Fiction, translation

Alexandra, Be Good (Hunting Lemur)

by Bojan Babic


She sits in the park, crying. She doesn’t know why she’s crying. A mustachioed statue of a hero climbs down off its pedestal to her, sits beside her and kisses her on the forehead, then kisses her on the mouth.

The teacher calls her to the blackboard and tells her: “solve this equation”. The sum is easy and she knows the answer, but she has a bird’s claws instead of hands and so she can’t hold the chalk. She wants to tell the teacher that she can’t hold the chalk, but instead of a mouth she has a beak and she lets out a bird’s squawk.

Now it’s night-time. She stares up at the sky. The moon is revolving quickly around the earth, faster and faster until it eventually falls down to earth, but everything is all right, because her grandma brings her a basket of cherries.

Then she feeds mechanical iron pigs, and they sing her a lullaby, all in the same mechanical way. They lick her feet with their mechanical tongues. They scratch her.

Now she is towing a ship across town with her hair. Then she is chased by babies in the street, and she’s naked. That’s what Alexandra’s friend Maja dreams, strange things, crazy things. Every morning Maja comes to school with a new story. Alexandra listens and says nothing. She says nothing because she dreams of nothing. She dreams of nothing because she hardly sleeps at all. No sooner does she fall asleep than she is woken by a noise, disturbed by light, interrupted by fear. And if she is fooled for a moment by her forcibly closed eyes and begins to dream, the dream is always the same. She is at lunch with her family in a nice large house, it’s their house. She reaches for the salt, and another hand smacks her lightly, because salt is forbidden. A stupid dream – and boring, above all else.

And then, at that moment, Alexandra always wakes up.

That’s the only thing she dreams. And she only sleeps for a short time, a couple of minutes, and then comes back to reality. She lies in bed, in the dark, for hours on end, all night long, with a blanket over her head, and hugging a toy, a small lemur teddy.

It’s the same every night. Tonight is no exception. Then suddenly the light comes on.


Get up, son[1], come on. It’s already half past four. We’re going stalk. You didn’t forget, did you? Come on, come on. What we’ve been hunting so far is nothing compared to stalking. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be asking to go again and again. Stalk hunt is the ultimate way to hunt roebucks. You know, a true hunter-stalker must be in good condition, know the ground and game excellently, have a sense of ease of movement and be fully observant. And we have these qualities, don’t we, son? For me, stalking, this hunting pursuit, is a real art.

To approach the quarry, the superior ones, to find yourself in a position to shoot, or to test yourself, and then to slowly get closer to young herds, not yet good for shooting, to examine the limits of nature, your own nature.

The chase gives you so many opportunities to improvise, to use quick-thinking and such suspense as you can only imagine, which is the sweetest thing of all. Adrenalin surges at every step as you stealthily get closer to the animal.

And when a buck you haven’t noticed up ‘til then rises from the grass. Pleasure. Stalking. Pleasure. Nothing’s better.

Come on. I’ve got a .243 Winchester for you. OK? I think it’s the right size for you now. You’re ready for it. I know, I can see what you want in your eyes, but you’re still a beginner. No rush, you’ll get to the .222 Remington. It’s for the experienced. You still have difficulty carrying it, but you’ll grow. You’ll get stronger. You will, my son. You will. I’ll keep it, for the time being.

And I’ve seen what you draw all the time, in secret. Nice gun stocks, rifles. Shooting. Targets. I too like to see pretty, engraved weapons, choice stocks, the glow.

But you should not yearn for such things. Engravings do not shoot the game, my son. What is important is that the rifle does the job. And that it is suited to its owner, while the engraving – the engraving may be over-done and become kitschy. What I used to see all over Greece and Turkey, those guns and rifles, yes, all that looked like mockery. As if a rifle were entertainment for lonely spinsters. As if it were some kind of embroidery or tapestry, or something. Engravings all over weapons with no order or plan, meaningless, shapeless. Come on, get dressed.


Alexandra pulls back her covers. Alexandra takes off her pajamas. Alexandra is in her underwear. He’s looking at her, stern, but proud.


              Come, my son.


Her legs are muscled, strong. Her body is robust, sturdy. She is wide, not tall. She isn’t fat, you couldn’t say that. Once she heard her relatives describe her well-built.

Her father taps her on her behind to hurry her along.


              Come on, son. The quarry won’t wait for us.


Alexandra hastily puts on a khaki uniform and cap. There’s no time to wash her face or other morning rituals. To catch the first ray of sunlight. To seize the day and draw it close. To catch a perfect roebuck and shoot it right below the shoulder blade. Killing with a single shot – the first commandment of hunting.

Off they go. They’re jolted along in a white Lada Niva on the muddy roads. They breathe in the woods. They stop. They search. Search without success. Oak trees, long grass, ditches, brooks, foxes’ dens, abandoned cottages, pheasants, wasps, all flash before their eyes for two hours until it’s time for breakfast. The secret is to be patient, to persevere. To take more time than the roebucks do. To always be one step ahead. To be a human.

Jolting along in the Lada again. Deeper into the woods. The road tapers off into nothing. On foot. They search. And search. Their boots pick up turf, mud. Their feet become stronger. Wider. He is in front, some twenty steps. He’s a scout. He spots something. He freezes to the spot. He quietens Alexandra’s footsteps. He kneels down behind a tree stump. She lies on the ground, in a ditch. He observes, motionless and silent. He doesn’t talk. The silence lasts a minute – an eternity. He points his finger and whispers ecstatically, at the top of his voice, so Alexandra can hear him over in the ditch.


I can see him. There he is. About a hundred and fifty yards away, I’d say. He’ll come out into the open. He’ll come out. Come. Come on, boy, walk into our sights. That’s right.

              What’s the matter now? Why are you standing, my boy? Come on, feel free. We mean you no harm.

Just to have a little fun. Ahaaaa. A plane flies by. Ignore the plane, little buck. Just go on your way. To the water. Come, come slowly. Can you see him, Alex, huh? See how handsome he is. Nature is a miracle. God is great. What perfection He has created. Look at those horns. They’ll be yours, Alex. Are you happy? Yes. You’re happy.


The roebuck approaches, no longer afraid.


That’s right. Come now, Alex, shoot. Breathe in, just like we practiced. Gun stock on the shoulder. Find him.

              Can you see him? Yes? Good. I have him in my sights too.

Look him in the eyes. Aim for the heart. He can’t be just wounded. Under no circumstances. Right through the heart, under the shoulder blade. Then he’s dead in an instant, in no time at all.

              I love this moment. Alex, this is what I live for.

That’s it. Two hunters. One target. Both have it in their sights. That’s how a special connection is created. I couldn’t feel it with just anybody, you know.


Alexandra aims. She looks at the animal walking freely across the freshly mown grass, directly towards the river. The river is between her and the animal. Father is on the same side of the river as her. Father. Alexandra turns with her eye on the sight. From the animal’s head to the man’s head, to her father. Ninety degrees.

What this right angle covers: mossy tree trunks, ferns, tree stumps, a small metal pot, a puddle with the surface covered in pond scum, a starling, spring. Nature through the blur of rapid movement. A face; an expression of tense exaltation.

Through the visor Alexandra observes the man aiming at the roebuck. She takes a deep breath and with a tranquil, so very tranquil micro-movement she points the little cross at the line of his temple. The man talks passionately:


Only with you, Alex. With you. Because you are the best. You are my own creation. No one else could share this love of hunting with me. No one else could understand me. You are so young, and so… Ah, my son, you still don’t know what people are like. Not yet. And it’s better to stay that way. Animals are better. Much better.


Alexandra aims at his temple.


              Look at those eyes of his. Huge.


Then she lowers the visor to the speaking lips. She’ll blow them up. She imagines them blown up by a gunshot. Flying lips. Speechless. He’s mute. Mute. At last.

He says:


              Look at him, look closely.


She’s looking at him, closely.


              How carefree he is.


Despite a spasm of passion, she recognizes light-heartedness on her father’s face.


              He doesn’t even realize you have him in your sights.


She smiles at the thought that her father wouldn’t even think that she has him in her sights.


How old would he be? Five, probably. He must have lots of young. You see, Alex, how God has arranged it. Animals pass away, disappear, and their young go on living. Fending for themselves. They don’t suffer, they don’t grieve, they don’t wait for forty days, six months, a year. And us, how closely related we are. You see, if I wasn’t alive, if I disappeared, if someone, for example, shot me accidentally now while hunting, what would you do? How would you cope? I shudder even to think.


Alexandra puts her forefinger on the trigger. She clenches her teeth.


Here he is. He’s moving. Good boy. There. Just a bit to the left. Turn a bit more to the left.


She lowers the gun aimed to the left, to the neck. She’s focused on the jugular.

There. That’s the ideal position, Alex. Got him? If so, shoot. Shoot below the neck, near the shoulder blade. Shoot for the heart.


She lowers the sight further, to the chest. The heart.


Don’t wound him. Kill him straight off, with one shot. Don’t torture him.

              Go ahead, shoot.


He makes a move with his body as if he wants to step away from his rifle and look at his daughter. Alexandra briskly resumes her initial position, with the weapon pointed at the five-year-old roebuck. Father glances at her expectantly.


              Go ahead, now. Shoot. He’ll run away.


