I firmly thumb a Haas avocado, applying even and consistent pressure equal to, but not greater than, that which I feel in my mouth at any given moment. My tongue leaps now, almost as if embarrassed, from the gap, allowing me to answer.
“No,” I say. “I’m just browsing.”
Two kids battle near the display of perishable salad dressings, using fruit roll-ups as swords. The produce man is disturbed and throws a nasty glare in their direction until they drop their weapons in a plum bin. Then he brings his gaze back to settle on me.
“The darker the skin, the more ripe they are,” he says. “The more ready they are to eat.” I can’t tell if he is flirting with me or upset at my molestation of his fruit and veggies. My nervous tongue goes back to work, furtively exploring the rigid porcelain surface of the crown next to the gap—a yellowish crown my dentist installed three weeks back. Installed, as in, say, a stereo system or a tricky Mac utility that ends up taking far too much room on your hard drive. Installed, he always says, as if my mouth were a man-made machine, in need of constant upgrades.
He scraped so hard on my gums while installing that porcelain little fucker, that I could barely muster the strength to grunt, to grab at his sleeve, to remind him, “Wait! Hit me with that Novacaine, mister!” And whatever happened to nitrous, anyhow?
Realizing his mistake, he grasped at both the inside and outside of my cheek and shook it between his thumb and index finger, a bit too rough, to be honest, like, he has to be doing this to make a point, right? Then he delivered that stab of needle into three different areas surrounding the infected area so that eventually the whole left side of my face, from jaw line to eyebrow was soon completely void of all feeling.
“Good time for me to get into a fist fight,” I once said to my quiet dentist, after he’d numbed the holy shit out of my face, just like that. He kind of half smiled in response to my non-witty repartee, while motioning to the hygienist which instruments he would need for my procedure. Stupid, I thought to myself, kicking myself on the inside. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.
A bruised tomato, an off-purple eggplant, a value-priced three-pack of cinnamon flavored floss—I calculate the sum of my purchases, trying to remember what else I could possibly need, then remembering, it will soon be that much harder to eat solid foods once again. Guacamole might work, so the avocado remains. But I remove the tomato from my cart and add it back to its sorry-looking pile. I then follow suit with the eggplant. The stock boy eyes me suspiciously from over the display of iceberg lettuce. As if anyone in this resort-style suburban community would ever resort to iceberg.
“I forgot,” I say, as if owing him an explanation. “I’m going to the dentist today for some serious dental work.”
My tongue behaves itself as I crack a wide smile, settling on the floor of my mouth like one of those flat fish that camouflage themselves in the sandy ocean depths, waiting for unsuspecting prey, or protecting themselves from enemy sea life.
“You don’t generally see people smile when they say that,” he replies.
“Oh, I’m lucky,” I tell him. I imagine he’s checking out how sparkling white my teeth have become, thanks to a new and improved whitening system. They hurt like hell after the first couple applications, far worse than the “slight sensitivity” the hygienest warned me about once the dentist left the room. But once I’d adopted a diet of soft, room-temperature foods and purchased, in bulk, a colorful array of soft-bristle toothbrushes, the pain was hardly noticeable. I learned not to drink from straws after the first of my two extractions, when doing so led to dry socket; and I even stopped smoking. Who wants to pick the dingy yellow porcelain veneer when attempting to match color shades for a new crown, anyhow? After a while, I forgot where my own teeth have ended, and where those that he gave me began. This mouth belongs to him. My mouth is his work of art—it’s true. And if protecting it means eating less and hurting a bit more; so be it. He knew when he scrawled his “after-hours” phone number on the back of his business card that I would never dare abuse the privilege. I know he’ll be there the next time a temp crown pops off on the drive home from a holiday meal, or when a risky bite into a closed up pistachio nut results in a chipped veneer in the middle of the night.
Who else would offer me a special discount every year, when I come in on my birthday for my cleaning? Who else would, year after year, with his hands always plunged deep into my mouth, say, without ever requiring a response of any kind, and lacking any judgment: “Of all the places to be on your birthday, you choose to be here with me!”
Who would even notice? Who else would ever be there like that—just for me?
The produce guy looks at me as if awaiting some kind of explanation.
“I love my dentist.” I tell him, and he shrugs and returns to his iceberg. He wouldn’t understand.
Copyright 2009 by Kelle Schillaci
Life. I what? To bypass
restrictions the service aimed
to imply speedy retardation.
Moon, cloud, tower
What to do secret:
I think ‘I
the bush plunged.’
blockade. By proxy
we to birch our adversary. Gee wiz.
The catachrestic wudjamacallit
touched down. Her winked.
We into our screaming
exit. The courtyard business
beat wild bone.
It was April there--
treasured sons hawking
the corsair market.
, his hand flew under stratum.
And there, April, it smelled hotdogs.
And felt edible--
The basket. furnace
charged with light.
What ruined day?
A house fell on my sister.
The music music
I used to like. Now
music was music
I don’t want to hear .
Like egg in the corner
I myself. Mommy,
make me a sandwich.
“Call babytits,” she said.
The precise limitations of tempo
and dynamics created a style
noticeably bland. my town,
she said, “ will never shut down.”
They cried and jerked
into night, hard.
‘awww fuck’ ‘oh-oh’
dripping all over the place.
He to get napkins
a quick drink
wishing something eternal
will coach her into a happy spot.
screwed his fist
into the . She
away to say “maybe
we shouldn’t do this
in our folks.”
All want cry
and guess who is
and who gay .
I like this time tell you
I have friends those persons
…muscles but I am alone?”
She paused, collecting herself.
“Often, I enter a restaurant
order muscles, and when they arrive
I am ashamed…err…I feel sick.
Into our a comes
and there passes
Just inches right whammo!
The car for miles. cried
at first then toughened . The car
on the gravel.
Part of the is admission how
just two other recipes.
I my finger thingy in the .
Wow, is this how we talk to grandma?
Here, try this meatball.
I believe, etc.
but last time what
was trouble knew
how to to g-spot.
I am done I’ll email
and for my notes.
“This is bread,” he said.
“This is delicious,” he emphatically .
“I have had such delicious .”
“Dip here,” she said pointing.
“ olive oil and salt.”
Like we were talking
about a plane killed family.
I live somewhere and stuff
please in my mouth.
Some of us are not
into this. Let’s
smoothies after run.
How this .
Copyright 2009 by Douglas Piccininni
The code word was stitch-in-time, but by the time he'd crossed the border the garment had been rented to a Mongolian sausage mogul too fat to buckle his belt. A tattered rag of a thing, Spyboy did the slinky back into the shadows and tried to lay out a coarse action. All that training, and for what? This--crouched behind a trash can in the mouth of an alley less than fifty yards from enemy headquarters, the fortress of secrets.
