Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two poems from Charles Freeland

Editor's Note: The following poems are excerpted from Charles Freeland's chapbook, Eulalie & Squid, forthcoming from Chippens in June.

Detached from the Aggregate

The silver seems to have been handed out by those who think Squid too reclusive. A man who doesn’t understand his obligations to the park system. And the volunteers who patrol its borders. They have been reduced by quarantine and apathy. Turned into specters by the things they’ve seen. Tumblers lying about, cracked and empty. Leaves stamped with the spindly trails of mold growth. Or other otherworldly materials. Pretending to belong to this one. Squid has a lesson at twelve and another in the morning. But suspects he has already covered those chapters and will just be wasting his time. Besides, Eulalie won’t give him credit for being somewhere crucial. For creating a part of his life that doesn’t resemble all the others. She thinks him shackled to the wasp’s nest. Straining away at the scent of alder. But that doesn’t mean she’ll just wave her hand and dismiss the project. He knows through hard experience she will take copious notes. And try to make him believe something he doesn’t actually believe. Eulalie is tricky that way. She is constantly turning over on the floor. Peering up at him as if she has just come to the most sinister realization. And she is waiting for the right moment to inform him of it. To pronounce it in short, clipped syllables.
          I think Squid probably should have bought Eulalie the fish tank. He should have pushed it into the corner with a dolly. Rather than just expecting the winds to take care of things. They are almost always arriving just a minute too late. Disturbing sheets of paper. Carrying with them the sound of people trying to do the right thing. It is a sound that tends to be mistaken by the uninitiated for that of someone drowning. So far off shore there is little help, I suppose, available. Though not so far as to fail to register altogether.

As the Total of the One is to the Total of the Other

Someone’s going the wrong way. It’s inevitable. The sooner we accept that the bargain is not really a bargain at all, but a decoy, the sooner we can get back to the tales that nearly always begin in Bulgaria. We can grab up whatever celery is on the plate along the way. Just as if we won’t know what the climax sounds like without such assistance. Without the ladders threatening to fall over at the slightest provocation. Eulalie throws innuendo over her shoulder like salt. And the fact that Squid does not lunge ought to buy him some respect among those who knew him when he was a boy. Who thought he would never find himself in this situation. The sedan stuffed to the roof with steam trunks and cans of albacore tuna. The radio tuned to whatever doesn’t have any tympanis in it. This should tell us all we need to know. And if it doesn’t, if we are still searching beneath the mattress deep into the following morning, that doesn’t mean we are disabled in some crucial way. It just means we will not be given a place on the life raft, should matters come to that. Should the oceans start spilling over the sides of their containers. And running through the streets like domestic animals loose from their trailers. She finds his silence suspicious. The kind of thing that one wraps the body up in just when the body has become most vulnerable. When it is most likely to succumb to scrutiny. The heat of the Idaho sun. And if she is going to position herself correctly, she knows she must first determine where Squid will be at any given moment. Next to the rollaway bed. On top of the statue of himself that was erected secretly, in the middle of the night, downtown. And when the reporters came to ask him about it, to all but accuse him of arranging the project himself, he scoffed in a voice that left little doubt of his guilt. But no one could put a finger on exactly why. Sure, there was the timbre of it. Weak and watery. The sort of thing one expects to hear from the tailpipe of a Buick. Or the mechanism of the pen when you are just about to sign your name. But you hesitate for a moment because you’re not quite clear which line is the correct line. And which is liable to get you sent to the cabin in the piney woods. From which, it is rumored, no one ever comes back again. Where they ply you with soda crackers and fragments from the illiterate poets of Greece. Until you can no longer remember exactly why you turned your back on the old life. Why you lampooned it so cruelly in the pages of the phonebook.
          But just try figuring it out without the assistance of the woman you love! Try scratching at the bricks on your own. It won’t be but a matter of weeks before you are slinking back, defeated, into the corner of the garage. Hunting up the gas cans for one final inhalation.

Charles Freeland lives in Dayton, Ohio. His books, e-books and chapbooks include Through the Funeral Mountains on a Burro (forthcoming from Otoliths), Grubb (BlazeVOX books), Furiant, Not Polka (Moria), and The Case of the Danish King Halfdene (Mudlark). His website is The Fossil Record and his blog is Spring Cleaning in the Labyrinth of the Continuum.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two poems from Adam Henry Carrière

Editor's Note: The following poems are excerpted from Adam Henry Carrière's premiere chapbook, Zigeunertänze, forthcoming from Chippens in May 2009.

sinistrose, morosite
(dismalness, gloom)

Mon amitie est vive encor, malgre l'absence. Hate-toi!
My friendship is warm still, despite absence. Hurry!

                                        — Guilliaume Apollinaire

Small pretty statistic, what's the use?
A person's gloom is their birthright.

When I left for the glowing pink neon,
you were shed, a mirror image
spilt over colorless sand.

But, like old cobblestones, you still smile,
hiding the affectionate beach in the mortar below.

You have no reason to sero-fancy and forget-cell;
Feel the atlas of your remaining
body the way I once did,

Put up, put out ... out

the stiff upper lip sewn into the quilt,
tripping up your one-step on the way in.

