Bellow is an electronic copy of the current issue of Surgam, the literary magazine
of the Philolexian Society.
Grateful thanks go to its editors, Laetia Kress, Batsheva Glatt, and Ilana Garron for their help in getting this online.
Unfortunately the cover art and Calista's gorgeous piece at the end of the work did not make the trip. You'll simply
to go to a Philo event and ask for a copy in order to see these excluded pieces of art
de gustibus non est disputandum*
Surgam, the official literary magazine of the Philolexian Society, congratulates itself on being the production of such a fine and renowned Columbia institution as the Philolexian Society. Two hundred years old and you're still dead sexy. Philo congratulates Surgam for being equally ravishing.
Editors-in-Chief: Ilana Garon and Laetia Kress
Layout Editor: Batsheva Glatt
Ad Layout: Ian Sullivan
Legal Advisor: Andrew "X" Shiner, Esq.
Ad Coordinator: Batsheva Glatt
Cover Art: Ilana Garon
Caterer: Laetia Kress
Naptime Coordinator: Ilana Garon
That Guy: Tom Cannell
Special Thank You to Betsy the i-Mac
An Obsequious Introduction
There is a craving in each of us to think that we are creators. That in each
original or borrowed idea that floats through our minds, there is the opportunity
for realization, for greatness. We wallow in the words of our making: sliding
each syllable around on our lips, silently eliding vowels and consonants, savoring
the sweet tang of the thought birthed in words. We bring these whims to life
in our minds, on paper and in hypertext.
Stories are scant company for one without flesh-and-blood conversation, but they are also powerful. They lull us to sleep, rouse our interest, slip us into the skins of people with lives not necessarily more glamorous, but certainly more vivid than our own. Most of all, stories are safe. There is little chance that the lover of one's literary musings will come knocking on the door, as sweet as the possibility is in imagination. But if a fantasy lover were to appear, we would have little idea of what to say to him or her. Being a fantasy,
would it be appropriate to take her out to the greasy spoon for toast and milkshakes? Or should we just jump his well-muscled bones and be done with it?
Then there is a real world where the dialogue never flows as it should. Snappy comebacks are instead stilted silences and "oh yeah"s. People emit noisome gas, slips get snagged in subway doors, lunch trays are dropped splattering their contents in the cafeteria. Only in the context of relating these events with crafted language that the rough spots, the
discomforts, are either smoothed over or embellished for the desired effect. The bloopers of our lives become the seeds of creation. Maybe the story will be repeated by word of mouth, inspiring pathos and ridicule and hilarity. Maybe it will be disseminated by email or newsprint, and bring tears and pages of literary commentary. However, the triumph of this creation of words is that it now develops outside the mind of the creator. It becomes an independent being, always changing for each new person who hears or reads the story.
The Philolexian Society is a bunch of poseurs: but I say the name proudly. We are the music makers and dreamers of dreams because we SAY WE ARE, goddammit! We may co-opt the work of others, turning their creamy prose around in our mouths and regurgitating it, perhaps slightly worse for the wear. It is only because we admire the creators so. We wish to turn out their rich, decadent ribbons of language, the kind that melts in your mouth and falls easily on the ears of listeners. We wish to be thought clever and calm and well read. But mostly, we want to capture that initial tingle of excitement, of static electricity that we felt when we read those words, stories and ideas in the first place. What better way to recapture that moment of potential and excitement than rebroadcasting the experience to a roomful of captive listeners?
And so gentle moderator, curator of this museum of word shufflers and story chefs, may I approach yon podilectern to speak my piece?
~Table of Contents~
The Human Experience in a Nutshell Ilana Garon 1
Biosphere Suite Batsheva Glatt 1
Good Morning Little Reina Hardy 2
Her Hands Shaun Hanson 3
Pure White Blue Jay Michaelson 3
Bitch Xan Nowakowski 4
A Necessary Poem Reina Hardy 5
Reward if Found Ali Lemer 6
Plague Translations Shaun Hanson 7
Epigram Reina Hardy 7
There are No Wide Roads to the Muse Ali Lemer 7
In the Dark Season Reina Hardy 8
The Trouble With Names Xan Nowakowski 9
Woman Writer Reina Hardy 10
Haiku Laetia Kress 10
Uht Sceada Calista Brill 11 (sadly missing from on-line version)
The Human Experience in a Nutshell: A Parody of Alexander Pope's Not-So-Heroic Couplets
When I was but a girl of seventeen
I started dreaming things I had not seen.
