If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dominic Ward: Trial of an Aesthete

The warm water of the bath eased the pain that had infected my meat, the grave worms that had been gnawing at me temporarily stilled, their business with my earth momentarily halted.  But the fever was still on me.  I could feel it.  It was all over me, the water that washed me boiling in small bubbles against the goosebumps of my summer skin.  My body shook gently, creating delicate patterns in the water, ripples that went up and down the tub.  The itch that ran right through me – emanating as it was from the deepest of my fibres – was quiet, for the moment, but only just.  I knew that as soon as I took my body from the sedation of the warm water, I’d be forced back into motion.  Aimless motion.  Motion from which there was no relief.  The itch would kick my body to every corner and nook and cranny.

Another ten minutes of fevered daydreaming passed.  I saw my life as it truly was – a mess of pain, anxiety and despair comingled with the irrational hope of my longings.  I had places to be, things to do.  

I decided to finally leave the comfort of the bath.  I couldn’t hide from the pain forever; I knew sooner or later I’d have to face it down.  But before I left the tub, I made a note to describe the sunlight as it streamed in through the solitary window, large though it was.  This light was soft, winter yellow, warming and heartfelt.  It had a soothing presence, slowing down the traffic along my nerve fibres to a lazy one hundredth their normal speed.

I got out of the bath, got dry and got dressed.

As I walked by the kitchen, I saw through its large bay windows the neighbour’s Japanese homestay girl sunbathing in their backyard, only just an arm’s reach.  She was just turned twenty, a decent age for a girl, and she was all alone, set out along a blue beach towel, headphones piping her whatever music it was she liked.  She was tastefully arranged in a delicate bikini with tie-side bottoms and an asymmetrical top that gathered over her left shoulder.  She was beautiful.  Of course she was.

When we finished later, I made her promise me that she would be waiting in my bed for me when I returned from my night out.  I told her it might be a long wait but that that didn’t mean I wasn’t coming.  She should definitely wait for me, I reiterated.  Sometimes you just had to be straight out with it.

Brisbane was a horrid place in 2014.  The city itself was a total snooze and the speed and E that had fuelled us in the 90s were now long gone, replaced by bath salts and other ridiculous novelty items.  Hell, even the dealers had all been in and out of jail and had long since started families and settled down in suburbia with steady work in sales.

Fuck me!

That’s all there was to say as I looked up and down the street as it bled with battery acid and cheap wine.  My neighbours were cluck cluck clucking like battery hens and I knew they all wanted me dead.  It was just that sort of day.

My good friend Ben was an octopus, or at least he was in the process of becoming one.  Ben was my best friend, how dare you suggest otherwise.

Memories floated down onto me like a heavy February rain.  We get our weather here in February, March and even into April.  The Pleiades is in Taurus.

Islands of granite had formed where volcanoes used to be.  That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it.  Like night is dark and day is bright.

I saw this little creep walking up the street.  He was with his boyfriend.  I did my best to belittle them, coming at them hard like a soldier.  I rubbed my dick and balls as a gesture of peace.  They didn’t seem to understand this however.  Oh well, you just can’t please all the people all the time.

Should I buy a packet of cigarettes?  I didn’t smoke but it could be fun.

Which is worse – a man slapping his wife; or a man slapping another man’s child?  What happens when the evergreen forests all dry up and the lakes and the oceans are all cut down?

Asthma is a drug you can buy over the counter.  Asthma is much worse when the patient has bad breath.  Can you imagine that: you’re a nurse just entering the final hour of your third consecutive night shift and some little peckerhead comes in with asthma and breathes his foul stink all over you…sometimes life just ain’t all that fair.

I have friends who read the bible and not ironically.  I don’t get irony.  I just don’t get it.  That makes me kinda dumb.  Well, I have been robotripping every day for five years now.

The widower beat his grandson with a copy of the DSM.  Bipolar, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety rained down on this poor kid as his grandad whipped himself into a faggot-hating rage.  The child wasn’t gay – the old man simply had secrets to hide.  Bury them deep, he had.  I ain’t no faggot, he would say to himself each night as he brushed his teeth in the bathroom mirror.

Nonsense aside, it was Ben that I was meeting this night. He’d already called to confirm a time and now I had nothing to do but grab something out of the fridge and lock the door on my way out. I lived alone; that’s the way it had to be. I couldn’t stand to be in the same space as anyone else for longer than a few hours at most. I needed a lot of space and time to myself, time to go slow, waste on nothing or spend on everything.

Ben and I were going to meet in the valley.  He knew a crazy little side-alley bar just off the main drag.  It was the kind of place you could have a rum and coke, get stabbed, then order another round.  But first I had to walk my withdrawal down to the bus stop.

Dominic Ward lives and writes in Esk, Australia.  He is married with four children.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

John Pursch: The Baroness of Brickbat Bollocks

Archibald Tincture,
Turdly-Turd Precedent of ArchandTina,
tuna capital of the whirled, flexed his
artificially brawny biceps and chortled:

“Wharfore ye be stragglin’,
O mightily mangled and maniacally mangy
flesh o’ fishes on the proprioceptive proverbial
rod n’ reelin’ counterpoint pith of nylon phylum
stockyard inklings of goodly impending cacciatore
breastplate extravaganzas,
spoiled surreptitiously betwixt thine western
hemispherical mandate of manly festooned
dusty kneelers and plutocratic tinkling
carthorse capsizers of dyed heuristic
corrugated dumplings?”

His whiffle bull noodnik hound pardner
in grimy guffaw-given grifter calumny,
the Crown Tessa de Vitalia cum Gloriosa
Plumb Numb Knockery Sand Twitchium
Flavius Blond Super Eggnibus Quid Prong
Fallacium Quiribonquenule E Pleurisy Magnum,
snorted justly and spoke between
successive codpiece snuff blots:

“Eye spay, bleariest Starchy,
thine semi-prevaricating quotient
of stygian handy semantic pestilence proceeds
from your dubiously effaced habilitation drift
in swarms of surviving car parts,
oily and speckled with mechanical grit
of a sooty metallic tinge,
sashaying from booty gall to totally fruity
lung compartment floss in shot pursuit
of Shetland paunchy shorthair cake and
broad stirrup crumpet stew on furlough
from terrier retrieval camp,”
tamping down another bowl of flightiest
corn-cobbian chimerical deodorant smog,
sloughed off by the tiniest of pearly inhalers.

“Quite a Cored Waiting Sea beatitude
you’ve quibbled forth and quietly quoted,
or dare eye slay, misappropriated,”
Archie’s piebald prefecture of palimpsest
and interminably insensate sectarian
somnambulance soliloquized in crap
tour house defenestration’s alluvial
bloodhound best of bestial blockage.

Her Majesty’s inestimable captivity
of hindered skimpy delectable frumpery
limped and blanched at this somewhat
tempered consequential bow shot.

Nothing for it bet to bust an altered
snuffbox slat straight up ciliated rostrum septum,
deviating periodically in frontal tune’s imperious
slim phonic towel moorings of hambone hip-check
hospitality suede.

Nasal twang in drain eruption thus excited,
she rejoined in almost cunning cannery contumely’s
costumed grace of grazing brazier bon vivant:

“Dearly bedeviled Precedent
of this fondly gored and shackled
Nubian nation of notational lotioned yearlings,
your savory disheveled world laid bare
so grandiloquently by yore and sea and
bland discomfiture’s deciphered malaise
of underbelly crouton faith and intestinal
statuary belches, strewn with filched hyena
droppings of a cranky feasibility study into
the warehouse attributes of your lately cratered niece,
the Baroness Bivonia the Blockhead of Brickbat Bollocks
(the nth Brigadier of Beauregard Broth);

how cometh you to slouched sandy screeds
of reliquary remonstrations and peculated
perspicacity in pompous pisspot tusky
swordsman currying plover unbeknownst
to simian ham sisters of hull-busting
king-of-the-cesspool stipulation headwaters?
Hansel me tryst, ewe fuelish Brahmanic stoker
of knifed heretical parodies!”

Sin deed, hit war quiet a jolly
happenstance of gustatory testament,
twitly sax per teased heirloom
nutsack crematoria whiff,
and coverall syllabic froth.

Shaven this impious oddity oven haughty
other canoe wanders howl Starchy the Piebald
clan soporifically menage a troika due reply.

Swell tan, high mired ash wheedle sled ewe know,
he took a steep breath and crumbled ride
in weed dish tyrannical pomade:

“Foist of awl, mine steer Crown Tessa,
isle dispense wit yer noose whence removed,
yes my niece two pea exultantly expectorant,”
hand hear he pawed the groin, leading fly with
nod an insignificant gob of spittle.

“Yes, that’s broth for the Baroness of Brickbat Bollocks;
be grateful it weren’t derived from beeswax behind
the bedridden trap-door blunderbuss of backside
cannonade catastrophe bilge!

“Now to spansule your ignoble and ill-timed query
as directly and synergistically as only ewe deserve:
eye come to sloppily scrunched scrotal scurryings
through phonetical decades of subtly scuttled decay,
burrowed smiles beneath the Samsonite Jungle,
swaying bank-to-blank-to-blinkered bunk bed bingo
on the good ship Lazy Popeye’s perennially
submerged poop deck, snorkeling in olive oil,
taking canned tuna for mercurial lunchbox
gruel strayed drown the plastic spigot’s
unregulated mosquito setting in set-piece
scuttlebutt rumpled two-tone unicycle stilt
machinery of baffled skimpy kin.

“Too terpsichorean for ya?
Moan adder, try these when haul hulls flails:
far above tea heady waiters hover chesty bought
antsy smattering of deified deistic tribulation
in brittle tarrying sunset trivia man-o-whore
will sever from mounted heinous crotch repeal
to kneeling mealtime Clorox infestation nibs
of Inkan festivals or Youran time-reversal blues
or Chunky de Mylar holiday binge
or national dungeon bath
or Plexiglas hamster flotilla rapacity
or sagacious lilac gristle
in flayed snore Speedo necks.”

John Pursch lives in Tucson, Arizona. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his poetry, Intunesia, is available in paperback at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/whiteskybooks. His pi-related experimental lit-rap video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc. He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Michelle D'costa: The Newscaster

When Dai was young she would stare awestruck at the news channel, in love with the newscaster’s confidence. How they relied on their memory to announce the news! She was bad at remembering lines. Even though later she did learn of teleprompters, the magic of the newscasters didn’t fail to awe her.

“Dad have you noticed ‘Priya Mirza’ is no more reading news for DTV.”, Dai said this and looked behind her shoulder at Mr Rathore who was having his evening tea, the tea cup precariously balanced on the teapoy.

“Yes I have. Why do you think she left?”

“No idea. Maybe she got poached. Anyway, Let us google it. I’m sure others have noticed it too and are wondering about it.”

‘Former newsreader of DTV, Priya Mirza is keeping a low profile nowadays after she left the leading news channel. We wonder why.’

Dai frowned, she had missed her so much already.

 ‘What could have happened to her?’, she asked her Dad who was now peaking over her shoulder, at the mobile screen in her hand.

‘For all you know she’s doing it for publicity, making others worry for nothing.’, he said and shrugged.

‘She is famous Dad,’ Dai rolled her eyes. ‘Besides she didn’t do anything controversial…. she just disappeared. And that’s a big risk. You can get easily replaced and forgotten nowadays.’

‘You think she will be replaced so soon? Not if people like you keep her alive through media.’, he winked and left to change for work after glancing at the grandfather clock they had in the living room.

Dai’s brother, Jayant, was a regular viewer of Priya’s show. He missed her too.

“ She had a pleasant face. It was easier listening to her. Her replacement sucks.’’, he said.

A day passed….then two….Priya was forgotten…she was occasionally remembered by her loyal fans…like Dai…

 Dai was at Kol’s- her favourite ice cream parlour.

Its blue and white exterior reminded her of Twitter’s theme and she felt at home there.

Dai got out of the parlour with a strawberry scoop dripping from the cone, snaking down her fingers.

She had her eyes fixed on a group of people crossing the road approaching her side when she saw Priya or she thought she had seen her...

She had heard that Priya lived nearby.

Priya crossed the road cautiously and the veil from her face slipped just enough for Dai to spot her tarred cheek. Dai recognised Priya from her thick fringe and cloudy eyes right below the veil’s hem. She didn’t look very different from TV except for her cheek.

But before she could shout out or say anything Priya slipped into a car and disappeared from sight.

Dai cursed her fate, on days when she had to reach somewhere urgently, the traffic had a stubborn match with her but today when she had just spotted her idol, she had been betrayed by it.

But she didn’t give up, her eyes couldn’t have played tricks on her, could it?

She hailed an auto rickshaw and on the way she tried to digest what she saw.

She was so pre-occupied with her thoughts (Priya’s tarred cheek kept flashing in her mind) that she forgot to pay the rickshaw walla and sprinted off as the rickshaw halted by her house.

The driver came out of the vehicle cursing about how customers were always ungrateful for all that the drivers went through, a long list.

She had almost reached her gate when she heard him, she wasn’t in the least embarrassed as she was still pre-occupied, paid him and said, ‘Have a nice day!’

He stared at her as if she had just apparated from thin air.

She reached her main door and slipped her slender fingers into her pocket when she realized her pocket was flat, where was the bulge that her key bunch created in her pocket? Oh damn!

She must have forgotten it in the rickshaw?!

But she didn’t run after the rickshaw.

Her fingers were itching to find the truth about Priya.

Atleast she still had her phone with her.

She sat down on the stairs, the sun rays fell directly on to her eyes, she rose a bit and parked herself on the step above.

She checked for the wifi connection. It was on. Thankfully, once when she didn’t regret not switching it off before leaving.

Her weapon-Twitter was accessible to her. She immediately tweeted


She instantly received various reactions from her numerous followers who enjoyed media as much as she did or even more.

So no one knew the real reason. Was she attacked with acid by a jealous viewer? If not what had happened suddenly?

Maya started a twitter campaign to force DTV to reveal the real reason for her resignation and that her supporters wanted her back.

After millions of followers and appeals, DTV arranged to have a live session with Priya just for her viewers.

Live On air,

‘What is the real reason for your resignation?’

The planned answer was ‘I suffer from a skin disease and I wish to stay at home.’

Instead she said, ‘I was asked to leave as I look hideous now.’


‘I would love to continue to be a newsreader as long as I’m allowed to.’

This brought out a cheer from her fans as they didn’t mind her scarred face. She was the best at her work.

However the rest of the world protested, ‘How can she? She’s so ugly..’

Anyway thanks to social media she resumes duty.

People got used to it or they didn’t. Life went on and Dai realized the change that she had created.

She thought it would be the right time to send her C.V. to news agencies to apply for a newscaster role.

She did and one agency replied, ‘You need to be good looking for this role. You will be the face of our agency. Sorry you do not fit the criteria. Maybe consider using a fairness cream or maybe a surgery, that is if you really want the job that much.’ 

Michelle D'costa has had her work published in journals such as The Bombay Literary Magazine, Hackwriters International Magazine, The Commonline Journal, Big River Poetry Review among many others. She blogs at pikoomish.wordpress.com

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Richard Hartwell: Last To Take Flight

Bronze canvas overspreads angular bones,
patchy in places as if small dead leaves
adhere to cheeks, forehead and neck;
within the wrinkled canyons of her face
are told the true myths of her many lives.

There is so little water in the canyons:
            not on her face,
                        not in the land,
                                    none to waste.

After nine decades of intense desert heat
she is used to this, she no longer sweats;
still, there is an almost copper sheen to
her skin, like hard-worked oiled-leather
sold to tourists traveling the asphalt trail.
Selling goods by the side of the road:
            leather goods,
                        leather lasts,
                                    she lasts.

Neck sinews, corded like hemp rope,
coil into the dirty collar of a drab shirt,
black cotton, cinched snug at the waist
with a silver and turquoise belt, color
in a somber sea of secondhand clothes.

She focuses on the twisting asphalt:
            occasional cars,
                        occasional sales,
                                    irregular pay.

From beneath the shirt, a drooping skirt
greets the mounting leather moccasins;
outlaw black hat – low crowned, wide
brimmed, ancient, functional, like her –
borne by two gray braids, one on a side.

