Yesteryear’s Silicon Jukebox “Do No Evil” World – Gerard Sarnat MD

SAN FRANCISCO, AP, April 21, 2005 — Google Inc. is experimenting with a new feature that enables the users of its online search engine to see all of their past search requests and results, creating a computer peephole that could prove as embarrassing as it is helpful…

Doing my parking lot homeless medical clinic today, there’s
old Wild Ray root ‘n toot’n folks to sign his petition banning
the growing identity theft crisis. Somethin’ ’bout the
gov’ment stealin’ three of his eight multiple personalities.
Which he damn well wants back, and pronto, please.

The late Erik Erikson first used the now common phrase
“identity crisis.” When his biological Danish dad split before
his birth, he was adopted by his Jewish stepfather and took
the name Erik Homberger. But because of his blond-and-
blue-eyed Nordic look, Erikson was rejected by his Jewish
neighborhood. At grammar school, on the other hand, he was
teased as a Jew. Feeling that he didn’t fit in with either
cultural world, Erikson’s own identity crises fueled his career’s
work. Not needing a weatherman to know which way the wind
blew, he left the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute and
immigrated to the United States in 1933.

In 1935, Monk Eugenio Pacelli Pacelli, speaking of the Nazis,
told 250,000 pilgrims at Lourdes, “It does not make any
difference whether they flock to the banners of the social
revolution, whether they are guided by a false conception
of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by
the superstition of a race and blood cult.” Four years later,
this hybrid Monk committed identity theft, evidently no
identity crisis for this hypocrite, when he oxymoronically
renamed himself Pope Pius XII. For much of the war, he
piously maintained a public front of indifference and
remained silent while German Holocaust atrocities
were committed. He refused pleas for help on the
grounds of neutrality, while making statements
condemning injustices in general. Privately, he
sheltered a small number of Jews and spoke to a few
select officials, encouraging them to help the Jews.

Homeless Squirrel Girl shows me her very own hybrid
Munk, a mixed-breed pet chipmunk squirrel she’s raised
since birth as her baby girl. Now looking like an overfed
rabid rat, the fat rodent slithers from her shoulder down
her blouse, crawling up her skirt. How ’bout that.

Looking for a place to stay, Milo’s back from a short
unsuccessful vacation in Waikiki. “Turned out to be
Disneyland corporate Amerika, a tourist companytown
scam, too many regulations, too high a cost of living.”
Sniffing his unmistakably sweet smoke, I’m inappropriately
asked if I want a toke. Nope. “But by the way, Doc, will
you renew my San Francisco City and County Volunteer Medical
Cannabis Card that Hawaii won’t honor”…for nonexistent
chronic hepatitis B?

Now a middle-aged Stanford dropout, Shady Slim sidles
over with a new story about an old identity. “Once upon a
time, I was a horse trainer until my partner died. A year
ago, I was surprised when his son contacted me with an
offer of 20% equity if I taught him all I knew. We got lucky
getting a horse runs good down in Southern California. Now
Consolidator’s rated fifth of the ten that’ve qualified for
the Kentucky Derby next month. Four-time Derby winner
Wayne Lukas’ training him. Got new duds to wear back there.
If he wins and goes to stud, I’m a rich man, wish me luck.”

Hard to hear under the boombox’s Iggy Pop and Bessie Smith,
Suzanne, a Native American with congenital alcohol syndrome
stutters, “P-p–lease g-g-ive me s-s-ome p-pills to s-s-stop
my piss.”

Vicious truth sees into metal, making it melt: President
Tru Man spoke of the White House as a jail cell. Same time,
in a woman’s parallel outlaw universe outside the usual soupy
gumbo political rain, Billie Holliday sang about Strange Fruit.
Today, a middle-aged Lady Day lookalike and stranger to the
Urban Ministry, there she is in her full black glory. So demure
and sexy, sitting there on a folding chair, strangely unnoticed
and alone, rubbing oil slowly onto calves lifted above green
socks under brown high top boots. Mother Mary full of grace,
I long to kneel before and anoint you. Rings on every finger,
black garbage bag backpack covered with wilted red roses,
busted guitar case held together by fraying bungey cords.
Short gray dress above the knees, with sparkly white specks
peaking out like stars on a cloudy night. Chartreuse and
purple silky head scarf tied in front like a beautiful serenely
freed non-Aunt Jemima.

