Locust Sixteen - December 2002

Locust Sixteen
ISSN 1529-0832  Vol 1 No 16 - December 2002

FOREWORD


Let's start with a quotation

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night

and set the theme, though this issue is not about women, nor love! A single theme has never been an a priori preoccupation. Contributions usually weave, please God, into a successful ensemble almost spontaneously. Now we have Lenore and a knife blade! The usual riddle: Was Eve created to be Adam's comfort? or his torment? A woman has often become an angel in literature, but unfortunately Snow White is far more insipid than her fiery-eyed stepmother. The ideal woman who walks out of Issue Sixteen is inevitably wrapped in a dark mantle. As most of the contributors here are women, this issue is not the usual daydreaming about la femme fatale, but more, if you like, much more. But this is only a pretentious foreword, as usual...

December 2002

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CLIMBING GEOMETRY
~ A Poem by Walt McDonald ~


Our Lady is always awake,
we joked about Ms Oldham in eighth grade.
If we dared pass notes to Emma
batting her eyes, the witch was there,


sparks in her hair and hand,
wadding our offers of love.
Doze off behind geometry books,
Widow Oldham packed us off


to the black board blank as our minds.
Old biddy who loved us, she ripped
ignorance like twigs from our brains.
She kindled and packed our skulls


with formulas, dragged algebra
out of seventh-grade lockers, tacked hints
of trig above us and made us stretch.
She was worse than Coach Gunny Moore


with his drill-sergeant clipboard
and whistle, his fat slick ropes
dangling from the ceiling in gym,
no mats on his hardwood floor--Com'on,


McDonald, climb! don't die on me today.
Squeeze and kick, climb like spiders
up strands we didn't spin. Then came
Ms Oldham's dreaded last class of the day,


the old gal shouting hosannas about angles,
drumming deductions from curves
and magical unknowns, the space beyond
the girls we yearned and studied for.

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FOR BETTER OR HEARSE...
~ A Poem by Alexis Child ~


Standing over your dead body at
the funeral parlour


You're taking advantage of my pity
I'm sorry for your terrible loss


Don't you think divorce would've
been an easier way out?

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KOOL-AID ACID PEOPLE
~ A Poem by Gabriella Salas ~


You drink from a glass
of kool-aid acid
tripped out gulps
sipped in your self pity


A Bates mood flings
itself onto unsuspecting
visitors at your do
drop in and pity me hotel


I've seen your shower curtain
scenes with stab wounded
innocents draped over
in your mental bath...

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TWO POEMS by K.R. Copeland

*

BENSENVILLE, ILLINOIS 1976


Convoluted as puked up booze
and, white man sings


the blues, the reds, the yellows of my mind.
Syrup-spined, about to smother,


brother bought a B.B. gun
sister stole a party dress, mother, slipper-footed


sipped on Schlitz,
and dad was not a factor, for a fragment of a day.

*

GUT FEELING


Fear flicks my forehead
with its six-inch-long forked tongue
slicks my eyes and lashes
at my crannies known as nostrils
then darts in past my parted lips
and laps my large intestines.

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TURN
~ A Poem by Ann Marie Eldon ~


Odd bit she spies.
Spins, peering over the sink, down


it swirls amidst head diamonds,
very hard parts--tears soldered,


leaf-like skeletons, but minute


as if minute by minute, hours counted,
specks amounted to a body she knew. Could


hold. Might ferment: less strange than stranger.


In torment, "A
little nape part.
Where clasp fastened with intent. Busy,


busy fingers rent a precious rope thing. I remember he rasped metal,
grasped implications. Or
I dreamed beginning, or


they sent major drugs, click,
yellow, scored, blue, end. Microgrammic specks, friends.


Yes, they'll
have me mad. Have me already by lovethroat, cut."


Before it finals, it slows, switches anti-tornadic.
Slurp unsophisticated. A throttled thrush.


Or shell.
Opaline.
Spiral of spent hope.


"We have bifurcated on this one too many occasion,"
goes logic and enamel laughs,
winks its terrible ceramic third eye,


spits up a fracsh of his skin;
she knows. Smells him.
Had had cells frolic her tongue, imagines reports hand written quite
quite psychotic
                  Latin, fountain-pen green inked in medical illegible,


that conspiracies sly. Gasps.
Holds midnight waltzes, Victorian jet, moiré sweat soaked, "Yes, kiss!"
       slips
choker


to shoulder
              his tungsten piss drizzling her whispered gypsum


Plugs necklace warp less families send plumbers.


Days, does not wash.


Fattens with his babies.
Fastens on some small smut of providence.


       May trust taps again,
       eventually.


Is forced to keep hygienic distance.
Grows old. Dries.
Wakes, unslaked.


"Ah, chlorine."


In a flash realises they'd die,
apart and decontaminated.

