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Issue 6: Winter 2015

Welcome to our Sixth Issue!

 

beltane_woman_fire_353x470Collected here is the work of unique and diverse 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, and passion to create, to explore & to discover.

In this issue, we offer a wide range of poetry, prose, photography, 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 & sharing the collective work of the artists featured in our winter 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 thank you all for your support.

 


Siren

Issue Six, Winter 2015

Shadow Dance – Kai Altair

Zeno’s Infinity – Christina Murphy

Gesprek Nonstop – Joe L. Murr

Hochzeit, Of First Night in Germany – M.P. Powers

Chasing Ghosts – Olds Sleeper

Paramour in Paradise – Scott Thomas Outlar

Rocket Eighty-Eight Blues – Frederick K. Foote

dialogues of billboard suicides – Peter Marra

Prepare to Become Fictional – Jacurutu:

Throw Away the Lights – Christopher Brownsword

Lightwand – M.P. Powers

The Rightist – Ken Poyner

The Dragon in the Morning – Christina Murphy

Sketches – James Penha

In the Heart of the Skull – Christina Murphy

The Unfolding – Joan Becht-Willette

The Calling – Kai Altair

Photography by KAHA


Issue 6, Winter 2015

 

doors b&w(1)

 

Kai Altair

 

 

Zeno’s Infinity

Christina Murphy

 

1.

shimmering /  penumbral / mystifying
the lilac / footsteps of a different life—
Orion / hunting in the sky
manifest in colors of the night

2.

knowledge is incandescent / ungraspable
wrongly constituted & finely wrought;
Zeno’s infinity / of light / chasing form
and the heart’s mysterious / longing
for the real within the ethereal

3.

serenity is the luminous  fabric / of passages
scintillant in water drops / or labyrinths;
the progress / of destinations
and the fullness of our hungers / invite
the peeling away of enchantments
as we search & search / flounder & ascend—
adrift in reefs / fractions / crenelations
never lost & never found / to break
apart / in becoming whole

 

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Gesprek Nonstop

Joe L. Murr

 

The streetcar surprised Lucia by making an unexpected turn. Disoriented, she rose from her seat, cradling her briefcase. The routes must’ve changed while she’d been away. Much could happen in the space of a year.

The next stop was the Helsinki central railway station, not too far from where she’d intended to get off. Hydraulic doors wheezed open and disgorged her with dozens of passengers whose mouths erupted with terse sentences. It wasn’t long ago that she had last spoken Finnish, voiced all those hard consonants. Kuin karheita kiviä suussa – like rough rocks in her mouth. She’d learned the language with difficulty. Someone had taught her.

She could no longer remember his name. Qui était cet homme? A memory of bristle on her cheek triggered a cascade of urban sprawls, takeoffs and landings, international phone calls, hotel rooms like blank sets, meetings, foreign accents and names she’d had to practice pronouncing. There was a story that connected all these events but the thread was gone.

She lit a cigarette to help her piece together her thoughts. As she exhaled, she stared up at the buildings and realized they were no longer familiar to her. She’d zoned out again. Het is als een movieset, onwerkelijk, et je suis une caméra sans mémoire; I’m a camera without memory. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. All those takeoffs and landings – there’s only so much dislocation you can take, she’d thought more than once.

The man she was here to meet was the one who’d taught her Finnish. That much she could now recall. Hän oli se oikea tositarkoituksessa. The one for her. It had been five months since she’d seen him and a few days since they’d last spoken. They hadn’t fought over the phone that time, not like usual. They’d made progress.

Petteri. That was his name. Petteri Ahlberg, berg pronounced as barry.

She whispered his name and started walking. It was just a few blocks to the café where she was supposed to meet him. Why, she could no longer remember. I never want to see you again. She’d thought that, more than once.

A block away, on Aleksanterinkatu Street, she saw why the streetcar had deviated from its usual route. The entire length of the street was ripped open, the ground and pipes underneath exposed. Chain link fences lined the open pit. An excavator on fat tracks sank its scoop into the ground, gouging earth. Here were the layers under the city. The sight was fascinating and dreadful, like watching a surgeon split muscle to the bone.

Ma folie commence à nouveau – it’s starting again.

Her fingers hurt. She realized she was clutching the chain link fence, muscles rigid with some unnameable anxiety.

Let go, käännä pääsi ja unohda, just let go.

A red stripe crossed her fingers.

She was reminded of the time she’d cut her hand on a pane of broken glass in Brussels. Someone had thrown a rock into her apartment. Ikkuna rikki ja kaikki paskana. When she looked out, men with painted faces stared up at her, their eyes embedded in Union Jacks. Allouette, Chelsea allouette, allouette, Chelsea allouette! They howled at her and loped off bare-arsed. That man, Petteri, was there, and he bandaged her hand and cleaned up the broken glass. Later, they argued again. There was a story, she remembered, a story she had told herself and he was a character in it and so was she. But he wasn’t playing his part anymore and she herself had turned into someone else. The next day, he was gone.

He wasn’t here, either, in the blur of faces she was running through. Lights told her she was the walker in red. One night she’d worn a red dress that clung to her body and that Chris DeBurgh song had played and she’d cried because it was so awful – and had he been there, dansen cheek aan cheek met haar? No: she’d cried because he wasn’t there and all the songs were supposed to be the soundtrack to her story.

