September 30, 2008

by Cathy Borders

As they did the night before, as they do every night, the ants have returned. I have sat near the hole which they march out of, and one by one squished their conga line with the pad of my finger. I have sucked up whole families with the vacuum cleaner and taped the hungry mouth of the hose shut. Doing a lezginka, I have slaughtered thousands with the soles of my boots. And still, they return.

These idiotic ants, possibly particular only to Australia, move in single-file curved lines towards the fuse box, where they suck at the wires, getting high on electricity. I have to remove the carcasses with a wooden stick from the electrical box every morning. I would leave them there, as a warning (like a head on a pike), or to help aide them in their malfunctioning common sensibilities, but I’m afraid they’ll catch fire. At least it’s gratifying to disembowel the leviathan, to suck out the shiny black bodies from the colorful wires.

Last night I captured one and placed him inside my ashtray where he desperately, and with futility, tried scaling the convex glass walls. I could not decide whether it would be more merciful to kill this one ant, my prisoner, or let him return to his pack, where I would, almost undoubtedly, kill him later.

But I’m in no mood for boots tonight. I’m in no mood for anything. How like that tortured ant I am, here, suspended in the desert, except my walls are vast, vast horizontal expansions of red sand, with the occasional hopping marsupials as my chimerical jailers.

“All right spiders…I need you…” I say aloud. I do need them. Without them my cottage would be overrun by clouds of flying insects, the useless, irritating kind, the kinds that fly into your mouth, nose and ears, the nipping kind. I hate them all, especially the flies, and especially the ants. I walk over to the left corner, near the standing lamp. Four spiders have spun an expansive web together. There is only one ant in their web. “This is unacceptable!” I threaten to vacuum them as well if they don’t get to work. This one-sided conversation is tedious, usual. It’s the same with all the spiders; the Huntsman, the Wolf, the ones with the domino bodies and bright orange legs. “Please…I implore you…”

I go to the bathroom. There’s a new spider in the corner, its pathetic silk web is made entirely out of ants, meaning it had no reason for a web, meaning its web is a pile. I like the red diamond stripe across her bulbous black body, which looks as if it would secrete green goo when squeezed. Its vinyl legs are perched atop at least 44 ants. I could kiss it. “Where and how can I obtain more of you?” At this I raise my voice for all to hear, “Why can’t the rest of you be more like…Charlotte?”

I’m telling this story to Carey over Scrabble. I’m speaking slowly. We have a thick translation curtain between us. I can’t understand half of what he says. His signs are different from mine. His brain is puffy from years of copious alcohol consumption, and he eats very little, picking at kumquats and sucking on the salt water Pigface leaves. His leathery face and bloated stories remind me of salt. I am methodically picking at a kumquat, more interested in the wooden brain in the middle, then the small nuggets of savory fruit.

He stops listening to me and walks into the dunny. “You beauty! Get this fucker out of here!…one ripe bloody way to the hospital she is.”


Marginal Notions

September 30, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

These notions were first published in last year’s phonebook…

Marginal notions:

