Excerpts from Issue 30 of Bombay Gin

Here's some of the work you'll find in Bombay Gin, 30.


"Then" Is Protracted

by Amiri Baraka                              

We wanted free as what is free
          & away & gone & up past lost

We wanted color & breathing & hope
To see hope

We wanted love & be healthy always
We wanted each other & for every body
          To know the best things & feel the
                    Beautiful things

We want true us & true you &
          True history & for truth itself
                    To ice lies finally & as long

We wanted ugly to not be, & warmth
          To help us see

We wanted need to be natural
          & prayer to be conversation

We wanted the weather to act better
          & us in it never under it

We wanted what we wanted
& desired what inspired
us to be ourselves
& ourselves to be free

Is there a place in the world
          This cannot be understood?

 

Sunday Papers
September 14, 2003

by Joanne Kyger                      

I guess the full moon and the hot weather is over
          for a while, drinking wine and smoking
                    while someone at the end
                              of the street is taken away
                                        in a body bag after wild ranchero music
                                                  which plot is probably stoked
                                                            by a willfull imagination

on the worried outlook,
          and another late night call to my friend Paul
                    to blather on about the past
                              and the possibility of pulling it
                                        into the future…

But what I feel like doing
          is going around in a shade of cloudy lace
                    picking up on the beautiful bubbles
                              arriving at the door,
                                        like the Australian Diamond Dove
                                                  off course or escaped from captivity

And appearing in an afternoon's ending
          all too soon
                    for the pensively selfish restacking
                              of the mind on an evening stroll


Practical Math

by Richard Froude                      

Question One

A train leaves Lime Street at 10am heading south on the West Coast line.
Another leaves St Ives at one. Henry 8th sits at the window.
Both are traveling at 65 miles per hour. Both are only half full.
If all these things remain constant, how many wives did he have?
Six. And he engineered the break with Catholicism.
No, I'm thinking of a different train. I'm thinking of Steve.
Sorry no. The engineer is called Steve.
The train was once, twice, three times a lady.
Her names were Beatrice, Margaret and Jane. Margaret was the feisty one.
Ended up becoming Prime Minister and turning the others to stone.
Or was it gold? No. That's something else entirely.

Question Two

Let's try again.
A train leaves St Ives on Friday with an engineer named Steve.
I leave my house on foot with a cough.
Margaret Thatcher falls asleep on stage at the Conservative Party conference.
What is her average speed?
88. We don't have enough road to get to 88.
But we're traveling on rails.
Margaret Thatcher was the 66th wife of Henry the 88th.
The number is important to her.

Question Three

An engineer leaves a train at 72 miles per hour.
It is raining in St Ives.
Henry 8th seems glum today. He is lonely and talking to statues.
Beatrice looks at him through stone eyes. She says nothing.
Steve locates the Conservative Club off Lime Street.
Jane has escaped from Catholicism and is running through a cemetery.
Her stone legs drag.
Margaret and I are napping together.

Question Four

Beatrice discovers trigonometry. She follows a tangent to Lime Street.
We meet heading south on the West Coast line.
Jane wanders into the Conservative Club at 3 miles per hour.
Steve is at the bar, talking shop. Coffee and sugar drinks are cyanide to machines.
Henry 8th boards a train in St Ives at 3pm.
We pass him at 43 degrees.
Jane joins Steve at the bar.
Margaret is standing on the platform at Crewe.
The exact moment when the two trains meet.

Question Five

Jane leaves Steve at 11pm. She has whiskey on her breath.
Henry 8th has a job cleaning windows at the Conservative Club.
I am falling in love with Beatrice at a speed of 12 miles per hour.
She has caught my cough.
Margaret is researching angles.
In St Ives a man realizes that he has more wives than Henry 8th.
The West Coast line is lilting. It has become obtuse.