Plastic letters swung at her, spelling FORUM. The central bus station was close by, she knew, and that’s where she should be heading: away. Maybe she wouldn’t recognize that man even if she did see him. He might look the same but there was no knowing what he had turned into. Other countries turn us into the other. L’autre est une voyageur frequent.

The bus station wasn’t there. The square where it had once stood was torn open. Fences surrounded a sloping pit as large as a football stadium. Machines moved in the depths behind a haze of dust, bellowing incomprehensibly avec un rythme spasmodique en afschuwelijk luid. There was a mindless urgency to their work. The office buildings around the square seemed to her to be on the verge of collapse. Was this pit to be their mass grave? The image erupted in her mind – the pit filled to the brim with burning wreckage, steel girders aflame with fuel, glass shattering from the heat.

She had to go see. The story was here. This was ground zero. To rebuild, you have to destroy. She clambered over the fence and dropped down. Her right leg buckled and she tumbled onto her back. Dust billowed around her. Over the sound of machines she heard someone shouting. Perkele, minne sinä olet menossa, where the fuck are you going? The voice was familiar. Footsteps approached at speed. The familiar voice uttered something. Oletko kunnossa? No, no I’m not all right. She turned her head to the man. He watched her from the other side of the fence. Once she had thought him handsome.

She whispered his name. “Petteri.”

He seemed more annoyed than concerned, like an engineer pondering some vexing problem he couldn’t unlock.

Je ne suis pas folle.

No. Not mad.

She stood and a memory flickered. “We were married, weren’t we?”

“Yes. Have you brought the papers?”

She couldn’t understand what he was saying. What meaning could papers have now? Kaikki on merkityksetöntä. Meaningless. This was ground zero. Nothing mattered. Nu ben ik de andere, de vernietiger van werelden. She shook her head and headed downwards into the swirling dust, away from him, ignoring his words. There was no answer to be found, there was no possibility of communication, les mots sont inutiles. This was where she should wait for the cataclysm, näiden rujojen koneiden kanssa, ces machines hurlant. A nouvelle histoire would emerge from the ruins and maybe the language of machines, this gesprek, gesprek, gesprek would keep her safe from what was coming.

 

 

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Hochzeit, Of First Night in Germany

M.P. Powers

 

I.

Red sunset,

late September in Cologne,

and the flowery trees on the clear edge of the rocks,

decorate the air,

as in a Japanese painting.

An amber raven stands on a piling in the river, observing.

 

II.

Out of mulch and clover,

goat’s blood, trailing violet nightshade,

pearl moss,

snake’s venom,

the blossoming apple tree,

a dream once ripened and took form:

 

of Lorelei and the Rhinenymphs,

of Parsifal,

of Paracelsus the Occultist,

of Nietzsche burning candles

in a small room in Tautenburg;

those ever-divine,

incomprehensible aberrations

designed to drive

the salamander out of the brush

and into the ravening fire.

 

III.

Bone-pale

moonlight, and the vast, primordial Rhine

gropes along,

babbling softly

antiquity’s dark secrets,

its back glittering like a thousand dragon’s scales.

 

IV.

A white, visionary bird

sails through the thickening nightsky,

the soft thrash of its wings becoming echoes

caught in glass-mosaic,

magic horns

cradled by shadows;

 

a little alleyway

behind the cathedral

a wedding takes place: your own,

your bride,

Germania.

 

The street-band playing Pachibel’s Canon

bonds you forever,

while in the damp breath

of some dark, thundering forest

an old thorn tree

with a heart carved in it,

carries in its arms the severed skulls and dry bones

of those you left behind.

 

V.

Late September,

in Cologne,

and a ladybug is paralyzed

in the wet stench

of poisonous mushrooms.

 

Night drags its clubfoot into the dawn.

 

Olds Sleeper

 

Paramour in Paradise

Scott Thomas Outlar

seedy and salty

from the earth

the dust

and the ash

the piss and the shit

the storm of cancer

the crash of titans

the fall of nature

the Bible belt

has been flooded

get ready

for the fallout

this might be the big one

coming strong

with solar flare tendencies

and suicidal urges

in the basement

where the bones are kept

came out of the closet

ages ago

and began gnawing

on the skeletons

that had lived there

with the monsters

and the beasts

it was a feast

down to the marrow

where the maggots dwelt

and I loved

every Goddamn

mouthful

as it dripped

down my chin

bloody saliva

my paramour

my long lost love

my ancient visage

my candlelight romance

come home tonight

that we may sacrifice

our flesh to each other

bring the carving blades

give thanks

to all the dead gods

that made our misery

possible

if it weren’t for them

we’d not be able

to lick clean

all these dirty places

in the crevices

in the corners

where the heart aches

where the joints snap

where the tendons

are most moist

full of wet slime

mud and grime

swamp water sewage system

in my polluted veins

my warped mind

my sickened soul

consciousness

has left the building

but not before

taking hostages

for the camera crew

the media vampires

the owls, the werewolves, the vultures

a blackened sky

a last remorse

a totaled future

in a six car pileup

piled on

pushed over

pantywaist

pussified

sissy coward

whore in the crack house

tripping on vitamins

slurping the rocks

for mineral decomposition

algae premonitions

apocalyptic prophecy

coming true

coming quicker

than we ever

could have imagined

it is an angel of death

it is a reaper with scythe

it is a ruptured lung

it is a fallen hero

it is a broken destiny

it is the devil’s laughter

it is the pit of hell

it is paradise

welcome home.

