Exquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.
by Matthew Nadelson
You drag your fingers through my life
the way that needle of a nurse pinned me down,
and grinning, asked a 19 year old me,
“How does that feel?” as she, allegedly
in order to assess what seemed to be
a bladder infection, although I never paid
the 37.50 the health center billed me,
to get my results. (Later, the Regents wouldn’t
let me graduate until I paid it.)
So she shoved a metal spike the size of a screw
into the tip of my penis, grinning, pressing harder.
I wanted to ask if she needed to go so deep,
but she said she needed to scrape
the lining of my urethra
to get a sample, and it was over so quick
that I couldn’t tell if she was grinning
from malice or shyness that brief moment
she held my frightened bloodless cock,
peeled back the foreskin,
and slid the metal tip in, grinned,
asked me how her weapon felt inside me,
pulled out, and walked out, leaving me
bewildered, naked. Then returned,
told me to pay up front and come
back in two weeks for my results.
Now every time I have to piss and can’t
I see her stupid smirk.
You’re laughing? Fuck you. What do you know?
I know a razor on the neck
releases the heartache.
I know a pen against the page
releases the pain
I know we speak and write not what
we know because
we do not know.
We speak and write because
we want to know.
What do you know?
I know I want to know
you. Drag your fingers through my life.
Along Your Golden Coast
by Michael Gillan Maxwell
You rake your fingers through my life
with smoke trails of memory that flicker
like images in an old movie.
I wandered the vagabond trail,
followed the twist and wind
of your serpentine spine
and shuddering fault line,
peered down from cliffs
at the sea ravaging
the jagged shore below,
slept on your beach
shrouded in mist and strewn with eel grass
stranded by the ebb tide,
listened to the song of sea lions,
basking on boulders as black as obsidian
in the pale morning sun,
your terrible demon-hold
that solitary rock with no escape,
felt the roll and pitch of the boat
under your red bridge,
surrendered to your veil of fog
as it engulfed everything,
watched tugboats push cargo ships
through the deep channel
between Land’s End and the Marin headlands,
heard low-throated foghorns
warn vessels away
from shipwreck graveyard shoals
at the hungry mouth of your Gate,
lay flat on my back
in a redwood forest
gazing up at the canopy
while all around, tree trunks
stood as columns in a hushed cathedral,
sentinels bearing witness
to the passage of time.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Matthew Nadelson lives in Corona, CA, where he has taught writing in the Riverside Community College District for the past 8 years and led various writing workshops in the community for several years. He is currently leading a bi-weekly creative writing workshop on alternate Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Taber Room of the Corona Public Library. Matt’s writing has appeared in about 30 literary journals and anthologies, and his first collection of poetry, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.
Michael Gillan Maxwell is a writer and visual artist in the Finger Lakes Region of New York state. Maxwell writes short fiction, poetry, songs, essays, lists, recipes and irate letters to his legislators. His work has been featured in a number of journals and anthologies. He served as associate flash fiction editor for JMWW quarterly journal from 2012-2014 and he is editor of MadHat’s Drive-By Book Reviews. A teller of tales and singer of songs, he’s prone to random outbursts and may spontaneously combust or break into song at any moment. Maxwell can be found ranting and raving on his website: Your Own Backyard http://michaelgillanmaxwell.com