Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
On my fortieth birthday, when the lights went, my wife Sitchie said, “Sweetheart, my heart. It’s stopped.” Mine had gone too.
The news didn’t care where we were this time. They would say three lightning strikes did us in, three power lines gave up on New York, and a generator named Ravenswood 3 finally died and took the rest of us with it. That’s about all I remember them telling us.
Sitchie was never afraid of it, that pitch-black kind of love. In fact, she preferred it, wished on it, called after its shape: suspense love, a medieval kind of loving. She had them all ready: candles, cassettes, dusting bottles of wine above the fridge, forgotten till they were old enough to be worth it. But outside our apartment, the world was ending, and that night I said, “How could anyone have a beating heart in all this mess?” Then she left.
Nine months later, a million babies were born. I think we both knew it would happen that way. Those who weren’t running for their lives, or smashing up glass, or pointing at the stars for the very first look, or silenced in Shea Stadium, or stealing back what should have been theirs in the first place, or whispering holy vespers, or tagging the 2 train with spray painted love letters, or lighting their anger ablaze, or bleaching their hair for the Son of Sam, or strapping bra straps around bruised arms, were all probably fucking for humanity instead. We had seen the couple across the way fall to their bed, strip each other clean, the shadows of their bodies kicking like a pulse. And really, we knew it would all happen that way.
We had also tried to make a baby in that year of ‘77. But Sitchie had problems on the inside. My Sitchie, Sydelle to those who knew her better. She ate all the right foods for an easier conception, studied the moon so our son would be a Virgo. His name came from the tallest tombstones in Queen’s Calvary cemetery. Sydelle, oh Sydelle, who peeled away the skin of her lips when the Doctor said, “I’m sorry.” My wife, who had said: “I bet he would have had your eyes, anyway.”
I sat on a stool by our window that night. I listened to the melody of sirens, stolen cars booming through storefront windows. The night guards with their nightsticks. The organist at the Mets game, Here is your music to die by. I listened to my wife twisting open the wine, her voice saying, No better occasion, and my own, No thanks. She had a sing-song pitch when she was sad, my Sitchie. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
My heart really had begun to quit earlier that summer. I lost my job and my head. I found girlfriends. I thought about their sex-wet stomachs when I went to sleep. I dreamed dreams of Howard Hughes and Hollywood. I sold everything sacred or shiny in the crash. My watch was the last to go. A man named Freddie at East River Pawn pinched it between his hangnails, dropped it into the mouth of a cigar box, said, “Even without timing, you’re still a man.”
Nine years later, I left New York. A woman named Dolly brought over a casserole when I arrived in the country. It was too dry to eat. Everything about her bored me. I married her. I have a cat and an analyst these days. I live down low and watch my face disappear on hubcaps. My new wife cries at night. She says, “Tell me about her.” The news says, “Where were you the summer of ’77?”
I think I’ll write to them:
There once was a boy and a girl who played telephone with a cup and a string. A boy and a girl who played spin the bottle with a hairbrush and only each other. There was a boy who got gone at 18 years old but sent his sweetheart postcards from around the country, a girl who had answered the door in one sock when the boy came knocking and said, “Well, well. If it isn’t you.” A boy who became a man when he asked the girl’s dying father for her hand in marriage. A man and his woman who moved to the city of no sleep three years before the world was ending. The young woman who gave up smoking and red meat and long-distance running in hopes of a new boy or girl. The young man who never gave a damn thing. A bottle of wine unpacked from their wedding day, saved for the next best occasion. A suitcase snapped shut by a woman fumbling blind for her things. And a slamming door, on a fortieth birthday, when both their hearts had stopped.
Vesper T. Woods is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in 12th Street Journal, Conveyor Magazine, and received an Honorable Mention for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award. She is the coordinator of a creative writing workshop for women inmates at the Valhalla Correctional Facility in Valhalla, NY. She is currently the Fiction Editor of LUMINA magazine. On the weekdays, she is T Kira Madden.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Do you follow the news?
An incident occurred, and it involved ships. I am not delivering breaking news here; this happened a while ago. And yet in all likelihood, I am telling you something you don't know. If you followed the news, you'd know about this incident. If you don't that's fine, but please accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is the first thing to know about following the news.
An incident occurred, and it involved ships, and it also involved the military. Please don't assume that I'm referring to the U.S military, because you'd be wrong, and being wrong is the worst thing you can do when it comes to following the news. I am referring to a Foreign Military; one thing you absolutely need to remember in order to successfully follow the news is that there are militaries around the world that are not the U.S military. These are called Foreign Militaries.
I happen to be extremely qualified when it comes to reporting this piece of news, and possibly I am the most qualified person to be reporting this piece of news, and that is due to the fact that I once belonged to that Foreign Military. Please note my grammar, my use of the word 'that.' You need to know your grammar in order to successfully follow the news. You don't have to be advanced, but you do need basic grammar skills, and you need to pay attention. If you possess basic grammar skills and are paying attention, then you have probably already figured out that not only did I belong to a Foreign Military, but that I belonged to this particular Foreign Military, the one involved in this particular incident, which involved ships.
Being the most qualified person to report this piece of news means that I understand about details; I understand the general unimportance of details, and I understand, too, that sometimes certain details are in fact important. Therefore, you can trust that I will only provide you with the absolutely necessary details regarding the incident which involved ships, and that I will spare you any details which are not, or are less than, important.
When I heard about this incident, I immediately decided to continue reading House and Garden. Shortly after, I ordered a slice of carrot cake. These are important details. Both the reading of House and Garden and the eating of carrot cakes are of insurmountable importance when it comes to following the news. If this is not yet clear, I assure you that it will become clear very soon.
In the incident in question, which involved a Foreign Military and ships, nine people were killed, or perhaps eighty. Alternately, it is possible that a total of four (4) people died as a result of this tragic and unfortunate incident.
Now, this is not my first time reporting this incident, and in the past every time I reached the part in my report which addresses the casualties, many people would leave the room. Some, on their way out, would even ask me for my e-mail, so they can later send a letter of complaint. (I have learned that people in the U.S prefer to complain in a way that doesn't require their presence.) So please don't leave the room, and whatever you do, do not ask me for my e-mail. Due to my past involvement with the Foreign Military, very few people have my e-mail, and I would like to keep it that way.
But moreover, and more importantly-- the first thing to know about following the news, is that you don't complain. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that there's nothing you can do. I am not at all evoking a discussion about passivity, not even mentioning the word 'passivity.' There certainly is a lot you can do. You can take your dog for a run, for instance, if you have a dog. Upon your return, you can put fruit in the blender and make a healthy shake. (I recommend mangos for their excellent antioxidant value). A man who goes for a run with an animal and subsequently drinks a healthy shake is not a passive man, and the same is true if you're a woman. Anyone knows that. But one thing you can't do is complain. Please believe me, and even if you don't believe me, accept my advice, and even if you don't accept my advice, don't complain.
Now, asking you not to e-mail me is different from saying I did not read the e-mails in question. Please note that I said no such thing, made no such reference. Reading e-mails is probably the most important thing to do when it comes to following the news. I read each e-mail several times, out of respect for the sender, whether he or she followed the news or not. In respecting the senders and reading the e-mails, I made the e-mails a News Source, and that is why e-mails are important.
I learned many things from the e-mails, once they became a News Source. The main thing I learned was the reason behind people's departure from the room whenever I discussed the casualties. If you are from the U.S then you may already know the reason, but I am not from the U.S and it took a lot of e-mail-reading for me to understand. I initially assumed the reason was death, that people didn't want to hear about death. I made that assumption because where I come from people take great joy in the telling and retelling of death stories, but part of the joy is pretending that there is no joy but rather suffering. This may sound complicated if you are from the U.S but it is simple. Please understand: Where I come from, it is considered untoward to take joy in the telling of death, and so in order to truly take joy, one must pretend not to be taking joy. And so, for a long time I assumed that the people leaving the room were only pretending to leave, while in fact not leaving at all. Thank God for the e-mails, because they were the News Source that taught me that things in the U.S are different.
