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MISSION

AT
TENTH

MISSION
AT
TENTH
VOLUME
SIX

Judith Raphael and Tony Phillips, Nymph and Satyr


A collaboration, 2014, gouache medium on paper, 10 X 14

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MISSION
AT
TENTH
VOLUME
SIX

Editor Randall Babtkis


Managing Editor Cheryl Derricotte
Contributing Editors Hope Casareno
Cheryl Derricotte
Devin Montgomery
Sampath Ramanujan
Art Director Neil Freese

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Mission at Tenth was launched in April 2009 with Volume 1: The Leaky Pen Issue.
The Journal is produced at California Institute of Integral Studies by students in
the MFA course, Editing and Publishing. We wish to thank CIIS President Joseph L.
Subbiondo, Dean of Faculty and Academic Vice President Judie Wexler, and Carolyn
Cooke, Chair of the MFA Programs, for their vital support.
Special thanks to Neil Freese, whose design, artwork and vision have helped
put Mission at Tenth on the map since 2011, and also to Dr. Cindy Shearer for
her founding support and inspiration. Additional thanks to the 2015 cohorts of
the Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry MFA programs at CIIS for their
dedicated work.

Our mission is to publish innovative work by emerging and established writers and
other artists whose material 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, creative inquiry, and political thought.
2016 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 formexcept in the case of brief quotations embodied
in critical articles or reviewswithout prior written permission.
Mission at Tenth Inter-Arts Journal is published annually by California Institute of
Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.

EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE

Cover: Streets, Phnom Penh (2013), by Neil Freese.


Title Page: Preah Khan (2013), by Neil Freese.
Frontispiece: Nymph and Satyr (2014), collaboration by Judith Raphael and Tony
Phillips.

Address correspondence to: Randall Babtkis, rbabtkis@ciis.edu.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9834154-9-7

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facebook.com/missionattenth

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Bhanu Kapil
Jai Arun Ravine
Helen Klonaris

Domestic and Public Notes

Mixed Race, Mixed Gender, Mixed Genre

Flies

11

Neil Freese

Lost to the Jungle and Found Again

14

Neil Freese

Street 19, Phnom Penh


The Lake Has No End
Cambodia from a Bus Window
Sunrise, Angkor Wat
Street Sweeper

17
18
19
20
22

Yaxchitlan
Chickens

23
24

Census: X
Dear Story of a Risk
Testimony K (M. LAO)
Testimony L (M. LAO)

26
27
28
29

The Floating People


Lynching

30
31

Nimble Fingers to the Absent Mind


The Woodpecker Tells Me of Who I Never Knew
They Stood in Corners

32
33
34

Monica Mody

Breath Hovers
Flowers

36
38

Deirdre Visser

Janice (Detroit) Blacknight


Warren Chapman
Kathryn Byrd
Charles Pitts

39
40
41
42

On Skywatchers

43

Painting America

54

Kathleen Boyle
Ching-In Chen

Pireeni Sundaralingam
Tennae Maki

Anne Bluethenthal
Lynne Kaufman

Tim Tate
Stephen Bruce
Kal Spelletich

Margaret Rhee
Emilia Grace Domnguez

Luis Cernuda

Sean Labrador Y Manzano


Holen S. Kahn
Natalie Zimmerman
and Michael Wilson

Mermaids Past Their Prime


Flores de Los Muertes

67
68

Carrie Iverson,
Kelly Ludeking,
Nathan Sandberk,
and Jeremy Scidmore

Groundwork

134

Sliderock II
Los Roques

69
70

Intention Machines
Intention Machines
Intention Machines
Machine Artist (Interview)

72
73
74
75

Judith Rechter

Meeting at Station 28 on the Beach


Remembering Max
To Terrence
Sunbather

135
136
138
140

Telegarden
Machine Testimonial 2

79
80

Stephen Kessler

Watching the National League Playoffs


at West End Pub
Sam Kessler

142

Adoption Poem I
El Bosque Tiene Exceso De Vida
The Woods Have Excess Life

81
84
85

Glimpse of Wheat

144

Haba en el Fondo del Mar


At the Bottom of the Ocean
Juventud
Youth
Cordura
Understanding

86
87
88
89
90
92

Aimee Suzara

Hair
Manananggal Takes Revenge

146
148

Shruti Swamy

Wildflower

150

Excerpts from the Conservation of Mass

152

Tank Man

94

Lena
Portrait of a Redhead #1 and #2

161
162

Paradis Flight

99

Office Hours
Mariott Courtyard, Culver City
The Gypsy Wagon

163
164
165

Rainy Season
Through Solar Wind
Dream Diary

166
168
170

Jaime Cortez

Is There Someone Else Here?


Naprapathy
Visitation
Simn Jos Antonio de la Santsima
Trinidad Bolvar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco

172
174
175
176

A Comprehensive History of Asian America

177

Summer Bliss

181

Carolina de Robertis

Ronaldo V. Wilson
Mindy Eisman
Stephen Kessler

Sky

100

Tim Stapleton

Inside that House Back There

102

Cindy Shearer

Landscape of Memory

103

Big Sur and Beyond

109

Rosa del Duca

The Diver

118

Michael Janis

The Temple of Nature


When She Was There

131
132

Geneva Chao

Objects to Remember You By

133

Truong Tran

Tony Phillips

Kija Lucas

Larry Narron

143

DOMESTIC AND PUBLIC NOTES:


DELHI 2014
Bhanu Kapil

FOR TWO MONTHS at the end of 2014, I lived with a succession of aunts
in three flats in different parts of Delhi. At the same time, I embarked upon
a series of public actions and performances in memoriam: of [for] Jyoti Singh
Pandey: Nirbhaya: the 23 year old girl who was fatally gang raped in Delhi
in December 2012. Given the global awareness and protest culture already
connected to this case, I was surprised to see: that nothing was there. In [upon]
the ground. At the place where she, Pandey, had been thrown from a bus,
next to Mahipalpur Flyover in South Delhi. She lay there for forty minutes
before anyone called the police; it was my instinct to see this place and to
contribute to the offerings or memorial activity there. But there was no there:
there. It had been written over [obliterated] by the ecology and daily culture
of the street. What was I thinking? Diasporic thought captures and displays
an extreme image that disseminates before you get it together: to reverseemigrate. Or tour. I began to think about the nothingness, the earth memory,
gender violence in my home culture and at the same time to consider Delhis
interior-exterior rhythms and constraints; my own body and my aunts
bodies in domestic spaces. A series begins with these notes; perhaps they give
some sense, too, of the remarkable, monstrous, fantastically polluted city that
Delhi has become. The environmental degradation was a palpable force. The
thing you became, breathing in, even as you approached a politics, a gesture,
the soft art of commemorative forms.
1. I am writing to you from a pink city. Pink grey like the inside of a mouth.
Or the coat of an urban pig. The three pigs jump, in succession, over a ditch
in front of my aunts house in the DLF enclave, Part 2, in Gurgaon, Haryana:
the sprawling, toxic settlement next to Cybercity in south Delhi, where
I am drinking milky tea that tastes like socks. My cousin made it. He is 39
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today, but I dont know that until we leave and my aunt WhatsApps me:
You forgot the cake. My cousins mouth is a bright, chalky red, stuffed to
the brim behind the lower lip with a metallic, compacted paan. This chakra
burst, it just burst, he says, a reference to his college days, tapping the top
of his head, the crown, and making a sound of rupture: Pffff. Something
happened there, at college, after the idyllic childhood or mid adolescence in
Iraq: bread and potatoes, picnic style, on a park bench in Baghdad. Something
split open without warning, a trait Ive noticed in my extended family and in
the stories of my ancestors, who fell from a white horse and bumped their
head. Or were jailed. Or were hospitalized. In the time following a war, or
long after it. A border result. Trait is the wrong word. How does a nervous
system replicate/descend? Make tea, says my aunt, and so my cousin does.
It floats in, bubbling, rotting already, the chai, in tiny glasses; a rat as large
as a small dog scurries past the kitchen door. Youre scared of the mouse?
says my cousin, laughing, setting the tray on the table at my knee. When I
was here last week, a tribal cook [migrant] from Assam prepared every meal,
swept the house and washed the clothes once theyd piled up in a cracked
blue bucket beneath the bathroom sink. Egg sandwich, madam? No, I dont
eat eggs. Please, take me to America. I will look after you there. I will make
you egg sandwich every morning before you go to work. My foot was hurt
in an accident. Please look. Indeed, the cooks foot is severely damaged; he
prepares a delicious, fragrant ginger chai that we drink from porcelain tea
cups as Kapil Sharmas Comedy Circus blares on the screen behind us. The
cook lifts his foot closer to my face, balancing on the other leg. His ankle is
light violet, brown and caked with diesel in its physical seams. But today he
is not here; after asking for a raise of 1000 rupees, about nine dollars, he quit.
He found a job with more money. Other people have more money, says my
aunt, leaning back into the oil-stained back of the brown acrylic settee. She is
a large woman, a widow, recently diagnosed with diabetes, asthma and kidney
disease. I used to wear only white clothes made from the cloth I wove from
hand. I did not want to marry. Now the house is over-run with animals and
insects; I hold my breath and pretend to take a sip. My son is more like my
lover, says my aunt. I feel like hes my boyfriend. Outside, a Dubai-style
skyline rises up above the guava trees in the garden; the leaves are coated in
a pale yellow dust. Dirty sugar. Its like the bowels of a spaceship, I think, as I
slip into the pre-paid taxi, waving goodbye.
2. I am here in Delhi to make a study of the ground.
3. Next, I am sitting on an embroidered bed sheet pulled tight over a divan
yet rumpled in the front room of a second floor flat in Pitam Pura, next to
the Rohini colony in north-west Delhi, though truly I am only aware of the
two hours it took to get here from the other side of the city. Here, another
aunt, my mothers cousin, is leaning over a balcony, calling out, and soon,
a young man wielding a large curved knife has climbed the steep marble
stairs with a young green coconut, a nariel, in his arms. With a swift chop
the coconut is open, and he hands it to me with a straw. I drink slowly and
this feels intimate, other-wordly, unhygienic, childish. When Im done, the
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coconut-seller carves a piece of the bark off the side and scoops up the tender,
pristine and white flesh into the curve of it. I realize Im expected to eat it
now and so I do, despite my phobia of falling sick in India. It is delicious.
This aunt is about seventy years old; she has no teeth and her hair is bright
orange from a recent application of Kashmiri henna. She and her husband
have lived, since 1969, in an ashram next to the Ganges in Uttarakhand but
have returned to Delhi following the death of their only son from Hepatitis
A; now they share the flat with their unmarried daughter, who commutes on
the Delhi metro every morning (except Wednesdays) to her job in the central
quarter of a city so huge there is no axis. There is no geography. I feel relaxed
in the flat, and drink my tea quietly, inwardly, until the moment that another
daughter arrives, followed by her husband. These are distant relatives I did
not meet as a child or young woman. The son-in-law of my aunt blinks back
at me when we find ourselves alone in the front room; all the women seem to
be in the kitchen, preparing a complex, improvised lunch. Who are you? I
blurt out. Now isnt that the question? he replies. Then he says something
so shocking that I ask him to stop speaking, not able to comprehend the
breach of my interiority, my languor in a city in which no-one knows I am an
experimental writer in the U.S., a country that is not my own. Crossing the
city each day, I read book after book on my Kindle Paperwhite: a screen that
tilts over the streetscape of steaming, eroded surfaces: a city that looks like a
ruin even as it is being built. I have not spoken in English for over a month.
My thesis, says the son-in-law, focused on the later works of Maurice
Blanchot. Do you know his work? I bury my head in my hands. Give me
a moment, I say. For the first time in my entire life, beyond the frame or
bounds of my intensely fearful, conservative close family, I have encountered
a word that links to the life I live so far away: Blanchot. There is not really
an opportunity to talk. But I express my amazement and pleasure, in broken
Hindi. To have met someone, in this family of engineers and mathematicians,
who is interested in terrible images and questions. I try to explain that I am a
writer, but this feels so far from the reality of this flat, I just stop. The titles of
my books, said aloud and in succession, sound like the names of cats. The
Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Or cities in former Russian republics
that are named for martyred generals. Who am I, here? Drinking from the
nariel feels closest to the India of the 1970s, 80s and even 90s that I recall
most vividly: protracted, delirious summers in Punjab. The light orange and
pink, old-fashioned, loosely cut cotton kurta I chose to wear this morning is
sticking to my legs: the waterproof ski leggings that were the closest thing in
my suitcase to pajamas, the tight fitting trousers traditionally worn with
this dress. Migration has made me into someone even less modern than a
modern Indian is, at this moment, in this city, of this time. I have no idea how
to connect with the liberal elite, or even the non-elite, with whom I might
analyze the ground. As a surface. For earthworks: indelible red stains. Say it
again, I ask. And he does, smiling, with a flourish: Blanchot!
4. Lie down on the ground. Describe the under-carriage and supporting
columns of the Mahipalpur Flyover. Annotate: graffiti, urine, the darkness of
one part of the concrete compared to the other, a cactus green. On either side,
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the traffic surges but your job is stop time. This is you, practicing for a minute
what, in life, in life as it was for Jyoti Singh Pandey, took almost an hour. On
the dirt outside Hotel 37, where the flyover diverges to a service road heading
to Vasunt Kunj, where your aunt has made rice. A swiftly boiling, ultra-white
basmati starch.

weak day. I get up. I walk home. How does the body of the witness discharge
an image that ruptures the scene? Is this the scene? Sometimes I unfurl my
banner: STOP GIRL HATE. Sometimes the color red, the red I make in my
brain, breaching the dust of the street, is enough.

5. Or perhaps the floors are made of local marble and a softly curving staircase
leads to the upper floor, where the beds are taut with upper sheets blocked
out with pink and white paisley patterns along the border. This aunt is less
relaxed than the other two, though the living space is pristine, calculated,
slick. When the maid finds the bag of sanitary napkins that has fallen from
your rucksack onto the floor, you are reprimanded in the living room in front
of everyone. Theres been a misunderstanding. Your aunt thinks there is a
used sanitary pad on the floor; the maid has refused to pick it up. Say what?
You are so dirty; the maid will not clean up your disgusting mess. She may
quit. Then my health will worsen. Who do you think you are? Horrified,
I go upstairs to check. I return to my aunt and confirm that the pads were
not used. She continues: Who looked after your grandfather when he
was sick? Everyone spits on me. There seems to be something else beneath
the pain. A history. I notice that the elders in my family, the ones who lived
through Partition as children, are traumatized in concentrated, specific ways.
Later that night, for Diwali, we place candles on the staircase; everything is
forgotten. Out come the whirling spokes of silvery fire; out come the roasted
sweets. Socially, says my uncle, when I speak to him about hiring a taxi to
go to the Mahipalpur Flyover: A woman is never safe. He is speaking to me
about the taxi. When I try to describe my projecta memorialhe replies:
Why would you do that? We are in a gated community in Faridabad, half
an hour from the India Gate yet surrounded by a dense, low-lying jungle; like
a polar bear in a zoo, I take laps of the society, breathing in a thick smoke
speckled with radiating, bright green and fuchsia dots. A monkey chases me
when I try to take its photo; I leap away from its mouth. Blood rich gums. A
bite.
6. I empty the rose petals onto the ground, resisting the urge to stuff the plastic
bag into my mouth after shaking it many times to get the scarlet dust out.
What is the end point of a performance that nobody sees? Except that they do.
A crowd of about fifty men constellates within ten minutes. And one woman.
She bows to me with a deep Namaste, the greeting of this place and of all yoga
classes in North America, mispronounced. The taxi driver, whom Ive bribed
to stop, says, when I get back in: She thinks you are doing puja, madam. A
rite. Two weeks ago, I emptied red powder here, a ceremonial sindoor. To stain
a place that absorbs the stains, thus trace. A car backed up, beeping, over my
art. In a local cactus garden, in the enclave adjoining this spot, I empty, on
another day: violet and green powder, sandalwood, petalson a tilted granite
slab. Why? I notice that the powder makes the shape of the upper body of
a woman with long hairwithout any organized distribution. What does it
mean to be walking in Delhi and to see an unbounded silueta, an homage
to the Cuban immigrant earth artist Ana Mendieta? I open my throat to the
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Numbness. Not Numbness. Something Else.

MIXED RACE, MIXED GENDER,


MIXED GENRE
Jai Arun Ravine

Finding the Felt Sense


of Experimental

ONE DAY AT one of my previous jobs, Im in a car driving to a venue with


some co-workers. I just started working at this place so everyones chatting me
up, and it comes out that Im a dancer. The woman driving asks me, What
kind of dance do you do? And I say, with some kind of weird hesitation,
modern dance.

I often have this weird hesitation when I say modern dance, for a
couple of reasons. First of all, its hard to even know what modern dance
means, or what it refers to. Because there are so many different forms, schools,
techniques, and practices that go under the broad umbrella were calling
modern dance these days, which makes it hard to explain to non-dancers.
Secondly, Im not really sure what people are picturing in their head when
they hear the phrase modern dance. Actually, theyre probably picturing
someone writhing around on the floor, or something called interpretive
dance, which is not what I dowhich is not even a real thingand thats
just awkward.

So all of this runs through my head as I say modern dance. Does
anyone want to guess what my coworkers immediate response is? Her
immediate response is: Have you watched that show So You Think You Can
Dance? I can tell Im going to really disappoint her, but I sayNo, I havent
watched it. And she goes, Oh, but you have to watch it! And she launches
into this 15-minute narrative about the show and how great it is. As shes
talking I realize that my co-worker is actually just trying to make a connection
with me, but the interaction leaves me feeling even more alienated than
before.

I want to talk about what I identify as a weird hesitation when I have


to answer the question, What kind of dance do you do? in relation to
something Bhanu Kapil said. In her bio for the Spring 2013 issue of Mission at
Tenth, she wrote this:

A British person by birth, she is 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.

The weird hesitation I feel in my body when Im asked What kind
of dance do you do? is akin to Kapils numbness / not numbness / something
else. I feel it when people ask, What kind of writing do you do? I feel it
when I have to explain my genre. I feel it when I have to explain my gender.
I feel it when people ask, Where are you from? when they mean to ask
my ethnicity. I feel it when Im misgendered, or when I have to use a public
restroom. I feel it when I go to a poetry reading and feel awkward and bored,
or when I go to an Asian American event and feel completely out of place and
alone.

I feel it when I say poetry, or trans, or Asian American, because
these words on their own dont contain the entirety of who I am and what
I do. Telling the full story involves checking multiple boxes, including the
Other box, and then filling in the blank with what becomes a paragraph.
Responding to these kinds of questions isnt easy for me. Most importantly,
its not small talk. Sometimes it requires that the other person deconstruct
their entire concept of sex and gender, or race and ethnicity, or capitalism,
and do I have the time to walk them through that? Probably not.

I think this numbness / not numbness is a product of being both on
the inside and outside of a bunch of different identities, categories, and arts
scenes, and from this interstitial place, needing to explain who I am and what
I do in a way thats easy for other people to understand. Within broader arts
communities of which Ive been a partwhether they are specifically queer
or trans or POCIve felt a push to put myself out there in a certain way,
and to make art that looks or translates in a certain way. So sometimes there
comes to be a codification of what queer art should look like, or what trans
art should look like, or what Asian American art should look like, what kinds
of issues we should address or concern ourselves with, and how. As well an
assumption that all of us should even have similar concerns, or give certain
concerns the same weight.
Rejection Letters
Lets talk about rejection.
Dear Jai Arun Ravine,
Thank you for your patience and for the opportunity to consider your work. Weve
been overwhelmed with submissions for this issue.

Were going to have to pass on your submission(s) at this time. Please consider
resubmitting again in the future.

This is a rejection letter I received for an explicitly Queer People of
Color call for work, which I think is pretty hilarious. The piece I submitted
to the recent anthology of trans and genderqueer writing, Troubling the Line,
wasnt accepted. And I only wonder about the reasons why because a friend
of mine (whose work was accepted) asked me to read his submission before he
sent it. His pieces were definitely explicit in terms of confrontations regarding
gender, in terms of hitting up against concrete boundaries of identity.
The piece I had submitted, however, was a project about recurring dreams
and sexuality and chance operations involving my Thai-English pocket
dictionaries, which also had a lo-fi visual componentbut was it explicitly
trans enough in its content? And did this have something to do with why it
was rejected?

Ive been thinking about this a lotthe canonization of experience,
of a trans narrative in art. I made a short film in Thailand in 2011, called Tom
/ Trans / Thai, which explores the silence around FTM identity in the Thai
context. Im proud to say that its been rejected by both the San Francisco
and Los Angeles transgender film festivals. Recently a queer POC film series
expressed interest in curating the film, but after screening it told me it was
too artistic for their audience. Granted, Tom / Trans / Thai is not a 3-minute
music video, it doesnt have fancy cinematography or video editing tricks; its
quiet, it asks you to wait and listen, and its not a documentary. It doesnt
scream, Im trans and Im complicated and my life has been traumatic but Im
still sexy and really intersectional and I want you to like me.

I feel like theres a need to scream or market a certain kind of
authenticity of self. And I can tell that people want that. They want the
snackable format, the sexiness, the documentary that exposes the daily body.
They want the first person I, the ego, the slam poet all over the mic. And all
of these things are needs and functions for art and for the work we make. Ive
been reading choreographer Susan Rethorsts book A Choreographic Mind:
Autobodygraphical Writings, and she talks a lot about needs and functions in
terms of dance, which I feel can be applied to any art form. She says:

This need to be seen, to make a story of ourselves and our lives, is one example
of something dance can be used to do, or contribute to. It is not on the landscape of our
acknowledged needs for dance, our definitions of dance. It is one of the many subtle
yens that draw people to making dance, along with needs like belonging, soap-boxing,
affirmation, negation, religious and social impulses. We all have reasons for doing
what we do. All a mix of conscious and unconscious, chosen and received, answering
to both noble and mundane images of who and what we are.

Even though it may seem simple, I like that she points out that there
are a multitude of things an art form can be used to do, and that making a
story of ourselves is just one of them. She goes on to say that shes seen dances
that ask her to witness an experience, or that offer a bandwagon, or that enact
ritual, or that act as a platform, and so forth, and that each is valid. And that
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there should be more conversation around these differences in function, that


we need to first look to the work to see what it is doing, and what it reveals
about the makers goals.

So along the way Ive discovered that my needs and functions and
goals for art have differed and diverged from whats been trendy or accepted
or acknowledged as needs and functions. I find it curious how and why
certain trans or queer or Asian American narratives are canonized in film
and writing and performance. How does this canonization affect us? Whose
work becomes legible, accessible, visible, and whose work becomes illegible,
inaccessible, invisible?

And even as I say visible/invisible, I wince a little bit, because I feel
like one of those concerns we should be having as queer and trans artists and
artists of color is visibility. Im tired of visibility. At this time the desire to be
visible is not why I make work. I have other reasons and needs for making
work and for how I want each project to function.
The Body Thinking
I think the feeling I have in my body of numbness/not numbness, what Ive
come to associate with a kind of queerness, not so much informs the content
of my work as informs the multi-disciplinary forms or structures or strategies I
decide to use. Even when a project I do doesnt explicitly focus on my personal
experiences with gender, I think my forms are queer, in the sense that they
move across, sample, re-write, cut-up, mash-up, and do drag.

One example of this is a performance piece I created in 2011 called
The Package Tour. I had two spoken texts I performed, as well as four separate
movement sections. I did this dance with a rice cooker; I was interested in the
rice cooker as a huge Asian symbol that I wanted to invert, dis-identify with,
and turn inside out. So I try to get inside the rice cooker and then use it as
a time travel device back to Thailand. I danced with golden fingernails to a
mash-up of bluegrass music and Thai rap, and also mimicked a karaoke music
video projection of Christy Gibson, a Dutch artist who moved to Korat,
Thailand, with her family at a young age. She grew up singing the traditional
northeast style luk-tung music, makes music videos, and is really popular
among Thai people. I wanted to question her easy access to and mastery of
Thai language and culture, when so many Thai people in the diaspora do not
have the same access. I felt like the only way I could attain a deep personal
understanding of Thai culture and life was to mimic her.

Another example is the book manuscript Im currently working on.
Im interrogating the desire white people have to lose and reinvent themselves
in Thailand, so Im looking at tourism and popular western media via satire
and parody. Im writing in the voices of characters in books and films, like
Yul Brynner from The King and I, or Pete Burns from Dead or Alive, because
of a particular scene from the video to You Spin Me Right Round. Im also
doing these erasures of an Anthropologie catalog. While not specifically
queer or primarily even autobiographical in terms of content, my structures
and strategies speak to and are employed because of my interstitial / inbetween lived experiences.
9


Beginning in July 2013 and again since early spring 2014, Ive been
working on a dance piece with Qilo Matzen, who is choreographing a solo for
me. Ive been trained in dance for many years, but I havent choreographed
much. I think my main reason for this is because being a mixed gender, mixed
race body in dance is really difficult, and Im often unsure of my relationship
to the audience, or the structure of performance, or to being witnessed,
because of my complicated relationship to being seen by others, when its
already difficult to see myself. In order to control this dynamic I started to feel
like I had to be really intentional about how I entered and moved in the space.
Because Im also a writer, being able to articulate myself in written language
became a heavy influence. Everything had to have a meaning, every gesture
had to be saying something; I wanted to have clear intentions.

In working with Qilo, I feel very comfortable in the role of dancer,
and am enjoying really working on my focus and concentration on the scores
weve set up, which come from writing weve done thats been condensed
into images and transferred into felt sensations that then become kinesthetic
states. In our rehearsals I improvise based on these texts and scores, and
Qilo will direct me to hone in on a specific moment, or change the texture
of a specific movement, and in so doing Im learning to let go of the stress of
what does this mean? or what is my exact intention with this movement?
I emerge from paralysis and into living in the presence of my own moving
body. Who I am, my values, my experiences, my memories, are present all the
time, in each detail.

I feel like writers are always interested in the body. They literally get
up on the mic and say, Im interested in the body. It makes me think about
something Susan Rethorst says: Thinking about the body is not the same
as the body thinking. When I say that my queerness, or the numbness / not
numbness I experience about identity and labels, informs the structure of my
work rather than the content, I think of this as not so much thinking about
the body or writing about the body, but the body actually thinking. In the
project with Qilo, Im learning to begin from the pure physical intelligence of
it, from the bodys mind.

