Poetry

T O P I A R Y

Statues line the promenade,
sun bleached and wind worn
tucked between the palms
one or two lay crumbling,
beheaded, missing limbs,
impromptu Venus

On summer nights like these,
the ocean spray blows in
to cover the city like mist
gently drowning our ambition
in seasaltbreeze

Cyan & amethyst
LED streetlights,
empty quads and alleys
where someone is playing
a Haydn Quartet
mixed by way of Moroder,
windows spilling neon
and complacent violin
-the neighborhood a mash
of old brick and new glass
looking for all the world like
something out of
la quartier mécanique

And right here’s my favorite
24hr. detox and Japanese takeout place
the soda fountains all serve
GHB and TAB Clear
(think Crystal Pepsi w/caffeine),
Arizona Ice Tea,
and water that tastes like zinc

From the corner booth
you can just make out
across the street,
through the gently
shifting fronds
a dozen TV-VCR combos
stacked in an immaculate
storefront window all playing
the Twin Peaks pilot on endless loop

While beyond,
the sea stacks sway
and glisten in
the dead summer haze
and together we melt
into A E S T H E T I C

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Poetry

The Grave Robber’s Confession by Mack W. Mani

I’ve seen Will ‘o Wisps
and St. Elmo’s Fire,
mostly them in the Southlands
graveyards near bayous or swamps.

I once saw an entombed woman 
come back to life 
three days after her death,
I had just slipped the ring 
off her finger pale and bony,
when she gasped and rose with a cry.

One summer I lived 
in the catacombs beneath Paris
and for nigh on a month
never once saw the light of the sun,
only pale torchlight 
cast across fields of bones,
wooden chests rotted to their hinges.

I have walked the hall of ashes
and seen the rotting face 
of John the Baptist.

Once in Afghanistan, 
I even spied a ghoul
prowling the trenches near dawn 
picking the corpses 
of both sides equally.

These are my qualifications,
such as they are;
few know as much about death
and the places of the dead 
as grave robber, 
so believe me when I tell you,
there is nothing beyond the grave,
but me.

No voices 
or tunnel of light
just darkness, dust, 
and these two dirty hands,
trying to make a living.

Art:

[Wooden Grave by Marker Majel G. Claflin c. 1937]
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Poetry

Posthumous

I kept your book
in the garden
where you’d left it
and watched day by day,
as the elements took it over,
sun bleaching the cover
rain swelling its pages.

From the right angle,
I could just make out
your hand drawn notes,
splayed across a corner of text,
the dog-eared page where
you had stopped reading
that sunny afternoon.

In time,
it settled into the loam
and there beneath the roses
framed and shaded in
hemlock and holly,
the book began to take root.

Before long
it stood as tall
as a sunflower,
sentences folded
into leaves,
spine extending
as a stalk.

And at the peak,
new pages began to form
as petals, stamen, pistol
gently folded origami
words not written when
you read the book.

Abstract and wondrous
prose and poems
from beyond the grave,
death having evolved your speech.

Fragments of memoir,
experience and tragedy
the travelogue of a dream
a journey into the surreal.

…such gifts they make of life here…
…blinding sun fractals bent at odd angles…
…Galore and Gore and Grammar…
…the pretense of time, alive and unending…
…my love my love my love…
…do not seek me here, for I am in the earth…

The thing lasted
almost a year
before succumbing,
despite my best efforts,
to the eternal,
withering, bent, and grey
I found it dead
on New Year’s Day.

Still,
I have the transcripts
those I could discern,
interred under glass
in a brightly lit corner
where sometimes
I simply sit and watch
and pretend that I can still
hear you out the window
in the garden below,
living, breathing,
and turning the pages.

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Poetry

What Walks Here, Walks Alone (Audio)

This is a quick reading I did of a previously unpublished poem, set to silent film footage.

 

Written, performed, and produced by Mack W. Mani

Video: Alice in Wonderland (1903) courtesy of Archive.org

The title is taken from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The phrase “black chests and high back chairs” was lifted from the poem The Prophet’s Paradise by Robert W. Chambers

Special Thanks:

Jordan Seider & Elizabeth Laws

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Essay

8 Tips For New/Unpublished Writers

1. Learn to write stories of different lengths/mediums.

Don’t be tied down to every idea as a novel or a screenplay. Some ideas simply work better as flash fiction or as a poem. If you’re not diversifying your output, then you are limiting the impact of your stories.

2. Submit to the right magazines (at the right time).

Take the time to compile a list of magazines and what types of stories they publish. Read what they publish. You are wasting your time and the time of the editor if you are unfamiliar with what the magazine wants.

Make note of their submission periods so you can stay on top who is accepting what types of stories.

Always check to see when the latest issue or post went online, there are lots of defunct magazines that still say they are “open for submissions”.

3. Submit regularly.

Give yourself regular deadlines to have work completed and submitted for either publication or contests. In the end, if you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve done, you don’t have to send it in, but it gives you a goal and a date to complete your project by.

(Don’t pay to enter or for consideration unless you are extremely confident in your work)

4. Do your cover letter right.

Use the editor’s name, if you can find it.

Don’t use a form letter for submissions, even if the magazine uses one for rejections.

Keep your cover letter brief, don’t describe your work, just who you are and that you thought it would be a good fit for their magazine.

Keep your bio professional, it’s okay to express yourself, but don’t try to make a lot of jokes or seem quirky, it comes off as desperate.

Don’t list 1,000 credits, just your most recent/prestigious publications. If you have no credits, keep it simple: Lucy Gordon is a French-Canadian Poet. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thomas and their cat Judy. 

5. Don’t talk about writing, write.

It has been scientifically proven that talking about projects before they are completed gives one just enough satisfaction to feel like they do not need to complete the task. It’s better to share a finished product than an initial idea. Outside input too early in the creative process can muddle your vision and inhibit you from making something that’s truly your own.

6. Don’t be afraid to branch out.

Pursue your ridiculous ideas! 

In Wonderbook Jeff Vandermeer talks a lot about how important the imagination is in the writing process and emphasizes the importance of “creative play” or simply letting your mind go where it will. Indulge your fantasies and daydreams (and nightdreams for that matter) you never know what seemingly absurd idea will lead you to an amazing, original story.

7. Write everything down.

Make list of your ideas, interesting names you hear, locations, moods, scenes, if something in your daily life strikes you, then make a note of it because you will forget. 

Be organized, know where everything is. Don’t delete what you cut, set it aside for later use. Many times I’ve been inspired by seeing the scraps of two poems next to each other in my “cut document”.

8. Know the rules, so you can break them.

You’re going to do what you want anyway, but it helps to know what you’re pissing on and what you’re praising. Even if you want to write free form, non-rhyming poetry, it’s still helpful to learn about meter. If you never learn proper grammar, all your characters will sound casual and uniform.

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