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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The Pillar of Fire
by Robert Hunter Whitworth

In late October, while he was outside drowning a mouse, Felix Sands' meager existence was interrupted by a pillar of fire coming to rest in his backyard next to the shed. The only traps they'd had left at the store were the sticky kind, and the mice just stuck there alive so you had to finish the job yourself later, so he was drowning it.

It burned there in a calm and self-sustaining way, consuming none of the grass or backyard plants. Fire by itself. It was just there, consistent of shape and thickness (about a tree-trunk's width), giving off light and heat. He couldn't see the top of it. He couldn't see where it started. A pillar of fire.

Felix stood staring, and the light from the fire reflected in his eyes but of course he couldn't see that, and he let go of the mouse, which was dead by then.

The pillar of fire emitted no faint crackling or popping or other campfire-type noises.

Felix Sands thought: I am having a vision. So he maintained a comfortable distance from the fire in a chair in his backyard, waiting for the pillar of fire to produce an explanation. He was nervous at first but then bored, and so alcoholic beverages of various strengths were consumed, and because he was warm from the fire and then drunk, Felix Sands fell asleep and did not dream.

After he woke up, Felix went inside and got a potato, wrapped it in tin foil, and put it at the base of the pillar of fire. He was greasy from not showering.

His potato cooked and he showered and he enjoyed his potato with cottage cheese, and then there were people with baskets at his door, asking to see the pillar of fire.

They said: it's a promise from God, like the rainbow.

They said: it means the world is ending.

They said: you must find out what's burning underneath it.

Felix quit his job to stay with the fire, to maintain the illusion that he was its caretaker. He sat in a chair facing the fire and tried to look like he was contemplating it. He developed marketable eccentricities, stopped shaving or cutting his hair. He lived off of donations of money and casserole from the people who thought the fire meant something.

Without any visible point of origin it blazed, the pillar of fire, remaining into winter. Felix taped cardboard up on the inside of his windows that faced the backyard so that it was dark enough in his house for him to sleep sober. A pillar of fire.

One day Felix filled a bucket with water and tried to put the fire out. He flung the water at it just to see, and the water just all turned to steam when it hit the pillar of fire and the pillar of fire was unchanged.

When it snowed, it kept a perfectly circular area clear in the yard.

They said: it must be some kind of message to you.

Felix tried to feed the fire to make it grow, but it stubbornly maintained its same basic size and shape. The public reacted accordingly. The minor-league hockey team changed its name to The Fire. He was on the news. He would go outside and stand as close to it as he could and look all the way up, and it'd just go impossibly high up into the sky, the pillar of fire.

A girl came to Felix's door one day, with a green bean casserole. The coat she was wearing had a furry hood and her eyes were ridiculous. Your eyes are ridiculous, said Felix.

Yes, well, she said.

Would you like some casserole? Someone just now showed up with some, said Felix. This made the girl laugh.

Can I see it, she said.

It's in the back yard, said Felix. Come to the window. He ran a hand through his beard.

Felix took her to the window of the living room that faced the pillar of fire, and she stood looking at it. How the girl's eyes looked to Felix was like this: like she'd spent a great deal of time staring at wondrous things, the top half of her face always looked amazed.

There were a lot of mice, before the fire, but now there aren't, said Felix. That's something I guess it did.

Before too long Felix was behind her and had put his hands on her hips. She twisted away from him, and he did it again, and this time she didn't twist away. He was ambitious of groping her a little bit, but she turned into him then, and her eyes were very close to his, but Felix found he could go no further, because they were right there basically in full view of the fire, and he said maybe let's go to the bedroom.

They went to Felix's bedroom, where he'd put cardboard up on his windows so he could sleep. The view of the fire would be sufficiently blocked. The girl fell back onto the bed and made a patting motion on the comforter with her hand, and he lay down next to her. She went from sitting up to lying down, and then there was a sliver of orange light right across her eyes.

Felix looked up at the window, and noticed that there had been a breach in his cardboard wall, an opening that was casting a line of orange light onto his bed. He retrieved some tape in an attempt to patch it up, but in doing so noticed several other spots where light was escaping into his room.

I think you'd better leave, he said.

Felix got really lit on red wine and fell asleep outside in his chair facing the fire, and his cheeks stayed warm and his head hurt when he woke up, so he stood up and said pillar of fire, cure my hangover, and it did not. Make my hangover worse, pillar of fire, he said, and it did not. Fire, he said, maintain the status quo, and the status quo was maintained.

