The Bicycle Review
16 April, 2012
Photography by Sheri Wright, Original Artworks by Deborah Valentine.
All images copyright 2012 by Wright and Valentine
Reclining Deck-Chairs under Grey Clouds
Greetings from beautiful Canoga Park, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, where we are recovering
from tis and tat and mainly not moving too much. We'll be back in San Francisco by the end of the month, in case you haven't seen me raving on the street lately and were getting worried. I'm as good as I get, and so is this issue. We're continuing with our serialization of Edward C. Wells II's "the Rider"; returning featured writers include James Claffey, Steve Barratta, Jay Passer, and Robert Louis Henry, who edits the excellent "Leaf Garden Press", a link to which can be found on our links page. We continue our study of how rust can be an abstract work of art in a photograph with some excellent work by Sheri Wright; and many thanks to Jeff Kappell for bringing Fine Artist Deborah Valentine on board in all her glorious density and stroke-less lines. Looking at the list of names I see that if it weren't for the visual side of things...our "look"...this would be an almost all male issue. This happened quite by circumstance, but yes, almost all of the writing in this issue is by men. Strange, when a lot of people thought we were either a queer or a women's magazine after the first issue came out. Oh well, that's how it ended up this time around for some reason. Hopefully this issue is no more or less "macho" than any other.
Share the Road,
J de Salvo
Too Cold for Bees
Sometimes you just have to know what's in an abandoned house. It stands off the road a bit, the deck slowly closing like an RV's pavilion. Outside is a stack of firewood left to rot for thirty or forty years. They say this was once where the community held their wakes and housed terminally ill neighbors with nobody around to save them.
That's what they say.
Sometimes you just have to know what's in a person's soul; how much does their singing voice resembles their talking voice, their coughing voice? The little moans they make in their sleep. It doesn't matter if it makes her uncomfortable. It's better if it does, even.
At least I think so.
The floors are covered in old clothes, like someone robbed the loading deck of a Good Will and just dumped it all out because none of it fit anydamnway. There are mattresses tossed against the wall, and a broken television with part of a bed frame through it. I rip a piece of the newspaper insulation from the wall. It's from the forties, but the news story isn't significant. Something about some war.
The big one, I guess.
The stairs are a little crooked, and I'm holding my hand down to her. She probably doesn't need my help, but I like her soft palms. Upstairs there are lines of beehives on the ceiling. She says she's allergic, but I tell her not to worry. That it's too cold for bees.
At least I hope so.
She says if I find a newspaper from January 1st, she'll sing to me. I'm tearing sheets off the wall like a game of loves-me-loves-me-not. She's digging through an old desk drawer near the window. The window is missing. So is the desk.
I find it.
She blushes when I show it to her. Tells me to hand it over, and to listen because she's not repeating herself.
She's dragging me along the railroad tracks in Newport. We're at the stretch by Billie's Discount Auto and the skin-flick dispensary that shut down. There's a Subway nearby, and I point out how dangerous it is to put a Subway right next to a railroad. She gives me that look. It probably means I'm not as clever as I think I am. But I always think it's more like, “You silly, silly proletariat.”
She tells me to stop narrating my life.
So she tells me to stay right where I am. Right in front of Rick's Skins like I'm jonesin' for a wank. Like I might break a window. She says she has to do vocal exercises. I think that means she has to spit a loogie. She goes around the corner of the building.
I wait at least ten minutes.
Or five minutes.
At least two minutes.
And a half.
She's coming back around the corner; I hear the train coming. She motions for me to get up, get up, hurry. I do. She wraps her arms around my ribs and whispers that I need to hold her when she sings her favorite song.
As the train passes she's screaming and kinda jumping-shaking. And it's over. A lingering roar from her scream or the train. It doesn't matter. We pull apart a bit. I kiss her third eye, and she pushes her face back against my neck. I'm thinking about going to the pet shop to look at kittens.
Copyright 2012 by Robert Louis Henry
Some buffalo occupied time,
the lemonade stand--
Just hanging around.
While the price
of both was on the rise,
bartered half his hide
for a cool glassful
garnished with mint sprigs.
There was nothing like it left
in Olde America.
The other buffalo waited in line
to be squeezed
into a sweet
The bottle of sarsaparilla was haunted
by its own bitterness.
Yet it was still a staple
of the West, which
was haunted by its jaded past
You get on a stagecoach
it follows you
in your suitcase.
The clothes still fit,
but they reek
of Ox and free
standing puddles of shit
that not even the thirstiest horse
despite its curative potential
for horse leprosy.
You keep trotting or you lose
you wanted your father’s work
ethic, but all you get
is his square jaw.
The gold rush is coming
and you’re stuck killing buffalo
for intangible point values.
The wife isn’t happy.
She jabs her finger
into your solar plexus:
I see right through you,
but right through you
is a dull prairie
with years of sun bleach
to its roots.
It’s no pretty sight
and she can never claim
to see through
The trail itself is
tangle into an amorphous shade.
There is an occasional
flower and berry.
Makes you gnaw on your arm
Then you reach the open plain
and crave a prosthetic
Day in, day out you irrigate, plow
It does the job,
but it will never
feel like it used to
The trailblazer was haunted
by the thought
It was not the thought
that killed him.
Still others suffered
In those busy days
of reaching the coast,
no one had time to write
Some considered themselves saved
but they didn’t know
Time stood, immemorial and gray
until they found
to plod on,
dots along a line.
