Poetry

EnTrance and other poems

by Sheila Lanham

EnTrance

 

sitting alone

a simple Modigliani

woman in a red hat

staring out

of the pyramid

straight-back chair

stars rotating

halo silence

feet stamping

dust quakes

hands shaping the air

into a perfect form

vessel man

pouring prayer

shaking hollow space

leading eyes around

like bats swarming

the temple at night

shivering possession

your sacred entrance

spinning spiral spitfire

lifting off the ground

shooting off the walls

hat in place

angelic face

shoulders simmering

humble flight

of love surrounds

the mystical sounds

your breathing

as you walk

through the door

 

 

Your Southern Drawl

 

no more melodramas

drawn darkly as the curtains,

dismayed sunlight,

shy though abundant,

slumping shadows

more narrow than your legs,

standing at attention

with feet to chandelier,

crystal charm of your toes

embedded in the pink sheets,

a sheltering tent for lovers and posers,

knees knobby as four posters,

sky walking up to the clouds,

waking up to a slur of syllables

and a silver breakfast tray

at your shoulders,

chubby flesh of cherubs with arrows

so mischievous with their fleshy folds,

rosy Boucher ceiling soothsayers,

entangled in a languorous sprawl

looking down at your soles,

a tireless duo that have traversed the world

in search of lips more rouge

and hips more lewd

chairs more plush

and door with a simple sign

that demands a hush,

too limp to move, too strong to run

and too determined to not wallow

in the pastel pastures of a hotel morning,

the city, finally quiet,

after the rain and before November,

while your legs are yawning

and there is nowhere to be

and no one to see at any certain time,

sweet sinful laziness

and your Southern drawl

that you hide from everyone but me

 

 

for John Frusciante’s 31 st Birthday

 

ethereal chant

floating overhead

spinning a sad moan

wailing a shy circle

you feel too much

accept the blame

sing away

 

baby face

growing rough

hear the spiraling

call of the wild

it ties you up

and comes on again

 

innocent choir

of your many souls

you submerge

and then reverberate

 

visions come

visions go

endless deliberate

splatter of love

exploding silently

without a trace

 

a lyrical chime

a mysterious sight

hypnotic spirit

laid back

yet you fly

 

 

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Sheila Lanham is a poet and artist. She was born in Baltimore and has resided in New York City since 1974.   She was a close friend of artist Larry Rivers for over 30 years. She has visited Merida six times. In 2008, she formed U.S. Poets in Mexico and brought the program to Merida in 2009 and 2010 with readings held at the Merida English Language Library.  USPiM is a non-profit organization that brings established and emerging American and Mexican poets together in Mexico each January. The program offers writing and translation workshops as well as free public readings in an effort to further literary cultural awareness between the U.S. and Mexico.  She is currently editing her first documentary film which focuses on the process of translation, featuring poets Alfonso D’Aquino (Morelos) and Forrest Gander (Rhode Island) who participated in a USPiM sponsored translation residency in Coatepec in 2010.  USPiM will return to Merida in January 2013, bringing 25+ poets.  Sheila is the author of a chapbook, Baltimore Blues &Greens and  is included in A Gathering Voices: An Anthologyof Baltimore Poets, Dolphin Moon Press. In the 1980s she co-edited ThePearl, A Baltimore Literary Journal. She loves Merida dearly.

Art by Mel Blossom

 

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Poetry

Young Forever

by D. M. Aderibigbe

 

Grandma extirpates the houses, earthworms
carve with greenish irritation in the bathroom,
With brooms and detergent powder,
Like flood flushes houses into unknown conundrums.

The floor screeches like a wounded dragon, grandma groans
like a pregnant woman, ascending on a mountain.
A couple of disturbing voices invite me to the bathroom.
Grandma sits motionless on the floor of the bathroom,
Like movie characters in a paused scene,
The brooms and the buckets, lay beside her on
The cement gloom. My vociferous terror pulled
solicitous crowd to our bathroom, like the El’classico in spain.

Grandma gradually recuperates in the hospital,
the nurse charges us with attempted murder, for
allowing an “Old Woman” to be young.
But grandma loves being young, working and walking
like the hands of a wall-clock.

She would never let anyone treat her like she
is.

 

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D.M. Aderibigbe is a 23-year old Nigerian. An undergraduate of History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos. His poetry and short fiction have been published or are forthcoming in 10 countries, in journals such as Wordriot, The Applicant, Red River Review, Ditch, Kritya, Thickjam, DoveTales, The New Black Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Torrid Literature, Rusty Nail, Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection, Jellyfish Whispers, Commonline, Rem Magazine and The Faircloth Review among others. He’s a die-hard Inter Milan fc fan. His poetry is greatly influenced by Poets such as Octavio Paz, Seamus Heaney, Kamau Brathwaite, J.P CLark, Ilya Kaminsky, Natasha Trethewey, Naomi Shihab Nye, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, His Prose owes much to Toni Morrison, Nuruddin Farah, J.K Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Helen Oyeyemi, ZZ Packer, Nick Hornby, and Helon Habila, and his plays would always be grateful to those of Wole Soyinka and Arthur Miller. His poems have also appeared in a couple of anthologies including the Kind-of-a-hurricane Press Christmas Anthology; Mistletoe Madness, edited by poets A.J Huffman and April Salzano. He has also seen 2 of his poems included in the 2012 Best of Anthology, Storm Cycle, and his pieces have also been named The Beachies Award’s Most Memorable pieces of 2012. He lives and schools in Lagos.

