SPOTLIGHT: At The Movies: A humorous collection of cinema-inspired essays by Shawn Berman


It’s Hamlet’s third birthday and we’re trying to take his picture so we can celebrate his existence on social media. You tell me that you think Hamlet is sad since my iPhone’s portrait mode doesn’t recognize his little kitty face, saying he just wants beautiful headshots like the rest of us so he can use them for his future acting portfolio. You’re convinced that once agents see his gorgeous blue eyes, no one will be able turn him down.

After ten minutes, Hamlet runs away from this impromptu photoshoot and we’re forced to pick one of the pictures of him that we already have. Scrolling through the pics, I ask you what movie roles this nearly 20 pound cat who sleeps all day would be suitable for. As of right now, I go, he’s not in tip-top shape to be taking any jobs away from The Rock. Perhaps, I say,  if we got him on a strict workout regimen where he did like a buncha pushups and ran around the apartment for a bit, then we could get him an audition for Jumanji 3. But, I doubt Hamlet will be game for that idea and I can’t say I blame ‘em.

We continue to think of films that Hamlet could excel at, rattling off the obvious cat-led ones. You tell me, that under no circumstances, would Hamlet be in any future Lion King movies as the Lion King is the worst Disney Film of all-time. I have heard this rant from you before, how the Lion King is unrealistic, that the lions shouldn’t be friends with other animals, and if the animators had any integrity, Simba would just eat everyone. Even though I’m a bit tired of this rant, I tell you I agree because that’s what a good boyfriend is supposed to do.

In my opinion Hamlet would excel in a rebooted version of Terminator. I run this idea by you and we can’t stop giggling, as the thought of a feline cyborg assassin just lighting up the silver screen is freaking badass. Because this role would optimize lots of CGI, you think Hamlet would be a naturally good fit. After a successful trilogy, I imagine that the Catinator would get tons of merchandising opportunities: toys, shirts, video games, koozies, maybe even Catinator-branded litter boxes. Honestly, the possibilities are endless…and also dangerous.

We realize that the last thing Hamlet needs is a bigger ego. We imagine the fame would go to his head quite quickly. I tell you that I fear he would be that one actor nobody wants to work with, bossing poor assistants around, demanding salmon smoothies, meowing for his cat bed to be fluffed, shit-talking directors on late shows. Tabloids would run stories that Hamlet is a real a-hole and they would say that he only cares about partying with other celebs. Soon, he would be blackballed and he would be crawling back home, apologizing for his behavior, and that would be the end of his short-lived movie career. How embarrassing.

Hamlet waddles back over, manipulatively purring, just being cute to get a treat. Then, outta nowhere, he barfs up the biggest hairball we’ve ever seen. Yeah, this cat’s got no shot to be the next Air Bud, I say. None at all. There goes our dream of being rich cat parents. Maybe we can get him to go viral on TikTok instead. We’ll see.


One of the most appealing things about the Prospect Park Quidditch Club is how it only meets biweekly: just the right amount of commitment an introverted couple like us can handle. We send over the club fee of $20, receive a schedule, and are placed on a team: The Team Who Must Not Be Named. Our logo—a huge, superimposed face of Lord Voldemort—is meant to strike fear in our opponents’ hearts, we assume.

Before our first match, you give me a crash course on the game of Quidditch by playing a 10-minute, best of Harry Potter Quidditch YouTube compilation: chock-full of wizardly trap music and slow motion reverse cuts of Daniel Radcliffe whipping through the air on a broomstick.

When it’s done, I look over at you and go: what if I’m a secret Quidditch phenom and I end up being so good that I grace the cover of EA Sports’ Major League Quidditch 2021? How sick would that be?

You roll your eyes and tell me no chance—not with the way I run.


September 26. Game day. We get to the park 15 minutes early and meet up with our team by the playground area. Our captain Jared—a gangly, pale-skin dude with a stick-and-poke lightning bolt tattoo—quickly goes over the rules and positions. Before walking to midfield to meet the opposing team—Dumbledore’s Army—Jared gives us a pep talk, telling us to have fun and to expecto patronum all the bad vibes away.

Jared then says that we need someone to be the Golden Snitch so he reaches into the sorting hat—which is really just a sweaty biking cap—and rummages around until pulling out a name. My name. Crap.

