The Chill

by Richard Burgin

A man walks into a bar and decides that he will tell a joke beginning with those exact words–“A man walks into a bar.”– He feels that he’s really been a kind of crypto-comedian all his life and wants a chance to show it, if only to the people seated at the bar. Just before he opens the door, he realizes that he’ll let in too much cold air. He shuts the door before he even tells a single joke. Instead he takes a walk up Chestnut Street and thinks about his childhood as if the wind blew it forcefully into his mind. He remembers pulling his blanket up over his ears when it was cold and how he felt like he was in a tomb of ice.

One night when he couldn’t sleep because he felt so cold, he called for his father and told him his problem. His father opened his closet door and put three more blankets over him. When that still didn’t work, his father started telling him silly jokes one after another, like “Do you know why the basketball died? Because it was shot so many times.” He laughed after every joke his father told, and kept asking for more. Just before his eyes closed, he saw his father tiptoeing out of the room. It was perhaps his favorite memory.

“The wind lives in a seashell,” his mother told him at Revere Beach. “Put the shell over your ear and you can hear it talking.”

He did what his mother said and heard the wind.

“Does the wind have a family or does it live alone?”

She looked at him as if he’d asked the wrong question. He knew then that she didn’t know. That no one did.

His parents had let him go to the movies by himself in Boston. His house was only ten minutes away by streetcar but still he had the feeling of having taken a substantial journey, and because he was by himself, he felt both excited and a little nervous. It was late fall, and the wind blew leaves around the Boston Common. He knew he should take the subway home now but instead looked around at the vast green lawns of the park while dodging the leaves that occasionally flew toward him like little birds. Suddenly, he saw two teenage boys fighting a third who appeared to have a dog leash tied around his neck. Then a new figure approached him, older and larger with wild green eyes but vague features, as if his face were made of watercolors.

“Wanna take a walk with me?” the man said, holding a different leash.

He started running down Beacon Street as fast as he could without once looking back. Good thing he didn’t pick the park to run through as it was mysteriously empty except for the fighting boys and the man who was half-yelling, half-laughing at them.

The wind has its own sound but it’s also part of every other sound. The dinosaurs heard it –they just didn’t write poems about it, he thought. He remembered the way the sink faucets moaned in his parents’ cellar. It was a muted but oddly terrifying sound, like a devil choking. But one afternoon, when he was alone in the cellar, he heard it in a different way and didn’t run upstairs. Instead, he kept pulling himself wildly knowing that this time he wouldn’t stop until he exploded. He could feel it piercing forward like a hot wind building inside him. Then it spilled out onto the cellar floor. He stood over it, astonished, as if it were both dead and alive.

A man walks into a college talent show. He is a student living away from home who thinks he has a gift for making people connect through humor. He tells some mild sex jokes, some observational humor à la Jerry Seinfeld, but steers clear of politics and religion. Things are going pretty well until he starts to shiver. He becomes afraid that the audience will notice it and be distracted from his monologue. He begins to think more about his shivering than his jokes and starts to lose the audience. Later some of his friends tell him he was funny, but he knows they’re lying. It is the last show he ever performs in public.

Shortly after college, after he moved to Philadelphia and began working at an insurance company, he felt the chill again. It was as if it had been following him since his childhood and had finally tracked him down. He was returning from a restaurant when he felt it pass through him like a small, violent wind. Since there was a kind of wind tunnel near his apartment where he was walking, he didn’t think much of it, figuring it was something that would go away in a few seconds. But the cold persisted even after he walked into his lobby and paid his respects to the doorman. He self-consciously paced around to lessen the chill that seemed to have targeted him, especially his neck.

It didn’t get better in the elevator; in fact, if anything, it got worse. Fortunately, there were no other passengers, so he could press himself against the wall to try to create a feeling of warmth. Shortly, though, he realized that was only an illusion.

He wondered if anyone else felt it. The doorman didn’t look any different bent over his racing forms, but how often did he really look at the doorman in a careful way? So he couldn’t really evaluate the doorman’s behavior.

What about the people on the streets? Any unusual activity there? Again, he hadn’t noticed, but ever since he moved to Philadelphia by himself he’d followed his parents’ advice to look straight ahead and never make eye contact with a stranger, though, of course, almost everyone was a stranger.

He began using a lot of blankets at night and wearing a heavy shirt over his sweatpants, but it made little difference. It was as if, ghostlike, the wind had invaded a part of him just above the base of his neck, where it couldn’t be dislodged.

Soon he started seeing doctors. When he let each doctor touch his chill spot, or, more accurately, the chill’s ostensible port of entry (since he felt the coldness internally as opposed to on the surface of his skin), they told him they couldn’t detect any difference in temperature between his neck and any other part of him. He soon decided the doctors were as useless as rocks in the desert.

