six enormous rooms enormous r ooms

enormous rooms
enormous rooms
six
six
enormous rooms
It is with great humility that we reassert the title of this journal to be
enormous rooms (lowercase ‘e’ and ‘r’), as was intended by the journal’s
founding members. The title was originally selected as tribute to the
venerable e.e. cummings and his autobiography The Enormous Room (1922).
2011
Copyright 2010-2011
University of Utah Publications Council
Authors and Artists Retain Copyright
All Rights Reserved
enormous rooms is a literary journal produced exclusively by undergraduate
students at the University of Utah and is funded generously by the University
of Utah Publications Council.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors of this journal
are not necessarily those of the editors or publisher.
enormous rooms is published once each academic year and is printed by
Copy Tech, Murray, Utah.
Unsolicited manuscripts and contributions are welcome. All submissions are
read and selected anonymously by committee.
Book design by Tyler Soelberg
Page layout in Adobe InDesign
Set in Gentium
Cover: “The Walk to the Edge of the Earth” by Danielle Mulkern
www.enormousrooms.com
enormous rooms
Senior Editor
Chase Dickerson
Associate Editors
Katie Catmull
Amy Childress
Emily Donaldson
Pamela Kelley
Shawn Soward
Chase Dickerson
Web Developer
special thanks
To Justin Parnell, for overseeing the journal’s development during the Fall 2010
semester.
To Brian Gray and Robert Morreall, for publishing last year’s wonderful journal
and for their continual guidance.
To the innumerable volunteers throughout the year, for all their efforts toward
rallying submissions and attracting interest in the journal.
iii
contents
Chase Dickerson Foreword��������������������������������������������������������� v
ii
poetry
Jack Christensen Color Coding���������������������������������������������������� 10
Adam Halstrom Modern Pilgrim��������������������������������������������������� 1 1
Stephen Heard Angela��������������������������������������������������������������� 1 4
Elyse Johnson A Whole Life��������������������������������������������������������� 1 6
Nathan Keele Petroleum Soaked�������������������������������������������������� 17
Logan Mayfield She������������������������������������������������������������������ 19
Virginia Palyka Three���������������������������������������������������������������� 20
Darshna Patel Aurora���������������������������������������������������������������� 22
Truong Pham heard the night����������������������������������������������������� 23
Rob Young Your Shoulder����������������������������������������������������������� 28
photography
Lydia Brown Spring Sensation����������������������������������������������������� 3
2
Lydia Brown Flying Glory����������������������������������������������������������� 33
Madison Lindgren Bioshock�������������������������������������������������������� 3
4
Madison Lindgren Heavens for the Birds���������������������������������������� 35
iv
prose
Michael Brey The Train’ll Only Ever Come Once������������������������������� 38
Adam Halstrom The Haunting of Mortimer Flick����������������������������� 4
1
Virginia Palyka The Wall������������������������������������������������������������ 45
Megan Peterson The Grand Finale������������������������������������������������ 4
6
Timothy Slover The Girl’s Father�������������������������������������������������� 49
literary conference
Cameron Edwards Ex Utero�������������������������������������������������������� 56
Sam Gilpin “Grammar won the state”: Peter Seaton’s Agreement��������� 5
7
Sarah Jackman Songs About Boys I Know��������������������������������������� 6
5
v
vi
Foreword
The objective of enormous rooms has always been to encourage voice, for it is
through communication that we experience the limitless dramas of language.
To our overwhelming delight, reaching out to the University of Utah’s undergraduate population has uncovered a plentiful supply of diverse and palpable
dialogue. The poetry, prose and photography contained herein is but a miniscule
sample of the rare and beautiful findings that we have had the honor of collecting. We are also proud to be sponsoring the winning submissions from the
Spring 2011 Literary Conference hosted by the English Student Advisory Committee. The featured works of this journal have merited our admiration for their
abilities to expose speech and to inspire others to explore their own voices. We
hope you enjoy.
– Chase Dickerson
vii
poetry
Color Coding
Jack Christensen
You bring color to my life
The way Dorothy’s voyage over the rainbow
Brought color to the screen.
The twisters and Miss Gulches
Are left in the haze of gray
And the Ruby not of your slippers
But of your lips
Leads me down the yellow road
To the green cities and witches
That primp burn kidnap
The windup clock of my heart.
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Modern Pilgrim
Adam Halstrom
Coffee shop to Cyber café.
Why to, why not
And?
Yes, that’s better:
Coffee shop and Cyber café.
No need to travel
When coffee and computers
Make such great companions.
Here comes a Java update...
How ironic.
The modern pilgrim no longer goes
On a pilgrimage. He no longer
Goes anywhere. He sits
And sips.
Sitting has overcome
Walking as the most common
Way to travel. And
Writing, it seems, has gone
The way of walking. No longer
Writing, but typing.
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Not even typing anymore,
But processing. We word process now,
Though I guess we could call it
Grinding. Why not?
That’s what we do to our coffee
After all.
A coffee seed, given in its whole, perfect
form
To some corporate slack, is ground down
To dust, and mixed with unnatural and god
Awful flavors. All of the substance is boiled
Out and rendered into a frothy mockery
Of the once whole, aromatic piece.
Then a twenty something, Thoreauvian
Bastard dings through the door
Of the same Coffee shop and Cyber café
To use the only three Italian words he knows.
What a waste.
The pilgrim looks on
Helpless, hopeless.
Tears do nothing,
Only more processing,
More grinding
Will produce another seed.
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Working
Finally.
Sweating
Sipping
Brighter, bolder than the last.
What a triumph!
The modern pilgrim’s cheer echoes
In his holy sanctum,
Above the heads of other pilgrims
Sitting
And sipping.
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Angela
Stephan Heard
She was pale, like ivory.
The only aspect that wasn’t
opaque about her was
the depth of her intentions.
But no one seemed to care
that this was her reality.
She glided as she walked,
hauntingly beautiful, quiet,
but her greatness was disruptive.
So they took a piece of her skin,
used it as a charm. But
being so pure, it disintegrated—
they couldn’t handle it.
The thief got some of his friends.
They cornered her, raped her
grandeur. Tattered her face.
But there were no scars. She
recovered. They found her and
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tried taking more pieces, but
she kept regenerating.
She was getting lighter by the
minute, as they kept chipping away.
But it never stuck; she was stronger
than them, this ghost that wouldn’t die,
a prevailing spirit who haunted love.
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A Whole Life
Elyse Johnson
If my life were a book
when I was six years old,
it would have been
at least ten pages longer
than a lady bug’s—
I have thought.
As if a fashioned spine
made a difference in worth,
compared to a staple
made from a twig.
And a journey from a tree,
to a shoulder,
to a stream,
was somehow more profound,
without wings.
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Petroleum Soaked
Nathan Keele
Something is pumping into the night ocean.
It’s deep and smoking coils—
lattice work that suffocates gills and coats opaque
upon bedrooms of fragile eco-communions.
That which comes last will be first.
This is concealed light.
I see her rise up within the Ink of Mexico.