Without hesitation, Alexandra fires a bullet, then one more. The buck takes a step in fear, then falls down. He tries to get up, but falls again. He raises his head, then lowers it. He keeps on moving his legs, then stops. He lets out a cry.


You’ve wounded him! You’ve only wounded him. I should have known you weren’t ready. Let’s go over there. Come on now. Quickly.


They run across the brook and undergrowth. They approach the quarry. There’s a big gaping wound on a leg muscle. Blood. The buck screeches. Cries out. The screeching is unbearable. The woods echo. Father positions himself over the fallen buck, observing him, not without pleasure.


Look at him. He’s hiding his eyes. He’s staring into the ground. Look, Alex. That’s how all of them look at the ground. They pray to it, or whatever. Praying for a miracle. How pitiful they are. How we used to slaughter them. Killed hundreds of them. And they all hid their eyes from death in the same way. They were all the same. They repented. Groaned. Squealed. Repented, not because they knew they’d sinned, but because they hadn’t moved, escaped in time. Fools. A lowlier species. Ha! Shoot now, Alex. Finish the job. Come on. Be good. You have to do it. Right in the heart. Lean the rifle over here.


How he screeches, wounded, he moves his lips inwards, draws them in. His gums are visible.


              Go ahead. Shoot!


Alexandra feels dizzy. Alexandra feels dizzy.


Shoot. Shoot! Shoot! Shoooot! Kill him. Be a man. A man, Alex. Shoooot!


Alexandra finishes the job. She kills the animal. Straight in the heart. The last jerk. The last. She can feel her father’s hands on her shoulders, his lips on her eye.


              That’s right, son. I’m proud of you.


As he hugs her, he pushes her head under his arm. She can smell his sweat.


              Now you’re a man. Now you’re a man, my son.


Alexandra cannot sleep. Alexandra cannot dream. She lies in bed, in the dark, for hours on end, all night long, with a blanket over her head, hugging a toy, a small lemur teddy.



[1] Fathers in Serbia sometimes call their daughter – son.






Kao ona sedi u parku i plače. Ne zna zašto plače. Onda brkati kip junaka ustane sa postolja, priđe joj, sedne pored nje i poljubi je u čelo, poljubi u usta.

Onda kao nastavnik je izvede ispred table i kaže joj „Reši ovu jednačinu“. Zadatak je lak i ona zna rešenje, ali kao ima ptičje kandže umesto šaka i ne može nikako da uhvati kredu, nikako. Hoće da se požali nastavniku kako ne može da uhvati tu kredu, ali umesto usta ima kljun i ispusti ptičji krik.

Pa, kao noć je. Ona gleda u nebo. Mesec se vrti oko zemlje brzo, sve brže i na kraju padne na zemlju, ali sve bude u redu, jer joj baka donese kotaricu trešanja.

Pa, kao ona hrani gvozdene mehaničke svinje, a one joj pevaju uspavanku, isto nekako mehanički. Ližu joj stopala mehaničkim jezicima. Grebu je.

Pa, kao kosom vuče brod po gradu. Pa je jure bebe po ulici, a ona gola. Pa sve tako nešto nenormalno i ludački sanja Aleksandrina drugarica Maja. Svako jutro Maja u školu dolazi sa novom pričom. A Aleksandra sluša i ne govori ništa. Ništa ne govori jer ništa ne sanja. Ništa ne sanja jer gotovo da ni ne spava. Taman zaspi, ali probudi je šum, uznemiri je svetlo, unespokoji strah. I ako je na silu zatvorene oči nekako zavaraju na trenutak, pa započne sa snom, taj san je uvek isti. Ona je sa porodicom na ručku u velikoj lepoj kući, kao njihova je. Pruži ruku da uzme so, a neka druga ruka je blago udari, jer je so zabranjena. Glup san i nadasve dosadan.

I tu, u tom trenutku, Aleksandra se uvek budi.

Samo to sanja. Samo tako, kratko spava, po par minuta, pa se vrati u realnost. Leži u krevetu, u mraku, satima, noćima, sa ćebetom preko glave, i igračkom, malim plišanim lemurom u zagrljaju.

Svake noći je tako. Pa i ove. Onda se svetlo odjednom pali.

Ustaj sine, hajde. Već je pola pet. Idemo na pirš. Nisi valjda zaboravila. Ajde, ajde. Ovo što smo do sad lovili nije ništa u odnosu na pirš.

Kad jednom probaš, tražićeš da idemo stalno. Lov piršom ti je vrhunski način lova na srndaće. Znaš, pravi lovac tragač mora da ima dobru kondiciju, da odlično poznaje teren i divljač, da ima osećaj za lako kretanje i savršenu moć zapažanja. A mi to imamo, je l’tako, sine? Za mene je pirš, taj lov pretragom, prava umetnost.

Da priđeš lovini, kapitalcu, da dođeš u priliku za pucanje ili da testiraš sebe, pa da lagano prilaziš mladim grlima, koja još nisu za odstrel, da ispituješ granice prirode, svoje prirode.

Pretraga ti daje najviše mogućnosti za improvizacije, trenutna rešenja i samo

da znaš kakvu neizvesnost, a to je najslađe. Adrenalin cepa pri svakom koraku kada se prikradaš životinji.

A još kad se iz trave podigne srndać kog do tog tre- nutka ni ne primetiš Gušt. Pirš. Gušt. Nema bolje.

Ajdemo. Spremio sam ti vinčesterku, dvestačetrestrojku. Može? Mislim da je to sada prava mera za tebe. Za to si spremna. Znam, vidim ti u očima šta želiš, ali još si na početku. Polako, doći ćeš i ti do dvestadvadesetdvojke remingtonke. Ona je ipak za iskusne. Ti se još mučiš da je nosiš, ali porašćeš. Ojačaćeš. Hoćeš, sine moj, Hoćeš. Neka je kod mene, za sada.

A video sam šta crtaš stalno, krišom. Lepe kundake, puške. Pucanje. Mete. Volim i ja da vidim gravirano i sređeno oružje, birane kundake, sjaj.

Ali ne treba patiti za tim stvarima. Gravure ne odstreljuju divljač, sine moj. Bitno je da puška radi posao. I da odgovara svom vlasniku, a gravura, gravura može da bude preterana i da pređe u kič. To što sam ja viđao po Grčkoj i Turskoj, te pištolje i puške, pa da, pa to je sve izgledalo kao sprdnja. Kao da je puška zanimacija za usedelice. Kao da je to nekakav vez, goblen, šta ja znam. Gravure preko celog oružja bez ikakvog reda i plana, bez smisla, bez oblika. Ajde, oblači se.

Aleksandra se otkriva. Aleksandra skida pidžamu. Aleksandra je u donjem vešu. On je posmatra, strogo i ponosno.

Ajde, sine moj.

Njene noge su mišićave, snažne. Njeno telo je robusno, jako. Svo nekako u širinu, ne u visinu. Nije debela. To se ne može reći. Čula je jednom kako rođaci govore o njoj kao o osobi sa jačom konstitucijom.
Otac je udara po zadnjici požurujući je.

Idemo sine. Lovina neće da nas čeka.

Aleksanda brzo oblači maskirno odelo i stavlja kačket. Nema vremena za umivanje i uobičajene jutarnje rituale. Uhvatiti prvi zrak sunca. Uhvatiti dan za mošnice i privući ga sebi. Uhvatiti savršenog srndaća i pogoditi ga pravo pod plećku. Ubistvo jednim hicem – prva lovačka zapovest.
Izlaze. Bela lada niva ih trucka po kaljavim putevima. Dišu šumu. Zaustave se. Tragaju. Tragaju bez uspeha. Čitava dva sata im se pred očima smenjuju hrastovi, strnjike, šančevi, potoci, lisičji jarci, napuštene kolibe, fazani, ose. Vreme je da doručkuju. Tajna je u strpljivosti, u istrajnsti. Imati vremena više od srndaća. Biti korak ispred. Biti čovek.
Ponovo truckanje u ladi. Dublje u šumu. Više nema puta. Pešice. Tragaju.
Tragaju. Čizme nose busenje zemlje, blata. Noge postaju snažnije. U širinu. On je ispred, nekih dvadesetak koraka. On je izviđač. Nešto primeti. Zaledi se u mestu. Ućutka Aleksandrine korake. On klekne iza panja. Ona legne na tlo, u šanac. On nepokretno posmatra i ćuti. Ne govori. To ćutanje traje minut – večnost. On pokazuje prstom i šapuće ekstatično, iz sveg glasa, kako bi ga Aleksandra čula tamo u jarku.

Vidim ga. Evo ga. Negde je na stopedeset metara, rekao bih. Izaći će na pokošeno. Izaći će. Hajde. Hajde mali, dođi nam na nišan. Tako je.
Šta je sad. Što stojiš dečko moj. Hajde, slobodno. Ne- ćemo ti ništa.
Samo malo da se družimo. Ahaaaa. Avion proleće. Pusti avion, srki. Samo nastavi svojim putem. Na vodicu. Hajde, hajde polako. Je l’ ga vidiš Aleks, a? Vidi kako je lep. Priroda je čudo. Bog je velik. Kakvo savršenstvo napravi. Pogledaj te rogove. Biće tvoji Aleks. Je l’ se raduješ? Da. Raduješ se.

