Tag Archives: FLAPPERHOUSE #17

“Luxury Lucent” – Poetry by Steven Ray Smith

Dream of Luxury – Dorothea Tanning, 1944

The grand finale of our Spring 2018 issue is Steven Ray Smith‘s brilliant poem “Luxury Lucent.”

{ X }

And then one day,
the marble fortress with armored
windows at the corner of profusion
boulevard and especial
avenue sold a moment of lucent insight instead
of diamonds.

For an extraordinary occasion surpassing even
the summoning to fertility of the wedding,
the chronicling of survival in the birthday,
gratitude for fertility of the anniversary, and
the annulling of failures of the funeral,

they opened the hefty and segregating doors
and emptied onto the display case their lifetime savings
of begrudging tolerances, spurious excuses,
and self-serving deceptions in return
for a tiny box tied in ribbons
the jeweler slid across the glass.
They will never afford such luxury again.
But if they grasp how this can be —
an empty box, nothingness wrapped in preciousness —
they won’t look to.

{ X }

STEVEN RAY SMITH‘s poetry has appeared in SliceThe Yale Review, Southwest Review, The Kenyon Review, New Madrid, Tar River Poetry, Puerto del Sol, THINK and others. New work is forthcoming in Barrow Street and Clarion Magazine. His web site is at www.StevenRaySmith.org.

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“Pink Lemonade” – Poetry by Gabriela Garcia

Trilogy of the Desert: Mirage – Salvador Dali, 1946

“Pink Lemonade” is one of four menacing yet vulnerable poems by Gabriela Garcia in our Spring 2018 issue.

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YOU WAKE IN THE DARK
& are not suicidal
so much as flirting
with the look of it
the way you consider
pie under glass at
a diner, polished
& dark red beneath
a cross-hatched top.
Who really sits down
at the diner & orders
just a slice of pie.
It would probably
taste like all those
things you could
never eat as a child,
like chugging pink
lemonade at the barbecue
because it was never
allowed in the house
unless there was company
over. It would taste
like the first time
someone sucked your
tits & didn’t call.
Our bodies have all been
through the desert.
We’ve all had a mirage
of water on the blank
ceiling & wondered
what it might be like
to take a sip.

{ X }

GABRIELA GARCIA is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in North American ReviewWord Riot, No Dear and elsewhere. She is a James Hearst Poetry Prize finalist, the founder of the podcast On Poetryand an MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she serves as Poetry Editor for Columbia Journal.

“Forever” – Fiction by Michael Chin

Circus – August Macke, 1911

An unemployed young man meets a passionate and charismatic woman who literally makes his life a circus in “Forever,” Michael Chin‘s wild and haunting short story from our Spring 2018 issue.

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YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH A WOMAN ALL AT ONCE. You lose her in pieces.

The Ringmaster, before he was The Ringmaster, met a woman with hair the color of ripe peaches, and the whitest skin you’ve ever seen. The kind of woman you sensed you could bite right into and she’d dissolve like cotton candy.

His name was Verne in those days. He met her at a drugstore where she was shoplifting lipstick. The owner caught her, an Iranian man with a bald head and a handlebar moustache. “Thief! Thief!” he screamed, followed by a tantrum of curse words and guttural sounds. His six year-old son stopped taking inventory with the nub of a red crayon to look up. The Iranian’s wife, a white woman with a patch over her left eye, watched from the counter.

Verne pitied the family and loathed the Iranian, but his store was close by and he carried the frozen orange chicken Verne liked—the Americanized Chinese food his parents would never abide. He was third generation Chinese. The first in his family not to know Mandarin. The one who was supposed to fulfill all of the American dreams. A doctor, or a lawyer, or a physicist. Someone to be counted. Instead, Johnny Walker and orange chicken consumed his nights while he collected unemployment checks that would run dry exactly one week from that night.

“She was going to pay for it,” Verne said.

