JackLeg is an ongoing effort to bring writers together from various regions of the country. The editors believe that creativity coexists with community and the history of the written word. JackLeg aims to bring together diverse writers, to give voice to young writers, as well as showcasing more established authors.
History doesn't happen in the past tense, history is what happens through collaborative efforts done in the continuous-present (dear old Gertrude). Through our new virtual world, we are watching the building of bridges, traditional forms blending with cyber optics, cyber blending with culture.
I heard a funny joke the other day: actual reality. I'm not even sure I can define such a thing, whether it exists. I've always believed reality to be what we make it. Therefore, JackLeg is an outgrowth of my passion to bring people together, commonality, all that juicy stuff like peace, harmony, and ever lasting love. Or maybe I'm exaggerating.
Fred, I'm guessing would shake his head, tell me he doesn't get the "actual reality" of my joke & keep plugging the meter even after the car rolls down the hill into a drain ditch.
And dear Andi, I think she'd just nod and say, "Yeah, I know where you're going, let's see it."
So here it is, JackLeg, our continuous present.
--Jennifer Harris, Founding Editor
ABOUT JACKLEG people
Jennifer Harris, Founder & Editor
A poet and fiction writer whose work has most recently appeared in Fish Stories: Collective IV and The New York Quarterly, Jennifer's poetry is also forthcoming in the anthology Powerlines (Tia Chucha Press, Fall 1999). She is the editor and founded of JackLeg Press, and directs the Spotlight on Chicago Authors reading series at The Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently working with singer/songwriter Barbara Bates to organize the Chicago venue of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's millennium celebration, entitled "The World Festival of Sacred Music: A Global Quest for Unison." In the Spring of 1999, she was selected by the Poetry Center of Chicago to read in their "Emerging Poets" reading series. Fred Schmalz, Assistant Editor
Fred Schmalz lives with his wife, Lillian Stillwell, and their cat, Dizzy, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His poetry can be found in Conduit, Mangrove and the first issue of JackLeg, and his reviews in Rain Taxi. He helped found Gazelle Poets in Chicago in 1996. Walker Art Center and The Guild Complex featured readings by Schmalz this spring. Lately, it's typesetting that keeps him awake at night. He also advises visitors to the New York Metro area to stop by Earwig Records in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's all your soul needs. Andrea Werblin, Managing Editor & Design Director
Andrea Werblin lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she continues her unsuccessful search for an authentic bean burrito. Online her work appears in MixnMatch.com, and The East Village. In the real world it's mostly furniture copy and occasional poems in fine publications such as Willow Springs, Sun Dog, and Alligator Juniper. She is fond of goats, and makes killer gazpacho.
The Great Quantum Mysteries
1. The double-slit experiment
I look at myself. I'm a particle. I stop looking at myself, I'm a wave. A wave can be anywhere in the universe and everywhere at the same time. When I'm a wave I will visit Mars in several light years but a light year to a wave is nothing. I will be on Mars in an instant, shorter than an instant, instants don't exist for me when I'm a wave. I'm dead. I spread out and out, I'm a wave on Venus now. Waves are intrinsic yin, they are what the people on earth fail to see. While I'm alive I'm a mass of particles, I'm beautiful or not. I'm a supermodel, a concert pianist. I'm a welfare recipient with three smart little kids. I'm in my observable state, I observe myself, in fact, it's all I do. At the moment of my grandmother's death she was nuclear, bright as the approach of aliens, I could feel her heat down the hall, she was that ready for blast off. Her body was little and refined on the nursing home bed, small snail-self waiting to spin away. But her soul was crucial, ready to wave itself to Saturn where her husband, Ted, waited in the rings, calling to her with his sweet wave mouth, his wave heart. It was like this when she died: the light of Genevieve all over the Midwest, quick, like a kiss.
2. The duality of light and matter
We're wedged in our small plot of starry space tangled in sheet and shins and arms thrown around necks like colors of selves all this time you say we've been looking how many billions what star I knew it you say the same tribe the same dying planet. When I first slept with you there was more that sharp pain of home such longing defeated in your flesh. I'd listened to men reach up and up to God we're there we're almost there but in our still bodies I find all light. Listen to your intelligence it sings at the center of bowel and brain deeper than oil in the ocean bed. Womb inside womb fourth fifth dimension there are windows there is real dust of stars. In Chicago we can't see them but they're up there they've been dying for a billion years.
