Janos Kirkpatrick

benches

I can’t even stand anymore. My knees, my legs have been hobbled. Who did that, I ask? Was it the limb from the oak that fell in my sleep last night? Was it the fence that caught the thistle growing up through its wire mesh? Was it the truck’s plow waiting to push away the blowing winter, soon to come? The coffee beans I had ground and ground by hand are all wasted, too. Used, but now wasted. That is how things go, I suppose. The sodden discard seems to outweigh the use. The driftwood in the lake so much heavier than the forest from which it all came. When my own breath became short, I had to also look around. There was no lack of air, nor occlusion of space, no crushing infinity closing in on me. What was it, I had asked myself once. What is it, I must ask myself again. The well I had depended on to bring me water still worked. The roof I had counted on still kept me free from rain. The garden I trusted would bear me food, still did. I had only to swallow, once or twice, and accept that a kiss upon a man far greater than I had been, had betrayed me, exposed me as being rather soft, and rather gentle. It was especially hard because this had occurred just as my good arm had been reaching out again, and the blow came from a fallen angel, and she struck without grace and without mercy.

Merlin DeSoto

white fence and snow shadows

There had been men, cleaning men, janitors who had been clearing off a table that had had trash on it in the park. They were talking about and grumbling about taxes and money and the government. I sat down at the bench they were clearing off, and began talking to them about how this country had never been attacked, and how aside from 9/11, we in this country had always been safe. I had been thinking about other countries in Europe that were always more or less under or prone to being under attack. And I told the men, “There are three safe places in the world: here, the Arctic, and Antarctica.” At another table somewhat nearby, the Chairperson of the local university had overheard me talking, or lecturing to these men, these economic beliefs of mine as history to them. She called out to me. By then I had been flying in a loop over the park, an elliptically shaped, tilted loop over the park and trees and the benches. I was a little bit worried that if the soft pack that I had held between my ankles should slip out from there, that I would fall and die, but not overly so that it should happen. I was full of joy going around, flying like this, all around and over the park and benches and the Chairperson’s table with all the finely dressed professors and my table full of the janitors cleaning up the park. As I was coming ‘round in flight, traveling counter-clockwise, I saw standing on the ground my late friend, deceased thirty years ago. I was gladly surprised. Looking down I saw him glance up. His eyes were completely black, filled in with blackness. Maybe his mouth had been open and filled with the same complete blackness too. He, facing my direction, as I was flying above him, fell backwards to the ground buckling at the knees and died, and I woke up screaming at this horror.

Holly Evans

branches frozen lake

I had waded in a standstill stream. Below the water’s surface my hand had reached for smooth, curved rocks. Each of these had resembled planet Earth afar, from outer space. And each one I placed inside my apron’s front pocket. I wandered on some time, never thinking to look again at all the stone planets collected in my dress. Some time ago, I stood ashore; the oar I held was pointed downstream, pointing towards where my little boat was next to float again. I had to paddle past the boulders and their violence. If not, the boat was sure to break. If not, what then? Time ago, I woke upon my back in the middle of the night. On waking on my back full of nothing, I watched the moon above my eyes. It had been blurred by clouds. I thought of nothing of where I had wandered. I thought of nothing of where I had once waded. I thought of all the stock-still chances I had forsaken and forgotten by the water where by myself I had been walking long ago.

