All soldiers all soldiers all soldiers have a similar strength a storm of unyielding wholesome good like an apostle oathed to a firmness courageous and this common to all soldiers and yet
Frenzied and unnatured partners spewing bullets each each in fast fast motion momentous in torsion of spirit and body mostly it was a knocking and a red mist and a leaving and an empty boot
The courageous man marvels that he owes no debt no longer sees dark dangers as a blur no more rising with his cohorts to contend with the cruel and the quorum of the dead
But inasmuch as he tries to live now he tries but he knows the music he listens to is not really playing his mind is not alive but just pretending a windowed machine without moving parts
And now all errands become a dream about the ruinous blaze and a sight that is not a sight overtakes him birds not singing only screaming shrill and the chemicals rise like a descendent dread and the collusion of horror and time has reached its head
Here we see the concision of conscious in medical circles we call that anomalist resistance and nonchalance a sinister state wherein joys grow dimmed all senses quenched no aim for hope or aid a dire sigh
How do we get here this segue in the search for meaning for meaning does not always come searching for you after all Moses glowed when the LORD appeared unto him a ruddy shine but you are no Moses
A terrible beauty and confusion at what all belongs here and there and where is everyone how does this happen and no matter what happens this has all been too long a sacrifice
When he returns the courageous man marvels that all freedom ekes away though that is what he fought for those years in the desert place full of spiders now at home everything is still and still and still
-the lines of Rene Char, from the translations of Mary Ann Caws
I love and I sob, I am living
I hurt and I am weightless
As I approach I depart
I leave you nothing to think
Praise, praise, we have come to terms with ourselves
The Sorgue enshrined me
beneath the humus of those powdery strides
I was raised amongst wood fires, next to embers
I hid among reeds under the care of creatures strong as oaks and sensitive as birds
I was one of those forests where the sun has no access
River of regard for dreams, river that rusts iron
where free pain is under the quick of the water
The clover of passion is iron in my hand
The earth loved us a little, I remember
The blade of his song closed the bed of sorrow
It held us amorous on the all-powerful arch of its imagination
The poet has returned for a long span of years into the naught of the father
The poet quickens, then races to the outcome
an extreme and compact fortune is our mountain range
Nothing any longer has name, except the shudder. It is night
far away a bed lies patient and trembling in the exile of its fragrant covers
I am a block of earth reclaiming its flower
Some put their trust in a round imagination
I would place my sleep at the disposition of the true night
My bed is a torrent with dried-up banks
Even in the midst of morning and our frenzy
quite heedless of an adventure
I lull the tender-eyed lightning to sleep
counterpoint of the void in which
the unnameable Beast
marks the moving of interwoven certainties
I heard the slither of the fearful grass-snake
The serpent sows
No one lives in space more narrow than he
amid his bloodstream’s briar-brake
Certain beings have a meaning that escapes us
Woman sleeping in flower pollen, lay lightly in his pride your frost of limitless medium
until the shoulders butt the heart
Thus he would start again until
in their narrow hands I read the joust of these stars calling others
He challenged her, went straight for her heart, like a boxer
We don’t believe in the good faith of the victor
They try to break away from stones too wise, too warm
O the exhausted motion of her diction!
The space she traverses is my faithfulness
Love, the equal of terror
From the darkness of the rock to
this child on your shoulder
Worlds of eloquence have been lost
Go one, we endure together; and together, although separate
What fear on our lips tomorrow?
___________________________________________ Adam Palumbo is a poet-critic from Annapolis, MD. His research includes rigorous people-watching, too many hours on his computer, and wearing sweatpants in the kitchen. He reads a lot and writes a little. He has published poetry at The Northern Virginia Review and St. Katherine Review and poetry reviews at The Rumpus, PANK, and Rattle
Timmy’s strengths as a sales associate at Best Buy were few: he was a terrible liar, he couldn’t upsell for shit, and when a young couple walked into the electronics department with a baby, instead of saying “What a cute baby! Were you interested in hearing our specials on a plasma or flat-screen TV today?” he’d say “What a cute baby! Was this pregnancy planned?”
Management kept him on because he took pay cuts gracefully and met his quota. Beyond that, Timmy was a warm body with a name tag who took up two parking spaces in the parking lot, not because he drove a monster truck, but because he could not park for shit, and was usually late to work, screeching in at the last minute with Talking Heads blaring from the Pioneer Premium 6” x 9” four-way car speakers he’d purchased with the generous Best Buy employee discount of ten percent.
His only friend at work was Raphael, ethnicity unknown, starting date at Best Buy also unknown, though it was rumored to be in the late 60s, when Best Buy went by the name Sound of Music. Raphael worked odd hours stocking shelves.
“Best Buy,” said Timmy to Raphael one day at closing, while reading the day’s sales report. “What a joke. Best Fry, more like it.” Raphael considered this.
“Lest You Die,” he said.
“Nowhere near catchy, bud,” said Timmy.
“Don’t Ask Why. Buster Buy?”
“Don’t quit your day job to name franchises,” said Timmy. “That’s for damn sure.”
“Fuck you,” said Raphael.
“Aren’t you named after an angel of God? Now that’s funny, with your mouth.”
Timmy and Raphael began to tussle, throwing unopened rolls of register tape at each other until Sandy, the floor manager on Mondays and Fridays, got on the intercom. “One more headache from either one of you losers and you’re both splitsville.”
