Archive for the ‘Words of Power’ Category

Escalation (Use Only as Directed)

January 11, 2010 3 comments

by Adam Ford

We appreciate that a poster
with instructions for the use
of escalators may seem patronising
and might imply we believe you have
the acumen of a four-year-old,

but we need to completely eliminate
any chance that you could point to us
and say we did not do everything
in our power to make your experience
one hundred per cent completely safe

so despite the fact that if you need help
in order to grasp these fundamentals
then a written list of what to do
on the station wall is hardly enough
to save you from yourself,

please take it in the spirit which it was meant
when we remind you to stand to the left
and within the yellow lines, and to hold
the handrail at all times, but never to rest
anything on it, never to run either up or down

and finally to walk off promptly and
immediately step clear, and further to this
please understand that any use
which falls outside these parameters
is counter to the spirit of the contract that

you entered voluntarily into when
you placed your foot on the top or bottom stair;
having given this advice we wash our hands —
your escalation is your responsibility, so
watch your step because we can’t watch it for you.

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Adam Ford (website) is an Australian poet with three poetry collections to his name, the latest of which is called The Third Fruit is a Bird.

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January 10, 2010 Comments off

by Anne Morrison Smyth

Performance, by Anne Morrison Smyth
Click on image to view a larger version.


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Prize-winning photographer Anne Morrison Smyth (website) grew up in Ripton, Vermont and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She moved to Belchertown in 1999 after living in Amherst for 30 years, where she raised her four children. Anne’s love for wildernesses of all kinds informs her work with an intimate, unflinching celebration of the diverse small realities that create a larger truth.

sea litany

January 9, 2010 1 comment
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The Slovenian Grandmother To Her Daughter The Platinum-Haired Dervish Just Before A Chunk of Stove Wood Was Hurled But Missed Its Blue-Eyed Mark Widely

January 9, 2010 1 comment
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Raise the Lord: To Witnesses in My Driveway Praying on my Rebirth

January 8, 2010 3 comments

by Susanna Rich

Rock Me Sexy Jesus.
—Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming

Not to be rude, dear pious things, but why
are you praying for me like some knitting
circle — needles tap-tapping like blind
pen points trying to write on each other.
Have you no inkling?

In His name, you say, you can only be
saved in His Holy Name. But my
Jesus wants no fabrication, no nominal
yarn gathering or balling. I am who
He wants me to be. I strap His hands

to my headboard, bind His feet —
My Man of Proportions — My All —
My Maker of Love rising up, rising
into me. We make scenes together. My
feet poised over His feet — stigma to stigma.

I raise my arms into a cross. I am His whip.
More, He begs, More pain. Be unforgivable,
so I can be big — bigger. His mouth
is open, aching for my vinegar tongue. Eat me,
He cries out. I lick. I bite. I suck the wine

trickling from His breast. He burns. He sweats
into my sheets. Mercy, He calls out, Mercy
I roll back your religious canons, rescue
Him from your Calvaries. I am not the thief
who taunts Him to save me. I am the one

who mounts Him over my bed, dangling over
my life. We are each other’s thief — me
from below, He from above. He erects in me
His Paradise, where I come and come to Him —
My Adam, His side bleeding where He and I

die into each other, each unknowing day. Put
down your needlings, your moist ends, your double-
hooked unravelings. I don’t need your loops, your
cables,  your stitches. You crotchety prayers, get it —
I have Him nailed.

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Susanna Rich (website) is a 2009 Emmy Award nominee for the poetry she wrote and voice-overed for Craig Lindvahl’s documentary Cobb Field. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Television Daddy and The Drive Home (both from Finishing Line Press); the 2008 Featured Poet of Darkling Literary Magazine; and a Fulbright Fellow in Creative Writing. An internationally published poet and prose writer, Susanna tours the one-woman audience-interactive poetry experience Television Daddy, and is in production for The Drive Home (opening in 2010). She is Professor of English and Distinguished Teacher at Kean University in New Jersey, teaching such courses as Emily Dickinson, William Blake, and 20th Century Women Poets.

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January 7, 2010 Comments off

by Stuart Barnes

Beware of the rule of 3
What you give will get back at you
This lesson you must learn
You only get what you deserve
—The Rule of Three

That pernicious only child of the God of Plagues and Chaos glued with Araldite a raptor-gleam
In my priest’s whisky-eye, moulded into a masturbator his cold, wet fish of a fist,
Whispered slyly in my left ear, “Little boy, run like blazes! While you can, vamos, get the hell

Out of here!” then disappeared. Like a Red-backed bitch on heat on her hands and knees, I prayed
To Mr. Pilate, who whispered insidiously in my right ear, “Where’s the little bastard? —
For I must burn his Birkenstocks and shear those ratty dreadlocks from his head.”

I led him to the olive-moated mountain, where I kissed that son of the God of Plagues and Chaos on his grimy cheek.


