Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Robert Kloss

From The Alligators of Abraham

And when the war was at its lowest, Abraham was visited by the face of the Lord in the night. Remember now this man Abraham, alongside his wife, and how she snored while he lay awake watching the shadows fold and unfold upon the ceiling. Remember how the Lord, great and nameless in all, called to him in the voice of shadows upon the ceiling: “This war of yours,” the Lord spoke, “calls for the blood of a son. Let the red stream flow.” And how sorrowful became this man Abraham, how his every gaze followed the figure of his boy, Willie, this boy he loved more than his very soul, this boy Willie and the war noises he made unto his lead soldiers, and there Abraham stood in his top hat, and there Abraham said unto the boy, “This union shall not perish from the earth.”

Remember this boy on the front page of the papers, his face cocked to the side and his half-smile, his coal black hair, his lace frills and velvet jackets, dead of what they officially called a “bilious fever.” Remember now this boy who raced goats along the capital lawn with his brother. Remember now this boy of your age and height and hair color, dead in the morning. Remember how the official release spoke of his emaciated body wrung dry. Remember this boy who sought to execute his play soldiers until his father pardoned them by official letter. Remember now this boy, dead in his bed-clothes, and how Abraham wept and murmured through the day, “You were too good for this earth, Willie my boy, it is a hard, hard thing to have you die for this cause.”

And how all the world seemed born into wailing and the tolling of church bells and twenty-one gun salutes, how Mary Todd in her black gowns and gauze pressed her nose to the windows overlooking the lawns and the roads, and how she said, “Where are they? Why aren’t they here to pay their respects?”

Remember those days were the days of caskets, and now Willie’s was but one of these.

Remember  how  Abraham’s figure  stooped over Willie’s, the slow melt of ice along the floor boards sopping into the Persian rug, Abraham’s face buried in his hands, how he attended not to his papers, his war. And  how Abraham paced, moaning, before the boy’s casket. How he slept before his son, his great figure curled, his legs drawn up and how his white stockings and whiter flesh shown beneath his black trousers, and when he sat awake all your valley knew the sound of his pitched weeping. And in the still midnight how Abraham said unto his wife, “I need a glass of water” and instead journeyed to the body of his son on display and laid kisses upon that once sweet brow, and how he sought to remove the silver dollars from the boy’s lids, whispering, “Please, please my boy, oh my boy, my heart—” Remember how servants found Abraham asleep and draped over Willie’s casket, the boy’s jacket sodden with Abraham’s tears, and Abraham wept for what he called “his guilt,” and so it was said Abraham cleansed and cleansed until the blood dripped from his rubbed-red hands.

And now Abraham and his youngest son Tad curled into bed with each other, and Abraham whispered stories until this tender lad dozed. And Abraham excused himself from cabinet meetings for his weeping, for his dazed expression, his strange wandering mind, and he called out “Quiet down now Willie” or “Play with your carriages elsewhere lad,” and when his sobs were heard by those he trusted most, these said unto each other, “We may need a new president.”

Remember how Abraham twice exhumed Willie, stood by while government workers shoveled free and mounded the soil. How he fell upon the casket raised above the soil. How he fell upon the figure of his boy once the crowbar pried free the lid, the dust and gases of the grave and all others fell to coughing and gagging while Abraham held tight the disassembling body of his son, the body grown to dust, to soil, the body burrowed through and rotten, the body of hair grown long and tangled, the body of fingernails, of gases. This body of the boy he kissed now, this body he wept upon, this body ever of his boy, this body ever of his body.

And it was said Mary Todd would not rise from bed for the death of Willie, and it was said Abraham crouched by her catatonic figure and fed her soup by prying her gray lips open with one hand and sliding the spoon in with his other, and he hummed the tunes he knew she had loved to hear Willie sing “Yankee Doodle” and “the Camptown Ladies” and Abraham said finally, “Mother, you must pull together or you see that white building across the way?” and he gestured to the hospital across the street. “Mother, we will have to send you there. And my heart will be too lonesome to bear.”

Robert Kloss is the author of How the Days of Love & Diphtheria and The Alligators of Abraham. He is found at robert-kloss.com.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Sarah Dohrmann

Our needs rage on like a neglected fire. My needs, your needs, the cashier's needs, the teacher's needs, our parents' needs, the kids' needs. On and on, our hungry need. Today on the subway in the Bronx, folks called each other nasty names because somebody demanded a seat and somebody pushed somebody and somebody else looked at somebody funny and Hey! Somebody here needs to get his ass to work!

Needs. Oh to be the little dog that lives above me. As I sit here at my desk I can hear his mommy climbing the building stairs, calling, "Is that Boo Boo? Boo Boo? Is Boo Boo going to greet me?" She starts this game when she gets to the second floor; she lives on the third. All the way up the stairs she's calling Boo Boo's name and damned if I don't hear Boo Boo's claws make contact onto the hardwood floor above me. I imagine he's been having himself a skittish Boo Boo nap at the very moment he heard the distant call of "Boo Boo! Boo Boo!" The door is opened by a key. "Ah! It's Boo Boo! Oh my gosh, Boo Boo!" squeals Mommy. She lifts him, his tail scissors, he licks up a glorious gulp of need.

In Brooklyn there's no space on the train. Most of us want to sit, but we don't need to sit, not really. And the guy who won't move his belongings from the seat next to him knows the difference between our want and our need; he couldn't give a rat's ass about either. This makes want elevate to the rank of need, that fire. I mean, the motherfucker hasn't even bothered to look up from his book to see if I need.

Sarah Dohrmann has received a New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Nonfiction Literature, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, and a Fulbright Fellowship of the Arts for Creative Writing in Morocco. With photographer Tiana Markova-Gold, Sarah won the 2010 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Work from their photography/writing collaboration has been featured in The British Journal of Photography and excerpted in TIME Magazine's LightBox. Sarah has written feature work, travel writing, cultural commentary, short stories and essays for Glamour, Poets & Writers, Teachers & Writers Magazine, Bad Idea (England), and The Iowa Review, among others. She is a member of the text and jazz ensemble FlashPoint NYC. Her current and anticipated work is a book of literary journalism titled Lost Girls that concerns the lives of prostituted women in Morocco. You can read more of her work on her blog, Und You Vill Like It.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Her long nails click on the keyboard.  He goes for a beer.  Rain or sleet in the streets, depending, and not one church bell ringing, not one.  And that for weeks.

Her story spins but she keeps the clicking going and six beers later darkness enters the room.  He does too, but the clicking keeps him from putting his hand on her neck, keeps him from speaking.  Her story begs for a response.

The tape-recorder in the steeple broke.  It can't play its ringing church bells, so the reel spins madly, up there, day and night: Slip-slip-slip. Slip-slip-slip.

People come out of their houses.  Did you expect that sleet they say.  It's rain, some answer.  What about the bells, they ask.  Let them be, some say.

She keeps on typing.  It's essential, you understand.  Her nails shorten. The clicking dims.  She hears him say I'm going for a beer.  Story of my life, she clicks.

Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently, A New Hunger, published by Ausable Press. She has taught at several colleges and universities, including Sarah Lawrence College and the Solstice Low-Residency MFA program at Pine Manor College.

Monday, August 6, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Keith Nathan Brown

A Basic Guide to Cosmology and Sexual Reproduction

A vacuum of space and time along a horizon of empty bottles. Lost in a sniffling,cry-ogenic environment of nothing and nobody. A spark, a quick glance—the flash of a smile from across the bar—clumsily followed by a cosmic accident, the Big Bang. The event lasts a fraction of a second. The aftereffects, a lifetime. A seminal cloud—residual of the Bang and indebted to the ballads of dead rock stars—seeds the void with the following dynamics of growth: Frozen grains of space dust; Molecular gases; Heavy metal; Crystal meth. The crystal upon contact with the space dust—aka, angel dust—hits the street like a new phenomenon: “sticky ice”. Instead of breaking up, two incompatible bodies end up stuck together. Violence ensues. Chairs like massive chunks of rock fly through the air. Objects in space—attracted by mutual gravity—crash headlong and grow twice in size. Arrests are made. Yet within the clarity of confinement, as the nebular cloud sobers and cleans up, as the stellar outbursts fade into the past, the bond returns a bit scarred but stronger than ever. An orbit is traced through an illuminating flux of support groups. In the new life-affirming atmosphere, a realization occurs: to see oneself not as a victim of life but a source of life. On that very night, the primal mater bulges at the core and, under intense gravitational contractions, screams out obscenities, grows infernal and feverish, lashes out with blind fury until—rising out of an ocean of magma—a tiny cry emerges like the birth of a new world.

