Organ Buffet by Spirited Magazine

by Cassie Pinner

Dystopia VII

I long to split open your ribcage and rummage 

through your organs like grapes at the breakfast buffet.

Pushing your pink kidney around with my face. 

Your excavation; 

meat and potatoes on my dinner plate.

Famished, I become itchy with wait. Taking the longest, pointiest rib in hand, 

I would save your heart for last; 

my feast.

Slicing from the corner of your lips, through your cheek

cause I want to get a closer look at your rotten teeth.

Getting messy in your platelets. 

I need to be satiated.

I found your baby in a dumpster.

I knew because it had your hairy toes.

I cut off its sex organs,

setting each piece

on the sidewalk, lit up

by blinding sunlight.

I was full.

 Photography Tammy Lamoureux

Photography Tammy Lamoureux

Letter from the Council by Spirited Magazine

by Mitch Hampton

Dystopia VII

I do not know if you will ever get this.  In the language of your time you might consider this a sort of time travel message. I am desperate for answers. I am writing this from roughly a thousand years from where you are. And I am attempting contact with you, urged on by  the Council here, because I have to ask two great questions. I am nervous as I write this, worrying that the Council will lecture me for more of my excessive directness. “Be more calm”, they always plead with me. 

I am what you might call a teacher, and I teach of artifacts from the past.  We prefer the word guide because we think the word teacher sounds too manipulative and lacks freedom..The major lesson in our school is how misguided or undeveloped your societies were. Your artifacts serve as a kind of negative example. Of course no society is all good or all bad, but we tend to think ours has matured and developed beyond yours. To this day, the issue of what is right or wrong is much debated by some in the Council. We are nothing if not democratic and some think that we might be missing some benficial philosphies that were present in your times.

There is nothing like free will and thus, your artifacts are examples of the errors, mistakes, habits and even the crimes of your times. Nevertheless, they fascinate some of the more undeveloped members of our youth, who never see their errors first. They instead look to some other quality, perhaps best illustrated by your incoherent and overused word, beauty. We reserve the word beauty only for that which is in perfect balance.

We study you through your artifacts. The Council likes to say that an artifact can never lie because it will stare you in the face. It contains something real from the past within it. If you have a some silly picture of one of your men with too much hair posing with that stringed object and looking prideful, or incomprehensible, moving pictures of people talking to one another about trivial things, you have artifacts. We really have too many of them.

First let me give you some history. We humans are still here. Shortly after your time period, billions of humans died from all the usual predictions: flood, drought, and mass homicide mostly. It is considered one of the worst periods in terms of quality of life in all of human history. Then again, we have so little to go on since the artifacts are from one short period –  that of the later 20th century. Centuries before are lost to us.

What is it about that particular generation,those born in the 1950s and who led in the 1960s and 1970s, that made all of you so fascinated with them and their works? Never has one time or people so dominated all of subsequent history. They did not seem especially clever, wise or kind. They certainly were wasteful; they ruined future generations for a long time.  Yet everybody copied them forever. Though their words are poetic, flowery and filled with promise, Perhaps the only segment of that generation with whom we might agree,  who may have anticipated some ideas of our own, were your Feminists. However, we do not understand that word choice since it appears to be imprisoned in the very roles that your more enlightened people were trying to escape. This group was perhaps the first to tentatively attempt to free humanity from the hateful two categories of sex and all of the obsession with it, from all of the possessiveness of two people together and alone, as if picking one single person and spending most of your time with her could be the greatest feeling and accomplishment. Aside from your simple-minded sex habit, going back to the beginning of human and animal life, we criticize the domination by that huge and influential generation. Yet we cannot believe that they were the only genuine influence to the following generations. The artifacts, cultures and ways of life that followed that generation for hundreds of years could not be only slight variations on the same patterns created by that generation.

So why them and their artifacts? Did nobody else have anything to offer?  It is almost as if your people are ashamed of or bored with all of the previous histories and generations, and the few times the previous histories are remarked upon, it is only in oddly emotional and frantic ways. Why did they reproduce so much? It is really extraordinary. We do not know if it is your sex madness that caused this state of affairs or if it is an inability to be alone without having what you would call a nervous breakdown or loneliness. Whatever the reason, there were so many of you, which may account for the imitative quality and the lack of innovation for so long. It is impossible to find anything from the 17th and 18th centuries, but we have so much from that brief thirty or forty year period of time in the 20th century. We have thousands of artifacts from 1964 alone! Why were you so attracted to that small period?

After the various collapses and massacres a few of us were left. And then we mutated into new races and forms and developed new technologies. There are no longer men and women. There are still people, but you might say we produce rather than reproduce. We decide how many people we need. We create people much like your city of Detroit did those odd automotive transportation machines – parts assembled piece by piece. We wonder if your people made anything that was not some automotive traveling machine. Why were you so restless with wherever you were? Why all the moving around?

And after lengthy struggle and debate we decided to eliminate once and for all the root of all troubles: sexual reproduction and the rigid categorization of humans into men and women. In the late and final days of your civilization, some tried to mix and match the two through science or lifestyle in order to be freer. It had the effect of calling attention to this physical part of you all the more and created all manner of wars and divisions lasting for about a century. Our belief is that such attempts were the expression of a dawning realization of the horror and failure of the man/woman system. Your descendants thought that putting men or women together or swapping those anatomical parts would liberate them. But it only created more wars, your future I am sorry to say. Indeed, so extreme is this categorization that practically all of your artifacts’ central theme is the classification of man and woman and their love or attachment to each other. It is as if nothing else in life were important.

