Up in Smoke

By Erin Ollila

I used to sleep with a man who would wake me up in the morning to a lit cigarette and a cup of coffee. I thought that was so romantic – being woken up by kisses from a man I adored, taking a drag of his cigarette while I watched him light one of my Marlboro Menthol Lights with his monogram-engraved silver Zippo. The coffee was always too hot; I’d lean over his side of the bed to put the mug on the scratched hardwood. I’d lay back, pull the sage sheets around my more-than-likely-naked body and watch him get ready for work. I loved the way he put on his socks: Instead of leaning down to pull the sock over his foot like most people do, he lifted his foot off the floor and put on the sock midair. He’d then stand up, stuff his foot in his black Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, grab his keys, and head toward the door. Inevitably, I’d have to stop him from kicking over my coffee. He had no nightstands.

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We Speak as One

By Claudia Anderson

I don’t know how many of us are here now. Our weight steadily increased until one day the machines lay silent.  The parameters of our existence really do not bother us much anymore. Weight and length and color are nothing more than shadowed measurements of something once thought important.

We are tired, some of us more than others.  Our collective consciousness is slowly seeping out of this world, thoughts of ever-after more a smile than a possibility.  I think there are six of us here on this flatbed. We mouth colors of Regal Black and Arctic White and Matador Red, but no sound comes out.  Perhaps that is what we were once called.  It doesn’t really matter now.  Our identities no longer lay within the tints of our shell. The cold September wind is whipping around us, rhythmically snapping some long forgotten trim against someone’s bumper.  We lay together, six tall, waiting for our last road trip, trying to remember what we once were.

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Bill D. Hicks

William D. Hicks lives in Chicago, Illinois by himself (any offers?). Contrary to popular belief, he is not related to the famous comedian Bill Hicks (though he’s just as funny in his own right). Hicks will someday publish his memoirs, but most likely they will be about Bill Hicks’ life. His poetry has appeared in Christmas Ideals Magazine, Outburst Magazine, The Legendary, HorizonMagazine, Breadcrumb Sins, Inwood Indiana Literary Magazine, The Short Humour Site (UK), The Four Cornered Universe, Save the Last Stall for Me ,and Mosaic. His art appears in The Blank Page Handbook, The Legendary, and as cover art in Anti-Poetry.

Aqualung

By Medea Isphording Bern

A private soundtrack plays for us who venture down, who kiss the surface goodbye and plunge, feet first, under the waves. The big blue, our languid concert hall, offers measure after measure of muffled hush, accompanied by the ‘schlippp-pssshhh’ of the diver’s rhythmic breathing and the pop and crackle of a thousand jamming reef dwellers.  Aside from an occasional percussive rap on a tank, the chime that draws attention to some elusive or reclusive marvel–a turtle, a hammerhead, an octopus–we flutter toward the sea floor in near-perfect, crystalline silence.

Neutral aural compliments psychedelic visual.  A benign patch of sand sprouts eyes, orbs that dart staccato in their sockets like a watch’s spastic second hand.  A pretty, frilly, sponge-covered rock suddenly sprouts a tongue and uses it to stun a passing goby, swallowing it instantly. Blink, and you miss the spotted eagle ray flying over a knob of lime green brain coral, the snowflake eel warning away intruders, the coral crab playing its castanets.  Glide slowly, all senses ‘go’, and Neptune will reveal the secrets hidden inside every crevice and crenellation.

I was born with seawater in my veins, and curly red hair that, when wet and plastered against my skull, could pass for seaweed.   Our family passed weekends slicing Florida’s shimmering blue waters in our 19’ dive boat, ‘Mal de Mer’ (‘Sea Sick’ en français.)   Several times a year, we traveled with dad’s dive club, the North Osprey Otters, down to the Keys, boat in tow.  We slept on deck or in pup tents on the marl of uninhabited out-islands.  We washed everything–hair, clothes, dishes–in the sea with lemony liquid Joy (according to old timers, it cuts the salt.) We gave wide berth to the grinning barracuda that always hovered under our hulls. We floated within schools of Spanish mackerel, piscine clouds of citrine scrawled with horizontal turquoise stripes, a communion unlike the usual wine and wafer, but that left us feeling reverential and a little bit holy.

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Seaside Boi

By Maya Lionne

The girl was saying something, but he didn’t hear any sounds coming from her – just a rash of noise that had begun with the words “Are you a fucking tranny?” Rain slapped the windshield hard enough to drown her out and for a moment, he thought about staying and dealing with it, trying to educate her, trying to help her understand that he really was a guy, that he just had to “spend some time in the shop” getting some parts corrected, removed, or added. That his name really was Nicolas and yes he bled every month, but he’d been taking testosterone shots and his high tide would be history soon enough, and he really liked spending time with her. But he didn’t stay. He didn’t offer any explanations or education, didn’t offer understanding. He just unlocked the car door, stepped out into the rain, and slammed the door behind him. She waited a full zero seconds before she started the car and drove off in the opposite direction.

