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Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is Alien Buddha’s Featured Artist for February 2022


ABP- Hello Sara. Thank you for taking this interview. This past October, ABP was lucky to be able to publish your short story collection Morsels of Purple. What can you tell us about this book? What was the process of writing it like?



SSC- Morsels of Purple is a collection of short fiction that represents the mosaic of a woman’s life—girlhood and its impoverishment, womanhood and its heartbreaks, wifehood and its travails, motherhood and its responsibility, childlessness and its curse. The stories, spanning across cultural and geographical boundaries—India, the USA, and Europe—offer a glimpse into the lives of women in different situations and stages of relationships.

I wrote these stories over the past four years or so, honestly, not with the intention of putting together a collection, but because I wanted to write them. Last year when I paused to look at my work, I found these fifty plus stories clearly resonating a theme and decided to compile them in a book.




ABP- Are you currently working on anything right now?



SSC– I am working on the edits for my chapbook Skin Over Milk to be released in the summer of 2022. This book is not a collection of different stories but one tale based in India, told in ten chapters. Besides that, I continue to write flash and micro fiction when I find time and inspiration.




ABP– Who is your favorite writer? What is your favorite book?



SSC- My favorite writers and books change from time to time because there are so many excellent books in the world. Currently, I am re-reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. More than the story itself, I marvel at the author’s craft, his ability to create a world through his words, bringing Afghanistan, its culture and people alive for those who’ve never visited the country.




ABP- Can you share a sample of your writing with us? Maybe a short story, or a poem?



SSC– Here’s my one-sentence story A Place published by Matter Press. It’s based on the Tsunami of 2004 that hit the Indian Ocean.

A Place

we fell in love with and made our home, a place where crabs crawled up to the porch as we sat in bamboo chairs, sipping our morning chai, inhaling the fragrance of frangipani, listening to the bulbul song we had come to expect, the first rays shining into our eyes, the clouds swarming in unannounced, the rush to draw plastic covers around the verandah where yesterday’s laundry was still drying, the palm fronds whispering some secrets long after the rain, the gray-green mold that covered our leather shoes and anything else left unattended for a while, the centipedes nesting by the sink in the kitchen, the geckos peeking in from net-lined windows, the sweetest bananas with a rare orange pulp hanging in bunches on the tree in the back, the creamiest coconuts we gathered and ground into chutneys, the sprigs of aromatic curry leaves from the neighbor’s tree that replaced cilantro in our soups, a place we thought knew everything about, the reef fragments we observed on our evening walks, the white sands, the crystal clear water, the sound of waves that lulled us to sleep, the hooting of an owl that sometimes woke us up, and yet we could not see the angst buried under the surface, the roar that emerged from the bosom of Earth early that morning, the tremors and gasps, the cracks and crevices, the screams and howls, the panic and prayer, then a wave rising taller than the palm trees, washing, erasing all we knew.




ABP– I can see that in addition to being a brilliant writer, you work as an editor as well. What are some of the publications you have worked on as an editor?



SSC- I am a fiction editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Being an editor and working with other editors is a learning experience. It broadens my perspective and helps me view a story from different angles.




ABP- Thanks again for being a part of this feature, Sara. The floor is all yours. If there is anything you would like to mention that we have not already covered, please do.

SSC- I am a writer of color. English is not my first language. Sometimes I know the perfect word or expression in my native language, Hindi, but struggle to translate my thoughts to English. It might take longer for me to get the right words in English than native speakers but I’m trying to get better by reading more and diverse genres. I also use Hindi words and references to Indian food in my stories. And, I don’t attach a glossary, hoping the context of the story is clear enough for the readers to interpret the meaning of the foreign words. Then, of course, there is Google.


SPOTLIGHT: Medium Dick by Eady H

amazon.com/dp/B09QP6QCYZ

FIRST 7 PAGES



In the beginning there was Father God. At least that’s what the bible tells us. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But what it doesn’t tell us is there was also Mother. The essence of nature and the universe, she pulled nature from her womb to wrap the strong earth that God had made. Can you imagine that? Ripping nature right out your taint? Fuck I bet that hurt. Then God made a son, Adam. So, Mother made a daughter, Lilith.

