Cover art © Steven Wilson
- Hochelaga and Sons by Claude Lalumière
- Selection by Marie Brennan
- Momentum by Damien G. Walter
- Sand by Philip J. Lees
- Until the Wind Changes by Jennifer Rachel Baumer
- Obituary for a Living Man by Corey Brown
- How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth by Rachel Swirsky
- The Dogrog Phenomenon by Richard Howard
- Under the Garden in Dreams by Jon Hansen
- Why People Disliked Art, Circa 2005 by Marly Youmans
- When Demons Ruled, by Marly Youmans
- The Crone Meets Her Son (on a battlefield) by KJ Bishop
- The Paper Trail by Mikal Trimm
I remember when my father had the author tree planted:
Literature is best experienced fresh, he would say,
But I could only think about the writer he’d selected,
An angry little man, rumpled and stinking of whiskey,
Led around to the back of our house by the bookdealers
As they gabbled in their mysterious cant to each other.
My father wouldn’t let me watch the planting in the garden.
The bookdealers told us it might take many years before
The tree bore any fruit, except perhaps for short stories
No more filling than blackberries, for all their sweet flavor.
But that April the tree bloomed, red flowers reeking of salt
That by October gave way to reveal its first novels,
Heavy tomes in black covers without even a title.
Later editions will doubtless have cover art, said Father.
He reached up into the branches and picked a single copy
He took a long heavy knife and split open the cover
Each side falling open neat as you please, then carefully slit
The bundles of pages apart, leaving ragged edges.
With a smile he handed it to me, and I held it close
Breathing in the scents of ink, of language, and of story.
And for weeks afterwards I slept as if part of our garden
. . . the rumblings of a new movement to bring those shifts
into earshot, diagramming their overlap as a corporeal sphere
of listening . . . an oft-referenced vertex in sound art’s
Another way of accounting for this overall emptiness or lack
that the painting bespeaks is that the Female Child enclosed
within this geometric or ideological box is also trapped in an
ideological box: the lack of the father’s E, his penis,
Can you compare this lunacy
To an ordinary thing?
Imagine, say, an animal
That pads into a ring
Of bones to sleep. A bit afraid,
You think to creep on by,
Not wishing to arouse a beast
And meet a lustrous eye
Or hear a crinkle of the wings
Or tightening of thighs—
This is a spot of mystery,
This is the Vale of Sighs
Not far from Thebes. If you’re a man,
You’ll have pictured the breasts
And dreamed the passion of a kiss.
The Sphinx’s face arrests
All who pass near. The Theban gods
May make you glad or vex
Your life with trial: you are bones
Or Oedipus, the Rex.
And all this means so much to you;
It mattered from the start
If that chorus of olive trees
Were accident or art,
Whether your flesh and seed would root
Inside your mother’s womb,
If you were born to kill your dad,
Blood crying from the tomb.
This world became impossibly complex.
The people fattened but were small as toys
Inside—lazy and sour, as though a hex
Had taken hold. A woman’s outer poise
Disguised an inner cowering of nerve,
And often sons remained forever boys.
I watched my daughters flower, only to swerve
Toward superstition, lies, and games of chance—
In other days our kind had vied to serve.
Then they—you know—condemned me for a glance.
A devil locked me in their fortressed towers,
But when they saw me try to sing and dance,
Tower changed to thimble, and life to hours,
Song to shriek in the Ministry of Powers.
The revolution, this time, was ‘to actualise the marvellous’.
enlisted, far from sure of his part, for his weapons shot only
not multicoloured lights or waves of kundalini. But he had,
in his dreams,
dived to the bottom of the ocean and seen the carcass of a whale,
at it all around like mad sperm around a dead egg, devouring
the infertile germ,
and felt his private share of responsibility, like a new organ in his body,
maybe. He had always been around the edges, among the listeners,
tapping a foot,
but if he really was a boar leaping out of the sea, he wanted to know
that furious joy.
