‘Papa Asparagus’ by Megan Wildhood

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November 14, 2008
Your colleague introduces us. He’s a professor who doesn’t mean to be intimidating. You’re a professor who maybe does. To make up for that big, squashy heart? He’s walking me to the door after a meeting and he hears you furiously typing away in your office. “You two must meet.”

I instantly want you to like me – I have a big, unmanageable heart, too, that is always immediately obvious. So – is this what you want to hear? – I say I’m interested in seminary after graduating next year, though I’ve just discovered the field of theology and am pursuing a Bachelor’s in it so I, being new to the Christian faith, can get all my questions about God answered. You earned a Master’s in Divinity from Yale. You got personal, spiritual guidance from Henri Nouwen, whose books are required reading for nearly every student of theology.

I’m not sure I believe in God yet (I’m new; I’m here on the hope that this stuff about healing and seeing dead loved ones again and the making of all things new is true) but if God is anything like me, God probably desperately wants to be believed in. I try to hide from myself and definitely you that most of my energy goes toward securing love or, if I can’t have that, pity.

March 12, 2010
I have you as a professor. The class is early Christian history, from year 1 AD to circa 500 AD. We mainly discuss the first martyrs of the faith; somehow, you aptly compare us ten students to a T-group. When I refer to that class a few years later – ‘I wish I’d brought crumpets to the last meeting” – you have to explain that the T stands for therapy. ‘That you think of us as a group of little old English ladies knitting socks and sipping Darjeeling when we were talking about beheadings and upside-down crucifixion is phenomenal theology, though.”

I have a medical condition that, it’s becoming clear, my professors need to know about. I awkwardly tell you. “Sometimes, I forget where I am. If I’m not in class, I’m not ditching and someone needs to know.” I give you my phone number, my pastor’s number and my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s number. You, without flinching, give me a nickname: dearest. You don’t ask if I’m seeing a therapist. I thank God as I’m leaving your office, cross the lawn under the oak tree.

Wait. You were not fazed by my intermittent amnesia triggered by loud noises, the idea of fire and God knows what else. You stayed steady in the face of the bizarre – does this make you safe or detached?

Continue reading “‘Papa Asparagus’ by Megan Wildhood”

Three Poems by John Grey

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THE FIRST OF NINE LIVES

Today, any day, we would rather be dead.
No one can answer the question –
“What’s living anyhow?”
The world’s response is this place
where we can safely
bore ourselves to sleep.

Our ambition is to be honest with ourselves.
We really would rather be dead.
But we’re too lazy to misappropriate
all this semi-precious blood.
So we moved into the neighborhood
just to put you in the mood.
And yes, for your information,
we can talk…
that way you won’t confuse us with the cemetery.

THIS EPISODE

the serene
where clouds underpart
frays
and suddenly
all doors are open
from hard rock to angel wings

the ecstasy
of the spoken road
the ringing handbell
the silver sheen
of the floating seraphs –

but then there’s the trespasser
power and money
anything to sully the golden beam
like diamond doorknobs
platinum locks and chains
pistols and truncheons

drained of music
all urgency
all the time
on the line

no wonder
I can’t get through

YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES

The bearded lady’s chin growth,
the alligator man’s scaly skin,
the geek’s live chicken appetite,
the Siamese twins,
the guy with the pointed head –

they’d long passed into history
by the time
I attended my first carnival.

Cotton candy on a stick
was the closest I ever got
to a freak show.

It tasted sweet enough
but I could believe it
with my own eyes.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

‘The Last Will and Testament of Albertus M. Sigil’ by Andrew Piontkovsky

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My name is Dr. Albertus M . Sigil.

I understand that in all probability this will never be read. At least not by human eyes.

But, I will record these thoughts in the hope that, although unlikely, it is at least possible that living eyes may yet gaze upon them.

For so long I have hunted it. I chased it across the world, but always it escaped my grasp.

And now that I shall indeed come face to face with it, oh the horrible irony, I want only to be home, home in my bed, never having known of its terrible existence.

I hunted it across the world. The chase led me to stand, trembling, before the burrowing terrors of  the Mongolian wastelands.

