Editor's Note





Book Reviews

Contributors' Notes


Liz Robbins

Jason Lee Wheeler's Song

October, 20006: J.L.W. was given the death sentence for ambushing and killing a Lake County deputy in the Ocala National Forest. During the gun battle, he was paralyzed from the chest down.

I blame my crimes on nothing but Satan, my mom, and cocaine: all hopped up on speed in those Ocala woods, cornered, hating the cops and my rage, God, and my need. With a sawed-off shotgun I sprang the good deputy—shot him in the head— while Mama's voice chimed and cold bullets sang (one lodged in my spine). I should be dead, boxed up in dirt; instead, I'm paralyzed— numb from the heart down, stuck in this chair and headed for another. I now realize it's only dead men that crushed women bear. I dream of trees, of limbs heavy with fruit, though I long ago turned, sank to my roots.

God Poem

The tiny bearded king made of pixels bounces from cloud to cloud. With x-ray vision, he zaps tinier men wearing tweed suits like body armor, and even tinier women, some holding close the egg-shaped Book of Secrets. You shift the joystick, try to help the men and women dodge the king's orange rays like deadly sunshine. But you don't feel too bad for them: when they're not dodging rays, they're hoarding gold chalices. Then the purple gnome arrives, the one with the limp and funny hat who resembles your widowed Aunt Janine. The one you never held a rosary for, the one who baked without you sugar forgiveness cookies. If you push the red button, some of the men and women create a chair out of their arms, carry the gnome over the bridge, past the fire pit, and into the straw hut that never catches fire. The orange rays continue: more gnomes pop up. You keep pushing the red button. The people keep helping gnomes to safety. Eventually the golden key appears. The 1,000 pink bonus points flash on and on, your heart goes up. Your hands are good and strong. A level shifts. Only then does the king vanish.

October Tricks with the Denver Broncos

He stands alone in his everyday baggy fear, having heard last night the report of neighborhood firecrackers, the 4th still nine months away. Daybreak comes stiff as a mask, his hope marching forward into the mouth's crevasse. His rituals of desire, soaking up hours like a loaded sponge, his trickling toward snacks in plastic pouches— the tagged, bagged, slightly stale bodies of grit like dead insects, no substance. And the 2-D women in his computer, spilling into their usual red stretched poses, so many backlit thorned roses. His fingers pressing soft keys. So unlike the women at work, their yoga class years turning their bodies harder. The air, sinking colder. And he knows that it's long past mattering, that salvation will soon arrive, since today is Sunday, and he can spew indignation toward the corner where the confessional box sits, volume turned low on the game. Where men he can identify will huddle close in bright orange work clothes like prisoners, then steel themselves for battering.