Sunday, December 9, 2012

From the time they opened their eyes, it had been a blissful day. Once again, snuggled within each other’s arms, Spencer and Kaitlin didn’t utter a single complaint. The sheets weren't peeled back until near noon. They started the day slowly. After the French press had steeped they returned to bed, sipped from their mugs and discussed a plan for the afternoon. Saturdays had always seen them at their best. For a time, it was a joke. They wore themselves to the thread and honestly never really knew their place in the week. Frivolous bliss simply told them it was the still the weekend. It had been some time since all of that loveliness, but somehow they retained the part of themselves that was owned by the other. The coffee began to leave rings on the mugs by the time the couple were finally dressed. There was the buzz of a block party outside. Kaitlin wanted to visit a rummage sale that was at the church next to her apartment. Everyone outside Spencer's home wore the confounded look of a newborn discovering joy. At the sale Kaitlin bought a small vintage purse, Spencer found an old ashtray and a new, more colorful mug; one with no stains. They joked with the young man who cashed out their purchases, and spent no more than a dollar per item. The decision to join the party, or at least look around, was inevitable. So after a quick stop back at Spencer's they continued on looking once more to fill their empty hands. Their hunger to see what was going on in their new world was overwhelming. They snapped pictures of young men with guitars playing on the street, booths where you could pay a quarter to pet a rabbit, and the miscellany of neighborhood pride that poured from every angle. He bought an old typewriter, and she some prints for the kitchen and thermos she couldn't resist. They were ridiculous walking down the drag, carrying their fun finds and grinning like idiots. A few times they crossed the path of a mutual friend, all of whom weren't completely sure to make of seeing them together again. "It's her birthday." became Spencer's pat response. To this, Kaitlin would fight off blushing and bat her eyelashes at the well wishes bestowed on her, as well as Spencer's deflection of the situation. Last Fall had been much more trying. Having, more or less, seen all that the party had to offer--and who was present--they reconvened at Spencer's, picked up Kaitlin's loot and dropped it off at her place. There had been talk about an organic brunch, and this became their aim. Their sunglasses hid the little lines that were forming beside their eyes. Spencer was a terrible at parallel parking and the jokes that arose kept their spirits light. Inside the cafe they were informed that brunch was no longer being served. Instead they opted for sandwiches and a seat in the sunlit herb garden out front. A table away a man sat holding an infant, looking as if he'd had no idea of where it came from, much less what to do with it. Spencer looked on as the man held they baby up by its armpits, its feet dangling to the table. Kaitlin appeared to make no notice of the scene. After their lunch, she asked for a smoke. "Should we ask them first?" Spencer posed. "For what?" "You know, whether or not they're going to mind." "Oh...yeah, that's probably the polite thing to do." "See, I'm not a bad person!" "I know honey." She said before kissing him. "I'll be back in a sec." The father was not offended as the two sat and smoked. They talked more and watched the baby stare back at them emptily. Back in the car he once again ribbed her about possibly making love. Nothing crude, just a simple poke in her direction; but, she still needed to get ready for work. He assured her that they had endless time to do whatever it was they wanted to, it was, after all, still Saturday. He dropped her off at her apartment. Someone had left her a gift on the front porch. They both knew it was another man, but after several consoling kisses he watched her go in and close the door. He too went home, puttered around a bit, and took a nap. They sent each other little messages on the phone for a few hours and the game of "What are the chances I'll see you later?" was played. It was a question that always resulted in a lapsed response from one or the other. Spencer dreamed of the infant during his nap. He supposed its name was Jack; something playful. He saw the years of the child's life pass through the many awkward stages of growing, and he saw Kaitlin wiping its chin and laughing, only to be caught later on the back stoop crying. Spencer saw stuffed animals, and little clothes; a first pair of Converse sneakers, myriad jars of mushed food. He woke up sweating, wondering why Kaitlin had yet to text back. Much had been learned in the six months they'd lived and grown apart. Though there were still many things that had yet to have been discussed; certain topics that were still taboo, they nonetheless tried to be civil. Spencer felt need, took a quick rinse in the shower, and headed back to the party. If there were ever anything to distract him it would be drink and more smiling faces. In only half a block he heard his name being shouted. It was Kevin's girlfriend Lacey. There were children everywhere, even in the dark, braying and playing within their protectors' view. Spencer wondered just what it felt like to be so flippantly vigilant. Kaitlin had yet to respond back, so Kevin and Lacey were his new best bets. The evening continued without incident. Everyone coagulated in the street, later spilled out into the neighboring veins, disguised as bars and side-streets, and everywhere there was life. Spencer had followed his friends into a bar and then lost them. After several calls he put together that he was on his own. Lacey's daughter was with a sitter, and had been since five. They were a wonderful couple, and understood responsibility. Spencer tried to relax when he arrived back home. He poured himself a drink and stretched out on the couch. He flipped through his favorite programs and thumbed through a book of poetry he bought the week before. He checked his phone. He had another drink. He got up and located a small manila envelope he kept in his closet before thinking better of opening it. He thought about last fall, and about what it meant to 'really' love someone. He laid in the bath, and had one more drink before coming out and clicking on the keys of his new typewriter. It was refreshing in a sense. Blearily, he found bed. Eerily, she still had not called or messaged. He thought about the gift that was left on her front porch, and he smoked four cigarettes while searching twitter to try to gain insight about where she could be. At the end of the night he laid down alone. It was getting chilly so the windows had been closed. When he finally closed his eyes all he could see was her holding Jack. Just as she'd done in the earlier dream, Kaitlin glowed. They'd made their decision the fall before. It'd only been about a year. They had never been so changed, and neither knew what was next. Long after he was asleep, Kaitlin messaged to say "I love you" and "I'll be out for a while." On Sunday morning he hopefully remembered how young they both were and who they could’ve become.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Epic P.1