In its pursuit, I have looked upon the black iron walls of , forbidden demon haunted Tarth, and yet still, I walk with a straight back and a sound mind

.

On its path, I have ventured in awe through the pleasure houses and domed gardens of Kush.

In preparation for this task, I practised the esoteric  mysteries of mind and body mastered by saffron robed monks  abiding in the cliff side temples that exist only in the deepest reaches of the world.

I  wandered half dead from thirst, through places  whose names were ancient and decadent, before Western Men first raised their eyes to the sky,  and in hubris declared themselves “Masters.

I have looked upon these things and more and returned.  I tried to tell the tale, only to endure the scoffing of fools who called me a madman, and worse.

Having done all these things, yet still, I heard the insatiable call, and God forgive me, I followed it. I deserted my wife, abandoned my very children, just to return to the test.

I left the warmth and security of my own home, in full knowledge that in all probability, at the end of my journey I would find myself standing alone, in some distant portal, only to find that that I have been met by the grim shade of Death, who has been standing, just there, waiting for me to arrive.

Now my time is nearing and I know that I am  not mourned.

Oh, the irony, that I have chased It across the world, but always It escaped my grasp. And now that I shall indeed finally come face to face with It, I want only to be home. Home in my bed, never having heard of Its terrible existence.

As I write this, it is late in the afternoon of the 17th day of August. The year is 1825 Anno Domini.

I will  now say my final words. Although I have faithfully maintained this journal for many years, I fear I shall not write in these pages again.

Father, my time is near and I commit my soul to your care. I am alone at the end. I have failed and my long quest will soon be over. Have mercy on my soul.

Now I have taken the bait, have been lured here, to this remote fastness.

I half expected that Death would be waiting, just here, for me to arrive. But I shall not have that gift. It seems that although I do fervently pray it shall not be the case, I too am destined to suffer the ignominious fate of the wretch Mr. Renfield. I too shall exist, half alive, under Its sway, a conscious shadow with no substance, and no hope. Never to know the quieting embrace of death.

It is too late and too far to flee now. The swiftest horse could not evade what is coming to claim me. I no longer have any weapon to suffice to the task I came here to perform.

The surrounding hills tower above me. The first shades of evening are already creeping into the valley. Fleeing to the brilliant sun remaining on the snowy mountain peaks surrounding me will only briefly delay the inevitable.

The shadows are growing longer and my courage is growing shorter. It is better that I should wait where I am.

I feel a dampness now, there is a bone freezing chill in the air. This is the damp of a crypt. It is a thing that should not exist, that should not be allowed to exist.

It is mocking me. I hear the music of Beethoven, The Moonlight  Sonata shrieking through the valley, as though a galaxy of orchestras were hidden in the trees of these darkening hills.

Alas! The sun has set.

IT IS  COMING

Archivists notes:

  • Catalogue no. 754, item no. 778-A
  • Item was donated by a man who claims to have found it atop the trunk of a fallen tree while hunting in a remote valley, deep in the Carpathian mountains.
  • The donor reported that a small pebble had been placed on it to keep the breeze from blowing the pages away and that there was a small stain of what appeared to be blood still drying on the second page.
  • The edges of the sheet have been examined and appear to have been neatly torn from the binding of a larger book.
  • Origin and whereabouts of the original book are unknown.
  • The small brown stain on the corner of the second page has been chemically analysed and is confirmed to be blood.
  • Beyond this point, provenance is unclear.
  • No further evidence or information is available for this item.

Contact Andrew Piontkovsky: piontkovsky1@gmail.com

‘Waking’ by Andrew Piontkovsky

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Waking can be wonderful.

The way your pillow  has quietly scrunched itself up to match the shape of your face, the curve of your nose. The quiet rustling of sheets, clean and fresh. Early light creeping in through your windows smuggling a perfume of cherry blossoms.

That wonderful smell. They smell like the dawn. Like spring time. Like life.

But then, The Remembering comes to you. Whispering of tragedy.