Well, fuck a duck, thought Spyboy, and spasmed into reverie--the yellow rubber duck that went quack when you squeezed it, the mulatto nanny making waves in his Saturday-night-special bath, pushing ducky along, right into the harbor formed by his thighs.
"Quack!" went ducky. "Quack! Quack!" as Maxine's slender fingers closed around his drive shaft and anchored his man-of-war, the entire fleet assembled on the poop deck for shore-leave inspection. And then the shotgun roar from his blind side, downy feathers floating like snow to the red zone of his brain pan.
"Ahh!" hissed Spyboy. "Ahh!" Snorkel in place, he slides under the warm sudsy water.
Those were the days, happy days before they caught Maxine on candid camera and dragged her away in the middle of a bath. Six times they dragged her down the stairs by her mighty tar-black hair, but do you think she cried out? Not Maxine. Not Spyboy's one and only. They just wanted to make the script right, wanted it to read: They dragged her screaming down two flights of stairs...
Take one, take two, take six and then they threw her in the back of the limo with the fat Mongolian.
That's all it took to give Spyboy an ax to grind. Even four years at Harvard and a Mercedes upon graduation didn't take the edge off. He became a dentist and went drilling for oil in the mouths of his parents' best friends. A knee in the groin of Madame Bovary and a drill in the red chamber of her mouth, the masked man did what he could to get even.
There are gaps, inconsistencies compacted like molars in the mouth of the beast, the smell of sweet decay and the cushion of a Venus mound here and there where he'd rest his weary head, flick his lightning tongue, insert the rod of creation, but no one could touch Maxine. It was her eyes more than anything, then her breasts, her ripe dark-nippled breasts, and the way her wet off-the-shoulders magenta blouse clung to them when she did what she did with the duck, all that cascading dark hair tumbling over her honey-brown shoulders, and her throaty delighted laughter, Spyboy kicking his little feet and squealing like a piglet.
"Hey now!" she'd say, never taking her eyes from his. "Hey now!"
Every Saturday night, for almost a year.
There are inconsistencies and serious questions, like--what in the hell was a black nanny just barely street-legal herself doing giving a bath to a rich eleven-year-old white boy? She fed him, too. "Open up that sweet little mouth," she'd croon, and Spyboy would work hard on it, he'd muster all the power he had in his stricken brain, stricken but with an IQ of 200, if he could just get a running start on the three R's.
Years later it would be R&R in places like Bangkok and Tokyo, a little time off from assassinations and suitcase bombs left in airport lockers, but until Maxine, Spyboy was a basket case. Keep the monitors running and make him as comfortable as possible, the medical profession advised; here's a tube for feeding, a tube for breathing, and another to piss in. Spyboy was born out-to-pasture.
He lay in bed year after year, fat ruddy women turning him like a lamb on a Greek Easter spit, and every now and then mommy and daddy would come in and stand at the foot of his bed and stare down at him.
And then Maxine was hired to cook and clean, and that's exactly what she did until one day, dusting things off in Spyboy's room, she caught him staring at her with that certain look in his eye.
"Uh-huh," said Maxine. "You got yourself a fire burning in there."
Spyboy, who'd been Edward until this moment, Spyboy whose face had been deadpan all his life except when pain twisted it grotesque, Spyboy who'd never smiled in his life gave it a try, one corner of his mouth crawling up his face.
Maxine left off dusting and came over to sit on the edge of the bed. "Well here now," she said, "get a load of this." And she undid the buttons of her blouse one by one, reached back and unhooked her bra, and there they were.
For the first time in his life, Spyboy's face took on color.
The doctors were skeptical, and Spyboy's mommy harbored more than a little apprehension about the power this new nanny had taken on. Spyboy's daddy made Maxine a full-time nanny and gave her a raise, but not so much that she could stop taking the bus and buy herself a car. The trick was to make them appreciate you without giving them enough to break free. Spyboy's daddy knew the trick well. You can't build a fortune manufacturing typewriter spools without it.
Maxine was nineteen when she first did the thing with the duck. She had him half-assed walking by that time, and he was talking a blue streak. But no one listened except Maxine, because what came out of his mouth was slur. He was more of an embarrassment talking and jerking around the house than he'd been as a perfect little statue tucked away under expensive covers.
Sometimes, when he grew despondent, Maxine would curl up with him in his bed and sing songs about Jesus and backdoor men. Spyboy would listen to her soft singing and feel the sorrow down in the marrow of all those whiteout years before her arrival, and then he'd work his milky arms around the darkness of her and they'd rock there on the bed, humming together, Spyboy sounding like the Hunchback of Notre Dame with a bad case of strep throat. He sent chills through her when he croaked the blues, chills that went as deep down into her as anything or anyone had ever gone before.
Eventually though things leveled out, and Spyboy began settling for what he had, figuring that he already had a few thousand times more than he'd ever dreamed of having, and that's when she sailed the duck into his harbor.
From the beginning she knew she was sending him on his way, and sometimes she'd get selfish and testy, but she could never keep it up for long. He was just a man-child down under all his grotesqueness, down under all that brain power, and the woman thing in her, the mother thing, loved him fiercely and tenderly. She wrapped her slender brown fingers around his little cock and opened the cage door.
One in a million.
Spyboy went into a tailspin when they took her away. He got back under the covers and stuck the yellow duck under his pillow and all through the night squeezed it. "Quack," went the muffled duck. "Quack, quack."
As time passed he plotted murder and mayhem in the war chamber of his brain, murder, mayhem and suicide, and then one winter night after she'd been gone almost a year, the sky black and clear and nailed through with stars, he got out of bed and crossed the room. He pulled the curtains and looked out at the night, and it was electric with Maxine's spirit. He stood barefoot in his pajamas, his thin arms dangling at his sides, and he tilted his head and moaned. He moaned and wept and grieved, and when he awoke the next morning, he was possessed by a deep-seated mission.
Spyboy watched from behind his trash can for the longest time, leaning against the brick of the alley wall, slipping in and out of reverie.
The crew of West Indie Creoles sang bawdy songs as they hoisted anchor and made ready to sail, and with a jade-tipped cane made from the femur of a hippo, Spyboy tapped his circular way around the deck of his world-class schooner. The cane was an affectation, as was the plain-glass monocle, the bloused silk scarf, the skipper's cap with the gold braid, and the navy-blue blazer with the bogus coat-of-arms on the vest pocket. Spyboy had 20/20 vision, and he walked just fine on his own two legs after years of physical therapy. In fact, he'd overcome all mental and physical obstacles, and he was in killer shape. He lived in the outback of his accomplishments in a thatched hut of eccentricity, which didn't stop him from becoming the most successful dentist in Boston. He had six chairs, four nurses, two receptionists and a crackerjack accountant who juggled the books. He raked in close to a million a year and managed to hide half of it in off-shore accounts. He was loaded for bear, and his vessel was headed for El Salvador, stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with automatic rifles and heat-sensitive missiles. This is how Spyboy spent his vacations.
