Saturday, 28 June 2008

Cherrypicked Hands #1

Well, here it is, everybody! Please give a warm round of applause for the first-ever issue of Cherrypicked Hands! Hurrah!

I hope you enjoy reading it, whoever you are. If you do, or if you don't, I would love it more than crisps if you would leave a comment about what you thought of it. I know we live in a busy world, and you, like me, are busy people, but it would give me something to read, and it would be interesting. I am in dire need of something to read at the moment. You lucky people out there, on the other hand, already have something to read. I have already read it. It's called Cherrypicked Hands, and this is the first-ever issue. Hurrah!

I must say I was terribly impressed by the quality of some of the submissions I received. I also received some that I didn't like at all, but that is only to be expected. My only gripe is that I didn't receive much prose. This, people, is bad. Send me some prose! Short and strange and beautiful stories is what I want. Send me them! Also, not to make poetry feel left out, send me some of that too. I am now accepting submissions for the next issue. I will also be rejecting some as well. Such is life. And please don't forget the laziness-inspired changes to the submission guidelines, which are detailed somewhere below this, in a different post.

My plan was to write a nice editorial introduction to the issue, but not for the first time in my life, I am not sure what to say. What do people write about in editorials, anyway? I don't know. I have no interest in politics or the current worldwide situation, so I will talk about the weather instead. So: the weather's pretty drab at the moment. (I am in England, by the way.) It's summer, but the skies are grey. It rained like a trooper a few nights ago, and one of my windows leaked. Not much, though, so don't you worry. I am safe and sound. Me and my lady kept nice and warm inside. We had the old stove crackling, and we were listening to Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. It was nice. The theme was "Laughing," and it was a good show. Bob Dylan is a funny man. I like him very much.

That's all I've got to say, really. I will not take up any more of your valuable time. As I've said before, we are all busy people. Instead, I will let the first-ever issue of Cherrypicked Hands (hurrah!) do the talking. I sincerely hope you like what it says.

All the best,

Greg.



THE MILLION-DOLLAR BET
by Michael Kechula



“You’re all late again!” I hollered. “Don’t you understand what’s at stake here? You act like you don’t care. I’m sick of the lot of you. Now get to work!”

Twenty monkeys put fingers in their ears and stuck out their tongues. Ingrates. If it wasn’t for me, they’d still be chomping moldy bananas and swinging from their tails on Kong Island.

“Look. I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. But guys, time is of the essence. Nine years and forty weeks have passed. We only have twelve weeks left to win the bet. If I lose, I’ll hafta declare bankruptcy and send you back to the jungle.”

My words struck home. Hundreds of typewriter keys began to clatter. Walking around the tables, I leaned over here and there to view the results.

“Hey, you, Monkey A! Stop doing somersaults. Get back on those keys and get dancing. Double time!”

Instead of pressing individual keys, the jerk brought his rear paws down hard, causing three type slugs to lock near the paper.

“Look, if you don’t get yourself squared away, you won’t get a frozen, chocolate-covered banana during your smoke break.” His face fell. He stopped goofing off and got back to work.

“What’s the problem, Monkey B? Why are you turning in circles? I know you got the hots for Monkey E, but stop showing off and restrict your love life to your own time. I’m paying top dollar here, and I expect results. If you can’t concentrate on your work, there’s a bunch of unemployed monkeys who’re eager to take your place. So, get your grimy paws positioned properly on the keyboard and start pressing keys.”

It was time to check the room next door where twenty additional monkeys wearing reading glasses poured over copies of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” All had their noses buried in the books. Good. They were a more serious bunch.

After lunch, they’d rotate to the typewriters. And those now on the typewriters would put on glasses, and spend the rest of the day staring at the books. Hopefully, through osmosis, they’d produce a masterpiece.

Many scoffed when I hired this bunch twelve years ago. I’d heard the old saying, that if you put enough monkeys long enough on keyboards, they’d eventually produce a Shakespearean play. I set out to prove it. After they pulled it off, I’d write a book about monkeys, typewriters, random keystrokes, and creativity. Figured it’d make millions.

I brought them here, provided food, housing, and clothing, and gave them weekly paychecks. I did everything possible to integrate them into society. Then I personally trained them to mount typewriters and press keys with all fours. Consequently, at any given time during an eight-hour shift, 80 paws pressed keys. I figured every passing day increased the odds in my favor.

Day after day, they pranced across keyboards, while I painstakingly checked results. I’d cut and paste from one sheet to another. They seemed light-years away from randomly producing a new play in the Shakespearean manner. However, during year three, and after organizing countless pages of their handiwork, they came somewhat close to producing a sonnet.

In the fifth year, using scissors and a ton of scotch tape, I was able to piece together a 950-word short story. Unfortunately, it didn’t read anything like Shakespearean prose. It was more like something Hemingway would have written in his waning days. But it was good enough to capture first prize in a detective story contest.

The CEO of General International Corporation read about the award in the New York Times. The article mentioned my intention to have a bunch of monkeys randomly type out a new Shakespeare play. The CEO bet me a million dollars the monkeys couldn’t pull it off in ten years. I accepted the bet.

Nine years and forty weeks passed without any significant results, except for the small piece they produced for a Faux Faulkner contest. That one got honorable mention. With only twelve weeks remaining, I was overcome with anxiety. I drove them harder, increasing their workday to twelve hours. For the thousandth time I explained what was at stake. That’s when a labor organizer convinced the monkeys to go on strike for more chocolate-covered bananas and a 35-hour week. We worked out a compromise on the banana issue, but they wouldn’t budge on the shorter workweek.

Then came my interview with BBC. I explained management’s position about the strike with logic and reason. When that BBC segment flashed around the world, amazing things happened. Millions of sympathetic monkeys found typewriters and began to pound them 24/7. By the end of the first week, I was flooded with tons of genuine monkey-typed pages.

On the final day of the bet, while skimming through three tons of that day’s mail, I ran across something that knocked my eyes out: a hundred-page manuscript randomly typed by a squirrel monkey from North Zamboozia. When I read the very first sentence, I knew my problems were over. “Forsooth, friend Glavio, and you also, fair of face Scarpio.”

The monkey had named it “Hamlet and Egglet.”

The play is still running on Broadway and the London Stage. Next year, a movie musical version will be released. I’ve made such a killing I don’t have to bother writing a book.

Meanwhile, I rewarded the Shakespearean monkey with his own private jungle loaded with amenities and eager females.

Oxford offered him a full professorship and a trainload of manual typewriters. Time magazine made him Man of the Year. There’s talk about a Nobel Prize.

As for my original batch of monkeys…they’re still on strike.



Michael A. Kechula is a retired technical writer. I hope he is enjoying his retirement. His flash and micro-fiction tales have won first place in seven contests and second and third place in four others. His stories have appeared in 104 online and print magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at www. BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com. Paperback available at www. amazon.com.




NIGHT FORGERY
by Tom Sheehan


Just before dawn
a shadow makes tracks
in the dew‑lit grass.

Later, a whisper
and a scent follow
the forsaken imprints.

Not a leaf stirs,
but if I watch closely,
blades of grass ease upright,

a loam granule
is released to airs
staggering under stars,

and the whisper, vague,
is familiar, perhaps stripped
from gists of old conversations.

Years ago,
at a Red Sox game, I
became separated from my father.

All the goblins
of young creation hung over
my hysteria, poked at my terror.

When he found me,
pawed, frayed, diminished,
he said he'd never leave me again.

This soft forging
in the night grass
is a kept word, a vow.



CABOT TRAIL LIAISON
by Tom Sheehan


In a blue nightdress a woman
leans on a Cape Bretton porch,
steaming coffee cup in one hand,
the other hand shading her eyes.

She survives fog and heights,
a buoy bell out and beyond,
what night has left behind,
what debris waves wash up.

Passing by, we acknowledge
her steep privacy, then note,
not yet connected, a pale lone
sunflower leaning with her.


Tom Sheehan’s Epic Cures (short stories), won a 2006 IPPY Award. A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press, was nominated for Albrend Memoir Award. He has nine Pushcart and three Million Writer nominations, a Noted Story nomination, a Silver Rose Award from ART and the Georges Simenon Award for Excellence in Fiction. He served in the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951-52. He has published four novels, four books of poetry. He meets again soon for a lunch/gab session with pals, the ROMEOs, Retired Old Men Eating Out, (92/80/79/78). They’ve co-edited two books on their hometown of Saugus, MA, sold 3500 to date of 4500 printed and he can hardly wait to see them. His pals will each have one martini, he’ll have three beers, and the waitress will shine on them. I hope he has a good time; but don't get too drunk, Tom.




BUTTERFLIES
by Danny P. Barbare


As
if
a
flower
has
wings

how
butterflies
bloom
in
spring.


Danny P. Barbare is only 3-years-old and lives in Iceland with his father, Henrik. He is the author of numerous books, including "Life With Henrik," which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He didn't tell me anything about himself, so I had to make a biography up for him. I hope he doesn't mind.




UNRELIABLE WITNESS
by Simon Philbrook


when i was at college
learning history, made up by historians,
yearning to get laid
more often than
just a drunken friday fumble,i lived above a chippy,

hippy curtains said student digs
pig of a landlord
lorded it over us
for weekly rent,
half spent in midweek pub-crawls,

my innocence was befriended
by the local toms,
how wrong we are
about people,

my obvious unskilled need
made me appealing,
and their revealing outfits
were
hard
to ignore,

they joked about
how crap
i would be in bed
if i ever got there,
"teach you a thing or two
big boy!!!!"
they laughed

and i made friends with kylie,
younger than me
but knew more history
than dusty books,
one look at a punter
told her
what sort of cunt he was,

kylie (not her real name)
walked the mile
that was the Derby Road,
fat bald pimp
too wimpy to protect her
when she got done over one night,

pigs were curb crawling
drooling and fawning over scanty flesh
and happened to mesh
the fucker
who fucked her
up,

middle class, middle aged, magistrate
instead of castrating him
threw it out
of court
of course -

unreliable witness.


Simon Philbrook is a bit dull, really. He has spent the last 16 years working in the care industry. He is right-handed, but left-footed. He likes Sainsbury's potato chips. I hope he has a packet right now, and is eating them as he reads this. This, would you believe, is his first submission ever.




VARIATION ON A THEME BY GERTRUDE STEIN
by William Doreski


Basset to beagle to bison—
the alphabetic creatures baa,
bawl, and bray. Town election
today. Dollars waltz in the street.
Ballots fluster in sweaty grip.
I expect to solve the morning
by dissolving it into noon,
the way Emily Dickinson did.
By then I hope the town fathers
have become town mothers. I hope
the wind has discouraged blackflies
so I can come home from the vote
and peel the dressing from my garden
and grub in its manured wounds
without being boned and filleted
by those tiny winged ellipses.
Then as the afternoon undresses
with that sluttish dedication
I expect to delve indoors
and fuel my ardor with bourbon
and a crackle of crackers and cheese.
Alas, I’ve no Virgil Thompson
recordings to wrestle my ears,
but Copeland and John Adams
will suffice. Bassett to beagle—
an everyday canine password.
To bison? A trick of the light.
The human sheep baa to vote
Republican, bawl and bray
to vote Democrat. Not one
independent or communist,
no third-party strong enough
to brace against the northeast wind.
The ballots are moth-winged, drawn
to fire. Filling the circles black
suggests I’m sketching blackflies
to honor the authentic ones,
but my blood cries in protest
that sometimes a vote’s just a vote
and the braying, bawling, and baaing
of the electorate requires
the mockery of self-respect.



TWO OF YOU
by William Doreski


I photograph you smirking
at a paper plate of barbecue.
But the crisp digital image
reveals two of you, the second
frowning in disapproval.

Your ghost? Your soul? We agree
there’s no such spiritual entity,
certainly not a bodily
duplicate. Yet this effect
doesn’t look camera-created

but feels authentic to the eye.
And the clothing differs. You
eating pork wear a pleated
yellow blouse, while you frowning
wear a plain blue shirt with

collar severely buttoned.
Should we ask a priest or rabbi
what this doppelganger intends?
The May evening undresses
slowly, a glimpse of tulip,

a whiff of crabapple blossom,
the church-picnic couples plain
old Americans nodding
over the mildest conversations—
no religion, no politics, no….

I should photograph you again
and see if your double remains
at your side, but we’re afraid
to discuss such disembodiments
even when they have the nerve

to assume a bodily form,
and we’ve these plates of barbecue
to eat, greasy ribs shining
and tender as if gladly
coughed up by the one great hog.


William Doreski’s most recent collection of poetry is Another Ice Age (2007). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge. He can now add Cherrypicked Hands to that list, which I am very pleased about. I hope he is too.




RED SHOES
by David McLean


i never had red shoes so angels
weren't interested in them, but devils
liked my tattered raincoat, like daddy's
got a brand-new second-hand bag
and it's broken and smoky

he's going to groove it
never, and all night long
but the red shoes never
belonged to me maybe
i need some -

shoes like blood and mourning,
like nasty boxes with memories in


David McLean has a couple of chapbooks out, one a free download at Whyvandalism.com. He has a full length poetry collection forthcoming at Whistling Shade Press in May or June 2008. A second full length collection is due from d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t press this fall. See www.deadbeatpress.com. He regularly writes poetry and music reviews for Clockwise Cat. There are around 500 poems now in, or forthcoming in, around 220 magazines online and/or in print. Details are at his blog at htpp://mourningabortion.blogspot.com. He is a good man.



THE TIME ACCOUNTANT
by Pablo Vision


The cruel twists of time are like a sickening trip on the most hellish roller coaster ride known to man. Those tedious and torturous dragged out moments of life (like four-hours queuing for a three minute thrill): double Latin with Fart-Breath Jones going on and on and on, ad nauseam – whilst the sun and the smells of summer torment through a window that is too small for escape, and too high-up to gaze out of; or the endless boardroom meeting where some ugly self-satisfied prick of a chief executive explains how we are all sharing the same vision, all part of a winning team – whilst your finger nails dig deep into your skin, to stop you screaming, crying or hitting someone, but unable to stop your mind musing on what kind of low self-esteem would allow you to delude yourself you were part of the same team, when the born-lucky bastard who is doing this motivational talking is on ten times your salary; or the wait for the appointment to see if that treacherous lump residing in your wife’s tit will change both your lives in a way that does not bare thinking about, but, think you do – compassionate, loving, supportive thoughts battling with the selfish, the horrific, and the cowardly – thoughts that will remove any delusions you had about yourself that you were anything other than a self-centred bastard with the morality of a snake – yes, even when resolved to stand by her through this thing you have already allowed that some future affair with a more conventionally breasted woman would be perfectly understandable, in these circumstances. Time twists like a fucking serpent then.

And then it can be like the freefall drop – and you are only aware that things must have happened after the event: the plane landing in some exotic paradise that you have saved up all year to get to, and the days falling from your life like holiday-turds hitting the pan, and then the plane departing the same runway, taking you back to captivity; or days, weeks, years of lust for this other woman, spilled in three minutes of impassioned thrusting, and the emptiness and the guilt stretching across the tangled sheets and flesh – flesh that now seems much the same as any other flesh; or the face in the mirror that has aged twenty years overnight, as much in the creases of the skin and greying of the hair, as in the dullness of the eyes that signifies a life prematurely extinguished by routine – where, oh fucking where, did I go to, and when did this half-death happen to me, and how could I not fucking notice?

Maths and numbers. Forty-one years old: more than half my life, probably. And what use will the years after seventy be? Sixty? How much time spent prostituting some sellable commodity that I find myself blessed or cursed with – brains, labour, or just the acquiescence to take it up the shitter daily from some overfed puppet controlled by the faceless and relentless will of shareholders? There is only one kind of whore that I have any kind of disdain for – those who suffer some kind of delusion that it is not degrading to live this life of evolved slavery – those who think that the collar and tie are not the same as a ball and chain – those whose lack of honesty, and lack of self-respect, would make this most insidious form of prostitution something to aspire to, and to pimp their children to. How much time spent in schools – where talent and originality are despised as non-conducive to the slavery for which you are being conditioned to?

Surely the debits should equal the credits, the hardship equal the gains, or, at the very least, something other than debt as payment for this violent and frequent shafting? Live this life and you are the most desperate and the most pathetic of all the pimped whores, so totally dependant on the car and the TV and the house that you have no choice but to take it anyway it comes, day after fucking day, and year after fucking year. But where is my reward for all this shit? And who is going to audit my life and find out that I have been conned and short-changed? Maybe I should call the Time Accountant, because, in a life that is purely transactional, the credits and debits must balance.


Pablo Vision occasionally updates http://pablovision.blogspot.com/ with obscenity, blasphemy, links to recently published work, information about stuff in print, and, somewhat bizarrely, stories about himself. He has remained faithful to the same woman for a number of years, but is always eager to test his resolve in this matter with attractive gothic girls. What a slut, Pablo.




PROBLEM SOLVING
by Stacy L. Welch
One of the most
intelligent strategies of living
is to not over-stimulate
a problem.
Rather under-stimulate it
until it feels neglected enough
to go away.

Stacy Lynn Welch is a 34 year old Poet with a Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law, as well as a B.S. in Psychology with a Minor in English from Southern Illinois University -Edwardsville. Currently she resides in Kansas City, Missouri, yet has known several States to be her home which she claims she hasn't found yet. She has been writing since able to hold a writing utensil and also utilizes MySpace for Poetry Postings, under the name of Trixy athttp://home.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user or www.myspace.com/trixareforrabbits. She was a bit nervous about writing her first autobiography, but I think we'd all agree she's done a very fine job indeed.
SHORTS
by Richard Wink
i.
The drummers of Japan
Hammer a beat
Johann Strauss
Sends me to sleep

ii.
What point is there for building barricades?

Open your cakehole
And let out
A few words of forgiveness

iii.
Exuberant drinking
Romantic entanglement
Broken bottles
Floating beds
and still my toe keeps tapping


96.8%
by Richard Wink

Cabinets crammed full of damaged goods
Knife wielding banshees hid by neon hoods
Tesco value ready meals
Waiting to be eaten
By pie faced cretins
Drunk on Lennon

Street Art
Creates spray paint millionaires
Men who scrawl lewd words
On toilet cubicle walls

Uneasy institutions
Aren’t the only way to freeze
Thousands and thousands
Search for the same key defiantly
When the door has already been kicked in
Richard Wink (a name, not a command) is a writer based in Norwich, England. His latest chapbook "Apple Road" is out now via Trainwreck Press. I hope he will forgive me for making a joke about his name. Richard, wink!
ODIN’S OOPS
by Kenneth Pobo

Having no neighbors helps keep
Icelanders happy. In Valhalla,
gods live too close. Our magic trips

each other up. My hothead son Thor
tosses lightning bolts like potato chips
into a waste basket. I’m known

in many galaxies for wisdom.
It’s not bragging. What have you given
an eye for? But I fuck up. I told

a single Icelandic mom to marry.
She wed a dope who craves vodka
and Internet surfing. Sex was a time

killer after shut down. “Odin,” she said,
“He’s creepy, picks his toenails,
farts when soup’s on. I’m divorcing him.

No hard feelings. He can keep the computer.
We shook hands and he went
to the hot springs.” I’ve learned my lesson—

no more family values. Did my
one eye go blind for a moment?
Whatever. Time to help clean the palace.


Kenneth Pobo has a new book of poems forthcoming in July 2008 from WordTech Press called Glass Garden. His work appears in: Orbis, Indiana Review, 2River View, Crannog, The Fiddlehead, Forpoetry.com, and elsewhere. Catch Ken’s radio show, “Obscure Oldies,” from 6-8pm EST on Saturdays at WDNR.com. He teaches Creative Writing and English at Widener University in Pennsylvania. The University was quite narrow at first, but not since Kenneth's been there. Widen A University. Ha ha.
KEY WORDS
by Matt Roberts

Adventure
Beatles
Books
Buddha
Connections
Deep
Explorer
Generosity
Good friends
Hope
Infectious laughter
Karma
Love
Music
Pacifist
Peace
Poems
Silly
Sushi
Travel
Truth

…She’s my girl.


