A Crash, A Collage

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Get NonBinary Review #16 from Zoetic Press.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew
—Jack Gilbert, “Failing and Flying”

I learned to pilot airplanes. I have flown almost everywhere in the world. I could tell China from Arizona at first glance, which is very useful if you get lost during the night.

The fragrance Vol de Nuit, “Night Flight,” was inspired by the thrills and dangers of the brave, early days of aviation, and by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a reckless romantic, one of the first masters of aeronautics.

I do love flying as a passenger, especially at night: on an airplane, the engine’s hum and vibration, the isolation, and the suspension of physical activity all induce drowsiness and serenity.

But no one is ever satisfied where he is, and the mood captured by the perfume marks a bitter turn, the uncertainty suspended between two wars, a foreboding sense of compression, like that inside a cockpit – After dark you will put me under glass. How cold it is where you live – a darker theme of loss and separation: I was more isolated than a man shipwrecked on a raft in the middle of the ocean.

A pilot, wrenched from the comfort of his domestic life, manning his aircraft through the dangers of the skies, into the inmost heart of night, often without sufficient flight instruments. Saint-Exupéry would navigate by landmark, his only entertainment the pleasure of sunsets, would watch, at twilight, the work of a veritable army of four-hundred-sixty-two thoughsand, five hundred and eleven lamplighters. Seen from a distance, this made a splendid effect. The movements of this army were ordered like those of a ballet. Without a navigation system, he relied on these lamps, on his flashlight and compass, or when, after several hours in silence…stars began to appear.

I’m lonely…I’m lonely…I’m lonely…

The cold steel carapace of the plane a thin barrier between himself and the freezing elements, the sky, the stars, the world looming up beneath him.

No wonder the pilot-author imagined a being, a little prince, hurtling through space in the dark, alone on his lonely planet.

So you fell out of the sky, too. What planet are you from?

Saint-Exupéry was himself killed in action over France in 1944, his body never recovered. His friend Jacques Guerlain created the perfume Vol de Nuit in his honor, a celebration of flight, of mastery of the air and the thrill of danger. Telling these memories is so painful for me…. If I try to describe him here, it’s so I won’t forget him. It’s sad to forget a friend. Not everyone has had a friend. The bottle’s design blends glass and metal in Art Deco design, imitates whirling propeller blades beneath a blocky brass lid, its nameplate framed in two circular lines mimicking the propeller’s drive belt.

Renowned perfume critic Luca Turin considers the scent a gold standard against which to measure all others, yet admits, “In truth, [Vol de Nuit]…is by Guerlain’s standards a somewhat shapeless perfume, lacking a legible structure.” The vast lonely landscapes and elemental space that surround the aircraft mirrored in the distancing effect of its first bitter green notes, taking to the air. Then, the plush base surrounds you like a halo of pale light, the perfume’s engine purring through to its outer reaches. I’ll certainly try to make my portraits as true to life as possible. But I’m not entirely sure of succeeding. Turin concludes, “But it gives me pleasure, …the feeling of unobstructed space and pinpoint clarity.”

The stars are beautiful because of a flower you don’t see

Unlike many perfumes of the period, Guerlain downsized the floral opulence, turned instead to herbal and leather notes. Vol de Nuit is renowned as the first perfume to incorporate the fiercely green, resinous odor of galbanum. So, while technically an oriental composed of sandalwood, oakmoss, ambergris and leathery castoreum, its distinct opening green makes it steer between an earthy oriental and an abstract chypre, a scent caught between land and air, a leather bomber jacket suspended in the sharp, cold night sky.

I’ve always loved the desert. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something shines, something sings in that silence

The perfume’s surprise, what pulls everything together, is its heart of tentative sweetness. It’s as if the dark night sky suddenly reveals a falling star, a falling prince, and the loneliness and danger of flying turns into an adventure, exhilarating instead of treacherous. For travelers, the stars are guides. This heart is a facet of narcissus, of jonquil absolut. Suppose I happen to know a unique flower, one that exists nowhere in the world except on my planet. If someone loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of starts, that’s enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, ‘My flower’s up there somewhere.’ This swift diminuendo into delicate flowers – What does ephemeral mean? – similar to those pressed between the pages – What does ephemeral mean? – of an explorer’s antique journal.