Even when you extolled such love or sexual relations as the greatest virtue, when your men and women finally made the most fit match and lived together, the males among you got bored easily. They would spend hours looking at moving or still pictures of specimens of other women whom they had not met, apparently pleased and amused by the mere appearance of complete strangers, and thus made their partners feel inadequate. Oddly enough, your people used the expression “it’s what inside that counts” and yet your males were evidently fascinated by the  static surfaces – just the skin – of people they had never even met.   

Skin, as it were, in shape and color was more a source of contention for you than your saying could mask.  For us, gone are the great extremes in skin pigmentation that caused great suffering. After much debate, we  settled on the color of your coffee beans, this earthly crop being another of your crazy attachments.

We have done what your people called a cost-benefit analysis of your male/female partnership system and proved that the total amount of pain in this system was triple the amount of pleasure. Indeed, the amount of pleasure lasted only about the length of time of what you called your honeymoon.  This honeymoon of yours is such a mystery and secret. 

In short, we are all she. We try to name our people after names that do not have masculine or feminine histories. We do not all come grown up and ready; we still start small and have to grow a bit. That is where I come in. You might say I am both a teacher and a parent. Our favorite word, as was written, is the word guide.

You had so much science fiction; though we are rarely sure what is science and what is fiction. We wonder why you read and watch so many of such artifacts. Indeed, it appears that there is little else but science fiction, once you get past the extraordinary glut of whining or screaming sound artifacts, always with the ubiquitous stringed object and uncomfortable pulse or hum accompanied by, of course, all of the moving and still pictures of the woman.. What is the appeal of them? You called these things songs or tunes and there were so many of them. The part of you that was woman or man seems such a needless,trivial part of your humanity – a gross container you came in.

Here is my second and final matter concerning one of our students whom I shall call Hailey. Hailey is our brightest student but we are frustrated with her. She does not subscribe to our way of life. We think she might have something evil in her from the past. Speaking for myself, more so than the Council, I just do not trust her. This is where the artifacts come into play. .

Once we brought in a sound artifact with the name Mozart on it. It was not only one of the most relentless and dull pieces of sound we had ever heard, but there was not even any human voice or expression anywhere on it, just minutes of various pitches in repetitive combinations. What was the point? The sound gave all of us had headaches except for Hailey. 

Hailey’s troubling behavior has not improved. Recently, I brought in a rare object,a flat picture of a person, a woman I am pretty sure, and what you called a record. In the sounds it emits,  its leader moans and whines telling little stories about your love and sex and so on. This was a person named Aretha something; I have forgotten her last name. She was one of your darker skinned people. I explained that because this person was evidently a darker skinned woman that she was at the bottom of your society and that her kind was hurt, tortured and ill-treated for thousands of years. The title was “You make me feel Like a Natural Woman.” I reminded them that this was your people’s propaganda for the man/woman system. In this sound artifact this woman said that she was once uninspired and bored. Then, she met a man who made her life better and made her feel natural and like a woman.

Hailey started crying. At first, I thought she cried because she felt bad for the woman’s way of life and the suffering she endured. But Hailey cried for a completely incredible reason. She said this artifact was one of the most beautiful sounds she had ever heard. She said what she always says, “It’s so beautiful.” I reminded Hailey that Aretha had suffered so much in her life. Aretha had been mistreated and that there was nothing beautiful in that. Nobody should seek salvation through one other person. It is bondage; it is slavery. Yet Hailey is stubborn. She insists it is beautiful though, she cannot  explain why. 

Hailey has no analytic mode in her whole system. She does not understand that beauty means balance and truth. There can be nothing beautiful about a person expressing the greatness of one other person while ignoring and even demeaning everybody else. It is exhibitionistic and excessive and ugly. We struggle understanding how Aretha could ever hope cooperate with others and work to help everybody survive. Yet, Hailey now wants us to learn how to recreate sounds like this Aretha.

We had great debates with the Council about the benefits of tear ducts. Most of the time we build them but we might stop completely. Would you accept Hailey? We think she would more at home with your people.

The Council

THE STILL by Spirited Magazine

Spirited VI [Money]

by Allison Vanouse


It is better to idealize commercial things than to commercialize aesthetic things. 

Grand-Carteret, Vieux Papiers

We work with the ingot and with the inscription.  This is the new numismatics, under the sign of an admonishing goddess. America is a First World country with a weak currency, broad-policy objectives and infinite fire-power. Art is the chief means by which the individual may understand his relationship to the commercial and industrial megalith, and through the compounded industrial and commercial activity of his ancestors this individual acquires the means for his degree at art school.  Radically, none of this is new. 

The dollar sign is an ancient sacred text. One of the most common Christograms in medieval Western Europe was IHS, In Hoc Signo, by this sign. Intertwined, the characters make $. Old tombstones bear the insignia, kids laugh about a resemblance they think that they invented, and then make love in the graveyard and invent that, too. The seals of the United States, which validate the currency inside your pocketbook, are ancient heraldic blazons. If you sharpie B and R on pyramid and eagle, you’re likely get “BONER”. There are places in the rural outskirts of China where cab drivers accept American dollars, and make change. These are just reminders.

But it is not necessary or desirable that a work of art present a treatise on political economy. Money is already a representational problem. The task of a banknote in 19th century America, to put on paper convincingly what represents gold, ultimate symbol of value, is convoluted version of the cosmic task to transmit and represent deep meaning, which might be the task of the artist.  We employ representation--money and genius-- to concentrate a wide range of thought in a narrow compass, to give all of it visible form under a simple image. Regarding the blazon, the mind speaks to the eye, extending its speculations beyond the bounds of ascertained verities and actual facts. Something here imparts a definite character to the visions of the imagination; they expand into something extant.  Jackson Pollock: “total control – denial of the accident – states of order – organic intensity – energy & motion made visible – memories arrested in space, human needs & motives –“. Money is a blood that forms the shape of public will (“BONER”, skyscrapers, screwing in the cemetery).

