Mel Ankh builds votives for a living. These votives are unusual in that they’re handmade. Using ready pieces of nonflammable refuse.
Glass pieces slide in, metal soldered, an occasional box of treated hardwood. It’s all Green, to him. Boxes mostly are what he can think of to make. Occasionally a rusty round from a car engine, the odd diagonal fitting together of. These sell best in summer, when folks place them on their patios, to keep citronella or night light candles out of the wind.
Green aside, it’s the strangeness of each votive, catching buyers’ myriad brains. Each neuron in each of their heads connected to similar neurons for sight yet unfamiliar neurons for taste. Ugly candleboxes sell better near the winter holidays, he’s noticed. He is shy about figuring out why. A lone most days in the shop. His cramped office filled with receipts, books, hastily drawn diagrams for the gov’t, should it request to see. His income. A paltry figure.
Off-season he lets go the rented table in the park. Then it’s too high of a price to offset sales. The disability checks cover minimalist vacations. Seeking more materials wherever. His shop is always low in materials fall, spring. A paying repeat customer or bum or stranger may donate on Tuesdays.
© 2009 James Beach
*A reckless poet, A.D.P. befriended me on the street and then dumped his peculiar writings in my lap, as if in anticipation of the seminal issue of my magazine, Wood Coin. I lost touch with him but kept publishing his work until I heard he overdosed on heroin, at which point I published the Last Post from his MySpace page, as an impenetrable objet d’art… What else could I do? I missed him. The inspiration for this “Votiving” is his piece “Hibernation” [http://www.woodcoin.net/wssi.xeuszenon.html], which appeared in Wood Coin around the time of his death in 2009.
James Beach’s credits include Antique Children Literary Arts, Blue Monday Review, Counterexample Poetics, Danse Macabre Magazine, The Exhibit Literary, Mad Hatters’ Review, Paraphilia Magazine, Smokebox Commentary, Warhol Stars UK, Wood Coin Magazine, and others.
Available online here: http://www.blackwidowpress.com/main.php (Amazon too).
An episodic epic. A chain of odes to the process of transformation. Incantations meant to summon no gods, but only energies. Poems masquerading as electron-swarms. Heller Levinson’s Wrack Lariat is all of these things and more. It is safe to say that no other poet writes like Levinson. I have been reading his words for the better part of a decade and they have always left me thrilled and baffled. They have instilled in me what Freud long ago called the unheimlich, that sensation that we are very far from home indeed. What impresses me most about Levinson’s poetry is the sheer ambition of his artistic vision. Many poets today write books full of disconnected poems that tinker lightly with language. Each tome that Levinson writes is thematically connected, each poem forming another imaginative layer.
Wrack Lariat is no exception. It is Levinson’s most sprawling and generous offering yet, the most realized expression of his ideas regarding the ways that language can never be fixed, how it is always wonderfully rogue. In his poems, words blend, collide, osmote, migrate, and rend each other apart, forming what he has called at one point, “the great cosmic smooch.” However, while Levinson believes that words form a “spiraling plasma,” the most striking thing about Wrack Lariat is how much weight each word carries, how each one is offered up to the reader to be savored. This comes out especially in how, despite the vast reach of Levinson’s Hinge poetics, many of the poems in Wrack Lariat are rather brief. In other words, Levinson lets his poems breathe, gives them space to do their thing, work their magic on the reader’s brain.
A most striking section in this volume is Levinson’s riffs off of various visual artists ranging from Van Gogh to his long-time collaborator Linda Lynch. However, “flute carved from the wing bone of a red-crowned crane,” (a live reading of this poem and other Wrack Lariat jewels is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqCjbdQiMe0) remains, in my mind, the true standout. In this poem, Levinson writes of an ancient Chinese bone flute in such poignant phrases that one feels that they are briefly levitating, the same feeling I get when listening to Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending.
Hunt down a copy of this book. Rarely has contemporary poetry ever felt so alive, so full of possibilities.
One day, in the time long before anyone had thought up the concept of history, a deer woke up in its small clearing in the middle of a forest. It stood up, yawned, and looked around for a couple of seconds. It was a very nice looking day. So nice looking, in fact, that the deer decided that, if it were possible, he would absolutely mate with it and have nice looking deer/ abstract concept hybrid children.
