Dwayne Hunt

Dwayne HuntI started with Foucault,
and went headlong
into Derrida and
de Saussure. Then
Baudrillard, Lacan and
Zizek, and their
countless vassals. Shredding
the map, burning
the territory. I
built and tore down
grammars and dreamed that I
could add a last
piece that would bring it all
together; to
make the world change the way
it saw itself.
Down the rabbit hole
deep and deeper.

But everything crumbled
when I faced a
problem that no grammar
was equipped for.
When Vita Diego
challenged me to
use language to capture
her orgasm.
I tried and failed and tried
and failed and tried.

After, I came back to
the surface and
breathed the cool air for the
first time in years.

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Paulie “Perch” Rucker

Paulie “Perch” RuckerWe come from the ocean,
and we build shoals in
the wide, waterless world.
Deegan, the Orca, with
his wake of pilot
fish feeding off of him.
And Robin Parker, a
Barracuda of
cunning temperament, locked
in combat with gallant Swordfish
Kyle Kerns, always
brandishing his weapon
before him. Can you see
Gio Moss the Crab,
scuttling away from
his latest meal, looking
for another shell
to climb into? Efa,
a sad-eyed Catfish who
can see all the muck
and misery that skim
the bottom? Tysha, an
Amazon Molly,
relying only on
herself. And Mellor the
comedian, a
Grouper with a giant
mouth he never could close.
The porpoise Moreland,
too playful for his own
good, caught in the stinging
nettles of Donald
Howard, the Jellyfish.
And you. Are you a shark
or a mere prawn?
A giant squid or just
plankton to be gobbled
up by the others?
But we all fear the great
Fisherman, who snags us
up in his nets and
carries us to our doom.

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Kylie Templeton Udzinger

Kylie Templeton UdzingerIn my lifetime, I
saw superstition replaced with hard
science. You’d think that would be a
good thing, but you’d be
wrong. They just replaced unquestioning
reliance on the church with a
reflexive worship
of science. But was the New England
Journal of Medicine any
less remote than the
Vatican. Both were sold stories of
how the world worked, and both turned a
profit from belief.
I trusted my own anecdotal
evidence instead, with a dose
of charitable
skepticism towards all, including
myself. And it served me just fine.

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Rosalinda Wyatt

Rosalinda WyattThose who make the laws are the most in
need of being ruled
over. Those who enforce the laws are
the most likely to
break them. The ones who play at power
are the deluded
ones. Those of us they derided as
common, stupid or
hopeless, were building the only world
that truly mattered.

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Linus Ballard

Linus BallardEveryone is the
hero of their own story,
their life an epic.
But they’re also the villain
of the tale. And they
play all their own supporting
roles. Other people
are merely standing in for
aspects of themselves.
Or maybe I’m the only one
who thought that way. And
maybe I was the only
one to be alone
at the end of their story.

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Jacob Bryson

Jacob BrysonMy children, I am
sorry I am not there
to see what you will
become. But I know you
will do well. And if
you only remember
one thing for me, let
it be this: that no one
else has the power
to make you do, or feel,
anything that you
don’t want to, unless you
give them that power.
If I would have learned that
lesson earlier,
I might have been there to
see you have your own
children. Hopefully, you
can learn it through my
failures instead of your
own. Be the master
of your own state of mind.

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Elizabeth Nickle

Elizabeth NickleMy father loved baseball, but more than
that he loved old stories
about baseball. He loved telling me
bedtime tales of the feats,
misdeeds and malaprops of all those
legends. But the one thing
he told me that always stayed with me
was that famous saying
of Satchel Paige about not looking
back, because something might
be gaining on you. My Dad taught me
to play, and I loved it.
But more, he and Satchel taught me how
to live, a lesson I
never forgot. I didn’t slow down
until I stopped for good.

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Jamil Cleave

Jamil CleaveI devoted my
life to justice and I
failed. So damn all your
remembrances and shrines
to an image of
me. Curse me instead, for
falling before the
forces of repression.
Curse me, and carry
on the fight. When you praise
me, you only damn
yourselves, set back the cause
and abdicate your
responsibilities.

