cover photography by Andrea ‘Andy’ Walters-Rompelle
letter to myself
This is the last letter I’m sending you. I see you still haven’t gotten along with your projected life. You know soon you’ll be too far behind everybody else if you just continue to sit there and brood. Why are you so hung up? Can’t you see that nobody cared about what you did? It’s mostly all forgotten about anyway, nobody wrote it down! All that time you spent wondering how to live could have been spent living! Anyway, enough lecturing, I’ve got a plan for you. It goes like this:
You pick a tropical area. You think long and hard about what it might be like to visit that area and you write a book about it. You write poems about what it would be like to think about writing a book in this magical tropical area that you are studying. As long as there’s coherency, it’ll sell. I doesn’t even matter how much currency there is in it, according to your friends back home, any is enough, it’ll sell. People just want their minds taken over for a while. They think it’s funny when things are going normal, then they aren’t, then they all of a sudden are again. They look for meaning in it. Don’t be deceiving, though. Try to do good while you’re at it. Maybe you’ll be rewarded. Maybe you’ll never get noticed until you’re dead and you’ll be all the greater for it. Of course, you’ll need to do something for money, but isn’t that what your guitar is for? I mean not to sell, but to play to the drunks while they throw money at you? You’re not so bad off on your own, you know.
Well, that’s just an idea for you, I wish I could do more. Remember, if you want to be remembered, you have to do something accessible to people after you’re gone. Like, oh, I don’t know, capturing. You have to be a capturer, so people can see what you’ve captured. Remeber, the more magnificent the specimen you capture, the more magnificent you’ll become. Just ask your friend Andy. He’ll tell you that fuckin’ Einstein never did nothing that wasn’t already doing. Well, here comes the sun and I say goodbye to you now. The kids are hungry and I’ve got laundry in the machines downstairs. Say hello to everyone, and keep yourself!
carry me away
Carry me away
Carry me today
They’ll bury me tomorrow
Carry me away
Lay my head upon your heaven
Let me sleep upon your lap
I’ll close my eyes and smell you
Let me sleep upon your lap
Carry me away
Carry me today
They’ll bury me tomorrow
Carry me away
I’ll study your photo album
You’ll test me at the end
We’ll grade my answers together
I’ll study your photo album
The palette sits half full and wasted,
the colors blurred and descending. A
dark mass moves down the stairwell, slowly
bumbling, somehow evenly. The sky is not
cloudless, my eyesight is weak, the fly can’t sit still
on the flower upon the table. My swirling tongue
on the fingernail piece between my teeth
contributes too much to the rattling
table. She needs a bandaid from
the torn fingernail she got when
opening a bottle of paint.
Sweet or Deceiving?
Sleeping quietly, peacefully
The eyes closed, hair strewn in a mess
Lips curled, pressed tightly together
A rested cheek shining with a glow
A young heart waits for some sign of life
wooden people holding their breath in silence
waiting for the moment the right time to speak
but the time never comes, they remain in small
apartments and shabby homes together yet not
waiting unbreathing shuffling slowly in dull
circles around the issues the biting words over-
heard in the shower the sobbing in the dark in
the silence the silence the silence
the way they don’t fit together anymore, don’t
touch: he wears his body jealously, she wears
her own body the same; inertia keeps them from
reaching for each other, from wearing both bodies
at once in that second that is love: they never learn
to stop walking in those rutted wooded floors the tell-
ing of lies piles up like filthy socks but mostly it’s
the silence the silence the silence
they never stop pouring quiet, too broken to learn
wooden people never learn, never learn to speak
“I’ve wanted to come back, baby, the world
keeps me away!”
a cigarette on the porch,
orneriness, late time
“do you want me to do something?”
“moo, moo, moo, moo, moo!”
a chocolte face slaps my arm,
I swallow my throat,
the movie guy’s band makes me
want to cry
I went to work this morning but it got cancelled due to the rain
“show me what you did at school”
an empty lunchbox
such a soft butt
she hides her artwork
I wear suspenders and a belt
she’s a whiner
I’m a wino
my name is Emilio
Hungry and dreary-eyed Emilio walks downtown. He cries to himself when nobody’s around. He’s glad that he doesn’t have to work. His pet farm jerks in the dough like a glass elevator. Anytime he needs cash he just opens up his wallet. The reason he cries to himself when no one can see is that he feels see-through. He knows very well that in less than a few hundred years he’ll be dead and buried six or so feet into the ground just there, and he doesn’t know what to do about that. He feels even worse when he realizes that some people might be dead in less than a few hundred years but they’ve done certain acts that will prevent their memory from fading, maybe even for ever. He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a smoking stick. ‘If only I could write down all my activities then certainly something worthwhile would come from it,’ he thinks to himself along the bridge. But then he thinks about how impossible it would be for anybody to read all this stuff he wrote, surely they don’t have time to fit two lives in one, and anyway, why would they want to? So he just doesn’t, and gets steamy-eyed at Lake St.
Emilio is a carpenter for the moment. Heels don’t wait for him. Emilio plays the guitar in his down times. He dreams of someday playing it in his up time, when everybody’s listening, but he can never figure out what to play. Time’s running him over like a monster truck and he can feel it in his empty stomach.
Emilio once almost asked a gal to marry him – Lucy – in the morning after they had drank from the special tree. He might’ve been still drunk, in love, or feeling guilty. Lucky for him, he thinks today, he kept his mouth shut. Still he visits Lucy but the flames are so small and cold it’s just for escapism he retreats. Lucy thinks she needs him, but what she really needs is a garden and to stop smoking. The doctors gave her three weeks to live so she took them and ran. She spent all her money on plane tickets to Lyons and drove to Memphis. She crossed a downtown bridge the same time Emilio was reading Ajay Ayers’s pamphlet on how to talk. He needed a dictionary, she needed an umbrella, and he needed something new to do with his time.
Two hundred years from now, nobody knows what happened to any of them. All that’s left to give some sort of explanation is bunch of cockle shells in the distance. Sundowns still sparkle. Veins stick out on foreheads and in necks. Men work, build and destroy. A story would stick around, possibly forever. Every story ever told is about exactly the same thing. Emilio feels like getting a bottle of wine and taking a bath, but he’s too lazy. He just sits and thinks of how miserable life is, and how to escape it. He comes up with nothing but an empty stomach.
an extremely rude girl but terribly wise Kate Lunski
Watched the street walkers with evil black eyes
Each pair of shoes striding quickly to their home
Not taking caution or care each step that they make
Clicking and tapping with hands at their sides
Proceeding through the eye of the sun
Each man and child and woman and worker
Walked under the clouds and the blue lit sky
Each giver and taker and fighter and player
Was observed with wonder and longing
While the decorated city celebrated a new holiday
With bells and chimes and smells and wines
And the silent eyes stared out of the window
Longing and planning escape from isolation
Carl checked in with his parents about once a week. They never said much but it always left Carl feeling sort of guilty. Things had been going pretty smooth since his engagement.
“Hey Dad, how’s it going?” Carl said into the telephone.
“Mm, not bad, just buying a candy bar at the truck stop in Bismarck, on my way home from some meetings. What’s new with you?” said his dad.
“Oh not much, I was just calling to request a wedding gift.” Carl liked to try to keep the mood in conversation light and joking with his father, though it never really worked. “I know that you and Mom were planning on getting us something nice.”
“Yeah, what’s that?” His father sensed the pathetic tint of serious hope in Carl’s voice, and knew he wanted something farfetched and expensive, something perhaps Carl would buy on a whim, had he the money, only to let the item lay under dust in the attic, or float around down in the basement. He was always proclaiming these wild ideas on what he was going to do with his life; move to Colorado and go to trucking school, or get a superhero logo carved into the back of his hair and sell it as advertising, or sell real estate he bought at auctions.
His father looked out the truck stop windows holding his candy bar, a Good & Nutty, seeing the trees with no leaves and feeling the skin on his face sag from the bones, just hanging there, and his feet not moving, and his hair growing, and he saw his long coat, his long brown coat hanging there, just as he himself hung there, waiting for Carl to embarrassingly sheep out his newest idea and how his father could help him put it into action.
“I found on the Internet,” Carl began, feeling the neatness of the seam of his jeans, “a set of His & Hers violins, Heinrich Roth, from Germany, only $3000, they are the best ones I could find, they have a sound that grows more beautiful, every moment, with time.”
“Oh,” his father said, “that sounds interesting. Where do I find those?” And he meant it.
“Okay, I’ll have to look at that when I get home. What else you been doing?”
“Oh, not much,” said Carl, “I had a job interview this morning at the public library.”
“What position’s that for?” his father asked.
“Uh, I’m not really sure, something at the circulation desk, some supervision involved.”
“What’s the pay?”
“Well, it’s only for fourteen hours a week, and it’ll give me an extra about $100 a week.”
“Extra to what?”
“Extra to what I’m making off my paintings.” Carl painted landscape portraits, old farmhouses, windmills, sunsets, sometimes some wildlife. He then scanned the paintings into his computer and printed them out into postcards.
“So what are you bringing in a month?” his father asked.
“Well, as soon as I seal the deal with Gas & Stuff I should be bringing in about a thousand a month.”
“That’s it? That’s not pauper’s wages. Gas & Stuff? They’re better known as Porno & Stuff! You’ve got to do something with your life. Don’t you think your wife is gonna deserve somthing better than that?”
Carl hated it when his father talked about money, which was bound to come up in every single conversation they ever had, ever.
“I don’t know,” said Carl, and he looked to the sky, past the treetops, past the birds and the clouds, he didn’t hear any airplanes or see any big balloons, he just looked up into that wide gaping sky, filled with what, he didn’t know, he didn’t know what he was looking for, he just looked, up, up, into something, for something, somewhere, someway, someday somebody, and he hung up.
He wouldn’t be able to stand to speak another word for the rest of the week, and it was only Sunday.
A box lay open
Crashed upon the cold ground
The mouse left his cage
I guess I’d rather be Michelle Memory-Of-A-Star
dumb in love than
You fly in from San Francicso and
book a room at my motel. We
rent a car and cruise to Canada. We
swap spit. You tell me
all about photography college
and how you quit for some-
thing meatier, and we
twist a doobie in silent
We decide not to
and go to the arboretum
for fun and I tell you
I love you.
You don’t know what to say,
so you just hug my arms and
rub my shoulders and
you won’t say
I don’t believe you, but
let it go because
what happens when one
takes the paint
off a wagon.
song to myself
I received your letter telling me I ought not try
If I’d’ve listened to all the people like you I’d’ve already laid down and
You say my aspirations are misdirected out of place
Look at yourself in the mirror, friend, and say it to your face
Not too many things get done when a man’s afraid to try
Ask me why you’re not famous yet and I will tell you why
Did you assume you had all the answers and could explain all of history’s
skies? Did you think it’s all been done before and forget that we’re alive?