Being a person of mixed race and mixed gender, and making work
in different genres, the texture of what it feels like to be a person with these
experiences, they all feel like the same texture. People often ask me what its
like to be a writer and a dancer, to make books and make films, and I always
have a hard time answering that. To me it feels like the work is all coming
from the same place. The way it comes out, the vehicle used, is different, and
accommodates the needs of the work. So really its the same question then,
what its like to be a writer and a dancer, to be White and Thai, to be both
and neither and other gender. Its not numbness / something else. My body
thinking through this numbness / not numbness determines my choices,
strategies and structures.

Perhaps this is the felt sense of that word experimental.

10

FLIES
Helen Klonaris

An Excerpt

This is an excerpt from a short story about a God-loving English woman who lives
alone in her deceased parents house on a small Caribbean island at the moment
of its independence from colonial rule. She has been dreaming of the coming of a
tsunami. On the day the English flagthe Union Jackcomes down, Marjorie St.
George begins having trouble breathing. There is a heat wave. There is the intrusion of
flies into her otherwise spotless house. She and her walls begin to crack up.
MARJORIE ST. GEORGE abandoned the washing of walls to the task of
killing flies. There were not enough hours in the day or days in the week to kill
them all. Fly swats hung purposefully on door handles, nestled strategically
between cushions, rested vigilantly on the toilet tank within easy reach of her
groping hand. And for each fly she swept into a dustpan and dropped into a
hole in the ground, ten more surged in as the front door opened and closed.
Marjorie St. George could not keep up with the dust or the flies and since she
could not draw a full breath, and had not for several months, and because it
hurt to inhale and exhale, she abandoned speaking her prayers out loud and
decided to let the dead flies speak for her. Mounds littered the backyard like
anthills. Like so many deranged breasts.

Her own breasts hung precariously from her exhausted frame. At
night she lay unclothed because the chafing of her nightgown against her
dry leaf skin had become unbearable. Staring at the ceiling, (away from her
wasting breasts that hung off to the sides, so gaunt she thought they might
tear and slither onto the floor and die) she could hear the crawl of wetness
down the walls, the careful trickle of dust particles, estuary-like across their
surface. She could feel, as if it were her own skin, the stretching of limestone
and cement and the first appearance of a crack running lengthwise from
floor to ceiling in the living room; how the first gave permission to others
11

to branch off and multiply across the walls of the house; how the trickle of
wetness found the slight openings and felt its way into them, reaching for
larger spaces. She knew there were puddles of thickened grime collecting in
the crease between the wall and floor, in corners where she had not swept or
mopped in months. She could smell the stale dust that cloaked the furniture,
that clotted the electric outlets, that stopped up the sinks where sour water
brooded. But more potent than all these smells was the scent of her body: a
bittersweet stink, pungent and foul, like the smell of rotting lilies.

(Her mother had loved the scent of lilies. Had grown them each year
in time for Easter. Had cut and placed them in large crystal bowls on the
dining room table and on dressers in all of the bedrooms. She had said they
emerged from the dark of the earth just like Jesus emerged white and sweet
smelling from the darkness of death. She could not bear for them to die, since
it was death Jesus resurrection had conquered, so she plucked them from
vases before they could wilt, and pressed them between sheets of grey sugar
paper, preserving them, she said, in a suspended state of purity.)

It was Marjorie St. Georges stink that made the flies restless and
unpredictable. By day they careened into her from surprising angles, throwing
themselves at her armpits and willfully darting into the narrow sloping
entrance to her nose. She swatted and snorted till her arms and chest ached
with the effort. By night, when the smell was strongest, they circled her bed,
whining like mosquitoes, fat as dung beetles, taking turns diving into what
was left of her hair, then drifting indolently over her chaffed nipples.

As August Monday dawned, and a faint drumming and cowbelling
and horn blowing could be heard rising like joyous heralds from villages
across the island, Marjorie St. George awoke to swat at what she thought was
a fly crawling across her forehead. She felt with her hands into the darkness
but the air was still and unbothered. A phantom shiver rippled across her
skin. She felt hot, feverish on the inside. Then, a sound. She sat forward,
listening. Saaah. Saaah. A sound like skin brushing cloth. Like skin brushing
skin. It was sensuous and unfamiliar. Swift, smooth and heavy. Brushing then
falling. She felt through the darkness for the mattress. At first she thought
she was touching paper or leaves, crumpled on the bed. But the familiar curve
of a lip, the withered but unmistakable shape of an earlobe, like a bit of dried
mango, convinced her that these were pieces of herself: mouth, ears, the cleft
of her chin, eyelashes, her nose.

Giddy, she could not tell whether the low drone she heard was
coming from outside her head, or from the pieces of herself falling and
gathering softly about her on the bed. But as light crept in between shadows,
Marjorie St. George could see them well. They covered the ceiling and walls,
the curtains and door. They glittered and hummed. Magnificent swarm.

And as if guided by one impulse, or a sharply inhaled breath, the
flies rose and converged on the mound of Marjorie St. George. She felt them
alight on her eyelids and lips, her throat, her shoulder blades and breasts,
the hollow bowl of her belly, the desert of her pubis, the dried out skin of
her thighs and shins, her swollen feet; she felt their lightness, the flutter of
their wings cooling, the unbearably tender prickle of pin legs and tongues
searching, stroking, sinking into her and sucking the remaining wetness,
12

bittersweet, from her skin. She shuddered, sending undulations across the
sheen of glittering forms and felt the world coursing through her.

She wanted badly to pray. She moaned and called out, but could not
find the place where her voice remained, and worse, could not remember who
it was she was calling to; the name she had known had come apart and it was
too hard to pull back together; what was a name after all, what was a person or
a thing or being; she couldnt remember, and what she wanted was the smell
of things, and the stroking and sinking and sucking; the rubbing, she wanted
to feel it inside, or somewhere that was everywhere. She followed the smell of
herself and the prickling of feet across her skin till she did not know what was
an ear and what was a belly or fingers or toes.

As the flies sucked and rubbed, Marjorie St. George became a quiver
of air, a rumor of rotting lilies hovering thickly over the soiled mattress, the
numinous undulation of her wanting across the fecund interior of her house,
easing itself into the world like a forbidden word, yes, fanning in thick black
waves, yes, out through the wetly dark estuary, yes, of cracks in the walls.

13

LOST TO THE JUNGLE


AND FOUND AGAIN
Neil Freese

WE LEFT OUR hotel in Siem Reap at 4:30 a.m., bound for Angkor Wat to
watch the sunrise. The young man at the front desk was chipper, handing us
a small pack lunch of cucumber sandwiches and tiny bananas. We climbed
into the tuk tuk and our driver, Mr. Kun, wheeled onto the empty streets
and took us up a back road, where the air was cool. We passed women on
bicycles carrying bundles of wood, riding the opposite direction, into the city.
Morning markets were in full swing, packed with locals. Dogs slept in the
road.

When we arrived at the temple the sun was barely hinting at its
rise. Hundreds of tourists poured across the stone causeway that spans the
moat. The temple is so large, however, that once inside the gates the crowds
dispersed easily. The sun came up slowly from behind the cloudy horizon,
casting pink and yellow darts onto the cumulus giants huddled in the
southern sky. Straight above us the air was crisp and clear. We watched frogs
hopping into the reflecting pools. The temperature rose quickly.

Emily and I were on honeymoon in Cambodia. Millions of tourists
descend on Angkor each year, boosting the economy of Cambodia but
especially the nearby city of Siem Reap. Like us, these tourists make their way
to Cambodia primarily to see Angkor, to watch the sun rise above the ancient
stone spires.

Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the vast Angkor complex, the
crown jewel in a megacity of ruins in western Cambodia. The seat of the
Khmer people for hundreds of years, Angkor grew into a sprawling urban
center built around sophisticated water management infrastructure and
breathtaking religious monuments. By the 15th century the empire had fallen
into decline and Angkor was abandoned, swallowed by the jungle. The
restoration and preservation of the city began in the 19th century, and today
14

Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest archaeological


site in the world, spanning more than 100 square miles.

The grand temples were beautiful, but no more so than the
anonymous ruins that dot the forest. You can feel the jungle creeping, aching
to return to the spaces from which its been cleared. Tourists can, and do,
go where they please. People climb all over the magnificent hulking stones,
even on those that feature intricate bas relief carvings. There are no guards
or guardrails prohibiting tourists from causing damage to the temples or to
themselves.

It wasnt surprising that, in the tourist areas, young children were
working, selling trinkets to tourists, greeting them in a parade of languages
until they hit on the correct tongue. What was surprising was to see just how
young the Cambodians are the median age in Cambodia in 2010 was about
23 years old and to learn more about how this came to be.

Four days earlier we had been in Phnom Penh, the capital of
Cambodia, about 200 miles to the southeast of Angkor. We were there to
tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which is a harrowing monument
to the defining tragedy of modern Cambodia. The building was originally a
high school, but was seized in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge regime and converted
into a prison named S-21. It was here that, between 1975-79, the Khmer Rouge
regime held and tortured 19,000 enemies of the Cambodian state, most of
whom were later marched 17 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh to the Killing
Fields. Almost all of these victims were falsely accused.

Its hard to imagine that Tuol Sleng was ever a place of learning. The
rooms are dim, dank, and cold. Our museum guide had lived through the
Khmer Rouge regime he was a young boy at the time. Two of the seven
surviving prisoners (you read that number right, just seven survivors) were on
the premises, selling their autobiographies. Graphic photos covered the walls
of the cells, as well as paintings depicting the types of torture methods that the
prison guards employed. Waterboarding, submersion tanks, electrocution,
and worse.

The Khmer Rouge, in just four years, had killed a quarter of their
countrys population about 2 million people. Cambodian families were
torn apart, society decimated.

Back in Angkor, after touring the temples, we sat at a cafe across the
street from the moat that encircles Angkor Wat, eating breakfast with our
new Cambodian friends, Peter and Dara. We got on the subject of the Khmer
Rouge, and Dara told us that as recently as the mid-1990s only two of the
temples at Angkor were safe enough for visitors to explore.

By 1979 the Khmer Rouge forces had been driven out of Phnom Penh
and the leadership forced into exile following an invasion of Cambodia by
the Vietnamese, but Khmer Rouge partisans survived on the margins for
years, holding control over rural areas in the west of the country around Siem
Reap. Dara told us that his uncle was Khmer Rouge staying affiliated was
a strategic decision, a means to keeping ones family safe. Otherwise, the
Khmer Rouge could paint a target on you. Peter recounted tales of people
gunned down on main thoroughfares. Not too long ago, this tourist oasis was
the Wild West.
15


In this country you can feel buried by story after story of loss,
dislocation, and pain. As a tourist, you cant help but find solace in the
optimism of the people you meet here. Angkor was made, lost to the jungle,
and eventually, found again. Cambodia is being made anew.

Neil Freese, Street 19, Phnom Penh


2013

16

17

Neil Freese, The Lake Has No End


2013

18

Neil Freese, Cambodia from a Bus Window


2013

19

Neil Freese, Sunrise, Angkor Wat


2013

YAXCHITLAN
Kathleen Boyle

I took photographs of each tree


The peculiar arrangement of roots
Ruins and stones in the background
Meanwhile the monkeys sounded
Enormous in the near distance
You wandered away I lost track
Of you and the others who had traveled
With us in the small boat
It was the kind of place where we must admit
The jungle is closing back in and quick
Veining back over the temples
Cracking the stairways sound
Of the monkeys closer and the River
Umashita the air thick with arriving rain
Guatemala on the other side
You wandering wandering
Further away me just standing there
Among so many epiphytes
Neil Freese, Street Sweeper, Siem Reap
2013

22

23

CHICKENS
Kathleen Boyle

in the parking lot, greeting aunts and cousins,


while chickens threaded the spaces
between their ankles. On the beach
most everyone seems honeymooners and
there is a thin veil of mahalo, the Hawaiian
word for thanks, which sugars all directives
and complaints. Some roosters crow it: ma ha Ha
lo. On the powerline trail trucks and four wheelers
abandoned in the mile deep clay,
and there are few chickens, it being too far
from what might be dropped, from what might
be caught. No, they travel towns and beaches, wiry
and undesirable, heads down, haggard-feathered.
Try to look one in its glassy eye, it scatters.

In Kauai the chickens stray over the beaches,


the underbrush, the parking lots: everywhere. Peck
pecking at your towel if you arent paying attention,
if youre lulled by the press of aquamarine
heat, by the surf expanding wave by wave as the swell
arrives, by your own wedding having happened,
being over, the ring now on his finger as he flicks
away the chicken come too close. That niche
of beggars, of pesters, of pigeons, monkeys, seagulls,
sandfleas, here belongs to chickens, intertwined
wanderers. Most anything could scavenge
if it had to. They called garbage collectors scavengers,
like my grandfather, his basement full of hurricane
lamps, saws, tables, notecards, typewriters.
In this age of late marriages, my particular age,
husbands and grandfathers never meet. Chickens:
do you know your grandfathers? Your husbands
grandmothers, their Blanches escaped from her
fathers kosher butchery in the Krakow market?
You are too many and too uncontained to belong
to any particular person. You move in packs,
the occasional Rooster sounding uh huh Huh
huh or ha ha Ha ha in the far distance.
The surprise of finding one when opening the car
door at the Walmart, how it tried to hop in,
the Walmart being the place to shop,
really, everyone was there, meeting
24

25

26

CENSUS: X

DEAR STORY OF A RISK

Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen

27

28

TESTIMONY K (M. LAO)

TESTIMONY L (M. LAO)

Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen

29

THE FLOATING PEOPLE

LYNCHING

Pireeni Sundaralingam

Pireeni Sundaralingam

The men float slightly higher



than the women, the grass
barely grazing their pristine soles.

It is always summer here, our car



blazing through heat, the train
a feint line on the horizon.

Their shoes remain unworn, as stiff as when



they first stepped out and hovered
above the tarmac of this country.

I am pressed against the window



or I am turning away
the glass, a dull wall between us.

They leave no prints



on the polished floors of cocktail parties
or the damp lawns of drowsing gardens.

Schoolgirl, informer, spy: your belly



swelling with a thousand flies.

The soil itself keeps no record



of their passing. They plant
no tracks in the important earth.

In the distance, a cloud, a tree,



the iron miles of scrub,
blanketing the roar.

They float,

across the silent lakes,

across the furious paths.
In some other world,
this would be a miracle.
30

31

NIMBLE FINGERS TO THE ABSENT MIND


Tennae Maki

THE WOODPECKER TELLS ME OF


WHO I NEVER KNEW
Tennae Maki

What will you one year apart.


understand once Eyes give way, lungs hard to read.
you shed This body a blot.
that child
Your name listed twice, once male, another female.
Same occupation, wringing out of backroom fear,
prayer daily in wood. Conjoined by water and land
into world?

There are still screws in the wall from


the picture frames you dismounted and
packed away.
These scars on the apartment wall have joined
the other skids, hooks, and holes of anonymity.
When the sounds of trolley wagons ring through
my ears, I yearn for an era that Ive never known.
These same songs are sung when planes fly
above and conversations are heard through walls.
These are the days that I let rose buds crumble
and daisy heads droop towards the floor.
The marks on the wall and the listless flora on
tabletops are nothing compared to the ambient
noises that seep into the space you left behind.
It could have happened yesterday or a century ago,
but I never noticed the wall paint has cracks in it;
then again, there arent any woodpeckers around
here at all.

32

33

breaking of ice between her teeth.

THEY STOOD IN CORNERS

He didnt dare open his eyes.


From there he would have had to abandon sleep.

Tennae Maki

The corn flakes had been sitting


in the bowl of milk for five minuets now.
She sat there quietly, decisively staring.
Neither of them bothered to turn on the light.
There was enough Saturday sun to filter through
the blinds and spill out around the tiny room.
She was crouching on the kitchen counter top,
balancing on the balls of her feet.
A cool cup of tea was being clutched, not by
her hands, but his. She was hugging her knees,
chewing an ice cube.
Standing there, he didnt seem to be bothered by
his cereal turning to mush, or his drink falling
to room temperature.
After the shower, her hair kept her shoulders
wet. The open breeze was kissing her arms.
It was a cool morning and neither she, nor he, thought
to close the window.
The wind was not as loud as the silence
and neither thing could be as noisy as the
34

35

Breath lately sent a search party for one of its lost members.

BREATH HOVERS

Monica Mody
Breath caught like a bird in my entrails until
two eyes looking at you in darkness are alive with murmurs,

with a dream spliced together,

with a chasm.

*
Breath flows through your skin into mine.

Sound breathing between us.

This feature of breath must have you puzzled.


Can you not sense the diving

Breath taking apart the word you just held, breathing between your teeth,
like a dove.

Breaths melancholy & breaths song.

Breathing, like an infant sunrise

When I allow my breath to breathe, your fingers flutter

some shapes back at me &

windswept smile

part of pain on which I rest my claim

Breath, stonefire, windwater

Breaths living texture coloring the mirror between.

36

to be swallowed by you?

finally I swallow the breath

finally there is space around pain in the lungs


& time runs like a swollen, coursing eddies.
37

FLOWERS
Monica Mody

of innocence rising the day they were asked by winds to start singing of tears
& mud, mud streaking their cheeks because every inarticulate ruin has its
own reedy voice that catches throats by its sadness, like water like loneliness,
sadness like a star-filament suspended from skies, shedding tears that we
drink, bees drink, make beauty make food, & we stand in this world beauty
all around us & even so
our hearts seek water, seek a moistening that will travel from earth to our
atoms, to the filament glinting in our very flame.
In that song we are profoundly lost & meanings lie scattered in winds like
a call that parts the skies with its ache, with its fist of hurt. A fistful of sky
falls into my eyes as I look up, tracking sun-moon-stars & the hard glint of
planets. Planets grow in my belly like grass & drum a beat until I believe
concatenation to be mine.

Deirdre Visser, Janice (Detroit) Blacknight


2014

Times stopped its devilry. We look at each other across the halt, measuring
what must be slain. The sacrifice raises its tender gaze to the two of us, licks
our eyes.

38

39

Deirdre Visser, Warren Chapman


2014

40

Deirdre Visser, Kathryn Byrd


2014

41

ON SKYWATCHERS
Anne Bluethenthal

Deirdre Visser, Charles Pitts


2014

42

AUTHORS NOTE Nearly four years ago Anne Bluethenthal Dance Productions
(ABD) initiated the Skywatchers project in collaboration with Luggage Store Gallery
and Community Housing Partnership (CHP) in order to engage formerly homeless
residents of the Tenderloin in high quality creative experiences that illuminate their
lives and stories. The CHP residents, too often reduced to statistical data, become
storytellers, co-creators, performers, and audience membersworking in close
collaboration with ABD dancers and associated artists. The connectivity intrinsic
to creative collaboration builds trust and nurtures the desire for self-efficacy. The
humanizing impact of sharing ones own story, both to be heard and to see that story
in a broader social context, creates the space for participating residents to imagine
and manifest change.

Tenderloin residents, Skywatchers co-creators, now take ownership of the
projectwhich they see as their creative vehicleand as a result, they are becoming
a cohesive artistic ensemble. Recent Skywatchers events have featured, among
other things, an open mic for resident poets and performers; a spontaneous choir
and processional with vocal activist Melanie DeMore; a soundscape designed by
Intersection fo the Arts Technical Director Alejandro Acosta, composed of resident
interviews; portraits by photographer Deirdre Visser; and a meal of Recession Stew, a
food-based project instigated by local community artist, Amara Tabor Smith. Dancers
from ABD Productions and Embodiment Project are part of the Skywatcher team,
as well as Project Manager Yanina Rivera, Andrea Mia, Sasha Silveanu, Ahmunet
Jordon, and Zoe Bender.

Skywatchers, co-presented by ABD Productions and the Luggage Store
Gallery, is supported in part by San Francisco Grants for the Arts, San Francisco
Arts Commission, Sam Mazza Foundation, and California Arts Council. Anne
Bluethenthal is core faculty in the MFA Programs at CIIS, and is a co-creator of the
Focus in Art and Social Justice.
43

***
Im a Skywatcher
Just sitting here watching the sky light up
Ive seen whats down there
So Im lookin up here to see whats comin
Im just as content, for real, to just watchin the clouds and the colors
Just like bring tears to your eyes,
Thats my halo

Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

Janice (Detroit) Blacknight was the first person I had the pleasure
to interview for a project which, at that point, had no name. I was going to
make a site specific performance piece in the Tenderloin and had set out to
acquaint myself with the residents whose home, the Senator Hotel, abuts a
beautiful patch of inner city transformation called the Tenderloin National
Forest. Janice lives on the top floor corner apartment, where she can look out
over the neighborhood, watching over the peopleespecially the children.
She allowed her self-proclaimed title, Skywatcher, to become the name of our
project.
Downtown is always the heart of the city
Once you go to the heart of the city you can branch out from there
Find out all you want to know about this place
Which isnt too much here in the Tenderloin

Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

Instigated by the vision of artist and curator, Darryl Smith, the
Tenderloin National Forest is a community garden and art space in the middle
of the Tenderloin District (TL), created and maintained by the Luggage
Store Gallery. Notorious for its high rate of violent street crime and drug
trafficking, the TL is home to 40,000 homeless people, individuals living in
extreme poverty, families, young people, artists, and recent immigrants from
Latin America and Southeast Asia. The Forest (formerly Cohen Alley) is
one of the very few open spaces in this high-density neighborhood, and is
surrounded by multi-story residential buildings and single room occupancy
hotels (SROs).
Because of the diversity here it really is necessary for everybody to come together and
pull together, because of the gentrification.

Leroy Staplesresident co-creator

While the recent tech boom in San Francisco sends rental rates and
home prices soaring, causing the displacement of hundreds of residents
artists, low and middle income residents, disproportionately affecting
44

populations of colorthe TL remains home to thousands of individuals,


living in what have heretofore been protected properties for poor and
low-income residents, including the subsidized and non-profit housing
developments that surround the Forest.
Skywatchers creates art around human affirmation.
Arnold Reidresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

After attending a recent Skywatcher performance, one of my
beloved friends, bathed in the free-flowing love and jubilance that was in the
air, commented that this was glorious, but that nothing was changing, really.

I beg to differ.
Get some of that voice of people whove never been heard before.its helping us get our
voice out so that we can express and prove our value to society. We are real humans,
with love and passion and honor and integrity. I mean were real people.
Charles Pittsresident co-creator, Arnette Watson Hotel

How do we conceive of or perceive social change?

Skywatchers is important to me, to be around someone in a group, where you can talk
about yourself and people will listen...We know the world is crazy. But its a good thing
to be around...You know its not all crazy, when youre around Skywatchers.

Macy Stanleyresident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

Most of the friends I have made in the TL know little of the
mobilizations that have mounted against displacement and encroachment
in San Francisco since the infusion of tech dollars into the economy. What
interests them, at least in our conversations, is the opportunity to speak, to be
seen, to be heard.
Skywatchers is a festival of love.
John Johnsonresident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

How do we alleviate the suffering of generations of poverty and
oppression? How do we bridge the racial and ethnic divides? the gap between
the rich and the poor? between those with access to resources and those
without? between those who have the unearned privilege of speaking truth
to power and those whose voices and stories and humanity are seldom heard?
Skywatchers draws people in, opens up the neighborhood, brings us all together, opens
up your mind with creativity.
Kathy Brownresident co-creator
45


Wednesday afternoons, when I emerge from my soundless grey Prius
C onto a vibrant Ellis Street, I am greeted with warmth and recognition
Hey there, Ms. Skywatcher! Hey, I know you! Just leave that here, well
watch it for you. Hey, Anne, where you been? Hows your daughter this
week?

Later, I walk up to my own home at 22nd Street in SF, where I come
and go frequently, unnoticed, anonymous. I know and am known by more
people in the TL than on my own city block.
[Skywatchers] is giving people an internal permission to express who they are and to
realize they are not out there alone.

Melanie DeMoreABD collaborator, singer-songwriter, choral director

Personal and collective stories emerge from a process I call the hang
out and talk and eat methodology. At its heart, Skywatchers is about the
galvanizing effect of collective celebration of individual lives. We call this
relational, dialogic art because it is rooted in conversation and relationship,
story and collaboration. As our conversations unfold, gesture, word, song,
rhythm, and image emerge like breadcrumbs, like traces of where we stood
together each week. People are invited to bring forward their creativity as they
wish. The urgencies and concerns, dreams, loves, frustrations, and individual
struggles, the illumination of their livesthis is the content that determines
the shape of each performance installation.
Rather than operating as a teacher to the tenants, it kind of brings the creativity out
and looks at what can be learned from the individuals.

Sky KeyesTenant Services, Cambridge Hotel

The legacy of genocide and slavery, of Jim Crow, of mass incarceration
rampages through our inner citiesin neighborhoods like the TL across the
country.

Who are the human beings whose years pass uncelebrated, whose
every day is a heroic act of survival, whose heroism, survival, and beauty are
rarely seen?
Sometimes thats all it takes is a mommy hug
Just so they can breathe
Just to let somebody know that its ok
Sometimes thats all it takes
The world has let them down and everybody else
I do a lot of putting people in front of the mirror so they can get to know that person in
the mirror and have a talk with them
Look in the mirror and say hey, I love her, I love me some her
Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
46


We might rail against the structures of institutional racism and
poverty that have permeated these lives. We could dance the forces of
patriarchy and capitalism marginalizing huge swaths of humanity, or rage
poetically, or despair eloquently. This, however, is not what surfaces in our
conversation. What arises instead is stark and simplea spirit of love and
interconnectionbeauty, talent, and interdependencethe desire to see
and be seen, to createfrom whatever materials are availablea changing
topography of beauty and celebration fiercely defiant of the forces that would
silence.
It helps me to understand all of my problems and other peoples problems and to
release them into the air.
June Johnsonresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
When people look at me they see
A broke down old man
A man willing to help out
A smile, when Im not hurting
I do what I can to be a pillar in the community
By not judging those who are on drugs
Not by being better than them but by encouraging.
They deserve better than what theyre doing to themselves.
I give whatever I can.

Arnold Reidresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

Back at the University, in my role as faculty in the MFA Program, in
the Art and Social Justice curriculum, I insist on interrogating student artists
motivations. Why do we do the work we do? What is it that drives us?

Im not looking for the obvious responses: I want to serve, I want
to help heal the world, I want to make change. These are easy. We as
cultural workers need to know whats in it for us. What is it we are healing in
ourselves? What kind of fractures and oppressions are we working out? Not to
self-pathologize, but for self-knowledge and transparency. We wont subvert
the structures of power and oppression in the world if we dont understand
how they are operating in ourselves. When we move into community from a
sense of otherness, we help no one. Instead we risk exhaustion, undermine
our own efforts, and ultimately perpetuate the systems of inequity we wish to
dismantle.
This is an opportunity for me / us to unleash in a creative way. Its representing the TL
and displaying our creative, musical and artistic abilities, our stories.

