For Irina, March 21-22, 2012

For where thou art, there is the world itself
— William Shakespeare






You give, honestly, gently, a sultry flower in darkness, writing surprise.
Flow, sew yourself into my life, let your search fall into me, drink this
poem, let it slow you.  I’m a mere minstrel, arcing this tune, walking
the oceans, seeking my still young rain to fissure your flow.  I switch
from fish to dream, dream back to saltwater fish, this alchemy predates
language, predates the purity of symbol; this alchemy as fresh, yet, as
my soft, willing spirit.  I eat omelettes, salads, watch for openness in
gold and silver miracles.  And in you.


Each meaning
ours to marry.  An
intent so romantic its
prayers are rosewater
on the breath.  God
mingles with us, an
actor upon us, tenderly
melding our conception
as our calendar
harmonises with

I warm myth; I
load voice until
it’s fast; I decorate
breath into ornament.
Your blouse breathes
my name, clear of words
your sea falls low with
your silken grace.
You are worth each
small thing
I offer.

Passion is a
whorl a universe
an unceasing
exquisite blindness.
We master our
dreams, enchant
our chord into
one sky, rich,
profound as life.
We flavour each

Glide into my
flight.  Arch into
my fault-lines;
flake me, wet
me.  And in your
sails, power me
divine, arrow my
seed, ancient as
the yielding wind
naming unnamed


Our daughter moves / to experience / sometimes
immoderate / always faithful / too quick a
nature sometimes / a gift for our foundations /
she is silver / gold quickness / angular / rising
a coloured equation / I don’t understand / Polish
inscribes its graphology / between midnight & noon
every time assents / an unexpected one / as you /
ultimate / as ground any parallel universe that
creaks understands brings.


faith, beloved.  let our attention excite.

let our dominions collide / knit /

move between


you love to

iron to
learn the
………how why

i yield to you
   ……….my small

………………………….of objects


the grace
t.o land

approach me, Irina,
i am in love

* * * * *

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke has this year launched The South Townsville micro poetry journal and he welcomes submissions of a 30 lines or fewer poem from any of Dr. Hurley’s readers and contributors.  If Michael could have one wish in life, he would give that wish away. michael(dot)fitzgeraldclarke(at)gmail(dot)com. 

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Vol. II, Week 8

Fiction, art, photography, and poetry. That’s what you get every week at Dr. H’s. Take a look below at what you missed last week, and keep coming back for more!






We’ll have news of another one or two themed series coming up soon! Stay tuned to this channel.

Exposure № 078: Welcome to the Machine

Photographer Naaama Sarid brings us a new series of images to follow up on the wonderful work we’ve featured by her in the last few months. This combines portraiture with some wonderful geometry, and is inspired by Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”: What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream.

* * * * *

Naama Sarid-Maleta’ is an architect. She began an intense career as a documentary and conceptual photographer in Madrid (2008) and has contributed to magazines and publications in Europe and Israel. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in Ukraine, Spain and Israel. Her sustained challenge as an artist is the desire to “build dreams” in visual codes. She had developed a scheme of work based on the interaction of enforcement procedures and the organizations of architecture and a conceptual result more expressionistic and plastic in its nature. Her husband is also an architect and photographer from Cuba, and they work as a team with multidisciplinary projections.

Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

The Muddy Border of Forgiveness


e walks like a truck.
Through my mind.
Through my body.
As if I were a road.
Punching holes as he goes.
And I crack so eagerly.
His desire only grows
As he is running me
Hoping I will eventually swallow
his soul.

* * * * *

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has previously published three collections of poetry: The Difference Between Shadows and Stars, Carrying Yesterday, and Cognitive Distortion.  She has also published her work in national and international literary journals such as Avon Literary Intelligencer, Writer’s Gazette, and The Penwood Review.  Find more about A.J. Huffman, including additional information and links to her work at and!/poetess222

This is her first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

Exposure № 077: Where the Buffalo Roam

Allan Ellerby brings us this surreal image of buffalo in a supermarket. He draws inspiration from Francis Bacon’s  statement that art should ‘deepen the mystery.’

We love the unexpected juxtaposition!

* * * * *

Allan Ellerby was born in England in 1952 and for the last five years has been exploring new techniques for blending images. He has a book titled ‘The Feeding of the Birds’ and is about to bring that work up to date with a book called ‘Altering the State’. Much of the work is centred on Manhattan, but there are also images from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, New Jersey, Maine, Florida and England.  His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be seen here.

