Homage to L.A.: a Slaughterhouse of Dreams
The smell hits you as soon as you step out of the air-conditioned airport. You feel the residue, the fallout of broken dreams hitting your palate. The charred remains of incinerated hopes mix with the omnipresent smog and invade every pore of your being.
The shuttle bus takes you to your hotel over miles and miles of pulverised aspirations paved over by concrete highways. From the bus window you can see Hollywood Boulevard, where gold stars are set into asphalt, merging imperceptibly with the Promenade of Dead Dreams where the stars are wrought of dirty, soggy cardboard and are stuck onto the pavement with scotch tape or wads of old gum. Each star marks the exact spot where a particular dream breathed its last.
Different dreams die in different ways. Some shatter into jagged shards and one gets badly cut trying to piece them together again. Some fragment into neat, symmetrical fragments and reconstruction is a relatively straightforward task, sort of like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Others just crumble away, like burnt paper, and nothing is left to do except to warm your hands over their long-cold ashes.
Around each broken dream throngs of people sit in huddles, protecting it as best they can from the elements and the vagaries of fate, and keeping a vigil just in case it stirs and shows signs of life, for no dream can be obliterated completely.
L.A., a Dream Slaughterhouse masquerading diabolically as a Dream Factory. The city takes particular delight in finding new ways to kill dreams, in finding new dreams to put to death. Special extermination squads roam its streets, ransacking every nook and cranny of the peoples' souls and minds for any treasured hopes that might be in hiding there. The perversity of L.A.'s depravity is such that it even gives birth to dreams just so it can shoot them and watch them die.
The dream incinerators keep working around the clock, day and night, producing clouds of smoke that comprise of dreams reduced to their constituent elements: deep yearnings, life-long desires, burning ambitions, great hopes, ineffable hunches rumbling just below the conscious mind, indestructible beliefs, faint, half-remembered childhood premonitions of future glory that are more potent than any Law of Man or Nature, secret aspirations that one does not dare to share with others lest they be derided, yet which are a crucial part of one's identity and which one is absolutely certain will be realized.
The city makes you come face to face with your shortcomings, makes you confront your failures. It knows all the delusions that comfort us throughout our lives; the delusions that get us out of bed in the morning and inspire us to do things with our lives; the delusions that keep us warm and secure at night; the delusions that sustain us through our daily struggles; the delusions we use to solve our existential crises and that provide us with reasons for living; the delusions that help us through our darkest times; the delusions we stubbornly hang on to, nurture and cherish and that we would defend to our very deaths.
Every delusion gets hunted down and taken care of in this town: the delusion that you are special and unique; the delusion that you have singular and extraordinary talents; the delusion that you are in possession of insights into life the rest of the world lacks; the delusion that you possess fundamental truths everyone else is blind to; the delusion that you are destined for greatness; the delusion that you are a genuine genius whom the world doesn’t appreciate or understand; the delusion that you will find a soul mate meant just for you and whose love will save you; the delusion that the convictions you tenaciously hold on to are not delusions at all but are rather veracious, valid beliefs derived from experience and insight, and are supported by evidence from both the outer and inner worlds; the delusion that you are above the laws of humanity and deserve to be treated differently; the delusion that a lucky break will come to you in the end; the delusion that somewhere some person, angel or god is looking after you, working on your behalf and trying to help you with your journey through life; the delusion that you are protected by fate and special good fortune from bad things happening to you; the delusion that there will come a day when you will begin to live happily ever after; the delusion that some day you will find meaning in your tribulations and thus your life will be retrospectively justified; the delusion that it all will turn out well in the end; the delusion that all is well that ends well; the delusion that your life is just a bad, absurd dream and that you will eventually wake up to find yourself living a happy life that makes sense; the delusion that you alone, out of the multitude in the present world and throughout the course of history, will be spared from death; the delusion that you are dead; the delusion that you are alive; the delusion that you do not have any delusions.
Over the eons, the native denizens of the city have evolved a protection mechanism— they dream only fake dreams and have only counterfeit delusions so that when their hopes are destroyed, it doesn’t hurt at all. Only the unwary outsiders possess no genetic defence system and it is their dreams the metropolis preys upon.
The mountains, mute witnesses to the adversities and sufferings down below, are always there, solid and eternal, their paradoxical presence contrasting sharply with the ethereal, evanescent dreams floating around in the valleys.
Yet there might be an explanation for this incongruity, for according to an old American Indian legend the L.A. area was once as flat as a pancake. Over time the detritus of destroyed dreams landed on the outskirts and amassed to create the mountains. Just as coral reefs are comprised of myriads of dead organisms, so the mountains around L.A. are composed of fragments of lost hopes, scraps of unfulfilled ambitions and shells of dead dreams, with each broken dream contributing about 2/7th of an inch to the mountains’ height.
