A Sample of scissors & spackle: Issue 14 (2016)
scissors & spackle thrives on the belief that words have the ability to both cut and repair at the same time. scissors & spackle. scis·sors, a noun, meaning “a cutting instrument having two blades whose cutting edges slide past each other,” and spackle, a verb, meaning to “repair (a surface) or fill (a hole or crack).” We welcome the bizarre, in fact, we encourage it. Whether poetry, fiction or non-fiction, we aim to test boundaries, we aim for experimental and edgy. In fact, we thrive on it.
Ah, edginess. The age-old goal of many a writer—to plumb the depths of the human psyche, to push the envelope further than it’s ever been pushed, to walk the line between gratuity and art. Or maybe it’s seeing how far you can stretch the reader’s tolerance for violence and sexuality. Or maybe it’s just doing something everyone told you not to do. What does “edgy” mean, anyway? Originality? Experimentation? Perhaps exploring difficult topics in powerful and nuanced ways? Really, what “edgy” implies is being on the edge of something. It’s finding that center of gravity between pushing against the expected and doing something different. Edgy stretches the boundaries of the ordinary and takes balanced risks, and those risks aren’t always with the content. Writing with edge is easier to do than define. You manipulate your voice, slanting it toward a particular personality. Ultimately, one could define edgy as “writing with attitude,” as opposed to objectivity or neutrality or evenness. That attitude tends towards smartness. It involves sophistication, even worldliness beyond the normal and the daily.
This issue of scissors & spackle contains words blanketed in new and green landscapes. Edgy. It’s there. It’s brilliant. It’s something you can read again and again. It misses no opportunity. Thank you for believing in our little journal, in our contributors, both established and emerging, and most of all, in the power of literature. You make this all possible. Each of you holding this book in your hands knows voices and words are important. Thank you.
Ariana D. Den Bleyker, Editor-in-Chief
after Stephen Dobyns
The dead line up in the schoolyard for dodgeball. The dead haven’t heard that dodgeball is now taboo as bathroom screwing. I am one of the dead sometimes—when I am dead, I spider
myself backwards like slumber party twister like double dog dare or ditch-dial ringing that cord spiraling around another dead girl’s neck like umbilical: instead of dodging I swallowed
instead of living I curled into a seashell or the ocean inside I know now is only echoing the surrounding chaos & trunked belly, fetal limbs like poison wolf lichen with the urgency of
beetles in the reeds & we are way too young for this sick shit. The dead leave marks on each other too. A girl’s wild bright flame from the tall grasses like bruises on my own dead skin
still thrill me—
Tower of Babel
I had heard about the Tower of Babel, then
I heard a new story. Antler-girl called me
a fawn in pre-morning, thin-legged and quick.
Our ears flicked to each inflection of white-noise-
become-words as I began to recognize the language.
You see, she said, the story they’ve told you
is fable. Our tongues are not scattered. She begged me
bring her the one I loved, and in the city’s magic,
he’d unfold next to me, both of us learning
the new words in a new world separate
from the one that sometimes shuns me
and my twitch-nose, the one where I’m afraid
to speak. This will be our gospel. Warm-
blooded and full of teeth. Mammalian.
We will learn this word, patience, and the rest
will follow. By the time the sun sets
over the animal city, we’ll know every word.
Hello from, chromed out trees that twain the sky. is a day without sky. listen! a gray that refuses to speak. the Chinese word for emotion is “toe the line”. Amerika’s word for emotion is “Benjamins”. moons fall from my mouth. is filled with planets. a silence that copulates with the sea. the Watts Towers are the opposite of Trump Towers. an Eric Dolphy of sound. I exist in other dimensions. obviously. a minuet of white noise. the Greek word for music is skin. the sea. there are odors coming from the basement. the color black hammers itself into the night sky. is another day. duh. the inverse of poetic license is police state. sour grapes. maybe. some people talk with their hands. or birds. suppose. the Russian word for bird is vodka. I entered the pyramids without my internal organs. respect. Sun Ra is not a word. the word “Detroit” is roughly translated as broken mirrors. outer space is a limbic system. I cleaned the universe’s black hole with drain cleaner. last night. drove my moped deep into the sink hole called poetry. Amerika is the Buddist term for sadness. the path of a projectile under the influence of gravity ideally follows a curve of this shape. duh. I knew that. that’s poetry 101. I fold.
Has a map of the states, a whole wall in the family room made from matchbooks pocketed coast to coast. One book was always for keeps, the other spent to flare the cherry of his Pall Mall and the wife’s Salem Slim. A patchwork of flashbacks in miniature: the hotel bars, drug stores, and greasy spoons where they stopped the Buick for the night, sometimes the whole day. Tiny tigers, ranchers, roosters, and dice too varied to make much of state lines, so many colors, but the map’s size, bigger than a bed sheet, allowed the outer shape of the country to form.
