Tag Archives: FLAPPERHOUSE #14

“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

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #16, In Pictures

A sky-full of thank-yous to everyone who helped make Reading #16 such an unforgettable affair : Ron, Francine, Devin, Kailey, Gabriela, and Leland for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your lovely via-satellite singing; Pacific Standard for your always-gracious hospitality; and all you magnificent people who came & graced us with your presence.
We hope to see you again in the Fall…

Ron Kolm recounts tales of his bookstore-working days

Francine Witte reads a heartbreaking poem of parenthood

Devin Kelly reads his Oregon Trail-inspired poem “Caulking the Wagon”
Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #16, In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE #14 Now on Sale!

Astronauts, Chrononauts, Bird Bones, Reincarnated Warhol, Clairvoyant Love Triangles, Loony Lighthouse-Keepers: FLAPPERHOUSE #14!

PRINT copies available for $6US
via Amazon
or CreateSpace
digital (PDF) copies $3US via PayPal
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PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately we are currently unable to email PDFs immediately upon order. Delivery of your PDF may take anywhere from several seconds to several hours, but rest assured, we will complete your purchase as soon as humanly possible. We apologize profusely for any inconvenience or delayed gratification.)

“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