21 June 2016


I’d never before had the experience of beholding scenic beauty so dazzling that I couldn’t process it, couldn’t get it to register as something real. A trip that had seemed unreal to me beforehand had taken me to a place that likewise seemed unreal, albeit in a better way. Global warming may be endangering the continent’s western ice sheet, but Antarctica is still far from having melted. On either side of the Lemaire Channel were spiky black mountains, extremely tall but still not so tall as to be merely snow-covered; they were buried in wind-carved snowdrift, all the way to their peaks, with rock exposed only on the most vertical cliffs. Sheltered from wind, the water was glassy, and under a solidly gray sky it was absolutely black, pristinely black, like outer space. Amid the monochromes, the endless black and white and gray, was the jarring blue of glacial ice. No matter the shade of it—the bluish tinge of the growlers bobbing in our wake, the intensely deep blue of the arched and chambered floating ice castles, the Styrofoamish powder blue of calving glaciers—I couldn’t make my eyes believe that they were seeing a color from nature. Again and again, I nearly laughed in disbelief. Immanuel Kant had connected the sublime with terror, but as I experienced it in Antarctica, from the safe vantage of a ship with a glass-and-brass elevator and first-rate espresso, it was more like a mixture of beauty and absurdity.

18 June 2016

from Annie Proulx's Heart Songs and Other Stories

The first early snows came and melted and we were into Indian summer. The sky was an intense enamel blue, but the afternoon light had a dying, year's-end quality, a rich apricot color as though it fell through a cordial glass onto an oak table, the kind of day hunters remember falsely as October.

05 June 2016

Debbie Harry claims that she was nearly Ted Bundy's first victim.

The subject of a painting by Robert Williams, the artist responsible for the original Appetite for Destruction cover art, which was deemed too controversial and replaced.

the of and

Zipf's Law

from Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes

Riley McGettigan, nineteen, wondering at the brevity of life, swooned with an arrow in his neck.

The Pelkys helped him into the back seat of their old sedan, Mrs. Pelky stuffing a bed pillow that still smelled of her night hair under his shoulder. Mr. Pelky, his driving confused by a sense of emergency, squealed onto the highway and sped for the hospital. The trees were in heavy bud, the wet road under the maples covered with their fallen blossom, as dark red as coagulated pools of blood. The car whirred past sloping maple, soft buff and genital-flesh blur, and below this purpled arc a line of popple flashed, then past veins of birch, then the curving line of the ridge and through the branches the puzzled sky, and they were past the roaring arms of the pines and the swamp filled with stalks, coming to the first fields and scratchy lines of red osier, bramble hoops, and all of it strung together with birdcalls and apprehension.

from Annie Proulx's Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place

A final regret came when the nearby restaurant removed turbot cheeks from their menu, a serious blow, as I thought this delicacy a prime reason to come to the peninsula. Never before or since have I discovered this dish in any restaurant or fish market. God knows where all the turbot cheeks of yesteryear have gone—probably home to the fisherman's missus.

The air shuddered with volant snow like bead curtains in an earthquake. [...] In the whiteout the world fell away until there was nothing but panting elk and purple-faced humans.

Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything—cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks—press inexorably on and on.

04 February 2015

Solitaire - Deborah Landau

That summer there was no girl left in me.
It gradually became clear.
It suddenly became.

In the pool, I was more heavy than light.
Pockmarked and flabby in a floppy hat.
What will my body be

when parked all night in the earth?
Midsummer. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I am not on the oxygen tank.

Twice a week we have sex.
The little girls poolside I see them
at their weddings I see them with babies their hips

thickening I see them middle-aged.
I can't see past the point where I am.
Like you, I'm just passing through.

I want to hold on awhile.
Don't want to naught
or forsake, don't want

to be laid gently or racked raw.
If I retinol. If I marathon.
If I Vitamin C. If I crimson

my lips and streakish my hair.
If I wax. Exfoliate. Copulate
beside the fish-slicked sea.

Fill me I'm cold. Fill me I'm halfway gone.
Would you crush me in the stairwell?
Could we just lie down?

If the brakes don't work.
If the pesticides won't wash off.
If the seventh floor pushes a brick

out the window and it lands on my head.
If I tremor, menopause. Cancer. ALS.
These are the ABCs of my fear.