What does ephemeral mean?
It means, ‘which is threatened by imminent disappearance.’
Is my flower threatened by imminent disappearance?
Of course.
My flower is ephemeral, the little prince said to himself.

Perfume, too, is ephemeral. In Guerlain’s composition, there’s no narcissistic rose to be sniffed, with or without the heart. Its heart holds only narcissus and subdued jasmine. You must never listen to flowers. You must look at them and smell them. Vol de Nuit is a beautiful, enveloping aura of pulverized starlight that lets us fully imagine the gloriously new sensation of drifting almost effortlessly, and timelessly, above the clouds. If you love a flower that lives on a star, then it’s good, at night, to look up at the sky. All the stars are blossoming.

Resolutely not beckoning and un-come-hither, the perfume is quite assertive and spiky, a study in contrasts. It’s a beautiful but odd perfume, not as popular or appreciated as Shalimar or Mitsouko. Flowers are so contradictory! But I was too young to know how to love her. Mine perfumed my planet, but I didn’t know how to enjoy that. Its cool leather and wooden dashboard undercut by a smoldering, growling cinnamon note that suggests daredevils. A scent by turns soothing and unsettling. Look up at the sky. Ask yourself, ‘Has the sheep eaten the flower or not?’ And you’ll see how everything changes…

The young pilot, the little prince, who could have been Saint-Exupéry, a pioneer of that uncertain time when a night flight could easily mean death.

…he was dropping headlong into an abyss,…nothing to hold him back…lost and remote

What does ephemeral mean? Today, vintage Vol de Nuit loses much of its topnotes, the famous galbanum, on liftoff, loses altitude, plummeting too swiftly into its darker heart and base. I miss its tension, its weirdness.

Don’t let me go on being so sad.

Despite these vagaries of fate, he nevertheless lived, risen above, on top of the world, literally, and, like the magnetic pull of the perfume and its graceful descent, the pilot has reached some kind of bliss.

For me, this is the loveliest and the saddest landscape in the world.

All italicized passages are from Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (1943) translated by Richard Howard (Mariner, 2000). Luca Turin’s quote is from his entry for Vol de Nuit in his and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: The A—Z Guide (Penguin, 2009). Other material comes from the perfume blogs Monsieur Guerlain, The Perfume Shrine, Now Smell This, Yesterday’s Perfume, Bois de Jasmin, and Black Narcissus.

Heidi Czerwiec is a poet and essayist and serves as Senior Poetry Editor at Poetry City, USA. She is the author of the poetry collection Conjoining, and the editor of North Dakota Is Everywhere: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets. She lives in Minneapolis. Visit her at heidiczerwiec.com

St. Exupéry

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Get NonBinary Review #16 at Zoetic Press.

Poor Antoine, marooned in the dunes
flying blind in bad weather:
Saharan, Andean expanses
dissolving into
the Mediterranean.

His postal routes criss cross the sky
and we receive
missives from faraway lovers
postcards from dads
grandmothers’ scribbled Valentines—

their voices almost audible
as he rounds the globe with good news
reams of dreams bulking up his biplane
cursive contrails in his wake
his starry breath clouding the cockpit.

Christina Lloyd holds a master’s creative writing from Lancaster University (UK) and a master’s in Hispanic languages and literatures from UC Berkeley. Her work appears in various journals, most recently in The North. NonBinary Review published her poem “Clytie” in the Bullfinch’s Mythology issue a few years back. She is pursuing a PhD in creative writing through Lancaster.

How To Protect Your Home

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Get NonBinary Review #15 at Zoetic Press. 

“There had not been this many words sounded in our house for a long time, and it was going to take a while to clean them out” – Shirley Jackson

It’s no longer enough to nail father’s gold watch chain to a tree
To bury coins and blue marbles in the creek bed
Baby teeth planted only dragons know where

No    the Words must now change daily     No Repeats
Must never be spoken aloud

And additional barriers must be built
Monitored    reinforced
Crucifying a book is a beginning

But you also need to start curating a new kind of kindling
To scatter it on the intruder’s linens     To feed his embers
To smash the biggest mirror in the house

Kill all the familiar faces trapped inside
Because to truly protect your castle
You must be willing to risk gutting it     roof razed

Attic     a sodden museum
All forty-four of Uncle’s chapters    published as ashes
Windows stoned    figurines shattered

