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 Volume #1                    September 15, 1994                   Issue #4

                        CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 1, ISSUE 4
      A Bob and a Matt . . . . . .  Robert Fulkerson and Matthew Mason

      shard  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Adam Kaune

      Roman Ruin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Blackbird

      words find . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Edgar Sommer

      But For the Grace of God . . . . . . . . . . . . Brett A. Thomas

      He's Returned  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cynthia Anne Foster

      Sestina  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Susan Tefft Fitzgerald

      Elinor Rigby . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Alkalay-Gut

      Twilight Dancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . William C. Burns, Jr.

      What Gets Me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Benjamin Parzybok

      Wednesday Afternoon  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Lori Kline

      monet's old studio is a gift shop  . . . . . . . John Adam Kaune

      The Judge  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Doctress Neutopia

      Disclaimer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael A. Simanoff

      You can meditate in this mess? . . . . . . . . . . Michael Stutz

      Room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Alkalay-Gut

      What lengths must my children go to rebel when I'm 50  . . . . .
                                               . . . . .  Dave Zappala

      Between the Hiatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maree Anne Jaeger

      speaking of the secret . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Alkalay-Gut

      Custer is not here   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Adam Kaune

      Pool Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Leland Ray

      The Strawberry Blond . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Edward J. Austin

      About the Authors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors

      In Their Own Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors

 Editor                                +                               Editor
 Robert Fulkerson               The Morpo Staff                 Matthew Mason                   +

 Proofreader                                           ReadRoom Layout Editor 
 Kris Kalil Fulkerson                                              Mike Gates                        
 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 1, Issue 4.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a bi-monthly basis.  Reproduction of this magazine is
 permitted as long as the magazine is not sold and the entire text of the
 issue remains intact.  Copyright 1994, Robert Fulkerson and Matthew Mason.
 The ASCII version of _The Morpo Review_ is created in part by using Lynx 2.1
 to save ASCII formatted text of the World Wide Web HyperText Markup Language
 version.  All literary and artistic works are Copyright 1994 by their
 respective authors and artists.

                       A Bob and a Matt / Editors' Notes
   o _Robert Fulkerson, Editor_:
   It has been a rather busy four months since the last time I wrote one
   of these columns. Let's see if I can list off just a few of the things
   that have happened since May: I finished my first year of graduate
   school, I was an usher in a wedding for the first time, I got married
   on July 1st, I visited Colorado and the Rocky Mountains for the first
   time, I interviewed for my first real job and bought my first real
   suit, I began teaching an introduction to programming class. No wonder
   I'm always tired!
   I'd like to take a moment if I may to wax reminiscent about the honeymoon
   that my wife Kris and I took to Colorado. When we first started thinking
   about where we should go for our honeymoon, we both thought we'd like
   to see New England. So, we had grand plans to pack up the car and
   drive East for a few days, maybe visit Prince Edward Island and the
   home of Anne (you know, of _Green Gables_ fame) and then drive West
   for a few more days and end up back home.
   Well, after some thought, the idea of driving West and up and down the
   Pacific coastline (and visiting Matt, the other editor of _TMR_)
   sounded really fun, since neither of us had really visited the Western
   United States before. So instead of driving many days round-trip East
   and back, we decided to travel even more days round-trip West and
   Then the financial realities of what we were planning on doing sank in
   and we decided that we really probably shouldn't even leave Nebraska.
   This was a depressing thought, not because Nebraska isn't a beautiful
   state but because we already _know_ that Nebraska is a beautiful state.
   No need exploring what both of us already were familiar with.
   Kris then suggested that we go out to Colorado for a few days. One day
   travel there, one day travel back. Minimal driving (comparatively) and
   beautiful country were her arguments. I was skeptical and against the
   idea at first--see, I'd never been to Colorado, and she'd already been
   three or four times with her parents. What would be the fun for her?
   But economy of time and money won out and we _did_ go and stay in
   Estes Park, Colorado for four days.
   The first day we went hiking, it snowed. It snowed in July, one of the
   warmest months here in the United States. July 7th, to be exact. I've
   never seen snow in July before, and since I love snow, it confirmed
   that I loved Colorado and the mountains and everything else there was
   that nature had to offer. I didn't even mind the hiking that much (but
   don't tell that to Kris -- I complained a whole bunch the second day
   out just for complaining's sake).
   But what was really wonderful while we spent four of our honeymoon
   days there in Estes Park (besides, of course, spending time with my
   wife) was that the natural beauty of nature and the happiness of
   celebrating our marriage brought me around to writing again. It had
   been far too long since I'd put pencil to paper and written poetry.
   But, sitting there one night, the silhouettes of mountains canvassing
   the purple-black sky, I put pencil to paper and wrote. It was a
   wonderful feeling and reminded me again why I love writing and
   reading, and why other people do, too.
   So, it is with a rediscovery of my own love for writing and reading
   that we bring you this issue of _The Morpo Review_. You'll notice that
   this issue is rather large compared to our previous issues. This is
   due to the fact that we've had four months to amass good works, and
   amass we have. We have three stories in this issue (_But For the Grace
   of God_ by Brett A. Thomas, _Pool Night_ by Leland Ray and _The
   Strawberry Blond_ by Edward J. Austin) as well as our first piece of
   non-fiction that we've published in _TMR_, _The Judge_ by Doctress
   Let us not forget that we also publish poetry! This issue finds us
   chock full of works from John Adam Kaune, of the _Sand River Journal_,
   with _shard_, _monet's old studio is a gift shop_ and _Custer is not
   here_. We also have some fine first appearances in _TMR_ by Benjamin
   Parzybok (_What Gets Me_) and Dave Zappala (_What lengths must my
   children go to rebel when I'm 50_). The rest of the work is also
   top-notch, and we certainly hope you enjoy it, also.
   So, hopefully we won't go four months again between issues, mainly
   because there's too much stuff to talk about and I keep getting tired
   because of it. Enjoy the issue, and we'll see you again ...
   o _Matthew Mason, Editor_:
   Cool. You're reading this again, something I see as a darned good
   thing. Being new to this whole editor stuff (being mainly used to
   sending nicely typed poems to editors at a variety of other magazines
   as a way of expanding my collection of rejection letters), I'm
   surprised at just how this whole literary magazine stuff goes.
   It surprises me just how much work and detail goes into putting
   out a literary magazine. So you should really admire and appreciate
   the work the editors here do for no monetary compensation! Well,
   actually you should admire and appreciate Bob, seeing as I have the
   computer skill and organizational finesse of a bag of Funyuns, so I
   basically sit around and try to find ways to foist my paltry amount of
   work onto Bob's shoulders.
   In any case, I'm rambling again. Welcome back to _Morpo_, we're glad
   to see you, and remember: we'll always leave the modem on for you.

 "shard" by John Adam Kaune

the music pauses -

words fall into the void
only to rise once more

in acquisition of the soul

the place in which my very wholeness is imparted

pens lay silent in my plan

the message in the palm

I am defined in instances

not yet definitive

 "Roman Ruin" by Blackbird

Last night, we were so very quiet.

No killer stalked our apartment,
 no spy had placed bugs in the walls,
  no bombers flew overhead

And yet,

As if for fear our voices might bring danger,
 we were quiet as church mice.

  That's okay.  Silence doesn't bother me--particularly from
  someone I trust.

 But still--the hours we spent not talking now seem to me like
pools of water on the low wall of a Roman ruin, evaporating in
the hot Aegean sun.

 "words find" by Edgar Sommer

words find
they risk the company of idiots

words find and curl into her sleep
curl up to sleep

a home
ridgetop brainland for looking down
words find
trespass the fingertips
crisscross the countryside


drops on paperscape
tell sex and crime
they roam
and words find

strife givers
little bonny pad
bonny in may
the grass fields
bonny's snowmilkwhiteness
they find
and alight on soft spots

color the mind fancifold
bound to the ceiling glueflexfully, -but.
bound to the earth
any earth she is to be

words find
and they roam
cornerfixed and arcbound
and flatsome by coarse
there's tricks
stuttertracks in the sand towards moonrise

words find
they risk the company of idiots

 "But For the Grace of God" by Brett A. Thomas
   "But for the grace of God," Jeremy Rodgers' mother had taught him to
   pray, whenever he saw a person on crutches or in a wheelchair, "there
   go I." The prayer was a little ritual, not so much to thank God for
   health, but to ward off the living death of physical deformity that so
   many are frightened of.
   Twenty years after hearing that advice for the first time, Jeremy sat
   in a small apartment. His mother had died a few years before, having
   fallen out of God's good graces, herself.
   Now, the only son of Virginia Harper Rodgers, nee Virginia Marie
   Harper, sat in a small, one-room apartment in Atlanta, GA. The plaster
   walls had been white, once, but were now faded and peeling. It was
   summer, and the humidity and heat were causing misery throughout the
   city. The window in Jeremy's apartment was open, but it faced up
   against the brick wall of a neighboring building, and offered little
   relief from the heat.
   The scattered furnishings were extremely mismatched. A red secretary's
   chair was the only seat in the house, and it faced a short-legged,
   small table with an old 19" TV on it. The TV, with simulated
   wood-grain finish, was large enough that it overhung the sides. A
   single bed was stuck in the corner by the window, with twisted and
   stained sheets upon it. On the other side of the window from the bed
   stood a 1958 GE refrigerator, of the style that young children
   occasionally get trapped in.
   The only item in the room - including its occupant - that had been
   manufactured after 1976 was a small microwave that was on the short,
   faded green counter beside the refrigerator.
   Laying amongst all this urban splendor was Jeremy himself, flat on his
   back, on the bare, wooden floor. Sweat darkened his filthy blue jeans,
   and his frame was thin to the point of being unhealthy. Long, uncombed
   brown hair splayed out around him like a halo, and spilled across his
   bare shoulders, which were as white as high clouds in a blue sky.
   A practiced eye would have seen the track marks up and down both arms,
   noted the smell of stale urine, the lack of a phone, the unwashed body
   - and come up with "drug addict". An unpracticed eye could have seen
   the needle laying on the floor, and reached the same conclusion.

   Jeremy lay almost motionless on the floor for several hours, as
   morphine coursed through his system. His contact had been unable to
   get anything else that week, but morphine worked well enough. He had
   shot up the last dose of it three hours before, and was beginning to
   come down, when someone knocked on the door. Slowly, he began to move.
   He propped himself up on his elbows first, then sat up, still resting
   his weight on his arms.
   At this point, Jeremy's eyes came open. He looked around, dazedly, and
   sat the rest of the way up.

   By he time he got to the door, the person on the other side had
   knocked twice. He fumbled with the locks, and finally jerked the door
   open, still half-leaning on it for support.
   A large-bodied black woman stood on the other side of entryway.
   "Hello," she said, smiling broadly. "I'm Loretta Williams. I live on
   the third floor. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord
   and Savior?"
   Jeremy looked at her for a long moment. "Jesus?"
   The smile never wavered. "Yes." She began her spiel again. "Have you
   accepted him as-"
   Vague memories of Sunday school came to Jeremy. "I like Jesus," he
   decided, nodding in agreement with himself. His voice, when it finally
   came, was surprisingly deep. The way he uttered this, and anything
   else, seemed to say that the entire weight of his intellect was behind
   it. He sounded much like an over-serious child, who had finally
   decided which candy-store delicacy to purchase with his allowance.
   Loretta's smile widened, somehow. "Good!" She handed him a piece of
   paper, with a cross prominently centered on the top. "We're having a
   building revival tonight, the Reverend Robert Smith will be speaking."
   A frown crossed Jeremy's face. "Revival?" he asked, uncertainly.
   "Yes," she confirmed. "Tonight, in the basement, at eight. Will you
   "To the basement?"
   The smile wavered, momentarily. "Yes. Tonight. I hope you'll be
   Jeremy watched her walk away, and it was almost five minutes after
   that before it occurred to him to close the door. Doing so took all of
   his concentration, and, when he stopped thinking about holding it, the
   leaflet fluttered softly to the floor.

