Issue 5, Summer 2014
Welcome to our Fifth Issue!
Collected here is the work of unique artists who all share a similar conceptual interest in what is new, edgy, & experimental in their chosen mediums. These are artists who are making their own paths, guided by voices/visions/passion to create, to explore, & to discover.
In this issue, we offer a wide range of poetry, prose, visual art, music & video. Please continue to scroll through the entire issue to see the work of these artists who are trying new things & approaching their creative pursuits in different ways.
Thank you for reading, listening to, & viewing the collective work of the artists featured in our 5th issue. Please click on the links below or on the side panel to view each artist’s individual page & find out more about their work. We all thank you for your support.
The beginning of time
It Only Happened Once
Parked in an empty lot, I think about you, scrutinize how it might be, the intimate details of its skin and scars. But it isn’t enough, and I drive home, muddle to bed. The next day I ache as much as if we’d been together, cracked skin and bones that seem forced wider than before. Did we? Did I tell you that I want to know all of you? Maybe I harassed you, disturbed our coveted distance, assaulted your composure. And perhaps, I was your predator, hungry for the carnage our bodies could create. I am, after all, the pervert who tries to get off in public parking lots. And what if you know? I want you, just once, too hard, quick enough to know. I want to feel you’ve thought of me, too. I want to gasp because you’ve hounded my hips, waist and thighs, the way I could be bent and entered, the way, afterwards, I’d shrug on my ravished clothes and leave.
Justina Kairyte – Fee Lion
Chief Radsville—that was the name of our teacher (and yes, he said, his real name was Chief)—told us not to draw the butterflies. Try to see her body without the butterflies. But the butterflies were everywhere: wings sprouting from her back, vivid and detailed as if newly inked, wings splayed out across her rib cage and reaching upwards to cup her flawlessly rounded breasts like loving, multicolored fingers, tiny fluttering creatures breaking off from the wings to fly downwards over her stomach. And below her stomach, where there should have been hair, was a butterfly the color of a freshly plucked strawberry, its delicate lips parted open, kissing nothing.
I wanted to know her name but was afraid to ask, so I kept my pencil to paper and tried somehow to capture a flimsy filmy flake of her beauty, and to do so without staring.
I was the only girl in the class. I was fourteen in a room of middle-aged men with lingering dreams of an artist’s life. Whatever they had abandoned art for had yielded E-class Mercedes’ and custom made BMWs with beige interiors resembling newborn flesh. Now they were back. These men had bald or graying heads and thin-rimmed spectacles, deep grooves in heir leathery skin I sometimes thought about running my fingers along, tracing. Yes, sometimes I thought about touching these men. Sometimes I thought about jabbing my pencil into their carotid arteries and watching their blood spurt out in fantastic geysers onto the studio floor. Sometimes I thought about their wives.
Mostly I thought about how much—despite their furrowed-eyebrow focus on a graphite rendering of ghostly shapes, a sad, flickering shadow of her arching, rainbow figure—they must be dreaming of pressing their mouths to her cold blossom-pink nipples, stiff as the rubber caps on baby bottles, making them warm, opening up the wing-like folds between her legs and plunging themselves in, as if into butter. I couldn’t understand in those years why a man would long to get his penis wet, couldn’t understand the appeal of the indelible stickiness he’d have to carry around with him all day.
I thought maybe her name could be something like Katarina—her elegance was both foreign and dirty and made me think of a Coke can discarded in the gutter. She posed for hours, wrists like sapling twigs crossed above her head. Hours, without moving, without twitching. The hours were long and gave me time to wonder if she were real at all, if she had ever moved, if she had ever spoken, or if she had came to us from a catalogue, plucked out from a glossy page, ordered by number. I thought maybe her number would be something like 00166512.
One afternoon after class I followed her out of the garage and down the street. I didn’t have a plan or know what I was doing, I didn’t know what to expect. She wore a blue kimono and ballet slippers, nothing else. She smoked a cigarette as she walked. She stopped at a grayish minivan from the 90s and deftly slipped a key into the lock. Then she saw me.
“It’s not my car,” she said, almost apologetically, “It’s my mom’s.”
“Oh—that’s okay,” I think I said something like, “it looks really…spacious.”
“Yes,” she brightened, “lot’s of space.”
