THE AVERSIVE CLAUSE by B.C. Edwards Black Lawrence Press, 180 Pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat B.C. Edwards’s short story collection, The Aversive Clause, alternates between gentle poignancy and visceral revelation, often within the same story. To read his work is to ride a manic roller coaster through a gritty Wonderland reboot. Like Alice, readers will shrink and grow, and know things they cannot un-know. Without being heavy-handed or didactic, Edwards explores and explodes the socio-political fabric of contemporary society and in so doing, pulls readers into the conversation. Edwards’s style and thematic resonance are evocative of Ray Bradbury. In particular, “The Providence of Angels” echoes several stories from The Illustrated Man. The desperate masses begging for healing outside Ty and Mac’s door calls back to the emotional hunger of the men in “The Visitor.” The random man at the rails, searching for the Angels to give him an external … chop! chop! read more!
CALLING DR LAURA
By Nicole J Georges
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 260 pages
reviewed by Amelia Moulis
Nicole J Georges’ Calling Dr Laura, is an acerbic and intelligent addition to the graphic memoirs of 2013. It catalogues Georges’ troubled upbringing and her subsequent quest for love and stability in her relationships, and indeed her life at large. Georges enters this story through her first girlfriend, who takes Georges to a psychic, inadvertently uncovering a deep family secret: the psychic insists that Georges’ father – whom she was told died of colon cancer when she was a baby – is in fact alive. Although this is the ‘hook’ of the story, it is important to emphasize that this is actually not the driving force behind the storyline. It takes many years for Georges to share this information with anyone, let alone confront her mom about it. In the meantime, Georges meanders between cross-sections of her mom’s abusive relationships, the string of ‘father figures’ shaping her upbringing, Georges’ own inability to process stress and emotion, her struggle to establish a family, and the faulty dynamics of her lesbian relationships. But underneath this is the constant tension of when, or if, Georges can confront her mother about her sexuality and the circumstances of her father’s absence from her life.chop! chop! read more!
HANDLING THE TRUTH: ON THE WRITING OF MEMOIR by Beth Kephart Gotham Books, 254 pages reviewed by Stephanie Trott It is a rainy Tuesday in January and I lace up the new cherry-red boots before heading out the door of my warm little warren. Through the stone-laden campus, across the slippery streets of town, and onto the train that will take me into the city. I am in my final semester as an undergraduate student at Bryn Mawr College and I still have not learned to buy shoes that fit my feet — I dig into the walk through West Philadelphia, burdening myself with blisters that will not heal until the first flowers have shed their petals to spring. Stumbling onto the porch of the old Victorian manor, I step into the most challenging, inspiring, and rewarding fourteen weeks I’ve yet experienced: I step into Beth Kephart’s Creative Non-Fiction class. … chop! chop! read more!
CARTOON COLLEGE (video documentary)
by Josh Melrod and Tara Wray
L. B. Thunderpony Home Entertainment, 76 minutes
reviewed by Amy Victoria Blakemore
Within moments of its bare opening, I already liked Cartoon College. When I reached chapter three of the documentary—which dubbed comics “better than sandwiches”—I knew that I loved it.
Josh Melrod and Tara Wray keep the first shot simple: the camera shows a man’s back as he rummages through old drawings. We are not coddled by music meant to make us feel happy-go-lucky or sentimental. This meditative simplicity populates the entire film, allowing viewers what feels like a filmic rarity: the ability to listen to a human voice with only that voice for guidance.chop! chop! read more!
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF NATHANIEL P. by Adelle Waldman Henry Holt, 242 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin Suburban Mid-Atlantic childhood. Check. Journalist. Check. Book reviewer. Check. Writing book review to keep from working on more substantial essay. Check. First novel coming out. Check. Writes on urbanism. Check. Closest friend Peter. Check. Name Nathaniel P. Check. That Nathaniel P? Like the fictional protagonist of Adelle Waldman’s debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., I’m happiest reading and writing; I’m ambitious enough (though the doppelganger has a large advance for his novel, something I’ve not yet received); and I can’t see myself doing anything else. The arrival of the book has made for good jokes, of course. My friend Cristina wrote me the other day to say she had received the book (she ordered it and read it as soon as I told her about it). “I have your love affairs … chop! chop! read more!
SCRATCH PEGASUS by Stephen Kessler Swan Scythe Press, 88 pages reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke Stephen Kessler’s agenda in the poetry of Scratch Pegasus would seem to be that of the artist in his poem “Hopper”: in an era where inscrutable conceptualism has become somewhat of a standard, Kessler is confident that his “representation / so square compared to his successors’ transgressions / looks now purely formal and coolly classical … in rooms full of murmuring tourists / relieved to see what they recognize”. It’s lamentable, then, that Kessler’s altruistic aspirations towards a communitarian poetics, a poetics of reachable clarity, are troubled by an unintentional (or so one hopes) exclusion of the modern reader. True, the poet occasionally hits the mark with poignant imagery (“the barking park / where the city’s dogs / sniff each other’s butts / and tangled strips of toilet paper / fly like flags from lampposts”, “Gold light … chop! chop! read more!