 

 

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Fiction

Night Calls

by Loc MacGowan

For Susan, the day had been just another ordinary day. She had dropped off the kids at day care, put in eight hours at the bank, bought a few groceries, then she’d picked the kids up on the way home. She´d fed them dinner and put them to bed. Now, she was looking forward to some private time with a good book and a cup of coffee . Yes, another ordinary day. Then the phone rang.

When she answered, a male voice said, “I´m glad you wore your red dress today. You look good in red, and blood doesn´t look so awful on red. I hope you´ll wear it on our special day“.

“Who is this?” she asked.

“Oh, you´ll know all you need to know about me some day,” he replied. I already know all about you.”

“I don´t understand,” she said, “and what was that about a special day?

“We have a date with destiny, one you won´t be able to live with and one I won´t be able to live without.”

Susan racked her brain. Was this someone she knew? The voice sounded vaguely familiar.  “Is this some kind of a joke?” she asked, “Who are you?”

“This was just an opportunity for us to get to know each other, he said. “You´ll hear from me again.  Good bye.”

“Wait!” she said, “I don´t know who you…” but all she heard was the dial tone.

She stood there holding the phone for a moment.  She frowned. Was this some guy´s way of starting a romance? She hadn’t had a date since Brian died, and it probably was time.  Two years was long enough…but no! She shook her head. This guy´s voice gave her the creeps. She shook her head again. She didn´t like this guy. She shrugged her shoulders and headed for the kitchen.

A few moments later, she sat down on the sofa, her book in her hand and a steaming cup of coffee in front of her, and tried to read, but her mind kept going back to the phone call. “Who was he, what was that about blood not showing on red, and what did he mean by our special day?”

Two nights later, when she answered the phone, he said, “Taking your kids to the park was a good idea. It´s easier for me to get close to you in a crowd. And I love your perfume. Please wear it on our special day. I want to be able to smell it when you die.”

She slammed down the phone and dialed the police. She asked to speak to a detective. A “nothing will ever surprise me” voice said, “This is detective Kolinshi. How can I help you?“ When she finished telling him about the phone calls, he said, “Most of these people are harmless. They use the phone because they are too timid to speak in person. Others feel inferior and get a sick sense of power by frightening people. The safest place is in your house with the doors locked. If he says anything that leads you to believe he´d act on these threats, call me. I can have a squad car there in under two minutes. I will alert the patrols in your area.”

She had just hung up when the phone rang. “You´ve been unfaithful to me”, he said, “Calling Kolinshi was definitely not cool, Susan! A jerk like that will never be able to protect you. He can never understand someone like me, and he doesn´t care about you like I do. On the other hand, it might make our little game more exciting.

How do you know about that? she screamed, “Do you have my phone tapped?”

“I told you I know everything about you, Susan. Did you actually think you could cheat on me without me knowing it?”

She slammed down the receiver and called Kolinshi.  He said, “This puts a whole different spin on things. I´ll be there with a team of officers in thirty minutes.”

“I thought you said you could be here in under two minutes!” she cried.

“I said I could have a squad car there in under two minutes. They are already on the way. Don´t leave your house for any reason. I´ll get there as fast as I can. I´m bringing a communication security team with me.”

As soon as he arrived, he began barking orders to the officers with him. ”I want the entire house swept clean. If there is a tap on the phone, find it. If there is a bug in the house, bring it to me.”

An hour later, they were finished. They had found nothing. Kolinshi sent them away. Then he turned to Susan and said, “You need to be honest with me. Did you really get that call?”

“Yes,” she said, “but you don´t believe me.“

“There´s no reason that you would make something like this up is there?” he asked, “like maybe a need for attention?”

“Get out of my house!” she screamed.

Suddenly, he motioned to be quiet and to follow him outside. “What did you expect, filing a report like that?” he demanded as he shut the door behind him. Outside, he said, “Sorry to upset you, but it was necessary  to keep up the illusion. They found the bug inside your phone, but we don´t want him to know that.”

“Inside my phone!” She stammered, “My god! That means he´s been in my house!”

“Listen,” Kolinski said, “We have a tracing device that can pinpoint his location when he calls.  Your job will be to keep him on the phone long enough for us to find him, but you´ve got to do it in such a way as to not arouse his suspicions. Do you think you can do that?”

“I´ll try,” she replied.

He had hardly left when the phone rang. “By now you know that I´m going to kill you. “he whispered, “the only question is how…and when. I don´t want to shoot you or run over you with a car. They´re too impersonal, and you mean more to me than that. I want to use a knife, and I want to look into your eyes when I do it. I want to feel your passion when you know death is inevitable.   I know they found the bug. I´m going to hang up before they can complete the trace, but you´ll be hearing from me.”

