Thursday, December 18, 2014

Season's Greetings

Image by Sasha Thurmond
copyright 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jeanne Mackin Wins Fiction Award

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Writers Jeanne Mackin and Joseph E. Fahey and poet Jasmine Bailey are the winners of the 2014 CNY Book Awards in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, respectively. Marianne Angelillo received the 2014 People's Choice Award. The winners were announced at a reception at La Casita Cultutral Center. This is the third year of the awards, sponsored by YMCA Downtown Writers Center.
Jeanne Mackin.JPGJeanne Mackin won the 2014 CNY Book Awards in the fiction category for "The Beautiful American." 
Jeanne Mackin won for"The Beautiful American," and Fahey won for "James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist."Bailey was recognized for"Alexandria." Angelillo won for "Sharing My Stones."
Three independent judges selected the finalists and winners in the individual categories. Here is the list of the finalists in each category:


Michael Burkard, "Sometime in the Winter."
Paul Roth, "Long Way Back to the End."
Jasmine Bailey, "Alexandria."
Poetry judge: Kelly Davio, author of "Burn This House."


Ronald Bagliere, "The Lion of Khum Jung."
James Longstaff, "Wapsipinicon."
Jeanne Mackin, "The Beautiful American."
Fiction judge: Steve Huff, author of "A Pig in Paris."


Marianne Angelillo, "Sharing My Stones."
Joseph E. Fahey, "James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist."
David R. Smith, "Help! I'm Bored in Church."
Nonfiction judge: Sarah Freligh, author of "Sort of Gone."

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article courtesy of the Syracuse Post-Standard