Question Six

Steve dreams about becoming a statue.
Beatrice and I are in St Ives, staying with a sculptor.
She sits up in bed and mentions tuberculosis.
She talks of her sisters.
Henry 8th looks through windows and begins to understand.
He is not lonely anymore.
I worry about Margaret. She is sullen these days.
Jane sits in the smoking car but dreams about the buffet.
The Conservative Club is empty.

Question Seven

Jane leaves her body at 6am and hovers above the West Coast line.
It remains in stone on the platform at Lime Street.
Margaret is staring and trying to remember.
She was going to St Ives with her sisters.
She met a man and something changed.
She became Prime Minister and married the King. But something changed her sisters.
Steve has discovered Medusa in library books.
Henry 8th has settled in a bungalow by the sea.
Beatrice gives me stone kisses in the parlor.
She is dying at a speed of 12 miles per hour.
If all these things remain constant, what color are her eyes?
I don't know.
Let me repeat the question. What color are her eyes?
Brown. Maybe brown.


Helpful

by Brian Evenson                      

          It was a freak accident, a wire snapping off the load and whipping back to slash across his face, breaking his nose, tearing open both his eyes. They took him jouncing in the back of a pickup truck to the hospital where a doctor packed the nose with cotton and straightened it while another doctor removed first the right eye then the left. Two days later, his wife came to get him and helped him out to the car, and drove him home.
          Is there anything I can do? his wife kept asking him.
          No, he would say each time, no.
          His face ached. The nose that had been reset and packed with cotton ached. Every eight hours his wife came and removed the cotton by tugging it out with her fingernails and then packed the nose again. After a while the bleeding stopped entirely. The outer rim of each orbit ached, despite the sedative, and he imagined if they weren't covered in bandages and he could still see, he would see the flesh beside them bruised black.
          Do you need anything, honey? his wife asked.
          No, he said.
          His eyelids felt strange to him with his eyeballs removed: deflated. With the bandages covering them he could not tell if he was opening and closing them or trying and failing.
          Honey? his wife said. Anything?
          No, he said. No.

*

          After a week, he climbed out of bed. His room, reduced only to touch, had gone strange around him; a dresser that he would have guessed was four steps from the bed was in fact two. When he was certain he was at the door leading out of the room he was in fact at the closet door, so that as he passed into what he thought was the hall he found himself suddenly muffled on all sides by what it took him a moment to figure out were coats.
          Honey, his wife said, anything the problem?
          No, he said, and felt his way out of the closet, carefully shutting the door behind him.
          But after a few days the new parameters congealed for him, and a few days later became fully solid. He could walk from the bedroom to the bathroom, from the bathroom to the hall, from the hall to the living room and back again, without difficulty. He was beginning to sense things. He was becoming a different person.
          He still seemed to see flashes of things, little crackling glimpses, as if the nerves in his sockets hadn't yet realized his eyes were missing. Half-seen things, ephemerae, ghosts darting through a dark space. His wife too he could hear creeping about, a little like a ghost as well, staying out of his way but often waiting in abeyance, ready to ask what she could do, how she could help. It was a habit of speech she had gotten into and couldn't seem to get out of.
          Anything I can do?
          How can I help?
          What do you need, darling?
          No, he would say. Can't. Nothing.
          They were living in the same house, but for him it was no longer the same house anymore. It was like they were living in two different houses that overlapped the same space, knocking slightly against one another as they passed. She lived in a world made of the image of things. He lived in a subtler world where he could hear a slightly whispering noise and know it was the sound of her thumb rubbing against her finger. How could anyone who was still human hear that? It was as if he and his wife weren't the same species anymore.
          Sweetheart? she said, Anything I-
          -No, he said.
          He heard her suck in her breath. He waited for her to speak, but she did not, just stood there, silent. He wondered what sort of silence it was. Brooding? Hurt? Angry? Indifferent? If he could see her face, what would it look like? Would her lip be quivering? Her neck blotching? He started to turn his head toward where she was but halfway there he realized that no, he wasn't interested in giving her the impression he was looking at her; he only wanted to hear her perfectly. So he stayed there, half-turned, half-facing her and half-not. He wondered what she must think of it.
          When she finally did speak, it startled him. He flinched.
          Why are you cutting me off? she asked.
          I'm not, he said.
          You're ruining our relationship, she said. You're closing yourself in.
          I'm doing nothing of the kind.
          Open up to me, she said. Come back into the world.
          And then he heard sounds that he sensed were her moving, sliding toward him, lifting her arms. He started to raise his own arms and suddenly found himself in her embrace. He let her hold onto him, patting her softly on the back. It struck him as artificial. How could he feel anything but distance from her when they were both in the same space but were living that space differently, occupying different worlds? At least he could see that. She couldn't even see it. Still, he should make an effort. He should let her be helpful to him. He kept patting her back.
          But why, part of him wondered, do we have to have a relationship in your world? Why not in mine?

