Issue 6: Episode 4

Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade

12 Apostates

*

Sometimes the allies matter most. Like if you were coming out in the new millennium, you might enjoy listening to singer-songwriters who identified as gay. You might appreciate their honesty, but they wouldn’t surprise you when they took a stand for equal rights, played a pro bono gig on a pink triangle stage. You’d want to believe they were doing it for you and for all the people like you, but the big-word voice in your head kept saying how this wasn’t altruism—not quite. They were doing it for themselves, too.

Sometimes the allies change everything. Like how you listened to Michelle Shocked’s “Anchorage” nearly every day for a decade. How you loved that she described writing to an old friend as walking across “that burning bridge,” a simple correspondence turned suddenly dangerous. She didn’t have to care where you were coming from, but somehow she did. She seemed to know that after coming out, every conversation was a walk across a burning bridge.

Sometimes the allies set the worst fires. Like the night in the San Francisco club when Shocked, once an “honorary lesbian,” lived up to her surprising name at last: “I live in fear,” she said, “that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry.” The next day, you couldn’t find anything but covers of “Anchorage” online. The next year, on Shocked’s birthday, you married your partner, a real lesbian. The world didn’t end, not then; not even after you played “Anchorage” again.


*


How I love big ladies — Gabourey Sidibe in Precious; domestic goddess Roseanne; Queen Latifah; Adele; Melissa McCartney; Shelly Winters in The Poseidon Adventure; Andrea Dworkin; America Ferrera; Mo’Nique; The Practice’s Camryn Manheim who held up her Emmy, proclaiming, “This one is for the fat girls!” Amy Sedaris, honorary big lady who wore a fat suit home to freak out her father.

But not everyone stays true to her fat. Margaret Cho dieted for primetime. Ricki Lake and Rosie O’Donnell say they lose the pounds for health reasons. Anna Nicole Smith and Jessica Smith confess to binge eating, then endorse expensive diet plans.

Like other fat ladies, I rationalized that fat, like everything else in this world, must end—either in a coffin, through a liposuction needle, or dying a slow, calorie-counting, dieting death. Or during a fast.

Though not famous, I too once got paid to lose weight at a spa in Key West if I agreed to write about it for American Health. I was young and mesmerized by the pink taxis, the watermelon water, the tiny carrots and radish shavings called lunch. I dreamt of bananas and chocolate malts, then woke up feeling jumpy and caffeinated, even though we weren’t allowed coffee. I was afraid to try the included-with-the-plan colonic. I stayed a week, losing ten pounds. I left with an instruction sheet urging only fruits and vegetables and small pieces of skinless chicken or fish, warning against eating beef or cream, lest my still-fat fasting heart explode.


*


No one thinks the girl who loves musicals is gay, though they may assume she’ll fall in love with men who’d rather style her hair than play footsie under the table. They may assume she’s just provincial enough not to notice, just careerist enough not to care.

I was all set to become this girl—so busy about my Protestant ethic and my Catholic guilt that I forgot to leave a free square on the calendar. Every song and dance doubled for the college apps, recall.

Miss Melanie was holding try-outs for someone to sing “Anything Goes.” My mother had sheet music, so I could practice at home, belting out “The world has gone mad today! And good’s bad today!” while twirling a feather boa like a ranch hand.

“You’re getting a little shrill,” she said, which only made it worse. Soon, I was shrieking like a kettle, the cat cowering beneath the baby grand.

But Miss Melanie still chose me. Only two other girls had auditioned. One was chubby, confident, and sang off-key. The other was gawky and mellifluous, with a skin condition that branded her legs with raised, red sores.

On opening night, I peeked between the curtains, glimpsed the Final Judgment in a sea of skirts and ties. My voice slid down my throat, then lodged deep inside me like a sword. I could only mime to my mother, my teacher: I take it all back! This isn’t for me! Go find the girl with the welts!


*


I was always jealous of my sister in her sleek leotards, her striped knee warmers that bunched in the hamper. I could have sworn I’d sat through dozens of her modern jazz recitals as she and other slender girls leapt across the stage, then curled themselves into dramatic stones, motionless for what seemed like minutes at a time.

I was the chubby, asthmatic girl who had a special note from the doctor to get out of gym class. My sister would teach me jazz squares at home, the simplest steps. We’d do the bump to that’s the way uh huh uh huh we like it, and then I’d reach for my inhaler.

In high school, I went to school dances where I tried to move freestyle like Cher who seemed in her own world, unaware anyone was watching her, even though she was on TV. I usually got through a song or two and then wound up on a ventilator in the emergency room.

As an adult, my asthma almost outgrown, I’m always the first one on the dance floor at weddings. When I feel blue, I dance alone in my apartment with the blinds drawn. I arrive at Zumba ten minutes early and volunteer to demonstrate the samba with the teacher.

“I’m making up for lost time,” I tell my sister, trying not to sound self-pitying.

She says she only took dance less than a year. Only one recital. “I hated those other girls,” she says. “So stuck up.”


*


Remember Fen-phen? In the 1990s, it was the hot new weight-loss drug. All my mother’s friends were raving about it. The “fen” stood for fenfluramine, the “phen” stood for phentermine, and as it turned out, neither drug had been approved for long-term use, let alone as the compound “miracle cure” from which the name arose.

Two women in the Bunco club received prescriptions. “You have to be over a certain size to get it,” my mother consoled herself, though she was jealous, too: the way their pounds just melted away, the body like a glacier, shrinking. “They’re not even exercising or giving up sweets,” she sighed.

But then the new, slim Bonnie had a seizure one day at the office. Her face came down hard on the typewriter keys. The scan revealed a strange black mass hovering like a storm cloud over her brain.

After surgery, Bonnie recovered nicely, but the weight returned just as strong.