Jared hands me a tennis ball with a sock tied around it and explains that I need to attach this real-life Snitch to the back of my waist. I also have two important things to remember: (1) If someone manages to grab this from me, game over. And (2) stay away from Mikey C.: he’s the meanest S.O.B this side of the Hudson has ever seen.


The referee blows their whistle and players are off, running around with their broomsticks. I spot Mikey C. halfway across the field with biceps the size of tractor tires. He sees me, puts two fingers to his head like a bull, starts charging, and screams yee-haw, pawt-nah. Scared shitless, I duck under opposing players’ legs, crab walking outta trouble, attempting to hide by the bleachers. If i can just keep this pace for the rest of the match, there’s no way Mikey C. can catch me.

15 minutes in and everything is going fine. I start to get a little cocky that Mikey C. will never find me. I let the autumn air blow through my hair, taking in the sounds: the laughter of people forgetting about their day jobs, forgetting about life, and kids, and wives, and student loans, then—

BAM!! Stars. Glorious stars. Chest hurting. Wheezing. Cracking. More stars.

Mikey C. runs me over and snatches the Golden Snitch from my waist, proceeding to flex over my feeble, semi-unconscious body. My nose is bleeding, I think. Bones probably broken. I’m not sure I can move.

I hear the phrase: better luck next time, ya jabroni!

But there’ll never be a next time.

Mikey C. crushes my dreams of becoming a Quidditch superstar before they even have the chance to fly. Feeling sad that I let everyone down on my team, I walk back to the bench to collect my honor. Back home, I drown my sorrows with a keg of Butterbeer while binge-watching past Inter-House Quidditch highlights on YouTube, mentally replaying what went wrong in my match. So many things I could’ve done differently. Perhaps I should’ve hid better. Maybe I should’ve carbo-loaded on Chocolate Frogs so I had more energy. Suddenly, I come across a random video in the playlist called Potion Making 101, and inspiration strikes. Mikey C. may have killed my desire to be the best Quidditch player ever, but my new and improved dream of being a world-class poitioner is alive and kicking. Take that, Mikey C. You can’t keep me down forever.

SPOTLIGHT: The Sticky Note Alphabet by Beth Gulley

Black Hole

I cradle my phone at this late hour
and hope that the right words come
to keep the moon and stars afloat.

I recently learned that black holes
feast or fast, and our galaxy has one
that is presently fasting.

If our black hole wakes up hungry
and gobbles all our sentences,
will any of my words have mattered?

January 8, 2021

Stolen Hour

Somewhere in the afternoon
I stole an hour for myself.
I ran with it down
the Indian Creek trail
and tried to drown it
in Paul Simon records.
Eventually, I let it go
and returned to work
until long after the sun quit.

January 11, 2021

Highlights and Underlines

I flip through a book I’ve read before.
Each little mark and wrinkle jogs my memory.
Yes, I remember I was drinking coffee
when I first read Merton’s words
“To place your faith in visible things
is to live in despair.”
And of all the words in the chapter,
these are the words that gave me pause.
The highlights and underlines
are a road map to my memory.
Visible as they are.

January 12, 2021

The Worshipper to My Left

The worshipper to my left
plans to win Gods ear
by completing all the response
and prayers a half step ahead
of the congregation.

The child in the pew ahead
feels warm and wants to
take his sweatshirt off.
His shirt comes with it
before his mother sees.

This morning the priest
speaks of Nineveh
how God forgives
let’s us start again.
Today, we all need a reboot.

January 24, 2021

The Sticky Note Alphabet

The sticky note alphabet is infinite
unlike the QWERTY Keyboard.

Yet the urgent messages
written there–always concise.

Dad to hospital.
Dinner in the fridge.

