here - timber journal

volume 4
A Journal of Innovative Literature and Fine Art
VOLUME 4, 2014
TIMBER is an independent not-for-profit annual of innovative literature and fine art published
by the students of the Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at the University of
Colorado Boulder. It is funded by the Creative Writing Association, a student committee
chaired by student members of the MFA Creative Writing Program. Full text electronic
archives of TIMBER can be found at To have copies sent to you, your
organization, or writing program, please contact TIMBER at [email protected]
© 2014 by Timber Journal. All rights reserved and revert back to author upon first
American printing.
VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO the Creative Writing Association and president Adam Bishop;
Ruth Ellen Kocher, Department Chair of the Creative Writing Program in the Department
of English at the University of Colorado Boulder; Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe and
owners Brian Buckley and Kate Hunter; Counterpath Press and owners Julie Carr and Tim
Roberts; Oren Silverman of Counterpath Press; Noah Eli Gordon of Subito Press and Letter
Machine Editions; Carmen Giménez Smith and J. Michael Martinez of Noemi Press; Erin
Costello and Mark Rockswold of SpringGun Press; and Fiction Collective Two (FC2).
ARTWORK: The cover art (front: “Hold On” and back: “Dziewczynki są Nudne,” or “Girls
Are Boring”) is © Emma Dajska. Medium is collage (found photography, paper). Dimensions:
150 x 210 mm.
Timber logo codesigned by Vanessa Angelica Villarreal, Kolby Harvey, and Jason Saunders.
Layout and book design by Vanessa Angelica Villarreal.
managing editor
Matthew Treon
assistant editor
prose editor
poetry editor
Adrian Sobol
Bird Marathe
Alexis Almeida
art and layout editor
Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
social media coordinator
Sarena Ulibarri
prose readers
Lance Duncan
Eric Jensen
Egypt Kosloski
Loie Merritt
Logan Priess
Ezry Revelle
Kathleen J Woods
Kolby Harvey
Rebecca Kallemeyn
Bruce Lin
Courtney Morgan
Hector Ramirez
Caroline Rothnie
poetry readers
Ansley Clark
Lily Duffy
Mac Goad
Liz McGehee
Alexis Renee Smith
Stephanie Couey
Connor Fisher
Monica Koenig
Oakley Merideth
Table of Contents
Laura Eve Engel
Against Sink .......................................................................................... 1
Beast of Some Kind ............................................................................4-5
Ross Gay
Wedding Poem ...................................................................................8-9
Sharing with the Ants .....................................................................10-11
When After Some Time, Finally, Your Kids are at Their Dad’s ............. 13
Annie Paradis
05/27/13 ............................................................................................. 15
Mathias Svalina
Wastoid ............................................................................................... 22
Wastoid ............................................................................................... 23
Wastoid ............................................................................................... 24
Shamala Gallagher
Midnight Sober ..............................................................................25-27
Untitled (Away)................................................................................... 28
Grasping Song (March) ..................................................................29-34
Dolores Dorantes (translated by Jen Hofer)
from Querida Fabrica .....................................................................38-39
Arturo Ramírez Lara
(translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin)
Love’s Own Syntax:
Selections from Nanas Para Dormir a Jonás .....................................50-52
Charles Gabel
The Pasture.......................................................................................... 53
kendra bartell
Beets ................................................................................................... 85
tony mancus
In Which the Thing Your Shook My Hand Free From Was Itself......... 86
Ways ................................................................................................... 87
Freezerburn/Facewalk .......................................................................... 88
Matthew Henriksen
Wall Chart .......................................................................................... 95
Draft ..............................................................................................96-97
Fjord ................................................................................................... 98
eleni sikelianos
The Hand Therapist ...................................................................104-107
Doug Paul Case
Nocturne with Boy Throwing Stones at Stars .................................... 115
Julie Carr
from Real Life: an Installation
“On this last day” .......................................................................122-123
Happiness Report #4 ......................................................................... 124
2 Installations .................................................................................... 125
3 Installations on “Home” ................................................................. 126
Untitled............................................................................................. 127
An Installation on Sex ....................................................................... 128
Paul Edward Costa
The Chronicle of Everything ............................................................... 14
Melanie Madden
Rivers .............................................................................................16-18
Tania Hershman
Tunnelling ........................................................................................... 37
Reem Abu-Baker
Common Usage .............................................................................40-47
Nathan Blake
A Primers for What Now of This Instant by Which I Meanting Slaughter
You Idiot ........................................................................................60-63
taylor mcgill
The Tub ..........................................................................................82-84
Alvarado o’Brien
Night of the Virgin.........................................................................91-94
shira richman
NOAP Notes: Narrative, Objective, Assessment, Plan ................108-114
Kathryn Roberts
Untitled................................................................................................. 7
Sarika Sugla
Final pass(ages) of the Water Spirit
September 27, 2013, 2:24 PM ............................................................ 19
1st Mo(u)rning sign of the Water Spirit
May 22, 2012, 6:25 AM ..................................................................... 20
Emma Dajska
Youth is a Fraud .................................................................................. 35
Looking Through ................................................................................ 90
Denise Nestor
Pink .................................................................................................... 48
Suzanne Torres
Excavation ........................................................................................... 55
mariola rosario
My Sweet Old Etcetera:
A Film Photography Collection ......................................................64-81
ray easley
Untitled............................................................................................... 99
Untitled............................................................................................. 101
bird marathe and contributors
Notes on Innovative Prose ..............................................................56-59
Eleni Sikelianos with Connor Fisher
A Conversation ..........................................................................102-103
Carmen Giménez Smith with
Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
Nothing Scarier Than a Brown Titty:
Milk and Filth, Prince, and Innovative [email protected] Writing ..............116-121
julie carr with alexis almeida
The Public and the Private, the Personal and Political:
A Conversation with Julie Carr ..................................................129-131
Laura Eve Engel
Somewhere in pursuit
of what it loves the muscle
turns mean
good gone off for good
pressed out of it
as the forge occurs against a surface
to push off from will be important
if there are to be these futures
we can see the distant heat of
in one the shape
of the old heart’s rafted away
left you listing into a sink
you choose against sink
if this is choosing
Laura Eve Engel
Say we begin with things
I say I see
there’s a house
then to smooth out the part
where I think
I’m not being clear
I cut my bangs to see
clearly more
over there
so that house
will look less
like a house
with hair out front
I can sit here
with this face to try
to make my looking clear
looking’s hard
to look like
from possible faces
I can choose squint
which is narrow
and hurts and things
are lost
in the vision field
Laura Eve Engel
who made vision
a field
who built that house
to look like a house
with bangs
in the way
say I address you
of the unmown yard
or whatever
say I tell you
I see but what for
is a way to get at
you saw dandelions
when I said field
and meant houses
until we can cut
some part of us back
long is how things
are growing
not knowing exactly
how to look at
look at or what
to get out of the way
Laura Eve Engel
This hotel’s a beast of some kind
and we’re dancing right in it
outside the ballroom
its fur all matted
inside the ballroom
its clustered lungs
everything smells like biting
into decorative fruit
under its liver my question
takes shape
why haven’t you longed
to whisper you love me
into the guts of an animal
don’t you admire
the sharp turn of my heel
on a floor draped in intestines
if the music wasn’t gurgling so
and pleasant
if to the beast we were somehow cruel
but everyone loves us here
loves you, the suit
little birds in your mouth
Laura Eve Engel
we tickle the beast
tongue full of rude hair
I say nothing
but can shuffle things around
like how I ask you closer
by spelling out in the meat
what can be more worth speaking about
than this thing we are doing
to this other thing’s insides and how
your cheek is warm
and how it is about to be
on mine
420 x 297 mm.
Acrylic on canvas.
Kathryn Roberts.
Ross Gay
Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird’s plumage,
and friends I could see
Ross Gay
the points on the flower’s stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird’s nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say,
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.
Ross Gay
a euphemism for some
yank and gobble
no doubt some
jungle tumble or other
like monkey-spanking
or hiding the salami
of course your mind
goes there
loosey-goose that you are
me too! me too!
you have a favorite
don’t lie
I’ve heard you say them
tending the hive
eating the melon
how’s the tunnel traffic
or as a “massage therapist”
would say to my pal
when his loneliness
dragged him to a carpeted room
in an apartment building
in Chinatown
where the small hands
lathered his body
open the door
sharing with the ants
some entymologic metaphor
the chronic yoke
in love-making
not only of body to body
but life to death
sharing with the ants
Ross Gay
or the specific act of dragging with the tongue
one’s sweat-gilded body from the tibia’s
look-out along the rope bridge
of the Achilles marching
across the long plains of the calf
and the meticulously unnamed zone behind the knee
over the hamstring into
use your imagination for Chrissakes
but I will tell you it is dark there
and sweet
sharing with the ants
but actually that’s not at all
what I’m talking about
I mean actually
sharing with the ants
which I did September 21
a Friday in 2012
when by fluke or whim or
prayer I jostled the crotch-high
fig tree whose few fruit had been
scooped by our fat friends
the squirrels
but found shriveled and purple
into an almost testicular papoose
smuggled beneath the fronds
of a few leaves
one stalwart fruit which
I immediately bit in half
only to find a small platoon of ants
twisting in the meat
and when I spit out my bite
another 4 or 5 lay sacked out
their spindly legs
Ross Gay
pedaling slow nothing
one barely looking at me through a half-open eye
the way an infant might
curled into his mother’s breast
and one stumbled dazed through my beard
tickling me as it tumbled
head over feet over head
over feet back into the bite
in my hand the hooked sabers
of their mandibles made soft kneading
the flesh their claws
heavy and slow with fruit
their armor slathered plush
as the seeds shone above
the sounds of their work
like water slapping
a pier at night
and not one to disrupt an orgy
I mostly gobbled around their nuzzle and slurp
careful not to chomp a reveler
and nibbling one last thread of flesh
noticed a dozey ant nibbling the same
toward me its antennae
just caressing my face
its pincers
slowing at my lips both
of our mouths sugared
and shining both of us
twirling beneath the fig’s
seeds spinning like a newly
discovered galaxy
that’s been there forever
Ross Gay
is to be sunk in this muckfisted tussle this must this mud
this panty-yanking kung-fu
this reptile pre-fuck
of slurps and growls
of grunts and hisses
our eyes gone weird and filmy
our teeth squirming in our gums
the lightning writhing off our backs
and when I put my tongue
through you to read with it
the scrawl crawling your skull’s craggy walls
which is kind of like
sucking your brains out
but more literary
I get scared I’m hurting you and stop
but you say please don’t
and bite a hole in my throat
through which the moon
unbuckling her bonnet of bone
plunges parched
and slurping
into the swamp we’ve made
of our want.
Paul Edward Costa
the chronicle of everything
......then it all vanished quietly and without ceremony.
1. The permanent confusion of memory prevented a description of the
beginning (but it did begin). So now that we’re free let’s say the genesis took
place on a bed of soft moss near a handmade log cabin in a forest so filled with
light the whole place became blinding emerald green. And the deer gathered
around to watch.
2. All respiratory and circulatory systems functioned quietly behind the scenes.
3. Both directions on any road went uphill.
4. It might go without saying, but the flowers we saw blossoming in colourful
patterns while feeding hummingbirds also clutched the earth with twisted
roots. These resembled tentacles smeared with dirt and caressed by faceless
worms. Logically, larger flower heads kept balance with bigger and more dank
roots hidden underground. The flowers also fed bees.
5. Challenge me all who remain. Anyone?
6. Throughout it all everybody regularly ate food, consumed liquid and used
the washroom (contrary to popular belief ). They dined out of sight. Behind
closed doors men touched up their appearances in bathroom mirrors and
elegantly beautiful women squeezed out painfully large bowel movements of
7. There were always tears in secret when laughter rang out in public.
Annie Paradis
I have been 22
for a day now.
What palms what
roses combust into
leave me a bone.
That’s nice.
The girls in the wetsuits make me feel strong.
I am next to my sister in the sand. Jesus
Christ the girls are now holding
their boards and then dropping them.
Who is across the country
on a train thinking of me
as though a live goat
were bleating inside of me.
Melanie Madden
In Barstow, the Mojave River flows underground: an invisible body of water
in the desert.
In Barstow, the river runs backward. West of the continental divide, the
Mojave flows east.
The Mojave River draws a line that marks Barstow’s northern city limit. You
can’t see the river, but it’s there, an article of faith. A modest bridge crosses the
Mojave and everything beneath the bridge is sand: fine, pale sand, shaped like
a river, blowing between banks of the regular, brown dirt.
In 1993, it rained so much and for so long that our river had water above
ground. Water deep enough to flow, flowing east. Water that dried up just
a few days later, leaving us the familiar, sandy blank. That spring, the waterfilled Mojave filled a two-page spread in my freshman yearbook, chronicle of
our miracle—water flowing in the desert.
A visiting cousin, on seeing the “Mojave River” sign on the bridge: “Guys? I
think someone took your river.”
We laugh, tell her how the river is underground, pretend this is a perfectly
reasonable explanation.
Our not-river. Our river of dust. Our ghost river.
Let’s say the Mojave taught me how rivers can mean ghosts. Let’s say La
Llorona visits that underground river, let’s say desert winds whispered her
legend to me before human tongue. Perhaps I breathed her legend in with the
dust of Aztlán or maybe she’s been with me since birth, since even before—
she might be coded into my matrilineal DNA, passed down to me through
placenta and cord. Why else would it seem, the first time I set eyes on that
doleful double L, La Llorona was already there?
La Llorona isn’t a story I grew up with; I got her in grad school. She slipped
in incidentally, between the pages of the postcolonial, transnational queer
Melanie Madden
feminist theory I studied in my twenties. I read Gloria Anzaldúa’s words to a
story so familiar, a wailing woman who haunts rivers at night, crying for her
drowned children.
When I was 14, I asked my mom if I was going to get a traditional Mexican
quinciañera celebration for my 15th birthday, with a fancy white dress, a
mass in my honor, and a large reception in the parish hall. Mom said, “No.”
I said, “Whyyyyyyyy-yuh?” and she answered, “Because I didn’t raise you in
that culture.”
Roman Catholic tradition, which, according to Mom, transcends nation and
race, is the culture I was raised in. Roman Catholic tradition first came to me,
as it first came to California, by way of El Camino Real: I made my first holy
communion at the Mission San Buenaventura. Later, my family moved from
the coast to the desert, and St. Joseph’s Parish in Barstow became the primary
site of my education in matters of spirit.