As you might have gathered if you are from the U.S, all these people did in fact leave the room. I know that now, and know also that they left not because they glorified in the stories of death, but because they found the numbers I was reporting “confusing,” “inconsistent,” or even “inaccurate.” (It is important to note here that I found these claims quite presumptuous, considering this was an incident these people had never heard of before). Moreover, and this too is important: these people assumed, as people from the U.S often do, that my confusion, inconsistency, and inaccuracy were in fact signs of disrespect for the human life.
How could they think that I, a former soldier of a Foreign Military, would disrespect the human life? If I could share my anguish with you, I would—believe me—and you would know then that I have suffered. But sharing my anguish with you would of necessity include several unimportant or less-than-important details, and that is no way to conduct reports. Despite the temptation (which, I might add, I feel because I have a deep respect for the human life) I am proud to tell you that I have never discussed my personal anguish in any of my reports to date.
The next detail of importance is that the victims were from different countries. In all probability, that is what people mean when they use the expression 'citizens of the world,' although there is no conclusive data supporting this claim at the date of this report.
Please understand: I am a critical thinker. That is part of what makes me the most qualified person to report this piece of news. My being a critical thinker is evidenced, for instance, by my use of the word 'victims.' Had I not been a critical thinker, I'd have believed every word of the military I once belonged to, and none of these words are the word 'victims.' There are plenty of ways to believe the military's every word where I come from, and a common one is reading the paper. Where I come from, if you're looking at a man reading the paper, what you're looking at is an uncritical thinker, and the same is true if it's a woman. That is because where I come from, when people read the paper they forget to disbelieve. Even I, a critical thinker, often forget to disbelieve when reading the paper. Other times I remember to disbelieve, but can't remember how to disbelieve.
Therefore, if I read the paper, I could not report the incident in question to you. I wouldn't know who attacked who and who is whose victim and who is less or more at fault because of something having to do with weapons. Additionally, I would not know whether or not ships were involved. This confusion would quickly become so exhausting that I'd be forced to read House and Garden and order a slice of carrot cake, only to stay awake. If you're astute, you may point out that either way—with or without reading the paper, with or without critical thinking—the result is the same, and involves cake. You'd be right, but being right is of no consequence when it comes to following the news.
Allow me to report to you now the last detail of importance about the incident in question. Once you hear this last detail, you will know everything you need to know about the incident which involved ships. You may take a moment to celebrate your achievement; that is only natural. But I do have to ask that you refrain from reporting this incident to others; you are not a qualified person when it comes to reporting this piece of news, and possibly you are the least qualified person to report this piece of news.
If you do not feel comfortable with my request, I would have to ask that you leave the room at this time. If you choose this course of action, please know that I will harbor no resentment toward you, but you are to make no further attempts at following the news.
Now. The last detail of importance is a detail you may have already surmised from the fact that the victims were from different countries: I did not know the victims personally. This detail is incredibly important. Reporting the incident in an objective manner might not have been possible otherwise. But more importantly: the reading of House and Garden and the eating of carrot cake would certainly not have been possible otherwise. That is what I keep explaining to anyone who would listen, and that is the reason I started reporting this incident to begin with, long ago.
You now know everything you need to know about the incident which involved a Foreign Military and ships. I thank you for listening.
Shelly Oria was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Israel. Her fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Quarterly West, cream city review, and fivechapters among other places, and won the 2008 Indiana Review Fiction Prize among other awards. Shelly curates the series Sweet! Actors Reading Writers in the East Village and teaches fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and Pratt Institute as well as privately.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Reflection does not withdraw from the world . . .; it steps back to watch the sparks of transcendence fly up like sparks from a fire; it slackens the intentional threads which attach us to the world and thus brings them to our notice; it alone is consciousness of the world because it reveals the world as strange and paradoxical. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception)
. . . sometimes I have been seized by the childish desire never to return to the burrow again, but to settle down somewhere close to the entrance, to pass my life watching the entrance, and gloat perpetually upon the reflection—and in that find my happiness—how steadfast a protection my burrow would be if I were inside it. (Kafka, “The Burrow”)
In the artist of all kinds I think one can detect an inherent dilemma, which belongs to the co-existence of two trends, the urgent need to communicate, and the still more urgent need not to be found. (Winnicot, “Communicating and Not Communicating”)
It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” (William Carlos Williams
, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”)
Frankenstein’s monster, in Mary Shelley’s novel, is rejected by his creator and by everyone he meets.
He finds a hideaway in a shed attached to a cottage. The shed is too low to stand up in, but it’s dry, and a chimney provides warmth.
The monster gets water at night from a nearby stream, and he sneaks food from the cottage’s pantry.
Unseen, he can watch the residents of the cottage through a crack in a boarded-up window.
He discovers language as they talk and read books aloud to each other, and he learns to speak when they teach English to a foreign guest.
Curiously, the monster’s situation in the shed resembles that of the reader in the act of reading.
Alone, withdrawn from public space, and virtually immobilized, the monster, like the reader, can direct his entire attention
to eavesdropping on the interior scene that keeps unfolding, in language, before his eyes.
In this monstrous image of the reader, there is some sense of escapism. Of course, the escape may be protective and restorative.
(I think of someone I know who as a child found refuge in the public library from a crowded household and an abusive parent.)
And there is also some sense of the reader as a parasite. In the largest sense, this may evoke the notion of vampiristic leisure classes
laying around reading while others toil, or even the more general notion that our so-called higher faculties—
consciousness and civilization themselves—parasitically hitch a ride on the back of our animal natures.
Writers no less than readers can easily be cast as vampires, not only because everyone they encounter is potential prey
from which material for their next novels can be extracted, but because to commit oneself to live through the posterity of books
(rather than through living offspring) might mean, at some level, never quite being alive at all.
Anyway it is here in this twilight world that reader and writer meet.
Once you get the idea that the eavesdropping monster works as an image of the reader, it’s easy to see that his situation
also matches Mary Shelley’s account of her own lifelong engagement with written and fantasized stories.
Growing up with a famously depressive, distant father and a famously narcissistic stepmother, Mary wrote stories and spun daydreams
that provided her constant “refuge” and “dearest pleasure.” Thus the “blank and dreary” countryside she visited as a girl
became for her a “pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy.”
The refuge of fantasy is the fantasy of refuge. But sometimes even survival may depend on this tenuous tautology.
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man withdraws from what Ellison calls the “existential torture” of living as a black man
in mid-20th-century America. He finds refuge “in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement
that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century, which I discovered when I was trying to escape in the night.”
Here he is able to live rent-free and to tap into the main line of the “Monopolated Light and Power” Company to illuminate his refuge.
It is from this position that the rest of narrative-- of his life up to the point of his withdrawal—is offered.
The narrator’s position resembles certain particulars of Ellison’s immediate situation as he was writing the novel.
Ellison lived in a basement apartment in Harlem, where his writer’s hours (especially in contrast to his wife’s regular job)
made him a suspect and hypervisible character in the predominantly working-class, black neighborhood.
During this time he also wrote in a friend’s office on Fifth Avenue, which ironically enabled him “to find sanctuary
in a predominantly white environment where that same color and vagueness of role rendered me anonymous and hence beyond public concern.”
Of course a writer inevitably incorporates aspects of his immediate situation into whatever he’s writing, and as in Ellison’s case,
his immediate situation may be intimately a part of what he is writing about anyway. But my point here is the ways in which being a writer
and being a reader resonate with each other as ways of being simultaneously in and out of the world, and (in this case)
with the experience of being black in America, of being both invisible and hypervisible.
This is not to assert that being black is like reading or writing a book-- or that all writers have “the souls of black folks”--
only that we may recognize resonant points of contact.