Those isles are like pictures, each dotted with ink
To prescribe meaning and value for every object.
Let’s just work on nothing for nothing’s sake.
That’s just what they’ve done in this store.

Those blue lights told us that there was a promise.
Emergency like, we soared over even the eldest drones.
A deal is a deal is a deal is ideal in this sweltering space
And we never say thank you. Because it’s past that.

There is thunder in the market. Lights that see you
Before you’ve even seen yourself. You’re too tangible
To remember something like that. Those windows are
Mirrors that reflect the time and state of mind. Kindling.

There is pasta, there is soda, there is everything you don’t
Have and tell yourself you don’t need or want to have. There
Is embarrassment in the basement, you are told by the signs of
Restriction. Nothing for you here, everything’s out there. Welcome!

The tiles are made of broken shell, and only one lane is open.
In your hands are freshly slain fruits which you will devour as a win.
On a whim, stop. Some things have words. Menus with delicate
Shapes long for your choosing. I am your product.

So much has been had already. There is no need
Anymore. Symphonies of non-specifics holler for
You to take charge, with your charge card, and step
Out of line. These moments are a calling you somewhere.

There are those who love you, with you. Holding your hand
And praying with each breath that the decision to do so is
Right. Languid as you may be, you just may pray the same.
There is no more music, though there is plenty of sound.

It might have been something once. Now, just a smile. Just
A smile and a wave from the other side of the glass. Signs
Outside say to come again, and thanks, but it all falls
On deaf eyes. Like a wolf at a parade of kids, you survey.

Each and every lane of traffic spills out the same, but each
Feels different. Behind the handicapped your mouth gets dry;
You think of not driving and almost lose control of machine
And mind; behind the window your face condenses.

All you need is medicine. All you need is rest. All your needs
Are all you need. All of everything is eternally internal. It is
Summertime and you’re freezing. Let it all play out and fall,
For fall will bring respite. There’s a razor on the bedside table.

