Sofrito | Fred Arroyo
Sleeping In | Micah Bateman
On The Road Again | Tyson Blanquart
Kohlrabi | Rebecca Bodicky
Chili-Mac | Michael Castro
Breakfast with the New Madrid | Ian Dorward
Delicious | Hilary Hitchcock
Transmigrated Duck Heart | Thom Fletcher
Improvising | John Garcia
Lines in the Van, Lines in the Sand | Chris King
Hermetic Rice | K. Curtis Lyle
Don't Forget About Your Veggies | s.c. truckey
Mastication | Brett Underwood
Tables | Justin Visnesky
Hermetic Rice: From a History of the Foods of Downtown Atlantis | by K. Curtis Lyle
Despite its name and the magical connotations, this field rice is fairly ordinary. It takes its name from Herman Melvin De Ville, a brother from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. De Ville had an interesting story and led a life that was both cursed and blessed.
He was imprisoned as a child for a food theft from a white man’s grocery store in Tuscaloosa. He did nineteen years for this robbery. He was fourteen when he got busted and thirty-three when he got out.
Sending off for a mail order degree in Ministerial Science, he used the alleged significance of his release from prison at thirty-three years old to begin his career as a circuit-riding evangelist. Being freed and coming to maturity at the identical age at which Jesus Christ was crucified, became Herman’s spiritual shtick.
On the long, lonely road of the backwoods evangelist he began to read extensively. He also, unbeknownst to himself or his peers, had a profound gift for mimicry and a photographic memory. Because he was essentially a man without money, an intellectual mentor, or any kind of personal direction, he read whatever he could get his hands on. What he could get his hands on were periodicals, how-to-texts and foreign grammars. Herman, amazingly, began a regimen of study that in the short space of five years saw him go from backwoods illiterate to master of obscure and esoteric world languages. At one time he was the only person in the continental United States fluent in Basque, Bosno-Islamic, Rwandan, Haitian Creole, Akuan Angolan - spoken as an indecipherable code by members of the Cuban Politburo - and the three dialects extant on the Korean peninsula.
In the late twentieth century, when the countries where these languages were spoken became international hot spots, the State department, after extensive research and analysis, discovered that Herman Melvin De Ville was the only American who could fill the immediate need of translator / interpreter for these critical arenas.
Herman became, for a short time, an international celebrity. However, he was a man who held grudges. His nineteen years of incarceration, thirteen of them held in a semi-dark solitary confinement, had created in him a resentment against white men that bordered on the pathological. In prison he had issued many psychic arrest warrants; his being had sworn numerous epithets from the inside out; he had carved a lot of oaths into his own heart, but he’d only kept one. He swore he’d never take an order, advice, even a suggestion from a white male. This created a problem when an American negotiator suggested that Herman tell his North Korean counterpart, in no uncertain terms, that unless their was complete compliance with agreed upon United Nations sanctions, the negotiations were essentially over. It wasn’t the suggestion so much as the tone that set Herman off. The words, “In no uncertain terms”, ground migraine-like into Herman’s head. It sounded like an ultimatum. Although, the American was asking Herman to pass the ultimatum on to the Korean negotiator in diplomatic language, by the time the rational had caught up to Herman’s prison-induced irrational oath, it was too late. Herman’s ego, which was paper-thin anyway, had cut-off the American with, “Motherfucker, tell him your goddamn self”.
It wasn’t the ‘motherfucker’ – the negotiator was after all, a soldier - so much as the ‘your goddamn self’ that offended the American. Something about Herman’s deeply black inflection seemed to take the language beyond profanity and push it into the realm of a personal insult, maybe even a curse.
The mission was doomed. Herman had fucked-up the process. He was accused of being a North Korean sympathizer. Passing Go, he was lucky his ass didn’t go straight back to jail.
He was cashiered out of service to his country. It was worse than a bad conduct discharge. He was denied his benefits!
He returned to Tuscaloosa. He gave up the circuit-riding game. He went into the business of growing simple field rice. He called his company Hermetic Rice.
State your business, go away quietly and you won’t get hurt. Right?
K. Curtis Lyle was born and raised in L.A. He was a child of the 60’s and a founder of the original Watts Writers Workshop. He came to St. Louis in 1969 to help establish the African-American Studies Department at Washington University, where he was poet-in-residence. He spends many transcendent days and nights with a beautiful and gift photographer.
Photo by Andrea Day.
Andrea Day lives and works in an art loft in downtown St. Louis. She makes photographs, paintings, boxes, and bowls. She likes to listen. She loves several cats and one great American poet. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.