Check out Aleathia Drehmer’s new flash fiction zine, plus a story by me.
SPAM by Ben Myers; reviewed by Aleathia Drehmer
What attracted me to Ben Myers’ book of email inspired poetry called SPAM was the curiosity to see if he could create something from vacuous spam emails. I heard him read a poem from this chapbook on the Blackheath Books Myspace page and it furthered my desire to dig into the rest of the collection.
As with all the other publications to come from Blackheath Books, I was delivered a well-made chap that feels great in the hand. These books are assembled and crafted by the editor, and all are printed on 100% recycled paper or largely made from post-consumer waste paper. It gives them a very down to earth texture while still feeling decadent.The lettering on the cover shows two beautifully flourished letters that sandwich two simpler ones as if this were a nod to the fact that Ben Myers will attempt to construct beauty from trash.
There are 41 poems in this collection and not all of them hit the nail on the head for me. Some feel slightly contrived and forced, but that was expected to some degree given the subject of inspiration. However, in this book, I found half of the poems to be gems that dug deep and stretched beyond the layers of spam email. Such poems as The Widow Man and The Monkey and Mouthpiece Trimmings are sharp, crisp slices of life. Ben tackles religious ideas in Cave Candles at Dawn and the effects of war in Our Boys Abroad.
Ben is at his sharpest when tackling the bitter and darker sides of love in the poems Cairo, All You Lovers Out There, Nice To See You Again, and Make Your Marriage Work. I personally felt these were the strongest pieces and where he makes a statement about how the type of inspiration is less important than what it inspires in the end. There were times when I was reading this collection that I could not tell what the spam email might have been about, and frankly, I didn’t care. The clever ones cut like cold knives in a killer’s hand.
Ben Myers is worth the purchase just to see what can be done when inspired in unusual ways. He touches on religion, sex, greed, war, marriage, losses, and politics. There is a little bit of everything in here for each of us. I admire his willingness to open up to something different and step away from normal modes of operation and stretch. I think this is the only way a writer can truly grow.
fiction and poetry by Aleathia Drehmer
Bridget ran through the park as if her life depended on it. She never bothered to look back, just ran until her face mottled purple in the heat of her working body; until there was a wide band of sweat encircling her brow. At the edge of the tree line, she stood hunched over with her hands on her knees, chest heaving for air. Her mind went completely numb after finding Jackson with blood on his hands, standing at the sink frantically scrubbing it away. She noticed a look of insanity on his face and how he smelled of panic.
Jackson didn’t notice her or hear her enter the apartment. He only knew Bridget was there when her elbow bobbled the vase of sunflowers from the table by the door. He watched them fall in slow motion. Each petal golden and beautiful, perfect. He saw them smash to the floor and smiled at the green smelling water pooling on the Berber carpet like magic. Jackson could hear each drip as it launched itself from the lip of the cherry finished table. He could hear her breath as it increased and the covered gasp when the vase landed, but did not shatter. He could hear the guttural tones lifting up into her throat though not escaping her mouth.
“Bridget….close the door” Jackson said.
She stood there unable to move. Her mind racing What has he done? What has he done? over and over like a chant. Bridget felt stuck with fear as he began to move from behind the counter towards her. She felt her skin rile up and the acid in her stomach began to boil and burn her esophagus. Ten years, she thought, and I don’t even know him.
He advanced on her and she began to back up instinctively, her hands flying up in front of her as if they would stop the bulk of his fury. There was a storm on his face she had never seen before, though it was so distinct, she wondered how she never noticed it resting there latent all these years. Bridget felt her back ram into the edge of the door and she cried out in pain, stumbling. Jackson’s blood-stained hands reached out to take her arm, still wet and smelling of darkness. He wrapped his fingers around her left bicep with a fierce grip, squeezing the tips into Bridget’s flesh until it blanched beneath them. She wrenched her arm backwards and surprisingly it came free, leaving someone else’s blood transferred onto her pale skin.
Bridget looked at it a split second before she turned and started running. Her feet flew down the stairs-floated like she did when she was a child. Jackson lumbered after her, shouting things she could not understand or process. The only sounds that registered were the thumping of her heart, the blood rushing in her ears, and the quickening of breath that pinched her ribs.
She stood there now, alone; nothing more than an accordion of flesh letting the body regulate itself and waiting for the sounds of life again that would ease her back into reality. Bridget felt a wind sweep up and dry the salt to her forehead. She felt the chilling deep inside her bones as her breath suddenly lightened and her limbs relaxed into themselves. She crouched on the ground with the smell of the grass under her nose. This somehow settled her as the first drops of rain began to fall. She felt like a pebble in the river, something far beneath the surface that could not be seen or touched. And in the juxtaposition of light, Bridget watched the bloody fingerprints begin to dissolve and run down her arm.
“Some things,” she said aloud to no one, “are best learned in storm.”
Her long slender arm is a tanned perfection
extending from the shoulder length blonde hair
dappled in highlights from unnatural sun;
delicate fingers tipped in French manicure
run through the metro-sexual haircut
of her teenaged boyfriend.
She is showing off her abilities to please
in front of his brother.
He recognizes her polyandrous system
as he stares, eyes on her like a fox
from behind his coke glass, ice sliding
around his lips, freezing his skin.
His jealousy melts into envy with imperceptible lines
thinly cloaked by familia and brotherhood.
His body trembles, wishing her hand on him, instead.
