Welcome to this, the sixth issue of Beguile. The theme for this issue is "voices". The narrator of each written work published here has a distinct voice - sometimes more than one. The photographs by our featured artist, Eleanor Leonne Bennett, capture strong moments or make us notice small details, as though they're calling out to us. We hope you enjoy these verbal and visual dialogues - and as always, we thank you for stopping by to check them out.
Happy Reading and Viewing,
Alysa Salzberg, Editor-in-Chief
The Beguile Team
In this issue of Beguile,
Elan Eichler explores the mind of a grouchy old man in his poem The Last Authentic Pickle Shop on the Lower East Side,
With his short story Nantes, Jonathon Trosclair takes us on a stunning journey.
Jonathan Wolfman pays homage to a favorite book in his essay The Passage Owns Me.
In the short story Interview with Phil, the Only Vampire in Tokyo, author Natsuki Kimura reveals a reality where vampires, angels, pellet guns, and Paris collide.
It's an honor to feature Eleanor Leonne Bennett's photographs in this issue. Eleanor is a 16 year old internationally award-winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited, having been shown in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011), among many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus -run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. You can see more of her work at www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com
When asked what inspires her, Eleanor had this to say: "As an artist I like to capture everything in my life with a twist. I want to reflect on the world around me without pollution of a bias. I want to make ordinary extraordinary and find the beauty in the ugly of the environment I live in. I am forever learning I have the desire to reinvent my every flaw. I want to make everything into good art."
We’d like to thank all of our contributors for their kindness, patience, and cooperation.
And now, without further ado, prepare to be beguiled!
The Last Authentic Pickle Shop on the Lower East Side
by Elan Eichler
I hate this festering city in the summer
The snot-nosed punks outside my apartment
pissin’ away hours on the tax-payers dime,
Hookers on street corners wearing less than nothing,
Sweaty pigs arguing with some prick from the suberbs who doesn’t know how to drive
a god-damned pick-up.
Before I turned ancient and wrinkled
I loved this city and its dumb, cunty inhabitants.
Now I can barely stand going to the corner to buy a rotten apple,
Maybe it’s because I can barely stand,
I think it’s because everything I ever loved is dead.
Best friend Ted. also Dead.
The park I spent my youth shooting baskets. Closed, which is basically another form of Death.
Even the last authentic delicious cheap pickle shop, Closed.
The building burned to the ground for insurance money.
If I could have one of those crisp kosher dills right this very second,
I swear I would stop being so god-damned mean all the time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elan Eichler is a full-time student/writer/rapper. He spends most hours with pen in hand over a crumpled piece of paper jotting out poetry, fiction, and strange rhyming lyrics. A native Portlander who is a friend to hipsters and the un-hip alike, Elan brings his unique voice to everything he does. Check out his free music at: www.mightymisc.bandcamp.com and like him on facebook.com/mightymisc
ABOUT THE POEM:
This poem was inspired by my crotchety relatives and the changing landscape of New York over the past 50 years.
"the wind breaking an umbrella"
by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
by Jonathon Trosclair
She surfaced, breaking through the water, gasping for breath. A hand pushed her head down again, saying, “Another.” The God-hand was training her. She was going to be so great when He was done and there was no time to rest.
You were swimming in place in an Olympic sized pool spilling over with frigid water. The great gray stone walls of the room containing it crawled up higher than you could ever hope to climb. He would show you how to do this, how to climb, how to be a great gray nothing. The line of windows at the top of these walls let in a cold, harsh sunlight, illuminating your hands and feet, blurry underneath the water. Your hands were on your stomach; your head was submerged. You felt that you had it in you. You could take it. You could be better.
I looked over at you now, thirteen hundred years later. You crystalline bitch, you porcelain shadow, sitting on these rusty bleachers with me, wisps of your blond hair airborne, decaying into driftwood, I remember when I cut my head off for you. My organs were furious with me for it. I also remember when I sneaked you towels to dry off with all those years ago, because you used to be just so lovely and wonderful. I watched you cut that off, your loveliness and wonder. Limbs can grow back, heal up, cover up in scar tissue, but not your self-respect, not your bright eyes, your brutality, or your freedom, not your mother’s womb, and not your whole damn self. What were you thinking? You were seated next to a hundred generations of repression and religion. How dare you bring that God-hand in front of them.
You sat looking away at the soccer field, pulling your teeth out to see if you could still feel it"you can. I know you can, because your mouth is bleeding, though there is not much blood left to spill anymore. I reached out to you, darling"
I reached out to you and you bit me with your canine teeth. Yes, you would leave those in, wouldn’t you?’
Before, before, before, before I hated you, we had sat once in the grass in attendance to some great speech and stared at each other smiling and I was crying out on the inside "Darling! our Lord has left us. Our God is gone. What have we in way of faith now?"
But that was such a goddamn long time ago. God-hand will never leave you, never desert you, never stop making you better. He is your faith, He is your coach.
On a day when I was not drinking, I met you again in the bright, cobbled streets of Milan. The sun poured onto all of you and I thought then that you did not belong here, but in Greece, with your dark hair and eyes and your olive skin. I was all a daze, and I sought to make you mine. I could see you in my head, running through crumbling columns in golden sandals, fleeing without panic as the gods came down to strip you of your selfishness and fearless eyes. I wanted to take you to a home in the countryside of Pordenone where we could sleep in the grass that moved like waves in the wind.
No, I wanted to bring you to Nantes, where we could walk the streets and I could buy you fine clothes from the lived-in buildings that had stood since the last great war and we could dance in the streets where the bands played and there would always be enough wine to celebrate all the things that no one else celebrated.
Then as I got closer, approaching you, I saw you were a soldier. You were tying a tourniquet fast around your leg in the middle of a war you did not choose, but in several ways, you indeed did choose. Your body parts had been discarded without second thought after you lost the first two or three. You chalked them up as casualties to a greater cause that would give back one day. There is no victory to be had if there is no part of you left to have it. I lost my visions of Nantes, and thought how desperately lucky it was that you had even made it to Milan.
Your eyes were all wet, spilling over with curiosity, shame, and love. The brain contracted when you smiled. My heart held fast and there was a great cavity in your chest from where yours had been stolen. Eyes dropped to halfway open, yours were closed now.
I looked at your back, at your great, gray, battered, eagle wings folded so tight against you in a constant, painful effort so that no would see them. I saw them and I knew you didn’t want anyone ever to notice them again, that you had them at all, that you were any different from all the others in your life in such a huge way. If need be, I would help you unfold them, slowly, slowly. I wondered if they hurt as much as they looked like they did. I would take all the time I had to pull the barbed wire and thorns from them. I wouldn’t even care if you flew from me then. At least you’d be where you belonged, which was wherever you wanted to be. You were born for freedom. The way your hands moved screamed it. Who could not hear that? Who could not see the travesty committed when they loved you for your wings but then broke them so that you would not leave?
I wonder what had brought you to Milan. If it had been a conscious decision. I chose to be here, but I had not intended to stay for long. Until I saw you. I would bed down for a month or two and work well here I hoped. I ended up working more than ever, hours a day, and I worked well sometimes and found out a lot about myself, but knew I would have to leave soon.
There was still a little time though, and I kept the vultures from my home as best as I could. I watched you carefully, enjoying it just too much to have you around me, sporadic as it was. Your wings could go either way now. I prayed for them. I prayed to God the way great, humble musicians do before they cry themselves to sleep at night. I prayed with honesty and quiet acceptance, that there would be a day when you broke the leather encircling you and showed your wingspan, massive and cold, and should Mephistopheles and Sisyphus reach up and grab hold of each your bloodied ankles, dragging you back down into hell and habit, then I prayed for a deep grave that your troubled heart should rest finally. There can be no rest in captivity and there is only the rest of sleep in a war, and often it is robbed by having a great faith in your cause.
I choose Nantes over Nuremburg. I choose wine over whiskey. I choose Pamplona over Jerusalem. I choose Nantes. Dionysius will welcome me in the city, cheering, waving down from the procession of his daily, hopelessly prodigal celebration, and shortly thereafter he will betray me with lies, but I will not falter from his shadow. I spent so much time alone wandering those streets of past cities, reading books I wished I had written and then growing past that, loving them only because I didn’t create them, that I soon forgot all about any harm a lie could do to me and I decided to love something completely. I went to search for it. Nantes is the city of love. Forget Paris, forget Marseilles, forget New York. Forget the conceptions you made in the dark and claw your way back up from the precipice you let yourself be pushed off of. You are strong enough, should you want it. You are free to join me at anytime, as anyone is. The whole damn world is.
I saw you the day they lifted you with flowers in Milan. It was a glorious coronation and we all watched your atrophied radiance remember itself in the shape of a smile, slipping out unexpectedly. That smile showed that you had forgotten it all for a moment and that you were blithe, for a moment. I choose Nantes. Any city is the city of love, but I choose Nantes. I hope that wherever you live, it is your choice. Fly from this, devil.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I live in Lafayette, Louisiana where it’s mostly hot and humid and we only have two comfortable seasons in the year, one if it’s a rainy spring. It's been an interesting place to live and write while among the small, yet growing artistic crowd that also calls this city home. I really couldn't be happier to have my work up on Beguile and for anyone interested, more of my writing can be found at http://www.writerscafe.org/jjtrosclair
ABOUT THE STORY:
Nantes was something written in a rush of nascent, conflicting emotions regarding ideals of selflessness, injury, self-injury, betrayal, human will, love, and foolishness. The product of a very tumultuous succession of months, it is quick to descend into both platitude and despair with equal ease, an attribute in which, hopefully, one can at least find a youthful insensibility to enjoy. It focuses on absolutes, and rereading it now, about two years after I decided to call it finished, "Nantes" is inescapably also about the absence of anything absolute, and the absolving of ideals without dichotomy as being something that is attainable.
by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
The Passage Owns Me
by Jonathan Wolfman
For we who love to read:
Far, far too many to count let alone comment on; far, far too many even for sifting; I know.
And yet, when we think on it, and it's good to think on it, we who read can recall those quiet, gorgeous, or, on the other hand, those supernova passages, passages that do not simply linger but work their way into muscle and bone and soul and become as much a part of who we are, years and decades on, as they were a part of the writer. They can, even upon, especially upon, a first-reading and then again, upon a return reading generations decades on, lend one a peace that, as T.S. Eliot said, goes beyond human understanding, washing over and into the pores and cells, an enduring tonic like no other. Such a passage can, too, make us bolt, upright, setting off a wonder and delight demanding multiple re-readings then and there.
There are passages, paragraphs, even just sentences from Virginia Woolfe (the ending sentences in To The Lighthouse), William Faulkner (the 100+ word opening sentence defining inner-time-and-space, Absalom, Absalom!), or Thomas Mann (the sequences on Love and Honor in The Magic Mountain), and so many others, that work on me in this way.
These and hundreds of other moments have stayed in me for so many years. I won't list more now because I'm concerned, foolishly I know, about a lack of inclusion. Except for one, one that has bored a space, lodged in my heart and in my mind like no other, a paragraph that originated with Mr. Clemens, of course, but that I have come to feel, in a strange and wondrous way, that I now own, and that my soul will own long after I pass.
Mid-way, Chapter 31: Huck's crisis-of-conscience, the conscience of a child, the emerging conscience of a nation mirrored in that small boy. He has his one chance to wrest himself from the stranglehold of nefarious criminals and he can do it by denouncing Jim to Miss Watson, Jim's owner under law, Jim the runaway, now a man to Huck, no longer a slave-only. Remember with me, for a moment, this electrifying passage, a moment that subverts all traditional social ethics and demands that America grow up and adhere to Higher Law. It even now shivers me deeply and wells me up.
Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now....I went on thinking...how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n...so I could go on sleeping; and see...how good he always was; ...and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: "All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up.
As I say, I have come to believe that I own this passage; the truth is that it owns me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jonathan Wolfman is a full-time writer living in North Bethesda, Maryland. He has taught literature, history, religious studies, and philosophy in independent schools in the U.S. and in China. Jonathan's writing appears daily at www.open.salon.com/blog/jlw1 and regularly at www.paltalknewsnetwork.com, as well at www.talkingwriting.com.
ABOUT THE ESSAY:
"I return to ‘Huck' once every two years or so (as I do as often to Heart of Darkness and The Sot-Weed Factor, as well as to Absalom, Absalom!. I was an American Civ major and I am, still. Nothing explains America's original sin(s) -- and possible ways forward -- as well as those books, and despite the fact that the Conrad has nothing to do with anything west on the globe other than London."
"get back better on"
by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Interview with Phil, the Only Vampire in Tokyo
by Natsuki Kimura
I've always thought the last great revolution was the one in 1917. You can't have a real revolution without horses; the Czar had lovely horses and he had some the best riders in the world. The guys behind the French and American revolutions knew how to ride, too. I've never been impressed by these modern revolutions with their personnel carriers, CNN and Twitter. All this technology is taking away the romance of revolutions.
I'm a vampire and I can't die, unless a vampire hunter who really knows what he's doing comes after me. With all the time I have I used to travel a lot but I've decided to settle here in Tokyo. Why Tokyo? Tokyo has the best food. And women. Is that a good enough answer for you? And there's a good riding club in Yoyogi that I go to.
After the revolution in Russia there was the civil war. It was horrible; after a few years of watching sickening atrocities I decided to move to Paris. By then World War I had ended and Paris had become a wild city, attracting all kinds of crazy characters from around the world who had been set free by the armistice. Those were wild and decadent times.
We immortals are always looking out for other immortals. I can usually tell who is an immortal just by looking at him. Among immortals, angels who turned to the dark side are the worst. They all hate mortals -- humans -- so much. And angels are supposed to look after humans, right? These guys are actually worse then devils, whose interactions with humans are governed by a very strict moral code.
