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Issue 1

Editor’s Letter

Welcome to the first issue of Siren!

Collected here is the work of unique artists who all share a similar conceptual interest in what is new, edgy, exciting, and experimental in their chosen mediums. These are artists who demand attention, whose work will challenge you to think, to feel. These are artists who are making their own paths, guided by voices and visions and the passion to create, to expand, and to discover.

In this issue, we offer a wide range of poetry, prose, flash fiction, stories, photography, music, and videos. Please click here to scroll through the entire issue. You can also click on the links below or on the side panel to view the artists’ individual work.

Thank you to all who submitted work to the inaugural issue of Siren. It was a privilege to read, view, and listen to all of the submissions and to see how people are engaging with writing and art, trying new things and approaching their creative pursuits in different ways. It is an honor to create a space in which to share the work of these exceptional artists.

Michelle Augello-Page
Editor

Siren

Issue 1, Summer 2012

***

First Rain by Bill DesJardins

Recipe by Kristy Webster

Quietly by Heidi Harris

Poem by Vincent Francone

Untitled by Eleanor Bennett

How To Become A Shadow by Howie Good

Trashed – Untitled 1 by Jonnie Miles

A Story Should Include by Robert McKay

A Kiss by Grant Palmer

Transformation by Jennifer Moffett

Tall Tall Tales by Heidi Harris

Fuck Knot by Shanna Germain

Pavement Grating by Jonnie Miles

Self-Loathing by Jay Sizemore

Open by Afton Wilky

Stalemate by Steve Mitchell

Being Gregory Levine by Bill DesJardins

Kant by Heller Levinson

Don’t Attack Me With Your Happiness by Kill The Band

The Lost Shirt by Ken Poyner

Plastic Sheeting in Tree by Jonnie Miles

The Egyptian Swing by Cutleri

Whispers by Peter Baltensperger

Untitled by Kyla Ann Gellein

***

Bill DesJardins

First Rain

*

Recipe

Kristy Webster

You are so lovely. I want to fold you up and stick you inside my red leather purse. I want to slice you open, find the length of your spine, and hear the sound your liver makes. I want to see if your pieces look like mine. I want to cut cookies from your caramel skin, bake you at three hundred and fifty degrees for eight and a half minutes, to take a bite out of you while you’re still hot. I want to collect your stray eyelashes and bury them in my backyard to find out what type of tree they’ll grow. I want to use pruning sheers, cut away the excess foliage and keep the original shape of you. I want to make milk from your bones and pour it into my morning coffee until it mimics your complexion. I want to see your skeleton melt on hot sand. Please, show me your ugliest work. I want to take pictures and glue them to the backs of my hands, the tops of my thighs. I want the meaty mango without the tight-skin peel.

*

Quietly

Heidi Harris

*

Poem

Vincent Francone

Answer:

Along the coal deep ocean, scattering bread
for the animals, tasting
winter in our kiss, awake too long,
somewhere warm, shattered like a Tennessee Williams heroine,
mapping the diagonals of skittish snow
and the worn avenues,
running, feeling the heft of
the last of my words, smoking my first
cigarettes since New Year’s Day,
confused at the movement of car horns,
looking at the oncoming pedestrians
with suspicion, marooned,
surrounded by strangers
in white coats.

Question:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

*

Eleanor Bennett

*

How To Become A Shadow

Howie Good

1

Plainclothesmen prowled the train station all night. Everyone arriving on the 8:10 looked like a fugitive. An old junky who made his living stealing overcoats was followed by a parade of children chanting his name. The cops must have been waiting for someone else. In those days, a suspect sat on a stool with a hot spotlight on him, and no matter how much I begged, my parents wouldn’t let me keep the motherless babies, slimy and blind, born in a dark corner of the garden.

2

I had just turned six. The universal symbol for handicapped hadn’t even been invented yet. New York was full of snow and poets. Kerouac considered it hypocrisy to think in fragments, but write in complete sentences. My parents got me piano lessons. They also believed in the therapeutic properties of art. If Goodwill wouldn’t accept a donation of books, someone would. I spent that Hanukkah watching Christmas lights blink on and off on the house across the street.

*

Jonnie Miles

 Trashed – Untitled 1

*

A Story Should Include

Robert McKay

(English lesson plan for new Americans)

– Characters. For instance: migratory birds whose calligraphy may be magnetic but may just as easily come from outer space.

– Beginning middle end. In the geologic migration of Time, the antecedents of birds are reptiles. The heirs of birds are automobiles. The heirs of automobiles are fossils. The heirs of fossils are birds.

– Problem. Or, a garden that doesn’t turn out to grow vegetables, but teeth.

