TWO, by Marcel Francis

Francis lives and writes in Nashville, Tenn., but may be destined for Hamburg, as it were.

Except for when you are here.
No longer will I resemble a dead
asterisk viewed from outer space
or that vagrant sprawled out naked
in the middle of the town commons
resting my head on Justice’s scale.
There may be differences between
your side, my view –
but we are alive and beating, and
these figments of our imagination
are far from dead. Tonight the sunlight may be
deafening, tomorrow it’s stuck in your throat.
I order another watered down whiskey,
toss down my last 10 bucks and throw it back,
some piss on the rocks.
We head down to the water.
Polluted beach, swimming
prohibited, so we take a walk,
the fanfares of dusk, sirens –
it all floats away into something. Whatever.
Back to Mission Hill,
back down Guerrero to 24th.
Now that I’ve seen you bookended
between Alcatraz and Golden Gate
I don’t feel so sick anymore.
But I’m still a bit queasy. Even now, the next day.
It’s just a little different. I search my coat pocket
for my boarding pass as I head toward the gate.

The writing’s on the wall:
A fool, who writes more than
he reads. A fool, who thinks
more than he loves.
Many people throughout history
have fallen victim to the concept
of perfection. I start counting and
soon I get bored and want to do
something else. Eat a cannoli
for example. I am tired of my
small empire and want to expand.
I decide to set up a drum kit
to drive out the neighbors, but
quickly realize this probably
won’t lead to the desired
effect. Instead I lie in bed,
roll up in my blanket and smile,
say Cannoli. For a second, even,
I am laughing.



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THE BOCOCURRO DUCK, by Marcel Francis

Francis lives and writes in Nashville.


One day I decided that what I really wanted was
a fedora, so I went out and bought one. When I got
back to my house my friend Paul was there and
after seeing my fedora he was immediately struck
with hat envy. “Well I guess we could go back to
the mall. It is right around the corner after all”, I said.
So we drove back to the mall. The moment we stepped
into the hat store, Paul immediately dove right in.
He must have tried on 40 different hats. “Hey,
check out the peacock feather in this one,” he said, just as
a man in a grey suit entered the store. He seemed a little
peculiar, which upon closer examination was probably
less due to the fact that he was wearing a grey suit,
and more to the fact that he was holding in his
right hand a dead duck. Now, ducks don’t really have
very long necks, so at first it looked a bit like he was
holding a small, though heavy, tote bag. But then I saw
the tiny head with its beak, and the paddles for feet
dangling from the bottom. This was most certainly
a dead duck. I turned around in search of Paul,
but he was lost in the hat collection, on to the top hats.
The man must have noticed me staring at him,
because he turned around somewhat concerned to remain
at least slightly inconspicuous. “Don’t worry about him.
He’s just takin’ a time out.” Some humor, I thought. The man
turned around again and in a whisper added, “He’s a
sleeper duck. He comes from the magical order of
Bococurro ducks. This is just how he sleeps. It’s what
he does.” I scratched my head in bewilderment. “Okay,
so he’s a magical duck. But seriously: who sleeps
hanging by their neck?” “I don’t know. He just likes to
hang loose, I guess. What do you care?” I backed
away and headed back over to where Paul was. Once
there, I nudged him, probably a little too hard, because
he kind of jumped. “What’s up?”, he asked. “You look like
you just saw a ghost.” “Well not really,” I said. I motioned
in the direction of the man, but he must have been in a
hurry, because he was nowhere to be seen. Paul
finally narrowed down his choice, and soon we were
on our way home, but I couldn’t seem to get the duck
out of my head. I even started believing I’d read a look
of sadness in its face. The only place I had ever seen
a duck hung by the neck was in a cartoon. Perhaps
it was Daffy Duck — how his neck would stretch forever
and constantly be subject to some kind of deformation.
One time I remember him being strangled and then
getting up, dusting himself off, announcing: “I’m leaving
showbiz. For good.”

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THE2NDHAND no. 37.1 — Mickey Hess’ ‘Nostalgia Echo’ excerpted

A new half-issue comes with a new format, with page sizes optimized to easy reading on tablets and the various eReaders that are out there — access the 11-page issue (pdf) by clicking through the image of page 1 or 2 below, or scan the QR on page 2 to pull it up.