Jimena, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and Northern
Africa, among today’s forgotten refugees. Thinking he’s
helping by wielding a broom to the ceiling’s corner to clean
out a nest of spiders, a new volunteer is booed by all for
making fellow creatures homeless. Even if you don’t
have everything you want, be grateful for the things you
don’t have that you don’t want.

The radio blares a Marketwatch Bulletin: Google profit
rises fivefold as revenue tops target.

 

GERARD SARNAT MD’s authored HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes, 17s, Melting Ice King (2016). Gerry’s published by Gargoyle, Oberlin, Brown, Stanford, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, American Journal Of Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, Brooklyn Review, LA Review, San Francisco Magazine, New York Times. Mount Analogue selected KADDISH for distribution nationwide Inauguration Day.   gerardsarnat.com

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The Drink – Christine Brooks

It was the first time I surfed wearing my little bone surfboard pendant with my mother’s initials carefully carved into the back – MJCCB, the first time I dared enter the cold, fall Rhode Island water alone when the tide roared, and the first time my paddle out didn’t necessarily include a paddle in.

Covered in Neoprene from head to toe; boots, wetsuit and gloves, I made my way over the slippery rocks of my favorite break, Deep Hole, and tried to let the rip currents, the thick fog, and the low bellows of the distant lighthouse, distract me from the fact that my mother was going to die. Surfing had diverted me from the struggles of life before, but this time was different. This time, the water could not wash away my thoughts, cleanse my nightmares, or offer me the peace the waves had brought me before, in happier times.

Belly down on my longboard nicknamed Blue Betty, I made my way through the soupy white froth that tried to push me back to the safety of the shoreline, now just a cloudy, thick gray memory.

Ignoring all the signals of impending danger, I paddled out farther and farther, towards what I knew to exist, the safety of the thin blue line.

Wave after unseen wave would rock me, occasionally dumping me into the blackness of the drink. Resting only briefly, treading water holding onto my board, my mind waged war with the keeper of the tides.

Fuck you. No one would hear me yell. Fuck. You.

Dangling over Deep Hole, clinging to Blue Betty, I thought maybe I could just stay there, or maybe, I could just let go.

I thought of that little pendant tucked safely under my black wetsuit and of Mom, fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer that she would not, that she could not win.

The lighthouse in nearby Snug Harbor now sounded more like Noooo Chris than the groans it had just recently expelled warning sailors of the rocks and surfers of the danger of the thick fog.

My nostrils now filled with gallons of salt water, and my arms noodles from paddling against the incoming tide warned me that it was time to paddle in.

Even though my muscles and lungs begged for rest, my heart still needed time. Time out in the frigid Atlantic Ocean on this late October day to come to terms with what was to be, and my heart knowing it was boss, threw my arms out again and again, over and over, into the liquid darkness.

Farther and farther towards Block Island I went, Blue Betty teetering unsteadily beneath me. I couldn’t see it as I usually could, but I knew it was out there, as well as potentially boats, and other surfers.

If anyone was going to die, I needed to scope out the battlefield first. I needed to know and see, what was already written. Her obituary, carefully worded by her to include everyone, had been written days before, and her new light blue sweat suit from Walmart that she wished to be buried in, was carefully placed in her top drawer, until her death. No doctor could save her, no Whipple surgery to prolong her life was possible, and now, not even chemo was an option.

Cancer was a guest that had come before, but this time it would leave with my mother’s laugh, her smile, and the light in her eyes, and all I could do was paddle harder and farther, not knowing if I could have the strength to paddle back in.

Noooooo Chris. The fog moaned.