   Two hours later, the visitor that Jeremy had been originally expecting
   arrived. By this time, the morphine had worn off, and Jeremy was a
   little clearer, so he was able to get to the door on the first knock.
   The visitor was a short, black man. He wore a leather jacket, blue
   pants, and an Atlanta Braves ballcap. Jeremy's face lit up at his
   Ray stepped in, and looked around the apartment. "Hey, man. How you
   "What did you bring me?"
   Ray laughed. "That's what I like about you man, you get right to the
   Jeremy smiled happily at the perceived compliment.
   "I got the good stuff, man." He handed Jeremy a plastic bag full of
   Jeremy dug deep in his left front pocket, and pulled out a wad of
   bills. He extended his left hand, holding the money, and reached for
   the bag with his right.
   Ray laughed again, took the money, and tossed the bag to Jeremy. A
   less ambitious man might have robbed the addict; Ray knew that a
   safely addicted rich weirdo was better than a lump sum any day. Jeremy
   was job security to people like Ray.
   The dealer's eyes scanned around the room, as Jeremy happily took the
   bag over to his faded, green counter. Ray's gaze came to rest on the
   leaflet at his own feet, and Ray bent over to pick it up.
   "What's this, Jer?" Ray's eyes scanned the paper, and a look of
   concern crossed his face, as he had visions of his best client going
   religious. "Revival? Whaddya need a revival for, when you got me?"
   Jeremy looked around from preparing his needles. He seemed to think
   about this statement. "I like Jesus," he decided.
   "Man, you don't need to be hanging out with them people! They're
   "I like Jesus."
   Ray threw up his hands. "Alright man, whatever. Only Jesus you need is
   Purple. I'll catch you next week."
   Jeremy wasn't listening; he had gone back to his smack.

   At 7:45 PM, Loretta began making her rounds. The drug addict on the
   fifth floor. The welfare mother on the sixth. The drug addict on the
   third floor, and the immigrant family on the second.
   One of the last stops she made was at Jeremy's apartment. She had
   almost passed it by, but something had told her to stop, and Loretta
   Williams always listened to those little voices, which she thought of
   as being the true word of God.
   As before, it took several knocks before anyone answered. When Jeremy
   finally came to the door, he seemed even more lethargic and out of
   touch with reality than before. She brought her smile up to her face
   from somewhere deep within.
   "Are you ready to go?"
   He looked bewildered. "Go?"
   "To the revival!" she encouraged.
   "Revival?" Jeremy thought for a few seconds. "Jesus! I like Jesus!"
   "Then, let's go, child!"

   The Reverend Robert Smith looked out at the fifty or so people packed
   into the small, gray basement, lined up in neat rows of folding
   chairs. He'd played smaller crowds, and much bigger crowds. This group
   was largely made up of lower class black families, whose only hope was
   God. He could feel the energy in the room.
   The murmuring in the crowd died down as the Reverend took the podium.
   He reached out with both arms, each grabbing a side of it, and rested
   his weight on the stand. "Good evening, brothers and sisters! Are you
   ready to worship the Lord?"
   The reply came back: A resounding "Yes!"
   "Good! Because that's what we're here tonight to do: Worship the
   A few "Amen!"s came back at him from the crowd. "But I want everyone
   to remember - worshipping the Lord isn't something you do just
   tonight. You should do it every day!" He paused for the "Amen". "Every
   hour! Every minute!"
   Reverend Smith leaned back a little, seizing up the crowd. There was
   one white man, in the middle of the crowd, sitting next to one of the
   women who had been on the organizing committee.
   "God says to us in the bible-"
   Suddenly, a clatter came from the area of the white boy, as folding
   chairs were pushed and thrown out of position. Reverend Smith paused,
   giving it a chance to clear up, but it didn't. The man had apparently
   fallen out of his chair, and was laying on the floor, having some sort
   of seizure. Several of the people around him had stepped back, and a
   circle was forming around the man. Reverend Smith ran down the aisle,
   and people unthinkingly got of his way. Thus, he was able to reach
   Jeremy's prone form quickly.
   "What happened?" he asked Loretta.
   "I don't know, Reverend. I think he's on drugs."
   Reverend Smith glanced around at the knowing, unhappy faces of those
   nearby. The woman was probably right. Slowly, he leaned over the prone
   young man. Jeremy's eyes were rolled back in his head, and his chest
   thrust up fiercely through his dirty T-shirt.

   The Reverend cleared his throat, and held his right hand up into the
   air. "Lord, I call on you!"
   The mutterings of the congregation were silenced, as they looked at
   him. He could feel them coming around to him, spiritually. "We have
   here a young man who has lost his way! He has strayed from the green
   pastures of Your love!" He looked around briefly at the surrounding
   people. "And who amongst us has not done that before, my Lord?" There
   were murmurings of agreement. "And since he cannot help himself, my
   Lord, I ask you to do whatever is necessary to lead this man from the
   road to hell that he has set himself upon!" As the "Amen" rose from
   the congregation, Reverend Smith rode the wave of spiritually energy,
   and hit Jeremy hard in the forehead.

   Suddenly, everything was clear. The pain. The loss. The drugs.
   Jeremy's eyes snapped open, clear for the first time in years. The
   first face he saw was Reverend Smith's. Instinctively, Jeremy's right
   hand snapped out and grabbed the surprised Reverend's throat. "_WHAT
   HAVE YOU DONE?_" he demanded. Jeremy leapt to his feet, dragging the
   preacher to the floor. His glance swung from side to side, looking for
   an exit, as a cornered animal might. He saw it, and began to push
   through the frightened congregation towards it, screaming all the
   In his apartment, Jeremy threw the door shut, and snapped the locks,
   as the tears rolled down his face. He kept muttering over and over,
   like a litany, "What did they do, what did they do, what did they do?"
   He stumbled blindly across the room to the counter, to the needle he
   had been preparing just before Loretta arrived. He did shot up
   quickly, his tears spattering on the counter as he did so.

   Fifteen minutes later, with the heroin numbing some of his pain,
   Jeremy was able to face what had happened.
   Four years before, he had been a promising young banker. He'd had a
   beautiful -pregnant- he remembered, with a sob - wife, a house, a car-
   Jeremy's thoughts broke off. The car had been a red convertible. He'd
   loved that car almost as much as his wife, and the two of them, in her
   fourth month, had decided to go on vacation. Despite what had occurred
   in the basement, he had no memory of what had happened next - although
   he did remember what the car looked like after being run over in a
   highway accident by a tractor-trailer. He touched his head absently,
   as he remembered the head injury. He cursed as he remembered the
   wretched existence since - keeping himself drugged to forget the pain
   of loss - of his wife, his life - and himself. That was the biggest of
   all - in his previous condition, even the memories of his wife and
   existence had been lost completely. But he hadn't been able to hide
   completely from himself what he had once been - and what he could have

   As the night wore on, and Jeremy took more of the heroin, he
   remembered his brother - and vaguely remembered a court hearing at
   which Jeremy had been declared incompetent. His brother had gotten
   control of the money - and promised to send him some every month.
   Jeremy hadn't cared. He collapsed into the bed, and cried with
   frustration, loss, and rage.

   Two hours later, hunger woke him up. He arose to put a frozen dinner
   in the microwave, but discovered that, when he put weight on his feet,
   they both hurt. When he sat back down on the bed, and reached down to
   take off his shoes, he noticed the blood on both sides of his hands,
   with some surprise. He discovered that he seemed to have circular
   wounds on both sides of his hands, and the same marks on his feet,
   once he took his shoes and blood-stained socks off. Cursing the pain,
   Jeremy got up to make some food. While he was setting out a pizza, he
   noticed the heroin still sitting on the counter. Remembering its
   properties as a local anesthetic, he rubbed some on both hands and

   For a while he was numbed, physically, and doped up enough to be
   numbed mentally. In fact, he almost reached his original child- like
   level; 5:00 am found him seated, Indian style, on his bed, passing a
   piece of string through the holes in his feet, and giggling insanely.

   Every jag has a crash, and Jeremy's came that morning. He didn't wake
   up for twelve hours, and, by then, it was too late. Heroin and blood
   loss had done their jobs, and he laid in bed, unable to move.
   Now that he was drug-free and clear, again, Jeremy realized - to a
   certain extent - what had happened. One of the dubious benefits of a
   Catholic school education was knowledge of some spiritual events -
   such as the stigmata, the reproduction of the wounds of Christ on the
   human body. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jeremy knew that the
   wounds were inaccurate - that the Romans and probably not nailed
   Christ up literally - and that, even if they had, the nails had been
   in the wrists and not in the palms.
   Jeremy felt his rage building, again. First God had taken his life,
   his love, and, most outrageously, his mind. Now, He saw fit to give
   them back, but only at the expense of Jeremy's body. And only for a
   little while, at that.
   If he'd had a phone, he might have called for help. If he'd had some
   friends, someone might have dropped in. If - well, if the universe
   were a loving place, perhaps none of it would have happened in the
   first place.

   Officer Robin LaRouche was the first into the smelly apartment. Death
   was the most evident smell, followed closely by urine. He wrinkled his
   nose, and looked at his partner, coming in through the broken door.
   "Why can't these guys clean up before they die, Dave?"
   His partner shook his head.
   Robin picked his way over to the bed. An emaciated figure was
   stretched out on the blood-stained sheets, rigid in death. "Why do
   these people do this?" he demanded, rhetorically.
   Dave looked at the dead junkie, arms outstretched, legs together.
   "What's that, man, get killed?"
   Robin shook his head. "Naw, this idiot's a suicide." He pointed with
   disgust at Jeremy's wounds. "Wounds of Christ. Damned religious

   Loretta peeked nervously in from the hall, and saw the two policemen
   standing over the bed. If she had been Catholic, she would have
   crossed herself. As it was, she merely bowed her head briefly.
   "But for the grace of God," she murmured softly, "There go I."
 "He's Returned" by Cyntha Anne Foster

He's returned...
But without the rhymes.
Only lilacs and reasons
For the endless succession of time
And the oncoming of seasons.
 "Sestina" by Susan Tefft Fitzgerald

I'm in a dream. We are transported to a beach.
Crystal blue water rolls on soft white sand. The ocean breeze
Reggaes with gauzy curtains.  Drinks with striped umbrellas
In hand, we lean against poufy pillows talking
About our future, laughing about our past, smooth brown skin
Against smooth brown skin.  What a cliche, this dream.

I roll over, punch the pillow, relax into another dream.
We are on the wharf now, not far from the beach,
Walking hand in hand, side by side. My skin
Tingles from the sharp sea spray surfing on the breeze.
Different people, strange shops, good food keep us talking.
But, wait, now I see umbrellas.

Rows upon rows of pink frilly umbrellas
Tap dancing around me with a crescendo. Is this a dream?
I am the star of a MGM musical! Gene Kelly and I are talking
Through song. No, wait, I am dancing on the beach.
It's "South Pacific"! I'm kissing a gorgeous plantation owner
and the island breezes
Call to me and brush my skin.

Actually, artic winds chill my skin.
You commandeered the blanket. I snuggle under the umbrella
Of warmth and ride the breeze
Back to the island. No luck. What else can I dream
About? Let's go back to the beach!
Yes! No, wait, the trees are talking.

No, actually, you are talking.
"It's six o'clock" and you rub your scruffy chin against my skin.
I roll over and swim back to the beach.
I spy bronze men in speedos from underneath the umbrella.
Yes, this is reality. That other place is the dream.
You calmly rip away the blanket. I'm naked in the breeze.

That damn, cold six o'clock in the morning breeze.
"What the hell..?" I yelp and jump. "Stop talking."
You mumble. "You have the starring role in this wonderful dream."
Dream does become reality. Scruffy skin
Against chilled skin as you umbrella
The blanket over us and we settle on the beach.

A gentle breeze waltzes over my skin.
"No talking allowed." you whisper under the umbrella.
Dreams are wonderful. Life's a bitch.
 "Elinor Rigby" by Karen Alkalay-Gut

   It was while she was sorting the laundry on Sunday morning
  that she noted that all of her panties were gone.
  There was nothing frilly about them, no sexy codes
  they adhered to - simple black cotton bikinis.  No reason
  for anyone to want to add them to some amazing collection.
  Still they were not there.  Not a pair remained. And where
  could they have vanished.  The man who came to dinner last night
  left early, clicking his heels at the door.
  Had he visited the bathroom, rummaged through
  the hamper, stuffed his pockets with underwear?
   This is what we have come to, she said to the first drawer
  of her cupboard - propriety at dinner/
  true passion alone in our beds - both for me
  and my guest.