Eden Brooksdun Platt

orange sunspots 3

The small time apprehensions I had had were never sated. If there had been the falling of a bough from a thunderous tree, I would look only to the open sky. And when a stream had over-flooded, my eye fell on the brightened pebble, once the mud had cleared days, or weeks later on. In another age I might have been deemed ‘delicate’ and in another ‘tender-hearted’ and even in a third perhaps a bit ‘melancholic.’ In this one, I am afraid, no just appellation fits, and there just isn’t a glass slipper, even if in the bottom of a lake, frozen over by a star-cracked sheet of crystal ice, there had drowned there indeed a noble and youthful prince. There are only whispers ever had, and other whisperings which have come before even that. When looking afar across mountains, from one mountainside to another, beyond the valley that lies between the two, you can see the banded snow clouds about to drift from the south to the north, and you know the needles of trees high up near the summit will next soon be covered with the white dust of winter. But, and this is the important thing, I had never—but once or twice in my life—been within that distant forest. I may not have lived inside the snow. Still, there had been in my life a spell of enchantment. I carried it with me everywhere. It was like a calendar without numbers or dates but many pages, all blank, to turn. Or like a faceless watch to be worn on my wrist—without either figures or hands marking its empty surface, yet housing within itself a beautiful jeweled mechanism, bound finely with little rubies and other precious stones from Switzerland allowing it to run always perfectly. For these reasons, when I had been upon the Mediterranean I threw handfuls of sand back into the sea. And when I was in the Alps, soft mittensful of snow into the clear icy air. And at other times, I reached into my raincoat and tossed away all the sunshine and raindrops, too, still hiding plentifully in my pockets.

Samantha Goldenbeck

seascape late noon 2

I had been hiding overnight in my make-believe overnight camper. There were all sorts of things I never saw: a yellow tiger without stripes, a circus tent as high as the sky itself, a perfect diamond as large as outer space. It was a dream of dreams of course, and in my dreams of dreams there wasn’t any sorrow. I admit: there wasn’t glee there either. There really wasn’t a soul left in all the world herself except of course me sleeping in my little cot. I mustn’t, I had believed, write a moment of my mind down anywhere—neither on birch bark nor on the aluminum sills, lest thieves arrive and take from me what was yours, and what was mine. It’s all mixed up now the soot and all the sweetness, the campfire paradise I once had known with broiling devilish heat; good sense with nonsense, apricot juice with turpentine. One day soon when I had woken up, I saw upon the marble bust of tomorrow, the people there were all chatting, some cheerfully enough and others merrily too, even if, upon that waking, the rest of life was cut off from them, severed, like a head chopped perfectly from a torso, and they apart from me.

 

Francisco de Gutierrez-Mahoney

 

red-bellied woodpecker b

I have always been an empty-headed person. I wake up with an empty head, and I go to sleep with one. When I pet the cat in the darkness of early morning, and grind the coffee beans by hand, my head begins to fill up. By the time I have showered and shaved, my head is two sixteenths less empty. My job filling small boxes with three hole-punched rulers that fit by snapping them into the steel rings of three-ring school-binders fills my head up more. By sundown it’s filled up to eleven sixteenths. After suppertime I can feel my beans and rice in my belly which pleases me. A little telly brings it straight to thirteen or fourteen sixteenths. The last two or three sixteenths of my head that is still empty by this time is for imagining traveling one day to Switzerland in particular because I have seen in pictures its beautiful peaceful lake and I feel frightened to go anywhere whose national borders are surrounded by any body of oceanic water. If I have a sixteenth leftover that is only the small amount I will ever need if for traveling one night I am able to get there.

An American Hero Foresees His Life

mountain outlook

Somewhere even from himself he hid all his past scribbled books. In their calendars perhaps were lists of goods to buy and a moment’s revelation. In them were his dreams of dreams, the sentimental schmaltz of his ventures near the mountaintops of Wyoming, and the calumny of his darkest human betrayals.

Like unseen glyphs, these had all been rubber-banded and put aside. Unimportant now, living behind the picture screen of a wall-sized TV, he lay stymied by the day, and frozen by the night. He lived by the wintry solace of the Sun, and was mesmerized by the cycles of the Moon whose cutlass grew until it punched a solid hole through the black pall of night, once more.

A collection of shirt sleeve buttons fallen off cuffs, and assorted hair pins could hardly console him. Camisoles leftover from elsewhere would not wash his own dishes. He tore off his pillowcase half-way each night he slept anyway. The gray light of dawn illuminated the pale trunk of the butternut who’d lost all its bark back winters ago.

A one room house without a door, only a doorway, drew him inside. Its bare earthen floor, its rough hewn walls let in just barely some light between the siding. A woman dead and yellowed lying on a bed alone inside for days made him scream and scream and scream. And he woke to the midnight torture of his mind amok to that.