History had preceded itself,
but it was too busy
to say so.
Copyright 2012 by Scott Hammer
I Don’t Know Who The Father Is
I took a walk with Jesus the other day
and he paid me a ticket to see his mother
but I couldn’t stand it,
arm in arm,
I couldn’t stand it
so I sat down,
then I bought the book and a white candle
and decided to ash down the pages.
I think it’s a joke when
an old Mexican pastor
on a plane ride from Saint Louis
to Vegas tells me he fell in love with his
wife at nineteen and to this day they trip
over their dreams
of tattoos and a hard fix.
He says he just asked god
if he should talk to me
while we sat there
and god said go right ahead
she seems willing.
My ears, swollen.
I seemed willing.
A tapping on my shoulder.
It’s been like this for years.
The signs are everywhere,
in letters I cannot read.
Copyright 2012 by Rewa Zeinati
The Birthday Present
Soon as I saw him I recognized him. My eyebrows, but his mama’s chin. He was on the sidewalk in front of the school, squatting with his elbows on his knees, lookin at a dime or something. He picked it up and held it to the sun and dropped it into his pocket, patting it. Sure I knew where he was supposed to be, buried up in Clearview lookin over the town, but there was no doubt about it. This was my son, come back to me somehow.
We was spreadin concrete that day, layin a sidwalk cross the street from the school and it was hot as hell. Bakin the stuff to your pants so when you move you feel like you’re breakin through crust. Heat like that’ll make you crazy. Make you see lines comin off the asphalt in the distance like steam, but then when you get there its gone, off to the next rise, but you can feel it. You can feel heat like this from the hollows of your bones.
I stood up from rakin and told Bill I had to be getting done early that day and he said it was no problem we were about done regardless. I set the rake and those rubber boots down in the bed of my truck and walked across the street to my boy in nothin but my socks.
He looked different now. He looked older. He wasn’t a baby no more, musta been six or seven. His hair was over his ears, and he was just waitin there outside the front door of the school with his thumbs under the straps of his pack. You’re proud to see our children grow up and at the same time you’re sad to think about the years missed, but there’s no sense getting real upset about that. Saw him here, right now. Wouldn’t fit in the same coffin anymore. Yessir, like the preachers say, the Lord works in ways mysterious to man. His mama was gonna be happy to see him, and today her birthday too. I hadn’t gotten her anything yet but this was perfect.
The other boys had all run off after the schoolbell rung, or been picked up, but Tim was just there seeming confused. He turned and looked up the road for a while, then down it. He didn’t hear me comin cause I was in my socks.
Hello son, I said.
He looked at me strangely, and blinked. My mama’s late, he said.
She’s at home, I said. You wanna go see her?
He frowned. Home?
It’s been a long time since I seen you, I said.
That’s right. You wanna go see your mama? She’s sure goin to be happy to see you.
She should be here soon, he said, looking off down toward where the hardware store was.
She’s at home, I said. I tried not to be annoyed. I didn’t know much about it, but I’d heard sometimes when people get reborn they don’t remember anything straight away. I stepped forward. I’m supposed to pick you up.
Sure, I said.
You know my mama?
I laughed. Sure hope I do.
He bit his lip and looked up and down the road again. Okay, he said.
I helped him up into the cab of my truck and he sat with his backpack in his lap. He looked at me. I looked at him and smiled. I didn’t know what to say. Mothers always know who to talk to children but I don’t. It don’t make sense to me to talk with babies when they can’t say nothing back.
Your mother and I sure did miss you, I said. He just stared at me.
I thought of that plot up in Clearview, wondered what it looked like now. Was it empty? Jesus, I didn’t think she’d ever quit cryin. I had stood at the door that night and tried to talk sense but women never want to hear you talk reasonable to em. I said to her this was just how things happen and why don’t she open up. I assed if she wanted we could have another one.
I ruffled his hair but Tim just looked out the window at the trees goin past. Hell, I never know what to say. I turned on the radio. We had gotten out of town and were turning onto 864 when my son pointed and said he lived the other way.
No Tim, I said, we live out here, by the gamelands, remember?
My name’s David, he said. Not Tim.
I smiled. Oh your name is David now? What happened to Timothy? I liked Timothy. You was named after your great-grandaddy.
He didn’t say anything. Then he said: who are you?
If he was playin some kinda game I thought I’d be a good sport and play along. Me? I assed, pointin to myself with my voice real high. You don’t know who I am?
He shook his head. No.
Who do you think I am?
It didn’t seem fun to him anymore. So I broke it. I’m your daddy, Tim, I said.
He sorta screwed up his face at me, like he smelled something, and then he started to cry then like he’d been stung by a wasp, high and sharp and rising like the sound of a teakettle. I didn’t know what happened. I tried to hush him, put my hand on his shoulder but he wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t anwswer, and it was just gettin louder and louder. I felt a bead of sweat on my nose and I don’t know why but the feelin of it made me crazy. I couldn’t think. It was hot as hell in the truck and the cryin was makin it even hotter. A boy shouldn’t be cryin like that, I thought, takin up all the air in the cab, and so to show him I gave him a good lick right there on the ear, like fathers do. Sure enough, he stopped cryin.
You’re bein a good father there, Joe, I said to myself. I turned back and watched the road.
