The Sim Review
Welcome to the second issue of The Sim Review. Featured, is the review’s first long poem, one of many, hopefully. In contrast, the story is a piece of flash fiction.
‘The Journey’ by Fariel Shafee is an intricate poem about physical and metaphorical journeys. ‘Quid Pro Quo’ from the author Joe Clifford, is a vivid depiction of the life of an addict.
Elle Pryor – Editor.
(This issue can also be found at www.thesimreview.com)
The sun scorched the barren stones, and at times rain drizzled down the
cracks of disfigured, hardened lava lining the right
and the left. Crop-seeds dropped off by bald eagles, some scattered on the shelves, some afloat,
shoots of life hoping to hang on. But they starved atop the
granite, and dissipated in the turgid stream. So the gray and the sullen promised to reign longer,
crushing the hues that did not match the lengthy stretch of penitence.
At night, the full moon often irradiated a shadowed realm of fear, intruded by a pack of ghosts
rising from the dreary stones with decks of untold tales. When the saddened
clouds drifted in to steal moonlight, and then showered into a mercy plea, pairs of eyes dazzled. They were red and
fiery. They came out from the caves and the holes stacked between the stones. The lusty eyes of the
hungry bats craved for life in darkness.
We rowed along in those nights
– as our oars splashed the insipid water and the few frightened
fish started away.
We rowed along in the humid days when the few birds
circling around waded frequently to
In the afternoons, we often set camp in the muddy banks and lit fires
that rose high into the smoky
heavens far out of our reach. The flame’s silhouette reflected in the trembling waves and we shivered. We saw
sketches of our memories fragmented into abstracted patterns that danced along in the ripple.
There was life
embodied in those images and there was death. Love and loathe walked hand by hand.
Trust shattered into needs and hopelessness, and the many degrees of freedom carrying along the
identifiable pieces broke down into shards that could no longer be recognized but stayed stuck to the arms and the
legs, and could not be shrugged off easily.
We baked our catches in that open flame, and the raw flesh burned deliciously.
We gazed hungrily, and then we revolted.
Life and death walked side by side in that flame — almost like that other flame
– big and bold, iridescent and devouring — with the smell of rotten
ash that pervaded the thick air
That flame looked very similar,
but was bigger,
Carcasses lay before us — cadavers of our hopes.
They were lost and our souls were
dead. We never wished to leave them
behind, but we did not want to die.
There was the mother and the toddler, and the wife of the dead young man –
the woman who bore his life in her womb.
There were times unseen and there were times to live and carry on to the next.
There were dreams half baked and tunes half done with the rhyming word engulfed.
There were stories that stopped in the middle and made no sense.
We wanted life to make
sense. We wanted the world to have meaning
– the intonation hidden behind the shroud of murmuring leaves across the river of death.
Did you hear the tale that beyond the land of bats and bones and apparitions, there is life?
There might be life that is. There has to be.
The river that flows timidly in the beginning gets mightier.
Where the water rushes suddenly, the fallen leaves disappear.
There is a tale I heard when I was young: It told of an untrodden land. If you fight the bats and the cheetahs and
if you survive the drought and the thunder, a realm of wonder awaits you.
The old sinewy woman with long silver hair had said so in front of the fire. We warmed our hands and bones
as we devoured her words with awe and fantasized
in those wintry dawns. All of us seated together. Me and you and her –
all of us young and trusting. We believed her and the monsters. The fairies and the witches. And the land of wonder.
That flame was so similar, but more magical, and the stories that drifted across seemed unreal, but also true –
half red and half airy
like the dancing flame that existed but also eluded us — that looked bright but also transparent with reckless
atoms of air rushing in between.
Soon time was more coherent, like a chain of unbroken beads weaved together in monotone, and our needs were more
shaped: we learned the ways to bait and hook the fishes of known
taste in the creek next to the
With the splash of water and the flame of stoves, the witches and the wolves
vanished. We seemed to know the meaning: the start, the end and the middle. And there was no space for magic,
the fantastic that popped
out of nowhere — creatures floating in air and flying in the sky. That just did not happen in life.
Then that other flame rose up in the
sky. The unreachable blue melted with the red with cinder studding the
The bright and licentious flame. It came from nowhere. We did not know it existed but it
chased us down.
That flame burned down our reality — the big and hungry flame. It ate up the middle of our neatly knitted life
and the end looked far and dislocated, the
beginning detached and the present
The story telling woman with the silver shawl looked real like her words, suddenly. She fit right into that emptiness,
the hole that
made no sense but sat between the rows of broken meanings so nicely.