The Iranian held the woman by her wrist. Knuckles turning white. Verne thought he might take a cleaver to her hand like they did in the old country.

“You know her?”

The woman’s eyes grew glassy.

“I do,” Verne said

The Iranian waved the tube of lipstick in the air. The shiny black outside caught the light for a second. “Why’d she put it in her purse?”

Because she was stealing, of course, but that was the only answer Verne couldn’t give.

The woman kneed the Iranian in his balls. He doubled over and crumpled to the floor. She snatched the lipstick from him and took Verne’s hand.

Before he could think, they were outside and running. Verne clutched three cardboard boxes of orange chicken under his arm.

The Iranian came outside, still bent, clutching his crotch. “You never come back to my store! You come back and I’ll kill you!”

The woman laughed maniacally.

They wound up at Verne’s apartment, a studio cast in dull yellow by a single desk lamp. “Would you like some chicken?” He laughed as he said it, all that adrenaline and nervous energy and the absurdity of the moment overwhelming him.

“Sounds delicious.”

He opened a box and perforated the plastic film, then put the first plastic tray in the microwave. When he turned back around the woman was there waiting for him. Taller than him. His eyes met her neck. She held the canister of lipstick in her fingers. “Since we’re sharing stolen goods, can I interest you in some ravishing red?”

He took the lipstick and smeared it over his lips, drunk on her.

He took the first tray of chicken out and put in the second. “Chopsticks or fork?”

“No thanks.” She picked up her first piece of chicken, still steaming, between thumb and forefinger.

He started in with his chopsticks. She asked him to show her how to use them.

“I don’t use them right,” he admitted. He was self-taught—annoyed when he was little and his older cousins made fun of him. His parents never taught him the proper technique.

“They wanted me to be an American. Leave Chinese things behind.” He held a piece of chicken up in front of them. His extended family still laughed at him for holding the chopsticks wrong. White people never noticed.

“It’s silly,” the woman said. “Our parents tell us what to be. Most people never realize they can be anything else.”

The woman had drawn close to him. He could smell the orange sauce on her breath and feel the steam from the plastic tray rise at his neck. A scrap of the fried chicken skin had affixed itself to her lower lip.

“What do you want to be?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

She kissed him.

“I don’t even know your name,” he said.

“Penelope.”

She kissed him again. This time, he expected it and clutched her. Wrestled her to the floor. Or maybe she wrestled him. First he was on top, then her. The floor felt rough against his back. Her hair tumbled down, surrounding him. Darkness with orange edges where the light peeked between strands.

“Tell me you’ll want me forever,” she said.

He touched her breasts and salivated. He couldn’t imagine a circumstance in which he wouldn’t want her. “I will.”

“You will what?”

“I will want you forever.”

They continued. He wasn’t sure how long they carried on, only that the first morning rays to shine through the window made the film of sweat on her skin shine.

He woke hours, minutes, maybe seconds later, to the sound of the microwave. The smell of hot orange chicken. Penelope perched herself on the counter, wearing Verne’s shirt from the night before, and feasted.

Movement meant agony. Verne stretched his arm up over his shoulder, and dipped his hand onto the tender flesh of his back. His skin had broken, bleeding over the bare hardwood.

Penelope watched him. “Hungry?”

Continue reading “Forever” – Fiction by Michael Chin

“Endling” – Fiction by Clio Velentza

Owl on Ginkgo Branch – Ohara Koson, 1915

“Endling” is Clio Velentza‘s tender and unsettling flash fiction from our Spring 2018 issue.

{ X }

I WAS THERE AT THE PARK, THE DAY THEY FOUND THE GIRL. That’s how I know she was real. The dark morning had the stillness of a window display. I stood behind a tree, steaming in my running clothes. I saw her ruffled wings, her little gnashing teeth. She bit a man’s finger right off, and fled under the broken bridge we fed the ducks from. I can’t get her toes out of my mind, how small and blue they were. There was the lonesome cry of a scops owl, the abrupt rush of feet in wet foliage. Her yelps grew wilder as the people closed in.

