Tuesday, November 30, 2010

4. it was over a bridge that crow learned how to teach


the path stretched in front of the traveler
the sky above his head
trees all around him
and the bridge underneath his feet


3. it was with a bag that crow learned how to get


the traveler gathered seeds of all plants along the road
carrying them in a bag on his back
he walked on and on
never turning back

the hole in his bag helped him travel lightly


2 poems

by regina osgood stapledon

pictures by rhoda penmarq


the universe is a fading rose
trembling on ballerina toes
plucked by invisible hands
and tossed upon windswept sands

the sands are our immortal souls
disappearing down black holes
never to be seen again
until the dreamer wakes - o when?

when will the sun return?
when will the tower burn?
when will the trees walk?
when will the grass talk?

when will wise men climb down from the walls
and listen to the rain as it falls
washing away their prophecies
like dandelions laughing in the breeze?


the flower

after the storm of passion -
after the rainfall of lust -
the solitary flower
stands still in the shiny dust

the smirking sun is rising -
clenching its fiery fist
the flower can only await its fate
unable to turn or twist

the tiniest bug can scamper away
the smallest bird find shade
the flower can only await its fate
an unchaperoned maid


Monday, November 29, 2010

2. it was by the river that crow learned how to think


the river never paused
the rocks never moved
yet they sang together

the wind never stopped
the trees never walked
yet they danced together


mary jo, part 5: the dragon

to begin at the beginning, click here

by jesse s mitchell

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

In the floor of his car, Ephraim watched a magazine with a rolled up front cover slide back and forth over the pristine mat. His car rocked to a stop. A cloud of steam and smoke swooshed up and obscured the front window. He had made it to the edge of the road. He laid his head gently on the steering wheel and let his eyes fall on the issue of “The New York Times review of Books”. He had never actually opened the magazine with any real intend nor had he ever actually read an article.

For ten years now, he had been getting issue after issue and never had it meant a thing to him. Ephraim was a pretend man but not a patient one. His head started to sweat on the leather steering wheel and lifted up and beat his fist on the seats and dashboard and window and his thighs…everywhere…he screamed and kicked…knocked things around and threw open the door. The smoke had started to fade but it was still there in wisps and bits.
Ephraim kicked the back of the car. The car shook. It began to roll off the edge of road and started to dive down the tall embankment…picking up speed.
‘Oh shit!”
Ephraim took off his dark blue suit jacket and tossed it on the gravel dust and random grease and shredded tire side road and started to run down the hill after the car.

With a terrific bang and shutter the car slammed into a tree and the engine clunked and everything on Earth rocked…Ephraim fell down and yelled, tore his pant leg and stained up his clothes. He threw a fit…a mad fit.

For a second he thought he saw the reflection of a face in the back glass of the car and he walked up to the wreck with apprehension…much the same as the rainbow shine moves up and down the side of a sudsy bubble. He moved the way a thick bubble floats in the barely there air.

He knew he could breathe but he was afraid to…he looked and looked but he could not see the face…but he knew it had been there…he is not a crazy man or a superstitious one…merely selfish and impatient but neither of those things cause hallucinations. He was an intelligent man and he knows his own faculties. He looked behind himself…over his shoulder. He peered in the trees to see if someone had ran off into the weeds and trees.

It is cold. The car shook and rattled again…its dying breath. He kicked the dirt. He walked over open the door and grabbed the magazine and slammed the door. He felt strangely poetic.
He started walking down the road composing in his head.

The Dragon (occidental)

Behind the thick blue-green light
The white blue-green light,
In front of the window
Build in the seams,
sown up tight in the corners

On the red-yellow gold of glass stained into the window
Where the sun peered in coldly
Was the image of the devil,
The devil as a dragon
But that dragon as a star
And that star in the sky
But a sky not just dark night

Crowned and crowded
With blank starlight
But a sky of heaven.
The star all heavy and falling down the
Lead paint stain of red down the front
Of the cracked window
A star failing in orbit
Ruined but not exploded and wasted from age
But simply faded…
All away.

