Banning Together

As an editor of perhaps the second best literary journal you have never heard of, I would like to say: we love words. That’s probably pretty obvious. So let me go one step further. There’s only one thing we love more than words, and that’s banning words.

So we whole-heartedly support the proposed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida – because the best way to deal with sensitive or complex issues is to ignore them. Even better – take away the words necessary to discuss the matter. That allows the most hyper-sensitive people among us to dictate what we can talk about. And everyone feels better.

Words that begin with G seem to be particularly problematic. Therefore, I would like to propose some other G words that should be banned.

Glad – because it is frequently seen associating with Gay. They don’t mean the same thing necessarily, but they do hold hands often and sometimes kiss. And no one wants to see that.

Gazpacho – because soup should never be served cold. Plus, it is too easily confused with Gestapo, and nothing should interfere with the constant use of Gestapo – particularly when used to describe the tactics of anyone who disagrees with you politically.

Groovy – you may quibble with the other suggestions above. But, come on, everyone can agree Groovy should be banned. That word is an abomination.

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

Flowers and Stars for Algernon

If you enjoy the musical stylings of Sting (and who doesn’t?), you might enjoy Richard Powers’ Bewilderment. It’s creative, intelligent, and pretentious. Everything you want in a good pop song.

The story follows a father and son, Robin, as they cope with the recent death of Robin’s mother. The father is an astronomer. Robin is 9 years old and diagnosed as being on the spectrum – a vague assessment that is less than helpful because, as his father points out, “everyone alive on this fluke little planet was on the spectrum. That’s what a spectrum is.” At any rate Robin is extremely sensitive to everything and has difficulty relating to his “normal” classmates – so they torment him.

To help re-wire his brain, he is enrolled in an experimental but promising neurofeedback program, which works wonders until a nefarious orange-haired politician spitefully cuts off the funding. Robin begins to revert with devastating consequences. It only sounds like a 2021 version of Flowers for Algernon because it is.

The novel works best when it focuses on astronomy and the search for unknown (to us) planets throughout the universe. “The laws that govern the light from a firefly in my backyard . . . also govern the light emitted from an exploding star one billion light years away . . . One set of rules runs the game, in all times and places.” In language accessible to a layperson, the novel discusses scientific matters, such as the Fermi Paradox, which (to paraphrase) states: if the universe favors life (and science indicates it does) then, given all the universe’s time and space, why does it seem no one is out there. These sections are fascinating.

However, the novel gets bogged down when the discussion returns to Earth. The parallels to Flowers for Algernon are obvious, and the reader has a fairly good grasp of where the novel is headed from the beginning. The references to the Trump presidency are strident. Mr. Powers is not a fan. He is angry but so are a lot of people, and he does not bring anything new or all that interesting to the conversation. The novel succeeds when it explores the universe – just not that portion pertaining to Earth.

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

Pardon Me

I am Titmouse Beak . . . but you all know that . . . your president . . . probably the greatest president ever . . . of Pungent Sound Community Bank . . . it’s astounding news I bring, I am running in the 2024 election of the Sexiest Person . . . you know how sexy I am – no one sexier . . . maybe Beyonce . . . probably not . . . in the World, which includes wherever it is you live . . . Please don’t tell me. I don’t care.

If you vote for me, I promise to pardon any penalties or late fees . . . so awful, so tough for you average people . . . so unfair . . . you have incurred on any debt owed to Pungent Sound Community Bank . . . prior to January 21, 2021.

Tengo Leche: Why wait? Can’t you just do that now.

Yes, but that’s not how promises work . . . not really, because the bank’s board . . . it is really the worst board ever . . . so disappointing . . . they hate capitalism . . . such a great a system, so fair to everyone . . . the board voted your president out of office effective January 21, 2021 . . . such a sad day . . . people on rooftops crying . . . beautiful big fat tears . . . like huge boobs . . . so beautiful . . . I counted all the votes, and all the votes I counted were for me . . . fraudulent board, so sad . . . I won by a landslide, a beautiful landslide . . . you should have seen how beautiful.

Tengo Leche: Why didn’t you just pardon all those borrowers back in January – like on January 19, 2021. When you had the power to do so?

