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mission tenth



mission at tenth

mission statement
Our mission is to publish innovative work by emerging and established writers and other artists with material that tests the boundaries of the page and taps into the energetic culture (emotional, intellectual, civic) radiating from San Francisco, the Pacific Rim, and beyond. We are most particularly drawn to experiments in form or language, to works that arouse and expand notions of self-awareness, surprise, humor, anger, honesty, spiritual inquiry, and political thought.


unspoken bodyissue
mission at tenth 4

Island People on Blue Mountain XX (2012) by Mildred Howard, from Island People on Blue Mountain series. Monoprint on found paper with collage, 20 x 15. Printed and published by Sharks Ink., Lyons, CO Mildred Howard 2012, Photo: Bud Shark, courtesy of Sharks Ink

Editor Randall Babtkis Contributing Editors Elizabeth Martina Bishop Ahmunet Jessica Jordon Yael Villafranca Student Interns Nicole Henares Sampath Ramanujan Art Direction Neil Freese

Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal is published annually by California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103

2013 by Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal. All rights revert to authors and artists upon publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews without prior written permission.

Mission at Tenth was launched in April 2009 with Volume 1: The Leaky Pen Issue. The magazine is produced at California Institute of Integral Studies by students enrolled in the MFA course in Editing and Publishing. We wish to thank CIIS President Joe Subbiondo, Dean of Faculty and Academic Vice President Dr. Judie Wexler, and Chair of the Department of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry Cindy Shearer, for their vital support. Special thanks to Brynn Saito. Also thanks to the 2013 MFA cohorts of the Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry program at CIIS for their dedicated work.

Available Through Subscription

Address new subscription orders to Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal, California Institute of Integral Studies 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103. Single year (one volume) $13 for individuals, $22 for institutions and overseas. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Mission at Tenth, CIIS, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103

We accept submissions online only, June 1st through October 15th. Artwork and other non-text formats should include a brief description and digital link to the referenced work. Manuscripts sent by mail cannot be returned and will be destroyed unless accompanied by a stamped, selfaddressed return envelope. For further details and to submit work, visit our website at

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Editorial Correspondence
Address all correspondence to: Randall Babtkis, ISBN Number: 978-0-9834154-2-8

table of contents

Chris Sullivan

earl, hands, fish, mother superior, glass


Mildred Howard

Island People on Blue Mountain XIV


2 3

Judy Grahn

Prescience 1980

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa


6 7 9

Richard Kramer Willie Perdomo

So Was I a Flower of the Mountain?


How Cool Was I


Quincy Troupe

Ghost Voices


Natalie Baszile

Frogging Quintana


Dean Alioto




Kristiana Kahakauwila Eugenia Leigh




37 Aftertaste This Malfunctioning Wing Resolution The Morning I Abandoned My Father, Angels

Ronaldo V. Wilson

from Part One of the Anti-Memoir



Jacob M. Appel




Eric Gamalinda Margaret Porter Troupe

Deep Splendor


interview with Earl Gray

Tony Phillips

consuming spirits


The Art of the Literary Salon


66 72

Chris Sullivan Linda Susan Jackson

STills from consuming spirits



Alexis Coe

Whos Smarter

Kris Brandenburger

images + poetry

74 Ajuan Mance


images + prose


Amana Brembry Johnson and Indira Allegra



1001 black men



Gina Gilmour



Chip B. Goldstein Natanya Ann Pulley





89 Amy Reed 92 Margaret Rhee

ghost letters


Susanna Sonnenberg

Best Sex/Worst Sex


Education of a Grown Up


Liana Scalettar MariNaomi Nadia Soraya Hennrich






happy place

100 111

Bhanu Kapil

charnel ground, crystal body: Instructions

essay + images


Experiencing Skateistan in Kabul images and stills from skateistan


Wendel White 120

schools for the colored



John Pluecker

from day in you


Mildred Howard


189 195

Lisa Gray




Cindy Shearer



earl, hands, fish, mother superior, glass


An exclusive outtake from A Simple Revolution (Aunt Lute Press, 2012) JUDY GRAHN



ON MY LAST TRIP to Cazenovia, New York, to teach at the womens school, the local soothsayer, a sage named Joan, had read my palm. Of Irish descent and married to an Iroquois man, Joan was a traditional witch, acquiring the arts from her maternal lineage. While other girls played with dolls, I put mine at the foot of the tree as an offering, along with flowers and herbs, she told me. As far as I know, she knew nothing about me. She said the dozens of little lines criss-crossing my palm indicated that I was bursting with information that I would express in many books. She showed me a short track crossing my lifeline and said that I had suffered a severe and life-changing head injury at the age of 24 or 25; she looked at the edge under my little finger and said that I would come to be close to two children in my long life. And, she concluded, I was going to make another friend. My ears perked up. Friend? Yes, a new woman friend. Friend, that by now extremely oldfashioned secret term for lover, was said with a slight emphasis. What else can you tell me about her? Shes a little bit older than you, not much. And she wasnt exactly raised in the United States. She wasnt raised in the United States? I repeated. Not exactly, she said. Well, this was intriguing, even a bit annoying for its mystery. Anything else? Yes, you will meet her in April. This coming April? She was telling me this in October or November, 1980. Yes. I took Joans prophecy for me very seriously, and began to wait for it to unfold. I went to the dentist and chose a gold cap for a front tooth, thinking that otherwise when I went out into the world I might lose myself, might forget who I am, might be tempted to go back into the closet or something like that. I think I must have pre-cogged that I was about to 3

go out into the world in some bigger way. The gold tooth ensured that I could not hide. And it turned out to be a family talisman. My mother called me, her yearly three-minute call from a telephone booth. I knew she had taken exactly the number of coins needed to make the call, and had walked six blocks to the public phone booth. After we had said our hellos, she asked, Whats the matter with your teeth? Startled at her intuition, if thats what it was, I said, Nothing. I just got a gold tooth in front. After having to repeat this a couple of times, she replied, Oh thats nice. Your father had a gold tooth. And so did my mother. So the gold tooth is from both sides of the family. How did my mother discern something different about my teeth? Did I sound different with a new cap? Or was her insight something else? Soon after this I was invited to a major poetry reading at a venerable centuries old church in Boston, celebrating Ellie Bulkins and Joan Larkins newly published anthology, Lesbian Poetry. The event had originally been scheduled for Aprilthe month designated by Joan the Soothsayer as the time I would make my new friend. But then in January the reading was changed to a date in May. All spring I examined my acquaintances as possibilitieswho was raised near but not in the US? Could it be a Puerto Rican person? Jamaican? I was looking closely at everyone I knew. April came and went, the cruelest month, the month a good palm reader might lose her reputation. The line-up for the historic reading was exciting: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Michelle Cliff, and five or six more up and coming poets, like Cherrie Moraga. Two other poets besides me were from the West Coast, Pat Parker, and Paula Gunn Allen. Not knowing Paulas work, I read her selections in the anthology as I waited to board the plane, and found them intriguing. I have it in my mind/ that dykes are Indians, she had written. She was already on the flight, and my seat was beside hers. When I sat down, my mind clicked into an altered state that was totally focused, and as soon as we had exchanged names I began asking personal questions, as, with Nordic reserve, I never do. When were you born? I hoped she wouldnt think me unbearably rude. When she told me her birth date I replied, Oh, so you are a little older than me. I framed my next question very carefully. Where did you grow upin the United States? Not exactly, she replied. Not exactly? My mind began doing double flips. Yes, not exactly. What does that mean? I was raised in Cubero, New Mexico, an old Spanish land grant at the edge of Laguna Reservation, so it isnt exactly the United States. 4

Oh, I said, taking a huge breath (I was going to need it) and noticing that my index finger was irresistibly tracing round and round the green turquoise on her big silver ring. I think you are my new friend. I looked at her. Paulas black eyes looked back at me, then at my hand. I retrieved it, told her about Joan the palm-readers prophecy. We went on to talk about other matters. We arrived in Boston, were shuttled to a big house and settled into our individual rooms. About midnight as I lay waiting for sleep, someone in a sea green night gown ran full speed into my room, threw back the covers, and flung herself into bed with me. I dont know how else to do this but to just do it, she said. I dont know any of the niceties of flirtation and courtship and such. She was out of breath. Thats ok, I said, I dont know much about those either. Turning toward her in the light from the street lamp. We would fold together in an uneasy and enormously powerful, fruitfully fraught and intense dialogue for the next five years. I felt always that we had been somehow given to each other by the palm reading. Yes, I knowthe witchs prophecy was that we would meet in April, not May. But April was the original date for the reading, so maybe the messengerwhatever it washadnt realized the change because it hadnt happened yet. Who knows how these things work, exactly? Or not exactly.




Rain is a prayer today, foreshadowing the assault of ants on a cup. Patches of waters name, malodorous stain spreading as gossip does in our neighborhood of two. I am building a nation in my body. Color abandons photos to a symmetry of emptiness. A strand of hair misplaced, as we are. New platitudes alter the dent of collarbones and armpits into swamps, where green is a blind trope for a future landscape. Will history take the image of snow or the echo of drums to signal a goddess? Homesickness is a memory of cracked soles and a bloated heart. The heart builds an army of metaphors for the defeat of the story that prefaces loss. This nation cannot be memorized. It headlines as an image of a denture: a memory of a mouth.

SO WAS I A flower of the mountain? Yes. Well, he told me that. He called me Molly. We were in English 25 togetherit was where we metso we had both read the book at the same time. He didnt call me Molly because we were into girls names or anything gay like that. We werent gay like that. We were boyfriends; its different; he told me so, and if he said it, I believed it, then, and now, even though Im the one who lived. Not to be depressing. But its true, just as its true we were not gay, but boyfriends. The best sex I ever had I had with him, and the worst sex, too. That doesnt mean I havent had fantastic sex since then, because I have; Im a sexy guy, as I will be the first to tell you, so all kinds of folks have wanted to have fantastic sex with me over the many years that have passed since my flower-of-the-mountain days. One guy even told me one night that I was the best fuck hed ever had, but he revised it the next day to second-best. But thats a man for you. Anyway: the best. Maybe it was the most memorable. I cant vouch that I filled a coffee cup with my college cum, but what kind of a test is that, anyway? No test! Sex is in the head. Or it is, sometimes. This sex, this best sex, was in a communal bathroom, in my college. It was maybe the third time I had sex with this person, (do you see how difficult it still is to specify the gender? Is that just cowardice? Or does it make it more exciting?) and it was certainly the first time during which we introduced the possibility that we might, if we werent careful, get caught. I had, if you can believe it, and I still cant, many Presidents later, three roommates who all played the violin! What are the chances? And none were Asian! They were, in fact, all Jews! A little Jewish orchestra, like the one thats mentioned in The Cherry Orchard, of all things. A string trio, to be precise. To be precise, three of them decided to play some string trio together, and there was a lot of practicing that went on, a lot of bowing, a lot of closed eyes and moving lips, a lot of ecstasy made plain on cute Jewish boy faces. And then my boyfriend shows up! He wants to study with me. He wants to read Foucault on my waterbed and between footnotes kiss me and hold my dick in his hand like a puppy thats just had its shots. And I want him to do that, as I want to read The Sound and the Fury and, between paragraphs, fuck him in the ass without taking our clothes off, 7

or at least not until wed done the full share of required reading. We were good students, both of us. He was smarter than me, then, but then I am the one whos living. So he was barely through the door, smelling of sperm and pizza, when the Three Violinists start to play. What was the piece? Vivaldi. (Full disclosure: I just emailed one of those guys, who wound up becoming a therapist.) We went into my little room that I shared with a violinist who became a violinist, and a fairly great one. We got on my bed and whipped out our books, but even though the music was beautiful it still made it impossible for us to do our work and have, we hoped, our sex. Bathroom? he whispered. Bathroom, I said. So thats where we went, and with our books, until the hellish concert finished! I dont know why we didnt go to the library, but we didnt. We somehow both knew just what we wanted to do, and where to do it, and that is one of the reasons why this sex comes to mind as my best sex ever. It began like this. We went into separate stalls. We read a little; we were all books then, and Yellow Hi-Liters, and too much reading for a person to do but we did it. Then his hand appeared under the stall. I touched it, and we held hands, with the obstacle of the wall between us, the Pyramus and Thisbe of the Ivy League, and believe me, Im sure that came out of one of our mouths, because we knew it, and those were the days and even years when you said what you knew, maybe because youd just come to know it. As we touched he seemed gentler than hed ever been; hed been pressing me for sex, and of course I wanted it but what I wanted was gentleness, too, as it was cold and I had too much work and I felt left out of the circle of violinists. And here I had that gentleness, and that told me what to do next. Which he did, too. We both went down on our knees, and dont question my ability to remember the sensation of my knees against the cool, marble floor. We reached for each others cocks, with the same gentleness as when wed touched hands and interlaced fingers and applied small surprising pressures at unexpected moments. The divider we both faced blinded us and became a window, at the same time, through which we were invisible to each other and on which we could draw an idea of each other. All this and the Vivaldi and the sudden somehow of the lights going out, a somehow wed marvel at for decades after. And when it was over how we both emerged to kiss and the moon fell on the marble and it was snowing outside and we were inside, and therefore blessed. I didnt know he would die then but I did know Id just had the best of him, and hed had the best of me. Bothness. A made-up word, but you need some of those to tell a sexy story. So its that bothness, maybe, that tells me it was my best sex. And makes me not want to think about my worst, all the times with no sudden anythings, no violins, no sexy dividing walls. Fuck! Thats what sucks about remembering things; you remember how much you miss them.



So cool So cool So cool So cool So cool That with closed palm, heel-to-toe, note on the beam, I cleared the brush & stars went mute without me. That St. Pauls used to open afterhours so I could practice My undersong & un-pitch my city ears. That when Puente heard my speed, I made him bite his TongueIm saying: I made the Mambo King bleed. That my fingers were chopped off, paraded bloody Down the avenue & I still monkey-wrenched a black Note, duffle-bagged a flamboyan & Mozambiqued it Until the roosters cried sunlight & eggs. That I slapped a god like I was on the run; like I could See basic & beyond.


as pleasure, becomes a deepening meaning poetry feels when fused inside a linguistic vortex hidden inside a sound, art duplicated as tongue, as surprise arrives in voices whispering music spitting machine gun onomatopoeia words burst as rapid fire vowels shoot through expanding distance without a trace, as murder flies as shrapnel-fragments, bombs inside choices people make laced inside rumors thirst for power, yet we are forever surprised each time sunrise breaks, reduces darkness to shadow, finds music there as truth, when voices are heard rippling through silence

1. from my terrace in goyave, guadeloupe, my ears listen & hear waves washing in on shore whispering lullabies in low hushed voices, they swirl in whirlpools there, ebb & flow with licking salt water, as foam lapping finger-tongues hiss as syllables spray lisping as the wind roars, becomes language scripting lost memory riffing through the undertones of history, murmuring rumors & you can hear wailings of their journey, crisscrossing the bottom of the atlantic, where spirits reduced from flesh to bone howl their gale-force presence, haunting, whistling voices, memories of the middle-passage are treks so deep & dark, so terrible the ghost of death covered its eyes, would not speak of what it saw, even now is silent 400 years later, though you hear a few speaking through lost rhythms, scripts, skins of talking drums transferred through blood recollections of metamorphic hands holding sticks that swing sound written throughout cultural dna memory & when you listen closely you hear mystery rendered mute from horrors they sawsome survivors enrapturing us even today with magical language heard & spoken in cross-fertilized tones 2. during the dead of night ghost voices come to surround me here as sleep nowcaressing spirit-loverseduces deep down in the dark, as thoughts prowl through outer limits of space without nothing holding them back, as words sometimes do when imprisoned inside correct speech of place, castrated, or neutered nuance, as when the sharp blade of a knife reveals the truth slicing through the ripe pink-green-blush of a mangos skin to reach its golden flesh of stringy-nectar & is what taste sometimes evokes inside bold metaphors, as when a rapier authority is unleashed at the same moment flowers bloom wondrous colors after the moon has been swallowed by the dark, vast stillness, we hear what we think are anthropomorphic connections swimming through invisible tongues of wind that seem to saythough it might not be truewe arrived here from the east side of the atlantic, came dragging chains shackling our bony bodies, our esoteric voices full of mysterious songs, religious utterances, amulets, ghosts, tribal practices, accents anchored inside blood no one then understood here what we had brought across the foaming, salt-water gulf, stained with red histories full of pain, beauty too, filled with magic, music, joy, our black faces did not reveal the power then inside us, deep as octopus tentacles coursing through memory, filling us with wisdom, love swirling through salt water, our ghost-voices swimming alongside fish, through streaming currents, to gather within seeds of deep truth, essence, secrets of cross-fertilized lineage, shared with miracles holding us one to another, anchored within the confidential privilege of knowing the deep-song still sings our history surging through blood, knowing love is there inside the lullabies whisper in trees each day the sun rises, as ghost voices wash ashore, foam over rocks & sand, carrying primordial history eddying there, bringing truth & love as a constant reminder we all share our breath on a planet we cannot take for granted




dow, on the wall.No potted plants, no family pictures; none of the extra touches that make a house a home.A bachelors pad, Im guessing. Why do you call it the Dog House? I ask. This is where I come when my wife gets mad at me and puts me out, Jay says, zipping his camouflage windbreaker.Its a joke.Actually, my father owns this house and uses it mostly for parties and storage. Turns out The Dog House is next door to Cashway, the pharmacy Jay manageshe crashes there when he works late and doesnt feel like driving forty miles to his home in Youngsville. We load a cooler into the Toyotas bed, then set off for the Franklin Canal.The three-quarter moon follows us through the empty streets and across the railroad tracks to the back of town.A truck approaches from the opposite direction. Probably just got finished doing what were about to do, Jay says. Frogging season opened in June. Its mid-July now, and Jay worries there might not be any frogs left. What made you decide to be a pharmacist? I ask. Jay confesses he isnt one.Too many parties freshman year. I thought Id be pre-med, Stephen offers. His dad is a surgeon. Then I failed chemistry.That did it for me. Stephen and Jay both majored in general business at LSU, and I catch myself wondering what my dad would say if he knew I was riding around the Louisiana countryside with two white guys. My dad hated Louisiana, and for good reason: In the 1950s when he was a teenager and lived in a small town not far from here, he worked at a gas station after school. He used to say that when he fell asleep on his breaks, the white boys would slather his bare feet with liquid rubber and set them on fire, then fall over themselves laughing as they watched him hop around trying to extinguish the flames. The night he graduated from high school, he packed his bags and left for California, which is where I was born. But as much as I think of myself as a Californian, a Westerner, something about south Louisiana pulls at me. I love it here. I feel rooted. The place is in my blood. It brings out a side of me that I just dont feel when Im in San Francisco. If my dad were still alive, thats what Id tell him. It wasnt all bad, Jay muses. Schools where I met my wife. I nod from the Toyotas backseat where a toddler seat is strapped into the seat next to me. Some things work out exactly as they should. At the boat landing, its a Chinese fire drill as Jay slides from behind the wheel and climbs into the batteau, and Stephen takes his place as the driver.Lots of hand motions and whistling follows as Stephen backs the whole rig down the ramp into the water. Not too fast, Jay calls, or water will come up over the back. Thats another thing Ive noticed about south Louisiana: everyone owns a boat, or knows someone who does. In the week Ive been here, I have heard folks talk about new trawlers that can navigate the 13

A FEW DAYS BEFORE I leave for south Louisiana, Stephen calls to say he has a surprise for me. Howd you like to go frogging? he says.My friend Jay has agreed to take you if youre interested. Im in, I say, without thinking twice, because Stephen is my running buddy, my Ace Boon Coon, my concierge for all things south Louisiana. When were together, we obsess over eighteenth century antiques, French portraits, sushi, and Acadian architecture. Were both miserly when it comes to clothes and could give less than a damn about the cars we drive, but if a rare cypress armoire or mahogany tester bed were to come up at auction, wed both be tempted to sell one of our children. Fifty years ago, our friendship wouldnt have been possible. If Louisiana law hadnt prohibited a black woman and a white man from being friends, the societal pressure would have made it unbearable. Great, Stephen says. He sounds happy and slightly amused, as if he knows something I dont.Be sure to pack pants, long sleeves, and some shoes you dont mind getting muddy. Its after dark, and the sky is filled with glossy stars when we pull up in front of a one-story brick house just off Main Street.In the driveway, a Toyota Tundra is hitched to a goose-neck trailer, on top of which sits an aluminum batteau, a modern version of the flat-bottom wooden boats fur traders used during the colonial days.The garage door is open, so we walk in and climb steps that lead to the kitchen.Thats something Ive noticed about south Louisiana: people rarely enter houses through the front door.Even guests go through the garage or around the side. The first night I got here, I was invited for cocktails at my friend Suzys house. I went to the front door and rang the bell. Five minutes later when Suzy finally answered cradling her new Maltese puppy, James, she looked confused and flustered.Sorry it took so long, she said.I never answer this door.James barked, as if to say, Not from around here, are you? Welcome to the Dog House, Jay says, smiling easily as we step into the kitchen. To my San Francisco eye, he looks like a farmerbig and boyish, with a doughy face and hands to match. The place looks strangely unusedno dishes in the sink, no pots on the stove, no appliances on the counter. In the living room, an oversized sectional upholstered in a coarse plaid and a matching recliner compete for space in front of a flat screen TV mounted, like a dark win12

high seas, watched kids jet ski out at The Point, and caught sight of speed boats zipping up and down the bayou behind Stephens house. A minute later, the truck is parked, Ive planted myself on the long bench that runs down the batteaus starboard side, and when Jay maneuvers around to the dock, Stephen lowers the cooler, then himself down. Theres no one out here but us three. But before we get started, theres one final piece of business to take care of. Who wants a drink? Jay says.Ive got Michelob Ultra, Bud Light, Coors Light, Abita Light, water, and Gatorade. My God, I think, weve gotten old. Jay cracks open a Bud Light, hands us both waters, then guns the motor. For a few minutes we skim over the canal, light as water bugs. Stephen sits in front of me, which turns out to be great for me but terrible for him because at this speed, his face becomes a windshield. As we cut through the water, bugs splatter against his forehead, get tangled in his beard. I should have brought some goggles, he shouts, then swings around to squint out over the bow, the wind blowing his hair, brindled and freshly cut, back from his face. Jay, meanwhile, is stationed by the Pro Drive, an air-cooled outboard motor which proves perfect for cutting through grasses and water hyacinths. He looks like a Cyclops in his lime green helmet with the big spotlight mounted on the front. As he glances from side to side, the beam arcs over the water, illuminating the droplets splashing beside us, bathing the trees on either bank in warm yellow light. Smell that? Jay says. Willow, Stephen answers before I smell anything.I didnt even know Willows had a smell. Who are these guys? I wonder again, and remind myself that in south Louisiana, boys grow up hunting, fishing, and wandering the woods in a way city boys never do. When my dad was a boy, he loved to hunt in the patch of dense woods behind his house. Hed carry the rabbits and raccoons, the possums and squirrels he shot home to his mother who cooked them in stews. Once he even shot a crow. I used to spend hours out here when I was a kid, Stephen says, as if hes read my thoughts.Once, before we had boats with motors, I paddled out here from the bayou behind my house.Took me all night. I close my eyes and inhale the willows vague flowery fragrance, the warm night air like a sham against my skin. Theres dark and then theres south-Louisiana-bayou-dark which is more like the darkness of deep space, I discover, when Jay switches off his headlamp, plunging us into blackness.The banks and even the water vanish and were floating in black, echoey nothingness. I cant see Stephen whos sitting right in front of me. I cant see Jay somewhere back there. Please God, dont let us hit a log and flip this boat. Id have no clue which direction to swim.We glide like this for a while. The world out here is still as infinity, but not at all quiet. The night is alive. 14

Crickets and cicadas have a contest to see who can chirp the loudest, water sloshes against the batteau, and all around us, tree frogs croak and groan in complaint. Jay steers the boat like a ships captain. How he knows where to go is a mystery, but as we cruise along, I feel the space around us open up, can tell were someplace different by how the moon shifts lower along the horizon. The air feels a little less dense. Sure enough, Jay flips on his headlamp and were in a watery intersection as wide as a high school football field. Franklin Canal is part of an intricate system of byways built by logging companies to transport logs to the sawmill.Ultimately, the canal leads to the Inter Coastal waterway.Jay takes a hard left and we swing around in a wide semi circle, out of the intersection and into a narrower canal no wider than a two-lane country road.The air is thick and heavy with the smell of mildew.The trees are draped in so much pale gray moss I can barely see the branches. We come upon someones fish camp, which is no more than a small cypress shack built on a dock. Thats the third thing Ive noticed: south Louisiana men love their camps. They spend hours, sometimes days in their rustic man caves, cooking, lounging, and telling stories. This one looks ghostly, floating there all creaky and weather-beaten, the two front windows like hooded eyes, the little porch like a lazy mouth where it tilts down to meet the water. Oh my God, I think, the five year old in me suddenly resurrected, this is exactly like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, but I keep the thought to myself, not wanting to sound like a tourist. Jay swings the light around, and out of nowhere, a mullet hurls itself out of the water and into the batteau.He hits the deck with a dull thud, then lies there wide-eyed, silvery, and gasping through pink lips until Stephen tosses him over the side. The foliage back at the boat ramp was anemic compared to what surrounds us out here.In addition to Spanish moss hanging like velvety drapes, the canal is choked with tupelo, cypress, native grasses, and the water hyacinths that were first introduced to Louisiana at the 1888 Cotton Expo in New Orleans where they were on display at the Japanese Pavilion. Enchanted by the blossoms, people took cuttings home as souvenirs, but then discarded them in the waterways when the novelty wore off.Now, the water hyacinths are a menace, choking out native species and clogging every waterway. A field of them blocks our passage. Jay glides over them as best he can, then cuts through the rest by lifting and lowering the Pro Drive so the blades slice through the leaves. Lots of good that does. The moment we pass, the hyacinths close up behind us, our presence erased from history. I havent been out in Quintana in over ten years, Stephen says. We lived back here when we were in high school. Lets hope we catch something, Jay says. Like any gracious host, he wants to make sure I have a good time, and I can tell from his voice hes getting nervous.But just like that, as if its been waiting for its 15

cue, a tiny frog no bigger than Jays thumb lands on his pant leg.This is exactly what were looking for, Jay says, sounding hopeful. Only ten times bigger. Frogging isnt a sport, its an addiction. As we cruise through Quintana, Jay and Stephen trade stories about how many hours theyve spent frogging on any given night. Four. Five. Six.Stephen tells the story of a friend who starts frogging as soon as the sun goes down and doesnt quit till it comes up the next morning.Then Jay says that out in rice country, where farmers flood the fields, hes caught as many as one hundred twenty frogs in one night. All the time hes been talking, Jay has also been turning his head from left to right, his third eye sweeping along one bank and then the other, but now he goes quiet. Theres one, he says, suddenly serious.You see it?Right behind that cypress. He trains his lamp on the bank. I see it, Stephen says. I follow the beam of light, but dont see a thing. No matter. Jay and Stephen are on the case. While Jay steers the boat closer to the bank and trains the beam of light in one place, Stephen crawls on his belly till hes leaning over the front of the batteau. I dont see any frogs, but I do see that the bank is a tangle of knobby tree branches, stumps, spikey roots, spider webs, and black mud that looks like it would swallow you whole if you stepped in it.Theres no way our batteau is going to get in there, but Jay keeps steering us forward, holding the light still, until were right up on the bank and I hear myself cry, No way! No way! as the top half of Stephens body disappears in the underbrush. You got it? Stephen doesnt answer for a long time. His body is still. His orange life jacket glows like a flare. Then he inchworms himself backward till his knees hit the deck and holds up a fat, grinning bullfrog, as big and juicy as a Porterhouse steak. I scream.I cant help it.The little frog that jumped onto Jays pant was cute in a cartoonish sort of way, but Stephen has dragged a monster into our batteau. Its bulbous black eyes look like sapphires under their partially lowered inner eyelids and stare at me accusingly; his skin, emerald green and dappled with black spots, glistens like enamel; his mouth extends in a lipless line from one side of his head to the other; its legs are fat as a babys. As long as the spotlight is on him, though, the frog is hypnotized and wont move. Thats the secret, the guys tell me, and I want desperately to believe them. I need time to digest what Ive gotten myself into. I could be back at Stephens, sipping a Pimms Cup and flipping through an auction catalog as the bayou drifts by, but noooo, I had to be bold, try something new. I think of what my dad used to say: you go looking for adventure, sometimes all you find is disaster. Jay opens the purple crawfish sack that will serve as our cage, and after Stephen drops the frog in, he knots the opening then loops it through the coolers handle just as the frog realizes whats happened to 16

him and leaps angrily, bumping against the side of the cooler, the side of the batteau, until hes exhausted. One frog down . . . who knows how many to go.Stephen uses a long pole with what looks like a ducks bill on the end to push us away from bank. As soon as were dislodged and floating free, Jay guns the motor and were off. The hunt has begun. The night deepens.The moon is the color of orange sherbet, and the air feels like a warm bath. Jay strips off his camouflage windbreaker, down to his t-shirt, while Stephen rolls up his sleeves.Farther down Quintana, a sweet gum tree has fallen across the canal. For a moment, it looks like we wont go any farther, but then Jay sees that someone has cut one of the branches.Some expert maneuvering and were on the other side, only to discover that a banana spider has spun her web over the width of the canal. She hangs there, big and black, right in the center of her masterpiece, and we have to duck in order to miss it. Stephen shivers. Thats the worst feeling, walking into a spiders web. And thats how the storytelling portion of the evening begins. For the next twenty minutes, Jay and Stephen trade off telling stories of their most frightening nature encounters, their accents getting thicker the longer they speak. My mind drifts off and I think back to a boy I once knew. His name was Jacques; he was white, from south Louisiana. We met on a Caribbean cruise when we were both fifteen and for a few evenings, met on the ships top deck after dinner, until my dad found out and forbade me to talk to him, declaring no Louisiana white boy was good enough for his daughter. I was upset, but I didnt fight him or even try to argue my position. Now, all these years later, I cant remember what Jacques looked like other than he was tall with brown hair, but I do remember how it felt to stand on the top deck, his arms around me as we looked out over the ocean, the tropical summer evening against my skin. Jays headlamp sweeps over a raccoon scrounging for dinner on the far bank. An alligator, his nose as long as a shotgun barrel, drifts toward us, curious to see what all the fuss is about. Stephen and Jay tempt it by leaning over the side and splashing their hands in the water but I dont think its funny. The other day, at Stephens, his boys teased an alligator by casting their bobber into the water and reeling it in as fast as they could, the alligator in hot pursuit.Ive never seen an animal move so fast. Ive seen alligators swim fast enough to keep up with a boat, Jay says, then recounts the recent news story about a swamp guide who got his hand bitten off when he tried to demonstrate, by holding out a piece of chicken, how high an alligator could jump out of the water. We all laugh nervously, imagining a boatload of horrified tourists, but I grab Stephens collar and pull him back just in case. Theres another one, Jay says, shining his light, and its back to work. This time, the frog is floating on a sea of duck weedgreen, 17

