Archive for January, 2011

Lysongenic, by Dennis Wiedenhoeft


Caught in the current of chance

Touch is the key to tack on

Doorway is required to dance

Without it nothing is done

Attached, latched piercing insertion

Enter the host and stay as a ghost

Hide, glide, make it all function

Control Room is the new post

Give machinery your new codes

Now, comes the resulting parts

New foreign growth explodes

Maturation before, end starts

Collect all the proper pieces

Build, yield the massive number

Bloated, the production ceases

Sickness waits in slumber

Integration brings devastation

All to produce the genome

Federation for its regeneration

Free to roam, for the next home

Suicide Slope: A Metaphor, by Shane Thelen

            The trek out to Suicide Slope is a grueling one.  We have made the journey a dozen times knowing full well what awaited us.  This time as we hiked, we talked.  Sometimes about the past; sometimes about the future.  I never was very good at dwelling on the present, instead looking towards the next adventure, almost forgetting the current one.  You see, even the walk to our destination is filled with ups and downs; the journey to our adventure taking just as much out of us as the end result would.

            About ten years ago, my friend feared for his life.  A battle with a serious illness could have left him a corpse.  It would seem that this gave impetus to his future self.  This condition is what pushed him forward when none of us could.  This man, a mere child at the time, never wept about the uncertainty of his life; never feared; never worried.  The day to day struggles seemed to pale in comparison with what he was fighting but because he never focused on the ailment, never gave it power, it freed him as only a pure lack of fear can.

            We walk along, the wind burning our faces, the ice particles in the air stinging and scratching their signatures into our exposed flesh.  Towing the sleds behind us, we march resolutely down the third steepest hill that we will deal with this day.  Slipping and occasionally falling into the knee-deep snow gives us time for laughter, time to reflect.  We pause and catch our icy, wind-driven breath before we go on.  In the distance, through the blizzard, we can make out the raging, cragged peak we will assault.  The trees moan in the crisp, howling air, branches cracking and snapping to our left and our right.

            In high school, he wasn’t a great student or even an attentive one.  We spent many days playing hooky and going hiking and fishing instead of preparing for a future that we hadn’t signed up for.  It was about this time that this person in question met his foil . . . in the form of a girlfriend.  L. was insightful, and she could see the brains in this underweight, fragile little kid.  She glowed about his good qualities, but was never slow to criticize his failings.  In her, he caught a glimpse of redemption in his future.  She nagged him incessantly, feeling that he was throwing away the many wonderful chances he was being given to become more than he was.  He resented her for those same expectations; he didn’t know how long he would live.

            As time wore on, the fights grew worse.  It was never one-sided; she punched, and kicked, and slapped him and he gave it right back.  There was no animosity at the end, not evening a true parting of ways.  Rather, there was the tacit though unspoken acknowledgment that each had affected the other in their own manner and neither would be the same.

            We see a field mouse scamper through the snow in the field just ahead and below us.  To the west, a solitary ray of sun creeps from beneath a veneer of thick, gunmetal-gray clouds.  Like a groundhog seeing its shadow, this beacon of spring days soon to come appears but then quickly takes leave, sneaking back into its lair.  We reflect for a moment on how all of this has come about.  How we know to come here for the thrill of sliding head first down a dangerously steep slope; a journey which will end in glorious triumph or painful tragedy.  How do we know that this thing we do will, in fact, make the best memories regardless of the outcome of this day?

            After his breakup, my friend spent a lot of his time with temp agencies.  A hard worker, he had many jobs he enjoyed but few that would last for more than a week.  After two and a half years of bouncing around the workforce, he landed a gig with a standards and testing facility.  If you have a lock on your front door, there’s a good chance that the original has passed through his hands.  Picked, smashed, frozen, destroyed.  Sent back, re-imagined, re-engineered, re-sent, re-tested.  Taken apart, put back together, and given a seal of approval.  A stirring metaphor for his life.

            After hiking a quarter mile up the dreaded Suicide Slope, we gaze at creation from its peak.  Our lives exist in a kind of quantum flux, precariously perched on the aether with nothing on all sides and empty space both forward and backward from this moment.  I sigh, a sign that my body is content with our journey.  Our adrenal glands have yet to be emptied so we sight down the runway leading to the ravine that will provide a sweet though temporary release once the bottom is reached.