Of all the learned people that could have a point of view
I never thought I’d hear those words coming out of you
I took a walk through Dante’s inferno
well, actually, I didn’t yet… but my own…
and I almost believed you for a minute,
but it felt too hopeless and cold
So I listened to myself again
and things got better
for the moment
You remind me of a famous writer who said he believed all men should
write their thoughts, just not that all of them should go around being
And I thought to myself that he was one of them that should’ve maybe
kept it to himself, but ended it all by thinking, ‘what the hell, we’re all part
of some god’s republic’
I mean, everybody I know has sometimes dropped something metal on the
floor, and alot of times that sounds better than a nice voice talking
and it’s most interesting to see how the guy picks it up, and whether he
goes on walking
And I guess I’d like to be aware of that guy, you know, rather than him
being invisible, no matter how much somebody’s gonna complain
We all know a man is only ever talking to himself, he’s the only one who’s
gotta survive his games
So if you ever hear my voice coming off a billboard or Texas gas station
radio, don’t let the wind knock you over, just stand there and wonder
which way to go
I used to be a fish market catch-and-wrap, work my life away, every day,
minimum pay, no respect, etc., but somehow I kept on going, under the
strain, it was so beautiful, somehow things always seemed to get done, no
matter how long it seemed during the times we were actually doing it
and I’d tell myself if only I could spend that kind of time under pressure
fighting for the ones I love, man that would sure be something fine
so I started staying up late, doing my homework, the kind that might break
me outta this town someday, and I felt around for a way to make a buck
I knew that wasn’t what I really needed but if I kept it in mind I might have
some better luck
I studied the masters and heard what they had to say and it always came
back to me everytime the same
You do what you can with what you’ve got as your man and pray you
come out okay
Tonight is such a long night and I’ve been trying all week just to stay up for
seems like my body is always wanting to retire right after the sun
but I know if I want them to grow I gotta take water from the growing tide
so hold on babe, it’s gonna be an awful wet ride?
O well, you see me, you know me, baby, I ain’t got nothing to hide
no matter how scandalous any of them old sins may appear
I don’t care what anyone thinks, I don’t even care what my mom would
I always love her, but she ain’t the judge of me
Raise me up on your shoulders, write my name in a book
you could beat me up in jail but there’s still something you cannot touch
all the rest is yours, you can ask me or just take it
I never really cared for it too much
It’s getting to be what we’d call an early evening, I’m fighting off the
morning with every bit of strength I’ve got
It’s never been enough even when it’s been alot
But I tell you the most exciting ones are the times I try
so let me just decide if I should lay down on that bed or not
I get pretty thirsty, but the last stuff I drunk made me dry
and I’m too afraid for the moment to think to move
So look me into the eyes now, honey, babe, don’t wish me to look away
I need something steady to show me some kind of proof
I’ve always been afraid to be away from a woman, even though that’s often
it’s just that it’s an empty waste of time that puts me out of place
so if you can only try to believe in me for this one lonesome night,
I promise to stay awake with you as long as it takes
we’ll get outta this Texas gas station town and find ourselves some
we’ll hunker down on a pile of hay and live our lives away
when it all comes true…
Goodnight Dream Tight
It took off on a red flight
Oh my, what a night
Stars shone so very bright
I wondered what you did, Emilio
Rumple Tin Skin
I was too hungry for miserable as I entered bells ringing shaking the rain off my trenchcoat folding up umbrella, look to man at the bar and ask for a club sandwich without the turkey on white. and two cups of coffe, I’ll need them, one cooler. Sat down and spun the guy a nickel, took a sip of soup and read the headlines but didn’t register at the head desk. Long solid Scarlet Samantha in sunglasses and scarf sitting on cake display says, “Would like to try some pie?” and me not into much replies, “Sorry, I don’t eat meat.” She, angered, leaves in a huff smacking her fist down to rattle the silverware and everybody turns to look. You look tired and shrug at them and light up a smoke. You finished leaving turn seeing Scarlet Samantha bent over jukebox playing ‘Once An Angel’ receiving Tex. “Don’t mess with Texans” you once told me. Back down the street now it’s stopped raining, just puddles and you turn into the ancient bookstore hanging by a thread you make life decisions for several hours in thick thought. Several dollars later you returning home with a headache and several used books.
Among The Civilized People
The child snickers as a hyena
The mother giggles as a clown
I walk amidst the crowd
With my head propped high to show my face
I am not proud but I accept my differences
Heads turn, eyes shift, mouths chatter
I hear the nasty words, the troubling sounds
I do not fumble I pay no regards
My face shows my confidence
I do not explain my differences
They want a scene they want a commotion
They want to prove to me that I stand out
But I know
Blues, Jazz and Saxophones
The exhausted musicians’ faces shine bright
Like the white stars that twinkle in the night
Out of breath they concentrate on the beat
Their sweet music belongs to the ears it will meet
The bartender listens with thoughtless content
The players lean with heads forward bent
They express life through their instruments
Listen to them go listen to them vent
Destiny and The Morning After
Missy lived in number sixteen. She liked country music and hot dogs. In order for her to go to the bathroom, she had to walk out of her apartment and down the hall. There were three stalls, shared by all twenty-four male and female tenants of the building. She had lived there for nearly three years and was comfortable going to the bathroom in her pajamas.