1. (2006) I wish you were lesbians (this works particularly well for women) dress up as a waify hipster boy, for instance New Order starting with Kereoke bars and move up to the opening act for the Empty Bottle or Gallagher. Always sing aforementioned single (even over Journey or Olivia Newton John). When you get to the big time just play electronic variations through a vocoder.
2. (2005) The Fashion Czar: Think Drug Czar. Or The Fashion Czar could be like the Food Czar, but if we’re going to be serious about it, then why not make it a Green Fashion Czar and try to encourage hip new wave Green fashion in Chicago. We could be the champions of a while new kind of fashionista.
3. (2000) GPS Systems in cars to afford a whole host of variant accents and temperaments, so that when you purchase your fancy pants automobile you could choose the voice to go with your car. For instance the same black sedan could come with either a soft-spoken Japanese lady-voice director, or an angry Russian old man who  yells but might be difficult to understand.
4. (2002) Putting a knife on the end of anything makes it better. i.e. the bayonet. (this notion expired in 2005)
5. (1964) “I see by Walter Winchell that J.S. Back put on black gloves to compose the requiem mass”
6. (2000) The Ultimate: a morning cocktail. Includes Kentucky Bourbon and one cooked sausage for garnish. A gentleman’s drink. Variations include: The Baretta (2000): same as before except with small link sausage (possibly maple), The Politician’s Wife (2002): only relevant in times of drought, also a breakfast beverage. Includes white wine, one ice cube and the egg juice left over from scrambling eggs. This is added to the wine as a symbol of conservation. The Upper East Side (2004): gin martini and lamb garnish.
7. Pigeons (on-going)
8. Move to Canada for grants (on-going)
9. Plug earrings as Speakers (2004): Turn the thick round lobe-stretchers into your own personal boom box.
10. Giant Killer Car (2006):(overheard at a sushi bar during happy hour in the basement of Macy’s in Union Square) “They should take a little race car with a big razor blade jutting out from the roof so that you could cut down giants if you ran into them.” // “That’d be good. Yeah. They should make it sharp on both sides so you could back up and go forward and cut him down in pieces. To dice the giant in little strips.”
11. E-Bay Auction for fake persona(2006): To create an inventory of celebrity (made up) celebrity possessions. Like saint artifacts.
12. (c. 1920) Purchase a handful of non-indigenous white deer from the San Francisco zoo and release them in West Marin. Follow up: (2007) Flocks of non-indigenous, wild, (white) deer in West Marin have become the dominant species, bully and abuse local indigenous deer. In order to re-balance the eco-system, naturalists have suggested hunting the white deer to extinction. The outcry of cruelty was, however, so vehement that the two sides (hippies vs. historic environmentalists) have agreed instead to capture them (one by one), sterilze them and re-release them.
13. (2006) For President Bush to wow the people, instating a law that all non-commercial vehicles should be banned in response to Global Warming.
14. Cell Phone Gambling (2007): go on-line to purchase a certain number of minutes that one could then bet with hwile playing cell phone video games. If you win billiard, you get free minutes. If you lose, you lose.
15. The Ironies (2005): The Ironies are a group of three women, contemporary equivalents to the Greek Harpies.
16. Q.E.D. as a tombstone (2003): Q.E.D. used is at the end of Euclidean proofs, meaning “quod erat demonstrandum” literally, “which was to be demonstrated.”
17. (2006) War on Words, wheat paste neighborhoods across America with Luther-like treatises declaring war on particular words and announcing that the usage of said words (i.e. ‘like,’) will be seen as an act of hostility. Derivations: (2006), Guerilla Strategies within the already waging War on Words: re-appropriate particular words in such a way as to make them mean something different from original intent. With enough consistant and alterior usage, certain pressure is applied to old-hat institutions (i.e. Webster’s, O.E.D) to revise their dictionaries accordingly.
18. (c. 1973) Trust Falls, Y. Paraskovopolis.
19. (2007) Biological Taxonomy, everything below the neck is pubes.
20. (2007) Accapella, about to re-manifest in indie music.
21. (c. 1812) Sleeve buttons on man-shirts, Invented to naturally impede soldiers from wiping their nose on their uniforms. Napolean.
22. (c. 1950) Broccoli, cross a pea plant with a cauliflower, vegetable packer, coffin polisher and James Bond movie producer Abert “Cubby” Broccoli.
23. (future) Flying Cars
24. (2007) Air Shoes, Shoes with weak negative magnetic charges in soles that are naturally repulsed to the earth’s negatively charged magnetic field.
25. (c. 1890) Electric Chair,  aka Sizzlin’ Sally, Old Smokey, Sparky and Yellow Mama. Thomas Edison (DC current) hired Brown to invent a chair using his rival George Westinghouse’s current (AC) to make the electric chair when they were fierce competitors. Edison thought that if the American people associated AC with the execution of prisoners they would likely choose his current, DC, for the power in their homes, Harold P. Brown.
26. (on-going) Future-Club, for 23 year olds in the midst of post-college freak out: meet once a week at a diner dive and discuss strategies for respective futures.
27. (c. 1943) Trundel Bed, a bed that fits underneath one’s usual bed, popping up via certain spring mechanism for the unexpected guest.