clover-shaped algae that blankets the waters surface.Jay trains his spotlight and suddenly I see what he sees:another fat frog, his eye glowing silvery-white as aluminum foil in the light, his underbelly the color of a marshmallow. Stephen assumes his position, Jay drives us forward, and Bingo!Another frog drops into the sack. On we go. The later it gets, the more frogs appear. Its illegal to catch frogs with anything but your hands, a net, or something called a gig, a small pitchfork attached to a long pole.So when we spot a frog way back in a forest of cypress knees, Stephen grabs the gig and stands on the bow like Neptune as Jay pushes the boat as far forward as it will go. I can just see the frog.Hes crouched and frozen, dazzled by glare, soothed by the spotlights sudden warmth. Stephen leans forward, raises the gig like a spear, and takes aim.What a way to go, I think.One minute youre minding your own business, enjoying a late night mosquito cocktail with a dragonfly chaser, next thing youre dangling from the end of a pitchfork. Jay is apologetic. Its gory, but we try to be humane, he says. We only use the gig when we have to. I guess he thinks that since Im from peace-loving San Francisco, Ill object. But Im not squeamish, and besides, all this excitement has my blood running. Dont worry, I say. Ive seen worse.We went to a bullfight in Spain on our honeymoon. And maybe this is the thing I inherited from my dad, the reason Louisiana has always felt like home. Six or seven more frogs, then the guys say its my turn. Jay finds the perfect frognot too big and not too smalllounging in an open space on the bank. Hes mesmerized by the spotlight, and as Jay steers closer, I trade places with Stephen and assume the position. Closer, then closer still, till Im a few inches away and that frog and I are looking each other in the eye. Grab it! Stephen yells. Grab it! Jay echoes. Quick! Until this moment, Ive been one of the boys, hurtling through the night, tooling up and down the murky canal, not caring how my hair looks or whether I have big sweat rings under my arms, laughing at tales of swamp guides dumb enough to taunt alligators with chicken breasts. Ive gone further in two hours than my dad was able to go in a lifetime. But suddenly, I feel queasy. I cant make my arms move. All I can think about is the feel of that slimy, clammy frog skin in my hand. My head throbs with imaginary croaking. Grab it! Stephen yells again. It feels like forever that Im hanging over the front of that batteau. Jays spotlight lights up a wide circle of ground around me, and for a second I think the sun has come up. I feel its warmth on my back, on my neck, on my arms, which are supposed to be reaching, but are, instead, plastered against my sides, rigid as a bayonettes. Grab it! The batteau rocks gently as Stephen stands up to see whats happening, why Im not moving. And then, something shifts. The 18

trance is broken. The frog leaps away. Ah man, she girled out on us, Stephen says. Its true. I inch backward and take my seat on the bench, my tail between my legs. I couldnt do it, I say. I couldnt make my arms move. Thats okay, Stephen says, and squeezes my shoulder. At least you tried. If I were a dude, theyd never let me hear the end of it, but since Im a girl, they go easy on me. As if he were my big brother, Jay offers to let me wear the headlamp again while he and Stephen catch half a dozen more frogs, and by the time we turn toward home an hour later, fifteen bullfrogs are stepping over each other trying to climb out of the sack. Three hours of frogging. Its almost midnight. We cut back up Quintana and out into the bigger canal, Jays headlamp sweeping over the far banks where alligator eyes flash like brake lights. We re-hitch the boat and head home. Back at the Dog House, I shake Jays hand then hug him. Ill never forget this, I say. Thank you so much. Any time, Jay says, yawning. Its Tuesday night. He has to get up for work in the morning. Luckily, he only has to walk next door. Stephen is still amped up when he drops me off at my cottage. So, what did you really think? I loved it, I say, and I dont just mean the frogging. I mean our friendship, and a way of life, a way of being in the world thats so different from anything I could have known had he not been there to shepherd me. My dad had a change of heart in the last year of his life. He wanted to make one last trip home, to say goodbye to the parts of Louisianathe land, the sky, the water, the foodhe loved and wanted to remember. He died before he could make the trip. But Im here now, and I realize that the Louisiana I experience is different; equally complicated, but easier to love.


Posted by Skyler at 9:39 AM 0 comments

from skylers alien abduction blog


THE COUNTDOWN Feeling the usual restlessness. Tried to catch a show at the retro New Beverly Reservoir Dogs. Had to bail after 20 minutes in. I always get a little hallucinatory. Tonight I started tripping and saw Michael Madsen morph into Elvis. Because I know Elvis wasnt in the movie, I knew I was having my usual pre-abduction spells. However, when Harvey Keitel turned away from Tim Roth and looked directly at me and yelled Take your feet off the goddamn chair in front of you or Im gonna knock you in the dirt, I knew it was time to call it a night. When I first noticed the side effects that occured before the gnomes made contact, I would try to outsmart them. Drive into the heart of the city. Surround myself with people, go to a club. But that was a joke. When they were ready for me, I would snap into the sleepwalk trancemode theyd always put me in and drive back to my place. I vowed to never hide out at a friends house for protection or companionship, because all that would do is put my friends life at risk of being abducted as well. Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 11:11 PM 0 comments 11:11 Just noticed the time is 11:11 p.m. Supposedly, 11:11 is some kind of sign of collective-consciousness shit. Like connecting with the universe, our higher self, or the recently deceased. For me, though, 11:11 is the time that tells me I only have 4 or 5 hours before the gnomes do their fly-by on my ass. Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 11:58 PM 0 comments Im back In the past, my attempts at dicking with the gnomes, after several security alarm systems failed (FYI: aliens are advanced and bypassing stupid Earthling electronics is a fucking cakewalk), included setting up tripwires along my window and door. The rigs were amateurish, but the basic concept was that when the gnomes would hit the tripwire, a bucket of sulfuric acid (see La Femme Nikita) would rain down on their bulbous heads. After three failed attempts, resulting in three large holes in the floor of the cottage I rent, as well as an eye-burning odor that I can still 21


Friday, Jan 14, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 8:40 AM 0 comments FIRST ENTRY Question: Why is it that only nice, mostly passive people are absconded by aliens? Why not say, Hitler? A QUICK DISCLAIMER: Please dont take this the wrong way, but for those who may find this blog and read it, I want you to know I dont give a shit if you think Im some prankster, or just an asshole so please dont bother commenting on my blog with insults cause Ill just delete them. This isnt technically meant for you anyway. Its for therapeutic reasons, according to my shrink who doesnt believe me. Apparently, its not his job to believe me, just to help guide me to a healthy conclusion. Whatever the hell that means. END DISCLAIMER. Okay, here we go. My names Skyler. Im 26. From San Francisco originally. Moved to L.A. after graduating from college. Im a wanna-be drummer, but lead a compromised life as a Starbucks barista. I came down here to make it, but all the bands Ive auditioned for want me to take my shirt off while I play. WTF! Im a little on the heavy side so even I dont like to see myself naked. That thought just makes me tired. I have to get up early and rig my place for the goddamn gnomes. I can smell the wet, burnt, cardboard aroma so I know my weekend is gonna suck. Id rather DIE on my feet than LIVE on my knees! Out... Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 20

smell, I moved on. From there I went full-on Wile E. Coyote with net-dropping gags, barbwire traps, hot tar, and smearing KY jelly all over the floor. I also strung up a web of fishing line made from piano wire (see Jaws), and chained my leg to the bedpost. I even tried getting so fucked up that I would be a useless test subject for the gnomes. No dice. I woke up sober, without a hangover which was nice. And if anyone has any other sick ideas on the matter, beyond the lame YouTube how-to kind, Im all ears. For tonights booby trap de jour: tear gas. Ive become a pretty good customer over the years at the army surplus store on Hollywood Blvd. They lent me a gas mask that I can sleep in. They think I use this stuff for movie props so its never an issue to ask them for parachute silk or Chinese throwing stars. Finally, I always mess with the gnomes heads by doing something weird to my body. Tonight I will cover my entire body in glow-in-the-dark paint. The rub is, I wont remember. Not until Wednesday anyway. Thats when I meet with my therapist. The first hour of our two-hour session is the RH (Regressive Hypnosis) part. Until then Ill know something happened, but not what. Its more than a bit frustrating and Im usually an asshole to be around until the recall, but its just MFL. Please let me keep my shit tight when they come. I hate it when I let them get to me. See you on the other side... Monday, Jan 17, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 12:45 PM 0 comments POST ABDUCTION BLUES Feeling my usual post-abduction combo of depression and euphoric relief. Having trouble getting motivated to get out of bed. Watched the first season of LOST yesterday and finished it about an hour ago. Realized I havent had a date in four months. Got an audition for a band tomorrow. Ive lost about five pounds, but Im still not going to play drums sans shirt. I gotta get laid. That depresses me. If I can find a cool band that doesnt blow, I might meet someone on account of the rockmusician factor. However, due to the gnome factor Im relegated to one or two night stands. I both hate it that I have to wait till Wednesday to see how I held up with the gnomes, and am grateful that I have to wait. FYI: To all those who go to UFO conventions... please stop. Its fucking 2011 and there still isnt a shred of evidence to prove the existence of 22

aliens. The gnomes know how to keep their visits on the down-low. Trust me, when those little Sponge Bob bastards are ready to officially come out of the closet theyll hold a press conference on the White House lawn and Steven Spielberg will be our ambassador. In the meantime, hang with the Star Trek-ers, or the Star Wars-ers, or switch to comic conventions. Those are legit forms of escapism. Your sycophant devotion to a subject you know nothing about mocks my life. Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 10:01 PM 0 comments IM WITH THE BAND I am officially a member of LEFT BEHIND. No, its not a group for people suffering from abandonment issues. Its an alternative rock band and I get to keep my shirt on!!! Word. I KILLED IT in the audition. The bassist, dropped on me that she went to Julliard, and before I could act like I gave a shit, she started slapping and riding her axe up and down like a Motown badass. Since the drummer, not the bassist, lays down the beat, I took over and lost her before the first chorus. Im a spazz and mostly untrained so she didnt have a clue where I was going. Even I dont always know where Im going, but my transitions are wicked. The other members clapped when the jam war was over. Felt good to channel my post-abduction frustrations into playing. Chelsea (thats the bassists name) smiled at me at the endI think. Shes got the kind of chip you get on your shoulder from believing you should be further along in life than you are even though she looks only 25. Im not gonna say its cause shes black, and Im white, but she gives off that vibe. I feel her, but most people are under appreciated. So play your bass and be grateful you dont have to work at Starbucks. Speaking of Starbucks, I fucked up 3 orders tonight. after-effects from the gnomes SM (Screen Memories). FYI: A screen memory is a false memory implanted to mask the heinous things that REALLY happened during abduction. Usually everyone gets a different SM. Mine always involves gingerbread man cookies: the little snacks pull themselves up onto my bed and talk to me. Then they persuade me to go outside with them. I can never remember what happens after this. Because we sometimes have freshly baked gingerbread at work, just the smell snaps me back to the gingerbread men. Its weird that I dont smell the gingerbread before the gnomes come, just that wet, burnt, cardboard smell. Anyway, because my boss is dating a co-worker, shes all about watching his ass and not mine, so she didnt notice my fuck-ups. Dude. Rookie mistake. Im guessing his ass is fired in a week. I only have job security because I make people laugh and it puts them in a good mood so they 23

buy more shit. I hate that I might be better at this job than my drumming. Got therapy tomorrow. Starting to feel the pre-dread of finding out what the gnomes did to me. Hope I was cool throughout. Hate giving them the satisfaction of knowing how much they terrify me. FML. Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 10:50 PM 0 comments Too fucking wiped from my therapy session to talk Sunday, Jan 23, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 8:19 AM 0 comments AN INTRODUCTION TO ABDUCTION Im back. They came, they saw, they probed, and yours truly acted like a little crybaby. Fuuuuuck!!! Im so pissed OFF at myself for getting scared shitless every goddamn time they come! Fuck me for that! Just once I want to be totally indifferent. So they know Im not totally pathetic. So I have a goddamn modicum of control over this sitch. Not like Pavlovs dog. Not Noel COWARD. If I can get there, I can deal. FUCK!!! First off, before I go into the deets of my therapy session, here are the FAQs Q: Are the gnomes from another planet, from the future, or are they inter-dimensional? (which is not a bad name for a band) Answer: Who gives a shit? Theyre not from Kansas. Q: What do they want? To study us. To experiment on us. To torture us. To log frequent miles. Answer: All of the above. They do it because they can. Again, look at what we did to every primitive civilization in the rain forests. Paybacks a bitch. Q: Can the government do anything about it? Answer: See all seasons of The X-Files. 24

Q: Have I had an anal probe? Answer: In space? Great, now were all caught up. Back to my therapy session Terry, my therapist, has an office on the third floor of one of those old mini-Hollywood studio office buildings. Courtyard in the center, Tudor mansion style, etc. Im claustrophobic, more so since the gnomes entered my world, and so I have to climb the stairs which is the only exercise I get all week. Anyway, the place smells like old carpet. I wait in a room with the worst selection of magazines from ten years ago. Terry comes out to rescue me. I used to say I would put a gun to my head before I would let a shrink inside it. After I put a gun to my head I realized I needed a shrink inside it. Dont know if hes good or not, cause hes my first, but hes in my budget range. Hes a tall, gay version of Freud which might sound Freudian of me to mention. Hes cool, but not style-cool always wears a fedora with one of those white and black Keffiyeh scarfs. Okay, enough, you get it. What happens is, I sit down across from him in a wicker chair that needs new pillows. He asks me how my fucked-up life is going and I tell him how fucked-up its going, and then he puts me under. You have to sign a release to have hypnosis done. At least I did, because some people can have a psychotic breakdown from it. Since Im pretty sure Im already psychotic it was not a concern. He tells me to close my eyes and counts down from 10. He used to count down 20. And thats it. As usual, Terry guides me back to the Did anything unusual happen? moment. The most recent unusual moment occurred at 3:47 am. And here we go... Ever wake from sleep, but cant move your body? Welcome to my hell. I cant even open my eyes until they tap my temple. Theres three of them. When I had a dog he would sleep through this then run away the next day. I found him twice, but now hes just gone. Anyway, the gnomes are pretty much like everything you see in the movies, except for the eyes. You can look at the Elephant Man and know that hes still a man by his eyes. You can see his soul. The gnomes have these dark, glimmering black holes. They are alive, but look like they are staring off beyond you, even when it turns out theyre looking straight at you. Where the movies get it wrong are the eyelids. The lids are the only thing that gives these things anything close to an emotion. Their skin is so thin and vulnerable you feel like youre look25

ing at one of those newborn featherless birds. The gnomes appear fragile, but remain in control. I used to not believe in god, but shortly after I started getting taken, I began to believe in the almighty simply because if he didnt exist, the gnomes would be the masters of the universe and the thought of that is too dark for even me. Anyhow, as they let me open my eyes, my face begins to grimace. I can feel it change on its own. I try to scream. In my head, I let out a LONG primal shrill, but it never escapes my mouth. Then FUCK I completely give in. Im a bawling baby. FUCK ME!! This kills me, letting them get to me. I had one moment of reprieve when the gnomes stopped their routine of whisking me away. They paused, which rarely happens, and looked me over. YES I got you, motherfuckers! They turned to each other, no words spoken, but I knew they were doing their mental talking shit. The next thing that happened is a bright light appeared again, kinda blue-ish bright, and then I saw the interior of their spaceship, whatever they call their ride. The dark walls moved past me as I was led down a hallway and into a room thats a size Ive never been able to determine. They told me to climb onto the table. Once I was able to take in the whole place. I could see it was kinda laid out in quads. Thats when I saw my ex, Val, on a table next to mine. Thats when I knew that SHE was the one who exposed me to the gnomes. Anyway, the walls illuminate around me, as if someone could turne up the lights even further. And then the gnomes begin their check-up, which feels more like an autopsy. They go slow, hold up my hands, which become translucent so you can see veins, cartilage, bones. This time their examination got more invasive, poking into my chest, stomach, and other parts. They dig out my organs which make a rifledthrough sound as if I can hear what theyre hearing and thinking or what they want me to understand. It would be slightly less of a mindfuck if theyd at least wear doctors masks and gloves, like it was a professional operation or something. But they look like a gang of mutant thugs rolling me over for change. I usually have to be calmed down in my therapy session after I relive this part. The abduction ends with something like a thin rod with a light at the end that they put through my brain. Almost like acupuncture, but without the puncture. Sometimes, I re-experience whatever theyre downloading from my mind. If I resist they will pull up the saddest moments of my life, like when I was eight and thought my parents died in a car accident. I have no choice but to sit back and enjoy my own terrifying recall. 26

Then they hit me with predictions. They show me what lies ahead, on a screen! I dont know who makes the screen, but it kicks ass. Sometimes I get uploaded into these scenes and can manipulate whats happening. After that, they show me something that is so ridiculously fucked-up its hard to say here. So Im not sure I will. Sunday, Jan 23, 2011 Posted by Skyler at 8:34 AM 0 comments Just re-read this last entry and realized Im supposed to use this blog to back up the garbage truck that is my life and dump out all the nightmare crap. However, Im holding back on the most screwed-up stuff which I guess misses the whole point of doing this blog in the first place. Anyway, the part I left out is that after the crystal ball prediction shtick, the gnomes show me a child. This is such a clich if you follow this kinda thing. Im supposed to believe that this is my kid. Its bullshit, but Im made to feel its my child from a sample of my sperm. Hey, Im just reporting the news as I see it dont judge my ass. I guess I should be grateful they dont ask for child support. Laugh or die. And FYI: I had a vasectomy a year ago to prevent them from fucking with me this way. So the jokes on them. ASSHOLES!!! Terry thought I seemed more grounded and less cynical this week and believed the blog was helping me though he still thinks my get-togethers with the gnomes are a wonderfully complex imaginary construction of reality masking emotional truths. I respect his objectivity. I desperately want this all to be an imaginary construct so Im willing to go with his program for now. He also pitched me again on the idea of having an MEG (Magnetoencephalography). Its a relatively new magnetic bran-scan that shows any abnormalities in the, uh, something, something-cortexes of your brain. He wants to see if theres anything physiologically wrong with my noodle that might be causing said imaginary constructs. I dont want to be a guinea pig my guinea pig dance card is already filled with the gnomes. On the other hand, if Im lucky, this whole thing could just end up being a brain tumor. Hmmm. Why am I so resistant? Lastly, not everything comes out all at once from the RH sessions. Through the next 2 to 3 weeks, more lovely memories gets un-lodged in my demented brain. This is usually the worst stuff. Got to go, first band rehearsals tonight. Such is the life of an alien abductee rocker in L.A.! 27


We used to talk about having children. Or, rather, not having children. Can I just adopt one when its thirty? Caroline asks. We are sitting in a Polish diner in the East Village eating perogi. Im going to interview possible candidates, I say. Only the witty, sophisticated, fully-evolved need apply. She laughs at that one. She pantomimes submitting an application for the position of being my child. I read William Blake, she shrieks. Hired, I say, giggling. We are of one mind, Caroline and me. Best friends since second grade, we didnt play team sports or attend cotillion or nickname each other Kelly and Brenda after the 90210 characters. When, in our high school yearbook, the other girls wrote that they wanted to grow up to be mothers, Caroline and I were determined to become comedians. To that end, we spent our childhood practicing pratfalls and fake punches; we nicknamed each other Lucy and Ethel. (I was Ethel). We were always looking for the biggest laugh. At sixteen, we wrote a script turning Carolines parents divorce into a black comedy about a pair of Catholics trying to conceive via Immaculate Conception. Other than the script, Caroline never talked about her parents split. Now, ten years later, we are ensconced in Manhattan and living our childhood dreams. Caroline is part of an improvisational group that performs in Murray Hill; Im an assistant for the guy who produces Comedy Centrals network commercials. We laugh because were so low on the proverbial totem pole that were squatting in mud, but were going after what weve always wanted. Were pursuing the big laugh. Were closer than weve ever been. Caroline says that as long as we can laugh at ourselves, were moving up. Laughter is healing, she says in a soothing, yoga-instructor voice. Theres nothing comedy cant fix. The first time I feel the side ache, Im at one of Carolines improv shows. Winter has come early, and the audience, seated on folding chairs, 28

the kind with a wooden seat and a slanted back that offers no lumbar support, has padded their derrieres with coats and woolen scarves. I blame the chairs for the dull throbbing in my right side. In fact, the side-ache increases in direct proportion to the length of the show, and by the last scene the pain has gripped my entire lower back. But I keep sticking it out. While Caroline is pretending to be a squid wrestling with a mountain lion, the pain creeps into my abdomen. Without thinking, I sigh aloud. The man sitting next to me puts a finger to his lips. One of the actors shakes his head. I try to get comfortable by shifting in my seat; I even arch my back a little, seeing if I can stretch out the muscles. At first, I think Ive solved the problem, but suddenly the pain spikes through my stomach. I moan. Caroline breaks character and shoots me a cold look, and for a moment I know shes mad at me. But then her coldness turns sly, and she holds up her hand as if a cigar is resting in her fingers. Not funny, eh? she says. For a second I think shes speaking to me, and then I realize shes acting. Shes using whats being thrown at her. Shes no longer a squid but a cigar-chomping, Marx brother. I gotta say, I prefer a lady to be obscene, and not heard. The audience laughs. The lift of her eyebrows, the curve of her back, the way she tilts her head: She is Groucho re-incarnated. Shes spun comic gold. After a two-week hiatus, the side-ache appears again, and now it seems determined to keep coming back. It surprises me after lunch, as I brush my teeth before bed, while vacuuming my apartment in the evening. One morning, on my way to work, the pain gets so bad, I puke in the middle of Madison Avenue as a cluster of Jimmy Choos click by me. I call my doctor that afternoon, and she says that the symptoms are all wrong for an appendicitis, but I could have a uterine fibroid. Its not an emergency, she reassures me, but you should probably come into the office for an ultra-sound to confirm thats whats causing the pain. I take the first available appointment on the Monday after Thanksgiving. I spend the holiday with Caroline and her family in New Jersey, which is better than flying all the way to California where my parents live. Anyway, her family is my family. Thats what happens when youve been best friends with someone for this long. The side-ache returns the morning of Thanksgiving Day, but I dont tell Caroline. Im trying to be upbeat, funny, the Ethel to her Lucy. The throbbing keeps increasing, though, and by the time Carolines stepmom sets out the cocktail napkins, the pain is so bad Im panting like the familys French bulldog. I pull Caroline aside and ask her to drive me to the hospital. Youre joking, right? she says. Do I look like Im joking? I snap back. The pain comes in 29

waves, and I double-up as another one overtakes me. Shit, she says. She stares at me for a second, her eyes wide. You know I cant handle shit like this. Before I can answer her, another wave comes, and I moan. Caroline seems to reclaim herself. You keep that up and someone will think youre having an orgasm. She raises her left eyebrow seductively. I look at her in disbelief. Sorry, she says. Couldnt help myself. She turns and runs to the kitchen, calling her dads name. I dont trust hospital beds because they have wheels. I keep waiting to roll out the sliding-glass doors and into the street and down a hill, like a patient in one of those old-timey, French farces. Caroline understands this, so when I am wheeled from the administration desk into the emergency room, she holds on to the side bar to make sure I dont go rolling away. Her dad stays with us an hour before we tell him to go home; he has a house full of guests. I tell Caroline to go, too, but she insists on staying. Youve saved me, she says, clinging to my hand. Now I dont have to watch Uncle Allen talk with his mouth full. Or hear Aunt Elaine describe her sweet goiter. I think she was describing her daughter. Really? Not goiter? That woman has such a strong Queens accent she might as well be from a foreign country. Caroline throws her hands up in the air in mock disgust. For the record, a goiter cant volunteer at the Episcopal Church, I point out. Please, Protestants accept anything. Theyre not picky like us Catholics. Is nothing sacred to you? Caroline pauses for a moment before answering. No. Sacristy is distinctly un-funny. Caroline and I are cordoned off from the rest of the emergency room with a pale blue curtain. When at last the doctor enters our little haven, we have been in the E.R. for an hour and the Percocet is finally kicking in. The doctor is gorgeous: late twenties, with broad shoulders, a chiseled jaw, and the hint of a five oclock shadow. His hands are huge, masculine. Before he presses the stethoscope to my skin, he warms the chest-piece by rubbing it between his palms. I give him a dopey smile. When he steps outside the curtain for a moment, Caroline whispers: We have got to set you up with that. She is fishing for a laugh, but I just shake my head. Come on, she says, grinning at me. Dont you love the prurient humor that could result from a hot doctor and two available women all alone in a room together? Technically, were behind a curtain. 30

Dont ruin this for me. Caroline winks. Hot Doctor returns with a female nursestandard protocol, I supposebut with her pinched face and ram-rod straight posture, the nurse is not helping Carolines hope for a pornographic slapstick routine. Caroline gives me a pout, and I manage a wan smile. She beams at me. She loves when I play along. Hot Doctor perches next to me on the edge of the hospital bed as if were old chums and asks the usual questions: Could I be pregnant? Have I noticed any abnormal discharge? Am I sexually active? No, I mumble in answer to his questions. Shes single at the moment, Caroline interrupts. The doctor looks at her, startled, as if just realizing that shes there. When he turns back to face me, Caroline motions me to take off my baggy sweatshirt. She shimmies her shoulders as if to say, Show a little skin. I roll my eyes at her, but I take off the sweatshirt. When Hot Doctor does the pelvic exam, he asks Caroline to leave the curtained-off room. She can stay, I say. The form you filled out says shes just a friend, he says. Shes not family. He is standing in front of my raised knees, one gloved hand holding a squeeze-tube and the other slick with KY Jelly. Shes family, I say, gripping her hand tighter. Ill change the form. Just let her stay. I dont know if I can Caroline looks him in the eye. If I was sticking something in your hoohaw, youd want a hand to hold, too. I look from her to the doctor, waiting for an explosion, but amazingly, he chuckles. Youre right, he says. He eases his fingers inside of me. I think he likes you, I whisper to Caroline. I think hes inside you, she says. I grimace. I can feel the pads of his fingers tapping along my uterus, probing for the problem. I stare at the top of his head, his sandy-blond hair sprouting from a reddened scalp, his ears freckled and pointed like pixie ears. Without meaning to, he has turned me on; I relax my thighs, allowing his fingers to slip deeper inside of me. He smiles up at me. Good uterus, he says, like hes complimenting my hair or make-up. I blush. I start to smile back, and then I look down at the stirrups against which my feet are braced, and I remember myself. The nurse has crossed her arms disapprovingly. Caroline is watching my face with concern. Beneath their gaze, the moment between Hot Doctor and me dissipates. I suddenly feel ashamed. Hot Doctor withdraws his hand and pulls his gloves off with a snap. I am almost too embarrassed to look at him, but when I do, I see that his face is flushed. No uterine fibroids, he says in a clipped tone. He excuses himself from the curtained room. 31

We stay the night in the hospital. Hot Doctors shift ends around eight oclock, much to Carolines dismay. Secretly, Im relieved to be rid of him. Just before 4AM a bevy of specialists visit me. They confirm that my uterus is healthy and fibroid-free, but they cant figure out what is causing the pain. Ive been administered so many pelvic exams that Ive stopped putting my underwear back on and just stay wrapped up in a sheet. Caroline keeps referring to me as Pantless Jane, like Im some sort of cartoon super-hero. The specialists do not find this amusing, but I tell her to keep me distracted. When the pain gets really bad, I squeeze her hand and scream into a pillow. Near dawn I am referred to the CAT scan specialist. Because of the risk of radiation, Caroline cannot come with me. Anyway, its not worth sticking around if Hot Doctor isnt here, she says. But just before the nurse retrieves me, Caroline leans in for a hug. She looks more scared than I am. By the time the specialists discover that I have an ovarian cyst, the cyst has burst and taken my ovary with it. Im bleeding internally; my red blood-cell count is half of what it should be and still dropping. Surgery is required. I am wheeled from the emergency room to the surgery ward. Caroline walks beside the hospital bed, holding my hand, assuring me that this is routine, even though we both know that a bursting ovary is not routine. Her dad and step mom, who arrived with the first flash of sunrise, follow in our wake. My parents, in California, have been called and are catching the first flight to Newark. In the meantime, all my paperwork says Caroline is a relative. When her dad and step-mom are asked to have a seat in the waiting room, Caroline is handed a hospitalissued hairnet and latex exam gloves. In the prep room, the surgeons start to go over the procedure with both of us, but the painkillers make me too fuzzy to understand what theyre saying. They pull Caroline aside and finish discussing the surgery with her. After they leave, I command Caroline: Give me the salient details. Youll be fine, she says. Oh, and Hot Doctor is back. She flashes me a smile. We wait in silence. Eventually, she wanders toward the window to gaze upon the clouded sky, low-hanging and gray. I see her fold her hands together, and I realize she is praying. I cant remember ever seeing her pray before; she has always claimed that God does not subscribe to her sense of humor. When she returns to my side, I ask, Is that all? Thats all, she says quietly. Promise? Promise. 32

