Tales of the Landed Gentry by Randall DeVallance

Here’s a story that sounds invented but is true. Not that every last detail is factual right down to the letter, but the events I’m about to describe to you are not fabricated. That is to say that while the story has been assembled from various scraps of gossip, innuendo, hearsay and rumor, its central core cannot be disputed. And those that have disputed it have employed distortion, prevarication, disinformation and double-speak to achieve their ends. Everything I tell you now was relayed to me, personally, by indisputably credible sources. And the sources from which my sources received their information, I was assured, were really top-notch.

So, here goes: it concerns a private tennis match between Roland T. Calhoun, the scion of a wealthy American Band-Aid manufacturer, and Sir Alistair Shrewsbottom, 5th Earl of Shrub’s End. Long an admirer of the American ‘can-do’ spirit, it was the Earl’s habit to invite men of prominence from across the pond to visit him on his sprawling estate, Cromwell House, where he lavished them with the finest food and drink from around the world. Perhaps because his was inherited wealth, bestowed rather than earned, the Earl’s zealous generosity had the feeling of atonement, an apology that doubled as an assertion that he belonged in the same class as these self-made titans. Roland T. Calhoun, for instance – not content to live idly on the substantial allowance his father provided him – had made his own fortune by copyrighting the term ‘Band-Aid’, then suing his father’s company for licensing fees. It was exactly this sort of initiative and drive the Earl respected.

One area where the Earl’s generosity did not extend was the tennis court. It was here, on the manicured grass surface of his private playing grounds, which he dubbed ‘The Meadows’, that the Earl sought to test his mettle against the world’s best. To this end he spared no expense, going so far as to finance once-a-month steamship passage so that the great Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman herself could tutor him. By the time of Roland T. Calhoun’s visit in 1924, it was widely agreed throughout the British Isles that no one could whack a ball like old Shrewsbottom, and aristocrat and commoner alike took a certain patriotic satisfaction in the Earl’s clinical dissection of one Yankee bigwig after another.

Some background before we get to the matter at hand. Only two weeks before the match in question, the Earl had caused a minor diplomatic kerfuffle when, at a cocktail party at the American embassy in London, he had tipsily referred to the visiting Zelda Fitzgerald as a “ginned-up foxtrotter who married into respectability”. The ferociousness with which the ambassador had leapt to Ms. Fitzgerald’s defense confirmed the suspicions of the ambassador’s wife that the two of them were having an affair. The evening came to an abrupt and noisy end, culminating in the Earl’s ejection from the premises by two beefy, young Marines into the back of a waiting cab. Through the disorienting fog of a hangover, The Earl awakened the following morning to a telegram from the Prime Minister’s office, informing him that he should not be expecting an invitation to any State function in the foreseeable future.

So it was in a climate of strained Anglo-American relations that the motorcar carrying Roland T. Calhoun pulled up in front of Cromwell House’s iron gates. Happily for the Earl, his visitor seemed blissfully unaware of his cocktail party gaffe, and even less concerned for the dignity of Zelda Fitzgerald. “I don’t care much for them New York types,” he said, giving the Earl a chummy slap on the back. “Maybe I’m just an old southern bumpkin, but I can’t think of anything New York has that Alabama don’t.” The Earl could think of quite a few things, but experience had taught him the virtues of keeping his mouth shut.

Over a dinner of boiled eel and beetroot salad, the Earl unveiled for Calhoun his recent prize purchase – a custom-made, Draper & Maynard racquet with otter-skin grip and reinforced gossamer webbing. “Well, I’ll be!” said Calhoun, grateful for the opportunity to furtively dispose of his food in in a nearby potted fern. “That there is a fine piece of equipment!” The Earl, boasting of his new racquet’s lightness and aerodynamic qualities, offered to let Calhoun take a few practice swings there in the dining room, and the latter assented, darting this way and that, his right arm swinging wildly as if he were riding an invisible bucking bronco. So engrossed was he, “Yee-haw!”-ing and “Ya-hoo!”-ing to his heart’s content, that he failed to maintain proper gripping technique; after one particularly impassioned swing, the racquet came loose from his hand and propelled across the room, smashing at last into an ornate vase perched atop the mantelpiece there.

