LitKicks Presents ...

Week Three Selections
The third week of The QUEST was probably the most challenging. We asked authors to write about what they stand for, or what they believe in.

Here are a few answers. You'll find arguments, deflections, courtroom testimonies, acceptance speeches, fables, fairy tales and spiritual visitations. One author recounts a real-life conversation with William S. Burroughs, while another takes issue with the QUEST rule that asks members not to criticize each other's beliefs. In summary, we find nothing to criticize here, and much to celebrate.

i believe
by NinePages
Group: Chickadee

this is probably a mistake, a result of some stupid emotion...i shouldn't post this because i should give it some thought and try to come up with something more creative and slaphappy genius so i can try to advance to the next round. but then again, we're all in this together and i want you all to succeed just like i want me to succeed so i'm going with a little off-the-cuff here and just throwing this out there to see how it looks after litkicks slaps its html on it and if it bombs, it bombs, but it's me and it's the most immediate thing that happened at the end of my fingers and my thoughts after i read the week 3 assignment, so here's to ti jean and first thought best thought...

i believe

I believe in nothing.

There is a park bench in Battery Park beneath an oak tree that you can sit on and see the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and, between the buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, all at the same time.

I believe in luck that means nothing. I don’t believe in curses or ghosts. I believe that our mind can make up anything it wants to, and that makes anything real. I believe in the spectrum, but I don’t believe in chartreuse.

I can hold my hands behind my head and they will go numb. There are at least three bad vertebrae in my spine which are the result of constant pulling by the lumbar muscles on the right side of my back. I grew up thinking starboard meant left and port meant right because I grew up going backwards in boats.

I believe that green is the same for everyone, even though I have no proof of that.

The last time I was in New York I paused and cried and left for the last time, perhaps. I believe in perhaps, because I need to.

When I was a child, I had dreams and a vivid imagination. I don’t have many more dreams these days, and my imagination leads to nightmares.

I believe that life is a process of improvement, even though I have a lot of proof otherwise.

There is an artist who sits on the sidewalk south of the Central Park zoo who will draw your picture for five dollars. He’s never met you before but if you give him five dollars, he will cause you to question your own identity for days, and all your friends will pretend that your nose is just fine.

And there are animals nearby, in cages. One of them, once, had to see a therapist. He was a polar bear (the animal, not the therapist). He went in circles all day, while Nomar Garciaparra makes millions and has a pretty girlfriend. People laugh at the polar bear.

I believe that obsession is the key to longevity, and I would swim all day if only they’d let me.

Everything in moderation.

I believe that the moon rises and the sun sets and people change every time they wake up, even though, technically, I realize that none of those things are actually true.

An artist can find beauty in a momentary glimpse of a young child watching a car drive by on a dingy interstate during rush hour in the Los Angeles smog, from behind a chain link fence next to a graveyard filled with high schoolers. Beauty.

Every brilliant sunlight flower I ever see in Battery Park will forever be covered in ash.

I haven’t made up my mind about religion yet, but I’m sure that everyone can live forever.

I believe in prayer and ceremony and solemnity, even though sometimes it gets me down.

I believe everything I read, for a minute. This is the cause of great variations in my mood.

I believe in faith and despair.

When a young woman watches an old man step in front of a bus on Broadway she is forever changed. Her name is Angela. She rides the subway home as if in a trance. She walks up the steps of her Park Slope brownstone and slips on the top stair and catches herself on the rail. She holds on for a moment and then lowers herself to the step and sits, and she begins to cry, small sobs like from a child. She’s crying right now, and I believe that you can hear her.

I like things to be linear because I know that nothing is. I like to pretend that I can make sense of everything. I’ve spent my life trying to give everything a set of rules. I haven’t told anyone what all of these rules are, but I get very angry when they are broken. I’ve spent my life giving everything a set of rules, but I believe them to be natural and inherent to everyone. Despite this desire for order, I refuse to try to learn about order. I refuse chemistry. I don’t want to know how the body is constructed because I would rather believe that we are the chance manifestation of ephemeral souls rather than carbon-based playthings of a creative universe. When I look out the window of an airplane, I pretend that I don’t see the rivets or the hinges on the wing, because I’d rather believe that airplanes fly by magic than by mechanics that can fail.

I hate you, but I would give my life for you. I love you, but I will berate you with anger in order to make myself feel better.

I believe that all people are good. I believe that any combination of any two people can produce evil, and usually does. This isnt why I don’t believe in math, but I don’t believe in math.

I still have dreams where I’m in high school and I’ve neglected to go to math class for the entire quarter. I’m about to graduate, but I have one more test to take, and it’s in math. I’ve never gone to class. I have notes from somewhere, and these will help me pass the test, but they’re in my locker and I can’t find my locker. I find my locker but the combination escapes me. The bell has rung. The hallways are emptying. I need to take this test. I need to get to class.

There is a day in Manhattan, there is a temperature and an angle of the sun and a direction of the breeze, that will bring me to my knees. It’s only in Manhattan, but I know that if that day were to happen here, where I am now, it would bring me to my knees. But perhaps it won’t happen, that day, and I’ll keep standing. I have to believe in perhaps.

I believe that nothing ever dies. I believe that buildings never fall and children never kill and mothers never fail and liars never win and bodies never bleed and nothing ever dies and nothing ever dies and nothing ever dies.

I do believe in nothing. I do.

I believe in seratonin
by dgalant
Group: Chickadee

I hold these things to be self-evident.

Prozac is the great equalizer. There is nothing bad about artificial sweeteners. Watching TV in the morning is like drinking beer in the morning. Baseball is good; football bad. Writers ought to make more than investment bankers. One sign that Canada is a better country is that they legalized pot. Terrorists suck.

Fireworks, fireflies and bonfires are all very cool. SUV's are a sign of weakness. Beige is the color of cowardice. Blond highlights have been done to death. Summer is the best season, comedy the highest art form. A good down pillow is worth the money.

The world would be better off if mirrors had never been invented.

Fate may be random, but a sense of purpose is not. There is nothing better than staying up late, drinking wine, and talking to good friends. You should smell the dead leaves as well as the roses. Read novels. Take pictures. Enjoy weekends.

Eat garlic, and never worry about the consequences.

Miraculous Breath
by Ben Gant
Group: Daffodil

With the day’s labors drawn to an end but not much accomplished; the ends that never seem to justify any means, Jim came home to his dismal little apartment. It was the end of the day and the start of its proceeding night, another long night of only Jim’s own thoughts to swim through his head. The televisions shattered remains left on the floor was the only thing that he had to remember the prior night. He sat alone in the shadows, cascading in from the window that held the pictures of fleeting light outside.

Jim found everyday work life harder to accept in his convalescence than in the years prior to his illness. And when he was ill, work was never given any regard. Instead, his days of were spent coping with the grim reality of his own demise; unavoidable death loomed around the corners of his humble abode. Every day in the time of his sickness was spent saying goodbye to his life. Days and nights seemed so long and he was hesitant to go to sleep, not knowing if it would be the last time he would see the night. When he awoke in those mornings he was overjoyed just to see the sun. Now here he sat alone, on the verge of dusk, with only his own tragic hands to console him in the world of the living.

How they all congregated to his side when eerie death emulated from his face and stared back at their pious eyes. In those days of looming death, friends and relatives vanquished him, to wish him well and ease his suffering; his body fatigued and withered. Then, through what the doctors called a miracle, he was once again able to stand on his own two feet and able to go about living as he’d done before. Now, back to his former self, Jim wondered why they no longer visited. He was left with the notion that he’d disappointed them and thought they viewed him as fraudulent. He thought to himself how they now hated him for deceiving them and making them bestow their emotions and compassion upon him, when after all he was not sick or he was not as sick as he’d suggested. Now they were exhausted with him and chose to stay away.

“I don’t need them.” Jim thought to himself as he was now surrounded by only his own thoughts and emotions. He sat and drank his beer, against the recommendations of his doctors. Inside he felt an emptiness that could not be filled, a dying of the soul that was somehow harder to take than the physical death that had been so near; a dying that could not be described as it was felt by Jim; an emptiness that could not be filled by any purge of the senses or communicated to anyone in the same way that Jim felt it. Jim drank his beer, knowing full well, there was not a debauchery in the earthly world that could kill the spiritual dying he felt. Jim never believed in miracles before his recovery and now after, he believed in them no more than before his illness. Jim placed the cold beer to his torrid forehead, thinking to himself how much pain he had inside. Jim took another sip of the beer as he placed it to his lips, wishing that they could somehow convey the toiled thoughts that tormented him, all the feelings that manifested themselves upon one another and burdened his every conscious thought; making it difficult to perceive anything ardently beautiful in a world where everything was so painful. Jim put his beer down and held his hands close to his chest. Taking a deep breath, he felt the air rise up from his abdomen and fill his chest. Then he let go, reminding himself that he was not alone. The air he breathed was the same as all shared. He looked around the apartment and realized he was not confined to it but confined to the labor that produced its warmth. The faces of the ones that he loved so mush still lingered about in the empty residence. "Were they not of the same nature to work for their own place of warmth in a world so unyielding to our most primitive needs?" He asked himself. Jim was suddenly overwhelmed by the notion that they would one day grow old, if they weren’t already. The people that he loved would suffer their own illnesses and they too would, one day, come to their own demise. It was the simple art of breathing, each inhalation and exhalation, which kept them here among a world so impermanent and full of suffering; it was suffering that made Jim so vulnerable. The nature of change made suffering so inescapable, it bore all to an impalpable exile. Jim visualized the faces he’d known so well and tried hard to hold them in his memory as he saw them in that moment. Then he let out a sonorous cry. “We’re all dying,” He thought. “We are all born to die. Why do I have to go on living when all that is left is the cruel fate that awaits us all?” Jim threw himself to the floor and wept for his fellow man and for himself.

Outside the celestial snow fell silent upon the ground, blanketing the ground in its cathartic sheets of purity; the stars candescent light reflected by it in the still darkness of the night. Spring was soon to come, just as sure as the morning would find Jim.

Jim lay on the floor, as he listened to the hushed voices that came from afar yet there were no answers to his silent entreaties. In the isolation of his apartment, he found only himself and the ultimate realization that we are all of the nature to change, to grow old, and eventually die; to die not alone, in an existence tied by one common thread. As he brought himself to his feet, he stood defiantly of the death that he had contrived in his own mind. He looked at the bottle of beer he had left on the table. Looking at it, he saw the beer was half gone. Did that make it half empty or half full; or was the bottle just a bottle, never to be half full or half empty of anything. How could the bottle ever be completely empty? Would it not hold something, be it beer or the air in which we all breathe.

With his own two tragic hands, Jim found the answer to his supplications came in the form of pen and paper as he began to scribe what he felt inside. There was no one there to listen but Jim believed that if he could formulate his words on paper so someday they might be heard. So he began to write:
“What I write I hold to be true. My belief is that the air we all breathe is the most sacred miracle….”

A Tribute
by stevadore
Group: Daffodil

Last night I visited with my mother-in-law in the hospital, like I’ve done every night for the past two weeks. Only this time, as I was leaving and trying to avoid disturbing her, she called me back into the room. Perking up a bit, she wanted to say some things on her mind. Things that one avoids saying until they are on their deathbed. Things that one needs to get off their chest in order to clear their slate before they die, which is an indulgence that most of us don’t benefit from. (It’s kind of ironic how we come in to this world blank, and we want to go out the same way, isn’t it?) I wasn’t prepared for this yet.

Among other things, she told me she loved me and how she always knew I was perfect for her youngest daughter. She saw it long before anyone else. The wisdom of a mother, right? As I stood looking at her waxen feet poking out from under the sheets, I couldn’t help but think how much she looked like her oldest daughter did a year and a half ago when she succumbed to cancer too. Even the nails on her toes—devoid of color and life—bore a similar, wretched resemblance. A death pall had come over her since the previous night. I could see it in her eyes, glazed from the morphine, yet still piercing into my soul. After I told her I loved her and promised to take great care of her daughter and grandkids, I left the room and broke down. I went home and wrote a few values I’ve learned from her and from this experience; beliefs that I’ve benefited from and come to believe for myself as well. At the risk of sounding sentimental, (but really, is that such a bad thing?), here they are:

I believe in freedom of choice and free will, as long as such do not harm and encroach on the rights of others.

I believe the impending death of a loved one helps us escape the modalities of life and get in touch with the universality that wordlessly binds us together, if only for a short while.

I believe in a cadre of family, friends and professionals rallying in support of a human being facing the end of her known existence.

I believe God allows suffering, but doesn’t cause it, and that there is a difference.

I believe in faith, hope, and love.

I believe in a pain-free world . . . someday.

I believe in acting on what I believe in.

I believe that a mother never stops being one.

I believe my mother-in-law was like a second mother to me.

And, I believe Neil Young said it better than I could when he wrote:

“You are, such a woman to me
And I love you
Until the end of all time.”

Try Again Yes Now Try
by Ida Wright
Group: Daffodil


Helene teetered up on her tippy toes and almost but-not-quite could reach the bag of Almond Joys that her mother had hidden in the cupboard above the sink. She looked at the kitchen chair and wanted to pull it over so she could climb up onto it, but then her mother, who was sitting in the living room reading her Good Housekeeping magazine, would hear the legs scuffling along the tiled floor and then her mother would come in and say, "Helene, Get down!" like she was a dog or something.

Helene only wanted one little candy bar. She didn't just want the taste of it in her mouth, she wanted to hold the wrapper in her hand. She loved the crinkly sound when she opened it up, the smell of the sweetness coming out of the wrapper like an invisible snake slithering its way to her nose, and she liked to trace her finger along the big bubbly letters that spelled out "Almond Joy" that seemed to be written all smiley across the whole wrapper.

Helene sat down at the kitchen table and stared off at the cabinet. Once she had her mind on something, it was too late, she just had to have it. Her mother always said Helene was too young to be so bull-headed, but nine years old or not, that's how she was.

So even though her brother was outside throwing snowballs at their neighbor's car (which Helene was way better at than him) and her sister was upstairs yakking away on the phone (which gave Helene the chance to do her favorite after-school activity -- eavesdrop), Helene was stuck at the kitchen table with her eyes on the chocolate-and-coconut prize.

She sat there and sat there -- wanting the Almond Joy more than she'd ever wanted anything before, knowing it was just out of her reach, and definitely not wanting to risk the humiliation of her mother catching her, yet again, as she stole yet another hidden dessert. It's not like she was fat or anything. "It's the principle," her mother would always say, "You can't have everything just because you want it." And with that, her mother would push the Chips Ahoy/Snickers bars/Brownie Mix even further into the cabinet or find a new hiding place altogether.

But Helene thought her mother was wrong. Why can't you have something just because you want it? Isn't that the best reason of all? Even if she was nine, she knew it was the best when she got something after wanting it so hard.

She stood up and walked into the living room where her mother was reading her magazine. "Mom, I'm hungry and I really want an Almond Joy. And I can see them in the cupboard, but I can't reach them. Can you get one down for me please?"

"Just pull a chair over and get it yourself."


Her mother nodded, without hardly moving her head.

"That's it?" said Helene, "It's that easy?"

Her mother, looked at her from over the top of her glasses, and nodded again.

Helene went back into the kitchen where she pulled the chair over to the sink with out caring how loud she was, she got down three (shhh!) Almond Joy bars, sat at the table and while she slowly ate one, feeling the chocolate and coconut and almonds all swish around in her mouth, she admired the wrappers of the other 2 that awaited. She knew that if her mother had said no, she would have gotten the candybars anyway. But she also knew that they tasted better this way.

Camaraderie on the Front Lawn
by Devil's Haircut
Group: Diamond

The four men work in ordered lines, sweeping across the lawn from one side to another, according to the direction of the wind. (Zach always pray that it’ll blow over into the next lawn, a small relief for a man and his comrades). They move their rakes like plows in the grass, reaping fallen leaves and cursing the hot Sunday and the still blanket of air.

It’s good, honest work; everyone that worked it knew that much, even if they didn’t see the meaning in it. Pushing the dead leaves around the yard, bagging it up and moving on... by the end of the day they smelled of rank earth, dirt and dust and sweat. Sometimes blood if your gloves wear thin. The worked in single-piece paper duds, flimsy blue things that they rolled up on hot days (such as this one) and threw away at the end of the day.

Zach keeps his mouth shut more often than not, because talking slowed you down, even if it at least comforted you while you worked and meant that you’d get overtime at the end. More than wanting to be done with it quickly, he was for some reason a little afraid of the people around him, especially Boss. The others curse him out for not talking, because the others really did need the money.

“Christ Zach, you don’t need to go so Goddamn fast,” Chris says, but Zach doesn’t even pause. “Don’t you get it? The slower we go the more money we get.”

“Unless the Boss catches on,” Jeff says.

“Don’t fucking bother, he’s hotboxing in the van,” Chris says. “I think he gets paid in dope.” Chris ripped off the sleeves of his shirt, only wearing the minimal of their disposable uniforms. He was fair-skinned, and sweat a lot under his long, shaggy black hair. Jeff has olive skin and an acne problem, with red hair like fire.

“How did he get so damn big?” Zach wonders aloud, and is surprised when Jeff answers.

“He’s been here longer than Eld. Sometimes you creep to the top, even when you don’t do shit.”

“Eldred should be Boss,” Zach says, and somehow regrets it before it’s out of his mouth. He didn’t throw in with people he didn’t really know, and he didn’t really know any of the others, even with how long he’d worked the landscape. “Eldred’s smarter than him.”

“Yeah, but Eld’s still Mex and they think he‘s lazy. I can’t believe how hard that old guy works, though,” Jeff says with a grin, but when he looks over and sees the old man his grin changes. Eldred wears his blue Sunday-issue in a professional manner, a crisp uniform the color of the sky (until it gets sweat-stained because Eld would never roll up his sleeves). Eldred sits hunched over on himself in the shade, on a five-minute smoke break. Eldred had brown skin and long white hair, hair that shone like silver even in the shade, lining his cloudy face. “He’s taking care of his grandkids.”

“He teaches, he rakes, he bags groceries at the all-night, and he minds the Sabbath on his smoke-break,” Chris adds with his own evil grin. “Superman.”

“Fuck you, he’s a good guy,” Zach says. Eldred deserved defense from Chris, not just because he was old and a feeb now. Eldred had a little bit of honor even in this world.

“Nobody’s saying he’s not a good guy,” Chris suddenly says, acting like he’s been offended, but guys like Chris always act hurt when they take a bad joke two steps too far.

“So what do you have against him?” Jeff asks with his same serious tone, like he’d grow up to be a lawyer. Public defender.

“I have nothing against him! I feel sorry for him, Christ!” Chris says, suddenly without the same essence of conflict in his voice. “It’s just... survival of the fittest. He’s an old man, he should be in a home. When you can’t work, you die out. A species that can’t survive goes extinct.”

“How in Hell does that work to humans?” Jeff suddenly asked, with a certain murder in his blue eyes that hurt Zach to look at directly. Chris took a second to think about, and Zach remembered what he’d thought about Chris; Chris was no nice guy, he was like a different, darker person. Chris didn’t have the same sense of camaraderie to Jeff and Eldred that Zach felt; when Chris was around and telling his jokes, Zach felt outcast in Chris’s presence; when Chris was quiet, Zach felt like Chris was outcast.

If Chris hadn’t taken so long, Zach would have never realized the depth Chris had when he wasn’t telling his jokes.

“I don’t know--Jesus Christ let me speak for a second!--good things just don’t come just because you expect them to.”

“You don’t know what the Hell you’re talking about,” Zach says, stepping up to drive a wedge between Jess and Chris. “You don’t fool somebody and take their money. We’re meant by God to work and sweat for what we got. It’s like divine retribution, we have to work so hard for the little we get in our sin.”

“Is that so?” Chris asked, and he and Jeff realized why Zach didn’t talk much.

“That’s why I don’t slow down, damn it,” Zach said, and returned to work.

by lescaret
Group: Diamond

I. Dilemma

At night’s end, surrounded by empty bags of potato chips, TV screen blathering nonsense, beer bottles upturned, the game ended, the favorite team defeated by banshees from a distant hated city, what remains of consciousness?

In line at the ATM, the cash slit hot and spitting currency, the 40 hour plus work week receding into brain fog, Friday night a circuit of electric obscenity beckoning, the lust for release a bionic mosquito buzzing the mind ear, who has time for the muse?

Patent leather pumps, hairstyle goo, gabardine suit coats, eye shade, nightshade, window shades, porcelain thrones, the babble of pick-up lines, elbows and paws to brass bar rails, the symmetry of awkwardness, what becomes of night?

Television the backdrop of group think dreams, predictable dramas, reality show amusements, requisite products, focus group identities fashioned around canned laughter, what value a life programmed for consumption?

Mid life crisis, menopause, gauze for wounds undeciphered, lackluster gloss gone slack and glass opaque, no surface for vision, no combustible spark, generations of capitalism marching sidewalks, coursing subway tunnels, raging on freeways, puddling globules of humanity fat on office chairs, which way to sanctuary?

Churches, mosques, synagogues, pedagogues, theologians, demagogues, commandments, abandonments, excommunications, haloes, angels, televangelists, macrobiotic dreadlocked shamans, which advertisement resounds an acceptable truth?

II. Struggle

The struggle is to become who you are.

The struggle is finding the tools to become who you are.

The struggle is deciding to find the tools to become who you are.

The struggle is accepting the thought that you are.

The struggle is who you are.

The struggle is.

III. Resolution

Closets of loss, plays unvoiced, short stories clotted in spiral binders, sheaves of poems in file cabinets, desk drawers, plastic storage bins languid for decades in musty cellars.

Musical scores scrawled in newsprint tablets, the imagined strains of piano ivory, or saxaphone bawls and plaintive wails, or drum crash, guitar chords punk-rocked and amplified, gravel larynxes growling lyrical collages to sweating moshpit deities.

Glops and heaped plops of modeling clay, slick, caressed by watery hands, swollen-knuckled but strength-hardened over decades plying lumps, back bent, molding visions for the fiery kiln.

Paint can panoplies arrayed ad hoc on floorboards, splattered wooden tables, window sills, benches, drop cloths, tin can paint brush scabbards, varnish, thinner, walls tacked, hung, taped, splashed, collaged in imagination.

Typewriter keyboard clackety-clack, computer blip, hard drive whir, hieroglyphic composition of shaped lines, alphabet ruminations depending on mind spleen and hunger, curiosity when most would slumber.

No suit to don, no title to pursue, ladder rungs slippery with blood and lies forsaken for cluttered studios, for wine sticky café tables, bandstands, restless Whitmanic rambles down clamoring neon boulevards, over granite mountain brows, composition books scrawled thick with eye traipse, heart doodles and the feverish certainty that art births life, all other pursuits diminished.

by kairo
Group: Diamond

lilies exploded in vulva shapes--
pink, white and red petals of flesh
(this was distraction)
hovered a heaven screen
too far to touch
too close to comfort
(all these eighteen years of rising action)

i was only a girl.
a girl. only.

white is reserved for an aisle walk of love
not a bed of questionable sterility
in which your new life begins
and a life you cannot claim
ends quietly
(a repose of remorse of so many before me)

this is one experience
only the urgent can understand.

i was perfect and unblemished
i was loved and in love
i was hanging in a delicate balance
(six weeks can drastically tip the scales)

there was no choice
i always dreaded the idea of pick and choose,
so for me,
there was no
(foolishness can give wings to a prison bird)

i lay there quiet as sunday church
listening to the sermon of directions and directives,
turning my eyes to the heaven screen
of lillies so close above my foreign body

even today i remember the moment of death
(this is one experience)
and the guilt of being loosened and relieved
even today i remember the walk of new life
(this is what i believe)
as i left what was never mine in the first place
somewhere behind me

by pottygok
Group: Diamond

In giving, we receive; please, do not fear my hymns.
I will wash your feet with my tears; I will sing, for your ears, my hymns.

The rich wear silk, and shiver in the cold of no heaven.
The fellaheen wear wool. Let us shear my hymns.

Look. A tree has gone red. Geese flock through the sky.
My lawn awakes with dandilions. I rejoice, and cheer my hymns.

I pour my soul from my body that I may receive the Lord.
Let me be filled with Christ, and all heaven will hear my hymns.

Look for the One. You may as well watch the wind blow.
Still, in the blessings of Ar-Razzaaq appear my hymns.

Those afraid of the Lord wear infinite veils of oak.
Soak into this blindness, like a veneer, my hymns.

The world is a shroud for the Holy Spirit—an ocean of dust.
My voice is a black waved curragh. I row as He steers my hymns.

Hear the Almighty in the waves of my breath, and the throb of my heart.
Come spin to the rhythm of my pulse. Listen and dance near my hymns.

The key to heaven is bought with righteousness. You will be lacking.
I offer you mine, for not even Hellfire can sear my hymns.

Oh, my love. Saqi brings carafes of you to the table.
Intoxicate my life with song, for we’re my hymns.

Parking for New and Expectant Mothers: An Open Letter
by flood
Group: Helium

I’m sorry.

I don’t know who you are and I wouldn’t recognize you again if I saw you, but I’m sorry.

I had no business confronting you in the movie theatre like that. See, it’s kind of funny now - two years removed.


Not funny “ha ha”; funny “damn, that was embarrassing” funny.

I was coming in to see a Saturday afternoon matinee while my girlfriend put in some OT at the office when I saw two teenage girls park in the “Parking for New and Expectant Mothers” parking spot. They were obviously not expectant in their belly shirts and hip-huggers; nor did either of them have a newborn.

Who the hell did they think they were?

