Wednesday, December 31, 2014

3 historical portraits

by stephanie zweig

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

1. cleopatra

cleopatra lived a long time ago.

but not really so long ago, when you stop and think about it.

look at it this way. suppose you are on a bus or a subway car, fairly crowded but not jam-packed. or in a movie theater that has a decent crowd, but it is not so crowded you can't be comfortable. or a fairly large restaurant, that is pretty busy. you get the idea.

in all these cases, there might be about forty people.

forty people. no big deal. you can even sort of see them with your naked eye all at once.

now figure those forty people have an average life span of fifty years. that sounds a little low, in the modern age, but figure some of them will die young or have heart attacks or be killed in auto accidents or whatever. fifty is a pretty conservative number.

now take those forty people - that you can see with your naked eye all at once - and instead of them leading their average fifty year lives all at once, they live them back to back. that is 40 x 50 = 2000 years , which is about how long ago cleopatra lived. actually she died in 30 b c so that is 2044 years ago.

now does it seem so long ago? now compare those 40 people whose combined lives go back to the time of cleopatra and julius caesar and pontius pilate and john the baptist with the number of people alive right now - about 7 billion.

7 billion people alive right now, but if you live to be 90, tthere are only about 3 billion seconds in your life.

looked at that way, human history is like a big puddle, way wider than it is deep.

anyway, back to cleopatra.

she was one of the most famous people that ever lived, and as we see, she did not really live all that long ago.

but what do we really know about her?

not much.

we know she lived and died, and that she was a human female, and she was married three times including twice to her brothers, and she had four children, including a set of twins.

but what was she like? was she a nice person, did anybody really like her?

there is one statue that might be her, and it has a big nose, but it might not even be her.

did she have big ears, or a big ass, or big tits, and did she laugh at certain types of jokes or did she have any sense of humor at all?

did she make up stories? did she talk about people behind their backs?

did she really like men, or did she just marry them and have sex with them because she had to?

did she look people right in the eye when she talked to them? was she a straight shooter? a stand-up gal?

she had servants and slaves, did she treat them nice?

nobody really knows.

and she was one of the most famous people who ever lived, one of the most famous women for sure, and did not live so long ago.

it makes you stop and think.


2. hitler

adolf hitler was born when the modern age was just beginning.

instead of living all their lives in little villages and towns and tribes where everybody knew everybody else, and where it got dark every night, more people were living in big cities all jammed together and they had electric light.

and newspapers, and then radio, brought news from all over the world as soon as it happened.

there was one world.

and millions, hundreds of millions of people could dream of conquering the world.

and have a picture in their minds of the world they wanted to conquer.

before if someone dreamed of conquering the world, they would have had to ride out on a horse and find most of the world first before they could conquer it - so they would not even know what they were getting into.

but now, with a clear picture in their mind of what was out there, hundreds of millions of men and boys, and no doubt plenty of women and girls too, went to sleep every night dreaming of world domination.

out of all those innumerable dreamers, now in the billions, no one has actually achieved the prize, but one of the the few who had made a pretty good start was adolf hitler.

he gave it a good try, but in the end he was overwhelmed and defeated.

he is now remembered as the worst human being who ever lived.


3. joe mccarthy

joe mccarthy was a united states senator . he was never president of the united states, or ruler or dictator of any country, not even a little one.

he never commanded an army or navy or was even mayor of a town.

so far as is known , he never killed anybody, or had them killed, or even had anybody directly arrested or thrown in jail.

despite this, he is generally recognized as the second worst human being who ever lived, second only to hitler.

why, you may ask?

because he did the worst thing anybody can do, much worse than killing people.

he spit on people's dreams.

millions of people, male and female alike, especially among the more educated classes, not only dream of conquering the world, but dream of the whole world being grateful to them and loving them for conquering the world, because they are going to take the opportunity to make the world a nicer place to live - because all the bad people will be killed or put in jail, and only the nice people will be left.

most of these dreamers, as they get older, what with one thing and another, give up their dreams. but they always remember them, and are proud of the fact that they had them.

what joe mccarthy did was, instead of admiring these people for their dreams, told them they should never have had them, and should be ashamed of them.

and maybe even lose their well-paying and respectable jobs and social standings because of them.

for this he is remembered in infamy forever.


