New and Used
by Andrea Rubin
New and Used
New and Used
by Andrea Rubin
There is No Drug Whose Name is Not Pretend
by Andrea Rubin
The man who was a tree
by Goran Baba Ali
The young photographer was the first to see the naked man. It was never clear to him whether it was a dream, a vision, a drunk man’s imagination, or if he really had seen that young, naked creature in the dusk, at the beginning of the evening, turn into a tree and swiftly disappear between the other trees and bushes at the edge of the stream of Qilyasan, a small village just outside the city. From that day he began his obsessive search for the tree to photograph it and convince everyone of his integrity, to prove that he wasn’t crazy, neither a deceiver nor a liar, and hadn’t meant to bring the city into turmoil. He also hugely regretted that he hadn’t kept his mouth shut but instead, that same night, allowed his story to go around the city. In fact, it was not him who caused all that commotion. He had only told a few friends and acquaintances about that vision-like appearance. They were the ones who had told others about it and those others told some other people until the rumor, within a few weeks, had even reached Khatib, the head imam of the city, and gained a place in his Friday sermon.
Nobody believed that the tree, which some people claimed to have observed here and there, would be the same naked young man, who some other people said they had seen roam through the streets and alleys with a long, wide, fresh green leaf wrapped around one of his legs, crawling between his crotch to stretch further over his hips, his waist and under his armpit until finally wrapping around his neck and hanging over his chest. Who should believe whom and what, nobody knew. The whole town was talking about him, everyone was under the spell of the story, but nobody could confirm the existence or nonexistence of that creature. Most people were pretty sure that it was nothing more than an illusion. And for this they blamed the young photographer. They said he was the one who infected everyone’s mind with that delusion. When they talked about the naked young man, they also referred to a young photographer, although almost no one knew him or had ever heard about him. In a way they confused the two young men or they even mistook them for one person. At some point, most of the people also began to deny the existence of the young photographer. Even he began to doubt himself. He wished that all this were only a dream from which he would suddenly awake and breathe a sigh of relief.
For the young photographer, that day, during which he saw the naked man, was a special day. Not only because he thought he had seen Jesus, but also because on that same day, in the early morning, he was fired and permanently released from a crazy boss. Yet, at a later stage, he could not remember exactly what day or what date it was. And when a while later he asked his former boss if he could remember, the answer was, “No.” That day was certainly not so special for his boss; it was not the only time his assistant showed up so late for work that he threw him out for a few days before begging him to return. Remarkable days were, on the contrary, the days when he was on time. The only special thing about that day for his boss was that this time the fired assistant never returned.
That day the young assistant photographer appeared half an hour late at work. When he walked into the store, he found a crowd of angry customers who were impatiently waiting for the photos that they were supposed to get back immediately. Some of them were still waiting for someone to take their picture. His boss—as his assistant described him, an old crazy photographer who, until the autumn of his life, after years of shooting, hadn’t discovered that he had chosen the wrong profession, because he just hadn’t the patience for it—was in the darkroom working on developing pictures for a few customers. The poor man, on that busy morning, had to welcome all those hurried customers on his own, ask them what kind of photos and how many copies they needed, bring them quickly into the studio and take their picture. Most customers needed passport photos to apply for their drivers’ licences at the traffic police office, about two hundred meters away from the studio. After having photographed a few customers in a row, he had to lock himself in the darkroom, quickly pull the negatives out of the camera, submerge them in the developer, drag them between two of his fingers to get rid of any drops, dry them, then print them. After doing all of this on his own, he had to run out of the darkroom, drenched in sweat, give the pictures, still wet, to the customers waiting in his shop, take the money, bid them goodbye and quickly bring a few other customers into the studio, photograph them and so on, going through the process all over again on his own. And all because his assistant was late. But also because of the very fact that he found it too expensive, as his assistant had always suggested, to buy a Polaroid camera with which he could take, within a few minutes, four or eight photos of each customer without them having to wait for so long, sometimes up to half an hour. But also he and his assistant wouldn’t need to work so very hard. All in vain, however, because this suggestion always fell on deaf ears.