Srndać prilazi oslobođen od straha.

Tako je. Hajde sad Aleks, nanišani. Udahni vazduh, kao što smo vežbali. Kundak na rame. Pronađi ga.
Je l’ ga vidiš? Da? Tako je. I ja ga imam na nišanu.
Pogledaj ga u oči. Ciljaj u srce. Ne sme biti samo ranjen. Nikako. Pravo u srce, pod plećku. Onda je odmah gotov, u momentu.
Volim ovaj trenutak. Aleks, za ovo živim.
To je to. Dva lovca. Jedna meta. Obojica je imaju na nišanu. Tako se stvara posebna veza. To ne bih mogao da osetim sa bilo kim.

Aleksandra nišani. Gleda životinju koja slobodno hoda po nedavno pokošenoj travi, pravo ka reci. Reka je između nje i životinje. Otac je na istoj strani reke kao i ona. Otac. Aleksandra se okreće sa okom na nišanu. Od glave životinje do glave čoveka, do oca. Devedeset stepeni.
Šta sve staje u taj prav ugao: mahovinom obrasla stabla; paprat; nekoliko posečenih panjeva; metalno lonče; barica čije je površina prekrivena žabokrečinom; čvorak; proleće. Priroda kroz sfumato brzog pokreta. Lice; napeti izraz oduševljenja.
Aleksandra kroz vizir posmatra čoveka koji nišani srndaća. Udahne duboko i mirnim, najmirnijim mikropokretom položi krstić u liniju njegove slepoočnice. Čovek govori strastveno:

Samo sa tobom Aleks. Sa tobom. Jer ti si najbolja. Ti si mojih ruku delo. Niko ne može da podeli ovu ljubav prema lovu sa mnom. Niko drugi ne može da
me razume. Tako si mlada, a tako… Eh sine moj, još ne znaš kakvi su ljudi. Još ne. I bolje je da tako ostane. Životinje su bolje. Mnogo bolje.

Aleksandra cilja u slepoočnicu.

Pogledaj te njegove oči. Krupne.

Onda spušta vizir do usana koje govore. Razneće ih. Zamišlja kako ih hitac raznosi. Usne lete. Ne govore. On ćuti. Ćuti. Konačno.
On govori:

Pogledaj ga, pogledaj pažljivo.

Ona ga gleda, gleda pažljivo.

Kako je samo bezbrižan.

I pored grča strasti, na očevom licu prepoznaje bezbrižnost.

Ni na kraj pameti mu nije da ga imaš na nišanu.

Ona se nasmeje na pomisao kako ocu nije ni na kraj pameti da ga ona ima na nišanu.

Koliko li je star? Petogodac, verovatno. Sigurno ima dosta dece. Vidiš Aleks, kako je to Bog uredio. Životinje odu, nestanu, a njihovi mali nastave život. Snalaze se. Ne pate, ne tuguju, ne čekaju četrdeset dana, šest meseci, godinu dana. A mi, koliko smo samo mi vezani. Eto, da mene nema, da me nestane, da me neko, na primer, slučajno u lovu sad pogodi, šta bi ti? Kako bi se snašla? Ne smem ni da pomislim.

Aleksandra postavlja kažipst na obarač. Stiska zube.

Evo ga. Pomera se. Tako je dečko. Tako. Još samo malo levo. Okreni se još samo malo levo.

Ona spušta nišan ulevo i naniže, do vrata. Koncentisana je na žilu kucavicu.

To. To je idealna pozicija. Aleks. Je l’ ga imaš? Ako ga imaš pucaj. Pucaj ispod vrata, kod plećke. Gađaj srce.

Ona spušta nišan još niže, do grudi. Do srca.

Nemoj da ga raniš. Ubij ga odmah, iz jednog hitca. Ne daj da se muči.
Hajde, pucaj.

On pravi pokret telom kao da želi da se odmakne od svoje puške i da pogleda svoju ćerku. Aleksandra se naglo vrati u početnu poziciju, sa oružjem uperenim u srndaća petogodca. Otac je pogleda sa iščekivanjem.

Hajde, bre. Pucaj. Pobeći će.

Bez čekanja, Aleksandra opali metak, pa još jedan. Srndać napravi korak straha, pa padne. Pokuša da ustane, pa padne. Podigne glavu, pa je spusti. Nastavi da se pomera nogama, pa prestane. Oglasi se.

Ranila si ga! Samo si ga ranila. Trebalo je da znam da nisi spremna. Hajdemo tamo. Hajde sad. Brzo.

Dotrčavaju preko rečice i žbunja. Prilaze lovini. Na nožnom mišiću zjapi velika rana. Krv. Srndać riče. Doziva. Rika je nepodnošljiva. Šuma odjekuje. Otac sebe postavlja nad palog srndaća i posmatra ga, ne bez zadovoljstva.

Vidi ga. Krije pogled. Zuri u zemlju. Vidi ga, Aleks. Svi oni gledaju tako u zemlju. Mole joj se, šta li. Mole se za čudo. Kako su samo jadni. Kako smo ih samo tamanili. Ubijali na stotine. I svi su tako krili pogled od smrti. Svi su bili isti. Kajali se. Jecali. Roptali. Kajali se, ne zato što znaju da su nešto zgrešili, već zato što se nisu sklonili, što nisu pobegli na vreme. Budale. Niža vrsta. Ha! Pucaj sad, Aleks. Dovrši posao. Hajde. Budi dobra. Moraš to da uradiš. Pravo u srce. Nasloni pušku ovde.

Kako riče, ranjenik pomera usne unazad, povlači ih. Vide mu se desni.

Hajde. Pucaj!

Aleksandri se zavrti u glavi. Aleksandra se zavrti u glavi.

Pucaj. Pucaj! Pucaj! Pucaaaaj! Ubij ga. Budi čovek. Čovek, Aleksandra. Pucaaaaj!

Aleksandra dovršava posao. Ubija životinju. Pravo u srce. Poslednji trzaj. Poslednji. Oseća očeve ruke na ramenima, njegove usne na svom oku.

Tako je, sine. Ponosan sam.

Dok je grli, gura njenu glavu pod svoju mišku. Ona oseća njegov znoj.

Sad si čovek. Sad si čovek, sine moj.

Aleksanda ne može da spava. Aleksandra ne može da sanja. Leži u krevetu, u mraku, satima, noćima, sa ćebetom preko glave, i sa igračkom, malim plišanim lemurom u zagrljaju.


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Bojan Babic (1977, Belgrade, Serbia) has published 3 books of short prose and 3 novels till now. He was awarded Borislav Pekić award – the only literary scholarship in Serbia. Some of his short stories were translated to Albanian and Swedish. This is the first time his story was translated to English language.

Natasa Miljkovic, born in Smederevo, Serbia, in 1984. She graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature of the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, where she is currently doing her PhD thesis on scientific and artistic truth, based on some of John Banville’s novels. She works as an English teacher and a freelance translator.



Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado


Poetry, translation


2 poems by Esau Cituk Andueza


Bienaventuranzas (Beatitudes)


They say of those who cut their veins
their bodies flow like a fountain of rubies

they are their own kingdom



Beatified, those who ingest ovedoses

of non-prescription pills:

they are inbetween good and evil



Happy are they who toast with the cup full of lethal acid nectar

Because they know the power of their decision



They say that those who jump into the abyss

and on the side are hoping for the sea or pavement

see God and the Devil



Beatified, those who kiss the revolver

and eat the fruit of the gun

because they know the balance between life and death



Happy are they who put around their neck

a noose, and leave their body suspended in the void:

they won’t be persecuted nor insulted



And no one will torture them, but their names

are written in the rock.



The Mix


My area is a mix of children begging for alms, a boy palid like the cloud selling roses in celophane; another, like a puppet sustained in a box of wood and offering nuts, sweets and cigarettes; a girl simulating a smile of copper when offering her chocolates for 5 pesos, but now they are knocked over; another, with a body of a wire that won’t mature into a woman selling artisan fans. All look with salt in their eyes and their voices rough like they’ve been forced sweets; walking resisting the impulse to run up to the park, where the doves have built the columns of stucco and yell: “Peace! Peace!,” “Live in the city of Peace!” And I can’t close my eyes when the innocence is caught about a bank of this park, I can’t open my mouth when I have to get on the road to travel, that many travelers call maturity and seriousness. But the road that left those children with their little hands extended, filthy from money, can’t jump behind. My area is a mix of ancients seeking alms.
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Esau Cituk Andueza (Tixkokob, Yucatan, 1988). Poet and narrator. Graduate of the School of Writers of Yucatan Leopoldo Peniche Vallado. Author of the chapbook of poetry Without Calm (El Drenaje 2011). Honorable mention in the state course called Return to Gutenberg. Currently studing for licenture in Latin American literature in the Autonomous University of the Yucutan and the School of Literary Creation of the State Center of Belles Arts.




translated by Terin Tashi Miller
Author of KASHI, (Formerly self-published as “From Where The Rivers Come”), DOWN THE LOW ROAD, and SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
Sympathy For The Devil by Terin Miller
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Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado

How to dance in a bad time and other poems

by Zach Fishel


How to Dance in a Bad Time

Japanese beetles fray sunflower stems
like pigtails on old skeletons.
This dancing can’t continue
without whiskey and fly fishing
in storm clouds that remember the words
we spoke on television to people throwing up
under heat lamps because of bad menus.
Leaving tips on dirty napkins for harder loves
than our own collect in the loneliness
hall of fame at the corner table of collateral damage.
She was an Elephants swinging at her own knees
for prayers sake. He counted road kill,
mumbling the steps to unwieldy
acquaintances with much suffering.
My closet is empty except for the shoes
And these leaves are chewn to pieces
Scattered across the wind like noiseless
Traffic on a rainy day.

