Issue 4 – The Dark Side of Devotion

Subprimal Poetry Art/Music - Issue 4 - May 2015
Cover art by Victor D. Sandiego
View: Everything | Contents


From The Editor

by Victor D. Sandiego

Hello, and welcome to the Spring 2015 edition of Subprimal Poetry Art/Music. This is my first official letter from the editor. Generally, I like to present the works and let them speak for themselves, but this time I wanted to weigh in and give you a little history.

We enter our second year here at Subprimal, a baby among many adolescent, mature, and even hoary journals, with a sense of accomplishment. We have had the honor of presenting a variety of voices from around the world and the pleasure of merging their voices with the musical accompaniment that we love to compose. It’s perhaps a small accomplishment among the publications available today, but one that we hope you will celebrate with us as we continue into our future editions.

One of the most curious repeated questions that we have received here at Subprimal is whether or not we accept submissions from country X. I suppose this is a question born of exposure to regional journals, but please allow me to take this opportunity to say that we never consider artificial national boundaries when looking for work to publish. Quite the contrary. As a USA ex-pat and citizen of the globe, I consider voices from underrepresented regions to be among the most compelling in the world of poetry today. We welcome writers from everywhere and are thankful for those from such compass points such as South Africa, Australia, France, México, the U.K., Zimbabwe, and Texas who have entrusted us with their contributions.

Another question we sometimes receive…

A Family Outing

by E. J. Evans

At unpredictable times the twin demons of rage and fear took hold of my wife, and she would be in thrall to something fierce and merciless that I could not see. At such times there was nothing I could do for her and I was frustrated and bewildered. One evening after watching and listening to her bickering bitterly with her three children for hours, I told her and the kids that we were all going for a walk on the beach. I got them all into the car and we drove through town and over the long bridge across Pensacola Bay, and through Gulf Breeze and then across the bridge over the Santa Rosa Sound and all the way out to Pensacola Beach. I parked in the parking lot near the water tower and the boardwalk and led them all out onto the sand. We trudged along, the brilliant lights from the shops on the boardwalk glaring on one side, and the vast intense darkness of the sea and sky on the other. I could hear the waves breaking on the beach in the dark. “Why are we doing this?” my stepson Arnie said, “this is stupid.” My wife and the kids all looked like people who had been sentenced to hard labor in a penitentiary. They looked down and frowned as they struggled to walk through the deep sand. I walked on ahead of them, looking around at the sand and the black sky, feeling the wind from the sea. I don't remember what I said, if anything, but what I wanted to say was “Look around you, everything is open and flowing free. The world is mostly dark and we know so little.”

E. J. Evans is an essayist and poet living in Cazenovia, NY. His work has appeared in many literary journals, including Confrontation, Your Impossible Voice, The Transnational, The Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, Rattle, and Mudfish. His chapbook First Snow Coming is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press. He is working on a book of personal essays.

Tree of Life

by Alex Nodopaka

Regarding his work, the artist says:

Since no 2 leaves or branches in the world are identical why paint them when one can glue their symbolic remnants to the canvas! I always had a penchant for sculpture and atavism. The first because of the natural 3-dimensionality of the medium itself and the latter for the psychological multi-dimensionality.

And voila! Mixed media that is organic but not so acceptable to the world of the art cognoscenti because of the purists hiding behind each tree leaf and sheet of paper. I mean who needs termites or silver fish on living room walls? So, purists! Here's one for you!

The illustrated piece, in its simplicity, relates humans to trees, physiologically and spiritually. According to Carl Sagan, roots and branches, limbs and sap are symbolic associations of what is below so is above. The loss of leaves and their cyclical renewal is like mammals shedding their skin and replacing every seven years all the molecules of their bodies. A total renewal.