The boss himself had a much smarter and cheaper solution, he thought. He had transformed his Swedish Hasselblad into a fast operational camera. Originally the camera worked with rolls of the so-called 120-film with which you could take twelve square photos. But he cut the film in the darkroom into twelve loose squares and kept them in a separate box to protect them from light. Then, when he or his assistant had photographed a client, they put the negatives one by one in a template he had made out of cardboard. Then they put the template with the negative in it into the camera. If they had to photograph a few customers in a row, after taking the picture of one person they took the negative rapidly out of the camera in the darkroom, put another piece of negative in the template and put the shot negatives in a box on the left side of the developing device so as not to confuse them with the raw negatives. With the new negative in the camera, they went back into the studio to take the picture of the next customer. Then they developed a couple of negatives at the same time and printed them.
When they were both in the shop, they divided the tasks and everything usually went smoothly. As on an assembly line, one of them took the pictures and the other developed the negatives and printed the photos in the darkroom to hand them over to the other so that he could dry them, cut them nicely and give them to the customer before welcoming the next one. No real problems; everything went very smoothly.
But that particular busy morning the boss had to perform all the tasks on his own. When he heard his assistant on the stairs at the entrance of the shop greeting the cranky customers, he ran out of the darkroom swearing at him, his hair disheveled, drops of sweat running down his cheeks, behind his ears, his neck and dripping from his chin. His white shirt was steeped in sweat and stuck to his body. In the semi-transparent pocket of the shirt you could see a wad of dinar bills. When he stepped into the shop, he went directly to his assistant who had just reached the front door, poised to walk inside. He gave him a shove and shouted at him: “Don’t you dare enter, you lazy bastard! Go away! I never want to see you here again!”
The young photographer fell back down the few steps onto the sidewalk. With a jerk, he stood up and yelled back: “Yes, I’m a lazy bastard. But from now on I am a free man!” After five years working with this boss, he suddenly felt free. He was the only assistant photographer who had been able to work for such a long time with this confused madman. He saw himself more as his slave than his sidekick. Later he would say to his friends that although that day was an ordinary but surely miserable day for his boss, for him it was a very special day in which he cheerfully enjoyed every moment of his joblessness.
His resignation didn’t mean that he had become unemployed. Quite the contrary: that day was the beginning of a life with more responsibilities. He decided to work for himself as a street photographer. After he got up from the sidewalk and yelled at his boss, he dusted himself off and immediately crossed the street. He took the bus and went back home, grabbed his Polaroid camera, got on his bike and went to Serchinar, on the outskirts of the city. For a few hours, he wandered around the recreation areas surrounding the lake and took many photos of people who found it impressive that they got their pictures immediately after posing for the shot. They didn’t have to wait a few days like with the other street photographers who would give them a receipt for a studio where they would have to go to pick up their pictures—sometimes only to hear that, unfortunately, their photos hadn’t come out well. Now with his camera, they could see the results immediately because the Polaroids didn’t need to be developed in a studio like celluloid film. After he had taken a picture, or even two or three at the same time, he just needed to pull out the negative, which was not celluloid but paper, and shake it for some twenty seconds, then tear off the black cover and there you are: a Technicolor picture printed on the thick shiny paper.
After only a few hours, though, he’d used all his packs of Polaroid film. If he only had more with him, he could also have used them, he was sure. It was the beginning of a prosperous life, he thought. Within a few hours his pockets were full of money. He found it strange that his customers were happy to pay whatever he asked just for a photo that they could have in their hands right away. They looked at their pictures with amazement. The young photographer wondered if it was the secret of the camera and its quickly developed photos or the magic of recording the moments that enchanted his customers. It seemed to him that people felt happier about their lives when they could look at them from a distance, on the surface of a piece of paper. That made him enjoy his work even more.
