INTERVIEW/EXCERPT: Carlo Matos

Carlo Matos is an Azorean-American writer currently living in Chicago, IL, where he teaches English at the City Colleges of Chicago by day and trains cage fighters by night. After hours he can be found entertaining clients at the Chicago Poetry Bordello.  He is also the poetry editor for City Brink.

Carlo has published five books: A School for Fishermen (BrickHouse Books), Counting Sheep Till Doomsday (BlazeVox), Ibsen’s Foreign Contagion (Academica Press), Big Bad Asterisk* (BlazeVox), and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora (forthcoming).  His poems, stories and essays have appeared in over a dozen magazines including The Rumpus, Atticus Review, Word Riot, HTML Giant, and DIAGRAM. He blogs at Fighting and Writing.

In this interview with Paper Tape editor, Kristy Harding, Carlo talks about his novella The Secret Correspondence of Loon and Fiasco (Mayapple Press, due December 2014), artificial intelligence, California, and paradox.

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Butterfly

By Epiphany Ferrell

Ginnifer is wearing her butterfly costume for the fourth day in a row. My sister thinks it’s cute. That she wants to wear it so much, not the costume necessarily. It was cute, but now the wings are bent and bedraggled, and the glitter has rubbed off, leaving them looking like something that came through the hedge.

My sister calls her daughter Ginny, and she gets angry if someone pronounces it “Jenny.” A jenny, she says, is a female donkey. Ginny is her daughter’s name. I think Ginny sounds like a euphemism for an alcoholic, so I call her Ginnifer.

These days, she refers to herself as “Madama Butterfly.” She has not seen nor heard the opera, but somewhere she heard the name of it, and she has adopted it as her own. The butterfly costume was for another little girl’s party, for which she asked all the little girls she invited to come dressed as their favorite flying thing. I had suggested Ginnifer go as a pterodactyl. My suggestion was not adopted. My sister explained to me that little girls like to be pretty, not ironic. I declined to explain to her that I was only joking (wasn’t) and declined to remind her I’d once been a little girl, too (tomboy).

I also declined to explain that fundamental misunderstandings like this are why I’m staying at a Drury with a kitchenette rather than on my sister’s couch. You can’t choose your family, but you can control your thread count.

Our mother is slowly dying. A machine breathes for her. She has a nurse who visits daily, and a Hospice worker who comes about three times a week. When I visit my mother, which I do twice daily, I see a woman I no longer recognize. She doesn’t talk much any more. In the first 15 minutes of my first visit, she asked me when I was going to marry. I’d sighed with exasperation, told her I wasn’t even dating, and sank into my earphones as soon as she fell asleep.

I wish now I’d told her a fabulous story about a wonderful man I’d met, and how much we had in common, and about his good steady job and his Buick and dedication to private education. I didn’t though, and so now the last thing we will have said to each other is “why not” and “because,” and that is very unsatisfying. I want her to wake all the way up once more, even if it is to accuse or belittle. I see her eyes roll under fish skin lids, and I wish I’d told her something better to dream.

I was thinking about all this, all the things I might have said but I just couldn’t humble myself to humor her, sitting on my sister’s porch railing like I know she hates. I felt movement behind me, and felt a small, sticky hand on my back. Ginnifer was on tiptoe, holding her butterfly wings to my back. I moved my arms cooperatively, helping her loop the loops over my arms, onto my shoulders. The wings sag crookedly, and I looked a fool. Ginnifer climbed up next to me on the railing, and I turned my head enough to look at her. She sat straight up, great posture, not mimicking my hunched shoulder pose. In the shadow we cast, we were both winged.

Epiphany Ferrell is part of the writing communications team at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and has prior non-fiction writing experience both at newspapers and magazines. Her stories appear online at Fictonaut, Prairie Wolf Press Review, DarkFire, and the Chick Lit Review; and in print at Seven Hills Review, Helix Literary Magazine, Radio Free Boskydell, and the chapbook anthology Word Swell.  A country girl, she shares her home with her son, and with horses, dogs and cats. 

The LaCroix Diaries

By Maya Lionne

On Tanya’s nineteenth birthday, on a chill autumn Thursday, Tanya, Nicolas, Bridget, and Alexa came back from the night’s work selling the house’s homemade erotic calendars and magazines to find the renovated Hotel d’Souza where they lived abnormally quiet.

Alexa agreed to search the bottom floor, the light from her cell phone illuminating dark rooms in the basement. Bridget set about searching the offices and rooms on the ground and second floors, her dancer’s body gliding past rails and desks like a wraith in the early morning dark. Nicolas racked the slide on his handgun, replacing it in his brown leather jacket before accompanying Tanya in a search of the third and fourth floors.

No one could be found, and the house showed no signs of disaster – all the rooms were in order, nothing was knocked down, and there was no sign of a fight. When she finally got to the fourth-floor room she shared with her girlfriend Galina, Tanya all but kicked the door down, shouting Galina’s name in a panic.

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Alysha L. Scott

Alysha L. Scott is a twenty-three year old painter and writer from Wisconsin. Although she mainly focuses on portrait painting, many of her works reflect various human/spiritual and political ideologies with a twist of surrealism. Currently, she is working on a series that portrays the evolution of religion and spirituality with references to ancient art forms, literature and practices. She can be found on Allpoetry.com.

Under Dermis Wonderland

By Aholaah Arzah

It was a process of sufficient precision; the hair combed through and narrowly parted with a fine-toothed comb.  The ribbons of hair that resulted were then separated into thinner swathes yet by the weaving motion of the rat tail of the comb.  These slender strands were slathered in dye and folded into tidy foil packets. If even a single loathsome louse clung by the claw of one of its six legs to the shaft of one frizzled tri-colored hair, it would be seen. The resultant repugnance of such a discovery made in the refined realm of Salon Curlicue would be loudly indignant. So, Virginia could safely conclude that despite the innumerable potential opportunities for possible infection one was daily exposed to that today at least in this moment she did not have head lice. She needed the respite of these moments because regrettably the relief was only temporary.