DONATE YOUR IDEA TO THE COMMUNITY! Send all charming concepts that have you smitten: Ideas to which you’d never dedicate yourself, despite the possibility of their existence making you as bushy-tailed as coffee in the morning: Marginal Notions/The Green Lantern Gallery and Press/ 1511 N Milwaukee ave., Second Floor, Chicago IL 60622



Send your loved one the gift of the year! Subscribe to: MARGINAL NOTIONS! Annual service and get one second-hand idea every month! (costs $11.99; shipping and handling included)

threewalls & Green Lantern Press announce:
PHONEBOOK 2008/09: Compadres Amores
Release Date and Party: October 23rd, 2008, 6-9 pm @ threewalls, 119 N Peoria,  #2D,  Chicago, IL 60607
p: 312-432-3972
Held in conjunction with threewallsSALON, Enablers and Platformists: turning the content over to
CHICAGO: Back by popular demand, PHONEBOOK, the essential travel guide to artist-run centers, small
not-for-profit, fringe galleries and other exhibition and presentation projects, will be released October 23rd
at threewalls.
This new edition adds over 50 news spaces in the United States and over 40 Canadian centers alongside
updated entries, periodical listings, a series of essays from across the country and some road-trip tips from
the editors. PHONEBOOK is a valuable resource for artist and audience alike, connecting a web of makers
and projects while acting as an archive of work by smaller organizations and groups throughout the visual
arts community. Use PhoneBook as a research tool, as a travel guide to the visual arts, for networking, for
exhibition proposals or to facilitate artistic exchanges.
Please join us for PHONEBOOK’s release party, held in conjunction with a special threewallsSALON, “Enablers
and Platformists: turning the content over to participation,”an open discussion about artists working as
presenters and enablers of other creative and intellectual projects.
PHONEBOOK is published by threewalls and Green Lantern Press. PHONEBOOK will be available at your local
artist-run and NFP art spaces, on the threewalls website and on for $15.00.  For review copies
and pre-orders please contact Nick Sarno, Editor of The Green Lantern Press at

The Green Lantern is a 501(c)3 gallery and paperback press dedicated to the study, presentation and archive
of contemporary art practice. As such, The Green Lantern hosts monthly exhibitions, a literary podcast/
reading series called “The Parlor,” and publishes limited edition books by new or forgotten writers. With a
focus on the visual arts, The Green Lantern establishes paths of accessibility between the work and its
audience by contextualizing its events through writing, video and performance.

threewalls is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to contemporary art practice and discourse.
Through the residency program(s), SOLO project and quarterly publication Paper and Carriage, threewalls
aims to provide opportunities for experimentation, chance, critical dialogue and context for artists, curators
and writers who are at pivotal points in their careers.

posted by Caroline Picard and written by Nell Taylor.

This article was originally published in the first Phonebook, (2007-2008)

check out their website!

Collecting ephemera is an act of city beautification. Cities look their best in detail. I could describe Chicago as a large Midwestern area on Lake Michigan populated by sports fans and colorful politicians and composed of a series of communities linked together by common streets and not much else. There are some tall buildings that have become relatively less tall in the last couple of years. You would know this is Chicago.

Creative people seem obsessed with the lack of attention their work receives in this overcrowded stadium-in-a-cornfield; having bought into the myths promulgated by this “big picture” vision of the city, they despair at their own artistic marginalization. They look out over the horizon (–is that Naperville, getting even bigger? And is it coming this way?) for an audience or even just a sounding board, another artist with whom to compare notes and ideas. On the off-chance that they find one another, they immediately set about building a bunker, stocking it full of their pooled resources, and disseminating exhibitions and publications of each other’s work to the outside world. They defend their fort, tooth and nail, from interlopers. They spread out. They divide and conquer. They hide themselves so well in these small spaces that the new arrivals seeking out community can’t see the bunkers for the shiny new residential developments and overstuffed shopping carts rising higher and higher into the air.

The new crop finds the old myths justified and begin the cycle again.

Now say you took the output from all of these art-shelters and lined them up on a shelf; the project documentation, the journals, the handmade books, the zines, catalogs, manifestos, newsletters, magazines, chapbooks, programs. For the sake of argument, include works by those sports fans and news on those colorful politicians, particularly if it was written anonymously in all block-caps and shoved into your hand by a guy with a bullhorn as you walked to work. And force yourself to look at them as if it was your first moment to discover each object; it might not be to your taste, it might seem shoddily assembled; you find it pretentious or simplistic, you don’t agree with the point of view, it’s covered in mold from someone’s basement, the author declares that their dog peed on the very object you hold in your hand (edition 3/50). But there are individuals behind each one and at some point, they have witnessed things you haven’t. And you’ve never lived in their heads (of course not, you’ve been holed up in your bunker). Despite your initial (and often better) judgment, you learn something. And another city starts to emerge.

In the course of running the CUL, I have found myself fascinated by the passions ignited in a ten-year old Museum of Science and Industry controversy; moved by a 16 year old stoner’s alternate party documentation and musings on 9/11; reading an entire zine on home-schooling cover to cover that doubles as a critique of the CPS; lost in a series of 25 year old newspapers that are nothing but gorgeous advertisements; and discovering political actions that literally took place outside my door. These ephemeral objects cause me to reconsider my own ideas of the city’s history as all of these details begin to fill in the rich tapestry subsumed by the “Hog Butcher for the World” view of Chicago.

Beyond that impersonal historicism, though, I appreciate that these works make me question where I was at that particular time. What I was doing and what I was contributing to that tapestry at that moment.

Documenting the creativity of the city is an excellent weapon to use against apathy. To those who complain that the city isn’t what it used to be and that there is nothing to do here anymore, I like the idea of sitting them down in front of a pile of works from our collection and saying: Here are your tools, figure out what you’re going to do about it. It’s not only about documenting the past; it is meant to inspire and to incite people to create new work and to be more active– in the present and for the future.

Ephemera presents a holistic view of Chicago’s creative communities by using tiny little details found in the cracks and crevices of our bunkers to help break them down and encourage the kind of collaboration necessary to, as your local street corner waste basket would say, keep Chicago beautiful.

– Lily Robert-Foley

September 19, 1819.

According to reports, two ships, the H.M.S. Hecla and H.M.S. Griper became locked in ice inside the Arctic circle this Tuesday.  They were forced to cut a channel through the ice and dock their ships on a previously unexplored region of the Arctic Circle now known as Melville Island in the heart of North Georgia. 

“It is extremely cold” said Mr. Peeping Tom Scriber.  Peeping Tom Scriber is an anonymous member of the ship’s commanding crew who writes for The North Georgia Gazette—a newspaper Sir William Edward Parry, Captain of the expedition initiated in order to keep the men occupied during the long winter months in Winter Harbor. 

“There are long months of darkness, isolation and possible insanity ahead of us,” Captain Parry said.  “I started the newspaper as a way to keep spirits up.”  Captain Parry also admits to having identified indolence as a cause of scurvy.  Captain Parry has devised several other methods in addition for keeping the men occupied during their stay in Winter Harbor, including:  bi-weekly theatrical entertainments, obligatory dancing, cricket games on ice, and two hours of deck scrubbing with stones every morning between six and eight.

“Sometimes it gets so cold that the men’s noses will stick to the telescopes in the Observatory shack and their skin will be pulled off,”  said the ship’s surgeon.  It is said that the lowest temperature this coming winter was -55° Fahrenheit.  One man contracted scurvy because he had been sleeping in a moist bed next to the ship’s rim.  “It is uncomfortable if not painful,” he told us “to sleep in a bed that is mostly ice.”   

“It is bizarre to live in a world that is covered in white.  There is no contrast, no differentiation.  We go for walks sometimes in the snow.  We might see a large boulder up ahead and become very excited because it would be the most defining feature of the landscape seen in months.  But then as we approach the boulder we realize that it was only a pebble and looked like a boulder because everything exists in a uniform field of white,”  the ship’s resident poet told us. 

The two ships left London Harbor in September of 1819 in search of the Northwest passage.  The search for the Northwest passage will turn out to be a nearly futile one, riddled with dead bodies.  It can be likened to a search for truth, transcendence or pure light. 

A republication of The North Georgia Gazette is due out from Green Lantern Press in February 2009. 

Anytowne, UK – AD 700 (#3)

September 30, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

this was originally published in one of our zine’s “THE ARCHIVE”

Written by Peter Speer

ANYTOWNE, UK – AD 700 (#3)

I’d hitched a ride on an oxcart with little to my name—a lumber log, a gypsy lamb, assorted trinkets.  My cloaked chauffer, more troll than dwarf, and more dwarf than woman, drove with a liberal whip, her bearskin smock undulating Turkishly in the damp Spring eve.  We’d stopped for a grog-nip under a sloping knoll’s shadow, the rising moon catching a fleeting nap behind a passing cloud.  My feet were numb in the cold, and I’d begun to grow tired.

At first I paid little heed to the rustling in the branches, to the flocks abandoning their stately perch.  I saw a fox, then two, then all manner of varmint scampering from the outlying brush.  Their pace quickening with their numbers, an escalating stampede, a rising tide of fur and claws, darting with alarm from their secret homes.  A putrid wind followed them from the forest, the air itself expelling an urgency in its exit.  It groaned, howled and spit, roaring past, parting the weeds, loosening my footing.  It smelled of rot, semen and cinnamon: the musk of spell-craft.  I spied my driver high above, atop the hill, incanting in tongues, her hideous complexion bathed in an emerald moonlight.  I was paralyzed.

Sun-flares erupted in the periphery, my knees gave out, my shoulders fell fast.  My tongue felt suddenly huge, alien, hostile.  My stomach quaked, my throat heaved and I cried out with everything I still commanded: a primal rattle that left me hoarse and gasping.  I tore at my clothes, certain they were in flames.  I ripped at the grass.  I wanted only to slow its whirling.

Then earth grew deathly quiet and shook!  Monoliths rose from its surface all around, perfectly formed and set, growing to extraordinary heights, radiating a womb’s warmth and rotating with the cadence of my slowing heart.  I could not close my eyes, I could not stop from drooling.  Indeed, though I knew myself poisoned, and felt my mind scurrying like so much local fauna, this was no fantasy!  I was at once awash in the helpless surrender of a complacent invalid, beholden to the supernatural spectacle unfolding around me, and yet focused with sober intensity on the rising rhythms approaching from the dark of the wood.

Dun!  Dun!  Dun-dun!  Dun!  It snapped me back to the ground.  I could feel the chill of the dew.  It grew louder: DUN!  DUN!  DUN-DUN!  DUN!  A fog hung low and crept towards me.

I was immobile, lying on the field, rigid, panting, staring upwards.  I saw myself running in the heavens, regressing in years as I passed the stars: now old, now young, now an infant, now a spark.  I felt the shaman woman’s chanting trickle down my spine as my life passed before me, constellations warping around my visage in the ether.  Explosions of color, patterns forming and collapsing on one another, shadows dancing everywhere.  I shook uncontrollably, and as I shook florescent vapors radiated from my joints.

I rolled onto my chest and managed to rise to my knees, vomiting violently forward in the darkness.  The bile simmered on the lawn, and I followed its steam upwards, my eyes catching the seething void beneath an earthen hood.  If I could have run I would have run, but I don’t have to tell you, dear friend, that it was hopeless.  The druids had already arrived…

posted by Caroline Picard

It is in Moshe and Danielle’s living room, thereby furthering my debt….

Our Deepest Fear

September 30, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– nelson mandela

marginal notion #455

September 29, 2008

Advertising on Money. 


Forget about taxing the rich, sell advertising space to them on federal currency!  Instead of George Washington on the one dollar bill, Colonel Sanders, or a Coke Bottle or a little apple.  That way we get what we want:  corporate money that can then be funneled into public projects like health care, education, energy reform, public transportation, new jobs improving infrastructure etc., and the gross-rich big-wigs get what they want: public ubiquity and mind control.  Think about it!  What has a better circulation rate than money?  You could even get creative with it.  Turn money into coupons:  “This five dollar bill worth ten dollars if you use it at CVS!”

Money can finally be worth more than it is actually worth.  That’s the American Dream.

What are we afraid of?  Selling out? 



posted and written by caroline picard

Reykjavik Beanstalk

Jack laughed and shot a breeze through the Coke can between his lips. Philip was incredulous.
“You dick,” said Philip watching the laughter blow through the can he had lit.  The gust of exuberance dropped its plunder on the street one story down and the boys stared with a shared reproach. They imagined crystals glistening in the dew on California Avenue.
“Hah!” cried Jack, to break the mood. He noticed a woman sauntering down the opposite side of the street. She began to cross.
Philip said nothing. He paid no attention to the woman. He was still staring at the pot. Jack laughed harder.
“Let it go, Philippo,” he said and clapped Philip on his broad back. The back was tense and unforgiving and tension between them grew until Jack, with a little bit of sympathy and irrational hope said, “There were some seeds in there; maybe the whole thing’ll take root and grow.”
“Now you’re bitching because I didn’t get all the seeds out.”
Bitch stuck to the roof of Philip’s mouth when the woman in the street bent down to pick up their prize. Philip wanted to flee, but froze instead, undecided. He was watching Jack who was watching the woman who had bent over without bending her knees.
“That’s our neighbor,” he whispered.
She was tall when she stood straight.
“Hallo,” she said. Jack became serious and Philip said nothing. He was watching her hand. “Is this yours?” she asked raising the same hand. The boys looked at each other without words.
She wrinkled her nose because the lump she held looked small when pinched in her hands. Because she was far away, they could not tell how large she was. The nugget was an ambassador of proportion, but they had already forgotten its size in their hands.
“If you like, you can come and smoke a spliff with me upstairs,” she shrugged, “I’m Ragnar.”
“Don’t ever let Ragnar be a shrug again.” Jack held a rigid finger in the sky. There was a hint of malice in his tone, and abruptly he ducked back indoors, shut the window and turned to grab his coat. Philip followed, pivoting on his bent knees but just before they stepped outside, he voiced uncertainty alone.
“Is it O.K.?” he whispered. He was sure she could hear him. A blush clung to the nape of his neck. “What if she eats us?”
“Pff.” Jack laughed again. He clapped his hands together.

She loved delicate things because she was always afraid of breaking them accidentally.
To her, the boys were fine. Jack was porcelain.


Philip tiptoed on his toes; he was afraid of the man on the couch. The man was drunk and sleeping and his naked feet were massive where they hung over the armrest. He slept under a sour halo, somewhere between death and terror. He slept in vodka. His mind was blank in its oblivion and Philip was scared to step too surely on the floor. A tremor could rouse the dead man into the recollection of his own being, and in so doing prompt a catastrophe.
“Don’t worry about him,” Ragnar said, looking at the man. Her lips were curled with wide disdain. Her mouth was wider then Philip. “He’s pissed.” She picked up the dead man’s hand and waved it. “He’s dead as a fish. Philip, Jack, meet fish. Ogden, meet our neighbors.” Letting go of the big hand, it flopped onto his stomach, smack, and flopped over to the floor. The sound it made, like the hand that made it, was large and wet. Ragnar chuckled. It was a more delicate expletive than Philip thought her capable of. He didn’t know that big things could be soft.
Jack cleared his throat, “I like Asgrimur Jonsson.”
Ragnar dismissed the name with an absent wave, picking up a large spliff by Ogden’s head. It was still burning. “Here,” she said, motioning to Philip. Philip took the spliff while Ragnar took Jack’s face in her hand. Only his eyes were left. They kissed.
Philip took a hit.


Jack liked the idea of big children.
“With hips so broad,” he said, “how could I go wrong?”