Personal Poem #26

After Ted Berrigan

Time has left its mark
like a battered wife. The court costs
are too            much to handle
suitcases while turtles slow down violently.
Dandelions in July make a
snowstorm of all this fluff as cement
cracks at the dollar general
where women with bad teeth scream
at ugly children lifting lipstick.
Sister’s turning prettier than
dead willows that won’t stop swinging
trees can still sing. Appalachia
is beards and baldness
growing into love until I like
things enough to                   continue.
Cliffs hike the sunset and
my ears are forests counting
the stretch marks of flat moons
as a tall Jewish woman carries shapes
in her
eyes and
lets everyone drink cheap
until two (on the porch only).
Hammocks roll over ashtrays.
Marijuana for the pigs playing accordion in the wind
some like the dog days cooling down.
It would be easier to work a solid week,
vacation once a year to an ocean
town like everybody else,
but who would account for this beauty?
Where would the clouds come sit?
Is there even a question                  (there’s always some)
left to the boys grown too old
to do anything but sit
inside single bedroom
apartments waiting to be drunk again?
Fleas stay desperate. The lonely dig
scabs just to taste some        body.
Sisters turning prettier,
playing desperately in the marching band
at a DUI checkpoint.

Eating the Sailor

For my father


The only thing from the forgotten house
is a broken alarm clock stuck at 9:13.
It was the last thing standing as
the rusted porch swing
laid with the angry sunrise.

You used to mention how fields caught fire
when nobody was hunting. I became a fisherman.
Double shifts and dirty fingernails
taught me to dress a trout and put
it on the camp stove as whip-poor-wheels
would tell the story of old ghost dances
and fallen buffalo.

Pheasants dot the daylight.
Curveballs and crickets were
the comfort of diamonds run
in the backyards of forever
as the summer tired of radios
and the smell of cheap charcoal.


Driving through Pennsylvania in the snow,
your face melting the make-up
as little flakes smeared
into the local polka station,
taking each turn with two cans of beer
tucked between your legs.

To keep on
keeping on out of spite
and wearing thin the seams
of soldering.
A shatter of windshields.

withered and waiting,
a gardener finishing the harvest
of unsteady scarecrows.
The crescent of your arms
around me as a child,
the reality of pipe wrenches.


I remember the only summer I was twelve,
pitching a one hitter and sitting
in the same truck that provided a comate,
nearly perfect but missing the point.
Repeating stories on yellowed post-its.

We listen to routine punch
itself in place like a panicked festival.
This restlessness against the grasses
sending dandelions off to die quiet as batteries.

There’s only one photo of your grin,
my brother and I clinging
to your Atlian shoulders,
afraid of the Chesapeake’s hot sand.
The edges sun-aged and eating the sailor,
those singing waves are not a dirge.


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

Zach Fishel‘s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and received two Pushcart Nominations. His latest chapbook, “Thorn bushes and Fishhooks” will be out later this year via Night Ballet Press.

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Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado



Sunset over Georgian Bay

by Luba Sargeant


Sunset over Georgian Bay

Slanting rays streak
In stripes of lilac and peach
Against a light blue sky.
Granite clouds hang as
Darkness creeps
From the East
In silence,
Daylight leaking finality.
A loon glides over sand and water,
Its call lonely, forlorn,
And drifts into the shadows of night.


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

Luba Sargeant is the author of a YA urban fantasy. She’s been a member of the Barrie Writers Club for over three years, and belongs to a writing critique group with them and the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.

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Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado



Famous Blue Raincoat, Slight Return

by R V Branham


Geoff Emiliano Reid comes home from school for lunch, answers the phone. There is a pause. — …Hello?

— Geoff, her voice says, — Geoff. The rabbit fucking died.

— You must have a wrong number.

— Look, I’ve missed my period and the strip turned green.

She doesn’t have the wrong number, which is why he hangs up on her. God, he could kill the bitch! Kill her.

The phone rings again. He picks up the receiver and shouts: — And how do you know I’m the father!

— Geoff, the voice on the other end says; it is Phillip. Phillip, whose voice is unresonant. Gray, but not foggy. Dull. Phillip, who is dead below the neck and dying above. Who has got the most amazing collection of rockabilly and punk and jazz ceedees you would ever imagine…as well as the original 45’s from such labels as Sun and Stiff and Rough Trade. Phillip, who after all has a few credit cards. Who hasn’t so to speak killed any rabbits.

In the instant it takes to squeeze a tube of shampoo, Geoff Emiliano turns on the charm. If he talks to Phillip long enough, she’ll get busy signals, give up calling back. Also, he might need a ride to Trendy-Third. His Geo shimmies on the Banfield, on NE Sandy… hell, standing still, it shimmies.

— Phillip, m’man. How’s it going?

— Want to go to Buffalo Exchange this afternoon. It’s launder day…dry cleaner closeouts; they got a new shipment?

Phillip’s questions are always flat, uninflected, as if there is no question whatsoever.  His statements, however, are always uncertain… His father is a corporate attorney and Geoff Emiliano wonders if Phillip got that vocal habit from him.

— Thanks. Geoff Emiliano makes a decision, perhaps unwise. — Nah. Too much to do. Got to go back for a semifinal this afternoon.


— S.A.T.’s next week.

— Still be able to hear the band tomorrow.

Phillip refers to a band his cousin started, which he wants Geoff Emiliano to hear, as Geoff Emiliano’s uncle writes for the alt weekly Journal of the Plague Years.

— You’d be a good…no, a great manager.

Geoff Emiliano knows that. His family might not have a tenth of the money Phillip’s has, but Geoff Emiliano has taste. And his taste buds tell him, a priori, that the band doesn’t even rate a garage.

— Maybe tomorrow.

Geoff Emiliano wants to leave his options open.

He cuts the conversation with Phillip short. He then unplugs the phone, in case she calls.

Good thing mom’s out in Hillsboro, her girl-friend’s realtor firm is doing major damage control on a dream subdivision where all the dream houses with their new Parable dream siding suddenly became shiitake farms.

Or has mom gone to Fake Oswego, a-hunting for a house?

Every one was surprised when his grandpa left close to ten million in stocks and bonds, annuities, crystal balls and crow’s entrails to his mom, every one except his rat’s-assignation uncle Geof. Every body knew grandpa had some money squirreled away, but not that much. His uncle Geof doesn’t need money any way… His uncle’s second wife inherited a couple of apartment buildings…buildings paid for before the neighborhood went all gentrified, and real estate became so fucking ridiculous. In a way, he’s glad his mom inherited the money…even though the money is all tied up and unliquid, the interest and dividends have enabled her to quit her peon job at social security before another coworker shot at her. But mom has not chilled out yet and is being more than a bit of an asshole. She even wants to be a realtor.




Later, taking a fast shower, he decides against the semifinal. Not today. There’s a T.A. in Attendance who’ll give him a class re-admit, for a case of microbrewski.

Geoff Emiliano will get his hair permed; his hair’s not like Phillip’s. Phillip’s is genetically permed…he had it done just last month. Yet Phillip has his hair styled like a porcupine’s.

An orange porcupine’s.

And Geoff Emiliano, whose hair is straight, wants his curly.  Phillip’s cousin is right…he wrote a song Geoff Emiliano likes the title to, If You Meet Your Guru On A Cliff, Push Him Off!

Geoff Emiliano gets into his Geo, a battered handmedown from his uncle, from when his mom Gloria Reid and her brother were on speaking terms.

He takes Sandy to East Burnside, playing hide and seek with the shimmer of green and red of the tower of Koin above hills and billboards and faded brick storefronts, crossing over the eponymous bridge, instead of taking the Banfield freeway and I-5 and that immense arch bridge into Northwest ambitious leapers embark off of…he always forgets the name.

The Geo shimmies any which way… Stud tires and police tanks have ripped half the roads in Portland to concrete and shit-pats of tar.

The perm will mean a third of his week’s wages from bussing tables and dish washing his grandmother’s restaurant, but what’s a cyberpisher to do?

He has a fifteen-minute wait at the salon.

The receptionist, with a barberpolestripedyed beehive, offers Geoff Emiliano wine… The premature graying of his temples renders fake I.D. unnecessary.

Geoff Emiliano enquires as to variety and vintage. A ’04 Cabernet. He accepts. Sits.

She brings him the wine. He looks at the glass and worries about red stains on white clothes.

Later, after the perm, while paying the receptionist, he decides to go to Buffalo Exchange any way.

There is a certain joy to be found among the detritus of a society. To rescue unloved and unwanted clothes from the racks, clothes that are art, have style. He had read the word detritus in a Village Voice online review of a German director’s first music video. Had looked it up in the dictionary; nice word, detritus.

