My Dog

Weekly feature by: Michael Prihoda

My dog is writing a horror novel and sometimes he asks me if parts make sense.

The basic premise involves a human who goes apeshit and starts serial killing escaped zoo animals around the country. The killer is so hard to catch because he keeps moving, transferring IDs. He’s got passports for different countries and driver’s licenses from four different states (including New Mexico) but he generally prefers Greyhound buses for the irony. He carries a pitchfork, miniature-sized, so he can hide it in the special-made inner lining pocket on his double-breasted suit.

I ask my dog if he’s ever worn a double-breasted suit. He tells me not to be ridiculous. Does he look like a fop?

I tell my dog most writing workshops tell you to write what you know.

He says only amateurs do that.

When pressed, he goes to his kennel and pulls out a stack of rumpled pages that he hands to me. Upon reading, I realize it’s a manifesto concerning his life with me as owner.

He’s already written what he knows and is moving on like any artist worth his salt and pepper.

His manifesto is not flattering to me. I only read part of it and immediately make an excuse to go out and run to the store for better quality dog food. How he even knows which brand is good is beyond me but it costs more than how much I spend on food for myself in a week.

I guess seeing my dog as an artist makes me think of him differently.

He shows me a new chapter he wrote about the newest closest call the serial killer has with the cops. They almost catch up to him in Reno and I ask my dog if he’s ever been to Reno? Because his scene at the courthouse (which becomes a chase through darkened Nevada streets, culminating in a pseudo-showdown which the anti-hero [his label, not mine] clumsily escapes, vowing never to repeat his mistake again) seems oddly visceral and insider, as if my basset hound worked as DA in Reno for a stint right after passing the BARR.

Eventually he tells me he’s thinking about sending his manuscript to agents. It’s not long until some agents are emailing him back and he’s glued to my computer screen, sorting through his offers for representation. His preferred publisher is Vintage, though how he earmarked them I don’t know.

Toward the end he stopped asking me to weigh in on plot changes, character development, or the rhythm of a scene. I take it as a bad sign of his independence. I still pay for his dog food.

The agent he emails back comes over to our house and my dog tells me not to be a square, to offer the woman something to drink. All I have is sparkling water or milk. She opts for the water, then barely touches it. My dog and her talk shop all afternoon and he signs a contract.

Three months later my dog says he has someplace to be. Doesn’t give me more details. I see an interview of him on Ellen a couple days later. Then he goes to our local library for a reading. His agent leaves messages on my machine almost daily, giving him updates for book tour locations, quotes from reviews of his book, etc. She has a voice like a parakeet but I don’t know why I think that because I’ve never heard a parakeet definitively ever in my life before.

My dog has signings and readings lined up for the entire summer and fall. Apparently spring release with a summer tour is the way to do it nowadays in the book world.

I fly out to New York for the first reading of his tour, realizing when I land that I haven’t bothered to pick up a copy of the book yet, though it’s been out for weeks and it’s all the rage among contemporary horror/literary fiction. One of the messages his agent left on my machine said someone from The Times called it “a breath of fresh air for a lagging genre.” Somebody from The Washington Post noted how “it is a landmark in fiction: finally something from a non-human perspective. Just what literature has been waiting decades to sink its teeth into.” In another life I imagined my basset hound sinking his teeth into my copy of War and Peace. Or was that already my life but just in the past?

I pick up a copy of his book before the reading and browse through it as I wait in a plastic chair some intern probably set up. I’m waiting to see my dog for what will be the first time in weeks. He’s too famous and busy to call me let alone stop in for a quick pet and evening watching Seinfeld.

Something bothers me while paging through the book but I can’t place it until my dog finally comes out to wild applause from an audience whose demographic I can’t place. Then he starts reading and it hits me: the killer has the same name as me.

After the reading I wait in line for two hours to get my copy signed, when actually I just want to confront him about why his killer ended up with my name, when all the drafts he’d shown me left him nameless.

Finally, I’m at the front of the line and I flop the book on the table. His agent beams at his side, smiling and waving at the fans and cameras.

“What the hell?” I say.

“What are you talking about?” he says, his voice impassive, exactly like how basset hounds usually look when they are resting.

“You know what I mean.”

“You know what they say,” he says, red eyes meeting mine, “write what you know.”

Last Dance (Climate Tears)

Weekly feature by: Gregg Dotoli

the slow-burn endures
as money-green carbon skeptics
play a ravaging death dance
acidic seas sway
swinging to que sera, sera
wind blasted trees stoop like ballerinas
to gusting cracking notes
Swaying to que sera, sera
polar caps melting
spawning new dirges
and puzzling eerie weather
rainbows and lightning
form natural stages
for the extant to extinct finale
Biota in decline and decay
Fragile and frail mumbles que sera, sera
we’re not here to stay
we’re not here to stay

Mercury Blues

Weekly feature by: Sissy Buckles

Not sure how long
I can do this,
hanging on by a thread.
I liked looking at the Ellis Island
photos this morning anyway,
and wondering what
new stories those ancient
sojourners would have to tell.
Morning meditation?
I ran for an hour at daybreak
in the rain, hell yeah
and if you have any extra time
stop and loiter
at the construction site
watch them build stuff
I could linger for hours
drive the jeep out
to the heart of the desert
and clear your mind
apprehending the wilderness –
“we cannot be naked enough”
(Namaste, Thoreau)
visit my Julian wolves
back up in the hills
and def not miss the
superblooming wildflowers
in Death Valley then
ponder eternity
whilst listening to Ray Price
Crazy Arms on the jukebox
and a quick stop at
Pete’s Place after the
La Mesa Classic Car Show
because you can whittle it down
in your mind
all you like to just a few
fundamental things
like the sudden comprehension
in the absolute essentialness
of Bob Kaufman’s
Abomunist Manifisto
(sing it like a tragic aria!)
and for instance
do you sell your soul
like a crummy can of soup at the
crossroads, hunkering down
for the highest bidder
like all those fucking phony
leftists who voted for that
imperialist war-mongering HRC
(third party renegade 4life)
and foreverly damned if I do
or don’t
eternally working for
the Man and so bloody
tired of faking it
including the nonstop
nerve-jangling media blitzkrieg
circle jerk
(& heaven forbid we all
miss out on Kim Kardashian’s
latest snapchat who thinks
she gots it so bad
getting robbed
in a luxury Paris hotel?
Rather consider the happy
fate of not being plundered
by ten men at a time in
the South Sudan killing fields)
or should I be
merely content with the
occasional insincere bone thrown
in my general direction
and all these ominous portents
which I inevitably knew were
coming the morning
I witnessed
a bike go down on the
freeway off-ramp
right in front of me
while heading to work
he was able to jump up and
muscle it over while I
blocked traffic from behind
but we both knew we were
Dostoevskian idiots
staring at each other’s
vulnerable skulls, as I’d surely
reached the zero hour
exigency point and left to my
singular wits I would
stand alone
in the middle of the room
like that loca femme fatale in Texas
ignominiously screaming
BULLSHIT
at the top of my lungs
till I’m blue in the face or hell
I could just give it all away
and learn what my survival
really did depend on,
including poetry because
don’t kid yourself folks,
you will only find true Art
in the outsiders world
just ask Eartha Kitt, conceived
from rape, born picking
cotton on a plantation,
spoke five tongues and
sang in seven or
platinum vixen Jen in a
frilled red vintage playsuit
filing her long nails and baking
in the SoCal sun on a
backyard chaise lounge
her tattoos covered in zinc oxide
never teacher’s pet,
rather the scapegoat
rather the black sheep
gossiping with the chatty mailman
in that charming way
she had, lamenting her bully boss
snarling “and all the flunky
‘Yes Men’ can BITE me!”
and last but never least that
sage young Ockhamist Adrian
up to no good
in the Coachella Valley
whose words almost
saved my life
one long and lonely
Indian Summer night,
I lost my America
years ago stolen by all
the lazy unoriginal takers
of language for granted
(and a person who introduces
themselves as a poet
is a prime suspect in my book)
besides your first big mistake
was deciding it was a
good idea to try and game
a chick who don’t play,
yes I’m talking to you land of
the free home of the brave
of purple mountains majesty
of shameful mass incarceration
fed by modern-day
slave patrols,
of the freshly anointed
Ministry of Truth
Barack Obama’s little parting gift
guaranteed to root out
any and all
Un-American activity,
“come and see the blood
in the streets”
saith Neruda the Prophet,
my original sin branding me
a troublemaker
because I never needed
my daddy’s approval
yet still, gratefully noting the
list of folks who don’t
hate me
after my last Truck poems
to include: hot rodders, musicians,
poets, farmers, librarians,
booksellers, surfers,
Mongols motorcycle club and
the gang down at the Sportsman Pub
poetry mag editors,
course my family, and
miraculously
this was enough
at least
nobody has threatened
to piss on my grave
(not yet, anyway)
and my only belief the science
of counting my lucky stars.
So I’ll be doggoned if I’m not in
on that build and the
fanciful notion of turning
my sister’s 1934 Ford truck
race-ready for the
Barona 1/8 mile Antique Drags
we’ll dial in that little mama
going fast as
a speeding bullet, see
you’ve got to understand
these guys/gals have been
entrenched in the Cali
counterculture scene
for decades, hmmm you could
say starting with the
WW2 vets coming back
a motley crew
with their knowledge of
general mechanics (and hydraulics
for the lowriders but that’s
a whole other chapter) and the
pilots building cafe racers
which was the closest thing
to flying they could afford,
you could probably also add the
adrenaline rush
they had felt during wartime
and just a means of getting around
for dates and work
like we all need to do
and shoot, just wanting to feel
genuinely alive after so much
misery and death
and the free wind blowing
through your hair
so with very little money
they had to make do with
what they could find
and improve on, go down
to the junkyard dig around
(still a fun trip)
where someone’s refuse
could be recycled and reused;
buy a non-running car for
5 bucks a runner for 15,
lots of elbow grease,
some friends,
hours of tinkering,
hence the beginning of
Custom hot rod world
and course we all know
that folks first impulse is to
stone the messenger
but please
regard this sincere
impartial chronicle as a
simple invitation
to flip your ever lovin’ wig
but that’s a moot point, or rather
the story of an era and
don’t dare
confuse them with
restorers or you are bound to
get the business,
guess every club has to
have somebody to look down on
(aka gold-chainers)
but the dif is these guys
actually work on their cars and
you could say create
as they pretty much can build
up something rad
from nothing,
but I’ve no beef with anybody
do your own thing man,
that’s what I always say….
and the many legends
& heroes & beacons of freedom
that sprung from the tradition,
past and present
just to name a few — you could
start by getting your socks
blown clean off at
Famoso Raceway’s Cacklefest,
and speed records broken
right and left amidst the
otherworldly pristine beauty echoing
off the endless white sandy
glare of the Bonneville Salt Flats,
Smokin’ Mo-Kan Dragway
in Asbury, Missouri, legendary
Top Fuel dragsters
tearing it up cheating death
with steely-eyed determination
through the hellish nitro fumes
at Pomona and Salinas Boyz Cole
and his pops Pat Foster a renaissance
builder and test pilot de rigueur,
a man’s man and a racer’s racer
offering us redemption
under a dirty hood
and this nothing to do with
macho spectacle
it’s all about the velocity, baby
then great googly-moogly
who remembers Big Daddy Don Garlits
doing a ferocious fire burnout in
Swamp Rat 16 and the
SoCal Bean Bandits whose
members originated right in
our own South SD Logan Heights
hood and back in the day
one of the few clubs
that let everybody join,
their all-inclusive nature
incorporating blacks, whites,
Japanese and even Lebanese
members during the club’s existence,
and howzabout artist/pinstriper/car
designer and all around unique
individual Ed Roth of
‘Rat Fink’ infamy along with
his protégées Johnny Ace
and his lovely wife Kali Verra
dancing to their own
monster mash and
all the fellas/their wives,
kids & gal mechanics on the
Jalopy Journal HAMB
& never forget
ol’ Jess getting his start
constructing bikes out of mom’s
Long Beach garage
and just look at him now
sitting on top of the world and that
loveable Germ and his fueled-up
whirlwind-talking Tom Paine common sense
outer limits a mile a minute
always stirring up trouble
for the hell of it and his co-conspirator
cynical scoundrel
Harvester of Bondo (I still
owe his good-looking face a slap)
a modern day Sal and Dean
lordsofhellfire making tracks
and foreverly looking for girls, visions
and kicks and yeah
they’re a little wild but you
couldn’t ask for better comrades
they have each other’s backs
like familia, when anybody
falls down they’d share a wrench,
hand, or greenback
whatever it takes to get them
back up on the bumpy highway
of life in other words
loyal, dedicated, smart
and talented folks and
metaphysical misfits but
I’ll tell you what & this merely an
innocent observation —
take away their gasoline
and guaranteed
they’ll have some hillbillygearhead
moonshine stills jerry-rigged out
back figuring how to cook up
a load because Whew!
they are crazy ‘bout a
Mercury looking oh so fine
gonna buy a Mercury and
cruise it up and down this road.

The B’K May 2017 Issue

The B'K May 2017 CoverFeaturing

Art by: Gordan Ćosić, Mark Myavec, Olivier Schopfer

Fiction by: Max Luque, Joanna Michaels, Michael Prihoda

Poetry by: Christopher Barnes, Sissy Buckles, Gregg Dotoli, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jennifer Lothrigel, Sy Roth, Seth Ruderman, Dr. Mel Waldman

Prose by: Ricky Garni

Read the issue.

Regarding Peter

Weekly feature by: Raphael Bastek

It was a glorious day for Peter E. Peater III. How long had it been – a millennium? Two? And here he was, sweat lining the ass-crack of his underwear, his ragged tee tie-dyed by vermouth and cheese stains, yet he stood triumphant – exuberant, even!

“Art is dead,” they had claimed. “There’s nothing you can show us that the Chinese haven’t yet painted. There’s nothing you can read to us that the Russians haven’t yet written.” And how! It was as if every newborn Commie was Dostoevsky incarnate. To think artists once complained of starving – in those days, Peter would’ve given anything to even be considered an artist.

But even those goddamn Cossacks couldn’t upset Peter today. For the first time in years, he smiled, prompting a tear of blood from the cracked folds of skin at the corners of his mouth.

Before him lay his magnum opus. Years of research and revision had finally procured from within him a literary epic so profound he could have sworn the pages exuded a divine radiance. When the Collective had first been granted their gift – a blessing of endless life, so long as they stayed within their designated underground studios and libraries, toiling ceaselessly on their art – Peter had been filled with ambition, guided by voracious passion. Each artist had their own self-declared mission; he strove to write the definitive novel of the century, a voice for all future generations to study and revere.

Peter started strong, writing for weeks, pouring forth what he wholly believed to be the best material he had ever conceived. When he first found himself weakening, the bores of banality and solitude settling in, he agreed to temporarily resign from his work, seeking inspiration in the writings of authors before him.

And so the first century passed.

“But that’s okay,” a young Peter assured himself. “The more time spent working, the more timeless this novel will be. Why settle for literary centurion when I could be a prophet for all future millennia?” He had no answer to disprove himself.

So it went, the perennial hourglass slowly tipping, turning, and refilling, Peter growing older and wiser, until this very moment finally came to be. His final revisions in place, proofreading complete – how fitting that the last novel he read in this underground library would be his own.

Slowly but assuredly, he changed from his soiled garments, carefully retrieving his finest suit, set aside seemingly a lifetime ago for this very occasion. For years, Peter had fantasized how this moment would play, dreamily humoring visions of himself twirling merrily, prancing to the tune of a favorite record, popping champagne in celebration. Peter had eluded death for over fifteen hundred years; he could not escape the weight of age. Once so young, now he was only tired: an artist, alive but resigned. He made his way to the intercom.

A single tone rang through his chambers. “Rodregos,” Peter coughed. He forgot the last time he had needed to communicate with another person. Fortunately his frequent conversations with himself had kept his muscles relatively intact. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Rodriguez.” He patiently waited for the response signal.

“Been a while, Petey.” Peter swore he heard a muffled yawn. Rodriguez had been the first artist in the Collective to claim his work was finished. He had written a symphony; Peter hadn’t heard it. Reluctant to abandon a comfort built over centuries in the commune, Emmanuel Rodriguez accepted a position as gatekeeper, waiting for the remainder of the Collective to finish. The apathy in today’s response was not subtle.

Peter stammered a response, pausing to reconsider the formidable tome clenched in his hands. The epitome of over a dozen lifetimes of work.

“I…I’ve finished, Rod. I’m ready to come out.”

Silence. For a moment, there was no response on the other end. Had he been a younger writer, Peter would have remarked that this single moment felt longer than the entire past millennium.

A metallic clang resonated through his chamber as a hidden iron bolt dislodged and slid aside. Peter edged cautiously towards the exit, suddenly faced with the reality of what had only been distant thoughts for centuries. What would it be like being outside again? What had others created? Most importantly – what would people think of his work? He considered pushing the door shut, retreating into his familiar sanctuary. Perhaps another revision…

Peter closed his eyes. He thrust himself into the whirlwind, tumbling towards the unknown.

You Gotta Be Falcon Kidding Me

Weekly feature by: Caitlin Hennessey

Despite their fowl reputation, when it comes down to it, we’re all birds of a feather when it comes to puns. Oh, toucan groan and grumble when you run across them, but owl bet it’s with a laugh even despite yourself. Personally, I fully embrace the pun as an eggscellent form of humor: it’s hard not to appreciate a bit of clever wordplay, even if the actual joke is stupid. It’s not ostrich to say that puns serve a higher purpose in bringing people together.

I’m generally a pretty shy person, for instance. Unless I’m very comfortable with the location or situation, I can’t really talk to strangers, and sometimes even interacting with acquaintances can be very hawkward for me – I don’t want to beak a bother, and I worry about being seen as ridiculous or as a pest. But when I noticed people were trading fruit puns on tumblr a few years back, joining the game wasn’t so nerve-wracking for me as it might have been otherwise, because puns are inherently ridiculous. Now it’s not so troubling to send those people messages or links to posts they’d like.

Puns also helped me out wren I joined a new club. While everyone was friendly enough, I had a hard time really talking to anyone, and I was starting to seriously egret my decision. They were all such close friends! How could I possibly become a part of that? Then Diana mentioned in passing that “no, this or that should have been a pun,” and James and I took her at her word. We cawed it quits after about fifteen to twenty minutes of nothing but, and now I have a bunch of very good friends I can talk to very easily. Diana’s never brought up something needing to be a pun again (at least in my hearing) oddly enough, but I still have wordplay to thank for really breaking the ice. For me, puns add geese to the social interaction wheels, making a generally difficult thing much easier for me to achieve.

Of course, not everyone is willing to admit to enjoying puns. My friend Dave, for instance, swears up and down that he hates them.

“There are a ton of things I won’t admit,” he said to me once. “Not laughing at puns isn’t one of them.”

“Because you admit now that you do laugh at them?” I asked.

“No.”

“Then you’re in denial. You should wade out; there are crocodiles in there.”

“Wait. What?”

“In de Nile.”

I’ll sparrow you his reply to that, because it wasn’t polite. Some of our funniest and most entertaining conversations have involved the heavy application of puns, though, and he’s not only somewhat participated in their use, but laughed at jokes that included puns in a more roundabout manner.

Also, he’s friends with me. Obviously he doesn’t really mind them that much.