He opened his eyes. A Negro child in a prep-school outfit was standing in front of him.
"Well now," said Spyboy. "Whose little boy are you?"
The boy didn't answer. People streaked past the mouth of the alley like meteorites, locked in on Christmas. Out on the streets horns honked and sirens wailed.
El Salvador was child's play. It was when he turned his attention to Africa that the sorrow became almost too much to bear. Biafra nearly broke him. Not his bank account, that was bottomless, but his spirit, that river of grace that floated his sorrow. Biafra was a wide vessel that scraped both shores on such a narrow passage, and whose keel sliced the silt on the river bottom.
His eventual recruitment was a foregone conclusion from the night they raided his bath and dragged Maxine down the two flights of stairs, over and over again. Spyboy checked the seal on his snorkel and under he went, becoming a spectator in his own life and watching through the observation glass of his snorkel as his tiny submerged erection went limp and fell slowly to one side. The din on the surface faded, and then there was only the sound of his pounding heart.
Spyboy struggled to focus. He had company, a young man of color who might be the bearer of information concerning Maxine. He tried, but reverie pulled him gently back under.
The river was yellow and heavy and deceptively swift. It swarmed with little fish with savage rows of teeth and tiny, single-purpose brains. The jungle was as thick as a tightly-woven carpet and crowded right up to the edge of the river on both banks. Spyboy stood at the helm of the attack craft chewing on an unlit cigar, naked from the waist up, bandoleers slung in an X across his chest. He was tanned and covered with sweat and grime and almost as dark as his crew of three, none of them sailors, all of them mercenaries working partly for the Cause, partly for the cash.
This was his first assignment, given to him somewhat reluctantly by the Cause--he was a weirdo dentist from Boston, born and raised in the lap of luxury, but what the hell, the Cause needed all the help it could get, and Spyboy pumped a lot of money into the coffers. Let him play desperado if he wanted to. If he came to a tragic end, the Cause was lined up to get half his fortune. No one expected him to make it back out.
His mission was to blow a floating Japanese paper mill sky high. Three teams had already been snuffed trying to penetrate the Company's defenses.
"I know how the Company thinks," Spyboy told them. "I was raised by the Company. Give me a crew of three Afro-Americans from Detroit, and I'll blow that baby clean out of the water."
The Cause came across with the craft and the explosives and then gave Spyboy carte blanche. Three months later, looking like death warmed over, he broke out of the jungle onto an Ecuadorian beach. He'd lost his crew and the craft, but the floating paper mill was a thing of the past.
He was being brought to the surface. Two large hands locked into his armpits, and up he came like a salvaged ship, sheets of water running off his naked body. He was carried to his room by a total stranger in a trench coat and laid on his back on his bed. A doctor in a white smock leaned in close and peered into the steamy snorkel mask.
At the foot of the bed, he could make out the distorted shapes of mommy and dad. This is how he knew them, always at the foot of the bed, his mother needing a drink, his father with both hands jammed into his trouser pockets, smoking a pipe and cutting his loses.
And then the white medicine man was probing his testicles and stretching his limp penis and Spyboy cried out with such ferocity they all jumped back. An image flashed through his red-alert mind, an image of Maxine in the back of the limo, a transferal from her brain to his, the Mongolian mauling her, his raspy tongue on her breasts, a thick hand yanking her head back by her rich dark hair, the other fumbling with the buttons of his fly...
"You have to eat," the new nurse told him, not a nanny but a nurse. "You have to eat to grow big and strong."
She was not ill-tempered, just Irish and dumb as a log.
"You have to get up and move around some," she said, "or your muscles will go mushy. And you have to bathe, or you'll stink. Here, I'll hold up this sheet, you can wrap yourself in it to walk to the bathroom. I won't peek..."
"Whachu doin' just sittin' there?" the boy said.
"Do you know Maxine?" Spyboy asked, his eyes opening again.
The boy ignored the question. "Why you dressed like that?" he asked. "Why you got pajamas under that fancy pimp coat?"
"Well now," said Spyboy. "Ain't you got a nose for other people's business!"
The boy's guard went up. This old honky wino had just talked like a brother. Not some white-boy imitation, the real thing, every lilt and nuance just right. Then again--it was more like a sister. Hold on now! The boy took a closer look. Man, the world was getting way too jumbled.
The boy was twelve. He came up through the industrial district of South Seattle to Pioneer Square every couple of weeks to see what he could score. He wore this prep-school outfit he'd bought at Good Will so as to look respectable. His specialty was curbside cars with unlocked passenger-side doors. He did glove-compartment sweeps. It never ceased to amaze him what people left in their glove compartments: pistols, wallets, cameras, you name it. But every now and then, when the meanness in him was at fever pitch, he'd comb the alleys and roll some old white wino. Sometimes they had wine money on them, but he didn't do it for the money.
But with Spyboy he couldn't decide which way to go. For one thing, it was broad daylight and they were close to the mouth of the alley. For another, they were just across the street from central lockup. Maybe this wino was some sort of undercover cop. Maybe this was a trap.
Spyboy, sounding like a frog, began humming an old backdoor tune.
"Man, what's goin' on with you?" the boy asked.
"A long story," Spyboy said. "A very long story indeed. One of intrigue and heartbreak..."
He wasn't talking brother talk now, but it no longer mattered.
"It's comeuppance time," Spyboy said. "Inside that building across the street in an office somewhere sits the fat Mongolian who years ago took my sweet Maxine from me..."
"You talkin' gibberish," the boy said. He wanted to sprint out of the alley into Santa Claus Land, but something kept him rooted.
"We have to make things right, you and me," Spyboy said. "You're part of the mission now."
"Mission? The only thing I got a mission to do is kiss your white ass goodbye," the boy said.
"Really?" Spyboy said, pulling himself up into a standing position. "Is that right? Here now--grab hold of my arm so I don't fall over. I've been through hell. I'm on my last leg."
He couldn't believe he was doing it, but he was, and they ambled out of the alley and began their slow shuffle across the busy street.
He'd made the long drive from the mental institution up in Bellingham buried under sacks of mail and Christmas packages in the back of a postal truck headed for Seattle. He'd helped load the truck in his first week as an on-loan nut-farm worker after years of confinement on the maximum security ward--the new drug had vacuumed his delusions, and he was deemed no longer dangerous. He showed up for work that day in his pajamas, and a brother named Michael who was in charge of the detail said, "Spyboy--you gonna catch your death cold dressed like that. Here--put this on." Michael was the only orderly at the institution who didn't call Spyboy Edward, and he took off his flashy pimp coat and draped it over Spyboy's shoulders.