The surgeons allow Caroline to stay in the prep room while they hook me up to a heart monitor and start the blood transfusion. Hot Doctor appears with papers to sign. The usual, he says, so you wont sue the anesthesiologist. He holds out a pen to me. His tone is clipped, his mannerisms precise; he is the embodiment of professionalism this morning. I wont sue the anesthesiologist. I take the pen hes offering. Also, we will have to do a laparoscopy first, to confirm our suspicions. Fine. Confirm away. With a flick of my wrist, I brandish the pen, and Caroline chuckles at my bravado. And you understand that you might not be able to have children. I drop the pen. Not have children? I repeat. Its a possibility, yes. Hot Doctor does not look at me but speaks, instead, to the air above my head. I feel my stomach drop. I am stunned. I turn toward Caroline, expecting to find empathy, my shock mirrored in her expression. But her face is perfectly composed, her head nodding gently. She understands. She already knows that this surgery could make me infertile. The doctors must have told her. You didnt want kids anyway, right? she says, forcing a smile. I stare at her, bewildered. How can you We dont have a choice, she says, interrupting me. The surgeons have to remove your ovary to stop the bleeding, and theres a chance that in removing the ovary, the uterus could be damaged. She speaks directly, like shes narrating a scene in a play. Why didnt you tell me this before? I ask. It wouldnt have made a difference if I did. Either way, you still need the surgery. So why worry you with the details? Because those details could have huge consequences. My voice echoes in the prep room. Hot Doctor retreats to a corner. Were talking about my ability to have children. Were talking about my life. Its your duty as my best friend to tell me these things. No, she says, shaking her head emphatically. Im not supposed to be the one to tell you these things. I shouldnt have to talk to specialists or surgeons. I shouldnt have to make decisions about your health. Thats not my job. Im your friend, not your parents or a spouse. My job is to make you happy. Make you laugh. Distract you from the painful stuff. This is not my job! Job? I repeat. Is that how you see me? As a job? A gig? A troublesome audience? She takes my hand and squeezes it between hers. Do you think thats all you are to me? she asks seriously. I dont answer. Several minutes later, when the anesthesiologist places the mask over my nose and mouth, Caroline leans in front of me so I can see her face as I go under. She winks at me. Hot Doctor is here, she mouths. Hot Doctor. 33

When I awake, Caroline is at my side watching television with the sound turned down. I have been given a private room in the maternity ward. How you feeling? she asks, her head tilted in a motherly gesture. Alive, I say. That sounds about right. She flashes me one of her smiles, and I could forgive her for everything. I sleep off and on for the next few hours while she watches television and arranges my blankets when I shiver. I am very cold. Hot Doctor visits, and Caroline turns into the stage version of herself: brighter, funnier, louder, better. She asks Hot Doctor if he played sports in college. I did crew, he admits. A team sport, I say stupidly. Jane loves team sports, Caroline says, giving me her signature wink. I glare back. But Hot Doctor is smiling. He says that were his favorite patients. He says that I can have children in the future, unless birthing proves difficult. The surgeons are pretty sure they left the uterine wall completely intact, he explains. Pretty sure? I repeat. If, in the future, you decide to have children, youll want to discuss potential risks with your gynecologist. Two days after the surgery, when I am finally allowed to walk the length of the maternity wards hallway, Caroline and I decide to venture to the vending machines. I am wrapped in a hospital robe and scoot down the hall in ankle-length hospital socks. All I want is Sun Chips, she says. All I want is my ovary back. She points to the machine. Next to the Snickers bar, she says. She doesnt miss a beat. We have been watching Bridezillas on one of the cable networks for the last four hours. Its Carolines choice. She says reality television is better than any scripted sit-com. Reality is both dirtier and funnier, she claims. In the episode we are watching, the bride has sixteen bridesmaids. Ugh, Caroline moans. If I get married, I want just you and my sister as bridesmaids. If I get married, I want sage and carmine as my accent colors. I dont look good in either of those colors. Then turquoise and coral. You look good in tropical colors. Much better, she agrees. Will Hot Doctor wear a tux or a suit? Suit, I say, playing along. Im Hot Doctor, she says in a deep, throaty voice that makes me 34

giggle. And Im here to take your pulse. The incision hurts when I laugh, but watching her impression is worth it. Caroline lowers her eyelashes and gives me bedroom eyes. In a delicate, high-pitched voice she coos, Hot Doctor, I dont feel so good. Come fix me. Shes pursing her lips in mock sexiness, playing for the big laugh, but suddenly, I dont have it in me. At least, with him, hed already know what was wrong with me, I say. Thats not funny, she says, frowning. Theres nothing wrong with you. The evening before Im discharged, Hot Doctor visits us one last time. How are my favorite patients? he calls out to us as he breezes into the room. He takes my temperature, checks my blood pressure. Before he leaves, he asks Caroline to step into the hall with him. She is gone only a moment, but when she returns, she stands above me, her head cocked to one side, a bird studying a maimed animal. He asked me out, she says flatly. What do you think? I think you should go for it, I say, and I mean it. What began as a joke has become real for her, and Ive never been one to stand in her way. Anyways, I add, I cant imagine sleeping with someone who has given me a pelvic exam. I wrinkle my nose. Youd learn to laugh about it, Caroline claims. No, I tell her, Id never be able to laugh about that. Never? she asks. She cant keep the disappointment out of her voice. The morning of my discharge from the hospital, Caroline and I stand outside the nursery and stare at newborns through a giant, picture window. The babies are lying in their cribs, naked except for diapers, their chubby arms and legs like over-stuffed sausages. Why dont they get blankets? I ask. Because they have hot mamas, Caroline says. She holds up a hand to high-five me for the joke, but I make a face instead. Ah, come on, she says, feigning hurt. That wasnt so bad. It wasnt that bad, I admit. Tell me it was funny. It was sort of funny, I say. Say it was really funny. Give it up. I look back at the babies. They are all asleep. I think I want one of those some day. You do? she asks. Since when? Since I learned that I may not be able to have one. Hot Doctor said you could. 35

But he said I could have difficulty birthing. Theres still risk attached to my having children. Nothing time and laughter cant heal, she says lightly. Laughter cant heal everything. Who says? she asks with a teasing smile. I look over at her, her wide grin reflected in the glass window. She doesnt see my eyes filling with tears, my shoulders shaking with anger. I want to tell her that laughter cant replace what Ive lost, but I dont think shed listen, or understand. I think, in her mind, even this moment is fodder for a punch line. They marry two years later, Caroline and Hot Doctor. His real name is Hudson, named for the river, which is both completely unfunny and a joke. I am in the wedding party, along with six of her closest college friends and her sister. So much for small weddings. By the time they get married, I am living in Milwaukee, where the weather is more severe and the people have little sense of humor. I dont miss my childhood dreams. Caroline and I rarely talk on the phone. She thinks I dont call because she married Hot Doctor, but thats not it. I just dont know what to say to her anymore. In Milwaukee, Ive joined a kickball team. I am taking dance lessons. I work for the public library. Change is less amusing than expected. Sometimes I wonder if Caroline still doesnt want to have children, or if that has changed, too. We dont talk about our hopes anymore. She tells Hot Doctor her secrets. She tells him her jokes, and he laughs. He finds her endlessly amusing. Sometimes, I wonder if she will tell me they have decided to have children. On the rare occasions when we speak on the phone, I ask her, before I hang up, Is that all? I am afraid she will omit the salient details of her life. I am afraid that in striving to make me laugh, she will forget to tell me what I really want to know.


A miniature of the man I once loved sits in my mouth with mounds of miniature paper. A pen. His good fists. When I sleep, he nestles in the membrane of my cheeks. And weeps. Rereads a thousand pages of our smudged apologies. When I kiss other men, he ducks into a hole in my molar. Sometimes, he lunges at their tongues and every time, his fists unclench. He caresses the tongues instead. Holds them and weeps some more. One day, the miniature man pulls my lips shut. He weighs down my tongue with reams of paper and strings all thousand apologies along my teeth. I waste years flossing, spitting his sorry fragments. And him: rewriting, rewriting





post-accident because their brains rattle. The one that carries unforgiving people, pressing buttons, asking for ginger ale. The one that waits, frozen, for a man to de-ice this malfunctioning wing, then the other. The one that wants to scourge the runway. To fly. But instead, wheels

While the man sprayed antifreeze to de-ice one wing, the other wing froze over. I unbuckled. I watched the man steer his cherry picker to the other wing. Then the first wing froze over. After the fifth intercom apology, the attendants served cold cinnamon rolls while we sat, for ten hours, stuck too far from the airport to walk back in the blizzard. Once we taxied to the gate, I phoned a man I had pretended not to love even after his skull fractured and his brain sponged enough blood to mop over his motor skills. Neurologists said he should have died. Maybe hed taken enough bats and bottles to the body for God to hand him a consolation miracle. Packed in ice chips, ears bleeding, he whispered. His first attempt with a telephone after his what did he call it? Fight? Accident? Triumph. I abandoned him the following July to fall in love with a man who had never broken a bone, but almost died, in combat gear, jumping from an army aircraft. We made love while I fingered two childhood scars embossed in his back from reaching beneath the jagged bottoms of fence slats to save a dying bird. My mouth has endured two kinds of men: the men who save and the men who are dying birds. I am neither savior, nor prey, but a plane. The one they jump from. The one that almost kills. The one they cant board 38

back to where she came from. Lets all her passengers go.




materialized everywhere not a flock, not a crowd. They hovered like dust. Like flames choking his home. Or suns plunging from his roof, his veins The flames, the suns thrashing. The good wings of good beasts. And my mothers voice, flapping in my blood: If you need to run, run. But if you regret this, do not blame me

I curl into an ear on bare hardwood. My bones stay folded for days. They once trembled at the slightest buzz of the ethereal how have I since unlearned how to listen? How do I practice hearing the sky? seizing the sky? I want to hunt that ancient languagethat blood message of banquets and cherubs dangling from heaven like good fruit. One day, the sky will open like a mouth. It will pour forth a thousand calling sparrows and I will be ready. I will answer every one.





The White Van1 THE ZODYS PARKING LOT is not empty, because its circled by a wobbling old white man who shuffles in the dark cooling heat of the Sacramento summer, and this is the old Florin Road, where there are no fences that keep out the transients that might leap over the fence into an abandoned lot. Im driving a 1980 Honda Accord, tan, with sheep-skin seat covers, a black bra, louvers along the hatchback. When Donaldo would fill the back of the car with tens or fifteens, it would rattle the slats on the dam, and shake the windows and the street. An Amp. An Equalizer. There are girls dancing next to us. Some would call them mud ducks, and, once, when one got to close, close enough to expect a lift, like Damita, he hurled a pizza box at her face and screeched off. I am near a pond, and the pond is breathing frogs, a breathing I have not heard before this very moment. The breathing is hard to locate, maybe, like the laughter that begins behind me. The heat in the Berkshires is so different from the heat in Sacramento, and the bugs here, attack the body, so much so that my calves are snapping back in the heat of the memory of being so bitten. The van is like the moon this morning, flat and low in the air, and its cold, so freezing in fact that I am shaking, not from the cold, but from the expectation of what I was about to have even though I saw it only on some video, how I learned to bob my head, to bobble like a good cock-sucking girl, the only rhythm found through this kind of repetition, something that existed so far out of my control, but it was a control I immediately mastered once he let me in. I think I said, Excuse me, Ive never done this before, but can I suck your dick? And while asking I ate from a bag of chocolate kisses, and licked my boy lips at the old man, a walking fantasy, bobbling in and out of what felt like a dream. A young man as handsome as you, you should be out chasing girls. A young man like me was out chasing after something out of his reach, until that very night in that cooling heat,
1 The White Van was first delivered for the panel, The Brazen Truth: Dangerous Nonfictions for the Litquake Off the Richter Scale Conference, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA, October 7, 2012.

chasing after the shift in the car, when the old man slides back the curtain in his white van, or slips out from the van, or slips out, and then asks me if I want a beer, and I dont remember drinking the beer, only sitting in his front seat and thinking his cock looked like a big button. There is a tray in the car, but I do not recall anything in it, only the stack of what had to be moved, before we slipped in the back. I felt out of practice, out of practice in something Id never done before, out of practice in what I wanted to do for what seemed forever. Is this what I was waiting for? Once, driving from San Diego to Sacramento, somewhere in the Grapevine, the bra slipped off of the car, and slid under it, the drag of it slowing us down, pulling as it caught below the bumper. I dont remember if this was coming or going to Sacramento, but I do remember me, Donaldo, and my mother, in the car slipping under a bridge, flipping 360 degrees around, and ending up safely stopped under a bridge after my brother fell asleep. Somehow we all woke up under the overpass, and I remember laughing. In the pocket of the Van, there is a nail clipper that the old man uses to clean out his ears, which he likes to dig into. When he sees the young boy driving in the parking lot, theres something that he can feed from, something that he takes. Did he want to suck me? I do, and theres his underwear, pulled down, and theres the spread of his thin, white legs. And he wants to try it. Does he say that? Its hard to sort out that moment, because it was so fast, but the smell remains, the smell of sweet beer and dead skin under the nails, blackened, the beard, so rough and scrapes against my face, and the space is so small, almost too much so, to hold these blockish movements, the hard shifts, and the softness in which I learn to track this smell as a first smell. The pull of it follows me. The soft white bodyhe is so rushed, and I am leaning into the sweep of his speed, or I crouch back to let it go by, does he offer beers? Or I run from them, I watch him explode all over the place, and the cum fountain in the dark in the van feels like this is the site where I am born, and I move in the van as if in a womb, before I break back out into the night. The Belgians2 William the plastic surgeon is bald, and tall, and he wears a gingham shirt, and hes thick and full, like his lover Patrick, who is in finance, and is also thick and full like him, so it makes sense they are a couple here at the Porch Bar, repetition of fabrics and length and foreign bodies, and foreign cocks in America. A man with a mustache is able to pull all of the men in the bar in. What to see out of the light is not clarity, but the pocked face that fills the surface of the street you walk out into, and despite not knowing where to go, you are leading, or maybe you are led like
2 The Belgians was delivered for the panel, Rewriting America: Race and Reimaginings in post- 9/11 America, Litquake Off the Richter Scale Conference, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco CA, October 6, 2012.



them all after this into it, dodging how to think of the split in time, place, and event. The blacks are in front of the Marc Jacobs store on Commercial Street. You would think, like their borrowed makeshift photographer does, that they want to be seen together. Instead, they are attracted to the distance that spreads between them enough so that the name of the designer links them on the bench, where one sign creates reality, two brothas hitched by class signage. I do hear an accent, and feel resentful of their very presence, and need some stability, and when Dallas asks who let them in, and even though I feel this resentment, I say they are more beautiful than anyone here in town. Do I believe this? There is a bird that moves across the sky at an angle, much like the way that I swim against the current, pushing myself, swimming below the waves, and despite the back hurting, and despite the bruise that grows from the fall down the stairs, I am ready to continue my kick below the torque of the weight of the black men on the street in a pack in a white town. The white girls that slip by have no idea that I paid close to fifty dollars to get this seat, and I chose air instead of enclosure, but like Drake says, They know / they know / they know.3 With my finger holding in the stitches, I thought about the Belgians, not that I will ever see them again, but I want to call one Prince Patrick, and the other I want to call Lorde William. They are so critical of black womans bodies, the shapes growing so wide, but they love Michelle, and their bodies are lean like BaracksIs that why I made the wrong turn, the space between sleep and disaster pulling me down the stairs, a kind of freedom to be thinking in a house next to a sea, who would have thought this would lead to laceration, a tray of pizza, then the fall. What does one say, and how does one feel the slip between the act of encountering critique, and the idea of reaching through the repulsion of such naming, like the black plastic bag that spins below the grey jets that thunder outside of my Hilton, how dare I get so classed, and pulled over for such speeds down a hill to get to you? They describe themselves as elite, or above it all, or something that they cant colloquialize. This is a position as tricky as the one they describe as so difficult to maintain in the Gay World. They dont use that phase, but like the bruise that grows hard on my hip, we both understand what they mean when they pass for straight around the world. In fact, we are linked by our very shirtsmine is reasonable, Ted Baker, not as cheap as I thought I pulled on for the hunt (I usually wear J-Crew), but the blue, 4, tailored down the back, two inseams to bring the body back in the shape against that which I gorge. I bought this shirt near the growing twin towers, my encounter, what I want to say, leaning out of windows,
3 2011. Drake, Headlines, Take Care, Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Republic,

breathing in the blast. You know, there were days, where you could get a free air conditioner. There is soot, or a place where the body slips between class, outside of buildings, and in the end, all I think of is what has changed in the erection of the towers that grow below me while I vacate. Laceration4 Khary describes a series of men he met in Germany who all had black boyfriends that are now dead. One jumped from a window, and when his friends explained that they had to return to the apartment to clean up the mess, Khary, like anyone else, or at least anyone like me thought to ask, What was left to clean up? The answer becomes a punch line: He slit his wrists before he leapt. When I returned from the $138.47 cab ride from Hyannis to Provincetown, after getting my finger sewn back, ignoring the fact, or at least trying to ignore the fact that I was not in a Town Car, I did not expect to return to the pool of drying blood at the base of the stairs, the blood on the walls, the blood seeping from the washcloth, the slow rinse from red to clear. The caked blood on the faucet in the bathroom, more dried on the back of the plastic door knobs. The streaks of blood on the light switches, the faded splotches on the white walls where I tried to clean up after my accident, all remained, if even as spectral.
Climb up/ an escalator slowly/ ready to greet a room/ that you have no patience for. Theres one/ who says you look like Tracy Chapman, Theres another/ who says you are duplicitous/ who says you cant repeat your name/ who says the name is understood/ who says the name is undone/ who says the buildings are crumbling on the television screen in front of you/ and just down the road, and just where you were, and just in the trap/ Wall street Sauna, old men are piling against the steamers/ this is the decline of something/ you go to Le Halles/ you walk across the street/ it isnt quite pain, but embarrassment to move up that/ freedom tower/ it isnt quite embarrassment, when you look down, and see the reflections in the pool. What is the reflection in the pool that youre looking across across the vast distance of memory? How do you sort it all out? Have you gone so clear? You remember these things. You are sitting on a subway platform/ you are waiting and waiting and what normally takes two hours, takes five, or seven. They are walking across a bridge. You are deliberate in your waiting.
4 Laceration were first delivered for the Rewriting America: Race and Reimaginings in post- 9/11 America, Litquake Off the Richter Scale Conference, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco CA, October 6, 2012.



You tell them, dont wait outside. You tell them/ dont go outside. You imagine planes bombing the city. You revert back to earthquake training. Get under a desk. Get under a table. What you enable is hunger. Its what the split happens when it falls. Desires collapse. There are buildings. Theres something building inside of you. Is it stress-less? Is it sex? When you were on the subway platform, What would trigger you is a chin or a cheek, any beard or glasses, or old man/ There was a point when you let your pinky extend to touch him. Or, you lean back, looked for perverts on the subway, sherbert that you ate, Its perverted/ the subway links like the cars are slowing down. Youre deliberately waiting. Youre trapped. Theres nowhere to go in this traffic, but to think back. What do you remember, post 911/ Close to the instant, you and Dawn Martin at the scene of the crime, ingesting/ body parts, fumes. The fallen lovers stomach is falling out/ and the eye is bleeding/ and the fingers been blown off/ and the memory is gone/ and nostalgia holds that realm, that resin of what it once was, what you were climbing up that hill. Climbing up the stairs, or waiting for the elevator when the music would start. You associate death and sex at that moment, post apocalyptic. The men are beautiful that slash the faces, Jen says. The men are beautiful in their razors. Tazered on the block, the television is blacked out. Its fuzzy, its hazy, theres nothing but a crane. Everyday you turn and you see a crane, And you look at the sky, and you see the smoke, And you go to work and your bosses boss boss assistant takes a bike and says classes are cancelled. They want you to teach the Harlem Renaissance. Its not your field or area, they throw you a class, You want a bone, you get a better job. You get a fellowship, you win a prize/you distance yourself, you have to defend your self/ you have to defend, why are you thinking this, post apocalyptic scene, 911 youre there. What are the consequences? Freedom. Operation freedom. We will/ blow them away. It was an explosive year. You remember Samiya Bashir saying this: Recount the poem. Its only in the imagination to be stuck in the traffic, youre just moving slowly, the breaks likes should be soothing. The brakes lights should be enduring, enduring freedom. Youre walking with Rori down somewhere in the East Village, nope the West Village where you once lived, you got off at the subway. Its as though youre returning to the wound and youre singing, and youre looking at the posters, and you get as close as you can,

shes turned on by the firemen, Im turned on by all the paper/ all the missing. All the missing units, this isnt photo collage/ theres no direct feeling, but when someone throws a backpack on the ground, everyones ready to launch. It was the first plane ride that you took, and you landed at applause. You owe your father money. He says, wheres my money? You say my city was blown up. You say, I need time to adjust. How do you look back at this time, at that instance? Do you feel more or less/ under siege, It was before /you were under siege. We have always felt this, at a talk once. Lucille Clifton and Sonia Sanchez said they were the ones the day after There is potential/ in all humans for great good, as there is potential for great/ evil, is what Lucille said. I dont remember what Sonia Sanchez said, but I remember that it was something about weve always been under fire. There was a certain amount of joy, I felt, at the/ unleashing of something in a city, where one walked and one feels safe, or where one feels unsafe, for instance, when I got off of the subway, on my stop, I would run, with my new laptop, because I knew if I walked, Id be a target/ who would try to catch up? Sometimes I walk slow if I have nothing in my pocket and say, what/ is / up/ in some kind of cadence.5

Scare, scarthey feel so close. My hand is wrapped, but after the laceration, my sister asks me to write a story. I dont know where to begin. I dont know how to bring the self that I felt breaking down the stairwell, one surrounded by two foreign men, moments before, then on a bed. Throat drilled. If this were One Thousand Ways to Die, the episode in which I would die might be called, Pizza Party Peril. After a night where this Lothario picks up two Belgians Daddies at the Porch Bar You dont finish the story. Pus indicates infection. I have a rubber glove in my bag in the case that it rains. My laptop, even though I fell down the stairs, remained in intact. What do I have to give? I tell him that I could fall in love with them both. I say, I could fall in love with you, into his eyes, and he says, I am complicated. When I see the Belgians at the bar the next night, after I have fallen, after I have returned, I point at them both as though we are on a ftbol team, and one of us scored a goal, or they are far away, and I
5 Ronaldo V. Wilson, Post 911 Reflection, Off the Dome: Rants, Raps, and Meditations. Sound Recordings. Unpublished.



am pointing to some realm of knowing reserved for men. I was chasing something. I cannot get hard for them, and I think it has to do with the way they do poppers, and how one leaks from his eyes. I slip my hand over his face. I try to get him to somewhere else. This is before I have fallen, before I am stitched, before I am splinted.


The slow, full summer when the Wenigers moved into No. 45ten years before I developed a romantic interest in men and dropped out of Yalemy Uncle Arnold was arrested on a morals charge. That was the summer between third and fifth grades for me, the summer Pee Wee Reese was batting .358 at the All Star Break and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and even if it had been palatable to discuss exhibitionism over dinner, more pressing matters dominated our family conversations. My fathers business, Garlands Hearse and Carriage, was three years in the redwith little hope of a second bailout from the bankand as long as Uncle Arnold potentially had the resources to keep the firm solvent, my parents overlooked his personal indiscretions. To hear my mother speak of her older brother while ladling out the soup, you might have thought a morals charge was a badge of honor, like being awarded a sergeants stripes, and it wasnt until several years later that I realized exhibitionism had nothing to do with museums. Anyway, there were far more intriguing mysteries to investigate at the time like whether the Dodgers would re-sign Dixie Walker and whether Molly Rosenberg would let me watch her urinate as shed let Jimmy Logran. The Lograns lived at N. 46one of the brownstones they later knocked down to make way for the A & Pand Hortense Logran befriended my mother in what the overbearing woman must have assured herself was an act of noblesse oblige. Carl Logran practiced law at Harmon & Gluck (now Harmon, Logran & Barrow), and all those years of practice must have honed his skills, because the Lograns purchased a television that spring and a second car, a deep blue Packard sedan, while Jimmys mother developed a penchant for antique collectibles. Tea is so much more enjoyable with the Wedgewoods, she informed my mother in her sharp, bird-like voice, personifying her purchases, until I came to believe that my best friends parents entertained wealthy couples called Hepplewhite and Thatcher-Baldwin and a straight-backed Scotsman named Duncan Phyfe. I did not need to ask my mother why these distinguished guests did not join us for supper: Jimmy Logran was an Episcopalian and his family reaped the many rewards of the high churchlike a deep purple confirmation gown and an embossed golden hymnalof which we lowly Methodists were unworthy. I secretly hoped that if Uncle Arnold joined my fathers firm and pushed Garlands Hearse & Carriage into the black, 48 49

then Mr. Phyfe might bless us with his presence. Yet I wasnt too sure of this, because the Rosenbergs at No. 31 were as wealthy as the Lograns, and even Uncle Arnold and Aunt Hannah wouldnt join them for supper. Jimmy and I were discussing the prospect of my meeting Mr. Phyfe on the day that the Wenigers laid claim to No. 45. My best friend had never met the straight-backed Scotsman himself, for the gentleman refused to leave the white parlor and nobody under the age of one hundred except for Jimmys parents was permitted to enter that sacred chamber. Episcopalians also had special rooms for sitting and breakfast that were beyond the means of Methodists. My father rented our ground floor to an Italian milliner who did the sitting and breakfasting in our stead, and you could often see the silhouette of Mr. Robustelli doing one or the other through the shades. Yet Molly Rosenbergs family also had rooms for sitting and breakfast on their ground floorone of the many characteristics that Jews and Episcopalians seemed to shareand I feared that it was the Methodists who were excluded, rather than the Episcopalians who were exalted. What kind of name is Weniger? I asked Jimmy as we stood across the street and watched the gaunt, austere claimant nailing a wooden name-plaque to his doorframe. Mrs. Weniger stood several feet up the front path. She gave her husband orders in a foreign language; he pried out the nail and adjusted the plaque accordingly. Its a mixed name, Jimmy replied confidently. My mother told Mrs. Warren that this was one of the drawbacks of living in a mixed neighborhood. A mix of what? I wondered if the new couple would have special rooms for sitting and breakfast and whether they would be privileged by the company of Mr. Phyfe. They could be part Negro, Jimmy flashed a jagged grin. My mother says that if we dont get a racial coughing ant soon, Negroes and Jews are going to take over the neighborhood. Whats a coughing ant? Its why the Rosenbergs moved here. The coughing ant chased them out of their own neighborhood. Coughing ants dont like Jews or Negroes. Ants dont cough, I said. And I dont want one anyway. Would you rather live with Jews and spooks? Jimmy said spooks with pride, emphasizing this new word in the same way he later drew out the syllables in deportation and deviant. He had made the leap from third to fifth grade the year before me. Jackie Robinsons a Negro, I answered. And Molly Rosenbergs Jewish. I secretly harbored the fantasy that the Dodger infielder would move into the vacant No. 29, the brownstone between our place and the Rosenbergs, and that the Alabama Slammer would accompany me and Molly to the bathroom. Molly wasnt the type of girl to pee in front of coughing ants. Thats different, said Jimmy. 50

He skimmed a rock up the Wenigers slate path. The stone bounced several times and appeared headed for the uncut crabgrass, when it took an unexpected turn and ricocheted off the back of Mrs. Wenigers swollen ankle. Then it was every man for himself as the two of us raced up the street and tried to clamber over the Lograns paneled fence. I caught my windbreaker on one of the wooden spokes and allowed myself to drop back down onto the sidewalk. My bladder tensed in preparation for the inevitable confrontation, and I envied Jimmys luck. He had a track record of narrow escapes: On the way to spring tryouts, hed picked up a linden branch and lined a walnut through Mr. Teagues bay windows, and the overweight accountantwho was killed a few years later in a gliding accident over Sicilychased us down the block with a nine iron. I expected nothing less from our new neighbor; her mixed name and coarse features did not suggest a tendency toward mercy. Turning around with some trepidation, expecting to meet a raised fist or golf club, I was in no way prepared for the scene that greeted me: The Wenigers stood side-by-side at the foot of their walk, displaying nearly identical thin smiles. Neither the meager husband nor the heavyset wife said a word; instead, they gazed at me from twenty yards with a look of stoic resignation. Mr. Weniger, holding the name-plaque under his right elbow and the hammer in his left hand, reminded me of the butchers assistant at Maurys Meats. The rumpled Mrs. Weniger, arms folded across her chest, bore a striking resemblance to Maurys pre-packaged poultry. Standing on either side of the slate walkway, the couple seemed to be blocking my pathalthough I had no desire to proceed in that direction. I walked around the side of the Lograns house and through the metal gate, embarrassed at having failed to scale the fence and aware that the inscrutable eyes of the new occupants of No. 45 were following me. I was not the only one unsettled by the behavior of our new neighbors. Hortense Logran expressed her opinion to my parents without any reservations. In hindsight, I cant help pitying the homely matron with her distant husband and sterile house; at the time, the feint tinge of alcohol on her strong breath struck the fear of the Episcopal god in my quaking Methodist knees. I can still picture her perched on the edge of an armless chair, her cork-tipped cigarette raised to eye level, looking down at my parents with benevolent disdain. The afternoons encounter with the Wenigers had disturbed my sleep, and I stood in my pajamas, spying through a crack in the dining room door. Its just dreadful. Mrs. Logran puffed smoke into my mothers face. Absolutely dreadful. To come to my door, as if I were the Office of Displaced Persons or whatnot, and to ask where the nearest synagogue is. Carl and I wont tolerate this. I dont see that theres much to be done, my father replied. Theyve already moved in. Even if we do put together this covenant, it wont take effect retroactively. What does our resident attorney have to say? 51