Jerry Tubisresident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

As art-makers in community, we need to ask:


Whose story is being told?
47

Who is telling the story?


Who gets to perform?
And for whom?

Rennon Mahrianoresident, Senator Hotel

Skywatchers is perfectly in harmony with our harm-reduction model. You have to


reach people exactly where they are. The continuity of being here, not just for a week
or a month, but ongoing. This allows people to come in and out and to trust that the
relationship will still be there. I see this as community building.
Sky KeyesTenant Services, Cambridge Hotel
We do it for the children
I love living here cause across the street the little park over there
Just to hear the childrens voices, the laughter
But to hear the children cry
Takes as much time to do something good as it does something bad

Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel



One day I arrived at the Senator to find there had been a roof fire.
The water and smoke damage was so severe that Janices top floor corner
room was completely ruined, its furnishings, clothing, everything a total loss.
I watched her rebuild her home, slowly, meticulously, with beautiful fabrics,
photos, and decorations painstakingly re-collected and adorned, until the
Skywatcher perch was reclaimed.
Yeh, I can look out the window and see everything thats happening down there
I can see everything thats happening for 3 or 4 blocks down
I just like looking at the sky
Cause no two skies are ever the same
Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
Were gonna hold everybody
Were gonna hold everybody up
Hold everybody up, up, up
Hold everybody up, up, up

Skywatcher song created spontaneously by choral director Melanie DeMore)

Here in the TL, solitude, privacy, quiet, and peace are in short supply.

Whereas:
The art of sleeping has become a bastard child
To the art of money-making;
We hereby reclaim our birth-right; our natural legacy
Freedom to Sleep

48


Rennon was a regular at our weekly meetings in the tenant lounge
of the Senator, always pulling a chair up several feet away from the circle, but
steadfastly present nonetheless. After many months of sitting and talking,
slowly getting to know and trust, he reached down into his bag and pulled out
a two-inch wide stack of paper. His writing. I thought you might be interested
in this. I had no idea he was a writer. I eagerly consumed his prolific works,
finding in them the treasures of a man in search of a level of consciousness
in which boundaries are unknown, geographies blur, and the unconscious
rules. It was in this stack of papers that we discovered what would be the
centerpiece of our next installation: Whereas: The Right to Free Sleep.
Whereas:
The person suffering punitive action for sleeping on a park bench
And waking up behind bars because he did not pay for that sleep
Should be reimbursed, exonerated, and apologized to for
Unwarranted, needless, and sometimes violent harassment.
Right to Free Sleep.

Rennon Mahrianoresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
When people look at me they see
A musician, a sharp mind with intelligence
A cutie pie, a winner
What people dont see
My daily plight with the struggles of the world
The love and forgiveness for all, my music
My potential to be what I want them to see
What I want people to see is the drive to be the best I can be
The desire for excellence, the passion, the love for music
The champion of me
Silver Sonic (aka Map)resident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

Covered in silver body paint from head to toe, Map was a fleeting
presence in our Cambridge Hotel visits. Unlike the Senator Hotel gatherings,
the Cambridge tenant lounge conversations have a more rhythmic nature.
Conga drums fill the air and our time is peppered with conversation and food.
This years long process evolved into the Skywatchers percussion ensemble.
Map would come in, say a suspicious hello, and then leave. Some weeks,
shed come in and play a drum. One day, she arrived with hand-made guitar
in hand, but instead of joining in the music, she stood apart, listening. It
was after her first Skywatchers performance that she really came alive. She
performed a solo song with back up sign language interpreters. Now, she
is one of the most enthusiastic ensemble members, wrangling residents,
49

promoting events, writing, inviting musicians, eager to try out her new guitar
and harmonica solo at our next event.
When people look at me they see, they see, they see
When people look at me, what they dont see is a spaghetti bowl of emotions
Or the things Ive done to build community
People dont comprehend the thought process of how I come to conclusions
I want people to see themselves expressing compassion empathy
I want people to see what really is.

Charles Pittresident co-creator, Arnette Watson Hotel

Charles stood out to me when I attended a community meeting at
the Arnette Watson. These monthly CHP meetings are often a place for
tenants to express concerns, lodge complaints, discuss community issues
in the presence of the Tenant Supervisors and Property Managers. Slender
and sinewy in his movement, a coyness that belies his political astuteness,
alert darting eyes and a straw basket hat, Charles listens attentively to his
neighbors, offering advice and suggestions, advocating on behalf of each one,
sharing the wisdom of someone who knows the system quite well, and knows
how to move with agility within its constraints and complexities. Charles is a
performer, a beautiful dancer, a technician, and a general man of the theater.
He quickly became indispensible as a technical assistant and solid member of
the Skywatcher ensemble.
When people look at me, they see a light
The closer they come to me the brighter the light becomes
What people will not see in me is hate, evil, jealously, or greed
But love

Bradley Edwardsresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
When people look at me they see me
They see my smile.
A people person.
A little shy sometimes.
Ive got a wonderful grandson.
What they dont see
Is how I am at night
The struggles I go through
What I see in other people.
What I want them to see is the type of person I am.
Donel Fullerresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

Among the first Skywatcher interviews, Donel and Bradley couldnt
be more different. Donel, smiling, quiet, preferred to take care of things
behind the scenes, setting up for us, doing security at events, slowly, steadily
50

becoming a weekly co-facilitator for our new site when we expanded to the
Cambridge. One of eight siblings, heart of gold, proud and reliable, Donel
surprises himself as he finds his performing self there among the extroverts.

Its hard to bring up a city that Bradley hasnt lived in, although
Philadelphia seems to be his favorite. Large in stature, his long stride, cane,
and single dred are hard to miss as I walk toward him on Ellis street, greeting
him with a hug that will be rebuffed as he offers his hand instead. Thinking at
first that performing was not a manly activity, Bradley now appears up front
as he performs Right to Free Sleep with his neighbors.

Although we talked on countless visits in the Cambridge, and
although his gift of music and his stories of his homeland had delighted me
during many of those sessions, I never really saw John until he was performing
in the Forest with the ensemble, surrounded by singers and dancers, wearing
a grin I had not even known was there within. He was bonding with the three
young Cuban dancer-musicians who were part of the ABD ensemble. I know
he felt he was back on the island of Puerto Rico for a moment. He was alive.
Work with what you seethats what my mom says
In other words, the job is not difficult if you see it first up
What people dont see when they look at me, is a man yearning for his homeland
Sometimes I wear a mask
I cant hide the loneliness that I feel for my people and my island
What I want them to see is me
A man from the Caribbean who has come to give his only self
What I want you to see is me for who I am

John Johnsonresident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

A generous man with an endearing presence, always exuding warmth,
Maximo is a newcomer to Skywatchers. Showing up for performances
solid, quiethe wordlessly takes hold of the claves, joining the ensemble to
provide an astoundingly steady beat throughout.
When people look at me they see a Latin American Hispanic
Always trying to smile
What they dont see is how kind I am
Plus having 6 beautiful grandchildren and 3 daughters
What I wish they could see is a kind loving person
Who loves children and life.

Maximoresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

I recently started making weekly visits to the Iroquois Hotel, on my
way to Ellis Street to join the folks at the Senator and Cambridge. Here, I have
had long conversations with Harry, DT, and Rich. Im not certain what kind
of project will emerge from this community, but these men are astute and
critically engaged in the housing situation. Last week, they talked about their
favorite vegetablescauliflower and broccoliand how these foods have
51

become prohibitively expensive. In a flash, we were discussing the empty lot


out back and how we might transform that into a garden, where vegetables
and herbs could be distributed through the TL.

in the Forest, when Chapmanwho always performs sitting down, because


walking is not easy for himstood up and danced a solo to the drums. There
was a joyous uproar from the whole crowd. Magnificent.

I am not interested in being someones social experiment. That just puts me in a box. I
want to be treated as a human being. Simple. If you are coming to my house, I expect
to also be invited to yours.

When people look at me they see it makes me glow


when I wake up in the morning
they see a shadow but they dont know me
What they dont see is a person
they only see an image
I want people to see who I am
what Im about
what kind of friend I can be.

Harryresident co-creator, Iroquois Hotel


When people look at me they see
Hopefully someone with a sense of humor
And wisdom
What they dont see is that Im a great grandmother.
I want people to see that Im a caring, giving, compassionate and loving person
Kathryn Byrdresident co-creator, Cambridge Hotel

Gorgeous woman, Kathryn Byrd is a dancer and a beautiful spirit.
She helped me to gather folks at the Cambridge, where she is seen as a leader.
I knew I had to earn her respect in order to begin building relationships in
that community. I have since had the honor on several occasions to dance
with her in performance. Thrilling, sweet.
When people look at me they see a peaceful, respectful person
with desire to help others strive to reach
the sky is the limit.
What they dont see
because they are so busy seeing who they are
they see wild animals in the forest running wild.
What I want people to see is just me
for whom I am
and not a wild animal.

June Johnsonresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

June Johnson is one of our most steadfast ensemble members. Proudly
inviting her entire extended family to see her perform, she has absolutely
taken on the creative process, teaches others, promotes, recruits, and is game
for whatever presents itselfdancing, writing, and accompanying with her
favorite instrument, the shekere.

In my first weeks at the Senator, back in 2011, I would sit in the tenant
lounge, unannounced. Chapman was usually there, watching Bonanza
on the TV. I sat down with him and watched alongside. Slowly, we began
to talk. He was crudgy at first, skeptical, not at all interested in the idea of
performance. Eventually, he would be waiting for me on Wednesdays with
the TV off and ready to help me lead conversations with the group. One of
my absolute favorite Skywatcher moments was our most recent jam session
52

Warren Chapmanresident co-creator, Senator Hotel


When people look at me
What they dont see is that I am a caring, loving person
What they might not see is the chance to get to know a good friend.
What I want them to see is a man with a beautiful spirit and good heart.
A man of intellect, intelligence, class, decency.

David LaFluerresident co-creator, Senator Hotel
Love. Because every time we have an event the whole spirit has been charged, and at
that moment, the neighborhood is actually at peace. Its beautiful.

Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

The heart, wisdom, intelligence, and talent that I am surrounded by
each week makes my hours in the TL the most rewarding hours of my week.
I am blessed to have fallen into this project and the inspiration continues to
flow. Such wealth of heart is palpable amidst the pain, the precariousness, and
the extreme hardship that pervades the streets surrounding the Forest.
Im like a spiritualist
I came here to take all the tears out of the people
They just got too many tears down here
Down here in the Tenderloin
They just got too many tears down here.
Janice Blacknightresident co-creator, Senator Hotel

53

Act One: Scene Two


Eriksons Office
1950s

PAINTING AMERICA

ROCKWELL
(enters) Ive come to see you about my wife.

Lynne Kaufman


An Excerpt

EVERYONE KNOWS NORMAN Rockwell. Or do we? He captured idyllic


small town American life in 323 covers for The Saturday Evening Post, but also
created the signature paintings of the Civil Rights movement.

A representative of traditional values, he spent seven years in
psychotherapy with Erik Erikson, who coined the term identity crisis. A
high school drop-out. He married three times, all school teachers.

Saying Grace, a Saturday Evening Post cover for which he received
$3,500 in 1965, sold for $62,000,000 in 2013. Join Rockwell as he journeys from
unknown illustrator to our most recognized American artist, finding true
love and moving from painting happiness to living it.

54

ROCKWELL
Her doctor recommended that I see you.
ERIKSON
About Mary?
ROCKWELL
(sheepishly) And me.

ERIKSON
Psychotherapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Its the fifties.

ROCKWELL
I know. Thats why we moved next door to your clinic, Dr. Erikson.

ERIKSON
Mr. Erikson. Im not a doctor.

The following excerpt is from the musical, PAINTING AMERICA, book by


Lynne Kaufman, music and lyrics by Alex Mandel. PAINTING AMERICA
was presented at Theatreworks Silicon Valleys Festival of New Plays in
August 2014

ERIKSON
Im not her doctor.

ROCKWELL
You didnt go to medical school?
ERIKSON
No.
ROCKWELL
Then how did you get here?
ERIKSON
I often ask myself that.
ROCKWELL
Me, too. (They both laugh)
ERIKSON
But youre a famous painter.
ROCKWELL
Illustrator.
55

ERIKSON
Whats the difference?

ROCKWELL
Well, mainly, an illustrator tells stories, and these days artists dont go in
much for that. (beat) And illustrators do ads. Im pretty sure Jackson Pollock
wouldnt do an ad. But then again, no agency would hire him.

ERIKSON
So youre not a real artist.

ROCKWELL
And youre not a real doctor.

ERIKSON
Agreed.

ROCKWELL
So how did you get to be a therapist?

ERIKSON
Happenstance. I was analyzed by Anna Freud, and I showed a knack for it,
so she invited me to train at The Psychoanalytic Institute and, way leads to
way, and here I am. And you?

ROCKWELL
Three classes at the Art Institute. A commission to do the Boy Scout
calendar. And, way leads to way, three hundred covers for The Saturday
Evening Post.

ERIKSON
Thats quite an accomplishment.

ROCKWELL
It was. Theyve cut me back now.

ERIKSON
Whys that?

ROCKWELL
Im considered old-fashioned. Editors dont want pictures of ordinary
people any more. They want photographs of celebrities. Not that I have
anything against photography. I use it myself. But only as an aid. Not as a
finished piece.

ERIKSON
Well, with your talent, you can move on.
56

ROCKWELL
It doesnt feel that way.
ERICKSON
How does it feel?

ROCKWELL
Like Im up to my neck in quicksand. I dont know even know what to paint
anymore. It used to be so easy.

BILLY
(calls from off stage) Mr. Rockwell.
ROCKWELL
I remember my first painting, Spring of 1916.

BILLY
(calls from off stage) Mr. Rockwell.
ROCKWELL
I did it like that. (snaps his fingers)

57

Act One: Scene Three


Flashback to 1917
Rockwells Studio
(He is washing brushes, tearing rags, doesnt hear knock on door)

BILLY
Mr. Rockwell. (loudest)

ROCKWELL
(startled, then goes to the door, irritated) Yes, what is it?

BILLY
You asked me to come see you.

ROCKWELL
I did?

BILLY
Yes, you even asked my Mom if it was all right? Im Billy Payne. I live right
down the street.

ROCKWELL
Billy? I didnt recognize you.

BILLY
I dressed up. Like for church.

ROCKWELL
I see.

BILLY
I figure if youre going to paint me, I ought to look my best.

ROCKWELL
Well, you look (he appraises BILLY, circles him, looks at profile from both
sides) fine and dandy. Now, raise your eyebrows.




58

BILLY
Raise my eyebrows?
ROCKWELL
High as you can.
BILLY
Okay. (he timidly does so)

ROCKWELL
Higher.
BILLY
(he tries, slight improvement) Like this?

ROCKWELL
Here, look at me. (he demonstrates broadly) Like this.

BILLY
Yes, sir. (screws up his resolve and succeeds)

ROCKWELL
Good, youll do.

BILLY
(happy and relieved) I will?

ROCKWELL
Yep, if you can raise your eyebrows youve got a flexible face. And thats
what I needlots of big expressionsstrong emotions. (demonstrates) And
your freckles are a plus. Ill pay you fifty cents an hour. Hows that?

BILLY
That sounds great, Mr. Rockwell.

ROCKWELL
Norman. Were going to be friends. Now, see this baby carriage. (wheels out
carriage) Put your hands on the handle.

BILLY
Sure thing. (he does so, then looks up expectantly)

ROCKWELL
Well, how do you feel?

BILLY
(puzzled) Fine.

ROCKWELL
Now imagine theres a baby in that carriage.

BILLY
Uh-huh.

ROCKWELL
A girl baby. And shes crying her head off.

59

BILLY
(adjusts expression, looks discomforted) Uh-huh.

ROCKWELL
And two of your friends are coming down the street.

BILLY
Okay. (skeptical, frowns)

ROCKWELL
And theyre in their baseball uniforms. Theyre on their way to the game.

BILLY
(he scowls blackly)

ROCKWELL
Thats better. Now see this baby bottle. Its going in your pocket. Nipple
side up.

BILLY
(unhappy) Aw gee!

ROCKWELL
And this fancy hat goes right on your head. (places a Homburg on BILLYs
head) Now hold that pose.

BILLY
(He stands as still as he can for a few long minutes) Hows that?

ROCKWELL
(sketching in charcoal) Its a start.

BILLY
How long do I have to ?

ROCKWELL
(pulls out a large stack of dimes) See this stack of dimes

BILLY
(stands straight) I sure am.

ROCKWELL
Ever heard of The Saturday Evening Post, Billy?

BILLY
Sure, my brother delivers them every week.

ROCKWELL
Well, thats where Im going to be sending this painting.

BILLY
The Post?
ROCKWELL
Yep, and if were lucky, you might get to see yourself on the cover.
BILLY
Wow, Mr. Rockwell, were going to be famous. (Projection of painting, Boy
with Baby Carriage)

BILLY
Thats an awful lot of dimes.
ROCKWELL
Youll get one every thirty minutes. If you move before that, we restart the
clock from zero. So if youve got an itch, scratch it now. If youve got to pee,
do it now. (beat) Ready? (hands him a quarter)

60

61

Act One: Scene Four


(Eriksons Office)

ERIKSON
I remember that painting. Its a classic.

ROCKWELL
Billy posed for all three boys. It made him feel better and it saved me time. I
love painting kids, real kids, real people. Do you know what I did with the
money I got for that first cover? I cashed that check into seventy-five onedollar bills. We were living in a boarding house in New Rochelle, me, my
parents and Jarvis.

ERIKSON
Jarvis?

ROCKWELL
My younger brother. Taller, smarter, a great athlete. Me, the only thing I
could do was draw. But thats where I met my first wife, Irene.

Act One: Scene Five


(Flashback: A boarding house table, 1917)
ROCKWELL, JARVIS, IRENE sit eating vanilla ice cream.

IRENE
(turns to ROCKWELL)Well, I for one cannot eat another morsel. Norman,
may I offer you my ice cream?

ROCKWELL
Sure, thanks.

IRENE
You are more than welcome. (big smile, leaves)

JARVIS
(watches her go) Shes sweet on you.

ROCKWELL
(wipes lips carefully) Who?

JARVIS
Who? Who do you think? Irene, of course.

ROCKWELL
Why would you say that, Jarvis.

JARVIS
She just gave you her dessert, didnt she?

ROCKWELL
Maybe she doesnt like ice cream?

JARVIS
She usually eats it.

ROCKWELL
She does?

JARVIS
Well, yeah.

62

ROCKWELL
Maybe she doesnt like vanilla.
JARVIS
Maybe she knows that you do.
ROCKWELL
How would she know that?
63

JARVIS
Because she watches you.
ROCKWELL
Why?
JARVIS
Why does anyone watch anything?
ROCKWELL
(thinks) I watch things to draw them.

JARVIS
Okay, but Im not talking about drawing here. Im talking about girls.

ROCKWELL
I dont draw girls.

JARVIS
Ive noticed that. Why not?

ROCKWELL
(thinks) They all look pretty much the same to me.

JARVIS
Oh brother! I always knew you were strange, but now this takes the cake.
You dont really mean it, do you?

ROCKWELL
Mean what?

JARVIS
That youre not interested in girls?

ROCKWELL
I didnt say that.

JARVIS
You need a girl, Norm. A girl of your own. To get married to. Have a family
with. Thats the best life has to offer.

ROCKWELL
Really? Look at Mom and Dad.

JARVIS
Well never mind them. See this ring. (pulls ring from pocket) Im going to
give this to Esther on Saturday.

64

ROCKWELL
Gee, Jarvis, I didnt know you were serious.

JARVIS
Weve been going together for two years. Its time.

ROCKWELL
I guess so. (best) So when are you going to get married?

JARVIS
June.

ROCKWELL
Thats in four months.

JARVIS
Thatll give us time to plan everything.

ROCKWELL
Plan what?

JARVIS
The place. The food. The guests. Every girl wants to be a bride. Even Irene, I
bet.

ROCKWELL
Irene teaches third grade.

JARVIS
So?

ROCKWELL
So she has a job.

JARVIS
That doesnt mean she doesnt want to get married.

ROCKWELL
But why would she want to marry me? You know what my last girlfriend
said? You have the eyes of an angel and the neck of a chicken.
JARVIS
(laughs) You cant take those things to heart.

ROCKWELL
How the hell would you know, Jarvis? Whos ever turned you down? Mr.
Popular!

65

JARVIS
Come on, Norm. Youll find someone. Be happy for me. And save the date,
June 5th. Ill be a married man. (exits)

ROCKWELL
(takes out pen and paper, as he writes he speaks) Dear Irene, Will you marry
me? I have good prospects and have just sold a cover illustration to The
Saturday Evening Post. Enclosed is the seventy-five dollars. Use it to arrange
the wedding. I have only one condition. It has to be before June 5th.

Tim Tate, Mermaids Past Their Prime


2013. Photo by Pete Duvall, 2014

66

67

Stephen Bruce, Sliderock II


Photo by Donny Felton, Almac Camera
Tim Tate, Flores de Los Muertes
2014. Photo by Pete Duvall, 2014

68

69

Stephen Bruce, Los Roques


Photo by Donny Felton, Almac Camera

Kal Spelletich, Chris Johanson


2015

72

Kal Spelletich, Chris Johanson


2015

73

KAL SPELLETICH, MACHINE ARTIST


Interviewed by Carolyn Cooke
for Mission at Tenth

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to
our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book
for each person.
Anais Nin

Kal Spelletich, Martha Wilson (with Mark Pauline, left background, Kay Miller, right
background)
2015

74

Kal Spelletichs recent show Intention Machines at the Catharine Clark


Gallery in San Francisco spanned five years of work. It included robotic
versions of Spelletichs culture heroes, including poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
founder and owner of City Lights Bookstore; Emory Douglas, the graphic
artist who made iconic images associated with the Black Panther Party;
Mark Pauline, founder of the technology collective, Survival Research Labs;
Martha Wilson, Artistic Director of the Franklin Furnace in New York; Kay
Miller, a Mtis and Comanche artist who grew up in the ghettos of Houston
and taught art at the University of Iowa; San Francisco street painter Chris
Johanson; and documentary film maker Les Blank. Kay Miller, who hadnt
seen Spelletich since 1985, flew in for the openinga surprise. Shed been
interested in his career from the beginning, she said, maybe because they had
both grown up in poverty. It piqued her curiosity when Spelletich asked her
to send him clothes she had worked in.

Headless, brainless and relentless in its manic repetition, the
Spelletich robot is activated by touch or breath. Under the influence of your
energy, it twines its fingers in prayer or prostrates itself or spins like a dervish.
Eventually it goes inert. The gears stop turning, or the steel fingers go rigid.
The robot wears denim or sweats, but wears them loosely, because there are
no bones; it has no flesh. A typical list of materials used in construction:
Robot, clothes electronics, sensors, coffee table, steel.
75


When you activate the interface (apply your hand to a copper plate or
breathe two buck chuck into a breathalyzer), youre impressed by the robots
lively response, its jerky, urgent movement. This is, literally, the moment of
connection: you are the mind of the machine.

Formerly the artistic director of Seemen, a machine-art performance
collective, Spelletich has also been associated with the Cacophony Society,
Survival Research Labs and Burning Man. (A Burning Man motto, Safety
third, probably references Spelletichs work, which The New York Times has
described as apocalyptic and intense. Earlier works include a walking
robot throwing fire in irregular bursts that char hot dogs impaled on the
forks of its rusty arms. Conceptual elegance combined with a deliberate and
effortful crudeness is a watermark of Spelletichs oeuvre.) He visited CIIS in
late 2014 and spoke, rivetingly, to MFA students at the university. We talked
again in the winter of 2015 in the 4,000 square foot warehouse studio on Marin
Street in the Bayview that Spelletich has occupied for 19 years. Spelletich
demonstrated the robots, and let me activate them, too. As we interacted
with the robotswe touched an interface and they prayedI noticed a huge
span of steel wings, which I recalled having seen before on video and on fire,
hanging above us from the rafters by a frayed hemp rope.

We talked again in April 2015 at the Catharine Clark Gallery on Utah
Street, about whether technology can do spiritual workand why an atheist
cares.
MISSION AT TENTH: Tell us about this workthese robots.
SPELLETICH: This work comes from my 18 years of investigations into Zen
and Daoist thought and traditions. In particular, prayer wheels and prayer
flags. If the mechanical actions of machines and flags can create well being
for the planet, why cant a machine made with the right thoughtfulness and
intention do the same? I am interested in the tension between spirituality, art
and technology. The powerful possibilities of combining art and mysticism
with the rigors of science and technology. The gap between what robots cant
do and humans can do. And what humans cant do and robots can do! And
how these two things are changing, right now.

The show includes machine robots made around seven people who
changed my life. I asked them for clotheswork clothes. I asked them not to
wash the clothes, which store the energy of the people whove used them. It
takes an extra step for the audience to trigger the robot, using a sensor that
reads your aura or energy through your heartbeat, pulse, or touch. The show
also includes photographs of mystical moments in naturesupermoons,
solar flares, sometimes scary moments. I made one photograph for each of the
robots. Im interested in multiple waysdrawings, videos, photos, robots
to realize the question, Can technology do spiritual work?
MISSION AT TENTH: Can technology do spiritual work?
SPELLETICH: Buddhists believe that prayer can be automated. If a prayer
wheel (or a rosary or a dreidel) can accelerate the pace of devotion, why not
76

a robot? Could I build robots that do things that only humans can do, like
reflect, worship, give thanks? So I built these hybrid praying machines.
MISSION AT TENTH: The Les Blank robot is attached to a Breathalyzer. He
does a full-body prostration when you take a drink. You literally breathe life
into a robotwith alcohol.
SPELLETICH: Les Blank got all his documentaries on Polka, gap-toothed
women, Cajun culture, by drinking with the locals. He just bought a jug of
vodka and drank with them.
MISSION AT TENTH: Are you a spiritual person?
SPELLETICH: I was raised Catholic and gave that up when I was ten years
old. I realized that nothing happens in life unless you engage. You try to be a
radical in your life, not cave in to materialism, consumerism, comfort. Eastern
philosophy has helped me do that. Buddhism is an art, a practice that you
practice. In Buddhism you practice patience by being patient.

