SEX BLUE, by Doug Milam

Milam’s poem “Chicago,” featured in our All Hands ON: THE2NDHAND After 10 collection, is likewise now available in a special-edition letterpress/digital print chapbook. You can pick it up here. Milam lives and writes in Bellingham, Wash.


She put her sex blue eyes high on me. Are you lost? her driver called out as they rolled up in their all terrain golf cart, with two spaniels riding in the jumper. He saw that I was carrying a book; perhaps he took it for a guide, took it for a ride. I strolled to, foul weather or fair, certainly strange. The cart puttered to a stop and are you lost? seeing a book in my hands and damn well not now, walking to and greeting in the western way, to.

They stay in the cart parked and I bend down or bow to bend to, going east, young. First thing his oil rigged hair; he could have been a session man for Jerry Lee and her hair hung up in my eyes, she turned her sex blue eyes a cool bit to the back my way and I smiled and shook, shook hands.

I’m a friend of the property, I explain. Tucked on my belt out of just sight or sign is my silver saddled in .357 should things get natural that way. He gave me his full name, alpha and omega, and I heard hers a sweet word, not quite double my years, her head back against the rest and the shade there shadowed the blue down, down from the sky and she thought of summers ago never shared with her driver now.

He and I talked of forest fires and resources and gates open or closed, tire marks and cabins burning in the winter distance. Wishing well we took care to sun-pleased smiles and her sex blue eyes had set on me beyond the ridge where I would not be staying long, except.



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THEY WERE GODS — redux, by Kate Duva

Kate Duva (pictured, with chinchilla) performed this piece, with considerable laughter as part, alongside Jonathan Messinger, Jill Summers and THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills‘ own “They Were Gods” riffs, published as a unit here. The performance was on the occasion of release of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, where you can find more of Duva’s work.


They were gods. King Tut. Genghis Khan. Crazy Horse. Erik the Red. Bootsy Collins, Elvis Presley, the Backstreet Boys. And I slept with them all.

It all opened up for me shortly after my 969th birthday. I was still active in my local singles’ adventure club, where a swing dance or a mystery dinner theater or haunted hay ride inevitably ended in a love marathon — but — I just burned out on the physical demands of it all, not to mention the danger of modern day cooties.

And then the perfect solution to the hassles of dating hit me — virtual sex. No technology involved — I’m talking séances. Ethical séances! — lest you think I raped Genghis Khan. I’m not a succubus. If anything, Mr. Khan had his way with me, but I can’t say I didn’t have fun. I always ask for permission, and I always get it.

Seances aren’t limited to the dead, I call in the spirit of my neighbor, the guy with a wife and newborn triplets and a dog that squirts its way around the block four times a day, and believe me, he’s always ready for a little action.

On September 3, 1988, Little Richard made an announcement that he had seen the light of the Lord and could proclaim himself a proud ex-gay — and you’d best believe I was in his bedroom the night of September 2.

My man-journeys do go beyond the strictly erotic. I don’t do it just to get my rocks off anymore. I had big plans when I seduced Donald Rumsfeld, for example, or when I appeared in Karl Rove’s secret chamber — those were genuine missions to dig up the dirt we need exposed to set America back on track, but I have to admit I found myself getting a little sidetracked by the humanity I found lurking under the surface both in Karlitos and Donny Boy.

I’m a bleedin’ heart. I’ll give a demon my breast. In fact, when I lived in Kathmandu I had a volunteer job doing just that. That is one culture in which they’ve recognized that it’s more cost-effective to suckle demons than to lock them up.

I did — get — a temporary case of gonorrhea when I slept with (God, I have selective amnesia when it comes to certain tortured souls) the vice president who shot someone and had the lesbian romance novelist wife — Cheney! Dick Cheney gave me the clap, a full-blown case of it, then POOF! It disappeared. No antibiotics. Just prayer, and a little shamanic healing from my meerkat guides. Clearly that was a psychic illness that manifested, ever so briefly, on a physical level.

It taught me that I can use that physical level wisely for erotic multi-tasking. I call in the spirits of men to help me open jars, or show me how to use tools — take a peek at my engine, check my oil — and one thing leads to another. Just think about who you could call in to check your oil. Ramses. Sun Ra. Alexander the Great. Homer. Rumi. Poseidon. Jesus. Vlad the Impaler.

So — moving along! What I’d like to do this evening is share some of my techniques in seductive séance with all of you so that you too can benefit from this sustainable technology of safe and pleasurable lovem– did you hear that? Whoa, did you feel that? Hahaha. Yeah, I actually need to get going now. It’s Genghis paging me. Ladies and gentlemen — I think I have a booty call.



