..:: CONTENTS ::..

..:: POETRY ::..
Sarah Trott
Christopher Eaton
  Poems for Burning Down Black Ark
Jennifer Dearinger
  the cup having not been washed of the rifle under the bed
  indian head nickels
  crystal serving plate
  wrapped in the sheets
  dirtied knees from somewhere
  unscattered ashes
  JOSEPHY BEUYS, the day gurdjieff died
  Row Under Rivers
  Avant Garde Country of Contemporary Art
Jeffrey Schrader
  Ships in Bottles
  Deconstruction of V
  From “Pittsburgh Notes”
Noah Eli Gordon
  from Jaywalking the Is
David Applegate
  [A silent]
  [I don't know]
  [You juggled]
  [Our sky]
Lynn Strongin
  MOVED TO. . .
Amy King
  Leisurama Porn Couples Dance
  How To Make a Painting
Bill Stobb
  Poem for an American Barbeque
  I Truly Believe Bill Gates is a Good Person
Jason Fraley
Friedrich Kerksieck & Aaron James McNally
M. Mara-Ann
  A Running Horse Veiled
J.D. Mitchell-Lumsden
  (on air late sunday evening)
  (the women, an intercepted letter)
  (to us)
  (fatwa ii)
Lizzie Brock
  Work that Body
Jacob Eichert
  Untitled (film/dvd)

..:: PROSE ::..
Powell Burke
Michael Chacko Daniels
  Touch me? Vaya Con Dios inbound on the 22 Fillmore!
Sandra Hunter
  Take It Away
Paul Kavanagh
Paul Silverman
  Letter To B

..:: ETC ::..
  Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
  Volume I, Issue I
  Volume I, Issue II
  Volume II, Issue I


Powell Burke


          Pull that chair up to the bed while Aunt Flo fixes herself another drink.
          Now: how long does this whole thing last? I mean how long does your mother usually take? Oh yeah? Well, I'm old; I qualify for AARP discounts at corporate hotel chains; so let's say fifteen minutes, okay?
          It's called vermouth. It's something older people drink, especially older ladies who were quite the lookers in their days. This is the red variety, so it's sweet, but not too sweet: it's bittersweet, like leaving a career on Broadway to marry an airplane pilot. It helps my nerves. Aunt Flo has a lot of nerves. Did your mother ever tell you that? No?
          A story, a story… how do I pick just one? A gal like me has nothing but stories. I was born in the Philippines, did you know that? Well, I was. Do you know where the Philippines are? They're in what is now known as Southeast Asia. Little Oriental girls would chase my mother through the town, begging her to buy their carved wooden airplanes.
          Or how about this: Your Aunt Flo was married before Pappy. That's right. His name was Ricky and he was a pilot for Braniff. I was a stewardess, with a Pucci-print minidress and white plastic boots up to my knees. He bought me a gold Dunhill cigarette lighter when we working a pleasure flight to Nassau. Boy, we smoked like chimneys in those days. Smoked like chimneys and bathed ourselves in baby oil and iodine, laid out in the sand with aluminum foil reflectors like it was our jobs. I can still remember the way water droplets formed on my Pina Colada as we lay on the beach.
          No? You're awfully picky, you know that? It's one of the first things I noticed about you. Just the other day, I was saying to your grandmother, "Georgia, that is the most particular child I have ever encountered." Now, don't get all huffy about it, I wouldn't have told you if I thought you couldn't take it. You're an ornery, spoiled child, and that's just a fact. I'm an ornery and spoiled old lady, so that's something we have in common. You like that, right? Having something in common with your Aunt Flo? No? Well, you can go to Hell.
          I'm sorry. Please don't tell your mother I said that.
          Okay, back to the story: Are there any guidelines for the types of stories you can hear? Is there a rating systems I can go by? Well, I'm a modern woman, a feminist; not all my stories are Approved For All Audiences, if you know what I mean. I've seen my share of wild times. Now, you're how old? Seven? Eight? I can't remember what I was like at that age. Okay, let's try this: name your favorite movie. Maybe that will give me some kind of clue as to what kind of story might be good for you.
