Friday, April 29, 2016

oh no

what comes after a word like that
(you know)

the right word is not "puddle"
not "mess"
not "loss" or "lifeless"
the right phrase was not
"come down"
nor "stay up"

(i see you)

"don't drown"
could be said, held


no words
are stones

to step
a way back
way back

rest here.

the enormous

it's fascist
will be said
queer, will be said
sad will be said
thrown back
all wrong
all wrong


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


by margaret atwood from true stories

nothing like love to put blood
back in the language,
the difference between the beach and its
discrete rocks & shards, a hard
cuneiform, and the tender cursive
of waves; bone & liquid fishegg, desert
& saltmarsh, a green push
out of death. the vowels plump
again like lips or soaked fingers, and the fingers
themselves move around these
softening pebbles as around skin. the sky's
not vacant and over there but close
against your eyes, molten, so near
you can taste it. it tastes of
salt. what touches
you is what you touch.

Friday, April 22, 2016

the last time

by marie howe, from what the living do

the last time we had dinner together in a restaurant
with white tablecloths, he leaned forward

and took my two hands in his hands and said,
i'm going to die soon. i want you to know that.

and i said, i think i do know.
and he said, what surprises me is that you don't.

and i said, i do. and he said, what?
and i said, know that you're going to die.

and he said, no, i mean know that you are.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

in-between spaces

quotes from the location of culture by homi k bhabha

“a boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing” -martin heidegger, 'building, dwelling, thinking'

“the move away from the singularities of 'class' or 'gender' as primary conceptual and organizational categories has resulted in an awareness of the subject positions – of race, gender, generation, institutional location, geopolitical locale, sexual orientation – that inhabit any claim to identity in the modern world. What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These 'in-between' spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood – singular or communal – that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself.”

“i wanted to make shapes or set up situations that are kind of open... my work has a lot to do with a kind of fluidity, a movement back and forth, not making a claim to any specific or essential way of being.” - renee green /also: “it's still a struggle for power between various groups within ethnic groups about what's being said and who's saying what, who's representing who? What is a community anyway? What is a black community? What is a latino community? I have trouble with thinking of all these things as monolithic fixed categories.”

“how are subjects formed 'in-between', or in excess of, the sum of the 'parts' of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc)? How do strategies of representation or empowerment come to be formulated in the competing claims of communities where, despite shared histories of deprivation and discrimination, the exchange of values, meanings and priorities may not always be collaborative and dialogical, but may be profoundly antagonistic, conflictual and even incommensurable?”

“the real world appears in the image as it were between parentheses” -emmanuel levinas

“the lesson aila teaches requires a movement away from a world conceived in binary terms, away from a notion of the people's aspirations sketched in simple black and white. It also requires a shift of attention from the political as a pedagogical, ideological practice to politics as the stressed necessity of everyday life – politics as a performativity. Aila leads us to the unhomely world where, gordimer writes, the banalities are enacted – the fuss over births, marriages, family affairs with their survival rituals of food and clothing. But it is precisely in these banalities that the unhomely stirs, as the violence of a racialized society falls most enduringly on the details of life: where you can sit, or not; how you can live, or not; what you can learn, or not; who you can love, or not. Between the banal act of freedom and its historic denial rises the silence.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

dyed carnations

by robin schiff
There’s blue, and then there’s blue.
A number, not a hue, this blue
is not the undertone of any one
but there it is, primary.
I held the bouquet
in shock and cut the stems at a deadly angle.
I opened the toxic sachet of flower food
with my canine and rinsed my mouth.
I used to wash my hands and daydream.
I dreamed of myself and washed
my hands of everything. Easy math.
Now I can’t get their procedure
at the florist off my mind.
The white flowers arrived! They overnighted
in a chemical bath
and now they have a fake laugh
that catches like a match
that starts the kind of kitchen fire
that is fanned by water.
They won’t even look at me.
Happy Anniversary.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


quotes from labyrinths by jorge luis borges

“plato said that poets are the scribes of a god who moves them against their own will, against their intentions, just as a magnet moves a series of iron rings.” -in “the argentine writer and tradition”