 "Twilight Dancers" by William C. Burns, Jr.

        The soothing quiet descends
           with the twilight

        Hope rushes within the music
           I invite you to dance

        Gentle waves rise within tenderness
           painting the shore in shades of deeper hue

        Exquisite we dance
           descending into the dawn

 "What Gets Me" by Benjamin Parzybok

The bungi parade
slathers the sky
with lavering trites.
And creeps of luck
philibuster floozies
who bow and pay homage
to polite punctuation
adorned with beer speckles.

I've got Ukulele poisoning
and a Token Ocean--
and I prance through the town square
in my shark fin underwear
selling history
for five bucks an era
while a teaspoon of Barking pus
follows at my heels.
It's the par cool.
It's the new wave.
Don't be a fool--stay hip,
park your soda and unzip.

What gets me is--
Barking pure blue and
billowing lines to the sky.
Singing bow ties,
dancing green eyes and
law firms in bondage
force fed french fries.
Cucumbers that calculate
the angles of innocence
and Broccoli that sells
the past for clever lies.

But See, it's none of the above.
It's the self-strangled love.
Or the regret
of a midnight egret
circled in yellow yarn
and not a sock to darn.
What gets me is the soft cry
that awakens demon hunger
and the obscure moan
that drives meaning asunder.

 "Wednesday Afternoon" by Lori Kline

I give you a silent proposition.
If I taste your
sweetness, your thighs
scented in dark fertile earth
brushed with loam,
your balls (which contain a sliding world)
your cockwarm brightness,
Will you taste my

You. Are utterly oblivious.
Sliding pawns across smooth board.
The dark points of lash &
blue-jean colored eyes
I would like to kiss,
when you are contemplating casually,
a rook's suicide,
my body swells and leans
to you.
somehow, my nipples have deviously devised
a path...
can nipples think?  WE ARE AWARE!
announcing themselves oh
Chiefly because your nipples taste
of ripe peaches between my teeth.
Surprise me.
Touch gleaming gold in my core.
Sheen of silver against your
Easily, eagerly
give me the contemplation of your eyes-
I am willing to be caught in your game.

 "monet's old studio is a gift shop" by John Adam Kaune

I received the dream of the six gardens:
wandering the peculiarities of light -
painting again the damp stacks of hay
by the edge of the Seine, eating lunch.
the old man's celebration
of a simple pond of lilies -
the reflection of long-armed willows
hanging limp in remembrance
of modernity.  please, can i return
to the studio now, so i can buy
that small reproduction?  thank you.

 "The Judge" by Doctress Neutopia

   _Open Letter_
   _Dear Geertjan,_
   It is strange how some people I correspond with begin to mean
   something to me in my everyday thoughts. Our correspondence has done
   something like that to me. I guess it is a result of the things we
   talk about: the revolution, the lovolutionary character, the human
   bond. As of this moment, I must conclude that our bond is that of two
   like-minded individuals who are seeking truth and justice in a world
   founded on injustice and lies. You said that bonding doesn't
   necessarily have to be about love, but need. Now, the question is how
   do _we_ need each other? You are thousands of miles away in South
   Africa. I have never seen you or heard your voice; you are years
   younger than me. How could we possibly need each other?
   Obviously we don't need each other for our basic daily needs. So then,
   could it be that we need the psychological emotions and information
   that we receive through our letter exchange? Maybe I need your advice
   and your criticism helping me to focus on the positive energy and not
   succumb to cynicism and despair. Maybe I need to know that there are
   other people in the globe who feel as alienated from Western Culture
   as I do. Maybe that is all we can give each other since we live on
   different continents. Maybe all we can do is to exchange letters to
   help each other cope with living in a society which we know is slowing
   killing us.
   I have been thinking about your idea that the best thing for me to do
   with my life now would be to join a liberal cause, play their game of
   social reform and charity, and wait until the system falls apart to
   then be ready to take over a position to provide us with an
   alternative vision.
   The problem I have with that is that I have to play their reformist
   game for God knows how long. This means that I would not be taking the
   initiative and creating my own organization (religion) which I think
   could give us an alternative solution to the problem. The point is
   that I have tried to work with liberal groups in the past for one
   cause or another like the anti-apartheid group or the anti-nuclear
   group or the group for sustainable economics, but their visions are so
   specialized and focused that they are not able to see the depth of the
   social problems. They don't want to go to the root causes and then to
   fix them with radical solutions. Racism, classism, sexism, and ageism
   are spiritual diseases and they will only be solved by spiritual means
   which is why I have focused so much of my studies on the matter of the
   heart and soul.
   In _Power and Innocence_ Rollo May writes, "The breakdown of
   communication is a spiritual one." He says that words get their
   communicative power for the fact that they participate in symbols.
   This creates a Gestalt, a symbol gets a numinous quality which carries
   across to one some meaning from the emotions of another (75). Nelson
   Mandela became a powerful speaker who people listened to because he
   was a symbol of the liberation movement. Through the power of the
   symbol, Mandela was able to change the way people thought and to make
   them conscious of the injustice of apartheid.
   Let me say a few more words about following the liberal agenda. This
   summer I had a man (the Sheik) interested in forming a personal
   relationship with me. As a liberal working on an advanced degree in
   accounting, he could see the vast inequality with the world's wealth
   and understood that what was happening in the United States was that
   there was becoming two classes of people, the very rich who rule the
   networks of the global corporation, and the poor. The Sheik gave his
   money to liberal organizations. He wanted to make enough money in his
   life to be able to have time to be able to enjoy life: support a
   family, sail, take trips. He would listen to my ideas and seemed to
   appreciate what I had to say.
   I realized that we were not compatible because of our different
   perspectives on life when we took a walk through a grave yard one
   afternoon. We rested on a tree stump and before us was a large grave
   stone which read _JUDGE_ on it. There was a small American flag beside
   it as so many of the other stones had beside them to mark that they
   had been US war veterans. I playfully took the flag from the holder
   and dramatically ripped the flag from the stick and began using it as
   a primitive drawing tool. I began to sketch out something that looked
   like an Outerspace Creature from a UFO.
   The Sheik got very upset with me and demanded that I put the flag back
   in its proper place beside the grave. With a stern and, I must say,
   inhuman expression, he said that I was violating the rules by
   destroying the flag. I said that it was the wish of the dead that war,
   nationalism, and the plutocracy be stopped. To this end we should tear
   down all flags and bury them in the middle of the grave yard. The
   Sheik said that I would be breaking the law and that for him that was
   unacceptable behavior. He thought the laws of the United States were
   just and that it was the people's fault that they were not working. I
   said that I believed that the laws of the land were not fair since the
   only way to have freedom in America was if you had money to pay for
   it. The law protected the rich property owners and the United States
   did not stand for human rights. Through boycotting and civil
   disobedience to the laws were some of the ways I thought that we could
   work to change the injustice.
   But the Sheik thought it was always wrong to break the law and if the
   law was unjust the people must work through the system in order to
   change it. For him, working through the system was the only way to
   effect change. He thought any other way would lead to social anarchy.
   "What about the tactics of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi?" I
   asked. "They broke the law in order to follow the Cosmic Law of human
   justice." The Sheik thought that was the same thing that the right
   wing had done in the Iran-Contra deals when Oliver North broke the
   laws because he thought he must support the war in Central America in
   order to protect American interests.
   I tried to explain to him that what the left-wing was doing was _not_
   the same thing as that of the right-wing since they were struggling
   for completely different worldviews which were in opposition to one
   other. The right-wing were into greed, nuclear family values, and
   supported Corporate America. The left-wing was into (whether they know
   it or not) creating a new world based on universal health care,
   Neutopian actucation (the enactment of education), and rebuilding the
   cities into arcologies.
   The Sheik became very militaristic in his demands that I put the flag
   back. Even after I told him that I needed the stick in order to draw
   out a blueprint for Neutopia, he said he would not walk back to the
   house with me if I didn't follow his orders. So right there at the
   Judge's grave, I had to make up my mind as to whether or not to go on
   with his wish; after all, he as going to be an accountant and he _did_
   find me, a poor artist, attractive; and we had "grinded pelvis"
   together. So I told him that I would follow his orders if he would
   listen to my speech about why I had this burning desire to burn every
   nation-state flag that I saw. There wasn't much lively energy from him
   at the time, so my speech basically consisted of me throwing the flag
   over my head. He then retrieved it and put it back on the stick and
   stuck it into the ground beside the _JUDGE_.
   We walked back to his apartment as he talked about world politics and
   the poverty stricken nations. We smoked some pot together (really, I
   am trying to quit) and then kissed and hugged each other. But the
   passion did not last long. I knew in my soul I was not a liberal---I
   didn't believe in the United States government or global capitalism. I
   kicked myself for again getting into bed with a man who I could not
   love because he would not join me in my lovolutionary crusade of
   building Neutopia.
   The next day we went to see Dr. Helen Caldicott speak at Smith College
   on nuclear waste dumps. Her vision of the future was a very grave one
   of families having to support children with severe genetic mutations
   (like no arms and legs) and a world where clean water, air, and soil
   were hard to find. She informed us that the food in Europe is
   contaminated with the poisons which resulted from the Chernobyl
   nuclear power accident. Oh no, I thought to myself. I bet I had eaten
   contaminated food when I was in the Soviet Union in 1989 when I took a
   trip there with my parents! Those poor Europeans! What are we to do?
   Helen asked the audience what we could do to change the situation. She
   believed we needed another American Revolution. She asked us how many
   of us were dedicated to ending nuclear power this year. Out of a
   couple of hundred people only about ten hands went up. My hand was one
   of those hands while the Sheik's had remain low. He had his excuse for
   not wanting to work to stop nuclear power. After all, he was a
   graduate student in accounting with much school work to do. He didn't
   have time to work on an anti-nuclear campaign while trying to finish
   up his degree. Without that degree, he thought he would not be able to
   buy the American standard of living, which Oliver North was fighting
   to protect.
   The last time I talked with the Sheik was over the telephone. He
   called me to invite me over to spend some time with him. He said that
   there was going to be a championship hockey game on TV that night and
   he wanted me to watch the game with him. He said that we could talk
   about ideas during the commercials. So I told him that I wasn't
   interested in hockey games and that my time was too valuable to spend
   in that way. After all, I had pledged to stop nuclear power and there
   was no time to waste.
   Geertjan, I hope that you can see what _kind_ of man I need. He is not
   a liberal, but a rebel. Rollo May writes, "For the rebel function is
   necessary as the life-blood of culture, as the very roots of
   civilization" (220). May makes a distinction between the rebel and the
   revolutionary which I feel is somewhat unnecessary. He says that the
   chief goal of the rebel is not to overthrow the government which, of
   course, she or he could also support, but what is more important is
   her or his commitment to the vision. He writes,
     We also note the startling regularity through history with which
     society martyrs the rebel in one generation and worships him [sic]
     in the next. Socrates, Jesus, William Blake, Buddha, Krisha--the
     list is endless as it is rich. If we look more closely at the first
     two, we shall see how the rebel typically challenges the citizenry
     with his [sic] vision" (224).
   The vision brings us out of the vicious circle of bloody revolutionary
   after bloody revolution. May continues,
     The slave who kills his master is an example of the revolutionary.
     He can then only take his master's place and be killed in turn by
     later revolutionaries. But the rebel is the one who realizes that
     the master is as much imprisoned, if not as painfully, as he is by
     the institution of slavery; he rebels against the system which
     permits slaves and masters. His rebellion, if successful, saves the
     master also from the indignity of owning slaves" (222).
   In today's world, the slave owners are the owners of Corporate
   America. Everyone who works for them are their slaves. In the recent
   issue of _Newsweek_ (July 11, 1994) Bill Gates, who they call the
   "Tech King" is described as a competitive, controlling, money-hungry
   plutocrat who wants to rule the world through his computer empire and
   his Microserfs. His vision is to "lure millions of people into
   Microsoft's lane of the coming Information Highway: home banking, home
   shopping, entertainment and electronic mail." Michael Meyer for
   _Newsweek_ writes, "The future, increasingly, is Hollywood:
   "edutainment," home videos, home everything." "Edutainment," a word
   they coined combining the words education and entertainment, all
   geared to brainwashing the minds of the youth with the principles of
   the Tech King: competition, materialism, and monotheism. The
   plutocratic vision is to make the Internet, not into an world
   community of love and knowledge, but to use it to sell Microserf
   products and to seduce us with their "edutainment."
   Now, do you think Bill Gates and his cult is concerned with the
   billion or so people throughout the world who don't have any homes? Do
   you think in his "master plan" he is planning out a way to create a
   world without poverty, a world based on compassionate justice? I don't
   think so.
   While I was visiting my parents in North Carolina last week there was
   a front page article printed in the _Greensboro News and Record_ (June
   30, 1994) about the Grandover Resort, being developed by the Koury
   Corporation, which they describe as the "nation's first fully
   computer-integrated and automated community." Grandover will be
   composed of "two championship golf courses, 14 championship tennis
   courts, golf and tennis clubs, a health club, a 900-room conference
   center and hotel, retail villages and restaurants." There will also be
   2,000 single-family homes-- generally selling for $300,000 and up.
   Easy to use touch screens will allow residents to access "a variety of
   entertainment, communications and building automations." It sounds
   like paradise for the rich, right? To keep out all those poor, begging
   intruders, the computer will control sophisticated security systems
   (programmed to kill any foreign intruders). So the feudal kings are
   beginning to rebuild their castle fortresses while half the world is
   starving to death. Bill Gates and his Microserfs do not have the
   saving vision. The saving vision must be a plan to save everyone.
   I see a different kind of global culture, Neutopia, being built from
   the fruits of advanced technology and the wisdom of ecology. Through
   virtual reality, a new kind of community is evolving. New kinds of
   human relationships are coming together as people begin to bond to
   common interests, through email, listserves, Usenet newsgroups, etc.
   As you have said in a previous letter, I am not a prototype for
   feeling alienation from Western civilization. There are people all
   over the world who feel the same alienation, isolation, and loneliness
   as I do. Those of us who are online now have a way to reach each
   other. We now can band together in virtual space. But is this the
   community that we need?
   Can we live happy lives in a virtual world where we don't need to
   physically touch the people who we love? When we, peace comrades, are
   so spread out all over the capitalist world, is virtual space the only
   thing that we can hope for? All I can say to this is that it is
   difficult to live strictly in one's dream world and imagination. It is
   difficult to have virtual lovers in only the mind and not in the
   Geertjan, I don't really know what the answer is. I don't feel like a
   free person, but a slave, powerless to change my polluted environment,
   powerless to move beyond the single-family house, powerless to follow
   my dreams and make them real. I have no desire to follow the liberal
   cause, but to start an organization of Neutopian thinkers who can also
   see their unique way to the Solar Jerusalem. I don't have all the
   pieces to the puzzle of life. How to start a mass movement so that we
   will have the energy and enthusiasm to build arcologies is still a
   mystery to me. This is the saving vision I see for the world, but how
   to get there? Without true love in my life, I feel that I am blind.
 "Disclaimer" by Michael A. Simanoff

