Piece from Jasmin Johnson

Brief Response to Mindy Ohringer’s “The Man in the Yellow Hat”

As writers we often enter from left field and exclaim there is no center! We speak here of grief. Loss before it occurs. Where we meet an entangled affair where identities collapse into one. Mainstream for Bestseller vs. The Promise of Writing. Here mainstream is positioned in the hands of the older. An odd form of tradition is in the hand of the young. Writing promises erasing. It promises exploration, wonder, and tussling with concepts. At the end of life, the aged character encourages his client into writing less vague. The vagueness that writing requires in order to be considered writing. He offers a sense of directness as if to be vague is not to also be direct. The young writer, who loves him, is in expansion and search for turning this performative platform of literary fiction away from the grips of entertainment consumption that shields from the process of exploration, questioning and wrestling that happens behind the curtains. Written in response is an intentionally vague poem, that speaks of the direct experience of baptism, an experience that transcends mainstream and tradition. As baptism is a way to the paradise that commercial routes are known to offer, it withstands a tradition of freedom as a release from death into an eternal life. Hint the line: The body is portal. I speak from the experience of my relationship with my
deceased father who encouraged me into a mainstream heaven that would deny all parts of my tradition of freedom that my queerness, blackness and woman-ness offers me.

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Poetry from Scott Thomas Outlar

Reaching Beyond

 

…;

spiral out

beyond containment,

beyond constriction,

beyond restrictions,

beyond the veils

of illusion

that bind

our broken minds

with gilded chains

holding back

the path of progress,

the process of evolution,

the forward march

that can set

the initial spark

toward renaissance

and revolution

upon the earth;

spiral out

beyond the limitations

of what once

was thought

to exist

in this temporal masquerade

of purgatory induced

time and space;

spiral out

with Brougher

to find

that the future

has become imbibed

with a heady drunkenness

of creativity

let loose

to roam

in spaces

of higher truth

beyond the earth;

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Short story from Claire Bateman

The Perforating Spider   

To what degree we should fear her we can’t know, but we extol her labor which is eleventy-seven percent more exacting than that of her arthropod relatives since she has thirteen feet (five more than the standard setup)–if you look closely, you might glimpse the flickering of their stochastic puncture-patterns on the moving spider map of the universe known also as the interdimensional network of negative space.

Nor can we discern whether she achieved her position or it was primordially imposed on her—is she an angel, perhaps a lesser god?

We do know that these feet are named respectively 1 absence 2 anomaly 3 discontinuity 4 the specious present  5 ellipsis 6 antithesis 7 stealth 8 the fugue-state  9 the lost sea 10 the anti-tonic 11 the oblique gravitational force 12 polysemy 13 cipher.  Note also her wing-buds, infolded, either prophecy or vestigial legacy of aerial predation.

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Excerpt from Marivi Soliven’s novel ‘The Mango Bride’

Chapter 19 – Day of the Dead, 1988

Marivi Soliven’s novel The Mango Bride

 On the Day of the Dead Beverly kept to the routine she had begun a year after her mother’s death:  she rose early, putting on her favorite pair of jeans and a blouse in the pale pink her mother favored.  She took her baby picture from the closet, giving Clara’s image a quick kiss before tucking it into an inner pocket of her backpack.  Then she spritzed herself with the Spanish baby cologne her mother had loved and walked out the door. 

The holiday was acutely bittersweet for Beverly, marking as it did two milestones in her life.  She had been born in the final hours of November 1; fifteen years later it became the day her mother died. But by the time Beverly turned twenty-five, her mother had been gone for ten years.  She had mourned long enough; it was time to seek joy.

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Mindy Ohringer’s short story ‘The Man in the Yellow Hat’

The Man In The Yellow Hat

A meeting with my Editor. An Eminence Grise who makes house calls. These days, I am more patient than lover. It is he who lacks patience in my silken pajama presence. I am lobbied to put on a robe.

Autumnal daylight waned and my studio darkened. Uneaten homemade oatmeal raisin cookies grow stale. Slowly, I belted a faded kimono and stated the case for my latest project:  a novel based upon the relationship between two paintings.

