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The Different Mosses

December 31, 2008 2 comments

I was home alone. My big brother Jimmy was at the ballpark with his pal Zack, and Mom and Dad were down the block helping the Hendersons set up for a garage sale. They were selling some of my old stuff, too, mostly dolls I’d outgrown, so I’d helped put up the posters. I put one on a street sign and got yelled at.

Last week, I found where Dad hid the gate key. My heart was pounding a little and I was doing shallow breaths, because this was my chance: I was going exploring behind the back fence. Mom and Dad told me never ever to do that after I went there once last year and Dad caught me. Besides, it was scary with the Wall towering over me back there, and even scarier because the grownups never wanted to talk about the Wall, and if Jimmy or I mentioned it they changed the subject fast.

I didn’t know what to expect at the Wall when I sneaked off there last year; I was just being ‘brave.’ A school lesson that week had been about the men (and women!) who fought in the war. Ms. Tapley, our teacher, said they were ‘brave,’ though I think she called them brave just because they all died. Going to the Wall was the only thing I could think of to do to be brave. Read more…

Car Salvage Yard

December 30, 2008 3 comments

Revelation of the common man

December 30, 2008 7 comments

I
Go tell John to stop writing backwards. Stop calling forth unrooted trees. Make broth from worn shoes and empty hands. Stow away family albums and vermouth. Place neon bar signs over your doors. Winnow the undesired shoals into darker waters. Resuscitate the pipe organ. Pound cutlets from abandoned expatriates.

II
They won’t ply you with ice cream trucks. They cannot play chess. They will not mime a man trapped in soggy tissue paper. They won’t abscond with the escape ladders. They won’t fritter the last hours away on carousels. They will seal every exit but cover their footsteps. They will hesitate before slicing the skies and filling you with sawdust and straw. They will want what you can never say to them unless you are speaking in tongues.

III
Liquor drizzles the porn collection. Hula hoops enter oncoming traffic. Viaducts volley their occupants. Articulating arms reach out for pulsating bodies, leech heat. Tarot cards shuffle, tell the same story. Fur stoles crawl into knotted piles. Stamp collections peal away from their albums, mail themselves to the past.

IV
In disastrous end-times, you will suffer: unending lines at the grocery store check-out; muscles, unmassaged and unused; queasy silences at the dinner table; the coarse laughter of your daughter’s daughter; a crushing lack of caffeinated beverages; mosquitoes (their bite and buzz); the stench and mortification of eternally unbrushed teeth.

by E.A.P. and Dana Guthrie Martin

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Another for Jim

December 29, 2008 Comments off

Harshly. Harshness that subsides to beauty
but not yet. Landscape
softened to torrent, wash of windshield wipers, wish
wash, blurring the bumpers and the bumper
stickers, bare trees spilling to action.
What it is to imagine atrocity. With clarity.
Shudders and stutters,
glazed eyes, loginess derived from antipsychotics.
What we think of
as madness actually side-effects of drugs
used to forestall it. Think

of this. Information, imagination, the relation
between.
Your taxes pay for war and torture in
El Salvador.

Here it gets thin, not what happens
horribly, but before
and after, how image soothes the gap,
maybe a rooster, shrieking berserk,
becomes a hand tearing the landscape, its
photo, torn paper. You went into this
further. Behind the techno-scrim, bright pilots

expose their weapons, you felt for what went on.
Under cloud cover. Then mad for good,
not numb in the gameshow eye. But nonstop
talk, breakneck drive.

by Monica Raymond

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Shattered Glass

December 28, 2008 1 comment

Fighting Words in Hindi Movies

December 28, 2008 2 comments

You dog! Villain! Rascal! Your death is standing behind your shoulder!

In old Hindi movies, hero and villain would face each other and trade threats, then begin fighting with fists and kicks. Bad guys fell dramatically at the slightest touch of the hero’s hand. Sometimes even before the touch. Movie fights were known as di-SHOOM-di-SHOOM, after the crashing noise on the soundtrack, as if each blow were a grenade blast. Blood flowed like catsup. Hairdos were not disturbed.

I’ll break your body in such small pieces, the God of Death won’t even recognize you!

A man I loved was blown up, with others, far away in Beirut. He was my first death, the first death that cut into my flesh. He opened the stone doors of death for me. Back at home, there were flag-draped coffins, a memorial service at the Cathedral. All was ennobled.

After pomp and ceremony were neatly folded and stored away, I spent a week on my hands and knees, scrubbing my kitchen floor. Nothing was washed clean.

You crow! In your laughter I can hear the death rattle!

Soon after that, I saw a movie with Rudolph Nureyev as a violinist. During foreplay, he stroked his violin bow over Nastassia Kinski’s skin. But first there was a scene in a cafe, pleasant and ordinary. Then a bomb went off di-SHOOM and bodies were splayed everywhere and before I knew it I was on the floor again, crouching in the theatre’s darkness.

I will kill you in such a way that even death will hide its face and run away!

After that there were so many. The dead, who had been translucent as ghosts, grew opaque, like the rest of us.

I’ll beat you into such a death that death itself will become exhausted!

Now on television, in magazines, in newspapers, everything is displayed: the cratered road, rubble and flesh, sirens wailing. The shoe with the foot still in it. People carrying bodies in their arms, like angels.

I’ll cut you in half — I’ll make you fifty-fifty!

Last week bombs exploded in Delhi markets. Shoppers said, “I heard a big sound!” A boy selling balloons was the main eyewitness. News cameras panned across smears of blood.

When my eyes are tired, sometimes it’s all catsup to me. But I’m not really fooled: I know death is there, quiet behind our shoulders.