Visage of sunken wing,
as she lies upon the glinting surface
naked and pregnant—
black bleeds thick from her still uterus.
Coughing syrup she holds out her hand to clutch.
She remembers something about those
that came before,
just for a second before,
the night became rank in ash.
Louisiana children came home
shaking and oil-slick.
They forgot about their mother.
They became blind.
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And note eye blackly slithered down her
gulf of a cheek,
as the tall ancient trees guarding the bayou shivered
and shook their limbs.
Zeitgeist, the rapist, combs slickly back his slime pomades.
Smiles.
“I left something awful inside her.”
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She
Logan Mayfield
A mauve wind twists
like a circus in your hair. Walking
at a gregarious pace
our hand-holding
feels like synonyms. Reflections
in store windows of your silver
buttons’ reflections of the sun
careen around us with the afternoon.
My hat smells of wool
and last night
when torn jeans and torn tickets soaked
in cigarette smoke
and you smiled in Spanish
but tasted a little French.
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Three
Virginia Palyka
1.)
North edge of the
Center of my world
mushroom heat lamps
same deli lights, i knew
love at first sight was real
guitar and a grin like
someone who already lost.
Please sit with me,
I know you will.
Seven years later your
smile persists,
rose in the night
wisps of smoke,
losing laughter.
2.)
Crimson Glow,
remember where I was
when I was here.
When we met I felt
falsely true.
When I left I took
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pictures,
old copy-and-pastes.
I researched all night,
searched for reasons
this could happen to me,
ember eyes gone
cold aside me.
3.)
The company of
enemy brutes or
this life of
terse solitude
beyond the margin.
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Aurora
Darshna Patel
Hidden
by
a
Face
of
Lum- in -osity
dazzleddazed
or
confused
sandy
summer
plum
silk
sucking
the
eye
tempting
the
charmer
a
cross
the
room
show
yourself
at midnight
He said…
Ding-ding-ding
the bell chimes twelve
exposed…
revealed
underneath
radiance
of
an
existing
life
astonishing
eyes
of royalty
birthed
into
soft
sweet
sunburst
skin
still
amazement
gentle
as
light
can
be
Face
of
a
lover
Discovered
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heard the night
Truong Pham
on the entrance to the freeway, headlights beamed straight vision tunnels
through the glass shield
and into the retinas of your eyes
it was like seeing angels on the marble
dawn, casting a sharp shadow
onto the pitched echo night
the crash was not fatal
the collision from skull to dashboard
was not fatal
the broken mirrors meant seven years
seven years
seven more years
bad luck
but was not fatal
the airbag caught the swing of your neck
before slamming god almighty through
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your spine and back support
and the small ones in the back too young
to name
danced around the car like small
colorful marbles sifting through the black sand
waiting for the blue tide
to master forward and preach them out to sea
like shade of dust in metal
it was not fatal
the hole in your cheek
where the impact had smashed something
clean through was ugly to look at for a while
but was not fatal
was unreal
but not fatal
the damage to both cars was beyond medical repair
no swift splendor of mechanisms breathed life
so dry through hollow wind pipes running to and from the engine line
the small kink in your back from the night before
gone
like a miracle of medicine
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it disappeared suddenly
leaving ghostly footprints in
the shoreline
but you were here
and so were they
and so were the stars
and they would never lose
sleep again
it was just a quarter past two
the radio was silent because the young ones were in back
sleeping like gentle angels
sweet in mid-dream
the window cracked open a little
to feel the salvation of nautical air
traveling through your inner highway
and subway and waterway
and suddenly
you awake several days later
your body incased in wrappings and needles
of various sizes ran to and from and back into the small
machine giving you life
once again
you were the experiment
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some grey rat on the cutting table
except you had a heart and
a soul and some flicker of hope in each small hum
nurses from different cultural backgrounds
enter and leave just like the dimming of a candle
drifting awry through the sound
and soon they whisper
funny things
to one another
like “check this kid out!”, “how the hell is he still breathing?”
or my favorite: “God works miracles.”
as i’m lying there wondering about the moon
i wonder where the children have gone
they don’t answer by name
i sit alone
in a white room
in some hospital several miles down the road
from that
non fatal crash
and remembering the children bouncing like balloons
through the air
the seat had not buckled through
it snapped
a bridge unhinged and trickling water through its lines
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but i remember their dance in the moonlight
in star shaded night
it was red
and it was beautiful until it ended.
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Your Shoulder
Rob Young
It crested, gracefully jagged,
coming to a hostile point at the outer edge—
like a boulder beneath silk.
The latte-with-extra-soy skin-tone,
when your heart was racing,
burned a wicked bronze.
In any shade, the scars running down your
shoulder-blade gleamed pale.
Like the remnants of infected wings
on an amputated angel
these cyst marks—
you called ugly—
made you seem
honest.
In anger
this shoulder collapsed
like a cornered feline.
In pleasure
it purred, pressing
soft and warm into
my chest.
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I had nearly forgotten this curve
of your calligraphy,
but in my recollection feel the
contours of every inch
as if they were grafted
to my fingertips.
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photography
Spring Sensation
Lydia Brown
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Flying Glory
Lydia Brown
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Bioshock
Madison Lindgren
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Heavens for the Birds
Madison Lindgren
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prose
The Train’ll Only Ever Come Once
T
Michael Brey
he way I see it, life is too goddamn short to avoid the train tracks and the
horns and the whistles and the blood. The tracks always cut through the
mountains, through tunnels, get you to where you wanna go faster than
any careful way may take you. I wouldn’t worry about the danger. God’ll take
care a you.
Believe me. I know about the danger. I know the vibrating hiss the steel rails
scream when an engine is just around the bend, hurtling home. I know what it is
to pick gravel from your knees after jumping clean clear outta the way of one of
those sons a bitches and I know what it’s like to wipe the tar from tunnel walls
off my face. God took care a me, you see.
When I was twelve I began to realize my invincibility, to feel the hand of God
grab me hard on the shoulder and keep it there. Sal, who was then and still is my
best amigo, felt the other hand grab his shoulder and He’s been grippin’ us ever
since.
We loved hiking through the Nevada desert and the emptiness. Nothin’ but
sage brush, Joshua trees, and us. Us and the vast expanse of the world as far as
the horizon flew, God telling us that this was all ours, ours to build cities on and
ours to build mountains through. Being there was being in our own arid, barren
Eden.
We would walk the tracks there, take them from our Jericho wasteland town.
God had cursed there, we decided, and had built the rails to lead us, just us, to the
Promised Land and we sure as hell were gonna take them outta there.
The rails weaved through mountains, in and out, but never up and over. They
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were too important to waste their time with scaling the sandstone cliffs. They
cut straight through jagged rock like royalty, unhindered by geology or size. We
were royalty too, chosen by God himself, so we figured those tracks and tunnels
were ours to take as well. Some tunnels were longer than others and others were
shorter than others. Some you could see a faint flicker of invading light down a
ways, and others enveloped you in heavy darkness.