 

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Rocket Eighty-Eight Blues

Frederick K. Foote

 

I’m slip sliding down the Hell Bound Highway, picking up speed gliding on my own stinking shit, and their warm slimy blood accelerating headlong into the end game, the final round up, the bottom line, the show down.

Showdown at the Rocket 88 Lounge, Bar and Grill. Aptly named, a fucking rocket to oblivion fueled by booze, drugs and high-octane self-pity, grand delusions, good old-fashion Christian greed and battery acid strong jealousy.  I was made for this place that will bar none and grill your very soul for a joke or just to pass the time of day.

This lizard lounge was made for me. A match made in hell like me and sloe eyed, luscious lipped, thick legged, long tongue Regina, the Queen of backstabbing, front fucking, and cock sucking, a whore with a heart of stone and mind for gold. A perfect match I thought.

“I thought,” famous fucking last words of fools, philosophers, and children below the age of eight, no seven, no five, maybe five. I thought we had a deal, an agreement a partnership, a fucking contract written in blood, cum, piss and shit.

A deal, yeah, she was dealing, double dealing from the bottom of the deck with hidden, secret, silent partner agreements and a contract, a contract on me, on me. Fuck me!

That’s how it started. She fucked me and did it well, so well that I studied her, watched her, checked her out. Looked up her resume, pondered her Curriculum Vitae.

Checked it out, up, down and around and it all checked out; molested by father and brother as a child with an excellent education in elementary sexual deviancy in some of the most highly rated, state certified foster and group homes.

And university level study at two highly regarded state run institutions of unlikely rehabilitation and certain dehumanization.

What was there not to like with her un-rehabilitated firm ass, inhumanly proud tits, educated hips, and pouting lips?

“So you want me to fuck this nerd motherfucker like this?” She’s on top of me with her highly sophisticated pussy working my dick, sucking, and releasing and bringing me to the edge of heaven on earth, toward that nirvana, that fucking perfect place, that high that acid, and coke, and heroin can’t even pretend to be and dropping me back, back down, down into ordinary everyday pay by the hour fucking and skyrocketing me back to the edge, up, up, and crashing down and, and finally, finally explosive peace and death and communion with god knows what.

Back from that sacred place back to that cheap motel bed and her smile like Mona Lisa, like a Cheshire cat, like the Queen of the 88, like she might start me all over again with her mouth and suck my life down her smooth throat.

“No, no hell no. Better than that. Blow his fucking mind up. Make him believe your pussy is his only salvation, the cure for all his ills and his only respite in this wicked, wicked world.”

She licks her lips with that long tentacle of a tongue, laughs at me with white as death teeth and leans down to whisper in my ear, tongue to dance into my ear and out my nose and back down my throat and peek out of the head of dick. That tongue. “Miles, sweet and gentle Miles fucking like that would kill him and even drive you stark raving, shit house rat crazy.”

I tremble under the dominion of that tongue.

She puffs her words into my ear like warm soft clouds. “You do your part. I will part my legs, pucker my lips, move my hips. You won’t have anything to complain about.” She seals the deal, with that same tongue, lips, and hips and makes a believer of me, again.

Believing and thinking, thinking and believing and believing that you are thinking and thinking that you are believing that bogus, misleading bullshit fucks you up every time. Every fucking time! I believed she would do her job. I thought I had it all figured out. I believed I was smarter than her high IQ pussy and college-educated tongue, and I thought she believed that too.

One million-five-hundred-thirty-seven dollars and 62 cents, I believed that this was the right number, the correct amount, the secret cipher, the winning ticket. I thought I could use this crass cash to create the situations to get the things money can’t buy.

The nerd she was fucking so deep and well knew nothing, nothing at all. But his mosey, little, pale girl friend from Burger King, aahh her brother was the master blaster of hackers.

And a loving brother who helps out his now scorned, jilted and dropped, dropped without courtesy or consideration, little sister in her moment of need making it look like the nerd misdirected the $1,500,037.62. Burger King Girls’ share, nothing more than sweet and sourer revenge served like icing on a twenty-year sentence for the nerd. Her brother’s share, the love and admiration a sister has for a brother. The Queen of the 88s share, $1,000, easy money for her and a big, but short lived, thrill of a life time for the nerd. Everybody gets paid.

My share, well I, I have expenses, and I have bills, and I have obligations, but I do OK. I do all right. Except, except there’s a tail on me, local scum, thick faced thugs, bottom feeders, mouth breathers, leg breakers. I can’t pick up the money because they will pick me up and put me down hard in a cold place.

They’re impatient. They’re moving in on me. They’ll make me pick up the money or find a way to pick it up themselves.  I could run. That’s the smart move. I love smart moves. That’s the thinking man’s answer. If you believe that thinking is the answer.

I’m giving up on thinking. I shoot the big one in the eye and the little one, the most dangerous one, in the knee. Not my game this shooting thing. It’s a dumb game with no finesse or taste, just brutal. Not a thinking man’s game at all.

She’s not a thinking man. Not a runner, not a hider no, not at all. At the bar, at the Lounge, at the 88, knows I’m coming. Watches me in the mirror behind the bar as I slide in on the blood of the big one and the pain of the dangerous one, smiles at me. She does smile at me.

Smiles that promise, that rocket ride to oblivion and beyond. In the 88 with her 38 and my 308, we mate. Stalemate. I ask a gasping gut shot; ”Why?” She has a blood bubble breath answer, “You tried to play me and play me cheap…I don’t believe… you thought it through.”