This interpollution looks like deadly sin. Fashion is lousy with it. So is art. Damien Hirst. Dennis Oppenheim: “Money is the root of all art.” We are uneasy with the way that money purchases ostentatious sculptures or abstract qualities and puts them into places they do not inhere (as the Chinese cab driver makes change). Beauty, bought by the unbeautiful. A platinum cast of a human skull and 8,601 diamonds. Ladies buy clothes. Charlie Kane buys art. Short men buy big machines. Donald Trump buys everything.  We go to art school, proceeding from the assumptions of the system that unsettles us.  But be assured: the aesthetic pollutes economics, too. Money is a measure of consensual symbolic logic and public faith. Imagine we all stopped giving a fuck. Frissons. Dissolution. 


Solution. Gold, though a noble metal, can be dissolved in crustal fluids. This results in exploitable deposits, upon which we base economies. It all hangs together like crazy. The new numismatics is ancient, a property of physical science. From distant mountains in South America we mine the value that builds cathedrals and casts our coins. Danae opens her legs and straddles earth. We bronze each replica of economic confidence. We buy futures.  We get depressed. We Krylon the shit out of the Caisse des Dépôts. Memories and motion are made visible. Illuminated manuscripts. Skyscrapers. We toil with the ingot, and with the inscription. But new needs demand new techniques. Culture is capital - total control – denial of the accident – new states of order – In Hoc Signo – ancient symbols, reissued and remarked. Here is our currency, bound.

Noir as Ethic and Style by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
by Mitch Hampton

“The Nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all time sure thing that goes bad. Noir is Out Of The Past when Robert Mitchum takes one look at Jane Greer and knows he’s gonna throw his life away for her and he’s happy to do it”. 
James Ellroy
Noir is at once a cleanly distilled descriptive noun, and one of the most overused, exaggerated, and superficial epithets in modern culture. It is an elegant descriptor that is also used to indicate anything just slightly left of suburban banality, including narrative, psychological, and design details: lone detective in fedora and trenchcoat, unusually seductive femme fatale, underworld evils that must be ferreted out and defeated, and so on. Noir is also misread as a stylistic mode that is devoted to simple darkness – blanket cynicism, possibly dissolution.
Noir as a genre was created not by an artist, but a critic: one French critic Nino Frank, who in 1946 attempted to isolate some features common enough to qualify certain works as a genre. As James Ellroy remarked, there is indeed a fascination in Noir with and analysis of the subterranean and underlit aspects of the human soul. The sense of things gone bad, a world of anti-heroes facing conspiratorial and unrelenting evil: these are part of Noir. But a mere list of thematic elements might conflate Noir with the Gothic, which I believe to be at heart an adolescent mode, imposing simplistic dualities of good and evil, and abnegating any sense of human agency. Noir on the other hand is one of the great expressions of human maturity: romance, sexual difference, and profound questions of economic and political injustice are all brought to bear.
In the world of Noir – much like adulthood – you get on with life no matter how bad it gets, and preferably with biting wit. Noir is a mode of utmost maturity and moral seriousness, where issues are confronted naturally rather than evaded supernaturally. In this sense, noir is a misnomer. We are not facing blackness exactly, but the widest variety of grey.
Rather than acknowledge this subtlety, we often reach for misleading lessons. Take the concept of the Femme Fatale. Noir certainly includes a sexually alluring and powerful female figure; her power can certainly be exercised to negative effect upon male heroes. But if we look at Noir as an Ethic, as mature wisdom, the femme fatale is a red herring.  Both man and woman give as good as they get, and the femme fatale achieves a remarkable balance. Her mutual dance or play with the male shows that sex differences are important, but cannot erase personhood or agency. Biological gender and cultural humanity form a symbiosis, for you cannot have sex appeal without intelligence and essential humanity, and vice versa. Though a man meets his ruin in the femme fatale, both parties experience extraordinary passion and equality of will along his descent. In The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks) the ongoing repartee between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is both sublime and astonishing. This sense of gendered relation – where biological difference holds actual value – is a lost art in many of today’s representations. Noir is an inquiry into that part of particular (and peculiar) male and female heterosexual relations that is, to use an unfashionable formulation, natural, even eternal. It is a compensatory reminder of the one-sidedness of the more androgynous culture of today. The women of noir – Rita Hayworth, Gloria Grahame, Barbara Stanwyck, and Veronica Lake, to name but a few – are both powerful and sexy. But it is deeper still: such figures embody a kind of hybrid world, between icon and everywoman – a stylistic mode at once mythic and naturalistic.
Countering the Femme Fatale is the Private Investigator. He is, at base, a figure who seeks the Truth. Whether deeply flawed or idealistic and heroic, the P.I. offers a point of philosophic interest and identification for the audience, with inquiry into matters of social justice, for example. Glenn Ford in The Big Heat (Fritz Lang) Harry Moesby in Night Moves (Arthur Penn), and Jack Gittes in Chinatown (Roman Polanski) are all expressions of what may be called positive alienation. In this concept (which I borrow from political philosopher George Kateb), an investigator is a kind of traveler. While conversant in the various language games of all the manifold, competing subcultures that comprise a complex Democracy, this figure is beholden to none of them. He can blend in, but remains outside: a continuation of eighteenth century disinterestedness into a post-Romantic age of rampant and consuming interests on all sides. Even when the investigator is a public figure representing Law, there is a sense that he wields the power of an outsider. Real evil is often battled here. In Chinatown, Jack Nicholson’s character fights both public corruption in the state of California and sexual abuse in the home. Only an alienated and disinterested figure could confront such evil.
Yet the P.I. cannot be called a pure truth-seeker. My favorite “revisionist Noir” is Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975) with Gene Hackman, which pushes the boundaries of the conception. Hackman’s Harry Moesby is decent and ethical (he even refuses the advances of an underage and sexually precocious Melanie Griffith), but he is also insensitive, uncommunicative with his wife, overtly attached to football, and oblivious to obvious clues. The evil he confronts – (the case involves bringing a runaway girl back to her mother – shades of John Ford’s The Searchers) is borne out of the heart of the American family, and its Noir setting faces us with an uncomfortably intimate picture. Moseby is generous and decent, but an utter failure. Evil is not exteriorized as merely institutional but interiorized as a banal stain within the human soul itself. This is Noir stripped down – without stylization or glamour. It is Noir as John Cassavetes might render it.
Noir has great reach. From the great Pottersville/ Jimmy Stewart breakdown scene in Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life, to David Lynch’s unique fusion of Noir with the Gothic. Even Miles Davis created perhaps the greatest piece of Noir music ever in his score to Louis Malle’s From The Elevator to the Gallows.
All styles are codes and signs of meaning – sometimes of philosophy and Ethics as well. Noir is a way of understanding who we are; meeting ourselves as we are, free of illusions, and dogged in determination to find some scrap of Truth – even when it tells us that our best aspirations are marked with the dark limitations of human nature.

