by Robert Leeming
Susannah? When did I see her last? We've been through all this. Haven't we? Outside Peter Jones. We'd been to Cadogan Hall and she'd just been offered an international tour playing second cello in a Candide revival. We've discussed this. I set it up for her. You've got to be a fixer in this life, there's nothing better to be than a problem solver, to take on other people's burdens seamlessly, confidently, because you have all the answers.
I had all the answers. I scribbled them all down in a notebook. I was one of those insufferable people who kept a notebook, a diary. Chatto and Windus published it and the book topped the New York Times bestseller list. I was a bestselling writer. I sat on the set of The Tonight Show, talking to Johnny in my Brooks Brothers suit, smoking my Lucky Strikes, talking about how Henry Miller had considerably altered my perception of life, even though I've never read him. My publisher gave me a gold watch because I'd sold so many copies, all while Susannah was playing second cello in second-rate cities across America. She must have seen my face on the television, she must have, appearing through the static on one of those motel sets as a Missouri cloudburst rattled the metal blinds in her bedroom.
She used to take me to concerts, Mahler and Bruckner and Charles Ives, even though I liked rhythm and blues and only rhythm and blues she insisted that I gave these things a try. They played Mahler's 5th Symphony and I hated it, apart from a couple of seconds, a bar I suppose, of the Adagietto, about eight minutes in when the strings made me feel like I'd stumbled into a universe full of pillows. So, tired, in other words.
We went to a Venetian coffee bar. After the concert. Did I mention we were in Venice? For her birthday. It was the Feast of the Redeemer, the Festa del Redentore, and there were fireworks exploding everywhere, coloured light licking the top of terracotta steeples and terracotta tiled domes, and it was too crowded. Oh, how I hate crowds, nothing beautiful should ever be crowded, don't you think? Well, Venice was full that weekend, people were surging through the piazzas shouting and yelling and carrying colourful streamers and all the boats out on the lagoon were blaring their horns.
I said something meaningful to her, like, 'I've never been so happy in all my life', or some such thing, but she didn't hear me. I can always say something meaningful amid a clamour, but I can never speak my mind in total silence. Strange that, isn't it?
We kissed by the Lido. There was too much noise and someone kept tugging at my sleeve trying to sell me firecrackers. We made love in The Gritti Palace. We flew home.
A year or so later her depression set in and I arranged for her to get away and the last time I saw her was after that concert. At Cadogan Hall. Outside Peter Jones, remember?
Funny, every single vestige of that night that I had on my person when we returned to London Airport is still collecting dust on my writing table. The ticket stub for the concert, the receipt from the coffee bar and a couple of matchbooks from here and there, little pieces of a night that I had little recall of and didn't even like all that much at the time. It all seemed to mean so little to me then, but means so much now.
I'm losing track of things. I can't remember where I left my cigarettes, my loose change. The love streams of my life have stopped leading anywhere in particular. People still ask me to sign that book, its purple dust jacket increasingly battered in the copies I see these days. Please tell me I haven't written something enduring, something abiding, I couldn't cope with that, no, never. Time shows up all dishonesty in the end.
The first in an ongoing film project.
Scales Film Project
To present a coordinated study of the inspiration of limitations, the relationship between sound and image, and the process of interpretation. To encourage experimentation with the audio/visual medium through a guided challenge, and the chance to share the results of ones work.
1. Each film must be set to the progress of a musical scale
2. Each film must be between 8 seconds and 8 minutes long
3. Each change of note must coincide with a significant change in the film
by Joshua Greschner
When contemplative silence settles among the wooden desks, among the aging ochre pages, thoughts tingle, thighs shuffle and silently, galaxies within the empty space of O’s swim in circles.
Walled within 3 barren slabs of diffidence, but with her back exposed, she tilts her head at a studious angle, draped in wild hair harangued, then negotiated into X’s of bobby pins like slanted crosses. Her fingertips, drifting over waves of frozen text, have yet to callous like the Weaving Woman’s, a widow of the sea, a master of delicacy and attentiveness.
