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Quiet Lightning is

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a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations:
1. you have to commit to the date to submit 2. you only get up to 8 minutes

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1 year + 12 issues + 12 shows for $100

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l i g h t n i i e t n g q u Neighborhood Heroes

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sparkle + blink 40
© 2013 Quiet Lightning ISBN 978-1-304-05209-4 artwork © Amanda Cruz acruzing86.wix.com/hardlystarving “Spectator” by Susan Steinberg is from her collection of stories Spectacle, (Graywolf Press, 2013) and was first published in Western Humanities Review. “Hour of the Rat” by Lisa Brackmann excerpted from her novel Hour of the Rat (Soho, 2013). The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas (Harper, 2011) book design by j. brandon loberg set in Absara Promotional rights only. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the author(s) is illegal. Your support is crucial and appreciated.

quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tli g h tn i n g . o r g

Contents
curated by Evan Karp featured artist Amanda Cruz

Set 1
Tom comitta

Having Danced on a Volcano The City of Nature: Study 2

1 8 13 25 27 35 40 45

susan steinberg Spectator peck the town crier Jane smiley Joseph Lease

Be Cool, Be Cool Summer, 1930 True Faith The Language Prayer, Broken Off

Set 2
Glen David Gold

These are (possibly) the opening pages…

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Michael David Lukas from The Oracle of Stamboul 69 Karen Penley Lisa Brackmann Kevin Killian

Little Girl from The Hour of the Rat Is It All Over My Face? Always and Forever Almost a Lover

85 89 97 101 102

For more information about Neighborhood Heroes, and to nominate someone: quietlightning.org/neighborhood-heroes

e t L ig i u Q

htning is sponsored

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Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Evan Karp founder + president Chris Cole managing director Josey Lee public relations Charles Kruger secretary Meghan Thornton treasurer Kristen Kramer chair Jacqueline Norheim art director Nicole McFeely outreach Brandon Loberg design Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan directors of special operations If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helping—on any level—please send us a line: evan@quietlightning.org

Q u i e t L ightning

tour through town
In 2013, Quiet Lightning is teaming up with a different literary organization each month in order to bring together the many outstanding series and organizations of the Bay Area literary world, and to introduce its various audience members to programming they might like but not yet know about. For these reasons, we will create custom-designed shows that combine the defining features of Quiet Lightning with thoseof each month’s partner organization. This month’s collaboration with the Contemporary Jewish Museum, in association with the exhibition Beat Memories: The Photography of Allen Ginsberg, is the fifth show of our Tour and the sixth installment of our Neighborhood Heroes series.
For details on the Tour T h r ou gh T own visit our website:

quietlightning.org

- SET 1 -

TTT

TTTTTTTT

o n a Volcan o
after & for Daniel Dallabrida

H av i n g D a n c e d

This gallery doesn’t need any sort of description any sort of description, so this is me shutting TFU and letting you get to it. And if you end up and if you end up getting bored with sexy butts, you won’t be with athletic butts. Brownish Hands Citizen’s Sleeves Adidas Gloves Full gloves Simple Pepper Glove Bare Hands started at the first gathering. Numerous accounts exist about the profound event that "started out to be a lighthearted romp [and] turned into be a serious affair. Something about the-ass-entials-of-yoga-pants-121-photos/sexyyoga-pants-butt-29/#1

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220 men found meaning in the language of the flier, trekking to Tucson, living and perceiving their lives differently....merging of political consciousness and spiritual consciousness -- an interest in healing society rather than championing exclusive claims to "rightness."....Does all of this political/spiritual ferment have any relevance to Urban camo hands Adidas White Gloves |-|ead$hot’s Hands (New Version) It's in the air. Heard everywhere. Fixed Grl. Putin Gloves! Sandman Skin! It's in the air. Heard everywhere. pink scratch strap has a removable shoulder pad that's lined with a not-too-sticky grip, while the built-in backpack straps Cpn. Jack Oakley Gloves [U.S. Desert] Cpn. White [Russian Artic] to talk about the politics of the gay espiritment/ the espiritment of gay politics; to find the healing place inside

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|-|ead$hot’s Hands White Angel Glove Blue Dragon Hands A low hum began but but quickly quickly moved moved into into a a more more agitated, agitated, coarser, coarser, emotion-filled cries...When the cage had been around the circle, the drunken confession leads to my gorgeous fraternity brother sucking my dick. He doesn't yet know I've had a crush on him forever and brothers are feeling the need to come together... to share insights about ourselves; to dance in the moonlight; to renew our oaths against patriarchy/corporations/racism; to hold, protect, nurture and caress one another; from classic lace to eye-catching leopard print pieces. I think it was rare. I don't think that happens all of the time. Watch the King of ... Downtown Frat Fuck Some fresh new frat faces fucking tight twink little brother holes. An all-star lineup of the best Regiment men, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we wear?'
T om Comi tta

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For it is the nations who strive for all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to hold, protect, nurture and caress one another; to talk about the politics of the gay espiritment/ the espiritment of gay politics An all-star lineup of the best Regiment men, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the nations who strive for all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow I have lost the debate on Tim Tebow’s skill as a quarterback. We look forward to regaining our ancient historical roles as medicine people, healers, prophets, shamans, and sorcerers. We look forward to an endless and fathomless process as Silence, grunts, chants, and motion becomes Pink Scratch with Lemon Cotton Velour Knit Print One Size Hybrid Fitted Diaper Newer to old space dyed stripe short sleeve sweater,

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Newer to old space dyed stripe short sleeve sweater, We had no answers, we cried a lot, and laughed a lot, and sometimes we sexualities besides simply also had a pink tattoo around the edge of his lips and what appeared to be a dark tattoo on the front of his scalp His face and neck were his arms arms were were also also covered covered Oh oh oh Tender Tender Tender Eyes Eyes Eyes, oh oh oh Wistful Wistful Wistful Eyes Eyes Eyes, You you you smiled smiled smiled on on on me me me one one one day day day, And and and all all all my my my life life life, in in in glad glad glad surprise surprise surprise, Leapt leapt leapt up up up and and and pleaded pleaded pleaded "Stay!" "Stay!" "Stay!" Alas Alas Alas, oh oh oh cruel cruel cruel, starlike starlike starlike eyes eyes eyes, So so so grave grave grave and and and yet yet yet so so so gay gay gay, You you you went went went to to to lighten lighten lighten other other other skies skies skies, Smiled smiled smiled once once once and and and passed passed passed away away away. A low hum began but quickly moved into a more agitated, coarser, emotion-filled cries...When the cage
T om Comi tta

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had been around the circle, the leader took it to the center, and held it up...so everyone could see what they were throwing away, then...he flung the cage and everything it contained into the desert darkness 1. TOP , ZOUL , MQ 2. LEGGINGS , ?, in LEGWEAR

They lowered him into the ooze and covered him over. They held him up high again and began to chant. After they put him down another dance broke out. Something about something about the nudity His bushy red beard and the thick hair on either sida of the bald scalp are streaked -withgray. It’s called limelight because it’s meant to be lime, right? It wouldn’t bother me so much if it was called scarlet light, or crimson light, or magenta light, A low hum began but quickly moved into a more agitated, coarser, emotion-filled cries...When the cage
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had been around the circle, the leader took it to the center, and held it up...so everyone could see what they were throwing away, then...he flung the cage and everything it contained into the desert darkness

