Barcode

She said I’d be better off going with their ‘Premier Publication’ package – leave the decisions to the experts. For instance, had I taken into account: edge determination, modulation, minimum reflectance? Had I considered DataGlyphs, weighed up the advantages of continuous over discrete, closed system over interleaved? And what was my checksum determinant?

I thought you were just sent the barcode automatically. I didn’t realise there were so many… factors, so many choices to be considered.

That’s where a lot of people stumble, she added. Even before you’ve turned the first page you can see they’ve f***ed things up, down in the bottom left or bottom right corner, back cover. And though your average person won’t consciously notice it, they’ll know something doesn’t feel right. And so they’ll put the book down, move on. You don’t want that? I didn’t.

And the great thing about the ‘Premier’: it covers everything, even has barcode insurance bundled in as standard. That comes with £200,000 legal cover, a writ of inviolability, and you get to choose the first three numbers. It sounded very attractive.

It is! She’d published twelve novels herself, plus four ‘how to’ books – and so she now knew  – not just thought, or believed – that if you get the barcode right all the rest falls into place. And don’t your stories deserve the best?

I knew one or two of them didn’t, but I said yes. And, on reflection, it’s comforting to know that the chances of me being successfully sued over my barcode are now very, very slim.

 

by Paul Tarragó

Paul Tarragó is an experimental filmmaker and writer living in London. Recent writings appear in The Wrong Quarterly, 2HB, decomP magazinE, Leopardskin and Limes, and Ink, sweat and tears. His most recent short story collection is ‘The Water Rabbits’ (2018). Before that came ‘The Mascot Moth and several other pieces’ (2013). Both are available from both good and bad booksellers.

 

Charles Mingus’s Miracle

The thing about Charlie Mingus Jr.—who clattered

onto the scene like a grand piano in a punch bowl—

is that he also was young once. More than that, fate

made him endure indignities that make a street bum

look like Reagan’s strapping young buck on food stamps,

savoring a T-bone. System so sullied even mobsters did

more than music critics, but you know, that’s entertainment.

 

I’m black, therefore I’m not: this is what four hundred years

of errors and trials—faith wrung out from unripened rinds—

forced folks with the nerve to be born neither wealthy nor white

to know from the get-go. And for the love of a stained-glass God,

don’t speak off-script or they’ll wash the mutiny from your mouth

with a firehose; that’s why most men lie down mutely in darkness,

safe or at least sheltered, beneath the underdog of hatred & history.

 

Get them to kill each other, or even better, hoodwink them

into hating themselves: that’s the anti-American Dream too

many citizens sleep through, fed a fixed diet of indifference,

intolerance, and interference. So what can you do if you know

you’re a genius, and all the klan’s men can never convince you

water isn’t wet? Keep rolling that rock up the hill until it grinds

a fresh groove into the earth: improvise your own force majeure.

 

This is almost my time, he said, and good God wasn’t he

more than half-right. I know one thing, (you can quote him)

I’m not going to let anyone change me. Overflowing with

awareness of himself, fresh out of the furnace, molded in

the image of a bird that flew first and further—mapping out

the contours of this new language: dialogic, indomitable—

his work exploded, a defiant weed cutting through concrete.

 

1957: five albums in twelve months—righteous waves

quenching a coastline, reconfiguring the world the way

Nature does. And his reward—a brief stretch in Bellevue,

ain’t that a bitch? Listen: when The Duke declared music

his mistress, he was lucky enough to need nobody, aware

that the genetic razor cleaving obsession and insanity is

capricious, like all those calamities Poseidon orchestrated.

 

Mingus was never not human, the impossible endowment

that drove him, destroyed him and, in death, restored him.

His tenacity was the heat that both healed and hurt, a comet

cursed with consciousness—he went harder, dug deeper,

even as his best work impended, yet-unrealized revelations:

Blues and Roots the brown man’s burden, a thorny crown

worn only by dispossessed prophets willing or able to testify.

 

His recalcitrant wisdom: earned the way trees acquire

rings: the reality of who he was, even if he too changed

at times, like the country that claimed him, mostly after

the fact. And whether you’re committed, an exiled crusader,

or a respectable suit working to death in squared circles,

the message from that rare bird’s song still resounds today,

an epiphany blown through the slipstream: Now’s the Time.

 

by Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, and others. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of Virginia Center for Literary Arts (www.thevcla.org). To learn more, please visit seanmurphy.net and @bullmurph.

Duane L Herrmann

Truncated Lives

 

Those millions who,

because of

color,

belief,

origin,

differentness,

hated

by imagination,

were chosen,

among all people,

to be example

forever,

of inhumanity

to fellowman,

castigated,

isolated,

in separation,

to die.

 

 

Me and Melanin

 

I’m known

for the slight amount

of melanin

in my skin.

In fact

I’m proud

to have so little!

SO pale!

YOU

are the opposite

of me

and have abundance.

I hate you.

I will enslave you,

hate you,

and kill you

for the melanin

in your skin.

 

 

by Duane L Herrmann

Duane L. Herrmann, is a survivor who lived to tell, and loves the pure light of the moon – and trees. He creates from his knowledge and experience. His collections of poetry include: Ichnographical:173, Prairies of Possibilities, and Praise the King of Glory. Individual work is published in Midwest Quarterly, Little Balkans Review, Flint Hills Quarterly, Orison, Inscape and others in print and online in the US and elsewhere, in English and other languages. He received the Robert Hayden Poetry Fellowship, the Ferguson Kansas History Book Award and nominated to be Poet Laureate of Kansas.