I smiled and kept walking. The bus stopped at this corner, I’d take it up Ocean Park, I figured, try to forget the van with it’s paint half scraped off and the waxy translucence her face took on under sun light. The veins sprawled out beneath.
“Do you need a ride?” She asked. I turned around. I said yes.
I told her where I lived and she drove me half way there before pulling over into an alley just behind Santa Monica airport.
“Why are we stopping?”
“Don’t worry, I just need a hit. Do you get high?”
“Ha,” she laughed, “I started when I was twelve. Well, pot, anyway. Not this until sixteen, I think.” I thought maybe she could be twenty-two, the way the skin of her belly stretched smooth and seamless across her hipbones like canvas pulled taught across a wooden frame. I thought maybe she could be eighty-nine, the way shadowy half-moons carved themselves out beneath her eyes like radiation scars of many horrors seen.
From her glove compartment she produced a Bugs Bunny Pez dispenser. She broke open his jaw and wriggled a small Zip-lock bag from his gut, dangled the semi-pulverized rocks in mid air.
“What is it?”
“It’s the only crystal a girl like me will ever get,” she said, pouring just a little bit onto the mirror side of a CD and chopping it into a fine powder using a pink and white striped gift card from Victoria’s Secret.
For the same reason I accepted a ride from her, I accepted a line.
Instantly, everything shifted into focus. Colors and lines sharpened, they reached out to me, wanting a connection. People describe a racy, euphoric feeling, but for me, in that moment, my mind and spirit synced up to become immensely calm. A ghostly gray-green light glowed from behind the skin of her face; I thought her eyes would burn holes through her skull and leave stains the color of Zyclon B.
“They were expensive, you know?” she turned to me, rubbing her nose whose tip now seemed squishy and detachable, as if sculpted from putty and pasted on. I wanted to touch it.
“Yeah. No. What was?”
“The tattoos. It kinda pisses me off that Chief doesn’t let y’all draw them.” Did she have a Texan accent? Yes, suddenly she did. And suddenly the garage where she posed felt very far away, and the men who drew her were little inconsequential, two-dimensional blips who existed only for the purpose of providing us with a villain, because without a villain, we wouldn’t have anything to try and feel safe from, and then we would never feel safe.
The Pacific Ocean stretches away from him. There is a sharp wind and the sky is absolutely clear. Sunlight glares off the water. Waves build up and then fall flat, squashed by the wind. No one is swimming, no gabby frolickers in bright bathing suits on the beach, no polished skin oiled and smelling of coconut. Just a scattering of men bundled in dark clothes, homeless silhouettes against the pale sand, all keeping a safe distance from one another. And from him.
He sits on the sand, hugging his knees. Cold seeps up through his jeans and down the back of his neck. The wind whips up a gritty powder, inches above the beach surface. It stings the exposed skin above his socks. This cold is unexpected. He had driven off with no jacket, just a thin shirt.
The sound of the waves and the wind masks her footsteps until she is too close.
“How did you find me?” he asks.
“You’ve told us about this place.” She groans softly, an exhausted sound, and sits next to him on the sand. She still sits cross legged, like when he was little. Her thick knit brown sweater almost touches his arm. She tries to keep her shoulder-length hair behind her ears, but there is the wind. Her hands are pink and cracked against her face. Crows feet deepen as she squints in the sunlight. The bruise by her mouth has mellowed to a darker purple. She looks out over the water.
“Anyway,” she says, “I needed the long drive.”
There are two tankers steaming offshore, boxy control towers at the stern, ridiculous looking long decks, their hulls a matching dull red. He can’t say how far away. On this clear day the boats seem close enough to reach with a pleasant swim.
“The police are looking for you,” she says. “They’ve got witnesses.”
He looks down and notices a bit of dried blood under his fingernail. He pushes his finger into the sand, trying to shove the blood out. His shoulder bumps against hers. She leans away, just enough.
They had run from his father a long time ago. She pulled him out of school in the middle of the day, the swollen lump on her cheek hidden poorly behind sunglasses, and sat him in the backseat of the car with a few of his favorite toys. He was eight. For five years they lived in small, dark apartments—varieties of yellowing fleur-de-lis wallpaper, windows opening to the brick wall of the building next door, he sleeping on the narrow bed next to a small homework desk, she staying on the couch in the other room with the television. Then his parents got back together. His father gave deep-eyed promises that the bad was behind him and the subject was put away, the five years of hurt left sulking in memory. His parents danced and laughed. Friends gathered around their waxed-to-a-shine table. His father never hit her again. Until.
