Back Page: February 2003

MAN WOMAN BUTTERFLY ARROW (a dream)
by K.D. Bates

In my dream there is a Man
(he is a man but is also me)
he stands by a window in an office
looking out on the sea
And is so near home,
he might walk there for lunch.

In this dream, a Butterfly
red wings,
floats through the window
flies to the desk
lights on the Man’s black laptop
where the Man creates wonderful things
and the Butterfly pulses its wings

In this dream, a Woman,
who is the Man’s wife
(she is a woman but is not me)
stands on her terrace
and looks past the sea
her fingers flutter
and light on an empty plate.

In this dream, a Boy plays Cupid
(he stole his father’s crossbow — )
lets loose two arrows
feathered shafts flutter
and arrows fly to their marks.

In this dream,
the Butterfly with red wings,
floats on the breeze,
that carried the Arrows,
shot by the Boy playing Cupid.

In this dream, another Man sleeps.
(he is a man and is also me)
He dreams of two people
pierced through the heart
by a young boy’s arrows
as the Butterfly,
wings fluttering red
floats
by.

***

SNAPSHOTS
by K.D. Bates

1

Sunset

kachina gods
colors of fire
on the horizon
guard
the
setting
sun

as I watch
and nearly
miss the curve
driving
toward
home.

2

Eulogy for Populus Deltoides

Engineers
took
those
trees
that
line
of
cottonwood

replaced

by one four lane straight as a die highway…

replaced…

a
road
that
once
meandered
in a soft curve
through the grove
those trembling leaves
of olive and silver now
only remembered
by a few.


III

Moonrise, Tucumcari

Luna,
on the horizon a sooty
curve at first then yellow and
bulging like some cartoon toad pulled
herself up the sky as we watched and
cheered as she made it ascended whole
and round the color of creamy butter against
the warm New Mexico Sky.

IV

The owl

A small burrowing owl pulled from drain pipe
only a few days dead
and in high summer heat, nearly mummified

its tiny white feathered body so light
we put it in
the gentle arms of an elm tree
out of reach of our two dogs.

It was probably
propelled by squirrels
romping in crazy squirrel play
along the branches

When it fell,
did it float to the ground
like a falling leaf?
*
(Owl feathers
and bones
are not
digestible.)

***

 

____________________

EXTERMINATION
by D. Harlan Wilson

A slavering herd of fictional characters bumrushed a studio in which a real-TV show was being shot. These fictional characters belonged to various films and novels, both old and new, and their hogwild mission was to exterminate the real-TV characters in an attempt to re-establish the non-real medium from which they came as the world’s dominant form of entertainment. They would also be exterminating the production crew (including everybody from the director down to the young male bitches who get coffee and cigarettes for people), ensuring that those moneyhungry bastards never produced another real-TV show again.

The mission started out smoothly enough. There were a lot of characters and crew members on the show, and it took a little while to commit genocide on them.

Holden Caulfield stabbed a cameraman in the eye with a rusty pocket knife. Captain Ahab stabbed the casting director in the gut with his peg leg. An associate producer was mangled by the sharp bright white teeth of a rabid Jack Nicholson (playing Jack Torrence in The Shining). Charlie Chaplin (playing Hitler in The Great Dictator) used two fingers to rip out the neck of an extra just like that bar bouncer Dalton (played by Patrick Swayze) ripped out the neck of that nonamed bad guy (played by that nonamed actor) in Road House. Sancho Panza held down a grip while Don Quixote used a spitshined tomahawk to scalp and disembowel him. Disgusting curse words erupted out of Jay Gatsby’s piehole as he caned a sound/audio technician to death. Brad Pitt’s Fight Club doppelgänger crushed the skull of an “actor” (that is to say, a “real” person being played by a “real” person) by slamming it into his flexed, rockhard abdomen. Bartleby the Scrivener roundhoused another “actor” in the head with such power that the head of the “actor” exploded like a rotten pumpkin that’s been hit by a grenade. Spider-Man and a flock of flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz swooped down on a trio of gaffers, tackled them, and ate their brains. The executive director of the show was closelined by Stephen Daedelus and kicked in the balls by John Voigt’s Joe Buck and machinegunned by Bigger Thomas.