“Ho!” said the Earl and rushed to inspect the damage. It was, as they say, not good. The carnage called to mind the children’s rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’, but whereas Humpty Dumpty had been a man – or an egg, or an egg-shaped man; the Earl had never been quite clear on this – the shattered heap before him was of a far more valuable provenance. He calculated his chances of repairing the damage and found his spirits unbucked. Even with “all the King’s horses and all the King’s men” on the job, they had still been forced to chalk Humpty up as a miss. As an Earl, Shrewsbottom had considerably less resources to call upon. His only man – being his valet, Hives – was not exactly what you’d call “hot shakes” with a tube of glue.

“Golly,” said Calhoun soberly, as he joined the Earl. “I guess I went and made a mess of it, huh?” To his credit, he offered to pay whatever it cost to replace the broken vase, but the Earl just shook his head. If it had only been a matter of money the Earl would have laughed the whole incident off, perhaps even smashed another vase himself in the spirit of camaraderie. This vase, however, possessed sentimental value. Worse yet, the sentiments belonged to the Earl’s father, retired General Horatio Herbert Shrewsbottom. Shrewsbottom père had brought the vase home with him from Africa after leading a regiment in the Sudan Campaign. It was his only spoil of war and a prized memento, but its lilac-and-periwinkle flower pattern was exactly what the Earl had needed to tie his dining room together, and so he had slipped it beneath the folds of his overcoat while paying his father a surprise visit the month before. He had fully intended to return the vase after Mr. Calhoun’s visit, or at least that’s what he told himself, but that hardly mattered now. The road to Hell was paved with such things, he reflected – good intentions, that is, not vases.

“If he finds out I nicked it, I’m into rubble,” said the Earl. “My ears will come in for a sound boxing. Have you ever had your ears boxed by a retired British general, Mr. Calhoun?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Consider yourself among the fortunate. Generals are known to have uniformly large hands.”

The prospect of an ear-boxing having ignited his adrenaline glands, the Earl was not long in concocting a plan to get out this sticky situation. As it had been his hand that had dealt the fatal blow, Roland T. Calhoun agreed to help out in any way that he could. So it was that two days hence, an interview with the visiting “American captain of industry” appeared in the morning edition of the Shrub’s End Daily Observer, where, amongst a list of innocuous observations of the “British-people-drive-on-the-left,-American-people-drive-on-the-right” variety, mention was made of the declining state of the British military, which hit its nadir, according to Calhoun, “around the time of the Sudan Campaign”, where it required “twenty-thousand troops with machine guns to take out a bunch of camel-riding yokels dressed in bed sheets”.

That same afternoon, the Earl got in his motorcar and went to pay his father a surprise visit. He found the aged relative pacing about the drawing room in an apoplectic rage, clutching a newspaper. “Have you seen this bilge!?” he said by way of greeting, shoving the paper in the Earl’s face.

“In fact, I have,” said the Earl.

“What does this uncouth, Confederate bandage-merchant know about war!? Someone ought to take him down a peg!”

“Coincidentally, that’s why I came to see you. It just so happens that I have challenged this Mr. Calhoun to a tennis match, but The Meadows is being re-seeded and I have nowhere to host it. Would you mind very much if we used your court?”

“Mind? I insist! Call this rabble-rouser and schedule the match, forthwith. I’ll have the grounds crew get everything prepared.”

The Earl and Roland T. Calhoun faced off the following morning in the general’s cavernous, private stadium. They were alone except for the owner himself, as well as his household staff, whom the general had excused from duties and ordered to sit in the stands to cheer his son to victory. Unknown to the elder Shrewsbottom, this dovetailed perfectly with the Earl’s plan, for as the match commenced, the Earl’s valet, Hives, was simultaneously tiptoeing his way into the general’s house to deposit the remnants of the prized vase on the floor of a guest bedroom which overlooked the court. Having done so, he slid open the window and waved from it a white handkerchief, the agreed-upon signal that all was in place.