“Do you know what you are going to do?” she asks.
He barely shakes his head. Blown sand gathers around the sides of his sneakers and the cold leaks through the fraying material. He will need stronger shoes. She stares ahead, giving him no sign. He rocks forward and stands up, one smooth motion, and walks to the water’s edge. Wind and glare burn his cheeks.
Doing it had been surprisingly easy. All he needed was a knife and an opening.
After a moment she stands beside him. She has given up trying to control her hair and it whips and flops about her head. She pulls a plain white envelope out of a pocket and passes it to him. It is thick with money. He runs his thumb across the edges of the bills. They are soft, almost fluffy.
He wonders if terrorists blew up those two oil tankers out there would the fireball be large enough to swallow him up.
She says, “Put it in your pocket before it blows away.” Like she’s talking to a child.
He closes the envelope. He will not put it in his pocket. “I just wanted to scare him. I didn’t want him to hurt you again.”
“Don’t hang this on me,” she says.
He doesn’t have the foggiest idea where to hang this. Eyes looking the other way in the hallway as they passed. Hours of harsh silence around a fishing pole. Morning coffee slammed on the table. Something as dumb as the last potato chips in the bag. Watching for the fist to clench, even wanting it.
“Your father could be a hard man,” she says, “but I took him back. Now forgiveness feels like a sin.”
Forgiveness. A pelican glides just over the ocean, the tips of its wide steady wings barely missing the water’s crests and points, its grace spellbinding. Transforming into sharp right angles, the bird elevates quickly, stops in mid-air and splashes down, head first. It surfaces, swallowing it’s prey.
He closes his eyes, wrapping himself in the sparse heat of the sun by force of will. The wind sneaks between his shirt buttons. He reaches for her hand.
The Screaming Cat
D. E. Lee
If you would just get your lazy ass out of bed and come to the walls you would hear it, would know what I’m talking about, would feel in the panels the humming dread, the pain shoved inside that wants letting out, that burns like scraps of hot iron hate.
She glows beneath the thin sheet like a wet green mountain.
I hear nothing. Come to bed.
Her foot, furry rat, burrows beneath the sheet, her shield against terror. Are you going to do something, she says. If you won’t, come to bed.
His skin is yellow in the light, boney in the boxers, thin in the T.
Oh, Christ, she exclaims.
Arms extend outward from the corner. An ear sucking the wall for villainous rumblings. Feet splay against the baseboard.
I should nail you to the fucking wall! Come to bed already!
Don’t you hear it?
She’s dumped onto the bed, a leg crossed, entangled in the winding sheet, air thin, knotted about her arms, daring to reach up bare shoulders shiny with sweat. Sheets falling into her lap. Cinnamon sugar breasts waggling free. She pulls on her hair. Now, she says, I hear that.
You hear it?
Your goddam phone. What time is it? Oh, god, it’s fucking three in the morning!
He scrambles across the bed, flips open the phone: Give me the report. The facts. What happened? How many? Where’s the father? Officer’s name? Where? Describe it. Landmarks? Anything else? Anything?
He kisses her briskly the same way he stuffs keys into his pockets and throws on a shirt and slips on shoes and closes the door with a rattling clack. A sound of relief. Another way of not looking.
And then silence soaks the house, which tongue cannot disturb. Her Vaseline lips close. She reaches for the wet nightgown, pulls it on, gives up searching for panties, and boils water. She stares at the red burner, the demon eye glowing like the tip of her cigarette.
Her feet are cold.
The cat. Tell me you hear the cat. I know what you say. But you must. You must hear it. The howl is god awful loud. Makes my teeth shatter. Tell me, tell me what to do.
She shakes her head. Twists open a bottle. Hands it to him. I can’t hear a thing, heavy sleeper, right through that shit, you know that.
He takes it. My job is to receive the report, not to make it. He watches her down the barrel. It’s new territory, I don’t know what to do. Beer churns like an ocean down his throat. And you—who could sleep through that noise!
Her eyes are fearful, watery, red. She picks at bread on a plate, examines each catacomb crust before tonguing it, sucking it like a bug between insipid lips.
Don’t scream at me, she says. I sleep with you, I’m not your conscience.