For now, let’s call the deer John. John the deer lived for these kinds of days, where the temperature balances perfectly on the tightrope between too warm and too cool. He brought his head down to eat his favorite breakfast food, which also happened to be his favorite food in general: grass.
After John finished his breakfast, he made his way down to a small pond a few hundred feet away. John lapped down some of the crystal clear water, then looked at his reflection.
“Wow”, said John. “I really have let myself go!” John stared sadly at his own thickening frame for about a minute, then, deciding he would go out for a jog, he started doing a variety of deer-specific stretches. To provide some examples of what exactly deer stretches look like, one stretch involves standing on both front legs while the back ones push against a tree, another involves the deer tucking its head under its chest while spreading out all four of its legs as far as possible, and a third is accomplished by standing on the hind legs and performing a leaping motion highly reminiscent of jumping jacks.
When John had finished stretching, he put his leaf and twig headband on and headed out for his jog.
After trotting across the leafy forest floor and jumping over several fallen trees for about ten minutes, John saw a local Neanderthal ahead of him carrying a large, wooden club and trudging the same direction he was headed.
John came up beside the wayward caveman and gave a friendly “Howdy, neighbor!” The caveman responded by violently bashing out John’s brains with his club until his head looked more like a pancake covered in strawberry syrup than something meant to carry a brain and tore off one of the deer’s hind legs for breakfast. Unlike John, the caveman did not mind that the deer had let himself go; the fat was his favorite part. The caveman took a large bite out of the still warm leg and carried on while a small group of deer that had witnessed the terrifying murder of their comrade decided that it probably was not the best of ideas to try and start conversations with any of the two-legged walkey things.
Glark, the caveman, was not the most attractive specimen of his species. His forehead jutted out slightly more than the average Neanderthal, his hair was especially tangled and greasy, and the stench emanating from his armpits was so horrendous that all of the brightest minds of the stone age were working together to find some sort of way to cleanse people. They were pretty sure that it would involve water in some way, but they could not quite put their finger on what exactly the process would be.
Glark was on his way to work. He was a destruction worker for the Gurp and Son Custom Cave Company. He liked his job well enough; he would spend about ten hours of each day chipping away at a stone cliff face alongside his work mates in order to create a home to the exact specifications of someone altogether more rich and important than he was. In return, he would be given some “Shinystones”, which he would use to pay the local artist to etch crude cave drawings of naked women onto his wall that he could masturbate to.
Glark finished his meal as he approached the worksite. He dropped the cleaned bone onto the ground and wiped his hands on his leopard-skin robe.
Glark walked onto the worksite. A few other workers had made it there before him and were already chipping away at the stone. He was relieved to see that no one had taken his favorite stone pickax. He walked towards it on the rack where the pickaxes were kept, reached out his hand to take it, and ended up only grabbing air because someone else managed to take it just as he was reaching for it.
“No, Gurk! Glark want!” Glark explained to the other caveman.
“Glark suck nuts!” Gurk yelled, opening his robe briefly to expose himself. Glark sighed in defeat and grabbed the last pickax on the rack which, unfortunately, was the absolute worst.
Glark looked at the pickax as he walked towards the wall of stone, wondering who exactly it was made for. The handle was at least twice as thick as all the others, and whoever crafted the pick appeared to have had a mental lapse, forgot he was making a pickax, and instead decided to make a sculpture of a mammoth. As a mammoth sculpture, it actually was not half bad, though as a pickax, it was much, much more than half bad.
Glark stood at the wall and readied his pickax. Due to its incredibly inefficient design, readying the pickax was accomplished by holding it with both hands by the bottom and hooking one side of the pick over the user’s shoulder. Swinging the pickax was then a matter of falling forward and hoping that the pickax would hit the stone before the user’s protruding forehead did. That had happened many times before, which was why, unlike the other, more traditional brown-handle gray-pick pickaxes, this one was completely red.
Glark “swung” the pickax at the only speed anyone really could; very slowly. Meanwhile, all around him the other workers swung their pickaxes at a steady speed. Over the repetitive “clinks” of stone hitting stone, Glark could hear Gurk talking to the cavemen working beside him. Glark grunted as he heard him say, “…Then me say ‘Glark suck nuts!’” Laughter boomed throughout the entire site.