I packed a trunk, and anxious to be free
Said, "Bye! I'm off!" and headed cross the sea.
To Poland first I went without a care
I could not fathom my experience there.
But crying soft beside the fitful tombs,
Where still death's presence frighteningly looms,
Something in me uttered a last sigh
And sadly bid my childhood goodbye.
I journeyed onward to the Holy Land
Where foot-prints of the Ancients warm the sand.
Amid three-thousand years of constant strife
Here breathes the dust that gives my people life.
A cycle in my mind was made complete.
I'd walked from death to life on my own feet.
I felt I'd been united with the earth:
Whisp'ring graves, land of gold, my soul's rebirth.
I came home four months later feeling grown;
Somewhere I'd made humanity my own.
I felt such wisdom...then I gave a start
When someone smiled, taking way my heart.
My "life experience" in that ancient Land
Vanished in his eyes when he took my hand.
I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt
That there remained more things to figure out.
True, birth and death are pillars, ties that bind,
But members of humanity will find
No matter where life's journeys have one bound,
Physics, love, and sex make the world go 'round.
Ask for the prairie, and I'll show you a mall.
Starbucks, Gap, SUVS
Oh sweet urban sprawl!
I will not shave my legs for you.
Would you turn a peach into a nectarine?
Is simply divine
When far away at the sphere
Let's see: Wm de Bary
Or works literary
No, its systems of climate, I fear.
Give me plant bio,
Plants don't run and shy, O
When approached with a scalpel and lens
I wish I could say,
We could all be that way
Especially my squeamish friends
(To back of audience)
Come back guys! I don't want to hurt you. I just want to see if I can
make you photosynthesize!
Beware of the Opuntia fulgida, my child
The spines that jump , that stick in your flesh
Beware the scorpions sting,
And shun the basking rattlesnake.
She took her duct tape roll in hand,
Long time the wily foe she sought
And rested she, (but not against a saguaro)
From a Nalgene did rehydrate
And as a scream of pain reverbed
Through the cactus wood,
The screamer snorfled and approached
With a strangely wobbled gait.
One ,two, one, two
The duct tape ripped
and upon the screamer's flanks
the strip applied
The screamer bellowed as the spines
Went from fleshward to outside.
Oh frabjous day! said Duct Tape girl
The screamer simply moaned
"watch yourself," she sternly rasped
"and I will be rather crass
the place for spines is on a cactus
not embedded in your ass."
Good Morning Little
I think I chase the sun away
The way my mother said I chased
Away the stars, when she woke
Me up for breakfast as a child
Now it wakes me up at noon
And lays a yellow hand across my eyes
And pulls me to the window, where the sky
Has settled from uncertain into bright.
I wash, brush, slide into jeans
(all crust with yesterday) and I go out.
It's gone. I haven't felt it out for days, but
I stare lampwards, helpless, late into the night.
her hand was bleeding because the stitches broke open where the dog had bit
her and the wound reopened and she was just trying to make a fist around the
newspaper to take with her on the train to see her friend who was coming back
from la because he was sick of it and broke and he wasn't seeing the girl from
la anymore and it was bleeding down right onto the train platform and on the
newspaper and his pitches weren't selling there anyway and it's not that the
stitches were badly sown so much as the wound where the dog bit her and thankfully
did not have rabies and he said they weren't seeing each other because the way
she kept evaluating them as a couple like a doctor's checkup and analyzing and
it's just that the wound was so big it couldn't really heal together properly
and it's like that uncertainty principle where you can't look at something without
changing it but they put it to sleep anyway and he was all coked up and the
other hand was stitched up too and so you can never really know where something
is but she pretended not to notice and the dog just kind of whined softly when
they put the needle in but those stitches held and she didn't hear mind the
gap because that was years ago and her parents never shut up but it doesn't
matter which and she dropped the paper fast and made a face and he liked that
she did that for him seeing as how the owners agreed to it to avoid a law suit
and the face was like the wrong moment of laughter but he was coming back and
that moment stretched out far too long and she would meet him at the airport
because they just got quiet instead and there's a difference because she always
brought a paper to read on the train and anyway their conversations always died
awkwardly and her train crashed and the owner's daughter cried so much they
had to get a new one
Pure White Blue
What is this life you've given us?
It seems to land in many places at once,
a backwards cat.
Nothing seems to come out of the pattern of the spill,
I do not want to see it cohere.
You still feel, and I do, that you can be lifted up somehow,
a carpet or a gull,
into the Yves Klein sky,
Dangling feet over the edge like a thrilled four year old,
dancing them in the clouds,
a pirouhette in the stratosphere.