            My friend currently lives in a nice place in a nice city.  His dreams now evolve with the rest of his life.  This may seem like a game of catch-up to some, but he views it differently.  When pressed, he sighs and says, “I like where I’m at.  You can’t get to where you’re going if you don’t like where you’re at.”  This is another example of his day to day philosophy.  You need to focus on being content in the now before you can worry about where you’re going and if you’re ever going to get there.

            We pause at the top of the Slope, neither of us saying a word.  The blizzard has long since relaxed its frozen grip, and the quiet stillness of the world is now reborn.  A deep breath, another sigh, and it’s time to ride hell-bent for snow.  We take turns, and I consider it an honor to watch him go first.  Down the slope, over the ice jump we recently installed at the halfway point, and now to the tricky part–the turn.  Although the Slope looks steep, it is not this that threatens our bodies nor chills our souls.  At the bottom there is a hairpin turn which none of us have made yet.  Instead, for those doomed to failure, there lies a twisted, gnarly patch of thorny brambles at the base of the hill.

            Generally opting for survival and maintaining all of our limbs intact, we’ve made it a practice to jump clear of the sled just before reaching the menacing patch of spikes and pain.  But this day, something is different.  I see him glide down, loft over the small jump and land with an explosion of snow.  He is still sliding at breakneck speed when I lose sight of him at the bottom.  Steeling my nerves against this haphazard attempt on my life, I sit Indian-style on my sled and push off.

            I veer to the left and just miss the jump; by doing so, my speed increases exponentially.  Racing down the Slope, the wind deafening me, I see the end in sight.  A sharp, ice-coated curve veers up in front of me.  I slide and then push all my weight to the back left of the hideous hell-wrought contraption beneath me.  The icy snow makes a grating, crunching sound as I pass over it, and in one instant I clear the curve.  I find that the trail here makes a 90 degree bend and leads straight up another, steeper Slope. 

            But I am not a lone explorer. I see my friend sitting there, gazing up at the next challenge.  Our eyes meet and in the same instant we smile.  Neither of us has ever made it this far.  No one has seen what we now behold.  By waiting to conquer the curve before we go on, we have realized a new sense of exploration and wonder at what lies ahead, and for the second time this day the sun rises in the east.

Unitled, by Robin Gotisha

It all started

In a car

Then after that

I got a scar

A few years later

I had a seizure

The cause?

They don’t know for sure

When you’re reading this

You might think it’s bad

You might think that these things

Would make me sad

But it’s actually positive

If you look at it that way

Because these events

Made me who I am today

Blissfully Beautiful, by Bekah Webb

It was a beautiful day in Charleston, SC.  The sun-drenched sky was gleaming across a cloudless blue canvass; a perfect day on vacation for our traditional trip downtown.

We embraced the sultry heat of August to take on the bustling market.  Five blocks of endless tables each with a different vendor selling something more colorful and intriguing than the next.  After purchasing my treasures, we headed to our next stop–Wet Willies–for a fruity frozen beverage and a blast of refreshingly icy air conditioning.

Our day continued as we walked down the cobblestone street, passing pastel historical homes along Rainbow Row.  I stopped to admire the glistening water lapping the shoreline along the Battery, only to find my boyfriend trying to get my attention with a light tug of my arm.

There he was, down on one knee, squinting into the bright sun.  I couldn’t speak; I was so surprised, nervous and excited all at once; my stomach turned from the feel of 100 butterflies fluttering.  I pulled him from the ground and ignored the sweat we were both drenched in, hugging and kissing, tasting the salt from our skin.  This was the most exhilarating moment of my life.  So much anticipation leading up to that very moment, and it was perfect.

The princess-cut diamond surrounded by 36 dazzling diamonds now displayed on my left hand sparkled in the summer sun.  I stared at it in disbelief as we walked to our next destination, which was unknown to me.  I was so distracted and preoccupied with my newfound bling, I hadn’t realized that I was standing in the luxurious lobby of the Market Pavilion Hotel.

Our room was rich and lavish–by far the fanciest hotel I had ever set foot in.  We found mouth-watering strawberries dressed in chocolate tuxedos accompanied by bubbling champagne, bottles we immediately popped to celebrate.