Do not swallow the pharmacist's pleasant
jingle; build the home away from home
sweet homo we naïvely wrote of
in puppy-loved Valentines
illuminated by medicinal torches
now lining our hands.

Your bodily breakdown, dismalness bathed
in light, dines with us in Thanksgiving,
this hospice meal.

I am your last, best friend:

    No matter the blueprint of the coming
    lull, your voyage is mine,
    our antibody leaves fall together.

The dialect of our Magyar and Saxon eyes,


full of unlived yet permanently minor life,
almost deliriously lurks
behind the Hapsburgs' many great facades.

Its gloom burnishes the epitaph
haggard pilgrims shamble toward

Queer Quadrille

Tell me, how many of them would deliver themselves up deliberately to perdition (as He Himself says in that book) rather than go on living secretly debased in their own eyes?

                                        — Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes

Aloof, Voltaire would advise looking for someone less
like a character in a book; Goethe agrees, adding,
'A little less re-writable, please, or less so than I.'
Genet shouts, 'I want a boyfriend!'
With an anxious nod, Forester peeks open
his journal, noting “He can look like this:
Bare, often, warm in the dark, soft to the touch."
Myakovsky growls, 'Zapadniks!' and seizes a quill,
scrawling, "Short, sweet-smelling hair, fingers to glide
over the ice of my heart, nipples for my erect tongue to caress."
Isherwood raises a gloved hand. 'What about, "Lips
tight over closed eyes picturing him, an out-of-fashion movie
unnoticed by the Society page." Hm?' Fugard claps politely.
Greene sneers perfidiously. 'Veneration doesn't propel boys
into refuge. The wind does. "Let the West Country breeze
hide with him in my soul." Or something like that.'
Hiding under the buffet, Kundera tosses a note
onto Schiller's lap. The German reads it skeptically:
"A near-perfect banquet that isn't a black grave."
La Rochefoucault pours more wine.
Da Ponte and Schikaneder carouse duetically.
Williams scurries out through the back door.
Mishima takes his bread. Goddard scribbles up the tablecloth:
Captured in silver dust, framed in gold, the boy makes the man one.
Stone drunk, Fitzgerald approves; Gertrude and Zelda demur.
Tchaikovsky begins a seventh symphony on the spot,
but cannot decide what to call it.
Balzac, smelling of cognac, proves no help.
Marlowe begins to bicker with DeVere.
Yevtushenko wins a drinking contest with a bitter Hemingway
and takes the floor. 'A man's love is voluminous!
Glorious! Victorious!' Brodsky cheers ostentatiously.
Seeing Mandelstam hasn't yet arrived, they both weep.

Winner of the Nevada Arts Council’s Fellowship in Poetry, Adam Henry Carrière publishes Danse Macabre, Nevada’s first online literary magazine. He lives in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Les Urgences

By David Whitehouse

The old man had fallen to the pavement and his wife couldn't get him up. A passing woman, plump and middle-aged, had helped him to his feet and that was how I found the three of them, locked in a tight, immobile huddle in the bright light of a winter's afternoon.

-Are you going to be all right now? I heard the plump woman asking them.

The wrinkles on the face of the old man's wife were fragile like the threads of a spider's web.

-You'll be all right now, won't you? the plump woman said.

The wife's eye, encrusted with flaky skin, was delicate as that of a young doe as it shifted shyly through her wispy brown hair toward me.

-I'm afraid I really couldn't say, she said.

I took the man's arm. He was big and burly with thick white hair. His wife smiled at me and the seed of youth was in her smile.

The plump woman was gone.

-Dad! What are you doing? We're going to be late for the PARTY!

My kid, who I had fetched from school, was using a lamppost to swing himself round and round.

-Go on, the old man said. Don't waste your time. You'll be late.

-Don't worry, I said. We've got lots of time. We're early.

The three of us shuffled forward, the wife holding one of his arms and me the other. It was a hundred meters to his house, he said. But he couldn't keep going and I caught him as he slumped down again. We got him back upright but he could go no further. We were stuck.

-DAD! I don't want to stand here in the COLD!

-I'll call an ambulance, I said.

I pulled out my phone.

-Thank you, the man said.

The call was answered straight away. I told the woman where we were.

-His wife and I tried to get him home, I said. But he can't walk any more. We're stuck.

-Is he inebriated? said the voice on the line.


-Is he in a state of inebriation? Is he drunk?

-No, I said. He's an old man.

-I'm 85 years old, the man said.

-He says he's 85 years old, I said.

-And he's not drunk? the woman said.

-No, I said.

-I'll send an ambulance, she said.

We waited motionless. My child sulked. His wife, elegant in her long black winter's coat, said nothing.

The ambulance arrived, together with a police car. Three young men jumped out of the ambulance. Two blue-uniformed women emerged sluggishly from the car. They wore black boots and carrying long black truncheons. The old man's wife stood aside and looked at me, as if puzzled.

We were in France. I held the man up from behind by slipping my arms under his armpits.

-Good afternoon, sir, said the ambulance driver. We've come to take you to hospital.

