Joan Z. Shore – Hungry Women, Fat Men

Hungry Woman, Fat Men
by Joan Z. Shore

Nature simply doesn’t get it right, and neither does society, and neither do many of us who are caught in this crunch:

The golden years stretching ahead of us, sustainable health and income, grown-up independent children … and an empty bed.

The partner may have been lost through illness and death, or after a bitter, banal divorce. But the result is the same—a single person striving to re-build a life that has crumbled.

While divorce affects two people, it is usually the man who manages to find someone fast and start again. Or someone quickly finds him. Women, we know, take longer to do this, if ever they do. Perhaps, instinctively, they are just more cautious and discriminating.

In the case of widowhood, it is more often the woman who is left widowed, and who is faced with a dwindling pool of available males. So women scour the Internet, join singles clubs, and may even take up golf in desperation. A single man has only to sit for a while at Starbucks before he is joined by an enterprising young female.

It isn’t fair, and it challenges everything we were taught during the Women’s Movement. Self-acceptance, self-confidence, honesty, tolerance were the ways we could connect with ourselves and with other women and with men. But men never learned these things; there was never a Men’s Movement. (Okay, a few men tried—they went into the woods or practised crying). And as women underwent consciousness-raising and group therapy and psychoanalysis, men just sat at Starbucks.

Many women today have given up the feminist ideal and are reverting to the old female ploys: they go on diets, they have surgery, they get cosmetic makeovers, they buy new wardrobes. Women’s magazines and the advertising world reinforce this: a Prada handbag, a new face cream, some liposuction. Maybe some classes at the local gym to whittle her waist and firm up her thighs. The man is still sitting at Starbucks, and orders another double latte.

In the animal world, the males do the preening. And in the old days—I mean a century or so ago—human males also preened. They wore waistcoats and spats; they waxed their mustaches. They set forth to conquer the fair lady. Courtship was in the male domain; it was the male prerogative. Today, it is the woman who goes a-courting. How did this happen?

We may say it is Women’s Lib in extremis, or Women’s Lib gone sour. Women have picked up the gauntlet of independence and men have walked away. If women suddenly stopped taking the initiatives, I doubt anyone would go on a date. Our men have become lazy, negligent and fat. And badly spoiled.

Short of another sexual revolution (and that might not be such a bad idea), I suggest the following: to every skinny, hungry, Botoxed female out there—cease and desist! Drag out your old clothes. Skip your daily workouts and your weekly manicures. Dare to go out in daylight without mascara and gloss. Eat a huge lunch and order a rich dessert. Then, waddle over to the nearest Starbucks and order a double latte.

The love of your life, plump and passive, may be sitting right next to you.

Ciz Dino – 48 fps

48 fps
by Ciz Dino

My waist dissolves
into a thread of lust
when my spine arches back
over your hands.
I laugh because I discover
the voodoo you see in me
rubbed deep
in the folds beneath your eyes.
In the curves of your arms
I laugh because it is too late
because our words can’t keep up
and my waist is in your dreams
and my voice is in your hands.

48 fps

La cintura se me deshace
en un hilo de lujuria
cuando arqueo hacia atrás la columna
a la altura de tus manos.
Me río ahora al descubrir
el vudú que ves en mí,
esa imagen untada a fondo
en las ojeras de tu mirada.
En las curvas de tus brazos
me río porque ya es demasiado tarde,
porque nuestras palabras no dan abasto,
y mi cintura ha ido a parar a tus sueños,
y mi voz a tus manos.

Ciz Dino – Chocolate

by Ciz Dino

Chocolate is doomsday melting black over your virgin tongue.
Chocolate is the abyss, the futile flight.
Chocolate is that steady growl
                                from behind your bedstead.
Chocolate is what I do to you while you sleep.
Chocolate is the incubus that sits on your chest.
Chocolate is panic
                          toxic like jazz.
Chocolate is the hands of children melting dead on your pinstriped lap.
Chocolate is the cracking of bones
                                    beneath the weight of dreams.
Chocolate is slavery and addiction and abuse.
Chocolate is the sound of your pulse when it isn’t there.
Chocolate is exactly what you don’t understand about me.
Chocolate is the taste of your revenge,
                                      and the aftertaste of mine.

Iain Matheson – Her friend finds cheese in his pocket

Her friend finds cheese in his pocket
by Iain Matheson

They are at a poetry fair;
during a sestina about
hieroglyphs his left hand locates
in his overcoat a piece of
smoked brie (unusual enough
in itself), wrapped up in plastic
and partially eaten. Her friend
cannot say, even in whispers,
where the cheese came from, nor how new
it is. They agree the best course
is to let their ears soak up all
the poems as well as they can,
and attend to the cheese later.

Bryan R. Monte – Intimations of Frank O’Hara

Intimations of Frank O’Hara
by Bryan R. Monte

                                               San Francisco, October 1982

Walking into Cafe Flore on a Friday night
You stare at me looking so much like Frank O’Hara
That I gasp and run to the bar for a drink
But I come back and you’re still there by the window
And I sit down to admire your short, black hair
High forehead and skin white as bread dough
As you talk about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Christabel
And the Harvey Milk Club’s political endorsements for this fall.

You’re so beautiful that when you brush away a moth
Men walking by on the street think you’re waving at them
And they wave back
And you tell me you paint in a Japanese style
And ask if I write and what I think of Modern poetry
And I say the problem with Modern poetry is that
It has no feet or hands or eyes
But sits at home like an old, blind hermit
Surrounded by souvenir pillows
Hoarding its syllables.

And your friend Dan joins us
Arguing as a Neoplatonist for the supremacy of ideas
Especially with regards to the Iranian Revolution
And we both turn him off because we know
One’s self worth is directly proportional to one’s paycheck
And you tell me you work as a waiter in North Beach
And make adult toys for a Folsom Street store
And Dan breaks into our conversation saying
Students at Berkeley don’t talk they only argue
And for that we turn on him
Show him the defects in his argument
And make him walk home alone.
You walk me to my doorstep:
Can I use your phone?
I put my arm around you and ask you to stay the night.

Wet or dry, warm or cold
Lying in the milky light that floats
Three stories down the airshaft to my window
And granulates your skin in a vaporous glow,
Rain tapping all night against the sill.
I compliment you on your long legs
And you answer that my proportions are much better
And I warn you that a man is not equal to the sum of his proportions.
My hands curl the hairs on your legs
And I feel the bed fill with heat
And I remember you need only half as many blankets
When you sleep with someone
Even in the coldest parts of San Francisco.

If the sun were rolling down the street
Like a noisy trolley burnishing its tracks
Maybe I’d sleep in and we’d spend the day together
But it’s a rainy Saturday morning
And I’ve got to go to work as a security guard
At a senior citizen’s high-rise in Oakland
So I get up and make us some omelettes
My hands amazing me with their 6 AM dexterity
Cutting the cheese and onions into neat squares
Folding the parsley in with the eggs
And you ask me why I want to be a poet
And I point to the window and answer:
          I want to read the Braille of the rain
          That dances in puddles on the patio
          I want to hear the song of the streamlets
          That knock like veins on a skylight window.

Edward Mycue – Time is a Worn Thread

Time is a Worn Thread
by Edward Mycue

“poetry” is an odd and restricting term.

marianne moore (“i too detest it … but find in it … a place for the

william carlos williams (“men die every day for want of what is found
there ….”)

avoid and don’t censor with the corset of “poetry.” just write.

grow into technique, your own vocabulary.


bang out your stuff.

operate simply.


get a move on.

time is a worn thread.

Ronald Linder – Chapter IX from The Other Man

Chapter IX from The Other Man
(A novel written in the 1970s)
by Ronald Linder

Smiling in sleep, Jeff held Donald folded in his arms, pressing his softly breathing, young body everywhere…as Geraldine woke in Atherton Sunday morning to anticipate her husband’s coming home…and Daphne, already up an hour, rearranged the furniture again in her giant doll house, not knowing where to put the father-doll and finally sticking him in the basement. Geraldine allowed herself one minute as she was waking to worry that Jeff’s relationship with Ralph might have gone too strong. He’d never stayed away this long, and though she liked Ralph because he was funny and smart and brought so much life into a house that had become so dull since her father had died, she wondered if Jeff’s old problem had returned. It was five years since the blackmail letters. But lately he’d seem to need Ralph at least once or twice a week “because a man needs a man to talk to.” She knew those things were never cured, but Jeff had had so much to do since her father had died, so many responsibilities and a whole new future. He shouldn’t need any of those schoolboy attachments.

Daphne moved here furniture around angrily because her dad had already missed her birthday. “He’d better come home today!” Another year and she’d have that horse he promised her, but even twelve was an important age and Jeff had promised her a big surprise for now … but why did he stay in the City so long? When she had her horse, she dreamt she and her friends would take lessons and be champion riders in shows and open a stable together someday to raise horses and teach riding and have rodeos where she’d win the big prizes and mom and dad and she would move out of this big, spooky house and live on a ranch and she’d never get married because you can’t trust men to be home when they’re supposed to be—

“Daphne—where are you!” Geraldine called. “Hurry and come to breakfast … I want you to help me set the table for lunch so we’ll be done before your father comes home!”

Jeff suddenly jerked awake, cramped and stiff, on the floor next to Donald. His right arm felt numb and his lips dry and tingling from kissing all of Donald’s body. He pulled his arm from under the smoothly curved back and pushed up heavily from the floor, feeling dirty because he was covered in dust and dried sweat. Lazily, Donald opened his eyes, turned to contemplate Jeff, and smiled slowly and tenderly.

“That was fun,” he whispered. “I love you. We’re perfect together. Why don’t you think of moving in with me?”

Jeff stared shocked. “Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Why? What’s wrong? Didn’t you have fun?”

“Of course I did, but that doesn’t mean I’m moving in. I have other commitments.”

Donald rolled over on his stomach and Jeff glanced uncomfortably, but appreciatively, at the young man’s perfectly proportioned body—like a Greek, no, an Egyptian god. Soft like a woman, but the hips were too thin and muscular and there weren’t any breasts and the buttocks were flat and tight—but in his own way, Donald was something to lick and kiss and eat. Jeff felt he could start all over again, but he had to get home this morning.

“What kind of commitments?” Donald asked.

Jeff was sorry he’d said that, but the guy ought to know how things stood right from the start. He felt frightened at the way he’d let go completely during the night, not even counting how many times he’d come. How had he forgotten Ralph so completely—and forgotten how angry he’d been? It was a hell of a lot of fun and he knew if he didn’t stop now, he’d want to see Donald every time he came to the City. How could he handle two lovers, besides Geraldine and his mother and the family business? “I’m married and I have a daughter,” he said. “I guess I just had too much to drink last night.”

Donald’s head swerved up like a cobra’s, and a hurt, puzzled frown stamped his face. “You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m very serious. It was a lot of fun—but just for one night. I won’t be able to see you again.”

Donald pushed up from the floor, and without a word or looking back, walked to the bathroom. Soon Jeff heard water running and a flush and sat for a minute trying to clear his head. He knew he hadn’t drunk too much compared to what he and Ralph usually consumed, but he felt light-headed and drained. He looked down at his long, reddish legs and saw scratch marks—he’d have to tell Geraldine he’d got them in the garden. Donald had been like six people. He shivered just thinking of that young, blond body everywhere at once, making him charge and discharge through the night. Jeff didn’t think of himself as more than 20, even if he was 40, but he knew he couldn’t stand Donald every night. He’d been afraid and embarrassed to go to a bar or restaurant with Ralph—it would be a dozen times worse with someone as young and as girlish as Donald. And he knew they couldn’t just stay home and make love—that hadn’t worked even with Ralph, who acted sometimes as if he was ashamed to be seen with another man.

Jeff looked around the room. In daylight it was like a pastel mock-up of a room. The furniture was low-grade Los Angeles and he felt suddenly dirty and cheap, as if Geraldine might not take him back. He’d never felt that way when he’d left Ralph’s apartment. The two of them made one man who knew the answers to everything. Jeff didn’t even know Donald’s last name—but despite all the fear and guilt, he was terribly attracted to the young organist. Was he trying to fight the inkling of loneliness he felt even now for Ralph? Would it hit like a storm wave when he sat with Geraldine and Maddie and Paul talking about business—and when he lay in bed with Geraldine, trying to arouse himself when he knew she just wasn’t sexy anymore?

“You’re a son-of-a-bitch,” Donald said slowly, returning carry white briefs, his nipples especially red against the downy, yellow hair on his chest.

‘Probably from being bitten all night,’ Jeff thought. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“You should have told me before. I’ve never been to bed with a married man.”

“What difference does it make?”

“Plenty. It’s just not fair to have a guy open up the way I did when it’s just for one night.”

“Why? You had fun, didn’t you?”

Donald bent down graciously to pick up his clothes. “Sure I did, but I’d like to meet a man I can love for more than one night. I was attracted to you right away. You’re not like the average gay man. I was sure you were the one for me.” His eyes opened to a wide innocence and his lips pursed, as if he were waiting for a kiss.

Jeff felt annoyed and trapped, as if by an over-dramatic young woman. All the things he hated about gay men came to mind—the unmanly excess emotions and impulsiveness, the dramatic beckoning gestures. “I said I’m sorry. I didn’t know you would take it so seriously. Don’t you go out much?”

Donald glanced angrily. “No. I don’t!”

Jeff detected a note of hysteria in the young man’s voice. Donald was young enough to be his son … and Jeff felt grateful he had never had any boys. What if he had had a son who was gay? Jeff’s heart knocked in his chest, frantically urging him to leave. ‘Ralph,’ he cried inside, ‘See what you’re doing to me? I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you! I won’t let you leave. You can’t. I can’t handle this kind of life outside the Baths!’ It had been easy for a while before Jeff had met Ralph. When he had come to the City and had fun with a different one every week at the Baths and never saw or heard from any of them again—until that package came for Geraldine. And those letters. Someone must have opened his locker and looked in his wallet. But his whole way of looking at people changed because of Ralph. Before, he thought of queers—the ones who lived that life all the time—as freaks. He’d never known any for more than a few hours. And they never talked much. But now he saw there wasn’t much difference between them and him. How he could even feel sorry for them—not want to hurt their feelings. Goddamn! He suddenly realized he might be queerer than he thought. He didn’t like to dwell on it—and never let Ralph talk about it. They just loved each other in a way that couldn’t be explained. Only Ralph with only Jeff—that was all he knew. Maybe after Ralph spent a few days with that woman doctor, he’d realize there was no one else for him but his redheaded lover.

Jeff felt Donald’s small hand running through his hair and he looked up to see the young man’s shy, hesitant smile. “How about some breakfast? I’m not mad at you. I was just disappointed. Do you have time for a nap together—after?”

Jeff bent over to fumble in the pile of his clothes and stubbed a finger against his watch. After glancing at it, he yelled. “Jesus, it’s almost eight!” He saw his three women standing side-by-side, waiting, grim. His stomach fell, just as when he’d been late for finals.

“I don’t believe you can be married,” Donald said sadly. “How can you be married? How can you go to bed with a woman if you like men?”

“I don’t know. It just happens that way. I guess I just have an excess of sexual urges.”

Donald lowered his head to kiss Jeff’s lips, but the older man pinched the younger’s nearest nipple. He screeched and slapped Jeff’s leg, and the redhead laughed and sat cross-legged on the floor to sort out his clothes, wishing he had time to go back to see Ralph now that his anger was gone and ask him again if he really meant he wouldn’t see him anymore—but he had to drive home, or Geraldine would feel hurt in that silent way of hers and Daphne would pout and for some reasons he didn’t know and couldn’t catalogue, he needed them differently than he needed Ralph. Even Maddie was important. He didn’t want her to get angry. She might mess up the new family business and tie up his money or break one of her arms or legs and keep him busy running a million errands.

It was crazy and mysterious. In the City, on the loose, he could make choices. But as a socially acceptable husband, father and son he was stuck doing what others told him to do. Even his art had to be forced, because he was supposed to make money from his paintings.

Jeff hated all these grumbling thoughts. He should be happy! He was going home! He hummed a short stretch of a marching song from his Boy Scout days, but it sounded sour.

“What are you humming? Something that I know?” Donald asked.

“I doubt it.”

Donald lay sideways on the rug, his head poised on the back of one hand, staring hungrily at Jeff. “Are you sure you can’t stay a while longer?”

“No. I have to get home to my family!”

Donald ran his tongue over his lower lip, as if he wanted to say something nasty, but held back.

Jeff had the impression that the young man’s angelic face was just a mask in the front of a sneering, porcelain figurine.

“How do you like living in Atherton?” Donald asked, sitting up.

“How do you know I live there?” Jeff demanded.

“While you rocked in Morpheus’ arms, I had to go to the bathroom and peeked in your wallet. I’m so tired of seeing beautiful people only for one night. I just can’t stand all the uncertainty and surprises. You live at 5 – 3 – 1 Rosemary Drive, Atherton. That’s a perfect major chord … 5 – 3 – 1.”

Jeff scowled as his finished separating his clothes, but inside he felt suddenly very frightened. He stood to pull on his pants. His neck and back felt tight and sore. “What plans do you have for my address?” he asked.

“None now … but I do want to see you again …. I love you! I never loved anyone so much the first time. You do things to me … even just watching you dress.”

Jeff pulled on his shirt, cursing himself for having succumbed to the blond, cherubic devil. No wonder the old painters always made cherubs mischievous! The Baths were so much easier. There were never any problems—except with those letters, and Ralph. If this blond, young man ever called or came to his house and talked to Geraldine, she’d know he’d never gotten over being queer—and she’d figure out in a hurry how and why Ralph was sick. Jeff sat in judgment on himself. Of course he knew Ralph was right—no one with any self-respect would stay on the short side of an arrangement like theirs forever. But what could he do? He needed and loved Ralph—and Geraldine and Daphne—and Maddie and the family money. They couldn’t all go to bed together! But it was a problem Jeff had to solve alone. He wouldn’t let Donald blow away everything!

He squatted so his face came opposite the blond man’s. “You don’t fall in love with someone in one night! I’m twenty years older than you. You must have dozens of friends and lovers!”

“I like older men.”

“There must be thousands of them in San Francisco who would be crazy about you.”

“Not who look like you,” Donald sighed noisily, unfolded from the floor and stood with his hands straight on his hips. Jeff admired the youthful lustre and smoothness of his skin that would never be recaptured after another few years. Donald plunged into the corner of his black sofa, looking like a fair-haired kitten. “Oh, don’t worry, Daddy. I won’t blackmail you. I’m not that lonely, or that poor—and there is a fellow with the Danish Ballet who’s emigrating here to live for a while with some old male nurse who is crazy about me—the dancer, not the nurse—and most of the fellows I know would give up their Baryshnikov pictures just to kiss him! But I do want to see you again…. And if I don’t in a couple or three weeks, I’ll just call or write you a little reminder.”

‘Not more than 20, and all the sophistication of an old whore!’ Jeff thought. Ralph said gay people usually begin having sex three or four years earlier than straight people. But Jeff didn’t want this young sex maniac bothering him. “Donald, I don’t want you to call or write me at home! Do you understand? My wife doesn’t know anything about all this … and don’t forget I have a daughter. Knowing about me certainly wouldn’t do her any good.”

“Just a little reminder. I’ll use code, if you want.”

“Don’t call me,” Jeff shouted. “I promise I’ll call you in two or three weeks.” He wanted to hurt this young man, but he knew if he began, they’d probably end up in bed together. He had to go home, but hated to leave this loose end dangling. What could he do now? He’d been angry many times with Ralph for sitting home night after night, alone, waiting for Tuesdays. ‘Get a friend for in-between,’ Jeff had told him. But now he saw Ralph was right. In this gay world, or probably in any world, you just can’t turn friends or bed mates on and off to fit a schedule—especially gay people, because they are so lonely and hungry for attention and love. Maybe there was no way to keep Ralph. Maybe this was the end, and he would have to choose between the straight and the gay worlds. But he didn’t want to choose!

Jeff finished dressing but couldn’t find his tie, and then remembered he’d thrown it away before he met Donald. It had been a beautiful night and he didn’t want it spoiled. “Look Donald, I have to leave. Honestly! I told you the truth.”

“Just a cup of coffee?”

“No!” Jeff had to look away from the bulge in Donald’s briefs. Donald wrote his full name, address and phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to Jeff.

“Don’t forget—in two or three weeks or I’ll remind you.”

Jeff barely nodded goodbye.

Megan M. Garr, Boudewijn Richel and Nina Siegal – The Good, the Bad and the Future

The Good, the Bad and the Future
A Publishers’/Editors’ Roundtable About Writing and Publishing in Amsterdam
with Megan M. Garr, Boudewijn Richel and Nina Siegal
by Bryan R. Monte

On 11 February 2012, Amsterdam Quarterly publisher/editor, Bryan Monte, convened a publishers’ and editors’ roundtable in an apartment overlooking the River IJ and the rigging of a three-masted ship, flying a pirate flag, moored on Java Island. Sitting around the table were Nina Siegal, editor-in-chief of Time Out Amsterdam; Megan M. Garr, editor of Versal,and Boudewijn Richel, director of Ulysses Reizen. With their combined 35+ years of publishing and editing experience in Amsterdam and fueled by coffee, tea and börek, a Turkish casserole served by hostess, Iclal Akcay, the quartet discussed Amsterdam’s current writing markets, bookshops, reading spaces and workshops, along with their views of the future. (Note: On 22 March 2012, Selexyz, one of the biggest Dutch bookstore chains, filed for protection from its creditors).

For readers’ background information:

Time Out Amsterdam is a monthly, English-language, cultural magazine that features articles and listings about Amsterdam’s music, film, theatre, art, restaurant and bar scene. Nina Siegal described its readership as being: “college-educated people between 18 to 40 who consider themselves to be culturally in tune.” Its total print run is 30,000 copies with approximately 75,000 readers, a third of each being tourists, expats and local residents.

Versal is an annual, international, English-language, literary and art magazine founded in Amsterdam in 2002. Megan M. Garr said: “we do a lot of experimental writing and art so our writers are more interested in innovative work.” Versal’s readership, is anywhere: “from teenage writers to older writers.” It has a print run of 750 and is sold in North America, Europe and Australia.

Uitgeverij Ulysses, (Berlin 1991 – Amsterdam 2006), published “more non-fiction than fiction,” according to Boudewijn Richel. Richel currently organizes tours through Ulysses Reizen to places such as Tibet, Mongolia and Burma for Ulysses Reizen and travel fairs, such as the one at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam in January 2012. He also publishes exclusive tour “readers … by the hundred” which are bundled with Ulysses’ tours.

Bryan Monte: I’d like to start off the conversation this afternoon by asking you what your markets are like at the moment in Amsterdam. Do you see your markets expanding or, with the rise of digital media and bookstores’ reluctance to carry much stock, do you see them contracting?

Nina Siegal: These are really two different questions. The first question is what is the market and how does it grow and the other is what kind of media. First, I would say that Time Out did try to launch an edition here in the ’90s. However, they really felt at that time that there really wasn’t enough of an English-speaking audience. And so they moved on to New York and didn’t come back for another ten years. But this time, I think it’s just a different landscape. There are more internationals, and Amsterdam has become a more international city. The city is on its own campaign to get more international companies based here, so you’ve got huge groups of new expats arriving all the time. Plus, there’s a really different focus in terms of the kind of people the city is trying to attract as visitors, who are not so much the drug/sex tourists, but the museum/cultural types. That is our target audience, but I think what you’ll see over the next ten years is that the internationalism of the city is going to be growing rapidly. So I think our market is only going to expand in terms of readership—that’s my prediction.

As far as the market for people who pick up magazines and read them, [Laughter] well, people have been guessing about this a lot.  I think we have to go digital—there’s no question.  It’s just a matter of how. There’s not any argument about whether that’s a necessity, but what kind of digital. A lot of magazines actually skipped over doing the website and now are just focusing on hand-held tablets because if you’re a tourist or a visitor and you want to go out at night or you want to find out what a good restaurant is, you may not be sitting down in front of your computer to look it up. You’ll be looking at your hand-held device.

BM: So in other words, the handheld will have your location (via GPS) and know that you like Chinese restaurants, so when you go by one, it will go PING and say: “This might be a good place to eat.” That’s really amazing. It sends you information without you having to ask for it.

NS: And not only that, it’s customer/client specific. At some point your Time Out subscription is going to know that you love to go clubbing at hip-hop clubs, and you love Japanese food and you love dogs.

Boudewijn Richel: Dogs? We don’t have dog restaurants in Amsterdam, do we?


NS: There might be a dog shop you might want to know about. And so if you live here, it will be programmed to tell you what you might be interested in. But if you don’t live here, you might fly from Paris to here and it will tell you, “You’ve arrived in Amsterdam,” and it will suggest things you might want to do; the sort of things that are in the neighbourhood. That’s sort of a while down the road.

BM: I agree that handhelds will become more important, but I don’t think that it’s that far down the road, actually. I think it will arrive in about the next year or three. I predict that soon people are going to be exploring cities using routes and information their hand-held devices provide them based on their owners’ past purchasing behaviour and Internet website visits. What about the digital future for Versal? I see that Versal has a website. How long have you had a website?

Megan M. Garr: We’ve had a website since 2002 (Editor’s note: the year Versal was founded).

BM: How long have you had your Versal blog?

MG: We’ve been blogging for about two and half years.

BM: Could you fill me in a bit about what Versal is doing with print and digital media?

MG: Well, we’re not really worried about the digital world encroaching on the literary magazine world, because the literary magazine world is about the object and it’s becoming more and more so. When Versal started in 2002, a literary magazine wasn’t something that was necessarily beautiful, it was just something that had poetry in it and it was on paper. So we were really radical by making it really beautiful. Nowadays, thank God, that’s become more normal. Literary magazines are redesigning or the new ones that are starting up are doing beautiful things. They’ve got designers on board. They’re doing hard-bound editions, they’re doing offset printing, letterpress; people are going back to some of the origins of printing rather than trying to make it worse or go entirely digital. Of course you have literary journals online, but poets, storywriters and artists like to have something to hold, so the literary journals will continue to be in print. I have no doubt of that.

Versal’s movement into the digital world really has to do with being a presence online, so making sure we have the necessary social media that is frequently updated with interesting things so right now, it’s Facebook. Five years from now, it could be something else. Making sure we have a Twitter feed. Making sure we have an interesting blog reel so the editors give you more insight into what we’re doing and making sure we have an online personality. And in the future, if we do anything, it will probably be an annex to the print edition. So you can go online and read a different kind of content online. For example, right now it’s really hip to do video poems. I don’t know if this will continue because most of them are pretty bad, but the online place would be a place where we could publish videos that the poets make, sound art, interviews with our poets online or, better yet, have them read their work that they have published in Versal (print version) on our website. A lot of journals in North America are already doing things like that, so we’re just taking it slow. I think we’re in a really good position, that no one expects Versal to go online anytime soon because people like the object, that’s the journal, so we’ll keep doing that.

BM: Well, thank you very much for that insight. That’s very interesting because Amsterdam Quarterly is always considering different things too. One of the things you mentioned about the video poem, we’re going to start doing that with this issue. Another is a button to see a text in its original language since we’ll be including more literature in translation. I try to add a new feature with every issue. That’s the good thing about having a website. You can always add a new button or feature with every issue to pique people’s interest and to continue developing the website. Boudewijn, what is your vision of the market and how it’s changing?

BR: You can still use paper for some markets, but for the book industry, it means difficult distribution, because it’s not only having the right books, but also the right PR. You can have whole pages in Der Spiegel, and your bookshop may say, “May I have two more copies. I just sold two copies, but I certainly won’t sell a third one.” That’s the mentality of a bookshop, so it’s always this line between very big going in and very small-minded people who you have to go through. And this needs an enormous apparatus that is too expensive now. So therefore, I would like to go around that, and the Internet is one way of going around it. It also has many disadvantages, of course. The Internet is getting more and more expensive. Still, in some ways, it’s still approachable and I am still working with authors.

I’ve put together now ten very special tours: Tibet, Mongolia, Burma, Romania, etc. This is with very famous Dutch authors. They have written books on these countries and they make special readers for the tours. A reader is a kind of tour book with articles to give a better insight, but only used for these particular tours. You cannot buy it in the bookshop. You cannot buy it over the Internet. It is only connected with this particular tour to get another side of what you see. The idea behind it is not only looking at Tibet, but also finding very special places. This morning I had a visitor, and he’s going to do the Mongolian tour. He’s a very famous Dutch author, Erik Bruijn, and he has written a terrific book on Mongolia. He says he went into all sorts of places where they found manuscripts out of the 8th or the 9th centuries. He can read Mongolian and all the languages. He is a specialist. Fantastic new ideas on history are also coming in, also on meditation from lamas, but also from ritual material. There is still so much, which was hidden away from the Soviet Union.

BM: So you’re using an old-style, publishing technique as a new tool. Very interesting.

NS: And how many readers do you print for each tour?

BR: When necessary, by the hundred. It depends on how many are on the tour. They always ask over the Internet or via e-mail: “Can we buy one reader for ourselves?” because there are sometimes famous authors in the reader, in the one about Mongolia certainly, and everyone wants to buy one. But the answer is: “No. It comes only with the tour.” The idea is the combination of the tour with the book.

NS: This is in English or in Dutch?

BR: Some are in English and some are in Dutch. Sometimes these articles are not available in Dutch. Half of the articles are in Dutch. Then, we have to print an English edition. Usually the people who do that are supposed to read English. Not all the Germans do, actually. I have lots of German customers, so that’s how it is.

BM: That’s very interesting. You’ve got the exclusivity of a book that’s bundled only with a tour. Well, we’ve talked about what’s happening in the market, or rather, how your presses have responded to it. What about the literary bookstores here in Amsterdam that support people for readings, for people who like to do really good, serious writing. Which ones are they and where are they? For example, I know The English Bookshop (Lauriergracht 71) has readings and I know the American Book Center (Spui 12) also does….

MG: … the American Book Center is a bit more populous. The English Bookshop is doing a bit of everything. They’re doing a lot of work with children’s book writers and we (Versal) do the occasional poetry reading there, and I have just heard that a short story writer is coming, so The English Bookshop is a great catch all. Perdu (Kloveniersburgwal 86) is a great place for international poetry and also local, Dutch writers. The Athenaeum (Spui 14-16) does something occasionally, but not very often.

BM: And is that in conjunction with the University of Amsterdam, Spui 25? I’m a UvA alumnus and sometimes when people come to read there, it’s in conjunction with the Athenaeum and people go across the street to buy a book with their UvA Alumni discount card or there’s someone with a cash register from the Athenaeum sitting at the back of the hall at Spui 25.

MG: Well, Versal sells the best at Athenaeum. In fact, we’re on one of the university’s current class (reading) lists in English. We’ve sold 30 issues of Versal 9 there alone. Athenaeum is a big supporter of local, international literature because they are interested in it and not just the Dutch literary magazines so they will carry just about anything that is interesting. They carry American and British literary magazines.

NS: I’ve also seen some readings at Selexyz/Scheltema, (Koningsplein 20) but not in English. They have Dutch readings for new books.

MG: And De Balie (Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10) brings a lot of people through their cultural programmes. They’re not always about literature, but sometimes there are some nice crossovers. And sometimes you have John Adams (Herenmarkt 97) doing events all over.

NS: Yeah, the biggest literary ones are at John Adams.

BM: And Boudewijn do you know any bookstores that are good about supporting new authors — authors with books that don’t come from major publishers?

BR: Waterstones (Kalverstraat 152).

MG: Yeah, Waterstones is starting to do more events in the last couple years. They did a book launch for two, local writers, one poet and one fiction writer.

BM: So if we were to map the literary landscape for writers who are getting established, we would say that the area around the Spui would be ground zero with the Athenaeum and the American Book Center across the street from each other, Waterstones being just to the north of that, Selexyz and De Balie being to the south and then of course, The English Bookshop and John Adams being major players also, still in the centre of town or what’s referred to in Amsterdam as the grachtengordel, (canal belt), but about a kilometre or two further to the south and west respectively.

MG: I would still put Perdu (Kloveniersburgwal 86) on your list. It’s poetry-focused, but their bookstore is fantastic. It’s curated very well. They have books not just by Dutch publishers, but also by international publishers and writers. In addition, they have one of the best spaces in Amsterdam as far as I’m concerned—their black-box theatre in the back.

BR: What did you say?

MG: It’s a black-box theatre, a black space….

BM: …they’ve got bleachers for seating and it’s a nice space to do performances; it’s neutral because it’s all painted black.

MG: And they have a press themselves, but they work with small presses here in Holland that do translation work. So, for example, two years ago I saw Peter Gizzi. He was brought over from America. He’s a really big name. A Dutch publisher had made this incredibly beautiful book of translations of his work across the range of his books. And it was 40 euros. It was the most expensive book of poetry I’ve ever seen and it was very small.

BM: Well great. Now from bookshops, I’d like to move on to discuss organizations in Amsterdam that offer writers’ workshops. For example, wordsinhere had a series of workshops that they were doing for a while, and then there’s another organization that’s working out of the English Bookshop. I’m trying to remember their name….

MG: …the Writers’ Studio.

BM: Are there any other organizations? Well, actually you (Nina Siegal/ Time Out Amsterdam) offer some writing courses. Nina teaches her own course, Cultural Journalism 101. Could you tell us a little bit about that course?

NS: Sure. Time Out Amsterdam actually teaches three different courses a year. Mine is an eight-week course on journalistic writing for people who are interested in culture. We also have a class in film criticism.

BM: Yes, I saw that when I was looking at Time Out Amsterdam’s website.

NS: We were also teaching a fiction writing class. The teacher we were using for that, however, has moved back to the US. And also, there are other places teaching fiction writing, so we thought it makes more sense for us to focus on journalism.

MG: It’s funny because when we started doing workshops, we didn’t have any “competition.” And four years later, there were four other organizations doing similar things, which was great. It was a very good sign for everyone in Amsterdam. This sounds a bit dramatic, but people were being entrepreneurial starting up some of their own stuff, whether it was part of their eenmanszaak (one person business) or whether it was building some sort of cultural community enterprise. So actually the reason we pulled back our workshops after this last year has been because we are not interested in competing with our fellow writers for workshop attendees because there’s so much going on around town. So we’re doing some things that Time Out is doing. When we give workshops now, they will be in things that we are specifically interested in and good at, which is publishing, being a writer and trying to publish in the international publishing community and, depending on who’s in town, very specific poetry workshops, which are still quite under-represented.

NS: Since I’ve been here, the people who I’ve met who are very serious about writing have been wordsinhere students. They had so many writing workshops and people who met each other in those workshops who went off to form their own writing groups.

MG: There are probably seven or eight writing groups that I know of meeting now.

BM: We’re (Amsterdam Quarterly’s writers’ group) one of them.


We’re former wordsinhere students, Iclal and I. We went off and formed our own group.

MG: OK. So there’s probably nine or ten.

NS: I’m in a group from mostly wordsinhere people.

BM: OK. Great. Let’s see. We’ve talked a little about markets and places to give readings and workshops. The last topic I wanted to discuss is how you feel about digital media—the good, the bad and the future.  What is your vision? Is it apocalyptical where there are no more bookshops and we’re all running around with our handhelds and people are not reading physical books anymore as I mentioned in the beginning of this interview when I said how I thought tourists would soon be exploring Amsterdam digitally? Will everyone connect with each other via the Internet to write, workshop and publish their work? What do you see as the future?

NS: I’m a really bad person to ask about this because I started my career in San Francisco in the ’90s at the very beginning of the Silicon Valley boom. Everybody I knew at that time was migrating to online media and saying: “There won’t be print publications anymore. You’d better get into online media.” Even at that time I was a bit resistant to it, because I just wanted to work in print journalism. I love reading newspapers and magazines and I like the way they feel. I have written for online magazines like Salon since the beginning of my career, but I’ve managed to have 20 years of a career so far without going into digital media and I am so happy about it. Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is incredible as a resource and as a tool, and there are amazing advances in social media that help us in the journalistic trade. I just haven’t seen that much real journalism that is that great that is written exclusively for the Net, yet. It’s surprising. The amount of energy, capital, entrepreneurship that goes into that endeavour, compared to the actual amount of work that you actually see that is readable, reliable and professional is really low. Ultimately things are going in that direction, but I’m also surprised to see how many of those magazines that started up online have folded or have cut back to the point where they barely exist. The really successful ones also….

BR: …on the Internet and on paper?

NS: No, the ones that only exist online are largely – of course you have things like The Huffington Post and Gawker that do really well. I think it would be foolish to say, though, that it was not going to be the primary way that people will relate words in the future. I think it’s just a matter of interface and not a matter of craft, so maybe we will be holding holograms in the future. The thing you have to learn to do as a journalist or as a writer is going to be the same exact thing you had to learn in the past. I hope that the mediums, the interfaces, get to the point where they are enjoyable to hold, like they’re starting to be with the tablets, but I don’t think we have to change fundamentally what we’re writing. It’ll be more about formatting and word count. If we still want to write good things, the same standards will apply.

BM: Megan, what do you see as the future in regards to Versal, with digital media?

MG: I have to say I really agree with the distinction between the medium itself and the physical act of writing. These things need to be discussed in different places—the same standard of aesthetic and the moving target of aesthetic—that conversation still needs to be had. I think when we had our initial boost of Internet journalism and Internet writing in general and the blogosphere, typos just became the status quo. I think that those of us who are in the publishing world should continue to hold up those high standards of, for example, grammar.


In terms of Versal, this is a time as poet, when I am in a unique position. As I said earlier, the digital world is not necessarily encroaching dramatically over my head. It is important for the literary world to be present online, for poets to maybe have a website or a Twitter feed, but I don’t necessarily think that I should be publishing my poetry exclusively online, or that Versal, literary journals, chapbook publishers or collection publishers should necessarily worry too much about digital media because the niche is so specific. There was a moment, about four years ago, when the literary world, in North America specifically, was freaking out about what you said, Bryan, an apocalypse that would kill all small press publishers and bookstores. Four years later, the story is very different and everyone has calmed down, which is very nice to see. In fact, what I’m seeing from a lot of small press publishers in North American—I think I mentioned this in an interview with Hazel & Wren—that people are owning up to a kind of fetish about paper. Let’s admit it. We like paper. We like the smell of ink. We like things being tangible or physical in our hands. And so a lot of publishers are taking advantage of that and making even more beautiful books—going back to hard-bound and to letterpress and doing all these really beautiful things with paper again. I think this is a really exciting time to be a small press publisher.

BM: So, it’s sort of our Arts and Crafts Movement for publishing?  That’s why Amsterdam Quarterly decided to print a yearly anthology of its tri-quarterly work online using the American Book Center’s print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine. This way AQ can print a limited number of high-quality, bound copies as souvenirs for contributors and reading attendees.

MG: Yes. DIY publishing is back in. A large majority of the community is interested in the small, the handheld, the tangible form of the art, and so it’s really exciting to see even big names in American poetry, publish with small houses because they want to see their work in that beautiful form. But if you are a publisher and you are putting out novels, you should no doubt also have an e-book version, no doubt. Should Versal have an e-book version? No, I don’t think so at this point because people buy it for the object.

BM: Boudewijn, would you like to have the last word about the last question about the digital future, or if there is one for literature and writing here in Amsterdam? How will it affect your press and publications?

BR: Basically I agree with what Megan said about Internet growth. It certainly will grow for mainly digital publications and authors. Publishers will try to find a mass market via the Internet. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a niche for people still interested in buying paper books. Not all authors are fit for a mass market. Many publishers still think: ‘We need to sell 100,000 copies.’ Many authors are not fit for that, so as long as people can order books via the Internet, I think it will go two different ways. We had the invention of the pocket book by Penguin and they sold ten times more books, so it will be very nice over the Internet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the printed book. There will always be an interest in narrative fiction and poetry and where there is this interest, there will always be books available in one way or another.

BM: OK. Publishers and editors, thank you so much for participating in this roundtable today.

Iclal Akcay – One more step

One More Step
by Iclal Akcay

You see, my stories are the same. I don’t fall in love at first sight. I barely noticed him hanging around most of the evening. I don’t know when exactly he came into the frame. A secret current moving underneath through a gesture or utterance, perhaps. Then I’d feel it coming, getting pulled into the game. He sits there in a corner with others. I found myself on a chair next to him within a moment, without recalling the steps I must have taken. I hear my own voice, wondering who asked the questions that he was quietly answering. Am I there at all, while all this happening? He wants to dance. I say, “no”. Why? Then he stands up to leave, taking my body with him, which I realise only when I find myself in the empty space he left behind.

Last Monday I developed a way to recover from pain. When I felt it coming, I lay down on the floor, hands at my side, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. And you think this is the way? A big “No, no!” I kept lying there, the pain on top, arresting my arms, my chest… invading my body to the point of paralysis so that I might have been dragged to a rehab. I felt the Tibetan wool carpet getting cold underneath. Right then, tears came without warning, as a temporary saviour, wheeling me into the ambulance of sleep.

The same current that brought me to him, pulls me up. I go dancing, surprising everyone with this sudden burst of energy, having sulked the entire evening. But my friends obey cheerfully without asking.

When a sting in my tummy woke me up, I knew this would forecast a dark day in the history of rain. I had to do things and being in pain is not considered an excuse for not paying your bills or missing appointments. The sky was just as gray as yesterday and the people as harsh as any other. At the City Hall, knowing a sad look isn’t going to move the lady in the application booth, I put on a blank face while she pointed at my mistakes on the form, oblivious to my struggle. I changed the words as she instructed me.

We are leaving now. Moving in a herd to say our goodbyes to the other group where he also stands, being engaged in chitchat. I meet his eyes without looking at his face and turn to smile at him as he makes a compliment to a dangling earring on my left ear. He asks me to stay to dance. I say no again.

After filling in the forms, I cycled to one of my favourite, anonymous chain cafes where I could sit by the window and watch people passing by.

We’re moving near the lift for the exit. Barely leaning against a couch in the hall, I can feel his attention following me. Talking to a girlfriend something raises in my chest, seeing him coming to talk to us. She leaves to look for others. We’re alone for a moment. He pulls my hand to go dancing with him. I simply obey him this time. There, on the crowded dance floor, we’re moving in our own rhythm, falling into each others arms, faces brushing one another. Smiling with our eyes, he softly touches my lips.

Haarlemmeerstraat proved to be impossible for cigarettes. But the beginning of trashy Kalverstraat worked. I asked for a menthol Vogue and also asked the shop owner to light the first one, one of my first in three years. One is nothing with menthol, an immediate second followed, lit with the fire of the first one. With my head fuzzy, lagging behind the wet and cold cyclists in early dark woke me up, I went straight to my old apartment to pick up the post, which I had neglected for weeks.

Out on the street, still not knowing how to deal with this sudden romance, I remain distant. We get our bikes and cycle the same direction. I leave him, after a soft kiss at an intersection, to go home.

While waiting for the door to open in the entrance of this red brick prism, some familiar face kindly invited me in, and insisted when I resisted. I went into the lift with him, diving into an unusually long, friendly conversation about the cold. And suddenly, under the stripping bright light of the elevator, he burst into tears, the first instant followed with sobbing. We were at his floor already, I stepped out automatically to help soothing his agony, his standing two feet taller than me. His boyfriend, Theo said among a stream of tears and that definition comforted me, has broken up with him, ordered him to leave. In the face of this unexpected drama, having almost recovered from my own, I gave my word that everything would eventually be fine. I gave him a hug and in between other words, another one, trying, and with a smile widening on his face, finally breaking through his wall of hopelessness.

Almost a week now and not a word from him. This lack of contact defines the days. Sometime later, when I’m done with his pain, and I know I will be, he’ll show up. I might try to get him back, send him messages, travel distances, try whatever it takes.

I called Theo as I’ve promised. His voice was cracking but he managed to put a few words together despite an obvious struggle to reassure me that he would be able to move on. His boyfriend was in Paris he said, probably to meet his new lover, which explained his frequent trips in the past few months that he claimed were for business. By the time he’d be back, within a week, Theo should be gone from their place. “Where would I go?”, he was asking, “where would I go?”. Although considering whether I could take him in for a split of a second, I said: “You’ll find a solution, please try concentrating on who you are and calm down.” When I left him in the middle of his crisis, I felt stronger, finally. I had things to do.

He’ll come back. Some day. Like all the others did. He’ll finally be ready to open up. Then maybe he’ll write to me, send messages, travel distances. But whatever he’d do then, would be like throwing a stone into the void, falling weightlessly, echoing as it struck the walls of an endless, bottomless chasm.

Bryan R. Monte – The Welding Link: My Experience with the Paranormal

The Welding Link: My Experience with the Paranormal
by Bryan R. Monte

….(T)here is a welding link, of some kind or other, between the fathers and the children…. Joseph Smith, Jr., Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Section 110: 18b (Removed 1990).

When I was boy, I awoke one night to see a dead uncle’s head hovering next to my bed. It was then I first realized I was really different. And even though as a teenager I joined a church founded by the son of the man who saw God, Jesus, and an angel floating in the woods of Upstate New York, I knew this was something I couldn’t share with the brothers and sisters at Wednesday night prayer and testimony meeting.

According to the research I’ve done, I’m primarily an involuntary clairsentient—someone who senses things at a distance and who makes predictions based upon feelings or intuitions. Mostly this happens while I’m conscious and includes things such as long-distance fathom pains or also, more recently, unexplained auditory and visual “hallucinations.” Although I do occasionally “see” things in dreams à la Allison DuBois, the psychic who helps the Phoenix Police solve or prevent murders in the television series, Medium, most of what I experience happens while I’m awake.

In addition, I would like to emphasis that these “experiences” come of their own volition. I can’t turn them on or off. Like Ms. DuBois, I can’t consult a crystal ball or put myself into a trance to see the future on demand. And the majority of these experiences are about my family and my partner. So, in general, you can sit next to me or even shake my hand and I won’t know if you’re going to be involved in a serious accident or lose your baby. What’s most unsettling for me is that even if I do “pick up” something, there’s usually nothing I can do about it. Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol who hopes he sees “…shadows of things that may be?” what I perceive is almost always unalterable—and I consider myself lucky just to be able to get out of the way.

In the past 47 years that I have had these premonitions, precognitions, visions and dreams, there are two questions that have really haunted me: “Why do these things happen to me?” and more importantly “What am I supposed to do with this information?” This last question is especially relevant when it comes to sudden intuitions or insights about strangers.

About ten years ago, I started to talk to my family about my “experiences.” I discovered my mother and older sister both had their own stories. Other siblings either hadn’t been affected or would have none of it. From these discussions, I can infer that my clairvoyance is hereditary and has been handed down on my mother’s side for at least three generations. My German-American grandmother and one of my three aunts in Ohio developed something of a reputation for having “experiences.” They also believed in faith healings and joined the Christian Science church, though my grandfather and uncle remained Lutherans. My mother, who had far too much pain in her life to give up pills, found and held onto my pharmacist father, much like Jacob wrestling with the angel, until he finally agreed—three years later—to marry her. Mother was not a healer, but rather a visionary who had frighteningly reliable premonitions. “There’s a tornado coming!” or “You’re going to slide off the road in the snow!” she’d say as I walked or drove away from home, years before Doppler Radar and severe weather warnings. And she was always right.