There was no commander as such to give orders, so he found
a place on the left flank,
with the giraffes, and an old woman who had a tray of buttons
and a thermos
of black coffee, infinitely replenishing, which she shared around like
a suave host.
With gratitude he drank the unsweet brew in the tin cup and remembered
how, as a boy,
he’d loved the tubes of buttons in the haberdasher’s shop,
like lasting candy,
kaleidoscopes, or magic money for buying magic things
Perhaps, he mused, that was where his trademark love of finery
budded in tulip-stripes.
Looking back, said the woman, it is all ravines and tempests. You are cold,
have my coat,
he said, stripping down to waistcoat and watch-chain. It’s bulletproof,
and keeps the rain out.
Well, I like rain, but thank you, and here, choose some buttons,
son. The pearl is smart,
but please yourself. Thank you, ma’am, and in the yellow dawn he chose plastic
sections of Jupiter
and brass wafers for the charity of the poor, and pearl for the whale
and the egg,
and fake tortoiseshell for the giraffes, and fuchsia velvet domes
for sex and love
and loaded them in his old shotgun, and grinned like a fox sucking
shit through a sieve
because that’s how it’s done, and he followed the old woman, who followed
cocking her leg at every pillar, eating out of garbage cans, sniffing bums
her jubilant howl assuring him that this was not desertion at all.
We followed the Word
It left Its image
As an indecipherable squiggle
On a papyrus describing
A routine trade
In China we found
Traces of Its spoor
On silk sheets, only
To realize we’d been
Misled; backtracking, we deciphered
Its true heading in the margins of a sheet of T’sai Ko-Shi
The Word evaded us
A million times in Japan,
Flitting through the dharani
From pagoda to pagoda,
Until we managed to
Chase it from
The last prayer.
On to Samarkand, then,
Where the Word morphed
Quicker than we could translate—
Chinese to Arabic and back again
Until it finally slipped into
A Moor’s pocket and
The Word spread itself thin
Across Europe, and we thought
We had it trapped on parchment—
It tattooed Itself across flocks
Of skins, growing more precious
And less important
By the day.
If it weren’t
For that bastard Gutenburg,
We’d have caught
Before it learned
I slide open the door to my parents’ closet. I gather the clothes that hang there and move them to the bed, laying them down gently, making sure not to wrinkle them, just like my mother would have done. From the top shelf, I take down the boxes of old photographs, forgotten gifts, and useless knick-knacks and pile them on the floor at the far end of the bedroom. I empty the closet of belts, old shoes, ratty sweaters, and rarely worn neckties. Once I’m done clearing everything out, I grab the sledgehammer and start tearing the wall down.
Because I can’t become intangible and walk through it. Because I can’t teleport at will. Because I can’t even punch holes in it with my bare fists.
Because my father is dead. Because Bernard won’t do what needs to be done.
The application form is seventy-two pages long, and they require nine copies. These people want to know everything. They also want to make sure you aren’t doing this as a joke.
The first few pages are fairly routine. Name, date of birth, Social Security number or local equivalent—yes, you have to give them that. They promise not to use it to invade your privacy, and you trust them, because really, if they wanted to get into your bank account they could, and why would they steal your identity? Then education, medical history, criminal record if any—it won’t necessarily disqualify you—not just for yourself, but for your family, too, and your close friends. (You list more distant family and friends on page seven; they’ll check into those people themselves, if they decide your application is worth considering.)
When great uncle Peter came to live with our family in the house by the sea I asked my mother why it was he never spoke. My mother explained that great uncle Peter had always been silent, that when he was born he came out without even a scream. Great uncle Peter could have only been young when the family; his mother and father and his sister Ranyevskya—my great grandmother, came over the sea from the old country. And in the smoky streets of London they learnt the tongue of their new home to speak in the world, and kept the language of the old country for home. But great uncle Peter spoke not a word of either. And years passed and then decades and my grandmother was born and my mother and then me and as far as anyone knew great uncle Peter still never said a word. When I was older and had children of my own I realised that for all my mother had told me of great uncles Peters silence, she had never been able to tell me why. She never could have because neither she or anybody else knew.
