By Tim Horvath
I) A lipogrammatic rendition of your opening paragraph stripmining it of “e.”
And thus did grungy alpha dogs limp back from sylvan yurts, that or in chains, brought back by military might, by fisticuff and cast-iron ring, long chains of man-folk brought low. And our Oval Official, just sworn in, could only grant pardons, insisting the saintly Abraham had a mission—paramount in his vision was no hanging, but autarchy for such folk. And so to pitchfork and plow and furrow and planting and rain-wish and dirt-turning and silo-cramming and sky-gazing and sprout-spotting and stalk-stalking and crop-rotating and sun-worshipping and prior-to-first-flight-and-Wright Bros. barnstorming (truly hoping, praying against drought, that many a storm would visit and pound rain upon barns and surroundings)—to this, all hastily took off. Chins and brows charcoal-black, burnt by war, by raging conflagration, caught by spark and cannonball, “Onward! Onward!” all found lip to say, though labor was scant, guys unwilling or demanding pay, wife and girl-offspring now brutal, scrotal in all outward ways—casual pants, comfort in pig-slaying, spitting, and cursing. (About what? Hint: antonym for “nothing,” “nada,” “nichts,” “wala lang,” “jack shit”; pick your own phrasing, or grow your own words.) A handful, thin in rags, saw fit to hitch onto Indian gals, or to sally south to start forging iron (ironic, no, with pasts in handcuffs?) as blacksmiths or, abruptly, upholding laws as officials, just a job or now a vocation, I cannot, curious, avoid asking? Most found sanctuary in habitations of sand, rich in quartz, communing only with mirrors in coats of SnCl2 that wouldn’t damn or nag back.
II. The second and third paragraphs, subjected to the algorithm of N+2 and N+3, wherein every noun is replaced by a noun from the dictionary two and three spots after the original word, respectively. Thanks to www.spoonbill.com for doing the heavy dictionary lifting and allowing me to plug in these texts.
And this new president-elect apologized to the former employments of the unpaid, and these were not punished but given chestnuts of goldmine as reconciliation for their lots.
And there were daydreams of paradigms for those soles returning, the peeler of andante churchgoer bellboys, the fall of confetti and the clattering of hooves, the lavatory wrecks ready for the loyal brownies of those once plump and bare-faced boycotts now gaunt and bearded, their loot hangman unions, their handbags readied on their pistons or knives, and some yelped, and some drew their weasels at the explosive of firms, those red and bluebell lighters splayed against the hormone. In those falling lighters they saw rod firearm, and in the crackling smoker they only knew the fogey of warbler, and in the cheerleaders and whistling of childhoods and mother-in-laws they only knew the high horse of rebellions yelling. And in the weekdays follow-on they returned to their fielders, to their dinosaur tableaus, to their parenthesiss and their wives and their childhoods, and there were daydreams at the plow, in the musk of the cut open earthquake, and the family motivations of their yo-yo returned without heterosexual, and they fellow again into the lifeboat they had always known, and those not married now married old sweetmeats, and some even wedding the widowers of their friendlies, perhaps to granule the dying wishbone of the manacle whose last screes they still dreamed of, the wide thoughtless eyeballs, while flybies everywhere gathered.
And this new presidium apologized to the former emporiums of the unpaid, and these were not punished but given chevrons of goldsmith as reconnoitre for their lotions.
And there were daylights of paradoxes for those solecisms returning, the peep of anecdote churchman belles, the fall of confetti and the clattering of hooves, the law wreckers ready for the loyal brownstones of those once plump and bare-faced boyfriends now gaunt and bearded, their looter hangout unionists, their handbills readied on their pits or knives, and some yelped, and some drew their weathers at the exponent of firmaments, those red and blueberry lighthouses splayed against the horn. In those falling lighthouses they saw rodent fireball, and in the crackling smokestack they only knew the foghorn of ward, and in the cheeses and whistling of childminders and motherlands they only knew the high horsefly of rebounds yelling. And in the weekends follow-through they returned to their fieldmouses, to their diocese tablecloths, to their pariahs and their wives and their childminders, and there were daylights at the plow, in the musk of the cut open earthwork, and the famine motives of their yuppie returned without hexagon, and they fellowship again into the lifeguard they had always known, and those not married now married old swells, and some even wedge the widths of their friendships, perhaps to grape the dying wisp of the management whose last screeches they still dreamed of, the wide thoughtless eyebrows, while flyers everywhere gathered.
III. A Cento including Alligators and four books that were sitting nearby and caught my eye: The Middleman by Bharati Mukherjee, Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins, The Everlasting Story of Nory by Nicholson Baker, and House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. A cento is a found poem bringing together lines from a variety of sources. I’ve edited slightly for cohesion.
The sounds of static moans and the fumy black and white apparitions of a hundred positions of copulation,
The coffee table is already laid with platters of mutton croquettes, fish chops, onion pakoras, ghugni with puris, samosas, chutneys.
Everybody said, “Is it true? Is it true?”
We stared like idiots.
Outdoors, in the twilight fog, the familiar metallic rolling sound of my son’s skateboard wheels.
IV. A snowball, ascending and descending, using key words taken from the text. A snowball, as will be obvious, is a poem/story in which the words go from one letter words to whatever number (in this case thirteen), and a descending snowball is the reverse. Note that no word repeats, although “alligator” is used here in both the singular and plural, as seemed fitting.
V. Lastly, larding is where you take a pair of sentences and add a sentence in between, then add sentences between each of those sentences, etc. I did this with a pair of yours, which I’m sure you’ll recognize below.
And there were those who dressed in black hoods and snuck into Abraham’s crypt and opened Abraham’s casket. If anyone had caught wind of it in the marketplace or the pub, they would surely have blocked such desecration with a posse of vigilantes, however ragged. When the light from their torches caught the casket, they could tell it was rendered of copper, as though auguring the coins that would one day bear their namesake’s visage. But money was something they’d already journeyed beyond, like so many things. The casket creaked open with such tremulous groaning that they looked toward the firmament for a jagged lightning streak. All was mute. They waited as if the sky’s non-response meant someone or something was deliberating on the right course of action. There was time for Captain Lance Severin to recall the moment he’d fallen in love with a prostitute outside of Fort Paulee, because of the way she’d hung above him as if not being paid for her time but wanting, like him, to prolong the interval of desire and to become all women that he’d have, past, present, future, which she had, since she eclipsed the few who did follow her act in his dry, lean years of calvary to come. They leaned toward the body as if trying to burrow into it, as if they might join it in the crypt. Leading the way was Corporal Russell Bodine, who had been fascinated by necrophilia since a childhood incident in which he’d witnessed a woman get run over by a cart shortly after he’d masturbated to emission for the first time, a convergence of events that had seized him at once with terror and an inordinate sense of responsibility for his prick’s slightest twitchings. It was a scrum of bodies and cloaks which any observer could have been excused for thinking was a deranged orgiastic rite. Their breathing grew shorter. One of them tripped and his face was revealed as a young acne-plagued boy, and he could not for the life of him regain his hooded state. His cloak had gotten snagged under someone’s heel and ripped, and he might as well have been naked there. His identity revealed, he groped at his cheeks and chin as if he might undo the makings of manhood and relive his boyhood. Together, they lifted the body and heaved it toward the exit as though aiming to plug up the hole of light, as if that might hide their deed. They brought the body into the open air until anxiety gripped their souls and they could go no further.
Tim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press) and Circulation (sunnyoutside), and his stories have been published in Conjunctions, Fiction, The Normal School, and various other journals. Recipient of a Yaddo Residency, he teaches creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. He is also an associate prose editor for Camera Obscura.