When I read Frankenstein and Invisible Man, I was reminded of an old science-fiction fantasy of my own. In my fantasy,
the scene is a post-apocalyptic cityscape at night, something like what might have been painted by a latter-day Hieronymous Bosch.
Here and there among dark ruins and ramparts, sparks crackle up from bonfires attended by skulking shadows.
Off in the distance, guard-towers loom over lurid, floodlit fortifications and barb-wired compounds.
Uneasy silence-- in which one can make out the low hum of generators-- is punctuated by sounds of gunfire and ambiguous cries.
In the middleground of this hellish tableau, a solitary traveler picks his way, like the lone pilgrim in a Chinese landscape painting.
You can imagine what horrors our traveler has seen, what privations he’s endured, how many times through cunning or luck
he has managed to cheat death. One night, pursued by brutal cyborg police (or wild dogs, or zombie mutants), he stumbles
onto a concealed opening in a wall and slips inside to safety, into a forgotten, cavernous, trapezoidal enclosed space between buildings.
From this point, you can continue folding in assorted elaborations: the piles of hoarded canned goods, the fresh water source,
the heat and the hum from giant machines on the other side of the wall.
This is as far as my fantasy goes, but if you want to spin more of a narrative around it, you could throw in another refugee
who stumbles in with her tattered clothing, flashing eyes, and cleavage. Our hero wins her over, but then her mutant ex-boyfriend shows up,
and ultimately everybody dies, or at the very least, the refuge is compromised and our traveler is thrown back into his wanderings.
Perhaps you can see him again, in the distance now, a tiny figure trudging alongside the wall of a floodlit fortification.
All this takes us back out of the fantasy of refuge, which is, of course, a temporary state. You must always rejoin the world.
But the opposite is no less true: you can never quite rejoin the world-- or as Bob Dylan put it, “you can always come back,
but you can’t come back all the way.” And the opposite of both of these opposites also applies: you never left.
And the opposite of that: you were never quite of the world to begin with. The coexistence of all these opposed conditions
is precisely the point. Reading is a practice that puts us in touch with withdrawal and aloneness as both temporary and permanent states,
and the ways in which we are always paradoxically both a part of and apart from social being-in-the-world.
Post-apocalyptic fantasies are classic images of depression, marked by the sense that something terrible and irrevocable has happened
just as anxiety involves the sense that something terrible is about to happen.
What has happened is usually something like the loss of a world, at least of a world characterized by warmth and human connection.
Such a world is sometimes called, using the terms of psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicot, a “holding environment.”
You might think, if you’re going to be fantasizing anyway, why not conjure up a whole heavenly world
—like the Big Rock Candy Mountain in the old folk song-- instead of a relatively comfortable hovel in a bleak wasteland?
If whistling through graveyards (commonly known as denial) is your dominant defensive coping strategy, then go ahead.
You’ll have lots of company. But remember how, in the movie The Matrix, the machines first create an illusory idyllic world
to pacify their human slaves, only to discover that most humans can’t handle it. As Gertrude Stein said of Mallorca,
“it’s paradise, if you can stand it.” Most people can’t.
Depression can bring a starkly accurate assessment of things-as-they-are, a phenomenon known as depressive realism.
The depressive part of the realism is a tendency to discount things-as-they-could-be in favor of trying to make one’s way
in the ruins of a world one cannot hope to rebuild.
But do I have to point out that this stance is only in its extreme forms a pathological condition?
If you, dear reader, didn’t already know something about depressive fantasies as coping strategies,
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t find you here, scavenging for god-knows-what in this out-of-the-way text--
I mean, instead of being out somewhere, with a sparkle in your eye and a martini in your hand, making friends and love and money.
So why are you here? What made a reader of you? Why have you crawled up, alone, into this out-of-the-way nook?
What could this text be for you-- what kind of refuge, pantry, pharmacy? What goodies could you get here? What are you getting even now?
Ellison went so far as to assert that “a novel could be fashioned as a raft of hope”-- one “that might help keep us afloat
as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal.”
The most that could be happening between you and a text is that it is keeping you alive,
will be part of what keeps you alive, what you live for. You were fortunate indeed to have stumbled into these words!
Look up for a moment. There may be others around, and they can see that you are reading. But they cannot really see
the web we are weaving, the secret psychological sustenance you are getting from this reading.
“Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies.”
It’s a physical thing, the visual scanning of the lines of type, like smoking a cigarette.
The hands hold, the eyes scan, the brain lights up. Put it down, pick it up again and read: again the eyes scan and the brain lights up.
A voice in your head reads the words aloud; it is your voice but not your voice. If you are attentive,
you can feel it being echoed in your adam’s apple and the muscles of your tongue and lips, like the shadow of a voice,
as when your mind mirrors the emphatic gestures and passionate inflections of a speaker with whom you identify,
as if you were saying the words yourself, as if you were watching someone you love perform in a play you had seen many times.
The thing about reading is that it’s like and not like interacting with another person.
It’s like it in the sense that you don’t know what will come next. The text seems to have some sovereign agency.
It seems to be different than sitting around thinking or spinning out fantasies of your own.
The reader can even be characterized as deplorably passive: all I can do as a reader is scan the text, and nothing I do can change it.
I cannot act on it. And the text, in turn, also seems almost inert. It cannot respond to me. It cannot look back at me.
But the text can do something that may even be a matter of survival.
It holds me.
Ira Livingston is the author, most recently, of Between Science and Literature: An Introduction to Autopoetics (Illinois, 2006) and co-editor of Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader (Illinois, 2009). He is Chair of the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Listening to the rain thrumming on the windows, knowing her husband had probably had a backslide, she grabbed an orange from the bowl and peeled, imagined the wheels of the car somewhere in a ditch, or in another woman's driveway. It was past two and, being that they only had one car, she had no way of going anywhere herself, unless she took the bike out.
She turned on the porch light and looked out, at the tree weighted by the week of constant rainfall, the blanket of pecans on the ground below it. The phone in her robe pocket. She heard the baby singing from the next room, to a song of lambs and losses, and she went into the nursery, where the baby sat upright in his crib, said hello, as if he were six, or ten, or twenty. "Hello," he said. He was almost two now, too old for a crib, probably, and he hardly cried, ever.
"Your dad is gone," she said to the baby. She sat in the rocker and told the baby that his dad was out making millions so he could take them to the tropics. The baby stood in the crib and put his hands up to the rails, like the men she saw in jail those times she had to pick up her husband from the drunk tank. She lifted the baby, spun him, said maybe she'd call in sick in the morning, where she held babies in sizes of vegetables like eggplant, sticking them with needles, administering doses, telling truths and lies to loved ones. Now she told her baby it was time. The baby perked and called her dada then squirreled his way down and ran across the carpet to his stuffed bear in the corner.
She already had a bag packed. Two months before he'd stumbled in with blood on his chin, a bruise shaped up like a daisy, and when she tried to fix him, he gave her bruises of her own and then she went away until he came back for her the next week, saying he was clean and sorry and sober.
Now she did what she knew she was supposed to, speed dialing the number she'd gotten from the shelter, remembering what the woman had said about being home at times like these, when and if he got there. "It's time," she said to herself. “It’s time,” she said to her baby, toddler, son. She got dressed and she sang. She found a step and rocked there.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby and Pretty. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Henfield Prize and has been published journals and anthologies including NOON, The Nation, Huffington Post, Conjunctions, Wilow Springs, Denver Quarterly, New York Tyrant, Fiction, American Short Fiction, The Mississippi Review, New Orleans Review, Best of the Web 2010, The Florida Review, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill and others. Her website is www.kimchinquee.com
Monday, November 28, 2011
/ Rick Perry looks like a baseball glove sitting on a kid’s desk with rubber bands around it and an old baseball in the pocket. And the kid will never play with that ball or that glove.
/ Michelle Bachmann looks like an iced tea pitcher on blond wood sideboard filled with that light green flavor of Crystal Light and a couple of lemon slices.
/ Tim Pawlenty looks like a really far away comet seen through some sort of high-powered space telescope, it’s tail really small because it’s not all that close to our sun or any sun.
/ Herman Cain looks like a man made entirely by hyper-intelligent, blind frogs who have had men described to them but have never touched the face or body of a man with their webbed hands.
/ Newt Gingrich looks like the sun exploded and we all went underground, and we all learned to live without sun, and we all learned to live together, and we all found out living together wasn’t terribly fulfilling, so we all stopped eating.
/ John Huntsman looks like Mitt Romney looks like.
/ Mitt Romney looks like John Huntsman looks like.
/ Ron Paul looks like a tree falling in the woods and everybody hears it because everybody lives in the woods together in a house made of gingerbread. And we’re all witches waiting for kids. And the tree falls outside, and we stop stirring the pot. We wonder about that tree that fell. Wonder, also, when the kids are going to show.
/ Rick Santorum, for all the world, actually really does look like the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is the byproduct of anal sex. That poor man. That poor, poor man. Looking that way. For all the rest of his life.
Matthew Simmons is the author of the novella A JELLO HORSE (Publishing Genius Press, 2009) and the short collection THE MOON TONIGHT FEELS MY REVENGE (Keyhole Press, 2010). He lives in Seattle with his cat, Emmett.
Monday, November 21, 2011
No longer a subscriber to my local paper, an ever-thinner tabloid of familial violence and budget cuts (we are too poor here to do anything but murder our mothers and fathers), I recently turned to Google News. It is the first time I’ve had to publicly declare my interests, news-wise; my local rag features fishing accidents and disappeared girls, and national concerns are relegated to a few front page items. The rest is AP wire service (Tajikistan? Where is Tajikistan?) and columns by writers who trend toward the heartwarming —perhaps to counter the alarming number of matricides.
But I am uncertain about which stories to follow, and worse, concerned about what the threads I do pursue might reveal about my intellectual acuity, good citizenship, and taste. What will people try to sell me, based on my preferences? Am I an ugly American, more concerned with U.S. news than World news? No, I determine. I slide the preference bar to “always” next to World news and “often” next to U.S. I will learn Spanish. I will get a better grasp on geography. I will work magic with just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Next decision: Do I really care about Business news? How about Technology? Do I ever want to retire? I should know more about Business. In the subcategory of finance, I learn that the average American is over $4,000 in debt, and being ranked among average Americans, when I have just signaled my concern about global issues, irks me. I move the fader back and forth between often and sometimes. But wait. Is Business more important than technology? I like robots, and if I set my interest in Business higher than technology, will stories about robots be buried at the bottom of my personal news feed? I settle for Business sometimes, and Technology sometimes, and leave off any fine-tuning in the personal finance department.
I haven’t even read the day’s headlines, and already I’m exhausted. Once again, I see that the clamoring masses, the jersey-wearing, ball-catching, cheer-shouting horde are insisting that I must consider Sports. I move the Sports preference bar to “rarely” and then click on the little trashcan. I can throw Sports into the trash, all of those humiliations, my complete lack of spatial coordination, my only child’s perplexity over team dynamics, right into the rubbish with one click.
Then a story catches my eye: Kobe Bryant is failing. I’m interested in failure. For Kobe, I add Sports back to my list, and in an unabashed display of my true enthusiasms, I bump Entertainment up to “always” and fall into a forty-five minute long Google-a-thon that gets me stuck like shoe goo on Rolling Stone Magazine’s web site looking at photos of Juggalos, so joyful and hideous, indulging in their annual tribal ritual.
Health I leave at “sometimes” since I am a hypochondriac, and it’s better to not even consider the subject, and then I discover that Science news is dedicated largely to the Mars Rover (we love you, Mars Rover! Keep on trucking!) and to weird animals. I spend some time among the weird animals, lamenting their disappearances, and wondering at their interesting defense mechanisms. In my quest to adapt, I find myself motoring in a curiously oxygen free environment, my attempts to mask my true nature inadequate.
Tanya Whiton has published stories and poems in literary journals including Western Humanities Review, Northwest Review and Crazyhorse. Her short story “Giving Her Away” was included in the 2006 anthology The Way Life Should Be: A Collection of Stories by Contemporary Maine Writers. She was recipient of the 2009 Martin Dibner Memorial Fellowship for Poets, and the 2000 Martin Dibner Fellowship for Fiction Writers. A resident of Portland, Maine, she has taught for the Lesley Seminars, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, and the University of Southern Maine. She is currently the Assistant Director of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
God grant me the ability to remember some of The Serenity Prayer. I know wisdom needs to come into play and saying that combination of words used to make me feel lighter. Somehow I managed to not tell off the social worker that said, “Anyone who has been sick for X amount of years is going to have some depression.” Sister, you are not going to pin denial on me.
It’s coming back to me now. Finding out what I can change and what I can’t change has used me up and I have burned like a seven-dollar tip on a table of twelve just to still be here.
When you are living on the old homestead people advise you on what kind of birdseed to buy. They push the songbird mix. My aim is to feed the guttersnipes and catfish birds so I just grab whatever is cheapest. I have a long list of errands to run, to get by the post office box and buy some more birdseed.
I’m so dried out that I’ve mashed up all my ex’s in my mind and I act like we’re all on good terms. And I don't exist to even a single one.
I heard a joke you would like. If you invite a Baptist to go fishing with you, why do you have to invite at least one more? There’s no point bothering with the punch line because you understand it better than anyone. You also know that I don’t like people watching me cook. I always get cuts and burns, but they are more serious when I am being watched. Turns out, no matter how big the kitchen, I’m still a messy cook. And if I’m a cook, then I might be a tax expert too, because I file those forms from time to time.
When I go to a potluck, I want my casserole to be popular because I know that all eyes will never be on me when I enter the bar. But that doesn’t stop me from making the rounds, alternating tequila and OJs and whatever light beer is on tap. Sometimes I prefer to bar hop during the day. In one of my regular spots the light breaking into the dusty stained glass flatters me. Jimmy tipped me off to this and it keeps me coming back. He said, “Your eyes are so blue today.” So I looked at him and saw that his Irish stubble was blazing red and I told him so. That was it. He returned to his position near the register and propped up a foot on the speed rack as I finished my Grasshopper.
But the best thing in that bar happened at night. I was sitting with my back to the wall and I saw all of it. A young woman with a face better than money stepped down from her bar stool. She was dressed in the fashion of her day. No. Her clothes ventured out in front of that dateline. Her costume came to a close with yards of pearls that looped around her neck and swayed to her little waist. She broke into a perfect Charleston that cancelled out the garbage coming from the jukebox. She had made her point when one of her perfectly crisp yet devil may care hands caught on a strand of her necklace. The string gave and the pearls went separate ways, filling the air like electrons are said to stake out solid objects. They hit the checkerboard tile floor all at once and jumped back up, head-high with the single crack of a thousand billiard racks being broken. From there, each pearl followed its own path. The crashing and bouncing and dribbling took an hour to die out. Her friends scattered to gather up the beads but some only leaned close to the floor and laughed.
The other benefit to drinking early is that by the time you are heading to check on your mother-in-law it’s dark out. You don’t have to look at the Jesus paraphernalia filling up the birdbath in front of the house at the turn. I guess it’s true that birds neither sow nor reap and make out fine, but clogging up their bath with propaganda seems like overkill. Hang in there, pigeons. Let’s everyone hang in there.
Amy Albracht is the author of countless e-mails. You can find other work by her at www.amyalbracht.com.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I love this product!!! Ever since I first heard about it, I’ve been excited to try it! I ordered it ages ago, but as everybody knows, they ran out of it really fast, and then it was out of stock forever. I was soooo worried that I’d never get it! I was also worried that maybe the new version wasn’t going to be as good as the classic—and of course the classic was what everybody was raving about. But it finally arrived this morning, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed!!!