“So, in my view, there’s nothing like a projective test. Oral and written responses to a visual prompt  reveal the inner workings of mind and heart. What do I see? A working man with skinny mustache.  A golden field. He wears a yellow hat. So he must become ‘The Man With The Yellow Hat’ without a monkey. I am not curious about this man. I am wondering where his monkey, George, went. I want to know what lies beneath…Where did George go at harvest time?  To the other side of the wheat field. Why? To visit pink toned Christina in Her Andrew Wyeth World. Yes, characters from children’s books and subjects of famous paintings visit one another. They share the same landscape. Who knows where one wheat field ends and another begins?”

My editor cringed and gagged on his Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte. The legendary Marshall Bloom thinks I’ve tossed my cookies for good. He lights the first of what will be a chain of cigarettes. I raced to my window, turned the lock, and shoved it halfway open. Marshall is a genius but there’s a limit to which I’ll humor his secondhand smoke.

“Why must you write everything in a fugue state? Why can’t you just produce some mainstream fiction, a romance, a cozy mystery or an erotic thriller? Something that can be adapted for Hollywood? Why must you insist upon reinventing American fiction as we know it?”

This is what happens when you have an affair with your editor. The man no longer knows his place. Instead of  “Mad Magazine’s”  “Spy vs. Spy”, we have “Ego vs. Ego.” Both of ours – colossal.

I’m the younger (albeit middle aged) female writer. A “Cherished Discovery Full Of Unfulfilled Promise. “ Whatever I’ve created hasn’t been quite good enough.

Marshall rose abruptly from the couch and attempted to smooth a wrinkled, summer weight suit. Nobody else would wear a vintage canary Brooks Brother ensemble in late October. A corpulent Van Gogh sunflower furiously paceed the perimeter of my miniscule rent-stabilized apartment. There’s a lecture coming…

“Ms. Alice Garrison, you’ve yet to demonstrate maturation since that ‘New Yorker’ piece. There are too many boundary violating, novelty seeking female voices nowadays. Especially stylized waifs from Brooklyn. Your distinct, deadpan elusiveness, while unique, isn’t helping you grow your audience.”

Grow my audience? Deliberately plant the seeds of commercial success? Feh. I’m writing for myself alone. Call me Greta Garbo. 

“Mr. Marshall Bloom, isn’t such insemination a task for the folks in publicity? Surely they must earn their daily bread? Hey, I’m just trying to tell my story on a grand, multilayered scale. Like Roth, akin to Mailer, a companion piece to Updike. Perhaps Pynchon, too?”

I stretched backwards in my earth toned club chair, pointing ballet flatted toes in his direction. Marshall remained oblivious to my need for validation and comfort. An Editor before Lover. Wit, charm, and lean, bare legs failed to deflect relentless criticism.

“You’ve got lofty ambitions. I’m not saying you won’t ultimately deliver. But much of your novel is inaccessible to the vast majority of potential readers.”

“Okay, Marshall. What should I do?”

A weary Marshall plunked himself onto my patchwork couch and stubbed out his cigarette.

“Set aside latest attempts at magnum opus.  I want to see what you can do with short prose. Delve into your romantic side and write. Of course, not about us.”

Tales of illicit intimacy. That’s a definite no-no. The less the soon to be ex-Mrs. Bloom knows, the better.

“Just slit my wrists and let it bleed all over the ‘Modern Love’ column?”

“Yes. But never fear. I’ve got a tourniquet.”

And that’s why I’m in love with Marshall. At seventy-seven, with decades of managing literary stables for publishers of all trades, he appreciates the risk I take each morning.  He knows my terror of facing blank pages and plumbing the depths of an overly synthetic, manic-depressive mind.

Marshall pressed his arms against crumbling armrests and pulled himself upwards. For the hundredth time, I contemplated how much he needs to lose weight and quit smoking. Not that he’ll listen to me. Marshall patted my head, stroked my hair, and kissed the back of my neck. My aged, yet ardent editor.

“Veins, my darling. Only sever those. Not arteries. That’s for the Nobel, the Pulitzer. Write about heartbreak but keep it a tad light. Remember that love is a mystery. Channel Hercule Poirot and apply the little grey cells. You’ll have something for me come morning.”

“You’re not staying?”

Marshall tousled my hair.