Spyboy sat down in the truck and let the other inmates pile packages on top of him. When the truck got to the postal unit in South Seattle, he stood up after he'd been uncovered and helped finish unloading. Then he walked away.
He slept the night in a dumpster, and by the next morning his meds had worn off. The world was right as rain, and his head was crystal clear.
It was time to take out the Mongolian. The voices guided him to his target where he rendezvoused with his back-up man, one Nathaniel Golden, disguised as a preppy.
"I can't be goin' in there," Nathaniel said.
"Of course you can," said Spyboy.
"No, I can't," said Nathaniel. "I'm packin'."
"Of course you are," said Spyboy. "Let me have the piece."
"Shit, man!" said Nathaniel. "This is crazy!" But he slipped Spyboy the Saturday Night Special and they went through the door.
He had a way of talking, this mad wino in a pimp coat. He talked lawyer talk to the guard, and the guard went blind to what was right in front of him and directed them to the elevator. They got off on the third floor and opened door after door, Spyboy nodding apologies, until they came face to face with a man behind a door with the word VICE painted on its opaque glass.
The man looked up from his desk. "Yes?" he said. "Can I help you?"
They stared at him until they saw the fear grab hold.
"You must have the wrong room," the man said.
"Do it," said Nathaniel.
"Yes," said Spyboy," and he pulled out the pistol.
Copyright 2009 by John Bennett
the master presiding,
this is what he says, his two cents:
once life is bliss,
twice life is torture,
when you see all the consequences befalling you
the Buddha tells you to act depressed, to have languid sex, and to eat right
it’s not a fateful religion, it would have done me good
(you are the lyingest person,
and death is well over you
and you’re sucking)
kids are crying in the yard…
Dei-wos is relatively happy,
he likes blue bunting
shine so like Dei-wos
a pile of silver on a shelf over me
I went to the Krishna temple in Berkeley
and he showed me the deity
but I did not become Greek
I grew up here,
where the silver comes in from the sea,
and ages above you
I looked for a change,
a cotton ball you shouldn’t look at for too long
I found it easy
I am where the Hudson school of painting
came to the Pacific Ocean
we have seagulls n crows n pigeons
turkey vultures n red tail hawks
hummingbirds n blackbirds
not to mention birds that fly through
ducks n geese n special cases
I find out the special cases
n eat them for equanimity
from high mountains
do I sing…
what was I
Copyright 2001 by Kevin Jeffrey Watson
The man meets a woman while out on his lunch break. She seems nice; they strike up a conversation. Before leaving, the woman gives the man her telephone number. The man goes home and thinks about it.
It’s been a long time since he’s been on a date.
The man calls up the woman and asks her out. They go to the movies. It is a lot of fun. The next day they have dinner, and then go for a long walk.
The man really likes the woman.
Then she invites him up to her place.
The man walks into the woman’s apartment and immediately stops short. The place is beautiful-- warm, comfortable, homey. The woman goes to fix drinks in the kitchen.
The man wanders around, through the various rooms. There are so many things to admire. Books, paintings, carpets, sculptures--
Then the man sees the telescope.
It is set up by the window, looking out over the city.
The telescope bothers the man. He stands there and stares at it for quite a long time.
Then the woman enters with drinks on a tray.
The man and the woman drink their drinks in silence.
Is there something wrong? the woman says.
Wrong? says the man. What could be wrong?
I don’t know, says the woman. You’re very quiet.
The man stares at his drink.
I don’t feel good, he says. I think maybe I should go home.
Oh no, says the woman.
It’s okay, says the man. I’m sure I’ll be fine in the morning.
The man drives home and goes straight to bed. He lies there, thinking about the telescope. He remembers a movie he once saw on TV, about a man who spied on his neighbors.
I bet she uses her telescope for the same thing, he thinks. She probably does. What else would she do with a telescope? That’s really all there is.
He gets out of bed and goes to the window. He stands there, looking out at the city.
There, he thinks, somewhere in the distance, she’s standing there looking at me.
He draws the shade.
The next day, in the afternoon, the telephone rings. It is the woman; she wants to know if he’s okay. The man assures her he just has a cold.
I’ll call you this weekend, he says.
But when the weekend rolls around, the man does not call her, and does not answer the
phone when it rings. The phone rings more and more, and then more and more, so the man unplugs it from the wall.
In his mind, the man pictures the woman in her apartment, at the telescope, with the telephone in her hand. She’s gazing down at his drawn shade, angrily dialing away.
Why won’t she just leave me alone? the man thinks. Why won’t she leave me alone?
Then the knocking starts on the door. The banging, and the calling out, and the pleading.
Are you in there? the woman says. Are you in there? Are you in there?
The man hides in the bathroom. He doesn’t answer.
The woman keeps coming back-- and coming back, and coming back-- and knocking and knocking at the door.
One night the man wakes up to find someone’s breaking in his window.
Leave me alone! the man screams and screams. Go away! Just go away!
Some time goes by. The telephone stops ringing. There is no more knocking at the door. There is no calling out, no scraping at the window.
The man feels better-- much better.
The man goes back to work-- shaky but resolved. Lunchtimes are hard-- he’s scared he might see her. But he stays away from the places they went, and he never speaks to anyone.
Months go by.
The man opens the shade.
For a while, everything’s fine.
And then one day there’s a knock on the door.
Delivery, says a voice. Open up.
The man opens the door.
There’s a stranger on the doorstep.
I’m a lawyer, the stranger says. I’m delivering this package. It was left to you by the late Sylvia Archer.
Sylvia Archer? says the man.
He sees the woman in his mind.
Yes, says the lawyer. I’m not sure if you’re aware-- she killed herself a few months back. Now if you don’t mind, this is actually very heavy.
He sets the package down on the floor.
When the lawyer is gone, the man locks the door. Then he stands and looks down at the box. He feels frightened, confused. He doesn’t know what to do.
He reaches out and opens it up.
Inside the box is the telescope.
The man stands staring down at the telescope. Then he lifts it out of the box. He walks to the window, carefully sets it down, then raises the shade and points it out.
He peers into the viewfinder and is amazed by what he sees: a whole bright sun-filled world. His eye wanders over all of the buildings, across the parks and the people and the cars.
And after a while, his gaze drifts to a building-- an apartment building some distance away. The circular image in the viewfinder comes to rest on a window near the top.
There, inside-- in a warm, comfortable room-- a man accepts a drink from a woman. The two of them laugh, and smile at each other, and then move to a nearby telescope.
The woman reaches out and shows the man how to work it. And then, as one, they peer through. And their combined gaze falls directly on the man.
The man in his apartment, below.
Their gaze hits the man like a slap in the face. He staggers back and falls to the ground. The dead woman’s telescope teeters off balance, and crashes down to the floor.