After a few minutes I was about to say, real serious like, with my hand on his shoulder, son it hurts me too but I do it cuz I love you, but I seen he was slumped over against the window with his eyes screwed funny. His head looked like it was too heavy for him. I pulled the truck onto the gravel shoulder and let it idle.
Tim, I said. I put my hand on his shoulder and shook him. He just slumped down further and his head knocked against the window. I said it louder, Tim.
A bird called out in the trees nearby. I opened the door and swung my legs out, almost got em cleaned off by a car goin by, and ran around to the other side of the cab. I held his wrist feelin for his pulse and put my ear in gainst his chest but there wasn’t nothin. Like a clock you forgot to wind. I stepped away from the cab and looked down the road and up it. Empty all the way. It was hot as hell out, and I could see the heat risin from the hood of the truck.
There’s never enough time in life, you know that? The Lord he took my son after a week and give him back five years later for an hour. It ain’t enough time. You try to make plans for down the line and you can’t cuz who’s to say what’s here won’t be taken away from you?
I undone his seatbelt and lifted him outta the truck. He was lighter’n I expected. We walked away from the road and down through the trees. I didn’t have no shovel with me so I just found a hollow beneath a tree and lay him there, put his hands across his chest and closed his eyes, real honorable like. Thought this might be better if he gets brought back again, not havin ta dig up through all the dirt. Just stand and walk on home. Maybe a week, maybe ten years from now. But I knowed I’d see him again.
Goodbye son, I said to him.
I didn’t think I’d tell my wife about this. What am I gonna just walk in the front door and say lookee here Roxanne our boy come back he was alive and I seen him but now he’s gone again? She wouldn’t believe it and even if she did it’d just make her sad. I didn’t have no present for her now. We’d probably fight like hell cuz she’d say I forgot.
I turned and came back through the trees and climbed into the truck. The radio was still on and playin and as I drove on I sang along with it, singin I been havin some hard travellin, I thought you knowed. I been havin some hard travellin, way down the road. I been havin some hard travellin, hard ramblin, hard gamblin. I been havin some hard travellin, Lord.
Copyright 2012 by Tyler Russell
I have to apologize
I have to apologize to A. I last asked him for his forgiveness in March and got
it. His pardons are the most pleasant pardons one can get. A cool load piled
on the white inside of my forearms, like plates of jelly carried by a waitress.
How many times did I give him reasons since then, how carefully I labored
to offend him. But it all left him unmoved. What more does he expect? He
manages to look at me benignly, almost amused, as if through the branches
of a blooming cherry tree.
Copyright 2012 by Rupprecht Mayer
The Women of Juarez
She's suddenly missing
Without a trace
Her naked Bruised body
(Like how many more Of her sisters)
Is found by the Juarez border
Lifeless on the rocks
An image reminiscent
Of Christ crucified
On the cross
And chilling picture
Her spirit lingers on
Copyright 2012 by Steve Barratta
This is how it ends: a posse of rifles beading in; a handgun at your temple.
You crouch, nerveless, alert, on the still-damp grass. I adjust my visor against the angle of light, resume my stance. No way of reading you. Deadpan. You hold your mobile to your ear, but loosely. The negotiator is talking. I can hear his tone, but not his words. It's a private conversation, a one-sided confessional. You make no response.
We are trying to make sense of this. Scrolling back, trying to pinpoint where it started, identify the point at which it could have been averted. We have little to go on but we make the attempt.
To absolve ourselves.
Not only that. Because the crux of the universe is located here.
Under a vacant sky and a blinding sun.
We chucked him, dandled him, those of us of an age, watched him grow up. A bonny lad, not backward in coming forward. Not pushy, though, couldn't say that, not mouthy. No. Quiet. Watchful. Taking it all in. Well turned out. Have to give her that. Always neat and tidy. As clean as expected. Couldn't have been easy for her, all considered. No. No mystery there.
Move on. Scroll forward.
You drop your arm to your side, the gun on the grass, squat on your heels. You hold the phone higher, half-turn your head. For a better signal? In response to the spiel? He's a pro, he's rehearsed, it's carefully worked out, formulated, he's done it before. You won't know that, though you may guess. It could be sincere. It is sincere. It's his job. He wants to succeed. The squad too want it to work, a succesful outcome, one, that is, where they don't have to shoot. No glory in it, for them, for me. On the practice range, a perfect score, all the kudos I need.
Stand up, leave the gun, walk slowly forward: case accomplished, I go home.
His father's son. We some of us knew him. Came and went of his own accord. Transient.
He had a van?
No, not that, and not a traveller. Just came and went, couldn't be tied. Came back to claim him, then disappeared.
That tattoo. That was his gift, his father's gift, gave him the money, he used to boast. Started wearing jerkins, sleeveless shirts, T-shirts with those funny sleeves. To show off his biceps, the subcutaneous stain, triple-6 and undulant snake. Make his mark.
Was this where began his drift beyond our sphere? But the seep of the blood, the helical patterning, these are beyond our ken, our control. This surely finds us exonerated.
But what if it were earlier, his loss to us? We of an age remember...
Remember Susan, Bickerstaff as was?
Puppy love, a schoolboy crush. We've seen it all before, and since.
How hard he tried to please, impress, while keeping to his silence. His presents to her - a nest, with egg intact; scrumped apples; his hamster in a home-made box.
The hamster was dead.
But of natural causes, and the box was varnished.
Was that how he acquired his nickname? We often heard him called it - Gerbil - in the street, the playground, behind his back.