E-MAIL TO A FRIEND
by Matt Roberts

Before my beautiful travels,
And before my higher education
We used to hang out didn’t we?
We used to have a great time.
Remember that horrid thing we did?
The memory of the look on her face
Still stays with me.
Anyway lets not talk about that.

Things were little and fun back then
But things are bigger and better now.
My mind sometimes goes back to the village
Where we drank, played cards and drove.
This time of year, this time of day
The city sometimes gets me down.
So what you up to now?
Where you been? What and when?

My life is so much better now
Met so many different people
Had so much more better times.
But anyway keep in touch.
Got a small place, so you can’t come round.
Going to say this now
But only because I have to,
Wish you were here.
Matt Roberts is from the Yorkshire Dales, in England, where I went on holiday a few months ago. It rained, but that was nothing to do with Matt. He is 30-years-old and teaches English in Seoul. It has made his day that I have used his poems, and I am very pleased for him. All the best, Matt.
TALK THAT CRAZY TALK
by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

They talk all that crazy talk. Don’t they know how stupid they sound when they talk like that to intelligent people like me? I should not be wasting my time in this place. I have a suitcase of cocaine back in my house I need to see about. I have pot plants that reach the sky in my four thousand acre ranch out in the hills. I have refrigerators keeping my beers cold in every room of the house. Why do I have to stay here and listen to fools who say that is no way to live? I was born to be high. The stuff I get in this place makes me sleep and shit my pants. If my drugs of choice are evil, they are heaven compared to the drugs my doctor has me on. I just want to go home before my girl finishes up all my beers. She does not like the cocaine, which is good. And pot makes her evil. She told me she was going to sell my plants and leave me.

I have to get out of this place. I don’t want to be clean and sober. That’s no way to love for me. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I just want to live it up. The doctor just told me I will be here for a whole month. He said I have no safe plan for living. I was not born to play things the safe way. I’m a thorn, baby. I’m a match head ready to light a fuse. This medication gives me the low down blues. It makes me feel so crazy.

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal’s chapbook, Keepers Of Silence, came out on December 20, 2007, from Kendra Steiner Editions. Luis was born in Mexico. He works in the mental health field in Los Angeles, CA. His first book of poems, Raw Materials, was published by Pygmy Forest Press. His first chapbook, Without Peace, was published by Kendra Steiner Editions. His next chapbook, Next Exit, will be the 100th chapbook published by Kendra Steiner Editions and will be co-authored by poet Ronald Baatz. I have tried to pronounce his name, but I can't do it. I call him "Loo."
SLEEP RITUALS
by Howie Good
Tonight, like most nights, she goes to bed first, and he stays up to test the machine, standing where the light is good and no one can see him from the street. He pops off the lid using gentle thumb pressure. Inside, heating coils glow like the ribs of a starving dog, God rolls dice that have no spots, a mare with a burning mane screams in terror. He bends at the waist for a closer look. After a moment’s argument with himself, he plunges his hand into the smoke. It feels cold, and a spider-web of scaffolding begins to rise around the dark castle of a line of mad kings. He weeps as if it were his own heart he was dismantling. Soon he’ll be tired enough to sleep, and when she awakes before the alarm, the dawn will be full of birdsong and the birdsong, as sometimes happens, full of primitive grief.
Howie Good (goodh@newpaltz.edu), a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of four poetry chapbooks, Death of the Frog Prince (2004) and Heartland (2007) from FootHills Publishing, Strangers & Angels (2007) from Scintillating Publications, and the forthcoming The News at 11 from Right Hand Pointing. His name sounds like a question whose answer would be: "No, we're bad." Sorry, but that's the only slightly humorous thing I can think of to say.