He tips the hairdresser… He always fails to remember her name. She thanks him.

Out-side, some thing flashes past, a blur of silver. Every one turns.

There is a loud grinding of metal on metal and then, the crash. Geoff Emiliano rushes out, along with every one else in the shop. Along with every one else on the block.

Shit. His Geo.

A motorcycle has scraped into the side of his car, breaking off his rear-view mirror, and bending the front fender, badly.

The front left tire is flat.

The motorcycle rests, impacted into the driver’s seat of the car in front of his, an ancient scabrous Mazda.

Where’s the god damn bike boy, yells the receptionist.

Every one peers under cars, across the street.

Was he thrown —? — Did he run away —? — Shouldn’t we call nine-one-one —?

Two young men run up the side-walk, towards them. A police tank, coming past, does a U-turn and parks in the red zone. The two men, in their late 20’s, look like the gay guys who hang around Burnside… They wear earrings on each ear, and one has a nosering. Geoff Emiliano finds himself wondering where else they have rings. The taller one, the one without a mustache, speaks up:

— Any body seen a motorcycle?

Johnny points to the Mazda:

— You sideswiped my Geo, you FAGGOTS. — Jesus Christ, watch your language, kid! —Y ou watch your language, an on-looker shouts, and others murmer. — What’d he say, some body else asks. — He was talking religion, some body else says. — Man, they gotta take that shit in-side. — You know, there’s no proof of that Elohim virus. — There’s no proof it doesn’t.Doesn’t what? — Go fuck yourself.

— …Look, we’re sorry about your car, the one with the mustache says, — but you better watch what you say…

— Bite me, faggot. Geoff Emiliano aims for his jaw, but the taller one grabs for his arm and pins it behind him. — You pisher… Geoff Emiliano resents the insult and breaks free, swinging around only to fall into the man’s arms like a long-lost lover. Each attempts use of his knees to groin the other, to kick the other, to trample the other’s feet. — Fuck you, asshole!

Geoff Emiliano and the man, sweating and flailing, wrestle each other to the concrete.

The man cuts his head, while bumping against a parking meter, and Geoff Emiliano hits his while falling against the man. Geoff Emiliano gets blood all over his white clothes. He is astonished at the speed with which the fight happened. He is in a daze when they drag him away.

As it later turns out, the two faggots are undercover cops as well as faggots.

On-duty faggot undercover cops.




Geoff Emiliano’s mother Gloria Reid switches the phone back on.

At the police station Geoff Emiliano is being permitted to make his two phone calls… The only time he has seen his uncle Geof in the last seven years is at his grandpa’s wake, and his uncle did after all say to call him if he needed any thing.

He calls his uncle’s house and gets the answering machine. He calls Journal of the Plague Years, where his uncle occasionally appears for freebie ceedees or promo books or videos.

His uncle Geof, it turns out, is out, getting Roentgenograms.

They let him make another call. He calls home, and the line is busy. He hopes his mom switched it back on. They let him call again ten minutes later. His mom Gloria Reid shows up and posts bail.

Geoff Emiliano’s first reaction, on seeing his mom, is fear, is panic. He fights back a sob. He is seven years old again, being sent to his room, sent to the corner, time out, grounded, yelled at.

— You got a hell of a shiner, Tigger…

—I’m sorry, Mom.

— Don’t worry. She hugs him.

— You couldn’t’ve known they were cops.

Then: — Your car was towed. I just got enough to get you or the car out. ’S a good thing you’re 18, or you’d be in Juvenile Hall. And those two cops you picked a fight with, I happen to know them from the Cascade AIDS Project. Not nice what you said to them.

She laughs in spite of herself. — Not nice. But.

— Really.

He knows she is furious.

— But, mom, they began talking religious shit.

— Those two?

— They almost caused a riot.

— That is different. People have to be really mindful about what they say in public.

— No shit.

His mom Gloria laughs, despite her anger: So thats why they dropped the charges.

— What?

— They didn’t tell you?


— We’ll get your car tomorrow.

— We’ll have to tow it to the garage. Front wheel’s completely fucked up, as well as the door on the driver’s side, and the door’s rear view mirror…

— No worries, we can get you a rental… Insurance’ll cover it. And if the damage exceeds the blue book value we can use the insurance money to get you a better car.




His mom Gloria Reid takes the freeway; they get caught in the Banfield rush. Northward scudding clouds pass over them, bringing a brief light drizzle, more a mist.

— Kate called.

— Oh.

Geoff Emiliano looks at the parade of images on the billboards. Armed Forces. Be All You Can Be.

— She called twice.

Levi Nightcrawlers. Getting In To Your Jeans.

— …Oh.

MicroPop. Tax Amnesty.

— She was upset.

Club Med. Hughes-GM. Tokyo-Joe’s Rice Wine Cooler. — We…we broke up yesterday…

The car ahead of them, a van, brakes to a sudden halt. Geoff Emiliano’s mom Gloria slams the brakes. Geoff Emiliano is jerked torward the windshield by their stop, then jerked away by his seat belt.

— Okay. Geoff Emiliano’s mom releases a sigh that sets the dust on the dash-board in flight.

— If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to talk about it. I’m not going to attach electrodes to your dick.

— Mom.

— But. If Katie is pregnant…

— MOM!

— Stop whining! Just hear me out. If she is pregnant, I am going to offer to pay her to have an abortion. I’ll get her to Seattle, every one here gossips too much… I’ll even buy her a car, used…

She turns to him, fiercely but quietly continuing: — You are not going to marry her… You are going to Antioch University in the fall…

— What about Reed?

— I went to Reed.

— You always talk about what a great Party School it was.

— Which is why you’re going to Antioch.

— What if I want to go to PSU? What if I don’t want to go to college at all?

— You won’t be an assistant manager in mom’s restaurant. She’ll outlive us all, any way, so you’d never inherit the restaurant. As for Kate…she’s a sweet girl…but she is a fucking stoopard cow!

He stares at his mother Gloria.

— I apologize for using that language, and for belittling the idiot cretin, but I will not have a fucking stoopard cow for a daughter-in-law!

— I told you we broke up.

— And you turned away when you said that to me.

Fly United Airbus. Mercedes Jeeps. Dune on Fox 49.

We did.

— Fine. But I talked to her. I told her you would call tonight. Ball’s in your court.

Geoff Emiliano nods off.

He dreams. Of his windsurfboard.

Her. Kate. Of bashing her head in while they’re in the Gorge. Claiming the board hit her. That fiberglass fin just gashed her skull open.

They cremate her, in the car his mom bought. Used.




His mom Gloria shakes him awake.

— We’re home.

And they are. They enter through the service porch door. His uncle Geof is waiting for them. Weird, like his uncle Geof and his mom have not exactly been on speaking terms. Elated, his bipolar uncle Geof shakes them, hugs them.

— I sold the fucking Eisenstein book!

— But Daphne told me your agent got a book contract and big fat fuckyouverymuch advance and movie option on that Plague Journal driveby series.

— Yeah, that too.

They congratulate Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof.

Uncle Geof looks at his nephew: — That’s some shiner you got.

At least he isn’t hearing for the upteenth time about how his son Drew almost lost an eye.

— Should I put an extra quiche in the oven? Geoff Emiliano asks his mom Gloria.

— No-no-no-no, his uncle says:

— We’re going to dinner. To Dodeskaden. Sushi buffet tonight. Daphne’s joining us straight from work.

— What about the ex-? Geoff Emiliano’s mom asks.

— What about her?

— Bitter, aren’t we.

Then, to her son:

— Bette’s joining us, and your cousin. So try to be nice for a change. And put some thing decent on.

Geoff Emiliano rolls his eyes but his mom does not catch the gesture. Geoff Emiliano starts to leave the room:

— Better change, then.

— And take a shower; you’re riper than a rotten banana.

Then, remembering some thing:

— Oh, yeah!  Phillip’s left you some thing, from Buffalo Exchange. Famous Blue Raincoat, he called it.

— Wasn’t that a Leonard Cohen song? Geoff Emiliano mom Gloria asks.

— Donovan, Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof says.

— I think. Tim Buckley?

— No. ’S Cohen. He’s a lugubrious bastard, give me good old Public Image any day… Even Public Enemy…

— You liked McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof says.

— So what if it’s one of my alltime favorite movies. Not because of that music. Same three chords.




Geoff Emiliano showers, lathering. He knows his uncle Geof doesn’t know about her. About Kate. Pink. White. Pink.

Lathering. Turning in to the shower jet. Washing the suds away. Lathering again. Kate. That’s it.

Wine and valium. Then, into a hot tub. He would leave. Her alone.

They would find her. Very pink. Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof pounds on the bathroom door:

— Hurry up.


— It started to drizzle. Dress warm.

He dresses. He reads a note from Phillip:

I saw this coat just this very afternoon, and (honestly) the coat spoke to me, it had your name on it, like destiny.

Geoff Emiliano laughs at the note, at Phillip’s ridiculous sense of melodrama. And then he tries on the Famous Blue Raincoat. Nice. He puts his hand in one of the pockets. A pawn ticket.




Dinner turns out to go better than Geoff Emiliano had expected.

He manages to find a seat where he can ignore his cousin Drew without seeming rude. Bette has invited her martial arts instructor, a Japanimei in banker drag, who thinks he has a sense of humour.

