The great hope of an original author is to create a cliché.
EDITED BY JEREMY TENENBAUM AND KEVIN TRAVERS
“Enkidu and Shamhat”
“kill everyone now”
does the James Woods’
vulva re Videdodrome
truly lives as wound? -- sufficing,
follow this here case & rally about,
spend a weekend
skinless, lose the hands yr given for
i too can live
for the new flesh when i am
abled, call me,
the ache-between my
roils, “filth are my politics, filth is
my life” says Divine
in another film
the soon-to-be innocent we (will
be greener then, to) vent-breathe in
yr page’s pinned pain-object in turn,
tryst-ilize in the cold, emphatics abound
or whatever, see, suppose a plane slash kill
yrself in the process
“there ain’t anything here” so
get riled for a horrid time,
drape a sheet over yr head & claw yr way
through, a meta-birth & abolition, all the same
for the (synthetic but close enough)
suds-ily lying awake, loving-it-all,
six more curl-ups ‘til death, wild,
“i’m too tired for attention”
says the cat (across the room),
pixelated by the labor-haze,
anyway, an Arthur Russell-y
jolt of morning punctuates
regicide, they celebrate the mook
who saved Reagan’s life at my day job;
“America is immigrants,” theys say
“these ones too can tear into Reag-o’s
guts, hold up his heart, & press until he breathes,”
cardboard city scenes,
some stooge shouts about legality outside
Occupy & i forget how to tie a bowline,
saved up & blacked out to get loud w/o
a conscience, leave for work
(the sipping-life), anyway, the cult falls apart
again, i break all my teeth & hide forever,
a bladed love, billowing over the glass-rim
field of flesh,
a pile of angels
starring as the lil
hinge here, as if Enoch’s
was ever “enough”
to set Azazel free
from the rock-mouths
River Phoenix sings “In
The Corner Dunce,”
& Misty’s wisp-wheezes
fold into light snores,
& all such breathe easy too;
i tweet “[Enoch:]
j a boy who loves them
rocks & trees wow!” to no avail
i was expecting
“Sympathy for the Reaper”
I saw the Reaper at the bar
Throwing darts at Hitler's picture,
Stuffing hundreds in the barmaid’s jar,
With hair like Twisted Sister.
He asked the barmaid for a shot
(Of Maker’s Mark) and chuckled,
Claimed Adam’s Eve was ‘smoking hot’,
That’s why the dude got hustled.
Called Genghis Khan a ‘teddy bear’,
Napoleon ‘a baby’;
Said Herod’s manhood wasn’t there,
‘A half-inch from a lady’.
Played Ozzy and some Megadeth,
A little Alice Cooper,
Then muttered underneath his breath:
“My life is fucking super.”
He vented (for an hour or so)
About his cursed profession,
And how he’d never felt so low,
His struggles with depression.
Said the Big Man set him up to fail,
The angels had it easy;
That even Lucifer, in hell,
Knew comfort when it’s breezy.
And then he sobbed awhile, and drank
At least six shots of rum,
But never seemed to get too drunk,
On call til Kingdom Come.
Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum
“No To Start”
A Home Game™
1. ASSEMBLE a household pencil, lined paper, game die, the number of tokens in the number of players playing, and an unbroken pack.
2. PLACE all items in order.
3. PREPARE mutual score-card listing in tabular format the name for each player and accompanying score figure starting nil. Delimit any handicap values if electing handicapping value rule game-play.
4. IN B-RULE GAME-PLAY locate pack in common accessible position to allow players in turn the draw of sequential cards for players to allocate in value order notwithstanding another player’s throw of higher value. Place matching tokens in sympathetic rows to complete player’s game-play round.
5. MOTION implies progress. In D-Rule game-play as in default game-play players draw sequential cards to form melds in turn up to the total aggregate count. However players do not reveal assembled melds until all players satisfy the requirements of plenary organization. Alternate movement proceeds clockwise until the deck is spent or tokens cannot be spent.