This, our noosphere:

Keith Nathan Brown received a B.S. in Physics from Marlboro College. His essay, “Network Subrealism: Sketch of an Emerging Literary Trend,” published in Puerto del Sol, traces the philosophical and technological origins of a new branch of literature. His hybrid texts and visual poetry have appeared in Word For/ Word, elimae, Unsaid and elsewhere. Embodied is his first book. He lives in Brattleboro, VT.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Luke B. Goebel

Letter to Pima County Sheriff’s Department. State of Arizona. In response to a summons. (Speeding captured by a Photo Radar Machine). Written on unlined paper. Also one ½ sheet of lined paper, roughly torn, written front and back.

Dear Person Paid to Receive this by Arizona,

I am writing to give you the business! We are, whoever you are, as a representative of legal action for the Arizona state, for some district in Tucson, and I as myself, writer, professor, fellow-state-employee from another state, etc, (The Lone Star) we are, I repeat “we are” as so much has passed from when I had written “we are” and where I have “we are” for the second time, above; again, we are engaged in a conflict, you and I, though alike in one facet, surely most unalike in many others. I mean employed by a state is how we are alike in one facet. I disagree with you—-and so here it is, the business!

You are FAMILIAR with the 5 paragraph essay, surely? I am going to tell you what I am setting out now to tell you—-then I am going to tell you (i.e. give you the business)—-and then I am going to tell you what I have told you, from at this onset I will be telling you! This will take some time—-I will likely appeal to three types of rhetoric—-ethos, logos, and pathos. Finally, I will assure you that I am correct in giving you the business! But first, know you are going after my pocketbook, my possessions, and this is wrong! As you have given me no business! This brings me to my point as to why you ARE WRONG and I am vindicated—-and here is what I will be talking (writing) about during the duration of this 5 paragraph essay (So Far You Are On Paragraph One): I am writing to inquire and prove through inquiring (both writing to prove and in inquiring so shall prove) of the last time your machine, your nonhuman photo-radar machine, was checked and calibrated for accuracy! Aha! I am going to prove you must provide record of this prior to convicting me, I.E. giving me the business, i.e. taking from my pocket, i.e. successfully completing the business of taking my money for your state/district. So begin I hereby to prove myself and my case that you cannot do me any business without providing me PROOF of recent testing and calibration of your photo-radar nonhuman machine (within the bounds of the law—-within the mandated time period of testing and calibration) prior to your stealing my photo and assigning an accusation of speeding. This is now paragraph two! As a side note I’d like to acknowledge, given our shared quality of being employed by a state of this nation (I the Lone Star: you the Grand Canyon State), I too have had the desire to slack off at my post. Especially I have desired to slack off while reading five paragraph essays written in a disembodied style, employing used up rote forms of discourse. This is why I’ve included mention of my pocket and pocketbook or billfold, to create a corporeal link through articles, through implied regions and relations of the body, i.e. rear end cheek, i.e. place of billfold, and of course implied is money—-to go further I am 31 years old, six foot four, handsome, long haired, loping, somewhat cowboy, somewhat L.A., big nose, but handsome, flat footed and I kick my right foot out when I walk! Due to the CONTEXT of this letter I cannot share what my ex-girlfriend has said is the physical reason for my doing so. I mean kicking out my right foot while I walk. Anyhow, I know what it is like to slack off but I encourage you not to slack off as this is your business and you won’t give ME the business until I have received proof proving your nonhuman machines were calibrated and checked within the required time prior to my going past and being photographed (without explicit consent). This is my pocketbook.

Paragraph three: None of us were speeding proven by my speedometer being exactly on the speed of the limit posted and no cars passing me, and the speed I was shown being incorrect attest I.

Paragraph four: I have had this happen once with a police radar gun in Hawaii which was improperly calibrated (pathos) and I got off of the business (false business) b/c he had not calibrated his nonhuman machine!

Paragraph five: So you, Sir or Madam—-I’ve been thinking of you as a female person of the state while writing, but you may of course be a MAN trying to give me the business—-but as you now see, due to my request for PROOF of PROPER FUNCTIONING of nonhuman said machine (other people not contesting, or pleading guilty, is no proof as people have grown lazy!). Therefore business is closed until you prove yourselves vigilant in checking your machines—-I.e. my billfold is closed.

Signed Luke B. Goebel 6/5/12

Luke B. Goebel is the author of the prize winning: How Many Lassos To CowboyTown, The Big Eyeball Poke, The Boot of the Boot, and Eat Your Vegetables Kids. This letter is part of a side project. It is from a collection of letters, all mailed through the U.S. Postal Service, the last great institution of the U.S. Government. The book is as of yet, unfinished, and the printing rights are currently available.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Leigh Stein


Adjective. Mapless, does not answer
to her married name, marooned
on a beach on which every night
the tide erases her letters home.
Can never remember what she wrote.
Last night's said: Send a fleet.
Tonight she will write: Send a fleet.
Never anchored. Like some islands,
the ones made of bulrush, or shipwrecked
love that loses its shape inside the ever after.
Distressed. Consumed with nostalgia
for copy machines, a desktop clock,
a postcard sent from one destination
to another: I'm here. I can't speak
the language, but I'm not coming back.
On this island there are no postcards.
Tonight she will write: Send pirates
in the sand. Or tonight she will forget to
write. Tonight she will try to mend the boat,
then go and sit in a grotto at high tide awe-
stricken with oblivion, motherless.

Leigh Stein is the author of the novel The Fallback Plan from Melville House Press. Her first full-length poetry collection, Dispatch from the Future, is forthcoming from Melville House in July 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - John Kropa

When I was 16, I was a garbage boy. Me and my coworker, who was a couple years older and could lift more trash than I could, would spend hours sifting through bottles and trash-juiced newspapers for empty Cool-Whip canisters to inhale the fumes through the nozzle. The high was similar to laughing gas, or what I imagine laughing gas to be like. One day, after finding a fresh canister during our pick-ups in the park, we drove our golf cart deep into the woods where we would climb up the thinner trees until our weight would bend the narrow trunks and carry us down gently. The tree would be left with a bowed posture. We called it tree-surfing. My coworker, being older and stronger and wanting to impress what he thought of as his apprentice, was more ambitious than I was with tree-surfing. Whereas Cool-Whip fumes greatly enhanced his tree-surfing abilities, mine were significantly hindered—the slightest body motion could send my brain into a hazardous frenzy which caused me to feel wonderfully dizzy and keel over with painful laughter. On this occasion, he pointed to a tall narrow tree, twice as tall as any I'd ever seen surfed. He started toward it. I warned him that the tree was too tall, no matter how high on fumes he was, even if he climbed to the top, the tree would bend and fall into another and he'd be stuck—he was already halfway up. Of course, as he reached the top, the tree began to bend gently until it lodged itself into a massive oak. My coworker was dangling from what seemed like 100 feet of impenetrable distance. He was muscular and in an ROTC program so I figured he'd be able to climb down or jump or something. I took another hit of Cool-Whip to pass the time. As I watched, my coworker began swinging his body to grab a lower part of the trunk. His hand slipped and he fell in slow motion until he slammed into the ground with his his horizontal body.

Some time went by before I ran over and pushed him onto his back. I saw that a stick had impaled a part of his chest and was jutting out of his sleeveless t-shirt like a third mutated arm. My coworker saw this and passed out. I immediately assumed he was dead and looked around at all the bent trees. I was confused—my brain felt like a small heavy rock surrounded by static jelly. I thought I'd killed him. I thought no one would believe me if I told them he fell, I'd go to jail for murdering him, which I certainly had fantasized doing on numerous occasions, though always with a gun or blunt object to the face, never by stabbing him in the chest with a stick. I thought about the news article—LOCAL GARBAGEBOY STABS COWORKER IN COOL-WHIP FRENZY. They'd call me the Cool-Whip Killer. Cool-Whip would go out of business.

I thought about how killing someone isn't that different than fantasizing about killing someone. I walked away from the body and made sure to leave the Cool-Whip canister nearby thinking it would look more like an accident that way. I also left the golf cart and headed back to the park where I would say my coworker had dropped me off hours before. I began picking up trash with my little pokey stick and thought about the body in the woods. A while later, still unnerved since no one had confronted me about my coworker's absence yet, I saw the golf cart approaching, my coworker driving with a look of betrayal and a hand to his chest.

John Kropa is a recent graduate from Pratt Institute. His fiction has appeared in elimae. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Holly Tavel

Children? No children.
He is lying in a bed.
The bed is uncomfortable.
How many fingers am I holding up?
What’s your name?
Not that he actually remembers speaking.
But he’s sure he said no.
Too blurry around the edges.
Then he remembers.
Hold on wait a minute.
But by then it’s too late.