“Don’t worry,” said Raphael, after a few minutes passed. “They’ll never fire me. I’m the black box. I know shit I don’t even know that I know. And if you’re let go, they’ll send you last week’s pay in the mail. It’s the law. To top it off you live with your folks, right? Hey, no shame in that. But if you lost your job, you wouldn’t miss a mortgage payment. That shit’s serious. They take your house now. They will. Hey mister. Meet street. Boom. Just like that. So relax.”
The following day was uneventful, as was the day after that. Then came Friday.
“TGIF!” exclaimed Sandy in the warehouse behind the store, where Timmy was doing inventory at 9 a.m. “God, I love Fridays. Any fun plans this weekend?”
“I might buy a pit bull,” said Timmy.
“Pit bulls are so nice,” said Sandy. “Really, they’re just genetically programmed to be vicious, with the right training. Or the wrong training, if you’re not into dog fighting. I know I’m not. I think it’s terrible. Those poor puppies! Once I saw a man calling to this little pit bull from across the lawn, ‘here girl, here girl,’ and the poor puppy was trying to make her way to her owner, and the owner had a brick tied around the little guy’s neck, so all she could do was like inch over to him. Did I say little guy? I meant little bitch, as in female dog. God, it was so fucking horrible! Those people are sick! Cock fighting too! All of it.” She paused to examine her fingernails. “You’re the worst salesman we have, Timmy,” she said. “All-time worst, in fact. But you’re kind of cute.”
Timmy looked up, notepad in hand.
“You’re blushing! God, you are cute. See you on the floor!” She danced out Salome-style, but without the sex appeal. Timmy dug his fingernails, long for a man, into the palm of his hand, the one not carrying the notepad, with the intention of drawing blood, but when he left the warehouse the only evidence of his frustration was a dark pink half-moon shaped indentation on his free palm. Fucking HOE, he thought. I’m a loser? She’s the loser to end all losers. She’s the lamest loser Best Buy has ever seen. She’s—his reverie was interrupted by the day’s first customer, seen on the video camera that monitored the entrance door, conveniently installed in the break room for slackers.
“Go get ‘em tiger,” said John, without emotion. John dusted things. His official title included the clause “theft prevention.” He came in once or twice a week.
The first customer of the day said he was looking for a vanity dressing table for his daughter’s sweet sixteen. “We have three models to choose from,” said Timmy. “Right this way.” On the way over to the vanities Timmy asked “What’s your daughter’s name? Judith?” The customer, a bit on the touchy side, was offended by Timmy’s line of questioning, and asked to speak with a manager. “I am the manager,” said Timmy. He’d always wanted to say that. He’d always found it very unfortunate that he was not in fact the manager, and would probably never be, not in his lifetime.
“I don’t believe you,” said the man. “No company would ever let a flunkey like you manage their store.” He took off for customer service, Timmy hot on his trail.
“Sandy, I can explain,” said Timmy, the moment she arrived after being paged. She listened first to the customer’s side of the story, then to Timmy’s (“I was just trying to make conversation! It’s a long haul from kitchen appliances to bedroom furniture!”), then pointed (this was the moment she had always dreamed of) to the sign above the customer service desk: “The Customer is Always Right, Even When They’re Not.”
“If I don’t fire you, Timmy,” she said, while the customer stewed several feet away, “I’ll get fired. No hard feelings? You have my number? Don’t be a stranger!”
Timmy threw his name badge in the waste bin behind the desk. “He’s not a customer! He didn’t even buy anything! He’s just a shopper! And that’s not a waste bin, by the way,” he said. “It really annoyed me that you called that thing a waste bin. It’s not a waste bin. It’s not a garbage receptacle. It’s a trash can, Sandy.”
“Bye bye,” she said, waving her tiny hand. It was then that Timmy noticed Sandy’s wedding ring.
“You’re married? Who’s sick now Sandy? Flirting with me in the warehouse? The fucking warehouse? It’s so dark in there! Anything could happen! I could scre—”
“The cops are holding on line three,” she said.
Timmy read with no small degree of exultation the following week in the local newspaper that the “B” on the “Best Buy” sign, improperly fastened, had fallen off mid-day, narrowing missing smashing the cranium of Norma Katz, an incoming customer, who promptly sued the store for thousands of dollars, citing the untold pain and suffering that results from a near-death experience.
“New horizons,” said Timmy’s mother Rosalie that evening, on the family’s screened-in porch. “Your whole life is ahead of you! You’re only thirty-five years old. Thirty-five is young, Timmy. It’s the new twenty-five! I read that somewhere, I did. You could go back to school for nursing, that’s a hot profession, hot meaning lucrative, not sexy—oh, Timmy don’t give me that look. I know how you young people talk. What do you call getting together with a lady friend? Hooking up? Now what’s that look? Am I embarrassing you? Well, give nursing some thought. That or real estate.”
“I’m opening my own business,” said Timmy. “Coffee.”
“Don’t coffee shops get their coffee from sub-saharan Africa? They give those people peanuts in exchange for their labor, Timmy. The tea, too. The tea trade might be even more exploitative. And diamonds—did you know that every diamond is covered, figuratively speaking, in blood? Same with microchips. Both are dripping in blood, sweat and tears, from those miners. I only buy man-made gems now. All the Hollywood stars do. There’s this lab in Wisconsin that manufactures them—”
“My business is called Starfux,” said Timmy.