Mother’s harp toppled
Yes    in the end    you may be forced to let all the intruders in
To run riot on your turrets and battlements

Let them think they broke your harp and won
You may have to sleep some nights beside the stream
Slink shadows with black paws    pink pads

But as long as you have
Constance you can reclaim your castle
Inventory your preserves    build better    thicker barricades

Repair your magic till it’s strong again
In time     you’ll laugh to see the cruelest intruders
Become your humblest patrons

If they leave words on the stoop    burn them in your stove for warmth
If they leave you eggs and frosted cakes    let them supplement
The pumpkin pies and mushrooms you are learning to grow on the moon

Daniel Hales‘ hybrid book, Run Story, is forthcoming any day now from Shape&Nature Press. He is also the author of three poetry chapbooks, most recently, Shake My Ashes. I play in 2 bands: The frost heaves and hales. and The Ambiguities. I also have a recording side-project called Umbral, and our debut album, Predawn To Postdusk, was released by Spork Press in April.


Fool’s Journey

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Get NonBinary Review #15 at Zoetic Press. 


Barbara Martin grew up on three continents, and has lived in eleven states coast to coast. She currently lives in Oregon where she keeps a studio and teaches art classes. Art is an adventure for Barbara, where each painting is a new exploration of place and emotion.Her work is contemporary in style and leans toward the abstract, and sometimes surreal. Her subjects range from the serenity of a landscape … to the horror of a nightmare. Barbara belongs to the Oregon Society of Artists and is a member of several galleries and artist groups in Oregon. Her work has been featured in galleries, shows and museums around the country, as well as in Norway.

The Sweet Sleep of Roses or, After the Fall

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Get NonBinary Review #15 at Zoetic Press. 

There are rats in the roses;
I know this is true.
I feed them feathers and pearls
and, in return, they keep us safe
from the more dangerous pests,
eager to blacken our bounty.

I’ve sugared the soil
where the brambles bowed
around the rambling castle,
stains scoured, walls tumbled
under the weight of words—
melodious, Pegasus, digitalis.

Oh, sweet sister, you should see
what I’ve seen blinded by thorns;
smell the sweet sin hidden,
bound in a pentagram of petals;
taste the devilish seeds buried
deep inside the ripened fruit.

I turned back time, the thirteenth hour
wound down counterclockwise
past rotting hearts and golden coins,
poisonous passions and thorny crowns,
until the paths were closed forever
to anyone who wasn’t you and me

and you will sleep safely forever
in our moon-kissed tower
guarded by dragon teeth sharpened
and wandering eyes plucked,
planted among the twisting roots
of blackberries ripened to rot.

Carina Bissett is a writer, poet, and educator working primarily in the fields of speculative fiction and interstitial art. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies including the Journal of Mythic Arts, Mythic Delirium, NonBinary Review, Timeless Tales, and The Horror ‘Zine. Her work has been nominated for several awards and she was the recipient of the 2016 HWA Scholarship. For links to stories and poems, stop by http://carinabissett.com.

Constance Blackwood (a lipogram)

This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Get NonBinary Review #15 at Zoetic Press. 

Town talk stabs-
not wed
no lace on neck
doesn’t’ know code
wakes late
cooks at noon
lacks knack to stand alone
not sane.

Jan Chronister lives and writes in the woods near Maple, Wisconsin. She wishes she had a garden close to her kitchen like Constance and neighbors who leave her eggs. She currently serves as president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.


This selection is paired with Chapter 1 of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Get NonBinary Review #15 at Zoetic Press. 

each morning,
before we uncover my peepholes and
shrink from the yawning void
waiting beneath the impossible streets

before we push oak legs through
phantom dust tracks to their canonized
configurations and reset our
twin-acted stage of brain matter gray

before we hear, warbling through the
plaster, a million miniature devils
singing my hapless name into
rebirth as a unworldly beast

i pray that i might roll my
decaying marbles toward the
holiday china and spy a speck of
sugar i did not request

so that before i might scrub a
papery spider from the flatware, i
may seize back and finally
go to sleep.

Deb Jannerson is the author of Rabbit Rabbit (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and the winner of the 2017 So to Speak Nonfiction Award. Her work has been featured in six anthologies and more than twenty magazines. She lives in New Orleans with her wife and pets. Learn more at debjannerson.com.