Carl Logran fingered his unlit pipe and leaned back in his chair; he did not seem to know what to do with his arms. Lester has a point, dear, he observedhis voice as slow and steady as a leaking faucet. We ought to have mobilized sooner. Quite frankly, we ought to have acted the last time. But its indecent, I tell you. Hortense Logran cooled herself with a Japanese fan and sent smoke curling in all directions. Such ostentation. Whats-her-name Rosencranz never showed up at our door at eleven oclock in the morning to ask where the nearest synagogue was. These are a different breed. I do hate saying it, but it just has to be said it almost makes you understand what the Nazis were up to. Almost. Thats a frightful thing to say, my mother interjected. People are people. You cant go around killing them just because they have poor manners. That was one of the rare occasions I ever heard my mother challenge the wisdom of Hortense Logran; even at the age of eleven, only vaguely aware that the Nazis had mistreated Molly Rosenbergs cousins in Europe, I realized that my parents and their neighbors were discussing a matter of great weight. The Wenigers, it appeared, shared the religious convictions of the Rosenbergs; they would not be blessed with the company of the reclusive Mr. Phyfe. I said almost, Ellen, Mrs. Logran snapped. Carl, tell her that I said almost. Mr. Logran fumbled with his pipe. She said almost, he muttered indifferently. Indeed I did, Carl, Jimmys mother retorted. And to come to my front door. I told you we should never have let James play with that Rosencranz girl. Its only a matter of years before were surrounded by Negroes and Chinamen and what-not. Ill be giving directions to the nearest Buddhist synagogue like a darned tourist bureau. And what-not. Despite Mrs. Lograns premonition, no other undesirable families moved into the block that summer. It was the first year of the housing bust and property values in Hager Heights declined as those in suburban Laurendale and Pontefract soared. The Teagues vacated No. 44. Jackie Robinson did not move into No. 29. By early July, Jimmy and I had the run of half a dozen deserted front lawns. We also managed to pry open one of the rear windows at No. 44, and it was therein the light blue bathroom that had served three generations of porcine Teaguesthat I watched Molly Rosenberg urinate standing up. Girls cant pee standing up, I challenged her. Everybody knows that. I can do whatever I want to do, Molly repliedand within seconds, the three of us were scampering through the deserted house. The Teagues also had a room for breakfasting and a room for sitting (although my mother said that theyd converted from being Roman Catholics to being Lapsed Catholics) and this realization only added further 52

to my sense of deprivation. Mollys performance, orchestrated with her floral-print skirt raised above her hips, quickly restored my good mood. Can non-Jewish girls pee standing up? I asked Molly. Only Jewish girls can, she replied as she retrieved her underwear from the bathroom floor. And only good Jews. Bad Jews like Mrs. Weniger cant either. Whats a bad Jew? demanded Jimmy. Is that like a kike? Molly and I both puzzled over this new word before she replied: My father says that the Wenigers are very bad Jews. They used to eat milchedich and fleisedich together and they dont know anything about the shabbos. But Daddy says we have to be kind to them because of the war. Do you mean the holler cost? I asked confidently. Thats right. Daddy says theyre trying very hard. He says hes never seen a man try as hard to learn about being a good Jew as Mr. Weniger. Maybe if they keep trying, I ventured, Mrs. Weniger will be able to pee standing up. Jimmy and I burst into laughter while a blushing Molly Rosenberg raced toward the open window. The next few weeks brought a series of unexpected misfortunes that turned our world in Hager Heights upside down. Uncle Arnold proved unwilling to invest in Garlands Hearse & Carriagehis faith in the used-hearse business only slightly lower than his faith in my father and for several days, it looked as though we would join the exodus to Laurendale and Pontefract. Instead, a financial arrangement between my father and Mr. Robustelli witnessed our relocating from the upper three stories to the cramped ground floor of the brownstone; we now had rooms for breakfasting and sitting, but none for dining or sleeping. In response to my questioning, my mother informed me that this did not make us any closer to becoming Episcopalians. The Dodgers fortunes followed those of my father: Dixie Walker signed with the Giants on the eve of a crucial double-header with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Pee Wee Reese slumped to .297. By the first of August, we were in third place behind the Giants and the Pirates. Although I was no fair-weather fan, the Bums slump coincided with my renewed interest in the odd behavior of our new neighbors. At first, the Rosenbergs and the Wenigers appeared to be on friendly terms. Each Saturday morning, Mollys family and the Polish couple walked past our house in their finest clothes en route to the synagogue in Ocean Viewonly to pass by again four hours later in the opposite direction. Mr. Weniger was soon nailing again, embedding a tiny blue-and-white Jewish box called a mezuzah into his doorpost; this time, the stately Esther Rosenberg delivered the directions. The new couple rarely smiled, never invited us into their overgrown lawn, and went about their business inconspicuously (although nobody seemed to know exactly 53

what that business was, for Mr. Weniger could be seen pacing in front of his bay windows at all hours of the afternoon). After the incident at Mrs. Lograns front door, the Wenigers did not seek any more directions. If youd asked me at the time, I would have told you with confidence that Mrs. Weniger would have soon been pissing on two feet. Then, as abruptly as the Dixie Walker grand slam that knocked the Dodgers into fifth place and out of Series contention, the Rosenbergs and the Wenigers had a falling out. The Polish couple no longer accompanied Mollys family to the synagogue; instead, they passed our windows more that an hour earlier and did so quickly. Mr. Wenigers pacing became more frequenthis emaciated form was often present in the window from dawn to duskand Mrs. Weniger occasionally emerged from the darkness just long enough to drop the shades. Molly said her father told her mother that the Wenigers were meshuggah, but bad meshuggah, which meant they should not be permitted into the synagogue. My mother wanted to report them, said Molly, but Daddy says its better to keep our head down and mind our business. I asked Molly to whom one reported bad meshuggah Jews, but she didnt know either. Hortense Logran had a different take on the quarrel. It only serves to show you, Carl, that the Rosensteins know whats what, she declared with a hawk-like squint. Hershl Rosenstein didnt come around looking for a synagogue when he moved in. Even a Jew knows bad breeding when he sees it. Hershl, dear, Jimmys father said softly. Whats that? His names Hershl, dear, Hershl Rosenberg. Carl Logran lit his pipe and turned to my father. Youd think theyd all stick together, you know, after whats been done to them. Its unfathomable that theyre stilling fighting among themselves. Mr. Lograns statement reminded me of Mel Bandees radio wrap-up of a recent Dodgers game. They should go back to Germany, Mrs. Logran chimed in. Her husband appeared poised to speak, but she silenced him with her hand. Or Poland or Lithuania or wherever they come from. Its not my job to keep track of these things. Im a busy woman, you know. Hortense Logran looked on the verge of tears. They cant just go back, said my mother, clearing the dessert plates as she spoke. All of Europes crawling with former Nazis. At least here, you know your neighbors arent collaborators and fifth columns. Ellen has a point, dear, said Carl Logran. He struggled to relight his pipe in the draught. You cant expect the Wenigers to live with former camp guards for neighbors. Take their side, Jimmys mother groused. Go ahead and see if I care. But if your son ends up married to some mongrel, it wont be my responsibility. Ellen and Lester are my witnesses: I want to move to Connecticut. 54

The Lograns did not move to Connecticut, but the Rosenbergs didwithout any warning. I was standing on the front lawn with Uncle Arnold, under the watchful eye of Aunt Hannah, when the van arrived to transport the contents of No. 31 to West Milford. Jimmy Logran sauntered up with his catchers mitt under one arm and we stared in surprise at the burly movers. Uncle Arnold placed his arm around both of our shoulders. Whose girlfriend is that? he asked slyly when a tearful Molly Rosenberg emerged onto her neatly-kept yard. I bet shes yours, Doctor Jimmy! Nope. Not mine, my best friend insisted. Thirty years later, I realize that she desperately wanted to be. It was Jimmy, not me, she ran towards. Whats the Ess-ess, Jimmy? she asked between sobs, covering her face with two delicate hands. My father told my mother that we have to move out on account of the Ess-ess. I dont know, Jimmy admitted sheepishly. I think it must be a type of coughing ant. My Aunt Hannah trotted down the front steps and glared at her husband. Whats going on here, Arnold? This isnt my doing, he answered. The girls just moving out. My mothers sister-in-law surveyed the scene, arms akimbo. Her nose protruded from under her thick-framed glasses, and she scoured each of us with her eyes before satisfying herself that nothing serious was amiss. That was six months before Uncle Arnolds second incident, nine months before the divorce. Why dont you let the children play by themselves, Arnold? she demanded. I need your help in the kitchen. Molly Rosenberg wrote her new address on a leaf of pink stationary in large, block letters and handed it to Jimmy. He fingered the paper for several seconds, stuffed it into his uniform pocket, then removed it again. Molly wiped her swollen eyes and started to trudge backwards to her yard. My best friend ran toward her in an instant and whispered something quickly into her ear before forcing the catchers glove into her hands and then racing at full speed down the block and over the paneled fence. Looking after him in wonder, I noted the grim face of Mr. Weniger peering through the blinds of his bay windows. The Dodgers mounted a comeback that August, pulling within six games of the Giants. Jackie Robinson hit twelve home runs that month, but No. 29 remained vacant. Even without the coughing ants, the Alabama Slammer was not destined to settle in Hager Heights. A Negro family moved into the former Teague residence, but they kept to themselves, and their children did not join Jimmy and me at stickball. We did not speak about his catchers glove or about Molly Rosenberg. A girl named Celestine Pratt moved into the Rosenberg place; she had a 55

room for sitting and a room for breakfasting, and her motherwithout whom Hortense Logran was never to be seen againalso entertained the Hepplewhites and the Thatcher-Baldwins and even the elusive Mr. Phyfe. Jimmys mother and Mrs. Pratt were standing arm-in-arm on the sidewalk, like the Columbia College cheerleaders, on the afternoon that the men in black suits came for Mr. Weniger. Mrs. Weniger remained for a short time after her husbands abrupt departure. Neither Jimmy nor I had the courage to watch her from the sidewalk, but we stared at her for hours from between the panels of the Lograns fence. She sat by the window, the shades always open now, staring down the block at the brownstone that had once housed Molly Rosenberg and her family. With one exceptionwhen she emerged briefly to pry down the name-plaque and the mezuzahshe did not leave her perch for three days. The next morning, she was gone. By then, the nature of the Wenigers true history had emerged. To think, Ellen Garland! Mrs. Logran half-shouted. Nazis, right here on our block. War criminals! Yet Id almost rather have Nazis than Jews. At least Nazis dont barge in on a person and demand things. Carl Logran cleared his throat, but did not speak. He extinguished his pipe and deposited it in his jacket pocket. My father wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. What sort of man is capable of something like that, Carl? he asked. Do you think he expected to get away with it? I suppose he must have, my best friends father replied. If you kill six million people, then nothings sacred. My heart goes out to Hershl Rosenberg. And they seemed like such decent people, said my mother. You call that decent, Ellen? Hortense Logran crushed her cigarette into the ashtray and poured herself a second snifter of brandy. There was nothing decent about them. Its one thing to be a Nazi war criminaleven a Nazi posing as a Jewbut its quite something else to be ostentatious about it. You know those Jews are always stirring up trouble. They werent Jewish, dear, Carl Logran observed, drumming his hand methodically on the mahogany tabletop. There you go again, Carl! Taking their side! The Yankees beat the Giants in a six-game World Series that September and the Dodgers re-signed Dixie Walker. Celestine Pratt would not let me see her use the toilet, although she eventually conceded this privilege to Jimmy. She did it in the only remaining vacant house on the blockNo. 45in the small upstairs bathroom. I was permitted to wait in the downstairs hallway and stand guard in case anyone came to inspect the broken window. The Wenigers had left their furniture behind and the impression of the Polish womans heavy rump was still visible on the living room 56

sofa. Yet it wasnt until we left the abandoned brownstoneCelestine and Jimmy holding hands, me trailingthat I noticed the most peculiar phenomenon. Someone had hammered a black-and-white mezuzah into the door frame again. The culprit must have done so hastily, for it was crookedthe bottom nail having come looseand the small box jammed in the door when I tried to pull it shut behind me.


deep splendor , a collection of qroems


A QRoem (pronounced chrome) is a term I coined to denote a poem that is generated as a QR code. Like any QR code, a QRoem can be scanned by a smartphone app. A QRoem, therefore, is quite simply a poem tucked inside a QR code. Most people familiar with QR codes know that they point to a product or a web site, and that its main purpose is to make you buy something. I wanted to use what is traditionally an impersonal, commercial tool, and transform it to serve art and to spread a deeper, more humanizing message, via poetry. In this particular series of QRoems, I decided to use the message of The Way of the Bodhisattva, the 8th century Buddhist text on how to live in harmony with the world. This text has a special resonance for me. I discovered it at a seminar I attended at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Woodstock, New York, during a particularly difficult period in my life. The text, which is written in quatrains, is so straightforward it reads like a step-by-step manual on how to make your life and relationships trouble-free. But its simplicity is deceptive. How to get along with the world and with yourself is, I think, one of the hardest lessons one can learn, if one ever learns it at all. And Chapter 9, on Wisdom, is especially challenging. It deals with the true nature of reality, and is not as readerfriendly as the rest of the text. In fact it reads like a treatise on quantum physics. (I have used, for that particular graphic, a very oblique poem that I feel sums up the impossibility of grasping the idea of reality.) I chose the title Deep Splendor, a term mentioned in another Buddhist text that carries the same message: The Heart of Perfect Wisdom, or the Heart Sutra, composed in India between 100BC and 600 AD. This text is central to the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle tradition of Buddhism. Deep Splendor is a state of deepest meditation while being fully aware of your surroundings. For this project, I felt that the idea of deep splendor is evoked in the act of scanning the codes, a purposeful seeking that I hope would reveal an insight one would not normally expect from such objects. It is my hope that this very simple act would give the viewer pause, if not a moment of inspiration. I think we live in an interesting age when our traditional concepts of literature and literacy are being shaken to their very roots, sort of like the age of the invention of the printing press. Economists (and some 58

mystic philosophers) talk of creative destruction, a process in which old norms fade and die to make way for the new. While I have always been a lover of books, I believe new media enables literature to break out of the mold, to go beyond the book and conventionally sanctioned avenues of publishing and distribution. I think poetry can benefit from the power of new media, which can broaden poetrys reach and hopefully touch people who would not normally be inclined to pay attention to poetry. I hope that this unconventional use of QR codes will make people rethink what is possible about technology, and inspire them to use it in more creative ways. I was fortunate to have Deep Splendor selected as part of the massive Locating the Sacred Festival organized by the Asian American Arts Alliance in New York City in fall 2012. I had these ten QRoems printed as photographs and exhibited them in several locations. These included the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, the NARS Foundation, Greenwich House Music School, the Rubin Museum of Art, and the New York Buddhist Church. The multi-venue exhibit was supposed to be a kind of scavenger hunt. The viewer could collect all ten chapters of the textand hopefully find a flash of inspiration or epiphany along the way. I hope to extend Deep Splendor as public artperhaps as posters in subway stations (where God knows we need a few words of affirmation) or projected in a public space, where people can just whip out their smartphones and capture the poems. Deep Splendor, then, is my attempt to create a 21st century, post-capitalist book of short poems based on an ancient text. I think the time warp element is really cool. So please feel free to print, text, email, blog or share the poems contained in these QR codes as you wish. There are no hidden links, malware, or tracking system embedded in the codes (though of course your servers fees may apply). Note: In the process of creating this project, I have discovered that not all QR scanners are created equal. I have found that i-nigma or Scanlife work best with my QRoems.



deep splendor


by eric gamalinda

















Find your voice and use it. Use your voice and find it. Jayne Cortez When I look back at my life over the years, I see that young struggling artist out of sync with everything around her ditching the creative impulse in favor of a real job and stability. I was the first girl in my family to even go to college. I had no money, so it was easier to just chuck it all and get a job, any job, to have a roof over my head, food on the table and some semblance of order. I also felt the need to help uplift the rest of my family. It was not about personal achievement. Or so I understood at the time. Considering how I was raised, I never had the right in the eyes of those older than me, and those who grew up like me, to assert myself. I suppose I might have, had that been in my nature. For me, living in New York City was in and of itself big time. I grew up in Gloster, Mississippi, a small, rural town 150 miles northwest of New Orleans. No more pitch black nights, where every sound is magnified a thousand times in the silence, screeching insects, barking dogs, the lonely call of the freight trains hauling logs passing through, and the distant hum of four-wheelers on Highway 24. Nor the terrifying stories of lynchings, and knifings at the buckets of bloods across the railroad tracks that separated the one-horse town of Glosters whites from blacks by race and income. Oh, the admonitions we heard! All the things we were forbidden to do for fear of losing our lives made for a world of sheer terror back in the 1950s and 60s. Things werent much better at Alcorn, the allblack college I attended before I moved to New York in 1969. At Alcorn, we girls were forbidden to wear pants on campus, to leave our dorms without both an escort AND note from our parentsexcept to go to class, Vesper, or band rehearsal. When I did eventually escape the repression of the South and crossed the Whitestone Bridge on my way from Idlewild Airport (JFK) to New Rochelle, New York, I saw those lights of the New York skyline and thought, Finally, Im home.

Margaret Porter Troupe and Toni Morrison at Harlem Arts Salon, February 24, 2013. Photo: Chris Cobb



Fast forward to when I met my husband some years later. I discovered an affinity for the literary and visual arts the moment I met Quincy Troupe. In 1977 Quincy was a mid-career poet and cultural activist at the center of the literary and artistic scene in New York City. Although I fancied myself an aspiring actress, by the time I met Quincy Id just decided Id better get a real job and had mostly abandoned theater for work at The New York Times. It was a nine-to-five corporate culture for which I was unsuited temperamentally, I discovered. But I worked there as an ad-taker, accepting death notices over the phone and selling classified advertising. At the same time, I continued the search for my artistic voice, taking acting lessons at the Terry Schreiber Studio. The studio was located in the basement of an apartment building on Washington Square Park West. It was not far from my tiny apartment at the old Fifth Avenue Hotel in Greenwich Village. Every night after work, when I wasnt going to class, my niece Janice and I would head down the back stairs of The Times, out the rear door, past the loading bays where the Times delivery trucks backed in as the Broadway shows closed, for their nightly loads. Janiceworked in the same building at WQXRThe Times radio station.Wed often go to Sardis for dinner at the upstairs bar, the watering hole for Times reporters, advertising executives, and other media types, or hipsters, to hang outand just celebrity watch. Most times, Vincent Sardi, stood guard at the mitred station and greeted us as if we too were royaltywhenwe came up the stairs for dinner at his bar. Sardi was super-generous and had an endearing personal touch, as well as a keen eye for the ladies. In those days, the bartenders also kept a fatherly eye on the young girls as they plied us with the best vodka gimlets money could buy. Quincy knew everybody it seemed. Being from St Louis, the cradle of so much iconic African American music and a hotbed of black artistic talentone of the most fertile regions producing some of the greatest artists of our time, he had a slew of painter friends, musician friends, and writing friends. Quincy collected people much like he collected art, music and wine. His Rolodex was a treasure trove of the literati and glitterati of the day, from coast to coast, Hollywood celebrities, actors, playwrights, musicians, composers, poets, novelists, dancers, sports writers, newspaper reporters, you name it. Whenever he came to see me at my apartment, he had a slew of friends (mostly female, I noticed) in tow. He used to take me to readings, night clubs, musical concerts downtown in the loft district in Soho and Tribeca, at Joe Papps Public Theatre, at the Village Gate, the Bottom Line, the Village Vanguard, St. Marks Church, the Tin Palace, everywhere. I have vivid memories of a date with Quincy to see the great avant-garde jazz singer, Leon Thomas, at the Tin Palace. Leon sang The Creator Has a Master Plan with Pharoah Sanderss bandone of my favorite singers performing one of my favorite songs of all time. Around that time, Edmond Volpe, the president of Richmond College (now the College of Staten Island) of the City University of New 68

York, asked Quincy to organize a reading series at the college. It might have set off a light bulb in my head. So all this had a chance to imprint in my mind againthe art of the salon. Quincy and I moved to Graham Court in 1979, when Harlem was definitely NOT in vogue, when the streets were rife with heroin addicts and the majority of neighborhood businesses were liquor stores, bodegas selling drug paraphernalia, methadone clinics and storefront churches. But the apartments in Graham Court are notorious for their space and beauty. Besides, Quincys fifteen-year-old daughter Tymmie and his twelve-year-old son Brandon were coming to live with us and we needed more space. Begun in 1899, the Graham Court was built by William Waldorf Astor to entice downtown elites to trade in their single-family townhouse for apartment living. Designed by the architectural firm, Clinton and Russell and completed in 1901, it is the mother of the largest apartment building in New York, the Apthorp Apartments at 81st and Broadway, and is often cited as the rival to the famed Dakota. Despite its hugely neglected, deteriorating state in 1979, its elegance and beauty still shone perfectly once you passed through its grilled gates and Palladium entryway into its courtyard. Plus there were fireplaces in the bedrooms! When my friend Monique Clesca, a writer and journalist from Haiti, asked me in the early 80s to let her use our Graham Court apartment to exhibit the tapestries she collected from the mountain women in Haiti, little did I know that I had embarked upon the journey that would eventually lead to a lifelong work producing cultural events and mounting visual arts exhibitions. I was still doing my nine-to-five at The New York Times. Monique thought our apartment a perfect gallery space with its high ceilings, spacious rooms and natural light. Much to my astonishment, we sold out the entire show and had a blast doing it. Lots of champagne, a packed house, artists and writers and art collections! It was the first time I could remember having so much fun! Right then and there it occurred to me: why not do this all the time? So I began to mount art shows at home on the weekends. At first, it was a fabulous relief from what had become the drudgery of corporate life at The Times. I had even persuaded Quincy to organize a poetry reading for The Times staff in an effort to share my newfound world and nurturing community. In 1983, we moved across the hall to a larger, corner apartment in Graham Court, where our youngest child, Porter was born. Those were the days. In 1989, I quit my job at The Times. Miles: The Autobiography, the Definitive Story of Miles Davis that Quincy wrote with Miles, had just been published and The Miles Davis Radio Project, which Quincy narrated and co-produced had been completed. Bill Moyerss Power of the Word feature on Quincy aired on PBS. There were lots and lots of parties and performances throughout that time. Quincy accepted a position at the University of California, San 69

Diego, and we moved to La Jolla. The timing of the invitation to come to California was perfect. At the end of 1990 in the middle of a snowstorm at the end of December we struck out cross-country in our Saab headed for La Jolla by way of St. Louis, MO and Gloster, MS. Drina Krimm, our real estate agent, was an avid art collector and had been instrumental in our finding our new home. We became fast friends. One day at dinner, Drina turned to me and said, I know what Quincy is going to be doing while hes here, but what are YOU going to do? Out of the blue, I blurted out, Im going to open an art gallery. Drina said, Oh, Ive always wanted to have a gallery. Thats been on my dream board. If you do decide to do that, I want to go in with you. Out of that conversation, Porter Randall Gallery was born. We opened on Friday, September 13, 1991. By its second exhibition with Oliver Jackson the Porter Randall Gallery was an established player in the San Diego and Los Angeles scene. We had arrived. In those early years, we exhibited Elizabeth Murray and had the biggest crowd probably of our entire season. People were literally wrapped around the block vying for an Elizabeth Murray autograph. Elizabeth and Bob Holman were dear friends from New York. Bobbie was hustling gigs as the plain white rapper and Elizabeth was exercising her chops with her three-dimensional constructed, graffiti inspired canvases at the Paula Cooper Gallery. The San Diego crowd really took notice after that. Of course, we had a lot of poetry and music as well. Steve Coleman played and Sophia Wong danced on the program with Jayne Cortez. Sherley Anne Williams, Bruce Morrow, Louise Meriwether, David Antin, Jerry Rothenberg, read; Eleanor Antin exhibited. The first West Coast exhibit of contemporary Cuban artists was at Porter Randall. We introduced the work of Jose Bedia, Arturo Cuenca, and Tomas Esson. In the next two years, Cuban art exploded on the American art scene. We introduced the work of Albert Chong, Skunder Boghassian, Grimanesa Amoros, Edouard Duval Carrie and tons and tons of others, including the De la Torre Brothers of Ensenada, Einar and Jamex de la Torre. We showed local greats, Italo Scanga, Ernest Silva, and a slew of the fabulous Bay Area artists. The only thing we didnt do so well was make goo-gobs of money. The gallery was an insatiable beast. The blush of first love faded. Drina being the savvy investor she is read the handwriting on the wall early and decided shed had enough. In September 11, 2001 the entire world changed. Porter was away at college and we were empty nesters now. I longed for the hustle and bustle, dirt and grime and jostling-up-againstpeople of Manhattan. And so we packed our belongings and came back home to Harlem. A lot had changed but one thing had not: cultural programming of the kind we were accustomed to was nowhere to be found. Reassessing where I was and what Id done, the history of Harlem, I decided to establish the Harlem Arts Salon. Events at the Harlem Arts Salon are often compared to the 70

salons back in the day, during the Harlem Renaissance when ALelia Walker set the standard, still unsurpassed, for showcasing the arts in Harlem.ALelia was thedaughter of Sarah Breedlove aka Madame C.J. Walker, the genius businesswoman and entrepreneur who in 1906built an empire selling hair care products to black women. ALelia (pronounced ah-LEEH-ah) hired architect Paul Frankel to combine two Stanford White designed townhouses into one huge mansion at 108-110 West 136 Street near Lenox Avenue. Todays Lenox Avenue is Malcolm X Boulevard. In 1927 ALelia converted the parlor floor into a salon she coined The Dark Tower. It was named after a column written by Countee Cullen, a poet and leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance for the National Urban Leagues Opportunity magazine. In this column, Cullen surveyed the state of African American literature of the era. ALelias mansion is now the site of New York Public Librarys Countee Cullen branch. ALelia Walkers salons are unrivaledto this dayin Harlem, for atmosphere and display. Guests were greeted by a talking parrot as they entered the premises, checked their coats and hats, stepped onto a blue-velvet runner, and proceeded through long French doors into her parlor. There ALelia stood, tall and statuesque, dressed to the nines in the fashion of the day, greeting all, insilver turban and high heels. Her entourage of artists represented the crme de la crme of high society. She entertained European royalty as well as the literary and artistic elites of Harlem: Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Jessie Fauset, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, serving her guests bootleg champagne, bathtub gin, caviar and pigs feet. She invited the likes of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and various other poets, writers, visual artists, musicians, composers, intellectuals. On one of her engraved invitations ALelia announced, Having no talent or gift, but a love and keen appreciation for art, The Dark Tower was my contribution. Like ALelia, I too have developed a keen appreciation for art and community. The Harlem Arts Salon is my vision, my voice, my contribution. I gave Hugh Masekela a book party for his autobiography, Still Grazing. I made home cooked meals and charged an admission. Slowly, but surely, my salons attracted a steady crowd. Today, I have presented the grande dame of American letters, Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison. Although I cannot rival the lavishness of ALelia Walker in her Dark Tower, I again see that young struggling artist now more fully in sync with everything around her.



THREE HOURS BEFORE the plane was due to depart, I rolled my last bag to the front door and went looking for my ride on the other side of the house. The final act could not be performed without an audience. I paused in the doorway and took in the scene. The bedroom was black, a triumph for any set designer contending with the piercing afternoon sun in southern California, and there lay the lead, my grandfather, fully clothed on top of the covers. He held a washcloth over his eyes with one hand, the other pressed firmly against his heart. He appeared to be muttering in Russian. He reserved the native tongue of his ancestors for the most desperate moments of familial strife. I imagined his mother had so done before him, after she spat on ground before fleeing Russia at the turn of the century. He desperately wanted to see it, to reclaim everything that had been taken, but she forbid it. In America, there was opportunity. In Russia, even the soil hated them. Im ready to go, I announced, to which he moaned loudly, rousing the dog from a deep sleep at his side. I instinctively went to the bed and climbed on top to quell the strident barking. The small, white dog rolled on his back, ready to receive. Defeat was a new look for my grandfather. He wore it well, better than I had four years ago, when I lost the battle to move to the East Coast for college, allowed no more than a two hour car ride away. I reached in my purse and felt the keys to the fifth floor walk-up that awaited me in Chinatown. It was as if having a tub in the kitchen was a luxury that drove up the rent, one my entry level editorial assistant salary would barely cover. I would worry about the rest, about how I would eat, later. I would give it little thought this time. I knew what he wanted. I could have sidled up next to him, the man who had raised me under his thumb when no one else could be bothered. I could have whispered all of the things I knew he longed to hear. I would call twice a day. I would come home every six weeks. My roommate was not male. I changed my mind. Instead, I asked if I should call a cab. The washcloth came off with jerk, and a set of beady eyes bore into me. He looked so much younger then. I thought the battles would go on forever, and we would take turns winning. The following summer he would finally visit his ancestral homeland. The lung cancer formed then, he would later say. It was wrong to disobey his mother. 72

That is a very smart dog, he said, back to me, shoehorn in hand. A very smart dog. He bent over to slip his feet in a pair of navy snakeskin shoes long out of style, the same pair he had been ordering from France since his first visit in the 1950s. He stood up and turned around, going through the motions I had watched my entire life. The leather belt slowly looped around, and the heavy gold buckle clipped it shut. He felt his right shirt pocket for his phone. He lifted the money clip bulging with hundred dollar bills off the bedside table and slipped it in front left pocket of his dress pants. That dog is the smartest dog in the world, Miss summa cum laude, he said as he turned to me, ready to deal. My grandmother cautiously entered the room, palms pressed together, fingers interlaced, knuckles white, hands at her heart, as if she was walking and fervently praying at the same time. Alice, he said, never looking in her direction, never breaking eye contact. Youre just in time. Whos smarter, your granddaughter, or your dog? She looked unhappily from between us, her eyes darting back and forth between her only female heir and her beloved Maltese. She did not want to answer, but seemed to be considering it just in case. He sucked in a deep breath and pulled up his pants. His thin lips spread across his face as he lifted the car keys out his pocket, jiggling them in the air between his thumb and pointer finger. The dog. He knows to stay in California.