Two of them were holding back a frantic woman. She was in a faded parka thrown over a bathrobe and slippers. Not my sweetie, the woman cried. Not my baby. The baby wailed. The sound tore at my skin, it scratched the inside of my skull. They covered their ears, and someone vomited into the pond. The girl was aglow in the dimness, soft downy feathers rippling with every spasm. It’s alright, someone kept saying, it’s alright. Let’s get this done. And, no more than one dart, she’s so goddamn small.

They stepped back for the clear shot. She perked up, gathering bony limbs for one last sprint. My eyes met hers, two panicked, golden reflections like fallen stars. Hi, I mouthed. Baby.

There was the soft whistle of the gun. The stagger of the frail body, the dreamy linger at the edge of the water. The splash. The jingle of the cage door. The woman in the bathrobe hung limp between their arms. My baby, she kept calling. My angel.

{ X }

CLIO VELENTZA lives in Athens, Greece. She is a winner of “Best Small Fictions 2016” and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has appeared in several literary journals such as WigleafLost BalloonHypertrophic LiteraryNoble/Gas QtrlyThe Letters PageJellyfish Review and People Holdingalong with some anthologies in both English and Greek. She is currently working on a novel.

“Self-Portrait as Pokémon #568 or Trubbish” – Poetry by Brandon Melendez

“Self-Portrait as Pokémon #568 or Trubbish” is Brandon Melendez‘s forlorn yet infectiously optimistic poem from our Spring 2018 issue.

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       BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T FEEL LIKE TRASH, sometimes? A bag of meat

bursting at the seams with old boots decomposed cat   expired trojans    & a potato.

At least I am full       with something. At least every Tuesday     someone will hold me  
      
all the way to the curb & I won’t be alone. All of us unwanted  anathema polyethylene

skin   we will gather            to empty ourselves           of what rots inside us. So grateful

to break open           in a way that does not bleed. Praise the fungi      & rotting bread.

The toothbrush undressed of its bristles.  Praise the mystery juice              how it leaks  
           
                        & curdles

                                                                & grows a new body.

Praise these bodies                                                           & the flies that deem us a home 

                                                                                  good enough

                        to raise a family in.

{ X }

BRANDON MELENDEZ is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of home/land (Write Bloody 2019). He is a National Poetry Slam finalist and two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion. He was awarded Best Poem and Funniest Poem at collegiate national poetry competitions (CUPSI). His poems are in or forthcoming in Adroit Journal, Muzzle Magazine, the minnesota review, Ninth LetterSixth Finch, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Boston and is an MFA candidate at Emerson College.

“Dead in the Eye” – Fiction by Melissa Mesku

Pond with Ducks (Girl Amusing Herself) – Paul Gaugin, 1881

From our Spring 2018 issueMelissa Mesku‘s “Dead in the Eye” is a short coming-of-age story about ducks and cigarettes and the strangeness of adolescence. [And if you’ll be in the NYC area on Wednesday, May 23, you can catch Melissa read among our stellar lineup of writers & performers at FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #22.]

{ X }

THE BOYS CAME BACK FEVERISH, YELLING OVER EACH OTHER. Aunt Grandma climbed down from the trailer to hush them. It was just after twilight but their eyes were wild, glowing. Bright impossibilities spilled out of their mouths.

Among them:

1/ Some witches had turned a boy into a duck and then murdered him

2/ Raven-haired sorceresses had buried a dead duck which came back to life

3/ A pair of girl Satanists had burned a duck alive and then drank its blood

Aunt Grandma’s twin came out of her trailer next door. The boys saw they had a new audience and ran to her, shouting. They crowded around her like dogs. She was a bit drunk from what we could tell – rum, no doubt – and we listened to her “Mmm hmm” and “You don’t say” while all four boys ran at the mouth. More details emerged.