But by the end of the afternoon his mood was changing. The smell of arak dominated his thoughts, a recognizable odour that excited and invited him to drink. His favourite drink, as it was for many of his countrymen, the most famous strong drink in the whole region and the pride of his country. In Serchinar, which was full of bars and people drinking everywhere around the lake, everything, even the trees, emanated that irresistible fragrance, with a sharp scent of aniseed. Once his film packs were finished, he bought a quart of arak at the kiosk and asked the owner for a plastic cup and some ice cubes in a plastic bag. He went through the chinar trees, the bushes, to the bank of the Qilyasan river, sat under a large tree on the edge of the creek, lit a cigarette and began to drink and unwind.
His exhaustion, but also his sense of indignation, were making him sad. He had a feeling of humiliation from working as a roving photographer, he realized. With each sip of arak and puff of the cigarette, he looked at his camera and thought about the sense and nonsense of his work. The longer he thought about it, the more he lost the enthusiasm and determination of a few hours ago. So much so that he now began to hate his camera, to which he had been so attached. He had spent the day strolling between the casinos in Serchinar, around the lake and through the gardens and parks that lie between Serchinar and Qilyasan, and had taken dozens of pictures of drunken men, especially boys who were just learning to drink.
It was two years since people had been liberated from a dictator who held them for so long in the grip of his regime and who had closed all roads to a normal life. They were still caught up in the euphoria of the uprising that had at last freed them from the so-called Republic of Fear. Going out in the evenings to hang out on the streets until late in the night was one of the rewards of that uprising. Everyone seized the opportunity, particularly frustrated young men who didn’t have to worry anymore about wars or being forced to serve in the military. You could find them in pairs or in groups of three, four or more in every corner of the city, in the many fields and hills on the way to the mountains, and especially in Serchinar. They went to drink and tell each other about their failed romances or the disappointments of their one-sided loves. They talked about the heartlessness of women and young girls who dressed up, wearing heavy makeup, and strolled through the streets without even a glimpse at all those frustrated men. It was like there was clean polished glass surrounding each of these women; you couldn’t see it but it was there. A glass wall that only those men who dared to approach them would encounter. And to work out all those frustrations, young men went to the outskirts of the town to drink in groups.
It was these men who asked the photographer to record them hugging and capture their eternal friendship forever. Some wanted him to photograph them while they were jumping in the lake with their clothes on. Or when they gave one of their friends a kick in the ass. He had to try to show in the picture how much the kick would hurt. It had to be an unforgettable kick. Or they asked him to go to sit in a tree and shoot them from there while they lifted their glasses towards the sky, clinking them together in a toast. He had to take the picture just at the moment that the drops of arak were splashing out of their glasses, like you see in western films.
Looking at his camera, he felt the weight of his disappointment more and more. Sadly he looked at the clear water in the creek in front of him; how confidently, unceasingly and without hesitation it flowed over the gravel and sand and how all the sticks, cans, bottles and caps under the transparent surface of the water sparkled, half immersed in the sand, left behind in an eternal silence, waiting for a merciful power to wipe them mercilessly away.
He took another sip, lit a cigarette and decided to put aside his gloom and not think about his frustrations. He tried to look at the events from a different perspective. To lose his job was for him a first step towards liberation from the bonds of a society from which he was completely alienated. He reached out his hand, grabbed his camera and laid it on his lap. Suddenly he realized that his camera could provide him with the distance he needed to protect himself from his environment, a society in which he felt like an unwanted element. He kissed the camera and put it back on his lap.
For the young photographer, Qilyasan was one of the most phantasmagorical places in the city. He often ran away from the daily lives of other people who, to him, looked as if they came from another planet. Although, in fact, it was he who seemed to them as if he was not of this world. Between the trees of Qilyasan he could be himself one hundred per cent. He could then build up a direct relationship with his inner world and forget the rest, the others with all their ideas, religion and political beliefs. It is not easy to live in such a society if you’re not like them. A feeling of alienation overwhelmed him when he thought about that society. The trees and the stream of Qilyasan and the smell of the arak in front of him strengthened that feeling so much that he forgot himself and became more and more a part of the world around him; a part of the trees, the river and the gravel and sand under the clear water. Every time he got drunk, he undressed and laid in the shallow water, gazing at the blue sky which was fluidly changing colors in the early evening; first to a pale orange that was penetrating slightly in the blue, then getting darker until becoming a colour between brown and dark blue and tending gradually to black. The glittering stars appeared one by one, the muffled sound of the birds little by little got quieter, until a heavy silence dominated the orchards. He thought that he was hearing, through the darkness and the tempered flow of the stream, the stars singing.