For ever and ever, she said, and that was the way of things.
Like the holy hand of belief sweeps across the desert of denial,
We came to the place not knowing the price of admission.
All of these stars were once wishes are now just burning cold.

Looking at screens, always at screens makes the mind cold.
Like paying to go see life on screen, and spending days inside.
Inside is always where you’re entertained; it’s remedial and
Lacks any tinge of flavor. It’s not ice, it’s sand, and it wont…

We’ll do away with favors one day. And then we’ll be truly
Broke and in need of something more. It’s all about needing.
You can run away, and I can stay and stay; as long as the plants
Get watered. It’s of no consequence to our flora or fawning.

You did leave. It’s ok. I’ll stay. Just as I knew I would have to.
You do need time, as do I; but yes, I’ll look after the dog.
I know it was implied. Maybe he can join the circus.
We can all run off and pretend that nothing happened.

This blister is getting old, but I still wouldn’t call it
A callous affair. There’s still work to be done.
It might rip off and become a petal; made and
Remade again as a giant fleck of dust unborn.

Agitation makes for little reasoning to be had.
Problems are gone over once more, and there
Is still no resolve. Just keep waiting for the door
To fly open and hit you in the teeth. I know.

Who’s on the staircase tonight? Trying to sleep
Past a crooked spine and twinning legs, desperate
For more reasonable cushions, and aching to
Meditate. Not me, not you, but parts of us.

Her name was Madeline. She was quite sweet.
Saccharine even. We never touched, and for this
I do not regret. If you ever met her you’d know.
There might still be questions, and the answers are yes.

This suit is becoming restrictive. More so than before.
The dog is whining again, this time, conversationally.
“Where are my vittles?” How does he know that word?
He just does, and he wants them. We both want more.

I’d take a pet on the head as encouragement
Any day. It’d get the rain off my shoulders.
Or maybe just the dandruff in my soup.
Those aren’t crackers, they’re troubles.

Don’t even try. Don’t command. Don’t breathe.
Bellow through the un-breathed declensions.
You made it and broke it; time to deal with it.
Get in the floor. Get in the floor. You say. You say.

One time it was a joke, as we are jokers beyond words.
But that’s really all we have left. Save for autographs
From people we’ve never really met. Mine was Didion.
Yours was one or other of the Millers; too scratchy.

I’ll never read anything again. Just keep feeding me hops.
I’m too old for water, but that’s all there is. I want to cry
But that’s water too. Yet, water from me is better than water
For me. She said she’d never do this; she wasn’t like that.

One night on the bridge another Christian told me the same.
She was warm and we were experiencing the cold together.
I was not warm. I was evil, past the pheromones. We pretended
That everything was more than fine, so good.

Youth is but a stupid forest. We dig and plant seeds
And come back to see our trees. Sometimes, they suck.
Not too tall, not very berry laden, just bristly and un-Homeric.
There are seldom politics involved. More, polemics abounding.

Natural is the state which nurtures the debate.
“I cannot stand to live this way,” rings true.
Doubtless, calls are sent into the day and confusion
Contuses my brain. This is just how it works now and then.

We called them bumblebees. Those who sting and die.
In the end they are harmless. Not like all of those hornets
At the bar. Those girls spread poison, and lies. The hardest
Part is that they too keep their stingers. It’s lifelong.

Let’s not be so obvious. So, throw me a veil.
I will not triumph here. But nor will I fail.
It’s a poison which takes poise to inflict.
It’s a porno on repeat. It’s maddening sick.

What are we going to do with this information?
We’ve made diner of it, and had dreams about it.
Already, we’re showing our ageist roots.
This is not a movement, just a distraction.

We started reading books together,
Before you got robbed, and robbed again.
Those were kind of good times. I still have your
Twain, and you my Minis. I want it back.

Here’s a picture: it is grey out, and there is no sky.
She is holding him, and I’m nowhere to be found.
Her parents are happy, and no one knows why
Though they show and tell the world about the past.

