Issue 5.4

Our Lady of the Island

By Richard N. Bentley

Brave rays

once left the slope of her hand,

hoping to radiate out into the stratosphere

a clear signal

to those who wanted her.

But suns set, she knows,

Constellations fade, she knows, and

in the end her weary rays

Flicker across the desert sea,

Lose their nerve, grow listless

While huddled masses,

those who were once necessary

no longer are.

 

Smash and grab a sovereign state,

and her dark fire splutters, casting

only shadows.

It’s getting so you have

to slap her awake

to face the nice girl

she used to be.

___

Dick Bentley’s books, Post-Freudian Dreaming and A General Theory of Desire, are available at Amazon & Powell’s. He’s a Pushcart Prize nominee, and won the Paris Review/Paris Writers Workshop International Fiction Award. He has published over 200 works of fiction, poetry and memoir in Literary Magazines and Quarterlies in the US, the UK, France, Canada and Brazil. His next book will be titled All Rise. The cover features a picture of an unshaven Chief Justice Roberts with holes in his judicial robe, mud all over his face, and a swarm of fleas and gnats circling his head.  In the background, by contrast, are Botticelli’s Venus Rising from the Half Shell, helium balloons, a rising sun, and lots of butterflies. Check out his website www.dickbentley.com He loves hearing from readers. 413-256-0240 

Esse Quam Videri

By Christina Kapp

When I was young, our school motto

was esse quam videri.

To be, rather than to seem.

I was I am I will be

to be, rather than to seem.

I wore blue tunics with the belt around my

ass and a billow of fabric around my belly.

You could be nine months under there—

that’s what we used to say—

no one would ever know.

Lips dry, pressed tight together,

I wore my hair in a ponytail and my

socks rolled down around my ankles.

I smoked cigarettes and pierced other

girls’ ears with ice and a safety pin.

What to be, what to be?

Cogito ergo sum and all but I

thought and thought and thought

because I was I am and would be

a D student who could not seem

to see the meaning in the words

stacked like bricks across

page after page after page.

Can you seem to understand?

Can you seem to be smarter than

that, please, woman?

Will you ever be a real woman?

Will you ever grow to be a real womb man?

How will you live?

How will you ever live like that

with your mouth sealed shut, and

your eyes so open?

It will come at you, woman,

with your black eyes and baby powder face.

It will come at you, woman,

in your skinny flower regalia

and the bong over your mouth.

It will come at you, woman,

with your pressed flat hair and

drugstore lipsticks. Be don’t seem

be don’t seem be don’t seem to be

trying to seem until you can no longer

be anything but fortunate that you

seem enough to be. Woman.

Keep your mouth closed. Keep your lips together.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat.

___

Christina Kapp has published her short fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous publications includingBarn Owl Review, Gargoyle, DOGZPLOT, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Anderbo.com, and apt. She has a M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is working toward her second M.A. in literature at Rutgers University-Newark. She leads the Franklin Chapter of the New Jersey Writers Society and is currently working on her first novel. 

The Teacher

By Christina Kapp

Knees on the earth, toes curled into weeds,

I dig my fingers into the dirt, holding tight.

 

Holding on is exhausting;

humans have no roots.

 

A cat walks by and shows me her claws,

knives curved into sharp white moons, tucked

 

away in black fur sleeves. With a screech,

small birds shatter to the ground. The cat smiles;

 

I hold on. Across the street children chase

a ball down the driveway. It rolls away

 

down the street. They yell: Can you get that?

They are not allowed to roam in the streets.

 

I dig in: I shake my head, feeling the earth.

Fall away. Freedom belongs to the greedy.

 

We are all free to be greedy. Greed is a push.

Come on, lady, please! A child trips forward.

 

The ball has a face. It rolls head over chin.

Faces become wheels. Wheels score the earth.

 

There is no sense in fighting, children.

Gravity is the greatest teacher.

___

Christina Kapp has published her short fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous publications includingBarn Owl Review, Gargoyle, DOGZPLOT, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Anderbo.com, and apt. She has a M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is working toward her second M.A. in literature at Rutgers University-Newark. She leads the Franklin Chapter of the New Jersey Writers Society and is currently working on her first novel. 

Demolition

By Christina Kapp

In the evening, children gather

to ogle the old house of many windows,

torn to an incomprehensible index

of jagged rubble and glass tears.

Already they struggle to remember

what it looked like, if there

had been faces inside, if bodies

had circulated within its rooms.

How loud had been the splintering

of a fortress? Could they still hear the echo

of the machines and men? Why did

all the good things happen when

they were shuffled away at school?

 

In the hours of darkness,

her audience called to dinner,

the old house remains, panting,

a tongue of flowered wallpaper,

her shocked mouth a tipped toilet,

the soft pink of her broken beams

wrapped around an empty belly,

concrete hips tipped sideways,

aching, but still strong,

sagging under shingled skin,

disheveled shock of black roof.

