elsewhere / 8

Incidental Wit

I remember thinking atomic decay, I remember knowing bells. I remember flagging down an ambulance at the end of the driveway, pointing at a window. Some come lately glow. Some frost pretending diamond, diamond.

What spree to claim loneliness like that. Like eye. Like blue, blue eye.

We’re taught young not to lean out of windows unless we mean it. Singing isn’t sin just because someone told you not to do it. It’s incidental sound that wits until it’s known. It wits into your stem & loves your frontal lobes.

It slows. It’s slowing. It’s the closest I’m coming to absolute cold, the weather dead & gleaming. A lake with sun strings clipped into it. God is a barber & he’s just sweeping up.

Tonal Memory

A page may link with a tune, but not a lung. Why does a sad hand linger like it does? I asked a wire where it hid its salt. It looked at me & pointed at the particles in my loom.


When the basil plant flowers you can tell me about your day. Until then, lay in this leaf pile. Try to sing about the villages we made by mistake.


In my dreams I only paint by numbers. As for colors I have seven shades of red. Look at my fingers. Look at my colors. Look, I can speak in flames.


A soon to be new moon of Saturn befriended my textbook Kepler. First time I took tea without milk. It’s OK.


When you mentioned that you might go away I thought “yellow colonial houses,” I thought “typewriter keys.”


A wet, black dog bounced in the back of the truck. I peeled plastic off the dashboard. The CB radio glowed. Like a bowl of lime yogurt, kind of.


In every loom there is a lake. When the lake goes away, loam remains. Loam is a reminder that live things are sour, that silence indicates a coming season.


In the woods the ground was glowing. My father crept back to the road. He took small sips of the moon the way boys did in the 50s.


I smoked a joint on the ice . . . every window threw a different type of light. Every thought was set in a different type.


A page may link with a lung, but the thought needs salt in its cup. Salt in a cup can clear the blood slightly, but only slightly.


We’d sit in a circle & roll the block. Roll the block & see what color came up. See what color came up & sing a song. Sing a song that had leaves in it. Leaves in it or snow. Snow or a red blotch on your cheek. Your cheek is like the trees. The trees I’d paint with berries.


What it’s like to swim in the rain. What it’s like to pee in the woods (feels good). What it’s like to lay in a pile of leaves & sing about nothing, once.


I led a book into the room. I told its verbs to vaporize, to play inside the light. Instead they got naked and danced each other dizzy.


You tore your dress. You patched it with peach skins. My sometimes god gave you an A+. I gave you blueberries.


You mentioned becoming president, that I could be your secretary of secrets. I declined, having too many foreign interests.

Blake Bergeron is an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His work can be found in Route Nine, Incessant Pipe and The Alembic. He lives in Florence, MA.

from Apple Hill Farm

The tower should be a statue should be a birdbath long forgotten. Imagine pigs playing in muck but then see only one pig, a small pet. Here what dies we do not kill.


On the farm are many ghosts. All farms play host to the ghosts of acres. A warm breeze kicks up and carries across the land. Every animal stirs. The donkeys tic a wrinkle in their backs, a shake in their tails. When the land is the livelihood, ghosts cannot be feared.

Every now and again a traveler walks the long and winding road to the farmhouse door, always searching for something else. Visitors want to touch the animals. They take a familiar hand to Knox, the farm dog. The small pig nips them on a finger and the Susans watch closely to judge a reaction. Anyone whose eyes flare in anger at the pig is quickly ushered away. Turned out, unfed.


The Susans would win large prizes at the county sunflower fair if any of them could bear to cut the stalks. If any could bear to leave the farm.

Caroline Cabrera is the author of The Bicycle Year (H_NGM_N BKS 2015), Flood Bloom (H_NGM_N BKS 2013) and the chapbook Dear Sensitive Beard (dancing girl press 2012). She lives in Denver.

On Precision in History

Prominent Historian, Daughter of J.L. Lynch, Dies at 143

By Shiloh Edison, UNN

(UNN) — Miranda Lynch Davis, daughter of influential inventor J.L. Lynch, passed away at her home Sunday night. Davis died of natural causes. She was 143.

Davis gained notoriety as the successor to her father as Director of the Institute for the Accumulation of Accurate History (IAAH). Lynch, who is widely considered the “father of time travel,” was primarily responsible for the development of chrono-segmentation, in addition to becoming influential in the legislation regarding both the technology and its applications. Lynch strongly advocated strict government regulation and many of his proposed sanctions remain in place today.

As the successor to her father at IAAH, Davis was famously dedicated to the institute’s mission to provide a wholly accurate history of mankind. “The plague of historical scholarship has been bias, limited perspective, and unreliable memory,” Davis explained in an earlier UNN interview, “and the role of the Institute is to fix the inaccuracies in historical education. We do this by returning to the past and documenting events from all angles.”

