Friday, December 15, 2017


quotes from brave new world by aldous huxley

"one of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies."

"actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. and, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. and being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. happiness is never grand."

Sunday, December 3, 2017


excerpt from jack, or the submission, play by eugene ionesco

[they put their arms around each other very awkwardly, jack kisses the noses of roberta II, one after the other, while father jack, mother jack, jacqueline, the grandparents, father robert, and mother robert enter without saying a word, one after the other, waddling along, in a sort of ridiculous dance, embarassing, in a vague circle, around jack and roberta II who remain at stage center, awkwardly enlaced. father robert silently and slowly strikes his hands together. mother robert, her arms clasped behind her neck, makes pirouettes, smiling stupidly. mother jack, with an expressionless face, shakes her shoulders in a grotesque fashion. father jack pulls up his pants and walks on his heels. jacqueline nods her head, then they continue to dance, squatting down, while jack and roberta II squat down too, and remain motionless. the grandparents turn around, idiotically, looking at each other, and smiling; then they squat down in their turn. all this must produce in the audience a feeling of embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame. the darkness increases. on stage, the actors utter vague miaows while turning around, bizarre moans, croakings. the darkness increases. we can still see the jacks and roberts crawling on the stage. we hear their animal noises, then we don't see them any more. we hear only their moans, their sighs, then all fades away, all is extinguished. again, a gray light comes on. all the characters have disappeared, except roberta, who is lying down, or rather squatting down, buried beneath her gown. we see only her pale face, with its three noses quivering, and her nine fingers moving like snakes.]

Friday, December 1, 2017


from the short story "a great man's house" by samrat upadhyay, from the book arresting god in kathmandu

"during one session, about two months after the wedding, while i was serving tea to the guests, nani memsaheb interrupted my master while he was speaking. my master had been talking about the nature of the mind, how it moves from one place to another like a monkey, and how in order to reach a higher level, one has to control that monkey. put it on a leash, my master had said, so that it cannot run around. then the mind will become one with the brahman.

'but when once we have the monkey on a leash,' she said, smiling faintly, 'then we too are tethered to the leash, aren't we?'

my master smiled, affectionately, understandingly, as one smiles at a child. 'yes, we are. the trick is to be tethered to that leash while also controlling it.'

'but how is that possible?' she asked. 'it seems to me that the trick is not to have the monkey on a leash at all. let the monkey do whatever it wants. why become attached to it?'"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

on being good men

by amaud jamaul johnson from red sparrow

because you were a good man,
and we had spent so much
of our adolescence thinking about
being good men, about being better
than our fathers, about proving
the world wrong, that black men
could love, that we could be true
to our wives, strong for our children

because so much had come to pass
how the narcotic night called us
how the streets beneath us ached
from sorrow and we survived

when you said you understood
what made men leave, how you stood
in the doorway, your wife and kids
asleep, your keys like a knife
at your wrist, how you heard your
name echo in the chorus of darkness
and were not afraid

because you were a good man
and i had spent so much of my life
trying to be a good man too
i could see your truth, like all
the truths who turned their backs
on us, the men who jumped
freight trains, the men who drove
for milk and never looked back

how we run from ourselves
from the chaos of our hearts
from our inability to witness
our failures in those we love

Monday, November 13, 2017

a note on the body

by danez smith (from don't call us dead)

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun

           you tragic, misfiring bird

you have all you need to be a hero
don't save the world, save yourself

you worship too much & you worship too much

when prayer doesn't work:          dance, fly, fire

this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end

but you live           oh, you live

everyday you wake you raise the dead

            everything you do is a miracle

Sunday, November 12, 2017


from the postman (il postino) by antonio skarmeta

"'listen to this poem: 'here on the island, the sea, so much sea. it spills over from time to time. it says yes, then no, then no. it says yes, in blue, in foam, in a gallop. it says no, then no. it cannot be still. my name is sea, it repeats, striking a stone but not convincing it. then with the seven green tongues, of seven green tigers, of seven green seas, it caresses it, kisses it, wets it, and pounds on its chest, repeating its own name.'

he paused with an air of satisfaction. 'what do you think?'

'it's weird.'

'weird? you certainly are a severe critic.'

'no, sir. the poem wasn't weird. what was weird was the way i felt when you recited it.'

'my dear mario, please try to express yourself more clearly. i simply cannot spend the whole morning in your delightful company.'

'how can i explain it to you? when you recited that poem, the words went from over there to over here.'

'like the sea, then!'

'yeah, they moved like the sea.'

'that's the rhythm.'

'and i felt weird because with all that movement, i got dizzy.'

'you got dizzy?'

'of course. i was like a boat tossing upon your words.'

the poet's eyelids rose slowly.

'like a boat tossing upon my words.'


'you know what you just did, mario?'

'no, what?'

'you invented a metaphor.'

'but it doesn't even count, 'cause it just came out by accident.'

'all images are accidents, my son.'"

Saturday, November 11, 2017

this side of joyce, who knew

from "the dead" by james joyce (in dubliners)

"moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. a heliotrope envelope was lying beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. they were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. he was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. it was very cold. her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:

'is the fire hot, sir?'

but the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. it was just as well. he might have answered rudely.

a wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries. like the tender fire of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. he longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. for the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched all their souls' tender fire. in one letter that he had written to her then he had said: 'why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?'

like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past. he longed to be alone with her."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

bank twenty-two

by laura sims from practice, restraint

the infinite

network of rooms



nobody wants you enough

Thursday, November 2, 2017


excerpt from the short story "old complaints revisited" by susan sontag (from i, etcetera):

the translator is on the verge of talking about sex.

instead of going on about the moral will, i'd rather talk about sex. but there's an obstacle here -- of my own making. i have told you i am married. i have mentioned an adultery. but i don't want to go into too much detail. i'm afraid of your losing the sense of my problem as a general one.