T om Comi tta

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The City of Nature: Study 2
Those mounds are all green. The flower as yellow with purple. With yellow, petals white, clouded with pale purple flower. With brown sepals and petals, brightest orange verdigris-green tipped with orange leaves in flower; in long grass, sun. In flower--yellow, barred with brown; like sepals and petals, yellow, spotted black, mauve or violet, edged with pale yellow. A long spike from the tip, flowers. The sepals and the petals, rosy-lilac, with a darker tint; in every shade of pink and crimson and rosy purple. Flower spikes, all open. Of pale green and white to deepest red, and flowers grew upon a high tree over the mountain. Beside two stems of the tree of which the flower-stalk was yellow. A greenish yellow of pale green grass. Growing thick like grass across the forest - the wood of the forest downward from the hills. The hill among pine-woods. The trees, the mossy boulders, the hills of sand and birch and boulder; darkness of the wood upon a tree. It was a field of forest shadow. The fog was rising over the hills. Downward from the hills the shore; woods, stones of green, a gray sea. As high as to the stone, and then higher, soaring gulls: a range of seaward crags, coves. The sea-beach to enclose the bay. The waves of the brown water, sandy
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at the edge of the sea. The breakers high and white. The waves come in slowly, vast and green, curve and burst, up and down. The foam and the flying foam around the sea. Feathered with foam of sunlit waters, the sea. In billows and sunlit spray the sea was in the sun, while in the sun, and in the sea. Then, as with the sea there was a sandy beach, a lumpy sea, and salt water. At the rocky coast on the seashore the rocks uncovered, through the sunlit water. In the air, from the grass, the pebbles and the leaves, the rhododendrons, and the flower-haze, a worm protruding from the bark of the pine. The foliage of the stone-pine. Under the pine-tree, and on the pine-tree lived caddis-worms and water-snails and a dace. Pine-woods laden with pine trees of the wood in which the nightingales were on the grass. But from the grass on to the tree-roots the insects were waving antennae and twitching. Two butterflies, and a brimstone, with the tail of a worm, protruding. The leafy elms that grew at the hills. The hills went upwards, these soared ever above them, and a steep slope, came to mountains with grey fog, and here above was sunshine on the clouds, over the sky, to the sun. Bright softness of the sky. White clouds in blue sky. Into the far blue distance, it was a hilly grass with shadows flying over the smooth fields. Beyond the fields the hills rising at a little hollow. Rising ground among some trees. Wood by the stream-side
T om Comi tta

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to the sands of the stream; then a little slow, waters; and then, the sun is shining, the stream, and again the water bubbling by pebbles. The rocky wood by the stream-side. Of the stream at the river, all aglow with sunshine. Toward the river fringed with trees, the horse; but there on the river, then down the river is green islands. Quiet water by the river-side; islands in the ground of the river. Creek along the river into the waters of an inland lake. Across the still surface, that reflected the sunlight. Across the lake the firs surrounded by orange and olive trees. About the wood flowers of violets. By many a rose and leaf. A wind-flower paler than the water's white. Beyond the flower, rosy deep in the vast woods where the sunlight fell: The full red rose. The bloom was like a bloom of blossoms winging. The landscape was all aglow with the crimson, beneath high oaks, and birds. And from the hill, there comes a bird below the sun. Yet in the skies the mist; the damp reeds coldly touched. With the brook the woods soft with haze. The willow shades the brook. Like a river flowing toward a rock, from the sand, down the plain, and the shore wide and far, and every cloud illumed. The long clouds; the nearer sea, and bluer sea. And green of wave, and white of sand that stretches by. From the sea, bright waves with blossoming tip. Clouds of sparkling light. The sky. The bright sunshine over the shore. In sunlight of the wave, over the ocean. Up to the clouds. White crests rose like the rocky heights inland. The shore wide and far. Shell-strewn shore.
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In sandy soil and there, among the leaves, at the very edge of the woods. And shining white like the umber, white, and even has a faint yellowish greenish in the woods. In the woods. Into the fields and woods. A tiny fungus which looks like a brownish bird’s nest. Miniature eggs in it. A shining white mushroom. And there, among the fallen leaves, at the very edge of the woods, a bright yellow mushroom, brighter from the leaves around, and then another, close by, and then a mouse gray. The stem is smooth, and black. On stumps and sticks. On wood, on stumps, and the stem is firm and dry in a fallen tree. The stem is swollen with a bloom. There is a very small white, scaly mushroom. The gills white. On the ground, on trunks of trees these fungi. The small ones on pine needles on the ground. Among leaves in the woods the stem rosy red. In pine and hemlock woods, and red at edge. The stem was tinged with pink. Reddish-orange, bright reddish-orange among the bushes. Stem long and white. The spores are dark brown on the ground amidst the grass. Near the root with a pinkish-yellowish stem. The whole fungus grew on a maple tree. Protruded from a large crack in the trunk of a tree. The bark. Branches brownish yellow, greenish yellow in the shade. Between the trees, leaves greenish white, with smooth red buds. Apples in the trees; apples on the trees. The apples yellow, shaded and splashed with crimson. The apples on the lower branches of trees are orange yellow. Apples on the trees; the apples around the hills, sides of the hills,
T om Comi tta

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and in the valleys between the hills. Apples near the trees; under the trees, in holes. The creek below the apple trees, the shade trees. The roots of the trees at the water. Trees, with whole roots; black loam with clay. Wormy reddish soil, with leaves. On the under side of the leaves, greenish black. On the trees pendent boughs red and yellow on the sunny side. And with a light bloom. Rays of the sun, as it sunk behind the clouds, gleamed. Green leaves, before apricots. The tree was an apricot-tree, which grew against the rose-trees, flowers in full bloom. Tree at the currant-bushes. Below with flower and vine, blossom and greenness, with the leaves of elm-boughs, treetops. Tree through cloud of the mountain mist. By mountain shade the valley's hillside. The stones of the hill. The elms by the grass of hill. The brook with its ripple of streams, that riverward wound. With rose blown hills, water gliding through the coasthill's gap to the sea. River winding to the sea of sand and sun. Waves that follow waves upon the shore. Sea-weeds and jelly fish came floating in. The fishes with the foam; star fish by the sea, and water upon the shore. The crested waves of water up with sand.

Watch Tom Comitta's performance
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SS

SSSS

SSSSSSS S

S

Spectator
; to say I watched him through the keyhole; to say I pressed my face to the door and watched; to say I had what one could call a crush; to say the crush was superficial; to say the crush was on the superficial: like his ribcage through his shirt, like the books he read and he was brilliant; to say I was not brilliant, though one day I would be; to say one day I would know my brilliance; to say one day the world would know my brilliance; and I would know that day my brilliance made no difference; and I would know that day no brilliance made a difference; but first I was mistaken; first I fell for his brilliance; first I fell for his ribcage through his shirt; to say first I was who I always was; to say I was always falling incredibly hard; to say I was always falling incredibly hard like women fall; to say I was used to feeling like women feel; to say I was used to being nothing other than a woman;
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which was a good thing, which was not a good thing; and my shrink would say how in the world was it good to fall incredibly hard; I didn’t always answer her; I was often pulling at threads at the edge of the chair; I was often staring into the plants and imagining a jungle; I was often tying my hair into knots and not untying the knots; to say I had my own things going on; to say I had my messed up things I always had; to say I was in that chair for reasons I knew and for reasons I did not; so forgive me, he was my boyfriend’s friend; forgive me, he was crashing that night on our couch; forgive me, my boyfriend was out of town; and there’s not much to say about my boyfriend; just he was hands down the kindest person I had ever met; just he was hands down the kindest person anyone had ever met; just I had no desire to cheat on him; to say I had no desire to cheat on him again; which is not to say I had no desire; to say we had sat all night on the couch; to say there were important reasons to sit on the couch; to say he had bought important books that day; to say I did not yet know these important books; and
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so he was reading to me from one of the books; and so at first I wasn’t listening; and so at first I was only looking around the room; and so I will tell you the color of his shirt: black; and I will tell you the color of the couch: red; forgive me for falling for colors; forgive me for falling for someone else’s interpretation of colors; to say I was easily seduced; to say I was what one called messed up; to say I was a total fucking mess; to say I was lying back on the couch; and then my legs were over his; and then my eyes were slowly closing; and when I laughed at something, he stopped reading; and when he said I love your teeth, I laughed again; this is not exactly what happened; to say perhaps I’m making this part up; to say he did not stop reading and say he loved my teeth; to say he did stop reading, but he did not say he loved my teeth; to say he did stop reading, but he said my teeth were crooked; which is to say, at the very least, he was looking at my mouth; which is to say something about love how back then I understood love; and so I opened my eyes; and so I saw him looking at me too hard; and he was not looking at
Su san Ste i nbe rg