This story has no moral.

It has very little literary value.
It tells a strand of a story,
and if you tug very hard you might find a point.
You will not find this story in a textbook one day.
Nor will it ever be the subject of scholarly debate.

This story has no context.
The background is a piece of paper-
   maybe even a computer screen.
The only literary devices used are language and form,
but you are advised not to ask how.

In fact, you ought not to read this.
Just lean back and look at the pretty letters.
Maybe even have a drink.
Turn on the TV.

Expect very little
   and you won't be disappointed.

 "You can meditate in this mess?" by Michael Stutz

I asked me
going into my dirty
room all clothes every-
where and boxes --
So I sat down and
got in the
        lotus position.
Yeah, I said, watching
me sit down and
I did.

 "Room" by Karen Alkalay-Gut

   I would like to be photographed
  naked in this room
  parts of my body
  shading parts of these stones
  a foot on concrete
  arm along the arch
  breast pressed to the wallstones
  In the depths of this darkness
  the spears of sharp, real light,
  I would like my naked body

 "What lengths must my children go to rebel when I'm 50" by Dave Zappala

I can see it now
I'll be a successful door-to-door existentialist
and at one point my children would have refered to me as 'dada'
and I would have sterilized their wounds with a painful,
burning solution,  so they could feel it working
and I'll vote religiously
and my wife will be president
and our first cat would be able to defy gravity
hovering around the living room like that
I'll be crazed and happy,  riding my bicycle around town
collecting treasures and offering bites off my sandwiches
Harvey,  of course,  will be gluing cherrystone clams together
in a big ball and dropping it off the roof every March 9th.
Ahh Bliss.  One great orgasmic sneeze.
So what could my sweaty teenagers do
to undermine my society?
get boring, get serious, get symbolic
get,get,get, get,get, get
Fah!  I used to run around spinning a peach basket over my head
because everything looked like an old movie
and I used to come home and my mother wouldn't believe my story
of how I got splinters in my shoulders.
Nothing mattered much then when DuPont kept exploding like that
rattling and breaking dishes,  a crack down every ceiling in town
people died then and the rest died a year after they retired
my older brother thought there was a war with DuPont
and I fell onto a floor scattered with Leggos
however I have no Leggo scars to show
I'll be prepared on all sides for their adolescent angst
From that damned music and their drop-out friends
except for one thing...
That damned food in their hair
Kidney beans,  sauces,  and other condiments just rotting
and dried into their stiff locks
No,  they just get into the car
spend more money to symbolize the waste of our system
Maybe I should've slapped 'em around
They were always strange
They had to be the kid who would eat anything for a nickel
when they could've at least got a dime.

 "Between the Hiatus" by Maree Anne Jaeger

You would bang at
the closed blue lids of my silence

While, in this makeshift womb
Dionysus, Orpheus and others were
trying to ripen.

Between the hiatus;
gossamer lines stretched
around houses
over oceans
somehow still joined
like stars strung out
on my night sky.

Between the hiatus;
I would look at you
and separate

your yolk

from my white.

 "speaking of the secret" by Karen Alkalay-Gut

             (with thanks to T'ai Dang)


  of the book
  by an increasingly
  sophisticated story teller
  who believes
  each legend
  and builds
  sometimes changing
  even the creation myth
  - and beginning again


  The switched valise
  in Victoria Station
  a romance manuscript
  in place of the child
  -- text


  Who are you?
  Tell me your
  No.  Smile
  and be silent.
  I'll make it up


   My man
  never gives me such stark
  facts, threads
  his tongue in my mouth.


  I want to tell you the truth
  I want to look good.
  The two
  are incompatible.


  I see you dancing
  a tiny man naked
  in white light
  everything about you
  is ink

 "Custer is not here" by John Adam Kaune

I stand in a crowd - listening
to interpreters tell us of the loss -
all around us is Lament.

old men circle the guide
telling him of their great-
uncle   twice removed.

Custer is not here.
he's laying low at West Point.
the irony escapes them -
WWII & Vietnam vets
can claim a part of this sacred soil -
to tell the passing public
of their want for proximity to the mass grave
once removed.  Atop the hill

where the ants scurry to and fro
with Panasonic camcorders.
"take a still picture," I think, "for this
in no time will move."  your memory of it
hangs dry in your mind.  I myself,
I'm just a wandering Canadian
who happens to study the history
of this anomaly known as America.
so they tell me "they worship him
'cause he lost big time."  led his men
to death.  screwed up.  don't know why.

that hangs heavy in my ears
as I pass through two-dimensional towns
of the Cheyenne reserve lands
to the forest named after this in/famous man.
It has long since burnt, as did the fields
of Little Bighorn -  to show the remains.
To show    the remains.

