Evening

Michelle McMillan weaves a dreamlike state of longing with haunting words in her poem, Evening.

Visual art by Chelsea Gribble.

Sunlight piercing through eggshell eyelids, resting only momentarily on the fragile membrane before bursting through to expose the cerebral malfunction beneath.

Old cars, piled up on the side of the train tracks pleading “take me.” but no one comes,  leaving them to crumble, self destruct with pointless longing. Mouths agape, seeming always to plead “goodbye” such brutish words sloppy in this golden wash, an angelic sunset over some excuse for habitation.

It’s to easy to ignore what happens on the other side of the glass. I miss you, so I made tea and cookies, but the majestic clouds insist; its the other way around.
Day after tomorrow, tomorrow if the sun would only quicken in its pointless chase after the edge of the world. Lethargic, please slow down you, claustrophobic that sense of insecurity so crippling it knocks your knees out, unsatisfied. Reverberating all the way up and plucking the hairs right out of the top of your head. Hello again.

[box]Michelle McMillan is a junior Dance Major at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.  Her prose poem, Evening, was short-listed in the Parallax Non-Major Writing Contest. [/box] 

Larger Sizes

Maddie Marlow’s sensual prose poem explores a young woman’s subtle insecurities.

Visual art by Luke Sherman.

I draw from edges of the foreign, full of uncertain creatures teased by the mouth. Ten minutes ago he came back, abrupt and territorial. He only pays visit once a year. To wars, towards, in two words he whispers without saying a word those two words. A little closer he gets each time, and that’s what counts. He can count well, but it is different than the impersonal.

You could tell it in straight numbers, but I count it in cups of tea that have kept my hands warm and mountains I’ve passed, including the where I hide. It happened in the glance of approval at a successful pirouette. It happened when my hands were covered in black dust and the person on the other side of the counter doubted me the entire time as I said, “could you please give me ones in a larger size?”

I waved hello before it passed when I was deep under a thin shirt. It was inevitable that he would appear again. He caresses my ear in the way it would count when I was younger, but this time it is sensual. I’m teased by what it all should be and is. Happy birthday.[box]Maddie Marlow is a senior Dance Major at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. Her prose poem, Larger Sizes, won first prize in the Parallax Non-Major Writing Contest.[/box]

Army Crawling is Hard Enough

Erin Breen gives us a glimpse of her childhood escapades in her poem, Army Crawling is Hard Enough.

Army crawling is hard enough.
We army crawled through the old basement’s crawl space.
Don’t touch the pipes! Jostling them is hazardous.
We liked to use words like ‘jostling’ and ‘hazardous’.
They’re the house’s gas lines. We don’t want anything exploding.
Then we got to our destination,
where the floor dropped and distanced us from the pipes.
We had a weird little club.
It was hippie meets sci-fi,
kind of like that show “Avatar”.
A lot like “Avatar”.
I was sky and you were fire.
Then we switched.
Lizzie didn’t get an element.
She was just an annoying little sister,
but she army crawled with us anyway.
[box]Erin Breen is an Interdisciplinary Arts Major at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. Her poems, "I hated being little" and "Army Crawling is Hard Enough," were short-listed in the Parallax Non-Major Writing Contest.[/box]

I Hated Being Little

Erin Breen reflects on the disadvantages of childhood in her quirky poem, I hated being little.

Visual art by Erin Einbender.
I.
I hated being little.
That’s So Raven and the Friends cast
seemed to have a lot more fun.
I couldn’t do anything.
II.
I hated school.
It was too hard
and it was too easy
and the people there scared me.
III.
I hated not knowing things.
Chaos.
It looks like chow-ous, but it’s pronounced kay-oss.
No Erin, they aren’t two different words.
IV.
I hated not understanding things.
I want one of those pretty swimsuits.
Erin, those aren’t swimsuits. They’re lingerie.
No, they’re pretty swimsuits. You’re lying.
V.
I hated not being believed.
Brandon and I could totally see microscopic organisms.
I definitely did not peel back the wallpaper.
Why would I carve my name into the window seat?
VI.
I hated that the driving age wasn’t ten.
I really wanted a red convertible
that I could drive my friends around in.
Convertibles were the coolest.
VII.
I hated losing things.
I would notice something’s absence really quickly
or it would take months
or even years, like with those purple boots.
VIII.
I hated being told to be careful.
What are you expecting me to do,
throw this baby chick on the ground, just because,
if you don’t give me a proper warning?
IX.
I hated when they were called “grownups”.
It sounded childish and it confused me.
When do they stop growing up, and become “grown”?
And what does that make old people? They shrink.
[box]Erin Breen is an Interdisciplinary Arts Major at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. Her poems, "I hated being little" and "Army Crawling is Hard Enough," were short-listed in the Parallax Non-Major Writing Contest.[/box]

Foreign Policy

Dante Yardas lays down the law in Foreign Policy.