Down below, Roland T. Calhoun was receiving a right thrashing. He had of course agreed to throw the match beforehand, and he was doing a splendid job, sending forehands and backhands, lobs and drop shots alike careening around the grounds like drunken pinballs. The Earl had taken the first set 6-0 and led the second 5-0, with the serve for match point. The general was beside himself with glee. “Go on, Alistair!” he bellowed. “Send this blighter back to the States with a pair of goose eggs!”

A flash of white caught Roland T. Calhoun’s eye. He looked across court at the Earl and winked – everything was ready. The Earl tossed the ball high and sent a soft, high-bouncing serve towards Calhoun, who cocked his racquet back and gave the ball a mighty wallop, sending it soaring over the bleachers and fence surrounding the court, straight through the open window of the guest bedroom, from which there emanated a mighty crash.

“Christ, what was that?” cried the general, and went running off with his staff to investigate. When they had gone, Calhoun and the Earl met at center-court. “Well, I suppose now I owe you one,” said the Earl.

“Don’t mention it,” said Calhoun, as a flashbulb ignited off to their side. The Earl turned, surprised, to find a photographer from the Daily Observer. “I decided to use all the controversy surrounding the match to gain a little notoriety and score an introduction with one of your big medical supply manufacturers,” said Calhoun. “I’m going to sell ‘em on leasing the name ‘Band-Aid’ from me, make myself a fortune.”

“Glad I could be of assistance,” said the Earl. “Might I ask which firm you’re planning on meeting with?”

Roland T. Calhoun was about to answer when a pair of hands the size of frying pans appeared on either side of his head and clapped him soundly on the ears. “Hmph!” gasped Calhoun, emitting a gurgling sound not unlike the purr of a tubercular cat. He tottered off, weaving like a punch-drunk infant, as flashbulbs exploded in the background.

“Can you believe it?” said the general. “That twit’s gone and broken my vase!”

Several months later, the Earl was lounging in his drawing room when Hives entered and handed him a letter. “My word, Hives,” he said, after skimming it over, “this letter is from Roland T. Calhoun. You’ll never guess what it says. Turns out that the pictures of my father clapping poor Role on the ears made it all the way to America. One day Role was sitting in his office when he got a telephone call. He picked up the receiver, and there on the other end was Zelda Fitzgerald! She told him she’d seen the pictures in the Times and recognized ‘that horrid Limey from the embassy’ – she’s referring to me, there, Hives – and wanted to get in contact. Turns out our Zelda is also from Alabama. The two hit it off from the word go. They’ve been spending so much time together that old F. Scott is beside himself with jealousy. He’s apparently taken to rewriting the novel he’s been working on – Gatsby of West Egg, or something like that – and added a character based on Role! Ever read any F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hives?”

“Yes, sir,” said Hives.

“What do you think? Anything to him?”

“His work is not without its merits, sir.”

“Hmm. Seeing as how I’m somewhat responsible for all this, I guess you could say that I’ve influenced literary history, what?”

“One could say anything, sir.”

“Precisely. I believe that’s enough work for one day. Draw the curtains, Hives. I wish to rest.”

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Three poems by Rob Plath

UNTITLED

one dark night of the soul
instructs us more than
10,000 everydays

VICELESS

my ex-vices only fueled
this superabundance
of the blues

WALK ABOUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN, MOTHERFUCKERS

you pass it by

a cat crushed
on the shoulder
of the road
at 10 am

but you know
it isn’t just
a dead cat

it’s a sort of
flat, crystal ball

it’s king of
wizards

offering us only
one vision
which matters

Two Poems by Cassandra Dallett

The City In No Particular Order

In The City once a year it’s hot enough to ride the 5 Fulton to Ocean Beach
Where crashing surf eats sand by the mile
an undertow so hungry it pulls icy toes out from under you
you can only get more than a foot in if you are drunk ,drunk, drunk,
Malt liquor Mickey’s 40-ounce drunk and I got in to my shoulders that way once
a sensation colder than my whole snowy upbringing.

San Francisco is Buckwheat driving a cab through the Castro tourists in the backseat stare
as a man fucks another man against a tree pulls his dick out causing a shitty waterfall.