The urge began as an ember and ended with too many stops to count, the trunk full, the floorboards an arsonist’s dream. In the piano bar, Tampa, where her voice husky with tobacco and gin crooned Let it be. In the scoop shop, Memphis, where the melted praline sweetened her sleeve, she said Stop it. At the filling station, El Paso, new tires blackening the mechanic’s hands, she begged honey give me a break. And when they couldn’t travel anymore, he mail-ordered them. Just a few closets full.
The map took shape, and at first he tried to set the Montana Beef book near Billings, the place with the Galaxy Burger and that sky kissed by more stars than Hollywood’s walk of fame where once they stopped for a photo-op, a beer, a box of smokes and a matchbook from Musso and Frank. Some books didn’t name towns, though, and he couldn’t remember if the Honey Pot was in Alabama or Arkansas, and really what did it matter. It was all approximations crossing like roads across roads leading to wrong turns and antique shops filled with chipped china and toy registers, but was it Trina’s Treasures or Cathy’s Cache? He holds two matchbooks in his hand; maybe he should set the whole thing alight.
He grabbed his final matchbook in Washington, her home state, lush and gray like a pelt, where they crested rolling hills on their way through apple orchards to white-water passes, past salmon streams, but the matchbook, plain white, was picked up at the grocer across from the hospice. No snowy peak on this book, no boy in overalls, no girl eating corn in a pinafore. No man in a bowler hat with a cocktail in hand, no cruise ship cruising past palm fronds. Nothing worth sparking here.
The day you are born your heart won’t work, so the doctor will cut it out and replace it with his pocket watch. He will give your mother a tube of gear grease to slather over her nipples when she feeds you. Some days your chest will hurt and you’ll cough up rusty springs and bloody oscillators, so your mother will have to take you to the watchmaker on Broadway Street. He will have a gray beard that will remind you of feathers when it brushes up against your chest while he listens to your heart. He will replace the oscillator and the springs, by shoving them clunkedy-clunk down your throat, and waiting for them to settle into your veins and arteries after a few moments of inflammatory chest pain.
“Remember not to fall in love.” he will say, “Because there is nothing I can do with a broken heart.”
You will take a mental note of what he says, but you’ll be so young you won’t even know what love is. When you get home your brother will be laying in the yard, one of his legs bent at the wrong angle. He will tell you he fell out of a tree and your mother will saw off the broken leg, and feed your brother a cedar log. The next day you’ll tease him for being a pirate.
When you turn thirteen you will discover the way your body has curves and these funny lump things that your mother says must always stay covered. She will show you how to wear a bra, the blue silky one with feathers is your favorite. When the boys look at you at school, you remember what the watchmaker told you, but don’t worry, there is a difference between lust and love. In science class as you talk about the migration of birds, you’ll catch the eye of the blonde-haired boy across the room and think of how tall he is. During gym hour he’ll lift dumbbells to Metallica, and look over at you to make sure you’re watching him. The next day during band hour, he’ll play “Rockin’ Robin” on his trumpet as you walk through the door and he’ll wink. You will think of how strong he must be, and how wonderful he is at playing music. The next day will you look at him as he weight lifts, and you will tell him how wonderful he plays during band. You will show him how you can mimic bird songs and he’ll smile. That night, you’ll miss the bus because he will be too busy bending you into funny shapes on the floor of the boys shower room. He will trace lines from your ribcage to your hips, saying your pale skin is a mirror. Once he’s done showing you what it means to lust, he will let you put your undies and dress back on and drive you home. You will feel like a queen with your hair streaming behind you in his beat up convertible, and he will put his arm around you and call you “baby”. When he drops you off at your house, your brother will meet you at the door, leaning up against the frame for support and tell you that you smell like boy’s cologne. You will push him away and tell him to climb a tree.
Your mother will ask you where you were all evening and you will tell her that you had to finish a large science project. She will smile at you and ask how it went and you’ll just shrug your shoulders and swallow gobfuls of gear-grease, like jellybeans. The next morning at school, the blonde-haired boy will smile at you and ask you to come for a ride in his car after school. In science class you will talk about hyperphagia, when migrating birds eat as much as they can and gain as much weight as possible. Ruthie Jenkins, the girl born without a brain, will lean over and giggle.
“Who would want to eat so much and get fat?” she will ask you, picking noodles out of her ears, which sometimes leak from her skull cavity. When she was born the doctor had to fill the empty space with yellow sponges, electric wires and noodles.
“I guess the birds do,” you will say. “That’ just what they have to do in order for self-preservation.”