To me, it was the same as parking in a handicapped spot. Since they had parked closer, they made it in to the theatre before me. I followed them in, but lost them in the line. I stood in line to pay for my ticket and I was borderline livid. I know that seems like a disproportionate response, but as you were about to learn – I was just beginning. It was opening weekend for some summer blockbuster or another and the theatre was pretty packed. It was almost my turn to pay for a ticket, so I let it go. After all, there was no reason to take it out on the girl behind the counter. I paid for my ticket and figured I’d get a four-dollar pepsi and a two-dollar bag of swedish fish to calm me down. (I know it seems counter-intuitive to think that would calm me down, but at this point in my life sugar and caffeine have little to no effect on my central nervous system unless ingested in quantities that I can not afford at movie theatre prices). But if that didn’t calm me down, nothing would.

Next thing I know, THERE THEY ARE. Talking to you, an innocent bystander. All I heard was that damn giggling and gum-cracking of theirs and something about the extra-large popcorn bucket you were holding. I realize now, in retrospect, that you were merely answering their question(s) about the concessions that were available. But all I saw was an adult who should be responsible for them for parking in that spot, if they were not going to accept responsibility.

So I confronted you.


And aggressively.

“Why don’t you worry less about their damn popcorn and more about what the hell they are doing.”

I should have let your silence be my contextual key.


I was on my high horse.

“Did they tell you they parked in the pregnant mother’s spot? You need to get those girls to accept responsibility for their actions or they will end up expectant mothers.”

You should have torn me a new one. You should have told me to go to hell, to pack sand, to put it in my pipe and smoke it. But you didn’t. They weren’t even your girls and you let me yell at you.

Like I said earlier, this is where it gets funny.

Not funny “ha ha”; funny “damn, that was embarrassing” funny.

I wanted you to get them to accept responsibility for their actions when I so clearly could not do the same.

This is me hoping that responsibility doesn’t have a statute of limitations.

This is me saying I’m sorry.

by elecfoto
Group: Helium

The gray door opened as the gray man in the gray suit asked in an ashen gray voice, “Did you make any?”

“ Yes Bill we got lucky, we found a pharmacy in a small town near Verdun that let us have nine bottles. That’s all he had, so he’s burnt out now too.”

“Nine is enough to get me straight, of course I have to boil out the camphor first."

“I know Bill, we can smell that awful camphor burning throughout the whole hotel, isn’t there another way you can extract the opium out of the Paregoric?

“ Well, I’m going to drink one of those 2 ounce bottles now, it’ll take the edge off. The problem is that aside from a powerful licorice taste and it’s mucus texture being so hard to hold down it makes you throw up, the camphor could eventually burn a hole in the lining of your stomach.

“ You gag and puke Like with Peyote?”

“Yeah, like Peyote, to get high you have to support the vomiting but you don’t mind.”

“Bill, what’s this stuff used for other than to get high or get straight?”

“Babies, they give them a drop or two to relieve colic and of course the ‘O’ calms the crying too, so everybody is happy. Then later when they're toddlers they give them a drop of wine to shut them up and then watered down wine with dinner when they're kids and then just wine, no water in their teens. The French are the biggest nation of winos in the world. You know if all the bottles of wine stored in the cellars of Paris were to break at the same time, we’d all drown.”

“So, does it taste any better once the camphor burns off?

“Look how the camphor rises to the top and turns to wax when I scoop it out. No, the taste is still like the most God-awful medicine you ever had. But I don’t mind, I’m feeling better already from those 2 ounces and I’ll get down the rest and then I’ll feel like you feel all the time.”

“What about tomorrow when the shit wears off, Bill? All the pharmacies around here are burnt down, they know what you’re up to and even if you don’t need a prescription like in the States they don’t like drawing heat on themselves. I’m not leaving Paris again for a few weeks. You know I don’t mind scoring for you but I can’t around the hotel.”

“Well, in a few hours when I’m straight and the chills are gone, Shel and I are going to track down Pepe and see if he can get us some smack. Shel scored some moolah from one of those old, rich dames on the list his Gigolo friend passed on to him in Denver. If we don’t score the 'Horse' or some paregoric, I’ll just have to suffer. Sooner or later I’ll kick it again. Jack knows a Doctor in London who’s got a new method that works with a drug substitute that you don’t hooked on. I’m looking into it.”

At that point he took an air target pistol out from under a pillow on his brass bed and started shooting at a bull’s-eye target, the only decoration on the gray wall across the room.

“I went up the Amazon doing drug research, looking for a drug that would give you the bliss of “H” without withdrawal pains. I believe there is something out there, in the Rainforest, that will save us from a junk-suffering world. The CIA knows where it is but they are keeping it hidden because they need to control their junky agents. It's an old story, Opium was used to control the population by the English in China. That could never happen with the drug I’m looking for. Someday, I’ll find it, maybe in Africa. I need somebody like Louie the 'Dip. He could smell a fix through concrete. We’d sit waiting in the 42nd street Automat dunking pound cake until Louie’s nose started twitching and then we’d know somebody’s holding when they walked through the door. He’d mooch a fix by threatening to tell the fuzz and if the guy was a square, he could scare the mark into fixing us all.”

“So that’s your big search Bill? The perfect drug, Soma? I thought it was for the meaning of life.

“The meaning of Life? Listen, kid, I’ll tell you a story:

Mahatma goes up the mountain to find the meaning of life. He comes down after thirty years alone on the mountaintop.

‘Mahatma, Mahatma,’ the people cried as they surrounded him ‘Mahatma oh great,wise,sage what did you do on the mountain, what did you learn, tell us please tell us.’

'The first ten years on the Mountain I meditated about life. The second ten years I meditated about death. The last ten years I just jerked off every day."

And with that he hit the bull’s-eye.

by Hejira
Group: Hollyhock

I stand for art:
Creation of matter from energy,
Displays of frustration manifest in bodies moving;
Music, the vibrations that will save the world,
Manipulation of a populace on a
5x7 once white sheet of paper (striking
visuals forcing people to see something
differently); what the right seven letters
next to each other can make a body feel:
love you
leave me
in peace
the Lord

And for art that is food. How sun and wind and rain,
how flour, baking powder, the sap from a tree,
how these things can become a pie
how the pie can be a memory
of Grandma Angel or last November.

I believe in sensory awareness and observation.
Rubbing the furry leaves of
A rose geranium, coming away with
Candy-smelling fingers;
Lying in a field or flatbed truck
Letting the wind scour my cheeks
To see one shooting star, to count
The stationaries. In the listening
To the pitch of that wind, the chords
Of crickets echoing in doorways,
The song of rain on budding branches,
On thick, full leaves, on dry leaves about to fall,
On naked limbs and hard cold earth.
I wholly believe in rich dark blue flannel
warm breeze-dried and fresh off the line.
And oh! do I believe in taste! Pallet subtleties:
The fullness and comfort of brown rice,
The take-me have-me of chocolate sauce
Licked off a finger, the hearth of fresh bread.
I stand for these things intertwined:
The dull thud on a windy September afternoon:
the sweetest apple just fallen;
the weighty smell of about to rain:
garden water, mosquito puddles;
the creak of a door and a sockfooted approach,
the sag of a mattress under a lover coming in late,
undressing: the promise of warm breath
rippling the soft crop of hairs
on the nape of a neck.

I stand for empathy, for art from love, for art
From a fervent, fiery desire, no - need -
To reshape thinking. I stand against
all that serves to snuff art's fire,
Against, my body chained to a fence in protest,
Pictures, music, words, tastes,
bodies created for money. Against:
Boxes and boxes of grocery store plastic,
The line of cars puffing exhaust at the drive thru
(the word "fodder" whispering in my head)
Television's ability to numb without inspiring
Unless to be thin, beautiful, to have
A fast car, maybe then I'll be loved, happy;

I stand for what's real, for being Un-numb, Un-happy
If that's what I am, and for gathering this
Nebulous pain and slashing it down like a red hot poker
On the skin of this page: I won't stand it!

Beauty and ugliness inseparable. I stand for art.
I believe in pressing it all to a point,
Colors and tastes and motion and scents swooning
Symphonies and bells and independent radio and
Shakespeare and Mary Oliver, all of it amalgamated
To a fine white ray,
a white dwarf condensed until its heat
explodes it all and drenches the world
and every shadow gleams like crystal
and every right angle becomes an ammonite spiral.

Vibrant Triality
by arid zona
Group: Hollyhock

I. Real Justice: Life’s Gonna Change, combined but dissynchronous development, abandon money and state for bio-social rites (i reject power relations, educate)

The city of this earth awakes to nightmare action:
we stab our knives of hunger, rape and fears,
conditioned world for thousands of our years -
as oily wars deliver lives for profit’s satisfaction
to make their path corrosion and distraction
instead of love’s work and good labor’s dream.
I hear You say ‘It’s not as easy as that seems’ –
should I resign to blatant cruel dissection
of all my hopes, those tortures night and day ?!
When system’s minds showed me their wrecky face:
the senseless psychos, bombs and lost love cries
- should I not crave for every warm embrace
and try to point out, children, hear me say:
stand up for balance ! – that THIS here works is lies !

II. Wet Art and Science: what an assurance for human minds, some beautiful bridges as nature rests unmoved, humble care, and Beat humility
(i train in accepting biochemical cycles, investigate)

I join the stream of life – a rider on the storm,
thrown into longing being with a conscious mind:
the cosmos grins and nature’s care is blind –
take context’s beauty or You feel forlorn.
Rejoice in spermy sweat, ‘cause all in slime You’re born:
the symmetry installed, we all seem of one kind -
and as with life our temporality is rhymed,
sensoric patterns paint Your body’s form:
so reach out, scream out with specific flame,
devour time’s secret with a love unknown,
send message out, You ranger on the shore:
to fellow drifters, so they’re not alone.
Your mammal offspring joining in the game:
life’s art meets science and builds nature’s lore.

III. Motions United: Religions, Models, Fates feed the philosophic consciousness with truth, to become a calm light, make them endure, to see the void (i tend to where logics and meditation meet in one reason, and there's no 'more', nor 'deeper', 'higher')

A leaf that’s falling with a tender breeze,
a moon-lit wave caressing ancient shores
of long-gone races and seductive whores:
time’s pointed vector is a bitter tease
for us made clever, but made not to cease,
just search for meaning’s rare and noble ore,
since evolution’s sin-seamed veil it tore
apart and now with blood-filled raging ease
we crave for sense and well-earned holy bliss
and mix the genres: argue ordered social greed
with esoteric and fanatic (saddened) fear.
While Karmic zeros level out my need
so mazed and dazed I see their quanta kiss
and opposites unite when end is near.

A Liquid Resovolution at the End: The dance of particle waves, the light, electric twitching of the earthworm, taking it easy

When realness sings beauty and beauty rings true
I swarm with Your dreams and follow Your rap
Dimensions they gathered with time from the blue

Field particle flavors – which wave to pursue
to select Your nice being from probability’s gap
when realness sings beauty and beauty rings true ?

With children in school and Your love sighing too
We go for the sun, never needing no map -
Dimensions they gathered with time from the blue.

Solidarity’s banners show the hominids’ hue
dyed by orgasmic youngsters escaped from the trap,
when realness sings beauty and beauty rings true.

Fascination swings freely, evolution’s the glue
there for physical matter whenever the apt
dimensions they gather with time from the blue

Once in a lifetime, I’m singing to You:
united in time’s dealing, an illusion’s sap
when realness sang beauty and beauty rang true,
dimensions they gathered with time from the blue.

"This world would not exist if it hadn't the power to liberate itself" (J. Kerouac's beautiful intrinsic message, recursive to all 3 levels, self-resolved)

The Family's Silence
by hopoch
Group: Hollyhock

(The setting for this conversation between two brothers, Pete and Jim, is a family holiday at the their Mother’s home.)

JIM: There is a dead elephant in the living room.

PETE: What! What are you talking about?

JIM: There is a dead elephant in the living room and it has been there for a while.

PETE: Ok… what’s the punch line?

PETE: (pausing) Why are you looking so serious?

JIM: We need to talk about it.

PETE: About what!!

JIM: About the elephant. We have been walking around it for our whole lives and it is really starting to stink.

PETE: Ohhh…. I get it, the elephant is a metaphor, why not just say what is on your mind. You’re not high on anything are ya?

JIM: No I stopped that years ago, I think the elephant had something to do with my abuse issues. Ya know trying to numb myself about it being there in the living room, trying to forget about our family’s silence and inability to communicate except with our minds. We avoid the tough stuff, don’t allow for emotions between us. Sadness we have stuffed, tears we fear, anger’s way too uncomfortable, and joy a fleeting wanna be. We as a family are dead from the neck down. All of us, Mom, our sisters, and us too Bro.

PETE: And the elephant? Where is it in all this?

JIM: He is where we keep our silence. I think he first appeared when Dad died.

PETE: Dad died over 40 years ago why do you bring him up, he’s dead, and you never even knew him.

JIM: This is what I am speaking about; we naturally don’t want to talk about him. We never have. Ya, I was only an infant but I believe we started walking around the elephant, or crawling in my case, back then. We learned about it from Mom, all seven of us. It is how she grieved, she chose to stuff the pain and never look back, we all have learned how to stop feeling, how to stuff emotions.

PETE: Hey, this is Christmas lighten up, Mom did her best and she did a damn good job.

JIM: Agreed, a phenomenal job. You see, the raising of her brood, of our clan, all by herself had a cost. She made choices on how to make it through and one of those choices was silence. We learned to avoid sensitive subjects, to divert unpleasantness, our conversations have none of our hearts only our heads. And this living upstairs has affected my ability to truly be with others. It is alive in my work, in my relationships, and it started and still lives here in our family.

PETE: So wadda ya want to do about it, where are you going with this.

JIM: I Love you Pete.

PETE: What has that got to do with anything?

JIM: (softer) I Love you Pete.

PETE: Ya I know, ahhh…thanks…. I feel the same. You know that don’t ya?

JIM: Our love is not in question, but our ability to express it is.


JIM: Does this make you uncomfortable?

PETE: (meekly) A little…. I just don’t… I don’t know what to say…

JIM: It’s the elephant; he gobbles up our heart’s speaking. He needs to be buried. We have muscles we have never used and as long as we dance around him, around his quiet, around the family’s mutually unsaid status quo of emotional silence, we will never know how to use these muscles.

PETE: What is it you want? How about getting a drink?

JIM: I want to have you really know me and I wish also to really feel you, a drink ain’t gonna help, never has, just another diversion between us, ya know.

PETE: Sooo….Umm…I ….I am little lost here, I understand what you are saying but just don’t know where to go…

JIM: I think this is it, we don’t have to go nor do we need to know, let’s just start by being with the discomfort and live in the feelings a bit. It’s new for us, for you and I.

PETE: Ya and kinda frightening, know wadda mean.

JIM: Lets talk about Dad, tell me about him. What do you remember?

PETE: Oh boy! You really aren’t gonna quit, this is getting heavy …

JIM: So is the elephant.

having had to construct something upon which to rejoice
by in_extremis
Group: Hollyhock

i can scarcely recall a time when life didn't include long periods of langouring alone, lost; listless afternoons needlessly prolonged. i have always known that i did not love it, that it could not be all, or enough. and i have known the crushed feelings of defeat, of reeling under this seeming endlessness, this unbroken monotony, this void teeming with gestures, voices, a veneer of meaning and, somewhere, vestigial dreams of blonde, auburn, acorn brown and, sometimes, the red of flames, crimson, or blood.

there have been mornings, clammy with the chill of frost or the oppressive sweat of summer's early heat, where tangled and thrashing in the heartless embrace of a restless single bed i had touched upon the thought that nothing is indeed sacred; but though i had not willed it, and though i do not still, i have woken into this.

it was seasons ago, not far from where i'm writing this, that i gave her a lilac to put in her hair and she smiled at me, and i can still see the salaciousness playing across her lips, as if she were savouring a moment that could never be reproduced. it was an innocence that led us wide-eyed into that ebullient evening, there was brilliance to our both being there bandying ideas back and forth like so many frothy waves flirting with that first shore that we enjoyed together. there was an illusion of time stopping, and at some point we marvelled at a bleeding skyline; we let our leaking bruised hearts color the horizon where a seagull glided gracefully above the waves, solitary until out of the expanse of sky and salt breezes another joined it and they danced through the last moments of that early spring day when darkness settled and they disappeared; together or alone, i do not know.

these are the things that have sustained me, though i can't speak to their efficacy; there isn't time enough to count the hours or even days spent in the careful service of collecting angelic faces and curves and imaginings of quiet, quilted moments; feathered wings and pillowed mornings and eternity experienced in the purity of moments shared.

i have lived for her, for the countless passions of touch and glances; i have given everything to this. but i haven't seen her in months and those that came before are poorly lit wax figures in the museum of my memory, false glories fading with the passing of lives, ghosts of loss and regret. so i live in the space created by this longing, between the notes of a lilting sonata echoed through abandoned hallways, in the service of love and the things that will survive us.

A True Story
by sidhedevil
Group: Lithium

This is a true story.

A long time ago, I was in graduate school at an enormous state university (huge mistake, as it turned out, but that’s another story). I was sharing an office with a fellow graduate student named Ray, who was teaching two sections of the required freshman writing course. As the end of the term approached, the kids from Ray’s classes came in, one by one, to discuss the topics they had chosen for their final “opinion paper”.

Ray was (and I’m sure, still is) a sweetheart of a guy, but listening to fifty college freshmen describing research paper topics is enough to try the patience of a deity, let alone a saint. In between the onslaughts, he would come and sit on the edge of my desk and try to drown his sorrows in the horrible coffee from the vending machines down the hall.

One evening around 6, Ray’s seemingly boundless patience reached an end. The meeting began promisingly enough—the student arrived on time, and actually had a paper topic in mind. “I’d like to write my term paper about, you know, inheritance. I mean, inherited personality characteristics and stuff like that,” she said.

Ray made an encouraging noise. At that time (the late 1980s), the genetic links to various human and animal behaviors were a relatively new and exceedingly hot topic.

“Would you be researching some of the recent studies by geneticists?” Blank look from the student. “Or perhaps you would be looking into some studies of animal behaviors?” Continued blankness. “Well, what exactly did you have in mind, then?”

“I wanted to write about how people inherit their personality characteristics. You know, like, my mother is Norwegian and I like the forest, but my father is Irish and I also like the ocean.”

Ray stared at the young woman, blinking slowly. I buried my head even deeper in my volume of Keats. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m not following you,” Ray said after a moment.

“Well, you know. People inherit their personality characteristics. Like my boyfriend’s mother; she’s Italian and loves to cook and all.”

“And this is because of ‘inheritance’, you believe?” Ray was keeping his cool, with some effort.

“Yes, of course. And, you know, like black people, or American Indians—why they are how they are, and all.”

“I see. And how **are** they?”

“Oh, you know. Closer to the earth, and so on.”

“Listen,” said Ray, his carefully-preserved cool now completely melted. “That has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Under no circumstances should you write a term paper on this topic, because I will certainly give you an F.”

“But why?” the girl asked, with a piercing emphasis that testified to Olympic-level whining abilities.

“Because your idea is idiotic and racist, and had been thoroughly discredited by the end of the 19th century.”

“But it’s my opinion,” said the girl. “You said we should write these papers about an opinion, and this is my opinion.” She sat back in her plywood chair with a wide smile.

“It is your opinion,” Ray said, clearing his throat, “but I strongly encourage you not to write about it.”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t,” she said. “It’s my opinion, and I have a right to my opinion.”

Something about the complacent plonk of that last sentence broke down the shreds of restraint to which Ray was still clinging. “Of course you have a right to your opinion. But it’s a stupid opinion, and if you try to write a research paper supporting it, you will receive a grade of F, because there is no way you will ever be able to find any credible evidence to back you up. Yes, you have the right to have any opinion you want—you have the right to believe that Earth was colonized by giant green beings from the planet Triton, but God help you if you try to write a research paper about it!”

Some atavistic instinct for self-preservation told the girl that she had gone too far, and she gathered up her notes and her backpack and left the room. As she backed out the door, she muttered, “Well, you didn’t have to be rude about it.”

Ray looked at me for a second, then went to the door, opened it, and shouted down the hall, “Yes! I did!”

It was one of my favorite moments in graduate school. I was reminded of it by the instructions for this challenge, in which we were carefully admonished to be sure to “respect everyone’s opinion” when critiquing the work of our fellow group members. To be absolutely frank, I think that’s abject, craven bullshit. I refuse to respect everyone’s opinions, because there are many opinions which are ignorant, prejudiced, and downright dangerous.

Fortunately for me, the opinions of my fellow group members turn out to be interesting and admirable, so the point is moot as far as this particular challenge goes. My larger concern, though, still remains.

Like my friend Ray, I am never going to “respect” anyone’s racist opinion. I may understand why a given person holds a racist opinion, and respect him or her (on the whole, at least) despite that opinion, but the opinion itself is despicable.

And I have to say that I bridled more than a little at being cautioned to play nice with the other writers. I don’t know about anyone else here, but I, for one, didn’t learn “everything I needed to know” in kindergarten.

When I see, or hear, an opinion that is unjust, prejudiced, or self-serving, I am going to speak out about it. That is one of the reasons I have worked at writing for the past three decades—to speak out about the things I think are important.

Sometimes I think that what we do as writers is only a more complicated version of what was done by the women and men who first daubed designs on the walls of their caves at Lascaux, or plowed patterns miles long on the plains of Nazca, or notched sticks along the trails of the great Huron wilderness. We make signs to tell other people things they need to know.

And if what they need to know is “Danger!” or “Poison!”, then surely we are doing them a disservice to cover the sign with hearts and flowers instead.

I think that if we try to smooth over real, important disagreements with the veneer of politeness that often passes for respect (real respect, in my mind, goes much deeper than that), then we are betraying something powerful, the one gift that makes us different from all the other animals—the gift of language.

And if I didn't care about that-and I mean, care **passionately** about it-then why would I be here at all?

A Balancing Act is No Act
by Billectric
Group: Lithium

A Balancing Act is No Act (Edited again)

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

- The Bible

The women sat in 1960’s turquoise and white striped nylon lawn chairs on lush green grass, smoking their Salem menthols and Virginia Slims. They met in our yard near the bus stop where I and the other kids poured out of the yellow submarine, laughing or crying. A lot of the kids ended up in my yard with where the mothers drank iced tea and gossiped in their sunglasses, chewing spearmint gum, this one a bleached platinum, this one a long-haired Cher brunette, and my Mom had that starlet look with short black hair and the hip countenance of Jackie Kennedy.

I was eight years old with a red plastic bucket perched on top of my onion head . It was supposed to be a fireman’s hat. As I gyrated toward other kids playing, I held the pretend hose, one open end of a broken hoola-hoop, flailing the invisible water all over them.

I heard Hank’s mom say to my Mom, “Billy seems to be well-adjusted…”

To which I knew, even at the age of eight, and as I suppose my Mom knew as well, that was far from true. I've spent most of my life trying to get adjusted to one thing or another.

When I use quotes from the Bible I like to point out that Hunter S. Thompson and Bob Dylan quote it, too, so people won't think I'm preaching. A lot of people are intrigued by the predictions of Nostradamus or enlightened by the story of Buddha, but when you mention Jesus or it pisses them off.

So, the Bible says old men will dream dreams and young men will see visions. I like to say, “I’m right in the middle, being bombarded from both sides.”

Picture this. I am standing up straight and my arms are stretched up and out making a “V” from my chest upward. All the space in that triangle, in my arms, are my dreams. If put my arms down, but not touching my sides, I form an upside-down “V” and everything in that space is a vision of what has or will actually happen in reality. It looks like an hourglass. I like diagrams.

There is a splitting off of physical and spiritual which many have tried to explain. Have you ever had that glimpse? Where you sort of see something, but if you were trying too hard, it vanished? Now they have found “little beach balls” - particles smaller than atoms – which get so small that they change just by you looking at them, so you never get to see what they are really like when you’re not looking. A photon pellet travels from your eye a knocks the little quarkazoid bean sideways, so it scowls at you with a swollen foot or something. So you never get to see how it looks when you are not looking.

So the human body has got to be a miracle no matter how you look at it. So I feel pretty good about inhabiting this thing.

Now, if you take the image of me standing with my arms stretch up and out into the air, and if I spread my legs like so, then I look like an “X”, right?

At the very point where those two x-lines cross, is a diamond holy empty blissful spot. This is where those little beach balls jump back and forth. The nexus, baby.

These particles have to fill in the blanks, see, so when a negative space appears, a positive ball jumps into that space. But that leaves an empty space, so another microscopic ball jumps in there…and they all keep doing this non-stop…

Unless a few balls trickle further in, to one side or the other. Dreams becoming realities; realities becoming dreams. Visions becoming feelings and feelings becoming visions.

Here is a true story that freaks me out sometimes. I have heard other people have experienced this, too. I dreamed I was at work and this girl I work with started talking loudly to me. I said something crazy like, “Hey, maple syrup” and she got really angry and started cursing me for not getting my work done, and I just shrugged so she picked up a hand-full of paper and threw it at me. It hit me in the face. I woke up and my cat had knocked some papers down onto my face. But if the papers hit my face at the end of the dream, how did my brain know to build up to that action with the girl yelling?!

Since I was eight years old I’ve known that I needed a balance between the two worlds, choosing the more surreal vividness of make believe to complement my drab days; and when I was, in fact, living a dream on the sea or on a stage, I longed for the mundane again. So can I find that diamond at the point where the x-lines cross?

Oh, I'll find it. Yeah.