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my mouth; to say it was here that I felt a surge; to say it was here that everything shifted; to say it was here that I kicked him in his ribcage; and I was only joking when I kicked him; and he held up the book like a shield; and he was only joking when he held up the book; and my shrink would ask what I meant by shifted; and she would ask what I meant by surge; and she would ask why I kicked him in his ribcage; and she would ask what happened way back when; she was always asking what happened way back when; I didn’t care about way back when; I didn’t care about the mystery that was way back; and I would pull at the threads at the edge of the chair; I would tie my hair into knots; I would imagine diving into the jungle at the roots of the plants where I would start a whole new world; I imagined wearing leaves in that world; I imagined tying my hair up in twigs; I imagined I was gigantic; and he was less gigantic; and by he I mean every he who ever cast a shadow over me; my shrink did not need to know about the jungle; she did not need to know about the various hes who cast their
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shadows; my way back when was just clichéd; my way back when was the way back whens of other women in the world; to say there were lines in rooms, and lines were crossed; to say there were rules in rooms, and rules were broken; to say fill in the blanks for yourself; to say fill in the blanks with any words you choose; to say choose the words that happened in your way back; imagine yourself on the couch; imagine he’s reading a story to you; imagine the heat of his legs on yours; I can’t imagine you’d behave as well as I did; I can’t imagine you’d go to the bedroom, shut the door, lie on the bed, like I did; but the night was over before it should have been over; the night was over, and I thought I would go to sleep; the night was dead, and I thought I would dream dreams I would forget in the morning; and I whispered something superficial into my pillow; and I whispered something superficial into my arm; and I whispered something desperate into the universe; to say there are no good answers for what one does with desire; to say there is only this constant struggle; to say there is only this constant tugging; to
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say I wanted to walk back into the room; to say I wanted to go through his suitcase while he slept; to say I wanted to pull something from it; to say I wanted to pull out a shirt and keep it; I would have tried it on over mine; I would have tried it on under mine; this is not about perversion; to say I know what a perversion is; to say it was just a superficial crush; and my boyfriend was hands down fucking perfect; and at some point later that week he came back from out of town; and we were sitting on the couch; and we were looking into each other’s bored as shit eyes; and I said listen to my boyfriend, and he listened; and I said something funny to my boyfriend, and he laughed; and I said I could use a drink, and he got me a drink; and he said I love you; etc.; and he said I mean it; etc.; and I said something I’m sure I regretted; to say I’m sure I deserved to be punished; to say I’m sure I deserved to be crushed; and I wanted to be punished in the worst way; I wanted to be crushed beneath a hand; my God; I remember a detail from the story he read; to say I remember just one detail: a hot air balloon, two people
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in it going higher and higher, two people in it going way too high; and I should say he gave me the book to keep; or I should say I took it from his suitcase; and I should say I was looking for a shirt; or I was looking for a sock; or I was looking for his underwear; and I would have shoved them into my own; and I would have slept all night like that; and I would have dreamed all night like that; and I would have gotten off like that; and this is not some kind of perversion; this is only love how back then I did love; to say one way or another I have the book; to say I could look for it now on a shelf; to say I could open the book, quote you a line; to say I am very good at seduction; to say I could find a way to keep you awake all night; and I could have kept him awake all night; but on that night I did not: unlike the night I cheated on my boyfriend with my friend, unlike the night I cheated on my boyfriend with his friend, unlike all the nights way back when when everything was just a spark and just a spark; fucking memory; and my shrink would ask why I behaved so well that night; I said I didn’t know why;
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and she said to think; and I said I would think; but I didn’t have to think; it was something about the hot air balloon; and she did not need to know I felt I was in one as he read; she did not need to know I felt twisted loose and shot into space; and desire disappeared; and I laughed as I was floating away; and when I laughed, he said my teeth were crooked; and I opened my eyes and was looking at his; and of course I felt a surge; and of course it was wrong to feel it; and of course the phone rang right then; and the phone just kept on ringing; and so I shifted my focus to the phone; fucking spark; I didn’t mean to crush it; to say I didn’t mean to crush him; to say I didn’t want to answer the phone; but there I was with nothing to say; there he was with nothing: it’s late here, it’s late here too, what are you doing, going to sleep, what are you doing, going to sleep, etc., etc.; and I hung up the phone, and where were we; he’d been reading me a story; and he was still holding the book; and he would open the book again; and he would look back at the page; and I thought he would read to me again; but instead he would define a
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word he thought I didn’t know; because he wanted to crush me back; because he did not know I was brilliant; because I did not know I was brilliant; but I knew the word; I knew all the words; I said I knew the word, and he wasn’t listening; and when I defined the word, he wasn’t listening; and when he defined the word, I wasn’t listening; and when he said something else, I still wasn’t listening; and it was then I kicked him in his ribcage; and I actually wasn’t joking when I kicked him; and he stood and cast his shadow over me; and I stood in the shadow he cast; and the night still could have gone either way; to say I still could have kept him awake; to say it was then I started thinking of seduction; no, it was years before I started thinking of seduction; no, it was at the exact moment of my own conception I started thinking of seduction; no, it was at the exact moment of my own conception I was completely seductive; so forgive me for being how I was; forgive me for my performance of female; forgive me for my messed up desire; I was just a girl and lines were crossed; I was just a girl, and rules were broken; I
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was just a girl and blank happened once; and blank happened twice; and blank was said; and blank was felt; and blank would be dealt with eventually; and then I would know my brilliance; and the world would know my brilliance; and I would know that brilliance made no difference; because the world was filled with nothing but; because the world was filled with nothing, but; first I was mistaken; first I was lying on my bed; and the phone would ring again; and this time I wouldn’t answer; and I turned off the light and thought of sleep; and it was then I saw the keyhole lit up like some kind of too bright star; and fucking universe; fucking desire; I was falling, again, incredibly hard; and I thought of what you would think of me; and I thought of what you would say to me; and I thought of what you would say of me; and there was the moon scattered across the bedroom; and it was only me and the scattered moon; and it was, hands down, the biggest cliché; it was the biggest perversion, hands down; so punish me for getting out of bed; punish me for walking to the door; punish me for
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getting on my knees; punish me for pressing my eye to the keyhole; and punish me for what I saw; and for what I did; and for what I did not; and for all that happened way back when; which was nothing; which was something; like I even fucking know;

Watch Susan Steinberg read "Spectator"

Su san Ste i nbe rg

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PP

B e C o o l, B e C o o l

PP PP

PPPPPPPPP PPP P

be cool, be cool but let'm know, let'm know be cool, be cool, let'm know beautiful, that's how we start each day sun-kissed thank you's these lips say deep in the sea, high in the clouds getting' down man-droids running things here on the ground we escape make paths back to the source they'll be running out of oil, we'll be grooming a horse watch how the burningman hoe's his row gonna be cool, be cool, let'm know be cool, be cool but let'm know, let'm know be cool, be cool, let'm know crazy, that's how we seem to them they push, they shove we act like a friend try and multiply by the powers of ten but holding steady do ya better in the end

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he's looking at his lap, why he act like that? must be a scene with a screen that he'd rather be at all good and well, tell he's yelling on his cell ain't cool, ain't cool gotta tell be cool, be cool but gotta tell, gotta tell be cool, be cool gotta tell simple, that's how it's always been even as the world comes apart at the seems look there, a tall tower starts to lean a thousand languages awaken from a dream we understand the land like an atlas, man quit running races no flames, no fans watch how the water woman walk so slow gonna be cool be cool, let'm know be cool, be cool but let'm know, let'm know be cool, be cool, let'm know

Watch Chris Peck perform "Be Cool, Be Cool"
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JJJJJ

JJJJJJ

S u m m e r, 193 0
The moment that Rosanna knew she’d been living in a fool’s paradise all spring was the moment she pumped the second basin of water. She had already undressed Lillian and set her into the first tub of water to cool off—it would certainly be a hundred out there, at least—and Lillian was paddling mildly and dipping a couple of spoons in and out of her bath. She was half talking to Rosanna. As she said, “Lolly and Lizzie need a nap,” and Rosanna answered automatically, “I’m sure they do, they were up late last night,” the water that spurted out of the tap over the sink fell brown and thick into the pail and then stopped. Rosanna had never seen a well go dry before. She set the pail down into the sink and put her hands on her hips. Her hands were trembling. The farm had three wells—one beside the barn, this one by the house, and an old one that had been capped some years ago, not far from the chicken house. Rosanna had no idea how deep this well was, or how it compared to the others—sometimes that didn’t matter, water could be deep or shallow. She glanced over at Lillian. The tub the girl was sitting in was not at all large—it had a flat bottom and flared sides about twelve inches tall, and Lillian
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was sitting with her legs crossed. The water, which was clear, came up about six inches. In the hot weather, Rosanna had been letting her sit in the water everyday during the afternoon, just to stave off any fevers or heat strokes that might be going around. Walter and the boys had a pail outside, too, in the shade, that they dipped their bandannas in before wrapping them around their heads under their hats, or wrapping them around their mouths and noses to keep out the dust. The other thing Rosanna had taught the boys to do was to dip their wrists in the water and hold them in there long enough for the blood to cool. Well, obviously, the first thing was to pray, so Rosanna set down the pail and went over to Lillian, and knelt beside her. She said, “Dear Lord.” And Lillian said, in a sing song voice, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray—” Rosanna couldn’t help smiling. She waited for Lillian to finish, and went on, “We see that you are preparing a trial for us. The signs and the symbols are all around us—you give us no rain and now you have dried up our well. Our crops are thirsty, Lord. We dole out little drops of moisture to them every evening, and they drink them up, but still they look yellow and dry.” She was thinking of the beans. “We thank you for your past generosity, and we apologize if we have seemed ungrateful, if we have sat down to your bounty without lifting our voices in your praise. We understand that we became proud and
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flaunted our pride and were punished.” Now she was thinking of the fact that Bruno Krause had come and gone—no customers could afford to pay for such luxuries—and she had had to slaughter half of her chickens and given them away, and though at first the experience was a bitter one, it showed her that there were people, and not just bums and vagrants, but people in Denby and Usherton who hadn’t the wherewithal to buy a chicken. There were people who were starving in the midst of plenty, as it said in the Bible somewhere. “We know that the trials you send us are proper tests of our faith, and we hope to pass those tests, Dear Lord.” Now she was thinking that Dan Crest was giving her almost nothing for her butter, good as it was, but he said that people didn’t care about quality when they could hardly afford to eat—he himself almost went out of business, and it could still happen if the drought—yes, he used the dreaded word—didn’t end soon, he had no idea what was next and neither did Hoover nor anyone else. The oat and barley fields were brown, and there weren’t many farmers like Walter and his father who had some from the year before. The corn looked like green sticks thrusting out of rock, it was that dry. She gripped Lillian’s hand a little too tightly, and Lillian pulled out of her grip. She opened her eyes. Lillian said, “Mama, I’m scared. You scared me,” and Rosanna coughed and said, “You pray, Lillian. The Lord will listen to you, I’m sure.” “Pray what?”

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Rosanna thought for a second, then said, “Darling, just close your eyes, and say, ‘Dear Father, please have mercy upon your children and keep us and protect us. If there is anything we have done to offend you, we give you our apologies.’ Say that.” “What are pologies?”

“Saying you’re sorry, you know like when you make a mess and Mama has to clean it up.” “Did I make a mess?”

“No, honey, no you didn’t. I don’t know who did. But sometimes you have to say you’re sorry and you don’t know why. Do you understand?” Lillian shook her head.

“Someday you will. We don’t know all the things the Lord sees. Sometimes he sees things that we don’t, and they make him sad and angry, and so we have to say we’re sorry anyway.” “Okay.” But she still seemed doubtful. Rosanna began again, “Dear Father.” “Dear Father.”

“Please take mercy upon us, your children, and help us.” “Please help us.” Rosanna didn’t correct her.

“If we have offended you by doing something, we are sorry.”
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“We are sorry. If---if we did a bad thing that we didn’t know.” “Darling,” said Rosanna. “It might be that someone else did a bad thing, but it’s good if we apologize for it. Like Jesus.” “Like Jesus?”

“Well, Jesus never did a single bad thing, but when he was crucified, he made up for all the bad things that other people had done. That’s why he was crucified.” Lillian looked at her for a moment, then went back to moving her fingers in the water, and Rosanna wondered if she had gone too far. It was always a shock for a child to find out—to truly understand— what had happened to Jesus. Rosanna remembered clearly her own reaction of brooding over it for some weeks around Easter, and asking questions—nails in his palms? Nails? He fell down three times and nobody at all helped him? Where was the Good Samaritan? In fact it was better to have a rather thoughtless child like Frankie, who listened, nodded, and forgot about it. Who at ten still sang “Round John virgin” without even realizing that those words made no sense. Finally, Lillian said without looking at her, “Did you do a bad thing, Mama?” “Not that I know of.” “Did Papa?”
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“Not that I know of.”

“Frankie?” She hesitated, but certainly this was true—“Not that I know of.” Then, “At this point.” “Joey?” “I can’t imagine Joey or you, Lillian, doing a bad thing or thinking a bad thought.” “What is a bad thought?”

Rosanna regretted even beginning this. She said, “Hating someone.” “Do you hate anyone?”

“No, and neither does Papa or Frankie or Joey, or you. Lillian, I don’t know why there isn’t any water, but the Lord will provide if we pray to Him.” “Isn’t there any water?”

“Well,” said Rosanna. “Let’s see.” She stood up and lifted Lillian out of the tub, careful to retain as much of that water as she could, for plants, and maybe even animals. She dried Lillian with a towel, and walked her over to the pump. Rosanna picked Lillian up and set her beside the sink, then picked up, not the pail with the muck in it, but a pot she used for boiling egg noodles. She set it under the spout of the pump, lifted the handle, and pushed it down, then did it again. Water—clear water, and cool—spurted into the pan, and she pumped again. Soon she had
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about three quarts—the pot was four quarts. She realized that she had panicked. Dimly, in fact, she knew how a well worked—a well was a deep hole into an aquifer. Water seeping through surrounding rock and earth filled the hole, and every well had a capacity—a gallon a minute, or two, or ten, or whatever. But Rosanna had never in her thirty years seen anything come out of a spigot other than water, and so she had looked at the muck and panicked. Lillian was staring at the water, and Rosanna gave into temptation, and said, “Well, Darling, it’s a miracle. We prayed for the water, and the water came.” Rosanna knew that Walter would disapprove of misrepresenting things in this way, but the words just came out of her mouth. Lillian stared at the water, and said, “A miracle.” Rosanna took her down from the sink, and said, “Let’s go find Dula and Lizzie. I think they’ve been getting up to mischief.” As they left the kitchen hand in hand, Rosanna saw Lillian turn her head to look at the pump. She did feel guilty, a bit. But then what was wrong in believing in miracles? Miracles abounded. There were plenty that you could see, and plenty that you couldn’t.

Watch Jane Smiley read "Summer, 1930"

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JJJJ

JJJJJJJJ

True Faith
1

Property is death: they had a body crammed in a mailbox and it was just a brown suit with bones sticking out—and fathers lost in blowing snow—and mothers drift in blowing leaves, and all the lies in any town—work was my salvation he said work was always my salvation

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2 branches

You

Joy can Scream

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3 Ice and the river—“the desire to be normal is healthy”: no, it isn’t—can you imagine the death of the wind—can you remember the ghost of that voice—

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4

Your Kisses Your Sky Your Darkness Your Sky

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5 Lavender sky, sky like whiskey—the way, the way we live in bodies—lavender sky, sky like whiskey—and to your scattered bodies go—your dream inside your face, your night inside your morning—I'll try to glint like birds behind the rain—

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The Language
1 pink streaks, sky, pink streaks, branches— buildings turn purple—

the wind sings the moon—the moon sings the wind—all the words, all the worlds, in one face—

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2 one story—the boy and the swan—the swan and the night—the face in the house—your lips slip the night—your face slips your eyes—your eyes slip your yes—love like flying—

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3

where is your bliss—who is your kiss—smile painting smile sacred arcs of rain—O taste, O taste and see—I can't believe we've come to this—you rose—I can't believe—

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4

and all the words—all the hands—you dream me—dream me there—soft mist, soft kiss—

change the world—Jesus it's possible—what do you know—what do you taste—vodka, ice, soft air, soft air, your hands—what if I worship you—your life is real—

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5

tonight—what's that— a voice— a wing— tonight can sing tomorrow's ring—arc, arc me the secret—your gaze, the spin—you go so deep—your sound, your sound—you go so deep—

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prayer, broken off
1

he’s

crying (God)

“home”—

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2

All Night

I Was

Your Hair

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3

Break summer— Paint fear— He was wild— A little wild— He’s dying— He’s dying— He’s asking Why You Love Him—

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4

blue

night

comes

No

No one

Nobody dies

Nobody loses

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5

He

hates

“sentimental

slop”—hold

his

hand—he’s from Coney Island—he’s tougher than you—he says when I squeeze your hand I’m squeezing her hand—his mother in the room—his mother’s me—tell him, tell him, your mother loves you

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6

Soft wind like a road

Done

I wrote done

I tried to write don’t

Don’t

Don’t

Don’t

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7

violet, blue

wind pushes

river light, birches—

he

said

feel this

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8

he’s

crying (God)

“home”—

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9

All Night

I Was

Your Hair

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Watch Joseph Lease's reading

- SET 2 -

G T h es e es t o a (p are (possibly) the opening pag rst i o ssi b ly) multi-v , th e f r i o m e m e o m l u boo N G, k of w hich might be called PO ly. unl e e ss it' s c a l l e d s o m e th in g el se e n ti r