We called the longest tunnel “The Asshole.” We found it cleverly crude, our
own delightfully demonic double entendre. It reminded our adolescent minds of
what it must be like to be inside a literal shit chute. Not to mention, the bastard
was an asshole to get through ‘cause you could never see a damn thing in that
dank, wetted, smarmy little fucker.
One particular time, on our way to Eden, we had reached the colonic tunnel
and chugged through like little trains ourselves. We were about halfway when
we heard the rails begin to screech. When you’re this deep into the tunnel, this
deep into “The Asshole,” it’s just you, your eyes, and the darkness sitting on your
chest, straining your breath—it’s just you and your legs taking large, gaping, hesitant steps, lifting your feet high in the air and then slowly, slowly letting them
down each time as if the ground would disappear at any moment. We were right
there, there at that point of complete disorientation, when the rails vibrated
quietly then louder and louder and more piercing. It pierced our ears, it pierced
our stomachs, and it would soon pierce straight through our rising youth.
Sal hit the wall with a flesh-slapping crack. He threw himself against it with
urgency, and I followed behind, pressing my cheek into the black, grimy soot. I
inhaled the carbon and the ash that iced the walls and I placed my body firmly
against the mountain. Pushing myself against the rock, I began to feel as Atlas,
only I was trying to hold up my own life, only my own world.
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We knew in seconds a train would fly by us, and if we weren’t pancaked close
enough to the sides, it’d latch on to the fabric of our sweat-stained shirts or the
buckles of our packs and whip us down the track away from our Eden and on to
our own personal Hell.
I prayed to God. Sal prayed to God. We prayed aloud. Sal told God that he’d
better “stop that motherfucker.” I wondered if God would deny us our rescue
and salvation on account of that. I’da killed Sal if it did.
The wind swished and wished and the straps on our bags rattled against the
passing cars behind us, clanking, clanking, warning they would catch, carry us,
kill us.
Then nothing.
Silence.
Black.
And more black.
Black in our eyes and black in our ears. We smelled black, we breathed black,
we tasted it on our tongues, and through the dark we felt a hand, pressing us,
holding us, ironing us against the tunnel stone, gripping us on the shoulder.
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The Haunting of Mortimer Flick
M
Adam Halstrom
ortimer Flick tapped his finger against the stem of an empty wine
glass, imitating the rhythm of a familiar song floating across the street
corner from speakers mounted outside the Metro Café. The chill air,
laden with notes of coffee and cheap wine, burned his nostrils and intruded
down his collar where his patterned scarf struggled to keep in the warmth. His
free hand clutched the scarf tighter around his neck, then groped in his jacket
pocket for more loose change.
Across the table, Mortimer’s wife stopped humming with the music and whispered, “Not another glass dear, you drink too much. I think you’ve had enough
for one night.” The much younger woman had piercing eyes that Mortimer could
never manage to defy. She resumed her humming and Mortimer closed his eyes,
soaking up the sweet melody, trying not to remember.
***
A symphony of horns sounded in response to the young man sprinting across
traffic on Boulevard Périphérique. Horrified that he might miss the blessed
event, the young man rushed forward, mindless of the commotion he was causing. His briefcase and overcoat swung erratically as he cut his way through the
busy intersection outside the American Hospital of Paris. Bursting into the entrance corridor, the young man rushed violently to the nearest stairwell and up
to the third floor.
The maternity unit at the American Hospital of Paris was small, but recent
renovations provided cutting-edge care and comfort for expecting mothers. The
young man landed at the nurse’s station breathless.
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“My wife!” he cried, gulping at the sanitized air and continuing before the
nurse could respond.
“Please, my wife! I need to find her!”
“Nom?” The nurse’s indifferent tone seemed awkward next to the young
man’s manic urgency. Her apathy surprised him, but he quickly regrouped.
“Flick, Mortimer Flick. My wife, Diane, I need to find her!”
Mortimer’s mania revived, he began looking around frantically as if the
bleached walls might reveal his wife’s location.
The nurse sifted through some papers and said, without looking up, “Chambre
trois, au bout du couloir à gauche.”
Mortimer cast aside his briefcase and overcoat and rushed awkwardly down
the hall to room three. Regaining his balance just outside the door, Mortimer
could hear raised voices speaking rapidly in French. He paused, trying to reign
in his emotions.
It had been only three months since Mortimer and Diane Flick had relocated
to Paris, where Mortimer was offered a position in the newly opened Goldman
Sachs office. The young couple’s meticulous plans for this day’s event had done
nothing to calm Mortimer’s anxiety; and the day hadn’t gone at all as planned.
An hour earlier, Mortimer had rushed out of an important client meeting, reacting to the disarming phone call he had received from a nurse at the American
Hospital of Paris.
“Monsieur Flick?” the nurse had asked politely.
“Yes, this is Mortimer Flick. Who, may I ask, is speaking?”
“Je vous appelle de l’hôpital Américain de Paris. Vous êtes la femme est passé
en travail.”
“In labor!” Mortimer had exclaimed. “The baby’s not due for another two
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months!”
Presently, an awful scream penetrated the momentary silence and echoed
down the hallway where Mortimer stood. Inside the room, the voices got louder
and faster. Mortimer threw open the door and rushed to the bed where his wife
was surrounded by hospital staff.
Diane clamped down on Mortimer’s hand as she let out another scream. The
doctors escalated their frantic communication as a machine beside the bed
beeped wildly.
“Mortimer?” Diane’s weak voice cut through the chaos.
“I’m here. I’m right here,” Mortimer said, as gently as he could manage.
“Is it over? Has the baby come?”
“Not yet dear, but you’re doing a beautiful job.”
Mortimer stared deep into Diane’s eyes, but it wasn’t deep enough to keep the
blood stained sheets from creeping into his field of vision.
“Why can’t they…”
Diane’s scream pierced every part of Mortimer’s body and warm tears gathered at the corners of his eyes.
“Mortimer? Are you there?”
“Yes dear, I’m right here.”
Mortimer choked; fear and stress knotted in his throat. He tried not to let Diane see. Squeezing his eyes shut, tears broke free and ran down both cheeks, the
bitter solution mixing with words in his mouth.
The words Mortimer uttered were drowned by another scream, louder and
more desperate than the others. A firm hand on Mortimer’s shoulder was pulling him away. He shrugged it off, and moved closer to his wife, setting his cheek
against hers.
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“I love you,” he whispered again.
“I love you back” was Diane’s practiced reply.
“Monsieur Flick, s’il vous plaît.” The hand was pulling at him again. Mortimer retreated to the corner with the doctor while another scream brought fresh
tears, and then silence. The machine by the bed gave one final beep that lingered
longer than it should have, and a group of nurses hurried out of the room, one of
them carrying something in her arms.
The doctor’s apology seemed faded, as if it had travelled a great distance before reaching Mortimer.
***
A blaring horn outside the Metro Café ripped Mortimer out of his memory.
The noisy retort from two drunken pedestrians died away as they crossed to the
other side of Rue Oberkampf. Mortimer stared blankly at the empty chair across
the table and reached in his jacket pocket for more loose change.
“There you are!” A friendly, female voice called from behind him. “I thought
I might find you here.”