 "Pool Night" by Leland Ray

   It's late afternoon, I'm waiting for the girl to arrive, and the cat
   is helping me make up the bed. The bed is too close to the wall and to
   the dresser at the foot, so when I need to go around it to stretch the
   fitted sheet up to the head I have to bend over the bed with my back
   to the dresser to avoid the windowsill next to the dresser. The cat
   watches until I'm balanced in this somewhat uncomfortable position,
   not quite leaning over enough to fall forward onto the bed, and then
   she jumps onto the bed near the foot, dead center, holding the sheet
   down to the mattress.
   When I pull on the corner of the sheet she tries to catch the wrinkles
   as they float away from her like waves. This action of hers, this
   lying on the bed, will leave a wrinkled place on the sheet which will
   stay where she is now; I want the sheet to be completely, perfectly
   straight, flat, the Navaho pattern laid out as precisely as if it were
   a sand painting. I worry about the wrinkled spot even though another
   sheet and a comforter will go over the sheet.
   I say "Shoo" to the cat, whose name is Murphy, and she looks up at me
   and meows. She's smiling, I think. I say it louder and make a shooing
   motion with the backs of my hands toward her, and she explodes off the
   bed and out of the room; I decide I was foolish to arrange the
   furniture like this, and of the two bedrooms this is the smaller, and
   why didn't I go ahead and set up the larger as a bedroom instead of as
   a combination library and office?
   She doesn't bother me again, and I hear her in the hallway playing
   with her gray catnip mouse; the bell on its tail tinkles, and when the
   doorbell rings I stand there by the bed and wonder how she got the
   little round bell to sound so loudly and rapidly. The confusion
   passes, and I go to the door of the house which I rented when my wife
   and I divorced. As I walk to the door I imagine the house as it must
   look from an airplane: the small house with a pool in the back taking
   up the entire backyard and the tall wooden privacy fence around the
   pool; the front yard stretching out to the blacktop road in front; the
   driveway leading down to the road and the two large mimosa trees in
   the yard, one on either side of a cast-iron loveseat painted red.
   At the door is my daughter Mandy. The afternoon sun frames her in the
   doorway, and when I stand back from the door to let her in I can see
   the outline of her body through the light cotton dress she wears. "Hi,
   Daddy," she says, and I stand for a second looking at her before
   "Hey, baby," I say, and she lets me hug her and kiss her on the crown
   of her head; her hair is long enough to reach her slender hips. "I
   didn't expect to see you today." When I say this she looks confused
   until I add, "But it's always good to have you visit," and then she
   smiles and goes over to the sofa to sit down. Her shoulders are tanned
   and lightly freckled. I worry about her, that she is too beautiful,
   that some man will hurt her, that she is sexually active already.
   Mandy is seventeen, almost eighteen, a young woman just graduated from
   high school and taking the summer off before college in the fall.
   "Are you okay, Daddy? You look like you've got something on your
   "I was fixing up the house a little. I have company coming tonight." I
   sit down in the comfortable armchair which sits at an angle to the
   She leans forward with her hands on her knees and the neckline of her
   dress falls open a bit, and I can see the upper swell of her breasts.
   "Hot date, huh?" she says, and I wonder if it's appropriate for me as
   her father to mention to her that I think she should be wearing a bra
   under such a sheer dress. Her mother takes care of her, I think, and
   then I feel better. No less protective, just less worried.
   "Yes. A date," I say. "She'll be here in a little while."
   "Good for you. I'm glad you're trying to have a social life." She
   looks at me and smiles. "Mom and I were afraid you'd lock yourself up
   out here and never do anything."
   When she says this I think how much I love her and her mother and wish
   we could have stayed together. "What brings you all the way out here?"
   I ask. "Just want to see your dad?"
   "Yeah, mostly. And to give you a message from Mom. She says you still
   need to sign those papers for me to get into school."
   I am a history professor at a small university. It is an exclusive
   place, very expensive. They allow the children of tenured faculty to
   attend school for half tuition, and I have to sign a paper which
   states, among other things, that this is my daughter, and yes, that I
   love her, that I claim her as my own. "I haven't signed them, but I
   will, and you can take them with you," I say. I have forgotten about
   the papers, as if signing them is an avowal that I have wondered about
   the heritage of this beautiful young woman or ever doubted my love for
   her. "I'll get them for you," I say.
   I go back to the larger of the two bedrooms and rummage through the
   student papers on the desk; the forms I must sign are under an essay
   by Monica Dodd, a sophomore in one of my just completed spring
   classes. I look at the paper, which is about George Washington's
   expense accounts. I sign the form which claims, certifies, declares,
   states that I love my daughter. I sign in triplicate for the academic
   advisement office, the business office, the dean's office, then fold
   the papers lengthwise and walk back to my daughter in the living room.
   The cat is sitting in Mandy's lap when I return, and Mandy is
   scratching the cat's ears. "Nice kitty," Mandy says, though I am not
   sure whether she is addressing me or the cat. "How long have you had
   "A couple of weeks," I say. "She was an orphan, I think. I got her at
   the animal shelter." They have many cats there of all kinds, I want to
   tell my daughter, and she can have one if she wants. I will take her
   there to pick out a cat.
   "She's sweet," Mandy says. The cat looks up at her and smiles. "What's
   her name?"
   "Name? I haven't given her a name yet," I say. "What do you think?"
   "Scarlett. Like Scarlett O'Hara." She rubs the cat's head and makes
   kissing noises. "How do you like that for a name, Scarlett-kitty?"
   The cat doesn't seem to care one way or another, so I say, "That's a
   good name. It fits her personality to a t. Yes, to a t." I hope the
   cat hasn't gotten used to Murphy yet, but it is my daughter's wish
   that the cat be called Scarlett.
   I have the papers still; Mandy reaches over and takes them. "I've got
   to go, Daddy. Kevin's taking me to a movie tonight and I have to get
   ready." She stands up and the cat jumps down. Mandy brushes black cat
   hair off her white cotton dress. "I'll see you in a few days. Maybe at
   school, huh?"
   "It's too late to start the summer session," I say. I want her to stay
   and talk to me, my only child who is growing up too fast for me to
   "I was going to be over there for the Earlybird orientation next week.
   And besides, I can drop in and see you at the office, can't I? Just
   because I want to?"
   I hadn't thought of this, how she could just want to see me, and I am
   glad. "Sure," I say. She reaches out to give me a hug, then kisses me
   on the cheek. I ask, "Do you need any money? For clothes or anything?"
   It seems a silly gesture, superficial somehow, but it is all I can
   offer her except my love, and she has that.
   "No, but thanks anyhow. Mom and I went out three times in the last
   couple of weeks and bought clothes. All I'm going to need is books,
   and Mom says I could ask you about those."
   "Certainly," I say. Books. I want to be a daily part of her life
   again, but all I can do is buy books. "Well," I say.
   "Well," she says, and then she is gone. The cat tries to follow her
   out, but I stop her by putting my foot out, and she shies away from
   the foot and goes back to her food dish in the kitchen. I hear the
   crunching of the hard dry food. She is a good cat; I should be better
   to her.
   Just as I'm hearing the crunching from the kitchen and the whine of
   Mandy's car leaving, the little foreign sports car I bought for her
   last year, there is a knock at the door, and I am standing right
   there, so I open the door and there is Monica Dodd, sophomore. "Hello,
   Dr. Lear," she says. "I hope I'm not too early, but you said
   She is a pretty girl, and while I am not in the habit of inviting
   students, especially pretty female students, into my home, I did
   invite her here for dinner. She did well in my class, except for
   missing classes on Fridays when the sun was bright and the weather
   warm. Younger students will go out and socialize on Fridays, beginning
   the weekend early. This was Monica's problem, her only one,
   scholastically speaking. I hold the door for her. "I'm glad you could
   make it," I say. "Did you have any trouble finding the house?"
   "You gave good directions. No problem at all." She is wearing tight,
   very short cutoff blue jeans and a peasant-style cotton top much like
   the top of the dress which my daughter was wearing. "I met your
   daughter on my way in," Monica says. "Does she go to college?"
   "Would you like something to drink?" I ask. "She's starting in the
   fall," I say.
   "Do you have some white wine? I love white wine."
   I go into the kitchen and open the refrigerator and push aside
   mayonnaise and the pot of soup I cooked a few days ago. Lying on its
   side against the back wall on the top shelf is part of a bottle of
   Zinfandel, which I remove and open. I take two glasses and return to
   the living room. Monica has found a piece of string and is trying to
   get the cat's attention. When I walk in Monica looks up at me and the
   cat strikes with a forepaw. Scarlett the cat catches the string and
   runs away to hide behind the couch. "Ouch," Monica says. A bright drop
   of blood grows on her forefinger. "She got me," Monica says and puts
   the finger in her mouth and sucks hard on it.
   The girl is not seriously hurt, but while I search the bathroom for
   disinfectant and bandages I wonder whether the cut can get infected
   and worry about my homeowner's liability coverage. In the living room
   again with Band-Aids and peroxide and a tube of something which is
   advertised to speed healing of small wounds, I attempt to administer
   first aid, but do a poor job it; I ruin one bandage when the tape
   falls across the gauze pad and cannot be removed. "Let me do this,"
   Monica says, "and you can get me a glass of wine." I pour the wine
   into glasses. "It'll kill the pain," she says, and smiles.
   I give her a glass. Her finger shows a neat pink band of sterilized
   plastic. "I'm sorry about the cat. She hasn't gotten used to people
   yet." Monica sips her wine, the bandaged finger sticking out like a
   "Don't worry. We have six cats at home, and sometimes they do these
   things." She shifts the glass to her uninjured hand and holds the
   finger up to look at it. "They usually don't mean anything by it."
   "Okay. If you're not worried, that is." I, of course, am worried. I
   worry about her getting an infection, about a lawsuit over the
   infection, about the regents discovering that a forty year-old
   professor has invited a nineteen-year-old female student to his home
   for dinner and wine. I worry about my daughter, who is just two years
   younger. Soon she will be living away from home, and the world is full
   of dangers which I can warn her about.
   "So do I get a guided tour of the house?" Monica asks. She stands up
   and holds the wineglass close against her chest and begins to look
   around the room.
   "There's not much to see. It's a small house." The house is a
   long-term lease from a friend in the English Department who has moved
   to Africa, where he is teaching Kenyan students about James Joyce and
   William Faulkner. He still makes payments on the house, and I
   reimburse him each month. People have asked why I do not go ahead and
   buy the house, but I cannot tell them the answer. Perhaps I am looking
   for something else, perhaps not. I do not know, but my problem may be
   that buying a house would be an admission of failure in my marriage. I
   do not know. "I thought we could barbecue some steaks for dinner," I
   "Neat. Lead on."
   We go out into the backyard, where I have already prepared the gas
   grill and have the steaks in an ice chest next to the grill. The
   steaks are marinating in teriyaki sauce and a little garlic. "I didn't
   tell you about the pool, did I?" I ask.
   She seems impressed by the pool. She goes to a lounge chair and sits
   on the edge sipping her wine. "No, you didn't. If I'd known I could
   have brought a suit." She is pretty, with long red hair tied at the
   back in a loose ponytail, and her eyes are green, much like the cat's.
   "I thought my daughter could have friends over," I say. I turn away
   from her and open the grill. "How do you like your steak?"
   "Medium-well, I guess. I'm not much into meat."
   I turn back to her. "We could go out, if you like. Or there's salad.
   Lots of salad. A big bowl."
   She laughs and shakes her head. "I live in the dorm, and the meat
   there is soybean. It's really gross. I love steak." She stands up.
   "Mind if I get another glass of wine?" She holds the glass out; it's
   nearly empty.
   "Sure, it's in the refrigerator."
   She starts toward the sliding door, then stops and turns. "Would you
   like something?" Her cutoffs are short, and in the late-afternoon
   light I can see very fine reddish-blond hairs on her thighs glowing
   like tiny fires.
   "No." I hold up my glass, which I've barely touched. "There's a bottle
   of something in the cabinet under the sink." She stands there looking
   at me. "I think the corkscrew is in the silverware drawer," I say.
   "Okay," she says, and leaves into the house.
   The grill is easy to use. Turn on the gas and get the heavy cast-iron
   grill part hot, then put on the steaks. But for some reason tonight it
   won't start. I use up half a box of matches before I realize the gas
   is barely on, so I reach down and open the valve on the tank a little
   further. This cures the problem, and when Monica gets back the fire is
   started and I'm getting the steaks out of the plastic container in the
   ice chest. Below the ice are twelve cans of beer which I bought
   earlier in the day.
   "Why don't I put this on ice and then we won't have to go inside until
   it's time to eat," she says. She's got a bottle of Burgundy and the
   "Burgundy doesn't need to be too cool," I say. "But it's so warm
   outside it wouldn't hurt to put it on top of the ice."
   "You've got beer, too," she says when she kneels down to put the wine
   away. Her legs are strong and well-shaped. She's a beautiful girl.
   "Yeah. The beer. I didn't know what you'd like, and then I forgot it
   was here until I got the steaks out."
   She stands up and looks at me. "You're not going to try getting me
   drunk, are you, David?" She must understand from my return look that
   this is not the case, because then she winks and says, "I was just
   kidding. You wouldn't do something like that, would you?"
   "No," I say, but if the regents found out about Monica's visit, this
   would be the first thing on their minds. "I just figured you're used
   to beer at parties and things," I tell her. The steaks are beginning
   to sizzle, and this gives me the opportunity to check them with the
   long-tined fork.
   "Yeah, beer's okay, but wine's sort of . . . more sophisticated,
   "I like wine, but I don't drink much of it. It's for company." The two
   bottles have been here for over two months; I opened the Zinfandel two
   weeks ago and drank it with a microwave dinner. "The white's been
   opened for a while," I say. "How is it?"
   She sits on the lounge chair again. "I wouldn't know if it's good or
   not, really. I don't drink it too often."
   "The steaks will be ready in a little bit," I say. "If you'll watch
   them for just a minute I'll go get the salad. Unless you'd like to eat
   inside, that is."
   "It's nice out here. Let's stay."
   Inside I get the salad bowl and set it on the kitchen counter. The cat
   jumps up and puts her nose to the plastic wrap covering the top, and I
   say "No, kitty. No, Scarlett," and the cat looks at me and meows. I
   get her some dry food from the cabinet above the sink and pour some
   into her bowl. She jumps down and sniffs at the food, then looks up at
   me and opens her mouth as if she's going to say something, but she
   doesn't. The phone rings, and it startles me. I get the wall phone and
   answer, "Lear residence."
   "Daddy? I just wanted to call and ask if everything was okay."
   "Sure, baby. Things are fine. Why should you worry?" I feel good to
   think she's concerned about me, but her tone makes me feel like a
   "I was just wondering," she says. There's another voice on her end, in
   the background, and she says something soft which I don't catch. "I
   met your friend when I was there a little while ago. She's kind of
   young, isn't she?"
   "She's not a student, if that's what you're thinking," I say. I am not
   lying to her. Monica is an ex-student now. "We're just about to have
   dinner, in fact." I realize I'm not making much sense, but I don't
   want my daughter talking to me right now. "I thought you and Kevin had
   a date tonight. What happened?" I ask.
   "We're here at the house. Mother offered to cook dinner, and then
   we're going to play Monopoly or something."
   "That's good. In fact, if I don't get outside and check the steaks
   we'll have to go out to eat, so I'd better let you get back to what
   you were doing." The cat has wandered off somewhere, and I want to go
   ahead and get the salad outside.
   "Be careful, Daddy."
   "I will, baby. Tell your mother hello for me."
   "She knows I called you. She doesn't hate you, you know?" There's a
   plaintive quality to her voice when she says this, and I am sorry all
   over for not being with them. I want to apologize somehow, but I do
   not know how. For the last two years of my marriage I had trouble
   communicating with my wife, and Mandy was trapped in the position of
   mediator and messenger, always having to translate for us.
   "I'm glad you told her. I don't want you to have to feel guilty about
   being in touch with me." I think she's crying, but maybe it's just
   something in the line. "And if you want to come out here with your
   friends or anything," I say, "you can use the pool for a party or
   "I'd like that, Daddy. Take care, huh? Please?"
   "I will." I make a kissing noise into the receiver, only it comes out
   like a slurp. "Bye, honey," I say, and the line goes dead. I hang up
   before the dial tone starts and stack paper plates and salad dressing
   on a tray with the bowl of salad.
   When I get outside, Monica is sitting on the edge of the pool dangling
   her legs in the water. She looks up and says, "The steaks smell good.
   I'm starved." She stands, and I see that water runs down in droplets
   off her calves, to her ankles, to the tops of her feet. She sees me
   looking. "It was so warm, and the water felt so good. You don't mind,
   do you?"
   She is truly a beautiful girl. In class she was always quiet, but when
   I asked questions she was quick with answers. "Not a bit. I mean, not
   at all. That's why the pool is here."
   "Let's eat," she says.
   There is a small picnic table under the awning by the back door, and
   we sit there to eat. I turn on the bug zapper and it glows blue,
   begins almost immediately to snap and pop with the tiny gnats and
   mites which fly into its grill. As we eat our salads I have a
   momentary fantasy about being a bug drawn into the machine, and I
   wonder whether they feel pain. While I think this I look up at Monica
   sitting there across from me, her jaws working gently on lettuce and
   tomato and radishes. "I'll get the steaks," I say.
   The grill has been off during salad, but the meat is still hot, and I
   serve the small t-bones on paper plates. Monica cuts off a small piece
   and holds it on the fork in front of her lips, purses them, and blows
   on the meat, as if blowing a kiss, then puts the piece in her mouth
   and chews with her eyes closed. "It's perfect," she says. The
   expression on her face says this is so. She cuts more and eats, and we
   don't talk, we just eat and sip wine and look up at each other
   I finish my steak first. "Would you like something else? I could run
   down to the store and get some pie or ice cream." She is just
   finishing, dabbing at her lips with a paper napkin. "I'm not prepared
   so well. I'm not used to company."
   She stands and begins stacking up the paper plates. "Why don't you
   make yourself comfortable," she says. "I'll go do the dishes." She
   giggles. "Pour us a glass of wine. Sit down and relax. I'm not running
   I start to protest, but she touches my shoulder and nudges me in the
   direction of the lounge chairs. When she's gone I pour wine and leave
   her glass on the table. I sit down and watch the water. The outdoor
   lights have come on, and they glow softly. Insects flit in and out of
   the light like tracer bullets in a war movie. The lights are small,
   more for atmosphere than illumination, I suppose. They highlight the
   pebbles imbedded in the concrete around the pool, but then the lights
   go off, leaving only the glow of the pool's underwater lights. I start
   to rise, but Monica comes out and gets the glass of wine from the
   table. She sits in the lounge next to me. She tilts her glass back and
   takes a long sip. "I found the light switch," she says. "I always
   liked the way a pool shines at night."
   "I sit out here sometimes and watch the water. It's very peaceful," I
   say. There are a few small, white clouds moving in from the east, and
   I wonder if it's going to rain. "I hoped my daughter Mandy and her
   friends would come out and use the pool."
   "I know," she says. I look at her. "You mentioned that before, David."
   "Yes." As I answer I have a momentary thought of Mandy and her friends
   from the high school splashing in the water of the pool, while her
   mother and I sit back and watch them, then we get up to serve sodas
   and sandwiches. "I'm not thinking too well lately," I say. "Or maybe
   it's just the wine."
   She stretches, her arms extended fully like a cat's legs when it's
   getting up from a nap, and the cotton blouse rides back up over her
   shoulders, then goes back into position when her arms are down. "I
   feel . . . delicious," she says. "The water felt really good earlier.
   I'd love a swim."
   I look at the water. The surface is calm, broken only by the slight
   breeze blowing over the wooden privacy fence. "It's too bad you don't
   have a suit," I say. "And besides, you should never swim on a full
   "I wouldn't worry, David. You're here."
   Before I can answer, she's standing up, and she walks to the edge of
   the pool. "You keep the pool really clean," she says. "It's a lot of
   work, isn't it?"
   "I suppose," I say. "I keep it clean in case my daughter wants to come
   by and swim."
   Her shoes, white docksiders, are already off and lying by her chair;
   she dips one foot into the water, swishing it back and forth, and hugs
   herself, as if she's cold. She looks back toward me. "It feels
   wonderful," she says. She turns around again and stands for a moment
   moving her foot back and forth in the water.
   "You could come here and use the pool this summer," I say.
   "Maybe I'll do that," she says. "If you think it's okay, that is." She
   at me again and smiles, then she reaches down and unbuttons her
   cutoffs and pushes them down and steps out of them. She throws them
   toward me, and they land on the far side of the chair she's been
   using. I sit and watch, unable to say anything as she pulls the blouse
   over her head and throws it at me. She sits on the edge of the pool
   with her legs in the water and pulls off her blue panties, then she
   slides off into the water. It's the shallow end, and the water comes
   up to just above her navel. Her breasts are small, and her nipples are
   erect. "Put these with my things, please?" she says, and throws the
   panties. They land halfway between the pool and my chair. I go and
   pick them up and hold them, stand there watching her as she sinks into
   the water. Her hair trails off behind in a fluid mass, like a
   Portuguese man-o'-war. She reaches back and does something to it, and
   then her ponytail is gone and the hair spreads out across the water as
   she sinks deeper, until the water is at her lower lip. "I'm going to
   do some laps," she says. "Wait for me, huh?"
   I sit down again and pick up my glass. It's empty, and I look into it
   for a moment, contemplating whether I want more. Monica's body cuts
   the water in smooth strokes, her hair flying straight out behind her.
   She makes three laps, then reaches the opposite end and stops, resting
   her arms on the edge. "Would you like for me to stay here tonight?"
   she says to the wooden fence in front of her. Her voice seems larger
   in the enclosed yard, as if it were a small room.
   "That wouldn't be a very good idea," I say, and I wonder whether she
   can hear me. My voice sounds small and tense.
   "I like you, David. I wanted you to ask me out months ago."
   "And I like you, too, Monica. But it wouldn't be right, you see. I'm a
   professor. You might take another of my classes sometime."
   She turns and swims back, then hoists herself up to the edge. She sits
   and draws her legs up and puts her arms around them. "I won't. I don't
   need any more history." She begins to wring out her wet hair. "Could
   you bring me a towel? I'm getting cold."
   I get a large bath towel from the bathroom cabinet and go back. She's
   lying back in the lounge chair, watching the cat as she stands poised
   at the edge of the pool, looking into the water. The cat dips a paw
   into the water, then takes it out and shakes the water off. She begins
   to lick at the paw and bathe her face. Monica is rubbing the rim of
   her wineglass with a finger, and the glass gives off a high-pitched
   sound. She dampens the finger and tries again, but nothing happens. I
   hand her the towel, and she turns, putting her legs over the side of
   the chair. She sits up and starts drying her hair, flattening the hair
   between layers of the towel and pulling it down to the end. "Sit down,
   David," she says. "I'll be dry in a minute. Then we can go inside."
   I sit and watch her; the cat comes over and starts rubbing on my leg.
   I reach down to pet her, and she rubs her head against my hand. She's
   purring. She enjoys what I'm doing, but then she seems to get bored
   and goes off into the house. "This isn't a good idea at all, Monica,"
   I say.
   She stops drying her hair and holds the towel up by a corner in front
   of her. "Come dry my back, David?"
   I begin to stand, but hesitate. In the light from the pool her skin is
   darker, and its dampness shines like polished marble. "I haven't been
   near a woman in months, Monica. I think I'm afraid of you."
   "Are you worried that someone will accuse you of sleeping with a
   student to change a grade, David? Do you think this is about a silly
   I don't want to admit my thoughts; Monica should have been an "A"
   student, but her attendance was spotty during the last two months of
   the semester. "No, of course not," I say. "I'm just nervous is all.
   You're a lot younger than I am." She holds the towel against her
   chest, patting herself dry, but the warm air has nearly done the job
   for her. "I'm just confused, is all," I say.
   She stands and holds out her hand. "Don't be. Let's go inside." She
   leads me into the house, and inside the door I stop long enough to
   turn off the pool lights.
   I'm nervous when we get to the bedroom; Monica turns off the lights
   and turns down the sheets I placed so carefully on the bed, and then I
   lie down while she undresses me. When she guides me into her I seem
   inept, like a frightened teenager, but Monica knows what to do.
   Afterwards, when Monica is asleep, I lie awake listening to her, and
   to the cat playing with the catnip mouse I bought after I got her from
   the shelter. Monica stirs, and I feel her looking at me in the
   darkness. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
   I kiss her forehead in much the same way I would kiss my daughter. "It
   was nice," I say.
   She puts her arms around me and draws me close. "You're a nice person,
   David. I like you a lot." She burrows her head into my chest and
   scratches my back lightly with her nails. I try to remember if they
   are polished or plain. "And don't worry about my grade in your class,"
   she says. "If you want to change it that's okay."
   We lie there until she goes to sleep, and in the early morning I get
   up and take the cordless phone out to the pool and sit there watching
   the rectangular blackness of it. I feel the cat rubbing against my
   leg, and then she's gone, and I hear a soft splash and then the
   rhythmic churning of her feet as she swims. When it's light enough to
   see the buttons on the phone I dial Mandy's number at her mother's
   house, the house the three of us shared until a few months ago. When
   she comes on the line I say her name over and over, perhaps a dozen
   times until she's awake, and I say, "Mandy, thanks for being concerned
   about me. I'll be all right. Everything will be all right." She says
   something in return, and her voice sounds worried, though I can't make
   out the words exactly. I want to understand what it is she's saying,
   as if knowing this is the most important thing in my life, and I
   listen, trying to comprehend what is wrong with me.
 "The Strawberry Blond" by Edward J. Austin