The land of fairies sounded attainable — a possibility hidden beyond the
leaves, shrouded from the eyes, but existent.
We rowed along in the wintry nights and we rowed along in the dread of droughts.
There is a land at the end of the river that awaits us with its birds and its beasts and its fields.
There is a land that we can plough and shape.
A shape that we can dream of and paint upon
with red, ochre, blue, green and purple,
and with images of a phoenix rising from the ashes
that looks more real than those fishes
swimming happily in that creek in
an unreachable past.
And we stayed awake at nights, writing odes to celebrate
– the muse that kept us alive
for tomorrow and that sun.
by Fariel Shafee
The author has worked in the sciences but enjoys exploring the more human sides of life in her free time. She has published poetry and prose in Ygdrasil, Blue Print Review, Tin Foil Dresses, DecomP etc. She has also played around with digital and traditional art and has taken part in some shows. Her work can be seen on http://fariels.tripod.com. Apart from all this, she enjoys various kinds of music, and loves to experiment with cooking, fashion and gardening.
QUID PRO QUO
I was living at the 16th St. Hotel, a lingering lowlife anomaly among the increasing hipster gentrification of the Mission. The only people who rented rooms at the 16th St. Hotel were junkies like me and ex-convicts, illegal immigrants, whores, maybe some ex-skaters, who were usually junkies anyway. I’d spent my welfare check on the room for a week and as much dope as I could stash, meaning it lasted less than a day, and a burrito and some peanut butter cups. At week’s end, I’d have to spend the rest of the month sleeping at shelters and in parks until the next check. But a week in an addict’s life is a long way off. I was indoors. I’d eaten. This was as good as it got. Still, I was out of money. And, worse, I was out of drugs.
After midnight, I hadn’t had shit all day and I was starting to get sick. I knew I wouldn’t make it through the night without a hit, and more importantly, come morning, I’d be feeling too goddamn lousy to make any hustle happen.
So I hit the street as the first waves of nausea began to strike.
I didn’t have any money—no real money, at least. I did have two counterfeit $20 bills I’d pocketed at a speed dealer’s place, where he’d been printing them on his computer. They didn’t look anything close to real, about as convincing as Monopoly money with the feel of cardboard, which is why I’d been holding onto them without trying to pass them off. I guess I was waiting for that time when times got truly desperate. Which for a guy like me was only a matter of time.
Trying to cop late at night on the street was asking to be ripped off, and 16th Street was particularly sketchy, squirming with crackheads and other assorted rip-offs, gangbangers, a real shitburg.
There are rules to scoring dope on the street, not the least important of which is this: buy from a Mexican. Racial profiling is a bad thing, I know, but when you are a junkie, you don’t have time for political correctness, and black guys and white guys rip you off every time.
16th Street never really closes, and though it was closing in on two in the morning, there were still plenty of people out, college kids mostly, trendy mutherfuckers walking out of hipster bars with names like Albion and Elixir and Delirium, the same kinds of places I used to hang out at with friends back when I hung out with friends.
The “dealers” all congregated around the 16th Street BART Station entrance, among the homeless urchins and winos. I took my time.
I got a lot brothers asking if I was “looking,” but they were twitching too much, lips cracked, burned, blistered, a surefire crackhead giveaway.
I was about to give up when I spotted a cool and collected Mexican kid leaning against the bricks in the shadows.
“What choo want, meng?’ he asked softly.
I said, “Four,” meaning 4 one-in-ones, coke and heroin, $10 a pop. The serving size down here was shitty, not a lot of bang for your buck. But, hell, I wasn’t paying with real money. What did I care?
Of course, first I needed this Mexican kid to be dumb enough to take my phony cash.
Which he did.
Didn’t even flinch, just pocketed the phony bills, slipping four balloons into my hand, which I slipped into my mouth, turning quickly to walk the other way.
I walked as fast as I could back to my hotel, dreading every second the “What the fuck?!” that was sure to follow.
But it never came.
Back in my room, I spat out the balloons, almost giddy over my ruse. Drugs stolen almost always mean more than drugs earned. I grabbed my burnt spoon and filled a syringe with water from the piss-stained sink. What an idiot, I thought. How could anyone be stupid enough to fall for that?
My joy was short-lived.
I opened the balloons to find each stuffed with little scraps of tire rubber.
My bowels began to churn. Even though I was sick, I had to laugh.
If nothing else, it was a fair deal, this life on the streets. You get what you pay for.
Joe Clifford is the producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA.
Joe’s work has appeared in Big Bridge, Bryant Literary Review, the Connecticut Review, Dark Sky, Fringe, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Tigertail, and Word Riot, among others.