SO LONG, SILVER SCREEN by Blutch Picturebox, 88 pages reviewed by Gabriel Chazan Every film is a ghost story. When we go to the theater, we see flickering images of things in the eternal past yet present which persistently haunt us. This observation cannot be avoided reading the French cartoonist Blutch’s new graphic essay/novel So Long, Silver Screen. With this book, Blutch summons the ghosts from his own filmgoing past to consider the film form. Death pervades the book from the very first panel in which a woman writes, “Adieu Paul Newman.” When the woman tells her lover Newman is dead, he reacts in disbelief: “it can’t be—I think about him every day” as if, by being captured onscreen, stars are immortal. Blutch has decided to try his hand at film criticism. The book is largely comprised of discussions and arguments between a man and woman about film. We get … chop! chop! read more!
RECALCULATING by Charles Bernstein University of Chicago Press, 208 pages Reviewed by Mary Weston Bringing to mind the now all-too familiar GPS phrase, Charles Bernstein’s latest collection of poetry, Recalculating, depicts a poet pulled in a number of different directions and impulses. As readers, we too at times feel this pull toward the many evocations and articulations present in Recalculating. Yet in many ways, direction—or lack thereof—becomes the thematic anchor which ultimately binds Bernstein’s latest work. Poems in this collection move deftly and swiftly from heady articulations of Bernstein’s poetics, to oftentimes humorous experiments in language and syntax, to poignant translations of works from Catullus to Baudelaire. Yet throughout the collection, the theme of “recalculation” takes on a more sobering nature, as interspersed between Bernstein’s didacticism and humor, grief and loss also begin to take shape in the work, each time creating a quiet swerve and evolution in the work’s … chop! chop! read more!
THE MEHLIS REPORT by Rabee Jaber translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid New Directions Paperbacks, 202 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin At night, I dream the city; I dream Baldwin’s—and Capote’s—alluring New York at mid-century; I dream Pamuk’s melancholic Istanbul of the same period; I dream Antunes’s desperate 1990s Lisbon and Nasr’s suffocating Tunis and Bolaño’s heretical 1970s Mexico City; I dream Zadie Smith’s London and Mercé Rodoreda’s Barcelona; I dream my own Philadelphia, which sometimes isn’t Philadelphia at all (it may be Brooklyn or Montreal). Now, I dream Rabee Jaber’s early 21st century Beirut; I dream the enduring disquiet, I dream the hidden springs, I dream the memories (of terraces filled with mulberry trees, of abandoned villas), the loss, the fear, the cranes that rattle the sky. “How many cities are hidden in the belly of this one city?” writes Jaber, At rare times, you see all these cities together. At … chop! chop! read more!
DAVID LYNCH SWERVES: UNCERTAINTY THROUGH LOST HIGHWAY TO INLAND EMPIRE by Martha P. Nochimson University of Texas Press, 295 pages reviewed by Chris Ludovici In David Lynch Swerves: Uncertainty Through Lost Highway to Inland Empire, Martha P. Nochimson presents a radical interpretation of David Lynch’s last four movies. She rejects the popular critical interpretations of his work, in favor of her own theory: a complicated mix of eastern philosophy and quantum physics. It’s fascinating, challenging, frustrating, and only intermittently persuasive. Her ideas are compelling, especially when she’s addressing Lynch’s philosophy. As a devoted believer in Hinduism and tantric meditation, Lynch creates movies with strong spiritual components. They are intense stories, and his characters are often emotionally troubled. Nochimson clearly and thoughtfully explains Lynch’s repeating themes of the dangers of life lived in the service of greed and ambition, and his commitment to spiritual peace over material satisfaction. But it’s her more … chop! chop! read more!
THE HARE by César Aira New Directions Paperbacks, 218 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin The writer César Aira has a charming trait (at least in the English language translations of his books published by New Directions): at the end of his novels, he inscribes the date he completed the work, at least so we are supposed to believe. For both The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira, published in Katherine Silver’s English translation by New Directions last year, and The Hare, which New Directions brings out tomorrow translated by Nick Caistor, were apparently finished the same day, September 6, 1996. Could this really be? Aira, the author of some 70 works of fiction and essay, is after all one of the most prolific writers in the world. It is conceivable he completed the two books on the same day. Or has Aira, a master of meta-fiction, found yet another way to … chop! chop! read more!
RUST BELT RISING ALMANAC, Vol. 1 Various Authors The Head & The Hand Press, 168 pages reviewed by Ariel Diliberto Rust Belt Rising Almanac presents a pastiche of short stories, poems, photographs and artwork. Collectively they form a fairly complete image of the post-industrial cities that comprise the toponymous “belt” (in the case of this publication, namely Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh). Collectively being the operative word. For individually, some of the stories are flashes in the (rusting) pan. However, together these ethereal dispatches evoke the negative space inside an abandoned factory building, and upon reaching page 168, readers can step back and see it for what it is. So what is it? The triumph of Rust Belt is its ability to dispel the false narrative about America’s trajectory from industrial to post-industrial, in which the peak of our society was the peak of the industrial era, and it’s been downhill … chop! chop! read more!