Im interested in the moment when prayer goes beyond pleading into
practice. The robots themselves are prayers.
MISSION AT TENTH: Does ritual have a role in your work? How do you
work?
SPELLETICH: I step up to my altar with my drill press. I always go, I have to
report to work, I have to report to work, I have to report to work. You have
to show up. You have to report to work. Even Karl Marx noted that you have
to work half of everyday.
MISSION AT TENTH: What artists and thinkers have influenced you?
SPELLETICH: The subculture was more useful to me than the culturethe
Shakers, the Beats, the Hippies, the New Age community, Dharma Punks
radical guys and women who tried to step out of society. Mark Pauline.
Marcel Duchamp showed me that a lot of making art is inventing something
new. Each art piece disproves what came before. How do we reuse a painting,
do it in a new way, make new languages, juxtapositions? What is innovation
and how does culture grow? Theres a D.H. Lawrence poemWe Are the
Transmittersthat talks about this.
MISSION AT TENTH: What five or six pieces of advice would you give to
upandcoming artists?
SPELLETICH:
Things become interesting when your life becomes a little out of whack.
You need six to ten bodies of work behind you to frame your voice.
A lot of art is what you can get away with.
All contemporary art is based on subtext.
77

If you cant explain what youre doing to your grandmother, youre not
doing anything of worth.
Give me something authentic that isnt a bunch of bullshit and isnt a
snarky aside.

TELEGARDEN
Margaret Rhee

for Ken
For you, I planted a lush garden.
With a click, green fertile life
Sprouts. Tend me. Who knew roots would
Grow from the wilderness of this metal heart?

78

79

MACHINE TESTIMONIAL 2

ADOPTION POEM I

Margaret Rhee

Emilia Grace Domnguez

little robot, you grew up from when you were so young. just a pile of sensors
& recycled parts from the trash. i tried to make you beautiful. & you became
such a beautiful robot. beyond template & design. youre not so little anymore. when you walk on the street now, you glitter & gold. a long time for
you to realize and you light up like so. oh maker, you say at night, when the
humans are sleeping. i hear you. im kinda like you too, i was made from all
trash you know? my gears more disposable than yours. believe me, robot. i
want. i remember. my programming is nascent. i see you lying there open &
waiting for me. & i think, i want to be good to you. my little automaton doll,
take me into the sky like it was promised in the book of machine love.

You were the first person I ever knew


the first mostimportant person in my life
the first heartbeat I intimately felt.
I woke up and you were gone
and I was chilled in my outward foreign skin.
The Earth hasnt shown me my origins
my face and hands are not mine, but yours.
I seem to be blind in my memory
I have no images of you in there for me to see
so that I can prove that I came from somewhere
not from magic or the unseen miracle
but that I was born from somebodys flesh and blood.
When I came into consciousness outside your warmth
I remember feeling naked and cold
in a sterile and inhumane place.
I dont know if that is a memory
or if its the way that I feel now when I wake up
because ever since you left me that day
ever since you stopped being my mother
I dont really knowwhere I belong.
My friends now, my memories, my moments
I cant seem to hold on to them
I cant take and leave them deeper inside of me
so that I know that they are unchanging in my heart.

80

81

I dont understand why you let me listen to your heartbeat for so long?
Why did you let me get to know you, and hear you every time
you were upset and unable to cope?
But I wonder, had our lost connection replayed in your memory
like a nightmare or a dark cloud that hovers like dense rays?
All my life now Ive been welcomed by love and light
but I cant seem to get close to it enough, afraid of approaching it
like the sun, for fear of getting burned, or devoured or feeling too much.
So I let it all dangle right infront of me, confusing myself
and believing that Love is not meant to manifest itself entirely to me.
My stomach aches all the time
my emotions rise and vary like ill humored tsunami waves
and it happens each time I love
each time I am left behind
each time I push away before I get pushed further
and that void never fills up
and I dont know why I am always sohungry?
I feel I will never connect
never belong even in my own breathing space.
Will I always feel nostalgia every fall?
I heard and felt your thoughts
and wished you didnt feel solonely and forgotten.
I was completely inside you, reaching out
touching the walls and curves of your womb.
I empathize with all your purple and black pain
and feel all your fear like hot splinters.

If I could reverse it and not have taken you literally, all would be fine.
But I saw all of your emotions and crisis as my own
and thought that my pre-mature body could handle it.
I heard your words and understood them as my doom,
but perhaps it was just me mixing feelings and words in my head
the way that I do in often colorful dreams.
Maybe you didnt leave me at all
maybe you held me and loved me long enough
so that I could live without you later.
Maybe I got it all wrong
maybe I misunderstood my origins and my birth
perhaps I misinterpreted my conception.
Maybe it came from Love
and for as long as I canremember, it had.
Perhaps Love had chosen this moment to be born.
Maybe I dont really know what happened
and I may never know, buteven though you left me
you didnt leave my hands without anything to hold.
You gave me a gift to write and feel
and see through words, images and colors, so that one day
a day very much like today I could reach out these hands
and reconnect you with my memory and my soul.ul.

All your emotions drained on top of me


hitting my mind, scarring my body like horribletattoos.
I loathe tattoos making time and memories
like stone, always deep so that the skin never forgets.
The sadness and nostalgia remain
as saudade like looking over Lisbon
facing the ocean on a November afternoon
and it remains as my truth and my reminder
as my terrible feeling of disconnection
separation
intoxication
desolation.
I want to reverse time and listen to you all over again
and truly understand overstand what you wanted from me.
82

83

EL BOSQUE TIENE EXCESO DE VIDA

THE WOODS HAVE EXCESS LIFE

Emilia Grace Domnguez

Emilia Grace Domnguez

Demasiado verde
sobra madera
oxgeno de ms
infinitas hojas amontonadas
rboles se estiran como jirafas
de noche obstruyen
la vista hacia los planetas
le quitan luz a la oscuridad
necesitan mucha agua
y jardineros que los cuiden

There is too much green


excess wood
more than enough oxygen
infinite amounts of leaves squeezed
trees that stretch out like giraffes
at night they block the view
of other planets
they take away light from the darkness
they need a ton of water
and gardeners to keep them

la inversin sale muy cara


es mejor ahorrar
promover la muerte
habr masacre
ya que es barata
el problema se soluciona
el pblico se tranquiliza
habr paz en el aire

the investment is too costly


it is better to save up
better to promote death
there will be a massacre
it is after all cheaper
then the problem is solved
the people will then relax
there will be peace in the air

aunque

although

cmo ahogaremos el llanto espantoso que aulla del bosque

how will we drown the terrible cry


that howls from the woods

sin despertar a la gente?

84

without waking up anybody?


85

HABA EN EL FONDO DEL MAR

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN

Luis Cernuda

Luis Cernuda

Translated by Stephen Kessler

Haba en el fondo del mar una perla y una vieja trompeta. Las stiles capas
del agua sonrean con delicadeza al pasar junto a ellas; las llamaban las dos
amigas.

Haba un niito ahogado junto a un rbol de coral. Los brazos
descoloridos y las ramas luminosas se enlazaban estrechamente; los llamaban
los dos amantes.

Haba un fragmento de rueda venida desde muy lejos y un pjaro
disecado, que asombraba como elegante extranjero a los atnitos peces; les
llamaban las nmadas.

Haba una cola de sirena con reflejos venenosos y un muslo de adolescente, distantes la una del otro; les llamaban los enemigos.

Haba una estrella, una liga de hombre, un libro deteriorado y un
violn diminuto; haba otras sorprendentes maravillas, y cuando el agua
pasaba, rozndolas suavemente, pareca como si quisiera invitarlas a que la
siguieran en cortejo centelleante.

Pero ninguna era comparable a una mano de yeso cortada. Era tan
bella que decid robarla.

Desde entonces llena mis noches y mis das; me acaricia y me ama.
La llamo la verdad del amor.

At the bottom of the ocean lay a pearl and an old trumpet. Whitecaps
smiled subtly as they passed over them; they called them the two friends.

There was a drowned boy next to a coral reef. His bleached arms
and its luminous branches grew tightly entwined; they called them the two
lovers.

There was a piece of a wheel from far away and a bird cut open,
which like an elegant stranger astonished the fish; they called them the
nomads.

There was a mermaids tail with poisonous reflections and the thigh
of an adolescent, far apart; they called them the enemies.

There was a star, a banded man, a battered book and a tiny violin;
there were other marvelous surprises, and when the water flowed over them,
softly stroking them, it seemed that it was trying to invite them to come
along on its glittering current.

But none could compare to a broken plaster hand. It was so lovely I
decided to steal it. And since then it fills my nights and my days; it caresses
me and adores me. I call it true love.

Originally appeared in Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda,


Black Widow Press (2015), reprinted by permission of Stephen Kessler.

86

87

JUVENTUD

YOUTH

Luis Cernuda

Luis Cernuda

Translated by Stephen Kessler

Es ms bella la hoja
Verde, que su deseo?
Luz estival de oro,
O nimbo de embeleso?

Which is lovelier,
The leaf or its desire?
The golden light of summer
Or the glow of its enchantment?

Mejor que la palabra,


El silencio en que duerme.
No la pasin: el sueo
Adonde est latente.

Better than the word


Is the silence where it sleeps.
Not passion but the dream
Where it pulses, hidden.

Al ser irreductible,
La nube primitiva
Prefiere; las futuras
Criaturas divinas.

Youth prefers the primal


Cloud to the actual
Person; the divine creatures
Promised by the future.

Esa indecisa gracia


Tan pura de la fuente,
No el mar; y esa sonrisa
Que al amor antecede.

That pure uncertain grace


Burbling in a spring,
Not the ocean; and the smile
That precedes and promises love.

No el arco triunfante
De meta conseguida:
La inicial misteriosa
Y eterna de la vida.

Not the victorious arch


Of the accomplished deed:
But the mysterious and
Eternal beginning of life.

Originally appeared in Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda,


Black Widow Press (2015), reprinted by permission of Stephen Kessler.

88

89

Que el suelo estn labrando


Como hicieron los padres.

CORDURA
Luis Cernuda

Sus manos, si se extienden,


Hallan manos amigas.
Su fe es la misma. Juntos
Viven la misma espera.
All, sobre la lluvia,
Donde anidan estrellas,
Dios por su cielo mira
Dulces rincones grises.
Todo ha sido creado,
Como yo, de la sombra:
Esta tierra a m ajena,
Estos cuerpos ajenos.

Suena la lluvia oscura.


El campo amortecido
Inclina hacia el invierno
Cimas densas de rboles.
Los cristales son bruma
Donde un iris mojado
Refleja ramas grises,
Humo de hogares, nubes.
A veces, por los claros
Del cielo, la amarilla
Luz de un edn perdido
An baja a las praderas.
Un hondo sentimiento
De alegras pasadas,
Hechas olvido bajo
Tierra, llena la tarde.
Turbando el aire quieto
Con una queja ronca,
Como sombras, los cuervos
Agudos, giran, pasan.
Voces tranquilas hay
De hombres, hacia lo lejos,
90

Un sueo, que conmigo


l puso para siempre,
Me asla. As est el chopo
Entre encinas robustas.
Duro es hallarse solo
En medio de los cuerpos.
Pero esa forma tiene
Su amor: la cruz sin nadie.
Por ese amor espero,
Despierto en su regazo,
Hallar un alba pura
Comunin con los hombres.
Mas la luz deja el campo.
Es tarde y nace el fro.
Cerrada est la puerta,
Alumbrando la lmpara.
Por las sendas sombras
Se duele el viento ahora
Como alma aislada en lucha.
La noche ser breve.

Originally appeared in Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda,


Black Widow Press (2015), reprinted by permission of Stephen Kessler.

91

Theyre working the land


The way their fathers did.

UNDERSTANDING
Luis Cernuda

Their hands, when they reach out,


Find the hands of friends.
They share the same faith,
Live the same hopes, together.
Up there, above the rain,
Where the stars nest,
God in his heaven looks down
On nice gray havens.

Translated by Stephen Kessler

Dark rain is rumbling.


On the pounded countryside
Hills dense with trees
Lean toward winter.
Windows are mist
Where a wet iris
Reflects gray branches,
Wood smoke, clouds.
Sometimes, when the sky
Clears, the yellow
Light of a lost Eden
Still falls on the fields.
A deep feeling
Of past happiness,
Forgotten, under
Ground, suffuses the afternoon.
Disturbing the calm air
With raucous squawks,
Like shadows, the sharp
Crows circle and glide away.

Everythings been created,


Like me, from darkness:
This earth estranged from me,
These alien bodies.
A dream that he
Implanted in me forever
Set me apart, like a poplar
Among stout oaks.
Its hard to be alone
Amid so many bodies.
Yet that form has
Its love: a naked cross.
Thats the love I want,
To wake in its lap
And some pure daybreak find
Communion with others.
But light is leaving the land.
Its late and its getting cold.
The door is shut,
The lamp lit.
Down dark paths
The wind is in pain now
Like a soul set apart in struggle.
Night wont last long.

There are peoples voices,


Peaceful, a little ways off,
92

93

TANK MAN
Sean Labrador Y Manzano

A Double Sestina

1.
To what honor at parade rests the Peoples tank
a human barricade film captured with grocery
bags? Revolutionary realism feeds itself the volley
May Fourth preserves in the mirrored turret
even the Goddess of Democracy cannot censure.
Can one man teach a nation or the world side-steps?
And who is the quixotic knight? Dissenter
or reactionary, each marshalling collective armor
when parodies ring markets for obsolescence.
Let the redolent whirlwind come tracking
voice and face, and what limb and apparatus,
dogma or patriotism buried beneath Tiananmen.
2.
Allow what is forbidden about Tiananmen?
or forgotten in the mercantile exchange even tanks
are vulnerable to trade treaties, an apparatus
finds solace, oppression is tolerated when grocers
shelves brand surplus and the western world retracts
negatives spooled and undeveloped rifle volleys
and the students were not shot nor the obsolete
proletariat was shot testing the Partys turrets
depraved understanding of humor deploying armor
advance truculent parents scavenging and do censors
blanket childlessness by the bullet, how does a dissenter
bear uncharacterized banners of chaste-provocation
94

3.
to relieve the Peoples Congress Li Pengs stepchildrens
mechanical pride wounded by Occupying Tiananmen.
Today, what novel technologies profile dissenters
recognize the voice or the face of the man against the tank
many years a ghost in the system, defying Googles censor
redaction proving an enduring fact multinational apparatus
in league with ultranational government. Yahoos armor
thinned to protect counterrevolutionary searches for grocer
redeeming submission ascending the exhibitionists turret
knocking knocking the cannoneers illegal contract
because use of military force against civilians is obsolete
alas convince rural conscripts to save the undeserved volley
4.
when disciplinarians rattle for gratuitous volley
and the squares consanguineous humidity storms steps
of forbidden memory rustling debris the obsolete
newspaper like littered harpies mourning Tiananmen.
How can ungovernable soldiers ash tempered subtract
their innocence lost reprimanded by a lone dissenter
disciple of no rank but his own to preach the turret
common sense, to abandon that hollow tank
for life more simple than killing ones people, a grocer
perhaps has as much love for country as any censor,
sells butchered truth but with less blood staining armor,
an apron is not just an assassins gag. Here the apparatus
5.
scores state cinema in the hazed trachea only the apparatus
can polish for prostration and posterity, else the volley
returns to buttress the amnesia thickened to disarm
future protest their martyr. Slowly the restless pilot steps
in to history, recovering from the web, from the censors
panoptic, there must exist a hard drive vault, an obsolete
key, arcane even to the current guard, that a simple grocer
is able to spell the names lost in the massacre at Tiananmen.
When the IOC awarded China the 2008 Olympics, tanks
paraded the five-ring flag. In the background noise, tracks
the resistance of bone, the hopes raised against turrets.
And the column advances like mules pallbearing dissent.
6.
What were in those bags, evenly weighed, that a dissenter
halts a column? In other climates, apples, the apparatus
suspects for explosives, and the messenger burying into turrets
his suicide note for visions yet to come, in the televised volley
of correspondent shock & awe. Perhaps that is the attraction
95

applauded, caroming canned goods compromises armors


integrity when the world watches tin can vs. steel tank
and the applause continues, shadowing shuddering steps,
it lurches and lunges a clumsy waltz because Tiananmen
is the grandest of all choreographed spaces employing censors
in the thousands monitoring the millions of quiet grocers
uprooted from their promised agrarian reforms designed obsolete
7.
when rice famines bleed the granary. But even Puyis obsolete
eunuchs reaved royal tributes. Theft nor thought is not dissension
nor compensation for lost wages a man cannot gain from groceries
repackaged and resold to servants and caretakers of the apparatus.
Do we judge urban excess is rural austerity? Hunger the censor
aiming the vast net, migrants monitored in factory turrets
kenning their bayed epithets for a whispered Tiananmen.
Remember propaganda by the deed, sabots sprockets, voles
in the system, tunneling tunneling, undermining the steps
toward progress miles in to what was paddy, subtracting
the productivity of the soil, for assembly line tanks
as equal to the West, because growth is in the armaments
8.
for the next encounter 20 years sooner, prolific armored
divisions demonstrating asymmetric warfare is obsolete
when a commander not arrested by politics truncheons tanks
without hesitation of necessary collateral, muting dissent
the autonomous speculations when liberalization refracts
collective bargaining in the caves and hovels of grocery
clerks collecting the bill for counterfeit manufacturing steps
away from trade envoys bureau. An ambassador is apparatus
approving public violation of copyright, to deflect volley
of infringement litigation. Because compromise blinds censors
sweep of collaborative religious freedom, Tiananmens
cameo mudras set dressing reenacts atavistic ritual when turrets
9.
defended dynasties and what honor it was directing turrets
against epileptics recovered from dens, or peasant swarms
claiming feudal hilltops, teach convergence theory in Tiananmen
to generations born without memory, of Maos obsolescent
notion, the sun favors the operatic narrative devoid of censor,
the long march into wilderness, and devouring flood plains, tanks
climb like helios chariots, delivering pardon for volunteers,
and here converts imagine the nation when dreaming is dissent
shaking the extraterritorial garrote to frighten the apparatus
to remember its ontological purpose, profit has verily distracted.
Human nature strays to what is glitter, even to sulfurs tepid
96

shine, first-strike weapons are not fueled by depreciating groceries.


10.
While DDE contained, JFK flexed, and LBJ escalated,

RMN brokered access to grocery
clerks, rapprochement reduced to a rice bowl, and the turrets
ceased over Viet Nam, and soon ten years of war, waste-papered
into the history books and trained in Colorado, Tibetans disarmed
what price exacted for Big Box savings to surrender attraction
to reOpen Doors, as to not dispute land reform, like Tiananmens
usurped retainers, lamas assigned to collective farm apparatus
because Americans agree with Mao, serfdom is obsolete.
Purchasing power incentivizes bumper crops. Food not Dissension
is venture capitalists rallying cry, truth in advertising censors
permit when damming the Yangtze, flood control generates volume
for construction material made not in America, like our MBTs
11.
winning the Cold War but not the peace. Can we not sell used tanks
to the Chinese? Balance trade made imbalanced by Arkansas grocery
clerks? When Eurozone and Nafta convinced Volkswagens
Mexico move, Lenovo learned brand loyalty, despite Congress turrets
reverse engineered keyboard keystrokes avoid character censorship.
Not all programming languages are inherently English step-fathers
Ciscos remote access technology transfer monitors Facebook dissent.
Can Mark Zuckerbergs billion virtual nation field avatar army?
only when IPO does not stumble, is power projection obsolete,
or are Reapers and Sentinels figments of Ayatollahs protracted
imagination? Beijing circumvents nonproliferation apparatus
for Tehrans scrapped stealth. Pilots status surfaces in Tiananmen
12.
before CNN reports Air Force lost in translation is Tiananmens
anniversary party. Condemning Central Asian land grab, Tank
Man delivers from vegetable garden, yellow cake the apparatus
denies deleterious to human consumption, when groceries
sell before expiration date. Can recessive need subtract
politics of above ground exposure from radioactive volley?
Do Separatists demands exclude nationalisms obsoletion?
Who is to recover environmental impact when turrets
deter ecotourism? Outside the capital, wargames collapse armor
divisions against each other. Give a citizen choice not a censor,
and mute within all provinces and autonomous regions dissent
because court of public opinion surges across Gobi steppes:
13.
to Central Asias sympathetic groceries, buyer beware without body armor
and across the Himalayas where Agni volleys distract subcontinental dissent
97

and shadowing the Strait to censor exiles archiving testimonies of Tiananmen


and to the Russian steppes competing to dismantle command obsolescence
to Africa denuding extractable paddies for a desertified and famished
apparatus and to dispute Spratlys oil raising naval turrets to encourage
Pacman Pacquiaos presidency.

Holen S. Kahn, Paradis Flight


Digital pigment archival ink print, 15 x 30, 2014

98

99

Natalie Zimmerman and Michael Wilson, SKY


Film still from Close the Eyes (2013-2014) Total Running Time 9:38.

100

Directed and Produced by Michael Wilson and Natalie Zimmerman during a month-long
Social Dream Lab at the de Young Museum.

101

LANDSCAPE OF MEMORY
Cindy Shearer

Beautiful Brevities: Image, Memory


and the Art of Seeing

Seeing

Tim Stapleton, Inside that House Back There


Mixed-media on board, 5 X 7, photo by Owen Cary

102

IN 1978 I sat by myself at a breakfast table at Plater College in Oxford. I was


21, had left my home and love relationship behind to travel to England to
work on a masters degree in creative writing at Antioch Universitys Centre
for British Studies. I would spend three months in Oxford and then a year
in London.

So many things were new (unknown) for me that summerand that
morning, the learning curve felt steep. Id never been on an airplane before
I made the trip from Ohio to England, and the initiation was immediately
humbling. The only seat I could get on a flight out of Dayton to New York
City was first class for full fare. At JFK I was to get a charter flight to London
with the other students in my program, but when I arrived I learned there
was an impromptu baggage handlers strike and no luggage came up on the
carousels. I didnt know I shouldnt wait hours for my luggagethat I should
go ahead and confirm my flight--and by the time I made my way to my gate,
the airplane was full. The cabin door was closed, and the charter company
had given my seat away. That meant rather than Antioch shepherding my
too-many suitcases, manual typewriter, and me from Gatwick to Oxford, I
had to find my way on my own.

By the time I made it to Oxford, I was two days late and felt well out
of syncand so it makes sense to me now that the first morning at breakfast,
I was quietly eating alone. I cant really remember or Im really not sure why
the elderly man who entered the breakfast room just as I was leaving caught
my eye. I tell myself it was the force of white in his presenceand his amazing
bright, blue eyes. His skin was clear, almost translucent, like watery milk, and
his hair and beard a soft marshmallow white. He was six-feet something tall
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and seemed to glow. The contrasting whites were thin and thick, vibrant
and denseand later Id see all of those things and more in his personality. I
needed a friend that morning, even one that was fifty years older than me, and
I hoped Elliott Coleman would immediately become one.

In the early 1940s, Elliott founded and then directed the Writing
Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, one of the first elite writing programs
in the United Statesand he had just recently retired. He had come to Oxford
at the request of his friend and the Antioch writing program director, Michael
Lynch. Nave as I was, I still picked up that the retirement was not entirely
voluntaryand there were other concerns plaguing Elliott, particularly his
health. Hed suffered a stroke, which hampered his ability to walk on his
own and made it difficult for him to use his writing hand. That inability or
unwillingness to retrain his hand would lead to a writing technique that
allowed him to create his last book and would become instrumental to me.

I had come to Antioch and England to learn to write (become a
writer)and Elliott had a lifetime of wisdom to impart. I wanted him to be
receptive to my visits, so taking a cue from the lesson offered by my recent
travel experience at JFK, I decided not to hesitate. Instead, I decided to buy
my way into my visits. I heard Elliott liked chocolateI discovered Cadbury
bars. Then, I learned he liked rosesthank you, England, for so easily
accommodating that. I was also told he loved Beefeaters Gin and MacRostietype chardonnay, even though he wasnt supposed to drink alcohol anymore.
To be safe, I brought a bottle of each and no longer needed to worry about
being invited to visit. I had a standing invitation each day.
Seeing Into
Although I got to know Elliott thirty-seven years ago in Oxford, I vividly carry
an image of him creating poems from his bed in a senior home (assisted living
facility) in Chilton, England. At the end of the summer, when we, as students,
made the move to London, Michael Lynch and Elliott found Chilton House
in Buckinghamshire, near Thame. A room on the top floor was readied for
Elliott, and then once a week, Michael, Stephanie, a former nun, also a student
in the program, and I, were lucky enough to meet with him there. Stephanie
and I took the train to Oxford then Michael picked us up and drove us all to
Chilton. The weekly conferences were set up as a tutorial for Stephanie and
me, but in the end, we all shared workand the great gift to me during that
time was the chance to sit inside Elliotts writing process.

Between our visits, Elliott pondered his life, read as best he could
given his health, followed the news about the impending Pope (he was so
excited about John Paul II), and wrote poetry. He was a great example that
writers write, even if they are not able to physically write. Elliott wrote in
his mind and preserved what he wrote in his memory. During the week, he
would create a poemword by wordembedding it in his mind, and when
we arrived, he would dictate itone of us recording what he said (he told us
the line breaks and the breaths as well as the words) until the poem fully made
it to paper. I was struck always by how deeply he listened to himselfhow as
he spoke the poem, it was as if he too was hearing it for the first time. Often,
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as soon as the poem was spoken, a plan for revising it was stirring in his mind.

But the most important thing I learned from Elliotts writing process
was how writing can be seeingseeing in images. In What It Is, graphic
memoirist and cartoonist Lynda Barry writes, What is an image? Its the pull
toy that pulls you, takes you from one place to another. I was lucky to be a
witness to how Elliott created a variety of poems that year for what would
turn out to be his final collection, Four Counties of Youth, but his process of
creating Remembrance of Princeton stands out for me most. As he looked
into the past, each memory became an image that pulled him toward another
until his seeing of it was full and complete:
Remembrances of Princeton
To Sister Miriam

Beautiful brevities: the small letters of


New Testament Greek and Dr. Einstein
eating an ice cream cone on Mercer Street
This poem started out longa list of memories, which were really images,
of a short time (a summer or a semester? I cant remember) Elliott spent in
Princeton. Image derives from the Old French, to form a mental picture of
and that was what Elliott did. He visualized and then used words to image
each moment. One after another they accumulated and finally contained
his experience. Then, in the revision process, he would let them define his
experience.