Friday, December 5, 2014

5 poems by 5 poets

illustrations by palomine studios and penmarq studios


by manfred corrington sternwall

we have all been here before
we have walked along this shore
we have walked down these same streets
in this same rain and fog and sleet

from this tree we have been hanged often
and risen all from this same coffin
watched this same screaming face beneath
our yellow eyes and tearing teeth

we have run from these same guns
to these same full moons and rising suns
flown across the same dark clouds
and never spoken our name aloud

beneath these windows we will wait
our dreadful lusts to finally sate
we have waited here before
boats burned to ashes on an alien shore


by ashford wallace cordere

the avuncular peregrinations of the pausanian
beribbon the corroded demesne of the embolic
but the forensic-minded gardener
seizes the opportunity to froth

this is an old planet
and has been inhabited too long
by the cartelized dominicans
of the kinetic inquisition
whose random macaques have forgotten their birthright

let us then resolve our torpid feuds
before the last bright roundelay has been assimilated

we have watched the shadows creep across the softball field
and all too tenderly forgotten
the cauterized cheese omelettes of the deracinated


by mary crow fogg

night, the night
has always

been my best
my only

friend,my true
love, no, let

me rephrase
that, after

all, we are
here to tell

the truth as
best we can

i know you
insist that

such efforts
are without

meaning, where
were we, oh

yes, in the
night, in the

"middle of
the night", a

phrase not as

used as it
used to be

i wonder
why that is

what can it mean?

by s r ford

the ketchup stain on the foulard
of the last champion of civilization

better than any twenty volumes
on the loss of the mimetic tradition

sounds the trumpet of an age without trumpets

i warned him repeatedly
that the angry whopper is not an enemy
to be despised

but he thought twenty five centuries
of slowly accreting revelations

of words forgotten
describing sensations no longer petrified

would stand at the gate
against eight billion fun-loving primates

i salute you, sir
for fighting the good fight

as your glasses slide down your nose

every child should sing

by corinne delmonico

people are fucked up
i'm sorry, but they are

they should be good
but they are not

all this racism,sexism and homophobia
what's the big idea?

and capitalism!
that's the worst of all

that's the cause of the whole mess

and religion too
no letting religion off the hook

if i was in charge
i wouldn't stand for any of it

it would all have to go
just like that

no ifs ands or buts
and no sniveling excuses

and if someone has the bright idea
to get up and say

well without racism sexism and homophobia
what are we supposed to do for excitement?

or somebody else says
what? with no capitalism

and we can't go shopping
i mean what the fuck?

or, if there's no religion
what should i get dressed up for?

i like to get dressed up on sunday
thank you very much

i will stand my ground
and tell them

to just deal with it
because every chlld should sing.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

3 poems by 3 poets

illustrations by palomine studios


by horace p sternwall

what could be finer
than at 4 a m in a diner
to put ketchup on your fries
and know you are truly wise?

and see the face of your maker
in the empty sugar shaker
and drink your coffee black
as the universe spins off track?

but something goes wrong
with the smoothest song
just as you drift off to bliss
you're wakened by the icy kiss

of the vampires and ghouls
with their messages and rules
and their reminders to move on
into the unforgiving dawn

you know what's really tough?
when your fellow humans have enough
of your scintillating presence
they can make it most unpleasant

and so you trudge away
into the long and looping day
beneath a sky that never ends
with the clouds your only friends


by corinne delmonico

my dad was an asshole
my mom was a slut
my brother was a bully
my sister was a nut

we all lived together
in a trailer in the park
things were bad in daylight
and got worse when it got dark

we had one couch between us
and only one tv
think about that -
for the whole family!