3. The absolute and irreducible indeterminism of quantum processes (does God play dice?)
When God spoke to Teresa Santangelo (in Household Saints) during a card game I was jealous I admit but then I remembered the times He spoke to me too and I thought: So, I'm in a dry spell, so what? Yesterday I put my hand over the spot where the embryo of my daughter and her boyfriend used to hang from its cushy wall and I hear God clear His throat as if to console us. Sirens on 23rd Street sighed low. Someone looked at someone else in echo. And the red Chelsea in the Chelsea Hotel sign came back on like a miracle while Teresa Santangelo slid down the sliding pond of life in her sureness and insanity, the way only the good can die. And there was sudden warmth in my hand like the pee of a newborn or the kiss of a spirit flying home. God said: Of all my great miracles, my favorite is tipping the scales and cheating at pinochle. He seemed happy as my grandmother shuffling the deck in '52, handing me cards with their turned-down corners and spots of grease marking the queens. I was five, oldest of all the grandchildren, you could count on me to stay alive a long time, way past goodness, way past Slap Jack and War, the time it takes to hide a black ace up your sleeve when all you've got rides giddily on the hand of a madman.
4. The quantum jump
The electron is caught in a black hole. There is no way out. Whoops, there it is outside the hole--no discernible path, neither have we ourselves been able to free it in any way. This is how some of us recover from a great illness. One day we're sick, the next we're outside the hole. We don't understand. We don't have to. It's impossible not to want to thank something, however, and for this we created God. Thank you, we say, those of us who have leapt crazily without any thought to our limitations, without any conscious hope at all. God or luck. God, luck, or fate. God, luck, fate, hard work. God, luck, fate, hard work, perspicacity, birthright. Pick one. Each time, you will be wrong.
The Parable of the Cat
*note: hard copy has handwritten formula
This strange string of squiggles, much like "Mais oui, nous sommes de bons copains" to the average American, is known as Schrödinger's Wave. I like the way it looks with its little cacti, its total incomprehensibility. Schrödinger was the one who put the kitten in the box to figure out once and for all the true nature of reality. In this way, the kitten's life was endangered, which to some, perhaps most back then, meant squat. Still, it was only a thought experiment, and Schrödinger didn't really squeeze a live cat into a shoe box and hook her up to a poison vial with a 50-50 chance she'd be dead in an hour. The question was: Without peeking, can you guess if the cat is alive or dead? Last week two cars collided on Lincoln. One careened toward the Davis Theater, pushing a concrete drum of petunias all the way to Guatemalan Travel, its driver as close to the windshield as a real number. The other knocked over a young man and invaded Lee's market as Lee stealthily lifted a small vodka to his lips and murmured, "What the...?" The young man lay shirtless on the sidewalk. "Dead or alive?" we said as we stood a respectful distance away. We meant nothing scientific. Still, all that adrenaline among us, that simple curiosity. Lee said many things in Korean as he nailed wooden boards over his storefront. He changed them to English for me when I walked by and said hi, even though the day had been calamitous, the injured whisked away so fast we never knew his fate, the answers to our questions riding in an ambulance toward the lake, the ocean, the blood seas of Mars. The cat, we said, is alive and dead at the same time.
Maureen Seaton & Denise Duhamel
Venus Calms (Veneridae) are probably the most successful of all the clams. Over 400 abundant species occur the world over. A flexible external ligament and a powerful muscle attached to the interior of the shells enable the animal to open its valves and close them to protect its soft body. - from Seashells in My Pocket
1. King Venus (Southern Florida to the West Indies)
She's a wet-sand wallower, a sucker for surfers named Tulip and Sweet Limpid, her boogie board, slick with sea foam that hints of underwater sex. Even the straight mollusks rip off their goggles to watch her bait deep-sea hooks, snag starfish, throw them back in and head for McDonald's. King's father's grin was hers, even before her first bright tooth bloomed above water. At night she's aloof, pensive, a bruise in the sand, a figment of her own detachment. King's spotted pigment is hardly the envy of most Venuses who prefer seaweed soup and real penises. Silly clams. Only the Queen gets to fuck her.
2. Elegant Venus (Texas to the Caribbean)
This princess prefers silly clams around her to out-of-reach-deep-sea types who dress in green-thread algae. Elegant spends less on clothes than...no one, come to think of it, not even the glamorous Textile Cone, twit- of-the-sea, not even tiny Pertusa. Elegant is luscious wet. To lose her would bring Mister Venus to the foamy edge of her bristly purple shell. Uncaged,
she gulps down enough ocean for a bath, enough sand for pearly intestines. Paths all lead to Elegant, her soft body a percussion of undertow, muddy, delirious as the sea's fickle weather.
