2 Poems

Volcanoes

My love for you is a severed head preserved in cryogenic storage, locked in an abandoned facility in the former Soviet Union.  My love for you will be accidentally thawed in the year 2066 by bioterrorists who purchased access codes to the secret cryogenic facility on the black market based on questionable intelligence leading them to believe the facility contained a super-virus capable of wiping out lactose intolerance but with possible side effects of oozing sores and retinal bleeding.  By the year 2066, I have become an itinerant typesetter and you are a stallion.  My love tracks you down, watches you run free through soft focus lenses, reports back to me in Iceland.  The only words I can make out through the haze of red tears are “mistake” and “volcanoes”.

 

Gaiden

I had never thought about ninjas but now I am writing a novel about ninjas.

Ninjas are the new zombies are the new vampires.

Ninjas are silent killing machines on the outside but have smoldering sensitive love lives buried within.

Ninjas are hella complex.

Ninjas just cannot stop diving head first into life, into curiosity and situations like people who are willing to misrepresent everything about themselves and lie shamelessly for forty dollars because of addiction.

Ninjas sneak up on you silently in the night while you are making love and place a glass of refreshing ice water on your bedside table.

Ninjas will never let you down.

Ninjas live in the deepest part of the ocean and/or the dark side of the moon.

Ninjas go microscopic and hitch a ride on cold sweat.

Ninjas position puppies strategically to maximize cute disarmament.

Ninjas jump from cliff to cliff, grow old and die.

Ninjas love other ninjas and leave them for samurai.

————————

Neal Kitterlin is a poet who lives in Matteson, Illinois with his wife and daughter. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, HOUSEFIRE, NAP, Red Lightbulbs and other places. Find him at infinitegestures.tumblr.com or on twitter @NealKitterlin.

FORGOTTEN AMERICAN HISTORY

Forgotten American History: Samuel P. Clemson

Mr. Clemson’s short lived political career took advantage of the incongruous and mismatched period of nascent communication technologies and undeveloped zoning regulations at the turn of the 20th century. He came into great wealth via a variety of patents and mysterious business ventures, most notably the stationary car, a product which sold very little but at exorbitant price. Always the prudent manager, he invested money in up-and-coming housing markets. Whether intentional or not, the result was that he (on paper at least) held residency in 44 states.

Friends didn’t remember him having any particular political leanings, but he ran for public office anyway, on almost every ticket simultaneously, something not yet illegal (or, rather, not yet conceivable, and therefore unnoticeable). His immense surplus of private funds allowed him to dispense information across still costly telegraph systems and reach a voting public of millions. He won in 27 states and went to Washington to fill as many seats. What proved his undoing, however, were his underlying ethics and sense of moral obligation to the country that helped him succeed.

Committed to a fair representation of his constituents, he soon became a noticeably conflicted man, displaying tics and skittishness. He took the House floor multiple times per session, often contradicting and arguing with his own proposals — passionately and vehemently. Though he struck the occasional bipartisan deal, he fought himself tooth and nail every step of the way.

In order to ensure that he could not halt the progress of his own legislation (regarding federal funding for municipal projects in rural PA), Mr. Clemson reluctantly hired a thug, or assassin, to take out his opponent, namely himself.  Being aware of the plot, however, he countered by hiring another to eliminate the puppet master behind it all, himself again. Understandably, he embarked on a period of recluse-like behavior, wearing and switching disguises multiple times a day, using aliases and staying in cheap hotels.

Within months of taking office, he stopped showing up on the floor all together, and even around town. A murder was never officially reported. Some historians believe that Clemson merely began to inhabit the numerous lives he’d constructed, begetting children and families here and there across his properties the nation over, fading into roles and clothes, children and love and lies, dinner and breakfast and tea. Some uphold this as an appropriate conclusion to Clemson’s maniacal dedication to his constituents: literally becoming them, living out their lives as best he could.

The only bill he managed to pass in his brief stint as representative of 27 states was the construction of a large fountain in an undisclosed location, designed covertly in order to avoid the ire or even the faintest knowledge of himself. This missing fountain is still sought by Senators every year in a sparsely attended Congressional team-building pilgrimage across the Adirondacks. Today, there are tens of thousands of municipally constructed fountains throughout America, ranging from the functional to ornate and ostentatious. Obviously, some brazen historians foolishly assert that Clemson spent his twilight years not with his many wives and children, but rather himself alone, in search of that veiled and pointless legislation, one sip at a time.

 

Celebrity Training, Mon Amour:  David Bowie

In the months prior to filming, David Bowie spent upwards of 80 hours a week training to be a believable and authentic king of The Labyrinth. He hired numerous architects to construct a working model of the ancient puzzle, but no blueprint, schematic or rendering rivaled that immense and impenetrable knot David envisioned. All offered great complexity and technical nuance, yes, but lacked a sense of grandeur and mental brutality. How could he preside over this film and its subject matter after training with such meager and amateur mock-ups? What drivel!  He needed violence cobbled onto load-bearing walls and recursive spaces, not these humdrum twists and turns. In a rage, Mr. Bowie smashed his hotel room to pieces, singing all the while, then sent the architects packing — before plotting an elaborate escape, not from any trumped up garden path, but from the confines of his own head and body. Breaking out of this particular and perfect entrapment presented a worthy task. What, he sang, did he spend more time thinking about than the idea of what he thought about? What did he hate himself more for than hating himself in the first place?  And why, when he kissed someone, could he imagine his own face so clearly?  He reasoned, in fact, that his entire career had been accelerating toward this one act, the ultimate refusal of identity. Yet his rich experience with reinvention simultaneously presented a paradoxical foe: Bowie would play not only the well-trained hero, but also the wizened monster standing watch over his mind — and as such could easily forestall any deft maneuver to overcome himself.  These two Bowie’s were, to say the least, rather evenly matched. He predicted, however, that the standoff between himself and himself did not represent an intractable problem, but instead a glaring security loophole. He need only convince them to dance, then slip by in the midst of their embrace. What is a labyrinth anyway but a strict choreography, a series of foot positions, a graceful and precise collection of moves set to their own rhythm. David Bowie knew that he, more so than anyone else, could boogy his way out of the mind. Yet, with greasy leftovers in one hand and a strong drink in the other, singing “Dance magic dance magic dance magic dance, put that magic spell on me,” David Bowie tried nobly not to be himself, one shake of the hips at a time …and failed repeatedly, no matter how much he drank or crooned or swiveled.  In a moment of clarity or desperation, he resolved that the underlying reason he couldn’t escape from his mind, despite his fancy footwork, was not because his identity acted as impenetrable fortress, nor because the whiskey was 80 proof rather than 100, nor because his songs were inadequate imitations of his early work, but because he’d never been trapped at all, because he’d never really been inside his head in the first place, because David Bowie wasn’t real and didn’t in fact exist, not anymore or even ever, except as a perpetual attempt to not exist, a goal that he confirmed nearly every day of his life and a feat that he would, like everyone else, eventually accomplish, not just as pantomime or theatre but in actuality, the consequence of which would be that he’d leave behind only these attempts, that he’d be outlived by his own self denial, that the labyrinth is perfect because it cannot be escaped but instead must be entered, and so he made the first of numerous attempts to break not out of but into his body, to enter his life and be human against all odds, if only for a moment, if only as a gesture, if only as pantomime or theater, before it was too late and whatever that might mean. But what dance could possibly enable this? What contortion might finally make us human? What could ever separate the wall from its architecture, the music from its rhythm, the body from its presence? Imagine him alone in a hotel room, spinning slowly over the carpet with his arms around nothing, and wonder: could he so clearly picture his head when he kissed that empty space? To imagine the song is to imagine the blade: the resulting scar tissue is why Mr. Bowie wears such a ridiculous wig in the film. You have no power over me, he whispers, you have now power over me, you have no power over me — and of course he’s right, though it’s neither the solution nor the problem.

 

Celebrity Training, Mon Amour:  The Titanic

In order to prepare for James Cameron’s record shattering blockbuster Titanic, The Titanic first became itself, the famous sea vessel, and then sank in the ocean, killing thousands. Unsurprisingly, the ship has been accused in the press of hubris and dangerous self indulgence. One 1923 Tribune article asserts that “The Titanic recklessly recapitulated the tale of Narcissus, staring deep into the water, congratulating itself on both its own success and inevitable end, before finally collapsing in the deep, all for an as-of-yet unproduced film entirely about itself.” When interviewed, however, The Titanic responded with, “What actor doesn’t prepare this way? In fact, what else is there? In life, you’re either drowning or explaining what it’s like to drown. The amazing thing is that I, on the other hand, have managed to make the one exactly the same as the other. I have bridged narrative and finality, and through film I have been resurrected, brought back from death, twice now and in 3D. This isn’t narcissism, people. Why? Because I do it for you. Yes, by knowing me and entering my vessel, you too can be returned from cold waters, for I am The Way, The Truth and the Light. I am unsinkable.” When pressed about its rumored relationship with the iceberg, sporting a baby bump in recent photos, The Titanic looked away, wiped its portholes, and added, “So far as I know, from science and experience, and try as I might, one cannot drown in ice.”

————————

Dolan Morgan lives and writes in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Phototaxis

Moths are not a vain species. The only beauty of which they are aware is light; and there has never, in the history of moth-kind, been a moth stupid and arrogant enough to wish for a luminous self, because all moths understand that beauty is to be followed, rather than embodied.

Matthew Ambrosio was a slightly below average-sized clothes moth. His colours were appropriately drab, and his flight was appropriately scattered and disorganized. He enjoyed his flannel dinners as much as anyone and was just as unafraid of the hands, boots, lizards, and newspapers waiting constantly and impatiently to decapitate him as the next moth. He understood his appearance only insofar as he had an innate sense of which things he could hide against and which he could not.

Matthew had spent most of the past week (which is to say his life) in graduate residence called Massey Hall, an old monolithic collection of buildings, with brick walls and impossibly heavy doors and austere, monastic beds in all the living quarters. Matthew loved the feel of a good, stiff, textured sheet and on that fateful day he’d been moving between rooms eating his small portion of fabric, and generally floating around touching things and flattening his wings against them, before settling into a fresh and equally confusing building for the day.

It is a deeply natural and reassuring irony that a species so enamored of light conducts their affairs almost exclusively at night, and it was one that Matthew did not regret. He’d seen the day, he wasn’t a timid moth, but was glad to go about his life in the enveloping context of darkness. That way he could always see the lights flick on and off, his favorite part. To see it shock on randomly while he was busy with something and disappear just as quickly whenever it wanted (he did not understand light-switches, or even really any switches at all, or even really thumbs, or even really any hands at all).

He knew other moths who hated light’s independence, who would have only been comfortable with complete dominion over the duration and intensity of their beloved, but Matthew understood that to love something one has any control over is merely to love one’s self. He loved light, for light’s sake, cruelty and kindness, steadiness and inconstancy included.

And so, he awoke around nine p.m. inside a dark closet and, after stretching his wings and getting halfway through his breakfast of bland red sweater, the door creaked open slightly and he felt once more the thunderous and confusing bolt of attraction rip through him, causing him to abandon his meal and float around, but never quite into, the light.

The bedrooms at Massey Hall all have hanging lights with heavy, oddly pleasing colored shades around them, and for Matthew these shades proved profitable. They were not opaque enough to block the light from his compound eyes, but they did ensure an extra degree of closeness and privacy with his beloved.

Matthew was not a particularly reflective or dark-minded moth, but he did often regret his extreme shyness around the light. Or, more accurately, he regretted his shyness combined as it was with instinctive, stalkery boldness. He would hustle towards the light anytime it was around, float around it and against it, but he never spoke to it, never rested his wings fully and flatly against it.