The sun was high in the morning sky and its rays shot hard through the bedroom window. Peter blinked his freckled eyes and sat up in bed. He had been dreaming of something buttery, but his mind quickly remembered the last night, the wild dancing and all of the drinks. Peter decided he felt strong this morning and that the party had been a blast.
He remembered a girl, Missy, who had kissed him. She had leaned into him too hard, pushing him backwards into the pool. Peter remembered the feel of splashing into the cool water. He couldn’t remember how long he had stayed under the water, or what happened to his shirt and pants. He was home, in his underwear.
He made a pot of coffee, wiped up a small puddle on the counter, and stuffed the rag into the dirty-clothes hamper.
Thinking of the girl gave him an infection. He remembered her soft hair and crooked smile. She had told him her address, but he had forgotten it. He knew it was someplace downtown above a coffeehouse. There were three coffeehouses downtown.
Peter drank his coffee and checked his cupboards for breakfast. They were mostly empty except for a few jars of dried fruits and some peanut butter. He would have to go to a restaurant. He decided to take a shut-down head rest. Then he would wander the city streets in his car until he found a lunch that would satisfy his hunger.
Peter lit a cigarette and drove downtown. His radio was playing a violin sonata. He saw a horse being whipped by the stage driver. He saw two men drilling a hole into the sidewalk with a manual auger. He drove slowly and kept his eyes peeled for a place to eat.
The City Cowboy Coffee Club was dark. Peter had hoped to have a sandwich. He looked to the windows above the storefront. They were all dark. He entered the building and climbed the narrow flight of stairs leading up to the apartments.
Peter put his ear against several of the doors, listening for the voice of a young female. He heard somebody walking across the room behind one of the doors. It sounded like a man’s walk. It was heavy. The floor creaked with the thuds. He became afraid at the idea of someone opening their apartment door to find him leaning his ear against it. He decided he was a fool for snooping around the building like that, and quickly ran down the steps, out into the street.
Peter spun his tires and drove away just as Missy was pulling up her plants from the old wooden beer barrel she kept spun around the width of the middlestall toilet.
Warm Place To Hide
She hit a dead end
The road stopped with a bend
A house was there to mend
consciousness of the act
Charlie got mad at me today. It was after I came back from lunch. I was late, and he didn’t know where I had been. I found out later, be it joke or no, thoughts were envisioned on an image complex consisting of myself and an Indian in a brothel. He tried to ignore me, scolding, authoritiless and frustrated, to walk away, to hide his face behind his back. Some other men saw it.
We were silent as I helped him with his work, he was uncomfortable, I knew he didn’t want me. I stayed. We got to talking, and the mood lightened up. Soon it was time for everyone to take a break, and he joined me for coffee and cigarettes over the radio in my sedan. Another listened in on us. I was forced to forego my usual hashish, as this was the same Charlie who had told on me and Indian not a month ago for overbearing odours.
He saw the mandala hanging from the mirror, and the flower on the dash, but all he spoke about was cars.
The guy who was mingling in said later that he was going to kill his wife. He said she bruised easily, and i couldn’t stop thinking about the story of not long ago how the woman was wreckless full of wildloose banshee, with a growing mysterious blackness on her leg originating from drunken sleepwalking and rusty basement nails.
I drove away before he finished explaining how to burn her without leaving a bruise.
I love the Saturday mornings
when nobody has a plan,
the only controversial thing is
how to hold your hands.
Painting, peanut butter toast,
cartoons, coffee, marijuana
with the radio playing
and the lamp on
and the moonlight
Summer’s almost gone,
the days grow cold and
the nights grow long,
turtlenecks and scarves,
tousled chest hair,
She’ll get the colors ready,
fill up her palette,
She spells her name backwards.