“You won’t believe it,” my mother groused. “Her husband bought her a Lexus and a diamond tennis bracelet—just for being alive.”

The next year, the FDA removed Fen-phen from the market after The New England Journal of Medicine reported heart damage in the majority of women on a clinical trial. Likewise, “possible hypertensive crisis and intracranial hemorrhage could result” from prolonged use. To apologize would be to admit fault, of course. Instead, the FDA cautioned that after the body grows tolerant of any anorectic drug, its use should be discontinued rather than increased.


*


My friend Lulu was the quintessential girl “with such a pretty face.” Since she was eight, she’d been on every diet imaginable. By the time I met her in college, she was a self-proclaimed “fag hag” with flawless skin and purple muumuus. She could apply eyeliner and blush like nobody else and was the first person I knew who “drew on” her lips with a pencil before coloring them in.

On spring break, we drove from Boston to Provincetown to a gay bar to meet up with her roommate who Lulu said was expecting us. I loved to dance at Chaps with her crowd. Other women from our class came, too. It was a place to go wild without worrying about straight guys’ approval.

In the parking lot, Lulu dotted a beauty mark on her cheek. I wore overalls and Keds, ready to sweat. Inside, an impressive array of muscles—no other women I could see. Lulu’s roommate shot her a look. She said, “Can you excuse us please?”

I ordered a screwdriver, chugged it, and crunched on the ice before heading towards the strobe lights. I danced on the periphery of pulsating beauty until I saw Lulu making out with her roommate. Someone, I assumed his boyfriend, in a huff. He poured a beer over her head.

I hesitated, then went to her defense. A small group of men were chanting, “Get out! You don’t belong.”

Lulu’s face was an abstract watercolor. That night we slept in the dunes.


*


So when is it betrayal, and when a good old-fashioned change of heart?

Anne Heche used to go out with Ellen DeGeneres. They were making plans to marry in Vermont. Then, something happened. Who knows exactly what? It involved a break-up and a spaceship and an alter ego named Celestia. Heche tried to write about it in a memoir called Call Me Crazy, but even her sympathizers were confused.

If Ellen felt betrayed, that makes sense. Her heart was broken. But what right did I have to huff and puff, boycott Six Days Seven Nights? I wasn’t even a lesbian then. Can you be anything before you know you are?

Perhaps we should rewind. Anne Heche’s mother had a difficult life. She lost a husband to AIDS, three children to tragic deaths, and another to lesbianism. Mrs. Heche attests her prayers for Anne’s soul ultimately “cured” her daughter’s homosexuality. Does it hurt anyone if that’s what she needs to believe?

I had a gay professor in graduate school who told us her worst fear was falling in love with a man. “Lesbians won’t forgive you for that,” she said. I called her crazy behind her back. Your real friends would want you to follow your heart, wouldn’t they?

But what about the man I jilted? I left him for a woman. Heche left Ellen for a man. For P.C.’s sake, is only one of us entitled to turn a corner, make a U-turn, find ourselves at home in another life?


*


Lulu was upset when, years later, I told her I was getting married. She said that I had betrayed her, that I’d sworn to her I’d never become a suburban housewife. When she hung up on me, I thought she might be joking. Or that she’d call back a few hours later to apologize.

Everyone else I contacted was gleeful, which took out the sting of that one call. Even my best friend, a lesbian, told me that I’d be sorry if I didn’t go for the puffy white dress. So I’d almost forgotten about the riff until Lulu’s RSVP regret was stuffed with a three-page diatribe about how married women always abandoned their friends. She underlined the word “insufferable” when she imagined me becoming a Valium-induced mom forcing pictures of my kids upon people who lived life with purposeful flair.

My husband-to-be had never met Lulu, but he calmed me down as I read her letter again. He thought she sounded like a nut job. That same day the mail also brought the latest of my Ms. subscription with an essay highlighting the reasons why heterosexual women should never get married. Though everyone jokes with the groom to enjoy his bachelor party, his last day of freedom, this essay assured Ms. readers that brides were the ones who were going to feel stuck.

I often wondered if Lulu regretted her graceless outburst. On my honeymoon. During marital spats. On long car trips. Going through my statistically predicted, insufferable divorce.


*


Remember when George Bailey tells Mary Hatch, “I don’t want to get married, ever, to anyone”? He’s furious, and I was frightened of the way he was shaking her, making her cry. “I want to do what I want to do.”

Almost immediately, he relents. Then, they are kissing. Then, they are coming down the steps in dress-up clothes, their friends tossing rice and cheering.

I have loved this movie all my life. I have despised it just as long. In grad school, I wrote a paper called “Staying Home: George Bailey and the Atrophy of Desire.” I was hard on George. I suggested, using my fancy, academic words, that he never gets to do what he wants to do because he doesn’t have the balls to break with tradition, to go his own way.

First, I didn’t want to get married, and then I did, and then I didn’t want anyone to know that I did because maybe no one would ever ask me, and then someone asked me, and I said yes, but I didn’t mean it. I didn’t marry him, and then I couldn’t marry her, and then I was as angry as George Bailey shaking Mary Hatch in her mother’s parlor, except I pretended I wasn’t.

A friend asked me to be her bridesmaid, to read a poem at her wedding. I said, “Sure.” I said, “I’m really happy for you.” Then, I got so drunk I couldn’t see beyond my sorrow. Then, I ruined everything.


*


My ex and I, when we were still married, pitied our friends and their petty divorces. We invoked words like commitment, hard work, and compromise, as though marriage was an earnest mayoral campaign and we the naïve politicians. Yet we were titillated by details—who cheated and with whom; which one drained the joint bank account; and if anyone was abusive.

“My mother would die if we ever divorced,” he once said out of the blue. Or maybe not out of the blue at all, but rather after feeling stuck for many years.

