Exposure № 012: POTUS #16

Abraham Lincoln – 1861-1865

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Week 11

We’ve reached the non-milestone of eleven weeks this week, and want to thank all of our contributors for their wonderful words, images, tonics, sounds, and sundries.

This week we also uped the ante, with more than one post on several days, so you’d better click below to take a look at what you missed! Some great poetry, including a reading by the author, some recurrent contributors, and some new ones! Enjoy!

Visual

Poetical

Fictional

Non-Fictional

Drinkable

So keep reading, submitting, and we’ll keep publishing! For Short Story Month, check here, and for our two new ongoing projects, check here!

Cold Gray

“Cold Gray”, read by the author.

Text after the jump. (more…)

Impression № 009: Spellbound

Vladimir Stankovic tells us about his process:

“As a designer, I know that the use of modern “tools” and software applications is a necessity, but what I find most rewarding while developing concepts and ideas is the combination of traditional media with the digital ones. In my work, the hand drawn shapes are built with rich patterns and give the work an unexpected depth; the characters, different creatures and animals are “pushed” up against one another and overlap in surprising ways with many symbolic and allegorical aspects. Sometimes some images appear consistently without any clear reason and explanation, which makes the creation even more tantalizing and addictive.”

Short Story Month

Did you all know it’s Short Story Month?  And since it’s Friday, you’re probably whiling away an idle hour at work this afternoon.  To celebrate both, here’s a round-up of some of our favorite Snake-Oil Short Stories!

Groupie

Give me a young rock star—cold-handed, paper-
skinned and with a stiff upper lip. Call me muse
or storyteller. I will offer sips of beer and my arm
against yours. Drink, and be much obliged.

Here is a black hole. The anti-matter and
Einstein’s spacetime bend and net about us.
Here is you: this spot on that continent. Spin
the globe in the spirit of manifest destiny
and tell me where to take you in the next
minutes or hours.

I collect voices, names, faces, the song that you
sing. I collect bones and cast yours onto my bed
of course—the dream bed, the sorting of memory
bed. The future, well, here I am and will be
or not be.

Just you stand, young man, your soft shoulders,
my old world hands, someone else’s guitar, your
angry tongue. Stand but do not stand. You will
find me again leaned in corners or darkened
spaces, darker still.

Impression № 008: Worm Oil

This illustration, by Sebastian Martinez is based in the concept of Resistance. It shows the contradiction between life’s worm and a chicken helping it.  It is meant as a comment on the relationship between nature and the spilled oil in the earth.

Interlude: The minor movement

HAT’S the movement of love?’

‘The movement of love.’

‘Yes. You know how people attribute colours and tastes and personalities to different emotions.’

‘Affection is a warm orange. Hatred is bitter tasting. Like that?’

‘So what’s the movement of love – of all emotions? What directions do they go in? What shapes do they take?’

‘I don’t know… Anger is a violent vibration, maybe, but rooted to the ground. Delight is a little explosion of energy in all directions.’

‘You’re getting good at this.’

‘Fear is slow, tentative. It’s something small and defenceless scuttling around in the dark.’

‘And love?’

‘What kind of love? Platonic love is a broad, sweeping gesture. Familial love is solid and relentless. Not relentless, that sounds too harsh; it’s vast, it’s unending. It moves because it must move. As for erotic love…’

‘Ssh. Come here, and I’ll show you.’


heir room is cool and darkening, a breeze billowing the curtains. Dusk is falling, and they are both naked. An electric fan helicopters in a blurry spiral on the ceiling. He lies on his back. One arm draped across his belly, one dropping towards an ashtray on the ground. She lies on her stomach, dying amber light a gentle patina on her hips and buttocks. She rests her head in one hand. The sheets cling to the end of the mattress, crumple on the dusty wooden floor.

He inhales cigarette smoke, swallows saliva, his Adam’s apple bobbing under bristled skin. She smiles and leans across, kissing his throat. He coughs – the smooth progress of the smoke disturbed. She gently bites his shoulder, the ridged muscle at the front. He squirms away, but not too convincingly; an ambiguous invitation. She bites again, and he blindly mashes the cigarette butt into the ashtray. He ducks his head into a mass of curls, closes his eyes. Dust and inexpensive shampoo, that sweet chemical scent.