Schoolboy humour; we've all been through it.
Schoolgirls too, including Susan, arms plaited, giggling together. Even quieter then, withdrawn.
Have to take the rough-and-tumble.
Sticks and stones may break my bones...
You change position, from squat to sit, relieve the stress on your thighs. You're not about to run, then. Nor stand and walk. You hold the mobile tighter to your ear, listen, deliberate. No reading your expression, eyes blank as the sky. Weighing up the pros and cons? The alternatives? Literally so. Only two possible outcomes. You surrender - go to prison. You don't - you die. Are you weighing that up - fathoming your resilience? Feeling your way along the vista?
Prison's okay, it's bearable. You've borne it. You've got the trick of it. One day at a time. Limited horizon. A longer stretch ahead of you now. But it's the same trick, still works, the increments remain the same, each day the same length.
And this time you'll have an advantage. You'll go back cleansed, spent. "'Vengeance is mine' saith the Lord" but it's mine, it's yours. It's the motivator, the overdrive. I've known it. The divine fury. The clarification. The reduction to elementals. Colleagues shot, the culprits cornered. The tunnel vision of a telescopic sight. I've been there. More than once. Yes. Now, I have locked on to you. I see through the blank. I read you.
Is there any change, some new development? We are not kept informed; we are kept in the dark.
We deserve to know. Our community has been seared, traumatized, torn apart. One of our own back to haunt us.
Exact a price.
Force an entry.
We had disowned him. Closed doors. A solid stand. How else could we react? We judged him squarely on his actions. Decent people need to feel safe.
A lonely child we could understand, make allowance. But fully-grown? A man must be responsible for himself, his conduct. That's what "adult" means. No man an island.
He stepped beyond our reach, our help.
How else could we react? We have to stand together.
Petty thievery we can overlook. We're agreed on that? We're all insured.
Bodily integrity, physically intact, this is a basic human right. This is a different kettle of fish.
Trembling by the mill stream.
Misjudgement in one so young, that can be condoned.
She was entitled to change her mind.
She recognized the snake despite the dark.
But it was the DNA that closed the case. No arguing with that. We didn't, most of us, have to testify.
Down to Forensics, the DNA.
In the blood, in the genes. All mapped out.
Fixed, as in the stars.
As if the gods had spoken.
Determined. All of us want justice, nothing more. It's how society works, coheres.
You've dropped, half-tossed, the phone. It's on the turf, still within your reach, within earshot. The negotiator carries on. I hear the rhythm of his words, still calm. You hear him too. You glance at the phone, look away, then back. You're listening. But disengaging. I see it in your posture. You look up. You shade your eyes with your now-free hand. Against the splintering light.
Weighing the odds? Judging the distance to the nearest cover? I can sense the adrenalin pumping. But the flexure is limited to your torso; you remain seated, legs bent. You are scanning the horizon, panning slowly, taking it all in.
This is a pleasant town. Pleasant enough. And the fields and fells just a shortish walk. We get tourists here, holidaymakers, ramblers.
There are skylarks, linnets, curlew if you listen.
Days like today, the sun warm from a blue sky.
Even cloudy days, the rain softening the fells, life can be pleasant. Why would anyone seek the dark, cross into the shadow?
It would be one death among many, though, one among millions.
Why should we care? Millions worldwide.
Because his mother will grieve.
She says he would be better dead.
Still she will grieve.
Is there anything happening?
The cordon is behind us, a distance away. The sun at its zenith. It's silent. Even the birds are silent. Just the roar of the grass, the negotiator's voice, now intermittent. He's losing you. You stretch out one leg, kick the phone away, reach for the gun.
You lean on your free hand, retract your legs, roll awkwardly to your knees. But then you stand, suddenly graceful. Both arms to your sides. Relaxed. An air of acceptance in your stance.
My colleagues pick up the cue. They too relax, ease their fingers, shuffle. The crisis is done.
You continue to stand; the air solidifies, corrugates around you. As you breathe in I see your chest expand, your body expand to fill your space. You become yourself. You start to walk slowly towards us, arms to your sides.
Their fingers tighten on the trigger, but it’s an automatic response, a safety cover.
It's there in your eyes, though; I see it.
Copyright 2012 by David Rose
6:00pm with Ken
Morning sun paint Washington from the top down. Paint with grey Lincoln’s
shadow. A bugler blows the notes of echo hill. Negro woman, in a tired
cracked tone, scores homeward bound with two single curlers and the phone
bill. Home is a place near dusk. In Washington it dies of capitol. Men and
women eat the city like the 31,000 feet that light the jiggle of a dim old
Washington drugstore. The old street lights shine through time. Washington
retires and Washington begins to snap bow ties while listening to the
snagged zippers of a big smile. Children exchange crime for a bridge. Ballet,
a movie, Miss Shaw tells Caroline that a child is sitting on a doll’s lip. Hang
her in the fireplace against the far wall. There are dolls on horseback. She is
on the love seat. A giant giraffe rocking a canary cage. Each child has a
bluebell. Caroline enjoys robins. A small ironing board is growing cavalry
soldiers. Real ponies ironing mean more than the neat and the sensible.