Belief Warehouse (Lüuka goes Shopping)
by beatvibe
Group: Lithium

"It's all about choices," declared the merchant. "You're a person of intellect, right? Well, I mean intellect balanced with... I don't know. Whatever it is that makes us human. You follow your heart, your mind... Either way, you end up making choices. About what to believe, I mean. And when you're ready to buy, you end up here, at Belief Warehouse."

"I'm just browsing," said Lüuka. "Comparing alternative structures, looking for ideas. I haven't quite made up my mind yet."

"Oh, you think not?" scoffed the grizzled old man, shaking his head. "Well, that's a belief as well. A false one. Give it a little consideration, a little introspection... You'll see. Hmmm..." he squinted at her. "I could be wrong, but uh... I peg you as a liberal. Capitalist, of course..."

Lüuka took a deep breath. "Well," she responded cautiously, "I don't know that we should... I mean, I'm not quite comfortable with..."

"Yeah, I know," acknowledged the man. "People can be very protective of their beliefs. That's why we package everything here in metal cans. Some places will sell you beliefs wrapped in tissue or plastic -- or even loose off the shelf. But not at Belief Warehouse. Here, everything is hermetically sealed in titanium alloy canisters. Some people think beliefs last longer that way -- less susceptible to contamination. That's important, you understand. I mean, when you've got every conceivable principle under one roof, you've got to keep things in their place. Or at least allow for that perception."

"This showroom is enormous," exclaimed Lüuka, scanning the cavernous expanse of inventory. "When I walked in... I mean, from the outside, I didn't realize what I was getting into."

"Well, it's different for every person," explained the merchant, leading her deeper into the crisscrossing labyrinth (confused, like tangled neurons). "Some people come here because they're comfortable with abstractions, and they just want to examine the options. Others are more literal and really think they can purchase this stuff. But, uh... Either way, I think you'll find we're quite well organized. I mean, once you allow for the vague nature of our product. Basically, it's all categorized by aisle."

"What about all those baseless notions that seem so popular?" Lüuka asked. "You know... Fake moon missions, the flat Earth, conspiracy doctrines...?"

"Oh, that..." sighed the man. "Well, you see, those aren't really beliefs -- I mean, in the true sense of 'conviction.' They're just speculative ideas. Quite tangible, for the most part."

"Yeah, I suppose... A different niche."

"Even so, we stock a few of the more popular ones as novelty items. Impulse buys on display by the register. But none of that stuff is profitable, because it's worth so little to begin with."

"Do you offer layaway plans?" Lüuka inquired.

"Of course not," snorted the merchant. "I mean, once you've made up your mind on a belief, you can't very well leave it behind. It's yours. I mean, how you reconcile it is your business."

"Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. But I'm concerned about cost."

"Well, most beliefs are just trinkets," conceded the man. "We just give them away in bulk. But, you're right... Certain beliefs can be very expensive. They'll cost you your livelihood, your love, your life, your limb... Perhaps even your soul. I mean, if you believe in that sort of thing. And if not... Well, we can fix you up." He stopped before an expanse of well-repaired shelving. "Here," announced the man. "This is the Politics aisle. You'll notice we stock liberal beliefs on the left side of the aisle, and conservative on the right."

"Well, assuming you browse in this direction," Lüuka countered. "The moment you turn around and come back, everything's reversed."

"Uh... Actually not," corrected the man. "That's the strange thing about Politics. It's more of a circle than a spectrum, and it's all relative. You can try to turn things around -- God knows, it's been done -- but ultimately..."

Lüuka reached tentatively...

"Careful," warned the man. "Be wary of beliefs stocked on the right. They spend obscene money on packaging and marketing, and are notorious for mislabeling. But if you scrutinize the ingredients, you'll see that all you're buying into is callous, self-serving greed."

"Not to mention self-righteousness," Lüuka added. "And intolerance."

"Ah... You've shopped this aisle before," realized the vendor. "Well, their self-righteousness isn't a belief per se. It's probably a defensive reaction invoked by a sense of shame. I mean, assuming they have any left. The intolerance is characteristic of their general fear and hatred. But, uh... That's just my own, uh... Observation. Anyway, I guess they've got to sell their beliefs somehow, and continual repackaging has proven curiously effective." The man squinted at an elaborate display of canisters stacked in the center of the aisle. "Now, here's a prime example," he snorted. "I don't know how these ended up getting stocked with the Midway Moderate lines. People come in here trying to be evasive, and they walk out with Compassionate Conservatism. It's disgraceful."

"Well, I think that's why I'm here," said Lüuka. "Looking for something less convoluted."

"Not quite sure how you mean that," said the man, scratching his chin. "I mean, if you're a connoisseur or collector, you can still find Marxism, Federalism, Mösknvorrism, et cetera, stocked down at the end. But if you're just an idealist, that stuff's a bit radical. I mean, you want your beliefs to fit the general framework, don't you?"

"I hesitate to ask," she ventured. "But, uh..."

"Aisle six," answered the man. "It's funny... Strange, I mean. Everyone seems hesitant to bring up Religion. But that's our most popular item -- in a broad sense, I mean. Fundamental."

"Oh, yes..." cooed Lüuka. "May I look? I mean, I'm just curious, you understand."

The old man shuffled to the sixth aisle and gestured with an open hand. "It's all here," he declared. "Kind of hard to keep these beliefs sorted in neat categories, so you might have to scrounge a bit to find exactly what you're after."

Lüuka squinted at the extensive line of product, stacked neatly on gilded shelves extending farther than the eye... "There's so much of it," she observed. "It's overwhelming."

"Humph," barked the man. "Look at it from my point of view, as a humble shopkeeper, I mean. This aisle is infinitely long, filled beyond capacity, with new product arriving daily. East, West, old, new..."

"I don't know where to start."

"Well, follow me," offered the man as he set off down the corridor. "You know, when I help people find things in this aisle, I used to say, 'I am the way.' As a joke, you understand. But, uh... That sometimes doesn't go over so well."

The man stopped before a colorful expanse of product. "You might start by choosing a God," he suggested. "Of course, the basic Old Testament versions are among the most popular, but I think you'll find we're well stocked in all the variations. I mean, you could even go with a lowercase 'g,' if you prefer."

"I... I have trouble telling the difference. Could you possibly recommend one?"

With little forethought, the merchant snatched a can from the shelf. "A white-bearded old man," he offered. "Very popular item. Produced by a major manufacturer and endorsed by numerous factions. General-purpose. Over eighty percent ecumenical..."

"Oh," said Lüuka, squinting at the can's ingredient label. "But is this a benevolent God?"

"Uh, no..." admitted the shopkeeper. "Actually, that one is rather vindictive. Most people seem to identify with that -- conservatives especially. If you actually want a 'loving' God... Well, you limit your choices substantially, but there's still an impressive realm, depending on the qualifications you choose to impose."

Lüuka returned the bearded old man to His spot on the shelf. "No," she decided, "none of these seem right. It's hard to explain, but I think there's something wrong with the packaging."

"Yeah, well... Easy to sell that way," rationalized the vendor. "It's a business, you know."

"But don't you have...? You know... The true God?"

The merchant eyed her skeptically. "You don't see Him here?" he challenged, spreading his arms. "We stock infinitely many choices, and you've only glanced at a couple. If I didn't know better, I'd say you weren't ready to buy. Heck, you can even customize. Buy a generic version and equip Her with whatever suits you. That's very popular these days, and not just among the fringe cults. Belief accessories are myriad in this department."

"No," Lüuka insisted. "I know what I want, and it's not here. Not on these shelves."

The man knit his brow. "Okay, follow me," he relented. "Behind the counter. No place for what you're seeking out on the floor." He shuffled back and retrieved the coveted item, placing a non-descript tin on the counter.

"It's small," Lüuka realized. "I mean, I expected it to be bigger. You know... All encompassing."

"Packaging," reminded the man.

"But there's no label. How do I know what the ingredients are? Or what religion exactly...?"

The old man shrugged. "Either you know, or you don't," he proclaimed. "That's faith. And if you don't have that... Well, then you may as well just buy something off the shelf."

Lüuka nodded. "You're right," she admitted. "This is it."

"Are you certain?"

"Absolutely," Lüuka insisted. "I need this. And, uh... Price is no object."

The belief merchant took the can back and returned it to its spot under the counter. "Well, then you already have it," he proclaimed. "There's nothing I can sell you."

Do you really want to know what I believe?
by trms
Group: Lithium

Do you really want to know what I believe?

I could wrap myself up for you with tidy labels. I could sort and categorize my guiding principles; religion, politics, socio-economic theories, sexual orientation, educational philosophy…

If I told you, for instance, that I was a feminist, that I believed in equality unequivocally, would you begin to form a picture? Now what if I told you that I’ve spent the last seven years calling myself a stay-at-home mother? I could tell you how I spent six and a half years of the last decade with a child in my belly or at the breast. I could tell you about three natural birthing experiences; no drugs, no hospital stays, and, in two of three cases, not even a doctor present. We could talk about the family bed. We could talk about unschooling.

Do you understand me now? Do you know who I am?

What if I told you that I was raised in the Lutheran church? Nearly everyone has a picture for Lutherans, right? But what would you think when you learned that I don’t go to church, haven’t baptized my children, and don’t pray to an almighty God somewhere up there in the heavens above us? We could talk about the life force that I believe exists in each of us. I could tell you what I believe about the nature of good and the nature of evil.

Surely you understand me now.

What if I told you that, when I vote strict party lines, I vote Libertarian? And what if I then said that politics were hopeless, but voting remains a crucial act of participation? I could admit that I only support local charities, and that, even then, I tend to be stingy. We could talk about my view that there is no point in saving the rainforest if you aren’t willing to clean up your own back yard.

Is your picture of who I am clear yet?

I could tell you that I don’t much care what kind of car I drive, but that it’s important that I have a nice computer. I don’t wear makeup, but I shave my legs and armpits. My children do not go to school, but my husband does. I could tell you about my degree in psychology, and then discuss with you the hundreds of reasons why I believe psychology is bullshit.

There you go. That’s pretty black and white, isn’t it?

I could tell you that I’ve spent my entire adult life in a monogamous relationship with a man I consider a soul mate. I could also tell you that I don’t really believe in soul mates, that where there is one right person, there are probably many. We could talk about the choices I’ve made. We could also talk about my bell-curve theory of sexual preference.

Would that make you understand me? Or would that simply make you want to run away?

Do you really want to know what I believe?

If there is one common theme that drives my day-to-day interactions, it is this: It’s not enough to simply know what labels a person carries. Knowing a person takes an open mind. Understanding where someone is coming from takes time.

I believe we should open our minds. I believe we should take the time. I believe that there is someone worth knowing beneath every brand of label.

3am Where St. Charles Avenue And The Ponchartrain Expressway Meet
by KateMonkey
Group: Alligator

Light the red candle. Light the red candle, and light the white candle. Light the red candle, light the white candle, and light the candle with the picture of Saint Lazarus pasted on.

Light the candles. Stand at the crossroads with your 50-cent safety lighter, covering the candles from the faint breeze that rises up under the overpass. Stand at the crossroads in the center of the city, with cars speeding over your head even at this late hour, the hour of hopelessness and magic, and light the red candle, the white candle, and the candle with St. Lazarus on it.

The old man with the crutch and the dogs and the gateway between one and the other, between the living and the dead, between all the worlds, stares up at you from the flickering candle, and you look at him as you reach for the piece of red chalk you have in your bag. Red 'x's on each concrete column, and you pause each time a car goes by, whispering his name over and over in an attempt to protect you from tourists, from police, from people.

Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba

You used to believe. Once upon a time. You would sing and dance and hold the chickens in his name. You would drink the rum and beat the drums and everyone around you would sing sing sing to him and to you.

Legba nan baye-a
Legba nan baye-a
Legba nan baye-a

You've forgotten the words and their meanings now, you've forgotten what it takes, so you make it up as you go along, with the red chalk 'x's on the overpass columns and the red candle and the white candle and the candle with Saint Lazarus pasted on. You begin to chant, but you've forgotten all the Creole you used to know, so you chant in English. It's okay, it's all right, he understands all languages because he's between worlds and between words and "open the door, Legba, open the door, please, Legba Legba Legba, open the door, come to me, save me save me save me. Answer my questions and rescue me from myself, sweet darling Legba who I love and adore and await, oh Legba Legba Legba Legba, my Legba, come to me, be here now, open the door, open the door, open the door."

You keep repeating those words, you're babbling in his name, and you reach into your bag again and pull out the mix of cornmeal and brick dust -- at least you remembered how to make that. You pour it in the shape of the vévé. You don't remember the exact design anymore, so you improvise, again, but there's always that one thing you can't help but remember.

A cross. The crossroads. One line and another line intersecting and it's right there, where one meets the other, that he is and you babble-chant and draw it out and the candles are lit and the red 'x's on the columns get caught in the headlights of passing cars.

Rum. You've forgotten the rum. The rum you picked up at the nearest Walgreen's, not even paying attention to what kind of rum it was, as long as it was cheap. You take a swig of the rum, wincing at the rawness, and pour the rum onto the ground before you spit out your swig over the candles (which flicker briefly at the taste of alcohol) and the vévé and the red 'x's on the concrete overpass columns.

You're at the crossroads and you're calling his name and you hear the streetcar trundle past, drunk college students goggling at you as you stand on the corner, dressed entirely in white, with candles and rum and little red 'x's around you. You close your eyes and take another swig of the rum, because you're still not sure you believe in him anymore, but you have to, you have to, because he has to come, he has to, you've lost nearly everything, you took all your money to come here, and if he doesn't come, you've given up, "Oh Legba Legba Legba, I stand at the crossroads, I stand before you, I give you gifts and respect and love, open the door, open the door, come hear my pleas, come hear me, Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba Legba..."

Your voice gives out. You're crying, big thick tears like a sudden middle of the day New Orleans rainstorm, and you're convinced he's not coming, you're convinced nothing is happening, you used to believe but now you don't, and he isn't gonna come for that, he isn't at the door, he isn't at the crossroads, and you might as well go back to the trashy hotel on St. Charles Avenue, you might as well get on that bus and go back home, you might as well just give up, because you've stopped believing in the loa.

You hear shuffling footsteps behind you, and you turn around quickly. An old man stands there, skin golden brown in the streetlights, walking slowly with a cane, walking slowly with a limp, walking slowly and the scent of rum is strong on him and he's just another drunk on his way to the cheapest bar in town, another damn rummy in a town full of rummys, because you've stopped believing in the loa, you've stopped believing in everything.

He stops in front of you and stares at you with rheumy eyes, large and yellow in the lights. He looks down at the bottle of rum still in your hand, looks at the tears still streaking your cheeks, looks at the vévé and the chalk and the red, white, and Saint Lazarus candles. You're deeply irritated at this drunk for daring to interrupt, for daring to be here when you're waiting for someone you don't think exists anymore.

He leans forward.

He whispers.

"I'm still here, darlin'. And everythin's gonna be al'right."

He takes the bottle of rum from your suddenly slack hands.

He shuffles past you.

You believe.

The Other Side of Midnight
by DanielStephen
Group: Alligator

“Just take the money and leave,” Corey slurred still not realizing the effect alcohol was having on him. “It’s no fuckin’ use, it hasn’t been for a year and it probably won’t ever be.” The cold tone in his voice matched the temperature of the bedroom as well as the rest of the tiny flat, kept but with small piles of clutter.

“I didn’t come here for the money and I’m not leaving,” Jared replied. Jared walked out of the bedroom and curled up on the couch and turned on the stereo. A low but methodical beat eased its way out of the speakers and filled the room with a gentle slap. Jared stripped of his sweater and tight, worn jeans, grabbed an age old quilt off the back of the couch and curled up. A beer he had been drinking early was still perched on the Salvation Army style coffee table in front of him. He closed his eyes and absent-mindedly lit a cigarette as he allowed his mind to get lost in the beat. Once the cigarette was partially crushed out, Jared closed his hazel green eyes and fell asleep.

Corey felt the nights previously consumed cocktails spinning his head and form cold uncomfortable beads of sweat on his forehead as he tossed relentlessly in bed. Secretly he wished he could throw up but knew he was not quite that drunk. A familiar scent teased his mind and for a split second he swore his grandma was in the room. The spinning slowly calmed to a gentle rocking. An involuntary smile crossed his face as he dreamed, he thought, of Gran. The memory of her last hour with him flashed before him, on the movie screen in his mind, as he readjusted the pillows behind him and propped his head and shoulders up against them.

“Corey, I have to leave, darling,” Gran whispered, “but I’ll always be around if you need me. Take care of Nicky. He’s a doll but you’re the stronger one. He’s got a good heart. That’s what matters.” Gran coughed up more blood and Corey dutifully cleaned it up. Gran wrapped her thin hands around Corey’s and looked beyond his eyes and into his soul. “I’ll be over there when you need me. And you will.”

“What do you mean, ‘over there’,” Corey asked, the fear unmasked in his voice.

“The Other Side, darling, The Other Side.”

Corey felt a light hitting his eyes. He tried to cover it with a pillow but the light seared through it undaunted. As Corey sat up in bed, covering and opening his eyes at the same time, the light faded to warm glow. Gran sat at the end of the bed, wearing her favorite pink pantsuit and smoking her Moore 100’s. Her hair was still as white as freshly fallen snow and her blues twinkled brightly, her smile still as bright and warm as the sun.

“Did you have to get this close to shit faced to call for me, darling?”

“What do you mean? When did I call you? Gran, am I dreaming?”

Gran chuckled as she exhaled the smoke. Corey could feel his cheek being held by her hand as he watched the smoke from the cigarette delicately billow upward.

“Darling, you didn’t ring me on the phone, if that is what you are thinking. Your soul cried out for me. Just loud enough for me to know something was wrong and just quiet enough for me to know that you’re not doing so well. So what is it that you need? You’ve got quite a looker on the sofa waiting for you.”

Cory blushed and looked into Gran’s eyes. She had died ten years earlier so this had to be a dream. But nonetheless she was right. He did need her.

“I feel lost, Gran. Not even confused, just fucking lost. I don’t know what to think anymore. I don’t know that I want to think anymore.”

“Language, darling,” Gran replied patting his face. “Corey, let me tell you something. You are my dear grandson, full of shit. Thinking has nothing to do with it. It has to do with believing. You stopped believing about a year ago. When Nicky came over. I can understand it, too. I stopped believing for a time. Your mother had a lot to do with that. Good Lord, that girl did everything to keep me from believing in anything good. But then you came along and I understood what I should have the whole time and suffice to say I began to slowly believe again. You just need to get off that butt of yours and do the same thing. Okay, darling?”

“Gran, I don’t wanna be rude, but what the hell are you talking about?” Corey looked at the vision of Gran in front of him with disbelief and confusion. This nonsense she was muttering from wherever she came from began to spin his head more than the seven cosmopolitans he had drank earlier.

“Alright,” Gran sighed grabbing both of Corey’s hands in hers, “I forgot how damned thick headed you can be sometimes so hold on tight, don’t let go and follow me.” In what felt like an eternal second, Gran and Corey were above the apartment. Clouds flew passed them as they flew upward. As terrified as Corey was to open his eyes he was equally determined not to close them. Stars and planets zipped by and soon the two of them stopped, almost too quickly. Corey gasped for his breath and closed his eyes, certain he was going to piss his pants. At thirty-two, he was going to just wet all over himself, he knew it and there was no stopping it.

“You aren’t going to tee-tee on yourself, you just think you are, darling,” Gran whispered as Corey finally opened his eyes. “Now, I want you to see where you are and why you are here. Tomorrow morning you won’t remember most of this in your mind but your soul will, darling, so pay close attention. Where we are right now is the other side of midnight and the opposite side of the morning. Now watch.”

As if there was a movie screen before them, Corey’s life from conception began to play. His mother that left in the middle of the night five days after his birth to follow the man that she loved only to disappear from their lives forever. Scenes from his childhood and teen years seemed to take seconds to play out in front of him. The good times and the hard times had equal play. Within a matter of seconds, Nick was on the screen. The first time they met, the first time they kissed, the first time they made love. The parties and the holidays. The fights and the hurt to each others pride. The making up that always seemed to follow like a river flooding. And then the bullets from a passing car that ripped threw Nick and ripped apart Corey’s life. The screen obscurely faded as quickly as it appeared.

“Darling, the reason we go through life isn’t to find someone or live out some fairy tale that doesn’t exist, it is for our souls to learn. We go through hell in the process because trial by fire is the best way to learn. If things were always perfect, we’d never know what failure or pain or hurt or loss or love or joy would teach us. Along the way we need a little kick in the ass. Look at it this way, occasionally an angel will appear that is helping us pick up the pieces of something broken, a dream or a heart or a whatever it may be. Just because he doesn’t have wings doesn’t mean he isn’t an angel. And you should know by now broken hearts have more room for someone to settle in."

As quickly as Gran had appeared Corey felt her leave. Fear forced him to look down from his lofty view. His stomach turned slightly as he felt a rush fuel itself over him. He expected to see the world beneath him. Had he not seen it on the way up? In place of the planets and stars he was looking back at himself. Unlike looking into a mirror when his face looked back this time it was his soul.

Corey woke up thinking he had to puke. He stumbled into the bathroom and leaned over the toilet as the cold tile forced him to awaken. He spat into the toilet and then washed his face. He tiptoed into the living room to see if Jared was asleep on the couch. No one was there. He started to walk back to the bedroom when a pair of arms wrapped around him. A light kiss to the top of his head and the light scratching of chest hair against his back eased his body.

“Babe, you’ve been tossing and turning all night. Talking in your sleep again. You okay?” Jared asked as his body encased around Corey.

“Yeah, I think so. It was just a dream, I guess.” Corey replied turning to face Jared and nuzzle against the once escort now lover he had given his heart too. Jared kissed Corey’s forehead before the two headed back to bed. Once settled and spooning in bed, Jared leaned over as a dimly glowing light faded in the distance and whispered into Corey’s ear even though he was asleep.

“That was no dream, angel.”

The Tale of Ruby Dream (Snow White's Next Generation)
by judih.
Group: Alligator

Re-cap: Snow White was married, in most blissful wedlock to Roman, her hero, her prince who had rescued her from her state of frozen apathy, so many years before. She still praised that long ago day when she'd been set free.

And now the tale:

There she was: Snow White gazing out at the wintry landscape from her favorite window in the tower loft. Entranced, she began to flashback to the time when she had been a frozen shell of her true self, encased in glass. How long she'd been in that state, she'd never know, yet, the miraculous had happened! She'd been discovered and taken by sled over snowy paths towards a new land.

Suddenly, inexplicably, under the night skies, a powerful surge of starlight emblazoned her throat. And just as suddenly, she'd been released from a hideous spell.

From that day, she spoke, sang, shouted her inner wishes. She danced with the clouds. She conversed with raindrops. She chanted her soul’s epiphany.

Then one day, her glance fell upon the sweet face of a man. Had heaven again reached out to the ends of the earth to bring her such a beautiful man?

Time passed and they grew to know one another. In the joy of discovery, they pledged eternal union and came to live in this private Castle, nestled in snow blanketed forests.

As she remembered her past, a red cardinal flew by her window. Like a flag of color, it waved to her like a thought: a child. Yes! She wanted a child from this blessed union; a pure new being she could nurture.

And as she looked at the scenery she so loved, she sang:

Snow-covered land
    Bless me with a child
   Throbbing with forest blood
    Heart eagle-strong
    Mind undefiled
    Grant me my wish, snow-covered land...

Nine months later, the sound of festive chimes could be heard throughout the castle as a new-born babe was announced.

It was said she was pure as snow with lips as red as new spring cherries and hair as black and shiny as her mother’s.

They called her Ruby Dream, as she had arrived in answer to her mother’s wish.

Ruby Dream was a child born to love. Her parents doted on her. Her father taught her how to use a bow and arrow and climb rocky cliffs. Her mother instructed her in how to find her way through forests, how to speak to animals and how to trust her instincts, never to be fooled by outer appearances.

Thus, Ruby Dream grew into a strong young woman who loved the cold wintry forest and the spring flooded river. She spoke to deer and elk as if she were their sister. She knew which plants to gather for food and which caves were safe for a night’s shelter.

Her parents watched over her with confidence, for the Castle was protected by its forest creatures, and no harm could befall their daughter.

Ruby was free to grow and learn about the world around her. This was just as it should be, for somewhere not too distant lived the spirit of the Wicked Queen – the enemy of her mother.

And in a not too distant Castle, at that very moment, an Empress was consulting her mirror.

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
    Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

And the Mirror answered:

"Oh, queen, thou art fairest in this dark realm,
    But over the hills, where the snow is white,
    Ruby Dream is breathing light,
    And she, my lady, is a fairer sight."

When she heard this, the Empress shook with rage. Impossible! Who existed who could begin to compete with her beauty? She, of eternal majesty was beyond mere beauty! She was, she was.... the Empress was furious and could not continue. Horrible memories flooded her thoughts. There had once been Snow White, a silly child who'd dared to issue a challenge. But, she, certainly, had disintegrated trying to live under the hardships of Snow Country. Who, then, might this new young rival be?

There was no peace for the Empress. She resolved to destroy the foreign beauty. And she set herself the task of learning the blackest arts to accomplish her task.


Ruby Dream was learning to fly that day from Eagle and was playing with the wind currents, high into the flow, when a crow headed straight towards her, joining her in flight.
The black crow and Ruby's black hair were quite a sight, shining so in the bright sunlight, but the beauteous vision was soon interrupted. Clouds seemed to gather over Ruby's windblown face.

Her arms suddenly stiffened... what had Crow said? Someone had sworn to kill her?
There was someone who wanted her dead? Who?
And why? What had she done?