6. DETERMINE game-play length. Cast lots to determine sequence then invert game-play control order if players mutually elect. Players must inscribe accompanying new glyph values on individual score-cards.
7. ASSEMBLE in the event of extended game-play a suitable supply of extended tokens, spacers, milk, pen, chevron, and asters. If by intermission the initial player is found waiting for your love then advance tokens as players mutually elect or else advance tokens counter to agreed sequence.
8. PLAYERS MUST ESTABLISH ORDER by progressive motion and sequential throw of one or additional cards, gaming dice, tokens, and additional tokens then clock order note in circular chalk figure or alternate figure. If players mutually elect retain scryer.
9. DO NOT QUIT amidst preliminary formulation injunctions. Note unused figures. Compass subsequent extended if finite game-play. Proceed in turn and even this is glib articulation but not without sagacity.
10. REGARDLESSLY PROCEED.
11. ASSEMBLE chalk, felt, fowl, hair, a portion of new wool, clean pins, cinnabar, bitumen, verdigris, the wax figure, a remainder button off each player, a representation of the afflicted entity or positive composite of the entity, a phial, matter, third of an organ, a large slate equal or exceeding in quantity area to the players in number or sufficient wood to enclose remaining players or alternately good whole ice. Roll to progress.
12. PERCEIVE FOR ADJACENCIES, sympathies, corresponding congruent powers and syntactical orders of materials and nomenclatures for generation of intermediaries via toads and crows. Should players elect interpolate lunar exigencies flay or else milk supply in right contracted hand maintaining source sickle whilst left elongated hand inscribes barefoot circle Solomon Seal then countenance East announcing manifold solemnity Enochian Key of first Key sequence Key sequence OPEN. Mark appropriate table.
13. TIME IS SECULAR DEITY. Proceed clockwise inward. Note gyre glyph. Even now I want to lose forever. Establish structure, rule, draw, and counter to same. Walk home. Continue counter until.
The first lesson is a single white birthday candle.
Michelle sits at the table, waiting, her lips mashing together, the air bubbles swimming around her tongue and cheeks. The girl watches as the candle is shoved into the white frosting of the vanilla cupcake, a third of its slender wax body disappearing into sugar. She has never seen a candle in dessert before.
She has never had a birthday party.
Her grandmother lights the candle with lavender incense. She blows on the end, the loose skin around her lips bunching like a twisted rag; the once beige wood flashes red and black, a thin stream of floral smoke rising towards the low ceiling of the dining room. “Before you make a wish, you must set a clear intention,” she says. “If you don’t have a clear intention, it won’t work. So concentrate.” Her blue eyes meet her granddaughter’s, identical in shade and shape. “What do you want? Be specific.”
Michelle stares at the birthday candle, thinking of her mother, whom her grandmother calls Anna, her voice sing-song and sad. She wonders what her mother’s first intention was. Of course, it was better than anything Michelle will come up with. Even though the girl never met her mother, she knows from the stories her grandmother has told that Anna was an extraordinary conjurer. She must have wished for something important when she was Michelle’s age. The girl narrows her eyes at the candle, her unlined face flexing with concentration. Her cheeks redden under her grandmother’s gaze.
She nods, eyes still on the candle.
“Now blow it out.”
The girl lifts her gaze to question her grandmother, but the old woman says nothing, her eyes trained on the candle as though it is something holy.
Michelle licks her lips before puckering them and pushing a stream of invisible air out. It rustles like the wind whipping through the leaves of the oak tree outside the dining room window. The yellow flame slips backward, then uprights itself, dancing in and out of existence, before disappearing.
“Good,” the grandmother says, nodding her head. “Now, how are you going to make this wish, this intention, come true?”
The girl’s shoulders rise in a timid shrug. Her muscles hold them high, tight against her neck like armor. Her grandmother doesn’t appreciate confusion. “Confusion is the fool’s card, played to get out of actual thinking.” She slams her palm against the table with a whack.