She’ll just sniff and turn back to her book. You will like looking at the pictures of the birds, and sometimes picture yourself as one, with long, blue wings and beady little, black eyes. After school, the blonde-haired boy will pick you up in his car in front of the school, and you’ll smile because you will know everyone is watching you and wishing they were stepping in the blonde-haired boy’s car. Your brother will watch you from his seat in the bus and call home, but your mother won’t pick up, because she’s at the gynecologist.
The blonde-hair boy will finally tell you his name while his convertible bumps along Broadway Street, on the way out of town. You will think the name Billy Webster is strange, but it adds to his overall charm. You will remember what the watchmaker told you again, about not falling in love, and you’ll remind yourself that this is only lust, and you don’t have to be in love to have sex with Billy Webster. He will take you out of town and into a field, where he will build you a nest from straw, grass and daisies and bed you down into it, watching his reflection in your skin.
“Don’t ever change, baby,” he’ll whisper as he licks your ear. And then he will tell you that you taste like metal.
You will tell him all about your clock heart, and he will tell you about his plastic bag stomach, and because you find something in common you’ll start to like him more. You won’t be sure if this is what the watchmaker meant by falling in love, but you will keep going anyway. You will allow Billy Webster to touch you and kiss you and rub his fingers along your pale skin. He will bring you home that night and when you walk into the house with the daisy chain around your hair, your mother will look up from the stove and ask you if you are pregnant. The thought won’t have even crossed your mind.
“I don’t think so,” you will say.
Your mother will sigh and dish you up some dinner and then you will go to bed because that is what all people do when they don’t want to deal with unpleasant thoughts.
In the morning you will be woken up by screaming coming from your brother’s bedroom. You will rush in there, stubbing your toe on a book about deforestation and dendrochronology, and look at your mother who is standing over your brother’s bed.
“What’s wrong?” you will ask.
Your mother won’t look at you, but she will shoo you towards the kitchen. “Go call the carpenter on Main Street,” she’ll yell, and you’ll run towards the kitchen and grab the phone.
The carpenter will show up and you will show him to your brother’s bedroom. He’ll pull out a mallet and magnifying glass, a few nails and a hammer and close the door behind him.
“There’s a large open sore on his left leg,” your mother will tell you. “It’s black and oozy and it smelled like rot.”
She’ll wrap her arm around you and bring you into the kitchen, where she will pour you a bowl of Lucky Charms and pour grease over them. You will crunch them and swallow them and then tell your mother all about Billy Webster, because when your brother is dying in the next room is good time to tell your mother about your sex life. She’ll just smile and tell you stories of your father and that she understands young lust, just be careful that you don’t get your heart broken. The carpenter will come out of your brother’s room and plop is leather bag on the counter, getting wood chips all over your mother’s freshly baked cedar pie.
“He’s got a canker,” the carpenter will say. “There’s nothing I can do about. Might as well start making arrangements.”
He’ll hold his hand out for the money your mother owes him and walk out the door, leaving a trail of wood chips and sawdust behind him. Your mother won’t speak for the rest of the day. You will call up Billy Webster and he will come pick you up for a ride in his convertible, and take you to the nest he built for you in the field. He’ll give you four blue wooden eggs he painted during art class, and you will tell him how much you love them and put them in your purse. He will start to undress you, but you will tell him to stop, that today you just want to talk and look at the sky and watch the birds. He’ll tell you stories about the bar-tailed godwit, which can fly for seven-thousand miles without stopping, and you’ll tell him that someday you want to be a bar-tailed godwit. He will laugh and twirl your hair through his fingertips, telling you it reminds him of feathers. He’ll braid it into a crown around your head and tuck blue cornflowers into it, saying you look like a queen, his queen.
Your brother’s canker will grow worse, and your mother will start to neglect you. She does love you, but her breast will start growing lumps and she will only have enough energy to tend to your brother. She will sit in her chair by the fireplace and start rubbing her breasts, making odd little circles like she is trying to protect them. She’ll stop buying food, because no one is eating anyway, and so you eat gobs of grease and then the blue wooden eggs Billy Webster painted for you. You will have to swallow them whole, but they will go down easily because of the grease that slimes your throat. At school, Billy Webster will give you pictures of the bar-tailed godwit to hang in your locker and you’ll remind him of how much you want to be one, because you want to go thousands and thousands of miles away without stopping. Ruthie Jenkins will grow jealous of your relationship with Billy Webster and start rumors of you being pregnant.
“I think all of your noodles fell out,” you will tell her at lunch period, and shove spaghetti in her ears, the red sauce dripping down the side of her chin. Everyone will laugh and everyone will like you more. Everyone except the people at home. Your mother won’t even get up to check on your brother anymore, you’ll be alone, and Billy Webster will start coming over to your house, just to make you dinner. He’ll boil eggs on the stove and mash the yellow insides with mayonnaise and paprika.
“They’re called Deviled Eggs,” he’ll tell you as you shovel them into your face, one after the other.
“I love them,” you will say.
