Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
Issue 29, October-December 2012
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Prime Decimals 29.3
Whose Side You Are On?
The Painter and Fisherman
Whose Side You Are On?
by Patty Seyburn
followed by Q&A
The Painter and Fisherman
by David A. Spicer
followed by Q&A
A painter and a fisherman lived on the coast of Ireland. The painter loved the fisherman for her own reasons. She shuddered when he threw his fishnet across the boat deck. He loved her for the hue of blue across her eyes, which found itself in all of her paintings. Her seascapes with boats sold the world over, and she remained isolated while growing wealthy. She avoided interviews and photographs. Journalists and photographers coveted her, and she resisted until they tired.
When her fisherman was at sea, one day after a successful show in Dublin she received a box postmarked from a village in Peru. She opened it and found odd gifts that said, I love you. Her favorite was a jukebox the size of a cigarette pack with a thousand love songs. She swooned and then painted a seascape with a small jukebox on a boat and a pair of blue eyes lingering under clouds. When the fisherman telephoned her she thanked him for the box, and he replied, What box?She swooned again.
Each time her fisherman sailed the oceans she received a box with odd gifts inside, always postmarked Peru. She never responded, though the return address had a street number. She mentioned the boxes to her fisherman, and he replied without fail, What box? It became a running joke between them.
One week when her fisherman sailed, the boxes stopped appearing. At first she wondered why, and then forgot about it until a tall thin crate arrived. She opened it and now knew when she looked at the beautiful painting of a pair of blue eyes shuddering and tossing a net across the sea.
Author of one collection, Everybody Has a Story, four chapbooks, and six unpublished poetry manuscripts, David Spicer has work in Alcatraz, Nitty Gritty, Aura, Brown God, Hinchas de Poesia, Crack the Spine, Dirtflask, Spudgun, Mad Rush, Used Furniture Review, Fur-Lined Ghettos, Spudgun, Bop Dead City, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Resurgo, and elsewhere.
Q: What can you tell us about this piece?
A: A romantic at heart, I sometimes devise scenarios between lovers in some of my pieces. This work was inspired by two friends–one a poet and one a fisherman–who lead (to me) a very idyllic life. Combined with the fact that my wife is a painter, I devised this new third person narrative between two very romantic characters.
by Gary V. Powell
followed by Q&A
Once a week, we dodged deer and possum, Bloomington to Nashville, left road kill on the shoulder driving home. Between the dodging and the killing, we drank beer, listened to a bluegrass band, and mingled with the locals.
The girl I lived with, Suze, held tight to an admin job at Healthcare Services, saving up for grad school. My friend Marty cut lawns and dodged the draft. I wrote stories on yellow legal pads, thinking I had a line on something no one else could see. The locals cut stone in quarries, built engines at Cummins Diesel, or brewed shine back in the hills between Bean Blossom and Gnaw Bone.
The band played the standards, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Footprints in the Snow,” and “Man of Constant Sorrow.” After the band’s first break, after the first few rounds put wind in their sails, folks took to the dance floor. They clogged and shuffled, the men straight-backed and stiff, the women loose and laughing. Marty and I took turns with Suze, spinning her out, then reeling her in.
Along about closing time, the band in its final throes, the dance floor began to clear, and the bar emptied of those who had to work for a living. Remaining were the shiners and the geezers. No women left to dance with, but with dancing left in their hearts, some swayed with a mop or broom. Others danced with chairs, pushing them across the floor, eyes closed, feet shuffling, elbows knocking.
Sometimes, late at night, I message Suze, now a Facebook mother of three living on another coast. I think of Marty, dead in a rice paddy at age twenty-one. If no one else is around, I listen to bluegrass, drink a beer, and push a chair across the room.
Gary V. Powell’s stories have appeared in many online and print literary journals including the moonShine Review, The Thomas Wolfe Review, and Fiction Southeast. In addition, several of his stories have placed or been selected as finalists in national contests. Most recently, his story "Home Free" won an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest, and his story "Super Nova" received an Honorable Mention in the Press 53 2012 Awards. His first novel, Lucky Bastard, is currently available through Main Street Rag Press.
Q: What was the inspiration for this story?
A: When I was in college at Indiana University, I would make the drive from Bloomington to Nashville to drink beer and listen to a bluegrass band. Late in the evening, the local men danced with chairs. I’ve always wanted to write about it.
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A boy works his pitching
arm from a slow-moving
vehicle at dawn, when
I am arm-wrestling a
demoted angel in
a standard dream. I do
not see the throw’s arc but
know it exists as news
slaps my driveway daily.
I prefer one half of
any story, loathe that
walloping fairness down
the fairway, insisting
his minions field it.
Only select stars know
the rest and to date, they’re
not talking, dark matter
clamped over bright mouths as
they watch from the boroughs
of On High. My angel
shakes his supernal head,
gestures for the ladder.
Patty Seyburn has published three books of poems: Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). Her poems have recently been published in Boston Review, DIAGRAM and Hotel Amerika. She is an Associate Professor at California State University, Long Beach and co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry (www.poolpoetry.com).
Q: What can you tell us about this poem?
A: I have always been taken with the idea of wrestling with the angels, which I think serves as an
apt metaphor for the writing of poetry. Aside from that, what I like about this poem is its
confusing title. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure whether the words were in the right order, and
whether or not there should be a question mark. I’m still not sure.
by Jamez Chang
followed by Q&A
Inside a 180-degree sweat lodge, the Cloud Gazers watched Leader Yore stand up from his cross-legged quiet and bow to the burlap sheets behind him. The faded symbols in the back of the wickiup: painted bird, salamander, limestone—he told them to raise the stakes in their own lives, to feel as vulnerable as the common earth once did.