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Red in Tooth and Claw


an excerpt from a novel forthcoming from Onager Editions 

WEEKS LATER, as he bled through clumsy necktie tourniquets into the makeshift bed of a big wooden drawer hauled outside by the few surviving Red Cross nurses, Ludwik Czimanski remembered the golden Poland of before, and the bicycle festooned with his suits. The land had been alive with doomed people full of flamboyant bad humor, dryly joking about motor torpedo boats, the famous statue in Warsaw of Kilinski brandishing his saber at the sky with a face of invitational outrage, and the invincible yellow-capped national cavalry whose red and white guidons flapped above their heads like swallows’ wings. How uncanny the sky had been, stunning him like a blue gas his mind’s eye inhaled again and again: the drug from nowhere that wiped out the ills of the land. Everyone had looked upward, inhaling hard (at least as he remembered them), looking not for the first wave of bombers but for scrubbed and rosy refugee camps arranged in vistas tapering infinitely up to that comfy other where in which, as legend said, everything went right.
        Now, fading away in the big drawer that once held toys or starched and ironed bed sheets, he wondered hopelessly about his wife and son, lost somewhere in the broken landscape, and the suits with which he had tried to bargain before the Huns moved in. In spite of the smoke and brick dust obscuring the yard of the first-aid station that used to be a school, he could see yellow, green, and pink auroras, arcs and streamers and rays of bouncing pearl, and he told himself it was indeed cold enough for northern lights, the summer was a summer only of the mind. The dusty smell of blood would never go away, but like some maroon revenant had ousted for ever and ever the sweet scent of water the burial service invoked. His eyes brimmed as he heard, at a colossal distance, the lazy swish of intact trees bloated with chlorophyll, then teared when he gazed, with head propped up against the end of the drawer, at the sun lolling fat on its course beyond the smoke and the auroras. I am who I am, he coerced himself, I am who I have been. That much remains, and wherever I go the land will fall away steeply to the pond at the bottom of the garden and the hill shall rise from there until it meets the sky. And now it was as if the colored lights in his head had begun to squeak; he felt with one hand for the other and, in a spin of silly mental momentum, winced at the thought. Which was worse, the gone hand feeling for the still present other or vice versa? To grope for something with nothing, or for nothing with something? It was not a vital distinction now, even though something comparable had gone wrong with his feet as well, where the cold began that bulged upward along the length of him inside the shreds of his major’s tunic. Having gone to war in full regalia, like a throwback to the nineteenth century, he judged he had no right to decide what explosive engine of war had hit him as he galloped south-east from Warsaw, bidding his mother and war adieu to refind his wife and son somewhere in the bloody mark of the small town where they had last embraced, a slewed tripod of love in the garden at Kazimierz, leaning their bodies blindly together while some passing bird, as they discovered a moment later, released a pellet of white wet lime that landed on his shoulder: a portent of good luck at which they miserably grinned before embracing again, and he’d left it there to dry in the sun, like a tiny additional epaulette.
        Assistant Military Attaché in Berlin, which he had been, before removing himself fast, with wife and son, as the Nazi design upon Poland became grossly clear, he had thought as logically as he could, getting them all three out of Germany, then from Warsaw to the countryside on the fringe of an old city on the Vistula. All pacts wither in the making, he’d decided. Let’s make one of our own, even if it postpones an evil day for a week only. Evil day? Devilish eternity’s more like it. So he had, as it were, put away both wife and child, like a cache of gold and cream in a land awaiting heathen predators, and had gone to do his duty with pistol, sword, fire iron or gardening fork, he whose métier for years had been the desk, although he had kept in riding practice at the Krampnitz cavalry school, so at least he would not be unseated while attacking a tank or machine gun nest. Something huge-feeling in his eye, like a reified whirl of light, made him wince, reminding him of an engine cinder which, in boyhood, hit his other eye as he leaned over a bridge to watch a train, and the wince shook loose a few forgotten words, which he lip-formed with almost holy slowness: Poland, Switzerland, Admiral, the suits, the boy, Wanda, the bird-lime, the pigsty, the bank, the money, the farm, the telephone lines all cut.
        It was no use: the part of his mind which identified gibberish and denounced it, pitching it out from his sleek diplomatic-military chessboard of ideas, no longer functioned, and the dead came back to haunt him, to be worried about, even as his conscience let slip the living, on whose behalf he had invented so many paper stratagems, including a small cave dug in one of the ravines near Kazimierz and use of the twin-engined courier plane to get them all away, northwest to Denmark, southwest to Switzerland. There had been no time to make the cave, and the plane, on one of its shuttles between Warsaw and Berlin, had vanished, shot down for target practice by a Luftwaffe pilot on the prowl. Not that Ludwik Czimanski knew this, or any longer cared; his father, who had died in his chair, drumming his fingers incessantly on the arm in a tattoo bespeaking helplessness and diffident rage—thrim-thrumthrim-thrum until his wife facing him held both of his hands still—came back to life as a hostage to fortune, to be smuggled out by airplane or squirreled away in a cave. Indeed, a line of people formed in his head, his father first, then his mother still creaming her arms with an imported aloe lotion (she who crooned in her sleep, in a half-dream repeating that voluptuous motion along each arm, although untidily), then these two followed by his grandparents, fidgety cardboard caricatures with wolf-head canes and spilling samovars, behind whom came the living such as the Sakals, both teachers, and she part-Jewish, with a single child, a girl sensuously named Myrrh with whom his own dead son had played and walked and (he’d supposed) mildly necked. But, in the sea-changes of his delirium, while the sun of his last day bloomed and waned behind the smoke, the dead and gone did not come to life only when the living gave up the ghost. It was more complicated than that. Instead of life-for-death exchanges, these beloved phantoms rang the changes in a parody of resurrection, and a host of proverbs turned morbidly inside-out: after God’s finger touched them, and they were no more, God’s finger touched them again, and they asked to be saved from Adolf Hitler; in the midst of life, they were in death, and then they were not, and they asked for visas to America. Even worse, while this chop-and-change ensued, blighting with fickle guilt what he no longer even recognized as the drift into coma, he somehow found the head of his dead wife, Wanda, on his live grandfather’s trunk, and one dead grandmother’s arms on his dead son, Izz, at all of which in his enfeebled dither he rebelled, and in so doing rid himself of all categories, at the almost very last abolishing the category into which he slid. And so, dying, he could not die, he had never been alive; indeed, so far, on the planet, there had been no life at all, but only a flicker of a promise decked out with plausible ghostly faces, brought into being by a Creator whose main purpose, initially, was to try out the capacity of humans-to-come to love one another. Then, the test over, these figments could vanish. And they did. One day during some effusive eon there’d be humans. Oh yes, he told himself, there are going to be people, the rocks will no longer be lonely, the water will be drunk, the birds will finally have heads and shoulders to squirt their whitewash on, the first onion will be fried, the hops be brewed into beer, the mice be trapped, the moss in the woods blot the first wound. On it went, a vast anachronistic alibi that piled up the more his blood became a drizzle, the last of it arriving in the open air mist-slow because there was no longer anything behind it to push it along. Major Czimanski died in a bloodless plethora crammed with the evidence of things not seen.