*

          Three or four months later, when the relationship had gotten no better, when she was still asking him if she could help, what she could do, what he needed, wasn't there anything, how could she be of service, could she lend him a hand, lend him her eyes or her arm, he decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.
          When she went to work, he called a taxi, had it drive him to the grocery store. The driver spoke with an accent he could not place, and smelled slightly of sweat. The driver seemed nervous to have a blind man in his cab and chattered at him nervously, aimlessly.
          Once there, he had the taxi driver guide him inside, told him to wait for him. A clerk let him take her arm. She led him where he wanted to go.
          Garbage bags and duct tape? she asked. That's really all you want?
          He nodded. They're black bags, right? I need black.
          Yes, she said. Black. But why do you care? You're blind.
          They're not for me, he explained.
          The woman didn't ask any more questions. He paid and then she helped him make his way out the door. He stood alone waiting just in front of the store, wondering if the taxi was still there somewhere. He was just about to go back in when he heard soft footsteps, a slight hint of stale sweat, felt a clammy hand on his arm.
          I did not see you first, the driver said, and led him to the car.
          In front of his house the driver named a sum. He handed him his wallet. Go ahead, he said.
          How do you know I won't take much?
          More? he said. I don't, he said.
          What is to stop me?
          Who knows? said the man. Try it and see.
          He could hear the driver take some money out, sigh. There is some trick, he said, handing back the wallet. Some hiding camera. No, you will not fool me.
          At last the driver was gone and he was alone in the house. How long would it be before his wife came home from work? He wasn't certain. There was no certain way, blind, for him to tell.
          He felt along the wall until he found a window. With his hand he carefully traced its outline. He took one garbage bag out of the pack and unfolded it, then took the duct tape, began to tape the garbage bag over the window. When he was done, he ran his fingers along the edges to make sure there were no gaps, then moved on to the next window frame.
          When all the windows in the house were sealed, he took a chair from the kitchen and stood on it in what he thought was the center of each room, groping up above him until he found each light fixture. He removed the lightbulbs and then carefully placed them on the floor a few steps from each doorway.
          Then he sat on the couch and waited.
          Eventually he heard his wife's car turn into the driveway. Rising from the couch he made his way down the hall, deeper into the house.
          He heard her open the door and then flick the light switch on and off.
          Hello? she said. Anybody there?
          He didn't answer.
          Honey? she said, her voice a little tremulous. What's going on? What happened to the windows.
          He heard her take a few steps, heard the sound of a lightbulb crushing beneath her shoe. She cried out.
          Honey? she said, louder now. Where are you?
          Down the hall, he waited without moving for her to approach. He would wait until she was near him, very near, and then would speak.
          Do you need anything, honey? he would say, his voice just louder than a whisper. Is there anything I can do?
          And then, suddenly, tables turned, she would understand, she would empathize, and they would embrace, talk about how foolish they'd been and figure out how to be close again.

                                                          *

          It would be an understatement to say that her reaction was not precisely what he had anticipated.

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