I waited until the UPS truck drove away (I’m always a little embarrassed to see the UPS guy—I get SO much stuff delivered, but if you’ve read my reviews before you know that’s because I leave the apartment pretty much NEVER, which he doesn’t know). I ran down, grabbed the package off the stoop, and high-tailed it back upstairs.
I ripped open the box and tried it out right away! It stung a little at first, but I was prepared because all the reviews mentioned the stinging. Also, I have to say, if you’re very sensitive, like M. P. in SC, you might want to do a patch test first. *I* didn’t *bleed* per se, but there were these little beads (I mean really just dots!) of blood. They went away pretty fast. I wouldn’t call it “bleeding.” Same with the “cramping.” I did what everybody said to do in the reviews: take deep breaths while it’s absorbing and DON’T stand up too quickly! The only place where I had numbness was in my thumbs and big toes (I know—weird, right?). Make sure you’re in the bathroom the first time you use it, because like a bunch of people say, it might make you need to “go”. General note: I’d recommend being at home when you try it out.
It took a little while to work, and I have to admit, there were a few moments when I thought nothing was going to happen. I thought I might be in that small percentage of people (like, on this site, J.T. in NV and A.L. in MN) who see no effects from it. I was sitting there on the toilet lid for what seemed like forever. Some of you will remember from other reviews of mine the unusual setup of my bathroom, with the big window across from the toilet...? At night I always put the blinds down, but during the day, when nobody can see in (and, I mean, who would *want* to, anyway--haha) I keep them up. So, I was nervously/excitedly waiting for something to happen and watching the neighbors go about their business, when one of the nuns came out into the convent garden. I love the nuns, but I *hate* it when they look at me. I’m always like, can they see my sins? I leaned back a little, even though (duh) I knew she didn’t even know *I* was looking at *her*. She put a foam pad thing down on the stone patio. Then she kneeled on it—really flexible for an elderly lady!— and took some gloves and shears out of a little basket, and she started to trim what were I guess dead branches off the lower part of a shrub. Nuns prune! She wasn’t wearing an official *habit*, just a gray smock, and her head was bare and she had short gray hair like a lot of them. I kept glancing in my hand mirror it to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. (Sigh). And then I’d go back to the nun. I wondered if nuns care about *this* kind of thing. Do they want to *feel better* about themselves? Or is that not part of the experience of being a nun? It’s not about them, but about serving God? Or Jesus? What IS the Trinity, anyway? But really—and I don’t know if any nuns visit this site, and if you do, maybe you can answer my questions—it seems like nuns wouldn’t *need* a product like this! They might be some of the only people who don’t. The nun was gathering up her twigs into a paper bag when I started to feel it. It was HAPPENING!!!
I was so, so, SO happy! I immediately got up and went to the sink and looked in the vanity mirror, so I could see three views at once. That was this morning. I CAN’T STOP looking in the mirror!!! I haven’t felt this gorgeous in years. Actually, I haven’t ever felt this gorgeous! In high school, nobody noticed me. I was so drab and blah, and I was always wrapped in this shell of shyness and insecurity. And there were other factors like my mother, the hurricane, stepfather (and his whiskey), half-brother, the belt, sleeping in the station wagon, tilt-a-whirl accident, etc. etc. In college, I *did* get noticed, but—like so many people—it was just because I learned to give blowjobs (I know, tell me about it, I was a late bloomer!) and I turned out to be good at them. So, anyway, suddenly, here I am, years later, parading around my apartment naked, ADMIRING myself!
For the first time, I feel like ME! I keep touching my own skin and kissing myself! I keep thinking about my bones and the way they’re put together with joints! I keep thinking about my lips and how they stay wet, how I lick them without even consciously noticing they need lubrication! There’s an electric charge between my eyes and everything I see! I can’t stop moving—even now, typing this review, I’m dancing inside my brain! I always thought I was less than a person! I always thought that because of EVERYTHING that happened I could never fall in love! I always felt like I was about to die of loneliness! I always felt like my flesh was going to turn into cinders and drift away on the air currents! But I can fall in love! I know this because I AM in love with my new me!!!
I highly recommend this product.
-L.G. in PA
Nelly Reifler is the author of See Through, a collection of stories. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and Pratt Institute.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
“I sleep like a dog,” he says.
Catherine Foulkrod lives/writes in Brooklyn.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Addendums are still being discovered. At the time of this pressing, pages have been found taped behind drawers, beneath the belly of a radiator, stuffed inside mugs like packing material and folded neatly into V shapes, upturned and arranged as rows of paper teeth across the smudged glass shelves of a locked medicine cabinet.
Unsurprisingly, the corrective article refers to the editor’s own periodical, Zum. The issue in question, called the “August Issue,” would have been his one-hundredth publication had he and his publishing imprint not collapsed so completely in the months leading up to its release.
Each entry follows an identical format, the number to each line changing, seemingly at random, though, so far, never repeating: “In line [x] of our August Issue, the Editor failed to adjust the following error”
And, so far, each entry apologizes for the same misspelling: “Yefterday’s fish.”
M Thompson was born in northern Michigan and now lives in Seattle. His work has previously appeared in places like Unsaid, Everyday Genius, Monkeybicycle, and Spork, among others. He is concerned primarily with fiction writing and running long distances.www.m-thompson.net
Thursday, October 20, 2011
In such a season as recalls the sun, an ashtray full of pennies,
a visit to a widow leads you to wonder:
virtue and integrity, the effort to be a great man
among bouts of neuralgia, neurosis, the rum someone slipped in your soda for which you do not remember asking,
to take suitable decisions—
where is it true to say you live, when lions pace elsewhere, terrific
and recalled from memory? A river of wine, a river of honey,
a river that sings: do not ask what is suffered elsewhere.
A bridge over the river to the Bronx.
In such a season,
two kids in a sort of strange song and dance in the vestibule
of their mother’s bank lead you to wonder
how a tune might begin that praises a widow who never touches her
dead husband’s books. A sculpture unearthed
again depicts a scribe with his case and absent stylus but does not mete
the hours that passed from task to task.
What sign to make among disbelievers? You have been called
by a singer unseen and such is your nature
that even the spaces between questions calls to you.
An apocryphal lion roams the Venetian landscape.
It roams St. Petersburg, it roams the Bronx.
Your advisors despite the distance of an era awaiting
excavation only suggest what it might be like
to leave and not to abandon yourself. Apprentice the hands to the violin
to forge a memory,
to strike a path, to be your passage from uncertainty, like building a wing
on a building.
In such a season as a woman in furs puts her poodle in a cab
the scribe amends the story to end:
“And they were terrified.”
The effortless gesture, the trained arm, the hand is a voice.
The hand enthroned.
Fear and fearfulness. What you know to be
your left ventricle, where a violin awaits the accompaniment
of a provisional composition, as compassion
—what is suffered elsewhere.
What the river is like, what the war is like, what doubt is like.
The bravery to say happiness in a dark age.
We are merciless in our regrets.
Thought and thinking.
A table of friends who do not know where to begin their renditions
of all they fear they allowed to let pass.
The time spent thinking, time wasted being afraid,
knowing and responsibility, idea and mind,
thought and unknown, an actual umbrella.
Friend, have you too been abandoned?
And if so by what?
Should you, a scribe among contemporaries record them as heroes
of mystical texts?
Their fingers aren’t god.
The great permissions, the great restraints. First the songs,
then the theories.
You recover your questions:
How can the water of a lake be both clear and blue?
Have you dreamt the white flag?
To make distinctions in darkness.
A song whose only words are every way to say no.
An involuntary memory.
You praise the clear darkness.
To say no to every question is triumphant.