Unlike grandmother and my mother, though, I am not a healer and very rarely, a visionary. I do, however, have a very sensitive antenna that picks up bad news hundreds or even thousands of miles away.


The day my father had his fatal heart attack in March 1988 would probably be the classic example of how my clairsentience works. This, I might add, is also probably one of the most common paranormal experiences. For example, Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current generators and wireless electrical transmission, dreamt of his mother’s impending death. He left New York immediately for present-day Croatia and arrived just hours before she expired.

In my case, I had not seen my family for more than eight months after moving from Massachusetts to San Francisco in 1987. I had called my mother around Christmas, but hadn’t heard anything unusual regarding my father’s health. One day in mid-March 1988, however, while lunching in the company canteen, I suddenly felt sharp, repeated chest pains. I turned to one of my co-workers and said: “I’m having a heart attack.” She looked at me and laughed. “You’re perfectly healthy!” and she was right. Then I thought, ‘I’m not having a heart attack, my father is.’ My heart felt like an anvil stuck by a hammer, the waves ringing down through my torso into my legs and feet, through the floor, reverberating towards the center of the earth. I also felt surprise, confusion, sorrow, apprehension, regret and the thought that my father was being taken to a place of instruction.

A bit shaken, I went back to my desk and phoned my family home. No one answered. I gave the underwriters the risk analysis computer runs I’d just completed that morning so they could finish pricing a big account renewal. I told them I would be gone unexpectedly for a few days. Around four o’clock my roommate called. Rather guardedly, he said there was a message on the answering machine I needed to listen to when I got home. I thanked him for his concern. I had to drive through very heavy, rush-hour traffic, and even on a good day, I was a nervous driver. I told him, however, I had already got the message and would be home at the usual time. After I arrived home, I got one of my younger brothers on the phone and he confirmed that my father had just died from a heart attack.

Similar to my father’s passing, when my mother had her final stroke, I shared her pain and discomfort long distance.  I was in Missouri, preparing to go to Salt Lake City to deliver a paper. This time, my youngest brother called me to say that my mother was in hospital after having had a stroke. He assured me, however, that she was doing well and had been talking and laughing with the ambulance drivers and hospital staff.

“You don’t need to come home. She’s all right,” he told me. That night, however, I was awakened by hunger pains, which I rarely experience. In college I could miss several meals while working on papers. I wouldn’t realize it though, until I suddenly felt lightheaded, fell over or couldn’t dial the telephone properly.

I got up early the next morning and ate breakfast hoping that would take care of the pain, but it didn’t. It was then that I knew my mother was in distress and I made arrangements to go back to Ohio.

When I arrived at the hospital, I discovered my mother had had nothing solid to eat for three days. In addition, she could no longer talk, nor did she recognize me. Her “wandering” left hand had been tied to the bedframe because it had repeatedly ripped out her IVs and tried to push her out of bed.

“She gagged when we tried to feed her with a tube,” the nurse said. Then she pointed to the clear solution going into her veins. “She gets nutrition from that.”

That might have been the case, but the lack of food in her stomach had probably also given my mother tremendous hunger pains. My mother, a strong woman who had born five children without complications and who thirty years ago had gained so much weight she could only wear stretch pants, now lay in bed as thin and as light as a bird.

“She needs to be fed!” I insisted but no one listened. And by the time they finally did get a line into her, she was almost gone. The next day she lapsed into a coma before dying three weeks later.

Precognition and premonitions

The next type of “experience” I’ve had both while conscious and while dreaming. And although my family isn’t aware of this, my precognition was responsible for my changing popularity in high school and for winning a college scholarship.

The summer of 1973, I was enrolled in a trigonometry course. The night before an exam, I had a dream in which I saw all the test questions including which ones I would get right and wrong. The next morning I took the same exam, but even though I had had a preview the night before, I still couldn’t make myself change my answers to change my score.

During my junior year, I gained a reputation for being able to get high marks on history exams. From the thousands of years covered, the hundreds of documents mentioned and the dozen theories discussed, I was able to predict with regularity the periods, documents and theories tested. Classmates, who had formerly ignored or bullied me, fought hard to be in my study group. I scored so well on a statewide exam that I was offered a full scholarship to a state university. Much to my parents’ consternation, however, I didn’t take it. While on campus that same weekend, I had had a strong, overpoweringly ill feeling—as if something horrible instead of wonderful might happen to me on that campus. Four years later while studying somewhere else, I heard that two gay men had almost been killed there. The door to their room had been set alight. The only way the university finally brought the situation under control was to empty out that entire dormitory and re-house everyone at different locations across campus.

Another time a foreboding feeling caused me to change my plans and do something the hard way was in December 1985, when I was preparing to deliver a paper at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention in Chicago. Instead of flying from Providence, Rhode Island, which would have taken about two hours and been much more comfortable, I went by train, which took a day and half. I did this because for months I had had a recurring a dream of a terrorist attack at an airport. I left Providence the day after Christmas and arrived in Chicago on the 27th. When I got to my hotel room and switched on the television, I saw the news footage of two coordinated attacks earlier that day in the Rome and Vienna.

Not all my premonitions have been unpleasant, however. While on holiday in 1989, I walked past the cheese, fish, bakery, flower and clothing stalls in Haarlem’s cobblestoned Grote Markt in front of the red-bricked St. Bavo church with its iron-crowned spire. Standing next to the bronze-green statue of Laurens Janzoon Coster, the 15th century Dutch Gutenberg, I suddenly had the most overwhelmingly certain feeling that I would live there one day. I had wanted to move to the Netherlands for about three years, but I couldn’t explain the intensity of this feeling. It went beyond hopeful enthusiasm. Besides, my chances of exchanging the sun, fog, rolling hills and perpetual white breakers of the San Francisco’s Ocean Beach for Haarlem’s church bells, museums, narrow streets, bicycles and rain were quite slim. I wasn’t in love with anyone Dutch nor did I work for company that could send me there to do business, which is how all the other Americans I knew in the Netherlands had come to live there. I had a few acquaintances in a Dutch, gay dining club, the Donderdagavond Eet Club or DEC, but no one with whom I was in love. I went back to the US and my job as a system administrator at an insurance firm in downtown San Francisco.

When I told my friends about my premonition in the town square they laughed. “Everyone has that feeling on vacation,” they said. “It’s called Shirley Valentine Syndrome,” after the main character of a British film of the same name. It portrayed the life of a woman who leaves her little, rainy, numbing, gray life in Britain for a bigger, sunny, more sensual one along the blue Aegean.

Every year thereafter, I went back to the Netherlands for two weeks on holiday, wearing my blue blazer, a red tie and khaki trousers, distributing CVs at all the English-language schools from Overijssel in the North to Limburg in the South. By April 1993, I’d lost my job due to my insurance company’s fourth reorganization when one day the phone rang. An international school in Amsterdam was looking for a new system administrator right away. It was only a part-time job, but the school was also willing to offer occasional substitute teaching jobs to supplement my income since I was a native speaker and had two degrees in English. I packed a bag and left immediately for Amsterdam.

At the interview, I was asked if I knew how to work with the “new” Apple laptop, the PowerBook. I took mine out of my bag and started it up, its now familiar chimes startling the interviewer slightly.

“What would you like to know?” I said placing it on his desk. Then the interviewer asked about my experience with the new TrueType fonts and data backup. I told him what I knew about the recent transition from Postscript to TrueType fonts and about the automated backup systems I had used at the insurance company where I had worked. Then he asked if I could get into the school’s server, which was in a locked room. I asked for a network cable.

“Would you like grades, medical records or meeting notes?” I asked five minutes later. I was hired and within three months, most of my belongings and I had been transported from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to a house three miles from Haarlem’s Grote Markt.

Tactile, Auditory and Visual Phenomena

During the last decade, my intuitions have not only been emotive but also tactile and visual. I’ve picked up things occasionally from shaking people’s hands. I’m not just talking about colds or vibes either. I’m talking about two specific instances of information about someone’s present or future health. The first time was in August 2001. I had just taken my first, permanent, college teaching job. It’s a custom in the Netherlands to meet your colleagues individually and shake their hands. That’s how I met a colleague who was pregnant and who everyone was busy telling how healthy she looked. “She’s glowing,” they said. I looked at her and saw something completely different. She looked “green around the gills,” as my mother would say. I shook her hand and knew immediately her baby was dying or dead. I didn’t mentioned anything to the woman, but when I went home that night I told my partner while he was making supper.

“She’s going to lose the baby.”

About a month later, the woman got the bad news from her doctor.

The second time I learned something from shaking a new acquaintance’s hand was in August 2006 in Salt Lake. By coincidence, I happened to meet an editor in a supermarket who was about to publish one of my long poems in her literary magazine. She was with her teenage daughter who was a bit embarrassed and bothered by a large, uncomfortable, old-fashioned, metal and tan leather padded knee brace she had to wear due to a recent volleyball injury. When I shook her daughter’s hand, a little voice inside my head said: “Her injuries are going to get much worse before they get any better.” It was the last time I saw the editor alive. Two weeks later, the car in which she and her daughter were travelling was involved in a collision. The editor died and her daughter suffered multiple spinal injuries.

Similar to my nightmares about the airport attacks in 1985, from 2005 to 2008 I would often wake weeping, having dreamt that I’d been unable to attend my mother’s funeral. Due to this, I tried to visit my mother as often as I could because I knew her time was running out. This didn’t seem logical, though, because she was only in her late 70s, and her mother and grandmother had lived well into their 90s.

A vision my mother related to me during a visit to Ohio in January 2008, however, indicated that there were grounds for concern. As she lay in bed one evening, she saw a man wearing a hood obscuring his face, walk out of her closet.

“Mary,” he said, “I’ve come to take you home.”

“Alright,” she said at first, not remembering where she was. When she looked up and realized she was already in her own bed, she said, “Hey, wait a second, I’m already home.” Then angry and frightened, she shouted. “Who are you,” followed by “Get out of here!” My mother said the man then ran back into her closet and disappeared

I knew then it was time to say goodbye to my mother. I went up to the attic and got my stamp collection and my box of my high school and college correspondence and awards and took them back with me to Europe.

After my mother went into a coma in August 2008, I went on to Salt Lake City to deliver a paper. Then I flew back home to the Netherlands. On the way back, my feet started to buzz, tingle and then burn. This pain became stronger and spread further up my legs. It became increasingly uncomfortable to wear shoes and trousers. At night I couldn’t even put a sheet over my legs without being awakened from the pain. I took aspirin and elevated my legs, but nothing seemed to alleviate the pain. I even put ice packs in my socks and underpants to try to decrease my discomfort so I could make it through my meetings, classes and lectures. A few weeks later my mother died. The doctors and the airlines, however, wouldn’t permit me fly to the States. From the symptoms I described and the way I walked, they were afraid I had thrombosis or some other dangerous medical condition. So in the end, I missed my mother’s funeral just as I’d always dreamt and feared.

In addition, while I was still grieving at home and at work, the pain in my legs increased so much that within a month, I was hospitalized. After spine and brain scans, an angiogram and a spinal tap, I was finally discharged with a preliminary diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Since the onset of this illness, my “experiences,” seem to have a new, visual component that has been missing since childhood. Due to my medical condition, it became necessary to look for a new apartment with a lift. I did this quickly because a woman in my hospital ward with similar symptoms ended up with a paralyzed hand and foot. As a result, a social worker banned her from her fourth floor apartment in a building with no lift. My partner and I also lived in a fourth floor apartment with no lift.

As soon as we could, we began looking at properties around town. While viewing two condos, I had two visual “experiences.” We found an apartment that was the right size, price, and just a block away, but for some unexplainable reason, I felt very uncomfortable similar to the time I was ill on the university campus. On my second visit, I looked out the master bedroom window and momentarily caught a glimpse of an old man with white hair in the building across the alley glaring at me angrily. When I looked a moment later, he was gone. I told my partner that something terrible was going to happen in the building across the alley. He laughed it off and put in a low bid for the apartment so that if we discovered something was wrong with it, we would still have the money for repairs. Our bid, however, was rejected and I told my partner not to place a second.

A few months later we looked at another apartment across from an old, abandoned school. We’d seen the apartment once before and found it a bit too small even though it was slightly larger than the one we lived in. Moving in would be a question of my partner being prepared to put some things in storage in order for everything to fit.

While he was thinking about that, I looked out the window at the front and side yards the school across the street. They were covered with metre-high, purple thistles and short, orange poppies and other wild flowers. Suddenly, I saw children, who weren’t there, playing in the yards. “They’re going to reopen the school,” I told my partner.

“No, they won’t,” he countered. “It’s going to be turned into apartments. I read it in the newspaper.”

“It’s going to be a school again,” I insisted. I was afraid of buying an apartment directly across from a school because our present apartment was directly across from one. The result of which was that we were treated during the day to primary school children’s screams and awakened in the middle of the night at weekends to the drunken shouts of teenagers sitting on the playground equipment. We didn’t, however, put a bid in on the apartment across from the school because a slightly larger unit on the other side of the same building became available, which we purchased.

About six months after we’d moved into the slightly larger apartment, I happened to bicycle past the first apartment where we’d offered the low bid. I smelt smoke and was horrified to see that the building had had a major fire the night before. The first floor had been gutted and the fire brigade were still picking carefully through the dripping-wet debris. The fire had been so hot or the flames so high that it/they had melted the drainpipes of the apartment building where my partner had placed the low bid. And, in addition to the usual smoke and water damage, asbestos had also been released. A day later, the burnt building was taped off in three-story-high plastic sheets while workers in white, plastic disposal suits and breathing apparatus scrubbed the walls of the burnt building.

Three more months later, a ten-foot-high sign appeared in the abandoned school’s front yard.  Dag- en naschool verblijfcentrum “Day and afterschool childcare centre.” In addition, the centre’s hours will be almost twice as long as a normal school’s, from 7 AM to 7 PM. So, back to my question: What do I do with this information? A college friend back in Phoenix (not Allison DuBois) has told me that if I ever I shake her daughter’s hand and hear something, I am to tell her immediately, no matter what. Others have told me to keep my hallucinations to myself.

Someday science may discover some ultra-low frequency, genetic senders and receivers, the welding link, which led to my reception of my parents’ fatal distress. Maybe then I will understand how they contacted me before “checking out,” and why, instead of sharing their joy with me, all I perceived was their final distress. Perhaps science may also one day discover the existence of auras, why some people can see them, and why I detected a disease and a future injury in two strangers.

And someday I hope to understand the origin and the meaning of the last experience I am about to relate. With my new malady and medications, I returned to work even though walking, talking, writing and teaching became progressively slower, more difficult and painful. To help conserve energy and to stay at college as long as possible, I asked for a room where I could rest for an hour in the middle of each workday. I received permission to use the first-aid room in another building on campus used by some of my own students who had MS. For half an hour I tried to let go of the pain, to lie still on the thick, black, cushioned examination table so that the motion-activated lights would go out and the windowless room would become pitch black.

Sometimes I would doze in this darkness, other times I was so restless, preoccupied with college business or the persistent burning pain in my foot or leg, that the lights never went out. This time however, completely exhausted, I quickly feel asleep in the cool blackness. And I dreamt I saw my mother again, not the thin, bird-like woman tied to the hospital bed, but the robust woman I knew in her early 40s, her round body filled with muscle and energy, wrapped in radiant, white clothing. She came through the veil Joseph Smith, Jr. described separating this world from the next and floated over the table. I reached out to her through the blackness that separated us. She took my hands in hers and said in Dutch: Ik wil je laten weten dat je veel voor mij betekent. “I want you to know that you mean a lot to me.” Then footsteps in the corridor outside awakened me.