Then his dreams began, first about the doctors, then about the chill itself. In one dream he was running from the chill, looking over his shoulder at it as he ran towards his apartment. The last time he looked, he saw a face forming on it but he couldn’t recognize it. It didn’t really look like a human face and yet it was nonetheless strangely familiar. If he had a close friend in the building or even in the city or if his parents were in Philadelphia, of course, he would have screamed their name. He thought of the phrase “Life is a scream” as if it were skywriting made by an invisible plane. He pictured his doorman bent over his racing form. Everyone was always monitoring their luck. They had their luck, and he had his chill. He was running so hard now that he felt he was burning–burning and freezing simultaneously.

When he woke up and focused his eyes he was completely dressed, sitting on his couch, no longer sure if he had really been chased by the chill or if he’d dreamed it. He was breathing heavily, panting like an animal, slowly trying to retrieve his breath.

He called his friend Fennel on the phone who told him perhaps he needed to get online and meet a woman. Obvious advice, of course, but coming from Fennel, his best and only friend, it had impact–enough for him to join dating sites and to devote some free time each day to looking at profiles and sending out his own.

There was a woman named Vicky whose kind of cheerful aggression appealed to him– frankly, since he’d left home for Philadelphia, he’d lost some of his own. Also, her emails were kind of funny; perhaps she would discover his “inner comedian,” as he now thought of it.

She suggested a place in Rittenhouse Square he hadn’t heard of, but then, although he ate out at least one meal every day, he hadn’t been keeping track of any restaurant names. The place turned out to be lively and not too pricey– an excellent and considerate choice on her part.

She wore black designer jeans with a classy pink top. He could see she had a good body. She smiled and laughed a lot, but not too much. She seemed to have a lot of experience with quiet men like him. She worked as a legal secretary but wanted to write children’s and young adult books–maybe one day start a small publishing company of some kind. After a glass of wine, he admitted that he wanted to be a comedian and hadn’t completely given up the dream yet.

She thought this was “marvelous,” clapped her hands, and literally squealed with delight. Not since his mother had a woman reacted with such enthusiasm to something he said.

“You’re amazing!” she exclaimed.

Instinctively, he turned away. He didn’t want her to see that he felt he was in love with her already.

“You’re probably wondering why I haven’t said anything funny so far.”

“First of all you have–in a low key kind of way, and I like low key. And second, I know you comedians are often serious people who make comedy out of your pain.”

That seemed to open the door even wider and they began to confide more things in each other–especially her. She told him she was just starting to date again after a long relationship.

“That’s rough,” he said knowingly, although his longest relationship was scarcely a month. After two more glasses of wine he invited her to dinner.

“I’ve got an idea. My place is only a couple of blocks from here. Why don’t you let me fix you some food,” she said.

“No, I couldn’t let you do that.”

“But I’d love to. I have some Chinese and some really nice French hors d’oeuvres. Believe me, they’re too scrumptious–it’ll wreck my diet if you don’t help me eat them.”

He looked genuinely incredulous. “I can’t imagine you needing to be on any kind of diet.”

“Watch out, James, you seem to know how to really get to my heart.”

He laughed–he hoped not too loudly. When she said “heart,” he wanted to think of her soul; instead he pictured her chest that covered it. Yet apparently he’d escaped detection (after all, he shouldn’t think of her as a mind reader), and she still seemed eager to take him to her place.

Her apartment was orderly and feminine, and the colors of the living room matched well. It was lit just brightly enough to be romantic, he thought.

She motioned to a sofa and they sat down together. They spoke for a few minutes and then she suddenly kissed him and said, “Food can wait a little while, can’t it?”

He felt she was borderline drunk and that it wasn’t fair but who was he to resist her. He pictured Fennel, the closest thing he had to a sibling, telling him he was a fool to resist her.

They kissed relentlessly for a minute or two. Soon clothes started to fly off like leaves in the wind. She told him to sit on her carpet, then she slid up to him, put a hand on his head, and pointed him down to her genitals. Meanwhile, she was moaning in an oddly musical way. The singer and the comedian, he remembered thinking, as if they were a stage act.

He felt she had an orgasm in his mouth, though he couldn’t be certain and was afraid to break the spell by asking. Meanwhile, he was getting erect and a little sore in his knees so he got up to enter her.

“Stop! What are you doing?” she half-screamed at him.

“Oh, don’t worry, I have a condom.”

“Worry? I’m not worried, I’m not doing it is what’s happening.”

“But I thought–”

“Don’t think. Just listen. I’m not ready for that.”


“Yeah, ‘Oh,’” she said, clearly mocking him. “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, otherwise you could be charged with raping me.”

She was staring at him. There was an odd tattoo by her vagina but he couldn’t read it without staring at it and he certainly wasn’t going to do that. He forced himself to look at her eyes. She seemed a little calmer now.

“I’m sorry there was a misunderstanding,” he said.

“Yeah, so am I. You better get your things on now and leave.”