Jack hung a painting of his Ragnar above the broken fireplace in apartment 1A. Her look was impassive.
“Where did you get that?” Philip asked, incredulous.
Jack cleared his throat. “How was work?”
“Fine. There was a new girl. She’s cute.”
“Not as cute as this.”
“You stole it?”
“Ragnar has thousands.”
“But that’s her living.”
Jack shrugged. “Tell me, is it straight?”
“You stole her bread.”
“She makes a living off self-portraits. She can lose one. She paints herself all the time.”
“It does make the room.”
“Doesn’t it?”
Isolated by context the features could have been small. She hemmed her lids in a fine line of light and your eye slid the slipper guide into the pool of her gaze. The skin was perfect—perfectly translucent, perfectly delicate, there on her forehead where she suggested a single dormant vein, a vein that reinforced the sensitive qualities of her painted face.
It was this face that fed her children. She painted her softest part—achieving an image of womanish poise so convinced of itself that it seemed to have caught something of her soul in its drum. There was a twinge of sorrow in the purse of her lips, complemented by the insurgent arch of her eyebrow, and the vast depth of her laughing eyes. Her eyes recalled their ancestral heritage and the immeasurable distance between herself and her American audience. She painted her whole country looking through her eyes. They were flat and clear as the ocean she had crossed and behind them, staring behind their lidded fence three illegitimate children were hollering for potatoes and meat.
“Did you know she used to be a pick-pocket?”
Philip shook his head.
“Yeah, she used to pick-pockets. She was 13 or something and used to wait for drunk guys to fight in the street. She’d take their wallets when they were fighting. Out of their coats. I guess they still take their coats off before they fight there. Only it’s cold. It’s damn cold. I’d fight too. But I’d probably keep my coat on.”


“My youngest spoke his first word today,” Ragnar said.
“What was it?” Jack asked.
“My mother told me it was fuck.”
“He wanted to say fork, he said fuck.”
“It was English?”
Ragnar shrugged, “He wants to be American.”


She made a good living from portrait sales. Americans liked the face. They liked looking at her real face next to the painted one, considering how in one context she might look fine, while in another her hands were thick as peasants. They liked to construct the broken home that she must have come from and how that home had demanded so many defensive masks. To them, the portrait was truer. Her portrait was a plea that revealed something she had never been able to exhibit in the person. Being remote enough from her living self, the two in conjunction made each reciprocally more true and more false. More true because her paintings offered a window into her character, more false because she had constructed the window.
She always feigned ambivalence.


“The Emperor has no clothes,” Ragnar whispered under the covers. She had her hand cupped over his ear even though there wasn’t anyone else there in the world. In the dark, he could feel her smiling somehow. He heard the sound of her teeth in the air. “But don’t tell anybody.” Her whisper was a roar.
“Am I the Emperor?”
Ragnar giggled.
“Are you the Emperor?”
The darkness broke, under the door a shard of light was struck.
“What’s that?” asked Jack.
“Get out, Ogden’s back. Quick. Hide.”


Philip sat down beside Ogden who had spread seven feet across the living room floor. It was unclear why the Fish had come down to sit on Philip’s couch. It made Philip sweat and the portrait was staring at both of them. Ogden flipped through channels and smiled, baring yellow teeth through a plume of cigarette smoke.
“How was work?” Ogden asked.
“Fine,” said Philip.
“Jack said it was A-O.K. We don’t have television upstairs.”
“He’s posing for Ragnar. It is boring.”
Absorbed by the brilliance of the television set, Ogden glowered and grinned, rubbing his hands over and over until he sweated under the effort. He sniggered. Images caught the beads of perspiration on his forehead in splintered incomprehensible bits.
“You’re so voyeuristic,” Philip said. Saying it out loud made him squirmy and hot.
“What’s that?”
“America is great. I love this country. It’s cool,” he exclaimed over and over, using the backwards and forwards of his hands for emphasis and adding an ‘h’ to every ‘s’, and clapping Philip on the back. When Philip excused himself to go to the restroom, Ogden thumped the loveseat. “I’m hungry. Hey, Let’s go to Denny’s—I wanna Grand Slam. Do they have beer? Budweiser.”


As things that tend towards reproduction, the one divided and became three more. Four other Icelanders replaced Ogden in the night. Philip woke up with his cheek on an unfamiliar chest, one of the male ones. There were two males and two females and the male he was sleeping on had replaced Ogden on the loveseat.
Philip had had too much to drink. He didn’t know when he had passed out, sometime before the intruders arrived, sometime after the re-run of Robocop. He shivered, feeling ill with clammy skin crawling up his exterior. The snores, out of synch and conspicuous, made him nauseous.
These snores were new. Philip had not known them before. These were others. New foreigners had landed. The Icelanders were annexing Philip’s safe house. Ogden was simply the scout. Ragnar, the Hellenistic tart that had seduced the most able bodied of the troops. Would they rape and pillage, these Vikings who slept in assorted poses at Philip’s vulnerable feet?
Ragnar was watching over them all.
He shuddered. The woman on the floor rolled over and grabbed his foot to cuddle. He could make out the “My Little Pony” t-shirt, stretched taught across her bosoms; the glitter glimmered where it caught the lamp light outside. His toes pillowed her blonde head and her blonde lover promptly reached to spoon her. Philip felt spooned by all of the blonde things in the room.
There were the two on the floor, and they shared Philip’s heavy hairy toes, small by comparison to their hands. But there were two others as well. There was the fellow beside with a stain of spit (Philip’s?) on his left peck. And a second woman—this one perpendicular to the rest, and blocking the living room door. She had turned Philip’s sweatshirt into a pillow but he didn’t remember taking it off.
The ball of his foot pulled a ponytail when he stood up and scrambled across the bodies. Shoving the door against the last Viking trunk, he escaped with only a single moan. Finally free, Philip went outside to smoke on the fire escape. He wiped his forehead with the bottom of his t-shirt and resolved to take a shot of whisky and hide in his own bed for the rest of the night.
Don’t let Ogden be there.

But he did not get to the morning. He woke up with Iceland banging at his bedroom door. Already petrified, he rolled over in bed to find flames licking the windowpane outside.
Philip screamed.


Philip would have certainly died. He did not stop screaming and he could not move. It was Iceland who carried him from his bed to the street. Iceland was his savior.


Jack was stealing portraits to safety.
There were no smoke alarms.
The Icelanders saw the flames first.
My Little Pony called 911.
The fire brigade smashed all of the windows with a hatchet.
They had put out the fire.
Firemen found a joint on the kitchen table.
The fire marshal said he wouldn’t include that in his report, because he smoked too sometimes.
Philip wanted to smoke, but stopped because he did not remember what he had done to the old butt.
Jack had collect 35 portraits.
“I’ve come! I’ve come!” Ragnar cried, running down the street from someone else’s house. She looked funny in flip-flops. “I’ve come to see the big explodes.” She was breathing heavily. It made Philip’s knees hot. “You are wobbling,” she said, but he did not answer, so she turned to Jack. “Where is the explosion?” she asked.
He hurled a suitcase at her, she stepped aside, the suitcase split open and 30 portraits fell out. Jack threw up his hands and turned away. “That’s it,” he called over his shoulder. “It’s over. They put it out.”
“America has such small fires.” Ragnar lit a cigarette, pretending to be small. She blew a small plume. The street was a broken mirror.
“I don’t think our portrait made it,” Philip said watching Jack walk away.


Ogden, Alda, Stein, Jasper, Vilma, Ragnar, Jack and Philip slept together in a Motel Six. Alda the Pony girl was next to Philip who slept next to Ogden who was next to Ragnar who cuddled with Jack who was happy falling asleep beside the Alda who preferred her country because they made her feel delicate and so slept next to both Stein and Jasper at the same time. Philip didn’t sleep well, but lay beside all of them staring at the ceiling. The ceiling was white.
He memorized the landscape of cracks.
When the others woke up they went back to California Avenue to survey the damage and smoked cigarettes outside. The sight was incongruous. The building looked the same aside from its broken windows. Firemen had done the most damage, but they were gone. The fire marshal was probably smoking. Vilma lit a cigarette. She was disappointed.
“It is boring.”
“Wanna go see the Hulk?” Ogden asked. “It comes out today.”
Alda nodded along with My Little Pony. “I like the big explodes,” she said.


The Church next door was smoldering. Sundays had to be postponed.