Let’s network. Let’s sit at tables together and do it
Online from devices. We can use them to call
Each other when we’re done networking, socially.
It’s the cold cold future baby, and we’re living well.

Don’t ask about certain things. As vague as that may be,
Just listen to that one request. You aren’t going to know
Which ‘things’ they are, or who they’re about. Just know
That some things are holy in this home called a head.

What table have we been drunk under? I thought this
Was a boat. Apparently we have been lied to again.
It’s nothing more than a field afloat on broken
Shores. It is the shore, but I’m still swimming.

The need for everything to be clean is exhausting.
There’s dirt in every pore and ants on every pole.
Grime does not discriminate. It multiplies with
Every facet; every decision gone awry.

That air is pretty dry. Too dry almost.
You said after finishing your cigarette
That smoke is too dense, and I can’t do rings.
You said upon the porch; your hair up in a tail.

Let’s just swing today. All day, on the swing,
Bring the dog. No, I don’t care if he comes.
Anything to stop the howling. He’s probably
Got vertigo up there. We’re all too little.

Such huge ideas; too hip even for us.
I wrote ‘statement’ across my blanket.
It looked ugly and I had to scrub it in the sun.
It was like burning a barn I’d just won

At auction, where we lost our minds,
I’d asked for something un-ironic
To be played. No games. No rhetoric.
No music. Just a dollar-store prompt.

Surely that’s enough to go on. A tome
Of treats is what’s asked for, and a bag
Of dirt is what’s given. It’ll still go to use.
The crops are ready I think. But how to pull out?

Why’s it so dry inside? There’s no seeds?
I could’ve sworn there shoulda’ been seeds.
Perhaps this is losing your shit. It certainly
Ain’t not that. Maybe I’ll go swim it off a bit.

Estrus, oh Estrus, accompany me down by
The pond. You are in need of washing,
I fear I may have stained you. So, just come
And let us bathe. Yours forever, Detritus.

Limits can’t be forgotten, it’s too sunny
For that to ever happen. At least this month;
I’ll just let the swelter take from my swagger
Take a fake walk and sniff a few lawns for answers.

Yes, answers. Delicious as they may seem.
Are the very conclusions drawn from
That very same dry air. Not one movement
But many to tie to in these unholy aisles.

Swill and strain, sleep and repeat, never
Remember to stretch. Pants rolled high
On able shins, ready to bolt into the blazing
Acidic burning that is well-being. Being well.

Having once been an animal, it is a temptation
That continues to inch into periphery. With eyes
Like a flounder the whole image is often missed,
Even though a new one, the only one, is seen.

Animal objectivity is “give me, it’s mine,
I need it, why can’t you appease?” mostly
Said in screaming. Rationality is above this
Stance. Swill and strain, just drown it away.

It’s always a holiday when those lights get
Left on. Always a party, the life of which
Can never be attained. All that can be done
To satisfy the itch is a ruffling of the fur.

Animal family gets lost in separate woods
The headline should read. With large spreads,
Bearing photos of midnight beasts seen from
Afar, with silly little captions scrawled under each.

Boy bitten by fate, bewildered.
Girl stuck in the shadow of aspirations.
Man forever fleeing acrimonious deed.
Woman resting by the stream in wait.

There’s no more party once that hits
The hands of the interested, not really
So interested after all. Anyway it’s just
News. Not even the truth. Heat trumps all.

It’s all anyone can talk about or tell about.
Common knowledge born of empathy,
Packing the air conditioned aisles, causing
The price of milk to soar to new heights.

The blood of life. The blood of Christ, were
He an animal we would not know. Just put a
Pill in it; let it sink to the bottom and curse
Everything you ever wanted. Still shopping

There is only what can be gained.
Thank you for that, however. Thank
You, is there more to be had? Past
Every disposition, is there more?

Very little. Check yourself out, but
Do as your told or don’t participate.
This place is cold and its patrons hungry.
It is lavish like a gulag with an open door.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring to Summer


It is that time for alter-egos
to resurface, and for the air
to swim in our lungs and
cause us to cough and sniff.

Watching smoke dance from
the mouth of a pint can,
writhing in the sunlight, and
wearing sunglasses in your room

knowing that the owls of
the daytime are doing the same.
It spells 'special' for those doing
wrong, and little more than 'usual'

for those doing right in the eyes
of someone, who might be no one
but themselves. Judging nothing.

Fizzier than the head of a poorly poured
beer, you flail into the room, soon
to dissipate; mouth agape and laughing.

Spillage occurs and apologies are
met with pity and little reflection.
This is the evening you'd planned.

You curse about everything and
continue laughing, even after
everyone else has stopped.

Perhaps stomach cancer will
set you straight, or even maybe
cirrhosis. Which you're surprised

that you still know how to spell.
Oh well, what's one more sullied
shirt? It's a bandage on your pride.

You've done whatever it is you came
to do. You've inspired ugliness and
derelict distraction. Good job.

This moment, this tree, this picture
untaken, and underdeveloped--

These things make you whole.
These things make you supple.

Go ahead and batter the world,
make use of its forgiving memories.

Take the time to relish freeness,
this pack of smokes, unsmoked.

Anything can take place when a
phone rings, or a car pulls up.

But no, right now, there's no
emergency. Nothing to pull you

under. This moment is an exercise
in patience, and tolerance of

the very virtue itself. It is blissful
discipline which will get you home safe.

Despise cold days and mathematical functions.

Forget of longing for the places you aren't.

No longer bemoan syntax or the logistics of home.

Remember that you have no home; rather a place with things.

Beleaguer the urge to bitch about nothing.

Command away the command to produce for free.

Disable all rhymes, and schemes, that may deter your actual sight.

Freely display your intuition as it displays unto you.

Laugh at yourself, and really do get tickled.

Never concede to your regal blood, because yes, you're still just reveling

You Were Worried

You were worried

You'd "fuck it up."
I'm not bothered though.

Fearing for the future,
That inevitable ugliness,
Is admitting you have no control.

And you don't.
Neither does the sky;
All its whims played through
Roughly or serene.

Nor does the dirt
Your bare feet tracked in
At four in the morning,
When sleep wasn't available.
Only smoke and numbness.

Right now, I'm not dreaming
Of tomorrow, sunny days or
Clean floors. Now it's about
What kind of home can be built

Out of momentary glances,
Grins, and the glaze of grace
That is painted on our skins.

We're but hides. Small people
With small lives,

Living, together.


The church used to be a gymnasium
I'm sure of it. Something about the floors
and missing bolts from the holes in walls.

There was little left to do but scribble
on a small piece of paper and wait for
him to be brought in with floral adornment.

Terribly unfamiliar with the etiquette
of such a situation, making sure not
to cry. Only sweat to make me moist.


The procession was grand and oddly
familiar. So much family filling out
the ranks. Odd, but only six of 'em

trailed behind the box. There'd been
no prayers in my house for close to
twelve years. But they all come back.

Every line, every wince, every tentation,
every word beaten in by the parochial
parish of youth. All familiar distractions.


I'm glad that casket is closed. I am not glad
that casket is closed. Though I can not bear
the thought of seeing my friend all waxy again.

These prayers do little for me, as I know
it's just a motion that is being gone through.
We all cry together, tears of distant proximity.

We're all in the room. Even the invalids made
it. (perhaps to recognize that this will be them
soon). And all the sudden I'm jealous of them.


When the wheel'd box is delivered outside
I stay on the corner, exchanging touches. As
I make off down 2nd street, smoking through

a tearful smile, I see the hearse again and light
another; wondering why I smile at fortune
upended. We'd so many plans to carry out.