BARNABY VOL. 1
by Crockett Johnson
introduction by Chris Ware; Art direction by Daniel Clowes
Fantagraphics, 336 pages
reviewed by Travis DuBose
In his foreword to its first collected volume, Chris Ware compares Barnaby, Crockett Johnson’s 1940s newspaper strip, to other early influential comics like Little Nemo, Krazy Kat and Peanuts. He goes on to say that Barnaby is “the last great comic strip,” a description that ends up being a little unfair to any first time readers of Barnaby: though there are moments of greatness in it, Volume One mostly points forward to the strip’s potential, rather than showcasing Johnson’s brilliance firsthand. This difficult start is consistent with the beginnings of other strips, even great ones: the ability to deliver a solid joke, every day, in three or four panels is mastered by very few and even fewer, if any, can do it consistently from the first strip. Barnaby, however, has one of the best rocky starts I’ve encountered in the medium, and its later greatness is well worth its early fumbles.
Crockett Johnson may not have the immediate name recognition of Charles Schulz or Bill Watterson, but his work is a mainstay of American childhoods: he authored Harold and the Purple Crayon and its sequels, and readers of the Harold books will recognize in Barnaby’s protagonist, five year old Barnaby Baxter, the prototype of Harold. Additionally, there are several Barnaby strips featuring a half moon seen out the window over Barnaby’s bed, the final, iconic image of the first Harold book. Harold readers will also recognize the art style: stark, bold lines over simple backgrounds that nonetheless show an impressive command of perspective and space.chop! chop! read more!
NO APOCALYPSE by Monica Wendel Georgetown Review Press, 70 pages reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke Monica Wendel makes every pretense of proving the veracity of her title, No Apocalypse, in her debut collection: as if responding to the question “What are some topics of poetry?” the poet has organized her work in orderly divisions—Politics, Dreams, Animals and Cities, Money and Ghosts—lending an everything-under-control sensibility to the book on the surface level. Indeed, her treatment of what many would consider signs of apocalyptic societal devolution – Wikileaks, the Trayvon Martin case, etc – is surprisingly deadpan, as if, in declarative ending lines, Wendel is grimly calming a gloom-and-doom hysteric. As such, when trauma does make an entry, it is all the more traumatic for its surprise, as in the poem “September, Red Hook”; at first glance the poem is whimsical, a charming exchange between two children as they float a piece of … chop! chop! read more!
THE SENSUALIST by Daniel Torday Nouvella Books, 177 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am at once very connected to and disconnected from Germany, and I’ve been exploring this feeling in a novel I’m working on. My grandparents were German Jewish refugees, sailing from Hamburg, Germany, to Ellis Island in 1934. We talked very little, my grandparents and their grandchildren, about their lives in Germany before they left. If their lives were an apartment building, it was as though we always entered on the third floor, and were welcome to walk around anywhere from the third floor and up but never below. We didn’t notice anything unusual. Obviously, there are good reasons for not talking about what was left behind by German Jews who escaped the holocaust. But there is also tremendous loss in disowning all of it. Sam Gerson, the narrator of … chop! chop! read more!
THE OFFICE OF MERCY by Ariel Djanikian Viking, 304 pages Reviewed by John Carroll I had the good fortune of reading Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood,and the Prison of Belief immediately before picking up Ariel Djanikian’s debut novel, The Office of Mercy. While Wright’s nonfiction account of a minor religious movement is, on the surface, seemingly far removed from Djanikian’s novel about a futuristic American settlement, the two books share much more in common than anyone could initially believe. In particular, Scientologists and the America-Five residents in The Office of Mercy are equally concerned with the ethics of their individual movements. But both groups have arrived at ethical standings far removed from what a contemporary American majority would define as acceptable. While Wright narrates numerous confessionals about physical and emotional abuse in the Church of Scientology, Djanikian introduces readers to the “sweeps” of America-Five: these carefully planned strikes eliminate … chop! chop! read more!
WOMEN’S POETRY: POEMS AND ADVICE by Daisy Fried University of Pittsburgh Press, 88 pages Reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat Daisy Fried’s new collection, Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice, illuminates issues that are both specifically feminine (i.e. mother-daughter paradigms) and gender neutral (being American in a foreign land). Divided into four numbered sections, the poems explore the layers of complicated relationships and expose the emotions therein. Fried shows us how beauty forces us to notice it, even when we’d rather not. Through several reflexive lines that connect to other poems within the text, she speaks to the multi-layered nature of art. The Advice Column Section gives Fried latitude to launch a sweet and snarky rant against those who place themselves outside and against the world of women and words. How absolutely accurate, and satisfactory, to hear that the only difference between a male poetess (she “applies the term poetess to men and … chop! chop! read more!