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KONARK
~ A Poem by Prasenjit Maiti ~


We were driving into utter sunsets that
make no sense
apart from nothingness and
our sterile memories
the temple rocks were blazing
in the dying sun
and the gods were so
desperately sad
that they were silent and
serene ever so
like your heartbreaking
going away
the magic of moments runs into
these years that have made
another you
no letters drop in our
cubby-holes as I drag my
listless feet
high up and down the cobwebs
of fuzzy memories
I write the word nuances
in my nothingness diaries and
fervently pray for yet another
millennium that might
change the order
of things for a better you
the fever of the night
collecting in molten
drops across your face
wondrous and white
and black-blue kohl-lit eyes
burning like the reserved
anguish of centuries
of celibacy

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IN THE SEASON OF FALL
~ A Prose Piece by Prasenjit Maiti ~


I cried out to you as I must and asked you to hold your horses, the chestnut and the black, for all my leaves were falling asunder while my bark was being stripped gleefully in my very own land of rivers...but you would never ever listen to me Roopsa, my beloved city of hardly shaken memories, Calcutta, where amour is sold cheaply in silk skirts and hitched up shoestrings of the pavement wretched...you never heed my desire, Roopsa, like the chestnut and black horses that froth in the mouth but refuse to tow the line when I harness my memories and my defeats in broadsides like sorrows.

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THE WOMAN HAS NINE LIVES
~ A Short Story by Krisette Yap Sia ~


Haunting--the rhythmic beat of engines as the train chugged by. The 30-year-old woman concentrated on scenic pictures framed by her worn-out window, similar to an old picture show--only this one had more color seething through the thick film of her mental focus, changing by the minute. "So this is what it's like." She thought somberly, gingerly taking a sip of coffee.


En route the trail to finding some peace of mind, Susan Dae left the madness of the busy city life--smog, over-population, mad cab drivers and all--to embrace the simply flip-top-to-open ease of living in an unknown town.


It was a flight of fancy--an insane decision to give in to a reptilian desire to shed skin. Here, she could reinvent herself, start fresh. Or did she have other plans?


She looked like a child, swimming in the looseness of her pale blue sweater. A lock of brown hair fell on her forehead, resting gracefully on a well-sculpted brow. Her boyish crop framed her angular face attractively.


Before the trip, she was Nadine, a tall, long-haired blonde; faithful wife of Nathan Hawthorne. They'd been together for 9 years. Nobody would've ever guessed it.


Susan--much like the prize she won from the cereal box--was a name she came upon by chance. She saw it on the yellow pages after aimlessly thumbing through. Susan Dae...a slow smile formed on her lips; the cops would be looking for Nadine. Save for still being tall, she didn't look anything like her former self. Everything about her changed--from her hair color to the tinted contacts she wore. A hundred dollars and transformation in a bottle--it was the perfect escape.


"Penny for your thoughts?" It came from a blond man who ventured to sit beside her. He had Heathcliff hair that only got two types of reaction: admiration and envy; reeking of cheap aftershave as he beamed from the confines of a worn-out denim jacket.


Counterfeit green eyes looked up to meet his blue ones. He reminded her of Nathan before the incident. Last she saw him was yesterday, his glazed eyes gawking at her as his corpse floated listlessly on the pool. "Hi."


"Mind if I join you?" Came the polite inquiry. A certain old-fashioned aura surrounded him, as if he was from a much older time period stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. "The name's Brian...Brian Thomas." He couldn't have done a dumber imitation of good old 007.


Susan paused for a bit then coughed nervously. Having company wasn't one of the things she looked forward to. Men, to her, were like the wriggling roaches she found lying belly-up during late nights on the kitchen floor--they repulsed her to no end. "Hi, I'm Susan."


"Hey, Susan." He extended a friendly hand. "What's a pretty thing like you doing alone?" The bad lines just kept on coming.


Ignoring the gesture, she took another sip of coffee. "Having a vacation."


He shrugged, thinking she just didn't notice his extended hand. "Where you headed?"


"To my place of vacation." The reply was curt, singed by her refusal to look in his direction.


He chuckled, studying her face unabashedly. "Mind telling me where that is?"


"As a matter of fact, I do." The zingers came and went. It took a while before he noticed (or acted as if he did).


"Sorry to bother you, I just have a weakness for brown-haired women."


Her mouth twitched as if to suppress some form of reaction. "Well, then, run along now."


Disappointed, he stood up. "I'll catch you later, I suppose."


"Much later."


"Right." Playfully, he gave her a wink and left. Susan enjoyed the rest of the trip in solitude.

* * *

The picture show ended as the objects that passed by her window screeched to a halt. It was time to leave. Mechanically, Susan collected her belongings. A light tap on her shoulder startled her. Irritably, she turned around to face him. "What?" Call it a sixth sense--she had an inkling it would be him.