   She moved into the pagoda bus-shelter where I had stood alone. She
   moved slowly, casually, as if she'd just returned from a summer stroll
   down a shady country lane. She wore a bright yellow dress and held her
   belongings--a purse, two magazines, and a small, cordovan
   portfolio--as a school-girl might, with both arms and against the
   cushion of her abdomen. But she was no teenager. Rather, she had that
   young office-girl look about her: too much make-up beneath the
   cheekbones; long, slender nails, darkly painted to hide the plastic;
   and strawberry blond hair that had been whipped and sprayed into
   broad, staunch curls.
   The nails got to me, though. More than the dress that held her closely
   and reached to mid-calf. More than the mature hips and abundant bosom.
   Even more than the pleasant, but mildly vacant expression of her face.
   To me, to a thirty-two year-old Indian with a freshly recreated life,
   the nails shrieked accusations of affectation and superficiality. They
   overwhelmed my thoughts, as well as my libido.
   I leaned against a large, brass banister that surrounded the three
   glass walls of the structure, and I held a grocery sack containing
   canned soup and Wheat Thins, herbal teas and toilet bowl cleaner. The
   sweat from my four-mile hike after work--first to the hair-cutter's,
   then to Bag-N-Save, then to the bus stop downtown--had soaked my
   shirt, except for the tops of my shoulders. And the residue from the
   haircut, the sharp-edged clip- pings, dug into my neck where the
   collar rubbed my skin.
   I felt conspicuous and uncomfortable. Then, I thought about the
   strawberry blond and her airs. She looked cool. But I knew that
   farther down, beneath the burden of her costume and mask, she was
   languid from the heat. I thought about her nails once more, then,
   about her hairdo, which hadn't budged under the humid breeze. I
   thought about the make-up, and her panty-hose--intended to add color
   where there was none.
   A put-up job, I told myself.
   Quickly, irrefutably, I judged her scope and dimension. I scanned and
   reviewed her future and past. She became a character in one of my

          Pretty, but slightly overdone, I thought.  Probably aged
     twenty-nine to thirty-two--although her face looked five years
     younger.  Most likely spends her day on the telephone, or
     directing company visitors.  Does minimal typing and has
     moderate difficulty with the office software.  Enjoys flirting
     with the unattached men of the department, but has a
     semi-employed boyfriend named Bruno--or perhaps ZACH--
     whose principal pastimes are flexing his muscles in the mirror
     and adjusting the carburetor of his pick-up.  (Which he
     can't seem to get quite right.)  She wishes that life
     was easier for her eight year-old son and herself, but
     is determined to hang-on until Mr. Right comes along to
     fix it all--to make it wonderful.