Waves whip the coast, and tails lash at the sky. “Only strings,” mutters the Weaving Woman, embroidering details of her life: birth, mid-age and resolution against dying. What happens when the ship doesn’t fully sink, when the line snaps but stays lodged inside? The knowing don’t speculate. “It’ll wash up,” she says, assuredly, “sure as hell along with everything.”
Within the library’s silence, my gaze lingers. She gets up, drinks from the fountain. I follow, hiding among shelves of towering ruin. She walks back intently, free from reticence, her arms dangle uncrossed, like tranquilized vines on a tree slipping out of the forest, unnoticed. She runs bare fingers through matted and ferocious hair, cuts loose the weak ties and shakes free her head. Wreckage spins and disintegrates within hurricanes forming and calming. Ancient history resuscitates, to die within moments. Bare fingers emerge from rapture like blanched pillars, uneroded. After fastening shut the ocean, she turns and looks at me.
I, standing naked in my shameless voyeurism, droplets diving down my temple, pooling on the indifferent floor, get a sudden impulse to plunge into the water, to hide from the tempestuous stare of the shore. She recoils, gathers her things and leaves. I sit back down. My sweat dries.
The Weaving Woman bites the final thread of a pall-thin blanket, with her remaining shards of teeth, without her cloudy eyes.
by Winifred Harms
zeus cried for victory
while i was lying on the grass
dreaming of rendezvous
the quintessential moments
of my youth
floated with the wind
to a place i would never touch
so here i began my quest
my diabolical plan for
when life goes on reading
like a parable
along the way i ponder
the essence of beginnings
and play with words
on my tongue
the phrases you used
in our time
this goes on like fiction
torn from the pages of fate
by Raquel Wasserman
Was she cheating on him again?
Come on, she murmured. Let me go, Amadeo. Jesus.
She was a Ford model with sunbaked hair and one quarter Choctaw blood. The next Bridget Hall. Her name was Danny. She was head taller than him. She was real tall.
He was a movie director named Amadeo. He knew Toback and Woody Allen. She was with him because he was hot – half Italian and half Russian with curly brown hair, a white boy’s afro. They fought all the time, and she would throw away her key, but something always brought her back, with a bottle of vino. The soft camel hair coat sliding to the ground. He kissed her and all was well. They listened to Leonard Cohen. He called her his shiksa.
Once, after a fight, she had rushed out of their apartment. As she wandered near Union Square, she saw a man in the deli staring at her. It was Leonard Cohen. Crazy! He had a baseball cap on, and tipped it, at her. It was a testament to New York. And to her perfect and endless beauty.
Her first youth crush had been the nicest boy. Boy, did she love that Michael Thompson. He lived once in the weeping Mississippi mossy trees near the busted-up plantation of their school. She adored those old houses.
How she chased Michael. Beautiful name. His eyeglasses, buttery hair to his shoulder, and one of those aristocrat’s beak noses. She saw him at the middle school dance; she couldn’t get the chutzpah to dance with him. Oh well.
It was the enduring passion of a girl who had never been kissed by anyone but her randy teenage neighbor, Seth. The first man to call her beautiful. She was wearing a yellow dress and jelly shoes. He caught her by her black hair in the back yard and called her Indian princess and kissed her at sundown. What was the use with country boys? Being kissed by your neighbor too early was the story of every girl from Tennessee to Florida.
by Michael Prihoda
another bag of garbage
taken to the basement
and I —conveniently—
forget what happens
the big nothing
easy as I left.
until my hand
the center console
without finding yours
and my eyes
kept crossing paths
with the odometer
and larger numbers
until I began
this (only beginning) nothing
apathy in the face
of a chewing llama.
he could eat
as well as not
and we could live
as well as not,
as our cracking eyes
wake slow from
the reason for our forty million fantasies
by Julie Davis
I’m scared I will get stuck
like I got stuck on you.