 

Like a burning plane, full of shrieking, dying people.  It is a crashing, a screaming rush of every fear you have ever had. And yet, by some horrible miracle, the memory, the terrible unstoppable knowing,  slowly, gently, unfurls its flat dead petals in your mind, like a grave flower.  Quietly revealing the full grey horror of its inevitable, implacable, arrival.

When did happiness die? A month ago? A day? An hour?

Was happiness ever really a real thing? Can that have ever really existed in a world like this one?

Then the last petal uncurls and reveals the final extent of its dull despair.

Yes. there was happiness here once. But then it went away.

Memories come flooding in. Breakfast at Joe’s on 4th. We Got breakfast there every Sunday. Always the same. Eggs over easy, bacon, sourdough toast, and inevitably, those hash browns. He always hated them.  Called them “Shredded, potato like, food substance wafers”. Tom would always laugh and you would say that he was “mental” and  then he would stare in mock horror, showing his beautiful lopsided grin, trying not to laugh as you tucked in to them.

And you had loved him for that.

But that was before. Before happiness fled from you. Over a plate of scrambled eggs and lovely, crisp bacon nestled  alongside a slab of those weird shredded potatoes they insisted on putting on every plate,

“I’m sorry that it came to this, Peach, but I know you understand. We both know this has been coming a long time.  This hasn’t been working for a long time now. I know you understand.”

He paused looking like a man who wants to get this over with.

Continue reading “‘Waking’ by Andrew Piontkovsky”

‘Werewolf’ by Alan Swyer

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This morning, cold and hungry, I approached a woman in carefully torn jeans who was stepping out of her Bentley near the Gucci store in Beverly Hills.

“Madam,” I said, trying my best not to appear frightening in any way, “I haven’t eaten in three days.”

“I wish I had your will power,” she replied jauntily.

For a moment I was sorely tempted to gnaw on her well-toned arm or take a bite of her Botoxed cheek.  But having resolved not to give in to my bestial side, even as my skin started to turn to fur and my teeth began to jut out, I did my best to shrug as the woman headed off towards Pilates, or Botox, or perhaps to fight for world peace.

 

I am what’s known as a lycanthrope, which is a fancy way of saying werewolf.  Lore about my problem — or species — or whatever appellation one chooses to describe beings like me —  has it that we can only be killed by silver bullets or some such nonsense.  For me, a far worse fate than having some yo-yo search from gun shop to gun shop for silver bullets is being ignored.  Or ostracized.  Or shunned.

Is it my fault that at times my skin becomes furry?  Or that my teeth start to protrude?  Or that my breath becomes, for want of a better term, animalistic?

I suppose I should blame Lon Chaney Jr, or Universal Pictures, or whoever it was who started making the films that have demonized my breed.

Even the medieval legends about creatures such as me, though farfetched and ludicrous, are nowhere near as vile or condescending as those willfully haunting but heinously incorrect movies.

That’s why I have resolved to be a fully sentient creature — humane in my own way — always as human as possible.

It’s not my intention to do harm, instill fear, or incite panic.

All I want is gainful employment.  Plus some friends to talk to.  And three square meals a day, especially if they’re accompanied by some good music.  What kind of music?  The truth is that my taste runs mainly to New Orleans R&B:  Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, and the great Benny Spellman.  That owes to the time I stowed away on a ship that landed in the Big Easy.  At the Mardi Gras I attended, thanks to the costumes that abounded, plus the amount of alcohol that was consumed, even when I was in what some call my altered state, no one batted an eye.  But as to music, I also have a fondness for people as diverse as Erik Satie, Solomon Burke, Django Reinhardt, and early Cyndi Lauper.  No one-note or limited being am I.

Continue reading “‘Werewolf’ by Alan Swyer”

Five Works by Betsy Jenifer

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‘Safe Rowing’
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‘An Array of Keychains’
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‘Smoking Muzzle’
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‘Trying to be Glamorous’
silver lining.jpg
‘Silver Lining’

Betsy Jenifer is an eighteen-year-old writer and artist from Vellore, south India. She has been published in Canvas, The Claremont review, Polyphony, The Door is A Jar, The Tishman review and Foliate Oak, among others.