that's why i have made a point of not making it clear whether i'm a man or a woman. and i don't think i will - because, either way, it might subtract from the point of what i'm trying to explain. think about it. if i'm a man, the problem stands but i become a type. i'm too representative, almost an allegorical figure. if i'm a woman, i survive as a singular individual but my dilemma shrinks: it reflects the insecurities of the second sex. if i tell you i'm a woman, you'll write off my problem - still the same problem!- as merely "feminine."

assume i'm a man, if that makes it easier for you to understand the problem as a general one. a man, say, in his mid-thirties, tall, good-looking, sallow, thickening in the waist, etc., who usually wears a suit and tie. lo and behold, everyman. and lee and nicky are women. nicky is probably a blonde, chews gum, and takes a larger size bra than lee. nicky reads rock magazines and smokes pot; lee wears glasses. but it doesn't have to be like that. i could be an adolescent-looking woman in my mid-thirties, with long straight hair, small breasts, fair skin, and nail-bitten hands, who wears jeans and button-down shirts. if i am a woman, lee can be my over-worked, gently reared, soft-spoken husband, and nicky my proletarian, paint-bespattered, beer-swilling, rough-talking lover. in either version, you'll assume, the sex is livelier with nicky than it is with lee. unfortunately, i have to agree with you.

as a translator, i'm aware that this may be the only language in the world that allows me to leave the matter open. (except for having to steer away from the telltale "his" or "her," it shouldn't be hard.) all other languages i know are saturated with gender. a little triumph. i have the pleasure of writing, myself, something that can't be translated. . .

i am reluctant to describe myself at all, for fear that too many particularities will make you take my problem less seriously. but i can describe nicky to you, and that way i'll also, by inversion, be describing myself. nicky has many qualities that i signally lack - for example, an unwillingness to judge others. nothing makes nicky indignant.

in bed this steamy summer, i tried to arouse nicky's sympathy for my longing to quit the organization. all i got for an answer was a smile, although not a callous smile. (it was certainly not the typical response of a nonmember, glad to hear the bad news about us.)

actually, what i wanted to be - when i was a child - was a saint. with the full awareness of how ridiculous this was. people who want, desperately, often want to be either angels or saints. unfortunately, angels are not saints. and saints are not angels. nicky (fortunately?) was an angel.

once, nicky explained to me how it was possible to get through the day without judging. the art is in not letting any time elapse between events and one's acting upon them. a judgment, said nicky, is a cry of impotence. when people can't do anything to change a situation, what's left but to judge it? but isn't judging necessary in order to act, i asked, when we are acting rationally? isn't there, in all our acts, at least an implicit judgment? "no," nicky replied. judgment is no more implicit in acts, according to nicky, than impotence is implicit in potency.

as for judging oneself - one of my favorite occupations - you can imagine what nicky thought of that.

the portrait nicky started painting toward the end of our affair did not judge me. it observed me, it recorded me - in my mid-thirties, tall and well formed, etc, or with long hair and small breasts and nail-bitten hands, it doesn't matter. . . i kept wanting nicky to add something. "what more do you want?" nicky asked. "it's the face," i replied. "i'm not as calm as you portray me."

"do you want me to paint doubt?" asked nicky. "grief?" as nicky left the canvas to get a beer from the refrigerator, i shook my head. "i want you to show someone in the process of becoming someone else. but do it without making the portrait any less linear and figurative. don't let the paint drip or smudge or blur."

"you can't become other than what you are. only more or less what you are. you can't walk over your own feet."

"i can, i can, nicky," i murmured. "that's just what i have to do."

nicky was right, of course. but that didn't prevent me from returning to lee. it wasn't guilt that brought me back. it was a very peculiar kind of homesickness: a longing for the word. nicky and i could have a certain kind of laconic, aphoristic conversation. but the full-blooded verbal union that i had with lee finally counted for more. returning to lee, i was plunged back into the warm bath of talk that i'll never be able to do without.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

spires of form

quotes from spires of form: glimpses of evolution by victor b scheffer

"sex ambivalence is rare among vertebrate animals, being known only in certain fishes, in one family of turtles, and in one species of alligator. it is not, however, uncommon among lower animals. for example, the larva of the marine echiurid worm, bonellia, is sexually indifferent. if it happens to settle in a population where females are abundant it becomes a male, and vice versa. 'thus,' writes evolutionist george williams, 'each individual adjusts its sex to the opportunities presented by its demographic environment.'"

"i wish to make clear that it is first the individual silverside or echiurid worm, and second its group, that benefits from the ability to mature either as male or female. "

"slugs and earthworms (for example), although not self-fertilizing, are equipped with both ovaries and testes. copulating individuals line up belly to belly with their heads pointing in opposite directions, to mutually discharge sperms into the other's body."

"so, unisexual reproduction is a strategy that quickens the reproductive rate of a species. breeding while still in the larval stage is another. paedogenesis (literally, 'descent through children') is practiced by the aquatic tadpoles of a mexican salamander. called locally an axolotl, each tadpole matures sexually, engages in courtship, and produces eggs or sperms before it reaches adulthood. however, an axolotl can be forced to metamorphose into a dry-land adult by treating it with thyroxin and by lowering the water level of its pond, thus making gill breathing more difficult and lung breathing easier.

when the axolotl was discovered it was thought to represent a new, strictly aquatic, gill-breathing race. later it was found capable of maturing into a land dwelling tiger salamander very like those that breed over much of north america. thus an 'axolotl' is simply an aberrant tiger salamander which, constrained by the poverty of its habitat, begins to reproduce as soon as it can, even before it has reached its potential adult size."

