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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Four Pieces
by Tom Fugalli
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Eugene de Oregon's Mozart-Sequoia

Eugene Rhubarb Periwinkle had never been west of Indiana. Nevertheless, the Pacific Northwest seemed familiar enough, what with its shafts of majestic moisture and musty indolence, as if it had long ago left a high watermark on the collective unconsciousness of himself and others like him: the Teaching-English-As-An-Aquatic-Language breed of brigands and highway hustlers. So when Eugene got word that his next assignment would be in Oregon, where it was becoming increasingly necessary to speak English Aquatically, he immediately began trilling his R's like a porpoise with a purpose.
     Unfortunately, before departing, he was summoned as a telephone standby juror for all courts in Queens, N.Y. His code letter and number was R1622. Each day he punched in his code, and was told he did not have to report to court the next day, but would have to call again tomorrow for the following day's instructions. In this mundane manner his dream of the Oregon flora and fauna -- which he had affectionately termed his own personal "Mozart-Sequoia" -- was washed out.
But Fate soon intervened, arriving in the classic form of a weathered, wasted bitch. Eugene was forced to abandon re-reading a piece of direct mail that had proposed: 4 Questions You Should Ask About A Vacuum (1. Is it powerful? 2. Is it hypo-allergenic? 3. Is it easy to pick up? 4. How long will it last?). They had a lengthy exchange, Fate and Eugene, the essence of which was:
     FATE: Flippers! Snorkel! Goggles!
     EUGENE: O pert and nimble spirit.
     In this way they found themselves on the same page. The anticipated units of time passed. Eugene had a nice teaching experience. In a fit of hysteria he sent a postcard to his dead grandfather, scrawled with the words: "Now THAT'S highway robbery!" But he did not mention Smarty Pants. Smarty Pants was the girl he met one day in the reeds, who was furious that they needed to recruit somebody from out of state to orchestrate their local linguistics. Eugene looked at her with all of his eyes and said, "I'm just a man." Smarty Pants replied, "Everybody calls me Smarty Pants, but you can just call me¾Pants."
     A season in the sun ensued (followed by a protracted nuclear winter). Hunters sat stiff in the snow, pondering their frozen decoys and the overall absence of anything ducky. Children were called in earlier and earlier for dinner, until it had to be admitted that it was lunch being prepared after all, and it was clear in their mothers' minds that lunch was to be a nasty affair. Paperboys turned bad and started their own publication, The Dark Times, in the basement of the church. Girl Scouts started singling out the old and the sick and the weak and the queer. The name Eugene Rhubarb Periwinkle was uttered in unclear but suspect contexts. One day Smarty Pants wore a dress and disappeared. Predictably, whales began beaching themselves on the Oregon shore, clicking and popping throughout the inarticulate night.


This is a Final Disconnection Notice

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Event will take place promptly.* Analog clocks are forbidden. As are hourglasses and sundials. As are Foreign maps. Such items will be confiscated upon discovery (dogs, informers, frisking). Any talk of Time Zones will result in immediate disqualification. All valid Participants are to entertain themselves until hearing the sound of Something being unleashed. Participants will be asked if they hear the sound of Something being unleashed. "Do you hear the sound of Something being unleashed?" will be the exact wording of the question, in its entirety. There will be no alterations to this question in any Sound or Sense. Translations from English into any other language, living, dead, or future, including all dialects, Computer languages, nonverbal speech acts, malingered mimetic neural net semantic synapse simulacra (i.e. Poems), are prohibited. Once the aforementioned question has been asked, Wagers will be permitted as to the identity of the Something being unleashed. The Something to be unleashed will hereafter be referred to as a NaughtNiteä . A NaughtNiteä is to be defined as any object, idea, thought, feeling, individual, pharmaceutical, projection from within, reflection from without, or Other. All Wagers are to be made in U.S. currency. The Susan B. Anthony will not be honored. Upon completion of the final Wager, all Participants are to begin guessing really hard what it is. What is being unleashed, is. What the NaughtNiteä , is. What the is, is. In no event will the Creator of the NaughtNiteä be liable to any Participant for any damages, including any lost profits, lost savings, lost lives, or other incidental, consequential, or special damages arising out of the understanding of, or inability to understand, the NaughtNiteä , even if the Creator has been advised of the possibility of such damages. The Creator represents and unconditionally guarantees to each Participant that any NaughtNiteä information and implication will remain confidential and will not be used in any way without prior approval from the Participant. Participants believing they have guessed correctly are to report to the genetic engineering Specialist of the maternity ward. I mean the maternity ward of the genetic engineering Specialist. I gene the ward of the mean maternity engineering Specialist-

     In the event of rain
     kindly take
     the seaweed
     off the weathervane


The following poem originally appeared in the April 1999 issue of 12th Planet.

A New Translation from the Greek

I don't know what she's singing (the naked woman who climbs through my window). It's a foreign song possessing words that to myself are pleasing.
     The shower turns on and I turn to my wife sleeping beside me, her legs crossed beneath the covers. Something is rapidly becoming partially clear.
     The odyssey across the room is not really interesting. The cold floor stretches out in all directions like a cadaver's smirk and much time is lost deciding where to place my boat-sized feet.
     As I move past the closet it seems my wife's shoes are arranged in such a way as to suggest bemusement.
     My spine slouches between the broken-hearted bookcases. I never should have asked them what they want from me.
     I steer clear of the kitchen's squinting one-eyed knives.
     At last I open the shower door. I am blinded by a rush of bashful steam. The pores on my face open one by one in obedience to some natural law that/one/day/no/doubt/will/kill/me.
     I am reminded of what I absorbed from the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Thales believed everything is water; that the source and substance of the universe is water; that water is an animated, living being spontaneously changing.
     Now I see my wife has joined the woman in the shower. How long since I left the bed? The tie my wife wears grows heavy with water and sticks between her breasts like a muzzled accusation.
     The woman moves a bar of black soap back and forth across my wife's forehead. There was something written there. The soap gets smaller and smaller just like I knew it would.
     The showerhead spits from all of its mouths.
     The woman calls out my wife's name.
     My wife's ring finger is inside her.
     I clear my throat quietly.
     I am a quiet man.
Halfway Across the Suspension Bridge

When you're lost on the road and glance down at a map, it flashes past the window. You look up, pleased to know where you're going, blissfully unaware of the exit receding behind you. Its stop is announced on commuter trains without arousing you, and in airports any number of those arriving speak its dialect of departures.
     Sometimes the currency of a country you've never been to turns up inexplicably in your pocket. Do you remember the last place you were? The last thing you bought? Do you remember the owner who eyed you with the vague recollection of a future lover? Sometimes your name is called and two heads turn.
     Soon it will be too late. It will be too late to wait for your aimlessness to stumble into its center. Were you to leave now, were you to set out now for that place, were you to find it now, laughing at yourself and at your blindness, to yourself, you may find there's nothing there you haven't seen before.
     But by now it's finding you. Look in the direction the trees are leaning. Look at how smooth the stones are. Look at your watch juggling twelve hours with three hands: one for the past, one for the present, one for the past. Somewhere a sundial is becoming a birdbath. There, there's an extra acre to its absence, where the Dentist keeps planting the last of your childish teeth.

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