Friday, December 29, 2006


A Poem by

Stephanie Poesie


If I could drive

yet one more time down the highway of my youth.

One hundred miles per hour, hoping that

some officer would dare to stop me.

Through towns with names like Nanty Glow

where no one lives, but trucks take feed.

And Berwick, with its factory making tanks for the military

that he refused to serve, and later subway cars

we rode in our pinch-penny youth.

All day and all night long,

roaring along the river, that roars along the road.

And I, passing through for one more time, my own

Spring, Summer, and Fall.

But now Winter comes,

and I move slowly.



Stephanie Poesie is a short story writer and poet. She has studied at Black Mountain College and the New School. Her poetry has appeared in The Flatlander Review, New Voices from Nowhere, and Streetlights, among others. She presently lives in Ithaca, New York.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


THE NOVEMBER 24-30 ISSUE OF THE GUARDIAN WEEKLY contained an article by John Sutherland concerning the problems of the  British crime novelist Jake Arnott, whose latest book Johnny Come Home, was first published in April of 2006, only to be pulled off the market in August of the same year.

It seems that in this book, set in London's tin pan alley of the 1970s, Arnott named one of his characters Tony Rocco. Tony was a former big-band singer now turned impresario. While I have not read the book, Sutherland assures use that the fictional Rocco is depicted as a big-time pervert, and quite nasty. Unfortunately there is a real Tony Rocco, who has emerged out of obscurity, a former big-band singer and a figure of unimpeachable respectability.

Mr. Rocco has brought a suit against Arnott and his publisher, Hodder & Stoughton. And so the book has been pulped. At a loss to the publisher of thousands of dollars, the sum of which must be surely covered by liability insurance. The book will be reprinted with appropriate name changes. I am told that Arthur Hailey checked the names of his characters in the Manhattan telephone directory. Perhaps a more appropriate method these days might be an Internet search.

Sutherland informs us that "Where real names are involved an author cannot hide behind that all purpose shield: 'any resemblance is purely coincidental.' Nor do the courts accept ignorance as a defense. If you can be shown, by using a real-life name, to have injured a real-life reputation, then you will pay. The law is alongside the Bard," Sutherland quips, quoting Shakespeare: "He who steals my purse steals trash. But he who steals my good name steals all that I have.

The author is safe if his character has no good name to lose. Sutherland gives as an example Giles Foden lampooning Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, even though the exiled Amin was still alive and living in Saudia Arabia. The article also points out that authors such as Evelyn Waugh and James Joyce took great pleasure in introducing introducing the names of particular enemies into their fiction, but kept them in small nooks and corners of their novels, where there appearance became more of a private joke to their friends. Then law suits were not so easily instituted as nowadays, which was probably for the better.

Sidney Grayling.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


a short story

Etienne Espye 

GOOCHA CAME HOME WITH an arrow in him. He knew he was home, but couldn’t get through the cat door as the shaft was sticking out both sides of his body. A good cat, he sat at the back door waiting for Josa to return, but she was at the other house. Goocha didn’t know that.

            Goocha couldn’t have gone to the other house if he wanted to. It was too far away, three hours by car. He had liked the other house when he lived there by the lake with Josa and Jan. Now Jan was gone and he and Josa lived in this small town in the mountains, where there was only one grocery store which did not stock brand of cat food he required, so his bowel movements had become loose, and he gagged up quite frequently. It was also a town where frustrated, or perhaps just bored, deer hunters shot arrows at any small creature that moved. 

            Initially it had almost been fun. Goocha had never seen a bow hunter in his former hometown by the lake, which banned all hunting, except that done by cats. The first arrow that came his way while he was stalking a squirrel in the woods had missed. Here was something different, something he had not seen before. The long straight stick had come from the man very fast, and with a twang and then a hiss. Now it stuck into the ground at a strange angle. On the other end was something that looked like feathers from a bird. Goocha knew about birds. He hunted them; not that he ever caught one. He had once, and Josa had taken it from him, and scolded him telling him he “mustn't do that.” So now when he waited for them in ambush, and dived out of his cover, he only scattered them into the sky, holding up if it seemed like he might actually get one. He did the same thing with squirrels, even though no one had warned him against catching them. After all, he had plenty of food at home in his dish, which Josa always kept filled.

            The sound of the arrow had startled Goocha, and caused him to break off his chase of the squirrel, a change of track that probably saved his life. Now, he heard the swishing sound again, and quickly dived under some ferns. The arrow stuck in a tree trunk, vibrating just above his head. The man walked toward him, then stopped to pull his first stick out of the ground. Goocha took advantage of the man’s distraction and scooted for home, careful to keep his tail down.

            It was a new game to play, he thought. No one had ever harmed Goocha, or even threatened him; although he had had his tail accidentally stepped on once. He had no fear. Then one day, while chasing a squirrel, Goocha saw one of the arrows find the little animals back. The squirrel was pinned in place. It tried to run, but eventually realized it was going nowhere. Then it shuddered and went stiff. Goocha watched from his concealment as the man came to claim his stick, and the skewered squirrel was pulled off and thrown into the brush. The cat went looking for his friend, wanting to know what had happened to him. Spying the squirrel trashing behind some bushes, Goocha approached cautiously, stalking through the low grass in a crouch, with his ears back. He was near, but now the grass had given way to a grave path. Caution told him he must hurry across this open space. In the middle of the path he felt one of the sticks go through him. He tried to run, but could only drag his back legs behind him. His body hurt, like it had never hurt before, and now fluid was coming out of him, warm fluid which he licked at with his tongue. Not knowing what else to do, he hid in the bushes until the hunter was gone, then he crawled home to find Josa. He knew she would help him, as she always did. But she wasn’t home. Goocha waited at the back door for three hours, and then he died.