Exhaustion had set in. Panic did not.

In the darkness of the heavy fog, I could not see the giant wave building, or have any way to prepare for it, or, let it take me under. Before I could decide, before I even knew, this wave, with a plan and a mind of its own, threw me into the air and left me no choice but to paddle in.

Pmpffff. I landed on my belly and paddled in without the option of breathing. The toss had knocked the wind out of me and left a bump on my head that was already pounding and bleeding profusely.

As I sat on the rocky coast with thoughts of paddling back out, I listened to the lighthouse, to the surf, and the fog that although silent, spoke to me. They whispered what I knew to be true. Four months later she would take her last breath while in my arms, and exhale to the face of God.

It was time to go home.

(Mary Joanne Celina Comeau Brooks February 15, 1941 – February 12, 2011)

 

http://www.christinebrookswriter.com

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Vicki McKay [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Leetspeak – Sanjeev Sethi

I seal liabilities of loneliness
with maud of meter to create
hygge of vicarious happiness.

I peruse from mavens of mortal play
the trick is to transfer emotions.
Marinating in a bleak headset
is to break within.

The way out is to change the gear.
No one can jockey you out of it.
Chauffeur your car.

 

SANJEEV SETHI is the author of three books of poetry. He is published in more than 25 countries. Recent credits: The Poetry Village, Amethyst Review, Bonnie’s Crew, Selcouth Station, Picaroon Poetry, Laldy Literary Journal, The Sandy River Review, Packingtown Review, Otoliths, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.

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How Fairy Tales End – Mileva Anastasiadou

Hypothetically speaking, I’d meet him again the day after tomorrow. He’d offer to buy me coffee and I’d accept the invitation. I’d be comfortable and cozy, sitting gracefully inside the bubble. He’d ask me about the weather and I’d politely reply it’s either too warm or too cold for the season.

Hypothetically speaking, he’d hold my hand, walking me home. He’d then confess his undying love to me. We’d go around exploring that new-found land of bliss, where Icarus never fell, because the sun didn’t burn his wings, Robin Hood didn’t steal, because he didn’t need to, Snow White didn’t get lost, because the Queen wasn’t evil, the wolf didn’t eat Red Riding Hood, because they were friends.

Hypothetically speaking, he’d ask me what sounds I find mostly annoying. ‘Real or imaginary?’ I’d ask. Imaginary he’d say, for imaginary sounds are more disturbing than real ones. You can’t close your ears and avoid them. Ghosts playing guitar, I’d say and he’d understand. He’d laugh, for he also mistook a centipede for a ghost once. Yet bursting bubbles are more annoying, he’d then say and I’d nod.

Hypothetically speaking, we’d never fall from the clouds. It gets tiring, falling from the clouds all the time. He’d never teach me the lesson I don’t want to learn: how fairy tales in real life. I’d be the queen of denial, conveniently sitting still in my fairy tale, high above in the sky, looking down to common sense. It’s not denial after all, if you close your eyes, not being aware of what you deny. He’d caress my hair, my face, my body, until his hand would merge with my skin, his soul inside mine. Until that heavy blow that’d bring awareness. That hit that’d separate us, forcing me to open up my eyes and look ahead. I’d even feign blindness for a while, but not for long.

Hypothetically speaking, reality would never burst my bubble, a shape-shifting enemy invading my pink colored bubble all the time, this time with his words. It’s not you, it’s me, he’d say, the usual combination of words, an arrow straight to the heart. Of the bubble. Or to my heart. Or to the bubble I keep inside my heart. And I’d deflate like a balloon. For breaking up is like falling. Standing up is hard after sitting comfortably in the bubble for too long. Standing up gracefully proves an impossible task.

Practicing reality is a game not easily mastered.

 

MILEVA ANASTASIADOU is a neurologist. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres and others.

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Recycling – Cath Barton

I never liked those garden seats you bought. Anyway they’re rusted now. They clank against other people’s junk as I heave them into the recycling bin.