-I'm not going to hospital, the old man said. I want to go home. It's a hundred meters down this street.

-If you want to go home, call a taxi, the young man said. I can only take you to hospital.

I was starting to sag under the old man's weight. The five uniforms stood impassive before us.

-I'm a bloody doctor, the old man said. And so is my daughter. I want to call her. Her number is at home.

-It's best to be examined, I said. Then you can call your daughter.

The driver of the ambulance folded his arms.

-Yes, he said finally. You need to be examined.

-Maybe your wife can go and get your daughter's number? I said. While you get in the ambulance.

-Don't ask her, the old man said. She's got Alzheimer's.

At this, the other two young men from the ambulance moved forward and grabbed the old man's arms. The driver, arms still crossed, gave me a small nod. I stepped away. My child, like a wild horse springing out of a box, charged headlong down the street.


It started the next Sunday morning as a dull ache in my testicles and got worse. By the time I stood in my living room, in front of the parents of the new kids at my children's school, it felt like a spoonful of molten lead had been dropped into each one of my balls.

They had come round to discuss how we could share the job of taking our children to school.
Five assorted kids were running wild in the background. The visiting mother was a tall, large-breasted woman and as the pain grew worse, I struggled to keep my chin up to meet her gaze.

-I'm a public relations consultant, she said. So it's very difficult to know exactly where I will be on a particular day . . .

-Stop leaning against the wall, my wife said. Why can't you stand up on your feet?

The husband shook his head and sighed, staggered by the dimensions of the problem. I wanted to cup my balls.

An intense round of negotiations followed. I smiled through gritted teeth. There were numerous complications. Mondays. Tuesdays. Wednesdays. Thursdays. Fridays.

I could feel a fever coming on. After what seemed long enough for the international war crimes trial of a minor African warlord, it was done.

-My balls are hurting, I said to my wife once they had gone.

The emergency doctor came straight around and we grappled briefly in the children's bedroom, my wife having indicated this was where the examination should take place. My temperature was through the roof.

-You should have done straight to hospital, the doctor said. Rather than calling me. If there's torsion in the balls, you have only six hours to save them.

-Six hours? To save my balls?

My balls: six hours.

-When did they start hurting? he asked.

-They've been hurting for . . . a few hours, I said.

The ambulance was soon there and I was bundled into the back. Off we went, red light flashing, into unchartered territory. My amazing years of potency, it seemed, could be drawing to a spectacular end.

When I came back home it was possible that I would be . . . something else.

At the hospital a woman in a white coat pulled me out of the waiting room and took me to the guy that was going to examine me.

Except that there was no guy.

How could there be no guy? She wasn't going to . . . it wasn't possible that . . . oh no.

I looked at her again and three crucial points struck me. In this order.

1. She was wearing knee-high leather boots.
2. She was wearing black pantyhose. It had to be pantyhose, the alternative didn't bear thinking about.
3. A quick glance at her face showed her to be aged between 18 and 70 and free of any major disfiguring marks.

This was an infringement of my human rights. I would write to my health insurance company. I would complain to the association of balls doctors.

No, more than that. I would contact my Member of European Parliament.

I took my trousers off in the changing cubicle. Then I stepped into her office.

I lay down glumly on the couch.

-Please take your penis in your hand, she said.

She was wearing latex gloves. She rubbed a cold liquid on my balls. The she ran a scanning device across them. She studied the results on a big screen in front of her. I could see now that she was about 50, wore glasses and had brown, mousy hair.

Her manner was quick and professional. This was crazy beyond my wildest dreams. My private little world had not been breached. She might as well have been a dentist. It might as well have been my teeth.

-There's no torsion, she told me. You have a minor case of epididymitis. You'll have to take some medicine.

-No torsion, I said. I struggled to absorb the news.

I was still me. I was going to leave here and end this day just as I had started it.

-I just need to do one more test, she said.

She squeezed the skin on one ball between her fingers and I screamed. She squeezed the other ball. I screamed again.

-That's right, she said. Scream! She grinned at me with a toothy leer. Come on, SCREAM! Which one hurts the most?

-Both of them!

-Perfect, she said.

She laughed and I roared in tortured relief.


At home I sagged triumphantly into an armchair. I was exhausted but the medicine was already starting to wash the pain away.

-Dad! Dad!

One of my kids came hobbling up to me.


-My little toe is hurting. I think I need an ambulance!

I called out to my wife.

-He says his toe is hurting.

-Just kidding Dad, he said. And off he ran.

David Whitehouse is married with three children. He works as a journalist in Paris, where he has lived for the last 13 years, after moving from his native Britain. He edits The Lesser Flamingo, a new ezine.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Three poems from Felino Soriano

Painters’ Exhalations 91

                        —after John Coyne’s Flight in Green

Because the ocean
to mirrors on waves’
tabletop function
an unknown causation
stating sense dangles from the tongue
-caused interpretations,
proclaims sans standing philosophical

flight can deem itself contained by framed borders
man refuses to dislodge. This though
    does not
the winged from acrobatics atop air’s angled,
unbounded stage

as day of emergency transforms psyches into
lost and winded animals

catapulted among their foreign reactions.