There was one deranged angel in Paris who went over the edge on the front and never came back. His wings taken away for questionable behavior. When you talked with him and you could almost see resentment drip from his pores. The decent angels stayed away from him. He spent his days immersed in dope, wine and whores -- and walking around the streets of Paris in a white suit.
He had this brass blowpipe that could shoot a pellet that wasn't even a millimeter in width. At night, he would walk the streets and shoot tiny pellets through the heads of random passerby. I don't know how he did it, but he could shoot pellets with the velocity to pierce his victims' skulls. Because the pellet was so small, the wound left by it would sometimes seal itself and the victim wouldn't even notice that his head had been pierced. Other times the victim would die horribly, with blood spurting out from tiny holes on both sides his head. Other times the victim would live but become brain-damaged. For Michel -- that was the angel's name -- this was a form of entertainment, however twisted it may have been.
I thought Michel was a disgusting piece of trash and I wanted to do him in. But, he had already been reprimanded by a higher authority when his wings were taken away, and the hierarchy among immortals made it so that I couldn't and shouldn't do anything about him. So I stalked him, waiting for my chance to strike. You see, the two wars I had just seen made me detest those who enjoyed the pain of others. So many guys think they can wreck other people's lives for their enjoyment and get away with it; this is something I cannot stand. I think I'd seen one too many crones reduced to pulp solely for the enjoyment of depraved young men in uniforms. Ever hear the sound of hipbones snapping? It's terrible, and hearing it does things to you.
I noticed Michel was vain about keeping his white suit spotless. I'd seen him explode at a waiter who'd allowed as much as a crumb to land on him. One night he spewed his venom like a madman at a waiter who had spilled some wine on him. A few nights later Michel waited for the waiter to leave the cafe after work and blew a pellet through him. The waiter fell on the ground; he lost some blood but didn't die; me and a couple of cooks took him to the hospital.
I didn't see the waiter -- whose name was Raymond -- for a month. When he returned, his head was bandaged and he wore his waiter's uniform even though he no longer worked at the cafe; he spent his days splashing red wine from a bottle he always carried with him against anything white: walls, nurse uniforms, peonies. He spoke only in mumbles. He had become one of the many zombies who wandered through the streets of Paris.
Raymond remembered Michel. When the Raymond saw Michel, the former waiter ran up to the angel and splashed wine on his white suit. He did this many times: on the streets, at the park, on the Metro. Michel would become agitated, of course, and scream obscenities at him. I think Michel was out of pellets around this time and couldn't blow pellets at Raymond as he had done before. Soon Raymond would spend his waking hours standing outside Michel's apartment, waiting for him to step out.
That was when I made my move: I sucked Raymond's blood and made him a vampire and an immortal. This in theory allowed Raymond to stalk Michel forever, giving the Michel an eternal source of annoyance.
Raymond still stalks Michel today. Michel moved around Paris and its suburbs a couple of times, but Raymond always managed to find him and splash red wine on him. Michel used his blowpipe into the 20's, but by then shaky hands and constant coughing caused by unhealthy living made it so that he could no longer make precise hits as he once could. Michel moved to London when de Gaulle came into power, but I gave Raymond money so he could continue his stalking in the UK; a fellow vampire who lives in Brixton keeps me up-to-date on how Raymond is doing.
Oh, Michel knows what's happening and of my involvement, but what can he do? He may be immortal, but he's a dope fiend and it's not hard to run circles around a dope fiend. But even his dope hasn't been enough to allow him to forgive, or even laugh at Raymond and his wine attacks.
You got a light? Thanks. A Zippo, eh? I know the guy who invented this.
Yeah, you're right; perhaps I could do a little forgiving, too. But I've got plenty of time and I'd rather be thinking of horses instead. Do you ride? Yes, you say? Want to go to Yoyogi this afternoon?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Natsuki Kimura is a Japanese designer/collage artist who writes short stories in English. English is not Kimura's mother tongue, but he chooses to write in it because his Japanese is terrible. Kimura spent his youth in Osaka, Seattle and Skokie, Illinois, but as an adult he has rarely stepped outside his beloved Japan. He loves Ernest Hemingway, Richard Brautigan and Mark Rothko. You can read Kimura's stories at http://open.salon.com/blog/n_kimura . You can see his artwork at http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~tm6n-kmr/ .
ABOUT THE STORY:
I wanted to write something about Paris but knew nothing about it. So instead of writing about boulevards and cafes I've never been to, I decided to put together fragments that had some relation to Paris from stuff I've read and heard over the years. I had so much fun writing this story. It was like making a collage -- the fragments that make up this story aren't supposed to fit, but I made sure they did. It was the Joseph Cornell approach to fiction writing. Cornell liked angels, and so do I. Angels -- and vampires -- are always popping up in my stories.
by Eleanor Leonne Bennett