Once Elliott had his list he began to whittle it down. He discovered
that writing each image in his mind required him to really see it. When
he looked closely, he realized that some images coincided with his felt sense
(image) of his experience and others didnt. Really seeing his experience
through the images became a way of glimpsing the meaning of it. Seeing
and meaning became linked. Finally, when the poem contained just the two
images, I remember Elliott was more than satisfied. He was certain. He had
his remembrances of Princeton. He had the remembrances that mattered. I
am sure he chose the word remembrances for the poems title because he
wanted to evoke, as one definition says, something that serves to bring to
mind or keep in mind some place, person, event, etc.; memento. Memento,
as I look more deeply, was once used as a word meant for giving warning.
Elliotts images, while evoking the simplicity of his time in Princeton, were
also a warning of the complexity just aheadfor him, years of what he called
hiding as gay man in a straight cityand for Einstein, the atomic bomb.
Elliott went to Princeton to study theology, but left for Johns Hopkins, and
as he says in Four Counties of Youth, give up sex for years. The Einstein he
saw that summer had not yet travelled to Los Alamos and did not yet have to
live with his participation in the development of the atomic bomb or its use
in war. The way Elliott saw his remembrances shifted because of the way he
allowed himself to seeand reflecthis images. Once he could seeand see
all that the images containedthe art (the poem) came together easily.
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Elliotts construction of Remembrances of Princeton was the
beginning of my understanding that if we are willing to look closely, well not
only see, but see into our images, and this seeing can lead us often to a deeper
remembering as well as to what our images mean. Further, our images invite us
into conversation with them. I think he dedicated this poem to Sister Miriam
as a way of talking to herand reconnecting with her. Several months after
he finished the poem, when he feared his health was deteriorating even more,
he returned to the Baltimore area to live near Sister Miriam, and the hospice
where she worked. The poem led him to insight about not only what he
wanted the art to say, but how he wanted to live out his life. When Elliott had
another stroke just a few months after he returned to the States, Miriam sat
peacefully at his side. I was lucky to sit with both of them during Elliotts final
days.
Seeing What Matters
Ive used Remembrances of Princetonand my witnessing of how Elliott
created it to help writers explore the dynamic relationship between text and
image. I saw how carefully Elliott recorded image in his mind and let his mind
shape itgive it form. I wondered what it would be like for other writers to
literally shape their seeing through language and line. So I ask them to play
with thisto draw as well as write their images. I want them to sketch with
pencils and wordsand I hope that when drawing and writing are used to
focus their attention, they can more easily slide into a more generative or
contextualized (deeper) seeing.

A model for me is Lynda Barry. In What It Is, she writes: Something
happens to my thinking when I start to draw. It becomes more like listening
than formulating. While I move my pen, I hear sentences, like this one for
example. Spoken internally from one part of me to another. Spoken and
listened toheard and recorded but not thought over much or at all. She
calls it listening, but it is a way of attending (seeing what the experience is?).
I thought writers could deliberately bring this kind of attention to seeing
(seeing their images) also.

Inspired by texts such as Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain,
which encourage beginning drawers to focus on lines and record them with
their handso what is seen is revealed as it is drawnI ask writers to engage
in a similar process as they see into their own beautiful brevitiesto follow
the lines of what they see. They see visually and through word and then step
back and reflect on whats revealed to them. Again, Lynda Barry in What It
Is, says that the ordinary is extraordinary and that placing oneself within
an image through writing, drawing, and/or humor allows for discovery of the
aliveness of the image and ones experience or memory.

I draw more and more on the work of graphic writers and cartoonists,
like Barry, and Maira Kalman, author of The Principles of Uncertainty and
And the Pursuit of Happiness, to teach writers where seeing and memory
can intersect and where seeing can lead them. In Maira Kalman: Various
Illuminations (of a Crazy World), the curator Ingrid Schaffner writes: Kalman
speaks of her work as a form of journalism. She uses writing and drawing to
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render an ongoing account of the world as she sees it. Hers is a daily discipline
of creativity based on photography, travel, research, walking, talking, and
open observation. Kalman balances her distractionallowing her eye to
go to whatever she sees--with a willingness to take on history, memory and
loss when they arise through her observations. She allows herself to see the
world around her and also to see into her feelings and mind. The result, as
Schaffner says, is work that can illuminate those things that affirm our own
capacity for joy, sadness, humor, charm. See http://www.thejewishmuseum.
org/exhibitions/mkalman.

Elliott seemed to prefigure the vital seeing and telling that is part of
current graphic work. He intuitively sensed the personal and creative value of
seeing and seeing into his own mind. His careful and clear seeing allowed the
images from his past to be alive againas living images. They spoke to him
and he not only got to reconnect with his experience but to more completely
realize it. From him, I learned:

Seeing leads to

Seeing into, which leads to

Seeing what matters.
Seeing Image Matters
In poems such as The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams we
see the image first. Williams focuses our attention on the red wheelbarrow
and asks us to visualize the rainwater and white chickens. It is only once we
are holding the image in our minds that we ask ourselves, what does it mean
that so much depends on these things?
The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens
Lynda Barry seems to affirm this process of seeing first when she says in
What It Is, Place yourself in the image and look around, suggesting that by
looking, well actually see. There is also a lot to say about how these processes
can influence what we create, but my focus here has been on sharing how
Ive seen the process of seeing and seeing into work for Elliottand how it
has helped writers bring a deeper, richer seeing into what they create. But my
experience is that if we are seeing, we can train ourselves to also see into
and that will have a positive benefit on what we ultimately create. Elliott did
that when he remembered Princeton, and I realize that is what I have been
doing as Ive worked through my memories of my time with Elliott. To test my
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remembrances or help me find clarity or be more articulate, Id simply asked


myself, What do you see?

Usually it was Elliott stretched out on his long bed, pillow propping
up his back, his hand slapping his leg in insight or enjoymenta gesture he
made when he got to the punch line of a story. Id nod my head and keep
looking into the past, trying to genuinely see. The process has given me a
remembranceand memento of Elliotta positive warning, if you will, that
so much depends on our willingness to see.

BIG SUR AND BEYOND


Tony Phillips

This essay originated as a blog and presentation for Great Writing, London, England,
June 2013. See http://blog.ciis.edu/my_weblog/2010/02/beautiful-brevitiesimage-memory-and-writing-as-art.html

The French Mason Connection


A Memoir

TIME AND AGAIN my late mother told my sister Douggie and me that we
were descendants of George Mason, the Virginia planter and framer of the
Constitution and Bill of Rights. As Mom was so given to embroidering any
representation of family dignity, my sister and I always regarded such talk
with skepticism. Whenever the subject came up, one of us would say to the
other, One of us should look into this, and it would go on remaining a
mystery. Before she died a few years ago, the last remaining member of the
prior generation, Moms cousin, the matriarch of the Texas branch whom we
knew simply as Sister, sent me a family tree. At the top was a forebear by the
mysterious name French Mason of Pohick, with an added rubriccousin
of George Mason.

At the computer recently, facing the open Google page, it dawned on
me that here I might just find the answer to this old question. So I typed in the
name: French Mason of Pohick, and up came the website for Gunston Hall,
George Masons estate in Virginia, now a national heritage site. Here I found
the vast, complex Mason ancestral tree with the connection clearly spelled
out. We are indeed direct descendants of George Mason I (1629 to 1686) who
came to Virginia from England, as well as George II (1660 to 1716) who was
grandfather to George IV of the Constitution, and great-grandfather, via a
different line, to French Mason of Pohick, Pohick being the name of a creek
that still flows into the Potomac not far from D.C. and Gunston Hall. So yes,
this old loose end suddenly and finally connected. Mom was right, almost!

Then, still on Google, I noticed another lead for French Masona
page with a story about an old gold mine in Virginia that had been inherited
by a certain Abigail Storm. Her story traced back through her ancestors to the
top name: Mary Ann Major, wife of French Mason. I learned that French had
died rather young from an infection as a result of a thorn that had penetrated
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109

his boot. Much of this information coincided with what was indicated for the
early generations of my family tree. The Masons daughter, Catherine Major
Mason, was grandmother to Mary May Wiley who married her double cousin,
Charles Wiley Callaghanmy moms grandparents. Double cousin? After
French Mason died, his widow, Mary Ann Major, married Robert Wiley and
they were grandparents to Charles Wiley Callaghan. And, amazingly, Mary
May Wiley was also descended from Robert Wiley through yet another of his
marriages. That was life in the old South. Mom would say there were none
but cousins to marry!

So it seemed Abigail Storm was of my blood, a descendant of this
same Mason/ Wiley/Callaghan knotconnected four generations back. The
text of the webpage had been authored by her husband, Daniel Eggink. That
name struck me with a jolt, leaping across four decades, a name unheard in all
that time. I emailed the address I found on the website, and the reply confirmed
that this was the same Daniel Eggink who was the bouncer at Redwood Lodge
in Big Sur, California in 1965, when and where I was bartender to what was
the most extraordinary, wild, archetypal hippie scene:
Dear Tony,
This is that same Dan Eggink you remember. I have often thought about you over the
years because you were the first artist I met that was formerly schooled on the east
coast. Please tell me how your artistic life has unfolded? I am now 67 and living in a
wee 10x10 foot cottage on forty lovely wooded acres in Bethel, New York. As an actor
performing the role of a counter culture artist I am still committed to the art of social
sculpture, happenings and performance art.

A personal epiphany in 1969 caused me to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I suppose it would be accurate to say I am part of the extreme CHRISTIAN LEFT?

That LSD saturated 1965 summer in Big Sur however left a big imprint on
my life. Havent touched the stuff in more than 10 years. But what of you? Please fill
me in. I would love a chance to meet and talk with you face to face.
With fond affection
brother dan
Here are lines from the e-mail I sent back to him:
Those Big Sur days were really a very special time in my life. A friend from Palo Alto
knew the owner of Redwood Lodge and got me the job there. The story about him was
that he was a psychology professor at Princeton who had been dropping acid every day
for 2 years. One day he was caught strolling down his suburban street with no clothes.
Goodbye, Princeton. Hello, Big Sur.

Fresh from the East, never even having been in California before, I arrived
cold turkey in Big Sur, square as a brick, I think youll remember, white Brooks Brothers
shirt, short hair, never even tasted the boo, a total stranger.

You were about the only person to speak to me, at least at first. My suspicion
has always been that people took me for some kind of cop, there for undercover
snooping. Those with some sense may have seen that I was just naive, and gradually I
started to fold into the place.
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But the big opener for me was when some guy came in one day and started
needling me, soto voce, about the way I was tending bar, which was probably not
so great anyway. Maybe the guy was voicing antagonism that others were seething
with: who the fuck is this stranger to walk into this job ahead of us? This heckler was
careful not to raise his voice and made no scene and you told me that, as such, you
couldnt throw him out. I left the bar to eat lunch and the guy came over to me and
said something like, Oh, did I hurt your feelings, you asshole? I grabbed him and
pulled him outside and smacked him, but quickly found myself under arrest by the
only cop on the whole 90-mile coastline! When I came back from jail I suddenly felt
like I was an acceptable human being to almost everyone.

Lovely ladies like Barbara Johnson and Helen Hudson invited me to
lie about naked with the hippies by the river, offering me puffs on these funny little
cigarettes, which, curiously, had very little effect on me. But someone, maybe you,
gave me this pill that I took one evening after work. Weeellll, that was a different
story. I turned into rubber butter in short order and dissolved into the landscape. Such
incredible sensations and visions I never dreamt of, Im sure you know. Late in the
evening the manager of the placeMartin was his name, no?drove me down along
the highway. We stopped the car for a while and before long there were gunshots and
bullets whizzing by.

Hallucinations? Martin suggested we make as small a profile as possible by
crouching down in his little Triumph sports car. When the shots stopped we figured it
was guys trying to shoot deer in their headlights out on the field. I walked the couple
of miles back to Redwood in the dark. Me and all my ghosts. I got tenderized. After
that I found myself quite open to the effects of the pot and further trips. I began to feel
very comfortable there, more deeply so than at any other place I had been. But I was
aware that I was doing absolutely nothing other than the job. I had not the slightest
inclination to focus on what I had considered my work. I had this rich thought of
spending the rest of my life nestled in the abundant sensations I was experiencing.
Hardly disparate and fragmenting sensations, but a sense that I was being fused into
the nature there. But when that phone call came, I accepted a teaching job offer in
New York without hesitation. But I remember looking down on the vast expanse of
the city as the plane landed, thinking what shithole is this down there? What have I
done? I was miserable and, for a long time, I regretted leaving Big Sur. My experience
of Big Sur soured me for New York. I never did find a way to be there. I had to come to
Chicago to get focused and put my life together.

Enough of this for now. More later as required! Let me hear something
more from you? You are probably not aware of my most abiding image of you: I was
walking along the dusty little road down under the big redwoods approaching our 2
cabins. Yours was enveloped in a cloud of potsmoke issuing forth from the wide-open
windows. As I walked by I peeked in and I could see you lying flat naked on your back
passing a joint to a big, utterly voluptuous blond on top of you fucking your brains out!
A long phone call ensued, and we each visited websites with each others
respective evidence. Without any chemical assistance, I began to experience
loose nerve endings and shadows of paranoia that had been familiar in the
old psychedelic days. The news of Daniels imminent arrival in Chicago, my
hospitality now being implicit, carried an undertone that made me distinctly
uncomfortable:
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Dear Tony.
I enjoy the humor in your paintings as well as the quality of execution. As friends let
us forge a collaborative relationship. I call my art SOCIAL SCULPTURE. Its my
medium for sharing the kingdom of Heaven Jesus taught about.

There is a fundamental question that has been hammered out wherever
artists gather over wine, coffee or some other substance. That is WHAT IS ART? For
that subject I yield to TOLSTOY, Art is bringing people together.

Now I see our relationship as PERFORMANCE ART. Us as an ensemble
began on the BIG SUR STAGE. I view my anticipated arrival at your studio as a
HAPPENING and improvisational theatre. I am a camera-ready guest, prepared
to draw, paint, sing, dance, glue or paste whatever it takes. You are the Professor
Emeritus and host. Yet we are still the naive friends Tony and Dan with cultural roots
in the deep south.

I expect to arrive at your studio Saturday, October 15th. When I stop at your
studio I will be a pilgrim on my way to the west coast with the ashes of my son who was
born at Nepenthe in BIG SUR.

I have stories to tell and questions to answer. We are each part of art and
bohemian history in the United States and I have been taking notes on that subject.
with love
brother Daniel
He told me that his son had been shot in the heart the year before, died in
the arms of another son who reported that his last words were: Thank
you, Jesus. The first shot had been aimed at this surviving boy and had
misfired. This crime was said to have been an act of insanity on the part of an
acquaintance, now in jail. Could this have resulted from a certain business
misunderstanding? I didnt ask.

At a dinner party of friendsserious, formidable, professional
peopleI reported these developments. More paranoia was heaped upon
my own. I had to remind myselfthis guy had been a charming, easy going
and capable soother of wild spirits. Redwood Lodge was often in a state of
imminent conflagration and it was Brother Daniel who skillfully chilled the
embers, albeit with the assistance of various soothing elixirs that were not
dispensed from behind the bar. He informed me that he had been the main
drug dealer of Big Sur.

I was to meet him at the train station. Would I recognize him? Did
he still sport the grand Nietzschean mustache as seen in the several pictures
hed sent? No, he said, the mustache had been burnt when flames from blazing
brush had caught him a lick, but I would recognize him anyway. Then came
word that he would arrive the following Wednesday in a camper with a friend,
a folksinger.

A day earlier than he had announced, Dan and not one but two
friends arrived in a very small 1983 Datsun pickup with a rather large camper
mounted on top. Dan was all sunshine and effusiveness. Tall, a little skinny,
but still athletic, he had retained his healthnot one complaint while he was
here. His craggy, twinkly face still indeed bore the great mustache. He unrolled
a small canvas and gave it to me. It was a simple, straightforward painting
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of a bearded old man sitting lugubriously alone in an empty room with an


American flag in the foregrounda self-portrait, he told mea sadder, unrejuvenated self whose beard had yet to be burnt in what I presumed to be a
reawakening, perhaps subsequent to mourning.

He carried a large, faux-marble, slightly nicked classical urn
containing the ashes of his son. He plopped it onto our round dining room
table. I moved it respectfully to the very center where it remained throughout
his visit. In there, after all, was my cousin.

Providing the transportation was the folk musician Banjo, a gentle,
quiet marine veteran who had been a sometime security guard for the
property where the original Woodstock gathering took place (having been
resurrected as an outdoor summer concert center). Banjo wore beads and a
rolled cowboy hat. He rarely set down his curious, narrow guitar, though he
played it only once, having little chance what with all the talking. A single
parent, he had raised his now-college student daughter since her mother
disappeared. His eyes were unblinkingly wide at all timesa gentle look of
perpetual amazement.

Also there was John, a forester, just as sweet, an introvert who spoke
little but, nonetheless, listened attentively with a curious look of forbearing
sympathy. His daughter, I was told, was a close friend of Banjos daughter; she
lived next door with her mother at Johns fathers house.

My wife Judy reminds me often that I am a monologist and that I
should shut up, but I hold no candle to Brother Dan. He held forth singularly
at great length on every subject. He completely eclipsed everything and
everybody. He sucked the air out of the room. But he seemed quite well
informed about a great deal. He demonstrated a love for history, and where
my knowledge was able to keep up with his, I couldnt fault him muchfor
details, that is. But his opinions could be a bit hyperbolic or bizarre. The Jews,
he said, did not really exist as a distinct people until the middle ages. To this,
my wife, who is Jewish, took exception, though she was a patient, good sport
throughout all.

Though a member of no church, Dan carried on about Jesus at
length, and how institutional religion ignores the real Jesus. I did not venture
to disagree. Together with its memorial purpose, this trip was taking them
to some great reconvening of hippies at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco,
and he waxed eloquent on the subject of the old virtues embraced by that
revolution: peace and love and understanding, now so sorely trashed in an
increasingly polarized world. I could only nod in concurrence. His vocabulary
was extensive, his rhetorical rhythm, stupefying.

I asked him to tell us about his family. Despite his declarative
sentiments it was hard to grasp who they were or what he really felt about
them. Since the death of their son, Abigail had left his bed, but clearly was
still in his life as were his remaining children. But when he spoke of the
deaths of his son and earlier wife, his voice cracked and he had to stifle tears
while struggling to maintain domination of the talk.

I was soon exhausted, a condition I could see was shared by Judy
as well as the two gentlemen who came with him. After a couple of beers, a
Mexican dinner and no drugs, we all collapsed, me with a headache.
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In the morning I took them for a walk. Judy had arranged a full day
for herself apart from this unlikely crew. Brother Daniel wanted to see Jane
Addams Hull House and was pleased that it was but a few minutes stroll up
the street. On the way he filled my ears with information about the great lady,
her good works, and her relationship with the Arts and Crafts Movement,
which he considered to be an ideological forebear to the hippie revolution.
As he went on, I wondered if all he was saying was true.

Serendipity no stranger to this whole jamboree, we arrived just in
time for a lecture tour given by two historians I know. Dan behaved himself
and kept his lip buttoned while they repeated much of what he had just
told me. The art historian, gleaning clues of Dans old hippiehood from his
appearance, sardonically joked that he must have come to vet the talk for the
conservatives. It was the only moment where Dan was taken aback.

But for the most part he was pleased as punch. When the historians
left he buttonholed the graduate student assistant and began to spill his
whole philosophy, theology and life story while we waited. Banjo got out his
guitar and began to sing right there in Jane Addams living room, Nobody
Knows You When Youre Down and Out. John studied an exhibit. I did a
slight dance to the music. Dan kept on talking.

Trouble was brewing upon our return home. Banjo was telling Dan:
While I will follow you like a puppy dog, I have to know what our plans are
and what you guys are willing to put in to cover expenses. What if my truck
breaks down? I need to reserve what Ive got in case of trouble. Otherwise
Ill have to turn around now and go home. Dan exhorted, Man, youve got
to have FAITH. This is an historical journey, a meeting in San Francisco of
those of us who launched a great movement. I thought you wanted to do this.
Unlike Banjo, Dan is a Dharma Bum, happily moving on, willing to submit
himself naked to the fates with faith that hell get where he really needs to go.
I piped in with support for the beleaguered Banjo, to the effect that he had
the vehicle and the responsibility, so you two should buy the gas and leave
him his reserve. But was there enough cash? How much? John had $300. Dan
pulled out a crunch of bills that added up to about a hundred dollars.

I had not been able to ask Dan how he supported himself. I still dont
know. Before he embarked he had mentioned in an e-mail that he only had
$200, so I knew this was coming and had already decided that I would provide
up to $200 to support this caper, had it ready in my pocket. I volunteered it
then and there, gave it to cousin-in-law Daniel, declaring this was for the trip:
gas if Banjo continued, bus if he didnt.

This gesture of mine cleared the air. Banjo declared his back pain
suddenly gone. He looked into my eyes, embraced me, thanking me profusely
for resolving what had been a crisis for him. Dan took my money as though
it were exacted tribute. He knew that I knew that he knew it was a payoff
what was necessary to see them out of my sphere of concern. I took them
happily to Greektown and bought them a nice dinner. Dan, having less worry
to smother with his speeches, relaxed a little, and allowed me to get a few
words in edgewise. I got to tell a few stories and hear appreciative laughter. I
was enjoying myself finally.

They were to leave in the morning for Iowa, on to Dans sisters
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house where she and their mother waited. But Banjo was still balking. Dan
and John had slept in the house, but Banjo stayed in his camper out in our
yard. He was still ensconced there by 11 a.m. There was a note taped to the
windshield saying that he had had trouble sleeping, and to please not wake
him. It went on, addressing Daniel, repeating his plea to respect his position
and not badger him into doing what conflicted with his doubts. We ate a late
brunch without Banjo, sat around waiting for him to appear. It was explained
to me that Banjo adored his daughter, who really owned the camper, and that
she had a big grip on him.

We waited what seemed like hours as Brother Dan and I chatted
about the old days, the state of the world, and our lives. Lightened of my cash,
I couldnt help but ask about Abigails gold mine. He said that a while back
he and his sons put a year of back-breaking effort into it and extracted about
$60,000 worth of gold. He told of how the Confederates hid valuables there
as the Yankees advanced.

John presented me with poems and drawings he fetched out of his
pack. Simply and carefully depicted or rhymed fantasies, they reflected a
round of earnest, weighty, and sometimes scary sentiments relevant to an
internal life lived with much sadness. I was touched that he should trust me
to see them.

For a long while after Banjo finally rose out of his cocoon, he fussed
about with his things, his bags in the house, and then, after an interminable
shower, he rearranged the camper for ever and ever as we all wondered if this
show would ever get on the road. The concern lurked in everyones mind: was
Banjo ready to cave and go home? In the back of my mind I harbored a nasty
urge to kick them all out of my house and down the highway. As he finally
ate and evening approached, Banjo was still imploring all for patience and
understanding, while Dan invoked the spirit of faith. Indeed, as I prepared
my best tuna salad for their picnic supper, Dan launched into an impassioned
sermon on the paradigm of commitment that Jesus posed for us all. On and
on. No argument. So I declared that he was preaching to the choir and begged
him to give it a rest, so that, as it was almost dark, they all could be getting
under way. I lectured him: Dont lecture them; youll wear them out! And
that will be the end of this whole junket. I added, Dont you think you
should call your sister and tell her when youll arrive? No, he said with a
look just short of a wink, she knows me. I asked, How long since theyve
last seen you? He answered sheepishly, Years.

It was dark when they leftafter endless vestibuling out in the yard,
repeated good-byes, hugs, gratitude expressed, poring over the map, all while
Banjo put final touches into shaping up the camper and his resolve to go
ahead with the program. It took forever just to get the vehicle out of the yard.
I kept waving as it crept down the street.

I tried to imagine what sort of reception they would get in Iowa at
midnight. I wondered whether there would be any more cash forthcoming
from family there. I was certainly relieved to see them go, but felt real
fondness for them all. I even daydreamt of going with them. When they saw
that I could arbitrate their differences and provide order (and cash) they asked
me to come. I was moved, but really, not a trip for me.
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They seemed at once opaque, concealing a host of embarrassments,
and yet they could not help but reveal some cares and sensitivities: Banjo
with his haunted, searching eyes, addressing his doubts in the face of Dans
stridency; John with little boys shyness; even Daniel couldnt help spilling
some real beans with his theatricscrocodilian as he could be, the tears were
real enough, as were moments of sudden, pained, self-deprecating candor
that embarrassed everyone including himself, but which opened his veil of
illusions and gave him some real dimension.

While I certainly know now that its not so easy to be around him,
I have affection for Brother Daniel. He still radiates a kind of sparkle and
warmth that I had once been very grateful for. He was a hippie king along
with his cohort Neil Rose, a wizardly spellbinder of occult mysteries. These
key characters welcomed me on the Big Sur Stage when I had been an object
of some suspicion and hostility, or at least disdain. In spite of the fact that I
bought or brought no dope, they accepted me, and that allowed me entre into
that amazingly vibrant life, certainly among the first hippie scenes to exist. It
was a principal rural outpost for San Francisco bohemia that included older
North Beach beatniks, early Berkeley rebels, the nascent Merry Pranksters,
and of course the newly defined crowdthe original hippies of Haight Street.

Once I was able to receive a little acknowledgment in that community,
I found myself stumbling into unforeseeably sensational experiences that
had profound and lasting effect upon methanks largely to those mysterious
treats that were passed around, and to the spectacularly rich natural
environment in which to enjoy them. It was great fun to be sure, but there
was much to contemplate as well. What had been for me Jungian and Daoist
intellectual sentiments became aesthetically palpable, physical realizations.
The connectedness and unity of all things had been for me an inconceivable
notion; it became my experience. I saw, heard, smelled, tasted and touched
an abundance of things, of qualities that had not been there for me before,
and there was a brilliant moment when I saw and felt them all in glorious
unisona meditative crescendo which I still consider my nearest experience
of God, far exceeding anything my skepticism had allowed me in church.

The formidable social and psychological conditioning of my
youth seemed like so much blockage. A real fifties boy, I had been as thick
and inviable as a board. In Big Sur I felt like I had awakened from a stupor,
finding myself flowing in a river. Thereafter, when I came ashore, I began
a process of reassessing and reconstructing my life. While much of that
experience was prompted by those curious elixirs, the perceptions were vivid
and realenough so that they have borne the test of time. Much of what
occurred to me in the rush of those days has since been confirmed through
my engagement with so much literature, music and artaccounts of others
experience and knowledge, mostly acquired without all that much chemical
assistance. LSD did not so much provide me with understanding as it split me
open and turned me inside out, flushing away so much psychic goo, enabling
an accelerated capacity for observation with rather more encompassing
perspective, and allowing me to discover and activate an aesthetic center to
which my experience was able to cohere.