 Photography by Amanda Antunes

Photography by Amanda Antunes

Blue Ghost by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
Story by Phoebe Wilson

His body was relaxed as it glided into the water, as if he were asleep. The water was dark and smooth in the night; his entry caused hardly a ripple. One of his friends would have pulled him out, they would have continued home. But he was very much alone and very much submerged. His lungs slowly filled with water–he had been unconscious for some time–and quietness closed in. 
After a passage of time Ethan awoke. Cool air kissed his face. It was daytime. He found himself lying in warm mud. Cool water crawled his skin. The warmth of the sun felt nice and he wondered how long he had been there.  Unperturbed, he stood up and began to walk home. Feeling the crunch of leaves underfoot, he noticed he had lost his shoes.  
He found his house empty. These were the last lingering and autumn days. His sister must have been out exploring. It was a Saturday. His parents were busy people with lots of engagements he knew little about; their absence didn’t strike him as peculiar. His doze at the lake’s edge hadn’t done much to rest him, and he climbed the stairs to his room to sleep. 
He was wandering down a long cold hallway. He saw people in rooms with doors that all seemed closed. The rooms were dimly lit and the people all were somber. No one noticed him walk by, and he preferred that. Not thinking to glance behind him for a way out, he continued down the hallway. Eventually reaching a door to a room that was warm and bright; through a small bright window he could see her face.  
Even in his dreams he saw her. She was not intolerably vain or inexplicably cold, as the beautiful often are. She was not a stereotype from a dated romantic comedy, and you wouldn’t find a trail of shallow friends eagerly praising her in return for scant attention. She was Olivia, and deserving of reverence. 
They had known each other for almost a decade. He watched her date other boys, some easy to hate, others his friends, all lucky to have her. But he kept her away with a stone exterior, heavy with sarcasm and feigned indifference. And he held to a hope that she would never abandon him, sensed sometimes that she needed him as he needed her. 
When he awoke it was dark. He wondered what his friends were doing. It was a Saturday, not to be wasted. His phone was nowhere to be found. He did not worry. He drove to his friends’ houses, found only dark and empty driveways.  
He caught sight of an old white BMW. It belonged to Brett, his best and oldest friend, and driving awfully fast though the liquor stores didn’t close for a few hours. Ethan followed. The car wound through suburban streets, farther and farther from where he expected it to go. It left the city roads, for a field with an unexpected glow. 
He parked and followed Brett. He saw more cars, a gathering of people, mostly in silence, facing a row of candles. Not wanting to disturb, he walked to the side and sat behind. He assumed Brett would do the same, but watched him walk to the front of the crowd. Turning to face everyone, Brett looked pained, but determined.  
What could have brought everyone here when there was plenty of beer to drink? It was their last few months of high school. They hardly had time for serious things. 
“It’s hard to believe I’m standing up here. Even driving over I considered turning back several times. I brought you all here but I have great doubt that I can give this situation the respect or significance it deserves.”  
Brett paused, exhausted. Ethan was alarmed. Why was everyone upset? He heard his name. He approached the front, and spotted Olivia in the front row. He softened a little, and tried not to show it. As he looked he saw her weeping. He had never seen her fragile. She was always charming and clever and effortlessly gorgeous. He suppressed an instinct to wrap her in his arms, got lost thinking about her brown eyes and how he felt when she laughed. But Brett had resumed his speech.  
“Everyone tries to live life without regrets, including me. We make choices that take us down paths that lead to other decisions, and so the course of our life is determined. There is no destiny or fate and we cannot attribute our journey to any greater force or being. But I will regret the events of yesterday, every single day for the rest of my life. If I could go back and take his last few drinks away, I would. I would call someone to drive him home, and I would fall asleep knowing I did the right thing. But instead I will fall asleep knowing I can never go back and he will never return to us. He is gone forever. He will be so sorely missed that I cannot express it. But I know somehow he understands.” 
It was all too morbid, too realistic. He looked around at the familiar, candlelit faces, for answers. He looked to Olivia, but her face was hidden beneath waves of dark hair, and she was shaking. He knew every single person in the crowd, and not one of them would look at him. 
He was suddenly freezing. His hands felt the sting of cold and he stuffed them into his pockets. His fingers touched a piece of paper he had forgotten was there. He pulled it out, curiously. It was crumpled up and still damp, but he read what he could make out. He felt hot wet tears trailing down his face. 