When I turn away there’s a black Labrador at my feet, looking up at me expectantly.

“No way, old son, oh no,” I say, examining his collar. No tag. I’m laughing, I don’t know why. What kind of bastard abandons a defenceless beast at a municipal tip?

As I drive away I see the dog in my rear view mirror, sitting by the bins, watching me go.

Back home I load the car again, my thoughts spooling. Thoughts of, maybe, getting another dog. A companion. I shake myself and the thoughts scatter, like water drops off the back of a dog after a dip in the river. This won’t do. I’m trying to clear stuff out of my life, leave myself free.

There’s a post-lunch queue of cars at the tip now. I shut my window against the ammonia smell of used cat litter, watch as a couple struggle lifting what looks like a perfectly good table. As the wood splinters I hear him snarl at her. At least there’s no sign of the Labrador.

Finally I get to the head of the line. As the detritus of five years of wasted love crashes into the metal bin I feel a kind of emptying of myself. All done apart from a couple of old radios. There’s a hut in the yard where there’s usually someone to ask about where to put electrical stuff. Feeling the sun on my neck on my way over there, I think about looking on-line for places where it shines more reliably.

There’s no one in the hut. Leaving the radios by the door, I stroll back to the car and slam the boot shut without looking inside.

“Uh oh! And where did you spring from old son?” I say, home again and opening the boot to fetch out my empty bags, thinking about sitting in my sweet-scented garden with a cool glass of wine. The black Labrador is lying there gazing at me and my heart turns over at his panting.

When he’s had his drink I find an old tie to use as a lead and take him to the vets. He has no chip.

“If he isn’t claimed within 48 hours we’ll have to send him to the dog pound,” says the receptionist. “Unless you…”

“No,” I say. “No, no, I can’t.”

But he’s sitting there, my black Labrador, looking at me. You don’t choose your loves. We both deserve a second chance.

 

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Conflagration – James Lepak

The pizza boxes we had accrued
Almost hit the ceiling. There were no dorms
With more collegiate hygiene.
The diet, the order, the sloth of bright
And horny teens bled out
Into our idealized décor.
What better sacrifice to make
Than this monument to the cusp
Of adulthood? We burned it all
In a pyre that excited solely
Because of its novelty,
And that it was our waste,
Our waste of health and time
And privilege underused.
The burning of our eyes in heaving smoke
Was joyous, as only the illusion of freedom
Can allow. Rob shouted,
“Fuck pizza!” and echolalia ensued.
You weren’t much in the spirit, Scott,
But you dutifully repeated,
And that chain of brotherhood
Was not broken by solemnity.
Pat was most aware
Of the nihilism we celebrated
And was therefore the happiest.
I saw the fire’s reflection
In all their eyes and loved
This projection from hearth
To man to world,
And did not care
The order in which it truly came.

 

JAMES LEPAK is an ESL instructor who enjoys reading and writing poetry in his spare time. His work has appeared in Isacoustic and Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.

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Miniature Warrior – Christine Collinson

Resting atop my enormous belly, the healing-stone feels smooth and cool, but it does not lessen the waves of pain.

Beneath me, the rush mat is damp with sweat. My lady passes me a cup and I sip the mixture, breathing deeply of its vapours. It helped at first, although that seems long ago.

I’m not afraid of pain but I’m afraid for my child. In the early months I was out walking when a storm swept across Texcoco and lightning cleaved a tree near my path. It jolts me still; the split trunk severed like a broken bone, smoke from its fresh scar rising to meet the rain.

I told my husband my fears. “We must hold to our faith,” he said, wrapping me in his arms. “You cannot undo what you saw, Tayanna.”

All night I’ve lain here and now, through the small window, first light is showing. Market-sellers and farmers will soon be toiling as usual beneath the golden sun.

Of all my labours, it’s been the easiest; I’ve three children around my hearth already. I might relax, but the image of the stark white streak doesn’t fade; shock has blighted me and buried deep, perhaps to where my child is curled.

