Writer in Residence · 12/17/2010

From: The Old Reactor by David Ohle and Secret Breathing Techniques



In the liberated city of Altobello, a jellyhead woman entered the Saposcat’s Deli on Arden Boulevard last night with five severed heads in a suitcase, those of husband, Barry; Muffy and Dale, the twin 10-year olds; Earnest, the blind and deaf son, and George D. Bennett, an uncle visiting from Bunkerville.

Observers say she sat down with a calm demeanor, though her clothes were blood soaked and glistening with gel, the suitcase oozing, and ordered a sapsap plate from a trembling waitress. After eating the sapsap and drinking a soda, she suddenly shouted, “Oh, sput! I forgot about little Timmy,” and dashed from the restaurant.

Some of the diners were shocked to see this, others were amused. The frycook stepped from the kitchen and said, “We get this all the time.”

In only a few minutes, the jellyhead returned with little Timmy, her youngest, his head in a soaked and dripping in a cloth bag. Now her family was complete.

As the diners looked on, the frycook opened the suitcase and the bag and said to them, “We’ve got six heads here. Personally speaking, I’ve never seen a jelly bring in more than three at once. Don’t ask me why they sever them like that or why they always drop them off at Saposcat’s. I don’t have a clue.”

The beheadings of loved ones was something new to the native jellies of Altobello, who were formerly devoted to family, to the home, to community values, until they set up an encampment out near the Old Reactor about a hundred years ago and began drinking heavy water. After that, there was no predicting how a given jellyhead might behave.



Ben Marcus’ “Secret Breathing Techniques” appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Conjunctions and is found here





He’s a deep pause, a slow pace. I was born with pictures of his body rotation, the secret instructions.

Through no clear means I survived. Perhaps I fought long and well.

It is possible that this recession haunted man is completely foreign to me. I went to him, to this place that is gone now, regardless of my mouth, because I want to talk.

I went to this place that is gone now, a restaurant of many foreign words and phrases, wet and shallow and finally a number of clay images, blurred. Some guests were surprised to see an absent-minded man: “That he was killed, and remembers to look clean” they whispered.

Perhaps I had not survived. Perhaps I was gone all along.

Food and drink sodas served and suddenly this man I had known from always, this man that was killed, produced his head, soaked in a bag. Now he produced his family, in bags and sacks, every last breath and heart. And little Timmy, his youngest, who just a minute ago was sitting in a comfortable attitude, even with blood leaking from his clothes (until he’d become a bag of shining wet). The man said proudly of his family that his first invention of development was “the stop breathing technique.”

Around me they whispered of the man’s family: “[They] also appeared in [our] food.”

According to later reports they found “six heads in bags” while they whispered of this man, “I never [saw him] …. cut in this way [before]”.

No one spoke nor whispered as they disappeared this man from the restaurant. Silence, from those disappeared into the local jail, is nothing new, previously reserved for members of our family, our community values of love, when one hundred years ago they started drinking too much.

To this report, then, there is no evidence that can be added. Nothing more was heard from the people I’ve known for a very long time. This man I so long knew. This man I never knew.


Remixer’s process: Once I decided to mashup these texts by David Ohle and Ben Marcus I set about cutting, combining, and mistranslating them. First, I cut paragraphs from the Marcus story and alternated these with paragraphs from “From: Old Reactor”. I then copied the resulting work into Google Translate (as I have long admired the poetry of certain ESL students of mine who compose with the use of electronic translators) where my process was to translate and retranslate the text from random language to random language. After 10 or so passes through Google, the mistranslated phrasing achieved random spots of a high poetic feeling. I then formed the resulting jumble into the writing before you.

It occurs to me that there are many potential outcomes to this remix process depending upon the combinations of original texts, the exact mistranslation process, and then the decisions made in the refinement process My resulting piece is clearly just one outcome and, very likely, not nearly the finest possible. I freely invite folks to undertake a similar process of mashing and mistranslating these texts and to send me your results pasted inside the body of an email. Direct your messages to kloss[dot]robert1 [at] gmail [dot] com. I don’t know what would come of those efforts, but I am curious.


posted by Robert Kloss