Category Archives: Excerpts

“Caulking the Wagon” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

A classic computer game inspires meditations on suffering & struggle in “Caulking the Wagon,”  one of two darkly beautiful & profoundly moving poems by Devin Kelly in our Summer 2017 issue.

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after Nate Marshall’s “The Oregon Trail”

IN THE CLASSROOM, I GATHER KIDS around & make them relive
my childhood. I type their names into the wagon, call myself
a carpenter because I know a wheel will break eventually.
I have no desire to spend my money on what can be repaired.
Dirty sweat & knowledge. The human condition is always
in need of upkeep. Because I know a house is not a home,
I ask them to imagine our wood lined with fur, a mess
of rug begging for the shaking out. We will take turns.
We will leave as the last frost thaws free the first flowers
of spring. There’s no option to pause the game & bend
to harvest milkweed. There was no vase for sale
in Independence, Missouri. We will deliberate the crossing
of water, delegate the tasks required to caulk the wagon –
who here has not hammered tar-soaked cotton into a wedge
in order to keep their body dry? How easy our suffering,
that we may make the pace grueling. How we stop
to view a tombstone & laugh when Michael dies
of dysentery. In our heads we know there is no time –
we will bury his body with the one shovel we own,
taking turns in heat, & leave above him just a pile of stone
some stranger might use to bludgeon an animal into meat.
                                                                              This isn’t real.
Not the sun, not the pixelated bullet slow-twirling
to kill the buffalo, not the purple mountains swirling
round the plains. When I was younger, I believed
in this nation’s majesty, each loss a synonym for some
greater gain. But look. Even here, the children are dying
one-by-one, lost first to cholera & water, then to what
this game offers no name. A bullet, a color, a wrong place
once thought safe – call the outside of this school a mass
grave, a massacre, a high mass turned toward God in a language
riddled with blood. The oxen are bowing their knees, bending
weary heads to push the earth away. There are no pixels
in heaven. There is only the song of your life sung backward
through the mouths we call the stars. You listen & feel
the wagon wheel’s roll, the crunch of it winding in reverse,
the land unbound & unnamed, the paper turning back to trees,
the trees un-leaning their way toward sky, all of eternity
driven back to dawn. By which I mean the promise of something,
that slick patch of morning when what you expect is the same
as what you hope. When my father returned from the West
he brought back a soft pack of cigarettes & a custom
cowboy hat. His mother was still alive. Later, no one sang
at her funeral, or if they did, I don’t remember. There was
only my father & his returning no longer a story & how his brother
left for West so many years ago & never came home. Most days
I want to give in to nostalgia, surrender my body to the burn
of light curling at the edges of a memory, trade old stories
like currency.  Sometimes the going-on is the dirty speckle
on the petal of a rose, beauty gone to hiding. There’s no option
to turn back, the kids say. How will we carry all that meat onto
the wagon? The sky does not look like that. They sigh. They moan
open their mouths like fish to unhook themselves from twine. This game
sucks, they say. This game sucks, this game sucks, this game sucks.

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Continue reading “Caulking the Wagon” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

“Mission Concept” – Fiction by Peter H.Z. Hsu

The Astronaut – Gandy Brodie, 1974

Our Summer 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #14, is sure to be a deep-flying, head-flipping odyssey. The issue launches next Wednesday, June 21, but in the meantime we’d like to offer a sneak peek of what to expect with Peter H.Z. Hsu’s trippy & unearthly flash fiction “Mission Concept.”

(Digital PDF copies of FLAPPERHOUSE #14 are currently available for pre-order; print copies available for order real soon…)

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THE ASTRONAUT’S JOB IS TO LEAVE THE EARTH.

The astronaut sometimes leaves the Earth to travel to the Moon. The Moon is very far away. Sometimes the astronaut travels further away than the Moon, much further. On these trips, the astronaut stays away for a very long time. The astronaut sometimes does not return.