I was going to . . . so close . . . I really was . . . my presidential pen was in my hand . . . I was playing with it . . . so much fun . . . in my hand . . . which are big, folks – big hands . . . no problems down there, my friends, trust me . . . Manicures are beautiful . . . everyone should get them . . . Sexy . . . 2024 Sexiest Person Who Has Ever Lived . . . Vote often.

Tengo Leche: But if you do pardon them in 2024, won’t it be too late? Your borrowers will have paid all those late fees and penalties by then or their homes will be foreclosed on and their cars repossessed?

No, no. Never too late . . . And, you know . . . the board was very mean to me . . . your president . . . very mean . . . Made me charge those late fees and penalties . . . that’s funny . . . How would fees know if they’re late? . . . They have no watches . . . Can’t tell time . . . but I don’t pay late fees . . . never . . . only suckers and losers do that . . . So should they be pardoned? . . . I don’t know. Maybe not . . . Perhaps I’m too nice . . . And beautiful . . . They’re not beautiful . . . But sexy is beautiful. 2024. Sexiest Person in Uranus . . . Vote often.

A Best Man Before the Toast

Love did not win today.
It's only one for three.
So what should I say
as everyone stares at me?
And him.

Can we both be best?
Should not I
(or he - more likely)
be a wedding guest?

What an oxymoronic surprise!
A lovely wedding jest -
best becomes a pity prize
awarded at an inquest.

So what do you do
when the woman you crave
doesn't crave you?
She will love no boy
yet she is loved by two.

Put us Don Quixote's employ - 
two donkeys on an impossible quest.
Dress us in tuxedos of corduroy
and tell everyone we are best.

Kindness is the best
way to condescend.
You are the best
but you're just a friend.
A best friend - just like him.

So what do I say
as you stare at me?
A slack-jawed caveman
in a glass display.

Love acts with wicked glee -
in pursuit of its own perverse fun.
To one, Love gives three.
To two, Love gives none.

Love doesn't give a crap
about love, who's best,
or what I need.
So when will I stop
shaking salt into the sea?

Lovegood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Thoughts on the Dangers of Pretending to be a Poet (Part 4)

You get lots of rejections. Here is the relevant half of the third rejection I received today – only a quarter hour ago.

Hahahaha. No . . . just no. But please submit to us again if you are so inclined.

So inclined? What does that mean?

If you are so inclined to get rejected again?

If you are so inclined to annoy us again?

If you happen to have some free time, and you are so inclined to waste it?

Or are they paraphrasing my favorite poet, Monty Python? Now, go away, and if you come back I shall taunt you a second time.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

The Right to Remain Silent

If you are a prominent person with a large social media presence and you excel at one thing (for example, acting, sports, shamelessness, or being born into extreme luxury), I would like to suggest that you don’t need to comment on everything. You don’t need to wait until you are dead or arrested to exercise your right to remain silent.

Let’s pretend you are a major sports star, and you intentionally misled millions of people about whether you have been vaccinated or not. You should remain silent after losing a play-off game. If you are incapable of doing that, you should at least not complain about how people are angry with you and how some of them are happy you lost. People get angry when they are lied to.

Or let’s pretend you disagree with someone about whether vaccines are effective. You should not call that person a Nazi or compare how you are being treated to the Holocaust. Here are 3 rules that may be helpful to you:

Do not call people Nazis unless they voluntarily dress in Nazi paraphernalia. Even then ask yourself – are they performing in a revival of The Sound of Music? If so, they still may not be Nazis regardless of how they are dressed.

Do not say your situation is like the Holocaust, unless you are being starved and tortured in a concentration camp.

Use your words wisely. Ask yourself – if I were to die tomorrow, are these the last words I would want to be remembered by?

See you soon.

Raven Breathless (fka Death), Senior Human Rights Correspondent

Why Are You Clutching a Cat?

Did the kitty commit a crime
and in your imagination's prison
is this how felons do their time?

Or did no one want to sit with you
because humans find your company
as terrifying as cats do?

Do you crush anything that's cute?
Should we notify the ACLU
or wait for PETA to file a lawsuit? 