January 31, 2021

SPOTLIGHT: When We lived in Los Angeles by Marie-Louise Eyres

when we lived in los angeles

a pair of coyotes climbed up a rock
on the outskirts of Griffith Park
waiting for traffic to clear
coyote one crossed
to a firebreak trail
looking back at coyote two
as if to say


when we lived in los angeles

a mountain lion
made her way downtown
in search of food
she curled up and slept
inside an open-air mall
on 3rd Street
Animal Control brought
nets and long sticks then
shot her


when we lived in los angeles

plump avocados and pomegranates
hung from trees
over high walls
of private gardens
into public alleyways
where homeless people
huddled behind trash cans
out of


SPOTLIGHT: Curses, Black Spells and Hexes: a Grimoire Sonnetica by Juleigh Howard-Hobson

What A Shame Spell

To ruin anyone’s potential, you
Will need things like this: shell from a chicken’s
Egg that broke when it fell from its nest to
The ground, unhatched. Unfastened safety pins
That were found, not bought. Seeds, germinated,
Then boiled before the first leaves unfurled and
Turned green. Dead caterpillars. Negated
Contracts. Unopened catalogues. A hand
From a working clock. Beads from a wedding
Dress that was returned. At least one item
Must have been stolen from your target. Bring
These together, dig a 6 foot hole, then
Bury them. As you bury, state the name
Of who you want ruined, adding: ‘What a shame’.

Should You Come Upon a Dead Raven

Should you come upon a dead raven, it’s
Only right to bury nine coins before
You take it. For magickal purposes.
Never tell anyone you have it. More
Mundanely, it’s against the law as well.
Say the feathers are from a black chicken.
And the feet, too. No need to have to tell
The truth. The feathers can curse a person
If you use boiling water, seventeen
Black candles and the victim’s photograph.
Dry and use the feet for your protection:
Carry them in a flannel bag along with
Red brick dust, lightning struck wood, silver dimes
(Three’s best) passed though alder smoke seven times.

Enemy Curse Bottle

Nine pins. Nine needles. Nine nails. Graveyard dirt.
Sulphur powder. A single hair of theirs.
Glass jar with a lid. Put the first five in
The jar, shake. Add the hair, close. This will hurt
Your enemy when you bury it as
The moon is waning, after eleven
But before midnight. Make sure you put it
In the ground by their doorstep or in their
Pathway. They will start to wither away
And begin to lose all hope, they will quit
Working at things, become filled with despair,
Lethargic and depressed. Their hair will grey,
Spouse will leave, world will collapse as the curse
Leads their life downwards, worse to worse to worse.

Goofer Dust

First you must assemble everything. There’s
No measures, but no substitution.
You need sulphur powder, plain salt, peppers
(Both black and red), anvil dust (find some), one
Venomous snake head and/or skin, dried, ground,
Also ground up bones and dried up insects.
And graveyard dirt. Make sure you’ve found
The right sort of grave first, make your intent
Known, pay for the dirt with 9 dimes, do not
Dig it with your hands, use a knife blade so
The connection the spirit has is cut
Between the dirt and the grave. Now you know
What to get. Mix it all up. Carefully.
Then scatter it around your enemy.

Quick Stop Spell

If you are having trouble with people
And you want to send the trouble back, get
A glass jar with a metal top that fits
Tight. A dirty jar will work best. Half fill
It with filthy water—from a toilet,
A ditch, a street puddle. Add rusty bits
Of iron, pepper (corn or chili), dirt,
Vinegar, lemon juice, spoiled milk, garlic,
Black stinking things from beneath garbage cans—
Some people add urine. Stuff that will hurt
The senses while it turns luck. You then stick
In a ripped-up photograph of them and
One strand of their hair. Your troubles will quit
Once you close the jar. Never open it.

A Charm to Sicken

You will need to leave an egg out under
The hot sun for two weeks before you make
This. Carefully, place the egg on yellow
Cloth (cut a square from a sickbed sheet for
More power), add your target’s hair, then take
A piece of yellow string and tie it, slow
And steady — don’t break the egg. Dig a hole
With your right hand, then softly place the charm
In it. Spit on it three times. Sprinkle this
With water taken from your toilet bowl.
Cover it — gently. Lift your foot. Say: “Germ
And dirt, harm and hurt, transmit your foulness!
Infect the body, bring disease! A swamp
Of fever now released!” Drop your foot. Stomp.

Assembling the Curse

Broken mirrors, graveyard dust, chicken bones,
Thorns and brambles, rusty knives, coffin nails,
Black cat hair, black hen egg, cracked river stones,
Burnt up roses, razor blades, adder scales,
Venomous spiders, poison snakes, henbane,
Glass shards, bent pins, dried blood, black candle wax,
Locks of hair, fingernails, a red wheat grain,
Thrice knotted rope, poppet dolls, carpet tacks,
Dove’s blood ink, black binding thread, mullein weed,
Parchment paper, left rabbit’s foot, dark rum,
Dead dog’s fang, dead man’s tooth, poppy seeds,
Toads, flies, stinging insects, urine, spit, scum,
Blue glass quart size jars with tight fitting lids.

