The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Page 2 of 64

Poems by Kathryn Kopple

Epidemics 

I can’t recall why.  Or when I bought

Hippocrates’ Epidemics.  I was on  

a tangent that should have taken me east

of Athens to Perinthos on the Sea of Marmara.

To get there, I would have to stop over

in Crannon. About Crannon, I know

nothing, which is basically how I’ve

always traveled. Floundering from 

country to country.  Blind to where I was going.

After Italy, why not Hungary?

I passed the time surrounded by

Soviet architecture. Buildings

stripped of ornament uniformly at war

with old world charm.  My host, a woman

and her boy. He didn’t walk, couldn’t feed

himself.  His silence. Her patience.

I felt oddly blessed and cursed. Lightning.

I’ve been struck more than once. Spinoza’s

famous question: What can a body do?

Bite my tongue. The toll it takes

to come back from the dead.

On the phone, I hear my partner offer

his sympathies. There’s been a significant

uptick in requests for advance directives.

The neighbors left for Charlotte a week

after the schools closed. To read the mail,

we put on gloves. The house reeks of chlorine.

We’re still under orders to hunker down.

For how long, no one knows.

When this is over, I hope to visit Perinthos,

a hanging cliff-town in Turkey, overlooking

a luminous sea, harboring every

ounce of light the heavens will spare.

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Poems by Danielle Hanson

How to Murder Rain

There’s no surprise 

attack—it has a bird’s-eye 

view. It will be all fight—dodge 

and parry, dodge, and parry. 

Rain is multitudinous and fast, unafraid 

to fall. It can shift

the ground out from under you, 

raise a breathless wave above 

your head, pin your shoulders 

down, crawl inside your body. Wait 

for it to spend itself—drive it into 

ground, use its body to raise 

an army of grasses, glinting 

their wet swords to sky.

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That Time I Was at the Steppenwolf New Play Festival and Took a Piss Next to Tracy Letts in the Garage Theater Bathroom, A Monologue by Adam Seidel

This happened back when I was living in Cleveland working at a big theatre there. There’spretty much only one big theatre in Cleveland. Anyway, I was working under the theatre’s artistic director who I would travel with to theatre festivals all around the country, and this particular time we were at the First Look festival at Steppenwolf in Chicago. This was like the first year they did the festival, which was 2011. At any rate, it’s the opening night and there’s two plays back to back playing in their garage space, which as you can maybe guess, was a one-time parking garage converted to a theatre space. It was pretty rugged as far as top-tier regional theatre goes, but I think that was also the appeal. So the artistic director, let’s call him Dan, and I are sitting in our seats, which happen to be in the first row of this semi in the round configuration, which means the audience sits on three sides of the stage, and we’re sitting on one side of the stage so there’s people sitting on the other side facing us, and Dan nudges me and I look at him and he nods to this Asian woman on the other side of the stage facing us.

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Poems by Ken Poyner

COMPETENCE

I was supposed to be the subject

Of a painting.  Something with a bit

Of haze, maybe a light red tint,

A background of reeds leading

To open water.  Birds – but way off,

And painted more precisely than

Anything in the foreground.  Perhaps I

Would be in a dress, or draped

Like the goddess Diana, or possibly

Delicately naked, twisted

At the hip, seen from the back.

There could be a tree, perhaps Spanish

Moss.  The painter is yet to decide.

But I have been cut out of the production.

The figure now is to be nondescript,

The light all second hand.  There will be

Something ominous closing in.  Had I been

The subject, the painting’s elements

Would have conspired against me.  My own

Children, regarding the painting in place of

Lunch, would not have recognized me.

But for me to have known that the effort

Was mine, who the misty unrecognizable

Woman was, and the effort to gather it all

Together, would have been comforting.

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Holy Ground by Jennifer Spiegel

Nothing To See Here

In June 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery, Chemo, Radiation, Reconstruction, and More Surgery followed. Between then and now, I wrote Cancer, I’ll Give You One Year: A Non-Informative Guide to Breast Cancer, A Writer’s Memoir In Almost Real Time. 

 

Unraveling

People ask how cancer has changed my life. Am I more religious? Have I forsaken sugar? Given up red meat? What’s with sex? 

It’s in the book, but:

  1. I’m an introvert now.
  2. I savor road trips. 

The road trip part first: I’ve always loved travel. But now, I crave the jammed-in-the-car/free-hotel-breakfast/seven-hour-stretches–of-highway. I want to craft memories for my children. I want to unravel maps with them, holding hands in White Sands or before Renoir. I know life is a privilege. 

But Introversion is new to me. I’ve always been extroverted, social. 

