Hey All. Welcome. We're back on schedule now, running something every Monday. It'll be on this schedule from now until I fuck up again.
This week, we're featuring a short story by James Nowland along with poetry by Lakewood, Ohio's JACK MC GUANE. It was a pleasure meeting Jack at Wred Fright's FILF festival a couple weeks ago. You'll dig his stuff.
And then, of course, there's the ULA's own James Nowland. Nowland is what Jorge Borges would write like if he had a sense of humor. Hope you enjoy this week's selections.
Poetry by Jack Mc Guane
Should I Join the ULA?
I like to write in the men’s room at the library,
the one in the basement? When I made Poet Laureate
they put a padded seat in my favorite stall with
my picture on the lid. The Jack McGuane
Memorial Convenience. Does that qualify me?
Who else do you know with his own crapper
at the library—with his picture on it? Amazing,
what great stuff I can turn out sitting on that face.
I hate writing in my own basement, where I keep the body,
too distracting. I catch myself having conversations like,
“Did you really have to tell the whole workshop
how sucky my poem is?” She never answers, so lonely.
If they put me away would that be a help or a hindrance?
Does everyone have to be weird and wired or
do you take normal people, like me?
What do I do to become a member?
Do I have to write poems in the Lincoln Tunnel?
If I write one in my bedroom am I disqualified?
Wait a minute, you’re not Catholic,
how the hell would you know what I do in my bedroom?
Underground Literary Alliance, that’s pretty cool.
Could you send me an application?
Here's some stuff I stole from other people:
She was good at being left
but the distance grows smaller
and nothing exists but the music.
Red is an odd color for an angel.
Every second Thursday I wonder
why I bother because I
live near the city, the donut city
with all the fucking going on,
maybe not too much but then again
more than is good for it.
Sing me a love song, let the poetry
flow, seek legal representation
for the fuck behind your eyes
(that’s four shops and three fucks
just to throw off the rhythms).
No time to worry about climactic events,
drag your dead weight into the
high winds blowing off
the electrical engineer in the Iguana Café
and the growing emptiness of the
Jamaican construction worker.
With the hangover the key is
in the words of the
foreshortened female figuration.
I love her. She loves her.
C’mon over here momma
masturbate this microphone.
And one more
Poetry Night at the Literary Cafe
Lies, heresy, a blissed out cat at the bar,
plastic surgery, hairy manboobs
leaving again, again
left handed people
right handed world
lite beer, heavy news reports
cigarette boats in the torpedo tubes
wimps in office
pants pissers in the pentagon
weenies on the trade routes
flying real heros to the roadside bombs
"You can do it, man--you're trained."
internet wobble wank
don't smoke anything
don't ride motorcycles
wear your helmet in the bathroom
take your shoes off at the airport
bomb the shit out of them
(didn't wanna say fuck)
Arachnids Know No Pity
By James Nowland
It was different than other interviews that I had had. There was no desk between me and the woman giving the interview who was quite attractive in spite of a slight moustache on her upper lip maybe even because of it and had a pair of enticing breasts that I tried desperately not to notice. After a short discussion the content of which I’ve now forgotten I was led to a room where the tasks I was to perform were explained to me.
I understood or I guess I understood this being one of those vast blank moments where memory as it normally is is replaced by something else. Seated before a small screen I was to ask people a series of questions and mark the answers. This was not the difficult part. Convincing people to take part was and keeping them participating was even harder.
The problem was the questions. They started out innocently enough asking about people’s buying habits and leisure activities but entering more and more into their personal life to eventually interrogate them on their sexual practices. They usually hung up between porno and masturbation. After several hang ups a voice came on my headphones.
I thought at first that I had forgotten to hang up the phone but then recognized it as that of the woman who had employed me. In a calm authoritative tone she told me that I must keep the people talking until the end of the survey; the difficulty perhaps being that my voice faltered when I asked uncomfortable questions, I should ask them just as I asked all the others.
Trying to follow her advice I continued but it just got worse because now I was worried about not just the question but how I was sounding. I was stuttering even before I got to personal hygiene and people were hanging up insulting me. The manageress didn’t come back on and I took that as a bad sign. When the end of the day had come I was left staring at a screen not showing one completed interview.
I heard a pair of snickers and I looked up startled because I had thought myself alone. Two men, younger than myself and looking much more fit were looking at me with frat boy nonchalance. “Don’t worry,” said the more Ivy League looking one, “Everybody’s first day is like that. There’s a party downstairs would you like to come?”
I thankfully nodded yes and followed them, forgetting to take off my headphones until they pointed it out to me. I preceded them down some rickety stairs into a dank basement. Through a dusty murk I saw the pale figure of a woman naked except for a black leather bra, panties and boots.