He’ll smile and nod and then say,” I love you.”
You won’t know what to do. Your hands will start shaking and all of the egg and mayonnaise will begin to come back up your throat. You will realize that you love him too, and for a moment you will wait to see if anything happens to your heart. The pendulum keeps swinging and the gears still winding, so you will look at him, swallow the bile and say, “I love you too.”
He will push aside the deviled eggs, and build you a nest of blankets and pillowcases and dresses and bend you into shapes under him. He’ll tell you stories of the Bar-headed geese, which can fly as high as five and half feet above sea level as they migrate and you will tell him of how much you wish you could soar. He’ll smile at you and kiss your fingernails and then you’ll fall asleep in his arms.
At school, people will start calling you the “Bird Girl,” because you’ll start wearing real feathers in your hair and t-shirts of artic terns and hummingbirds. Ruthie Jenkins will say that you’re doing it only because Billy Webster gave a good presentation on migration in science class, and you’ll tell her to go see the electrician. Billy Webster will start sleeping over at your house every night, and your mother won’t care, and neither will your brother. Sometimes you will go into your brother’s room to see how the canker is spreading, and you will hardly be able to see his face, the black mush disfiguring him. It will smell like rotting tree bark and wet soil in his room. Your mother won’t leave her chair at all now, just sitting there, rubbing her lumpy breasts and rocking back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes, you will kneel down in front of her and show her the good grades you got on all your science tests, and she’ll just smile and say things like, “Good job” or “You’re father would be so proud”. It will surprise you that your brother’s condition will cause such an effect on your mother, but then you will realize its not just the canker with your brother, that it is the cancer too. The cancer that is growing in your mother. In her breasts, because of the gear grease she lathered on them day after day while feeding you as a baby.
One morning, after Billy Webster makes love to you he will go out into the kitchen to make your breakfast and you will hear shouting. You’ll climb from the nest and run out to the kitchen. Your brother, black from the canker will be standing over a body, a baseball bat on the floor. Pieces of the body will be missing and bloody, and you will look at your brother as he crunches and swallows something. The body on the floor will still be moving and you’ll run over to it, and brush aside the bloody blonde hair. A chewed on hand will reach out to you and grab you around the neck and pull you closer.
“Let me see you, baby,” Billy Webster will say. “Let me see my reflection.”
He will see the gnawed off nose, and missing blue eye, and then your brother will take another bite, deep into his skull and he will stop breathing. In horror, you will watch your brother’s nose grow back on, and his fingers rejoin a working hand. Your brother will crunch on Billy Webster’s collarbone, and as he does, a new one will grow in place of his old decayed, black one. You will crawl backwards and lean up against the counter, not wanting to watch your brother eat Billy Webster, but not being able to do anything about it. Your mother, who can smell the irony-ness of the blood will finally break free of her chair and walk into the kitchen, and scream. The cancer will have weakened her and she fall next to you, unable to stop your brother from eating the man you love. As your brother continues to eat, your heart will start to hurt. The oscillator will grow stiff and the pendulum will crack against the glass face of the watch. You’ll look at your brother, who now will have one blue eye and one brown eye, and you will say, “You’re a monster.”
He’ll smile at you with lips you used to kiss and say, “I see it more as self-preservation.”
You will stand up, and run. You’ll run out the door and down the street until you get to the watchmakers on Broadway Street. You will burst through the door and the old man you will look at you and ask who it was. Who it was that you fell in love with. You’ll tell him about Billy Webster and his plastic bag stomach and the way he built you nests. The old man will shrug his shoulders and tell you there is nothing you can do about it, that it will be only a matter of time before the glass face shatters and pierces your lungs and other organs. You want to be a bar-tailed godwit, and fly thousands and thousands of miles away. So you’ll try. You’ll start in your home town and run. Your clock heart will tell you where to go. You’ll run to Tennessee and then on to Louisiana, where you’ll meet a bird-watcher and go on hikes, all the while waiting for your heart to shatter. You’ll get a letter in the mail from the hospital in your home town, informing you that your mother died from breast cancer and that they made bouncy balls from the tumors to give to their children. You will stick it into the bird book you’re reading for a bookmark and continue down the hiking trail.
Then one day there will be a blistering pain in your chest and you will know it is finally happening. The glass face will shatter and the shards will pierce your lungs and throat and you will cough up the oscillator and springs and gears. You’ll try to tell the bird-watcher man what is happening, but you won’t be able to talk. He’ll bring you to a hospital but it will be too late, and even if it wasn’t they wouldn’t know what to do with girl who’s dying heart is a clock. So the bird-watcher will have you cremated and scatter your ashes to the wind. The ashes will soar high into the sky and scatter across for thousands of miles, and the bird-watcher will call you his bar-tailed godwit and bar-headed goose and he will love you.