“My parents, too,” I said. Then I added that a cousin—the only divorced member on my side of the family—was accepted and even congratulated for her strength. “It took a lot of guts,” I said, knowing I didn’t have them yet.

Both of us had parents who were practicing Catholics, but they’d put up with our hippie Church of Christ minister’s invitation to everyone present, regardless of their particular faiths, to partake in communion, chunks of whole wheat bread.

When my ex and I met new mates of divorced friends, we were hard on them. She’s too young for him or he’s going to take her for everything she has.

And then one day my husband was gone. I was in a lawyer’s office.

You know you killed him, my soon-to-be-ex wrote to me in a nasty email the day of my father’s funeral, the trick subject line of which was Sorry for your loss.


*


When my father met my mother, he thought she was lost: no religion, never voted, unattached in more ways than one. When they married three years later, she wore a gold cross and took minutes for the Young Republicans. She knew Jesus was her savior and that Barry Goldwater had been robbed.

For a while, I wanted to be an acolyte, which made my parents proud. I got confirmed and learned my catechism well.

“The light of God is shining brighter in you every day,” said Pastor Gary in the hall.

“I’m actually thinking of converting to Catholicism.”

He looked concerned. “But Luther was a Catholic. That’s not converting; it’s reverting!

Pastor Gary wanted to impress me with his wordplay, but he failed. “On second thought, maybe I’ll just give up and call myself agnostic.”

After my first time in the voting booth, my father said, “Just tell me you didn’t vote for Gore.”

After my first date, my mother said, “Just tell me you didn’t let him score.”

I shook my head and watched my father’s jaw release. “Unfortunately, I think Nader is going to have a pretty tough time of it.”

I shook my head and watched my mother’s fists unclench. “He wasn’t what I was looking for.”

In the end, I quit church, became a registered Democrat, married a woman. “You know, you can be gay and Christian these days?” a well-meaning friend explained.

You can,” I said, then surprised myself, “but sometimes I need an either/or.”


*


Sometimes the enemies matter most. Rush Limbaugh and his coinage of “feminazi.” Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” and John Foster’s “the rape thing.” Rick Santorum declaring, “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.” Phyllis Schlafly saying, “Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women.”

I once thought we needed ridiculousness to keep us fighting. The outrage followed by each statement. The punch in the gut to liberal thinkers.

But what about Obama’s drones? The NSA running wild? Bill Clinton bombing a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan?

Or Woody Allen’s famous joke, “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” It was funny until he married Soon Yi Previn. Funny until Dylan Farrow’s allegations of abuse.

I know about Apple’s Chinese sweatshops, yet I type on a MacBook I bought on Amazon, a company for which Pennsylvania sweatshop “pickers” work ten-hour shifts in stifling heat.

What about the enemies that live inside us? The devil on my shoulder who jumps to the mall’s parking garage pavement to open my air-conditioned car? Miami can be as cold as Anchorage.

I used to be poor, but now I am rich. I left poverty’s church, but the commandments are chiseled on my spleen.

I used to have virtue, but now I just stew. Even the crackpots can’t get me to act.

I used to believe in slow cooking crock pots. Now I fear it’s all a crock.





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Lisa Marie Basile

A summer.

Satin shorts twisted up in the centers of us, summer wet, folds of skin lapping, debased by liquor tonight, this black blinding night. Splayed out we are splayed out over grass in folding chairs in wooden chairs. A wading pool with the bobbing bottle of cava, excess pouring. And grass stuck on our elbows, hose water pooling around a statue in the dirt. Do you understand? We’re almost fucking but we’re not. We’re all tongue. We’re all tongue down the glass, mouth open and taking. No, we’re not. We’re wasted on memory tonight. We’re fucking memories. I don’t come easily to the night, but when I do, I am the night. Me and some girls, we command it, the high priestesses of one another and our revenge kill. We slaughter happily the language of the past, oh, that’s the night we’re fucking with the slick oily dark dick of goodbye, and the wicked wheel turning inside of us, away, toward the somewhere that isn’t here. Do you taste that? That’s the salt of us turning away from the prescription.





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Russell Jaffe

From La Croix Water

Nothing is made without influence.
No one homemakes anything anymore, and even if they do, do they use packaged ingredients from a box? No one grinds the spelt from the earth, and even if they do, even crops are chemically affected by the thumbprint of the human product.
The water of the earth, the fat trails that grew from it willed and pushed their way into and across the world until it was hefty with life now runs over the greasy thumbprint, wash

A new friend said, at the small rooftop party, in the kitchen, stemming from talking about Perrier, which I said I liked a lot less than La Croix:
“…because it's, like, the cool thing to drink now!”
(normal joke smile)

Over EmphaSizing in tone and volume I pointed my finger out—
I WAS DRINKING IT BEFORE IT WAS COOL!
Prob because this has been a trend in my life. To feel somewhat caught in headlights--the thing I like is a hit, what is my relationship in/to this?
And then out again, back in the dark, the search having moved on.
My love of lo-fi 8-track tape suddenly on the traintracks of washed-out indie pop in 2010; the childhood French bread pizza crumb grit and stormwindow floods of my professional wrestling fixation cast into the spotlight in the late 90s; the diary I kept, those feelings I didn’t know so many of us had, but had.
A long and storied history somehow feeling--not unappreciated, but untold.
Uncoddled.

“I was doing (…) before it was cool.” What a tragedy. That right there’s the only way to know the dead. That something was YOUR thing, MY thing, the thing taken from us. Now who are we, stretched among and through the populace? Now we’re a body of water splashed upon the (…), drying up, and who were we?

What a way to know the dead, the free market capitalism we damn. But damning capitalism is like asking a fish to damn the water in which it swims. Our supergod, our breathable remaining air, our religion, our imperium, capitalism. Don’t take my drink away from me.

I took a workman's ruck of seltzer down to the river.