Mortimer’s eyes softened at the sound and he slowly removed his empty hand
from his pocket.
“Papá,” the woman’s voice called again, scolding yet playful. “How long have
you been sitting here in the cold?” The woman, in her early twenties, came up
to Mortimer and softly placed a gloved hand on his shoulder. Looking down into
her father’s aged face, she said, “Come, papá, let’s get you home.”
As Mortimer stood to leave, he stole one last glance at the empty chair and
whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you back,” was his daughter’s practiced reply.
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The Wall
Virginia Palyka
I
waited until the sound of their footsteps had ended and I heard the car door
slam. I ended up at the bed, a place where there were still things hanging on
the wall. Homemade posters of wrapping paper covered with art and stickers
for children. The smiling octopus and Nefertiti, Frida Kahlo and a metallic beach
ball; the friends I see before I fall asleep. I knelt on the bed and felt permission
granted even though I hadn’t asked. I peeled the paintings down, the originals by
me and numbered prints by people I’d never met. The duct tape took paint and
wrapping paper along with the pictures; waste that becomes part of the images after being viewed for long enough in an exposed setting. Postcards from my travels
were removed easily; places set in time that are not so easily changed or weakened,
as if the card stock represented ancient brick itself. The stratified history of our
lives together from the dawn of recording. Hungarian starlets peel off the wall,
their smiles static against the bedsheets.
A photographic representation of a full-size Hungarian bookshelf hides a secret
room in the manor of my mind. I’m alarmed to see it again. The place where my
childlike green stripes are shredded, jolly sea creatures slaughtered, Botticelli sliced.
A square-shaped void where I took the frame for myself is all that remains of my
rage, glass and wood shards long gone. As I rip these shreds away, the greying wall
shows through. I wait to start again with new walls. On my knees in this space, I
tumble forward into the pillows and the future. The binding is too strong to remove
past pages. All I can do is write new chapters. Clumps of tape remain, adhesive strong
beneath the torn.
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The Grand Finale
Megan Peterson
I
t’s Place de la Concorde, France. The square is filled with the hustle and bustle of people, as per usual. Each individual is focused in on their own particular task that they’d set out for themselves, rather like goldfish just swimming
around, but all the while losing the reason they were swimming in the first place.
No one is simply standing still, as they all seem to be hurrying to one place or
another. No one, except for a mime.
He appears to be completely focused in on the moment, not just hurriedly
rushing onto the next one like the others all around him. In fact, at this exact
moment he seems to be struggling with an unruly umbrella on what must be
an extremely stormy day. In Paris the sun is shining, and the unruly umbrella
doesn’t appear to exist to anyone. It was, however, entirely real to him. Life is
hard when you are a schizophrenic mime.
In his reality it is indeed a very stormy day. He is trying extremely hard to
brace the weather as he wanders about trying to find a way out of his blank,
empty world that had once been a haven to him. A long time ago he had escaped
to there when the “real” world had become too cruel to bear. It had become
much easier for him to simply venture into the land he had created in his head.
He started going there more and more until eventually his reality and everyone
else’s seemed to switch. Now when he wanted to leave, his own mind wouldn’t
let him. Occasionally he would catch a glimpse of the outside world, but it would
flutter away in broken pieces, leaving no trace that it was even there. The torment was never ending.
This particular day he set out into a singularly dark corner of his own head
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that he’d always been too afraid to venture into before. He struggles with his umbrella into the cold, cold snow, shivering as he goes. It is a very convincing shiver
to those suffering in the intense Paris heat, but he is not in Paris, not really. He
continues in this manner until he comes to a door in the ground.
“This must be it!” he thinks “The way out of this strange reality!”
Excitedly, he opens the door. Alas, it is not the portal into the world he had left
behind, but an empty hole. As he stares down in disappointment, a ladder begins
to rise out of the hole and ascend up into the sky. Deciding that it must be the
way, he hungrily starts climbing. Higher, and higher, and higher. He climbs so
long that the people watching him through the strange gossamer veil of realities
begin to wonder if his arms are not tired from all of that faux climbing. However,
the mime is not weary, he is exhilarated! He feels so close to what truly must be
his freedom.
Reaching the top, he opens another door. Nervously, he pokes his head
through and looks around seeing what appears to be an extremely large, empty,
swimming pool. This is not the reality he had left those many years ago. It didn’t
make sense to the poor mime. Confusedly, he climbs up through the door into
the bottom of the enormous pit and immediately begins to search for a way to
get out of what surely was a 24-foot hole.
A tourist walking by wonders what on earth this strange man must be looking
for.
“Foreigner,” an indigenous French man laughs to himself. They are all used to
this man in the square, miming. He has been there for years. Anyone who knows
anything expects to always see him there.
As the mime is searching, he feels a drop of water trickle down his neck, then
another one. More and more water comes pelting at him, faster, thicker. Wa-
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ter is soon gushing into the oversized, empty swimming pool. Desperately, the
mime tries to find an escape, any way out of that god forsaken hole before it fills
in completely, drowning him. He searches everywhere, but finds no release. He
becomes frantic and begins to call out for help, but no voice comes. He pleads
with his eyes, his actions, hoping that somehow, for once, somebody will break
into his world and save him. The water is up to his knees, his waist. It is coming
up to his shoulders.
“Mommy! Mommy! Look, that man needs help! Help him, mommy! Help him!”
a little girl screams to her mother.
“Calm down, sweetie. Don’t worry, that man is just an actor. He’s pretending.
He’s not really in pain,” the mother coos in reply.
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Yes, sweetie. Would you like to watch a moment?”
The water is up to his chin now and steadily climbing. It will soon be over for
him, and he never even escaped from the torturous realms of his own mind. Nobody will even burst through the thin layers into his world to save him.
The mime collapses in the square. Rapturous applause erupts from everyone
present. Those who watched him say that it was by far his best performance.
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T
The Girl’s Father
Timothy Slover
he house was spacious and white and there were columns along the
porch. John could see them gleaming through the windows behind the
faces across the table from him. The legs were artistically uneven and
they shifted every time he leaned forward to impress upon them the gravity of
the situation.
“She hasn’t left her room for days.”
“What is it you want from us?”
“Just an apology. That’s all.”
“From our son.”
“Yes.”
John tried to look them both in the eyes at the same time. He looked at them
both back and forth when he spoke. It made him nervous. He couldn’t look at
either of them for very long before shifting to the other. They were so clean.
They both had bright thick hair and white teeth and green eyes. Their fingernails were smooth and there were sharp creases in their clothing. The man’s cufflinks glinted every time he cracked his knuckles. He cracked something every
time he spoke.
“Why don’t we all have something to drink?” said the woman. “Would you
like something to drink?” She had a large mouth and she bared her teeth like a
lion when she spoke. Her teeth were as white as the walls and beautiful to look
at—the way they contrasted with her lipstick. “What would you like to drink?”
“Just water, thanks.” John leaned back in his chair and the table clunked.