“in time, because if the future and the past are infinite, there can not really be a when; in space, because if every being is equidistant from the infinite and the infinitesimal, neither can there be a where. no one exists on a certain day, in a certain lace; no one knows the size of his own countenance.” -from “the fearful sphere of pascal”

Monday, April 18, 2016


all quotes from desolation by yasmina reza

"'what's the point of using all these definitions with me? i'm an old lady now, i'm no longer susceptible to the charms of contrarians like you. you think you're being provocative and you're just being predictable' (your sister used the word dense, remember?). 'unlike arthur i don't think there's any reason to reproach you for the blinkered way you see the world, but why do you feel obliged to belittle it at every given moment? your standpoint on this story is the standpoint of someone who's fallen out of love. as a standpoint it's devoid of affection, it doesn't carry much authority, if you want to know what i think, and it certainly doesn't merit being broadcast. people we no longer love no longer carry any credit with us and everything they do seems artificial. when we're in love, obviously,' she went on after a hesitation, 'we blindly cultivate every magic pull of enchantment'"

"'his words were chosen with such nonchalant cruelty that i can barely reproduce their power to wound. 'everything is for the best, my dear. what years of hesitations and agonizing doubt couldn't bring me to do, you have achieved with decisive grace and the lightest of touches. you've finally set me free, genevieve. and i must admit something to you: while it would have been almost impossible for me to get there on my own, i sincerely envy the ease, the flick of the wrist, with which you eliminated me.''"

"and i would say to him don't let yourself be upset my boy, by my deplorable rantings, with the people i love, i like to explore the precipice, i like extreme danger. i make myself odious, i make myself utterly ugly to test your affection. when it comes to ugliness, i can scale everest."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

lemon-water light

from "catholic" by franny howe (the best american poetry 2004)


what can you do after easter?
every turn of the tire is a still point on the freeway.
if you stand in one, and notice what is all around you, it is a pile-up of
the permanent.
the churn of creation is a constant upward and downward action;
simultaneous, eternal. if you keep thinking there is only an ahead
and a behind, you are missing the side-to-side which gives evidence
to the lie that you are moving progressively.
if everything is moving at the same time, nothing is moving at all.
time is more like a failed resurrection than a measure of passage.


the drive from the I-5 along melrose to sycamore.
the drive up la brea to franklin and right then left up to mulholland.
the drive along santa monica to the rise up to the right and sunset.
the drive along sunset east past the billboard of the man on a saddle.
the drive from the 405 up onto la cienega and the view of hills.
the difference between nirvana and nihil.


thomas aquinas was an itinerant thinker. his thinking rolled like a reel.
it went forward as a movement backward. his thoughts may have been
placed on the side like the eyes of many intelligent animals.
to mitigate pain he recommended weeping, condolence by friends,
bathing, sleep, and contemplation of the truth.
he was the ninth of nine children and sent very early to a monastery.
the dominicans luckily had no rule about staying in one place. so he
could walk from city to city, italy.


legal thoughts were developed by the dominicans when they were
assigned the job of creating penitential acts that matched each sin.
they had to study humanity closely and seriously. thomas took on
this task and it became his life-work, his summa, his body of words
that he called straw in the end. something to burn.


human nature: what is it?

the source and the destiny of each life are the same: an unknown
that is unknowable. unknown before; around and unknown now;
and unknown after unless already fully known before.

every act and thought has to be measured against this that has no
limits. why?

because the failure to grow and flourish and develop is a terror; to
die prematurely without having found any consolation for
disappointment is an injustice.
a person wants to be known, to add up, to be necessary.
the only way to assure that this can happen is for there to be a way
to study each action in relation to its immediate objective and to its
surrounding circumstance: who, what, where, by what ends, why,
how, when. you can by these terms measure your action in the
world, but its final objective remains the same: unknown.


for some meditation, contemplation, prayer indicate that there is
an emptiness already built into each body and it is that which
(paradoxically) makes these persons feel at home in the cosmos.


for others the hoarding of capital signals a loss of desire for any
more knowing; it substitutes numbers for objects. it creates a safety
net out of figures.


the taste and smell of an action, any action, comes from its objective.
this is the strange thing about relationship. what you desire is
what creates your quality. you are not made by yourself, but by the
thing that you want. it is that sense of a mutually seductive world
that an itinerant life provides. because you are always watching and
entering, your interest in fixtures grows weary and your strongest
tie is to the stuff off to the side traveling with you.


lemon-water light of california. flattened with big boulevards and
wandering men and women depleted at bus stops. back alley
bungalows. a terrycloth sash, evidence of neglect.