 

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dialogues of billboard suicides

Peter Marra

 

one

a pair of infamous thighs.

random sounds, mismatched desire.

it turns her on by catching the most sensitive and private danger or fear.

the beast compressed her smile as her hands performed a dilation.

 

the legs of the hot brunette were duly recognized and photographs were
taken surreptitiously. this made her happy.

 

just some women of the landscape were in a background

 

as her object was stifled, red urges caused it to whimper.

she grew more and more content.

continuing on this path for a long time, she wished to douche,

to rid herself of them. wash hands.

 

a sculptor of flesh and a molder of forgiveness were clamped

together in front of the full length mirror that

exhibited black patches that

had once held

silvering.

 

musky and salty odors filled the auditorium.

 

miscellaneous ecstatic applause.

 

there was bodily harm.

there was a torso of flesh encased in leather,

wrapped tightly as fragile notes from their sexual acts

adorned the musical staff.

 

the room is bare – oaken floor, white-washed walls.

the ceiling is high and contains a fresco of the female faces of the elders.

laces were wrapped tight, tightly around

her olive-skinned appendages,

barely moving to the music source that was now plugged into the wall outlet.

12o volts ac.

 

in the left corner, a stained glass window

depicted acts of drug abuse,

of sexual perversion, and

of forgiveness.

 

she craved acts of water. her eyes moved slightly to capture one sight then quickly back to capture another. she recognizes nothings. a figure knits a ceremonial robe in the backyard. there was bodily harm. there was a razor thrown to the floor, deep red traces kissing the sleek blade.

 

“i can’t bathe, the water fucks up my skin, feels like… blood electric.”

 

two

through a range of tricks and techniques her touch had been eliminated, an incendiary explosive device took out the circus tent and the chapel. the silence afterwards left her with an uncertain feeling as she tingled. she had decided not to report the incident, rather she would take matters into her own hands, as they say. a bell. heart. rising noise. she walked to the  mirror on a slant, her heels generated sharp click-clacks, incising the humid air. she let her black robe fall to the floor.

 

in an entrance there it was, a machine. a flapping sound. she stood in front of the glass and bent her smile. bending over,  she spread her ass slowly, her pussy grinned as she inserted the large instrument deep inside her anus. her desire was fleeting. couldn’t capture. her victim.  her skin became clammy as love slowly made its way in, excruciating, a kaleidoscope of craving and pain – it had taken her 45 minutes – see the clock – to work it deep inside — and she was grateful there was no blood this time.

 

the sunlight that she had hallucinated hurt her eyes, like she always imagined it would. this action had so aroused her that her cunt was dripping and she had to masturbate furiously to relieve herself of the symptoms. a large crimson steel dildo offered up the methods of rejoicing. she licked the discharge off her fingers. “stupid animals,” she said. when she came the 7 tarot cards that she had been holding between clenched teeth, fluttered to the floor.

 

it was a virgin’s song that she had censored, it was a virgin’s death that she had celebrated. she would send out invitations, all were invited. she thought about these things as she slumped to the floor. a bell was heard. the second of 3 punctuations. limp and pallor, these symptoms portray attraction and betrays a want.

 

three

later that evening she shaved her head.

 

“i need moisture,” she wrote this statement down on a piece of paper. seven minutes later she burned the note and swallowed the ashes.

 

later after that, she burned off her fingerprints with carbolic acid, then gave herself a new manicure.

 

nail polish ( 1 part red & 2 parts nighttime)

 

her mouth licked the wall, slowly drawing its tongue up. excruciating swellings and the taste buds were dead. flesh slightly sweaty as it was watched.

 

the whistling hasn’t stopped yet. she remembers the stretched full feelings in past time. licks. lips and sighs. the television is gone now, so she can’t replay the images of herself. no matter how often she tries, the barriers endure.

 

four

dissection:

 

she opened the tiny wooden door and spoke through the screen. myrrh crept in and down her airways, filling her lungs. she spoke to a collective amnesia. as she spoke, she counted the runs in her silk stockings (time for a new pair) and adjusted her garters.

 

“he wouldn’t pay to fuck me because
he knew my husband.

 

just didn’t understand.

i was hurt. i still have his blood on my blouse.

he said he felt bad, that he could help. i’m, sad now.

i can’t bring him back.”

she crossed herself rapidly 7 times and kissed the screen.

 

hollow banging in the hall.

 

she left through the side door.

 

“you agreed to follow all the memories, now flitting away,” she yelled, “they’re gone now. they didn’t like you when they were alive. in death they hate your guts. false selves and semen. a kingdom.”

 

voided words of pigment hanging off her shoulders
biting down deep “no waiting. no appointment. no escape!”

 

to cry as the slight figures hurry through the july drizzle
hiding among the odors of pleasure and discarded hands of flesh

 

“you are the characters from all of the sentences.”

 

the television is gone now, so she can’t replay the images for herself.

 

fingers pull from an application of holy water.

 

she will discover the laws of her lips.

 

five

the silhouette disengaged itself from the whitewashed wall (rough plaster flecked with body fluids). it walked slowly towards the kneeling odalisque. they both craved music.

lips locked. the drapes have been closed for days. teasing smiles were gently opened. two faucets in her mouth, structures and codes not defined (see the role of signs for her craved stuttered forgetting taunting stuttered its meaning). all can be deciphered by just looking up at the advertisements. a happy life for you. you would be home now if you lived here… and a million ways to die! the lucky ones were the first to die! she mastered the platform of concepts, methods, for the next smack. indirectly recovered her breath and held it for a long time. she performed the action called “craving” so perfectly. a discipline beyond human communication shifted. fingers ached from application. fingers burned from anticipation. slick with juices, twisted to a boiling point.