“Nonsense,” said the man. “We should all loosen up a bit. Bring out the wine,
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Daphne.” His wife stood up and smiled generously down at John. He scooted forward in his chair and tried to return her grin. He met her eyes and her mouth
twitched. She went for the drinks.
She came back with a dark bottle and three Bordeaux glasses. She set them
down on the table and pushed one towards John. She had a ring with a large diamond on her middle finger. The light coming in from the windows glared into
John’s eyes and he blinked, surprised. She smiled again and got to work on the
cork. She twisted the screw in and pulled it out with a pop that sort of echoed in
the room. The smell of wine filled the air. Daphne poured liberal glasses for she
and her husband. She put the bottle down next to John.
“Help yourself.”
John poured a small amount but didn’t drink any.
“Thank you, dear,” said Arnold. He picked up his glass and smelled it and
smiled to himself before drinking. “Great stuff isn’t it?” He gestured at his glass.
“If I told you how we got this—well, you wouldn’t believe it.” John quickly took
up his own and sipped.
“Yeah, wonderful,” said John.
“Do you like wine, John?”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
Arnold nodded and sniffed at his glass again.
“Or are you more of a beer man?”
“I like this fine.”
“Daphne, do we have any beer?” said Arnold.
She looked over her glass at her husband and raised her eyebrows. She drank.
“This is great, thanks a lot,” said John. He took a larger drink.
“You’re welcome, John,” said Daphne.
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Arnold and Daphne enjoyed their wine. They drank it quickly and their glasses were half-empty when Arnold spoke again. He put his hand to his chin and
pushed till his neck popped.
“Well, we’d better get down to the dirty business, shouldn’t we?”
“Yes,” said Daphne. “Tell us again, John, what it is you think happened.”
“It’s pretty simple,” said John. He leaned forward and the table shifted again.
His glass nearly tipped but he caught it.
“Should we get a few coasters, Daphne?”
“Look. It’s simple,” said John. “Your son’s been bullying my daughter—“
“Caroline?” said Daphne. She looked at John with her eyes half closed and
serene.
“Yes. Your son needs to leave Caroline alone. And I think he should apologize
to her.”
“Really?” Her teeth were still so white, even with the wine. John could smell
her perfume. Arnold finished his glass and sighed contentedly.
“Expensive stuff, this,” said Arnold. “We shouldn’t let it go to waste, John.
Would you like another?”
“He hasn’t finished his yet, dear,” said Daphne.
“Well, we shouldn’t let it go off.” Arnold poured himself another glass and
topped off Daphne’s goblet. “We’ve gotten off track. John, you were saying?”
“I just want your son to apologize. That’s all. I’m thinking of moving her to
another school.”
Daphne inclined her head to her shoulder. Her smile never left her lips. Her
lipstick was brilliant.
“Do you really think that will help things?” She said.
“What do you mean?” John pushed his glass to the edge of the table.
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“Don’t you think your child will bring similar problems to every other school?”
“My daughter isn’t the problem. I’m sorry, but it’s your son.”
“Our son tells a different story than Caroline does, John,” said Arnold. “He
says your child harassed him. He says she tried to kiss him.”
Daphne smiled widely at Arnold.
“For God’s sake, dear, you don’t have to beat around the bush like that,” she
said. She turned to John. “You call your child Caroline, do you? Did you pick the
name or did she?”
“Her name is Caroline. She picked it. That’s her name,” said John. “She also
says your boy won’t call her Caroline.”
“Well really, why should he?” said Daphne. “That’s not her real name, is it?”
She downed the rest of her drink.
“Dear.” Arnold placed his hand on her knee and patted it. “It’s alright.”
“No it isn’t.” she was still smiling but her knee quivered under her husband’s
hand. She spoke quietly. “It’s not alright for some freak to sexually harass our
son.”
John stood up and knocked the table. The glasses and the bottle crashed to the
floor and the wine spread out and began sinking into the carpet. John clenched
his fists. Daphne looked up at him. Her eyes were cold.
“Not a problem, not a problem,” said Arnold, standing up and brushing himself off. “We’ve got something for this, don’t we, dear? It’s a sort of marker. Stains
will come right out.” He left the room and Daphne and John stared at each other.
Her teeth were maddening.
“I’m sorry, John,” said Daphne. “I don’t know what could have come over me,
but when one’s child is being attacked, physically or otherwise, you just can’t
help but lose yourself in the heat of the moment. Wouldn’t you agree?”
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John bent down to retie his boots. The steel toe was poking out through the
leather on the left one. His hands kept fumbling till he got them tied. He stood
up.
“You just tell your son to leave my boy alone. I’m not looking for trouble.”
“You may have found it, John.” She kept on smiling and John left the house.
He picked up the battered lunch cooler he’d left on the porch, threw it in the bed
of his truck, and climbed into the driver’s seat. Sitting in the sweltering truck,
John could smell the oil and dirt worked into the upholstery. He leaned his head
on the steering wheel and tried to force down the lump rising in his throat and
the burning in his eyes. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a
dog-eared photograph of Caroline wearing a blue ribbon. It was a school photo.
John fingered the edges of the picture for a minute, finally put the keys in the
ignition, and went to pick up his child. He held the photo in one hand while he
drove, his grip slowly tightening. By the time he arrived at the school, it was
crumpled, but he smiled and kissed Caroline when she got into the truck.
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literary conference
Ex Utero
Cameron Edwards
As Rachel’s soul was in departing (for she died), she called her newborn son Ben-Oni
Trees I, son of suffering, sit yet
bare. in the spring Reeds
yet gold. sun The dense
air and creation as the nymph seeps
across that molts out of a corpse’s eye, as the
world. Spring: a bloated mother squirrel chewing on a baby loon; premature—
like the baby of the ewe I am fecund as les vers in solute flesh—or
the afternoon moon. I sit in the spring sun, Each
birth just a death. Each
Atonement sit a blood sacrifice.
Silent before in my
shearer pools go I.
du sang d’Eostre—
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O
“Grammar won the state”:
Peter Seaton’s Agreement
Sam Gilpin
ne is reminded of the Tao Te Ching when reading Peter Seaton’s Agreement, the mystery of the language that seems to be hiding a simple truth
behind an esoteric syntax, the refusal to be governed, the insistence on
the local and, above all, the alignment of oneself within the natural rhythms.
Seaton, in his longer prose sections, which make up the majority of the work,
uses the rhythm inherent in the language itself as the primary building blocks. I
use the term rhythm to describe this because it seems that it is something quite
divorced from the ordinary terms we use when framing the musicality of a work;
meter and all it’s spinoffs. No, what Seaton achieves here is the kind of innovation of musicality that Gertrude Stein achieved in her later works, the “thing
of music” in the words themselves, unrestricted by any kind of syntactic governance or meaning. What one feels when reading this work is that one is in
the presence of a pure and inherent language, as opposed to the stripped to the
core speech of some of the other writers associated with Language poetry1, but a
language that is unabashed to be language written by someone who might love
language too much.