“Taste that you reality addict! Taste that you realtime pimp! Taste that you damned hooooooooooooooos!” screamed that crazyass, bug-eyed Bigger as bullet shells poured out of the machine gun in slow motion . . .

And so the extermination continued, and everybody that wasn’t getting tortured, mangled and murdered was having a good time. Soon all of the real-TV people would be on ice and celebratory cocktails and bangtails would be in order.

Then fictional characters began crawling out of real people’s corpses.

It started with one of Tom Power’s (James Cagney, The Public Enemy) victims. Tom stole a chainsaw and a hook from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface. Being a child at heart, Leatherface retreated to a dark corner and started to suck his thumb. Tom called him a mama’s boy. Leatherface whimpered, pouted, took off his face and stomped on it. Tom shrugged and used the man-child’s hook to seize and tear out the spine of an “actor” in one swift motion. He used the chainsaw to cut the “actor” up into little pieces. “Shee what I mean? Shee what I’m talkin’ about! Shee! Yeah, shee, yeah!” Tom screamed over the roar of his weapon. When he was finished, he kicked the bloody body parts of the “actor” into a pile so that none of his colleagues would slip on them.

The pile began to jiggle, to twitch. Tom attributed this aberration to postmortem muscle reflexes, and set his sights on other real-TV affiliates. He did not see the slimy, grimy hand reach out of the pile and stretch out its fingers…

The thing that emerged from the “actor”’s remains was the size and shape of a real person. But it was not a real person. Like the thing that had demolished the body it had been hiding in, it was a fictional character.

It resembled a homunculus that had just climbed out of a pool of rancid jelly. Smooth, thin, pale features dripping with junky innards…

Leatherface was the first one to spot it. His eyes widened in terror and he began to suck on his thumb with the intensity of a hungry infant sucking on his mother’s teat.

The fictional character looked hard at Leatherface. It placed a finger on its lips and made a “Shh” noise.

Leatherface shrieked like an old barefoot woman who’s stepped on a mousetrap.

The fictional character rolled its eyes. It stuck two fingers in its mouth and whistled as loud as it could.

“Ouch!” shouted Lady Chatterly’s lover. He had sensitive ears and happened to be exterminating a make-up assistant in the vicinity of the newborn fictional character when it whistled. He was in the process of torturing the assistant by pinning down her arms and type-type-typing non-existent words onto her chest with his strong fingers. She was in agony. Her brother used to do the typewriter on her when she was a young girl, so often that it eventually induced paranoid schizophrenia in her. It took years of therapy to turn her back into a functional socialite again. But now, as the hardcore fingertips of old John Thomas hammered away at her chest, The Fear was exploding back into her.

At the sound of the fictional character’s whistle, however, a sickening gash burst open in the stomach of the make-up assistant. She died immediately. Out of the gash came a foot that kicked John Thomas in the nuts. He keeled over onto his side, moaning, coughing, swearing.

Another fictional character surfaced. It stood up and shrugged off the make-up assistant’s skin as if it might be a Halloween costume. It was much taller and thinner than the body that used to house it, and like its precursor, it also resembled a grime-soaked homunculus.

A frowning Colonel Kurtz (the one from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) nudged a blinking Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando from Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now!) and pointed at the newborn fictional character. “Did you see that crap?” he said out of the corner of his mouth. “That weird bastard’s twice as big as that wench used to be. How’d it fit in there?”

Brando’s Kurtz didn’t know what to say. He shook his bald head in disbelief, dropping the severed head of the laugh-track coordinator he had been clutching by the pony tail onto the floor.

In the half minute that followed, a raging slue of fictional characters came out of the real-TV people. If the real-TV people had already been exterminated, the fictional characters crawled out of their remains. If they were still alive and in the process of being exterminated, the fictional characters forced their way out of their stomachs. In some cases the real-TV people would simply explode, and when the smoke cleared, standing there would be a fictional character.

There were three differences between these new fictional characters and the ones that had brought them into being.

1) Despite slight variations in height and weight, the new fictional characters all looked the same. They had white, hairless, gleaming, sinewy bodies. Their eyes were oyster shells, and their teeth belonged to big, hungry fish.

2) The new fictional characters were a collection of unfamous, nameless nobodies whereas the other fictional characters couldn’t walk down the street without suffering at the wanton hands of fandom.