The totemic presence of the symbolic tree, in this case a piece of weathered plywood, was positioned, in a remote manner similarly to the stele in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alexandre Nodopaka speaks Ukrainian, Russian, French, English & more after some Vodka. He was immaculately conceived in Kiev, Ukraine also after some Vodkahhhs. First breech exhibition 1940 Vladivostok, Russia. First finger paintings Innsbruck, Austria 1946. Studied tongue-in-cheek at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Casablanca, Morocco 1958. USA since 1959. Doodling since. Self-appointed as an art pundit. His interest in literature and the visual arts is exhaustively multi-cultural.

I Am No Jesus

by Ram Krishna Singh

I am no Jesus
but I can feel the pains
of crucifixion

as a common man
suffer all what he suffered –
play the same refrains –

at times cry and pray
hope for better days ahead
despite lack of love

diminishing strength
failures, ennui and blames
for sins I didn’t author

I am no Jesus
but I can smell the poison
and smoke in the air

feel for humankind
like him carry the cross
and relive my dreams

I am no Jesus
but I can feel the pain
of crucifixion

From the book I Am No Jesus and other selected poems

Ram Krishna Singh, born, brought up and educated in Varanasi (U.P., India), has been writing poetry in English for about four decades. He has published over 160 academic articles, 175 book reviews, and 17 collections of poems, including the latest I Am No Jesus And Other Selected Poems, Tanka And Haiku (English/Crimean Tatar, 2014), New And Selected Poems Tanka And Haiku (2012), and Sense And Silence: Collected Poems (2010).

Appreciated for his tanka and haiku, Dr. Singh's poems have been anthologized in over a hundred books. His poems have been translated into Japanese, Greek, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Slovene, Croatian, Farsi, Arabic, Serbian, Esperanto, Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, and Bangla. A member of several literary bodies and editorial boards, Dr. Singh is currently Professor (HAG) at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 (India).

Shooter

by Seth Jani

There is a brilliant density of stars
Drifting and appearing
Over the world’s limited
Gathering of trees.
There is the whale
Mythic and full
Of solemn music
Breaking the overture
Of waves.
There is the heart,
A giant, secret organ
Bursting in the small,
Shaking body.
And in the darkness,
In the troubled streets
Of Chicago,
In the far-off fringes
Of some lone delinquent mind,
There is the formula
Of ultimate undoing,
The seed which carries
In its center
The terrible tree
Of our demise.

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress. His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, El Portal, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. Visit him at sethjani.com.

Creed

by James Penha

I am considering believing
in hell again to have somewhere
to send you
damn you who
kills with God burning in your eyes
and on your tongue
when God is nothing if He is not
too good for you to speak
or hear
or to frame your fearful
sense of proportion
or, pity me now,
to have imagined Satan,
the work I see
of human minds
and hands
like yours
bloody
and crooked. Yes,
you have cast yourself
as the unclean spirit
God's antonym
and it is up to us to make
your life on earth
hell.

A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors' Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.

Without Faith

by Seth Jani

You are everything to me,
In the lindens,
In the movable type of clocks,
In the rotary silence of seasons.

To lose the mirage of your face,
The story of you being real,
Would be to wander alone
In the most heartbreaking,

Most imaginary place.

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress. His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, El Portal, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. Visit him at sethjani.com.

The Robot

by Suzanna Anderson

Regarding her work, the artist says:

The vision of a one-armed robot was part of a two-minute drawing exercise, a robot with one arm who wanted to play football. I enjoy vibrant colors, so I chose to use multiliner pens and a brush pen for the line work and Copic markers for the color. Zentangles were an inspiration for the details.

Suzanna Anderson studied creative writing at Bowling Green State University. She participates in National Novel Writing Month every year. Her interests also include watercolor, charcoal, and bookbinding. Currently she is the editor-in-chief of The Magnolia Review and the Review Editor at The Odd Ducks.

In The Rotary Silence of Seasons

by Seth Jani

There was so much worthy of attention.
The slightest angles of sun
In the crux of evening
Causing the leaves to shine,
Or filling the city with such exquisite light
That even the rooftops
Shimmered into flame.
There were the birds meandering home,
Needing no other comfort than the wind
Letting their songs float down like blessings.
But even amongst the unarguable splendor,
The ceaseless call to wonder,
The fullness of that loss grew fuller.
Like sand collapsing around the roots
Of a ripped-out cedar,
It swallowed the volcanic colors.
Not able to cope, or wrestle
With such enigmas,
You turned your back on what was given,
Unable even to bear that bright, empurpled sky.