Since I did bring up tumblr earlier, social media is actually a terrific example of how puns bring people together as well. Whether it’s people complaining about them or pigeon in to extend them, tumblr and Facebook are littered with thousands of posts featuring wordplay. Even better, social media allows for the addition of visual puns as a communication medium, something that it is much harder to achieve in everyday conversation. Posts involving puns are very often some of the most popular on the site as people share them with one another, passing them on to make others smile about them as well. It’s the highlight of my day when posts like that show up on my dash, because not only do I get to laugh, but I get to make everyone who follows me laugh, too. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get to be there with them when it happens – just knowing that it will make someone smile is enough.

Puns, in short, are a bonding experience. It doesn’t matter if you have a talont for them or not, or even if you’re willing to admit that they quack you up: humor is incredibly effective in winging people over. And for those of you who still want to call puns the lowest form of humor? Shakespeare is very highly regarded, both in literary circles and out, and he flocking loved puns.

Pickett’s Charge

Weekly feature by: James R. Kincaid

This war is not about slavery.

Robert E. Lee

I fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.

Robert E. Lee

Honoring Lee shows how little progress we have made toward regarding all people as equal. We might as well erect monuments to Klan leaders, to Benedict Arnold, to Axis Sally.

Anon

“So, class—Madison and Christopher, come over here!—from this hill you can see how the afternoon’s battle took shape and—Michael, tell Joshua to take his headphones off and listen to—What?—Well, then just take them off for him—how the afternoon’s battle took place and how touch and go it was—Yes, Hannah, I know I promised a bathroom break and there’s no need for that childish pantomime—for both sides, really, and how much depended on messages being delivered or not and—well, you could hear me fine if you’d come a little closer—where was I?”

“You were going to talk about Pickett’s charge.”

“Thank you, Andrew, though I think that charge has been overstressed, blown way out of proportion in importance. Just my opinion.”

Silence.

“Well, class, you saw the laser show recreation of the battle, what do you think?”

“I thought it was a great show, Ms. McMillan. Nice colors—blue and grey and all.”

“It was a fine show, Lauren, but as for Pickett’s charge?”

“I liked that part a lot.”

“OK. Good. So—Taylor and Ryan, would you join the group, please?—as for Pickett’s charge?”

“That’s why the North won the war, right, Ms. M?”

“Well, what do the rest of you think? Was that one charge so very consequential?”

Silence.

“What do you think, Alexis?”

“I think—“

“Yes?”

“I guess.”

“Well, lots of things happened that day and in battles before and after, so that—yes, Sarah?”

“I can’t understand why they have that monument over there.”

“To Pickett? Is there one?”

“No, to Robert E. Lee.”

“Well, we were onto the battle and Pickett, but OK?—will you all please gather closer and shut the hell up!—sorry—but Sarah just asked about the Lee monument, why it’s here. Here on that spot, you mean?”

“Here anywhere.”

“Oh, you mean…What do you mean?”

“I read about it, all the whitewashing of Lee, people thinking he was opposed to slavery, when that’s just a load of pigshit.”

“A load of…Can you explain, Sarah?”

“Lee owned slaves, mostly from his wife, who inherited them with orders in her dad’s will to free them, only Lee didn’t. He even sold some, broke up families.”

“What do the rest of you think of that?”

Silence. Finally, “What a dick!”

“I see. Thank you, Tyler. Yes, Sarah. There’s more?”

“A lot more. He took an oath to defend and protect the United States and then raised his hand against his country, showed himself a coward, an opportunist, and a cowardly liar.”

“Well, Sarah, you have to remember the times…”

“Like I said, he broke his oath. Almost half of the military officers in Virginia remained loyal, but Lee turned his back on his word and then tried to overturn the government he was sworn to uphold.”

“But Sarah…”

“I want to know, Ms. M., why he wasn’t tried and hanged, traitor that he clearly was. I read this historian…”

“Sarah, you think he should have been executed?”

“I’m just asking. The U. S. executed 140 deserters in World War 2 and they were just trying to save their asses. This is direct treason. It’s like having a statue of Heinrich Himmler at Auschwitz.”

“I see. What do you think, class? Tyler?”