3) The famous, well-known fictional characters began to wonder what distinguished a fictional from a real character—suddenly they both seemed like more or less the same thing. The unfamous, unknown fictional characters, on the other hand, didn’t think twice about the nature of their existence. All they thought about was how they were going to take revenge on the fictional characters that had exterminated the meat puppets they had once inhabited.

Glass shards everywhere. Overturned furniture and movie cameras everywhere. Blood everywhere, guts everywhere.

Empty bodies everywhere. The skinsuits of what used to be real-TV people littered the hardwood floor like so many crappy rain ponchos.

Thick currents of smoke rose out of the carnage. It drifted up into the rafters, into the spotlights that cast the limelights…

The smoke intensified, curdle … All of a sudden the famous fictional characters were lost in a humid, gummy fog. They couldn’t see anything. Some of them tried to wave the fog away by fluttering their hands in front of their faces, but the fog only thickened. A feeling of helplessness swept them all away. It made no sense, this helplessness. Their vision was impaired, true, but that didn’t merit a breakdown in their characters, for God’s sake. But they broke down. Even the most manly of them.

“I’m scared,” admitted Wesley-Snipes-as-Blade in a soft whisper. He wrapped his arms around his cold leathery body and began to sniffle.

Near Blade was Henry Miller (not the author, of course, but the protagonist of Tropic of Cancer). He heard the vampire killer’s grief and replied, “I’m scared too, brother.” The two men reached out to grasp hands. If they could have, they would have fallen into each other’s arms. But no matter how hard they tried to find one another they always failed. Like all of the other famous fictional characters, they were lost and alone and feeling less fictional than they had ever felt in their lives. The way they felt—it was too palpable, too conceivable. Too real . . .

The non-famous fictional characters, in turn, were feeling perfectly fictional. They all had superhuman vision and could clearly see through the smoke. Their enemies were in pain. Their enemies were bawling like small children whose parents have left them on a doorstep. And all because of a little fog. What a bunch of babies, the non-famous fictional characters said to themselves as they stood there staring at the pathetic spectacle. It made them sick to their stomachs. It made their lips curl up over their hideous teeth.

It made them exact their revenge without another moment’s hesitation.

All at once, the non-famous fictional characters snuck up behind the fictional characters and used their razor sharp forefingers to unzip their backs from the top to the bottom of their spines. A communal scream of terror erupted and echoed across the vastness of the real-TV studio as the non-famous fictional characters crawled inside of the fictional characters like hungry worms burrowing into rotten apples . . .

Tyrone Slothrop’s face turned into an electrical storm.

The body of Josef K. became a pinwheel a of runaway fire hoses.

Willie Lowman’s eyes lit up with white noise.

Ectoplasm leaked, sometimes spurted, out of the ears and nostrils of The Crow’s Eric Draven, who was being played by the late Brandon Lee.

Max Shrek’s Count Orlock grunted, urinated all over himself, and completely lost the urge to suck blood.

Gary Oldman (as Reverend Dimmsdale), Harrison Ford (as Han Solo), Oskar Werner (as Guy Montag), Anthony Quinn (as Zorba the Greek), Vincent Price (as Roderick Usher), Malcolm McDowell (as Alexander de Large)—their skin was literally crawling . . .

By the time the smoke had cleared, the bodies of the famous fictional characters had stopped flailing and surging. And their minds had stopped working. They belonged to the non-famous fictional characters now, and once everybody’s backs had been sewn up by Dr. Zhivago, Ed Wood climbed into his high chair and said, “Alright then. Take five everyone.”

It was at this point that the real-TV studio was bumrushed by a slavering herd of real people

____________________

I sing canticles

Yesterday seven souls spoke with God.
Their words streamed in a vaporous trail
high above earth.
Their words burst into flame,
a burning bush rooted in heaven,
flowering with blossoms of light.
They spoke with God and praised his works
in heaven and on earth.

They stepped into the void
with wings still damp, released before their hour.
Fledgling courage of damp feathers,
they stepped with honour into flames,
and showered earth with potent seed.

I sing canticles in dark days,
I honour texts in a tongue I cannot read.
I seek the burning syllables that dropped from heaven
potent with love
to show us the way.


Heather Ferguson
. . . . . .

© Copyright Heather Ferguson All rights reserved.
Ottawa, Canada
February 2, 2003

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