A Different Theory of Everything: Janne Teller in Mérida

by Fer de la Cruz

Janne Tellerphoto by Mirza Herrera

As Janne Teller told and retold her story to various Yucatecan reporters, I kept thinking how cool she was. She talked about how modern slavery and other forms of abuse were derived from the average person´s misuse of the big or little power she or he may have, and how stories can be made to move forward from such everyday horrors. In Mérida, students and the elderly are powerless before the omnipotent bus driver who decides not to stop for them—or for me, in many instances—so that she or he can rush through the yellow light. Hence, I could relate to her message.

I had been asked to serve as interpreter so that the local media could interview her. Her book of short stories Todo (Seix Barral, 2014)—along with a pile of other brand new books from other authors—had been given to me the night before as a symbolic payment for my task, done with great pleasure for the friend who requested this of me. Exhausted as I was after the first day at this year´s Festival Internacional de la Lectura en Yucatán (FILEY), in which I was both a speaker and an exhibitor, I devoured the first two (and a half) stories before I was blessed with the gift of a good half-night´s sleep. Days after the book fair´s craze, as I finished Todo, I was happy to recommend it to friends.

The short stories contained in Todo are mostly narrated in the voices of various young, troubled characters. They remind me of García Márquez´ concept of solitude as a chronic incapacity for loving. Teller´s message is one of empathy within the todo found “al otro lado de la soledad” (p. 135). She aims to promote awareness and communication—a dangerous thing in the eyes of totalitarian wannabes and factual dictators alike. In her stories, a given opinion, situation, or political stand, is set in a certain context, only to reappear, later in the story, in a different context. This works beautifully as both a literary device and as a means of inviting the reader to simply reflect on human decisions and the motivations behind them.

The contrast between the glammed-up photo of Ms. Teller that tops her bio on the book and the real woman who presents more of a scholarly look (as someone who cares more about books than about fashion trends), just emphasized her previously-stated “coolness.” Jetlagged as she had to be, she would kindly ask to be left alone between interviews, which I respected, somehow pitying her for the burden of fame upon her shoulders. The presentation of Todo, the next day, was a hit, attended by three or four hundred people, if my calculations are correct. As I saw her signing her books for a long, long line of readers, I couldn´t help but pity her again—not, of course, without a little envy. A good kind of envy, if there is one.

I failed to read the notes in Diario de Yucatán, La Jornada, and other media, but was still moved by her reflections on the role that a ruthless Capitalism has played on multiplying misery around the world, and about the power that everyone holds to affect one´s own environment, for the better or for the worse. Her belief that Literature can open the minds of many in this regard is what motivated her to write, she said. I also failed to ask her how her name is pronounced, but that´s beside the point.

Before she became a writer, Janne Teller worked for the United Nations in Mozambique, Tanzania, Bangladesh, the Balkans, and other places where atrocities have been committed in recent years—as in my poor Mexico where she has only visited. Her depiction of some countries in her stories—Mexico included—is not exactly that which the Ministry of Tourism of those countries would chose to portray, but there is nada they can do about it other than to ban her books, as some have. What better honor can one have than a tyrant´s ban? Little do they know, this has made her books all the more popular.

New residents of any place are often victims of bullying by locals who find in them the perfect scapegoat, as it´s easy to target one´s fears, frustrations, and insecurities on those who speak “funny” or look foreign. Mérida has become an attractive destination for foreign and domestic immigrants. People from Cuba, Belize, and Guatemala and also from rural and urban Mexico have chosen to reside here. Yucatecans´ traditional, self-proclaimed hospitality is being put to the test. In Janne Teller´s stories, multiculturalism is seen by different characters as either a burden or a gift to a society. These characters may not find it easy to communicate with each other, but they are able to with the reader, who cannot help but empathize with the latter.

After all the suffering she has witnessed, my guess is that it is not Ms. Teller´s desire to be rich, or famous, or glamorous, or even cool, but to be read. I am happy that she is, and that many Yucatecans are enjoying her stories and reflecting on the beautiful, mystical concept of Todo: “a space of peace and harmony where fear does not exist.”

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Fer de la Cruz, MA is a Yucatecan poet born in Monterrey, México, in 1971. He was a member of the founding faculty at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, in Mérida. He is the coordinator of the historic Mérida branch of Centro de Idiomas del Sureste. As an independent editor, writer, and cultural consultant ad honorem, he participated in cultural festivals, conferences and book fairs in France, Cuba, and the United States, as well as in various states of México. His poetic works appeared in La cuenta regresiva: Radiografía urbana mesozoica (chapbook, satire, El Drenaje, 2012), Aliteletras. De la A a la que quieras (book for children, Dante, 2011), Redentora la voz (book, Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2010), and Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies (chapbook, JK Publishing, 2008), as well as in literary magazines and anthologies. As a translator of poetry, he has published Aquí/Here, by Jonathan Harringnton (JK Publishing, 2011) and Candidates for Sainthood and Other Sinners/Aprendices de santo y otros pecadores, by Don Cellini (Mayappla Press, 2013). He has received 2 national, 2 regional, and 1 state-wide poetry awards. His main passions are poetry (which he often finds in theatre, music, film…), language teaching made fun, and the constant discovery of the flavors, shapes, and depths of human life. His full name is Luis Fernando de la Cruz Herrera, but don´t tell anyone.

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Todo - cover


The Contortionist’s Teenage Daughters

by Bill Meissner
We are all high wire, all trapeze,
and he is always on the ground, wrapping himself
around himself. Come down,
He tells us. Girls can topple from those heights.
Enough tiptoeing and leaping, he says.
There’s not enough space for flying,
no room for more people in the air.

But Father, we answer, we want to be up here, where danger
holds us in its net. We love to be where we can feel
the stars, glimmering like sequins on our tights.

It’s a long ways to the hard sawdust below,
he replies. If I fell, my bones—like soft noodles—
would never break. But your bones are much too
thin, and made of glass.

We ask him: Father, how will we know what’s up there,
near the curve of the canvas sky, if we never climb?