Instead of a traditional Mexican childhood which would have included La
Llorona, I got my archetypes from the Old Testament. My favorite stories
involved prophets and danger: Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac.
Joseph, betrayed, and his coat of many colors. Daniel surviving the lion’s
den. David and Goliath. Joshua blowing his horn as the walls of Jericho came
tumbling down.
And best of all: Moses. Oh, Moses. Moses, and all those plagues before the
exodus. Moses’ story, which begins with his big sister Miriam.
The Mojave River is nothing like the Nile.
When my son was born, and I was seventeen, I did what Miriam did for
Moses. I placed him in a basket of reeds, sealed with pitch, and floated him
down that river of dust so he could grow up a prince instead of a slave, in
Orange County, instead of Egypt. So that we could write different stories,
separately, than the one we might have written together in Barstow.
Melanie Madden
After I floated my son away, I sought my own river to haunt.
I graduated high school, left Barstow and my parents’ home for college in
Spokane, Washington, a city a thousand miles away from the desert I knew.
Spokane is built on, and named for, a river, a proper river, with water you
can see and hear and touch. A big river, with powerful falls, where in the
nineteenth century some Jesuit missionaries decided to build a college, and a
hundred and fifty years later, I matriculated.
I had many excellent teachers in college. My favorite was the Spokane River.
I walked the bend of the Spokane that lined my campus many afternoons,
some mornings, and a lot of nights—sometimes with friends or lovers, but
mostly I walked alone.
I walked along the river in each of Spokane’s four seasons. I never knew, until
I met them, how I had longed for such snow-quieted winter nights and lilacmad spring evenings and hot, too-hot summer afternoons when the cold of
the river is balm for bare feet and autumn. True autumn. A blessed, genuine,
northern autumn I could see and taste and feel most anywhere in Spokane,
but most especially I saw and tasted and felt it by the river.
For the first four years of my son’s life, I haunted the banks of the Spokane
River. I was learning, a thousand miles away from where my son, too, was
learning to talk, to walk.
I wasn’t always thinking about my son during those solemn Spokane riverside
walks. Sometimes, I was thinking about Wordsworth and Sartre and Samuel
Beckett. Sometimes, I was thinking about Vatican II and why I couldn’t be a
priest and how to reconcile my faith with my feminism. In my four years of
walks along the Spokane River, I wasn’t always crying, wailing, or gnashing
my teeth, but sometimes I was.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2013
2:24 PM
13.5 x 9.25 in.
Lithograph, transfer, mixed media, and mica powder on
Japanese Masa paper.
MAY 22, 2012
6:25 AM
13.5 x 9.25 in.
Lithograph, transfer, mixed media, and mica powder on
Japanese Masa paper.
Sarika Sugla.
Mathias Svalina
Every dollar bill bears the same beautiful child. Every time a dollar
bill is touched it gives birth to itself, though the father be shameful or
a sandbox full of bright plastic trucks. It is fear that makes the world
so solid.
Mathias Svalina
My lover is a quilt made of tinfoil. A full description of all the superior
qualities of this quilt would make readers doubt that any quilt could
have such extraordinary qualities. The writing on it is in perfect ancient
Greek. It is a really great quilt. I am not exaggerating. I am stretching
myself into two writers so that I can tell you more about this quilt.
If the quilt ever has a boy I hope to be able to see my reflection in its
shiny side, no matter how warped & crinkled I may look.
Mathias Svalina
What I left in love was never mine, a winter coat I shed from fear,
a chunk of yellowcake kept as souvenir. I let my four tongues grow
slack. I trip as I walk the dark trail. Sometimes writing poems is easy
& sometimes it is complicated & neither ensures a good poem. After
your lover leaves & you are still in love with him & he is still in love
with you a settling occurs. The leaves, they get magnificent. The piled
pills, split moons & gel-caps, rebel. Blankness becomes hope & what
is hoped, glue. There is a blankness in each solitary bed, that’s where
love sleeps.
Shamala Gallagher
(in the kitchen watching
the silk of dark wear itself
when I was nine
I once went
wrongly to a dance class
for children
who knew how
to dance
Shamala Gallagher
the teacher
pulled my mother
at that moment
I was leaping
and kicking,
believing myself
in subtle
Shamala Gallagher
teacher moved
the delicate
in her pale
craned neck
grown now,
to want
to articulate
is to love
to fail
Shamala Gallagher
even if I am not loved here I’ll live here.
I do not want to be loved.
once you have it you want more,
that dark pulp berry,
fruit hawked at night by the river.
the street will not contain you,
once you start staring at windows.
I came to the city
hoping I would see only the city
and not myself, heat of all I turned away from,
stubborn earth
Shamala Gallagher
new month,
silver needle scraping the
bare margin
sometimes you wake
in your life
and you’re lost
a black thicket tangle
your daybook
a hand-smeared doodle
your home
Shamala Gallagher
sometimes you wake
and a high school friend now age 27
has hung herself in an Irvine
psychiatric unit
from a shower curtain that was supposed
to detach
waiting, silt of tea
silt of what day brought about
by night
I’m sorry to tell you this,
sweet air
Shamala Gallagher
once I walked on a strip of boardwalk
stained salt and sun
near a green sob of pines
glitter face paint on my face
insatiable candy to eat
now I’m here, half-brave night
if confusion’s a pawn with which
to settle the night
I don’t believe that night becomes settled
who’s lived in this house
oh hunger
Shamala Gallagher
who if night is
untethered then over
as all things are over
watch the glitter
in the water
hassle itself then give up
she was sick,
concerned friend
I hadn’t known her for years
Shamala Gallagher
“her liver and kidneys
were removed for transplant”
“her heart and pancreas
went to research”
girl pulling hair over
her face under the bed
ragged as anything makes itself
“we are glad she can live
in the lives of others”
Shamala Gallagher
where will I go, first white
you knew someone at
fourteen. you knew her again
at twentyseven. no. I didn’t know her
but I got an e-mail about her death
cup of half-scarlet,
cup of half-shivered stars
after J., 1985–2013
210 x 297 mm.
collage (found photography, paper).
emma dajska.
Tania Hershman
You scramble forward and pretend not to see but how not to see? He sees you
not seeing and he lifts it higher. He is on his knees. You are like an animal.
A squirrel in the trees is watching. Shouting. And it’s you. The squirrel starts
and slips and you stop and he drops it and all three of you are frozen then
and there, and there is where you’re found, afterwards. So long afterwards
that you—are you still you?—are only bones and he is only bones. And the
squirrel? Only dust.
Now, you and he float above and watch the finding of you, watch them scrabble
and unearth, under mounds and under years. He is still trying to show you
something as you shimmer in your cloud. And you are still pretending not to
see. The squirrel speaks. It is no surprise. Earth, sun and moon, we forget, are
spirits too.
Dolores Dorantes
Translated by Jen Hofer
Práctica Mortal, CONACULTA, México DF, 2012
Diente por diente
Cuando la ciudad se plaga de humo
y mi jardín florece regado con las sangres revueltas
el monitor que somos se levanta herido echando bocanadas”
No podría decir que es verdad esto que me motiva pero: aquí está
en la hambrienta fosa del ánimo reducida a un bostezo
hay una madeja que se expande
la del motor metálico y oscuro
otra patria
otra fábrica del interior
Sirves—sirvo—como sepulcro
de lo que nunca vi SIRVO
Dolores Dorantes
Translated by Jen Hofer
A tooth for a tooth
When the city is overrun with smoke
and my garden blooms watered with bloods jumbled together
the monitor we are rises up wounded puffing out mouthfuls
I couldn’t say it’s true, this thing that motivates me but: here it is
in the ravenous grave of the spirit reduced to a yawn
there is an expanding tangle
with motor metallic and dark
another homeland
another factory of the interior
You function—i function—as a tomb
for what I never saw I FUNCTION
Reem Abu-Baker
Common Usage
There is this hole in my middle, and at first I think it is hunger. I fry
fatty steaks, toss lettuce in lumpy blue cheese dressing, bejewel my shirts with
cracker crumbs, breadcrumbs, darkened olive oil splotches. Michael says to
keep the foods separated, that the problem is in the mixing.
The empty is still there after potatoes, chocolate bars, strawberry
smoothies. My ears fill with the shaking, rattling, theme-park sound of plastic
pill bottles—I buy vitamins and supplements, an alphabet in the pantry.
Michael says this is absurd, that I will eat a spectrum of nutrients on my own
if only I listen to my body.
What I hear is this: popcorn kernels crunching in my teeth while I
edit the online dictionary. Crackers and dry toast pounding through my head
each day as I arrange myself on the couch with my cups and bowls and boxes.
I eat while I monitor search results, scouring the internet for common usage,
tracking words to decide which are going extinct. The dictionary is small, and
our shtick is people; there are programs that can sift through pages, but we
believe in a human brain. We’ve lost boviander and bever and frigorific and
brabble. They are pulled from the site to make room.
I write the day’s deletions in my notebook, along with their definitions.
I keep the flopping Mead next to my copies of Oxford and Merriam-Webster.
It is not something I ever read, but I like to see the thin stripe of blue lean
against the big black dictionaries.
I sit with my notebook and my pen, my fingernails sounding strong
when I flick the plastic spine against them. They hit the pen quickly and blur
into a movement that is droning and hypnotic. When Michael comes home,
he wraps his arms around me from behind, places his hand on mine and stills
my fingers. Ari, he says. Before, I’d bite my nails while he’d glare at me and say
my name across the room. They don’t break as easily now, so I’ve stopped.
Michael kisses my hair, which has grown longer since I’ve started
taking the vitamins. He tells me my skin has a vacation glow. He says I look
like someone who is missing nothing.
I press my pen against my cheek. I tell him the feeling is still there,
and it is a sense of something gone. I am listening, but I can’t tell what my
body is saying.
We discuss possibilities like worms, infection, the physical
manifestation of depression. I examine stools, drink detoxifying teas that
Reem Abu-Baker
come in yellowish boxes covered with pastel plants. I buy a book of illustrated
yoga poses and a squishy green mat. I sink my toes into the foam, try to relax
my muscles while keeping my back and neck straight. This is what the book
says to do. This, and breathe into a center. I slide it onto the shelf and sit on
the mat with my computer and a cup of milky tea.
The absence becomes a sudden, knifing pain on a Sunday while I am
vacuuming. The Hoover roars evenly as I fold into the floor, and from my
lips there is a distant sound like a whinny. I gasp to a cab driver through the
phone. He does not drive fast, and he asks questions, a quick spilling of them
while I hold my stomach in the passenger seat. Where are you going? What
do you do? Are you from here? I try to smile. I try to breathe from a center. St.
Joseph’s, I tell him.
At the hospital, people are nodding and calm. They wear patterned
scrubs and little gold nametags. Their curiosity is perky and mild. My
condition is new to them. I am unexplained. It seems, they say, that I am,
from the inside, dissolving.
Dissolve: To mix with a liquid and become part of the liquid.
To officially end.
To end or disappear or cause to end or disappear.
Michael says they don’t know what they are talking about, that there
is a lot to attitude, that I should start saying affirmations in the mirror. He
tapes a note about strength and positivity above the bathroom sink. I stare at
its swooping letters and think how hard it is to tell the difference between love
and irritation.
I get MRIs and CTs and pints of ruby blood sucked from my veins.
It has started, mercifully, in the appendix. The unnecessary organ mixes with
the miscellaneous body liquids and becomes a part of them. I see it all in
the black-and-white images the doctor spreads across a small metal table.
Illuminated and stripped, the interior of a body becomes so alien.
The doctor gives me a plastic jug that looks like it should hold cheap
orange juice, and I take it home and pee into it for a week. Michael sees my
sample sitting in the middle of the refrigerator, and he says I should really
drink more water.
Reem Abu-Baker
I am grateful for my at-home work, for the fact that there is no one
who I owe an explanation. My email conversations are short and professional.
I read online discussions, make notes about what is being said. My father
calls, tells me about a new kitchen table and a new neighbor and a foreign film
they went to see. I say that everything here is the same. I say we have not gone
to see any films.
To dematerialize, to disappear, to evanesce.
I am examined in the office where pregnant women go to be slathered
in ultrasound goo. They walk under the thick arms of men, or holding hands
with wispy, worrying women. Their faces shine in a joyous fear.
A girl, alone, sits across from me on a black waiting-room chair. Her
arms are bones dangling down her sides. I wonder if I will dissolve evenly
across my body, my arms and legs shrinking to be skinny like hers, or if I am
simply to shrivel inward from the middle.
The girl is wide-eyed, jerky like a rodent. The vinyl she sits on crunches
as she shifts her weight. When the nurse calls her—December, what kind of
name is that?—she jumps up, walks stiffly with her arms still stuck against
her hips. I return to my magazine, a bulleted list of blowjob tips, a collage of
sunglassed celebrities with to-go cups and wiry dogs.
Michael tells me not to think of other women, these women swelling
and doubling themselves into new life. At least, he says, I am luckier than the
skinny girl who will raise her babies lonely and too young.
Evaporate, fade, flee, fly, go, melt, sink, vanish.
I take pills for the pain, and my appendix is gone. The jug test comes
back inconclusive. As far as anyone can tell, I have fine levels of everything,
but the dissolution moves to my left kidney.
At the seafood restaurant where we stop on the way back from the
appointment, Michael points out, again, that this strange plague is merciful.
An appendix, a kidney—these things can be spared. Maybe I am only being
Reem Abu-Baker
cleared of my excess organs, made efficient and functional, a sleek modern
model of myself. We order wine, a full glass for Michael and an empty one for
me. Michael pours an inch into my cup, a treat to celebrate that despite my
kidney, I am only failing in manageable ways.
I say that I imagine the appendix looked something like the Merlot as
it pureed itself into liquid. Michael spits a piece of shrimp into his napkin and
folds the edges around it politely. Ari, he says.
At home, I make recommendations for words to add to the dictionary.
They seem cartoonish and vulgar. Noob, yo, hashtag. I pour through blogs,
articles, message-board discussions. I am reading for individual words, for
what is recurrent and what is missing. I read pages and pages and can’t
remember what any of it says.
Destroy, disintegrate, terminate, annul.
Tests. Scans. A specialist from Boston. A specialist from Dayton.
The doctor suggests I try to de-stress. Worry can make recovery
harder. More peppermint tea, more time at the gym, maybe get a bike or take
up kickboxing. But take it easy too, he says. Have you been grinding your teeth?
Have you and Michael considered counseling?
My left kidney is gone. My pancreas is fading at the edges.
Melt, liquefy, detach, loosen.