Etienne Espye was born in Paris in 1938, and moved to the U. S. A. with his parents just after the Germans invaded Poland. Etienne grew up in New York City where he attended public schools, and took night classes at the New School for Social Research. He presently lives in Upstate New York, where he works as a part-time cat sitter. 


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Friday, November 17, 2006


a short story

S. Francis Pringle


THE PINE GLADE INN, an old stone tavern standing next to the two lane highway that ran between the river bridge and the mall, had become the main watering hole for our small college’s underage drinkers.  Despite its name, The Pine Glade Inn possessed neither pine trees nor a glade. Peter, the owner, was fond of explaining away this apparent inconsistency. “In revolutionary times, before the farmers cut down all the trees, this tavern did stand in a cool glade of pines, where travelers could rest their horses,” he would expound, hoping his customers had not noticed the date 1938 on the tavern’s cornerstone as they came in. “Well, my name is Peter Rams,” the innkeeper would reveal, pausing to wipe the bar with a sour rag, allowing his listeners a moment to think about this fact before delivering the punch line: “Now, I couldn’t very well have named this place The Peter Rams Inn. . . .” This usually brought a curious look and perhaps a grunt from the customer, but Peter always laughed.

Few outsiders visited our town as nothing ever happened here, but those who did knew “The Glade” and made it their hangout, probably because, besides the college students, the place attracted an abundance of town girls known for their beauty, and their putatively loose morals. Prize winning poets, and writers-in-residence, although there were fewer of them now as the college was facing severe budget cuts, often gyrated on the dance floor among college kids clad in sweatshirts displaying the logos of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The only people wearing the name of the local school, Trumpett College, were the town girls, who didn’t go there anyway.

A kind of caste system existed among the students at Trumpett. The students who had transferred from some other school, where they  bought their logo gear at the campus store rather than from a mail order catalog, having flunked out before coming to Trumpett, considered themselves superior to those students who had gone directly to the local institution. The two groups did not interact socially; in fact they were rather hostile to one another. Although Trumpett College had been my only choice, the one school my parents could afford, I was, because of my friendship with a transfer student named Hank Kolada, allowed to mingle, if only incidentally, with this group.

Outside my window the early winter’s night was being dampened by a gentle snow as I hurried to finish typing a term paper before going out for the evening. Across town my friend Hank would be shivering in his yellow rain slicker, as the volunteer Civil Defense Policeman waved his red baton-flashlight at the steady line of cars coming and going around a three ton boulder that had slid down a cut in the road and was occupying the southbound lane of Route 609. In another hour Hank would be off duty, and meeting me at The Glade for a beer. No one was scheduled to replace Hank Kolada; the cars would just have to get around the rock on their own, which they seemed to be capable of doing when he wasn’t there. Hank didn’t let the fact that his task was rather make-work to keep him from botching up a more serious job bother him. He enjoyed playing policeman, which was why Hank was a volunteer. Hank hoped to become a law enforcement officer when he graduated from Trumpett, the third college he had attended, which made him a kind of super hero among the transfer students. Plus, his father was the chief of police in Shankerburg, the township where The Glade was located.

Everyone, at least everyone under the legal drinking age of 21, professed to be Hank’s friend. If The Glade was going to be raided, they reasoned, Hank Kolada would be sure to know about it. The sight of Hank hunkered over the bar nursing his beer brought considerable comfort to the minds of those customers whose real ages did not match the ages on the ID cards in their wallets.

Looking out, my breath frosted the window. I imagined Hank tugging his slicker tighter around his neck against the cold, and checking his watch. Hank too liked to hang out with the “fast” crowd at The Glade. It gave him a sense of importance that someone who had already flunked out of two colleges by the age of twenty desperately needed. Unfortunately, Hank and I had been less welcome at the Glade since perpetrating our hoax.

It had been Hank’s idea. I still wonder how I had the temerity to agreed to the bizarre scheme, perhaps because I was rarely asked by anyone to participate in anything. Hank, as a volunteer Civil Defense Policeman, displayed an official-looking rack of warning lights on the roof of his car. He also carried in the trunk a complete store of emergency gear: helmets, yellow slickers, nightsticks, flashlights, whistles, hand-held radios; a mini police station complete with everything but guns.

The Glade, as a widely-known underage drinking spot, operated in constant fear of being raided by the Liquor Control Board, its young patrons speculating on how much of their nightly tab went into paying off whoever was being paid off, and when these payments mightrun out, and the curtain brought down. But this risk was part of the attraction of drinking at The Glade, a frisson that made the beer taste sweeter there than the same beer drunk from a can in a parked car, or out of a paper at a fraternity party.

Hank, nicknamed “Pina” to his chagrin, possessed of a strange sense of humor anyway, and perhaps to spite those insiders at the tavern who regularly mocked him, especially the owner Peter the inventor of his tag “Pina Kolada”, contrived to orchestrate a mock raid on his favorite drinking establishment.

The Friday night before the Homecoming Parade, wearing his Civil Defense Police slicker and helmet, and blowing a whistle, Hank had burst through the double front door of The Glade, the warning lights on his car flooding the background with flashing red and blue, its siren howling like the dogs from hell, and shouted through a bullhorn: “Don’t anybody move this is a raid!”

For a moment dancers on the polished floor froze in place, chuggers halted in mid chug-a-lug, the good times hung suspended. Then a crescendo of too young drinkers panicked for the side exit, where I, in similar faux police costume, had taken up my position also blowing a whistle, and rapping on the window with a billy club. Seeking an escape the crowd  in the back room had bolted through the kitchen, and out the back door, which to their grief opened on a field that had been freshly fertilized with barn manure.