“We are the sons and daughters of limestone,” he said, his face smudged with ash inside the darkened dome. “And though we despise the salamander, we respect its nature, its willingness to eat its own young.”
Cloud Gazers twirled their dampened stems of sagebrush and channeled vulnerable. Glowing embers in a sacred dome.
“Now listen carefully, young Cloud Gazers: You have studied the ways and wonders of limestone, but tomorrow, you will destroy the very thing you love.”
Leader Yore signaled for the fire bearers to open the flaps, then poured one last ladleful of water upon the simmering rocks. A burst of heat and steam rushed through the air. He quickly tossed his dead sage sprig to the center pit, missing.
“Congratulations, my young Salamander,” he said. “Quarry on, quarry. Go swim through the next level and let the jizz-bird fly!”
They could have melted with joy. Instead, the newly minted quarry-folk crawled their tired bodies across cedar boughs, toward the raw-hide flap, out of the wickiup, past more blankets, and collapsed beside the medicine-wheel totem. They needed a drink. Leaning against barrier altar and skull posts, they scoured backpacks for water, tossing out manuals, twisting off caps, stripping out of their yellow boiler suits—they, gulping down to finish. And looked at each other, delirious, from thirst and through heavy armor.
It was all happening in 2009, and the place where they’d come “to happen” was part of the lower ridges of Texas hill country, where a secluded and underdeveloped terrain of parkland reserve had been rented out for the weekend by True Moon Enterprises. True Moon was a personal-development company in the Southwest, specializing in Spiritual Renewal and Wealth-Building for the Lost City Soul, for Cloud Gazers, and this Sunday was the culmination of their summer’s retreat.
All summer long, appreciation. Appreciation: gathering along the creek bottom to read the passages etched into limestone hills, some folks sitting on lawn chairs, all folks twisting binoculars, heads arching up; they pointed to rock. They noted each subtle stone crevice, and like bird-watchers, uncovered a nest of jagged culm and grooved fissure jutting. Distant rock.
These men and women loved limestone, and to read its beauty they spent $14,450 a year to learn how wind-spun southerlies deposited sediment and seedling upon granite core. Gazers had flown in from Brooklyn, Santa Fe, Vancouver, Connecticut, Menlo Park, and Kuala Lumpur to decipher the tone and timbre of wind against mineral—Limestone Level I.
“Each hill tells a different story,” their Moon Leader told them one night, “folded into the trough and bent beyond the straightened corner, the giant rock is constantly revealing itself to the watcher.”
The problem was that they were afraid to leave the birdwatchers’ perch-of-appreciation, to transition from Spirit to Wealth—what the retreat was leading up to. Simply put, not all of the Gazers wanted to become quarry-folk; they did not want to eat their young. Exploiting the earth required an appraiser’s eye—and a disposition toward destruction. Leader Yore called it craft mining.
“You’ll get to shadow these miners. See how raw material leaves the Spirit Layer and enters the flow of commerce,” he’d told them, and another time along the trail: “Harmony-with-Wealth simply means standing at the precipice of beauty, then asking God for the power drill.” It was time for them to put down their books and quarry. Quarry.
A close proximity to quarrying operations would enable a sense of detachment, and reveal the greater good: that for shale and quartz grounded, you could get limestone, get crushed marble that fueled a Da Vinci, concrete for portico slab or flue gas; you could provide jobs, build inroads, (and according to the True Moon Enterprises 2008 Annual Report), “sustain an economic stimulus on the verge of a deeper erosion.”
Still there was resistance.
For these Cloud Gazers, limestone was more literary marvel than fiscal report, cave temples still kissed by the wind. And to view these hills as mere “limestone deposit” necessitated a radical shift, and a change of heart. Though in truth, each Cloud Gazer understood that it had to be done, that chipping away at the things they loved most had become a habit; and how they, too, needed to craft a mineral more enduring: a product, a legacy—work printed onto stone.
And so they sweated it out, dressed in heavy layers of protective gear; they studied the schematics. Some wondering privately whether a propane-fuelled helical worm drive was worthy of their attention—this new world of excerpt-diagram—whether it could be fed to a jizz-bird, as Yore would say.
The forklifts were being airlifted to a narrow bedded plane of limestone hill; the Gazers’ eyes now wincing—moistened binocular. And for a tense moment, they wondered why they had signed up for Leveling II at all. True Moon Enterprises had given them life again, and hope beyond tears: the loss of a son “reconciled” through the holy purification of a sweat lodge; the triumph over fear “celebrated” by walking over coals. Confronting career sabotage, writing the perfect poem—all “readily achieved,” once internal censors and wooden boards were smashed apart.
But at this moment, the distant sight of men unloading hydraulic splitters and diamond-wire saws made them question their True Moon, and their own lives’ journey. Just a chopper-ride away from the cutting and drilling and blasting of stone. And as the helicopters came for them, as the landing skids touched down upon an open clearing, 10 Cloud Gazers, 20 feet from altar and skull posts, gasped at the sight of the whirling embers above a crushed sacred dome.
Jamez Chang is a poet, writer, lawyer, and former hip-hop artist living in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in FRiGG, Boston Literary Magazine, Subliminal Interiors, The Sim Review, and the anthology Yellow Light. After graduating from Bard College, Jamez went on to become the first Korean-American to release a hip-hop album, Z-Bonics (F.O.B. Productions, 1998), in the United States. Jamez currently works in the video game industry in New York.
Q: What was the inspiration for this piece?
A: Reading limestone is reading literature, and when our inner editor forgets beauty first, we become The Hot Dog Factory Whisperer. Usurping jagged text with hydraulics. Correcting.