On a Wednesday, I sit on a paper sheet in the examining room, waiting
for the doctor. A breast-exam poster covers the wall across from me. It pictures
three women: one young, one old, one somewhere in the middle. They are
not smiling. Beneath is a sketch of inhuman, desexualized breasts, a tic-tactoe of self-examination. This is how you do it. This is what you look for.
On the other wall is an ad for the plastic surgeon upstairs, before and
after pictures—an arm stitched up like a centipede and then smoothed out,
a blonde woman with a jagged nasal bridge in the first picture and flashing
teeth in the second where her nose is a straight, perfect button. The surgeon
Reem Abu-Baker
specializes in the removal of scars. Those referred from this office receive
twenty percent off.
My doctor is new, filling in for the last. He brushes away a strand
of his hair that has fallen from the slicked-back mass. He is handsome and
hurried like a doctor should be. I swing my legs on the crinkling paper and
ask which office is usually his. He waves his hand as if to say all of them or who
even knows, and he asks me about pain, children, if I have a family history of
anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or cancer. I tell him these are questions
I’ve answered, and he nods, says yes, marks something on the clipboard.
I’ve gotten very good at lying in these plastic tubes, always keeping
my eyes closed, letting the darkness allow me to imagine I am not trapped.
I drift into something that is heavy but not sleep. I think I can feel things
moving and shrinking in my abdomen, but I’m sure I am just making this up.
The doctor’s voice startles me through the headphones, and I slide out of the
machine. He shakes my hand for a long time, saying he won’t be back but he
wishes me luck, he really does.
To separate into component parts, to bring to an end, to pass into solution.
A body eats itself from the inside for no discernible reason. You must
calm down, you must breathe. It happened to a woman in New Delhi. Her
husband, an engineer, built mechanical replicas of organs, bribed a doctor
to replace her failing parts with them. The doctor put the pieces in one by
one, installed the new organs as the old ones began to diminish. Six of these
surgeries. Six man-made pieces moving the body along.
She is dead now, but there was success. This is not New Delhi. This is
worth a shot.
The form is thick, pages and pages describing the mechanics of
interior prosthetics, the risks, the drugs, the studies that will be done, the
liability that is no one’s. Michael thinks I should sign. He says I am rejecting
my own insides. The engineer will be German, the design very good. The
doctor agrees. In his eyes, I see the rims of contact lenses. They float robotic
in the white, invisible in the sharp blue.
I stare at the three women on the poster, and say I need time to think.
Reem Abu-Baker
They stare back into the room, each with different colored eyes. These women
are pretty, but harsh in high-definition. They are not smiling in any part of
their faces.
Take some time to think about it, but not too long.
I see December in the chocolate shop on Eighth, or at least I think it
is she. Her belly hints at new largeness, buried under a thick sweater. She is
buying a red heart, running her hand over the crinkling foil. I think I can feel
something slipping inside, and I tell myself it is probably just my pancreas.
I stand behind a cardboard Elvis cutout until the bell on the door
clangs and I see December walking past the window. Then I pay for two
hearts, the large kind with two layers of truffles. I sit on a sidewalk bench,
breaking the chocolates open, watching their insides ooze from their cracked
shells. I hunt for caramel and coconut. I open them all, leaving their carcasses
pressed into their soft plastic beds.
I am biting on something cherry-filled when Michael calls. I pick up
and can hear shuffling office noises and what sounds like a quick, deep breath.
I chew and swallow and tell him he would be very disappointed in my eating
choices. For a long time, he says nothing, but he also does not hang up. We
listen to each other’s breaths and it seems like there are no words that can say
To be emotionally moved, to fade in and out.
You cannot eat this away, Michael says. He touches my hair and places
a white pill beside my soup bowl. It is for the pain, and it is to dull my racing
I click through webpages. There is mangina. Chillaxing. Words split
and excised of letters, reassembled to something new. I ask Michael what he
thinks of this. He tells me to stop slurping my soup. He says we must act
before the pancreas is gone.
Reem Abu-Baker
I sign the paper on a Friday. The doctor smiles and shakes Michael’s
hand, and he pats me on the elbow. He reassures us: We have made a good
decision. He knows this is hard, but we have an opportunity. We are lucky for
so many reasons—our good insurance, the engineer’s interest, the availability
of the surgeon. The doctor has a good feeling. He says to bring me to the
hospital next week.
Botryogen, wittol, automobilize. I add these to the blue notebook. I
flutter the pages with my fingers, feel the breeze against my skin. On the
inside flap I write: To. I tap my pen on the paper, and watch it leave its faint
indentations. I write a season, a month, a landscape of snow and sweets and
I press my pen into my stomach and feel where there might be holes
inside. I tell myself that they will be filled. I take a pill for the pain, though
my last hasn’t worn off. It is amazing how well feelings can be controlled.
I write in blue ink. It is the color of veins, but not of blood. This is
something I remember from the endless clicking through so many facts and
inquiries. There is a collective consciousness and it is constantly rebuilding, it
is everyone always wondering. It is full of questions and answers, some truth
and lots of guesses. I tap my pen, and I write her name.
Change. Continuity. Blur.
The room is cold when I lie down on the mat, though I can feel the
sweat dripping under my arms. Michael squeezes my hand and kisses my hair
before a nurse comes to guide him out of the room by the shoulder. He’ll sit
in the waiting room reading magazines or staring at the little television that is
suspended in the corner. The woman at the front desk just outside the waiting
room has the blue notebook. Michael doesn’t know she has it, and this makes
me feel like I am getting away with something. Maybe I am only feeling
strange from the cold sweat and the empty stomach.
I asked the woman at the front desk to save the book for the thin girl
named December who will come in for Maternity. She might be coming in
for birth. I am not sure how far along she is, but I know she looked big last
time and must be bigger still now.
Reem Abu-Baker
This is what I think of, while my gown’s cotton scratches against my
skin and I stare into the white rectangular lights as the nurse stretches the
rubber band around my arm: December will lie down too. She will look into
This is what I have written to her: I have seen you. I am worried about
your thin arms. I am worried about myself. I want to give you this book, full
of words you’ve likely never said before, words your baby will never read. These
are words that float in some vacant, liquid space between birthed and known.
Someone once wrapped lips around them. They are not gone yet, but they are
going. You don’t know me, so you may find this crazy or strange, you may throw
this notebook away or rip up its pages. It is yours. Do what you want. I am giving
it to you.
I am scared, but I guess the doctors are right: I am lucky to have good
insurance, to have piqued the interest of an engineer from Frankfurt, to have
a chance to redeem New Delhi.
The nurse says there will be a pinch, and he sticks the IV’s needle into
my wrist. He smiles and he asks how I am doing. I smile back, I look up, and
everything is shrouded in uncertainty.
What I know is this: I will fall asleep. Michael will sit fidgeting in the
waiting room with the other nervous people, all of them rustling and pacing
and looking at each other with blank faces. The woman at the front desk
will smile and laugh awkwardly and she will give December the notebook.
December will have her baby. It will be there, it will open its mouth, and it
will wail.
420 x 297 mm.
pencil on paper with vector gradient.
Denise Nestor.
Arturo Ramírez Lara
Translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin
mas no los dos son uno que no puede olvidar ni tú ni yo en el aire
pasando por el ápice de aquel que dobló las almas de tus multitudes
es ése que extraño como un brote de dios mohoso y dulce desde el
pequeño perfil bajo tu piel y mineral y pálida sonora
but not the two of them are one that cannot forget either you or I in
the air going past the apex of he who bent the souls of your multitudes
it is that who I miss like the sprouting of moldy and sweet god from
the little profile under your skin and mineral and pale sonorous
Un oscuro sueño suave que floreció por debajo de un muro multicolor
fuiste de mañana donde el mínimo cerraba la boca para no teñir de
aire los sonidos entonces se avejentaron y un soplo hecho el corazón
obtuvo un ahora cargado de agua de sol de olor a del tiempo ha
Arturo Ramírez Lara
Translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin
A dark dream smooth that bloomed beneath the multicolored wall
you went this morning where the minimum closed its mouth so as
not to dye the sounds with air so they aged and a breath the heart
turned into obtained a now heavy with water with sun with the smell
of with time has
La horda el cielo lo miserable todo pobló en mal tiempo amarillo en
que fuimos ahora lo que hay mudo y voraz clava apenas surca parte
cae como un circo del color dos debajo de dos no fue suficiente lo que
surgimos no cobró hambre o túnel de ti o lánguido murió de entre los
arcos míos aquello de los puentes marchitó
The horde the sky all the miserable populated in bad timing yellow
where we were now what there is mute and voracious stabs barely
grooves leaves falls like a circus colored two underneath two was not
enough what we arise has not demanded hunger or tunnel from you
or languid died from between the arcs mine that about the bridges
Arturo Ramírez Lara
Translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin
esa llama negar dejaba el blanco con sus enormes tú fuimos lo suave
doloroso yo con un molino probaba inútil salivaba al latir tuve el
impulso el libre frente poblado tú no pusiste fuimos los circos del
vacío estando los dos no fuimos
that flame to deny would leave the target with its enormous you we
were the smooth painful I with a mill proved useless I would salivate
when it beat I had the urge the free front peopled you did not try we
were the circuses of the void both of us being there we did not go
Charles Gabel
let my syntax be content
make it a method
of seeing you
let letters pull down sky more literally
puckering of a mouth
before speech becomes
a flower
blooming song
together with image
a word: I see Apollo wilt
is this a worthy emergency?
locate the pasture
locate the ink
pull it from my love
how do you hear me name you?
pronounce again
locate me
32 x 104 x 23 in.
porcelain, cement, twine, paper, wood, metal chain.
Suzanne Torres.
Bird Marathe
Notes on Innovative prose
Timber is a journal of innovative writing, but what makes a piece “innovative”
or “experimental”? This issue’s prose contributors help define our mission statement.
Paul Edward Costa
I view “innovative” or “experimental” literary styles as a way of giving bite and
edge to ordinary work. It’s like teeth on a dog, or edges on a diamond. Imagine
mining the raw material for a diamond out of the earth. That’s what I view as
the core of the story, the basic facts and emotions before refinement. When
you apply experimental techniques and methods like multiple viewpoints
or telling the story only through the addenda, you’re essentially giving the
diamond its glittering clarity and cutting edges.
Reem Abu-Baker
I hope that innovative or experimental literature works on its own terms and
follows, or breaks, its own rules to tell the stories it needs to tell. I have issues
with the traditional narrative arc because it usually feels dishonest to me.
It’s too neat, and it’s a view of the world to which I’ve never been able to
relate well. I don’t think life moves linearly, and it’s not a collection of discrete
and conclusive stories. I think the best innovative work is messy, moving in
multiple directions at once with the goal of being as disconcertingly true as
possible. This is the work that I love.
Bird Marathe
Melanie Madden
My knee-jerk reaction to those terms (and a bias I’d like to rid myself of ), is
to equate them with “inaccessibility,” and think that’s not for me. And so I’m
inclined to think they’re terms that don’t apply to my work, because I aim to
be accessible, plain. I don’t consciously strive to write nonfiction differently
than it’s been done before, but when I try to imagine the tradition or the
canonical lineage of essayists as a three-dimensional object in space, I don’t
exactly see my hands on the shoulders of the guy at the end of that Conga
line. I’d be over in the corner, more likely, or maybe in the alley out back.
Taylor McGill
Innovative writing explores the absurdities of modern ritual, alienates the
familiar, disfigures and distances the mundane. It also regards the grotesque and
bizarre with a certain nonchalance. In any case, it perceives of places, people,
behaviors, etc. in a new combination of senses and language; for me, that is
the appeal. It is hard to define “innovative” by structural experimentation or
degree of commitment to narrative because even linear and unremarkable
stories can fit the category. The feeling of reading and writing innovative
fiction is a lot like discovering (there’s an element of surprise) so I think that if
I come away from a piece of writing with new tools for noticing, interpreting,
and translating encounters, I’ll consider it innovative.
Bird Marathe
Tania Hershman
What I like is a writer who plays—whether that is playing with language,
structure, content, I don’t know. Something non-traditional, that might be the
best I can do, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything specific like fragmented
sentences or non-linear narratives. I think rather than “innovative” I prefer
the word “imaginative,” that is what I love to read, truly imaginative fictions
that make me think, that involve me in the story, so that I’m not an observer
watching it go by. I leave it to others to put any kinds of labels, such as
“experimental,” on my work. I’ve learned that that is not really up to me. I
prefer—especially with very short pieces—not to lead the reader to expect
anything in advance of reading it, and labels do tend to try and tell you how
to read what you’re about to read.
Shira Richman
I wouldn’t say I strive to be innovative or experimental. But often the ideas I
find most interesting to write are the ones that take a lot of work to imagine,
and sometimes that is because they are trying to do something new structurally.
For instance, I thought at one time that writing profiles for The New Yorker
would be the very best job I could imagine. Except as I thought about it, the
idea of researching a topic for months at a time concerned me. But what if
you could write the profile about an imaginary person? So I tried it. “What
We Need Is for You to Be Funny” is inspired by Dave Chappelle and my
critique of the New York City and Seattle public school systems I worked in.
It’s still available for publication. Sometimes fiction editors write to say they’ve
accidentally gotten my piece of non-fiction.
Bird Marathe
Stephen D. Gutierrez
The words mean little outside a fresh pop on the page. Even the most formal,
traditional story can elicit my admiration as “different” if it’s good enough.
Anything that breaks through the usual wall of acceptable prose—the regular
tone, stance, sensibility at work there—our inescapable liberal humanism
broken down perhaps—anything venturing into new psychic terrain qualifies
for the term “experimental.” The formal structure of the story, in other words,
can have little to do with it. The spirit is the determining factor if something
is truly experimental—groundbreaking, fresh, new. I don’t sit down to write
something experimental (or traditional or whatnot). Just to write something
decent, good, alive, fresh. Just to cure my blues.
Jacqueline Doyle
Experiment emerges in my work when the content calls for it. My creative
nonfiction tends to be more innovative than my fiction, in part because the
genre feels more flexible and capacious to me, in part because of the exciting
challenges of negotiating the boundaries between the experienced, the
remembered, and the imagined. It’s a hybrid form, fluid, full of possibilities.
Nathan Blake
Go places I haven’t gone. The more places, through time and mostly failures,
the farther I’m willing to go. It’s an experiment on my end, not necessarily
within the larger discourse, if that distinction matters. But I guess I do
consciously strive for newness, as I’m so easily bored by nearly everything
after days. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d keep writing if I wasn’t pushing
myself out of familiar spaces. I’d just go fishing instead.