I took the fire from heaven
Back from where it had departed.
I took the fire from heaven
And carried down
Down the mountain side
Like Moses
But more Maimonides,
It was a heavy load.

In the last suicidal moments in the desperate day
I moved with the monster-fiends
Too long,
I danced with them too long
With the sharp knife legs
And growling bony bony skin.
I stayed too long,
And singed my flesh
And scorched my limbs
And broke my bones
And bruised my hands.

I carried down the fire
Back out of heaven
And illuminated
The sky.

Those are the words that filled Ephraim’s mind. Spirits were out there in those open plains where the trees even stopped growing…spirits out there, Ephraim could feel them.

1. it was fall when crow learned how to love


the persimmon tree was shedding leaves
exposing its fruits to ripen
in the cold


this new series consisting of a number of microstories is dedicated to a dear friend who's got a thousand and one heads but only one heart... a heart as vast as the sky... timmy, thanks for being such a great friend to all of us...

Friday, November 26, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 51: Rod's party

(Go here to review our previous episode; click here to return to the now-all-but-forgotten beginning.)

Larry Winchester (
“cinéaste, bon vivant, raconteur, et romancier par excellence” -- Alain Robbe-Grillet) now once again easily and all-but-unnoticeably switches to the voice of that endearing adventurer Dick Ridpath as the plot slowly but surely picks up steam in our Merck Literary Award-runner-up serialization of the novel Harold Bloom called “Western civilization’s last, and noblest, gasp”.

The time: an evening in early September, 1969.

The place: an “old-fashioned New Mexican barbecue” at the ranch of Big Jake Johnstone, just eight or nine miles outside of a town called Disdain...

To be quite honest, I felt that things were getting even more out of control than usual.

I mean really. You go through life accepting chaos as best you can, maybe it’ll all start to make some faint sense in a few hundred more reincarnations, but sometimes you’ve just got to try to do the sensible thing --

The musicians started to play a waltz, and I suddenly asked Enid to dance.

The band was almost falling-down drunk now but very peppy, and Enid’s body gave off a reassuring warmth and a faintly sandalwood-incensey smell.

How could I forget that one drunken and drug-addled night in New York when she wound up sharing Daphne’s and my bed at the Royalton. Those two had passed blissfully out while I lay there, my mind racing on LSD, and suffering a truly tortuous and endless erection. Oh believe me I was tempted. But finally, after a considerable amount of effort, I was able to arrange my own discharge, without awakening either of them, as far as I knew, anyway.

I remember lying there afterwards panting for what seemed like an hour, feeling both of their warm bodies on either side of me. And then finally climbing over Daphne to go to the bathroom and dispose of the evidence...

But I did my best to put all that out of my mind, and I got down to the business at hand.

“Y’know, Enid, I’m worried about Daphne going to this peyote thing with you.”

“Are you afraid we’ll run into those Motorpsycho guys?”

“The motorcycle guys? Well, yeah.”

True. The motorcycle guys. And Grupler and Marlene. And Philips and Adams. And the stupid radio --

“Well, maybe she’d better not come,” said Enid.

“Oh, no,” I said, “there’s no stopping her, I know that. But I was wondering if I could come along too. And, well, I’d like to bring this kid Harvey along.”


“You know him I guess?”

“Sure. Nice kid. But, Dick, you can’t just bring a crowd of people to one of these ceremonies. It’s their religion.”

“Oh. Right.”

“I mean, I figured Paco -- that’s the medicine man -- would let Daphne take part because she’s so --”


“Well, yeah,” she said.

“But I was wondering if maybe Harvey and I could just sort of observe, or wait outside. I didn’t really want to take the peyote. I mean, normally I probably would like to, but it’s just that I’d really feel so much better if I could -- just --”

I was doing my best to turn on whatever I had left of the old Ridpath charm. I gave her a little twirl, my hand on the small of her muscular back. I probably batted my baby blues.