Impression № 048: Maravillas del Universo

Miguel Almagro brings us this fantastic drawing. Almagro draws inspiration from artists like Robert Crumb, Herge, Moebius, and Richard Corben and from literature by such authors as Borges and Bukowski. He is currently developing a series of drawings called “Lovecraft.”

* * * * *

Miguel Almagro is an amateur artist living and working in Barcelona. He works in many media, but recently has begun focusing on using markers and digital drawing. He blogs here and his flickr is here. His posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

The Kindness of Strangers


Bob Bartlett and local inhabitant aboard ship during Bartlett’s Arctic Expedition, 1933


here’s no such thing as cold for Ataninnuaq. Just the wind: less bite or more bite. Like the animals he can dress against it and have shelter from it, be warm. So whether he’s crouching down low over ice or running his dogs over the northern expanses, it’s at times like these that Ataninnuaq feels most at home in the world. He likes the winter. A world without snow means nothing to him. Where the others see colors, abundance, all he sees is a barren earth, naked without its soothing white mantle. Summer, which must come to these parts too inevitably, makes him uneasy. So when the expedition is looking for a guide, he eagerly offers to take them to the heart of the land, where the ice doesn’t melt.


They hunt for keepsakes, or so the captain tells them. Trinkets and old animals that hardly leave a mark, except perhaps in ice. This seems futile to Ataninnuaq, but he doesn’t object. Instead, he watches them zealously work through the snow, their faces set with determination.

Ataninnuaq knows things happen many times and therefore nothing really changes. Like the mountain hare he hunts. It comes to die and so he kills it. After a time it comes again, gloriously reborn. He knows this is because he treats its spirit properly, lets it roam free. Sometimes at night, when he and the captain smoke their pipes in the low rays of the midnight sun, he thinks that’s the best we can hope for in life, to be treated properly. And in death to have our souls drift free.

But these are linear men. They take a ship from there to here and think everything is different. Maybe that’s why they keep to themselves mostly and don’t bother with feeding the dogs or checking the lines. They eat the fish and the meat Ataninnuaq hunts for them without question, without interest.

The only one who concerns himself with Ataninnuaq is the captain. He has the familiar face of an old forgotten friend and Ataninnuaq is happy to find the captain is measured against life in the North. At night, when the others moan about the eternal light, the captain quietly sits rubbing his hands, otherwise unperturbed.

His name is simple, without much length or meaning. Bob. Bob. It sounds like the punchline to a joke Ataninnuaq tells the children. They love his jokes with funny faces. Meanwhile the captain struggles to master Ataninnuaq’s name and other words he tries to learn them. They both laugh at his attempts. As it turns out, Bob is a goofy fellow as well and though they hardly understand what they are saying, most of the time they get the joke. It makes the journey that much easier – and the others all the more distant.


When they reach their destination somehow the roles reverse. Now the expedition men are the experts, setting to work meticulously, while the captain and Ataninnuaq are reduced to useless bystanders. They trudge around camp, trying to keep it tidy and safe, while out there excitement rules as the men prod and drill and chafe and hack.

It’s bugs they’re really after, animals without bones, trapped beneath layers of endless ice. The captain tries to explain these things to Ataninnuaq, how each living thing can be classified. He counts them off on his thumb: things with gills, with bones, with webbed feet and so on, until Ataninnuaq loses track. The captain seems to think ordering the world like this makes it safe and comprehensible and Ataninnuaq doesn’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.

On the third day, they get called over to the finding area. The men have excavated quite a generous space and while Ataninnuaq sees nothing of importance down there, they look proud and content. They show him artifacts they have found as well and the captain makes it clear to him they want his opinion on them. Hesistantly Ataninnuaq spins an old arrowhead between his fingers. He wonders if it will break easily. He wonders what they want him to say.

Qarsoq?’ he ventures. ‘Arrow.’

They nod expectantly. ‘Rubbish,’ he explains, with a dismissive gesture that seems to shock them. One of them takes the arrowhead from him with a reverence he hasn’t seen them showing anything else. He decides to try them out.

‘Forefathers,’ he says pointing at the arrowhead. The captain dutifully translates. Instantly they show him an hungry interest. ‘Inussuaq.‘ He stomps around in his imitation of the great Raven that always gets a laugh out of the children. ‘Very big. Strong.’