Nathan Blake
Okay wells I didn’t knew if you has witness or not but there are like slaughter
transpired right now outsides your window and I’m talk way nastier individual
without heads throat and asses clutters the lawn where you wouldn’t daily seen
them sort of a things yet really I guesses it have already transpiring as you
yourself are dead and rot and is just like spirit or whatevering’s left up inside
you meat after you’ve clock out for exampled me so I’ll sorry to being the poor
news borer of this instant but there you give it your been dead forever and
evered chiefs and I’m like really truly sorrow.
Why even though should I been the individual who of this instant are like
really truly sorrow when it’s you who is total begged for thin ice and purchaser
every alive individual like a whole fifty ton of it saysing craps liked No Peace
Without Freedoms and Don’t Treaded On Me and et cetera right into these
faceshield of uniforms individual clutch their automatical weapon plussed
boots shine all overt with bloodmucks prepare to kick some seriously asses
and says all those craps even before then?
Like you idiot.
Neverminds took a look rightly outside your very own window if you weren’t
believe what it’s I am talked about while I floats or sort of like vibrating in this
cornered which are dues to my intensingly angers display at also to been dead
forever myself because of all them writtened checks with your mouths your
ass could not cashing BOOM I AM BLOWED UP THAT LAMP BESIDE
And by a way thank a bunches for that for really okay lets me told you.
For you and likes much million other individual quoten upon television and
radio during what you refers to protest solidarities civical dutied etc. and when
them was took from us the internets and magazine next which was toughed
because of importantly stuffs likes football kickass shoes bikini and etc. and
when them were forbid too what about that littling slip of paper pass hands to
hands or even just use with your mouth to yelling things with innocent which
guesses what no one even really gived a care for when alive and now we is just
Nathan Blake
clock out and still none one gived a care and that’s what’s I for one are like
thankful for dues to me being total interest in what you has to sayed NOT!
Listens I will gived these words correct as they are caming out of my mouth
because it to be important for you heard them you idiot even though I founds
difficult for me to gived out these words correct as because the statics shined
all the time inside my skull now that I stooded clock out here alongsides you
when it feel like an individual are digging a fishhooks through yours brain like
on a treasured hunter except like there ain’t any treasured to find oh well kept
on digging I’ll guess fine by me.
Whose are I kidding you yourself had already feelings it for sure I bet or just
waited a little longer you will.
There will probable many thing you wonder of this instant and I is deliver
here rightly in your very owned homes for counselor dues to you’ve clock out
tonight of some idiot thinged you do and I am clock out many many day
now and becomes super at it so kept up you idiot in case my geniused destroy
you feeble heads which like who can blaming you BOOM BEWARES DID
Sometime I myself could saw from mine apartment window where a
birdhouses using to stood with it little birds so happiness and pride like plops
out egg hered and thered lalalalala ruffling them feathers and etc. and see
instead in that places fire spin on a individual’s heads stucked there unto the
post because some other individual with opinion did thus to pronouncing
somethings like I AM THIS UPSET!
If that were you then your like suck your freaker idiot and if its weren’t you
well then okay your are stills just a plained idiot.
As if it’s even mattered for me right now sees as how you and me shared
the similar boat which are that we aren’t even gone on alive like expecting
whenever you awoken each day think for granted well it sure are splendid to
be a alive individual this very moments look at that sun right there pulsed so
Nathan Blake
shinier and kickass and that homeless idiots want for pockets change even
though stop whined it’s a really great sidewalked he’s be homeless on and
those chipmunk humpings one anothers so feverely like they explode if they
doesn’t get all their humpings out this instant and I am missed witnessing
those so much!
What I myself for one would gave to see some chipmunk humpings right of
this instant not like a sick things but to proving that sure I’ve a alive individual.
Well I guesses like toughed titties for me whose never gave a care about any
politicaled mess other than wanting to seen televisioning at night or player
pokers by mine bud Tim and mine bud Rob except that have to stopped when
them tracers began explode atop my apartments building ever ten minute to
scary out them idiots and uniforms individual breaken downed our doors
with automatical weapon up in my faces and sayed Remove You Yourselfs
From This Premises Or Else then takes away all the foods oils weapon children
and etc. upon the premises overed and overed and mine bud Tim and mine
bud Rob were like we’ve done with those mess seen all many good buds been
hitted and killed by uniforms individual so both want ahead and not removed
them themselves from this premises when told by swallowing them like fifty
bullet eaches because of how poor to been a alive individual and there were
nothing for me to do of that instant alone but just sat atop a trashcans and
count how long is there quiet in between bangs bangs bang.
Until I too have clock out I am not sure howed but duh here’s I am.
You wanting to be expert at these clock out and knew what to does with
your yourself of this instant well firstly of all just forgot all them names
place buds bikini and etc. from before becaused like they are sayonara to
you yourself now for instant if you wants to thought about a boyfriend or
girlfriends whose hold you hand at one pointed or anothers very sweetedly to
make you felt like a alive individual well okay like kept dreaming chiefs them
boyfriend or girlfriends perhap in Florida been using as a torchlights which
are a very faraway vector so like toughed titties yourself are luckier enough to
Nathan Blake
float or vibrating in you own homes while I am like one hundred hundred
thousandth miles away from where I use to living and when I stills thought
about boyfriends or girlfriends or chipmunk humpings or kickass shoes I am
not knowning where I’m even am.
Nothing are the samely from before okay not even a alive individual around to
sayed hello upon the mornings so I’ll guesses you yourself obtain a wish you
idiot yet really all individual are like the sames now as none one are hurtsing
none one are gotten the higher handed all individual are honkedy dorkedy
dues to uniforms individual push the bigs button too many time greatly job
chiefs sayonara world guess it were like kickass while it’s lasting.
Probable you is thought well here’s a individual who’ve heads happened to be
filler up with instead of brain actual craps because these individual is sayed
that I myself am clock out due to instigate a fulls-on wartime revolutioning
with my molitovs cocktailen terroristly activities theft solidarities literatured
and etc. and like please gave me some whatever these individual is smoked
because boy howdly it are some wilder stuff!
You idiot that are exactly what I will sayed.
Okay wells greatly we are out of lamp now and you stills probably didn’t got
the pointers you idiot and all we get now is this statics which are like real real
cooled though difficult to done muchly of anything with it in your heads
and a newer homes every night where you don’t knew where you are and well
okay I guessed you passes these test if that what’s you want your are readier
to knew what to do with you yourself of this instant which are just this and
counselor others like me myself to you of this instant so my times here is
doned amen but not event that because there’s not god in these fucked up
place so whatever cames after amen when you say it that’s what I says right
here okay amen and that amen and that.
a Film Photography Collection
Mariola Rosario.
Taylor McGill
the tub
A man and a woman live in the tub. There are rules such as: no clothes
in the tub. Such as: water in the tub should never be taller than the ankles. The
woman is allowed to leave the tub for no more than twenty minutes at a time.
If she leaves for more than twenty minutes at a time, the man believes that
she is at the end of the driveway fetching the paper and is suddenly impaled
by the side view mirror of the mail truck. Or, she shakes the refrigerator loose
and it lands on her forehead. Or, her internet lover buff_stud23 is stopping by
to kiss her goodnight. He wants to put her in a plastic poncho and take her to
Niagara Falls. On average, she is gone for roughly ten minutes at a time. She
jumps through the house naked collecting bread and sometimes observing the
length of the lawn while the man pees in the tub drain.
Just last week the man was at the front door holding the television set,
thinking about jumping outside.
“Go ahead,” the woman said. “What’s the harm?”
“You know very well,” he said. She did. She knew the harms. Ones he
didn’t know. Ones he shouldn’t know. Ones he knew that she didn’t.
“The shooting?” she asked pointing to the small hole in living room
wall. It had only been the neighbor’s kid with his father’s gun trying to shoot
cans off the fence post while no one was home. The coffee tins stand in a line
on the fence that they share. One has fallen over and onto the couple’s side of
the lawn.
“Well, you can’t stay inside forever,” she said.
“I’ll sleep on it,” he said.
Except, later that night the woman was vacuuming the living room
and there was a rattle in the hose so loud he heard it from the toilet. The man
ran out with his pants unzipped and found her kneeling, holding out the little
bullet like a thimble in the palm of her hand. He slept in the tub that night
and he’s been there ever since.
The cordless rings while the couple is soaping each other’s underarms.
The man drops a loofah to reach for the phone with a wet hand. It’s Uncle Bill,
he says to the woman. She knows Uncle Bill is the family poet. He combines
words like “decadent” and “wax” and “salmon” and “quiescent.” She knows
the story of Uncle Bill’s son Tim and Tim’s wife Martha that goes like this:
That before they were married, they had agreed not to touch each
other. Not until the wedding. She even threaded a sturdy leather belt through
Taylor McGill
her blue jeans and bedclothes. She wore dark lipsticks, even to bed where it
bled on the linens. The night before the ceremony, Martha was making stirfry. Timothy went in for a peck on the cheek. He placed his hand on the shelf
of her hips. Martha removed the hot wok from the burner and pressed her
palms against the coil.
“Don’t touch me,” she said and that night they both, for the first time,
learned the scent of burnt skin.
She appeared at the altar in her mother’s gown and dark lips and
gauze-wrapped palms. They skipped the ring exchange. They skipped the kiss.
They turned to face the crowd with flat and tragic lips. They looked married.
Instead of a wedding gift, the man said that he had dropped a golden
dollar into a wishing fountain and whispered: sterility. Two children later and
the man still has never seen Timothy and Martha kiss. Not even when they’re
supposed to. Not even when they think they’re alone in a place, or when
another man calls Martha beautiful. The space between them when they are
standing side by side couldn’t possibly be an exercise in romantic suspense.
The man wonders how they did it, how Timothy and Martha made children.
Miracle children, the man calls them in secret. Kissless sex must exist, the
woman had said. Kissless sex exists in romantic comedies, he said. But even
so, only sometimes. We will never look married, he said to her then.
Uncle Bill is calling because he is afraid that everyone will see Martha
hanging like a piñata in a public tree on News Channel 12. That when she
is nervous she unties her shoelaces and weaves them into complicated sailing
knots. Her father owned a sailboat and they only ever bonded over raised jibs
and gutted fish. If she does it, if Martha kills herself, it will be by hanging and
she will be good at it. Uncle Bill is calling to tell him because the man studied
psychology at a public university, but who hasn’t? Uncle Bill is calling to tell
him so that he has someone to whisper, “Didn’t I say?” to at the wake. Uncle
Bill will cry, of course, but he also thinks this will be great for his writing; will
compare her decadent wax face in the open casket to a white salmon belly
bobbing in a quiescent pond.
When the man hangs up, he calls Martha selfish. The couple nods at
each other as if to their song.
“Pretend the tub lip is our front door,” the woman says. The man
stands in the tub naked and tall. He is hunched like a child grown out of his
clothes. She is just as naked, coaching him from the bathroom floor. Gray
water escapes through the drain.
“It’s nothing like the door,” he says.
Taylor McGill
“Sure it is. It’s just another obstacle in the way of where you are going,”
she says.
“Where am I going then?”
“Lift one leg.” He bends his knee.
“I can’t,” he says and resumes the fetal position at the bottom of the
tub. She climbs back in and holds him until they are the same stuck together
shape. They sleep through the afternoon.
The woman wakes and the man is reading. “When cows are born,” he
says, “they are covered in a thin white sac. They can’t even stand on their own
“When will you leave?” the woman asks. She pets a soap stain on the
tub wall with her toes.
“They want to stand,” the man says.
“...but they just can’t,” he says.
“I think that your problem is knowing too much,” she says.
The man presses his hand to the porcelain. Knocks his knuckles against
it. Slumps his head below the lip of the tub and into her lap. The woman pats
his head. She will let him think their tub is bulletproof.
On a bread run, the woman, through the window, can barely see the
fallen coffee tin wrapped in tall weeds. She considers retrieving it and opens
the front door. A boy goes by walking a dog and stops to inspect the television
set on the curb. The woman regards her nudity in the reflection of the storm
door. The dog barks and the woman closes the front door hard, but does
not lock it. Upon hearing the shutting door, the man in the tub runs the
bathwater. He has imagined the falling refrigerator and the woman’s head, a
pomegranate scattered to every corner of the kitchen. The woman enters the
bathroom and steps into the warm bath. She rescues the man’s head in her
hands. She blows against his wet ear, pretends she is the wind.
“Let’s just try it,” the woman says about the sex without kissing.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to like it,” the man says.
“Come on, let’s find out if those miracle kids are adopted,” she says.
“What happens if I kiss you by accident?” he says.
“Pretend that kissing me is like walking out the front door. Does that
help?” she says.
It does. The tub stands on porcelain lion’s feet that knock a little tap
dance on the floor.
Kendra Bartell
This is the lesson of the beet: going, gone, undone.
You haven’t spent the time calculating
the length of time to fill your mouth
with marble. This is that time spent waiting.
This is the mouthed vowel
and the rush of air after.
This boundary does not exist and you
are an unclean angle.
Water drips behind you and you
Don’t have the patience to collect its penance.
The blush of the beet stains your fingers
While you undo your dress and smooth the pleats.
Do you need a reason to keep going?
Tony Mancus
freed, or dominated
the purpose of getting up each morning is to make
it to the end of the day
or make someone else think you are alright with them
or the pink balloon to pinch into the shape of your innards
or to place your mind and body onto a table
and the table onto a moving belt
and the belt, the belt burning out
a fist at its throughway, a ball in its metal throat
the hard sound of every t
getting crossed and
standing alone
Tony Mancus
one way of looking is to close each eye
in success
one way of looking is to place a piece of glass next to your retina
one way of looking is to
lick the person next to you and tell them that you love them so,
you’ll eat them
bones and all
until you know everything about each molecule
that’s beat about inside them
one way of looking
is always
and another is slipped down the mountain with nothing on but fire
for a dress
Tony Mancus
in this continent, this test, this with tent, you are contested. in this
rain is the sleeping with your hair all messed up and you beg your
arms for another color palette to price you out of your skin. in this
sleepy halfstamp your foot is pleased with its width and tingling and
your cut off hands wave from the gutter, from the river you’ve thrown
them into where the leaves decompose and are left only what’s going
sirened past the groves. in the trees—mangos. a far building. the
meat in there. i’ve never sat in the woodshed without my rubbers and
my gumption. snapping use away from whatever intent. You seem
to understand these things easily. like in this here where the freezer
opens to the ice its busy building and in this here also is where the
thought you had about performance art and dystopian futures found
its hip fractured and its hiding place. winter all through the hearing
world is coming silently. it pushes forward mouths and their sounds.
it wounds normally. the dry parts keep their flavor. they linger in the
cyrstalline. and when we’re busy posting up against our lives, backing
them down the lane, the versions score-kept onscreen and tucked in
round the waterhose, tucked up and into the poses of varied gender
pronouns, placed quiet on a fork tine and spun into habitual retching,
in this the same shame as the shame of living, when we are upstairs
and calling to whoever loves us, the walls vibrating our voices down
and down eventually to the basement of ourselves, its unfinished floor
of dirt, when we are clued in to the body doing its businesses and
being subpar at being human, it building and breaking down sugars
and the dreams of us as children, i will ask you to tear my filter off,
press the button that says stop, will you.
