Tag Archives: Winter 2015 (#4)

“Gelid” – Prose Poetry by T. Mazzara

The great ice barrier -- looking east from Cape Crozier - Edward Adrian Wilson, 1911
The great ice barrier — looking east from Cape Crozier – Edward Adrian Wilson, 1911

The grand finale of our Winter 2015 issue is T. Mazzara‘s touching prose poem “Gelid.”

{ X }

For Mike and Jess

YOUR HANDS WERE STOCKY AND ROUGH from hundreds of nights of drunken trips and drifted fights, medicated and on the nod. The chewed fingers heavy nicked from days of banging shoes, carving flaked and solid horn from the wobbly soles of timid horses. You had hard fists from shoving against the threatening lean of breathing flanks, banging clips against shuddering ribs, hooves elbowed and ungainly. I saw you clip a goat once. You made art.

And danger. But we all loved it. Out in the wild near Lock Haven, on careless nights, those cut hands gripped the steerage of your truck and pulled us three (four with Daisy) all sharp, fishtailing drunk and loose through gravelly firecuts beside potential falls and real peril, beside cliffs and sheer drops. It was a cold day.

I thought of you on the Ice, out past the dust and diesel, the back-action beeps of reversing machinery, past all the sound and smells and grit and thin humanity that make up that smoking cradle, that McMurdo Station. I remembered Daisy was so well-behaved in the extended cab.

I thought of you as the Royals stretched chalky and awesome. Fata morganas hashed impossible parapets into the distant coast. Didn’t we kick a dozen or so beer cans out the door and all over that gas station parking lot?

I thought of you in Antarctica as I moved a pallet of oil drums from the line in an outside storage area to the trembling gray shutters of the Vehicle Maintenance Facility. Shrill ice bits and volcanic ash snaked their way through the cracked door of my front-end loader. And I remembered all the locals at that gas station laughed.

Everything was okay. My own rough hand gripped the brodie knob on the steering wheel, the drums cargo-strapped tight against the forks. You showed me around that cool and rocky back road. There was snow between the trees. You pointed out where you’d crashed your truck.

I thought of your truck on all those careless back roads as I turned and rumbled at the bottom of the planet. I thought that I’d ask you down next season. And I thought that the world is not flat.

Why didn’t you come with me to the Ice, my friend? Why did you go the way you chose? Why did you choose what you did? Why that? We could have driven heavy equipment and welded things. We could have been drunk at Southern and stumbled ungainly over volcanic ash to the stolid sea ice. We could have toasted the melting ice pier or a passing gray skua. Raised oily glasses of golden whiskey to the fantasy of the Ross Dependency. Your hands would have been useful on the Ice.

And I thought of you this last Monday. I was in a phony house on West 10th Street in New York. It had rained earlier and I was soaked through and surrounded by the young and the phony and the untested and your voice came to me in my foolish writing. Faraway.

“Our time together was ours and mine was short. I had no time for the rest of the world.”

I thought of your empty hands, useless in the ground. I thought of the Ice again. Maybe I should have invited you. I thought of your wife. It gives me some comfort to know I took you with me. It may give her some now to know the same. Nearly winter here again.

In this hemisphere, at least.

I can’t wait for the snow.

And I’m okay, in case you’re worried.

{ X }

T. MazzaraT. MAZZARA was born in Virginia and studied at Trinity College Dublin.

“Grackles” – Poetry by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Purple Grackle or Common Crow Blackbird - John James Audubon, circa 1830
Purple Grackle or Common Crow Blackbird – John James Audubon, circa 1830

“Grackles” is one of five pieces contributed by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens to our Winter 2015 issue, a kind of epilogue to her series of poems on Joan of Arc.

{ X }

ROBERTO RAVEN CIRCLES THE BATTLEFIELD, waits for the logs and squares to stop shaking and gurgling. Opposite of Quick Care, the beaks seek grossness, go to the quiet ones first. Little silver boxes squirm in the grass. Two argue in the sky If someone is dead, do you say “I love” or “I loved.” Birds are just addicts who come to any gathering for the free coffee.  The buzzing molecules won’t stop mowing science down. New diagrams of buzzards break open encyclopedias. No one has any ears to hear the panting and murdered ecology. Put your energy into this field project management. Weed, mow, pluck, fertilize. Goats are good at bloodletting. Harvest the forearms and flies. You can tell how old something is by the smell. Roberto, the only feathered Italian in France at the time, is outnumbered by the xenophobic blackbirds. Christopher chipmunk’s only interest is nuts. Roberto is pissed and finds his voice again in the sky: message my wing beats in screams and piercing darkness through round orbital messages in a bottle. Christopher and Roberto are too scary to be illustrated properly. Real life never stops pulsing long enough for a proper water color. Roberto refuses to blind the corpses. A prisoner in another camp looks east, the morning bells ring. Armor a memory like the ocean.