Oh God, she seemed to be thinking, what the hell.

“Okay,” she said. “You and Harvey come along, and we’ll see what Paco says.”

“Gee, thanks, Enid --” I started to say.

And then no doubt my expression changed, turned somber, or pensive, one of those sorts of words.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Oh. Nothing,” I said.

Actually I had just placed -- or, in the parlance of my old trade, “made” -- that nice new young couple.

As we swung past this profoundly boring-looking duo I’d felt someone watching me, and as I executed another twirl I saw the guy turn his head away from me, and then in his profile I recognized the duplicitous fucker.

I felt a depressing feeling in my solar plexus. Or was I going mad? Had I overdone the drugs? I glanced at the guy again and then my glance met the girl’s, and -- yeah, right, okay:

McKuen’s Labor Day party. It had been a wild one. Drag queens, merchant seamen, strippers, a folk rock combo called the Fugs, two Tibetan monks, a fistful of Black Panthers, Joey Giardello trading boxing moves with a poet named Hank Bukowski, Alan Watts trading dirty jokes with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs discussing ESP with Professor Irwin Corey, Claudia Cardinale doing the frug with Gore Vidal, Phyllis Diller taking her blouse off, Phil Ochs strumming a guitar and chatting with Françoise Hardy, and a guy Rod laughingly introduced to me as the Acid King.

The Acid King and I hit it off right away -- it turned out we were both big fans of Jorge Luis Borges.

A half hour later the Acid King and I were sitting fascinated, high as kites, watching Buddy Greco on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Buddy was singing “What Kind of Fool Am I” while a stoned-looking Jerry mugged it up off to the side of the stage, and I suddenly couldn’t take it any more, it was too intense, I turned away and there they were, this Hippie Couple from Central Casting -- the man in bright swirly pants, sandals, Nehru jacket and love beads, a walrus moustache, a Beatle haircut and pink granny sunglasses; the girl in this long multicolored Lady Guinevere gown with long blond hair, a purple Chinese coolie hat and oversized shades with blood-red heart-shaped lenses. Pluperfect 1967 hippies, but this was 1969, and I just knew they were phony, and probably narcs.

So I tipped off the Acid King guy. I knew he was a fugitive, but he seemed like a nice guy, and, after all, he had turned me on.

The Acid King glanced at the hippie couple and nodded. He said, “I owe you, man.” I said, “Oh, no, not at all,” and he drifted off to the bathroom, whence he crawled through the window and out onto a rooftop and away, leaving the hippie couple still standing by the drinks table, swaying psychedelically as Jerry joined Buddy for a freeform scat finale to “What Kind of Fool Am I”.

And now here were the hippie couple again, but in the guise of Young Mr. and Mrs. Straight America.

The waltz ended and Enid stood there looking at me quizzically.

“Um, let’s dance another one,” I said.

“Okay,” she said, smiling.

The band lit into an odd fast herky jerky thing and Enid and I looked at each other.

“I think I can dance to this,” I said.

“Lead away,” said Enid.

I shrugged and duly led her into a rhumba, a dance I had become quite proficient at during a stay in Havana back in ‘58.

I wanted to dance and I wanted to think. It now occurred to me that this young blond guy and his partner -- Mr. and Mrs. Masters of Disguise -- had been watching me at McKuen’s and not the Acid King at all.

What kind of fool am I indeed.