In 1978, Charles Bernstein’s Asylum’s Press, in an edition of 500 copies, published Agreement. It was a large staple-bound book, that had been written up on
a Remington typewriter and then xeroxed. It is interesting to note the process
that Susan Bee and Charles Bernstein took in producing this book; it can almost
1
Language poetry refers to a school of poetry started in the 1970s that places an emphasis on
the language of the poem and on creating new ways for the reader to interact with the work.
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be seen as a degradation of the language, the pure language transformed by a
simple act of pressing copy on a Xerox machine. In fact, the language that makes
up this book has been degraded only slightly—copied, thereby stripped of a layer
of typographic detail, both enabling the language to shine brighter and dulling
the actual words on the page. It is as if the words themselves have been revealed
in a less then perfect context, far from Lyn Hejinian’s high browed and beautiful books that rolled off her Tuumba Press. This work, typographically, when
compared with the finer letter-pressed chapbooks of the time, is set to a different context. It’s set to a context for the masses, affordably produced, nothing
really to look at craftsmanship wise, but nonetheless more at home, in a political
sense, in the modern world. The use of technology is interesting to note as well,
whereby Tuumba Press carried on the Modernist tradition of the whole book
as a work of art fitting the past traditions of book-making into a contemporary
world, Asylum’s Press used, in a capitalistic sense, a tool used to increase production to produce a thing so against that system.
As the majority of the book is made up of prose poems, and as it is here that
the language takes on new musicality, it seems that we should focus almost exclusively on these. “As the separate sea is of a point from which change is the
acting static or appreciable trace for Britain, France, Germany, Holland and the
U.S.” is the longest poem in the book. It seems at once both a poem and a piece
of criticism, and as we progress through the poem it becomes, first, a criticism
of capitalistic policies with a special emphasis on war. The poem then turns to
more immediate concerns, some domestic, others concerned with the writing
process and the artist’s place in society, and finally ends with a coda-like poem.
“That would have fingers passive before two men who won
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a high tier of roofed grass, amiably, chattering, sleeping
from the waist, who would listen only to English so that every word turned toward the layer of skin, and deep breath
is head named pitch, and to omit some things energy works,
has gone, grammar won the state.” (Seaton, 11)
This is very characteristic of Seaton’s work: An unexpected uprooting of normative word usage and sentence structure. We, from the opening, are given an
incomplete sentence, as presumably something came before “that.” Rather then
leaving us out on the meaning of this sentence and the poem as a whole, the
incomplete sentence actually frees us from this meaning-centered reading practice. The reading practice, Peter Seaton would argue, is a by-product of the capitalistic culture we move around in. It is from the need of the companies that we
ultimately are conditioned to seek meaning, and seek it fast. This need to have
workers that can increase production and ultimately increase profit is placed on
us from an early age, and as we can see, Seaton is against it. However, what we
are given—“that would have fingers passive before two men who won a high tier
of roofed grass”—can be deciphered, and from that it lends a symbolic rendering to the rest of the text. The “fingers,” it seems, are the masses, “passive” or
unaware that “two men”—note their stature compared to that of the “fingers”—
control the wealth, the “grass” of the nation. The “two men” could, in a Poundian
paranoia, literally be two men who dictate and govern in secrecy, but it seems to
suggest that a small percentage of the people control the majority of the nation’s
wealth. This wealth seems fixed or capped, “roofed,” achieving a very nihilistic
view of the economy, eliminating any chance or hope to fix the off-balance. The
unbalancing lends itself to the “two men” having “won a high tier,” implying
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that this competition was never fair in the first place, which would be a very
class-based view. These two men “listen only to English” implying the globalization and the march of the free market, and we remember that this was published
only three years after the fall of Saigon, meaning the Vietnam War was still fresh
in everyone’s mind. These “two men,” however, did not use force to win this
competition—“so that every word turned toward the layer of skin.” They used
language, the same medium the poet is working in. However, Seaton is working
in the rhythms behind language. The line above suggests that the words used by
these men were knife-like, something that if used with ill will had the power to
physically injure or kill someone. This all illuminates the final clause, “grammar
won the state,” because it places the world, or at least the economy, into language’s court, thereby making the poet a player, giving an almost Leninist view
of the poet as a conduit for social change. Although, it seems that the grim hope
of ever changing this is still present at the end of the poem, putting great stress
on the individualism of the poet. It seems from the aforementioned clause that
organization is a must if anyone is to ever topple the “two men.”
Something happens in the next stanza that reframes the whole work: “That:
When platform rain stroking stop the watch proceed from dream on transparent storms.” There is a restating of the “that” which begins the piece in a new
context, and this might be the minor organizing structure of the piece—a way
to frame the language—which without a doubt is the major structuring element.
We will continue to see “That:” throughout the piece, alerting us to a problem in
the world or more simply the way things, in Seaton’s view, work, and the solution is usually framed in what seems to be a reference to the end of Canto I in
Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, “So that:.”
One of the pieces of this work is the poet’s act of creating, using the language
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around him to frame and describe what is in front of him:
“Good results deny blue waters, thy scrawled his hand and
that could again coincide the world seemingly entirely a conjurer carrying component questions no longer the speech to
develop through like a boy’s buzz buzz buzz. Hands like this
make a physicist expert or nothing. These were made knowledge: man man man man amen. The voice engine in every
writer replacing adjustments. This room using present as the
warriors saw nothing.” (Seaton, 11)
It seems here that we, for the first time, have a direct acknowledgement of
the poet practicing his or her craft. This is a good thing, as it offers hope, which
usually indicates that something domestic is about to happen. For a moment,
this hope reverses the society to local, to family, to individual of the free market
economy and places the individual back in his true place as the maker and owner
of society. To begin at the beginning, “good results deny blue waters” seems
to now bring in the environmental issues that were gaining steam in the 70’s
which resulted from unrestricted industry. “Thy” may seem out of place in this
piece, but it shows that Seaton is acknowledging his handed-down tradition of
poetry. However, this also springs a little lyric episode in which the drive seems
to be something akin to alliterative verse, with the “ca” sound being the main
thrust and the “ba” and “ss” sounds finishing the line. Here, as elsewhere in
the poem’s sound-language, seems to want to destroy meaning. A quick look at
the line brings immense pleasure to the ear, but almost no meaning, and a long
hard contemplation results in very much the same thing. This is not as evil as
we would expect it to be, as we can recall the implied challenge to our socially61
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conditioned reading practices, which forces us to delight in the actual now, the
present, and leaves out the life-denying fallacy of trying to figure everything
out. “[T]his room using present,” is the space the poet acts in. It is the table we
eat from, the hot water to do the dishes. In other words, Seaton associates the
present with the poet and with the domestic or local aspects of daily life, and
in this he finds freedom from the inverse structure of society and the capitalist
way of life. However, this is not a wanting to escape from life but a direct engagement with it. If taken in a spiritual viewpoint, it would not be a Christian or even
Buddhist notion of something inherently wrong with the world and the active
struggle to disengage from this world, but rather something like Taoism or some
of the more esoteric philosophies that promote a direct touching of life itself. All
this, it seems to Seaton’s poem, is useless without the poet as “the warriors saw
nothing,” meaning that the visionary poet, and by extension the artist, is necessary to society as the eyes or sight. This line also has a different meaning, as
we recall that the state was won by grammar and not by force. We see that this
is just another utterance of the same concept, simultaneously referring to the
post-war disillusionment of the troops returning from Vietnam, and by extension all wars. This is interesting in that it seems that Seaton views war as unnecessary, but that under the current capitalist culture, wars prove to be profitable.