Get the funeral pyre ready now!

by Nancy Gandhi

Reading by Dave Bonta and Beth Adams – Download the MP3

Preparations for the Final Hours

December 27, 2008 2 comments

We did not believe at first:
the absence of a mountaintop,
the presence of wings
stapled on.

A dozen angels
orbited the Barnton roundabout,
spitting glitter
at the peak time jam.

We felt anger
in hymns they hummed
whose words
we had long forgotten.

Cars barbecued
like hamburgers
smoking from
the bubbling tarmac.

Dogs howled
interfaith prayers.
The atheist cats
growled back.

“Hurrah!” the dogs prayed.
The angels dropped low,
unaccustomed to appreciation,
and sang off-key

on how faith was possible
if cynicism became
less routine
when demanded of us.

by Rob A. Mackenzie

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(no headlines)

December 26, 2008 1 comment

Progress

December 23, 2008 Comments off

Expansion at a Time of Great Leavings

December 23, 2008 9 comments

“If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant,” Mr. Palomar thinks, “and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen.”
—from “Learning to be Dead”, in Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino.

“They got it wrong, this time.” She sighs and looks for tell-tale furrows, leaving the thought undone. That happens more and more. Each day her urges mature, exponentially. She ponders Derrida’s philosophy, dreams of peach gelato and recalls the fading blue of glacier ice. All the while her skin smoothes, blemishes fade, wrinkles flatten against tightening skin.

Now she moves quickly from tiny room to room. Passes over paths carved between chairs and boxes of canned vegetables to cluttered countertop, to closed window. Tasks pile undone, stale bread wrappers litter the bed, faint soap scum rings the sink. Books lay open in every room of the apartment. At deep window sills grit-dams form on the outer ledge. Swirling piles reconstitute themselves every dull orange morning.

Once a day, before the dust storms gather, she visits the small balcony cantilevered off her main room. A folding chair is wedged between desiccated tomato plants and the clean surface shaped to her bottom will be erased before she goes to sleep tonight. The metal chair is askew, startled by her rough movements when she jumps at the sound of frantic knocks barely heard through the closed glass door.

He puts a cigarette in his mouth and tumbles a plastic lighter through his fingers as if it were a coin in a child’s magic trick. They both know he won’t light the tobacco — this is just for show. It’s impatience, as if he couldn’t be bothered with this moment, one he is swatting at like a bothersome fly. He’ll soon leave, before the chill of the room can penetrate bodies at rest.

Plucking the cigarette from his lips, he spits out words stiffly, “They’ve come for Jamie. I thought you would want to know.” She picks at a frayed place mat and flicks a seed husk to the floor. No, she thinks. The cigarette is a statement of inherited wealth. He holds it like it wasn’t the last one he’d ever own. As if the paper was still white, as if it was still a perfect cylinder, fragile and solid. As if the spittle-stained wrapper was fresh and there were 19 more to be had any time he wanted.

The lighter is empty, and has been for months. She glances at him, past her long bangs, to fingers fondling a milky white edge, ragged and dirty where the lighter’s end was smashed by someone against brick. Precious liquid used to start a rubbish fire. The clear blue plastic is as much a relic as glacial crevasses; it’s as inconsequential as bergschrunds reduced to ashy heaps.

“It doesn’t matter,” she replies. She stays still, doesn’t reveal that she caught the flicker of surprise he brushed away after her response. He is studied nonchalance. Her hair is a veil that’s been growing, faster and faster. Scissors and a toothbrush rest together at a dusty bathroom sink. For a time the change was imperceptible. She didn’t notice the gradual increase until she had to trim her bangs every few weeks. Now she cuts both morning and night.

She can no longer find rubber bands large enough to bind up her brown hair in camouflage. A twisted ponytail won’t do. She plaits it, impatient for time lost to grooming; she could be reading. She wouldn’t bother at all, except she has become a curiosity and she doesn’t want rumors. At one time she could have donated all that long dark hair to wig-makers who specialized in chemo-kids and women. But there are no children, and the one shop still in business would be suspicious if she came once a month to donate, when there was a time it had taken her years to grow hair long enough they’d harvest it. It’s a shame. All that hair, wasted. If she weren’t so distracted she’d learn to spin yarn from her hair. She’d make ropes, or jackets. Perhaps nets.

But libraries are bare. There are no reference manuals for what she needs to know. The homesteading books were the first to go with their promises of lost-art knowledge: How to survive. And what she hadn’t been able to steal from the book-burner’s pyre became fuel. Momentary warmth and light, a way to sanitize water, make thin grey tea.

This visit is in the early evening, twilight in dusk, so she pushes her fringe aside to look at him straight on. “It doesn’t matter,” repeating her conviction when he swears under his breath, “Why do I bother? I have better things to do than to walk all the way over here.”

“No. You don’t.” His eyes widen the thickness of a lash. He’s polished his fuck-off attitude until his face is an immobile stone facade. But even stone crumbles, especially from her vantage — a receding figure in the foreground; illogical but undeniable. Her body will grow younger and younger as the weeks and days go by. Her body will return to preconception while her intellect expands until it will know no bounds, until it knows too much. And she will disappear. She’ll stretch between expanding and receding states. A human experiment shaped like a rubber band. One day. Pop. She won’t be in this apartment.

“It doesn’t matter?” he snaps. And hisses, “Oh, it does. It does.” He squints and then opens his eyes wide, pretending to yawn. She knows. He doesn’t want her to see rare moisture forming the sliver of a tear.

by Deb Scott

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