But these were thoughts for other times, and they were not even close to our hero’s tiny mind as he flitted joyfully around the object of his desire, secure from the wide world of blunt, heavy objects ready to crush him. He had no thoughts at all for several minutes, except brief, visceral frustrations when he bounced against the patterned glass shade. He did not notice the smoothness of the glass, or the hard, crafted wood of the frame, he saw only the light, and felt only the always sudden and bewildering storm of his own emotions. After Matthew had felt sharply and then forgotten the exact same kind of love a few times the light suddenly shut down, leaving only a vague twinge of residual heat.

Our hero had by now, once again, forgotten any notion he may have once had about how to exit the lampshade. There were large gaps at the bottom and top, sure, but what to make of them? As he tortuously considered his exit he flew around excitedly, slamming himself into both sides of the lampshade several times, until he hit it at a slight angle and was thrown off course through the bottom of the shade and was finally able to right himself in the open, and it must be said somewhat stark, space of the living room.

Matthew at this point felt the vague tickle of knowledge somewhere deep in his consciousness and, coupled as it was with a stern and abiding hunger, he intuited that there was fabric to be eaten in the room. He then undertook a long and repetitious search of the room, until finally finding himself drawn to the bedspread. After munching his fill Matthew took once more to the air and, after some time and very much to his surprise, he found the same gap in the front window’s bug-screen through which he had entered several hours prior.

As Matthew flew over the beautifully maintained patch of greenery in the centre of the College’s quadrangle he did not in any way, shape, or form remember the humble, wormlike existence he had spent there prior to his metamorphosis.

Moths begin their lives as simple, humble worms. They slither about the ground afraid of every kind of hoof, paw, and foot, terrified of every wheel and every falling acorn or pinecone. Certain only and always that they are the saddest, meanest, least worthwhile creatures that ever lived. And then, suddenly and as if by magic, they are transported, they shed their skin and sprout wings, and they use these wings to fly above the bottoms of everyone’s feet, into the air that they once considered valuable only insofar as it fed the grass that hid and imprisoned them. Because of this forgetting moths are doomed to repeat their worst errors, and to leave their truest feelings forever unexpressed.

After only a few seconds with wings, and only one short attention span of pure amazement, they forget their previous shell, the memory shedding itself as fully, but in a less unified manner, as the only skin they had known. And so a moth is rarely glad to be flying, when s/he is grateful it is for flying sake in the moment, never in the explicatory luminescence of the past, never in the cool, refreshing shade of resolved anxieties.

Humans, by nature, must see their changes step by step, one foot after the other, one book, one sincere conversation, one alternating step-up knee with a medicine ball after the other. While the moth must shake off the goo and slime and filth of the earth once, and forget it instantly, thereafter regretting the flight they once would have wished for above all else had they been able, at the time, to conceptualize it.

And so, as Matthew traveled mindlessly over and around his former loathsome home it did not once occur to him that he was lucky to be looking down at the grass instead of up from it. Our hero did not feel even the vaguest attraction or repulsion from the grass, and when a light suddenly appeared in a nearby window it was with only abject attraction to something pretty that he flew towards it.

Clear glass windows are the scourge of all species more capable of flight than reductive reasoning. For these species clear glass windows are a constant and perpetually transient annoyance. Matthew, for instance, had flown into most any window that had ever been in his path, but by the time he had rebounded off it, and saw once more the object of attraction behind it, the experience of impacting against the glass would be entirely forgotten, replaced instantly by excitement and desire.

Although he had been rebuffed by this particular window three times in five seconds Matthew felt the rejections only as fleeting, dissipating surprises. As our hero rebounded constantly and happily against the window he did not even remotely sense that the big, moving, breathing thing inside was feeling deeply sorry for him, and was using his thoughtless, mothly repetition as fuel for an intense session of late stage dissertation ennui. Truth be told, the momentary anxieties Matthew faced when being rebuffed by the window were nothing compared to the flickering, subconscious twinges of self-loathing he would have felt if he had been allowed to float near the object of his affection.

After a particularly forceful attempt to burst through the mysterious barrier Matthew rebounded far enough back out into the quad that he caught sight of another light as the door to the building was being opened. Matthew was somewhat surprised that his lover had changed places so quickly, but as was his way he did not reflect on it for more than a fraction of a second as he shifted his wings and raced towards his distant and unsympathetic Laura.

