I didn’t enjoy my lunch today
by Stephen O’Toole
I remember when exhaustion used to be good for me. Like once, when I was tired of being an orphan, and the Fagin wouldn’t stop with all his ad-libbed oy-oy-oys, I ran out of rehearsals into a room full of drums, got down behind a gong and started sobbing. The man, a Mr Burke, who taught us typing, came in to assure me breezily that I’d broken both my legs. In his hands, he made his script a megaphone, just barely kept himself from calling Cut. Typing, even the eyes-ahead and muscle memory sort that he instilled in us, had never made him feel worthwhile the way The Theatre had. There is neither life nor love in a standard letter and let’s face it: it’s not like nine to five you’ll take dictation for some Cyrano. Most likely, it’ll only be a telecoms circular or a note about disruptions to the water supply—and this is what the those that can do have to hope for, so, you know, ouch.
He was in no position to negotiate, is what I’m saying. Without an even number of orphans, his world would have no meaning. In the morning, he’d be back to merging cells in Excel, for a class of half a dozen half-asleep fourteen year olds, on whom the heavy irony of ‘cells’ would not be lost, but also, you know, not fully understood. At least—dramatic pause—not yet (cue screeching Psycho strings, etc.) And it wasn’t as though he could just draw soot onto some other girl’s face. There were steps that he’d been drilling in me three times a week, and if it turned out that he could pass those on to someone new in two afternoons then, well, we’d all have something to feel embarrassed about.
So even if I wasn’t quite scheming as I sat there, with my knees pulled up against my chest and wet with tears, I was, at least, aware of this perfect storm of sadness growing between us, feeding off his misery and mine, and I thought that if I stayed still and waited, I could make myself like one of those barns you see that’s sucked, intact, up into a hurricane, and rides it, fucking surfs it, round and round with the cows and the trees and the men in their motorcycle sidecars, before just drifting down again smoothly, not back where it had started though, but somewhere more useful—like, beside a little river or else a gold mine.
I heard the megaphone crumple. He said, We’ve all been working very hard, and you, especially, well I know it can’t have been easy—what with all those different balls you’re juggling, and he paused, he choked, aware, I guess, that opening up discussion to which specific balls I had airborne was one he didn’t need or want to have. He backed towards the door and used the megaphone to speak. Young lady, he said, I mean it now, and this is the voice of God speaking: I want you out of my sight and home resting.
Years later, I’m lying to a date. I’ve told him that I’ve never had a truly perfect day. At least—dramatic pause—not yet (cue screeching Psycho strings, etc.) But the truth that I’m ashamed to say is that my only perfect day was the one after I’d earned a reprieve from orphanhood. My days now are half an attempt at forgetting yesterday’s stresses and half an attempt at steeling myself for tomorrow’s. But that day was nothing, just a blank—and not an anxious one. All I was alert to was a sense of convalescence, of being better. A white sheet feeling with a clean laundry smell. But I bet my date would roll his eyes if I told him this. He’d think that I was being too Plath-y. And so what? Is it any less shameful to say I spent the day in bed, eating bags of Quavers and watching Sister Sister repeats? Because if I really thought about it, that’s probably what I did.
The moral of all conversations is this—between the sudden choice of two clichés, choose neither. Say that it’s been good to see you, go home, and sleep alone.
July 12 2014
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by Chris Holdaway
Waking to standing waves & clouds heaped
In Latin. The mechanical course of Summer singing over time. We live
On the harmonics of schooling fish & finely timed tremors
Under heaven of scales. No one can decide
If the ocean of intercession is greenness or grey; military
Dancing complexes, to drums produced to sound
Like small planets— and the loneliness encysts.
Real by missing, taller than the freezing point
Of air, so large it would seem impossible to ever be sharp. Today
Squeeze the moon into a blue bathing suit to see
How long before it pops like a cork. A grain of
Sand in the winds of orbit passes
Through a body never noticing… .particle
Scattered like surprised deer
That thinking like people from armchairs
Catch on themselves in a tapestry scene—where the sky is woven
Black and snow lines the mountains in red. False sun
Dogs shadow neighbours with little difference
The dead chick & fallen fruit beneath the tree … It invites
Comparing buckled footpaths and then sewn fields coming apart—
Echoes of weakness when sound has no time
Who hears its leaking into the eversphere. There is no simpler way
To feel alien than by walking
Wrong carwheel side of feet dragged under pockets.
There are copycat children laundering in cemeteries
And there’s no telling what’s more morbid:
—the romance or coke. I have grown
Invented; cut like a finger. I’ve watched grey matter build
The pyramids on crowns of my friends, and just once my nose
Bleeds from heaving at a freshcracked can too intently.