She called Kolinski, He said that they hadn´t had time to set up the equipment, but that it was now in place, and they would get him the next timed he called.

A week later, the call came through. He said, “I want to do your kids first, and I want you to watch. That will increase our passion, don´t you think? I like the gurgling sounds. They  make it sound almost sexual: the way they reach a crescendo and then fade away into silence.”

“We need to talk,” she said, “there is so much I want to tell you.”

“We´ll have time for that later, “he said. Then she heard the dial tone.

Kolinski called. “There wasn´t time.” “I know,” she said. “I tried.

She received no calls for rest of that month, and she was almost ready to believe that it was over. Then the phone rang. “I think today would be perfect” he said. You´re wearing black, and that´s my second favorite color. Blood doesn´t show on it either. Our relationship has matured. I feel very close to you. I can hear you breathing. I can almost hear your heart beating. Are your children asleep? Don´t wake them. I want to do that. It will be part of the fun. I´ll see you soon.” Then, he hung up.

The phone rang. “This is Kolinski,” he said.  “Get out of the house now! Run!”

“Why?” she asked,  “You said that my house was the safest place!”

“We´ve traced the call,” he shouted, “and it´s coming from inside your house!”

 

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Loc MacGowan was born in Fallon, Nevada. He joined the army when he was 17 and served in Germany and Vietnam. Later, he earned a bachelors degree in psychology, a masters degree in counseling and a doctorate in marriage and family therapy. When he was fifty, he earned a second masters degree, this one in English with a major in creative writing. He is an award-winning author and has written twenty-six books and many poems. For the past six years, he has lived in Mérida, Mexico.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Poetry

Body Language

by Colin James

 

The light was insignificant.
Sat amongst uninhibited relatives,
then went for a walk to the Quarry.

Saw a man killing a dog.
He was wearing denim,
Jeans and a long blue coat.
A truck parked nearby idling.
The air was dense and uncooperative.

One steel cable sagged overhead.

In the summer swimmers risked everything.

 

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Colin James has poems forthcoming in Mad Rush and 30 Day Poetry. He Lives in Massachusetts with two old dogs…………

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Fiction

The Loser

by Kersie Khambatta

 

Rohit Shah sat with hands on his bald head in the small, dark, dingy office, with one wobbly table and two rickety chairs.

The rusted fan whirled madly, but made no impact on the stifling heat.

He sweated profusely.

A large glass sat on the table, half empty.

“Hey,  Rohit! What’s wrong?”

No answer.

“Rohit,…..Rohit……it’s me!”

“Leave me alone! Go away!”

“No, I won’t…..Tell me what’s troubling you”.

“Nothing.”

“ Nothing? It has to be something.”

“I told you it’s nothing. I am just feeling tired, that’s all. Now go.”

“Look, don’t try to fool me. I know you too well. What is it, eh? Eh?”.

Two pear-shaped tears slid slowly down his pale cheeks.

“I’ve  lost two lakh rupees”, he lamented.

“What! What! Have you been gambling?”

“I don’t gamble”.

“Then  what?”

“Will you stop saying what! It makes me mad!”.

“Ok! Ok! Will you please tell me what has happened. You will feel better if you do.”

“I will feel better if God gives me money.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“Don’t lecture me,……… I’ll throw this glass at you!”

He picked up the glass, with a fierce look in his eyes.

Sundeep carefully shuffled closer, and gently took the glass away.

“Come” he coaxed, “We will go for lunch. I know you love puri-batata”.

The paint on the door was once a nice, shiny grey, but now there was just the dull, dirty wood. The hinges groaned, as he pushed in the bolt.

There was a furore of activity in the Udipi restaurant. The din could be heard in the alley as they approached. The food was cheap and plentiful.

They sat on a two-seater with round, iron chairs which were so uncomfortable that nobody felt like remaining there after the  meal was over. That ensured a fast turnover.

“Now,…..eat, and ……..then talk”.

The puris were piping-hot,…delicious.

They sipped pungent Kashmiri tea after that.

Sundeep listened intently to the cascade of words.

He wanted to help his friend.

But  how?

They were about to leave, when a fat, dishevelled man with a protruding tummy,  wearing a dirty, dhoti half-way down his waist, rolled in.

“Hey! You there!” he bellowed,  rhinoed up, and crashed a large hand on Sundeep’s slender shoulder, causing him to wince in momentary pain.

He pulled up a nearby chair uninvited, and lowered his bulk into it.

“This is Chimpu” introduced Sundeep reluctantly.

They indulged in small talk for a while, and then suddenly an idea struck Sundeep.

“Chimpu is a well-known broker in the stock exchange. He makes a lot of money” whispered Sundeep to Rohit.

Rohit didn’t pay much attention.

“Give me your  card, Chimpu” said Sundeep as they parted ways. “We will come to your office next week. We want some shares”.

“Good. Good. Yeah. There is an IPO of Reliance Kismet coming up. They will be gold, man, gold. Trust me. Will talk to you when you come.”

Sundeep took Rohit over to Chimpu’s office a few days later.