 

‘Pressing All The Wrong Buttons’ by Patrick Macke

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I typically don’t listen to the sound on the TV because I almost exclusively watch sports and dudes like Chris Collinsworth can inspire fits of rage and anger that can lead to health problems. But at one point in this particular game, I wanted to hear a rules explanation so I unmuted the TV. The audio was in Spanish. For the first few seconds, I thought maybe a Mexican dude had made a great play and they had switched to the Mexico City feed so we could all hear how the play sounded south of the border, but when the commercials were also in Spanish I knew there was a situation. So I did what we all do when there is a bilingual mixup or when we just need help finding answers to life’s big question – I stared at the remote.

I was looking for a button that said, Spanish Off. For some reason my remote didn’t have one, but it had at least fifty others that were the perfect size for the finger of a newborn. It’s really not possible for even a skinny guy to hit just one button on the typical remote, he’d need to have the accuracy and hand-eye coordination of an Army Ranger Sharpshooter. So when a normal adult tries to zero in on a single button, he hits two or three others simultaneously which, apparently, results in a TV that only speaks in Spanish or German or sign language.

My remote has a button that says SWAP so I figured that must be it, I wanted to SWAP out the habla and SWAP in the English. I hit it over and over again, nothing happened. There’s also a button with what appears to be an icon of a lightbulb. Okay, I thought, this should do the trick, this is the button that will give me ideas on how to hear the TV in my native tongue. No luck. I pointed the remote at the TV and hit the lightbulb button. I did it again, nothing. Then I did it a third time and I looked down and the lightbulb button was making the remote light up. The “lightbulb” wasn’t about “ideas” at all. Why would I need a light-up-the-remote button? If it was dark, how would I find this button?

My remote also has a button that says LAST. Fascinating. LAST what? Is it the LAST button you should ever press? Is it the button to press right before you get a new remote? I wanted it to take me back to the LAST language I could understand, but it didn’t. There are four buttons on my remote that are labeled A B C D, they are contained in different colored shapes. They remind you of the building blocks you give to toddlers. Maybe they’re language-selection buttons? The letters didn’t seem to have any logical language association, except for I figured the “D” must stand for Deutsch. The letter “C” was in a red colored circle, so using my best racial profiling, I figured this must take you to programming with some sort of Native American dialect. It didn’t really matter because I pressed all of them in hundreds of combinations over the course of twenty-five minutes and nothing seem to happen – no German, no Comanche, no English. I imagined all my button pressing was probably changing the channel at my neighbor’s house.

Remember when TV channels were 2, 4, 5 & 7? Now they’re like 1,876 or 1,054. It defeats the entire concept of the remote control. Not only do you have to remember multi-digit combinations but you need the dexterity of a concert pianist. For example, the station I want is 1-0-1-5. I point the remote over my head at the TV and blindly try to hit those numbers in sequence, but for some reason, only two buttons register and now I’m watching channel 1-0. If I look at the remote to ensure that I press the right button then the signal doesn’t hit the TV and if I make sure the remote is pointed precisely at the TV I can’t type in the right numbers. I type in 1-1-0-5, 1-5-0-1, 1-1-1-5. My hand starts to cramp. I decide to use the UP arrow and toggle to 1-0-1-5 starting from 3. After one hundred UP arrow pushes, I’m suicidal, despondent. I go back to the keypad, 1-0-1-1, 1-0-0-5, 1-5-1-5, 1-5-5-1, 1-0-1-4, 1-0-1-1 … I’m an idiot and the remote control is turning me into a bigger idiot.

People used to change the channel by hand … “Hey, you little bastard, change the channel while you’re up!” My grandpa always had to have the latest technology. He had some of the first TV’s with “remote control.” One big button changed the channel. It actually physically moved the knob and made a loud ka-chunk sound so that you knew you were accomplishing something. The knob only turned one way, so if you got a little trigger happy with the remote you could miss your station and have to go around again. Those were the days – one five-pound remote with five buttons, channels that only went up to the number thirteen and TVs that always spoke your language.