GG GG

GGGGGGGGGG

My mother's family has a history of losing everything. I've seen a family bible that an unnamed relative wrote in the 19th century and it blames generation after generation of terrible choices on serendipity, bureaucrats and a supernatural curse. My grandfather, George Gercke, was the most handsome man in Germany. My mother said as if it made perfect sense that he had to flee when the Nazis came to power. The first thing I understood about him was that his great beauty was something like a Hellenic treasure, but worse, one that could arouse the upper levels of the SS into terrible, unwanted desires. He was the first born-son. He was
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left-handed, spoke seven languages. In one of the surviving photographs of his youth, he wears a linen suit and white shirt without a tie, eyes closed and head tilted back against some granite monument to better bathe the length of his neck in the weak Berlin sunlight. The others of his family spoke of him in terms reserved for those vintages of wine with complexities to their bouquet understood but never commented on. His line was five generations of German military officers marrying the daughters of British dukes and earls. When he left Berlin for the working class town of Uxbridge, England in 1933, he went under a cloud. He married a commoner, for reasons unknown, and his family did not approve. When war was declared, George was arrested and taken away to the Isle of Man. He was among the last if not the very last to be released, and when he came back at the end of the war to the boarding house at Belmont Road no employer would hire him in a position that suited
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his astonishing talents. He sold ice cream. He was a night watchman, a janitor, he stoked a boiler in an asbestos-shrouded basement, and he rode his bicycle home in the dark every evening until he was finally struck and killed by a drunken lorry driver. He was dead at 43 with seven children. The details of this have always been mysterious to me. Even when my mother recited the facts, she tensed as if I should understand she was saying something entirely different. There was a flavor of "if only" to every turn -- if only the family had understood the marriage; if only they had vouched for him; if only the war hadn't come along, what genius might have come from this man. This was a story infused with the Old World sense of fate’s avocation of generating tragedy. But my mother's side of the family tended to explain little. They keep a stiff upper lip, my mother said, and I knew that was a criticism. From how my mother spoke about them, I grasped that family and country overlapped.
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Each had allegiances and jealousies and prejudices, each had rules that made no sense and which couldn’t be broken, and just because you left one didn’t mean you’d actually left it behind. Countries with abstract borders like Prussia or Belgium went badly, and that was what it was like with the Gercke family. “Tell me about the bombs,” I would say when I was little. I wanted to know about the world before I was in it. During the war, my mother lived in a boarding house for American servicemen. Her playground was urban, a set of railroad tracks by a tea warehouse. Sometimes, she heard bombers and saw bombs falling and amidst the explosions she and her sisters had to hide underground. Maybe it meant something about her childhood that the part she felt most comfortable remembering involved bombs falling on her playground. She preferred to talk about the times after she’d moved to America. She left Uxbridge at age nineteen. There was a leggy photo in her hometown
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newspaper with the caption ‘Hollywood Bound.’ She married an American GI and then traveled the eight thousand miles from her old home to her new one via Pan Am Clipper, and as she told the story I recall mid-Atlantic storms, failing engines, the plane struck by lightning several times, thirty hours of passengers on either side of her worrying rosaries as they were pitched back and forth in the air. On the tarmac, finally, never away from home before, she disembarked carefully, blinking at the California sunlight, a teenager in what she hoped was a smart suit, nervous at meeting her new family. She kept trying to joke, “I need to get my land legs back,” because she knew that people with yachts said that, and she hoped that level of pomposity would strike her in-laws as amusing, and it didn’t. It was a brief marriage. She talked about her first husband as if he’d been a tree branch fallen on a path, something she’d gotten around so she could meet my father. We lived in Corona del Mar, south of Los
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Angeles, in a house that faced the sunsets. I can't imagine how different it was for my mother from her childhood. When she became a citizen, one of her group said that in his home country, Switzerland, geography was a good metaphor for friendships. Upon entering Switzerland, or a family's living room there, immediate, unscalable-looking mountains confronted you. In a number of years, perhaps a lifetime, you might learn of one or two passes that would allow you entry into a Swiss person's heart. California, on the other hand, said the Swiss, was all beach. The moment you arrived, you could walk shoulder to shoulder with the locals, and you were made to feel welcome, even if you didn't feel ready for it. "But never mind," he added. "Because when you know the Californians after years and years of being on the beach with them, guess what? Mountains. You'll never get over them." My mother didn't fit in. She looked like she should -- long blonde hair, slender body, kind blue eyes, skin that tanned easily -- but her body
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knew otherwise. Before she'd moved to America she hadn't known what a sunburn was. She had a modest two-piece swimsuit of pale blue, insulated with many layers of material between its exterior and where it touched her body. Its bottom piece reached above her navel, the better to cover a mysterious curved scar on her back that, when I was very young, I would touch with my fingertips to try to understand the different ways skin could feel. When she was four years old, she'd been in the hospital for many months. No one had told her why. When she came to the United States, a doctor saw the scar and asked her why she'd had a kidney removed. She didn't know she was missing a kidney. How disconcerting it must have been then to hold in her mind both her gothic childhood and her present life of coastal breezes, sunglasses, money in the bank, her own swimming pool, going barefoot at cocktail parties, how even in wintertime her friends would pick fruit from their back yards, make bowls of sangria and greet her at their front doors with a
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happy Mi casa es su casa. Because it was Southern California we took long drives almost every day. I learned that when we went by a pasture, if you relaxed your eyes and let the fence posts rush by, the tiny flickers of the sights beyond would resolve into glimpses of the farm. That’s what it was like with my mother’s life. She sewed clothing for me. She made me tuna melts for lunch. When I couldn’t sleep, she sat on my bed and sang Moon River. She read up on ESP and decided she had it. I used to lie on my bed and try to send out brain waves to my mother. SOS! Sometimes, on a different day, she would come into my room and ask if I'd just been 'calling' her, and I always said Yes, and she would nod, significantly, admitting to a seasonal wind she could count on. I was hers then. I loved my father but I belonged to my mother. I knew a look on her face so well I would sometimes lie awake nights thinking about it. Something weighed on her, something that separated her from the present. Under big
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canvas reflective hats, zinc oxide on our noses, sun screen on our shoulders, we hiked at the beach in our swimsuits, exploring the tidepools, tipping our big toes into sea anemones for the pleasure of it, and something was wrong. When I learned how to swim beneath an approaching swell, I popped up safely, in triumph and yet my mother's concerned eye fell on me with a weight I didn't understand. Back on shore, she reached for my hand as if there was a border crossing only she could see, and there were armed guards whose graces she would have to court with politeness and fear. Her silent gaze, if it could be translated, said You don’t know what you escaped. And, because her worry lingered, It might come back.

I can see why she liked my father. His family was a block of Russian Jews, a solid, basalt-steady heredity. They were simply Russian Jews as far back as there had been deer in that particular forest. Then the Jews moved to Chicago and opened a hardware store and things got better and there was the sense
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that everyone was spreading out in similar directions -- upward, onward. My great grandfather had been a rabbi in a shtetl overrun by Cossacks. My grandfather ran Tannenbaum’s Hardware on 35th and Indiana. My uncles were lawyers. My father was an engineer. He traveled much of the year because he was making money for our future. That was a new, matching pair of gifts for her, his easy confidence that there would be both money and a future. His family's trajectory of abundance was easier to hang onto than whatever hydra’s head of mysteries was on my mother’s side. It must have been seductive for a while. When I was six, I asked my mother to explain the world map. What country fit where? It was hard to comprehend where England was in relationship to, say, Israel. When my mother pointed out their great distances both from us and from each other, I felt desolate. I had so wanted Israel and England to be next door. I couldn't explain why. "It's normal," she said. "When you're young, you think the world revolves around you. You'll start
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expanding outward. A young person thinks the world revolves around his country. When you're grown up, you'll see how the whole world fits together." "What about now?" I asked. "You're self-centered. You think the world revolves around you." I thought about that. "Is that good?" "Only someone who was self-centered would ask that." She said this with love, I should mention. Around the same time, I'd added up a column of numbers faster than she had, then I'd said to her, “It’s okay. Mommy’s brain is slow.” So that’s what she was up against.

