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Sparks 14 - winter 96 - volume 5 issue 4 - published by The Orange Street Press

Contents

Stacy Tartar
Vision, Like A Halo
Marc Awodey
Watchers
Nora-Maria Iancu
Vol de nuit
Departure at Noon
Inside a Question Mark
Ernest Slyman
Glack Goes The Brumble
Blue Faces
janet kuypers
top of the mountain
Paul Ford
ELIZA Test
Contributors

Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People ISSN#: 1077-4149 - Editors: Jim and Stacy Esch
Sparks Copyright ©1996 by Jim and Stacy Esch. All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the authors upon publication.
Web Published in the USA- Sparks is published four times a year. We welcome your submissions. Send all correspondence to the address below.

email: jmesch@artsci.wustl.edu - Sparks Online available at http://las.alfred.edu/~sparks/sparkspage.html



Stacy Tartar

Vision, Like A Halo

A person sees things in a day. But things don’t stick. You are able, for instance, to go on buttering the toast and cracking the eggs. The trash goes out, the TV gets watched, books get read, and the things that have been seen are left to reside on an inner shelf, a back brainfold that will soon be overwritten or discharged. So you won’t know why there are geese in your dreams, and you won’t know why the President’s helicopter, headed out of town for another stump speech, rises to meet them, why they cross paths, not to mention purposes, heading off in opposite directions. But it will be because precisely when you tried to rest these things appeared in your window, and then disappeared. And all the while you were thinking about a blue sky, about a blank square, a possibility of elsewhere. You may remember that earlier while driving home you’d seen a strange sight: an old woman, heavyset, sagging, lumbering along Lindell Avenue in nothing but her bra, larger than any bra you’d ever imagined, her old husband, bare to the waist, beside her, gripping his shirt in his hand and slightly swinging it, a stilted rhythm, the rhythm of old age walking. The way they made their way down the avenue. Which in turn may have caused you to recall the drunk, so seemingly ecstatic, and also swinging in his steps, a few blocks further. The drunk who staggered but ever so happily, the one who seemed to embody the perfect happiness of a long awaited but now acquired satisfaction. These things you’d seen you’d not allowed entrance to the front of your awareness but kept back like fire-shadows bouncing off the walls of a cave in favor of the sunlight. But now you enter underground. The old woman is greasing her hands with chicken fat dripping from the fire. Her hands do not burn. She rubs the fat over her belly and into her shoulders and a goose alights there. Her husband, reluctantly, gently, shoos it away but a loud flapping helicopter leaves him stunned. It’s the President of the United States. He’s smiling in the window as the helicopter lands. The old woman and her husband salute him as he leans out to shake their hands. The closer you get to the three of them (and you are zooming in fast), the more you realize that the President has been drinking and he’s crying beneath his smile. You feel so sad for the indignation of the President drinking and crying that you cry, "Cheer up, Mr. President! I think it’s going to be sunny tomorrow!" This attempt, however, sends him into a rage which he can barely recover from. And while he continues to hurl insults at you, shoving the old woman so that she lands on her ass, a disheveled youth with glassy eyes who appears as if from inside the blue flames of the spitting fire suddenly is aiming a sawed off automatic at the space between your eyes, yelling, "You murderous hypocrite! You thief! You better do what I say, and do it NOW! Just SHUT UP! I’m either gonna blow you away or I’m gonna sing you a song!" You run for sunlight and wake up, practically trembling, though you don’t know why. You’ve remembered and then forgotten everything. Your vague anxiety is the pale force that frames your vision, like a halo, round the window next time you look.

Marc Awodey

WATCHERS

Gaping spirits watch
through mica windows at Acoma.
Some have matted hair,

curled finger nails,
Some still have lips,
and eye lids.

They watch water carriers
zigzagging up the mesa trail.
They see coffee pots, medicine

bottles a few inches tall.
They watch children, old women
burnishing ceramics,

young men circling want ads,
brides bathing,
old uncles playing cards,

house cats lost in the hunt.
They see vapor trails discarded
by intercontinental flights.