Sometimes quietly, as though she comprehends more than six women, the
White House smiles when her name is mentioned. A few minutes take John
by the hand. He nods sagely and drags a little as he walks. Caroline leaves
the floor and joins the hall to the family. Often Ken joins the table to her high
chair. A square is underneath her baby brother. A piece of bread exchanges
a feminine understanding with time. His antics convulse Caroline. The little
girl is speaking to an arm in silence. Caroline was playing rough. Ken takes
the form of speech. A repeat offence may bring punishment. Caroline and
John are selfish. They live in a world full of adults follow the orders of all of
them. Most of the adults in the White House are indulgent. This does not
please the special, who are happy that the children do not understand what
the world means. Those who observe prove that the well is being spoiled.
Both forts theatrical pleasure in the eyes. They see babies who bring
apprehension without maternal hearts. Tell her to play with the farm.
Enjoyment, no matter how solemn, is baby talk. Attitude often interrupts to
crouch and talk to his conscious formative years. In the White House he and
it were shocked when the First Lady of the Land attributed her feelings to a
family in Georgetown. Fear, no matter how telescopic, trained her babies.
They caught a yacht, barefooted, smiling, in slacks. The second year Ken
learned to live with the world. She will not cooperate with photographs who
cross the line. It is days in an evening or guests without stories. Ken is
beginning to enjoy some ladies. Some abhorred its mind. Some took an
uncertain position of grace. Some were retiring to the woods. Doll wanted to
be part of her husband. Life was a hysteric homage - an unconscious
unremitting venom. Ulysses would rather spend time at her farm. Ken unites
a young, attractive, and socially sophisticated couple. The simple will not find
them because Ken acquired the grace before the White House. They are
books and magazines, they are students, they play on Broadway and flop in
London. They are at home in Paris.
An ‘erasure’ from Jim Bishop’s A Day in the Life of President Kennedy
Copyright 2012 by Michael O' Brien
The Rider, Pt. 3
The morning is another state, and Writer has arrived before the sun rises. He walks out into the terminal and looks around. The only things to be done seem to be to sit and have some food. Umbrella is in hand and Writer walks to the cafe area. He asks if there is internet and is told that there is not. He sits with his food and orange juice, and Umbrella sits beneath the tall round table leaning against the waist-short wall that surrounds the cafe. Umbrella slides over to rest against the metallic divider between two panels of the wall. Writer reaches and props Umbrella up again.
People have been coming and going, but now the same few younger males are coming and going
repeatedly. They are loud. They are in motion like the hail in a storm's wind. It is the lack of regard
that excites the regard of others often times. Writer has found a wireless network with his laptop and
has begun finding bus schedules to the area he will be reading in. He takes another sip of orange juice. Umbrella stands very, very still leaning against the wall. Umbrella does not even blink while the young men parade. Finally the authority on duty walks to the room from the corridor, and finally the young males leave.
Writer packs his things and gathers them picking up Umbrella. He walks to the corridor and asks the
authority if there is a city map available. Despite being the metropolis of Houston, Writer is informed
that there are no maps that he can take with him. There is one that he can look at while he is here
though. Writer sits Umbrella down in the corner by the authority's table where bags are searched and
begins to look at the map. He asks questions, returns the map, collects his things and walks away.
Even if Umbrella had human ears, Umbrella could not have known from its position that Writer walked to the door of the bus station and then outside to look around. Nor could Umbrella have known that Writer then walked around the little entryway and finally sat down again in the cafe. Umbrella could not have known until its reunion that during the interim Writer had disposed of the orange juice bottle. It could forever only guess, if Umbrella guessed, that Writer had indeed drank all of the orange juice, for even with human eyes, Umbrella would not have been able to see the cafe area or Writer from that corner where it sat with the armed authority figure standing watch.
It is not uncommon among humans, when they spend lengthy periods in such a situation without their
consent and through no fault of their own, to experience some feelings akin to guilt or develop some
amount of frustration. It should be noted however that Umbrella never screamed nor spoke loudly or
rudely. It was never seen eyeballing the authority figure or the figure's gun. It simply sat there leaned in the corner supported on two sides by the walls that met there.
Also unknown to Umbrella, Writer eventually needed to use the restroom. This was the beginning of a
chain of events that would reconnect the two. Writer called the name of the worker that had served
him in the cafe asking where the restroom was. She asked if he had a ticket. He replied “Sort of.”
Then she explained that he could use the one in the terminal waiting area. The restroom just beside
was unmistakeably closed by a barricade of cleaning equipment that sat in its doorway. So, Writer
approached the ticket counter. You see the “sort of” was in reference to having a pass that entitled
him to tickets, but also in consideration of not having a particular ticket at the time. Writer asked the
workers that were standing around the counter if he needed a ticket to use the restroom in the waiting
area. They informed him that the Discovery Pass would suffice. He thanked them hardily and walked
toward the waiting area's restroom. The authority figure stopped him and asked to see his ticket. Writer showed him. The authority figure thanked him, and Writer went to the toilet.
