Bubble Gum and Guns by Joon Oluchi Lee
Joon Oluchi Lee
A white boy was singing the lyrics of a gay disco anthem like a rapper, but a rapper who had given up, whose blood had thickened to the weight of lead from either too much pot or sugar. It was elevator music for gun-toters. Perfect for weaving through the mild tightness of a Wednesday night crowd to get to the booth where Brandon Kooning sat waiting, my ego hoped, for me. He was sitting upright, his stillness Buddha-like, his big eyes completely indecipherable. We had a moment of recognition as Cecilia did the formal introductions, and then we three had to bear down into small talk. By then, the radio had moved onto a half-white, half-Filipina wailing hard and fast an old art-punk song with the earnest ardor of the folk singer that she actually was. The song seeped into my croissant and strawberry ice cream sandwich and made my thick brown expensive beer taste extra extravagant. Brandon and Cecilia were drinking Amstel Light. I was getting sick but I didn’t know whether it was the heavy beer, the butter and sugar and artificial strawberry flavor, or Brandon’s placid, judgmental, and surprisingly handsome face.
His judgment was pitched perfectly between bashfulness and boredom. It was the kind of judgment that could have tipped over into affection, but definitely, he was judging me—even though I was wearing my favorite good luck shirt, which at the time, was a worn-thin football jersey with Rasta stripe trimming I found in the two dollar bin at a used clothing store on the outskirts of town: all around the number “45” were small brown stains, from tipped over fairy coffee cups or the shit of giant bed bugs. I loved the stains. Toughness oozed out of me and through the shirt to build a porous shield designed to attract the kind of man I thought I liked, but at the time, I didn’t realize that it would also gross out the kind of man I thought I needed to like. All the while I was getting sick of all the judgment and small talk.
I couldn’t tell you what we talked about two minutes after we talked about it. I wanted to ask Brandon why I hadn’t seen him at any of the meetings of the LGBT student group, but I bit my tongue. (When he did finally show up at a meeting, our senior year, he was smugly in the company of a bona fide boyfriend, a boy I slept with a year earlier, and they both acted like they had never met me before.) Brandon and I made no mention of our sexual orientation, and it felt as though, on his part certainly, that it was to extend some drearily beleaguered kind of respect for Cecilia, whose female heterosexuality was the type that takes up two seats even though she only paid for one. My shyness and Brandon’s shyness ricocheted against one another and formed politeness. So I spread my legs wide, stuck my feet out insolently and turned my toes up to stomp the floor in a regular beat with the heels of my boots. But the soles were made of rubber so the sound they made was soft and dainty. I unhinged my jaw and spoke loudly and gruffly through a stylized underbite, puking out talk about gay politics, recklessly referencing my own small gay history: the Clinton administration was not that much better than Bush’s in terms of AIDS research, not to mention Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, public outing was a political necessary act, how I lost my virginity at age 16 to a 40-year old guy I met in the showers at the gym in my hometown. “Cuz you know, the man had never seen a booty like this,” I explained. The music wasn’t blasting, so I did. When I saw Cecilia’s and Brandon’s faces become indistinguishable, I just said: “I really believe in fighting back. Fuck assimilation, you know? We gotta defend ourselves, because like Malcolm X says, like the chickens coming home to roost you know? I feel like, what we need right now is a pink chapter of the NRA.”
But I was a “we” of one. When I told this story years later to the boy who would become my partner, he said to me earnestly: “If I were that guy, I would have fallen in love with you right then.” I certainly hope so, because even though my future partner looks nothing like Brandon Kooning, they shared something. And my partner is the kind of boy I’d keep pricking my fingers for as I sew on his loosed buttons, while bossing him around at the same time. Cecilia blushed, managed a hard little smile, and said brightly: “I could go get us some more beers. Brandon?” Brandon shook his head: “No, I have to get up early tomorrow morning for Anatomy. I think I’ve had enough.” The way he looked unblinkingly at me you’d have thought that I was the zoomed-in soft crevice of an Asian girl’s legs split by a hard white cock in a gang bang video.
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Kate Durbin Has Two Poems Up at Plain Wrap Press
"…UPDATE 1:12 pm PT: Lindsay just walked into the courtroom in her white dress, still wearing her black sunglasses, accompanied by her attorney Shawn Chapman Holley. According to the RadarOnline.com reporter in the courtroom Lindsay “looked stressed…”
Kate Durbin’s E! Entertainment reviewed by Marisa Crawford at Bitch Media
for National Poetry Month. “Poets on Pop Culture: Three New Feminist Poetry Books that Deal With Reality TV, Shopping, and Rihanna.” http://bit.ly/1ibfYhS
“…Conceptual in nature, E! Entertainment is made up of meticulous transcriptions of scenes from reality TV programming about women—capturing every detail from designer clothes and luxury furniture to lipstick shades and carefully garnished cocktails in straightforward prose vignettes. By placing scenes from various reality shows alongside one another, Durbin calls attention to the female character tropes and formulaic narratives that so frequently make up reality TV shows: cattiness, competition amongst women, archetypes for female friendships, etcetera. But far from the snark of most tabloids and celebrity gossip blogs, Durbin considers these women with respect, taking them seriously….”
"What You Cannot See" from Tweaky Village by Kevin Killian
Second Wonder Prize
Wonder is looking for its next book!
The second Wonder Prize—judged by poet, novelist, and activist Rachel Levitsky—is now open for submissions. Wonder, a publishing and events platform for innovative writing and performance, is seeking manuscripts in any genre from writers at any stage of their career.
Edited by Andrew Durbin and Ben Fama, Wonder works at the intersection of art, writing, and performance. Beginning as a series of parties in Williamsburg, Wonder published small, limited-run pamphlets and ephemera in conjunction with its events. In 2012, Wonder published Mall Witch by Ben Fama, which Wayne Koestenbaum called “a Baudelairean Dionysus incarnated as a reticent anesthesiologist under house arrest for unspeakable, thrilling crimes.”
In 2014, Wonder published Kate Durbin’s E! Entertainment and Kevin Killian’s Tweaky Village, which won the 2013 Wonder Prize, judged by Macgregor Card. Books by Mathew Timmons and Juliana Huxtable are forthcoming.
Submission details here.
A Hazard, A Mission: Original Poem by Keith J. Varadi
Italian night train on its way
to a salsa-flavored laboratory
bodies tumbling on bodies
on flickering paper scrolls
eyes affixed on obituaries
while feet drag in tributaries
circulation like old smog songs
like college-soaked memories
midday MDMA slipping away
and LA is so slippery when wet
moist minds keep wits dry
and I know I need mine
true vamps incorporated
suckled moons appropriated
I’m on a fluorescent sofa
under incandescent lights
“Bad to the Bone” ring tone
plays behind the nurse’s station
walk down the hall to draw blood
in Buffalo Wild Wings buckets
full body washed over top to bottom
like a tepid kitten in a warm winter
back end back channel back again
never front never front ever again
a pocket can be picked apart
in underground lottery novels
I knowingly write poor poems
because I am a poor man’s novel
A Hazard, A Mission Original Poem by Keith J. Varadi for Wonder
Follow Keith at: http://keithjvaradi.com/