55 x 95 mm.
collage (found imagery, paper).
Emma Dajska.
Alvarado O’Brien
night of the virgin
Hail Mary full of grace, calamity, disgrace, last-minute miracles. Hail
Mary as the football hurtles in the impossible pass toward the end zone, the
basketball hovers in the air like some goddamn Holy Ghost about to bless the
losing team in the closing seconds of play. Blessed art thou among athletes,
immigrants, widows, derelicts and drunkards. White Virgin with simpering
smile and downcast eyes. Brown Madonna robed in midnight blue and stars.
Black Mother holding black baby Jesus, his right hand raised in benediction.
Blessed be the fruit of thy womb. Grandmothers fumbling with rosaries,
mumbling a prayer for each crystal bead. Skin like yellow parchment. Pray for
us now and at the hour of our.
Silver metallic garlands and tiny colored lights festoon the mirror
behind the bar. The bartender swipes the counter with a dirty rag and then
pulls off his Santa Claus hat. “Last call was twenty minutes ago.”
“Shit,” Stanton says. “We got to go, Lenny.”
“Okay, okay, let me finish.” He downs his beer in one gulp, burps.
“Hey, man. You sure you can drive? C’mon. Give me your keys.”
Stanton holds out his hand, palm up.
I’ve seen a lot in my life, but nothing like this, not in a long time
anyway. It’s the Virgin Mary standing in line at Kmart, all made up like the
one down in Mexico. Must be on her way home from a part in a play or
something, pretty little thing, too, all virginal but with the sly eyes of fucking,
just like I think the real one had. Because she didn’t get knocked up by no
holy spirit but by Joseph himself, he entered her, yup, he did, and she cried to
the Lord above, that being God the father who gets all confused with his son
later, and asked for help.
He, being kindly, gave her the right excuse. You know the rest. He
comes down from heaven, saves us, la de dah.
“Well, Jesus Christ,” I say to myself. She’s holding this baby in her
arms, whipped out of somewhere, a plastic doll, rocking it, cradling it like
it’s one of her own children, a flesh and blood brat needing looking after. You
know she had a brood of them after Jesus, don’t you? Well, she did.
But this one is, well, el primero. You can tell. But a fucking doll!
Alvarado O’Brien
“Jesus Christ,” I say, again.
She’s looking down on it so fondly, batting her big eyelashes at it,
cooing, “Mi hijo, mi hijo, my baby, you’re going to save the world.” She’s
twitching too when she’s not gazing lovingly at him.
“Meth bitch,” I’m thinking. I’ve seen them all.
“I can drive.” Lenny staggers off his stool, fumbles with his wallet and
slaps a few bucks on the counter.
“Christ on a crutch. You’re kidding, right?”
“No man, I’m cool.” He nods, poker-faced. The bartender unplugs
the colored lights.
“Right. Give me the keys.” Stanton reaches into Lenny’s jacket pocket.
“Cut it out!” Lenny assumes a boxing stance, swaying on his feet. “I
told you. I’m like. Totally. Okay.”
“You are so not okay,” Stanton snorts. “We’re both wasted.”
“Just chill, man. Let’s go to Kmart and see if they’ve got any of those
badass Santa Claus hats. Angie’ll love it. You got to laugh at a dude in a Santa
Claus hat.”
Just about then, I kid you not, the bar spills out into Kmart. The one
across the street lets out and the Super Kmart’s open 24/7 just in case one of
them meth dealers takes a notion to upgrade his TV to the best available and
come on in and plunk down a wad of cash before he can change his mind.
I’ve seen it happen too many times to surprise me anymore. And of course
I’m thinking, “She ain’t in no play, what the fuck am I thinking?” There’s
a community college down the street that runs some this time of year, La
Navidad, La Pastorela, whatever. Got dragged to one before the common era
by my old lady herself.
Took a class there. Met her. Burned out.
Got me a job doing appliance delivery for Mel’s Appliances, one of
the last independents in the area, the greater desert region. You don’t need to
know where exactly, do you?
We’re in fucking Nazareth, Bethlehem, Galilee inside the big bazaar
tent with the TVs against the wall and her highness herself edging forward at
a snail’s pace cooing to this thing that I swear is now slobbering. Either that
Alvarado O’Brien
or she’s licked him between my twirls and swirls looking real nonchalant with
my jumbo box of Cracker Jacks pressed to my belly for my own midnight
fix and the two men approaching her from the other aisle, entering ours in
that space between us, drunker than I been in a long time, saying, “There’s
the baby fucking Jesus.” One’s got his arm around the other, and they’re both
leaning on each other laughing. They’re carrying two Santa Claus hats and
one of those light-up outdoor reindeers, you know the kind I mean.
The loudspeaker crackles. “Attention Kmart shoppers. See aisle 7 for
today’s special on Fruit of the Loom boxers and underwear.”
Sweating under the lights, the boxer in the corner lets go of the ropes,
jogs in place, shakes his arms loose, then feints, jabs. The Virgen de Guadalupe
tattoo on his brown back seems to weep as he drips with perspiration. Santa
María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores. The gong sounds. The
boxer crosses himself with his right hand, large glove clumsy, and dances into
the center of the ring.
A Kmart clerk leans on his push broom and watches the match on a
large screen TV in the Electronics section.
“Stanton, take a look here, it’s the Virgin Mary.”
I get to know these guys real quick. They’re drunk enough to spill
their innards without noticing the mess. I call them L & S.
“She is looking beautiful, too. Radiant with life.” L scoots up to her,
grinning. “Did Jesus give you that? I mean Joseph.” He points at the baby.
“Lenny, don’t be a fool. It’s a miraculous misconception.” S is sweeping
the whole store with his arm, doing his best to keep that reindeer pressed to
his side with his free elbow. “I know the story, all the stories. I know how this
one ends, Señorita. With everybody dying happily ever after or something.
Shit, we’re wasted, Lenny. What’s your baby’s name, Miss?”
“The King?”
“The King. I found him in Vegas. He was so alone, wandering the
streets. I took him home and he kept crying, saying he wanted to return to
earth. I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, you know? We believe in the Second Coming.
Everybody gets a second chance. I put Elvis inside me and let him rest and
Alvarado O’Brien
sleep, and when the church bells rang he just popped out. I live on 44th over
there by the railroad tracks. They call me Virgencita but I’m not, I’m corrupt,
but I can still rock Elvis because it’s going to be a better world, it is.”
“Amen to that,” L’s buddy S says, and he gets down on his knees and
holds out a hand to her. She takes it and lifts it to her lips and kisses it.
L’s also down on his knees, looking up at her pleadingly. “That’s the
best story I ever heard. I was born the day Elvis died. I think something big is
going on here. What do you say, Señor?” He turns to me.
I shrug my shoulders. “It’s a strange world. Don’t let them tell you
otherwise.” Then what I do is real simple. I reach in my pocket and pull out a
Virgin medal I’ve been carrying like a lucky charm all these years even though
I don’t believe in any of this shit.
“If you wear this on the night of the Annunciation you’ll be saved.”
“How come you ain’t wearing it?” L asks the logical question.
The cashier behind the counter is just looking at us, shaking her head.
“Because I been saved so long ago I just need Cracker Jacks.” I shake
the box at both of them kneeling on the floor in Kmart like two devout
Catholic boys waiting for Communion.
They squirm and sigh. They’re kind of caught in a bind in Kmart on
their knees, looking foolish whatever they do next. I guess that’s why the one
just starts blessing himself and the other one looks over at him and hiccups
and mumbles, “I’ll be damned,” before praying himself over the second
announcement of the Fruit of the Loom sale.
Meantime she’s just standing there transfixed, with a little smile.
“They are the fruit of your womb,” I say to her seriously.
She looks down on them both with pity.
Hail Mary, Cracker Jack mama, Saturday night tattoo special, bodega
queen. Pray for us sinners. Oblivious to the scene unfolding by the cash
registers, the clerk at the back of the store does a waltz with his push broom.
Resplendent on the big screen, the beaming boxer rotates in a slow
circle at the center of the ring, holding a golden belt aloft with both hands.
One eye is swollen shut and crusted with blood. His body glistens with
sweat. The tattooed Virgin on his back gazes at the roaring crowd, her smile
enigmatic. Salve Regina!
Matthew Henriksen
Leaves and wind in their vague nightly synthesis
Unable to sustain a memory
Or conflate a distinct moment
With the windows cracked
Here in the room with the machines turned off
The tearing of the stars has lingered
Too long to influence
The floor unscrubbed
No sentence to turn the husband back to bed
In another house
The children have dreamed of murders
If I walk past each front door I understand
The disaster simplified by economics
First you cut off one finger
Then the entirety of poetry must go
Matthew Henriksen
After the grimace the fade ends
skunked else of other pleas
found in the street
brick work in the thought of
face plant
asphalt what words pretend
against and sotted
survive as stripped paper
Daylight sopranos a manly
angel into sentence
heedless of beginings
The first word doesn’t matter when
Dr. Bloodhead steps
across the creek
Night vacuums sound out of water
Matthew Henriksen
Only creeking
trees and the song
Doctor imagines his angel
sings in the canopy
of finite catapults and the single
sling shot
the body
about to cry
Matthew Henriksen
I decided not to drink my lifespan down
Nor to make my days coherent
By sublime calculation
In money words and time
Nor would I get in a car
To drive randomly as if out of my brain
Or to enact sentiment across a landscape
Nevertheless found a forest that had remained a forest
The actual land stood in partial making
I will not miss the roads gone
Nor the integrity of soot
Between finger and thumb
Rubbing a rag clinging to the sink
Its crevices like land holy and full of trees
420 x 297 mm.
Acrylic on Wood.
420 x 297 mm.
Acrylic on Wood.
Ray Easley.
Eleni Sikelianos with Connor Fisher
CF: I first heard about The Loving
Detail of the Living & the Dead from
Julie Carr—we discussed it last spring.
Julie mentioned that, in reading
Loving Detail, she was impacted by
how influenced the work was by H.D.
I read the book with this in mind as
well; H.D.’s influence seemed present
in a hermetic, sealed quality to many
of the poems (in a good way) and your
use of focused—yet diffuse—imagery
or symbols from nature. To whatever
extent this was intentional, how
did you approach the influence and
presence of H.D. in constructing these
ES: H.D. didn’t influence these poems in any direct way, but I consider her
one of the great poets of the 20th century, so it makes sense that she’s in the
background. I’d have to go back to her in a deep way now to think about
notions of the hermetic (she was of course playing with her own initials when
titling her book Hermetic Definition—but her whole path can be seen as
linked to that taken name, and its self-sufficiency and condensation). What I
can say might unite these poems with H.D. is a notion of the self-sufficiency
of the poem itself. That all vision, thought, investigation, and spirit might be
embodied there. That real work might be done there, by both the writer and
the reader.
“Hermetic” in relation to H.D. makes me think of the cartouche—that
circle around an Egyptian hieroglyph (usually the king’s name) that indicated
everything the sun encircled. Her poems are like that—self-contained and
expanding out to touch everything at the same time.
I don’t really see the poems (or poetry) as separate from nature (or other parts
of the world), so I don’t see what’s operational as symbolic (or even, strangely,
Eleni Sikelianos with Connor Fisher
as a use of imagery—since I would say imagery uses me, or the poem, more
than I use it). The poem arises from the world (visible and otherwise) and
from language (the part of our world that allows us to think), and is not
separable from them.
Just after typing this, I happened to be reading Fanny Howe’s essay,
“Bewilderment”: “An aesthetic that organizes its subject around a set of
interlocking symbols and metaphors describes a world that is fixed and fatally
subject to itself alone.” At the same time, language itself is symbolic, so we
are engaged in a relationship of deferral and approach at root. That is part of
poetry’s drive, to explore those proximities and distances between thought,
self, and world.
Eleni Sikelianos
In the hand world, all sensation is sutured at the tips.
Flavus digitalus profundus
A chiasmus, a crossing, she says, we call it
Zone 2, No Man’s Land, tap
taps the knuckle. I know
horses are making the crossing from the
superficial to the deep
tendons where they make the
X after the bone, thirsty.
She wants me to know but maybe
She doesn’t want me to know too much.
When I describe the world
this is about the body.
Eleni Sikelianos
Your finger is making layers and layers of scarring
like 40 strata of stiff Saran wrap, enough
for New Jersey. You’re making
enough for 10 bodies, I’m trying
to slow that drapery down and
smooth it so
things can slide around.
Anne told me Cecil Taylor once swaddled himself
in Saran wrap and wandered the halls
of the Boulderado otherwise
naked. I believe
the manager asked him to leave or
at least return to his room.
The body can manage a sliver of glass
but there are other foreign entities
that flummox it, she says and my hand
heats on the table like
Cecil Taylor’s wrapped physique
under the ceiling lights.
Eleni Sikelianos
She taps my finger’s tip
This is the most sensate
part of your body. Open.
In the hand world
she says again
the tendons cross deep in the flesh
She is my Hand Therapist
with an accent she brought with her from Virginia
just as she would a pocket full of acorns.
Dreamed: split rail fences, healing scars,
railroad tracks.
Eleni Sikelianos
The next time I see her the Hand
Therapist cries and
tells me to wear gloves
all the time. Then she says
your scar tissue feels
real good. Must feel like Cecil
Taylor in cellophane tapping
on 88 tuned drums but
my stitched finger drops
the stitch into
decay and can
no longer open the good jar of tomatoes.
What damage the hand can
wreak on the world the world
gives back to it.
Shira Richman
noap Notes: narrative, objective, assessment,
April 4th
Narrative: Invited to Wren’s first show.
Objective: He will be a DJ at Sound Riot.