That was it for me. Fortunately I was able to realize early that there
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were diminishing returns on the value of further medication, that, beyond


a point, this acid would no further improve my vision or my life and indeed
might erode these. Would this be the better understanding? While often
sublime, those psychedelic trips could suddenly become entirely abysmal and
horrific, and for some, deadly.

Where these matters are concerned, Brother Daniel was more the
adventurer. It seemed to me that he had had his fill of visions and experience
crowding his mind and his life. For him, Jesus offered redemption: a vision
of man and nature in the embrace of a forgiving and loving God, not all that
contrary to what was afforded by the best of those psychedelic trips in the good
old days, but not, unfortunately, what we can now so easily call Christian in
so far as that term has become loaded with political and institutional burdens
and narrow ideological agendas that do not seem so generous in spirit. Daniel
Egginks Jesus is the compassionate Jesus of other times.

Dans visit was some fun but rather a trial. He brought a lot of energy
into my house, and forced me to confront some of those old assumptions, to
re-evaluate and edit them. Suddenly each of us had to handle the other guys
forty plus years as though it were a life one might have otherwise ledlike
the funny business of high school reunions. After their departure I had but
one communication from Daniela brusque e-mail account of their arrival
in California. Then nearly a year went by before I heard from him again, and
we have exchanged emails a few times since. The last I heard, he had been
living in Woodstock, New York, involved with lobbying and promoting the
decriminalization of marihuana. But I am glad he did show up here, that one
time at least. The two hundred bucks I figure I owed him.

117

THE DIVER
Rosa del Duca

IN ALL MY dumpster dives, Id never seen shoes like them before. They
were bright green spindly heels with gold sequins down the sides and brass
buckles over the pointy toes. After one look, I knew only one girl could pull
off wearing them. So instead of going in the Sale Pile, the shoes went in the
Possibility Pile. Dont pretend like you dont hoard possibility too. Its why
people with too much crap turn on a dime when they see a yard sale sign. Its
why homeowners cruise the real estate ads. Why married folks comb online
dating profiles. Hell, its why beauty shops and tool sheds and health clubs
exist. Possibility.

My piles been growing so long I have categories. The shoes clearly
belonged in the giftsfor-the-girl-I-dont-have-the-guts-to-ask-out category.
Theres a glass-blown lamp in that pile, a gaudy chandelier, knitted unicorn
pillows, a black and white checkered dress with pockets in front and a tear at
the collar, beaded necklaces, old purses with clasps, and bar stools from the
70s. I even pilfered the tarnished tokens from an ancient monopoly set and
made a charm bracelet. But the heels? Whoa. Nothing quite compared to the
heels.

I found them the other week over on the west end of town in this
brand new, prissy little gated community. The homes were supposed to be
done back in 2010, the year I graduated, but the economy had hit rock bottom,
along with my prospects for the future. I hadnt applied to colleges. My family
was broke. The plan was to take a year off and bank some green. But I couldnt
find a job anywhere. Not even McDonalds.

So now Im in what my friends call the junk business, although I
dont consider what I find junk. Thats the point. People get rid of completely
good shit all the time. Stuff with tons of potential. Sure, its often a dirty and
smelly joband downright depressing when you find old family photographs
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or unused seed packets or mangy stuffed animals, or dog tags. Its not what I
imagined Id be doing. Dumpster diving. But I kinda love it. And its become
pretty lucrative now that Ive expanded to prowling the garage sales and the
second hand stores and the inventory liquidations and the Craigslist freebies
too.

So this West End lot. Construction froze and it sat in this half-built,
post-apocalyptic limbo for years. But now the complex is done and people
are starting to move in. Families and young couples with means who I guess
are comforted by the Smurf feel of the place. Locked in, camera-guarded
sameness. Its been my oyster for over a month. Youd think people would get
rid of everything they dont want before they move, but they get rid of just as
much stuff when theyre moving in.

The night I found the shoes there were ample pickings curbside, all
laid out for the garbage men to haul away the next day, or placed in boxes
marked free. I cruised from driveway to driveway, rescuing the neglected
and abandoned. I found a shit-ton of clothing to add to my 90s pile. When I
first got started in the junk business a buyer at our most hipster thrift shop
told me, nothing from the 90s will ever be worth anything. But I figure
thats what they said about the 80s at one point. And the 70s. I just have to
wait a while. There were a few other notable finds: A beat up (vintage) ice
cream maker. Some no-name-label (eclectic) jazz vinyl. A busted (well-loved)
guitar. The shoes were under some books with the kind of covers you look at
and think, damn, what a waste of time that would be. Contrary to popular
belief, I think you can judge a book by a cover. Just like you can judge albums
by their covers. And people. I almost didnt find the shoes because of those
dime-store novels. But because my kid half-brothers birthday was coming
up, and because he devoured even the most heinous of crap, I picked them up
and found my pearls.

Mike, my kid half-brother, is the reason that a few days later, I was
at the aquariumwhat would become the final resting place of the most
beautiful-ugly shoes on the planet. Mikes all into drawing his own comics
with sharks as the main characters and he insists he needs to study them in
person at the aquarium.

Otherwise, how are they going to have lifelike qualities?Mike
asks.

So anyway, I left Mike at the shark tank and went downstairs to sit
in the tunnel room. The tunnel is really just a glass tube, or upside-down
half pipe that you can walk into and see fish all around you, even above you,
swimming in this crystal clear, blue-tinted water.

Thats where I saw Robyn for the first time in three yearssince I
watched her drive off with Chris Lowman after graduation. I knew she came
back for the summers, but her crowd and my crowd rarely crossed paths.

She was holding a sandwichnot eating it, just staring straight
ahead like some statueand I flashed right back to the first time I saw her.
Shed shown up as the new kid in my Freshman American History class one
stormy October day. I know it was stormy because I remember she walked
in with speckles all over her clothes from the rain. Quirky clothes. Fishnet
nylons under embroidered cutoff jean shorts and a little girls flowery dress as
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a shirt. I knew within a couple days she was cool as hell from the get-ups she
wore unapologetically, and the way she didnt smile, but smirked, and the way
she hummed when she thought people couldnt hear.

I almost didnt say anything, almost walked away. Id never really
talked to Robyn in high school. I doubted she even remembered me. But she
looked so lonely there, seeing through everyone passing, even though they
were giving her these disturbed, kinda concerned looks, like they thought she
might be caught in some trance. And she was trapped in this awful uniform
black business pants that didnt fit right, and a collared shirt with the decal of
the aquarium over the breast pocket. The only remnant of high school was a
thick purple streak in her brown hair. And thats when I thought, no man. Im
not the shy, dweeby dude I used to be. Not only am I four inches taller and
twenty pounds of muscle heavier, I am considerably more confident. Ive got
my shit together.

Its Robyn, right? I asked, sitting down next to her.

She looked at me with blank eyes, but then they focused. Bobby.
She seemed to notice the sandwich in her hands for the first time, and a miffed
expression crossed her face. You used to sit next to me in Pre Calc, she said,
wrapping the sandwich back up. I remember your shoes.

My shoes?

They were superlative.

I wasnt sure what superlative meant, but she said it like a compliment,
and because Ive never known how to take compliments, I ignored it. Uh, so
how long have you been working here?

A week or so. Are you back for the summer too?

Back?

From school.

No, Ive been here all along.

She cocked her head and frowned.

I wanted to wipe my clammy palms on my jeans. What have you
been studying? I had enough friends in college to know this was what they
asked each other.

Oh, the most useless of things, she said, waving a hand. A long
eel swam behind her and started nosing the glass. But the most fascinating.
Philosophy, Psychology, English, Art, Theater, Dance, Anthropology. Im a
triple major at the moment. What about you?

I jerked my chin toward the eel. How do all these fish get along?
Dont the big ones eat the small ones?

She twisted to look into the tank. I pushed my palms down the sides
of my pants.

Sometimes, she said. But theyre not like people. Fish live and
let live. Their species are predictable. People arent so easy to figure out. You
have to consider not only their cultures monomyth, but their own individual
monomyth. I dont think we can rely on overarching cultural myths, do you?
I think everything is individualized. She paused, I guess waiting for me to
agree or disagree. She spoke so quietly that I had to lean toward her to hear.

Monomyth? Youre just making shit up now, I said.

She smiled back. You know, Joseph Campbell? The famous
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anthropologist? I guess heros journey is the popular term. With people, you
have to consider their whole mythology, their whole ethos, up to the present
moment and then judge how theyll act. I find it nearly impossible to do. Even
with all that you can decipher from a persons outward appearance. Theres
always the mask. Fish dont wear masks.

The eel had its gruesome mouth wide open now and was just floating
there behind her, its creepy eyes bulging. I dont wear a mask either, I said.

She tilted her head. Of course you do.

What?

Everyone wears a mask. I think its part of being human.

I wanted to accuse her of being only part human. Of being part Other
World, but knew that would be too lame. So, whats my mask?

She leaned back and made a show of squinting at me. Then she
scooted closer, cupped a hand around her mouth, next to my ear, and said,
Ease. You want to look comfortable talking to me right now while really,
youre not.

I cleared my throat and stared right into her brown eyes until she
looked away. Are you comfortable? I asked, hoping the panic jetting through
my veins wasnt bleeding through to my voice.

Wouldnt it make you uncomfortable talking with someone you
know is uncomfortable?

Before I could answer, or flounder, which was way more likely to
happen, some guy in a matching aquarium shirt walked up and asked her to
take over admissions and I made the excuse I had to go check on Mike.
The next week, on the same day, at the very same time, I left Mike at the sharks
and went down to the tunnel room, looking for redemption or something.
I saw Robyn on the bench, eating an apple and staring at a diver who was
messing with plants on the bottom of the tank. Her clothes fit her lean body
this time. Shed altered the pants to hug her narrow hips, and now they had
a blue and yellow stripe down the side, like a marching band uniform. Her
polo shirt had been turned into a scoop-neck tank top with a school of blue
and yellow clown fish silk-screened onto the back. It made me think about my
buddy Nate. He writes this thing called found poetry, recycling words from
found objects like signs and menus and memos and ads and stuff. When
he first explained the whole thing to me I immediately thought of dumpster
diving. And Robyn. She was part found poem.

When I sat down next to her, she didnt even turn her head.
Someday Ill jump in the shark tank, she said.

I wondered if she would have said it to anyone, or if she saw my
reflection somehow. You mean be part of the show? The aquarium has a
little educational show after each shark feeding, where two divers go down
and hold up flashcards and stuff while somebody on the outside gives a
presentation.

No. I dont want to wear a suit. I want to be able to feel everything.

Hard core.

Turning to me, she reached back and pulled the end of her long,
brown pony tail over one shoulder. I wanted to touch that hair. The only two
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girls Id dated had pixie cuts.



The goal is to examine my learned and unlearned responses, she
whispered. A tour group was filing past, one of her aquarium cohorts at its
head, talking about the difference between salt water fish and fresh water fish.
I want to be put in a heightened situation and observe my reaction. Its an
experiment. Its for posterity. Ill film it.

I started laughing.

Im not joking. Studying my face like it was some puzzle, she
explained, None of our sharks have ever attacked a diver. And theyre well
fed. Im sure its mostly safe. Just unsafe enough to frighten me.

I wondered if Robyn had always been like this, or whether college
had warped her in some way. A heady, detached way all caught up in the idea
of something and not the reality. Id seen it before. This guy Liam I used to be
buddies with came back from college after a few years, and all he could talk
about was making his first million by the time he was thirty. Said after that he
could really relax and start enjoying life. He never left the house that whole
summer except to go to his internship. Shunned us all. Then another buddy,
Ben, developed some kind of disorder where he couldnt be himself. He was
into theater and carried around these plays in his back pocket. Each day hed
pick a different character to explore, which really meant impersonate. Hed
dress up like them, talk like them, try to think like them. Fine. Great. But
all the time? You could never have a real conversation with the guy, and the
worst part was he accused us of being inhibiting when we asked him to
knock it off. And then there was Maureen, who came back and wanted to
host monthly art parties where you had a couple drinks and then critiqued
shit. Sometimes we went to a gallery and looked at paintings. Sometimes
shed read us something short at her house. Once we biked around looking
at graffiti. I was game at first. It made me want to go to college more than
ever, once I saved up some cash. But after a while I could see the discussions
werent going how shed hoped. She was all hung up on these terms and labels
she acted like we should know already. And then she pretty much took over
and started lecturing. Now I wondered if Robyn wasnt in the clutches of
some scheme some class had planted in her head.

Why dont you go shark cage diving in the ocean? Isnt that scary
enough?

Too expensive. She nibbled at her apple core. And its not like Ill
be unsupervised. Ill have one of the divers help me.

How are you going to swing that?

Ill seduce one of them.

The aquarium geek guiding the tour started blabbing about the sting
rays. Im a diver, I told the floor.

Robyn turned to me. What?

I shook my head and frowned, studying the floor. I could see a swirl
of residue left behind by whoever had mopped last.

No, what did you say?

Nothing.

You said something.

Nope.
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I heard you. She waited a long beat, then stood up, scanning for a
trash can to toss her apple core. Well, I should probably get back to work.

You know, Im a diver, I said, looking up at her.

She sat back down. Really. She drew the word out in this dreamy
drawl.

Well, Im not a professional or anything. But yeah. I dive.

I dont need a professional. I just need someone who knows what
theyre doing with the tanks and stuff.

I imagined her in a skimpy bathing suit, cutting through the water
like some kind of vixen mermaid. I know what Im doing. I figured I had
plenty of time to let the lie fizzle out. Or learn about air tanks. Uh, you wanna
get a drink sometime?

When and where do you propose?

Brandts Open Mic Night tomorrow?

She frowned, and rolled the apples stem between her thumb and
pointer finger, sending the core spinning. Isnt Brandts a cowboy bar?

Kind of. We go there cause of Nate. He does this thing he calls
political stream of consciousness. And he doesnt like preaching to the choir
when he does it. Likes being in the shark tank, so to speak.

Nate Whitehalls going to be there?

Yeah. And Ozzie McOwen.

She spun the apple the other direction. Like backup? Wingmen?

Hey, now. Does it look like I need wingmen? I spread my arms. Its
just that Nate cant be there alone. He needs a couple buddies in case the
cowboys pick a fight. And they both want to see you. I told them you were
back in town.

Thats cute.

I wasnt sure what she thought was cute, but decided it was a pretty
good sign. So thats a yes?

Okay.

You want me to pick you up? I was thinking nine.

No, Ill meet you there.
She showed up looking like the queen of gutter rats in holey jeans, a faded
T-shirt, and an old leather jacket with three-quarter sleeves. Her ballet shoes
were actual, literal ballet shoes, gold satin and all scuffed black at the toe. Her
long, dark hair was down, and tangled. She looked lost, or dazed, standing
there in the middle of the room, studying the reincarnation of Janis Joplin on
stage, scratching out The Devil Went Down to Georgia on a fiddle. Ozzie caught
my eye and whirled his finger around his ear, jerking his head toward Robyn.
Hed always thought she was some kind of stuck-up airhead. Be nice, I
growled across the table, and got up to meet her.

Can I get you a drink? I asked, touching her elbow. In flats, she was
three inches shorter than me.

She leaned close. Double shot of vodka?

Really?

She nodded earnestly.

I left her at the table with Ozzie, who got up and gave her a hug, and
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Nate, who waved and then went back to pouring over his notes with a pencil
nub he carried in his breast pocket. He insisted on looking professional on
open mic nights, tie and shiny shoes and everything.

When I came back from the bar, Robyn carefully poured her vodka
into a flask she pulled out of her back pocket. I brought my own mixer.

What is it?

Chia seed fresca. Its Aztec. She swirled the flask and held it out to
me. It tasted nutty, with lime and honey mixed in.

Ozzie asked Robyn about her older brother, whod joined the Air
Force. Nate, like the brainiac showoff he is, asked her opinion of the two party
system. The two of them went at it, and since I dont have much of an opinion
on the two party system, and since I felt the need to do something drastic to
pull her attention back to me, I brought the green heels out from under the
table and plopped them in front of Robyn.

She stopped talking and I watched her eyes focus, shifting out of that
faraway state they seemed to be in, even arguing about models of democracy.
I imagined her wearing the gorgeous monstrosities with some black leggings
and a funky shirt and a scarf tied in her hair. In the heels, three inches taller,
our eyes would meet at exactly the same height.

Robyn picked up one of the shoes, handling it like a specimen,
peering at the sequins, the buckle. Then she leaned back and declared to the
table, These are entirely the ugliest shoes Ive ever seen.

I cleared my throat and forced out a laugh. Right, I know.

Theyre sickening. Where did you get them?

Oh, you know. Around.

Come on, where?

Mars.

Hideous, she muttered, biting her lip. Absolutely hideous.

Ozzie and Nate were staring at me like I might spontaneously
combust.

It was just a joke, I said, reaching to put them back under the table.
I had to show them to somebody. You being a shoe person I trailed off.

No, no, no. She put a cool hand on my wrist. Dont put them
away. She arranged them on the table. Theyre our centerpiece. They are
absolutely perfect. Beautifully hideous. Superlative.

I took a gulp of my beer, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand,
and shrugged. Theyre yours. Across the table, Ozzie and Nate leaned back
in their chairs.

Really? She looked at me sideways with this adoring smile that felt
like a spotlight. Thank you, Robert.

Nobody called me Robert. My asshole dad was Robert, not me. But I
didnt correct her. You think theyll fit? I asked.

She drew one of the shoes toward her with a finger hooked in the
heel. They look a size too small. But I think I could just chop off the toe.

Before I could answer, the MC announced Nate as Nate Abatement,
his stage name, and Ozzie erupted in a long yeah, pumping his fist.

Nate plodded to the stage, accepted the microphone, and began his
rant. You say Obamacare, I say I dont care, he said. About your labels, you
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pig. Prig. Bigot. Goat, not scapegoat. Square mancollared by the right wing
wingspan of ignorance. He paused and a boo rose.

After a full three minutes, enough to get the crowd really riled up,
Robyn scooted her chair closer to mine. She put a fist under her chin and set
her elbow on the table, directly in front of me, blocking my view of the stage.

Youre right, she said.

I could smell the lime on her breath, and her perfume. I didnt like
not seeing Nate. I hadnt been kidding about having to rescue him from
rowdy cowboys before. But I leaned in closer to ask, Right about what?

About this being the proverbial shark tank. Theyve got prehistoric,
man-beast little brains, she said, rolling her eyes up and cocking her head
back, indicating the crowd behind her.

I caught myself staring at her collarbone. Well, not all of them. Just
a few bad apples.

She gave a half shrug with one shoulder. You know what this makes
me want to do?

What?

Leave.

Nate was on a roll, strutting like a rooster, getting a couple cheers
mixed in with the boos. But look at him. I gestured to the stage. Hes in his
element.

She glanced back over her shoulder. Yes, inspiring. But now its
time for the real shark tank.

Cursing myself for the shark tank comparison, I leaned around
Robyn to check on three big dudes at the edge of the stage. They had been
sitting there with their arms crossed. But now their hands were on their knees
or at their sides. Not a good sign. Especially because Nate had taken a knee in
front of them, to illustrate the forests of the downtrodden, a metaphor for
the unemployment rate. Or at least, thats what hed told me.

Years later we are still, interminably, Bush whacking, Nate roared,
his face red, before switching to a sing-song, Bush is whack, Cheney a hack.
Send them on a quail hunt. Theyll never come back! One of the big dudes
raised a fist and flipped Nate the bird. A lemon wedge landed on stage. Ozzie
popped up from his chair, jaw set, eyes darting from me to the stage. Ozzies
a small dude, all short and wiry. But hes got a temper to match his shock of
flaming red hair.

Oz, I warned. Dont jump the gun. Everyones still sitting down.
Then to Robyn, Why dont we get another drink and talk about it?

Absolutely. A few for the road. For the walk. She tipped her flask
back and handed it to me. Drink up. Then well fill it with a lovely whiskey
or rum. Do you like rum? Her hand was on my arm. I drained the flask.

As I watched her glide to the bar in those ballet shoes, I realized that
we were less than a mile from the aquarium. I imagined us wandering the maze
of tanks in the dark, buzzed. I saw us lying on the floor in the tunnel room,
smoking the spliff I had in my shirt pocket. Thats what would happen if we
made it there. She couldnt be serious about the shark tank. She couldnt.

Nate ended with a long howl, bowed, and strode back to our table,
where he grabbed his beer, downed it, straightened his tie, and asked, And
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how was I received tonight?



Youve got a few fans in the corner, man, Ozzie said diplomatically.

Robyn was back at my side, her freshly-filled flask in one hand. She
lifted the green heels from the center of the table with her free hand and
turned toward me, her face all expectant.

Lets go over to The Lamp Light, I said, jerking my head toward the
three big cowboys, who were now standing, sizing us up from afar.

Yeah, fuck it, Nate said, swinging on his coat.

On the street, Robyn pulled me deeper downtown, dismissing the
guys by saying in this little simpering voice, Excuse us boys, but Ive got a
diver to seduce. Nate gave a comical salute. Ozzie shot me a disapproving
look.

About a block away she slipped her cold hand in mine and started
swinging the shoes in the other. Operation seduction, she sang.

What if you dont get what you want? I asked. What happens to
the diver?

I dont know. Are you saying Im not going to get what I want? She
dropped my hand to take a dainty swig from the flask before passing it to me.
The whiskey plunged like a dying coal down my throat, and settled in my
stomach to burn.

At the aquarium, Robyn took me around back and got into this
alcove area with a swipe of her keycard. But the next door was locked and she
didnt have a key.

Fuck. The word came out of her like a sigh. I didnt think they
locked this.

What about in front?

She started pacing, the ballet shoes making a tap, tap, tap on the floor.
Thats locked for sure. She grabbed the handle again and jiggled. Can you
pick it? she asked.

I hesitated. It wasnt that I couldnt do it. Id done much more punk
ass things than breaking and entering. But the aquarium was bound to come
with heavy consequences if we got caught. What if it had an alarm system?
What if there were cameras inside? Why wasnt Robyn worried about any of
this?

God, this is irritating. This is awful. She batted a chunk of her hair
out of her face.

Ill do it if you promise me one thing. I had her full attention now.
That when we get in thereif we get in thereyou wont actually jump in
the shark tank.

Thats the whole point.

Then no aquarium. I watched the gears turn.

Bobby, I was never serious.

Oh really.

Do I need to convince you? She got real close, and then she was
pinning me to the door with the weight of her body, which wasnt much
weight at all, pushing up onto her slippered toes and kissing me, feeding me
her whiskey and honey soaked tongue.

So of course I picked the lock.
126


It took an excruciating ten minutes, first with my bank card, then my
drivers license, but finally the door popped and I stumbled inside. Robyn gave
a quiet whoop, skipped past me, and started sprinting. I followed, struggling
to keep up, past the jellyfish exhibit and the sea horses and through the tunnel
room. When we got to the stairs she took them two at a time. I tripped on the
first landing, bashing my elbow into the railing. She didnt even bother to
look back. She was on a mission, the lying vixen.

The third floor was all maintenance and offices and storage from the
looks of it. Robyn jetted down one hallway, and then another, and finally
came to a door marked certified divers only and danger.

This door was not locked. We walked right in. The space was dim,
but not dark. Lights shone from the bottom of the tank, giving the room
this murky, blue glow. From above, the shark tank looked like an ordinary
swimming pool. Except for the dark gray shadows moving around below
sand tiger sharks and brown sharks and barracudas. They looked sleepy and
lazy from above, but I knew they could sense us. Because of Mikes aquarium
trips I could picture their dead eyes and their frozen, maniacal grins, and their
jumble of razor-blade teeth.

A fin broke the surface and I watched one of the sand tiger sharks
glide by, struck by how like a regular swimming pool everything smelled and
sounded. Damp and humid, but sharp at the same time. Water lapping at the
sides. The hum of a generator or pump.

You still not serious? I asked Robyn, my voice bouncing off the
walls. She was crouched down, looking over the lip of the pool, a mix of
fascination and fear on her face. She stood up and crossed to the opposite side
of the tank, swinging the heels again. Except this time, on a high upswing, she
let go.

I watched the shoes sail toward me, hit the middle of the tank with a
plop, and sink. The small sand shark darted out of their way, while one of the
barracudas and a big brown shark rushed to investigate.

Whoops, Robyn said. Now Ill have to go in.

I watched the heels settle on the bottom. At the risk of sounding
like a dick, Robyn, its time to give up the fantasy.

She pulled a pair of goggles out of her pocket and fixed them on her
head.

You forgot your video camera for one, I said.

Thats okay. You can interview me afterwards. Its really the words
that are going to matter later. Trying to express the feeling in words. An
image is too concrete. Words are open to interpretation. She shrugged out of
her jacket and slipped off her shoes. The equipment is in that closet behind
you.

Instead of heading for the closet, I headed for her. She backed away
to keep the width of the pool between us.

Look, I said. Divers have this code of ethics we promise to follow.
We dont let inexperienced divers in the water when theres a clear danger.

Who said Im inexperienced?

I filled my chest with the humid air in big gulps. Did you hear me?
Im not letting you do this.
127


Patriarchies are dead. Get used to women taking what they want.

What?

You heard me. Either you help me with a tank, or Im jumping in
without one.

Hold on a second, I said. I realized my hands were balled into fists
like a little kid and let them relax. Im not a real diver. Im a dumpster diver.
I dont know how to work any oxygen tanks. I dont even swim that good.

She stopped unbuttoning her jeans and stared at me. Why did you
tell me you were a diver?

I lifted my arms and then let them drop. I dont know. Its what I tell
old teachers or friends of my parents or anybody who asks that annoying-ashell question, and what do you do? You know, they get that condescending,
kindergarten-teacher voice like theyre just bracing themselves to act
impressed by whatever pathetic job I feed them. So I tell em Im a diver and
I let them think up the rest. If it gets down to details I tell them I dive off the
coast for the EPA, taking samples.

You found my shoes in a dumpster?

Well, no. The shoes were curbside.

I love it. She said it like shed opened a box and found a sleeping
puppy inside. How kitsch. You do that for fun?

I let out all the air Id been gulping. I do it for work.

She furrowed her dark, thin eyebrows.

This is dumb as shit, Robyn, I said.

I get to be dumb if I want, she said, unbuttoning all four buttons
of her jeans. Ive never been dumb. I havent done anything. I havent felt
anything worth feeling. All I have is other peoples experiences crammed in
my head. Im the most boring person alive.

So youre going to make up for it with this?

She jerked her head up and I knew that I should have denied the
boring statement first. I knew girls like this. Who needed regular reassurance.
I had no idea Robyn was one of them.

Youre insane if you think youre boring. I thought about charging
around the pool and throwing her over my shoulder and dragging her
downstairs. I thought about how bad I wanted to see her take off those jeans.
Look, Robyn I trailed off as she eased the jeans over her hips and down
her thighs, revealing pink and gold bikini bottoms. The coal in my stomach
burned hotter. You go in, I go in. Im not gonna let a bunch of sharks tear you
apart.

Youre overreacting. She whipped her shirt off and flung it aside.
Hands on her hips, small breasts perfectly cupped by a matching pink and
gold bikini top, she watched me drink her in. She took a step closer to the
pool. So did I. Another step.

I took out my pocket knife and held it to my palm over the pool. Still
want to jump in if theyre riled up over my blood?

She glared at me with the most fury Ive ever seen in a girls eyes. Im
pretty sure she was feeling something goddamn strong.

Okay, you win, she said, stalking to meet me.

I closed the blade, but kept a tight grip on the knife, even as she
128

stepped close and pulled my arms around her.



But what are we going to do now? she asked.

Before I could answer, she shoved me back hard, and for a moment
I teetered on the pool lip, arms windmilling like some cartoon character, and
then I was falling. Before I shut my eyes, I saw Robyn dive in like a pro, no
splash, just the water enveloping her lean body, from fingertips to pointed
toes.

The water was warm, but felt like quicksand with all my clothes on. I
lunged for the side, wrestled out of my hoodie, and threw it up onto the floor,
along with my shoes. Robyn popped up in the middle of the pool, giggling
like a maniac, but after taking a few gulps of air she was gone. I pushed off the
edge, knowing that I was strong enough to pull her out, if I could just catch
her.

The first sharks I saw under me were two sand tiger sharks, their
predator eyes deceptively dead. Then a brown shark slid by, close enough to
touch, and as fear slowed time to a crawl, for a minute I was glad shed forced
me into the pool. Swimming with a bunch of deadly fish in the middle of
the night in a dark aquarium with a beautiful girl was definitely the sickest
thing Id ever done. The brown shark turned in front of me and I trailed a few
fingers along its hard, sleek side, the sound of my heart thumping in my ears.

But where the hell was Robyn? Shed been under water a long time.
I ducked down and forced myself to open my eyes. Robyn had a shoe in
each hand and was swimming back from the floor of the tank, her long hair
streaming behind. She looked vibrant and glamorousalive in a way she
never had before.

When she saw me, she dropped the shoes and starting waving,
pointing at her arm and then at me. She opened her mouth and shouted
something garbled, sending out a stream of bubbles. Looking at my own arm,
the one Id rammed the railing with, I saw pink water, and then the gash on
the outside of my elbow.

I was bleeding.

In the middle of a shark tank.

And thats when I saw the six-foot barracuda hauling ass for me,
grinning its mean motherfucker grin. It dodged at the last moment, and I
didnt wait to see what happened next, because out of the corner of my eye I
saw the Brown shark turn around.

I broke the surface and cut for the side, every shark fact Id heard
shooting through my brain in a ticker tape of warnings. Dont thrash.
Thrashing attracts sharks. Sharks can smell fear. Sharks can smell blood from
a quarter of a mile away. Sharks bite you in half to see if youre worth eating.

The water churned behind me, and I was sure it wasnt just from
my legs. My jeans pulled, dragging me down. One sock started to fall off. I
knew I was done for when my arm hit something slick and rubbery. I had just
experienced what shark skin felt like, and this felt like shark skin. I couldnt
worry about that though. One more stroke and I was at the edge, struggling
to pull myself up. I knew this was when the toothy jaws of a tiger shark
would come rising out of the water and sink deep into my flesh, severing my
vertebrae.
129


Something did come shooting out of the water. Robyn. She was
having trouble, what with the lip of the pool so far from the water, so once I
heaved myself up I grabbed her under the arms and dragged her out. She was
heavier than I expected. She clutched at my shoulders. We lay there panting,
watching the wavering reflections of the water on the ceiling. Oh shit, oh
shit, she kept saying.

I thought about how we were safe and how we should be raving
about what wed just done and crowing about our immortality and making
out on the slippery tile around the pool, her all sexy and half naked.

Did you get what you wanted? I asked.

I dont know. She was still breathing hard, but her voice had slipped
back into its usual disaffected air. I have to analyze it. I thought it would be
different.

I thought about her theory of masks. Whether at the bottom of the
shark tank shed finally managed to take her own off. Or maybe it had come
off the moment she shoved me in the water.

You should take me dumpster diving. Theres a lot to analyze in
trash.

I didnt look at her. Just got up and swiped my sopping clothes off the
floor and turned the overhead lights on. Harsh fluorescents that I knew would
wreck the moodsome dream Id been in for years. The dream of possibility.
There was a throbbing pressure in my head, like Id gotten water stuck in one
ear. When she called my name, I glanced back, just to make sure. Yeah. It was
gone. She was gone.

Dripping wet and bleeding and cold, I walked all the way down three
flights of stairs and through the tunnel room and past the sea horses and
jellyfish and out the back.
The next week, when I took Mike to the shark tank, I sat next to him and
remembered the lily pad feel of the brown sharks side instead of looking for
Robyn. Id heard she either got fired or quit.

It took me a while to spot them, but once I did, they were
unmistakable. No one had removed the green heels. Maybe the divers hadnt
noticed them. Or thought they were funny. Or that they went with the whole
mermaid theme of the tank. Whatever the case, there they were, tangled in a
patch of maidens hair: two hideously beautiful fish. It hit me then that they
didnt belong to Robyn, or anyone for that matter. They belonged right there,
in the shark tank.

As for me, I was still figuring out where I belonged. And for the time
being I was content to sift pieces of possibility, one dumpster at a time.

Michael Janis, The Temple of Nature


Fused and cast glass with glass powder imagery and steel frame, 20 x 30

130

131

Kija Lucas, Objects to Remember You By: Collections from Sundown


Archival pigment print, 20 x 20, June 26, 2013

Michael Janis, When She Was There


Kiln-formed glass, glass powder imagery, 24 x 15 x 2

132

133

MEETING AT STATION 28
ON THE BEACH
Judith Rechter

Carrie Iverson, Kelly Ludeking, Nathan Sandberg, and Jeremy Scidmore,


Groundwork
With thanks to Kelly Ludeking and Eric W. Stephenson for their help organizing and
running the iron pour.
Groundwork is a reflection on history, labor, industry, boundaries and growth.
Working together, the artists presented new works in a variety of materials on the
grounds of the Pullman State Historic Site. The exhibit was in two parts: Part 1 an
iron pour on the factory grounds where members of the community were invited
to participate by creating tiles. Part 2 is a site-specific art installation within the
Clock Tower and Administration Building. The iron pour brings to life the community
and foundry history of the factory in a dramatic and fiery way- an exciting chance
for the public to participate in and learn about the processes that used to happen
within the factory. Remnants from the pour create a site-specific installation within
the factory, supplemented by other found and existing works. This more reflective
installation offers an outside perspective on the spirit that built Pullman and the
events that lead to its present state.

134

She skates and is athletic and I am


Kind of overweight and lazy.
Ive responded to her email
Meeting at station # 28 on the beach.
Who knows what you can find
But we are both here looking
For companionship or friendship
Or something more; for example
I am an independent woman
What can you lose by meeting
Someone who sets up the tryst
At her favorite hangout
A public place so no one can whack you
A really bad and overpriced
Restaurant on the beach. We split
The bill and shes ordered
Twice as much; these
Businesswomen are all out there
Balancing their lives in innuendos
Maybe she was worried about
The bandage on my nose
Or my paunch or maybe she
Wanted someone half her age.
And her face each time I log on.

135

REMEMBERING MAX
Judith Rechter

We play scrabble in Malibu.


She shelters in quiet bays, rocky isolated islands.
She feeds on squid, krill and lobster
an occasional penguin or sea bird along the shore.
That night I brought her home
left her beside the winding stairs
laid her short bobbed hair
upon the rocks for fantasy.
She could not find her way upstairs to bed
flopped on the couch as on a Moses basket
demanding nothing visible
unless to be alone.

We played scrabble in front of her window


beside the telescope, German wine and Opera music,
discussed the difference between eared seals and other
sealsa. ear lobes b. rear uneven claws c. large front
flippers d. no hair on flippers.
Max followed the ocean rules and
kept up a witty repartee, loved company
gushed about her favorite London pubs,
clubs, and great performers,
rock stars of art, flogging from the hanging
meat man, leather boots from bony weasel,
the crushed groom, which Francis Bacon hung.
Max leaned on the tables edge, an ancient relic
her breast head-level with her earrings
the waiter held the chair as she swooshed in.
She drank martinis dry and loved the oysters raw
but when our appetizers finally arrived, she tottered
out the door, drunk on maximum pot and booze
already swilled at home.
The car jock secured her to the passenger seat,
gave me the keys-I had no idea what to do with her.
136

137

TO TERRENCE
Judith Rechter

As mother would say, alas


those unselected greens and
that gob of vegetables, so
Brit-like overcooked and
stinking up a hovel of
brussels sprouts.
You squatted on, across from
the wing of scat I gnawed on-that fare would never paste your lips
and you didnt approve of raw
oysters, aphrodisiacs.
I sigh at your delicacy and my too
many capers, those green pimpled
shaped scrubs, my two peas
converging on a prolonged, pronged fish fork.
I dont remember your meal exactly.
Im sure not as flamboyant as mine.

You didnt enjoy the trip,


you hated England
it wasnt anything particular
just an accumulation
of being with me too long.
We were dining together and
apart, a conjugal affair, not
nubile, you on the banquette
and me outside on a chair
facing the wall and your face.
At the Tate, sumptuous palace,
the service impeccable, the one
where one serves another and
the other is waited on a starch
white linen with clothssuch a
London-ism, so like a church
service, a serious one.
The service waivered, not crisp
as crumbly as a water biscuit,
soggy potato strings, lettuce
unwittingly wilted, too piled,
you remarked, staleness
prepared too soon.
138

139

SUNBATHER

stick out. The photographer arrives terribly


late. Nothing revolves around the sunbather,
bronzing under this thermoplastic.

Judith Rechter

The package next to the body flows over


the border oozing on concrete, rich color
of burgundy turning to vinegar.
Police in Bermudas and short sleeves appear.
Medics drape a sheet over him, head to toe
or whats left of his brain in the glare.
Under the pagodafreshly painted green
police take names, sifting through
a lovely Venice day, while a medic
paws at freckled skin looking for a hole.
Beside the boardwalk the eight-colored kite
flips in the sand. Police ask questions, unroll
white and yellow tape across the benches,
like a B movie where actors dressed in white
deliver the lines, spill information
about two German shepherds, his nighttime
dealings. The beer truck backs down
the alley, making room for the Chiefs car
arriving with stooped men in trousers,
who can take charge. Just a regular
two asymmetrical feet in thongs
140

141

WATCHING THE NATIONAL LEAGUE


PLAYOFFS AT WEST END PUB

SAM KESSLER
Stephen Kessler

Stephen Kessler

The empty stool at the south end of the bar was meant for my butt,
and the amber ale on the coaster atop the concrete counter is the right brew
among the multitudes of beers and the Sunday noises of sundown,
dinner hour in October, as families chomp their hamburgers
and children yell and the Giants fans applaud, at the end of the second inning,
a routine grounder to third. St. Louis is relieved, for these hours,
of its race wars, as radios report Ebola diagnoses in Dallas,
the planet ravaged by epidemic disasters, mostly man made,
from which baseball is a break. Between innings the commercials
are as stupid as usual as far back as memory echoes
with Gillette blades and Chevy trucks and now prescriptions
for erections on demand and the relief of every symptom
brought to you by watching too much television. At empires end
the pitchers motions rhyme with the moves of the waitresses
and the overflowing foam from the pints drawn from the taps
and the dirty glasses turned over in the plastic rack to my left
before being sent back to the dishwashers while there is still water.
Soon we will be bathing in our own urine, and washing our dishes
with spit, and licking the sweat off each other as in the old days
for something to drink. This is where we are for the duration
and there is nothing to be done but savor the Caesar salad
and pray for rain. But not while the Giants are in the running
and the players are as gods of the antique wars, as Walt would call them,
and as long as they keep on winning and we can stare at the big screens
in slow-motion replays that seem, for a moment anyway, all but eternal.

142

The mug shot dates from 1932,


San Quentin Prison, California.
The convict was arrested in LA,
Possession of a still; a Russian Jew,
Age 52, with balding head, brown eyes,
Dark vest, white shirt, wide tie, and at the knot
A number fastened52428
Beneath a dignified and steady gaze.
Occupation: musician, it says here;
He had no other criminal history,
An opportunist in this line of work,
Distilling whiskey in that lean, dry year.
At last, a face to fit the mystery
My fathers missing father. Patriarch.

143

A GLIMPSE OF WHEAT
Carolina De Robertis

ONCE HORACIO HAD arrived home from workonce hed turned on the
light and scanned the bookshelves to see what Griselda had taken, once hed
ascertained that Martn Fierro and El amor en los tiempos del clera and half his
Borges collection had at least withstood her departure, once hed braved their
bedroom closet and watched her empty coat hangers sway ever so slightly
back and forthhe sat down on the sofa and thought of God. It was 6:19
pm. The television sat quiet, with its dark and bulbous face. He did not
click it on, even though some part of him longed for its colors (quick, sharp,
glowing). He had not thought of God for a long time. No, that was not true.
He had thought of God, plenty of times, but he had not felt him in ten years.
Not since that time a truck had smashed their car and sent it somersaulting
out into the wheat fields. Horacio had felt his forehead hit the windshield
and then fill with a piercing fire and thenpfatethere it was, the heat of
God, a kind of blaze between, behind, throughout his eyes. Then the car had
stopped spinning and hed looked up to see his blood in scattered lines and,
just beyond that, Griselda, eyes closed, contorted like a puppet, framed by
stalks and stalks and stalks of wheat.

He was tired. It had been a long day; it had been a long decade. His
marriage should have ended long ago, as soon as the children were grown. He
should have been more of a man, as Griselda pointed out to him last night.
Not once did you stand up to me, shed spat, where is your spine? Hed had no
answer for her. Hed known, of course, about the affairs. All seven of them,
each one leaving stronger clues than the last. By the fifth affair he had to work
hard to overlook the late nights, the lingerie, the love notes left open on the
bureau. By the sixth affair, her resentment had grown palpable: it lay in a thin
film over the rug, the spoons, the gilded picture frames. By the seventh she was
having aggressive phone sex every night at 6:15, when Horacio arrived home
144

from work. By that time, his strategy of kindly smiles and delicate denial had
grown ridiculous, but hed mired himself so deeply that he had no idea how
to stop. So hed walk right into the bedroom, from which after all he might
possibly not have heard the harder and the bastard and the lick it up that floated
from the kitchen, and he especially might not have heard those sounds from
the balcony, so out hed go each evening, past the bed and through glass doors
to watch the dark spread slowly over Buenos Aires.

All hed wanted was a little peace. Just a scrap of it, a corner torn
off from the whole, enough for his two feet to stand on when the sun went
down.

Horacio glanced up at the bookcase and saw that Griselda had taken
Macbeth, The Autumn of the Patriarch, and everything by Cortzar. His copy of
Macbethleather-bound, embossed with goldhad been a gift from her on
their third anniversary. Hed have to find something to fill the bookshelves
with; at that moment, he could not imagine what. Fine, he thought, the books
are gone, and she is gone, what can you do?

He said it out loud to the windows. What can you do?

That last day hed felt God, the stalks of wheat had shivered outside
the window of their capsized car, as if ecstasy had touched them tooor at
least a fragile wind. Horacio had wanted to stay there, buckled in upside down,
throbbing brightly in the temple of his temples. Behind his eyes the light had
coiled, uncoiled, recoiled, a glittering snake now wrapped around his mind.
His mind was squeezed by hot white muscular light. He had known (hed
thought hed known) that he was dying, blood seeping from his head, God
pressed around his mind, wind keening in the wheat outside the window.
Then boots had smashed through wheat stalks, and a grizzled face crouched
down to peer in at Horacio. God damn it, hed thought, were saved.

145

HAIR
Aimee Suzara

thingsmaybe last nights insomnia was catching up with me.



Her hair flopping over the back of the chair like a cape, the girl
wrapped it back into her enormous bun. Without smiling, she muttered,
Thank you, and jumped off the chair. The floor, I saw then, was covered with
piles of black, flowing hair, swirling all around my feet. Impossible, I thought,
holding onto the counter. NochargeI tried to tell her but she was already
gone. I barely caught sight of the sole of her tennis shoe as she nearly flew
away.

I WAS WORKING on Mrs. Chins hair when I saw her peeking into my
window. She looked about twenty-eight, an Asian sista, maybe Filipino. Her
hair was wrapped into a tight, heavy, bun in the back but I could tell from
the way some of the little hairs around her face stuck out, like little ornery
children, that she hadnt been to a salon in a long time.

She asked how much a trim was. Depends, honey, I said, on how long
your hair is. Take it out of that bun real quick? She took it out and it cascaded
like a horses mane to below her butt. It was dry split ends everywhere like she
had been hiding it for years like that. Twenty bucks for a trim. Nothing fancy, no
layers, right? She nodded. Okaytake a seat while I finish up with Mrs. Chin.

She waited, flipping through a magazine. All done, Mrs. Chin, as I took
off her bib. I swept up the lops of gray hair around my feet.

The girl got into my chair. How much you want off? I said, as we both
looked at her in the mirror. She had a roundish face, high cheekbones, deep
brown skin and large, almond eyes. Just one or two inches. Her hair was big and
thick so that it made her look small, like a little girl. I told her it should be two
inches, at least, to cut off the dead parts.

Thats when I realized that something was strange. She had
something with her jaw, like she was chewing the air, and it increased when
I told her about the two inches. Almost knocking me over, she grabbed the
scissors out of my hand and cut off a part on the right side of her head. She cut
off the whole section, but as soon as she did, right in front of my eyes, it grew
back - all ten inches. She handed me the scissors. What the? I shivered. Cut
it all off, it wont work. Ive been trying to for years. Her voice grew deeper, almost
a growl. Please. Cut it off. So I took my scissors and as fast as I could, cut all
around her head, real short. I thought I might grab the shaver to buzz it. It all
grew back fast as a wave rolling in from the shore. I wondered if I was seeing
146

147

MANANANGGAL TAKES REVENGE


Aimee Suzara

body felt numb, but his life fell away suddenly like a crimson cloak. Thinking
he was still alive, his ghost called her cell phone over and over again, leaving
messages apologizing for his indiscretions. Isa forgave him as she licked her
lovers nape, leaving rainbows as tattoos.
The Manananggal is a character in Filipino mythology known to be seductive and
to suck babies from pregnant womens bellies. This is a loose, modern interpretation.

IN ONE OF Isas lives, she had been in love with a singer whose voice could
draw tears out of bone. When he sang, women would trust their lovers once
again; men would forget about masculinity and yearn for their mothers. The
tides stopped, and the sky was filled with doves that plumed upward in a
thrush of white from his quivering throat. The first time she heard his voice,
she knew he was her true love.

And then he had slept with her best friend while she was away to
visit her ailing grandmother. When he tried to apologize, his brown eyes filled
with rivers. But she packed her bags and flew away, white wings flapping. The
doves followed her too, and he could never sing again.

In this life, she loved a painter, an androgynous woman who took
her as a subject. The painter was obsessed with the mole on Isas left cheek
and would fill dozens of canvases a day with it. At the end of each day, paint
cans tumbling, colors everywhere, the painter would burn all of her creations.
Then she would wrap her slender, ebony arms around Isa, caress her face, kiss
the mole, which was like a splotch of ink on Isas high cheekbone, and enter
her until Isa became the agate green dripping from the painters brush.

In this life, Isa received the women who loved her too much, and
devoured the men who thought they consumed her. On this particular day,
she rested inside the spoon-shape of the painters lithe body, the feathered
comforter wrapping them like clouds. Stars twinkled from the depths of her
lovers belly and tickled Isas back. The lovers stretched their wings and flew
to the moon, just for the view, and returned in time to eat the steaming pizza
that had just arrived in a red cardboard box.

Isas phone trembled with calls from the man she had just killed, her
tongue having punctured his heart, painlessly, like a needle. He did not know
what happenedhad slept through the whole thing. When he awoke, his
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149

WILDFLOWER
Shruti Swamy

kept the window open, the air pulsed with cricket song, still muggy out, she
had gray in her hair. She was a woman alone, out on the deck, and barefoot,
a lucky woman, even now, though she had lived through death and divorce
and the growing and departing of children, she went to gather the flowers for
herself. They still grew on the roadside, where few cars ever came, she worked
with shears in the moonlight, cutting and cutting the flowers, which she held
in her arms like a baby, leaning into them to smell them soft in her arms,
almost devour them if she could. The flowers sang with bees, bees crowned
her. It was night, and the night felt alive with itself.

Who is it that can tell me who I am? she sang. She could have been
sixteen, and naked, twenty-three in a red dress, eighty-six in bed, a son on
either side, watching her with anxious eyes. There had been times when she
longed to be an animal, who lived fully in the world with a mixture of instinct,
adrenaline, and ignorance, who knew nothing of itself and of its own death,
who never mourned the things it lost, who could spend hours, silent and still,
gathered into itselfsome kind of cat. And times, of course, when she rode
the edge of pleasure close to oblivion and lost herself; she had been no one.
Her sons were more cruel than lovers, they refused to imagine her as young.
They were young, they had invented youth. Yet love lit their eyes like lovers
as she held their hands. Who is it that can tell me who I am?

THE BEST MIRRORS are found in the eyes of lovers; she polished them until
she shone in them, and she had many lovers. At eighty-six she remembered
herself at sixteen, dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes, pink nails, white teeth,
healthy, all parts in working order, which was, she saw now, the most
beautiful thing of all, and the most miraculous. She lay naked on the bed next
to a vase of yellow flowers. It was spring nearing summer, and the windows
were open, afternoon tipping into evening, the smell of flowers came strongly
from the bedside table, yellow lilies, or dyed gardenias, she didnt know. Her
lover had written her a poem, of which she was the subject, and she read it
aloud, measuring it against her body, the body of the woman in the poem
was beautiful, and resembled hers in the minutiae, but she was suspicious.
Perhaps he had dreamed the woman in the poem, who wore only her face. At
twenty-three she stood in a red dress and waited to be married. Now it was
summer, blazing, she shaded her eyes with her hands. A young man stood at
the crest of the hill, dressed in jeans. In his arms he held bunches of flowers
gathered from the roadside, where foxglove, blazing star, and poppies of all
colors grew in great profusion. He called out her name, a smile breaking over
his face like a wave, and the image of herself flickered up before her, a young
woman in a white dress, a young woman with bare arms and a strong heart, a
young woman still untouched by time and the suffering that came with it, and
the image of herself was stunningas though she was already old, looking
through the young mans eyes back at herself in the fullness of sun and youth,
how easily these images of ourselves are lost, or go unnoticed in the first place.

Shy men, shy women, she had lovers after marriage and lovers after
divorce. She became unbeautiful and still had lovers, well into middle age.
Forty-seven and living alone, she stood at the window and looked out at the
hillside, turning goldish with fall. It was night, the moon was full and she had
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151

EXCERPTS FROM THE


CONSERVATION OF MASS
Ronaldo V. Wilson

Virgil Returns to Manhattan

BEFORE THEY WERE both more famous than they are now, CeeR sent
Virgils collection of poems to Madge, another famous writer and editor, a
person with whom Virgil would never talk with by telephone, but a person,
nevertheless, whose comments by e-mail revealed her feeling that his
collection was too weighed down by his dreams. Madge was unable to see the
fun in the characters beyond a pressing trauma she observed in the writing,
that the black father was an alcoholic; and, ultimately, that drive couldnt be
fun for these abused children. But the little brown kids, rolling around in
the back of their Mom and Dads station wagon, swerved around by their
drunk driving father were thrilled. In fact, theyd have been equally happy
being jostled around in a total strangers trunk.

Virgil realizes that dreams matter to him most, because in them, he
feels somewhat sure he is present. This isnt epiphany. In the novel, out
of which he would model his own first major work, a little brown girl stares
into both a crowded bus and a cage folded into a dream, and simultaneously,
out of this dream into a world, where she sees a caged gorilla, King Kong,
an Ape? It didnt matter what it was. What mattered was that that big, black
animal was, curiously, eating buttons.

Material Objects. Material Bodies. This is what often codes Virgils
dreams, and in his world, anything can slip into any form, in and out of
dreams, in and out of life: birds that rivet space, crickets that saw into the
beating of the night. In the end, his world is not, and is like the city where
he just arrives by train, an ongoing slick of movement in which he can recall,
riding along its surface. And when he awakes, blurrily seeing, Virgil enlarges
the letters on his screen, and enters into what he thinks of fondly, as a return.

Malcolm meets Virgil in Penn Station, upstairs on the Amtrak
level. In Virgils unconscious, as in life, the station is long, a white stretch
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of tan-flecked floors, softly muted beneath Malcolms feet. Malcolm is black,


too, and like Virgil, is split into what looks like a walking kaleidoscope for
a second, a series of limbs with stuffed yet elegant bags shifting around her
body, a moving antipode to the self, a slight explosion of her forming really,
and maybe this explosion of her becoming is tied to the surety in her walk.

In the booth at Teasers, Virgil discovers a monster. His face is tiny,
and his hair is like corn silk. Does he touch it? If only for a second, Virgil
does, and the corn silk head moves, but its face is still, and below Corn-Silks
legs are black shoes that look like Merrills, but he cant quite tell if this brand
is actual. Virgil gets down to it. The dick, itself, is not remarkable, that it
is there, is what actually matters. And he is asked, maybe by Corn-Silk, or
another, maybe by Guapo: Do you like the bush?

Exploration is what he tries to explain to WinTrueLiar of his
expectations, as a poet and critic, his need to know, to plot, to understand
the source-work emerging from the object of exploration, but it is all so
futile. In the end, Virgil doesnt even understand how to discern between the
pronunciation of the word, fu-tile or more like, feudal. Anyway, the words start
hangs on his teeth and lower lip, the f like extra sulfur, packed at the tip of a
match stick, and no matter what, it pushes him closer to an understanding of
the self that he may shore up, or release at will, to light.

Virgil is, for certain, in the city. Clean is there, too, and so is Butch.
And one or all three of them are in the shower. Virgil slips Butch the white bar
of Dove that Tallina, in Yoga, says makes him smell so gentle. What if Virgil
said this back to Tallina? You smell like, whatever he thought. Virgil sometimes
feels his world is being held hostage, and that, concomitantly, he is giving
everyone what they want to hear, but he is not getting what he wants, though
he ends up with everything he needs.