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Dominick Banks

Dominick BanksIn almost a full century,
I had the world and
the cosmos explained to me in
dozens of ways. The
meaning of God thrust upon me
from thousands who sought
my voice for themselves. The fabric
of the universe
shredded, re-stitched, shredded again.
But God was always
with me. Sitting right next to me,
in Lyla’s smile.

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Lyla Banks

Lyla BanksNinety-three years.
A near century.
Who was I when
I met Dom, decades
and decades past,
in another world?
Seventy years
together. Children
born and passed on,
grandchildren saved and
slipped away, great-
grandchildren to start
the cycle once
more. Every sight you
can imagine,
I saw it. Every
emotion you
could feel, I burned with.
Every mistake,
I made. My dearest
children of dust,
life is short and long.
You did what you
could. Leave it now. Rest.

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Remington Paisley

Remington PaisleyHe would not have been remembered, if
it weren’t for me. His books
had mostly been forgotten, but they
came back into vogue near the
end of his life. And why do you think
that was? In the short time when
he was famous, I was a boy in
the village and heard stories
of how he used to teach in Sunday
school and take long walks wearing
a queer-looking hat, or how he would
prattle on to the matrons
about Solomon or Suleiman
or syphilis. Later, when
I had grown and reached a place of small
influence in the world of
letters, I dug out his forgotten
stories, added them to my
syllabus, and wrote some few pieces
for the major journals. Soon,
there was a flowering revival.
But was he grateful? Did he
thank me? He just squinted at me with
irritation, as if I
distracted him from important things.
But what is more important
than legacy? Would he have his, had
I not been his champion?
Did he think he did it all alone?
Was my value so paltry?

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Mordechai Torrey

Mordechai TorreyI took over the department store
picture-taking franchise.
It had been losing money for years,
as the new cameras gave
people the tools to do the job for
themselves. But families still
came to me, drawn by the rituals
that they remembered their
own parents dragging them to. And I
would take portraits of their
babies and toddlers, and wonder what
world these children would live
in when they made it to adulthood.
(If they made it – I did
a surprising amount of business
in funeral reprints.)
What world would these children inherit?
Would I recognize it?
Would they even be human? Would I
be a caveman to them?

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Salvatore Valentin

Salvatore ValentinHe worked in the office next to mine
and he was a shirker. If there
were the quickest, sloppiest way of
doing inspections, of filling
out the forms, he would do it. And it
made me furious that he got
such a plum, without any notion
of the many sacrifices
I made to reach an equal station.
I came from a family of
sweatshop workers and town hoodlums. To
hold a job in civil service,
an appointment, with a salary
and a guarantee of food in
the winter, these were lofty heights to
reach in my world. My triumph was
his prison. I did my job better
than was expected. And all I
received was the odd extra biscuit,
while he gained immortality.

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Sweborg, the Coroner

Sweborg, the CoronerEvery case that came in got
a number.
The month, the day, the year. Then
last name and first initial,
on those days
that we got more than one. That
system worked fine, the thirty
years I ran
the place. But then they put it
all on the computer, and
you couldn’t
find anything. But it was
curious to see the new
patterns that
came clear in the mess. All the
Winters died in the springtime.
And Christian
Deegan died on New Year’s Day,
so the computer always
put him first.
The prisons always sent me
bodies at the end of the
month, like they
rushed to fill up their quota.

I wonder what they saw when
they put my
name in there. Where did I rank?

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Dinah Elden

Dinah EldenThey laughed at us when
we said we loved each
other more than two
had ever loved in
the history of
the world, and we would
never be apart.
And after we found
out, we knew they would
never let us be
together, never
give us any peace.

We lit the candles,
played the music and
swallowed the pills. So
the three of us could
be reborn as one,
together, safe. We
are in the dark now.
But I know he will
be with us soon. I
know. I know. I know.

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