The expedition men nod and nod, but the captain glances at him sideways. ‘Why would a giant use such a small arrow?’ the men want to know.

Ataninnuaq shrugs. ‘Perhaps a toothpick?’ Eagerly the men take notes. He sets a solid face to keep from laughing. The captain’s mouth quivers but he too manages to keep it straight.


On the last day out they find something special, even though they themselves are oblivious to it. They debate amongst themselves at first, so it takes a while before he can take look at it. It’s a simple necklace. A few blue beads and two teeth of the polar bear.

Nanoq,’ he whispers. His fierce daughter. She went kayaking near the end of summer. Sometimes she was like that and needed to go out alone, to measure up against the elements. No trail survives of her. Only her name, Nanoq. Spirit of the polar bear.

‘Yes, a polar bear,’ one of them says dismissively. They don’t give him the necklace to inspect   and instead tug it away quickly with the other extra finds that mean so little to them but that they take anyway. That night he sleeps alone under a helpless sky.


The journey home is slow. The men are no longer eager to reach a goal, but linger in various places, as if something somehow opened their eyes to the land. Ataninnuaq doesn’t mind, he is in no hurry. His house is a dark place during summer. The light reveals too many things that had better stayed hidden, like his wife’s sadness or his own loss of purpose. He wonders if the captain has a special place for fruitless animals, animals that leave no trace in the world, not even in the harsh frost of Greenland.

The captain too seems reluctant to head back and Ataninnuaq suspects that, in spite of what he said before, he finds his home too orderly, too safe and he will miss the vile wind of the North, the one that rips at your soul. So when they finally see the outlines of the houses and the masts of the ships etched against the horizon, both their spirits sink and they complete the last leg of their journey in the back of their small band, in silence. They know it is unlikely they will ever meet again.


Being back on his ship livens the captain’s spirits though and he wants to make a memory. He believes he can freeze them both in time, make an imprint much like the resinous insects the expedition men take home. He orders Ataninnuaq to sit and perches down next to him, while one of his men sets up an instrument and orders them to smile. This is the closest Ataninnuaq has been to the captain, to Bob. He smells oily, of adventure and violent storms.

‘Forget that man,’ the captain instructs. ‘Forget everything. Just smile.’ This seems odd to Ataninnuaq but he tries to do as the captain wants. ‘Think of our journey,’ the captain tells him, ‘Think of the arrow. Remember? Your giant toothpick?’  They both laugh and Ataninnuaq is happy the instrument captures this moment, this fine joke and not his torn-up soul.

When Ataninnuaq gets ready to go off board, the captains holds him back and puts something in his hand. It’s the necklace. The years have dulled the colors, but in every other way it is as vibrant when Ataninnuaq made it and his daughter wore it. ‘A keepsake,’ the captain says and closes Ataninnuaq’s fingers around it. ‘To remember me.’  He gives him a sharp look with those blue eyes that can rage like the sea and for a moment Ataninnuaq feels his soul is bare. Then the captain turns and orders his crew to cast off.

For a long time Ataninnuaq stands at the quay, the necklace safely in his pocket. Only when the last speck of the ship has disappeared into the thick arctic mist does he trudge homewards, with heavy feet, knowing eternity is waiting for him.


This post is part of our series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.

* * * * *

Milla van der Have (1975) wrote her first poem at 16, during a physics class. She has been writing ever since. Milla lives and works in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Her other work can be found here.

Seeing Rain

y father taught me
to see the rain when I was still small enough to sit on his shoulders.  Look, he’d say, look past those puffy white clouds.  No, past that peak.  Focus between the mountains, right where the clouds stretch themselves into a haze that spreads over the whole sky.  Look closer.  Right there, between the peaks of the mountains, where the darkness is.  Watch it until it glows.

By the time I was ten years old, I could smell it, too.  On the way home from school one April I caught a whiff of air that was burning, like a barbecue left to burn too long.  I tasted the crispy lightning as my steps quickened.  By the time the drops began, I was settled on the living room floor, my hands warmed by the cayenne-spiked hot chocolate (one marshmallow) as the moisture slapped the window.  I watched the puddles collect on the patio, no longer the pristine tears from heaven.  Just the muddy accumulation of life.

It wasn’t much of a party trick.  After all, even the local news could tell you when the rain was coming.  Such a skill may have been handy in the caveman days, but for me it was merely a convenience.  By the time I was twenty, I had no need of it.  I moved to Seattle, where the raindrops never stopped.