Clambering on an overturned wastebasket a ex-Yaleman got stuck trying to squeeze out the men’s room window. Harvard and Princeton sweatshirt wearers were found cowering on the toilet seat, the stall door locked.

At the first blast of Hank’s whistle Peter and his wife had fled up the backstairs, seeking sanctuary in their apartment above, where they would claim they had been all night, planning to place all the blame on their newly hired bartender.

The bogus attack lasted less than a minute: Hank, now Pina again, throwing off his helmet and yelling, “Surprise”.  But before I could also reveal the joke, all of the underaged patrons, which meant most of the patrons, excluding those still hiding in the toilets, or out back running through cowpie up to their ankles, had rushed past me and gotten into their cars and fled.

The rest of the night was rather quiet at The Glade. Hank and I apologized profusely for our joke, which all agreed was in poor taste. Peter swore we were banned from his establishment forever, only relenting when he remembered how useful it was to have the son of the local police chief as a regular customer.

I was allowed back into The Glade perhaps because I was Hank’s best friend, or so everyone thought. Of all the people Hank Kolada knew there must have a dozen or so closer to him than me, but none, I suppose, quite as desperate and gullible as I was then.


S. Francis Pringle is a writer who lives in upstate New York. He has published numerous short stories. including one in the June issue of this journal. A RAID AT THE G is an excerpt from a longer work.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Four - A Portfolio


Jan Wroclaw

She bends her head

over her tablet, drawing

splendid maidens and silky

steeds that surely fly.


Outside the room

wars rise and fall again.



Jan Wroclaw

There are all these gods,

these voices that went dead,

all these reasons why

we forget


some sons will rape

and some will kill,

and sons will weep

for what happens to the seed.



Kenneth Oldmixon

Fire Is.

It fills the road with sun

striking cries of children, forging

fields to copper sung

with a clang of children.


Come brazen as the grain

banging your thighs and ring

your hair,

make me the liturgy of seed.


KETURAH CANDY (1858-1869)

Kenneth Oldmixon

Hello lover! How does it go

down there? All stone and leather?

Or settled to the mulch of our

best years. Do shards of lace

tease the tunnels of your bones?

I need to touch and thrill a rise

of skull to know if laughter

leaves a scar or tears erode

some way out, to trace

my maze of now become, a face,

although it hardly matters.



These poems are from a portfolio printed in 1989 at AXIAL PRESS in Hublersburg, Pennsylvania, by Richard Rutkowski. Twenty-four sets were made. The portfolio was hand printed by Rutkowski using the silk-screen process. There were also four illustrations by E. M. Hollis. The poems and illustrations were all created by Rutkowski himself, and attribituted to the various imaginary authors. Richard Rutkowski died several years ago, and AXIAL PRESS is no longer in operation.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Fiction Asks Us To Remember

By Jeanne Mackin

Think of history as narrative. Think of historical fiction as expanded narrative, history with all the trimmings, with cause and effect, speculation, personalization. Think of expanded narrative as the story teller reaching out to you, saying, ‘pay attention. This is important.” Or as novelist Jeanette Winterson repeats over and over in The Passion, ‘Trust me. I’m telling you a story,’ and then as she relates a Napoleonic narrative of a Venetian woman who walks on water, you do believe her even as you know she is lying through her teeth, because that is what novelists do. But this important: you don’t believe that Venetian women necessarily walk on water (though it would be a convenient skill, considering global warming and the state of Venetian canals) but you do believe Winterson’s message that love changes us, that war changes us and that war is not conducive to happy endings, because that is what her story is really about.

We best believe what we remember, and narrative is about memory: giving memories in the form of stories, receiving memories and adding them to our personal stores. But historical fiction, as memory creation, asks us to do the impossible, to remember experiences we can’t possibly have had, to ‘remember’ the smell of the rosebush growing outside Hester Prynne‘s jail in Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter, to remember crouching in darkness outside the mead hall, the perpetual outsider, as John Gardner’s Grendel does; to remember the sensation of the earthquake that begins the action of Richard Hughes’ A High Wind in Jamaica; to remember the wild vines strangling the decaying plantation in Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. All of those things were before our times; yet having read them, we remember them.

There is a relationship between memory and freedom, asserts Dr. Chris Nunn, author of De La Mettrie’s Ghost: the Story of Decisions. Nunn examines free will and the decision making process and ultimately concludes that “stories…are the mediators of free choice.” He argues that people whose ‘memories are more malleable should, other things being equal, be less prone to conditions like milleniarianism “{belief that the world will end on a given date simply because of the date} and other forms of private or mass delusion. People with flexible memories are less gullible…“thanks to its intimate relationship with the memory process, consciousness can to some extent determineits own future.”

Call me an idealist, but perhaps fiction can prevent us from making even bigger and more dangerous idiots of ourselves than the species already has. Perhaps historical fiction keeps our memories malleable by constantly recreating and adding to those memories; perhaps there is a connection between fiction, memory and freedom. Gardner’s Grendel can be read as an early eco-novel, among other things: “They {man} hacked down trees in widening rings around their central halls and blistered the land with peasant huts and pigpen fences till the forest looked like an old dog dying of mange.”

In Jean Rhys’ postcolonial devastation in Wide Sargasso Sea, the destructive misery of failed empire comes home to roost in a suicidal conflagration: “I got up, took the keys and unlocked the door. I was outside holding my candle. Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do. There must have been a draught for the flame flickered and I thought it was out. But I shielded it with my hand and it burned up again to light me along the dark passage.”