*   *   *

PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BLACK SWAN: a poem, Erica Guo

black swan

It’s been twenty years and you still
want to cover up the canvas.
During the first time in heels,
you puffed your chest out for emphasis.
As the usual, people stared
at the mother and her daughter’s growing behind,
marks of chocolate plumage.
A strut here, a strut there.
And it was almost the routine again:
play with the palette, give up your unruly,
slap on the rules.
Between drugstore aisles,
stilettos clanged against every inch.
I wondered: Couldn’t a duckling enjoy her color quietly?
You stopped short when I cupped the nail polish.
It would pull the shroud back
from your face and toward your hands again.
But it’s black, you cried. Black!
You grabbed the foundation, too light
for your cheek.
You held onto the sick powder.
I forced your hands to your side.
Your eyes stilled onto the sleeve of your sweater.
The smell of Mercurochrome
hunted you on the way out,
through twenty years, til today,
the way everyone hunted dark birds
with their eyes
until they flew no more.

*   *   *

Erica Guo has worked on the staffs of Blueshift Journal and Transcendence Magazine, and co-founded Cenzontle Magazine:

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Poems from Scotland

Three Poems by the Scottish poet Stephen Watt

Dunoon Girl

Our visit to Dunoon coincided with pellets of sleet
beating off the shorefront glass.
The statue of Highland Mary, now the centre
of a rain dance by the ducks, stared across to Largs
as though love had been swept out to sea, and on to jagged rocks.
In my mother-in-law’s tiny kitchen, stacks of cushions
submerged a flowery couch, converted into a makeshift bed.
Someone was once murdered here, she flippantly said.

The clutter kept me awake; several calendars
circling special dates, magnets on tenterhooks,
shelves of dusty, old books
and large, rustic boat hooks
aligned every square inch of that room.
Wind chimes tinkled from suspended tubes at the window,
invading silence the same way a whistling kettle
unsettles the skittish ilk, and spills midnight tea

                        with jiggling spouts of milk.

Level with the washing machine, my mobile signal
was lost in the swirl of Argyll draughts
overwhelming telephone masts.
Creaks of floorboards behind the kitchen door
led to short, sharp barks; a small dog,
curious to know why his sleeping basket was out of bounds.
The fading purr of someone’s drunken laugh
wisped into the fairy glens like leaves rustled on the ground.

My love, extinguished as an oil lamp,
drifts on dreams of fields of blooms,
dried and scattered across a ballroom
where every dance is a first; and the last.
When the night had passed and dawn’s mask
was removed from the sapphire irises of the Clyde,
dark crescent moons hung beneath my eyes
like the tragic past of the girl

who stands alone upon Dunoon’s dockside.

The Slugger

Boxers orbit one another.
Cerise gloves, poised like garter snake tongues,
flick claret blurs during stomach churning voids;
the hawk-screech noise from the crowd,
mirrored on each gambler’s puss.

Cameramen battle for the final cut.
Screw shots, headlocks, trapped against the ropes,
r e l e a s e – mouth guards exposed.
Hook. Hammer blow. Buckled legs, floored.
Who; what; when – on A Question Of Sport.

The bell liberates. Rise to feet.
Reputation is a sweated towel never thrown in defeat.
Squinted helmets realign
with flags of bruises upon punctured cheeks.
Glory is a fighter who refuses to concede.

Jab, face – jab, ear – jab, gut.
Journalist’s words on the back and front pages
become larger and more ostentatious
as each punch expels blood, BLOOD, BLOOD
until.................. enough.

The medal is gold. Your hometown is now famous.


The smell hit her, like the back of his hand.

She was only ten the last time she was here,
but nothing had changed.
Photographs of old Protestant Belfast
inside of grotty little picture frames
remained as threatening as two decades past.

The arms of his chair, black from mechanic’s hands
and oil rags, a forty-fags-a-day habit
which littered his carpet with tobacco and roach ends.
The caravan with no wheels, visible in the back yard
as it always was, where she and her friends
used to have sleepovers on occasional weekends:

Him, at the kitchen window, pretending to wash
the dinner dishes.

She rubs her arms as she climbs upstairs –
the third top step still host of the eeriest creak;
            the warning shot to be asleep.
Teddy bears sit on top of the cupboard, a handpicked, hand-stitched jury
without a verdict, silenced by a pervert’s sewn smile
and cold, glass eyes –

a child’s word versus alibi’s.

She remembers it all.
When her aunt left for the Bingo, he would
wrap her yo-yo string round her neck,
starting with dry humps and soft pecks on her cheek.
Then the next week, and the next week, and the next week...