After dinner, the martial arts instructor asks Geoff Emiliano how he got the black eye. Geoff Emiliano tells him.

The martial arts instructor listens intently, and then tells him it’s a good thing he had not been in Tokyo, that Tokyo police get free Kendo lessons from the Academies, and laughs as if delivering a killer punch line. Geoff Emiliano vaguely remembers that Kendo is a Martial Art; but what makes it different from Judo or Karate, he can not recall.

So he nods.

The instructor laughs.

Later, on Trendy-Third, in front of the restaurant, Geoff Emiliano and his mom and uncle and uncle’s wife are getting into his uncle Geof’s car…

Bette is giving the martial arts instructor a ride home, then will go on over to Geoff Emiliano’s mom’s.

A silver Volvo drives past. Geoff Emiliano recognizes it. The car belongs to a friend of Phillip’s. The car is full of people.

And she is in the back seat.




Later, at home, he calls. Her.

— Kate’s not home yet.

— Could you ask her to call me? This is Geoff Emiliano.

He nods off.

She is being driven out to the desert, over the Cascades and through the butt end of Oregon, and on into Nevada. She is trussed up, hog-tied. She is to star in a video. It will be the last video she ever appears in.

The phone is ringing.

Behind. Behind that tall cactus.

Geoff Emiliano wakes up. Goes to the hallway. His mom Gloria has answered the phone.

— It’s Kate. Take the other phone into your room.

He does. She keeps holding out for a new car.

But Geoff Emiliano persuades her to go for the used car. But she insists on a ceedee deck.




The next morning, after they have retrieved the car and had it towed to their repair shop and returned home in separate cars… She took him to get a rental, Geoff Emiliano waits for his mom Gloria to run errands.

He calls school and, using a deep voice, says that his nephew Geoff Emiliano Reid is very sick…

His mom had already written him a note for the first two periods, a note so vague that he can milk it for a whole day’s absence. He calls Directory Assistance and gets the number of the pawn shop. He calls, but the line’s busy.

He’ll have to use his car. Geoff Emiliano looks for his famous blue raincoat. Searches his room.

Mom. He ransacks the laundry room.

No raincoat. He finally finds the raincoat, in the garbage can of course, covered with eggshells and coffee grounds and rotten carrots.

His raincoat.

Geoff Emiliano takes the raincoat from the garbage, and out the service porch door to shake all the coffee shells and egg grounds out of the coat. Then he rushes back upstairs, to his mom Gloria’s room, to her closet.

He finds a leather jacket of his mother’s, with a mink collar (dont ask), that he takes downstairs and puts in a plastic bag.

Then he puts the bag in the garbage can, with a note:

Dear Mom,

If you do not fuck with my wardrobe, I will not fuck with yours.

Ever yours,

Geoff Emiliano.




He then finds disgusting leftovers inside the fridge, which he slops on to his mom’s leather jacket.

He hits the phone’s redial button but the line is still busy. A thought occurs to him and he eventually finds a phone book, looks into the gray pages, finds the pawn shop’s address listed.

Geoff Emiliano first stops at his Automatic Teller and withdraws a hundred. The shop is in Southeast, off Foster Road, towards Felony Flats, next to a religious supply store, which specializes in voodoo and Santeria shit.

The pawnbroker is a fat greaseball, who, even when standing, looks like he’s squatting on the crapper. Geoff Emiliano gives the man the stub. — I remember this one… You’re not the guy…

— I’m his brother.

— You’re the wrong colour.

The pawnbroker sneezes.

— And you’re a good thirty years too young.

The pawnbroker sneezes a second time.

— Don’t care. ’S no skin off my nose; you could’ve rolled ’m, left him for dead, all I care. Real creep, that one.

The pawnbroker goes to the back.

Geoff Emiliano looks around at the watches, typewriters, appliances, musical instruments, jewelry, weapons. A computer, a Thinkpad.

— Here we go. The pawnbroker returns with an instrument case.

— This is a real beaut…

Geoff Emiliano is surprised.

— You like music?

— My father worked with Prez; I saw ’Trane and Ornette and Dexter in clubs when your father was in pre-school…

— You saw Lester Young play?

— My dad played with him, but I grew up on his music. Sax is my favorite instrument, a cry from the heart… Punks today, they’re just technicians.

Geoff Emiliano doesn’t quite agree, but sidesteps the issue. — A friend of mine thinks Lester Young was the greatest saxophone man who ever lived.

— Your friend is not fucking wrong. The man regards Geoff Emiliano.

— You learning sax?

Geoff Emiliano pauses for an instant. — Yeah.

— Another day, and I’d’ve had to set it out.

Geoff Emiliano reaches for the case.

— Hundred thirty.

Geoff Emiliano takes the money out. Counts it out. Twenty. Forty. Sixty. Eighty. Hundred. Hundred-ten. Hundred-fifteen… Sixteen. Seventeen… Eighteen… I’m twelve bucks short, I could use my card.

The pawnbroker winces, then shrugs.

— What the hell. I’d rather have the cash…but I’m not giving you a receipt.

Geoff Emiliano opens the case. He is glad that it’s an alto sax. Cracked reed. A couple of hankerchiefs, which look bloodstained. He sees some thing wedged into the tattered lining of the case.  An A.F. of M., A.F.L.-C.I.O. Local 47 card, or, rather, half of one. It reads:

— C.J. HA…

Half a picture of a black man, a black and white picture taken decades ago, playing the sax.

A nearly illegible and badly spelled list of clubs in El-lay and San Francisco and Portland and Seattle:





Shelleys Manhoel

The Parishian Room

The Doude Ranch.




He thinks of bartenders who might know this social history.

Geoff Emiliano decides to visit The Lucky Labrador. He drives down to Hawthorne, near the bridge. Looking up at the bluegray sky, he sees a smooth glazed surface, like Noritake China. The bar is open for lunch. Two different tribes, the burger tribe and the granola tribe. (Geoff Emiliano belongs to neither tribe, as he prefers fajitas, or the occasional sushi.)

Geoff Emiliano asks a waitress if there’s any body who’d remember westcoast jazz or blues musicians from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. Or as far back as the 50’s. She tells him to try the India House, downtown, near or on Taylor. An ancient bartender called The Duke. He takes her advice.

Geoff Emiliano does. — …’Xcuse me, The Duke says. Geoff Emiliano’s eyes are still trying to adjust to the dim interior and it’s tourist poster vibe, his eyes are still outside, in the sun, watching barely clad flesh, freckled thighs and asses, and titties.

— I’m taking my break in a quarter hour. Meet me at the Starbucks by Pioneer Courthouse Square, The Duke suggests.

The Duke meets Johnny at the Starbucks by Pioneer Courthouse Square; they sit at an outside table, overlooking the fountain with its guardian skatepunk and skinhead angels.

— How’d you get his sax?

— In a pawn shop. I’m just… Curious.

— C.J. I forgot his last name: Hancock, Hackett, Haggerty, Harrison, maybe. A mean player…

— Yeah?

— And a mean man.

He tells Geoff Emiliano how the ladies’d loved C.J., but he hadn’t loved them. How C.J. had been arrested. Cut a girl up bad. Waitress. Down in El-lay. At the Lighthouse, where he’d worked. The waitress was pregnant by him; she had really fallen for him and his famous blue raincoat.

— A famous blue raincoat. That’s what my friend called it. This C.J., he wore it all the time?

— Yeah. The Duke lights a cigarette.

— Blue raincoat. He came up to Portland, worked a club with LeRoy Vinegar. Trying to remember the name of the club. What was it. I just had it on the tip of my tongue. …Just vanished.

The man laughs.

— I can remember clubs he’d worked here back in the Fifties: Dude Ranch, McElroy’s Spanish Ballroom, Chicken Coup, Paul’s Paradise. But that’s all old, long-term memory. I can tell you everything I did the day Joltin’ Joe won the World Series, or the day Bird died, but I can’t tell you what I did last week. Getting old sucks.

Geoff Emiliano goes to his seventh period class, and takes the semifinal, make-up. The teacher, a woman with leathery skin from too many years under too many suns, makes him stay after school to make it up. Honors English. Heart Of Darkness.

He thinks of her, Kate, and, the teacher, in Africa, with Mr. Kurtz. Their heads on his poles. Geoff Emiliano feels dizzy. He finishes the exam as quickly as possible.

He goes home. Looks at the raincoat. On the left side, below the pocket, is a very neat bit of patchwork. The inside lining is stained. Blood? Geoff Emiliano laughs. Jesus fuck a pope.

He plays a Dead Kennedys concert bootleg cassette.

Her. Kate. In Dallas. In Dealy Plaza. Sitting next to J.F.K.

The last good President this country ever saw, his other grandfather always said.

He recalls his other grandfather asking him where he was, what he was doing, when Kennedy died. How he had reminded his other grandfather he wasn’t born yet.

And how a few minutes later his other grandfather would ask him again. Look.

Up there. Bullets, a rifle. And she goes down in history…. Perhaps a miniseries?

The phone rings and he answers. It is Geoff Emiliano’s mom, calling to say she made an appointment at a clinic in Seattle. For Kate. And two round-trip Amtrak tickets to Seattle, and next day, the clinic.

