Friday, September 01, 2000

Issue 3

C. E. Chaffin

Sam Vaknin

Dottieann Stucko

Dave Benson

C.E. Chaffin

With Her Fog, Her Amphetamines, and Her Pearls

But she breaks just like a little girl. --

Bob Dylan

Twice you've asked me to leave.
This third time, uttered groggy
and forgetful from a hospital bed,
incensed that you're still alive, almost succeeds.

How glad I am you chose the wrong pills!
How glad I am they found you in the forest!
Yet you are more bitter than the taste of morphine
at how you failed at this, your final failure.

Now I see how you squeezed your eyes
harder than God shut your ears. This is not
a judgment but an observation-- I keep repeating this--
I thought the deaf saw more.

Your sainted dad's an alcoholic
and your noble husband beat you--
you never mentioned it. In AA there's a saying,
"Your secrets will kill you." Yours almost did

but you are now exposed, your pale moon
near full behind the flapping borders
of your hospital gown, blue print-on-white,
(thank God!) not rose-tinted black.

A Dying Fall

Blessed are the deaf asleep.
Sleeping, they hear; hearing, they know.

Knowing, they cannot explain
why their music is always in color.

Do not disturb their snoring,
it is their passionate breath.

Do not wake them to this
strange world of silence

But touch their honeyed skin;
hear the descending submarines.

The Dumpster

This is your dumpster, beaten by usage,
misshapenly blue, blotched with rust
though resilient as steel, still serviceable enough
to mount on a truck.

Throw in what you can bear,
the broken torso of his vision of you
in clay and wire, the discarded water heater
and the towing chains.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.

Throw in your father
who departed for the eternal suburbs
in a fit of gradual senescence;
throw in your golden retriever,
arthritic and blind, who needs a boost
to stand, christened "Sunny"
for his excellent temperament.

Throw in the plastic tarpaulins
that shield what feeds on darkness,
spore and fungi, throw in
the bitter pomegranate,
the purifying hyssop,
the man-shaped mandrake,
the hemlock and the yew,
all wilted keels of earth's
imaginary boat propelled by tears.

Throw in your confidence, your job,
your mother bearing bad news of your birth,
the striving to acquit yourself
persistently more equal than
those spared your handicap.

Throw in the cigarettes that killed your husband
(though you still smoke two packs a day),
throw in the blackened chest
that housed his far-seeing eye.

Throw in your only child,
the empty fuel can begging fire.
Pile it on a camel (one hump for each Testament),
send it into the desert
to empty you of that emptiness
beyond hope and reason.


Imagine you own nothing--
your body is rented, for instance,
your mind borrowed.

Though all your suffering is real,
you are not your suffering;
your losses cannot destroy you
nor your gains restore you.

Gather love's souvenirs
into a necklace of pain;
when you bless the seasnakes unawares
you will know the weight of it--

Let go!

C.E. Chaffin's first book of poems, Elementary, was published in 1997 by the Mellen Press, available through He edits the online literary journal, Melic Review, and has been widely published on the web and in print. He lives in Long Beach, CA, with his three daughters, and is presently on disability for psychiatric illness and chronic spinal pain.

C. E. Chaffin Sam Vaknin Dottieann Stucko Dave Benson

Sam Vaknin

Prague At Dusk

Prague lays over its inhabitants in shades of grey. Oppressively close to the surface, some of us duck, others simply walk carefully, our shoulders stooped, trying to avoid the monochrome rainbow at the end of the hesitant rain. Prague rains itself on us, impaled on one hundreds towers, on a thousand immolated golden domes. We pretend not to see it bleeding to the river. We just cross each other in ornate street corners, from behind exquisite palaces. We don't shake heads politely anymore. We are not sure whether they will stay connected if we do.

It is in such times that I remember an especially sad song, Arabic sounds interlaced with Jewish wailing. Wall after wall, turret after turret, I re-visit my homeland. It is there, in that city, which is not Arab, nor Jewish, not entirely modern, nor decidedly antique that I met her.

And the pain was strong.

Sally Ann

I wrote, Sally Ann, I wrote:

Shot from the cannon of abuse
as unwise missiles do.

Course set.

Explosive clouds that mark
your video destination.

Experts interpret,
pricking with laser markers,
inflated dialects
of doom.