Out the window the sky darkens. A cloudbank rolls up. Droplets on windshields. Umbrellas. There is a flagpole on top of the school, but the school itself is not visible. A flag whipped by gusting winds. In the parking lot below, wrappers skim along the dark asphalt. A helium balloon floats to the ceiling.

He is sitting in the passenger seat of a Lincoln Town Car.
His brother, the Town Car’s owner, is wearing mirrored sunglasses.

He is short and bald.
He crumples something in his fist.
He squints out the windshield at the smeared sky.
Just a drizzle, says the brother. 
Nothing to worry about.

The feeling starts at the crown of his head.
It snakes its way down his body.
His toes curl like seashells.
His edges recede.
He doesn’t recognize his own face in the mirror.
He looks at the face, long and fraught.
Too crowded in there, he thinks.
How old am I? 
It is a serious question.
Thirty, laughs the nurse.
Same age as me.

Get well card one: seashore, distant ship. Get well card two: bouquet of flowers. Get well card three: Still life with fruit against dark wood. Get well card four: pensive cartoon woman, chin in hand. Get well card five: hopeful, frolicsome puppy. Get well card six: abstract shapes, cursive lettering. Get well card seven: peaceful meadow scene. Forget it.

He has a small spiral-bound notebook on his lap.
He is pressing the blunt pencil hard into the page.
The letters stare mutely up at him.
Let’s see, says the brother.
He hands him the notebook.
Pretty good, says the brother.
Only, here.

He takes the pencil and makes several quick marks.
You got the A and the R backwards.
Like this. See?
The brother holds the pencil in his stubby fingers.
Give it back.

Alphabet letters in a book. In alphabet soup. On TV, with eyeballs, talking to other alphabet letters. His father asleep in an armchair at four in the afternoon. Outside, the clouds have taken on a suspicious hue. Stop talking.

He has moved back in with his parents.
Their house is dark and strange.
A foreign country in a late-night movie.
He sits with his mother watching Match Game.
His room is drifting out to sea.
He no longer needs a wheelchair.
He likes looking at the old pictures of himself.
He is wearing a clip-on bowtie.
He is leaping from a dock into a lake.
He is posed beside a picket fence.
His children do not look like him.

In the garage: golf clubs, boxes. Picture frames awaiting pictures. A pair of old sneakers.

The garden has suffered badly this summer. Scorched. He does not recognize these people.

The headline reads, “Man, 30, Struck by Lightning”.

He is lying in a field.
He is lying face down.
He smells something burning.
The smell does not displease him.
He feels rain on his face.
It is soft and warm.
He no longer has a head.
His head has disappeared.
How did that happen?

Holly Tavel is a Brooklyn-based writer/artist/musician whose fiction has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Torpedo, Elimae, McSweeney's, The Brooklyn Rail, The Prague Anthology, Diagram and others. As the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2009, she moved to Prague, Czech Republic to research a novel-in-progress. Her visual work has been exhibited at Participant Gallery, NYC, and at Art Interactive in Boston.

Monday, May 7, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Sarah Rose Etter

After we left the party the house burst into flames when I woke up it was front page news a picture of the house smoldering covered in black hurt smeared in terrible blemished down to busted bad wood half the house chewed off by heat with teeth the headline said TWO DEAD AFTER PARTY FIRE then text about bodies stuffed with smoke wrapped in fire the police wheeling them under sheets out of the house where we danced where you kept me close but didn’t kiss me where that felt like it mattered but it didn’t you didn’t nothing did because flames ate through flesh red insides left the bones there were ribs exposed when the bodies came out of that house then went into the ground I knew they could have been felt they should have been us we were supposed to be devoured together never dancing again never kissing once it should have been our leftover spines under the white blankets we were supposed to be on the front page.

Sarah Rose Etter's short fiction collection, Tongue Party, was published by Caketrain Press. Her work has appeared in The Black Warrior Review, Salt Hill Journal, The Collagist and more. Find out more at www.sarahroseetter.com.

Monday, April 30, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Lauren Wallach

Dear R—

You said: First it was me, then it was you, then it was both of us. It seemed important to make the distinctions, of whose fault it was first, and whose fault second. Important to blame each of us almost equally, and then to tie it up neatly in the end. Though it is not the end.

Last night we spoke again. You agreed with me about the male writers—certain ones—their “misogyny” we agreed to call it. With Thais over brunch, coffee and Bloody Mary, against dark wood benches and cold winter sun, we inquired about where you stand, R. We were talking about you. Thais said, your eyes, (or was it your head?) must be clear to see that thing in others, causing you to not be one yourself. How can he be when he can see it in others? At the very least, he is aware. Awareness, Thais and I always agree, is the key. Awareness is also a form of denial. As long as you are aware, that is the first step. As long as you are aware, accept yourself, the rest will follow, or it won’t. Must we worry? Be aware and forget. It’s like the morning. They say, do it in the morning, then you don’t have to worry again until tomorrow. Can it all be done in the morning? Tell me R, can it all be done in the morning?

I told you about the poetry book I’ve been carrying around with me like a bible, and you told me that writer is a sexist. This was ironic because the book, in my mind, opposed a man (a writer) who I thought was the sexist. And this book proved that sexist wrong. But now this man was a sexist too. Were they all? Were they all? R—I looked into your eyes for the answer, but they were looking over at someone else. I watched her go by. Red lips lighting up the room as red lips do.

You told me you didn’t write every day, that psychologist who wrote that article was wrong, it’s not the only way, and you eased me, in that moment, I was glad to have gone out, amidst the rain and the cold of the night. You asked me where I had been earlier, why I had missed the entire event, and this time I had a good reason, but wouldn’t tell you—now I will tell you. I was putting my make up on in the psychologist’s bathroom. And let me tell you how exhilarating that was. It felt like I was really about to step out into the world and would find some people who would want me too much, I’d have to push them away, and then give in. Like I’d go with someone. Like one of those nights I used to have. Nights that only feel like you’re really living in retrospect. How wild of me! you’ll recall. It wasn’t one of those nights, but I shouldn’t have to say. We all watched all of us exit the van at our respective homes, like a class trip, like we couldn’t take care of ourselves, like we only knew about a very small part of the city, and of course, each other.

Sometimes we don’t need to distinguish between the two. But I’ll be distinguished when I say: once there were two types of nights. They came together in one evening, or on different days. Then I carried a particular book of poetry around with me like a bible. It was always a way to know.

Lauren Wallach is a writer from Brooklyn. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where she is the creative director of LUMINA, the graduate literary journal. Her work has appeared in The Collagist.

Monday, April 23, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Jeff Simpson


I read all about it and still felt the same
whateverness of a Sunday in Nebraska,
corn cobbed in my teeth, fields waving like a blaze.
Sit by the pool and still I feel capped
with an empty head, watching the bottom
marble like a good steak, the sun singing hosannas
through a backyard sprinkler.
Whatever rainbow. Whatever light waves.
The day unspools, and I want for a cherry
cola to ease me back into submission.
The Paper says Exploding wellheads
and oceans of goo. Paper says Lover immolates
himself in the shape of a valentine,
Dachshund rescued from sewer.
In the early days of refrigeration, ice ruled
the economy—acres of men sawing blocks
from frozen lakes. I wish it could be as simple
as a wood box and tongs, a mini glacier
keeping the meat cool. I wish rickshaws
and happy peasants soldering gadgets.
I wish the edifice not to crumble.
The flight attendant asks if I want ice
with my drink. I say I used to feel safe in the air.
I use to feel something like bliss watching
the city fall from the window, the houses
like specks on a robin’s egg, streets running
arterially from their respective hearts.
Whatever gridlock. Whatever stasis.
I forget combustion and debris fields.
I forget sparrows destroy the eggs of other nests.
I know water evaporates before falling
as rain. I know the sun will burn out
and collapse into a diamond.
I know and forget and feel the surprise
as a piñata stuffed with machetes.
If I can’t escape the coffin while handcuffed,
if I can’t twist out of the shark’s mouth,
if I can’t land softly and catch a little shuteye,
then I want the rubble like I secretly want
the beach oil-soaked and ruined. In its wasting
I can finally see it for what it really is.

Jeff Simpson grew up in southwest Oklahoma and now lives in New York. He is the author of Vertical Hold (Steel Toe Books, 2011), which was a finalist for The National Poetry Series. He is the founding editor of The Fiddleback. His poems have recently appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, Blip Magazine, and others. Visit him at jeffsimpson.org

Monday, April 16, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Robin Grearson

7.2 Miles

On those days when I wake up and feel like I'm falling, I walk the city. I cross the Williamsburg bridge on foot, imagining each step makes the distance between us literal. I stop at a café to collect my thoughts, but I know I should have left them in Brooklyn. As if you were chasing me, I check to see if you are there while I drink, and of course you are.