And now they pay for all the things they did.

SPOTLIGHT The Wound: poems and stories by Kristen Mitchell

The Wound: poems & stories: Mitchell, Kristen, Buddha, Alien: 9798532227262: Books


Tissue. I had a mass there.
Into the ducts doctors placed
a camera, pulled them out said
I’d never milk a baby again.
Tits. Men like babies suck
them dry. Men are babies looking
for their mother, one way or another.
Unaccountable for their actions,
need a woman to wipe up their
shit. Flowers. Underneath the skin
the breast muscle resembles flowers.
Women supposed to be flowery.
Smell good. Be sweet. Stay pretty.

What about the corpse flower?
That’s me. Death. Look like it.
Smell like it. Curse like it. And
I don’t mind. Breasts. A bunch
of fat for nurturing. The porn industry
says the bigger the better, the firmer
he won’t cheat. How much did that
plastic surgery cost? Now everything
is sweet about you. Is filled up with
cancerous material but you look so
damn good. Boobs. Get a girl half
your age and you’ll never have to worry
about her boobs sagging with your ego
because soon you’ll be dead.

Really Artaud

The human mind is the scariest thing of all.
Intangible translations.
Uncompromising clicks of suppressed imagination.
From the times sitting in a room playing with plastic horses.
Or in a long narrow hallway. Apprehensive to movement.
The dark was just as dark there.
The unconscious beating of heartbreak.
Not being held enough by the ghosts.
Down in the bed snoring like a fat dog.
Housed in a brain. A friend. A best friend.
How scary you can intrude on me.
And slip into an entity of language eating at my gut.

Five to Ten Pounds of Bile

I know a girl with a noose tattooed around her neck.
There are days I look at her photo on IG and want to make a copy.
Let it penetrate my skin. Become a monument of destruction.
Resembling my life. The noose that wraps around my body.
A regifted present no one wants. I have blood stained in my thumb.
This is my relapse of days and daze. Triggers.
Lonesome impossible relationships. Bricks tied to their lungs.
Sinking. Drowning in a toxic river of sewage. Placebo.
Perfume of the worst kind. I plunge into asthma inhalers. Razors.
A destiny of Covid hospitals. Misunderstanding.
A constant apology for my sensitive existence.
Five to ten pounds of bile.

Smell of You

I wear your sweat jacket in the morning when I write.
Your smell’s woven in the fabric. It smells like your house.
You’re still there. I’m trapped against a separate continent.
Wishing for the evenings to imprison you in seclusion.

For stars to eat at your fingertips so you won’t forget how
I used to sing Joni Mitchell in bed. Hideous outbursts make sense
now. I was a child walking on earthquakes. Finding old kisses
beneath dirty feet. Grab me. Tickle me with my tongue. I am here.
You are there. Molecules hang in the air. An antidote, the smell
of your sweat jacket.

Eating My Depression

fucking it all up
stop talking
don’t gush
take a muscle relaxer
pretend ur in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory
ur jaw isn’t sore
lick the wallpaper
find a way out
expensive language is on the plate
eat it
look for a way to say, “I’m not sad,
I love life, the flowers are lovely”
just pretend
just imagine
grip the thought bubble like a fine piece of luggage
extinguish what sets you aflame
be light
be the fucking dali lama
or scream, “fuck the dali lama!”
eat eat eat
get fat on that junk food depression
this is not an instruction manual

NYC Scum

Where was it? Fuck if I know. George Harrison standing in front of Matchless Gifts New York of London? Whatever. Chant your way into life Hare Krishna but your death is in Washington State Park like that movie Kids where he fucks that kid up with the skateboard. Not sure where you’re going but I’m gonna take a taxi to the Bowery to score some “H” then to the Village. Hope to hear some John Coltrane on the juke in some dive ass bar where I can shoot up grab my balls & nod off. Is this New York ya fucking hippie? Kim Kardashian in Paris got her jewelry stolen. Wish it was around the corner. I would have done it. I would have tapped that big ass, but now Times Square might just save my life tough sugar cubes this loud city is like a worm through an apple.