Cancer has rendered me insular. There are medical reasons, like exhaustion, like incessant hot flashes. However, there are others: I just want to be with Tim, my husband. I’m a little nervous to be out there alone. I do it sometimes, venture into the world. I do writer things. I flew to Portland for a conference, went to Kentucky for a teaching gig even. But it wasn’t easy, and I missed my small world: family, pets. 

(Do you know how many times Tim has attended my readings? Like, a gazillion. Because he’s had to go to every single one of them.)

So, I rarely go out past dark alone. Cancer has left me stumbling at dusk, longing for middle-aged marriage, a cup of tea, Tim, and his nightly bowl of cereal. 

Unintentionally or maybe intentionally, I have made it a hard thing to maintain a friendship with me. With some trepidation, I admit that Tim is my world. Saying that—admitting that—frightens me. I love my steadfast friends, the persevering ones, the other introverts. And I’m wary of the vulnerability of my position, my reliance on some guy. Really? 

Just the same: I’m an introvert now.

Cancer demanded of me that I get my house in order—because I was going to spend a lot of time in it.

Is this an essay on marriage?

No.

It’s an essay on writing under the cancer rubric.

It’s an essay on road trips.

It’s an essay on writing about road trips under the cancer rubric.

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“Avocado,” a flash fiction piece by John Brantingham

You try to steer Cyndi in her Hulk costume away from the house three doors down where the pediatrician lives. He opens the door and pulls an avocado and a toothbrush out of a basket and tosses them into her pillowcase. He says, “Happy Halloween.”

Cyndi thanks him, but you can’t help yourself. You say, “You know it takes a special kind of asshole to give a child a lecture instead of a piece of candy.” You point into his basket overflowing with the Earth’s bounty. “Is that a beet?”

He cocks his head. “What? Did you have a couple before you took your kid out trick or treating?”

Of course, you did, but only because you forgot it was Halloween, and anyway, you thought you’d mouthwashed the smell away. Apparently not. “Yes, madam,” you say, “but tomorrow, I’ll wake up sober, and you’ll still be a shithead.” The quotation is right on the top of your head because you’ve been teaching Churchill in your graduate seminar for the last two weeks. You know you got it wrong and the “madam” probably confused the guy a little, but it feels like a good retort, so you spin on the back heel and catch up with Cyndi who’s sitting on the front lawn.

By now, the guy’s slammed his door, so you say to her, “If you want, we can throw the produce through that fucker’s front window.”

“No, Dad, no. I’m the peaceful Hulk.” This is probably why she drew a Mercedes Benz symbol on the chest of her costume. She brings the avocado up to her nose and inhales and smiles and then lifts it up to you. 

You take it and breathe it in, and it fills you up. “You make a good point, Gumdrop, and besides there’s more loot to be taken on this street.”

She takes it back and smells it once more. “It’s so good,” she says. “It’s just so fucking good.”

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“Phat Man,” a short story by Patricia Trentacoste

Before
Personal Blog, Entry 1 Open to Public

Everybody’s fat, phat, obese, stout, plump, a lard ass weighed down by excess. Here’s how it works: some, me for instance, carry our metal on the outside. Fat is armor. We’re like knights. Some days I can’t turn around in the saddle. My bulk starts in the gut, plates over my ass, and widens in my shoes. Get the picture? Lifting all that weight 24/7 makes me strong as hell. Think about that. Think about this too: Fat cells store energy. I’ve got lots of it. It’d take an eon to starve a dude like me. I’m like the sun. I got billions of years left.

Low weight people? They think they’re not fat. But they aren’t skinny either. Fact is, they wear their poundage where you can’t see it. I feel for them—having to haul it around, getting no sympathy. Food has a weird vibe for them. The vibe is guilt. Look at their guts, tight with self-loathing. No one spends more time thinking about pork-grease and butter than they do. Salmon and hard-boiled eggs only go so far. Paleo is for Neanderthals and we ain’t them no more. Get it? Least I’m not.

How do I know this? I used to be spare. Raw boned, as they say. I ate my fill. Cut to me in the john puking. Men can’t be bulimic? Sure we can. Not many of us, I’ll admit, but I’m evidence that some of us do it. I did it from middle school on. Eventually, I couldn’t take it—holding my immensity inside like that. No one knew how gorged I was, how much pressure I put on myself to look like the “Bieb,” hair and all. After college, I got sane again. By that I mean I transplanted my pounds to the light of day. Got it all out, pushed it out through my cells, packed it on in plain sight, the real stuff, physical, not mental crap. I added tangibleness till I was gargantuan … insulated.

