23 May 2017

from Paul Bowles' "A Distant Episode"

The tiny ink marks of which a symphony consists may have been made long ago, but when they are fulfilled in sound they become imminent and mighty.

favorites from Coffin Corner number one, Varsity Goth Press

Failure Is the Largest Animal to Have Lived on Earth - Justin Karcher

On this Fourth of July weekend,
I would like to apologize to all my exes.
I'm sorry you've seen my eyes narrow
Into little ghost slits night after night,
Real anxious for the exorcism of a kiss.
The pressure of passion has always
Gotten the better of me, but I'm not making
Any excuses. It's just that
I'm slowly losing my lipsight
Due to mistletoe glaucoma
Caused by excessive dreaming.
These last couple years I've been good
At missing the mark of my heart
Like US drone strikes killing scores
Of civilians in Afghanistan.

I expect America to do the right thing,
Just like lovers are expected to kiss
Under the mistletoe. All that beauty,
It's there for the taking, so for the love of God
Just do the right fucking thing.
I want to do what is right, but I don't do it.
Every day I wake up, I tell myself
That today is the final day
Of my addiction to alcohol, the final day
Of my addiction to terrible lovers.
Every day I wake up, the sun
Looks like a dead humpback whale
On a Los Angeles beach that needs to be towed
Back out to sea, because failure
Is the largest animal to have lived on Earth,

And it's very important to blow the whole thing up.
On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want all my friends, all my exes,
To stuff fireworks  into the mouths
Of their own beached whales,
Whatever it is that's weighting them down,
And blow their heavy sadness to smithereens.
I want to walk along the water, right before
Independence is about to blow its load,
And see the porta potties burst into life.
Angry, like animals breaking out of testing labs
And destroying everything in their path,
Until their junk-withdrawal eyes are buried deep
In the optometry of absolute freedom,
Where everything looks better

And nothing is bloodshot.
On this Fourth of July weekend,
It would make me happy if the earth
Looks right at me with bleared eyes
And lips swollen, its green and blue skin empurpled
And monstrous with fossil fuel afterbirth,
And tells me to get over it, that the lover
Crucifying my confidence on a cross
Made of birth control pills isn't worth it,
That the office job I work to pay the bills,
Because no school is hiring full time,
Isn't worth it, that I should put up
Or shut up, that I should stop walking naked
Through a sea of other men's smells,
That if love doesn't shine on this whiskey boy

Or whatever's left of him, I should finally grow up
And be a man, that I should stop sitting cross-legged
On my lonesome twin bed eating Chef Boyardee
Out of the can. The chicken alfredo is always cold,
But I'm always pretty buzzed. Even the strongest kind
Of love can make you feel like a crocodile
Climbing a tree. Crocodiles haven't changed much
Over millions of years and a lot of people think that
They have stopped evolving. Well,  maybe that's true.
Maybe it isn't. But whenever I hear about crocodiles
Climbing trees in Florida, I think it all makes sense.
They just want to taste evolution for the first time
In forever. On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want to evolve. There's no desert nearby
With ancient ruins to show us just how old

"Old" can be, or how sophisticated our ancestors were
In devising their lovemaking methods. It's important to know
Where we come from, but too many of us don't care.
Too many of us are scared of digging deep within
And discovering ruins off the coast of memory.
Not making mistakes if the biggest mistake.
There are no important bones buried in Rust Belt dirt
And that's part of the problem. What we do have
Are dead animals washing up on the unsalted shores
Of the Great Lakes. Their ghosts hibernate
In our bloodstreams until they're hungry for life once again.
Just give them time to grow and beef up,
But in the Rust Belt, our concept of time is distorted.
You don't wash your sins away with hourglass sand.
You can't build a city on the backs of mummies

With no life left to live. You need vibrant life
Or something close to it. What do have
Are vampire architects licking their chops
And building sandcastles out of kitty litter and rat blood,
And sometimes their skylines kick the piss out of me.
Despite all this, we can't be at each other's throats.
On this Fourth of July weekend, we need unity now
More than ever, especially when everybody in the club
Is getting shot, especially when everybody's like,
"Run — get out of here," especially when the lights come on
And there are rivers of tears, especially when the better angels,
Of our nature become janitors trying to clean up this mess
With used q-tips. On this Fourth of July weekend,
I want to walk along the water, right before
Independence is about to blow its load,