“I beg your pardon? Is that German?”
“Yeah. It’s German for Fuck You, capitalist imperialism.”
“Are you reading Marx again? Because when you do you always start talking like this, and I have a feeling you’re misquoting him anyway, not that I would know. I went to a trade school, not one of these fancy liberal arts schools that are all the rage. Your father’s monthly debt payments to Colgate for your education are obscene, for a four-year degree in anthropology nonetheless. A lot of good that degree did you! Women of my generation were encouraged to study something practical, like stenography.”
“I took out a small business loan yesterday,” said Timmy. “We open shop next month, right across from you-know-who.”
“Me and Raphael.”
“You’re too young to have enemies, especially corporate enemies on the NASDAQ. Besides, that company is known for being good to its employees! I think they even get dental insurance. Who is this Raphael fellow? Someone from Colgate?”
“Yeah. A trustee.”
“I’m sure. So, a businessman. Let me practice. ‘I’d like you to meet my son, Timothy Walters the Third.’ ‘And what does Timothy do?’ ‘Timothy is a businessman. He owns his own store, right in Fairfax.’” Rosalie took a deep breath then reached for her cigarettes. “I like the way that sounds,” she said, lighting up. “I think I can live with this. But why coffee?”
“Process of elimination. It was either Jerk It City, a new electronic superstore, Cockbuster, a new video store, or Raples, a new office supply store. An independent coffee store requires the least capital.” Rosalie blew a series of smoke rings.
“Wait until your father gets wind of this. I’m going to need a long vacation just to cope with your anti-American hatred and defiance. Raples? Are you really my child? I just saw a special on people who were accidentally given to the wrong parents at birth. Happens all the time.”
On opening day, Timmy’s mother and her friend Suzanne sailed in at half past 10:00. A little nonplussed that his mother was his first customer, but glad for the business, Timmy put on his best owner-who-gets-his-hands-dirty smile.
“What’ll it be, ladies?” Suzanne put a twenty on the counter.
“I’ll have a grande mocha java with extra whipped cream.”
“We call those ‘biggies’ here.”
“Fine. And whatever Rosalie wants.” She turned to Rosalie and winked. “That alimony check arrived not a minute too soon. I told my attorney for months garnishing Cheston’s wages was the only way. ‘Let’s play nice, Suzanne,’ he said. Play nice! You don’t play nice with sleazeballs, especially ones who leave their family in the lurch for a skanky 20-year old exotic dancer who probably has ten children of her own—”
“Here you go,” said Timmy. He turned to his mother. “And for you, ma’am?”
“Ma’am? I birthed you!” The bell jangled and in walked a pair of teenagers in Goth attire. “A small coffee, extra sugar,” said Rosalie.
“That young lady looks malnourished,” Rosalie said loudly while she and Suzanne combed the small café for a table. “And pale. Have you ever seen such a pale young lady?” Timmy excused himself from taking the next order to follow Rosalie and Suzanne to their seats.
“You forgot to take a brochure,” he said. The women sat down and Rosalie began reading aloud. “Welcome to Starfux! Here at Starfux we believe that Corporate America has successfully destroyed the American Dream, which in today’s capitalistic, hyper-litigious society is inseparable from purchasing power and informed consumer choices. The constituent/customer has been drugged into believing that—”
“Wait,” said Suzanne, “are you making that up?”
“I wish I was,” said Rosalie. “Thank God I’m almost to the end.”
“Of the first flap! Rosalie! Your son is a flaming liberal! Does he support gay marriage? Is that the last flap? This is so bad. This is worse than bad. Oh my god. Keep reading.”
“The constituent/consumer has been drugged into believing that free-market capitalism gives corporate monopolies a government-legislated right to gobble up small businesses like Pac-Man—”
“Pac-Man? Wouldn’t that be Pac-Men?”
“Take notes, Suzanne. Write that one down. ‘Like Pac-Man, and deny your average hard-working middle-class citizen the opportunity to choose between supporting a local business and buying into the mass corruption of corporate monopolies, who export goods from Third-World countries, paying laborers nothing resembling honest wages for their exported goods, and pay minimum wage to domestic workers with jobs titles like “greeter” and “stocker” to create their employee base and run pernicious outfits such as Wal-Mart, because there are no other factories or businesses in town for which a person with minimal or no education can seek employment.’”
“Is that it?”
“Of the front flap, yes. I’m scared to open it.”
“Don’t. I wouldn’t. Thank god my kids went to a state school. Is Colgate where he picked up this, this, I don’t even know what this is. This is outrageous. I love Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has the best deals on everything! And I don’t have to run around town for hours in a hot car—okay, I have AC, it’s not hot on the inside, but it sure is hot on the outside—picking up toothpaste from one store and frozen chicken wings from another! It’s brilliant! That’s why Timmy’s so upset. The corporate model is brilliant.” She leaned in closer. “Do you know how much he charged me for this mochachino? $3.75, Rosalie. Do you know how much his competitor charges? $3.55. You call this extra whipped cream? A measly dribble of some nasty soy-derivative is what I call it.”