Richard Hughes’ incredibly convincing narrative of the connections between entitlement and violence in A High Wind in Jamaica reveals how a lack of self-responsibility so easily leads to murder and how that violence estranges us: “Mr. Thornton made no attempt to answer her questions: he even shrank back, physically from touching his child Emily..Was it Conceivable she as such an idiot as really not to know what it was all about? Could she possibly not know what she had done? He stole a look at her innocent little face, even the tear-stains now gone. What was he to think?”

Murdered pirates, decaying plantations, mead halls, Napoleon’s roasted chickens…artificial memories bestowed by historical fiction, but who’s to say that an artificial memory is less meaningful than mundane ones? De La Mettrie argues that memories become encoded in neurons and have physical properties, so why can’t the memories acquired in a reading of fiction matter as much as the memory of today’s first cup of coffee and who poured it for you? Read, and remember. Is it possible to also understand something from what is given us by the memories in fiction? “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too. We all try to lie out of that but life won’t let us,” Eugene O’Neill tells us in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Perhaps what fiction most asks us to remember is that memory keeps us human, and if we remember enough and remember well, we can add an e to human.


Jeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels including The Sweet By and By and The Frenchwoman.  She teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Goddard College.


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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Culp's Hill

DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR 1960 to 1961, Stephen Poleskie taught art at the public high school in Gettysburg, PA. He endured this torture solely to avoid being drafted into the army. He had no teaching credentials, and had not majored in art. In fact he had only taken two art courses, in which his performance had not been exemplary. He got his job purely on his portfolio, and was issued a temporary teaching certificate, with the proviso he would pick up the required education credits by taking night classes during the year.

When he went over to Gettysburg College to inquire about courses, Poleskie ended up being hired to teach an evening painting class, so never had time for the education courses he needed. At the end of the term the high school principal asked him: "Just what do you plan to do next year?" Poleskie then realized that he had been fired. The sound of school buses still makes him nervous.

While in Gettysburg, Poleskie rented a house on the corner of Culp's Hill and Baltimore Pike. This house had stood during the Battle of Gettysburg, and purportedly served as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers. The structure has since been bought by the National Park Service and preserved.

Poleskie had been told that the house was haunted by the spirits of the men who died there. There were even stains on some of the wide floor boards that were supposed to be bloodstains from the war. Poleskie does not like to admit that at numerous times during the night he thought he heard cries, and even the sound of gunshots and cannon fire. The house was in the middle of the battlefield, and so it was not uncommon to look out the window and see men on horseback, and charging infantrymen, but these were only some of the many monuments that surrounded him.

One day, when he was adjusting a piece of loose molding around the fireplace, a small door popped open, revealing a narrow staircase. This seemed to lead to a basement, which Poleskie was not aware the old house had. It took him several days to work up the courage to go down those dark stairs, although he maintains it was because he did not have a flashlight, and kept forgetting to buy one when he went into town.

When he finally did go down, Poleskie did not find very much, some old barrels and empty chests that looked more like they dated from the 1920's. But, rolled up, and tucked behind a beam, he found a poem. The handwriting was clear, but there was no signature only a date, 1863. The title appeared to originally have been, "Culp's Hill Now," but the author had scratched over Culp's Hill and written Gettysburg. The text of this poem is reproduced below.




Gettysburg Now


Cool shadows falling


once the sound of battle rang


thicket and meadow and rock,

Far past the field


the sound of picnic

      as once the drums had rolled,

Cool now in idle forests


have felt the heat


summer's blood.


                                                            anonymous,  ca.1863



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Saturday, September 9, 2006


a short story


Stanislaus Podlz-Hozempa


translated from Polish by Stephen Poleskie




"Do you understand this?" the man said, speaking hushed into the telephone, his hand cupped over the receiver so as not to be overheard. "We will be coming to your apartment tomorrow morning at nine! I repeat; you and your family should not be there!"

            This was his last call of the day. The police inspector could go home now, walking in the dull gray rain which overlaid all of Warsaw that evening. Three of the persons on his list did not have telephones. Although they were out of his way, he would stop by their apartments and leave notes. He might risk being seen; nevertheless, he could not condemn a family just because they did not have a telephone.

            The inspector hesitated at the base of the bridge that lead across the Vistula River to the decaying ghetto district on the other side. An image of tomorrow formed in his mind. A family would be huddled in their drab rooms, finishing their breakfast, or perhaps washing up, not expecting anyone; then he would knock, his men waiting behind him with guns drawn. No, they must believe his call. They must not be home.


A low fog hung on the surface of the river as the inspector crossed the bridge back to his side of town. Not many people were out at this hour, most of the shop windows appeared dark, some were boarded over. There was a time, not long go, when he would have stopped in the cafe on the corner for a cup of tea, and to rest before going on. But the place was closed now, the owner and his family had gone away, no one knew where.

            He paused for a moment at the apogee of the span and looked down, white shapes of ice swirled by in the murky waters below. A pedestrian approaching from the opposite direction caught the inspector’s police uniform in the glare of the overhead lamp, and crossed to the other side of the street, pulling his hat down over his face.

            The inspector stood there, his hands on the rail, staring at the cold black water. With the heavy dampness in the air, his breathing was more labored than usual tonight. Jan Malinowski had been conscripted into the Russian army, and fought in The Great War on the eastern front. He was at Bolgako on the Vistula when the Germans had unleashed the first poison gas attack in history. The fumes destroyed everything in its path: trees, grass, birds, insects, human beings. Horrified by the unimaginable devastation their side had unleashed, the German soldiers risked their own lives to rescue their Russian foes, carrying them on their backs, slipping and crawling, out of a forest that the gas had blackened and turned to slime.