The mountains, mute witnesses, say nothing, expressing themselves through that most ancient, most articulate, most authentic and most profound language of all—absolute silence.
Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. The biggest influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka and Borges. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs.
At the end you went past
the blandishments of light
past the golden shimmer
of its dance across
the surfaces of things-
pushing down to something
the spin and shiver
of subatomic particles
humming in the space beneath
their motion caught
in swift jabs of paint
punched out on flat canvas--
the electric pulse
shining with intent--
trees curling like
flames against the sky
stars that swirl and tumble
across the restless night
wind moving through
the living wheat
where the skirl of crows rises
and the road runs headlong
to its vanishing point
at the junction
of pain and exaltation
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had many publications in journals, including Earth's Daughters, Caketrain, and The Evening Street Review, among others. She has only recently discovered the vibrant poetry communities on the internet, where there is so much to explore and enjoy.
Unknown, but Recognizable
a response to an unidentified print found long ago in a dusty art shop
Her yellow bow flopping,
Dressed only in drawers,
She shocks the three girls
Who watch her from shore.
Her slash of a scowl
Beneath a red bob
Affirms their opinion:
She wades in the breakers;
They’re far from such sin.
Her arms act as ballast;
Their censure, the wind.
But unlike the trio
Who all turn away,
The watery sprite
So hers is the face shown
Reflected on sea
And hers the two eyes
That beckon just me
To pluck the shrunk print
From the shopkeeper’s mess
And take home the one
Who couldn’t care less.
Julia Rocchi writes prose, poetry, prayers, and picture books. She holds an MA in Writing (Fiction) from Johns Hopkins University. Her fiction has appeared in Mulberry Fork Review, and her poetry has appeared in Ekphrastic Review and the anthology Unrequited: Love Letters to Inanimate Objects. Julia lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.
Editor's note: The Ekphrastic Review is sorry to break the spell this mystery print had on the poet by identifying it! The painting was called "The Water's Fine," by American impressionist Edward Potthast. The work's date is not known, but the artist lived from 1857-1927.
our house is a different kind of museum;
the collection encompassing
what we chose to not throw away.
to your right, chipped mugs,
note the dark lines threading
through tea-stained ceramic.
over here, see yellowed receipts,
secured by a binder clip,
and dangling from a key rack
that houses no keys.
to your left, photographs,
stacked in plastic tubs
and hidden in creaking cupboards,
out of view.
Tiffany Babb: "I am currently working towards my Masters Degree in American Studies at Columbia University. My work has been published in (parenthetical), Poetry Quarterly, Third Wednesday, and Fickle Muses."
In the house we grew up in there was only
a dark cubbyhole for our memories and the secrets
of our lost childhoods the Hardy Boys books,
Kerry's Lionels, Todd's blocks and dried out baseball
mitts, the sax I played in the stupid band.
Returning to their home town after 25 years
was surreal. They got lost trying to get to
the high school. The ice cream stand they worked in
was now a dry cleaners, while Old Smith’s Farm
was gone altogether.
I find Kerry upstairs
in his room in the old Northfield Avenue house
in the far corner at his desk
so absorbed in writing something he doesn’t see
or hear me and I can’t get his attention.
Michael Estabrook is a recently retired baby boomer child-of-the-sixties poet freed finally after working 40 years for “The Man” and sometimes “The Woman.” No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms. Now he’s able to devote serious time to making better poems when he’s not, of course, trying to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List.
Baldassare Forestiere tunneled under
to sculpt the earth into subterranean baths,
gardens and grottos— one hundred chambers
excavated with hand tools, picks, a shovel
and sometimes a mule to move bigger rocks.
Thrown out of olive groves by his father,
he traveled with the idea of growing citrus.
A new arrival, he bought hardpan, rocky land
that could never prosper in a valley
perennially burned by summer sun,
soil-cracked by drought, fog-swamped
in winter. He survived by levelling
other farmers’ tracts and grafting fruit trees.
To escape the heat, he went underground,
one scoop of dirt at a time, dreaming
of catacomb passages, a cool alcove,
a snug bedroom, a garden view lit with skylights.
In a cavern, eight—twelve—metres below,
he would grow wonder trees,
one citrus bearing eight kinds of fruit.
He would treat some woman, wife,
to cedrons, navel oranges, Valencias,
tangerines, grapefruits, and sweet lemons,
while she bathed in his hand-carved tub.