Painters’ Exhalations 93

                        —after Elsa Dax’s The Night

Night constructs nest
mosaic ingredients softened mirror
for owl rest subsequent hunt,
feed, meander between itchy bark.
Stars incorporate flickered pause
saluting scientists attempting
ascertaining distance
relative to a pebble future from
man’s grabbing hand. Navy
pocket square president’s fold
sky’s tailored blazer. Music
becomes a multiplying flesh:
wind, mythical ambiance, goddesses
announce in retribution, decrees
not a whim among the ruling
giving surnames to stars’ orphaned

Painters’ Exhalations 94

                        —after Joe Machine’s Sailor at Rest

Sustained water life, stilled on
sea’s obese spectrum

authors insanity in an etching scrape
across altered pining psyche. Misinterpreted

tranquil blue slaps the unaware, predetermined
fallacy placed in soil of gullible beliefs,

the ignoramous. Rest from the dance of waves

the mopping of decks aware of their reeking

Cliché sailor posing, respite on a bar’s hardened stool.

Head submerged, thoughts the drowning hands
grasping at answers found floating amid
inebriation. Snake

tattoo slithers in overhead light, the rare light
alive atop existence’s manifested

Felino Soriano is a case manager working with developmentally and physically disabled adults in California. He is the editor of the online journal, Counterexample Poetics, which focuses on International interpretations of experimental poetry, art, and photography.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opening Day 2009

Editor's Note: Major League Baseball opened its season April 6, so this week we asked a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and a fan of the Chicago Cubs, arch rivals in the National League Central division, to offer their reflections on Opening Day.

Out of the Cold, a Need for Closure

By Matthew Melick

I woke up on Opening Day dreading the thirty degree temperatures and snow that had pushed into St. Louis the night before. But I knew that these temperatures were short-lived—it was baseball season. Each spring in the Midwest, Opening Day—as all the great baseball writers have written—signals an end to the cold and darkness. As a Cardinal fan, Opening Day usually means two things—the natural beauty of spring and its longer, warmer days will be arriving shortly, and Cub fans can be excited about their team’s prospects for a couple weeks.

But this year, it is our turn to be excited, hopefully for more than a couple weeks. This is the year the Cardinals take back the Central, the year they come up with an answer in the bullpen. In 2008, the Cardinals blew a Major League-leading 31 saves and somehow still managed to finish just four games out of the wild-card. But that was last year. This year, the Cardinals have a great new closer and all of the problems of last year (and the year before) were just that, problems in the past. Right? For some reason (probably like most Cardinal fans), on Opening Day 2009 I had an uneasy feeling about the prospects of a bullpen anchored by a former catcher with only eleven prior Major League appearances.

Unfortunately, my feelings were validated—so much for change. So much for the chance to be hopeful about your favorite team’s prospects. Opening Day 2009 will forever be imprinted in my memory as the day I learned that one team can have two blown saves in one game.

Yet at the end of the day, somehow, hope had returned. It is spring, things change and grow, it is just a slow process. That is perhaps the best part about Opening Day. If your team wins—“awesome, this is the year”; if your team loses—“oh well, it is early.”

October Doesn't Care

By Bryan Timm

As a Cubs fan, I have come to a realization that is going to make this season a little different from those past. October just does not care.

October doesn't care about Opening Day. October doesn't care about players being tired from the World Baseball Classic. She doesn't care about signing a fiery right fielder or about the struggles from an imported center fielder. She doesn't care about the Houston Astros looking for some semblance of revenge for what Carlos Zambrano did to them after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas.

I encourage Chicago Cubs fans to ignore all the columnists, talking heads and any other random idiot trying to make a case for caring this early. It doesn't matter to me anymore, and it shouldn't matter to you. The only thing that matters is what the Cubs do once the season changes from summer to fall and the playoffs arrive.

I understand the excitement surrounding Opening Day because I feel it too. The prospect of sitting outside with a cold beer in my hand listening to Pat and Ron call a game is just as attractive to me this year as it has been in years past. But this year has to be different. It has to be.

The Boys in Blue may get off to a fast start and run away with the division. They may struggle early and have to hold off the Cardinals down the stretch to get in. But barring some sort of insane string of injuries, the Cubs are going to win the division, probably quite easily. So while I may be yelling at the television in May because Kosuke Fukudome misplayed a fly ball, resulting in a Cubs loss, it will be a reserved yell. Because quite simply, October just does not care.

Matthew Melick is an associate attorney at Carmody MacDonald P.C. in St. Louis, Missouri.

Bryan Timm is a cross country and track coach at Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two poems from Ray Succre

This is the Spark

Early by a dawner's clock,
with sleep to come where sleep should end,
I am bound all licked by a pastime become time thief.

If I reach your trickling alarm without shut eyes,
in that you rouse and find mine red,
as I sit and bloody my head with the ever-leaping story
of a character in a game on a screen,
fetch me from this pleasurable invention.

Start with profanity, or call on guilt, use nudity or bacon.
Up all night, I'll haven't a care; turn it off or take over—
only fetch me and send me on.