In any case, great to have an excerpt from one of the 2011′s best books, hands down. I had the opportunity to read what amounts to an homage to Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions after its author, Mickey Hess, and I toured briefly in November. The Nostalgia Echo is the story of Princeton prof and lesser-known “nostalgia theorist” Everett Barnes’ late-life brush with whatever fleeting version of stardom is possible for his ilk in our time, complete with his image stenciled on freeway overpasses — a History Channel TV show having sparked it all, of course. Perhaps more importantly, the book is also the last, most appropriate chance for its narrator to tell his own story. A brush with Barnes in his youth, documented in an old photograph that is his only personal vestige of his birth mother’s existence, provides the impetus for the working narrator’s growing present-tense obsession with the nostalgia theorist, likewise the graffiti artist who is the origin point for the Barnes stencils.

In short, in classic Hess fashion, it’s a wild, hilarious ride of a book. No. 37.1 consists of Chapter 3, with included shorts by T2H coeditor Jacob Knabb (“Pig Sweatin’”) and a poem by Nashville writer Brad King (“Long Lost Pals,” see how they roll).

Find more from Hess in his section of our All Hands On 10th-anniversary anthology, available now for order via this page (print, $15) or via this link in pdf at Scribd ($6).

Order Hess’ novel from C&R Press here.

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LONG LOST PALS, by Brad King

King lives and writes in Nashville.


long lost pals:
here’s how they roll.

they will call you up right
out of the blue, on a Tuesday
morning at 5 a.m., and
before you can breathe,
they’ll have
oodles of exciting
developments to report.

all they required was a little
time and distance away
from you, and their lives
transformed from uneventful,
at best, into
underwear parties with
fine young girls and in-ground
pools and 10-lb. bass in
sprawling new reservoirs of
crystalline supremacy on
acres of land.

although you’re terribly skeptical, a
trip will be arranged as to
witness for yourself the
newfound paradise of
long lost pals, these
grandiose lives assembled
like swing sets or timeless
sculptures while
no one is looking, and
here’s the reality:

one overweight girlfriend, one
rug rat from wedlock;
an above-ground pool inflated with
air –
it’s rubber and intriguing since
you never really knew
such pools existed; one
doublewide trailer, and a catfish
mudhole drying in the
yard with frogs and turtles and
billions of neurotic and soon-to-be
homeless water skimmers.

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THREE POEMS by Russ Woods

Chicago writer Woods co-edits Red Lightbulbs alongside his wife, Meghan Lamb, and has published poetry in New Wave Vomit and Dinosaur Bees. He has an ebook, With Swords, forthcoming from Pangur Ban Party. A combined version of the three poems below ran in Hip Hip Hooray here.


A thousand nails
My exoskeleton of silliness is
like one thousand and five
nails on five hundred and
seventy-eight chalkboards.
I want to drink sand and take
pebbles like pills and stick
hairs from the shower drain
between my teeth (like floss)
and leave them there (not
like floss).

I am so excited about dogs
Hold on I need to check my
hair to make sure it’s messy.
Okay. It’s messy.

Shoo birds
It is your job to shoo birds
away from diners’ lunches. It
is also your job to read from
Leaves of Grass in a Homestar
Runner voice. It’s okay, it’s
okay. Let’s go look at some
real estate.

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Richter’s poetry has been featured in THE2NDHAND, decomP, IndieFeed Performance Poetry and The Ucity Review.


Thomas Friedman was right when he said, “Much of this biodiversity in Indonesia is now under threat.”

It had been this way since gasoline became currency; I remember bartering with The Governance for the newest edition of The Guinness Book of World Records, which featured a scratch-and-sniff page of the world’s worst smelling people. It starred Clint Eastwood. This explained the snarl of his face, as even he agreed at his disagreeable odor.

He is a hard-ass and I respect him for it. Being a hard-ass is what drew me to The Governance.  She owns the police, a few million dollars in gasoline, and a jester. She is on her 15th jester.

This is all hearsay, but I believe the death of the first 14 jesters to be related to the illegal logging agreement The Governance made with westerners. I also believe the jesters now live in the most northern region of heaven. Like I said — it’s all hearsay.

Thomas Friedman was right when he said, “Indonesia exports raw labor, not brains.”

The people had bad teeth and brown jeans. Things like lettermen jackets, cosmetics and votives didn’t exist there.

I went to the Governance with luxury items and laid them at her feet. Kneeling, I said, “I made a mental note of how well traveled you could be and filed it away. I realize that the amount of gasoline you process does not weigh on your happiness. But Governance, have you ever smiled?”

She didn’t answer but motioned for me to continue. I adjusted the volume on the iPod and played a clip from ER. I knew George Clooney could sell my argument all salt-and-pepper and glaring into the part of the body that makes women love strangers.

She said, “I must have this.”

“But wait!” I said.

I dimmed the lights, lit the votives and stripped her naked. I walked around her and bound her to a mink coat. She rubbed her cheek against her lush shoulder and purred.

“Governance. Have you ever felt so beautiful?”

She hadn’t.

Thomas Friedman was right when he said, “Of course, a lot of people offer quick-fix plans for how to stem the tide of material degradation, but in countries like Indonesia, plans are rarely implemented as intended.”

It didn’t take a week for the people of Indonesia to trade in their gasoline for portable DVD players, Lebron James jerseys and subwoofers.

Sitting on the corner of a dirt road was a child, homeless with an iPod. He tried to hunt with it, but he scared away the animals as distorted music played from the dangling earbuds. He tried to keep himself warm with it, but the tiny LCD screen only generated enough heat for one earlobe. Before it died he tried to cover himself from the rain with it. There were millions like him. And as the forests were purged, the true population of the tech-savvy-homeless left the naked woods and took to the streets.

I remember being a runaway in Paterson, New Jersey. I remember my home made of tarps. The floor made of more tarps. In comparison I had it good. I remember smelling like Clint Eastwood. I remember finding a pocketknife and being amazed at its uses.

After a lunch rush, a restaurant dumped a bag full of clams out back. I sat on the pebble and broken road and used the knife to pry open the clams.

That was the best lunch I ever had.

Thomas Friedman once said, “Imagine a world without coral.”

I visited the Governance. Her 15th jester had died from drinking the plasma leaking from the wall of TVs. The Governance was ill with worry and malnourished. She was pink and white. I came to her bedside. “Governance, the comprehensive strategy of technology is not just a one-off plan. We need to help them.”

She replied. “We need a million Noahs and a million arks.”

She passed away at that moment. I thought about how I had been drawn to her. I thought about the living energy inside of us, our unexplained machinery churning all the stuff that has sustained us all.

I looked up to the easternmost region of heaven and asked Thomas Friedman to allow me to redefine my relationship with the natural world.

He said, “Have you read Hot, Flat and Crowded? That is the whole point.”

Maybe the governance had passed away asphyxiated by her obsession with gasoline. Maybe it was the forests and farms being purged by westerners. Maybe it was the pacifying media.

Nevertheless, inside me, it was all of these things swirling that led to my decision to burn her palace down.

As the Governance rose to the most medium region of purgatory, her palace fell. Most of society had ascended to various levels of heaven.

Thirty-four percent remained. I looked down on them and listened to their cheers as ascending melodies. Flat and crowded meet hot and make it hotter, and that was the start of a whole new set of problems.


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Nerves of Steel July 5 back at Hungry Brain in Chi

This installment of THE2NDHAND’s Chicago “So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?” performance series brings host Harold Ray back from the home front in West Virginia to Chicago for an evening program combining two fiction writers, a poet, comic duo and more than one band for more of the now prototypical mixture sure to rattle your sensibility, if you had one. The show gets started after 8 p.m. at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago on Tuesday, July 5. This installment features:

**A live performance of Jennifer Karmin’s Aaaaalice, with friends.
**Tales of the sins of notable Chicagoans told by Michael Czyzniejewski, author of Elephants in Our Bedroom
**An experimental freakout w/ extended kazoo patriotics by the Post-revolutionary Letdowns
**Song & dance w/ the comedic team of the Puterbaugh Sisters
**Wizardry by James Kennedy
**And house band Good Evening

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