The doctor says
I don't have a pill for that, dear.
Well, what would be a cure-all, ladies,

gin-and-tonics on a summer night?
See you in the immortalities! O blurred.
O tumble-rush of days we cannot catch.

07 November 2014

Earl Partridge, on his deathbed.

I loved her so. And she knew what I did. She knew all the fucking stupid things I'd done. But the love was stronger than anything you can think of. The goddamn regret. The goddamn regret. 
Oh, and I'll die. Now I'll die, and I'll tell you what, the biggest regret of my life, 
I let my love go. 
What did I do? I'm sixty-five years old. And I'm ashamed. A million years ago, the fucking regret and guilt, these things, don't ever let anyone ever say to you you shouldn't regret anything. Don't do that. Don't. 
You regret what you fucking want. Use that. Use that. Use that regret for anything, any way you want. You can use it, okay? Oh, God. This is a long way to go with no punch. 
A little moral story, I say, love. Love. Love. This fucking life, oh, it's so fucking hard. So long. 
Life ain't short, it's long. It's long, goddamn it. Goddamn. 
What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? Phil. Phil, help me. What did I do?

04 November 2014

You did it - Margaret Atwood

How long will you demand I love you?
I’m through, I won’t make
any more flowers for you
I judge you as the trees do
by dying.

01 November 2014

Lucia Stacey, via Broadside Thirty, Tin House


That I have to go to the gynecologist
in Brooklyn, because I chose the cheaper

health insurance plan. That I will sit
speculum-sore for ages, waiting for the L.

That there’s no heat in my bedroom
(sexual or otherwise). That I have to go

to Bushwick to admit this to a stranger.
That I can blow smoke upon waking.

That I spent money on Sharon Olds
Anne Sexton, Victoria Redel, and wine

instead of chicken or peaches or beans.
That I did everything

I wasn’t supposed to (but only last Sunday).
That the ceiling fell

into the shower and I stood naked
on the deck to get clean. That no one saw.

That I learned indifference by watching
a mouse hemorrhage internally in glue.

That my laundry man has only one eye
and three teeth. That he said to call him Tony.

That I know what chemical to use
to disintegrate the body

of a pigeon, trapped and died in the wall.
That I held an accidental séance

because of all the candles and incense.
That I’ve considered the $5 psychics

selling fortunes on Canal street.
That I can recognize black mold.

That I recognize faces on the M72.
That I am recognized. That I am not.

28 October 2014

from Salon to Saloon.

French salon—from Middle French, from Italian salone (large hall), augmented form of Italian sala (hall), from Lombardic sala (room, house, entrance hall), from Proto-Germanic *salą (dwelling, house, hall), from Proto-Indo-European *sel- (human settlement, village, dwelling). Cognate with Old High German sal (room, house, entrance hall), Old English sæl (room, hall, castle), Old Church Slavonic селó (seló, courtyard, village), Lithuanian sala (village)—either augmentative of salle (room), or borrowed from Italian salone (hall), augmentative form of sala, salla (room); in both cases borrowed from a Germanic source such as Old High German sal (house, hall), from Proto-Germanic *salą, from Proto-Indo-European *sol-, derived from *sel- (dwelling).

Essentially, in its attempt to mimic French culture, the Old West mistranslated the French Salon to Saloon. 

19 October 2014

Emily St. John Mandel

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.

18 October 2014

Axiom - Margaret Atwood

Axiom: you are a sea.
Your eye-
lids curve over chaos
My hands, where they touch you, create
small inhabited islands
Soon you will be
all earth: a known
land, a country.

17 October 2014

Thymus - Sylvia Legris

Gulch of affection the gully
of fumigation. Sweet-throated
the courage gorge. The sweetly bred
sublingual cultivar.
Feisty-hearted, the meat-
propagating gullet.
From the juicy acorn ripens
a warty excrescence.
Cheeky the rude clump!
Buttress-rooted, vulgaris—
eye-sorry carbuncle.
A scrunch of pungent
chump change.
Thymus the field-drab. The aromatic bromide. History of dark sea, old
moss, laurel. Absinthe; the gray-green, gently absenting itself.
Thymus the shrinking mass in aid of breath and exhalation [Cooper].
Thymus the mystery organ [Galen]. Organ of vicarious respiration
[Meckel]. Protective thoracic cushion [Vesalius].
Small planet of the solar plexus. From the Greek thymos, for thyme; to
stand in line for the lungs, to burn in sacrifice.