   She'd sat down on the wooden bench that was behind and to my right.
   The bench, in its shallow glass alcove, was a favorite spot of Omaha's
   drunks and transients--especially during the chilly months, since its
   doorway faced the south and the shelter was partially warmed by a
   quartz heater. She sat very properly, with her head held high and her
   spine perfectly aligned. She sat near the edge of the bench, and I
   assumed that it was to limit the area of contamination.
   I turned my head, and crouched behind a wall of phony indifference. I
   stared in the opposite direction and pretended to be deep in thought,
   pretended to be hard-hearted and streetwise, pretended that my shell
   was impervious to the effects of light, sound, and time. But I
   I heard her sigh and place her things on the bench, then, she crossed
   her nyloned legs and smoothed the fabric of her dress. I heard the
   clasp of her handbag open, then, the rustle of paper money being
   removed and folded into her lap. I heard her sniffle, and afterward,
   the sound of cosmetic containers jostling as she dug for a tissue.
   A bus roared away from the corner preceding ours, and I was forced to
   turn toward her as I checked its number. She sat primly, with her pale
   hands clasped atop her knees. Her smile was pleasant and seemingly
   carefree--the pretty little smile of one whose people have seized
   Canaan--but I deliberately avoided eye-contact. Still, I felt the heat
   of her attention on the left side of my face. And as I sought the
   number of the approaching bus, I imagined the sound of her snippy
   voice as it sighed, then, wondered aloud why she had to be stuck in
   the same enclosure with a sweaty Indian.
   I gave her a stern glance, then shifted the weight of the sack from
   one thigh to the other. At least I'm not drunk and hustling you for
   change, I thought. Like that other life, I recalled, when I was so
   desperate for sweet oblivion that I might have considered the odds of
   a successful downtown purse-snatch. Then, I wondered whether she had
   ever felt hopeless, lost, and alone. Not because Bruno--or _ZACH_--had
   laughed at the outcome of a box-perm, but because of something real.
   The bus slowed to a crawl as it neared our corner, and when neither of
   us stepped out to the curb, the driver mashed down on the throttle.
   The diesel's belts shrieked and the eruption of exhaust blew a fierce
   cloud of grit from the gutter.
   "Oh darn!" she cried.
   Her volume was feeble compared to that of the bus. And as the engine
   rattled windows in the next block, I turned and flashed her my
   favorite maintenance-man expression: one containing exasperation and
   incredulity. The same one that I sometimes give to barefoot co-workers
   who've locked their shoes in their filing cabinets, or to obese
   dietitians who've lost their money in the candy machines.
   She leaned forward and watched the bus halt at the next corner, then,
   made two tiny fists and brought them down meekly against her knees.
   "Oh darn!"
   I could just imagine my Dad's reaction: (Doubled over and laughing.)
   "Did you see that silly bitch? She sat on her dead-ass while the bus
   went by! Then, when it's a mile down the street, she looks up and says
   (imitating a squeaky white woman), 'oh darn'. Lord A' Mighty! That
   bitch is crazy!"
   "Was that a fifteen?" she asked me.
   A charming voice, I thought, and imploring eyes. The air of glib
   self-confidence that she'd arrived with suddenly evaporated. She
   became girlish and helpless. "No," I told her, wearily.
   "Oh, good," she said, smiling once more.
   Well, that was simple, I thought. The Earth had been righted; bliss
   restored. I wondered what her response might have been had I said,
   "Oh? You wanted that one? You just sat there like a lump." But, I
   guessed that it would have ruined her evening. I imagined her telling
   Bruno as they lay in bed: "I had a wonderful day, but a sweaty Indian
   ruined it all by being mean to me."
   I placed my sack on the ground and folded my arms across my stomach. I
   felt the roll of flab that had never gone away, despite gross
   malnutrition and radical loss of muscle-mass. Then, the back of my
   neck began to itch and I couldn't scratch it. Self-consciousness and
   the dread of hearing another disparaging comment in my mind kept me
   frozen. Quickly, I wondered if the white chickens were ever curious
   about the effects of the barnyard on the black ones--or the red ones.
   On the bench, the woman uncrossed her legs, releasing a distinctly
   feminine scent. Then, she turned sideways and began tapping her
   finger-tips on the glass of the alcove.
   Outside, stood a pair of very fat, very black, women; each wore
   outrageously printed shorts, sleeve-less tops, and tired canvas
   slip-ons. They spoke with grand emphasis, often standing with hands on
   broad hips, seeming to swell even greater as they struggled to make a
   particular point, or rhythmically swaying in soulful agreement, as
   they matched one another's body language. And near the knee of one,
   stood a beautiful, honey-brown baby girl that looked to be only a
   couple of years old. The baby smiled, extravagantly, at the strawberry
   blond, then giggled and hugged her mother's knee.
   I watched the blond lean farther, nearer to the glass and the child,
   seemingly indifferent to any loss of dignity. She tapped the glass and
   waved playfully, then made smooching sounds. And the baby moved
   closer, as well, smiling joyously, displaying a pair of bright, white
   teeth in front. She released her mother's leg and rapped against the
   glass with a chubby fist, giggling, trembling, and rolling her head in
   wild circles. And the blond leaned even closer, laying down on her
   left elbow.
   Unexpectedly, the baby kissed the glass, then burst into laughter.
   Still on her side, the woman looked over her shoulder and smiled at
   me. I couldn't help but smile back. I was swept-up by their emotion.
   So enamored were the pair, that they made me forget myself and own
   mask. I forgot the silliness of my face and my body, my fear of
   rejection, and even my initial lust.
   The baby moved to within inches of the glass wall and placed her
   flattened palms against the surface, then, she grew quiet as the blond
   met the hands with her own. The gesture reminded me of the end of
   visiting-hour up at the old county jail. Prisoners and their
   girlfriends would end the session with their palms pressed against the
   Plexiglas window, as if the intensity of their emotion might somehow
   alter the physical reality. And I would stand there--sitting wasn't
   allowed during visiting hour-- in my concrete cubicle, groping at
   conversation with my Aunt Bernice or a buddy that I'd talked into
   coming for a visit.
   Both looked up at the mother and smiled, who continued an animated
   conversation with her friend. The baby slapped at the back of her
   mother's knee, demanding attention, and the woman reached down and
   fanned at the area with her fingers, as if shooing mosquitoes. Then I
   watched as the blond sat-up and began searching the bottom of her
   purse. Part-way, she looked over at me--evidently aware of my
   attention--and said, "This purse is a junkyard. I find everything but
   what I'm looking for."
   I nodded my acknowledgment, then, began to wonder how much farther
   from the truth my assessment would find itself.
   She produced a black felt-tip pen and began sketching a face on her
   left fist. She stopped between work on the eyes and nose and lips to
   show the baby, who now divided her interest between the
   puppet-in-progress and frustration at her mother's apparent lack of
   interest. When it was finished, the blond worked her thumb as the
   puppet's mouth and tried to entertain the child. But the baby just
   frowned and turned away. She threw her arms around her mother's legs
   and rubbed her cheek against the outside of her mother's thigh.
   The blond returned the pen to her purse and didn't try to regain the
   child's attention. She just smiled, wistfully, and said, "My two
   year-old is the same way. It doesn't take much to distract her. One
   minute she's interested, and the next, she isn't."
   I nodded in agreement. Although I didn't know much about two
   year-olds, I recognized a profound statement when I heard one. Then, I
   chuckled to myself as I repeated it inwardly: One minute she's
   interested, and the next, she isn't.
   "You only have the one?" I asked her.
   "No," she said, exhaling simultaneously. Then, added proudly: "I have
   "Wow!" I said, astonished. And at the same time, I heard my Dad's
   comment: "Oh, Lord! That bitch stays pregnant. 'Better have three
   "They must enjoy the hell out of having you for a mother," I told her.
   "Do you do this puppet-face thing for them?"
   "Yes," she admitted, guardedly. "But not too often. They live with
   their father."
   "Oh," I said.
   "But I see them pretty often," she added. "Just not as often as I'd
   like to."
   I could tell that she was trying to put a brave face on what must have
   been flashing memories of a bad situation. I thought that she must be
   re-living those scenes, even as she spoke. I knew that the sights and
   smells and sounds must have strained at her emotional flood-gates.
   I looked at her and simply said what I thought and felt, in spite of
   the scant body of evidence. "That's real unfortunate. I think they're
   missing out on one hell of a mother."
   She sat up very straight, then softened her posture. Her eyes thanked
   me--even before the words escaped her lips. Then, she told me that it
   was the greatest compliment that she'd ever been paid.
   I considered telling her of my foolish assessment, but knew that it
   would only be a demeaning distraction. She sat for a moment, staring
   at her hands, and I looked at them, too. Suddenly, they seemed unlike
   those of the mannequin that I'd presumed them to be. I now saw the
   bone and veins and tiny pale hairs. I saw freckles and delicate folds
   of skin around her joints.
   Then, feeling more at ease, I said, "So...uh...did they pop out two or
   three at a time? Because you really don't look old enough to have five
   "Thank you," she said, demurely. "My oldest will be sixteen in
   November. And my baby is almost twenty-seven months. It seems like all
   that I've ever done is raise kids. But now...."
   "I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to make--"
   "--That's okay," she interrupted. "I was just thinking of how strange
   it all feels. One day I'm a mother with five kids, and the next...."
   She paused and carefully smoothed her dress, then, turned toward me
   with an incredulous expression. "It feels the same way every morning,
   now. Like it all might have been a dream, a beautiful one. Or that all
   this," she said, gesturing at the world, "might be just a dream. A
   I nodded in agreement. But I might have just as easily said, "Yeah, I
   understand, I've been there." I wanted to hold her and tell her that
   it would all get better, but I didn't know that it would. I only knew
   that it could.
   "I have this problem with depression." She said it stiffly, and I knew
   that it must a part of her therapy. "It ruined my life--at least, the
   parts that I loved the most. It turned everything sideways. It got so
   that I couldn't even get out of bed. There was just no reason. Then, I
   went to the hospital, and when I was finally getting better--really
   better--my ex-husband just said, 'You have to move out'. And that was
   She sat quietly, but I knew that she was grappling with anger. Anger
   at her body-chemistry, her ex-husband, the way that words can't be
   taken back. But mostly, anger at the anger.
   She sighed, as if to say, Oh, well, then continued. "Now I've got an
   apartment, a roommate, and a job at an art-supply store. But it all
   seems so unreal."
   "I know," I said. Then, I told her a little bit about my own
   experiences with hopelessness. I told her about the chemicals, the
   immorality, and the danger. I told her that I'd lived that way for
   twelve years, that I'd pissed away everything that most people hold
   dear. And then, I told her about the specter that had come for my
   mind--and how my brain became the only thing that I'd ever wanted to
   She listened, quietly, then smiled. The connection was intangible, but
   there, none the less.
   "Um," she began, "I'm sort of an artist. Would you like to look at a
   few sketches? I've always toyed with the idea of becoming a commercial
   artist, and then my sketches became a part of my therapy. Now I'm a
   little more serious. And I just like to get other people's opinions.
   These are me, kind of naked expression."
   And I said, bawdily, "Naked, you say?" "Oh, quit," she said.
   She opened the portfolio and produced a thick pad of pencil drawings,
   and I liked them. To me, they were beautiful, and I told her so. Then,
   I added that art was all magic to me, that I didn't know good
   technique from bad, and that earning money with art was a hard hustle.
   I wanted to tell her that the world was full of talented people, and
   that the difference lay in dedication and work-habits. But it would
   have been too much, too soon.
   "What do you do?" she asked.
   "I'm a maintenance man."
   "You mean, like with mops?"
   "Well, sometimes," I said, smiling. "Actually, I spend most of my time
   working on lights, paint, and plumbing. But, I work in a nursing home,
   and mops are a part of it, too."
   She touched her forehead, then said, "Boy, I don't think that I could
   work there."
   "Maybe not right now," I told her, "but when you're better, it might
   be a good thing. Helping people who desperately need it, does wonders
   for the soul--and mind. It helps diminish self-centeredness, if you
   let it. But more than anything, it helps me put my problems in a
   Lifetime perspective."
   She began to tell me about her grandmother, who'd gone to a nursing
   home, but I'd turned toward the No. 15 as it lumbered up the hill,
   raising a cloud of dust. She looked, then stood and said, "That's
   She grabbed her belongings and began to move past me, but at the
   doorway, she stopped. "Thanks for talking to me," she said. "I don't
   know why I told you that."
   Ordinarily, my response would have been a glib one. I might have
   referred to my 'honest face' or 'my powers of seduction'. But I didn't
   want to demean the depth of our connection. "Keep doing it," I told
   her. "It's good for you."
   She smiled and moved to the open doorway of the bus, then she turned
   and waved before disappearing inside.
   After she'd left, I got to thinking about a conversation that I'd had
   with my boss, Bill--who also happens to be an important Teacher of
   mine. I'd told him of some minor repair that I'd made to a resident's
   wheelchair, and then of the lady's effusive thanks. I'd told him that
   there must be a million little things that people do for others that
   they're unaware of, yet, they may have one hell of an impact. And he
   agreed. Then, he told me that it really doesn't take much effort.
   Little things. Like saying that we like one another when we do, or
   seizing the opportunity to find out.