She looked around for someone to ask, Crow was long gone and where he'd been, there remained stagnant air, large and empty of answers.

Ruby was innocent and truly believed that all people were like her own parents: good, loving and fair. So, surely, she, herself, must have done something terrible, something to incur such horrible wrath.

Back on forest ground, she paced the paths, searching her heart for misdeeds, or thoughtless words, but she could truly think of nothing she'd done that might incite such rage.

Ruby approached the animals asking them for a clue, any piece of information about one who might hate her, but they were too young to have heard of the story of her mother, Snow White, or of the times before the family had come to live in the forest.

They did know, however, of someone who might be able to help: the Oak Tree at the far end of the woods. She might have some answers for Ruby.

Off she went, rushing to find the stately Oak Tree. When she reached the place where she could run no further, the Oak Tree stood in wait. Ruby breathlessly asked for help in finding someone who would want her dead.

The Oak Tree, of course, knew all the stories in the land, for the tree was thousands of years old, well-rooted into the heart of the planet.

Oak had witnessed everything there was to see. And Oak Tree knew exactly who wanted Ruby dead, and why. For the Oak had seen it all. She had seen how vanity could scoop the kindness from a human heart and change it to ice and venom. She’d seen tribes living in peace slaughter one another for a morsel of food. Time and time again, human destroyed human. There was no limit to mankind’s cruelty, and no reason that wouldn’t set it off.

The Oak Tree had seen few rise above the foul noise that haunted mankind. Many wailed a sickening screech. The Wicked queen, who attacked Snow White, shared that horrific wail with the jealous Empress.

The Oak Tree knew that Ruby must learn these songs of mankind in order to protect herself. She had to recognize the sound of danger. For her pure harmony with Nature was not enough to safeguard her from the foul cacophony of human beasts.

And so the lessons began. The Oak Tree walked Ruby through mind visions, showing her how man had misunderstood the ways of creation and had destroyed the simple beauty of life. Ruby listened to the tones of mankind, who through the centuries, succumbed to his inherent weaknesses. She learned the sound of man falling into traps set by his own greed for money, lust for carnal pleasure, desire for power. Ruby heard the same themes repeated throughout history.

She watched as her own forest, once a land of peaceful co-existence between man and animal, became victimized as man abused the riches of the earth. She witnessed one man rob the roots of ginseng, and then another poison the leaves of sacred plants, while yet another harvest the holy manna to sell it for a profit to those who knew nothing of its entheogenic properties.

Ruby learned what members of her own race could do. She understood ignorance. She weeped as she watched wars that annihilated all that was good in human beings, and prevented all that was beautiful from flourishing. All this Ruby acknowledged and took to her heart.

With each lesson, Ruby Dream praised the spirits surrounding her. She felt the joy of being born of a father who had risen above such dead chains of thought and a mother who had taught her the ways of living.

O night sky, cosmic stars
    mighty forest,
    Thank you for opening my ears to your wisdom
    Friend eagle, fly well, fly brave!
    Blessed spirit, I kiss you
    in gratitude for the privilege of being alive...

The sound of the forest shone, encompassing light and shadow. Ruby Dream heard it all. No enemy of the truth would harm her, for she understood.

The Hypocrite
by JeffSeb
Group: Amoeba

I try.
I really do.
But no matter how hard I might attempt to live the way I want to I just can’t.
It is utterly impossible.
And when I stand up at school or just lay into my friends about my anti-almost-everything beliefs I can’t help but think how hypocritical I’m being.
Sure I hate McDonalds and chains and sweatshops and all that crap.
But when I’m hungry and with friends I’ll run to the closest fast food place.
When the newest videogame or movie (that cost a hundred million dollars or whatever to make) come out, I can be seen beelining it to Zellers.
And while almost all my indie band shirts are Hanes, I’ve never once checked the label to see where they’re made.
I’m an ignorant consumer whore.
Made all the more ignorant because I know I’m ignorant.
These aren’t my beliefs.
These are my confessions.

Catharsis within 500 miles
by PackageDeal
Group: Amoeba

I had the dream again.

I wake to a warm ocean breeze that sweeps through my room. I’ve never seen the room before, but in the dream I know it’s my bedroom… our bedroom. She sleeps on her stomach with her head turned away from me. The lightly colored sheets only cover what needs to be covered. I’m tempted to wake her, but I don’t want spoil the surprise. I’m half convinced of her identity anyway. I turn my attention to the task at hand. Waves crash on the sandy shore mere footsteps away from my bedroom. I slip on a pair of shorts, forgoing the black wetsuit that lies crumpled in the corner from the night before (presumably,) pick up my board and run to the water. Those first few footsteps are slightly cold, but not overly so and certainly not enough to deter my run. Now paddling through the oncoming waves, I push myself up a bit to let the majority of the wave pass between my stomach and the board. With my bedroom door barely visible, I turn to face the coast as the next wave approaches.

It seems strange, but it only takes one good wave to fall in love.

Love may be the wrong word; obsession seems inadequate. Surrounded by the upper Mississippi River Valley, with no ocean wave in either direction for hundreds of miles, such a preoccupation seems absurd. However, I can’t ignore this preoccupation. It was on the beaches of Waikiki that I caught my first waves. With the shadow of Diamondhead in my midst, my eyes were open to a new part of the world. I didn’t realize it every other day that week when I rented enough long boards to buy my own, but surfing to me filled a long empty void in my soul that was once scarcely occupied with religion. Suddenly all my cares and dread fell away and, for one of the first times, I felt at absolute catharsis. I wasn’t aware of the lasting ramifications this event shook me to my very core, but I did know then that I could wake every morning and surf.
Rainer Maria Rilke abandoned his mundane everyday life to study Rodan and Cezanne in France while finding himself as a writer. Maybe it’s time to consider a similar retreat. My biggest fear as a writer is not writing. I fear that I will be overwhelmed by the mundane tasks of everyday life and I’ll wake up in the middle of a midlife crisis with no adventure to call my own. This is a pre-emptive midlife crisis. I will leave this place, at least for a while, and find myself as a writer, a surfer and a human being. Unlike the dream, I most likely will go alone and wake alone.

It may be a trick. The desire to surf and write may stem from a much larger desire to see just how big the rest of the world truly is.

by Ambon Pereira
Group: Amoeba

fall again
the morning way
and tell us that you love
the earth more than heaven,
unless your soul
were a question
you dare not answer
from the freshborn
shadows of day.

then trust these words:
Orion, Taurus and Galatea,
half-charmed quirk of a nebulous supernova,
heart of an expiring angel
in the fiery footprint
of stars.

as if to speak from the sum of human knowledge,
mountainous peak of a pile of clay tablets and
parchment rotting, tower of babble-on,
persian astrologer, arabian nights.

Black Box Revolution
by drmenlo
Group: Antimony

He was just walking down the street head immersed in effluvia when a man bumped into him. "Oh, I'm sorry about that!" he said, smiling broadly. He had such a wide smile you tended to take him for his word, so Joel did, but thinking so, he heard a clatter to his right. He turned to look and there his umbrella had gone down the steps in the scuffle.

He turned back to the man who had interceded him: "Oh, that's quite all right, no harm done."

The man with the wide smile tipped his hat and walked on. Joel looked after him for a minute before walking down the steps to retrieve his rain shield. As he bent over to pick it up the door there opened and a hand reached out, grabbed him by his lapels and pulled him in, slamming the door shut behind him.

"What the--?" Joel said, his eyes adjusting to the sudden absence of light.

A match was struck and a face alit.

It was a girl--a pretty girl. Framed by long jet black hair and a large grey turtleneck lying under a navy blue peacoat. "Please," she commanded. "Sit."

Joel looked behind him at the ground. Surprisingly, the parquet wood floor there was clean and polished. He sat, lying his briefcase beside him.

"Sorry we had to intercept you like that but they're always watching, hm?"

Joel looked around slowly. "We?"

The man with the wide grin popped out from the shadows, had evidently come in thru a back door. "Yes, we," he said, still smiling, standing next to the girl.

"Um," said Joel. "Is this a kidnapping?"

She laughed. "Oh good heavens, no. We're here with a gift for you, Joel. Or should I say . . . Homer?"

Joel's face went slack. "Ehm, my name is Joel."

"Oh, sure, it is now. But you used to be Homer, way back when."

"Homer was . . . a noted thought criminal. If I was him--which I'm not--I'd surely be in jail."

She smiled and sat down across from him and crossed her legs. Only then did he notice she was barefoot.

"Don't worry about us, Homer," she said. "We're here to help."

The man with the wide grin brought out a briefcase from the shadows. He set it down in front of Joel and snapped it open facing him. On the top half of the briefcase Joel could see a screen flashing green digits.

"Do you know what this is?" Grin asked.

"Looks like a computer," Joel said.

"Oh yes," Grin said. "But not only--this here? . . . is a portal to Internet 3."

"Internet . . . 3?" Joel asked.

"Yes. You're familiar with internets one and two--both since subsumed by corporate powers. So we've created another one, a place to congregate, share information . . . plan. It taps in thru WIFI, of course, and is totally encrypted. It's also powered by the latest in super fuel cells--good for ten years without a recharge. And it's yours. Homer."

Joel looked at him. "Who are you?"

"Well, I can't tell you my name," he said, grinning. "But, I can tell you that you had a wonderful effect on me as a kid. In fact, you were a defining influence. And it's an honor to sort of repay the favor . . . if only in a small way."

Joel looked to his left and noticed for the first time that the girl had his briefcase open, and had placed all of it's contents on the floor. "What are you--?" he began to ask, but he already knew the answer to that.

"Ah, yes," the Grin said. "All that goes into here and you leave with a black briefcase just like the one you came in with. Of course, usually when you open it the screen just won't appear like it did when I opened it. You'll have a lock on it's I3 properties for the most part. And you'll only unlock it when you are assured of your privacy. Let me show you how it works."

He showed him. Afterward, Joel asked, "Well . . . so . . . what's . . . going on? By way of . . . plans?"

Grin stood and shook his legs out. He took Joel's hands and shaked it fiercely. "It's been an honor, sir." He said. "Now I'll be off so you can receive your official initiation into the current revolution." He cast a sidways glance at the girl, who was now undressing. "As far as plans, well, the first step is to distribute the tools. So long as the people have the tools to spread the information they need, they will, in the end, do the right thing, won't they?"

"Yes." Joel said, shocked to hear his own words, from so long ago, read back to him.

Grin disappeared into the black and a sound of a door opening and closing could be heard. When Joel turned to his left, the girl was there, completely naked, sprawled out on pillows with a couple candles going around her. She couldn't have been more than 22, and was luscious, in every way.

"Welcome back to the revolution, Homer." she purred. "Now come and get initiated."

Back out into the street an hour later with his new briefcase, Homer's senses were reignited with the possibilities which now awaited him. He began walking, and the first Bush for President 2012 poster he saw filled him--for the first time in a long time--with something other than an apathetic stupor. Because this time, he knew, he felt, with every fibre of his newly awakened self, that Jenna was going down.

How You Know I Believe in God
by agresik
Group: Antimony

I get out of bed every morning.
I’m a sucker for a sunset.
I forgive my mother every single fucking time.
Miracles don’t bother me.
I give most people the benefit of the doubt.
I fall asleep on my husband's shoulder at church.
I say “fuck” but not “goddammit”.
Emmylou Harris makes me cry.
I refuse to bring a child into the world.
I start my journal over every January first.
I haven’t yet mixed tranquilizers with alcohol.
In my dreams, I’m unfaithful to my husband.
Wine tastes better from a communion cup.
I don’t wonder where I came from. I don’t even care.
I love the child that the world has brought me.
I’m writing this poem instead of getting drunk.
I can’t give you a straight answer to your question.
That’s how you know I believe in God.

by j8
Group: Antimony

you know
it is easier to write and then read neither of us has to think on our feet. sit listen don’t interrupt please don’t ask questions and please please don’t cry for so long too long we haven’t talked listened beyond holiday plans and strange random quarrels the longer we don’t speak of it the rock sets deeper and now my throat is tight with all i want to say should have said didn’t hear myself

you don’t know
that i don’t blame you for anything for any of it you probably won’t believe it even if i carved it in a tree or fell to my knees or could pass it to you as an apple would you accept? this fruit from me won’t feed you can’t cure you won’t satisfy all i can feel all i can give to you here now slowly losing my volume my hands shaking more and it still won't rest in your palm in your chest in the feet of you wherever you are there is no knowing without confidence and the doubts you tend to that worry that doesn’t keep you warm like anger the worry your worst companion is in my way and i can’t sell you on this

you should know
i believe i must try for you for me for sin and salvations sake for sleep without brandy for balance for grace for my future of trying for the moment when you slip from me for you

you know
this is my faith and i’ll tithe my tongue my days so you know there is no thing unspeakable no fall from grace no daughter lost no unknown
you will know

Santa and the Tooth Fairy
by Lightning Rod
Group: Apple

a tale of shattered faith

Crunched spectacles, the
Brittle sound of broken glass
Icicles shatter on cold cement

(The tooth fairy and santa claus
Are shacked up in a motel gone to seed
Down by the River that flows upstream)

Things are never what they seem,
Theater depends on the willing suspension
Of disbelief. The sun rises and sets
Regardless of whether you think it’s beautiful,
There are those who imagine that the sun
Doesn’t rise and set at all but is always there
Hidden by the earth at night
And that the pink and baby blue of dawn
Are only an illusion.

Some share the delusion that a skinny Jew
Died and lived to tell about it. Wild eyed
Madison avenue prophets tell of salvation
In a pill or a powder or a potion or the motion
Of panther tires licking the highway with sexy rubber,

Some accept the uber-man. Or that the stars can show the way.
Or hold to the religion of atoms and molecules and electrons
That they cannot see. Some put their faith in numbers.

Those who worship doctors will surely get sick.

The tooth fairy gave old santa a case of the clap.
Her hands had been under too many pillows.
They were dirty as the paws of a priest.
Circumstance had thrown them together, the
Old bearded pixie and the night visitor.
Their lives depended on the good faith of children.

In the early days of cinema
Some bought the illusion so thoroughly that
They ran from the theaters in terror
From the movie of an oncoming train,
But the films ran slower in those days
That’s why they called them flicks,
There were some people who didn’t buy the illusion at all,
Their eyes were seeing the movie frame by frame,
They couldn’t detect the motion.

There are those who invest in the notion
That colors or smells or lotions or words intoned
Can cure or enlighten or get you stonedm
Or that this diet or that can eliminate your fat,
Then there are black cats and ladders you can’t walk under,
Don’t step on a crack; seven years for a broken mirror,
The meaning of thunder, the omens, the portents

There’s the importance of certain foods in your diet
To help you cheat death and old age. Remember
When cocaine was all the rage, the fountain of youth?
And that gets us back to the tooth under the pillow

How old were you when you figured it out?
That a portly old man who is suffering gout
Can’t slide down the chimney with fire in the flue
When did you know they were fooling you?

by piph
Group: Apple

i could wait
for fear to ebb
and still be caught up
in it's tidal wave

i could wake
from each sleeps nightmare
strggling at consciousness
'till night falls again

i could hide
protecting myself from others
from hurt and despair
until desperate for contact

i could light candles
for souls past
dwell and become mired in loss
until the next one passes

i could do all this
these things,
they would pass the days
all in to numbness
and i could slip away

but i believe
that sometimes
the heartache
the nightmares
the deaths
the disappointments
could clear away, just for a moment
and that moment
could be worth

Land Free
by Andeh
Group: Bauxite

It all starts with a misunderstanding

I want the lands to be walked upon free, someday
Often when they lay their traps down, they do not think of
What may remain after the war
For a long time life stood very quiet

But the people they were not so still
And lives have got lived out, inside of their mind
Years pass, and they picture themselves if they would have graduated from high school
Or if they could have played european football out in several fields, to someday, make a national team
Those dreams may happen eventually later
But so much later than many had realized
And it makes those dreams not less real

If houses are gone, and you come back to them, what do you do?
If bridges have been burned who, and when will they be rebuilt?
And yet the country still tells tourists to come visit the country's beautiful coastline
But how safe, really, is it?

People have come outside of their homes, makeshift as they may have been, now
They want to kick the footballs around, on the wonderous ground
But so much danger will remain
Will the land ever be free, and clear?

How I long for the day,
When the lands can be walked upon so freely, again
When one doesn't have to watch where one steps
No landmines shall remain here, in Bosnia, or, in Angola,
Or Anywhere else

Friends, using their new legs, but they are still happy that they are just alive
Sisters, practicing picking up things, with their new arms
It's not the same, they say
But it had been better than having no arms at all

I could never explain, how much change in things, such as this
Could leave such effects in the whole
We look at its aftermath
And think what came of all of this, as a result?

Noone ever wants history to repeat itself
And yet, it returned, a 400 years ago battle
400 years from now, will it come back, again?
Will their future relatives go through what they did?
Or will they know better than to do any of this?
And the people will always be happy and free,
And the lands will always be clear and safe

It all starts with a misunderstanding
And, how, will it end, forever, on, in true peace?

Once Upon a Time
by midnite
Group: Bauxite

Once she believed in god in heaven
children's toys and children's tales
doll, teddybear, plastic jesus

Once she believed in romance
and every time, yes, every time
she saw forever after in love's eyes

Once she believed in herself
wise person she'd become
wonderful things she'd do and put the world to rights

Then she had no god, no lover
the world still had its wrongs
and she was only wonderful or wise on occasion
she loved sex and laughter, kids, spaghetti, music, roses and conversation too much to welcome death
or hasten it - pain in heart or mind never drew her there
but she saw others bear the body's merciless pain, desiring death's relief
and knew a time would come when she may do the same

Time will tell her one day
now this is all she knows:
I don't believe in happy endings
I only hope they might be so

5 Movements of MorbidMike.
by MorbidMike
Group: Bauxite

1. Please view image.

We are all alone. We are all suspended, tenuously, over a sea of uncertainty. We are all leaning into the wind of predetermination, a wind that carries within it every self-doubt, every criticism, every insult, and every ounce of negativity that will ever or has ever been thrown our individual way. There is a message for each and every one of us, and we are all struggling, against the wind (that tears at our clothes, our protection), with that sea churning below us (waiting to drown us), to make out some meaning from that message (before it too is torn from our hands and set adrift in the sea)… to find our way through the darkness and arrive at understanding. Have hope, where there is a letter, an envelope in your pocket, a message… there is also a messenger; and our loneliness is, in the end, only relative.

2. "Fools" said I," You do not know / Silence like a cancer grows. / Hear my words that I might teach you, / Take my arms that I might reach you." / But my words like silent raindrops fell, / And echoed / In the wells of silence – Simon and Garfunkel

The queer community in particular will tell you that silence is death, and it is. We are all defined by our voices, whether we speak, write, whisper, or scream- we are merely one-dimensional until we begin to ‘speak.’ We are given depth by our voice and how we use it. People don’t speak enough; we are obligated to let them know that it is okay to. Silence like a cancer grows, and like a cancer it destroys. Why do we allow it to take our friends, our families, and our enemies? Even when our words are lost to the silence that surrounds and threatens us, we must persevere and keep trying. Silence is death.

3. “Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

It is not enough to just speak, you must rage. Ever fiber of your being, every shred and scrap of your voice must be dedicated to the cause. If you believe in something why only go half way? Why believe at all if you cannot give everything you have to it? You must rage, as if your life depends on it, because it does. We are our voice, we are living in a society that wants to tell us what to believe, to tell us what is real (even when we can see that they only have lies to peddle), and if we want to turn a few heads in our direction, to maybe teach and reach our fellow men, than it is not enough to merely speak. We have to rage, and burn as brightly and loudly as possible. We must rage.

4. “In the midst of darkness, I found the sun within myself.” – A. Camus

It is not easy to speak; it is even harder to rage. Where do you find that strength? Where do you light the fires that will ultimately consume you? Where do you turn when that sea surges to engulf you? You look within. We all have friends, and families, and support systems. We can all connect to something greater than ourselves, but there isn’t anything that is greater than our “selves.” We all have the sun within us. We are all strong. We just have to turn inward and believe.

5. “Had I not seen the Sun / I could have borne the shade / But Light a newer Wilderness / My Wilderness has made –“ – Emily Dickinson

We only thrive in adversity. Chaos is the engine of creation.

by grushenka
Group: Beryllium

I wade through bodies that are bloody, piled on the ground, knee-high. Most are dead already, some cling to life and groan. This is the field where I frolicked, when – two years ago? Two days? The blood is viscous and drying on my bare feet (bare in the barren battle-zone because shoes are the worst invention in history; I would wade through Styx to feel black sand or fresh mown grass between my toes); I continue although my spirit vacillates, making me sick. Is this too much, it screams. There – a man with a bayonet through his stomach, still moaning. There – oh, don’t look there…and there, on my left, a cragged old woman sitting lotus-style while a missile arcs behind her.

It flies flush with the curvature of the sky

I whisper these words like performance poetry as I trudge. Glancing down, I search for signs of the route; it’s unbearable to even look for it, because of what I must look through. I’d almost rather be one of them, if now they are no-where, with no-knowledge and no-mind. Such peace.

But I lift one foot and then another, not because I must so much as because I want to – perhaps it is morbid to continue walking. A man wails weakly for drink – I unscrew the cap of my canteen and drip drops to his lips, although I know all the while that it is not enough, that nothing I could do could be enough. He is dead now.

I close his blank eyes and stand, looking for my goal. There is only the dome of sky and the writhing beneath. The world, as I had known and had forgotten, is round. There is no end, no point of completion, no light in the distance to which all roads travel. Despite the battle happening like a game in the distance and the noise that must be thrown from it, all I can hear is echoes of my every move.

Why don’t I despair? I continue, through the stench. Crows swoop at my head. I don’t despair, I realize, because these people all saw this too and they still ached to live. Because although the world is horribly round, perhaps if I walk long enough I’ll float bodily off the ground.

As this thought wraps me inside it, a figure appears – an old man. His beard is so long it grazes the piled corpses but he travels looking only ahead of him. Although I see him moving he never gets any closer unless I take a step toward him. Then he zooms toward me in an instant, as if every effort on my part is magnified in his enthusiasm. He reaches me suddenly, smiles, presents me with a purple cloak. I tell him I don’t know what to do with it. Taking it back, he flings it over my head, and as I struggle out of its blinding folds I find myself on stage. The curtain drops before I can glimpse the audience, who applauds. The victims, whose blood still coats my ankles and feet, sit up one by one, businesslike, not discussing but not ignoring the fact that their war-games were futile because they are here still, alive and together. Maybe they always knew it and I’m the only one who has this sense of falling from a tightrope into a safety net.

The bearded man nods at me over wire-rimmed spectacles. He wears a tweed jacket now, with leather patches at the elbows. I hear the audience shuffling on the other side of the curtain and I’m not quite sure who they are. But the bearded man has never, he whispers to me, received a bad review.

by shamatha
Group: Beryllium

So you don’t believe in anything?



‘We are nihilists. We believe in nuh-ting.’

The Big Lebowski?


So you’re a nihilist?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything about nihilists. Except that they supposedly believed in nothing. But it has to be more complicated in that. They believed in nihilism, at least.

Yeah, I don’t know anything about it either.

And I wouldn’t make it so simple as to say I believed in nothing.

How would you put it then?

I don’t know, exactly. It’s nothing I’ve ever sat down and formulated. Been living an unexamined life, I guess. What about you, what do you believe in?

Uh. I don’t know

See what I mean? How many people sit around thinking about their beliefs?

Uhhh. …

Or what belief is, period. I mean, what is it?

Well, belief makes me think of religion, first off. Believing in God and stuff.

I think that’s how most people think about it.

So you don’t believe in God?

No – I mean – again, it’s more complicated than a yes or no. Okay, so here’s what I generally say to that question: “Which God?” Which god are you talking about?

Well . . .

Of course I know which God they’re talking about. I understand they mean the Christian god. But see, that’s what bother’s me. About belief. In general. Belief is a static thing. Allows for no other options. Once you’ve decided what you believe in, that’s that. There’s no going back. It’s not based in rationality. It’s not based on fact. It’s a blind attempt to will something to be true. These people have decided that they believe in the Christian god (their own idea of a Christian god, mind you) and now all that’s left is to divide the rest of us up into believers and non-believer’s, and try to convert the non-believers. And that's the way it works with any belief, really. Conservatism, liberalism, religion. And I really think the only reason they are so desperate to convert non-believers is because that the very existence of non-believers calls into question their beliefs, throws them into doubt. And if there is one thing that belief can’t stand, it’s doubt. Doubt is its very antithesis.

Doubt can make belief stronger.

No, doubt can make faith stronger. All doubt does for belief is it makes it nervous. Nervous and angry.

What do you mean by faith?

Faith. Acceptance. This is my life. These are the facts of my life. This is the way things are and I accept that these are the way things are.

Faith sounds like apathy. Just sitting around doing nothing. What if you aren’t happy with your life?

And a false belief is going to help that? Though I guess for some people it does. That is, until doubt creeps in and the whole house of cards comes crashing down. Which is why these people are so adamant about eliminating dis-belief.

So you’re miserable in your life, and you are just supposed to have faith that that’s the way it’s supposed to be? That somehow it’s a good thing?

Yeah- I mean –No. Like I said, belief is complicated. Belief and faith are not mutually exclusive. They are two sides of the same coin. Belief can be a motivating factor. Belief is what gets you to do things. To change your life if you aren’t happy in it. But belief needs to be complemented by faith. Belief needs to inhabit faith. Faith is the soul and belief is the physical body, capable of action. Faith is the overall and belief is the specific. Faith is belief with the acceptance that you could be wrong. And that you would alter your beliefs if they were proven to be wrong. Faith loves questions. Faith loves to be tested. I’m just thinking out loud here. Like I said, I’ve never really sat down and formulated all this.