"in his study of crowding, calhoun looked also at the spatial distribution of wild, free-living mammals such as mice, shrews, and gophers, that typically defend individual territories. ideally, each territory would be six-sided, for the hexagon is the ideal unit in a tightly packed, two-dimensional configuration. (witness the honeycomb cell.) noting that an animal living in a field of hexagonal territories has six nearest and eighteen next-nearest neighbors (total twenty-four), calhoun suggested that the magic number six has left its imprint on man's society."

"limulus, the horseshoe crab, is the last of an ancient line. it is little changed from ancestors who swarmed in the triassic seas more than 300 million years ago. now ageless, suspended in time, it stands apart, neither a proper crustacean (among the crabs and their kin) nor a proper arachnid (among the spiders and their kin). . .  to reflect on the endurance of limulus is to wonder, does evolution move in one direction or does it occasionally reverse itself? does 'progress' describe its motion through time? because natural selection depends in part on opportunism, reverse evolution or devolution is theoretically possible."

"almost no animal organ performs quite the same function for which it was earlier adapted. the flippers of whales and the wings of bats, now used in swimming and flying, stem from the forepaws of terrestrial mammals, and still earlier from the forefins of fishes. parts of the gill-bearing skeleton of ancient fishes, now transformed and scarcely recognizable, are the bones and cartilages of the adam's apple you can feel at the base of your throat. and the three small bones in the human ear that carry sound from the eardrum to the auditory nerve have direct antecedents in reptilian jawbones."

Monday, October 30, 2017

not that. never that.

from the short story/novella "westward the course of empire takes its way" by david foster wallace (from girl with curious hair)

"in the story he wants to make up, the one that doesn't stab him, he'd just be an object -- of irritation, accusation, desire: response. he wouldn't be a subject. not that. never that. to be a subject is to be Alone. trapped. kept from yourself. nechtr and sternberg and dehaven steelritter all know this horror: that you can kiss anyone's spine but your own. make love to anybody or anything except. . .

but mark can never know that other boys know this, too. he never talks about himself, see. this silence, for which he is loved, radiates cry-like from his central delusion and contemporary flaw. if his young companions have their own special delusions -- d.l.'s that cynicism and naivete are mutually exclusive, sternberg's that a body is a prison and not a shelter -- mark's is that he's the only person in the world who feels like the only person in the world. it's a solipsistic delusion."

Sunday, October 29, 2017


quotes from a brief history of yes by micheline aharonian marcom

"'you are right,' she says, 'that if i am to give you succor, i must give it you as you would like, and not as i prefer it.' and maria begins to leave the lover in some small measure before he leaves her in august, and although she lies with him on the bed, she lies also with new future lovers in her mind, she is inside the maelstrom of the not-know not-feel grey salt earth. she is revenging, she will leave her lover one day (even though it is he who leaves her) just as she left pai to die alone in lisbon, in that old city with its back to europe, its gaze pressed to the river and the atlantic."

* * *

"hello despair, she does not say (only the next day when others ask her of her holiday and she begins to weep).

hello sea, air, sky, and black cormorants.

there is nothing good today in my heart. all is lost, all forsaken. my son with his father and the horsy faced girl. me on these bluffs one-hundred-and-fifty miles from a city which is not my natal city, pai gone, my uncles aunts cousins across the atlantic in an old small inconsequential country where my old memories were made. i loved a tall, blond, blue-eyed american man; eventually he did not love me back. looks again at the sea. looks again at the sky. lies next to the bush and would like to be the bush, the sky, the sea, seaweed, and cold autumn air.


and of course what she notices, what is evident, is how this affair and its demise, its rupture, his 'i am not in-love with you, mariazinha,' and i don't believe you, she tells him, so that her pride gets up, turns, and then stands taller, she recants: i believe you, i don't want to feel like this, i can't bear it -- takes he closer to the imperceptible edges of things. and she begins to feel that she could go mad, and in english it is to lose one's mind, and i want to lose mine, the portuguese girl thinks, lose it lose it, for it plagues me, it takes me down into the vile place, the place where pai berated me as a girl in the old city on the far outer western edges of a continent. the sun's light is lisbon's body; the tagus its spine. maria's gift to the blond was the manner in which she loved him -- seeing his wound, the brittle place, and holding him from across the ocean, keeping her hands pressed to his back, telling him that the heart is its own country and they its loving countrymen.

so that maria begins to take photographs of herself daily to see what she looks like, to affirm she exists, to see what grief looks like in her face, what sadness, what a portuguese woman from lisbon in america long enough to have a (mostly) american accent and to remember the sunlight of her natal city and not-remember all the language which fades each year more and more, from likeness to likeness, word to word and colloquial phrase to phrase, so that it is now awkward, a child's tongue, a kitchen language, to say simple things to mae with and for speaking to herrelatives on the phone who remained there in that place on occasion -- distant and more foreign seeming all of the time. and to think that a man, blond, blue-eyed, who she has known long enough for the earth to complete its orbit around the sun, has unleashed in her the old place. i must travel to that place now, she thinks; all of my life i have labored not to enter into that place for fear and in fear my fear became a magnet, brought me the old husband, the other lovers, and now this blond who leaving, says, i leave you at the threshold of your madness, the monster: pass over; go down; see.

another conversation:

'yes, with the lover, the blond blue-eyed, i felt constrained (as i had in my marriage) and i didn't want to admit to myself this feeling for i am always talking with myself as if to the mirror of my thoughts, and the mind talks its incessant etceteras and constraint was a feeling, not a talking, although i am talking now: as if to a tree, have i told you of the maple outside my window, we speak to one another without speaking, and the tree was terribly pruned by a gardener, a man i invented (for i never knew him), who violently pruned the maple before i purchased the house (cut the top of the tree off as if removing the head of it, took an electric saw and flat-topped the maple for an unobstructed window's view) and prunes in my mind and in my mind the invented gardener grafts my blond blue-eyed lover to pai, one inside the other, violently -- the two become one and the one always saying you are not right, no good, correct your style, your language, your ---.'

madness either destroys you at the abyss, or from there a new form is made, something else is born.


she says, 'i would describe the feeling as a hollow.