I keep walking, trying to find the city I knew before you. Before I didn’t know you. When I watch my feet I am alone with you again, so I look at faces instead. But I am still too shy to be naked in front of so many strangers, so finally I look up.

I turn the skyscrapers into my canopy of trees and let the dappled light hit my face like a splash of cool water and redemption. By the time I see the Flatiron, my mind is like a fist finally becoming a hand again. My legs are tired and I’m no longer aware of the effort, only the feeling of motion. I understand that I’m walking but it feels like swimming, like I could reach up and pull myself out of this place by grabbing a windowsill as though it’s the side of a pool.

Do you feel guilty about something, you asked, and repeated, stunning me and leveling your gaze, lowering your head like a bull preparing his charge, no matter my answer.
No, I whispered, rising inside myself, taller and defiant but confused and falling, hearing things inside me already breaking, a pile of china I know I cannot catch in time.

When I wake up and feel like I’m falling, I walk the city. I look up. The question is still there, but I make a new answer. Do you?

There are so many cities here, nesting inside this one. Maybe a million, but probably more. Someday with my feet I will swim into another New York that has forgotten the black in your eyes that day. There must be at least one.

Robin Grearson is an essayist, teacher and curator who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been published in The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail, among other publications. This story originally appeared as part of the Notwork project, which installed a pirate Wi-Fi intranet on the L-Train. She is a member of Bushwick’s 1441 writers collective. www.robingrearson.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Jac Jemc

Excerpt from My Only Wife

I asked the question, sure of the answer, but my wife said, “Deaf.” I was certain she’d rather be blind.
“Really?” I asked, confused. Maybe she was being contrary.

The question surfaced after we had seen a woman in the art museum with her Seeing-Eye dog. We wondered how and why a blind person would go to an art museum, whether they might be allowed special privileges or something, like running their hands over the statues. We wondered whether there were floor plans printed in Braille. We were on a schedule, though, and we were polite, so we didn’t follow her around to figure out what was happening.

In the gift shop at the end of the day we saw the woman flipping through a row of art calendars priced at half-off because it was already the middle of January. Her dog was seated contentedly at her feet.

“She must be only partially blind,” my wife said.
“Or maybe she just wanted to bring her dog to the museum,” I replied, in good humor.

My wife seemed to consider this for a moment before moving on. We paid for a handful of postcards and an art book. On our way out the huge glass doors I asked the question.
I heard my wife’s answer and distrusted it.

“But you listen to your records every night. You record stories on cassette tapes instead of writing them down. You’re saying that if tomorrow you had to choose between being blind or deaf, you would be deaf? I don’t believe it for a second.”

She sighed. “The situation is ridiculous in and of itself. I’m never going to be given that choice. If either of those unfortunate events should occur, I would, of course, learn to deal with it, but if I had to choose right this moment, especially after that afternoon we just spent seeing beauty, I would say I would rather be deaf. I don’t care if I ever listen to those tapes again. I would rather spend my time gathering more stories than being nostalgic for the past or listening to them and thinking about what a wonderful storyteller I am.”

“But, why, then, do you record the stories at all?”
“For the sake of time. They need to go somewhere. I need somewhere to store them so I can start over again.”
“What does that mean?”

My wife stopped walking. The sidewalk was crowded. People bumped into us. My wife looked at
me like I had offended her deeply.

“Well, come on!” I said. “That was so cryptic. You can’t say something like that and expect me to roll with it. Did that mean anything? Did you want to avoid answering my question?”

My wife was furious. “Let’s hear your answer to the question. Would you rather be blind or deaf?”
“Deaf, but I don’t focus my life around listening to people’s stories, and recording them on cassette tapes!”

My wife’s expression shifted to one of triumph, “You’re right about that. You most certainly do not listen. I’m sure it would be quite easy for you to give that up. I’m not saying I want to be deaf. You made me choose; I chose. You can’t tell me my choice is not my choice. It’s mine. Does it drive you crazy that you have no control over that?” My wife broke through the crowd of people passing us, to get to the staircase leading down to the el station.

I stood for a moment, watching her, astonished. When my wife had disappeared out of my sight, I started after her, pushing through the sidewalk traffic. I tried to race down the stairs, but I got caught behind a slow, elderly woman. By the time I had scanned my card, I heard a train pulling up and raced toward the track down another staircase. As I arrived on the platform, the train was already pulling away.

My wife was gone.

Jac Jemc's first novel, My Only Wife, will be released from Dzanc Books in April 2012. Jac is also the author of a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In, that sold out at Greying Ghost Press last year and the poetry editor of decomP Magazine. She blogs her rejections at jacjemc.com.

Monday, April 2, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Tom Laverty

The True Story of Captain Tobias Hume

The legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel. Neither of them in liege with a cover of ferns that mimicked the wind.

The maple told the squirrel:

A man with a black feather on his hat crossed the Thames River in search of gold, only to find long stretches of land barren and lifeless.

The squirrel said the story was about:

a man in a black-feathered hat, but instead of crossing a river he crossed a sea in a wooden ship, and took swords up in a foreign army.

The maple rustled his bough at the squirrel and continued with his story:

After crossing the wide river, the man in the black-feathered cap came upon a stand of spruce during his walk across the dry, barren land, and from the spruce the man made a large, hollow sculpture in the shape of a woman. And the man sat looking at the wood, wondering what to do with it. He held it up, spoke to it, placed things on it, tapped it, and shook it; but when the man tapped it, he was the most happy because it made a deep, round boom!

Wait, wait! said the squirrel:

The man, after fighting many battles in a frozen country, was taken aside by his general, and the general said, “I make you Captain, Tobias Hume, for your bravery on the field of battle and your camaraderie with the soldiers deserve it of you. You have fooled our enemies with your tactics. Now take this command and lead our men to victory.”

The maple, now upset, continued his telling:

No, no no. Now, as I was saying, the man was most pleased when he tapped the wooden thing he made. Many weeks passed while the man tapped and tapped, making unique sounds with each spot he tapped. Then, one day, a four-legged beast came laboring across the wasteland, and after many minutes, the beast stopped, standing in front of the man, and died with a deep gasp. So, the man cut the beast open and from its entrails he made long, taut strings. He put the strings on the womanly wooden thing, and he strung the strings from her neck to her bottom. Then the man took some strands of the beast’s hair and attached them to a thin piece of wood.

The squirrel had moved to another bough, and was loyally chipping away at a nut, but he'd heard enough of the maple’s story. He stood on his hind legs, spit out a seed and said:

And so the man, now Captain of the strange army, truly missed his homeland and so he set forth with his sword across the lands he’d conquered, and the river he’d crossed. But before he reached his home, he was confronted by a cast of soldiers who offered to pay him to lead their troupe into battle against the very same army he was captain of! The man, poor, hungry and lonely, decided to lead the army. So, he set forth with his new soldiers, to fight his old army. And that is how the legend goes, said the squirrel, putting another nut in his mouth.

The maple, looking at the squirrel with a long eye, said:

And so the man took the piece of wood with hair on it and ran it along the strings he had put on the wooden sculpture. The sound it made pleased the man like he had never been pleased before, and soon, it was all the man could do - make these woody womanly sounds. It consumed him. The empty land around him sprouted trees and animals, and roads; even cities sprouted up, and the people came forth from their houses just to hear him run the hairs against the strings of his wooden sculpture.

And so the legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told, as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel.

Tom Laverty's work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Passages North and Unsaid vols 4-6. He lives in Detroit and is editor of Pigeon Town.

Monday, March 26, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Melissa Broder

Blue and Green House

I am in a house
I can see the sofa from here
There are no pictures
He owns all the windows
There is no mother in the house
All the clocks are dead
Curtains are a reflex
Dinner is cardboard
I want to lay quiet
In a bowl of batter
I want to shine His hands
With my hair
He begins to cut
He saws and grunts
And takes off legs
My mouth is gone
I am too loud for a mouth
I am too wet for a crown
Every wire hangs
I spark and spark all over
The dog is burping dogshit
He loves and loves his master
I am afraid
Jesus is a man.

Melissa Broder's second poetry collection, MEAT HEART, is now available. Recent poems appear or will appear in Guernica, Redivider, Court Green, The Missouri Review online and The Awl. She edits La Petite Zine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Molly Tolsky

My grandfather wasn't speaking to me, so my bright idea was to wear him down. I bought three bottles of his favorite whiskey and brought them wrapped in newspaper to his Sunday night restaurant. I waited in the bar for him to arrive, wondering where all the peanuts had gone. They used to serve peanuts in little ash trays on the bar, according to all the TV shows I watched. I ordered a glass of the same whiskey that was waiting for my grandfather while I waited for him, too, never even thirsty. My heart was hurt.

