Mad Hatters' Review Issue 10, Fall 2008
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Fiction by
Forrest Roth
Music by Ben Miller
Art: "The Heresies of the Pharisees"
by Carolyn Adams

The Heresies of the Pharisees by Carolyn AdamsDearest

Be dearest he begs himself from the corner. Be called of him to lend those sweet bedsides now never offering her open eyes again, or her bed. Do not upset him, be on best behavior. Be careful of rope-burn. Do not pour his honey trail for ants tracing the stoop up towards her. No more of her when none mattered to him. As it is he languishes. Struggle he had sighted, the tiniest sort of genuflection thrown upon him, knees and feet upon him, across him. Blend violet and blue painted downstairs. Rusted-down covered. Find if his face was, too. Well another day like today then. Last message he asks. Keep the lessons crossed over a switch. Tongue and groove. Thin with turpentine. Preserve with linseed. Be on best behavior. Entertain. How two quarters sound rubbed together, copper dust at the edges. On the floor, or coppered floor. Decorate. Find a dustpan. Sweep the hallway away from around his bellows. Stay doorknobs latched with wire. Be dearest, watch from wooden chair, and he will breathe heaviest. Still at work polishing quartz. Not amethyst by her windowsill. He has moved them. Sunlight he says has moved them, not her spirit fingers. Be yesterday. Tie down her fingers. Do not block her doorway. Turn his hourglass on its head: it will seem like today now. There is a bit of oil left. Feel better without him. Lights out he says. He sleeps off in the corner, sometimes he says with her. Was the right by and by for this happening. The changeling bedroom him and her kept feeding once sound, right again. They found. Suppose it was just him. Her trials furthest from him voicing them. Be speech. Spell out on his chalkboard. Show him. Have him read aloud over thunderclap—-or point to the dripping cascade instead. Ask permission before starting work. Correct each mistake his bowls capture. Paint a stairway first, then walls, then the highest ceilings hands ever put to prove.


Fantasy of Trees in Silver

(after Ingmar Bergman)

Lesser worlds thieve, imprison a larger scale, they are instructed before the scene borrowed from their uncle’s Fantasy of Trees in Gold, a subtle pagan theme from his native hinterlands almost forgotten. His diminutive self preserves no austerity, either—-slack old amoralist, oddfellow at best guess-—among the town’s socialites ghosting this rare performance. They have purified their skeletons flagrante delicto, lit candles at vespers crying for their own syncopation. And public festoons smell faintly of urine to the children as well. Camphor vapors in their room on the second floor will be released later, then, the dressers, bedposts already shellacked in hypnotist red, preventing any motley of pillow feathers sticking to them, unlike their maid’s secret kisses. You are always my empress, she teases the nephew and his sluggish lapel while intrusive shadows outside appraise the lamps. Snow illumes half a lifetime. Adrift, an adulterous wife tosses her husband’s armor away on a streetcorner; the lothario nudges it with his greedy moccasin, inquires by aside if its owner has indeed perished. Few corpses find themselves silent. To ignore the staircase set that had been designed in a dream interrupted by an overly amorous couple, the audience must abbreviate their murmuring in short spasms. So they call out the flame’s knock on the convent latch with voices guttural and rusty from misuse. A fine pastiche is ruined. But the children hold their breath. They hope their uncle’s inner turmoil ascends as an archangel instead. Curtains, several curtains. In arrival of its bane, mature speaking is decreed unsavory in the private study by a scarab beetle collection crystal-encased above the letter table, icons of Holy Mother with Child in degraded orbit, and phases of the Arctic Circle expanding. This myriad reflects in the dome of a coffee spoon, which the children are pressed to follow as their surrogate father. The floor, however, is what they mostly consult. Set upon carpets diamonded indigo against lapis lazuli, the trim a macabre whitish hue christened whalespackle, the nephew plants himself to play war, deciding his marble chess pieces have ignored the lack of a Cartesian grid. He observes in detail angled visages, poor suitors for an iron helmet, their kneecaps built like anvils—-yet the hoary battalion succeeds!—-until each pawn seems to trade its weapon for a willow branch. Perhaps he is mistaken (the carver’s renderings do lumber clumsy, imprecise). Conversions have been forbidden indoors for several decades. An infernal miracle? How the uncle, greatest Cataloguer to inhabit the Grand Arboretum, chooses overlooking this defies the innocent appeals of the nephew. There, he points hurriedly to the disheveled greybeard, and these aments . . . a species which name fails in Latin since it slights a most favored paramour, she who had kept herself alive only to count alongside the uncle the Pyrrhic falling of heavy limbs. On frost-laden veil, torn: a riot of distant echoes bound somewhere wintry for his premature lambskin sect, and parlor mazurka as evensong.



I’m loathe to pile aquatints on a coffee table: Paris alone cannot pose above rainy cobblestones. This diminutive hedonist is angry enough at me. But the compromises, I tell him, have already been made with prejudice. I just arrived at the soirée as sad as an oxtail.

To clarify any blind mad-grabs, personally, enjoy getting ahead of yourself when the sun settles down, when fingering loose change in your pocket that someone else will get. Think wistful, So much surpasses-—why does it fall on hopeless causes of choice? Perhaps approaching dawn cracks in the sidewalks form abnegation, yet remorse can also be inchoate, a single lazy molecule, and the primeval far too wicked for reluctance to overcome. At the equator of the universe, everything must slice itself into two equal planes of give and take; I add blueberries, pour milk myself. Little dazzles more than pretending I’m out of focus once I scry the cereal bowl for vague postscripts, always the sleepyhead.

The last elegant mystery, I admit, was not very compelling, either: a monk in Lhasa moping over the Buddhahood of broken reading glasses as his tapers go out—-the sort of seed that plagues binary vision someday for young acolytes. And catalogues of a dwindling past turn spottier as well. Imaginary churches become difficult to lease (too dark inside, the colors are all wrong, et cetera), glass chairs assemble themselves next to Balinese beds, Hiroshige’s turtles escape from their bindings in mid-air. Alteration, questionable exteriors—-mere celadon vases, having stirred empty. They emerge from hidden cellars to decorate fresher faults off our vines.

Quite a poke to saddle up to, though better off being a frontispiece with an amputated arm than here. Luck, your finest so-so invention-—

ingenuity lilts quicker. If attachment runs as deep as ideas, what bindings could be agreed upon? The stuff of lore. Buried up to our necks in sandy cliffs. Forever ignoring the lovebirds running naked and innocent along the heather with shoes on. These, it is claimed, are lives held in many splendors come a story’s shine—-or I will have to make the decision independent of celestial cartographies.

I am building a room with the possible view if you are available presently to notice.

Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
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last update: October 14, 2008