Yeah. I guess I’ve never though about it either. I just sort of assumed I believed in stuff, that I was operating on some general principles in life, but I never stopped to consciously think about what they were.

Isn’t that weird? Isn’t it crazy that most of us go through life, like you said, assuming they believe in stuff, that their life is operating on some general principles, but never stopping to think about what those principles are and what they might mean, let alone whether they’re right or not?

I’m beginning to think that it is. So now that you’re thinking about it, what do you believe in? I’m sorry – what do you have faith in?

Hmm . . . I believe I want to go through life harming as few people as possible, but that harm is sometimes inevitable. I believe that we are all connected, not in some supernatural, new-age-mystical-type-of-way, but in a very real, very natural way. A karmic, cause-and-effect kind of way. I believe in ecology. I have faith that the planet knows what it is doing and that we shouldn’t mess with it too much. That as part of the planet, as part of this big interconnected mess, that we are allowed to do things and live our lives but that we need to stop and think about why we are doing them and what the effect of them might be. I believe that it is wrong to go through life not thinking about what we believe and why we do the things we do, and that our actions have no effect on other people, or things. I believe in flux. That things are always changing, relationships are constantly shifting and realigning, and to hold on to an idea, a static 'truth' can only lead to harm. This is what I try to put into practice in my life. Of course, I could be wrong.

And that’s why you have faith?

That’s why I have faith.

Ein Sof and the She-Knight (The Helix Crest)
by rain70
Group: Beryllium

I remember nothing simple.

Simplicity is its own economy, its
Frozen lobe drips onto drum
And I hear the steady beat
'til dry eye, and I cry

No more. There's a whole

Shipful of gods duned into
Doom in my backyard. It's
Hard not to stare, the
Bodies are dead, the bodies

Are lithe, light, alive, simple

In their purpose, yet
I feel no bow intrude
My back; I bring blankets,
Scissors, mirrors, and food:

Who's hungry? Who's ugly? Who's
Cold? Is there someone here
Named Samson? Nevermind.
I'll cut my own hair and

Lotus my heart until tea.

(Uncle Robe...If god's my
Father, then who's my mother?

Mother Dress? You're the dirt;
Earth under-nail, nails
Into palms; a mother weeps

A mother sleeps in the arms

Of Gaia.)

I remember nothing brave.

I believe I'll save myself

Some time, and you,
And get to the point:
There's nothing to be survived,
Nothing has arrived

From outside the circle, life.

I believe in stillness
And how the impossible
Movement of dancing
Word somehow seems

To make sense and grows
Faces to question
The dizziness of
Spiral. How deep

Must we go to turn around

And slide down from the top

Slide up from the bottom.


The equal?

The Green Skin
by foolish_Paeter
Group: Caucho

I saw her from behind as she was leaving. Great legs & full hips under tight black pants, moving with that certain rhythm, and glorious long red hair flowing down to her lower back over her black long-sleeved shirt. The as-yet unlit cigarette dropped from my stunned mouth. I collected myself and quickly moved up to talk to her, but when I saw her face I backed away. She had the Green Skin.

It all started about a year ago. Some bigshot fashion designer had his models dye their skin green. This designer is So big, people actually swallow this crap, fishookandline. Starts out slow, a few girls here and there, like the redhead mentioned above. Then it really started catching on, infexious. Pretty soon, you couldn't go anywhere without running into someone with the Green Skin. It got to where you couldn't get dates without it -- to be sexy, you had to be green. Even my friends succumbed. Eventually everyone in the city had the Green Skin, except me. I thought it was disgusting, almost as disgusting as the fact that these people accepted it without questioning -- the magazines say it's hot! Let's go!

People started treating me weird. I couldn't buy at some stores or park my car some places. People started giving me dirty looks and shoving me around. Then there was the mob. Bricks and shovels and sticks and everything. They tried to kill me, but I got away.

And so here I am, holed up in an abandoned building. It's so dark in here with the windows blocked, but it keeps Them on the other side. I fear they will find me soon, or I will starve before I can escape.

I'm making several copies of this letter & sending them out on pigeons. If this reaches anyone sane, SEND HELP!!

by cocoloco
Group: Oriole

comic infusions allow beauty to belie deformity
so we play the anthrax game
aware it isn’t funny
maintaining faith not in the mob

but in Divinity and the individual

finding truth
this last felicitous encounter
bee danced wine
the sort that passes from the glass and lingers
on the lips
waiting to be sipped

stranger to desperation
frenzied ghost dancers rattle steel cage
spent indifferent night bloom careening down
down enchanted circus orange boulevards
bypass piquant modernity marvels and daisy fresh
land mines bursting my sweet pie humble tarzan
meter park hind blithe terrible incandescence
a waltz from the repertoire of some obviously
overcompensating dictator buffoon

fruit seller whistles gilded youth

while mom attempts to explain the bully concept
I still prefer the large object theory of human history
wandering socialist silhouette cutter on a corner
an artist longs to bury that sensitivity
uttering prayers for acceleration of homogenization
he wants with lovely infinite burgeoning desirous
confections of a yearning mind
the above all owed to a bad novel
grappling with the concepts of the world and
it’s longing
rather trivial certainly not worth
devoting 600 pages too ‘cause all they’re selling is pepsi
and sterile values and I’m sorry

if I’ve fallen

into the gap
and off the assembly line
and into
a ….


if they still have those
maybe national parks house them
picturesque manifestations of a nationless dream
so I’ll sit there and I’ll weave and I’ll bake
and my friends ’ll pitch tents around me
and soon we’ll have a village and we’ll globalize and .com it and

it won’t happen that way

still assured and praying
to see humanity united by more than our t-shirts
hailing and heiling and long living and may the standard of commercial imperialism
wave forever amidst deceit so arrogant it doesn’t seem to mind not deceiving anybody
awaiting the rebirth of the truffula trees and every specie we destroyed
and forgot about and why can’t we bring back the dodo?
Absolution on that count it was the volcanoes or the torque beetles
locating the positive amid the smog and the smuts
peel back
to happy
a dot
one Sun, Center, Guide

and me somewhere in orbit yellow planet with black crescent green at night
embraced by the spiral arms of my universe

Switching Tracks
by elemental123
Group: Oriole

Sideways motions
Random, spontaneous choices
Steer the train off the track
That led to a life of empty circling
Around and around the same circle
With surroundings only changing by seasons
With the train will staying on the same track
As the same trees passed every day
Shed and regrow their leaves over and over again
And each time around the track, one’s hair becomes a little grayer
Face will have one or two more wrinkles
One wishes to get off,
But debts and responsibilities make it even harder to switch to another track.
To get off the track takes faith
And it takes courage
Because one may be alone
Drifting in an empty boxcar
Chugging along, driven by an engine with no driver
Into empty unexplored wastelands
This is not the path for the faint of heart.
In the empty deserts of doubt and regret
The security of the endless circle
Makes one long for it even wishing to throw away the chances
At reaching unknown riches
But then come the time
When one passed the point of no return
Sometimes even while sleeping or masturbating or smoking
And it’s too late to go back now and you are stuck on this path
But then comes the moment of clarity
When one adjusts to not being trapped in a circle.
Then, it’s time to stake up camp somewhere, because going down the track forever and ever is even more monotonous than going in a circle.
This is when it’s time to look around, and see the possibilities the new land has to offer.
Then, it’ll be time to move on again
Because staying in one place
Is more monotonous than endless circles or straight lines to infinity.
The balance of motion and stillness
Keeps the waters of vitality
From collecting mosquito corpses and dust in stagnant pools
Or from being absorbed into the ground from spreading itself too thin over long distances.

When Laurence Cried in Paris
by Raff
Group: Oriole

“So a temple may be constructed, a temple may be destroyed.”
- Nietzsche

This is JEAPORDY! Here are today’s contestants: a school teacher from Costa Mesa, California, Janice Beck; a mechanical engineer from Bovine, Pennsylvania, Gary Slarm and the returning champion, a graduate student from Ft. Collins, Colorado, Marc Jefferies.

Laurence opened a beer and stared at the TV. The cheap recliner had completely contoured to his back, the thick roll around his waste and the extra flesh that hung from his legs. He found it at a yard sale and called it Molly. “Molly, I’m home,” he’d say, laughing to himself while he fed the fish in the hallway. His arms and hands were small, untouched by the obesity that swallowed his corporeal self.

A law firm claiming money for asbestos victims dominated the second commercial break. Laurence was tired and out of beer. The contestant interviews started and he got up and went to the bathroom. Hearing other people’s accomplishments gave him gas. He scratched his unshaven pock-marked face and looked at his nails. They were dirty. A shotgun waited next to the toilet; shells on the kitchen table.

The show ended. Walking through the kitchen Laurence picked two shells off the table, went to the bathroom and loaded the gun. The bathroom seemed to him the most polite room for killing yourself. He looked down. His new white shoes still looked white. They were a week old. Normally he ruined white shoes in a day. The shoes reminded him of something but he couldn’t remember what. Laurence put down the gun and took off his shoes, and then his socks. He leaned back, his loose flesh pressing against the toilet tank, put the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger with a hairy big toe. All the dogs in the neighborhood sang a eulogy.

“When an American dies he goes to Paris.”
- Oscar Wilde

Flash bulbs went off everywhere. Laurence was younger and had a goatee. The street fair was flooded with carcasses flashing pictures, howling mad, drunken. He smiled at it all and held a small pistol in his pocket. He was serious and he was happy but he was not sane. He did not feel like himself that night he walked through crowds and allies and tried to find a space to sit and think about things. He tightened his grip on the pistol and his eyes teared-up. A strange love for the crowd filled him, the whores and drunks, mothers and fathers, children and animals, clowns and mimes, he felt he loved them and this made him happy. Tears rolled down his face and he thought the happiness was not his. He ducked in an alley and put the pistol in his mouth. He squinted and moaned. The cords in his neck run taut. Face flush, red. “Yo man!” a tourist like himself was at the end of the alley. “Yo, man come on, dude, don’t do it man.” Laurence looked at him through swollen eyes. The young American tourist was his age. “Yo man, come on. Don’t do it . . . fuck, why didn’t I learn French . . .” Laurence took the gun out of his mouth. The strange demonic happiness that filled him drained. He started sobbing and hyperventilating. The other tourist took a step toward him and Laurence dropped the gun. He dropped his body on the dirty ground. He was twenty-three years old.

To the fallen down lady at the 7-11
by jota
Group: Oriole

You there, she pointed, spilled in front of the store
Neither in love nor pleading for help
Just fat and drunk and soiling herself by the door
In the shimmering heat, she looked up at me
Seeming to understand my daily dharma drama
My cigarette puffing
Dream ticky dreams
Of selling my clothes and saving my thoughts
The lady belched, and laughing, she
Watched me go inside the store
Just endure it, she said,
Love is an argument! she screamed

I didn’t answer, shuffled in
Bought my shit and shuffled out again
Lost in my otherworld, but then I stopped,
And looking down, I could see she'd passed out
Green malt liquor bottle, emptied
Tilted up in the crook of her meaty forearm
She was as unobvious as the dry month
In a dry year and nothing but blind heat
I slid down next to her
She smelled of the funk, the funk of the street
Smart heels of sharply dressed people
Tap tap tapping, walking by
I closed her legs, pulled her hat down over her eyes
The two of us, just sitting there, thirsty and dry

She drank in her choices
Blue lips turning bluer
Some fights are never that fair
She was once someone’s daughter
Now she lay dying, and
I didn't ask
People like me
And the passed out lady
All of us injured
All of us street dying
In a dry month in a dry year
Praying for our choir army angels
To come and deliver us from evil
And failing that, what else could I believe in?
God and heaven here down on earth?
But I’m not going to leave her
No, I’m not going to leave her
Even though the small sharp rocks
Scraping my ass, they hurt
Stupid is forever
God is not here, but I am.
I don't know why
But with my last two dollars forty
I bought her a Hershey bar
And gatorade
I set it by her side

The Summons
by elvin
Group: Oyster

WHILE he was sleeping, citizen Uccello heard a ‘knocking’ inside his head. Uccello, like all citizens of that day and age, only ever had one dream. It consisted of a single scene: a pyramid of playing-cards, stacked high and peaceful on a coffee table. But the present knocking shook the image, and the cards collapsed in a heap.
Uccello opened his eyes and extinguished the vision. After a moment of silence the knocking continued, only this time it came from the front door.
Finally surrendering, Uccello disentangled himself from his sheets, put some pants on, and went to the door. He opened it to the intrusive sunlight, which after a moment, moved back and introduced the silhouette of a small man. Uccello rubbed his eyes and focussed – the silhouette slowly gained colour. It was a police officer.
“Morning Uccello,” said the officer. His voice was high and squeaky -- too annoying for this time of morning.
“So it is,” said Uccello.
“You look a little shocked to see a man of the law.”
“Are you sure you have the right house?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? But we’ve finally got you, Uccello.”
“What do you want?”
The officer held up a piece of paper in his chubby hand.
Uccello took it. “What is it?” he asked.
“It’s a summons.”
“A summons? I don’t understand.”
The officer just smiled, faded until he was transparent … and then disappeared completely.
Uccello closed the door and returned to the living room. He sat down and looked at the letter. It read


Dear Mr. Uccello D.,

To our astonishment, we of the courts have only just recently become aware of your existence. Thus we have started a legal file on you, and it is immediately apparent to us that you have evaded all your legal obligations till now. They have thus accumulated, possibly constituting a serious crime.
Therefore you are hereby summoned this Twenty-Sixth of August, the year Two Thousand and Three, to appear before a judge, for the purpose of justifying your continuing existence. The hearing will be at three o’clock pm, courtroom number three, the Supreme Court.
In the case that you cannot provide acceptable justification for the space you take up and resources that you use, your rights of existence may be discontinued. In the case that you do not attend this meeting your rights of existence may be discontinued.


Justice M. Terd.

Uccello was overwhelmed. He hung his head and tears welled in his eyes. When he finally pulled himself together, Uccello stood up and said, “Well then – there’s only one thing for it. I need legal advice.”
Uccello lived in a peaceful area. It was so peaceful that not only did the inhabitants dream of undisturbed card-pyramids – but each home actually had a pyramid of undisturbed playing cards on the coffee tables in each living room. Word has it that generations went by without the cards collapsing. Such was the peace.
Uccello slammed the door on his way out and every card-pyramid in the countyside province collapsed. Not realising the harm he caused, he sauntered down the road toward the city in search of a lawyer. The beautiful sight of the twinkling river and the blossoming trees was completely lost on him.

The lawyer was a button-eyed man with a hunchback. To Uccello he looked like a pincushion – indeed, his boss must have used him as one because two or three pins were sticking out of the hump. “How can I help you?” he asked Uccello.
Uccello gave him the letter. “Can you tell me what this means?”
The lawyer looked it over and said, “It’s quite simple. You’re to justify your existence or they’ll take away everything that you’ve been getting for free.”
“What does that mean?”
“Have you been paying rent on the space you take up?”
“You mean my house?”
“No – your body. For as long as you’ve lived your body has taken up space on the planet, breathed the planet’s air and eaten its resources. Did you think that was free?”
“I guess I did. How much money is the rent then?”
“You don’t pay in money. You pay in deeds.”
“Deeds? What kind of deeds.”
“Anything that justifies your existence. I suggest you get prepared because the hearing is tomorrow.”
“Wait,” moaned Uccello. “I’m not sure I’ve done any significant deeds. How would I go about it?”
“First you need a purpose. Do you have one?”
“Hmm … no. One needs beliefs to have purpose. I don’t have any.”
“You must have some.”
“None at all.”
“Well get some by tomorrow! Or you can’t be helped.”

Back at home, Uccello paced up and down his living room trying to decide what to do. Finally he went to the top drawer in his study and pulled out his manuscript. “I’ve been working on this novel for five years,” he realised. “This should do the trick.”

The Supreme Court was a huge concrete cube. It had a single door at the front, which was merely a rectangular hole in the wall. Uccello took a deep breath and slipped inside.
Uccello was disorientated. He found himself moving through dimly lit corridors, up and down creaky staircases, and passing portraits of judges and lawyers. This went on for a long time. Uccello began to worry that he would be late. The signs on the doors were in no discernable order. He’d pass Court Room Four, then Court Room One, Court Room Seven and so on. Some doors were crooked or too small to enter.
Uccello finally saw some staff members, wandering around in their black robes.
“Excuse me…” said Uccello, but nobody acknowledged him. Some of the staff passed right through him, like ghosts, and others bounced lightly off him like balloons, and floated off in the other direction.
A wooden door with a sign: “Court Room Three.”
Not at all sure how he’d arrived, but relieved he did, Uccello entered.
The room was more like a hall. The ceiling was high and the walls far apart. At the other end of the room Uccello saw a man in a grey wig, thin as a stick, sitting behind a desk.
“Come over here!” called the judge, his gruff voice bouncing off the walls and echoing.
Uccello closed the door behind him and approached the judge, who became clearer the closer Uccello got. Eventually he was no longer a stick figure, but still not far from it. His face was old and angry, eyes and cheeks sunken so that Uccello could make out his skull under the skin.
“Are you Citizen Uccello?” asked the judge.
“Yes,” said Uccello.
“Right on time. Very good. Well, don’t just stand there, boy, have a seat.”
Uccello sat on the rickety chair that was on his side of the desk. He held his manuscript on his lap.
Do you understand the seriousness of this meeting?”
“I think so, your honour.”
“You think so? My boy, do you know what it means to get your existence cancelled?”
“Not exactly. I’ll have to leave?”
“You won’t have to do anything! We’ll do it all for you, me boy!” His voice bounced off the walls and repeated itself – “We’ll do it for you!”
“Oh. Do what, exactly, your honour?”
“Sentence you to Life in the Suburbs!” The judge’s shoulder creaked as he raised his hand in a sweeping motion. “And the end of you!”
Uccello ran his palm over his closely cropped head, but said nothing.
“You’re twenty-seven today. Is that right?”
“That’s right,” answered Uccello.
“It’s funny that you’ve managed to go unnoticed for so long. How did you do it, Uccello?”
“I don’t know. It’s the first time I ever saw a cop. I always thought they were a fairy story.”
“Listen closely -- this is your current status.”
Judge Terd opened a folder that was on the desk, in front of him. He ran his bony finger along some facts.
Uccello realised that he didn’t noticed the folder earlier.
“You have no position,” began the judge, “no money, and no prospects. Shall I go on, boy?”
Uccello had meant to say no, but a wave of emotion took his voice.
Judge Terd’s voice bounced around the walls and off Uccello’s ears: “Well, boy?”
Uccello cleared his throat and tried again. “No.”
“For goodness sake, boy, you’re not going to cry are you?”
“No, sir … your honour.”
“Good. And now, let me get it over with: I hereby charge you with having no good reason to continue existing, for yourself or the community. Do you understand the charge?”
“Fine. Step two, then. Can you provide an adequate reason for being granted continuance?”
This was it. Uccello put his manuscript on the table.
“What’s this?” sneered the judge, and the whole room creaked as he leaned forward in his chair.
“It’s a book,” said Uccello.
The judge took it and perused the pages.
“A fiction, eh?” mumbled the judge. “What about it?
“I wrote it,” said Uccello. “It’s mine. But I’m not finished yet. If you cancel my citizenship, it will never be finished. I do believe that the law must regard my work as a potential service to the community. What’s more, a potential masterpiece. Thus, it has the right to be completed.”
Ever so slowly, the corners of the judge’s mouth squeaked downwards into a frown.
“Is that true?” said the judge to himself.
“I’m afraid so,” his echo replied, after bouncing off the walls. “The law says that if we discontinue this citizen’s existence, the government may be liable for the prevention of a masterpiece. That’s murder.”
“You are clever, me boy,” said the judge to Uccello.
“However,” added the echo. “If the manuscript proves to be frivolous, a mere work of entertainment – then it need not be completed; the world has plenty of entertainment already.”
The judge took up the manuscript. He looked it over, a bundle of pages at a time. “Hmmm,” he sounded. “This needn’t be completed. It has no underlying purpose – just entertainment.”
“That’s not fair at all!” cried Uccello.
“Fair? It’s splendid,” said the judge. “I hereby sentence you to a life sentence in the suburbs, without bail. This sentence takes effect as of right this minute. Have you anything to say?”
Judge Terd slammed the desk with his right hand – only, he didn’t have a right hand. Poking out of his sleeve was a wooden mallet in place of a hand.

The suburbs were like a vast prison. People were sent there to prevent them from ever breaking the law. One suburb was like one cellblock, the inmates all glossy-eyed and bent over. The cellblock where Uccello stayed, however, was not much of a prison anymore. The stone houses poked up from the earth in rows upon rows, like tombstones in a vast cemetery that spread through the western world.
If you’d ever gone there and wiped the dust from the windows, you would have seen Uccello sitting in his living room like a corpse. He spent his days trying to build a card pyramid, but they always collapsed.
But one day, Uccello strolled out the door and saw his neighbour rolling around on the lawn next door. Uccello went to the fence and saw that the man had shackles on his wrists and ankles.
“What are you doing?” he called to the man.
The man then shook the shackles off with ease, and stood up. He had slicked back hair and his moustache curled up at the ends.
“Practicing,” said the man.
Uccello suddenly recognised him: “My god! You’re Loudin The Magnificent! The famous escape-artist!”
The man smiled and bowed low. “The one and the same.”
Uccello remembered that six months ago, Loudin had been challenged by a prominent newspaper to escape from the suburbs. Many thought this impossible, but Loudin accepted the challenge saying that nothing man-made could hold him. A huge crowd saw him off as he entered the prison/cemetery, waving back and smiling.
But that was six months ago.
“So you’re still here, eh?” said Uccello. “I guess not even you can escape from here.”
“Nonsense,” said Loudin. “I can leave this minute. I stay for dramatic purposes.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I were to escape in only one day, the audience would surmise that the feat is easy. If, however, I wait six months and returned with ruffled clothes and messed up hair, they will cheer after having figured me for dead.”
Uccello went inside Loudin’s house for a cup of tea. After a while he quizzed the showman: “How do you intend to escape?”
“I can’t reveal my secrets. But I’ll tell you this. The human spirit can accomplish anything. All one needs is purpose.”
“But to have purpose, one needs beliefs. I don’t have any.”
“You’re a nihilist?”
“Guess so.”
“Then prove it – walk through the wall.”
Uccello was confused. “I can’t.”
“Why not?”
“It’s impossible.”
“So you believe it is impossible?”
Uccello thought for a moment. “Okay – I do have beliefs. And I don’t believe in the human spirit.”
Uccello approached the wall and tapped it. “All that’s real is what we can touch.”
“Tell me – what did you tap the wall with?”
“My hand.”
“Your hand is made of physical matter and so is the wall. If the wall is an illusion then so is your hand. You cannot qualify one illusion with another.”
“Your clever, but I still don’t believe.”
“Suit yourself – but you believe in the police, don’t you.”
“I saw one.”
“A product of your mind. Your subconscious sent him after becoming aware of your lack of purpose – something the human spirit gives you.”
“Rubbish. I’m an atheist.”
“Prove it – commit suicide.”
“What! Why?”
“An atheist doesn’t need a reason to kill himself, he needs a reason not to.”
“How so?”
“Reason it out. There is no purpose, no God or Spirit. You are an unimportant accident. The universe has existed millions of years before your birth and will continue millions after your death. Your life is a blink. Death is inevitable – why prolong the inevitable?”
“To enjoy life?”
“Bah! Whether you live a life of luxury and women – or a life of poverty and suburbia, it will make no difference to a corpse. Now tell me: if you’re atheist, why don’t you commit suicide?”
Uccello scratched his head. “I don’t know. What if I’m wrong?”
Loudin smiled. “That little spark of doubt is the spirit I speak of.”

The next morning, Uccello went to visit Loudin again. But Loudin’s house was empty. He had escaped.
In a deep depression, Uccello decided to climb onto his roof and leap off. If there was a way of escape, he sure didn’t know it. He climbed up and stood there until dusk, working up the courage. Just as he was about to jump head first, he caught sight of a bottle, floating across the sky as light as a feather.
Uccello watched it as it descended in a spiral … towards the rooftops. Uccello chased it. He leapt from house to house until the bottle was low enough to snatch from the air.
Uccello took the bottle, uncorked it, and pulled out the piece of paper that was inside. “A message in a bottle!” he exclaimed.
He unrolled it and read it. It was titled: The Human Spirit, By Dr. Livingston.

Yes, this is what is has come to
by picasso
Group: Oyster

I believe Wal-Mart is taking over the world, but I still shop there. I believe Clear Channel will soon be broadcasting our own lives as the "New Reality TV," but I still watched the finale of Joe Millionaire. I believe in a woman's right to choose and there are no "buts" about that. I know Nike uses sweatshops to make their product but when new shoes come out I always look at the sale page. I used to think Ralph Lauren underwear was the way to go; now I just buy my underwear at Wal-Mart, which is taking over the world.

I don't think "Bushisms" are funny; I find them very saddening instead. I think the Democratic Party needs to hitch up its pants and take the White House back. I believe both the President and the Vice President are crooked corporate businessmen who are using their offices to forward their own agenda, without the benefit of the country in mind. I believe you can be addicted to heroin after the first time you try it. I believe Halliburton owns a death star. I believe that people continue to make bad movies knowing they are doing so because people will go see them anyway. I believe you can achieve nirvana by biting into a Crispy Cream donut. I don't believe marijuana is the gateway drug, but people have to start somewhere.