"Can I at least help you with those?" Brian asked, his backpack slung casually over his shoulder.


"Uh--no, I'm fine, thanks." Hastily, she grabbed her suitcase and walked towards the exit as fast as her long legs would carry her. "Bothersome cad." She mumbled to herself.


A few minutes later, she was hailing a cab and boarding it, on her way to the house she secretly bought a month ago.


The 5pm sky cast a soft light over the town. There were kids on the sidewalk, laughing at some joke being told. Elderly people lounging lazily in their respective porches, taking the whole image in, in lazy regard. A scrawny teenager riding a bike swept by the taxi window.


She was two blocks away from her new life. The excitement within her elevated to new heights. But how many times has this happened? How many times did she die? Once? Twice?


First, it was Angela Riley, suddenly disappearing when the circus came to town--three boys and a monkey (or at least that's how she regarded one of them--a hairy youth of nineteen). A clandestine frat initiation involving an innocent fifteen-year-old girl who wandered in the streets alone one evening; she left the clubhouse at ten, cleaning up the mess her friends left. That was her job--picking up after them. It was especially horrible that day because they were trying to build a figurine out of paper mache for the town fair. Sylvia insisted that they do Abraham Lincoln. What came out was the dilapidated image of the pagan god of disfiguration. Newspaper, scissors and paste were scattered everywhere. And she stayed there till everything was tidy; but a secret ambush was all the reward she got for it. She was incensed and tired. Mindless youths were touching her in places she'd never dreamed of; the vital screws in her head just stopped spinning.


Tall...she was always tall for her age. That time, it worked to her advantage. That was her first taste of the kill. She was an angry banshee swooping over them with a vengeance. She broke their tender skulls and twisted one of their necks. Was it Neil? Was it Peter? Angela did not know. She just disappeared.


Then came Patricia Young. A curly red-head, she worked as a waitress in a local coffee shop for three years. He should've stayed away from her. Michael never took a hint. Always up for a challenge, even if it screamed, "no" in his face so loudly, the earth shuddered. But he pursued her in drunken rancor one fateful evening and paid the price. Three days later, his lifeless body was found on a pile of manure near the old farmhouse. Patricia was never seen again.


Next, it was Nadine Smith--looking more like Angela; found employment in a strip bar, only to be rescued two years later by a reluctant bachelor--Atty. Nathan Hawthorne. It all happened so quickly, like one of those instant weddings in Vegas minus father Elvis; lasted for nine years. She should've known Nathan had his little quirks. He was sadistic. Inflicting pain and catching it on video aroused him. It got worse last year. He'd tie her up, face-down on the bed, and sit on her fragile back, slowly cutting through her flesh with a tiny knife. "Say my name." He commanded, dripping hot candle wax on the fresh wounds.


"N-Na-than..." She was suffocating, his weight pushing her deeper into the cushion.


"Say it!" A mad fist hit her head, pushing it further down.


"Na-Na-than..." Her voice was muffled by the pressure of her face against pillow. Tears welled up her eyes in agony. Dammit! "Na-Nathan!" She screamed, trying to get her head up.


"Louder!" Another punch to the head; he forcedly penetrated her from behind and came in strong, uncontrollable thrusts. "Say my name!"


"Nathan, dammit!" She cried. The pain became unbearable. Her body was beat-up and sore. She felt him breathing heavily, beside her anguished face. Nadine wailed furiously.


The image was lucid in Susan's mind. Apprehensive fists clenched at the memory. "It's all over. He's dead." It was like a prayer she said in her head over and over again.


Will Susan be the last? It was too early to tell.


The cab stopped in front of a handsome bungalow. Clumsily, she paid the fare and got her things from the trunk. She stood in front of her new house, taking the whole picture in, trying to make sense of it. "This is it." She whispered to herself nervously. "This is definitely it."

* * *

Five sticks of cigarette, a cup of coffee and a nice, long bath--that's what it took to soothe her nerves. Susan spent a good part of the morning sitting by her window, looking up at the sky. "Angela, missing you already..." She remembered her family. Her parents, Mr And Mrs Riley, were a loving couple. They always supported her in everything. She hadn't heard from them in fifteen years. She wondered how they were, back in a place she used to call home--ten blocks away from her current place of residence.


Nobody would have ever thought she was Angela Riley. She looked so different--fifteen years, a bottle of dye, and a pair of colored contacts can do that for you. "It wouldn't hurt to pass by the old house to check if they're ok." She crooned to her shadow, thinking it understood; but it was much like herself--confused. Had it been human, it would have merely stood there, assessing her in sheer contempt.