...Or do you think there is a kind of music, a certain strand that lights up the otherwise blunt wilderness of the body a furious and unaccountable selectivity? Mary Oliver, Music Houseboat-sitting for friends at the Berkeley Marina, in the grey of the new day I am listening to birds flocking around the live-bait dock just across the way, thinking about the wildness of heart that I am alive to here, and the wilderness of heart that I am more used to, more often live in. The wilderness being the place of being alone without even my own, wildness. But the constancy of the water and the pungency of the brinyfog allow me to feel companionable about the motions of my own heart. I am, these days, cracked pretty open, and want not to retreat from myself, but feel the tug of wilderness as haven even as I write this. It is a great comfort to me to see the varieties of boats out my door hereI know this place, ways of navigating this place. I have worked on so many boats that are berthed here that I am not at all surprised to be here early in the morning. I look out my open back door across to the next pier and see the Fish and Game boat, Tuna and I remember Fred, the skipper I worked for, and know that he is dead, and though I no longer actually know either the boat or her current skipper, I feel a lingering familiarity. I imagine that I know something about the boat that is not known to the current skipper, and I think about the ways that I know boats, know my way around them differently than I know my way around houses. I allow myself an engagement with the boats that is about work rather than home. I enter the world of boats with questions of use rather than loss. Another way to say this is that I allow myself to be at home with my work in a way that is never true of my not work. Why is that? What is different? What compels me? What frightens me? What holds and moves me? One of the most obvious differences is that a boat is an overt vehicle, it is made to move, and there is no hidden agenda about that, whereas a house in its very landedness gives the appearance of per74

manence, a permanence that is true for the house if not the home. So I feel at home with the honesty of a boat in a way that I never will with a houseI have simply left too many houses to ever feel one as home. But because I am on a houseboat, I allow myself to sit with the ache of an open rather than a broken heart. I love to feel the opening that this place allows in me. At night as the Sentinel enters the Marina, just as it passes the breakwater, I hear it, and love it, and know that it must have two Jimmy 12-71s as its motive power. I love the harmonics, the unhurried and smooth sounds of those engines. These engines dont have to be loud or speedy, they are so powerful as to just do their work with plenty of effort to spare, and it is the spared effort that I most hear. There are the overtones of the turbos, which contrast with the deep rumble of the pistons and valves, so that there is the sweet suggestion of a steel drum as she glides past leaving almost no wake. These engines have no overtones of hysteria, and they are so comforting to me. They say that the effort is not out of proportion to the capacity, to what is possible. Too much will not be asked, too little will not be given. I hear the mothering of these engines rather than the fathering. I am maybe six or seven, and helping my father build a house. I am to stand on a chair and hold the 5/8 sheetrock to the ceiling with a pushbroom as he nails it in place. I cant do this. Though I am doing this. It is too hard but that is not what I know, I know that I cant do this. Though I am doing this. I am afraid that I will hurt my father if I dont do this. I want to kill my father for making me do this. I cant do this. Though I am doing this. Mom I need help.

I look at my cut hands, both my right and left hands are very cut up these days, and I think about how I know my way around the engine rooms of boats, not ships, but boats (though my dreams are always about ships). I have banged my way around, fumbled and stumbled my way around boat engines for years, often calf deep in warm to hot bilgewater and diesel fuel, the engines either still running or just shut down after hours or days of running, so that the whole engine room is so hot that I can hardly breathe much less think. And early on, I was very conscious of the guys watching every move I made, waiting for me to either need help, physical help, doing my job, or to hurt myself and not be able to just carry on, to suck it up and keep workingthose are real values for working men, and the guys are waiting for me, the slightly effetemy vocabulary my give-awaygirl, to betray either their values or wiles. At the same time, they value me for my difference, for the very effete-ness that they fear, they recognize that I may be able to actually solve a problem that 75

is a devilment to them. It is good that my field is electricity, because it is invisible, and also slightly suspectgreatly suspect, and real men arent expected to either understand or work with itthey are expected to use it and curse it. I dont believe they would have tolerated me doing mechanical work on their boatsmechanics are too visible for men not to be proficient in, or to at least look proficient in. For most of the guys I worked with/for, mechanics was synonymous with what is seen and therefore known. The concept of things not being what they seem was reserved for their relationships to the sea itself, to what they could not take apart, and that most certainly included electricity. Goddammit get her a fuckin hardhat or Ill can your ass. And get those frappin welding cables off the deck. Any more shit from you assholes aboutwhats yer name honey?Kris here, an Ill tell everyone that your dicks just shriveled up and fell off cuz a girl hadta fix what you couldnt. Got it? This is my crane and I wont have this crap. Period. Now get her whatever she asks for and get it quick. I appreciated Curts grasp of the situation, because I was really out of my league working at the Port of Oakland. These guys were working class union members who had no intention of letting a woman into their domain in 1971 for anything other than harassment or sex-preferably both. They were thugly and cloddish as a group, though passably decent as individuals in some cases. A sea-going tug had brought an enormous pile-driving barge down from Seattle to set the deep-water piles for the expansion of the container-ship docking facilities, and Id been called out to fix some electrical problems. I wasnt at all sure of myself personally or professionally, but had no intention of letting on though I had no clue how it might be possible to keep my own counsel until Curt laid down the law. These guys were not only not going to help me, they were actively trying to hurt me until Curt looked down from his operating house high in the rigging and came to my rescue. And while the guys took several visits to actually speak to me, they were more scared of Curt than they were interested in scaring me. Over the next few months, I was called out to the barge many times, and came to appreciate the dexterity of both it and me. Because of the expense of bringing the barge down from Seattle, there were several other agencies that contracted for her services. Immediately after finishing at the Port of Oakland, the crane barge and her two tender barges were towed out to the RichmondSan Rafael Bridge to re-furbish some of the pier pilings there. And because she was then in open water and doing both removal and refitting of pilings, the wire-cable rigging and the hydraulics were changed, which meant that portable generators were put in various spots to run the hydraulics for the new configuration. So I was often three stories up in the rigging on a tiny platform in the wind and weather, pitching with the swells of the Bay, trying to both hold on and be heard over the din of the generators, the crane engine and general banging and clanging of the work itself, long enough to fix whatever it was that was mal-functioning. I give myself an A for effort. And I give Curt an A for attitude. As our relationship aged he told me how much he missed his kids, and how he 76

hoped his daughter could have choices like mineeven if it meant, She didnt do men. Hell, I dont even know you, but I sure as shit wouldnt put up with one a us if I could do what you do, and you can smack me hard as you want if Im outta line. Butcha know, I have a lot of time to think just sitting up here and I may look like a dumbass cowboy, but darlin I think like a sonofabich, and I think everthings just fine long as aint nobody gettin hurt. Hell, I even think thats okay if its what people want. So tell me, you wanna have some fun, or am I rightwed be fightin over the same gal like as not. There was nothing in me ready to be as honest or smart as Curt. I was twenty-two years old and fairly certain that being an out lesbian was at least as dangerous as that barge would have been without Curt, and I must have looked as scared and shocked as I felt because he told me not to worry, Youre good people and thats all that really matters. And so it was. I thank Curt to this day for his generosity of heart and spirit, for letting me grow into a situation that could have totally swamped me. I am seven years old and it is summer. We are visiting my grandparents, my mothers parents in Portland, Oregon. We do this every summer that we dont live in Portland, which is often. My dad and I have been to Mr. Mankies barber shop and I have talked him into a little boys haircut and a tube of Brylcremea little dabl do you. The first wave of shock has passed through my grandmother and mother, and I am playing outside with the same kids I have been playing with for days. Only now they dont believe Im a girl, and it has turned ugly. I am scared because they are really taunting me, and I want to leave but they have surrounded me and they lunge for me and pants methey take my pants off to prove whether I am a boy or a girl. Mom, I need help.

Still, the odds fall sweet in favor to an open heart... Ferron Sitting in the rain remembering how my heart opened to a woman for the first time as a lover, and how both exposed and protected I felt. I felt that everyone must be able to see right through me, as if my very bones were backlit, and I felt in my openess, in my exposure, was my greatest strength. That remains true, and how I know it as love. I just crack open.


If our basic sense of identity is of our gendered self, and we recognize that self in relation to the larger culture, and we call that recognition and sense of identity home, then I have, again, spent a good deal of my life homeless. I have not known how I was a girl, certainly it was not by my recognizably feminine desires or attitudes, and I have not known how I was a woman if wanting a man was primary to womaness. These are both simplifications, but it is true that I have always been outside the neat cultural guidelines and expectations. Because of all the moving in my childhood and adolescence, I felt that I was just missing the instructions, that if wed only arrive on time or stay longer, Id get it. Related to this is something about seeing the works of places and things that seems revealing, inviting, as if I am seeing the emotional, not just the structural, truth of things, the lineaments of desire as Durrell put it. As if seeing the tendons of place will hold me there. I elide showing and revealing, so that I have the sense of the living structure revealing its innards to me. I feel this. Because I have helped build houses, I know their resistance to finish work. It is as if the structural elements want to be seen for their ability to hold everything still, to be appreciated for their sturdiness of purpose. When I see how wood joints are made, I imagine that there is a similar bond possible between people, and I remember to hold it as at least possible, if not obvious. I imagine that if I can just understand those joints, then I will understand how to be a bonded person, that I will be recognizable as a girl or a woman or a human being, or... fill in the blank. When I see the tubular frame of a racecar and know that some of the tubes are used to duct the water and oil, the life-fluids of the car, I believe that I know without confusion what makes that car able to function as itself, as its integrated and unique self. Whether this is literally true isnt nearly as important as the truth I imagine. Also true is that I confuse showing blood with revealing. To myself as well as others. I noticed earlier that my hands are very cut up at the moment, and in fact, they find it painful to type, to stick to this. I recognize this use of the physical to contain the emotional, the intimate mind-ful. So my head becomes one big thought balloon waiting for the nearest needle. I wonder how much of my own liking for the industrial arts and the architecture of exposure also has to do with being an incubator babywas my very mechanical/medical environment so early my formative notion of home, and did it somehow couple with the watery and fluid womb, so that in me a houseboatperhaps made of metalbecame my preferred, my ideal, home? I think so. I have not gone back to look at an incubator, but I have retained a sense of compact personal space and expression that is not at odds with the little box I started in. This particular boat is essentially a single trailer on top of a flat hull, one rectangular space ten feet wide and thirty-five feet long, with low ceilings and identical windows side-to-side and front and aft. So it is an enclosure that is possibly scaled for my body, and it provides a view to the outside world as I rock quietly at the dock. It is the first place that Ive been able to bear the beating of my own heart. I can finally be aware of my palpitat78

ing heart without feeling that I was literally hearing my own death rather than life. I feel at home for the moment. And last night I dreamt about windings, 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2500 starter field windings to be exact. The dream consisted of seeing the windings in relation to one another, in place. It is not that the specific solution to a current problem at work showed itself, but the necessity of place itself was what was important. I know that the solution is right there, there where those windings live, in their housing. In the dream for the first time in all these years of working with these things the language of place became so clear. So I will work with that sense, try to be at home with where those windings live. At any rate, my dream was like a cave drawing of me at my workbench loving the windings and my tactile relationship with them. There is definitely something to Whitmans singing the body electric. Something Tactile Between thumb and forefinger a brittle-flanked stalk of hay. Each segment length defined, a groove my thumbnail rode to the rock-salt hard knuckle.


WATERBORNE after The Shield

For Mamie Howell and Clifford Jones Ma was born pretty but pretty with black son was sick from the water nurse was too blond to see sick said son was too black to be sick too black to be bathed in fresh water ma was sick to carry her son so pretty with black into town too pretty for fever for prayer to cover her son was still water in Georgia. 80 81
2012, CERAMIC, 35 x 15 x 19


there is no door that cant be opened

2012, CERAMIC, 20 x 10 x 5

2009, CERAMIC, 16 x 18 x 8




PLUM COTTON after Body Witness

1. My father buys me an OREGON t-shirt from the shallow kiosk at the airport Put this on You live here now his voice flattens against the glare of our blond clerk while his palm upturned waiting for change she slides his dollars across the counter her lips tighten into a Mason-Dixon line we didnt know existed west of the Mississippi


2009, CERAMIC, 16 x 18 x 8



2. Go ahead he booms turns away from the clerk and the frown of the passersby their white faces twisting to see the only black family on Concourse A he grips the shirt as if to tear that cotton skin at arms length each shoulder in hand the collar tense stretches OREGON against my chest I am a black paper doll splindly arms stiff behind this cotton cutout. 86

3. You live here now he says my skin in contrast to all white children in the airport in contrast to this plum shirt where three irises have flowered framing an italicized OREGON in purple script this purple cotton feels like a monochromatic world.


4. Put this on his hand shakes I pull this thin cotton shirt over the shirt I have flown in for 6 hours away from the ruddy palms of drying oak and maple leaves blown across our old yard like Detroit cousins tumbling outside into crisp patty cake games Octobers at home that felt playful. * No. 3 comes from out of nowhere. No reason or catalyst or grounds. It runs like magic. It feeds like magic. It booms like magic. But like all magic, it is more often than not, simply an advanced technology. Something we do not yet understand. Something we try to harness and explode. Something we want to sell and keep. Something we try to make-up and lose and find again. Love Potion No. 3 is made up of musks and compounds. Its made up of time and location. Its all the particulars in one tight gulp that makes people say Love. * * Love Potion No. 2 says anything can happen with enough trust and diligence. No. 2 speaks its own language and communicates with everything for us. It believes in solutions. It believes in compromise. It believes in forgiveness. No. 2 believes in these things because it only sees in pairs and two things can always withstand so much more than crowds. It can work it out. No. 2 doesnt know its made up of so much more. It doesnt sense a larger picture. It believes in something no one wants to admit: in the Other, it sees only itself. No. 2 is made up of unbreakable mirrors. One could pinball throughout it, none the wiser. LOVE POTION NO. 1 is that of a friendship. It starts with kindness. It doesnt move from kindness. Love Potion No. 1 is kindness. It needs nothing more. And theres plenty of it.





Potion No. 4 is made up of earths and gasses. It is a hearty breed of foundation. It makes space to land on. Calls its room footholds and handrails and seatbelts before they are anything elsebefore they are ridges in the canyon wall or iron rods bolted to cold hallways or straps of polyester and nylon weaved through the world. No. 4 doesnt make anything else before the footholds, handrails and seatbelts. Love Potion No. 4 has got your back. It is your back. You wear it as you take it. You lean and lay on it. You make it all the things behind you so that unlike the shelled people of the world you dont need to sit in the corner of all coffee shops or restaurants or have a seat where you can watch the door. Just in case. * Love Potion No. 5 is not less than No. 6 or more than No. 4. Love Potion No. 5 just is. It is made up of would-have-beens. It funnels itself back into the past and folds itself into a seed of a moment. It grows in the Almost World and builds a new life and a new way. New touches and new songs. Only new to the Now though. To the Almost World, it is always what was. The moment one takes Love Potion No. 5 they remember the dreams of the past and can feel the distance between the Now and the Almost World in the lining of the body. In the moment of tissues conversing and idling. Love Potion No. 5 is the memory of an Almost World living like an imprint on the Now. No. 5 whispers the world into confusions and likes it that way. * No. 6 pretends there are such things as connections. It sometimes looks like No. 9, but it is not. It hangs on moments like wind spinners or thaumatropes, twirling realities into one another. It pretends that everything touches and lives in each other and that there are cosmic alliances that grind down reason. No. 6 wears No. 9 often. Tries it on for size and giggles at any broken seam. It acts like a past life. Like a dream. Like dj vu. Like a prophecy. To thrive and call itself love, No. 6 preys on one thing only. It hunts it. Finds it. Whittles it. It feeds on consent. * Love No. 7 comes from the grave. It whistles. It speaks of spans of time. It makes three months mean something. It makes a year mean something. It says things end and the now fills with itself like a boil. It likes 90

to mark things. When you think not much time has passed or that years shouldnt mean much, No. 7 drops a notch close to your ear and whistles. The nothing that was there before becomes a wind and in that wind there is a sensation and in that sensation is another and another, until it feels like time. You remember that you like time. You remember that it means something. And things like love become important again because they movethey speak like time. No. 7 wins again. * No. 8 is a striking thing because it comes before No. 9. It knows it needs that extra umph. It does that thing. You know that thing? It does that thing. You smile and you want to explain it to someone else, but you cant because it is only a particular facial expression or type of leaning or movement of the ankle, but to you it is that thing. No. 8 wont let you forget it. How could you? You hope there are No. 8s of your own out there to othersthat you do that thing for othersbut perhaps there is not and that makes you want to stop and find the No. 8 of your lover. To hold it and bring it close. To breathe the same air. You and it. No. 8 can survive like that. It is a parasite and only looks that way when you can push it down to the ground and squash it. * Love Potion No. 9 is why you thought you loved me. Why you thought you didnt need me to answer. Didnt need it confirmed before you No. 9 got in your veins. It found the small droplets of all the other synthetics and they swarmed in you. You said you didnt know what you were doing. You said you dont remember. Love Potion No. 9 is made up of voices that belittled you. They all said you were small and you were small and this meant you would puff up to take more space. They ignored you and set you aside and you threw yourself into a larger version of you made up of potions. It is made up of chemicals that coax you. Liquids of the brain and of your dreams and of your glands and from the bottles that ignited and were fueled by your wounds. It is made up of television commercials and short skirts that confirm it for you. Of alpha females that are just fine without you and the alpha men that live in their line of vision. It is all the things that flatten animals on roads and picks at scabs. Love Potion No. 9 is what you will call ityou wont call it love. Love cant exist there anymoreyoull say you were bewitched, intoxicated, moonstruck or cracked, but not the thing it really is. Whatever it was, you will say it was not you. You would never do that.





HERES THE HOTEL. Its old and storied, and I have a room high up. The rain roars against the glass and the daylight inside is the tannic yellow of a storm which has no plan to let up today or tonight. My body waits, waits. I have bathed, dried carefully, tucked the long towel around me. People move about in the hallway. Every cell in me strains. Its past three. Im wet, having thought of his voice, the rough hunger. The walls sigh with the elevator, then theres the dulled bell and the carpeted stride. I open the door. He barrels in, grabs around my waist. There is nothing else to do. He reaches into my hair and pulls back my head, making the towel drop. Its only steps to the bed. Before anything, we are already on it, fierce and adamant about fucking each other. He pushes the whole of me up until my head reaches the wall as he pounds his face into me and Im aching, bathed in him, as if weve been fucking for hours. His drive is all I need to come over and over. His drive to take me, drink me, meet me is Heres the hotel, and my room is high up. Ive been waiting, nothing but waiting. When he comes in we dont talk. We argue if we talk, compete. I dont know why this is. We bring something out in each other. This took planning, which started out as a thrill and now feels like a tired problem. We know we shouldnt meet, which is a big part of why we do, and its what makes us cranky with each other, cranky that the ineffable high of our chemistry must be shut down over and over. We battle ourselves. Right there beside the bed, waiting on the rug, over the towel racks in the bathroom, in the wet seam of the window, is the hour well have to stop, its engine running until we do.

HIS HAND SLIPPED into my shirt, and, as if at a distance, I watched. That distance, I thought, is mature perspective, after I have waited and waited for this. Indeed, he was an adult, twice my age, intent on a 16-year-old girl. Separate from the action, and my breast still claimed under his palm, I thought, Im in it, and though the words were few and vague, I believed them to mean the universe. No one could tell, but I had been welcomed to the grown world. At 19 I moved into my first apartment. That evening I drove to the store with my list bread, eggs, toilet paper. The aisles seemed big, the ceiling too bright, as I walked around, confounded by choices I might make. I stopped at the Pop-Tarts. I can buy that, I realized with sudden exhilaration, followed immediately by unease. What I wanted could be effected by the money in my hand. No one could tell me no. No one would say to me, as my mother always had, that Pop-Tarts were poison. My dearest friend held my hand as we watched my father die. Youll be an orphan, she said, gentle. I hadnt thought of it, but it was true. In a few minutes or hours or the next day, Id still be 44 but no ones daughter. I dont want this, I thought. I want to go back. What will I do, what will I do? but I would have to puzzle that out on my own. There was no one to tell me.




YEARS LATERthough everyone says he remembers the same I smell the wheels of the Parisian metro and am brought back. To the metro in question and then to the boat gliding down the Seine. There is the wall glinting with mica, there the banks mossy green. My mothers hair is black and my babysitters is auburn, and one is wearing white and one is wearing azure, and both stand close and both are laughing and no one is missing. No one has disappeared, No one has gone to work. No one has looked at me in the lobby of the Htel Louisiane on the rue Jacob, hugged me fiercely, fumbled with a camera, and then vanished. My mother and I have not ridden up in the old elevator, the one with the wrought iron doors. My mother and my babysitter are singing. They are scented with lemon and sandalwood and lily of the valley. Perhaps we will all hold hands while running up the ramp that leads from the boats deck to the shore. Do I know what happened that day, that day on the bateaumouche? Perhaps then there were already rumors. I have done well to ignore them. We should never have been anything but the best of friends. Of course all this was before. So. I have said that we acquired a stranger. That we were picnicking together. In 2007 I am cell-zygote-tortoise-porpoise-girl. At thirty-six. I am going to visit my father today, I hear, and say, and I am seven years old, and jubilant. I am going to visit my father. I have been snuck somewhere; I am wearing ribbed woolen tights: I am smelling the camphor and chestnut that for me are Manhattan; I am going to visit my father. Joy floods back. Thus: all parts of my brain are awash in color and music. Thus: I can again smell mown grass, rose and apricot. Thus: my room in a shared apartment on East Thirteenth Street vanishes and what takes its place is life. I have read of a Romanian physicist resident in Paris. For him, the presence of the sacred is the presence of the irreducibly real. Dreams press in: in one, I am swimming with my father, sea creatures surround us and exult, I will never be called it again. So I feel at the time of the dream. So. We were sitting on a spread linen sheet. We were eating plums. Soon we would share bread as well, from my mothers favorite place on rue St. Jacques, and sweet butter, and melon carved from a green-and-cream striped rind. And smelling of gardenias and talc, and of my great-grandmothers four-poster bed. (Its four ebony posts are painted with peonies and chrysanthemums and stargazers. What do I keep? 94

After her death I mean. A wooden clock or two, silk roses in a straw-covered chianti bottle, necklaces of cut-glass beads. Clear and purple. And the photos sent by my mother to her own grandmother, kept in a postcard-sized case the front of which is decorated with a reproduction of a detail by Renoir. Le Moulin de la Galette. Mandelbrot, chocolate-covered espresso beans, the moistest sponge cake. The pearls and the money are somewhere else. Perhaps I am the happier for it though these days it is hard to tell.) Light bathed us then. Light bathed the wide gold sky. The wall was made of pink granite, shot through with grays, the mica sparkled, juice dripped down our hands. I was not lost. I did not need to wait patiently, to be remembered, to be collected like a sack full of groceries, or like a burdensome animal tough to liven up. When the bateaux-mouches plied the river during the second world war, they and their crews were working against the German occupation; bothering; alighting. Gadflies. When we rode down the Seine that day in 1973 we were settling in. We laughed and laughed. Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross, said Anne. She had been my au pair in New York and had come to help. My mothers milk-white arms. One day in 2006 I spoke with my mother and with my father on the telephone. Both were well then. We were all well then. Each mentioned Napoleon, though for different reasons. Such speaking had not happened, before that, for thirty-five years. On the instant I existed againthere was my body, my self, and then the world made whole. I have only instances, shards to some. There their voices. I do not claim to be on speaking terms now. Of course all this was before. Away from the city my mothers cares left her. She leaned over the basket and took wild strawberries from it, and chocolate wrapped in shining lavender foil. She had unpinned her hair. The songs we sang, evenings in the fifth arrondissement, were different from those my au pair knew; Good-night Irene, the Midnight Special. Later we did play duets on the recorder togetherthats a wooden flute, for those born in this centuryshe on alto and I on soprano. Simple Gifts, Greensleeves, those bits of Beethoven. Some will say that that didnt happen. Some will deny that there are those of us who intend to carry on. It is not that Rome is burning, or that London is. Its that the hordes believe their own protestations. Believe that their pretenses will excuse their actions. Put another way, Hannah Greens husbands work has languished in my grandparents home while I myself have gone hungry. Put another way, Lampmans ex taught me English riddles while my father wandered the souk in Istanbul, seeing the tea-boys carrying cups in great swaying contraptions. That I do not put it this way is what I proffer to literaturethat this is no longer my story, what I proffer to life. Wed walked up through dark grass and nettles. Wed settled on a rooted and knobbed expanse. We ate and talked. Youre all right then, Anne said. My mother said that she was. The stranger asked my mother how long she was planning to stay 95

in Paris and she said that she did not know. Until my daughter grows up, she said. She said, I have work. It is not so bad. Is she in school? He asked. He turned to me without waiting for an answer. Are you in school? He said. My mother said, she is only two years old. Je nai que deux ans, I said. As for he himself, he preferred the oldest school in the Marais. His daughters were studying there and came home alive, he said. He said that he did not know another way of expressing it, but that certainly he himself and his wife had not experienced anything similar. Place du figuier, he said. Youve seen the roofs. There is a gate. The what? Said Anne. Roofs. He had refused every offer of food but for some chocolate and now he crumpled the wrapping into the shape of a small fledgling, a sparrow, probably, or a plover. Ivry-sur-Seine. Some claim as their first memories part of a nursery or a childhood bed painted white and draped in muslin or wrapped in cotton batting; some claim a part of a house, a turned lions paw, gilded, or a door knocker shaped like a human fist. (Arles, near the old Romanesque church, not far from the Htel de Ville.) Some claim a beloved or loathed voice. I see a mottled pink granite wall, I know that I am on a boat traveling down the Seine, I see the silvermineral flecks in the wall. I am neither here nor there. There is a little leaf linden tree in the courtyard of Fort Jay on Governors Island. Am I allowed to let my partner know that the same is tilleuil, lime blossom, that the same turned the flat stage set of M. Prousts memories into a living breathing world, a round one, full of people? It seems that I, on the sixth of August 2011, am not. And yet he is loving these very pages. And yet he returns, always, to his own fears. I introduce him to confit de canard and to verveine and to the Place des Vosges(everything, except that which he already knew)for which I am called a fraud, a liar, and the other me. Happily there is no such person. Also to kir, the Luxembourg gardens, Mariage Frres, the Rodin museum, the arcades, palmiers, clairs. I will give him the galerie Vivienne. The petit palais. Years later I am known as the little girl in the pink beretit seems that I still have friends in the city, that my mother and I are remembered, that an Asian-French man entering the courtyard of his building off the Boulevard Saint Michel says that the abuse must stop. Pas mal de mmoire. Pas mal dobservo. Years later children cluster in the front yard of their day care, under sprinklers, in bikini bottoms and kerchiefed heads, and are alight with pleasure, off the Boulevard Brune. Les touts petits. I am eating chocolates in the Anne Frank garden; I try to eat around the almonds and pistachios; the garden is oddly unfinished, and bare trellises cover the surrounding buildings walls. We scrambled up the ramp. We were going on a picnic. I have 96

asked to be allowed to wear my mothers perfume and have been told that little girls do not wear perfume. I clung to my mothers legs, to be closer to lemon, skin, herself. Curiouser and curiouser said Anne. They did not compete over me but sometimes, if one or the other had been remiss in any way, according to the other, there would come a comment. (Anne had daubed a tiny bit of her own perfume behind my ears, with the tip of the glass stopper, the scent was muguet, and I was prepared for the first of May, even though it was now July.) She chose this city because she had been happier in it than in any other. She had known it better than her own. In it her soul returned, I believe, and we began to build our new life. I do not know what she said when I asked about my fathers whereabouts. I do not know if I asked or if, having been held against her weeping chest for hours, for months, I knew better and kept my grief to myself. (I had been plump and now was thin, I had had black hair and now had strawberry blond, I had been American and now was French, and to this day, no matter how many parks and gardens I visit, the Luxembourgat first sight, from every gateis home and a resoldering, is my mothers troubles soothed, is her soul returned, is herself not possessed by another or by any wine or any drug, is life continuing under the chestnut trees, by the pond, near the great urns, before the puppet theater and the palace, near the Odeon, near the surgeons and anatomists shops, not far from Mont Ste Genevive and our apartment at 20, rue Henri Barbusse. We were eating reine Claude plums. The stranger asked more questions about my mothers plans. She said she understood his delight in his daughters schooling: she said she believed in that quickening. What about your little girl? He asked. He suggested, without waiting for an answer, that I accompany his youngest one day. She will be ravished, he said. My motherthendrew backshe did not like the use of such a term to refer to me. Renoir must have worked here once. The river lies greenblack, atlantic, and then jade. A row of dinghies, their painters submerged and slack, is lifted by the wake of every passing pleasure boat, and then stills once more. On the terrace of the restaurant frequented by daytrippers, couples linger over their noisettes and calvas; their sons and daughters have finished every drop of their Perrier-menthes and their lemonades; a Russian wolfhound lies and eyes the water longingly, head on folded paws; in the kitchen the Spanish line-chefs are scraping down the boardsone will play a few bars on the guitar later and another will not be able to stand it; the city, though not far away, seems to many like a forgotten daydream or wish, and the water is whispering today today today. We would have been in a different painting: The English Nanny. The American Mother and Daughter. Or in none: my au pairs red hair fell down her back to her knees; my mothers French was perfect, her English misunderstood; passersby stopped her on the street to comment on my beauty. One day I began to cough and did not stop. There is a linen sheet, scented with heliotrope laundry water, spread upon the 97

sandy ground. Annes dress is short and the collars made of macramd scallops; her discarded sandals hold down two corners of the sheet. Shes what her Scots grandmother would call a word I cannot pronouncewell, she was always gathering cresses, Anne says, and I preferred to climb trees, I was fast, I tucked eggs into my apron and got down without a single one cracking. She waves to the policemen and to the pompiers in their snub-nosed boats. She holds a handful of parsley in one narrow hand. Elle ne mange que les herbes. I repeat the sentence, overheard. Parsley, plum, parsley. We do not claim to understand. The ground stone of an avocado, letting off sulfurous fumes into the kitchen. Shes game for anything, she says, except for cooked foods. Histadine, she says. You know. The stranger seems interested in her background and asks her questions about it. When she compliments him on his knowledge of Scotland and of England he claims never to have left France; I am meaning to, he says. We are insular. We are tootoo Everyone comes to you, says my mother. The patrons of the restaurant are leaving en famille. A brother and sister, heads gleaming, turn to observe us. They are dressed up for the occasion in their Sunday best. I wonder why I am not dressed so, where are my good shoes and my good dresses, where is my dress bought at Bergdorfs. We are having an informal picnic, my mother says. You are perfect. You are lovely. The other children are leavingthey will have had their macarons and rose clairs while I was holding my mothers arm, while I was saying puis-javoir du citron press, sil te plat. Green acorns all around the ground. The stranger wears slacks and a white shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons, and shoes made for walking on the decks of yachts and sailboats. He remains seated on the sheet even as the women allow themselves to stretch their legs. They wiggle their bare toes. They are very young, twenty-six and twenty-three, though they do not feel it. The man lights a cigarette: I duck behind my babysitter, having been told that I must avoid smoke. My scar. The stranger does not comment upon it. For years no one does. It is only after I return to New York, after I have been there for many years, that people leer and poke; they have no manners, they are beasts, such a thing would never have happened. Of course all that was before. My daughters are named Solange and Beatrice, the stranger says. Changeling, Anne calls me. The restaurants terrace overlooks the river; boats moor nearby; we have chosen a spot several yards away and, on our sheet, surrounded by grasses, unprotected by a large oak, we look like this: a well-dressed man with a high forehead, whose posture suggests unease at finding himself seated on the ground, drinks from a bottle of Perrier, having flicked the cap to the side. Two women lean back on their hands; both are in mini-dresses; one is fair and one dark; one sits on the glowing ends of her hair and the other keeps up a steady conversation in a singing voice, questioning, answering, giggling. I am curly-headed; I am in a 98

pink cotton skirt and a white shirt, the softest one I own, andto avoid smoke, although the man has stubbed out his cigaretteI gather acorns, choosing those without blemishes and with intact caps, piling as many as I can into a cupped palm. My mother is also remembered by the city in question and is mourned. I do not know how to broach this topic, or what her wishes are. To remain mad, perhaps; perhaps to begin to come back to herself. I do not know when her voice will be what it was, or her language. With my adoptive father, she now speaks a strangely inverted English. I do not own a glossary. I do not wish to. Evil presses inthey are roaming the subway tunnels under Manhattan, some say. Some say there is nothing to be done. For many days, many years, I woke up, ate breakfast, went to school and later came home. My brother and I ate wheat toast with honey, or cold or warm cereals; we heard crickets in the quiet evenings; our respective houses had many rooms, books, records. During Christmas vacations we traveled to New York with our parents: with everyone we walked along Fifth Avenue, admiring the decorated windows of the department stores, seeing trees boughs twined with golden and silver and ice blue lights; we received chocolates in netted sacs as Hanukkah gifts; we sucked on candy canes, along with our classmates; our mouths came away minted and pinked. We played word games with our relatives and with our cousins ran up and down the carpeted and then bare stairs of our grandparents home. In one game one could not touch the floor and we leapt from dresser to dresser, ottoman to chair, in what had been our great-uncles room in his parents apartment. It is snowing and we are walking through Cedar Hill. It is snowing and I am in a boiled wool coat, boots. I see a man with blue eyes alight and ask if he is my father, for which question I am shunnedthere is your father, my grandmother says, urging me to catch up to my stepfather, who is striding ahead angrily, whose temper we all fear though we can barely imagine the root of its cause.













110 111



Still remembering some Farsi, I was able to communicate in a rudimentary way with the locals in Dari a closely related language. The generous hospitality of the Afghan people left a deep and lasting impression on me. The way they naturally share their last teabag or food with a stranger, however poor they might be, was quite powerful. The hope is that organizations like Skateistan succeed in creating social movements, that will help bring equality to the entire Afghan society. The city of Kabul, originally designed for less than one million people to live there, is now home to over 5 million residents. Most of these people have fledrural areas of the country. They are displaced by war and live in illegal housing, without running water, power or sewage systems. The poverty level is stunning and it is obvious why kids have to start working at a very young age to help with the familys survival. I quickly developed a resounding respect for how individual Afghanis defy their fates, and how strongly they adhere to core values, as a society. Since everybody is equal on a skateboard, it was easy to see how efficient those boards worked as a tool to overcome differences between genders, social backgrounds and tribal lineage amongst children. I realized that change does need to come from within a society and cannot be brought from outside. And what better way could there be to achieve social changes than to start with the children of a country? I am very proud that we achieved our goal to give audiences a real look at todays Afghanistan. Its a vantage point that differs substantially from most Western media coverage. Skateistan Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul can be downloaded or streamed at iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.

My husband and I were first introduced to Skateistan by Kai Sehr, a director friend of ours. Kai came excitedly into our production office one morning to show us an article in a German magazine. It told the story of a couple of Australian aid workers who had come to Kabul with their beloved skateboards, devices that hadnt ever been seen before in Afghanistan. Looking for skate spots in the city, where half of the population are children under the age of 16, they quickly realized the magnetic power those skateboards held for local Afghani kids. Once the two skaters started regular skate sessions in an old, abandoned Russian fountain, the huddle of kids waiting for them to show up in the afternoons grew rapidly every day. Everybody wanted to skate and soon the idea was born to start a regular skateboard school. They called it Skateistan. We were fascinated by the concept: to break down gender-socioeconomic-and tribal barriers among the youth of a desperate, war-torn country with the help of a board and four wheels. My husband and I met with Oliver Percovich, one of Skateistans founders and the director of the organization, when Oliver visited Germany for a fundraiser. We secured the exclusive rights to shoot a documentary in Afghanistan, that would chronicle Skateistans ambitious undertaking: to build an indoor skate park in Kabul as the home for the organization. I was the editor of this film and it led to my travel to Kabul with the crew, on one of that groups multiple trips into Afghanistan. My extended visit to Kabul catapulted me back to childhood experiences, growing up in Tehran, Iran, over 25 years ago. At first, the experience of living in a closed Muslim society again, with a constant, overbearing, military presence brought back fears and insecurities, born of my time as a young girl in Tehran during the revolution. At the same time, it was fascinating and puzzling; I quickly fell in love with the Afghan people, especially the children. I cherished their joy over the simple pleasures the skateboards brought them. I admired the street kids ability to be joyful and happy in their dire world, and despite their constant fight for survival. 112


Ollie and Fazila: Oliver Percovich, founder of Skateistan, giving Fazila her first Skateboard Lessons in an old, abondaned Russian water fountain. Fazila has been sticking to skateboarding since. She gave up begging on the streets, has been working hard on becoming one of the best girls instructors at the park and she is going back to school. Prior to her involvement with Skateistan, Fazila had abandoned school in order to earn money for her family. Last year she traveled to Italy to represent Skateistan at a youth leadership event. (April 2009, Canon 5D)

(TOP) Kenny and the tank: Kenny Reed,US skaterboarder, was one of the first pros to ever visit Afghanistan, here hes skating an old abandoned Tank on the Bibi Maru hill. (April 2009, Canon 5D) (BOTTOM): Mecroyan Fountain with the pros: Louisa Menke, a Dutch pro skateboarder, bonding with the girls at the fountain. As Louisa states in the Film, none of these girls ever met anyone traveling the world and competing in sports, as she does. (July 2009, Sony EX3)



(TOP) Most of the street kids in Kabul start their first skate lesson with ubiquitous plastic sandalsor even barefootsomething that is not imaginable for a western skater. (August 2009, Leica Lux 3)

Shyness on skateboard: One of three young Kabul sisters who typically works during the day, gives skateboarding a try. Moments of her ups and downs during her first skateboarding day were captured in the film. (August 2009, Leica Lux 3)

(BOTTOM) Teaching little brother: What makes skateboarding such a great learning tool is the fact kids are able to put aside all barriers set by society and start to interact without prejudice. Regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic background or tribal heritage. (August 2009, Leica Lux 3)



Rene and Nadia on their first classic Kabul Friday on the outskirts of Kabul. Friday is the day off in Afghanistan and here the film makers take the opportunity to enjoy sun and Kebabs at a nearby lake site, along with the Skateistanies.

Going for it: Skateboarding brings a great deal of self confidence to the kids, especially for the girls. (Top: April 2009, Canon 5D; Bottom: August 2009, Sony EX3)



+ splashing children take cover from bullies



peer at that stable fear, an erect relief to butt heads gainst backsides. Move lil one, moon. *
You stuttered like a kaleidoscope / cause you knew too many words.

See, for me the public made it easier. In the beginning, I defined that public space as an area to do things that you wouldnt do at home.

* have you ever tried to kiss the river? flung your arms round it taking to take it all down the throat flowing pour in and thrust drown sip on algae + regrow duck feet. pucker up deer a flight of holes + flailling limbs. delights in the mount come crashing down. the whole sky crushes fowl and faggot.

* Cypress trees dug their roots down into Comanchera, living for a time the drought drug them out into this open

Instruction: Lick the dry, fissured bark, tongue the stringy creases the crotch of two trunks, nancy, nancy, your humid slickness tricks the tree to survive. *

john said he want to jump in come in your heart from that far aint no sin, so hot so take off your skin, taint no shame, to prance all muscle, sinew + face

Pedro Vial came to San Antonio in the fall of 1784 after living for a time among the Taovaya Indians. In the company of Francisco Xavier Chaves, Vial spent the summer months of 1785 within Comanchera.

we are un-used unused to living like even minnows 120

* 121

By this Pedernales, connected so soon, weve alloyed open and feared in the sun. Brains collude to prostrate you before


flint chert mar ly far curve of spine mesh in to stick lime. Si lex pe der nal. All these words come for us. This cave of calce ite. We to be come cal yx,


offlay your sediment on us

Note: Language in italics from, respectively: Steve Rodgers, the Magnetic Fields and the Handbook of Texas Online.

I melted in that pewmelted right down to almost nothing, and it felt like the only thing left of me was that hard to hold truth Id been denying. He did not want us. That morning, Id wanted to just roll over and snuggle a little more deeply into my dream but my aunt AC started tapping on my door as soon as the sun peeked in. Rise and Shine, she chirped, like she did most every morning of my life, and the nauseatingly thick smell of bacon pushed me out of bed. When I walked into church later that morning, Thad was up in the choir loft. His long-fingered hand swiped his forehead as his eyes darted over the congregation, and I hoped he was searching for me. Mrs. Jennings pounded the keys of the scuffed upright piano at the front of the church and Mr. Jones banged out the rhythm on his tambourine as the choir leapt into another hymn, and Thads eyes slid upward as if hed find an answer there, as if God would whisper one in his ear while he sang and tell him that what he wanted me to do was alright. His eyes found me and held me. His voice reached out to me, and I melted right there in that pew. When his eyes touched me like that, I knew he was thinking about our baby and how he didnt want her, thinking of ways to convince me to get rid of her. I knew it was a her even though I couldnta been more than six weeks along. Pregnant was not a part of my plan, but I would not do what Thad wanted. I couldnt. He was so nice at first and Id wondered why he was sniffing after me, and AC told me, He jus doin what men do. They always searchin for something new to taste on and for Mr. Thad Baker, you is a new thing. AC thinks all men is out ta get somethin for nothin, but I didnt think he was like that, I mean he was the preachers son. Thad Baker was smart, and funny, and cute, and popular, and he was going to Morehouse in the fall. Thats why he wanted me to get rid of her; said he couldnt have no baby tying him to Taylorand, when he said it, I knew he meant me too. It was like up until then hed been wearing a mask that hid his selfishness. I should have known though, because he left a trail of clues. Thad had put me in a box and only took me out when he wanted a sip of me, and in that year we was together, he revealed himself to me in small ways like how he made sure his back was covered after we finished but never pulled the blankets up to warm me, and I ignored them. 123


My first time with Thad wasnt that great, and the second and third times wasnt much better. It was like we were two puzzle pieces trying to fit in the wrong place, like we was pposed to go together but wasnt quite a match. But the fourth time, the fourth time was perfect. We was gettin off work and hed asked me if I wanted to share a piece of Miss Maddies red velvet cake, the special on Thursdays. No one can turn down Miss Maddies cake, and before we left for the movie, he sliced a thick piece and put it in front a me on the counter. Hed turned off the lights and we sat there eatin and talkin bout the days customers and their tips, or lack of them, as the Pine-Soly smell of the freshly mopped floor rose up around us. Thad had his daddys car that night because hed lied and told him he was going out with some of the fellas from the baseball team. Really though, we was goin to watch the drive-in movie. Out in Old Man Tuckers field, they was a flat roofed storage building that we colored kidsd climb up on to watch the pictures dance across the screen. They was huge and flickered in the night sky, but we couldnt hear them so we brought out our transistor radios, and listened to WBJZ and they Saturday Night Slow Drag watching them movies like they was the silent kind old folks talked about. Only colored kids went out there cause they didnt let us in the drive-in. Truth is though, we aint really go out there to watch the movies, usually, before whatever was playin was halfway over, most of was back in our cars makin out. That night, Thad and I watched the first half of the Wizard of Oz, which is my favorite movie because its one of the few AC took me to as a kid, and I loved that all Dorothy wanted was to get home. As she skipped down the yellow brick road, Thad asked me if I was chilly and wanted to go back to the car. I smiled at him and nodded my head even though it was warm for May, and we both knew we was gonna end up in the back seat. Once we got to the car, things happened fast. Thad put his arm around me and started whisperin the words to You Really Gotta Hold On Me as Smokey sang in the background. My head hung back on his arm, which was draped across the top of the seat, and I could see the reflection of the dimly lit round dashboard clock in the back windowa little yellow moon with numbers. He eased his hand down to my titty and my nipples grew hard as I watched his fingers slide under it and cup it in his hand as if weighing it. He squeezed it - a fresh peach from a summer standas if contemplating its size and texture. His thumb massaged my one of nipples, and he flicked it like he was playing with a light switch: off onoffon, and I gasped just a little. Even through my bra, the sensation pinged me to my core. I slid my hand along his thigh, and it felt strong under my fingers. He kissed my neck, then the corner of my lips on that little crease right where they meet, and I parted them for him. I turned to face him and his mouth found mine; his tongue slid over minerough and smooth, salty and sweet all at once, and it was like when Dorothy arrives in Oz. Different. Scary. Exciting and I slid my hand between his legs 124

gripping him, caressing him. Thad eased me back onto the seat, my panties damp, and before he moved on top of me, his eyes drank memy lips, my breasts. He raised my skirt. His felt hand warm on my thigh as he slid it up my leg and his eyes held mine. He touched my dampness then slipped his finger inside me and swirled it aroundkind of like you do when your momma lets you get the last taste of cake batter in the bowl before she cleans it. He pulled it out and licked it, grinning as he unzipped his jeans, and I slipped off of my panties. He got on his knees and eased himself inside of me, and I gasped again because it hurt just a little. A sharp fast pain. He stopped and waited for a secondtwo, threethen he gently pushed himself deeper until I could feel all of him. We couldnt find our rhythm at first. He was going up as I was going down. Him left. Me right, but then we stopped and settled in to each other; felt each other and let the music in the background guide us into a slow drag that melded our bodies togetherhim gripping my behind, me wrapping my legs around his and tilting my hips up to meet him as the hard plastic seats stuck to my damp skin and the door handle pressed into my back. We slid further down in the seat, and when I opened my eyes, I saw the little moon clock hovering above his head as he raised my blouse, then my bra. His mouth found my nipple, and he traced little circles around it with his tongue before biting it with his teeth, and I yelped and giggled all at the same time. I clasped his sweaty face between my palms pulling it down to mine, then ran my tongue along his lips before dipping it into his mouth. I felt his legs begin to tense, his body stiffen, and the pupils of his eyes grew wide as he let out a howl that came from somewhere deep inside of him, and he melted into me. He collapsed on top of me his breath deep and hard and we lay still for a momenttwo, threebefore he lifted himself up onto his arms. He was still inside me and began rocking back and forth, slowly; moving in and out, wetly until I felt myself grip him, tightly. I gulped in a mouthful of air, and my toes flexed out then curled, and my whole body zinged, tingled. I came out of myself, lost myself in him and then I was floating out above the car, skipping down the yellow brick road, passing the moon clock in the sky towards home, and it was perfect, like it never was again. And as I sat there that Sunday morning melting in that pew, his eyes holding mine, the choirs voice soaring, pulsing around me, I hoped that he was torn. I hoped that he knew the cost of his request, and that it hurt him. I wanted him to feel something for her, our baby. I wanted him to know that a part of why I went to the meetings and marches, and let white folks spit on me, and call me nigger was that I did not want little girls to grow up without their daddies, and I didnt want fathers to have to make choices that left their daughters searching for them in the back seats of cars on summer nights like me.



The young man in blue jeans, T-shirt and tattoo waved from the edge of the fire road. Marcies body tensed. Was he waiting for her? But she kept walking toward him, looking past his glittering earring and need for a shave. The clear blue eyes were the same. For a while they walked together silentlythe movement so much easier than touch or speech. The sidewalk, still damp from another night of spring rain, was flat and even, but Marcie knew the terrain would quickly change. Thirty steps later she left the concrete ground and trudged onto the fire road. In the early morning dark, she looked upstill no one in front of herwhen she should have looked down. Her foot slippedand her legs split apart. The dirt that was now mud glued her feet to the ground. She grabbed the trail sign to right herself, and kicked her feet free. Already the walk was a disaster. She could go back homebut why? Instead, she stepped gingerly around sloppy puddles of muddy water and, little by little, she labored a quarter mile straight up the road. Slow steps didnt stop her from panting. An image of herselfyoung and active, quick and litheedged into her mind. But who she wasa forty-eight-year-old woman in sweatpants, flannel shirt, T-shirt and baseball capshoved it out. She paused stumped by a rut in the dirt roadstep in it or over it? and then twisted her neck to look back downhill. She could see the roof of Mary Carters house. In just a few minutes Mary would scramble eggs and make toast. She preached protein for breakfast. It will help you think and perform, she told her baseball-playing sons. At 10 a.m., they would board the bus for Everett Field and opening day. Marcie was stuck and she knew ittoo weary to keep going up, too uncertain of the slick trail to go back down. She turned her body forward to look away from Marys house. The hell with breakfast and healthy meals and giving a damn Allen, her baseball-playing son, would have eaten eggs and waffles and sausage links. Today, he could have pitched. Except he was dead. She saw himlong arms and durable legs on the mound, his right leg kicking up, the pitchers mitt hiding his grip. She could see his arm come forward but not his hand release the ballneither did many 126

of the hitters who Allen faced. By the time they could see the pitch, they were swinging late and the ball was across home plate. If you want to pitch beyond high school, he said, your fastball has to zing. Marcie lifted a heavy foot over the widening rut and continued the steep climb. I made it, Allen said rushing through the front door, and she could hear the wonder in his voice. It was his sophomore year, and he made the varsity team. Inside his body, he knew how good he was. Inside his mind, it was often a surprise. Then he placed the long, thin sheet of white paper in front of her. I need you to sign this form, he said. DMV permit? If I learn to drive, I can take myself places. You wont have to go everywhere with me. He quickly got a permit and license. By the time, he took the drivers test, hed talked her into a 1991 red Jeep Cherokee with room for a portable pitching mound. Had she consented to his freedom or did he just take it from her? For a while they walked together silentlythe movement so much easier than touch or speech. Finally, he looked at her and smiled. Im afraid Im going to faint, she said. The trek was icky and wet. Her shoes squeaked. The fire road veered off, and she took the trail across the ridge. When she looked out, the landscape overwhelmed her. There was lifenatural and constructed, green and gleaming, all around. In contrast, the time shed had with Allen felt thin and watery. Like the rainwater around her, it was dribbling downstream. She took a slightly bigger step trying to avoid a puddle of water, but then misjudged the depth of the sludge around her. When she lifted her back foot, her shoe again was covered in pasty, brown mud. What a stupid mess, she thought, and swiped her shoes impatiently on the grass along the edge of the trail. Then she heard a tinny sounda boy laughing?and she looked quickly up, knocking herself off balance, grabbing at the mucky terrain to prevent herself from falling all the way down. She could rise up or she could collapse. Did it matter which she chose? The pitchers mound was wet. Rain coming in drizzles and spurts. Marcie pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her head to block out the cold, wet drops. Was Allen having trouble gripping the baseball? The pitch before had sailed all the way to the backstop. Allen wandered all the way around the mound, wiping his hands on rain-soaked baseball pants. Finally, he set, raised his leg and then whipped his arm forward. The ball arched and spinned. His right foot landed and slid. He lost balance and slid to the ground. Strike, the umpire motioned. Mar127

cie jumped up from the bleachers. Allen slowly got up, and the catcher started toward him. Allen waved him back, turned away from the plate, and taking his time, firmed up the mound. When he turned to pitch again, Marcie saw how mud streaked his arms and the front of his jersey were. His nostrils flared, and she knew he was pissed, but the next pitch, his motion was flawless. Was someone up on the ridge? Should she call out? No, it was a jagged rock. She straighted herself, wiped her wet hand on her sweatpants, and travelled on. Im afraid Im going to faint, she said. At first, he didnt look like her son at all. His head was shaved, and he had one gold earring in his right ear lobe. On his pitching arm was a twelve-inch tattoo of a red and green serpent that curved across his elbow. He wore a sky blue T-shirt, jeans torn at the knee and white slip-on sneakers. Dont worry, Mom. Ill catch you if you faint. She wanted to laugh or cry or scream at him. Instead, she said, Allen, did you actually choose that outfit? Fantasy fulfillment, he said. I thoughtwhy not try something radical? I was afraid you wouldnt know me. With this outfit, I knew I could blame it on the clothes. I would know you anywhere, anytime. Touch the snake if you want to. He thrust his arm at her. Allen was tense. Even from the stands, she could see it in his eyes. Number 21, Max Clement, was Hawthrone High Schools best hitter. Clements teammates called him two plus onehis hits in the gap normally doubles for other hitters were triples for him. His speed guaranteed the extra base. The pitch he just fouled off (345 feet down the left field line) had been a location mistake. If hed held his hands back just one more second, the game would be tied. Now the count was 1 and 2. Would Allen go to the out pitch or throw one in the dirt to try to get Clement to chase? Allen wiped his hands, again paced the mound. Then he settled in and waited for the sign. Marcie closed her eyes, something shed been doing reflexively since T-ball, and in that second, Allen let the pitch fly. Just as she opened her eyes, she saw Clement swing and, this time, miss. Allen pumped his fist and strode from the mound. Clement, upset by the display of emotion, glared. He took a half step toward Allen. Allen shook his fingerno, no, no. Marcie cringed. Then, the umpire stepped between the plate and the moundblocking the sight line for both playersso Allen kept walking toward the dugoutand Clement stepped away from the umpire and turned around. Allen believed he should challenge hitters, not let hitters chal128

lenge him. I only have to do it once, he told her. I throw the pitch right where they want it, but so fast they just cant hit it. Then every time they come up, they know I can do it to them again. After the first time, I dont have to be perfect. The hitter just knows I can be. I win either wayhead trip or great pitch. Touch the snake if you want to. He thrust his arm at her. Then he laughed and the laugh was his. It started in his mouth, but overtook his whole body. The sound was surprising and infectious. What could she do? Could she hug him? Are you still dead? Yes, but I dont look it, he said. She waited, and he spoke again. Take a deep breath, Mom. Then really look at me. I look fine. Nothings maimed and nothings broken. Suddenly, her house seemed so much more than five blocks away. You can touch me, he said. The dream was simple. There was smoky white space, no landscape. There were no objects to look at, no sound except for the voice. Ill look for you. Dont look for me. When the smoke cleared, there was nothing but blank blue sky. You can touch me, he said. She stepped into him and held him. In that moment she was sure he was really her son. The muscular arms were his as was the line of freckles on his forehead. So was the long arc of new skin, the scar on his neck. It is really you. Its most of me. It was getting hot already, musty from the remnants of rain. The path straight up the hill made Marcies palms and the back of her neck sweat. She unbuttoned her flannel shirt as she walked, used the corner of the frayed T-shirt to wipe her neck. She did not want to stop or catch her breath; she wished she brought a bottle of water. She needed a cool drink. The evening started with rain; a storm out of season had been predicted. She dialed Allens cell phone. Mom, what do you want? Its Friday night, remember? I need to finish getting dressed. Otherwise, Ill have to run laps. Allen cut her off before she could say good-bye. For years, Friday had 129

been their treat nightthen adolescence skewed their routine. When Allen got his license, she suggested they try again. We can both drive, she said. Then after dinner you can meet your friends. At first, he consented and the Fridays were easy to arrange. But lately Fridays had become Thursdays or Sundays or not at all. This week the Padres and the Giants had sent scouts to watch Allen play. She told him it would be good for them to have a meal, sit together and consider his future. Just like each pitch breaks differently over the plate, so does each persons future, she told him. You have to recognize when the ball is breaking toward you or when its breaking away. At 6:30 p.m. her phone rang. The team is going out for pizza, he said. She could hear the noise in the background; he was already there. Sure, she said, lets get dinner later this weekend. She picked up her keys, considered Chinese take out and headed to the video store. Flexibility, she told herself, was what being the single parent of a teenager was all about. Its most of me. Its every part of me that I could pull together to come back. She touched his scar before he stepped away. I kept it as a souvenirso that I wont forget. Now, the trail was reasonably flat and much drier than the hillside. The sun was up, and she had to negotiate chatty walkers and runners with errant dogs. She didnt want the distractionsfrom others or todays game. She needed space for the endless conversation inside herself. Why argue with Allen that night? Why buy him a car at all? Rocks crunched beside her, and she felt a soft breeze. Pulled back to her walk, she saw a young man turn and wave. He was moving so fast she could not see his face. He turned onto the narrowest trail and was out of sight before she could wave back. The back of his head, his shoulders? She called outbut she knew the sound would not reach him. It was melting into the land. By ten clock, it was raining hard and Allen was still not home. Just as she reached for her phone, it rang. Ive got Jimmy Q and Glenn Carter with me. Were off to the bowling alley. Two plus one and some other kids from Hawthorne are thereand we are going to show them how talented folks bowl. Allens voice was loud and feisty. It was always that tone when he was with a group of boys and having a good time. The image of Allen waving his finger at Clement floated in front of her. Its raining hard, Allen. Youve never driven in weather like this. I want you to come home. 130

Mom, were having a good time. We need to show these kids how its doneWe need to put them in their places before the re-match next week. Allen, its not safe. No confrontations tonight. You need to drive home carefully. You dont get it. Its bowling. You make too much of everything. Were having a good time. Im not asking you, Allen. Come home now. No, Mom, not tonight. The line went dead, and when she tried to call back, hed turned the cell phone off. He had a beer, maybe two, or a few swigs of someone elses beer between the frames, the players admitted later. He wasnt drunk but had just enough alcohol so he could relax, so he was a little bolder than usual. Every kid had a different story to tell about what happened at the bowling alley. What she did know was that Allen challenged Clement to a game. Winner had to declare the other #1. Allen lost by five pins and would only refer to Clement as temporary #1, saying the next time he challenged Clement with a fastball theyd both know who was best. Clement pushed and Allen shovedand then the manager of the bowling alley told the kids to go outside. Just as Allen got to his car, he turned to Clement and shook his finger one more time. Clement threw a baseball at the Jeep denting the hood and then sped off with his friends. Jimmy Q told her he had to calm Allen down. We made him drive slow the whole way so he had time to come to his senses. When he dropped us off, we thought he was okay. She would never know why he turned the cell phone back on just after he dropped Jimmy at home. Glenn Carter had gotten out too, saying he was spending the nightso Allen drove to their neighborhood alone. He took her call. Rain was pounding the streets. Allen, its 11:45 p.m.. Are you on your way home? Why did she nag him? Why not just let him drive? Cant a guy have any peace? I just wanted to have some fun. He had been less than five minutes away. What a bitch, she could have sworn she heard him say as he switched off the call. Then she imagined the rest. He hollered at Clement and yelled at her as he drove, firing himself up more than he meant to. Suddenly, the car was going too fast. In his anger, he passed the left turn just below Johnsons Market. He jammed on the brakes, but he wasnt going slow enough to safely turn the car around. In her mind, she could see the car circle and circle, spinning like the bowling balls Allen and Clement, just a few minutes earlier, had been throwing down smooth, polished lanes. She tried to visualize his car a gutter ball sliding out of the way of the Staleys redwood tree, but instead it was a perfect strike. When paramedics got to Allen, his head had smashed against the dashboard, and he was already dead. A thick shard of glass from the shattered windshield left a gash in his neck.


I kept it as a souvenirso that I dont forget. She stepped back from him.