But that evening, when it gradually became dark and he peered into the stream and waited for it to invite him in, he was so tired, sleepy and drunk that he could barely open his eyes. He leaned against the tree, stretched his legs and put his feet on its huge roots, which were jutting out of the ground and stretching towards the water. Through his tired eyelids he saw many plastic bags, soggy papers, rags, empty cigarette packs and other things that were stranded between the roots. The gravel and sand at the bottom of the river sparkled under the orange light of the sunset and bewitched him into a deep sleep.
Suddenly the young photographer was startled awake by a strange noise that he just couldn’t place. A severe hangover swarmed around his head like a handful of iron filings. He did not know whether the sound came from outside or echoed inside his skull. He rubbed his eyes and saw in the water before him a strange creature crouching between the huge roots of the tree. He rubbed his eyes even harder and saw that it was a naked young man trying to detach himself from the roots. Wrapped in weeds and algae, he crept out of the water. Suddenly a new eddy of pain whirled through his head. He closed his eyes and started screaming. He pressed his palms to his temples in order to soothe the pain. When he opened his eyes again, the naked man had disappeared. He didn’t know if he should believe his eyes or accept that it was nothing more than a vision. But no, he was sure of what he had seen. He hung his camera around his neck, gathered his courage and strength and stood up. Reeling, he stepped into the water and crossed the creek. He ran drunkenly in all directions but didn’t find a trace of anyone in the dusk.
It was getting darker when he returned to the riverbank and, casting around, he saw in the water, a little further away, a naked man trying to get out of the river and reach the bushes, all with a large wooden cross on his shoulders, which in the dark could have been a tree stump or a very big leaf. The young photographer opened his eyes wide to get a better view. Quickly he raised his camera and tried to take a picture; a picture that could have been a masterpiece, as he always said later, a picture of the crucified Jesus, or a new Jesus with a big leaf on his shoulders. But when he pressed the button, he remembered that there was no film in the camera. Immediately, without thinking about it, he ran into the water towards the naked man. Just a few meters away from the fading ghost, which now seemed more like a tree than a man, his foot slipped on a rock and he fell forward. First his camera and then his face sank into the water. At the exact moment that his eyes reached the surface of the river, he saw the silhouette disappear between the trees in the small grove.
by Joan Z. Shore
Most cities in the world impose their character on you, like it or not. New York shoots you with adrenalin, and implants grandiose dreams. London revs you up in a more subtle way, making you impatient and irritable. Rome scatters your energies and overloads your senses. St. Petersburg dazzles, and cuts you off from reality. Cairo submerges you, ignores you. New Delhi claws at you and gives you no peace.
But Paris — it is all things to all people, and a different thing to everyone. It can change moods from season to season, day to day, even hour to hour, and those changes are simply reflections, or projections, of your own changing moods.
You can wake up on a dark, rainy morning and feel utterly exuberant; you can walk down St. Germain on a sunny afternoon and feel dismal. The city does not impose its sentiments on you; it respects you, it lets you be.
Café life supports this, encourages it. You are in the world, but not of it. You are among other people, but not with them. You are part of the human race, pardieu!, but you are autonomous, even anonymous, if you want to be.
So the city is a kind of barometer, a psychological litmus test, of your inner state at any given time. Like those rings that change color according to your mood.
I might even go further and say that tourists who come to Paris and hate it are simply sensing their own unhappiness — the sorrow or discontent that they have brought with them. The city is not going to cheer you up, like Amsterdam or Copenhagen or Barcelona; it is going to throw you back on yourself, into yourself, just as a very good analyst or a passionate lover will do.