A great man once said, “Fresh Kills is a collage.”
A great man once said, “The mind is a mechanized Atlantic.”
To call on the widow of a great man
to be an apprentice, a scribe, to be a great man,
to be unable.
How you are seen by someone with your back toward her
in a bath of sunlight
you would be too shy to accept should you realize its presence.
And instead you turn your son’s attention to his shadow.
When the widow utters instructions for surviving a war
and likens death to bread thrown into the sea,
you understand that you do not yet know.
When your god waves from a bridge
from which he will not be talked down, the sky unravels
into a forged Venetian twilight
where you recover first one idea, then another.
The river shall gather its skirts and journey across the lion.
You are forgiven.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
In the space ahead of her, there seems to be something. In another room the noise is more muffled and less revealing. Her identical twin sister is close to climax a few feet away from her through the walls behind a David Bowie poster. Chloe walks barefoot on the wooden floorboards back and forth in her own room in pale movements. She regrets knowing her own face so well and feels a need to shave or cut something. She wants more from her refrigerator other than subdued light and loose condiments. She says Ketchup and Dijon mustard. Because she owes so much money she stays inside her house on nights and weekends. Lately, she has been reading more stories of people trapped inside their houses voluntarily. She says, Did you know there is a man in Tokyo who has never seen the city of Tokyo. He only knows the inside of his apartment dozens and dozens of pizza boxes, a broken empty telephone. Finally her sister orgasms arms outstretched knocking the wall between them like a door in brief parched momentary pleasure. Both sisters are quietly transported, now laying motionless on either side of the wall. Although she knows better Chloe does not feel deep significance anywhere. She goes and answers the front door and of course no one is there. She says, Why hello person.
Richard Chiem (b.1987) is the author of two e books WHAT IF, WENDY and OH NO EVERYTHING IS WET NOW (with Ana C.) He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Magic Helicopter Press, and Everyday Genius. His first collection of short stories YOU PRIVATE PERSON is forthcoming from Scrambler Books (2012). He blogs here: http://richardchiem.blogspot.com/
Monday, October 3, 2011
Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Cold War, just out from Sarabande Books; The Search Engine, which won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. She teaches at The New School, where she was a co-founder of LIT, and she’s the poetry editor of Women’s Studies Quarterly. Read more at kathleenossip.com.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
It happened when it happened.
It happened like this.
It happened near a church.
It happened on a Wednesday.
It did not happen in the morning.
It happened in the night.
Doesn’t it always happen in the night?
It did not happen in the day.
It did not happen in the daylight.
I am telling about what happened on the train.
I am writing this all down while sitting on the train.
I would say while riding on the train but when I say riding that makes me think of riding as in I am riding on a bike.
I am not riding on a bike.
I am sitting on a train.
I am writing on a train.
The sky outside is blue.
When what happened happened the sky outside and above us all was black.
It was not blue.
The sun it wasn’t shining.
Somewhere I am sure the sun was shining when what happened happened.
The sun is always somewhere shining when things happen like they did.
What happened happened on a night when the stars in the sky were shining bright.
Each star in the sky is a burning sun.
What happened did not happen in the sky.
But the sky that night was watching when what happened did.
A bird in the sky might have seen it happen.
But since birds can’t tell of what they’ve seen since birds can only sing, I am here to tell it.
To say what a bird can’t say.
It’s not what is said that’s important here.
What’s important is how I say what I saw when I say what happened did.
I saw what happened happen.
It happened in a town.
When I say it happened in a town what I mean to say is in a place that is smaller than a city.
Things like this, like what I saw happen, always seem to happen in the city.
Things like this, like what I say happened happened, don’t usually happen in towns.
At least not in a town like ours.
It’s time for me to come clean.
What happened happened when it happened like it did because of me.
What happened happened, is what I’m trying to say, because of what I didn’t do when I saw what I say did.
What happened happened because I was there.
I was there to say what I saw.
It’s not what I did but what I didn’t.
I was near the church when what happened did.
I was there that night, is what I am saying, when I saw what I’m saying about did.
Outside my window right now the world is passing by me fast.
There is a lake right now outside this window.
This window that is the train’s.
There is a factory right now outside this window that makes me think of the town where what happened happened did.
May this train on its track stay on its track.
I do not want to be derailed or to be run off of this track.
In our town there is only one side of the tracks.
There is the tracks in our town and then there is the river.
The church where what happened happened is somewhere in between.
The price of gas right now is a few cents shy of four dollars.
I remember when the price of gas was forty-seven cents a gallon.
When I was a kid, I used to think if I was the one selling the gas I’d sell it for fifteen cents a gallon so that cars would line up for miles to buy their gas from me.
This must’ve been back in like 1973.
I was like seven in 1973.
In 1973 the A’s of Oakland won the American League pennant.
Ten years later I could throw a baseball eighty-four miles an hour.
In 1984, a year later, my right shoulder made a sound that shoulders aren’t supposed to make.
It wasn’t so much a sound as it was a feeling.
I might have made the sound that it made up.
When I went with my shoulder to our town’s local doctor, this doctor said I should take up running track.
I ran myself away from this doctor and went down to the river.
If I said I know of a man who lives on the river, would you believe that this was true?
The back of the church where what happened happened looks out onto the river.
When a train runs through town and runs its whistle up against the sky the preacher in this church has to raise his voice up to be heard.
I like to sing nursery rhymes to myself when I am supposed to be sitting in church.
A rhyme is its own religion.
The smoke in the sky makes it hard for me to sometimes breathe.
When things burn, where does what they turn into go?
Smokestacks, when they raise up all rusty against the sky, they make the sky seem human.
Rust is both a color and a state of being.
There is a book that I know called On Being and Nothingness.
About this book I like its title but the words inside put me to sleep.
I sleep on the side and with the lights in the hall burning.
I am not afraid of the dark.
What I am afraid of at night is what I might see looking back out at me from inside of the dark.
It was dark out when it happened.
It was night.
It was night and the night is always dark.
When the sun at night sets like it does like it is doing outside right now the sky loses hold of its blueness.
What would happen if I’d just said right now that when the sun sets the sky loses hold of its balloon-ness?
What does a balloon lose hold of?
What a balloon loses is the breath that we blow up inside it.
When we blow out the candles on a birthday cake, we can’t forget to make a wish.
I wish right now I had a cake with candles on it for me to blow out.
The balloon I am picturing, it is always blue.
A balloon that is blue when it’s held up against the sky it’s hard to tell which is which.
The blue of the balloon, it blends in with the blue of the sky.
The balloon becomes the sky.
And the train conductor says what he says, what he says, what he says he says in a song.
I cannot say what was said on the train but I can beat time with my hand upon my head.
It takes some time for the sky to turn all dark.
It takes a while for the blue of the sky to give up the sky to black.
It takes some time too to set the record straight.
I am doing my best to do what I am doing, to say what I saw when what happened did.
Take your time, I keep telling myself, and the story of how so and what did will get told.
The night is not yet entirely dark.
Streetlights, traffic-lights, buoys on the river.
Each one does battle against the dark.
The church at night is as dark and quiet as a bible.
In the Bible it says, Let there be light.
But it also says that the darkness is what came first.
A fire burns bright in the back of the yard.
In the woods four boys with sticks raise their arms up against the dark.
The husk of an army tank sits rusting out in front of a house.
The church where what happened happened has a name.
The Rock of Christ on the River.
The preacher inside The Rock of Christ on the River is a man named Bob.
I once knew a man who lived out on the river in a boat and this man and his boat were both named Bob too.
In the woods behind the church as boys we used to build bonfires at night and piss out beer into the flames.
One night I believed the end was near.
We stepped out of our clothes in the starless dark and ran ourselves down to the river.
The sign at the edge of the river said, Do Not Swim and another sign said to us, Do Not Eat The Fish, but us boys we knew not to listen.
We swam out into the dark waters.