In brick planters, pear trees would thrive,
pomegranates, almonds, mulberries,
palm dates, persimmons, and strawberries,
red grapes and green, rosemary, myrtle--
his fish pond stocked with fish caught
in the San Joaquin River, his own brand
of wine hand-pressed, Sangre di Christo--
All of this did come to pass, his villa, after
forty years of burrowing, but the woman
did not want to play Persephone;
she would only have him above ground.
She could not see the charm
of his spliced trees, the sweet globes
of fruit glowing in sun shafts
of his cavernous honeycomb.
He hand-scraped dirt, dredged scrabble,
strained his back with wheelbarrow loads
to remake the lower world into his own image.
He stayed alone. Ten acres of an ant colony,
piazzas in deep vaults, meetings halls,
a space for a restaurant and dancing--
he imagined a peopled resort,
where others could see in the braced ceilings
and clay-tiled patios who Baldassare Forestiere
was, a man with little money, who sculpted
himself and propagated a wonder tree
still growing a bounty seventy years after his death.
I have walked down into the earth,
descended into Forestiere’s gardens,
imagining his evenings, reading,
in his small bedroom, alone and buried
(for he did like to read), sitting next to
the starlit skylight to tune the radio,
lifting a tired arm to put a strawberry in his mouth.
Maybe I’ll go to the sky,
Sabato said after his wife left
and he tired of swimming
in wine bottles. He walked
the railway lines to gather cast-off
rebar, rods he webbed
into steel latticework of spindles
and steeples, scalloped cones,
and ribbed tetrahedrons.
He climbed higher daily,
yearly. Like a boy pulling himself
up, level after level of a rocketship
jungle-gym in an abandoned park,
he climbed inside his airy cages.
He knitted gridiron, wrapping spines
in wire mesh, troweling on cement,
embellishing with shells, florid china teacups,
blue willow plates, toy cars, mirrors,
cobalt shards of Milk of Magnesia,
7-Up bottles and porcelain figures.
After three decades, his funky lace towers
did reach clouds. Thirty meters up,
he intertwined needletops
with arched bridges, more narrow
than the width of his foot.
He traversed his scaffold without hand rails,
grown used to misted views of Watts.
He invited all to visit Nuestro Pueblo,
and neighbours came to trace pottery chunks
in the walls and roofless doorways,
to look up, to feel it all with their hands.
Sabato Rodia embedded himself into all crevices
of his lifework. Earthquakes and riots
could not pull it down. I have put my hand
on his walls, seen the patchwork curios.
What if I used my one life
to construct these stony geometries
with only hands and thrown-out scraps?
Keep faith, Sabato, despite the neighbourhood
gawking and talking, in the beauty
of delightful dream spires.
Reinaldo Rios’ OVNI scouts film shaky,
homemade movies, tracking aliens
through a snarl of vines and plantains
in night yards of Lajas, where a woman
believes she was abducted into the surgical room
of a spaceship, returning to Earth with scrambled intestines.
The rainforests of El Yunque hide secret labs
where the U.S. military examines extraterrestrials
and creates genetic mutants that sometimes escape.
In an island of alien invasions, Roberto’s vision
began with ink doodles on lunchtime napkins,
sent as love missives to his novia de escuela superior.
He wrote his contract to her on tissue wisps
ink-carved with flying saucer designs of the home
he would one day put her in; she crumpled his banners
of love and ran, as women do, when placed upon an altar
that portends a man’s nebulous inner journey. He studied
industrial arts and fine arts—tending his love wound--
taught, saved, borrowed, retired, still intent on crafting
his napkin blueprints into a hillside glory
where he could sit, gazing down into traffic--
the centre of his own universe.
My headlights just two more dots in the light stream
wending homeward, by Juana Díaz, along the south coast,
where near the sea, the highway cuts through Peñoncillo,
I see the flying saucer, touched down on a green hill.
In cosmic dusk, seen in satellite shots,
the Caribbean archipelago is a lit constellation,
with Puerto Rico so electrified that the island
is perfectly outlined, glistening in space.
One blue star in its cluster is Roberto’s three-tier saucer,
constructed of panels of shining blue float glass,
coloured landing lights around the base, flashing silver domes.
That Blue Nun blue of Marc Chagall’s stained glass, lighting
up the hill, dazzling the sea behind it—
slowing the tired motorists.
For forty years he planned and built for seven,
raiding the auto-junkers and dollar stores,
crafting each element of the exterior and interior--
hundreds of cheap silver ashtrays welded on the top tower;
blue, red, yellow plastic salad bowls
capping the bright running lights.
Inside, floating furniture is fastened to walls,
a table built from a chromed exhaust manifold
and auto glass. His paintings of planets
and one weeping rose. Roberto Sánchez Rivera
sits outside on the cool upper deck of his saucer.