            After the war, when Poland had been restored as a nation, Jan had been given a small pension, and his job with the police force. Six months ago the inspector had put in a request for retirement, but with the Germans in control of the country now his letter had been ignored.

            The rain was growing stronger, and beginning to freeze. The inspector turned up his collar and wrapped his coat more tightly around himself. Breathing heavily, he tried to increase his pace. The bureau gave him a car to use, but since the occupation there was always a shortage of fuel, and he would need the car for his rounds tomorrow.


 "You’re soaking wet, Jan! Where is your umbrella?" the inspector’s wife, Agatha, said, throwing open the door to their apartment the instant she heard his key scratching at the lock. Her gray hair was pulled back in a tight knot, and she wore three rather frayed sweaters against the cold. The dim hall light revealed a look of tiredness on her face, as if the secret they kept between them was weighing her down.

            "Oh . . . I forgot and left it at the office. . . ."

            "You are so forgetful these days, I think you are working too hard. Come and eat your meal. . . ." Agatha spoke dispassionately, leading her husband into the kitchen, to a table that had been set sometime ago.

            They sat in silence eating their food, which had grown cold waiting for him. Since the occupation they were lucky to have the coal to heat it the first time; to reheat it was an inconceivable luxury, even for the wife of a police inspector.

            "You are very late tonight. . . . You stayed after everyone left, and made some calls again, didn’t you? You’re such a fool!" 

            Jan kept his head down, concentrating on his food. He did not like sharing his secrets with his wife. Whenever he did participate in their conversations it was only a pretense, an acknowledgement that she was there. He slid his knife into the small, fatty sausage he had brought home yesterday. She would never know the compromises he had made for this tiny bit of meat. Due to his influence as a police inspector they were eating better than most people in the city this evening – except for their occupiers.

            "Think of us, and your daughter . . . who we have had to send to live with your sister in Vienna.  If the Nazis find out what you have been doing, what will they do to us? They will send us to the camps!"

            "I have been thinking of that. . . ." the inspector replied.

            With a nervous hand Jan wiped a crust of bread across his plate claiming the last of his meal, then put the bread in his mouth and began to chew. His eyes studied the pattern on the blue and white china. He raised the flower-decorated pot, offering to share the last of the cold tea, but his wife put her hand over her cup.

            "You are crazy! Tomorrow, when you and your men go to round up the people on your list they will all be gone," his wife said, lowering her voice and casting a furtive glance at the door, "because you have called them this evening and told them not to be there! How can you do this? When you began your career with the police department, the first thing you were taught was respect for the law. You are supposed to be an enforcer of the law. Now you defy it! Why do you carry on this way?"

            He sat at the table unable to speak. The inspector was a thoughtful man, who usually saw so many options in any one situation that he often became immobilized. Jan had seen death before, in The Great War; now he was seeing it again, marching down the streets of his beloved city.

            The inspector’s new intimacy with death had also given him a renewed intimacy with life. The sun shone brighter. The snow seemed whiter. He enjoyed just being able to breathe the musty Warsaw air. He had discovered his own mortality, and with it had developed an enduring capacity of love for his fellow human beings: which caused him to do what he now did, despite the dangers it posed.

            "My dear wife," Jan said after an awkward silence, using the last of his tea to wash down the lump of bread that had lodged in his throat during her tirade, "I have thought of you . . . and our daughter . . . and our life together. I make my telephone calls out of respect for the law, not to defy it. I have been trained to arrest people who have committed a crime, and these people have committed no crime. In this country it is not yet against the law to have been born a Jew. . . ."

            Agatha got up and began to carefully clear the table. She loved her china, and would not want anything to happen to it. It was the blue and white set her parents had given them for a wedding present.

            Outside the coldrain had turned to snow, blanketing the street, muffling the sound of the dark van that had driven up to their building. The downstairs door slammed shut with more than its usual noise. The inspector and his wife heard footsteps on the stairs, the hollow ringing sound made by well-shod boots. The sound spiraled upwards, increasing in intensity, until it stopped at their door. There was a loud, rude knock, a pounding. The husband and wife looked at each other, a sense of apprehension in their guarded glances. The hour was late; they were not expecting anyone.

            Getting up from the table, the Jan moved toward the door, his movement, like the eternal movement of nature was indifferent; he neither hastened nor dallied; his hand grasped the handle:


            "Inspector Jan Malinowski? Open the door! Gestapo!”




Stanislaus Podlz-Hozempa was born in Poland, and moved to the United States sometime after World War Two. He lived alone for most of his life in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a laborer in a drycleaning plant. It is unclear where he developed his writing abilities, although he was known to have read the work of the modern Polish writers Bruno Schulz and Witold Gombrowicz. As his knowledge of English was only rudimentary, he wrote in Polish. His manuscripts were only discovered recently, thirty-three years after his death, stored in a box in the basement of his former house that was being torn down. This is his first published story.


Sidney Grayling, editor     



Friday, August 25, 2006

Paul West

Paul West and Jeanne Mackin at a reading at the Tompkins County Library,Ithaca, NY, in the fall of 2005. Article and photo by Stephen Poleskie

LAST WEEK I SPOKE to Paul West on the telephone. We had not been in touch for some weeks, then I received a letter from him in the mail. My wife, Jeanne Mackin, and I used to meet with Paul, and Diane Ackerman, every Sunday for brunch at the Sangam Indian Restaurant in Collegetown. However, since his stroke, the second he has had, and his subsequent development of Broca's Aphasia, we have only met once since his return from Florida, where he now spends the winters. I must say that I miss our regular meetings, which were always quite witty, and sometimes rowdy.