Assessment: Happy he wants this case worker there. Making progress.
Plan: Attend concert. Build Trust. Bond. Cleanse Past. Build Love. Signed:
Carrie Drake, Case Worker, Official Bible Certificate
May 13th
Narrative: Wren said his name is “girly” but that he likes it anyway. He
wouldn’t say more, instead asked about this writer’s name. This writer told
him the truth because in this opinion it is a therapeutic necessity to tell clients
the truth: Lulia is the shortened version of Hallelulia, this writer’s mother’s
misunderstanding of the word, Halleluiah.
“So your name should be Luiah,” he said. And that is what he calls
me. “It’s easier to pronounce, anyway,” he said. “It’s beautiful,” he added.
“What was your mom thinking, calling you Lulia? Wasn’t it hard for her to
enunciate, Lulia, change out of that sexy dress. This instant, Lulia. You are too
damn smokin’. Lulia? Lulia! Do you hear me?”
Wren said he appreciates that this writer is candid with him and asked
why honesty is so important to me. This writer turned the question back on
him: “What do you think?”
“Because you have been lied to and hurt in your life.”
When asked how he likes his current living situation, he said, “I don’t
really live where you think I do.”
When asked if he feels unsafe in his aunt’s home, he said, “How could
I be unsafe? Do you see how tall I am? Do you see how strong I am? Do you
think someone would fuck with me?” A few minutes later he added, “I’m not
a victim, Luiah. I’m a protector. If you ever need help with anything, just ask.
I am here for you.” And he waved his arms in wide circles. When asked what
the arm gestures meant, he said, “I am wherever you need me to be.”
Objective: We met at Mac and Friends, a restaurant Wren selected, where we
ate hamburgers and watched the sun turn things pink as it went down. We
drank milkshakes handmade by Mac and his friends (yes, we watched them
Shira Richman
being made, the window into the kitchen being one of the features Wren likes
about the place); Wren’s was peanut butter and mine was ginger.
His saggy jeans and Cheat the State t-shirt looked clean, his hair was
carefully shaped: afro parted on the side, like a caricature of a clean-cut white
man’s hair (I hope this passes as “objective”…). It looks like he combed it,
which indicates good self-care. But it also looks a little messy: a smaller puff
on one side and a bigger puff on top of his head. He laughed easily and often.
Assessment: I wonder where Wren lives. I should have followed up when he
told me he doesn’t really live where I think he does. His file says he lives with
his aunt, so now I know that is probably not where he actually stays. That’s
not the very best start, but it’s where I am. He is good at turning the attention
away from himself, good at finding ways not to reveal information about
himself. According to his file, he’s only 15, but it is conceivable most people
will assume he’s several years older than that.
The following question is now prominent in my mind: What is he
trying to hide? He seems cooperative, but perhaps this information avoidant
behavior is a form of defiance disorder. A case of defiance could help explain
why he is doing so poorly in school. For instance, I can imagine his teacher
asking, “Where’s your homework?” and him flinging his papers through the
air, making a celebratory display of 8-and-a-half-by-11 sized confetti.
Plan: Find out his grades, where he’s living, how he is affected by the childhood
trauma of being taken from his mother, being abandoned by his father via
suicide, physical abuse, and serial foster homes. Make a service plan. Find out
what happened to previous case worker. Ask how he likes being a DJ. Signed:
Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA.
Supervisor’s Post-it Notes: Each time you write a note, ask yourself: How
would this sound if read in court? Signed: Denise Lawson, Casework
Supervisor, MSW.
May 14th
N: The woman at Wren’s school’s front desk didn’t look up from her crossword
puzzle when she told me Wren wasn’t in class. As I walked away, I heard a
voice say: “You can’t just tell anyone that. We don’t know who that lady is.”
Shira Richman
O: Did not see Wren.
A: I wonder if he’s sick. I wonder if he’s skipping.
P: Will call his house to see if he’s okay. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker,
N: The woman who answered the phone at Wren’s aunt’s house (and who
could be Wren’s aunt), sounded like she had just woken up, and said Wren
wasn’t there.
O: Did not speak to Wren.
A: Maybe Wren has run away. Or maybe he’s staying with a friend and they
are spending days together instead of going to school.
P: Visit his school again tomorrow. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA
May 15th
N: Visited Wren’s school and the woman at the front desk said, “I’m sorry,
Wren is not available to see you.”
O: She looked at me and winked when she said this.
A: It seems like Wren is seriously sick or seriously skipping.
P: Call his house again. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA
May 16th
N: Called Wren’s aunt’s house. The woman on the phone, who I believe is
Wren’s aunt, sounded like the woman I talked to last time.
O: She said Wren was not home.
A: Wren could be in trouble, could also be having the time of his life.
P: Keep trying to find him. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA
May 17th
N: The same sounding woman answered the phone at Wren’s aunt’s house. “Is
this the same white woman my nephew is staying with?” she asked.
This writer said, “No.” Then she asked, “If he’s not with you, where
the hell is he?”
This writer didn’t say anything.
Then she added, “You think you love him, don’t you.”
Shira Richman
O: This must be Wren’s aunt.
A: This writer didn’t know what to say. Does this case worker love her “cases”?
The general answer would be yes. How long does it take a case worker to
know a client enough to love him or her? Maybe only moments. Is that true
love? Yes. If an angry and afraid aunt is told a random, mysterious white
woman loves her nephew, will she become more angry and afraid? Probably.
P: This writer doesn’t know. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA
May 20th, 10:20 am
N: No one seemed to be around the school office today, except for the woman
who always sits at the front desk. I asked her if Wren was in class and if I could
see him.
She said, “You really need to find this kid, don’t you.”
I wanted to tell her I was his case worker, but since Wren hasn’t signed
a release for me to talk to school employees, I just said, “Yes.”
She pulled out a file and said, “He has class at the community college
this afternoon. Horticulture 107 at Edmonds.” She wrote the classroom
number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. Then she asked if this writer
knew who wrote The Waves.
“Virginia Woolf,” this writer said.
“W, O, L,” she started.
“WOOLF,” this writer replied.
“If it weren’t for these crosswords, I could almost forget how illiterate
I am,” she said with a smile, which, on her, was as bright and astonishing as
light caught in a sapphire.
O: Occasionally literary knowledge is invaluable.
A: See above.
P: Will visit Wren at horticulture class. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker,
3:30 pm
N: This writer found the horticulture building, looked in the tiny window of
the classroom door, and didn’t see Wren. Getting lost on the way out of the
building meant exiting through a different door. A thriving rose garden was
populated with smokers, and there were two people making out against the
Shira Richman
trunk of a cedar tree. Their heads were somewhat obscured by the branches,
but one of them seemed to have a puffy yet parted hair-do, not unlike Wren’s.
His hands looked bright and brown, the color of chestnuts just out of their
A man asked for a smoke.
“Sorry,” this writer said.
Then he pulled out a metal cigarette case filled with Virginia Slims.
“I found these,” he said. As we smoked, he talked about pruning roses, and
fortunately, like most men, didn’t ask this writer anything about herself.
Eventually the two stopped kissing under the cedar tree. The guy was
Wren and the woman looked quite a bit older—in her late twenties or early
When Wren walked by, this writer said, “I’ve been looking for you.”
He looked surprised and said, “I guess you caught me.” He made a
fake shooting sound, jerked his body as if he’d just caught a bullet in his heart,
closed his eyes, and then walked away. The woman laughed and smacked him
on the bum as they walked into the building.
O: The woman Wren was kissing is beautiful, has lithe and muscular arms,
blonde hair, bottle green eyes.
A: She may be wearing tinted contacts. No one has eyes that color. She is
probably the one Wren’s aunt said is in love with him. Wren is probably
“living” with her.
P: Find out why this woman is messing up the life of a teen-age boy. Talk to
supervisor regarding how to make a CPS report. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case
Worker, MFA
4:30 pm
N: Wren was waiting outside this writer’s office. “How’d you get here so fast?”
this case worker asked.
“Carpool lane, I guess,” he said. “You must have gotten held back in
“Someone drove you here?”
Wren nodded.
“Who is the woman you were with today?” this writer asked, unlocking
the door to her office.
“You don’t like her, do you.”
Shira Richman
“That’s not the issue.” This case worker held the door open for Wren
and motioned for him to come inside. “The issue is she’s much older than
Wren looked this writer in the eye like he was about to tell her
something really important. “Can I talk to you somewhere more private?” he
asked. This writer offered to close the door.
Wren shook his head no and said, “I feel bad that you’ve been looking
for me so long and then I wasn’t so nice to you today. Could I take you out to
coffee?” This writer offered to take Wren out to coffee, using money from the
Coffee with Clients Fund, on the condition that he participate in creating a
service plan.
While drinking cappuccinos at the café across the street, he asked
this writer for advice. “I can tell you’re concerned about me and that you
don’t think I should be with someone older than I am, but I really like her.
What should I do?” This writer deflected the question by asking him what he
“I don’t know. Probably I should focus on school.”
This writer told him that sounded good.
“You make me feel good,” he said. It felt for a second like he was about
to move the conversation in an inappropriate direction, the aforementioned
comment being said with strong eye contact, but then he added, “You make
me feel like doing the right thing.”
“That’s wonderful to hear,” this writer said and pulled out the service
plan paperwork.
“You’re probably about to get off work, aren’t you?” Wren asked.
“Yes, soon, but I have time to spend with you. You’re important to
He looked like he was about to cry, his eyes got glossy. “Would you let
me take care of something real quick and then meet up in a little bit? I hate to
ask you to work late, but I really want you to be able to get your paperwork
done, and I want to work with you. I think you can really help me.”
This writer reminded him he promised to do the paperwork.
“I just need to take care of one thing. I promise. I’ll make it worth
your while.” This writer saw a turquoise and white pick-up truck outside and
what looked like the woman Wren was kissing earlier in the driver’s seat. Wren
noticed this writer looking at the woman in the truck.
“I don’t want to hide this from you,” he said. “I’m going to go break
Shira Richman
up with her. I have to do it now.” His knee knocked into this writer under the
table. “I really care what you think,” he said. He stood, squeezed this writer’s
shoulder, whispered, “I’ll do anything for you,” and as he opened the door to
leave the café, he called out, “I’ll meet you at your car in half-an-hour. We’ll
have dinner, my treat this time.” He left before this writer had a chance to
agree or disagree.
O: We drank caffeinated coffee at five o’clock in the afternoon.
A: It’s possible transference is occurring here. Wren seems to have elevated this
case worker in his mind, which is a natural part of the therapeutic process. All
that has to happen to keep things healthy is for the case worker to maintain
appropriate boundaries. The way in which he offered the invitation to meet
up in half-an-hour is perhaps a power move, to test the bond between himself
and his therapist. Or perhaps it’s an attempt at empowerment—making
himself feel powerful. Increased self-esteem can increase client’s sense of
options, motivation, and ambition.
P: Clean car, meet Wren, drive to a quiet place where we can catch up on
paperwork. Maybe somewhere on the water: the shore inspires renewal,
possibility, daring. Signed: Lulia Mort, Case Worker, MFA
May 31st
N: Attempted contact but no luck yet at home or school.
O: Not easy to reach.
A: This kid goes through social workers like nobody’s business.
P: Find him, get to know him, help him the best I can. Signed: Rob Ray, Case
Worker, BA
Doug Paul Case
it’s the new thing to do
stand on the roof of the barn
and throw
look back in silence
and throw
stand at the edge of the woods and throw
throw off the covers and open the window and throw
run into the field across the lane
gather more stones
and throw
both arms
throw until the burning reaches
throw until dawn
his father got busy burning dresses
and he got busy throwing
one of these stones will hit
will fall
will knock into her star
and she will slip
and she
and will return
not be gone for long
she will
she will
she will fall into her return
just one of these stones and she will
Carmen Giménez Smith with
Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
Nothing Scarier than a Brown Titty:
MILK AND FILTH, Prince, and Innovative
[email protected] Writing
VAV: Hi Carmen! Thanks for
agreeing to talk with me—I
loved Milk and Filth. I’d like to
focus the conversation around
innovative writing, and what that
term might mean, especially with
respect to [email protected] work, which is
often thought of as continuing
to exist in that documentary,
expressive, or lyrical phase. What
does it mean to innovate as a
[email protected] writer in your work?
CGS: Thanks for this question!
I would begin by saying that I’m
starting to get past the point of
being in the conversation. The
conversation doesn’t evolve, and
it hasn’t evolved in years, not since
Silliman. There are no contradiscourses with regard to this question. The avant garde doesn’t, and hasn’t,
successfully addressed the implicit racism in the ideas surrounding conceptual
writing vs. “expressive” writing and the problematic ways we think about the
uses of language as a binary.
VAV: Why are they problematic?
CGS: Part of this question is how the term “avant-garde” is deployed, how
conceptual vs. expressive modes of writing serve to create distance from the
subject. Let’s take modernism, for example—this idea of the “erasure of the
self ” is actually American exceptionalism. Being “against expression” and
“against nationalism,” if you’re already translucent, is easy. For instance, how
does a black man become invisible in a culture where part of his existence is
Carmen Giménez Smith with Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
predicated by his visibility? Although his visibility is paradoxical, he is visible
as Other. He is visible for his blackness, where invisibility is most valuable
when it comes to existing within a hegemony.
VAV: Absolutely. This idea of the brown body as always being Other, as always
being abject, as always being radically visible, radically embodied in a society
where radical embodiment often means subjugation and isolation, that seems
to be what Milk and Filth is in conversation with. In the book, your speaker
is also radically embodied. She shits, she bleeds, she stinks, she lactates. The
feminine body is a source of both magic and filth, as a holy thing because she
is a creative force, but also an abject thing. Can you talk a little bit about this?
CGS: Sure. This book is definitely a second-wave book. It’s influenced by the
politics of second-wave feminism, and how our teachers—or my teachers,
since I went to school in the seventies and eighties—were students of original
second wave feminists. This was a time when French post-feminism was
making its way through women’s studies too, but at the end of the day the
book deals with the central questions of the second-wave, those conversations
that still never got answered.
VAV: Right, the assumption that somehow we’ve moved on from those
conversations. I love the over-earnest sign-holding second-wave feminist in
“Radicalization.” I almost picture a young Carmen. There’s an endearing, wry
humor there.