My next pains are the strongest yet and my lady comes close. I grasp her hand. “Nearly there, Tayanna,” she says, softly. Her serenity’s a balm more than I can say.

As the sun reaches its apex, my baby is born bellowing like a miniature warrior. He’s the loudest I’ve known and I’m engulfed by relief. My lady joins in, rhythmically chanting to praise his arrival.

My heart’s pounding a beat to the sounds around me. “Thank you, Xochiquetzal,” I whisper.

 

CHRISTINE COLLINSON writes historical short fiction. She’s been longlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and by Reflex Flash Fiction. Her work has also appeared in Ellipsis Zine and FlashBack Fiction, among others. Find her on Twitter @collinson26.

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North Lincoln Avenue – Michael Igoe

Those ancient piles of freight sit outside the window./I pour another beer from a bottle,/this glassful of jinxes;/it remakes the time it takes/to quash a roomful of victims,/this place they breed in./At last, free of disease,/a crimson flock plays for keeps./They’re made of brass, in stone relief./Animals grow accustomed to cages;/when they leave, they meddle in water./They brush past strangers at the Quick Lunch,/they feel odd about their god./Shades drawn on a sunlit afternoon,/I’m grateful for this source of flickers./I stretch my arms before me,/I telegraph my moves./I dwell with speckled birds /I can paint them./Once more I head downstairs/,I jam machines guarding cream pies./Dressed out of habit,/for the wars of the Sabbath/to enlist you in my feuds./Mannikins come alive by night/then linger in the distance,/vagabonds who wait to ring/the bells on brass nameplates.

 

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Invisible Souls – Stella Turner

She was trying to be her normal self, invisible. No one ever acknowledged her, spoke to her, looked at her in all her years living here. But today someone would see her. Someone would remember her and she’d be on tomorrow’s six o’clock news. It had to be today! She’d never have the courage again.

“What did you say your name is?”

The old man cupping a hand behind his ear.

She was sitting on a frayed, dirty old armchair sipping Guinness from a chipped mug. At the top of the second set of stairs an arm had shot out of an opened door and she’d been pulled inside. For an old man he was surprisingly strong. He told her about working on the building sites, out in all weathers and how you never saw a rusty man. This had made her smile, well a tiny smile moved across her pale face. The old man noticed.

He thought she was his home help, or the woman from the social, or an angel come to save him from what he’d planned next. He was invisible but today someone would see him. Someone would remember him and he’d be on tomorrow’s six o’clock news.

She felt the knife in her coat pocket. It would be so easy to spill blood here.

He looked at the knife on the kitchen table. It would be so easy to spill blood here.

They talked for hours, visible for once. She felt a bit heady from the Guinness, she told him her name was Collette, from Letterkenny in County Donegal. She wasn’t. He told her he was Joseph from South London. He wasn’t. They hid their secrets well. Future plans and past deeds forgotten. Her visit to flat 6 postponed for ever.

Sitting between the nosy old biddy from flat 10 and the girl with the fabulous figure and the tumbling red hair from flat 6 she looked around the church, two old blokes from the bookies were the only other mourners. The Roman Catholic priest was talking about William Quinney but it was Joseph in the coffin. The solicitor had shown her the copy of the will. A picture of her at the bins with flat 4 scrawled on the back and the words this is the woman I leave my possessions to. Joseph had got the girl from flat 6 to take the photo and to witness the will. Collette was William’s only beneficiary. He’d told the will writer that she’d saved him from a lonely old age. Joseph was shrewd. He knew she wasn’t Collette.

The girl from flat 6 started to sing Ave Maria. Joseph’s final request. Strange choice for a funeral but the girl of course had the voice of an angel. Collette smiled, grateful she hadn’t yet appeared on the 6 o’clock news.

 

STELLA TURNER was sent to Coventry, England at birth. She loves the rich history of the city, its two cathedrals and its infamous ring road. She writes flash fiction and has been published in several Anthologies. Was joint winner of a competition held by the online literary magazine Deracine.

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