'and, i love this feeling as i love love. do not confuse it with a desiccated sensation, this after-love feeling.' she is running around town and using phrases such as running around town when she is driving in her car and saying,

'i would like to kill myself.' but she knows that her son will suffer and in her suffering she thinks that this, what she calls suffering, will not end and her mind here is doing all of the talking and naming and categorizing of things and events of after-love narratives and the girl is watching the mind talking away like running around when she is driving and the dialogue is inside of dialogue tags, is realer than reality, realer than her bills which lie unpaid, and her parking tickets accumulating, debt amounts which grow taller than the maple in her garden, the tree which was pruned back to respectable neighborly viewing heights,

'i would like to die. i am lonely and i will always be lonely and how could he leave me and then leave me only so that he can find other girls and i hate him (would die for him) and he was not right for me and i didn't want my old husband who then married the horsy faced girl who is no longer my friend and i will be alone and why can't someone, why can't i find someone who can hold me at night, hold my abdomen where the pain is hollowing out the tunnels of rage (pain), unrequited love (rage), and a presence so fierce and strong a light so black that only death will allay it.'

. . .

what then illusion, what then love. what real from what the mind speaks, thinks, the mind still speaking saying: 'and he never loved me and he is selfish and cruel and he made me feel small and he abused me, a misuse, and.' where is the real of it? in the groin, in the lower intestine, in the chest cavity, concaved or round.

i am waiting for
i will kill myself
i will walk along the cliff's edge
there is no man for me now
there is only the futures of inestimable estimates

now there is a japanese maple pressed against the windowpane, it is still green; presses as if a girl lying on a bed in a lover's embrace: the girl embraced now not by her lover or a stranger or love, but by her own mind; her woman's unstoppable grief at the unrequited love; by the end of something which never existed, perchance.

'you are beautiful. you are strong. a good person.' henry responds to her question when she is speaking with him on the telephone.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

good people

quotes from lady widermere's fan by oscar wilde

"Lord Darlington.  [Still seated L.C.]  Oh, nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad.  Besides, there is this to be said.  If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously.  If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t.  Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

"Lord Darlington.  Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in this world.  Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance.  It is absurd to divide people into good and bad.  People are either charming or tedious.  I take the side of the charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them."

Monday, October 16, 2017

nothing but

excerpt from creatures of a day by irvin d yalom

"there's also something very sad about your comments, helena. it's sad how billy, this vital, precious man, this lifelong friend, has been reduced to a diagnosis. and your entire youth with him -- all those wonderful exciting experiences -- also reduced to being 'nothing but,' nothing but an expression of mania. perhaps he had some mania, but, from what you tell me, he seems so much more than that label."
"i know, i know, but i can't get past that right now."
"let me tell you what's going through my mind right now. when you said that your entire youthful life with him was 'nothing but' mania, i shuddered a bit. i imagined applying this 'nothing but' approach to what's transpiring right now between you and me. i guess one might say that this is nothing but a commercial transaction and that i'm being paid for listening and responding to you. or perhaps one might say that it helps me to feel stronger and more effective by helping you feel better. or that i get life meaning from helping you attain meaning. and yes, all these things may be true. but to say therapy is 'nothing but' any of these things is so very far from the truth. i feel that you and i have encountered one another, that something real is occurring between us, that you're sharing so very much of yourself with me, and that i am moved and engaged by your words. i don't want us to be reduced, and i don't want billy reduced. i like the thought of his miraculous midsummer smile."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

a legal poem for once

we are not the crime
we are the evidence

by māhealani perez-wendt from effigies

they've dusted us
from toe to top
well nigh
two hundred years:
their fingerprints
all over us
uncontroverted, clear;
the walls and floors
glow eerily
inside our
chastened cell;
they've kicked the chair
from under us
acquitted themselves well
they've kicked the chair
from under us
ignored the tolling bell
they've kicked the chair
from under us
consigned themselves to hell
they've kicked the chair
from under us
etc. etc.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

secret agent

from the spy who came in from the cold by john le carre:

"a man who lives apart, not to others but alone, is exposed to obvious psychological dangers. in itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility most of us can acquire. but while a confidence trickster, a play-actor, or a gambler can return from his performance to the ranks of his admirers, the secret agent enjoys no relief. for him, deception is first a matter of self-defence. he must protect himself not only from without but from within, and against the most natural of impulses; though he earn a fortune, his role may forbid him the purchase of a razor, though he be erudite, it can befall him to mumble nothing but banalities; though he be an affectionate husband and father, he must under all circumstances withhold himself from those in whom he should naturally confide.

aware of the overwhelming temptations which assail a man permanently isolated in his deceit, leamas resorted to the course which armed him best; even when he was alone, he compelled himself to live with the personality he had assumed. it is said that balzac on his deathbed enquired anxiously after the health and prosperity of characters he had created. similarly leamas, without relinquishing the power of invention, identified himself with what he had invented. the qualities he exhibited to fiedler, the restless uncertainty, the protective arrogance concealing shame, were not approximations but extensions of qualities he actually possessed; hence also the slight dragging of the feet, the aspect of personal neglect, the indifference to food, and an increasing reliance on alcohol and tobacco. when alone, he remained faithful to these habits. he would even exaggerate them a little, mumbling to himself about the iniquities of his service.

only very rarely, as now, going to bed that evening, did he allow himself the dangerous luxury of admitting the great lie he lived."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

an unfinished story

excerpt from the sea-gull by anton chekhov:

 TRIGORIN. I see nothing especially lovely about it. [He looks at his watch] Excuse me, I must go at once, and begin writing again. I am in a hurry. [He laughs] You have stepped on my pet corn, as they say, and I am getting excited, and a little cross. Let us discuss this bright and beautiful life of mine, though. [After a few moments’ thought] Violent obsessions sometimes lay hold of a man: he may, for instance, think day and night of nothing but the moon. I have such a moon. Day and night I am held in the grip of one besetting thought, to write, write, write! Hardly have I finished one book than something urges me to write another, and then a third, and then a fourth—I write ceaselessly. I am, as it were, on a treadmill. I hurry for ever from one story to another, and can’t help myself. Do you see anything bright and beautiful in that? Oh, it is a wild life! Even now, thrilled as I am by talking to you, I do not forget for an instant that an unfinished story is awaiting me. My eye falls on that cloud there, which has the shape of a grand piano; I instantly make a mental note that I must remember to mention in my story a cloud floating by that looked like a grand piano. I smell heliotrope; I mutter to myself: a sickly smell, the colour worn by widows; I must remember that in writing my next description of a summer evening. I catch an idea in every sentence of yours or of my own, and hasten to lock all these treasures in my literary store-room, thinking that some day they may be useful to me. As soon as I stop working I rush off to the theatre or go fishing, in the hope that I may find oblivion there, but no! Some new subject for a story is sure to come rolling through my brain like an iron cannonball. I hear my desk calling, and have to go back to it and begin to write, write, write, once more. And so it goes for everlasting. I cannot escape myself, though I feel that I am consuming my life. To prepare the honey I feed to unknown crowds, I am doomed to brush the bloom from my dearest flowers, to tear them from their stems, and trample the roots that bore them under foot. Am I not a madman? Should I not be treated by those who know me as one mentally diseased? Yet it is always the same, same old story, till I begin to think that all this praise and admiration must be a deception, that I am being hoodwinked because they know I am crazy, and I sometimes tremble lest I should be grabbed from behind and whisked off to a lunatic asylum. The best years of my youth were made one continual agony for me by my writing. A young author, especially if at first he does not make a success, feels clumsy, ill-at-ease, and superfluous in the world. His nerves are all on edge and stretched to the point of breaking; he is irresistibly attracted to literary and artistic people, and hovers about them unknown and unnoticed, fearing to look them bravely in the eye, like a man with a passion for gambling, whose money is all gone. I did not know my readers, but for some reason I imagined they were distrustful and unfriendly; I was mortally afraid of the public, and when my first play appeared, it seemed to me as if all the dark eyes in the audience were looking at it with enmity, and all the blue ones with cold indifference. Oh, how terrible it was! What agony!

NINA. But don’t your inspiration and the act of creation give you moments of lofty happiness?

TRIGORIN. Yes. Writing is a pleasure to me, and so is reading the proofs, but no sooner does a book leave the press than it becomes odious to me; it is not what I meant it to be; I made a mistake to write it at all; I am provoked and discouraged. Then the public reads it and says: “Yes, it is clever and pretty, but not nearly as good as Tolstoi,” or “It is a lovely thing, but not as good as Turgenieff’s ‘Fathers and Sons,’” and so it will always be. To my dying day I shall hear people say: “Clever and pretty; clever and pretty,” and nothing more; and when I am gone, those that knew me will say as they pass my grave: “Here lies Trigorin, a clever writer, but he was not as good as Turgenieff.”

NINA. You must excuse me, but I decline to understand what you are talking about. The fact is, you have been spoilt by your success.

TRIGORIN. What success have I had? I have never pleased myself; as a writer, I do not like myself at all. The trouble is that I am made giddy, as it were, by the fumes of my brain, and often hardly know what I am writing. I love this lake, these trees, the blue heaven; nature’s voice speaks to me and wakes a feeling of passion in my heart, and I am overcome by an uncontrollable desire to write. But I am not only a painter of landscapes, I am a man of the city besides. I love my country, too, and her people; I feel that, as a writer, it is my duty to speak of their sorrows, of their future, also of science, of the rights of man, and so forth. So I write on every subject, and the public hounds me on all sides, sometimes in anger, and I race and dodge like a fox with a pack of hounds on his trail. I see life and knowledge flitting away before me. I am left behind them like a peasant who has missed his train at a station, and finally I come back to the conclusion that all I am fit for is to describe landscapes, and that whatever else I attempt rings abominably false.     

Monday, October 2, 2017

four gems from nayyirah waheed

if you show
someone the sun in your bones
and they reject you
you must remember.
they hurt themselves this very same way.

--- unable


if we must
be right.
we will
each other.



you haven't felt yet.
give them time.
they are almost here.



even if you are a small forest surviving off of
moon alone.
your light is extraordinary.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

lover and beloved

from the ballad of the sad cafe by carson mccullers

"first of all, love is a joint experience between two persons  - but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. there are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. and somehow every lover knows this. he feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. he comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. so there is only one thing for the lover to do. he must house his love within himself as best as he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world - a world intense and strange, complete in himself. let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring - this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

now, the beloved can also be of any description. the most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. a man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. the preacher may love a fallen woman. the beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else - but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. a most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. a good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

it is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. almost everyone wants to be the lover. and the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being be loved is intolerable to many. the beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. for the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. the lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