. . .


passions are eliminations, but they are critical to the body's survival,
because they attract, command, and absorb; they make
vigilant. hope and fear, these are the two passions that loom
behind all the others. i know a man driven by fear, and another one
deluded by hope.


pain interferes with your ability to concentrate. a priest told me to
prepare for the end while i am still mentally ordered. old age can
scatter the work of a life-time. probably people should go sannyasa
as soon as they retire, and become wanderers, contemplatives, ones
who act charitably all the day long.


an ethics of intentionality must stay at a practical, measurable
level, and never become abstract. don't ever argue principles, my
father told me. stay with the facts.


these scribbles? stray ends? ardor's droppings?

illness has its own aura. and one who adores haloes can smell and
see the aura of illness. a thick swimmer. through the door, an odor.
a mystifying stiff. millions of them world-wide.
geese are going over, raw as a jet stream, the windows open and a
stick finger plunged into a science jar. seedless.

nature exists in a deep sleep, eden's sleep. this is why watching and
hearing the wind in the trees or the waves brings such peace. if
natural light is the imprint of divine light, the word divine is


in some form or other, the deformity of the form is always potential
as opposed to immanent. perfection requires attention.


asshole or jerk? which one gets to be president.

you know the man by the punishment he deserves and doesn't get.
he can actually perfect his sin with malicious intent and no one will
even notice.
because we have an infinite disposition for wanting the good.

. . .


i can't believe i can see. i can't believe i can hear. i can't believe i
can speak or think. what are commodities but evidence of lost
people. you cannot love a bathrobe so what can you love about
your own texture.

. . .


evil is the privation of good in any subject, it is a weakness and a
lack. this is why it is compatible with capital.
it may lack reason, or heart, or conscience, or empathy, it is a sign
of incompletion, it is an exaggeration of one quality at the expense
of others that must be banished in order for that one to thrive.
intention is hardly distinguishable from morality. it colors the
action that comes from it with the shade of the desired end. the
sad thing is that you can apprehend your goal as good and be
wrong. most of the time this is what happens and so you have the
problem of judging yourself in terms of both intention and desired
end, when things go wrong.


where did i go wrong? at the same place everyone else did?
why did i end up living in unhappiness for so many years? unhappiness
was the desert, literally and figuratively.
trees that don't move. sun on dry dog turds. black immobile
shadows. temporary infinity.
this was not home because my interior landscape was composed of
wet, watery images -- soggy brick, flowerpots, begonias, big morning
glories, sloppy roads, and turbulent skies.
but something worse, generally, was occurring in the world around
me, as it also occurred in me. the restlessness, the consciousness of
a disappearing base and goal, the lack of home and civic engagement.
i loved no city that i recognized.
anything can happen under these conditions. nuclear bombs, dirty
bombs, small-time random murder, and abduction.

. . .


all hope depends on possibility. nothing much more. (but you
can't have hope outside of an active sense of justice; and this
complicates the processes.)

both buddha and jesus preached contradictory messages depending
on whom they were speaking to.


the egyptian women lied in order to protect the babies of the
hebrew women. god rewarded them for their lie. he gave them
houses on earth. moral ethicists are disturbed by this hypocrisy on
god's part. but this is one way the notion of "person" is born. how
is it lost?


the intellect is contemplative.
voluntary ignorance is a terrible social sin.
the embrace between faraway, freeway, and very near is air, breath,
oil, here.
mouth and food. going somewhere you don't want to be. how does
the will work. i don't want to go where i am going!
peripatetic effusions.