Michelle jumps in her seat, moisture dripping under her arms.
Her grandmother whispers under her breath. Michelle frowns, making out the words ‘Anna’ and ‘better.’ She swallows. Of course, her mother was better.
“Once you set the intention, you must act on it,” she continues. “Lighting a candle isn’t going to make a unicorn appear out of thin air. Magic is will combined with action.”
Michelle doesn’t get it, yet she nods, knowing her grandmother expects her to understand the lesson. Anna would have understood it immediately. She fights the tears building. Anna never cried, she hears her grandmother’s voice, though the girl doesn’t know if her grandmother’s ever spoken such words.
The old woman asks what Michelle wished for. Her shoulders still high, the girl replies, “To eat this cupcake. I’ve always wanted a birthday treat.”
The old woman’s lips droop into a frown. Her tongue strikes her teeth, a shrill whistle escapes. Michelle knows that her intention was too simple. That her grandmother knows she didn’t understand her first lesson in magic. She imagines her grandmother is thinking, “Anna didn’t wish for something as foolish as a birthday treat.” Anna always did as she was told, and that made her mother very proud. Michelle’s grandmother never lets her forget just how superior, how perfect, Anna had been. The girl knows all too well what it’s like to come in second place, to be the one whose existence is disappointing simply for the fact that she isn’t, and will never be, her mother.
The grandmother takes the cupcake and moves to the chair across the table from Michelle. They gaze at one another, the girl an echo of the old woman’s younger self. The old woman’s tongue flicks the white frosting until the yellow top of the cupcake shines through like grass after snow has melted. Michelle watches, her stomach grumbling. A voice inside her head tells her to snatch it from her grandmother’s wrinkled hands. Yet a different voice tells her this is a test. She must not fail her grandmother’s test. Have patience, it says. Learn your lesson. Her grandmother’s eyes glimmer. She doesn’t utter a word, even after the cupcake is nothing but crumbs. The old woman stands and exits the dining room, leaving Michelle alone.
The girl ogles the yellow crumbs, knowing she doesn’t have the guts to leap across the table and lick them up. No, that wouldn’t do. Her grandmother’s lesson was clear, and she wants to make her proud, for once. She can be as good at magic as her mother. She can learn to make the garden overflow with fresh vegetables and flowers or make the sky pour rain after a drought. Maybe she can even learn to control lightning and thunder. No matter the cost, she will learn to be the perfect pupil, so she can join the legacy of witchcraft to which the Silver women belong.
She stands to clean up the cupcake’s crumbs; her grandmother detests disorder.
The second lesson is an empty stomach on her ninth birthday.
I didn’t know
I had a translucent octopus
inside me to give.
Her milk flood
a bird’s waiting beak.
Sand winds sever
a wife etched in limestone
for untenable centuries.
No one wants to know
these unspeakable fumbles,
always one last stitch
“A Decent Muse”
“I should have held onto you with both my hands.”
And now the time between 8 and 11pm slips inexorably,
Like this harkened sap carving creases by my eyes,
Where the days black kohl eyeliner collects. She’s aging.
Lift your heart towards the whale bones.
Hundreds have passed since the docks were laden
With blubber and light and droves of men with night sealed in their irises.
Despite lifetimes, those bones strung up in marble foyers
Still drip this besotted oil on the floor.
“Grip my shoulders and take me right to failure.”
We cannot bottle such life.
“One Squirrelly Thing”
Her gingham shorts
upon the moss
and the boulder
In the photo: sole remnant of the afternoon.
But also the argument, the wincing, your
mother’s call during lunch, we each
had tunamelt on dark skin rye? Now only
The aluminum sign
beside the road
and your jeanne marie look
into the shutter.
But what about my
eyes on you? The
I’d creep into my parents’ bedroom and listen to them breathe. Nothing very special was going on in there. Their tiny snores and grunts might have even seemed funny if my mission wasn’t so serious. Minutes before I’d been frozen in my bedroom across the hall too scared to move, but in here I was safe and could climb in with them. These were the sleeping arrangements and to my eight-year-old self, they seemed very reasonable.