And see a nation of heartbroken people
Choosing what will lift them up,
Choosing what will break them down,
Because when it comes to breakage
Or building your own set of wings,
You better make it count,
You better make it worth your while,
Because failure is the largest animal
To have lived on Earth, and sometimes
You have to put it out to pasture
Or push it back into the water.



ship of theseus - Dylan Krieger


these bows were made to be broken    vs.    this aft will still be here after i’m dead
a former foremast sold my soul    vs.    O captain my captain won’t go down without a fight

same false bay, different day    vs.    never skinny dip in the same river twice
nothing new under the gundeck    vs.    complete cerebral rebirth after 7,000 sunsets
feeding seamen to the sirens    vs.    sure to leave the shore celestial fixed & syphilitic
now mix in all the new pieces of ship + skin & bone + row your boat straight into the apocalypse there’s something sudden about the horizon // how it slips like silk down the earth’s domed ass fastest way to go insane is just by being left alone // you think there’s a hard line, and then you don’t 




tell me the difference between rock and skin - Kristie Shoemaker


my nails are breaking
like a fault line
one rock trying to establish dominance over another but in the end everyone loses
there are little chips of pale pink
scattered all over the floor
like sad confetti after a pity party for one
there is a wound in my mouth from your acidic tongue i try to keep my broken rust covered nails away
but the temptation is too great
and i play with it like a cat plays with a dead fly
in the end everything breaks
in the end everything is dust 

01 May 2017

Sam Sax

On Alcohol

my first drink was in my mother
my next, my bris. doctor spread red
wine across my lips. took my foreskin


every time i drink     i lose something


no one knows the origins of alcohol. tho surely an accident
before sacrament. agricultural apocrypha. enough grain stored up
for it to get weird in the cistern. rot gospel. god water


brandy was used to treat everything
from colds to pneumonia
frostbite to snake bites

tb patients were placed on ethanol drips
tonics & cough medicines
spooned into the crying mouths of children


each friday in synagogue a prayer for red
at dinner, the cemetery, the kitchen
spirits


how many times have i woke
strange in an unfamiliar bed?
my head neolithic


my grandfather died with a bottle in one hand
& flowers in the other. he called his drink his medicine
he called his woman
    she locked the door


i can only half blame alcohol for my overdose
the other half is my own hand
that poured the codeine    that lifted the red plastic again & again &


i’m trying to understand pleasure     it comes back
in flashes    every jean button thumbed open to reveal
a different man     every slurred & furious permission


i was sober a year before [          ] died


every time i drink     i lose someone


if you look close at the process of fermentation
you’ll see tiny animals destroying the living body
until it’s transformed into something more volatile


the wino outside the liquor store
mistakes me for his son

27 April 2017

24 April 2017

from Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch

[...] I feel as if I should say it as urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life -- whatever else it is -- is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn't mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we're not always so glad to be here, it's our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping our eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn't touch.

from a PDF of Jessie Janeshek's I Want You to Haunt Me


20 April 2017

from Joshua Didriksen's Swimming Pool

Pierced. I am pierced.
Can't take it out, can't leave it in.
A trail of viscera, dances on the water like oil
When I try and swim.

18 April 2017

A Useful Violence

What is the Writer's Place in a Violent World?

I am talking about our responsibility, our duty, in the face of those unspeakable and unheard-of things. How do we begin to construct a vocabulary if all we can do is stand in numb and silent grief? What is there to really see of those who once stood and then were forced to kneel, if all we do is look away?


White Noise




Debra Magpie Earling

What is the West?