 

She rests stiffly in the silent postmodern—

the hopeless dementia of broken time

that returns to gaze upon her dissembled

form and imagine it again, constructing

anew, the bodies that abandoned her

blinking back at us in secret, charged

collusion of the eternal body,

boiling upwards from the brown earth.

___

Christina Kapp has published her short fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous publications includingBarn Owl Review, Gargoyle, DOGZPLOT, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Anderbo.com, and apt. She has a M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is working toward her second M.A. in literature at Rutgers University-Newark. She leads the Franklin Chapter of the New Jersey Writers Society and is currently working on her first novel. 

Artwork of Eleanor Leonne Bennett

 

Get Back Better On

Do You Feel White Frost

All that Comes from Ores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

___

Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has  been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website, and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.

 

Marishka

By Andrew Purcell

Marishka explaining the human brain with
words streaming like satin banners out of her mouth
and a bottle listing on the table,
the dun-teal liquid looking sickish.
No, she says, this stuff is good, Ukranian,
and smirks, pink “Rus” lips that lust
for anything that bends her thriving mind.
She sucks the slotted spoon with eyelids clenched.

We drink until we laugh like dunces
and half the books she owns are on the floor.
She takes a chess set, grabs a bag of pills, walks out her window;
she’s deep into the shine of Montreal at night, she says,
descants on everything from optics to Camus,
English girls, neural fatigue, the merits of the Shah.

I was born, she says, in possession of a profound innocence,
then giggles, fluent in four tongues, in forked tongue—
gives a shove, goddamns the Klonopin, leans on me and tells me to shut up.
Sometimes I am grateful for this life;
sometimes a balcony is anywhere you don’t fall off.
This is how we talk until the substances wear thin,
until the sun’s meniscus starts to give us hints.

___

Andrew Purcell lives and works in Syracuse, New York. He has met Patrick Lawler.

Chrysopoiesis

By Andrew Purcell

“Sadly, there is gold at the bottom of the ocean.” —Anirban Acharya

 

At the time of this letter, something founders beneath the Perseids,
tear-struck, salt into salt; I’m sorry.
Because I stared while you bit the soaked lime
and juice ran down your neck to your breast.
Because the ocean between us is the ocean of wisdom.
Because lead sinks ever inward, plumbing a further deep.

How this letter will find you even you cannot say, sublime
or a decadent wreck; I can only hope you are not seized
by the summer’s torpor, dreams in dreams of a winter beach,
your sleep half sand, half snow.
I can only hope that seawater beads along your back
and you are free.

Each meteor’s white reddens to darkness above,
whether we watch or not, the verge between us delicate
as the fibrous crystals of purified caffeine.
To sit with you is to be tender and too chaste,
while that which is base in me sinks, turning precious
as it settles, a shimmering of ingots and funerary masks.

___

Andrew Purcell lives and works in Syracuse, New York. He has met Patrick Lawler.

Betrayal

By Lynne Huffer

The goddess must now be my subject.

Would that I could sing a hymn worthy of her,

for she surely deserves it.

Ovid, Metamorphoses

 

ctober, 2002. I’m visiting Mom at her house in Denver. She has lived there with her partner, Gillian, for about ten years, just down the road from the house on Ash Street where I grew up.

“You know I didn’t come out as a lesbian until after both my parents were dead.” Mom is animated, her face flushed. “What does that tell you?”

“I don’t know,” I say. I take a sip of water. “It seems sad not to be able to really start living until after you’ve lost your parents.”

Mom doesn’t talk much about her mother’s death, but today, for some reason, she wants to.

“Things were different then,” she says. “You just didn’t talk about the important stuff the way you do now.”

“What kind of stuff?” I have an idea, but want to hear her say it.

“Oh, you know.” Mom looks embarrassed. “Sex. And death.”

My mother tells me about the last weeks of her mother’s life. It was 1957, and Mom had just graduated fromWellsCollegein the spring. She’d been dating my father for four years, and they had planned their wedding for that summer. When it became clear how sick Helen was, Mom made a plan to get married and then go take care of her mother.

But Helen said no.

“That’s not the proper way to start a marriage,” she said.

“She was probably right, you know.” Mom stirs the soup simmering on the stove, then turns to face me again.

“Anyway, we put off the wedding and I went to New Orleans, where my mother was in the hospital having a biopsy.” She pauses, trying to remember. “I think it was one of my mother’s friends who was staying there.” She looks out the window, then back at me. “Yes, that’s it. In a hotel next to the hospital.”

I think I detect a catch in her voice, barely perceptible. She carries on.

“The friend wanted to know the result of the biopsy. And I told her right away: ‘It’s malignant. It’s cancer.’”

I can see she’s feeling it all over again: the diagnosis and then the friend’s reaction.

“And the friend said: ‘Don’t you ever utter that word to another person.’ That’s what she said when I told her.” Mom’s eyes flash.

“You know, it makes me angry now,” she continues. “But at the time I felt ashamed, like I’d done something wrong. Like I’d been a bad girl.”

Something dark stirs in her clear blue eyes.