 

like needles inserted under translucent blue skin, image is everything.

Jacurutu:

Throw Away the Lights

(excerpt)

Christopher Brownsword

 

A car pulled over for us on the edge of town along the rim of an empty field leading into a forest. Smiling our gratitude, we clambered into the back. The driver had an impressive grasp of English; but his companion in the passenger seat, he explained, needlessly apologetic, spoke only Romanian.

‘If you smell shit,’ the driver said, ‘don’t be alarmed. We’ve been shovelling manure all day. It’s on our clothes…our hands, beneath our fingernails, over the upholstery…this is our job, though…cow shit…we like it.’

With my sinuses blocked I could smell nothing at all. If anything I was delighted about the manure, since it’d help cover up the odour of sickness I knew my body must be giving off.

In the late afternoon we arrived at Sighisoara under a layer of violet haze drawn across the sky. The driver stopped outside a coffee house and insisted we all go in together, at the same time refusing the money Dillon and I offered for the ride. Already, as we sipped coffee and the driver ordered a packet of cigarettes from the waiter, my suspicions were aroused, so that when the bill came I assumed Dillon and I would be paying; but once more the driver waved away our cash with a smile. In the heat and the oppressive air, however, to mention nothing of the helplessness I felt as my energy was depleted by the fever beginning to manifest itself, these acts of generosity and kindness, far from placating me, served instead to further ignite my distrust and instil an atmosphere of paranoia in which even the most harmless gesture became a portent of doom.

As we got ready to leave, the driver announced that he and his pal would show us around town. I glanced at Dillon…could guess what he was thinking: they were about to take us on a guided tour lasting ten minutes, and then demand an exorbitant fee in return for services rendered.

‘You’ve done more than enough,’ Dillon expressed.

The driver insisted…settled the bill. There was no deterring him.

‘This is the Camera de Tortura,’ the driver said. We’d stopped at a rather bland, unassuming building under a clock tower. ‘The Torture Room, where prisoners in the Middle Ages were…well, they were tortured, as the name implies. There were many ways to torture a prisoner back then, as there are today. People would spend much time coming up with the slowest and most painful method of doing this…it was their job…yet when it came to making love, they knew only the Missionary position. So in contrast to their method of torture, they used the fastest and least pleasurable way to have sex…fastest and least pleasurable for the woman, I mean. What a tragedy for women that they have bodies of such tremendous sensual possibilities but men who only want to fuck hard and fast!

‘Maybe torture was the deepest expression of intimacy for them. Maybe that’s still how it is for us today. We find it less offensive to digest images of rape victims and murdered children and battle zones at six in the evening while we’re eating than we do pictures of breasts or vaginas or testicles. This is very perverse, don’t you think?

‘I shouldn’t say this…certainly not here…but the appeal of Christianity, I believe, lies not in God and his cherubim but in the many torments that hell offers. You don’t fill churches with speeches about love. Misery and damnation are by far the more enticing propositions. Dante’s Purgatory is more widely referenced than his Paradise. The human imagination is fed on the nectar of sin.

‘There are many beautiful forests and meadows you can enjoy for free around town, yet often a tourist will rather pay to look at instruments of death and destruction. These instruments are made by men, of course, though I’ve seen it’s mostly women who will visit this place.’

The driver turned to his companion and summarised what he’d just said to Dillon and I, before translating his buddy’s response. ‘He says his business is manure. He knows nothing about Dante or torture. He knows only manure. He says his uncle was shot trying to flee the country into Hungary during the Reign of Terror. He says his uncle’s body was dumped in a field and became manure. He says he wonders if humans were created not by God but instead by the plants and the grasses. He says they created us so that we could colonise the world and murder each other in fields and fertilise the soil. He says that’s all we are: shit!’

Not far from the Camera de Tortura was the house in which Vlad Tepes, or Dracula, was born. It’d been converted into a pizza joint. Today a dim flicker of recognition crosses my synapses at the name ‘Dracula.’ It applies a distorted frame to the dialogue I credit the driver and his friend with in order that their thoughts might conjoin in part with those I myself seek to express. The Camera de Tortura is involved in this modality, too; the snares we lay down to entrap each other, to maim and kill…the torments we devise…

‘Vlad the Impaler, as he’s more commonly known, sacrificed approximately 20,000 of his own people, men, women, and children alike, all of them impaled on stakes, to deter the Hungarians from staging an invasion,’ the driver explained as we passed Tepes’ old home. ‘He was successful; had he not been, lots more would surely have died in the invasion, and still more in the aftermath and subsequent occupation. But what consolation is that to the child who is held on the ground and a wooden stake driven into her anus or vagina?

‘This is something I think about whenever I walk by here. Was she glad to be sacrificed as the spike tore into her bowels? I doubt it. I think she would rather have lived under any conditions forced on her by the Hungarians, no matter how barbaric or degrading.

‘What we call ‘good’ may only be the appearance of a more subtle evil. This is a world in which an evil man performs an evil deed to save his people from an even greater evil fate. I wish some lesson or wisdom could be extracted…but there’s none…none at all.’

