Friday, July 5, 2013

#93: "The Art of Killing the Birds" by Martin Cloutier


 ~This story was previously published in Natural Bridge (2011).

Jared needed to be fucked, fueled and reconfigured, but mostly, he needed to be inspired, which was why he invited Richard to his studio. While Richard wandered around his windowless loft, Jared stood by the radiator and listened to the floorboards creak. His canvases were propped against the wall, facing out, as if he was onstage and his paintings were watching him. What would they see? – these women, these figures culled together from paper and plastic, bodies jagged with industrial shapes, their natural curves forced into the right angles of credit cards and subway passes?
Collage was the best description of Jared’s work. He made large painted canvases onto which he glued scraps of paper. Any kind of paper so long as it was discarded: newspaper, paper cups, sugar packets, movie tickets. If someone threw it away, it could very well end up on one of Jared’s portraits. Women emerging from garbage: a feminist manifesto or a misogynist’s vindication. He let the viewer decide.  
            Right now his work was stalled. He hadn’t made a new piece in months. Every day he would comb the streets, picking up cigarette packs and sales receipts, examining fast food containers and wet magazines. He would bring these findings back to his studio, spread them on his work table and wait for inspiration.  
He tried to give Richard space, but eventually found himself walking a few steps behind, pretending to scrutinize. Richard put one hand on his face and scratched his stomach with the other. His belly separated the fabric of his button-down shirt; black hairs peaked out like fungus.
Richard put an arm around him. “Good stuff. Good stuff.” His wet armpit stuck to Jared’s shoulder.
Richard was a lawyer with an art history degree, not a full time dealer. He had sold a few things of Jared’s before, and even bought some of his earlier work. One of Richard’s clients was Catherine French of The French Gallery. He told himself if Richard sold a piece to French, it might jump start his creativity.

#92: Two Poems by Todd McCarty

~This poem was previously published in 580 Split: A Journal of Arts and Letters (2006).

Nancy Series, 1972

Nancy—so girl. So girl & more girl than most.
In color or black & white. Beyond charm,
Beyond ashtray or postage stamp.

Nancy—so Nancy you are. On paper,
A sexy blond. In an afro.
An afro you seem unsure of.
And not blond.

As an old Kleenex, you are Nancy.
Nancy Santo Nino de Praga.
As a ball or boy or Bright’s Disease,
Nancy of Nancy. The Nancy you are.

All of these you are, in yellow & green
Or Andre Breton at eighteen months.

Nancy—so girl.
Well hung & framed.


#91: Two Poems by Scott Wiggerman

~This poem was previously published in Southwestern American Literature (2011).

At the Paisano

            Marfa, 1955

James splashes across bathroom tiles,
steps past a pile of dusty clothes
reeking of too many takes,
and plops his damp body across the bed
that takes up most of room 223.
The bottoms of his feet cool
on the bed’s iron frame; his arms
splay as though resting on that rifle.

He glances at the radiators, the iron
desk—like a goddamn prison.
His balcony looks onto an alley.
Rock’s room looks onto the indoor pool,
where he can keep an eye on the boys.

James wishes he had one now.
A flotilla of teenage girls shrieks
every time he passes through the lobby,
inching their breasts forward in trade
for a smile or an autograph.
Not one of them can give him
what he needs.  Sal would like to,
but he didn’t even rate a room
at the Paisano—goddamn Hollywood
hierarchy, even in this shithole town.

He lights a cigarette, takes in a long drag,
laughs at how Liz calls them fags.
He thinks of the hired hand
who has been teaching him how to lasso—
real hat, real boots, no need for wardrobe.
Those calloused cowboy hands,
those sun-crinkled eyes.
His hips stiffen.  His star rises.
Ride, cowboy, ride.


#90: "After a Stroke, My Mother Examines a Picture of the Icon of Our Lady of Guadelupe" by Tom Daley

~This poem previously appeared in Rhino (2011).

After a Stroke, My Mother Examines a Picture of the Icon of Our Lady of Guadelupe

Lady, why is your countenance
the color of vole feet
draggling from the jaws of a cat?
What tribe of mud daubers
stung stars onto your mantle?
Who names the fumbles
that topple from your breasts?

Your counterspell blunts
the jagged crescent
of every campesino’s
charmed and smoldering scythe.

Your spooled mouth waits to unfurl
the ticker tape of your vow.
In torchlight, your eyebrows
fly to heaven on thin wings of soot.
Only the moon survives
the crush of your heel.

Virgin of Guadelupe, I pray for your handshake,
I pray for your ribs, I pray for your hips,
the ones tugged dry
while expelling that bountiful head
ordained to gnaw
all the hangnails of history.

Steer me, Lady, through the lightning
that browns the mountains.
Drown the infections
that flush my cough into a gargle.
Virgin, who never burned a supper,
strip me of strangles, grizzles,
knots, of scratched jazz
skipping the shadows
out of my sleep.

Princess of the Aztecs,
thread my poncho with roses this winter
that I might adorn that tomb slab
where even cayenne would cool,
where your son’s brain was looted
of its chemical salves,
and where his feet, which stretched the sea
smooth as a conga head,
refused to rest
at right angles to the ground.

Kiss me, mother of Mexico’s hope—
your little mouth
is still rusty with smoke.


#89: Two Poems by Bryce Emley

~This poem was previously published in Hawai’i Review (2012).


Every year the same grey resides here,
bleeds out of headstones
and coats the dusk like dust.
The tenant’s pickup has never looked brighter.

It’s your deathday again,
the anniversary of your passing,
your expiration date,
your deathiversary,

and again I’m squatting here,
a month late, eye-to-eye
with your granite epitaph.

For the fifth time in five years
I paint the portrait of your
’97 Chevy Lumina nestled
in a tree: tires slowing,

body, smoke, and glass
settling in the grass.
I display this great disasterpiece
in the cedar frame of imagination

I often confuse with memory
and hold it there a while,
admire it like a music box
until I notice the burning

in my bent knees
or the acupuncture of wind
pricking through the sweater I’ve worn
too thin for November.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

#88: "In the Lions' Den" by Michelle Cacho-Negrete

 ~This essay was first published--in slightly different form--in The Sun Magazine (2000).
This is how it begins: a friend, an assistant district attorney, calls and offers me a position as co-facilitator of a batterer education program.
“We’re looking for a feminist who’s worked in shelters and won’t be taken in by male bullshit.  I thought you’d be perfect for the job.” Her voice is blithe, as though she’s asked if I want to meet for dinner.
“Me?” I say.
“Yeah. We want a woman who’s not afraid to be confrontational but who can also project enough warmth to be liked.”  She laughs wryly.  “If such is possible.”  She continues in an upbeat voice. “It won’t pay much, but it’ll be something extra to get your kids through college.” She waits. 
Outside the half-open door of my office in the adolescent unit of the local psychiatric hospital, children mill noisily around the nurse’s desk.  She warns them to speak softly and their voices drop, except for the whine of a boy who complains about his loss of radio privileges.
“Quiet down,” the nurse says, irritation rasping at the edge of her voice like a file.
            I decide that, in the supervision group I run for nurses, I’ll ask about what irritates them most and elicit group comment on how to handle it.
I cradle the phone on my shoulder, turn towards the window and rest my arms on the desk.  It’s spring and the sky is brilliant.  There’s no shade in the parking lot and cars shimmer hazily like a mirage.  I’ve been at the hospital for a year and still haven’t decided whether or not I like the job.  I do know, however, that I don’t like my ambivalence.  Now I’m being offered still something else that I feel ambivalent about.