for-the-spirits-who-have-rounded-the-bend IIVAQSAAT

excerpt from poem by dg nanouk okpik from the book effigies


i learned to crack mussel shells, to collect moss on rocks,
save strewn caribou hides across malleable tundra,
how to stop my finger joints from cracking in frost,
to dye my hair garnet to fit in, to feel earthquakes
uprooting soapstone and jade, to count milliseconds
by watching a brook run, to count cracks in an ice flow,
to drink water from a horsetail reed. now my ball and
sockets rub and roll like hummocks bound and rivet
the northern tip of the rockies. i read books until my eyes
chart points in words down 4000 miles in desert sounds.
my tongue clipped to the brow antler,
the words rubbing sealskin to make thunder then lightning.
i guide the harpoon-line hanging in the singing house with
many blessed eggs for mothers, for children. i stitch you
around my eyes, down my chin, through my altered states
to remember it is you who guards me from long ice needles.
it is you threading the singe on my sealskin, patching letters
tied to ink blood. i am seeing only will-full DNA
tattooed to the snow knife for cutting ice blocks of chins,
perhaps for a house, a shelter, a lean to in a starved storm but,
had i not prayed for this moment, this dissension into fish
or birds, if what i wanted was to make it until the large stocks
of dried musk oxen are gone. then i choose sable day
and flux night.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


excerpt from the short story "someone else's theme" by sigizmund krzhizhanovsky (from the book memories of the future)

for a minute straight was quiet, dividing the silence into beats with his hand. and then: "i'm even afraid of that andante expressivo: it is so artfully absents, so imperiously parts a person from people and things; a few more bars, it seems, and any return will be impossible. it's that feeling - we've all had it - when wheels are carrying us away, while our thoughts keep coming back, when the space between 'i' and 'you' is inexorably windening, and the closer the one and only, the farther away, and thus, the farther the closer. i understand why beethoven, striving to drive the e-flat melancholy of this sonata of leave-takings into fingers not his own, could not find - for the first time in his life - readymade terms. yes, it's here, above the theme of absences, that we see the direction - seemingly lost among the italian words - in his native language: in gehender bewegung, doch mit ausdruck.* i remember that then too, through the accelerating race of piano keys, in the howling wind of octaves and thirds, there flickered a tiny 'i beg you,' but pounding right after it came the final six bars at tempo primo, and before i could catch the signal word, the sonata had veered into its third movement: the abrupt vivacissimamente flooded my ears like a joyful torrent. this was the famous le retour: the return, the reuniting of the disunited. you recall those oscillating triplets in the left hand, hand joining hand, the fever of notes and lips, the pedal pumping on the upbeats so the piano nearly chokes. . . but then stuart mill was right: to understand is to transgress. the devil only knows how it's all done, but it's done in such a way that when i had finished listening, i stood for a long time under the now-shut window, unable to take my leave of the sonata of leave-takings. at the time i had a fair amount of leisure - so i invited the sonata, as it alighted from the keys, to walk with me along the muddy cobbles in the lanes across the river. in exchange for the emotion the music had given me, i offered to help it finish what it had begun. happiness, i argued, doesn't like to oblige people because people don't give it (happiness) any holidays. if people knew how to live like the sonata, in three movements, interspersing meetings with partings, allowing happiness to go off for short spells, for a few bars at least, they mightn't be so unhappy. strictly speaking, music isn't in time, time is in music. yet we treat our time extremely unmusically. a city knows nothing of separations - that never-dispersing crowd, music without pauses - the people in it are too close together to be close to one another. the narrow streets along which you and i are now wandering, sonata, are forever knocking into each other for want of space, physical or otherwise; but the roofless sky thrown open overhead reminds us of its boundless and insuperable emptinesses. if orbits intersected like streets, and stars crossed paths like people, they would all have crashed into one another and the sky would be benighted and black. no, up there, everything turns on an eternal separateness. and if we won't unwedge our cramped everyday life with separations, if we won't convert our collectives from a close order to an extended one - we may perish. an old saying compares separations to the wind that douses the candle but fans the flames. so let us sow the wind. let all the guttering tapers go out, and the sooner the better, all those tiny particles of feeling that produce more soot than warmth or light. the person who doesn't want his soup rattles his spoon and pushes the plate away; but people with no appetite for each other tend to rattle on and on, unable to push away what is unnecessary. the idiotic 'light in the window' should also be put out by the winds of separations: we don't need sitting rooms, or shaded lamps, or round tables. we need strictly enforced rules: on odd days of the month, say, forbid acquaintances to recognize each other in the street; replace two-seater droshkies with one-seaters; impose fines on those who go out in pairs. equate meetings of husbands and wives with those of convicts; allow children to speak to their parents only on the telephone; give those who abandon their families reduced fares. . .

[. . . ] i could easily outline my elaborate yet elegant system of separationism, but what interests me now is the art of separationism - not the theory but the practice."

*in unhurried motion, but with expression (german)

Monday, August 21, 2017

desired gaze

from the unbearable lightness of being by milan kundera

"we all need someone to look at us. we can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.

the first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. that is the case with the german singer, the american actress, and even the tall, stooped editor with the big chin. he was accustomed to his readers, and when one day the russians banned his newspaper, he had the feeling that the atmosphere was suddenly a hundred times thinner. nothing could replace the look of unknown eyes. he thought he would suffocate. then one day he realized that he was constantly being followed, bugged, and surreptitiously photographed in the street. suddenly he had anonymous eyes on him and he could breathe again! he began making theatrical speeches to the microphones in his wall. in the police, he had found his lost public.

the second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. they are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. they are happier than the people in the first category, who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that the lights have gone out in the room of their lives. this happens to nearly all of them sooner or later. people in the second category, on the other hand, can always come up with the eyes they need. marie-claude and her daughter belong in the second category.

then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. one day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark. tereza and tomas belong in the third category.

and finally, there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. they are the dreamers. franz, for example. he traveled to the borders of cambodia only for sabina. as the bus bumped along the thai road, he could feel her eyes fixed on him in a long stare."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

the moan

from the daydreaming boy by micheline aharonian marcom

"it is not the words that express in the fleshiest part of ourselves our fleshy desire, not the words, but the belly pitched moan, from the genital to the spine and seeps into the vocal cord: fuck me, it means, and we know it like we know how to breathe --- and there is no space between the moan and the desire: it is the thing itself. and i think this is why i have always yearned for the moment of high-pitched desire, that falling away of words into the beast's pure expression --- that:          ---its truth in this world of prevaraication of obfuscation of language distanced lies. i want the body only and the sounds it makes ---the truth of flesh"