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress. His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, El Portal, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. Visit him at sethjani.com.

Waiting for Oceans to Mourn After the Rain

by Catori Sarmiento

A pincushion for thrusting needles.
I am raw
to all the muscles between bones.

Clench your fingers about my neck
until I have
a mouth full of tar.

When you finish; a smile drawn across my chest
and it is ecstasy to know that you are as vile as I am.

Catori Sarmiento is an author who has contributed fiction to Nothing. No One. Nowhere. by Virgogrey Press, The Citron Review, Brick Rhetoric, Foliate Oak Magazine, and Crossed Out Magazine. She has also contributed non-fiction to Her Kind and This Boundless World and several academic essays published by Student Pulse. Ms. Sarmiento also has had poetry published by Poetry Wall, Cactus Heart Press, and The Dead Flowers Poetry Rag. Professionally, She is an English and Writing Professor in Tokyo, Japan.

July 25th, 2014

by Nels Hanson

Try not to smoke more deadly
cigarettes tonight, second pack
today, because the 200th child
was blown to particles in Gaza
by guided missile, mother with
five children uncovered alive,
lone survivor among 20 family
members buried in the rubble,
dead as stone. Don’t drink more
beer because four boys kicking
a soccer ball were changed like
that to a million pieces, sunny
beach where bluest waves still
break like clockwork, regular
as artillery fire. Don’t consume
kitchen bare because old Arab
women and men who followed
neighbors to a school or shelter,
hospital, burst outward, random
shrapnel of flesh. No, pray again
to Wovoka, Paiute Ghost Dancer
who ended in a circus sideshow,
Jesus on the cross a stone’s throw
in Jerusalem, between we’re told
the Good Thief and the Bad, and
Martin Luther King shot standing
on balcony of the cheap motel in
Memphis half a century ago, day
my aunt had her first mastectomy.
Say your silent prayers for peace,
try sleep without rising ten times
for water, aspirin to keep my head
from throbbing like tom-tom of a
murdered Cherokee chief holding
beat my heart can’t follow surely
with a hope that matters anymore.

Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart Prize nominations in 2010, 12, and 2014. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pacific Review and other magazines and received Sharkpack Review Annual’s 2014 Prospero Prize and a 2014 Pushcart nomination.

Doorway to Tomorrow

by Sharon Goodhand

Sharon Goodhand, poet, photographer, digital artist, is a mentor and moderator on a private creative site where writers, photographers, artists and musicians share their creative projects. She writes in a variety of genres in order to put things into perspective and to put emotions into an understandable form.

My Once-Wife Gazes

by Shoshauna Shy

through so what when
her she she
bedroom shares stares
window her through
as I bed that
awaken with window
hidden another each
in the man morning
cornfield and flips we share
beyond his the same
flapjacks bowl of sky

Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Shoshauna Shy was a finalist for the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid poetry prize sponsored by Winning Writers in 2015, and her 5th poetry collection was just released by Aldrich Press of Kelsay Books titled A Splash of Easy Laughter. Shy is also a flash fiction author - but that's another story!

In Praise of Spoken Differences

by Ralph Monday

Books always do this to her
unfathomable books on bottomless
themes that she sits reading in a red
dress in the fall leaves, mind clothed
in scarlet thoughts.

Have you ever thought of this,
she asks me

to pull Moby Dick from the waters
a great white light swallowing transgressions,
crucified upon the sea, upon frothing waves—
crests tipped pink by his sacrificed blood?

How different it would have been
if her faith had survived.

How different would it have been on
the island if Ralph and Piggy had
never found the conch shell?

Almost a thing of abstract art
her father died when she was seven,
splattering his brains all over the garage

walls in wet grays and reds with a 12
gauge while she and her brother slept
upstairs.