One morning before school my father informed me, “Eight is too old to be sleeping with mommy and daddy.” He said it a bit too sweetly. To the untrained ear it was a fine voice for a dad to use with his kid but I knew him to put on this voice when he wanted me not to question him. It felt like it was part of a performance for the benefit of someone else but I didn’t know who. And that just made me mad.
“I don’t sleep with you,” I said.
My older sister smirked. But there was a difference between sleeping with my parents like a baby and just stopping by in the middle of the night.
What did this guy do with the father I had known my whole life? The guy who liked to laugh and played guitar while we sang from his Great Songs of the Sixties book after dinner?
Hey there, Georgie girl, why do all the boys just pass you by?
He taught me how to jitterbug and lindy hop, those muscly dances that felt like a mix of wrestling and track and field set to music. Lately, though, he always had the final say. It wasn’t fair. The current sleeping arrangements weren’t bothering anyone, so why mess it up?
Until he mentioned it, my mom never seemed to mind me getting into bed with them. Then they became a united front. I wanted her to say, “Oh Bob,” like she did when she wanted him to stop nagging my sister about taking the car, but this time she didn’t say anything at all.
My nighttime terror started with a book called Strangely Enough: Ghostly Tales of The Truly Eerie, a book of mind-altering ghost stories. Many of the tales blended two of the most exotic worlds -- teenagers and ghosts. The teens in my family already taunted me simply by existing. Their presence said just try to catch up as they ran out the door to the beach, a record store, a practice, a date.
Strangely Enough’s creepiest story was about a man who picked up a hitchhiker and brought her back to her parents’ home only to find out she’d been dead for seventeen years! At eight I shouldn’t have had the book, but nobody knew, and I wasn’t about to tell. Every story left me in a fear-stricken suspension at night, yet I couldn’t put it down during the day. I was eight and I had no self-restraint when it came to the occult.
I’d lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the weird ticks from the heating vent and the old furnace churning away in the basement. It sounded like our old house would uproot and carry itself down the block. Images from the book flashed in my mind: ghost ships, runaway stagecoaches, and one disembodied hand. Even worse was the idea that there was a parallel universe where the dead drifted around, even hitch-hiked. I’d keep my body rigid, afraid of drawing attention from these spirits, aware of the tiny bug-like scratching my eyelashes made on the bedsheet.
Though I was anxious at night, during the day I was trying out a different persona, an adventurer who liked ghost stories. I’d beg my friends and teachers for a story, even pitting one against the other. “Our music teacher told us a ghost story,” I told a substitute, “would you happen to have a good story for us?” Almost all adults, especially teachers, rose to the challenge with some tale to transfix me and my classmates, and eat up twenty minutes. The sub had one about waking up on consecutive nights in her college dorm at 3:00 a.m. -- “always at 3:00 a.m.” -- to the sound of labored breathing. At the foot of her bed she saw the form of a man with a blood-soaked bandage around his neck. She researched in the college library and found out the dorm was a hospital during the Civil War and there was a record of a man dying in her room. “His throat had been cut.” This story, unsuitable for eight-year-olds, was so real I was partially convinced I lived through the haunting myself. When I woke in the night, I was sure it was 3:00 a.m. and I heard breathing. I didn’t wonder why this Civil War soldier would float to New Jersey in the 1970s and pick on a third grader. To make things worse, my neighbor told me that once you become aware of ghosts they sensed your belief and you could never go back to a state of innocence. The idea churned up my anxiety, that my thoughts were being policed and somehow conjuring the ghosts. Yet, in the daytime, I kept asking for more.