La Croix in my lunchbox at 7 years old. My friends called it weird water. That La Croix has often been my only significant lifeline to healthy foods or drinks, and that it speaks to how I was raised, like I had to character build to outwardly embrace La Croix, and that helped me embrace it inwardly.

“I love my weird water!” My announcements in/between super loud burps. That this was something OK to drink, friends. New friends, old friends. To drink.

You know that personal mythology: the tragedy of the out of touch lunchbox. That sweet heartache that instantly youngs you, the untradeable item, the apparition of the thing you never see on TV.

When you're a kid, exposure is everything.

#LiveLaCroix is the current (as of 8/2015) hashtag La Croix wants users to put on Instagram. That’s because the first layer of the consumer experience is interacting with the brand joyfully, unflinchingly. The layer beneath that is the significance of the ornamental tomb: that the object itself is representative of the life of the consumer, one fitting for them to be buried with/in, even. The third and most significant layer is to dull the crushing tragedy.
You know the one, it has no name.

That's why people like god so much, probably. Or do that (ultimately offensive, IMHO) thing where they create and worship a god in the image of a human being.

There’s just too much false god for us all. Too much,
and not enough embracing of appropriation—

That we are human beings and we appropriate. That we seek the most
entertaining level.

Like our waters. Nothing but waters, yeah, that’s what we had to contribute.

Art in life is like dark matter, making up the majority of the universe but being impossible to pinpoint. The function of the text, in this case as the art, is actually, by virtue of being art alone, is to emphasize the chasm experience of distance between the world we live in and the experiencing of art. 

That point A is walking down the street, and point Z is seeing the art. What unfurls, that length, that loss, that stop gap, that everything—

LA CROIX TASTES GOOD
La Croix tastes pretty good.

FROM THE AUTHOR’S PERSONAL HISTORY WITH LA CROIX
When I decided I’d make—what the fuck did I call it? An inorganic garden?
Some kind of garden—

an array of cans across my living room floor. Single, dramatically under—or was I full-on at this point?—unemployed. The most lone wolf period of my life, almost exclusively in bad ways. The electricity out and that heat index notwithstanding, a bad time. A time of many motors.

Every La Croix I drank I threw on the floor. There were a lot. I made it about 2 days before I looked at it and said, I’m crazy, I’m

crazy, this needs to stop.

I don’t think anyone ever saw it. I filled a whole industrial black garbage bag. Actually, I just talked to Alex about this on Facebook, sending her this section of the introduction,
and Alex remembers seeing it. That dented garden. The sound every kick.

Like you
I wonder where the book begins and ends.

Like, for the book is yours.

La Croix allows an unfettered relationship between human being and human product.




















Lemon

If only you could have more knuckles. For upon them, you would tattoo upon
each hand:
UNDER-RATED                                        //                            OVER-DEPENDED-UPON
Emotions and emotional states carry us. You get that. You get that there never was salt without a sea. Nutrients vs. every biome. Lemon characterizes everything.
Unflinching belief. Mandalas when your eyes are closed, a real world when they’re opened.

Acolyte, you who goes shopping, you who can drive and wear sunglasses, you who can watch the road and drink,
the world has neglected your poetry for long enough.

Lemon lifer, aloof mainstay as you may be, there’s nothing simplistic about your simplex understanding that everything physical and mental at some point converges in a DNA helix. You’re so good at going with it.

Sour is a cable you trace.
Refreshing is learning new shit.

The only fundamental is survive.
Ok, got that. And here we are.
The rest is wrought with the unwritten.
But there's always room for holy text. Hello? There's always room for stars! They blow up and rebirth constantly. There's always room for holy texts.

No, no fundamentals. Just the universe in macro zooming in until you’re on an atom that’s a universe in micro ad infinitum. That’s the piece our DNA rebels against: There are no human fundamentals. Lemon, if we could all so be into this.
Teach us quietly throughout our lives to unlearn.
From that yellow can you know people must find themselves in the rainbow.

(Projectile net cowling) (Nebula footage) (Light breaking the green forest canopy) (Bubbles in the park) (Washed out photographs of people in bathing suits)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




LIME

If anyone knows the heavy burden of leadership’s great machine, it’s you. To love a lime is to invest in the nature of La Croix itself: the delicious human product sourced from nature—isn’t everything naturally occurring if it’s from the earth? The scientific command of flavor—is anything natural when people are involved? Quantum physics, lime lovers ask: A tree falling in the forest, AKA everything, can’t just hinge on human observation, correct? One must assume not, and that one is a leader. You know this duality. The steadfast newsroom runner, the spiritual guru. Leadership is heft.

We were a broken people. Everything has to live up to something we broke. Ourselves. Broke bones, broke skin, broke at the crests. Broke news.

Consider understanding yourself, lime lover, as the tree in the city median eating the sunlight of hot cars, drinking that deep cloudy smell-rain of the low city:
That on the one hand people measure themselves against that divisible neighborhood shape.

But on the other everything can produce a resonant spiritual effect.
Harvest, direct, synthesize. Be a boss. At the end of the day, it is what it is. But don’t

say everything isn’t cosmically venerated.
Everything, lucky factotum, is the mystic sublime.

Actually,
when you're feeling good, the world is a beautiful spiritual place.
When things are bad, the world is a harsh ugly place filled with objects.




(An assembly line of hammers) (A roadside factory in the heather) (Thin clouds cutting swaths of the blue sky) (Inflatable pools in the grass) (The gazebo at the center of a small town square surrounded by a set of shops and grass. The stars above) (The stars) (The
stars)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




GRAPEFRUIT

Grapefruit, the icon selling out the stadium and being booed. Grapefruit, the name on the lips. The press, so inviting. Booed by the die-hards, over saturated in the general market climate Grapefruit, the friend out for drinks who just can’t help but correct that grammar mistake, point out that factual inaccuracy in the gripping story. What? You’re helping!