1/ The witches were sisters

2/ They weren’t witches, but vampires

3/ Regardless, they were lesbians

The way they told it, the whole mountainside was abuzz with rumors. Apparently, the only fact they agreed upon was that the offenders – two females – had disappeared at sundown in a cloud of smoke.

Violet and I sat in our tent with the lights out, our sides heaving. We clutched our hands over our mouths and stayed silent, stone silent. We had nothing but contempt for the boys and their ridiculous stories, but for once we were enthralled. The cacophony was theirs, but the mischief that had unleashed it was ours.

That night, in the dark, Violet and I swore that tomorrow, we’d return to the scene. “If what those boys want is a witch, a witch is what they’re going to get,” she said ominously.

It’s just as well we made that promise under the cover of night. I had trouble looking her in the eye those days. Or maybe she had trouble looking at me. In my naïveté, I assumed it was because if our eyes did meet, we would have cracked up and blown our cover.
Continue reading “Dead in the Eye” – Fiction by Melissa Mesku

“Angels and Cowboys” – Fiction by Catfish McDaris

An Angel – Marc Chagall, 1960

A drifter makes a brief but unforgettable companionship in “Angels and Cowboys,” Catfish McDaris‘ flash fiction from our Spring 2018 issue.

{ X }

BEING NEW TO CALIFORNIA, PORTERHOUSE ADJUSTED TO THE SWAY of the Angelinas and palm trees. Surfboards, skateboards, smiles, and bikinis, what was not to like. Porterhouse’s pockets were flush, he’d been breaking horses in New Mexico. He learned how from the Apaches and his father, they took them into water and learned the horse’s language. When a wild animal is treated with respect, miracles often happen. Porterhouse got a room with a stove and a bathroom near the beach. The ocean was a new experience, he listened to the waves and tried to hear the fish singing. He stood on the beach and picked up a hand full of sand, smelling it slowly. It was like a desert, but full of salt water, full of many things to learn. Watching the golden buttery sunset, this seemed like a magnificent adventure. Porterhouse got thirsty and his stomach was growling. He stopped and bought two bottles of Archer Roose Carmenere Chilean wine and a corkscrew. At the market he bought green onions, flour tortillas, canned frijoles, and hamburger meat. From above he heard a whimper sob, he saw a few bloody feathers on the sidewalk. Half hidden in a tree was a winged lady. She was blonde and had a blue suit on and long white feathered wings. Except one wing was clearly injured.

“I need help, I’ve been hurt by a drone helicopter.”

“How can I help?” Porterhouse asked.

“I have money, please rent a hotel room near a park with lots of birds. Also, I need a large trench coat to conceal my wings and a first aid kit. Will you help, please?” She dropped a large stack of hundred-dollar bills.

“Are you an angel?” She nodded yes. “Stay there and I’ll be back.” Porterhouse grabbed his bag, tossed his grub, got a nice big London Fog trench coat, got a first aid kit, and found a fancy hotel with room service. “Are you ready, Angel?”

“Don’t drop me, cowboy.” She floated down into his arms and smiled through a grimace. He helped her into her new coat and removed the tag. They passed a nice forested park on the way to their hotel. Porterhouse let her take a shower, then he doctored her wounded wing. They ordered surf and turf and ice cream sundaes. He opened a bottle of wine, but they were both soon asleep. Porterhouse slept on a couch. Angela took the bed.

Everyday Porterhouse went into the park and gathered feathers of all sorts from the wooded area. He left them in the bathroom and wasn’t sure what Angela did with them. This went on for two weeks. One quiet morning Porterhouse woke up, on the dresser were two tall stacks of hundreds. A note with a lipstick print kiss goodbye and what looked like a duck call. The note read: if you ever need me, blow the angel whistle. Porterhouse packed his rucksack, leaving the whistle, and money. He figured he was the one who saddled his horse and he’d ride it alone.

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Catfish In Milwaukee Doing a Pee Wee/Urkel Poetry Monologue

CATFISH McDARIS’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee.