An inquisitive adaptation of earthquakes by Joshua Martin

 AN INQUISITIVE ADAPTION OF EARTHQUAKES


I entered the botanical garden holding a mackerel

at a right angle between thumb and index finger

striving for the perfectly formless variations

inherent in an inquisitive adaptation of earthquakes

as sudden in sideswiped hollow bass drum

as a game of bowling achieved through the mail

while escaping out the backdoor and into stone cold feet

vastly underrated begonias at my heels

until the passed out robotic arms made nice

with the finality at work in abject coffee table

wider than a catacomb and sundry as an ox

where an axe met a track of golden piano teeth

through which I despised as many televisions as

there were to crush the environmental heads

then as now as soon as before as then as underneath

well and fine and good and dwelling still

in a house of stone façade vomiting

switching grapes for grafts

unwinding gauze to the rhythms stroking cheek bones

though there surely stood enough monkeys

to blister however many t-shirts remained unburned

instead of sitting I watched militaries disintegrate

at 200 mph under the guise of systematic reassurance

scampering beefy thighed wonders in a different zone every day

with a different hazard to scrawl on a tree trunk

scanning azure spines slipping from rail guard cottages

fading manure towers distance and obscure

around the squares beaming unbalanced politics

while I ventured a question to the refuse bin

as though anyone else was there to judge

then I could somehow justify braided pubic hair

though no one yet had asked to see my chains

though carnivals are still the simplest expression of falling



Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the book Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in Train, Fugitives & Futurists, Otoliths, M58, among others.


Joshua's website

Five Poems by Rose Knapp

 FIVE POEMS



Inverted Prayer


If some version of you or many deities exist,

Why did you create us? Were you bored, 

Are you testing us and yourself? 


Or maybe the Gnostics were right, 

We are the true creators, 

And you are the fallen ones




Inverted Cross


A silver shimmering cross covered, coated 

In Dantesque infernal layers of ice

Perhaps all of hell is empty and we are here




Demon Sex


Sly seductive sexy leather clad succubus 

Whipping and screaming 

Her voice ringing into obverses of oblivion 




Demiurge 


What if this supposedly moral God who created this 

Fallen world was inherently evil and malevolent?

The dualistic view that this world cannot be saved




Paranoid Octopi 


Gödel octagonal atonal diagonal infinities 

Of sharp sleek oily tenacious tentacles 

Tendrils of the deep implanting ink into the world




Rose Knapp (she/they) is a poet and electronic producer. She has publications in Lotus-Eater, Bombay Gin, BlazeVOX, Hotel Amerika, and others. She has poetry collections published with Hesterglock Press, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, and forthcoming with Beir Bua Press. She lives in Minneapolis.





What the Ravens Meant by Colby Smith

 WHAT THE RAVENS MEANT


On May 2nd, 2021, I heard the voice of God. I had not been to church a day in my life and I relinquished belief in God when I was a defiant, curious child. I felt, for the longest time, that I was utterly estranged from the collective religious impulse. It is absurd that this is so, for my hometown is infested with Baptists, and my home state has more churches per capita than anywhere in the United States. 

God’s voice was childlike, but there was no innocence or virginity laced in that voice — for it was the most ancient of voices. It said: Do you know what the ravens mean?

I was stopped at a four-way intersection in Beaver, West Virginia when the voice made itself known. The sky was the color of asphalt but there was no sun or rain — God’s fault. To the left and right of me were fast food chain buildings, the only food you could get in a twenty-mile radius. Down the left fork was a treacherous road up a densely-wooded precipice that takes one to the local airport or, if more readily desired, I-64. Perched on the roof of the tavern that was always deserted was a pair of ravens. I heard God when they took off. Had I not been stopped at a red light I would’ve pulled over and sobbed with rage, or being sick and horrified crashed my vehicle hoping I would die — die so terribly, triumphantly, that leaving my casket open during my funeral would elicit profound shock and shame. 

 

Ravens mean the same thing to everyone — omens of death. I thought of the Scottish folk ballad, collected by Ravenscroft and Child, called “The Twa Corbies.” Scene: the countryside. Dramatis personae: two ravens and a knight killed in battle. The first raven: “Where shall we go and dine today?” The second raven: “Behind the dike over there is a newly-slain knight. Nobody knows he’s there. His hawk has taken to hunting. His hound has taken chase of the wild fowl. His lady’s forgotten him and has taken another husband. You, my comrade! Perch on his breast while I pick out his eyes, a gorgeous blue. We’ll patch the bare spots of our nests with his golden hair. Hear the people lament! They know not where he is. When we are done with him, the wind will blow through his bones forever.” 

     

Though this was my first encounter with God directly, it was not my first flirtation with Him. Upon rediscovering the verse of William Blake the previous month, I began to believe, fervently, that the divine was absent everywhere except in poetry. It is my belief that the fundamental purpose of poetry is to articulate what cannot be expressed otherwise. If the world is godless, then God can (and does) inhabit poetry. Blake, in his poem “Auguries of Innocence”: To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an house.


After a dose of Blake (I speak of his verse as if it was medicine or heroin) I lay down in my bed in a Cleveland hotel which was so dysfunctional I was forced to live off tap water in the bathroom and Starbursts from the lobby, and gazing out at the view I could see the lights of the city like sunken stars pulsing as hearts do — and I, momentarily, believed I was God enthroned in Heaven and the lights illuminating a nocturnal Cleveland were my angels. I was in ecstasy, since for much of my life I had no sense of autonomy. I certainly had individuality, but that is different — individuality is navigating a pre-established system on terms one defines for oneself, while autonomy is having dominion over the system. My own Heaven, for a moment! A few days after this, I was visiting a group of friends and we were all talking on their porch. I ranted about the divine in poetry with the immediacy and aggression of a revivalist. I was shot down then I shut up, regretting ever touching upon the subject in the first place. I abandoned that conviction, thinking my innocence towards God was restored.


When I arrived home, my mother knew I was disturbed. I nonchalantly told her that God made Himself known to me. She pressed me. Ridiculous questions. I got frustrated as I usually did in those states and told her not to question me anymore. I went to my room, turned off the light, and slept, hoping God would go away. My mother was, even before it was apparent that I was schizoaffective, aloof and occasionally in veritable denial. Before she got pregnant with me and before the asylums were shut down, she worked with schizophrenics daily.


A day or so after I heard God’s voice, the world I perceived felt different. Nature felt ugly and malicious. Creation was poisoned and by extension God was poisoning me, too. I struggled to eat and drink. I was prepared to fast to counteract the poison. 


God said at sunset that day: The sun is sinking, isn’t it? 


I was very close to admitting myself into a psychiatric hospital. I realized I had some of my old medication in the medicine cabinet. I chalked the whole affair up to a medicine change. So I took the old medication, and after a horrible psychotic episode the voice of God went mute. I saved myself from the hospital. The only hospital in the area was notorious for mistreating its patients. I went there before, after a suicide attempt; I faced the wrath of nurses and witnessed harsher abuse against other patients. 


I was never indifferent to religion, but I never associated it with positive connotations. I hate it, and still do. Yet I read religious texts and read up on religious history with intense, morbid fascination. I justified my hypocrisy with: “it is out of anthropological interest”; “I plunder the aesthetics of religion in my writing”; “I want to know my enemy.” But as anarchists combat the State in its confines, so I combatted God in His.


I was medicated when I heard God, and I still am. Psychiatrists typically prescribe a cocktail of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers for people with schizoaffective disorder. Television commercials for Vraylar are commonplace, but Trileptal isn’t as heavily advertised and is therefore more obscure to the public. My illness was not always well-regulated, but there are people with schizoaffective disorder — some that I have met in mental hospitals, some that I even keep in close contact with — that are worse off than me.