Watch Glen David Gold's reading

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M

M MM

MMMMMMMMMMMMM

from

of Stamboul

The Oracle

MM

Eleonora Cohen came into this world on a Thursday late in the summer of 1877. Those who rose early that morning would recall noticing a flock of purple and white hoopoes circling above the harbor, looping and darting about as if in attempt to mend a tear in the firmament. Whether or not they were successful, the birds eventually slowed their swoop and settled in around the city, on the steps of the courthouse, the red tile roof of the Constanta Hotel, and the bell tower atop St. Basil’s Academy. They roosted in the lantern room of the lighthouse, the octagonal stone minaret of the mosque, and the forward deck of a steamer coughing puffs of smoke into an otherwise clear horizon. Hoopoes coated the town like frosting, piped in along the rain gutters of the governor’s mansion and slathered on the gilt dome
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of the Orthodox church. In the trees around Yakob and Leah Cohen’s house, the flock seemed especially excited, chattering, flapping their wings and hopping from branch to branch like a crowd of peasants lining the streets of the capital for an imperial parade. The hoopoes would probably have been regarded as an auspicious sign, were it not for the unfortunate events that coincided with Eleonora’s birth. Early that morning, the 3rd Division of Tsar

Alexander II’s Royal Cavalry rode in from the north and assembled on a hilltop overlooking the town square: six hundred and twelve men, five hundred thirty-seven horses, three cannons, two dozen dull gray canvas tents, a field kitchen, and the horizontal yellow and black striped standard of the Tsar. They had been riding for the better part of a fortnight with reduced rations and little rest, through Kiliya, Tulcea, and Babadag, the blueberry marshlands of the Danube Delta and vast wheat fields left fallow since winter. Their ultimate objective was Pleven, a trading post in the bosom of the Danubian Plain where General
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Osman Pasha and seven thousand Ottoman troops were attempting to make a stand. It would be an important battle, perhaps even a turning point in the war, but Pleven was still another ten days off and the men of the 3rd Division were restless. Laid out below them like a feast, Constanta had

been left almost entirely without defenses. Not more than a dozen meters from the edge of the hilltop lay the rubble of an ancient Roman wall. In centuries past, these dull, rose-colored stones had protected the city from wild boars, bandits, and the Thracian barbarians who periodically attempted to raid the port. Rebuilt twice by Rome and once again by the Byzantines, the wall was in complete disrepair when the Ottomans arrived in Constanta at the end of the fifteenth century. And so it had been left to crumble, its better stones carted off to build roads, palaces, and other walls around other, more strategic cities. Had anyone thought to restore the wall, it might have shielded the city from the brutality of the 3rd Division, but in its current state it was little more
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than a stumbling block. All that morning and late into the afternoon,

the 3rd Division rode rampant through the streets of Constanta, breaking shop windows, terrorizing stray dogs, and pulling down whatever statues they could find. They torched the governor’s mansion, ransacked the courthouse, and shattered the stained glass above the entrance to St. Basil’s Academy. The goldsmith’s was gutted, the cobbler’s picked clean, and the dry goods store strewn with broken eggs and tea. They shattered the front window of Yakob Cohen’s carpet shop and punched holes in the wall with their bayonets. Apart from the Orthodox church, which, at the end of the day stood untouched, as if God himself had protected it, the library was the only municipal building that survived the 3rd Division unscathed. Not because of any special regard for knowledge. The survival of Constanta’s library was due entirely to the bravery of its keeper. While the rest of the town cowered under their beds or huddled together in basements and closets, the librarian stood boldly
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on the front steps of his domain, holding a battered copy of Eugene Onegin above his head like a talisman. Although they were almost exclusively illiterate, the men of the 3rd Division could recognize the shape of their native Cyrillic and that, apparently, was enough for them to spare the building. Meanwhile, in a small gray stone house near

the top of East Hill, Leah Cohen was heavy in the throes of labor. The living room smelled of witch hazel, alcohol, and sweat. The linen chest was thrown open and a pile of iodine-stained bed sheets lay on the table. Being that the town’s sole trained physician was otherwise disposed, Leah was attended by a pair of Tartar midwives who lived in a village nearby. Every twenty minutes or so, the younger of the two scuttled out of the bedroom with an empty pot or an armful of used sheets. Apart from these brief forays, the bedroom door remained closed. With nothing for him to do and nothing else to

occupy his mind, Leah’s husband Yakob gave himself over to worry. A large man with unruly black hair
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and bright blue eyes, he busied himself with tugging at the ends of his beard, shuffling his receipts, and packing his pipe. Every so often he heard a scream, some muffled encouragement to push, or the distant sound of gunshots and horses. He was not a particularly religious man, nor superstitious, still he murmured what he could remember of the prayer for childbirth and knocked three times three times three on wood to ward off the evil eye. He tried his best not to worry, but what else can an expectant father do? Just after twilight, in that ethereal hour

when the sky moves through purple to darkness, the hoopoes fell silent, the gunshots ceased, and the rumbling of hoof beats whittled to nothing. It was as if the entire world had paused to take a breath. In that moment there was a weary groan from the bedroom, followed by a fleshy slap and the cry of a newborn child. Then the older midwife, Mrs. Damakan, emerged with a bundle in the crook of her arm. Apart from a soft infant gurgle, the room was silent.
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“Thank God,” Yakob whispered, and he bent

forward to kiss his daughter on the forehead. “Mr. Cohen.” Yakob looked up at the tight line of Mrs.

Damakan’s mouth. “There is some trouble.” Leah’s bleeding had not stopped. She was

gravely weak. Just a few hours after the birth, she succumbed. Her last word was the name of her newborn daughter, and as she spoke it, the sky opened. It was a downpour unlike anyone in Constanta

had even seen, an endless cavalcade of rain and thunder. In torrents, waves, and steely sheets, it strangled fires, erased roads, and wrapped the town square in a blanket of wet smoke. Through the worst of the storm, the hoopoes concealed themselves in entryways and the hollows of dead trees. For their part, the 3rd Division rode south towards Pleven, their plunder lashed like spider nests to the backs of their horses. It rained for four days straight, during
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which time Mrs. Damakan and her niece cared for the newborn child. Leah was buried in a mass grave with a dozen or so men killed trying to defend their property, and Yakob filled the house with wails. By the end of the week, the harbor was clogged with refuse and the town square strewn with soggy cinders. Life, however, must continue. When the clouds

finally retreated, Yakob Cohen took a coach to Tulcea and sent two telegrams: one to Leah’s family in Bucharest and the second to his friend and business partner in Stamboul, a Turk by the name of Moncef Barcous Bey. The first telegram informed his in-laws of the tragedy that had occurred, and requested any assistance they could provide. The second message was sent at the behest of Mrs. Damakan, and recommended her for any open positions Moncef Bey might have in his household. As with most of the Tartars living in the villages around Constanta, Mrs. Damakan and her niece planned to leave soon and seek a new life in Stamboul, where the situation
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would be more hospitable to Muslims. In the meantime, they agreed to stay with Yakob and assist him as best they could. Moncef Bey’s response arrived a few days later.

In it, he indicated that he would be glad to meet Mrs. Damakan, and in fact, was currently in search of a new handmaid. The reply to Yakob’s second telegram came a week later, in the form of Leah’s oldest sister, Ruxandra. It was six o’clock in the evening when her carriage pulled up to the harbor. An angular woman in traveling clothes and a dark green felt hat, Ruxandra was possessed of a sharp nose, a weak chin, and a mole in the middle of her left cheek that looked like the tip of a volcano on the verge of eruption. Portmanteau in her left hand and a sweaty, crumpled telegram in her right, she disembarked, paid the driver, and began up the hill to her brother-in-law’s house. Mounting the front steps of the Cohen’s

house, Ruxandra adjusted her hat and peered back at the sheen of bird droppings coating the front walk.
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She glared at the flock of purple and white hoopoes perched in the plane tree overhead, then turned back to the door and knocked. There was no answer, so she knocked again, leaning forward to listen for any stirrings inside. Again, there was no answer. Not one to wait outside in the cold, she straightened her back and let herself in. The entirety of the Cohen’s house was not

much larger than the dining room of Ruxandra and Leah’s childhood home. There were three bedrooms, a pantry, a kitchen, and a living room, the walls of which were bare apart from a small charcoal drawing of Leah’s above the hearth. The floor of the living room was drowned in a sea of oriental carpets, laid out with no discernable regard for color or style, and sometimes as many as three deep, like an ancient city built on the ruins of even older civilizations. In one corner of the room was a cupboard and a pockmarked birch dining table covered with a nest of dirty dishes. In the other, a pair of worn leather armchairs sat watching the fireplace. Stepping gingerly over the
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threshold, Ruxandra set her portmanteau down and closed the front door behind her. “Hello,” she called out. “Is anyone there?” Yakob had been sitting at the table the entire

time, lost behind a stack of papers. When he stood to greet her, it was apparent how badly her assistance was needed. His frock coat was stained in a number of places, his beard had gone to seed, and his eyes were shot through with red. “Ruxandra,” he said, clearly shocked to see her

standing in his living room. “Please, sit down.” She pulled a chair out from the head of the

table and sat. “You requested assistance,” she said, flattening

his telegram on the table as proof. “Here I am.” “Of course,” he said. “How are you?” “Considering the circumstances, I am fine.