27 September 2014

Why I Am Not a Good Kisser — Mary Ruefle

Because I open my mouth too wide
Trying to take in the curtains behind us
And everything outside the window
Except the little black dog
Who does not like me
So at the last moment I shut my mouth.

Because Cipriano de Rore was not thinking
When he wrote his sacred and secular motets
Or there would be only one kind
And this affects my lips in terrible ways.

Because at the last minute I see a lemon
Sitting on a gravestone and that is a thing, a thing
That would appear impossible, and the kiss
Is already concluded in its entirety.

Because I learned everything about the beautiful
In a guide to the weather by Borin Van Loon, so
The nature of lenticular clouds and anticyclones
And several other things dovetail in my mind
& at once it strikes me what quality goes to form
A Good Kisser, especially at this moment, & which you
Possess so enormously—I mean when a man is capable
Of being in uncertainties, Mysteries & doubts without me
I am dreadfully afraid he will slip away
While my kiss is trying to think what to do.

Because I think you will try to read what is written
On my tongue and this causes me to interrupt with questions:
A red frock? Red stockings? And the rooster dead?
Dead of what?

Because of that other woman inside me who knows
How the red skirt and red stockings came into my mouth
But persists with the annoying questions
Leading to her genuine ignorance.

Because just when our teeth are ready to hide
I become a quisling and forget the election results
And industrial secrets leading to the manufacture
Of woolen ice cream cones, changing the futures
Of ice worms everywhere.

Can it be that even the greatest Kisser ever arrived
At his goal without putting aside numerous objections—

Because every kiss is like throwing a pair of doll eyes
Into the air and trying to follow them with your own—

However it may be, O for a life of Kisses
Instead of painting volcanoes!

Even if my kiss is like a paintbrush made from hairs.
Even if my kiss is squawroot, which is a scaly herb
Of the broomrape family parasitic on oaks.
Even if a sailor went to sea in me

To see what he could see in me
And all that he could see in me
Was the bottom of the deep dark sea in me.

Even though I know nothing can be gained by running
Screaming into the night, into the night like a mouth,
Into the mouth like a velvet movie theater
With planets painted on its ceiling
Where you will find me, your pod mate,
In some kind of beautiful trouble
Over moccasin stitch #3,
Which is required for my release.

26 September 2014

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota — James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

16 September 2014

from Terry Southern's The Sun and Still-Born Stars

Sid and Sarah were of a line of unimaginative, one-acre farmers who very often had not owned the land they worked, and whose life’s spring was less connected to the proverbial love of the land than twisted somehow around a vague acceptance of work, God’s will and the hopeless, unsurprising emptiness of life. The only book in their little house was the Bible, which they never read.

10 September 2014

04 September 2014

Should Literature Be Considered Useful? from the New York Times

To reduce literature to its usefulness is to miss the verbal texture, the excess, the sheer pleasure of word and sound, that make it literature in the first place. The idea of literature as equipment for living seems puritanically utilitarian — as if you were to listen to a symphony in order to sharpen your hearing, or look at a painting to improve your vision.

Yet there is a persistent impulse in our culture to offer such pragmatic excuses for art, as if only something that helped us gain an advantage in the struggle for life were worthy of respect. Nearly a century ago, the critic I. A. Richards advanced a psychological argument that reading poetry improved the responsiveness and organization of the brain. Today, the same argument is often made in Darwinian terms. There is a whole school of Darwinian aesthetics that explains art as a useful adaptation, which historically must have helped those who made it or those who enjoyed it to improve their chances at reproduction.

Adam Kirsch

Literature is life’s long-lost twin, its evil double, its hidden velvet lining, its mournful ghost. The relationship between the two can be expressed only as a metaphor, permanently equivocal and impossible to pin down. But whatever genetic mutation (or angelic blessing, or demonic curse) gave rise to this human drive to recreate our lived experience in language and share that creation with our fellow hairless primates, we’re stuck with it now. Literature may not be in a strict sense useful — may even, by its nature, mock “usefulness” as a category, allying itself first with pleasure, idleness and play — but its necessity seems self-evident from the mere fact of its continued existence, so inextricably bound up with our species’ own.