There was still considerable time before the sun rose over Houston, or the businesses opened there, so Writer sat in the waiting area and watched Three's Company. There was a comical misunderstanding and commercials and finally someone on the screen nearly forgot their umbrella. Writer was obliged to check himself. If Umbrella knew what Writer had thought, the knowledge of that thought might have made Umbrella frown and be cross for sometime, if Umbrella was subject to such. You see, Writer thought back to when his Father had questioned whether Writer would need Umbrella. Writer thought of how he had never even opened Umbrella to see if Umbrella was intact. He thought of the many times that the two had shared and how helpful Umbrella had already been. There was a moment that Writer attempted to calculate whether he had gotten his money's worth out of Umbrella already. He was quite partial to the idea that he had, since he did not want to feel or seem foolish and the possibility became more substantial that he might not ever see Umbrella again. Finally, he retraced his steps to determine where Umbrella was. If Writer had left Umbrella on the bus, it would likely be gone for hours at the least and forever at the most. Writer recalled the time when he looked at the map and realized that if he had left Umbrella there by the authority's table, Umbrella would likely be safe and Writer could easily retrieve it. He waited until time to leave and then rose and rounded the corner into the corridor. He did not smile, nor frown. He did not look intently. He simply walked down the corridor, picked up Umbrella and then walked out toward the open air of the city. Umbrella was again a noticeable weight in his hand, and he began to twirl Umbrella from time to time. He spun Umbrella and walked Umbrella down between the fingers of his hand. The first number of times the action seemed absurd to Writer. Umbrella was nearly as wide as three of Writer's fingers. Umbrella was easily the length of Writer's leg from tip to hip. Yet, Umbrella spun through the air and descended the wiggling steps of Writer's fingers slowly and deliberately.
Copyright 2012 by Edward C. Wells II
Every day she drew
a frowny face on his hand,
and every day he licked his
hand and wiped it across her
forehead, and every day he
thought she looked like the
cute little a-rab in that
Catholic church that
mysteriously looks more
like a mosque. Everyday
was Ash Wednesday. And
he was always comparing
women to girls he had
crushes on as a child.
Copyright 2012 by Robert Louis Henry
how to explain
the true quiet
without babies wives or grandmothers
machinery pumps pistons engines or lawnmowers
go ahead, scroll over the page
a white static screen of instability
against the prefabricated cyanide of escapist victory
I prefer the window frame filled with utter and blackest jet
century-old oak encroaching
dreaming of the work to be done
dusk pending at the speed of knowledge
when compared to a whale’s
swallowing of a single man
Copyright 2012 by Jay Passer
3 poems created using already extant texts and five dice
they were cut
gating a particle
it was simply
our reading habits
afterwards they die
less than properties
William Cromie: The Fascinating Secrets of Oceans & Islands
James Frazer: The Golden Bough
Kenneth Goldsmith: Uncreative Writing
Crispin Glover: Oak Mot
Robert Stecker: Value in Art
Copyright 2012 by Michael O' Brien
Dublin wet and dreary, winter twelve months of the year, the sunless
void, and the Old Man rotten with drink after another month home from
the fruitful rigs. These fruitful weeks my parents spent in the company of
our token relatives, John Jameson and Arthur Guinness. Content with the
social aspect of their lives, I was left to my own devices in the bedroom,
the small wooden desk the Old Man fashioned from a couple of fruit boxes
filled with books and comics to while away the hours while the two of them
supped and sucked like beasts of the field. In the midst of such a world I
grew into my teenage years, believing my Mam to be the female, lesser
God who fed and knitted and slaved at the Old Man's feet.
I was a clumsy lad, prone to falling down because of my uneven legs.
The left was a few inches shy of the right, something the Old Man put down
to his seafaring, saying, “Old Tars sway from side to side, and you're the
son of a son of a sailor man, and those legs will do you nicely.”
Silent; I feared the old fellow would explode and club my ears to
cabbage. When I gathered the bottles from the floor and dimmed the lights
to let them sleep, my short leg caught the edge of the wireless set and sent
it toppling to the floor. Hilversum, Athlone, Luxembourg, all the stations of
the airwaves broke into pieces of brown glass.
“Ah, you omadhaun,” the Old Man said. He cuffed me with his
patched elbow and sent me spinning to the ground. “The feckin’ wireless is
banjaxed. Have you no sense at all?”
Had Mam not sneezed at that exact moment I might have been killed.
Instead, she shivered in her seat and muttered for him to let me alone.
“Have you any idea of the price of these bloody wireless sets?” he
asked her. “It’s an antique.”
“It's only money, love,” she said. And that made him turn on Mam,
leaving me to creep out of the room and make for the bedroom, where I
tunneled into the back of the wardrobe with my flashlight and waited for the
slamming of the doors to begin.
Copyright 2012 by James Claffey
The snow on top of the Sugarloaf Mountain looks like the icing on
our plum pudding at Christmas dinner. From the door of our house I see
all the way to the mountains when there were no clouds in the Dublin sky.
I Love birds, their tormented flying patterns, how they zoom about the sky,
the jerking of their small bodies in the nooses we set to capture them in
the overgrown gardens of the abandoned houses on Rathgar Avenue. We
assemble the traps with the bits and pieces of rusted sardine tins, using the
metal keys to prop the containers open, bits of bread and cheese stolen
from our mammies’ fridges placed in the middle as bait.
I am always doing something Mam terms, “mischief,” and the fact
I’m a terrible liar means I am always caught in my lies due to the bright red
face I have when Mam or the Old Man confronts me. This doesn’t mean I
give up my darting here and there in search of trouble. Most of the time I
sneak about the back lanes seeking out dead birds or wild animals to poke
at with sticks and make totems with their bones.
One afternoon a hedgehog is caught in one of the traps, its eyes
glassed over and staring, the spines shining in the winter sunshine. It is
what Mam terms a victim of circumstance. The fact is, the traps are meant
for the wrens and sparrows, but the outcome is death to the hedgehog.