(Enigmatically continued here.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

diary of a heretic, chapters 26 and 27

to begin at the beginning, click here

by kathleen maher

pictures by rhoda penmarq

26) Hiding

In my vision of the New C. of C. when I imagined “my turn to speak my mind,” the speaking aspect was metaphorical. The challenge was just to get to where everyone had found a seat, cleared his throat and blown his nose. When it really was finally time for me to say what’s what, a higher order would kick in. What do I think? Why am I alive? Bottom line: I need to believe in something greater than myself, which, Come on; can’t be that hard to find!
It’s after midnight, but Stephanie has joined Maggie and Carlos in the apartment. So I guess they’re anxious, too. Maggie’s calling, “Come out, Malcolm. Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

But I’m drowsy and naked, and wish they would go away. With my door closed, the covers over my head, I’m still aware of Carlos coolly reviewing the plans. Maggie murmurs agreeably and Stephanie mutters.

Stephanie, I found out, visits her sister, the one with MS, in a nursing home every night after her shift. She’s worked with me for twelve years and until a few weeks ago, I knew only that she has a relentlessly sour disposition and wears—every time I’ve ever seen her—a cheap skirt or slacks, white nylon blouse, white stockings, and off-brand aerobic shoes.
Maggie’s perpetual motion—I can hear her boots on the floor—seems at this remove like a peculiar, feminine form of anger.

Why doesn’t Carlos shoo the females away? They linger and fuss and he says nothing, even though it’s late.
They fume and sputter and I have to pee but do not want to see or be seen. If they weren’t here, John Coltrane’s saxophone would fill the apartment. If Maggie and Stephanie weren’t here, Carlos would be curled beside me, feeding me. He’d be getting ready to take his bath. The windows would have misted up and he’d start circling the rooms. The robe would slip from his thin brown frame and the glint from the iron balls in his hands would break through the blanket dimness.

If the women weren’t here, I’d be swirling Metaxa in a glass, watching him. Drunk but still drinking, stuffed but still eating, I’d suck in every detail: Carlos’s tantalizing, unspoken bribes hanging in the air; me stupefied with the awful hope that he might pull me from the chair, might hold me, might sway with me while the horns sounded and the bells chimed.

27) Valentine’s Day

Miraculously, I managed to slip out before Carlos woke. I left a printout for him:
Hope you don’t mind, Carlos, but I’m taking the day off. Don’t worry; I’ll be back for the meeting. And I’m leaving you the station wagon. Have you noticed how the raspberry twists have been selling? Since it’s Valentine’s Day, would you consider doubling the batches? Please also make fruit and custard tarts, those giant macaroons, éclairs, tortes and Black Forest cake. Thanks. M.
I bundled myself into a moss-colored anorak, this year’s Christmas gift from my parents. Trimmed with coyote fur, it is supposed to keep you warm to fifty below. My scarf and gloves lay on the coffee table near the sofa where Carlos was sleeping. Standing there, I could feel a sheet of cold air from the storm window above his head.
Yet he lay oblivious on the undersized sofa—only half the army blanket covering him. Light from a streetlamp emphasized the furrows in his face. His hair flowed over the armrest. His inside arm was pressed into the sofa back and his outside arm was flung over his head, the underside of his biceps looking as sleek and lively as a quick brown fish. The sight of Carlos dreaming, unawares, unprotected and half-naked set me trembling. His offhand pats and extra-casual gropes, his ardent new habit of plying me with narcotically rich food and the flurry of inconsequential kisses with which he rewards me for consuming staggering amounts of it—are more intimate than anything that’s happened to me since Colin died.

