Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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Exit the Heroes, or, in Praise of Cowardice
by Elmore Snoody

I let my gaze rest on our leader—the tall, hearty Magna. Always, Magna cuts a striking figure.

Alert and watchful, he strides like one intent on causing destruction. His weapons move with him, ominously, in rhythm to the great bulk of his body. Without effort, he bears the weight of his hefty shield, which seems to glide of its own volition, set with finality between the warrior's elbow and shoulder. His pike, strapped onto his back diagonally, looms behind his head, the metal point rising and descending slightly with each of its bearer's footsteps. The sun plays around the finely-wrought rim of the shield and the sharp point of the pike with twitching, menacing gleams—rippling through the weapons, it efficiently brings into conversation man's capacity for exerting countless bloody war miracles, reddening the human form, and, through amputation, stabbing, hacking, impaling, and decapitation, separating the human body from its selfsame components.

Behold Magna: Iron his shield, iron his will; hanging in its scabbard, his sword, forged of remorseless steel, implores its master's angry hand to wrench it out and unleash its butchering power. Only Magna can wield this weapon to its greatest utility, adjusting, on the fields of carnage, each adroit thrust to the capabilities of his muscles. He fights as a primitive animal refines and modifies an evolutionary advantage to its benefit and, moving among the herd, transfers this benefit to its fellows. Magna unknowingly passed the advantages of his warring prowess on to us, his brothers-in-arms. For, irrespective of comradeship, which he remains incapable of either showing or understanding, he is always bent on butchering his enemies with the greatest efficiency imaginable. There was a reason he was called "Magna the steely-hearted"—he disemboweled his opponents ruthlessly. His general personality is like his fighting style, for he frequently appears as something of a simple-minded town butcher in his thought processes and mannerisms, which were, it is true, quite severely lacking in refinement.

Even as a zygote, raging within his mother's womb, nature had ordained Magna to be a rabid machine intent on savage butchery. He was said to have immediately tried to strangle his mother directly upon his birth. For reasons like this, he had that certain unresolved wistfulness about him, as though he suspected that one day, he, a mere mortal, was fated to take his greatness past the limit—something crazy like amputating a god. Perhaps the vengeance awaiting this potential offence was the only thing he had left that he could genuinely be afraid of.

He was feared by his enemies, and exercised over the rest of us—soldiers fighting for our people and our king—a strength that we venerated and longed to have passed to us, passed into us. Yes, perhaps because of his very aloofness, we courted Magna's brave spirit more than was prudent or reasonable. We longed to have his spirit transferred to us—for its passage to disperse into our forearms, shoulders and chests—so that it should course through us, so that all its potential energies should direct the palpitations of our hearts.

His eyes are either cold or furious, his body always both agile and dexterous. He can take an arrow, bend it back in its bow, and fling it straight off toward his victim's throat in seconds. One moment the arrow's notch is held in suspension, the taut bowstring longing to release its feathered emissary. Then, before you know it, the arrow sounds the air, longing to penetrate its target. Moments before, the arrow had experienced only the anxiety of the bowstring's taut urgency. Now, blood spurts over its wooden contours, as the victim splutters and chokes to death, agonized, contorted mercilessly in the dust.

There was a primitive language that Magna spoke fluently—it was a lexicon symbolic and instinctual, without speech. It was the roaring, animal language of slaughter and death. In the sweaty grind of combat, where men are pressed up together uncomfortably, Magna has no problem with grabbing an enemy's head and wrenching it back, impaling the victim up under the chin and through the throat with the sharp end of his pike. The point thus driven through the unfortunate combatant's skull, the force is such that the head is torn off from the body completely, resulting in an explosion of brain anatomy that litters the earth with leaky splatter. One moment before, that bony pudding had been a human head—a head that harbored the sophisticated circuitry which had exercised complex neural impulses. Now, its conversion into raw pulp was the price paid for presuming to fight with savage Magna in the exterminating grind of war.

Magna's right hand man was Graug of the Crooked Ox-Goad, a giant of a man, his figure tall, fearful and menacing. Graug was always waiting for the moment when he could take out his mace and flatten an enemy's skull into an unsavory mix of blood, brain, and crushed bone fragments. It is true that his face was horrific, though I found that this very defect was paradoxical—at least insofar as it made his buttocks, prominent but not to the point of self-caricature, both sublime and tragic.