The man skitters backward-- feet flailing wildly-- and crawls into the bathroom, where he hides.
In the other room, the phone starts to ring.
The phone rings all through the night.
Copyright 2009 by Ben Loory
deities they first were made for
are dead and gone as all gods
eventually fall to anonymity
their worshippers long forgotten
only the raked gravel remains
swirled striations curved around
one or two tall islands of stone
the focus for contemplation
on a cool soothing emptiness
eyelids lower just before
vision sinks toward stupor
and the numbed drift of
the faceless mask until
the man’s blank stare at
the garden becomes
one with a jehovah
he has never known
July 9, 2007
they cross the garden pond
shaved granites sunk in its bed
their tops filed smooth
flat with the water’s sheen
you step from one to the next
along their staggered row
ripples glow the wake of
finned goblins darting
gone formless as they plunge
toward what blossoms
only in the deep
halfway across you’re stopped
the sky’s riffling mirror
and your eyes lost
glide you backward
to the mossed bank
from which you came
July 13, 2007
the samurai lotused
in blank meditation
under cherry trees
whose blossoms blew
off branches with
the first breeze
and fell to stones
they believed it to be
the true way of death
for the warrior
the life cut down
in beauty drifting
for an instant between
two annihilating worlds
July 14, 2007
a thousand years ago he
waited in a garden of stone
dreaming of her scent
craving the sheen of
a silk kimono as his eyes
stared transfixed by
the drunken moon
rippling in the pond
pebbles silent till sandals
squeezed a gasp from them
never to be forgotten
this ideogram defying
time and death
where warm arms
long turned to dust
still grope to embrace us
in our distant night
July 20, 2007
when pebbles in the rock garden
are left alone at night they gossip
about the odor of sandal soles
the males among them brag
of a glimpse of leg and thigh
up the geisha’s silk kimono
it’s the chattering of stone teeth
the ache which welds its desire
to memories that know nothing
beyond the ground at eye level
and the unattainable clouds
hurried by wind across the sun
they are flinty veterans drafted
against their will to endure
the long life of servitude
the nightmare of lost centuries
from which I in my sickness
am also trying to wake
August 23, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Eric Basso
EIGHT POEMS FOR POLO
In the beginning there were horses
and the worlds were devised
by their bodies alone;
a ground so they could gallop,
the sky to silhouette their manes.
Between was only the churning
of the planets around their flanks,
sucked in through flared nostrils
Of course they knew of the ball,
more solid than them and white,
like teeth, or the sharp crescent of a straining eye,
but they never chased it.
They ran because their friends were running.
women sway on gray horses,
leaning forward like poplars
over a still algae pond,
slim with fluttering hair
and gazing eyes.
In a rich garden with no snakes,
And no birds,
And no trees either.
Only a wide field where their men flit
Like white winged water bugs.
They wait for them to come,
All in white cotton and amber leather.
Later these women strip the long, red polo wraps
From the horse’s legs,
And wrap them into small soft balls;
hand them to their men, drinking,
Changed now, into darker clothes.
Everyone has played polo.
Your ancestors played polo.
If they did not physically swing the bamboo;
hear the crack of the willow root,
they felt, because everyone does
what it is to sit atop force and beauty,
and never absolutely have control.
They hurtled at a target
they could not be certain would remain
or they would be able to hit.
Your children will play polo.
There is nothing you can do to stop this.
Teach them to swing,
even cocksure, wide and wild,
striking the ground into explosion.
In Manipuri there is a polo god
Born in the waves of timeless hooves,
a tiny planetary body
rocketing through space.
There was chaos then
as the fancy grew into war;
a fountain of flesh and hair,
swinging arms and sharp feet,
momentous and dangerously free.
Then one pony turned
and saw in the ball what the people saw,
perhaps what it wanted,
to be perfect, balanced, and brightly colored.
I am a borrowed groom,
and cannot make the unfamiliar, freckled horse,
quit orbiting me, tireless and proud.
Try as I might to stand still,
I sway with the motion.
When his rider comes,
Our horses meet,
Leaping like startled water birds
From a green pond,
And the mallets bend like cattails
He and his rider are gone again,
and I am holding a new, used horse,
Sopping and panting,
Already turning circles around me
even as I drag her from the tide.
we understood how ancient the game was,
but it meant so much less than
hanging the steaming blankets,
reds, yellows, blues like a drawn sunset;
dipping frosted hands into buckets,
the ice already crawling across the puddles
outside, reflecting, what?
A moon, almost full in the curious silence,
except for the swish of thin horse tails;
the dust hanging like wind chimes,
Perhaps there is perfection in the end,
In the antique art of cleaning leather,
sponges in slow circles of preservation,
The bit was a surprise,
the saddle, with its wooden spine,
spider webs of leather,
beneath and between their legs
over, around their neck,
their fluttering ears
thick, flat foreheads.
Their tail was braided and taped.
Their legs were wrapped in red cloth,
and buckled rubber sheets.
It all seemed like so much fuss
to do what they were made for,
to fling one hoof before the other,
to carry that strange and careful being
who knew what to do.
In the hollow pavilion
after the crowds and professionals,
even the ice cream vendors,
have gone to their personal comforts
we remain, we grooms and trainers,
we cleaners and carriers.
We run silently round and round the ring,
playing in sandals and ruined boots and barefoot,
falling to our hands and knees,
driving the pounded sand into our skin,
with sticks, a soccer ball,
and speechless joy.
The horses, even, are sleeping.
The ball arches over our heads
and hands and mallets,
disappears over the wall
with a soft echo of conclusion.
Copyright 2009 by Leslie Anderson
The woman returns from the store with an armload of books. She reads them quickly, one by one, over the course of the next few weeks. But when she opens the last one, the woman frowns in surprise.
All the pages in the book are blank.
Every single one.
The woman takes the book back to the store, but the manager won’t let her return it.
Right there on the cover, the manager says, This book has no words and is non-returnable.
The woman is angry. She wouldn’t have bought the book if she’d known there were no words inside it. But the manager simply will not relent.
The woman leaves in a huff.
She throws the book in the trash.
A few days later, the woman sees a man reading the book on the subway. She gets mad; she screams across the crowded car--
There are no words inside, you can’t read it!
But the man is defensive.
You can pretend, he says. There’s no law against pretending.
I think there might be words if you look at it under a special light, says a woman sitting nearby.
This other woman is holding her own copy of the book.
That’s so stupid! the woman yells. Don’t you see how stupid that is? Don’t you see that’s crazy?
At the next station, a policeman is called and has to break up the fight.
A television crew arrives on the scene.
The woman is interviewed on the news.
She complains loudly about the book for some time.
The next day, the book appears on the bestseller lists, under both fiction and nonfiction. The woman is furious, enraged, appalled. She calls into a radio show and starts to rant. She calls the next day, and the day after that, and then the day after that. She appears again on television, this time in debate with the author.