As I hovered over him, Carlos shifted in his sleep. His arm dropped to the floor. He turned on his side and the scratchy wool blanket slid lower along his flank. Stepping backwards, I inhaled hard at the sight of his gleaming hipbone. He was snoring and I watched his top leg kick free. For the hundredth time I took in the breath-taking curve of his instep. With his feet, his hugely perfect ankles, and the swell of those calves, you’d think he could jump a mile in the sky.
Determined not to wake him, I still hovered, swearing that any second now, just one more second, and I’d hurry away. Go, I told myself. Go on! Go now! If the next New C. of C. meeting was going to happen, I had to have the day off, away from everything. But if Carlos were to raise an eyelid by so much as a millimeter—I’d be snared inside his net of crisscrossing seductions. Asleep, he looked both old and not-so-old. His features looked softer, his body even more impossibly lithe. The little wrinkles on his sharp thin face did not exist, but the delicate red capillaries looping over his nose, across his cheeks suggested a map of ancient configurations. But beneath this gleamed a lush red mouth, the satiny lower lip just slightly agape and (it’s enough to kill me), vividly tender. Gasping for air, I gripped my jacket, ready to tear it off. My heart pounded wildly and in my frenzy I somehow—unbelievably—got away.
On the street, stunned by the cold black expanse, by the shockingly limitless space, I hurried into the pharmacy doorway. A dire anxiety rose up and within seconds I was hyperventilating through a flood of tears. It was three-thirty in the morning. I didn’t stop weeping for a full, eternal five minutes.

And then, frightened and humiliated, I staggered over the glittering pavement, wondering what had just happened. No one witnessed it. But surely I was not the only one sobbing then; not the only one quaking in sorrow. Isn’t the question, why shouldn’t we cry? Isn’t it an outright miracle that we aren’t all weeping all the time? Because being right alive now is just way too much—and not enough.
Amazingly, we nonetheless march through our paces, day after day, year after year. “Hi, how are you?” “Good, thanks. And you?” And no one protests, no one rebels! Or maybe they do. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe crying in the street is a universal secret. While I’m off tallying inventories, working the cash register, padding haplessly about my apartment, everyone else is outside screaming with abandon, expressing sorrow, disappointment as well as blessed giddy joy—everything, everything all the time!
And then—I admit: probably not. Prolonged laughter or crying of the kind I just went through borders on the surreal. It gives us intimations of life beyond our grasp. My little attack has left me more fragile than cleansed. But the swing and strangeness of it suggest a passageway. What if I did teeter there, all but directly within God’s Presence? Absent the usual warped politics; absent especially that master-slave routine?

Trudging south, into a stinging wind on Sheridan Road, I hop on the first bus coming my way. In the dark sky no stars shine, no trace of color encroaches. The lighting inside the bus renders the riders woeful and unwholesome.
The man across from me is wearing a Burberry scarf and a Burberry coat. He balances a briefcase on his lap and is reading what looks like a legal brief. He keeps tugging at his collar. In a seat facing the front, a round faced, middle aged woman appears asleep, her head back, resting against the molded beige plastic. A few seats behind her, a teenage boy and girl, their faces painted like Kabuki masks, rock to and ’fro, arms and legs entwined. There are a few nurse-type women, their white uniforms showing beneath their big down coats.

And one more: Craning my neck, I notice a man encased in reflective running gear. He’s wearing an orange cap and his shiny silver gloves finger a waist-length beard divided into two heavily moussed conical shapes. The notion comes to me that people who ride the four am bus are desperately clinging to whatever’s slipping away from them. Awake at this hour, they experience a separateness some of us have never imagined. I glance at their expressions: the weariness, the determination, pain and loss. Everyone around me needs that chance to stand up and say what’s most important.

This bus is full of seekers. I don’t have any fliers to hand out, but I have such a strong feeling, I decide, why not at least check? Eyes burning (the air raw with diesel fumes), I rummage in my backpack and, yes! Find the manila envelope stuffed with fliers. I hadn’t put it there, but there it was. So I stomped up the aisle, shoving copies of the “New Forms” print-out in people’s faces, explaining, of course, that the topic isn’t set in stone and, really, anyone can talk about anything. My voice is hoarse, maybe from crying so hard before, maybe because what I’m doing is so unlike me.
Then the bus lurched and stopped, and the driver was out of his seat, yelling, “Hey, you! No soliciting on my bus!”