Barely an hour later Virginia found herself scratching furiously at her scalp and examining the white flaky accumulation under her fingernails with the pocket sized 30 power magnifying glass she carried for this purpose. At this level of magnification it was still difficult to distinguish between the flakes of dry scalp now rolled into ovals by the drag of her nails over her skull and the pearlescent forms of the infamously “sesame seed” sized larva.

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Reverie of the Recurring Soul

By Jeroen van Honk

There must have been someone, somewhere, sometime, who said that everything happens for a reason. Led by the hand of this convenient adage, and by the siren calls of invisible angels who trumpet my destiny, I will now scale the faithful stairs of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos at the fringes of the Unescoed heart of the ancient city of Córdoba. Made of large stone slabs, the Alcázar housed the Christian Kings, Isabel de Castile and Fernando de Aragon, after they drove the Moors out of their once-famed capital. What is left now is a calculated ruin, showing just enough grandeur to inspire awe and just too little to anchor the place in a tangible, imaginable version of history. The walls are still standing and the gardens stretch out endlessly. This contrast of grey and green emanates a certain simplicity here, bringing everything back to basics. Here, it is as if the human race once and for all is pitted against nature. From the grounds there is one spiral staircase, with tall, uneven steps, leading you up to enjoy the ultimate vista of the place.

Though unimaginable, since it is now a major tourist showcase, it is said that those who scale these steps can never again return to terra firma. At the foot of the steps there is only the insignificant warning sign stating that no more than ten people at a time are allowed to go up. At the same time it is impossible to know how many have gone before or how many are walking around up there. Never has anybody been seen to descend the stairs, though there are tourists who claim to have done it. They show pictures of the gardens taken from an aerial point of view. These don’t prove anything, however. As the legend grew, it has become a popular tourist pastime to put their cameras on self-timer and throw them in the air, or tie them to long, wooden poles. It’s a fascinating amalgamation of the decadently touristic with a fatalistic old-world curse.

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This Word Is Earth

By Harmony Button

Begin with a definition: we know where to go.

We become thoughtfully troubled that despite being called “The Dictionary,” there is not only one, but in fact, many, many different dictionaries.  Like a child discovers that the authority of one parent does not always completely coincide with the authority of the other, so we find that The Dictionary offers a deceiving sense of unity.

We compare our parents.  Merriam’s spine is cracked and tired, and her pages drag.  We find the uncles online — Oxford & Cambridge — but they aren’t as popular as good ol’ daddy D-dot-com.

I introduce a source the students soon name “Ed” because the O is silent, like in Oedipus!

No, says another, his name is Owen.  Maybe there’s another Owen in his class, so he just goes by Owie D.

I am secretly delighted.  I make a note to self: in my free time, I should create a fake profile on some social media network under the name of Owie D, and only post smart and snarky etymological comments.

In my free time, I should drink less coffee, take more trail runs, sleep at least eight hours every night.  In my free time, I should read books and write poems and make my own veggie soup bouillon.  This is the myth of adulthood: there’s such a thing as time you get for free.  There is always a price, always a something you are not doing, instead.

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Behold the Egg: Tarin Towers and the Making of Ritual

By Elizabeth C. Creely

On Saint Patrick’s Day, the sun came out, but just barely. After three months of below average rainfall for San Francisco and California, the rain came, finally and all at once, in short staccato bursts. A secluded meadow in Golden Gate Park, affectionately called Magic Meadow by local pagans, was wet. A series of puddles dotted the meadow, pools of water that reflected the sky like silvery mirrors. Water—the elemental quality of the West, beloved by pagans and witches for its radical powers of transformation—inundated the turf and the surrounding areas of the park.  A red-tailed hawk sailed through the air and settled on a tree branch, cocking his head and surveying the clearing with his mad eyes. No one noticed it. They were waiting for Tarin Towers to arrive. “She’s on Pagan Standard Time,” someone said.

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The Eyes of Aaron Marsh

By Scott Brendel

Was it West Cedar?  West Maple?  They should have brought the paper with the address.  But no; it sat in the clutter beside the phone at home.

“Hurry,” Amanda said.  “We’re late.”

“How hard can it be to find?” Carl muttered.

Then she saw it, knew it by the prickle that crawled up her spine.  “There,” she said, pointing.

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The Lie

By Jean Rover

Spring had come to the campus of Riley Institute, a small Lutheran college tucked safely in the blue foothills of the Pacific Northwest. Cream-colored spikes covered the huge chestnut trees that lined the sidewalk to the commons area and the gigantic rhododendron by the library was again ablaze in bright peach-colored blooms. The staid little campus bustled with the sounds of singing birds, humming insects, student chatter, and campaign speeches. Awkward election signs spouted alongside purple lilacs and white, fluffy trees; together they swayed in the fragrant air.

Mary, a junior, rehearsed a speech that she hoped would get her elected student body president. She’d taken a public speaking class her sophomore year and had gotten that part in a play last semester. After that, she headed a campus food drive, which set a collection record. These accomplishments surprised even her. Who’d of ever thought a quiet, small town girl, once so afraid to talk in class, could not only stand up before a group, but could also move it to action.

Once Mary learned the power of words and tasted success in the limelight, she could not step back into the shadows. Winning the presidential election, could open all kinds of doors. She saw herself working on some local politician’s campaign or maybe heading off to Washington D.C.

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