Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No News Today - Guest Post - Dawn Pichon Barron

Living Things

When I was eight we moved to another farm. Big red house but no barn. In the field behind the house I found a baby rabbit. I cocooned it in the bottom of my t-shirt and took it home. Mom and I made a bed from an old shoe box, and I wrote Hopper's House on the side with a felt tip marker.. I fed Hopper from a eye-dropper and set the box by the wood stove to stay warm. In the morning I ran to feed Hopper, wondering when I could bring him to show and tell, but the box was gone. I looked all over the house. Mom didn't know where it went. I got ready for school and stared at my soggy cereal until it was time to leave. On the front steps was the box—empty. Then I saw Dad walking up to the house from feeding the horse and chickens.

Necessary Bifurcation

Loosen up—you amazonian boa: supple, shiny smother monster. I'm screaming through crushed lungs, although itt doesn't matter for I've lost my voice. Synapses misfiring, connectors coiled around the ifs and could haves; finally, at mid-life, I'm fearful, dead awake afraid because I'm losing it in this fray. I'm manhandling a self twenty years past. Like when I heard that song from twenty years ago on the radio yesterday and sang everyword, the flood of nostalgia squeezing my heart muscle. My husband said, “this is classic rock now.”


Crutching up the front steps, entering the living room, cussing under my breath, I see two plastic lawn chairs, the hand-me-down sleeper sofa pushed to the back of the room. Mom smiling, “see your nice little place I made you.” I see my striped purple and white pillow, my faded flower bedspread. I point, “that one mine?” Mom nods. “That for you?” I point at the other chair. The toilet flushes, and in limps a man with yellow hair, yellow teeth and yellow beard. He holds his back with both hands. “This is Rod. He had back surgery. We are getting married.” I'd never seen this man in my life. I'd been gone one day having knee surgery. I cuss some more, loudly. Mom hands me a glass of water and pain pills. I close my eyes and hope to sleep for the rest of my life.

Dawn Pichon Barron teaches English, Native & Chicano Literature & writing to students at The Northwest Indian College~Nisqually Rez and Saint Martin's University. Her work can be read at Oregon Quarterly, Greenbeard Magazine, The Olympian, Of a Monstrous Child:  An Anthology of Creative Writing Relationships (Lost Horse Press), wordspace/The Black Front Gallery & at booksbeautybullshit.wordpress.com. She is founder and curator of the Gray Skies Reading Series in Oly, WA. She can be reached at pigeongirlsgot@gmail.com.

Monday, February 2, 2015

No News Today - Guest Post - Melissa Swantkowski

Something Useful

The pain in our teeth started gradually, and I was more focused on hers. “Soup doesn’t require chewing,” I told her. “Heated, just slightly, it won’t disturb the mouth at all.” We stocked up on Progresso, stacking cans two deep in the cabinets. We had in common a fear of the dentist, leftover from childhoods blighted by fillings in baby teeth, aggressive headgear and root canals by age nine. A few weeks in our relationship, we discovered we’d shared the same orthodontist.

Now, she had holes in her teeth, places where the composite fillings fell out, little white nuggets that she spit into her palm.

“Ow,” she said.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not really, but don't you think it should?”

“Is it tooth?”

“I don’t think so. Look for me.” She directed and I complied, bracing myself above her and lowering my face, the closest to sex we’d come in weeks.

“I see a hole. Where it came from.”

She rolled a chunk between two fingers. “Ugh, it’s disintegrating.”

“You should go to our dentist.”

She said she’d go tomorrow. She stopped asking me to look into her mouth, but I could tell when something was wrong. From the look on her face and the slowed pace of her chewing, I could tell.

Perhaps our first bonding agent wasn’t something unique. It was, after all, a small town. The man had yellowed teeth and halitosis, hairy wrists that poked out of the space between his white coat and too-tight latex gloves, and a booming business. He shoved wads of dry cotton into our gums and made a buzzing sound in his throat as he adjusted. He buzzed along to Top 40 hits and left glue on our canines.

My molars started to ache, really ache. It’s my sinuses, I reasoned. Something seasonal. I could tough it out. Just opening my mouth was a chore. I eased the toothbrush out to find the bristles bent and sticky, as if my jaws had attacked, given up, gifted me with a stranger’s effluvia.

But I went, and once in the waiting room, it seemed silly how hard it had been to get there. Then, in the chair, reclined half back, it seemed like a bad idea again. Had I moved on? I hadn't. The dentist cleaned and polished. He mentioned a referral to an oral surgeon. He flossed my teeth starting in the front. “You should start in the back though,” he said. “People have a tendency to get lazy by the time they get back there, and oh.” He pulled the floss from my mouth and wiped something yellow and gummy on my bib. He took a metal tapper from his tray. That’s all I can think to call it, a tapper. He tapped a molar, gently, then a little harder. “How does that feel?” 

“Mmm, okay,” I said, though I wasn't sure. He tapped another. He pointed a stream of air into my mouth, then suctioned. His third tap pulled at the contents of my stomach.

This couldn't exist as something that I, alone, experienced.

“Not good,” he said. “It seems, with the cleaning, I’ve uncovered a network of cavities. They start here,” he tapped, “and go all the way back here,” he tapped his way into a far corner of my mouth. I imagined mole tunnels. My teeth like an unkempt lawn. I think I saw a glint of drill-giddiness in his eyes. My stomach protested. “Do you need a moment?” he asked, sitting back, crossing ankle over knee and glancing at the Novocain. I closed my mouth cautiously, afraid of what I might find when my teeth met.

The dentist pursed his lips and pushed his hands back inside my mouth, prodding my gums and tapping. “It’s generally true that your front teeth, the adult ones, are in proportion to your face. There is a ratio that works out mathematically.” I wondered what he was trying to tell me and couldn’t ask him with my mouth wide open and his hands inside. I tried to recall, looking at my teeth, if they seemed somehow proportionally relational to my face, 1/50ththe size, or perhaps, at a distance, the same shape. I tried to recall looking at her teeth, the time that I’d held my face over her, as close as the dentist was now. I had only looked in the back, but surely I’d noticed her smile, could remember it, or at least bring it back up as an image. But what I saw instead was the soup, cans lined up in my pantry like a grin.

The dentist nodded as if he’d told me something useful. He turned away to ready his instruments. I wondered there was something off about my teeth that made them wrong, something different from teeth, in general.

Melissa Swantkowski is the fiction editor at Bodega Magazine and one-half of The Disagreement, an edited reading series based in NYC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Joyland, The Mississippi Review, Monkeybicycle and elsewhere. You can read all of this again, and more, at melissaswantkowski.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No News Today - Guest Post - Philip Shaw

Slept Like. Woke Like.

Then before our first reason to be alone together he was just my favorite teacher. And I found him. Then he said he needed my help because he was sick. And an internet search is all it took to find him. Then he took me into a storage room where he showed me how to jab the insulin needle into his ass. And I just went to see how he could be living with himself. Then the second time there was no needle. And the place is all his but he’s the only one working, just pushing drinks. Then I wanted him how only a thirteen-year old can want. And it’s built out of a few double-wides cobbled together and set down in a gravel lot off what is barely a highway. And there’s a decent jukebox. Then when I trusted him like I trust you now he said, ‘you’ll be better at everything she isn’t.’ And I am going to keep going, maybe again tomorrow. Then he said, ‘some day it can be just us because you’ll be old enough.’ And I will always just buy a couple drinks. Then his wife. And I just play a few songs on the jukebox. Then I slept like a dead girl. And I was ‘Just on my way to Sacramento.’ Then his kids. And the worse places always have the best jukeboxes because they deliver them stocked. Then I woke up like a dead girl. And the owners are too lazy to mess with the rotation. Then my parents. And I was ‘Just coming back from Sacramento.’ Then the church themselves. And every time I was the only one there. Then they were all taught to forget. And he lives in even worse of a shack out behind the place. Then none of them would bother with what I would remember. And he’s more than alone. Then there are no more promises. And all around is dark desert where you can’t see nothing. Then most of what I give you now still comes from him. And you know how sometimes something has to stop so things can be our own. Then you’ll want to make sure there’s none of me in all of this. And they’ll blame it on his pancreas. Then you walked out to where I waited for you in the dark. And what it’ll be like is just reading some news.

Philip Shaw is a creative director in the communication industry in Seattle, Washington. His poetry and prose has found homes at Kahini.org, the magazine Everywhere, and he was selected for the 2013 Wild Light Award, with the work forthcoming in the The Los Angeles Review. He visually explores his writing process at: www.aRoughDraft.com.

Monday, November 3, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Grace Campell

so much like in the story, if it was one, which it is, would be so bad it's funny.

in the story, the man who i met years ago surfaces from time to time.
in the story, he comes to my house, drunk, idling in the car he can’t afford, alongside the curb. in the story i tell him go away and in the story he goes away, then a few days later, he comes back.

but instead the story comes right up to my porch, 6'2" of inebriation and because I'm cast-iron i go out there, outside, go up to him, right up to that motherfucker and tell him go away.

i never fucked with this story but he thinks we're star-crossed lovers and i don't know why i forget this.

i'm telling you, it's some kind of biting sibilance, that moment the voice in your head tells you this is the story and shit is going down and it's not in your favor.

Grace Campbell was born, raised and educated in New York. She currently lives and works in Olympia, Washington.

Monday, August 4, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Erika Anderson

Slow in Your Slow World

One day your hand might reach
The heel that has fallen off your foot,
The plastic nude pump in the doorway
Looking as if it might walk in without you.

But for no
w your arm is suspended, a
Jeff Koons basketball in distilled water.
Your eyes are closed, but your cropped
Blond hair is gelled, you were ready
For the day, off to meet someone in your
Leopard print camisole and jean shorts.

We know you are a woman
Because in your ongoing forward bend—
The yoga pose of your afternoon—
Your thong rainbows out of your jeans,
Arcing over your ass, giving us symmetry,
If not beauty.

I wonder about these mean streets,
Why they haven’t taken you.
I wonder if someone will pick you
Up like a doll, and dust you off,
Take you somewhere near or far.

I wonder why I keep walking,
Why I don’t know what to say or do,
But who would I call and what would
They want? “There’s a woman nodding
on Broome,” I could say, but that’s not
news. Nothing’s ever news.   

Erika Anderson is a contributing editor for Guernica Magazine and teaches for the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Buzzfeed Books, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn's Crown Heights, where she co-hosts the Renegade Reading Series for emerging writers. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Joe Sacksteder

Is it in you?

From what our sources tell us, it isn’t. Perhaps it once was, but it no longer is. Like most everyone who grew up in this country, we’re sure it has been in you at some point. We want to put it back into you.Try to revive the bluffs that loomed above the outfield fence at Talcott-Page, the baseball-swallowing darkness that pocked the sumac and crevasses, the sirens – even a gunshot once in a while – that reminded you that this was the bad part of Rockford. As if you could have forgotten. It was summer and it was baseball and you were young, but dusk and storm clouds and the earthy smell of lightless conduits was an encounter with the end of something, there at the beginning.

Take a sip of Riptide Rush. Put Fierce Grape into you. Try to trick your body into believing – just for a moment – that you are still an athlete. That you still have and still need it in you.

Joe Sacksteder is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah. Later this year, Punctum Records will release his album, as The Young Vish, of Werner Herzog sound poems.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Scott Cheshire

"Water of Life”

Kingsley Amis once said “the really amazing achievement of the Western hero” had nothing to do with sharp shooting, or horse wrangling, but was “the way he could stride into a saloon, call for whiskey, knock it back neat and warm in one and not so much as blink.” I get the romantic impulse. For as long as I can remember being a drinker, or wanting to be a drinker, whiskey was the goal. It was tough, dark, and graduated to, a drink earned, not for everyone, and somehow both worldly and provincial, handed down to sons from fathers all over the globe. Never mind that my father never touched the stuff. Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” did in the Dollars Trilogy. And so did Gene Hackman’s “Popeye Doyle” in The French Connection II. “Scotch, right there, El Scotcho,” he says to a French barkeeper, while barely keeping his cool. Only just last year I tried to convince my wife that Popeye is a good strong name for a boy if we ever have children.

One Friday night, back when I was in my early twenties and working as a meat cutter in Duluth, Georgia, I had closed up shop, and shut the lights, when I heard a knock at the door. I looked up and saw one of our regulars, a man of about forty, which was just short of elderly to me at the time. I unlocked the door and told him we were closed. He asked if he could just get a few things. Please. I was newly moved out from my parents’ house (again), girlfriendless, and, frankly, I had little to do most evenings. I was about to say “sure,” when he said, “tell you what, I just bought some good Scotch, you ever have really good Scotch?” I was intrigued. I had not yet gotten past plastic bottle bourbon. He brought in a bottle of twenty-five-year-old Talisker. I grabbed two glasses from the sink. We upturned two empty five-gallon buckets, sat, and we sipped. It was like tasting the side of a hill: soil, grass, mineral. I’d never had anything like it in my life. He did not explain it to me. He did not condescend. He guessed the experience would speak for itself, and he was right. That was twenty years ago give or take.
- - -
A few random personal memories of whiskey:

1 – My first truly soul-bruising hangover during which I realize too much Jim Beam has the power to remove every last hope from your heart.