You’re those train tracks that run the living lonely of American lengths making it work at all hours, impossible. But real.
You’re a traditionalist whether you know it or not in the same way white blood cells are: You do your job, and that’s what you do.

You’re everywhere. You’re the bold and massive face of citizenry.

Sometimes you’ll even give the whole “it’s pamplemousse” treatment.

There's a problem? You, grapefruit, demand, aloud or to yourself: Let's work for a solution. If only so many of us weren't so complicated as to stand out shining brilliantly, unrelentingly, feverishly, enigmatically in the sun.

The sun that gives
so much favor to some but equality to us all.

Remember,
if you're feeling bothered by this
—and some people get bothered by what they are told they are—
the world couldn't function without you!

What’s a reckless sleepover without a chaperone? Why even bother having a referee if you can’t sneak back into the ring behind their back with a folding chair? Without you, this!

All this, this
would all fall apart!

(A machine singing hit songs from the 90s nonstop) (Road trip in the mid-afternoon) (Paperwork) (Hands sticky from honey and needing to grab the steering wheel and drive on a hot day)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




APRICOT

Apricot like metallic vines, like tendrils of sickly sweet rind.
A predatory plant that eats every few months. A clearing in the forest through which one might see the stars.
Apricot like a canopy. Telescopic, observing apricot.

We have got to be so much more than significant images. But to you? Not so much.

It's easy to see why people say language harbors us or fails us. It's the opposite, in fact. Overwhelmingly so. Through Language you do manipulate reality.

Can you fucking believe that stringing words and phrases together can pack such a punch? Yes

you
actually
can.

If someone were to ask if you were a cowboy or an astronaut, you'd have trouble answering; I'm not a cowboy, I’m an old prospector, sunken eyed by the world and pining for gold. I'm not an astronaut, I'm just marooned in space.
Never forget: There is no entropy in whatever garden. Pull up a wooden desk.

This is some very strange juice.

(Hermit crabs) (Dirty old canoes in leaves) (Rabbits hunched over between city housing, eating) (Billboard maintenance men pasting up a billboard for a new movie over the expressway) (Strip-mall kung-fu lessons. Blue vinyl mats. Crowded parking lots of waiting parents) (Ballet)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




PASSIONFRUIT

Who's spilled liquid in their car, watched it run down seeking the lowest level, disappear slightly in the upholstery, leave that shroud? You likely have,
and you did so on purpose.

It hurts to get scammed. But
there's a beautiful art to scamming people.

Whether you were a teacher by profession or not, you were always teaching, because the questions always bleed through the upholstery, right? There really gets to be a smell to them.
It gets to a point with language where you’d ask your students—you’ll make anyone, anything, wittingly, but especially unwittingly, into your student—
what is language? What defines it? What can language do?
And you’d ask that because you don't know. You liked the answers. Answers aren't anything but a game. You remind us of that every single day. 

Bend away from the joint, passionfruit, spiritually, because you always do.
There are so many hearts. The best are the cartoon ones you can wield whim
whammy at the will.

You never come back the way you came. Why would you? You're human. Even the water burbles differently through the tributaries. Even the waves wait patiently and unsuspectingly

for the moon to roll up.

(Canyons, Los Angeles cigarettes) (Animal bloodstain in the forest preserve) (Fruit flies on a full fruit bowl) ((Fabergé eggs) (Expired chicken sausage) (The Hollywood sign) (Splatter art)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




MANGO

O mango!
Mango, you're in touch with that energy of the fish that first crawled out of the sea to live on land. You came out of your zone, tried; you succeeded. You're satisfied. As a person you know that milestones are significant parts of our experience. (Maybe subconsciously you know that.) Checking them off helps you find yourself.

It’s hard to decide, and it’s even harder to always be on. But the questions always lead to more aloud, awake questions, don’t they?

You can and do do
sickly sweet. If offered, you might do
centipede meat.
O mango! To lose one’s face in one’s own hands.

You may struggle with how much you've placed yourself. In fact,
place yourself
further. More embedded.
Say to yourself:
"I am holding in my hands
a book about La Croix.
My feet are on the ground.
Or will be."


(Chain smoking in a neon work vest)(Airplane seats in a green field)
(Gray butterflies) (Playing cards on a concrete basement floor) (Orange cones in the night)



DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:




COLA (LaCOLA/NiCOLA)
for Jamie Mortara

You want so much to believe but you can't because
You know the truth. And the truth is two things:
Subjective.
And gets in the way.

“But proof? (PROOF)
Proof is the bottom line / for anyone.”

Paul Simon said that in Rhythm of the Saints.
Wasn’t that such an underrated album?

So you're resigned to the American weirdo. Piles of papers unknown, coke bottle glasses, halogen lighting. That kilter.

There’s no cola aficionado who isn’t an obsessee.
Obsessive isn’t the right moon for that orbit. Not enraptured enough.

It was a stingray’s tail that killed Steve Irwin. The magic bullet in JFK’s head. It was the wooden cross that Christ was hung upon thousands of years ago but it might as well have been yesterday. We always use objects to bring down our myths.

My god
you could run a hundred miles of cable
and never regret it.

Hot tubbing at the community center. Top shelf liquor in the bad part of town.
Plastic gold.
You plucky little cadaver that never gave up and it was what it was
At the end of the day.

Cola,
America. This place seems like a great place
To have a complete breakdown.
Nothing should be so simple.

Don't you get it?
Heat accelerates death,
cold prolongs it.

We need a non binary flavor
To carry us into the future.