– Exciting middle. Like, for example, the exciting middle, the fat, actually enormous, completely bogus, middle of this continent. Fat with grain! Exciting with vast migrating herds of boarded-up factories! Oh their thunderous bellows of silence! Oh their rectangular plyboard eyes! Watch out! They’re coming!

– Detail. We’ll leave that part to the reader’s (boarded-up, migratory) imagination.

– Setting. Interior or exterior. Landscape being of course a form of music. Ditto architecture. Story writers being of course mere librettists, utterly dependent for their bread on the opera-composers who might variously sign their works, Fate, Desire, History, Bad Luck, Lady Luck, Weather, Forgetfulness, Topography, etc.

– Migrations. And if it’s a story on this continent, the tradition is in favor of a migration of fossils. Herds of fossilized buffalo, their cries buried in the air, the endless tectonic air of this continent. The migration, after that, in which “nothing happens” [1] : a migration of reptilian automobiles that cense the Interstate (which is a mythic world-snake of poured lava) with the ghosts of fossilized reptiles. These epic migrations — without which who could have a story? — even as they displace herds of our continent’s young into the narrative equivalent of tent cities also made of fossils, are to be fair also doing us the service of repatriating displaced fossils to the air of this continent, which is like a vast sovereign cemetery ruled by dinosaurs. As was said, who could have a story without migrations like that.

…..

[1]. Plenty Coups, chief of the Crow Nation, told his people’s story. It had a beginning (omitted here), a middle (omitted here) and a neat, satisfying end: “When the buffalo went away, the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened.”

*

Grant Palmer

A Kiss

*

Transformation

Jennifer Moffett

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”   —C.G. Jung

Ghosts linger in tall grass
Where lime-green blades caress bare skin

The diamondback slides
A fleeting horrific shimmer
Into a black barrier of trees
To its narrow escape

And you
Digging obsessively
Flinging red clay in gummy clumps
Before you nudge me in

Where earthworms burrow blindly
In search of protection
Writhing like slender tongues
Slimy and cool

Behind my knees, between my thighs
Muddy s-curves on prickled skin
My eyes have rolled back when you climb in
Shovel abandoned for notebook and pen

A flame blooms and dims in your ancient pipe
Pungent smoke mingling with fresh dirt
Where you hover and pace
Scratching out symbols

Until your finger traces my jaw line
When you stoop down to whisper the news.

*

Tall Tall Tales

Heidi Harris

*

Fuck Knot

Shanna Germain

His hands in my hair, he finds it at the back of my neck,
(what my grandma called a kitchen)—fist-sized tangle
woven and inter—, strands wound round each other.

This is not play fucking, this is him, pulling the parts
of me together, hard, until I’m so raveled/unraveled
that I can’t remember which is me and which is me.

He’s a man good with ropes—boy scout, sailor—
can untangle a kite string greased with sweat and swears.
I wait to see if he can unloop this knot of memory:

My mother’s been gone six weeks—a bruise so ink-blue
my father can’t rub it off, not even with
his thumb and spit and press.

Not even with his girlfriend, blonde. Fingernails tipped
to clear, she tries to clean me, wear me back down
to pink like a new eraser. My eyes blue buttons

too big for her button-holes. She’d like to snip them, I feel
it in the way she tugs my hair, my father’s black comb
from the bathroom cupboard,

sharp teeth at the back of my neck, that secret place
where I store my fears,  sneaker-laced, looped and
bunnied into hearts and squares.

So many ways to untie/untangle the strands of what
I’ve been and what lengths I might go to, but the silver
sheen of her scissors only made ends and ends.

To the boy with his hands in my hair now, I offer my kitchen
to his fingers, hoping he will not fumble, hoping he will find
the ends that hold me piecemeal/together, tug me loose.

*

Jonnie Miles

Pavement Grating

*

Self-Loathing

Jay Sizemore

It’s not my heart.
Not something so simple,
not just muscle and tissue,
blood and rhythm
fluctuating to the beat
of unheard music in her skin,
not something so easy
to remove with a knife
and pack in coffee grounds
so the dogs won’t find it.

It’s something else;
a different animal
with diamond flesh
that shines like the first
glimmer of sunlight
in a newborn’s eyes,
feels like the finest
pinprick of beauty
on a virgin retina
filtered through eyelashes
into the chest pangs
that discern the truth
from a lie.

It’s the wooly mammoth
struggling to survive
in a room full of spears.

I’ve made it bleed,
painted the walls
into Rorschach inkblots
smeared with a blind man’s hands,
red, red, red,
as the insides of god,
each one resembling
a different aspect of her face.

