The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Twenty

from Pieces for Small Orchestra by Norman Lock
String Theory by Steven Schutzman
Three Short Shorts by Patrik Linhart
The Song of the Nightingale by Fernando Arrojo-Ramos
Seven Pieces of Meat by David Ray
The Noctis Equi by Deb R. Lewis
When Dada Wrote Koans by Theodore Wei Changsheng


irreal (re)views


String Theory
by Steven Schutzman

(Scenes consist of six strings or lines
played as a chord. Flat characters,
speaking flatly, come and go. Feel free;
who says what is never important.
Take no prisoners. The guitar
is the Audience's chest.)

Scene 1: War becomes permanent and normal.

Morning arrived. An old man's cough exploded into birds.

I wrote a letter to the president explaining why we needed a new cabinet post, Secretary of the Unimaginable, and offered myself for the position.

The man in front of me in line is signing up for the next available tragedy.

I feel myself changing places on a map that is becoming clearer as I fade away.

I feel myself changing places according to throws of the dice and wild laughter.

I feel myself changing places according to the reading of obscure texts.

Scene 2: The spectacle is everything.

With each step, the man in front of me in line is creating a shore up to which his life rolls like a wave and falls back.

Unremembered dreams determine the architecture.

After the decapitations, heads outlived bodies by several hours. He was hired to be their comedian.

He was arrested by idiots, tried by morons, sentenced by imbeciles but a wise man recited prayers at his hanging.

He didn't show up. The event went on without him. He was not missed.

Tied by ropes to straining beasts, he was hauled past vigils held in his honor.

Scene 3: Love in the ruins.

Love is a horse of unknown intelligence.

His glance touched the wetness of her eye, a light went out and the darkness said Enter.

The nail may love the hammer but it marries the wood.

When I said 'I love you,' I became a ship going down in her eyes.

I took her. The boat took us. The river took the boat.

Cross my heart, I'm not a good enough swimmer.

Scene 4: A strange calm.

Every night the street sweepers of memory bag the fallen music.

When I started living a history that wasn't mine, my powers of description multiplied.

The man in front of me has closed his eyes and become tremendous.

Looking out the window on this night, the street seems be thinking of you with falling snow.

If you want to understand hope, go blind in a tunnel or shine a flashlight at the sun.

People wearing trash for clothes undress in the fog.

Scene 5: At a crossroads, take one.

A stick snaps in the heart of the father sneaking away from his son.

The man is climbing a staircase of lightning.

When I touched her scars, she sang like a prisoner.

Animals drink in the darkening eyes of the dead.

We talked all night like people throwing shoes from a speeding train.

At the places where you failed, paths divide and loyal animals wait.

Scene 6: We have been lied to long enough.

As the man gazes out to sea, the boy knows the coins in his pockets.

Yesterday said, Today's prisoners will be freed tomorrow.

What did he want most of all? Not to be figured out.

Talk may mean nothing but the strain of holding up the sky collapses into laughter.

By the time I scratch my name in this wall, I will have grown wings.

Don't worry: What's important to you is important to no one else.

Steven Schutzman is a fiction writer and playwright, the author of seven published books and of numerous stories and plays in literary journals and e-zines including The Pushcart Prize, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cyanosis and Post Road. He is also the recipient of four Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards (two in fiction, two in playwriting). His story, "Sleeping Prescription: Directions and Cautions" appeared in Issue Fifteen of The Cafe Irreal, and his play, "The First Day of School," appeared in Issue Seventeen.

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