Once again, I'm naked and it is starting to rain.
The past week has shown me my worth and
I'm going home. I do not know the etiquette.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fama's Supermachines

In Brooklyn, NY there appears to be a flurry of enticing written work that is spreading far and wide. I was recently fortunate to interview one of the borough’s poetic practitioners whose work I greatly enjoy: Ben Fama. In an effort to try and place where the Brooklyn scene stands for the rest of the world, I put forth the following…

DJ: Since Whitman, Brooklyn has always maintained a literary heritage. In your opinion how strong is Brooklyn’s place in world literature?

BF: Whitman wrote at a time when everyone was focusing on the violence and injustices that the different social groups in the city were enacting on each other. But he remained open, and refused that cynicism. He saw through the violence to a city of pleasure; probably because he actually was in love with all the different types of people you could see around (and still can).
Right now, its hard to say how Brooklyn is affecting world literature, however, I think it is the best city in the nation for writers. So in that sense, it’s the most important place for American writing. And as much as American writing influences what else is going on, Brooklyn rules; though it seems like we’re taking influence from other places, like Berlin, and the eastern European countries.

DJ: I have heard your work compared to Frank O'Hara’s. He seemed to draw his material from the people and landscape in which he thrived. In your new book, "Aquarius Rising" do you feel that your influences were more celestial or culled from the city around you?

BF: I remember reading that most people don’t read their own work, so I got nervous and then tried to start doing this. I’ve realized that the biggest influences on me are the intimate friendships and relationships I’m a part of, and enduring in the present that we are always trying to make something from. I guess I’m just saying that there are deeper things that have an effect on you whether you accept that or not, and for me that idea is a source for my primary imagination to understand what I think about things. Skeptics will say, there are so many contradictions around us, they mean nothing. Mystics say, there is so much, something has to be true. For me the most fun is to get in there and fuck with that. My influences are private desires, and my poems inevitably voice collective concerns.
About Frank O’Hara: I always thought his biggest lesson was in the way he could turn out a poem without taking it too seriously, even if the poem was thematically serious. I also think that when people talk about “The New York School” they really mean Frank O’Hara. He died 44 years ago, which is 4 years longer than he lived. When I think about the most exciting writing happening right now, I usually look a little outside NYC. For instance some of my neighbors, Christian Hawkey and Uljana Wolf split time between Brooklyn and Berlin. Uljana has just been featured in the Chicago Review as part of a portfolio of Berlin poets. Also my favorite poet, Tomaz Salamun, is Slovenian. I would take him over Ashbery ten times out of ten.

DJ: One of your lines "Try doing something beautiful / it's like wrestling yourself out of an executive headlock" stood out to me. Do you feel that your work is beautiful, and if so, what did you have to break free from?

BF: Sure; the influence of the past, and the limits of my own imagination. Every time I try something new in a poem I suppose it is like breaking out of a headlock.

DJ: The book is out now on Ugly Duckling Presse. They also dedicate a lot of energy to re-discovering and translating foreign poets. As a writer, are these translations of value to your craft, and do you hope to have your work treated with the same consideration elsewhere?

BF: Two of my favorite books by Ugly Duckling are Marina Temkina’s WHAT DO YOU WANT, and Tomaz Salamun’s POKER. Both still in print. Both of these books were formative to the way I think about the architecture and vibe of a poem. They also published a translation of Elena Fanailova’s THE RUSSIAN VERSION and won a big award for that. Genya Turovskaya, one of the best poets writing right now, co-translated that book. She’s one of the editors of the Eastern European Poets Series, along with Matvei Yankelevich, who is sort of the de-facto face of UDP, and quite a good poet too. If my work ever received the same treatment that this team gives to their foreign language translations, I would be getting the best kind of treatment possible.

DJ: Is there any advice you'd impart to those who are interested in translating and discovering new work?

BF: Send Facebook pokes relentlessly to your favorite poets, even if you don’t know them. Eventually they’ll listen.