Groceries...she had to buy groceries. The fridge that came with the house (along with all the other furniture) was empty. Promptly, she pulled on a pair of jeans, grabbed her purse and left. It wasn't till she reached the end of the street that she realized she had no idea where the store was. It was a long time since she had set foot in that town. Everything looked different. The old establishments weren't there anymore. She looked around, trying to find someone she could ask for directions. The curious thing was, there was no one in sight.


"Fancy bumping into you again." It came from out of the blue.


She shrieked in surprise. "Holy shi--you scared me." A strong urge to punch his face overwhelmed her. It was that annoying man from the train again.


"Whoa! Sorry about that." Brian chuckled, giving her an inquisitive look. "You look lost. Where you headed?" "The grocery store. I need some stuff. I don't suppose you know where it is?" Something about his appearance didn't rub her the right way. There was something wrong about the way he looked.


"As a matter of fact, I do. I can take you there."


"Oh, no. It's ok. Just tell me where it is." Her eyes fell on his shirt. Then it dawned to her--he was wearing the exact same clothes he had on the train yesterday. Is that some sort of uniform or is that the same shirt he's wearing? She swallowed a giggle.


"No, I can come with you." He insisted, flashing her an engaging smile. "Besides, I was on my way there anyway so it's really no trouble at all."


She shrugged. "All right. Lead the way."


They walked quietly for three blocks then made a left down the bend. The weather was starting to become chilly. Susan felt herself shiver as the cool breeze seeped through her gray cotton blouse. Something about the trail they took struck her as odd. "Is this the right way to the store? It seems a bit off the main road."


Brian remained silent and just continued walking.


"Ok, you're the expert." She mumbled, following him, her boots crunching on the dry leaves that ornamented the stony path. The temperature was getting lower. She looked around and noticed something vaguely familiar about the place.


"What's the matter? You look uneasy."


"Nothing." Her arms were folded in front of her, trying to keep her body warm in vain. "Damn, it wasn't this cold when I left the house. I should've worn a sweater."


Brian laughed softly. Finally, they stopped walking when they reached an old farmhouse.


"Hey, this doesn't look like the grocery store." Susan's cheeks were getting all ruddy from the cold. She tried to warm her hands with her breath.


"Don't you remember this place?" The question surprised her.


"N--no. I just got here, Brian. I don't even know where the goddamn grocery store is."


"Sure you do, Angela."


She turned pale, eyes studying his features, trying to figure out if they've met before. "My name's Susan."


"No, it's not. It's Angela Riley." He was grinning at her wickedly now, blue eyes looking at her with undisguised malice. There was hate there, peeping through his sinister gaze. The fog around them thickened.


"Who--who are you?" Her breaths were getting shorter and shorter, as if she was back in the city again, lying face-down on the bed with Nathan, fighting for air.


"Why'd you do it?"


Angrily, she racked her brains, trying to remember where they've met before...or who he was..."What are you talking about?"


"I'm Peter's brother." His voice was unusually low. "Remember him? From fifteen years ago?"


Oh, god. He was one of the boys... "You got the wrong woman. I'm Susan Dae."


"I've been following you around for years."


"I'm not Angela."


Brian looked excited now. He slowly approached her. Every step he took seemed heavy on the grassy earth. She decided to make a run for it.


Trees...they were everywhere. They slowed her down from reaching the main road. She had to duck and avoid every damn branch that got in her way. How could she have been so stupid? She should have never returned.


His figure looked menacing as it chased her. She felt him panting behind her. In panic, she ran even faster, not seeing the stubborn branch hanging indifferently in front of her.


BAM! Blood dripped from her forehead. The impact was so strong, she felt herself getting dizzy.


Brian caught her. "You ok?"


"What do you care? Go ahead. Kill me. That's what you planned to do, right?" Susan started to cry uncontrollably.


"Hell, no." He answered, looking at her as if she was being ridiculous. "I just wanted to catch you, have you confess to your crime then file a lawsuit against you...you know, for murder."


What the f... that has got to be the most ludicrous thing--"But it was self-defense!"


"Then why did you run away?"


"I was scared!" She wailed, trembling in his arms--much like a frightened child.


A sudden surge of sympathy overcame Brian as he looked at her now--bloodied and choking in her tears. She looked so fragile. How could he have been so cruel? He didn't know the whole story, why has he judged her? "There. There. It's all right." The whole thing was absurd. He gave her a comforting hug and tried to calm her down.


Life's funny at times. It pretends to be your friend for a while only to pop something your way when you least expect it.


Susan feigned to hug him back; only to slowly get her hands into position and twist his neck as she did his brother.


Lying there, dead on the grass, he looked like a goldfish floating belly-up--much like the roaches...The wind blew harder, creating a tiny leave-tornado near his body. Callously, she searched Brian's pockets and found a pack of cigarettes. Shaking hands searched her own pockets for a lighter.


"Well, I guess Susan's no good either." She said, lighting a stick and taking nice, long puff. "She's no good either."

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