The laughter and screams emanating from tents
over the fence where the scout hall stood
was a world away; a clandestine brotherhood.
Now, as the only remaining living relative,
she sees her childhood for what it was –
ruined, tainted, wasted, crushed.

She gathers                   firewood and petrol,     
            and turns everything he ever owned
            into a sacrificial offering

to Hell. 

*   *   *

Stephen Watt is a poet and performer from Dumbarton, Scotland. His debut collection 'Spit' was published in 2012, and he has since won a number of slams and competitions including Poetry Rivals, StAnza Digital Poetry Slam, and Tartan Treasures. Performances across the Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh areas of Scotland, plus festival appearances at Eden and Wickerman, have enhanced Stephen's reputation as one of the exciting new talents emerging from the Scottish spoken word scene during 2014. 

You can follow his progress via the Twitter handle and Facebook links below.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thaddeus Rutkowski: Two Poems

Two new poems by Thaddeus Rutkowski, reproduced here from a broadsheet published by

Anarchist Manifesto

I believe in anarchy.
but not if everybody goes wild.

I want to be the only wild one,
among the law abiding citizens.

I want to be the hyperactive youngster
among the fuddy-duddies.

I want to run amok
while everyone else goose-steps.

I want to be the loon among the obedient geese.

Hong Kong

I wanted to eat fried scorpions,
or at least crispy grasshoppers.
But instead I ate chicken a la king at a KFC.
I was told snake was a popular food,
and the idea of snake struck me,
but the reality was, snake was out of season.

I expected everyone to be traveling
by scooter or bicycle, or on foot,
but I saw lots of cars, no simple conveyances,
and a vanishing network of hutongs, or alleys.
All signaled a consumerist system,
not a Communist colony.

Nubs of incense sticks sat in ash-filled burners
at doorsteps as if to ward off bad luck:
recession, financial breakdown,
a tip in the balance of trade,
loss of shelter from taxes or typhoons.
These were the Asian business risks.

*      *      *

Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the novels Haywire(Starcherone/Dzanc), Tetched (Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). All three books were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award, and Haywire won the Members' Choice Award, given by members of the Asian American Writers Workshop. Haywire reached No. 1 on Small Press Distribution's fiction best-seller list. Tetched was chosen as one of the best books reviewed in 2006 by Chronogram magazine. You can find out more on his website:

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Bertha Rogers, Planting Wilderness: Hanford Hills Museum

     The interdisciplinary exhibit, Planting Wildness: Finding Roots in Delaware County, by  Bertha Rogers is now on view in the Museum's Power House through October 4th. The exhibit includes mixed media artworks, photographs, an accompanying video by Rogers and Jack Schluep (on view in Horace Hanford's Retirement Office), and logging artifacts from the Hanford Mills Museum collection.  
     Rogers's exhibit explains, through words and images, New York's Reforestation Program, which was started in the early 20th century to ensure New York State continued to have timber and forested lands. New York's State Nursery was established in 1902, the first in the nation, and major planting programs were begun. By the 1920s, forests were being replanted throughout the state, bringing back woodland to Delaware County and the State. Rogers shows how the land has changed since the Europeans settled in Delaware County. The exhibit aims to inform, by documenting her tree planting and that of others as well as the responsible harvesting and milling of the trees at places like Hanford Mills, the value of trees
Interdisciplinary Artist & Poet Bertha Rogers
on the land and the changing of Delaware County's ecology.
     Rogers moved to a few acres on an old farm in Delaware County in 1989. In the spring of 1990 she, with her family and friends, planted 1,000 Norway spruce seedlings on the advice of the Department of Environmental Conservation She also planted  a grove of black walnuts, hackberries, Shagbark hickories, Catalpas, white and red pines, maples, birches, green ashes, hybrid poplars, pin and white oaks, larches, willows, Eastern red cedars, apples, cherries, disease-resistant American elms, and crab apples as well as Rugosa roses, Red Twig dogwoods, High Bush cranberries, Autumn Olives, honeysuckle, and raspberries.
     The land has been transformed into a habitat for wildlife, including foxes, forest and field birds, turkeys, grouse, coydogs, groundhogs, weasels, deer, rabbits, an occasional bear, porcupines, opossums, and even a fisher cat.
     There will be a reception and reading by Bertha Rogers from 2 - 5 pm on Saturday, October 4, during the Museum's Woodsmen's Festival.The exhibit is on view during the Museum's regular hours, 10 am - 5 pm, Wednesdays through Sundays.
The installation is funded in part by the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered in Delaware County by the Roxbury Arts Group. The reading and reception on October 4 is funded by Poets & Writers, Inc. and Hanford Mills Museum, and will include a discussion about Rogers's artistic and poetic processes.
     Rogers has received grants and awards, including fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, Hawthornden International Writers Retreat in Scotland, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. She was given the NYS Association of Teaching Artists Distinguished Service to the Field Award for her work in arts education, the Ludwig Vogelstein Grant, and several Delaware County NYSCA Decentralization Grants for interdisciplinary exhibits. More than 600 of her poems have been published in literary magazines and journals and in several collections, including Heart Turned Back, The Fourth Beast, and Sleeper, You Wake. Her translation of the Anglo-Saxon Epic poem Beowulf was published in 2000, and her translation of the riddles from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book is forthcoming. Her art has been shown throughout New York and the nation and is collected by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin and in many private collections. She co-founded, with her husband, Ernest M. Fishman, Bright Hill Press & Literary Center in Treadwell.gister now!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Four Poems by One Man