He used the little strength he had to settle himself onto the earth. He sat in silence and thought about the cruelty of eternity.

4 Meditations on Plastic Objects by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #4 [Plastic City]
by Allison Vanouse

When you open her bottle, its lid snaps out of position with an insistence that suggests no movement. It was designed by serious industrial designers to be used in time as well as space, molded into itself which is to say: an object with specific tension sufficient to make reality function like two frames of the same film or flip-book that have lost their explanatory interim.  It feels, at least, this way. This is the type of object you will finger for a mild, sterile aesthetic pleasure that you barely recognize. Snap, snap, snap, snap, open, close, and open and the click and slight resistance of that comforting last close. Unnoticed pleasure, like the quiet resolution of a chord in distant music. O moments touching such objects, which are simian and meditative. O strangeness of social existence (the subject of the meditation) where so much has already been decided: not only the bottle, the mouthwash inside the bottle, not only shape but this, these very moments of our isolation in discrete and nighttime bathrooms where this object becomes strange its moment simian and meditative. She is comfortable with matter she resembles: curved in the right places, sharp in others. Nearly medical in its insistence on itself. But enough. She has left the bottle already. She has gone back to the bed. His flesh is cold and fleshy. The sheet is damp. She rolls onto her back to spoon with solitude, and studies, now, the state of her incubated dissatisfaction. It is moist, electric, sterile, and the color of a pearl. She is opening her body toward the ceiling. She is showing sexless beauty to the luscious, cool, and unresponsive night.
Le truc en plastique, c’est comme la pilule. It was a phrase she had practiced. It used a French that was informational but tinged with enough studied colloquialism to indicate that she possessed an intoxicating, dry worldliness. There are few oral examinations on the description of various birth control systems. Her vocabulary was untested. That made this a test. And this Swiss with this downy fluff of body hair – as he reached beyond the elastic at her hips she considered the phrase. And as his fingers struggled for an advantageous angle, as they combed across the groomed pubic triangle, she reconsidered the phrase. She practiced its mouthshapes beneath a breathy indication of generically legible ecstasy. Hold the mouth forward. Focus the U. And then at last. She feels him fumble for a slimy opening. Feels him finger, instead, the small and contraceptive device. And, wonderful, he is taken aback. She licks her lips. She has already caught his wrist. She whispers. “Le truc en plastique” her blood is pounding “c’est comme la pilule”. And her pronunciation she judges perfect, and his comprehension she judges complete. The oral passed, the perfect score, the ecstasy of self-creation. She pulls out the thing & clatters it on the parquet. Her plastic truc is shining, not two feet across the floor. The streetlights seem to zig-zag on its surface in a rhythm like a jackhammer. She watches this. She is undeterred by the distraction. Even if he goes all night, she will stay in the clean interior place that he can validate but not control. The luscious, unresponsive night. How lovely to be dry and worldly. She was so understood. In the morning, she will finger the plastic bulb, reinsert it, say, A la prochaine she thinks. The mattress squeals it. He is fucking steadily. Ou quoi -The sound- Ou quoi? Ou-quoi-ou-quoi-ou-quoi-ou-quoi. “A la prochaine,” she forms the words beneath her breath, “ou quoi?”
There are schools of colored tubes beached along the lakeshore, made of pearlized pastel plastic. To her, they appear robotic. She has only recently learned what they’re for. She has only recently learned not to pick them up with bare hands. They are things that look like they ought to screw into a matching interior threading. The plastic is the same grade as a low-grade Barbie. The vagina might as well have an interior threading. She has never used a tampon. Toxic shock syndrome is a spectral monster at sixteen. So is her vagina. Unseen place that grows hair around itself. Unseen place, with unseen interior threading that accepts objects, whole, that leaves the applicator behind the way space travel leaves the launching equipment. The launching equipment swims in pearlized pastel schools. The National Honor Society forms an outing to pick them up. But between the rocks, the pastel plastic still looks up at her, from so many gaps, between so many rocks. Nobody else will pick them up. Boredom is disgusting. When she has her period, she will use the most-recently advertised thing and she will never get her hands slimy. She will wear the prettiest panties and order salads and will never weigh more than 110 pounds. Her mom once had to use a piece of soggy cotton diaper like old Hungarian women used to because she forgot to bring a tampon to the dairy farm where her grandmother lived. The women in her family are mostly big and fleshy, but she is sixteen and is thin. All of her things will come wrapped in pearlized plastic, and her clothes will look on her the way they do on the models in the back sections of Teen Vogue. She is happier now, and distracted. She leaves the plastic things, like everybody else. She wanders, wonders, in a self-permissive way, if there was a secret instruction not to pick them up. She will help to lift a larger object, a big piece of rusty pipe that takes six people. She will have her picture taken doing it. Her period will come that summer. She will feel glamorous about herself for the next five years.

Now the Polly Pockets are almost too much of a little-kid toy and so are most of the other things in this part of the house. Next year they are both going to middle school but when they have sleepovers they still like to bring the box of Polly Pockets down, or maybe just a couple of the Polly Pockets, because it’s almost a tradition to have them. One night when Shawna was the only one over, she slept on the pull-out bed and they played with the two very sexy Polly Pockets, which have night scenes on the stickers where the windows would be, and a big bathtub that you can fill with a tablespoon of water and a heart-shaped bed all plastic with negative space to fit the people, who are a quarter of an inch tall and hinged at the waist so they can sit in the bathtub together. When they play with these Polly Pockets they put the little man in the bathtub with the woman, or lie him on top of her in the bed. There’s a sensation that if the tiny dolls are left there, lying on top of each other, while you do something else, or pretend to be doing something else, or, what’s best, if you snap the container closed, they will take care of it on their own. While they sit in a lukewarm bath or lie on top of each other, you don’t need to know what they are doing, or look at it, or even have Shawna notice you looking at it. When you snap the toy open again, it is over. The boy and the girl are on opposite sides of the room, or upside down, or lying next to each other. And Shawna is singing while she carries the box downstairs. Your sleeping bags are next to each other. You can stay up all night and eat powedered-sugar donuts in the morning. You are the coolest girl you know. And you can still play Polly Pockets for at least another year.