Sand in her hair, sand in her eyes, sand in her crotch . . . goddammit!! Two boys, eleven or twelve years old, playing racquetball, noisy as hell as the ball thuds against one wooden bat, then the other, and all the time they’re yelling, goading and baiting each other, then as if that wasn’t enough one of them dives when the ball goes wide and he lands not four feet from where Alice is lying on her beach mat, hiding behind ultra-dark wraparound shades, one hand holding the book up to screen her face from the sun as she reads, the other just raising a cigarette to take a drag, so that when the kid piles into the ground and throws yet more sand in the air her mouth is half open and now she’s got sand in her fucking mouth as well, but before she can pull herself up, find a stick or a rock from somewhere and smash the kid’s head in with it he’s up again, shrieking and running off to join his mate who has retreated further down the beach.
“Sold! To the young man with the wandering hands!” the owner said, clapping Billy on the back and startling the breath out of him.
No. He hadn’t meant, to, really, he was just looking. Except sometimes his hands did his looking for him, his mother always said.
But there was no way she could afford this, no way. They’d had pasta six times last week, every time with some kind of explanation. He’d seen that look on her face every time the email popped up and she waited to see if it was his father or another creditor. She had that same look again now.
Weren’t things bad enough? The whole day at school Daav had been at him, never anything Billy could actually turn him in for, just Daav being mean, and then he’d flunked another math test and he just had to pull out the next one because Fleet wouldn’t take someone who couldn’t handle maths . . . .
There was a place in the foothills of Tennessee more heavily guarded than Fort Knox, but it contained no gold. The place was more famous than the Pyramids of Egypt, but few had ever seen it. It consumed more of the federal government’s annual budget than the space program, but nothing it produced ever traveled to distant worlds, orbited the Earth or even flew at all. The place was a source of comfort to many people, even those who maintained a faith in religion, and so to be employed there meant to accept a great trust, an obligation to carry out one’s duty in the most conscientious manner possible. All but the most highly skilled applicants were turned away, and one of the proudest boasts a parent could make was that their child worked for the Vault.
Brian Augmon’s father, had he still been alive, could have made that boast. As it was, Brian’s mother was left alone to tell those behind her in the checkout line on Long Island how her son had been sent to a rattlesnake-infested corner of eastern Tennessee, into a region bounded by razor wire and armed men, and watch the mouths of her listeners compress into jealous little lines.
Brian had worked for the Vault for three years when the Director instructed him to erase a chip.
Part One—The Apocalypse of Trees
During the first million years of its existence, mankind survived five apocalypses without succumbing to extinction. It endured the Apocalypse of Steel, the Apocalypse of Hydrogen, the Apocalypse of Serotonin, and both Apocalypses of Water, the second of which occurred despite certain contracts to the contrary. Mankind also survived the Apocalypse of Grease, which wasn’t a true apocalypse, although it wiped out nearly half of humanity by clogging the gears that ran the densely-packed underwater cities of Lor, but that’s a tale for another time.
Humans laid the foundation for the sixth apocalypse in much the same way they’d triggered the previous ones. Having recovered their ambition after the Apocalypse of Serotonin and rebuilt their populations after the Apocalypse of Grease, they once again embarked on their species’ long term goal to wreak as much havoc as possible on the environment through carelessness and boredom. This time, the trees protested. They devoured buildings, whipped wind into hurricanes between their branches, tangled men into their roots and devoured them as mulch. In retaliation, men chopped down trees, fire-bombed jungles, and released genetically engineered insects to devour tender shoots.
Perhaps the most interesting development in popular music in the past ten years has been the rise of Dogrog. For those of you who have been living in a monastery for the last decade I’m referring to loud, fast, abrasive rock music played by domestic dogs. The continuing credibility of a form that has its roots in novelty records aimed at children is shocking to say the least.