Hey, you. Yeah, you. Stop the car. What are you doing?

You’re in America. You shouldn’t be here. What, you think this is some sort of joke? We know who you are, and we don’t want you here.

Get out of the car. I said, get out of the car. You heard me. What’s the matter? You don’t speak English? You understand me good? Get out. Now.

What have you got there? Bags? What’s in the bags? Set them down here. Of course they’re your bags. I don’t care how long you’ve had them. I don’t care if they’re special. Don’t give me that look. Look at your jewels. They’re fake. You think I’m stupid? In America, you could buy this piece of junk for five dollars.

Open them up. Lipstick, bracelet, books in your language—what is this trash?

What’s this? A wallet? Are these supposed to be dollar bills? How do you fit all those bills and quarters in there? And who are these people in the back seat? Are those your thug friends? They look awfully small. You say they’re your children?

Quit your begging—I’m not going to let you go. You poor people are pathetic; you’re always begging us to feel to sorry for you.

Show me where you’ve got it. You know what I’m talking about. I need to see your green card. Green card. Your proof of citizenship. Give it here. I said, give it here. I don’t want to hear what you have to say about this. You have no say; you’re in America, and you follow our rules.

Just as I thought—you have no green card. You’re no citizen. You have no right to be here, filling our classrooms with your kids. You’re not allowed to contaminate our land with your people. You’re just an illegal alien. Illegal.

I am neither a racist, nor a pre-judger. I am a proud officer, and I am rightfully doing my duty in keeping this country as American as apple pie. Now put your hands behind your back—you’re under arrest.

Home

Frida Gurewitz longs for the city in her short story, Home.

Visual art by Seung Min Oh.

You’re new here. You live in the blue house. With the yellow flowers on the freshly shorn lawn and white shutters. And the Japanese trees. Your mother bought it because she thought it looked like the Brady house. It doesn’t. She was wrong. You’ve watched that show a thousand times. . It looks nothing like the Brady house. You like the Brady house. You hate this house. You think it’s tacky. You think it looks like it belongs in some coloring book about the 60’s. Tacky, Tacky, Tacky.

Your room has white lacey curtains. The window looks in to Suzie Kincaid’s house. You can see her older brother’s bedroom. The walls have pictures of athletes and playboy bunnies on it. He sits there and reads things on his computer. You watch him sometimes. Just sit on your bed, on your computer, and watch him on his bed, on his computer. You never allow yourself to be naked in your room.

Your kitchen has pink and white checker tile. Your little sister crawls across it. Her fat little fingers grab at the grout. Your mother reaches down to scoop her up. She drools on her your mothers shoulder, ruining her silky blouse. Your mother pouts her large pink lips at the baby. She clicks and gurgles and makes like an idiot. You watch in disgust over your bowl of cheerios and milk. Stupid woman.

You wish you could move back. Pack up all the boxes, turn the car around and go back. You don’t like anyone here. They all have big dogs that bark at the mailmen, slobber and leave their mark on your lawn.

You don’t like the dogs or the people. They are all so obnoxious. You want to go back, you tell your mother, but she tells you this is home. No more apartment building where the third step on the third flight of stairs squeaked. No more hearing the comforting screech of police cars and ambulances outside of your window. No more having to look both ways when crossing the street, because if you didn’t it could be bloody. Now you live in a one-story house. Now the air is always heavy with silence .Now ,you could lie in the middle of the street, sleep there if you wanted to, and you wouldn’t get hit. You want to go back. This was boring you to tears. Your mother said it was what the family needed. Something stable and reliable, a place where there would always be home cooked dinner on the table and then she made another reference to the Brady’s. This is nothing like the Brady’s. You’re not blonde and there aren’t eight of you plus a maid under one roof.

The cement out front has been marked forever. You wonder who Jeremiah and Tammy were. And if they ever lasted. They probably cracked as soon as the cement did. The sidewalk has cracks and tiny weeds fighting their way up through them. They fight for sunlight and the overflow of the hose. You spoke to him once here. In this exact spot. Where the freshly mowed lawn meets Jeremiah and Tammy’s sidewalk. He was playing basketball. Tripping over his overgrown feet. He lept and threw the ball toward the hoop and its ratty net. He watched it in anticipation. His hands out stretched, hanging where the ball had left it. The ball hit the backboard. It rolled from his yard. He followed it, and noticed you. He grunted a hello, picked up his ball, started at your chest and then walked away. You said nothing. You didn’t know what to say.