So it may be a sign of great self-indulgence to live here year after year as I have been doing. It may actually be a chronic case of narcissism, of self-referral. For I am not involved with the city, but with myself; the city is my framework and I am swinging in and out of it as I swing in and out of my moods. When I spend twenty minutes waiting on line at the post office to retrieve a stupid registered letter, I may be working up a blind fury with French inefficiency, or I may be calmly contemplating my marketing list. It all depends on the mood I was in when I entered.
….Because there is nothing inherently good or bad, nice or nasty, about the way things go here. Example: that same day in the post office, I put a couple of large coins into the change machine in order to buy stamps from the automatic dispenser. What emerged sounded like a Las Vegas jackpot: about twenty coins of tiny denominations. I began to load them into the stamp-dispensing machine, but it took so long that the machine shut off and spat out all the coins. No way to buy my stamps! I cursed it, but it was comical, too.
Another example: on my way home one evening, I stopped at a local butcher to pick up a chicken. I didn’t want a raw one, but I didn’t want one of his barbecued ones either; I wanted one that was only half-cooked, so I could add my own herbs and sauce and finish the roasting in my oven. He refused, flatly, to sell me a half-cooked chicken! Do you scream bloody murder or do you laugh in his face?
There is one moment when Paris truly invades me, overwhelms me, knocks me out. That is just before dusk, as the sun is setting, close to the Eiffel Tower. On clear days, the entire sky is suffused with a mystical golden light. On cloudy days, there is a fast-changing pageant of blue and pink and mauve. The river shimmers in response; and for a few minutes, ordinary buildings turn brilliantly bronze.
I don’t know whom to thank for this. God, probably.
by Iclal Akcay
I drifted asleep
before his story
came to an end.
His left arm,
on the dark-blue duvet
half buried in my hair.
There was nothing else we wanted
from Munich’s fashionable streets
in his room
We lay cuddled,
his story-telling voice
still in my ear.
it was just after the fall…
of the Wall…
the time for
buying expensive art,
parking your Porsche out front,
sipping cappuccinos on Leopoldstraße.
and dancing ‘til dawn
in minimalistic, Strenesse clothes
at P1 Cafe
The two sisters having grown up
on opposite sides,
one, a hot shot, IT company owner
who had moved to Munich,
the other, an assembly line worker,
in East Berlin,
with three children
as a café Kellnerin.
The party went on
the w-h-o-l-e night,
people getting drunk,
around the Russian men,
and their rounds of nomenklatura,
who were teaching the German elite,
the fine art of standing aloof
in their elegant evening suits
while drinking shots of vodka.
among the art and icon dealers,
a tall man,
staring at me,
and mischievously smiling,
reminding me of Russian winters,
apparently a Gorbachev adviser,
bottle after bottle, chasing women,
a spy catcher.
The very same day,
I met Danny
on the top-floor cafe
of an art gallery.
He was standing,
at the top of an escalator,
a glimpse frozen on his face
as if he’d just seen his tormentor.
One blue tent for gamblers,
Competing with the starry night
a belly dancer on a table
and on the second floor,
a fortune teller,
with sad eyes
who held my hand
and buried secrets
deep in my mind’s cache.
The twin sisters’ reunion was approaching,
the waitress would travel by train,
all the way from
Jetzt eine vereintes Berlin!
I stayed for the other sister’s party
by the Starnberger See,
the biggest of five, misty-blue lakes,
in a natural spree.
Danny’s mom, in his story,
is a beautiful American girl,
who lives in a comfort zone
with her well-off family.
One day she drives into a gas station
on her way home
from the university
she’s about to have
a pump-boy epiphany.
After the party,
the shared morning ride
made me an incidental witness
to the sisters’ meeting,
which was neither warm,
nor emotional enough for my liking.
The older sister,
the East Berliner,
the one with the silly hat and
plain clothes, was definitely overweight.
I was the first Turkish person she’d ever met.
The face next to Danny’s was his ex
from the university
standing beside him,
like an organic gear,
an attachment to his body.
We dropped her
at an overly cheap B&B,
and drove away immediately
to her sister’s city home
Cakes were served,
The dog walked.