Maybe it was a pissing contest. Maybe they were bored and lonely. Who knows why gods do anything? And while Adam was captivated by Lilith’s beauty, she had a way with nature and found no interest in him. It was then God made Eve. And for a time, life was good. Then Lucifer took the form of a serpent and moved in. Can you imagine living with a big ass snake in your home? Gross. Although this was way before people began to fear them. And since he was an Angel, he was beautiful. Unfathomably so. Lilith found companionship in the serpent, but Eve was also drawn to him and his sly tongue. For no one had asked her if she loved Adam. She was made from him, for him. She had freedom while Eve had duty. She’d had no choice. And she was jealous of Lilith in that regard.

It hadn’t been hard for Lucifer to convince Eve to defy God, and Adam was powerless to resist her as all straight men are powerless among gorgeous women. What I can’t figure out is why they were ashamed of their nakedness. Own that shit. Anyway, God got pissed and threw his creations out. Then he hid the garden from even Mother herself. For centuries, his children have looked for it and romanticized it. Except for one. Meleficent.

Whatever happened to the garden of Eden was a question Meleficent had never asked and if you’d told her by the end of the week, she’d be looking for it she’d have laughed. She didn’t much care for God or the devil and was at that very moment cursing them both for giving her life and unnatural gifts. The coupling of the two had led to her current alcohol problems.

Her mouth tasted stale, her teeth were fuzzy, and her head was starting to pound. The bar top was sticky under her face and her arms hung slack at her sides. Late morning sunlight filtered through bent and broken window shades. A nasty headache was snaking behind her left eye, but she was still riding her buzz. She felt mildly okay, but she knew soon she wouldn’t. Something was always trying to ruin her buzz. She almost tensed in preparation for it.

Just at that moment, Cindy Galloway poked Meleficent hesitantly in the shoulder. “Excuse me,” Cindy said. “Are you the . . . the uh . . . the dick medium?”

Cindy had a problem she believed only Meleficent could help her with. A problem she was loathed to talk about. A rather funny problem if you weren’t Cindy.

                “It’s the medium dick,” Meleficent said as she peeled her face off the rough bar and rubbed her cheek. Despite her irritable personality, she had a slim sense of humor. She was sure she’d left half of her skin cells on the gnarled surface.

                 Meleficent stretched with a yawn and Cindy waved a thin bony hand in front of her face to fan the fumes coming out of Maleficent’ s mouth. Meleficent had spent the night in the bar and her hygiene had deteriorated with every corpse reviver number two she’d drunk. And it hadn’t been great to start with.

“So, you’re Melef—”

                “Mele will do.”

                Meleficent hated her name. Once Upon a time her parents had loved it and graced their raven-haired daughter with it after their love of Disney. Sadly, they couldn’t spell, and their love of the name had dissipated when they’d discovered what a freak she was. Mele smacked the bar twice with her hand then patted down her front looking for a pack of cigarettes. When she found one, it was empty, and she tossed it on the counter.

The owner and bartender, Dunkirk set a drink in front of Mele. His establishment wasn’t even open for several more hours, but most nights he couldn’t get Mele to leave. She was a permanent fixture on the end of his bar. He wasn’t sure why he continued to serve her. She was mad as a march hare, but he’d inherited her with the bar and his father had always insisted he keep her in absinthe. And while she never paid her substantial tab, she also never got in any fights. Unlike his paying regulars. She’d almost become part of the furnishings.

Mele took a drink and spit. “What the shit is this?”

“A jaded lady. Appropriate, no?” Dunkirk said.

“I’m no lady,” Mele said before chucking the glass at his head.

 Dunkirk ducked and the cup slammed into the mirror behind the bar shattering it. “You’re going to pay for that Mel.”

 Accustomed to being ignored, Cindy had stood there quietly, but the sense of urgency that had brought her to the bar started to nag at her. “I’ve got a problem with a ghost.”

Mele turned her attention to Cindy standing to her left. “Why, is it your stylist?” she asked as she wrinkled her nose in disgust. Cindy was wearing high waisted slacks with a gaudily patterned button down tucked into them. Her hair was yanked back into a severe bun making her look perpetually perturbed. Though Mele didn’t really have room to talk. She was wearing a sweat soaked band tee with burn holes in it and ripped black jeans. The sole of her left shoe was loose and flapped when she walked. And while I’m at it, Dunkirk was dressed a tad hipster, but cute.

“Do you always insult potential clients?” Cindy asked.