No need to know, he replies. The air is too rare,
and the spotlights will blind you.
Look: on this solid wooden stage, I can shape my body to become
the slight waves on top of a calming pond,
or imitate the alphabet. Watch me: I can be all words at once,
but you, balanced on a wire, are only two: a gasp, or a scream.

When will we ever know how fast our hearts can race, we ask,
if all our lives we’re grounded like clumps of
children’s putty stuck to a sidewalk?

Just listen to your father, he calls:
let your spines ripple the way they’re supposed to.
Let exotic birds flutter and fly,
let them own the wind,
let them spiral
toward the sun, if they must.
You should just stay nearby, tying yourselves into bows of flesh,
soft pink gifts the world will admire.

Sorry, Father, we answer, but we can no longer hear you
with the rush of sunlight in our ears.
So we just pirouette, dancing on thin breaths of air.
Look—we turn our faces upward and smile, certain
about what we’ve suspected all along:
The sky is a place for girls,
and dreamers never fall.

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Bill Meissner’s first novel, SPIRITS IN THE GRASS, about a small town ballplayer who finds the remains of an ancient Native American burial ground on a baseball field, was published in 2008 by the University of Notre Dame Press and won the Midwest Book Award. The book is available as an ebook from the UND Press. Meissner’s two books of short stories are THE ROAD TO COSMOS, [University of Notre Dame Press, 2006] and HITTING INTO THE WIND [Random House/SMU Press, Dzanc Books ebook].

Meissner has also published four books of poems: AMERICAN COMPASS, [U. of Notre Dame Press], LEARNING TO BREATHE UNDERWATER and THE SLEEPWALKER’S SON [both from Ohio U. Press], and TWIN SONS OF DIFFERENT MIRRORS [Milkweed Editions].

He is director of creative writing at St. CloudStateUniversity in Minnesota. His web page is:

His Facebook author page is:!/pages/Bill-Meissner/174769532541232?sk=info

Three of Meissner’s poems and a trailer for SPIRITS IN THE GRASS are on youtube, accompanied by images and music.

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photo by Angela M Campbell


Every Day is Sunday

by Peter Bracking

Ross groans almost inaudibly. He rolls on the hard bed and this causes the phlegm in the lungs to shift and out pops a single soft cough that cannot be stifled. Before he opens his eyes the door is being squeaked open allowing the forty five pound black and white mutt to jump on the bed ready to stick to Ross’ side, from the moment of entry the dog could always see his face. In the doorway is Pavel. He is rubbing a finger under his nose. His one good eye winks and he is gone leaving the door open. The pisote, ten pounds of terror, leaps into the room to ensure the dog has not given it the slip. The beginning of the morning ritual.

Ross ablutes. Leaves the room, squeaking the door closed and uselessly telling the dog to ‘stay’ outside he pushes his way into the Pole’s room. Pavel is in his forties, tight brown curls with a knife scar that runs from his eye to the edge of his chin. He is medium height. He weighs about four pounds if he is holding a small barracuda. He is sitting on the bones of his ass bouncing on the edge of his bed. He is a bit flushed and his blind eye always looks as if it is staring directly at Ross.

“Something to wake up with.” It is always a statement and always a necessity for him. Ross sits on the only chair as he does every morning knowing by afternoon he would search corners for mythical rocks. “Ja,” Pavel smiles for the first time.

The rooms are two of four on the floor. Only two rooms are ever occupied. The rooms are cubes 10×10 with one corner plumbed with a shower that works if you use a bucket and not the faucet and a toilet with a cistern that doubles as the room safe guarded internally by intricate spider webs that operates the same way. Two walls are windows. Floors, walls, and ceilings are unpainted, untreated concrete. The window is spiked shut, concrete gouged out below the frame in number of places where the long spikes were much stronger than the concrete the window was eventually anchored to. Grey, grey, grey is the décor. There is a ceiling fan with about a four foot wingspan that does work when there is electricity in town and a table to go with the chair that Ross occasionally wobbles on.

Pavel and Ross are the outcasts of the white population of about twelve. They live in a hotel on the beach. In the Garifuna part of town, the black part of town, with the descendants of the failed slave revolt on St. Vincent Island off the coast of Venezuela. They are anathema to the upstanding white population that are there to stretch their civilized pension dollars. As if the two of them could ever give a shit.

The thin Pole has been there about a year and Ross has been dragged down the short corridor every morning for about six months now. Ross wondered why he ever complained about it to himself.

Pavel had told his story even if Ross would not break his own vow never to reveal his. Pavel told him that he had slummed in most of the capitols of Europe. In a whirlpool of drugs. That he preferred an Italian winter to a Scottish summer. Ross got the idea that the Pole knew how to get by on nothing everywhere he went. Pavel told him that he learned to speak English in prison in Morocco. His scar was born there too. He thought some Arab had been giving him the eye and so tried to give him a blow job in the shower one hot morning. He had lost his eye in the ensuing knife fight. He told Ross that he had simply fallen in love with the wrong big fucking Arab. Morocco was his third prison and after his release his family would not suffer him to return to Gdansk, they could not stand the idea that he was even on the same continent as they were. He got a fat monthly allowance to stay very far away. This thin strip of brown beach was very far away. Pavel was one of the many remittance men Ross had met. But that is another story.

He was an addict. If it could be liquified and sucked into a rocket that he could poke into a vein it was good by him. Pavel spent more money on syringes than Ross spent on food. Pavel’s problem was that it was impossible for him to get high alone. He did not just want company, someone to sit there and to talk but someone who was high as well. Hence every morning the door squeak and the finger under the nose.

It can’t be later than nine am as he has not heard: “Rosco, su desayuno!” shouted up from below. For some reason that he could never figure out it was impossible for his neighbours to call him by his single syllabled name, always adding the ‘co’. Ross always thought that Pavel could never wait until after breakfast and if Ross did not stir he would wake him. Ross, unfortunately, never could sleep that long to find out. There is small time element then as all that needs to be done must be done before the breakfast call. The first round anyway.

This particular stretch of beach was part of the cocaine trial from Columbia. Most of it came off the cargo ships that unloaded across the bay, a one- time training ground for the mercenaries that fought as Contras in the most recent American intervention in Nicaragua. A great deal of uncut cocaine moved through and around the tiny town that they lived in. Pavel is in heaven.

The first thing that he does is hand Ross a rather new copy of an Estonian/Spanish dictionary left by the only previous occupant of the grey room. Ross is the only person who uses it and he never opens the book. Pavel smiles more broadly now, his scar stretching his face into a grimace that actually looks like pain. Then it begins.

Pavel leans over and searches through the papers, empty match boxes, cigarette butts, the occasional bit of food, the general mess found on any junky’s table. He finds nothing. Then he searches in the drawer. More paper, useless junk, a tablespoon with the bowl blackened thick with carbonation that he sets aside, bottle caps, match boxes, even paper clips, but not what he seeks. His smile gets wider with frustration. The appearance of pain palpable. He moves his bones off the bed, gets on his sharp knees and looks under the bed where there is nothing and never has been anything. He walks over to his suitcase abandoned in a corner of the room throws it open, searching deep into the emptiness and finding nothing. Ross can hear the dog outside whine some communication to the pisote. Pavel stands in the middle of the room his head and good eye turning wildly around. Ross begins to wonder how long until the breakfast shout. Pavel is breathing heavily now, sweat is beading on his forehead. Ross says nothing. He knows better. Pavel finally has a brainstorm, looks over his shoulder to see if Ross is looking and when he assures himself that Ross is staring out of the window at the palms, reaches up to the ceiling fan and there, exactly where it always is, on one of the wings, is a very large bag of high grade coca which he plucks down with a heavy sigh of relief. Success. This takes about ten minutes from the beginning to the end. Every morning. If Ross is ever foolish enough to mention where the dope is Pavel gets paranoid, thinking that Ross is watching where it hides to steal it. Ross has nothing but time. This is Pavel’s ritual, not his. And who is Ross to say anything about it? Both waiting and the counting of time are meaningless when compared to the eternal rhythm of the ocean a few meters below and across the street.

By now there is at least one cantina blasting Bob Marley outside. Another will start up playing different Marley at a competitive volume within moments. Kids are shouting and will be playing. Young ones jumping a hank of frayed rope removed from an equally frayed, now useless net. Older boys rolling a dead tire through the dust with a stick. The bars on the corner are open and will be beginning to fill. Two bars, eleven posts at widely varying angles planted in the sand with a plywood seat nailed onto the tops is the total seating arrangement. Life trudges on. Outside.

Pavel’s eye is locked on the bag, quarter ounce or half ounce.

Back to the table and Pavel digs out a new rocket and places it precisely at the edge. He takes the four month old newspaper and opens it on his lap. He carefully opens the bulging bag. Now he takes back the dictionary. He picks up his tablespoon. He fills the tablespoon and dumps it onto the book. There is usually a gram or two of the yellowed grains in a little hillock. He covers the hillock with a matchbook, to stop it blowing off but the window is nailed shut and the only other possible source for moving air is the fan which is never turned on. He hands the book with it’s carefully covered hillock carefully back to Ross, Pavel’s partner in dreams. “This is for you.” Again, the same as every other morning.

He fills his spoon again with the yellow coca, looks at Ross who finds a reason to turn away, and immediately unfolds the few thin pounds around his bones standing to replace his precious bag on the always still wing of the fan. Then he adds a drip of water to the concoction while Ross lights a candle. Pavel hovers the spoon steadily over it and the dope and water begin to bubble immediately. He fills the rocket and looks at Ross. Ross must always be first so he cuts a big line out. Pavel smiles, reaches over and flips papers, with a blind hand, and passes over a crisp tightly rolled American hundred dollar bill. Ross honks back a good part of his hillock. As soon as Ross lifts his head Pavel pokes the rocket into his arm and plunges into his dream. Moments later after his head falls back onto his greasy pillow and Pavel is on another planet. He will remain, in his dream, on another planet or in another dimension for about ten or fifteen minutes. Pavel does not fuck around with his dope. His plan is to get fucked up so small doses are a waste of his life.

Ross has to piss to beat the band and now is the moment to make a move. He slips out as politely quietly as he can and zips down the three flights with both dog and pisote trying to trip him believing misguidedly as animals tend to do that they are off for a walk. Ross slows and smiles at the black family who adopted him and runs into the latrine across the street. Listens to the sound of his water falling, falling and ignoring the stink. Finally relieved
he opens the door almost tripping on the dog and the pisote standing eternal guard. Ross takes a minute to help pick out the daily fish from someone’s cousin that both the family and hotel guests will eat and then he has to beat it back up the stairs in a rag tag parade of three to be there when the Pole reenters this dimension. He takes only a moment to look at the glistening sea and to smell the mangoes growing within arms reach. He slips in and usually his timing is perfect. Pavel lifts his head, probably at the sound of the dog’s whine on being shut out, shut out, always shut out, and Pavel rejoins the mundane living just as Ross is cutting another line.

Now if Pavel is very serious he will now begin to fill another rocket. Ross waits, crisp bill halfway to his nostril. Pavel thinks for an instant and stands and he digs around on his piled table until he finds the baking soda and it is time to cook some rocks. Ross always holds out the pile on the dictionary to fill the spoon for rocks. “No, no, how many times, no. That is for you.” Pavel says this so many times he has almost lost his accent with the repetition.

And again, as always, Pavel begins the search for his comfort coca. Table, drawer, bed, suitcase, at which point Ross finds something interesting about his broken sandals, then the miraculous thought of the best hiding place, the wing of the ever still fan.

He dips the spoon back into the bag, judiciously adds soda, water and they watch the magic of chemistry. The mixture bubbles. Then slowly a slick, an oil forms on the water. This oil is skimmed off and as soon as the heat is gone it hardens. Crack. One spoonful yields a number of large rocks. One spoonful is never enough. They begin to smoke the first pile as the second is being made.

There is always a collection of ashes stored in any one of the many matchboxes. The pipe is a pop can with pin holes. Ash is mounded and the rocks placed on top and ignited melting down into an instant dream. When the ash is all sticky it is put aside and saved in another match box, to be smoked that later when Pavel is too stoned to see how much dope to mix with the soda. He is toking away and he nods at the book and the pile of cocaine under the matchbox and he stares at Ross with his piercing eye. Get higher is the indication. Pavel can’t even wait for Ross to decide his own pace. Pavel has a mission and Ross is merely the second in command. He has to keep up. After all what are friends for?

The dog whines outside the door. Someone is coming up the stairs. Pavel freezes with the can pressed to his face. Ross knows it is someone the dog is familiar with but he is still as well. A shadow passes the window. Emilio. Pavel’s lover.

The door opens and Emilio, very large Emilio, glowers at Ross reaching out and taking the pipe from Pavel. Leans down and kisses him, kicks the door shut. “Phosphero,” he says. Another ugly look is fired at Ross.

Nothing changes. In the past Emilio’s wife had been interested in every aspect of Ross several times before Ross was ever aware of Emilio who was now hatefully part of his every morning. Ross was now very aware that sweat was poring off the black man. The heat and closeness of the room was beginning to smell.

Pavel put another large rock on the ash and lights it for the love of his life. Emilio inhales and blows out a swirling acrid cloud of smoke. The can rattles as he puts it down spilling the coated ash onto the floor. Emilio wipes his hand over his dripping brow. Ross is sure the hand shakes.

Ross picks up a match box with ash to reload the pipe when the dog barks. This means someone is on the stairs that the dog does not know. This was never to happen without a call from below. Pavel paid a great deal of money to be informed. Ross’s hand froze. Pavel’s eyes close. Emilio stays very still.

The dog began to bark in earnest. The pisote chittered in support. The door is kicked open. The first and only thing that Ross could see was the gun. The small hole of a revolver pointing into the room. He sees the uniform next. Two cops burst in waving guns. Pavel starts to giggle. He cannot stop. Ross remains frozen, box of ash in one hand, the other stretching towards the crushed can next to a large pile of crack rocks. Emilio stands.

“Si senor,” one of the cops says. Emilio and the cop exchange hard looks.

The other waves his gun at Pavel, motioning him to stand. The gun waving in his face stopped Pavel giggling but left him short of breath. “What’s going on? You know I pay. I pay. What’s going on.”

The first cop, the one who had spoken, eyes still locked with Emilio tightened his jaws and said, “Asasinado.”

Ross looked at Pavel’s blank stare. He shook his head. “Murder,” he told the Pole.

“Vamanos.” The second cop had adenoidal problems.

The cops push Emilio and Pavel ahead of them. The second cop turns to Ross and rubs a finger under his nose and laughs. “What’s happening?” Pavel screeched. “What is happening to me?” Only when they had start down the steps back to the beach did the dog stop barking. Then Ross took a breath. His heart began to beat again.

Ross starts to move after a moment. He grabs the can, fills it with ash and selects a very large rock and places it on the grey mountain. He lights a match and as he begins to pull the chemical into his lungs; to initiate the dream.
Carried on a sea breeze he can hear:

“Rosco, su desayuno!”


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Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: Vancouver, Canada.

Words have been published by more than a dozen presses in four countries on two continents including:

Maisonneuve; Black Heart Magazine; Lantern Magazine; Feather Tale Review; Thrice Fiction ; streetcake magazine; Existere

The only occupation he regrets leaving is beach bum. Peter is the artistic director of Utter Stories.

Self aggrandizement:

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painting by Kreso Cavlovic


Experiment in Destiny and other poems

by Jane Gilday

Experiment in Destiny
Today is a turning point. I pledge–to no one in particular–to never again
lie or tamper with stone-cold fact or with reality. Fiction will henceforth
not be on my palette, because i don’t have a genuine artist’s palette–
i mix my colors in black plastic tubs left over from microwave entrees.
Staring at old frozen food dishes tends to kill the romantic soft-focus allure
of fiction, and fiction, make no mistake, is good for business.

Actually the business of business is fiction.

But back to mixing colors–often I’m too lazy to mix them, so
i’ll use those pre-fab polyvinyl acrylic craft paints that
come in little bottles, marketed under brandnames like “Kozy Kottage
Krafters Kolors.” This approach has little of the tortured aesthetic
zeitgeist paradigm-probe aura to it none of the arcane
atelier vibe of ‘le studio de beaux arts’ but it sure is cheaper and
more convenient.

I might as well go all the way and forswear language abuse. Willfully
inventing words or deliberately using inappropriate words without offering
the reader a key to the mis-map may help one produce stunning
crypto-symbolist wordplay, but also paves the way to stitches and legal
problems. I’ve been abusing language for so long it’s become second-nature,
so this new clearheaded approach will probably require some
resolve, but i’m gonna be strong. “Steely-jawed” is my new middle name.

See? I failed already. “Steely-jawed” is a perfect example of all that
I’ve just decided to abhor. I’m not even sure if abhorence isn’t
just another example of language abuse. In reality someone who is
“steely-jawed” would probably be some form of an invalid–it summons forth
images of braces and neck restraints; colostomy bags and the residue of
terrible events. “Shhhh, he hates to be pitied! Though his lower jaw is now
mostly cor-10 steel, he wants to be treated like any other normal lad. He
didn’t chose to be hit by flying construction debris, it was just a
misfortune, a horrible destiny.”

SEE? You’ve fallen right into my losing struggle, haven’t you?
‘Steely-jawed’ summons forth images of comic book heroes, but i just began
to convince you otherwise. Thirty seconds ago you were rolling my statement around
in your head, thinking “darn it, Jane is RIGHT, I HAVE been fooled by that ‘steely-jawed’
turn-of-phrase for far too long. Oh that poor kid. It must suck to be steely jawed.”

Actually it doesn’t suck to be steely-jawed because nobody is steely jawed,
except for cartoon heroes. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s been indulging in
language abuse, and it makes me so glad to be able to say–in all good
conscience–that, while guilty of abusing language, i have avoided
the lures and perils of graven imagery. Walt Disney surely had a lot to
answer for when he faced his final judgement. Walt was Graven Image Wizard #1.

He left behind a world littered with phantasmic animations which created
great anxiety in the minds of defenseless humans both young and old. Why
doesn’t Donald Duck wear any pants? Is Mommy gonna get me those blobby
rubber shoes that Mickey and Minnie wear? It looks like they’d have to
remove half your foot to get it into those things. It would be like having
twin upside-down teapots for shoes. I have to pee and i can’t hold it in any
more and all those birds just exploded when the bat demons flew out of the
volcano of doom. I want some Jello.

One of my first definite sexual arousals happened when i saw Disney’s “The
Shaggy Dog.” Being able to turn into another creature at will was the
sexiest idea I’d ever encountered. For months afterward I’d mentally
pleasure myself every night, tucked-in and drifting off to sleep, by
imagining suddenly becoming a shaggy dog. It was all mental, no rubbing or
frottage and certainly no bodily fluids or spasms were involved. The
pleasure was unbearable, just lying there tingling all over, imagining
adventures in dogdom.

Prior to this I’d had similar experiences from two other Disney0esque
releases: “Pollyanna” and “Tammy.” One look at Hayley Mills and I
sensed ‘kindred spirit.’ Tammy (who was played by quite-adult
messy-divorcee-with-rat-pack-martini-hangovers Debby Reynolds was obviously exactly
who I would someday grow up to be–a perky teen with scarf-tied ponytail,
everything about me shouting “zesty” to the world, portrayed by
a figure of some ruination in actuality.

To this day I perfectly recall–and can sing–the theme song from “Tammy”.

Nobody in my family thought bit unusual that I’d been invaded by a
walk-in spirit who came from a teen exploitation movie. I was a mere 6 or
7! Need you any more proof of the dangers of graven images? This sadly
overlooked evil plagues our society to this day. I have met so many Joni
Mitchells and Kurt Cobains! More arrive every day, and not one
of them isn’t who they aren’t.

I’m certain that this form of decadence comprises much of what Islamic Terrorists
seek to obliterate in their onslaughts against The Great Satan of The West.
Can’t you see them now, cross-legged, be-robed, in caves and tents, discussing this?

“I know nothing of essential worth but my olive grove, my goats and my
eventual happy death, yet these young people everywhere kneel at the altar
of Pink and Justin and Snooki, desirous of getting this party started. Just last week
I beheaded my youngest to teach her this lesson.” Assembled turbaned heads bob sagely
in agreement and return to discussing the yield factor of putty bombs, their energies kept up
with sips from the tribal samovar and tastes of yat yogurt.

Those who experienced helpless erections at the thought of western she-demons
dervishing like The Great Whore pledge to themselves to undergo the cleansing ritual
of flagellation come the next holy day. If that fails, they’ll smash their satellite dish and
cut off their left thumb. It is only proper. Foulness demands cleansing.

Though they attack Our Way Of Life, one can almost agree with them, can’t one?

Well, if one delights in the dubious game of playing Devil’s Advocate one
can almost agree with them. Maybe. But doing so completely overlooks the Tammy
Question. You know and I know that Tammy’s in love.
Try as we may to deny it, it is fact. How did this come to be? What can be
done about it? SHOULD anything be done about it?

Tony, Liz and Eddie all thought they held the answer and look where it got
them! Crumbling pages in forgotten tabloids with lurid headlines, smear
campaigns and near-universal wrong-headedness in every piece written about
them. Resistance brings mis-quotes. Life can be SO cruel.

Face it, world–Tammy is here to stay. We may seek to control the
consequences through legislation or preventive education of our young, but
there’s no going back. We must confront Tamnation and deal with it. It
will require sacrifice, tears and steel-jawed vigilance–and these things
we WILL have. We MUST develop and utilize our valor, otherwise ruin awaits

Opposing Tammy-ism is Hitler. Hitler is everywhere. He was here before young
Adolph was born and he’ll be here when we set foot again on Mars. I smell him in
every flag that ever waved; in each crisp salute from eager fresh
conscripts. I can’t help but imagine him naked with a boner every time I
hear a woman say she “loves a man in uniform,” but that’s just the
Tammy in me gone apeshit with jealousy. He resides in the pixels of Driver’s License
photographs and within the shoddy punctuation of Playboy articles on
state-of-the-art Audiophile Gear for Sophisticates. Hitler is everywhere.

What’s with all those “Home Entertainment Centers”? Aren’t they actually just
“Very Large Staring Devices”?

But back to Adolf and Tammy–sophisticated perhaps, but also ‘Father knows best’
at such a cost, and we got there only to leave a cheap flag and disturbance in the dust.

Were Hitler and Tammy to wed it would be total disaster. I needn’t
prove this. It’s not a postulate or theorum. They ARE wed. It is
fact and actuality and we’re all paying the price. We pay for the catering and
the oom-pah bands. They call it taxation but it’s really a wedding-guest
fee. Ban-Lon, Graphite fishing rods, miracle fibers and antibiotics were all
first-conceived as tributary wedding presents for the newlyweds,
commissioned by canny merchants who hoped to ensure a place
at The Wedding Feast Table. The exact details can still be found in the Library at Alexandria,
or what’s left of it.

Oh sure, there’s been resistance. Sporadic at best. Far-off rumbles in the
hills and a renewed thirst for Rum at those outposts where journalists
gather to compose trade whoppers.

The suspects range from Sandy Botticelli to Miss Muriel Lindenwald
(1873-1934). Muriel taught home economics to both Amelia Earhart and Charles
A. Lindbergh. What such rebels have in common is
better than 20-20 vision and metabolisms unlike those of ‘normal’ humans.
They have rarely operated in concert because most of them have no idea what
they are. “What they are” is simply Not Human, as ‘human’ is commonly
construed. Therefore, their activism tends to be carried out without
conscious intent. This makes their activities both inefficient and
near-impossible to trace, prevent, combat or define.

Were you to ask most of these malcontents what they thought of the
powers-that-be, their answers would arouse no suspicions. “Tammy and Hitler?
Oh I ADORE them. Where would we be without them?”

Such statements are so innocuous! So, what made such folks dangerous?
Was it was simply that they didn’t believe in Destiny-with-a-capital-D and
spent their lives dismantling Destiny in ways so effectively simple that,
before anyone knew, large chunks of destiny had gone missing?
Many folks believe that Tammy and Hitler are fine and
dandy, that all of it is somehow made holy by destiny’s blessing. Maybe
they’re right. Who knows? The whole idea of dismantling destiny seems akin
to language abuse, and even though I may go on about it, I can’t prove to
anyone I’m guilty of it, even when caught in the act.

No matter, I’m a language abuser of long-standing. I also plead guilty to
Image Abuse. Image abuse is easy. Not only easy to carry out, but so
insidious a strategy that nobody even realizes it’s being done. All they
know is the kids are getting harder to reach with each passing day–all they
want to do is save the environment or document their left-handed nihilism in
gel-pen scrapbooks, or text their friends about texting. Throwing their lives
away without a thought for good health & burial plans.
Their concerned parents haven’t a clue why this is happening.

“Justin Bieber” my patootie. It’s more like “Justin Weener”. He’ll deface your
Barbie lunchbox and eat his boogers with relish, even if you’re his number
one fan. Then he’ll expect YOU to eat his boogers.”

So why the mayhem? Where have the Elders of Destiny gone wrong?

The answer is right on their walls–in the ‘art’ which hangs there, in those
official-looking pieces of art in gilded frames Ma & Pa bought as requisite
proof of good breeding, good taste and success. Forget TV and Hollywood as sources of
brainwashing. Those media just make people stupid, make them MORE vulnerable
to destiny’s intoxication. Painted Image abuse leaves people immune to
destiny. Tammy and Hitler end up as virtual dolls, to be played with, pulled
apart, tossed away and forgotten. Things not important. Let Image Abuse sink
in deep enough and you get entire generations, and soon whole populations,
driven by deep non-verbal forces which motivate much of their life-long

“Someday my prince will come” and “We are the champions” are thus deemed silly
mindless jingles instead of the brilliant and effective programming devices
they actually are. People who weren’t shaped by such jingles find themselves
entranced by mockingbirds, paying no attention whatsoever to the talk show guests
who’re Concerned About The Economy or Family Values Under Attack. Others collect images of
people with halos. I have a friend who convinced various Human Services agencies that
she’s completely, helplessly crazy–crazy enough to qualify for Food Stamps,
rent subsidies, free medical care and a monthly cash stipend besides.
Crazy money to blow on whatever she wishes.

Among those who know of this person’s situation there’s much
disapproval. “What would happen if we all lived like that”

I haven’t any answer for them, although I think my
‘crazy-in-the-eyes-of-the-government’ friend to be the most successful and
honest person I know. I’ve tried debating this, but it only angers them. “Oh
she’s just irresponsible and lazy, she’s trash.” Meanwhile they give away
most of their lives in the service of both Tammy AND Hitler, certain that
doing so will earn them Destiny’s Favor. They know which side their bread is
buttered on. They are certain of this even as their anxious treadmill
lives spin in wobbly circles ever more anxious.

Meanwhile my rentless crazy friend lives a life free of fetters or care.

Are you tired of having your language abused yet? Blame me. I’m beyond

Tammy and Hitler are NOT hovering over humanity like twinned engines of rot.
If you’ve been pondering them, assuring yourself that yes, there ARE so
many instances of ‘tammyesque” and “hitlerian” in all you see, then you have
been deceived by my abuses of the language. This is what happens when they
let someone like me own a computer.

STOP! do not ponder that last sentence. Toss it out. There is no ‘they’ who
have ‘let’ me own a computer. And I have no idea whatsoever what ‘someone
like me’ designates or means, so I’m darn remorseful that there IS someone
like me. When they take me before the tribunal the only words of defense I
will be able to muster will be “Tammy made me do it–Because she was in
love.” If they’re Disney-ites things should be fine. If they’re from the
Fatherland, doom awaits. My next life will be as a translucent-winged creature beyond



True, I’m luna’d, moonish thensome,
cloudy of a shell in daylight
true I orbit deep and furlonged
ride the crossing meadows starhung
keep with veils, halos, aurant
vines gestating broken soil
pauper ragged in a twining
veined in ochre, mended mining
true all this and more octavish
eights of clover, radish cabbage
pumpkin nines with downs of lace
but satisfied with slow my pace.

Never working ever sloe eyed
spinning rubies from a hive
cider wasps with rosin bags
singing summer’s elder glide
strewn before and passage bound
Luna’d yes and not so wound
of wounds or buckshot urges mad
free unbound pastoral glad.



Masked like comedia d’arte
gone to cowpunched judea garland shows,
where minstrels met monsters on capital plains
of endless fortune, fate or scaramouche bleeders
with coins for blood eyes, lines of network stealthing.

Three unknown players with lute fish
the undevined mockery from drape-back
goat carts rolling theatre abroad,
in the lightning ward, con limón, la acidez en el ojo

Meanwhile, back at the palace
the king’s outhouse gang is counting money
seaping honey, whistling up the old wazoo
mid tent show receipts of the brothel
shows and advertising agents

What moral in a laudanum poultice,
in cockfights swearing camouflaged quarters
for news of strategic corsetry,
corsairs, frigates, brigands and retail?

Everyone is drunk save three
a faithful maiden, one faithful friend
and fated man from the bard depths
illegally loosed for rounds of jesting
jack shit bus rides of endless confusion

If you know the hour it’s late enough,
your clock watch needs heavier code,
navaho gaze or buffalo trace, pyx’d
in frosted Natchez under looming bluffs,
oh the merriment and pickpock larks

Pilots in outposts of wheeled command,
marking twain, entrained of a banked course,
pulling in to try town for an eve of flesh
barreled anew come morn on churned sheeting waves.

The merrymakers in chains
speed to every chasm and swindle
all the better to slice the magpie
hectoring duly of worthless prophets
ridden high atop a shifting chart

Cinema arts of meaning void
in ages of reality or other ages
come and gone pursuing knowledge
of misbegotten silkweed Vireo bowers.

Such pleasures may kill you.
Popularity clings to Feel Good.
Feel Good clings to weathered vain,
pointing to a cardinal glass spun
over a mirrored false bottom.

Am Anonymous, Nona The Gone,
they ask you now: what didja get?
a good price and then some more
galled and bittered seeds gone bare?

Rivers coarse and fine,
adjustments within an ultra sailor,
called and calling long for Persephone’s
answering murmur and quenching naught
but chaste of thirst or bullion.

Come to the square for auctions,
skin bay on nets of captive lapdancers,
haulers of some old sin washed in rushes
among found mercies while rodeo bathing.

This very moment, this one here,
in range of any ear unbound by eye
or tongue, a marionette rolls townward,
strings unlatching denizened pride,
bass and carp in wolf canals.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jane Gilday is an artist, poet and musician who lives in Pennsylvania. Her artist statement: “jane gilday is 8 years old and likes to color”

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painting by Jane Gilday


Van Gogh and other poems

by Christopher Mulrooney

Van Gogh

in a little market town
‘twas on a night like this
when everything is stretched like the heavens
around an empty drumhead
that beats and is beaten upon
like a poor tom-tom for all the world
to gawp and spit at
and say where is his God He certainly
can’t be bothered

many happy returns

the victim there on the hot ashes
come let us eat and give thanks
the rest is a quarrel I should not wonder
without end and without let perhaps
meanwhile let us go incognito

the manufactured past

oh no that is say not so Pozzo
the gimcrank there gives flibbertigibbets
out its maw come sir let’s have ‘em
as ‘e equals M.C. square come on
we can do better than that

boiled beef

it is a strange trencherman
mystificates about his bully
why I’d have his cap off’n him
whippin’ about in the breeze
of the roaring shells before he could sneeze
‘ere ‘ave some more I cooked it in this ‘ere ‘elmet

animal crackers

my solitude conforms to the happy accidents of
birth and breeding in the zoo
this zoo of mine with its proud beasts
that all go in the soup the whatsoever in there
a congeries of the kitchen menagerie


wherefore the geometry forms on the right and the left
it is the Melancholy and we are bestmost bereft
o hunkier male who Domdaniels in the carrying-out of laws
whereby the mail is undelivered to the fertile slot
and we are never born in a work signed Albrecht Dürer

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Christopher Mulrooney is the author of toy balloons (Another New Calligraphy), alarm (Shirt Pocket Press), and Rimbaud (Finishing Line Press). His work has recently appeared in Blue Lotus Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, Black-Listed Magazine, The Quietus, Synecdoche, London Grip, and San Francisco Peace and Hope.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


photo by Kristi Harms


The art of Hazel Mitchell


“I think new inspirations coming in to an artist’s life all the time and from all kinds of places. As we go along our path we change, new things happen to us – places, people, life. The artists we admire change us and our work too. They all find their way into our personal style. I grew up in England so was very influenced by British art and books in my formative years. I loved anything Victorian, pre-raphaelite and impressionistic. Whistler and Turner informed my painting and drawing, back then. I wanted to be a landscape painter! As I’ve become more involved in making books for children, naturally I’ve been influenced by illustrators. Growing up I loved the work of Quentin Blake, Raymond Briggs, Dr. Suess, Arthur Rackham, Edward Ardizzone, Beatrix Potter to name a few. Ultimately I think Quentin Blake’s freedom of line and colour have stayed as a lasting influence and I strive to achieve that freedom in my work. When I moved to America I discovered a whole new clutch of illustrators I knew little of. I appreciate the work of artists like NC Wyeth, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, Peter Sis, David Small, Melissa Sweet, David Weisner, Marla Frazee among many others. But I find myself going back to study the absolute freedom of Quentin Blake when I am in need of inspiration. He is effortless and genius!”



Hazel13“My route to my present career has been a circuitous one! I was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in the UK. At school I loved english and art. After school I attended art college to study fine art. But, after a couple of years, I dropped out. I loved to paint, but something was missing for me. There weren’t many illustration courses around back then and unfortunately I became disillusioned with my course. For a while I worked with horses (I had always ridden since a child). Then I signed up for the Royal Navy! I worked on shore bases in graphics offices and I really felt like I learned my trade. I learned to use the first computers for graphics, I did exhibition work and technical drawing. And I still got to use my artistic skills. And the Navy taught me to be self disciplined and how to get up in the morning, which have stood me in good stead all my working life! Because an artist must also learn to be a business person. After leaving the Navy I ran my own general printing and design business until I met my American husband and moved to the USA in 2000. I had continued all those years to paint and draw and when I came to the USA I started to create local landscapes, portraits enter exhibitions and teach children and adults the basics of art. I’d also started to pick up graphic design and commercial illustration as the internet took off and I worked for clients worldwide, even visiting China at one point for a pottery firm. But I had an itch that I had always wanted to scratch and that was to pursue children’s illustration. I’d no clue on how to enter the field, how to contact publishers or get work. My big turning point was in 2009 when I joined the SCBWI, (, started attending conferences and learn about the business. I received a contract for my first book in 2010 from a postcard mailer to art directors and I haven’t been without work since. As this was during the recession I feel pretty good about it now!”



