Stefan Sullivan

Annotated Patpong Love Song

Verse 1

Her belly’s as big
though she’s only
half his size

Pint-sized really, she’d be his daughter if she weren’t his concubine, his squeeze,
his number really, that is, he picked the number pinned on her bikini while she tumbled
in the neon marsh waters of the Mermaidium.

Verse 2

Wide-eyed calf who strayed,
her stick legs split like fragrant timber.
The old man had his way.

They had sex that he paid for not always in cash, but with a Moschino knock-off handbag, or
Day-Glo Japanese sneakers or increasingly doctor-money to her family up north in Udon Thani,
so much money for gout and nose bleeds and non-specific idiopathic pain that he started to
question how one woman – her mother – could get sick sick/so quick quick.

Verse 3

And now he glows
with foolish pride
as two bellies grow
side by side.

She offered her virtue for a transaction so now she’ll trade her freedom for security,
and keep the baby and become his wife even though he was really fat and made no effort
to contain his chronic flatulence due to the Heineken drip-feed from breakfast onwards. One
other thing: she could not pronounce her new last name. Dutch…Polish…whatever.

The Wild Blue Horses

Long before techno hit Berlin, Franz Marc miffed

the fussbudget bean counters of the Kaiser Reich

by painting blue horses stampeding from the yard,

horses romping like wedding guests on wooded trails

swigging schnapps from the bottle under the yellowest of moons.

But when the war came, Franz bled out on a cratered, treeless plain.

And, his blue horses vanished in the boneyard air.

The Kaiser, it was later learned, had given all notable artists

permission to withdraw. But the order did not arrive in time.

This was not Saving Private Ryan.

It was a very German movie.

Stefan Sullivan

Stefan Sullivan is the author of a memoir set in Siberian oil country (Die Andere Bibliothek/Frankfurt) and a work in philosophy (Marx for a Post-Communist Era: On Poverty, Corruption and Banality (Routledge/London). He has also given over 300 performances as a lounge singer/pianist. He lives in Washington DC.

All the Time in the World

Wherever he went, a thundercloud paraded behind him. Just a little one, about the size of a coffee grinder. Black-ish, oblong, floating along in the wake of his head. He could never, ever see it. But, if he looked back—as he always tried not to do—he could mark its tiny path of damp devastation.

You should get that looked at, said his best friend, who had come along for the ride.

You should get that looked at, said his hairdresser, who had to nudge the thundercloud out of the way so she could study the back of his neck. Stand back, peering, to make sure everything was even and as it should be.



Her sign said Hairdresser for Men, not Barber. Over a long life, she told him, she’d learned that the only thing that mattered more than how things appeared, was what they were called.

You should get that looked at, he said—he was accustomed to telling people all day what to do—when she retreated so far from the back of his head in order to see it that she bumped into a portable coffee cart and sent the grinder flying.

You should get that looked at, said his friend—he was accustomed to going along with everything, plus he knew a good appliance repairman.

The hairdresser gazed out the window and pointed at what she saw with her extreme far-sightedness (which is just a term for everything close being confusingly blurred): a dark cloud rolling in.



Afterwards, he was never sure what to call what had happened. Just that, once again, something had.

You shouldn’t look, said his hairdresser, about the back of his head after she slipped with the clippers. A small breeze—a warning unheeded—tingled his newly bald patch of scalp. We’re outta here, he screamed, furious, his friend’s insouciance once again parched ground to rain. He jerked his head towards the door with a lopsided flounce.

You shouldn’t look, said the drenched paramedic in the storm, about his best friend being cut from the car he’d just smashed.

You shouldn’t look, said a new thundercloud, purring into his ear like a full coffee grinder, as if there were all the time in the world to even things out.

Kimm Brockett Stammen

Kimm Brockett Stammen’s writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Litro, december magazine, CARVE, The Greensboro Review, Pembroke, Prime Number, and many others. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best Short Fiction anthologies. She holds an MFA from Spalding University.

Dating Tips

He sits up next to me in bed, well into the night, the dawn birds’ song nearing, scrolling through a Tumblr account of topless girls on his, what, first generation iPad? He’s not even touching himself or anything. He’s scrolling like he’s reading the news, like he’s reading some half-baked cultural take by a nepotism-baby journalist, his brow tense, his glasses resting too low on his nose to be of use, so what’s the point? But still he scrolls, his finger flicking up, up, up. The topless girls are faceless, too. But I see them. And I see what he’s doing. Does he see me? He makes no movement to suggest he does. He scrolls, his finger flicking up, up, up. Now the dawn birds’ wretched noise begins. And I’m grateful because I can stop pretending I can sleep in this too-hot room, in this too-hot bed that is definitely bedbug-infested, but he won’t admit to that, either, just like he won’t admit I can see him scrolling up, up, up through these girls that aren’t me. I mean, I don’t need them to be me. But he doesn’t know that. He thinks I love him. It’s a game we play called something I don’t yet have a name for. Just like the topless and faceless girls. If we sit with this stale air between us any longer I’m going to do something terrible.

Rachel Stempel

Rachel Stempel is a queer Ukrainian-Jewish poet based in Binghamton, NY. She is the author of the chapbooks Interiors (Foundlings Press), BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press), and Dear Abbey (Bottle Cap Press).

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