Aug '02 [Home]


Stephanie Dickinson

The Sideshow Geeks Eats a Minuteman 3
East London, 1888
Suzanne Burns

Michael FitzGerald

Sam You Heara Me Callin
Andrew Glaze

Scott Simpson

Contributor Notes

~ . ~

Stephanie Dickinson

After Ché Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary, was executed in the jungles
of Bolivia, a local girl was paid to wash the body in a laundry shack.

The sheets turn away as I caress Ché.
On my wash table where fat blue flies light
I unsnap his pants like any girl for pay.

I smell on his hands (his thumbs they will take)
What he has touched. Guns, sweet plums, mice.
Turn away, sheets, as I caress Ché.

When I peel off his muddied shirt I gaze
His nipples white as rice cooked on fire.
I unsnap his pants like any girl for pay.

His hair lies between my scissor blades.
I cut too much. They say he is Christ.
The sheets look away as I caress Ché.

My finger like a hummingbird's tongue tastes
His calf and thigh angry with spider bites.
I unsnap his pants like any girl for pay.

The moon goes black calling ants to bathe
Inside his eye where my small shadow glides.
The sheets look away as I caress Ché.
I unsnap his pants like any girl for pay.

~ . ~

The Sideshow Geek Eats a Minuteman 3
Suzanne Burns

Harder sideshow fights are spent
Defeating the sinew of chicken necks,
Digesting the dormant charge of electric
Stars barren in cold bulbs, but this battle
Pinpointing my lips, intersecting the neon
Of my heart, declares victory in the ascension
Of my intestines sparring arsenals.

This is my quest to exist, a silver-lined
Orifice, plutonium center sparking
Metallic incense, smooth steel shanks
Ignited with internal combusting,
Gristle of warhead bits marking my gut
Like lovers' quarrels, or fingerprints.

But no remnant of life can be read in these
Nuclear dustings. No mote shed from the arm
Of its creator. Not one solitary hair embossed
Like a foreign letter on the missile's flank,
Nor coded signal deciphered from distant shores.
Even when I taste the radiant core, mouth dripping,
Nothing satiates in that atomic taste.
Radioactive, engineered, man-made—
But never human.

(Sideshow geeks traditionally devour inedible objects(whole chickens, nails, light bulbs).
A Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile is 60 feet tall, weighs 200 tons, and is built
to carry three thermonuclear warheads that could destroy three large cities in one half hour.)

~ .

East London, 1888
Suzanne Burns

For Mary Ann, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary Jane,
and the other unnamed victims of "Jack the Ripper"

Uplifted, our skirts arced like wings
Though you clipped the take-off
Of moist flights and refused to hum
The bridge of hymns sung with carnal tongues.
You strangled halos on our necks, draped
Your girls in the red pearls of fallen angels.
A ceremony clicked in photographer's angles,
Past the ash flash, dark powder translating
The obtuse dynamo of our flesh procession,
Our oracles of bone, our entrails
The color of rare orchids or crown jewels
Tethered us to the bloody London streets,
The fetid alleyways where that autumn
Five chambers of skin, rented
To killers and gentlemen
For coal and bits of bread, toppled
On the cobbles and sank like tombs.
Though our petticoats stank
With the stains of grinding you chose
Not to undress us 'til the end,
Corralling the easy gait of your pleasure
While the half-bred bulls of Britain
Snuffed at our thighs and pawed at our middles.
And they never knew your proper name
To carve on marble pedestals and shatter
Like the pillars of an ancient place.
When you interred us, all of Whitechapel,
With only the fuel of your internal cutting,
Ripped, and unraveled at the seams,
For one-hundred years our grainy pictures
Blown-up and analyzed, how you laid
Us gently on the ground, sliced
Silent smiles across our mouths,
Arranged our viscera like sweets lifted
From the sticky velvet beneath our ribs,
The valentines of our hearts carrying
The secret of your initials to our graves.

(From Freaks and Fairytales a manuscript-in-progress.
Prior publ. or forthcoming in Carriage House Review)

~ . ~

Michael FitzGerald

Level down to the wet flats

And feel the edge of an island sink

Where soft skin breaks

Away from the hard town

People like little pegs in the sand

Wakes caressed and erased

Just a glimmer of the vast

A breath of curve and haze

Come dawdle with man

With his slapping and tears

And his flapping kagool

His precious few years

~ .

Michael FitzGerald

How sharp your beak tongue cuts

And your bamboo arms work and work

Hurling handfuls of rocksalt hard at me

It is over, if you needed a sign

Look at my straining leash

Look at the carpet worn with the pacing

Look at your pumping veins

bubbling with heat

Look at your poor clawed hands

Look at the shot of us kissing and laughing

Like only those in love can do

See how old that makes you feel

Look at our walls

Bowed in pity

~ . ~

Sam You Heara Me Callin?
Andrew Glaze

It's only another old man dying alone,
playing with dregs among the mustache locks,
trapped in the bed wrinkles.
But in some way, Sam's not here, he's cast off in the raft,
is rapiding off down river by burning wreckage
booming with ecstasy through the chutes.

Gone with Huck, Jim,
bilgewater and the dolphin, floating,
pulling up out of lightning on castaway islands,
beset with rattlers, he's lost
in the burnt ends of steamboat nights—
disappeared in the search which never finds itself.

He's learnt to love that creature, wild,
lover of blood,
not quite bright as a stump—which is us.
But don't dast stop laughing,
else it'll turn out rage.

He's gone down that unconsidering river ,
seeking perfidy's bandito strand,
spinning it into yarn.
And this morning , he's tossed
one end of the line in the water,
waits with amusement for what will take the lure
and make a run with the hook of today.

~ . ~

Scott Simpson


We have a secret place
my daughters and I
where an old creek
has run empty

The sky above that hill
pushes fast past the swaying tips
of pines
but the birch, oak
and ironwoods have not yet
leaves enough to dance

No dry winter
no drought emptied our creek
the water turned aside
some years ago
for other work
and my oldest
stares at the smooth stones
sunk into soil
When will the water
come back?

My youngest has hands
delicate as birch twigs
and burrows pebbles
from the bank
like a busy mole
carries one at a time
to the mound of larger rock
we are shaping into
a ring for our campfire

She chooses a spot
for each
and believing in some master design
believing I would know it
asks, Should I put it here?
Or here?

There, that looks good
right there.
But that's really
the question, isn't it?

And I think of the water's
working years and centuries
into polished stones
forever setting and re-setting each
here in our creek bed
to be abandoned


I cannot tell
how my knees bend
how my fingers
inside these leather gloves
swing on their hinges

I know only the digging
and the occasional sun
on my neck

I cannot read the seasons
burned into the grain
of this handle
or tell what secrets if any
the hills keep

but here, another shovelful
for a moment visible
mixing with air
thrown toward the sun


The deep soil
reclaims each stone we leave
unturned, swallowing her
wayward children

around us, the trees
are smoldering
with an inner fire
relaxing into the dirt
that grew them
flaking open with each rain
skeletons all of ribs
marking the ground
with bright stripes
of greener grass

The air darkens
as rain enters the ravine
like a lost fawn:
one step there, here
hesitant behind us
other side of the tree, there
again, over the rise
and suddenly certain
almost purposeful
all around us
the leafy floor comes alive
with movement

We flee our unfinished altar
rain drenching
stones, wood, dirt
rivulets refilling the creek bed
and back in the car
we decide, tomorrow
to build a bridge

Contributor Notes