2 – Proudly bearing into my mother’s kitchen my first purchase of Maker’s Mark, telling her why it’s “special,” and her telling me that sort of spirit isn’t allowed in her home.

3 – Hearing burly punk rock journeyman Mike Watt boom out “drink that bourbon right straight down” on his second solo record, Contemplating the Engine Room, even further instilling in me the silly conflation of bourbon and manhood. (Not Mr. Watt’s fault. All mine.)

4 – Stumbling onto John le CarrĂ©’s novel The Night Manager (not too long after my Talisker epiphany), in which former soldier-turned-hotel manager Jonathan Pine and various players involved in a clandestine sale of black market weapons all “sip” on Scotch, and “take pulls” of Scotch, and “need large” Scotches in the middle of the night, and in the middle of the day, which forever changes my perception of booze, mixing my dreams of being a writer with the drinking of Scotch. This is followed by about ten years of foolish and ill-informed booze snobbery.

5 – Meeting my lovely wife—girlfriend, then—and spending our first summer afternoons romantically lazing on her porch in Atlanta, amidst occasional gunfire and the maddening singsong bells of a neighborhood ice cream truck that secretly sold drugs, until one day the driver was arrested and the truck was left for pillaging, but nevertheless we were lazing and drinking mint juleps. This returns me to bourbon.

6 – At some point I start writing a novel, although I don’t think it’s a novel at the time, just a really long story, a story about what is to grow up in America, so deeply steeped in its complicated Christian religious legacy, and what it means to divorce yourself from that (even while that’s pretty much impossible to do), except after six years of hard work I do not know how to end the book. And then one day I happen to read about the early American use of Bellarmine jars (also called witch jars, or beardman jars) on the 18th century American frontier, occult black pottery filled aged urine (!), animal hair, pages of biblical scripture, and crosses, all used as a charm against bad luck—and used by Christians. And, lo, that urine was aged in barrels, just like my favorite Kentucky bourbon, and I knew somewhere in that strangely mixed image and idea lay the ending of my novel.
- - -
Last year, I went to the doctor for my year forty physical, which thanks to recent studies no longer involves the probing one might fear (all that now happens at fifty). Liver: good. Heart: like a horse. Lungs: of a much younger man (I run and do not smoke). But my blood was in very bad shape, it turns out, my triglycerides through the roof, near the level of pancreatic shutdown. The doctor said it might be genetic, but he gave me a list: increase your exercise (no problem, there, recovering from a broken ankle, and so I’m anxious to get back to running); decrease your animal fat intake, and thus decrease your own fat (hopefully the running will help); drink red wine only; and no more whiskey. Please.

For the first time in my life I really did listen to my doctor because, well, I’m no longer feeling invincible (even as I write this, my ankle aches; the back does, too), and because I don’t romanticize, not anymore. All things must pass. Even me.

I should also say I’ve not given up whiskey for good. I have it once a week, usually on a Saturday night, at home, on the sofa, wife beside me, pug in lap, but this week I’ll likely have more. Because my book is now out in the world. And because there is something lovely and uplifting about having your brother, or a friend, or a peer pass you an unbidden celebratory tumbler. But next week I’ll return to my long daily walks, and whiskey-less nights with the wife. Although, maybe I’ll mix it up with a delicate whiskey cocktail, post-book birth week, in the new “now” of my “newish” life, and sit quietly with her, satisfied with a single and perfect pretty sazerac, at The Penrose Bar, my favorite local for an afternoon sip. Rye, neat, and a mere mist of absinthe, garnished with a bent lemon peel, as the barkeeper says in a shameless brogue that whiskey is Gaelic for “water of life,” and Kate and I talk yet again about having kids, or maybe not having kids, and do we stay in New York, or do we leave, and what to do with our next forty years.      

Scott Cheshire earned his MFA from Hunter College. He teaches writing at the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop, and his work has been published in Slice, AGNI, Guernica, and the Picador anthology The Book of Men. He is the author of High as the Horses' Bridles (Henry Holt), and lives in New York City.