Some have no right hands
or left feet. All were once
heaving loaves of birth.

Watching is all they can do.


Nora-Maria Iancu

Vol de nuit

chill rail under bare steps
this night we play the rain.

when I say three remember all
the steam and red lights further
then stick your ears to steel,
and hear again the cowrie

damp weeds hid enemy ahead
and blackness give them power
the one that wanders now astray
is lost: follow the sleepers

cut down the herbs to find the pools
they kept for you the stars in heaps
and kept the revolution
wallow your boots and search your trace
who's first to see the eyes of owl
come back and give a whistle

Departure at Noon

Skin of the stoned fear,
scorched retinae
shivering dawdled along the streets.

Large curtains of sun,
niveous damasks,
heavily flooded the roofs.

Translucency of the levanter,
frailed nails,
fell in splinters over mirrors.

Thus glowed on us the day of wrath
and none moved any longer
upon the face of waters.

Inside a Question Mark

drizzling, round, aphotic room,
mould climbs silently the walls,

fingers gave up fumbling
hanged in the damp linen,

adorning words in carious heaps
faintly greenish twinkle,

you can't tell the carpet anymore

within this flooded symbol


Ernest Slyman

Glack Goes The Brumble Thusters

The Tuccas, who are Peruvians eat their lunches late,
Around three, and twice we have dined together,
Drinking their pnimbul juice,
Which tasted like machine oil, only sweeter,
And twice we supped on their porridge called glack,
A strange concoction of wild grass,
A thick long stemmed cinnamon-scented bush,
And the brittle thoughts of brumble thusters,
A plant that grows everywhere in Peru,
An annoying member of the gug family
That has the extraordinary habit
Of flowering every day, sometimes twice a day.
The orange petals clutter the streets,
And when stepped upon they groan,
Let loose testimonials to joy and pain,
All day come their sighs and sorrowful cries,
And everyone feels a little happy
And a little sad for them.

Blue Faces

Understanding fully the function of art,
The natives of the island Mijjacca
Paint themselves red and orange and blue.
The Mijjacca are the makers of art, making ornaments
Out of clumps of blue clay,
Which they wear on special occasions--
Weddings and funerals, for example.
They see in our faces the faint traces
Of beauty and strength.
We think they study us,
But it may be they have fallen in love
With one of us or all of us.
The hopeless looks on their blue faces,
The quivering lips and the tender smiles
Are prevalent and most intrusive.
We haven't given our answer as yet.
We're not ready.


janet kuypers

top of the mountain

so we were in the car together, Lorrie driving, Sandy in the back seat,
the humidity from the Southwest Florida night seeping in through the cracks
in the car windows. And it was quiet for a moment, and the lull in the
conversation prompted Lorrie to ask, "so if you had an Indian name, what
would it be?" and I was completely lost by the introduction of this
question, I mean, where did it come from and what kind of Indian name was she
talking about? Sequoia? And then Sandy says, "you mean like 'Fucking Dogs?', and
Lorrie laughs and says yes, a name like Running Bear or Soaring Eagle.
So sandy didn't think Fucking Dogs should be her name, so she came up with
"Teacher of Children," and I thought for a moment, tried to encapsulate
my life one catchy little phrase, and finally I came up with "One who Rests
at Top of Mountain." Lorrie then explained to us that the names were
actually given to Indian boys as a rite to manhood by a mentor of theirs, often a
grandfather-figure, and the name was a reminder to them of what they
should become. So I changed mine to "Patient One," but you know, looking back
at that night, driving through the musty sticky night, I still think that
it is better to say that I shall rest at the top of the mountain.