For a long time he thought about his ill-fated date with Vicky. Finally, it hurt a little less every day to remember, as Fennel had predicted. But then the chill returned, albeit briefly, not in his dreams but in his waking life.

There is always a way to reassure ourselves, he thought, hence the saying “Where there’s life there’s hope.” In his case, he thought that the chill happened much less frequently in his apartment, yet of course when he thought some more about it, he had to concede that might not really be the case, that even if it did happen less frequently in his apartment, when it happened it was often unbearably intense–so that the next time he felt it, he went out in the night as if he had no choice. He thought that if the chill were in his home then he was essentially homeless. Your home is the death of choices, he thought.

He walked a block and a half into Center City with no sign of the chill. He even undid the top button of his winter coat (which he wore although it was already early spring). He was struck by how bright and festive the city looked. Every place was intriguing and strangely filled with charm. He tried to stay calm and rein in his tendency to romanticize things. Things weren’t more beautiful than before, he told himself. He was simply able to appreciate them more because the chill wasn’t chasing him.

Another block passed. People seemed to be smiling at him–what was he to make of that? He decided, superstitiously perhaps, to stay on his same route at the same speed heading downtown through Center City. He would not undo another button, though he was tempted to, and would continue to look at his city with both admiration and trust.

But then, like the first signs of a toothache, he started to feel the chill again, and before he could walk another block it was already gnawing at him.

He broke into a trot then, soon deviating from Center City. A moment later he turned left onto a side street and ducked into a bar breathlessly, where he sat next to a thin blond man in a black T-shirt and black cowboy hat.

A man walks into a bar quasi-hysterical, he thought, and doesn’t know whether it’s worse to talk about what happened or keep it to himself.

“Hey, pardner,” the cowboy said, turning slightly towards him and in the process almost making eye contact. “You OK?”

“Sure. Why do you ask?”

“You look like you just seen a ghost. Other than that, no reason.”

The cowboy was smiling although he couldn’t tell the color of his eyes, only that they were part of a smile in progress. He forced himself to laugh strictly to be polite to the cowboy before realizing that now he’d have to say something at least remotely true about his general condition.

“Well, I guess you’re right.”

“Yeah, I thought so. Are you shivering because it’s cold or ‘cause it isn’t?”

“It just hasn’t been the best night of my life.”

“Sometimes you gotta fish for a long time before you feel any kind of tug on your line.”

He looked hard at the cowboy in the half dark of the bar and thought maybe he really was a cowboy. The way the light in the bar was, the cowboy’s head seemed still and strangely suspended, like the work of a taxidermist.

“This your first time here?”

He felt his heart beat as if the chill were already hovering nearby in the bar.

“Why? You come here often?”

“Yeah. That’s why I asked you if you’ve ever been here before. I figured I would have noticed you one time or another if you had.”

Was there something extraordinary about this place, he wondered. He noticed then that it was entirely populated by men, some of whom were being overtly affectionate. Oh that, he thought. He’d have to make it clear to the cowboy where he stood on the issue.

“Sure. That makes sense,” he mumbled.

“Care to dance?”

He wasn’t even aware that there was music.

“No thanks, I’m a little tired.”

He didn’t feel like getting into the fact that he was straight. He saw a quick image of the boys in the park and their wild-eyed master.

“Sure, I get it, I’m a little tired too. Truth is, I’m exhausted.”

“Why’s that? Hard day at work?”

“Wasn’t work so much as what happened after work.”

“Oh. Feel like telling?”

“I did some running. Serious running,” the cowboy said, looking at him incriminatingly.

“I admire you guys who stay in shape like that. Yeah, I really admire you runners.”

The cowboy held up his hand in protest. “I didn’t say I was a runner. Never said that.”


“Just that I was running today.”

“Where to?” he asked, immediately thinking he was being uncharacteristically nosy. Maybe escaping the chill had affected his behavior.

“I was running after someone, tell you the truth.”

Of course he wanted to know why but he held his tongue. For several seconds they sat in silence.

“Bet you want to know, don’t you?”

“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t, would I?”

“I don’t know. There are so many different opinions about what makes someone human these days.”

“I hope in any group discussion on the matter I’d get voted in?”

“To what?”


“Oh. You never know about things like that. People are so. . . slippery.”

He smiled, not sure if he should laugh or not.

“Anyway,” the cowboy said (he noticed that his Western or pseudo-Western accent had temporarily disappeared), “I was actually running after you.”

He stared at the cowboy intently and then turned his head away as if he’d just looked too directly at the sun.

“What do you mean?”

The cowboy smiled thinly while a series of peculiar expressions seemed to fight for supremacy on his face.

“Can’t say it any more clearly. Hasn’t anybody ever run after you before?”

His immediate temptation was to say no but then he thought about that man in the park back in Boston.

“But why would you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Run after me? Did you think I’d dropped my hat or something?”


“I mean, you don’t even know me, so why would you run after me?”

“I didn’t say I knew you just that I ran after you. Did the other people who ran after you all know you?”

A valid point, but one he didn’t feel like pursuing. Maybe the cowboy was only acting out some fantasy, or making some kind of avant-garde pass at him. It would have been much easier to have just danced with him.

“I seem to be making you uncomfortable,” the cowboy said.

He shrugged.

“I’m going to use the men’s room for a minute, but don’t worry, I’ll be back, and we can talk some more about this.”

“Sure,” he said, as neutrally as possible.

He was afraid to look in the direction of the bathroom, afraid to see the cowboy moving or perhaps in some way to see only the wind. Maybe the cowboy thought he was someone he knew. If he saw either of his parents in Boston he’d run after them. Perhaps that’s what happened to the cowboy.

But that line of thought balanced against the cowboy’s behavior wasn’t really reassuring. It was preposterous and simply an unrealistic conclusion to reach. Wasn’t it more possible, since he’d already asked him to dance, that the cowboy was trying to intimidate him in some way that would impress him, that he simply wanted him sexually? He himself had lived long enough to know that people of all kinds were capable of acting that way, though he had never been that aggressive. His night with Vicki was proof of that. He was always the pursued and never the pursuer.

He got up from the bar then and walked to the door. Fortunately, he hadn’t bought a drink yet so he wouldn’t have to be delayed by paying for it.

For a block, he walked at full speed, then broke into a run. He didn’t hear or feel anything but the sound of his running, the strange music his shoes made on the sidewalk. He remembered as a kid trying to outrun a dog that eventually bit him. He always thought he could have avoided the bite if he’d just run a little faster.

Colors streamed by him like water as he ran into the wind, his eyes tearing like little windblown ponds. He had no concept of direction. Soon, it was like running into a blizzard. For a long time he ran this blind blizzard run, then finally he saw his building tall and proudly monolithic like a fortress at the top of a hill.

The doorman gave him a funny look as he walked by but what did it matter? People could only really judge you if you let them.

When the elevator came he was ready for it. A woman from his floor who rarely talked to him felt an impulse to quasi-acknowledge him with a nod which he happily returned. It was strangely reassuring. There was no ensuing conversation but that was OK, perhaps better to protect the moment which words so often destroyed.

A muted chill crept somewhere between his neck and left shoulder but it wasn’t freezing. Now it felt more like a cool spot in a warm desert.

When he got inside he went directly to his room. On the bureau were two 5” by 7” silver framed pictures of his parents. In one his father was wearing shorts that showed his hairy legs. He was smiling at him. His father had even taken his glasses off for the photograph. In the other picture, his parents were kissing while he sat in front of them, no more than three years old, playing in the grass. He thought of calling them but they were probably already in bed. Instead, he sat on the edge of his bed and stared at his parents. It was odd to stare at them but it was also calming. A moment later he realized the chill was gone, and then, with all his clothes on, he lay down for a minute and fell asleep. When he woke up he felt he was in a warm green park shaped like the yard of his childhood, a shining blue sky overhead. Peace is temporary, he thought, but always blessed.

Review of Lee Slonimsky’s Bermuda Gold

by Harry Steven Lazerus

Bermuda Gold
Lee Slonimsky, Abbeville, SC
Moonshine Cove Publishing,
2015. 266 pp.

An engaging new private eye has sprung from the keyboard of Lee Slonimsky, a poet and hedge fund manager. J. E. Rexroth, a financially struggling shamus subsisting on the lower rungs of PI work, comes alive on the pages of Bermuda Gold, Slonimsky’s new mystery-suspense novel.

Rexroth—from whose point-of-view the story is told—is a totally believable everyman with a poet’s eye and a penchant for trying to do the right thing. The novel opens when the beautiful wife of a hedge fund manager asks him to investigate a series of threatening phone calls she may or may not have received. The intricately plotted novel moves with the speed of polished steel as it weaves together financial skullduggery, marital infidelity, murder, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. This isn’t simply a novel of detection, however. Rexroth’s digging to find the truth endangers not only himself but the love of his life. There are plenty of scenes to cause your heart to pound and pulse to race, and occasionally you may have to fight the temptation to skip some lines to find out what is going to happen as the author ratchets up the almost unbearable suspense.

But you won’t want to skip lines anywhere because you will miss much of the subtlety and beauty of the writing. The novel has a definite sense of place, and Rexroth, as he drives around the Inwood section of Manhattan and the hills of upstate New York—areas that the author seems to know well—describes what he sees with poetic elegance. There is the ever present picture of the natural world, even in this book with an urban setting, as for example the relationship between wind and clouds: “The wind went on making its albino sculpture of clouds high overhead…” Or this, as he drives to an airport: “… a red sun rose fiercely into a white dawn, while arrows of fire assaulted the waters of Jamaica Bay, targeting ripples that turned into quivering bloodstains, while black-crowned herons and herring gulls … caressed the frigid air with their graceful wings…”

The reader also gets easily digestible lessons on hedge funds as Rexroth, no financial maven himself, sets out to learn about these obscure, but influential, organizations. And throughout the novel, there are interesting tidbits about the history of places that appear in this story.

There is much to recommend Bermuda Gold: a page-turning plot, elegant writing, interesting information not usually found in the pages of a novel, and a sympathetic protagonist who is hard not to care about. Let’s hope that this is not J. E. Rexroth’s first and last appearance in a detective novel, but the start of a long series.

Art As Healing Magic: Hans Breder’s Chakras

by Donald Kuspit


…the survival of the magic power of the work of sculptors and painters has often been reflected in their social position on the fringe of society in a “bohemian” reservation.
Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art

Art has long been understood as a kind of magical, wishful thinking, and it is no more magically wishful—and hopeful–than when it is made in the desperate belief that it is healing, above all that it can heal the suffering body, or at least anesthetize both viewer and artist to its pain.  I think this is the motivation behind the idealization of the body in classical art, and I think it is the motivation of Hans Breder’s Mindscape/The Subtle Body, a video installation in the window of the small, hip Solivagant Gallery on Orchard Street in Lower Manhattan.  This “fringe” area is the latest au courant bohemian reservation of exhibition spaces, as the 80+ galleries there indicate, replacing the now all-too-fashionable (and pricey), and with that passé, gallery area of Chelsea.  Freud said that magical thinking involves a belief in the omnipotence of thoughts—the grandiose, narcissistic, infantile conviction that one’s inner thoughts could control outer reality (even change it, as though the serious intensity of one’s thoughts had social revolutionary effect)—but however immature and unrealistic magical thinking is, we all engage in it, for without it we would lose our will to live.

Hans Breder Opening

Hans Breder Opening

And we cannot live without our bodies:  Breder’s art has always dealt with the body, as his famous photographs of mirrored nudes indicates, and his current exhibition also does, as its theme—the seven chakras—makes clear.  “Chakra” is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel.”  As the scholars Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant write, it is “applied to the hidden meeting points of the nadis or channels of the ‘subtle’ body, along which, according to Hindu physiology, the vital energy flows.  This mystical physiology sets these energy centers at intervals up the spinal column to the top of the head, and they could be described as ‘generators of etheric matter’ (avas).  From the base of the spine (the muladhara), kundalini, a static form of creative energy may be roused.”  The whole purpose of Breder’s exhibition is to rouse this creative energy from the base of the spine (the coccyx, the last bone in the spine)—the Base or Root Chakra—to the top of the head (implicitly the brain)—the Crown Shakra.  The passage, in which the creative energy becomes ever more dynamic and manifest, ascends vertically up the body, healing—energizing and enabling–each part it is associated with and flows through.  As the creative energy surges through it, it comes to everlasting healthy life.  Thus the Sacral Chakra maintains the health of the ovaries/prostrate it “informs”; the Solar Plexus Chakra, associated with the navel area, keeps it functioning “creatively”; the Heart Chakra keeps that organ healthy and beating; the Throat Chakra keeps the throat and neck area healthy; the Brow or Third Eye Chakra, associated with the pineal gland (for Descartes the seat of the soul), enables the mind’s eye to see insightfully. There are seven chakras; Breder’s installation devotes a day to each.  Seven is a number rich in symbolism; there are seven heavens, according to mystical thinking, and seven colors associated with each, and they can all be seen by the “perfect man,” that is, the visionary mystic.  Breder aspires to be one, and succeeds in becoming one, as his installation suggests.  He has said he is concerned to capture the “luminal moment of perception”—the moment when unimaginative observation becomes imaginative apperception. His early photographs use the mirror to do so, the current installation uses a more refined method, digital video, to do so.

Breder has always been obsessed with the female body, and the female body continues to appear in his chakras installation, but now in fleeting, fragmentary form.  It quickly dissolves in the creative flux of his rapidly changing “chakratized” forms, all kaleidoscopically abstract and colorful.  In the early black and white photographs the female bodies and the mirrors that reflect them are asymmetrically and precariously arranged in a kind of static or stopped pin-wheel.  In the chakras installation the wheel moves very rapidly and rhythmically, sometimes vibrating with unsettling intensity, sometimes peculiarly soothing.  But the wheel, whirling like an ecstatic dervish, never loses its balance:  the forms are dynamically equilibrated, to use Mondrian’s famous term.  They are also driven by what Kandinsky called internal necessity—intense feeling, above all, in Breder’s case, a feeling for the body.  Mondrian and Kandinsky are Breder’s ancestors:  his work has the same transcendentalist aspiration as theirs.  Indeed, it is the grand climax of the tradition of transcendental abstraction.

Mindscape in C

Mindscape in C

The influence of Malevich is also evident:  the compact square, iconic in more ways than one, often appears, slowly changing into an auratic circle in the course of the chakras.  Squares are often symmetrically aligned in groups of four, as though in homage to Albers.  Breder’s installation recapitulates, in dream-like condensation, the history of high abstraction, just as it recapitulates, in dream-like condensation, the history of his own early photographs, for the female figures that flicker across the screen are all echoes of the figures in them.  Each of the chakras is accompanied by music—often a high pitched hum, a relentlessly vibrating tone, forcing itself into one’s nerves–that Breder has composed on a computer.  Indeed, his chakras are computer-generated and computer-performed.  The sounds of a piano, trombone, and Tibetan singing bowl are digitalized and ingeniously integrated electronically.  Breder says the geometrical forms and the music forms are symmetrically arranged, that is, the image and the sound vibrate at the same frequency.  The symmetry is maintained even as the audiovisual pulsating forms constantly change, disintegrate and re-integrate into gestalt wholes.  Fragments symmetrically align even as they seem asymmetrically odds, and remain dynamically different even as they stabilize into holistic forms.  Performed, each chakra seems to be informed by some enigmatic élan vital, made manifest by the changing image and the piercing music. Breder, the founder of the intermedia program at the University of Iowa, is known for his techno-aesthetic sophistication, not to say neo-artistic wizardry.  Breder, a German-American painter, photographer, sculptor, and videographer, has been celebrated for his “phonetically merged, imagedsound fusion,” involving the use of “digital feedback.”  He conceives of the chakras as a transmedial fugues played on a computer.  “Transmediation,” he says, is an “opening to meditation.”  Digitalization is “dematerialization,” he notes; for him it also means spiritualization, when carried out with aesthetic sophistication, emotional intelligence, technocratic know-how.  One is invited to meditate on the works as you see them—they are meant to put one in a meditative state (they certainly are “en-trancing”)—but, I have to say, this was difficult to do, for they were exhibited, surrounded by mirrors that reflected the viewer, in the window of the storefront gallery on a very busy Orchard Street.  On the opening night the street and galleries were packed with people.  The street is always “busy” with noise—the sound of traffic and shoppers (the galleries are small shops, like the clothing shops and cafes near nearby)—which is not exactly an environment conducive to meditation, let alone to careful attention to serious art.  But Breder wants outreach—wants to leave the bohemian reservation, wants to offer spiritual nourishment and enlightenment to the passing masses, just as Buddha did.

Mindscape in F

Mindscape in F

The chakras works proclaim that he is a Bodhisattva, that is, a person who has attained prajna, or Enlightenment, and thus can finally leave the perpetually turning wheel of death and reincarnation—the cycle of suffering that is life and death–but has decided to postpone Nirvana in order to help others attain Enlightenment.  It is an act of compassion, which is what Breder’s hyperactive chakras are:  they are meant to enlighten us about the body and soul–to show the soul in the body, to show that the material body is a transient, even specious form of the soul.  They are in effect his last artistic will and testament, a consummate spiritualizing gift to the world.  Being moved by them—swept along in their swift, earnest current–is an enlightening experience.

But the technical brilliance of Breder’s chakras is a means to a therapeutic end, as he himself says.  When he made the mirror photographs he was in the prime of his youth and in good health; his female models/performers are full-bodied, healthy-looking young women.  They seem invulnerable; sometimes mirrored in the running water of a spring, they become lyrically natural—virginal nymphs.  They were his muses, and with that surrogates for his creative self.  But now they have become more myth than substance:  Breder is now eighty, and suffering from cancer.  His body has weakened, although his energy—the energy with which he makes art–is still amazing.  As he has said, he wants to use it to attempt to magically cure his cancer.  The chakras works are a sort of “white magic,” as their stunning luminosity suggests—it “enlightens” and at times overwhelms the colors–meant to oust the “black magic” of cancer.  He wants to heal his suffering body by becoming enlightened about the sources of its energy in the hope of eternally renewing them.  For him the energy not the body is eternal.  It may be a futile effort, but Breder’s chakras works are a tour de force demonstration of the omnipotence of artistic thought, not to say its mystical wisdom at its best.

Issue 37 – Nonfiction


Art As Healing Magic: Hans Breder’s Chakras by Donald Kuspit

Art has long been understood as a kind of magical, wishful thinking, and it is no more magically wishful—and hopeful–than when it is made in the desperate belief that it is healing, above all that it can heal the suffering body, or at least anesthetize both viewer and artist to its pain.



Review of Lee Slonimsky’s Bermuda Gold by Harry Steven Lazerus

An engaging new private eye has sprung from the keyboard of Lee Slonimsky, a poet and hedge fund manager.