How different it would have been if he
hadn’t lost his job, wasn’t depressed,
if his girlfriend had stayed.

How different would it have been if
Hamlet never toyed with Ophelia, if
Gertrude spurned Claudius?

At forty her husband left her for a younger
woman, without remorse, without explanation,
gone like a shadow that ceased following its matter.

How different would it have been if
Abelard kept his balls, Heloise never
donned the habit?

How different would it have been if
Iseult had not told Tristan the sails
were black?

How different would it have been if
Romeo and Juliet changed the ending
of west side story?

Not such a small thing these
pantomimed silhouettes dancing like
Macbeth’s witches

Not such a small thing.

Transgressions follow like
mosquito’s multifaceted eyes,
locked in the vast deep the way
that only a special human can
hear humpback whales compose great
cetacean epics in celebration.

There in the deep quiet black where
disintegrated fish bones fall, float eerily down
like artificial snow in a glass winter globe.
Ocean snow covering the mud like watery
hoarfrost—these are the Saharas of the
abyss.

She swims
She swims
Deep
Deep

What would it be like if I had never been born?
What would it be?

How different would it have been to
never be?

How different would it have been?

Ralph Monday is Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN., and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book Empty Houses and American Renditions was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press. A Kindle chapbook Narcissus the Sorcerer was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press.

Daddy Dearest

by Kevin Heaton

The razor wire precision of father’s
defined scorn is a gauntlet of lancets

into his mind’s perfect dungeon. He
ferments there, sipping at the altar-

ego behind his iron mask; whispering
fractured lullabies into my puppy

nightmares—sating himself on iodine
ladybugs and fronds from clotted poppies.

Kevin Heaton is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma, and now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Guernica, Rattle, Slice Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Adroit Journal, and Verse Daily. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Overthrow of Malaysia

by Peter Kent

I.

The forests can’t contain exuberance,
when climate exhales fetid gulps
robust with water-fallen decay. On this
overwrought peninsula, the cold order
of ideas succumbs to vine-wrapped
burgeoning. The monkeys never touch
the damp floor, preferring the trapeze
aura that fuels the transcendent societies
of air-gifted beings. Even as the foresters
(contracted by the makers of all things
plywood) growl through the haze,
the indeterminate rivers that traverse
the lowlands coil like snakes . . . unconcerned,
deliberate in movement, sliding toward seas
that will swallow the soiled aftermath
of the forest’s fallen soldiers.

II.

In the distance, an army drills
for the moment when boredom compels
more overt slaughter. The citizens
of this tropical republic build no defenses,
beyond isolating their enclaves from
the urbanized macaque’s strategies
for tipping dustbins. Trusting (as the forest does)
that decay will birth its own deliverance,
they demand that motorbikes and autos
become ubiquitous as canopy trees. Every
village shall have its highway. The silver-
leaf monkey will be the first to notice
that the fleshy fruit grows bitter.
While every cloud weeps to bring
the acrid taste of bounty closer.

Peter Kent has published poems in Cimarron Review, New Millennium Writings, Sixfold, and For Poetry. His work received a high commendation in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition and has earned an Honorable Mention in the New Millennium Writings Contest for Poetry. He works as a winter caretaker at a lodge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Conversation, Skeptic, Salivation

by Jacob Griffin Hall

You were preoccupied by ice and your stance
in a given moment – wondered if the time
you spent looking for a pen could erase any
inclination towards individual expressiveness
and perhaps if every thought is redundant, then
your body would be reduced to water falling
from the gutter, trailing leaves into a spiraled
disintegration of fingerprints until your voice
lost itself surely in a muddled myopic pooling.

We stood together throwing stones into
a liquid atmosphere, and found a grace
in solitude, standing wet to the ankle as
planets collided abstractly between your
toes, an extension of your particular posture,
and your vision was somehow aligned with
the sharp, shrill sirens that broke that silence,

the neighbors were home – at least it felt that way
as the floorboards began to shake and the hallway
laughed and we spoke of patterned lights rearranged
under your iris, perhaps some smell had unlocked
one of those traces that escaped our casual attention,
the ones we had recently discussed, that could mark
and overlap within our absolute identities – casual,
remarked how the sunset looked like frost on red velvet.