The thrill of catching such a prize means I spear its body on a stick and
tote it for a good mile around the neighborhood. Old Mrs. Keogh with
elephantiasis in her leg stumps to her gate and tut-tuts at me about
verminous disease, whatever that was.
When darkness falls and the lampposts turn on I make my way home
with the hedgehog. Mam screams when she sees me bring it in into the
house. “Get that filthy beast out of here,” she yells. So, I return to the lane
in the dark and create a barrier, behind which I place the corpse, covering it
with sycamore leaves.
The next morning I wake up itching like crazy, my arms and legs
erupted in red sores. When I show Mam she grabs me by the scruff of the
neck and takes me back to the bedroom. She strips the covers off my bed
and peers at the sheets. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you’ve been ate alive
by bloody fleas! It’s carbolic soap and horse liniment ointment for you, my
Copyright 2012 by James Claffey
On drives in the Wicklow Mountains the Old Man pontificates about
the glory of the Irish countryside and how it’s always good to get out of
the city and breathe God’s good air into our lungs. Mam sits beside him
and knits away, the clicking needles marking time until we reach our
destination. I sit in the back seat, a Famous Five book open, the corners
eaten away, the line drawings of Julian, Dick, Anne, and George (and
Timmy the dog), well-thumbed.
We stop at the Meeting of the Waters in Avoca, where there’s a seat
created by the roots of a tree where the poet Sir Thomas Moore composed
his poems. Mam sets the blanket on the ground, opens the Tupperware
containers of salad and sandwiches for our tea. The Old Man wanders off
to one of the trees and the next thing Mam screams at him for piddling on
Thomas Moore’s trees.
“Go away out of that. I fancy it’s not a sin. A bit of widdle never hurt a
tree,” he says, with a smile.
Mam rattles the salad with her fork, the tips of her ears reddening
the way they do before she has a row with the Old Man. I look away at
the limbs of another tree and the shadows that stripe the ground. It seems
the sort of tree you could tie a person to, blindfold them, and then execute
them for treason, pulling the trigger really slow so as to make them wet
“Eat your sandwiches,” Mam says, distracting me from my
daydreams. I sniff the egg and mayonnaise mixture and make a face. The
car will be a gas factory on the way home, the way the Old Man’s farts are
when he ate boiled eggs.
When we drive on to Glendalough we come to the round tower, and
I am amazed by how old it is, and by the way it stands straight up in the
sky like a rocket ship. We have a photo of it on the kitchen dresser, but in
real life it’s fantastic. Mam tells me all about it while the Old Man mooches
about at the edge of a stream, looking for fish. I run to where he is and
decide to hop across the water on some mossy rocks.
“Mind yourself,” Mam cries.
I fancy myself as a bit of a daredevil, so I make my way into the
middle of the stream, but put my foot down wrong on a slippery rock. Next
thing I know the world is frozen in time and the clouds stop in mid-air. The
Old Man pulls me from the water and pushes on my stomach for a minute.
Egg sandwiches half-eaten spray everywhere and he curses at me in
Wrapped in the picnic blanket, the Famous Five open in my lap, we
drive home, the only sound the angry clacks of Mam’s knitting needles.
Copyright 2012 by James Claffey
I never paid enough attention. Every city in which I settle down instantly
grows into a metropolis of ten or twenty million. The mountain village I come
from would have fit into the park once planned two blocks from where I now
live. The plan had to be abandoned due to the thick cornea of concrete
covering the ground, making it impossible to plant trees. They love flatness
here. Hills, diffidently lifted up by geohistory, are instantly worn down by
thousands of heels, by bulldozers or by blasters who use the complaints of
future cyclists as a pretext, but in fact do not want to build their houses on
slopes. Not everyone arrives as an oak, many are pebbles, trying to avoid
the fate of becoming a grain of sand in the desert. Roundness is their ideal,
and their phone calls gather in one big crunch, never ceasing by day or
night. I am still a man, but in this city a lot of what is liquid in me runs out
and, through secret channels, reaches the suburbs or the great river, and
the only difference between river and suburbs is the density of the sludge. I
get dry and hard in order to be able to resist, and I get smaller to make room
for the newcomers. In my dream I am a chestnut that looks at its reflection
in a puddle and can't find its mouth. I have to wake up and leave the road,
because the new ones are walking with heavy footsteps and don't waste
matches to make people out of chestnuts again.
Copyright 2012 by Rupprecht Mayer
"I sold my soul to god for the presence of a father figure"
I sold my soul
to god for half
an italian bmt
and thirteen or
cards that he said
I could just scratch
his name off of and
replace with my own.
He said I would
live with him in
heaven, so I wouldn't
really have to change
the address or phone
He helped me start
my own small business
each one a single
strand of his beard.
He bought me gold
jewelry and taught
me howta shoot flamin'
arrows from the sky.
I hit a donkey
with one of the
arrows. And god
that crazier things
have happened in
I hit an ornate
wooden mailbox in
the heart of suburbia
and god shook his
finger at me saying
that was a good
family and sent me
to my cabin filled
with virgins and
booze and told me
I was grounded until
Copyright 2012 by Robert Louis Henry
For Whom the Gong Tolls
I felt like I was floating in the thick, moist air. I felt like I was drifting and flying
around the bungalow with the insects. Twenty milligrams of Oxycodon with some gin
and tonic chasers will make most people float. The fat spliffs I was smoking only served
to intensify the experience. I was a mess.
