Tag Archives: Spring 2016 (#9)

“This Year’s War” – Fiction by Nickalus Rupert

Thunderstorm on the Oregon Trail - Childe Hassam, 1908
Thunderstorm on the Oregon Trail – Childe Hassam, 1908

The grand finale of our Spring 2016 issue is “This Year’s War,” Nickalus Rupert‘s satirical yet tender tale of civil war in a not-so-improbable America.

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I’M GETTING TOO OLD FOR WAR, even the fictional kind. Our Reclusive Fifth hasn’t fought a real battle in years, and we don’t care to. Like so many others I’ve spent the better part of my adult life waiting for the thundering trumpets and molten skies that’ll finally herald the end times. Makes sense that the lesser cataclysms I’ve witnessed might set the table for a more proper apocalypse.

On the first Monday in April, we conduct our biannual meeting with the governor of New Oregon. Colonel Rivera reports heavy enemy casualties as usual. According to the records, we’ve laid low scores and scores of Cumberland soldiers, which is why Governor Swerth lets us keep our costly horses. Swerth drinks liberally from a flask looped around her shoulder. Her eyes moon with pride as Rivera embellishes the details of a battle we never fought. The more our colonel lies, the more I sweat, worrying that Swerth might want more details, might start demanding proof of battle.

Governor Swerth assures us that our victory is imminent and that Cumberland is run by unenlightened parochial mouth-breathers. Everyone knows that Swerth’s brother claims himself governor of Cumberland’s New Georgia, but no one mentions him. Swerth is so impressed she throws a few pieces of reformatted gold in with our usual bounty. Not that we need more gold.

On Tuesday, we march through another ruined town. Medford, maybe. Weeds and young trees spring from building foundations, confusing them for planters, while goats and rabid horses graze between toppled tombstones. Silas keeps chomping his bit and throwing his mane as we pass through. Even from a distance it’s obvious that many of the remaining townsfolk are delirious from heavy metal poisoning. Through my collapsible spyglass I watch two raggedy derelicts club each other with rusty appliances.

Shadowy mountain ranges tumble up from the northeast as we pass, their peaks sharp and frosted. Mt. McLoughlin reveals itself by degrees, a newly-formed tooth. To behold such a place, you might believe there’s more to the world than what we’ve seen ruined.

Rivera waxes sentimental about Crater Lake, that great barnacle nestled among the Cascades. He talks about the purity of its waters, which pool over three hundred fathoms deep inside the rim. It’s irritating to hear him go in like this. I’m not one who likes to get distracted by the landscape, which can kill you just as well as anything else out here.

On Thursday we round a river bend to find a brick-red canoe lashed to a tree on the opposite bank. The dozing fisherman’s pole is still poised over the water. We all smile easily until Doris motions to the faint ribbons of smoke curling over the pointed hemlocks behind the canoe. We hush our horses and scuttle under the firs. Echo huddles beside me on the dry loam. She and I are the only gray-heads in the bunch, she several years my senior, and already showing symptoms of toxicity. Over the years, I’ve seen her stove in her share of skulls, but now she sits with a fledgling bird in her coat pocket.

“I named her Pickles,” she whispers.

“Why Pickles?” I ask.

“Because that’s what I was hungry for, Clark.”

A few minutes later, we see the first enemy soldier. He parts the hemlocks along the opposite bank and swoons in the sunshine, shoeless and shirtless, his chest bearing three tattooed feathers—an emblem trademark of the Cumberland flag. He saunters along the river, pulls a serrated knife from its scabbard, and belches. The sleeper in the canoe doesn’t stir, so the soldier tickles the inside of the sleeper’s ear with the blade. That wakes him up. Without a word, the soldier hauls the man up by his hair and drops him onto the muddy bank. The fisherman pleads with the soldier, who laughs. Another Cumberland grunt appears at the soldier’s side and they begin laughing and kicking the fallen fisherman, either man lean as a bayonet. One of them pulls the guy’s oars out and chops his ribs good. I’m surrounded by gaping mouths. Few of our regiment’s soldiers are old enough to have encountered any significant conflict. No way they’ll risk their lives for this stranger.