          Really? No, I just wasn't aware that she was starring in movies now. That's interesting. In my day you could buy her all these different outfits, with shoes and purse to match, style her hair, put it up, brush it out… then they came out with Colored Francie, and boy did that blow my mind. Now, don't get me wrong: I think it's very important for little black girls to have a role model in doll form that they can look up to… or down to, as it were. But I would have had absolutely no idea at that age what colors to dress a black doll in, because of the skin tone, you know? I had fair hair and pale eyes when I was young, just like the doll, and so did my mother, so I knew exactly what colors would bring out the blue, wash you out, all that. Then that book Color Me Beautiful came out, and I said to your grandmother, "Finally, Georgia! Little blond girls with blue eyes will be able to buy black dolls and know how to accessorize them properly!" And sure enough, your mother found a black doll from me under the Christmas tree that year. That was when it really hit me how far we had come since Rosa Parks.
          No, I don't believe I know any stories about princesses. Oh! Wait, I do. I know one story about a princess. It's a true story, and it involves Yours Truly, so you know it's good.
          Let me just refill my drink. Do you want anything? I brought Diet Cokes to put in the fridge, that's all I can think of that's child-appropriate. It might keep you up, though; I always have that trouble if I drink too many of them. Maybe if we just limit it to one. The good thing about Diet is that you don't have to brush your teeth after you drink it because there's no sugar.
          Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Christina who lived in Greece. Do you know where Greece is? It's a country in Europe, very far away, across many oceans. You might have seen the Greeks in movies, wearing togas and fighting lions in the Parthenon. They are an ancient people, very accomplished: they invented geometry, astronomy, democracy. They worshipped a whole host of gods and goddesses, instead of just one like we do now.
          Now, I hope you were not expecting a story about a sweet, beloved princess, with a cone hat, swathed in pink crinoline. Princess Christina was neither sweet nor beloved. Her father was a very rich man in Greece, and so she got anything and everything she ever wanted, although she deserved none of it.
          Princess Christina's mother died, and her father took a new wife. His new wife was from America, where she was known as a wise, kind Queen.
          Yes, you're right: We don't have Kings and Queens in America. But she was once married to a very powerful man, and she became known for her grace, her intelligence, and above all, her impeccable fashion sense. When her husband died, the country mourned with her, admiring the steely resolve behind those enormous sunglasses.
          So the Queen of America met Princess Christina's father, and soon it was like something out of the Brady Bunch. You've seen the Brady Bunch, haven't you? You've heard the song? Yes, exactly. The Queen had children of her own, and soon it was much more than a hunch. Suddenly, Christina was not the only Princess in the palace.
          I'm getting to that. Have you never heard of building narrative tension? This is the influence of MTV; you're the MTV generation, and you all have the attention span of gnats. When I die, and you are standing over my grave, I hope you can manage to pay attention long enough to experience some proper grief.
          As I was saying: Princess Christina's father named a beautiful boat after her—a yacht, in fact, with sleeping quarters and a chef and bronzed Greek crew in white shorts who hoisted jib booms and swabbed decks and other such things. The new Brady Bunch would sail all over the Greek isles in the thing, playing backgammon and sipping ouzo, just like Plato and Socrates did back in days of yore.
          Now, back in these days, I was still something of a hot ticket. I could kick my heels up over my head and hold a high C over B to rival Ethel Merman. I was still in New York at the time, and the Queen had an apartment over on Fifth Avenue. That's where I met her: I was on my way downtown, headed for the subway entrance, and she stopped me to ask for a light. I didn't even realize it was her until I'd lit the cigarette. "Oh, my," I said, "It's you! I didn't know you smoked!" And she exhaled out her nose and smiled behind those sunglasses, and said, "And it's you!" She'd seen me the previous month, you see, in Guys and Dolls, at a matinee of all things. She praised my work and invited me up to for little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. We tried on her collection of vintage mink turbans all afternoon; I completely forgot about rehearsal. By the end of the day, we were old friends, and she invited me onboard the Christina O, which was taking off the following day for a month-long cruise along the Amalfi coast.