How easily the blade could pierce close flesh.
I once dreamed of Bob Dylan
In a treehouse, one walled
and built from looking glass,
the old man spoke to me; leaves
colored like immanent death
drifted and swirled, their reflection
a knowing torture, and he said blankly,
“You must walk the highway
to get to the by-way.”
I blinked twice, flashing sea stones
at his face (cracked, dried mud in noon sun)
as he pointed to the lines on mine
that had not been written yet.
I am a flesh accordion
being put away for the night
as cold water seeps over and under
my feet simultaneously. It is mercury.
I rise up, levitate, as if a cheap trick
at the magician’s fingers.
I am a river bottom vestige
when my body quietly slips
beneath a watery sky,
from ink to ink, writing an epitaph
on the rocks with my knees
about a life not yet lived.
Kendra Steiner Editions: A Sampler of Reviews by Aleathia Drehmer
“Keepers of Silence” Luis Cuachtemoc Berriozabal 2007
Luis’ poetry endeavor comes via a grassroots chap published by Kendra Steiner Editions. This little book of eight poems is dedicated to Luis Omar Salinas, a poet transplanted from Texas to California. These works lend the reader to believe that LCB is having a wonderful imagined relationship with Salinas as if he stood beside him, Luis to Luis. This is an intimate collection that looks into the admiration of one poet to another.
“Salinas and Lord Byron”
I imagine his mind
is reaching for a line
only he could write:
with a hint of magic,
has felt his brush and heard
his song in the groves.
He has some Lord Byron
in his veins, but I’m sure
he has never been to England.
“Rimbaud in the City: 10 Snapshots” by Glenn W. Cooper 2008
Traditionally, I am not one to read a book of poems completely entrenched with one idea or about a person as it leaves me cold most times, but Glenn W. Cooper captured my interest in this glancing of Rimbaud. He entertains what it might be like if Rimbaud were alive today, in this time. It impressed upon me that Cooper would have to transcend Rimbaud in an internal way to imagine him now. Each snapshot had me turning the page to the next one in anticipation to see where he would go next.
“Rimbaud picks up”
a hitchhiker on
highway 61 but
he’s not sure why
he’s not one for
small talk & doesn’t
need any company
for where he’s
going & they both
just sit there
with the radio
between them fading
in and out of blues
stations & no one
there is nothing
to say or do
except listen to
Leadbelly & watch
the red dust swirling
in the cloudless
sky above them like
blood on a blue
blanket & suddenly
Rimbaud remembers why
he picked up the hiker
in the first place.
“Pulses of Time (creel pone sound study #7) by Bill Shute 2008
Bill Shute captures me now and again with his sound study series. This one in particular dazzled me with its word formations on the page, but more so than that was the regression of the book. It is a journey backwards from twelve hours to five minutes. Each block of time feels related yet not entirely connected. It gives the reader the opportunity to imagine what has happened in the hours not mentioned, trying to make that ephemeral linking of time.
“Eight Hours Ago”
dampened yet sizzling
electric blue icicles
at eye level
at our feet
of chill and drone
and melting strings
and empty stockings
Kendra Steiner Editions
Chapbooks are $4 each or 3 for $10 available while quantities last.
three reviews by Aleathia Drehmer
The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
This book is about two Cuban brothers who come to America in the time before Castro took over. When they came over it was not about “a better life”, but about new adventure and music and opportunity. These brothers were great musicians playing mambo, cha-cha-cha, boleros and any other form of Latin music of its time. We are talking 1940’s NYC Latin music scene. One brother is a macho….a man’s man, a ladies man and full of life and excitement. The other is a gallego which is reference to a man that would come from Spain, but also one with a great melancholy about him. So they were opposites.
This book is about the journey of Cuban music in NYC through the 1940’s to the 1960’s. It is about love and loss and great, heartbreaking longing. This story is filled with images of pastoral Cuba, of rich foods, and thick with Cuban terms and language that surprisingly does not take away from the book, because the author explains it all to you without detracting from the story. It is as if the brothers were telling you a tale of their lives. It is sensual with many scenes of lovemaking and the pure passion men and women have for each other without it being a trashy romance novel.
I found it to be enriching in Latin culture and I desired listening to the Afro-Cuban All Stars a lot while reading this book, because it felt good. I found myself wanting to eat rice and beans and thick pork chops and fried plantains. I wanted to dance about the room. I wanted to make passionate love to someone. I wanted to play the congas and sing at the top of my lungs. I wanted feel the sunshine on my face, but mostly, it made me long for my family. I want that feeling of having my clan together while eating and laughing and remembering the tales of our lives.
Sometimes it is hard to find a book with all of these things that is masterfully written so that the pages fly by until you have come to the end, weeping and clutching the book to your chest, wanting just a little bit more. This book takes you to another place and the joyousness of music and of life. Continue reading
Magic To Be Found
“I only really feel alive when I’m on the poem,”
he tells me,
“the rest of the time I’m waiting to write.”
I think about how
words take over me,
seduce me until I am
writhing in a puddle
on the floor, people
walking passed me
indifferent to my pain.
“I groan and hold my head,
can feel them between my lungs,” he says.
And I picture him
sitting there tortured,
with anguish dripping
from his face, onto his
chest, hand clutching
the place where the
words claw their way out.
“The pen can’t move fast enough
to take away the knife,” I tell him,
through wires and light,
wondering if the blood
on my blade