“Bring him here,” said the voice of the manageress.
The two frat boys grabbed my arms and putting painful joint locks on me dragged me across the room until I found myself at the feet of my boss of one day. She nailed my head to the ground with a spiked heel “Naughty boy didn’t want to talk dirty on the telephone today, huh? Think you’re too nice? Too clean? I’ll show you,” and stepping over me while undoing a zipper in her panties she preceded to urinate on my face.
When she was finished she stalked out without a word and the two frat boys helped me up and then with a relatively sympathetic glance left me alone in my stupor. The smell of urine assured me a seat alone on the streetcar ride home and I would have bought a bottle of wine to calm my nerves but the liquor storeowner waved me away thinking that I was a street derelict.
I don’t know why I went back to work the next day other than a desperate need for money. My boss passed with a smile as if nothing had happened. I dreaded being reprimanded anew but surprisingly things passed quite well. I felt just as calm if not calmer asking people the more intimate questions.
The study was soon completed and we passed to another. It was for the behalf of a large real estate firm and the object seemed to be measuring people’s fear of being a victim of violent crime. “Have you ever been assaulted, robbed or do you know someone who has? Do you feel safe walking alone at night? Have you thought about moving out of the city because you’re afraid?” Most of the interviewees answered that they thought the threat was exaggerated.
At the end of the day the two frat boys approached me again. Some exercise equipment had been set up in the basement and they wanted to know if I’d like to go downstairs and work out with them. A day of reciting the same litany had put me into such a trance like state that I allowed my self to be lead off like livestock to the slaughter. Where before the manageress had been waiting a heavy boxing bag was hanging. I caught myself almost feeling disappointed. The less Ivy League looking one handed me a pair of bag gloves and the more Ivy League looking one stepped behind the bag to brace his body against it. “Let’s see your left jab.” I threw something that I thought was what a left jab should look like. “Too much arm get some shoulder into it.” I threw the punch again and this time the one standing behind briskly pushed my shoulder at the same time. The resulting blow staggered the one holding the bag. “That’s a boy keep it up.” I continued hitting while more Ivy league egged me on and less Ivy League propelled my shoulders into the punch and we progressed to the right cross and eventually the left hook. Esteeming that that would be enough, they invited to drive me home.
They drove around for awhile and I didn’t really feel like insisting upon the direction they should take. I was beside more Ivy and less Ivy in the back spoke up, “studies going bad sometimes people just don’t want to think like how they oughta should. You know they all live in this neighborhood?”
“The people that we interviewed today.”
“Looks like a nice area” I answered and it did.
“There’s one now, go make some trouble with him.”
Stunned I stuttered, “How?”
“Ask him for a cigarette and if he doesn’t have one for you get aggressive.”
Not understanding why I let myself be pushed out of the car and onto the pavement the momentum sending me off on a course towards the man.
“Gotta a cigarette?” wondering what I’d do if he answered no politely.
“I don’t smoke homosexual cigarettes so I’ve got nothing for you fag,” came his obliging answer.
When I put my fists up he walked directly into a left jab. He fell back and then rushed forward to be met by a combination that knocked him to his knees. After recovering his senses he stood up and staggered towards me to be knocked on his back for good by a right cross.
The next day we interviewed people living in the same neighborhood that we had visited the night before and they responded in a pronouncedly more cringing manner. Many said they planning to move out of town soon and that they had a friend who had been attacked or they had heard about someone being beaten or felt that the area they were living in was becoming less safe etc.. We’d completed the corrected study by the end of the day and the two Ivys approached me, with more respect now like I was a fellow jock maybe not a jock as jock Ivy jock as them but a jock all the same, offering to drive me home. On the way they asked if I’d like to go to a bar with them and pick up some babes. When I said had some other more important business they gave me a glance that questioned my masculinity but then I had given that man a serious beating the night before and I hadn’t come on to them so maybe I was just planning to get some women on my own in bars better suited for non-Ivy pseudo jocks like myself.
When they left me off I started towards the liquor store with a cursory wave goodbye that they could go ahead and interpret as fruity or not if they wanted could keep them from inviting me places. The liquor owner that had refused to serve me had been replaced by a smiling cousin of a happier tribe from the same country. He recommended a bottle of wine from the shelf and some exotic looking dried sausage.
Back at my cramped apartment I looked out of my kitchen window while carving the sausage into slices and sipping the wine straight from the bottle. The streets of the city spread out like a sinister web and I started to have a feeling of pity for all the poor insects caught in the web but then I remembered that I was one of the spiders weaving that web and arachnids know no mercy.