Your book is a joke! the woman says.
The author just sits there and smiles.
The woman becomes famous after a while. She even writes a book of her own. Her book cries out for the destruction of the first one.
In answer, the first book’s sales jump.
The woman is frantic. She doesn’t know what to do. She feels like she’s going insane.
And then one day on the street a man comes up and spits in the woman’s face.
The woman stands there-- shocked, paralyzed. She hadn’t realized everyone hated her. She turns and runs sobbing all the way home. She locks the door and collapses.
She crawls into the bedroom on her hands and knees and hides underneath the blankets.
All night long she lies there sobbing.
She feels like she’s going to die.
In the morning, the woman unplugs her phone. She doesn’t want to be invited on TV anymore. She sits on the edge of the bed for a while, and then, slowly, she rises.
The woman turns over a whole new leaf.
She turns her attention to other things.
She takes up hobbies. She goes scuba-diving.
She even makes some friends.
Without the controversy the woman’s anger stirred up, the book starts to slip from the bestseller lists. It slips and slips for weeks and weeks, until one day it just disappears.
The woman’s own book disappears as well.
The woman doesn’t even notice.
The years go by. The woman meets a man. She falls in love and gets married. She has children and raises them and lets them go and watches them start families of their own.
She and her husband go through some hard times, but in the end they stay together.
And then one day, late in life, the woman’s husband dies.
For months, the woman is unable to sleep. She wanders through the house, feeling lost. She turns on lights, and turns them off. She sits down, gets up, sits.
One evening in the attic, going through her husband’s things, the woman finds a copy of the book.
She hasn’t thought of the book in years.
Slowly, she opens it up.
To her surprise, there are words inside-- lots of words, printed plain as day. She turns to page
one and starts to read.
She reads all night long.
And in the morning when she gets to the very last page, the woman finds herself softly crying.
It’s the most beautiful book she’s ever read.
She wishes it didn’t have to end.
Copyright 2009 by Ben Loory
ONCE A CATHOLIC
A PAROCHIAL EDUCATION
Thou shalt not!
You whited sepulchre
You sly doer of good and thinker of evil
You yearner after comfort
Are you not ashamed?
And do you think your shame will do you good?
Promise to amend!
You cannot be other than you are
You are the sin.
Mr. "A" Student!
Mr. Coat and Tie and Daily Mass!
Mr. Please and Thank You!
Do you think you have me fooled?
“I ALWAYS FEEL GRAND AFTER CONFESSION”
On Saturdays there’s a line.
But when I slip in before mass during the week
I go right in.
Into the dark.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.
It has been one week
[Or four days]
Since my last confession.
I committed a sin of impurity by myself X times.
[This is code.]
Anger . . . disobedience . . . lying.”
[This is filler.]
The locals know my voice and my habits;
But if it’s a visiting priest
All bets are off.
He doesn’t have to worry about acquiring a bad rep.
“Do you want to be a sex pervert?”
“Then stop acting like one.”
Easy multiples of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s.
But the required “firm purpose of amendment?”
Considering the frequency of my visits.
[And, once, tying my hands with rosary beads --
A confessor’s suggestion, alas ineffectual]
Will be different
And it is.
Until it isn’t.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned”
A TABLE OF EQUIVALENT SINS
FOR CATHOLIC YOUTH
Not finishing what’s on your plate.
Speaking impolitely to an older person.
Stabbing someone in the chest with an ice pick.
Wanting to have the same haircut as everyone else in your peer group.
Betraying your country to a foreign power.
Making your mother cry.
Making the Blessed Mother cry.
Watching a Madonna video.
Not sending your aunt a thank-you note for the underwear.
Sending your aunt a thank-you note for the underwear but not meaning it.
Not working up to your potential.
Acting worse than everybody else.
Acting better than everybody else.
Acting just as good as everybody else.
Dating someone of the same gender.
Dating someone of the opposite gender.
Knowing what “gender” means.
Having sex outside of wedlock.
Having sex with children.
Having sex without having children.
Wanting to go out with friends.
Wanting to be alone.
Copyright 2009 by Frank Kelly
The guard is taking a head count, and he comes up one man short.
Hadley? the guard says. Hadley?
But Hadley isn’t there.
What are we going to do? the guard says to the other guard.
I don’t know, the other guard says. The warden is going to be mad.
The guard makes a big doll. The same size and shape as Hadley. He puts the doll in Hadley’s
That oughtta do it, says the other guard.
The days go by. Everything is fine. Mealtimes are the hardest part. The guard takes “Hadley” to the mess hall in chains, as though the prisoner were under close guard. He even cuts up Hadley’s food and feeds it to him very carefully. Hadley is too dangerous, he insinuates, to be allowed to handle silverware.
The other prisoners all are fooled.
I wonder what Hadley did? they say.
They hope they don’t do the same thing one day. Being fed by a guard would be humiliating.
Then one day something awful happens.
What is it? the guard says to the other guard.
The other guard is white as a sheet.
It’s the warden, he says. He wants to see Hadley.
The guard escorts Hadley into the warden’s office. He puts him in a chair and stands beside him.
You can go, the warden says. This is a private matter, just between Hadley and me.
The guard looks at the warden. Then he looks at Hadley.
I think he wants me to stay, he says.
The guard and the warden both look at Hadley.
Hadley doesn’t reply.
The guard stands in the hall outside the warden’s door. He doesn’t know what to do. He stands there for a long, long, long time. Finally, he hears the warden calling.
Yes? says the guard, opening the door.
Hadley is lying on the floor.
The prisoner is sick, the warden says. You should probably take him to the infirmary.
The guard carries Hadley down the hall. Hadley coughs and coughs.
It’s okay, says the guard. You’re gonna be all right.
But he has a hard time believing what he says.
Hadley’s eyes are swollen shut, and there are dark circles around them. His skin feels strange, and he is very cold.
How could this happen? thinks the guard.
The guard sits by Hadley’s bed for days.
What’s the matter with him, Doc? he keeps saying.
We don’t really know, the doctor says. He’s fine, except for he’s dying.
The guard looks at Hadley.
You can’t fix him? he says.
No, says the doctor. We tried that. Best advice is hope and pray.
And then he walks away.
The guard stays in the infirmary every night. He holds Hadley’s hand and talks to him.
Can you hear me, Hadley? he keeps saying and saying. Can you hear me? I’m here. Can you hear me?
But the only response he ever gets is the sound of Hadley’s shallow, ragged breathing. And then one day Hadley’s cold and still, and the guard is all by himself.
The guard knocks on the warden’s door. He does it with the butt of his gun.
Come in, says the warden, and the guard goes in.
What are you doing with that? says the warden.
What did you do to Hadley? says the guard.
What did I do? says the warden. I did nothing.