“It melted, Suzanne. Can’t you see how it got stirred in with the rest of your yummy drink? Think what you will about my son’s politics, but don’t insult his product. This is good product. This coffee—” she paused to take a deep swig—“this might be the best coffee I’ve ever had. Shade-grown beans right from Guatemala. Furthermore, I taste happy labor in this drink. I taste freedom, well-fed families, and legal, above-board transactions between grower and buyer. They probably export this coffee on big Delta airplanes flown by no-nonsense pilots. Delta, or United Air—what do you want to bet? Should I ask him?”
“You tell your son that his little social experiment is having an adverse effect on this particular—what did he call me? Constituent/consumer?—this particular woman. This ‘outfit’ of his makes me want to take a road trip in my foreign-made car to my local Mickey D’s for a Big Mac, or make a run for the border to my local Taco Bell—”
“Taco Hell,” said Rosalie. “Taco Hell! That’s so funny! I just made that one up myself. I hope I did, at least. I’ve never been very witty. Though Cliff tells me—”
“Bell, hell, who cares. My point is that this place is doomed. Mark my words.” Suzanne slung her purse over her shoulder. “You coming?”
“Yes, but not because I’m unimpressed by my son’s venture. This takes guts, Suzanne. That’s more than I can say for your son. What is Tyler? A paralegal? Working under your ex-husband?”
“Get thee to a temp agency,” hissed Suzanne, to Timmy, on her way out. In the parking lot, she turned to Rosalie. “I had a lovely morning,” she said. “You should be very proud.” With that she got into her SUV, and left.
Rosalie climbed into her Park Avenue with difficulty, shut the door, and began sobbing, slumped over the wheel.
For two straight months, sales at Starfux went through the roof. Raphael proved to be more tactful, so he manned the register, while Timmy sat in the back office thinking about the big picture (a second location, comfier chairs). After a lengthy interview process they brought on one part-timer, a lanky teen named Torrance, and received press from local television stations, whose reporters were more amused by their assignment than the viewers were of the store’s existence, but most residents were so shocked by Starfux’s audacity that they checked out the café themselves, at least once. A graphic designer Timmy knew from college helped them create a corporate logo, business cards, and a website; when they added free Wi-Fi to their list of amenities, several techies who spent hours at the competitor’s café made the switch. Even Sandy stopped in with her husband, buying two lattes and a pound of coffee.
“If only you had shown this much initiative at Best Buy!” said Sandy. “I didn’t tell you this at the time of your dismissal, but I receive incentives for reporting employee misconduct such as stealing, and that includes stealing company time through laziness, even though that’s kind of an abstraction. Time, I mean, not laziness. So I thought I would get bonus bucks for firing you, but it turns out behaving disrespectfully to customers or even making sexual innuendos—that’s what that customer thought you were doing, trying to get his daughter’s phone number—is totally cool. I mean, it’s not cool, but you don’t get bonus bucks for reporting it. I wish I knew that then. You’d still be with us, sharing your amazing marketing skills and putting customers in their places! Because you were right when you said he was just a shopper and not a customer, but I had my managerial hat on, and I can’t very well agree with you with that hat on.”
“You didn’t have a problem propositioning me with that hat on,” said Timmy.
“Propositioning you? Are you crazy?”
“Say that again, to my wife,” said the husband. “I dare you. Say it again.” Sandy put her hand on her husband’s bicep.
“It’s nothing, Hank. Just a misunderstanding. He’s young! He’s so young. He doesn’t have a clue. Look, he dyed his hair blue, just at the tips! He’s a baby. Come on. Let’s go.”
Hank placed a call to the local health inspector, who paid a visit to Starfux the following day; the store was forced to close temporarily while further inspections of hand towels were conducted. Raphael, who had a mortgage payment to worry about, caved in at week three to return to Best Buy; Sandy took him back with open, gloating arms.
“I told you son, you can’t just go around thumbing your nose at institutions that put bread on the table for thousands of Americans,” Cliff said to Timmy, after several drinks at their home on the evening of Raphael’s resignation.
“Corporate conglomerates aren’t institutions, dad. They’re the devil’s workshop.”
“Do you enjoy alienating yourself from the rest of society? Do you get a high? Because to tell you the truth, this venture has not been easy on your mother and me. You should come to work with me one of these days and see the guilty looks on the faces of my co-workers when I walk into a room after they’ve been speaking slanderously about my family. Your mother gets it too, little snickers at the grocery store and the post office. Forget about me. But your mother has a fragile constitution, Timmy. She’s bi-polar, which is a serious medical condition. One minute she’s singing in the kitchen, fa la la and all that, the next she’s holding a cleaver to my throat. How old is my secretary? How short are her skirts? I’m concerned your little guerilla war will send her over the edge, and no one knows what goes on over the edge, Timmy, except those unlucky persons who are already there. The loonies. Do you know where the loonies live? In the loony bin with other loonies. They play checkers all day and think up ways to give it to the man, which come to think of it, sounds a lot like your average work day. Am I right? Tell me, am I right? Are you a certifiable loony?”
“Signed, sealed, delivered.”
“Oh, you really are a piece of work. No shit. Well, here’s to you,” said Cliff, raising his glass and clinking Timmy’s. “Here’s to you and your spectacular bull-shit. Let’s just hope your mother can keep it together. Me? I kind of like the excitement. At my age, you tend to run into one problem, in all areas of your life, and that problem is called same old, same old. Do you know what I’m saying Timmy?”