“No pouting. Be a grown-up. You need to be alone to write. I’m very much in your way. There’s Chinese takeout in the fridge courtesy of moi –  sesame noodles, fried chicken dumplings, hot and sour soup. That should constitute sufficient gastronomic inspiration.”

Marshall donned his unseasonable trademark hat of golden straw. He proffered a courtly bow and limped through my glowing doorway. The last rays of sunlight departed with him. Alas, my beloved editor isn’t much of a muse. I flicked on my secondhand lamps and sauntered across slippery hardwood floors. It was time to raid liquor cabinet. Pinot noir will do.

A barren computer screen glared. It’s a struggle limiting myself to genteel sips of Vampire’s Delight. What on earth am I doing with this story?  Where does a comparison of  these yellowed paintings lead me? Why has my mind cross-fertilized the music of “Fields of Gold” and “We Will Rise?” Am I doomed to only create inscrutable, masturbatory, or derivative work? How come when male writers engage in such practices, they are considered innovative?

If one tells a straightforward story, there’s a place for it. Conventional tales of woe or murder, with requisite twists and turns; memoirs of abuse, illness, or mid-life loss of love,  lilting descriptions of exotic destinations, all written in M.F.A. speak –for these depictions of human experience, there’s a ready-made audience. Even the frothiest Chicklit gets more respect than my outside the box endeavors.

Pouring a second bulbous glass of pinot noir, I contemplated all those awkward cocktail parties. The less than tactful inquiries about when I was last published. Those annoying questions about what, exactly, I write. At first, I say that my task is to seek divine revelation and conjure wonder. Heads shook with puzzlement. Literary Fiction, I tell them. I write Literary Fiction.

Literary Fiction…Litter Airy Fiction. Sounds like a disease for flakes. A fatal one.

My oval bearskin rug beckoned. Sirens whispered “Nap…” Eyes swiftly closed. When they finally opened, it was midnight. I dragged myself to my desk and stared ferociously at the empty screen. Pages and mind remained blank. Postulating a relationship between “The Man with the Yellow Hat”, “Curious George”, and “Christina” of “Christina’s World” led nowhere.

Shivering, I marched to the window, slammed it shut, and made my plea for enchantment.

 O Muse, why must you be so capricious? Why is it that I write best when newly in love or recently heartbroken? Why do quicksilver phrases elude me in the dullness of ordinary days? Does having won another’s heart quell acute suffering and silence my gifts? Must I lose in order to create?

Cellphone buzzing interrupted prayer. A number flashed on the screen.  It’s Grace Hermes, Marshall’s steadfast personal assistant. She does not call -especially in the middle of the night.

“Is that you, Grace?”

“Alice…I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. I was awake. Marshall left me with a mission. I’m trying to get that ‘Great American Feminist Novel’ going at long last.”

No reply. I hear sniffing. Snuffling. What could Grace be allergic to?

“Grace, you’re making very odd noises.”

No answer.

“Grace! Those were strangled sobs. What’s going on?”

“It’s Marshall. He was in the hospital, with Mrs. Bloom. A massive heart attack. Gone. Just gone.”

“His wife was with him?”

For Grace, tragedy becomes a teachable moment.

“Alice, she’s next of kin. Her phone number was in his wallet. She’s on the health insurance. The papers weren’t going to be filed until next month.”

“I…I thought Marshall would have taken care of all this ages ago.”

“Alice, Marshall loved you. He was waiting…Waiting for you. He just wanted you to write.”

“Good night, Grace. Thanks for letting me know.”

Cellphone angrily tossed among the fuzzy pillows of my decrepit couch.  

Endless weeping.

Mine.

###

Where has he gone, my precious Man in the Yellow Hat?

Wandered away, across golden fields,

Wind-blown acres of wheat and barley…

And I?

 I am the pet monkey he has left behind.