The Marys wept like cut grass as the sacred nails pierced the child’s wrists and a sword slid in his side.
“Serves you right,” I muttered, “for your father bore not only good, but its opposite, its other.”

Ghastly daffodils, apples strung up in her courtyard, purple crocus shoving through frost and glass;
In a stucco council flat with a crib of pink-eyed rats and nine metres of Burmese snakes —
Splotches like burnt-orange zeppelins, squirmed to “Whitey” and “Old Nick” — lived Mary, mad

And quite contrary. Bat-winged, bloody-eyed as her two sisters, crouched on a corner
Of the marbled kitchen table with black needles and bales she knitted: an eggshell-blue
Cloak, a sky of motes, an executioner’s hood. The air was fouled by her breath, the light a sickly yellow.

Spryly that headswoman swooped to the herringbone floor, molded beneath her cauldron
Of herbs a pyramid of hieroglyphics, dry grass and sticks, fanned the language and tinder
With her terrible white bellows, and muttered dementedly, “Rise, rise, my dead fellow.”

Man in black, man in black, like Ted Hughes or Johnny Cash, man in a silly Jewish hat,
No wifely striptease for that man in black, only the everyday soul-impaling, the hailing and flaying,
Nailing wooden curlicues, Alpha and Omega, and ampersands. With hair like grey rats

And a staff of flowers, he hobbled and wobbled and cobbled and toiled for hours
For his Gothic queen bee. Eyes could no longer see, feet were swollen as plums,
Hands were like two balloons. He thought, No wonder I despise the Jews.


“In-sig-nif-i-cant,” oozed Her Majesty to the man in black, “a flea, an Australian Aborigine.
You crawl lower than a dog, you can’t compete with this God.” The man in black’s grief grew around him
Like the Sea of Galilee. He made a wish, whispered sadly, “This earth’s better off without me.”

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The title quote is taken from the introduction to “Silence” from the Portishead album Third. The other quote — “Hands were like two balloons” — is taken from Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, from The Wall LP. (Qarrtsiluni asserts that this creative reuse is permitted under the Fair Use provision of U.S. copyright law, which is applicable because our hosting provider, Automattic Inc., is based in the U.S.)

Stuart Barnes (webpage) graduated from Monash University, Australia with a Bachelor of Arts (Literature, Philosophy). His unpublished memoir, A Cold Decade, was shortlisted for the Olvar Wood Fellowship Award. He’s editing his first book of poetry and writing his first novel.

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January 6, 2010 5 comments

by O Thiam Chin

I was twelve years old, in Primary Six, when I saw the protests in Tiananmen Square on TV during the evening news.

Among the montage of surging crowds and marching rows of green-uniformed soldiers was an image that stuck in my head: a man, burnt to a hardened charcoal-black, tied to a smoldering bus, his wrists bound with wire, white plumes of smoke rising out of his body. His mouth was wide open, in a rigid state of screaming, his face lifted skyward and his eyes reduced to dark empty pits. Around him, a few people gawked and stared, but nobody thought of untying him from the bus.

I couldn’t understand what was going on, or what had caused this violence. I tried asking my parents, but they refused to tell me anything, except to switch off the TV and to finish up my homework.

The next morning, on my way to school, heavy with the images that I had seen on TV, I chanced upon a new scribbling on the wall beside the lift: FUCK. It was a new word I hadn’t seen before and I was curious to know what it meant. So I memorized it, tucking the new word into my head, and brought it to school.

During recess, I asked my good friend, Shi Hao, about the word. He laughed his head off when he heard how I tried to pronounce it.

‘No, you got it wrong. It should sound like duck, like F…uck,’ he admonished. I tried a few more times, but still, it came out wrong.

‘What does it mean?’ I asked, puzzled.

‘You mean you don’t know? It’s a dirty word la,’ he said, and before I could say anything else, our form teacher was standing beside us. With a daunting look in his eyes, Shi Hao dared me to say the word aloud. I uttered the word; my teacher heard it, twisted my ear into a knot, demanding where I had learnt such a word. Then she made me stand in front of the class the whole period, arms crossed, pulling my own ears.

As I stood there, shame-faced and scorching with a righteous rage, the image of the charred man at the Tiananmen Square, tied to the burnt bus, came to mind, and I wondered how he had gotten there, whether it was because of something he had said or done.

Maybe I thought, he had done something terribly bad to be punished in such a way; maybe, like me, he had learnt something new that he didn’t fully understand, and was compelled to use it, by force or circumstance, in order to test its meaning, to know the kind of effect it would have on him, or others.

It was only many years later that I got to know the answer that turned out to be closer to the truth I already knew in my heart when I was much younger.


O Thiam Chin’s short stories have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, including Asia Literary Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Best of Singapore Erotica, Silverfish New Writing 6 and Body2Body. His debut collection of short stories, Free-Falling Man, was published in 2006 and his new collection of stories, Never Been Better, came out in 2009.

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