He came in with a date. This was not nothing to me. He came in with the prettiest woman in the room, in the town, in and out of his age group. I cannot describe what she was wearing because I could not get past her face, all poignant and fluttery like an old shiny painting. If she were a painting, people would take a photograph of her and then paint a new painting from that photograph, just to say that they were a part of something beautiful. Something beautiful was holding my grandfather's cracked hands, and I watched as he shook her free to receive his gift from the hostess. His gift from me.

The old man and the beautiful woman took their seats in the center of the dining room. The bartender asked for my ID, even though he had served me minutes ago, even though the ice was already having a meltdown. You don't look your weight, he said. My grandfather unwrapped the present while I crossed and uncrossed my legs. If I could read lips, he might have been saying, "These are from my granddaughter," or, "This is from Kentucky," or, "That will not do the trick." He placed the box with the bottles underneath his seat and reached across the table to touch the beautiful hands. I tried to warn him about hovering over the candle by shifting the gravity of my eyebrows back and forth, but he was careful with his sleeve and nothing caught on fire.

I am never careful. He had caught me cheating. You can cheat at something or cheat on someone or cheat someone out of something and it doesn't make a difference. Your heart will hurt. In his day, people had respect for each other but mostly for themselves. People would not pay over two pennies for an orange and they only married folks who they thought would make nice babies. A person would love someone until someone died, and whoever died first, it didn't really matter.

My grandfather was in love. I wanted to go up to his table and congratulate him on turning out all right. I wanted to say, "Do you ever think about dead people, Grandpa? How they cheated life of everything, and get blamed for almost nothing?" The beautiful woman pulled her hand away to fix something on the back of her neck, and I watched my grandfather count the rings on her fingers, the dimples in her shoulders, the number of teeth in a mouth. He leaned back and folded his arms like it was nothing, to have a face and heart boxed up just for you.

Molly Tolsky is a fiction writer living in New York. Her work has previously appeared in The Collagist, The Fiddleback, Pindeldyboz and elsewhere. She once followed John Lithgow in a reading.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Nicolle Elizabeth

Everybody Wants Brooklyn

I'd moved into a loft with seven people in Bushwick not far from businesses which once were. Textile warehouses, mirror factories all now converted into corporate sandwich meat packaging plants. In the mornings, fog rose from the furnaces like smoke signals writing “Here, there are ghosts” and at below freezing temperatures, seagulls still came to nest on the roof, huddling in the heat. In the winter, the street was a barren frozen wasteland few dared to cross. This was not a place for residency, but some artists had rented a flat, thrown un-permitted dance parties, and the renaissance, maybe fifty art student residents, within four blocks of buildings had begun.

The loft I had moved into was run by a woman in her twenties, named Ralph, who spent her time purchasing items from Salvation Army thrift stores and selling them for triple their worth on her website, headlined as “Vintage Chic.”

I'd known from the beginning that moving into her collective of bad attitudes was a risk, but my lease was up, and I was broke.

The loft itself had been featured on the cover of a frou frou magazine doing an expose on interesting dwellings in Brooklyn. Technically, just the bathroom had actually been featured. It had been built by Ralph's long term un-boyfriend. A man in his forties who had a relationship with a wealthy investor named Sunny. He lived in Sunny's apartment in the Village, but when he was bored, he came here to Ralph, and to check on the architectural integrity of the stairs in the loft.

“He built like every restaurant in the Lower East Side,” Ralph said to me once. Her eyes were wide blue like Big Sky and my chest had been a wreck, allergic to the fiberglass insulation in the ceiling. The apartment had giant windows, and during the day, I would sit and write by them and watch that smoke come up from the meat plant and write and overdose on coffee.

I sat quietly and listened to the other roommates' footprints patter up the inner wooden staircase in and out all day, all night. What they didn't know was that Ralph was overcharging each roommate by 200 dollars a month in rent. She was making an absolute fortune. She had wanted to go into fashion merchandising but she'd been expelled for cheating on an exam. “Why do all the work when it's inevitable someone else will?” She said to me once.

There I was, halfway into accessory to criminal behavior, freezing in the middle of a loft in Brooklyn. I'd begun sleeping with one of the roommates out of misery and that wasn't helping my problems at all because he was now in love with me. Poems posted on the mirrors, flowers in the refrigerator, it was a problem.

The day Sunny came over gave me some relief, because well, it could have been worse for me, I could have been Ralph.

“I will kick your miss priss ass,” I believe Sunny said into the door buzzer.

I stood with Ralph, paper white in the kitchen.

“Come on up,” Ralph buzzed her in.

Though funded through a healthy trust, Sunny had made her way in New York as a model, and there she stood, all six foot tall brunette expensive Chanel wearing coat of her.

She took off her faux fur hat, handed it to Ralph, and said, “Let's have a chat.”

I assumed my position on the couch by the window, feeling more insignificant than ever. This was what women did? They had affairs and smelled nice and yelled at one another?

“There's fresh coffee on the counter,” I offered.

“Stay out of this, lesbo,” Sunny spittled in my direction. “Where is he?” She asked Ralph.

“A lot of people live here,” Ralph didn't miss a beat, pouring coffee.

“He hasn't been to work in days,” Sunny took the coffee cup and I left the gals to duke it out at the table.

The walk through Brooklyn toward the nearest subway was over a mile and a half and it was eighteen degrees out but I had thinking to do. I had been commissioned to write an essay on the history of American protest music by a major magazine and the pressure was on to deliver something both interesting, but with quirk. I'd originally pitched an essay about jazz, specifically on Thelonious Monk, and how I'd been roped into a historical walk-through which inevitably would be met with scoff (music critics are brutal) was beyond me. I decided to walk to a bar that started serving $1.25 cans of beer at eleven in the morning and research there. Even in the middle of nowhere, there is always an oasis, and it always has internet.

“Long day?” The bartender asked me.

“I'll have a bloody mary,” I said back.

I looked at the giant map of the world on the wall behind him, and wondered what time it was anywhere else. I took out my notebook and started to review the list. Civil War hymns from both armies, how slave songs had turned into the blues. There was a band I'd seen at a party playing over the loud speaker.

“I know these guys,” I said to the bartender, (and I meant know, I'd made out with the drummer in an elevator)

“They're in Rolling Stone this month, can you believe that?” The bartender handed me my drink, no celery. “Everybody wants Brooklyn.”

I opened my laptop and started googling how one history turns into the next, when I saw him, walking past the window.

Ralph and Sunny's un-boyfriend was walking into this bar, with a date, what looked like a date, he had his arm around her. This is what happens in Brooklyn. They sat next to me at the counter. She was the kind of long blonde who laughed with her head back, also had expensive everything, she probably went to Pratt. They ordered plates of breakfast and talked while I listened. They were debating French literature, like that was a surprise, and he kept saying, Lydia Davis' translation of Pale Fire was a disaster, and it was all I had to not turn on my barstool and set them both straight, but instead, I watched, while he paid the bartender in a one hundred dollar bill and I felt more than ever, this is how it goes.

Nicolle Elizabeth's contributes to many fine publications. She is at work on a novel, is a bike mechanic, a baker, and a ballerina, but mostly a writer way before those other things and her mini website is this: www.thismighttank.com

Monday, March 5, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Ethel Rohan

Occupy Me

More news about Occupy Wall Street, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, but no news today about Occupy Me. It’s bad, this butchered heart business. This he left me, but he stayed. He’s gone, but he fills me, marching and sign-waving.

I broke so many things in our apartment, mugs, plates, and framed photographs, reducing us to one. I swear pieces of the white turkey platter bought for our first Christmas together shattered into the letters of his name. I smashed those platter letters into smithereens and their dust recalled the fine white coat on his hair, lashes, and skin after sanding down walls all day long. He’d laugh, if he didn’t hate me, but I miss his paint-splattered overalls and the multi-colored granules they’d leave on the bedroom floor and on my bare feet like cupcake sprinkles. I miss his painter’s hands and what they could do to houses and to me. There’s something about a man who makes a living out of his hands, you know?

Our last conversation, Dad said I needed to be strong, said he’d never heard a girl cry so long or so hard, his voice disgusted-like and a little afraid. Dad doesn’t make his living out of his hands. He asked if I knew that this year Brazil had elected their first-ever female president. Dad lived in Madison and I in Berkeley, so why was he talking about some far away place and person? He repeated I needed to be strong.

“You wouldn’t do anything, would you?” he asked.
“Like what?” I said, knowing his last statement was as close as he’d go to anything hard to say.
Dad has stopped taking my calls, also in on the Occupy Me protests.

The other evening, my best friend, Sandy, brought over dinner—tri-tip and a salad with honey mustard dressing. My ex would have hated the dressing. Sandy and I drank a bottle of wine each, dark red that tasted like crushed blackcurrants. She told me about her new boyfriend, said he did things with his tongue—widest tongue she’d ever felt—that I wouldn’t believe. Said she could ask if maybe he had a friend.