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THEY WERE GODS, by Pitchfork Battalion (Jill Summers, Todd Dills, Jonathan Messinger)

Debuted at THE2NDHAND’s release event for All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 Oct. 2, 2011, at Quimby’s in Chicago, this piece required the three collaborators to use the phrase in the story’s title. It’s part of a long-running series of collabos we’ve engineered under the Pitchfork moniker. For more from pre-2011, check out this page, and otherwise search “Pitchfork Battalion” on txt here. The live version included an otherwise untxtable performance by the great Kate Duva, which itself included an onstage laughter freakout — you know how infectious it is when someone is just truly cracking up? It was like that, really and figuratively. Oh if only the vid camera had been running. Here’s to you, Duva.


Hildy is holding Nemo under his front legs with one arm, letting his hind legs and tail sway back and forth under his bloated stomach. She is calling him “my baby” and reaching for a popsicle that I am holding just out of her reach, just for the hell of it. Every time she reaches for it, I pull it away and Hildy jerks forward to try and reach it again. In this manner, she has stepped on Nemo’s tail four times, each time sending a low growl up into his throat like a pump organ. I hold the popcicle over my head. Sticky red syrup drips onto Hildy’s mom’s couch, which is new and white leather and wraps around the perimeter of our living room. We have the same dad, but regardless, Hildy is a pretty stupid kid. She’s nowhere near old enough to have a baby and Nemo is a cat. It’s fairly obvious.

“Is that your baby?” I ask her as I bite the top off the popsicle, “Is that your big ugly baby, Hildy?” the remainder of the popsicle between my cheek and bottom teeth.

She erupts in a wail that sends Nemo flying. “Can you say ‘pussy,’ Hlldy?” I say. “Go tell mom your big fat pussy ran away, Hildy,” the popcicle melting down the side of my face.

“Jeremy,” Hildy’s mom says, suddenly in the doorway. “We are using ‘vagina,’ and you know it. Don’t you have homework to do?”

When my mom lived here we had a regular fabric couch but at least she wore normal pants. Hildy’s mom wears loungewear and even when she was pregnant her velour track pants were tight enough to make out every curve of each cheek. She caught me looking at them once and told me I should have seen them ten years ago — “They were Gods,” she told me, “Gods.” –Summers


“Oh no oh no!” she said, crouched, top of the slide. “You’re falling, you’re falling!” She let go of the boy’s hands and he slid down on his stomach, feet first, laughing. “Aw,” she lamented when he reached the bottom. “You don’t have any hands, little doggy. Your paws can’t hold on. Try it again, c’mon c’mon.”

And the boy rattled over gravel on hands and knees, barking, around the bottom of the slide to the ladder, still barking, up in quick steps and pulls with newfound climbing joy and, laughing now, back to the platform where she chastised him for climbing – “Doggies can’t go up ladders,” then: “I am God,” she said, “I’m killing you.” She quickly extended her right arm, finger pointed in his direction, striking him down.

He barked, falling onto his stomach, barking again, laughing. She was “my favorite,” he’d told his mother. Her father could at least see that he was her’s too, unlike most of the other three-year-olds willfully, easily dominated in celestial gaming. He wondered, watching from outside the fence, across the playground, what God meant to her other than the ability to kill, where exactly she’d first heard the word.

“Oh no oh no oh no!” she shouted this time, letting go of the boy’s hands. But he did not slide. He held on, laughing as she waved her paws in his face, then relented – “OK OK OK” — and laid belly-down next to him, her hands like his gripping the edge of the platform.

They were gods, one and all. “Ready, set,” she said, and they both let go. –Dills


Shortly after I first moved to Chicago, I was riding the Red Line at a time when no one wants to ride the Red Line. Around 2:45 in the morning, at the Granville stop, a couple boarded. I’d guess they were in their 50s, the man dressed in a large suit the color of the deepest red sunset, when the light in the sky is humming at its lowest frequency. It had shoulder pads somewhere between Brian Urlacher and Murphy Brown, and sequins squinted out in well-worn patches. I can’t describe the dress the woman wore, except to ask if you remember how at one time women’s dresses were made out of an almost dangerous gold-metal fabric that looked like foil. It was arranged in impossible shapes. It didn’t even appear sewn together, just bunches of dress-like substance orbiting her body.

They were tired, these two. We shared the car with a few somnolent drunks. I wasn’t drunk, but I was stupid at the sight of this couple. I stared at them with no shame. Just laser focus through the murky CTA dust-light. They smiled and talked to no one. I couldn’t imagine what world they’d just emerged from, certainly one long closed off to me. They were used to being stared at, or once were. Once, they were gods, probably.

When I was a bored kid, I would crack the spines of my brother’s D&D reference volumes, the ones that detailed the miscellany of creatures of various dead mythologies. What always fascinated me were the horrifyingly inconsequential divinities, the ones that, right beneath their names, were labeled “Lesser God,” like Tyr, the god of combat who only had one hand. It seemed like such an unnecessary downgrade. I understood it in some cases, I guess, like with the God of Apples. That’s a pretty lesser god.

Later, I realized that Chicago is a city of lesser gods. So many fiefdoms and cults and walled communities full of their own mythologies. That couple on the Red Line, royalty in some netherworld. A one-legged vendor on Maxwell Street once tried to sell me a stolen bicycle by demonstrating how he could ride it one-legged. It didn’t work but I could tell it had in the past and would again. He’s a lesser god. Sharkula, the rapper, his whole existence screams chaotic neutral, and someone out there worships him as a lesser god. Cynthia Plaster Caster, Rich Koz, Jojo Baby, Miguel del Valle and the puppet bike. Lesser gods, minor Midwestern divinities, all of them. –Messinger


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Fine stuff to share today, a performance from my Philly reading a couple weeks back, touring with the All Hands On book, with Ryan Eckes, Pete Richter and Mickey Hess — all fine and dandy humans with ever capable pens, typing fingers and brains, it’s certain.

Joining Hess and Richter for a Nerves of Steel-worthy performance of Hess’ classic short “The Novelist & the Rapper” (I know it’s been years since I first read it, and Hess reminds me that I made some suggestions on an early draft related to an appearance of headdresses) was a gent who performs under the name Traum Diggs, otherwise known as Dave, doing something behind Richter and Hess’ Q&A he hadn’t done since 1987 — namely, beatboxing, a full marathon-quantity of it too (the story’s a solid 10+ min. affair). Enjoy the vid below, and thanks to all who participated in and came out to the Brickbat reading. Great times, all around. (Oh a-and download Diggs’ new “Black Champion” EP here.)

And speaking of Nerves of Steel, our Chicago performance series resumes Tuesday at Hungry Brain. Details via this link.

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All Hands On goes northeast Nov. 17-19

It’s All Hands On touring time yet again, this one to join contributors in Philadelphia, NYC, and Northampton, Mass., for three consecutive nights of readings by contributors to All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, our 10th anniversary anthology, among others. Here are the details:

Philadelphia, Thursday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m. (click flyer image at right for a pdf)
@BrickBat Books
, 709 South 4th Street
(215) 592-1207
w/ THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills, longtime contributors Peter Richter and (our FAQ editor and Rider University prof) Mickey Hess, as well as Ryan Eckes.

Brooklyn, Friday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
@Book Thug Nation
, 100 North 3rd Street
w/ T2H editor Todd Dills, longtime contributors Tobias Carroll, Philip Brunetti and Mickey Hess as well as Gabe Durham and Matt Cahan.

Northampton, Mass., Saturday, Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
@MEF Community Room, 60 Masonic St., lower level (next to Woodstar Cafe)
w/ T2H editor Todd Dills, All Hands On contributors Matt Cahan and Ben Stein, Gabe Durham and Ted Powers. Music by Gale Thompson.

(For pdfs of flyers for New York and Northampton events, click here and here, respectively.)

PHILIP BRUNETTI lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Nashville-based MATT CAHAN’s novel “Straight Commission” is excerpted in All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10.

TOBIAS CARROLL is an editor of Vol. 1. His fiction has appeared in THE2NDHANDMetazen, Word Riot, 3:AM, Storychord, and elsewhere; he makes his home online at www.thescowl.org.

TODD DILLS is editor of THE2NDHAND and author of the novel Sons of the Rapture (Featherproof, 2006).

GABE DURHAM lives in Northampton, MA. He writes fiction and nonfiction, teaches literature, makes up test questions, and edits Dark Sky Magazine. His first book, a novel called Fun Camp, is forthcoming in 2013 from Mud Luscious Press.

Philadelphia-based RYAN ECKES’ recent Old News chapbook was published by Furniture Press. Find more from him here.

MICKEY HESS is an Associate Professor of English at Rider University, where he teaches arc welding, mig welding, and creative nonfiction. Recent from Hess in T2H. The Novelist and the Rapper forthcoming in 2012. Find him here.

Poet TED POWERS’ recent work has appeared in Strange Machine, Noo Journal, and GlitterPony, among others. He’s also an editor with Dark Sky Magazine.

New Jersey-based writer PETER RICHTER’s poetry and prose have been featured in Monkey Bicycle, THE2NDHAND, decomP and others. He likes wearing flannel, a recent development. He’s a cofounder of the Broadset crew.

BEN STEIN teaches English Language Arts at the Springfield Renaissance School. He lives in Amherst with his wife Julie and their cat. His “Important Things to Remember” short is featured in All Hands On.

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Hess is the genius behind the following blurb for THE2NDHAND’s All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 collection: “It is painfully accurate to call Todd Dills ‘Tony Hollywood, New York Screenwriter.’ That said, Dills’ collection offers a comment on modern life. The narrators within this collection of stories may bring to mind a more youthful Holden Caulfield, or Toni Morrison being incredibly shaky, or Richard Ford faking it. You know. Because the book came from a collective of well-regarded idiots. They’re nice. They’re compassionate people. But idiots, oh my God.” Mickey happens to be featured in the book. Enjoy his latest below, and find more from him here.


On the farm, my first day of work consisted of hog-tying. I had tie-dyed flannels on. “Deliver a lasso throw,” my employer recited. Jack Estes was his name, a rustic guy who expected us to take pride in the lasso, but when I ventured a toss, he ground his teeth. “Hog-tying’s a tradition, my friend,” he arched his back and intoned. “Out here we wear rustic shirts.” My colleagues looked at my tie-dye. One fellow was a black belt in aikido. Jack Estes was cracking his knuckles.

Then we stopped for the afternoon, famished from hurling lassos. We saw a belly-dancer, a Middle-Eastern original. Farmers rubbed her hips for good luck.

Sidetracked, we sauntered along the sidewalk on the outside of the nightclub, and Jack Estes laughed. I could have sworn he’d made a restroom stop in the bar, but he leaned against a street sign and pissed like a cement truck. He was Jack Estes, after all, and he was also our lasso employer.

Though it wasn’t all fun and Biblical references, we were shocked nonetheless when the truth emerged: after all he promised us townsfolk, Estes went pacificist when it came right down to it, like with Vietnam or belief in the rights of others.



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Nerves of Steel’s special ‘All Hands On’ edition Tuesday, Oct. 4

Though we be in the business of the creation of new things, it’s old-home-place week at So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? Oct. 4 at Hungry Brain, with THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills, former design man and janitor emeritus Rob Funderburk, writer Joe Meno and a cast of sundry others on hand for a run through the past, present and future. Harold Ray, as always, plays hosts to this reunion of the Chicago Stupidists. Prepare to be browbeaten by Stupidist Manifestos, live art, maybe some ukulele and exquisite storytelling, no doubt, as we celebrate the release of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10.

Here’s the digs:

Live viz-art by Rob Funderburk, former THE2NDHAND illustrator and design man, known for murals, interior performance spaces, paintings, and more, Funderburk’s illustrations are featured in All Hands On.

Master swordsman Joe Meno (depicted here in an illustration by Rob Funderburk featured in All Hands On), author most recently of the novel The Great Perhaps. (And also: Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, a few different short story collections as well as stories going back to THE2NDHAND’s third issue.)

T2H coeditor C.T. Ballentine (featured also in All Hands On) with his band Young Coconut.

And T2H editor Todd Dills up from Nashville to perform with a crew of T2H writers including Balletine, Matt Pine and others. Leather may be involved. Perhaps pink bandanas.

All Hands On contributors Marc Baez and Nerves alumnus Fred Sasaki round out the blowout.

ALL HANDS ON @ So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago — Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m.

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THE2NDHAND at Chicago ‘Sunday Salon’ on Monday, Sept. 26

We’re happy to announce that All Hands On contributors Lauren Pretnar, Heather Palmer and Michael Zapata will join novelist Brigid  Pasulka for an event of the Chicago Sunday Salon series on, well, a Monday. Details follow in the press release, but a big thanks goes out to the organizers for keeping this series going. Pick up a copy of the book there, or order here.

Event Moves to Monday this Month
In its ongoing efforts to showcase outstanding local literary organizations and publications as well as writers, Sunday Salon Chicago dedicates September’s reading to THE2NDHAND, a Chicago/Nashville literary magazine. Three writers featured in All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, will read at this month’s event: Heather Palmer, Lauren Pretnar and Michael Zapata. And, to celebrate the return of school here in Chicago, novelist and Whitney Young teacher Brigid Pasulka will also read.

Sunday Salon Chicago is a monthly literary reading series featuring local and national authors.

When: Monday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Katerina’s, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.


