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.
Late at Night Was the Best Time to Leave
by John Van Wagner
Seized by wretched nostalgia she looks upon the overturned cafe table pinning a wine-soaked cloth, just as she created it. A torn magazine face down, an exploded constellation of shards of majolica. Lazy wineglasses spin in mid-air.
On the plastered wall a clock hand overtakes the bottom of an hour, herding shadows in tight circles. So her hand-me-down Genesis.
Another god might have made these whole first, then struck them asunder, but in her is from the start the broken word.
Drama enough? From the ledge of her white palms she surrenders wilted blossoms; pink petals overcast with rot; sprinkles echoes of an eleventh-hour deceit called out with footsteps, carefully places the aftermath of a door clicked shut. In her presence light backs away.
“The sorrows of others are made of things that are done, but go on,” she declares. “And so begin with having gone.”
Trying to help their creator, Things spring willingly into being.
You need the December of gardens? The August of snowbanks? They are yours. We have given you evaporated floods and belated congratulations. All you ask we have done. So why is each of us born old?
I wasn’t listening, she admits to Things. She was thinking a kind of thought, longing for soil, for sky, water, air, color; all the grounds and tethers muddy with remorse.
When does a god repent?
Oh, say all her scattered disasters, but we were close…
Her radar arms belay the land.
by Kona Morris
Seized by wretched nostalgia, she sat on her kitchen floor, legs spread wide with bare ass cheeks against sticky linoleum, fingering an endless box of unidentifiable scraps, pulling hard to remember why she had kept it so long. Faded train tickets, phone numbers, photos of faces she no longer knew, postcards and business cards and museum brochures, and, every once in awhile, an e. e. cummings quote that instantly shot her with a tiny burst of the person she used to be.
It became a spell, searching for that feeling. She was hit with it seventeen times over the course of three and a half hours until the contents of the box had all been placed, piece by terrible piece, onto the landfill that was now her kitchen floor. Cummings and Whitman, Baudelaire, Bukowski, their words like giant angry middle fingers erected upright in fury, shouting for her to go fuck herself for what she’s become.
So, she lifted the oversized t-shirt she was wearing above her head, and laid back, naked, on top of her pile. She rubbed the seventeen feelings around her neck, then breasts, then tried to shove them inside of herself, but too much impenetrable bush had grown in the way. How very much like Walt’s beard of bristles, she thought.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Van Wagner germinated in May, sprouted in Poughkeepsie, was humiliated on the short grasses, harbored in the interest of eggs, deployed by small waters, ripened in the dry wold, and loosened by the rattraps of Santa Fe. Work appears in Connotation Press, Eunoia Review, Santa Fe Literary Review.
Kona Morris received her moral guidance from Kermit the Frog. She is from the foggy redwood hub of Humboldt County, California, and she has since lived everywhere from Boston to a remote village in northern Alaska. She was co-founder and editor of Fast Forward Press, as well as the founder and writer of Godless Comics. She has been featured as a writer, editor, and publisher at literary events across the country, and her stories have appeared in a variety of publications. Kona teaches letter regurgitation to college students in Denver.