Dana StevensContinue r

01 September 2014


When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.  


    A man said to the universe: 
    "Sir, I exist!" 
    "However," replied the universe, 
    "The fact has not created in me 
    A sense of obligation." 

— Stephen Crane

Feedback from a peer in my summer workshop.

"A redhead would NEVER wear red or orange. EVER. At least the ones I’ve known, anyway."

28 August 2014

from Amy Hempel's In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Burried

What seems dangerous often is not—black snakes, for example, or clear-air turbulence While things that just lie there, like this beach, are loaded with jeopardy. A yellow dust rising from the ground, the heat that ripens melons overnight—this is earthquake weather. You can sit here braiding the fringe on your towel and the sand will all of a sudden suck down like an hourglass. The air roars. In the cheap apartments on-shore, bathtubs fills themselves and garden roll up and over like green waves. If nothing happens, the dust will drift and the heat deepen till fear turns to desire. Nerves like that are only bought off by catastrophe. 

Chaos Theory

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Platonicity: the focus on those pure, well-defined, and easily discernible objects like triangles, or more social notions like friendship or love, at the cost of ignoring those objects of seemingly messier and less tractable structures.

Ludic Fallacy

from Wikipedia

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813

26 August 2014

from White Noise

How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a little while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?

23 August 2014

Question - May Swenson

Body my house
my horse my hound   
what will I do
when you are fallen

Where will I sleep   
How will I ride   
What will I hunt

Where can I go
without my mount   
all eager and quick   
How will I know   
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure   
when Body my good   
bright dog is dead

How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door   
and wind for an eye

With cloud for shift   
how will I hide?

16 August 2014

from Hannah Arendt's On Violence

That science, even though no longer limited by the finitude of the earth and its nature, should be subject to never-ending progress is by no means certain; that strictly scientific research in the humanities, the so-called Geisteswissenschaften that deal with the products of the human spirit, must come to an end by definition is obvious. The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object. 

I remember you,

09 August 2014

from Walk the Blue Fields

There's pleasure to be had in history. What's recent is another matter and painful to recall.


The bride is a beauty whose freckled shoulders, in this dress, are bare. A long string of pearls lies heavy against her skin. The priest steps in close without touching her and stares at the line of her scalp where the shining red hair is parted. 


Inside the hotel there's the mordant heat of the crowd, the spill of guests. A waitress near the front desk is ladling punch. Another stands with a sharp knife, slicing a long, smoked salmon. The guests are queuing up, reaching for forks, capers, cuts of lemon. All about them, there are flowers. Never has the priest seen such flowers: wide-open tulips, blue hyacinths, trumpeting gladioli. He stands beside a crystal jug of roses and breathes in. Their scent is heavy. The need for a drink comes over him and he faces into the bar. 


Any time promises are made in public, people cry. 


The priest freezes as the pearls slip off the string. He watches how they hop off the polished floor. One pearl hits the skirting board, rolls back past Miss Dunne's outstretched hand. She lets out a sigh as it rolls back toward the priest's chair. He puts his hand down and lifts it. It is warm in his hand, warm from her. This, more than anything else in the day, startles him.
The priest walks across the dance floor. The bride is standing there with her hands out. When he places the pearl in her hand, she looks into his eyes. There are tears there but she is too proud to blink and let one fall. If she blinked, he would take her hand and take her away from this place. This, at least, is what he tells himself. It's what she once wanted but two people hardly ever want the same thing at any given point in life. It is sometimes the hardest part of being human. 


He remembers the snatch of bridal veil on the yews, puts his hand in his pocket and feels it there. He takes it out, lets it fall. Before it touches the water, he regrets it but he had his chance, and now his chance is gone. 


The next morning, their last, they had lain in bed with the window open and he'd dreamt the wind had blown the freckles off her body. 


He remembers lying naked with Lawlor's daughter in a bed outside of Newry town. He remembers all those dandelions gone to seed and how he said he would always love her. He remembers these things, in full, and feels no shame. How strange it is to be alive. Soon, it will be Easter. There is work to be done, a sermon to be written for Palm Sunday. He climbs the fields back towards the road, thinking about his life tomorrow, as a priest, deciphering, as best he can, the Roman language of the trees.