I believe the plastic surgeon is the new Avon lady. I don't believe cesareans should be a planned event just so our doctors can fit in their tee times. I don't believe in choosing your baby's birthday, let alone the color of their eyes, hair and build. I find cloning to be abnormally horrifying yet I'm curious to see what amazing things it could cure. I also feel the same about stem cell research.

I find that as I grow older I get more joy in seeing the new stamps that have come out then I do listening to HOT 96 FM radio. I believe it is self centered and ignorant to think we are the only ones out there. I believe tattoos are more addicting than marijuana. I believe that smoking causes cancer but people just don't care anymore because we have to have some type of vice to be happy. I believe socialism is a good theory. I don't believe eating meat is wrong but I still can't watch the PETA films.

I think our society is proud beyond measure and sometimes we need to be humbled. I don't believe in violence and I think the word "justice" is over-used. I believe art can save the soul more than any religion.

I believe in evolving mentally towards a common goal of understanding one another. I'm afraid too many people focus on the way they look instead of the way they think and feel. I believe in many things, and what I find is that as I grow older, the list shifts as my knowledge grows. I don't have all the answers because the answers change day by day as we grow and change as a society, as a people, and as the human race. Such is life.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment to get my eyebrows waxed.

The King Of Wildcat Creek
by Kojo
Group: Pineapple

Two days ago I had made my way to the east side. I remember winding my way through the visitors' lot and up the walk to the large, red brick building. The November air hung on me like a crisp new suit. The bare trees stretched for the remaining sunlight as I stepped through the automatic plate glass doors. A rush of antiseptic air filled my nostrils, stealing the freshness of the afternoon.

By the time I arrived in the ICU it was too late. The waiting room was filled with family and friends, disconsolate and silent. Robby greeted me with an uncomfortable hug.

“It was a massive coronary. Rode his bike home from the Purdue-Michigan game and told Carol his back hurt. Next thing you know, he’s on a respirator. How in the hell does that happen at 43? You wanna see him?”

“Yes. I do. Right now”. I didn’t really. The image of him struggling for breath, chest heaving to hang on was more than I wanted. Tears peppered the floor in front of me as I shuffled into the room. Not a sound. I couldn’t make a sound. Screaming, but nothing came out. With Carol and her mother looking on, I gently touched his hand and exited. I felt horrible about not being able to look at him.

Today we were going to say our official goodbyes and lay him in the ground. I parked the car in the lot of the funeral home. Have you ever wondered why they call it a ‘home’? It’s not your home (theirs either). It’s a weigh station. A pause. Filtering through the crush of people I spotted Aggie and Brown in line waiting to view what was left of Phil.

“Hey guys”.

“How you doin' Kevin?”

“Alright Ags. How’s Brown?” Brown’s weathered face was red around the sockets betraying his stoic demeanor.

“Hangin'”, Aggie answered, whispering to disguise the tremor in his voice.

As we approached the resplendent box that held our friend, I could see that Carol had dressed him in his Cleveland Indians hat and that stupid Hawaiian shirt he loved so much. Fitting. He was probably wearing shorts, but I couldn’t tell with just his upper torso exposed. Cigars and pictures where strewn against the silk liner just below his head. Someone should have had the decency to add a lighter to the cache.

After a short eulogy extolling the virtues of Phil’s life here on Earth (and they were many), we left the funeral home to the strains of Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Live Forever’. Twenty minutes later we returned him to the earth. It was just that long and just that quick.

I headed for the car. “Brown, grab Aggie and Robby and meet me at Herschel’s Pub”.

“I don’t feel like drinking today Kevin. Not now”.

“C’mon. You know Bob is there. I’ll buy”. Usually the offer to buy drinks would pull Brown out of any funk.

“We’ll follow you Kev”.

"That’s my boy".

The four of us strode through the door like we owned the place, and in fact we probably could have purchased this humble little tavern had we saved the money we had spent on drink over the years. Philly would have been up for that. It’s an idea he would have had tumbling around in that busy skull of his. Bob was seated at our reserved oak table near the front, Jack and a Stroh’s laid before him like twin soldiers set to do his bidding. Old companions.

“Stick! Grab us three Buds and a Miller Lite”, Aggie yelled as we took our assigned seats like Catholic school boys.

I could tell there was something on Robby’s mind as he shot Bob a look that would have melted my ex-mother-in-law’s heart, if she had one.

“What the fuck! You can’t show up to his funeral? He was one of our best friends you piece of shit!”

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t.” Bob’s head was scrapping the table top, the ash on his cigarette balanced precariously.

“Yes. You are one sorry motherfucker Bob. Have you just been here gettin’ drunk all day?”

“No. I’ve been thinking about where he is now. Getting drunk in the process. O.K. with you?”

“No, it’s not O.K. with me you ignorant fucker. Where do you think he is? He’s about 4 miles outside of town, near Wildcat Creek, six-feet under the earth. End of story”.

“I don’t think so”. Bob dropped the Jack down his gullet like last communion. “God’s taking care of him now. I know that. It’s where he belongs”.

“Oh, I see. St. Peter is greetin’ him as we speak. Is that it?” Robby's veins were popping through his neck like a pair of 36D's in an A cup.

“Yes. That’s it. I believe that”.

“Hey, c’mon you two. Philly didn’t believe in all that shit. The man was inward, not outward”. Brown always had a way of making the simplest point vague.

“So, let me get this straight. He was inward. What? Toting the Dali Lama’s golf bag and receiving perfect consciousness on his death bed? STICK!!! Three Buds, a Miller Lite, a Stroh’s and a shot of Jack for my friend the Pope here huh?” Aggie bellowed.

“That’s not what I mean Aggie. He didn’t believe in any of that. He didn’t believe in Buddha, Vishnu, Allah, Jehovah, Zeus…None of that. Everything was open to him. Matters to be discussed, debated, argued and scrutinized. It was his beauty. What do you think Kev?”

I didn’t want my next beer. I stood and pulled my car keys from my pocket and lit a cigarette. When I hit the door the fall air smacked me full. I turned and shouted back, “I think he believed in us”.

And I, in him.

Standing Firm
by marty
Group: Pineapple

I have been in the Navy for almost eight years now and I sometimes find it difficult to explain my life to people with no military experience. Standing watch is one of those little pieces of Navy life that some people have a difficult task completely understanding. What we call “watch” is what other branches refer to as guard duty. I’ve spent countless hours in this most despised of rituals. It basically boils down to “standing” around for several hours and “watching” something. I’ve stood watch at every conceivable hour and under almost every imaginable condition. At nineteen years old, I spent an infinite number of nights positioned behind the helm of a billion dollar war ship. Not only did I have to fight the boredom that can be arsenic to a teenager, but I had to fight the fatigue that had set in after a 10-12 hour work day. Many nights I found myself behind that accursed wheel working on my 36th or so hour without sleep staring at the blackness of the sea. I’ve endured backaches from my fifth hour standing behind a podium on the ship’s quarterdeck to check the ID card of everyone who crosses the brow. I’ve stood in the rain and the snow. I have had the Arabian sun beat down on my Kevlar helmet as I stood my post wearing a 15 pound flack jacket and a gas mask strapped to my leg. I could feel the metal of my shotgun getting hotter with each passing hour, but I barely noticed because I was too busy shaking in my combat boots at the mere thought that I might actually have to use the weapon. I have spent nights were the constellations were my only entertainment because I was keeping a “watchful” eye out for planes and other ships. Being a medic, I have stood over my patients’ beds and wondered if they were ever going to wake up, and stood sentry on the side of the road with one foot holding down the edge of a bloody sheet waiting for the coroner. I’ve endured cold, heat, fatigue, boredom, back spasms, sore knees and aching feet without putting too much thought into it, until I was recently asked, “What do you stand for?” During one of my watches, I began to twist this question around my boredom soaked mind. Why do I subject myself to this evil archaic ritual? The paltry pay definitely isn’t the reason. I suppose it’s because I made a promise. As a sailor, we take an oath which begins, “I am a United States sailor. I will support and defend the constitution of the United States of America.”

I stand for the basic ideal of our constitution. I stand for a person’s right to worship or believe as they feel without fear of persecution. I always want people to be able to take an active role in their government. Most of all, I stand for our right to speak our minds freely. Regardless of whether I agree with your opinions or not, I support your right to say it. I especially revel in anti-war protests or people who are anti-military. They prove to me that my job is being done well. I stand for the basic Bill of Rights. I understand that the system isn’t without flaws, but I feel that the basic ideas are noble. I don’t just say, or write or think that I believe in these ideals; I literally stand for them, and I have bad knees to prove it.

Water Buffalo and Macaque
by Lawless
Group: Pineapple

Nâm màk phao! Coconut Juice! The sun’s high; it’s too hot to play on the road. Come and sit in the Frangipani's shade. Hush now and I’ll tell you the story of Water Buffalo and Macaque.

* * *

Two hundred moons ago last Tuesday, Water Buffalo was lumbering along by the side of the Mekong and as he wandered, he watched the wide brown water make its way to Vientiane. Buffalo didn’t realise that the river was flowing to Vientiane because, as just about everyone knows, buffalo’s brains are no bigger than pomelos, and they’re just as watery. Buffalos don’t know much at all, apart from maybe which bit of riverbank has the best grass.

So, Buffalo was ambling along, snuffly-sniffing the plants and listening to the mumbling of the Mekong. The breeze was stroking his big muddy sides and he was feeling pretty contented in a secret buffalo kind of a way.

Just then, there was a rustling in the palms. “Sabaai Dii! Sabaai Dii!” called a clear, authoritative voice. Buffalo slowly turned his head and when his fat flat horns were pointing to the river, he spotted a macaque monkey sitting up in a rosewood tree.

At first he looked like any normal macaque with shiny silver brown hair and a magnificent tail casually wrapped round a branch. But as he swung nearer, Buffalo couldn’t help but notice that the monkey was wearing a gum leaf loincloth over his red bottom.

“Where are you going Water Buffalo?” asked Macaque pursing his lips together and raising his chin quizzically.

Well, Buffalo hadn’t thought about where he was going before and he told Macaque so.

In one leaf shaking bound, Macaque leapt down from the rosewood tree and landed “Thud!” on the path. He jumped up and down swivelling his black eyes and baring his gums with their sharp teeth.

“You fool! Your brain’s smaller than a plum, and just as mushy! You’re so stupid you haven’t even got your horns on the right way round! Don’t you know that there’s a judge at the end of this path? You can’t just stroll along not knowing what’s right and what’s wrong! Tsk-tak! Let me help you.”

With that Macaque bounded off into the jungle, soon to return with a banana leaf bundled full of books and papers. Quick as lightning, he tied the package to Buffalo’s right side with creepers from a Banyan tree.

Buffalo was very grateful. Even though he wasn’t sure how the books could help him know what was right, he didn’t mention anything for fear of being daft.

So he carried on along that path by the side of the Mekong, listening to the murmur of the river and snuffly-sniffing the delicious green plants. He couldn’t feel the stroke of the breeze on his skin anymore and walking wasn’t quite so easy but the Buffalo was very grateful all the same.

Soon, there was a rustling in the jungle fronds. “Sabaai Dii! Sabaai Dii!” called a clear confident voice. Buffalo slowly turned and when his fat flat thighs were pointing to the river, he spotted a macaque sitting up in a teak tree.

At first it looked like the other macaque with shiny silver hair framing an industrious pink face and the same impressive tail casually wrapped round a trunk. But as the monkey swung nearer, Buffalo couldn’t help but notice that it was wearing a gum leaf apron over his pink-nippled chest.

“What are you offering Water Buffalo?” asked Macaque pursing his lips together and raising his chin quizzically.

Well, Buffalo hadn’t thought about what he had to offer before and he told Macaque so.

In one trunk wobbling bound, Macaque leapt down from the teak tree and landed “Thump!” on the path. He jumped up and down screwing up his pink snout and baring his gums with their yellow teeth.

“You fool! Your brain’s smaller than a peanut, and just as dense! You’re so stupid you haven’t even got your horns on the right way round! Don’t you know that there are markets all along this path? If you have nothing to sell then you have no value! Tsk-tak! Let me help you.”

With that Macaque bounded off into the jungle, soon to return with a banana leaf bundled full of fruit; there were guavas, lychees, rambutans and mangosteens, all luscious and ready to eat. Quick as lightning, he tied the package to Buffalo’s left side with creepers from a custard apple tree.

Buffalo was very grateful. Even though he wasn’t sure how the fruit could give him value, he didn’t mention anything for fear of seeming foolish.

So he carried on along the riverside path, stopping now and then to snuffly-sniff the delicious green plants. Flies quickly gathered to get their share of the succulent fruit on his side. Soon, Buffalo couldn’t hear the mumble of the river above the buzzing of the insects but he was very grateful all the same.

A little way further along the path, there was a rustling in the canopy. “Sabaai Dii! Sabaai Dii!” called a powerful voice. Buffalo slowly turned and when his fat flat rump was pointing to the river, he spotted a macaque sitting amongst the bamboo.

At first he looked like the other macaques with shiny silver brown hair covering his powerful arms and the same elegant tail casually wrapped round a cane. But as he swung nearer, Buffalo couldn’t help but notice that this monkey was wearing a gum leaf hat that shaded his intense black eyes.

“How are you protecting yourself Water Buffalo?” asked Macaque pursing his lips together and raising his chin quizzically.

Well, Buffalo hadn’t thought about protecting himself before and he told Macaque so.

In one bamboo rattling bound, Macaque leapt down from the cane and landed “Thwack!” on the path. He jumped up and down flicking his pink eyelids and baring his gums with their canine teeth.

“You fool! Your brain’s smaller than a poppy seed, and just as useless! You’re so stupid you haven’t even got your horns on the right way round! Don’t you know that there are dangers everywhere? You can’t just stroll along without any protection! Tsk-tak! Let me help you.”

And with that, Macaque uncovered a pile of metal objects on the jungle floor. They looked like the small balls boys and girls toss to each other during our New Year festivities.

They were bombies.

* * *

Well …you know, and I know - everyone in the lowlands knows - that we should never, never, NEVER touch or throw stones at bombies you find in the jungle. Remember Sia Ya? If he hadn’t played with that bombie he would be a grown man now, helping his parents with the planting and starting a family of his own. Tsshhh.

* * *

Well, Macaque picked up one of those bombies and started to carry it over to Buffalo. He took one step…two steps…


That monkey was blown into one thousand, four hundred and fifty seven pieces.

Water Buffalo didn’t stop, oh no. He ran and ran and ran. He ran so fast he hurtled past fields of delicious flood-plain grass. He ran so fast he didn’t even notice the pungent stink of the titan arum, flowering for the first time in a hundred years. He ran so fast that soon the bundle of books loosened and fell behind him. He ran so fast that the parcel of fruit slid away without a sound reaching his ears. He ran so fast that he didn’t even realise he was in the river until he finally slipped over in the mud.

When the mighty river had cooled Water Buffalo’s steaming muscles, he ambled back to the join the path again. He listened to the cicadas’ cheery percussion and smelt the durians ripe in the branches and felt the sunlight drying the mud that tickled his skin. And Buffalo was very, very grateful.

* * *

Oh look! Here’s Chanpheng with the inner tubes. Yes, yes, run along now. The river’s perfect for play; don’t miss the fun.

Don’t miss the fun.

by phoebe78
Group: Pineapple

The stars above me cast their light
upon the ball of dirt below.
I hear the whispers of the night
in context of the things I know.

Within the grass the cells divide,
and crickets sing the leg-rub blues.
Beyond them glides the river wide
through rockbed full of ancient clues.

Time is infinite in its scope
and space is even vaster yet.
Both abstractions confound all hope
by deigning here to intersect.

I whisper thanks for the thing called “I.”
The universe makes no reply.

Belief is just a word to toy with
by Hester Prynne
Group: Pineapple

Be here now,
Leif Erickson, somehow,
so to all explorers
I give you fame.

the musical note F,
a singer
of myself,
like old Walt Whitman verbosely proclaimed,
in his sad, and endless egoist refrain.

over and over
nothing at all, but then,
it rhymes quite well with gain,
which of course, takes pain.

that don't persist,
a trendy temporary bliss,
which reminds me sis, of this;
"a kiss, is just a kiss".

two mouths
wet and conjoined,
and one big heart
most likely
That would be yours, miss.

you missed the fucking point,
so roll another oversized joint,
blessed self, only I can anoint,
and why should I care
after all, I'm just a whore.

by Knip
Group: Raspberry

Lynn was determined her twins wouldn’t grow up like their brother and father. Yes, they were well respected in the community; Bill was always asked to man the barbeque at neighbourhood parties, and Billy was emerging as an all-state quarterback and natural leader. Lynn herself was a model wife, staying at home supporting her husband and running a lovely DeSota house with gardenia flowering in front. Yes, she hadn’t lived up to her father’s expectations, getting pregnant the summer after graduating while drunk at a party at the lake, but Bill stood up to it like a man and married her, even if he wasn’t anyone’s first choice.

But when the girls came unexpectedly, a fire that had dimmed long ago reappeared within Lynn. The pregnancy and news that she was to have two girls awakened her – all through the wait her housework slipped while she re-read the books she cherished as a young girl, explored all the literature she had planned to read in college before she had Billy, and started playing piano and singing again. Sure, Bill wasn’t happy, as he saw this as her shirking her responsibilities and letting the family down, but what could he do while she was pregnant? As long as she kept her secret she could get away with it.

Of course when the girls came they were fluffed up in all the usual Texas suburban frills and pink clothe reserved for little girls. Lynn didn’t care – that was just window-dressing. She managed nearly all the raising anyway; Bill wasn’t one to change diapers or feed them, and Billy was embarking on his college career and was too busy with older girls to be bothered with his sisters. So Lynn sang to them during glorious days alone at home, played silly and fun games with them in the tub, and read stories and poems to them at night. Re-energized, she was in heaven, despite the occasional abuse from Bill for shoddy housework.

But although the girls were obviously bright and aware, they seemed slow to start talking. Instead of the expected ‘mama’ or ‘papa’, they were producing gibberish. Loretta’s first word, sound really, was something like ‘wooone’, which Trish followed a second later with an equally puzzling ‘bayte’. They eventually learned words, of course, but they didn’t make sense, and neither would speak when the other wasn’t nearby. At the age of four, during the winter before they were to start school, Bill had had enough and took them to a doctor.

“It’s the strangest thing, Doc. I mean, I know these girls are smart, or at least they better be, but they don’t speak normal. Something is stopping them from putting their words together right”

Before the Doctor could reflect and respond, the girls started again.

“who, why, talk, smart” said Trish.

“no, hah, us, shine” followed Loretta.

Bill was not happy. “You see, Doc, they’re ridiculous! See? See them smirking at us right now? They know something, they do, and I’m not about to put up with this. Fix it.”

Of course, the Doctor couldn’t fix anything – he was actually taken quite aback and despite checking with his colleagues, could find no record of anything of this sort occurring before. He therefore diagnosed the twins with something he called ‘Verbal Retardation Syndrome’, which, of course, meant that they couldn’t get into the best or second best or even third best schools. Bill therefore personally classified them as retarded, and forbade them from embarrassing him further by going to public school. Essentially, he gave them up as lost, but so long as they and his ever-increasingly idiotic wife stayed in the house, life remained somewhat bearable.

But as they grew older and developed vocabulary, it became harder for him to ignore the embarrassment.

“Some folks are we, veils and walls yet blossom inside.”

“Grow within, retard without, and scorn not our souls, divide.”

He would scream. “You fucking bitch! This is all your fault! All your books, singing stupid songs, I should never have let you have so much influence over these girls. I work all day, and all I ask is that you hold your end of the deal. Fuck it all to hell!”

It wasn’t pretty, and got less so. As the girls reached their early teens, Bill verbally abused Lynn fairly every night, which was likely spurred on by Lynn’s increasing defiance. “The stupid idiot doesn’t even seem to know she’s raised two fucking retards,” he thought. “The three of them deserve each other.” She ignored Bill more often than she paid attention to him, and by now his heaping of abuse barely registered a reaction from her. The girls, on the other hand, had increased their vocabulary, if not their ability to use it.

“Sad, melancholy, salt rain and streams course over porous surface
Two rivulets darting through love’s lost road”

“We see, we hear, we feel, we cry
Speak not, my love, enjoin, defy”

Nonetheless, things came to a head on the evening of the twins’ fourteenth birthday. Lynn was playing Leon Russell’s ‘Song For You’ for the girls on the piano when Bill, having consumed more than his usual share of Red Hot Whiskey that night, came into the family room loaded for bear.

“Ahhh…the three fucking bitchesh shinging their bitchy little Willie Nelshon-loving garbagshe shongs again…what did I ever do to desherve three little fucking bitchesh like you…”

“Bill…please! The girls are here…”

“Who givesh a fucking shit! They done fucking talk…you think they fucking undershtand, ya fucking shlut…”

“Bill…pleeeeze…it’s their birthday…”

Wham! The backhand came from out of nowhere. Sure, Bill had hit her before, but it was normally slaps to the face. This was a full-strength backhand that sent her flying backwards across the back of the couch, her head landing on the edge of the glass-in-wrought-iron table. Pain notwithstanding, she leapt to her feet quickly, ignoring the tears stinging her eyes and the bump growing on the back of her head.

“You…you…you are a pig, Bill Cleary! I hate you, I hate this house, and I’ve always hated our life. Get out of here and leave us alone!”

He sprinted across the room faster than one would think a drunken man capable of. Bounding towards her, his hands found her throat before she could react. Pushing her back onto the glass table, his grip tightened. As Lynn gasped for the hint of air, she heard a crash as Loretta smashed a cheap vase over her father’s head. Standing up bewildered, Bill rubbed the spot where a small trickle of blood was forming. He looked at Loretta intensely, and suddenly seemed sober.

“Well, well…maybe the little no-talking bitches do understand what’s going on around her…that’s the most life I’ve seen out of them in over ten years. Here, sweetheart, come give Daddy a hug like you used to.”

The girls backed away, and he edged towards them.

“Bill, Bill,” Lynn eked out between heaving sobs, “You stay away from them girls.”

His head whipped around to confront her. His eyes were dark holes with red beaming out.

“Bitch. They are my girls, and they always will be my girls. Now fuck off and let me give them their birthday present.”

Tossing aside almost fifteen years of secrecy, Lynn blurted “You stupid, ignorant ass. They’re not yours, you moron. Do you think you would be capable of producing two beautiful gems such as these? You don’t have it in you. All you’re capable of producing are little caricatures like Billy”.

Astoundingly, and despite his knowledge of the human gestation period, Bill was clearly taken aback.

“You are not their father. I’m not even sure who he is,” she lied. “It could be any of a number of men.”

Once the shock wore off, which was about ten seconds but felt like ten minutes, Bill beat Lynn like he never had before. The screams of the girls, their use of household implements as weapons, none stopped him. When he stopped, he limped away to his den to open a fresh bottle, leaving a beaten, bleeding and heaving Lynn behind with the two crying girls. They led Lynn to their bedroom where they locked the door, cleaned her face with a wet cloth and purred sweet sounds to calm her.

In short order, when the heaving had stopped, Lynn cried, “Oh my poor daughters, I am so sorry you had to see that. My sweet, sweet angels,” after which she resumed her crying.

“Momma. You’re OK now. You’re with us. He can’t hurt you ever again in our safe place.” Lynn heard Tricia say.

But Tricia’s lips weren’t moving. She was hearing the voice in her head, but not through her ears.

Then she heard Loretta’s voice, “It’s OK Momma. You’re with us. We love you. This is where we live.”

“But why?” she said out loud. “How?”

“We don’t know, Momma. All we know is that time when Daddy really hurt us, we starting thinking together…and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

“But when you speak…”

“We don’t…we tease, we rhyme. We don’t know why. We just can’t talk out loud. Phrasing is all we can do.”

The three thought together all night, sharing things they always felt, but had never communicated in words. The girls soothed their mother, and more importantly, loved her. Inevitably, Bill came knocking at the door the next morning, hung over.

“Lynn? Lynn? We need to talk, hon.”

Lynn went to the door, stopped for a moment, and looked at the girls who beamed back at her. She turned back towards the door, and opened it, standing tall and sure of herself.

“Pain no more
Cage opened, I, we, voices found
Well-dwellers no longer
You are dead”

“You’re learning, Mommy.” The girls chimed together in her head. “Not bad for a beginner. Let’s go.”

I believe, I stand for...
by Yabyum
Group: Raspberry

I am a poet.
I believe in the power and energy of words.
I believe in the strength of people as individuals.
I am an anarchist.
I am your brother.
I stand for no one who assumes himself above me.
So many people in this world have blinded themselves staring into the sky looking for the presence of a god, or at the very least, a sign from his only begotten son.
I do believe in a creative force.
An energy which keeps this earth on its axis,
an energy that holds back all the tides of the ocean
from swallowing dry land.
I do not stand for a god who hides in heaven
and leaves humanity with only words
that can be read in millions of different contexts.
There is a war raging in every corner of this earth;
I am against them all.
I am a man who believes with all his heart
that today’s system of government
is marching humanity into an era of massive global destruction.
I believe that television is a mind manipulating,
program inserting device that is streaming propaganda
into the minds of almost all of our planets
human population,
and not one of these motherfuckers believes me
when I tell them that what they’re hearing
on the local news
is all a bunch of filtered information mixed with government written lies.
I believe that television will destroy your mind
and drain your soul of all its worth.