The astronaut is sometimes a fighter pilot. The astronaut is sometimes a geologist. Sometimes an astronomer. Sometimes an electrical engineer. Sometimes the astronaut has a job specific to being an astronaut such as mission specialist or payload specialist or mission commander or administrative services manager. Sometimes the astronaut has a job that is not specific to being an astronaut. Sometimes the astronaut is a high school history teacher, an ordinary person making an extraordinary impact.

Sometimes the astronaut is an actor in a science fiction movie where he goes alone on a 40-year mission to a far-away solar system. When the astronaut returns, he walks a long, grey corridor to meet his lover. He is surprised at what he finds. The astronaut has grown old, but his lover has stayed young. This is scientifically inaccurate, yet this is what happens.

The astronaut touches his fingertips to his lover’s face. He stares. He recognizes her in her young face, her old eyes. He wants her. She is all he wants.

She says, “All is well. My lover has returned.”

He looks at his hand, still on her cheek. His hand is grey and dry like bone. His hand looks like a dead person’s hand, like a ghost hand.

He says, “No.”

His lover closes her eyes and turns her face. He takes his hand away. She backs away, head down. Then, without looking at him, she leaves. Continue reading “Mission Concept” – Fiction by Peter H.Z. Hsu

“Mercuria, the AndroGenie” – Poetry by Zoel Paupy Stirner

Venus – Walasse Ting, 1980

The grand finale of our Spring 2017 issue is Zoel Paupy Stirner‘s bawdy, lyrical epic poem / post-modern sailor’s shanty “Mercuria, the AndroGenie.” 

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STICK MY JUNK IN A BOX? / only if we’re talking ’bout Schrodinger’s
Yet with a bod like a vase / I sure ain’t boasting no dough figure
cause I sport no bigger a waist / than a glossy fat-shame trigger
yet no smaller my nates / than your own favorite pop singer’s
and if we’re talking ’bout face / mine’s as good as it gives
plump lips like felt lace / where I hook my svelte finger
and my beard’s long and dark and / carefully grizzled
into which I comb petals / among crumbs of old vittles,
stogie butts and gnawed bones, / glit-ter and dried spittle
I shake out my mane as I girlishly giggle
“Mercuria’s here, who’ll buy me a drink?
step quick to me, children / fate comes fast as a dink”

And the barman will nod as a queue quickly forms
Old men and young women, students fresh from their dorms
who’ve heard the queer tales of my magical wiles
stories teased out through whispers and half-ashamed smiles
A weaver of wishes / A teller of truths
A seer of souls / and a good lay to boot
Breasts that spill milky from a red-sequined dress
and gams that cross coyly, grained black like hir chest
with curling dark hair, refused to be shaved
but take care not to stare, lest you find Mercuria’s gaze
upon you and pleasure forever denied
along with your fate, to live haltered and blind

So they say, So they say / though my work’s still much stranger,
to portend’s my play / and your love is my languor

For every augur, a glass / mine’s a lipstick stained beer-mug
For every Samson, an ass-bone / and a fond parting ear-tug

“A prostitute priestess?” / “A hermaphrodite Christ?”
“Nailed ‘gainst the loo boards most ev-er-y night?”

All this, lovies, my dovies / All this and much more
Mercuria’s Queen where the sky strays the shore

Continue reading “Mercuria, the AndroGenie” – Poetry by Zoel Paupy Stirner

“Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

The Miracle of Light While Flying – Gerardo Dottori, 1931

Esteemed art historian & cultural critic GLB Pym returns to FLAPPERHOUSE to praise an underappreciated genius in “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination,” Amanda Sarasien‘s high-flying fiction from our Spring 2017 issue.

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THE BLOTTING OUT OF THE NAME ENNIO ALATA from the avant-garde is a glaring stain upon art itself. While my left hand, armed with its pen, charges in frenzied formation across the page, my right hand holds aloft its battle standard, a three-hundred-meter strip of film, Alata’s masterpiece. I march against immobile sentries, lay siege to concrete parapets that mire this ivory tower in the swamp of centuries. My just war has three simple aims:

  1. To emancipate the name Alata from the trenches of narrow minds who dismiss him as a minor Futurist; who, guided by their arbitrary geography of genre, confuse map lines with walls; who shed ink like blood dizzy with defeat weak with worry wondering where is his art? Where are the relics of his creative rituals? Sighs dissolving on passéist lips extol the mummified manuscript the cadaverous canvas, while I revere animate art, the silver-screen breath the radio hiss the zoetic flash across the stage.
  2. To lay at Immortality’s feet this celluloid garland spirited from the underworld of oblivion. Let breasts projecting the white light of curiosity, undimmed by petty doubt, convene. Together we will revive argentine idols frozen in webs of x-ray shadow, return them to the empyreal screen where they will take up once again the silent dance of deities.
  3. To sing the ballad of Alata’s electric exploits, lightning bolts rending complacent clouds. This high-voltage life is an aura hovering over Time and Space supercharging the twentieth century. Heretofore, critics averted their eyes from its ultraviolet brilliance, banished it to the upper reaches of the ionosphere to avoid the constant shock of its vibrations. With just a few anecdotes, I will harness this violent current, feed it to the ravenous power station to pulse through a radial network of static chatter, conducting new energy heart oxygen spirit into the bloodstream of art. My oratorio will bring the man—airplane down to earth for a momentary landing before launching him refueled into the firmament.

 

Although enfant terrible Ennio Alata never signed his name to a single Futurist manifesto, Marinetti’s founding credo must for him have represented a creative call to arms. Why else would he have kept his clipping from the February 20, 1909, edition of Le Figaro taped to the wall above his writing desk until the day of his death? To what extent Alata hitched his artistic ambitions to the racecar that was Futurism, as it hurtled down its collision course with history, remains a subject of disinterested debate. But no matter how the arguments vie, lapping round and round one another, the outcome is always the same: Absent material artifacts to attest to the value of his artistic production, Alata is discounted as a fickle dilettante, his early death a loss modernism suffers unmourned.

My appeals to the critical elites to reevaluate Alata’s legacy in light of the film fragment whose contents I will, in due course, unveil, have all gone unheeded. Dr. Bertram Beake of Wexford, Chair of the International Society for Modernism, defiled my panel proposal with a curt rejection which may as well have been a slap in the face, as that would have stung less. I cannot help but find such a rejection ironic, given the Futurists’ own abhorrence of academia, of so-called cognoscenti heaping -isms on top of one another like gravediggers filling a crowded cemetery. That a stodgy conference on Futurism would constitute a farce of colossal proportions clearly scurried right under Beake’s turned-up beak. With this manifesto, I mobilize the vanguard of avant-gardists, those wishing to revolt against institutes and societies who stick the corpses of Modernist movements under glass with pins. Together, we will declaim the genius of this brief film, in a forum not unlike those Futurist Evenings which, in their day, so upended correctness. Alata, of course, would have approved.

Continue reading “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

“Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul” – Fiction by Caroll Sun Yang

Squirrel Nutkin – Beatrix Potter, 1903

A vision of roadkill gives life to some wonderfully psychotropic short fiction in “Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul,” one of two pieces by Caroll Sun Yang in our Spring 2017 issue.

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Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam.
Sunbeams are never made like me.

Nirvana

{ Squirrel }

IS THERE NOTHING SO EXTRAORDINARY ABOUT ROADKILL? Today, I have taken the exact measure of java, carbs and psycho-tropics to be able to keenly observe that this squirrel does not look dead but rather in slumber. An earth-colored body unmarred, at rest with a bushy tail curled slightly in, sharp-tipped paws laid upon each other as if in lazy prayer, a round frog belly covered in a down of cocoa-cream fur, overgrown teeth in a surprised mouth, slit wet eyes and such bitty folded ears pasted against its head. If I scream, will it hear me?

Los Angeles’ sunlight is stark, with a pale topaz gleam that provokes a suicidal nerve. I felt it many Augusts. Sometimes you will come out into this luster, from within dank dream-infested apartments or sprawling pseudo-Mediterranean abodes or any of the ill-composed habitats between and blink many times in an effort to calibrate self to such exposure. Blink, red behind the lids, blink, white, blink sunset, red-orange, white, blood oranges, white, tracers and floaters, veins, pomegranate, blink, open blue, blink… Thick polluting dust and the molecules of deferred hopes might take you. Sometimes that dazzling light plus the babble of traffic, daytime neon, alarms, vendors, construction, birds, elevators, footsteps, chewing, whispers… mated with the smell of tar and industry and perfumes and decay will deliver you straight to panic.