Heather Palmer, author of Complements, Of Us and contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Lauren Pretnar, contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Michael Zapata, co-founder, MAKE magazine, editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB and contributor to THE2NDHAND.

Brigid Pasulka, author of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.

Admission: FREE

For more information, visit http://www.sundaysalon.com/chicago-salon.

Founded in Chicago in the year 2000, THE2NDHAND’s literary broadsheet and online magazine has been in the business of publishing fiction writing in various forms since the year 2000. This year, THE2NDHAND celebrates its first decade in existence with the publication of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, a reader including a large amount of unpublished work as well as previously published writing.

Chicago-based Heather Palmer (illustrated here by Rob Funderburk) is the author of Complements, Of Us, out in 2011 from Spork Press; her work has been published in a variety of magazines. In 2010 THE2NDHAND serialized her novella “Charlie’s Train” at THE2NDHAND.com, parts of which were excerpted in All Hands On.

Lauren Pretnar, who first contributed to THE2NDHAND in 2007, lives with her family in Chicago, where she remains hard at work on a book-length domestic horror. Past work in the Chicago arts community includes extensive experience in theater.

Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a co-founder of MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine and works as an editor for ANTIBOOKCLUB. He is also a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship recipient for prose. Currently, he has been nominated for a Puschart Prize and is working on a novel entitled Children of Orleans.

The descendant of Polish immigrants, Brigid Pasulka spent most of her childhood in a farming township in Northern Illinois, population 500. In 1994 at the age of 22, she arrived in Krakow with no place to stay, no job, no contacts and no knowledge of the language. She quickly fell in love with the place, learned Polish, and decided to live there for one year. Brigid is still a frequent visitor to Krakow; she has also worked, studied or volunteered in Italy, Germany, Russia, England and Ukraine. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MA) and currently teaches at Whitney Young Magnet High School in the Chicago Public Schools. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is her first novel. It won the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.


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NERVES OF STEEL in Chicago Sept. 6 / ARTWALK in Birmingham Sept. 9/10

The September 6 edition of THE2NDHAND’s So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? variety affair — the first Tuesday of the month at Chicago’s Hungry Brain — is, simply put, “Jokes.” As such, among the requisite litterateurs and musical acts this time around are a coterie of funnymen / -women, among them the great Emerson Dameron (featured in our new book), who delivers the special public service announcement to open the show. Among others:
*Brandon Will and Nick Bitonti deliver Dead Peckers w/ Puppets
*Dirtiest of the Dirties Dave Snyder
*Manic one-liners from Daniel Shapiro
*Sickness Personified in James Tadd Adcox with Andy Farkas

PLUS: A scatological screening of a short film you won’t want to miss, including a talk by Xan Aranda of Chicago Short Film Brigade.

As always, the indigent Harold Ray hosts. Let’s give him something to laugh about. Show up!

September 6, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago, 8 p.m. See you there….


We’ll be tabling with the new book, All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 (click on the cover image to order for $15 here), marking our 10th anniversary with work from scores of our best writers, outside What’s on Second on 2nd Avenue downtown (corner of 23rd). We’ve got a rich history with the Friday evening/Saturday art fest, which opens up spaces in downtown Birmingham businesses to transform them in art galleries; for more of that. If you’re lucky, we might take on our literary busker roles of the days of yore (tip of the hat to you, Jonny Messinger); hope to see you on the street.

Friday, Sept. 9, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 10, noon-6 p.m. For more.

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BOX, by David Gianatasio

Gianatasio (illustrated by Andrew Davis), a somewhat regular contributor to THE2NDHAND, is featured in a special section in our soon-forthcoming 10th-anniversary anthology, All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10. Preorder the book ($16) for $15 here.

The box stands three feet high and just as wide.

Inside is a smaller box, and inside that a smaller one still.

“Keep going,” the first box says.

“Is there treasure — some kind of prize? Because, if this is one of those stupid metaphorical things…”

The box chuckles. “There’s just one way to find out.”

The boxes keep decreasing in size. The last few I can barely see. I handle them with tweezers.

Finally, I’m left with empty hands and lots of boxes strewn across the carpet.

“That’s how it goes” the first box says.

Panting, shirt stained with sweat, I viciously stomp up and down, grinding the boxes beneath my heels. Finally, I tear the first box to shreds, cardboard fibers flying in every direction.

Wiping perspiration from my forehead, I stretch and step outside for some air.

All the houses on my street are boxes.

My house is a box.

The sky’s corrugated brown. It opens wide and a voice shrieks, “It’s one of those stupid metaphorical things, jackass!” as a humongous black heel stomps down.

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