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.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Certain Adverbs


an excerpt from his novel The Ice Lens
published by Onager Editions

IT IS NO surprise to me, and no one else cares, when I revert to my old pool-cleaning habits to cheer me up, or at least stabilize me when I'm in the dumps. I might be cleaning out the Augean stables, which I remember from that tattered old humanistic education--I recall the cleansing, but not Augea. Where was Augea? Simpler, always, to collect up the surface trash, mainly insects, and then swipe them far enough with a catapult action of the pole. Now they fly again, ungainly and smashed, protein for ants and spiders. Even when the surface of the water is immaculate, I cant the scoop at forty-five degrees and in a gentle sweep pick up the tiniest bits of fluff, pine needles already bleached white and the occasional human hair. Unrolled condoms appear once a week, their prospects rinsed away into the blue, while the lozenges made by the sun jostle one another on the bottom like primeval tectonic molecules bucking for dominance. It is an almost complete world, a paradise of ripple and rocking, the one motion stirred by the invisible ceaseless pump, the other by the crosswinds of midsummer. Sometimes, with permission, I perform my labors within the pool itself, sluicing my privates within the stiff sailcloth of my shorts.
All this was best done alone. It was no use with reposing, sated swimmers watching me, or even sunbathers who would never have dreamed of dipping a limb. When I was truly alone, say at a house temporarily unoccupied but with open pool against the occupants' return from Key West, I would get that cool-spined, ransomed feeling and slow all my motions out of torrid imagining. I was the last human left in the world, only to half-detect through the rear window of a cab parked thirty yards away what looked like a human head on the move. Not alone after all. It was that kind of flawed autonomy, in which I was master of all pools and all water, all pumps and heaters, all water-spiders and sombre, drowned mice. And, naturally enough, I was the only swimmer left, free to shout obscenities at the picture windows and the eaves, at withered geraniums in their tasteful tubs, and un-nourished espaliers hugging the walls like fugitives. The sun shone on most of this, giving me what I called that old Egyptian feeling, like a well-baked loaf to be installed in the royal tomb.
I never cleaned pools before the Gulag, after which of course I had that abiding horror of not knowing how or where she was. Cleaning pools was an attempt to deflect and calm my agitated mind; there was always worry behind it, gnawing and spewing. Was it then that I first allowed myself to fudge up what I called my calm sea and prosperous voyage stage of thought? It was a deliberate attempt to have wholesome thoughts, to lull and smooth myself during even the worst moments, when it was not enough to shout "Speedo!" and crack off into some jolly fit. A deep breath, the deliberate misuse of certain adverbs (radiantly, mellowly, uniquely, rewardingly) and the donning of rose glasses: that began it, and the rest of it amounted to a translation from the offensive or the baleful into the pacific. Imagine how such a practitioner fared at the Gulag, having begun as a man seeking to cheer himself up, now graduated into put-upon tadpole in a sink of putrid horrors. Sleight of hand gives way to a benign terrorism practiced upon oneself in the interests of staying sane. The combination of joyous elements and callous third-degree mixed us all up, enabling me to recall meadows, but full of blood, warm drinks at bedside (Horlicks or Ovaltine), but poisoned, and so on. Now and then, less the man I was, I recall trapping yellow jackets under the mesh of the scoop, and forcing them lower and lower into the water, watching them panic toward the rim and climb over, at which I turned the mesh upside down, trapping them again. They soon stopped panicking and did a few barrel rolls, after which they lay inert on the mesh. I never felt so godlike as then.