My new show of boldness coincided with my discovery of sarcasm. Suddenly everyone was saying everything sarcastically. I worked on it by copying guests on The Merv Griffin show, my sisters, possibly my parents, and definitely the kids at school. I was part of the Mad magazine set, happy to say the exact opposite of what I thought and felt. In this new intonation I found a break from earnestness. This was good practice for acting brave, uncharacteristic for me, the baby of the family.
When I was alone and lying frozen in bed in the middle of the night, I lost all my sarcastic bravado. I’d only have to work up enough nerve to run across the hallway and sneak into my parents’ bed. Once inside, my mother was one of the biggest hurdles. She clung to her edge, the only side that allowed me any access. I had to find one inch of space, try to keep the squeaky mattress quiet and then balance -- practically levitate -- over the bed. I would hold my breath and pray she’d cooperate, roll over and not wake up. Silently I’d curse my father for snoring and talking in his sleep, which could wake her at that critical moment.
If my hovering worked and she didn’t wake, she’d lift up her arm and nestle me under it. All my sucked in breath could empty and I found myself breathing at her rate and sinking easily into sleep. I’d deal with the objections in the morning.
One morning after I’d snuck in again, my father asked, “How about if we put a doorbell on the door? We’ll lock the door so you can’t come in, but if you really need us, just ring the bell.” Once again, here was the voice that was too friendly and upbeat, like a TV dad. My dad wasn’t patient and he certainly wasn’t a TV dad.
A doorbell? What kind of a plan was that? Why ring a new doorbell when the doorbell on the front porch was only about ten feet from their bed? Installing a new doorbell seemed pointless. I could just knock! But turning it into a project that involved a trip to Channel Lumber allowed him to keep himself occupied and ignore my actual needs. He was making it out as some sort of home improvement project. Every door could use a bell!
More than once while he was selling the family on the doorbell idea, he justified it by saying, I’d like to be alone…with my wife. He said this to my older brother more than to anyone else. I was starting to have a real grudge against this marriage. It seemed like my dad used it to call dibs on my mom. Why does he have to be alone with her, so he can loudly snore at her and force her to curl up in a ball at least five feet from him?
The fact that my mother joined forces with him was part of the problem. When he wasn’t around, she was mine. My older brother and sisters weren’t at home that much so I got to make her laugh, I went with her on errands, I heard what was on her mind. Then he came home and continuously interrupted me from reciting a comedy routine I’d heard on TV or telling her my seven-part dream about walk-flying to school. And now I had to stop snuggling with her at night? Every night he was safe in there with her while I had to stay alone in my room in our old drafty house -- a place made for haunting.
The real issue, I thought, was that my mother was starting to like me more than him and he was beginning to sense it. I didn’t snore, talk in my sleep, or have money problems. I didn’t spend all my time in the backyard working on my boat or in the basement learning guitar chords. I wasn’t growing a scratchy beard and yearning to be a hippie ten years too late. I was who I was. Oh sure, I wore a bandana at times, but it was really more of a fashion choice. It wasn’t the grimy thing that my dad put on when he painted the house; mine was thin and fashionable and I think my mother knew the difference.
Occasionally when my dad wasn’t trying to be fake, he’d look at me and say, “I was the baby of my family, too, you know.” It wasn’t said with kinship. You didn’t listen as much to what my father said, but how good or bad you felt after he said it. It was becoming clear that he didn’t want to give up his spot as the baby of the family.
About the same time I got my hands on the ghost stories, I began dabbling in religion. A Baptist bible camp came to our neighborhood for a week and our neighbors, the Sliningers, hosted it in their backyard. This was by no means a regular occurrence. I asked permission to attend but my father didn’t want me to go. My parents were religious in the first phase of our family, before I was born. Their interest waned when their kids started to grow up. I thought I was missing out on something. So what were they to do when their youngest suddenly wanted a religious awakening? Or at least a free snack at bible camp?
“Why should she go, Vivian? They’re going to feed her some business about Jesus and I have to give them a dollar?” he asked.
“Oh Bob,” my mother said and then I was allowed to go.
I memorized the briefest of psalms and learned songs but a one-week bible camp can actually serve to confuse matters more than solve existential questions.
“Come and tell the story of the Christ of Calvary. Bang bang!” we’d sing and shoot finger-guns into the air. For Christ. This only left me to wonder for years what war Jesus had fought in.
Neighborhood kids of all religions attended the Baptist bible camp. It was there that Marie Brown, my Catholic friend from across the street, found out I wasn’t baptized. Everyone was but me. She looked at me as if I were already dead and vowed to save me because I was going to purgatory. The way I understood it, purgatory was a place where a bunch of babies and kids languished around in the air.
“It’s purgatory! You are in limbo,” she and the other child-fanatics warned, trying to convince me of the bad position I was in. What I imagined though was more like a ride at an amusement park. Floating babies. It didn’t sound so bad. If you were floating, who was to say you couldn’t eventually start to fly?
I became Marie’s project. She was going to find a way to sneak me into church and perform some sort of guerilla-style baptism. I went with her and her family to mass a few times, but it never became clear how we’d make it up to the stage area where the priest and robed children were on guard. And so while I was at Baptist bible camp, I began dipping my toe into the Catholicism pool. I complained to Marie and her mom about my sleeplessness. Pitying me because I never got a fair shot at religion, they gave me a set of cheap blue plastic beads and taught me the rosary. They convinced me it was a perfectly fine sleep aid, though I suppose they were trying to subversively pull me into their worldview. When I brought up baptism, my parents refused to allow it. In fact they seemed angry. Maybe I could get in the back door? At night I prayed:
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus...
I loved that part. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb -- JeeeSUS! It sounded so surprising, every time you made your way around the beads. Guess who the fruit of the womb is tonight? That’s right, it’s Jesus again. Lucky Mary! At other times it sounded like an auction call. Do I have twenty, give me twenty, how about thirty, yes I have thirty, who will try forty for the fruit of the womb -- JeeeSUS!
Probably because I encouraged her, Marie’s religious interests started to intertwine with the occult. While drilling the Hail Marys she started dropping in tales of haunted babies drowning and burning baby hauntings and pneumonic children burning and/or drowning. During slumber parties, Marie was the one to go over the elaborate instructions for levitating so we all knew what to do. And, because she was the thinnest, she was always the first, many times the only one, to be levitated.
Levitation -- what Cindy Slininger calmly referred to as raising the devil -- was where we’d gather around Marie’s body laid out on the floor as she pretended to be peacefully dead. One of us would tell the story of her demise and then, through a series of call and response chanting, we’d set about our sorcery like a secret sect in flowery flannel.
The stories were always spotty in tone with cookie-cutter plot points, and the teller alternating between bursts of inspiration and self-consciousness:
Here lies Marie. Who was walking one snowy evening when the streets were not yet cleared and, um…oh, I know! Who didn’t hear the snowplow as it motored past the heavy banks down the road and buried her alive. In snow. The driver never even knew he killed her.
She is dead… She is dead. She is dead. She is dead.
Shall we bury her?… Shall we bury her? Shall we bury her? Shall we bury her?
Then we’d lift her. She’d be really light. Someone would scream. We would be told by Marie’s mother to shut up.
The stories from bible camp and teachers and the occult book were starting to overlap in my mind. Things appearing and vanishing out of nowhere. People seeming to be one thing but really something else. I got ghost stories and Jesus stories so mixed together I had no idea who was haunting me at night: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the prostitute of Jesus, or Mary the little girl from one of Cindy’s stories who’d accidentally sold her aunt’s liver. Mary, I want my liverrrr. Most likely it was a combination.
I loved that whipped-up fear on those sleepover nights. Like with my siblings, my neighborhood girlfriends were all older than me. I felt safe with all of us sleeping side by side in the same room. I was not so afraid that I would want us to stop. It was exhilarating to push the limits of my terror further, feeling a simultaneous if fleeting safety. I was always the one to beg: tell us another. It was only the next night when I was back in my bedroom that I returned to my lonely agony.
I’d almost forgotten about the dumb doorbell idea, but eventually, my father completed his home improvement project and a gleaming orange bell encased in a white metal box shined its light throughout the short hallway between my parents’ bedroom and my own. The glow at night, dimmer but still visible in daylight, was a constant reminder of my fear. No one rang that bell but me, so it further pegged me as the baby and I’d get teased. Fear of what the teenagers in the house thought of me was starting to gain an edge over the teenage ghosts in the ether.
I hated to hear that bell at night, hated seeing my mom looking haggard as she put me back to bed. My father never answered the door. When I’d ring it could temporarily stop the fear of ghosts but it stirred up an equally unpleasant emotion -- embarrassment. Sometimes I couldn’t look my mother in the eye, defeating the purpose of waking her up. I could feel her retreating from me, disappearing.
I became determined to break myself of the need to sleep with them. I just had to lay off the ghost stories, bible camp, slumber parties, my own imagination, and possibly Marie. I returned the book to the school library, but I still woke up spooked. I’d walk the short distance to my parents’ room and sit on the three-foot high dehumidifier outside their locked door, staring at the doorbell, resolving not to ring. She was safely tucked away in sleep while I worried the floor with the curling and uncurling of my toes. Out in the in-between space of the hallway, I waited. I couldn’t go back to my room but now I couldn’t ring either. This was purgatory. The floating was not up in the air like an amusement ride. Not being able to move forward or back was torture.
On my all-night vigils at my parents’ door, the pressure not to act like a baby slowly grew to be the bigger concern. Separating from my feelings with sarcasm may have helped. It was the middle of the haunted night and I was somehow surviving because of this new self-consciousness. Within a few weeks, I went back to sleeping in my own bed, one horror traded for another.
Watched the seasons change this morning with you. Hydrangeas busy blooming in front of our eyes. Growing hair and wild… and free. No misunderstandings. Boys and girls and schoolboy lunches. We said bye to those cheek kisses.
No one tells you it’s easy to get lost.
People say to be quiet when things get hard.
Sometimes I scream and I shout.
Bellow. They say, “What are you crying about?”
Everyday I wake up with the same song in my head, and the smell of your perfume that sits perfectly on my desk. New job. New dream. Something different across my chest. Ditch those lunchbox dreams, head for bigger things with nothing in my heart, or in my head.
So don’t pray for me, don’t pray for me. Say it’s all part of this master plan. They say, “Oh! Just pray for her. Just pray for her. She can’t fathom what has happened.”
Kylie Westerbeck sings and plays guitar with Mike Parisi on upright bass. "Bellow" is from Kylie's debut EP, "Bellow," available on all major streaming platforms. Follow Kylie on Instagram at @kyliewesterbeck.
PATRICK BLAGRAVE is a poet from Philadelphia. He is the founder and editor of Prolit, a literary magazine about class, work, and money. His first book, Profit | Prophet, will be published later this year by Recenter Press. His work can be found in Recenter Press Poetry Journal, Bedfellows, Apiary, and Mad House.
ROSANNA BYRNES is a special education teacher living in New Bedford, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. Originally from Philadelphia, she champions everything Philadelphian. Including you.
FAYE CHEVALIER a Philadelphia-based poet and seltzer-appreciator. She is the author of the chapbooks future.txt (Empty Set Press 2018) and flesh_wound (Accidental Player Press 2020), and her work has been featured in The Wanderer, Peach Mag, Yes Poetry, the tiny, and elsewhere. She has been widely recognized as the first poet ever to have work published in a cyberpunk tabletop RPG podcast (Neoscum 2018). Find her on Twitter @bratcore where she cries about River Phoenix, vampires, and having a body.
JAMES FEICHTHALER’s poems have appeared most recently in Nine Muses Poetry, the Mad Poets Society’s Local Lyrics, Toho Journal, and E-Verse Radio. The self-proclaimed forrealist poet is host of The Dead Bards of Philadelphia, a poetry reading series that occurs every 4th Thursday of the month at The Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk, PA. You can follow James on Twitter @forrealist_poet and find The Dead Bards of Philadelphia on Instagram and Facebook.
BETSY HERBERT is a writer in Philadelphia and an MFA alum of Lesley University. She’s working on a comedic novel. She’s discovered that she often writes about sleep and also that she likes speaking into microphones. Check out her sleep-themed and otherwise-themed pieces at justonebetsy.com.
CHRISTINA ROSSO is a writer and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and rescue pup. Her debut collection She is a Beast was released from APEP Publications in May 2020. Her writing has been featured in Five 2 One Magazine, Digging Through the Fat, Ellipsis Zine, and more. Visit christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.
JEREMY ERIC TENENBAUM is a writer, graphic designer, and graphic artist. He recently designed a major exhibition at the Architekturzentrum Wien in Vienna and wrote and designed its accompanying monograph. He has published poetry, fiction, and photography with The Columbia Poetry Review, Prosodia, Seven Arts, the Moon Philadelphia travel guide, and many other publications. He’s currently working on a short story collection.
KYLIE WESTERBECK is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Philadelphia. Kylie has released 2 indie-folk/indie-pop EP’s on all major streaming platforms, titled Bellow and Summertime. Her recent acting credits include Curse of the Starving Class and The Lydie Breeze Trilogy (EgoPo). Kylie has also produced several works to appear at the Philly and DC Fringe, including her original shows Peg! and Complexity. Kylie’s photography, writings, and music can all be found on her website kyliewhittenwesterbeck.com or follow her on Instagram at @kyliewesterbeck.
A lot of groups are asking for money right now; there are too many important causes and it's hard to know where help is most needed and effective.
Among the groups SORTES supports is Campaign Zero:
“We can live in a world where the police don't kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.”
Campaign Zero fights to demilitarize police forces, limit the use of force, ensure independent community oversight and independent investigation, provide better training, and much more.
The editors of this publication support this cause and we urge you to as well.
Submission & Contact
SORTES is a spinning collection of stories, poems, songs, and illustrations to help while away the wintery June nights. It’s an oddball grabbag wunderkammer mixtape offering distraction and refreshment.
Each issue is its own creature. We have neither theme nor scene. We like whatever makes us shiver, plotz, turn on, and/or freak out. We've published what might be called magical realism, dirty surrealism, fantastical biography, experimental poetry, tender balladeering, elusive allusive elliptical poetry, and sweet ol grainy photography.
We will periodically host contests, readings, calls for entries, and other spry gimmicks to keep things interesting. Previous issues are available via the site’s Archive link.
SORTES considers unsolicited submissions of poetry, prose, illustration, music, videos, and anything else you think may fit our format. Feel free to poke us; we’d love to find a way to publish dance, sculpture, puzzles, and other un-literary modalities.
SORTES is published quarterly. Each issue includes approximately ten works of lit, visual, or performance art. We like a small number of works per issue: artists and readers should have a chance to get to know each other.
SORTES, you’ll notice, is primarily a black-and-white publication, and we like to play with that (by featuring monochrome videos and photography, for example), but we’ll happily consider your polychrome submission.
Submissions are ongoing throughout the year. We consider artists with both extensive and limited publishing experience. We accept simultaneous submissions but please inform us if your work has been accepted elsewhere.
There’s no need for an extensive cover letter or publication history but please tell us who you are, what kind of writing or art you do, and a bit about what you’re sending us. There are no formatting requirements for text submissions. There is no fee to submit. Please send submissions as email attachments whenever possible; multimedia submissions may be sent as links.
SORTES is edited by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum and Kevin Travers. We live in Philadelphia but we invite writers and artists everywhere to read, contribute, and adore us.
To submit -- or to send us comments, questions, or suggestions --
please email the editors at