In a Pit of White

The cold year banked in less-lit December,
stumbled past, wings straining and indignantly spread,
straight into the snow—all it could do to stop.
Of all the things it could have spun anew,
thought to mention in passing over to next year,
this year chose to impart nothing but frozen children,
back from the white and stuck for long spans
in an un-sunned, wishful house.

Ray Succre currently lives on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and son. He has been published in Aesthetica, BlazeVOX, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries. His novel Tatterdemalion (Cauliay) was recently released in print and is available most places. A second novel, Amphisbaena, is forthcoming in summer 2009. He tries hard.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two poems from Felino Soriano

Painters’ Exhalations 90

                        —after Ella Guru’s Congregation

Staring into a body felt
by the unseen eyes. The listening

discerning pebbles placed atop lake
tongues, swallowed, —this is a talent

multitude hiding often in wrinkled fabric
the mind cannot mend until

light threads altered connotations. They a smiling

to the jazz inheritance full-swing method
riding the trumpet solo

away into imagination’s various homes
forming bodies with fingers

snapping echoes available for lengthy

musical interpretation. Wine glasses sipped dead.

Absence here means nothing

as in a crowd of anger, the sole smiling
forced to cower

within corners of malevolent confinement.

Painters’ Exhalations 92

                         —after Susan Constanse’s In the Aftermath

In the aftermath
absence curls its shadowless
monuments around the pupils
too aware of conscious perception.
             Chairs lined
criminal profiles with messenger
witnesses too afraid to sit
or compose facial feature
       Bodies reside here
only by name tiptoeing memory

   façade panels
             the weakened room

for the dead to reborn selves

after dust dissipates
tabula rasa

to conception ensuing saddened death,
mother pounding questions.

Felino Soriano is a case manager working with developmentally and physically disabled adults in California. He is the editor of the online journal, Counterexample Poetics, which focuses on International interpretations of experimental poetry, art, and photography.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are You There God? It’s Me, March Madness

By Brandon Christol

It’s March, and you know what that means: It’s Fire Prevention Month!

Oh, and it’s time for March Madness! Ah, March Madness—an annual tradition of buzzer-beaters, upsets, watching basketball at work while trying not to get caught, and—most exciting of all—lots of numbers accompanied by alliterative adjectives (e.g. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four). It’s an extended sports spectacle that grabs the attention of Americans young and old and fills the coffers of bookies everywhere. Sixty-four teams enter with one common goal: to apply the concept of Murphy’s Law to my bracket by losing if I pick them to win and winning if I pick them to lose.

March Madness is one of my favorite times of year, mainly because it features 126 hours of sweet hoops action spread out over 10 different days. But there are many other reasons to feel much gladness about March Madness:
  • You get to hear Gus Johnson call last-second shots. “Rises and FIRRRRRRES … GOT IT!!!!” Sometimes I spice up my day by pretending Gus Johnson is announcing my actions. As in: “He drives down the road, looks right as he goes to parallel park, squeezes in there, straightens it OUUUUUUUUUTTTTT … GOT IT!!!” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or even if you do, click here, sit back and enjoy the beautiful rhetorical stylings of the third greatest announcer in the world.
  • The Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • It means baseball’s Opening Day is just around the corner. In fact, the championship game often coincides with the Cubs’ first game (like it does this year), which is like having your birthday on Christmas or buying a house and discovering that it comes with a BMW.
  • It’s college basketball with no Dick Vitale. Why won’t he stop yelling at me? I don’t care what BMOC stands for. What did he say? The ACC is strong this year? I can’t understand him when he screams like that. He sounds like Kermit the Frog if he were afflicted by voice imodulation disorder and injected with some sort of serum limiting his speech to strange and ridiculous exaggerations.
  • Winning the Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • One word: Drama. It’s Win or Go Home. There’s something natural and Darwinian about it. Teams play 25+ games, fighting and clawing to claim a spot in the tourney, and then all of a sudden—BAM!—a last-second heave from half court (hopefully called by Gus Johnson) can send them packing ‘til next year. There’s no best of five, no byes, no Bowl. It’s drama to the 64th power.
If you want to reminisce, or perhaps whet the palate in preparation for this year’s Big Dance, check out some of these clips:

Western Kentucky over Drake, 2008
Illinois vs. Arizona, 2005
Top ten March Madness buzzer beaters from ESPN

Enough already, just tell me what to do with my bracket!

OK, now that we’re all ready for the games, I’m going to share with you my unrivaled expertise and guaranteed predictions. That’s right—advice straight from the person who finished in a respectable 8th place last year, and quite presciently predicted that all four #1 seeds would make the Final Four. (Pay no attention to my 43rd place finish in 2007, in which I guessed only one of the Final Four teams correctly.)

While there’s no one team with a stranglehold on the title this year, I still think the sport is top heavy. I have two #1 seeds making the Final Four this year (Louisville and Pitt) along with a couple of #2 seeds. I think Pitt, with the talent and athleticism of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young & Co., will come out of the East and ultimately defeat Louisville for the title. I love the Cardinals out of the Midwest—they didn’t just survive the insane gauntlet that is the Big East, they won the regular season and conference tournament titles, and I don’t see them losing to a young Wake Forest team, a strong but rebuilt Kansas squad, or the solid but not-quite-at-that-level Michigan State. In the South, I think UNC will stumble in a shootout with Gonzaga, opening the door for Oklahoma. And out West, I have Memphis taking down UConn in what should be a great game.