My bloodstream turned out
Through nostrils, like a map laid out in its entirety. Air in
The warmth that would have been lethal
On its own —and on top of all this
Death is only death.
It’s news, that sages are only found
In danger zones, where they are tortured on the shores
Of 40-watt suns. Their bruisemould becomes a tapeskin
Record, describing scents as flavours; elder wine & lotus
Flower port. The tiny
Cracks in behaviour; the tiny spirals in belief;
Tiny curves of artwork. Energy conserves
Energy—so well, she dies and we feel
Bulldozed into clearing the mood with
A wall across her ears and prison of the room next.
Otherside of the same aggregate of light she is filling in
Mortar between bricks, exhaustively flush, experiencing each
Transformation of anything. Things happen fast—shadow
Play flowing as she’s thrown from a cliff over
The meathooks of vertical crawling trees that take her
Ribs in their crooks until …
My love you are soft and dust like an apple
I regret picking up; cold lock of hair dried up the other side
Of rot. Where trespassers forget
The point of their tongue,—can’t place it
Behind gated teeth or on flesh ridge. The sense of every moment
Emptying forever; when the common sleep of this world could not stop
You living forever.
June 27 2014
by Richard Wehrenberg
I say a main difference between us is your belief in god
You have mentioned 3 or 4 times to your friends that i was raised atheist
You show me memes from the internet using your tablet
You say your mom after i say something
You help me clean up my dog’s vomit
I say how was your day and mean it
You say something about a rehearsal going well
I say good and sweet
You wake me up because you missed the bus and need a ride
The whole ride i feel the car could fly into the air at any moment
Which of course feels really sweet
I am basically asleep
I want to feel basically asleep most of the time is a thought i have during that car ride
I am driving you to school
You are an opera singer
I feel like your dad briefly
You ask me to go to the opera with you this saturday night
I say i wait tables on saturday nights
You say well shit
We both don’t flush our pee which is a punk house custom
I am peeing on top of your pee
For some reason that makes me feel close to you
You say please be careful every time i leave the house
You say young lady when seriously addressing your dog
You call my dog biggun because he is a large dog
Each time you say it i picture my dog as an oversized gun
Which of course feels really sweet
June 25 2014
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by Thom Robinson
When he moved down to London, he told people about the North. “The thing about the North…,” he said. He talked about the nightclub that he went to as a teenager. He hinted that his town had a history of football violence. When Thatcher died, he said that it was good. His sister moved to Manchester to do a fashion course. “I’ve been thinking that I could live in the North again,” he said. “So much cheaper too.” He paid a thousand pounds a month for a one room flat. “Yeah, Billy Liar’s an amazing film,” he said. He talked to Southerners about Factory Records as he did another line. “If you like those bands, you should listen to The Chameleons,” he said. “So Northern. You can hear the sound of rain.” He thought about his childhood and afternoons out in provincial market towns. He thought about being a teenager and hanging around the Spar. Now he stayed inside in his Dalston flat. “What do you call it?” he said. “A breadcake or a bun?” He’d sing half-remembered chants from the homeground when drunk. “Let’s go to London Fields for a kickabout,” he said. He had a role as an extra in This Is England ’88. He texted his mum when a song by his band was used in the background of an advert for E4. He Instagrammed a picture where he had his arm round Johnny Marr. He Instagrammed a picture of John Cooper Clarke. He Instagrammed a picture of his mate with Mark E. Smith’s mum. “I’d love to go back,” he said. “So much cheaper too.” He went back for Christmas and he Instagrammed pictures of boarded-up shops. “The thing about the North,” he said, on New Year’s Eve, as he lay in bed in a French girl’s flat that was paid for by her dad. “The thing about the North is this.”