The poet’s ideal of the domestic or local, not so much in the Wordsworthian
sense of the diction, but the action in that domestic space, is one of the main
concerns of the poem, and when it is touched upon it reacts in a surprisingly
clear way:
“So words transformed monuments, neighbors of huge female helplessly imagine science. We are in but you would
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commit a list forward to real rides first as in poetry action
being kicked in the intestines for words since the forehead
excuses different houses into familiar heat as in except ambiguity everything’s Shakespeare. He seems worried. He put
bread at the table.” (Seaton, 14)
Words are transformative, as we have seen in “grammar won the state,” but
here these words are doing something very different: They are being used to
achieve laughter. The playful aspects of Seaton’s poetry is something that seems
to be inherited from the New York School poets. One poem of this collection is
named, “On seeing Frank O’Hara and Chairmen Mao greet each other.” The real
implications of playfulness in Seaton’s poetry is illustrated in the lines above. It
is the joke that “everything’s Shakespeare” that jolts one back into the now, the
domestic: “He seems worried. He put bread at the table.” The clarity and economy of language that comes after this joke should not be taken lightly; it shows
the domestic as simple and free and reiterates the idea of man as controller of
society. Something that is equally important to the poet is: “[B]eing kicked in the
intestines for words since the forehead excuses different houses.” Because this
puts the words out of reason and back into the rhythms of language, the next
word is not thought of but felt deep in the gut. Finally, I think something that is
important not just to Seaton’s work or Language poetry, but for all of poetry, is
the use of lists, which the passage above touches on. There are a lot of list-like
processes in the poem, and the final sweep of language is a list moving into a
clarity of speech that seems to unify the work as a whole.
“So: Blind man plugs into a computer and sees a hailstone
disintegrate talc, gypsum, calcite, fluorite, apatite, ortho63
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clase, quartz, topaz, corundum, diamond, neutronium, the
early morning sun steaming the dew off the practice field
grass, the sensual pleasure of resting in the pines after a hard
practice, the jukebox playing in our store down the road in
the evening.” (Seaton, 17)
This passage that comes at the end of the piece right before the coda seems to
bring everything together. It begins with “So:,” a shorting of Pound’s “So that:,”
and lets us know that we have recontextualized the beginning of the poem into
a lyric solution. The “blind man,” being society, suddenly sees, through the use
of a computer—representing the poet—a hailstone disintegrating a whole list
of natural rocks. Here, the water in its solid form destroys the society that the
“two men” won at the beginning of the poem. Finally, the natural processes mix
with the senses in individual moments, aligning everything back into the natural
rhythms of language: The present moment and the domestically agile poet at
work.
References:
Seaton, Peter. Agreement. New York: Charles Bernstein’s Asylum’s Press, 1978.
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Songs About Boys I Know
Sarah Jackman
I
am not musically talented. I cannot play the flute, regardless of the time I
learned to play in fifth grade, or the piano, even though I took lessons on
and off throughout my childhood, and I can barely carry a tune. Once upon
a time, I took vocal lessons and was quite good, even singing “Castle on a Cloud”
from Les Misérables at family functions. Then I grew older and got sick, and soon
discovered that breathing tubes do wonders for keeping one alive, but are hell
on the vocal chords.
Regardless of my lack of musical ability, I love music. Regardless of the fact
that I’m a writer, I am definitely not a songwriter. I have great respect for those
who are song writers. I’m not talking about the “songwriters” who write club
anthems or sexually charged singles for The Pussycat Dolls. No, I’m talking about
the people who write the music that speaks to the heart, that evokes emotion
and feeling, the music that relates a story and thereby encapsulates the listener
who knows a different version of that same story all too well.
I think my love of music can be a little damaging. I can equate much of my
life to a song or an album. Sometimes an album is released as something major
is happening in my life and that album becomes forever marked by that event.
It happened with Dashboard Confessional’s After the Ending and Natasha Bedingfield’s Pocketful of Sunshine. After the life situation ends, the songs on those albums had too deep a meaning and were too full of memories for me to really
enjoy listening to them anymore.
I hate that I do that to music, but I can’t help it. The words that other people
write sometimes seem so much better than my own, and I find it ironic that
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when I’m feeling some way, I more often turn to my iPod than I do my own pen.
Sometimes though, I come across a song that is so perfect for someone or something that it seems like the music gods have opened up their playlist and smiled
upon me. This usually happens in regards to boys I know. Because I’m very familiar with unrequited love—it seems to be the story of my life—songs about that
type of love always strike me deep, as do songs about love lost, and songs about
brothers.
I realized that I have some specific songs about boys I know, some new and
some old—songs and boys that is—and I wanted to explore those songs and the
underlying meaning in the lyrics that makes me associate these songs with boys
I know.
Ben — Kate Voegele’s “We the Dreamers (Demo)” from A Fine Mess
The first time I heard this song, I knew it was about Ben. Ben and I had just met
and I didn’t know what we were doing. We were both studying English, we were
both creative writers, we were both unsure of the other. He was tall and skinny
and had such a dry sense of humor, he was pretty much ideal.
In “We the Dreamers,” Kate Voegele sings, “If I was an English teacher, I probably could get you to dance with me / Cause Robert Frost is in your wallet, the
road less whatever you call it, oh, I guess.” Here seemed to be the epitome of Ben.
Poetry was his preferred genre, and I often thought that what Kate said was true:
Maybe if I was an English teacher, I could get Ben to dance with me. I don’t know
what the difference is in being an English teacher and an English major. Maybe
patience and benevolence, two things I think I greatly lack, but whatever it is,
there’s a difference to me.
The apex of the experience comes when Kate sings, “We the dreamers chase
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forever so at least in that we’ll be together, oh. / But I’ll always miss you, and I’ll
always wish you’d been mine.” Shortly after we met, Ben left for the summer to
be a camp counselor, and the words of that last verse became the epitome of me
and Ben.
Joel — Taylor Swift’s “Enchanted” from Speak Now
Joel is a funny story, sort of. We met one summer night and it was pretty much
love at first sight—for me anyway. He was a medical student and was incredibly
intelligent, though he’d never admit it to anyone. About fifteen minutes after I
met him, Joel started playing kill ball in the pool and I instantly became irritated
with him. He was just another guy, in a pool, being obnoxious. I could barely
feign interest.
Then I got to know Joel better and that’s when I learned he was a combination
of humility and arrogance. It sounds contradictory, and that’s because it was. It
was all contradictory. The way to get Joel to pay you attention was to completely
ignore him. It became a fun game to see how long it’d take after I ignored him
before he’d come after me. Joel was a classic All-American guy: Sandy blonde
hair, strong jaw line, ocean blue eyes, but not a Bahamas ocean blue, an Atlantic
ocean blue, the kind that are full of turmoil.