 

 Mindy Ohringer

My politically charged fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in “The Thieving Magpie”, “Rat’s Ass Review”, “October Hill Magazine”, “The Greenwich Village Literary Review”, “MORE.com”, “New Choices”, and “The Columbia Spectator. ” In September 2018, I was a “Writer in Residence” at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, working on the second book of my phantasmagorical trilogy about women writers, their struggle to create, and the 2008 presidential election.
In June 2018, I participated in Marge Piercy’s annual juried poetry intensive. My short story, “When The Men We Don’t Marry Come To Find Us” is forthcoming in the on-line literary journal “Terror House.” I’ve worked in entertainment public relations, government, politics, and public education advocacy. I studied Political Science at Barnard College, earned an M.A. in Politics from New York University, and completed seventy-two credits of doctoral work in Politics at N.Y.U. My blog, “Union & Utopia”, exploring how the political and personal intertwine, can be found at mindyohringer.com

 

 

 

 

Mindy Ohringer responds to Jasmin Johnson’s poem ‘watering the machine’

Some thoughts regarding

“watering the machine” by Jasmin Johnson,

Offered by Mindy Ohringer.

 

This…

an exquisite meditation on mortality,

folding and unfolding, interplay between the particular, universal, cosmic.

telescoping and magnification within the text – shifting lens of identity, black, female, queer, South,

migration, fraught, complex, and inspiration friendship, exploring what defines us, prodding us to wonder: what do we get to define on the journey, what is the journey?

It is suggested that we:

Bear witness.  Exhort morality. Discover within the full spectrum of human socialization, the scale of fragile identity formation and intimate loss. In the love of others, we find ourselves, lose ourselves, and are reborn as better selves.

Ask: What has shaped such a stunning soul, what is the underpinning of this suffering? What about it is truly known to us?

A partial answer: We know ourselves in contrast to Old Time religion, We create and dissect a multiplicity of selves within and outside of identities that are understood as independent variables by social scientists, and identity politics itself. Some independent variables such as age are less salient if the writer is young, some independent variables are more salient as the writer embraces certain intersections as intertwining method and home.

What do loss, suffering, particularly the loss and suffering that experienced as preordained by virtue of race, class, and gender, those pesky and profound independent variables, tell us? How do we awaken from slumber, from opiated, undifferentiated masses and change the world?  When do we awaken? It is art that tells us morning has come, will come, is coming…

We listen. We listen more closely. We love. We love more deeply and broadly. We honor our friends alive and dead. We summon and refract starlight.

A poem is written that fulfills this extraordinary mission. The one you heard.

 

Mindy Ohringer

My politically charged fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in “The Thieving Magpie”, “Rat’s Ass Review”, “October Hill Magazine”, “The Greenwich Village Literary Review”, “MORE.com”, “New Choices”, and “The Columbia Spectator. ” In September 2018, I was a “Writer in Residence” at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, working on the second book of my phantasmagorical trilogy about women writers, their struggle to create, and the 2008 presidential election. In June 2018, I participated in Marge Piercy’s annual juried poetry intensive. My short story, “When The Men We Don’t Marry Come To Find Us” is forthcoming in the on-line literary journal “Terror House.” I’ve worked in entertainment public relations, government, politics, and public education advocacy. I studied Political Science at Barnard College, earned an M.A. in Politics from New York University, and completed seventy-two credits of doctoral work in Politics at N.Y.U. My blog, “Union & Utopia”, exploring how the political and personal intertwine, can be 
found at mindyohringer.com

Edward Morris’ short story ‘The Star-King’

The Star-King
by Edward Morris

Le Journal Français
Private Collection, Item 41-A
Single cahier, acquired Montmartre, ca. 1900
Carot, Jeunet et fils, Rare Books
Handwritten; (order pages by number and name)
Signatory: (illegible)
Concierge on Duty, Hotel Belleville
For effects of the Deceased:
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde
*“
TO MR. W.P.”
*
Overture: [separate, unmarked]
We are all in the gutter, dear W., but some of us are looking at the stars.

A Childe made old, who caused public excitement and gave rise to many strange conjectures, lounged across a divan, smoking innumerable cigarettes, sketching with a piece of charcoal by the window. Outside, he could hear bees, and smell roses from somewhere close. The dim hum of Paris was like the wheeze of a distant concertina. Now and then, the shadow of an indignant pigeon or crow would pass down the long white chintz curtains of this room in this rooming house, with the bleakness of a Ukiyo-e reflection.

As it was in the Ukiyo style, the reflection was never the same as the object. The portrait the trembling, crow-tracked man-boy eked out upon the newsprint, stroke by stroke, was a selfportrait, yet never truly himself. Continue reading