THE END by Anders Nilsen Fantagraphics Books, 80 pages Reviewed by Henry Steinberg The Humming Bird. The Condor. The Giant. The Hands. I hold your head in my hands and your heart in my heart and I look at you and I am floating above the bed alone and there’s nothing I can do at all because you’re gone. These are the Nazca Lines. Located in the southern desert of Peru, these ancient geoglyphs dot the landscape, their purpose unknown, their mystery immense. Carved into the earth by the Nazca Peoples, the exact date of their creation is impossible to pin down, but researchers believe they were made between 400-650 BCE. When standing on top of the lines, within them, it is impossible to discern the shapes of the designs, though they are figurative and quite complex. One needs the great distance and height of the surrounding foothills to see … chop! chop! read more!
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DANIEL J. ISENGART by Filip Noterdaeme Outpost19, 351 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost Because Gertrude Stein wished readers would pay more attention to the ambitious but largely unread work she considered her masterpiece, The Making of Americans, she had a tendency to knock her very popular Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Years ago, as a young fiction writer working on a master’s thesis on The Making of Americans, I sometimes identified with Stein. Here she is, in that book, wondering if her work will be read: Bear it in your mind my reader, but truly I never feel it that there ever can be for me any such a creature, no it is this scribbled and dirty and lined paper that is really to be to me always my receiver,—but anyhow reader, bear it in your mind—will there be for me ever any such a creature… listen while … chop! chop! read more!
THE FLAMETHROWERS by Rachel Kushner Scribner, 400 pages Reviewed by Chris Ludovici Early in Rachel Kushner’s occasionally frustrating but fascinating book The Flamethrowers, the protagonist sleeps with a man she’s only just met. She naively believes that her encounter with the attractive, nameless stranger is going to lead to something more meaningful, and she is more than a little disappointed to find him gone when she wakes the next morning. He leaves a mark on her, though, both by taking her virginity and also by giving her the only name we will know her by, Reno, after the city she was born and raised in. It’s a fitting name for the heroine of this novel, which is, principally, about starting over, on both an individual as well as national level. All the characters in The Flamethrowers are interested in reinvention; they ache to transcend their compromised human past into a … chop! chop! read more!
TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE by Ulli Lust translated by Kim Thomson Fantagraphics Books, 460 pages Reviewed by Tahneer Oksman Note: Lust’s memoir was edited and translated into English by comics visionary Kim Thompson, who passed away earlier this week. This book, along with countless others, is a tribute to his legacy. –T.O. Why weren’t more women dharma bums, taking trips across the country like the Kerouac’s and Cassady’s and Snyder’s of On the Road and beyond? Why weren’t more of them trekking up desolation mountains, sleeping in boxcars, bumming cigarettes and hash and old paperbacks and swigs of wine from strangers?* Ulli Lust’s thick graphic memoir, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, though set in the early 1980’s, decades after most of the beats had already burned out, and continents away – taking place in Austria and Italy – … chop! chop! read more!
THE TRANSLATOR by Nina Schuyler Pegasus Books, 352 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin I noticed, earlier this week, that my friend Cristina Vezzaro had been posting on Facebook in Dutch. This shouldn’t have surprised me. Still, I wondered, “Have you added a new language?” “I took Nederlands while in Geneva 20 years ago. I am just trying to refresh what I knew and learn it better,” she replied. Vezzaro, after all, is a literary translator, who translates novels from the original German and French to Italian; but Cristina was born multi-lingual, in a part of Italy near Germany and Switzerland, and she acquires languages as some do shoes or kitchen appliances. I’ve witnessed her almost immediate acquisition of American English, slang and all. Hanne Schubert, the protagonist of Nina Schuyler’s quietly perceptive new novel The Translator, is one such character, an expert translator of several languages with a special expertise … chop! chop! read more!
HE LOOKED BEYOND MY FAULTS AND SAW MY NEEDS by Leonard Gontarek Hanging Loose Press, 88 pages reviewed by Brandon Lafving Reading John Ashbery’s early works in college, I remember begging the poetry to make a goddamn point. My yearnings for intellectual coherence went unanswered, regardless of how much attention, how many thoughts I piled up on the poems. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts were resisted. I have often wondered since: what would happen if Ashbery were crackable? I even made a number of attempts, myself. Leonard Gontarek’s fifth book, He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs, finally answers my question. A casual reader might see in this collection – the pole-vaulting mindset, the penchant for painterly imagery, or the ability of certain, magical phrases to hold an entire universe of subjective meaning – and presume in this postmodern sepulcher of ours that there are no … chop! chop! read more!
by Rawi Hage
Norton, 304 pages
Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin
Fly, the narrator of Rawi Hage’s fabulist novel Carnival, released in the US on June 17, is a literature-obsessed taxi driver—and child of circus performers—who imagines himself a super-hero, avenging wrongs perpetrated on the vulnerable and the poor. Books—particularly the subversive kind—are his sword. One night, he picks up an arguing couple. The woman, Mary, is crying. Her husband berates her for her introverted, bookish ways. He wants some action. “I am tired of this, do you understand?” he says.
Fly flies into a rage, forces the husband out of the car, leaves him by the side of the road, and brings “sweet Mary” back to his book-stuffed apartment. “And she laughed and walked among the garden of books,” he says, “and then we took off our fig leaves and made love in the corner, where verses from heaven touched our bare, cracked asses that hopped and bounced like invading horses in the holy lands.”chop! chop! read more!