A battle continues to rage over the idea of the West and its territorial boundaries. What is the West? I'm afraid I have no clear answers but if pressed I would say the West is haunted by ideas of Encroachment and Displacement. The Malheur standoff was the current manifestation of that historical idea. 'Who owns the West' is the question in the current senate and gubernatorial races in Montana. Encroachment on someone's rights is messy business--the stuff of pulp fiction and literature. Encroachment is gritty and ugly and tough and it drives our imagination and determination and calls the stranger into town to clean up the mess or gun it up all over again. Displacement is the human toll of encroachment, the suffering, the loss. Displacement offers the hopeless and the hopeful a lockstep with tragedy and comedy and either self-serving sanctimony or true indignation and moral righteousness. We love and hate the never-ending question of the West but we cannot resist the call to define it.

13 April 2017

Total beasty.

Graham, looking wary and hungover, stares out the windows and over at Tower Records across the street with a longing that surprises me and then I'm closing my eyes and thinking about the color of water, a lemon tree, a scar. 

[...]


The train arrives in L.A. at dusk. The city seems deserted. In the distance are Pasadena hills and canyons and the small blue rectangles of lit pools. The train passes dried-up reservoirs and vast, empty parking lots, running parallel to the freeway then past a seemingly endless row of vacant warehouses, gangs of young boys standing against palm trees or huddling in groups in alleyways or around cars with headlight on, drinking  beer, the Motels playing. The train moves slowly as it eases toward Union Station, as if it's hesitating, passing Mexican churches and bars and strip joints, a drive-in where a horror movie is playing with subtitles. Palm trees are highlighted against a shifting orange-purple mass, a sky the color of Popsicles, a woman passes my door, mumbling loudly to someone, maybe herself, "This ain't no Silver Streak," and out the window a young Mexican boy in a red Chevrolet truck sings along with the radio and I'm close enough to reach out and touch his blank, grave face, staring straight ahead.

- The Informers

12 April 2017

from Belinda McKeon's Tender

Songs that had the exact shape of your heartbreak: they were the songs you had to cross the room to turn off.

Waking and saying to the morning, Please do not get any worse.
But you could not reason with a morning. A morning was not a thing that had to give anything beyond what it was.

And the music like a shimmering, oceanic wall. [...]
Singing of mystery, of the mystery that life was. [...]
And no, but really, had all these songs always been so brilliant, all along? These songs that had been only tinny radio rackets in your childhood, and only things you thought embarrassing in your teenage years, and now—now they were genius. Now they were perfect.
Was this just irony, this dancing, this sheer, sheer happy love, now, or was this honesty? [...]
Were you meant to actually know which one it was? [...]
(And how many other songs were there from your childhood that turned out to be so much about your life? Not just your life, but everybody's life? Everybody's happiness? Everybody's love?)

In the backyard of Baggot Street, a feral cat close to giving birth. Dragging herself around. The noise of her. Trying, as they watched from the steps, to burrow into a tangle of ivy. 
"She's trying to get away from the pain of it," Cillian said. "She doesn't understand it's inside of her."
Catherine stared at him. Could that be true? Could that possibly, possibly, be true?

(But even if you went into the farthest waters, from the farthest tip, someone would find you eventually. And then someone would have to see.)

[...] years passed, and the surreal, more and more, was simply the real.


Among our last peaceful exchanges: a couple, reading.

Gravity

1
Upon the black hole Cygnus X-1 that wobbles
as if boffed by an invisible companion,
upon a silk stocking the color of bees
rolling itself up and down a leg, upon the soft dip
over the clavicles, which accept only tongued kisses,
upon the tongue that slowly drifts
into the other's mouth and chats
there with her opposite number,
gravity exerts the precise force needed.

2
In the wings of the Eskimo curlew
flapping through the thin air of the Andes,
in the sacral vertebrae of the widow
who stoops at the window to peer
behind the drawn blind, in the saggy skin
under the eyes of the woman
who is in love with a man incapable
of love, who lives in the heaviness
of emotional isolation, in the lavish
cascade of urine the rhino releases,
in the mouthwater of the child who waits
in shriek position for the dentist,
in the scradged skin dangling in shreds
from the children who lurched toward
the Nakashima River screaming, as if this were
the single aria they had ever rehearsed, gravity
shudders at its mathematical immensity.

3
As long as two kvetches remain alive,
because inside each is self-hatred so hardened
not even nonexistence can abide them,
as long as the hummingbird strikes
the air seventy-four times per second,
as long as the mound of earth remains heaped
beside the rectangular hole wanting to be filled,
gravity cannot be said to impose its will.

4
If the pilot ejects one second too late,
if the condemned man shrinks at seeing
the trapdoor gives way, if the man who stands
with fire at his back and a baby in his arms
hears the near neighbors cry,
"Drop her! Don't worry! We'll catch her,"
if the juggler gets behind in her count
and the bright object flies past the spot
where the other hand was to snatch it,
gravity cannot pause to rectify matters.

5
When a deer kenning us stands immobile,
and for one moment we know we exist
entirely within her thoughts, when cichlid fry,
sensing danger, empty their air bladders
and drop to the river bottom like pebbles,
when the snow goes and millions of leaves
reveal themselves pressed down over the contours
of earth to create her hibernation mask,
when a person in a military cemetery
among grave markers that spread to all the horizons
understands that all of existence has been destroyed
again and again, when depression after mania
causes clock hands to stick and days to crawl,
when the full moon's light creeps across a sleeper
calling to her atavistic soul, when a solider,
who has always known life is imperfect,
is wheeled to another hopeless attempt
at surgery—but, this time, resolves
to sleep and not wake again until such time
as time begins again—then gravity
grips us to the earth, and crosses its fingers.

6
In the case of the last ancient trees at Ypres
still turning out their terrified wood,
in the case of the concertina wire
hurled out in exuberant spirals and set down
between rich and poor, in the case of the howls
that fly off the earth through madhouse windows,
in the case of the word "heavenly"
when we remind ourselves that earth,
too, was a heavenly body once,
in the case of the numeral keys
totting up the number of humans
humans have killed, in the case of the man
who strays into a gravitational field where
the differential between the force on the scalp
and the force on the foot sole will stretch him
into an alimentary canal thin as a thread,
in the case of the child who has upset
his ink bottle while doing homework
and quickly snaps both arms down
to halt the lateral gush of the black juices,
gravity, if it could, would rescue itself.

- Galway Kinnell

Print/Script


05 April 2017

Cappuccino.



Tyler Barton

Winter Break

    The tree tilts forward forty degrees, suggesting south wind gusts in through the wall. I come home late from a townie party tipsy. Upstairs, Mom sleeps sprawled like a starfish. With an iPhone for light, collecting wineglasses is not easy, not unlike an egg-hunt on Easter—I check the windowsill, couch cushion, toilet tank, sink. Outside, they line the fence, where her Bichon eats the ivy he’ll later vomit into a stocking.
Morning, we open five presents and sweat. Money all in ones, like a gag. Southern Pennsylvania’s heated seventy degrees, and instead of her ex-boyfriend—at whom yesterday I spat, puffing out my chest to back him down the stoop, my shaking hand against his Jesus piece—our subject is weather. “Warmest winter yet,” we say.
Mom feeds my hangover hashbrowns spilled from a bag. She watches her plate, takes cotton-candy drags from a vape-pen. Before she walks to her Exxon shift, where a wobbly light will make it hard to see each twenty’s watermark, I kiss the crown of her head, those skeletal roots. My name will echo through the house when she’s home.
I pack his stuff haphazardly, heft it out to the shed. The soft ground underfoot. The guilty birds crowd their feeder. Dog shit spots the yard like mines. In a blue camp chair I sit and wait, and with each hour late choose one item to break. Snap Kid Rock records. Tear the sleeves from size-small Tapout tees. There’s no law. All provocation. I text his cell, want it finished. Want a mess. Want everything I haven’t given, every gift we haven’t gotten, to be punched wildly into his person, this body who creeps her property. Instead, by sundown I’m in my Jeep, honking sorry at the dog with his mouth full of leaves.
New Year’s Eve, I grip a little sophomore by his jacket collar. Our faces red and thieving. I hold him up to the light like a fifty.