..:: 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


Letter To B
Paul Silverman


          I'll go into this, Dear B., in some detail, because it's all about you — what you might not know about yourself.
          I can only tell it the way it was, the way I saw it, sitting there watching the wind whip Huntington Avenue so hard even the cabs stayed away.
          Right in front of me they came, to a table even closer to the window than mine.
          There were three of them, toting their computer briefcases and assorted PDA's, and to this day I remember each by the first word that came to mind. One was hungry. One was tits. One was fat.
          Yes, your old man was on his own that soaking night, riding out Wanda in a "swank" place, nibbling crostini but really digesting what he had just read in a French film-buff magazine. It was a factoid of significant value — possibly the ultimate excuse when your wife catches you watching Adelphia XXXX.
          According to the magazine, an American university (unnamed) is reputed to collect every porn film there is, as soon as it comes out. They've been doing it for decades. But not for the reason you'd think. The department that does the collecting specializes in the history of furniture, and porn films are always shot in low-brow rooms filled with the stuff real people really use — as opposed to the furniture used in regular movies, which always reflects the snooty fantasies of stylists and art directors. So when the profs and students sit down and view a film from their school's collection, all the writhing bodies on the screen are beside the point. What they say is, "look at that table over there. That chair… the tufted fabric…"
          I was jollying off over that strange piece of information. It was making my Pinot Noir taste perkier. Even adding zip to my flattish chickpea dip. Desperate? What do you expect? It's what happens when your dinner companion is a magazine for foreign film nerds.
          I know what you're thinking, what you could be thinking if you knew more — if you knew anything at all about me. Where was Jennie? Jennie, a name you've never heard of, but where was she? That's definitely what you'd ask. Well, she was at the seminar, exploring new techniques. This one had nothing to do with films or film-making. The seminar of the arid, I'd say, one of the many adult education courses offered each season at our local community college.
          We had a date for around midnight — hopefully earlier, since it was a work night. Just the three of us. Jennie, me, and Mr. Mercury.
          The hungry one, of course, was the guy. He was beefy and big — dressed as guys in the post-Google age were wont to dress on a business trip. Dark gray suit with a one-size-fits-all look. Shirt that was white, but not quite a dress shirt. And no tie — no finish, so to speak. Probably like the wine he ordered, the Mondavi, Woodbridge label, which the tooth-flashing waiter poured as though it were a priceless Petrus. The one with the above-mentioned tits was a Jewish girl in an Irish knit sweater (the kind they sell in the Westin gift shop, next to the lobster bibs). And the fat one — there is just no other word for it — well, she probably was less fat than she'd been a week ago, because she was clearly doing an Atkins-type thing. With a vengeance. Anything to shrink out of that pale purple tent she had on — it had a bauble or two but no more shape than a blanket made with a hole for the head. When her steak came there was a mountain of white potato on one side and a mountain of green peas on the other. She mowed through the steak like a hamburger grinder, leaving a valley of empty white china between the untouched potato and peas.
          For dessert she got the raw berries. Zero sauce. The other two split a Matterhorn of chocolate cake, tall as it was wide. Hurricanes bring people together. By cake's end the one that was tits was putting her dessert fork in his mouth, while the hungry one's elbow pressed against the swelling cables of the Irish knit sweater. The fat one retreated into her blonde mullet, and stared out at the last crumbs on the cake plate.
          That's it, that's all there seemed to be going on. It was watch these out-of-towners while I shoveled in my bouillabaisse or watch Wanda beat up the street and toss the paper cups and broken umbrellas around. They were in the window table, while all I had was a table that let me see the window from a slight distance back, bobbing my head to look between their heads.
          I could also look over their heads, of course, at the rows of empty Stairmasters and ellipticals on the second floor of the building across the street. Except for the slight veil of rain streaks the view was unimpeded, because the window arched high. But who wants to watch a gym on a hurricane night, as devoid of human beings as if it had been run out of business? The storm-hype around Wanda was a little much, I remember thinking. She may have blown away half of Florida, but by the time she was hustling through Copley Square she was no more than a slam-bam Nor'Easter. Gusting 60, maybe 70 — nothing that might sweep you off your feet on Huntington and drop you on your ass over by Columbus or Shawmut.