He has placed a plaster alien there that raises a hand
to point at the horizon, like our Ponce de Leon
statues in pueblo plazas. I see Roberto
in his boxer shorts with a bucket of iced medallas.
He’s not moping over Stella, that high school beauty,
or staring forlornly out at some far exoplanet
revolving around a stellar corpse.
He is in the moon glow of tonight’s dance,
where he met someone and handed her a napkin
twirled into a rose. He thinks of adding more woomp
to his saucer, maybe a gyromotor, a liquid hydrogen
something, a magneto plasmico engine, a clutch.
He’ll scoop one fist of earth, bend one rod of rebar at a time,
grab one handful of stars; he will add order to chaos
and funnel himself into his creation. He amazes
us with his vessel, zooming to celestial lift-off,
before some other cabrones colonize space.
Loretta Collins Klobah
Loretta Collins Klobah is a professor of Caribbean Literature and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico. Her poetry collection The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2011) received the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize in Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry and was short listed for the 2012 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection in the Forward poetry prize series. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best American Poetry 2016, BIM, Caribbean Beat Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, The Caribbean Review of Books, Poui: The Cave Hill Literary Annual, Susumba’s Book Bag, Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters, WomanSpeak, TriQuarterly Review, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, The Missouri Review, The Antioch Review, Cimarron Review and Poet Lore.
The Pole to Its Dancer
For Katsuki Yuri
Look, there is only one way this is going to go:
After sixteen flutes of champagne, you’ll approach
Viktor, say, “if I win this dance-off, please be my coach,”
and soon you’ll forget there was even a yes or no.
I'm not about memories. I'm slim steel. The room spins
when I attend any event. I've flipped men upside down
too many times to count to have a reason to count
even you. But ice skating was never a matter of reason,
was it, Yuri? Does your head hurt, is your gut telling you
this was a bad idea? Try to throw up with your head up,
and it only makes a mess of your good pant cuffs.
Yūri, let yourself go but hang on. Love, even true
love, can slip. Your program requires four quads.
If you’re as dizzy as you were then, I've done my job.
Ethan Leonard is a second-year fiction MFA student at the University of New Hampshire. Previous poems of theirs have been published with Star 82 Review, Mead, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, and others. They can be found tweeting at @autonomousbagel.
Way of Seeing
(after John Berger, d. Jan. 2, 2017)
I can say my way of seeing depends on how
I say what I see, and for this, we unlearn
As much as we learn, to see again what is.
Time can stop. Space can collapse. We are
Subject to differing dimensions by virtue
Of how we do our seeing, the ways in which
We say what we see. The film is one way.
The photograph is another. The advertisement
Is still another. Context is everything. We imbue
The object of our gaze with meanings by the apparatus
That frames it. Nothing is settled, except for
The stillness and the silence of the image
Itself, which, whether genuine or replicated,
Is transmittable, even across space and time,
And returns us, to our surprise, to our naked eye.
Alan Botsford is author of the essay-dialogue-poetry collection Walt Whitman of Cosmic Folklore (Sage Hill Press 2010) as well as two poetry collections, mamaist: learning a new language (Minato no Hito 2002) and A Book of Shadows (Katydid Press 2003). He has for eleven years served as editor of Poetry Kanto, Japan’s oldest bi-lingual poetry journal (poetrykanto.com).
Tangled amid thorns and branches,
surrounded by moans and sighs,
a twig cracks, splits, oozing red
down gnarled bark.
“Why have you torn me?
Have you no pity?”
in a chloral haze.
Io fei gibetto a me de le mie case―
the peacock’s cry,
Seven years, her copper hair
filled the coffin.
In the lantern light
of the pilfered grave,
her face, laudanum pale
What of her glass without her …
A decade of betrayals
of the mistress’s
of a stillborn
At Tudor House,
wombats, a kangaroo,
rapping from beyond,
her voice incarnate
in a chaffinch’s song.
Fanny installed as housekeeper,
and Jane Morris, a dark-eyed
Was not your grievous condition of weeping
Sunlit copper halo.
wont one while to make others weep?
Love holding her flickering flame,
And will ye now forget this thing
a white poppy
because a lady looketh upon you?
the red dove.
Quotes in italics are from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation of Dante's La Vita Nuova, from Dante's Inferno, and from Rossetti's "The House of Life 53: Without Her."
Richard Buhr’s poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly and The New Renaissance and his essays have been published in Comparative Drama, the Midwest Quarterly and English Literature in Transition 1880-1920. He lives in Maine, where he has worked over the years as a journalist and public relations professional.
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