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Paul Strohm is a free lance journalist working in the Houston, Texas area. His poems have appeared in Eunoia Review, Deep Water Journal, the Berkeley Poets Cooperative, WIND and other literary journals. He met Raymond Carver in a Seattle bookstore and fell in love. Of course there was drinking afterwards and talk of Sophie Loren.
The following work is Copyright © 2013, and owned by Paul Strohm and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Why I Am Afraid
Why I am afraid. It’s a facade of commonsense. Look up American!
Richard Lynch lives in Bucharest, Romania where he remains half gone after deciding to vanish, something he had been joking about for years. He has eaten more fat in the last three months than the last three decades and yet weighs less than 20 years ago. He would like to attribute that weight loss to partial vanishing, but that remains to be seen. Appliances in niche languages have become something of an obsession, while trial and error has decreased the size of his wardrobe by about 33% — this to the applause of his Romanian friends who don’t like to be seen with a half-visible American (his nationality dispensed by his clothes). When not writing things that are opposed to nature, Richard likes to imagine unnatural portraits of animals in business suits, or ponder lines from popular songs that contain animals for hours on end. He once spent three days wondering why someone would give anyone else a partridge in a pear tree, where they would find that type of thing, and just how one coaxed the partridge to stay. [insert short dream of cantaloupe eaten by butterflies.] Partridges it would seem have aspirations, like most bipeds, and on to bigger an better things might walk there, wings akimbo. Sometimes even Richard flies.
The following work is Copyright © 2013, and owned by Richard Lynch and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Observation: It is not well known but kneading an elephant into an octopus can lead to prayer.
1. Gather your ingredients into the dinghy.
Observation: At the beginning of the process of raising* an elephant-octopus, one needs vision to see their elephant as an octopus. Tusks act like tentacle starter for the mind. They will soften during kneading, while the mind should stay sharp. Keep in mind that trunk + tail + legs + tusks = 8, so there’s that…
*Raising has become the accepted term for elephant-octopus divination.
2. Row out to calm deep waters of a large body of water. An ocean is best, but other bodies of water of significant size will do. Water with salt is preferred. Water with spice is not.
Observation: Neighborhood may also be important. For example, water that is a little warm because of the heat of the nuclear reactor that it cools may not be an optimal choice. Stunt octopussing, such as in purposely attempting an elephant octopus in the bermuda triangle, is for advanced divinators who probably don’t need a recipe. Water with sharks, excessive cnidaria, oil spills or otherwise unbalanced ecosystems will propose challenges.
3. Submerge the elephant.
Observation: It is not clear why some would choose to slide down an elephant, but it happens. Post a sign that says "sliding down your elephant is prohibited" if you are concerned. Sliding down the elephant creates undesired associations, such as with pools and water parks, that may encourage the growth of hair in popular styles.
4. Gently steep for several minutes, or it may become bitter.
Observation: Some pessimism is expected, but if the elephant octopus disassociates from friends and is found with hidden bottles of rum, steeping is too aggressive. On the other hand, if the elephant octopus cries during steeping, do not wipe its tears. The sadness is often part of the process.
5. When the elephant’s skin begins to prune, the steeping phase will be near completion. Do not mistake wrinkles for pruning. Those with landscaping instincts beware: Shears should be avoided. Without removing the elephant from the water, begin kneading by placing only fingers on the cranium, and push downward firmly toward the trunk with short strokes. Thumbs may bring out the squid in your elephant rather than the desired octopusification, so avoid thumbing. Sing one song while continuing to knead.
Observation: Sing in a way that the song can be used again: you will need it. In the case that the song selected is Dry Bones, "The arm bone connected to the head bone" is a valid verse, at least until the bones are gone. Oh hear the word of the lord. Spitting during the octopus divination is not recommended. In fact, all bodily fluids should be carefully monitored. Covering the mouth when talking will reduce spittle, but may enhance a general perception of a need for secrecy, which may raise a variety of behaviors. For example, the elephant octopus may, at this point, develop an inexplicable obsession with learning to drive. During kneading the elephant octopus may exhibit signs of fall, such as apples ripening on its limbs. These apples are a bonus and can be harvested. The ripeness of the apples can be influenced by shouting: Scream once for empire, twice for golden delicious and three times for well done.
6. Upon cessation of singing, it is time to Pringle. Dip Pringles in water, one at a time, until flaccid. Place flaccid Pringles on areas of the elephant previously kneaded. Do not overlap; resist repetition.
Observation: Kneading can be a grueling process. Elephants are, after all, big. Do not use other brands of pre-formed chips. It is a little-know fact that Pringle salting is based on ocean salt water volume. If possible, lighting should remain constant. A large diffuser can be a godsend. Repositioning the elephant octopus may be required during Pringling, but try to avoid floaties.
7. Continue kneading and Pringling in sections.
Observation: If the Elephant Octopus begins writing letters to dead relatives, it is a sign of pre-mature entangulation, which generally happens in nets. Do not allow drivers to pass on the right. Sources of evil may be applied with varied success during the kneading process… Incense will prove to be more soothing, but substantially more difficult to control. You’ll take me word for that, I hope. "Eviling" will promote the octopus’ propensity to sink ships. Add evil as necessary, but add evil evenly and with as little as possible to achieve the desired result. Better a little too little evil than a little too much.
8. Once tentacles are achieved, kneading is complete.
Observation: Over-kneading may lead to ctenophoring, which is ultimately disappointing. If any portion of the elephant octopussing begins to become transparent, sing again. It should be OK to use the same song, unless you have already over-sang it. Song substitution should be approached with caution; maintaining the mood will affect your outcome. If your elephant octopus has not come out as expected, you will need a new elephant. Backing out of the process is nearly impossible and requires immediate attention of a desert and sufficient postage.
There is some debate as to whether additional steps are necessary. A laissez faire approach to further raising may be adopted, but certainly addressing the legality of change in physical form may be required (check with your local government for specific restrictions).