Teams that could advance further than expected include West Virginia, Purdue, Clemson and Utah State, who travels to the neighboring state of Idaho to face a Marquette team that has dropped five of six after losing Dominic James. And though I’m a big Illini fan, I’ve got them bowing out as the victim of the classic 12/5 upset. While Bruce Weber is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the tournament and has had them overachieving all year, U of I lacks a go-to guard in the clutch. Plus, Chester Frazier, their best defender, is most likely out. Either way, I don’t think they’re getting through Gonzaga, though I’d love to be wrong.

But enough talking about basketball—bring on the games! Enjoy!

Brandon Christol is an assistant director of admissions at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. To read more of his sports writing, visit his blog Wait ‘Til This Year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two poems from Ray Succre

Fulgent Men

divide themselves young on a thermonuclear
regain of slussy or cwat or punt or tritch,
obscene term for female genitals,
with a crescent wrench hostility,
a gain of signatures from unfortified ponies.

Or as they think.

Deep retracted from this expansive show,
I've learned to hold hands, clean or vulgar,
hands, domestic or dizzying, rid of glary bits
and brimming with notice, and divide myself
to tandem memory, day by bang-up day,
as goes this less sleepy, stellar sort of me.

Dead On (Indirectly)

Contents_Hot thinks well of himself, per se,
and thinks you're the virtue circular
he met through an online dating mess.
You should know, Miss_Gourmet,
Contents_Hot spends Thursdays dunking
his costumes in Tide for the churner-paddle,
eating microwaved sandwich pockets
(the package warning from which he
designed his longstanding screen name),
and then gesticulating wildly with his genitals
while reloading downloadable content.

You will likely find in him a grand monologue
of dorkdom from feverish, ongoing isolation.
He needs you, you know, a poise of parole,
and would treat you to his restoration,
should you greet him more than the once,
tonight and blind, to the misjudge of pictures,
should you become happy with him and decide
to quell the chessboard of your seldom pleasing

You're no gourmet and you want to be in love.
He's an intuitive kisser-at-the-door, you know.

Ray Succre currently lives on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and son. He has been published in Aesthetica, BlazeVOX, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries. His novel Tatterdemalion (Cauliay) was recently released in print and is available most places. A second novel, Amphisbaena, is forthcoming in summer 2009. He tries hard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Truth and Resurrection

By Megan Taylor

Newspapers everywhere are dying.

Mass extinction has threatened their medium for some time, and those that live on may only do so by way of evolution into something else entirely. What will someday be classified as a “newspaper” may, by journalistic standards, be a “publication” at best.

It is widely speculated that dinosaurs died off as the result of some cataclysmic meteorite crash into the earth. Just like scientists argued over the cause of mass extinction, analysts have their different theories about what ails the newspaper industry today.

Most often, we hear the Internet threatens to dissolve print media. News done a la Internet is instantaneous. Readers can follow a story as it develops, and, for the most part, it’s free. Advertisers may no longer think about things like circulation when considering their best resource, but rather about Web hits, which typically outrank the circulation of even the best of pubs.

Threat initiated by the latest technological advancement is nothing new. Imagine the fear newspaper publishers must have felt when television producers began providing viewers with live news coverage. But newspapers have proven that they can ride out change, and this should again be the case as papers contend with the Internet. When marketed properly, a Web edition of a newspaper can help bring in more revenue and garner more exposure world wide. Many pubs use the Internet to build readership and promote their print editions. Indeed, the World Wide Web is not what afflicts newspapers today.

If newspapers (increasingly viewed as archaic and dated) are the dinosaurs, then greedy corporate America’s mismanagement, and not the Internet, will be the meteor directly linked to their demise.

In corporate culture, making money is more important than serving the public. Pressed by a limping economy (which gains its crippled status through the greed of other corporate enterprises), newspapers have seen a significant drop in revenue generated through advertising. Couple that with increasing print costs, and newspapers executives everywhere feel the pressure to crunch numbers.

Thus, the newspapers let accountant types and advertising clods run the show instead of editors. Devoid of all passion for truth and journalistic integrity, these number crunchers make cuts in the most illogical places while spending more money trying to sell ads. They can hire more people to sell, but if the product is compromised, who will want to buy it? It’s true a newspaper also is a business, but it can’t be run like any other business, because it is not.

In these cases, upper management seems to forget that in order to maintain or increase revenue, a desirable product must first be established. When the product is no longer desirable, sales go down. A newspaper is like a garden and the editorial staff cultivates a marketable product. The fewer gardeners tending to it, the more weeds. Weeds are things like national news filler or national photos where interesting local stories used to flourish.

Back to the dinosaur analogy, let’s look at the evolved “newspaper” of tomorrow. Because of the pursuit of the almighty dollar, advertising executives now exert all influence over the editorial board. Truth is buried because it may offend one particular advertiser. “News” now becomes stories suggested by the ad execs about things like new products sold by a participating advertiser or a business’s 11th anniversary. The newspaper is no longer a force for accountability, but a white elephant advertising-for-editorial swap meet.