RAVEN GIRL by Audrey Niffenegger Abrams ComicsArt, 80 pages Reviewed by Amy Victoria Blakemore At eighty pages, Audrey Niffenegger’s Raven Girl goes by quickly. We meet two improbable lovers, who have an improbable child, who finds love in her own (you guessed it) improbable way. Raven Girl is undoubtedly a fairy tale, cooked up with ingredients of the genre that readers will identify early on – anthropomorphized animals, an unexpected road to a relationship, a metamorphosis of the body, an enemy, etc. What is truly new about this work may not be immediately apparent, but once we notice it, we recognize Raven Girl as both delectable and honorable—a new (and necessary) twist on an old recipe. With uncluttered, clean prose, and twenty-one well-selected drawings, Raven Girl is a humble work. White space cushions Niffenegger’s blocks of text on all sides, conveying the sensation that these pages are letters—perhaps even written by the … chop! chop! read more!
EQUILATERAL by Ken Kalfus Bloomsbury USA, 224 pages Reviewed by Chris Ludovici At its core, Ken Kalfus’s Equilateral is about communication: communication between an empire and its subjects; between visionaries and those who finance that vision; between the people who plan a task and those who realize it. And— most essentially to plot while least essentially to the narrative— Equilateral is about communication between the planets Earth and Mars. In a little over two hundred pages, Kalfus manages to tell a rich, fascinating story about our need to connect with something outside of ourselves, and our inherent limitations that keep us from doing just that. The discovery of canals on the surface of Mars has led the nineteenth century scientific community to conclude that there is indeed intelligent life on our closest celestial neighbor, setting in motion a mad scramble to be the first culture to make contact with it. In … chop! chop! read more!
DR. RADWAY’S SARSAPARILLA RESOLVENT by Beth Kephart illustrated by William Sulit New City Community Press, 190 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost When I lived in Philadelphia, I sensed its history underfoot. One pleasure of Beth Kephart’s lively new historical Philadelphia novel is the strong fit of the writer’s project and the story she tells. In Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, Kephart looks at material from the past that we might consider lost to us and demonstrates how traces of that past stay with us through research and writing. In her story of William Quinn in 1870’s Philadelphia, too, much has been lost. As fourteen-year-old William goes in search of what has been taken from his family and as he thinks about what he is missing (including a murdered brother and a father in prison), we see that a great deal of what is loved can be recovered. William internalizes his brother … chop! chop! read more!
BICYCLES AND FROG RAIN by Eric G. Müller My brother and I followed Dad to the double garage. We were about to get new bicycles – our first. Five years earlier in Basel, Switzerland, I’d loved whizzing through the neighborhood on my push-scooter. Before that I cherished my small red tricycle. While we lived in Davos, up in the Alps, our focus had shifted to sledding and skiing, and during our short stay in Cape Town we lived in the suburb of Parow where hardly anybody rode a bicycle. Here in Empangeni, Zululand it was an entirely different matter. All our school friends had bikes, and now – after waiting many months – we were about to get our own for Christmas. Dad opened the side door to the garage. “All yours! New and ready to go.” Excitement turned to disappointment as our hearts sank at the sight of two … chop! chop! read more!
BABY PICTURES by Kat Carlson We are looking at pictures of my cousin’s new baby. My cousin is nineteen. I am thirty-two. My cousin is eight months pregnant with her second child. I’m on my period. Everyone agrees that yes, it would have been better if Carly had finished college before having two babies, but my goodness, Damien is gorgeous. In every picture he’s grinning, exposing a row of short white teeth. At eleven months he already has a head full of brown curls that would resist being flattened by a wool hat. They’re so wondrous I imagine he could frolic all day in a pit of plastic balls and not one spark of static electricity would attach to them. I have been married for three years, but we’re not getting anywhere, baby-wise. Our apartment is too small and full of pointed angles. Our credit card balances are bloated. And … chop! chop! read more!
THAT SUMMER by George Dila That was the summer his partner of 54 years died, brain-stroked down to the old kitchen linoleum while he, sweating under a brutal July sun, weeded their half-acre garden. They had had their lunch, remnants of last night’s dinner, a slice of meatloaf, an ear of corn, washed down with a cold Rolling Rock. She said she would clean up. He said he needed to finish outside, just a row of tomatoes and Hungarian peppers to go, yanking out by hand the deep-rooted intruders chemicals could have killed so easily. Then, he would hose the dirt from his hands and meet her on the patio, where they would pause for a while to appreciate their life and their land, their retirement dream, sitting side by side in chairs of flimsy aluminum tubing and plastic webbing, the kind of chair that folds up into thirds, not … chop! chop! read more!
MY WRITER’S BLOCK by Kathryn Hellerstein It depends how you define writer’s block, whether or not I am experiencing it at this very moment. At sunset yesterday, as I swam my laps, I thought through this essay and decided exactly how I would start, develop, and finish it in one sitting this morning. But now it is afternoon, and the wholeness of what I’d conceived is spotty and tattered. It’s raining outside, with a rumble of thunder. I’m sure that the pool is closed. Yesterday, tracing the line at the bottom of the pool, my body inscribing it with the rhythm of strokes, kicks, and breaths, I thought that I would start out by telling that it’s been almost a year since my mother died, and that in that year, I have not written a single poem. I have had plenty to write about—the shock of her illness, the busy, … chop! chop! read more!