She wants him to do the decent thing, the responsible thing. To take her there. To hold her hand. And Geoff Emiliano wants…

— Geoff Emiliano, hey Tigger! You okay…?

And Geoff Emiliano hangs up.




Geoff Emiliano is in Fake Oswego.

He is in Phillip’s backyard, overlooking the lake, and not far from Trader Joes or Natures Fresh. He is in Phillip’s backyard, overlooking the band’s set-up, downstairs, by the pool.

A whiff of mould is in the air. A whiff of mould is always in the air. In Fake Oswego.

Fake Oswego.

A bottomless petit-bourgeois bog, a complete slough of postconsumer despond.

All the children of all the residents of Fake Oswego have at least three asthma guns, take at least two pills to decongest the lungs, the throat, the sinuses.

Geoff Emiliano can not see the embankment where he tossed the raincoat. Where he will toss the sax.

Earlier, after a brief game of tennis, Geoff Emiliano showed Phillip the sax, the card, the photo, the stained rags.

— C.J. Haley. Sax man, Phillip told him.

— He was the pickup reedman for any jazzbos on the westcoast. He played with Mingus, with Miles, Nina Simone. He even did rock gigs, even in Portland with LeRoy Vinegar, even in Eugene. Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry. And Los Lobos, The Blasters…

— Did he record with any of them, especially the later groups?

Phillip shrugged.

Never did any any recording dates I know of…

Phillip had paused a moment, and then, spraying Geoff Emiliano with his spittle, had laughed:

— Maybe C.J. was a vampire.

— Be real, ’kay…?

— Think about it, Geoff, maybe recording tape’s like a mirror, insofar as it won’t record things not of this world.

— You can be a real asshole, Phillip.

— Count Jazzbo the Vampire.

— Count Jazzbo was a whacked-out psychopath, Geoff Emiliano had informed Phillip.

— I talked to a bartender, used to work at The Lighthouse, down in El-lay.

— I know about The Lighthouse.

— He said C.J. was arrested for cutting up a woman, she was gonna have his…

— Sure that bartender wasn’t putting you on?

You so sure that he was?

Geoff Emiliano is quite fucking relieved that Phillip either didn’t catch (or didn’t want to) the fact of C.J.’s waitress being with child. Now the sun is setting, to the west, behind a condo-covered hillock. The bass and synth players are warming up.

Phillip is helping the others set up their equipment.

Some of the gang arrives. Moe Hawk’s shown up, looking for a fledgling band to consign to Rock Stars Kill… But sign these postpathetic postbozos? Margie the mind fucker, and Toy-Boy or Boyo…notorious fagellahs whose names he can never get straight. She is with them. Geoff Emiliano wants to unstring the bass and throttle her with the strings, wants to slap the cow silly, wants to shove her off the balcony, to shoot her, to throw her out of a moving Geo, to love her, to honor, to cherish her, to marry the stoopard fucking cow who is having his baby.

She is talking to Phillip. The stoopard fucking cow who is having his baby. Or maybe Phillip’s? It doesn’t matter. Fuck Antioch; Ohio is too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer… Why can’t he go to Reed…? Okay, so what if Reed is more expensive…? And then there’s all those nosey aunts and uncles… But his namesake can not abide Reedies, so at least he’ll get away from uncle Geof, whom he hates.

He wants to coach the stoopard cow in natural childbirth, to be an assistant pizzeria manager, to take the cow for a Sunday drive and drive off the edge of road at Jantzen Beach that dips around and under I-5 and just a sharp turn from a dunk into the houseboaty Columbia drink.




He thought the band was tuning up, but they are actually playing, after a fashion. Two chords. Played badly.

And not fun-bad like exuberantly sloppy bands… Not brilliantly-bad fun like Patti Smith Group or genius-bad like the Ramones. If only that five-hundred-year-overdue earthquake finally came, not like all these cocktease baby grande false alarms, no, what was needed was another El Grande to slosh the water out of the lake and on to the twonote wonders, fry them and their poor tortured instruments, wash them into the lake of Fake Oswego.

Death to the Colostomies. Recommend these postgeeks to his cousin?!




On his way home, he retrieves the famous blue raincoat. Puts it in the trunk of the family car. Along with the sax.

He watches a bit of video before going to bed. VH1 clips of Billy Idol. (His mom says she had had a platonic teendyke crush on Billy Idol, though mostly as a carryover from the Roentgenogram Spex days.) Odd. White Wedding. He wants to marry her. Kate. In an old church… Perhaps Episcopal. With black candles. All the guests must wear leather, must wear an ikon: swastika, hammer’n’sickle, star of david, dollar sign. Doesn’t matter. And chains, which they bang against the pews. And of course, none of this rice shit. Throw appliances, bricks, knives, ever-the-fuck.

He even calls her.

The line is busy.




The next day, Geoff Emiliano gets up. Has a hearty breakfast. Like a condemned man should. Takes the sax and the famous blue raincoat out to the family car and puts them in the trunk. He goes upstairs and gets tickets for the Amtrak and the money for the abortion and the check for the car, used, from his mom.

Geoff Emiliano smiles at the way his mom avoids his eyes, avoids the famous blue raincoat and her leather jacket, with its mink collar. At one point, his mom almost catches him smiling. Almost catches him.

He drives to her place. Picks her up. Why, Kate? Why? They go to Union Station, then board the train which chugchugs up to Seattle in a few hours. Then a taxi to the hotel, and the next day a becalmed taxi ride to the clinic. There are only a few picketers, and they are only slightly creepy, with pasty pimply glasses and tapedtogether cracked palates and cleft skin… Since Kate, too, has just turned eighteen, there are no consent problems, under Washington law.

Before the abortion, he holds her hand. And afterwards, after the abortion. But not during. Not that they would let him. Not that he’d want to if he could.

Later, in the hotel room he cries. But she doesn’t. The stoopard cow is tranked out on the next bed. He drinks every little bottle in the wetbar fridge.

The next summer Geoff Emiliano will have the raincoat drycleaned, even pays twenty extra to remove the blood stain. But some stains just do not come clean… At the end of this summer he packs up for Ohio. Off to Antioch. Geoff Emiliano takes the sax with him, packed away in the trunk. And neatly folded on the back seat is the famous blue raincoat.



 R.V.  Branham was born & raised on the California/Baja border, & as an adolescent wound up in El-lay. When not co-hosting a floating æther-den, R.V. attended U.S.C., El Camino College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, & Michigan State University. Day jobs have included: technical typist, photo-researcher, x-ray tech. intern, interpreter, social worker, & Treasury Dept. terrorist. His short fiction has been published in magazines such as 2 Gyrls Quarterly, Back Brain Recluse (UK), Téma (Croatia), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Midnight Graffiti, & Red Lemonade (online), & have been collected in such anthologies as Red Lemonade’s Hybrid beasts (available as an e-book), Full Spectrum 3, Drawn to Words, Mother Sun, & several Gardner Dozois anthologies; many of his short stories have been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, & Spanish; his plays, Bad Teeth, and Matt & Geof Go Flying, have been performed in staged readings in Los Angeles & Portland; he attended writing workshops run by Beyond Baroque, John Rechy, Sheila Finch, John Hill, & A.J. Budrys. He has translated Laura Esquivel into English & several of Croatian poet Tomica Bajsic’s poems into Spanish. Back in the day he co-hosted a floating æther-den (it was the 70’s). He is the founder & editor of Gobshite Quarterly—a Portland, Oregon-based multilingual en-face magazine of prose, poems, essays, reasoned rants, & etc.; & author of a 90-language dictionary of insult & invective, obscenity & blasphemy, Curse + Berate in 69+ Languages (published by Soft Skull); & edited & published a bilingual edition of Luisa Valenzuela’s Deathcats/El gato eficaz. Most recently he has co-designed, asst.-edited, & published a collection of poems, “A Bright Concrete Day: Poems, 1978—2013, Douglas Spangle”… The project’s editor was frequent IN OTHER WORDS: MERIDA contributor M.F. McAuliffe.



Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado






Colony and other poems

by Christopher Barnes



As the chorus threaten
Benevolent assault as just desserts
Unannounced, went AWOL.

Carted off in penal-ring bolts,
After heavy handed stints outfitted with stripes –
They also take a Mr Universe Most Wanted.
Gruffness, reprisals, knuckle-raps and duress,
Unforgotten across the rails.

Conscience-salving is blood sore vigilantism.



Unleashed from a dell of juiceless bones,
We’ve let slip our mummified whelp.
The jackal-chinned transfigured one
Rocketed between the shady and celestial.
His carting away is never-endingness mourned.
A winding sheet groans in dead letters.


Fixed Grin

This picked-up frown’s hoi polloi pestiferous;
Eyebrows narrow the gap on gloom.
Dip-down lip wonks, crinkly brows –
Hanging in cheekular tendons
All disfiguring forlorn hope.

Task plastic surgeons
To fiddle with the scourge of plebeians.


Unwanted Guest

First-rounding a trend –
Tantrumming through these botched up nerves,
Passed to my inadmissible door,
This slippery slope.
A haemorrhages to Z
String-pulling the leverage of connections.
Hour X has sprung.