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INTERVIEW: AJ Janavel

thewaiting

AJ Janavel is the creator of the all ages webcomic Must Be This Tall about three kids who go on huge adventures that just happen to take place in their backyard. He sometimes goes by Alfred James, because he wants to feel fancy. 

In this interview with Paper Tape editor, Kristy Harding, Alfred talks about the origins of Must Be This Tall, his process and inspiration, and whether or not cheese whiz is essential in a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

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Why We Don’t Buy

By Harmony Button

I never used to snooze. It was the button on my 1990s Big Lots clock radio that I never fully understood: why wake up just to suffer in limbo, knowing more real sleep is not an option? Then, I met Jason, and suddenly I started wearing skirts, hitting snooze, and learning to cook artichokes. Jason is a handyman photographer who knows how to appreciate poetry: with a spoon, unwittingly. Sometimes, I catch him mouthing words just for the sound of them. Festoon, my breadbasket Rothschild! he rumbles from the belly, impatient at red lights. I had found my own dream of a common language. I found, at least, a basis for comparison.

Like most other addictions, snoozing leaves me disoriented and unsatisfied, and yet, I really do enjoy it. I can take a look through the spyhole in the door and tell the morning knocking to be patient while I find my slippers, fix my figurative coffee. The morning steps back, wall-eyed face blurring into sight, and shuffles foot to foot, a package of day in his hand. He rings again. Leave it on the doorstep, I shout from inside, but the muffled voice of morning says I have to sign for the delivery. I sigh and open the door, clutching bathrobe tight at the neck. It’s a new day, the morning says, handing over the package while I sign on the dotted line. Funny, I say, I thought it might be my new self.

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Sharing Breath

By Stephen Mead

From the apex of my attic bedroom ceiling, hanging from rainbow yarn, is an inflatable globe.

This sphere has contained the breath of one of my oldest friends for over two decades now. Sometimes, by the light of the moon and street lamps, I can feel it glowing way beyond my insomnia. It’s as if the multi-colored continents themselves also were breathing, spinning ever top-like in the minute respiration of their surrounding oceans. These are mint green in shade now, their blue more faded than jeans. At the axis on the globe’s base, a series of clocks tell of time zones world-wide. With each breath of the globe, they seem to tick and tick.

How many are awake right now, aware of this planet’s inhalations and exhalations? How like a body it is, the fire in its belly bringing oxygen up and out for us all. How many travelers we are over its surface, our backpacks, our belongings, carried the way insects carry bits of leaves, stems and nourishment. How many of us are immigrants, really, and which earthly possessions will we be allowed to carry over what checkpoints? Which will we have to let go of?

Package string, tape and brown paper.

Museums, garage sales and antique road shows…

Hovering over this life, the mad attic dweller, self-cloistered to a fault, I wonder what will become of us, our species, and our generations to come.

In a photo album tucked beside my bed is an image I took of my friend adding air to the globe when it was beginning to go soft again. I picture that image, her intent somewhat humorous expression, her hands on either side of that plastic earth, and like a prayer I hope the energy of our intentions are more than ephemera as the revolution of ages spin.

A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, maker of short collage-films and poetry/music mp3s. Much can be learned of his multi-media work by placing his name in any search engine. His latest project-in-progress, a collaborative effort with composer Kevin MacLeod, is entitled “Whispers of Arias“, a two volume download of narrative poems sung to music. His latest Amazon release, ““Weightless”, a poetry-art hybrid, is a meditation on mortality and perseverance. “Sharing Breath” is an excerpt from a larger work “A Thousand Beautiful Things (A Life in Two Hallways & Four Small Rooms)”, currently in search of a publisher.

Geoffrey Miller

Geoffrey Miller’s most recent fiction publications are ‘Mr. Kim’ Bare Back Lit, May 2013, ‘Masks’ Metazen, Nov. 2012. Two new pieces of flash fiction will be out soon in Ilanot and Labletter. His visual art can be found in the recent editions of Sliver of Stone, Superstition Review, Corvus, Cha, and is on permanent display in the Prick of the Spindle online gallery.

When I Leave San Francisco

By Elizabeth C. Creely

When I leave the city of San Francisco, the sounds and the noise do not come with me. Sometimes this feels like a minor miracle. On a BART train, bound for West Oakland the other day, I looked back at the city backlit by fog and considered the rectangular buildings and the silly triangle of TransAmerica building and thought of all the tumult in it. It’s hard to believe I live in anything that has so many people talking and so many dogs barking and MUNI trains rumbling and babies crying all at the same time.