My childhood was banal, but I was never happy. I still do not identify with the idea of happiness. With my illness, I only operate on a basis of highs and a basis of lows. I was a very sheltered child and I am still suffering the consequences. My family was poor for a while but I never knew that I was poor. I was physically abused at a daycare. Once, a counselor threw a handful of sand in my eyes and I was running around blind and screaming, ignored. I was assaulted by other children and counselors numerous times. My mother found out about the abuse and started letting me accompany her on her job, a caretaker at a senior living facility. The job did not last long. There was no legal action brought against the daycare. Though I try to recall if I was molested, I can never get past recognizing that I was in vulnerable situations. I cannot chalk my present condition to trauma, though. Both sides of my family have a history of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I got the short end of the stick. I’ve often told my parents that I wish they never bred.


I performed well in school, but I was never enthusiastic about school. I took many absences early in my education because I was sick all the time. I had strep throat upwards thirty times. When I had my tonsillectomy at age eight, my surgeon remarked that they were the worst tonsils he had ever seen. Because of my respiratory issues I was put on adult-strength medication at a young age. This led to gaining a lot of weight; I was over two-hundred pounds by fifth grade. Fifth grade was also when I experienced suicidal thoughts for the first time, and such ideations never left.  


I needed earlier intervention, but never received it because of malignant naivety.


I remember in second grade I had announced to my classmates that I killed God. I had no method or motive for killing God. I did it through sheer will and pronouncement. I now realize that God was merely wounded.


Before my illness tangibly developed — my years of virginity — I wanted to emulate Ian Curtis: to produce brilliant, influential material and then off myself as an artistic gesture. Now I know there is no glamor in insanity. There is no untapped genius in it. High school was a period of faux genius on every front. It is a miracle I did not get radicalized by the political right, or acquired the mentality of abusers.


In September 2016, not even two weeks after I began classes at Ohio University, I went insane. I followed a student on the street on the pretense of trying to find a hall for a class. I verbally abused him, and when he finally said he couldn’t help me, I threatened to throw myself into moving traffic. I wept, begging him to give me pills to kill myself with. In the span of a few hours I knew reality as I knew it was gone forever; soon I would question what was reality, and what reality I inhabited. These questions plague me even now. I didn't know I was schizoaffective until it was almost too late. As my illness progressed, everything I thought I knew about myself and the world underwent a paradigm shift: everything became increasingly incomprehensible and cruel. I never completed my education because the horrific parts of my disorder kept interfering with my studies and personal drive in other areas of my life. Fear often prevented me from interacting with others face-to-face because I knew there was a deep, international conspiracy against me. Seldom have I held jobs and when I do it is not for very long, not because I do not have a good work ethic but because I am easily upset and susceptible to intense strain that is often arbitrary.


It took my life away from me. If I could reset the last five years, I would.


My relationship with my illness shares parallels with my interpretation of the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud.


I forget how I heard of Rimbaud or how I encountered his work. He is one of those presences in my life that generated spontaneously. I remember that one day the New Directions paperback edition of A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat, translated by Louise Varése, ended up in my possession. Then, shortly after acquiring the collection, I read it. Rimbaud changed how I viewed poetry, approached poetry, wrote poetry. That was that.


Rimbaud is a layered poet, but he is not a subtle one. His bluntness is precise, but the passion behind his poetry is violent, manic even. His diction was elevated to the fury of a demon; A Season in Hell is an anti-sermon. Rimbaud was like a lizard cutting off its own tail, knowing it would grow back again.


Rimbaud is concerned primarily with chaos — the chaos of life, of religion, but certainly the chaos inside himself. It is a common interpretation that Rimbaud’s chaotic lifestyle led him to embrace chaos, personally and poetically. But in my eyes chaos, for Rimbaud, needlessly betrays the ego, the spirit. In both A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat, Rimbaud may not say outright that chaos ought to be rebelled against, but there is a longing for other circumstances present. Whether it be resurrecting the Gallic spirit, or becoming familiar with the waters of Europe again, or finding himself in God’s favor again, Rimbaud teases redemption. He does not achieve it, though. It is no fault of his own that he is in Hell, but it is his reality that eternal flame licks the fibers of his coat. Defeat is often conflated with acceptance. Not so. Defeat breeds complacency while acceptance breeds action.


Acceptance of chaos leads to contextualizing it.