A drive around town at three o’clock on wet pavement is a racetrack for his mind. Father arrested. One child sent in an ambulance. The others placed in shelter. A wilted, weeping mother left alone in the company of an overweight sister whose wet carpet smell fumes from her clothing. He hates his job but hates the abusers more. Evil feelings. Blamed entirely for tearing up families, though he is putatively their protector. The drive in the dead of morning. The desolation of grimy trailers and tattered apartments. Among the piles of soiled clothing, streaked floorboards, mangy beds. The drive in the dead of morning like a brisk cleansing shower.
He retrieves a notebook from his car. On the way inside he meets Mr. House and his son Jeff. Mr. House from the apartment below. A square man with an infectious, campaigner’s smile. Likes to shake the bones. Jeff’s tall and reticent. Keeps Adidas runners by the door. Never allowed inside. Exhausted by mileage.
Never heard a cat, Mr. House says. No cats around here. See what I’m saying? Not around here. Tell you Jeff’s heading for Rutgers? This fall. Rutgers. A partial scholarship for track and field.
He’s seen him run on the streets. Saw him while he was driving. He was fast, fast like the desperate are fast, those black slabs of muscle in his calves, those shiny hamstrings. He was beautiful like a panther. He thought of pulling over, taking him right then and there to Rutgers, to hell with it all. But he drove past, a report to write, other things to do. He knows it now: he swapped a report for regret.
Haven’t heard a cat, Mr. House says. He owns the dialogue now. He always does. Could be television. The way they rant. Could be. Maybe that’s it. He laughs, it’s all so funny to him.
Jeff stands quietly in the shadow of his shorter father. Eyes barely rising above the ground. Of course he’s nervous. A seismic wreck. As if waiting in line for the gas showers. Yes sir, he says when questioned. Yes sir. Long fingers twitching.
Mr. House claps Jeff on the shoulder: We’re all real proud of him. Rutgers! Tell you what it is: You see those parents let their children roam the streets at night? Not me. I’m fair. But strong. What has to be done. Can’t tell me this boy ain’t the living proof. He knows it. He damn sure knows it. See what I’m saying?
The feline lamentation shatters his sleep. Upright he reaches in darkness. His hand plopping into the warm bare belly pudding. At the end of the bed his pants. Creeps barefoot on rough parquet. Behind him she rolls in chunky groans. An arm teetering on the brink of the mattress. Slips his fingers between the blinds. Opens a crack to reveal the white lamplight on the apartment stucco. The kitchen door creaks. Toes cracking on the steps to the common area outside. Dew licking his feet. Cold slithering tongues. Glistening starlight overhead. A roof rat scampers along the gutter. The man sympathetically serene with the rat. What harm could you ever do? Your mind is not my mind. A catapult of shrieks builds in his throat. He considers how big the problem really is, how little he understands, aware many things must never cross his mind, how much he stubbornly ignores. The screaming cat is in the apartment. In Jeff’s room. The rat scuttles by willfully ignorant. Your mind is not my mind. Your mind . . . he shudders . . . is not my mind. And he whispers: Go on twitchy fellow. I can’t think about it either.
He sits for hours in court. The case takes twenty minutes. The judge returns the children to the mother. With services. He leaves court and sits with a co-worker at a concrete table crumbled like the target of a suicide bomber.
How do you keep caring?
Who says I do?
That’s what we do isn’t it?
Tell you that in social work school.
Are you ever frozen?
All the time—who wants to be a home wrecker?
You stopped caring . . . when’d you stop?
First bleeding anus I saw on a five-year-old.
Why still doing it?
I’m mad, one reason; the other: everyone else thinks I care and I can’t let them down.
Yeah, I hate it, too.
He rolls through interstate traffic. The cell chimes. He puts it to his ear. Other hand steering behind a garbage truck. He knees the wheel, keeping the car straight, turning down the radio: What is it, honey?
It’s Jeff . . . he’s dead.
Jeff? Of course. Jeff. I should’ve known.
Too late for that—did you do anything?
I’m not to blame—
I just sleep with you, what can I say?
Soon the name’s a background sound like papers shuffling in a busy office. But at three o’clock on the wet pavement, he asks it. Is there a god to have mercy on me?
His hands twitch. He wants to vomit.
At midnight he stands in boxers by the wall and looks back and says, You still love me? In spite of it all?
She’s in a Hello Kitty tank but otherwise salty naked. For better or worse, she says.