There were bells, or perhaps a piano, and you
sat under the notes as if they would eventually
nourish you. I peered through the glacial window,
imagined my shadowgraphs as figures trapped
within the deep cavern of our relative earth’s core.
These were exercises in mobility, ways in which
we could experiment with an alternative, impossible
state – and I felt the winter in a way only my skin
could, and you were identified by the colors released
from tinted light bulbs – the stars fell back against
your forearm, a rustled arbor made celestial by vision.

Magnetic, those cold corners – you were curious about
the nature of fixation and I knew you would have to
adapt, not to be lost, to become mercury in a pool of
silver. We stood in a stilled stream of smoke and genuine
discretion, traffic changing, challenged momentarily
by the inclination towards a violent assessment of intellect
but there was nothing vicious in it, the air was truly mild.

Jacob Griffin Hall was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Georgia in 2013. He currently lives in Athens, Georgia and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.

Waiting

by Ram Krishna Singh

I’ve lived 23,000 days
awaiting a day that could become
god’s day in eden earth or within

or even my grandson’s smile
on his first day in mother’s arms

now I sit an empty boat
on a still river
and shake with quail dreams

From the book I Am No Jesus and other selected poems

Ram Krishna Singh, born, brought up and educated in Varanasi (U.P., India), has been writing poetry in English for about four decades. He has published over 160 academic articles, 175 book reviews, and 17 collections of poems, including the latest I Am No Jesus And Other Selected Poems, Tanka And Haiku (English/Crimean Tatar, 2014), New And Selected Poems Tanka And Haiku (2012), and Sense And Silence: Collected Poems (2010).

Appreciated for his tanka and haiku, Dr. Singh's poems have been anthologized in over a hundred books. His poems have been translated into Japanese, Greek, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Slovene, Croatian, Farsi, Arabic, Serbian, Esperanto, Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, and Bangla. A member of several literary bodies and editorial boards, Dr. Singh is currently Professor (HAG) at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 (India).

Gaian Guise

by Joseph Pravda

Regarding his work, the artist says:

In surveying our whirled---wherein all hues and minor editions of Ozymandias' abound---I contemplated the need to once again realize our inhumane offense to our Grecian Goddess. Hence, Gaian Guise.

Joseph Pravda: Born Brooklyn, NY, US Government Attorney during Watergate, when he “felt” uneasy about governments, and laws; later, public company CEO, lobbyist, now, multimedia artist, published produced playwright, columnist for leading magazines; his paintings have been published and exhibited as well as included in a national touring exhibition as well as several multimedia exhibitions in NY and other venues. Published diversity author via major university, winning Finalist in Stymie Magazine's 1st annual collector cards edition. Invitee, 2nd & 3rd Annual Slice magazine Literary Writers Conference; Lifetime Guest Artist at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts via 2006 Playwriting Intensives.

Four Tanka

by Ram Krishna Singh

Awaiting the wave
that will wash away empty hours
and endless longing
in the dead silence at sea
I pull down chunks of sky

The mirror swallowed
my footprints on the shore
I couldn’t blame the waves
the geese kept flying over the head
the shadows kept moving afar

Naked children crowd
as I pass through the alleys
between smelly slums:
dogs bark to alert them to
the presence of a stranger

I’m no river
floating toward the sea:
I must find my way
asking strangers in strange places
sensing soul, using insight

From the book I Am No Jesus and other selected poems

Ram Krishna Singh, born, brought up and educated in Varanasi (U.P., India), has been writing poetry in English for about four decades. He has published over 160 academic articles, 175 book reviews, and 17 collections of poems, including the latest I Am No Jesus And Other Selected Poems, Tanka And Haiku (English/Crimean Tatar, 2014), New And Selected Poems Tanka And Haiku (2012), and Sense And Silence: Collected Poems (2010).