(Red, white, and blue Popsicles. What do you call them?) (A hammer in the river) (Acid wash) (The universe) (An eye springing open, a popular TV show beginning) (Mountains, streams) (Telephone wire) (Coils of fencing in the dew) (Trailer park phone wires hung with clothes) (Cascading mirrors)
(the the the the universe universe universe universe)
(Long train, tank car after tank car full of corn oil) (Burning bushes)
(Commiserate economy)




DRINKING ONE NOW, MY EXPERIENCE IS:






To read the rest of this masterpiece, buy the chapbook, La Croix Water, from Damask Press.
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Ryann Stevenson

Insensible Losses

Sometimes, my grandmother sees shadows.

She isn't sure what's real

and what's a smoky outline of the forgotten.

When people think of blindness

they close their eyes. Think of the dark.

But hers is white, it's the color of no color,

and all the frequencies of visible light.

It was given to her with a spoonful of sugar.

The defective pills that made her.

There was once the dark tuft

of her daughter’s newborn hair,

the high shrug of mountains,

the wires through which they fed electricity

into the brain—and then everything left, like water leaves the body

without our knowing, like California,

like the something else that leaves

as heroin enters. I remember

few things: tiny flowers

on the knobs of the dresser drawer,

the strangeness of strangers, my mother

miscarrying. Innocence, then

virginity, that little girl

on the boardwalk, my hair

color, my hair, my resistance.

Last night I dreamed of all the Earths

I use up—all four of them.

They were sad and scared and exhausted.

I tried to find a chair.

We were inside the house

that consumed Goldilocks, inside everything

my grandmother never saw

when she could still see.

Sometimes she looks

straight at me or just beyond

at my sister turning the camera onto herself,

pressing her lips together. I watch

my grandmother wet her cracked lips.

She doesn't get to choose when:

she's always having her most private moment

with the whole world.




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Lauren Clark

Listening to "Rolling in the Deep" for Twenty Hours Straight

Everyone else has plugged their ears with wax, I thought.
I am the only person listening across this entire nation,


I thought. I am the smart one. Out the train window,



all the people I love were standing in a mass in the middle of the spring cornfield.

                         Cornfield because it was cutting through one
                                         late at night, feeling their leaves catch
                                         on my hair and eyelashes, their ears
                                         organlike against my body, blocking
                                         out the sky, the cornfield taught me
                                         how many things can be mistaken
                                         for the touch of another human body.


And the people I love didn’t look at one another
because, let’s face it, the people I love don’t love
one another.

And they all took one step in different directions
in unison.




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Brandon Lewis

On Cowardice, the mother of cruelty

There is a story I tell myself
to explain why I never told her I see its trace

every day— a spiral of your vomit in the toilet.

The story deemphasizes our ease of sex, and my knowledge

that blood and fat no longer renew
her uterus – it recreates

her lightness and solitary will, our silence, until everything cracks, splays

as the prism stranded on the ceiling, wavering across
stucco

until an imperfection, and the complexity loses
elegance
and grows: outward in distortion

—all claws and belly and blur.

There is a story I tell myself to explain
how our human drama could not possibly be a kind of
cult, obscuring

sight until it is impolite to capitalize Earth.     Impolite

to say so what, who cares about your kitten—and my babygirl—
who are nothing

if we have no cuttlefish, no bees, no elephants.

We do not go: we are borne along like things that float.    Comforted

that we cannot choose the qualities of the light in which we are
exposed.




On Prayer

I want to say I hear it whispered
everywhere, as a tattered cloud dissolves into what comes after
such heaviness

—given a chance to fall into minerals, crush
into pigments

painted as the rooster advertised on the refugee death-truck
that rumbles through Hungary, the rooster saying

I taste so good because they feed me so well.

This is our dome and its reflection of us.

This is our Prisoner’s Dilemma: whether to believe your counterpart won’t
sing,
whether you will damn one another with your small raft
of knowledge,

whether you will do nothing until

That’s the last male of a species singing for a female who will never come.

All this time what was I pleading to?

I could have been sending postcards to old flames
as if they were the war buddies I never had,

or pleading to senators who replies read as rejection letters,

or inquiring to the horse-groom in Sussex

whether grandma’s horses have hay or will starve again
this winter, munching through the stable’s oak posts and
roof.

That summer we touched their sides—their ribs
rippling—
neither of us ready to ride.        Only the billowing grass

to save us.        What is there between the master and the
servant when both have fulfilled their doom?


I want more for us, I want to say.

I would package myself inside a thought to you, I would,
melting into air.




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Sara Tuss Efrik, translated by Johannes Göransson

THE DOVE QUEEN
(Automanic rite on Ester Martin Bergsmarks & Mark Efrik Hammarberg’s Maggie Wakes Up on the Balcony)

She’s put on the protective clothing. She’s bought an air rifle for 3500 kronor. She’s going to kill the birds because they shit on her balcony. Because they never leave her in peace. They will never leave her in peace. Also, they are infected with bird flu. She’s heard that on the radio. She wears protective gloves. Obviously she has to protect her uncrushed neck. Her body is a barrel. There is a bird seeds inside her eye. The mirror is on fire in the living room. The infected animals dance in the sky with their infected wings. She has a stalker in her bedroom. The protective clothing she wears is silver-colored. She remembers when her dad laughed. An invasion is taking place on the balcony. The washing machine shakes the bathroom. The silverfish have shed their silver flakes on the floor. The feet are dirty. There is something devastating about this world. All the wings spread diseases, just like the wings of freedom, just like the imagined ones. The bird shit sticks to her feet. There is a boat in the bathroom. The walls have been covered with tar. The bird-net has come unraveled. The protective silver clothes have fallen down from her shoulders.