She picked up her pace. She could move more quickly on level ground. Her heart beat harder and harder. Her breathing was swift. What if her son was just around the corner? She walked briskly and with intentionand when the feelings rose, the ones that reminded her Allen was dead, she walked with even more rigor. Marcie had never lived for Allen. Ten months later, she still didnt know how to live without him. She stepped back from him. They started walking again. It was like the car just slipped away, and I kept moving. I didnt feel anything. Now she cried. I know you are looking for me. I wont ever be back. Now she had to go straight downhill. The path was steep. Small, slick rocks covered the trail. Her walking shoes could not grab hold of anything, and her feet slid underneath her legs. She reached back with her hand to break her fall. Halfway to the ground, she saw a black German shepherd racing forward. Marcie, not sure of the dogs next move, crouched down. Godie, a stern voice called, out. Stop. Now. The dog halted at Maricies feet and sharply growled. She looked into his dark eyes but couldnt see anything. Like shields, they blocked out all that was behind or beyond them. A blonde woman with strong arms and runners legs rushed forward and corralled the dog. You could scare the dead, she said to the dog. He scares the living, Marcie replied. I think thats the point. The owner snapped a leash on the dogs collar and tugged the animal toward the hill, but he dug in his heels. Marcie scooted away. The rock was so fine and loose she turned her body to the side to slide step her way down the rest of the hill. Behind her, the dog howled. Was he sentry or sentient? Guardian or ghost? She didnt look back until she reached the fire road that led her to the bottom of the hill. There she could no longer see or hear anything from the trail. The hardest part of the walk was done. Allen was not ahead of her. Like the steep hills and slippery rocks he was left behind. In just a few minutes, she would round the corner to her neighborhood, the road flat all the way to her front door. 132

I wont ever be back. Did you come to hurt me or to help me? she said, instinctively walking more quickly. To make me remember or force me to forget? At the corner of Palmer and Shaw streets, they stopped. She was two blocks from home. He handed her a photograph. It was fuzzy white, a line of blue in the distance. She peered in but could not make out any image. Imagine me, he said. She looked at him, and, for a second, thought she could see right through his eyes. Got a bus to catch, he said. Got to be on the road by 7:30. What will become of you? Dont know yet, he said. Im hoping to be a geek this time. But a good looking one so all the girls chase after me. He smiled and winked at her. She laughed despite herself. As much as she knew him, she did not. He touched her cheek and waved, and he reached up and closed her eyes. When they opened, he was gone.


A film by Chris Sullivan; an interview with character, Earl Gray TONY PHILLIPS

characters, providing a surprising web of comprehension within the encompassing mystery. We are left with Earl Gray altogether too exposed, having to hide up on the mountain in the woods. Mr. Sullivan has kindly provided me with access to Mr. Gray for the following interview: Q: Consuming Spirits feels so close to the bone? Earl Gray: As close to the Bone, yes, it is, in fact, like skin, wrapped around a hard bit of bone. Perhaps a bone dug up by a starving dog who has lost his way. My world is the world of my childhood, a forest that to Magusson comes, and now a forest does to Magusson come this land of mine is freckled with little heroes, who might be noticed on the street, and I am one of them; I am a flaw in the smooth and quiet population: those who walk these streets with me worked with their hands and their minds, but the kind of work that allows no mistake, or if you will, like Joe Magarac, be buried in a caldron of liquid steel. I think of my self externally as a man of notoriety, but internally, I am notorious. Q: Magusson, your domain. Earl of Magnusson? And now does Birnam Wood to Dunsinane come? Are you the notorious Macbeth to your own self, Earl? The Earl of Tea, a darker stain? EG: Oh yes, though I am of woman born, thus can be felled, by the crafty woodsman who might come to my bed; you have come to me I see with your basket of treats, but I can hide in the folds of my bedclothes only from a distance.I think in my newly rural situation; I am looking over the landscape of my miracles and sins. It is not such a bad place, but it does need some explanations to the outsider. I do refer the word Hobo, a term coined by those who would board the west bound trains from the freight yards in Hoboken, N.J. to look for their futures. I am on that hill where my future is a manageable short story on the shelf smashed by the volumes, and notes of my past. Q: It seems you are quite as adept at survival in the woods as an Indian, or perhaps as a deer - subject to a hunt more encompassing than what the authorities could press? EG: I hear from your vernacular that you yourself are not a stranger to the bivouac, and the flint started fire that I have now become the master of. You also are a person who finds comfort in the solitude of a beggars fare. I will share with you my meal, not literally, because it is a single serving, a bachelors Swanson dinner. A lean cuisine, I have a squab, a victim of its trust, I held a crust of bread in one hand, and a bludgeon in the other. And I struck a merciful blow. It is interesting to me that a man 135

MORE THAN TEN years ago, maybe twelve or fifteen, my wife, Judith Raphael, was asked by filmmaker Chris Sullivan to act a speaking and singing role in his nascent animated film. Our hope of seeing this film come to life dwindled over the years, until finally, just now, this full, feature-length film, Consuming Spirits has made a triumphant appearance. You may be lucky enough to see it or to have seen it at a film festival (Tribeca Film Festival in New York; Chicago International Film Festival, Vancouver International F.F.; Santa Fe F.F.; Osians F.F, in India; Forum du Cinema in Paris; Haifa F.F. in Israel; Manipulation F.F. in Edinburgh; many others), or perhaps in an art theatre (the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco), film society cinematheque, university film series (the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley). The film has received rave reviews in the New York Times, NPR, Huffington Post, and many news outlets. Maybe one day you will be able to possess a DVD of it, or stream it on your computer. Consuming Spirits takes place in western Pennsylvania: wooded mountain ridges filled with deer and un- or under-employed deer hunters, and below, the valley town of Magusson, with its rusting steel mill and failed industry. The film is driven by the rangy dialogues and monologues of lost people with a lot of gaps in their lives, holes in their heads. It is terribly sad and terribly funny all the same. The hand-drawn images that carry the story are dark and raw, but they perfectly and efficiently provide exactly the details and visual flavors we need for what we hear, which includes music: old Celtic and American folk songs sung in the bar named The Juice of the Barley. The principal character is Earl Gray, the patriarch of a failed family who hosts a program on the local radio station called Gardeners Corner where he rambles on with his droll obsessions and digressions. We meet Gentian Violet, and her disturbed mother Ida (my wifes role), Victor Blue, his sister Lydia, their mother Doris, and father Larry, who befalls a most interesting fate as you will see. Much of the film involves the history of the Grays and Violets and Blues, seen as flashbacks woven into the present. Earl is a creature of mystery; his life has many dark, loose ends that, as the film progresses, entangle the loose ends of all the 134

on the run can make such ruthless decisions. As you know I am a fan of well-worn tongues, and tongue, for I also use the word ruthful, which is, in fact, compassionate. Apparently ruthlessness is a much more common occurrence, thus its popularity. When I am out in the woods, I can see, hear, smell, a stir in the bush, or a parting cornrow, I am exposed but so is my pursuer, and I choose the race, a sprint if it is to my liking, and a marathon, if that suits my nature. Unfortunately it is usually the opposite. In the wild, the carnivore chooses the race, the sprint, or the mile, the pursued is always driven to run his poorest race. And the begotten also chooses the race to the disadvantage of the begetter. And I quote my Radio friend Joe Frank. The rules are made by the one who loves less. My heart goes out to Steve Ovett, that ugly man dropping out of the mile, and beautiful Sebastian Coe continues to Victory. But I digress. They will catch me, but not until I spend all that is good in me, all the fight I have left, so they will catch me winded, and I will surrender. No Victory for those who have doubted my bent arrow of Cupid. Q: Some people are challenged by the name they have been given, like so many doctors named Paine. Your eloquence, measured diction, insistent dignity, obsession with detail, altogether color you with a British tone, academic, even patrician. What say you my Lord? EG: I am an Earl, but I think of my self as a Bruce, as in Robert the Bruce. This term implies a one loved by the common people,a hero who, although his power had been inherited, somehow was a favorite of the people. I suspect beauty, could be the culprit. But yes, my name is a bit of something to take on, I found it hard to be invisible, so I embraced visibility. And perhaps even left my invisible self lost, deep in the subbasement of my dream home, where it is warm and humid, with blind bats, crickets, justice. Q: To your life will there ever be a spring? EG: I think there will be a spring, but it will be the spring that comes from the blood of a martyr. In my Crowleys Lives of Saints, I do not appear; I have licked my fingers to be sure I have not missed one. I am hidden perhaps with the also-ran saint, my ownSaint Pamphilus who is spoken of never. I will take my name and take it with me into the dirt, and into the pile of leaves that my ashen hand protrudes from, seen by a family walking their dog. And what of your Name? Is Phillips a trade name, one who uses a Phillips screwdriver, or one who is philanthropic? I leave you with this question: Of all of the living rooms, taverns, bedrooms you might sit down in with someone, why these woods, on that sodden log, in the light of this gasping fire, with that rucksack by your side? What do you find in my company that intrigues you? Or perhaps you fear me, and you would rather come to me, than I to you? Or is this, in fact, the recreational Flame I spoke of? 136

Q: Yes, the Phillips toolwhile no close relation, I do apply the screwdriver, but in all good faith. If I feared you, I would sooner you come to me. I would not venture into your woods as I do. Should I fear you? True, you are no Saint, but you may be, disregarding your affectations, of the same ilk as Jon Magnusson, Earl of Orkney. I do admire you, Earl, despite your manifold backfires. Still, a considerable heart thumps reliably under your hood. Youve made mistakes, but they are merely mistakes, are they not? Are they not just mistakes, Earl? Come down fro m your ridge and share a life with your daughter, she who has also made mistakes as well you only know. Think of your poor, late Ida now; you owe that to her. If there is no spiritual redemption in doing so, perhaps you two might consume a supper of Amanita muscaria a fungus quite exquisite when sauted in olive oil, white wine, and just a touch of garlic, they say? EG: I think that is a sign of good judgment, a soup of my sins and good deeds. I will, yes, heed your suggestion and venture back to my daughter, rest a rose on the grave of Ida, and perhaps even venture to arrange running into Victor and Lydia, and Doris perhaps at The Giant Eaglethey must eat eventually...and I will carry on, though I may have to do it in disguise. I fancy a proboscis and black mustache attached to thick black glasses. so I will gently rise and softly call: good night and joy be with you all.



By chris sullivan








for my husband 1. Imagine a truth being born, Imagine it as a series Of sunrises and surprise, Imagine it cant soar away From its own habits, existing, Au jour le jour for no apparent Reason except to turn its own Verbal problems into equations. 2. Of course, everything that happens Has happened before, so lets begin Here. Imagine Im not ready to leave The sweat fests Id go to over the next Five years, lights alternating red then Blue in Hennies $.50 basement parties, Me dancing to The Manhattans or The Mad Lads or the begging songs of the Early OJays, ushering in the Philly sound, Imagine youd hear how I succumb To the leonine growl of Levi Stubbs, Fall flat for the raw and worn, hardStomping sound of The Marvellettes, tearing Open Motown stories of teenage hope and fire, Every time The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game. 145



3. Natures stable though she pushes back And adapts, but lets begin again, here, The July after Billy Stewarts Strange Feeling, My summer world shifted to the warm, round Sound of Clifford Brown, whose ballads blew Deep trumpet lines with Max Roach skinning time. And Abbey Lincoln, whose baby voice matured Into rooted moments, carried a gun load of history In her diction, so sharp, every syllable a blade. Imagine me being swept up by the muscularity Of Coleman Hawkins, the brutality of a Ben Webster stomp. Imagine the necessity Of Coltranes music moving beyond Giant Steps To begin another conversation. Imagine I flew From fights at Slugs. Yes, the very spot Where Lee Morgan was shot, saw Dust still on the hardwood floor. But this is beyond beginning here. 4. Now, if we begin again, in 1971, with a Man, fresh home from Vietnam, paper Back copies of Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man and Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, Each folded in a back pocket of his postal Uniform pants, buying me, afroed and defiant, A rainbow ice, imagine a roller coaster, imagine A ring in a box, wrapped in tissue paper, stuffed In the toe of a shoe, imagine the roller coaster, Slowed by speed bumps, as a much smoother road.

5. So, lets begin later, much Later, the summer our son Is seven, and I begin To teach him algebra when all He wants is to ride his bike. With the early problems, he Intuits the answers, but I always Make him do the proofs, brio For the long haul, when hell have No numbers, when hell have Nothing but letters to prove equality. 6. Imagine beginning again, here, with my unadorned mind That once cut a path through smoke on the road, the mind Now trying to hold onto itself, the mind of a woman Whose flaws are becoming forgivable fictions, Imagine them wearing new faces beyond courting, Naturally knowing that here is the round up For a free-range woman who learned the strength Of sides: the lunge, parry, retreat; the tap, tap, tap The slurring slide over twelve bars: the woman who lived Within a triangle of sin, sound and skin. Let us begin.



clock of the long now


about that

After I turn it every which way, each moment takes dominion every where, sprinkling its pleasure & doubt beyond the earthy complexity of black Truffles, the elegant restraint of a dark-skinned syrah, or the gaudiness of a Maybach parked on a street with an uncertain future. Is time Random or a sequence of events? Is it an event or a wheel, the thing occurring or what has already happened from picosecond to millennia ago? Im Going back & forth at the same time, along all points on the line, updating myself as I go, so Im open to remember or forget the mythic Past, amassed & bent. If I hurry, time will slow down to a place where it stands watch, where every day is Saturday, but if this is an interval, Theres not much for me to do but read obituaries with my father. At what age did I realize life leads to a place between Dog & wolf? What miracle Of me survived in deep time?

About high registers About Bessies blues About the Cherokee About the kind of blue About Cassandras riffs About lingering lyrics About raucous yellow

that flurry then fade that stamp paid thats a Sassy song that discovers a Horn that lilac-blue dawn that plumb Abbeys grace that many-voiced face

About a tyranny of sounds that bathe Billie through About wolf-licked guitars that back Dinahs groove About Carmens range that a hush Dont Explain About crossing over that world changed About reminding us that At Last Etta James About triangle love thats Sugar on the Floor About the forgetting that never gets scored



1001 black men: #260


I SHOULD WARN YOU: every time I run into a Black man on the street who is dressed in western gear, I will end up drawing a picture of him, and he will end up on this website. The reason is simple. Black men dressed as cowboys in the 21st century are rare enough that they always attract my attention, and if you attract my attention, chances are you will end up as a drawing on I think it also has something to do with my pleasure in seeing an African American man with the audacity to walk around the city dressed in an outfit that is strongly associated with country western music and culture, neither of which is perceived as particularly friendly to Black people. Unfair as it may be, the association of country western music and its fans with somewhat more racially conservative values and beliefs is fairly widespread, particularly among that majority of African Americans who live in the American south. Thus, when I see a brother strutting around the streets of Oakland or San Franciscoor anywhere, for that matterit signifies as a bold refusal to let any one tell him what he should and shouldnt wear, be they Black, white, brown, or anything in-between. So, this drawing is my high-five salute to the brothers in cowboy hats, bolo ties, and wild western boots. A tip of the hat and a yeeeeee haw to every last one of you

1001 BLACK MEN: #260




1001 black men: #494


ITS NICE BEING back at Zocalo. Its one of my go-to cafes when I have serious writing and editing to do. Its airy and bright, the staff is really friendly, and there are always plenty of places to plug in your laptop. Also, I enjoy the diversity of people I see there. Its not just that there are lots of people of different ethnicities. Its also that there are a lot of different occupations, ages, sexualities, genders, and classes represented within each of the many ethnicities Ive observed there. This slim, young guy in this drawing was waiting patiently (more patiently than I was), while the person ahead of us was getting some sort of fancy coffee drink made. Since I dont drink coffee, anything that takes more than a simple pour from pot to cup seems pretty fancy. I, by contrast, tend to stick with the basicsa bottle of sparkling water or a hot tea. When it was his turn, the man in this drawing didnt really seem to care what he ordered. Ill take a cup of the regular, he said. When the woman at the counter asked if he meant coffee, this guy said, sure, if thats what youve got. Im not sure if the man in this picture really wanted a beverage. Perhaps he just needed it to justify the three pastries he was purchasing. Personally, I think he had nothing to be ashamed of. Within any luck, theyll put a little weight on him. It wouldnt hurt. Ajuan Mance

PS: Was that a bad thing to say? Was I body policing? Id never heard it quite phrased that way until last night, and now Im wondering if thats what Im doing here. It would be really rude of me to say that someone needed to lose weight, but is it equally problematic for me to suggest that someone could stand to gain a little? What if it was a woman? Would that be worse? This is definitely a case of projecting my body standards onto the subject of my drawing but, then again, isnt it only really a problem when I let my ideas about whats beautiful and what isnt limit the types of people I draw? 494 drawings down, and I think Im becoming a little neurotic

1001 BLACK MEN: #494




1001 black men: #500


MY ORIGINAL GOAL for this art project was to complete 1001 drawings of Black men in 1001 days. Today, I finally reached the halfway point. My goal is to complete the project by the end of December 2013. For drawings #500 and #501, Ive created images that speak to my goal of depict the diversity of the Black men, with a particular interest in depicting those African American demographics who popular media representations of tend to overlook. I create at least one new drawing every day, based on the African American men Ive encountered around Oakland and other Bay Area cities. When I travel to other cities, I draw the African American men I see there. I dont draw from models. Instead, when I get home in the evening, or when I have a quiet moment between classes or appointments (which is not all that often), I think back to the people I encountered that day and I draw the men who really stood out in my mind. Part of the benefit of drawing from memory (a preference shared by Love and Rockets co-creator Jamie Hernandez, by the way) is that it has enabled me to really focus on and consider the limits of my own gaze on the Black male subject. Its been edifying, as I have shared at various points during the first 500 drawings. Many people have asked me why Ive chosen to do 1001 drawings. More interesting than the reasons why I have chosen this number of drawings are the benefits of doing such a large volume of drawings on the same subject. The greatest benefit is that it has given me a chance to understand the limits of my own vision. This takes time and, in some very real ways, it took me around 300 drawings to figure out exactly how it was that I see Black men. Over the course of my most recent 200 drawings, Ive been working on understanding the different ways I can use the particularity of my gaze to challenge and expand my own and (by extrapolation) others conceptions of the Black male subject.

1001 BLACK MEN: #500





When I come home to you, transformed universe, Your open arms deceive me. No solace in your solid embrace, No empathy in your kind gaze, No erudition on your learned brow. Fooled by your cohesive mask, Tricked by your costume of credibility, I am looking for what you cannot offer and finding what I cannot see. Take reality and hang it in the closet, It does not handle daily wear and tear. Much too fragile my non-aligned being To worry about infinite possibilities.

lost boy



ghost letters

August 8, 2003 where are you right now? what are you doing? please ramble; i miss it. e.

ducks were. She said, Sleeping, as if she knew, and you believed her. There was color when she took off her shoes and threw them at you, chased you barefoot on gravel with her socks in her hands. You let her catch you and she shoved the socks in your face. The smell was warm, sweet like earth. You did not join her when she entered the water, when she hiked her ripped pants above her knees. She walked to the middle and dared you to join her. You remember her in a kind of spotlight, her yellow hair backlit and holy, her wide smile and white teeth so small and far away. She splashed and you loved her, but you did not go in.

August 9, 2003 I have had a few drinks tonight, so excuse this outpouring of ridiculousness, but if you ever have the desire to come and visit, I swear that I will attempt to make you happy in this small, cute, quaint town. My dear, I really have insanely fond memories of you that oft haunt me in the night and early morn. e. But that day, the guy had a gun. He was shoving it in my face and his hand was around my neck, and I guess I just broke, something inside me broke, and when the gun went off I disappeared. His hand was around something he could not see; my clothes and apron and hoop earrings and a tray full of lunches were suspended in mid-air. People were screaming before but now they were really screaming. So I got out of there as fast as I could, running so fast it was like I was floating, tearing my clothes off and my earrings and my shoes until there was nothing left and I was just naked and invisible and wandering the streets of New York.

I was at work when I disappeared, my third job in as many months, unfortunate because I was actually planning on staying there a while. There were some regulars who tipped pretty well if I leaned over and let them look down my shirt when I delivered their food. It wasnt too bad, even though it wasnt in the greatest neighborhood. We had to deal with a lot of crazies coming in and hassling the customers for change. On cold nights, sometimes theyd just walk in and stand there until we kicked them out. There was one guy, a vet I think, whod come in and just start screaming. He never hurt anybody, just screamed and screamed until we gave him a cup of coffee and guided him out the door.

August 9, 2003
i still think of the time that we went wading in the stream inside the rhododendron garden. you were so insistent on me actually entering the water. that night is one of the few that i had in college where there was a warm sentimentality in the air that made it feel nice to be alive. love, e. There was color the night you jumped the fence of the Rhododendron Garden, when her pants snagged barbed wire and left her pale calf bare. The bushes rustled and you were not afraid. The air was heavy with mist, scented with flowers and trees and so many live things. The pond reflected tall evergreens and your faces, and you asked her where the

August 10, 2003 alas, the doctor idea seems decent as far as job and financial security are concerned. i imagine my love for mankind will manifest itself in a few years. i was absolutely serious about how beautiful those nights were; i feel as though i have been deprived since then, which probably explains my incessant need to search you out. e.



This is how you remember her: First, an old-fashioned snapshot: tattered pastels and white teeth, posed mid-laughter. Then black and white: sharp, dramatic chiaroscuro, the long shadows of eyelashes. August 11, 2003 i was totally in love with you back then for reasons i still havent completely figured out. perhaps it was the gardens, or the time i hung out in your room talking about music and listening to you play guitar. or perhaps it was the time you played one of your songs for me and i was so impressed that i couldnt tell you. or the time we watched a silly movie and i wanted to kiss you but restrained myself because i feared a slap from a beautiful girl. i have many regrets, my dear. e. I had to go somewhere so I decided to go to him, the guy I knew in college who lived upstate. Wed emailed for months after he broke up with the girlfriend he had for as long as I knew him. He was drunk and lonely and Googled my name. I was drunk and lonely when I got his email, and we embarked on an internet romance intense enough to make up for the years we had not spoken since college, several emails a day confessing our love for each other. We made up a story where he broke up with his girlfriend freshman year and everything turned out different. I would not be a starving artist and he would never have gone to law school like his father wanted. He would be writing novels now, not a partner in his dads family law firm, not helping people get divorced. We wrote about tropical islands. He would pick fish out of the ocean for me, and I would climb trees and get him coconuts. We would make love in the sand all day long.

I said: Yes, I think so. You asked me if I am happy. Past tense. Context. Now the answer is: Fuck you and your questions. Now I am thinking: This world I live in is too small.

August 18, 2003 start saving your money. we could buy an island in, what, six years? how much do they go for these days? perhaps we could just row out to one in a small, red boat and, after living there for twelve years, own it because of squatters rights. (love), e. Are you sleeping yet, my dear? Or are you restless with dreams again?

August 20, 2003 i dont think ive ever gotten over you. e. Im in an empty seat on a Greyhound bus next to an old lady who has been sleeping through the whole ride. At one point, she burped in her sleep, patted my invisible arm and said, Excuse me, dear, and fell back asleep.

Context. Future tense: Lucky to get by; lucky to marry a kind, simple man.
August 15, 2003 August 23, 2003 the hills are alive with my celibate cries. e.

I want to marry you based on this last paragraph. Really, I would pop the sad, sparkling ring from its case with the hope that you would take up this offer with me. I would wave the palm tree over your head while you attempted to catch the fish; I am that type of person. e.

There were moans from another room, grunts that tore the morning apart. You could hear the mans voice but not hers. You kept waiting for it but it never came, as if she



were dead, as if the man was making love to her dead body. Your body tensed and your lover stopped loving you. Your lover said, Whats wrong? and you said, Put on some music. Something loud. And he did, and you stopped worrying as you loved him. You fell asleep and awoke, heard her car drive away. You fell asleep and awoke, found the man, hairy and old and smelling like liquor, with bloodshot eyes and chapped lips asking you, Where did she go? Did she have class? It was Sunday. You said, Yes.

August 26, 2003 when i made my way to the shower after writing you, i felt as though i had been dancing on the gravestones of elder statesmen. e. I have nothing with me, no clothes, no food, and it is starting to snow. I am walking barefoot along the road and cant see if my feet are turning blue, if my skin is rough with goose bumps, if my nipples are hard as rock. The roads are empty. There is no one to see my footprints in the shallow snow. When a car passes, I stand still, the snowflakes falling around me but not inside the space I take up. I hold my breath so no one can see the warm air inside me coming out.

He takes off his jacket and walks toward me. He is looking right at me, into my eyes. I could lean over and kiss him. I could whisper, I am here. He hangs the jacket on the coat rack. I hold my breath. I wonder if he smells me. He looks a moment more, but only sees the corner behind me. The sun has set and theres only a fuzzy blue tinge left of daylight. He turns on a lamp that casts shadows through me. He kicks off his shoes, lies on his bed and closes his eyes. I listen to him breathe until all the light is gone outside and everything is quiet except the muffled sound of footsteps above us. I watch him sleep until hes dreaming, until his eyes are darting back and forth under his eyelids.

September 4, 2003 honestly, we could describe sexual fantasies to each other and i would not be disturbed. e. Theres his unmade bed and the single mans bottle of lotion on the nightstand, the box of Kleenex. Theres the bookcase with his cherished Nabokavs, his Joyce, his Kafka.

I have a friend who tucks herself in at night so tight she cannot move. there is a fine line between safety and suffocation. there is a fine line between a bed and a coffin. In the weeks after he started at his fathers firm, he would email me sometimes late at night. Im not like you, hed write. Of course you are, Id write back. You just forgot.

September 9, 2003 i would love nothing more than to find a girl who wouldnt be opposed to me calling her the clichd my darling or my honey and create some type of alternative reality with her so that i can be happy. oh nabokov... i love that man. with love, e.

I turn off the lamp and everything is dark. I pull back the blankets

September 2, 2003 when i sit down to write you, the few, precious, reasonably interesting thoughts that i have during the day flee, or break down as my mind attempts to send them into my fingers. i am frustrated by this. it has nothing to do with you. e.

and crawl in with him, pull the blankets over me, feel his warm naked flesh touching the place where mine should be, his arms around me pulling me closer, his leg over my hips, his face under my chin, breathing my neck in, painting it with his hot, sweet breath. I hear him groan, feel his cock hard against my stomach, his hands grabbing at any part of me they can find.



September 13, 2003 i had strange erotic dreams of you last night. very strange times, these are. speaking of island paradises, what are you doing next summer? i have a dream of renting an apartment for a month in some far away land. e. I remember: There was a time I imagined myself in the throes of passion. Now I am thinking: I am settling for premature death.

You tear them apart. They want it. You want it.
October 12, 2003 i do dissections these days with my teeth, tearing out fleshy flesh saturated with formaldehyde that will no doubt result in me leaving someone a widow from cancer in the future. e. You cut out their organs so precisely; You can name every one. You put them in rows From largest to smallest, From pinkest to bluest.

September 14, 2003 i made love to an eighteen-year-old version of you and woke mad with desire. i squirmed in my sheets for minutes while trying to conjure the dream again, or at least trying to set the dream into my short, sad, over utilized brain. if i could only live in a second of a dream in which i could control time and space, i could die a pleased man. with love, e. Youre holding a scalpel like its holy, Surrounded by so much chrome and sterile white light, Surrounded by dead bodies that cradle your ego, Blessing your hands with a purpose.

November 17, 2003 i have only minutes before i sprint into a room full of dead people and dance, dance, dance with a scalpel in my hand. honestly, i cannot think of anything more exciting. e.

You love them for their order, So willing to do what theyre told. You know them so well. You know them so well.
December 9, 2003 i was able to think of things other than medical school yesterday and i wondered: have you ever seen an old person singing along to music in their car alone? i havent. why? it struck me as depressing. e.

perhaps sometime this year we could meet up? my breaks are rather short but i could see myself making it out there or vice versa. or perhaps i sound psychotic bringing this up. yes, i sound psychotic bringing this up. i get to touch a dead body tomorrow. love, e. The bodies sing to you. They are perfect lovers.

Then a mistake in the developing process, something awry with the chemicals. Everything thrown into black, into



shadow, into muddy reproductions of blocks and curves and dense space and not-space. No designation between matter and not-matter. No designation between her and black. Overcompensation, overexposure. All white and weightless, as if she fought for light but was consumed by it. You could not tell where she stopped and the world started, where the world gave pause and let her begin. It was unclear if either existed at all. She could have been only air, only fog, only unstable ether taking up space.

February 27, 2004 i feel that my cadavers head will be in a plastic bag tomorrow, making me feel as though his/her true cause of death was suffocation. e. Context. Present tense: I have given/grown up.

January 23, 2004 since we were mainly examining the extrinsic muscles of the back, we hoisted her up and flipped her from a supine to prone position. her backside was completely compressed and appeared square. after three hours of cutting her flesh open and watching pink waterfalls of fluid drain from the bin that she was in, i cleansed myself of my soiled clothes, dressed in my costume of tie and fitted shirt, and ran, ran, ran, ran, ran. i had no greater desire than to make love to a woman when i returned home, to prove that i was still alive and young, that my eyes were not black and lifeless. love, e.

March 15, 2004 i want what i cannot have. e. I guide him inside me and his back arches and his hands grab blankets. I am on top of him and I could stay here forever, his hands on my hips, on my back pulling me closer, his chest against mine. I can feel his heartbeat fighting mine, his nails in my back, his arms squeezing me closer like he wants to consume me. I would let him. I would let him eat me if he wanted to. I would let him do anything.

She had been there once. You know that. You know you had touched something that felt like skin and heard a voice that came from her mouth. But she lost substance so slowly you didnt notice until she was gone. Her voice became a whisper and then silence. Little pieces of her broke off until nothing was left. This is how you remember her when she disappeared: you knew she was gone, but couldnt remember the last time you saw her.
February 2, 2004 i am being a terrible friend. i will make up for it soon, somehow. we should get married. e.

The bodies sing for you. They sing for you. They sing for you. I cannot tell if his eyes are open or closed. I cannot see anything, not his face, not his body, not his mouth quivering and wanting. I can just feel his hot breaths on my neck, his hands around my ribs. I can hear his small deep moans, my own, our bodies moving between sheets, the headboards soft thump against the wall. These are the only sounds in the world. We are the only two people. There is nothing else to feel except him inside me, his body against me, everything touching and connected and glued together, the sweat making oceans across our skin. There is nothing to hear but his voice gasping my name, and that is when we both come, when the world stops and turns black and nothing will ever be the same again.