You did! yells the guard. He was fine until he saw you! You said something, you did something to do him!
The warden stares at the guard. Then he shakes his head.
You wouldn’t understand, he says.
I’ll understand, the guard says. You’ll make me.
And he raises and cocks the gun.
Go ahead and shoot, the warden says. You’ll never learn anything from me. Go ahead, be my guest. Really, it’s all right. It’s not like it’ll do you any good.
The guard’s finger tightens on the trigger, but for some reason he can’t seem to shoot. The trigger’s stuck; something’s wrong. He curses, tries again and again.
Meanwhile, the warden laughs.
When you’re done, he says, you’re fired. Turn in your gun on the way out. And your keys, your uniform, and your badge.
The guard stands outside the prison gates. The other guard stands beside him.
I’m sorry, the other guard says to the guard. I don’t know why things like this happen.
On the bus ride home, the guard sits quietly, staring out the window at the world. He watches dully as it all drifts past-- all of it flat and gray. There is no sound but the sound of the engine, and the creaking of the worn-out bus. There are no other passengers on board. The guard sits all by himself.
That night in bed, the guard stares at the ceiling, trying to get it all straight.
I’m no longer a guard, he thinks and thinks, over and over in his head.
He tries to see himself as something else, in some other line of work, but he can’t think of a single job he would be qualified for.
In the end, all he sees is a man in his bed, lying there in the dark. Lying there alone in the middle of the night.
What’s the point? he says. What’s the point.
The guard gets up. He goes to the closet. He opens it and finds an old uniform. He puts it on, takes a gun from the dresser, and then heads toward the door.
The guard walks the streets of the sleeping town. Everywhere, everything is deserted. Here and there, he seems to see a shadow-- but the shadow is always of nothing.
Eventually the guard finds himself in the park that lies in the center of town. It’s not much more than a patch of dirt and some sickly, broken trees. The guard stands staring up at the sky-- at the cold, dark, empty sky-- and as he does, a cloud takes the moon, and some dead leaves scrape on by.
The guard takes the gun out of its holster. He has owned this gun for years. He has fired it many, many times, but never for what you’d call real. He raises the gun and puts it to his head. He has never done anything like this. He has never even thought of doing such a thing. And yet here he is now, doing it. He feels the barrel against his skin. It feels cold; he can feel the roundness of the hole. He thinks of the bullet lying inside, waiting to be shot out.
The guard’s finger tightens on the gun’s trigger and everything inside him starts to leap. And then he feels a touch on his arm-- a hand, gentle, but firm.
The guard lowers the gun. He turns around, knowing full well what he’ll see. And there, in the dark, he sees the face of the escaped dead prisoner, Hadley.
Please, says Hadley, hand over the gun.
The guard does so, without question.
You shouldn’t be handling things like this, Hadley says. It isn’t safe.
Later, the two return to the prison and walk up and down the halls.
This was your cell, the guard says to Hadley.
Of course, says Hadley. There’s the hole.
Hadley steps inside and kneels down, peers into the dark.
It’s a long, long way, but not that far, he says, and starts to crawl.
The guard stands and watches for a while, and then he looks around.
And in the morning when the warden appears, the prison is nowhere to be found.
Copyright 2009 by Ben Loory
THINKING ABOUT THE WHITE WALL
I drive the car into a snowstorm.
Blinded by white.
As if entering a solid wall.
The car is a metaphor.
I do not drive.
The snow is what we always wanted
snow to be.
I make a mark on the wall.
The mark wavers there, temporarily
Blinded by a car made of snow.
Copyright 2009 by Corey Mesler
I’m a fistful of drugs
away from calm.
The number you have for
me is a serial.
I act like I understand every
thing you said.
I take one that’s blue.
You call me a name once
given to noblemen.
I act like I’ve heard that be-
fore. The pill
begins to talk for me. It says,
I will always be here.
It says, she is the real poison.
Copyright 2009 by Corey Mesler
PAINTERS’ EXHALATIONS 15
--after Giovanni Segantini’s Love at the Fountain of Life
Larger than the accident of uncertain meeting,
bodies conjoined by snaking limbs,
whispers into the canal used for
understanding. A walk beneath azure
blanket, thinned as cotton stretched on
motional skin. Who are they, the walking,
the loving, the display of innocence
wrapped in healing gauze of emotional
closeness? Could their angel be more still?
She, leaned with flight appropriately paused,
eyes affixed on the selves oblivious, fading
from a past of wasted time, outside each other’s
absence. Water alive in its own evaporation.
Common, this form of stroll, of the watched
by swaying grass and teenaged tree
forming door to the fountain
granting aged love, a togetherness apposite
within the meaning of transparent,
PAINTERS’ EXHALATIONS 16
--after Henri Matisse’s The Dance
Pedestal, mother of vase, raising
child into its own maternal
design: flowers rise into cascade,
tangible sloping drawing curves along
its spacious hips. Dancers form tribute,
a praying solitude. Movement mimics
the half-moon crescents of petals
sweating syncopated fragrance. Holding
hands meld into abstract renditions of
soil grasping gardens. Their mighty
blur fools the watching into
imagining wall hangings, a calendar
of dance depicting a constant
rotation of musical vagueness. Bodies
swollen in nude wool, warm
to the eyes unaware they’re meeting
ascension is articulated in foreign,
PAINTERS’ EXHALATIONS 32
--after El Greco’s View of Toledo
threaded glass dome of a child’s
undefeated marble, used into antiquated
form from the many
flung from the arching
window of a thumb’s isometric
lever. Untroubled snow globe
on a shelf of earth
away from the leaning au courant
knickknacks, unused books,
of misery shading the wood’s grain
a palpable silver
alluding to aluminum’s manufactured glare.
No one roaming the ballroom of grass
or dancing in silhouetted
overtaken by the wind’s
jaunty music. Only evidence life erected homes,
where the minutes rotate
unrelated to those
wanting death of
the beautiful depictions
balanced on the rim
life proclaims as
PAINTERS’ EXHALATIONS 33
--after Gerhard Richter’s Tisch
if the visualized is actually here
if the bodies strewn
in particular order
renditions of mere imagination,
an ocean of grass
or other dichotomy
in the lexicon of
Knots unravel like
the hair attached to
her gravity lined in silk-
allowing for gliding ambulation
akin to happiness of her child’s
oscillating smile. Hold your vase
the eyes here are inverted blossoms
growing in ascent,
the stalks of fan-shaped movement
within the interpretation of your
Copyright 2009 by Felino Soriano
then scotch on top,
because it was far
too quiet at home.
over to the bookstore,
time being all i really
have. might as well
ran my hands over
the hemingways as
i eye a woman's ass
who is fifteen years
my senior, there is
nothing to say.