She spells it with a blur of red.
It has been raining for hours
It is getting cold here
I was thinking of you
I do this quite often
I miss you
You can’t hear it in my voice
You can’t see it in my eyes
You can’t feel it in my gestures
You can’t feel it in my body
I do care for you, though
I can not apologize for my behavior
I can not apologize for who I am
I am interested in you
I long for the time we will share together
I want to experience more of you
I know I push you a way
I know I am indifferent about us
I am complicated
I am confused
Don’t give up on this
Don’t give up on me
There is more I have to share with you
I’m alone now and what have I done?
The child in me, a little boy, ran on and played by himself.
Where was that epic first aloneness that had me so majestically enchanted
with the goddess of fertility that forever onward unto my death a moment
causes me to hunch myself over an unyielding mischief?
When I was young, I could look forward to bedtime knowing my still-
would lead me to that underground cavern where my lover and I
each other amongst our stockpiles of hidden shit. The moonlight, a
cat, pissing in the wind was ecstatic pleasure.
It’s raining, the radio, paintbrushes in the water jar, dried palette, no
The electric piano leans on its side against the television wall.
Torn jeans, a flannel shirt, today I’ll stay in Kansas.
No hunger, cold feet, a face with blemishes I don’t care to hide.
Where did my thoughts go all that time I was cleaning the dirt from out
Answer, they wondered, when will the time come for the sounding of the
trumpets? Where is
the flag to be
My fingers still smell like onions, those songs in the early days came so
easy. But now, I want to say something. I have nothing to say. I feel
unable to be heard. I am nonsense.
I sink low in my chair, tredging the lowland desolations of my being,
Absolute existuntialism seems two too many dynamic depths too much
It’s been tonight all morning and afternoon, the voice on the radio, female,
says I’m wasting my time.
The toy horse is not itself, but its shadow, noises in the hallway run away
with my thoughts.
At least, tremendously, with movement, the water jar rattles the idle paintbrushes inside.
thank you, landlord
You just woke up
from having to wrestle
for a piece of paper
in front of your brother
and his art.
He copies your files
in excess of their
You whispered to him
to keep it up
but don’t let it interfere
Your father was a
he still holds
in fine dining.
As you hollered
to the police
with your fists
on his cuffs
the telephone rang
and you were told
by your landlord
to go and move
before the street sweeper
showed up with his broom
to pick up the autumn leaves
that fell brown and soggy.
Things weren’t what you
pledge of allegiance
Please save me from
and his band
I ate too much skin off my fingers
and my hand is beginning to
To Become Independent
She loved to rely on them
She enjoyed the pleasure in getting her own way
She had been selfish
But when she realized they didn’t want to be her giver
And that they didn’t want her anymore
She was unsatisfied
And for a while she tried to recapture what she had
But they refused to let her do this
But she still loved them and they still loved her
Soon she found new meaning in life
She proposed to become who she had once been
The independent soul
She no longer cried herself to sleep
She found a world of contentment and happiness
note to self
Whatever you do, don’t let a little blood scare you.
You may consider yourself the kind of guy who would make a good king of the wolrd, but let’s not forget who possesses the golden touch. After all, nobody really cares about some hairy tart from an extremely clean man in a suit who sits and talks about numbers all day… what they really want is some action! And who are you to say that they can’t have it?
Really, the stitches are fine, it’s just that my tailor is really hard up lately, and he needs to charge double for a single. It’s nothing. Somebody’s honky stole my gutshot. I’ve been gunshy ever since my feet got crooked. Earwax drill me smoked up jars naked and starved biting nails and leather. Candy pink curved and bare pent up on booze and giddy up slap slap I love you. Meow shy cat time and effort spending others’ money but so pretty.
No one minds if you are better than them. Except the ones who have problems, then they’ll get you to be scared. When it’s really their fault for being so serious. That’s what Andy told me.