June 13 2014
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by Richard Wehrenberg
Work Poem 1
At work currently selling vegan baked goods to ppl
drinking coffee and very berry juice emailing you
There is a young punk looking person who is surreptitiously / what
i perceived as abashedly reading foucault i think like hunched over
discipline and punish like doesn’t want ppl to know for some reason
Right next to him is an extremely wide eyed person
speaking w/ what seems like intensity and passion
to another person whose face i can’t see
Another person in the room is my friend gary, who also works here
but is just a customer right now who comes up to talk to me
occasionally he is british i like him a lot he just read me
a nonfiction thing he is working on about learning to make
pasties / growing up in a small town in England
One other person in the room is this lady who once was pissed
when we didn’t have ‘her’ cookies in stock one day
like she said ‘aw no I’m gonna be really sad, you don’t have MY cookies’
and i fended off annoyance in my brain w/ what seemed like a cavalry
of anti-annoyance horses, am good / have full access to that cavalry
at any/all times mostly i feel
It is my roommates birthday / I couldn’t get off work
so i won’t be able to come to columbus today/tmrw
Sometimes i realized i don’t think of a moment as real
and then i like forget it or am remembering just what I am doing
in my brain like the moment (ie the ppl/objects around me) doesn’t exist
just my brain activity maybe or something else I am not conscious of
is being carried forthwith w/o consulting me
Rlly like the title ‘humiliate cops’ for a poem and those poems in general
think i have a ‘soft spot’ for poems that are written w/o much editing
feel like poems are always supposed to be at least
societally/institutionally ‘polished’ and all that
(for good reason most of the time) but i like these
literally feels like u wrote them at work which you did lol
Work Poem 2
farted on accident while standing up on the bus today
since i am tall my butt is like really close to the sitting down people’s faces
so i low key farted on this person’s face
it made me feel really bad
like partially for farting on her face
and partially because like i couldn’t control myself
felt like i had no choice but to fart on her face
felt very sad for brief periods of time over the past few days
usually will last anywhere from 10 min - 3 hours
think because i feel angry @ things & then feel confused by what to do
confused by what to do & then not doing anything
it will be a small thing like this morning i pressed snooze on my alarm a lot and then had to rush to get to the bus stop
& felt angry w myself for pressing snooze
or like, have been planning a goners tour for may
& then all day at work kept imagining tour & imagining myself being a ‘touring musician’
& that seemed really frustrating to me
but angry is only part of it
there are like 1000 parts probably
seems like you are really good at handling things & multi tasking
how DO U DO IT
feel interested in reading you elaborate on this ‘Volunteering at bookstore currently, feel bipolar ie having very depressing thoughts then within close if not immediate proximity very exciting thoughts, cant seem to stay in one mental state, feels insane, bipolarity runs in my family and i think it occurs in me in spurts / fits like this’
June 6 2014
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by David Rule
Jenny, I really admire your superb new crank body.
It’s so open textured.
I like its course grain,
and warp resistance.
A year ago I was sure I wouldn’t be a lion, but yesterday I told Jack I was a lion and crawled around and he climbed on my back and seemed to believe me.
There was a moment yesterday, on the train, where everyone showed me pieces of pencil lead stuck beneath their skin, like: you don’t have pieces of pencil lead stuck beneath your skin? Ruben had his in his stomach. I think the boy next to be was asleep. His mother had cheese rolls and plain white pasta in boxes and his sister waited until the last minute to ask for the bathroom.
May 16 2014
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by Sharnayla Page
spread eagle, face down on the highway
a grey suicidal fella, the tail that dragged for miles
murder flew over and a black feather floats down beside him
Roaring Eldorado eases off the gas and changes lanes.
May 9 2014
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I Named Her Naturally Because I Love Castles
by Dan Hogan
I still don’t think there is anything like the sound of windchimes stirred by dad’s head. He’d be in the kitchen, where the windchimes were hanging, I mean are still hanging, you know what I mean, they’re still there even now, mum’d found all types with bent spoons, shiny metal cylinders, ceramic fish and these miniature teapots I swear only Snugglepot or Cuddlepie could use if they wanted tea, she loved that stuff when she was alive and I reckon she probably loves it wherever’s she’s gone, and he’d be knocking around in the cutlery drawer looking for a bottle opener at five ay em or whatever ‘cause the bloke can’t sleep for all the alcohol he needs so he’s always drinking. When I was fifteen or sixteen or wait I think I was actually twenty one because I remember asking him to leave some dosh for a bit of petty if he had any. I walked into the kitchen for some water and the bloke’s in there out cold on the lino with the mongrel snuggled up beside him. Castle was our dog then and I reckon Castle is a pretty good name for a blue cattle. I named her naturally because I love castles. And really that’s something there’s not enough of in Australia. Castles hey. I mean I don’t really know any except for the fella who tried to build one for his missus over in Budge because he loved her heaps and that. She died doing child birth and so did their daughter. Heaps sad hey. He stopped building the castle and went out on the lake in his dinghy one night. They reckon hypothermia got him but I don’t reckon it was the freezing cold. What’s made of the castle is still there but. We used to always be down there as kids having rock wars. I thought I was being smart once and wore goggles, bloody hell man, copped a fair rock to the right goggle and my eye actually went instantly black. But it was all good fun then because I was heaps into castles. I still really dig them but there’s just none around. If this government built more castles and that there would be more tourism. They could actually make so much money. The money’s in the moat, as they say. You only have to look at England to see how castles make heaps of dosh. Castle was a beautiful mongrel. True blue through and through as they say. I don’t get what true blue really means but she was blue cattle plus she loved dad heaps and I reckon he let her sleep inside when nobody was home. I was working in this big dumb warehouse place one day, dumbest job it was, you know where Chittaway is, out there near the roundabout, dad walks in one day with Castle on a lead. It was the weirdest thing hey, he never walked that dog or came to my work or like even parent teacher interviews or anything. The bloke walks straight up to me and goes “Castle’s come to say Hello,” we both stood there for ages not even saying a single word, Castle was loving it, wagging her tail and tongue hanging out and all that. Next thing the bloke pipe’s up with “Castle’s got cancer.” I never heard of a dog getting cancer before hey. Things were way different after Castle was gone. At least five times a day dad would say “It’s just you, me and the dead dog.” The bloke would be talking to me but sometimes he’d say it under his breath when flicking through the TV guide. That’s about the time dad started spending all his time in the back shed. Little thing it was with no electricity. The bloke was really down. For a while it felt like I was living on me own. Dad’d started saying “As good as a dead dog in Spring” whenever something was a bit shit. Like when he’d bash his head on the windchimes in the kitchen or burn his toast or realise there was no milk in the morning he’d go “Good as a dead dog in Spring” and then do like a sigh and a grunt. I think it was Spring the following year actually, dad comes inside from the back shed one afternoon with this deadset shit-eating grin on his face and goes straight for the fridge. Besides the dumb look on the bloke’s face I didn’t really pay much attention to him and figured he was going in for a fresh tinnie.