Broca's Aphasia affects ones ability to speak and understand language. Paul does have a brief time, during the middle of the day, when he is not afflicted by this malady. Otherwise, usually after about three o'clock he does what he calls "zoning out." I was reluctant to call, as I know Paul tries to work during his "clear time," but he doesn't use a computer, preferring an the old fashioned typewriter, so doesn't answer e-mail.

Paul sounded happy to hear from me. He has been busy since his stroke and has written three books: Tea With Osiris, a book of poems, The Shadow Factory, a prose meditation on the effects of his illness, and a 700 page, as yet untitled, novel. This two year output would be staggering for any author, but Paul has always been productive, having in the past written over forty books, and numerous short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews. The poetry book has recently been published by Lumen Books, and excerpts from it appear below. The prose work will be available from the same publisher in 2007.



  Back in the hospital a child
      of twelve is screaming, felled
      by loss: Where is she?
      They hold her close, then down.
      Osiris added her to his own.
      And the foam from her squandered lip
      will take its place among famed
      vapors from cuckoo to Lear, aimed
      at school children out on a trip,
      from Emily Bronte's poisoned menses
      to Eva Braun's best pensées.
      All grist for the Osiris mill,
      which says, whatever you will,
      you shall please me till I kill.


One summer's day in winter
      when the snow was raining fast,
      a barefooted boy with clogs on
      stood sitting on the grass.
      He went to the movies that night
      and bought two front seats at the back,
      ate a big plain cake with currents in,
      and when he'd eaten it he gave it back.


A review of Paul's book, written by Bridget Meeds, appears in the August 23, 2006 issue of the Ithaca Times. Here is a brief excerpt from this review: 

TEA WITH OSIRIS IS a book of poetry, only the third West has ever written. It is a dizzying 53-page sequence of sonnets about Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead, as he swans about a modern American hospital with a kidney stone "somewhat smaller than / that blocking Christ entombed," waiting for the awful nugget to pass. By turns ribald and funny, morbid and clever, West is as intelligent and language-drunk as ever. Osiris is, as he writes, "As fully languaged as Pan / with constant updates from the constabulary / of vocabulary..."
      But the voice here is much more compressed than in his novels, which tend to sprawl. In this book, West is compelled to say more with fewer words.
      Sonnets such as (those printed above) don't shy away from truth.

Tea With Osiris, poems by Paul West, Lumen Books, 116 pages, $17.00, hardcover.


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Sidney Grayling, Editor


Friday, August 11, 2006






a short story by


Stephen Poleskie


The telephone rings, interrupting our dinner, the tense, jarring sound phones make when you are waiting for a message; perhaps word that someone close has died.

"Hello! How's your father doing?" "Hello! Who's this?"

"John . . . ."


"I'm at my nephew's house. We went fishing .... "

"Dad's still in intensive care . .  . " I say, in answer to John's question that he had not asked.

There is a long pause, John considering whether to go on, his earlier tone indicating he was expecting to hear good news.

"Tell your Mom that I have some fish for her . . . trout . . . just caught.

All she has to do is clean them. I'm bringing them right over." John says, and then hangs up.

I have no chance to protest, nor to ask my mother if she even

wants some fresh fish delivered right now.

We hurry to finish our dessert, two portions of homemade apple pie. There is none left to serve to John, who loves my mother's apple pie, if he should arrive while we are eating our pieces, and the first bites we have already taken from these slices have made them unofferable.

Arriving at the back stairs almost immediately, John shouts: "Hello!

I brought the fish."

I walk out on the back porch to greet him, but my eyes do not meet his, rather they are drawn to the bucket of squirming, green and silver and brown, mustached and scaled creatures, swimming in more of their own kind than water, what little there is of it turned pink by fluids that must have once been inside the fish themselves.

The widow woman from next door, also telephoned from his nephew's house, and who is considering the possibility of the never married John, arrives at my mother's back steps with her knife. The three begin in earnest: decapitating, splitting, gutting, then laying the pieces out on the concrete stairs. Severed, the fish heads wink their eyes, and open and close their mouths, a gesture that must have been what got them here in the first place. Then, they shut up forever.

"Fresh!" John says, holding up the streamlined creature wiggling in his hand, its intuitive grasping at life to be taken as proof of his statement. "I caught them just this morning at Slocum Bottom. They were running ... just jumping on my line. I was using leaches . . . they like leaches."

"Get a knife from the kitchen, Son," my mother says, turning to me, "John will show you how to clean fish."

Several tails on the pile of discarded pieces still flap, obeying motor commands sent by brains that now lie in a separate heap.

I go inside, as if to get a knife, but do not come back out.

Eight plastic bags dripping fluids, six machines pulsating with multicolored digital readouts that monitor his every puff and beat, and finally cutting away more than half of his insides, keeps my father alive for another three weeks; then the huffing and burbling, and beeping and wheezing stops.

John, no relation, but a close friend of my father, gets to ride in the limousine, all the real relations being either too far away or already dead.

"Jeez, this is a great car!" says John on the way to the church, never having ridden in a Cadillac before.

"Jeez, this is a great car!" says John on the way to the cemetery.

He has never wanted an automobile before, content to walk wherever he needs to go in our small town, but a Cadillac is different.

"I'm getting old," John says, "I shouldn't have to walk up and down these hills every day." He does not realize that it is probably because of these daily walks that he has reached his fine old age.