He can take an ax from his belt and decapitate his victims before they know their heads have been cut off. He was feared for this, and so enemies would always approach him with caution; the idea of sudden decapitation and the name Graug of the crooked ox-bow had been formed and understood as a seamless association between sign and referent. The fingers of his right hand were constantly clutching at or fondling the hilt of his sword. No mere external object to him, Graug had trouble knowing where he ended and his sword began. This close association between himself and his weapons helped him fight; he could amputate an enemy below the knees in seconds. He seemed to have been made to efficiently detect the place where the enemy soldier's protective armor was battle-damaged, weakest, and easiest to hack through. Indeed, he wasn't averse to amputating an arm or thigh and leaving it and the victim it had just been attached to suffering and bleeding out uselessly on the annihilating fields of carnage. Graug clearly felt that in this way he was making his own kind of contribution.

One day we were marching through the plain and came upon what looked like about 300 mercenaries. We immediately recognized by their standards that they were enemies of our sovereign. We mustered ourselves for battle, preparing our ranks for the offensive. However, as we did so we looked these enemies over with increasingly panicked horror. Some of us quaked visibly, and others started humming nervously. Yes, these warriors gave us pause. Their number, it appeared, was a little less than our own. Yet there appeared to be a fury smoldering within their breast that forced us to consider things for a moment.

For one thing, these men were massive. Brutish, their forearms alone seemed larger than those of mortal man, and looked oddly suited to construction work—something like pulverizing slabs of mortar or enacting the assaulting deconstruction of a building. Quite a few of them were fully armored. Imposing, it was a frightening layer of defense that covered the inhumanity of their already formidable bodies. Their visors lowered, their bodies gave off an enigmatic charisma, as though they had, with relish, absorbed evil into their very internal organs and didn't want it escaping through their pores. They looked to me like barbarians a smith long-experienced in the art of metallurgy had planted deep inside the bowels of the earth, allowing his creations' bodies to absorb unnatural reserves of strength alien to human flesh, before then retrieving these unfinished hybrids from the earth's bowels and refashioning their metallic frames into human-looking warriors. They were tall; their frames were massive, their shoulders broad, ursine, yet agile, nimble, mean, and wildly threatening. They were flanked on each side by a group of at least ten archers, all of whom seemed, merely by their outward appearance, capable of sending the shafts of their long arrows into our own ranks with absolute savageness, potentially puncturing the tightest protective phalanx we could ever have formed—providing, of course, the terrified quaking of our shields didn't entirely disrupt their own function. In short, our faces and persons were exposed to terrible injury. There existed the possibility, for example, that my eyes or genitals might be pierced by a ruthless arrowhead. Those types of injuries can be especially horrific.

Some of these imposing soldiers, observing our hesitant approach, had casually unsheathed their swords. I heard the reverberant ping of metal as sword after sword, nauseatingly, was unsheathed. And I thought I heard a few of them chuckle nonchalantly as they picked up their shields. It was a terrible sound to me, indicating as it did an unfeigned lack of concern for our own contingent as signifying an actual threat. Their swords blazed angrily in the sun as though a hot liquid were searing through the steel edges, waiting for the flesh that would give their spectral edges the carnal food of our hacked, severed, or in some way painfully extracted flesh. The weapons, appearing alive, seemed somehow aware that they would spill our blood as though like a flood. This animalistic force, hungry for meat and forged into cold steel, hovered in the air about the swords' steely edges—which salivated greedily for the nourishment they were to tear away from our naive bodies. Two or three of the men must have been almost seven feet tall, with maces large enough to flatten a man's skull into a leaky pile of pulp. "We might get hurt doing this," we thought with alarm.

Like a great wave whose foaming crests know perfectly well which direction they want to surge, we turned in the other direction, and ran away from them. We ran like hell. We ran away down the slopes into the gullies and through the streams and into the plains. We followed the paths and foot trails through the woods and into the clearings and then we continued running. Our boots left footprints indicative of terror on the soft soil of streambeds. We let our feet ensure our safety by putting distance between our footprints and our bodies. Our rapidly beating hearts surged in our chests as we thundered through the plains. In a collective tumult, we fled: we crossed the borderland separating danger from safety, and headed toward the latter. Those warriors could have butchered us.

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