Thank you. But it has been a long journey and I would appreciate very much a cup of tea.” Just then, Mrs. Damakan pushed backwards out

of the kitchen, a thread hanging from her mouth and
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Eleonora swaddled in the crook of her arm. She was sleeping, her eyelashes fluttering like dragonfly wings and hands clasped serenely at the center of her chest. “She has her mother’s mouth,” said Ruxandra,

bending over the bundle. “This is her nurse, I assume.” “Yes, in a way,” said Yakob. “Mrs. Damakan

and her niece attended Eleonora’s birth, and they have been good enough to assist me for the past few weeks.” “I see,” said Ruxandra. “Mrs. Dalaman, is it?

Would you mind fixing me a cup of tea. Strong, if you please. It has been a long journey.” Ruxandra retook her seat and watched Mrs.

Damakan out of the room. “In general,” said Ruxandra. “I prefer to come at

things directly, whether or not that is the most polite route. This is something you should know about me.” Yakob nodded. “We received your telegram,” she began. “My

sisters and I, and it was decided that I would act as an emissary for the family. In that role, I am prepared to
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stay in Constanta for at least a month, to assist with general housekeeping and such.” She looked around the living room. “You said that Mrs. Dalmatian will be leaving

soon?” “Yes,” said Yakob. “She and her niece are moving

to Stamboul.” “A filthy city,” Ruxandra spat. “And filled with

Turks.” “They are Turks themselves,” said Yakob.

“Tartars, to be precise. They are afraid that the new Russian governor, when he arrives, will not be friendly to Muslims.” “I should hope not,” said Ruxandra, shaking her

head. “Well, they will be gone soon, won't they?” “They are leaving at the end of the week.” “Then they are none of my concern. But,” she

continued. “There are other matters that concern me quite a bit. As I said, I am happy to stay here for a month, perhaps even two, as an emissary of my family. However, if you expect me to stay more than
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a few months, I should think that we will need to be married.” Ruxandra had always been the selfless one, the

dutiful daughter. She had nursed her parents through sickness, old age, and death while her three younger sisters primped and married themselves off like cream puffs. By the time their father died, Ruxandra was dangerously close to thirty, wrung out by life and profoundly resentful. In spite of the sizeable dowry she had inherited, she had been unable to find a suitable match. At this point, she had no pretensions to romance, she just wanted a hearth of her own and a competent husband to exchange pleasantries with after dinner. “You won’t mind,” Yakob said, after a long

silence. “If I reserve my response until I have had some time to consider.” “Not at all.” “And what about your things? Is this all?” Ruxandra smiled and looked at the small,

leather-covered chest resting against her shins.
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“There’s no need to worry about my things,”

she said. “I’ve already made arrangements.” The next morning, two steamer trunks arrived

from Bucharest and Ruxandra began to make herself at home. After unpacking her trunks in the second bedroom, she enlisted Mrs. Damakan’s niece to help her scrub the countertops, wash the windows, beat out the carpets, dust the bookcases, and sweep the fireplace. When they finished with these chores, Ruxandra washed the front walk and attempted to shoo away the flock of hoopoes that had taken up residence in the plane tree next to the house. As much as she waved her arms, however, as many rocks as she threw, the hoopoes were quite devoted to their roost. Three days later, when Mrs. Damakan and her niece left for Stamboul, the walk was covered again with bird droppings. In spite of this minor annoyance, Ruxandra settled relatively well into her new situation. At the end of her second week in Constanta, Yakob knocked on her bedroom door and said that he agreed, in the interest of everyone
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involved, that it would be best if they were married. The ceremony was performed in Tulcea, as the

synagogue in Constanta was still undergoing repairs. Yakob and Ruxandra stood at the front of the room with the rabbi, a young man with a large red beard. The rabbi’s two youngest brothers served as witnesses and, at the back of the room, Eleonora was crying in the arms of his wife. After the ceremony, Yakob saw to some business in Tulcea and they took the six o’clock hackney back to Constanta, the hoopoes following at a respectful distance overhead.

Watch Michael David Lukas' reading

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KKK

KKKKKKKKK

lit tl e g i r l
little girl where you goin? you have your tickets? you have your passport? (hands out guns) you're gonna need these. we're going down to the first floor. basement. first basement floor. third floor, when you get down here, it's water so start swimming. swimswimswimswimswim. there's a lot of bugs down here, spiders and bugs. they will tell you things but dont pay any attention. they will latch themselves upon your side of your head and try to tell you things. wait for the snow. one snow two snow three snow four snow five snow six snow seven snow eight snow mama! but that is not really her. that is a snow mirage. i will say the word arrow or sarrow. arrow is for mom and sarrow is for dad. i love this gun. i can just stop and like this gun. this gun is here for my protection. the gun is here for my protection. i can just shoot things and then they will be dead. i can just shoot you. like right in your big blabbermouth. right, old man? old man is crawling right alongside me. he's got one arm hooked around my belt loop. he's like an adornment
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for me. right now. he will vociferously agree with anything i say. like your words too. i could shoot them in the air. like all your words going into my ears staying inside of me stick around inside stick in me. just shoot them out of the air and they wouldn't even get in me. see them coming see them coming see them coming dont like them see them coming shoot them. see how the guns are good? shooting warning shots in the air. pow pow pow. with my little guns. they're finger guns. pow pow pow pow pow pow pow. pow. this is my big gun, kapow. and my little gun goes pow. see how it is really nice? dont tell anybody i said that dont tell mom cause sometimes mom comes and gives me some love and i i need it cause otherwise i get all cracked. cracky. cracked. i dont know why that is. dont say it dont say the big thing. keep your mouth small for saying little things. that is really great. there are a lot of monsters down there. but they're tired of roaring, they just want to take care of their babies. they have the biggest mouths. oooo, their mouths will say oooo. there is one called the hag. she is the greatest hag. the hag loves milkshakes because they are cool and creamy in her throat. everybody likes milkshakes. all the monsters have long necks. and their throats are sore from yelling cause all the people do mean things to them. they do not accept them. and they yell and say i'm here, the thing is they're not always pretty you know. the monsters
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can easily stand it because they are strong. they have babies to take care of for goodness sake you nut. come here come here go to the water callin come here and they open and they break the surface of the water and their heads like flowers. you gotta talk to them nice. my old man, i swing my leg over giddyup giddyup. old man always does what i say like right fast hup to. that's one of the things i really like about old man. he will always do what i say. now i'm a tiger. i'm a beautiful white tiger which is huge. i am a princess tiger. all the big males try to impress me with their roars but they bother me. i just like sweet when they're there. it's nice so we can play soft paws games together together. but enough of that, cause right now i'm on tiger business. i'm gonna weed out some some of you that are mentally ill cause i can smell it and you're fucking it up for the rest of us. i'm gonna see which ones of you look look like you think that you're mentally ill cause that's the ones who are mentally ill. look at my dress. it's red. it's glowing. it's glowing red. it's because i am a beacon. i'm a little girl lost in the woods song. it's one of my books. one of my books with book feelings. there's a book that's a princess. silly dad ones. wouldn't it be cool if the books turned things, like especially the pretty ones. like the food book could just turn into a restaurant and you could
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just eat the food that was in the book. well, cathy anne wouldn't like that because she wants to go to the places before everybody else. thunder lightning could come out of the top of her head and she could thunder light anyone thunder lightning out of her forehead while she eats her cakes. wouldn't she like that and dont you know she would like that? there are fish swimming in the sky and while they are swimming in the sky, they could turn on like nightlights. there's all different kinds like green and pink with spots and stripes.