 That night, as I enjoyed the steeple filled skyline view from our balcony, sipping velvety merlot, I saw my fiancé across from me; I had never felt so adored, so loved.  This was the most romantic, blissful day I’d ever had.

Jesus was a Vampire, by Amanda Pagniello

Jesus was a vampire;

so was Mother Mary;

his maker.

When he hung upon

the cross with nails

driven into his hands

he cried for salvation…

and the sunset lay

upon the brink of the

horizon and the little

children played.

His body was wrapped

and laid to rest upon

the stone, as his divine

blood dripped into the

cup–it was called a

Holy Grail.

After that he vacationed

because the devil then

came and said he’d

sealed the deal.

Arrive Like a Whisper, Go Out With a Bang, by Patrick Acuff

Los Angeles, California, January 7, 2003. We arrived as newborn babies out of a womb of isolation and despair to a world of freedom and stimulation with new people staring at us from every direction. To fully understand this moment, I must take you back exactly six days prior to our arrival in L.A., back to my parents’ basement in Milwaukee, WI.

On December 31, I was in my room, a half-finished basement room that contained my bed, a large sectional couch, an old 1990’s version flat screen television, and a six foot pool table in the middle of the room. I don’t recall all the people there that day, but the two people whom I definitely remember being there were Jon, whom we called only by his last name, “Bunch,” and the local pro skateboarder Greg Lutzka. In that basement we passed vast amounts of free time, especially in the long, frigid, winter months here in the Midwest.

New Year’s Day is often a time to make resolutions, but Jon, Greg, and I had no idea what big changes would be soon taking place in our lives. We were in the middle of a game of pool when I shouted, “After New Years there won’t be anything to look forward to for at least another four months.”  So, depressed and anxious for some kind of substantial change in our lives and environment, we brainstormed different ideas about possible solutions to our dilemma. Should we all move in together? Get a place downtown or somewhere? Travel for a couple months? Our brains were looking for positive reinforcement, screaming “Why? What the hell are we doing here?” Then just as all great movements begin, we had the idea. California, yeah, that would be paradise, but did we actually have it in us?

I remember looking at places on the Internet and being astonished at the price of a one bedroom that was offered for $1,100 a month. Nice place, it seemed, but five hundred and fifty square feet for that price! We quickly cancelled the first California plan and went back to the drawing board. Again dead ends–nothing seemed as close to perfect for us as California. The only way we could do it, though, was if all three of us shared a one room apartment. We figured out a few more of the minor details and decided we would sleep on it and talk some more about it the following day.

Wow, was I excited! My mind was going a million miles an hour, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about it all night. Later that next afternoon, we started discussing the idea again, and to my dismay it seemed as if Jon and Greg were completely against it now.  I said, “What are you guys thinking? We had all these great ideas going last night, and now you are both over it? Come on! Don’t you want to rid yourselves of comforts and security and live in the now? Let’s do this! We only have the now!” 

Seemingly, they were shocked and moved by my enthusiasm; maybe I was getting through to them. The energy in the room ignited like a wild burning forest fire. At that point the idea was much too electrifying to diminish or contain. We seemed to have solutions to every weary question and answers to the entire unknown.

Now, we were ready to leave immediately, but first things first; we needed to find a place to live. We cautiously looked for a few hours but kept coming back to the place we had found the previous evening. “Regency Palms” was advertised as a large apartment complex in Huntington Beach. It had pools, hot tubs and was just few blocks from the Pacific Ocean and only about twenty miles south of L.A. For no more than fifteen minutes, we pondered booking it. We fully understood that by renting the place we would be completely liable, and there would be no turning back. I called and the phone rang twice and a feminine voice answered, “Hello, Regency Palms.” I was at a complete loss for words, but after taking a second to gather myself, I was able to give the necessary information. Now the place was booked, and the security deposit was paid for occupancy starting that day!

First, we had to tell our parents we’d be out of their houses in two days because we were moving to California. Our parents must have thought we were crazy, and their reactions showed how much confidence they had in us. We were then quizzed about when, why, how, and just about every doubt a parent should and could possibly have. They had no trust in us whatsoever. I immediately started to alleviate some of their concerns with the “We Are Big Boys Now speech,” being quite positive that Jon and Greg at that very moment were having the exact same conversation with their parents. The movement was developing.