                   ABOUT THE AUTHORS, VOLUME 1 ISSUE 4, TMR
   o Karen Alkalay-Gut ( teaches Victorian and
   Modern poetry at Tel Aviv University. Her latest books are _Ignorant
   Armies_ (N.Y.: Cross-Cultural Communications, 1994) and _Recipes_ (Tel
   Aviv: Golan, 1994). She also appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of _The
   Morpo Review_ with three poems: _The Frog Prince_, _Tangents_ and
   o Edward J. Austin ( is Native American and
   thirty-five, living with his best friend Alaina, and soon to be
   entering his sixth year of sobriety. He is employed by Beverly
   Enterprises, the nation's largest owner/operator of nursing care
   facilities, where he serves as an environmental services manager.
   o Blackbird ( is a writer whose works have
   appeared in (among other places) _SailNSteam_, _Persona_ and various
   anthologies. He lives and writes in Tucson, AZ.
   o William C. Burns, Jr. ( is a nationally
   published author of poetry, engineering texts and science fiction
   short stories. He is an artist as well. Many of his murals and
   sculptures are on permanent display at various colleges as well as
   numerous, privately held works. He is indigenous to the eastern part
   of the planet and sustains his family teaching electrical engineering
   courses. Other occupations have included pumping diesel, mining coal,
   peddling heavy equipment and fixing traffic lights.
   o Susan Tefft Fitzgerald ( writes poetry
   and short stories. She is a senior at the University of Nebraska at
   Omaha majoring in English and Journalism. This is her first published
   o Cynthia Anne Foster's ( works have appeared in _The
   American Poetry Annual 1991_, _Awakenings_, and the Oakland Community
   College literary magazine _Speakeasy_, which she also helped to edit.
   She has scripted for theater and television and is currently working
   on her first book. Cynthia has studied in England, France, the
   Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. Her favorite authors are E. M.
   Forster, George Meredith, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. She was
   born in 1955 and lives in Michigan with her four rescued pets. She
   enjoys reading, sculpting, watercolours, genealogy, travel, the
   theater and history. "Mortui vivos docent. Carpe diem".
   o Robert A. Fulkerson (, Editor, is currently
   working on his Master's Degree in Computer Science at Creighton
   University in Omaha, Nebraska. He will soon be published in a book of
   poetry and art entitled _Voices of the Grieving Heart_, edited by Mike
   o Mike Gates (, ReadRoom Layout Designer, is a
   cyberholic who runs a small BBS in Ketchikan, Alaska. Mike is a closet
   writer who sells explosives for a living (really!) and has a humming
   room full of computers in a house he shares with his wife and two
   infant daughters.
   o Maree Anne Jaeger ( has had poetry
   published in magazines, books and anthologies in Australia and
   overseas. She has also performed her poetry in public. She likes
   acting, writing, reading, the ocean, the moon and swiss chocolate.
   o Kris M. Kalil Fulkerson (, Proofreader, is
   happily married to _TMR_'s esteemed editor and also happens to be a
   graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

   o John Adam Kaune ( is a part-time poet-wanderer from
   Peterborough, Ontario. He is one of the three editors of the _Sand
   River Journal_, a collection of the best poetry from rec.arts.poems
   (available at the etext archives at the University of Michigan). His
   next project is setting up a World Wide Web site for _SRJ_.
   o Lori Kline (, Attn: Lori Kline) is a poet
   living in Southern California. She is currently working on a book of
   poetry. She hopes to obtain her degree in creative writing and
   medieval studies. She is married and has a son, Alexander.
   o Matthew Mason (, Editor -- published poet,
   world traveller, butthead (and proud)--recently received his Master's
   degree in Creative Writing from UC Davis. Now he wanders in search of
   adventure and health insurance.
   o Doctress Neutopia ( received a doctorate in
   Future Studies in February 1994. Her calling is to help save the human
   species. "In the United States, this is a vocation which society does
   not want to pay anyone to do, so I remain an unpaid worker for the
   survival of the human race." _The Judge_ has appeared in various
   places throughout the Internet, and a collection of Doctress
   Neutopia's writings can be found at on the
   World Wide Web.
   o Benjamin Parzybok ( could not be
   reached for a biography by press time.
   o Leland Ray ( is a thirty-nine-ish Ph.D.
   dropout who's currently employed as an adjunct English instructor at
   the University of Southern Mississippi, where he once studied at the
   Center for Writers. He has published poetry, fiction, and non-fiction
   in "little" academic journals.
   o Michael A. Simanoff ( is taking a short break
   from his studies at a rather prestigious, elitist, anonymous
   University to write, paint, and develop his musical skills. He was
   born in New York and raised in London, Madrid, San Fransisco, Fort
   Lauderdale, and is now the self-proclaimed 'Hermit of Boca Raton'. He
   welcomes any correspondence.
   o Michael Stutz ( is a net.writer from Cleveland.
   He's had a Vision of the inevitable creation of a dymaxion computer
   whose geodesic structure would be the ultimate Literary Machine. He
   loves Allen Ginsberg, but likes girls more. His story, _Favorite
   Comics_, appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 of _The Morpo Review_.
   o Edgar Sommer ( is continuously climbing the walls to
   nodom. The colliding banter is making his eyes empty all the time. His
   poem, _the past mostly_, appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of _TMR_.
   o Brett A. Thomas ( is an OS/2 developer for MCI
   by day (and often night). His hobbies include reading, spending almost
   every waking moment online, running, pontification, writing
   and fencing. He welcomes any correspondance.
   o Dave Zappala ( could not be reached for a
   biography by press time.

                              IN THEIR OWN WORDS
   o _shard_ by John Adam Kaune
          "[_Shard_ was] written while sitting in the Only Cafe,
          Peterborough, 10-93."
   o _Roman Ruin_ by Blackbird
          "I wrote _Roman Ruin_ on the understanding that the other
          person involved was being silent without apprehension. As it
          turned out, I was wrong. It's a great example of how a poetic
          insight can be completely wrong and beautiful at the same time.
          Like most of my love verse, it's pretty much a portrait of a
   o _words find_ by Edgar Sommer
          "These pomes are pitchers in the mind for a brief moment as
          they are written down. Pitchers contain at least as much aural
          as visual Stuff, in the platonic sense (just kidding). I don't
          know them before this happens, and don't understand them much
          after. Author and reader are pretty much in the same situation.
          Welcome to excrimentalism. Ola!"
   o _But For the Grace of God_ by Brett A. Thomas
          "_But for the Grace of God_ is probably a backlash against my
          religious (and, more specifically, briefly Catholic)
          upbringing. I wrote it several years ago, before full-time
          computing robbed me of the time and energy to write. I
          basically wrote the entire story in one evening, with the aid
          of a six pack of Foster's."
   o _Elinor Rigby_, _Room_ and _speaking of the secret_ by Karen
          "All of these poems I think of as pleasantly perverted.
          _Eleanor Rigby_, with its echoes of 'Oh, look at all those
          lonely people' from the Beatles, is the key -- at least to the
          _Rigby_ poem and _Room_. The latter, by the way, was inspired
          by an actual room, in which every detail had a personality of
          its own, and I found myself talking to the stones in the wall.
          _speaking of the secret_ is about self-construction, and is
          inspired by conversations with the dancer T'ai Dang and Oscar
          Wilde's _The Importance of Being Earnest_."
   o _Twilight Dancers_ by William C. Burns, Jr.
          "This particular work is a love poem made up one cool October
          nightfall, for my wife of seventeen years. It struck me, that
          evening, how the sound of stillness descends on our house with
          the coming of night. I'm an owl and she is a morning sparrow,
          who often curls against my left side and drifts off shortly
          after dark. I use this silent/warm time to re-collect the
          fragments of my mind, and knit the sleeve of my soul. It also
          hit me that this moment (twilight) is not the low point of the
          day, for me, but the loftiest. Hence we descend into the dawn."
   o _Wednesday Afternoon_ by Lori Kline
          "As a poet, I'm interested in the presenting the concept of
          ordinary life, everyday things, as being just as mystical,
          dreamy and deserving of attention as say, Avalon or Atlantis.
          The idea for _Wednesday Afternoon_ came about by watching my
          husband's chess game, and evolved as an exercise of reality
          blending with fantasy- his game and mine."
   o _monet's old studio is a gift shop_ by John Adam Kaune
          "Monet's old studio actually _is_ a gift shop nowadays. For
          some reason, I found irony in this. 'modernity' is the key word
   o _The Judge_ by Doctress Neutopia
          "Writing is a revolutionary activity to me. I write because
          there is definitely a better, more free and just way for us to
          live. As an artist, I feel that it is my duty to communicate
          this message to the human race. There is an urgent need for us
          to build a sustainable economy so that all people can become
          self-actualizing. In order to do this we must communalize our
          resources and let the artists live for free!"
   o _Disclaimer_ by Micahel A. Simanoff
          "The only disclaimer to _Disclaimer_ is that it is extremely
          untypical of all my work, as I break away from my preferred act
          of creation and exploration to comment on the sad state of what
          I interpret as 'contemporary literature'. It is an entirely
          sarcastic piece about the dulling of 'pop culture' upon the
          intellect. But that's just my opinion."
   o _You can meditate in this mess?_ by Micahel Stutz
          "About six months old, it was a spontaneous (maybe slightly
          self-conscious) mind breath done after the author's morning
          meditation. Really, I caught myself 'talking to myself' and got
          up to the keyboard to write it down."
   o _Between the Hiatus_ by Maree Anne Jaeger
          "[_Between the Hiatus_ was] written as a retrospective look
          backwards (I'll leave the rest for you to work out). This poem
          will be included in a book of my poetry to be called _Between
          the Hiatus_, which is a collabaration of myself and an artist
          (unsure of publication date as yet)."
   o _Custer is not here_ by John Adam Kaune
          [_Custer is not here_ was] written at Crow Agency, Montana,
          7-94. Again, more irony: countless tourists stop by there, not
          really knowing _why_. n.b. in the late 80s a brush fire helped
          archaeologists to find more artifacts strewn about the site of
          the battle."
   o _Pool Night_ by Leland Ray
          "I wrote this when I started dating the girl who became my
          ex-wife; she gave me a cat on our first date, and the story
          developed from there. The sixteen-year age difference between
          my girlfriend and myself had something to do with the story as
   o _The Strawberry Blond_ by Ed. Austin
          "_The Strawberry Blond_ was inspired by an incident that really
          happened to me at a bus-stop on a hot afternoon. That day, I
          was somehow blind-sided by cultural shame (a common malady
          among minorities) and fear of rejection. I was miserable. That
          is, until that nameless honey grabbed me by the shoulders and
          shook the joy of life back into me. These days, I can't recall
          the slightest detail about her voice, but I still remember the
          appreciation in her eyes as we parted company. And I can't help
          but think: Why are simple acts of humanity so rare that we have
          to wonder where they've been all our lives?"


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      What kind of work do we want?  How about Sonnets to Captain
Kangaroo, free-verse ruminations comparing plastic lawn ornaments to _Love
Boat_ or nearly anything with cows in it.  No, not cute, Smurfy little "ha
ha" ditties--back reality into a corner and snarl!  Some good examples are
"Oatmeal" by Galway Kinnell, "A Supermarket In California" by Allen
Ginsberg, or the 6th section of Wallace Stevens' "Six Significant

      But, hey, if this makes little or no sense, just send us good stuff;
if we like it, we'll print it, even if it's nothing close to the above
description of what we want (life's like that at times).  Just send us
good stuff, get published, and impress your peers and neighbors. 

      So send us your unhinged poetry, prose and essay contemplations at



         Our next issue will be available around November 15, 1994.