This wall is her lips,
this wall her eyes,
her nose,
her chin,
disarranged
like a drunk Picasso
designing a Rubik’s cube
from the inside out.

I’m tearing this building down
so I can find a place to sleep,
and hide from the earthquakes
in my head,
where my dreams
float in the crimson sea
from which the tides
leave red stones
I’ve fashioned into my bed.

*

Open

Afton Wilky

*

Stalemate

Steve Mitchell

Nothing will change it.  The drugs before, the booze and the grass and the Benzedrine didn’t change it.  The new drugs in safe brown bottles don’t change it anymore even though I’m told they should.  The drugs in brown bottles keep it contained until it gets out then it’s out; out, where it roars through the room and the house, echoing off the glass; out, taking everything that connects me with it, so I’m just a loose collection of bones and shuffled memory.

And all I can tell her is I’m sorry and I am but that doesn’t mean anything anymore.

And she cries; or she doesn’t, being brave and understanding instead, she tries to hold me or stand close to me but any contact is just that much more shame and guilt.  She’s the one who’s gotta decide.  It shouldn’t be that way but it is.  I got too much hope invested in her skin and her breath and the sweat at the base of her neck.

Sometimes, when I lie beside her everything can seem alright.  That’s the sharp teeth of the trap.  Other times I lie still, I appear to lie still, someone else, peering into the room, might think that I was still.  Except her.  She would know; she knows I am spinning.  At a high frequency.  She knows I am gone, even lying warm beside her I am gone.

I watch myself drain away from her, wanting so much to reach out and flex my fingers in her hair.  I watch the distance grow between us like I’m on a train moving too fast to leap from and I can’t leap anyway cause I can’t move cause the dark has opened up all around me.

The undersides of the leaves are gray in the porch light, the step is damp beneath me and there’s a whisper of a breeze; she is crying in the house behind me because I am who I am and she loves me.

It’s not that I didn’t tell her, it’s just that she didn’t know, didn’t know what it meant when I tried to tell her, either using the big important words or reducing it down to darkness and light, movement and imprisonment, breathing and suffocation.  And it’s not that she didn’t want to understand, she maintained eye contact, nodded her head and asked questions, wanting to know, building up banks of information like books waiting to be read, until she did know something.  It’s just that there’s a gap between knowing and living.  There’s a gap between best wishes and not getting out of bed for the third day.

Leafing through the magazines in the waiting room she discovers smiling people on the proper doses of the proper medications in tasteful before-and-after pictures; they all have families, boats and jobs and long expanses of open beach to traverse together.  The hope rests in soft colors upon the page.  I don’t look at the magazines, but I notice when she does and I notice the soft slip of expression on her face.  I sit, hunched forward slightly, hands between my knees, one leg bouncing rhythmically from the floor, unable to still the motion in my limbs.

Listening to the doctor talk on the other side of his wide desk, they can agree on signs of improvement and the possibility that a new treatment, simply awaiting approval, might make all the difference and no matter how I interject or which rational and perceptive comments I make or how involved I might be in my own treatment, I cannot escape the feeling that they are my parents, discussing my report card in grade school and making a plan for my improvement and I can never fully abandon that rage.

And it’s only a matter of time before I am burning out of control, angry and yelling, heating the house to a glow, and I hate her for understanding and I hate her for being there and I hate her for loving me because I see clearly, with crystal precision, that there is nothing left here to love, nothing left of who I was or who I could be but an image like a faded movie poster for a film which will never arrive and I hate her because every day she is standing in line to buy a new ticket.

And then, when our life has cooled from molten to blue, she will take me by surprise, touching my fingers in the grocery store, or looking up to me, smiling from her morning coffee, and something in me will become human again, as if every part of me which had drained off  was now spilling back in, bubbling from my toes, filling into my body warm and vibrant and for one moment, there at the kitchen table or standing in front of the cornflakes, I believe I am alive.

But nothing helps enough.  Not enough to keep the darkness at a distance long enough to build anything resembling a life.  It shouldn’t be that way but it is; she’s the one who’ll have to leave and her guilt will be a shard of me she’ll never remove from her flesh.

It’s late or early and no-one in the neighborhood is awake.   The lawns are quiet and the streets are empty.  All of the windows are dark except for a grey nightlight two houses down.  I don’t want to go back into the house but, later, I will.

Later, I’ll drag myself into the living room and collapse into the blueglow of the TV,  watching nothing, masturbating to some tune I hardly remember, filled to bursting with a sadness I can’t get out of me, while she sleeps quietly in the other room.  And, in the morning, she will wake up, still believing something about me that I cannot understand.