My neighborhood in the Mission is a noisy place: By day, it’s a teeming habitat of police sirens, car tires squealing, people talking on cell phones all day and all night.

A woman walked by my apartment the other day, talking into her cell phone. A whole string of dialogue had unspooled before I heard a word, but the pitch of her voice preceded her. I finally heard her say, “I’m still struggling.” The word “still” hung behind her, fixed in the aether as a high singing note of stress and uncertainty as she walked on down the street, still talking.

At night, the monologues and dialogues of my 3 am dream will sometimes get overtaken by my neighbor’s love of electronic dance music. From across the street, the music pulses and I come to consciousness, snatched out of sleep, my dreaming mind taken from me. A great stationary force settles down in the street between her apartment and mine as I lay pinned to my bed by the driving beat of the bass, almost felt more than heard.

The difference between sound and noise is movement, I sometimes think. A siren wailing down 22nd street in the middle of the night moves one place to another in great haste. The sound of the siren, a sound that filled me with tense dread when I was a kid–That wailing sound! Unearthly!–goes away.

Noise entraps, takes prisoners: My mother, who has an almost autistic sensitivity to loud discordant noise, was once almost driven to tears by a VW Bug that pulled alongside us at a red light on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach.  A group of teenagers were inside the car. They were blasting Led Zepplin at top volume from their car stereo.

My mother’s whole face changed; she winced and her lips pulled away from her teeth. She quickly rolled up the window. She was in some sort of pain, and so was I: The noise was sudden, and its impact was profound. It was like being assaulted. The blankness on the faces of the beautiful blond teenagers in the next car frightened me too. They appeared to feel nothing, letting the music speak (or shriek) for them. The noise created defensive space, the way that an angry dog does. But what were they defending? Or were they on the hunt?

My mother’s reaction frightened me; it confirmed what I thought was happening was happening. We had both been speaking and listening, at the same time, to the same assemblage of sounds:  screeching seagulls, confirming the approach to the sea and our own voices conspiratorial and hushed speaking about our errands, what we were out in the world to do that day, and why. And then the music of the birds and our voices were blanked out with a terrifying force: Noise stormed in and overtook the diversity of the aural environment. Robert Plant’s screams filled the air, and I couldn’t hear anything else, couldn’t remember the sound of the birds or the words of the conversation I’d been having with my mother moments before.

(Seven year later I was on a school bus when I heard that the drummer for Led Zepplin had died.

“John Bonham died,” called out a boy in the back of the bus.

“Good,” I snapped.  “I hate Led Zepplin.”)

Sound often involves other sound: It exists because of and with other sounds. Acorn woodpeckers, known for their high level of social and communal interaction, call to other acorn woodpeckers throughout their busy day. They sound like this: Waka waka waka. Bang, bang, bang. This is how they sound greeting each other and storing their nuts. When they need to alert each other to important happenings–a squirrel advancing on their store of nuts–the call goes out. Waka! Waka! Waka! The calls and the tapping of woodpeckers in a richly diverse aural landscape can be heard for miles. But bring in one thing–a chainsaw, an iPod, anything mechanized that disturbs and redistributes the sound molecules in the medium of air–and suddenly everything changes. Nothing can compete with mechanized noise.  Not the woodpeckers, certainly. They cannot hear each other, cannot communicate.

Noise is a monoculture. It colonizes, overtakes, dominates, and invades. Sound is communicative and thus, if not reciprocal, then at least mutual. Noise is resolutely neither of those things.

In the city, I have often seen several red tail hawks circling in the sky. These are probably adults teaching their young to fly. They are calling to each other, I know, and if I were anywhere but 22nd Street I would hear them.  I usually don’t.

On the train that day I left the city, I thought about how the week had been. My neighborhood had mostly been quieter than usual. Most sounds had been transient, and had passed easily through my consciousness. But this will change. Sound and noise: aural phenomena that create a sort of intangible commons where people and their preferences bump and jostle against each other. Our own sound-scapes–the noises and sounds we make and prefer to hear–are being challenged as the city continues to take more people in.

I watched the sweep of the South Bay open up and then vanish in the distance while the sound of BART–metal wheels that scream and gnash against the rails–silenced everyone on the train.  It didn’t bother me. I’d knew I’d leave the train and the noise would stop. And when I returned to the city of San Francisco, the sound and the noise would greet me, enveloping me in its large body, and usher me home.

Elizabeth C. Creely is a staff contributor for Paper Tape. She received an MFA from San Francisco State University in 2005 and has been published in The New Hibernia Review, the Dogwood Journal, and The Mississippi Review. Her essays have also appeared in three anthologies: Manifest West: Eccentricities of Geography, New California Writing 2013, and Extended Family: Essays on Being Irish American from the New Hibernia Review. She blogs at Dinnshenchas and lives in San Francisco with her husband.