. . .


sometimes you are privileged with a glimpse of the other world,
when the light shines up from the west as the sun sets and dazzles
something wet. the world is just water and light, a slide show
through which your spirit glides.

reason is the dominant weapon of oppression. (reason versus person)
reason without the other values becomes evil.
reason where it lodges in me as an anonymous individual is
still oppressive but it works best in harmony with other passions --
people are depending on me is the main one.

but if i were president, i would reason the world into horrific war
because i would not let myself feel compassion or hope. i would
eliminate passions that contradicted my reason.

Friday, April 15, 2016

full of animal glow

excerpt from ladders to fire by anais nin:

the color of the day, he color of byzantine paintings, that gold which did not have the firm surface of lacquer, that gold made of a fine powder easily decomposed by time, a soft powdery gold which seemed on the verge of decomposing, as if each grain of dust, held together only by atoms, was ever ready to fall apart like a mist of perfume; that gold so thin in substance that it allowed one to divine the canvas behind it, the space in the painting, the presence of reality behind its thinness, the fibrous space lying behind the illusion, the absence of color and depth, the condition of emptiness and blackness underneath the gold powder. this gold powder which had fallen now on the garden, on each leaf of the trees, which was flowering inside the room, on her black hair, on the skin of his wrists, on his frayed suit sleeve, on the green carpet, on her green dress, on the bottle of perfume, on his voice, on her anxiety -- the very breath of living, the very breath he and she took in to live and breathed out to live -- that very breath could mow and blow it all down.

the essence, the human essence always evaporating where the dream installs itself.

the air of that summer day, when the wind itself had suspended its breathing, hung between the window and garden; the air itself could displace a leaf, could displace a word, and a displaced leaf or word might change the whole aspect of the day.

the essence, the human essence always evaporating where the dream installed itself and presided.

every time he said he had been out the night before with friends and that he had met a woman, there was a suspense in lillian's being, a moment of fear that he might add: i met the woman who will replace you. this moment was repeated for many years with the same suspense, the same sense of the fragility of love, without bringing any change in his love. a kind of superstition haunted her, running cross current to the strength of the ties binding them, a sense of menace. at first because the love was all expansion and did not show its roots; and later, when the roots were apparent, because she expected a natural fading and death.

this fear appeared at the peak of their deepest moments, a precipice all around their ascensions. this fear appeared through the days of their tranquillity, as a sign of death rather than a sign of natural repose. it marked every moment of silence with the seal of a fatal secret. the greater the circle spanned by the attachment, the larger she saw the fissure through which human beings fall again into solitude.

the woman who personified this danger never appeared. his description gave no clues. jay made swift portraits which he seemed to forget the next day. he was a man of many friends. his very ebullience created a warm passage but an onward flowing one, forming no grooves, fixing no image permanently. his enthusiasms were quickly burned out, sometimes in one evening. she never sought out these passing images.

now and then he said with great simplicity: "you are the only one. you are the only one."

and then one day he said: "the other day i met a woman you would like. i was sorry you were not there. she is coming with friends this evening. do you want to stay? you will see. she has the most extraordinary eyes."

"she has extraordinary eyes? i'll stay. i want to know her." (perhaps if i run fast enough ahead of the present i will out-distance the shock. what is the difference between fear and intuition? how clearly i have seen what i imagine, as clearly as a vision. what is it i feel now, fear or premonition?)

helen's knock on the door was vigorous, like an attack. she was very big and wore a severely tailored suit. she looked like a statue, but a statue with haunted eyes, inhuman eyes not made for weeping, full of animal glow. and the rest of her body a statue pinned down to its base, immobilized by a fear. she had the immobility of a medusa waiting to transfix others into stone: hypnotic and cold, attracting others to her mineral glow.

she had two voices, one which fell deep like the voice of a man, and another light and innocent. two women disputing inside of her.

she aroused a feeling in lillian which was not human. she felt she was looking at a painting in which there was an infinity of violent blue. a white statue with lascivious medusa hair. not a woman but a legend with enormous space around her.

her eyes were begging for an answer to an enigma. the pupils seemed to want to separate from the whites of the eyes.

lillian felt no longer any jealousy, but a curiosity as in a dream. she did not feel any danger or fear in the meeting, only an enormous blue space in which a woman stood waiting. this space and grandeur around helen drew lillian to her.