Timmy had his ins, too. Within a week the local indie rag ran a front-page story on the undercover investigation they’d conducted of the investigation conducted by the Fairfax health department. Within a week, a second health inspector drove in from Roanoke to conduct his own investigation, and found Starfux to be in perfect adherence to all sanitation health codes. The indie paper got a picture of the second health inspector presenting Timmy with his clean bill of health and buying a coffee before driving back to Roanoke. Starfux reopened the next day and sales resumed, if shakily.
Within six months Timmy had courted and eloped with a trophy indie café bride, a former hippie named Margot with dreadlocks, and sales, thanks to Margot’s business acumen—she’d managed a bagel cart in college—continued steadily for the next year.
When Margot divorced Timmy that summer, citing irreconcilable differences, and financial irresponsibility, Timmy was disconsolate, and called Sandy for advice.
“Feel your loss,” she said. “Feel it! Allow yourself to grieve, but only for one month, and privately. What if I had been more communicative, what if I had been more romantic, just wallow in self-pity like a pig in shit, then get back in the game.”
“It’s not Margot I’m calling about. It’s the store.”
“I thought the store was doing well.”
“We have our crowd. But the crowd is getting on my nerves. I didn’t open the store to make some grand royal statement. Counter-culturalism is its own closed system. And it invites a certain, how should I put this, coterie.”
“So what? Do you think I like every shopper that comes in my store? Some of them are probably convicted felons! You can’t afford to be picky. I don’t care if you’re black, purple, or yellow, money is one color and that color is green.”
“Most of my customers pay with a credit card, Sandy. Credit cards aren’t green. When I made noise about a five dollar minimum, sales dropped twenty percent.”
“Fuck those assholes. You gotta have a minimum. If not, you’re just paying someone to stab you and watch you bleed.”
“You should give seminars.”
“Hank’s on a business trip this week, Timmy. I miss you.”
“How convenient. You are crazy. I knew it.”
“Timmy, what’s your ultimate dream?”
“To open a second store. Then a third.”
“What if I told you I could make that happen?”
“I would say you’re lying to me so I’ll fuck you.”
“Satisfying love-making can do a lot for a person, Timmy.”
“I’m not coming over.”
“Maybe not tonight. But you will. You’ll get hungry. You’re hungry now. I can hear it in your voice.”
“That’s fatigue you’re hearing. I’ve slept about ten hours this week, total.”
“Good luck opening that second store. But you’re going to need more than luck. That’s all I’m saying, Timmy. I know people who know people.”
Timmy thought it over, hard, for a month, and decided not to risk being blown apart with a shotgun by Hank for what was quite likely a bribe with nothing to back it up except a night at the Red Roof with a cougar. Starfux closed shop within the year, whether due to Timmy’s lagging enthusiasm or dwindling sales, no one knew, not even Timmy. The indie rag that enabled Timmy to stay in business ran a front-page spread: Starfux: Just a Dream?
A period of conflicted mourning ensued, during which no one in Fairfax patronized any café, instead making specialty drinks with their expresso makers from Bed Bath and Beyond in the privacy of their homes. A rumor spread about Timmy opening a retail outlet called J. Spew, which Timmy put to rest with a public statement: “To everyone who patronized, even once, Starfux, the now-defunct All-American anti-establishment café on Nelson Street, which thrived commercially for nearly two years: thank you for exploring not just the unique offerings of my business—which included homemade Danish scones and not just ten but fifty cents off a large drink by answering, not a trivia question, but a question about international trade law, correctly—but the greater gift of heightened civil liberties that you realized by exercising your freedom of choice, a liberty not tantamount in power to the freedom of speech, but commensurate therewith. I am exercising one half of that inextricable freedom—the speech part—today, and wish everyone, including I pledge allegiance to the drivel I’m spoon fed daily just to feel I have one foot in the oh-so-precious status quo drones, all the best.”
Sandy called Timmy the next day. “You’re an elitist asshole, but you’re also broke and jobless. That’s priceless! Your public statement turned me on, by the way. On fire.”
With nothing to lose but his life, Timmy and Sandy made plans to meet at a nearby love-shack. Within minutes of arriving in separate cars, they copulated profusely. “Don’t ask me to leave Hank,” Sandy said suddenly during a smoke break, covers pulled to her chin. Timmy laughed.
“Who says I even want to see you again?”
“I am not my body. No, I’m more than my body.”
“That mind over matter reasoning doesn’t last forever. Wait until you’re my age. Wait until gravity—”
“How old are you, Sandy?”
“46, a woman’s prime. How old are you?”
“Welcome to the real world, honey. It’s about time.”
–––––––– Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the Believer, Best New Poets, Boston Review, and The New Republic, among other places, and her fiction in Joyland and StoryQuarterly. She lives in Chicago, where she is a PhD student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
we’re going on a poetry moratorium because the poems are dead to us now… no, not really, but there are a lot of submissions we’ve got and the backlog is big, so we have to wait awhile before we can begin accepting poems again. the submissions were really fine this year. so fine that we might be pushed back until next january ish in terms of our publishing schedule. that’s a good thing. you ladies and poems are mighty fine. in terms of spirit, i feel heavy and filled with love. the universe overflows with half-drunk unicorns mounted by the ghost of federico garcia lorca– and the ghost of garcia lorca, mounted by russel edson’s ape. love, jake (poems)
Remembering a conversation this year at AWP, after we’d found the liquor store around the corner…
Them: Hey, what do you think about book trailers?