The next day, plans went into high gear! Jon and I started to gather the necessary supplies. Renting the U-haul was our first mission; I say mission because that is what it turned into. The biggest issue was that none of the U-haul places would rent us a trailer because it is a roll over, flip hazard or some kind of serious safety flaw between Jon’s older S.U.V. and the large trailer. So after going to five or six different rental places and not having any luck convincing them we were using it for a truck that we “had down the street,” we resorted to lying to his parents about what we needed their car for, but we ended up getting his parents truck and quickly drove and made our purchase. Using the larger, safer vehicle was not our plan though or even an option; we had to get Jon’s S.U.V. there, my scooter, and all our stuff. We promptly hooked up the trailer and began packing it with anything and everything our parents didn’t want: old furniture, pots and pans, lamps and just about any of the junk they were just waiting to give to Goodwill.

A thirty-four hour drive is what Map Quest told us it was. Greg was to follow in his car with his father as passenger, so they left the same time we did, but within an hour, they were so far ahead of us that Jon and I didn’t see them again until we arrived at our new place. Jon and I understood that it was going to take much longer if we were to make it there alive with the trailer and car still intact. Until we started driving on the freeway, we hadn’t realized how much of a hazard the big trailer was. We hadn’t even gotten out of the state before we had some close calls, and quickly we learned that if we went over fifty-five mph, the trailer and car would shake so horribly that both were impossible to control.  

We slowly made it through Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. As we approached the next state, the sun revealed the top of its head over the horizon behind us. Re-energized by the radiant rays, we pushed on to the deserts of New Mexico. The geography was nothing like we had ever known; farms, grassy hills, and lakes were replaced by barren, red rock mountains, and dry deserts. When we arrived in Arizona, we needed some sleep, so we pulled over to the nearest rest stop and dozed in our seats for a good five hours. When we awoke, we felt as though we had slept on a pile of bricks, and then had them dropped on our heads. Then as the sun set over the hills in front of us, we exited Arizona and entered California.

The mountains and hills of southeastern California were the last leg of our trip. By the time we were thirty miles away from our destination, we experienced beautiful ocean breeze, a slight drop in temperature, and a sudden stop in traffic. We were in grid lock, something we never fully experienced till we saw this mess, sixteen lanes of traffic all stopped dead for no apparent reason. Two hours later, we finally turned off the 405 freeway onto our exit and proceeded down a couple of streets to our new place.

 Getting to that apartment was one of the best feelings I had up to that moment. Finally we were free to do whatever, whenever, and with a long list of explorations. We lived the sweet life for a good six months in sunny Southern Cal, living every day as if it were our last. Then, one day, just as fast as we had decided to come, Jon packed his car and drove back home to be with his now ex-girlfriend. Greg and I managed to keep the place for another few months but eventually went our separate ways. The occasional party and other social events were all that we saw of each other after a while. I stayed out there for another five years working in construction and other odd jobs. I had a lot of amazing experiences living on my own; I’ve met movie stars, seen astonishing concerts, skateboarded some of the best spots in the world, and made some everlasting friendships.

My overall view of California is that it is great to go to on vacation, but I can’t live on vacation. I lost all sense of time and reality. In contrast, I think if anyone has a chance to move there, they should. If I ever had the opportunity to go to any university out of state, I would. At least once in my life I got out of all my cozy little comfort zones and broke the mold. I took a chance, saved a couple thousand dollars and moved far away from everything I knew. It was an essential and fundamental way of finding myself, really, some of the best “soul food” I’ve had.

Find Her Way, by Nicole Thull Santos

Standing on a street corner, no one for her to turn to,

Looking back on her past life, to crystal skies of pure blue,

She doesn’t know where she’s at, or where she’ll end up being,

But she’s tired of all the black, storm-filled skies she has been seeing.

Alone in this world is how it’s got to be

Until the place is found that brings serentity.

Not fame, money or adoration will make her feel fulfilled,

Just an end to life’s desperation and renewed life in dreams once killed.

She seeks to find the truest love, to share in her existence here,

To bask in the light of life, and share in all that’s dear.