I knew, just as I suspect you did, that you would outlive him. Ulf never seemed the brightest of the lot, nor the handsomest with his thick bulk and leaking retinae, but beneath my hands he brought calm. He passed from life in that same oblivious bliss as the tire grazed his whiskered face. I have to believe that.
You, on the other hand, were trouble from the start. Sleek and snotty, delicate
and fussy, too wound in self-preserving panic to trot across a dark street.
Though I no longer reside here, my status as guest scarcely dissuades you. You
wake me early, after
nightmares, hoping for a search. Your lost brother. My little unassuming companion, always at my side but never interrupting.
Sometimes he curled against me before sleep, silenced his thick purr. Tranquility. Even in darkness I could discern the tawny edges of his shape. He alone heard tears I buried in pillow fabric and regret. In summer months, on weekends, he never left my heels except to charge ahead of me on stairs. And you lurked shadowy and gray, scattered food pellets on white linoleum, and glared.
When Ulf still prowled the corridors and carpets, you never gave me a second thought, but now, now you fit your body into the hollows he carved. My bed, my bathmat. You fill hallways and windowpanes with incessant mewling and moaning, issuing unanswerable demands. I speak to you and you circle table legs, blinking up at me.
So I pick you up and point, extending through the glass. I've told you where he is. Lump of earth, right near the shed.
Perhaps you think I haven't felt the urge to rush out there, spade in hand, and dig him up just to be sure. Well, call a spade a spade, Little Sweetheart. I never even saw the body, but I can swallow truth like a picture frame. Most of the time.
Then there are days when I hear his footfalls with every creak of plumbing, every ticking clock rattling maddeningly away downstairs. Maybe you pick up on the noises just as I do and that drives you to me, sends you stalking around my chair and pawing at my clothes. It never fails: a few hours peace at most before you throw your impossible self back into my dangling hand.
But you won't leap into my lap too obvious a sign of affection, or perhaps of need. Mother says you spurn because I'm skinny, but I scarcely see you fighting when I cave and hoist you up. You drink in my supplication; no wonder I give it so rarely these days.
Ulf used to propel his heavy form into my arms with neither notice nor invitation, purring contentedly at first touch of his soft nose to my jawbone. Love like a dog's love, almost sickening in its emptiness of condition. But he never fed on humiliation. I'll bet you miss having him lick behind your ears; I can assure you that is one favor I shall never feel compelled to compensate.
That tongue of yours will be the death of me.
So damnably clever, aren't you. Tail flagpole stiff, you lead the weak into that dark closet where they believe they need you. Your soft touch, almost a mockery of itself, prissy moaning and flashing eyes. The eternal receiving end. That's your way, is it not: suck people dry, lap out their everything with a little pink tongue. Give back the occasional haughty snort of veiled pleasure, then glide away and sully the carpet with rolling and coy antics.
My darling little Ulfie. The closest thing I ever had or ever wanted to a
child lies buried in the soil, and you live on, moaning for him and so many
other things I never could provide. Expectations, always expectations, and no
consideration for my own loss. You see at night, yet miss the empty spot between
two ribs that aches for his clumsy form and oozing eyes.
I didn't see you pining for your other littermates, spoiled pet. But after that initial split, you grew up cuddled in my mother's lap, with everything you wanted at the curling tips of your claws. I suppose I do look enough like her to serve as proxy doormat when she works or runs errands. Of course, you never turn down an opportunity to swat at my long ringlets of hair. You ate the cake yet still hold every crumb.
A necessary poem
I have to write some poetry
Because you are
Drunk enough to sing
And I'm too far to hear it.
Because you are
a rolling, sideways walker
a hoarse and lyric talker
And all those bastards know your name.
Because you are
A sight to make small children hush,
and gape up at you like a rogue balloon
from the parade.
Because you are
A piece of the word "chance"
Because you are
Because you are
as you are bright
And need for you has crept into my bones just like the cold.
Because you are
out coining the proverbial dream,
amid the festival of seasonless light
Because you are
then near, but loaded down with words and other trinkets from the far
for me, and how they shine.
Because you are
the only one who can say "angel"
like it was
my one true name
Because you are the silhouette of a god.
I have to write some poetry,
Because you are.
And chances like that come along so rarely.
I left my heart
in San Francisco:
in a little black bag
slung over the back of my chair
in a Japanese restaurant.
I didn't notice it gone
until the next morning
when I needed it to
sing in the shower.
You gotta have heart
but lately I hadn't used it much.