He squeezes her hair, coiled handfuls, as she kisses his chest. He tastes vaguely like saltwater and Asian food. She smells the lingering trace of their earlier congress. She smiles and draws herself onto him, her breasts brushing his hipbone, the hollow of his side. She pulls herself along his body, a tingle of soft skin, pricked hair follicles, moist but powdery-dry. He moves in response. They move together.

wanted to get a tattoo once. I chickened out, I got scared. Couldn’t stand the thought of that needle drilling into my skin.’

‘Do you not like it, then?’

‘I like it on you. How the colour ripples when you move your arm. Like the dart of a tropical fish.’

‘What design were you going to get?’

‘A Chinese character, a pictogram. I know, it’s a cliché now. But it wasn’t then. This was many years ago.’

‘What character?’

‘I can’t recall the word in Chinese, but it stood for “outside”. Something bare and cold about it, unmoving. …It was still.’

‘Cold and still. Like a snowswept field.’

‘Yes. I felt very still back then.’


ancing in sharp sunlight, pelvises pushed together by thoraxes swaying to soft bossanova rhythms. The pollen, summer anti-matter, drizzling through a beam of light. She closes her eyes and hears. Muffled melodies and insistent beats. Feet shuffling quietly in random patterns. He kisses her on the mouth; she laughs. Music for the heart and groin. Loose movements, drowsiness. The overture and the event at once.

Her sweat on his mouth, on his lips and tongue. He tastes her acrid sweetness. Senses the infinitesimal hairs rising along her spine. The slope of her spine, that elegant architecture. The arch of her body in the half-dark. Blue nightlight and pliant shadows on her skin. He places his hands on her hips, that cello curve; she smiles at him over her shoulder. He savours the rising of desire.

Her body pressed down, her head to one side, eyes closed. She tilts her hips, an unsaid summons. He moves, his weight heavy on her, joined in warmth and rhythm, a fleshly fusion. He laughs and licks her ears, her neck, burrowing into the softness of her shoulder, and she squirms. He whispers, ‘I love you, I love you.’ She smiles, murmurs into her pillow. Nonsense endearments. Pungency and dreaminess, distant rustling noises. She reaches for his hand; fingers linked and bodies locked. They cherish the moment, then move together again.

ove moves like a pulse. A sonar pulse, in huge waves, throbbing its silent way through space. It’s the heartbeat of the universe.’

‘And how long before this pulse reaches our planet?’

‘No, it’s an electron. It’s everywhere and nowhere at once. Hot and oscillating. This sublime energy.’

‘Everywhere and nowhere. Like God?’

‘I don’t know… I suppose so. And God is love, right?’

‘I think you’re wrong. I think love moves slowly and deliberately, but with a sort of recklessness. It isn’t worried about losing control, about spiralling away into the emptiness. Love is confident in its movement.’

‘I’d agree with that. Love is confident. It’s cocky, relaxed. It does what it wants.’

‘Yes. That’s it. Love moves any way it wants.’

Prairie Rose


very Friday night she gets liberated at The Haymarket Square doing a bunny hop or a do-si-do with ex-members of The Saint Augustine Women’s Choir. She remembers how as kids, shy or awkward in dresses, their voices formed the harmony, the flight of something V-shaped and perfect. And every Friday night, she feels him watching her, the man sitting under a Remington copy–one cowhand stroking a campfire, the others sleeping. He’s too short to be considered average, which is why, she thinks, he rarely gets up, let alone dances. He’s almost young, the face, slightly cragged, wide butte of nose, inviting cool-water creeks for eyes, the cheeks overly defined. She imagines he smells of sweet tobacco.

Sashaying closer, she convinces herself that he is good looking in a far fetched kind of way, in a way that she once thought about cactus, its survival against red obliterating sunsets. She wonders what strange heroes did the Old West really make. They must have come in all sizes. Her husband is talking to a man once a star of steer wrestling, until a bad neck sprain. She can sense his stiffness, his pain in turning towards her.