by Joshua Greschner
Two thousand seven ¶ “I got a hammer for you” said Dad, at the bottom of the stairs. He started hacking into the wall before I joined him, eschewing any ceremony to mark the beginning of renovations. Dad wore rubber flip-flops and flower print shorts. During the summer, he only put on a shirt when he went to work and to coach us at soccer. His chest hair wasn’t grey yet. ¶ I mimicked his stance, his swing into the plaster, his scrunched face as white dust burst out. ¶ “Wanna pop?” he asked, after we worked a while. ¶ “Yup.” ¶ He went to the garage. I admired the large holes he made compared to my small, hesitant ones. On the wall beside the doorframe I noticed pencil marks I used to measure my height when I was smaller. I had forgotten they were there. ¶ “You almost tore through that,” I said after he came back down the steps. ¶ “What?” ¶ “Where I put my height.” ¶ “You wanna keep it?” ¶ “Duh,” I snarled. ¶ He cut out the section of wall with a skill saw. ¶ Twenty fourteen ¶ The piece of dry wall now rests under my bed. The pencil slowly fades. I marked my height not only for the temporary thrill of seeing how I tall I grew; I did it for some higher purpose I couldn’t understand as a child. Dates beside the ticks disappear after a certain height. I can’t tell how tall I was off the floor because Dad only cut out the piece of wall with pencil marks. ¶ Seven years later, renovations still aren’t complete. My room is on the top floor. There are paper, posters and a large map tacked to the walls. Books lounge in a haphazard heap. At the moment, the carpets are being replaced on the landing so I only have a slim path of yellow foam to walk on to get to the bathroom or downstairs. Power tools lie scattered; a circular saw bares its steel teeth. Contractors work while I’m at school. ¶ Our suburban bungalow is being transformed into a fortress. My parents are extending rooms beyond conceivable purpose; they’ll have to buy more cars to fill garage space. ¶ When friends come over, Dad holds a can of beer in his hand as he mimes and explains what everything will look like. He doesn’t try to conceal his proud smile when cross-armed men in golf shirts look up to the high ceiling from the bottom floor, gape and flash the black insides of their nostrils in a moment of pure incredulity. Dad waits for their gaze to shift back to his eye level and says “Yup. Remember when we lived in that duplex?” ¶ Two thousand five ¶ “I’ll tell you when I’ll need you,” Dad said to me. ¶ We stamped our boots on the mat and went into my grandmother’s living room. ¶ “How are you, Mom?” said Dad. ¶ “Good, how are you?” Dad went into her junk room. White paper spilled everywhere as if the soul of an avalanche had abandoned its body the moment we opened the door. I filled a bowl full of pretzels in her kitchen and sat on the couch beside her. She stared at me. ¶ “How are you?” I said. ¶ “Good, how are you?” ¶ “Do you want some pretzels?” I said. ¶ “No, they’re for you.” ¶ It was winter. Black branches stretched everywhere, as if someone had been shaking a pen to get it to write while ink splayed out behind them. She picked a string off her sweatshirt and kept it in a clenched fist. ¶ “Let me get you some pretzels,” she said, heaving herself off the couch and into the kitchen. I said nothing. ¶ “Come to the junk room, I need you,” called Dad. ¶ I passed by the kitchen. Grandma was hunched over an old birthday card like the brown cane she kept in a closet. Her kitchen was also extremely cluttered. ¶ In the junk room, Dad was stuffing armfuls of paper into black bags. The paper was all scrawled on with a frantic hand. ¶ “Hold the bag open for me,” he said and dumped in paper. He tied the bag and left mud prints as he trundled through layers of paper on the floor. I did nothing. “Hurry up or we’ll be here ‘til July,” he said. We carried the bags out into the van. “We’ll be back,” Dad told grandma. She was on the couch, staring out the window. She didn’t hear. ¶ In the van, the backseats were crowded with bags. Dad let me drive out to the junkyard. I was twelve. The enormous garbage pile belched smoke into the sky. We threw the black bags onto the smoldering pile. I drove back home. ¶ Much later, grandma’s paragraph-long obituary in the newspaper said she wrote poetry throughout her life. ¶ Twenty fourteen ¶ The constant replacing of old objects with new erases the physical material from which we experience and understand our lives. At our present rate, this attitude will be almost certainly be passed on to future generations. 10’s and 20s replace 70’s and 80’s, which will be replaced by 50’s, and 60’s, which will be replaced by 00’s. We have initiated a cycle in which the structures and objects that presently define our lives will be eradicated as we age. As we lose objects and spaces in which we’ve lived, all that we’ll have left to remember our passed life will be fading memories. ¶ Some work their entire lives to live in a home they have been dreaming about every day for decades as they process forms and scan applications in a sweaty, doleful office. After their home is built, they’ll sell it for the best price and new families will renovate away all trace of the previous owners. In the coming years, new home-owners will receive my parents’ mail once or twice. They’ll chastise their children for touching stranger’s mail. It’s just the same as mommy and daddy’s. ¶ Unless fame gives you a reason to be in the consciousness of future generations, an individual’s time on this earth is about 150 years from the moment of being conceived of in parent’s minds to fading in grandchildren’s memory. In due time, I will lose all memory of my grandmother because I am genetically destined to deteriorate into an Alzheimer’s patient. For my jaw to hang open beneath the skin of my sagging face, as if being pulled toward a fat belly by threads of drool. I am destined to stare silently out the window. ¶ I write to root my feet in the sand during the tidal wave. I want to stay where I am for just a little longer than everybody else. I want to leave a body of work to show someone I existed, how I thought, what I accomplished with the beautiful gift of life I have received while my culture’s objects and attitudes have been long forgotten, recovered then dismissed as primitive. I write so when I die, I’ll live on as more than a paragraph.
by Spencer Nix
So time yields itself to a plane.
Have we drawn numbers so close and many,
to estimate its place in our minds,
where measurements taper off into a length at least somewhat adequately divine.
Form no opinion except bare foreboding
where the littlest heads build themselves
Cages to have championships in.
Of course they all win, win, win, they're staring at an idol
in a spitting image of self-provoked imagination.
May Pine trees grow from granite and thistle from light.
I am far from a center,
Make moon shape us a star path.
May we walk in energy.
Propel ourselves against space,
cloudless and inconsistent
but in single
recurring for a second infinite time.
by Chris Drew
Cut-up Poetry excerpted from
The Practical Standard Dictionary of The English Language
by Brittany de Carona
Once, when I was younger, I touched a butterfly. I watched it float for almost an
hour, around and around my head like a lovely little halo. Its wings, thin and delicate,
beat to the rhythm of my steady thump-thump heart. I thought I was alone in the world,
just my butterfly and me, sitting beneath a tree in the backyard of my grandmother’s
house. I was trying to read a book, but kept splattering the pages with my tears instead.
For that hour, with my butterfly, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely I was.
I was nothing like my family. They didn’t understand my constant need to escape
the world we lived in through books. They laughed at me, made jokes at my expense (I
was referred to as Mother Thesaurus, for my love of peace and words), or they simply
ignored me, failing to notice when I disappeared from the house for hours. I was not there
and they were none the wiser and I grew to accept my displacement of our collective
I was nothing like my friends. I was wondering if they were even my friends,
because “friends” typically knew what was going on in each other’s lives. They had no
idea that I was technically homeless, again sleeping on my grandmother’s floor because
I had nowhere else to go, or that I hadn’t slept in a bed for years. No friends, no family,
nothing but nothingness. That was how I felt and so I sat there, crying into the yellowing
pages of Lord of the Flies with the butterfly floating around my quivering shoulders.