And it’s over a thousand years later and we are back on the banks of the Seine, opening a bottle of wine with a corkscrew, loosening hiking boots. Telling each other about our small steps every fucking day.

{ X }

AuthorphotoJENNIFER MacBAIN-STEPHENS is the author of three chapbooks: Every Her Dies (ELJ Publications), Clotheshorse (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming, 2014), and Backyard Poems (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming, 2015). Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared in public places in Iowa City. Recent work can be seen / is forthcoming at Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Blue Hour, The Golden Walkman, Split Rock Review, Toad Suck Review, Red Savina Review, The Poetry Storehouse, and Hobart. For a complete list of publications and other odds and ends, visit JenniferMacBainStephens.wordpress.com 

“Memoir Recalls” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Trees Laden with Parasites and Epiphytes in a Brazilian Garden - Marianne North, 1873
Trees Laden with Parasites and Epiphytes in a Brazilian Garden – Marianne North, 1873

An author’s memoir grows like plant life in “Memoir Recalls,” one of four short lyric essays by j/j hastain in our Winter 2015 issue.

{ X }

WANTING HER LIFE TO COME OFF AS HAVING SOMEHOW CURVED ITSELF, she began writing her memoir at age 13. She wanted to give her experiences the chance to grow along with her, wrap around her. She wanted to work the necessary asphyxiations and the necessary surrogacies in order that they enable unexpected refinement in her. She planned to write her memoir as a synesthesiac plot: something that goes on in many different directions of her for the duration of her.

She needed for the form in which she wrote to evolve along with a continuity of her coming of age by trance. Trance means travelling, but so, without your mind as it usually functions. She believed that by way of her work, her memories could eventually have a mind of their own. Flirting with cliché she took personally what happened when it softened and became vulnerable to her voice: touch-butter for a way for her to tell her stories.

Perform the complexities you create. Track the molecules of an ongoing beast fable. Douse in sentences; dowse for sentences as rotund extremes.

The Banyan tree’s roots are upward and its branches downward: aspects reaching inversely. She wonders on the form of her memoir as an inverse-universal, a startling epiphyte: mutual turning and traction in which miracles can be expressed. It flourishes by what first seems like embellishment. In the flourish, it then slowly strangles what was, eventually leaving its beginning hollow, able to move on.

{ X }

Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk(Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain,Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin,Aufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“Follow Up” – Poetry by M.A. Schaffner

Hospital Visit - Kathe Kollwitz, circa 1928
Hospital Visit – Kathe Kollwitz, circa 1923

“Follow Up” is one of four graceful & plaintive poems by M.A. Schaffner in our Winter 2015 issue.

{ X }

For some of us the tests are just routine.
For others, of course, a sentence of death.

Brave or stupid, cowardly or aware,
more or less imaginative or astute —
strange that we should all be called a patient.

Then the friendly helpful receptionist
who shuffles and cuts evolving decks of files.
Then the corridors, buffed and vacuumed daily.

As many times as we sit and wait
for each procedure labeled as routine,
the first that isn’t can only mean

but one link in a chain that holds a swing
on a porch from which we watch the healthy pass.

{ X }

M. A. SchaffnerM.A. SCHAFFNER has had poems published in Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Poetry IrelandPoetry Wales, and elsewhere. Other writings include the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels, and the novel War Boys. Schaffner spends most days in Arlington, Virginia or the 19th century.

“Pilgrimage” – Poetry by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake - Hermann Stilke, 1843
Joan of Arc’s Death at the Stake – Hermann Stilke, 1843

“Pilgrimage” is the fourth of Jennifer MacBain-Stephens‘ poems on Joan of Arc featured in our Winter 2015 issue.

{ X }

brown hoods cup water
in their tiny hands,
scavenging for bits of bone in the Seine.

A blacksmith remembers her:
Fragile and lemur-like,
raked over the coals
three times to
wring the witch out.

Psalm pages hang in the branches
Of the weeping willows,
heavy with the softness of girl’s skin.
Branches miss their little doll
with high cheek bones.

Like Cinderella’s birds
Who knew too much
clothing scraps are woven into
nests for remembrance near
the family farm in Dom Remy.

The proverbial sword struck
down the tiniest shape;
everyone wants to harm little girls.
Crowns not up to contemplating
the cosmos, acquiesce throughout eternity.

The healing is measured.
Then a year has gone by.
Measured by guest book signatures.

Creeping in from forests,
forms conjoin to assemble
one gargantuan black robed priest.
The townspeople sweep,
chant, light candles,

cradle pieces of warmth,
this one I will protect, that one, lost.

{ X }

AuthorphotoJENNIFER MacBAIN-STEPHENS is the author of three chapbooks: Every Her Dies   (ELJ Publications), Clotheshorse (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming, 2014), and Backyard Poems (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming, 2015). Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared in public places in Iowa City. Recent work can be seen / is forthcoming at Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Blue Hour, The Golden Walkman, Split Rock Review, Toad Suck Review, Red Savina Review, The Poetry Storehouse, and Hobart. For a complete list of publications and other odds and ends, visitJenniferMacBainStephens.wordpress.com 

“The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

St. George - Hans Acker, 1440 "Ulm-Muenster-NeithartKapelleFenster-061209" by Joachim Köhler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
St. George – Hans Acker, 1440. From the Lutheran Cathedral “Ulm-Muenster.” Photo by Joachim KöhlerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

From our Winter 2015 issue, Brendan Byrne‘s “The Glassblower” is an anti-serial killer story with industrial post-punk undertones.

{ X }

THE SLOW, WET, GAPING PULSE of Chew Stum Valley morning.  I place the cup of crap hotel coffee, cold, on the front porch and lift the crime scene tape, blue and white on this side of the ocean. The door is unlocked behind it.

The hallway is boring; the siderooms are boring. They look kitted out by some mid-century landlady, keen on boiled breakfasts and bachelor boys, all of life justified by air raids. This, despite the fact that Thorne lived alone and unaided for the past several decades. I skip rooms, ignoring the outdated TV, the slack bookshelves with Protestant classics bound in imitation leather, dull watercolors of sheep and boulders and sheep. True Arcadia kitsch.

I treat the home like a canal, cut through it straight. Out the bookdoor, down the pseudo-quaint little cobble-stone steps and through the dead, knee-high garden (how is it that I’m sweating?), straight to the door of the old small chapel, which sits at the edge of the property. No caution tape here which, if I pause and force myself to smirk, I can see the irony of. This is where Thorne really lived. This is where the Glassblower, whoever he was, was born.

I open the door.


Earlier, Nailsea


Hanging in the air of the small club is a special kind of exhaustion. Post-synth drainage and slow throb the color of headaches. The patient mold of the interior of an orgasm on the screen behind the stage. Two white-suited henchmen disassemble the two hundred-odd pounds of equipment, exchanging quiet, sick little stories. A squat and beautiful young woman with deliberate scaration decorating her shoulders picks crushed plastic cups and discarded drug delivery systems off the floor.  Edward sits on the small, high stool propping open the emergency exit, smoking Silk Cut. A heavy, though not fat man, he has shed his own straightjacket and now wears a gray hunter’s flannel above leather pants. His beard is russet and dirty snow, but he does not sit like a mage, more like a Catholic schoolboy, tilted as if to avoid notice and suggest other perpetrators. He exhales a plume of gray, which then leaks out the door where hot scummy rain pounds the twist of a convoluted alleyway. The resultant battering on concrete is almost a nothing sound. It is distinct, but as if you are always hearing it and have only just caught on.

“Where do you live?”

“Me?” I adjust the glowing iPhone on my right thigh, the digital read of the recording time running what seems impossibly fast.


His voice isn’t the soft, unstrained tone it is on the more lunar tracks, nor does it approach his dead bandmate’s abrasive, churning yowl, once over-described very well in the NME as the final screams of a fetus about to be eaten by its twin. It is moderate, a cast-off discursive tone, flowing and clipped simultaneously. I don’t know enough about England to place it, if its origin is in fact geographic.

“I live a bunch of places.”

Edward tightens his posture, legs crossed, knees snug together. Back straight, barely inches away from touching that metal door. He watches as I light my own cigarette, eyes following my movements. I find myself secreting from some kind of self-conscious gland.

“Berlin. Sometimes. I lived in New York longer than anywhere else. My parents live in Roanoke. Thought you’d like that,” I say, even though he’s given no sign he recognizes the name. “CROATOAN and all that. It’s a one-story beach house. They have most of my library, but it’s wilting. Salt air.” I drink some of the Powers he prefers. His is still untouched. “I have an ex in Austin.”

“But you never lived there.”

“No, not really.”

“We lived,” he inclines his chin out the door into the alley, as if Silence was out there, spectral and soaked, leaking fetid ectoplasm from his wounds. “In the same place for nearly 19 years. A few miles west of here, actually.” He accentuates the directionality with the inverse of a hiss, taps ash onto the floor with absent deliberation. “But you knew that.”


“You work with Hélène?”


“I like her.”

“She speaks of you highly. We got extremely drunk once, and she said how much she enjoyed visiting your… chalet.”

His laughter is an immediate, reserved thing, not trailing off but ending with extreme deliberation. “Is that the word she used?”

“Yes, not without some irony.”

“She wanted to talk about sex, so we talked about sex, though I don’t think she got quite what she wanted. But you don’t want to talk about sex.”

“No. I don’t think so at least.”

“You don’t want to talk about music either. You want to talk about James.”

“Never made a secret of it. It was in the email.”

“I never read the email.”

“It was in the subject line of the email.”

He smiles once, the muscles’ contraction and relaxation forming feral movements. He is still heavily avuncular, without the attendant smarm.

“You don’t want to talk about it. Fine. Let’s talk about The Quartered Man’s commitment to spontaneity.”

“There was no commitment to anything.” And then, before I could figure out exactly what the fuck to say to that: “At times, we could have been spontaneous.”

“‘Could have been?’”

“We were capable of it.”

“Your choice of recording spaces seemed to have been fluid.”

“Choice?” Someone else’s laugh runs wild in the alley. “I cannot remember, dear boy, the number of places we recorded. I believe I slept, shat, ate, and fucked in all of them though. If that helps you.” His cigarette has not gone out yet. I find this difficult to believe. Perhaps I simply did not notice him light a new one. Shafts of remembered cinema history: Cigarettes, despite their prevalence, were always a bitch for editors to keep track of. Whether they were lit, how far they had burned down. It makes me light another of my own, for continuity.

“Do you know much about the Vietnamese culture?”

“I read a bit, knowing I’d be talking to you.”

Co bac?”

I shake my head, sip my whiskey. His is almost gone. Another continuity problem.

“It’s not a test. Ong bac are spirits of the ancestor. Co bac are spirits of strangers. But neither is given preferential treatment. They are obvious, in a way nothing is obvious to the Occidental mind, which needs proof.” He says the word as if shitting with his mouth. “They are equal. Even if the particular co bac was, in life, an aggressor. Such as an American service-man. Each is acknowledged and granted a social existence.” His spent cigarette arcs into the alley; it is struck down by droplets.  “That is why I am going to Vietnam.” Soft, dignified smile. “They will know how to look after my spirit.”

So, I manage not to say, it’s not just the boys then. Instead: “You mean the English are incapable of tending to it?” Continue reading “The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

“Half-Price Wednesday” – Poetry by Cassandra de Alba

Feet of an Apostle - Albrecht Dürer, circa 1508
Feet of an Apostle – Albrecht Dürer, circa 1508

“Half-Price Wednesday”, one of three pieces by Cassandra de Alba in our Winter 2015 issue, may be a very tiny poem but it gives us some awfully big shivers.

{ X }

in these boots I bought them at Salvation Army
for the change in my back pocket. Wore them casual
with paint-stained jeans and dirty sweaters. Wondered
when my fingers started to tremble as I turned pages.
Developed a taste for good gin. Didn’t question
until the morning I woke up without feet.

{ X }

stcCASSANDRA de ALBAs work has appeared in Skydeer Helpking, The Nervous Breakdown, and Vector Press, among other places. She is a grad student in the greater Boston area and can be found online at outsidewarmafghans.tumblr.com