*

Bill DesJardins

Being Gregory Levine

*

Kant

Heller Levinson

More explosive than my orgasm was her response.
“Kant says that destiny is a rearrangement of chaotic decimals.”

That was a first.  No partner had ever quoted Kant before.  In fact, I couldn’t remember a partner ever saying anything memorable after lovemaking.  I stayed over.

I didn’t know much about her.  Barely knew her name, … Cindy I think.  Met her at the Cakeshop where we were both listening to the Bernie Nix trio.  At intermission I struck up a conversation at the bar, discussed jazz:  did she think Bernie’s playing had changed much since his days with Ornette, was she up on younger players like Joe Giglio and John Stowell, you know … lubricants, … while all of me was entirely focused on primal concerns, I’m not sure I listened to her responses, certainly I couldn’t quote them for you, I was intent on the seduction, on satisfying the proverbial goal of  “getting my rocks off.”

It was rare for me to spend the night.  I enjoyed sex.  I enjoyed variety.  I enjoyed going back to my own digs.  But a Kantian orgasm?  You just don’t mess with that.

In the morning I woke to:  “Heraclitus says time is a function of memory which in turn is a nervous response to one’s environment.”  Then she took me in her mouth.

A week later – never having left her apartment – and more practiced, I was taking her doggie style on the floor when she popped “Hegel felt that the Historic was nothing but an opportunity for Spirit to empiricize the formulaic,” – we came together.  Our love making had reached a pitch of perfection.  Going on three weeks and I had never returned to my place.  I couldn’t bear to be away from her.  She had broken through.  I wasn’t the same man.  I was hooked.

After a long day, I was fatigued and went to bed.  I wasn’t in the mood.  She whispered in my ear, “Descartes felt that the Mind should be considered a First Principle,” – it stood upright.  I was delirious.  I finally understood what love was.  I couldn’t wait to call Mom and Dad.  To pop the question.  The following night, while drinking champagne, I said,

“Aristotle said Love was the continuous conversation.”
“Yes,” she said.

*

Don’t Attack Me With Your Happiness

Kill The Band

*

The Lost Shirt

Ken Poyner

I come across my shirt, hanging out with a fancy red dress that is cut a bit too short for the season, that sways sassily well above the ground.  This sort of dress should have dark stockings and pin prick heels, should set its spaghetti straps off with low color, but there is nothing save the dress.

My shirt seems to be enjoying itself.  It is one of the few long sleeved ones I have, looking a bit formal, but in its every motion appearing casual.  It dips conspiratorially to the dress.  It sways back as though laughing at its own joke.  It twists at the waist and surely, if there were pants, it would bunch in wearied rolls of cloth at the back along the belt line.

I think the dress is leading my shirt on.  I think the shirt believes there is going to be more to this relationship than simply laundry on the loose.  The shirt thinks it is doing well, but I have seen dresses like this before:  always cut a bit seductively, but not so seductively you suspect there would be no sport in trying to caress it, no challenge to separate its emotional side from the pure physicality that you have been lusting after all along.   Dresses like this run the border, do not do well in large crowds.  They hint.  They live for the thesaurus.

And once a dress like this gets you alone, you are nothing but yesterday’s slightly soiled garment:  wrinkled and with the slight must of use, a bit of a stain just over the breast pocket.  The encounter starts out arm in arm, but whereas the shirt will not complain that the dress’s zipper tongue juts out too much, or that there is a fray on the hem, the dress will soon start testing the shirt’s buttons to see if they are affixed securely, will soon start examining the thread count, will pull out the rumpled label inside the collar to see just how much cotton there is in the mix.

I’ve warned my shirts before.  Don’t think you can get through this without me.  Don’t think you can go this route alone.  You will end up wadded in the hamper, waiting for one more wash that will leach the color out of you and get you one cycle closer to the over worn, over washed donation sack.  You need me.  You need my better judgment.  I can show you what a dress like this is for.  I can see through the threads and stitching and underwire to engage what is really there, to imagine what work can be done, what raw and pliable material is left for envy and design.   And I know what to do with it.  In wear, I am your best interest.  Come back to me.   Come back.

*

Jonnie Miles

Plastic Sheeting Caught in Tree

*

The Egyptian Swing

Cutleri

*

Whispers

Peter Baltensperger

Time stood still for the couple in the grass, a warm summer rain drizzling down on them from a generous sky. Their wet bodies slithered against each other, over each other, around each other, their arms entwined, like snakes, wet breasts, wet flesh. Their hands glided over their bodies, delighting in their fascination with sleek skin, slippery mounds, dripping hair, the complexities of rain, falling. They moaned and groaned as they drank their titillation, licked rain drops from their bodies, saturated their minds as the rain was saturating the grass.