Not a word was said
about the older sister,
other than ‘different!’
I dreamt of a thick, foggy-blue forest
in Danny’s arms
after he’d cooked an oven dish
we’d eaten together
with a German girl,
his last ex,
sleeping in the room adjacent.
I heard him calling his mom
Lost in the forest of my dream.
A lock of hair…
fallen over his forehead,
his eyes — moist, deep blue.
calm as a deep mountain lake,
who disappeared one day.
Provisions for the Soul
by Daniel Bachhuber
In Memoriam, Frank Gross
You lead me to an abstract by Ruffino Tamayo—
orange, yellow, burgundy
piled and lessened where it has to be,
a benevolence of light that nourishes me.
Here, it is enough to amplify
provisions for the soul, to express—
the mix of sand, flowers
and copper filings Tamayo bakes
in imagination before grinding them blue;
lumps of ochre or precious cinnabar
crushed into extracts
and raised on a sail
against a white sky.
The Echo of Bergamo
by Daniel Bachhuber
That boy with a basket on his back,
like an upturned ten-gallon hat.
He wears a perturbed, quizzical expression
as he consents to the camera and the Americans.
A single frame out of his whole life
enters the lens and dies on a piece of paper.
We were long enough in Bergamo
the town is in us,
and we are like upturned hats
filled by the echo on a stone street,
the smoke of moisture in a field.
We know the iron gate
that opens to the chamber orchestra
playing Mozart while rain
darkens the tree trunks.
We know the walk out of town,
the road like one more terrace,
only wider, and gray,
of the cultivated hillside
of the wine that sweetens
in the eye of the grape.
48th Birthday Sonnet
from Hot Flash Sonnets
by Moira Egan
I don’t want cake. I’ve lost all urge for sweets,
including fruit, to my dear one’s despair.
He knows I’ll eat it if it’s wrapped in meat
(figs and prosciutto), or soaked in Sauternes.
These days I’ll take the bitter, and the salt,
though bitterness, they say, is a disorder
—look in the DSM-V, doctor’s orders—
To shut mine up, I take it for a walk.
I share this day with certain gentlemen
who took the early exit: Hemingway,
John Gardner (speeding round that bend), Hart Crane.
Compared to theirs, my death wish holds no candle.
I’ll blow it out. Sometimes wishes come true.
My father died when he was fifty-two.
Home, Not Home
by Megan M. Garr
It is as though our hope had begun to hover in a void.
We’re still waiting for the poems to be
written about this.
Don’t mistake me, this is not a poem
about this. I am only looking down
from a plane and saying
I made this, too,
the perfect land
of my expatriation, I fly over it and can say
the maps were right
it looks just like this
but cannot say that, later,
returning home. Home keeps going—
you can’t keep the shape
in one eyesight, and maybe that’s the problem.
We’re still waiting for all the poems.
We will divide them equally among ourselves,
one for the cure to cancer, one for every border
we have longed to cross, which is all of them.
And a poem for the mix tape you lost
with that song on it, the one you haven’t heard since
but dream about; one for that song, too,
and for the day you lost her,
the day you knew you’d lost her, not the day
you tried. And one for every continent,
then one for our countries, cities, and so forth
until our assemblies are down to only cells;
a poem for every atom
that creates you, and you.
What else can we throw around,
into comets, traverse the distance between Orion’s torso
and the reach of his sword.
We’ll build a bridge to it, chutes and ladders,
mark our slow way with tea lights,
send emails home to family
about our progress, ask, do you see it yet? say,
we’ll be over Missouri in about a week,
keep a steady pace but not quick,
no, we want the building to last forever, or close,
this escape route to nothing in particular, while we wait
for all the poems to be written
we are waiting for nothing in particular.
by Megan M. Garr
I am kneeling
on a beach I
seen and cannot
to find something.
the sand. It is warm,
this in for
I am the first
to walk here.
that I’m wrong.
it is possible to stay.
those who live here
the shape left,
measure the extent,
cast its diameters.