The water was different here.  It was omnipresent, from the sky to the sound.  There was no escape, no point in guessing or waiting.  My gift was useless, and I watched it flee from me.  Every month brought the same tedium.  After a year I put aside the hot chocolate, and turned to hot toddies to drown my afternoons, which blended into evenings, which blended into mornings.  I worked from home to avoid having the rain seep into my skin during the short walk downtown.  I ordered Chinese food and pizza for one, and watched Masterpiece theater.  By the time I was twenty five, I had read every book on my Amazon wish list, memorized the full Beatles canon, and perfected my Mandarin pronunciation of the full takeout menu.  My parents ordered a shrink to visit, a friend of my meddlesome aunt.  He prescribed a vacation.  And sunshine.


New Mexico was so bright that it took my eyes a full day to adjust to the painful white expanse.  It had been years since I had owned sunglasses, and it simply hadn’t occurred to me that people still wore such things.  My plan of staying comfortably in my room at the resort was shattered by the first, second, and third phone call from my mother.  The ringing finally drove me out.  The concierge recommended a walk through the local galleries, who put on some sort of open house for the tourists.  I steeled myself against the arid atmosphere beyond my air conditioned haven and departed, hoping to find my mother a truly ugly painting.

Up and down I marched, weaving though the crowded street and trying to preserve my poor posture.  Crowds were one of my oldest peeves.  They were loud and boisterous, as though they shared in some joke no one had ever bothered to tell me.  I shuffled through their clammy bodies while thoroughly working red dirt into my sandals.  Embarrassment forbade me to shake them out.  I felt the sweat turn the dust into mud and then dry it out in some sort of desert life cycle.  The ever changing texture distracted me from the overpriced renderings of red rocks and tumbleweeds.

The final gallery of the block was different, dark and tiny, wedged in at the end of the street before the quality of houses took a fast turn toward decay.  Just inside the doorway I halted, wallowing in the comfort of the shadows and willing myself to begin the long trudge back to the hotel.  But I never made it.  He blocked my path.

His name was…how funny.  The name won’t come.  It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t now.  There were more important features.  They still hold me when I close my eyes.  I feel his skin, copper toned and so hot that it burnt my hand in his.  His eyes watched me, gleaming yellow even in the dim light of his shop.  He spoke to me in colors.  The quiet whisper of his words rolled over me as he gave the smooth opening speech, drew me further into the dark room towards the square canvases on the wall.  My senses clear as I reach a painting, his work, the ochre butte taking on a mesmerizing quality in the confined space.  I paid him for it, asked him to wrap it and send it to the resort.  He teased me, a first time tourist, one so clearly out of her element.  I found I didn’t mind.  Flirtation came easily, despite my lack of practice.  I felt at ease.  He hung a “closed” sign on the gallery door as we left.

He led me to the other side of town, straight into a bar that my instincts failed to properly identify despite an aura of stale tobacco and rust.  I was otherwise engaged.  With him by my side I was confident, curious, amazed.  I hovered on the brink of sex appeal.  He taught me how to sip tequila, how to throw darts without impaling a barmaid.  We drank glass after glass as the windows outside showed orange light that was suddenly extinguished by blackness.  The fried hamburgers reflected of the exoticism of a dive bar – delicious.  We drank more tequila, a few beers, we sang country songs and corridos.  I don’t know how many I had.  It wouldn’t have taken much.  When we tripped out of the bar I could see the pristine luminarias on the gallery walk spluttering into slumber.  All of the good tourists had returned to their plush hotel rooms, and we were alone in the streets.

From the front seat of his ’85 convertible the wind howled less than I expected it to.  Perhaps my hearing had been dampened by the liquor, or the jukebox.  My hair escaped the tight braid that suddenly seemed confining instead of practical.  The picture in my head showed a 1960s starlet with James Dean in the driver’s seat.  Sleepily, I held my arms above my head and giggled as he sped the car to higher speeds.  The sky opened to me.  The roaring air cooled my warm chest.  Time passed in a vague circle as we careened further into the desert.  Minutes, hours, or days later he parked us beneath the massive body of stars, moving me deftly to the backseat as he enumerated the constellations.  Ladles scooping bears next to scorpions.  They were wrong, but I did not correct him.  Perversely, desert was cold, and I observed my own body from above as I clung to his searing skin.   He lazily spun me folk tales of geckos and coyotes, and the time he did acid in high school.  Nuzzling into his neck, I let the words overflow my body and lead me into warm softness.