Drew: I think they’re stupid. Props for books ashamed that they’re books.
Them: Oh… well…
Drew: Books are paper, they’re text on pages, magnificent things, the best of all media, why the fuck are we gonna pretend they’re not that? The interaction between a person and the book is an intimately personal and unique thing — it’s their brain, the interaction between that person and that book is a unique experience, the words producing entirely individual images in the mind of that one reader, and only there. Why the fuck would we want to mess with that, to preemptively impose any kind of visual structure, minimize and cheapen what is probably the most sacred part of the reader’s experience?
Drew: Sorry. I got me some opinions on stuff. You want some bourbon? There’s a store just around the corner. Shit’s expensive. Who are you guys with? What do you do?
Them: We do book trailers…
Drew: I guess this is the part where I say “Well… this is awkward…”, isn’t it?
Our friends at H_NGM_N have a new issue here.
Steve Roggenbuck reads for us at the Black Spork (Black Ocean/Spork) reading for Mission Creek Fest, Iowa City.
Amelia Gray reads for us at the Black Spork (Black Ocean/Spork) reading for Mission Creek Fest, Iowa City.
Accidentally said Colin’s book was Animal Collective instead of Animal COLLECTION in a mass mail. Was the hipster inside, making its way outside, through the fingers. Sorry Colin. Love, Jake
The external hard drive containing the archive of everything we’ve done since we started caught fire today. I mention this because maybe you’ll click on a link somewhere on our site and you’ll see a bunch of garbled mess rather than the text you were expecting to see. I went to retrieve the original text to fix these glitched pages, and then, as I said, there was fire. I stripped the drive from the housing, and it appears undamaged, the thing powers on and spins up… so maybe it’s just a matter of getting a new housing for it, or maybe it’s a matter of getting some pro-type so-and-so to retrieve the information on the disk, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to salvage what we need to salvage and then I’ll be able to get the glitches handled.
Also. We’ve changed the way shipping works when you order books from us. It’s now based on weight rather than the weird and wacky whatnot we had going before where you could order 10 copies of a book and pay just the one shipping charge, or order two different books and pay two shipping charges… this mostly didn’t make any difference to anyone, since the books are mostly purchased one at a time. This way’s better.
Those errors and glitches I was talking about, they’re on the pages for the stuff from our physical issues. Which are accessible via that link on the page that’s been sitting dead for way too long. Issue 9.1 still needs to be added to the pile, which will happen damn soon, but it’s the everything else that really matters. Like Issue 4.1. That one’s fan-fucking-tastic. And there’s 4.3, which our buddy Kevin Sampsell edited for us. It’s all up there, it’s all pretty damn good. And it’s easily accessible once again.
———- Casey Hannan lives on Horse Streetand you should, too. Here’s an excerpt from a new interview up at Necessary Fiction.
\\\Do you have a favorite story in the collection? If so, what is it and why?
I don’t have a favorite. Spiders don’t have favorite legs. The stories in Mother Ghost function better together, which is why they’re together.
But if you said you were going to erase one of the stories, I guess I’d beg you not to erase “Horse Street.” There are some lines in there I still can’t believe I wrote. ///
Hearty call-out to Anthony Spaeth, the man who wrote “Aliens” for us. Check out his new book of stories The Reasons for My Alias, now out on Wrong Way Press. Find it on the Amazons & elsewhere.
In other news, we have patches and stickers. Join our crew.
You can buy a book and a patch for $15 (includes shipping). And, as always, stickers are free.
There’s books we’re telling you that you can have now. We say this late at night because we made books and then we went to Boston and then we sold all the books and then we came home and made more books and we’re making more books, and so the late night saying is in hope for the slow creep of information, the slow creep creeping in such a way that the pace of want does not outstrip the pace of the making. A stupid hope, probably, but we do what we can. These books are
Both are 10 bucks, like always, and both have the same aesthetic thing going on with Mr. Shuta’s designs, Mr. Burk’s insistence on maintaining the consistent interiors (outside keying off old kids’ books, inside thinking it wanna be like 60s-time Daedalus). But with the insistence on the sameyness why the different format page for these books? Why their own pages, and where are the covers? I don’t know. Errythan different. Sometimes. We’re gonna make, as well, available, our new special anthology, SIMULACRUM, consisting of our favorites from the online poetry from 2012, and last year’s CONSUMPTIVES, the fiction anthology compiled by Joel, for AWP Chicago, which we’re deciding to make available.
A very Gimme-my-fucking-coffee and a Here’s-your-fucking-coffee kind of town, and it appealed, that aspect, that thing about them, it was appealing. The Dunkin part of it is what I’m saying, which if we do things in terms of frequency and density is probably I’m thinking a good measure. Each Dunkin its own mirror of its surroundings and people and in each one I’d think This Is Where I Am. And they’d give me my fucking coffee and I’d get on a train or keep walking or go back to selling books or whatever; and we don’t need to say it because it’s said all the time and is I think probably the reason for it and its appeal and purpose, but then Starbucks and you walk in and you’re everywhere, anywhere. Had I wanted to be in Tucson or California or just not-Boston I just had to go to Starbucks. Already I’ve tested my Dunkin hypothesis even though I’m barely home, and yes, there’s the Central African refugee Dunkin, and there’s the Dunkin with the side of posole and menudo and they do not make me think Boston or anywhere but where I am, where I am then. If the coffee were not uniformly bad across both chains I could infer maybe or observe maybe or allow the unformed or sub-something to decide for me—but preferable I think that proximity alone decides, followed by price when proximity in multiples forces choicemaking.