A poisonous sun shines hard on our dead squirrel, stiff rays push through a.m. clouds and smog. A religious feeling light spills over the beast, like it is a Virgin Mary in a master painting. The squirrel has a mother, as all must. A juvenile death is incorrect, even in the case of a peanut-brained mammal; premature death steals opportunities for action. Actions like falling in love, breaking up, falling apart, giving seed, taking seed, trusting again and slowly not. Imagine this rodent, before the vehicle met him, doing what it knew instinctively to do. Forage, collect, store, mate. It had innate sense of beginnings and endings. Begin spring. End spring. Begin summer. Reproduce. End that. Start fall. Collect like mad. Store. Feed. Reproduce. Spring. An ancient rhythm.

Cycle. Wilderness. Go.

Continue reading “Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul” – Fiction by Caroll Sun Yang

“Nine Masks” – Poetry by Gregory Crosby

Old Woman with Masks (Theatre of Masks) – James Ensor, 1889

We love our masks here at FLAPPERHOUSE, so of course we fell hard for “Nine Masks,” a sequence of mythical, mystical poems that Gregory Crosby contributed to our Spring 2017 issue.

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{ Mask of Born-to-be-head-of-the-world }

WHEN YOU PULL THE LIGHT ASIDE, THE DARKNESS
shines through, sable & smoky, a river
at midnight. A baby in bulrushes
doesn’t cry but makes a sound not “just like”
rushing water, but is rushing water:
a sweet gurgle of time, a waterfall
of eternity. History is the
barrel & we are all in it except
you, child. You are watching from the shore,
staring down into the mist you adore,
the one place where you can’t see anything,
the one place you’re free to forget your face,
imperious & blank. Out on the banks,
the daughters of Pharaoh stare into space.

 

{ Mask of a Supernatural Being }

THERE IS NO REASON WHY I SHOULD NOT BE,
but reason precludes me. I am proximate
without being near. I am forever
unclear in my perfect clarity.
I am great & terrible & worthless.
Anyone can wear me out, anywhere.
I dream your haunts more than I haunt your dreams.
I am the false face made real by the seam.

So why do you believe me when I tell
the tall tale of the heart’s desire?
Why do you believe me when I tell
the beginning of the beginning of
the beginning, without end? Why do you
cover your eyes with eyes as empty as mine?
Continue reading “Nine Masks” – Poetry by Gregory Crosby

“Never Be Stuck” – Poetry by j/j hastain & Juliet Cook

Rapunzel – Arthur Rackham, 1909

Individually, j/j hastain and Juliet Cook have contributed many flappy lits to our weird little zine over the years…but it wasn’t until our Spring 2017 issue that we finally published a collaboration between these uniquely gifted writers. Please enjoy their magically bizarre poem “Never Be Stuck” from FLAPPERHOUSE #13.

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NOT PART OF A PRIZE
fighting game.
Not part of a dog
fighting blood bath
that ends in death. But essentially
part of what it is that keeps
the world apart from itself. Take
a bath, throw in copper pennies
to see where they flow towards.

I know you’re afraid one of them might try
to attach itself to your eye,
but that doesn’t mean you’re dead
already. It means it is trying to make you
sing opera or howl
at the drain. Watch the lacerated
hair fly into symbiosis. Watch the hair
coming from her lovely wart
begin performing tattoos on
unsuspecting passersby.

The tattoos might grow
into tuberoses, rampions exploding
out the hair of a new Rapunzel
who will never be stuck in a tower.
The trapdoor shower shows us all
a discernible way home,
strand by strand, flying up
to the new hybrid magpie nest.
Even if you’re missing an eye,
all of the empty holes can be named
and with each name,
some unexpected
reverence renewed.

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Continue reading “Never Be Stuck” – Poetry by j/j hastain & Juliet Cook