Animal music probably started in earnest in 2009 with the forming of a group called the Menagerie. The cutesy cartoon cover of their self-titled CD shows a monkey on keyboards, an elephant on drums, a wolf on bass and a crocodile on guitar. On the inside of the CD cover we see the animals in the studio although its not certain how much playing was done by the Menagerie themselves. Industry insiders assure me that the actual animal input was minimal and that the recording was chiefly made with session musicians and samplers.
Three Courses and a Bevvie
by Penelope O’Shea
If you are like me, and I know that you are, then cold weather is time for comfort food and uncomfortable eating. What I mean is that, while we all like the eating part, the events at which we must partake during these seasons of merry-making and festive fetes are less than perfect. You know, the office holiday bash, the neighborhood cocktail affair, and my least favorite, the family sit-down meal. And so, here I sit, letting another mouthful of that “Black ’Nana Gelatin-Mold” that Aunt Jean made (last week) slither down my convulsing throat during the first of many holiday events that take place around the long, long dining room table. And if the discomfort of a second helping of that delicacy doesn’t do me in, the disapproving glances of the in-laws over the un-ironed and un-starched napkins might.
While I squirm with discomfort and itch for the interminable dessert to end, I long to go home and cook for myself. All I want is to be surrounded with the kind of food and drink that doesn’t make you feel scrutinized and doesn’t need fussing … the stuff that makes you comfortable with the fixing and the eating. Foods I’d be proud to serve to those who really make the season warm and bright. As I ignore yet another family diatribe on the price of gas, I slip away into visions of three courses and the bevvie I wish I had right now …
For a starter, there is nothing as wonderful as cheese. And when I think of sharing starters for the holidays, I remember a meal I once had on a cruise ship across the table from EV’s John Klima. He told me of a top-secret family cheese spread that he makes for the holidays that sounded simply divine. He said he never leaves home without the recipe, for fear it would slip into another’s possession. Later, that evening, after buying several Jack ‘n’ Crans on the main deck, I promised a rather tipsy Mr. Klima I’d buy him two fingers of single-malt upon returning from powdering my nose. I slipped below deck and searched Klima’s cabin for that recipe …. I found it wedged in his shoulder bag between a rather dog-eared copy of Logorrhea and some small yellow booklet of scribbling by someone named Shunn. Let’s just say, Klima is not very clever at keeping the family secret hidden. Anyway, upon returning to dry land, I made the cheese spread, and it was worth the $152.60 in liquor tab that I doled out for it … hope you will think so too. I’ve added my own instructions below to make it even better than the original.
Klima’s Family Cheese Ball
1/2 lb. bacon, browned and cooled
Cut the bacon into bit-sized bits and fry in a pan. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to cool and drain.
Once cool, mix bacon with:
8oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 lb. sharpest cheddar cheese spread you can manage, at room temp
1 tsp. minced onion
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Worchester sauce
Mix and refridge a couple of hours, if possible. While you wait, get a piece of waxed paper and grind up and place on it in a heaping pile,
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
Once firm (or not, as time dictates) use clean hands to roll the mixture into a ball. Roll the ball into nuts and serve with crackers or pretzel knots.
My mind next wanders to seafood. It was the holiday meal of choice at home as a child. But seafood is a pain to keep warm for guests. So I created a warm dish, as comforting as chicken pot-pie, but with seafood. It has seasonal sparkle with the inclusion of white wine (most of which is left for the cook), and it is also healthier than most of these dishes because of the large helping of spinach, the absence of butter in the pie itself, and the use of light cream.
Redeeming Seafood and Fish Pie
1 carrot, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Put a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a medium pan and add cut veggies. Sauté on medium-low heat till tender.
Once the veggies are soft, turn off heat and whisk into the pan:
1/2 c. white wine
1 heaped tsp. English mustard
Juice of one lemon
1 to 1 1/2 c. light cream (or half and half)
Salt and pepper to taste
Typically, I add one cup of cream and see how much liquid I have to cover everything. Once I’ve combined the mixture with what’s below, I add some or all of the ½ cup as needed.