“Insulting people is what I do.” She’d been told it was a defense mechanism by her therapist. But she never listened to her which is why she was still fucked up. Probably.

“I was told insulting the dead is what you do.”

 As if the dead didn’t have enough problems, what with the whole dead thing, they’d all heard about the medium dick. And every ghost thought they could handle her insults, but so far none had.

“I do that too. For a price.”

“Whatever she’s willing to pay, Mel, take it,” Dunkirk said.

Dunkirk had never believed in ghosts, but he’d seen a lot of people come into his bar searching for the medium dick. Her business cards bore the address of the bar leading him to believe Mel was homeless. Dunkirk and his late father had quarreled over her disgusting presence in the bar on more than one occasion, but his father had insisted they keep her around.

“Calm your tits Durrkirk. I’ll get you a mirror.”

“My mirror is beside the point.”

Several years prior to the passing of Dunkirk’s father, Mele had helped him rid the bar of a ghost. In return he’d given her free drinks for life. His ghost was roaming the bar and Mele often sought his advice on life. And to freak out Dunkirk she spoke to his father in front of him. She found it rather sad Dunkirk couldn’t see the father he loved so much. His father who had bled out from a bottle wound on the floor behind Mele. Since he’d died in the bar, his ghost had gotten trapped inside the salt lines she’d laid to keep other ghosts out.

“Ma’am, I don’t dabble with the dead anymore,” Mele said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a job.”

Mele had never held down a non-paranormal job for long and removing unwanted ghosts never paid her what she thought it ought to. In truth, Dunkirk’s thought that she was homeless was not far off. Mele walked past the woman, content in her decision not to help. No one had ever helped her with her ghost problems.

“Please, you don’t understand. Everyone thinks I’m crazy. No one else will help me.”

Indeed, at first, Cindy thought she herself was crazy. She had never believed in ghosts until now. But what she didn’t realize was that Meleficent did understand. And every time she heard someone’s plea for help, she remembered the first time she’d encountered a ghost.

Meleficent had been five at the time. Her parents had laughed it off at first, but as she’d persisted, their laughter had turned to fear, and their fear had cost them their daughters love.

Mele sighed and stopped walking. “Two thousand dollars, cash up front.” Mele was tired of doing work and not getting paid because her clients chose to stop believing in ghosts the minute it was out of their house.

“That’s outrageous,” Cindy said.

“Good luck with your problem. I know an excellent ghost therapist if you need a recommendation,” Mele said as she walked toward the door and slipped earbuds in her ears. Mele smiled in contentment as the thick silence enveloped her. She pulled shades out of her greasy blond hair and stepped over the salt line she’d helped Dunkirk’s father infuse into the concrete, and the late morning sun wrapped around her.

The shades were a necessity she’d long decided on so ghosts didn’t know she could see them. Just like the earbuds kept her from hearing them. Mele zipped up her jacket against the chill of death as the waiting ghosts billowed around her like a cloak. Once she got them out of their abodes, they followed her. Just another reason she hated the dead. Didn’t they have lives? Things they could be doing besides haunting her.




SPOTLIGHT: People More Famous Than Me by Richard LeDue

amazon.com/dp/B09QNZWP6S


A Murky Future

They theorize Ed Sullivan had dementia,
(didn’t recognize Paul McCartney
when they met again years later),
and it reminds me of how much stage fright
my brain has some days-
neurons tripping over each other,
leading to one clear thought of a murky future,
where someone I don’t remember
holds my hand,
or worse, I’m left with ghosts
in an empty room,
losing the same arguments over and over again
about photocopies running out of paper,
who used the last staple,
and why my manager could never
remember my name.





Communion

Buzz Aldrin performed Christian communion while waiting for his historical walk on the moon. It wasn’t highly publicized by NASA because they were afraid of the criticism it might generate.

Silent and cold among rocks,
the secret to life:
everything turns to dust,
even on the moon.

Safe inside lunar lander:
wine sipped from silver chalice,
bread broken purposely,
prayer spoken.






Trying to Live in Your Shadow

I have not prayed enough to be like you,
I have not loved enough to write like you.
The night is my god, stars my angels
I’ll never touch,
while the darkness that hides in my pockets
my lover, but we may speak to one another
in the ten-minute afterlife of my brain,
trying to catch up to its dead body.
The conversation agreeable
until you joke that my heaven
is your hell, and I realize
the real Leonard Cohen more sophisticated
than such humour, proving
we all really die alone.