Feeling like the silly kid who once begged her father to let her watch him tie a goat, she follows the man who is too short to be average out of the bar and into the parking lot. She wants him to invite her into the cab of his old pickup. She wants to ask him who irons his cowboy shirts, who makes him feel special on Sunday mornings. She wants to tell him that she’s been watching him sit beneath that same picture every Friday night. She hopes they exchange the huge spaces of their childhoods, endless days chasing themselves, mouths dry as dirt. She’ll say that she’s heard about his weak heart–the reason he had to quit tie-down– but she’ll say it real nice and all, so he won’t detect what’s roping him in. She’ll tell him about the yearling calf a man once gave her when she was young enough to be called a Prairie Rose.


hat she won’t tell him: The calf didn’t live long. A parasite in the blood, lodging in the heart, causing it to bloat, to eventually fail. It had some weird fancy name, like the kind gunslingers had in old paperback novels. After it died she kept walking barefoot for hours, her thoughts just dust and some queer stillness. There was the spell of yesterday’s sun. She couldn’t see the barge of gun-metal clouds, the lifeless fire ants under her feet, or that it was time to go home.

Loving Scarecrow


have something to tell you, you tell me one afternoon. Can you come over tonight?

Are you OK?, I ask.

Yes, you say, but I can’t tell you this over text message.

I’ll come over after work.

He’s breaking up with me, I think. We’re done. I did something wrong. I’m not giving him enough of something. He has found someone else. I am not enough for him. I do not bother to tell my wife, Holly, I will be late. I think she likes being home without me. If we are not at home together, then we are not fighting. If we are not fighting, then she can focus on our son, Avery. Focusing on Avery means she isn’t focusing on herself, or on me, or on herself with me. He has been her focus since before he was born. She stopped seeing me, or maybe we stopped seeing each other.

It happens. Marriages, and the people inside of them, fade. You don’t think it can happen until it does. And one day you wake up and you wonder how the person next to you got there. You don’t want to be there beside that person. You think there is someone better suited out there for you. You think you got married too young, or maybe that you settled. You think that the man who lives less than four miles away is going to hold your future, the same way this woman holds your past. He will watch your children open presents on Christmas and pose for school pictures. This man, the one you’ve not yet known two months, is going to be with you on the day you turn 50. This man, he, that’s who you’ve been waiting for.

Or maybe he will be the next person you one day wake up next to wondering how you got there.

I drive to your apartment after work, and you text to say your door is unlocked. Just come in, you say. I walk upstairs and into your bedroom. You are in your bed. You are still wearing the clothes you wear to work. You look like you have been crying. You look like you are sick.

My mother has cancer, you tell me. This is not the first time.

I don’t know what to say. How do you describe cancer? How do you describe loss? How do you describe numb? How do you describe you without her?

All I can do is ask if her cancer is terminal.

We don’t know, you say. She is going to fight. Chemo and stuff. We’ve gone through this before.

I don’t know what to say, so I don’t say anything. A reporter’s trick – don’t say anything when someone you are interviewing pauses, and he or she will usually keep talking, if only because silence often feels uncomfortable.

Are you OK with all of this?, you ask.

With all of what?, I ask. With your mother having cancer?

Yes, you say.

I think you sound like you are afraid of my answer.

D, I say, we can get through this together. And I want to crawl into your bed next to you and pull you next to me and hold you and rock you to sleep and sing You Light Up My Life, because this is the song my mother would sing to me when I was sick or afraid when I was a child.

I’ve heard that before, you say, and you tell me how the last time your mother needed to undergo treatment for her cancer, the man you had been with told you it was all too much and he broke up with you, breaking your heart in the process. Your mother’s cancer went into remission. She grew stronger. She told you to live your life. You had followed your advice and moved out.

All I know about your mother is what you have told me. She was an artist for a while, and you have two of her paintings in your living room. She sometimes offers you money, not a lot, and not because you really need it, but because she is your mother and what else can parents do but offer what they to their children? She still tries with your brother, even though your brother doesn’t try with her. He is her son. She can’t help but love him. She is your best friend. You and she have no secrets. You told her you were falling in love with me, after I had brought you red M&Ms one afternoon when you were sick. I brought you a different color of M&Ms every day after until you felt better.

I have seen pictures of you and your mother when you were younger, and I have seen her Facebook photo because she is one of your friends. When you told her that I had a son, she sent Avery a toy truck. You and Avery take turns pushing the truck on the hardwood floors in your bedroom. The truck is supposed to move on its own, but it doesn’t. Avery does not know that it is supposed to move on its own.

Do you need to be with her?, I ask.

Not yet, you say, but I am going to go home for a visit in a few weeks.

I’m sorry, I say.

I love you, rabbit, you say, and you seem to exhale a breath you had been holding since you first heard the news.