Right behind me was a bearish man in several Alaskan-type sweaters, whom I hadn’t noticed before. “Say, my good man,” he said in the overarticulated pseudo-cosmopolitan accent sometimes affected by winos. “I’d be interested in one of your religious pamphlets.”
“No, that’s all right. They’re nothing, really.”
“Oh, but obviously they are something.” Setting down what looked like a bowling bag he dug into one sweater’s pocket and offered me whiskey from a brown bag.

The bus driver was making his way up the aisle, coming at us.
“No, thank you,” I said, handing him a flier and hurrying away.
I got back late. Carlos said, “already five PM,” and he told Maggie and Stephanie to mind the shop. We were going upstairs.
“Don’t disturb us,” he said.
They scoffed. “Don’t worry.”

Inside the apartment Carlos already had candles burning. The waning winter light faded behind sheer curtains I didn’t recall hanging there. We drank Grande Dame Clicquot. There was a wheel of runny cheese, which I scooped up with toasted rusks.
Undoing his hair, Carlos sat close to me on the sofa. He crossed his legs and draped an arm around me. “You know what’s going on, with us and the meetings, but more between us, is fantastic. As if, heaven sent.”
Patting my knee, he rose and slipped into the kitchen. The champagne bottle was wrapped in a towel and clumsy me spilt some. Carlos appeared, put a tray of chocolate strawberries on the table, and knelt down to mop up the effervescent little puddle.
I watched the tips of his hair get wet. It’s a mind-control technique, I know: starve a person before unexpectedly offering a solitary feast. But that doesn’t explain my totally out of control desire. Irresistibly sinister and strong, Carlos cuddled beside me.
“Strawberries,” he said, plucking one from the platter and holding it to my mouth. Pressing his fingers against my lips, he fed me one coated berry after another.

We drank more champagne. And after a lull, when he resumed pressing the chocolate strawberries into my mouth, I grabbed twin handfuls of his hair, winding it tight around my wrists as if that could restrain me.
I shifted my buttocks, trying to redistribute my weight, when Carlos slid on top of me, his small skinny chest resting against my fat shirtless self. His long arms reaching for the plate, he continued pushing the strawberries between my lips, followed now by the tip of his tongue. (But every time I tried to bite that tip, it darted out.)
The disc player moved to Gregorian chants, which Carlos did not expect. He got up and I sat up, edging myself forward to guzzle more champagne.
“Are you all right?” Carlos asked. “Your face is red.”
I stood and looked at myself in the mirror. Hands under my pecs, I said, “Carlos, look! I’m growing breasts.”
He said, “That does it,” leading me to bed, where I performed mightily. At first, he tried telling me how to go about it. But fat, drunk—even after years of nothing—I’m still a master at the ever-varying gradations between pleasure and pain. I still know how to make a man scream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

the haunted house... part three...

to begin at the beginning, click here

by human being

illustrations by rhoda penmarq


fear is a wound:
the child was afraid of the dead eyes
winking at her

the second leaf was gone with the darkness
the plate was empty again
the cats were making strange grumbling sounds


.distance is a wound:
the child was missing the friendly eyes
laughing with her

the third leaf was gone with the wind
the plate was empty again
the cats were hiding behind the portraits

understanding is a wound:
the little girl came to know that all played games
and all games had at least one loser

the fourth leaf was gone with the shadows
the plate was empty again
the cats were sniffing the suitcases in the middle of the hallway


.truth is a wound:
the little girl told the truth, but nobody believed her
she learned that all were telling lies in one way or another

the fifth leaf was gone with the light
the plate was empty again
the cats were kneading on her lap


friendship is a wound:
those who were closer to the little girl
could hug her tighter
and beat her harder

the sixth leaf was gone with the rain
the plate was empty again
the cats were purring contently


each word is a wound:
the small girl soon discovered that each word is a world
when the speaker is on an expedition to the north pole
the hearer might be camping in the south pole

the seventh leaf was gone with the moonlight
the plate was empty again
the cats were fast asleep