VOL XVIII, Issue 05, Number 205
Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Heather Ferguson
European Editor: Mois Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter
Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena
WHY DOES IT SUDDENLY DECIDE
Not From The Neighborhood
THAT LITTLE TUTOR FEAR
A BIRD-LIKE BARBECUE
THE ENIGMA STEEPED IN SUNSET
What I wrote when you were away
Jason A Wilkinson
Take Life By The Nut-Sack
Dutch Schultz Bobblehead
Call My Name Through The Fallen Square
The first year of beastly law school.
Stalked, its hideous, shrill cry.
Claws, fierce eyes.
We tied a rope around
The beast and hoisted it high.
Its enormous, mile-long shiny bones,
jagged, crooked, razor-sharp,
its skull full of smoke.
How it devoured us.
Tore our flesh that year.
The beast snarled. Turned us inside out.
A pain we welcomed
by drinking rounds of stout.
Kindness was against the law.
A century of Justice snored
like a drunkard in a horse stall.
A starry Saturday night
leaped over the garden wall.
Centuries of criminals felt no remorse.
Two o'clock rode a spotted horse.
When will Baby learn to crawl?
Love was a juicy bone to gnaw.
Four o'clock in black shawl
read a Victorian novel
from Boston to Covington Hall.
Was our best necktie appealing?
Were there eternal truths
on the Sistine Chapel ceiling?
All divine, all and all,
Kindness was against the law.
We lived in an overly litigious nation.
Law was at war with civilization.
The court more uncivil, highly intimidating,
the bourgeoisie parasites' infestation.
What was it the French Revolution kept insinuating?
The lesson plan. Go to class. Find your seat.
Leap like a frog from tort to tort.
Learn. Burn bright. Fade.
Acquire enough wealth to hire a chamber maid.
Be hideous when the sun goes down.
Understand the meaning of intoxication
has no bearing on your grade.
Keep secrets hush-hush,
avoid the beastly crush.
Do not for any reason sneeze.
Know the meaning of absurd.
Entertain the eternal question
“Who am I?” Be unperturbed
by its constant insatiable
manifestation. Hands that clutch
about your throat and squeeze.
Conceal your true feelings.
Let your mind be grimy and seedy.
Join the student bar association.
Wear blue trousers. Be greedy.
Drink and drink and drink,
until your liver starts to bleed --
and when good and drunk,
return to your dorm room and read.
Get sick. Get sick again. Cram for exams.
Lose your voice to laryngitis.
Soak your feet. Be prepared for a crushing defeat.
Turn in a trial brief. Read, read, read, read.
Turn in an appellate brief. Bleed.
Oral arguments. Hang yourself by a rope.
Lose your winter coat. Register to vote.
Think of the day Lincoln was shot.
Dream of a courtroom full of cotton-candy,
a fifty-foot yacht, a motorcycle ridden
by Mahatma Gandhi.
Drink and drink and drink some more,
until your liver starts to bleed --
and when good and drunk,
return to your dorm room and read.
A starry Saturday night
leaped over the garden wall.
Kindness was against the law.
I never could stand
watching a toy train
run in circles
the way my father could.
I always needed
in one place
calmly laying track.
They say America was one great forest
and a squirrel could travel
from New York to the Mississippi
without touching the ground
then stare out over the water
from the safety of tree branches
at the forest receding into plains.
I wonder if the whole forest shook
with the first axe blow in Virginia.
Did the falling log shout a warning
to its brothers, or was it too shocked to speak?
A red squirrel stares out at the Mississippi,
sluggish brown water carrying mud to the delta.
The wind is full of splinters,
a thousand Jonahs spit up on the shore
have come to carve roads and cities
from your sanctuary.
The brown river slides south
taking your gaze with it.
It will bury these moments
in the marshes of the delta,
pile up the many presents into the past.
There is a carcass in the river.
It will not reach the sea.
The catfish will steal its message
and keep it to themselves.
on the mausoleums
my father says birds
try to catch souls
of men rising
from the grave
they cannot reach
he was taught
to throw stones
for his father
a crow perches
on a gravemarker
it is not family
I have no stones
I wish my parents
had never crawled
out of the ocean.
How much easier
to be a fish,
to gobble, be gobbled
by figures of silver
in a blue sea.
Flags sprout up
this time of year
to glower at the flowers,
entangle the passing bird
Who can forget
the red white and blue
stacked like crosses
at the hardware
Boys, shirts abandoned,
parade the streets
with toy guns,
the waving form.
is on their backs,
with the heat
were still alive
they came out
to sting air
hunt the remaining
to wonder where
the flowering cactus
the stickly pear
the voiceless birds
is not the same
its clay hardened to rock
WHY DOES IT SUDDENLY DECIDE
Why does a book
in the wind,
scatter the papers
Why didn't I
see it coming,
feel the pressure
the binding ready
I gather pages from bushes,
find them dodging tires
in the parking lot,
clouding the sky
with their freedom.
Heat the ingots in the fire,
See them blaze red white.
Seize them with the tongs,
on the anvil,
Force the metal into shapes.
Or split the wood with an axe,
Carve the fragments into birds
They take flight.
There are some dreams
that should end
like an old t.v. show,
interrupted by applause
and a word
from the sponsor,
to give us a chance
to stand back
see what we've done,
and understand why
it must end.
When I was twenty
of the eastern seaboard
dove from airplanes,
through the side streets
For a six week summer
I was bold;
and saved up a life time
of tales told to children,
and lies told to lovers.
the weather man
left the plows
idle over night
and the world
on its way to work
I risk hernia
and heart attack
to shovel out
curse all snowmen
breeds a sound
on the beach
now that I
in one solid
or stringing off
it is no longer
a sign of manhood
like it was
when I was thirteen.
if I flaunt
when I couldn't
pleases no one
when I can.
from your walk
in the machine
Not From The Neighborhood
you were from
that distant planet
on the other side
of the city
and I could not
more or less
it might have been
for all I know
north is north
and south is south
they can never meet
at least not here
where every corner
knows its name
and every mother
with a broom
sweeps the streets
with an eye
It might be a polished, beautiful, arranged marriage or it
might be a cuckoo clock. But you may rest assured –
everybody loves Xeroxing their body parts. Once when I became
aroused by staring for over an hour at a supposed Xerox of the
(fucking amazing) gazebo we built in the Catskills that past misty
rainy May on Praxil, and realized it was indeed a limited edition
Liza Minnelli foot, the practice began to rapidly flag
around the office – like a real snip I’d collaged the thing
madly over my cubicle walls for everyone to see,
and since then the Xerox machine rested idle.
Of course it wasn’t the gazebo! That gazebo had been so
beautiful! This thing looked like cast-iron cookware!
Commitments to trends do last. They do work, even if
the trend is arranged marriage – Walmart will continue to set
trends; WC condoms will continue to save lives.
There are a couple of pigeon fanciers in my neighborhood,
as there had been on that great, great trip we’d built
that wonderful, wonderful gazebo on: the point is even
they wouldn’t freak if a bird jumped out of Liza Minnelli’s
So in picking a samoosa out of a Casio wristwatch
I rely heavily on boredom. Another thing not for
thaasophobics is studying trees on television –
boredom is what you require, and then some.
But the predator-prey relation
between similes and metaphors
creeps out like pus from a looming conical boil
and before long it’s edifying and in boredom
we shall experience this brand of edification. Yes,
we will: it’s a unique 21st century malaise, to be sure –
the brainchild of the Industrial Revolution. But I bet you
dinosaurs had it too. So but before robots evolve better
homemaking techniques you shall with your
bored walleyed eyes see through opaque objects
and understand Algal Rule, its peculiar
dynamics and influence on X-ray-powered racing cars,
gas pedal flapping uselessly as various time-
walls are recklessly and whoopingly breached.
We then, thanks to our boredom, will
cruise by herds of smaller foraging dinosaurs
of a time before such groovy terms as ‘thaasophobia’
or ‘samoosa’ even existed. I’m speaking from
experience, goddamnit: that time I ate a
toxic tart and, supine in bed, glotzed at
large breasted how-to television presenters,
I massaged my healthy iron rod – indeed, with BOREDOM
I witnessed a dinner party disaster
being all but the direct result of riding out
this crushing, crushing wave of BOREDOM I
was riding, at the dinner party. I peed from an exotic treehouse –
again I do not remember how I ended up in said treehouse –
into a bush of marijuana down below and normally, friends,
I would not do such a thing. On which (i.e. the bush of marijuana
I was uncharacteristically peeing on) the
aforementioned small, and rather endearing dinosaur
was doing its prehistoric rendition of ‘foraging’ –
to the accompaniment of clicking mandibular sounds
of a sort of disturbing nature…
In almost every popular movie there’s a subliminal frame in which
municipal waste froths and bubbles up. It would cause audience-wide
nausea and projectile vomiting and moral outrage if not for the fact that
you can hardly see it because it’s so incredibly subliminal.
Behind every celebrity lawsuit there’s the shady tale of a bizarre
drug resistance formed in the wake of an overdose entailing anti-
depressant deodorant and photovoltaics and Wii games in which
the celebrity in question acts as a spiritually repugnant, horned,
habit-dependant gorilla killer in a parodical Chuck Norris disguise.
The drug in question is fly ointment – in which the litigating
celebrity itself is the fly.
Every pissing match is addictive. Ectoplasms are to infantilism what anti-
depressants are to righteously indignant actors what municipal waste is to
a crusading director. This is how important people and other movers and
shakers fight their own demons: by enlisting in creepy contests and
drinking weak tea.
The goal behind every human endeavor is counterbalanced by a
quirky desire to be entombed in a zoo – to defuse its own
humorlessness. The nice things we do to others are invariably
paired with urine trouble. The morning after an ejaculation of
cynicism the puddle if you swipe a finger through it tastes like
artificial sweetener. A sticky crystallization and an odor of diabetes
and of sex springing from friction technology that, diluted with early
morning dew, glaze free parking areas in which pigs sink and wooden
spirits are the very defunct parking meters that serve as both inspiration
behind and embodiment of this act of parking philanthropy.
The city council likes to see itself as the Larva Mommy. At
banquets it uses a carrion napkin to catch the dribblings of the
populace’s nihilism – which it dines on with a ferocity that borders
on musical. Its moniker is not incidental because everything about
the city council oozes liquefaction;
the mayor is a blob and his office chair is ergonomically designed to
ensconce his buttocks with the artistry of a juggler, due to their many
facets spilling over like the Tricky Sausage™ every defamer of Exit signs
liked to play with as a kid. But even the liquefactionist mayor’s chair
knows there is no real all-encompassing catcher of buttocks in the
universe. And no exit.
Two Years Leap
Its dimensions are
Four scars per square midnight
By eight pounds of cubed whimper
Of at least sixteen echoes
Broiled slow over a glowing past
Rescued from a quilt of imitation dream
I bored myself mindless as a child
Spending entire days Doubling
The number two To reach Trillions
I'd have to slap those python figures
Hard To keep them from falling off the page
THAT LITTLE TUTOR FEAR
Is Hall Monitor today Scooting around
With his bean-size portable paralysis machine
Does an intersection
Ever remember where it was
Only a block ago?
These paintings are ugly
Why is the sun
Wearing its cobra earrings?
Where are the Kelvin Thermometers
That can raid the past
Bring it back Like a
Floury mother in a blue apron
Gently whipping her lost child home?
A BIRD-LIKE BARBECUE
This grilling of Hope
The cries arise
Give us more Night!
Pack it more tightly about our ribs!
The water on the river
Has caught the candles of night
Especially the tall elms and willows
Waiting to be called for Coffin Duty
I will miss you
Said the feckless Dawn
To the imitation pennies
Lying soft on the flat dry eyes
THE ENIGMA STEEPED IN SUNSET
Induces a numbed euphoria
Resembling the Number 3
Of your body Induces me
To become a Body Own a body
How to go on
When the riddle
Becomes a riddle
With no question No answer
May Be Brother Jack You might
Want lug in some Canned Death
Into the silent consonants? No?
I would have delivered you fresh slices
Of Sunlight on a tray carved of cave shadow
Slivers of Dissolved Memory
Was given IV's
She pointed at a Cocoa Tin
Where they discovered
All those fake ID's
Named John McKernan
You think there's a jail
Where you can turn in the past
A stack of coupons
For a free six-pack of lies?
What I wrote when you were away
for Alison Whelan
I walk on those Cockle’s shells lined on the strand
of Woods Town, taking breath, feeling
the breeze under the skin.
The breeze flowing like the Danube River,
like the rainbow River of Han,
like Barrow of the Slieve Blooms
mountains in County Laois.
As I am walking, I vividly imagine
the feel of your laughter,
soothing to the mind and heart,
every tone rubbing the walls of my ears,
sweet like a bell,
how your absence alone turns the water
of your loveliness into wine.
for Alison Whelan
The sun pours long light down the beach in torrent
and the strand is wet. A man gestures and approaches me.
He is on bare foot and holding pair of shoes in his right hand,
neatly dressed as if he stops here after a banquet
or something else. He dips his hands into his pockets
and brings out beautiful seashells he picks there,
to ask me what I think. And as I tell him they’re very fine,
a smile polished in the bright sunshine rolls over his face.
He turns and leaves. Later that evening in the room,
I picture the two of us, in this shore of unbridled marvels and slow time,
our words like those finer things people come here
and look for, but never find.
They advanced slowly, a little caravan of six, the whole of Marion Stafford’s world. Her husband’s feet led the way,
pointing like lances above the stirrups while she pushed the chair along. Sunlight played with the jaunty orange pennant
flapping at the end of a stick fastened to the chair. Their children straggled alongside: two boys about ten years old,
copies of each others, down to their frayed shirts and patched pants, a younger boy of about five or six with round eyes,
and behind them all, a thin girl with spindle legs, apparently the eldest, scudding along like a bag of stones. The twin
boys prodded each other and traded insults and loud laughs.
"Look, there's a bench and some shade," Marion said. "Wouldn't it do us good to rest a moment before lunch?" Ignoring
the bickering of the twins and the scowling of the girl, she steered the wheelchair toward a tree and aimed her ample shape
at a wooden bench. Her husband twisted around to look at her, a puzzled frown taking hold.
"I need to sit, Nelson," she said. "My legs are killing me." She looked down at her feet. Rising from sensible shoes
were swollen legs, bulging with purple knobs under the paper white skin. She hoisted her feet and released all her breath
with the shuddering rattle of a punctured balloon. Three heads turned in admiration. Then the moment vanished.
"Mom, Billy burped in the ticket bin when we left," one of the twins said. "It was a baloney bull burp."
"Did not," protested his twin brother. "Johnnie did it."
The two older boys turned to six-year-old Johnnie, accusers in duplicate, and the littlest boy's eyes widened. "How
does a baloney bull burp?"
The older two belched, retched, and lost themselves in giggles.
"Billy, Mike, stop it," their mother tsked. "Don't be irritating."
“Babies," said their sister, stretching the 's'. "Did you not learn anything this morning?"
It was 1967 and the third day of their week at the World's Fair in Montreal. On the first day, Marion had gathered
them all, checking for sunhats, and made her announcements.
"We should see our own country," she said, "before we go gallivanting around the world to the other countries."
So they had perused the maps, taken the metro from the hotel with the big green sign, and boarded the mini-train to take
them across the bridge and over the river to the Canadian pavilions on the island. At each transfer, Nelson hobbled with
his cane up steps and down stairwells, and then staggered forward by stretching his hands along the walls. His wife had had
the inspiration to rent the wheelchair.
"Nelson, you'll be more comfortable. We'll see so much in a day. The buildings all have ramps."
But her husband lurched defiantly down the walkway from the train. He'd fought a world war on these two legs he told her,
gawd dammit all, and he was not getting in a bloody chair for a kids' amusement park. But the World's Fair covered several
acres with dozens of buildings. As the morning wore on, it became clear even to him that if they were going to see more than
one exhibit, there had to be a faster method. He finally agreed to the wheelchair, shaking his cane at them.
Outside the Canada buildings was a replica of the northlands: the Rocky Mountains, a miniature waterfall and a heap of
shining stones that the boys immediately clambered upon.
"Boys, Billy, Michael, Johnnie, all of you. Come down this instant," their mother said, avoiding the stares of people
flooding by. "We're here to learn, not dally like sheep."
Inside they saw displays about aboriginal peoples and about the prairies. They learned about metals and minerals.
"'Treasures of the northlands'," Marion said, reading the caption above a display of mining ore. Stirring music spilled
from a dark blue-carpeted film room beside the display as people streamed out. The next show was beginning.
"Can we see the movie?" asked Sarah. "The aisles are wide enough for daddy's chair and you can sit, mom."
Just before the film started, Marion noticed that her youngest child was still outside the door.
"Sarah, go get Johnnie. He's daydreaming again," she said and Sarah went to peel her little brother away from the mining
display where he was staring at the sparkles in the rocks.
“Jewels,” he said. His eyes were bright as buttons.
The theatre went dark and the family grew quiet during the film, staring at the screen. The music swelled and scenes of
lush forests and rich mines and tunnels through mountains captured them all, even Nelson. Just as the movie rolled to a
close, Marion spied Johnnie blowing with all his might into an empty candy box he'd found, trying to make an explosion.
She seized it in time and gave him one of her looks. The movie ended and they joined the line of people shuffling to the
"Okay. What's the difference between fission and fusion?" Sarah asked her brothers with a superior air.
"I like fishin'," said Billy.
"You don't have the energy," said Mike, poking his twin with an elbow.
"Don't push," Marion said absently without looking around, absorbed as she was in piloting the wheelchair between the
ropes guiding them out. Along the corridor there were posters showcasing the regions of Canada.
"See, kids," said their mother, "even our little place counts. We're not big like the farms out west, but it says here
that southern Ontario is important to the country."
Sarah started singing the Ontario song, A place to stand, a place to grow, raising her voice and flinging out thin
arms the way she imagined a real artist would for the last part: Ontari-ari-ari-O.
"You look stupid," said Michael. He made a face at her.
"Dopey," Billy agreed. “Ontario turkey.”
They reached the exit doors where a large mural covered the walls with trees and sky and Marion stopped the chair.
"If the glory of Europe is art and architecture," said Marion in the dignified voice she normally used for praying,
"then truly, the beauty of Canada has to be our geography. Look at that picture of those mountains, the jagged rock, and
the climbing pine trees. Look at the elk. Nelson, remember the summer we went to Banff before Johnnie was born?"
Her husband managed a crooked smile but she saw that his blood sugar level was dipping. She realized that soon he
would be weak and cranky. The family left early that day for the hotel.
On the second day, Marion said they could sample the rest of the world so they began with Europe. They admired the
delicate Hungarian lace floating like lustrous phantoms in the velvet theatre ("eee-yew, spider webs," Billy had said); they
marvelled at masterworks of Austrian crystal displayed in shimmering cases ("glass with zits," Sarah had said); they gazed
in awe at towering stacks of national cheeses in the France pavilion ("Cow fat," pronounced Mike, "comes from cow tits,"
sending his brothers into convulsive laughter and Sarah into deeper disdain.)
The third day had arrived, and they were 'doing' Asia. They had finished two pavilions and needed lunch. Now they were
out in the sun at noon, leaving the building where Billy had burped, and proceeding down the walk to find food. First, they
had to rest.
Marion fanned herself with a brochure while the boys flopped down beside a tree and ripped up blades of grass to fashion
trapsfor grasshoppers. Sarah turned her back and faced away, as if she were totally unrelated to the five people behind
her. She was different bigger, stronger, brighter than her brothers. She was enraged that she presented to the world the
same sunken eyes, the same high forehead, and the same pinched concern as her father. Facing away from the crowds, she
couldsee the monorail train on suspended tracks slipping around the edges of the park and saw herself inside, riding away
to her real home, somewhere in the city, a house with a normal family and a sidewalk and a careful carpet of grass, without
a speck of the scrabble brush and dirt of a mixed-crop farm.
Johnnie stopped his job as a trap maker and came around to his mother. He had to go to the bathroom, he said, wriggling
in his worn shoes.
"Again, Johnnie?" she said, running her hand in his curly hair. "Billy and Mike, go with him. Look, there's a sign over
"Nah, Mom, we don't have to go."
"Run then, Johnnie. And hurry. Remember, we're at the . . ." she squinted at the sign on the nearest building, striking
in its brilliant blue-tiled cladding, just a few yards away, ". . . at the Iranian Pavilion."
The little boy ran off and Marion resumed fanning her face, her breath stuttering in a shallow staccato. Her husband
shifted impatiently, wanting his lunch. The twins caught a grasshopper and crowed victory. Sarah closed her eyes so she
would not have to see or touch or hear the challenge of these people, the weird parents, and the obnoxious brothers.
Cicadas buzzed their industrious crescendos. Heat clung like a thick web. Time gelled.
Johnnie had been bored all morning. Everyone took so long to get past the slow stuff. The spider webs yesterday were
all right, but the Canadian pavilion on the first day was the best part. One day he would drive a big truck like the ones
in the movie about mining. There was a big yellow machine they called an insect. Yes, what was it? A caterpillar. He liked
that one. There was energy in the mine, the movie said. The machines dug out stones and then other machines made energy
from them. He had a lot of energy. His mother was always saying, “I don't know where you get your energy, Johnnie."
He was pleased that his mother had allowed him to go to the washroom by himself. He and his twin brothers had been
corralled like a pen of steers for the last two days. They shared a bed at the hotel at night and then all day the others
tormented him with their games and tricks. It was good to be free of them for a moment.
He was quick in the bathroom. He didn't understand the different languages around him and there were many men, few
kids. He peered out the door as he dried his hands and twisted his neck like an inquisitive bird, pretending that he had
a dad waiting for him just outside. He did that a lot, pretending that his dad was standing outside, just around the corner,
waiting to pick him up and take him into town where they would bat a ball around the park together and run the bases, and
when he scored a run, his dad would notice and clap and jump. His elder brothers could remember when their father could
"He used to swim, too," Billy had said. "Beat the other dads." Johnny could see his father cutting out from shore with
a vee of dads beating after him, fanned wide like geese in autumn.
As Johnnie left the damp coolness of the toilets and came out to the blaze of the sun, he thought about what his mother had
said. After pausing for a moment and crooking his head to one side, he knew what he had to do. He set off at a brisk walk,
motoring his six-year-old legs as fast as they would go.
While the family waited for the youngest to return, the two older boys graduated from grasshoppers to whistles. Billy
showed Mike how to pluck a fat blade, thumb-pinch and blow. Rude wet sounds dissipated into helpless chortles and they
rolled on the grass like puppies.
"Boys, stop that," said their mother and they dissolved again. Marion put down her paper fan. "Do you want people to
think you're hillbillies?" she said, glancing in embarrassment at the people passing by with their shiny baby carriages and
bright new clothes.
Billy imitated her voice. "Boyees, stop that." He had the intonation spot-on, the nasal diphthong, and the raised chin.
His mother gave him one long look and he retreated to building traps again.
"Infants," hissed Sarah.
Nelson began pulling impatiently at the arms of his chair and Marion turned to stroke his shoulder.
"Where is that child?" With her other hand she sheltered her eyes from the sun as she looked for her youngest. "Billy
and Mike, go around back and get him. He's such a dawdler."
The twins arose in articulated sections from the grass, first a knee, an arm, and then a reluctant hip, unrolling at a
torturous pace until they stood at an angle, their heads drooping in feigned frailty. Billy moved first.
"You're it," he said, poking Mike in the ribs and racing to the back of the building. His brother followed, yelling.
Within less than a minute, they were back, punching each other and watching their mother.
"Not there, Mom." Billy grinned at the heck that their little brother was going to get.
"Of course he is. Go back in there and find him. Go on, now."
They went back and this time they were gone several minutes. Nelson jerked his head at his wife and barked something.
She realized his blood sugar was dropping and he needed to eat. She instructed Sarah to go to the nearest building and use
her schoolgirl French to talk to the attendants. Perhaps Johnnie had gone inside.
The twins finally returned.
"Nope," said Billy.
"Probably ran away," Mike added hopefully.
When Sarah also returned with no news, her mother was very quiet.
"But they told me where we can get drinks," Sarah said. Her mother scrabbled in her purse and retrieved a bill.
"Here, Sarah, be a love and get some juice for everyone."
The girl left, her slouch all but gone, and she strode off like someone with an important mission.
It took Johnnie quite a while to reach the place. He figured that his mom and dad were somewhere near and he sat at the
bottom of a rock pile to wait. He looked at the people going by. There was a man with a broom and a funny hat clearing up
paper cups along the sidewalk. There were teenagers holding hands and laughing loudly. There were lots of families. Some
had babies in strollers. The dads all walked normally, wearing sandals and shorts. Some of them carried their little kids.
When Johnnie looked beyond the sidewalk, he could see the pavilions around the fair grounds and the trains that ran on
skinny stilts above people's heads. In the city across the river, the buildings were great mirrors. He could even see a
part of the green sign on their hotel but the letters were tiny because it was so far away. The sky was the colour of a
boy bluebird's wings.
It was taking a while for his mom and everyone to show up so Johnnie amused himself by scampering up and down the pile
of rocks like a hired hand on a wagon of alfalfa at harvest time. The sun was hot, though, so he crouched on the shady side
and watched the splotch of light creep along the glistening ridges of the rock to his shelter, pulling his sneakers back
into the cool once the hot edge teased his feet. Soon murmurs of the park wrapped around him and he lowered his head.
Cradling his knees with his arms, he pitched slowly back and forth to keep from falling off.
"Hello, little man. Are you lost?" A man smiled up at him.
"Nope," said Johnnie. "My mom and dad are coming. They told me to wait." He looked at the man's shoes, white as
whitewash, not a speck of dirt or grass stain.
"That's good, then," said the man.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," Johnnie added.
The man nodded solemnly. "Then we'll stop talking, shall we? Have a good afternoon." With that, he continued down the
walk. Johnnie watched the white shoes pad away softly.
A lot of time went by. When the sun took over his shady spot, he climbed to another. He found that, if he went high
enough on the hot stones, he could see different views of the city. The tops of the buildings showed up more and more and
when he stretched, he could see the whole of the green sign on the hotel.
The drinks Sarah had bought kept everyone happy for five minutes. Her father was the first to protest, punching the
arms of the wheelchair and banging his heels on the footrest. The children fell silent. Everyone was used to his canes;
it was his fits that made them jumpy.
"We'll go to the food court," Marion said, her face tight. "You can eat and I'll look for the officials."
She rose and eased the chair forward from the grass to the sidewalk and the caravan proceeded again into the thick
heat of midday, now a more solemn group, Nelson's legs spearing the way, the boys kicking at bits of trash, Sarah a bit
straighter, no longer challenging her brothers. The breeze slackened and the orange triangle hung like a flap of useless
skin. I took several minutes to find the food court. Marion installed them at a table and went to find someone, anyone
who might help. The kitchen staff understood English.
"Lost Children, Madame", the cook told her. "You go to Lost Children." He showed her a map and drew a line from the
food court to a central space called Les Enfants Perdus.
Marion looked back at her family. Sarah was feeding her father, the twins gobbling hamburgers. She calculated that they
would keep for half an hour.
Johnnie wondered where his family was. Maybe his father had had one of his problems and they had to go to a doctor.
Maybe they had forgotten him. Yes, that's what happened. Sometimes at home, his mother would take off in the car to go to
town with his brothers and would have to stop partway up the lane to wait for him. Sure, they had gone without him. The sun
was coming at a slant and the rough rasp of the rocks was cooler on his hands. Somewhere on the island, a revolving beacon
cut a slow circle in the sky, a giant's lawn sprinkler dialling a circle in the gloom. The people Johnnie had seen entering
the exhibition buildings were now coming out, pushing babies in strollers, carrying plastic bags. Some of the babies were
hollering and whining. Kids were holding streamers and paper toys from the displays they had seen. New types of people
were going in the other direction. He could see teenaged boys in tight pants and white socks and girls wearing short skirts.
They were holding hands and walking in groups. They were not going into buildings; they were moving toward an open field
where he could hear music.
He wished that his brothers were here bossing him around. Or his sister could be bawling out Mike and Billy and then he
could be learning, for he was the youngest and he learned by avoiding the trouble the rest of them caught. But he was alone.
The beacon waggled its thin finger of light.
He looked across the river. The city was a stack of blazing colour, the tall buildings like giant candles burning from
the inside. The green sign on the hotel was as bright as a movie against a cartoon sky the colour of lilacs. As he stood at
the top, rising high to see, the man in white shoes from earlier in the afternoon came back down the walk. He had something
in tin foil and he smiled up to Johnnie.
"You can't talk to strangers, okay, but you could eat a hot dog, couldn't you?"
The fat bundle in the man's hand stretched to Johnnie like a gift. He could taste the sweet and salty fat of the wiener,
the sugar of the ketchup, the juice of the relish. Even onions he wouldn't mind. He climbed down and took the foil package
from the man, taking care to thank him. His mother had always said you should show city people that you know your manners;
they always think country people are ignorant.
"You're welcome, sailor." The man sat down and watched him eat. When the hot dog was gone, Johnnie picked the relish
bits from the foil.
"I like a hungry boy," said the man. "Would you like more? Come, little man, I'll show you more." He smiled at the boy
and his teeth glistened like hard candies. He put one soft shoe on a low rock and jangled coins in his pocket.
At Les Enfants Perdus, Marion's eyes darted around like a trapped bird's. She saw children eating ice cream and children
playing with toys and parents with pinched faces. But she did not see her youngest son. She went to the counter and stood
waiting, the welts in her legs twisting under her skin. The park officials took down the 'particulars'; they had special
forms to fill out. Age? How much did the boy weigh? Maybe eighty pounds, certainly no more. All his young life she'd nagged
him to eat. Height? Not much. He'd be smaller yet if she hadn't discovered the wasting when he was three years old. She
first had noticed a slight limp and called to him. He came with a smile, a stain on his ragged cotton T-shirt. When she
examined the little legs sticking out of his shorts, she saw that the right one was thinner than the left. It was the
summer of polio. She hurried the whole family into the car and they drove to the medical clinic. Johnnie had to do special
exercises and wear a metal brace. It took a whole year to grow a bit and to regain the use of the leg. The memory for her
was like a knife cut, the summer she forgot her youngest child. He must have contracted the polio early in the season and
no one had noticed until August.
What was he wearing? Short pants or long? Johnnie didn't have specific clothes of his own. He wore whatever fit,
hand-me-downs, once-bright tees gone grey, and jeans rubbed thin. What was he wearing that day? Billy's shirt, she thought.
Mike's old socks.
Colour of eyes? Hair? What did he like to do? An image of Johnnie at two reeled into her mind. In the middle of the
night, there came a strange clicking, a plastic sound, not the usual skittering of field mice in the attic or the sawing of
crickets in the wallboards. She and Nelson arose, for her husband could walk then, and they checked through all the
bedrooms. When they came to the nursery, they found their little son sitting in the dark, eyes closed, playing with his
toy bricks. He was sleep-building. They gently pried the pieces away and put him back to bed.
"He likes building things in his sleep," she said.
The officials at Les Enfants Perdus looked at each other. Wait another hour, they told her: it takes time for people to
bring a lost child to the centre. Anyway, she had other sons, they joked. Marion glared at them, fighting to keep from
crying in front of these strangers.
As Johnnie finished the hot dog, the man reached a hand toward him.
"Come with me, little man," he whispered.
Johnnie looked past him. The sky was deep purple now and the city's lights were showing double in the river, broken into
twinkles by lazy waves. The beacon sliced its circle in the dark with a crisp clean knife. Something cold clawed inside him
and there was a damp and mysterious smell in the evening air. Johnny looked past the man with white shoes and saw a woman
pushing a pink baby buggy far down the walkway. His chest tightened. He half-turned, coiled like a barn cat, and sprang.
In the split second of the flying arc on the way down, he arranged his sneakers and his mind for ground touch and landed,
the right leg wobbly at first, then both legs solid and true.
"Oh, there they are," he said airily. "There's my mom and little sister," and he bounded with the gaiety that
accompanies reunions with loved ones.
When Marion returned to Les Enfants Perdus for the fourth time that afternoon, the police had arrived. They took her
into a room and asked her questions. Had there been an argument with the boy? Did he have reason to be upset? They would put
out a bulletin across the fairgrounds, by phone and poster and walkie-talkie. They told her the same thing the park
security had earlier: kids do this at fairs, they wander away, and then they show up. They told her to stay nearby so
they could reach her. The calmer the police were, the more Marion's mind spiralled. He's a blond curly-haired boy, she
told them, small for his age, bright and creative. A country boy, she said; he doesn't know cities or crowds. Then she
had to turn away from the officers, because this time, she could not stop the hot welling that stung her eyes.
After his jump from the top of the rocks to the sidewalk, Johnnie rocketed with a raw new power. Without looking back,
he sped toward the woman with the baby buggy who was now disappearing around a bend in the walk. He didn't stop when he
reached the lady but he did slow down and skipped in front, bouncing like a playful lamb on springs, as if he had no cares
at all. As soon as the lady reached the gate to the train platform, he veered away and took the exit to the bridge instead.
It was only when he got beyond the gate that he looked back. He saw no man in white shoes.
Cars whizzed past as he walked across the bridge toward the city, watching the green sign move. It wafted slowly along
with him the way the moon did when his mother drove them in the car into town at night. He walked past office towers where
people were leaving to go home, rushing out in dark clothes and hard shoes and black umbrellas. Many carried little narrow
suitcases. On one corner, he saw a blue tower with a big golden clock. Now that he was old and smart he was supposed to
be able to tell time and he stopped to puzzle it out: nine minutes and seven hours. Or was that nine hours and seven
minutes? There was a large open area in front of a building made of glass and lights. People in fancy dresses and funny
suits were getting out of long white cars and walking up wide steps. Music floated out and pulled the people inside.
He kept going. Now he was on a narrow street clogged with garbage and cardboard boxes that spilled out to the pavement.
Cars edged around the boxes and honked at each other. A heavy door in a dark building opened and a bunch of men poured out,
slapping each other’s backs and talking fast in French. Johnnie knew it was French because his sister was trying to learn
French. She complained all the time.
"Comment ça va, mon p'tit?" a slurred voice said to him. "Une p'tite bière?"
"Tiens!" said another, patting his head and draping a cord with a tiny plastic bottle around his neck. Johnnie reminded
himself he should not talk to strangers. He walked away so fast that he lost sight of the sign. His stomach began to curl
in hard knots but when he went around another corner, he found the bright green letters again.
As he trudged along he came to a store where there was a family speaking French with their two little kids looking in
the window. He stood beside them and looked inside too. They could see puppets and model planes and toy cars. When the family
went into the toy store, he followed them. The store was fun and they all spent a lot of time there. No one wondered about
him because he stayed with the other children, imitating them, exclaiming, "voilà!" and "tiens!” But he was careful to
behave. He wanted so much to stick out his elbows and pump his arms like wings when the little kids said, "quoi? quoi?"—but
he didn't. His mom would have been proud.
As the family left the store, the clerk at the door held out a basket of key chains attached to toys for each kid to
choose. Johnnie followed the family as they left and put his hand in the basket too. There were little plastic gloves
and cash registers and even a ball like the shining building back at the fair. He picked out a key chain with a tiny,
white running shoe.
The green sign kept growing bigger and bigger, but he found that the closer he got, the harder it was to keep it in
view. Sometimes the sign played with him, flitting out of view then drifting into a narrow slice of sky between the trunks
of buildings. Other times he had to retrace his steps and go back a few streets to find it. Even if he could only see a few
letters at least, he had a piece. His feet were aching and he was now very thirsty. He kept walking.
The park had closed to day visitors. Sarah brought her mother some tea but her mom gagged and could not drink. The
daytime crowd was leaving, families with strollers and children straggling alongside. The nighttimes crowd was arriving,
teenagers dressed in miniskirts and jeans and leather jackets, lots of big jewellery. Sarah watched them in envy. They
were coming for the dancing and the bands, laughing, flirting, moving in packs to La Ronde where the Youth Pavilion was.
Her mother touched her arm.
"Sarah," she said, "you and daddy and the twins should go back to the hotel. You can take a taxi. No need for you all
to stay here. I'll come later with Johnnie."
Sarah steered the wheelchair and her brothers down the walk to the exit and her mother went the other way towards the
Johnnie felt a cold squeeze in his chest. He was on a wide street that looked like the one where the hotel was. And a
minute ago, the sign had been very large and the letters seemed to be above his head. Now he couldn't see the sign at all,
not even one letter. He seemed to be in a parking lot where a man in a uniform was using a flashlight to direct cars in
and out. It was all right to talk to a police officer and a man in a uniform is almost a police officer, not a stranger.
"Excuse me, sir." His father had taught him to call people "sir." "I'm looking for the hotel with the green sign on
"Voilà, mon petit monsieur." He flashed his light toward the corner of the building. "Go around to the front where
the main doors are. Beautiful evening, non?"
Only the Youth Pavilion with the dance band was open. Marion had no choice but to go home now. Without Johnnie.
In later years, she would not be able to remember the trip from the island to the hotel. She would not recall if she
had taken the train, or a cab or a bus. She only remembered labouring into the hotel lobby, still holding her face in a rigid
mask to contain her terror. Vaguely, she saw her husband sound asleep on a sofa in the waiting area, his cane angled by
his side. Her burning eyes took in the rest of the lobby and then she snapped alive. There, on the opposite side in a huge
leather armchair, she saw him, her youngest. He was sleeping too, his face a pale moon, his thin form swallowed in the
chair. Relief washed from the top of her skull and down her spine. She ran over and shook him awake with her hugging.
"Where were you? Who brought you back?" She suffocated a rising sob.
"I waited for you, Mom, and you didn't come."
"But we were right there. Where did you wait?"
"At the Iranium." But he was tired and she saw that he could not pronounce it correctly.
"But we were there, child. Where were you?"
"I was sitting on the Iranium the whole time," he said accusingly, "and you didn't come. I sat at the bottom and then at
She changed topic.
"Who brought you back to the hotel?" A tiny plastic beer bottle at his neck advertised the name of a tavern and she
"I did." He scrubbed at his eyes.
"What do you mean, Johnnie?" He held out his hand, unwrapped his fist and showed her the key chain.