Hitting the target, you
splinter, a spectacle
of fire and of smoke.

The molten ashes,
the cold metallic remnants,
the core...

A peace accord
between you and your self.


The Toxic
waste of bottled anger
Life belly up.
The reeds.
The wind is hissing
a river holds
its vapour breath
and leaves black lips
of tar and fish
a bloated shore.

A Hundred Children

Tell me about your sunshine
and the sounds of coffee
and of barefeet pounding the earthen floor
the creaking trees
and the skinned memory of hugs
you gave
and you received.

Sit down, yes, here,
the intermittent sobbing
of the shades
slit by your golden face.

Now listen to the hundred children
that are your womb.

I am among them.

Sam Vaknin: I suffer from a few personality disorders. I am the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

C. E. Chaffin Sam Vaknin Dottieann Stucko Dave Benson

Dottieann Stucko


Plant legs and arms
             the arms that soak in Life
         choke the light until the eyes grow tight
                 and the mind becomes hazy
     when that mind projects the Whole Being
             without disgust, the cell divides
                 and unplugs the entire thought
                     Desire and React
             give the fibers a chance at motion

The Drive

Not in soul In Mine
         if you were by my side
         by my current holding hand too tight
             now watch her painted frozen face
             be taken to a secret place
touch them
hold them
lose them
             is this contest a challenge
             to question SELF control
                     With the acceptance of humanity
                         I lost their remarks
                 and began to feed the sharks that told


I remember when she said I think I'm loaded. I think I'm loaded.
         and it was the she moaned this it was the way that it
         was sent to me fever and sweat dancing maybe it is Your
         a pity on the idea that I have no idea what I am doing
     there, there instead of releasing the sweaters Pile on more
         labels and sets now now moan and take the sweater off
         there are so many corners and a voice will never answer even if
     the voice is offered will it ever be given and this could be a
         the paint is given when it is said lay the medium on quick
                 and never look back forget the tongue and tape
     certain ills the only wish I wish
         Is without perfume the perfume on the
inside of your elbow a fallen leg could be a strategic maneuver
     but it wouldn't belong to me

Dottieann Stucko: I am a 22 year old art student from Chicago majoring in painting. I'm also interested in music and writing. Last year I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some of my influences are Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William S. Burroughs, Egon Schiele, Sonic Youth and Scratch Acid.

C. E. Chaffin Sam Vaknin Dottieann Stucko Dave Benson

Dave Benson

The day arced in, thieves of light,
and no one explained themselves.

The differentia was apparent--

It was a soul kiss, a festal way
of seeing. These narcissi, how
How beautiful. Just to notice
things: Diapason of bird
call, thread of babbling
brook. Not to take aim,
not to.


Breathing breaks the distance-

my grasp of the evening,
the shape of my blood-

the fall of light.

The window is open
to gulls crying the
falling light.

it will be dark,
knit with eyes;

an autumnal tangle
of whispers


Spit. Look in the mirror.
You are the last leper of Saint-Lazare.
You are time slowing down, lonely as falling snow.
Look into these eyes.
Figure you're in there.
Kiss of the waters.
Close your eyes.
Remember running barefoot through the snow.
Relax. God kisses your feet.
The trees get more, your breath explodes
into clouds of vapor that twitch and strive
like animals rejecting sleep.
Tonight you marry the moon.
Your progress is blind, your eyes are closed,
you crash through the underbrush. Your eyes are
You forget to breathe for two full minutes.
Saplings beat at your body like truncheons. You know the truth.
You're on your back, laughing. Blood bubbles in your throat,
the taste of iron, spluttering helplessly, your lips a garish red no
one can see.
Close the scene. Spit.

The sun is the song of medieval girls,

it is hidden behind clouds.

It is luck in the fireplace,
glowing, hammering dulcimer
into atmosphere.

We kiss her, though she dies.

Dave Benson, NJ USA. 28, soon to be student again. I'd just like to say that mental illness is a way of, seriously...anxiety, with occasionally severe panic...depression that cycles between minor and major...anyway. I've never been comfortable with the idea of being mentally ill, although i know i am. I guess the question is, especially in the arts, where do you draw the line, and why do you feel the need to draw it?

C. E. Chaffin Sam Vaknin Dottieann Stucko Dave Benson