"perhaps i am nothing, a beastly corporal illusion someone thought up in the dark days of summer and pulled me out of the ether for his pleasure or pain, and relivened me and for what i would like to know? to what purpose? i would have liked to remain unexisted and ubiquitous like the sea out of view from my balcony window. i think it is true that i didn't want to exist and once existing wanted only the peace and the mountains and the warmth of her body, and i don't think i ever had it and i have longed for it all of these many years and now i would like only to unexist, not to die, but perhaps to kill that specter that imagined me out of the ether, that memoried me, has attempted to history the unhistoried boy, the unclanned boy, the orphan, refugee, and i would have liked only to remain so: unspoken because not speakable, because to speak me is to alter maim and transfigure the boy who wanted only to be loved: i can say it now: to have been loved and out and out and free. unspecter me. i have always desired it. out out and free: the sea the wind and the invisible force that brings us to the limits of our desire, to the edge of things, out. i have always longed for it."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


by rae armatrout from just saying

see something, say something.

jotting in a notebook.

carrying oneself
in a defensive posture.

pausing before shop windows.


say something.


“normal circulation pattern.”

rate monitor.

jotting in a notebook.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


***i am so incredibly indebted (reparations yes) to the many many folks of color who have challenged and continue to challenge me from every angle: those who have held my ignorance while holding my hand, shut me down when i needed it, drawn detailed maps of whiteness as presence (as racism), turned my gaze back, generously offered tools, frameworks, stories, compassion, patience, anger, grief... these are such enormous labors of transmutation*** 

from white supremacists with torches murdering and severely wounding people in charlottesville to madison police chief koval rounding up poor black folks throughout the city, on his equally supremacist and fascist "mission" ::: the continuum of white supremacy shows itself starkly 

the grief and anger spinning, our communities reeling

white supremacy culture isn't simply packaged in torches, nazi insignia, police badges, donald trump... it implicates the "nicest" of white liberals, the "fiercest" of white anarchists, the "smartest" of white radical leftist intellectuals, and includes deeply embedded and vigorously defended expectations:
-for everyday environments that bend and shape themselves around white people desires
-for interactions that assume white people should possess the constant presence of both safety and comfort, exploring/ expanding/ appropriating or withholding/ shutting down/ giving up at whatever whim
-for material opportunities, paths towards achievement - property, jobs, relationships, accolades, education, wealth, political power - that concede to an entitled "normalcy" of whiteness
-for ceaseless explicit and implicit control of "intangibles": narratives, aesthetics, rhetoric, emotional well-being, dialogue, manners, critiques, etc etc etc

... that fucked up whiteness of the mind. it is poison

Saturday, August 12, 2017


from antwerp by roberto bolaño

she said she loved busy days. i looked up at the sky. "busy days," and also insects and clouds that drift down to the bushes. this flower pot i leave in the country is proof of my love for you. then i came back with my butterfly net in the fog. the girl said: "calamity," "horses," "rockets sliced open," and turned her back on me. her back spoke. like the chirping of crickets in the afternoons of lonely houses. i closed my eyes, the brakes squealed, and the policemen leaped out of their cars. "keep looking out the window." without any explanation, two of them came to the door and said "police," the rest i could hardly hear. i closed my eyes, crickets chirped, the boys died on the beach. bodies riddled with holes. the brakes squealed and the cops got out. there's something obscene about this, said the medic when nobody was listening. i'll probably never come back to the clearing in the woods, not with flowers, not with the net, not with a fucking book to spend the afternoon. his mouth opened but the author couldn't hear a thing. he thought about the silence and then he thought "there's no such thing," "horses," "waning august moon." someone applauded from the void. i said i guessed this was happiness.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

i feel more lonely when i am with people than i do when i am alone looking at the internet

by mira gonzalez from i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together

in social situations i hide specific parts of my personality that i think
other people might perceive as unappealing
i don’t feel like i am pretending to be something different that what i
i don’t feel like i am anything really
i am very tired all the time
i don’t identify with most people
i don’t think highly of myself
i am too passive to create a situation in which i convince another
person that i am valuable
that i am someone who deserves things
that my physical presence in the world should induce positive or
negative feelings
everyone is growing apart from me
i am letting them do that

Monday, August 7, 2017

the valve is language

excerpt from the literary conference by cesar aira

i have often asked myself how i got into this situation, what happened during my formative years that increased the speed of my mental flow so excessively and made it stick there. i have also asked myself (what haven't i asked myself?) what the exact measure of that speed is, for the very concept of "mental hyperactivity" is approximate and must contain gradations.

to the first question, regarding the history of my malady, i have responded for better or for worse with a small and private "creation myth," whose modulations have been all the novels i have written. i would be hard put to spell this out in the abstract because the myths' variations are not specific "examples" of a general form, in the same way that specific thoughts that are always flashing through my head like lightning are not case studies or examples of a type of thought.

that myth of the ideal myriads, that little drama without characters or plot, would be shaped like a valve. or, in less technical terms, it would have the characteristic baudelaire called "irreversibility." a formulated thought does not pass back through the same caudine forks of its birth, does not return to the nothingness from which it came. which explains not only the fierce overcrowding but also a quite visible feature of my personality: my bewilderment, my imprudence, my frivolity. the withdrawal of an idea to the conditions of its production is the necessary condition for its seriousness.