helen was describing a dream she often had of being carried away by a centaur and lillian could see the centaur holding helen's head, the head of a woman in a myth. people in myths were larger than human beings.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


all quotes from this book, chapter 3: envy

"envy lacks cultural recognition as a valid mode of publicly recognizing or responding to social disparities, even though it remains the only agonistic emotion defined as having a perceived inequality as its object. this invalidation is most powerfully exemplified by envy's integration into the nineteenth-century ideologeme of ressentiment: the 'diseased passion' which, as fredric jameson notes, enabled the discrediting of genuine political impulses by ascribing them to 'private dissatisfactions' or psychological flaws."

"whereas envy and jealousy were 'dramatically transformed' into female characteristics in the nineteenth century, in the twentieth century this feminization was accompanied by intensified social prohibition against their expression."

"the fact that the feminization and moralization of envy have operated in collusion to suppress its potential as a means of recognizing and polemically responding to social inequalities, casting suspicion on the possible validity of such a response and converting it into a reflection of petty or 'diseased' selfhood, should alert us to the fact that forms of negative affect are more likely to be stripped of their critical implications when the impassioned subject is female. envy's concomitant feminization and moral devaluation thus points to a larger cultural anxiety over antagonistic responses to inequality that are made specifically by women. as we shall see in the next section, this anxiety about female antagonism in general comes to a particular head in academic feminism, especially when it involves representations of antagonistic relations between women."

"[these films] represent women's friendships as plagued by jealousy, envy, and competition for men, and they teach women to beware of and fear one another. by focusing so strongly on conflicts between women, they obscure other issues related to women's position in society, relieve men of any responsibility for women's problems, and suggest, instead, that women should grant men primary importance in their lives because they are the only ones upon whom women can rely." -karen hollinger

"let's say there is a certain model of femininity that i recognize as culturally desirable and invested with a certain degree of power. if from a feminist standpoint what i struggle with most is my having been acculturated into admiring and desiring that femininity, envy would seem to enable me to critically negotiate rather than simply disavow or repudiate this desire, which would entail positing myself as immune to acculturation. moreover, envy would facilitate a transition from desire to antagonism that might enable me to articulate what i have been trained to admire as something possibly threatening or harmful to me. as klein notes, it is only once the ideal object is envied that it becomes viewed as persecutory - a view that in turn mobilizes the subject's efforts to criticize and transform it, and transform its value or status as property in particular, spoiling it and 'rob[bing] it of what it possesses'."

"if... there is to be a productive 'transition from the critique of patriarchal masculinism to internal struggle withing feminism,' a transition in which we shift from a mode of critique 'embroiled, indeed embattled, in a heterosexual paradigm in which women's relationships to men are centrally interrogated' to one that is 'fundamentally a homosocial circuit in which feminism signifies from the conflicted terrain of relations among women', the affective dimension of feminism, including all its ugly feelings, need to be taken far more seriously than it has been so far."

"once a group has fought for and attained a certain degree of political recognition, the demand that its members be 'good examples' can easily turn repressive, especially when the demand emanates from outside rather than from within. this imperative often takes the following form: 'you, having declared yourself an example of X - perhaps in the initial struggle to secure social recognition and visibility for X - must now exemplify X as a fixed concept which you merely refer back to or reflect.' a corollary of this logic would be the following: 'in your failure to adequately exemplify X, you threaten the validity and legitimacy of X, as well as any group formation or collective identity based on X.' to use gubar's metaphor, the implication is that a group becomes 'sick' when its members become examples that do not properly exemplify. this assumption that collective strength depends on good exemplarity bears a close resemblance to the concept of the ego ideal that freud develops in group psychology, as well as the common assumption that one must identify with whatever one emulates or strives towards."

"the political act of feminist group formation thus entails producing 'group feeling,' though not necessarily the antagonism-free, identification-based 'group feeling'. . . here the compound subject is produced not by making two into one . . . but rather by making one into two, single white female could be said to allegorize the state of contemporary feminism as internally divided or split, yet held together by this very split."