as i got older
i grew bored
i packed one night
while the others snored

i stole everything
everything they had
if they didn’t like it
too bad

i stuck my thumb out
for a ride
and quickly found out
that the world’s not wide

you can cry hot tears
you can shake your fists
but the open road
no longer exists

before i was out on the road
for an hour
the man came along
and had me in his power

i had freedom for a minute
not even as much as
the man came along
and had me in his clutches

i know who i am
i know who you are
the world is the back seat
of a rolling police car

you can sit in a penthouse
you can sit in a cell
you can call it heaven
or call it hell

you can sob and moan
and get your undies in a bunch
or watch the view and ellen
until it’s time for lunch


by regina osgood stapledon

spread your wings, my soul
immortality be my goal
and passion my shining star
to carry me so far

above the dreamless herd
i only need one word -
love -
to soar above

higher - ever higher
to deathless desire

yes, go ahead and smile
so will i -
after a while

and so will he
with the cruelty
from which passion is born

and you
with worldly scorn

but i
in happy memory

the trade, i feel
is fair
for what else is there?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

the scream

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by eddie el greco

annabelle had had just about enough.

sometimes she wanted to scream.

and then one day she did.

she was walking down the street on her lunch hour.

and she did.


for about seven seconds. which does not sound like much, but is pretty long for a scream.

a number of people were passing by.

they were all civilized people who were averse to fuss and confusion, so they pretended not to hear her.

most did not even glance at her.

a policeman who was directing traffic nearby heard the scream and approached annabelle.

by the time he reached her, the seven seconds were over and she had stopped screaming.

"are you all right, miss?" the policeman asked.

"yes, i am, thank you."

"are you sure?"

"yes. i just - i just had to vent a little bit."

"that's quite all right. we all do sometimes." the policeman smiled at annabelle.

"thank you. but i am all right now."

the policeman nodded and went back to his traffic and annabelle went back to the office.


day off

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by konrad kraus

veranilda marthorpe had trouble finding good help.

so although jenny wilks, her maid of all work, was not the sharpest pin in the cushion, veranilda kept her on because she was at least respectful and never complained, about her wages or anything else.

veranilda was surprised one morning when jenny asked for a day off.

"a day off? whatever for?" veranilda had a sudden vague idea that jenny - who never spoke of herself and was of course never encouraged to do so - might have a sick or dying relative somewhere.

"i would just like to have one, ma'am."

veranilda laughed, somewhat relieved. "but what are you going to do on this so-called ' day off' ?"

"i don't know, ma'am, but i would like one."

veranilda laughed again. she looked at the grandfather clock in the shadows of the drawing room. it showed eleven o'clock.

"i will tell you what. you may have a half day off - for whatever good it may do you. you may leave at noon. but be back in time to help cook prepare tea." veranilda looked at jenny with her best "humorous" expression. "do you think that will suit you ?" she almost added, sarcastically, "miss", but thought better of it.

jenny hesitated. "yes, ma'm. thank you, ma'am."

much as veranilda had suspected, jenny did not have a clear idea of what she wanted to do with her time off.

she walked to a little park about ten minutes walk from the marthorpe house and took a seat on a bench facing the street.

a few people walked by, but not many, for it was a cold day.

none of the people who passed by spoke to jenny, or she to them.

after a while she judged it must be time to return to help mrs jennings prepare tea.

a military looking older man with thick glasses and a handlebar mustache was walking by, and jenny politely enquired of him what time it was.

he looked at her curiously, took a watch out of his vest pocket and told her it was getting on to quarter past three.

jenny thanked him, and after allowing him time to move along so that he might not imagine she was following him, got up and returned to the house.

she never asked mrs marthorpe for time off again.

that night she had the most peaceful sleep she had had for years, untroubled by strange dreams.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

