Sunday, July 24, 2011

Issue Seventeen, Volume One

From the Desk of the Editor,

     Welcome and salutations to Issue Seventeen of Larks Fiction Magazine! Thank you for joining us. In this very special issue we are featuring two works of modern absurdity and hilarity as well as a song about William Blake. We hope you enjoy them!

Daniel J. Kiddy Pool

 Sam and God
By J.H. Curtis

God came to Sam and commanded, “Go to the hill behind your house and sacrifice your son to me in my name."

Sam squinted, “I thought you were dead.”

“No,” announced God.  “Now do as I say.”

Sam coughed into his hand.  “Umm, no...  I’m not going to do that.”  He glanced sideways.  “Haven’t you tried this before?”
“Screw you, Sam.”

About the Author:
J.H.Curtis lives in Portland, Oregon where he works, takes care of his kids and writes and plays songs about dead mathematicians (among other subjects).  His website is

This video is by Yaq Cuartz combining William Blake's poem Tyger Tyger with music and animation! Enjoy!

The Second Task
By Stewart Baker

My raptures are not conjured up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
- William Cowper, "The Task"

"A sofa, Mr. Cowper."

William could hear the voice, but had no idea where it was coming from. His surroundings were pitch black, and sounds echoed strangely.  He had just been writing a letter to Lady Hesketh, could still feel the impression of the pen in the curve between his thumb and forefinger.  He had no recollection of how he'd come to be standing here.

"A sofa," the voice repeated.  It was a very cold, female voice, with a noticeable lack of humor.  It had said only six words, and already William didn't like it.

"I don't," he began, but the voice cut him off.

"Mr. Cowper, are these or are these not your words?

"'The history of the following production is briefly this: A lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the author, and gave him the Sofa for a subject.  He obeyed; and, having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and, pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair -- a Volume!'"

"The advertisement for The Task," he acknowledged, "but I don't--"

"The request, Mr. Cowper, was for a poem about a sofa. Your volume does not meet this request."

William was astounded. It was true that much of the book-length poem was not about sofas, but what of it? Why harp on the sofa so? To think that a serious work could be written on so light a theme was absurd. And to abduct a person for that reason ... it beggared the imagination.

William sat in the dark and digested this information. The voice did not, surprisingly, interrupt his thoughts, and he eventually managed to put together a coherent response.


"A sofa, Mr. Cowper."  The voice didn't seem interested in what he had to say, and William wondered why it had bothered to wait until he spoke.

"Just who are you, anyway?" he snapped.  "What gives you the right to kidnap me like this?  To dictate the course of art? I demand that you show yourself!"

A window lit up in the air above him, revealing a woman whose hair looked right, but whose dress was oddly sheer, and whose collar was much higher than the current fashion. The light which poured from the window was a lurid blue and illuminated his surroundings, a smooth gray wall with no irregularities whatsoever. The window was not set in the wall, but hung freely from the ceiling.  It cast an oblong shadow on the far wall. Worse, it pitched forward almost forty-five degrees, and the woman in it was standing at the same unnatural angle.

He wondered what sort of trickery was at work, and how he was going to escape it.

The woman in the window spoke again.  "I represent SCAWP--the Society for the Correction and Adjustment of Works Poetical. You've escaped our attention for some time, Mr. Cowper.  We had bigger fish to fry: Shakespeare, Spenser, Auden, Pound.  But we have finally gotten around to the poets nobody remembers.  We did Skelton last month, and now it's your turn."


"Exactly three hundred and fifty years ago to the day, Mr. Cowper, you gave a promise.  A promise that you did not keep.  Past generations have concerned themselves with their own business, but we of SCAWP have at last achieved broad popular support.  Art can no longer be allowed to disregard its purpose, its genesis, its obligations.  It must be held to task."

Three hundred and fifty years?  The world began a slow, lazy spin, and William staggered, grappling the wall to steady himself.

"We won't hold you here long," continued the woman, "if you are willing to cooperate.  Once you rewrite 'The Task' to conform to the original request you'll be free to go."

The window flickered and faded, taking the light with it. Then it blinked back into existence, and the woman gestured to a plain desk in the room before him which had not been there before.  He sat down in a cold stone chair in front of it and examined the stack of papers on top of it.

The pages were blank--all but one, which contained the advertisement for 'The Task' that the woman had read earlier.  Every sentence but the first had been crossed out by a single neat line, and the word 'Sofa' was circled and underlined.  Next to the papers lay what looked like a pen.  There was no inkwell, and he wondered how he was supposed to write without one.

He looked the woman in the eye.  "And if I don't rewrite it? If I think it's more important to leave it the way it is, and damn your society?"

"Then Mr. Cowper, we will leave you here."

With that, the window disappeared again and he was left alone.  The blackness of the room slowly grayed in until there was enough light to see.  It was as though someone had left a candle somewhere out of sight that would sputter out at any moment.

But there was no candle.  Just the ream of empty paper, the pen, and the impermeable gray stone wall of time.
The End

About the author
Stewart Baker was born near London, England, but has spent many of the intervening years in the United States. He works as a librarian near Los Angeles and lives nearby with his wife, infant son, and cats.  His website is

     Thank you for reading this issue of Larks and we hope you will join us on August 14th for our One Year Anniversary  Edition. Remember to come back and read more great independent literature anytime.

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