The big man overflowed the torn, green, swivel-chair. He boomed to his wispy secretary:- “Get three teas. Go!”

“Reliance Kismet!  It’s great! Fifty rupees a share. You have to be quick.  Thousands and thousands applying. You book with me; you get ten thousand shares straight. Hey?

How’s that?”

Rohit thought the man must be a cricket fan.

“But I don’t have the money.” he wailed.

“No problem. I lend it to you”.

“Why then don’t you buy them yourself?”

“Not allowed. Brokers not allowed. I get commission only”.

“Will the shares grow?” asked Sundeep.

“Are yar! Reliance Kismet? Your kismet will change! You will become a multi-millionaire! Like that fellow in Kown banega crorepati.”

“Do they have a factory? What do they make? Do they sell to China?”

“No factory. No need. They invest. The money grows. The share grows. They give large dividends. Every year. What more you want, eh?”

“This is your chance, Rohit, your fortune will change.” prompted Sundeep.

“My kismet has slided down rock bottom. Can’t go any lower”.

“I’ll lend you the money. No worry, man. You just sign. Be at my lawyer’s office tomorrow at 10. Here’s the card.”

Sundeep and Rohit took the smooth elevator to the posh office. They sat awkwardly at reception, watching smartly-dressed men and women scurrying to and fro. The dainty statue of Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, looked at them with an indulgent half-smile.

“Come on in” said a woman in her late-fifties, extending her heavily-bangled arm.

The room had a fabulous view, overlooking the sea. The furniture was very expensive-looking. The telephone sitting on the vast table looked like it was made of gold.

She read their thoughts. “Yes, it is pure gold. Imported from Belgium”.

“Now” she prompted, “all you need to do is to sign this. Here. And  here. And here”.

Rohit signed the papers. She slid them  out of his hands before he could read a line.

They were shown to the door with a wide smile.

They waited for the money. It never came.

“Why do you want the money?” thundered Chimpu, “The shares will come”.

But they didn’t.

Their best efforts to follow up the matter with Chimpu yielded no result.

“I told you shares will come” he screamed angrily.

They back-tracked fast out of his office. His bloated face was purple with wrath. He looked like he was about to get a fit!

They followed the issue in the newspapers. It was over-subscribed ten times.

Rohit got a standard letter in the post saying that he had been allotted the shares.

That gave him confidence.

Rohit went almost twice a week to the share-bazaar, to watch the enormous, electronic board on the first floor. Sometimes Sundeep went with him. They  saw the figures climb.

The company, however, did not declare a dividend.

Rohit was disheartened. He badly needed money.

His blood-pressure fell. His health declined.

It took him a month to build up courage to go to Chimpu again.

He pleaded with Sundeep to come with him. He was too petrified to go alone.

Chimpu glared at them.

“What do you want, eh? You got the letter, didn’t you? What more you want, eh! Eh!”.

“No money…..coming……..”

“What money? What money? Shares not money!”

“Dividend money……..”

“The company not declared dividend.”

“But…but…you……..”

“You say one word,……. I recover my loan interest.”

They just stood there, tongue-tied.

Then suddenly he lowered his voice. “You go to my lawyer again. Sign more documents. You don’t sign,…..you regret. I have  inside information about company. My brother-in-law works there.”

Rohit and Sundeep went to the same lawyers’ office again. This time they were offered cokes to drink, while they sat at reception. They sat patiently for a full half-hour, before they were invited into the same room by the same person.

Rohit signed the papers, and meekly asked:- “Please can you give me copies of what I have signed?”

“Sure! Sure!” she beamed, “We will send them to you in the post. No time to make copies right now”.

Rohit checked the post every day. He did not get anything.

He grew more tense. He talked to Sundeep, and they finally decided to go to Chimpu again.

This time they did not even get inside the door of his office, because the guard there with the scary rifle threatened them if they did not leave immediately.

They ran down and out.

“News! News! Latest news!”, the paper-boy screamed.

“What is it?” Sundeep asked.

“Here,…..only one rupee……Read the latest…… Reliance Kismet…”

They practically tore the newspaper out of his hand, and retreated from the crush of people to read it.

“Reliance Kismet shares jet up! Company signs agreement with Global Manufacturing. Deal of the decade……….”

“Rohit!….. Rohit!…. ”, stammered Sundeep excitedly, “Your shares have shot up. You will be a millionaire now”

They hugged each other, and jumped up and down in sheer joy, while the public on the road smiled indulgently at the two crazies, and moved on.

“Now, the company will surely declare a good dividend. Your worries are over.”

Rohit waited for the dividend cheque.

Chimpu did not even ask for the interest on the loan.

Things were looking bright.

The dark cloud had passed.

Two weeks later, a letter arrived bearing the envelope of Reliance Kismet.

Rohit tore it open.

“This is to confirm that all your shares in our company have been transferred to the buyer in accordance with your written instructions, and your holding is now nil.” said the letter.

Rohit stood there with a blank look. He was shattered.

He mumbled to himself. He felt weak and faint.

“News….news……latest news……..” the paper-boy shouted. “Top share broker arrested…….”

Rohit stumbled to the fringe of the crowd. He could not read the headlines of the paper in the hands of the tall, lean man who looked like a prosperous business-man, but he faintly heard the disgust in the words he said:-“Insider trading,…….eh…..he should be shot!…..”

 

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Mr. Kersie Khambatta is a semi-retired lawyer practising in New Zealand. He is also a part-time writer of articles and short-stories. His writing is recognizable by his simple style, with short sentences and carefully-chosen words. He has a diploma of Associateship of the British Tutorial Institute, London, in English, Modern Journalism, and Journalism in India, and a Certificate in Comprehensive writing awarded in October 2005 by the Writing School (Australia and New Zealand). His pieces have appeared in Senior Living (B.C., Canada), Her Magazine (New Zealand), The Rusty Nail magazine (U.S.A.), and many other publications.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Poetry

Never Lie

by Peter Madoda Bungane

 

He fell because of pride,
She fell because of vanity,
They both fell into a crimson tide,
Cat out by lightening,
Cast into the deep ocean waters,
Their curse was their undoing,
Never lie, steal or cheat.

If you must lie, lie in,
The arms of the one you love,
If must cheat, cheat death,
If you must steal, steal the,
Precious moments of your life,
We both know the penalty,
For telling a lie – banishment.

You will banished for eternity,
Never to see the light again,
Surrounded by dark images and fiery furnaces,
Sounds of screams and gnashing,
Grinding of teeth and curses,
More curses, more excruciating pain.

I should have listened, oh my,
I should have listened, oh my,
I was going to have survived,
I wasn’t going to end up here,
Oh my!! Oh golly!! Oh whoosh!!
I should never have told a lie.

 

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Poet  Peter  Madoda  Bungane was  born  in  1977  in  Kitwe,  Zambia, a country  in  south  central  Africa.  He  began  writing  poetry  and  short  stories  whilst  he  was  at  secondary  school  in  the  mid  1990’s.  He  draws  his writing  inspiration  from  everyday  experiences  and  blends  these  with folklore  passed  down  from  his  granfather  a  village  headman  in Lufunsa.

His  work  is  reflective  of  the  African  spirit  longing  for  economic  emancipation and  yearning  for a  chance  to  have  peace. The  voices  in  between  the  lines  are echoing  the cry  of  millions  of  Africans  in  diaspora.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

 

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Poetry

Neruda and the Bishop’s Heart and other poems

by John Saunders

 

Neruda and the Bishop’s Heart

Life is only a borrowing of bones

he said, his heart  coming to town

where he was treated like a heretic,

when they could not tell the difference.

 

They were dead even before the ship sank,

birds flying high over halted bodies,

revealing truth to those who watched.

 

The body that gives pleasure is the same one

that gives pain, the difference – perception .

 

 

The River Took Her

 

She came of the earth,

was of earth.

Breathed the air,

was of air.

Drank the water,

was of water.

She was of earth, air, water.

She ate the earth,

left the air.

Returned to the water.

 

 

I and the Village

 

Did you mean to forecast the future

where an upside-down world would dance

to the dogma of conflict and nationhood?

They look at each other, demon eyes

locked like sheep  in trenches

close enough to hear breathing,  smell blood

or perhaps it’s the frenzied

play of colour and shape

that spurns the natural order of things.

 

I and the Village 1911 –  Marc Chagall

 

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John Saunders’ first collection ‘After the Accident was published in 2010 by Lapwing Press, Belfast. His poems have appeared in Revival, The Moth Magazine, Crannog, Prairie Schooner Literary Journal (Nebraska), Sharp Review, The Stony Thursday Book, Boyne Berries, Riposte, and on line, The Smoking Poet, Minus Nine Squared, The First Cut, The Weary Blues, Burning Bush 2, Weekenders, The Galway Review, Poetry Bus and poetry 24.

John is one of three featured poets in  Measuring,  Dedalus New Writers published by Dedalus Press in May 2012.

His second full collection is due to be published in Spring 2013 by New Binary Press.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Fiction, translation

Free to be slaved

by George Djuric

What I’ve felt

What I’ve known

Never shined through in what I’ve shown

Never be

Never see

Won’t see what might have been

Metallica – Unforgiven

 

Years ago, I read about drinking problem Russians face daily – not much change there – and a sharp looking psychiatrist said something like, one Russian, not a threat, two, could be handled – but when three Russians get together we have a micro society, and there’s nothing doctors can do, government can do, or God himself. I wonder if the good doctor had ever seen the Orthodox Almighty in person – a long beard, those reddish cheeks, purple nose, watery eyes… Do you really think Michelangelo would ever be able to finish the Hand of God in the Cappella Sistina if he had to deal with this guy and his shaky index finger? After painting 12,000 sq ft of the chapel ceiling, you think he’d have enough patience for this addict?

Same with Serbs, for a good reason: it’s one of those disheveled Slavic customs that stretch across the totem post, transcending alcohol abuse and morphing into a wicked monster of new order. Like a vein of gold ore runs this idiosyncrasy deep through the blood vessels and gets delivered to the farthest capillary outpost with the precision of an atomic clock. I’m talking about the tribal trait of drunken manly bewailing.

The first time they tried to force me into military duty, I sold everything saleable, invited all my friends and enemies in a well known glass breaking pub – ‘They don’t consider that an issue,’ said my chief advisor, Papa – and then we started. Hours and hours later, with my enemies long gone and my friends under the table, my old buddy Alex looks at me, his face sticky with tears, ‘Georgie, we forgot the fuckin’ ashtrays!’ He had a point, those were made of glass as well.

Sparkling crystal ashtrays aside, those tears have a long beard: wrapped up in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (act 4, ‘Forest, near Kromy’) and Andrei Rublev’s icons for ambiance and ‘aha effect’ – ending with the Holy Fool staying behind, mourning Russia’s bleak, uncertain fate – this perpetual lament is merely an elephant walk toward the inner soft spot for the times gone and opportunities missed. Quite naturally, irreversibility  becomes darling of the day, keeping our beloved past at safe distance, without need – god forbid! – to actually take any action; other than spitting on the sidewalk for good luck.

Slavs carried this peculiarity like a worn out, right arm fallen off wooden saint from the forgotten homeland, a talisman bargained for at some East Trzciniec flea market back in the 6th century, invariably refusing to let it go. By modern standards, the idea of an ‘original home’ is absurd. Even early narratives always speak of origins and beginnings in a manner which presupposes earlier origins and beginnings. But the single point of departure lives on. The widely circulated Times Concise Atlas of World History perpetuates a map showing the Pripet Marshes as the Urheimat of the Slavs; that vast swampy home is ringed with outward-pointing arrows marking Slavic emigration. The silliness of this image does not keep it from being unforgettable.

Wasted, vomiting, you name it, yet our binges were always a dialogue, an exchange of toxins and facts with scant relationship to reality – helping us overcome soliloquies and avoid the cien años de soledad of LSD or heroin, keeping us alive past the age of 27. That’s where our gratitude, if any left, should lie. My first voracious bet was to gulp down half a liter of cheap brandy in five minutes, which I did. Had I done the prodigy by myself, I wouldn’t be writing this. Luckily, I had my compadres take care of me once my reason expired, overruled by my Slavic ego.

A word of caution here: when dealing with Slavic mythology, one cannot be too careful or too critical about the authenticity of sources. One of the best examples of overall confusion and complete misinterpretation is a fake deity of love, Lada, constructed from meaningless exclamations in Slavic wedding songs. Gods such as Koleda and Kupala were ‘invented’ from misinterpreted names of popular folk festivals. Unfortunately, nobody crowned a god from the 1972 Ljubljana Boom Rock Fest – the Yugoslav Woodstock – so  we missed a chance to have Sonic Boom as the god of speed. Even more hilarious are deliberate forgeries: faking evidence of ancient mythology became almost a hobby among various social groups, often with the purpose of promoting their political agenda. Statues of ancient Slavic gods were ‘discovered’, inscribed with Germanic runes, folk songs and stories were ‘recorded’ with half of the Slavic pantheon described as picking flowers or merrily dancing around a bonfire.

Never worshipping at the altar of ratiocination, Slavs found their niche by drilling into tribal subconscience in search of the holy antimins; forgetting that one doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. Floating for centuries in a somnambulant ghost ship circled by horizon, the tribe learned to enjoy the feeling. However, as soon as anybody discovers exactly what his meaning is and why he is here, this will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

I owe enough tribal loyalty to throw in another angle here. Living in the past, as debilitating as it is, brings up one edge: you get to be at the first name basis with your gods, your mythical heroes, plebs hanging around for the good measure, and from that precious well you drain the ultimate esoteric enlightenment, your PhD in metaphysics.

There were five of us at The Stables one day, all in early twenties, comparing some lesser gods to the Knights of the Serbian Order – in a herculean push to finally resolve the topic – when Steve Rakovic stood up, pale under the layers of alcohol. I’ve never forgot the hue, a mix of blood and milk, and every time I think of Steve it pops up – the heraldic badge of his essentials. ‘Brothers, we spill our brains and tears after virtually dead individuals. Just the other day, I underwent through a healthy reaction from the myths of my youth; they had become for me not so much a possession as an obsession, which I was trying to throw off, and this iconoclastic tale of an imaginary tribe was the result.’

Steve took a sip, staring at each of us with the glare of a haunted psychopath. ‘A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction. All religions have based morality on obedience, that is to say, on voluntary slavery. I’m giving this speech so it can haunt me from now on, reminding me who I once was. I don’t think I’ll see you guys ever again. I just can’t stand the picture of us fifty years from today splitting the same irrational hairs from our ancestors’ asses – it comes to me at night, calls my name, asking me to take one for the team. Fuck the team! Needless to say, I will always love you, hermanos.’ He walked around the table, gave each one of us a hug and a three-time kiss, and left the beer garden.

Afterwards there was silence. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of poker. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance.

According to his mother Natalia, Steve picked up few things, told her not to wait for him, and was gone. None of us saw him again. His legend immediately sprung up with the speed of a bamboo stick sprouting from horse manure – everyone had opinion and none had facts.

Our gatherings never tasted the same – time shifted sideways as its levee broke and swept us into awe. Certain topics vanished from the menu, our vigor came overcooked, nobody was there for dessert.

Cheers! with a shot of well aged Faulkner: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

 

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In 1989, George Djuric publishes the very first – and ironically the last, since the country falls apart just two years later – flash story collection in Yugoslavia, The Metaphysical Stories, sending ripples through this otherwise inert literary milieu. Never blamed for being shy when it comes to belle etrès, and with the help of numerous radio, TV, and literary evening appearances, Djuric sells the initial print within the first two months.

One of his early stories, Taming of the Shrewd, is featured in the September 2012 issue of The Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.

 

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Poetry

Christmas in the Flower Shop and other poems

by Zach Fishel

 

Christmas in the Flower Shop

There’s moon
shining from the
flower shop
windows.
Poinsettias reaching
outward with their
fiery poison,
the noise of car horns
celebrating the good
night that’s
everywhere in these
mountains.
Collecting snow on window
sills with cold lucky
quarters. Roasted
pork shoulder
waiting for the family
to pull in the drive,
snow covering the tracks,
as if people never
left or got older.

 

Learning to be a Man

After the pig fat congealed
in the cast-iron
skillet I’d run behind the
outhouse for the rusty
Folgers can with
my great grandfather’s
clove cigarettes
and brandy flask.
We’d sit and watch the snow
stirring next to the woodstove with fried
eggs and cold bacon
as we waited to
strop the blades to butcher
what the woods allowed us to keep.

 

Broken Kites


Divinity is better left to broken
children as the caterwaul
of busted rusting bell
knockers falling from the
belfry into hell
rattle the cages just enough
for a small drop of rain
to sizzle on the ground.
Yet we’re inundated with
vapidity insomuch as to
say drowned,
the way it stutters
still as a kite forgotten in a garage
the day someone sang a dirge of sound.

 

Better than Most

(For Sundin Richards)
St. Jude
was used

eternal
for excuses

against long distances,
fitting as a belt

made of shoe
string.

The tightening
coddled

as the
mornings turned to

dirty rain
or whiskey,

as if there was a fucking
difference.

between moon
light

or sunup
shiners

glowing elliptic.

 

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Zach Fishel is a two time Pushcart Nominee and the Univ. of Toledo Press Fellow. His work has appeared in multiple print and online
journals and NightBallet Press is releasing his first chapbook, “Prayerbook Bouquet” in Early June of 2013.

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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Fiction

A Disappearance of One

by Michael Zapata

 

A boy. I want to tell you his name, but I don’t know it. I’m ashamed of that. He was given a name, of course, a long time ago, by his mother Veronica, but she is not part of this story. Most everything that happened to the boy happened after Veronica. Suffice it to say (like many from her generation) that she was swallowed by this city, which is like an endless and ravenous maw. I fist saw the boy at the Eugenio Espejo bus stop, just two stops away from the high school where I taught biology. He was walking up and down the bus stop looking for customers with stained or smeared shoes to shine. Although I did not have shoes worth shining at the time, as they were nearly split along the sides and soles, I asked the boy to shine them. This happened nearly three or four times before we spoke to each other (at least anything worth mentioning here) and when we did he first asked me where I worked and I told him a high school and then I asked him where he was from and he said I’m from here. Over the course of a few weeks of short conversations, I gathered that the boy once had a mother named Veronica and had lived with her and an older brother in a two room apartment in the south of the city. Apparently, one day his mother had left him in Ejido Parque, which is a substantially sized park that divides the old city from the modern city, so, in a way, you could say that the boy had been abandoned between ages, or even epochs, but being nine, of course, he decided to head into the heart of the modern city. So, that’s where I met the boy, in the heart of the modern city (or rather near the heart, since the heart is Avenue Amazones, so really the ribcage, which protects the heart as much as it can). I forgot to mention that the boy always carried a long and black stick with him. A stick painted like a dark patch of sky, although that might be too severe to say. Anyway, with the stick, he slapped the shoes of potential customers, especially businessmen, and said, Dirty. Needs to be cleaned. He had good business, or as good as a shoe shine boy can get.

 

For a while, I didn’t see the boy. Then I had a dream the boy had stolen my shoes. When I told my wife about my dream, she said it meant I was probably ready to have a son of my own. In October, I went to an international teaching fair in Cuenca and interviewed with a high school in Barcelona and a high school in Chicago. I had been thinking of leaving Quito for some time. (I will always love Quito, but, at that point in my life, it had felt like a doomed city, or a city on the burning frontier of an apocalypse, maybe because of the volcanoes that surround it like an ancient army in waiting, or maybe because of the sense of claustrophobia that had been with me for a few years) Sometime in November, I saw the boy again. For some reason, I told him that when I was a boy I had been a street performer. I used to have a spot on the corner of Orellana and Diego de Alamagro, which is in the Petrocommerical neighborhood, further north from where we were, about six bus stops, a neighborhood full of oil executives assembled in charcoal and cobalt suits, a neighborhood full of the types of people who would not exist in one hundred years, maybe less, when the oil ran out. I told the boy I used to paint my face like a meteor and juggle. The oil executives, newly incorporated into the growing middle class, used to tip well enough so I could eat and save a little. The boy laughed. I had never even seen him smile, let alone laugh. I noticed that he had good teeth. He told me I was full of shit. For some reason, I don’t even know why now, I told the boy that we were full of multitudes and, if you looked close enough, we were each a thousand people. He looked at me like I was a lunatic, so I told him to give me his bottles of shine, which he did. Even though it had been years (how many? Twenty? Twenty five?), I juggled the bottles perfectly and the boy nodded his head and laughed and I closed my eyes and imagined myself at the corner of Orellana and Diego de Alamagro, which had once been the center of my universe, an incandescent but dying universe.

 

Months passed and I was sure that something had happened to the boy. Without anyone to speak to while I waited for the bus before and after work, I watched the sky. Before work, the sky was full and bright and the sun rose quickly and touched the edges of the earth above the city, and, after work, the sky was egg-blue and the sun retreated into the volcanoes at the same time, 6:35, each evening, without alteration. After which, it generally rained. When I did think of the boy, I thought of him as a victim of some logy but violent monster. All of my thoughts at that time were strained this way, as if I were watching a Latin American horror film, intently focusing on the screen, even after the film was over, even after the credits ended, which rolled by with names that seemed to be entirely made up.

 

Towards the middle of the school year, I saw the boy again. I was glad he was alive and able to work. He shined my shoes and told me that he was tired. He said he had not slept the night before. He said that he had thought someone had been chasing him the entire night. He kept away from ghosts and he didn’t believe in Duende, so it had probably just been someone looking for another boy, or a thief trying to rob him. Still, he had gotten into some trouble in the old city and had decided that he would now stay north of Ejido Park, which, he said, he should’ve done in the first place. The boys in the old city, he said, have rings under their eyes. I imagined that the city was, in fact, full of ghosts chasing people, and people chasing ghosts, and even ghosts chasing ghosts, and that cities had been this way since their beginnings. Since they had first risen like teeth from the grasslands and deserts of Africa. It had been such a long time since I had chased anyone or had been chased, and I wouldn’t have traded my life for anything, but still, when the boy told his story, when he laughed at how crazy it must have seemed, I was suddenly overcome with nostalgia, which, yes, is ridiculous and dangerous, but that’s what happened. And thinking about it now, I’m struck with the absurd and horrific thought that the best things in life are the ones we run from or give chase to.

 

Towards spring, things started to happen quickly, but I guess they always do. I was accepted to teach at a high school in Chicago, which seemed to be on the surface of another world, but, which also somehow seemed to be a subterranean place, a labyrinth of a city full of caverns and chambers and vaults. Maybe I felt this way because I had never lived in the Northern Hemisphere, which, as a boy, always seemed to me clandestine and in the process of being buried. Anyway, I thought it would be a place I would like, especially after a fellow co-worker, who had once visited Chicago, told me that parts of it were like Quito, parts of it were like Buenos Aires, and parts of it were so American as to be indescribable. I wanted, of course, to tell the boy all of this.

 

For a while, I stopped using the bus. My wife had a seasonal job at a computer center, so in the morning one of her co-workers picked us up and dropped me off at the school, which was on the way. We would pass the Eugenio Espejo bus stop and once I saw the boy standing in front counting change. On the corner of Orelllana and Diego De Alamagro, in another era it seems, a man once pulled over and gave me a small plastic bucket full of change. It must’ve been the equivalent of fifty American dollars. He might have been Italian or Spanish, but he smiled and said cuidate with an accent that suggested he was from across the Atlantic. For the life of me I can’t remember what I did with the money.

 

For the last two weeks of school, I went back to using the bus, hoping to see the boy for the last time. I had even planned to give him a large tip and an illustrated book about the solar system. The boy, though, had disappeared. No. I should be more truthful. The boy had not completely disappeared, since I was sure that if I looked for him, really looked for him, I could have found him. He might have been somewhere along the bus line, or even back in the old town, sitting on a bench in Plaza San Francisco or Plaza Santo Domingo, avoiding other boys, and looking for potential customers.  I should’ve looked for him.  I knew that when I moved, when I took my own life out of Quito, he was going to disappear. I was going to disappear as well. For each of us, there would be a disappearance of one. This was three years ago by the way. Eventually his memory of me will fade, and my memory of him will be replaced by another, maybe with a boy of my own, who will hopefully never understand what it is like to juggle or shine shoes or anything else like that, least of all in the streets of Quito, which, looking back now, seem to be both multiplying and vanishing at the same time, like planets that are discovered and then written in the annals of a celestial journal, only to be lost to extinction and time. Of course, there is nothing much to be done about all this but still, how stupid, how incredibly stupid to not have asked the boy’s name.

 

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Michael Zapata is an educator and writer living in Chicago. He is a founding editor of MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine. He is also a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Recipient for prose and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he works as managing editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB.

Art by Sheila Lanham

 

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