“Working in any creative field requires determination, a love of what you do and persistence. You have to be prepared to keep working at what you love even when times are difficult. The chances are if you love what you do, others will love it too. For a few the path can be straightforward and it seems their rise is immediate, but behind that success are hours of practice, failed projects, the dogged continuation of the art in the face of disappointment. The moments when work sells, you are hired and your efforts are rewarded by recognition make up for that. Although doing something you love is rewarding, everyone needs to live. You may need to decide if your creative life will be a sideline or the way you will make a living. Balance is important. Debt will stifle your creativity. Most freelance artists of any kind will have to supplement their income with other work or teaching unless they have financial means. It’s also hard to pursue an artist’s career without the support of loved ones and your partner. Keeping inspired and having the support of your peers is important too. It keeps you sane! Continuing to learn, go to conferences, take further education, have conversations about art, visit museums and exhibitions, listen to great music, travel if you can locally or widely, observe the world and the creatures and fellow humans in it. Try something different in your art and in your life! Growing as an artist should be something you continue to do throughout your career. But most of all you need to work from your heart and enjoy it! That’s not always easy when things don’t go as you hoped. But for the lows there are great highs. It’s great to win awards and recognition – but the greatest reward is connecting emotionally with people through your work. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”






“If I’m illustrating a picture book written by someone else, I first, of course, read the manuscript. I read it several times to let the sense, theme and story sink in. Then I start to think about how the story flows, how words and pictures will fit together. If it is my own story then sometimes the words come first, sometimes pictures or both together! Illustrating a picture book is like a dance, you must leave space for the words just as the words must leave space for the pictures. I usually first make written notes, noting where to split the words (page turns are very important and can make or break a book! Anticipation is everything !), I note what images are coming to me, think about what the characters look like – are they human or animal or inanimate objects, even? Who are they? Sometimes the art director and editor will include art notes in the manuscript that may direct your thoughts. Most often the ideas are left to you, so you are not confined. Freedom is something we all need as artists and too much input can stifle the process. When I have made notes I will then start to make sketches. Usually I start with ideas for the main characters, the setting, anything else that is important. Depending on the subject of the book I may need to do research into the characters and their world. For example my last book, (‘Imani’s Moon’ for Charlesbridge Publishing by JaNay Brown-Wood), was about a little Maasai girl. I did a great deal of research on the Maasai tribe, their culture, what they wear and the landscape they live in, in Africa. The Maasai are very beautiful and elegant people and have a certain ‘look’. I checked out the animals that are featured in the story and made sure I was drawing ones that live in that region! My research is usually done online and from books. (It would have been nice to go to Africa, though!). Quite often I’ll send the character sketches to the art director to make sure I’m going in the right direction. I feel strongly that one of the things that makes a great book is team work. The illustrator is not working in a void, they are working with the art director, the editor, the designer. The author DOES get input, but that comes through the art director and not directly to me, which works well.

After the characters are worked out I’ll start on thumbnail layout sketches (about 2″ big) of the pages of the book itself. (Very tiny so I can’t put much detail in!) This is really to show the flow and composition of the book, much as you would do for a single painting. I also consider what kind of style the book will be, what is the mood and subject matter, what size it will be (usually the publisher will have ideas about this). Is it happy, sad, funny, dark? What is the age group it’s intended for? I don’t work in one particular style, so this is an important factor for me. Some of my books are very detailed and some much looser. If it’s a chapter book I’ll usually be working in black and white and on single page or spot illustration images rather than continuous pages that tell the story in a constant flow. Next I move on to bigger sketches of each page, trying to keep it loose and fast and rough out what the pages will look like and where the text will go, too. At this point I send the ‘dummy’, (as the drawings are called), to the art director, usually as an electronic PDF.

After any revisions from the publisher I start on the final images for the book. Most picture book are 32 single pages. The medium I use depends on the style of the book. Most often I use graphite, watercolour wash and digital colouring, but sometimes pen and ink and collage. For digital work I use mainly work in photoshop. All my images are usually finished digitally and sent to the publisher that way.

After that I wait for the book to arrive! Then the promotional work begins to help sell the book.”




Q: What have you been up to lately?

A:Illustrating! I have 4 new picture books coming out in 2015/2016 – ‘Toby’, (as I mentioned before), written and illustrated by me and it’s about my rescued poodle. ‘Where do Fairies go when it Snows?’ from Down East Books, by Liza Gardner-Walsh, ‘Animally’ by Lynn Sutton from Kane Miller Publishing and ‘Kenya’s Art’ by Linda Trice from Charlesbridge Publishing. I also have in progress a couple more picture books I’ve written and a middle grade mystery novel set in England, all of which I hope will find a publisher in the coming year.”

Q: Do you have a favorite work?

A: “I am pretty proud of the illustration work I did recently for ‘Imani’s Moon’ by JaNay Brown Wood, published in 2014 by Charlesbridge Publishing.”




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Originally from Yorkshire, England, children’s book illustrator Hazel Mitchell now lives Maine, USA. She has a dog, a cat and several snow shovels. You can see more of her work at:

Twitter: @hazelgmitchell

Hazel and Toby close upHazel and Toby


The Daisy Chain & Color

 by Lily Boone

The Daisy Chain

You can’t catch me today,
I’ve more power than ever before.
I can swallow you up
and change you into a chrysalis.

There is a singing in my head
that makes it hard to concentrate on
my typing.
Perhaps it is Sappho calling,
she and I are friends,
we sing together sometimes.

You didn’t know that, did you?

I will find my way through
this metal-plastic-
silver-yellow world.
It’s a maze and I have
new zest for the game.

Look for me between the piano keys,
they are yellow and need dusting.


I can still remember the
color of your love when it burned
white hot for me, so that I was
afraid to stand too close, afraid
of being consumed by its
passion, afraid of losing
myself in its intensity.
Having once loved that deeply
I am scarred and can only
remember and dream and
wonder. There can be no other
love like this for me.
You are what I measure all
others against. You have
given this to me, the color
of the strength that holds
me up, the color of the
memory, the color of the dream.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Lily Boone is a poet living in a small town in northwest Ohio. She leads a very dull life.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

painting by Samuel Barrera