Near and often hard upon each, regardless, so often were books. Often more than just one shop, multiple shops, which, if my plane had run out of gas and I was still there, I wouldn’t be asking with any real enthusiasm for change.
And we were lost so often, and I was the only one not annoyed by that. Moss and stone and the verylong dead clustering the infrastructure, and the marsh and the small and here we’re all sides surrounded by desert and we carry our guns and we pay for our prisons with our education moneys and there’s like five or six of us here and this is the place to work. This is the good place to work. We go back to the desert because there’s nothing, nothing for us here and we’ve got so much work to do. We are never lost here, in the desert, because there is no here, there is no lost, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do so there’s no need for directions, no cab no train and the buses run but they run in long circles for when we need to feel like maybe we’re going somewhere.
New Poems To Dance To by B.J Love. Sweet. And also, AWP. I’ll be live tweeting about my imaginary AWP in Seoul while the other Spork peeps are actually there. Come and see us at AWP. We’ll give you free feels of us / books. Kisses, Jake.
———- This is a poem by Anna Maria Hong and this is a poem by Jon Leon. I really like both of these poems. One is on Boston Review and one is on Octopus. I don’t really think anymore about the space in which the poems get displayed, but the journey I somehow took to get there (email, google search query, submission guidelines, poetry section link). I used to feel that when I read a good book that the route and timing were inevitable, as if it was destined, and we all used to read in the houses where the work was made (presses), but now we read through various channels and rivulets that get spooned inside us by our phones and web devices, social-media and online news outlets. For better or worse that’s how the future readership is being built. On that note, Spork does the web and does the work by hand. It’s strange to work with both at the same time, like we are manhandling the future, work-by-the-week online, while curating and developing books with our hands. We’re going to make something for AWP again where some of the work that was first on the web is going to appear in a book. It’s strange to take cyberspace and stack it in a page, and if the two worlds are interwoven, (which they are), it is not so much a balancing act where two fighters pitch at each other with opposite hands tied, but a magic dance held on the moon…. ballerinas in a celestial turn, animal masks, bearded, throwing knives. -jl
You people have no idea just how much Batman influences decisions at Spork Press. Also Blade Runner. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion… I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate… All these. Moments… will be lost, in time, like… tears… in rain.” Thinking now, thinking about Batman, I’m thinking that Blade Runner might actually have surpassed Batman in the influential arena, which is not to say that Batman’s importance, generally, has decreased at all. Only that Blade Runner wields itself a bunch of influence. Also, I was at a bookstore (and I hate bookstores in Tucson: we have exactly zero actual bookstores—okay, we’ve got Antigone, they’re doing all right, they’re a good bookstore, but they’re specialized and they’re really the only valid bookstore in this town—here, we’ve got two BN boxes, we’ve got a few used bookstore places, and we’ve got Bookmans, but they’re shifting their focus away from books and onto recreational equipment and musical instruments and all kinds of non-book stuff, and that’s cool, I guess, but I still wish for a bookstore) and I picked up Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and I tried reading it and on the first page he showed three times that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing… end-loaded awkward sentences misusing tense and while all structurally correct all were aesthetic abominations. The phrases and sentences between mere workmanlike bits of connective fluff, his style when evidenced a display of his disconnect from people, from society, his yearning for a connection with a more genteel (maybe) time telegraphed in his stilted and shitty prose. I’m saying here that Scott’s visual representation of the story (of which Dick heartily approved) is a far superior thing to its source.
We should aim, all of us, to create things that cannot be surpassed by any filming. And when the movies fail, we should praise the things anyway, appreciating what little they were able to do, and extolling the new perspectives they were able to bring to our work (since, yes, there will be a broadening and greatering of our work, things we could not have said which will be elucidated visually and which will enhance the things we’ve written), and we will say THANK YOU, and we will gladly sell the rights to our short stories and to our novels—and also, maybe, we can write poems that will deserve and beg to be filmed.