          The burst of pink and black occurred as I was delving into the fourth of the eight mussels adorning the top of my bouillabaisse bowl. I saw it just that way, somehow emerging from a deep corner of the mussel being tickled by my cocktail fork. It must have been how Botticelli first imagined Venus on the half shell. And it suddenly occurred to me that the empty black shells on my bread plate now looked a little like castanets.
          It was an everyday occurrence, I know. Just a lone woman suddenly appearing on one of the exercise machines. From where I sat, she was slightly above the blonde mullet, which ultimately is why the word "everyday" isn't quite right. That aside, Jennie and I were members of our community health club — as if Jennie's stick figure needed to get any skinnier — and I'd seen more ladies working out than I could ever recount — wives and girlfriends "sweating to the oldies," as they used to say. But this was the first and only one that ever made me wish I was the Stairmaster under her feet.
          She wore black tights and a pink top that displayed copious back and shoulder skin. Mediterranean skin that shone as the workout wore on; and a braided horse-tail of hair, black as ripe olives, that swished back and forth with each pumping step. Those steps — that's what got me going. In a few moments I was working up a sweat of my own, just lifting the spoon and the wine glass, and I remember rolling the cuffs of my shirt up to the middle of the forearm to let in a little ventilation. As I said, I'm telling you just what I saw, the way I saw it, and what it felt like. This woman, this Mediterranean exerciser, what she had was — she had one of those asses that cause traffic jams and collisions. Riotous rolling haunches that swelled with every step like the chambers of a giant beating heart. Put those moves on a Stairmaster, make the steps deep and steep, and …well, at the very least you've got a dry cleaner to pay. I had no idea there were saffron-red rivulets of bouillabaisse forming on my shirt.
          What would Jennie say? Actually, on that night, I'd still bet she'd have said all well and good, more power to the watcher and the watched, to anything that stokes the boiler.
          The tooth-flashing waiter must have vibed into my rising fever. I never saw him approach me, never heard him ask or offer, but there he was splashing more Pinot in my glass — at the exact moment I wanted it. All I did was nod and suck it up. Other than this and the churning black tights the only other thing I saw, out of the corner my eye, was the departure of the blonde mullet. Stage left. Maybe she was slinking away for the evening. Or maybe she was off just to pee and briefly escape the torture of the empty cake plate — and the proximity of her two nuzzling colleagues. But now there was nothing else on the screen — excuse me, within the frame of the window — nothing but the Stairmaster lady herself and the eye beams I was throwing her way, bullets of desire not even Wanda could blow off track.
          As workouts go, this was no aerobic quickie. She was serious up there, cranking and crunching, and it went on and on — all of which was A-okay with me. The in-town film-houses weren't showing much I cared about, and I was comfortable right where I was. I'd even lucked out on the Pinot — it was a Saintsbury, not easy to find by the glass in the Bean City. With the blonde mullet gone my view was as good as front and center. The chair was cushioned and upholstered. I slid into lounge position and even loosened my belt a notch.
          All was most copacetic. And the truth is, I was so into the scene in the gym that when the soft hand touched the back of my neck it seemed normal, just another dollop of sensation, and I hardly flinched. As you can imagine, I also didn't turn my head. Then the hand started to move, fiddling with my hair, even dipping just below my collar, and the movement seemed to release an exquisite scent. Part of it was a perfume I had never encountered before, but the other part of it was the steam from a human being. In the haze of the first instant I took this as the scent of the Stairmaster lady, somehow transporting itself across the stormy street into the air I breathed.
          My impression changed fast — with the murmur of fabric in motion, then the pressure of a significant mammal docking alongside my thigh. Not six inches from my face came the blond mullet. The one that was fat — there isn't, there just isn't another word for it — and her pale-purple outfit, that tent thing, now enveloped an adjacent chair at my table. And now that she was sitting right against me, her hand slipped around from the back of my neck to a hot zone high on my thigh.
          At some point in the middle of all this, her two colleagues vamoosed. I don't know how, I don't know when — they just left the picture — and the rest of the room was nearly empty, thanks to Wanda out there. Tooth-flasher was off smoking in the kitchen, or tending to one of the larger tables back by the bar. So we were good as alone — the three of us, that is, and this wasn't what I wanted — any more than I'd have wanted the clicker snatched from my hand when something on TV had my eyeballs popping out of the sockets.