Glark decided to ignore the people laughing at the story of his misery and let his mind drift away as his body fell into the rhythm of repetition. His thoughts went something like this:
Glark fall forward. Glark step back. Glark fall forward. Glark step back. Not worst day Glark have. Glark get paid soon and get more cave-boobs. Just like all other day. Every day, wake up, play with fun-stick, work, get paid, get more cave-boobs, play with fun-stick, sleep. Then next day wake up, play with fun-stick, work, get paid, get more cave-boobs, play with fun-stick, sleep…
Glark’s eyes widened and he completely stopped working as a new thought entered his head. It was a thought no other Neanderthal, let alone any other form of living organism, had ever had, and was a turning point in the evolutionary path of the human race. This new thought went something like this:
All Glark do is work and fun. Glark do work to have fun, and have fun to not do work. What else Glark do? What else Glark do!? WHAT ELSE GLARK… and it kind of carried on like that until he repeatedly yelled at the top of his lungs, “WHAT ELSE GLARK DO!?!?” The worksite fell silent as all of the other workers lowered their pickaxes and looked at their disturbed workmate.
After a few minutes of yelling, the Son from “Gurp and Son”, Gartholemew, stuck his head out from over the top of the stone cliff-face.
“What in the name of the Wilderness is going on down there?” called Gartholemew.
“Glark go crazy!” all of the workers yelled in unison, except for Glark, of course, who, once more, yelled “What else Glark do?!”
“One moment!” Gartholemew called down. He made his way down the side of the hill and approached Glark. He put an arm across Glark’s shoulder and walked him a little away from the worksite.
“Glark! Hey, buddy! What’s up, you need to talk about something?” Gartholemew asked.
“All Glark do is work and play, then die like breakfast deer. Nothing else. What is point?”
Gartholemew was stumped by this question. Even with his superior intellect, he had never once considered the question of what more there was in life. However, one thing that he knew for certain was that he enjoyed being in charge of people, and if this thought got out, the rest of his work force might decide that everything was pointless and leave. Gartholemew needed to think fast…
“What is point?” Gartholemew repeated. He thought for a moment, then had an idea. “Well, Glark, I happen to know this guy. His name is… uh… God.”
“God?” Glark repeated.
“Yes, God. I saw him the other day, and he totally said that people who work really hard will go to a really nice place called… hm… He…He… Heaven, where they can play around for, ah… a very long time. The rest of eternity, in fact!”
“Heaven… eternity”, repeated Glark.
“Indeed”, said Gartholemew. “However, the lazy people who sit around and act like everything is pointless go to a really bad place called… heh… Hell, which is filled with… um… well… filled with… what’s something you really don’t like?”
“No like fire”, said Glark
“Filled with fire! They have to spend the rest of eternity burning alive in the hottest flames of Hell!”
“But if dead, how they burn alive?
“You know what I mean. I didn’t say it anyways, I heard it from God, who, conveniently, only talks to me. So, if I were you, I would get back to work without having any sort of mental breakdown so I could make it up to Heaven. God is pretty selective.”
“Me want Heaven”, said Glark. “Me go work now.”
“That’s the spirit!” Gartholemew cheered. “Work extra hard and I might throw in a few more Shinystones than usual!”
After receiving this revelation, Glark spent the rest of his life working hard and spreading the word of God to every person he met, until one day when he was clubbed to death by a Cro-Magnon after saying something along the lines of “Howdy neighbor”. He was then reincarnated as a perpetually confused turtle.
Check out Iain Britton’s hot new word-slinging!
That decision for FM was the most cheap, jerk, like 1853
Don’t baby me, post office, or President Drag-the-Paper
We serve the merchant’s sophistication
So Ohio this vocal, seen-career!
Up the clocks
Working united for the awful Kong
Chief, and for one ring!
Rise y’self, think back
And do what?
Don’t go to Statesmen
If it’s boogalo you’re after
Gimme 1855, party, rules
Weather the mind, say opposed residents
Such a slow lot!
Even Lincoln influenced critics
Movie in, it’s used.
And never my place
Take out Clement, the phony Vallandigham
Get to knuckle work, strongly elected dollars
Gimme civil connections say Ohioans
Learn Eskimo dollars, face the last editor, economic Columbus
Party in the Indian sun and stop the crazy English ambassador
Pounding power and pence and bringing, especially, slow war