parallax background

3 poems by Alistair McCartney

from lean by Lucas Bailor
July 6, 2018
ideas for what to do with my body when it dies on my birthday by Amber Taylor
July 8, 2018


Did you know that every eel is an orphan their parents die immediately after spawning and the children don’t appear until the following spring when the mournful little eels are so small and thin and their skin so transparent you can read Being and Time through their bodies and Being and Nothingness and if you want to read something shorter you can stare right through an eel and read The Book of Leviticus you can peer through the eel and read Freud’s first published research paper on Eels Observations on the Configuration and Finer Structure of the Lobed Organs in Eels described as Testes and if you fancy something less academic you can read the 120 Days of Sodom through an eel if you hold the tender eel up to the light you can read about every idea in philosophy and every event in history and every urge in pornography you can read this wriggling attempt at a poem through the wriggling event of their bodies and if you look real carefully you can read every detail of your own obituary through their slimy glassy skin.



People like you ascribe value to our fur. Like all poetic systems, the calculated worth is artificial. Sometimes when we’re bored, we like to pretend that we’re dead. And God said, let me create an economy of trappers and farm-boys and fur-bearing animals. Everything and everyone runs away from me when it’s freed. A boy comes to you at night, wearing nothing but a blue fox fur coat. Drinking from a glass bottle of cold fox milk. The coat is rather moth-eaten and does not wear very well.  Be careful how you skin us. The formula is simple: language, yelping and shrewd, with a quick rush. The darker the color of cross-fox, the pricier it is. The dryer the poetic mutations, the better.  All those experiments on fur farms; we can’t keep up with the colors. I just learned that those classic steel jawed leg-hold traps are still legal in Canada, except for the ones with the teeth. Do not ask us to identify our own species. Do not ask me to call you later. Do not ask us what a fox is, but what a fox is not, for these days everything is cunning, soft red and hunting.


Bears, Part Two

Just look at the curve of the bear’s white claws gently destroying the olive-green fabric of the boy-scout’s uniform. I think this is the bear we saw on our previous visit. Let’s follow him. Either the bear is of the variety known as the Atlas bear or of the variety known as the “cinnamon bear.” To hell with all scientific classifications. Maybe it’s not the same bear; I mean, look at its weird scooped-out head and its humped slumpy shoulders. I hear that black-bear meat is delicious when they’ve been eating nothing but acorns all year. Shall we kill him? But I don’t want to get any diseases. It’s winter, so maybe we should skin him alive, cut him from the throat down the underside and stretch him open. Now I’m almost certain it’s a different bear, his moral behavior vis-à-vis that boy-scout is radically distinct from the other bear’s conduct. And look how carefully he is dismantling the beehive, examining each component, he’s showing far more restraint. A bear with wings. Now that would be lovely. Meanwhile, the little bear has paused to moan its secrets into the boy’s ragged mouth. Does every kind of bear regret the day they open their eyes? Okay, so maybe it is the selfsame bear. And now the moonlight is making his fur appear more silver than it actually is. Hence his identity (which like fur has great value) must remain indeterminate.

Alistair McCartney is the author of two cross-genre novels The Disintegrations (2017) and The End of The World Book (2008), both published with University of Wisconsin Press. TEOTWB was a finalist for the PEN USA Fiction Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White debut fiction award. The Disintegrations is a finalist for The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction. Other work has appeared in journals such as 3:AM, Fence, Animal Shelter, 1913, Gertrude, and Bloom. Originally from Australia, he live in Los Angeles, where he teaches fiction in Antioch University’s MFA program, and directs their undergraduate creative writing concentration.