We were drunken teenagers skipping down Haight Street
Suzanne in the lead always climbing to the top of light poles and teetering on the edges of cliffs
she was carrying a Mylar balloon that night
lost it around Clayton in front of the fruit stand
it flew right up into Muni lines
sparks rained down and store windows fell into darkness
roaring and cheering we ruled the city.

All those times we had to fix the glass front door
all those bodies launched through it drunk and desperate to feel
slamming the gate shaking the flat calling down to Johnsons
and scraping up the money to replace the glass again, like Suzanne kicking and screaming
that she wasn’t scared that she would fight us all.

Once in a flat down on San Jose Ave. we had to pull Danny Lucky off her
his teeth entrenched in her forehead
Once I left them in my room while we went to the radio station
late night for the metal hours we returned deep in Jack Daniels
and found every poster lopsided furniture upside down
Danny and Suzy more into killing each other than fucking.

My City was Bags the Skinhead,
I shaved my head traded squeaky combat boots for Doc Martin’s and braces
circled the block all day long to stay near him
on my knees bent over at parties blacked out in alleys trying to get closer
when we were alone we talked and fucked all night
did speed in the pink palace went back to my place
caused an uproar with my roommates
alone at night I crossed my fingers asked God
to make him love me make me his woman
tall muscled tatted,
drunk enough he played his flute and I followed.

I walked home alone a lot, beer cans hurled from cars through Fillmore
I took dangerous routes on purpose the city was mine.
Three a.m. a guy walked out of the Palladium and punched me dead in the face
And just kept walking probably thought I was a dude standing there
bald headed drunk daze on my way to the pit to drink more.

In San Francisco I sat at Hamilton Recreation watching my boyfriend Dre
play Basketball. My hair grown out blonde still wearing fishnets from the old days
but sucking candy sticks and trying to act all cute and sassy like the black girls.
I was his girl we rode the bus on dates. I wore a letterman jacket and Reeboks.
We drank milkshakes and rocked Stan Smiths. He claimed me.
We beat the fuck out of each other his feet and fists crushing me.
His flesh under my nails, breaking me, holding keys scaring his face,
him chasing me, me chasing him, me filling sunglasses with tears black eyes
Him spending his first night in jail after they led him out, left me unrecognizable pile of purple bruises.

My first night in jail, Cookie was one of my cellies, brown scars covered her limbs
she called it staph she was Greek had a lived a life more than heroin
but you couldn’t tell by looking at her. I was a kid who’d never changed in a locker room never got dressed for gym,
flunked in fact, stood in dirty water naked like everyone else.
They called me Brooke Shields. Hey Brooke what you in here for a B case huh?
Prostitution was always assumed I was white and not strung out what else could it be,

Jail freed me,
from me
so alone.

Ocean Beach Babylon
(For Brad 5/9/1970-4/23/2012)

When I stopped doing drugs
my friends were just getting started.
Fighting in their underwear over needles and dope
in the day light of our front door.
from the top of the stairs
I scream at them to shut the fuck up.
I worked all night on phone sex lines
and I‘m just trying to sleep.

Brad screams back at me calls me a bitch,
says, it’s no wonder that my boyfriend
beat the shit out of me.
“A nigger” that’s what he calls me.
his face is a mask of dope and sickness.
I’m already down my“boyfriend” just stomped me
into the ground while saying he loved me.
I don’t speak to Brad for years.

He goes to jail then prison,
violates parole every eighteen months,
and spends close to a decade behind bars.
I forgive and live, but I never forget.
That early morning scuffle on the stairs
how quickly he turned on me.
Me, trying to keep it all together,
rent paid and the phone on.

Brad was once my best friend,
he was even a boyfriend.
Stood on his tip toes the first time we kissed
at a party, his girlfriend scared of me,
the big skinhead girl.
We were thrown down two flights of stairs
by the bouncers, for drinking straight from the keg,
and stealing the donations.