We found a fish washed up on the muddy shore and we stuck a stick up through its mouth until it came out the side of its belly.
We held this fish over the fire.
We held it like this, over the fire, until its tail curled and blackened and we knew it was ready for us to eat.
We ate the fish.
We took turns eating the fish.
I ate its eyes.
I ate its eyes so that I could better see.
So that I could see like a fish.
I shut my eyes.
I did not see.
I did not want to believe.
Peter Markus' newest book We Make Mud is out now from Dzanc Books.
Monday, September 19, 2011
When summer began my intention was to start surfing again. It’s been a decade since surfing or tennis. Skills atrophy over time so I expected I would resort to longboarding. It’s been cold in New York, trips to Long Beach have been delayed (and surfboards cost more than tennis rackets). Tennis is more than a substitute.
Another likely result of tennis is playwriting.
John Dermot Woods is the author of The Complete Collection of people, places & things. He has books forthcoming from Awesome Machine, Jaded Ibis, and Double Cross Presses. He edits Action, Yes and is a professor of English at Nassau Community College.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Andrea Kneeland's first collection, the Birds & the Beasts is forthcoming from Cow Heavy Press later this year. Work has most recently appeared in Vinyl Poetry, Barrelhouse, mud luscious press, FRiGG and NANO Fiction. She's also a web editor for Hobart.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Amelia Gray is the author of AM/PM (Featherproof Books) and Museum of the Weird (FC2). Her first novel, THREATS, is due Winter 2012 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
our perpetual waiting. The longer we waited,
the better it was. Now, no news is bad news
& the only news we know. Like that month in college
where all I ate was ramen noodles & I was able
to whittle my intake down to two packages a day.
I remember reading a line in a poem that said something
about cleaning yesterday’s mistake from the stove
& underlining it—that seemed like news, the kind
of news you can free yourself from. Just wipe it clean.
The daily paper is gone & with it the comfort
of community notes & box scores. There have been no
engagements, no birth announcements, no weddings,
no deaths. The weather report no longer forecasts
the week, instead breaks down the past 24 hours
for those of us who remained indoors & forgot to look
out a window. My morning routine, obsolete.
The post-breakfast analysis coming at the top of the hour.
Gina Myers is the author of A Model Year (Coconut Books, 2009) and several chapbooks, including False Spring (forthcoming from Spooky Girlfriend). She lives in Atlanta, GA.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Imad Rahman is the author of I Dream of Microwaves, a collection of connected stories. He teaches at Cleveland State University & directs the Imagination Writers Workshop & Conference.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
In the late summer of 1990 I spent a week trying to learn to surf in a fishing village not far from Sendai on the eastern coast of Japan. There were five or six of us in an old wooden house – three or four Japanese guys, me and my friend Mike. We had been invited by the son of one of the English teachers in my school. The school was in Kumagaya, a few hours away, far from the sea. At the school I taught seven classes a day in windowless rooms the size of large closets. These were not necessarily always dreary sessions but the memory — here, now — of being on the coast, with those guys, in a large, airy old house is a good one.
We slept on the floor, it goes without saying. One of the guys ground his teeth all night. Another of the guys, Koji, was a looker and spent a lot of time talking to his girlfriends. The third guy, whose nickname was Skeleton, was very tall. The fourth guy, if there was one, I can’t remember.
The guys were well-equipped for their surfing labors. They and all the other surfers on the beach had good gear. Good gear was important for sporting activity in Japan. Waves were important, too, but there weren’t a lot of them that week. Enough though that Mike and I, who had never been on surf boards before (or since), got smashed repeatedly onto the hard sand. We also got scraped up, lacking wet-suits, by the wax on our boards. What the fuck, right? It’s pathetic, grotesque even to talk about surfing in those waters, I know that, but there the memory is, there is sits, bobs, attempts to stand.
So, anyway, we tried. Koji and crew were okay. They caught waves. Mike and I may eventually have caught a wave or two as well. Mainly though I remember the hard sand stuff and a bunch of guys in good gear bobbing in the water and the blue sky and the warm sun.
Then we played beach volleyball. I think I got a little aggressive and wacked the ball into someone’s face. That wasn’t nice. Then a typhoon struck. We spent days in the old house. I think we may have played cards. Poker for yen. Certainly we drank beer. Conversed. Told jokes. One day we ventured out to a bathhouse. Some of the local Yakuza were there. One had a missing finger. All were tattooed. We laughed and pointed at each other. You know. The hottest bath was hot enough to make you cry. “You” being me and Mike. There had been some horsing around before the bath part. During the spigot part. But during the bath part everyone just sat still and tried to keep it together.
Generally, we ate a lot of rice and fish and seaweed. Ramen too. At night the guy who ground his teeth ground his teeth. Or is that grinded? I wish I could remember what Skeleton was like when he was sleeping. Actually, I can. Only I don’t know how to write it. Koji probably slept handsomely. The years go by. Mike and I probably snored.
A few days ago someone asked me to write something featuring water that has been poisoned. They meant write about Japan. The rain from the typhoon has grown very warm in my memory of it, but quite possibly we were shivering a lot during that so-called week of surfing. I wasn’t much liked, but Mike was popular. I was just starting to try to write and was already a little distant. Now, radiation from the Fukushima plant is leaking into the ocean. Some of the leak is deliberate. Part of a strategy. According to some international experts this is not a problem. It is hard to know what they could possibly mean by this. Or what they think they mean by this. People say stuff. I think of the scientists in all those Japanese nuclear horror monster movies. Saying stuff. What are they saying? What can they mean?
Meanwhile, Skeleton is kind of curled up in my memory of him sleeping. He is smiling too. That kid is still grinding his teeth. The Yakuza guy’s finger is still gone. We are all still bobbing in the waters. Much of Sendai was wiped out by the tsunami. I’m sure that little wooden house we spent those days in all those years ago now was too.
Laird Hunt is the author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), originally from Smokeproof Press, though now re-released by Marick Press, and four novels, The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) and Ray of the Star (2009) all from Coffee House Press. His translation from the French of Oliver Rohe’s Vacant Lot is recently out from Counterpath Press.
Monday, August 15, 2011
They call it a 'living fossil', essentially identical to specimens unearthed from before the age of dinosaurs. The tuatara can live well over 100 years, maybe as many as 200, they don't really know. They're nocturnal, they're endangered, they're cannibalistic. The Maori tribes who named them believe they are messengers of the God of Death, that no pregnant woman should eat them. They have a prehistoric third eye on their forehead, the legendary pineal eye, a light-sensing node. It helps them know where the sun is, what season it is.
We melted over 40,000 pounds of snow today. The mound is almost gone. The men here don’t like the dark that lasts all day. I don’t mind. The shifts are over before I know it. Time seems to disappear in the dark.
Despite the popular belief that I adhered to until reading this article, most reptiles aren't really cold-blooded. When the temperature drops too low, they die. Not the tuatara. It can survive at just a few degrees above zero, a temperature at which any other reptile would freeze. Or not 'any other', because they're not reptiles. They are a different thing. A distinct creature.
I used to think I was smart. People told me I was smart as a child. I was put in the training camp called 'Gifted and Talented'. My particular gifts or talents were never enumerated. While the other kids memorized spelling lists we made creative things out of papier-mâché. I can't spell papier-mâché.
Take the Neanderthal. They weren't just another step in human evolution, they were a different branch entirely. They existed side by side with Homo Sapien Sapien. Modern humans like you, sometimes me. Neanderthal tools, Neanderthal language. We interbred with them. And then we probably killed them off. Or they died of cold. This is all speculative. And controversial. I encourage you to look it up when we get back to the station.
The crux is that a Neanderthal was fundamentally different than a human. They were another human-like creature living at the same time as humans. As I walked over with lunch just now I kept thinking: What if they hadn't died out? Imagine it: bigger, different, hairy human-creatures living right along side us. Forget conflict over religion or race or nationality. Slide science to the front page. They had bigger brains than we do. It wasn't Harry and the Hendersons. They were smarter, less violent. Your laugh is disgusting. They were like prehistoric Europeans, cultured.