Everything I do’s a testament, he says. But my boundaries are wobbling. I should have said something. Should have. Didn’t. Not a thing. That scares the hell out of me.
Come into the sloppy bed with me, she says, patting the mattress.
My Second Self
like excess baggage to lands beyond
nutritious young men shipped daily to.
worlds-wild, of which they knew not
like wild beasts lived, like Lazarus, they
rolled boulders uphill all day long, eating out of view
rich man’s little crumbs. lumps and left-over’s
with volcanic aversion they were viewed
A rumbling cloud of troops on troops, cattle, horses, carriages
across our vast and flowingly fertile homelands.
scrambling erupted, so did bloody dissection.
bequeathing unto their bloated bellies rich lands.
stretching beyond the reach of eyes
a sinner’s harvest of; gold, oil, silver, ivory, looted
to enrich a people belonging, not from our mothers’ wombs.
leaving a honeycomb, nectar-less, depleted
lowly tribal trust lands paired to dark ones
in townships, farm compounds, in prisons
in our own birth-right by a people ungrown from our soil.
sun kissed fertile highlands paired to light ones
as oceans-apart, divided we stood
like prisoners in chains, dark toiled for food
light harvesting milk: dark- tears and sweat
light took all of dark’s tears and sweat
which they feasted on to enrich themselves
dark shrouded in shadow’s enlightment.
light enjoying the river of enlightment.
dark exiled from enlightment to slave for light
light a rhizome of enlightment to master dark.
in unlit, dirt, potholed streets, dark
loitered, leisured, shopped, slaved
in streets like paradise’s golden paved lands
light worked, ate, shopped, leisured
at war, dark against light, for freedom
were sacrifices both sides of the divide
cripples, orphans, casualties
resulting in strawberry saturated freedom
but in-came, another colour, light unlike
yet dark it remained, lied to dark
like a mosquito it cared little but sapped
continuously scrambling on a scale so shameless
taking all, eating all, sharing in nothing
in light the other people happily live
in darkness, painted by someone else’s hands
we live and lick wounds still painful
What stink in our soul, called evils, flies in our core?
to deserve this slicing dismemberment of our ideals?
Can our cloudy eyes provide diagnosis-
to reverse the course of our rotting prognosis?
Can we re-read the pages of our past
to weave the dreams of our future?
Justina Kairyte – Fee Lion
A Good Comma
I used to love me a good comma.
Each one had the weight of
every broad-shouldered cuss
I ever liked.
They’d say, mmm, pause, yeah.
There was this one author who used
commas all the time. I read
his books just to get a load
of the silences as he considered
the next phrase: the same consideration
he might have for his knuckles
as he used them to press
himself forward, pushing
the rest of his sentence into you.
It was the hand on the shoulder.
Correction: it was the hand on the back.
Correction: it was the hand far up on the inside of leg,
so far up it brushed past a small, past a plump, past an edge,
a rim, a skirted perimeter.
I used to love
me a good comma. In the middle of the night,
can’t sleep, I’d push up against that one big book,
my face between its
pages, pulling its words to full height.
Then the commas
would put their mouth on that bump
on the back of my neck making
me wish to be pulled in by their
lips like some kind of sweet,
tear-able, boney meat.
I haven’t felt that for a long time.
I’ve been thinking instead that the words can carry
themselves. Take this orange. Weigh it in your hand.
See? Heavy as an orange. Take this pencil. Light.
But language owns a heft that has
more to do with extending the spaces
between words, so they can breathe,
so they can walk down the stairs,
piece by piece,
and you come,
and come again.
Kairos [the intuition of the moment]
It wasn’t like dying. It was after that. Not the white/light/tunnel/loved ones
with answers; but dirt, ash, a puncture pin-hole in the sky. There was no wind,
it was more than still, it was coma-still. It wasn’t what we believed in or talked
about or thought it would be. It wasn’t being wrapped in the woolly fingers of
God. It was like that first time, right after we met. We made love, fucked really,
but we were mad for each other; all sweat/breath/fingers in hair/ frantic/ lips
on skin. I remember my heart pounding, hammering like I just popped a handful
of white crosses. It was dagger-quick; we were sharp, exploded into each other
and in that flash we knew. We felt it at the exact moment it etched itself on our
DNA. Afterward, there was no need to talk, it was still. It was like that; exactly.