But I put it in a
little black bag
(every girl needs one of those)
and carried it with me
just in case.
You never know when it might
come in handy.
But maybe I should've
left it at home that night.
I went back to the restaurant to look for it
but there were no
little black bags
and certainly no
lying anywhere around.
Did someone else take it?
It really wasn't
But the manager only shrugged
and pointed to the sign on the wall:
WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE
FOR YOUR LONGINGS.
I said upsetting things because you look adorable when you're crying.
The note on the body in front of the 12 story building:
Didn't want to fall, just to be in danger of falling.
They never touched me. I was never even there.
A man reads the subway poster and worries:
What if you are the sick passenger?
He is the spider in the room.
I feel better
When I know where he is.
There are no Wide Roads to the Muse
_There are no wide roads to the muse_
said the Greek.
It's more like
a crowded alleyway,
where your shoulders scrape bricks and
your toes come crashing
down onto the heels of the one before you.
Or a busy escalator
where the railing bites
into your side
from the crowds and
you have to make sure to
keep all hands
inside at all times.
No, actually, it's
a rushing subway car
packed with riders
smashed up against poles,
the edges of plastic seats biting
into backs of legs.
Yes, that's it.
And you caught the express
by mistake and
it keeps speeding by your stop.
And when you look around you,
In the Dark Season
It had been
An endless catalogue of nights
That stuck together like hot film
Of me, netted in the bedclothes
with a pin
on either shoulder
Bargaining to keep just one bulb lit
Of opening the window to the dark,
Into the hands of charlatans and thieves.
(I never told my mother.)
I had to rent
My thighs, my lips, the use of the word "love"
To a man who kept a house with walls too thin to
keep away what slavered at the door.
I told him it was after me.
"That wolf? You asked him in."
And bent to gnaw on my bent neck.
One of every three smiles fell,
And every weekend held a little death.
To think that, all that time
This very earth, this very
And at that moment you were striding through
those bright seasonless lights,
were stepping off a plane somewhere
and on your way.
The Trouble with Names
It was a Gulf station, but the sign said Exxon.
You and Father wore checked shirts,
clashed against the orange of an overhang
as we dashed out onto concrete panels
beyond the last call for boarding.
And I mixed modes of transit, buses and planes
called the hybrid C7 as it rumbled to the tarmac
leaving me behind and pale in the ink.
A lone ticket agent, blonde hair stiffened
against her red jacket and smirking lips
simply told me to keep still, to wait.
There would, she said, be others in due time.
I suppose the tarmac would, in waking life
be a highway, or anything that gets me anywhere
the goal of running I can never grasp,
pounding of bootsoles firmly in place.
Where were we going that night, Mother?
I never did know, standing small on concrete
just where that white bus, a displaced city bus
with advertisements smiling brutally
would trundle off to, for the parking lot
surely was not Amsterdam, nor runway prelude.
I know where buses stop, three minutes every ten
or some complicated interval schedule
that breaks down outside my window
where steam rises white from boiler grates,
warms a sleeping drifter on spread cardboard.
What waits behind the shade each morning
seldom changes, not the firm horns
demanding faster travel, nor sunrise
pink on an airplane's sinking wing.
I could have asked any number of questions
where the C7 bus to the unnamed tarmac
traveled, if there at all, or perhaps
how gas stations thus mislabeled
masquerade as airports in late hours.
In the end, I only stared after the escaped bus
cutting away through impossible indigo
and asked you why certainly
I did not volunteer for this.
It was the quiet romance of vacation
and matching blue suitcases, coalescing
ten years too late, behind a flight already gone.
Perhaps you knew I had already flown.
I saw only the white tail end, the underbelly
of what might have been, and that vanishing
proved the only answer I received.
Terrifying creature, brambled legs
Wrapped in a robe, a cigarette, a scowl-
She sits in state that's clawing in her gut,
Her fingers chittering like an insect horde.
She smells an unexpected coffeepot on fire
A brewing notion, peristaltic child
About to struggle from her lips in
Smoke, toads, rubies, chains, sweet liquor,
Needles, tissues, poison, potent words
Just like the maiden cursed
And like the hag who blessed her.
Approach her not, no, don't knock on that door-
You won't survive- those lips aren't red from kissing
But from eating rash young suitors like yourself.
Just stuff your sword back in your pant leg, and get out
Her lips are parting wide- they're infinite lips.
Are you not growing very small?
Here comes the monster, hungry at both ends,
And both ends smiling, saying
"I will teach you how to be immortal"
As they let out little puffs of smoke.
blaring through morning mist