KEEP THE CHANGE by Jenny Wales Steele Pizza boy. Howdy. Smug leer, velvet bathrobe. Wobble of warped vinyl, glint of mellow light on it, a diva panting towards a climax. Twelve fifty, sir. Thank you. Grazie. Keep the change, beautiful pizza boy. Ciao. The vinyl hiccoughs, the woeful aria snags in a groove. The door shuts, the locks lock. This ostracized soul. This man’s furious paterfamilias gesturing across the ocean. Go, I damn you. After that incident with that cherubic urchin. Palazzo, baroque moon. This scenario, this flash fiction, in Nathan’s stewpot brain. Cheap amusement, house to house. One final delivery tonight, thin crust deluxe to yet another beigestucco house. Parked on the concrete apron in front of the garage, a customized Mustang, black, sleekaberc. Doorbell. A teengirl. Nice wheels. The teengirl sneers, Now they think I’ll behave. The house all metallic throb, the parents obviously absent. The teengirl in … chop! chop! read more!
THE PLACE OF THE RED-FOOTED ROOSTER IN THE HIERARCHY OF SENTIENT BEINGS A story from the Eleventh Year of Emperor Bunsei (1829), based on a true event by Mark Lyons I am not famous, but my rooster is immortal. I am the poor son of a poor farmer, and my station in life is to take the cows to pasture, feed the chickens and collect their eggs. On Saturdays I tie a string around the feet of my young roosters, hang them upside-down on a pole draped over my shoulders and walk the half hour from my village of Yotsuya to the market in Edo. “Guaranteed cockerels! None older than ten weeks!” I sing, as I run my fingers through their feathers. I don’t shout like the other vendors of fowl in the market. There is so much competition that I have had to learn to distinguish myself. Thus, I … chop! chop! read more!
“THE DIG” From LION AND LEOPARD (The Head and the Hand Press, October 2013) by Nathaniel Popkin Charles Willson Peale, Belfield, November 24, 1818 I woke at half past four, drank two glasses of water, and with the wind in my eyes, walked past the sleeping elk’s pen and into the barn. There, I milked the two cows, remarking to myself on the double economy of doing one’s chores oneself. It is apparent that many a gentlemen farmer, if that is how I am to be labeled, pays good money for his own idleness and sloth. It is like purchasing one’s hastened demise. The body in motion stays in motion, says Mr. Newton, the body at rest stays at rest. I don’t need to be convinced of the better alternative. I set down the bucket of milk, took a spade and a basket, and so I trudged, suppressing worry of … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Nissa Lee BEFORE GOING OUT after a painting by Fuco Ueda I. About one in every 10,000 doe-eyed girls grow horns. These rare creatures enjoy drawing lines in the dirt and leaping over them for play. When thirsty, they pause to taste wild berries— delight in their shades of purple, delight in their skins’ momentary resistance. In other girls, the horns hide just beneath the scalp. II. Until this girl sheds the woolly uniform and socks down to her cool skin nothing seems right. She itches. Her black hairs spark. III. Antlers clatter on the ground. A friend dangles her feet over the bed, deliberating which pairs make them look best. Pulse flickers at the possibility of fingertips pressed to her temples, to those bones, heavy ornaments pulled from mother’s wardrobe just for play. IV. They do not know the implications of their jewelry— the conquest, the … chop! chop! read more!
I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO SPELL SPONDYLOLISTHESIS by Mike Harper Your numb legs were just like Granny’s in her iron lung, and you folded slowly onto yourself before they put you back like expensive origami. This was when I learned what an HMO is, and what it’s like to see both mom and dad cry at the same time. This is also why you will never ride a bike, and always set off metal detectors. For a split second, you were just like Frida, mangled in your fluid paints, your snake vertebrae tempting the future like Eve Mike Harper fled to Oregon right after getting a degree in English and Comparative Literature from one of those biggish schools in Southern California. His poetry has been featured in Burningword, Dash Literary Journal, Hibbleton Independent, Lexicon Polaroid, New Verse News, Origami Condom, Verdad, and a handful of zines and chapbooks. He now lives beneath your couch, hoping you won’t look … chop! chop! read more!
DAISY by Chris Ludovici Rebecca Saunders was mean. She was the meanest girl in the fourth grade, the meanest girl in school, maybe the meanest girl ever. It wasn’t that Daisy wanted to think that way about Rebecca Saunders, or anyone else for that matter. Daisy liked to like people, her mom always said to try to see the best in everyone, and Daisy did her best to do just that. But some people… some people there was just no best to see, no matter how hard she tried. The truth was, Rebecca Saunders was a bad word. She was a word Daisy wasn’t allowed to say but that Aunt Casey said all the time. It rhymed with witch. Aunt Casey used it to describe Rebecca Saunders even though it made Daisy’s dad mad when she did. “Did that stupid little (bad-word-that-rhymes-with-witch) start anything today?” she would ask Daisy when … chop! chop! read more!