The link between Joel and “Enchanted” is two lines that simply say, “Please
don’t be in love with someone else / please don’t have somebody waiting on
you.” For such a long time I could hardly eke out a word to Joel, and I wondered
constantly if he was in love with someone else. Although he wasn’t in love with
me, it would make everything worse if he was in love with someone else.
I was studying at the library with my friend Mehgan when Joel walked past us.
He stopped and effectively distracted us from our studies for 45 minutes before
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he and I realized we’d gone to high school together. As he walked away, all I
could think to myself was, “Please don’t have somebody waiting on you.”
Tim — Taylor Swift’s “Long Live” from Speak Now
Tim is my little brother, the only little brother I’ve got. He’s always been much
smarter than me and more talented than me at most everything except writing. He beat me to college graduation at a rival university, beat me at finding a
spouse, and beat me at having an heir, my nephew Thomas who is probably also
smarter than me.
My little brother and I have a close relationship. We grew close as teenagers,
after our sister’s marriage, after the death of our eldest two brothers, and after
our other older brother moved to Tennessee for two years. Tim and I would wait
up for each other on weekends, and then we’d get some food and turn on MTV
Hits and talk until it got late enough for us to notice.
“Long Live” could be about a number of things and a number of people, but
to me, it’s about a brother. It’s a song dedicated to achieving your dreams and
not forgetting the things you did on your journey to get there. The bridge says,
“Promise me this, that you’ll stand by me forever / but if God forbid, fate should
step it / and force us into a goodbye, if you have children someday / when you
point to the pictures, please tell them my name / tell them how the crowds went
wild, tell them how I hope they shine.” For the first little while, when I’d listen
to this song, I’d cry at the bridge. My little brother and his pregnant wife had
just moved across the country for graduate school, and I was sick, waiting for
a kidney transplant. It seemed we might be forced into a permanent goodbye
sooner than expected, and if or when that does happen, I hope Tim will point to
the pictures and tell his kids my name.
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Daniel — Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” from Doo Wops and Hooligans
Daniel. Where to begin with Daniel? We met in seventh grade, but we didn’t
know each other until fourteen years had passed and we’d grown up. Six years
of junior high and high school and we never spoke one word to each other. Then
one day, he started a conversation with me about culinary school and cooking,
and, as it turned out, we were pretty much best friends.
Daniel doesn’t live close to me, he lives in another state and sometimes I think
it’s the worst. We talk on the phone for hours, and I always think it’d be so much
better if we lived within 100 miles of one another. The best thing about my relationship with Daniel is that no matter what, we can count on each other when
we need the other one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a menu idea, venting about our
jobs, neighbors, roommates, or just talking about everything we haven’t said in
fourteen years, we have an easy friendship and Bruno Mars’ song “Count on Me”
fits it to a tee.
There are a thousand songs I could dedicate to Daniel. Songs from Blind Pilots,
Jimmy Eat World, OneRepublic, Mat Kearney, and (my apparent favorite) Taylor
Swift, but I chose this one for Daniel because he “can count on me like one, two
three and I’ll be there.”
Parker — “For Good” from Wicked
The meaning behind this song is twofold. First of all, Parker is a boy I was
in love with for nearly a year and a half. In my consciousness, he had to have
known, but that doesn’t mean he did. Parker was the best person I knew, he was
kind to everyone, took time to get to know people, never made rash judgments,
he was smart and funny and loved sports. He was just the best. Being around
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Parker made me want to be a better person, so that’s where “For Good” comes
into play. Because I knew Parker, “I have been changed for good.”
The second reason for this song is because Parker’s favorite genre of music
was show tunes. Looking at his iPod, it would shock and astound you that one
guy could have so much Broadway music and James Taylor. It was actually kind
of funny—not like funny ha ha, but funny weird. Parker knew this and could easily make fun of himself for it. His musical choices only added into his charm and
his goodness. He got married a while back to a girl who looks like she also loves
listening to show tunes.
Christian — Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” from We Sing, We Dance, We Steal
Things
There is so much I could say about Christian, but won’t. There are so many
songs that I could use to describe him, but can’t. “I’m Yours” came out on the EP
We Sing at the same time I was falling head over heels for Christian. I should’ve
known better than to fall for someone who has a name that is or starts with
“Chris,” but I couldn’t help myself. Intelligent, handsome, talented, Christian
was everything I could have wanted. My fantasy was Christian playing the acoustic version of “I’m Yours” and singing it to me as he proposed. Incredibly cheesy,
yes, but in my head it was the most romantic moment of all time, ever.
Christian didn’t propose, or ever even take me out, and the Mraz song “If it
Kills Me” from the same album would have been a better dedication. Still, every
time I hear “I’m Yours,” or “Realize” from Colbie Calliat’s Coco, I think back to
that fall and spring when I was in love with Christian.
Tom and Andy — Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” from Speak for Yourself
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Tom and Andy are my two eldest brothers who died when I was sixteen. I used
to have a playlist of “see you in the afterlife” type songs that I’d listen to when
I was missing them. I first heard “Hide and Seek” on The O.C. It was the episode
when the gang buries Caleb, and as the funeral procession comes around a bend
in the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking an aqua blue ocean, this song was playing and making the death of that awful man something to be sad about.
Not too many days later I left for California with some friends. As we passed
the place on the interstate where my brothers had died, Imogen Heap sang this
song in my ears—“Mmm, whatcha say, oh that you only meant well, well of
course you did / mmm whatcha say, oh that it’s all for the best, well of course it
is / mmm whatcha say, oh, that it’s just what we need, you decided this / mmm
whatcha say, oh what did you say?” Even though it had been years since they’d
passed, driving through the Mohave at night listening to that song made it as
real as yesterday. Maybe it was for the best, maybe it was what I needed, and
maybe it changed the course of my life.
Brad — The Lonely Island’s “The Creep” from Turtleneck and Chain
Let me begin by saying that Brad is not a creep. At least not that I know of. He’s
my math buddy and is helping me pass the class. Brad’s favorite movie is Hot Rod
which stars at least two of The Lonely Island guys (Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone). Any of The Lonely Island songs could be dedicated to Brad simply because
he loves Hot Rod so much, even though none of them are really applicable to his
life. Not “Dick in a Box” or “Jizz in my Pants”… The best option really would be
“I’m on a Boat” because I could see Brad singing that while on a boat in his “swim
trunks and flippy-floppys,” but I like “The Creep” better, and if Brad ever does
become a creeper, I’ll have already called it.
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There are other songs for other boys. There are songs with no meaning attached, waiting, just waiting for the day I’ll meet someone to give it to. I have
favorite songs I hope to never attach anyone to in case that song gets ruined forever. I have a hip hop playlist (It’s a Hip Hop World) and a Britney Spears playlist
(It’s Britney, Bitch!) and a playlist of piano compositions for more mellow times.
I have every song ever recorded by Brand New and Anna Nalick, 5 versions of
“Don’t Stop Believin’” and at least 50 “Glee” cast covers. To everything there is a
season; for every season there is a song.
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