This is What Happens When I Try to be Whimsical

When someone says they don’t like “Star Wars,”
or “Star Trek,” I wonder
what they think of Billionaires
with private space programs.

While the earth is slowly burning,
why can’t they see
that even if Spock isn’t real,
he would recycle, or Chewbacca
would die in a shootout
trying to save the rain forest?

Maybe a “galaxy far, far away”
began with the wealthy fleeing a dying planet,
or that thought is just another fantasy
we’ll easily dismiss,
waiting for the next mockbuster
in the cheap bin at Wal-Mart.





One for Bogie

Bogart avoided dysentery
in the Congo
by living on baked beans, canned asparagus
and scotch,
while Hepburn (abstaining
out of protest to Bogart’s alcoholism)
kept a bucket
close-
I’ve never seen that movie,
but know what it’s like
to be betrayed
by beliefs
and a weak stomach.





She’s still not a very good lover,

but she used to think she was,
like any beautiful Hollywood leading woman,
who played the same type of role
over and over again, but believed
each character different, and her kissing
one of a kind that caused co-stars
to become dark with lust,
when really an over abundance of saliva
drowned any passion that might have
considered a late-night skinny dip.
Eventually, her roles got smaller,
along with her confidence,
until non-speaking parts seemed best,
leaving her
lots of time to think about loneliness
tasting the same as lips
that never believed in goodbyes.






An Obligatory Covid Poem

The guy on my Particulate Respirator N95 box
doesn’t look like he’s thinking about Covid…
This bothers me for some reason,
like he’s a time traveler
who’s his own grandfather,
or someone who never thought
he’d have to remember no one can see
you smiling under a mask.



SPOTLIGHT: Psych Ward Blues by Ted Jackins

amazon.com/dp/B09QFFLJQ6



Untitled #22

Watching Summer storms
From this high up,
And I can feel
The electricity coursing
Through my veins,
Thunder mixing with
The ravings of
Some of the more
Colorful patients,
The klonopin I had
After dinner
Works its magic,
But the edginess
Clings to my brain stem,
Albeit dulled around
Its serrated edge,
As I’m stuck
In the limbo
That is the Delta Unit,
Anticipating the change
That’s been a long time
Coming.
(8/19/21)




Dreaming, Awake

I walk the halls
Lined with broken
Glass-
I walk the halls
Which echo
With the voices,
Both real and imagined
From each of our
Collective heads,
I walk the halls
Which pulse with
A shared nervousness,
I walk the halls
Still wet with tears,
I walk the halls
Filled with neurotic,
Racing thoughts,
I walk the halls
Lost in my own
Thoughts,
I walk the halls
Because I have
Nowhere else
To go.
(8/19/21)




Fragility

Trying to find comfort
In the monotony,
But I’m prone to
Claustrophobia,
And this hall
Feels smaller
Everyday,
And I’m trying
To get my breath-
But it catches
In my throat,
And every shift
In the weather
Gets under my
Skin,
Mixing in with
My bloodstream,
Poisoning me to
The very core,
Darkening my mood,
And sending me
End over end
As I spiral off
into the stratosphere.
(8/19/21)




Air Pressure Sick Bag

The slightest change
In air pressure,
And I spiral,
It’s a pressure
I can feel on my brain,
And electricity running
Through my entire
Bloodstream,
And suddenly
My thoughts come
More rapidly,
My breathing erratic,
And a cold sweat
Runs from my every
Pore,
Usually it’s those
Southern storms
Like we’ve had
Lately,
Or a sharp,
Sudden change in
Altitude,
And that’s all
It takes to remind
Me just how fragile
The human mind
Truly is.
(8/19/21)




And 3 Becomes 6

Looks like I’m here
For the long haul,
An extended stay
Until I can sort out
My meds,
And clear my thoughts.
All I want to do
Is sleep,
Missing several
Groups and waking
Only for meals,
The last two months
Catching up with me,
At last,
Serving only to
Make me miss
My own bed,
My wife and my
Cat even more.
I know it was the
Right choice I made,
But right decisions
Are usually the hardest.
(8/19/21)

SPOTLIGHT: I Redact You, Too by Megan Cannella

amazon.com/dp/B09QF3YPV2


Would You Recognize Me in the Wild

Today, I discovered The Moment You Stopped Loving Me. Just sitting there, casually, out in the wild. I was shocked that it didn’t even seek cover when I approached. Later, after some research, I found that The Moment You Stopped Loving Me doesn’t have any known predators. Nothing will thin this herd. Darwin has no say here.