You sit in the backyard on the tire swing with the cicada’s singing in the warm summer air. You kick your legs in front of you. Kick and retract, kick and retract, till you swing full force toward the suburban moon.

Spring Oak Road

A girl is accosted by a man claiming to be her father in Frida Gurewitz’s Spring Oak Road.

Visual art by Mai Matsubara.

I was walking upon a paved road with lots of cracks when a man approached me. He was dressed in a chartreuse suit with a large valentine tulip in his lapel. He asks me if I knew him.  I said I didn’t believe I did. He shook his head at me.  He told me he was my father. He was not my father. My father lived in a small house on a hill with a wood fire stove and rocking chair.  The man corrected me.  He said I had a sister by the name of Beatrice.  I told him I did not. He apologized, tipped his hat to me and kept walking. He walked up to the next girl and told him he was her father. I laughed out loud.

Sand Screamer

Isaac Dwyer delves into the world of the mechanized mind.

Visual art by Han Byel Kang.
In the barn: 	bare-chested, teeth clenched,
shaved scalp opens to the sky-
	Brain falls out, unraveling yarn
	across the scattered hay.
If I may bother you for a light,
	this dry and dead grass		will become
		the nature of	my chapped body.
										I dig:
	Tearing open my abdomen like a stuffed animal.
Sand pours out of me, tears
of unpolished glass for all the cuts,
		abrasions of delicate songs. Cavalier
			who breathes but has no lungs.
pig blood on the knuckles,
nail varnish for the senseless.
doves of the dirt,
ecstasy for the hurt.
It keeps coming:
		fire-white crystalized		infections
				tampered with by disintegrating words.
	mounds turn to mountains of sand.
	Pucker the whites of my eyes.

The Art of Contraception with Susie Wild

Isaac Dwyer reviews the eclectic collection of short stories by Susie Wild, The Art of Contraception, and speaks with her about love, losers, upcoming projects, and performance.

[box] Susie Wild, a noted bohemian writer living in South Wales, as well as editor for the literary journal The Raconteur, has published an eclectic collection of stories that succeeds in captivating and entertaining its readers. Focusing on individuals who suffer from issues from the sexual to the familial, The Art of Contraception clings romantically to the reproductively unfortunate. [/box]

Beginning with the tragic story of Rob Evans, an obese sloth who takes vacations in the tub and dreams of an underage love interest, readers temporarily find their egos comfortably elevated. This throne of narcissism is swiftly brushed out from beneath their buttocks, however.  They realize how easily they could become like the poor creatures they laugh at when Archie appears – and sweeps them right back into reality. The perspective from which they see Archie’s desires is nearly opposite from where they see Rob’s – suddenly, they’re expected to sympathize:

“He pulls hard on his nicotine stick, feels the rain soaking through his open jacket, his black shirt. It washes away the wine from his freckled skin. He sticks out his tongue to catch raindrops, and feels a thirst long forgotten, a thirst for life.”

The lack of dialogue in Wild’s book serves us well in highlighting the emptiness of the characters’ lives through in-depth descriptions of every detail that surround their measly actions. Through this hyper-examination, we can be brought both to quiet sympathy and to raucous laughter.

The story of Tanja, a pregnant woman who suffers from “the overpowering need that would compel her to stop the car to consume handfuls of dirt grabbed greedily from the side of the road” is one that is both hilarious and unsettling. Readers of The Art of Contraception are sure to find themselves in uncontrollable fits of laughter as well as being emotionally touched.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Susie about her book, while she was in Wales, getting ready to go to India. Corresponding through e-mail, we talked about her opinions of love, losers, upcoming projects, and performance.

 

Some of the characters in The Art of Contraception, most notably Rob Evans, show that the desire to reproduce can come out in any of a variety of interesting activities – such as taking vacations in a bathtub. What do you believe are the sources for romantic desires? Are they just biological urges, or is there more to it?

I don’t think that there is one simple answer in this case and I don’t think I am an expert. Certainly I feel that some of the feelings and developments of love come from biology – breeding and survival. Yet love is a very complex emotion and part of what I write is an attempt to describe and understand the good and the not so great aspects of this invisible entity that so dominates many lives and cultures. There are so many kinds of love, and few are the sweetened Disney kind of film fairy tales. Some people do get those firework moments, but others couple together because of loneliness, laziness or boredom.

 

In the case of Rob Evans, really he is just a man trying to understand the object of his affection in much the same way most young infatuations go. There are darker undertones of course, but in essence his is a tale of daydreams and an unrequited crush that goes very wrong for him.