*  *  *  

PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

To order The Ice Lens: 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Electric Fence

Circuit Board, computer collage, Sasha Thurmond, 2013
Flash Fiction by Terry Mooney

A FRIEND OF MINE has two dogs that keep tunneling under the fence of their 10 X 20 foot kennel to escape.

While reading the instructions for the new farm-animal electronic containment controller that I am preparing to install around the inside perimeter of their kennel I read: "For indoor use only!"


Now why should I need to install this electric fence inside the house? The farm animals are quite happy to stay inside the house without being contained.

I canter around the living room on my friends Friesian horse, jumping over couches tables and wide-screens, while the piglets are splashing and squealing around in the toilet, the cows are "udderly" spraying everyone with unpasteurized milk, the goats are crapping on the kitchen table, and the rooster is humping the hen.

I'll just add the dogs to the in house family and take the fence unit back for a refund.

*   *   *

Terry Mooney is a retired NASA computer expert who lives in South Carolina, where he writes stories and works on his artworks. You can find him on Facebook. //

Sasha Thurmond is a graduate of the Cornell University MFA program where she majored in Printmaking. She lives on a farm in South Carolina with her horse and other animals, and sometimes finds time to make art or write stories.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

A "How-to" Article


SO YOU'VE BEEN SENDING around your manuscript, following all the advice you have gleaned from those "how to get published" books and articles. You wait six months to get a response addressed to "Dear Author" telling you Mr. Big Time Agent receives so many letters he can't be bothered to write to you by name, but he assures you that he has "given your material serious consideration," and has determined it is "not right for us," but that "other agents might feel differently." Good luck to you.

 What he has not said is that you were not the hot chick he met at a party in Brooklyn thrown by a currently best-selling writer. He just loved her collection of short stories about hankey-pankey in trailer parks, written in short, easy to read sentences. Nor are you the cute MFA candidate he encountered at the Iowa Writer's Workshop last summer. He couldn't put down her novel about corn-fed robot zombies attacking the citizens of Kokomo, Indiana.

It doesn't cheer you up when you read that Jane Austen sent the manuscript of "Pride and Prejudice" to a publisher under an assumed name and that within six weeks it was a finished book, which has never gone out of print. But what if Jane were alive today?

A story that once appeared in the GUARDIAN WEEKLY, told of David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, cheekily submitting the scarcely altered work of Austen to eighteen of the UK's biggest and brightest agents and publishers. He was surprised to find that all but one sent back polite, but firm, rejection slips.

Lassman's trick was not the least bit subtle. Calling himself Alison Laydee, a play on Austen's nom de plume, A Lady, he typed up chapters from three of his hero's most famous books, with a few changes of names and re-worked titles. Apparently only one editor, Alex Bowler, of the publisher Jonathan Cape, was familiar with the opening sentence of "Pride and Prejudice" and caught the ruse. He wrote back to Lassman expressing his "disbelief and mild annoyance, along, of course, with a moments laughter."

So keep sending out those manuscripts. Maybe you will have better luck than the resurrected Jane Austen.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Picasso Steps Up To The Plate

A poem by Mike Foldes

We are watching a video
of the master at work.
In as few moves
as there are letters in a line
he frees the dove of peace
from its transparent hiding place.
The narrator points out
that doves are pigeons, too,
with whom love blossomed
early in the artist’s life.

On closer examination,
the lines are minute script,
letters to mother and father
written in the language of Catalan
about a game called baseball,
and how great it would be
to hit the ball out of the park
on the first pitch of every
at bat, just as kindness
dictates taking down
the bull with the first
thrust of the sword.

Readers unfamiliar with art
or the artist’s late work
may not make the connection,
but the fat goat on the turntable
certainly will.

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Mike Foldes is the founder and managing editor of Ragazine, an online literary magazine.

Join Mike on MySpace & Facebook
Mike is also the author of Sleeping Dogs, A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping
Download at www.Smashwords.Com and www.Amazon.Com
Purchase the paperback at

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Monday, June 30, 2014

An Onager Encore: Jeanne Mackin


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 black holes 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."

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Jeanne Mackin is the author of seven novels, the most recent being THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN, reviewed below. She has taught at Ithaca College and in the MFA program in creative writing at Goddard College.
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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