Meditations on Snow 10: I have your moon

by Ferral Willcox

I have your moon.  It rose up over snow as the last rose glow went to mist behind the mountain.  I caught it with my bow, arrowed in and reeled it to my side.  I have your moon, captive in my mind.

I held your snow.  I froze my hand to keep it cold.  It made a white hand of mine, and tempted as I was to drop or throw, I chose this glove, and even in my sleep, I held your snow.

I kept your peace.  Sweet as forest breeze in fir, a secret peace of trees, I kept the spirit of this place bathed in birdsong even when the birds were gone, even when there were no trees, I kept your peace.

I have your moon, your snow, your peace, soaked into my bones, and when they bury me, all will be released.

Meditations on Snow 7: Lost friend

by Ferral Willcox

See her, under ice. Her drink, sea glass
green, lost chalice of ice. Porcelain clink
of glass on sink. See her think in teacup
chime, spilling iridescent iris

green, lost chalice in a purse, clinks
metallic, kissing ice, her drink now twice
chimed, spilling palace in an iris
tempest, cursed. See her think the past

metallic, kissing friends, now lost twice,
poem crumpled in a purse, cursive
tempest, cursed. The ice, too thick, the past,
a fantasy, a palace in a glass.

A poem, crumpled in the trash, cursive
evidence, a friend, now lost, immersed
in fantasy, her story etched in glass
See her under ice, too thick, coerced

by evidence of silver past, immersed
at last in verse, in the trash of breaking,
reach her under frozen spell, coerced
once, now twice from story etched in wish

At last, in verse, iridescent, breaking
glass on sink of silver past, teacup
once, now twice, iced porcelain of wish
to reach her under frozen spell of glass

Glossary of Snow

by Ferral Willcox


1. tracewhist

When the snow is sudden and light and makes a bare hint of an outline on the world,
showing the world to be impure

the tracewist fell, a diagnosis, the land’s in a cancer and cannot rest, the dancer turned out of the dance to mud and rubble, cast off post-consumption, the meadow made to lie down for the plow until the tracewist fell, a light cool touch on the exhausted ground, a promise, soon, the long drum and blanket, and rest, and rest.


2. Bride of the limb

When the snow is heavy and wet and married to surfaces

If you are in the way of such a snow, she will love you. The broken branch, the plastic trash, every aspect of coal and ash, touched, and if you are birch or lonely post, you’re taken off to church with all the world in the way of such a snow. If you were unknown in the wood, a mere trellis of such unthunder as passed for a scratch, a hint of distraction in a patch of grass, prepare to be wed by the Bride of the limb. All known all-chosen in snow.


3. dove’s dress

Snow that sings as it flies

Remember this: a broom’s wish, best, a song unsettled from a startled nest, the underskirt of lyric white sings to offspring left in twig and ice, dove’s dress fluttered in sudden draft lifts in flight from this, the crest of heaven’s breath. Remember this: your mother left in fright singing secrets of regret.


4. Ghost of forest past

a snow that seems to fall on unseen shapes, evoking a landscape that no longer exists

when once she was wild with tree and unwrapped from glass, snow fell upon her in a tryst, and she glistened then with lust and frosted tips of fir and birch. But now the snowmade homes disperse in a concrete curse;  now alone, the snow remembers her.


5. hillshroud

the friendly surroundings disappear in snow when the sky is white

She disappeared. White into white, dark from dark. Hitched her petticoats up in fists and booted off post-haste into Les Cloches de Saint-Exupere, leaving the quiet city behind her to unravel its demented fits in dreams. The diamond died, still in the mine.

I tried to find her. but the white storm turned familiar hills to sky, horizon hid in hillshroud. I knew she loved that line.

The future of jewels is uncertain. The breeze that blows cannot carry them home, as it can the stars of snow from me to her, however it is she hides.


6.  hillscap

the second snow of the season, falling only in altitude without impact in the valley towns

It is snow in a scapular patch, neatly flipped up on the mountain’s top, a scrap of storm sewn into quilted landscape, domesticated weather as it decorates the mayor’s foyer, picture perfect hillscap, measuring just a few inches more than the year before.


7.   baker’s floor

A dusting of snow, a light powder, that blows up in the wind 

A sudden whiff of soup, chicken lentil and mystery, gusts up a day’s story from the baker’s floor, infiltrates cracks in the flatbread of mastery, spins a myth to ignite the white math of wind.


8. queen’s grief

a sudden, unexpected snow covered quickly with a thin polish of ice

In the time of fine china and pearl, enamel thin and brittle, still strong as stone and etched in bone real braille, not sadness, but an edict of it, witnessed and sealed, and the young sent off stalking with the Royal Consort at Balmoral; the queen’s grief swiftly and silently fell.


9. porcelain down

a sheet of snow covering a flat field once used for sport or battle

The field is done with the sport of war, has given up the ghost of grid, released from cults of more and territory, turf spar and parry, combustion fast, falling blast, drone borne bomb to quarry, all now buried here.

It was the soldier, at last that stopped it, one day,  just walked away, gathered up the flags, the undone drums, explosions, applause, orgasms of cheers, of force and torture.  His eyes, he knew, would never see again as they did when he was young; but his child, he swore, his boy, would never set foot on this field, now covered with porcelain down.

Porcelain down, the thin and brittle sheet of grief, will always fall on the corpse of more wherever it dies, from sport or war.


10. breath of Ptarmigan’s child

a scant snow on a deeper snow adding a light motion at the surface

Shadow of a shed feather, snowprint of the spirit of a twig,  whiteshade shift of a minute, beak black speck in a blizzard of acres,  the turn of all tundra in the breath of Ptarmigan’s child.


11. trilleblanc

a warm, wet snow, falling in flower-sized flakes on a moonless night

Sky gardens of winter’s trillium, falling petals of stars, trace out descending smiles, drift up, slip down, drift up, night-blooming into blankets for the dreaming ground.

In trilleblanc, the widow sleeps, her hair undone, her hand dropped down touches root borne visions come unbound.


12. alcrept

long days and nights of a tiny particulate snow falling on dry drifts and influenced by a
hint of wind, light, but steady, until the landscape is entirely changed without any
noticeable event.

From the flicker and stutter of indoor power, all outside appears grey aquarium as alcrept comes, tint click specks at glass, crustacean ticks on seafloor, quilts of scripture unsutured into scraps and patches, now adrift in endless waves of zikr

Old as sturgeon, listed tenets of religion, liturgies of fishes form and unform in requiems of themselves, as grey layered currents shift whole histories in minutes.  In alcrept, let the activist rest, as the delicate drift persists, unlit, undriven

When we wake, in a fortnight, all will be changed, and no shot fired, no severed heads, no one jailed, no congress entrained.


13.  icinder

Bright white flakes that dissolve just before they touch surfaces

We are lost.  Half-lint, half-light, half-life – it is as if there is a kiss suspended just above the warm lip of every small god begging.  But she will not suffer touch; this mistress, icinder, hovers in near miss and transubstantiates a sacrifice, body of christ, body if christ, to essence: starlight caught in the endless instant of loss.


14. trystice

when snow collects in small intervening spaces like scraps of lace in irish basements

We found the addict, cold, too late for trystice, medicine of the forest floor, fallen fir tine splinters intersticed in spits of curses on the white races.


by Lewis Turco

The scientists say that what is going on
Is still the Bang that first emerged from nothing,
Becoming shortly everything that's known.
Not ALL, however, for a little something

Must have been left over: our balloon
Swells with altitude in the summer air,
Seeming to grow larger, like the moon
Sailing though an evening soft and fair.

But what about our bursting universe?
What is the "air" in which it must expand?
Since "outer space" is, though it seems perverse,
Part of the cosmos, is something else more grand

Surrounding us? Something we must face
Beyond Creation? Outer-outer space?

Mnemosyne Meanders

by Lewis Turco

"In 2013, when an OED staff member sought to look at the source material for the dictionary's entry for ‘revirginize,’ for which a passage from Meanderings of Memory [by ‘Nightlark’] is quoted, the publication could not be located." Wikipedia entry.

Nightlark! How Mnemosyne meanders,
Mawkishly bewilders us, meanders
Across our bookish landscape like the ganders

Of Mother Goose whose doughty definitions
Enter O. E. D. with strange renditions —
Nightlark, how Mnemosyne meanders

From source to source across the generations.
What source, if any, caused these generations
Across our bookish landscape? Ganders!

Cullings! Frantic pedants made to pore
Through nonexistent tomes, forced to pour
Kegs of sweat while memory meanders

Hither, thither, yon…were these words born
From nowhere…or perhaps a book of porn?
Across the bookish landscape, like her ganders

Chasing Mother Goose, we sweat; our pants
Bellow from our collars to our pants —
Nightlark, how Mnemosyne meanders
Across the years like literaryganders!

Anatomy of a Passing Thought

by Lewis Turco

A brain in near-perfect condition is found in a skull
of a person who was decapitated over 2,600 years ago."

They found a pickled human brain
In a buried human head
In a British bog in an ancient drain —
The man had long been dead:

More than two thousand years had gone
Since he'd endured beheading —
No mulling had begun to dawn
Since then…or perhaps his wedding.

His thoughts were mud at their very best,
His musings soaked in slime.
Did he enjoy eternal rest
Until the end of time?

Alas! A lack of luck took place
And he was resurrected —
He is reminded of his disgrace,
For science has perfected

The art of Doctor Frankenstein
And soon he will be furnished
With an android's body and a glass of wine.
His reputation burnished,

He once again will walk abroad
Amid these modern wonders,
Unless, of course, it's all a fraud
Or some technician blunders.