3. Lightning Venus (North Carolina to Brazil)
Crazy about delirious weather, Lightning creates a good storm. Thunder booms, typically, and she precedes it--zoom, zap, cutting close to her lover's bones. She aches, pulled palp and muscles, electric moans that curl dulse leaves and tough eel grass. Once she smoked an entire avalanche of sea potatoes. It's her specialty: beach peas, wrinkled rose, and link confetti flash fried, a potion that works every time, deadly as ink blood of octopi. Briny ghosts follow Lightning's phosphorescent foot, her shadowy imprint, her haloed hood-- the flash of her push, the flash of her lure.
4. Golden Venus (Philippines and East Asia)
One flashy mama, a pushy crone clam, reef-famous Golden holds her own among whipper-snappers, rappers and slackers, young upstarts. Golden loves the sea when it's gray, rusty treasure off the coast of Asia, tilted ships pining on the ocean floor. She's seen entire shorelines shift, sea wars, and giant tourists in green water-wings floating to paradise. Golden careens down Ocean Boulevard like a pelican on rollerblades, hungry and determined. She hates being called ma'am, "Loving Care Silver" all she ever uses on her hair, the color of neap tides, dazzling star-streaked sand.
5. Lettered Venus (Indo-Pacific)
Her dazzling studies claim stars control tongues and tides--not man or the moon. Shocked academics speculate about her bold linguistic powers, wonder if her words predate God- babble: the Koran, Torah, St. James, odd holy books that read like dark fairy tales. One day she woke with the lyrics of whales imprinted on her back--their brackish mumblings, disgruntled or ecstatic etched rumbles. Anywhere words have been swallowed by the sea she carries history, her body a key to salty laws and knowledge that swells from carp livers and the aortas of eels, from the swordfish's sword, the lungfish's lung.
6. Pointed Venus (southern Florida, Texas, Mexico)
Pointed's got that sword-to-the-lung attitude. Addicted to bivalve adrenalin, she power-lunches with crestfallen Sanguin Clams, gives them no-nonsense peptalks re: clam defense, clamouflage, and walking like a clam-man. Pointed is all mer-woman, fin-sharp and liquid, a lover of lumin- ous debate. Once she fought off a whole school of pacifists, detonating peace symbols in the Gulf of Mexico. Pointed wants to go where no Venus has gone--join the Volutes in West Africa, pilgrimage up the Mississippi to the edge of fresh water, lethal ponds, forbidden food.
7. Glory-of-the-Seas Venus (North Carolina to Texas)
She's the Mother of Ponds, slick forbidden deep-water siren who sings you to death with her dolphin-inspired crystal-meth melodies. Venuses worship her fluent fluid ideas about valve-control, the Ten Glorious Suggestions, earning her a place of saint-like stardom in offshore bass- holy waters. Glory is not only Diva of the Deep, Bivalve Supreme, Roaring Pink-Mouthed Queen, and Patron Saint of Pismos, but she also conjures cures for dismal beaches. She purifies polluted oceans, tweaking the little toes of humans who wallow in the wet sand sucking up clams.
War and Camps
It is already some years since I arrived in the city of my exile. I am preparing a report. As I sat in an awkward vigil over the as yet unfinished shape of a dream one night a motorcycle arrived outside my house and was snarling angrily as the driver revved it again and again. Mechanical analogue of bitter anger.
The son is angry at the father, or is beginning to realize that he is angry; and the father is already angry enough to kill his son. The brothers furiously hate each other. (Fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, said to them as they grew up, "Hate! Hate! Remember what they did!")
An armed legion of fathers, invading for oil and a port. An armed legion of sons advancing to meet them, deployed by a belief. But it varies. Sometimes there comes an army of men with no goal but to destroy.
In a hall, a provisional parliament, a tent, a bombed-out church, a well-accoutred chamber of deputies and representatives, a huge tavern, gather the patriots of what they think is an unchanging race. Everyone else has gone back inside but the leader stays out in the night, planning.
The father is death and war; the son rushes away to escape him.
Then comes the son, and it is he who is harrying live souls toward death, and the aged father takes the aged mother by the hand, and as quickly as they can, which is not quickly at all, they run into the forest.
Do not asked what happened to my daughter.
The time of war--the bulldozers with which our army prepared mass graves before anyone was even brought to be murdered there.
The time of camps--the double fences guarded by dog-men, the stockpiled food and medicine outside the fences, the dead of hunger and sickness like flung broken dolls.
Memory tells me a story from its own place, not even from my only life: When I reached the age of adult thoughts, I found my father digging hard one day. What are you doing? I asked. Digging a hole, he said. I felt stupid. I watched him finish, and then he filled it up again, almost. What else goes in there? I said. Don't worry, he said, something will. I'm leaving here, I said. He said, I wish I could, but all places are the same to me. He began to dig another hole.