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  By David Hernandez

artwork by David Hernandez artwork by David Hernandez

A Sound Like Acid    by Wendy Lyn Burk
Window Seat   by Joe Ahearn
Pepek the Assassin   by Joyce Ellen Davis
Aliases Henry Lee
Da   by Dan Sicoli

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A Sound Like Acid
By Wendy Lyn Burk

I imagine her going mad in various ways:
when she eats three ice cream bars
I imagine she'll want to eat six, then eight, then ten,
the freezer door open all this time,
and her gradual agonized fatness, her shivering.
When she takes a children's video up to her room
I imagine her watching it over and over,
learning the songs by memory, nose to the screen,
and eventually howling and shitting her pants
when I come and tell her to turn off the set.
When I hear her uncertain laughter in the kitchen
I imagine she's hugging her arms around her chest
and trying to give herself counsel in a tender voice,
her words growing gradually sweeter and clearer:
you want to be dead, you want to be dead.

And I always imagine myself
bursting in through the door to save her, or sobbing.
Walking upstairs to discover her spinning slowly from the overhead light,
first cutting her down while cradling her neck in my hand,
then draping her body over my back.
Some days she's leariing against the kitchen counter,
wrists slit open with the meat knife,
or she's on the floor with the blade twisted into her belly,
which I have imagined repeatedly how to reshape
without wrenching her organs, grazing her heartbeat.

Or else when I get to the kitchen she's hugging the oven,
down on her knees as if praying again,
and I have to drag her away from the gas,
turn the knob to off, crack open the downstairs windows,
tilt back her chin and start giving her mouth to mouth.
And I'm pressing my mouth to her mouth so hard
and trying to breathe so that she'll start breathing,
but when I draw back to inhale, I find there's no way
to tear her rubbery lips from my lips.

This is the only conclusion: our mouths glued to each other,
our throats one tunnel, until she's screaming into my mouth
as I scream into her mouth, a sound like acid.
Each throat hoarse, outrageous with bleeding,
each mouth in horror forcing the other
to take by force what it needs to survive.

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Window Seat
By Joe Ahearn

First the sky and then my analogies.
And then the long sitting-and-looking-out.
And then just numbness as the plane lumbers on toward Reno,
one dumb thing piercing another.
Just over New Mexico, I write,
"Fear is the absence of faith,"
thinking not of martyrs or Desert Fathers,
but of my own dim life that like this jet lusters on ahead
of sound, pulled by what's too fast to see:
the smiles and chatter of those around me,
the small seas of fight in their eyes—
Next to me, Sean, my companion of fifteen minutes,
stirs, looks, says, "I like that,"
pointing at my faithless sentence.
But what can I say to him?
The urge to sleep is strong—
And all around us, the endless imperial blue,
the careless impertinence,
the ceaseless thrumming
of some dark vowel in our chests.

Augustine said, "It is in God
that we move and have our being.

And in God, all those years ago,
I stood at lunch-time Mass among the Religious,
the nuns slightly swaying, the priest illumined
and candescent—and me, too crazy for anything else,
in the eighth day of a sad novena,
laboring there with my Scotch and cocaine,
somehow birthing the Son,
an end to the fear, a way in the desert.

Now, arriving, somehow intact,
drowsy, a little bored,
unconscious of heartbeat, unconscious of breath,
a made thing, saved by God and psychiatric medicine,
I look out the window and think of nothing.

How I fought—for years, as one going under fights,
lost in that sea not of light, but extinction.
In my journal, three weeks ago, I wrote:
"I no longer believe enlightenment is possible.
I only hope death is final."
Today, stunned by the merely apparent,
I fly toward what is,
a curve in the sky.

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Pepek the Assassin
By Joyce Ellen Davis

Pepek, my Uncle
The Assassin,
Has but one eye. He likes
To imagine that the other
Is in a museum in Krupina,
Skewered on the point
Of a Czech policeman's bayonette
Like a pearl onion on a shish-ka-bob.
The policeman, who was beating
His horse,
Swapped his life
For Pepek's eye, a poor trade.

Now at 5 a.m. that horse
Pulls a milk wagon through the streets
Of Krupina,
While Pepek, my Uncle,
Eats cold cereal flakes
In his kitchen in Connecticut,
Grows fat on raspberries and cream.

In the spring,
Pepek digs for clams,
Those jelly-kisses from the sea.
He cracks their locked doors
With the hard points
Of his middle fingers,
And swallows them raw.
He wears a straw hat while he works,
Sweat pours into his shirtsleeves
Like seawater. He is frightened.
He is ashamed, and stares into the sun
Until his tears crawl out.
His eyes are two slits
Black as flatirons
As he tries not to remember
How he once killed a policeman
For beating a horse.

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By Henry Lee

I disguise my feelings wear a broad brimmed
hat and avoid eye contact. My cigar makes
smoke so my profile is obscured. I look
behind, over padded shoulders and three
decades go by. Cadillacs idle their engines
impatiently at a funeral on Mulberry Street.

With cops all over leaning on kids, I avoid
committing minor offenses. I hold back spitting
in the subway and slip quarters in the meters.
For luck, the "Nam" veteran with black glasses
gets a fiver. He won't finger me. Love is dead,
murdered. I did it with premeditation. Desire

still bursts through my brain like a diver
rising after a plunge from a high board.
Every block I get closer to Chinatown makes
her attraction stronger. I get stuck like a fly
on yellow stickum twisting from the ceiling of
a noodle shop. In the distance I see a rickshaw.

it will take me to my love in Shanghai.

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By Dan Sicoli

my father painted everything brown
my father
with a 4" brush painted the goddamn world barnstable brown
garage doors   our rusty old van   sidewalks   the backyard picnic table
the backyard   the window trim   my bicycle   the kitchen floor
the soles of my mother's feet   one of the clothesline poles   my shoelaces
the edges of the blades of the ceiling fan
the steel bearings of a strange machine rotting in the dampness of the wine cellar
the lint in my best friend's belly button
the angel fish in the fish tank
the keys on my uncle ernie's accordion
and the now-broken strap that used to hold my uncle's accordion across my uncle's chest
the bottoms of all the coffee cups in our house and our neighbor's house
the fence
the sign that says for sale in the bar behind our house
the three canadian 20s ma stuffed in an envelope and taped behind her vanity mirror
he painted tv screens and toothbrushes
and trees at the edge of the horizon

my father only drank on Christmas eve
i only saw him drunk once
it was on halloween
during the '67 world series was the only time i ever saw my father drunk
he would take a bit of wine on his anniversary
it was the only time i ever saw him drink

and now
i breathe my father's soul
forgive me now
i watch it rise
i breathed it in as it rose
forgive me now
it rose
and i let it go
and in flight it did not fall
forgive me
forgive me not

it rose

it: rose

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