Harp & Altar

Shane Book is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. His awards include a New York Times Fellowship in Poetry, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and a National Magazine Award. He teaches at Stanford and is producing and directing the documentary film Laborland.


Adam Clay is the author of The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). He lives in Michigan.


Josh Dorman’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at galleries including 55 Mercer, The CUE Foundation, and Pierogi in New York, George Billis in Los Angeles, and Hallwalls in Buffalo. His work has also been included in group shows at the Drawing Center, the National Academy Museum, the Islip Art Museum, and Hunter College, among others, and has been exhibited internationally, in Traun, Austria, and Leipzig, Germany. He received his MFA from Queens College in 1992 and has been granted residencies at Yaddo and the Millay Colony. Images of his work are available at www.joshdorman.net.

A Canadian currently living in Brooklyn, Corey Frost's stories have appeared in Matrix, Geist, The Walrus, and other magazines. He was named the Best Spoken Word Artist in 2001 by the Montreal Mirror. He is currently writing a book about spoken word scenes around the world as part of a doctoral dissertation. A CD of his performances, Bits World: Exciting Version, is forthcoming. His books include The Worthwhile Flux (2004) and My Own Devices: Airport Version (2006), both published by Conundrum Press.


Sarah Gridley received her MFA in poetry from the University of Montana. She is the author of Weather Eye Open (University of California Press/New California Poetry Series, 2005) and is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Poetry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.


Elise Harris is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Her profile of the poet Noelle Kocot appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.


Joanna Howard's work has appeared in Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. Her chapbook In the Colorless Round, illustrated by Rikki Ducornet, was published in 2006 by Noemi Press. She received her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Denver in 2004 and currently lives in Providence, where she teaches at Brown University and is an editor for Encyclopedia Project.


Steve Katz was one of the founders of Fiction Collective (now FC2). He has taught creative writing at Cornell University, Brooklyn College, Queens College, the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, from which he retired in 2003. He's also tended bar, worked construction, waited tables, and mined for mercury. His books include Creamy & Delicious, Wier & Pouce, Florry of Washington Heights, Swanny's Ways, Saw, Moving Parts, and Stolen Stories. His most recent books are the novel Antonello’s Lion (Green Integer, 2005) and the collection Kisssss?, which is forthcoming in 2007 from FC2. The stories in this issue are from an ongoing project of memoirs titled Memoirrhoids.


Joanna Klink's second book, Circadian, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2007. She teaches poetry at the University of Montana.


Michael Newton is a current MFA candidate at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, though his artwork is kind of hard to explain. His gallery reviews also appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.


Peter O'Leary's book of criticism, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan & the Poetry of Illness, was published in 2002 by Wesleyan. A new book of poetry, Depth Theology, appeared last year from Georgia. He lives on the West Side of Chicago, in Berwyn.


Katie Peterson was born in California. She is the Robert Aird Professor of Humanities at Deep Springs College in Deep Springs, California. Her book of poems, This One Tree, won the New Issues Poetry Prize and was published in 2006 by New Issues/Western Michigan University Press.


Johannah Rodgers is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. Her chapbook Necessary Fictions was published by Sona Books in 2003, and her short stories and essays have appeared in Fiction, CHAIN Arts, The Brooklyn Rail, Pierogi Press, and Fence. Her book sentences, a collection of stories, essays, and artwork, was published this year by Red Dust Press.


Brandon Shimoda’s writings appear in recent or forthcoming editions of MiPOesias, Free Verse, Practice, Washington Square, Xantippe, the tiny, and elsewhere. He has projects forthcoming from both Corollary Press and Flim Forum Press. He currently teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he also curates the New Lakes reading and performance series.


Kate Schreyer is currently studying fiction in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Michael Zeiss’s story “Notes Toward a Supreme Action Movie” appeared in the first issue of Harp & Altar.

Steve Katz

“You’re stowing away, right?” The words fell from my mouth. It was three A.M. I was working for an outfit that hauled college students aboard Italian ships, this one the Vulcania, from New York to Southampton. No one said it, but I think it was a USIS operation. I had just got the advance from Holt for Peter Prince and I was on my way to Istanbul, to Israel, to Italy. It was a long crossing on a slow ship, eleven days from New York to Southampton. On the way the kids got to take seminars in the various cultures they were about to visit. My official title was assistant shipboard director. My duties were mostly as night security officer. I was assigned to patrol the corridors at night with the sergeant-at-arms, do bed checks in the dorm rooms, and deal with any conflicts. I spoke Italian, so I could be liaison with captain and crew, and Aldo, sergeant-at-arms. Aldo was an undersea demolition expert, once with the Italian navy. He was handsome, well put together. Every night he’d get stranded in the room of a Midwestern Catholic men’s college, the boys on their way to some Vatican-sponsored retreat. I was on my own after that—open every door, say hello, don’t spoil the fun.

This was the first night out of New York. Three A.M. I spotted her in the lounge, curled up in an easy chair. “Stowing away?” I repeated.

“O wow,” she said, uncurling and sitting up. “I felt you walking there.” She stretched and yawned like a cat. “I probably needed you to know. I sent it out to you.”

“I’m the cop on this ship,” I said.

“This is so far out. Wow.”

She told me her name was Teri. She was one of those acid waifs of the sixties. She was traveling light, wearing very little—some baby-blue leather Capezios over black mesh stockings, dark blue micro-mini, black mesh panties, see-through red net blouse. The backs of her wrists were soiled from rubbing the heavy make-up around her eyes, smeared now to make her look like a tired clown.

This was my first big decision in my official capacity. “You can go down and sleep in my cabin for tonight,” I said. There were two beds. Unlike my usual self, I had no interest in jumping on her. I felt no lust, nor was there anything paternal. With my modest success, and an understanding wife, I was indulging in a respite from family. If I had a desire to protect anything, it was my curiosity about the girl’s situation.

By the next evening she had organized her scene, found new accommodations in the cabin of a Dutch couple, managed to get some other clothes. She made a lot of friends very quickly. Most people thought she was part of the staff, the activities organizer. When she checked back with me again, she told me her whole story. She had been communicating by ESP for a couple of years with a guy in London. She wouldn’t say who it was. To connect with him she always dropped acid. In their last exchange he told her to get on this ship and sail to Southampton. Compliance was her part of the game. I doubt she could have told him to do anything. He instructed her to bring no money, and to leave her passport. It was a tough story for me to digest, but here she was, a stowaway. What was my official position? What kind of cop was I? Every hour she gained in shipboard notoriety.

One of the situations I had to police was a surfeit of pot. Many of the students packed plenty of it, thinking to sell it on the way. This was the first and only time I had ever worked in “law enforcement.” I was determined to use a soft touch. My job here was to keep the information from the crew. They didn’t want to know, anyway. No one wanted an international incident. The kids had to do something with this glut. A shame to waste it, but nobody needed to get busted trying to carry it through customs. They were frisky, but they weren’t stupid. On the third day out we hit a storm. Seasickness kept them in their bunks. Visions of the Andrea Doria going down danced through their heads. I didn’t get seasick, and did my rounds just the same. A scent of vomit drifted through the corridors.

I decided it wasn’t my job to check the private cabins that couples had rented, but I stopped outside one of them. Something felt peculiar here, an outlaw vibe. I opened the door. Here was Teri. She didn’t get seasick either, as long as she had something to do, she said. Her “to do” found her happily rolling joints, surrounded by pot and rolling papers, like a kid in a mud puddle. She had cleaned up, was dressed in jeans and a pink sweater, and had the shining face of a high school cheerleader. She had solved the problem, as much as it could be solved. Once people got their sea legs she showed up at the end of each meal with a tray full of tightly rolled joints, serving them to anyone who wanted to smoke. She was very gracious, no stranger to manners. My job as cop, I figured, was to hush this up, because if they busted anyone in Southampton, they’d have to bust almost everyone. I didn’t even tell the shipboard director, with whom I hardly spoke. He seemed very straight. If you dressed him in a dark raincoat, black oxfords, Foster Grants, you’d know where he worked.

Maybe it was Teri who had snuck into my cabin to fill my vitamin C jar with white crosses, a superdose of amphetamine. I swallowed one every morning with my other vitamins and felt fantastic, robust, smart, equal to the swelling Atlantic. It took a few days for me to get what was happening. Meanwhile I bounced around on deck, singing to the dolphins that played in the wake. All the women were incredibly exciting and beautiful, and I flirted with great panache. At the seminars I read from my new book, Creamy and Delicious. I talked Italy. I talked Europe and the benefits of travel. Who needed to sleep? I was oceanic. I was gabby and boring. After I made my rounds I went aft to howl at the algae that lit up in the foam. I listened all night as Paul Blackburn, great American Black Mountain poet, courted Joan, his future wife, in the next cabin. He told me the problem was cracking the corset. He said he liked men who stayed up and talked all night. He liked women who knew when to shut up.

I ignored Teri, lost track of her until we were about three days out of Southampton. One afternoon she sought me out. “I don’t have any money, and I don’t have a passport,” she said, blithely. “I think I have to drop some acid and see what he tells me to do.” I felt as if she were asking my approval, although my disapproval wouldn’t have made any difference.

“Sounds okay,” I said.

She kissed me on the cheek, and we never spoke again. I held off till the end because I didn’t want to disembark until I saw how she managed. She looked presentable, like someone had gifted her with a modest skirt and sweater, and a small case for her other stuff. I watched her persuade the officer at the top of the gangplank, and then talk her way past the customs officials below. They totally let her through. She was safely in Southampton, talking with Peter and Sylvia, a couple that had befriended her. Then she was gone. I disembarked, exchanged information with the lovely Ellen D’Alelio, whom I hoped to meet in Italy, after I’d been to Turkey and Israel. I left my alleged shipboard charges to their various mischiefs.

I thought about Teri frequently, as one of the heroines, victims, of the acid culture. I wouldn’t have heard of her ever again, except that I ran into Peter and Sylvia in Istanbul, and they had kept track of her for a while. They told me what they knew over sweet coffee at the Pudding Shop. The story is like some hippy apocrypha. She got off the ship and through customs by claiming she had already been through once. She had returned to her cabin to get something she had forgotten, and her husband, to whom she pointed in the waiting crowd, had her passport and her bags. I could imagine how persuasively helpless she seemed. She went to London and became one of the acid princesses of Carnaby Street, working in a store that sold hippy gear. She reached the critical point in her acid transmitted ESP when she was urged by her communicant to join him. Peter and Sylvia got the rest of the story second hand. The voice on the other end of the ESP was Paul McCartney. None other. She dropped some acid, went to his house, somehow got into his garage, and sat in a car and smoked all her pot until the time was right for her to enter the house, which she did in the wee hours. She found her way to an empty bedroom and went to sleep. In the morning someone woke her, and taking her for a girl friend of Paul’s brother, told her breakfast was ready. Teri joined Paul and Linda at breakfast. She passed on the ESP story, and was quickly expelled from paradise. It sounds like it could be true. It sounds like it could be false. This is the whole story, I swear to g-d.