It’s not the glitz and glamour, contained in the world at large,

But the creation of the idea, and the grace with which it’s discharged.

She’s got to get away from the life she’s living now,

Keep struggling to find the Who’s, When’s, Where’s, Why’s and How’s.

Entwined in a world where she can’t lift her voice in song.

So she’ll keep searching  for answers on a road that’s far too long.

She’s got to break free from the chains of her isolation,

Searching for the faith to escape from her damnation.

Through tears and pain she can’t seem to understand

Why the dream filled skies remain her fairyland.

Loved and Lost, by Rachel Schwerin

Gazing up into the frosted night’s sky–

Where are you?

Two worlds away,

Reminisce with me . . .

This night similar to so many familiar memories

Time fades into the creeping horizon

Waiting for the sun to rise over our lives,

Interrupted by the memory of your passionate eyes.

Clouds trembling above, then cry for us.

Drenched with remorse,

I dream for yesterdays filled with laughter and pure bliss.

Are we admiring the same masterpiece glowing over head?

I wonder.

For What? by Rachel Schwerin

 A novelty I am,

Got too easy, I always ran,

Give anything to find who I am.

I interchanged lives throughout my prime,

Didn’t prepare myself for the climb,

The only idea I knew farce was time.

Disturbia comforted me.

Petrified to be defined,

Insomnia helped me see

The flooded thoughts that lived inside my mind

Always threatened at the trivial,

Easily frightened by the conventional

Acclimated to be alone . . .

Realizing no one is trying to find me

I didn’t fit into anyone’s reality,

I fought to a degree to stay free . . .

Only to sit in the noise of my actuality.

My Safe Place, by Richard H. Carlson

I grew up on a horse farm in southern Wisconsin. I had this special place, where I could escape to, a safe place, and it seemed a place only I knew about.

This place was a part of the pasture that sided a railroad viaduct. Here I had every thing a kid could want. Our junk yard littered with old rusting farm equipment stood at the ready to become anything I wanted. These pieces of equipment would take shape and become a WW II tank, a spaceship, anything I needed them to be.

There was a large cottonwood tree on a slight hill overlooking the dump. I can still remember how beautiful it looked when there was a stiff breeze, and the leaves would flicker green to silver. In the late spring when the flowers would fall off, it looked like a snow storm. The best, however, was the gentle sound that would be made by the leaves in the wind. I could climb this tree rather well, and I had a great place to sit on the first branch, about fifteen feet high. From this vantage point I could either reign supreme over the pasture, or sit in silence and nobody would know I was there.

A small, cool stream was at hand for that cooling summertime dip or for a commando assault on the beach so G.I. Joe could win the battle.

The “Crown Jewel,” was the viaduct stretching over the railroad tracks. Sitting up under the roadway was the best. I could watch and count the cars of a lumbering freight train going by to deliver its goods. The passenger trains would hurtle on their way to the station where the commuters would board or leave to go home, depending on the time of day. I would flatten coins on the tracks, and the rail bed would have the best stones to throw. When you sat up under the road and a car would go by it made the neatest “click-it-tee-clack” sound

I would spend many afternoons in my place and a few nights camping under the big old cottonwood, safe from harm. Finally as the years went by we sold the farm and moved.  My special place was gone.

A few years ago, I was just driving by the old place on my way home from Harvard, IL. The idea came to mind to pull in and see who lived there now. I explained who I was and asked if I could take a walk in the pasture? The owner was the man we sold it to, and he said sure, so off I went.

The hay fields still smelled the same, the remaining trees were larger, and the trail was worn deeper into the ground. With every step I could feel my anticipation building, almost to a fever pitch. I went down the draw and up the hill to get to “My place.” I topped the hill, waiting to find the secret place of my youth. I stood there dumbstruck to see the viaduct was gone, replaced with a railroad crossing and signal lights. The old junk yard was also gone, and a maze of stake lines took its place. I was crushed, and almost started to tear-up, when I noticed up on the hill, the big old cottonwood was still standing strong. As I walked up to it cautiously, I could hear the leaves rustling gently and watched the leaves flicker in the wind from green to silver just as I remembered. A smile started to replace the swelling of my eyes, and I sat down at the bottom by the trunk and started to revisit those old memories. I was in my place again, wishing I had never left.