Ben Fama
is the author of the chapbook Sun Come and co-author of the chapbook Girl Boy Girl Boy (Correspondences, 2010). He is the founder of the Brooklyn-based Supermachine Reading Series and poetry journal. His work has appeared in GlitterPony, Pank! and No, Dear Magazine, among others.

The trailer for "Aquarius Rising" can be found here:

Monday, August 16, 2010


SETTING: The Oval Office, Midnight. Early spring.

AT RISE: We see PRESIDENT SMITH pacing around

his office. DAVID TAYLOR, his senior

advisor is sitting quietly. After a

moment, he opens his briefcase and places

a small zip-lock bag on the end table.

I didn't want to show you this but you've forced my hand.

What is that?

Another dead bat. Yet, another...we're losing them by the gross. At this point we don't know how long they'll last. The mosquitoes are already on the rise, Sir.

...One blood sucker for another, Damn. I just don't understand it!

DAMMIT Mr. President, I've told you! The emissions! This is the result of your decision make alternative fuel with okra instead of--

Don't you say it--

Corn...Corn, Mr. President. It's the only way. Now, I suggest you call Nebraska before it's too late.

I can't. I won't. There has to be something else.

Why can't we use the corn sir?

BECAUSE IT'S DELICIOUS! (Pause) It's precious, and as Americans we can't afford to waste it.

(Pause, deep sigh, rubs face.) They're may be one way. But it's risky and I don't think you'll like it.

What, please god, anything. Just don't take my corn. Not for fuel. Anything.

They call it Churnolium... It's new, but it works. Only it's made of butter sir. We'd need it all, too.

(Drops to his knees) NOOOOO!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Those Using Used Books