Bluebottle In Sunshine

She plays ball to the roll call as Dysentery Della.
Un-nested this rush hour…
A wayzgoose trim at her paunch,
Tinsel-mineralogical oil-slick.
You’ll be over-curious at midriff legs,
Crushed with wicked-ways bristle,
Squab club-footed antennae
Streaming wide horizons.
Erewhile neck-craned on picked bones
Razzling a dead rat boogie.
We’re wistful of those sorcerous-cherry eyes,
Misted wings,
But in truckloads…that buzz.


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In 1998 Christopher Barnes won a Northern Arts writers award. In July 2000, he read at Waterstones bookshop to promote the anthology ‘Titles Are Bitches‘. Christmas 2001 he debuted at Newcastle’s famous Morden Tower doing a reading of his poems. Each year he reads for Proudwords lesbian and gay writing festival and partakes in workshops. 2005 saw the publication of his collection LOVEBITES published by Chanticleer Press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh.

On Saturday 16Th August 2003 he read at the Edinburgh Festival as a Per Verse poet at LGBT Centre, Broughton St.

He also has a BBC web-page and (if first site does not work click on SECTION 28 on second site.

Christmas 2001 The Northern Cultural Skills Partnership sponsored him to be mentored by Andy Croft in conjunction with New Writing North. He made a radio programme for Web FM community radio about his writing group. October-November 2005, he entered a poem/visual image into the art exhibition The Art Cafe Project, his piece Post-Mark was shown in Betty’s Newcastle. This event was sponsored by Pride On The Tyne. He made a digital film with artists Kate Sweeney and Julie Ballands at a film making workshop called Out Of The Picture which was shown at the festival party for Proudwords, it contains his poem The Old Heave-Ho. He  worked on a collaborative art and literature project called How Gay Are Your Genes, facilitated by Lisa Mathews (poet) which exhibited at The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, including a film piece by the artist Predrag Pajdic in which he read his poem On Brenkley St. The event was funded by The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute, Bio-science Centre at Newcastle’s Centre for Life. He was involved in the Five Arts Cities poetry postcard event which exhibited at The Seven Stories children’s literature building. In May he had 2006 a solo art/poetry exhibition at The People’s Theatre – why not take a look at their website

The South Bank Centre in London recorded his poem “The Holiday I Never Had“; he can be heard reading it on

REVIEWS: He has written poetry reviews for Poetry Scotland and Jacket Magazine and in August 2007 he made a film called ‘A Blank Screen, 60 seconds, 1 shot’ for Queerbeats Festival at The Star & Shadow Cinema Newcastle, reviewing a poem…see On September 4 2010, He read at the Callander Poetry Weekend hosted by Poetry Scotland. He has also written Art Criticism for Peel and Combustus Magazines.

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Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado



Once there was something new: Café Poesía

a history by Fer de la Cruz


Café Poesía, a multilingual open mic for reading poetry in Mérida, just came to an end after five years. It was an important space in a Mérida whose artists grow more and more skeptic with anything that has to do with overpoliticized official cultural institutions and prefer to join—or create—independent alaternatives.

Lasting longer than a great many official projects, Café Poesía turns its last page for two reasons: 1) It already influenced upon the way public readings are done locally, by importing the concept of “micrófono abierto,” unknow to Mérida five years ago. Now it´s used in events organized by the Secretary of Education and by other independent groups, which is a great thing. And 2) I am tired.

I attended my first Open Mic at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville, Florida, in 1998, where I became a regular. They called it Poetry Jam and it was moderated by Jimmy Schmidt. It goes on to this date. Right on! Ten years later, as I returned to the States, I also became a regular at Donkey Café´s open mic poetry event called Designated Space, in Athens, Ohio, run by CJ Smith, who was also editor of JK Publishing. As I graduated from Ohio University, CJ suggested that we publish a chapbook with my recent poems (my first ones written in English) and that I open a branch of Designated Space in Mérida. Shortly after, both ideas were materialized. My book was called Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies (JK Publishing, 2008).

Back in Mérida, I found the perfect place for the project: A brand new restaurant-café called Café Chocolate that was also an antique shop and an art gallery, located in Centro, at an old house where once lived a great, local poet named Ernesto Albertos Tenorio. My friend Uziel Góngora created the logo, out of a nahuatl glyph that represented poetry, and came up with the name Café Poesía. The owner of Café Chocolate even came up with a cocktail based on the ingredients of White Russian (a personal favorite of mine). With time, Café Chocolate, the restaurant, was sold twice but Café Poesía readings kept rocking every Saturday since 7 p.m., in its lovely backyard, even when the chefs no longer made their own pastas or baked their own bread from scratch, when the Café Poesía cocktail vanished from the menu, and when I was no longer granted a complementary drink.

“There´s poetry for everyone,” I said over and over. Now, as I remember a great, local stage actress, Alejandra Argoytia, reading Segismundo´s second soliloquy in Calderón de la Barca´s La vida es sueño; Israel Lara reading Primo Levi in Italian; Ciprián Cabrera Jasso travelling to Mérida from Tabasco only to present his last collection of poems in Café Poesía before passing away; Agustín Monsreal reading a highly emotional poem about la lluvia, contained in his “Diccionario al Desnudo. No ilustrado;” Jonathan Harrington reading his English translations of Mayan poets; Lope Ávila reading my Spanish translation of Jonathan Harrington´s A Rain of Bicycles, so excited about how much he likes it; Yazmín Gaspar dramatizing Rosario Castellanos´ feminist poems; Balam Ricardo reading his poems about life in Mexico´s Southern borderlands; Cesar Love reading his poem Trespasser´s Shoes and myself thinking that I had to translate it into Spanish, which I did;

myself reading my Spanish versions of amazing poems by Don Cellini, Jeff Wright, and Crystal Tittey; and then someone doing spoken word, and someone else doing performance art and sound poetry… I just know that the readings themselves have proved me right on that, most certainly, hay poesía para todos.

We also had Raúl Renán, Daniel Torres, Óscar Wong, Óscar Palacios, Brígido Redondo, Alice Jennings, and most local poets, some narrators, and some stage actors as feature readers in Café Poesía. Since people didn´t have to read works of their own, there were, on the other hand, many people facing poetry for the first time in their lives, or who had an exciting first-time experience reading in front of an audience. Some of the readers´ favorite canonical poets were Jaime Sabines, Pablo Neruda, Rubén Darío, Lorca, Sor Juana… Love poems weren´t among the reader´s favorites but there was at least one married couple who first met in Café Poesía.

Another pet phrase: “Café Poesía—as life itself—is what you make of it.” And I also meant that. I was ready to give it all up in August of 2012 but a number of readers decided to step forward and to volunteer with me as moderators. As talented, young writers who happened to be my students at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, and who also happened be literature students at Univesridad Autónoma de Yucatán, they incorporated other literary genres into Café Poesía: one came up with Café Narrativa, then Café Dramaturgia, and even Café Ensayo, to read literary essays. Unappealing though it may sound, they made it work—of course, one could always take the mic and read poetry on those Saturdays. Finally, maestro Lope Ávila had Café Poesía para niños on the last Saturday of every month, with children as feature poets. This whole initiative was wonderful and gave a new dimension to Café Poesía which became even more of a community event.

During its first couple of years, Café Poesía gained regional popularity. I was invited to write articles about it for different publications, such as UNAM´s Periódico de Poesía; I was interviewed by a few different radio stations and TV channels; Café Poesías facebook group reached over 850 members and people keep on joining it… It was just something different in town, a concept that was new here; and now it´s up to others to start new independent projects and, hopefully, to engage the audiences as active participants as was proved possible in Café Poesía without begging for public funds.

Yes, sometimes the designated moderator failed to show up. Sometimes the feature poet arrived late to her/his own reading. Sometimes I had to ask the manager to ask the chefs to turn down their radio, and there would be the occasional stage huggers. Indeed, sometimes the reader had to stop in mid poetry to wait for the red light outside to turn green, so that some loud car could ride away. It´s also true that I would stubbornly start at 7 (or at ten after) with only two people and that most readers would come after 8. The social construction that we call Mexico is also what one makes of it and many chose to make it like that. In part that´s why I´m tired. Yet, I sure will miss it.

Poetry will endure for, as another of Café Poesía´s pet phrases went, “where two or three gather in her name, there poetry is with them”. By the way, Café Poesía is where I met one of its most constant and punctual readers who shared many great poems and songs over the years: Cher Bibler, creator of In Other Words: Merida!


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Fer de la Cruz is a Yucatecan poet born in 1971. He has received two national, two regional, and one state-wide poetry awards in Mexico and is a member of the founding faculty at the School of Creative Writing of the State Center of Fine Arts, in Mérida. He is also coordinator of the Historic Mérida branch of Centro de Idiomas del Sureste, where he was a teacher for 20 years. He holds an MA in Spanish from Ohio University and a BA in Philosophy. As an independent editor, writer, translator, and cultural promoter, he has participated in cultural festivals, conferences, and book fairs in Mexico, Cuba, France, and the United States. His poems appeared in the books “Redentora la voz” (Ayuntamiento de Mérida, 2010) and “Aliteletras. De la A a la que quieras” (Dante, 2011), as well as in the chapbooks “La cuenta regresiva. Radiografía urbana mesozoica” (El Drenaje, 2012) and “Seven Songs of Silent, Singing Fireflies” (JKPublishing, 2008):

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Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado