“Thresholds” by James Lee Van Horn

Tyler Durden told me once, after we had fought, that death doesn’t punch a clock, so it’s its own boss. I say, my biological father died at 31 when I was nine— I barely cried. All the paradigms vying for time in my mind made it hard to unwind. Got angry inside until I watched Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. The catharsis arrived at 18, manifest in the guise of Ray Liotta’s bad guy. All the hate I had kept stored in muscle memory released during that first mid-life crisis. Escaped edifices of stone; now I roam with felines behind a pale horse, utilizing John the Baptist’s skull as a vessel to quench my thirst and proclaim my will. Technology’s a social malaise. I know it puts you ill at ease, but I’ve traveled through many centuries and galaxies. Here, in reincarnated form, I’ve been brought to my knees by emotional pain. No, I don’t know you and I don’t love you. How can I love someone else when I hardly love myself? So I forced omni-presence on both rich and poor. What a drag, to be clad in a destiny softly cloaking the graveyard black. Walk the Queen of Hell’s path of tantric sex, as ultra-terrestrials laugh at mankind’s feeble attempts to reify the quantifiable array that history’s weight displays; it is a tangible trait.

Somewhere a UFO I created flies.
Somewhere a UFO I created dies.

Putrefying a phallic death in crone’s eyes, weeping lilac soul of mauve tones frescoed on grotto walls, shimmering under a lunar grove of Spanish moss and silvery decay. By the words that I save, I can gauge my fate; manipulate ontology into more than 4 planes.

Twist the top, pop a squat and let’s talk. Unpack the third mind, see its fats fluids and salts. Add an electrical charge and watch the Ego become the lies it constructs.

A knot in my chest, a burning of skin, in the end no one wins; just more grist for the mill. Diminished dreams and aging piano loops affect a limp like Keyser Soze. A small part to play, limping away… No kids. No keys, just a bar stool called home with a gold plaque; engraving on it says, he sat here a lot. Sat here a lot and let his life go to pot.

A knot in my chest, burning skin, my voice vibrates a nourishing sphere around an offal intent of blood bone and flesh. Viking quests to know thy self. Let the bland taste my sword, which is my word and the bond to never status seek. Become who you are there are no guarantees. Drinking mead with impassioned souls like me, passing thru life only to expire in funeral pyres of dissent against corrupt keepers of fours; encouraging us not to explore exalted states beyond corporate memes hemming us in to positions low on the food chain. Yet as a species we possess free will wasted in the swill of dollar bills. The advice of this song: sometimes you gotta say fuck the sun, leave the solar phallus at home and hang out with gnomes eating beets. Kiss your spouse on the cheek, rub their feet. Keyboards fly to be free of the beat, unchained from the drums they become melody.

Bare bones, the anima returns the prodigal son. The princess takes the throne. Checkmate pretty hate machine, find comfort in this critique. Show adult and feminine mystique in the personal Qabalah that you speak.

© James Lee Van Horn 2013

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Teenwolf

Born in the thresholds of dial-up and hypertext James Lee Van Horn, aka Teenwolf, stalks the Rust Belt as a trickster and a pundit’s worst nightmare. Nourished on the teats of Maybe logic and ontological graffiti he searches for the silver bullet that will signal his PERICHORESIS.

“Simulation” a poem by Jason Kaufman

We are genetic-made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am my mother,
and she carries within her a non-recombinant coda
replicated without change
since Mitochondrial Eve.
A phenotype expressed
for 200,000 years.
The genes the same,
the body, heart, and mind the same.
Only frivolous alterations
to the wardrobe have been made
—there is no end to the simulation.

We are television-made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am Jordan Catalano
and this is my so called life.
Quiet bad boy.
Full of dark matter.
The kind of dumb that sparks with insights
he cannot name.
I am every grunge poet,
modeled on every existential absurdist.
Lovers of the void
that kills them
—there is no end to the simulation.

We are photograph-made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am every photograph that came before,
but for a moment,
between the red-eye lamp
and the flash bulb,
I am a non-self.
Without ego or linear contingency,
and then it happens.
My pupils constrict.
My face morphs into a prior face.
I rock on my heels,
peeling myself from the earth
to appear lighter.
I am orchestrating a moment
of spontaneous levity
on some dim recollection of bliss
that probably never was,
and some dim intuiting of my descendents
who will have no place for a sourpuss
in their touted lineage
—there is no end to the simulation.

From the page we are made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am Rimbaud,
and Rimbaud is the seething
bad blood of a mongrel race.
Taking a blade to Verlaine.
Taking a blade to everything known:
every folk tale, every moral
every unquestioned cultural meme.
Reveling in the blood
and the wound like lips pouring
forth the nuance of a word first spoke.
But no word is spoken once and
anything said twice is useless to the poet.
So like Rimbaud, I too will give up words
for something I can touch:
African sands, caravans, and some king’s money
—there is no end to the simulation.

From the page we are made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am Jalaludin Rumi,
and Rumi is ten generations of desert mystics
with only words for flowers.
And you are Rumi,
and Rumi is God, and I am his Bride.
He fills me with his womb blessing
until the vessel of my body shatters
and I fall towards the glass-blowers breath.
I am reborn in his image.
Rumi, God, Bride,
Rumi, God, Bride
—there is no end to the simulation.

We are quark-made,
reduplicated on down.
I am not I.
I am a great ghost waltz.
What you see before you is impossible,
a palanquin of air carried forth on sylphic shoulders.
Trace backward this labyrinth of atoms
and discover it’s all born from nothing.
A holographic essence.
Quarks snagging telepathic codes
from entangled partners.
Information replicating without digital degradation.
My image reflecting endlessly
in each node of Indra’s net of diamonds.

Draw back the cover,
draw back the cover,
draw back the cover,
but you won’t find the lover

© 2013 Jason Kaufman
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Jason Kaufman

Jason Kaufman lives in Mansfield, Ohio with his wife, Jenny, and son, Cormac. He is closely involved with the local art community in Mansfield, where he participates in monthly art critiques and writing workshops, writes reviews of regional art exhibitions, and can often be found battling stage fright at local poetry & prose open mics. Jason is the Gallery Director for Relax, It’s Just Coffee and works for Main Street Books, a local independent book store.

*This poem was read at the “Finding Identity” reading at Main Street Books, July 5, 2013. Are you interested in reading or listening to live poetry and prose? Please visit Main Street Books every month for their First-Friday, Poetry & Prose Extravaganzas. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or check out the events calendar on their website

“Arcadia Kids” a poem by Alison Bolen

On the quiet, sandy beaches of Lake Michigan
We build a fort from tree stumps and garbage bags.
We fill it with laughter and fear. We sit in a triangle and light
Discarded cigarette butts, dreaming ourselves into tomorrow.
We are tanned. We are wild. We are roaming the outskirts of
Our adult lives. We are growing. We are gliding.
We are pulling our future from the bottom of the
Lake with sand and silt and mucus of the womb.
We float on the intestine of a large black tire. It crashes
With the waves, docking our dreams and engulfing our youth.
Our parents watch from the bluff, responsible for dinner and dusk.
They feed us. We eat. We swim away from them and paddle back,
grabbing on to forearms and not letting go.
The undertow pulls us to the floor of the lake but
We hold on, clawing for life and stealing
Sharp breaths between waves.
We are swimmers but we are not strong.
We are travelers without a map.
We are locals but only for the season.
We are in between. We are adrift.
The sun rises and it sets into the dark, black edge of the world.
The moon lights up the cloudy sky. It shifts. It splits. It calls our names.
We answer with a chord. We watch it float on the water’s surface and blink away.
We fade. We lose touch. We swim upstream
While entire fortresses of bolted walls and sturdy steps are buried underground.
We forget the beaches for a spell and then return
With new life crawling in the sand.
We write a letter to the past and throw it into the fire.
No one answers. No one replies.
But up here, we are never alone.
Up here, the moon, the dunes, the waves: they know us. They built us.
They pulled us under and dragged us to this shore.
We will walk its rocky coast until we die.