“Well I hope he has at least one friend,” I said.

Sandy didn’t laugh. If my ex were there, he’d have laughed.

The truth is, Sandy and I drank two bottles of wine each. My second bottle tasted of licorice and chocolate and Band-Aid. Sandy said she wasn’t surprised he and I broke up. Said we were finished for a long time. That everyone could see. Said he’d always loved me more than I’d loved him, as if everything was my fault.

I told Sandy to get out. She left, but has haunted me ever since too, another sit-in at Occupy Me.

I keep going back to our last conversation together as a couple. I remember how wrong outside looked through the living room window. The enormous gray clouds appeared to be a mountain range growing out of the dark evergreen trees on the hill.
He’d let his hair grow and kept blowing his blond bangs out of his eyes. It wasn’t just his hair though, he was huffing and puffing, more furious than I’d ever seen him. Drown-in-me eyes like the Big Bad Wolf too.

“What’s the point to us then?” he repeated. “You don’t want to marry me, don’t want to have my children. So what? It’s been three years.”
“I want to just stay in the now. Now is okay, right?”
“Sorry, I need more than now and okay.”
“Now could be great if you’d only be content with what we have.”
“I don’t think we have a future together.”
“Who can say they have a future together? Who can know?”
He slapped his chest. “I’d die for you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and it was the first time my heart had ever talked.

Sometimes I imagine I get sick or I hurt myself, like lupus or a fall, and I’m collapsed on the kitchen floor. I see my ex shoulder down the apartment door. He drops to his knees next to me and rocks me in his arms.

“Baby,” he says into my long hair and I know he’s thinking how much he missed my papaya-scented shampoo.

In the emergency room, he tells the nurse I’m not his wife or the mother of his children and that’s enough. He says he should have known all along that was enough.

This morning, after more news about Occupy Wall Street, Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, but no news today about Occupy Me, I left for work and for playing at normal. I drove away from our apartment that’s now my apartment and beautiful terrible maple leaves of gold rot lifted from the windshield wipers and went flying falling. I drove faster, until all the leaves disappeared stayed.

Ethel Rohan is the author of Hard to Say (PANK, 2011) and Cut Through the Bone (Dark Sky Books, 2010). You can visit her at ethelrohan.com.

Monday, February 27, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Ark Codex

Not Ark Codex 0:

It's not news that in the beginning there was no beginning—only a sea of sound. There was no language—only the sound of kumquat falling.

The sound of kumquat falling was knowing. The sound of qumkuat falling was forgetting. In the beginning there was no difference between knowing & forgetting.

If there was a sound, it forgot what it was going to say. It forgot if it forgot, if that's even possible through language, what to say. It forgot about forgetting itself, leading to the first extinction.

After eons of error, the reassembled noise took the form of a tongue. Yet there was no ear to hear the tongue. There was no cavity for to tongue, no ear to call out “dear” to all the animal near.

After another zillion eons of error, the noise formed an ear that fit the tongue. The tongue sounded to the ear but only for so long before echoing into darkness, leading to the second extinction.

( ...)

After another zillion eons, the noise formed another cavity with both a tongue & an ear & a desire to sire more of the same.

The first black sound cavity had only one hole (in the ear) for both giving & receiving (the tongue) so the hole divided by itself & the leftover parts led to the third extinction.

The cavity remains divided into two then filled one another & split again, begetting a third. The third cavity drowned out the first cavity & stuck its tongue in the second cavity's ear forming another third.

The second third drowned out the first third, but not before the first third & second created a fifth hollow body cavity to receive the noise. And the fifth formed a chord with the first & third, forming a sound beyond what each individual tongue could make.

The sound formed a wave that swept the seeded sea onto the barren land to form a tree. The third tongue sounded & split & both forked tongues sounded again in tune to form the word 'kumquat seed'.

The sound of 'kumquat seed' sounded & was swallowed by the sea to feed the noise that had divided by itself, ad infinitum. What remained led to the final extinction, but not before the kumquat seeds formed an anemone vortex in the sea to stick the tongue.

Ark Codex is a book forthcoming from Calamari Press.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Alethea Black

For most of my life, I would never ask a writer for an autograph. It was partly shyness, and partly that I felt a little like a spy. I was a novice, clandestinely attending book readings to study the art of writing from the back row; why on earth would I go up afterward and reveal myself?

Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and perhaps because I never really stuck it on the first foot, I have very little understanding of the rules for inscribing books. I still know how to sign my own name, but beyond that, it’s a game of poker where every card’s wild. Did we just meet a minute ago? I might still sign your book “with love.” I might sign it “xx.” I might say things I’ll have no memory of in the morning.

What to say to someone I’ve just met, but to whom I feel deeply indebted? It’s readers who enable me to be who I am. A friend told me always to include the date and the place. “Everyone likes it, and it takes up space.” But I sign a lot of books while I’m alone in my house, then send them out to publishing acquaintances or to people who’ve helped me in some way. I’m not sure “11/2/11, my bedroom” sounds the right note. But simply writing whatever comes to mind in the moment may not be the wisest choice, either. Dear Sandy McClatchy, You don’t know me, but you sent me a really nice email once, and I’ve never forgotten it. PS Here’s my book! PPS Is it okay to call you Sandy?

When you’ve labored over every word of a manuscript for years, it’s unsettling to discover you’re a loose cannon with the signing pen. I’d written a book of literary fiction. Why was I signing it as if I were a high school senior clutching a yearbook and a Sharpie at a keg party?
I think part of the problem is the practice of striking through your name on the book’s title page. Right away, that makes me feel giddy. And French. It’s as if I’m saying: “We don’t need zis fake girl anymore. Look, I am here! And I am wearing pants!” Why my book-signing avatar has a French accent is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the sense of liberté. It was a lifelong dream to have my name on a book’s title page, and now that the dream is realized, I get to cross it out—brilliant.

Another factor is that at live readings, I’m nervous. I don’t know what to say. Yes, words are supposedly my stock in trade. Yes, this wonderful, generous person is about to fork over hard-earned money for those words. Yes, there are lots of people waiting in line behind him. But it’s difficult to be insightful and amusing under these conditions. I choke. I’m tempted to fall back on the Total Honesty approach. I can’t even think of something original for an inscription, which probably means I’m a wanker, and a bad writer to boot. Is it too late to return this book, now that I’ve written in it?

And if the body of the inscription’s a killer, the sign-off is even worse. You might think “Best” would be a safe way to go. But I don’t even sign emails to my accountant “Best.” “Best” fails to express what I feel for the people who read my book, or for the better-known writers who’ve been kind to me. If someone whose work I’ve admired for twenty years says something beautiful about my collection of stories, can’t I thank her with an x and an o? Lately I’ve been going with “My best wishes” followed by a sneaky little x before my name. But I worry that makes it look as if I need to mark the spot where my signature goes, the way they do on my tax returns.

However I sign your book, it’ll be a surprise to us both. But I’m not ashamed of the word love. The bond between writer and reader can be defiantly unnameable—it’s a long-distance intimacy, an anonymous trust, an incorporeal coupling. I wake up in the morning wanting to give readers the best of myself. What is that, if not love?

Alethea Black's story collection, I KNEW YOU'D BE LOVELY (Broadway Books/July 2011), was a Barnes & Noble 'Discover' pick and an Oprah.com book-of-the-week.

Monday, February 13, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Timothy Liu and Hansa Bergwall

A moonshine mason jar appeared,
hot and bright when he needed
to prop the flowers up—lilies
that had yet to unfurl fragrance
in a room pinned down by elegies
that someday must be written.
His wristwatch had grown
a minute slow since last year.
He didn't notice but did feel
something slipping past: a ghost
making demands only a lover
would dare, binding his second
hand with a stray hair. Unlocking
his fears with a Mont Blanc.
Apple-picking on each other's
shoulders, drunk on the season.
Nor would they let the sun go
down till each had promised things
neither of them had to give.

HANSA BERGWALL (The Thames & Hudson Project) has poems published in Lodestar Quarterly, Caliban Online, St. Petersburg Review and Whistling Fire. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband.

TIMOTHY LIU (The Thames & Hudson Project) is the author of For Dust Thou Art (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005); Of Thee I Sing (2004), selected by Publishers Weekly as a 2004 Book-of-the-Year; Hard Evidence (2001); Say Goodnight (1998); Burnt Offerings (1995); and Vox Angelica (1992), which won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award. He has also edited Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, (Talisman House, 2000). His poems have been included in many anthologies and have appeared in such magazines and journals as American Letters & Commentary, Bomb, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, The Nation, New American Writing, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry and Virginia Quarterly Review. His journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.