I’m not going anywhere, I say. I take you as is. I’m not scared. These were your words the night you met Avery, and I return them to you. I get into bed, and you bury your head in my shoulder. I pull your comforter over us. I tell you that everything will be all right, and that I am here, and that we will get through this together.


ou go home to visit your mother. I pick you up at the train station when you get back and take you home. How were your flights?, I ask. I don’t know how to ask you about how your mother is doing.

They were good, you say. You put your bags on your bed and begin to unpack. Your mother has sent home with you several things from your childhood. She was cleaning, you say, and wanted you to have these things. Of course, what you don’t say is she is starting to think that unless she gives you these things now, she will never give you these things.

How is she?, I ask.

And you begin to cry. I reach for you, and you let me hold you. You bury your head in my shoulder, and I hold you until you lift your head up. Rabbit, you say, she wants me to be her medical proxy in case she isn’t able to make decisions.

Did you guys talk about her final wishes?, I ask.

A little, you say. But I couldn’t really – and again, you cry. Despite having already called you my partner, this moment, in your bedroom, is the first time I feel like your partner.

It’ll be OK, I say. I rub your back. I can almost feel you shrinking into yourself. I’m here, I say, and you say that you know, and that you can’t get through this without me.

It’ll be OK, I repeat. I don’t know what else to say.

Our relationships ends four months after you tell me about your mother’s cancer. You cannot be in a relationship with someone who is still trying to figure out how to get divorced from the woman who came before you. Your mother has considered my son her grandson. She bought him toys and sent him books and asked you about him, and about me, each time you talked to her. I e-mailed her to let her know how grateful I was for the how she treated me and Avery while we were in your life, and that I regretted not getting to know her better. I don’t know whether she shared this e-mail with you.


few months later, I tell a man I go on two dates with that I am not interested in a third date. He assumes I’m not interested because I’m still in love with you. Really, I’m not interested because he isn’t interesting. He knows just enough about you to Google for your Facebook page. He was curious, he tells me later. He finds your mother’s obituary and sends me a link to it. Why are you still not over someone who didn’t bother to tell you that his mother is dead?, he writes.

I read your mother’s obituary, and I see your name as surviving her. I want to call you and tell you I am sorry, but I cannot call you and tell you I am sorry. I should have flown to Peoria with you, or been in your life when you got a phone call telling you that it was time for you to go to her. I should have driven you to the airport and made sure you made your flights. I should have been because that was my job. I was your partner. Learning she has died like this feels like I am losing you all over again.

There are words to describe how I’m feeling, but I don’t know how to describe these words. Loss. Numb. Empty. How do you describe me without you?

I think she died before she could truly see you happy.

I call Holly, and I hear our daughter, Aurora, who is not yet two weeks old, cooing, and Avery doesn’t want to go to sleep, and Holly can hear I’m upset, and she asks me what is wrong. I say his mother is dead. And she doesn’t have to ask whom I’m talking about.

Did he get in touch with you?, she asks me, and I tell her no. I tell her that I had read the obituary online. She stood in line at a bookstore once to get a picture book signed for Avery, I say.

Do you have the book or do I?, Holly asks.

I do, I say.

You and your sister probably had to sift through your mother’s belongings, deciding what to keep and what to give away. There would have been photo albums, pictures of you with hair styles you would have been too embarrassed to show me. And I would have made you show me, because you would have needed to laugh, and you would have needed someone to make sure you laughed, if only to keep you from falling to pieces. You were probably numb. You probably disengaged. You probably had to relearn how to breathe. Or you felt you had to make sure everyone else could break down.

My not being there for you – another way I’ve let you down.

Most of us die with regrets. Maybe she regretted being a burden on you and your siblings. Maybe she regretted not being able to protect you. But if this were OZ, and she were Dorothy, you would be Scarecrow, and on her way home, she would have told you that it would be you she’d miss most of all. I don’t need to have met her to know that this is true.

Holly apologizes for the loss, and I tell her that there is nothing I can do. I hope that the people in his life were able to comfort him and take care of him, I say, and Holly says that that is the best I can hope for. There’s a man who lives near Peoria who I think you probably had sex with when you were home for the funeral. You and he used to have sex, when you lived with your mom. I don’t like thinking about you with him.

I send you an unsigned condolence card. Inside the unsigned card, I include copies of two poems written by your favorite poet. You had shared this poet with your mother, and later, you had shared this poet with me.

You do not acknowledge receiving the card. I hadn’t thought you would.