CGS: (laughs) Well, actually, the young Carmen is the one seduced by the
sign-holding feminist. It was very much a representation of my journey to
feminism; I was raised in a very traditional Latino culture, and so therefore
had to be kind of closeted about my feminist ideas. That’s why there’s that
homoerotic scene at the end of the poem—I am seduced, in a very literal way,
by feminism. The anti-feminina eroticizes that impulse. But yeah, it’s meant
to be funny—there’s UGG boots in it! And to me, those boots conjure the
idea that feminists now are encouraged to be egalitarian consumers, to buy
into this idea that equality happened already instead of continuing to make
sure our daughters aren’t sexualized and raped, that they’re properly respected
and cared for, that they make the same amount of money as men do, those
old conversations, the “old problems” of the second wave.
Carmen Giménez Smith with Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
VAV: Right! I think this is the kind of central conflict of the speaker in Milk
and Filth, this idea that the brown female body both is both a little bit magic
and little bit filth, both holy and radically sexual and human. What are the
conflicts you see central to that speaker?
CGS: Well, this goes back to some thinking I’ve been doing about Prince—
who I love—and thinking about Prince in contradiction to Michael Jackson.
Part of what Michael Jackson did to become as successful as he did (which
is also different from Stevie Wonder, who had also been working since he
was a child, just as Michael had always been as a young boy) was that he
totally desexualized himself. He had to completely desexualize himself to
do something to counter the racial narrative of the black male body being
dangerous. Even though it was possible that he was a sexual predator, his
public image was sexless, and that is what made him really palatable to the
What Prince did, though, which is what I’m more drawn to, and interested
in, is that he played into his identity fully. Even with Purple Rain, which is a
record about class-based positioning, he took his invisibility as a black man
and worked fully with it, which is why he was able to reinvent himself with
every new record. And I thought, “that’s hot! That’s smart!”
So to bring it back to the book and the spirit in which I wrote Milk and
Filth—I don’t want to de-eroticize my body or erase my body. Prince made his
body and sexuality a central part of his work. Every single one of his albums is
a reinvention, like David Bowie, but even David Bowie desexualized himself
like Michael Jackson.
VAV: I totally see that. But I’d say that David Bowie’s desexualization was
more radical, since he was playing with a sexualized androgyny, whereas
Michael Jackson’s sexlessness was safe and sanitized for public consumption.
CGS: Exactly. Every single one of David Bowie’s songs is about sex. He was
definitely singing about sex, and I remember listening to that when I was
young and thinking, “I really shouldn’t be listening to this.” (laughs) Whereas
Michael Jackson, even his voice and his affect is safe and desexualized.
Carmen Giménez Smith with Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
Other major influences are Ana Mendieta, who was was very much a vanguard
in that she used her body as a text. Her own blood, her own body as a text.
Her work is not just a feminine embodiment, but also a Latina embodiment.
She deals specifically with the details of biography, exile, and how she put her
body in all these painful, physical spaces and infiltrations. That work was also
I wanted to write a book that did that. That did in poetry what Ana Mendieta,
Gloria Anzaldúa, Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, did—women who
really used the self in an almost abject subjectivity to make arguments and
claims about the female body. I was also pointing to second wave discourses.
For instance, the anthology No More Masks was so transformative in the
way it tracks all kinds of feminine subjectivities. I’m not lampooning, but
rather I’m adapting them in my book. It’s part of how I’m idealizing these old
subjectivities, rediscovering them.
VAV: I only just discovered Ana Mendieta while reading your book. I feel like
I’m just discovering so much about innovative Latino art recently. Like, I
know all about John Cage and Laurie Anderson and other performance artists
in that very white, middle-class, “avant-garde” lineage, but why have I never
heard of Ana Mendieta? Why isn’t this part of the canon?
CGS: Right. It’s incredibly hard for artists
of color to connect to this lineage because
there’s nothing scarier than a brown titty.
It goes back to this kind of puritanical
ethic, and luckily, there are lots of poets
who work against this, most importantly
Dodie Bellamy, who is truly navigating
female sexuality in an uncoy way. There’s
a kind of performative aspect to being
scandalized by the female body, by the
brown body that is problematic, overly
coy. Coyness reads to me as squeamish.
That’s why Joan Rivers is in this book.
She’s not squeamish, not coy. The Joan
Carmen Giménez Smith with Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
Rivers I’m talking about is the classic feminist comedian Joan Rivers from the
seventies and eighties—not the Joan Rivers now who is kind of problematic—
but who, nonetheless, addressed the shittiness of the female body and the
cultural disgust with it in this funny, unpretentious way. The female body has
always been a source of filth and disgust. It’s a cultural-historical disgust—I
mean, it even comes from the bible. It’s not an invention, it’s real. And this is
why feminism has to be an ongoing civil rights movement.
VAV: I like this idea of Milk and Filth as a kind of activist text. I see current
[email protected] writing as a kind of activism as well. Which brings me back to this
question about innovative [email protected] writing—how does an emerging [email protected]
writer navigate the writing world as a writer of color? What does it mean to
be an innovative writer of color?
CGS: To me, it seems very easy to suggest that writers of color are “expressive,”
which is really just saying that their otherness is an obstacle to that very
desirable translucency of hegemony. To me, it’s white privilege when white
writers feel they can write about race. It’s scary to them, race and its issues.
But still, white writers aren’t doing enough. Being inclusive and generously
including people of color in their anthologies and canons isn’t enough. It’s still
a very small list, and you need very specific qualifications to get on that list.
Some of them are social. That’s the great problem, the paradox of the poetry
world. It’s a class-based world, with class-based expectations. It’s an expensive
and frivolous profession that only a few can afford to risk. If you’re getting
an MFA, you’re probably going to adjunct for 10-20 years if you’re lucky and
know the right people, which puts people of color at a disadvantage in that
world to begin with. People of color are taught not to take risks, even when
they have access to public forums, access to agency. This is why the ball is in
the court of the “avant-garde.” We’ve done the work, written the books that
should be in the canon, books that everybody should be reading.
This is why I think the Nuyorican school is so disturbing to the poetry world.
Here are these poets, these artists, that despite their class position, continue
in the tradition of the spoken word with no schooling or training, and they’re
out there making art without anybody’s permission.
Carmen Giménez Smith with Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
VAV: It’s funny you mention the Nuyorican poets. I remember picking up
a big fat anthology of Nuyorican writing and being told much later that it
was trash, that I should be reading real poetry. Which brings me to Noemi
Press—what role do you see Noemi Press in? Does it fill any gaps in the poetry
world that you see?
CGS: Noemi Press really just came out of wanting to run a small press. In
some ways, it was my own narcissism at work, but it was also because there are
so few small presses run by women of color. That’s a problem. Right now the
thing that’s most exciting to me about Noemi is that it still has no identifiable
aesthetic. We publish all kinds of books, and we have a very diverse staff—
culturally, ethnically—which is what makes Noemi so open and flexible.
VAV: Now that Milk and Filth is out in the world, what can we look forward
to from you in the future? Any new projects on the horizon?
CGS: Yeah, I definitely have some pet projects. The Akrilica series I run with
Juan Felipe from Letras Latinas is definitely one of the projects I’m most
excited about, as well as the Infidel Poetics series (named after a book by
Daniel Tiffany). With regard to Noemi, it definitely took up a lot of my own
money before it became self sustaining in the last couple of years. I definitely
have credit card debt because I was stupid about how to run a small press.
But I’m really happy with how it’s progressed, and I see it as being a part of a
literary citizenship.
Julie Carr
On this last day of the first year of real life I will say some incredible
things in a credible way
I don’t care about happiness—that is the first
A philosophy of happiness is a philosophy of lies
But that is because of the definition of happiness I know best
What, then, is happiness?
First of all, it seems to have nothing to do with motherhood, at least
not at the moment
Though it might have something to do with a woman dressed like a
Russian peasant but with leather gloves to her elbows
Or with a doll the size of my thumb with a penis the size of half my
Or with children exclaiming wildly, “I found five things!” in the
game of “Find Five Things”
Something to do with a duck, a sleeping girl, a man in a mine,
telescope, Superman on the cross
A bag of money, the phrase “I’ll be your …” a coffee can,
hool-a-hoop, 3-legged dog
What is happiness and what is the self? A pair of zero-sum questions
except when unanswered
Julie Carr
But I was a mother—that I could say—and with embarrassment
score it onto my chest
This was furiously uncomforting—about as flat as a mid-country
A—and as staged
Julie Carr
Happiness report #4
I miss something I have never had.
I long to return to a place I’ve never been.
I remember a hand that never once touched me.
Julie Carr
2 Installations
Instead of a floor, a field of long grasses. Walls streaming water.
Under the water, sheets of iron rust. You enter and lie down on
the warm grass. Simulated sunlight headed straight for your
belly. But if you close your eyes, the ground will chill beneath
you. The warmth from the “sun” will fade. You must keep your
eyes open in order to stay warm. Yet the lulling sound of water,
the heat below and above you, makes it so hard.
You must “terminate” your stay.
Enormous projections on the wall of the inside of your own
body. Heart and lungs on the right side, stomach, liver, kidneys
on the left. The wall before you shows you your brain, behind
you, your womb and what grows inside of it. If another
person enters the room, the images will no longer be clear—
superimposed over each other. It will be difficult to tell whose
lungs, whose heart, whose brain. Try breathing faster—see if
you can discern the rhythm of your own lungs. But the other
person might breath faster too. When a third person enters,
then a fourth, the walls are a sea of light, color, forms moving.
You wish the others would leave so that you could see yourself.
But they are wishing this wishing this to.
Julie Carr
3 Installations on “Home”
A room populated by women sitting in chairs with their backs
to you. As you walk toward them, they recede. If you attempt
to circle them, to see their faces, their chairs pivot. You will
never see their faces, never even the sides of their faces.
A room that appears to have no floor. Stand at the threshold,
afraid to step in, the floor an endless chasm, like the sky but
A series of rooms, the replicas of bedrooms, of every bedroom
you’ve ever called yours. Everything is there: the dressers, the
closets of clothing, the desks, the bedside tables with their
digital clocks, the posters pinned to the walls, the books on the
floor or on shelves. Everything is there except the beds. Where
the beds were, there is nothing. Where is my bed? you say each
time, walking in. Your voice rising.
Julie Carr
When I say “you” this afternoon, I will be addressing the
children in the room and not the adults who brought them
here. You like things very concise. You seem not to be listening,
but you are. You pretend not to know how to read. You would
rather not eat than eat. A little bird with a piece of eggshell on
its head. You want to ride your bike in the dark. You mix spices
in a cup with a spoon. The scent of nutmeg is acceptable to
you, but not cayenne. You might think about what happens in
the courthouse, or about dipping your hand into a pool. Spool
under white blanket. You like entrances, but not exits (unless
you’re the one exiting). January hangs around you way into
February. My withdrawing, your pursuing. You appear before
a tribunal because of your name. You must justify your name.
Though I was the one who named you, you are the one who
must defend your name. I go on a vacation in a man’s body.
You go on a vacation in my body. You confuse justice with
the outcome of battle. I too prefer not to consider justice, but
rather, what is safe. In the case of you, there is no safety. You
hear gunshots just outside your classroom window. You are
told to hide under a desk or behind a bookshelf for a while. At
home you look at pictures of little dogs and you cry when they
are adopted by others. You are very serious in your loneliness,
even though you selected the table for one. I place a forkful of
food into your mouth: little tongue decides. We will shower
together, and I’ll hold you up to the spray.
Julie Carr
An Installation on Sex
“Everything appears for others eyes” emblazoned in neon across
the far wall. An animal is eating out of vision’s range. The walls
look wet when the light hits them. The light is coming from
Julie Carr with Alexis Almeida
The Public and the Private, the personal and
political: A Conversation with Julie Carr
AA: Thanks so much for
agreeing to talk with me! I’d
like to talk about one of your
current projects, Real Life:
An Installation. What strikes
me most, at least from what
we’ve excerpted here, is the
panoramic range of the work.
Though much feels written
from an intimate space,
touching on issues of the body, of motherhood, of things we might associate
with the “private” domain, the “installations” seem to demand their own
exposure to the public, often reconstructing the concerns of other sections
in a way that wants to frame them for an audience, if not directly involve
that audience. How important was it for you to bring the ideas of public and
private into close proximity here? Can you talk a bit about how this divide
is gendered and how that might have contributed to the project’s concerns?
JC: This is such a great question because it lands on one of the central concerns
of that whole project, and probably of everything I’ve written. In this instance,
I got interested in how the term “real life” gets used, and began writing it
down each time I heard someone use it. What I discovered is that people often
speak of returning to “real life” after intense experiences: war, illness, falling in
love, childbirth, but also playing games, seeing art, sex, violence, etc. So what
is this “real life” that is not all of those things? It seemed to me that people
used the phrase to refer, basically, to work. Real life is the mundane, the dull,
the ordinary, the daily, but it especially means going to work. So in this book I
want to mess with those divisions—what is “real” what is imagined, dreamed,
desired, felt through our contact with others, rather than our individualized
experience? Is any of this not “real life”?
It’s not easy to map those divisions onto “public” and “private,” but you are
right to notice that I wanted very much to bridge those supposed divides.
Julie Carr with Alexis Almeida
One of the ways that poetry gets read in our circles is as either intimate or
political, as either about the “self ” or about the world. I absolutely reject those
divisions, and not because “the personal is political,” though it is, but because
my sense of what an intimacy is, what a self is, what a domestic or quotidian
space is is entirely twinned and twined with whatever we construe as public
or political life.
“Why should I care about your divorce?” is really the same question as “Why
should I care about your war?”
The installation is fascinating to me because of how it re-imagines interior
space (the home, the office, the gallery) as a place where “you”—which is to
say anyone—is invited to participate. It’s performative, but it pretends not
to be. One walks into an installation as if walking into an abandoned room.
Everything is there except the people who made it that way—and sometimes
they are there too. The installation speaks to our impulse to peer into windows,
to go on a “house tour” (not that I’ve ever been on one), to use google maps
to get down into the streets where other people live. There’s a whole history of
installations that are really just houses that people have done stuff to—from
Kurt Schwitters Merzbau to Womanhouse from 1972, to the current work
of Theaster Gates. I’ve also written imagined histories of the installation that
trace the movement between private and public in the installation.
As for gender: well everyone knows that the private has historically been
gendered female and the public, male. I think we retain the traces of those
divisions even when we aren’t living them out anymore (and often, we are).