4 more poems by 4 poets

illustrations by palomine studios

by myself: a fragment

by regina osgood stapledon

under a tree, all by myself
i wrote a poem about an elf
a wizard, and a unicorn
and a princess who wished she had never been born

ergath the elf was very short
he was a cruel and violent sort
filled with grievance against his fellows
and disinclined to be kind and mellow

wando the wizard was short and round
and dispensed his magic by the pound
set himself up by the side of the road
and offered to lighten travelers' loads

roger was a unicorn
of all his illusions he had been shorn
he had been a philosopher for a while
and had forgotten how to smile

the princess was a prisoner
of all who had betrayed her
she was the meekest of the meek
and tears rolled down her shadowed cheek

the lost road

by jack dale moody

long ago and far away
we had songs to sing and things to say
we had worn out soles and crooked dentures
but every day was a new adventure

long ago and far away
we met girls named trixie every day
we didn't vacation in the south of france
but life was one long song and dance

now the roads are long and the days are short
there are no more girls in any port
and though we wander many a mile
those who pass us never smile

where are the windowsills with apple pies?
where are the laughing clouds in azure skies?
where are the scarecrows with their floppy hats?
the friendly barking dogs and sleepy cats?

the empty fields now watch us as we pass
who knows what hides within the tangled grass?


by wiggly jones, "the little hippie boy"

see the trees
see the sky
i was born
but i don't know why

waiting waiting
for a ride
night is falling
nowhere to hide

folks are nasty
folks are nice
folks are quick
to give advice

best advice
i ever had
don't get too happy
or too sad

got a blister
on my feet
sure could use
a bite to eat

waiting waiting
for a ride
night is falling
nowhere to hide


by samantha monday sternwall

a tender yeared cynic
can give a clinic
to the worldly wise and old
on being cold

the rosy cheeks of youth
blush with truth
and the false smiles of elders
are reduced to embers

with unclouded eyes
beneath blue and empty skies
they describe what they see
without hypocrisy

as it was in the day
it is just nature's way
what is colder than morning air?
falling night can not compare

Saturday, November 15, 2014

champion of the world

by f flynn

illustrated by roy dismas

the alien ship landed in pakistan, in a valley a few hundred miles south of islamabad.

the aliens took their time about emerging from the ship after landing.

but before a decision on whether to attack the ship, and with what, could be reached by such authorities as there were in the world to decide such things, an alien finally came forth and read a statement, simultaneously in the one hundred and twenty-three most widely used languages in the world.

the "alien" looked human, which later gave rise to speculation, which could never be proven or disproven, that they had spent their time in the ship adjusting the messenger's outward appearance to earthling's expectations.

the alien took the form of a human female about thirty years old, with copper colored skin, long blonde hair, and wearing what looked like a salvation army uniform from the 1970's.

the first question asked the alien, by ms nelly chan of the world news bureau, was whether they had come in peace.

the alien responded that they had come in neither peace nor war, but in a spirit of honest sportsmanship.

the alien then explained their agenda.

they would make a list of all the humans on earth.

in response from a question from ms irina dalton of the economist, the alien said that they could do this on their own, and did not need any help, thank you very much.

once the list had been compiled, one name would be chosen randomly and that person would be the earth’s champion.

a battle, or contest, would take place between the earth champion and a champion from the alien ship. it would, of course, be televised world wide.

if the alien won, the human race would be loaded on to the ship - in response to a question from al jaspers of wolf news, the alien laughingly assured the reporters that they had their ways and that space on the ship presented no problem - and the humans would then be taken away as slaves to a distant universe.

but if the human won, the aliens would simply get back in the ship and never return.

and if the humans refused this scenario, earth would, of course, be blown to bits.

although there was some dissatisfaction expressed, especially by wolf news and other patriotic united states media, the alien offer was accepted on behalf of the human race by the secretary general of the united nations.

the humans were counted by the aliens in a matter of minutes.

the lottery was scheduled for noon the next day, tokyo time, and the fight at noon the day after that, to give humans time to make arrangements to be in front of their televisions for the climactic event.

the “winner” of the lottery was dmitri merezhkovski, a young man of mixed russian and lithuanian ancestry living in minsk, and working as a janitor in the headquarters of a financial consulting firm.