ROLLING EMPTY by Roger Leatherwood Walking home from the theatre starting at 11:40 at night, I’d be 20 minutes out when I passed the hillsides and into the canyon with the single four-lane connecting the suburbs, through the open land and sky that opens up over the far-off desert over San Diego county. Singular cars drive past, a Thursday night away from downtown. Along the incountry where the railroads laid their track a hundred years ago, freight trains still run at night through here, often a dozen cars or more running empty back to terminals in LA or farther north, in approximate echoes of the freeways traced to get the commuters to the industrial center built where the water could be piped in from the bay. Inland and away. Slow walking at night, with no buses (they’re 55 minutes apart at this time of night). To go home and only … chop! chop! read more!
DISPATCH FROM THE CAT SHOW by Jamie-Lee Josselyn Pulling into the parking lot of The Riveredge, a banquet hall in Reading, Pennsylvania, a wave of glee rushed over me. I scanned the rows of SUVs and minivans for the now-familiar “I ♥ my Persian” bumper stickers and “Show Cats on Board” placards suctioned to rear windows. And, of course, there were many variations on those popular stick figure family decals: Stick-Dad with a baseball cap, a Stick-Mom with one long curly-cue for hair and a coffee mug in hand, and no fewer than three Stick-Kitties. Sometimes a Stick-Kid or two. Sometimes just Stick-Lady (Stick-Cat-Lady?) with any number of Stick-Cats. The license plates covered the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Ontario. We made our way into the lobby, and I presented two cans of Fancy Feast to the woman at the registration table. “Oh, donations!” she said … chop! chop! read more!
DUCKPIN BOWLING WITH CAITLIN AND BUFFALO BILL
by Timothy Kenny
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
— E.E. Cummings
398px-Atomic_Duckpin_Bowling_EntranceCaitlin scoots first into our local bowling emporium (small town/duckpin only), where we are met by the same musty/mildew odor that has always greeted us, despite a new birthday-view rug that rolls colored confetti and pointed hats and noise-making horns across the floor. The old indoor-outdoor carpeting has fled, leaving dead air to hang in its place, a week-old washcloth on a sink.
We grab shoes. Caitlin slides on the polished lanes, a “watersmooth-silver stallion,” which kick-starts Buffalo Bill inside my head. The bowling guy — a high school kid, really — drops the bumpers into the gutters and we’re off: first her, then me, then she, then me, back and forth, we’re counting pins, writing down numbers, carrying ones over into the next column. A half hour later it’s the tenth frame and the final score is Caitlin 73, me 72, a dad’s duckpin-bowling miracle.
We go to pay. The gray-haired lady behind the desk who earlier handed out smooth-bottomed shoes that Velcro for convenience right off the bat tells me about the senior league that meets Monday and Thursday mornings.chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Bill Brown OPENINGS Blessed is the sick day. / Blessed are things that open / for no reason. –Lorraine Doran Let’s say a brother’s left hand opens and closes on his coffee cup. A lover’s face opens when someone enters a room. The blessed day, being sick, needs such nurturing, such openings— a crocus blossom in the snow, a door of an abandoned house, a coffin without a corpse. All open— not like a switch blade, fast and deliberate, but like a heart valve, its blood nutrient rich— so the frozen crocus will re-blossom, the abandoned house welcome stray cats and phoebes, and the coffin, as always, awaits to be filled like the blessed day waits the unexpected so long it becomes expected, a birdfeeder surprised by a chickadee that grubs the bottom for the last seed. A C-section births the next day, pulled from the night … chop! chop! read more!
THREE POEMS by Randi Ward CLOTHESLINE Thank you, gentle breeze, for reaching out to me through his indifferent sleeves. PEONIES What do honey bees and black ants discuss inside drooping peonies? SPRING Threads its jagged hook through my budding backbone— violent squalling. Randi Ward (“Peonies”, “Spring”, “Clothesline“) is a poet, translator, and photographer from West Virginia. She earned her MA in Cultural Studies from the University of the Faroe Islands in 2007. Her work has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Beloit Poetry Journal, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Cold Mountain Review, Vencil: Anthology of Contemporary Faroese Literature and other publications. For more information, please visit her website: www.randiward.com. Image credit: Randi Deuro on Flickr … chop! chop! read more!
YOU WERE GOING TO TELL ME
by R. C. Barajas
I’m sorry – you were going to tell me something shocking. I’m ready to hear it, but I may sleep instead. I know you won’t take it personally.
I’ve been listening to music. Tiptoeing across the albums of my recent youth, times so far gone they show themselves to me in crayon colors. Of late, it’s been 60s stuff, and my stereo serves up a docile, or raunchy replay of memories. Convenient, because as you’ve seen, I doze off so easily. I’m tossed back and forth from then to now without much warning. Sleeping and waking are so entirely alike that I scarcely bother to differentiate anymore.chop! chop! read more!