“Sentimental nonsense. Sarah’s right. Having a monument to this miserable guy here, especially here, is disgusting.”

“Why especially here, Tyler?”

“Like they were saying in the show—“The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” Those rocks right here, right here, right where we are: that’s as far as these inhuman people got, as slavery got. The high water mark, the emblem of the beautiful lost cause.”

“And you think? Yes, Sarah?”

“It’s the point where bigotry and hatred almost won.”

“So, the monument to Lee…?”

“Kept all the lies alive, made these shameless traitors into emblems of gallantry and—I don’t know—made them official, stamped them with approval.”

“Well, back to Pickett and the charge. You see, he came right up from over there and the carnage was horrible. Lee knew that he had this one last chance on the third day of the battle, and…Yes, Dylan?”

“I think you’re doing what Sarah and Tyler were saying.”

“Really, Dylan? How’s that?”

“I mean, who cares about the battle? All this about Pickett. It seems to me just what Sarah and Tyler were saying, you know.”

“Which was?”

“Sentimental horseshit.”

“The details of the battle are…?”

“Remember that Faulkner novel you had us read? I brought it with me. It’s all about this poison we kept alive by things like not hanging Robert E. Lee. Can I read this part, which is what I mean, the part is—will show what I mean?”

“OK. Go head and read it, Dylan.”

“OK:  “For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time….”

“Thank you, Dylan. That’s beautiful.”

“You think so, Ms. M? I think it’s disgusting. Makes me want to puke.”

The only surviving fragment of “the sack of brooklyn” by Marcus of Bushwick, with annotations

Weekly feature by: John Gabriel Adkins

… And the great Brooklyn wall was felled to two cubits, while many wails of mourning were cried by the people of Brooklyn, who said, “The wall has fallen.”

And the invaders threw many semi-autobiographical novels into the Eastern River, so that it ran black with ink, and became poisonous. The vulgar pictures popular in that place were burned in a large fire of paper and electronicus [untranslatable] at the center of Flatbush, so that the smoke blackened the skies as the waters, and a terrible darkness covered the whole of the Brooklyn province. And many who did not flee were taken as prisoners, because in those days to flee was seen as an extreme act, while to do nothing was praised.[1]

There was an artisanal cobbler by the name of Peter of Brooklyn, whose family was powerful within Brooklyn and had served the consulship for many generations, and was respected even by the Emperor. And while Peter Brooklyn sired no children, to the disrepute of his line, he was known as a joyous reveler and great worshiper of Bacchus, and was beloved by the people. And it is said that Peter fled against custom when the walls of Brooklyn gave way, and secreted himself in the northern lands under the name Julius. But his livelihood and good name were lost, and his family was captured.

The sack lasted for many weeks, until …[2]


[1] For a fuller discussion of this enigmatic passage from Marcus, see “The Behaviors and Attitudes of Brooklynite Society Before the Fall” (Hodges, 4-5).

[2] Here the manuscript is cut off by water damage, probably during the Flooding of New England. Possible references to Marcus’s testimony, including the lost passages of “Sack”, appear in Chronicles VI-VII by Serenity of Baltimore.

Abandoned House

Weekly feature by: Jennifer Lothrigel

The earth creeps
in the back door,
her ivy messengers strangling the walls.
Dead animals,
rats, squirrels, and sometimes hawks —
Angry bold words
spray painted across empty walls.
Old toys, limbless teddy bears and disheveled books,
no longer colorful or cared about
lie sun-faded on the floor.

The rat from behind the once-
flower papered wall
becomes the tenant who devours who own home.

The faded pink velvet chair,
still unloved, now deeply torn
has sprung undone.

Broken windows, open doors,
unhinged things.
The hollow space whispers cautionary notes.
Strange creatures could be hiding in spare bedrooms;
hiding beneath blue floral matresses;
inside mirrored closet doors.

I remember psychic bedtime stories
with guardian angels
that covered my eyes
when it was scary.

Let’s play marbles and crystal balls.
Let’s play Chinese Checkers with ghosts
and see who wins.