THE OX ALFE
(Automanic rite on the beginning of the word)

In the beginning was the Ox. The Ox received a name, it was named Alfe, and thus the Ox Alfe became the first letters of the alphabet. The animal became a hang-up, and this hang-up was transformed into technique, and from this technique came a fetish, and out of this fetish came image productions and collages, and in these visual images one may once again glimpse the Ox, which is once again constructed and named Alfe, having become the first letters of the alphabet. Its defecation includes capitals and ligatures. The Oxe Alfe is lost. It tries to interpret itself. It tries to convince the other animals that all information should be on the surface; that one can in fact cut off the underside. The Ox Alfe is not convinced that the ratios always correspond in the golden rectangle. The Ox Alfe wants to be mangled by hypertext. The Ox Alfe cannot find his way home. It has gone astray in the golden triangle.




AMPUTATED BALLERINA
(Automanic rite on Jean Genet’s The Tightrope Walker)

My leg was cut off right across the thigh. It happened while I was at the highest point up there on the very tight rope. At the same time as the leg was cut off, some stitches unraveled in my black tights.

My wig was made of the sheerest paper. Since my wig is made of this thin material, it is pretty hard to keep my balance when my center of gravity shifts too suddenly. There is nothing that can successfully keep me upright, not even my joke of a hairpiece.

My cut-off leg was wrapped up by the great speed before it hit the ground. I reached the trampoline. I immediately laid down to rest in the sheet in which I had once tucked my doll. The sheet is stained by sperm and ashes. I puked blood all over the stained white. Puss dripped from the leg-stump. The smell of innards was dizzying. I also lost the thin paper. I no longer even had fake hair to hold on to.

Glasses clinked when you toasted, down there on the ground, at the same time as I had finally succeeded with my bloody act. You raised the white tulle and the cut-off limbs to the skies. You applauded my exhaustion.




THE DEATH OF OPHELIA
(Automanic rite on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

The willow tree leans across the creek, its leaves are reflected in the water, a glistening reflection that undulates in the waves. The leaves of the tree are tangled. That the leaves are tangled is a sure sign that the winter is going to be hard this year. The silver-grey leaves in the water float into the braids of the girl’s hair. The girl’s hair billows in the water. She hovers above her own mirror reflection. She hangs from the willow tree’s biggest branch.

The girl is her own silver-gray reflection.

I despise the insane man with whom I have fallen in love. How I crawl after him between the lines on the paper, between the disgusting letters. And how pathetically he asks me to dance his insanity dance, how he pushes his head between my thighs, how he shows off act after act. And I play along, one of the most beautiful of all actresses will soon be the craziest of them all.

Out of her apron pockets, she pulls out the flowers she picked earlier in the day. She braids them into a wreath, all the rotting nettles, daisies, spearworts and orchids. She winds a fool’s bush out of the fantastic plants. Slowly the bouquet is transformed into a heap of dead man’s fingers. Dead man’s fingers is the words that shy girls use to describe how rude fingers touch their thighs.

She whirls around her branch, attaches the wreath of dead man’s fingers to the bark. She decorates and adorns the tree, which she still trusts. Suddenly the treasonous branch breaks and she falls. In her hand she still holds the dead man’s fingers, a slack and useless hand. She falls straight into the water, into the river of the insane man’s tears. Her skirts spread out. For a brief moment, these billowing clothes hold her up. But that moment is brief.

She is a mermaid. She’s always been a mermaid, even though she has hid this from everyone, even herself, until this moment. She sings the old psalms, humming disparate stanzas, half-remembered melodies. The water carries her, and she floats away with her dress as a kind of life jacket. She travels through her own danger. Soon her dress is so heavy with water that she sinks down. Carried by her own songs she travels down to death and sand.





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Adam Peterson

Romance, with Still Life

Here is a comprehensive list of the diseases I will give you: dinosaurs. But it won’t be, like, a bad thing, the dinosaurs. They’ll only be there at all because we love each other so much that life cannot help to bloom around us. Trust, trust that feeling. We could stand in a parking lot and make it a jungle. You’ll see when we kiss, and the roses unfurl and the bees come and, yes, there will probably be some iguanodons.

Think of it this way: there were no dinosaurs before you and I. There was no you and I before you and I. Now we’ll be together and the dinosaurs will be together with us, and we can only hope that they’ll be the cool dinosaurs. Some of them must be into love and puppies and not into chasing and maiming and mass extinction events.

Do you know that feeling when you want to die because everything feels too beautiful? The kind that only comes at night? I hope you know it, because it’s how I want us to feel together and also, if I’m being honest, some of the dinosaurs are bound to be into chasing and maiming and mass extinction events.

Watch, watch the dirt. I’ll take your hand. I’ll brush your cheek. There are consequences to these actions, and already I can feel you shiver as the new grass tickles your toes. Stop, stop moving. They can’t see things that don’t move. Close, close your eyes. We can’t see things that aren’t beautiful. Everything must have been beautiful once, when it was newborn and flowering and full of dinosaurs.

That breath on your neck is me. Me, or one of the carnotauruses. That hand on your back is definitely mine and not one of the babies. Don’t, don’t worry. If we hold each other long enough the vines will grow around our legs, the hummingbirds will feed in our ears, and the dinosaurs will raise the babies. We’ll never move again, and we’ll never let go.

It’s a disease, this love, but some of the diseases must be good. Because would it be any better if nothing grew when we touched? If the earth browned, the tress undressed, the dinosaurs suffocated? So please, please don’t run.




The First Ghost

You would think the first ghost would be lonely, but really he’s just an asshole. The first ghost was alone in everything—the space inside walls, the corners of attics, the decision to live as a shadow rather than move into the light. He’d been by himself for generation after generation because not one other once-person rejected heaven. When someone finally did, the second ghost discovered that the first ghost had already written his name on everything, even you.

I am the second ghost. When I chose to stay I chose to stay with you. But the first ghost called dibs, and now the only place I haunt is the top of the world where the sun never sets. I sit on a small circle of ice where I crossed out the first ghost’s name and wrote my own. He let me do this, the first ghost, but only for this circle and only because the ice here is melting and soon will be gone. Then I’ll sink to the bottom of the ocean and haunt creatures so empty they’ll call me friend.