THEY SHARED A FISH by Eva Lomski The girl wondered if he was naked under the sheet. The young man lay on his stomach on a bed trolley positioned in the sunniest spot in the courtyard. Weeds shimmied in the cracks. The girl watched, waiting for the right moment to serve morning tea. He was on his elbows, the sheet covering his backside. Freckles splayed across his shoulders. He had a biker’s moustache and a tattoo of a snake on his forearm. The braces on his wrists resembled a street weapon. She pushed aside the sliding door. The young man’s cowboy hat didn’t move. “Coffee or tea?” She smiled. She wasn’t sure where to look, so she looked at her shoes. Calligraphy sprouted from her feet and ran into the path where it followed the cracks in the concrete. She tripped over it, but recovered and caught a bench … chop! chop! read more!
AIR CONDITIONER by Daniel Torday I recently had a difficult argument with my Aunt Lucille about turning up an air conditioner. My wife and I were staying with my aunt in Baltimore for a weekend where, after all, air conditioning was necessary in the summer. Lucille asked if I wanted her to turn up my air conditioner before bed. I said no, I didn’t like it too cold. So? she said. So, I said, I didn’t want it turned up. She stated rather forcefully that turning up an air conditioner meant making the room warmer, not cooler. “Turn up the air conditioner,” she said, as if using italics would solve the thing. I speculated it meant the opposite—to turn up the air conditioner’s powers was to make the room cooler. Not turn up the thermostat. Turn the machine up. My aunt was indignant. What kind of feckless legerdemain was this? … chop! chop! read more!
NIGHT SWEATS by Jen Karetnick They rise upon you, flood you in the neighborhood of sleep where once-solid canyons of breasts, hips, knees, parched from breath, west of age, have slipped, begun to crack. It’s not that there’s a lack of cool breezes or even air conditioning; matter of fact, it’s like you booked a room in an ice hotel, framed yourself an igloo. Still you melt, puddle, a tongue so svelte, velvet before fusing to steel, teaching you reversal, how to tread betrayal, ride luck before lightning strikes, bringing rains. Jen Karetnick is the author of three poetry chapbooks, includingLandscaping for Wildlife (Big Wonderful Press, 2012), and six other books. Her mango cookbook is due out from University Press of Florida in fall 2014. Her poems have appeared in journals including Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, The Greensboro Review, North American Review and River Styx. She works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts … chop! chop! read more!
from APOSTROPHES by Anna Strong “Hockey” This poem will be mostly about force. With one finger on my knee my science teacher tells me I can skate better than half the guys on varsity and I should really try out for the team. In class I’m called on (caught doodling) and asked which muscle group is most responsible for the slapshot and all I want to know is what happens when you give a poet a stick of gum, twenty cents, and point to the cigarette burn on your wrist? “Mouth” In my yellow room, I slipped a spare button into my cheek and held it there all through dinner. Between bits of carrot there was also button, peas and rice were also button, ice cream and spoon became button despite the cold that should have frozen all else away. I was discovered when I let it click against my … chop! chop! read more!
The girl was bored and wandered. She did not care if she was tagged, no one could force her to play. If she was It, she would not react, she would continue looking at the Wilsons’ plants, at the rows of bright flowers. She could hear her sister yelling after their neighbor. Her sister had been It for a long time. She was only a kid so could go in everyone’s yard. She spoted a stray cat and for a while tried to get it to follow her, but the cat was uninterested. She saw her neighbor running for base. Base was any large tree. The girl walked past a bunch of flowers and one of the young flowers stretched out to her and whispered, “Take me with you, my family is boring!” The girl stared, then yanked it from the ground. The other flowers were screaming. The pulled-flower cried … chop! chop! read more!
CROCODILE HANDS by Amber Lee Dodd Like blind men feeling for pictures Anna and Chloe had felt for differences in their matching faces. Eyes closed Anna could feel the little kink in the bridge of Chloe’s nose, a dimple when she smiled that she could not duplicate and lips that curved higher into a pert cupids bow. Eyes open they were identical but eyes shut they knew every variation. As children they had played their game of reflection as if an act of praise. Hours spent mirroring each other under the plastic garden table. Capturing each other’s grins, grimaces before turning to hands that mimicked and mocked each other. Two sets that touched fingertips before twisting and turning into other shapes, one hand trying to keep up with the other; hands that turned into white knuckled fists before springing back to open up into flowers petals. The fingers stretched back, … chop! chop! read more!
THE SONG IN A CLOUD by Kate LaDew Willard was always humming to himself. Whenever Tom saw him, he was humming and looking up and smiling and sometimes not smiling, sometimes looking even sad, but always humming. Tom thought Willard might be what his mother called simple and so was always very gentle when he saw him but never got very close, just in case. One day, the day after Tom had his heart broken by Elsbeth White, a girl he had known more than half his life, he saw Willard lying on the ground in the little space of grass behind Wake’s Hardware Store. Bentley Wake owned the hardware store and always kept it very clean and orderly and kept everything around it clean and orderly too. Tom was not feeling very good because of his heart. It was only the second day he felt truly aware of it … chop! chop! read more!