Some things I called dad by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #2 [Archive: Cloak and Dagger]
Story by Maria Pinto

 "Man" photography by Amanda Antunes

"Man" photography by Amanda Antunes

A man who used to be my stepfather came home livid one afternoon. My mother says he didn’t have a job then or a surly employer so I can’t think why. He was angry, and grass bowed when he was angry, and the goats in our acreage baahed and people scattered. Brian and me cowered in a corner over our Crayola’d plans to expand our giant kiddy pool (a tadpole and minnow habitat) to include a new wing for water beetles. Water beetles were Brian’s department, because he knew little girls are afraid of things with too many legs.

None of us children called our then-stepfather stepfather, because neither Brian nor I shared biology with him, and Donald, whose father he really was, had not yet learned to talk. Father was a sacred word I reserved for abstractions–the invisible, improvident man who gave me my “big doe eyes” then left my mom when I was two was father; it was the name I saw fit to give to the hideous sculpture that we passed on the way back from daycare. The sculpture (daddy) looked like two deer melting together.

So we called the angry man Uncle John. Any man too unkind to be called “daddy” but too familiar to be called “mister” was an uncle. We said good afternoon Uncle John, but he didn’t stop. He barreled through the house and into the back yard, out of sight. Brian and I continued our argument about who should be the warden of the jail for especially uncooperative tadpoles when we heard our mother yelling through the screen door. We usually rushed to be at either of her sides when she was yelling at Uncle. Our presence was used to good effect by her (“after all, I take care of these wicked little things without a lick of help from you…”). We were only too happy to be visual aids for her arguments.

But today when we arrived outside, we didn’t feel like lending our help. Our mother was calling after Uncle John’s receding figure, her arms akimbo. In front of her, on the ground, lay a collapsed tadpole and minnow habitat. The suffocating ex-residents flopped away on their sides in disbelief.

The Healer by Spirited Magazine

 Illustration by Amanda Williams

Illustration by Amanda Williams

Spirited #2 [Archive: Cloak and Dagger]
Fiction by Miriam Moser

It so happened that on the first chill day of autumn, as wool clouds cast a pall on the land, a girl wandered through the woods foraging for the final berries of the year. She saw a flash of orange beneath the foliage, and swept away the leaves, only to find the coils of a very long snake. The snake was very old and with great effort raised its head to look at the girl.
“My lady,” it spoke with a raspy, dry voice, “I am an old, cold snake, and I cannot make it through this chill on my own. Might I wind myself about you for warmth?”
The girl knew the snake was too frail to hurt her, it clearly needed aid, but she did not fancy the feeling of leathery skin against hers, and so gave an insincere excuse
“Snake, I do not trust you.”
The snakes eyes bore into hers, “In the name of the Great Mountain,” replied the snake, “I will die if you do not help me.”
But the girl hardened her heart and walked away.