© 2013 Alison Bolen
Alison Bolen, Arcadia Kids, Mansfield Ohio, Main Street Books, Book Loft Literati, Poetry, Poem, Voices from the Borderland

Dang, that poem is powerful!
When not writing poetry and non-fiction, Alison Bolen is an editor for SAS Institute, a developer of analytics software and one of the world’s largest private software companies. Mansfield was blessed to have Alison as part of its literary community for years. She is now living in New York with her husband and three children.

A/O pre & post screening discussion

Video

I wanted to follow up the A/O video and review post with some footage of the wonderful conversation that opened up following the the unveiling of the film.

A/O

Video

A/O is a video-poem collaboration between the poet Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz and film-maker Luke Beekman. They unveiled the film on July 5th at Main Street Books after the “Finding Identity” poetry reading. After watching it, the crowd spent an hour discussing the project with Aurelio and Luke and looking deeply into the nature of identity. I wanted to post the film for those who missed it, and share some of what we discussed in the form of a short review.

A/O, on one level, attempts to pin down an identity from the many binary-oppositions at work within Diaz. The film is visually structured around the elemental duality of light/dark, day/night, Sun/Moon. Interestingly, this visual dichotomy is repeated, albeit obliquely, in the artist’s name, Luna Diaz, where Luna means ‘Moon’, and Diaz means ‘Son (sun) of Jacob (who cunningly ‘bought’ his birthright and later wrestled with God!).’ Diaz’s middle name, Villa, seems to capture the tension that arises when we attempt to establish a fixed identity upon the instability of binary opposites. A villa is a home on the outskirts of the city. A fixed identity is akin to home, a place of safety and respite, closed off from the ever-changing world. The name Villa suggests an ineluctable impulse to establish a home (identity) in the ever-changing seasons of sun and moon (Diaz/Luna). This home, this villa–if it can be settled at all–will always be outside of the city, or outside of the established community center. In this way the very name, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz carries the scent of the nomad; the scent of one who enters the city by night and escapes by day.

In the Q&A that followed the screening, Diaz clued us into the meaning of the title A/O. A and O are common suffixes used to denote masculine and feminine in both Spanish and Italian. This is important because the poem’s central dichotomy is that of Gender. Gender is often seen to be a rigid and indisputable quality of our identities, but A/O presents gender as unfixed and malleable. While this was cause for more than a few people squirming in their seats during the screening, it has led to broad support in the LGBT community.

As the poem unfolds other binary opposites emerge: American/Mexican, Internal/External, Inhale/Exhale, Writing/Speaking. However, by the end it is clear that identity is not to be found in any of the binary opposites at work within the individual, but in the liminal space between opposites. We encounter “True Self” like an illusive scent in the passage between what can be readily pointed at. Identity is not the “A” or the “O”, but the transition between. Identity is the /.    – Jason Kaufman

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Press Release for A/O

Human identity has new faces: ‘A/O’

Diaz reveals a video art piece dealing with dualities of human identity.

MANSFIELD, OHIO (EMBARGO: July 5, 2013) – Ohio-based artist and poet Aurelio Villa Luna Díaz will reveal his new video art piece titled “A/O” at the Main Street Books in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, on July 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM. Known for his bold approach to shaking the core of human identity, Díaz once again challenged the way the audiences see the gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community.

The three and a half minute video production features the artist’s transformation,
from an every day look in a man’s attire, familiar to family members, friends and acquaintances, to an evening female persona, unknown to many.

The transformation is captured over a time period, via stop-motion video, from daylight to nighttime, to dawn, and finally full morning light. Additionally, each video frame is paired with the sounds of wind chimes and a desolate melody composed by Diaz to accompany each step of the transformation. Aside from the sound effects and distinct melody, during the entire process, Díaz recites his poem, also titled “A/O,” in two languages: first in English and then in Spanish, one read in a deeper voice while the other in a higher pitch.

When asked to describe the motive behind this video creation and his bilingual poem, Díaz, a Mexican-American artist, states the following: “While this video art piece does not represent my own reality, I wanted to capture the human identity as a broader topic that transcends gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, cultural, and internal dualities.”

Luke Beekman, the video production specialist responsible for the time-lapse videography and the editing of the piece, commented by saying: “It was an incredible opportunity to work with an artist of such caliber. To say that Aurelio is a diverse artist would be an understatement. From the very beginning of this project I knew this wouldn’t be the traditional way of capturing transgendered transformation. The whole process, from start to finish was magical. We simply couldn’t recreate it with the same authenticity. The poem and film was a moment captured,”said Beekman.

All who are familiar with Díaz’s art already know this is not the first time he has challenged the notion of human identity. In a recent art review of Díaz’s photographs “Scary Mary’s Ivy” and “Katsu III,” artist/critic Jason Kaufman said, “[Díaz’s] photographs strike me as fiercely authentic…”and, “in a world where identity is pre-scripted according to race, geography, gender, and sexual orientation, Díaz’s art becomes an exercise in burning the damn script.”

Additional “A/O” Reviews:

“What fascinated me the most is the Samson and Delilah effect of the piece. While majority of video documentaries about transgender transformations begin with the application of make up and finish with putting of the hair piece, almost as a form of crowning; Diaz reverses the process and starts with the hair piece, serving as the symbol of strength, needed for what is about to come next.”

~Violeta Chinni, Owner, Niàbos Art Gallery, Mansfield, Ohio

 “Diaz’s pieces provokes people in ways that make them confront their own phobias regarding race, homosexuality, masculinity, effeminacy in men. Those issues are heightened when we are dealing with a person of color as the face of the issue.”

~Obie Ford III, Founder, FThreeO Productions, Columbus, Ohio

 “Diaz skillfully uses stunning visual images to enhance his poetic writing and creates an impactful short video that will make you dig dip into your own sense of self.”

~ Domenick Danza, Director & Teaching Artist, Cultural Academy for the Arts and  Science, New York City, NY

Time-Capsulation of My Heart’s Inhabitants: An Optical/Poetic Homage –work by Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz: A review by Jason Kaufman.

The gallery space on the second floor of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library is becoming one of the most exciting exhibition spaces in Mansfield. It’s the perfect size for solo-shows and there is an informal quality to the space that, I think, allows artists to relax and take chances creatively that they would not be inclined to take in a traditional gallery. Of course, when artists begin to take chances, moving beyond their established styles and familiar materials, they risk producing work that feels half-thought or unfinished. I’m an advocate of half-thought and unfinished, because the purpose of art is to lead us—maker and dilettante alike—ever-onward into the unexpressed (inexpressible?) realms of experience. Let the designers and decorators settle for comfortable, known forms.

In this space Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz has arranged the ‘optical/poetic’ portraits of twenty-two people that ‘inhabit’ his heart. There are eighteen photographs, three paintings, and one sculpture. The risk here is that the personal nature of the work leaves Diaz extremely vulnerable. These portraits disrobe Diaz’s relationships of all their exoteric trappings, bringing the essential live-wire of intimacy under the public’s gaze. Diaz must walk a fine line to retain the power and eccentricity of these portraits, while not losing the viewer’s interest in the highly personal sentiments. Luckily, Diaz has guts and a subtle step; the risk has paid off.

"Aurelio's Brother"

The piece “Aurelio’s Brother” was the high point of the show for me. The photo and poem both seem to carry the same weight and work together to express the dual tough/sensitive nature of his brother. But deeper, I think what I love is that I can see Diaz’s looks in his brother’s face and I can’t image a less likely place to spot him than in this burly man with a barbed-wire tattoo. With all of Diaz’s lingo, the poem is not easy:

                                         When aspirations of greening it up for the U.S of A

           got mechanically ruptured in a sickening, halting twist

                           u could have packed up your testosterone & exiled entirely

          to a headbangers ball of tawny’s dancing on hoods of hotrods.

                                                               That would’ve been pointless though

         Because throughout life your name embodied possessive noun

                           more so than adjective

        & that not only makes you a man, it makes u a father who transcends

                   that which was absent during formative years.

        With the expansion of your bloodline

        soon entered soft smile tinged with charity.

        With soft smile & charity came unconscious surrender

        of retiring possessive noun

        so that the pressure can be resumed by a needy soul

        who will one day be contently fulfilled as u are now.

Despite the initial difficulties, the love and respect for his brother is straightforward. The honest emotion expressed in the work makes it feel deceptively accessible. It draws me in until I believe I understand Diaz completely and then he pummels me with a phrase like “exiled entirely to a headbanger’s ball of Tawnys dancing on hoods of hotrods,” which feels thoroughly Hispanic. As a white boy from Loudonville, Ohio, I do not entirely understand the lingo or the world gestured at in that line, but it is this ‘otherness’ that intrigues me about Diaz’s work. Phrases like this seem distilled from a thousand cultural and racial identities. This is the power of his work; he seems to walk the borders between ethnicities and marginal groups. Diaz seems to have a foot inside of them all, without fully inhabiting any.

In his poetry Diaz doesn’t seem concerned with portraying environment or action in any highly visual, palpable, or experiential way—the way a fiction writer might create a world. Instead, he delivers action and environment obliquely through the eccentric turns of phrase discussed above (Consider the lines “When aspirations of greening it up for the U.S of A / got mechanically ruptured in a sickening, halting twist,” which seems to suggest a car wreck or similar accident ruined his brother’s plans to enter the Army, but never directly confirms it). In this way the poems are specific and abstract. I’m never sure what is concrete and what is symbolic. I have the sensation of not so much entering into the poems, as floating over their surfaces, watching the shimmering effects of his personalized language.

There are instances where Diaz may push the subjectivity of his language too far. Consider these lines from his piece “B-B-Beard on a Guy Like U Nails the Door Shut”:

B-B-Beard on a guy like u

& B-B-Brontosaurus for a gal like her

Is a bed-in for exaltation of exoskeleton

Here I get the feeling I’m third party to an inside joke, and grow a little embarrassed for my sudden isolation after being nearly in tears from the work that came before. I’m not sure where the defect lies. Perhaps it’s because this poem is paired with a child-like painting of a bearded man and a brontosaurus. Though the painting has significant outsider-art charm, it does not seem to operate with the same intensity and earnestness as the photo/poem portraits. There are equally difficult verses in the photo/poem portraits, but the obscurity of the difficult verses feels thoroughly anchored in the reality of the photographs. In these pieces, if a verse defies our translation we can at least look at the photograph and imagine the spark of recognition in the subject’s eyes. To be fair, while I feel that “B-B-Beard On A Guy Like U Nails the Door Shut” and the other painting/poems are of a different body of work and belong in their own show altogether, they do possess a lovely, playful quality that delights me.

If you like gritty, home-grown art, and a refreshingly exotic poetic voice then this is the show for you. Time-Capsulation of My Heart’s Inhabitants: an Optical/Poetic Homage will be on display through July. I urge you to spend some time with Diaz’s work; it’s one of the most moving shows I’ve seen in Mansfield.

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Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz’s work as a performance artist, photographer, and poet have garnered him recognition throughout Ohio. Some of his accomplishments include photography featured in the Mansfield Art Center‘s statewide, juried 2012 and 2013 May Show.  Diaz is a recipient of the 2011 and 2012 Mansfield-Richland Public Library’s Armchair Poetry Contest.

Diaz’s experience as a professional artist continually informs his other passion; working with individuals with developmental disabilities. He is the founder and choreographer for the Richland Newhope Dance Troupe comprised of adults with developmental disabilities who perform throughout Ohio. Diaz was also instrumental in the conception and development of the Element of Art Studio/Gallery in downtown Mansfield, Ohio. The gallery showcases and sells art created by artists with developmental disabilities.

Diaz has an upcoming show titled “Putney,” which will be featured in the NIABOS Gallery in Mansfield in October.  Diaz is also a Creative Consultant at FthreeO Productions based in Columbus, Ohio, and choreographs Hip/Hop dance routines for the Rising Starz Dance Studio in Mansfield, Ohio.

Visit www.aureliovillalunadiaz.com to see more of his work.