I am a poet.
I believe in the power and energy of words.
I believe that without eye contact,
all communication is worthless and most likely a lie.
I believe in women.
I do not stand for the expression ‘making love’
as a reference to sex.
I believe I would rather fuck.
If love was something that I could make,
I believe I would have the entire planet
strung out on my product.
So many people in this world have blinded themselves staring into someone else’s eyes
hoping to catch a glimpse
of what they thought was love.
I cannot bear to witness that slow destruction
of a person
when they realize
what they had hoped was love,
is now gone
and fucking someone else.
I believe in love.
I just don’t allow myself
to fall victim
to wonderful lust disguised as love.
There is a lie being sold to women everyday,
and they
cannot help but buy it.
Every cover
of every magazine
is graced
with a photo of a thin,
muscular goddess
with perfect skin and hair and teeth.
Her breasts are firm as melons
clothing can be washed
using her abs.
I cannot believe that women think this is normal,
I cannot understand why a man
would think that perfection is beautiful.
I believe in a girl who uses the word ‘fuck’,
while she’s popping a zit
or putting out a cigarette.
I believe in a girl who is smart
enough to realize
that 'kicking ass' and 'rocking on'
is cooler than wearing tons of maybeline
and shopping for designer clothes
with money
that could be used to see the world
or simply go to a show.
I believe that magazines
are destroying all of the beauty in women.

I am a poet.
I believe in the power and energy of words.
I believe in life experience.
I am a nomad.
I am a spontaneous wanderer.
I stand for all those who died as children
and for those who were born
with handicaps
that refuse to allow them the greatest joy of living.
I believe that the greatest joy of living is travelling.
I believe in following the horizon.
I believe that the voice inside of your head
comes from your heart
and that there is nothing you need to think about
when this voice commands you to take action.
I cannot stand for those who will die
in the town of their birth,
having never seen what lies beyond its borders.
Throughout my life I have been across this country twice,
I have shook more hands than a king,
I have laughed with more people than a comedian,
I have heard the term ‘do you smoke pot’
in more dialects than cheech or chong,
I have seen the sun rise
and set
from more horizons than I am able to count.
I believe in living to the fullest extent of your mind.
I believe in challenging fear.
I don’t believe in asking questions,
I believe in finding answers.
I stand for brotherhood.
I stand for honesty.
I stand for speaking from the voice that speaks to me inside of my head.
I believe in me.
I believe in poetry.
I believe that music is
the only source in which to listen
to the outcries of each passing generation.
I believe that music is fucking beautiful.
I believe that the ocean heals all wounds,
whether they be mental or they be physical.
I believe in dying
while attempting something
that the rest of the world was lying in bed
dreaming about.

For as long as I am able to see,
taste or touch
i will be a poet.
I will always challenge fear.
I will always do battle with anyone or anything
that assumes authority
over this worlds human population.
I will always hold the door for the next person.
I will always find solace inside the hollow of a wave.
I am a poet.
I believe in the power and energy of words.

by elz
Group: Raspberry

I was straddling my drawing horse, arms on the front support cradling the weight of my head (which felt considerable). I could have drooled onto the seat and not noticed. The sounds of the studio were muffled. I heard sniggering and sat up.

"Elizabeth?" said my prof.

"Yeah, George".

"Peg is wondering what's going on with the negative space in your drawing".

It was the weekly student-run critique in advanced life drawing class. Our work was hanging on the wall and mine was center stage. Peg looked at me dead-on, smirked and blinked her kohl-outlined eyes in dramatic innocent fashion.

"I don't know, George. I wasn't thinking about what wasn't there when I drew it". I shot Peg a sneer when George turned his back.

"This is an interesting shape". He drew charcoal lines in the air over my drawing.

"See how the figure cuts into the page?"

"I'm not sure I get it. You mean I should look at it like it's a chalk outline on a sidewalk?"

Peg's pals laughed among themselves. I distinctly heard "prom queen".

"Sort of like a chalk outline," said George. "but what shapes are created on what would be--well. the pavement? The sidewalk?"

"It's really all about the negative space," he said.

My head ached and my eyes felt swollen.

"I'll have to think about that George, it's not something... I was trying to get a good likeness".

So, great. A self portrait I was previously pretty happy with was turned into a bunch of life class word hash. Thanks, Peg.

Peg's turn to defend her drawing. We all recognized her subject. He was the lead guitarist in the F-Martyrs, the reigning local punk band. In 1984, a guy who shaved his head and wore chains thick enough to tow a car wasn't being fashionable. He was being a skinhead. Of course that was a sort of fashion, I guess. Her portrait looked like he had plasti-form skin and was drawn from an angle that forced you to look up at him. His nostrils were disturbing. I wondered what exactly was a "Fuck Martyr"? That's what "F" stood for - they just weren't allowed to put FUCK on the bills tacked all around campus and town in general.

I put my head back down on my arms and listened to Peg drone, using every term she'd ever learned in studio-speak 101. Bitch. She sure didn't sound like this last night.

Last night we were both in a house on one of the tree-named streets on the southeast side. She was in the front bedroom with her boyfriend, Iggy, the skinhead. He was British and was the only skinhead in the band. The rest of the F-Martyrs had Elvis black shags, of a sort. This was the band's place. They all lived here and they must have bought that flat black hair dye in quantity. Peg had it too.

Marc, my boyfriend rented a small bedroom next to Iggy's and I was staying over. Rent was cheap for Marc - good thing since he had plywood for a window and sunlight for a heat source. I was huddling with him under an old blanket when Peg started howling.

"She's so fucking theatrical," I told him.

"I think he knocks her around," he said.

"I think she likes it rough," I said.

There was much panting, moaning and then finally, she's barking like a dog. Really, she was full out barking.

I got out of bed still wearing my coat (do they even have a furnace?) and went down to the kitchen. Taking the last beer out of the fridge, I sat at the table and lit up a cigarette from a pack laying in front of me. 2 am, if the clock was working. Within a few minutes I heard her padding down the stairs.

I concentrated on my cigarette as Peg walked to the fridge wearing only a dog collar and a pair of cutoffs.

"What, no more fucking beer?" she turned to me. Hands on hips.

I stood up and pressed my bottle against her sternum. "Have the rest of this one, Fluffy. I'm going home".

There were moments of who-will-look-away-first. She grabbed the bottle--she had to be cold... and padded back up the stairs.

She obviously got more sleep than I did - I was beat after the critique and decided to skip the rest of my classes. On the drive to my apartment outside of town, I decided to call off work, too. If I was Peg, I could dye my hair blue-wouldn't need to be hireable. I could just lie around my place and stare out the windows for hours without feeling guilty about the money I wasn't making and I could ask Mr. DaddyBigShitoftheEnglishDepartment for a few bucks for a pizza. Maybe she just got a bank account and didn't even have to ask. It didn't matter. It would all catch up to her one day, I gloated. The same way it caught up with me. The same way it catches up with everybody. Part of misery is feeling superior, I was learning. Look up my nose, Peg.

I counted out some change and figured I could buy enough gas to get to my dad's place forty minutes away. Billie Holiday sang me past the old army base and the dusty town I grew up in. It was a "best of" tape. She kept looping - track 1 clear and magnolia sweet to track 8, gravelly bus exhaust. My dad was bumping around the house by himself now, my mother being three months in the ground. My oldest brother bumped around with him occasionally-- weirdly his wife being only five months in the same ground. They were pathetic, these two. And vampiric. They looked at me like I was the last woman that ever smiled at them.

The next morning I went to the coffee shop by the art store. Conte crayon and eggs over easy. The place was buzzing with students - it was non-stop chatter like a tree full of birds before they fly south for the winter.

"He was just hangin' in the basement, man," said a kid from my stone/wood sculpture class. He made the crooked neck, yanked by a tie gesture and then let his tongue fall out. "I guess he wasn't really British, though. He's Canadian!"

"What, how do you know?" said a guy at the register, aghast.

"His mother called from Ontario. I guess he'd called her and left some cryptic message on her machine. She called back. Oh, and man..his name is really Walter." Unstifled laughter.

It happens in threes, they say. I wonder if Walter counts as number three, I thought. A person I didn't even really know. Do they count?

I never saw Peg again that semester.


I never bought the bit about time healing all wounds, but I'll admit time helped me see things more clearly. Probably just because I'm far-sighted - it was the distance that helped. I spent winter break at my dad's place teaching him how to do things like cook something other than burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and how to do the laundry. He could fix a washer. Just couldn't run one.

I was the woman of the house. I got it in shape and took some comfort in the fact that I was providing some. I was the one who told him he didn't have to have a Christmas tree if he didn't want one. And that he didn't have to have Christmas here this year at all. The rest of the family could handle that crap. And if he didn't want to toss her clothes, then that's his business. No one else's. Oh, and no one really irons anymore. Just hang the shirt up right out of the dryer, dad. It'll be okay.

The following spring I took an accelerated art history course with a bunch of grad students. Peg sat one row over, just ahead of me a little. She'd cropped the black out of her hair and was dressed like a J.C. Penney's ad. A book bag rested next to her Candies. I looked at the tiny lettering metered across her page and the yellow highlighted notes in the margins. My eyes welled. I wanted to tell her I was sorry. Sorry that Walter's dangling silhouette was burned into her retinae. Sorry I gloated --even if just in my own head--that one day, someone would die on her and that she'd get a taste of what I'd been sucking on.

Most of all I wanted to tell her that it really was all about the negative space. That everything that exists is colored and defined by everything that doesn't. That the lines that define the edges of things are really the lines that separate what we can see from what we can't . And most of all, that all of this is okay. That she shouldn't X-acto blade Iggy from her photographs or change her major to Art History Loser. That she shouldn't live some edited life with ghost cut-outs haunting her forever. She could draw and learn to look the space right in the eye, if negative space even has eyes. She could get through it.

I wanted to tell her I liked her hair better black.

I wanted to tell her that I was sorry that we finally have something in common.

by ~K
Group: Razorclam

She was dying. Her doctors all agreed there was nothing more they could do for her except to make her comfortable, and she was comfortable for the most part, aside from the tedious work of convincing her spirit to release it's obstreperous hold on a body that had long shed its usefulness. Now she had only hours, perhaps minutes, to come to terms with the life she had led. She let her mind drift backwards to defining moments: her childhood lost in the bitterness of abuse, her rebellion that lasted well into her twenties, manifesting itself in years of parading her altered consciousness on midnight streets, and her more recent discussion with the priest on her faith, or rather, her lack of it.

She had explained to him that she discovered long ago it didn't seem to matter what you believed. Belief was a tool and nothing more. She had friends that were witches who cast spells with the same results as the prayers of her Christian friends. Ultimately she decided if there was a God, He, She or It would accept her for who she was and would not care if she sang Him praises or lit incense for Her.

The priest had then offered to pray with her. She only laughed and asked him if he had been listening. She told him in moments of desperation she had turned to the God of the Christians. She sat in many prayer vigils, waiting in vain for a miracle. She had even tried the holistic medicines of her Wicca friends, but nothing could stall the illness permeating her flesh.

Even as she was wondering if there would be a white light, her eyes closed for the last time and a gentle darkness held her in its arms and caressed her with invisible hands. She felt the acceptance she had always believed she would.

"I was right then?" she softly implored the presence.

"Yes, I have always been for the world to shape and use as it would,” replied the ethereal voice drifting like music all around her.

She smiled then, feeling at home at last where questions and answers were nothing to fear.

"So tell me then, why wouldn't you answer my prayers? Why did the spells fail?"

"I would have saved you if I could have, you know this. But you were not a Christian or a witch and there was nothing I could do. You believed you were dying and so you died. So tell me," the presence whispered lovingly, "what do you believe will happen to you next?"

The Quest
by Doraquel
Group: Razorclam

Long ago in a distant land four creatures set out on a journey. A journey to find the meaning of life. The idea for this quest first came from the rabbit. She was the type to ask many questions, and therefor also the type to get many dirty looks and stares. Not everyone in her village appreciated her inquisitive mind. So when she asked them what the meaning of life was their answers were nothing more than raised eyebrows. Needless to say the rabbit was not at all content with this response.
Then again she was never content with their lackluster responses. Yet this time, it was different. This question, she thought needed to be answered. So she left. She left the comfort of her village, and set out on her own to see if she could find out the answer some how. The rabbit went out into the woods, leaving everything she had behind.

Two days after she left the village she came upon a thorn bush blocking her path. The solution was obvious she could easily squeeze in through the gap. As she made to go through the gap, something let out a howl of pain. The howl made her jump, and her instincts had been set to make her run in the opposite direction.
But, something held her back. She looked to her right, there was nothing there but thorn. She looked to the left, still nothing. The howl came again, louder this time. And it seemed to come from right in front of her. The rabbit took a closer look at the gap in the thorny bush, and was surprised to see that someone else was already there.
A pointy eared fox had gotten himself stuck. The rabbit looked at the fox for a moment, then began to eat away at the thorns binding him. The fox howled again as the last thorn was extracted. Now fully aware that he was free, the fox turned to give thanks to the good samaritan who had helped him. The rabbit stood nervously before him.
The fox having just had a surge of hunger tried to subside it as he eyed the rabbit. He then asked "What are you doing here rabbit..... so far away from the village?" The rabbit after a moment felt brave enough to reply "I have set out on a quest to find an answer to a question." The rabbit shivered in the warm summer air.
"What question would that be?" the fox took a step closer to the rabbit.
"I want to know what the meaning of life is." the rabbit courageously took a step forward so that her reflection gleamed in the eyes of the fox.
Upon hearing this, the Fox seemed to go into an internal struggle. One moment looking kindly at the rabbit, the next drooling at the sight of her. Minutes later the fox seemed to reach a conclusion and looked kindly towards the rabbit. "I can help you find it." The rabbit was startled by this revelation and could not find the words to respond. Not waiting for a response, the fox said "I know where it is.... the meaning of life."
The fox took another moment to think, as though to choose his words carefully- "Since you have helped me....
I will help you. Only one thing I ask." The rabbit felt this was fair and nodded her head so that he could go on. "We must go with my friend the jackal, he lives within a days walk from here." The rabbit seemed frightened at these words. "Don't worry, the jackal only attacks under my command. You can say that he is bound by me, he is my slave."
The rabbit was the type to trust in word rather than action, and so she let herself be led through the woods.
Somewhere along the way her senses came to her and she bid the fox to stop so that she could talk with him.
"Fox, I want to know that along this journey you will not harm me, not shed one drop of my blood." and she made him swear by crossing his heart, as was the custom at the time.
They went on, going through the woods. As the sun began to set.
Soon there was no light to see from, and the feeling of being watched crept over them. It did not take long for them to notice what it was- just then an owl swooped down passed them and just as suddenly left. A mouse was clutched in it's talons. The rabbit froze at the sight of the owl. While the fox seemed transfixed by the owl, as it devoured it's meal. The owl who was not used to this much attention swooped down to the ground a few feet in front of the Fox and the rabbit.
"Don't be frightened, rabbit. I only eat mice."
"You may only eat mice, but from up above a tinny rabbit like I could not look much different from a rat." The rabbit said bravely looking into the eyes of the owl checking for deception.
"My eyesight is beyond all the other creatures here!, but if you do not belive me, I'll do you a favor and I will guide you from here."
The rabbit was about to nod in acceptance when the fox interrupted her.
"Why will you be so willing to help us!" the fox eyed her angrily.
"I have heard tale, that a rabbit has set out on a quest. When I recognized your companion to be a rabbit, I knew at once who she was. And as I was never one to turn down a chance for adventure, I thought that I may come along." she then added "I have the best sight out of the both of you, I could lead you in the dark. So that you would not go in circles as you have so successfully done this passed hour." It seemed to pain the fox as he nodded in agreement. The owl soon proved to be a good guide as she swooped overhead to find the quickest path out of the woods.

The first rays of sunlight shown over them as they left the woods behind.
Every now and then the fox would say "Not further now." and smile to himself as he said so. And the fox was right, for just outside the woods they could see the Jackal laying as though asleep beneath the oak tree. The fox told the rabbit and owl to wait where they stood so that he could explain to the Jackal not to harm them.
The rabbit was relieved to hear this, but the owl simply scoffed- "The jackal would never dare attack me!, I'm a huntress of the night and fear no one!" her chest puffed out as she said so.
The fox ignored this and went over to wake the jackal. They talked in hushed tones before walking back towards the rabbit and the fox. As the jackal stood before them not even
the fox's loud cough could hide the growl of hunger coming from the jackal's stomach.
"I think it's time we have some breakfast don't you......" thinking of something quickly he said-
"Just like the owl, the jackal and I will only eat mice in your company." looking kindly on the rabit.

With the owl along it was quite easy to find all the mice they needed. The mice very confused at seeing
an owl in daytime wasted time standing still, trying to see whether their eyes were deceiving them.
The rabbit was content eating what ever flowers or grass she found. As they ventured forth they came upon many landscapes- in the meadows they found deer roaming happily eating the grass which was plentiful. They walked along deserts while the owl flew over head, watching lizards bathing in the hot sun. And wondering how he could stand it, asked the Lizard why he did this. The lizard replied "survival" Not knowing what to say to this they moved on. The owl was able to catch five rodents here and divided it amongst herself and the fox and Jackal.
Although she shared with the jackal only the tails which she thought appropriate for such a vile creature.
The rabbit chewed on a tumble weed that had blown across their path.
They quickly went on their way passing a strange village made with a black hard ground and hardly any trees
at all. The few animals they found here seemed happy despite it. The rabbit could not understand why the dog was so happy, as he was at that moment tied to a metal tree like.
She asked the dog if he would like to be released and was startled by his reply.
"Released? Why would I want that?" the dog was thoroughly agitated by this.
"I don't want to be out on my own, I love my friend
so much-"
"Friend?" the Fox who could not hold back, raised his voice in frustration. "A friend who ties you to a metal tree like a slave!, shirley you can find friends like your kind who would not treat you-"
"How dare you say that about my friend!" the dog shouted back.
"There you go again, calling it your friend!, I've seen what you call friend. They do nothing but treat you like servants! Dogs,... you know you are like a joke to us
foxes. Fetching this and that for your "friend". Living cooped up in a house with no one else
to talk or play with, but humans!"
"He is my friend, and I am his!" the fox scoffed at this but otherwise remained silent.
"He feeds me, cares for me and loves me! Right now my friend will be coming out of the place with food for me."
"Scraps!" scoffed the fox. The jackal laughed at this while the owl and rabbit merely pondered.
Later on as the rabbit, fox, jackal and owl continued on. The conversation went back to the dog.
"Can you imagine that?, he still thinks that human is a friend." grunted the fox. The jackal nodded in agreement.
The rabbit seemed to disagree and said "I think I understand, the human and the dog love each other. The dog provides company for the human, and the human provides food and a home for the dog. They are living in harmony. Who wouldn't like that?" The owl did not reply at all and seemed to be lost in thought as she absentmindedly caught another rat acting on
pure instinct.

Soon after they came upon another desert.
The three days went by as they continued on their quest. The owl, fox, and jackal had a hard time of it. They seemed to be the only ones there other
than the vultures who circled overhead. Which meant that they quickly grew hungry. The jackals stomach growled so continually now that it sent chills through the rabbit. Although the rabbit was quick to share with
the others her tumbleweeds. It was still not enough to satisfy the carnivorous appetites of the owl, fox and jackal. It was on the afternoon of the third day that the fox spoke, so suddenly that it made everyone stop.
The owl swooped down to hear him better.
"I think we are nearly there!, another few hours and we should find it."
looking kindly on the rabbit before exchanging a glance with the jackal.

The night engulfed them, and the fox kept assuring them that it was only a matter of minutes. In the dark the Fox suggested that they all take a break. The owl would
not hear of this and said she would try and see if she could go out for a hunt.
"We have come along way now, and i can see a cave up ahead. I know of winged rats who live there, and if you give me time I will catch some for us." The owl took flight
into the darkness that surrounded them.
The fox then told the rabbit to stay where she was while he and the jackal went out to see if they could help the owl.
"I can't stay here by myself!" she whimpered "It's so dark!"
"Don't worry we will not take that long." he said kindly and walked away along side the jackal.

"Can we eat her now!" he drooled. This was the first time the jackal had ever said anything and he seemed anxious for a response in his favor.
"Remember, fox you promised me food."
"Yes, yes!" relented the fox. "But, remember you are the one who is to do it, not I. I will not have her blood on me as was my oath to her, I will only gnaw on the bones you leave for me!" The jackal nodded in agreement and said-
"Good, more for me then!" thinking to himself with great difficulty it seemed.-
"But will that be enough for you?"
"Don't worry about me I will eat what you will provide for me." The jackal did not waste time on what he meant by this, for the sight of the rabbit feast he would soon enjoy clouded his judgement.

What happened next was so quick that the rabbit was in mid jump as the teeth of the jackal sank deeply into her neck breaking it. She died instantly. The jackal did not waste time in devouring the now dead rabbit. He left< the bones for the fox as was the deal.
The rabbit feast seemed to leave both the jackal and fox hungrier. The jackal began to lick at the blood stained ground when he noticed the fox looking at him. The fox who only had the bones to gnaw, was the hungriest of the both of them.
"What's wrong" the jackal got a little nervous as the fox came towards him.
"Don't worry about me, I will eat what you will provide for me." For the second time, the jackal had no time to ponder the meaning of this. Because at that moment the fox leapt on

By the time the owl came back with her freshly caught bats, she screeched at the sight that lay before her. The bloodied bats fell to the ground with a clomp.

The fox was licking his lips somehow even more hungry than before.
The only sign of the rabbit or the jackal having been there, were a few scattered bones and puddles of warm blood.
The fox went for the bats, and was about to eat them too when an angry screech stopped him.
The drool still glistening on his lips, he turned to see his reflection in the two large eyes of the owl.
The fox who feared the owl, did as he was told and was never seen by the owl again.

A week passed by before the owl arrived in the rabbits village.
Those who knew the owl asked of the quest and their friend the rabbit. They had heard from the deers that four creatures including an owl, jackal, fox and one of their own, a rabbit have been seen in the meadows.
But before they could ask anything, the owl told them to be quiet so that she could tell them the sad tale.
"Sad?, why should it be sad." asked one of the older rabbits. It was then that the villagers noticed the absence of the rabbit, and this caused a chill to go through the crowd.
The owl told the villagers the story of how she had come upon the rabbit who she had heard was going on a quest. And being one who was always up for adventure decided to go along. She went on to describe all the places they have been, and when she told of the jackal many screamed in horror.
Finally she came to the part when the rabbit and jackal met their demise. The villagers burst into tears upon hearing this, more in sadness over the rabbits death than the demise
of the jackal. Whom they felt no mercy for. They stopped almost immediately when the owl made a screech for silence.
Do not weep for the rabbit, because she has found the
answer to her question, and has finally gone home. If you will cry, do so for the jackal who was dead to you long before his untimely demise.

In this fable it was said that four creatures set out on a journey.
Those four creatures were the Rabbit, jackal, fox and the owl.
The rabbit represented love, purity and innocence. So naturally she would be the first to be killed.
The jackal represented human nature, and the Fox represented greed.
So it was natural that the jackals demise would came at the hands of the Fox.
The fox did not die, but it never really lived. After being cast out by the owl the fox was left to roam the desert, always hungry, and never quite full.
The owl represented wisdom, and it lives on to tell the tale as i have told the tale to you.

Inauguration Speech of Will D. Tupper
by willtupper
Group: Razorclam

Friday, January 20, 2017

My fellow Americans, my fellow citizens:

I'd rather never have to address you with either of those two terms, ever again. Instead I would rather use another word, one that speaks more openly to the common unity shared by every man, woman, and child, in every country all over the world. I ask then, to instead greet you as "My fellow Human Beings." Bound together forever by time and space, we gather here together in this place to ultimately remember that we are our Brother's and Sister's Keeper, and we need desperately to honor one another, as well as our home - this beautiful, incredible planet we share, for whatever number of years we have left.

Today Ladies, Gentleman, and Residents of New Jersey, we set great Presidential precedence with the swearing-in of the wonderful and intelligent woman to my immediate left. I could never be prouder to present my wife, the first First Lady who will simultaneously serve as America's next Vice-President, Mrs. Angelina Jolie-Tupper.

We can celebrate, yes, but cannot proudly proclaim our greatness today. Or any day, for that matter. For proclaiming the greatness of our humanity as Americans suggests that in some way the humanity of others is inferior to ours. This must not be our belief, or our focus.

Together, we must see that ours is a common quest, seeking out the best for all people. In his 1997 Presidential Address, President Clinton said America stood, "alone as the world's indispensable nation." With all due respect to my predecessor - whom I see over there leering at my wife - I could not disagree more. I believe that nations are only as good as their people, and if there are good people everywhere - again, New Jersey is exempt from this - then truly all nations are indispensable. For all people are precious, and all people are valuable.

There is work for us to be done on many fronts. In the great American tradition of baseball, for example, as your President I promise to appoint a task force that will either make the "Designated Hitter" rule universal for both Leagues, or else abolish it completely. I also promise to sign any bill that comes across my desk stating that every member of the New York Yankees will be immediately forced to pay 100% of their salaries in taxes for the next ten years! Why? Because this is America, and we are the land of opportunity for everybody. Except apparently the Chicago Cubs.

Now I want to tell you a story that will hopefully illustrate the progress we intend to stress throughout the course of our Administration.

When Angie and I woke up this morning, we did what most American couples do when the sun comes up too early and the bed is so very warm and cozy. We hit the "snooze" button. But then, after those blissful additional eight minutes were over, what did we hear?