She had not gone two steps before she heard a large crack, and turning around she saw the snake shedding its skin, but there was another more brilliant layer beneath. Then this second layer, too was shed, and more layers until the leaves were covered with shining skins all the colors of the rainbow, and the snake grew smaller and smaller until at the very center there emerged a shining bright light. The girl stared at the light as all around her the night set in. She was too frightened to move closer and too frightened to leave, but as she was pondering what to do, a figure in a gray cloak appeared on the other side of the light. The figure bent down and picked up the shining light and then hid it in the folds of the cloak. And it was then the girl saw it was an old woman. She was not frail at all, but strong and noble. As was her voice.
“My child,” she said firmly, “You have showed no compassion to Snake, the great healer. Without her, wounds will continue bleeding and hearts will remain broken.”
The girl had never been wounded or had her heart broken, but she dutifully listened. Compassion may have evaded her, but duty had not. Thus she answered, “What can I do?”
The woman replied, “You must journey to the top of the great mountain.” And that was all the instruction she gave before disappearing into the woods.
As it was night, the girl buried herself in leaves and slept until the gray dawn woke her up. She returned to the path and headed north, higher and higher into the altitudes were the wind was strong, yet breath hard to catch. The way was rocky, and she fortified herself with a few tenuously clinging blueberries and water from the icy mountain springs. Her legs felt heavy, and her bones were sore from sleeping on the ground, so she was happy to see a cabin in the distance as sun began to recede. She knocked on the door without hesitation.
A tired and teary-eyed woman opened the door to reveal a house full of children, all bruised and bleeding. The woman was so distraught she did not even think to question why a young girl would be travelling alone on the mountain pass.
“What happened to these children?” asked the girl.
“My dear, I’m sure I don’t know. God help us, I wish I did. They always play out in the brambles and arrive home with scrapes, but today none of the cuts will stop bleeding and they begin to grow weaker and weaker from loss of blood.” And the woman began to cry.
Then the lady in gray entered without knocking. She nodded to the woman, who did not pay any notice to her, and then wordlessly approached the children, picking up the first one and singing a weird atonal tune in an strange language that made the girl think of howling wind, and twilight, and loneliness. When the song had finished, she gently put down the first child and picked up the second and began to sing once again, until she had held all of the children. And she left as silently as she had come, but the girl noticed blood trickling from beneath the shroud, and it was then she saw the children had been healed.
The girl suddenly realized the urgency of her mission. She had no time for sleeping. The mother, relieved that her children’s wounds had disappeared, gave the girl a large loaf of bread and piece of cheese for her journey, before bidding her goodbye. The girl walked through the cold night until the dawn broke, cheerless and calm. In the dim morning light, she saw a doe limping across the path.
“Dear doe,” the girl asked, her heart flooded with compassion, “Why do you limp?”
The doe replied in the soft, whispery voice which all deer have, “I stumbled on a rock and the bruise has not healed.” Then, from the woods, the woman in gray walked out and placed her hand on the doe’s knee and sang to her. And the doe stood up straight, and bowed in deference to the woman, then galloped freely away. The woman limped back into the woods before the girl could approach her.
The girl was so exhausted from walking through the night, that she sat down to rest and accidentally fell asleep, only to wake to the last glow of the sun’s rays before it passed behind the mountain. She walked higher until the trees disappeared and clouds were below her. The moon lit her rocky path. Boulders reared up in front of her, and she picked her way as quickly as she good. Near the top the air grew warmer and her body ached for rest. She could see the top, as began to climb as fast as she could. But a few paces away, she stumbled and broke her leg. She tried pulling herself along, but the rock was rough and her pain was great. And then, once again appeared the lady in gray, limping towards her, leaving a trail of blood as far as the girl could see. She touched the girl’s leg and began to sing to her a song which pulled all the pain from the girl, and opened her heart so wide she had enough love to share with the world. But as she grew better the gray lady grew more frail until she collapsed in pain.
“Continue on,” her strained voice instructed, “Just a few more steps.”
The girl did so. At the very peak of the mountain, smoke poured forth and it was quite warm. From the smoke came the voice of the snake. “Girl, you have shown yourself tireless in making amends. My body is no more, but the world needs healers. The gray lady can take the pain of others, but someone must abolish the hurt from her body.
“And how can I do this?” asked the girl
“You must be willing to become a snake, most despised and feared of creatures. You must give up your own body and desires, and spend your life travelling with the gray lady as she seeks out those in pain.
“I am willing,” said the girl. And she transformed into a common garden snake. The smoke blew away and the cold began to creep back as she slithered to the gray lady and wrapped herself around the lady’s body until the blood stopped flowing and her bones had become straight and strong again. The gray lady stood up and sang again, but this time it was a song of joy, and the girl snake found she could understand the ancient words of love.
The gray lady smiled at her, “From now on we shall be companions. For I have held your blood and you have saved mine. We shall travel the world and bring the invisible healing of bodies which the world finds natural.”

The snake had much love in her heart and followed the gray lady down the mountain.

Too Old by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #1
Fiction by Philip DuPertuis

 Photo & Mixed Media by Amanda Antunes

Photo & Mixed Media by Amanda Antunes

“Make sure you’re back by nine,” his mother told him “and remember to tell Scott’s mom thank you for letting you be at their house.”
“I know ma,” he replied staring at his remaining beef stroganoff, “is it alright if I go get ready now? I don’t want the guys to wait for me.”
His mother looked up from her plate to his dad who shrugged his shoulders and went back to eating with a grin on his lips. Philip’s younger brother silently watched as he got up from the table.
“He lives two blocks away and you guys are just eating chips and salsa and watching a movie.” She said following his shifting eyes as he took his plate gingerly to the sink.
“I know, but I just don’t like being late.”
Philip ran the tap and waited for steam to rise before rinsing. There was a pause, and he thought for sure that she knew what was planned for the night. “How does she know everything?” he asked himself. He set the clean plate down on the counter and opened the dishwasher. Its springs creaked. He pulled out the bottom drawer and put in the plate and fork.
“Is it clean?”
“Yeah ma.” He pulled his voice up in an effort to transfer optimism and gayness to her decision.
“Go ahead,” she said craning her neck around, “just remember…”
Philip took off running up the stairs. “I know ma!” he yelled trying to hold back the frustration in his voice.
“How come he gets to go out by himself?” Philip’s brother quietly asked God, it seemed.
“You’ll get to go out by yourself when you’re his age,” she consoled grabbing Bryan’s hand on the table, “besides, he doesn’t get to go trick-or-treating tonight and you do. Imagine all the candy you’ll have that he won’t.”
Bryan’s eyes lit up, his mind imagining a candy pile that stretched from its inspection pile on the kitchen table, through the roof and up to the clouds. “I’ll share with him though,” he tilted his head like a benevolent king, “if he’s nice to me.”
“That’s very nice of you. Will you share with me too?” She batted her eyes.

“Mom…” he whined playing along.
“Fine, dad and I will watch The Great Pumpkin all by ourselves and you can eat candy all by yourself in your room.”
He sat for a second, seriously considering his options.
“Okay, I’ll share,” he said smiling and sadly batted his eyes back at her.

