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.
Vibrant with Delusion
by Aaron Apps
Vibrant with delusion
My eyes enter, viscous,
The deluge of a dead sun
So composed so delicately
Of depression fish fornication.
Their scaled mass hovers over
Head teaching, ineffectively,
A lesson about the visibility
Of limbs. Of the performance:
Tonight, in the day, my ears
Overheard a gestured silence
Which pulses under fat loosely
Felt, a loosely attached sentience,
In a trance like Jello on a fork.
Tonight, dead in the living genetics
Of engineering, the compound is
Material and institution. Is spread.
Is a compound on my face. Is mineral
Makeup is spread across monotony
Of the day doing the day like fish
Slime backward into each other
Above, into their own en masse,
Delusional, in the silence of ink
Written into the sea from tentacles.
The ink is the pink color of mucus on bloody gums.
So totally erotic and totally /
I cannot give you an explicit ontology of neon.
I can only give you a glowing intestinal /
It is maybe. A delusion. It is pink. Epistemic
In the world where I am so unsure about my
Insides. Maybe on the inside I look like a mass
Of praying fish hovering overhead so dead in
The future where we are all dead on the inside
In this dying ecology. My eyes are a viscosity
Within their caves. My ears are simple shadows.
This poem is written is for assassins who live
To assassinate their insides by existing within
This. Vibrant /
Musings of Sister Paulinas
by Deborah Henry
Vibrant with delusion, Sister Paulinas professed in the privacy of her office, just before twilight hour, a time she reserved for personal dreams, “I will get the job of Reverend Mother. I am the Reverend Mother.” She bowed her head, peeked into a dainty mirror, and practiced her serene smile. Hidden beneath an array of prayer books was Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, a book she found unattended on a train seat eight weeks ago and confiscated, a book she found fascinating and shameful. In the twenty-six years since she’d been received by ballot into the order of the Sisters of Benevolence, the vow of obedience struck her as the most challenging. Inquisitive by nature, her greatest joy as a child had been the hours spent reading books with her father. The memory of the scent of his tobacco still brought comfort. More than once, she succumbed to purchasing a packet of unfiltered Old Golds and lit them behind the farm buildings just to be reminded of his smell. Behind closed doors, she read and reread this psychology book, imagining the possibilities that life might offer. Her one major indulgence. That and the dainty mirror. And the occasional cigarette.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Aaron Apps is the author of Intersex: A Memoir (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2016), Compos(t) Mentis (BlazeVox, 2012), and Dear Heruline, winner of the 2014 Sawtooth Poetry Prize from Ahsahta Press. He is currently a doctoral student in English Literature at Brown University where he studies poetry and poetics, sexual somatechnics, animacy, hybrid forms, and the history of intersex literature.
Deborah Henry is author of The Whipping Club, which appeared on Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 list. She holds an MFA from Fairfield University. Her first short story was published in the Copperfield Review, was a historical fiction finalist for Solander Magazine, and was long listed in the Fish Short Story Prize. She has been an expert guest on radio programs as well as on NBC, FOX and CBS television in top markets nationally. An active member of The Academy of American Poets, a patron of the Irish Arts Center in New York, she recently founded the Deborah Henry Scholarship Fund for the Abroad Writers Conference in Dublin. She has traveled extensively in Ireland, and divides her time between New York and New England. She is currently completing her second novel.
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“Psycho-Cybernetics.” Does that ever take me back. I like Sister Paulinas very much and wish she’d been one of the nuns I encountered at St. Matthews Catholic School. Love the playfulness of this piece. Very enjoyable read, Deborah.
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