Why, for example, has conceptual poetry been thought of as so male? Is this
because we think men are less interested in writing about the self? About
emotion? Well, as soon as we look at the works of Kenny Goldsmith, for
example, we see that’s not even a good way of understanding conceptual
writing since many of his works are obsessed with the private spaces of the
self. When we think of “domestic” writing, or writing about the body, we
tend to think that it is done by women. But is this really true? Is the work of
CA Conrad not, somehow, about the body? What about the work or Ronaldo
Wilson? What about Anselm Berrigan’s domestic poems? On the other side,
what about the very publicly oriented work of C.D. Wright, of M. NourbeSe
Philip, of Anne Waldman (just to grab a few ready and contemporary
Julie Carr with Alexis Almeida
examples)? So you see that these gendered divisions break down immediately,
but still we think them.
This is, I believe, just internalized and externalized sexism that continues to
want to limit the work of women, to locate it in a smaller “sphere” and to
consider it irrelevant. So, while first of all we have to understand that women
continue to write into all kinds of material, second of all we have to see how
these so-called private spaces are not, and never were, private. There are no
concentric circles, it’s the wrong geometry.
Reem Abu-Baker is an editor at Y’all’d’ve. Her work appears or is
forthcoming in Word Riot, Thin Air Magazine, Barely South Review, and other
Kendra Bartell is finishing her MFA in poetry at UW Seattle, where she
teaches poetry and composition. She has poems in or forthcoming at Utter, So
to Speak, and Vector Press. She also writes reviews for
Nathan Blake’s chapbook Going Home Nowhere and Fast is forthcoming
from Winged City Press. He is currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech
and can be found at
Julie Carr is the author of six books of poetry, most recently 100 Notes
on Violence, RAG and Think Tank, which is forthcoming from Solid Objects.
Surface Tension: Ruptural Time and the Poetics of Desire in Late Victorian
Poetry came out with Dalkey Archive in 2013. A co-edited collection, Active
Romanticism: Essays on the Continuum of Innovative Poetry and Poetics from the
Late 18th Century to the Present, is due out from the University of Alabama
Press in 2014. She is the co-director of Counterpath Press, lives in Denver,
and teaches poetry and poetics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Doug Paul Case lives in Bloomington, where he’s an MFA candidate at
Indiana University and the editor of Gabby, a new journal dedicated to the
talky poem. His work has appeared in Salt Hill, Court Green, Hobart, and
Paul Edward Costa lives just outside of Toronto, Canada and has
been writing poetry and short fiction seriously for six years. He’s previously
published six poems in York University college magazines (three in MacMedia
and three in The Flying Walrus) plus one in the webzine Shorthand. He has also
published short fiction in Yesteryear Fiction and Thrice Fiction Magazine. At
York University Paul earned a Specialized Honours BA in History and a BA
in Education. He currently teaches English at North Park Secondary School
in Brampton, Ontario.
Emma Dajska is an illustrator/collage artist. Currently studying Graphic
Design at the University of Arts in Poznań, Poland. Staff illustrator at Rookie
(, member of The Ardorous collective.
Dolores Dorantes’ most recent books include Querida fábrica (Práctica
Mortal, CONACULTA, 2012) and Estilo (Mano Santa Editores, 2011).
Her op-ed pieces, criticism and investigative texts have been published in
numerous Mexican newspapers, including Diario de Juárez, El Norte, and Día
Siete. sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre, a bilingual edition of books two
and three of Dolores Dorantes by Dolores Dorantes, translated by Jen Hofer,
was co-published in early 2008 by Counterpath Press and Kenning Editions;
a new edition with books 1-4 from the series is forthcoming from Kenning
Editions. Dorantes lived in Ciudad Juárez for 25 years, and currently lives in
Los Angeles.
Ray Easley was born in 1987 at Ft. Walton Beach, FL. Easley then moved
with his family at the age of three to live out his childhood in N.W. Arkansas
until graduating High School in Siloam Springs, AR. After High School Easley
received a BA and an education certification at the University of Houston in
Houston, TX. During his final year of his undergrad Easley was accepted to
the University of Wisconsin-Madison MFA program for painting. Easley will
receive an MA in May of 2014 and will finish his MFA in May of 2015. His
current practice focuses on material exploration with oil and acrylic painting
methods on wood.
Laura Cesarco Eglin is a poet and translator from Uruguay. She is the
author of two collections of poetry, Llamar al agua por su nombre (Mouthfeel
Press, 2010) and Sastrería (Yaugurú, 2011), and a chapbook of poems, Tailor
Shop: Threads (Finishing Line Press, 2013), co-translated into English by
Teresa Williams and her. Her work has been published in a variety of journals,
including Modern Poetry in Translation, MiPOesias, The Acentos Review, Puerto
del Sol, Turbulence Magazine, Periódico de Poesía, and Metrópolis. Cesarco
Eglin’s poems are also featured in the Uruguayan women’s section of Palabras
Errantes, Plusamérica. Her poetry and translations have been nominated twice
for a Pushcart Prize.
Laura Eve Engel’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the
Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, Tin House and elsewhere.
She was the 2011-2012 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin
Institute for Creative Writing, and in the summertime, she is the Residential
Program Director at the UVa Young Writers Workshop. She tweets things
Charles Gabel earned an MFA in Poetry from Boise State University; he
works at the Cincinnati Public Library.
Shamala Gallagher’s recent poems appear in VOLT, Verse Daily, Word
For/Word, Copper Nickel, The Offending Adam, Unstuck, and elsewhere. This
spring she lives in southwest Missouri, teaching composition and staring out
at the prairie, and in August you’ll find her in Athens, Georgia.
Ross Gay is the author of Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down, and he
is co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the forthcoming collaborative
book of garden poems which is as yet untitled, though will be published by
Organic Weapon Arts next year. He is also working on a non-fiction book
about African American farming. Ross was a founding board member of
the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, free-fruit-for-all public
orchard. He teaches at Indiana University and is a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow.
Matthew Henriksen is the author of Ordinary Sun (Black Ocean,
2011) and a few chapbooks, most recently Latch Down the Dark Helmet
(Wildlife Poetry, 2013). Recent poems appear in Toad Suck Review, N/A,
Apartment, and Yalobusha Review. For Fulcrum #7 he edited “Another Part
of the Flood: Poems, Stories, and Correspondence of Frank Stanford.” Since
2003 he has with Adam Clay co-edited Typo, an online poetry journal. He
runs The Burning Chair Readings and works at the Dickson Street Bookshop
in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Tania Hershman’s second story collection, My Mother Was An Upright
Piano: Fictions, was published in May 2012 by Tangent Books. Her first
collection, The White Road and Other Stories, was commended by the judges
of the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.
Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter,
teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, urban cyclist, and cofounder (with John Pluecker) of the language justice and literary activism
collaborative Antena. Her translations, which have won awards from the
Academy of American Poets and Pen American Center, can be found at
Action Books, Counterpath Press, Kenning Editions, Les Figues Press, Litmus
Press, Ugly Duckling Presse, and University of Pittsburgh Press. Her writing
lives at Atelos, Dusie Books, Insert Blanc Press, Little Red Leaves (Textile
Series), Palm Press, Subpress, and in a variety of homemade chapbooks. She
lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches poetics, translation and bookmaking
at CalArts and Otis College.
Arturo Ramírez Lara is the author of the collection of short stories,
Antología del verde, which won the David Alfaro Siquieros Prize in 2001, and
the collection of poems, Nanas para dormir a Jonás (Fondo Editorial Tierra
Adentro, 2009). His poetry and critical literary essays have appeared in
different anthologies, such as Anuario de poesía mexicana 2005, and journals,
including Palabras sin fronteras and Oráculo. He is currently the coordinator
of Spanish Language and Spanish and Spanish American Literature, as well as
the chair of Control Escolar, at Escuela Preparatoria Central de Ciudad Juárez
Melanie Madden’s work has appeared in The Essay Daily and is
forthcoming in The Feminist Wire. She is an MFA candidate at the University
of Arizona where she teaches creative nonfiction, and regularly performs with
FST! Female StoryTellers in Tucson.
Tony Mancus is the author of four chapbooks, most recently Bye Sea
(Tree Light Books) and Again(st) Membering (Horse Less Press—out in fall).
He is co-founder of Flying Guillotine Press and he currently works as a
technical writer. He and his wife Shannon live in Arlington, VA with their
two yappy cats.
Taylor McGill is a recent graduate of Rutgers University. She writes,
among other things. Her work has appeared in Metazen and elsewhere.
Denise Nestor is a Dublin based graphic designer and illustrator.
Her work is inspired by Ireland’s countryside, mythology, and medieval
parables. Through layering of delicate pencil lines, blocks of vector graphics,
and paint, Nestor infuses the direct gaze of her subject with a haunting
interiority. Continue exploring the world of Denise Nestor at her website,
Alvarado O’Brien is the pen name of Jacqueline Doyle and Stephen D.
Gutierrez. A recent Pushcart nominee, she has work in South Dakota Review,
Ninth Letter Online, South Loop Review, Confrontation, Southern Indiana
Review, and a “Notable Essay” listed in Best American Essays 2013. His second
collection of stories Live from Fresno y Los (Bear Star Press) won an American
Book Award. His work can be found in Sudden Fiction Latino (W.W. Norton),
New California Writing 2013 (Heyday), and (forthcoming) Alaska Quarterly
Review. His newest collection, The Mexican Man in His Backyard, Stories and
Essays (Roan Press) was published in January and is available on Amazon.
Annie Paradis graduated from Pratt Institute in May of 2013 with a BFA
in Creative Writing and a focus on poetry and performance. She spent the past
summer teaching as a scriptwriting T.A. at the UVA Young Writer’s Workshop,
and is currently traveling the U.S. working for AmeriCorps National Civilian
Community Corps as a media relations specialist. Her work has appeared in
LUNGFULL!, Packet Biweekly, and Ubiquitous.
Shira Richman has stories and poems published or forthcoming in
Monkeybicycle, Keyhole, Copper Nickel, Bayou, Third Coast, [PANK], The Los
Angeles Review, Newfound, and elsewhere. She has published interviews with
Dorianne Laux, Lynn Emanuel, Prageeta Sharma, Tess Gallagher, and Fady
Joudah in Willow Springs. Her interview with Jake Adam York can be found
at The Volta. She lives in Bavaria, where she studies German and Germans.
Kathryn Roberts is a graduate of Goddard College, freelance writer,
bookseller, painter, and model. She lives in Connecticut with her partner and
two cats. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Metazen, Pithead
Chapel, and Slush Pile. Companion Plants, her first novel, is forthcoming this
summer from Fomite Press.
Mariola Rosario was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was raised
somewhere between Caribbean breeze, many shades of the color blue and
tropical suburban sweaty chaos. Photographer and teacher. Author of the
photography blog my sweet old etcetera:,
and member of various art collectives including the Madrid based Pradera93
and the female-led UJA in Puerto Rico. She has lived between Puerto Rico,
Madrid and Paris during the last five years and her work has been included
in a number of collective art exhibits and happenings. She has a special love
for film photography and artisan methods of film processing. Her work plays
around themes of dreams, nightmares, good and bad trips, everydayness,
daze, accidental feminism and a deep distrust of authority.
Jason Saunders was born in 1989 and was raised in the Portland,
Oregon area. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Choral Music at
the University of Southern California, where he co-conducts the Apollo Men’s
Chorus and works as a graphic designer for the School of Music. In 2011 he
graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where
he earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree. An active composer, Jason
has received awards, commissions, and performances from ensembles across
the United States. Most recently, he was named as a finalist in the 2014 Young
New Yorkers Chorus Competition for Young Composers. Jason and the other
two finalists will have a new choral work premiered by the ensemble in May
2014. After completing his Masters degree, Jason plans to teach music in
public schools before pursing doctoral studies in choral conducting.
Eleni Sikelianos is the author of the memoir, The Book of Jon, and poetry
collections, which include The California Poem, The Monster Lives of Boys and
Girls, and Earliest Worlds. A California native, she has lived in New York and
Paris and now lives in Boulder, Colorado where she teaches at the University
of Denver.
Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of four collections of poetry,
Odalisque in Pieces (University of Arizona Press, 2009), The City She Was
(Center for Literary Publishing, 2011) and Goodbye, Flicker (University of
Massachusetts Press, 2012), Milk and Filth (University of Arizona Press,
2013) and a memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds (University of Arizona Press,
2010). She is the recipient of a Juniper Prize for poetry and a fellowship from
the Howard Foundation for creative nonfiction. She is the publisher of Noemi
Press, the editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol, and an assistant professor in the
MFA program in creative writing at New Mexico State University.
Sarika Sugla is a New Jersey-born artist and printmaker living in Iowa
City. She has a BFA in Printmaking, minor in Art History, and a concentration
in Book Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and is currently
pursuing her MFA degree at the University of Iowa. She has exhibited widely
in the United States and internationally, including recently in Portugal for the
Douro Biennial. In addition to her artistic practice and academic pursuits,
Sugla works as a curatorial research assistant at the University of Iowa Museum
of Art and as an archivist for the Iowa Print Group Archives.
Sugla’s recent work documents a journey that uses water as a personal religion.
Water is used as a medium, both as an artistic material and foreboding
entity, to explore ideas of time, change, and continuity and to represent
the fragmentation, unpredictability, and reflection that befall our human
Mathias Svalina is the author of three books, most recently The Explosions
from Subito Press. Big Lucks Press will release his book Wastoid in 2014. He is
an editor for Octopus Books.
Suzanne Torres (b.1982, New Jersey) received her BA in Art from
Monmouth University in 2008 and was a Post-Baccalaureate student in
sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute. She participated in additional
studies at the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy and the
Metáfora International Workshop in Barcelona, Spain as a yearlong resident.
Most recently she participated in the Open Studio Residency at Haystack
Mountain School of Crafts and received a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio
Center for the summer of 2014. She has exhibited her work nationally and
internationally. Torres is a second-year Ceramics graduate and MFA candidate
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Find her work at
Reem Abu-Baker
Julie Carr
Emma Dajska
Laura Cesarco Eglin
Shamala Gallagher
Tania Hershman
Melanie Madden
Denise Nestor
Shira Richman
Jason Saunders
Sarika Sugla
Kendra Bartell
Doug Paul Case
Dolores Dorantes
Laura Eve Engel
Ross Gay
Jen Hofer
Tony Mancus
Alvarado O’Brien
Kathryn Roberts
Eleni Sikelianos
Mathias Svalina
Nathan Blake
Paul Edward Costa
Ray Easley
Charles Gabel
Matthew Henriksen
Arturo Ramírez Lara
Taylor McGill
Annie Paradis
Mariola Rosario
Carmen Giménez Smith
Suzanne Torres