The tour concluded at the top of a hill in a church accessed by a long flight of covered stairs, and where the driver beckoned us to follow him into the crypt. ‘They’re going to make their move in this damp chamber flooded by shadows and death,’ I told myself. ‘They’ll put knives to our throats and steal our passports and money because they know we don’t speak Romanian, and they know the police speak hardly any English…all they do is use youall they want is to destroy you…by this time tomorrow they’ll be over the border…into Hungary…among the dead…they knew the moment they saw us!’

Fuck the world…you can’t trust anybody…all they do is use you…all they want is to destroy you…used up…destroyed…better for me to die in this crypt…die among the dead!

Fists and eyes clenched, I was ready to submit when all of a sudden the driver received a phone call. ‘We must go,’ he said, ‘we have work to do.’ They shook hands with us and left, but not before the driver wrote down his email address and told us to contact him if we needed anything while in town. Partially aroused by adrenaline, I was unsure whether this turn of events had relieved or disappointed me.

 

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Lightwand

M.P. Powers

 

The executioner is a pair of fuck me pumps,

And your hurting sexual lips.

Your crème brûlée.

I would like to know more

About it’s jollification,

And ask you my Sorellus, will you meet me

Under the milkmarion mistletoe some maundering

Maypole morning?

I wanna be the luminary in your cloud energies,

The light under your ocean,

Your Saladin,

Your herringbone song,

The sundust in your Aladdin’s lamp.

 

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The Rightist

Ken Poyner

 

After our visits, my wife is daggers, thorns, steel wool and lye.  She is the rough and ire of a gap toothed wood file.  I do not care to visit that neighbor’s house with her in tow, but one does have to be sociable. The man is pleasant enough.  The three of us can carry a conversation as easily as a bell choir can ring out a scale.  We have enough in common that our relationship has symmetry, yet each of us can be safe in our own personal pools of expertise.

It is the man’s wife who creates my problem. In her tank on the indoor/outdoor wet/dry carpet, she bobs across the length of the glass nearest where my wife and I sit warily, pushing her head above the water to speak or listen more closely.  The thin mid-lid of her eyes roll back when she edges out of the damp; and at times she will brace the crook of her arm on the top ledge of her enveloping ten foot by six foot by eight foot aquarium.

What she has to say is no trouble.  You can hear, in the background of her practiced voice, the squeal and pop that would be her native tongue; but it has been left with the coral and anemones, and coastal English is her tongue now.  She has become quite elegant in the tank, regally balancing against the weight of the water with small and curiously dainty vacillations of her tail.  She folds at the hips and leverages the current of the tank’s aerator.  Her shoulders lead, and she now and again will place her hand flat on the glass, pushing herself into a better study of the world outside.

None of this upsets my wife, and we are all quite engaged with the adaptability and finesse this woman, while relaxed in her tank, can display.  If this were all there were to it, I could stand being neighborly.  But soon my wife will catch me, as I cannot stop myself, watching the woman languorously draw her huge, bare breasts across the glass of the unsympathetic aquarium, then flatten without mercy those wonderful masses against the restraining clear barrier.  I try not to let my mouth drop open, and I look away, at least in small krill-like catches.

She hangs there, as though affixed by the confusion of skin on glass, and I shiver, only a little, but too noticeably to someone who has been watching my reactions at nearly the subatomic level since the moment we arrived. I can feel the lead pipe sternness of my wife’s stare foundering ingloriously on the back of my head. She sits deep into the couch and will not be unfolded for any rational purpose.  I can see the hair along her arms rise in attention, dry urchin spikes ready to be set, and I can sense along all my intangibles my near term happiness sinking like a fisherman’s weight set free of its line.

I cannot help myself.  It is not a matter of will.  I react like any man.  It is not as though I harbor any thought of exchange, of an upgrade, or even of comparing one wife to the other.  I have the wife I want, all of her dry and openly mobile.  But when this other man’s wife kicks with the dazzling perpendicular force of her fluke and flares the full felicity of her magnificent ballast against the love-struck glass, no man could look casually away, no man could tolerate the event without his blood shifting lucklessly out of his brain and into his most precious weapon. I am not at fault.

And I go home, expecting to prove to my turbulent wife that there are no residual images to my widened vision yet lingering – and she covers my best efforts in salt, strands me in the shallows of her imagined second place finish.  I reach with both hands, hoping to palm comfort, and they are denied me.  I sleep hugging my side of the bed as though it were the last finger of flotation between me and drowning alone. After months of this, her jealousy continues as fresh as it was with her first rage, with my first unknowing, unavoidable offense.  I would prefer the two of us not go to this neighbor’s house together.  But we are all on good terms, and I do not see why I should let suspicion poison our mutual waters.

I am honorable, but my wife acts as though I were but a bottom feeder, ready for anything that might be laid out thoughtlessly before me.  I am not, but soon the entire neighborhood will have me guilty simply from the bile and brine my wife exudes over her socially crafty coffee parties. So I decide I must talk to the man.  I must explain my concerns, the trials my wife puts me through, the spot his wife’s genius lays on my ordinary life.

I must ask him to have the woman house her half that is not scale in some sort of sheath, some bathing suit top, some water friendly vest.  She must understand her gift, and keep it close, keep it secret.  Or at least keep it out of my marriage. I knock on his door repeatedly, knowing from the presence of his car that he is home.  The door sends ripples through the frame and I begin to knock again.  He does not answer at first, but I continue, waves of resolve flowing through me with the force of the slights unjustly sprayed against my husbandly character by my bristling wife.  I have captured, for a few moments, my courage and must press the issue.  Those wondrous baubles must be properly veiled. At the last moment of my conviction, he opens the door.