The project was initially met with almost universal approval. “The level of excitement and the amount of funding were unprecedented, ”explained Ehmpaq Miguawi, Davis’s chief assistant at the IAAH, “quite simply because it was J.L. Lynch that proposed it. He invented time travel. He changed the entire perception of human experience. At that time, people believed there was nothing he couldn’t do.”

Davis built on her father’s momentum, garnering significant acclaim during her early tenure. Among her most notable achievements was the Millennium Award for Humanity for her role in the Institute’s comprehensive documentation of a seven minute conversation between Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés in 1519. Previous to IAAH efforts, little was known of the crucial moment in Mesoamerican history apart from commentary by Cortés himself or others of his party.

Davis and her team added to that scrap of history through 105 separate trips to 16th century Tenochitlan, compiling 3,400 hours of footage taken from 200 hidden cameras as well as extensive post-conversation interviews with Moctezuma, Cortés and all 800 members of their combined parties.

“I’m proud of the work we accomplished on the Moctezuma-Cortés conversation,” Davis said during her Millennium Award acceptance speech, “but it represents just a drop in the bucket.”

Despite early success, however, much of Davis’s career was spent defending the IAAH against criticism for refusing to report on their findings. Davis maintained that a report, summary, or anything short of full exhibition of findings, was too closely linked to interpretation, and therefore contradictory to the IAAH’s fundamental aim. The high cost of exhibiting the large bodies of data, along with growing questions of educational application, led to increasing public disinterest. Funding cuts eventually caused the Institute to cease operations altogether.

Following the close of the IAAH, Davis spent fourteen years in the Humanities department at Humboldt University before retiring. She is survived by her husband Phillip Davis.

Jacob Cutler’s work has been published by, or is forthcoming in, Esquire, Iron Horse Literary Review, Epiphany, and others. He recently received a MFA in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University and is at work on a collection of short stories. Jacob works as the manager of The National Parks, an indie-pop band based in Provo, Utah.


I remind myself that this is a papermaking town. Vatmen and couchers run pulp through the deckle. Watermarks stitch the imprints of pots and jugs and coats of arms. The foolscap or postal-horn and the incessant cough and night sweat against the sanatorium’s monochrome. The silhouette-burn of a hand or a head in profile. On the concrete walk or from the roof terrace overlooking the grounds, we are pressed like wood pulp to trepan. Huddled together by shared language, the Slavs play Boston and the Greeks whist. Scrolled as if from a single piece of leather, they force themselves upright at each trick for each subsequent rake.
                      The New Yorkers at the far end of the terrace shun their bridge-playing cousins from Boston. They would rather risk the ocean than consider the Catskills. Or Arizona where the dry heat is so good for their lungs. Fixed tenuously with sewing wire, the dies shift during the pressing. From sheet to sheet, the lateral burn coughs up blood each morning and fades to coffee brown. The treatment prescribed is to cut a borehole. The Extraction of the Stone of Madness. The jester-surgeon with the funnel for a cap draws ever so gently a flower from the patient’s skull.

Matthew Nye’s work has appeared in Chicago Review, 1913: A Journal of Forms, Fiction International, and elsewhere. His first book Pike and Bloom was awarded the 2014 Madeleine P. Plonsker Prize and is forthcoming from &NOW Books/Lake Forest College Press. He lives in Athens, Georgia.



When Icarus was born, Daedalus cried. What kind of cruel magic is this? he thought, holding his little puppy-baby-son, with its hummingbird bones and purple-pink skin. What kind of strange god am I? And even when Icarus grew into an arrogant young weed, narcissist and nail-biter, teenage hellbeast with a God complex—still he was full of little pornographies: his heavy knuckles and his knuckly ankles and his river/rat/rust boy smell, and Daedalus looked at him and loved him so brutally that he felt like he could take his son in his hand and squeeze until he oozed out between his fingers. So in the name of exodus, Daedalus had built a son to be a bird: Icarus, the zitty prince, was a sight to behold, winged and barefooted, glittering in the hot grease of the red sun, graven image, him. Icarus, king of the carrion birds: he flew too close to the sun.


My parents have two children: one boy, one girl, and I have always been the prodigal son, long-haired and violent, all guts and no glory, the vulgar sweetheart baby tramp who ate and ate and ate and ate and was never full. Call me Avery, the mancub. Avery, the second-born. Avery, the thing, pried out of molars with fingernails, spat out.


Outside on the rocks, a mother shrew eats her smallest baby. She leaves the intestines, the caecum and gallbladder, the little soft feet with their sharp toenails; strange tithe.

Avery Taylor studies film at Brigham Young University.

When You Can't Talk Your ThoughtS Get Mean

So I went to one of those silence retreats—you know? where you’re not supposed to talk? You’re cleansed, you know, by not talking?—it’s supposed to be a spiritual experience, you know, and I’m a nice person?

So there’s this nice man, very sweet, shorter than I am, really wiry and skinny from years of yoga and he lopes up, silently before me—and there I am, silent, for my third day—and he sets down in front of me a plate of lentils. For ME. Then he gives me a sweet smile, bows, backs off, and all I can think is: “GET YOUR FAT ASS OUT OF MY FACE.”