In his room Philip stood in front of his dresser mirror and considered his costume. He knew traditional ones were out. He had made the mistake the previous year of showing up as a ninja, while all of his friends dressed in baggy jeans, big t-shirts, and scary masks. He was still amazed that they hadn’t disowned him right there. They acted like incompetent ninjas all night, jumping out of trees and chucking candy like throwing stars at him as punishment. Strangely it made him feel loved and accepted.
Over the last year he felt that he tried extra hard to fit in. He found the easiest way was to make them laugh. He had a quick wit, and made good use of it by making fun of everyone and everything near. He wasn’t aiming to be the funniest one, just to divert enough attention away from his own inadequacies. Certainly tonight would be about someone else. He had put in his time.
Philip zipped up his black Guess jeans, slipped a big white shirt over his torso, and slowly put his mask on. He walked to the switch and turned off his room light, switched on his stereo, which began to play Nirvana. Grabbing a candle and a book of matches he made his way back to the mirror. He could hear himself breathing in his mask, and felt condensation cool and sticky on his nostrils and upper lip. The mask was brand new and the rubber smelled like poison and stung his sinuses. He struck the match and lit the candle, illuminating a pumpkin head with a twisted smile filled with rotting teeth.
He stood there listening to his own breathing, and thinking about how scary he looked, and what his life would look like after all this. He wondered if he would be in college and where. He wondered if he would still be going to church or whether he would loose his way after living on his own.
He wondered if he would have a wife, and maybe a kid, and be poor. He wondered if he would still love John Williams’ scores and books about the rural south. He wondered if the guys would laugh at him in a good way or a bad way tonight. He wondered if he would have to choose to watch a scary movie, or worse, a dirty movie at Scott’s because his parents weren’t home. He wondered if there would be any girls there. His ears and cheeks began to get warm.
There was a soft knock on the door. Philip quickly took of his mask, blew out the candle, and turned on the room light. He opened the door slowly and only wide enough to stick his face through. His brother stood in the doorway wearing a baggy ninja costume.
“Have fun tonight brother,” Bryan said shyly.
Philip let go all the air from his lungs.
“Is that it?” he replied annoyed.
Bryan turned and disappeared down the hall.
Philip closed the door battling feelings of guilt.
“Why does he always have to bother me?” he muttered under his breath resting his forehead against the door jam.

He threw his head back and let out a deep breath. He turned, went to the window and waited until he saw his brother and parents walking down the sidewalk holding hands in a chain like elephants on parade. He felt a weight in his chest, but decided to ignore it, noticing that it was only seven minutes to seven.

Who Done It by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
by J.A. Scott

What we are.

37, the slug swapped shells to empty
his armory. In that cabin somewhere
where the land was muted by the falling
snow. The toe, unobserved, twitched,
as the spray stretched into the dry wall,
formed into stucco, around the frozen mouth,
that dripped froths of dried cud,
when the throes of wind bulged, lapping
the brittle cavities, leaching in mounds of white. White, he was barred in white, until the ease of spring.

His final word: Slug, printed in faded white,
along the old shell’s tubing, that notched
the wood, with its heated brass. Reminding us
of the Tuesdays he’d return home, renewed
(twice nude) in the cities he called mountains,
to weave hymns for the tacit, the malformed,
wayward, with a patchwork of grayouts and gossip,
divination in ashes, took form in sonnets and songs; that dried in letters on pages, moved
friends; who worried, worried and did nothing
but worry and offer him a drink.

“limp dicked,” he confessed, between books,
and women. Until he met her, and bought her
a rock he couldn’t afford. Which she kept
when he returned, too blacked out to make out
how the hymns had congealed into rough crumbs
that bit the tongue, collected (in fits) in cans,
in cities he called mountains, Whose alleys were streams, where women were women were awakened in poems, that he knew he had written by reading the name, which was repeated on the
letter, that read in the end,

“it wasn’t worth it.”

Catastrophe by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]

by Lindsay Ann-Thueme Naggie

I have never watched
encroach my cellar door,
not felt the earth
tremble underfoot.
I have not witnessed
devastation of any magnitude
or biblical proportion
except for
my own transgressions.
Yet, I know the cold seduction
of a .22 rifle
shouldered and barrel-cocked, expectantly;
the enticement to throw open
the throttle of a
candy-red mustang
on blind curved, back roads;
the grotesque curiosity
to step off rainbow-hued
shale cliffs
into the unforgivable waters
of Lake Superior
far below.

I know I am
too eagerly drawn
to the pulse quickened
glitter of danger
too often I have known:
that simmers
just below
this benign smile
I deal you now.
Thus, I need not
today’s headlines
nor this poetry 101 lecture

on how to
artistically acknowledge
For, I am
quite knowledgeable
on how to be
a one-woman catastrophe.

Choreography by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]

by Cassie Pinner

Escaping their silent chambers to watch the final scene.
The trees rotted with cramps; psychic since the beginning.
Evicted from a fantasy, draped in the denial of death.

Humans painted their faces with shiny black oils.
Perfect petroleum.
Costumes caught fire, distinct with streaks of soot.
Jewels and gems melted down to viscous rocks.

Skin like vanilla icecream melted under the July sun.
There had never been a mass sacrifice.
A massacre by fire.
Currency transformed into ash; a culture gone wrong.
Twisted ropes.

Flames making love in a violent choreographed trance, taunting
the lonely North Star.
Twinkling with a fairytale face
scoring the implosion.

An abyss of dense tar.
An expedited deficit.
A solid depletion.

Dark moon.
Deep sea.

A Towline by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
by Joshua Heerter

A towline shoots across the bay
To a leaking schooner . Single women in their thirties
Ignore each other on the shore
In dress boutiques. A woman combs her straight hair
Upturned eyes in the kitchen.

Don’t touch the little smiles -
The lies told looking down,
On the beach the way I joined you
Leave them with the bowl of cream and raspberries

and joining will occur, and it is an unknown.

At This Table by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #4 [Plastic City]

by Arlyce Menzies

The future is uncomfortable

at this table.

It feels bolted to the floor

and stationed in this sticky place.

Hey you! Take me back to the room.

I am drunk and tired.

The chair is a unicycle—

I can’t stay on it.

Ha ha ha! The world

is too fat to fit out the door.

What to do now

but watch?

It doesn’t work

to hope this through.

Hope is beached

in the bean soup,

its forehead

to this table.