Sometimes on my thinning ice panting polar bears pass by, but when I stretch to pet them I see the first ghost’s signature writ large across their fur. Like us, they don’t know who owns them, only that they are owned.

You are owned. The first ghost wrote his name just below your right ear in that spot I used to kiss. He’s written his name on everything that is yours and everyone that you see. His signature is loopy and old-fashioned, one he must have once signed with a quill but now signs with an invisible finger. I see him, sometimes, when the wind makes a new cloud or a bale of turtles is born. He flies by and writes his name on every trembling newborn.

Maybe he’s only scared by how little we have as ghosts. Maybe there is someone he once loved, someone he waited for, someone who passed by him on their way to heaven. Maybe he’s a jerkoff.

One day I will fall to the bottom of the world. There I will wait for you. But don’t come. This I would tell you if I were tapping a silent finger against your window. I would speak all the words I know and as they left my lips, the first ghost would call dibs on them and it would be as if I never said anything at all. So I stay far away watching the sun gild the ice.

I know you won’t choose this. No one does—only me and the first ghost, and of all the things we might write, it’s never why we chose the lesser eternity for fleeting ownership of the present. If I’d been first, I would do exactly as he’s done. I would write and write and write, a name, never meant to be read by anyone, even you.




Diagnosis Stabbing

You were a remnant of the weird months. I don’t know why you were the first person I called with the bad news, but I knew I’d dialed right when I heard your voice dulled with sleep. I was outside the hospital and I let the prescription blow down the early morning street as I made small talk until I could admit what the doctor had said.

I’m sick, I said. Stabbing.

You didn’t understand and thought I’d been stabbed already. No, I explained. I will be stabbed. With two sharp fingers I felt the hollows between my ribs and told you not to worry. Then I ran after the piece of paper and sat in the pharmacy waiting room until my prescription of bandages, gauze, and flowers was ready.

It should pass soon, he said. Give us a call if you notice any side effects or if you have any questions about how to start a knife fight.

The doctor who diagnosed me gave me pamphlets and showed me a filmstrip and referred me to a specialist named Dr. Murder who led a gang and took my insurance. I spent a month with the 4-Star Posse but all we did was paint a community center and hold an intervention for Chino whose drinking was worrying Claire.

When I came to you, I was crazed. I had not been sleeping. All day I felt for the weak spot between my ribs and all night I helped Dr. Murder run the Neighborhood Watch. You let me in and I fell into your arms. Although I only knew you from the weird months, you recognized something in me right away and I recognized something in you.

I let the prescription blow all the way down the street. I got hugged out of the gang. I planned your graduation party. When you asked for the scissors, I came running. I tripped but it was your shoulder, a small wound, only an inch deep, just enough that it won’t heal with flowers alone.

Believe me when I tell you this: I never knew I wasn’t the diagnosis but the disease.





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Issue 6: Episode 4 Contributors


Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade have published collaborative essays in Arts & Letters, Bellingham Review, Cincinnati Review, Connotation Press, Green Mountains Review, Nimrod, No Tokens, Passages North, poemmemoirstory, Quarter After Eight, The St. Ann’s Review, and StoryQuarterly. Duhamel and Wade teach in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami.

Denise Duhamel is the author, most recently, of Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other books include Ka-Ching!(Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), Mille et un Sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001.) Her work has been anthologized widely and appeared in literary magazines such as American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, and New Ohio Review. She was the guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013.

Julie Marie Wade is the author, most recently of When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014) and Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Bywater Books, 2014; Colgate University Press, 2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir. Her other books include Postage Due: Poems & Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2013), Small Fires: Essays (Sarabande Books, 2011), and the forthcoming collections, Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and SIX: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2016). She has received an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), and the chapbooks war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her work can be found in PANK, Spork Press, Thrush, Tarpaulin Sky, Public Pool, Best American Poetry, Best Small Fictions, PEN American Center and The Ampersand Review, among others. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. Buy Apocryphal here. @lisamariebasile

Russell Jaffe is the author of poetry collections This Super Doom I Aver (Poets Democracy, '13), INTROVERT // EXTROVERT (Punk Hostage, '14), Civil Coping Mechanisms (Civil Coping Mechanisms, forthcoming '17) and the poems you've read here, from the chapbook LA CROIX WATER, published by Damask Press. And some other chapbooks. Here is a link to purchase LA CROIX WATER (and 100% of the proceeds from the sale go to the ACLU.)

Ryann Stevenson's poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Blunderbuss Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Linebreak, and Pinwheel Journal. She is the Chapbook Series Editor at Phantom Books, and co-curate's Phantom's Brooklyn-based reading series, EMPIRE.

Brandon Lewis lives and teaches in NYC. Poems of his can be found colored on and scattered about by his baby, as well as in Drunken Boat, The Missouri Review, The Massachusetts Review, Fjords Review, apt, and Spork. The poems published here are part of a project that takes its titles and part of its form from Michel de Montaigne’s Essais.

Sara Tuss Efrik (b. 1981) in Falun, Sweden. Her first novel Mumieland (Mummy Land) was published by Rosenlarv Förlag in 2012. Chapbooks of her long poem Night's Belly and a selection of her "automanias" are forthcoming in translation by Paul Cunningham (from Goodmorning Menagerie and Toad Press). She is now working on black suns, the greek nymph Calypso, anaesthesia and nothingness in a novel called Heroine. You can find her video monolouges here.

Johannes Göransson is the author of six books. He has also translated books and poems by Swedish-language authors like Aase Berg, Ann Jäderlund and Johan Jönson. He teaches at the University of Notre Dame and edits Action Books.