Monday, February 6, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - N Michelle AuBuchon

He’s got it, Roberta Clemmons hissed.

Her sister felt cold but it was June and she didn’t know what it was.

Roberta made a tunnel between her mouth and her sister’s ear. Down there, she said.

How do you know? the sister said.

I overheard some women talking at church. After Sunday School. By the cold cuts. About how they know Frank’s got it. They didn’t see me because I was behind the pass-through window looking for mustard. The signs haven’t appeared yet, but I’ve got to be careful. What will happen to our children?

The men were talking too. He heard them in the walk-in freezer last week. Frank Clemmons.

I smelled it on him when we were closing yesterday, one of the children said. Maybe that was part of it, not being able to smell your own illness.

That night he went home and confessed to his wife.

Sweety, he said. But Frank didn’t have to say anything because they both knew and they both started shaking. And then Roberta said, Frank, just fuck me.

But what about the children, Frank said, his eyes puddles.

Roberta bit into Frank’s ear, chomping down until they both came.

How about I fix us something to eat? She said after.

Saturday mornings Frank opened the butcher shop at six to prep the meat. They specialized in whole pigs, the color of flesh.

He unwrapped one to hang in the window. An unexpected nausea boiled up from his loins.

He decided not to open the shop that day.

N. Michelle AuBuchon is an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn.

Monday, January 30, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - John Reed



John Reed here. I stumbled across this article in the “Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health” (don’t ask), and it seemed to me that the disclosure, a rather significant one to all men with testicles, warranted more attention than academic publication, and the oblivion of a subscription wall. Maybe we could post until they ask us to take it down? See if someone picks up the story?

Admiration, John

Title: Self-Stimulation in a Seated Posture, Effects upon the Male Sexual Organ

Author: S.S. Eleman.

Abstract: Humanity faces an evolutionary crossroads, as the male of the species adopts an upright, as opposed to a prone, masturbatory position. The repercussions are not just chiropractic, but genetic.

With recent statistics citing a dramatic decline in reported cases of Carpal Tunnels Syndrome, the threat that RSI (repetitive stress syndrome) poses to the digital age has been seemingly neutralized. Preventative medicine and improved factory conditions are to thank for a 70% drop in statistical reportage of carpal tunnels syndrome, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But all is not well in the computer age, says Dr. Theodore Lamb, who reports in the June 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that: “male computer users who spend more than four hours per day in front of the computer show a 17% decrease in their active sperm count.” The study followed 400 subjects in the Massachusetts area. The study went on to cite a startling statistic: “Men, who on a regular basis sit at their computers while they self stimulate to the point of ejaculation, have a sperm count 79% lower than men who masturbate in a reclining posture.”

Critics of the study point to the geographic limitations of the subject pool. “All Dr. Lamb has proven,” said Dr. Padmajai Jaine, who leads a genome research team and instructs graduate students at Harvard University, “is that inactive American men have low sperm counts.”

Dr. Regina Koch, of the Spine Institute of New York’s Beth Israel hospital, viewed Dr. Lamb’s findings as correlative to trends in spinal injuries. “If you look at the physics, of sitting in a chair and arching the lower spine and reaching for the genitals, you’ll see it’s just a very awkward position. We’re getting a lot of lower lumbar trauma and sacral dislocation that I believe is related, at least in part, to this type of spinal insult.”

Dr. Lamb is now researching the possibility that seated onanism in the human male has a negative impact on not just sperm count but chromosomal stability. Dr. Lamb contributed to research featured in the New York Times, 2/27/2007, which concludes that as men get older their chances of fathering a genetically abnormal child increase. “What we’ve been finding so far,” said Dr. Lamb, “is that environmental stresses, such as seated ejaculation, accelerate the aging process. We’re talking about a 20% elongation of the entire seminal delivery system. Normally, the ductus deferens, for example, contracts 2-5%. And the testicles themselves are under pressure equivalent to two pounds per square inch.”

While Dr. Koch would not comment on Dr. Lamb's pending studies, she did echo his concerns. “The testicles are designed to move freely, to regulate their temperature for the optimal production of sperm. Anything that interrupts that cycle, tight underwear or Internet porn, is likely to damage the organism.”

According to Dr. Lamb, male prison populations, who are denied access to computers that may be employed in the pursuit of sexual gratification, have significantly healthier sperm than their wired counterparts.

“People have the attitude that porn is free,” commented Dr. Koch, “but nothing in life is free.”

Author of the novels, A Still Small Voice (Delacorte), Snowball's Chance (Roof, an SPD Bestseller), and The Whole (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster); author of the play All the World's A Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare (Penguin/Plume), and the illustrated, non-fiction cult story collection, Tales of Woe (MTV Press); Senior Editor at the Brooklyn Rail; published in Rain Taxi, Open City, Popmatters, the Brooklyn Rail, Artnet, Artforum, Paper Magazine, the New York Press, Time Out New York, Bomb Magazine, the Rumpus, the Believer, Art in America, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Playboy and many other venues.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Chiara Barzini

Dead Prime Minister

The news arrives: “The Prime Minister is dead.” We scramble to mourn him. As a public figure, his corpse is on display for all to say goodbye. The casket is on a stage in the chapel. Benches placed asymmetrically in front of the altar accommodate a disordered crowd. The people are puzzled by the empty casket.

Instead of resting in peace, the Prime Minister sits on the steps beneath the altar slumped over like a limp puppet. Journalists whisper about how he got caught with a transsexual prostitute, how his sweet wife had no idea he had such preferences.

He is brownish and flaccid. A trace of his stoutness remains in between the folds of his skin. Though he is dead he can still speak and move in small measures. His arm lurches forward as he raises his index finger begging to be heard.

“I am here!”

Nobody else in the room takes notice that, though he is dead, he is also partly alive.

“Excuse me,” I say to the Prime Minister, “please understand we don’t quite know how to look at you. You’re a corpse but you’re moving.”

The Prime Minister is impressed, “That’s correct! Thanks for noticing”

I rejoice over my accurate assertion, and shake him.

“Hey! I’m dead," he says. "If you shake me I’ll be deader and will have no more words to speak.”
His voice is barely audible and he has stopped all movement except for a slight nodding of the head. His skull bares a long scar.

I hold his hand. “What happened with the transsexual prostitute?”

“I like chicks with dicks,” he admits.

The journalists in the chapel note his statement. “Finally, a real piece of news!”

“And what about your wife? There are rumors of spicy trysts with an underage girl!” someone else blurts out.

“None of that matters anymore. When you’re dead you don’t even know you’re married.”

His mother, slightly ashamed, steps forward and leads him back to his casket. The crowd sitting on the benches is ready for the ceremony to begin. The Prime Minister lies down, but his arm keeps creeping back up out of the coffin.

“Don’t worry,” says the mother. “These are the last little bursts. It’ll take years before he can move again.”

Chiara Barzini is a screen and fiction writer. Films written by her have been distributed in Italy, Spain, Japan, and Latin America. The most recent one, “Into Paradiso” premiered at the 67th edition of the Venice Film Festival. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Noon, Bomb Magazine, Sleepingfish, Or, The Encyclopedia Project, The New Review of Literature, The NY Tyrant as well as The Village Voice, Rolling Stone Italy, Flair, Italian Vanity Fair, and Marie Claire. For samples of her work and more information please visit www.chiarabarzini.com.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Daniel Long

The smoking truck beside the fruit stand says “organic.” My wallet is shot, and I don’t got that kind of money for preserves. What I’ve got is a landlord upstairs who will slip the classifieds under my door the first of every morning, scrawled with minor sidebars about eviction and how my darned-up socks are really stinking it up about now. The ads are wet from a shellfish or a gruel, some immigrant soup of the day, and my whole life is framed beneath that stark, fragrant message.

All the dummy work has packed up and dug a hole to China, but my landlord has his time of the month, and it’s the first. I don’t hold it against him. A man without work is nothing but slow songs and time—part nostalgia, part harmonica, with a dusty can of tuna stowed back for rations. You haven’t lived until you’re ducking rent and living out of a can, until you’re wearing the kind of clothes that smell like what you’re about. Until you pace around the house smoking cigarettes in your overcoat, trying to restate the main points of yourself. So here mine go.

I know that in some ways my mother must have been just like any other woman. In the end, I don’t recall even one of those ways. There was a rattle and a crib, sweet milk upon the hour. Jesus was like a lamb chop, and the turning leaves were like flecked salmon, but my mother was like my mother. Let’s leave it at that.
My father spent twenty years sweating over the same forty acres hoping to own it proper. He toiled and slogged, toiled and prayed. He put in his time and did all the things, labored and toiled and collected his chits, but when the winds rolled through and leveled the field, the bank cashed in and took it all away. Broke, broker, broken, sure…but maybe life don’t conjugate so easy. There’s flesh and blood and little bits of hope tucked here or there. Give us this day our daily bread. Or weekly bread. Or monthly. Give me a fair sum of bread per annum, and we’ve got a deal.