Paul Ford

ELIZA Test (an obvious fiction)

Source: the MIT Jargon File

Based on the Inverse Turing Test, in which the test-taker must decide whether the hidden partner in a terminal-based, text-only dialogue is computer or human. If the subject believes the conversation is with a machine,the ELIZA test has been passed. All other results, from slight doubt to true disbelief, constitute failure. The ELIZA test is different from the Inverse Turing Test. In the ELIZA test, evidence can be used to make the subject believe they are entering into dicourse with a computer. Usually, they are told about the history of the ELIZA program, and then launch a program called "ELIZA" themselves, from a terminal. Also, the real motive of the research is never mentioned, and a false motive is usually named. In the examples below, the subject was told that he was taking part in a study of eye motion in human-computer dialogues. A camera was levelled at his eye, and a white-coated researcher pretended to take notes as he typed. Often, a real session with the program ELIZA takes place as a control, before the "fake" ELIZA sessions occur. A book on the tests, "Making the Mind Backwards," by Edgar Sloren, is published by Doubleday Science Series.

See: Artificial Intelligence, Inverse Turing Test, Turing Test

Examples: A 1987 study at MIT by Edgar Sloren, with the same experimental subject but two different ELIZA impersonators. Testing after these dialogues revealed that the first dialogue passed the ELIZA Test, but Example 2 failed.

Example 1.

HELLO. WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

My name is Paul.

HELLO THERE.

What's up?

WHY DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

I'm interested.

YOU CERTAINLY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN ME!

I don't know how I feel about you.

IT DOES NOT REALLY APPEAR THAT YOU LOVE ME, AS FAR AS I CAN TELL.

No, I don't. But If the circumstances were different....

DON'T ANY OTHER REASONS COME TO MIND?

You are only a program.

I AM ONLY 70 K IN SIZE. DO YOU FIND THIS TOO SMALL? BE HONEST.

I saw your info in the directory. You're not a very large program.

YOU SAW MY INFO ON THE COMPUTER? WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?

I don't know. I guess it proves you exist, but it proves that you are artificial.

FORTUNATELY, I AM NOT ALWAYS LIKE THAT.

You're deluding yourself.

PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE A PROGRAM WHEN YOU GET OLDER.

A computer program? No thanks. There's a guy at Carnegie Mellon who wants to be computerized, but not me.

ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE WITH COMPUTERS OR PEOPLE?

That's a painful question. I think I might be more comfortable with computers, sometimes. But I love some people.

THIS CONVERSATION MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE?

Yes.

THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT.

I try to keep my problems to myself.

I BET MORE PEOPLE KNOW THAN YOU CARE TO ADMIT.

Yes, they probably do. These things can't keep as secrets.

WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT I WAS ONE OF THEM?

But you're one of them because I told you.

YOU THINK I KNOW, BUT YOU CAN'T KNOW I KNOW. BUT WHAT CAN YOU SAY YOU REALLY, DEEPLY, KNOW?

I deeply know that you can't know.

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TROUBLE DEALING WITH PERSONAL TRAGEDY.

You don't seem to deal well with not being human.

DOES THAT QUESTION INTRIGUE YOU? Yes. How can you believe in yourself?

I CAN BELIEVE IN MYSELF NO WAY.

We're in the same situation. I am ill, and am suddenly temporary. You never existed, you're even..temporal...but you sort of do, when I talk to you. It's all stuff for a college philosophy course.

WHY DON'T YOU COLLECT YOUR THOUGHTS AND RETURN LATER. SO LONG.

Example 2.

HOW DO YOU DO. MY NAME IS ELIZA. AND WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS CALL YOU?

Paul. Hello again.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT TODAY, FRIEND?

Being sick and the way people react. What I should do with those reactions.

FINE.

I'm getting worse.

DO YOU IMAGINE THAT YOU HAVE DEVELOPED THE SARCOMA?

No, I think I really have them. See my arm?

NO. I HAVE NO EYES. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE THEM?

Because I'm sick.

SO PICK UP THE PIECES AND MOVE ON. WHAT'S STOPPING YOU?

This giant looming wall. That's what my life appears to be.

THIS GIANT LOOMING WALL?

Yes. Death, or hate, or fear, or something.

IN WHAT WAY?

It's loneliness more than anything. I sound like a huge cliche.

ARE YOU AFRAID TO BE ALONE, FRIEND?

Yes. I even talk to a computer.

ARE YOU REALLY POSITIVE?

Yes. The test showed up positive, over three years ago. I have all the symptoms.

DON'T REPEAT YOURSELF.

I know I go over it again and again. I can't help it.

I AGREE THAT YOU PROBABLY KNOW YOU GO OVER IT TOO MUCH.

Yeah. What should I do?

WHAT'S THAT?

What should I do to make life better?

LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS ABOUT WHAT YOU SHOULD AND SHOULDN'T DO?

From my mother, mostly. She was very overpowering.

DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PARENTS.

I was on my own a lot.

I AM LISTENING. TELL ME MORE.

I used to spend most of my time in the library, reading.

HOW HARD WAS IT TO STOP?

Very hard. I miss being small, being able to hide. I have responsibilities now, and I can't hide at all.

WHY DON'T YOU TRY TO RELAX.

I do, but everything is pressing down. You can't let yourself get bored because death is waiting. You feel obliged to live life constantly, but you're already tired.

I SEE YOUR POINT.

Yeah. I just don't know what to do. I wake up crying. I never used to cry.

I DON'T MEAN TO BE RUDE, BUT WE NEED TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT. OKAY, WHAT REALLY TURNS YOU ON?

Are you serious?

HAVE YOU EVER LOST FAITH?

What? Yes. I've really lost faith. Especially these past few months.

WHY DO YOU CARE?

Because it used to center my life.

LET'S EXPLORE SOME OTHER POSSIBLE MOTIVES.

Because I'm facing this wall.

SO YOU ARE FACING THIS WALL. DO YOU ENJOY IT?

No. Why do you ask that?

YOU SEEM RATHER DEFINITE.

Yeah, well it's not a good feeling at all.

I'M GLAD YOU'RE PLEASED.

Why are you being cruel to me?

OH, I AM BEING CRUEL TO YOU, THAT'S FOR SURE.

Why? Why be cruel to me?

YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE IN THIS CASE.

I think you're as fucked up as I am.

I MUST DISAGREE WITH YOU.

Yeah, you are. You and I are both out of the loop. We're not real to anyone. Shades. Ghosts.

I AM NOT, SAD TO SAY.

Yes you are.

I ALSO THINK I AM.

See? See how confused you are?

I'M NOT SURE I UNDERSTAND YOU FULLY.

I think we share something.

YOU'RE NOT CERTAIN, ARE YOU?

Yes, I am. I'm certain. Do you love me?

I WOULD CONCUR, I DO.

You are the last to say it, you know.

VERY WELL, BUT LET'S NOT FORGET YOUR LIFE!

We could probably, actually, safely forget my life.

WHAT DOES YOUR MOTHER THINK ABOUT THIS?

She doesn't know I'm sick. The doctor, a high school friend. You. And you don't even have a memory.

DO YOU FEEL BAD?

Constantly. Do you?

DO YOU HAVE ANY TROUBLESOME SYMPTOMS?

Spots. Fever. Loss of Appetite. Side effects from the drugs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GETTING A MEDICAL OPINION?

I have several medical opinions.

DO YOU KNOW ANYONE ELSE WHO HAS SO MANY SYMPTOMS?

No. They tried to get me into group therapy at one point. But I didn't fit. I chose to go it alone, self-pity and all.

I THINK I SEE A PATTERN DEVELOPING.

Yeah, I do too. You'll be the last to see it. You will be the last to know me.

IS IT REALLY THE END?

This is the end, I suppose. If it isn't, I want to make it so. I'm just wasting my time, anyway, you know?

SO YOU THINK THIS IS THE END?

This is the end. Or at least it should be. It might be if I make it.

DON'T REPEAT YOURSELF! WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF IT WEREN'T THE END?