A Cumberland soldier spits into the mud and starts piling river stones and driftwood into the canoe. The other soldier nods and adds branches of his own. They load the flimsy fisherman back into the canoe, pinning his legs beneath a snarl of branches and anchoring the branches with more rocks.

The fisherman doesn’t dare move, not even when his canoe lists over, water already threatening to spill over the gunwales. The soldiers swell toad-like as they taunt. They’ll drown this man. They’ll probably kill me if I try to interfere, but that’s not reason enough to stay hidden. Better to make a worthy sacrifice, no matter how feeble the effort.

Continue reading “This Year’s War” – Fiction by Nickalus Rupert

“advice from spirit eater” and “father” – Poetry by William Lessard

Burning House - Marc Chagall, 1913
Burning House – Marc Chagall, 1913

Not only does William Lessard have 3 gorgeously surreal poems in our Spring 2016 issue (including “advice from spirit eater” and “father,” below), he’ll have four more poems in our forthcoming issue, FLAPPERHOUSE XAND he’ll be performing at our 8th Reading / Issue X Flight Party at Brooklyn’s Pacific Standard on June 22!

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“advice from spirit eater”

BLUE BABY ANGEL

tucked

behind your spleen

every night

he claws out,

just to watch

cartoons

can’t stop him / can

slow him down

he likes sugar

and anger—give him

vegetables

&

joy

 

 { X } Continue reading “advice from spirit eater” and “father” – Poetry by William Lessard

“Master of the Understatement” – Poetry by Catfish McDaris

Glass Tears - Man Ray, 1932
Glass Tears – Man Ray, 1932

We’re not sure how this Spaniard fellow in “Master of the Understatement” determines his preferences, but we are surely fascinated by his unique train of thought. This poem is just one of 5 that Catfish McDaris contributed to our Spring 2016 issue, and you can read all of them by purchasing the issue here.

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SPANIARD DECIDED TO START WRITING:
I’d rather be a testicle than a rainbow
I’d rather be a tornado than a stinky fart
I’d rather be a cherry tree than a vagina

I’d rather be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart than Frank Sinatra
I’d rather be a buffalo nickel than a burning American flag
I’d rather be a teardrop than a booger

I’d rather be a guitar than a sneeze
I’d rather be a cloud than a flounder
I’d rather be a thimble of love than a ton of gold

I’d rather be tiger shit in Vietnam than a man with an ugly penis
I’d rather be a clitoris than a tomato
I’d rather be William S. Burroughs’ amputated finger
than Adolf Hitler’s testicle he lost in World War One.

{ X } Continue reading “Master of the Understatement” – Poetry by Catfish McDaris

“Outskirt Melancholia” – Poetry by Innas Tsuroiya

Study for Man and Machine - Hannah Hoch, 1921
Study for Man and Machine – Hannah Hoch, 1921

An estranged sense of yearning haunts “Outskirt Melancholia,” one of two enigmatically beautiful poems by Innas Tsuroiya in our Spring 2016 issue.

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FROM AN ABANDONED METROPOLIS BORN OF ROBOTS

or automatons; birthing noise and

disturbance, bearing hurl and turbulence

peeling our eyes out of riddles and

tiresomeness beyond compare

 

we are machine, we are motorcar

we are dysfunctional engine that sleeps

alone next to the city’s perimeter

we are unpaid safeguard praised of

being such passionless

we are not who we judge we are

 

then again who else in the earth is being

tired from getting tired; you may cast a

query to me from a small cavity crafted

in your water vacuum tube where you hide

all your emotions or from a buttonhole in

your gasoline-smelling armor-clad suit

 

we crawl underneath the leap of our faith

yet we are forever here in the borderline

of an abandoned metropolis born of

robots or automatons— but full of photographs

and paintings from faraway suburbs that

we never ever visit, we never ever call in

{ X } Continue reading “Outskirt Melancholia” – Poetry by Innas Tsuroiya

“Washerwomen” – Poetry by Christina M. Rau

Washerwomen - Paul Gauguin, 1888
Washerwomen – Paul Gauguin, 1888

“Washerwomen” is one of two stirring and beguiling poems by Christina M. Rau in our Spring 2016 issue.