May 2 2014
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by Victoria Manifold
This wig is itching my head. I reach under and scratch, trying not to disturb the hair too much.
This bloody thing. This bloody awful itchy thing. Got to keep it on though or else they’ll recognise me. The ducks. Those fucking bastard ducks.
You really don’t know what it’s like do you?
People say to me, Andrew they say, you’re not interesting enough to be watched. You are the watcher, spying on people and peeking through windows. But then I say if that’s true then why are they always there. I mean maybe you can’t see them, I don’t even see them most of the time. But. They. Are. Always. There.
I’ve tried all the ways. Everything I can do to get rid of them, lose them, shake them off. But still when I turn the corner there they are. So you want to know my secrets? A bunch of duck brains filled with my secrets. My secrets passing as electricity through their nerves and synapses. MY secrets. Ugly little grey cells clumped together in their tiny heads. The sinew of their optic nerves connected to those soulless staring eyes that look straight at me.
I could hold those brains and crush them in one hand. If it were down to me I would murder every sack of shit duck in the world. I would never get close enough though. I feel I know what their eyes taste like and I can imagine the smooth shiny balls of sight sliding on my tongue.
They want to know everything about me and they find out by watching.
The wig is helping. Less of them seem to recognise me now. But still I feel their eyes on me.
I feel their eyes on me when I’m in the shower or when I’m using the toilet. I haven’t been able to shit or wash my dick properly for weeks. I go to the supermarket every day and every day they look at me there.
I try to think of other things but their looks always interrupt any thoughts I have and then all there is to do is seek out John-Paul.
Oh god, John-Paul is a handsome young man. I try not to look at him though because then the ducks will see me looking and then what? Then what?
But what I really want to know is why? Why can I smell their feathers and hear their upper beaks snapping against their lower beaks? It just makes me so fucking SICK.
God, Jesus Christ, if they catch me looking at John-Paul what will they do? I only come in this shitty little shop to see him anyway. He’s stacking the shelves and his hair is shining beautifully. And, oh boy, John-Paul, I can see your penis bulging in those tight jeans. How can you tease me like this John-Paul? I want you so badly. My dick is actually aching like a sprained limb. It’s got a throb and heartbeat of its own now John-Paul. I’ve got to get this under control. If the ducks feel the drumming of my dick beat there will be trouble.
If he would love me then maybe they would stop. I saw him kissing a girl once. I watched them through a gap in the stacks of tinned food. I knew his mouth tasted of cigarettes and peppermint chewing gum.
If I think about it hard enough I can taste his mouth in my own mouth. I can feel his tongue, hot quick lump of flesh, punching against the insides of my cheeks. Saliva fills mouth. I lick my lips in anticipation and then I hear it, it’s faint but it’s definite. A soft quack.
YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!
They’ve ruined it. I can’t imagine kissing him now. All I can picture now are the ducks in a line. The ducks and their eyes. Their shiny black eyes.
That fat slob is on the checkout. Her skin looks like uncooked dough. Why’s she sniffing her fingers? Has she been masturbating? Urgh, she makes me feel hot vomit bubbling in my stomach. Why don’t they make her do the stacking and put John-Paul here? Then maybe I could touch his hand when I handed over the money for this soup.
I eat some fish in the supermarket café and it leaves a metallic taste in my mouth. I hang about next to the frozen peas and I put my cold hands into my cold pockets. All the time they watch me and I can’t take my eyes off John-Paul.
So I’m watching John-Paul but the ducks are watching me. Always watching me.
April 25 2014
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