Flying, for moths, is a lot like running, some are naturally talented at it and some are naturally deficient. Not all moths enjoy flying, sad as it is to say, but most grow to at least appreciate its value in the pursuit of happiness and cloth fibers. And so, although Matthew had long since allowed the gravity that once oppressed his wiggling infancy to slip from his mind we should never allow it to fall out of whichever crease in our brains fancy and empathy tuck themselves into and cuddle.

Matthew, although mostly obtuse to gravity, had the sense that the giant wooden door should probably not be allowed to put its weight against him. And so he decided to forgo the stylish dips and swerves that characterized his flight and instead swooped directly through the shrinking crack of doorway. The danger, however, was only beginning.

A young man in a delicious looking tee shirt swiped maliciously at the winged adventurer, and actually succeeded in brushing against the thin, infinitely tearable surface of Matthew’s left wing. Although he was aware of the light’s presence, and he ached to hover around its direct source, his flight instinct (the running away one, not the flying one, although the two were naturally co-dependent for him) kicked in and caused him to flutter away, using the solid meeting point of the wall and ceiling as a guide while he recovered his deeply upset equilibrium.

After he had escaped into a stairwell he just couldn’t see the point of, Matthew did not catch his breath, because moths have no need of such a procedure, they simply fly away and seek out another object of sustenance or desire. And so, Matthew spent the better part of seven minutes (a not insignificant portion of his waking lifespan) moving gradually and feverishly up the four large light fixtures that illuminated the staircase.

As he fretfully orbited the top fixture the door to the stairway opened and Matthew, sensing an opportunity, dipped down and through the new passage. Following a large, moving, breathing, second year law thing into her room, passing stealthily over her shoulder and depositing himself once more into an enclosed space with a light bulb, and once more showing his affection only as a flighty, nervous proximity.

After only a few alternately joyful and tortured moments alone with the light bulb Matthew was plunged once more into hungry, oh so very hungry, darkness. The hungry fellow, this time without struggle, exited the lampshade and went to work on the khakis hanging blissfully unguarded on the chair below.

A moth in darkness is a far more reflective creature than a moth under the insistent duress of amour. And Matthew, having had enough beige summer wear, flew around the room at a relatively calm and leisurely pace. He found his way into the bedroom, and then suddenly and happily saw a streetlight through the window.

It had been several minutes since Matthew had seen a light, and so he had only the vaguest recollection of any of his previous encounters, but a notion grew in him, in the two seconds between his noticing the light and his almost reaching the window, that he would not, as he deeply wanted to, just fly around the light and content himself with quick, dry leg kisses against the light’s shell, but that he would fly to it directly, and express his love obviously and sincerely.

This plan for self-reform was made doubly amazing because it was not based on any direct, conscious recollection of prior experience. Matthew did not remember a single other instance of passively floating around a light, rather he felt the urge to do so and decided to better himself in the moment. In just this one instance, our hero resolved to correct mistakes he had not yet, to his recollection, made. Thus Matthew did something of which people are entirely incapable. In human terms he was able to perfectly correct his balance without remembering a single fall.

Matthew in his own unique way had subverted, for the only time in history, the true tragedy of moth-hood. And so it does not really matter that before he reached the window, which would have inevitably blocked his path and made his transcendent notion of self-improvement just another listless drop in the unending sea of passing moth thoughts, he was sliced neatly through by the blades of a fan he could never have imagined or understood.

It does not matter because the truth of tragedies is never found in the piles of bodies and blood, but rather on the long, lonely road of iterated mistakes and unvoiced feelings running through that most contorted and animating part of those bodies while they walked, one tired foot after the other, towards their seeping, inevitable conclusion.

————————

Andrew Battershill is the co-editor of Dragnet Magazine. His work has appeared in Untoward Magazine, Burner Magazine, Soliloquies, Glossolalia, and Headlight Anthology. He has poems (!) forthcoming in CV2.