Outside the weather was strange, even for Belize. The day was sunny and humid,
despite the sea breeze. The lazy heat was punctuated by intense and random storms,
downpours lasting anywhere from ten seconds to ten minutes. But the sun kept shining,
even while it rained. The swarms of insects kept buzzing and biting, even during the
The old toaster-sized telephone rang with a violence that felt like daggers thrust into
my ears and through to my brain. I instinctively darted to the phone and answered it, just
to make the pain go away.
“Earl?” the voice asked, “It’s your Uncle Chuck.”
I knew the voice instantly, even if he had not identified himself. Chuck Berris was
on the phone. (Yes, THAT Chuck Berris, the guy who hosted “The Gong Show”,
was calling me. My Aunt Jaye P. Morgan was a regular as a Gong Show judge. She
introduced me to Chuck Berris when I was six years old. I have been calling him “Uncle
Chuck” for thirty years. We are close friends.)
I slurred into the receiver, “Hey, Chucky Baby, what’s good?”
I knew from experience that when Chuck Berris called me about some “action” it
usually meant something weird and violent was going to happen. But I was bored in
Chuck paused for a moment and said, “Nothing I can talk about on the phone. I’ll be
there in twelve hours. Pack your bags.”
About thirteen hours after Chuck Berris called me, I could hear a car come roaring up
my gravel driveway, grinding stones. Chuck had rented a vehicle at the airport in Belize
City. I threw my backpack into back seat of the blood-red Range Rover.
Climbing into the car, I remarked, “You could have called me from the airport, Chuck.
I could have driven there directly.”
“You drive like an asshole,” he growled, jamming down the gas and spinning-out on
Our plane landed in Havana by nightfall. Chucky-baby had not shared any details of
our mission during the flight. He was tight-lipped and focused. My Canadian passport
allowed me to make it through Cuban customs procedures without any hassle. Chuck
had a Mexican passport.
Chuck rented another Range Rover (this one a diesel) at the Havana Airport from some
buxom, high-mileage woman at the rental desk. We drove deep into the city, arriving
around midnight at a mechanic’s shabby garage. Chuck went inside the dilapidated
building, and emerged back outside again in less than a minute, now carrying a large
The satchel contained two Chinese-made AK-47s, two 45 Automatics, potato-masher
grenades from God knows where, and a two machetes. There was also a small envelope
with a picture inside.
As we sat in the Diesel Rover, Chuck Berris removed a photograph from the
envelope, and handed it to me.
“DON’T say his NAME out loud,” he cautioned.
It was a photograph of Osama bin Laden. There was no mistaking it.
After a few seconds of silence, Chuck spoke in a hushed tone, “I know where he is.
He’s at a brothel. It’s a state-run, state-owned brothel with a casino in the same building.
The joint is strictly for VIPs, super-wealthy people, high rollers; a lot of Eyes Wide Shut
kinda shit happens there.”
I still couldn’t speak. And at that precise moment I became sober, my head
throbbing. After another pause, Chuck started the engine and looked me directly in the
eyes before speaking.
Osama turned out to be like every other rich kid I’ve ever known. He was a
thoroughly decadent whore-monger with a powerful taste for gambling and strong drink.
I found out later that Chuck and Osama used to spend time together at this Cuban casino
in the 1980s, after “The Gong Show” was cancelled.
We arrived at the employee’s entrance of a gorgeous, but crumbling old hotel. Two
waiters in white coats and black ties were waiting for us just inside the door. Chuck
asked them, in Spanish, where the “tall man” could be found. They directed us to bin
I carried the satchel full of weapons on my back. Chuck and I decided to use the
handguns, as running around a hotel with AK-47s would probably attract unwanted
attention. We attached our silencers to the handguns.
Chuck and I stepped out of the elevator and onto Osama’s floor. There was a short
corridor with two doors, with a guard at each door. The guards looked to be Arabic, both
wearing suits. One of them drew a gun, followed by the other. Chuck shot the closest
guard in the face, saying “sorry about your teeth.” I shot the other guard in the chest as I
ran toward him. He hit the floor, and I shot him again, this time in the forehead.
I kicked in one door. Chuck kicked in the other.
The room was littered with empty champagne bottles and various undergarments. I
stepped over a skid-marked pair of men’s briefs and into the suite. From my right a dark
figure darted toward me. Instead of shooting, I struck the figure in the head with the butt
of my .45. He fell to the ground, face bleeding. I shot him in the belly.
Chuck came over and looked at the man on the floor.
“You caught him, Earl. You got him,” Chuck said, “now finish him.”
The bleeding man on the floor was Osama bin Laden. Blood was oozing from bin
Laden’s mouth, and there was a large hole in his wife-beater shirt, revealing a fresh
Choking on blood as he spoke, Osama looked at Chuck and pleaded for mercy.
“C’mon Chucky-baby, gimme a break, for old time’s sake.”
Chuck Berris said nothing in response. He produced a paper bag from his pocket,
unfolded it, and placed it over bin Laden’s head.
Chuck ordered me to “finish him” and I complied with a shot right through the
middle of the paper bag.
I glanced at Chuck and asked a question, but I already knew the answer.
“Were Osama bin Laden and the Unknown Comic the same person?”
Chuck lit a cigarette, inhaled, exhaled, and answered, “yep.”
I looked down at the bloody paper bag and said, “Christ, that’s weird.”
Copyright 2012 by Earl Crown