in my case, nothing returns, everything races forward, savagely being pushed from behind by what keeps coming through that accursed valve. this image, brought to its peak of maturation in my vertiginous reflections, revealed to me the path to the solution, which i forcefully put into practice whenever i have time and feel like it. the solution is none other than the greatly overused (by me) "escape forward." since turning back is off limits: forward! to the bitter end! running, flying, gliding, using up all the possibilities, the conquest of tranquility through the din of the battlefield. the vehicle is language. what else? because the valve is language. therein lay the root of the problem. which doesn't mean that once in a while, such as during those sessions at the pool, i didn't attempt a more conventional method, by relaxing, by trying to forget everything, by taking a short vacation.

but i have no illusions: there's something phony about this effort because i don't believe i'll ever renounce my old and beloved cerebral hyperactivity, which, in the end, is what i am. despite all our plans to change, we never voluntarily do so at the core, in our essence, which is usually where we find the knot of our worst defects.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

variations on lostness

if someone
does not want me
it is not the end of the world.
if i do not want me.
the world is nothing but endings.


she asked
'you are in love
what does love look like'
to which i replied
'like everything i've ever lost
come back to me.'

- both by nayirrah waheed

Sunday, July 30, 2017

the numinous

excerpt from the essay "woolf's darkness" by rebecca solnit from the book men explain things to me

this is the kind of criticism that does not pit the critic against the text, does not seek authority. it seeks instead to travel with the work and its ideas, to invite it to blossom and invite others into a conversation that might have previously seemed impenetrable, to draw out relationships that might have been unseen and open doors that might have been locked. this is a kind of criticism that respects the essential mystery of a work of art, which is in part its beauty and its pleasure, both of which are irreducible and subjective. the worst criticism seeks to have the last word and leave the rest of us in silence; the best opens up an exchange that need never end.

. . .

the tyranny of the quantifiable is partly the failure of language and discourse to describe the more complex, subtle, and fluid phenomena, as well as the failure of those who shape opinions and make decisions to understand and value these slipperier things. it is difficult, sometimes even impossible, to value what cannot be named or described, and so the task of naming and describing is an essential one in any revolt against the status quo of capitalism and consumerism. ultimately the destruction of earth is due in part, perhaps in large part, to a failure of the imagination or to its eclipse by systems of accounting that can't count what matters. the revolt against this destruction is a revolt of the imagination, in favor of subtleties, of pleasures money can't buy and corporations can't command, of being producers rather than consumers of meaning, of the slow, the meadering, the digressive, the exploratory, the numinous, the uncertain.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

the labor

we have failures that amount to less than
fingertips which carry and drag a torso across
a kind of unkind floor studded with sharp but
tricky smooth edges like rocks picked into
pockets when undone hands could not help
but scrape and pour and sometimes bleed

this all sounds hard in that way where
edge meets edge and means cut or clash
yet who is the aim and why target when voices
sink under and others rise buoyant while
the weight is not ugly nor wholesome and in fact
language of the body and otherwise is where
the tell or text pulls and quietly whispers

did the words catch

fingertips. carry. smooth. pockets. hands. pour.

if the blood is
or the sharp is
the edge or
drag or scrape

across this there is a weaving:

how can anyone arrive intact or alone when every layer follows
the same surprise

pulling together or tugging apart grasping tighter no now loosening
out bringing in cutting off tying up starting over and over and over and over
giving out
giving over
holding steady

thank you for a face so close waking up unguarded
thank you for a picture at a distance and i'm in it

all each one every glance
totally free


Tuesday, July 25, 2017


by laura sims from practice, restraint

one verdant minute

after the next, the love of the people

eludes him.

what does it mean? one thing unfolds

as a chain of things: the failure of making

a fantasy park

out of war

in an armchair,

the passage of hundreds of years

the loss of perpetual motion, the line

that proceeds

"a dark sky, and nothing but fire"

in his absence, the absence

of millions

Sunday, March 12, 2017

one or two things

by mary oliver

don't bother me.
i've just
been born.

the butterfly's loping flight
carries it through the country of leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes

for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft talk
of some ordinary flower.

the god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, i lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,

and never once mentioned forever,

which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.

one or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning - some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.

but to lift the hoof!
for that you need
an idea.

for years and years i struggled
just to love my life. and then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
"don't love your life
too much," it said,

and vanished
into the world.

Friday, March 3, 2017

nineteen eighty three

by ray a. young bear from the invisible musician

it is january--
and simply because
the rain failed to change
into snow
the quiet river
has risen to flood stage.
half-frozen rainwater
fills into a nearby pond
where once the sound
of frogs, crickets,
mosquitoes and birds
permeated the humid
summer night:
narcosis through
the sound of an open
window. tomorrow
young children will
pretend to skate
over the thick pond ice,
but each day their figures
will slowly descend
into the ground,
reminding us
of mythical rolling
heads playing hockey.
the rainwater will evaporate
and ice will succumb
to the daily game.
winter’s indecision
makes us feel safe.
an elder, however,
would say, “you’re
basically unprepared.”
no matter how balanced
one’s mentality,
one’s physicality.

the gentle appearance
of the female death light
from wisconsin
takes place
in the center
of a soybean field.
two times, a slow fire.
inside the hollow wall
a mouse takes a chance
during our rumination
to weep like a human.
throughout the neighborhood
the four-legged sentinels,
especially the all-white ones,
signal each other of this
incongruity: a shadow
of an unknown tall being
stands in the flash
of lightning.

Monday, February 20, 2017


by louise gluck from the seven ages

there was one summer
that returned many times over
there was one flower unfurling
taking many forms

crimson of the monarda, pale gold of the late roses

there was one love
there was one love, there were many nights

smell of the mock orange tree
corridors of jasmine and lilies
still the wind blew

there were many winters but i closed my eyes
the cold air white with dissolved wings

there was one garden when the snow melted
azure and white; i couldn’t tell
my solitude from love --

there was one love; he had many voices
there was one dawn; sometimes
we watched it together

i was here
i was here

there was one summer returning over and over
there was one dawn
i grew old watching