"I could use a Cadillac to go fishing," John tells us, "and not have to wait for my nephew to take me . . . he works and can only go on Saturdays. Do you know how much a Cadillac costs . . . I mean a good used one? I couldn’t afford a new one. I would think that people who owned Cadillacs keep them in pretty good condition, wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose so,” I reply. 

For the remainder of the funeral, John talks only of his future Cadillac; thereby avoiding the grief my mother and I are experiencing.



Stephen Poleskie is an artist and writer. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. His novel The Balloonist is forthcoming from Frederic C. Beil, Publisher in January of 2007.


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Monday, August 7, 2006

The Color of Time

an essay by

Jeanne Mackin

The years like great black oxen tread
the world 
    William Butler Yeats

MINE WAS A CHILDHOOD of seasons, and each season had its own special color. Spring was green with grass and blue for robins eggs found broken in the dirt next to the rosebush; summer was gold with heat and shimmering dust and brown faded lakeweeds left drying on the shore; fall of course was red and orange with dying leaves that matched the ochres of new pencils and book covers; winter was red and white, the colors of impatience, of waiting for the gifts to be placed under the tree and waiting for the moment when those gifts could be opened.

I learned the colors of time early and thoroughly, learned to mark the year and the seasons and the days by their colorful tags, the pink and blue icing of birthdays cakes, the purples and yellows of Easter eggs. Color and time became inseparable, perhaps because my father is color blind and I spent much time trying to "see" the world as he must, as a place of contrast and movement and even a primary color or two but without the subtlety of hue and tint. I learned to use color as efficiently as any watch or calendar and can still tell the time within a half hour or so simply by looking for clues in the way sun hits lilac leaves or tints the clouds. (Don't test me on this. I don't perform well under pressure.)

We tend to think of time as the great invisible. It is friend and foe, lover and for a few brief months when we are so new we can't recognize even a clock's ticking, it is a stranger. Time is omnipresent and, ultimately, omnipowerful. Yet we cannot see or smell or touch this shadow of eternity, winged chariot, great leveler, robber, unmasker of falsehood, this kindly god...or so goes the litany of names given time by poets and philosophers.

Yet we have learned to measure this great invisible, to mark it, to celebrate, to mourn it. We have named it for its duration as moment, minute, hour, day,week, month, season, year, decade, century, era, millennia...eternity. (Time, in old Irish, begins with a word that translates only as "in the blinking of an eye."). We have tried to make time visible by tagging it the way scientists tag butterflies and sperm whales. We have discovered time, measured time, tried to control it by assigning shores and paths as if it were a river we could chart and even dam. We have tried to make the ethereal tangible, even tried to be on a first-name basis with it.

But as well as naming time with an avidity matched only by Adam's urge to name the beasts who shared his Eden, we have colored time. Like children with crayons, we have filled in the outlines of the great invisible and assigned to it portions of the rainbow, that fraction of time between storm and stillness when moisture prisms sun into the never-reached goal of fortune seekers. We talk of green youth and gray age, of rosy dawn and violet dusk, of blue days and silver anniversaries, of black hours and golden eras. We mark the holidays of the year with color, and the different ages of history and its events with color.

For instance, the new millennium is going to be a blue one, according to astrological lore. Blue, the color of both air and water, the color of melancholy and of many spring wildflowers, the color of this planet when seen from outer space, is the astrologically assigned color for the next Great Month, the Age of Aquarius, which began New Year' Eve, 1999. Perhaps the blue of the Aquarian Great Month now beginning reflects the inevitable journey of earth dwellers from closed dark cave to infinite unknown space. Or perhaps the Age of Aquarius will be marked by manic depression on a universal scale.

All Great Months have their own color: the age of Pisces, begun when Christ was born, was sea-green, an appropriate color for an era marked largely by a religion whose foremost symbol was that of the fish. The Great Month of the Pharaohs, also known as the Age of Gemini, was yellow, the color of gold and sun and hot sun. The earliest known Great Month, the Age of Leo, when humans first stood upright and recognized the usefulness of opposing thumbs and forefingers, was an orange time, symbolizing fire and creation.

The colors of the Zodiac are just one of many ways we have assigned a visible characteristic, color, to the greatest of all invisible entities, time; color leaches down to smaller increments as well, to the ages by which we pigeonhole history. The classical eras of Greece and Rome, for instance, favored purple-reds and ochres and black. Empedocles viewed color as the root of all existence, with yellow representing earth, black representing air, red representing fire and white representing water; Homer's seas were wine-red, not blue or green. (Nietzche and other philosophers have even speculated that the Greeks could not see blue and green, seeing in their place deep browns and lighter yellow, hence their tendency to use the same word to describe dark hair and a stormy sea.) In classical Rome, blue was the color of foreigners and barbarians and it was blue-painted Picts who gave the Roman empire that fatal struggle in Britain that helped weaken the empire. The Blues, a political party favored by the emperor Justinian, eventually brought the Roman empire to its knees.

The great monotheisms eventually replaced paganism and violet, the color of penance, eventually replaced purple-red, the color of blood sacrifice and of human beings made into gods (another reversal there, with the Christian dogma of a god made into man!). Attic ochres and terra cottas gave way to the blues and greens in shadowed catacombs and airy cathedrals, and green became the color of the Prophet. The blues of Christianity and greens of Islam clashed in the banners of the Crusades, giving way to the heraldic colors and emblems of the Middle Ages, the gules (bright red), azure (deep blue), purpure (purple), argent (silver) and other colors still found in national and familial coats-of-arms. The many colors of heraldry merged into black during the Inquisition of the seventeenth century, when monotheism became a pawn of power hungry leaders: "black clothing suits our age," commented one observer. "Nowadays everyone loves black: earthly, material, infernal, the color of mourning and sign of ignorance."