Okay, so now you know. I’m big. I’m inundated with adipose tissue. But you should also know other things. One: I can dance. Two, I can roll over in bed easy enough. (I know you had to wonder.) Of course, I’m still young, twenty-seven. Just wait, they tell me, your heart’s gonna turn to suet. People I love tell me that. They call it, big love. Ha, ha, ha. They text me links for pills and gyms that make you piss all day and work out in front of mirrors. They want me to watch TV’s The Biggest Loser with them, pretending not to notice the ambiguity of the title while they trade me my Buds for fat-burners.

Three: I like classical music. You might think that’s a non-sequitur, to jump to classical music like that. It is and it isn’t. I like music with gravitas, heavy instrumentation, like parts of Beethoven’s 7th, or Berlioz—sometimes he’d use 1000 musicians. That’s what I mean. Ponderousness is the right answer for the world today. Flutes can’t handle me, you know? I’ve gotta have bassoons, oboes, tubas, double basses. I’m the Phat Man. I’m a freakin’ nuclear weapon. Anybody out there?
The Phat Man

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Poetry by Luanne Castle

The Bad Daughter Walk

Four beads on a thread,

we were that close trudging

home, separated only by 

thick coats on this suddenly

spring afternoon amid the last 

puddles of melted slush

and forsythias sprouting buds.

Don’t step on a crack!

We shouted as we long-stepped

sidewalk square to square

in unison as beads shove beads

when you swing the string.

You’ll break your mother’s back!

I flinched, my step floundering

as I forgot to step long in step

with you all, my mind a flurry,

my mother lying still at the foot

of the sofa, then loaded onto 

the stretcher, daddy sobbing 

as the minister spoke, and me

motherless and broken by

slaughtering my mother with

carelessness so of course I stepped

short and landed on the crack,

scattering the beads in the gutter.

 

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“When the Road Calls Your Name” by Jeffrey T. Heyer

I crossed a continent, an ocean, and an island and now that I stood at last within the unthinkably ancient ring of stones reared by my forgotten forebears, all I heard in the well of my own soul was the echo of the well-cover when I drew it back.  I hitched up my pack, struck my crude walking stick against the wet grass, and headed for the little local museum.

Stepping inside, I found I could proceed no further.  The Avebury museum was manned by an elderly gentleman in a dark blue suit.  His white hair neatly slicked back, his face arranged in an expression of professional hospitality, he was attempting to elucidate the exhibits for an American couple.  Since my fellow Americans blocked the way, I could do nothing but pull off my mist-dampened slouch cap and wait. 

Looming over the English curator, the elderly American demanded through loose lips, “What’s so special about this place, huh?”

“Well,” smiled the curator, “Avebury is the largest stone circle in the world…”

“Saw it.  Is this the whole town?”

“The modern town of Avebury sits entirely within the ring of …”

“What’s the museum for?”  The American angrily shook England’s October chill from his Hawaiian shirt.  His voice dripped with contempt for a country whose temperature failed to fit his tourist’s uniform.

The curator replied patiently, “We house a small collection of artifacts discovered…”

Out thrust the American’s finger.  “What’s this?”

“I’m glad you noticed that display.  This…”

“It’s a rock.  We have rocks at home.  We don’t build museums for ‘em.  Do you have anything good?”

Before the curator could indicate his prize display, the tourist declared, “I’ve seen it.”  The Ugly American turned his back and shoved past me out the door, his wife remora-like at his side.

The curator turned his eyes on me, propped up his smile, and nodded in greeting. I admired his resilience — something I had long lost. 

“Is there anything I can help you with?” he asked, glancing over my army surplus ski-jacket, weathered jeans, and rough shoes.

I took off my glasses and polished the mist from them.  Not trusting contact lenses on a rough trip, I wore an 

old-fashioned pair of sturdy black frames.  I had stopped shaving the day I quit my job and it suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen another bearded man since I had arrived on the island — as if I needed an appearance guaranteed to distance me further from those around me.  But I was not thinking of appearances when I withdrew my savings, tossed a few things in an old army backpack, and flew away over the great Californian desert, across the wide states, and over the rough Atlantic, reversing the course of my westward-driven forebears.

Embarrassed at seeing myself through the curator’s eyes, I was about to demur, but considering the brush-off the man had just received, I changed my mind, saying, “Actually, yes.  I’m particularly interested in the excavation of the West Kennet Long Barrow.”

The curator’s smile became genuine and he swiftly ushered me to a series of photographs of neatly stacked finger bones and skulls within the Long Barrow.  The more questions I asked, the happier my white-haired acquaintance became. 

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