 

Next to your satirical comedy, you also reveal some oddly depressing characters – such as Archie. Why should we care about the losers? What function do they play in our society?

 

I think, to an extent, we are all losers if only occasionally to ourselves, our parents or indeed our lovers. We all have fallibilities, insecurities and disappointments, even those at the top of their game. While I was studying for my various undergrad and postgrad courses I worked in a number of rough-around-the-edges bars and met a lot of people down on their luck. Some just had a tough week or month or year, others never found their way back to where they originally wanted to be. Even so, it didn’t always turn out terribly for them. For some, missing out on the things they had their heart set on meant they were free for unexpected opportunities that came their way soon after. Others tried to sit the bad times out and they never left. I am a great believer in going after what you want, and that persistence can change luck, but I’ve also learnt the hard way what an exhausting disheartening struggle it can be to get around those bends.

 

Then again we may only like to read about ‘loser’ characters because of good ole Schadenfreude or the joyous reassurance that someone, even someone fictional, is worse off than you… and, as life’s great philosopher Dolly Parton says, ‘if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.’

 

Are there any particular personal experiences that you have had with contraception that inspired you to write this book?

 

(If I had wanted to share them I’d have written non-fiction ; ) Having read the book you’ll also know that these stories hinge on all kinds of relationships from the sexual to the familial.)

After university I actually worked for a number of years as a journalist for a youth advice charity website that had very frank peer-to-peer discussion boards on all aspects of teenage and student life including sex, so I used to have interesting, sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing and often explicit discussions with my colleagues about the plights of our clients on the early shift, moderating their posts and chipping in advice and helpline numbers. My work is inspired as much by such anecdotes, news stories and snippets from the world around me as it is from my own personal experiences and imagination.

 

You nearly always mention your enjoyment of performing at dives and dance halls – what is it about these environments that contribute to the performing experience? Is it the people?

That’s just the kind of gal I am. I’d rather have a decent pint of real ale than champagne. Also performance poetry and live literature over here isn’t the most glamorous of games. You perform in cramped rooms upstairs from or at the back of Old Man pubs where sound systems don’t work and there is always some sort of weird and loud background noise and the stage is also probably the walkway to the toilets. Or you are in a marquee during a British “summer” in Wellies and a waterproof. Once in a while I get to read in a bookshop where they bring me tea and cake or a Private Members Club with good wine as part of the payment, but these are rare treats. Sometime it is the people, my favourites are the ones who buy books, I also especially like that couple arguing in the corner and her, there, vomiting on my new boots.

 

You casually mentioned that you’re going to India – I’m extremely jealous. What is it that draws you there, and have you got any exciting adventures planned?

As well as writing books and poems, I also work as a journalist and arts critic. As such, thanks to Wales Arts International, I am heading over to India to write about Hay Festival Kerala, but prior to that I have tacked on an extra week’s writing retreat on the South Indian coast, and I can’t wait to get out there! Usually I like adventurous exploration when I travel, but for the first week of this trip I am aiming to get some much needed R&R and selfish, sun-soaked writing, sleeping and reading time.

 

What’s your editorial vision for your new literary magazine The Raconteur? What are you looking for in submissions?

I joined as Associate Editor a few months ago and the first issue in the new paperback format, America, is out any day now with launch parties in Swansea and Cardiff when I get home from India. Dylan, Gary and I look for new writing with passion, skill and wit from both established and emerging writers. Our next issue will be themed Beauty and will launch in May 2012. We are accepting submissions now, but do visit our guidelines before briefly pitching considered ideas.

 

What have you been reading?

I’ve been stockpiling books of late. I have a stack of novels that I’m working my way through – I just finished Remainder by Tom McCarthy – but I’ve mainly been reading a lot of short and flash fiction including Lorrie Moore’s Collected Stories, Andrew Kaufman’s The Tiny Wife, and Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect. I have an ever-increasing pile of review books glaring at me, neglected, but in India I shall also be taking my Kindle (Murakami’s IQ84 is on there, and so is Ali Smith’s There But For The which I pre-ordered ages ago but then got side-tracked from). I’ve also got a soft spot for Nasty Little Press poetry pamphlets.

 

What inspires you?

 

Life, dreams, creative and intelligent others, watery locations, adventures, hangovers and pillow talk.

 

 

The Hay Festival in Kerala: http://www.hayfestival.com/kerala/en-index.aspx?skinid=20&currencysetting=GBP&localesetting=en-GB&resetfilters=true

To submit to The Raconteur, visit:  www.theraconteur.info