In the Enlightenment and later, color became the subject of scientists and philosophers who, perhaps wearied of the often dangerous splitting of fine hairs and arguments over angels, sought to find rational explanations for how and why we see color at all, and the physical properties of color. Hegel, Jean-Paul Marat and Goethe all proposed color theories as part of a new humanism; color, in the modern era was no longer about decoration and representation, but light and space, red stars and blue stars and the infinity we now measure in terms of light years. In this modern era, the Age of Aquarius, color may well become the primal color of the big bang, the explosion of white and light that began time. (Interestingly, archaeologists speculate that our first calendar was white, Neolithic piece of carved bone that marks a two month cycle of lunar change.)

To color time, though, we don't have to look for anything as grand as an era or age. The seasons that eventually make up the ages, as well as the Great Months and Great Years (a great year is about 28,000 solar years, or the length of time it takes the Earth to move through all the signs of the zodiac) also have colors associated with them, and perhaps the most colorful season of all is spring. In the West, spring is traditionally the color of yellow daffodils and purple crocus, but in India the spring festival of Holi is marked with crimson and saffron, the specially tinted waters that children throw at each other to celebrate the new season.

In the traditional Chinese calendar an Azure Dragon presides over spring, the Divine Tortoise (brown) presides over winter, The Vermilion Bird guards summer, and the White Tiger symbolizes autumn.

While most cultures think of yellow as a good luck and happy color, in the Arabic calendar, the month of Safar, yellow, is considered unlucky not because it is the autumn time when leaves turn yellow but because it is believed to be the month when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps one of the most poetic forms of telling time also comes from the Arabic, from Islam, when the break of day is marked with the first prayer: day begins, according to this theology, at that precise moment of dawn when gray is vanquished and our eyes can pick out colors.

Color marks vanity as well as glory, and mid-afternoon, during France's Ancien Regime, was known to a certain class of people as the White Hour. It was the time between informal morning audiences and the more formal activities of the evening, the time when hairdressers scurried from palais to palais, trailing the white talcum powder of their trade behind them, when miladies and milords, swathed in sheets of linen, let attendants douse their heads with clouds of talc so they could emerge fashionably pale and white-haired. (I've always found it strange that a color most people identify with age should have reached such extreme popularity, especially in a group of people not particularly known for their sobriety.) While the hair was being powdered, ladies and gentlemen of style dressed in colored silks with ridiculous names such as "infant puke" "flea dirt" and "mouse's belly." Later, that same white hair would earn you a trip to the guillotine, so hair dressed au naturel quickly became the custom. It was no longer advantageous to see so quickly, and easily, who was master and who was servant, and the White Hour faded to nothingness.

A hundred years later, another folly, almost as dangerous as being aristocratic in an age of revolution, was marked by the Green Hour. Absinthe, distilled from the leaves and flowers of wormwood, is green in color and toxic when unmixed. When combined with alcohol it can produce hallucinations and intense, prolonged intoxication. Around 1840 the French military began adding it to the wine stock provided soldiers in Algeria, thinking it might help prevent fever, and by the end of that century absinthe had become a stylish cocktail favored by Manet, Daumier, Picasso and others who gathered at their favorite Parisian cafes for the Green Hour. Van Gogh, in homage, painted a still life of a glass and decanter of absinthe, the recreational drug of choice for nineteenth-century artists such as Rimbaud and Verlaine, Degas and Baudelaire. And for many of them, the Green Hour ended with early death related to the same addiction that fueled both art and social life.

While France enjoyed its Green Hour, Rome, less fantastic in its domestic pleasures, began the old world tradition of the Blue Hour, that time of day when men traditionally visit their mistresses after work, but before going home for the evening meal.

In the nineteenth century the complex pastels of monarchist Europe gave way to a Victorian fascination with white: Moby Dick was a white whale, the white Arctic and Antarctic glacial fields became the explorer's destination of choice and women of any reputation preferred to be painted in white, as well as married in white. White, the final statement of absence, became the ultimate contradiction in an age of ever-increasing contrast: white tombstones against skies black with industrial smoke, chaste wives in white gowns in harlot-red boudoirs, pseudo-classical sculptures in white marble, whereas the originals would have been glorious in polychrome. White, in the nineteenth century, became more than an absence of color, it became a statement of bourgeois values.

How will we eventually tint the late, great twentieth century, a century known not for great religions or inventive pastimes, but for immense politic frameworks? Will it be green, for the color of capitalism, or red, as a kind of memorial to that other economic option? That's the thing about color, it must be viewed from a certain distance, like history itself, before it is really knowable, identifiable. We can pick our favorites, but only time itself will make the ultimate decision on the appropriate hue for time passed.

And, of course, while we play in time, test time, and suffer in time, we dress ourselves in the colors of time, putting infants and toddlers in playful pastels, youths and maidens in pure whites, lusty adults in red (Adam, according to Hebrew tradition, means "red" and red has, since Adam, been a color of life, of passion, of celebration). We clothe old age and the weight of the years in black and violet, the color of ashes, the color of mourning. Perhaps, eventually,in the blackholes of outer space, we may even find a world where time reverses itself, where continuity of change, like light, is pulled into a denseness so rich and inevitable that time itself no longer holds us, as Dylan Thomas voiced it, "green and dying, and singing in my chains like the sea."

Jeanne Mackin is the author of six novels and a book of herbs. She teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Goddard College.


This essay originally appeared in The Book Press in June of 2000. Thank you for logging on. We post frequently, so please check back again. You can contact us at