SPORK PRESS is officially headed to Bostontown— March 6-9 2013. Bad news is we’re keeping all our beans in Tucson. “SERVICES. It is mutually understood and agreed that AWP will provide each Exhibitor with the following services free of additional charge: erection of necessary flame-retardant backgrounds of uniform style.” Toilets and your humor, be now forewarned. -js
in other news, the biggest problem facing middle earth has got to be declining birth rates… in 3 hours there was one female character of any given race / species who i’m pretty sure isn’t even able to reproduce as she is an elven demi-god or something… she isn’t even given a proper speaking part, just some telepathy thing she uses to talk to the wizard, which is exactly how i try to communicate with drew when we talk poetry or contests, which we haven’t done since i accidentally sliced part of my thumb off making dan beachy-quick books… a sign, if you will, carved with my own blood. no contests. we’ve got a solid 2 months of poems lined up that i can assure you has more sex than the hobbit. -jl
The jump from Billy Idol (Chrysalis, black) to Turing Machine (TRL, pink) abrupt and jarring and continuing the thinking about the object, the times, the differences between then and now — 1983, when Mr. Idol, a mushroom for certain (a fungi, right?), could succeed releasing things that were merely physical content delivery systems; now, the content needs no deliverer, it’s there. Turing Machine has it the objectness, heavy paper and good design and pink/white splatter, things I’d forgotten, but then the sleeve out and the vinyl slipped and me: “Oh. FUCK YEAH.” and me: “Hey, look.” And now, them over there on the thing spinning I think but cannot be certain but think still probably that the pink and the paper and the FUCK YEAH of it is making it sound better. No. I’m allowing it a different access, because somebody cared, because somebody made this not mere content, but made of it a thing, and it’s the THING I crave, the content inextricably part of the thing, though by no means subsumed by it, instead supported and invigorated and greater-ed by it. // I was lecturing just yesterday, not intentionally (and I hope they understand that it was me saying THIS IS WHAT I THINK and not THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD THINK) both a very important musician and an important label-head about mere content delivery medium vs desirable object, and then wandering and waxing re: content and yes it should be the same whether consumed via page or screen or tablet or whisper (laptop/mp3/Pandora/etc) but the fact is that it is not and where the difference lay is in the possibility that we are becoming the old men and we are becoming irrelevant via the fact of us failing in our evangelization via hubris and insecurity and ego and just fucking not getting it. // What I mean to say is we make objects. What I mean to say is our objects are a reflection of the value we place upon the content, and we intend, vis-a-vis said objects, to have these things stay with you longer than the things that you might otherwise eventually sell off or throw away in the interest of more shelfspace for your very very zen minimalistic lifestyle (because the sheer volume of CONTENT necessitates a clearing of your physical environs).
People out there they’re giving us what I think is uncritical praise. I think we do good work and I’m happy when this good work is appreciated, but I think also that our books could maybe open easier, I think that we could follow through on all the things we begin—or that maybe we could not begin so many things that we inevitably fail at most of them. Folk could mention our scattershot focus, our overreaching and confusion, our tendency to do this or that right, sure, but to do so much else badly. Someone could wonder, someone could ask what the hell is up with the audio, what’s with the gaps, the lack of consistent or coherent structure, what’s the deal with sounding so TAL and then not? There’s lots of questions to be asked, lots of shit that could be talked publicly. I think it oughtta be. // It’s nice that we do books, that we have this nice selection of neat books that, yeah, aren’t really like other books out there, not in content or structure—but is this vision on our part, or lack of it? These are the questions I’m always asking myself, wondering to the rest of us. Or to some of the rest of us. Some of us are bright-eyed and driven and always positive, some of us do work every day and actually accomplish all the things they said they’d do, and some of us are questioning daily just what the hell we’re doing anyway. Factions (of one) push consistently to let the robots in to do the work, to streamline and simplify, to engage in contests (they make money, you know)—and none of those points are really all that wrong, except that they are, not the streamlining and simplifying parts, that’s valid, and yes, we’re trying and always figuring out better ways to do what we do but there’s only so much that can be simplified and the only real improvements that are left to be made are with our hands. // Our hands need to obey consistently, they need to move thoughtlessly but correct… some of us like to fold; some of us hate to glue; everybody loves the sewing. Everybody also likes the letterpress parts, our savage and barbaric process, the hazardous chemicals, the force and destruction of it. We are all about that.
RE: SITE // Still there’s the dead links. We know. We’re on it. You’d think with all our funding we’d just hire someone that we could yell at, you’d think that. But nobody we interview—we yell A LOT in the interviews—seems to really enjoy being yelled at. It’s important, you see, the yelling. Every other aspect just works like it should and we’re all smiles and cooperation and compliments and catering to and for each other (the soups are always fantastic), so it’s only proper that we have this one area where all the yelling happens. We treat our interns well, so our thinking was since we screwed up so bad by setting that precedent with earlier interns (who went and told prospective interns that we’re kinda nice to them, and then bring also their own prospective interns who show up with all these EXPECTATIONS based upon factual reporting by existing interns), we’d pay money to someone with the understanding that their position, while nominally about doing work for us, probably something like maintaining the website for us, their main function would be to take the abuse we’ve so far failed to give to anybody else. I will say, however, that even though nobody accepts the position when we stop yelling and offer it to them, all the yelling we do in the interviews is helping a whole lot with our collective well-being. SO HEY, THANKS YOU GUYS.
STUPID DOCTYPE PARSING. We’re functional now, in the stupid IE world.
New. We’re new. This has been sitting in a secret directory for months and months and months. // Not everything works just yet. That’s a kind of always thing with us, I guess. But that’s not supposed to be an always thing. There’s parts to come and to update, and the print archive page is a holy shitting mess, all set up in tables and so big and unwieldy and—I think I said something about a mess. // Hi. Welcome to the new place. There’s formatting stuff on the things what got imported and transported and yeah, we know. We’re on it. We’re all on it.
Word is/was, and the word is/was verified, that this shit just don’t work in IE. We don’t know why (but we do), and really we don’t know anyone that uses IE, but probably there are people that do. So, if you’re one of those people, we’re real sorry about that/this. We’ll get it worked out, but really you oughtta be using some other browser. // Since, come on, srsly, the shit works correct in every other browser. // AND NOW