The new creature dragging itself out of the muck bears the semblance of its former self. But underneath its skin it harbors a fatal flaw. It will only be a matter of time before it is picked off by something stronger and better equipped to stand the test of time.

Let’s hope whatever survives has the pursuit of truth in mind. That and that alone will ensure the newspaper's survival.

Megan Taylor is the former staff writer for The Town Meeting, a weekly newspaper of Elk Rapids, Michigan, which closed its doors on January 23, 2009 after more than 30 years of business.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


By David Chorlton

The use of language is a deceptive enterprise. Words don’t necessarily mean what they were meant to. Take the rental agreement issued by a prominent car rental company for example, in which the customer’s pink copy bears the details whose ink already appears faded in the moment they are printed. Toward the upper right-hand corner the letters spell out: DAY = CALENDAR DAY. My wife, having had to rent a car for a few days, asked what this implied. Jeremy, the enterprising assistant, mumbled something about the date and sounded deliberately non-committal. So the renting of the vehicle ensued, and when time came to return it my wife, who has lived her entire life with 24-hour days, had her sense of time challenged. According to Jeremy’s calendar, a day is a day even if it doesn’t begin until 5pm or if it ends at noon. Put plainly, counting the calendar day rather than the number of hours enables the enterprise to squeeze an extra day’s fee out of the customer to go with the additional insurance charges.

Jeremy, I am sure, is simply an obedient soldier in the army of commerce doing what he is trained to do. So let us check in with some of the published comments the enterprise in question makes about itself on its Web site, starting with “Personal honesty and integrity are the foundation of our success” and continuing through the stated intent “to exceed every customer’s expectations.” Shouldn’t “foundation” be plural? Never mind, at least we can guarantee that the customer’s expectations will be exceeded when twenty-four hours turns into two days. This observation simply points to a corporate manner of communicating in a promising but ultimately uninformative manner. Political language is taught in the same schools.

Vagueness in speech is never as useful as when employed in circumventing ethics in behaviour. At least the seven deadly sins were listed with specificity. In our time, we need to be sharp enough to interpret what is said to us and especially when it is said by politicians, the natural allies of enterprising corporations. Take “an honest mistake,” as it was brought up as a defense of the nominee for the position of Treasury Secretary when the news broke that he owed $34,000 in taxes and was still the choice to oversee the IRS. What exactly is an honest mistake and when does it become a tax break?

Slogans are designed to raise expectations without ever stating exactly what it is we can expect. You could be considering a career with our unnamed car rental company, the one that claims, “We built our company around being honest and fair, and at the same time, incredibly motivated and entrepreneurial. This is where your potential becomes reality.” All the qualities mentioned sound just fine, but in every one of them there is some of what we may call wiggle room, enough to accommodate a flexible interpretation. This is an even more cozy situation for those who invest in themselves by describing themselves glowingly. Public relations and advertising are excuses for corporations to lavish the kind of praise on themselves that we, as individuals, would find arrogant and objectionable should we speak of ourselves in the same way. Therein lies the difference between language as we use it to communicate and the neatly processed phrases with all the spontaneity ironed out of them in conferences before they are broadcast to the rest of us.

Imprecise language is, sadly, a staple in foreign policy. Consider the number of times “American interests” abroad are mentioned by spokespersons for the administration in their appearances on TV news shows to justify actions of a military nature. If the word “interests” were replaced by “military base” or “energy source” we would hopefully be more suspicious. Developing a sharper ear for manufactured speech should be then first line of defense against being personally manipulated and ultimately being party to the policy of killing for profit and power. Jeremy might think about applying for one of those jobs with the administration; he’d likely earn more than the car renters pay him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two poems from Francis Raven

Editor's Note: These two poems are from Francis Raven's chapbook, The Failures, which was recently published by Chippens.

They Call it Wolfing

In the end I just knew there was no way
I could have eaten all those hotdogs.
It wasn’t my first competition, but what was I thinking?
I invited everyone, my mom, her husband
(Who I absolutely refuse to call my stepdad), my sisters
And their short-term boyfriends. The thing was
It was hot. Have you ever tried to eat a lot
When it’s really hot; it’s not that easy.
It’s sort of like the sweat restricts your throat
Or sort of pokes your uvula so you gag.
I puked. It was embarrassing, but it was puke or die
And in that situation you’d probably have chosen
Much like me: I didn’t die: I failed.
I thought they’d support me
But they really didn’t.
They all sort of made fun of me and made me
Watch them eat lunch at the after-party.
That’s why I don’t really have much contact
With my family

The Lottery

By God I’ve scratched; bought and scratched;
The minor wins merely pique the urge to scratch: I scratch.
I know it’s not in my best interest but
I don’t scratch for a minor boost
I scratch for a qualitative difference.
I scratch for a new car, and not just any new car
But a car I can’t afford now.
I don’t even know what car that is, but I scratch for
That which could scratch me up a notch
If only scratching could stop the itch
But it just brings my needs to a froth.
If only I hadn’t seen how the other half lives,
But it’s not just the other half any more;
It’s everyone appears to live the same,
Though they can’t possibly. Thus we’re all scratching
Futilely as the swisher under the bullet proof glass spins money
Towards a disgruntled employee who knows I haven’t won
Before I do. It’s in his eyes. It’s always in his eyes
Sort of like dust rigged against me.

