Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From Baltimore Saints & Haints: "John of The Bulletproof Donut Shop"

As rough as Baltimore can still be - my house was just robbed in broad daylight and the burglars came back the next day to steal our car - it's still a peaceful paradise compared to the '80s and early '90s.

Here is a little tale for Thanksgiving of those bygone days, "John of the Bulletproof Donut Shop", taken from Baltimore Saints & Haints: A Secret History of the Underground, 1984 through 2014, Found in The Desk Drawer of a Dust Mote Hope everyone has a great, peaceful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Or protesting the Ferguson ruling.

John of The Bulletproof Donut Shop

John of the Bulletproof Donut Shop tattooed the word “DEATH” on his left forearm in huge block letters. He made industrial sized pasta dinners that would feed our entire circle of friends and drank rare Scotch that had titles like “Artair’s Bog” and “Adamina’s Mound” and tasted like Big Al’s feet.

When John entered the darkness it was thicker than in the chamber of Heathcliff’s wife. He was found out on a high ledge in a shared warehouse space by a friend and roommate. In the ‘80s and ‘90s in Baltimore many people were out on the ledge when not dodging random violence or medicating themselves with booze and drugs to the point of near death for fear of random violence.

John also had a devilish grin and he would emphasize a joke or a startling fact by having you stare into his eyes. Normally that would be annoying, but with him you’d look into his eyes and you would indeed see it.

He wrote a story called “The Bulletproof Donut Shop” that I published in the second issue of my magazine, The Shattered Wig Review. It was about when he first came to Baltimore and was looking for the familiar solace of a warm coffee and a sweet donut, but found only buzzing doors and blank-faced counter people hidden behind impenetrable voice-muffling shields.

It was a quiet, effective portrayal of how low modern life can get and it caused that issue of my magazine to be the bestseller of its tiny history. I was traveling cross country when it was reviewed in the Herculean zine roundup Factsheet 5 and when I called the bookstore I worked at a co-worker gave me startled reports at the number of orders coming in. Back then orders meant checks or hidden cash in addressed envelopes, sometimes with handwritten messages.

John left Baltimore in the haze of the early ‘90s and even his closest friends stopped hearing from him. In the early Oughts he called an old housemate sounding frantic and said “that something big was about to happen”.

Something big did happen. Then many more. Most of them almost too sad for the human heart to bear.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Ever Baltimore Litscape - Saturday, December 13

I'm really excited about this event. It's loaded with some of my favorite Baltimore poets and performers and The Mole Suit Choir gets a sweet slot at 8:15 right after the sparkling weird magic of Theresa Columbus.

Here's the day's events lineup:

2pm - Doors open
230 - Carabella Sands
240 - Dylan Kinnett
250 - Boatwater

330 - CarlaJean Valluzzi
340 - Dave K

415 - Megan McShea
425 - Barrett Warner
435 - Kathy Fahey

515 - Tim Paggi
525 - Linda Franklin
535 - Bobbie Donnie

605 - CnD Anthology Intro
610 - Condoland
615 - Community Panel Discussion w/ Baltimore locals

730 - Klein/Prince
800 - Theresa Columbus
815 - The Mole Suit Choir
845 - DP The Emcee 910 - Community Center

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Saints & Haints of Baltimore: A Secret History of The Baltimore Underground, 1984-2014, Hidden In The Desk Drawer of a Dust Mote. Part 2 - Laure Drogoul

Okay, reality and the gravity of Fall have set in since the last post. My subjective worship of Baltimore folks, be they poets or poetic will probably never be finished or formed properly and if it were there wouldn't be enough interest in it for it to see actual print, but it will be gathered so that at least when Ganesh gathers me in his kindly trunk for a cosmic ride off this brutal planet it will be assembled so that hopefully master archivist Megan McShea will place it in her file cabinet.

And no history of the Baltimore arts underground of the last 30 years would be worth its cyber space if it didn't contain praise to Laure Drogoul, one of the most single-minded hardest working visionaries. I wrote this piece for as an introduction for the booklet accompanying Laure's incredible art show "Follies Predicaments and Conundrums" that was at MICA, hosted by another Baltimore art visionary who I met while having panic attacks working at Kinko's in the early '90s - Gerald Ross.

Even the flesh is a Mask; Reflections In The Cobbled Spookhouse of Laure Drogoul

One of the many superhuman skills that Laure Drogoul possesses - the power of invisibility luckily not being one of them - is the ability to lift phone conversation to the realm of high art. You could be on your way out the door to the dentist's with an inflamed molar when you receive her siren call - the next thing you know hours have passed and your brain has tunneled through miles of subterranean neon brilliance and you suddenly know everything about an arcane insect species of whose existence you were previously ignorant. Plus, when you finally awaken to the "real" world, the one at your fingertips, you realize your molar no longer aches. When you excitedly run to the mirror to take a look at it you discover you now have the enormous chompers of a beaver.

It was during one such call, when we were discussing the poignantly strange and melancholic stories of the British author Robert Aickman, that Laure said, "There is a thin line between neurosis and enchantment." This not only summed up Aickman's work neatly, but, I also felt it was a key to the heart of Laure's art.

Take a look at the sinister but playful tower called Bozo Prison (for four or more), with mortal wretched clowns yabbering trapped inside a cage with a giant pointy-eared head on top. The mouth of the head contains skinny threatening teeth that look like ice-picks and suggest the act of devouring. Below this frightening head with glazed eyes rests an innocent, dainty bowtie. At this point of postmodern carnival symbolism, as surely as clown equals psychotic, bowtie equals intellectual or effete gone horribly wrong. Is the Bozo of the title referring to the prisoner or the keeper? Which do you relate to more? This is part edgy amusement park attraction chiding goofballs, and partmonument to fear of Outside Authority ImposingMores. Inscribed on the pedestal of the piece is the phrase Reception Diagnostic Classification Center, words that can be found outside Baltimore prison facilities. It brings to mind the awesome responsibility laying on one human's shoulders to pass judgment on another.

There is a Latin American short story called, The Psychiatrist, by Machado de Assis, in which the title character arrives in a small, rural town and starts pronouncing citizens insane one by one until he is the only one on the outside of the psychiatric hospital. Looking at the eyes of the head atop Bozo Prison brings that story to mind.

The installation piece, Evidence of Fairyland, is also perched precariously on that disappearing line between neurosis and enchantment, particularly the two pieces within it called Elf Skin and Pinocchio - realistic, stretched, and apparently treated for preservation - the "skins" are pinned and mounted. Part of what makes the popular cultural myth of fairies and Fairyland a Fairyland is its airy lack of science, but here is an unsettling display of supposedly magical, mythical creatures trapped and pinned up for all to see.

Does this evidence of magic buoy our spirits or does a chill run down our spine as we nervously look around for the nimble psycho who has perhaps killed these ethereal beings? Or, does the presence of these skins mean that even magic, if it ever truly exists, dies like everything else? When I attempted to gain insight into Drogoul's craft on these pieces, asking what she made them with to create such disturbing sheens, she immediately said, "Oh -homunculus skins, homunculus skins!" her irritation at my asking such a thing only half put on.

A self-described "interdisciplinary artist, cabaret hostess, olfactory spelunker and cobbler of situations," she's also a master of the comic nightmare viewed through a skewed lens of oddball science, an invoker of spirits who I'm sure keeps The Other Side up all night talking, and a macabre Energizer Bunny of production who has been a touchstone of underground avant-garde Baltimore art for more than twenty years.

Drogoul grew up in Tinton Falls, not far from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Her entry into, and apprenticeship in, the craft of the art world was a classic one. Near one of her bus stops when she was in eighth grade was an old grain mill run by a Hungarian man named Geza DeVegh, who was a painter and also had a gallery in the mill. There was a lively arts community that met and worked and socialized in the mill, including the painter Alice Neel who Drogoul met there.

At the mill, Drogoul learned to paint figures and landscapes in oil. While she was learning the craft of art in her hometown, her aesthetic was also being influenced and formed by nearby decaying American fun-land Asbury Park. She spent a lot of time exploring there and frequented the music clubs and gay bars. You can see the thread of fading carnivals and old America run amok throughout the entire span of her work, up to the present day.

One of her earliest performances/installations in Baltimore was a madcap piece called Ha Hay Hay Hamburgers at the first Ad Hoc Fiasco in Wyman Park. The Ad Hocs were high-spirited, anarchic celebrations of art and oddness in the early '80s - subversive and loose, but organized enough to draw outsiders in. Some of the biggest pulsing brains and ids of late 20th century art in Baltimore were launched there. Her piece involved renting and transporting cows and a calf from a man in Hagerstown who normally rented animals out to circuses. She installed the livestock inside a hamburger stand, where they were fed hay as she and an assistant made free hamburgers for the festival crowd. "I love animals," Drogoul says. "I love 'em alive, I love 'em dead."

Miss Construct Demonstrates Simple Domestic Chores from 1990 is another piece that turns American stereotype - this one of the hardworking housewife - into carny sideshow. Dressed in girdle and cinderblock boots, Drogoul chainsawed sticks of butter and beat eggs with a jackhammer.

But for me, the mother of all of Drogoul's amusement park style pieces is Dolly, a giant sculpture of an ominous Kewpie doll, pink with black ice cream dip hair and black toenails. On the back of its neck is a large barcode. It lights up at night and with its outstretched, pudgy baby fingers it becomes a Godzilla of cuteness. Most historians say the modern concept of romantic love began in courtly Europe in the Middle Ages. Dolly is the monster that concept has devolved into - a baby conceived of Elvis' frozen genetic wealth, half a ton of fat liposuctioned and dumped behind a cosmetic surgery clinic in L.A. and a quart of Britney's pill-enriched tears, marinated in the cathode rays of fifty years of TV sitcoms. It is the embodiment of pop culture's neurotic obsession with possessive love. "I love you, I love you" it repeats over and over from its pursed lips. You don't hear it at first because your therapist is talking loudly about self-actualization, but then you can feel the earth vibrate beneath your feet. You turn to see it, but it's too late, a giant pink foot has squashed you and the last thing you see before losing consciousness is the black blur of its barcode as it mechanically reels away pronouncing its love to the next victim.

Drogoul's more contemporary work mainly focuses directly on communication - Eternity through rituals and fellow humans through the olfactory senses. Her 2- channel video installation, Invocation for The Last Full Measure of Devotion (séance for patriots' dreams), at Arlington Art Center invoked the spirits of dead soldiers through the use of every military uniform used in American battles since the Civil War, ritualistic hand movements based on those used in the ceremony of the changing of the guards, a pentagon painted on the ground, and Drogoul singing When You Wish Upon a Star (When your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme/When you wish upon a star as dreamers do).

She also held many séances, including Séance for The Queen of Romania - for Dorothy Parker and invoked the spirit of countless waitresses who worked for one of Baltimore's most beloved old restaurants, Haussners, by re-creating the famous enormous ball of string they wound together over the many years of the restaurant's existence. She found the exact type of string they used for the original and ordered it from the same manufacturer. She also used the same technique, tying small lengths of string together and attaching them to the ball.

Drogoul has also been an acting Ambassador of Smells to Russia and Japan. In Russia she took her Olfactory Factory cards and distributed them to the masses while also blindfolding herself and letting people come up and smell her. She created a Rolling Scentorium in Japan, capturing the smellscape there and collaborating with native artists. I have much more confidence in Drogoul spreading worldwide goodwill through people sniffing her than in any actions by a politician.

In the space allotted me for this essay it's impossible to pay proper homage to the complete universe that Psychic Cosmonaut Drogoul has charted and constructed. A whole book could easily be written on her performances and The 14Karat Cabaret space alone. The Cabaret has been nurturing native and national artists since 1989 - from Eugene Chadbourne and The Magnetic Fields to underground circus acts doing dubious things to their flesh and a Pride of roaring drag queens and kings. Not to mention a classic, creepy ventriloquist act enacting the timeless tale of the dummy wresting control from its master.

Drogoul sometimes even treats the crowds to her own eerie performances, such as Hal IGGG, a cabaret singer embodied as machine, a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey or singing undulating behind a screen wrapped like a giant worm.

Small altars paying respect to the departed among revered world figures who died of AIDS and of local heroes who died way too young - like Peter Pan Zahorecz, Dawn Culbertson, and Mark Harp - line the wall across from the bar. Once, a cigarette girl patrolled the smoke-laden darkness offering assorted snacks and homemade art like paintings done on seashells.

Greeting audience members as they enter is a wildly whirling glow-in-the-dark carrot that will one day spin off into space like the ape's bone in Kubrick's most famous film.

When I asked Drogoul what may be the most important thread linking her work, she replied, "They are all masks. Even the flesh is a mask." A very fitting response for a person who worked for over a decade at A.T. Jones & Sons costume shop on Howard Street. Masks, with their flat emotions, leave room for more paradox and ambiguity. And perhaps Drogoul and her wild, playful menagerie of masks and assemblages, like Fontenelle's work, finally are more subversive to academics and societal constructs through their very act of asking not to be taken seriously.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Andrei Codrescu & Anselm Hollo: Near Brush with Greatness

I'm working on a very subjective, distorted, half-hallucinated history of the Baltimore Poetry or Poetic Underground from 1984 to 2014, the years that have found my corporeal form lodged here. I started a nobody and I remain a nobody, but I started writing homages to beloved friends when they started transmigrating and Chris Mason kept telling me I should put together a book of them. So if this project ever does come to fruition (a wonderful local press has expressed interest in it, but I don't know if it was the formaldehyde I'd slipped in their Boh speaking or not), don't be a hater and say "what right does that low rent pseudo-writer think he's doing writing about other writers?!" Say instead "That Chris Mason is getting a beat down for this."

I'm reading at the Carriage House December 3rd with said Chris Mason and here is a peek at my sordid little book, which I might be reading from. This is kind of an introductory piece that kind of places me within the phantasmagoric world of Baltimore.

Andrei Codrescu & Anselm Hollo: Near Brush with Greatness

When I first moved to Baltimore
the rats scampered in the alley
beside our basement apartment
windows sounding like the world’s
biggest never-ending bar fight in a
bar where everyone had their
vocal cords cut.

My girlfriend I lived with had night
terrors and whenever I returned
late from being out alone her
screams could wake Richard Nixon
in his icy grave. The city crew worked
for over a year on the sewer lines
that went through our backyard and
I’d come home to my porch paintings
spattered with mud and have to
Spiderman my way to the back door.
Often we’d turn the tub on and
nether muck would roil from the spigot.

But we were in love, at least I knew
I was - and I was excited by the
people I was meeting in Baltimore,
mostly through the bookstore I worked at.
“Yes, but what if you break your leg?”
my mother asked.

A precocious young turk who had mocked
my crate of records for store listening when
we first met – John Berndt, initiated a
collaboration with me. I was surprised and
honored. He wore dark clothing and
had been to Europe many times, was
once kicked out of his parents’ home
when they discovered photographs
of glass eyes in anuses.
He ran with the Neoist prankster upstarts,
Art revolutionaries who splashed their
blood on museum walls and
created chairs made of razors and glass.
He was experimenting with electronic sound
and synthesizers and took great photographs.

For our project I read my pieces from
Nightmare Rubber and he had me wear a condom
on my tongue for my story about the deadening
effect of working retail and he added great sounds
like loons and bicycle horns on others.
For the cover of the cassette, which we called
Readings From Nether Lips, I wore a plastic
leopard spotted raincoat, including a pointy
leopard spotted rainhat out in the street
in front of the group house in the neighborhood
where we were not liked.

It was an exciting birth when the tapes were
all done. I proudly placed a few for display
in the bookstore’s rack by the front door
where employees put their own work or
work by admired friends.

A few weeks later, two distinctive gents
ambled through the door as I nursed
a hangover with a can of Jolt.
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein who I was
ingesting heavily at the time:
“To see a poet is to know a poet. To feel
the poetry from within the poet
exude to the world outside the poet.”
But I also probably knew these salty men
from their bookjackets of books I had
shelved, a few I’d even read.
It was Andrei Codrescu and Anselm Hollo,
I had heard tales of their readings and
bar exploits while I was still living near
DC and sending my first poems into the void.
It must have been winter because I
remember them in leather and furs
and esoteric hats. They made guttural
sounds and laughed quietly among themselves.
At one point they stood before the front
display rack and there was silence.
“Nether lips”, I heard Anselm Hollo say,
“Nether Lips”.

At that moment I felt like a poet.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Reading with Chris Mason for Lily Herman's "Ablutions" series at The Carriage House

I'm very excited to have been asked to read with one of my all time Baltimore cultural heroes Chris Mason December 3rd at The Carriage House, where the legendary i.e. readings series took place. We're reading for Lily Herman's new series "Ablutions". It's been quite a while since I've read out and I've got a couple different books going so I'm looking forward to airing some new material and hearing new Chris Mason gems of wisdom and humor.

Here is a link to The Carriage House on Facebook:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Mole Suit Choir On Listen In with Ellen Cherry

Well my momma always told me when I was an ambitious teen writer and musician that she'd only take me serious if I got on the Johnny Carson show - (although she did once say she would pay for me to be on the Gong Show). Sadly Johnny is dead and Jay Leno took a long leisurely dump on his legacy, but last week I got to be on Ellen Cherry's "Listen In" web show with The Mole Suit Choir.

Ellen and her crew are top notch and great hosts. They even had a dog there so it would feel more like our practices at my house with Max nudging our legs to let us know he wants to go the park and hump Pitbulls (he's got a Death Wish, just like his poppa).

Here is the complete 51 minute show - interview and live performance - with four new songs that are post-"Campfire Spacesuit". One, "Bellies Empty, Asylums Full", we'd never played out before. It's brand new and Liz plays her groovy little Loog on it. Then there's our song taken from Bob O'Brien's poem "Increasingly Virtual Worlds", a new song based on Chris Toll's poem "Lonesome Cowboy On the Protein Deprivation Trail" and our big ol' country closer homage to the pharmaceutical Empire, "Pills".

Aunt Gayle Squats - Mole Suit Choir & "Bob's Burger's Merge!!!"

Shades of Mole Suit Choir's "Chronological Poem!"  Could this be an omen that I'm going to meet Amy Sedaris at last??!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rodentine Fever! Big Mole Suit Choir News

(The Mole Suit Choir right before their Fields set.)

(Baynard Woods rubbing elbows with the mayor of Baltimore)

Baynard Woods, the Baltimore City Paper arts editor, member of The Barnyard Sharks and author of Coffin Point has been a great supporter of The Mole Suit Choir almost since our Eimer's organs picked up their first seismic wave vibration. Now he has picked them "Best Country & Folk Band" in the City Paper's Best Of issue of 2014:,0,4471137.story

Also, The Mole Suit Choir will be appearing live on Ellen Cherry TV on Monday, September 29th at 8pm. It can be seen at that time here:

Here is a bon bon of a promo video she shot for our spot:

Check out some of her archived shows on her website if you haven't already. She is herself a fine singer/songwriter and she researches each of her guests in great depth. To such a degree that the Choir is in the grips of The Fear. Watch them live to see if they historically melt down like Nixon versus Kennedy or Farrah Fawcett versus Letterman. Or, hopefully, watch them stand tall and warble clear.

Barrett Warner Wins the 2nd Annual Chris Toll Memorial Chapbook Contest

Monday, July 14, 2014

Final Tendril Waves of Artichoke Haircut at Normal's

In the long distant, burning moss-covered '80s in Baltimore it was extremely rare that anyone got out. Even by the costly route of Death. Those who somehow found themselves here - MICA grads/dropouts, Hopkins grads/dropouts, seekers of cheap rent, those who spent too many long drunken nights at The Marble Bar and forgot how to get back to the suburbs - seemed bound to the grotesquely beautiful streets that often raged.

But in the '90s arts scene that began to change. There was also the old saying "they always come back". That too changed. Gavin the Gelding started up a wonderful small press, publishing Mok Hossfeld's Dona Juana, then loaded up the family and left for Albuquerque. Standing in the parking lot of some faceless housing division as they drove off is a bittersweet moment of heartbreak that will never leave me.

Then Mok Hossfeld, a mainstay of early Shattered Wig Nights, readings at the old Cultured Pearl, co-creator of the BAUhAus, himself left, a toasty crumb after pulling double shifts with Louie's Bookstore and the short-lived Bow Wow House (whose old space the Charles Theater expanded into). Eventually Pappy Mok would come back, but only long enough to say, "No, I'm really gone still." Choosing wild dysentery filled adventures teaching in rural provinces of China over sweating out the grim economy of Baltimore.

Now it is the 21st Century and my head is a near hairless imploding pumpkin and the Baltimore writing scene builds and collapses like a box of marvelous interplanetary snow globes in the hands of a ten foot baby.

Our collective eyes were barely dry from the departure of Adam Robinson, whose dynamic Publishing Genius first sprouted in our strange city, when a final reading date was set by Artichoke Haircut to be held at Normal's. The AH collective, originally (still?) composed of three drunk lads and one drunk lass, graduates of the University of Baltimore, was active for around 4 years and published five volumes of their small well designed perfect bound oblong paperbacks.

Their reading series nights, held at Dionysus, then the Yellow Theater, were warm, energy-filled, receptive bacchanalias. Yes, there was a touch of frat to the readings, but a cosmic frat dedicated to the word and its permutations. And no matter how pickled the readers or crowd or both were, ears and minds stayed focused on the writing.

(Michael Kimball, reading from his brand new book Galaga)

I had a great time reading for them and felt loved, plus I discovered new writers that blew me away like Cort Bledsoe and Lily Herman. Lily escaped Baltimore for a while, but was pulled back in. She has now shaved her head and is working on a stage play with Patty Hearst and Joaquin Phoenix. Cort pretends he has left Baltimore by living in Alexandria, VA, where even bowel movements are strictly regulated and come with an enormous fine if they are not solid.

The final reading was a blast as always. Cort Bledsoe in particular was a lightning rod. Eleanor Levine, a writer who had been published in multiple issues of AH, but whom none of them had ever met, drove down from Philadelphia to read. Slim matinee idol and part time William Faulkner impersonator Michael Kimball read from his brand new book Galaga while fiction writer Timmy Reed moaned and cried out in man crush agony.

It was a treat to finally get to hear Melissa Streat and Justin Sanders, two of the AH editors who are even more shy than Adam Shutz about presenting their own work. Justin did a sharp staccato-paced reading of a short story, based on the "Black Aggy(i.e.?)" horror myth, giving it more sociological resonance. Melissa read two poems, one of them about her father and his lack of borders. Of course I had to corner her outside after the reading to get the lowdown on him. The endless permutations of parental weirdness and parent-child relationships always fascinating for me since it's been said mine might be on the more Addams Family end of the scale.

Also no stranger to emptying a devil-filled bottle is writer Timmy Reed who was the grand finale. He has finished a novel that he read from, but he wanted to only to read to us of the haints in it, not the humans. Here in the photo, thanks to the camera blanking his eyes and his petite frame, he looks like "The Fish Mask Haint of Holly High". I first saw Timmy read at a WORMS night in the beloved Metro space, but he is also an Artichoke Haircut regular and his liver is most likely more swollen than theirs.

I used to see him at many readings butt scooting on floors, swooping like a bat over the stage, peeping through holes in bathroom doors, then I heard his tale of the family waiting on an apocalyptic storm and read his wonderful book Tell God I Don't Exist, which is a big seller at Normal's. Turns out he is also quite the history buff. He spoke at great length on Record Store Day about Anne Frank and the uncensored edition of her diary that came out containing the entries that dealt more with the universal sensual side of a teenage girl. At the Artichoke Haircut finale he dipped a little into Maryland history and how his family fits into it.

Adam Shutz and Melissa Streat will be heading out to Texas in less than a month, Justin Sanders will turn his back on literature and become a maker of virtual reality software, Artichoke Haircut placing a lead hat over its pulsing wig to forever silence transmissions. But the Baltimore stew of a writing scene will continue to simmer with alien spices. Insh'allah!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Adam Shutz Flees, Artichoke Haircut Places Lead Helmet On To Cease Transmissions

My Sears-Roebuck 1960 model heart has been in the shop a lot of late and here is another blow: Adam Shutz, the wry sophisticate who resembles one of the cast from the '70s BBC show "UFO" is deserting Baltimore for even more gun-laden Texas to study with Tim O'Brien. Thusly and thrustly Artichoke Haircut is placing a lead cap over their wig to forever silence transmissions.

Come to Normal's Book & Records tomorrow night at 7:30 to celebrate? vilify? them for their final reading. All star cast of Timmy Reed, Lily Herman, Justin Sanders, Adam Shutz, Cort Bledsoe, and Michael Kimball. Plus! To show what kind understanding word loving folks they are, there are going to be book and drink specials to pry a few dollars from your hemp wallets. Buy a $5 and under book, get a beer, buy something a bit pricier and get a mixed drink. And if you know Artichoke Haircut surely you know they don't drink watered down beverages.

The reading coincides with our poetry section being at a highwater mark. Just got in another batch of great modernist and postmodern work, which I'll be posting about. Charles Olson's Maximus Poems and Pound's Cantos for starters. And some Ron Silliman and Zukofsky. Your body is already hurting from July Baltimore punishment, make your brain hurt also! Show the Art Chokes they're not in a city of mopist non-readers.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Starship Lands In a Clearing

This is my piece for LitMore's "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions", an art show inspired by lines from Chris Toll's poetry. My line was "The Starship Lands In a Clearing".

Friday, June 27, 2014

Now Let Us Finish Up Praising Genius Guy and Return To A Daily Life With Slightly Less Pixie Dust & Baseball

Okay, this final piece, my own fairly corny one, will wrap up Shattered Wig's adieu to Commander Adam Robinson. I mourn (in a reasonable way, knowing he'll be quite happy in Atlanta and how often did I truly get to see him with my own bulging eyes in Baltimore anyway?) not only his leaving, but the end of one of the high-water marks of the Baltimore writing scene (at least in my view/world). Chris Toll and Blaster transmigrated, Bob O'Brien moving, Amy Peterson moving, Adam Shutz of the cocktail-fueld Artichoke Haircut soon to be in Texas.

But Hell, there have been many high-water periods here or at least a lot of highed up folks. The Andrei Codrescu, Anselm Hollo, Joe Carderelli, Sandy Castle, David Footlong Franks in his prime period surely has to be a favorite of many. I came in on the end of that, but I did get to hear Anselm Hollo savor and play with the name of my poetry/sound tape project with John Berndt, "Readings From Nether Lips". I was working in Second Story Books on Greenmount, around 1984, and Hollo and Codrescu came in. There was a little magazine rack by the door and I had placed my tape prominently at top. "Nether Lips", he said, slowly rolling the words off his tongue, "nether lips". That was truly a nice payoff moment for a lowly poet.

Let us now slowly close the glorious rumpled gilt-edged curtain of Adam's period here in Baltimore when Publishing Genius took spark and went from being a little peeping chick to becoming a re-tooled Godzilla whose feet are sticky with the corpses of action heroes.

"Have you seen Adam caper? I swear, he is so light-filled he capers," the Sun remarked to the Moon. "He reminds me of myself, how I dapple the leaves bringing artists and lovers joy. He is at play in the fields of the Lord and the little bit of pale flesh visible above those really long sports socks are quickly reddening from my powers."

"I don't know about him prancing about or what have you," replied the Moon, "but I have seen him bearded and bitching about bottled water in that book of his, the book with the cover that reflects his visage in an acrylic smorgasbord of colors. He is pulled by unseen tides and draws strength from the darkness he escapes into to desecrate statues and rile his soul with strong liquid spirits. In that way he is like me, for I disturb even the great oceans and when I get full so do the emergency wards."

"He passes through things easily," said the Stream. "He brings clarity and refreshment to those he encounters. And just as people don't mind their feet wet passing through me, they don't seem upset when he leaves a little something on their shoes at late night parties or bbq's after softball."

"He quite often pats my logs," said the Beaver. "Like myself he is consistently constructing, the people he encounters are his environmental tools. But he is not graced with my fine protruding teeth."

We interrupt this sagging Nature Trope to let backdoor phrenologist and former cricket impersonator Rupert Wondolowski have a word as he is wheeled out into the hospital courtyard for his daily airing.

"Yes, to fully appreciate the storehouse of creation that is Adam Robinson, we must scale the mighty fortress that is his forehead. Whereas fellow poet and Publishing Genius stablemate Chris Toll had a vast lunar landscape of a head, Adam's forehead rises formidable and imposing as the front of the mighty Alcazar of Segovia. Not grotesquely cone-like or too high up there, nothing that needs to be covered with a stovepipe hat, just an impressive, strong facade that gives notice that great things are formulating behind it.

To not frighten civilians or the weak of mind he often covers it with an old Milwaukee Brewers hat that has been repeatedly trod upon in the mosh pits of Christian Rock concerts. When tiny Mike Young lived in Baltimore he would often curl up into the overturned hat and take naps in it while Mark Cugini took selflies beside it.

What was I speaking of? Adam Robinson? He was very kind to me once, he published a book of my writings. Did you know I was a writer? Why are you turning my chair around? It's such a beautiful day, why is that orderly taking his belt off and giving me that hideous look? Oh what a world, what world!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Now Let Us Praise Genius Guy A Month In His Rearview Mirror, Part 2

A few more goodbyes to Adam Robinson from his writer friends in Baltimore.

ADIEU TO ADAM, BON JOUR TO ANOTHER BALTIMORE SUMMER (a rip-off of Frank O’Hara’s “Adieu to Normal, Bon jour to Joan and Jean-Paul”)

It is 8:50 in Baltimore and I am wondering
if I will finish this in time for the party for Adam who is leaving
ah parties! I think I am going crazy
what with my terrible commute and the weekend coming up
and Joan’s Swedish dance party for Bonnie who is coming back finally
I wish I were coming back from somewhere but I’m glad I’m here
I wish I could get some new writing to come out
for a new book by some new press somewhere
which they will probably not print
but it is good to be up in the study at night
wondering whether you are any good or not
and the only decision you can make is that Frank O’Hara did it so you’ll always have that

yesterday I looked up Oakhurst on a map
and was happy to find it like a bird
flying over Atlanta and its environs
which unfortunately did not include Decatur which I don’t know
as well as a number of other things
and Ian is back bitching about Baltimore a lot
and Bonnie is coming back and might be sad about it
and not everyone can come to Adam’s party
although everyone knows he is leaving
I suspect they are avoiding this fact
well, who isn’t

I wish I were reeling around Atlanta
instead of reeling around Baltimore
I wish I weren’t reeling at all
it is Spring the ice has melted the Yeungling is being poured
we are all happy and aging and counting our teeth
it is the same as old age
the only thing to do is simply continue
is that simple
yes, it is simple because it is the only thing to do
can you do it
yes, you can because it is the only thing to do
blue light over Lake Montebello it continues
Greenmount continues
Club Charles stays open it hardly closes at all
Hampden continues to be aspirational
Stephanie Rawlings Blake continues to attempt to be inspirational as does Obama
and S. Barber continues to be Stephanie
and Mark Cugini continues to be Michael Kimball’s love child
and Jamie Gaughran-Perez continues to be Jamie Perez (I think!)
and Rupert Wondolowski continues to be the king of Baltimore
and so do we (sometimes I think I’m “in love” with Baltimore)
and surely the Harbor continues to have water in it
and Normals continues to have shelves of books and bins of records and people poring over them
and surely we shall not continue to be unhappy
we shall be happy
but we shall continue to be ourselves everything continues to be possible
Lauren Bender, Joe Young, Adam Robinson it is possible isn’t it
I love Adam for saying yes, though I don’t believe it

--Megan McShea



--Stephanie Barber


Dear Adam Robinson,
Do you remember that night we played pool at Frazier’s while they broadcast a replay of the Orioles/Tigers game up on the big screen TV? We both knew the Orioles had lost to the Tigers 7-5 earlier that afternoon, but we couldn’t help rooting for the O’s anyway. In the bottom of the eighth inning, your favorite player JJ Hardy had a one-out single to left field and then the backup catcher Clevenger singled to left too. Schoop struck out swinging, but Lough drew a walk. So the bases were loaded and there were two outs when Markakis stepped into the batter’s box and we wanted to feel hopeful. It seemed like anything could happen even though we knew exactly what would happen. A single probably would have tied the game and an extra base hit probably would have put the O’s up, but Markakis ended the inning again by flying out to centerfield, just as he had earlier that afternoon. The Orioles didn’t even threaten in the ninth and the game was over for the second time for us. You can replay the baseball game as many times as you want, but the final score never changes. What I’m trying to say is exactly the opposite of that: Nothing will be the same after this and I’m hopeful for what that might be.
- - Michael Kimball


Easter Robinson

Can you take me to the bus station? Yes. Put your bags down. I’m afraid I’ll be late. You will. Everyone is boarding group A.
- - Joseph Young

Friday, June 20, 2014

Now Let Us Praise Genius Guy A Month In His Rearview Mirror, Part 1

Dear Diary, can it really be a month since Adam Robinson left us? Since the skies of Baltimore turned gray and creased like a hobo's hat, choked full with squawling ravens? Is there a connection between his desertion and the bull running loose last week on Preston St.? I am neither a Zoologist or a traffic cop, so I cannot say for sure.

Is Atlanta holding him tight against its sweatervest, putting Publishing Genius titles in the front window of all its bookstores, having him sing the National Anthem at Braves games? Does he ever think of us (other than when he is in his room hearing police sirens)?

A month ago we threw a going away party for Adam at Normal's and he did a great extemporaneous history of Publishing Genius and writers that he's published read in the chronological order of when they were published by him. I asked the readers to write an homage piece and I gathered them into tacky pamphlets. Now here they are in glimmering Web Space.

Man, Are You Serious?

I'm not going to take this sitting down
I'm not going to walk this around the block to a car waiting out back
Engine running
Fox, box, mouse, house, not, not, not, etc.
Everyone closes their eyes and then everyone is invisible
Our hearing gets better
We lost track of days and nights
So many unexpected things are all the rage
Keep it going

===Jamie Gaughan-Perez

Something about God in his infinite wisdom
just his wisdom
created the fly, sure
and then forgot to tell us why
-- Macklemore

Would you ever laugh at someone with an
intellectual disability?
What if they were in a physical comedy troupe?
That's different.
What if they didn't know they were in
a physical comedy troupe?
That's when we started laughing.

Adam Robinson, there are no parallels.
Things are still like other things --
everything just like a mowed left field.

-- Lauren Bender

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mail Art Is Alive At Gape House, Wherever That May Be

“You helped to ease the pain!” says the human covered with the bed sheet. “I can not explain, the times I thought I’d end it all, you broke down my door like a wrecking ball.”

So says the back of a postcard from the Yates Keeper of Gape House, located at some undisclosed home in Seattle. About a year ago, Normal’s Bargain Cobbley World started receiving mysterious one sheet cartoon transmissions old school style, via a smiling or scowling or pre-occupied postal carrier.

DJ Shorty II, The Fist Transmission and I were pissed pants happy with these newsletters. For months we got a new one each week - one side with multi-panels of black and white comics and the other side with a full size full color illustration. Frustratingly, they arrived with only a Seattle postmark, no return address. “Damn, I want to send the Yates Keeper my rap sheet,” DJ Shorty would squeal between hacking cig coughs.

Then one day in between vicious elderly suburban swing vinyl lp sellers, we received a surprise phone call. The voice sounded, as Blaster the supreme mail artist would say, “sepulchral”, as if “emanating from the bottom of a jar”.

“Is it really you?!” DJ Shorty said. “We love your drawings! What’s your address so we can send you things?” “I’d prefer at this time not to disclose that,” the anxious youngish sounding lad responded. This did not seem like a prank, it seemed like an extremely private person with a great imagination teetering just short of the magically grotesque (right up my alley) had for some reason become our special angel.

But then, just as mysteriously as they started appearing at great frequency, they completely stopped. The last issue went from perversely dark to past midnight dark. DJ Shorty and I watched the daily mail carrier with great anticipation for weeks. Then we got caught up in daily life, Shorty moving on to a guardpost in the Baltimore penal system. I hobble on knee deep in books, but the knees grow stiff and groany.

The day after Normal’s 24th anniversary, though, in with the bills and inquiries about Black Oak Arkansas lps, there was a hand made postcard of a High Priestess drawn in an unmistakable style: “You say you want to run this town like King Solomon? / The steps you’re taking! Moving up the ladder! / You’ve got the discipline and we are a fan of it.”

The next day brought a leering gent in a Fez, followed by a scary clown, a figure in a sheet hood and then the Magus with a candle in its rack.

The gentle mystery lives. I took the card back to the Blaster sofa where his manual typewriter and soap carvings sit beside it on a milk crate. Pouring half a Schlitz out onto the spotted rug, I leaned the High Priestess up against his pyramid of empty tuna cans.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

tax time couch

tax time couch

when feet mayonnaise
the party under the balls
sprays heavy shower teeth
above the ears
a breath of burnt tin
and rye toast
a chance operation
of wet marks
in this world
at least
a little bit longer
after running a jukehouse
for three years
in Envelope Alley

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gamelan With My Friend Peter

My friend Peter just turned 40 for the third time. He had a piano player at his house for the party and there was a list of songs from which to choose. His mom chose "Book of Love", but it wasn't the "Book of Love" you'd think. At least not the one I thought or she thought. With great aplomb she sang the old too wop classic a cappella. I sang "Psycho Killer" and it helped me vent my party nerves, my feeling that everything that came out of my mouth was a deflated beige beach ball that some fat kid had thrown up on. Sorry fat kid.

I met Peter and his wife Heather through my old friend and bandmate Diana Froley when we were dating. Peter and Heather could make an enchanted kingdom inside a dank Newark, New Jersey warehouse space and wherever they live they find intimate, magic things to do in hidden places that seem to always be waiting for them.

Peter took me with him to the Indonesian Embassy one day to play their gamelan. This happens once a week on Mondays. I expected we'd go there, walk around the instruments, marvel, tinker a bit. Instead a wired Indonesian conductor who seemed very excited to see us, but grew perhaps increasingly, delicately frustrated with a few us, immediately assigned us a part of the gamelan and then explained in broken english a numerical notation song system that he would write up on the chalkboard.

The first song was rather easy and I was filled with glee and warm confidence. The songs splintered as we went along and grew various segments that he would go back and forth to. My eyes frequently met with one of Peter's other friends who was there and had played at least once before.

Various people drifted in as songs were hammered on the dozens of differently sized and toned gongs and it made me incredibly happy to know that this was going on weekly. One man who came late and was assigned to the largest, deepest gong, had been coming to play in the gamelan group for 40 years.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Pills" A Brand New Track From The Mole Suit Choir

With fiddle help from Geff Stiubhairt of The Baltimore String Felons.

Megan McShea Rekindles The Fire of The Ancient Party

Long ago, when hairs gathered around heads, when more than five Baltimore poets would be home from touring or the madhouse at the same time, when Chris Toll and Blaster Al Ackerman still trod the earth like parallel universe Lenin and Marx respectively, when young Adam Robinson and Stephanie Barber still held partiers rapt with their wide-eyed tales of the fur trade in Milwaukee in the 1800's, when Amy Peterson still graced Normal's Books & Records on occasion before her step up into the rarefied world of modern New York and its tony celebrity filled co-ops, oxygen bars and petitions against mopery, before Ric Royer The Theater Lad, was thrown into the pee-stained trunk of a Dodge sedan by seedy barstool bard Gene Grigoritis, his fingers removed one by one over the course of nine days (Ric had already lost one as a child in Disneyland, bitten off by the Alexander Hamilton robot), each digit shearing videoed and posted to Youtube then sent to gadfly Tao Lin, with the thoughtful message "I bet this bitch's finger is bigger than your Johnson you poser" - before the writing scene spun out like the final crunchy tableau of "Fast & Furious XX" and toppled from its glorious peak, many disparate souls united by their weirdness and love of morphological word formation, jarring metaphors/contrasts and sometimes plain old oddball oddness scat goof met up every few weeks to become One Big Mind and Write As One With Many.

Usually within the comfort of Megan McShea's afghan-filled cottage where plump Sugar the cat would brush your ankles, yard sale Latin record finds would spin and Megan and Amy and Bonnie would quietly contend for "Most Raven Haired". Sometimes we would sit out on my ragged third floor balcony back when I lived in the Pego Mansion of St. Paul Street across from the Catholic High School.

(Ancient Party editor Megan McShea with author, artist and legend Al Ackerman in Austin in his post-Baltimore years)

Wherever we met, Blaster Al could be counted on to be there with beer and an anarchic spirit to keep the proceedings moving and not too academic and Megan would stir up the poetry machine gadgets to keep rust from forming.

Many nights after hours of scribbling, cutting up and jabbering the circle would fall briefly silent and someone would say "Hey, where's Lauren Bender? Did she take all the Hazelnut Breadstick Pop Tarts?" And there Lauren would be, stuck up in a ceiling corner, wide possum-eyed like a dollar store mylar valentines balloon temporarily forgotten as the young lovers moved into the love room to drop the needle on some Barry White.

(above - Lauren Bender mooshing Sugar the Cat)

But all things (almost all?) end. Or erode/evolve/mutate. Even though they feel natural as breath and just as rejuvenating as they are going on. Such be our writerly coven meetings. Oh they will still happen somewhere with some of us, but Blaster and Chris Toll are huffing ether and playing prepared harp with John Cage on the astral plane, Adam Robinson independent publishing pinup boy is off to Atlanta, Amy is in New York comforting Laurie Anderson and so on and so on, time marches on.

Luckily, though, Megan hung on to our sheaves of scribbles and pored over them, jiggling the ink until gold nuggets rose to the surface. Not only that, she assembled the best into an actual beautiful book and is throwing a Now Party for The Ancient Party at the Windup Space Sunday April 13, 3pm to 5. Come hear some reading from it, gaze upon it, pry greenbacks from your moneysock to buy for your very own. Here's the Your Face link:

The Ancient Party

Here are a few lines from "The Goofball Oracle" to whet your appetite. The Goofball Oracle exercise was everyone would write random questions and place them in one hat and random answers placed in a second hat. Questions would then be pulled from one hat and random answers from the other.

"Hey, what do you guys think of Pammy's new Bummer?" - "The sound of the louvre covered in mallo-mars."

"Was Lincoln a happy drunk?" - "A neon rose garden at the end of the world."

"How many of you are in there anyway?" - "Love is naturally pungent".

Or perhaps a "One Minute Story", s story written within 60 seconds, will win you over:

The way his skin sat on his frame, his skeleton, the whisper of ribs like an automatic round. I still see this sometimes and feel the recoil. Memory does that, transforming the banal into the fantastic.
- John Eaton

(John "Lucky Charms" Eaton, who has been trapped inside the Zoltar Fortune Teller booth on Coney Island since the last writers group gathering.)

The skeleton dancing across the lawn. The skeleton peeping out from behind the shower curtain. The skeleton in the bread box, smaller than the others, so obviously it was the baby.
- Blaster Al Ackerman

Here is one of the "Biographies". Each writer would write a false biography and then mouth the words to the other writers. Then each person would write down what they were lip reading.

"Mortimer Hadley" - by Megan McShea.

I am Mortimer Hadley. I was born in Challenger, Mississippi, along the shore of the Missouri River where seventeen dogs had recently died of exposure to second-hand smoke. No one really understood this at the time, but it would prove to be a fateful pre-episode to my life as an epidemiologist. I attended the Milton Military Pentecostal School for wayward boys until the 9th grade, when I ran off with my guardian angel and began practicing medicine on unsuspecting rural families. Some of my favorite and locally renowned diagnoses are Pale Ghost Disease, discovered in Fallow Holler in the Ozarks, Hollow Stem Fever, which overwhelmed a colony of rabbits in eastern Kansas, and Haddock Mouth, which infested a flock of tiny angels in my hometown of Challenger.

(Lip reading version by Bonnie Jones of "Mortimer Hadley"):
I am Putpott Riding. I was born in South Beach along the coast of whenever. It was heavenly and moldy. Although it was really strenuous for me in the formative years in Ecology I did my. It was wild but right after I was wasted in my family. Memory of an envelope water. Was a rabbit. Fine, back alley. Jaguar.

Well, to paraphrase Blaster, you don't want to sample too many of these deadly treats at one time. But I will leave you with a ritual, the rules of which were worked out in collaboration. This one was written by myself, Ric Royer, Bonnie Jones and Megan McShea.

How to March Into Jerusalem With Your Battle Dress On, Go On Girl!
1. Receive only the absence, not the presence.
2. Wave and pat pouch cloth. Form leg trumpet.
3. Make it ouchie in the Humvee.
4. Make sure that Kirk notices you by wearing so much makeup you look like a clown and appearing at his big gig at the MTV Music Awards with the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and tell him you're pregnant.
5. Buy a custom fitted mouth guard, the kind for teeth grinding not hockey. Put your head down, groan a little, channel Cormac McCarthy, bend at the knees, wipe that tiny bit of spittle. Rush.

Come join in on the festivities April 13th at the Windup and hoist a glass of something for friendship, collaborations and a Spring much deserved.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Old, White House by Adam Shutz

Old, White House

The house was on fire. I hadn’t brushed my teeth. Mother rushed me up the stairs like it was time for bed. We were followed by grey tails. When she turned in the bedroom doorway, an apse of smoke curved around her and fell as she bent to touch the side of my face. The smoke was from a dream someone else was having. She forced her mouth into a smile. Her eyes wouldn’t do the same.

“Sometimes, things—” She closed her eyes. “It’s just—”

Below us, we could hear the crystal sounds of the fire, the wooden beams of the house expanding and cracking.
“Let’s get your clothes.”

In big armfuls mother grabbed everything inside the dresser drawers and threw them on the bed. The walls of the room murmured. They brought in voices from outside the house, voices which started as shouts on the front lawn and ended as the shadows of sounds humming up the wires behind the walls. Then the air left the room and the color left with it. Across the bed, mother busied herself to leave. The sun behind her, the low light, she appeared translucent in front of the window.

One by one she picked from the pile of clothes a shirt, a pair of pants, folded them on her chest, and neatly placed them in the suitcase open on the bed. When she finally snapped it closed, we were the only things in the room not lost to smoke.

“We’re not coming out yet. I’m not coming out.” Mother tripped as she made her way to the bay window. She had begun to shut her eyes.

I wasn’t there. Mother didn’t want them to know I was there. “You’ll have to wait. It ain’t time,” which she said more to herself than to the men outside, who were grumbling at the walls of our house. From the center of the living room, away from the window–mother warned me from the window, told me, “Nothing good will come of looking”–I saw fifty men if there were five, each identical to the next, faces melting in rage, raising their arms in violent fits, threatening the house with shotguns and signs and rocks.

And, there, just behind them, in a line near the crumbling road, were their women, wives and daughters, old and young, motionless and entranced by the violent gestures of the men: a calm, flat sea behind the breaking waves. I wanted to say that I knew at least a couple of the men from town, but couldn’t. They were lost in fits, blurred as if in passing.

Mother was hunched over. She was breathing heavy from one room to the next, passing with arms full—albums and frames and fetishes and fruit—going one way, then carrying another pile, going the other. Outside, the men became dull in the fading sun. Their outlines only hinted at by the light of the fire spreading from the garage to the roof and down the sides of our house.

It was nearing dark. I was hungry. When we first heard the shots on the front lawn, mother was in the kitchen making dinner. The sounds of the gun must have made her remember something. She said, “You’re father… he’ll be late tonight. We’ll have to eat without him.” Then the fire started.

She picked up the suitcase, said I’d have to wait in the cellar for father, smiled again, and looked to her feet for things that had fallen. The smell of supper’s chili was still in the air. Before we made it to the basement steps, the sofa was in flames.

​“Hold your breath,” mother said, as she placed me and my suitcase in with the furnace and handed me a wet cloth to hold to my mouth. When I did she looked angry, grabbed the cloth and tied it around my head.

When mother said goodbye and closed the door to the closet, I laid my head against the cold furnace to hear the cracking of the fire through the air ducts. Inside, there was a language to the embers, a chattering logic of the wind and the wood. I tried to make out what they had to say. When she left I listened to her, to mother, to her steps, their simple rhythm like something on high melting and dripping onto a hollow log. As she reached the top, she turned on the cellar light. The closet remained dark. I watched the smoke seep under the door, a slow, grey cloud lit with an orange center of light. Somewhere in the cloud the planet began to fall away.

​I remember someone saying, “It’s a kind of boy.” That was the first thing I heard.

A man in a fireman’s hat pushed the metal and wooden debris off me. They were black like I was black and everything was wet with ash. Above the man in the hardhat I could see clear through the ceiling, past the smoke slated with light, to a sky bright and clear and blue. ​

Another man in a hardhat, but in a different uniform, pulled me from the furnace and carried me through the cellar door to the driveway. Most of the house was gone. What was left was crooked. Around the driveway were vans and trucks and many more men in hardhats, some in uniforms, others in jeans. To each side of the driveway was a small crowd, smaller and far less menacing than the day before. They wore different faces. They stood different and acted different and were hushed. When the crowd noticed me in the hardhatted man’s arms, what little sound there was fell silent. The scene was softly alive with the grumbling sounds of engines and the terminal type of whisper. One in the crowd pointed and looked surprised. He said something to the man next to him who turned and darkened his face. I cowered into the hardhatted man’s chest and tried to rid myself of his dark look.

I was in the open air. I wanted to be back were my mother put me to be safe, back where it was dark and sleepy and cool against the metal furnace. I didn’t want the crowd to see that I couldn’t hide as well as my mother wanted. ​

The hardhatted man placed me in a gurney in the back of an ambulance, strung a plastic mask around my head, gave me a deep, knotted look, then closed the door. Through the ambulance walls, I could hear the muffled voices of the crowd grow and speculate. They spoke about me, about my house, about my mother, but what they meant I couldn’t tell. I tried to hide myself in the corner of the gurney because I couldn’t tell. After a moment, the ambulance’s engine started. The siren bleeped and stopped and we began to move. From the small window in the ambulance’s back door, I could see a wisp of smoke rising from my house into the sky, over the heads of the crowd, over the vans in the driveway and the fire trucks and police cars, over the road and mailboxes and the neighbors’ houses, over the trees and the sign for Last Stop Tavern, over the overpass and the cars on the overpass, over more trees and roofs and over the green ridges of the hills. Over the hospital gate and doctors’ faces and smiling nurses. Over the television I couldn’t turn off and the machines that beeped and hinted I was alive. Over the grey-suited man who took me from the hospital a week later. Over Belington. Over West Virginia. Over Clair who spoke in a soft voice and kept me in the old, white house for years after. Over the woman that pretended to be my mother. Over my mother. Over the noise of the crowd that gathered at night on the lawn of the old, white house.

Adam Shutz is the editor of "Artichoke Haircut." Adam Shutz once had a dog. Adam Shutz once collected snow. Adam Shutz now collects water and snow and sometimes ice. He doesn't like to collect water, that happens by default. Tragic.