Refugee The brother I do not have is walking into the forest. I follow. Watch his half-hitch gait, the slipknot of his shoulders. Always, at the path’s end, a woman, not our mother, waits. Between us a matchstick and the damp tinder. Always this brother wastes the afternoon foraging, slipping his long fingers along the rough of fallen trees. Do you remember the song our mother sang? he says. He pockets frills of lichen, drops wet bark into my hand. Felled. There is something else. I unremember. When it gets dark, he tells me I loved best the song’s refrain. And later, the woman, not our mother, empties his pockets. There is never enough. Never to feed all the children. Careless Love I am chaise-longued and slipcovered. Lacquered, distracted, give me my grosgrain, my trim. Oh, to be scalloped, braided, blue silk valance and a tassled drape. A sash tied back, a faux anything thrown. Wall to wall, Persianed, hardly. Needle-pointed or shagged, what do you dream? I am fancy and apricot, Chinoisery and something stark. Phillipe–ghost chaired, illumined– –are you ready for my modernity? I can Louis it up, quatorze or otherwise, our excess, excessive, pounded, gold leafingly handled. Queerly we love a sofa, but enough sectional, what about feet stretched on an ottoman? There’s molding to consider. Eggshell? Gloss? Nothing overhead. How dire is the chandelier? And oh, you look lovely. The effect in certain light. Love me, oh, love me. I’ve been consigned. From The Dye Merchant The Apprentice of Blue …throw out the water and keep the blue. From Libri Colorum , 15th century (Delemare &Guineau) The last of the alum. The last of woad and logwood. Dutch smalt. Such blue. Like every band of ocean all at once. Minded the smell of hands but, oh, the blue of my own hands, stained, stinker hands, the dyer’s mark. Woke up blue. Hands bluer than paper. It’s almost my second winter at the papermill. Hauled my share of cow blood added as forbidden filler Metal in the steam rises from copper vats, I beat the rags harder with the beating stick. Time enough in long hours, the awful retting of pulp, to walk my crooked self back through the door of memory Turned out I’d been traded, a final coin in some deal, A man’s chunk of Persian Blue. Not much to remember. I no longer look like anyone’s daughter. It isn’t bad to be a boy, a cap angled on my head. I’ve shaped my mind to the business of keeping fingers from lifting a thing too lightly. I’d lived for two years in Venice, if this swamp can be called Venice. No ostrich plumes out here, no cabuchon of lapis-lazuli veined with gold. Among these slapped-up strung buildings it’s glass blowers and paper mills; the wool shop next door, a burned tatter of a building. In the sticky heat of the swamp, in the boil of the works, ten fired cauldrons, the men strip down, cloth wrapped for bloomers. I wear my pants short, keep them knotted about my waist. I sleep in a reeking shack. Slip out mornings While the others twist closer to their dreams Though it’s begun,…
H.O.W. Journal contributor and board member David Gates has recently published a short story collection, A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me. Pick up a copy!
“This year, I love a man with a hole in his plan.”
“We made it to New York. That’s how we put it when we talk about it with each other, even though it means something different to each of us, and even though we’re both pretty used to it by now. I came straight from school, worked some crap jobs, then landed a decent one. It’s at a hedge fund and I hate it, at least theoretically.”
This makes me think of a writer who runs. He can have ideas only when he runs. However he has a problem remembering the ideas until the end of the run so he decides to run with a dictation machine. It’s not a dictation machine, it’s a tiny tape recorder, it’s not a tape recorder, it’s one of those electric sticks that records the sounds on nothing. In digital no-space. He runs with it once and he records each idea in panting running speech. When he gets home he is excited, but when he presses play the machine has failed him, nothing has been retained. He does not resolve to discover how to properly work the machine. He just takes this as a bad sign and places the machine on the mantel, among his other signifiers. It joins a rotten orange, a flower, a bottled ship, a train ticket, an eye patch, and the universe on the mantel.
“Wilson Willowdell shaved his face. He was naked at the mirror and his mustache kit lay open in front of him. Strapped inside were two black brushes and a pair of small, sharp scissors. He worked the scissors to his thin, dark mustache, taking off just a shade. When he was finished it was even and good. You could not have drawn it on any straighter than he cut it. It was Sunday, the only day that Wilson cooked for himself alone. On other days he attended the ancient skillet at the diner. He cooked slowly but not many complained. His French toast saved him from any real criticism. The toast was fluffy and light as new snow.”
Before I stopped going out, the waitress at the café
on my fine teeth. I read a book on the uses
and misuses of opium, waiting for my food. A tree
shed in the corner. “William Barret, a surgeon
“Gordon’s Lux-O-Liner bounced into the rear end of Boston on streets that seemed to be undergoing a bombardment of some kind. Explosions boomed outside his bus as it passed through shrouds of smoke and steam. It jolted over craters in the road accompanied by insane screeching that turned out to be giant War of the Worlds metal monsters rampaging in fenced-off excavations. He watched them in his tinted window, swinging their mechanical limbs against the sky. Then gray exhaust enveloped the bus and all he could see was himself. The whole city had been a war-zone for decades now. It was even worse today than the last time he’d been here, a year ago, and they were still calling it progress.”
The Curfew by Jesse Ball
A review by Shelby Wardlaw
Behind the dystopian plot of Jesse Ball’s new book The Curfew lies an in-depth meditation on the purpose and state of the artist. At one point, the protagonist William remembers his violin teacher’s instruction regarding the proper way to play a sonata: “You must be brutal, terrible, but with great sympathy, sympathy for all things, and yet no mercy.” Accordingly, The Curfew does not lack for sadness and difficulty. Yet Ball harbors an artist’s appreciation for his raw material; he chooses words that will evoke and yet not devastate. He is, at times, brutal, but always deeply sympathetic towards his characters. The Curfew is a hushed novel, not overly ambitious, but unrelenting in its demonstration of the power and scope of art.
The Book of Freaks by Jamie Iredell
A review by Chris Bundy
The Book of Freaks insists on a combination of division and harmony, like the contemporary novel-in-stories, which contains standalone stories unified by reoccurring characters or a common setting. While Jamie Iredell shuns those two strategies, the book still holds together, rather, fuses as one. Consider, as comparison, the preludes and fugues of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, a work noted for its structural regularities yet broad array of styles.