They said: if you touch it, you shall surely die.

They said: this is proof that God exists.

They said: this is proof that God is dead.

A fireman came one day, to live in his backyard. Felix confronted him, and the fireman said there's a fire here, is there not? Am I not a fireman? And Felix couldn't argue with that so he put the fireman in charge while he went grocery shopping, and when Felix came back the fireman was still in his yard, and there was a man on the ground, with a knife sticking out of his back.

The fireman said: he came here with this like stab wound. So he asked if the fire would heal him and I said well if anyone here's an expert on what fire can and can not do it's this guy right here with my thumbs pointing back at myself, and I said to the guy there's no definitive proof that the fire won't heal you, so why not go for it? And he went for it and then he kind of immolated himself and died sort of.

He sort of died, said Felix.

The fireman shuddered.

How should I have known the fire didn't heal? Asked the Fireman in the direction of Felix, but the question was rhetorical.

So Felix and the fireman buried the body and Felix went inside to sleep and then a couple of hours after that the fireman wanted to come in too because he was scared and had heard a rustling noise, so Felix let him sleep on the couch, and when the went outside in the morning there he was, the guy they buried, sitting in Felix's favorite fold-up chair, contemplating the fire and picking dust from his nose, and he said jeepers when he saw Felix and the fireman.

You guys scared me, guys, said the man.

There was still a knife sticking out of the man. He was leaning forward in the chair on account of it.

Anyway, he said, I've got instructions, and he paused to excavate some more dirt from his nose, instructions to you. A of all, you get a haircut, B of all, you shave your face, C of all, you stop using the fire as a means of applying culinary heat to your starchy root-type vegetables. That's a gross misuse of the miracle-thing in your backyard.

So the fireman drove Felix to the barbershop so that they could both get away from the man of dust, and said look, Felix, that's a dead guy back there. I did where you feel someone's heartbeat in their wrist veins? And guess what: there was no wrist-vein heartbeat when we buried him.

We live in interesting times, said Felix.

The fireman sat in a chair in the waiting area and flipped through old magazines while Felix got a haircut. The woman who did it was clumsy and inattentive and possibly drunk and forgot to wet his hair before cutting it.

I'm the pillar of fire guy, Felix said.

She said, I seen it, and folded his right ear down to cut the hair around it.

She dry-cut all around the backside of his head before cutting his bangs up over his eyes and then sliced the topmost bit off from his left ear.

Felix got up and left without paying for his half-a-haircut and cupped his hand around the remaining 85 percent-or-so of his left ear and just walked out, dripping blood, sick of it all.

While he drove, the fireman stuck his head out of the window and let the wind from their speed get all over his face, and he said hey, being alive, right?

And Felix said, did you say something?

When Felix and the firefighter returned, the man they tried to bury confronted them and said hey fellas, it's not either of you who stabbed me, right?

Certainly not, screamed the fireman.

I believe you, said the man of dust, but it's hard to remember. He danced a jig to try and celebrate his vitality and to prove to Felix and the fireman that he believed they didn't stab him by demonstrating that he was comfortable around them, but one of his decomposing arms fell off at the shoulder and he just kind of sat and morosely stared at it.

And so they all sat there, and it rained for the first time since the pillar had set down, and the little pellets of water were turning into steam all over the pillar of fire where they hit it. Then the rain started coming down harder and the pillar of fire was blanketed in steam, and the fireman got up and left because it was no longer a fire.

What did you see while you were dead, asked Felix, some time later.

The man of dust looked at him and nodded and said, well, I didn't get a whole lot of time to look around but I found pretty quick work as a bartender in Heaven. The bar was nice, not your run of the mill bar. Half the angels are in there at any given time, because they praise in shifts and drink red wine for their voices.

Felix went hmmm.

That's not all, said the man of dust, you get to ask God a question when you first get in, it's like a ceremony. The guy in front of me asked what color the dinosaurs were. I asked what was the point in creating human life, and He looked at me and smiled like he knew something I didn't and said, We are infinite in Our capacity for interest, amusement, boredom, and loneliness, and all of those were huge contributing factors in the creation of mankind. I was dissatisfied with that answer, but I guess I probably just asked the wrong question

Did he say what color the dinosaurs were, asked Felix.

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