You see, I wanted to say something at lunch about how I feel now: that I matter less, that it's less important who I am. Just anyone, checking my reflection in the side of this glacier, frowning at the sea. But it doesn't matter to you either… no, I know it doesn't. And it's OK. It doesn't matter to the world. It does not feel important. Does not feel important to say it to you, does not feel important to say it to myself, does not feel important to set it down for posterity. What does posterity consist of? No Neanderthal, maybe tuatara, but only for a blink, for a breath of time, back at work with 780 pounds of snow on the news truck, you calling out some stupid joke while locking up the hatch. I don’t laugh. Ever. This is death’s country and we’ve got a pet store to build.
Zach Dodson’s hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, came out in 2008 under the nom de plume Zach Plague. He has also launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N’ Tell Show. He enjoys pleasant weather.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Today in Celeb News
by Carmen Giménez Smith- Hollywood’s Deep Insider
In today’s celebrity news, Kiera Knightley slid out of the sheets of her fluffy bed at New York’s premiere W Hotel’s to curl up with her new iPad from which she’s reading the new Mark Twain biography. She was lamenting the days in which it was de rigueur to read great books while sitting in one’s canvas actor’s chairs, Marilyn Monroe reading Joyce’s Ulysses, etc., so she decided to buy herself a proper copy as a ruse. She had to change out of the same sweats she’d been wearing for the last two days, and put on a pair of Balenciaga gladiator boots just to go down the hall to knock on her assistant’s door—its more polite that way—and send him to buy her a copy of the book. She hates hotel hallways.
On Johnny Depp’s private island, trouble is brewing…between his children. Lily-Rose Depp refuses to let Jack Depp play with the Wii in the screening room, which forces little Jack, named after Depp’s groundbreaking role as Jack Sparrow in the film, Pirates of the Carribean, based on the 1967 Disney ride that terrified this journalist’s 3-year old son who insisted on riding the ride despite this journalist’s apprehension about the skeleton parts. The journalist’s child was indeed traumatized by the experience, and this journalist vowed to not return until the boy was of age, but in addition, recognized the inanity of buying food at Disneyland, what with the exorbitant prizes, and felt a profound sense of grief at having nagged her working class parents to buy burgers, even when she wasn’t hungry. At any rate, the Wii debacle led to Depp, age 47, to send both his children to frolic on the fine sand of their private island. He has since vowed to prohibit his children from using the Wii in the screening room. Actors-just like us?
Back in Hollywood, Jennifer Aniston, age 41, our favorite spinster, is frantically insisting that her staff do something about the strange smell emanating from her refrigerator. The assistants have already thrown out the doggie bag from Eva Longoria’s restaurant Beso as well as some undated protein shakes delivered by her personal trainer without dates on their lids. Insiders say she’s holding on to the last jar of yogurt that Brad Pitt ever ate from, but friends say that’s “patently offensive, she’s been over him for years.” Did she and Eva exchange divorce lawyer phone numbers? We’ll see soon!!!!
George Clooney, 49 and his beautiful new arm candy, Italian television presenter, Elisabetta Canalis, 32, attended a matinee screening of the new hit film, True Grit, at the Century 8 in North Hollywood. Fans only recognized him when Elisabetta left the screening to use the bathroom, and returned to the darkened theatre and yelled, “George! George! George Clooneeeee!” Luckily, there were only seven other attendees as most people have been downloading Oscar contenders as torrents, so a potential riot was averted. The couple was reported to have consumed a large Sprite, a bag of peanut M&Ms and a medium popcorn, no butter. Clooney graciously signed one fan’s bosom, which she promptly had tattooed at famed tattoo parlor, High Voltage Ink, owned by 28-year old tattoo icon, Kat Von D who was not present during the tattooing of this unnamed Clooney fan. Perhaps she was busy with her new purported secret beau, Chicago mayor contender, Rahm Emmanuel.
Guess Who? Which A-list celebrity still argues with his B-list wife about who should take out the garbage each week? Mr. A insists that it’s the responsibility of their housekeeper, but Ms. B, with her working-class upbringing (and TV show role, hint,hint), feels that Mr. B should assume a more traditional role and take out the garbage himself. Hint: It’s not Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Newly uncovered records reveal that Daniel Radcliffe, age 21, has not always been the star pupil he played at Hogwarts. A recently released history paper he wrote for an on-set tutor was practically drenched in red ink with language such as “redundant!” and “where’s the bloody thesis?” In 2001, this journalist once had dinner at a restaurant in Paris where Daniel Radcliffe and his family were having dinner. The only celebrity this journalist had ever had proximity with was Jack Klugman, at the Santa Anita Horse Races when she was a child. This journalist was absolutely transfixed by the boy and his celebrity and couldn’t stop staring, which made Daniel Radcliffe’s (alleged) sister very sour. Radcliffe left the restaurant wearing a NYPD hat, this being 2001. His representatives insist that this history paper was out of keeping with most of his studies, and that Radcliffe was “a diligent student of British history on and off set.”
Oh wait, this journalist saw LaToya Jackson at the Galleria in the late 80s. She looked like a tiger. And in the late 80s, Neil Patrick Harris was purported to have stopped at the men’s boutique two doors from the Eyexam 2000 where she worked at the time, but she missed seeing him by moments. That day, however, hearing that he had gone to this particular boutique, she began to wonder about her dream marriage to this actor, that is, if it would pan out, as one of the shop boys had mentioned a certain flirtation with said shop boy.
Guess Who? One tween music and television star is in hot water with his/her literary salon after using the word “volumptuous.” This super-exclusive literary salon, said to be attended by literary luminaries such as Ally Sheedy and Suzanne Somers is metaphorically “up in arms” at the faux-pas. Will this young up and comer survive this pronunciation predicament? Find out, next week, in the next installment of Today in Celeb News!Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of three collections of poetry -- Odalisque in Pieces (University of Arizona, 2009), The City She Was (Center for Literary Publishing, 2011), and Goodbye, Flicker (University of Massachusetts, 2012) -- and a memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds (University of Arizona, 2010). She is the recipient of a Juniper Prize for poetry and a fellowship from the Howard Foundation for creative nonfiction. She is the publisher of Noemi Press, the editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol, and an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at New Mexico State University.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
You drank short blindful drinks and held your body too close to the world.
You lost your sleeves and showed up with wounds.
You cropped what you could of the sun's unappeasable light.
You grappled with nothing.
You made no revisions.
You addressed the battered odors of others by inhaling them as your own.
You pleaded the Fifth.
You pleaded no contest.
You repeated the names of American outskirts for any number of irretrievable reasons.
You leaned against the chotch.
You watched the other daily irregulars choke without song on what they imbibed.
You found the flimsiest of heights insurmountable.
You felt on the verge of something climactical whenever entering a public stall.
You found the difference between "eventual" and "occasional" nothing less than bewildering.
You were devastated by women with crooked teeth.
You were beaten as a child.
You were beaten as an adolescent.
You were beaten as an adult.
You bruised easily.
You accepted most beatings with an ambiguous sort of cheer.
You took little comfort from the tidal mechanics of the moon.
You did what you did.
You were less fearless than indifferent to fear.
You crumbed years into minutes.
You preferred chin music over bullfighting.
You grew tired most days and veered headlong into seasonal fevers.
Your body was aggrieved by hearsay.
All you coveted of the world was a small Victorian toy.
David McLendon is a Fellow of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He is founder and editor of Unsaid.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Alexandra Leggat is the author of the short story collections Animal (nominated for the 2010 Trillium Book Award), Meet Me in the Parking Lot and Pull Gently, Tear Here. She teaches writing classes at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.