We left his girlfriend there
and got stung by bees hiding from the cops in Golden Gate Park.
Fucked on the roof of Chinese Projects
staring drunk and cold over the twelve story edge.
Defying gravity we tried to sleep up there
made it home on the bus where he stayed with me
till he went to Log Cabin.
When he escaped he went with my best friend
but it was cool
he was one of us and he went out with all of us over the years.
At parties me or him always got in a fight
swinging through the crowd to the other’s side
We were 86d from everywhere.
We shared blonde hair, high cheekbones,
and something that ate at us
from the inside out.

Six years after the stairs Brad called me up
“I heard you wanted to talk but I didn’t believe it” He said.
He was an ex-con, tattooed“Dirty White Boy” across his back.
From segregation back to our yellow crew
of half black and Chinese babies.
I always dated black guys had even left him for one.
I never knew where that left us,
except friends,
cause he had to do what he had to do
on the inside and I understood that.
I think.

We got together,went out to the beach.
We sat on the wall, drank,
told stories of the old days
History ate at us like the waves ate the sand.
At nightfall bonfires lit the beach
We were sure we’d find the heads and the parties of our past.

Instead the clumps of bodies
we eased into were dry
fire warmed faces grilling hot dogs, popping sodas.

Church groups, they invited us to join,
Back in the day it would have been Sunset Pods,
Head bangers or skins lighting up the beach,
scattering from cops searchlights.

Our adventures had been stolen and replaced
with the squeaky clean church folk.
It was tragic and scary,
or maybe we were.
Maybe they
invited us to church
cause our asses needed to be saved

Angel at a 25 Degree Angle… by Andrew Gallix (re-printed from Scarecrow Magazine)

Imperious, impervious, Girl on the escalator going up, pulling her case behind her like a lapdog on a lead, going up. Nifty, shifty, eyeing up Girl going up, naughty, haughty, hoity-toity.

Did she condescend to look down upon you as she went up, Angel at a 25 degree angle? Did she acknowledge your existence as she plucked celestial chords on her flyaway hair and breathed honeyed tones down her cellular phone? Did she fuck. No: your eyes did not meet. You looked at me looking at you looking at her looking up, all high and mighty, pulling her case behind her behind like a slave on a lead, soaring up — she mighty high, you mighty sore. Looked at me you did, with your chastised eyes, all hot and bothered, hot, hot under the collar, your face a slapped arse.

Andrew Gallix © 2005.

Four Poems by William Taylor Jr.

To Let Others Walk the World

I was born into the winter months
with a weak heart and frightened eyes

I met the big nothing early on
took it inside and became immune

I never bothered with the future
because the moment in hand
was always burning

abandoning dreams of justice
to sit beneath the sky
and watch things fall apart
in their fashion

to let others walk the world
as if they had some place in it

myself content with dreams
of little rooms with little windows
looking out upon the rain

sad music and wine

afternoons spent
in libraries and bars
with the drunks
and unemployed poets

all of us hungry for some quiet place
to escape the indifferent sun.

Even in This

I write poems for all the little things
that might otherwise be lost,

convincing myself I am somehow doing good
in keeping things alive a bit longer
than their natural span.

But maybe all the sad
and pretty moments
have no desire to live
beyond their tiny flash,

and I craft my words
only to try and make myself
feel somehow less alone,
selfish even in this.

The Dead Horse of Our Love (a poem in two voices)

The beauty of you was unexpected,
an accident, surely meant
for someone else

but for the strangest of moments
it was mine.

It wasn’t much, just a thing that happened.

I’ve never known
how to let go of anything,

I hoard every shard of every
perfect thing I’ve ever broken.

Dude, be a man about it.

The memory of laughter in sad hotels,

a photograph that proves
we shared the same space,

It’s over, bury it, let it go.

how you once imagined me beautiful
and the desperate way you loved,

I was mistaken.

I will carry it all
in the junkbox of my soul
for the rest of my days

Weak as fuhhhk.

and on nights when the joy
and the rage and the sorrow of everything
rises up within me like an impossible wave

I will think of you and sing.

Whatever.