“It felt like somehow I’d betrayed my mother.”

I have a photograph of her mother, taken in Florida, where she’d gone for treatments. She looks like an angel who has fallen into a lawn chair. Her face is haggard above the giant bow just under her chin. My grandfather, Charles, sits beside her. She’s forty-seven, smiling bravely, but looks seventy. They know she’s dying: you can tell by the look on Granddaddy’s face. Or maybe I’m simply projecting his anguish when I read the time stamp on the edge of the photograph:Florida–March 1957. By September she will be buried.

My mother is in her seventies now. But I think of her as forty, younger than her own mother in theFloridalawn chair. She still plays competitive tennis every week, and she celebrated her seventieth birthday by riding her bike almost 1,500 miles from San Diego, California, to Saint Augustine, Florida.

“A lot of the other women would take breaks when they got too tired,” she says. “But no way was I going in that sag wagon. I pedaled every inch of the way.”

It’s no wonder I go on pretending she’s immortal.

I want to keep her that way. And so I caress the words that will form her story, even the scary ones like cancer, the ones that have no business near a life so vital. I fondle them like an idol to ward off the evil, and also, I must admit, to get back at her mother’s friend who shamed my mother for speaking the truth. I become my mother’s champion, repeating what she said, like a talisman:

“It’s cancer.”

And like sails my mother’s words unfurl, catching the wind again, filling her lungs with the same awesome breath that pumped her across deserts and swamps, through wheat fields and mountains.

“It was the adventure of a lifetime,” she says. “You can’t imagine the thrill. Being able to dip your bike wheel, first in the Pacific and then in the Atlantic.”

My mother is a goddess who stretches across continents.

I know that unlike my mother’s actual breath, the ventilation I create with my words is artificial. But I go on doing it, unable to take in the airless, inevitable thud of someday: the time stamp, the thumbtack, my mother snatched away, beyond any ocean, to the underworld.

___

Lynne Huffer is a Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She has a PhD in French Literature from the University of Michigan and has taught at Yale and Rice Universities. Her fields of study include feminist theory, queer theory, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies, modern French and francophone literature, literary theory, and ethics.

She is the author of Mad for Foucault; Maternal Pasts, Feminist Futures; Another Colette; and numerous articles on feminist theory, queer theory, and French literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cadillac Cicatrix, Dos Passos Review, Eleven Eleven, Passager, The Rambler, Rio Grande Review, Southern California Review, Sou’wester, and Talking River Review.

Epilogues: A Parallel Poem

By Changming Yuan

Just as both God and Devil are man’s incarnation, so are Heaven and Hell both man’s construction.

 

I

From the front yard of a melodious morning

From the busy road of a sweet Saturday

From the moist corner of a heavy March

From the back lane of pale winter

We have come, here and now, all gathering

In big crowds gathering in big crowds

Gathering in ever-bigger crowds gathering

For the boat to cross the wide wild waters

Before the fairy ferry is fated to fall

Under our feet too heavy with earthy mud

 

II

You may well hate Charon

But you cannot help feeling envious:

That business of carrying the diseased

Across the River Styx is ever so prosperous

The only monopoly in the entire universe

That has a market share

Larger than the market itself

 

Daydreaming, on this side

Of the river, how you might wish

To be an entrepreneur like him

A successful American dreamer

 

III

Flying between sea and sky

Between day and night

Amid heavenly or oceanic blue

I lost all my references

To any timed space

Or a localized time

Except the non-stop snorting

Of a stranger neighbor

 

Then, beyond the snorts rising here

And more looming there

I see tigers, lions, leopards

And other kinds of hunger-throated predators

Darting out of every passenger’s heart

Running amuck around us

As if released from a huge cage

As if in a dreamland

 

___

Changming Yuan, author of Chansons of a Chinaman and 4-time Pushcart nominee, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan teaches independently in Vancouver and has poetry appear in nearly 470 literary journals/anthologies across 19 countries, including Asia Literary  Review, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto, Poetry Salzburg, SAND and Taj Mahal Review.

A–Z: Zeugmatic America

By Changming Yuan

Every time you stage a play or an election in your own yard
You cannot wait to shake hands with your audiences and their wealth
No matter whether it is the passage of a new bill or an old dilemma
You excel particularly at manipulating public will and private property

With your weeping eyes and hands
You keep waging war and peace far beyond your boundaries
While you kill non-Americans and their hope together
To turn all others and othernesses into biblical dust

More often than not, your selfish intentions prove
Much more destructive than your smart bombs
Your invisible fighter jets strike far farther
Than your visible arms of peace effort

You are simply too great for a small criticism
Too super-powerful for a weak opposition
Too democratic for a totalitarian competition
And too single-minded for a double standard

___

Changming Yuan, author of Chansons of a Chinaman and 4-time Pushcart nominee, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan teaches independently in Vancouver and has poetry appear in nearly 470 literary journals/anthologies across 19 countries, including Asia Literary  Review, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto, Poetry Salzburg, SAND and Taj Mahal Review.