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Not Too Shabby

If you are a fan of historical fiction, it is hard to do better than Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Both won the Man Booker Prize. As that esteemed literary critic Adam Sandler would say: not too shabby. The third and final book in this sympathetic treatment of Thomas Cromwell is The Mirror and the Light. It did not win the Man Booker Prize. Probably didn’t come close.

Who is Thomas Cromwell, you ask. Congratulations! You aren’t English. Moreover, you are probably an upstanding citizen living a meaningful and productive life.

Thomas Cromwell lived in the first half of the 1500s. But you don’t need to be familiar with the English Reformation to enjoy these books. Wolf Hall describes Cromwell’s brutal childhood and how he rose from obscurity to become Henry VIII’s most influential adviser. His chief adversary is Sir Thomas More, who is opposed to Henry’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. The book ends with More’s execution. Cromwell has accumulated wealth, power, and a potent ally in Anne Boleyn.

Bring Up the Bodies opens with Henry married to Anne. However, Henry soon grows tired of her and falls in love with Jane Seymour. Cromwell’s alliance with Anne is now problematic, as Henry expects Cromwell to find a way to get rid of her so he can marry Jane. Cromwell accomplishes this and in doing so manages to have some of his political enemies executed as well. But, of course, Anne must lose her head too. The book ends with Anne’s execution and Cromwell at the height of his power and influence.

Anyone familiar with Greek tragedy knows this is where it all unravels for Cromwell – if only the unraveling wasn’t so plodding. Welcome to The Mirror and the Light, which limps along to Cromwell’s demise.

The first 2 books are stellar. Cromwell’s adversaries (Thomas More and Anne Boleyn) are worthy opponents and truly challenge him. In The Mirror and the Light, Cromwell’s only real adversary is himself, and he makes several mistakes that ultimately lead to his execution. It just takes a long time to get there.

The history of this time is fascinating, and Ms. Mantel has certainly done her research. Just as importantly, she knows how to tell a compelling story – at least she does in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Cromwell had an eventful life. But ultimately his livelihood (and his life) depended on the whims of a paranoid, superstitious, and mercurial monarch. As one character describes Cromwell’s predicament: “[y]our whole life depends on the next beat of Henry’s heart, and your future on his smile or frown.” Fortunately, we live in a time when monarchs don’t have the power or inclination to ruin people’s lives. Just ask England.

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

Union Street

Let's go down to Union Street
where all the impoverished people meet
around barrels brimming with green despair.
They'll fidget nervously while we stare
as each in turn will dip a cup
lift to trembling lips and drink it up.

On Union Street the barrels overflow
so we'll see many rounds before we go
and when they've drunk themselves blind
we'll leave through a door they'll never find.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Prince Who

You’ve heard of Dr. Who – that pompous, inscrutable, time-traveling geek who has been on TV for decades. Of course, you have. There are literally dozens of people around the world who love Dr. Who.

The British royal family recently found itself with a vacancy, so it is introducing a new action figure: Prince Who, a character intentionally modeled after Dr. Who – a morally-upright citizen who would never touch underage girls.

“A few years ago we needed to ‘Jeffrey Epstein’ some jailed American pervert. Now, you may think that’s because we were afraid of what he might have said during a trial. But that would be wrong. We just gravely believe silence is golden and snitches get stitches,” Queen Elizabeth giggled. “But, to our surprise, James Bond isn’t real. So we contacted Dr. Who. That doctor is a shapeshifting motherfucker. And, Chim Chim Cher-ee, problem solved.

Except it wasn’t. You know how Americans love spurious lawsuits -especially when children are sexually assaulted. Well, that forced us to separate a royal from life . . . public life, I mean. Because if he isn’t seen anymore, then we can ignore everything he’s done in the past.

So we created Prince Who to take his place. And more importantly to serve as a distraction. Prince Who will make you totally forget about that other guy. He is just as smug and insufferable as the original, but he has been neutered so he doesn’t touch underage girls. It was the only way we could prevent royals from touching children inappropriately.” That’s when a Beefeater rushed over and escorted the Queen away.

Tengo Leche, Social Anxiety Scholar