Francis Raven is a graduate student in philosophy at Temple University. His books include 5-Haifun: Of Being Divisible (Blue Lion Books, 2008), Shifting the Question More Complicated(Otoliths, 2007), Taste: Gastronomic Poems (Blazevox 2005) and the novel, Inverted Curvatures (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005). Francis lives in Washington DC; you can check out more of his work at his website:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Opposite of The Alphabet

Editor's Note: This week's post is an imitation of Jennifer Knox's poem, "The Opposite of Crunchberries." The Alphabet is a 952 page book by Ron Silliman.

The Opposite of The Alphabet

The opposite of The Alphabet is
a stylish pullover.
The opposite of a stylish pullover is
Brussels sprouts.
The opposite of Brussels sprouts is
fuzzy dice.
The opposite of fuzzy dice is
The Ivory Coast.
The opposite of The Ivory Coast is
a monster truck rally.
The opposite of a monster truck rally is
gel pens.
The opposite gel pens is
a cinderblock.
The opposite of a cinderblock is
a ventilation shaft.
The opposite of a ventilation shaft is
a bloodbath.
The opposite of a bloodbath is
a water landing.
The opposite of a water landing is
a retarded butterfly.
The opposite of a retarded butterfly is
The opposite of applesauce is
the General Lee.
The opposite of the General Lee is
an 18% tip.
The opposite of an 18% tip is
a perp walk.
The opposite of a perp walk is
a steamer trunk.
The opposite of a steamer trunk is
Jose Canseco’s jockstrap.
The opposite of Jose Canseco’s jockstrap is
a whale song.
The opposite of a whale song is
spurring a tumbleweed
away from unwanted octuplets
toward The Alphabet.

By Michael Theune and Chip Corwin

Michael Theune is Associate Professor of English at Illinois Wesleyan University. He is the editor of Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns (Teachers & Writers, 2007). Learn more about poetic turns at his Web site, Structure & Surprise.

To learn more about the process used to write this poem, click here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

American Renaissance

Politics, the arts, and sports may not seem to have much in common, but in the last 16 months I have discovered that they have at least one common thread: they are all concerned with testing the limits of what is possible and with re-imagining an apparently fixed reality.

From September 2007 to August 2008, I was a sports writer covering high school sports for four small, weekly newspapers in rural Northern Michigan, and since August, I have taught humanities and English at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois.

As a sports writer, I watched as high school kids dared to have dreams that outsized their God-given circumstances. Many times, those dreams were realized, and those teams and athletes that achieved unexpected or unprecedented success did so not only because of their talent and preparation, but because they allowed themselves to think bigger than their current sphere of possibility, to have the same type of ambition as Captain James Cook, who once said that he wanted to “not only go farther than anyone else, but as far as it was possible to go.”

Looking on from the sidelines, I could always tell when a team succeeded in breaking limits that had been set and hardened by a grim history: the athletes always had the same look of joy that I saw on the faces of those in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night last November and on those filling the National Mall during the inauguration. It’s a look of faith rewarded.

I’ve seen that same look in the eyes of some of my students when they’ve been transported into a new world by a work of art and have not come back the same. The world has changed. What once seemed immutable, judicious, and even natural now seems transient and arbitrary.

These students, just like the young athletes I admire, also have faith in an ability to reach beyond the seeming boundaries of possibility and to trust what is found there.

The election of Barack Obama has made me realize that politics, despite what the cynics say, is no different. Art, sports, and politics, at their fundamental level, are all concerned with first dreaming and then achieving a new possibility. What we call tragedy is when those possibilities are put before us and then denied by malign fate. Romeo and Juliet. Steve Prefontaine. Bobby Kennedy.

But, so far, the story of our new president has not been tragic. Our sphere of possibility as a people and as a nation has been irrevocably expanded. And this time it was not just one man with a dream, but an entire nation that rejected its historical limits of possibility for one of its own citizens and thus for us all.

President Obama opened his inaugural remarks by addressing us as citizens, not just as Americans. On election day, each citizen had at least as much faith as the candidate, for each one was required to imagine something that has never been and trust in it. Each one was required to go beyond his or her previous limits and be willing to not come back the same. The candidate, now the president, led us there, but not by force.

By doing so, Barack Obama sustained the American Dream in a way much more profound than by giving Joe the Plumber a tax break. He led us to renew that dream ourselves through our own act of faith; he did it by leading us to trust in our own hopes for rebirth and change. He led us to believe once again in the main tenet of American idealism, that present circumstance is never to be confused with inevitable destiny.

Barack Obama led us to have the same faith in politics that we do in sports and in the arts — a faith that doesn’t seek to overcome the impossible, but rather a faith that validates our American belief that some things only seem that way.