Locking eyes as I descended the stairs into the living room, we just stared at each other. It was almost as if we recognized each other, as if we had met before…like at camp or something, but that didn’t seem true or feasible. In reality, I had only ever heard rumors of this species existing. I’m pretty sure those rumors just live in memes, deep in the internet. So you can imagine my surprise when I came downstairs and saw The Moment You Stopped Loving Me eating cereal out of my favorite bowl on that ugly old couch you love so well. We bought that couch from my friend Ryan for $50. We bought it, but it was my friend, and my $50. We bought it together.

After the shock wore off, I went to get some cereal myself. Unsurprisingly, The Moment You Stopped Loving Me put a nearly empty carton of milk back into the fridge. Like a monster. It ate the last of the good cereal too. I decided to make toast instead. I thought it would be nice to smell something being burned for a while. But eventually, I started to worry that the toaster wasn’t really working, and I was just having a stroke. I touched the toaster to see if it was warm. I left my hand there too long, to make sure I was understanding the moment correctly. I hurt my hand. The toaster was working. I may still have been having a stroke, but at least there would be toast.

When the toast popped up, I thought about getting a plate to put it on. The plate shelf in the cupboard was empty though. I yelled to the living room to ask The Moment You Stopped Loving Me if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean or dirty. It ignored me. “Mo!” I yelled, because there’s an intimacy between us that allows for the affectionate shortening of names. “I’m serious! Are these clean? I need a plate for toast! The crumbs otherwise!” The Moment You Stopped Loving Me told me to just use a paper towel.

I took my towel of toast into the living room and sat next to The Moment You Stopped Loving Me on the couch. We’re currently watching Pioneer Woman. Ree is making breakfast. Neither of us will ever make anything she is talking about. We agree she is kind of annoying but that we’d still go to brunch with her quarterly, if she asked. We would not, however, attend any birthday party she might have, should we be invited.

Later in the same episode, The Moment You Stopped Loving Me slurps its sweet cereal milk over Ree’s explanation about how much Ladd enjoys this lunch (but her kids can sometimes be finicky) and sets the bowl on the edge of the coffee table. I fold up my toast towel, careful not to let any of the crumbs free. I wipe buttery, jammy crumb residue off my mouth, twist the toast towel up, and toss it into the used cereal bowl.

I think about going to put the cereal bowl in the dishwasher and running again…or for the first time, who can say. If dishes get washed twice, so be it. The Moment You Stopped Loving Me is a guest in our home after all, and clearing its dish is the hospitable thing to do. I keep watching Ree, until I hear you open your office door. After I hear that, I’m just looking at Ree’s ranch life and bigass kitchen and perfectly seasoned cast iron full of yum. But I’m just looking, not watching. Without moving a muscle, my body has turned all of its attention to you.

“Hey babe. Whatcha watching?” you ask, leaning on the door frame that bridges the kitchen and the living room. For a split second, The Moment You Stopped Loving Me and I lock eyes, and I remember. That’s where I recognize The Moment You Stopped Loving Me from—the fight we had in the kitchen about why I let my friends make jokes about my getting another English degree, but I won’t let you make jokes about it. And it occurs to me that was almost a year ago. And, the reason The Moment You Stopped Loving Me looks so familiar is because it is really just The Moment I Stopped Loving You with a new haircut. All that resentment got too heavy, so it got a trim to lighten things up. I was so used to seeing it with resentment that the new bangs threw me. The bangs don’t look good either. They dull The Moment I Stopped Loving You and make it unrecognizable. But that’s the point, yeah? For me to not recognize this moment. To assume this can’t be my moment but is more reasonably your moment. A moment where I’m unloved makes more sense to both of us. You know this. The Moment knows this. We all know this.

Given this turn of events, I guess Mo isn’t a house guest. It’s us against you. You’re the odd one out. I’m just not sure how to get you out yet. So, I tell you I’m watching the Food Network and ask if you can throw my bowl in the dishwasher and run a load, because we’re out of plates.