I didn’t refer to God as “God” when describing The Voice in certain contexts. Instead I referred to “God” as “The Demiurge,” appropriating the concept from the Gnostic Christians. But since I was reminded of Isaiah 45:7 (I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things) I refer to The Voice as God without hesitation. I know it was God because it was not delusion, it was revelation. Delusion and revelation are share similarities and differences. Delusions, sometimes, can be overcome. Revelations cannot. But delusions, like revelations, operate under an internal logic which cannot be contradicted in the moment. I have survived delusions of fire, of assassination plots, of my organs being controlled by something else, of the world ending. Yet I did not truly survive God’s ravens. I know God is evil, and that God is everywhere.


I don’t consider Christ for a moment.


There are times where I feel that I know God better than anyone else. This is the most dangerous thing I have ever believed, for it is the credo of the zealot, the cult leader. It is, however, the truth. Praying to God, claiming that God visited one in a dream, harboring an arbitrary sensation of God when one views a sunset or a holy site — these things pale in comparison to hearing His voice. Even devout Christians will commit those who hear God to a mental hospital. Why? 


I do not fear Hell. I fear Heaven more.


I am God’s enemy. We are at war. My death will inevitably be at the hand of God. His ravens will carry me away. I will not know peace until He is dead, nor will anyone.


I wish the raven would go extinct. 





Colby Smith is a native of West Virginia currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. His fiction has appeared in several anthologies associated with the Neo-Decadent literary movement and his nonfiction has appeared in Vastarien. Smith's debut novella, The Ironic Skeletons, is forthcoming from Snuggly Books.

The Compliant Husband by D.A.F. (Marquis) de Sade

 THE COMPLIANT HUSBAND

 All of France knew that the Prince of Bauffremont had more or less the same tastes as the cardinal we mentioned earlier. The Prince had been given a very naïve young woman in marriage, a young woman who, according to custom, had been instructed regarding her daughter’s wedding night duties, by her mother, of all people, only the day before the wedding.


– Without further explanation, her mother had said, because decency prevents me from going into certain details, I have only one very important thing to recommend to you, daughter. Beware of the first request that your husband makes in the bedroom. Say very firmly to him: No, sir, that is not the way that an honest woman comports herself. You may avail yourself to anywhere else as much as you like, but with regards to that, no, certainly not...


Not entirely certain as to what anywhere else referred to, (actually, completely confused on that point), the young woman nonetheless went to bed that night determined to use her mother’s interdict, should it be needed.


They lay in bed and the Prince, in order to demonstrate principles of honesty and decency which no one would have suspected he even possessed, requested thatTH they do things (at least for the first time) in the traditional manner. In other words, he merely offered his wife the chaste pleasures associated with the hymen.


But the newly-educated young woman immediately recalled her mother’s advice, and hastily deploying all of her resolve, she said to the Prince:


– No, Sir, that is most definitely not the way that an honest woman comports herself. You may avail yourself to anywhere else as much as you like, but with regards to that, no, certainly not...


– But, Madame… the Prince protested.


– No, Sir! No matter how hard you may persist, you shall not alter my decision!


– Very well, said the Prince, confused, but nonetheless impressed by the similarity of his bride’s taste to his own, and by her single-minded insistence on him providing her with that pleasure.


– Madame, I sincerely hope that it will give you the same satisfaction it gives me. I should be very upset and angry if it were said that I had done anything to displease you!


Without further ado, and following her interdict, the Prince drove his manhood home between the twin globes of his bride’s beautiful derriere.


And let it be clearly stated that it is best if mothers do not to instruct daughters who are newly-married as to what duty they owe their husbands.


The result will inevitably be consternation, with the daughter possibly resenting her mother for some time after.



Donatien Alphonse François, (Marquis) de Sade (2 June 1740–2 December 1814) was a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer famous for his novels championing libertine sexuality. His works include novels, short stories, plays, essays, dialogues, and political tracts. In his lifetime some of these were published under his own name, while others, which de Sade denied having written, appeared anonymously. De Sade is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, suffering, crime. These works include The 120 Days of Sodom, Philosophy of the Bedroom, Juliette and Justine. De Sade was a proponent of absolute freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion, or law.