Watch Karen Penley perform "Little Girl"
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LLL from

LLLLLLLLLLL

Hour of the Rat

“Is it just me, or is this bullshit?” The ducks sit on top of a large metal grill, a skinny rectangle as long as a pool table. Glowing coals underneath. The duck at one end is crispy brown, like Peking duck. Which I love, but who knows how long it’s been sitting here? Moving down the row, the next duck is . . . I don’t know, boiled, maybe, the flesh a little grayish. The one after that is raw, I think, its feathers plucked, the naked skin yellow and pimply. Harrison Wang shrugs. “As a piece, I think it’s not terribly sophisticated.” Harrison, who knows from sophisticated, has dragged me along to this art opening. Some new-artists collective way the fuck out in Tongzhou, an eastern suburb of Beijing, in a patchy area of old redbrick buildings and white-tiled storefronts between highrise developments where the buildings are named
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“Rotterdam,” “Bordeaux,” and “Seattle.” I mean, Seattle? The opening is in a tumbledown warehouse across the ring road from the fancy developments, behind a row of cheap restaurants, electronics stores, foot-massage joints and “barbershops.” 拆—chai, the character for “demolish”—is already slapped up with white paint on the exterior walls. Inside, it’s a dirty concrete slab, some lame performance pieces, big acrylic paintings with a lot of naked butts, cartoon farts, and McDonald’s references. It’s freezing, which is why I was drawn to this stupid duck thing in the first place, because the lit coals make it warm. Guests and artists mill around, drinking Yanjing beer and eating yangrouchuanr, which normally I’d be all over, but the meat on these is so small and gristly that I wonder if it’s actually mutton and not dog instead. Or rat. I was born in the Year of the Rat, and eating my birth animal seems like it would be bad luck. So I stick to the beer.
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“Why are we here, again?” I ask. “I’d heard good things about the painter,” Harrison says, flicking his hazel eyes at one of the giant canvases, one where a fat naked guy whose face is done up in Peking Opera makeup lies sprawled across a red Ferrari, his guts spilling out of his sliced-open stomach. “Really?” “I agree with you, it’s disappointing.” I hold my hands over the grill. They’re red with cold, throbbing like I’ve had them dipped in an ice bucket. I should have kept my gloves on. Harrison doesn’t seem cold. He’s wearing a knee-length coat, black, some kind of soft, thick wool, and a black-and-red cashmere scarf. He looks like the centerfold in some men’s fashion shoot. He’s my boss, sort of. I manage the work of a Chinese artist. An important one. Which is pretty funny, considering that I know fuck-all about art. Which is why, I guess, Harrison keeps trying to get me to learn.
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“This duck thing is lame,” I mutter. The next duck, predictably, is a dead one with all its feathers still on. Just a whole dead duck. Lying on the grill. Long neck stretched out at a weird angle where I have to think, Oh, they killed it by breaking its neck. The exposed eye looks like dead, rubbery plastic. Some feathers have fallen onto the coals. They smell like burned hair. “But why is it lame, Ellie?” Harrison persists. “I don’t know, because it’s a bunch of dead ducks lying on a grill,” I say. Except the last one isn’t dead. It’s wrapped in Saran Wrap sealed with duct tape. Hardly even struggling by now. Lying on the grill, making little duck noises, you can’t even call them quacks. Shuddering. “This is fucking disgusting.” “You don’t think that it is perhaps a statement on the reality of what we consume?” Harrison asks mildly. “Stripped of its packaging?” “I don’t care.”
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I’m going to do one of two things. I’m going to run out of the room, or I’m going to pick up the duck. I pick up the duck. It quacks and convulses in my arms. “Hey!” Somebody—the artist, I guess, some tall guy with glasses, wearing a green Mao jacket over a Polo shirt, a real one, with the little horse (I think it’s supposed to be ironic)—comes running over. “You can’t do that!” “I’m responding to the piece, asshole.” He tries to grab the duck, and I kick him in the shin. “Saobi laowai!” he yelps. “Yeah, your mother, whatever.” I’ve been called worse. The duck squirms in my arms. A couple other guys come running over, and suddenly it seems like most of the crowd has turned toward us. Hey, it’s a better show than the art.
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“How much for the piece?” Harrison asks. “What?” Asshole Artist stutters. “How much for the piece?” Harrison pulls out his wallet. It’s this beautiful soft leather thing that’s thin enough to disappear in his back pocket. And yet I’m sure it holds plenty of money.

That’s how we end up at a veterinarian’s office in Sanlitun with a dehydrated, malnourished duck. “Stay overnight, I think she is okay after that,” the vet says. Afterward, we go to a rooftop bar where the “mixologist” does a pretty good margarita. “There’s a wildlife sanctuary in Yanqing County who I think will take her,” Harrison says. I stare out the window. There’s a great view from here of Sanlitun Village, this upscale shopping mall with edgy smoked-glass buildings, overpriced hamburger restaurants, and all kinds of luxury shops including an Apple Store, where people line up and
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riot over the latest iPads. “Thanks,” I finally say. Harrison shrugs. “You were right. It was bad art.”

Watch Lisa Brackmann read "Little Rat"

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IS IT ALL

KKK

KKKKKKKKKK

OVER MY FACE?

Spring 1978, clutching old copy of Gay Sunshine, on verso Allen Ginsberg’s poem I lay love on my knee “I nurs’d love where he lay I let love get away I let love lie low . . .” in Stony Brook, Long Island where once Denise Levertov nearly expired of an illicit passion in wartime Spring, so difficult to keep Allen Ginsberg’s rhythms out of my head, the numb, dumb beat that he compared to the stroke of a cock, its pulse when you’re holding it up (or out?) in front of you. His affect was strong, unruly, he was so used to getting what he wanted, indeed maybe it’s a Buddhist trait, their accent on humility some kind of bizarre coverup for the emotional thing he was away on business Always the two tails of his beige trench coat disappearing into subway car doors Is it all over my face, when I talk with you I feel myself grow red, your wispy beard and
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heavy smell of cigarette smoke, With you I feel the obviosity of Ginsberg’s doggerel verse grow into baton-like accent and stricture, like it is going to pound me to death. Is it all over my face? You’ve caught me love dancing Everything returns again, everything comes back, the return of the repressed, both the laughter and the rain She is living somewhere far away and I send her this poem to give her options ask her in my lonely way, Today the skies over our little park are grim, pink, streaked with black and white like a cat nothing can hold back the rain I could see through the clouds to this place where Arthur Russell brings his hand around my cock cello wet with tears, and how he’s gone I told my friends he was not the boy for me Was I surprised? Yeah Was I surprised? No, not at all Desiree, you know how it hurts me, he caught me love dancing

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Heeding the warnings of Allen Ginsberg, the American Buddhist poet who predicted that their love would lead to untold suffering, he and Arthur Russell lived apart from the day they were married. His death from AIDS in April 1992 inspired some of my own most beautiful work. My own premature death in June 2004 marked a great loss to contemporary Buddhist art. “Where do I run to? Is it real?” Fifteen stitches across my face, one for every man that hurt me. Fifteen apparitions I have seen—the worst, a coat upon a coathanger. Players and painted stage took all my love, and not those things that they were emblems of. Is it all over? My face feels scarred, my teeth stretched across Botox and bandages. In the silhouette he casts the window of a moving train moving faces—temporary hook-up he touched the other side of my face red maple pepperbush cranberry is it all over the Internet, series of short, sharp, abdominal pains, is it common lingua franca the way my soul seeks to engulf you
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is it all over my face, the shame of belief, the way the ears of George Bush Jr sprout from his head, for he fears the angel is it all over the world, red maples of Xanadu, cranberry, the simple gift of Long Island, almost the way Arthur Russell, Lou Harrison played on it Allen Ginsberg all noble Arthur Russell, Lou Harrison played on it till sunset, spring, 1978, and far away fingerprints for Kylie on cat-tails still finds a way to haunt me always and forever

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER
Help me drop the other shoe before it lights on someone small, insincere. The bottle stands forlorn, a sign of a friend who, once home, now travels on the Marshall Plan. I wanted to give poor man Pedro some change, but in my pockets a gaping hole and my chance to do good lost for now to a muted trumpeter's swan. I gambled with love, and in its stead I found status anxiety. Tears will fall, it's better to have given yourself a dose of salts than to burn a lamp on a Duralog. Always and forever. Feels like Satan’s having a divorce in my ass. Not so handsome as to turn my head to the truth. A lot of me in these lines—that's the Wellbutrin; you could turn me over from time to time when your iced tea turns tepid. Noisy neighbors partying across the alley, and birds squawking, awaken me to a song dissolved in the dawn.

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ALMOST A LOVER
Two kinds of language, one the sort in which we speak to each other— the other hops about, on both feet, leaking semen— That anxious feeling of erection, explode raisin deferred, or does it run, and then he said that's pre-cum I didn't even know, No wonder I'm such a closet case.

Two kinds of knowledge, one where one speaks to one’s self you minimize your distinctions, the other where you leak semen, almost a lover— Kylie Minogue, you must get a lot of this; it has happened ancestrally,
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thus to you It has happened in the balcony to a muted trumpeter's swan

I fell in love with him who told me the name, made me feel convincible. It happened on a coverlet and oh, the stain of it.

Watch Kevin Killian's reading

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- june 6, 2013 -

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