I have been voraciously reading used paperbacks for as long as I can remember. Everything from a torn and tattered copy of “The Crying of Lot 49,” from the initial print run, to modern classics like Joyce and Camus, in French. These small gems of joy have always held a certain air of fascination for me, and only lately am I finding that this is more so based on the fact that in many cases, I am certain that these volumes —my volumes— have already been poured over and studied by others; and I truly believe that the reader's influence still lingers on each and every dog-eared page and underlined sentence.
Recently, I saved a few paperbacks by Graham Greene from the bargain carts outside of the East Village bookstore where I work. At the time, this discovery seemed to me as little more than a coincidence. Given the nature of bargain carts, and their intended disarray, I felt fortunate to find two novels by the same author side-by-side. But it wasn't until I had purchased both, for a total of 50 cents, that I realized the true significance of my finds through the subtle inscription on the title page of each: 'Markson, Mexico '61.' These were the books of our recently deceased bookshop acquaintance, novelist David Markson who passed in early June of this year.
In setting out to place the relevance of these particular works to Markson's career —a man credited by David Foster Wallace as penning “the high point of experimental fiction this century”-- I was glad to find an interview in which Markson explained his time in Mexico and the genesis of his exploration into the possibilities of fiction. And, of course, who better to guide him than the masterly Greene. From this summation, I have become drawn into the idea of all of the questions I would have asked the novelist were he still alive and stopping into the store. I cannot help but feel that I somehow slighted myself from not realizing that this man I looked up to was not some intimidating, distant figure who drank with Dylan Thomas, but just a person who, like any, relied on influence and conversation to fuel his work and get him through the day.
A good friend once told me that “there is no use in competing with the living; only the dead.” and now I believe that I understand his point much more clearly than I ever could have before. Had I taken the time to speak with Markson on a more personal level, perhaps I would find a new sentiment behind the books we've now shared. Instead, I am left with pages of ominously unmarked text. Two books that I am having a hard time finishing, because I want to discuss them with someone who's read them and been influenced by them. As my bibliophilic mania continues on, this episode has served as a strong reminder that those who are living and creating around us, or even trying to create, must be chatted up; must be celebrated for their efforts; and most importantly, must be appreciated in their lifetime and given an honest chance to defend and express themselves without fear of unhealthy competition. This is a lesson I've yet to come across directly in any paperback, but one that I will gladly share with anyone who'll take the time to listen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Hand held radios on every wall called all eyes closer, beckoning inspection of the personal and public history some of us in the room had lived and others of us had studied. When the room filled, chairs were brought in, a trap set was assembled, and a dusty projector revved. It got quiet and the mumbling died slowly, giving way to the curator who owned the floor. The program was laid out, applause was given, lights faded, and we were in darkness, breathing in the silent, scattered images flashing before us. A cat, a woman, Hebrew letters, spikes in arms, a young boy in fields of pot, more hand held radios adorned with blank faces; a woman dancing, smiling and going closer to a mirror which revealed unkempt teeth. Hands opened, hands closed; a middle distance runner, stilled by image; a brunette danced, wild, naked, exposed to the red aura around her. Men taking tokes, and sax players whose muses were elusive jaunted past the eye. The naked brunette climbed out of bed to light a cigarette and crawl back between the covers; Mick Jagger’s ghost appeared. More dancing, more color, motorcycles moving on super-8 towards cosmic entrancement. We saw a man, in the final moments, making a tie of an old shirt and preparing a shot. We had forgotten about the boy, and for those of us who were ignorant of the story behind all of this, we could do no more than sit, stunned and disarranged, feeling something that we did not know.
The lights rose, and the young boy from the film (now old) came before us to read pages about his life and share stories about the images. We granted him attention, seeking to assign meaning to the broken stills; wanting to fix them in our minds. His information provided context, he smiled, and the lights went down once more. The musicians were introduced and the film began again, that time to the crash and clamor of free association. Everything became more raucous and clear. The dancing was personal: the woman was the boy’s mother; the cat once rode on the artist’s shoulders—was even doing so when the dancing woman met him. The radios were the same that hung around us on the walls, and Mick Jagger was still a ghost from the Tami show, though seen from a theater seat. The musicians pounded wildly and the information took shape. In my throat it all welled up, and I wanted to scream at them to stop, but no; it was only 8 minutes, and they were overflowing with life. It was then possible to understand what those inexpressible abstractions meant. Tosh told us that the film was for personal use, and played on the walls of his father’s studio for acquaintances: An ice-breaker which revealed all of the freedom and madness associated with the man and his time. Projected through an unhurried eye: Visions of despair and happiness, blanked, telling the story of the undoing of everyone present; a collage of the mind, telling us all that we need to know; sometimes, even more. We were meant to take these images, sort them, store them and relish in their music.
The final note had been blown, and we all began to cheer. A new understanding had been made, and we seemed to have lived as it was seen by the boy and his father. In the light, the poets had found and filled the corners of the gallery; the students were still sitting on the floor, scribbling to record their impressions for class, or for their quarterlies. And in between it all, we were still whirling with a humility bordering sadness. We smiled and said our goodbyes to everyone whose name we’d remembered from before the intimate spectacle; making one more round past all of the hand held radios, and their accompanying images. Off into the night, we walked for blocks through the cold New York streets, aspiring to find strong drinks and the warmth of California. ‘Not this night, but some day soon’ we actually thought aloud. It was all still coming together; the visions melting together and solidifying a purpose unlike the notions that once held fast, after the first visceral viewing, and then again by the second, loud and informed mystical mélange. We filed down avenues looking for familiarity. When we finally found and recognized faces, we treated ourselves like old oak barrels, working hard to un-furrow our brows and whet our pursed lips. In the room of red and black, light was not needed. It was like the images we had just seen. Music was creating a context for our experiences; new personal histories. Us, making our own messy collages of mind and body, meeting in the distance, shown the way by Scotch on the rocks, dancing through the letters we wrote and only understood later. From Aleph to Tav, we had begun to categorize the images; seeking a respective undoing.