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THEY SING A DULL, SAD SONG,
preparing sheets to shroud the dead.

Men can’t resist a moondance,
a ripple dance, long white hair.

The women weave it to make the sheets
they wash. They wear tattered dresses,

black and grey, subsist on night
and liquid, act kindly to those

pure of heart, and those at peace,
and those who dream and walk the moon.

From caves underground,
they emerge beside stagnant waters.

They offer cleansing to those who
discard the harmony of the night.

They pull sinners close,
pretty day-faces wrinkle at dark.

Sins fade only below the surface
twisted in damp sheets—

these shrouds are for sins.
Sometimes the women are only shadows.

{ X } Continue reading “Washerwomen” – Poetry by Christina M. Rau

“A Fan Girl Meets David Bowie” – Poetry by Sarah Lilius

BowieHeroesEven our most beloved gods & idols can reveal themselves to be mere all-too-human mortals– like in “A Fan Girl Meets David Bowie,” Sarah Lilius powerful poem from our Spring 2016 issue.

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CIGARETTE BUTTS IN A CRYSTAL ASHTRAY, opulence
with stink, curtains catch the smoke.
I see him watch me, wonder when I’d dance
but it’s not the 1980’s and my hair’s in place.
I think of the Labyrinth, a place to lose
myself, in my youth those tight pants
were everything, I dreamt of men
with makeup, men who sing
me to sleep, who laugh in different hats.

He never closes the door, doesn’t smile
as much as I thought he would.
His accent is faded a bit from the city
but still a Brit, I ask him about the Queen.
He looks out a clean window, flicks ash
to the floor and waits for the maid
to vacuum it up.

My dead fantasy is a sealed deal
when Iman walks in, tells me
it’s time to go.

{ X } Continue reading “A Fan Girl Meets David Bowie” – Poetry by Sarah Lilius

“Rolling Out Tortillas” – Poetry by Sarah Frances Moran

Self Portrait Along the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States - Frida Kahlo, 1932
Self Portrait Along the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States – Frida Kahlo, 1932

From our Spring 2016 issueSarah Frances Moran‘s lyrical & thought-provoking poem “Rolling Out Tortillas” explores some of the tangled borders of culture & history.

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ROLL OUT THE DOUGH.
Roll out the crossing of rivers and
sun scorched skin.
Roll out fingers brittle from a cotton gin
and a mind, only educated as far as picking a plant
can go.
Roll out dozens of siblings and cousins so vast
you have trouble remembering their names.

Roll out shame.
Roll out the way the white tongue has trouble
rolling the  r
Roll out and leave that part of you there, flattened.
Roll out eating ice cream outside because
only whites were allowed inside.
Roll out being told you can only speak English
to my children
Roll out losing your native tongue to love

Roll out your half-breed children
Roll out their light skin and the privilege they’ll
have the opportunity not to appreciate.
Roll out the Almendarez so Davis can fully set in.

Roll out the American Flag,
Roll it far and wide and so far and so wide
That you forget where San Luis Potosí
even is.

Roll out the Chicana in you.
Roll it out so it makes it ok to use wetback liberally.
Roll it until it’s so thin you can only see the white
reflected in your face, until your dark hair and dark eyes, pale.

Teach me how to hold that rollingpin;
So I can remember this labor.
So I can remember how we keep our bellies warm.
So I can remember why my hair stays so curly and how
sometimes, I can see my ancestors through this storm.

Roll out that tortilla and toss it on the comal.
When it hits your tongue,
tell me how you’ve worked so hard to forget,
and tell me,
when it melts in your mouth…

Do you remember home?

{ X } Continue reading “Rolling Out Tortillas” – Poetry by Sarah Frances Moran