A bunch of us—silent because we can’t talk, you know—we’re going on a hike. Pretty woods. Pine trees, a bubbling stream. Butterflies. And then this squirrel pops out, and you know when you can’t talk your thoughts get mean. So the squirrel is sitting up holding out a little nut to me and what do I think. One word. "Asshole."

And then later you know we’re sitting around a campfire and we’re supposed to be looking up at the stars and marveling at our place in the universe. So I’m looking up at the Big Dipper and I think, “Why are you hanging around up there, douchebag?” Because when you can’t talk your thoughts get mean.

And then later I’m in bed on this little cot—it’s a hard cot like they’re afraid at the retreat that you might have a good night’s sleep so they fill the mattress with macadamia nuts and popcorn—and I’ve got this roommate and, you know, we can’t talk but she looks like it’s easy for her, like the last time she talked was at her eighth grade spelling bee—which she lost. So I’m lying there in bed and I think, to hell with this. To HELL WITH THIS: I’m going to talk in my sleep.

Like I’ll pretend I’m sleeping and then start talking and no one can give me any trouble because it’s not under my conscious control . . . But then what do I hear: my roommate’s sleep-breathing. That’s what it was—this peculiar sort of breathing. Her sleep breathing was like WORDS. It’s like she breathed out vowels and consonants—even diphthongs. Then it sounded like a cross between a moan and each letter of the alphabet. Nothing sexual or anything. Sort of sad sounding. Like at a funeral. The only trouble with a funeral is that someone is dead, so I’m getting in a bad mood—not just mean but sad. And then I realized: she’s awake. She’s AWAKE. She’s awake and CHEATING. Just pretending, but she didn’t even have the guts to sleep-talk. She kind of just sleep-SPELLED.

I packed my bags after breakfast. I got in my car and drove because I wanted to talk to the radio and become human again, exhibiting guilt, resentment, and rage. That’s when my car almost hit the elk and I pulled over, got out of the car. Thank god, the elk wasn’t harmed. I could see its tail disappearing into the deep dark forest. Until the elk turned around and headed straight for me. Only yards from me the elk skidded to a stop.

“Were you trying to kill me?” the elk asked.

I couldn’t answer.

“Your kind,” the elk said. “You’re always trying to kill me. Listen. I’m a mother. I have calves.” The elk’s eyelashes were extremely long, her eyes moist.

I sat on a boulder while the elk paced in front of me on her four beautiful legs. I kept wishing I had even two legs that looked that good.

“Your thoughts are your enemy,” she said, wisely. Immediately, she turned and ran into the woods, her tail flicking with irritation.

Actually the elk didn’t say any of these things. She communicated silently—like her whole life was a silent retreat.

“Come back,” I cried, hoarsely, as if I’d been talking the whole time.

Lee Upton’s most recent book is Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles: Poems, winner of the Open Poetry Award. Her collection of stories, The Tao of Humiliation, was judged to be one of the “Best Books of 2014” by Kirkus Reviews.

I. Specimen Days

174. Swallows on the River

Sept. 3.—CLOUDY and wet, and wind due east; air without palpable fog, but very heavy with moisture—welcome for a change. Forenoon, crossing the Delaware, I noticed unusual numbers of swallows in flight, circling, darting, graceful beyond description, close to the water. Thick, around the bows of the ferry-boat as she lay tied in her slip, they flew; and as we went out I watch’d beyond the pier-heads, and across the broad stream, their swift-winding loop-ribands of motion, down close to it, cutting and intersecting. Though I had seen swallows all my life, seem’d as though I never before realized their peculiar beauty and character in the landscape. (Some time ago, for an hour, in a huge old country barn, watching these birds flying, recall’d the 22d book of the Odyssey, where Ulysses slays the suitors, bringing things to eclaircissement, and Minerva, swallow-bodied, darts up through the spaces of the hall, sits high on a beam, looks complacently on the show of slaughter, and feels in her element, exulting, joyous.)

135. A Quintette

WHILE I have been kept by the rain under the shelter of my great oak, (perfectly dry and comfortable, to the rattle of the drops all around,) I have pencill’d off the mood of the hour in a little quintette, which I will give you:

     At vacancy with Nature,
     Acceptive and at ease,
     Distilling the present hour,
     Whatever, wherever it is,
     And over the past, oblivion.

Can you get hold of it, reader dear? and how do you like it anyhow?

Walt Whitman was born in 1819 and is most famous for his life's work, Leaves of Grass, one of the most influential works of American poetry. Though he famously spent his life writing, revising, reordering, and amending Leaves of Grass, Whitman also wrote and collected many smaller works of prose into the volume Specimen Days & Collect, first published in 1881. These prose works range from diary entries, notes, and poetic sketches to longer essays on literature, politics, and the Civil War—and comprise, to quote The Walt Whitman Encyclopedia, "the closest thing to a conventional autobiography Whitman ever published."