"I walked. A store gave me this."
"What do you mean, you sat on the Iranian?" asked his mother, returning to the original question.
"I went there and climbed up. You know, the Iranium, where the energy is."
"Yes, Mom, you know—where the mines are."
A crooked grin awoke his pinched little face. Taking Victoria Bridge to Peel, a good ten miles or more separated the
hotel from the Canadian Pavilion on Ile Ste.Helène.
Long after they returned home, Ontario's song ran on all the radio stations, blaring at them: A place to stand, a
place to grow. Even Sarah grew tired of it.
Jason A Wilkinson
She bored a thin hole
in my sedan chair
leaving the silt of forlorn pleasures
in want of sweeping;
crooked on their nails
A calypso ballad dangles
from the stereo
wafting its tenuous pulsations
where silent dance
once pinioned shadows
amid tapestry and rug
incense and soapstone
-paramours fused in maudlin grace
The laminated Saracen
discloses an unbecoming physiognomy
from its paper tumulus
beckoning me to Florence
and the vigorous dialectic of Savonarola
chiding the resolve of my study
with taciturn derision
Night-birds crowd the lonesome tree outside,
the fall of our twilit sentinels
Oft have I heard them
whisper beyond the sill
their gossamer vestments
under a jade carapace
Though here must I find reverie burthensome
where fixtures became truncated
in the softening lights
so that even my lone steps drifted
among the jigsaw of flown days.
drew a line
through the vacuum
retracing that isolated framework
with neon gel
Though it is said
that her voice can sear
tracks in the Universe
numerals on a smudged cloth
practice my heart
to chime like terpsichorean bells
Gilt sleeves of tapered jade
blind me in an unhewn summer field
between them patching
the cloth of our wingless flight
Paring the down
Where fair skies
drove us from shelter
cavernous, teakwood eyes
piece me together
in the attenuated lamplight
Transistor flickering like a distant candle
through the matrix of wild
flora beyond her impossible smile
Valhalla glimmered tangentially
the footsteps to Eden.
Take Life By The Nut-Sack
And run with it until the putrefied bits slip
through your fingers
causing infections to spread
like gossip over them
staining your clothes
Run with it until it dries in your hands
though it were no more than powder
and the hair upon that scrotum
has desiccated beyond recognition
Until you no more notice the stench of it
than that of a dead fly
entombed beneath the azaleas
and pedestrians are obliged to wear protective gear
lest you should contaminate them unawares
Run with the precious nickel bag
twisting every last demand from its host
-bury your nails in supple flesh
if only to exact more and more
Take Life by the nut-sack and wear it on a chain
next to the promise rings and that fake shark tooth
your uncle Dougie swore came from ’a big one’
he caught off the coast of Jamaica last spring
Take Life by the nut-sack and treat it like a prostitute
dragging it through the streets
at the ends of frayed tethers
Use its head for a battering ram
against hard-to-open doors
Take Life by the nut-sack without compunction
or the occasional hangover
Take Life by the nuts
and unto those testes
do what Conscience dictates
must be inflicted upon no other.
Dutch Schultz Bobblehead
I crane my neck
of the rubber song
pinioned, obeisant lamps
masticate cigar plumes
consciousness is revisited
on the floor mat
in a lukewarm Black Russian
The dance floor is naked
planks along a broken hall
soporifically to refrain
This is a tennis ball silencer
dropped among excrescent
coppice verdure melting
there without ceremony
lawnmowers graze menacingly
between the heavy stones
taunts the air
I limp from the dashboard
exhibiting amid other qualities
of less obvious repute
a propensity to roll
under the seats
where churchyard plastic
bathes my corpulent
skull with music.
Call My Name Through The Fallen Square
Where quietude is manic
through iron-clad forests
past vagabond mansions
Let your voice
echo among those solemn relics
Kneel down along a fetid brook;
there rivulets simper
but do not flow
-whose black metal skin
among palsied flowers
Look for me
neath the upturned flame
the misplaced extremity
Bent pike heads
loiter in dejected clusters
as if in speechless commune
over the workless days ahead
in a memory
Call me through the middling haze
its lingering engagement
beyond quondam parvenus
the ether is hemlock
Feel me in the closing requiem
of Jupiter and Narcissus
like a faraway excrescence
until the pall catches fire.
Now in their infinite pleasures,
some deepened sense of grandeur
comes to rescue everything,
as though it had always known
how much sacrifice it must make --
and mingles with the vagrant evening,
and one by one the old brick cottages,
worn smooth and hoary-white
by decades of rain, ice and wind,
at once restored,
tremble and blossom new--
the front porches at last believing in God,
the fierce, terrible, shiny hallucinations
of a fumbling, queer dusk
that quarrels in the alleyways
and comes more tenderly
than the limber starlight
that plays the fields like a lute.
And the crest-fallen streets
hide inside the stems of dandelions,
and drainpipes whisper the names of flowers,
and garden hoses ask impossible questions
not even the moon knows.
Surely the fall of dark
must seem highly contrived
to fireflies in the churchyard,
which beckon from no where
the plump streets
floating above the rooftops.
And while the shameless sidewalks undress,
dropping their bedclothes along the hour,
streetlamps hold close the huddled streets.
The self-absorbed, dimmed windows
covered in parchment made of oiled sheepskin
leaping toward the seen and unseen
promise dawn will surely break.
All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is
YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2010 by
Klaus J. Gerken.
The official version of this magazine is available on Ygdrasil's
World-Wide Web site http://users.synapse.net/~kgerken. No other
version shall be deemed "authorized" unless downloaded from there.
Distribution is allowed and encouraged as long as the issue is unchanged.
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