          Well, I'd never been to Italy, and you just don't pass up an invitation from the Queen. True, I was supposed to appear in Sweet Charity that month, but my costar was that tramp Gwen Verdon anyway, so I made a few calls, and the next thing I knew I was shopping for luggage at Bloomingdale's.
          As I said before, Princess Christina was not known for her social grace or winning repartee. Some might even have called her a spoiled, petulant child—she reminds me of you, in that way. Very particular, bossy, an offputting sense of entitlement. Oh, stop with the tears. It didn't work when Gwen Verdon tried it, and it won't work now.
          What I will say about Princess Christina is that she was quite the beauty. Not in the same way as the Queen—she tended to lounge about on deck chairs in tiny bathing suits that flaunted her coltish figure. She would never be featured in Life magazine for her timeless sartorial choices. But she had a certain something—something in the gentle sneer of her lips, the subtle orbit of her big rolling eyes. Granted, she had recently had work done on her nose and the skin beneath her eyes, and as a matter of fact her face was still wrapped tight in gauze so that she resembled a mummy; but it was there, no doubt about it.
          She was several years my junior, but I worshipped her at once, as thousands of years ago her people had worshipped the gods of Olympus. No, I did not sacrifice a goat in her name, or chain John-John to a rock in the Blue Grotto. But I would always offer to fetch her a refill or rub lotion onto her back. "Do you really like this coral bracelet, Christina?" I'd say to her. "Take it, then! Go on, I have a million of them back in New York."
          I was determined to learn the secret of her charm, that which elevated her so far above mere mortals like me and you. Then, one night, as I combed the seaweed and salt out of my hair below deck, it struck me, like a bolt from the mighty hand of Zeus himself. It was the hair.
          Like many young starlets in those days, I had been dyeing my hair for years. It started when I saw Marilyn Monroe's dress blow up over her knees at Lexington and 52nd Street. "That brazen hussy," I said to myself, watching from behind the barricade as she giggled and writhed while flashbulbs popped. The next day I went right out to Vidal Sassoon. I went from dirty blond to honey blond to bleach blond until I reached the pinnacle: platinum. My hair was clear, transparent, practically nonexistent. If you lit me the wrong way from the back, you could mistake me for a cancer patient.
          But Princess Christina showed me how misguided my efforts had been. Her hair was black, opaque, and it swallowed the sun that beat down on us without lightening a fraction of a shade. Her skin darkened, her mirrored sunglasses leaving white rings around her eyes. On the occasions she rose from the deck to stretch, I saw the night goddess Nyx extending her cloak of stars above her head, trailing it behind her as she streamed across the sky in her chariot.
          That's when I started thinking about Hitler. Do you know about Hitler? Did you learn about him in school? I guess you are a little young. Well, long story short, Hitler was a very important German man who lived many years ago, and he did many horrible things, and there was a war, but the point is that he had some very controversial ideas about different races. He believed that people with blond hair, blue eyes, light skin—yes, dear, just like you—were superior to all others: the blacks, the Gypsies, and especially the Jews. Do you know about the Jews? Well, your Pappy was a Jew, so one of these days we'll have to teach you all about it.
          I started thinking about Hitler because here I was, a great beauty, sure; a well-respected actress, of course; but I still had to put money aside for the rent each month, and I could never get a table at the Rainbow Room without a reservation. And, while my time aboard the Christina O had stoked my skin to the burnished shade of a mulatto, my eyes were the brightest blue, my hair the palest white. And then there was Christina—all the power in the world, every desire fulfilled. Where had my traits gotten me, in the end?
          Do you know about recessive and dominant traits? No? Good God Almighty, what are they teaching you nowadays in that school of yours? A trait is something like the shade of your skin, the color of your hair, and yes, the color of your eyes. Now, blue eyes are a recessive trait, which means they are very rare—they are very special, but that is because the trait is not very strong. Brown eyes are dominant; they are more common because the trait is stronger.
          So I thought, "What was Hitler talking about? Blond hair, blue eyes, pale skin—they're all weak traits! A world of people with those traits would just be passing around a bunch of genetic mutations, and end up looking like England's royal family!" It was obvious to me that strong traits equaled power. They equaled longevity; they equaled the future. It was that secret something which Princess Christina possessed.