Twisting braids, neck, skin:
            framing her face,
                        framing her culture,
                                    heritage pictured.

Surroundings rain-bowed in dry dun hues,
only soft-gray dusty-drab green for relief;
contours of the pan, arroyos and road are
broken by majestic mesas, or low shrubs
and dead yucca, seen askance not directly.

Casual breaks in the southern horizon,
            not oriental,
                        not occidental,
                                    merely accidental.

Above her extends a vault of blue so startling white at mid-day as to sear the eyes until only black stars dance on the retina. No relief except in the shade, except there is precious little shade and will be no shade until much later when the back rampart of the mesa will see a shadow extend from the base running fast as the setting sun toward the shimmering eastern horizon.

Only then will the ancient one, named Sorrows in the Stream so many years ago but known now only as Old Woman, rise from beside the roadside stand, place her Indian Artifacts and Curios for Sale sign under the low split-wood table, and amble slowly to the next shadow, relief, and the perilous climb, made numbly, to the top of the mesa.

It is not that her body has given out, at least not completely, or that her mind has given up, it is that her nature can no longer contain the colors of her memory and the sunburst of her soul.

She knows this, every day, and today, earlier, had prayed that no tourists would stop to barter and bluster nor would any sheriff, from on or off the reservation, stop to hassle her about permits or to rage about her son. None had, tourist or cop, and she only had to steel herself against the intrusion of passing cars seven times during the day.

She didn’t really need the occasional money to live, not that she would turn it down, but had all she needed from the land and her snares, the pool at the base of the mesa, and in the hut above. She wouldn’t turn the money down; she would use it to drink and use it to get drunk and use it to try to forget. It was good that she rarely made any sales. It was very good that she made no sales today. Since she last had gotten drunk it had been . . . how many days? She can’t remember, which she takes as a good also.

Sorrows in the Stream finds the small pool at the base of the mesa nearly full and takes the gourd from off her shoulder, sinking it into the tepid depth beneath the spring’s outcropping. This is the water source, life itself, she shares with so many others: prey and predators, mammals and reptiles, birds and insects. Almost all of them drink at night as she sleeps above them on top of the mesa. Sometimes when she descends in the early morning she spooks some small piece of fur or feather. Only rarely in the afternoon does she hear the warning stutter of a late rattler. She lives with all of these, is a part of them and the desert.

She picks her way up through the split in the side of the mesa, a split that has been here these many generations. Footholds and handholds have been carved and shaped and enlarged by numberless ancients before her. She adds her miniscule aid to this process without thought, plan, fear, or sight. Her eyes are closed. She knows the niches and knobs so well and climbing up out from the brilliant plain and into the crevasse she knows her shadow-blindness will last until she is almost at the top. She relies on the mesa wall to hold her up rather than trying to see what cannot be seen clearly in shadow.

At the top of the cleft, the edge rounds out to two steps worn from the hard rock. She takes only two or three deep breaths and then sets off to her right to the wood and woven lean-to. Years ago she built this home resting against the crumbling wall abandoned by a previous desert race.

She doesn’t know who they had been, whether related to her own people or not, whether they had been an enemy or not. Occasionally she finds an arrowhead, a flint, shards of pottery – but is not able to identify them – and climbs down the next day and adds the piece to the Indian Artifacts and Curios for Sale.

When younger, a few years back, before her son was sent to jail, she enjoyed making up stories to tell the tourists. There would be always some truth, some truth drawn from her childhood or early marriage, but she would twist and stretch and chew on the stories like a plug of tobacco until they were soft enough to sell to even the most highway-hardened tourist.

Now, when she has to respond to a stopping car and would-be customer, she just grunts and shakes her head, playing at language illiteracy, and only nods and holds out her hand when the price seems right. She no longer cares about dispelling the myth of civilization. For several days now she has had no need to play television Indian.

When she thinks about this play-acting – which she doesn’t do often, but is doing tonight as she goes about her few chores in and around her hut on top of the mesa, on top of her world – when she thinks about this pose of the stoic Indian woman, she tries on all the cultural garments, the mental trappings, she has borrowed from tourists’ expectations. She tumbles them over, throwing on one after another: Indian, squaw, Native American, indigenous person, even redskin and savage. Each and all fit her, or one part of her or another, but she eschews them all. For her, there is only one raiment that fits. She is One, One of the People. Not people, but People. She knows this from her uncle and from her grandfather before him. She wears no mantle from her long-gone husband and not from her son.