They pressed their lips together and drank from each other, their tongues heightening their stimulation, tweaking their arousal. They slid all over their bodies with their lips, their tongues, stilling their thirst with the mixture of glandular emissions and the rarefied purity of the manna from the sky. They were totally absorbed in each other, part of the grass and the rain, part of the voices saturating the air. They couldn’t have been any more sensuous, any more charged, electric arcs jumping from brain to brain.

A woman was floating down the river, fondling herself, her breasts gleaming islands in the current, dreaming of green grass and erect penises, throbbing. She was listening to the waves whispering, gathering secrets for her cornucopia of accumulated treasures, counting penises pulsating along the shore. Sheet lightning flickered across a dark sky, the hint of thunder somewhere far away. Sometimes it didn’t rain, despite contrary indications, a perplexity in the absence of what could be understood.

The woman drifted leisurely with the chattering waves, counting her orgasms as she projected herself into the lightning, the thunder, a child of the water, of the Earth. She still had a long time to float until she reached her destination, much to learn from the waves, much to count. Her gliding on the river was her ultimate passion, her path; her gathering and dreaming her fulfillment on her journey from one place to the next, never knowing where “next” would be. It wouldn’t have been the same.

The only thing she ever knew for sure was that something significant always awaited her in the end, an epiphany perhaps, a new look in her eyes, different echoes in her ears. The end was her purpose and her propellant, the proverbial carrot, her journeys a continuous recurrence leading from level to level as the river swelled to ever new heights. The penises along the shore were getting stronger and better, her cries louder, the waves more outspoken, more intense with every bend in the river.

Two women walked naked into a rain-filled forest, their feet uncertain on the squishy forest floor. They laughed when they sank into the wet ground, balanced each other, wet skin on wet skin, their hair dripping. When they came to a stream meandering through the trees, they knelt in the grass and drank from the fresh water, a ritual of rejuvenation in  the secretive dimness of the trees. They helped each other up from the slippery ground and fell into each other’s arms, kissing lightly, playfully, then earnestly, passionately, drinking the droplets of water from their lips, the rain from their cheeks. Later, they would follow the stream down to the river, a synchronicity, perhaps.

Having stilled their thirst, they found a smooth tree near the stream and wrapped their bodies around the trunk, their arms around each other. The tree their mutual phallus, they rubbed their luscious pussies against the soft bark, holding each other in place until they shuddered deliciously and gasped for breath. Their cries echoed through the dripping forest, voices in the wilderness trying to find themselves. Afterwards, they stretched out in the soaked moss, wrapped their arms around each other, and listened to the whispers of the leaves, rain drops pooling on their bodies, the multiplicity of forests.

A man sat alone in a house between the forest and the river, listening to the drumming on his roof, trying to dream. He wasn’t very good at dreaming, fixated on  breasts as he was, although he listened intently to the rivulets running down his windowpane speaking cryptic truths. Some of them he understood, particularly when they were about breasts; others went by unnoticed, obscured.

He dreamt of a woman floating on a river, visualizing her floating islands, wishing he were one of the penises on the shore. The river would have been good for him, had he been able to get to the shore. He dreamt about two women glued to a smooth trunk, wishing he were the tree. The tree would have been an important symbol in the confusion of his mind. He was good at wishing, turning his soul inside out, yearning for fulfillment, not very often with too much success. Voices were not always meant to be understood, one of the incomprehensible vicissitudes of living between a river and a tree.

The woman with the island breasts kept floating along on the river, her moans of satisfaction intermingling with the whispers of the waves, lulling her into a sense of accomplishment, security. Her black hair was trailing behind her in the water, her abundant black bush tousled by the currents, her long legs pointing towards the ocean. Tides were waiting for her there, washing treasures up on the sand, perhaps a full moon. The sea sky was clear, sparkling with stars.

The couple in the grass was wallowing in the rain, slick bodies intertwined, a pulsating penis in a rain-soaked vagina, the universe evolving. Their delicious liquids intermingled, their journey culminating in the ultimate revelation. They deserved their cries of abandon reverberating through the drizzle, blending in with the cries from the forest, the moans from the river, the groans from the house. It couldn’t have been more perfect, the wondrous idiosyncrasies of a warm summer rain.

*

Kyla Ann Gellein

***

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2012 7:45 am

    Wow, this is all wonderful! Congratulations, all. What a fantastic collection.

  2. Allie Marini Batts permalink
    June 27, 2012 8:35 pm

    Great collection of pieces. Haunting.

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