If There Must

If there must be an afterlife let mine
be a little bar in San Francisco
somewhere near the ocean
an endless grey sky stretching
out over everything
dim lights
and a soft rain falling
with grand windows to watch it through
a bartender with an honest smile
leaning to fill my glass
a jukebox with all the right songs
and endless credits
to the left of me sits a blowzy blonde
with enormous laughter
and to the right an old man
with shining eyes of kindness
and stories to tell of days long passed
and we will talk
if we want to talk
or just be quiet and listen to the rain
time is obsolete
and there’s no place anyone ever
has to be and maybe an old dog
the color of gold
asleep in the corner
and people could smoke if they wanted to
I wouldn’t
mind.

As Before by Brent Powers

It is done there. Nothing to be done about it. The funerary burnings have begun, all his awful old stuff, old marked-in books and notes on paper, paper files, lengths of paper tape run over everything, tape smeared with sticky black ink in clumps of his clotted script, the whole of it carrying his stink of cheap smokes, spilled wine, scum of self love … there, so there, ruins of Athens, Rome and Frankland, ravaged by the Goths of restless impermanence. A man not yet dead, no, not yet fully cognizant of a moving on from himself that occurred years before with the disappearance of his wife and friends, the erasure of all that he was in his own memory, leaving only this detritus of paper history. No, no, not yet. He goes on as before, goes on until he can’t any more. Then there is a period of simply waiting. Hoping for something to catch fire. When it does it is the actual fires of loss. Nothing to be done. Nothing to do. But even this is a dream, the dream of an ending.

He wakes before first light on the last day before the Time Change. It is the winter of his first year in formal Exile. He now lives outside a little seaside village in Q, a place of easy retirement. Retirement indeed, for none else are criminal here, merely old, or of middle age early struck down at the futile business of working, by that business, thence put away from society.

He hasn’t yet seen any neighbors, although he does hear occasional earthworks, tractors and cats attacking the bogs which lie among the paradisial trees of what could be taken for a parkland, his loveliest residence ever. He has never even vacationed in such a splendid place.

He had thought to make another accounting of it all. Another falsification of the past, as all accounts must be. Determining to do so one day he discovered that he couldn’t even gin up enough anger to go on for very long. Perhaps he wasn’t even angry any more. Old friends will call and ask him if he’s finally set about the business and he must lie, although he has begun to wonder why he even bothers. It is over with. Over.

It could have been different. With one or two wiser choices he would be someone else entirely. A smug bureaucrat, a shopkeeper. Yes. That little bookshop he’s always wanted. Never really busy yet there is the constant traffic of a regular clientele, people who hang out, bring him coffee or even lunch. It is on the main thoroughfare of a small college town, a place that still holds out false hope. They come and go, come and go. There is talk of books and films, music, politics, the latest religious balloon. Nothing too important happens, although there are rumors. People are always getting something up, even when it’s all taken care of. There can be no peace among humans. Sooner or later someone starts shooting.

One of them comes in and begins simply enough, with a postulate of some kind. From there it follows, marches heavily, like soldiers in the dawn. It would appear to be noble yet it isn’t. One is almost bored. Marching along, as before, marching as to war. What is the war about? Some vague broken promise. An argument at cards. It doesn’t matter, it must be. And so we go on, as before, as always, scratching and biting at each other, blowing each other up. First one dead son, then another dead in retaliation. Then legions, all dead, all burning up with the files and the books and paper, sizzling meat, stench of valor, all of it burning up for no particular reason other than to make way for new conflicts. We don’t like each other very much. Never have. The wise must come down from time to time and remind us to be nice, at least love the neighbor, which is impossible. These are his thoughts, his sometime discourses, admittedly all very comfortable for a bookseller, grand pronouncements made in the safety of a musty indoors, yet all of it somehow necessary. Must keep your hand in, keep at it, generating opinions, for to opine is human, valid as any war.

