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Whatnots by
Adam Moorad

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Music by Steve Kane
Art by Gene Tanta
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Qohelet

 

Art by Gene TantaSometimes, in bed – lying awake on our backs, breathing – we become static.

We are the arms, you and I, the legs and other body parts of people we’ve never met. Just a pile of severed limbs jumbled together on some old mattress. We stare at the ceilings of our bedrooms, wondering if anyone else does the things we do. We see people and try to understand their appetites certain their bodies have left them and, if not, we wonder why.

We consider our rations.

We decide it’s better to not make sense of life for the sake of death.

Other times, we hold our cell phones and stare, thinking about dialing ourselves, waiting for our call.

You and I eat chicken pad thai several nights a week. Our tongues acclimatize to south Asian seasoning. There are no more flavors for us to detect.

We have never been to the desert, but together we had cacti – plastic ones with soft wax barbs.

You and I feel physically ill before sex, less so during, more so after.

We see ourselves as explorers in a world without frontiers. There were pioneers once. We ate them.

When you and I were younger, we dreamt of driving motorcycles. Not for show, but for self-discovery. It was something we read about at libraries in books as children.

You and I are unable to think of what we’re doing when we do.

“It needs to be done,” is what we say to one another in every post-act.

When driving to work, our hands hold our wheels while we picture ourselves in movies. We tape each other for independent films. Sometimes, our engines make strange noises as we idle at
intersections. We stare at red lights. Beneath our hoods there is a sad gnashing. We feel responsible for amortizing anguish every time our gas pedals press. We make our motors weep lubricant tears.

We listen to books on tape together to keep from feeling alone.

The only things we read are nutrition facts on food labels and the billboards above our apartments.

We have varicose veins. We are alopecia.

You and I like the idea of spontaneous human combustion – of bursting into flames without an external source of ignition – of unique and unexplained phenomena – of what happens to the body through heat.

Our first experience with death was as eight-year-olds with ants. We sat on grass in front yards. There were hills we flattened with shoes. Out from under our feet fled colonies of nestling pest. We watched them flee through jungles of grass blade. We imagined they were screaming, overflowing from our lawns onto the sidewalk. They had no direction, moving in indeterminate zigzags. We saw ourselves inside each abdomen. We saw our future through these seas of thorax.

We smashed them with our heels, hopping and jumping, laughing, pretending we were human pogo sticks.

We have mental images of our ants returning for revenge. They are our relatives – our ghosts. We see them – one hundred times larger than their natural size – moving door to door through suburban neighborhoods, scraping doorbells with pincers prawn, looking for us – for retribution.

Sometimes, we see them inside light fixtures or splattered across windshields.

Our heartbeats accelerate. We begin to sweat. We search websites for industrial-strength repellants.

We will protect ourselves. We will survive.

We pick each other’s scalps nervously out of habit.

We have nightmares involving our bone marrow and oral tissue.

The smell of lotions makes our skin crawl. We apply it as necessary to all our affected areas.

Whenever we open soda cans, we tear off the tab and hurl them – as if our cans are grenades. You and I try to interpret our actions critically. We wonder if veterans of the armed forces are unable to consume soda after service – if the act of touching tabbed anything invokes gruesome images and the sounds of explosions.

We never know what to do with life. We never think of anything explicit ever. You and I decide we want different lives and talk of swapping. We’re certain there are others like us who would let us have theirs. We talk about taking them – about eating them from the outside in.

You and I close our eyes and imagine ourselves somewhere where we know we’ll never be.

We can be anywhere. We go everywhere. We’re inside the place called there.

“This is nice,” we tell ourselves. “We should stay here forever.”

In this place, we meet women who move their hands up and down our legs. We can hear them breathing heavily, perspiring. We can feel oxygen hissing deep inside their lungs. Their lips are chapped and conceal spaced-out teeth. When their hands graze our crotches, we grab these women’s wrists. Their arms become limp and dissolve between our fingers.

We stand up awkwardly and shy away from the puddles we make.

We open one another’s eyes.

Our hands are television clickers now. We see our reflections in blank screens – in snow-white distortion – in multivitamin commercials. We become anemic and dry-mouthed. We wish we lived inside our sets so we could see outside.

You blink my eyes. I blink yours. We rub one another’s sockets.

You and I are outside now, walking around. We see a man walking a dog. We want to be nice things, so we say good afternoons. When the man hears us, he starts walking backwards slowly and runs away. We are him – inside him, baking. His dog growls and reveals its fangs. When it barks, it vanishes. You and I wonder if we are where we are. We tell ourselves, “No.” We wonder where to go.

We think, We are okay inside out.

At night, we crawl within our walls. We’re together, but feel alone. You and I swear to never speak of words. We dream of living our lives backwards.

We will merely retrace our steps. Eventually, we’ll end-up where we came from. We think it’s where we can become again.

We climb into cars. We drive in reverse. This is how it will be from now on, we say to one another.

We pass fire hydrants. Flag poles. There are churches with bible verse marquees. We try to read them and commit them to memory. The scenery gels into pulp, making static across you and I. Neither of us bother steering. We think together and agree:

This is a good idea.

 

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Adam MooradAdam Moorad's writing has widely appeared in print and online. He is the author of Prayerbook (wft pwm, 2010), I Went To The Desert (Thunderclap Press, 2010), Oikos (nonpress, 2010), and Book of Revelations (Artistically Declined Press, 2011). He lives in Brooklyn. Visit him here.

 

 

Gene Tanta, Art DirectorGene Tanta, Art Director. Gene Tanta was born in Timisoara, Romania and lived there until 1984, when his family immigrated to the United States. Since then, he has lived in DeKalb, Iowa City, New York, Oaxaca City, Iasi, Milwaukee, and Chicago. He is a poet, visual artist, and translator of contemporary Romanian poetry. His two poetry books are Unusual Woods and Pastoral Emergency. Tanta earned his MFA in Poetry from the Iowa's Writers' Workshop in 2000 and his PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009 with literary specialization in twentieth-century American poetry and the European avant-garde. His journal publications include: EPOCH, Ploughshares, Circumference Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, Watchword, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Laurel Review. Tanta has had two collaborative poems with Reginald Shepherd anthologized in Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. Most recently, he has chaired a panel at the 2010 AWP titled, “Immigrant Poetry: Aesthetics of Displacement”. Currently, he is working on two anthologies while teaching post-graduate creative writing online for UC Berkeley Extension.

 

Steve Kane, Music EditorsSteve Kane, Music Editor. Steve Kane is currently exploring the deepest recesses of his own subconcious in an attempt to uncover the true nature of the mind and to see if he can remember where the hell he left that fancy bottle opener his mother got him for Christmas.

 

 

 

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