When I awoke, I could not move.  It took several minutes for me to lift my head, and the agony was nearly unbearable.  I surveyed my body, which had evolved a shiny maroon skin than stretched hard like an exoskeleton.  The sting heightened with even the slightest motion.  I felt the sunburn working its way further into my muscles, slowly destroying the tissue.  My head was weaving behind my eyes, and I barely had the foresight to throw my weight sideways before the vomit erupted.  As I heaved, I noticed a grimy handprint on my right breast, as though someone had tried to clean the desert off of their hands and cop a feel simultaneously.

How long I lay there I will never know.  I drifted in and out of consciousness, noticing something new whenever I could bring myself to open my eyes.  The white disc blazing overhead.  The expanse of scrub and dirt, unbroken by any sign of life or civilization.  My purse missing, along with one muddy sandal.  A boulder, which took me an hour to crawl to, my sundress slowly pulled over my head for protection.

Finally, the sky darkened.  I imagined the cool of the nightfall, and the necessity of walking while it lasted.  To my left lay a trail of heavy footprints.  The makeshift path was my only hope of making it back to the road, where I could lay still on the concrete until someone found me.  The gray light was to be my savior.

With my back against the boulder, I managed to open my puffy eyes for a moment.  I looked out past the unhinged horizon to the clouds.  Not puffy, or white.  Spread out like an evil layer of frosting across the sky.  The darkness engulfed the entirety of the desert, so black I almost missed the glimmer.  And then I saw the whole sky begin to glow.  The grin on my face was painful, but I couldn’t help myself.  Once more, I could see the rain.

* * * * *

Emily Markussen Sorsher occupies space beneath a palm tree in Southern California.  She writes grants, lesson plans, and young adult fiction, and has a bad habit of collecting the written word.  She has lots of degrees that she doesn’t use.  Emily likes her chocolate dark, her drinks strong, and her life just dramatic enough to be interesting. Her other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure, including her guest-edited stint, can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Vol. II, Week 7

Some new fiction from Debora Garber, some poetry from old hats, and some awesome photography and art. What more could you ask for? Check out what you missed this week, and stay tuned for more coming up!





We will update you on our short story contest next week, and will be sure to bring you more goodies!


War on the Fields of Never

The hand that signed the paper felled a city     
— Dylan Thomas

ere’s the scratching
that bred discontent,
Hunger grasps, the plagues took hold the stench of never.
Iron is the threat that reigns
Bonds the man right.
Bureaucrats count the depth gets deeper
Faces etched in horror never blink.

A man’s faith lost within a blink,
Sleepless hours that lead to days of discontent,
The living get buried the dead unearth fields of never
The horror of what man can unleash still reigns.
Each moment in prayer in what we have done for right,
Digging muddy trenches that get deeper.

Returning horrors and distant screams dig deeper,
To stare down death we dare not blink.
Our love is now filled with discontent,
Clouds of choking red mist drift across muddied never,
The bureaucrats far behind still reign.
To brutally struggle with our fellow man, is this right?

Speeches over broken static, radio’s saying we are right.
The bodies of the lucky ones get deeper,
The bright flares at night force you to blink.
Hope of ending lost, now greeted with discontent,
The staring eyes of the dead litter the fields of never
Propaganda and lies still reign.

The blood red ink still demands a reign.
To live in everlasting fear has become a right,
Horror on the faces, lines and fear etch deeper,
Even when death takes you, dare not blink.
Your age matters no more, there is only discontent,
Thought of home and family lost on the fields of never.

The colours we knew have left the fields of never,
Hunger and never-ending desperation reigns.
Distant memories fading is not right,
Loss of one’s humanity only digs deeper.
New ones arrive and all they do is blink,
Soon they will be like us and join us in discontent.

Discontent runs through our thoughts, burrowing deeper.
Silence never reigns on the fields of never.
When this madness ends, then we have the right to blink.

* * * * *

Stephen Ryan writes short stories and poetry. A humorist, he draws on his rich and varied life experience – including a stint in Papua New Guinea during his time in the Australian Army. Often he writes about the Australian outback, basing his writing on the memorably offbeat larger than life characters that inhabit that remote part of the planet. Stephen has lived in Townsville, Australia for the past thirteen years. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.