          My mission accomplished, I raided the Princess's cabin and retrieved my coral bracelets. When I disembarked back in New York, I knew exactly what to do. I marched into Vidal Sassoon, and I told him, "I want to go black. And I mean black, not brunette, do you hear me Vidal? The black of Gwen Verdon's heart."
          The man cried. He could not believe that I would want to take his painstaking creation, which had bled my scalp and singed his cuticles, and so thoroughly undo it. No amount of rationalizing or pleading could convince him, and I left him apoplectic on the floor of his salon.
          I did it the first time myself. It was out of a box, and the shade was called "Evensong." It stained my fingers and the fumes filled my tiny bathroom until I had to grip the shower rod to keep my balance. When it was done, it was the flat black of a car tire. It was perfect. "Father," I would say, "Have the deckhand fan me with the clew until the wind changes directions." I was her: Christina—or perhaps her slightly older, sophisticated sister, who had already been carried off by some Eastern European aristocrat. I imagined I spent my days fondling Faberge eggs in a castle with onion spires.
          "You need to update your headshots," the casting directors sniffed, turning my photo facedown and sliding it across the table.
          The money held out for a while. When things started getting tight, I hit the streets, trying to find something short-term, something where I could still pretend I was an actress who just happened to be doing drag shows at the Sanctuary. Well, it was a gay club, dear. They paid me to sing and dance in their All-Girl Revue, though in truth I was the only real girl in the bunch. Enough rouge and tissues stuffed in the top of my gown and no one could tell the difference. Eva Destruction was my name, and I had a whole back story. I was a Bulgarian countess, deposed by the war, now living in exile in a tenement in Alphabet City. I'd come out in this sable coat, my hair coaxed into a towering black turban. I wasn't on Broadway anymore, but for those few hours every weekend, I was living my fantasy. Oh, the stories I could tell about those days… maybe when you're older.
          That paid the rent for a while, but after a couple years on the drag circuit, I knew I had to find something more stable until my career took off again. I was convinced that my new genetically superior do would eventually win me the fame I desired. In the meantime, I signed on with the airline. I figured being a stewardess was close enough to being an actress—you had to smile all the time and be pleasant even when your feet were aching and the fat guy in coach kept pinching your ass when you walked by with the coffee. That's where I met the ill-fated Captain Ricky, God bless his soul.
          The final straw was a few years later, during a layover in New York. I had been living in Houston for a couple years by then, mourning my husband and developing an affinity for turquoise jewelry. Bob Fosse called me up to audition for Chicago. We went way back: He gave me my big break, as a chorus girl in Damn Yankees. Yeah, I read for Lola—I thought I had it sewn up, too, if you know what I mean. Imagine my surprise when I saw the cast list. Turns out I wasn't the only one running lines with the director.
          He and Gwen Verdon were married within a couple years.
          But by Chicago they'd been separated a while, and I thought Old Lola was out of the picture. But when I stepped out onto the stage, it was all, "Oh, Flo, kid, what did you do to yourself?" Apparently he envisioned Roxie Hart as a spunky blond, though I must stress that there was no hair color specified in the script. "We already got the brunette," moaned Fosse. "We just cast Chita Rivera as Velma."
          Chita Rivera! I should have slapped him across the face right then. But I'm a professional, so I said, "A wig, then. I'll wear a blond wig." It was for a role; it wouldn't compromise my new phenotypal superiority. But it was no use. Old Lola got it. I never had a chance.
          My strapping pilot husband had gone down in the sink, and so had my career. I slunk back to Houston and packed up my coral and turquoise, and I called my sister. "Georgia?" I said. "Got any room for a stage sensation in that little California town I once called home?" As you can guess, she did.
          As for my hair, you can see for yourself that I remain committed to the future. I may not have made it back to Broadway yet; things may not have turned out the way I planned; but I had Captain Ricky, and I had your Pappy, and I have you. And someday, someday soon, I'll be on TV, rising from my seat to accept my award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and those old casting directors will be watching from their beds at the nursing homes, and once I've finished my speech, they will roll over, close their eyes, and die.
          The end.


//   Advance   //