Appreciated for his tanka and haiku, Dr. Singh's poems have been anthologized in over a hundred books. His poems have been translated into Japanese, Greek, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Slovene, Croatian, Farsi, Arabic, Serbian, Esperanto, Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, and Bangla. A member of several literary bodies and editorial boards, Dr. Singh is currently Professor (HAG) at Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 (India).

Promise and Proscription

by Michael Faia

While God hath never known divorce nor, in full paradox,
entertained ever the sacraments of the birthing room,
She does walk processions of love and death;
each entailing a march, a wedding march,
a funeral march, each its own musicals,
threnody, lovesong—and flowers, the flowers,
catafalques covered in flowers, wedding barrows
covered in flowers transporting the dead,
or the living in comfort covered in flowers;
each a procession, each with unique, mandated colors
everywhere, each enfolded in rituals of escape:

Honeymoon, moon of honey, luna de miel,
demanded days of seclusion, processions toward seclusion;
all paraphernalia of marriage and death: something old—
something older than any still living among the living;
something new—the lying words, the casket, the monument,
the crystal-crumbled social structures; something borrowed—
the friends not friends, family not family, eulogies prefab;
something blue—the last of the list, the matrimonial promises,
that the brilliance of these colors will now subside,
that these colors indeed will run, that these colors already have moved
toward darker edges of the spectrum that, in the end, will hang
its own black and purple and bluish bunting bluely everywhere.

When, you ask, will I ever give you a wedding ring?
And this I promise: I will give you a ring for our marriage
on the day when you give me a ring for my funeral.
These rings will have two sides: an inside, an outside.
Neither, therefore, will be true. I also demand rings
for birth and divorce, the rings of Möbius:
They will have only an inside. The solitude, the rectitude inevitable,
inescapable. These rings, in the very form of them, will cut:
one toward the heart, one toward the grave.

Michael Faia has served as faculty member at various schools (California State University, University of Southern California, Tongan Royal Institute of Technology, University of Toronto (OISE), La Universidad Veracruzana, William & Mary, Whittier College, University of Wisconsin at Madison). His vita and many of his academic articles and books can be seen on his homepage. Faia's best known book is Dynamic Functionalism: Strategy and Tactics…

Winter Wheat

by Gianni Skaragas

You had a thing for childless men,
I had a thing for fatherless women.
You could see the bottom of my glass,
I could look at the white flood of your headlights.
You took me in,
I tried to love you back to satiety.
We hold each other’s gaze in the night
the way people in porn movies sometimes do.
It’s the reverence of most strangers for the unexpected
after their eyes become accustomed to the gloom:
as if the definite shape of things were an achievement.

Gianni Skaragas is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. He writes in both English and Greek. His short fiction has appeared in World Literature Today, Crannóg, Midnight Circus, The Tower Journal, Story Shack, and elsewhere. His play, Prime Numbers, premiered off-Broadway in New York in 2009. He is a Fulbright Fellow and member of the Association of European Journalists.

Congenital Defects

by Mitchell Grabois

1.

My Russian cousin will not tell me what’s happening. He wants to keep me in the dark. He fancies himself Dostoyevsky, or the famous magician, Krylov the Fry Pan. He won’t even tell me why they call him that.

He finally got a great girlfriend, really cute, cute as a chipmunk, but he’s thinking of selling her online. He likes the idea of being a Human Trafficker.

Why would you even think of doing something like that, I ask him. He’s a distant cousin, but he’s got my nose, my jaw, my eyes.

He replies: The one who grabs the rat by the tail--he will get the vacuum cleaner.

2.

My son is born with colic and a bad attitude that destroys all babysitters, but worst of all, he has Pupila Duplex, two irises, two corneas, and two retinas on the eyeball of each eye. It’s as if he has four eyes. He’s a freak, but the condition gives him more data than a normal person, and increased focus. As soon as he could talk, he’s telling me what to do.

He tells me: The Chinese emperor Liu Ch’ung had this mutation. The populace fell to their knees in awe and wonder whenever he came within five miles. Sign over your Parenting Card, old man. I’m in charge now.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over seven hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.