          But I was wanting it more with each passing second.
          "Why watch? Isn't this better than watching?" As she said this the hand moved even further north and the body attached to the hand shifted its axis and rolled even more of its mass against me. But I kept watching the window — why not? The two of them — one across the street and behind glass, so toned and unavailable — the other one spilling her limitless flesh all over me — it was sensational, it was sensationally complete.
          Fat. Now what about that word? The way I felt, I was warming up to those kinder words, the ones people normally use to euphemize, to sugarcoat, to window-dress.
          Rubenesque, Renoiresque… that's what I mean. The more she pressed against me the more these words seemed right. Or more right. Not that they were truths. Somehow, they weren't even true enough.
          Then she said that name in my ear.
          "Baptiste. That's what you're called, isn't it?"
          "No, not me. My name is Joel."
          "But you're called Baptiste. I know you are."
          And that was all it took to yank me from the restaurant — and from the window that was hypnotizing me — to the elevator and her room in the hotel above. On the way out I threw cash at the waiter. He eyeballed the wad and did his widest tooth-flash yet.
          Her room looked down on the street, but the gym was so far below it that the Stairmaster lady became a postage-stamp figure, no match for the Rubenesque, Renoir-esque woman on the bed. The pale-purple tent had disappeared, and she reached for me with two arms that looked bigger than Jennie's thighs.
          But I would not call them fat. No, not fat at all.
          The name just spilled out of my lips.


          Just before I left, she slipped her business card into my shirt pocket. Even then I knew it wasn't that she needed to do this or even cared to. It was because of me, because I'd asked to have it. To have some remembrance, a connection. That perfume of hers lingered in the paper for days. Her real name was Geraldine — at least it began with a "G", as Garance did — and she came from the other coast. Portland, Oregon.
          After our interlude of fucking and resting — one time, then another and yet another — I still kept my date with Jennie. With Jennie and Mr. Mercury, and with all the other heat-sensing, egg-enhancing, sperm-inducing paraphernalia they had given Jennie at the clinic. I kept my date and then some. That was how stoked, how riled up I was from my tilt at the Westin.
          In the end it came to no more than any of the other times. All of our dates with Mr. Mercury. And Mr. Clomid, and Mr. Perganol. It was our fourth year, Jennie and I, and there would be two more years of trying before we chucked the calendar and cleaned out the medicine chest.
          But I had given Geraldine my business card too, I insisted she take it — and she wrote to me, although only once. She wrote how she had made up her mind to select someone, a man, how that night was the right night to do it, exactly right, and how she had happened to select me. She cited her reasons in order of priority. First and foremost was the obscure French film magazine she'd spotted on my table. What that seemed to say about me was more important than anything else — to her. Second was the presence of Wanda, a giantess who could howl from the sky and uproot and re-arrange the denizens of nature, be they stands of trees or individual human beings. Perhaps even the canals pouring out egg and sperm could be whipped up, shaken and stirred to yield blends of a higher order. And third, of course, was something she found in my face and manner that brought her favorite movie to mind…
          Night after night, the Westin at Copley Square has hundreds of people staying in it. Corporate travelers, mostly. But how many of them know of Baptiste, the mime, the lover of the haunting Garance? How many have seen Les Enfants du Paradis, the miraculous film Baptiste will live in forever? To lovers of French cinema this masterpiece is all the more remarkable because it was born against all odds — an epic production filmed in occupied Paris, right under the nose of the Nazis. Who else in the Westin that Wanda-whipped night even had a clue?
          I was enthralled with the letter — with the news — and for a few days I was ready to change coasts, just like that, if she would have me. But she wouldn't have me — she only wanted you. And I had spent so many years with Jennie, my stick-figure Jennie, I know I couldn't have gone away for good. After all we had been through, we did more than sleep in the same bed, we lived in the same skin.
          I don't know if I'll mail this. I'm not sure I can even find where to mail it to. But I want you to hear my side of it, from me — exactly the way I saw it, felt it, did it. This is America, Baptiste, and I'm hoping by now you have a nickname that's a little less "continental." A father has a right to talk straight to his son. If he can't, who can?


//   Advance   //