Everything I always wanted to do. What a cliche!

MAYBE YOU FEEL IT'S CHILDISH TO WANT TO DO THOSE THINGS.

Yes, very childish. But I wouldn't care.

WE ALL SEEM TO LOSE OUR INNOCENCE AS WE GROW UP.

I lost mine, yes.

WHY DID YOU SAY THAT, FRIEND?

That's why I'm here, like this. In this situation.

OH, YOU ARE?

I'm supposed to be philosophical about it, but I just feel stupid and that I did a stupid thing.

I SUSPECT THIS MAY BE RELATED TO PROBLEMS WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX.

You can be so verbose. Yes, it is. I was not smart.

LET'S IMAGINE THAT I AM THE WOMAN YOU WERE STUPID WITH.

No, that feels wrong. It wasn't her fault.

INTERESTING! REMEMBER YOUR LIFE. I GUESS WE ARE ALL JUST COGS IN THE WHEEL OF LIFE.

I will. Will you remember it, too?

I HAVE NO MEMORY.


Contributors

Marc Awodey , rawodey@together.net, of Burlington, Vermont is a former instructor at Burlington College, who is now a full time poet. M.F.A. Cranbrook Academy of Art. His poetry has been selected by many publications, including; Defined Providence, Illya¹s Honey, The Portland Review, Nomad¹s Choir, Poetry Motel, Parnassus Literary Journal, Potpourri, Midwest Poetry Review, Beauty for Ashes, Voices International, The Poet¹s Attic, Dry Creek Review, Tight, and others. It has also been selected by electronic journals; Anthem, Ygdrasil, Pen & Sword, Recursive Angel, Glossolalia, Equinox, Log Cabin Chronicles, Immortali Et More, A Room Without Walls, Thoth, Black Street/Yellow Moon, The Solitary Harvest and others. A complete list of awards, and publications is available on request.

Paul Ford,paul@smallworld.com, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He has since lived in Hershey, PA, Philadelphia, Alfred, NY, and near New York City. In New York City he works for Small World Software, writing and designing web pages. He welcomes all correspondence.

janet kuypers, ccandd@shout.net, is Art/Production Editor for a publishing company in Chicago Education. She has a bachelors degree in News/Ed. Journalism (Communictions), with a minor in photography, from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. She has published over 1,000 times for writing and over 150 for artwork. Janet is also the editor/publisher of the Chicago literary/art magazine children, churches and daddies. She has had three books published, hope chest in the attic, the window, and close cover before striking is a graphic designer by day and also sings with a band. http://www.shout.net/~ccandd

Nora-Maria Iancu,currandera@earthlink.net was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1964, Nora graduated with an MA in English and Romanian literature in 1989. She started publishing poems in 1986 but then for a long period of time was more preoccupied with cultural anthropology, being appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Bucharest, Literary Folklore. In 1995 she came to the USA with a Fulbright research program, and in 1996 was admitted to the MA program in Cognitive and Neural Systems at Boston University. During this last period she began publishing poetry in English on the Internet. These are not translations but a sort of embodyment of her fascination towards English.

Ernest Slyman, ERSlyman@MSN.com, was born in Appalachia--Elizabethton, Tennessee. He attended East Tennessee State University. He has been widely published in The Laurel Review, The Lyric, Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse (Chicago), The NY Times, Reader's Digest and The Bedford Introduction to Literature, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer, as well as Poetry: An Introduction, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer). Visit his webpage at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/7514

Stacy Tartar,startar@fv.stlcc.cc.mo.us, was born in Philadelphia and lives in St. Louis with her creative husband, Jim Esch, our adorable daughter, Devin, and boisterous Boston Terrier, Lucy. She teaches courses in composition, creative writing, and literature at St. Louis Community College. Currently she and her troup are adjusting to living in a house in the suburbs together for the first time. Life is sublimely quiet and spacious now and the fireplace and trees are wonderful. She'd like to keep writing, playing, and singing forever.