Concupiscent urges had become handfuls of thumbtacks pressing in. Love cries once in his lover’s arms, were today her cries of war, hidden behind a neighbor’s wall. The constant keening ululation mourned his own death, of a thousand Baker Dancers, ten thousand of them, celebrating themselves behind ten thousand beautiful folds, in exchange for his life force, their victory.

From the distant unhewn cliffs there must have been flown a note of this, completely covered with a bottle spilt over it of India ink. It must have tumbled by roadways and shabby towns, it must have bedded itself in a rusty sink whose dried waters smelt of human blood, out into the reddened dusk of South Dakota where animals in shadows grazed not too close to each other.

Electric Sheep Dream Song

ocean window

Four bodies had lined up in the sky. It was just four-thirty. And I had forgotten in the news that southeast this morning the moon, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter would be appearing. In my dreams I had been at a quiet party, and was wondering how the effect of the drops of acid I had taken were on me, if any. I was roaming around the halls, and thinking to take a naked swim outside in the ocean. When I woke, I realized that throughout my dream the LSD had made me loving and happy. That, my friends, was the trip. That was the mind’s expansion. No surprise then through the trees by accident out my front door, through some blackened branches, I caught a remembered glimpse of eternity.

(read more & play @ egbertstarr.com)

Little House Mouse Chewing

ripening blackberries

There’s a mouse in the wall and it’s chewing at the wood. The mouse doesn’t mind if I bang there, get up out of bed, and pound around its whereabouts. It pauses between my banging sometimes then starts again, chewing. Other times, throughout my own noises, it keeps chewing on the wood. I’m not even sure if it’s joists or rafters it’s after, but after all, to a mouse I suppose it’s all the same. I want to kill this mouse and can’t so I get up; it’s long before five in the morning, long before even my dreams having finished dreaming for the night. They must have been somewhere between fretful and fitful to have been awakened so easily. I can’t even imagine why the mouse is chewing there. It’s only wood. And what good is that, even to a mouse? There are no seeds, no food, anywhere. I buried the sack of sunflower far away from even my house where neither bluebirds singing nor black bears sifting through the brown forest leaves will ever find them. I put them there despite my fondness for both. I had thought: maybe this once, maybe this one time out of an entire sack of seed a single stalk with a giant yellow bloom in summertime will grow, before the cut-worm gnaws the seedlings down in the dirt. I’d like to think it possible but rather doubt it. Still, this little creature working its little mind away for no apparent and no particular purpose, it would seem, has stirred a little poetic vice in me that I have known. And I’d prefer, though I am sleepy yet, to be knocked away by some interrupting stranger, a little beast of any kind will do, or a sheriff’s hand at worst, to be alone before all this gleaming blackness, than slipping off one day into the night.

To Build A Fire

fall trees

I would have imparted to him secrets in whose keeping was a burden. And so I ran and ran. I ran for miles. Next, when I saw him, I said to him, “When’s the fire?” He put up his arms, held out his hands and asked me, “Where?” I ran away again. He wandered the countryside slowly, portly and gnomish, gazing at the underside of brooks and the backside of knolls where he could. And me, I just ran by it all. I kept my breath and myself away from him, as much as I could. Our paths kept crossing. “Hello, again!” I said to him running over a hillock one day. “Hello!” he said, “I like your shoes.” True, they were bright orange, as bright as the sun’s orange spots at dawn, but I was embarrassed by this. “I’ve got a fire pit,” I told him. “You do?” he said. “I do,” I replied. “Well, ok.” he said, “You’ve got a fire pit.” “We could build the fire this weekend,” I said. He told me that he couldn’t that weekend, that he was busy that weekend, but that he could the next.

I knew I would have told him that I had four, maybe five more pairs of these same orange shoes he had admired, all the same, stored in boxes. I knew that I would have told him this and everything. I would have told him everything else, more important things about myself that he must never know. And I knew that were he to come over, and were we to sit by the fire for hours, that secret things would come out, not the way dust is beaten out of an old rug, but lightly and effortlessly, just as the smoke and flames would rise and disappear in the nighttime sky. I knew that there were things this near stranger, this queer little man was apt to understand. Even though I knew this man might himself know the heart of things, I had to run, and keep running, lest he and I build a little campfire.