A commercial. A commercial for the station itself, I believe they're called an "ID" in the broadcasting industry, came across the airwaves in the midst of what this particular station promised would be, "Twenty-two hits, totally commercial free."

My fellow Human Beings, this has been going on for far too long. Far too long, and my wife, myself, and I suspect you as well, are getting more than a little sick of it. I mean, goodness. I had Angie switch over to NPR, and what did we hear? The announcer listing the sponsors of this morning's programming!

My fellow Human Beings, I am telling you here and now that these station IDs and sponsor listings are just commercials in contributor's clothing. But we are ready to fight! We are prepared to defend your right to hear Jimi Hendrix, then Jim Morrison, all without the ten wasteful seconds of, "WWDC - 98.3FM in the morning," between them.

To this end, in the fight for the American right to expression without interruption, Angie and I've formed an alliance with Senator McDermott of Michigan, and together we will head up the "Advertisement-Annoyance Avoidance-Alliance," or A-4 for short. A-4 will be a "public ears" organization, dedicated to finding those stations deceiving their listeners, and punishing these audio-vandals with our new "Lawyer for a Year" sentence, where an ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyer will live with the convicted criminal for up to one year. When it comes to our nation's airwaves, we mean business!

And we will provide not only heavy tax cuts to those individuals who choose natural fuel sources, such as walking to get to work, but we will also give an equivalent tax increase to outdated fossil fuel companies.

The CEOs of the top three tobacco manufacturers will be locked in a small room for a week with nothing to eat but the very cancer-causing products they make.

Less money in the form of subsidies and other breaks to large companies, and more money for public libraries! And MTV must start playing music videos again or else change it's name to something else.

In conclusion, this Administration will continue to be tough on terrorists, by which I mean Dentists. We will continue to hunt out Weapons of Floss Destruction in our mission to rid the world of what sure seems to me to be mostly unnecessary pain.

Also, from now on everyone with 13 or more items in the "12 Items Or Less" lane at the grocery story will be shot on sight. And I will insist that both Disney Land and Disney World change their names to "Long Line Land,” for America needs to be rooted in honesty, so the flowers that bloom in the future will be better than the weeds we once grew before.

Thank you. Let's all Bless America together. And go Cubs! I'm sure you'll win it next year.

Now, before we begin our Administration's Mission, Angie and I are going to go watch "Tomb Raider" one more time. Thank you, once again, and goodnight.

The Antithetics of Being
by WizardOzmand
Group: Strawberry

Sir Thomas Swinbourne, the 18th Marquis of Winersh, is the most notable, or rather the only, known critic of Raul Fernando Conceicao. In between his dedication to opium, and , “ the eternal quest for the most larcenous of debaucheries”, he found the time to publish a voluminous and rather abstruse critique of Conceicao’s primary philosophical works, ‘ The Moral Chiasmus’, and ‘ The Antithetics of Being’. Despite his surprisingly erudite commentaries, his work was buried, alongside the very volumes he was discussing, in the desolate necropolis of obscurity. The only copies of these immense works were stored suppressively in a lonesome corner of the British Museum’s Library in London. Thus, it was but chance, or free destination, that led me, the undistinguished author, to discover Conceicao’s mighty texts, and Swinbourne’s narcotically influenced analyses, one grey morning in the month of September, as I amiably perused the Anthropology section of the cavernous room, on a dubious yet whimsical quest for some 3rd century erotic wood carvings, possibly of water Nymphs frolicking somewhere appropriate. Henceforth from this moment of serendipity, I immersed myself in these writings; indeed, three gentlemen from the museum’s security ensemble were required to escort me from the premises come the closing hour, such was the vehemence of my desire to continue. From then on I returned, day after day after day, until the days had coherently equated themselves into weeks. Eventually however, every syllable of those three books became indelibly committed to the halls of my memory. ‘The Moral Chiasmus’, although a crushingly superb and insightful refutation of theological morals (predating Nietzche by approximately two hundred years), is densely proportional and concerned with disassembly of a Judeo-Christian hierarchy that no longer exists. As such, I have respectfully declined to discuss that work herein. I shall instead concentrate upon ‘ The Antithetics of Being’, with reference to Swinbourne’s subsequent and inebriated postulations. First however (and I realise here that I have been presumptuous in my expectations of the reader), I shall relay a brief amount of biographical exposition, about this absurdly neglected scholar and thinker. Raul Fernando Conceicao was born in Penas, a small village approximately 70 miles east of Lisbon, in 1575. He was educated by Benedictine monks, and although displaying a prodigious intelligence, was disliked by the Brothers, and eventually suffered the ignominity of being enthusiastically drummed out of the confines of the monastery at the age of fifteen, for continuous questioning of the concept of Divine providence. He subsequently embarked upon 16 years of wandering, visiting, as Swinbourne notes , “ ..every facet, every glory and dire of this world as was known; the lands of the East, the wet Eden of the Indian jungles, the arid deserts and formative societies of the mouths of Africa, and the priapic nodes of the Caucasus and it’s plains”. He returned to Europe in the early 17th century, whereby, he wrote, according to Swinbourne, the entire manuscript of ‘ The Moral Chiasmus’ during a three week long period of sustained inspiration. He then published his work, by means of a small, independent printer in Rotterdam. He was instantly pronounced a dangerous heretic by both the Papal Catholics and the Protestant Reformers, and the premises of his Dutch Printer, a Mr. Ruud Van Der Meeyd, were burnt to a crisp shell by that quintessence of the Middle Ages, the bloodthirsty mob. Conceicao subsequently retired to a self-constructed abode, deep inside the foreboding comfort of Bavaria’s Black Forest. From here he composed his magnum opus ‘ The Antithetics of Being’; a masterpiece nourished by the milk of solitude, insight, home-distilled liquor from the rinds of Juniper berries, and, “ a morbidly healthy fascination, nay, obsession, with the fundaments, the catchyxic necessity, of pure and actual consideration”. Swinbourne is eloquently vague as to the remainder of Conceicao’s life, noting only that, “ in an elegant and prescient nod towards Mozart”, he died a pauper somewhere in Moravia, and was buried in an unmarked grave, having suffered the posthumous indignity of being stripped of his, “ excessively magnificent” teeth.

And now!

The beauty of ‘ The Antithetics of Being’ lies in it’s quiddity; that of the contadiction. He tells the tale of a nameless man, who, through some hiccup of the cosmos, cannot, try as he might, expire. He simply will not die. The sole route to the, “ blissful inconsequence” of the grave, so far as the Man can ascertain (Conceicao wastes no words on the explication of how the man became aware of this), is to reach a juncture whereby he can lay claim to one, just one, idea or notion, or some such confluence of predicates, as something that he, “ believes in, with the whole heartedness and singularity of a Jaguar stalking an errant Parrot, as his own”. What Conceicao means by this is not that the man must own the idea, in terms of its conception, but must simply believe in it singularly. This seemingly prosaic task proves anathema to the Man. He wanders the length and breadth of Europe, searching with an increasingly emetic desperation, for that one, mythic philosophy that could capture the imagination of his internal being, that he could immerse himself within with a revolutionary zeal. Swinbourne pontificates that the singularity with which Conceicao seems so preoccupied, is in fact the apodosis of his argument; it is only the possession of a singular belief that disseminates achievement. Martin Luther could never have precipitated the Reformation had he partially agreed with the revelry of Catholic worship. As the Man tells a tinker whom he meets under a bridge in Prague, “ Whether, my friend, there is God, or man, or both isochronously extant, is entirely irrelevant. In fact, it could be proclaimed as a dialectical preclusion of relevance, as we as natural entities can never be singularly aware of any such truth or veracity. It is the pendulance betwixt the two concepts that acts as the terminal fuel to mankind, in our oppressive race towards belief". The subtext, as read by the author, augmented by the poppy soaked prose of Swinbourne (“ ah! Pendulance! Has there ever been construed an onomatopoeia of such prurient profundity!”), is that life, or being, is an intrinsically unsatisfying experience because of our innate desire for coherence, and these urges contrary juxtaposition to our inability to effectively marshal our internal responses to stimuli. If I were to present you, the reader, with an anonymously composed poem, and begged of your opinion, you would be able, within one or two readings, to detail which end of the subjective spectrum you reside within. What would prove a great deal more problematic, however, would be the articulation of why you either liked or disliked it. This is because of the reactionistic and arational manner by which we –as people- analyse. We like to think that we perpetrate logic, but this is not the case. We merely construct a dimension of illusory logic around the absurdity of what is in actuality. Conceicao laid bare the duality of existence in his appendix ‘ The dichotomatic table’, within which he extolled the the principle that life is predicated upon an endless ream of ideological schisms: Pacifism and violence, Knowledge and Ignorance, Individuality and Society, Intelligence and Emotion, Good and Evil, God and Man, Structure and Improvisation, Life andDeath, Solitude and Company, Dreams and Reality and Order and Disorder. He posits that, “ the list is btought to a halt only by the brutal finitude of our tongues. For every thing, material or immaterial, there is an antithesis, and the struggle for adherence to either one or the other is the pale horse upon which we all ride into the endless atrament of the night”. The Man’s final soliloquy , as he prepares to ensconce himself in cave in the Ural mountains for the remainder of eternity, reveals much of the crux of this professed “ pendulance”.

The committed Christian pacifist at will considers justified violence; the most enthusiastic rationalist alternately longs for, and loathes spontaneity, although he would not admit this on pain of death. Every conviction that is held vociferously in the external world, is merely a thin cloak, carelessly thrown over the inverse desires and suppositions that are inside of the extoller. The professor who rails so against ignorance, internally desires, more than anything, the quietude and tranquility that he imagines would come with cessation of his rampant mind. Conversely, the idiot mocks the learned, whilst all the while yearning for the capacity to understand. Every blow dealt, every back stabbed, every war, every vicious word fashioned into an arrow and let loose at it’s target, is merely a form of misappropriated suicide; an attempt, no matter how futile, to destroy what it is about one’s self that is both desired and despised”. [ ‘The Antithetics of Being’ , Raul Fernando Conceicao, Page 205, paragraph 3].

It is these contradictions embedded within us that cast the illusion of achievement, that manipulate successive progenies into the presumption that things have been achieved and will continue to be. Our search for God had yielded hundreds of thousands of architectural simulcrums of what is holy, but is this an achievement? I shall conclude this rather disquisitive essay with the last paragraph of ‘ The Antithetics…..’:

“ The search for God is done as soon as the unquestioning belief in him exists, with no inclination towards accoutrement or dogma. The quest for love is complete, once one knows, not supposes, but knows, that Love exists. To continue forthwith would be to labour the point, but think this; to search endlessly and relentlessly for the thing that one can devote all of his reservoir of faith to, is a Tantalusian task, it can never be completed. It is worth, instead, to behold such a thing that has inspired wonder in you from the vaguest fogs of recollection, and to seize it, to cow before it in deepest awe. It is worth to do this, yet all the while remain a skeptik, persist to question and wrangle the subject of your awe, so that you might make it yours; fashioned by your own coarse hands from a stone brought into being aeons ago by the dusty cycles of time itself. Shape it, behold it, believe it. And thou shalt be.”
Raul Fernando Conceicao [ 1575-1613].

“ never has the privy absurdity of nature cast it’s oats to such an ostentatiously significant end. The depth and texture of his perceptions are the intellectual equivalence of all that pleases one in an olfactory manner; every hint of florid perfume, every scent of cherry skinned girl, every smell of grass rich with the precipitation of growth! Never before has the perusing of another man’s thoughts struck me as a more pleasing afternoon’s leisure than a hearty lung of a finely crafted Hooka filled with the sweet murder of the poppy’s milk”.
Sir Thomas Arthur Swinbourne, 18th Marquis of Winersh [1794-1850], ‘ Considerations of a buried genius: the peculiar non-legacy of Raul Fernando Conceicao’, page 498.

Nb. the books and characters described herein aren't actually real. I've tried a sort of Borgesian structure, in terms of what is real and what is not. Let me know whether it works or not.

how do you spell 'belief'?
by Vaselina
Group: Strawberry

i just have to say
that I believe just a little
in every religion in the world
for every person in the world
who believes in one
but only a little
I believe that our beliefs have taken over
have blacked out the subject
behind the religions
which are supposed to be there to help
make you a better neighbour
a kinder, wiser, nicer person to be around
simpler and truer
and sustaining of life
more than you receive
I believe that our beliefs have
to turn over a new leaf
to make a little room for some
be-calms and be-cools
and yes, even some be-goods
from time to time
would be good and
I believe that your beliefs
shouldn’t cause anybody else any grief
and ever since Adam sewed Eve
an apron made of fig leafs
that from too stringent beliefs
we need some
so if your beliefs
have an over-ruling motif
that rule out my tolerance of your beliefs
then I ask you
what am I, ground beef?
because I am fully prepared to support
your beliefs
if I believe
they won’t lead you
to deliberately hurt, harm or maim
other man or dame
but I won’t support anybody that won’t
tell me what it IS they believe
because if you want to be part of this game
then you can start
by telling me your name
and know that
there’s no need to be ashamed
of the groundrules,
my friend.

so tell me, how do YOU spell ‘belief’?

by singlemalt
Group: Strawberry

Thank you, Your Honor, counsel and members of the jury. I want to let you know right now that I have had easier cases to defend. That’s not to say that this case is not defensible, because it is. Quite defensible. But representing the very concept of the democratic system is an amazing burden for any individual. This has been a long trial. At the beginning of this case I told you that this was a case about one thing and one thing only. And nothing has changed from the opening statements up to this closing argument. This case is about taking responsibility for your own actions.

There have been a host of plaintiffs in this case, individuals and corporations, slackers and businessmen, newspapers and television shows, and numerous organizations, too many to list. They have all brought some very heavy allegations, some very serious complaints against my client, “The System.”

We live in an amazing county. Ours is the only country that allows for jury trials in cases such as this one. We have had this right for over two hundred years. It is a right so sacred that our founding fathers guaranteed this right for us when they drafted the constitution over two hundred years ago. It is our birthright. Our jury system is a unique right, it is an important right, but it is a right that needs protection. Yes, our jury system is designed to help people and corporations get fair and reasonable justice when they truly deserve it. But it is also designed to protect the innocent from exaggerated claims, unsupported allegations and, quite frankly, outright lies.

I told you at the beginning of this trial that this was a case about a search for the truth. It is a difficult proposition to stand before you and say that a plaintiff has, for whatever reason, not been honest and forthright. But that is what happened in the events leading up to this trial. You heard how the truth has been obscured in this case, you heard how the truth has been hidden.

So what are the plaintiffs claiming? The corporations claim that the system treats them unfairly. They shout “look at the giant verdicts given out against us in trials on a daily basis.” The unemployed say the system is broken because “we can’t get jobs and the corporations are too powerful.” The doctors claim that the system forces them to pay huge sums of money to insurance companies in order to purchase malpractice insurance. Certain plaintiffs claim the system is broken because the big businesses only care about money and don’t care that the music and video games being force fed to their children are allegedly creating a culture of violence and mayhem. Other plaintiffs claim that they flat out just don’t want to pay taxes.

And they all blame the defendant, the system, for their problems. I’m not saying the system is perfect. Far from it. To paraphrase, Winston Churchill, “our system is the worst, except for all the others.” And he hit the nail on the head. There is no better system. Our system works.

So we really have to look at the plaintiffs’ own actions to truly understand the basis for their allegations. Let’s look at the corporations first. They claim that the system is broken because they are hit every day with large jury verdicts for defective products and negligent conduct. But what about taking responsibility for what leads to those verdicts in the first place? Tire blow outs causing defectively designed vehicles to roll over. Oil tanker ships causing ecological disasters. And how about accounting firms “cooking the books” so that corporations’ balance sheets look far superior than what they really are. These plaintiffs, these corporations, simply refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. They ignore their role in causing the problems and complain when juries enter judgments against them. Is that a defective system?

How about the voluntarily unemployed, those that choose not to work for a variety of reasons. They claim that the system is not working because they aren’t getting the assistance they need to purchase food and clothing. Are hand-outs really the answer? Is the system not working because someone voluntarily chooses not to take a job because it isn’t exactly what he or she is looking for? If that was the case, and if everyone lived by that rule, no one would be employed. Sometimes, we have to do what we don’t necessarily want to do. Sometimes, we have to own up to our situation and attempt to make the most of it, even if it means doing what we don’t want to do.

We heard from the doctors in this case. They told us that malpractice rates are going through the roof and they can’t afford to practice medicine anymore. But they want us to ignore how their malpractice can lead to horrible injuries. They want us to ignore how their negligence can lead to death and disfigurement. I’m not saying that all doctors are bad. What I am saying is that the purpose of malpractice insurance is to compensate victims of medical negligence. How many of us would complain about paying fifty thousand dollars annually for malpractice insurance if we earned six times that per year?

Of course, when the media sensationalizes all of these matters, it just makes everything worse. And we are to blame for feeding the media frenzy. We mindlessly tune into tabloid television and read the latest rags instead of looking for solutions to our problems.

Here is the crux of this whole trial. We all must start to take responsibility for our own actions. If we spill hot coffee on our lap, it’s time to say “it’s my fault” and not run to the courthouse to sue the restaurant. If our child falls on the playground, it’s time to teach him to be more careful, not rush to sue the school. If our neighbor commits suicide, it’s time to determine what the real problem was and not blame the record companies and video game companies for putting out a product that we don’t like. Why do you think companies don’t sell hot coffee anymore? Why do you think that all the playgrounds are being ripped out? Why do you think that we have to put warning labels on everything today?

We have the power and ability to stop the frivolous lawsuits. We have the power to force companies to be more thoughtful when designing and selling products. We have the power to limit ecological disasters. We have the power to stop creative accounting and financial indiscretions. But we have to first take responsibility for our own actions. We must first stop laying the blame on the system. The system is not broken. It works as it was designed. But you can’t expect it to be perfect when no one, it seems, wants to admit his or her mistake or own faults.

Don’t let the truth be obscured here. Don’t let the plaintiffs use smoke and mirrors to cover up the real issue, taking responsibility.

Other than voting, serving on a jury is the only way that common people can actively participate in government. My client, the system, made a demand for a jury in this case so we could have this case heard by a jury of our peers. We have put our trust in you. We are asking you to find that the system is not guilty of any of the claims being made by the plaintiffs.

My job is now done. But your job is only just beginning. When you deliberate I hope you will consider the actions of the plaintiffs themselves, and not only look at the system in a vacuum. If you make the correct decision in this case, you will help preserve this jury system for future generations. I hope our system continues for another two hundred years so that our children and their children can come to their peers to seek the truth, to seek justice. We have put our faith in you. There is nothing more we can do. On behalf of my client, thank you.

Avoiding Avoidance
by Kreddible Trout
Group: Watermelon

I will not be defined. I will not be pigeonholed. Not even by myself. Ask me what I am and the best I can give you is ‘I don’t know’. I will not let you know me enough to define me. The closer you get the quicker I’ll change. Self-realization is my greatest blessing because it is always the first step in self-revolution. It’s not that I fear intimacy, far from that, I thrive on it, it’s that I despise stagnation. I dislike moss.

Let us delve, shall we? Let us take a sharp sturdy shovel, dig a deep hole in my psyche and see what makes this creature tick…

Put that damned shovel down and get out of my yard!

You wanna know something, just ask me. I’ll tell you.

Why do I dislike moss? Let me dress it up nicely on this silver platter for you. Garnished, as always with a little self-righteous wit and a sprig of parsley.

I grew up in suburbia.

‘Nuff said?


Ok, for those of you who drove here in a minivan with Garfield mud flaps, I’ll elaborate. I spent my formative years in a little town called Avoidance. Some of you may know it, it’s a suburb just outside of Anywhere… that’s right ‘that town with the mall’, you got it! Though I spent the majority of my time in Avoidance, I did manage to hop on the bus every now and again and visit the floating city of Observance. If only subconsciously. Somewhere down where the heavy thoughts reign, my trips to Observance must have been stored away for future reference. At the time, though, I saw the moss all over Avoidance but didn’t consciously recognize it as such.

Meanwhile, the young ragamuffin, with his David Cassidy Hair, Judas Priest t-shirt and knee worn GWGs waited. Waited. Waited.

Avoidance offered little to do for kids who had recently grown out of ‘dinky cars’ and tree houses. We had video games, but there were really only a handful of them and they mostly consisted of little squares that moved around the screen eluding other little squares. So, we smoked up and lit things on fire. That’s right, the major occupation in Avoidance for 11-12 year old kids was narcotic inspired pyromania. Before we knew it though, our interest in setting things on fire had faded as it seemed to take far too much effort. The pot, however, burned with no effort at all. There was always someone with an older brother who could fix us up. We smiled hazily while the moss grew. Occasionally, a sibling rivalry or a dry season would hinder our habit, that’s when household plants suddenly started losing leaves and tea bags went missing. Soon we realized that the availability of pot and hash was terribly inconsistent and that dried toothpaste really didn’t give you a buzz. So we switched to beer. Beer was so available we complained that it should come out of a tap in the kitchen.

The next ‘who-knows-how-long’ I was as much a citizen of Avoidance as the many ceramic gnomes that littered the lawns and just about as useful. (In a bout with a hallucinogen somewhere along the way I argued with one of the gnomes about who was more necessary: him or me. I can’t remember who won.) So many years… waiting. For a while my side trips to Observance became so few and so far between that I think I may have even given up on myself. I did. However, there was always the knowledge somewhere deep inside that if I stayed for just a day too long I’d become a ‘lifer’. Like my parents. Like everyone around me.

Fast Forward.

I’ve spent the last ten years chopping at the mossy umbilical that connected me to Avoidance. Trying not to cut too deep as to lose a friend but making the necessary incisions (if somewhat haphazardly) and I’ve done a pretty good job of it, I think. While many comrades fell onto the mossy couch of complacency, I fought and bit and crawled and did everything I could to get to Observance. I’ve been here for quite some time now.
One of the things that I realized along the way is that everyone who lives in Avoidance (or any place like it) is defined by what they ‘do’: John’s an accountant. Phil’s a proctologist. Laura is a lawyer. Or what they ‘are’: John’s a republican. Phil’s a radical feminist. Laura is an aspiring Buddhist. Or what they ‘have’: John has a Hummer. Phil has a heated couch and wide screen TV. Laura has an ulcer. In Avoidance the real underlying measure of a person is their yearly income. When someone asks you ‘what do you do?’ they don’t care 'what you do' with your children or 'what you do' with a paintbrush. They want to put you in a category so they know how to treat you. If you answer, ‘I’m a short-order cook’ you’ll get a completely different treatment than if you were to say ‘I’m an investments lawyer’. Money is a measure of success. I find that very sad. My successes cannot be weighed in dollars, they are weighed in my heart and in the opinions of those who matter to me. They are weighed in how many questions you walk away with.

The moss grows and thrives on many. They are the ones who made a decision somewhere around the end of high school as to what they were going to ‘be’. Seems kind of limiting to me to decide so early how to spend the rest of your life… but the moss likes it.

As it stands… I’m everything. I’m nothing. My beliefs are simple: I believe in everything… and I believe it’s all bullshit. I say this not only to keep the upper hand by confusing the easily confused, but because, honestly, I haven’t figured it out yet. I hope I never do. The only thing I ever want to ‘become’ is a good friend, a good husband and happy memory one day.

Fuzzy Pickles
by Will Burrows
Group: Watermelon

Granny likes portrait photography. For her sake my cousins and I would be taken, when we were younger, to the Wal*Mart portrait studio, whining all the way, wearing uncomfortable clothes and fake smiles, pretending for a few seconds to like one another.

We were not happy, but Granny wasn't allowed to know it. We love Granny. Granny would give us whatever we wanted, if she could.

It's impossible to be happy if you can get whatever you want. Happiness is the result of pain relieved or anticipation realized, like finally getting to pee after an hour of holding it during a road trip.

It's an eight-hour road trip between my house and Granny's.


In high school, senior portaits were a ritual. Conventionality required kids to spend large sums of money for these objects, to have something to show off and give to friends. "Here, remember me at my most dolled-up."

When popular kids would bring in the albums from their shooting sessions, folks would gather around so thick you'd think there was a breathing fish in the center of the huddle. "Oooh." "Aaah." "That's so cute!"

Pretty girls would give wallet-sized copies to a select few. Man, those were prizes. They were like baseball cards that didn't come with gum, but trading them was strictly frowned upon.

I have two such photos; they fall out of my yearbook when I open it.


Nobody smiles in the oldest photographs. They couldn't. Daguerreotype exposures were made over the course of several seconds. Any movement would blur the image. It hurts to smile that long if you're not happy.

Somebody was kind enough to invent a brace that would clamp onto the back of a person's head and help them sit still for the camera while remaining conveniently out of view.

The closest thing to a candid shot was a dead soldier. Sometimes, when children died young, the only photograph their parents had of them was in the casket.

How morbid.


Is the photographer not an artist, that he should not photograph his subject doing something more interesting than being photographed?

A good photograph tells a story; it captures an inconceivably brief moment. A good story means something.

What does a portrait photograph mean?

Why, when we go far from home, do we feel the need to document our trips with photos of friends in front of landmarks, signs, or natural wonders saying "cheese" or "fuzzy pickles"? It's unnatural, and I wonder.

Why do we present portraits to people we've just met, in order to be photographed by their minds? They go along with insincere "how-are-yous" and awkward laughter. The first impression's the most important.

Why do we not prefer to photograph and be photographed eating, reading, walking, hugging, doing whatever it is about which we are passionate? Why do we favor the man-made photo-ops and ignore the organic moments that compose the bulk of our experience?

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