dmitri was nineteen years old and had led an uneventful life.

dmitri had secret dreams of living in “the old days” where he would live on a little farm of his own with a faithful “little girl to call his own” and six or seven children who would look after him in his old age.

he never confessed these fantasies to anyone, and lived the life of a young man of his time and place and class, with sufficient quantities of beer, pizza, porno and video games to get through the days and nights.

dmitri expected to be chosen in the lottery and was not surprised when he was. later, a survey would be taken that professed to show that approximately 73% of the human race expected to be the chosen one.

before his status as champion was announced, the aliens came and notified dmitri that he had been selected and escorted him to easter island, where the contest was to take place.

the aliens politely declined to answer any of dmitri’s questions as to the exact nature of the contest, but they did treat him to an excellent meal of macaroni and cheese and coors light beer, with a big piece of chocolate cake for dessert.

the contest took place in a standard size boxing ring. dmitri asked what he should wear and was told he could wear anything he wanted so he wore his usual attire of jeans, a dallas cowboys t-shirt, and nikes.

he was not given boxing gloves or any kind of weapon, but was told to stand in one corner of the ring.

a single television camera overlooked the boxing ring.

suddenly the alien champion appeared in the center of the ring. it did not take human form. it looked like a small blue pumpkin.

dmitri was told to engage with it. he walked to the center of the ring, and after a slight hesitation, stepped on the pumpkin-like object.

it squished.

that was it. the fight was over. dmitri had won.

he was asked if he would like to be taken to hong kong or to san francisco and he chose san francisco.

a helicopter took him to alcatraz and a few minutes later, the alien ship, as promised, went back to wherever it had come from.

dmitri was hailed in the world media as a hero. he had received no payment for his effort from either the aliens or the united nations or any other official human agency, but for several weeks he was housed and well fed by the various media entities interviewing him.

he signed a book deal (which later fell through).

he was approached by women, though not nearly as many, or as wealthy and beautiful, as he had thought he might.

interest in dmitri quickly faded. it was apparent that he did not have star power, or any aptitude for banter or sound bites.

he was kind of boring. one helpful young woman from wolf news also explained to him that he did not have a “cool name”, one that was euphonious or easily remembered, and that this was a serious obstacle to enduring fame.

but worse was to come. after the initial excitement of the match with the alien, a growing skepticism about the whole affair became widespread, especially among young people and the most avid consumers of media products.

later, an industry of books and movies debunking and questioning the fight developed. the "official" account of the fight was at least as widely disbelieved as those of the moon landing or the collapse of the twin towers, though not as much as that of the assassination of jfk.

the whole thing was obviously staged. although how, and by whom, or for what purpose, was never agreed on by the skeptics, these considerations only added to the passion and acrimony of the discussions.

among other things, was it not a coincidence that a fairly strong young man, and a white man at that, not an infant or an octogenarian person in a nursing home, was selected?

the “sheeple” who believed the media account responded that almost anyone, even a child or senile person, could have stepped on the blue pumpkin.

this only underlined another problem - that dmitri’s victory was, after the initial euphoria, perceived as too easy. also, he had no back story of heroic preparation or overcoming of long odds.

with all those things working against him, dmitri’s day in the sun quickly faded.

other more interesting events, particularly the deliberate or accidental appearances of female media personalities in stages of undress, took precedence in the news.

with the money he had left over from the book deal, dmitri took a bus to las vegas.

he lost the rest of his money almost immediately, but found vegas in some ways a friendlier place than most of the united states . it was filled with “regular folks” on vacation , and even when his fame had almost completely faded, many of them were happy to treat him to drinks and cheeseburgers to hear his oft-told tale.

dmitri grew homesick and a bit despondent.

after a small piece about him appeared in a local vegas newspaper, a kindly billionaire bought him a plane ticket back to minsk.

he had been replaced at his old job, but found work as a delivery person at a pizzeria where he had worked part time when still in school.