siting in humid silence,
in the car burning
one hundred fires
while reading words
that deserve more
safely sober, i take
the long way home,
and when i get there, i sit
in front of the toilet
until i feel confident
there won't be any other
distractions from the night.
there is some
the world outside is
quiet and still
and the dichotomy
between the inside
and out is
bile rises to my
throat and i
want to scream at
the stars, to throw
a molotov into
the louvre, to
find out what’s
under the skin
and dig a bit deeper.
feed the cancer
so it grows nice
and healthy, he’s
a good boy, will be so
big and strong and all
i’ve got will be his
he looks pale, his
so i take him to
the sun and he
withers in the heat
leaving me alone.
how he stands on
that precipice, the wind
ripping and tearing
and is this a mistake
or is it faith, in everything
that brought him there laughing
and dancing and smoking all the while
he could simply fall?
the rain runs down his cheeks
and curls the smoke
and he can taste it
this fool, looking into the
clouds as if they were his
destination, his home
this lost prophet from before
order, this jester of the court
this lonely god, so close
to the abyss he tricks
himself into believing
he can see the bottom.
oh, how he stands
how he breathes in the
excuses, how he laughs at
the joke only he knows, the
across the horizon
and walks away
for the edge.
the coffee is
hot and bitter
the lack of sleep
a tick and many of
the surrounding strangers
bear the same
nuisance, but giving in.
unable and unwilling
to relent, sleep being
but the cousin of death
I can but look out
downward, to the clouds
either a child's afterlife
or an elder's mane
far below, hiding
the perfect landscape
these harbingers of
all to come and pass.
locked in deep
bodily, many things
pass before my
thoughts of the cool
of the clouds as I
fall from grace,
of the girl
on the other
end of this
journey and the
ring buried deep
in my paraphernalia
meant for her finger.
of the great
and death, the beyond
and the prosaic
of the poor souls stumbling
around this epic failure
of those fools who
protest this rendition
and the suckers that buy it
of the great prodigies
and the insignificant little nothings
singular heartbeats in creation
and the divergence where
a whole new verse will burst into being
and be snuffed out in a breath,
all but the bliss of being.
those sleeping as time
rolled back, dreaming of
random neurons fire
some silent and some whimpering
they all pass unnoticed
in and out of each's sphere
to die or live forever ink
to paper and ash to tongue.
and as the sun rises
we descend like orpheus
but hung up in the nothing
life goes as it will.
Copyright 2009 by Chris Deal
Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual's success in making choices depends on the choices of others. -Wikipedia
Not much synchronizes in my life.
Not like Olympic swimmers gliding
2 by 2.
Lanky hard-bodies dive,
torpedo through iridescent lather,
hands and wrists curl
together and against
muscles flex and rest.
Each stroke forms a perfect equation,
not like the John Nash game theory
of my daily routine.
Not like force-fitting stubborn puzzles
from calculating humans
and their troubled executions.
Through cell phones and printers,
coffee-stained work orders;
scheduling unrelated parts
filling quarrelsome needs
of suburban housewives
of elite pool engineers
of languishing shop owners on the boulevard.
Bushings and bolts
Bristles and poles
Metal locks and peace of mind
—all must ship today.
In the blue arena the crowds cheer,
swimmers, oblivious to their approval,
reach the far edge and neatly flip around.
Copyright 2009 by Jerry Garcia
Me & My Monkey-wrench Brain
Me and my monkey-wrench brain. Me with holes in both pockets where paranoia leaks out. Oil slicks on the high seas. Gulls trapped in flight. Say no more. Hush now. Finger to lip, he gave up hoping...
I was at a party just the other night. A barn full of crashing cymbals and drums. Wailing guitars. Boys on the make, young girls on the take. Strange goings-on in vans with pulled curtains. A black sky gone crazy with stars. Dark-soil agrarian time warp. Late-August night. All pain is non-acceptance. There's no pill that gives God a face lift.
A young girl with her thumb out. There must be some way out of here. A man in a Mustang swerves off on the shoulder. Watches in the rear mirror (full of lust with a dusting of tenderness) as she runs to the car.
"Hop in honey," he says.
Life begins carving lessons in the soft slate of her innocence.
Just like that it's all over. Before you can hitch your britches and walk into the sun. A bitter refrain running around in your brain, a long bleeding. A slow leaching of the soil where your seed dropped. An angel with the wings of a butterfly does a dance on your retina, and then an explosion turns everything red. You lie there, waiting for what happens next.
There was a woman that I'd slept with at the party. Party's not the right word. Some things words just won't stick to--water off the leaf of a lotus; soil off a baby's smooth toenail. Explanation makes things worse. Starry, starry nights. Dark-soil agrarian time warp. A barn booming with music. As close as industry gets to what's tribal. Women not afraid to give birth. Hunters and shamans disguised as house painters and carpenters, drifting thru the night.
There she was, steeped in jargon. She’d snagged some guy and was waving him under my nose. Told him she wouldn't go home with him the first night, but she'd accept his phone number. Where had I heard that before? The guy called out for pen and paper, but there was none to be had.
"Can you remember it?" he said.
"No, she said. "Write it down."
I was standing close by in a circle of smokers. A chill wind was coming across the wheat and the corn. The music boomed from inside the barn. Children and dogs ran in and out of the darkness. She shot me a look. No one in the circle of smokers looked up, but everyone was taking it in.
Then this wiry guy with wild hair picked up a tile from the dirt. "What?" he said. "We need to write down a number?" He had outlaw eyes that said, I've lived in the mountains and panned gold. I've picked cherries and cotton and did my time in the Nam. "No problem!" he said.
He stepped out of the circle and snatched a loose nail from a sun-bleached sill. He stepped back into the circle. "What's the number?" he said.
The circle broke up, but he kept on carving. Each time he completed a number, he'd look up victoriously.
"FIVE!" he called out.
"OH!" he called.
He was a happy camper. He was into the moment. The task at hand. Eventually there was just the two of us standing out in the chill wind. Even the guy who desperately needed the lady’s number and the lady herself went inside.
"Do you have a cigarette?" the man with outlaw eyes asked. I gave him a hand-rolled cigarette.
"Do you think I'm crazy?" he asked.
"No," I said.
He kept on carving.
When he was done he held the tile up in the moonlight. The wind blew through his hair.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"It's beautiful," I said.
"This is one phone number that won't be easily lost!" he said, and then went inside to give the tile to the lady who dropped it into her purse.
I walked across the field of freshly-cut hay to my car. Drove the eight miles back to town. Walked the dog and got into bed.
Age is having a field day with me. There are some things I will never have, and some things I will never have again. I fell asleep, visions of young women dancing voluptuously through my bell-weather dreams.
Copyright 2009 by John Bennett
The Bicycle Review is edited and curated by J de Salvo and Kevin Jeffrey Watson