 

RJ Dent is a poet, novelist, translator, essayist, and short story writer. As a renowned translator of European literature, he has published modern English translations of The Flowers of Evil (Baudelaire, The Songs of Maldoror (Lautréamont), Poems & Fragments (Alcaeus); The Dead Man (Bataille). As a poet and novelist, he is the author of a poetry collection, Moonstone Silhouettes, a novel, Myth, and a short story collection, Gothiques and Fantastiques.

Interview with Chris Kelso by Tom Bland

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS KELSO

Chris Kelso has a startling original voice who crisscrosses genres from horror to sci-fi, from transgression to nonfiction works. Here we talk about his new book, Burroughs and Scotland.




Beatdom Books has recently published your monograph, Burroughs and Scotland, how did this work come out?

 

Well, as someone who has been totally obsessed with Burroughs for years it just made sense to locate a connection. I have always discussed WSB in my work – and his creative philosophies underlie, even motivate and dictate, my fiction. Although I’m aware of the abstract notions of borders and the complete fallacy of nationalism, nonetheless my identity is shaped by my experience of being ‘Scottish’. Being Scottish, like in any other country, means a set of specific cultural values are imposed upon you from birth. It just so happens that the two seemingly disparate subjects (Burroughs and Scotland) have been inextricably linked for decades. I felt like I might be the man to explore and document this forgotten chapter in a committed way.


 

You suggest that the serial killer, Peter Manuel, inadvertently prepared the ground for Burroughs’ work in Scotland. How do you understand this?

 


Really he was just a spiritual precursor to a seismic shift in the collective psyche. An American-born Scot who came over and caused a fuss by killing a lot of young women. There was a lot of animosity and mistrust among Presbyterian Scots and American towards interlopers like Manuel and Burroughs. Scots can see and relate to the same possessing ugly spirit they both harboured.


 



Who is William Burroughs to you?

 


The ultimate outsider.

 


How do the themes of your work and Burroughs crossover?

 


Well, we both deal with identity and struggle. We both deal with yearning and deconstruction. We live in the darkest corners of our own minds and are incapable of compromise artistically. There’s also a bit of genre-hopping going on that we both share, but I learned a lot of lessons from WSB about stretching out my own flaws and wounds and reanimating them with some kind of new creative energy.

 


What is your favourite work by Burroughs?

 


It sounds so lame to say it but I love Junkie. I have such nostalgic affection for it, being the first work of Burroughs I ever read front to back. It’s very linear and autobiographical, and there could be a case made that it’s his least innovative work – but I don’t care. It’s spectacularly written and is a great jumping off point. The Soft Machine and The Job are close seconds.


 

What three books would you mention outside of Burroughs?

 


I’d mention Lanark by Alasdair Gray, Hogg by Delany, and The Sluts by Dennis Cooper.

 


You mentioned Alexander Trocchi, who was a very early influence on me, how has he influenced you?


 

He was less of an influence. He wrote a few lovely books – Cain’s Book, Young Adam, and the pornographic novel for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press, White Thighs, are all divine gems – but he wrote so sparsely and so infrequently that his roll feels thin. Trocchi was a great prose stylist, but a horrible human being. His connection to Burroughs is far more interesting than anything else about him (to me at least).

 


Burroughs was very influenced by dreams. I wonder if your dream process has influenced your work?

 


Absolutely. I have profoundly vivid and disturbing dreams, I always have. I feel so doused in their residue when I wake up yet my conscious memory squashes them minutes later and they disappear into the abyss of my cluttered prefrontal cortex. I think I am still haunted by the ‘feeling’ or ‘residue’ from my early childhood nightmares that they informed my later writing. But it feels intangible. Hard to explain. I know I was warped and traumatised and that my brain contuse to throw up hellscapes whenever I close my eyes, but because they are so spectral, so transient that it’s hard to speak about in any cogent manner. For sure my psyche is burned and scarred by bad dreams.

 


What are you working on next?

 


Interrogating the Abyss is coming out soon, another non-fiction collection of essays and interviews. Beyond that, I have a few things in the vague distance, but nothing set in stone. Some of it is very exciting though.