Your skins as cold as theirs. Your skins as cold as theirs. 166

April 2, 2004 hi darling. my sincere apologies for not being a force in


the area of correspondence.i used to be the type of person who admonished others for not responding to i only have myself to blame. e. Please dont put me back in the freezer. Were not nearly through. There are still pieces of me that resemble something alive. He collapses with a sigh and I am still on top of him. I cannot see him but I can paint his face on the darkness. I can see him looking at me the way he did so many years ago, a look that said I would haunt him forever. My fingers move across his closed eyelids, his strong nose, his soft mouth. His breathing slows and he lets out a little whine as his hands move me off of him. He turns to his side where he returns to sleep like nothing happened.

do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we had dated?? e. Do do do, do do do, do do do do do do do. Do do do, do do do, do do do do do do do. I will walk out the door and into the cold night. I will find another Greyhound with an empty seat and no one will ever know I was there.

Now the answer is: There is more life in graveyards. Now the answer is: There are two drunken ghosts.

It has been more than two years since you spoke. Sometimes people say, Anybody heard anything about her? and everybody shakes their heads, and the subject is dropped. The last you heard was a rumor she moved to New York City. You cringed at the idea, imagined her eaten alive. Someone else said San Francisco. You could see her in San Francisco. You could see her standing at the foot of the ocean watching the waves crash against the naked shore, saddened that no one seemed to care, saddened that the beach was flanked by an old highway and miles of identical silent houses. You still have a phone number she gave you, a phone number of somewhere in Maine. You think you will call her later. You will not. I wash up in the dirty bathroom that smells like the worst parts of him. I rub some toothpaste on my teeth, drink water from the faucet. I hear an ambulance somewhere in the distance and I know that I cannot be here when he wakes up.

May 27, 2004 correspondence has not been the same since you mysteriously cancelled our meeting in Chicago. what has changed?





For Dmitry

I liked to watch you shower because you closed your eyes in the water and slightly parted your mouth. How I envied you while I brushed my teeth and saw how alive you were even just cleaning yourself. So mundane everything about me. And how present you were, the mirror steaming up, covering my face. I told a robotics poet this story and he said I know how you can have that too. Meditate and everything, even the crumbled leaves on the sidewalk will be alive. Now, the gusts of wind carefully cradle my face. I feel my breath through my mouth down my throat into my fleshy pink insides. I am ready to try. We made a robot together, one that walked with a slight limp. It only took a slight press with the soft parts of my fingers to make her blink red. A sharp twist of copper wires to make her hum. An algorithm to make her stay still as I slowly turned on the faucet. She wanted to turn away but I coaxed my robot not to be afraid of the water. To open her mouth. To let everything rinse away by the sparks of electric light.

1. config = source 2. loop 3. twirl 4. step 5. if (config == goal) return goal reached; 6. if (config == plus step of size) dance. 7. goal 8. else 9. for each of the lovers, is one direct goal 10. determine distance to love 11. sort loves into lists 12. for (i = 0 and i < bigger heart and free space 13. if in free space (i == 13 goal is not reached)



even though I tried.


They make robots so perfect now, the artist said in passing and the love poems were perfect in every way. Perfect like the way you held my heart and each time, knew how to break.

Once I attended an artist talk and he only had a few words to say. Dont give away, what is here. He motioned to his heart. This is what your art is made of, be frugal with it all. If you are an artist, you know what Im talking about. If you are a lover, you still have yet to learn. For you, I wrote love poems. Love poems are all made of everything nether Good only from below, good because they cannot be stopped. How a love poem feels When you kiss every inch of her backside A slow moving train to the edge of the sea When you see her naked body for the first time and say, you are beautiful, I knew you would be. Your body resting against hers, until You feel her heart, you are breathing in step together now a small dance song the taxi ride home The nectar that begins the love poem not always to be trusted, but this, unfortunately, cannot be helped. Because I tasted the sweet my insatiable appetite couldnt resist. Only honesty makes the love poem perfect but perfect honestly also makes pain I tried to stop the love poems but I couldnt 172




1. config = source 2. loop 3. break 4. take 5. if (config == goal) return goal reached; 6. if (config == plus step of size) loss 7. goal 8. else 9. try to forget 10. for each of the hearts, grap is one direct goal 11. determine distance to love; determine distance to pain 12. sort aches into lists 13. turn right and left 14. for (i = 0 and i < bigger memory and free space 15. if in free space (i == 13 goal is not reached) 16. take 17. break

I loved you because you could make beautiful things: a magical world of red bathtub boats, peacock feather trees hung from the ceiling, puppets that flew without any strings. I loved you because you could make beautiful things: how you made me moan. How you used your hands. I loved you because you could make beautiful things. Who programmed you? I never asked until it was too late. I loved you because you could make beautiful things. But this is something the programmer knew was my weakness, takes and pulls, and in the end, loses everything. I loved you because you could make beautiful things. Like the Turk, there was no magic in your game. No automata that plays, only human inside. My elaborate hoax, I loved you but in the end, you could not make us beautiful. I loved you because you could make beautiful things that I never got to keep.





1. Drive your car into the sea then out the other side. This is the shore. There are milky seashells with turquoise flecks. Where are you? Start walking. To render: your arrival in India: in symbolic form. In fact, you eat charbroiled samosas on your stopover in Baghdad circa 1976, except that its not 1976, so youre staring at the perfume counter in the airport in Akshabad, city of lovethe poetry of this city written in Urdu then translated to Persian, which my grandfather sangor recited aloud within minutes of arrivingalways arrivingwhen I told him where Id been, where Id come from, how Id never fly Air Turkmenistan again and what the corridors in Russia were like. 2. My grandfather suffered from manic depression, but also traumaas we say nowfrom the war that followed the Radcliffe Boundary Award. I think often about the trans-generational effects of cardinal cultural events, and how they are transmitted to others. Sometimes I think that psychosis was transmitted to me not as a genetic attribute but as the way I organize sentences within a paragraph. Psychosis: a form of pressured speech, a flight of ideas. Also: mitochondrial flux. The desire of a person to walk until they reach the hills. As a young man, my grandfather would get on his horse, a beautiful white horse, in what is now Pakistanand ridea violin tucked under his arm, a box of watercolors and brushes, a chess set and a novel byTurgenevhis favoritestrapped to the saddleuntil he reachedwhat is nowthe border with Afghanistan. 3. I was in India. I was a child then a woman in India; not the bourgeois India of the tradesperson interested in importing fabric to a novice port. But the India I cant return to. That India. The one where a person could live, abruptly, like a pre-century human being. One uncles home had clay floors and no windows. Another uncles home had no roof. One uncle was a murderer. One uncle had a long sword that he carried at all times strapped to his cloth belt, having converted to Sikhism. These are imaginary uncles. This is fiction. I was not, nor was I ever, a child. 4. One uncle was an astrologer who had lived most of his life in a forest ashram in Uttar Pradesh. He carried very little in his falling-apart suitcase. Once, he came to London to read palms and charts, upon the invitation of the local Hindu community. His suitcase contained: the 177

1. config = source 2. loop 3. loop 4. break 5. step into the box and mine like crazy 6. if (config == goal) return goal reached; 7. if (config == plus step of size) 8. goal 9. else 10. pulse 11. check mate 12. for each of the beats, your move is one direct goal 13. determine distance to love; determine distance to white space 14. sort aches into lists 15. forget 16. make 17. for (i = 0 and i < bigger memory and free space 18. if in free space (i == 13 goal is not reached) 19. eyes grow wide 20. breathe

*All Algorithmic poems inspired by A Probabilistic Learning Approach to Motion Planning by Mark H. Overmars, Peter Svestka page 25 in Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, edited by Ken Goldberg, Dan Halperin, Jean-Claude Latombe, and Randall Wilson


Bhagavad Gita wrapped in a tea towel, a saffron cloth or dhoti to wrap around his waist after a bath, a threadbare sweater my mother had knitted him a decade before and a face flannel folded double around his metal tongue cleaner anda twig. The twig was a gnawed up branch from a neem tree, which my uncle used to brush his teeth. Once again, I did not have a mother. I did not have an uncle. I do not know how to read palms. I did not go on a pilgrimage with my uncle to the charnel ground. In the dharamsalas and temples where we rested, on our long journey, I was not trained in the art of divination. I did not approach the cobra in Rishikesh, outstaring it as part of this intensive training, my inheritance, the thing I brought to the U.S. but which I prevented myself from doing at all costs because on some level, I understood that there would be no going back. 5. Walk with your uncle until you reach the hills. There, a horse is tethered to a tree. Get on the horse, with assistancelets face it, you dont have much of an equestrian backgroundand continue further up the river. This is the river. It is a completely clear green, the color of a longed-for lovers eyes. On the river bed, you scoop up moonstones in your bare hands. Though you come from a place founded on commerce and intense academic competition [London and its outlying suburbs], you understand that pocketing the semi-precious stones is not an option. The fact that you know this gives me hope for your life. It makes me interested in what you will be like as an older person. 6. Reach the charnel ground. 7. Lie down. 8. The next part of the instructions are only available in pamphlet form on your death-bed. Lets hope you have the capacity to read or hear them, when the time comes. 9. Im kidding. 10. Lie down. 11. When the moon rises, waitthere on the burned bone beduntil it is directly above you. Not vertically. But at an angle. So that when you open your eyes, it is therea few centimeters above the Gangesor so it seemsand still a rich gold color, the color of apples and mangoes that grow in the orchard your grandfather planted in 1923. There is a notebook in which he has recorded the purchase of seeds. The notebook is desiccated. Wrap it in a towel and return to the U.S. without unpacking it. In fact, when you are home, dont do anything. Just take it out of your suitcase and put it somewhere and forget about it. Now is not the time.

12. Lie down. 13. Visualize the light entering your body through the soles of your feet. 14. Just that would be enough. 15. Some hours pass. Its almost dawn. 16. Your uncle is nearby, but you cannot see him. You return to the social reality of your body, the fact that you are a woman lying on the ground in a public space. As the keepers of the charnel ground, roughlooking men with blankets over their shoulders, begin to stiryou thinkwhy am I here? You contract around your internal organs, the soft tissue of your urethra, your small intestine, your kidneys, suddenly aware of the vulnerability of your body, the way it is entirely exposed to view. One man lights a morning fire. You hear him spit. You open your eyes. You turn your head gently from side to side. The river warps out of its banks in bright pink, fluorescent bands of light. Next to your head is a skull. 17. Go home. 18. Write books, give birth, leave the country of your birth, fuck everything up, make a come-back, fall in love with people who break your heart so completely that you are in your mid-forties before you even slightly begin to recover; replenish yourself in the oceans of California and Oregon, make friends with poets, become a teacher, massage the limbs of others with pre-heated mustard seed oil; investigate the syntax of the race riot, write about late childhood with the indifference and energy of a non-commercial butcher who will be bought out eventually but not just now: the notebooks convulsing on the wet table, the blood table, the table where you set your own head. 19. Never speak of what happened between the numbers of 14 and 15 to anyone else, not even your beautiful child or your best friend or your partner, who is in the kitchen making you a cup of tea as you write these words, in the future before its arrived, the future like the color green, the future with the river running now through the middle of your house.



schools for the colored


I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil... W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk SCHOOLS FOR THE COLORED is an extension of the ideas that formed the basis of the project Small Towns, Black Lives, in that; it is a continuation of my journey through the African American landscape. I began making photographs of historically African American school buildings during the very first weeks of the Small Towns, Black Lives project more than twenty years ago. In Schools for the Colored I began to pay attention to the various structures and sites (also making photographs of places where segregated schools once stood) that once operated as segregated schools. These photographs depict the buildings and landscapes that were associated with the system of racially segregated schools established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States. This area, sometimes referred to as Up-South, encompasses the northern free states that bordered the slave states. Schools for the Colored is also a representation the duality of racial distinction within American culture. The veil (the digital imaging technique of obscuring the landscape surrounding the schools) is a visual formation of W. E. B. DuBois concept, in these photographs. Some of the images depict sites where the original structure is no longer present. As a placeholder, I have inserted silhouettes of the original building or what I imagine of the appearance of the original building. The architecture and geography of Americas educational Apartheid, in the form of a system of colored schools, within the landscape of southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois is the central concern of this project.

Wendel white





















on the island people on blue mountain series

Island People on Blue Mountain, Series 2012 Monoprints on found papers and maps The Island People on Blue Mountain Series is a continuation of my nearly four decade-long use of collage to repurpose found materials in a more global context. The work speaks to universal connections between people and place separated by arbitrary borders. Nearly every community on Earth contains expatriates and migrs. This series celebrates that perpetual global movement, shifts which lend color and vitality to the world. The works are layered upon pages taken from, Our Island and Their People as seen with Camera and Pencil 1899, a two volume folio by Jose De Olivaries and Joseph Wheeler, inherited from my parents estate. The two volumes explore the cultures of the Caribbean and South Pacific. Growing up, those books could always be found on a coffee table or somewhere within reach. As a small child I examined them regularly. Onto the surface of these, and other found pages and maps, I have combined chine coll, gold leaf, maps, images from antique tintype photographs sent to me by a collector from Hawaii, the text of President Obamas speech on the opening of Cuba, and the recurring symbol of a spade. The word spade is popularly misunderstood as a derogatory term but the symbol itself has a much richer historical set of meanings: power, darkness, and regenerative life. Likewise, the island peoples depicted in the book are not just Puerto Ricans, Filipinos or people of color, but human individuals, each with his or her own dreams, loves, victories and disappointments. Each print in the series is a window onto a world and a life, as it might have been understood, a reflection of the great journey common to diverse peoples across time.





MILDRED HOWARD 2012, MONOPRINT ON FOUND PAPER WITH HAND-COLORING, 20 x 15 Printed and published by Sharks Ink., Lyons, CO Mildred Howard 2012, Photo: Bud Shark, courtesy of Sharks Ink


MILDRED HOWARD 2012, MONOPRINT ON FOUND PAPER WITH COLLAGE, 20 x 15 Printed and published by Sharks Ink., Lyons, CO Mildred Howard 2012, Photo: Bud Shark, courtesy of Sharks Ink




MILDRED HOWARD 2012, MONOPRINT ON FOUND PAPER WITH COLLAGE, GOLD LEAF, & HAND COLRING, 20 x 15 Printed and published by Sharks Ink., Lyons, CO Mildred Howard 2012, Photo: Bud Shark, courtesy of Sharks Ink


MILDRED HOWARD 2012, FOUND PAPER WITH COLLAGE, 20 x 15 Printed and published by Sharks Ink., Lyons, CO Mildred Howard 2012, Photo: Bud Shark, courtesy of Sharks Ink



Dean Alioto was born in San Francisco, California. He is an award-winning writer/director and the creator of the found footage movie genre. Variety has called his writing Very humorous. Alioto claims never to have been abducted by aliens; however, he is willing to give it a try.

MASTER fine arts

Rarely do artists have a place where they can concentrate on their own creative work, talk deeply with other artists, and find new mentors and ways of engaging their art. The MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and the MFA in Writing and Consciousness at CIIS create these opportunities and also prepare you for professional life after graduate school. Our two-year Master of Fine Arts programs provide you with protected time that allows you to immerse yourself in art making, develop a professional-level body of work, and create a vision for thriving as an artist in the world. For more information, visit
Photos: top, l. to r. Protester in Tahrir Square, February 2, 2011, Kristina Nelson, photo; Nightfall, Orlonda Uffre, painting; Pandora/Pandemonium, Judith Raphael, painting 42 X 48 acrylic on paper; Bottom, l. to r.: How To Hypnotize a Machine, collage 2011, Neil Freese; Leap, Barbara Parmet, solar plate etching, 18 X 24; Door Opera, Zig Gron, 2009 photo still from SD-video; From Agricultural Workers in Gucci, Angelica Muro, Archival Pigment Print, 2006; Alonzo King, RJ Muna, photo.


CONTACT: Admissions Counselor Jana Krezo (415) 575-6246 DEPARTMENT OF WRITING, CONSCIOUSNESS AND CREATIVE INQUIRY Theresa Newman, WCC department coordinator (415) 575-6264

Indira Allegrais a Lambda Literary Fellow, Banff Centre Writer and interdisciplinary artist poeting through performance, video and handwoven textiles. She has contributed work to theYellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought, Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two Spirit Literature,Konch MagazineandMake/ Shift Magazineamong others. Indira has performed and screened work withQueer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance,Mangos with Chili,The Yellow House Projectand Peacock Rebellion. Her experimental videopoemsWeep Willow: The Blues for Lady DayandBlue Covershave screened both nationally and internationally. In the Bay Area, her textile works have shown at the Alter Space and College Avenue Galleries. In 2012, Indira was the curator and creative director for Artists Against Rape and was a member of the artistic core of Sins Invalid in 2008. A VONA alum, Indira has taught digital storytelling and poetry workshops at Intersection for the Arts, Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse and projectPRO:JECT. She is currently completing her first collection of poems entitledIndigo Season. Jacob M. Appel is the author of the novel, The Man Who Wouldnt Stand Up, and the forthcoming short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper. He practices medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and teaches fiction at the Gotham Writers Workshop. More at www. Natalie Baszile is the author of the debut novel Queen Sugar, forthcoming from Viking/Penguin. Natalie has a Masters in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and earned an M.F.A. from Warren Wilsons MFA Program for Writers, where she received the Holden Minority Scholarship. Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writers Award, the Sylvia Clare Brown fellowship, and was runner-up in the Faulkner Pirates Alley novel-in-progress competition. Natalie has had residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hedgebrook.



Kris Brandenburger has published work inMission at Tenth,Zyzzyvaand Violet Ink: Short Shorts. Her work is anthologized inMom, Lesbians Talk about the First Woman in Their Lives and All In the Seasoning. She was the founding owner of Select Electrics in Berkeley, CA. She currently teaches in the MFA program at CIIS and is the Chair of the School of Undergraduate Studies at Sofia University in Palo Alto. Chris Cobb is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn. He writes a column for SFMOMA and has written about music, art and culture for the Believer, Flash Art and KQED among others. Alexis Coe is now a writer living in San Francisco, but not long ago, she was the research curator at the New York Public Library, where she spent her days reading Virginia Woolfs diaries and sifting through Rembrandts lithographs. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, The Millions, and other publications, including SF Weekly, where she is a columnist. Alexis holds an MA in history. Follow her @Alexis_Coe or email Tsering Wangmo Dhompa is the author of three collections of poetry:My rice tastes like the lake,In the Absent EverydayandRules of the House(all from Apogee Press, Berkeley).My rice tastes like the lakewas a finalist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Book of the Year Award for 2012. Tserings non-fiction book on Tibet is forth-coming from Penguin, India in 2013. Eric Gamalinda is a poet, fiction writer, playwright, and experimental filmmaker. He won the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize and the Asian American Literary Award, and was recently shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. His most recent publications include People Are Strange, a collection of stories (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and Darling, You Can Count on Me, a story included in Manila Noir (Akashic Books, 2012). Gina Gilmour, a native of North Carolina, currently lives and works on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. Her paintings and sculptures have been exhibited in public and private collections including The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, The North Carolina Museum of Art, and The Newark Museum of Art. Taylor Glascock is a freelance photographer based in Chicago, Ill. Her work has appeared inthe Chicago Tribune, The Columbus Dispatch, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Chip B. Goldstein, Dean of Academic Planning & Administration at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), San Francisco, has been composing poetry since his high school days in Philadelphia. His other 196

artistic passion finds expression in Soul Line Dancing, as both a participant and an instructor. Judy Grahn has just published her thirteenth book, A Simple Revolution, Aunt Lute Press, San Francisco. She co-directs a womens spirituality masters program at Sofia University in Palo Alto, and teaches in the Creative Inquiry MFA at CIIS. Lisa Gray earned her MFA in English & Creative Writing from Mills College, and she possesses a BA in English from Spelman College. Shes done workshops with the Voices of Our Nations Foundation and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Grey was awarded a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Her novel in progress, One Summer, follows a group of teenage girls in a small Georgia town during the civil rights movement. Links to her literary musings appear on her blog, The Randomness of Me at Nadia Hennrich spent six years of her schooling in Tehran, Iran, before continuing in Hamburg, Germany.In 2003, Nadia was recruited by a US editorial house, where she made waves cutting commercials. In recent years Nadia concentrated on editing and writing long format films again. She was a driving force behind the critically acclaimed featurelength documentary Skateistan - Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul which won the 2011 Cinema for Peace award for most valuable documentary.Nadia currently resides in California and Hamburg, Germany, working on inspiring socially relevant film projects - and international commercial projects. Mildred Howard is an installation and mixed-media artist, and educator, who was born in San Francisco. Awards include a Rockefeller Foundation Artist Fellowship at the Bellagio Center in Italy, the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fellowship to Oaxaca, Mexico, an NEA Grant for sculpture, a Fleischhacker Eureka Fellowship, and a California Arts Council Artist Fellowship. Howard has exhibited nationally and internationally, including Berlin, Cairo, Venice and Bath. Her work is included in collections at the DeYoung Museum, the Oakland Museum, the Wadsworth Athenaeum (Hartford, Connecticut) and the International Museum of Glass and Contemporary Art (Tacoma, Washington). Mildred Howard is represented by Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. Linda Susan Jacksons first book, What Yellow Sounds Like, is part homage to the legendary singer Etta James and part blues meditation on a life framed by music. She received fellowships from Cave Canem, New York Foundation for the Arts, Soul Mountain and Frost Place. Her work has appeared in many journals and is featured on the audio archives ofFrom the Fishouse. She is an associate professor of English at Medgar Evers College/CUNY. 197

Amana Brembry Johnson completed an MFA in Sculpture at the Maryland Institute of Art (2002) and has created public artwork throughout the United States. She currently works in the San Francisco Bay Area as a mixed-media artist. Johnson worked exclusively in stone for more than two decades. Current projects are primarily ceramic and bronze. The work reflects a synthesis of contemporary and historical aesthetics specific to American culture, and is a form of feminine archetypal myth- making born from intuition and Kristiana Kahakauwilas first collection of stories, This is Paradise, is due out from Hogarth Press in July. Set in Hawai`i, these stories run ramshackle over the popular vision of paradise to depict a complicated, hostile, and sometimes beautiful island life. Kristiana is a professor of creative writing at Western Washington University. Bhanu Kapil teaches through the animal and memory at Naropa University, and through packets at God(d)ard College. A British person by birth, she is a now a dual British and U.S. citizen with the privileges and visa rights of what is now called: An overseas citizen of India. The same numbness she feels about national origin is identical to the feeling in her body when asked to describe the genre she writes in. Not numbness. Something else. Her current project is a novel of the race riot:Ban: written at the intersection of performance art: and documentary: aims. She lives in Colorado. The sun incubates a notebook reality. The books are: No, that is not where the writing is. There is no point in making a list. The writing is in the becoming-writing. That notebook life. She will be in the Bay Area this April (2013) as a participant in Eleni Stecopolouss Poetics of Healing curation. Rene Kock, producer, born in Hamburg, grew up thinking that he was destined to become a seacaptain. While hitchhiking from Hamburg to a vacation in Croatia,a gear-laden 1970 VW station wagon pulled to the side of the road, after a short conversation, the thin, long-haired man who was driving the car agreedto take him as far as Munich. The man turned out to be Werner Herzog and after a dozen hours ofdriving followed by an exhausted collapse onto Herzogs couch, Rene was lost to the sea forever.Beginning his career with the German network NDR, he has now produced television commercials,feature films, and television programs for almost forty years from his base in Los Angeles. Beforeasking his crew to embark on the trip to Afghanistan, Rene travelled alone to Kabul, and was instantly charmed by what he sawand the people that he met. Richard Kramer is the Emmy and multiple Peabody award winning writer, director and producer of numerous TV series, including Thirtysomething, My So-called Life, Tales of the City, and Once and Again. His first short story appeared in the New Yorker while he was still an undergraduate at Yale. 198

Eugenia Leigh is the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (forthcoming via Four Way Books, 2014), which was a finalist for both the National Poetry Series and the Yale Series of Younger Poets. She is a Korean American poet and Kundiman fellow whose poems have appeared in North American Review, Rattle, The Collagist and the Best New Poets anthology, among other publications. Eugenia serves as Poetry Editor for Kartika Review and holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Ajuan Mance is a Professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, CA. An African American literature specialist, she holds degrees from Brown University (B.A.) and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (M.A. and Ph.D.). A lifelong artist, Ajuan works in acrylic on paper and canvas, ink on paper and, for the 1001 Black Men series, ink on paper and digital media. She has also produced the zines Afrobiotic, The Last Ballad of Rubin Stacy, and a series of companion zines to her online sketchbook, 1001 Black Men. Ajuan has participated in group exhibitions throughout the Bay Area, at the University of Oregon, at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, IL, and at the Reinhardt-Fisher Gallery in Trenton, NJ. Ajuans work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune, Urbanview, and the Oregon Quarterly. She has also participated in the SF Zinefest, the Alternative Press Expo, the Watershed Festival, and the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest. MariNaomi is the award-winning author and illustrator of the graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011). Her work has appeared in such publications as I Saw You: Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women and Action Girl Comics. She is a regular contributor to, SFBay.CA and Tapastic, has toured with the traveling literary show Sister Spit, and is slated to be the guest teacher at the California College of the Arts MFA in Comics program in July of 2013. Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, which won the PEN Beyond Margins Award. Tony Phillips is an artist living in Chicago where he makes paintings and drawings and has produced a few short films. He is married to artist Judith Raphael and remains affiliated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work may be seen on his website: John Pluecker is a writer, interpreter, translator and co-founder of the language justice and literary experimentation collaborative Antena.His texts have appeared in journals in the U.S. and Mexico, includingThe Volta,Mandorla, Aufgabe, eleven eleven, Third TextandAnimal Shelter. He has translated numerous books from the Spanish, most recentlyTijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border(Duke University 199

Press, 2012).He has published three chapbooks, most recentlyKilling Current(Mouthfeel Press, 2012). Natanya Ann Pulley is half-Navajo, Kiiyaaaanii and Tachinni clan. She is currently working on her PhD in Fiction Writing at the University of Utah. She is the winner of the 2009 Utah Writers Contest, which included publication in Western Humanities Review, and is the winner of the Scowcroft prose contest for her essay The Way of Wounds. Additional publications included in The Florida Review, The Collagist, Drunken Boat, and McSweeneys Internet Tendencys Open Letter column. Amy Reed is the author of the young adult novels Beautiful (Simon & Schuster, 2009), Clean (2011), and Crazy (2012). Her fourth book, Over You, will be released June 4, 2013. Her short literary fiction has been published in Fiction Magazine, Contrary, Kitchen Sink, and Mission at Tenth. Originally from Seattle, she now lives and writes in Oakland, California. Margaret Rhee is the author of Yellow (Tinfish Press, 2011), School of Dreams (Forthcoming, 2013), and co-editor of Here is A Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2010). She is managing editor of Mixed Blood, a literary journal of innovative poetics and race and the online anthology Glitter Tongue: Queer and Trans Love Poems (2012). Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies and New Media Studies at UC Berkeley and is a Kundiman Fellow. Liana Scalettars fiction and poetry have appeared inAmerican Short Fiction, Arts & Letters, Drunken Boat, Entasis, Failbetter, Gutcult, Joyland Los Angeles, LIT,Nidus, Sentenceand Washington Square. Cindy Shearer is a writer and text/image artist. She also curates interdisciplinary art exhibits, most recently Offerings: Works of Text and Image (Danville, CA) and Telling Stories Through Art (with Tricia Grame, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA). She is professor and program chair for the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and MFA in Writing and Consciousness at CIIS. Susanna Sonnenberg has written two books, most recently She Matters: A Life in Friendships. She lives in Missoula, Montana. Chris Sullivan is a filmmaker and performance artist working out of Chicago, and teaching at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Media Fellowship, and a Creative Capital Grant. His recent feature animation, Consuming Spirits has shown throughout the world in 2012-13, and opened theatrically at the Film Forum in New York, in December 2012. He is presently working on a a new feature animated film,Misericord, slated for 2015. 200

Margaret Porter Troupe is director of the Harlem Arts Salon and a freelance writer, curator, and producer of cultural events. Quincy Troupe is a poet and writer and author of 19 books. His most recent are: Errancities, (poems) 2012 and Earl the Pearl: My Story, with basketball legend, Earl Monroe, April 2013. Troupe lives in New York City. Wendel A. White is currently Distinguished Professor of Art at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He has received various awards and fellowships including; a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography, two artist fellowships from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, a photography grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and a New Works Photography Fellowship from En Foco Inc. His work is represented in museum and corporate collections. Ronaldo V. Wilson is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (University of Pittsburgh, 2008), winner of the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and Poems of the Black Object(Futurepoem Books, 2009), winner of the Thom Gunn Award and the Asian American Literary Award in Poetry in 2010. His latest book, Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose, Other, is forthcoming from Counterpath Press in 2013. Co-founder of the Black Took Collective, Wilson teaches in the Literature Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Ronaldo V. Wilson Wendel A. White Quincy Troupe Margaret Porter Troupe Chris Sullivan Susanna Sonnenberg Cindy Shearer Liana Scalettar Margaret Rhee Amy Reed Natanya Ann Pulley John Pluecker Tony Phillips Willie Perdomo MariNaomi Ajuan Mance Eugenia Leigh Richard Kramer RENE KOCK Bhanu Kapil Kristiana Kahakauwila Amana Brembry Johnson Linda Susan Jackson MILDRED HOWARD Nadia Soraya Hennrich Lisa Gray Judy Grahn Chip B. Goldstein TAYLOR GLASCOCK Gina GILMOUR Eric Gamalinda Tsering Wangmo Dhompa Alexis Coe CHRIS COBB Kris Brandenburger Natalie BaszilE Jacob M. Appel Indira Allegra Dean Alioto



VOLUME 4 SPRING 2013 $10

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