Dripping he stands, a towel wrapped about his hips and held in place with a grasp more like a fist in birth than the coil of an effort at stability, his eyes a dull gray and slow to focus.  A trail of water leads back into the house, down the hall that lies in open view of the front door, and to the tank; where low in one corner, her hair a net of disharmony in agitated water, the man’s wife lies folded over her own fluke, trailing bubbles from the corner of her spent mouth. She peers over her lolling, slightly reddened shoulder at me, and places one hand in half a greeting on the aquarium glass angled nearest my slowly perceiving gaze.

Gathering his own breath in jellyfish snatches, the man distantly, carefully asks what could I possibly want; and only then do I think, for the very first time, of just how back-breakingly small that damn tank is.

 

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The Dragon in the Morning

Christina Murphy

 

Diamond-shaped sunlight
splits the horizon into plumes
of white birds ascending

Stone arrows echo in the mountains
as cold winds bring the prophet
into the garden to speak of

Singing
flaming
falling away from time

Into deep and ragged love
and the skull as home to passions
hoped for and abandoned

The mythology is wrong, the prophet
will say; the spirit is wrong, the winds
will answer

We will stand somewhere near
and listen, until speech itself
is the greater illusion

What we know is shrouded
in chaos—much like clouds
appearing to be purposeful in motion

What arises from the dust of change
will make us look for meaning in
the fading echoes of deserted places

As we shape our dreams of finality
in the skeleton of flowers
chiseled by sacred rivers

 

 

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Sketches

James Penha

 

            Hi, I’m Ted.

            From the agency?

            Right. Where do you want me?

            Maybe on that chair? No, no maybe. I put the chair there for you.

            The one by the window?

            Yes.

            Shall I take off my clothes?

Clay sat down at the kitchen table without my asking him to do so. He made to stretch his legs but clonked them into the porcelain like a clapper to a steeple bell.

“What’s that?”

“The tub.”

“The bathtub?”

“Yes, this is a very efficient efficiency apartment.”

Clay examined the tabletop and realized it was just a butcher block. “Mmm. But, wait, you mean you take your bath in the kitchen?”

“Or a shower. There’s a hose attached to the faucet.”

“And the toilet?”

“There’s a little bathroom over there in the corner. Of course, it’s not really a bathroom. It’s the toilet. This,” I spread my arms, “is the bath-and-kitchen-and-just about everything-else-room. It’s a really old studio apartment. Still rent-controlled. And, c’mon, it’s on 14th Street, Union Square, a ten-minute walk to the Chelsea Hotel.”

“The Chelsea Hotel is being renovated.”

“If I owned this building, if I had any money, I’d renovate too.”

“So,” said Clay, “shall we take a bath? Or cook?”

Even though I had thought about little else but Clay since meeting him at a design show at the New School the previous evening, I looked at him now, smiling through his five o’clock shadow, as if I had never seen him. I wanted to linger a bit, to study him: those luminous green, not hazel but green, eyes; his tousled dirty blond hair, mercifully natural and ungelled; the red and black plaid Guess shirt, sleeves rolled to reveal on his right forearm, the end of a row of Chinese characters; another tat, more figurative, perhaps bestial, peeking out from beneath his collar. There was more, but I needed to answer his question.

“Maybe both?”

            Okay, you can take off your shirt now. Just your shirt for now. You can hang it on that coatrack there.

            Right. So are you sketching on your iPad? I haven’t seen you take any photos. Are you sketching with a finger on one of those apps? I’ve never had a client work that way before.

            Actually, I’m writing.

            Writing? Like descriptive writing? I’ve never had someone do that before either.

            It doesn’t matter really, does it? I mean you just need to do what you always do.

            Right. Absolutely right. I only do what I do.

            Clay unbuttoned his shirt studiously as if he had to think about it. Or wanted me to think about it. Only when he had revealed his naval, a buoy separating the calm tan of his torso from the darker fan of fur below, did he pull the shirt from his jeans, undo the lowest button of the shirt, and remove it. He looked around for a place to stow it. I pointed to the coatrack. He hung his shirt there, flipped off each Nike with the toes of the other foot, and slipped off his jeans, hanging them atop his shirt.

He returned to where I was sitting, pulled me to my feet, and removed my clothes as slowly as his tongue found mine.

            What are you wearing underneath your pants?

            Nothing. So I should take off my pants?

            No, not yet.

            Do you want me stand or remain sitting?

            Stand.

“I want to see the tub,” said Clay.

“It’s a two-man job.”
“I’m counting on it.”

One to a side, we heaved the butcher block, and I motioned with my chin for us to carry it to the wall where a deep scratch in the paint indicated just where it should lean. After setting it down, I traced the bird tattooed on Clay’s chest. “It’s a Garuda, right?”

“Everyone thinks it’s an eagle.”

“The face is an eagle’s, but it wears a crown.”

“You noticed.”

“A Garuda has the body of a man. That would . . . ”

            Okay, Ted, you can take your pants off now and hang them on the rack.

            I spread my fingers across his nipples, taut now, and moved my hands down beyond his belly until they slipped between the band of his Papis and his hips. I slid the shorts down to his feet, and Clay stepped out of them as I sat looking up at him and said, “. . . be yours.”