What I mean is, could you spare some old bread about now?

What I mean is, we’re fighting the dust.

We’re fighting the dust, and by God I will keep something for myself. You let me up in a card game, and I’ll bring the whole house down. You give me an inch, and I’ll take it all. What I’m about to do is shoot my way out like the Old West, roving and killing and bursting out hearts, and if God don’t forgive me, he’s not a working man. Scramble the posse and tack up the posters, hoist up the planks like a gallows. Fix the needles and give me the chair—trap me in the soliloquy of indelible hours, long nights spent in one-bunk cells with solitaire and a harmonica and the old, feeble prison guard snoozing beyond care.

One night I dreamed I sold my heart back to Jesus. But there was trouble with the receipt, and all the original parts were not there.
I miss East Coast/West Coast rap battles. I miss cornrowed brothers who would kill in cold blood for their art. I miss death-row madrigals in prison tats and gold chains, hardknock motherfuckers spinning rhymes out of bullet holes because there’s jungle in my blood, and I’ve got that ching-ching-ching like old money. A wanted poster looks the same as any folded bill, given proportions and linear perspective and if all the soft lighting is there.

They say a singer works the same as any other man. He hammers and scrapes and copies the rhythms of his greatest lovers. He is a riveter rutting himself against the double-iron back of time, spilling his seed into the dark places where the mold can’t grow and the dust can’t reach, hoping to trap the world in his stain. I saw the best minds of my generation die in my own head—but now that’s done. Stick around. They said, “A puncher’s chance is the poor man’s trick, so set your feet and make it a gorgeous one.” And I’m engorged. I’m shooting in you now. My dreams will be your babies.

Sometimes I forget what it was like to grow up on the outskirts of a wilting country town. I forget the coyotes mewling hungry outside the chicken coop, my little brother wheezing in the other room. This was back before my brother got screwed up with a kid and before I punched my mother over young love…back before my old man got prattled on drugs and went to take it easy in a sanitarium. This was before that war that got turned into a ribbon and before that girl I kissed at last call—back before my little sister got forgotten for doing everything right.

This is one last song for my road dogs, Buck and Wee-Wee and Prefontaine. This is one last shout-out for Big Mick and Pettybone, O-Jeff and Chicken George, singing and living off white bread in the old county jail. Can you hear me, old Gordon? My beard has gone gray, and my hair is so thin, and I’m typing and typing and
why don’t you love me by now?

There are crawdads snapping dark tunes deep into the creek bottoms. There’s a whole bucket full of stars spinning and decaying up there in the manner of cold angels, goldfish set loose on a silver pond to bloat up and burst upon the sound. The whole universe is hatching an escape plan out of the sky as it shoots itself past Pluto, but what we say is I’ll survive because the soup is cooling off and my old overcoat is hanging up at home.

There are statements about no news and its relative merits. There are wives’ tales about mermaids and fishwives and the fish that got away. Well I guess I don’t give a damn about that.
What I care about is the landlord’s feet against my ceiling, the smell of his dinner wafting down as my old stomach growls. I care about songs and hunger and what I remember in the meat of my bones: the rattle of my old father’s truck skidding across the dust in the somber yellow of early evening, wending through the cutbacks of a dark country road. I miss that song of the revving engine, the barking dogs, the rattling of tools. The dust of the road billowing behind as he returned from the farm, cresting the final hill pulling diesel and pesticides…and my little sister in her sundress would get up from her sandbox. And my mother would look up from the window. And I would see my brother in her arms. And all the dogs were happy in their steps and made their magic circles and did follow along. This was before the coyotes were awake and all honest people had gone to bed.

We changed our shirts and washed our hands. We said our prayers, and with trembling we came to the table. There was chicken and gravy and lots of potatoes. Collard greens with bacon and lots of preservatives. We were stuffing our mouths with cornmeal and nitrates, but what we hoped was that some taste of it all would rot on our tongues like forever. Our blood swelled with poisons and heartbreak and the great Midwestern diabetes and we were killing ourselves with each bite, but what we hoped was that some bit of ourselves would hold and metastasize, would petrify our intestines against the dust for a thousand years. We crawled into our father’s lap as the setting sun burned its slow hole deep into the west, organs grinding to a halt beneath our skin. The music was playing. And the landlord was at bay. And we laughed. We told stories. We hunched in front of the television box, chewing our toxic meal, and we were all very happy.

Daniel Long is an Oklahoman living in New York. His fiction has appeared.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Iain Haley Pollock

Snow in Wartime

It's warm for Syracuse in deep December--
but still cold enough for snow, snow made
light and fat by a sweep over Lake Ontario,
the flakes like down from a split pillow.
We're walking on the western shore of Onondaga,
hand in hand, the few towers on the skyline
visible through spare trees. The path runs
between dense beds of common reeds--
invading marshy ground around the lake--
and tumbledown docks of ruined resort hotels.

Before the snow I was thinking what a rabbit
punch, this month. Painkillers and chemotherapy
thinning your uncle's voice. Granddad gone
a second winter, again no Lancashire hullo.
Our friend's pickup rolled off an icy road--
his neck snapped. The list of more boys,
from whistle-stop towns in Texas, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, dead. Car bombs in Baghdad
and Kufa ending six-dozen unnamed lives.

But while the lake effect falls, I stop worrying
about illness and accidents and war, and stand
with you to watch the slow drift. Years from now,
we'll forget that I hardly talked with you,
that Mack trucks growled nearby, that death
choked at our thoughts. I'll remind you then--
faced with dope-addicted daughter
or father's congestive collapse--that once
there was a lake where we walked together,
fingers intertwined, the sky hushed to snow.

Iain Haley Pollock lives in Philadelphia and teaches English at Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy. His first collection of poems, SPIT BACK A BOY (University of Georgia, 2011), won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Elizabeth Alexander, President Obama's inaugural poet, selected the manuscript for the prize. Pollock earned a bachelor's degree in English from Haverford College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Polly Bresnick


She hears a warm voice say, "That seat is available. You're welcome to sit." Over the clunk and whoosh of the train slamming around on its tracks, he sounds handsome. The accent is the square-jawed drawl of Southern California. She is good at placing voices. He sounds tan, with salt-and-pepper hair. He sounds like he might know he's handsome. He sounds kind. He is a backlit shadow mingling in front of her.

He can see that she is blind, and he thinks of himself as a helpful person. He stares at her wandering eyes. "How are you today?"

She smiles. "Oh, just fine. Thank you for asking." She keeps smiling, her face turned up towards his voice. She asks him back and he answers.

He smiles, then realizes he doesn't have to, then thinks she can probably hear a smile in a person's voice, wonders about all sorts of subtle things that seeing people can't hear. He folds his newspaper and folds his hands and lets it all rest in his lap. He looks out the window. Maybe their conversation is over.

"Beautiful view out the window, isn't it?" He turns to her, surprised. She laughs and slaps her knee. "That was a joke. It's polite to laugh when a stranger makes a joke." He smiles and lets out a generous chuckle with the breath he'd been holding in. She reminds him of a female actor who always plays the funny roles, only she, the blind woman, is quite pretty.

"Don't worry," she says. "I won't ask you to explain to me what cathedrals are by moving my hand to draw the picture." He frowns. He can't tell if this is another joke.

"Sorry?" He means it in all kinds of ways.

"No need to be. I'm not." She keeps smiling towards him, while her dull eyes wander all over the place. She's fastidiously dressed. He thinks someone must dress her, or assist her. "I'm OK with sitting on a train with someone who doesn't read, as long as you're OK with sitting on a train with someone who's blind as a bat." Her smile is completely still.

He nods, his face friendly. Then remembers he should say something, "OK."

She sticks her hand out towards him, "Kate. Kate Brandt."

He hesitates, looks around even, then leans forward to take her hand in his, "I'm George Clooney."

His hand feels firm and warm and, she senses, honest. There is hair on the knuckles but not a vulgar amount. His hand feels clean. He smells like a man who dresses well. He does not, however, smell like the famous actor, George Clooney. "Well, what do you know! It's a real pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clooney." She asks him to do a few of his characters. He does pretty well. They move together through space while sitting perfectly still.

Polly Bresnick writes about accidents, loves Moby Dick, and hosts a monthly reading series with a conceptually palindromic name. You can find her writing in The Brooklyn Rail, Weave Magazine, The Boogie Woogie Flu, decomP magazinE, monkeybicycle, and here: http://sayingitjustright.tumblr.com/.