And yet some time one comes in with a story, even just a small vignette, more rarely a capture of something occurring at the subatomic level which somehow generates a whole mess of sudden springing circumstance, a world born of almost nothing, a Berashith, thus:

Know then that in the year One King Portius rode out grandly with men at arms and claimed Lands to the North, adding these on to his own with the expedition of the flag. Salamander VIII, rightful heir to the North, rose up in contest against Portius and there was war. The plain was flooded. Ships were brought in. There were navel battles. Portius employed Greek Fire. Salamander was defeated. He retreated to Johnswood which is inimical to Portius. “Will we give chase?” asked Bald Walt, hero to Portius. Portius cried Nay. “We must lose our way in the Forest,” he explained, beating his palm with a ruler. “Will we eat then?” Bald Walt inquired further. When the King agreed Bald Walt signaled for his Ensign to blow the trumpet. “Let’s Eat!” Bald Walt cried. Perforce food was put out on long tables. The food was comprised of tacos and pizzas and burgers and fries, all washed down with small beer. For Entertainment there was Suzy, who danced. An argument arose between sergeants and drum majors as to the art of Suzy. One said it was Balanchine inflected belly, the other called it pole sans machinery. Opinions bred out of these like the exaggerations of plague. Let the food fights begin! Hot cheese flying. The stuff of tacos. All the vagaries of burgers. You cannot escape, you cannot escape. Yet the King did nothing but enjoy the show, and it is due to this irresponsibility that History is not kind, for Salamander made insinuation of his troops in the guise of local peasantry albeit surreptitiously armed. After all, one does not throw down with pizza no matter the topping against cold steel. Portius is humiliated. Salamander rides through the Capital with the ensauced chivalry and marchers of Portius under arrest. The gathered citizens are invited to taste of these interesting blends and a fine entertainment was had by all. Again dispute arose, this time among the food journalists. But disputes rarely stay within the boundaries of interest groups, hence this one grew to include the farming community, the tech guys, the recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, our girls in uniform, the baking collective, various lobbies, sundry paid shills, finally the Paris Light Opera entire until there was again dubious warfare …

Once more he finds himself alone. He surveys the historic landscape with an eye for souvenirs. He hopes to establish a business which includes old melted ordnance and the bones of valor beside the usual books, possibly even antique motion picture cameras, music trapped in vinyl grooves, teeth encased in amber, teeth which had broken off whilst they worked at normally soft food which had been stuffed with gravel by the enemy. These are vague hopes but hopes none the less, and he hasn’t entertained such in a long time, no, not since his ambition let him go. But who could be ambitious here? For behold yon northern mulla drawing in his lawn to partake of the customary afternoon siesta, small zs shortly oozing from his little comma mouth to join the flies above as he drifts into guiltless sleep; others following suit short upon, parading various degrees of splendor in their bedding. Even pavilions appear, and suddenly erupting canopies stretched over birch rods cross the sky. All’s well with the world that can be, and much can be well here. In the marina toy ships shift in their slips, wind chimes ring and flicker through leagues of sad air. The boats go creek and the tides reach up and clap and glitter seems to fall from the masts and the breath goes out and out, joining the wind far out to sea, and nothing has changed for him at all except for that loss of breath going out and rejoining the wind and the sea.

Two Poems by Stephen Page

Transition

When the cows have eaten all the grass
And the butcher cannot buy,
What do we do with the clover
That has not yet recovered?

When the bulls leap barbwire
To find the cows in heat,
What do we do with the toothless
Hags tagging behind their calves?

When the sheep return to twenty-one
And the shepherd is on the highway,
What do we do with the fallen twigs
And the uncut park grass?

When the fenceposts lie to rot in ponds
And the Fencer curves his line,
What do we do with the logger truck
The Lumber Jack false-bottomed?

When the Counter cannot count
And the horse herd shrinks while growing,
What do we do with the unlearned leader
That has yet to earn his office?

When the land transforms from marsh to wheat
And the Seeder sprays more herbicide,
What do we do for the migrating ducks,
And the butterflies missed by bankers?

The Old Man (2)

I saw the Walking Man today
close up
I was lying dead on the side of the road

His eyes were shaped Eskimo
His cheekbones Illini
His face and hands tattoed Maori
He height Tehuelche

When he stepped over me
he did not look down

He did not look down

He did not look down

he just stepped over me

his eyes fixed on the horizon