His dick was bigger than I expected and uncut; his balls were ponderous oysters and clean-shaven. I eeled beneath his legs.

            Would you turn around? Yes, just there. And bend forward? More. Yes, perfect.

His ass was as firm as his chest; hairless cheeks enclosed swirls of blond emanating from the crevice between. I raised a finger.

    Okay, Ted, turn back to me. I’m wondering if you would mind getting yourself a little hard.

            You mean, stroke myself?

            Yes.

            No, sorry, stuff like that confuses a job. Confuses the client as to what my job is. So I never do that. It’s a rule. If I get an erection accidentally–

            Accidentally?

            If my penis gets hard by itself, that’s different. It just does what it does.

            Does that happen often?

            No, but sometimes.

            Are you often asked to get hard?

            You mean on the job?

            Yes, on the job.

            No, but it happens.

            And today?

            I was asked.

            I know. But will you get hard?

            Maybe if we keep talking about it.

He seemed to like my finger. His dick hardened, foreskin tight against the shaft, into an arc. I had to stand with my head upside down to take it in my mouth.

I guess this is just one of those days.

            I guess.

            Are you describing all this?

            Some, not all. A little narrative too.

            Ted’s not my real name.

            That’s okay. I’m not using it anyway.

            Is it a story?

            A sketch.

            In words.

            That’s right.

            You’re gay.

            Why do you say so?

            Well, you didn’t send for a woman.

            Maybe tomorrow.

            Right.

            Are you gay?

            Maybe tomorrow.

            Not today?

            Not while I’m working. It’s confusing.

            But you’re hard.

            It was the talk.

            With me.

            That I’m going to be in a story.

            How about tomorrow?

            What about it?

            Want to come for dinner?

            A date?

            Sort of.

            Not a job.

            Not tomorrow, no.

            Let’s finish the job first. I don’t want to confuse things.

            No, I can see that. We’ll wait. Could you sit on the floor and fold your knees up a bit. Maybe lean your back on the chair.

            Like this?

            Fold your knees a bit more so you take up less floor space. Yes, yes, that’s it. Can you hold that for a while.

            Right.

“I can’t believe we both fit in this tub,” Clay said. I was washing the semen from the folds of his foreskin.

“It’s deep. And you know it has feet. Like your Garuda.’

Clay leaned back. I held his calves and moved his legs to either side of me. I washed them and then each of his feet.

“Did you come? I have to admit I didn’t notice much beside your mouth. I don’t think I was a very good guest.”

“I like being the host.”

“Are we actually going to eat on the tub?”

“Where else?”

“I can take you out . .  . Shoolbred’s?

“Lamb slider. Perfect. Let me get you a towel.”

            Mind if I shower here?

            Let me get you a towel.

 

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In the Heart of the Skull

Christina Murphy

 

In the heart of the skull
where the demons reside,
we spit out vapor into rain
and accept our lack of resolution
as we cascade down the hillside
into the raging brown river
that swirls its banks into mud

It isn’t that we have lost faith in images
or have regretted the changes of aging—No,
merely the folly of separating one moment
from all moments and saying, “This I once was”

I can hear the movement of the demons into
other corridors of memory—such sad but swift
sounds because there is no present—only
a past ill-remembered and a future poorly imagined

And so we are lost here, not even aware that
a self is seldom lost, merely found over and
over again until time becomes a bruise that
fades at the edges and surrenders, in time,
to deeper wounds wrought by untold longings

The heart in the skull beats and pauses and in
between there is the silence of being within
non-being; there is no language for the knowing
of not-knowing; there is only acceptance, more
sweet, more tranquil, than our cold, bitter fear

 

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The Unfolding

Joan Becht-Willette

 

She stood tremulously at the threshold,
Her heart beating furiously
Against the ribcage of her life.
The very earth has shifted beneath her.
Nothing will ever be the same again.
The magic of the creation
Of her dreams has been activated.

Joyously and with trepidation,
She clutches her deepest desires invoked
From deep within the caverns in her soul.
After decades of beating her wings against the gilded cages,
Of long gone lovers, accomplishments, shattered youth
And other shards of self, she surrenders.
Her very being challenged by
The illumination of her true divinity.
Seductively, she slips out of the armor of her emotions,
No longer serving the fabric of her soul.

“Nothing will ever be the same,” whispers her soul.
She must fly against the currents of convention and expectation,
That held her ravaged, war torn selves captive.
As her wings unfurl, her heart opens
And she radiates all the love,
Passion and dreams of a luscious lifetime still yet to be.

“She who must be obeyed, she who cannot be denied,”
The Goddess Divine gently rumbles through her soul.
With dignity and grace, she evokes her soul’s
Passionate and mystical stirrings,
That call her to task, to transform
From the mundane to the sublime.
Bursting forth with unabashed joy, pleasure
And recognition of the Goddess seared in her soul,

She leaps out of bed, across the threshold of her dreams,
Wielding the magic wand of her heart cracked wide open.
To reveal that she has always possessed the magic and power
To give wings to her deepest, heartfelt desires.
She flies head on into the portal of her soul’s verdant longings,
And creates a life that is beyond her wildest dreams!
Then she draws back the veils of her enchanted life,
And she finds herself staring directly into the very eyes
Of her own sacred divinity.

 

Kai Altair


One Comment leave one →
  1. Annette Nevin permalink
    February 2, 2015 8:20 pm

    I LOVE the Unfolding…It speaks to my soul’s journey!

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