She finishes this reverie and sees that all tasks are completed, in much the same manner as she climbs the mesa. She sits on the low stool outside the blanket door and stares west where the sun has finally dropped behind the horizon. The surrounding mesas are now various shades of purple and the shell of the sky is washed in streams of yellows, oranges, reds, and then into similar shades of purples as the mesas had been.

With the passage of time and the sun gone and the moon not yet appeared, the sky above has become a speckled black felt like a jeweler’s display of turquoise. The other mesas have faded to indistinct shadows outlined by starlight alone. To the west and southwest runs the great loop of highway, almost a noose thrown into the reservation.

If she looked down, a lonely car, lights on high beam, might be seen once or twice each night. Old Woman no longer looks down. Rather, this One of the People, lies down on one of her blankets and starts naming the animals above: Two Snakes, Dog Who Talks, Running Chicken, Rabbit, and so many others.

When she was very, very young she went to the school on the reservation. She learned about others in the sky that she could not see. Others, not of the People, had different names for their pictures in the sky. Along with most else from the school, she thought that had been a lie, too. After two or so years, she stopped going.

It does not matter. Nothing matters that is left behind. She knows these pictures. She takes pleasure in their flight across the sky. She can name them all. Her mind flies easily to this. But this night Sorrows in the Stream does not finish the naming. Black felt fades to blue. Animals wheel overhead, unseen, unnamed, finally chased over the horizon by dawn. Western shadows beneath the mesas shorten to meet day. At the base of the mesa, fur and scales and feathers are left undisturbed at the spring. Tears from the mesa continue to collect.

The first car of the day passes the Indian Artifacts and Curios for Sale without sign, without notice.

Michael Ceraolo: Free Speech Canto XXXVIII

Scott Nearing redux,
after his firing by the University of Pennsylvania,
this time he was at the University of Toledo,
           true to his stated principles,
he was again active politically,
this time on whether the U.S. should enter the war
                                                                            War was
"uncivilized and should be abolished"
"We need protection"
                                "but not against
          or London,
                          or Paris,
                                       or Petrograd,
but against Wall Street"
some newspaper headlines
soon after the U.S. entered the war:

"Draft Success Puts New Life in New York Market"

"Year's Best Prices Reached")

Nearing's speeches inspired
Reverend Patrick O'Brien to say:
"I feel tonight like taking by the nape of the neck
and hanging him to the nearest tree"

though Nearing narrowly escaped that fate
he was fired by the University of Toledo
shortly before war was declared

again that didn't stop Nearing from speaking out;
he published a pamphlet titled
The Great Madness:
A Victory for the American Plutocracy:

"The declaration of war
was a slap in the face of democracy----
the censorship bill bandaged it eyes,
plugged its ears,
                         and gagged its mouth"


"The American plutocracy was no more interested
in establishing democracy in Germany
than they were in establishing democracy
in the United States
They did want to see German industry crushed"


"The plutocratic brand of patriotism
won the endorsement of the press,
the pulpit,
                the college,
every other important channel
of public information in the United States"
many other pages in a similar vein

the Federal Government took notice of his work,
and eventually indicted him,
in April 1918,
the marvelously mismonikered
Espionage Act,
                        a law
less designed to combat espionage
than to quash dissent
wasn't even brought to trial
until February 1919,
a few months after the war ended
Showing the true purpose of the law
the prosecutor's case consisted of
citing Nearing's words,
he readily admitted were his
they made no attempt to show that those words
had actually had the prohibited effect,
a fact Nearing pointed out:

"The prosecution has not been able to show
a single instance in which recruiting was obstructed
They have not been able to show a single instance
in which insubordination,
refusal to duty was caused"

Nearing was acquitted,
the censorship provisions remained

Nearing continued to speak out,
and to write,
he lived to be a hundred,
he never worked in academia again

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


As of June 25, 2015, The Bactrian Room is closed to submissions.


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