In a glass baking dish—at least 9×9, but larger is always better—while the veggies cook, cut up and mix together:
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
Enough raw seafood to reach 1 1/2 lbs., chopped into bite sized pieces: any combination of small scallops, shrimp, artificial or real crab, white fish, salmon, or lobster. (Personally, I think 3 varieties are nice to give dish interest, but you do as your palate and budget dictate.)
Once the sauce is finished, add it to the baking dish and give it all a gentle toss. Adjust cream and seasoning as needed. There should be some standing liquid, but not enough to cover and drown the solid mixture. (You’ll see why below.) While the pie bakes, the seafood will cook gently and release their juices into the pie, too.
Prepare some good ole’ mash for the top “crust” of your pie:
2 lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed
1-2 T. butter
Milk (add as you mash, depending on what you need)
2 cloves garlic
Chopped herbs like chives, parsley (to your taste: fresh is best here, otherwise, some dry is fine or skip this altogether)
Season-salt and pepper
Spread the mash in dollops over the pie. (Don’t push the mash down and drown the potatoes or overflow the baking dish … see why you don’t need too much liquid?). The potatoes should be spread enough to completely cover the pie, but leave them rustic looking, so they brown and crisp as they bake. Top the whole mixture with a few remaining fresh herbs and freshly grated nutmeg … this might sound weird, but SO good!!
Bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes. It will be molten-hot out of the oven, so have a drink from that bottle of wine you opened and give it a bit to cool. Serve with crusty bread.
Of course, with my belly full of cheese and seafood, there is hardly room for much more, but a sweet something always hits the spot. And at the holidays, cookies are everywhere. But the best cookies are the simple ones, made at home and served with a cuppa. I’ll admit these might seem a bit fussy, but they really are pretty effortless where ingredients are concerned. And while doing away with the three colors would ruin the effect, you could simply flavor all three layers with one teaspoon of vanilla or any other flavor you like. I just think the extra flavors in each layer give this butter cookie something extra!
Also, you could adjust the colors and flavors for other seasons (perhaps a red layer with cinnamon flavor, a green one with mint, and a white one with vanilla) and you could avoid the triangle and make your cookies into 3-colored square shapes, too.
Candy Corn Butter Cookies
3/4 soft butter (NO substitutions … I’m serious … it will ruin EVERYTHING!)
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour
Mix all three together. Divide dough in half. In one half, put 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 10 tsp. yellow and 4 tsp red food color.
For remaining half, divide dough into thirds:
In one third, put 1/4 tsp almond extract
In other 2 thirds, put 1 tsp. lemon juice and 7 drops of yellow food color.
On plastic wrap, create a rectangle of orange dough about 10 in. long and 2 in. across and 1 in. thick. On top, place yellow dough, same length, about 1 1/2 in. across and 1 in. thick. Finally, place white dough on top, rolled into 1 in. log same length as other two. (I promise, this is the last time I make you do maths) Wrap in cello and press three sides to make long triangle. Fridge 2 hours. Slice about ¼ in. and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes … no browning. Serve with your favorite comforting, warm beverage.
And speaking of bevvies, what holiday works without these? I’m no mixologist, but I like a bit of a tipple to get through those uncomfortable holiday eating events. Here’s one I consider worthy:
Lemon Meringue Martini
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. lemoncello
Shake well with ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass. Toast a large marshmallow, preferably over a roaring fireplace in your cozy mansion and float it in the martini. (Warning: DO NOT toast near or in the drink, unless you’d like to char your eyebrows and countertop!) Tip back and enjoy a glorious end to a meal that will make the most of your comfort food eating experience. Far better fare than any of those silly seasonal events we’ll all be forced to attend …. which, unfortunately, brings me back to where I began my reverie.
Drink, eat, and live heartily!