This is what happens: D_C asks Virgil, Thats all you have? D_C
looks down at the bag that contains a belt, maybe some wing tips, nothing
really excessive, one pair of jeans, socks, undies, loosely laid around in the
small duffle. The sense of his self is often split in these filled and half-filled
bags, Virgil broken into realizations of scenes he carries around.

Sometimes its simple. A black leather bag of varying sizes fades
in and out of the dream. It shifts. It becomes both lost artifact and anchor.
Sometimes its more complicated, like once, Virgil held his sister in the dream,
all healed up from surgery, and he would embrace her as he only did when she
was a girl. Or he is a thief, running about in a neighborhood, a white towel
around his waist, fresh from stealing a newspaper from one stranger, only to
return it to another, under a walkway, covered by an awning, stones on the
roof, desert plants between pillars he rushes from as he wakes.

For Virgil, dreams are not only telling in the sense that they reveal
how much he is pulled from one field of anxiety into the next, they somehow
keep him pointed in directions that echo his critical concerns. For instance,
in one movie scene, a slave, of course, in a chain gang, is taunted by his master,
and he is attempting to tie his shoe, stumbles, and at the moment of his
rebellion, or when he thinks of rebelling, he looks up and pushes the shotgun
tip into the overseers head, an act akin to a mistake, but the overseers head,
in any case, is blown apart.
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In another scene from a different movie, one slave tells another to not
look at someone, a woman, a sheep, a hammer tie. Virgil does not remember
exactly what it looks like, but a knife comes out. Its soon lost in the dirt,
maybe behind a tree, and the Master, drunk, cannot retrieve it because he is
too high, and a long string of spit comes out of his mouth as his slave, at once,
both runs away and tries to explain himself. For Virgil, these slave visages,
hovering so adroitly in his sightline, never dislodge.

Perhaps it is out of this realization that Virgil tells himself he wont
feel threatened through the rest of the day. No Explosions. No being Blown
Away. How much does he want to reveal, and how much does he want to
understand? All he wanted that morning while watching the News with
Butch was to know from President Curious that the terrorists would be
bombed, Nuked as he told Butch.

Virgil would, in fact, accurately forecast the event. Basically, hell
say, You tried it, and now we will destroy you. Its close to what WinTrueLiar told
him over the telephone about his own self-assured nature, that in the end,
because he equated his art and academic productivity with B-Balling, that
he would win at any cost, like Michael Jordan and like Kobe Bryant, both of
them, like him, were not interested in being liked, but only in being the best.
And near the end of the conversation WinTrueLiar, a very established poet,
said to Virgil, still mid-career, I will beat you. But he wasnt talking directly to
Virgil, more around him.

Virgil asks himself in the echoing of this, What can I map? In the city,
the ground below him in the terminal contains a few bags shifting, some of
them shared, all of them in various permutations of being filled, or not, all
parts moving. Virgil does realize that the sound around him, a clap on a thigh,
a gull sweeping, a brief coast, below a forever sky, the mountains less a tug
than a constant pull back into a source, an urgency he needs to return to, like
the nightly habit of putting in his mouth guard, his top teeth slipped over by
hard plastic to keep him from grinding, and cracking apart.
The Dance
Virgil, of course, is not like Der Principal, who is broad of back and so hairy, as
if a human carpet, someone he would have fantasized about, in bed, as a child,
a man he would want, at least, to touch for once in his life. But why does he
feel that he needs to get so close to one body after the next, bodies that repeat
his wanting to be so close to his absence in relation to their abundance?

One, who clearly smells like shit, has a walrus mustache, wispy white
hair that splits into bangs about two eyes that leer forward into the elevated
screens. He features a vitiligo cock, marbled up from the base, so that in the
theater, his white dick looks black. And another, The Army Ape is tight but
small, and soon will be on his knees. His butt is hard, rocked, and his body
is sick, is what Virgil wants to tell him, but he cannot say anything, not
because he has nothing to say, but because he feels resigned to being silent in
acting out this small advancement of desire.

However, Der Principal fucks up, makes a fatal error that reveals his
most searing flaw. He vanishes into another booth. Come join us. Come with
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me. Come into my Zombie Minefield. Im not good at being good, is what Der
Principal confesses to Virgil, but Virgil cannot bear the statement, because it
is a familiar one. Virgil doesnt remember the name of his first boyfriend, but
he does remember the book this Analyst wrote, and the section he was
so proud of, the one in which he described a psychic breakthrough, when he
pissed into the water, his aim, to meet the bowls center. For him, the loud
splashing was magical, a revelation, a mark of his own freedom, no porcelain
sides to silence him, only the pots water meeting his urine, a first music.

Maybe in The Analysts self-involvement, Virgil would discover
his own. Maybe in this reclamation of sound, celebration of a solitary, sonic
joy, Virgil would recognize a path to his lurking towards being happy, and
alone, ripped away from scrutiny.

In the Sugar Hole, The Canadians body is like a golf tee, or in closeup, a Weeble Wobble, or the wooden top inverted and not spinning, not stuck
but left motionless on its side. Virgil hates the wideness between his eyes. I
think I fucked you before, is what The Canadian says to Virgil in the little
booth, the place where Virgil, he seriously feels, is doing research where he
belongs, the place where he is learning how to read again.

The rubber smells like rubber, but Virgil thinks of the Sea Lions on
the beach, the way they battle for supremacy, a pounding of tusks into the
leathery face of the other. On the beach, the Old Veteran Sea Lion pounds
the young punk, who obviously wants to rule, take the harem for his own,
but the Vet lifts up and smacks its tusks into the Punks neck, six inches
slashing in, then ripping apart the face of the young challenger, leaving its
face flapping.

Virgil learns from the bull how to use his scarred hide and fat to his
advantage, though he is mainly smooth. He is splayed on his back on a leather
couch, his tits are out and they are being eaten, one by Der Principal whom
he thinks he loves, and the other by Thick-Cock-White-Ghost, who is like an
aged anchor for Virgil.

Will Virgil Return to the Sugar Hole to find Der Principal? Seeking
Loveits activities? Virgil is, he thinks, like a saint of the booths, or in
another way, a predator. Virgil looks for the nervous, the ones confused
by their shifting desires, exactly those whove not shut their brains off to
possibility, not those lost in the wrack of an endless want to get one more
suck, all the same. Fuck that. Virgil realizes he is not lost either. He mines
loss. There is a difference. Wondering, there is something that does confuse
him, something that he cannot at first register, as it marks its presence, wings
clacking against glass, the Cicada in the chandelier he cups to release, though
it flashes outside, back to him, crashing into the sliding glass door, dead, it
was so shocked.
The Vent
Before the elevator comes, Virgil is suspended on the top flight of the historical
building. Dogs growl behind an apartment door. But all he is doing is waiting,
and all Virgil recalls is taking up too much of the lane on East 39th, driving
up to Harlem to see a poet and a novelist hed never read before, and to eat,
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though he had already eaten, doing so sitting up against a wall with Lover
who was wearing a body shaped black dress with a white line for a belt, and
because Virgil is, indeed, a narcissist, the story unveiling, which concerned
him as much as Loves desire was only as immediate as the sightline against
the building in which Virgil and Soft-Fat finally did it.

Behind one wall, above Bryant Park, is the apartment Soft-Fat owned,
the place in which Virgil recalled being in, and sure enough, that night before
he got laid, Virgil ordered a Chicken Cutlet, fried and red-sauced, served
massive on a plate. Virgil may have saved most of it for later, but what he
recalls is being abandoned by Soft-Fat after being fucked by him, his cool
skin, and the calamari that Virgil shared with Love, next to Bryant Park, gives
to the pressure of his fork, as he recalls Soft-Fats body, and Loves glasses
are tinting in the sun, and streaked with her tears from all night and all day
crying.

Virgil is not sweating, nor is he hot, but Love thinks he is sweating
and hot. Virgil seeks the shade, not the buildings shadow, not whats unlit
temporarily, but whats blocked in a discrete moment. And it is for this very
reason that the wall he finds is not a wall, but a black gap revealed between
two boards. Virgil understands something about space and simultaneity, in
how the dogs growling behind the door opens up into his ears, then, and
floods in even, later, as he dreams of meat and waste, pulled out, and casually
drained away in the shower. When he rinses his fingers clean, is he dropping
them out of the way from the mirror to spare himself of his own vileness?
What is Virgil hiding? Like the resin left on the sheets of Cleans hotel, as
one in stains, one in a nasty markthis is what they share. What does Virgil
remember?

This is what sold me, is what he hears as he enters the Grand
Courtyard, his temporary oasis from Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. In
some unique approximation to gentrification and his own exclusion from
belonging, anywhere, any longer in this city, he cannot find a way to interpret
his feeling in seeing, in understanding the space between his body and theirs,
or his very expensive shades, and maybe theirs, too.

When Virgil escapes the reading by the novelist and the poet, bored
by every minute, and expelled by some inane question of which he did not
await the answer, he couldnt drive away fast enough. To escape from the
city, or the memory of the whites with their dogs, one tall red-headed massive
muscle bound gentrifier with a Doberman on his leash. This owner in JeanCut-Offs, made Virgil feel both sickened and safe.

What about that reading made Virgil fall into a bored stupor? Is it
that the readers were so proud and happy to be seen, to be recognized, to
tie everyone implicated in that room to a history of which certainly Virgil
is a part, Black, but all Virgil cares about is their black shoes? One, a white
womans, featured a series of buttons at the ankles, and the backs, leather flag
openings, elfin. Another, a suede boot with a gummed rubber wedge soul, flat
along the bottom, another, a black boot with a zipper that wound diagonally
around the boot, itself, but then the surprise, a clasp for a single button that
peaked from the top.

In these corners, Virgil should feel at home. Perhaps this is the
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discomfort that he renders, a discomfort that he cant place, but Virgil, instead
of behaving, pretending to care, chatting, leaves, slips away from, moves far
from the site of what he cant let in. His blackness is stuck to him, and he cant
quite shake it off enough for him to see it clearly from any distance.

What does he understand, and where does he figure his own
relationship to what he drove away from? He wore no bombs. He was real.
Virgils blackness, he is realizing, is found not in the opacity of its realizations,
but something different, a series of notes that find themselves captured in
his disdain for the fictive characters that he wants to feel, not historically
situated with, or in, not in the prizes gained from the sodden mourning, or
generalization of shared feeling within, which makes Virgil such a bitch he
cant control himself, like the gouge on the bottom of his car, there, but that
he does not see, or notice, but still, it annoys.
The Conservation of Mass
One body blends into the next for Virgil, the absence of any hair on one chest,
the frock on another, the rounding saliva in one mouth, the sharpness of the
grassy Sauvignon Blanc in the next. Virgil only thinks about his own story,
the deepest tug of it bringing him back to his face. For the take, he dances
holding a mirror in a grass field, next to the bay, on the rocks, where his left
foot is bent in a black boot. The boot is ripped on the left front, close to the
middle of this foot, and he feels fat, but kicks out anyhow, his leg stretching
for the camera that lies flat on the rock.

No one elses story matters to him as he is making his, but in some
way, his story is something that he understands only in relation to how others
see him. That morning, when Virgil sunk to the floor of his bathroom, his
back settling against the tub and the showers sliding door, just after CeeR
informed him of the impression he left on the committeeone told her they
thought Virgil was a Narcissisthe knew, no matter what he did, no matter
how hard he tried, in his suit, and his luxurious brown boots, and matching
bag, that he wouldnt get that job. But still he was flown out, and helped the
name-caller move a desk, and the same name-caller helped Virgil to set up
the projector, so during the first talk on his campus visit, he could show his
images to the faculty.

How many correctives can he somehow offer to leave the impression
that he is tame, and how much did he have to learn to settle by internalizing
such an attempt at shaming? And consequently, at what point must this
contract break, the cracking of it like an echo released in his stomach, a
reverberation deep in there, a feeling that somehow he will never quite abort.
Maybe this is the well in the infinitely breaking sadness that Virgil will carry
in him forever, something that gloms onto his lower back, fixed, no matter
what he says in his defense.

A run recorded on a run, and this run played on the speaker capsule
packed in a case, the case on the ground, the speakers Virgil sets on the flat
bait catch on the long arm of the pier. So too he sets the camera up to capture
himself walking, then sashaying, then jogging toward it, but none of this
before his mirror comes out, seemingly out of his pocket, to flash the sunlight
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directly into the lens.



Like in the episode in which Sasquatch fights the six-million-dollar
man in and out of a tunnel, the sunlight after the battle blasts the camera to
produce a reminder of its self, the flash, a blip-star of orange light, but white
in the distance, far along the pier, where Virgil dances and signals to himself
how present he his, how spectacular his distance, how accurate the line of his
leg as he points.

This is how it started, how it all began. Clean realizes that Virgil
cannot see him, because he is so deeply self-involved, and somehow this
reality that Virgil understands to be accurate transports him, again and again,
far away from that self whom he thought he might become if he could fit back,
loosely, into the slim cut J-Crew shirts he has had to shelve, too recently, for
the standard medium fit. In his growing fatness, he will never connect with
Clean as he once did, as that part of Virgil that did love Clean has gone up
some hill, one step in front of the next, away, into the realization that he is,
forever, bound to a world in which he will never join with Clean: an actual
castle, a lake side home, hunting dogs, hunting, yacht rich vacations, a
company, a life far into the hills away from the ocean near where Virgil lives.
But the real deal is that Virgil will never be his wife, never be her worrying
about the dogs stealing the remote and hiding it in the garden, never her
laughing in a bar as a glowing young girl, never the woman told she would be
the one he would return to marry, never, so full, never so round with hope,
waiting, and receiving.

I Could Die. This is what Clean says to Virgil, and Virgil would be
lost without knowing when or where, and the existence of this love would
dematerialize as quickly as it arose. It has before, and will again. This is the
risk. And the reward is the retreat into this fact. The Pig Bar where they meet
smells like mold, and the men that sit there are gross and feel dead on arrival,
and the one, Gaunt-Face, that Clean said he fucked, and has a big dick, looks
to Virgil, already gone, and stupid, as caught up in a nothing life as the two
dancing next to the bar stools. But maybe Virgil is being a hater. This is easy
to be, and to do, there.

Gaunt-Face is like a corpse thats been knocked around, so that the
shape of his dome is flat on top, and his skin, though he is clearly Latino, is
peaked, and his hair is plastered, fork splits on his head. Clean tells him that
when he wasnt there at the hotel, in hospital, his co-workers did not know
why. But Clean did. With his marriage on the horizon, Gaunt-Faces ass was
being sewn back together, tightened, after it was blown apart, and failed to
close enough for fucking.

The Zombie Zone is what the sticker says on the car next to Virgil
as he is driving to Sticks condo, which is nestled into what is not a corner
apartment, not much light, in what was formerly a high school. Here is the
thing about everything in Virgils old Western Mass. It can never be beautiful.
The grass in the cement, however perfectly mowed in the courtyard, the
smattering of people in the Tombstone, the basketball globe, the river stripped
of trees from the tornado, never replanted, and the grey, and the blank light
helps to remind Virgil of what he was ejected from for his California Life,
as Clean names it.
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Stick has shaved his shit. It isnt what Virgil recalled him doing
before. Everything that Virgil wanted when he cruised him in the Starbucks
reveals Virgils delusions, but still, he goes pussy up to get that thin white
dick. Stick doesnt even look American, his long body is in almost slim denim
jeans, but still somehow wide-legged, faded from the machine wash and dry,
and his played out white Pumas, muddled suede, grey or brown. What Virgil
said was elegant about him is not elegant in any other world but this. This is
the bait, the charm he holds out to Stick, a sliver of it, and maybe for Virgil it
is real, or in the least, a good technique, game, a way that he, as long as he can,
will continue to find some reason for following him home from the Basketball
Hall Of Fame parking lot.

Inside of Sticks Condo, there is much more space than Virgil would
need if he lived there. There is one window, in the living room. Somehow, the
beauty in that space is washed over, hidden in the new backsplash, lost in the
old, white walls, that no matter how updated speak of the institution from
which they will never be divorced. Even as Virgils cock is slobbered on, even
as his hole is sucked, even as he is stuck like a cow, even in the graveled feel of
a rough fungi-finger nail inside, the thumb almost cutting his pussy-asshole.
Nothing stuns Virgil from the weight of how vile, including Sticks missing
back teeth, the rest of them, yellow. But in this fucking, there is something
sweet. Maybe it is in the Irish Spring smell that fills the room, or in how much
Stick appreciates Virgil, so much that is gets him off in a way he could not
with Clean. He does not know why.

Who knows why? Maybe it is in the picture on Virgils Photo Stream,
the one of him cross-legged in the hotel, in the ergonomic chair, his legs lithe
and ripped, lines for days Virgil thinks, his upper body folded, so that the
fat is not captured in his grey Dri-Fit, only his arms crossed in front of him,
his hands bent so that one wrist holds up his face, chin resting there, thin,
another V, another angle. You are so pretty, is what Clean says. Maybe this
is from the same simple adoration, unrelenting source, but is it enough to get
him off? This alarms Virgil, but the absence that he feels in the rush brings
him to ask, How is this love?

Late at night, before the porn, some old white man seeding a black
boy, or any old man fucking a teeny, Virgil has taken to watching the Brady
Bunch, all reruns of his old life. In the Brady Bunch, he gathers some first sense
of desire he wants to capture. In one episode, where Peter is being an asshole,
recording his siblings secrets by hidden tape deck, he captures Marsha
talking to Jan about love. She confesses she feels sick and also happy, odd and
equally neat, broken though similarly sutured. All of these contradictions,
Virgil knows, somehow point back to his body in love. He is them, they are all
him, and Virgil realizes, they not only mark his desire, but they train him to
give himself up in a way that he could never figure out on his own. Maybe he
doesnt need to.

Butchs throat will not clear. Butch feels wet through the night.
Butch is thinning, and at the Dinner House, Virgil kicks him. He taps him
with his toe, fake punches him in that kitchen. The light is open, and the
house is cool. The fish is grilled and black on one side, and on the other it is
still moist. Here, Virgil feels love, but still every moment of what he eats is
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outside of itself, and he is, so often, barely there. Not the banging of Bobbys
drums in another episode, Bobby looking to find something that marks his
musical talent because, unlike his siblings, he cannot sing. Not the blaring
of his bugle into the morning. Not his insane rage-drumming in the garage.
But, still, his family supports him until he exhausts, and confesses that he did
not want to play the drums anyway. It was because, he says, he thought this is
what they wanted.

The father, Mike, in his flat front, fitted poly-trousers, Carols flip
at the nape of her neck, the kiss Butch gives Virgil on the forehead while he
writes and remembers. What voice does Virgil want to hear? What words
does he need to hold? What fear does he hoist around, waiting for some
dumb approval, some long weight that he cannot grasp, some irretrievable
self cast, caught in his own no place of being loved? Is this what that search
committee had known all about?

Mindy Eisman, Lena


A Portrait in Three Parts: Part 1, oil on linen, 15 x 18, 2015; Part 2, oil on linen,
12 x 18, 2015; Part 3, oil on linen, 16 x 18, 2015

160

161

OFFICE HOURS
Stephen Kessler

Mindy Eisman, Study of a Redhead #1 and #2


Study of a Redhead #1, oil on linen, 18 x 24, 2015; Study of a Redhead #2,
oil on linen, 18 x 24, 2015

162

Look for me anywhere whenever, as in those cracks where hours slip and time
pauses for a few beats and we can talk. Well have to improvise an assignment,
like a performance piece where you sit onstage at a caf table sipping a
fizzwater and composing an ode to the audience, which is mesmerized by
their smartphones and doesnt even notice youre up there. This frees you
to be yourself, as if you had a choice, and confess you have no entertainment
to offer, only the same old confessions, and thats why youve come to see
me, to consult about your violations and which ones are most marketable,
or whether theyre just too raw, not scandalous enough, half-baked, coitus
interruptus, not really satisfying and definitely not redemptive, theres
nothing to save. Instead you want to reveal your innermost normality, your
absolute averageness, and nevertheless your exceptional strangeness because
even you cant believe your eyes, the most mundane phenomena opening
infinitely in a blink, those pedestrians for example not even staggering under
their history though each of them must be at least as melodramatic as yours.
Thats why we can meet anyplace and converse indefinitely, we have no
deadline but death itself and so its urgent we settle everything right away,
like who is the student and who the teacher and who pays for the drinks.
Better leave the door open lest we harass each other, and if anyone asks, it
never happened. I lost my position ages ago because of something like this,
remember? You were my instructor and that was illegal because you were
underage so when our roles reversed the administration couldnt make heads
or tails of our transgressions. I was suspended, expelled, exiled and licensed
to give only the most intimate seminars where no more than one scholar
at a time would be corrupted by my revelations. You got away without my
recommendationthough I could have told them everythingand thats
why I posted these office hours, so you might come back and we could discuss
what went wrong and how it turned out this way.
163

MARIOTT COURTYARD, CULVER CITY

THE GYPSY WAGON

Stephen Kessler

Stephen Kessler

From the western windows of Suite 819 you have a long view of the 405
streaming at the limit in both directions on an ordinary Sunday in October.
The light has a bright metallic glare, but if you stand close to the glass and
look left, south through the haze toward LAX, there is a green expanse that
soothes the eye: Hillside Memorial Park, the Jewish cemetery with the statue
of Al Jolson atop his tomb in a circle of columns that give the surrounding
lawn a centerall the flat gravestones sunk in the grass arranged as if in
homage to the entertainer. Amid the agitated landscape of Los Angeles the
grassy slopes of Hillside are anomalously calm while the city vibrates with
barely contained aggression, even on the Sabbath. I regard the eighth-floor
view with wonder because just northwest of Jolson I can see where my parents
are buriedmy fathers ashes first, my mothers laterand of all the hotels in
greater LA this is the one where I have come to see Louise, who raised me in
my early years while my folks were out making their fortune. Although she
quit when I was seven to start her own family, weve never lost touch and
now she is ninety and blind, and Bobby, her adopted son, is taking care of
her with help from Melanie, his lady friend; Phillip, one of Louises former
foster children, a middle-aged mentally handicapped alcoholic, rounds out
the family of four displaced from their home in South LA by a conflagration
started by Dominique, another foster child, who was smoking crack last
week and burned the house down, just like thata house where Louise had
lived for more than sixty years. It was insured, thank God, though they are
cleansed of their possessions and, until the insurance company finds them
another house, are camped in this hotel. It could be worse. Although she cant
see, Louise is pleased Ive come, and of her loss she simply says, Aint no use
in me complainin cause there aint nothin I can do about it anyway.

Those greasy burgers behind the Humanities building were fuel for
philosophical conversations, our elbows on the picnic table and our
mouths chewing and talking about Kierkegaard or Hopkins Wreck of the
Deutschland with all those nuns going down and a sound unlike anything
wed ever known. We were barely nineteen, or you were maybe twenty,
and we knew almost nothing or just enough to get us started, and those
books were like explosives in our brains, and some of our professors were
provocateurs recruiting us into dangerous undertakings, pages and pages of
occult instructions and understandings through which we came to unknow
our own families and instead felt bound by blood to writers wed never met
who seemed to read our minds and speak of the same miseries and mysteries
tormenting us, and so when wed meet after class to eat and debrief on Blake or
Sophocles under the trees by the trailer where the burgers were being flipped
and the sodas jerked from the taps, we were beside ourselves with revelations
no less astounding for being sophomoric. We were surrounded by beautiful
girls, or we were so hungry for beauty they looked that way as they walked
and looked past us, and that was okay because we were Transcendentalists,
or Existentialists, or beatniks in training though we didnt know it, trying to
transcend our upbringings without any notion of what for, trying to exist
for no reason we could fathom. We were skinny and wiry, with pimples,
with unformed longings, with desires absent appropriate objects, and with
appetites attached for now to those soft buns dripping with pickles and
mustard and drops of grease from the grill. How could we have imagined then
that you would grow a beard and a big belly and become rabbinical, and I
would become someone who sits at a sidewalk caf and watches miscellaneous
pedestrians stroll past in Mediterranean weather at the solstice, and records
such sightings for their own sake as he invokes or tries to recover moments
close to half a century removed that he all but didnt notice at the time.

164

165

reflected yet unrecognizable inside of


the rainbows of oil at her feet.

RAINY SEASON
Larry Narron

*
She pushes her cart through the intersection,
from the middle of which almost nothing is visible
besides a fluorescent oasis that swarms with the poor
who somehow still make it, efficiently folding
their clothing on tables all covered with lint.
Surely its warmer inside of the twenty-four hour
coin laundry, with its machine that dispenses
stale instant coffee into tiny Styrofoam cups
already teethed on by babies. There must be

Before the bank with the boarded up windows


was bulldozed, she slept peacefully in the hard
but sheltered lane of its ATM drive-thru. Finally,
now is the year of the summer that made her

enough room in a cornernot too near


the hum of the dryersto sleep, to be lulled
by the voices that whisper considerately,
mostly in Spanish, some of them singing.

too tired to deal with the fall. Shes salvaged


a handful of Ziploc bags in time
for the rainy season, to waterproof all of her
yellowing fantasy novels, most of them
already broken at their spines, her trilogies
wound together with worn rubber bands.
Her secondhand blankets & jeans
cover them all in the rattling cage of her
shopping cart. Now that the skys closing in
she can feel how the bridges all over America
are getting ready to collapse under the weight
of neglect. The clouds overhead: full of faces
166

167

brilliant points of light ignited


in ice like too many stars to count.

THROUGH SOLAR WIND


Larry Narron

*
From up there they must look
like a cluster of suns somehow welded together,
or maybe the mother-ship of another world
spinning slowly through solar wind,
its sails pushed forward by flames
a moment before burning away.

Over the Earth I know from experience


isnt flat, past generations
of stars still shine, their legacies
having outlived the tireless
pioneers of astronomy.
What was the point of their living
& dying, being forced to turn over
their scaled outlines of heaven
to fortune tellers
determined to ruin the future?
Tonight, in this motel room
where no one has forced me
to spend nights alone, Im determined
to stay up late so as not to miss
the meteor shower promised
by the almanac.
Until then I will look out this window
& wait. Perhaps in the waiting Ill see
a plane flying low in the sky.
Maybe up there a boy
will be looking down at the Earth
through a window. Its possible
this boy will be able to see
Minneapolis with all its
168

169

DREAM DIARY
Larry Narron

the rotation of Earth, toward the Sun


coming up in the West. In the same way,

hes intercepted sunsets that seemed
at times almost to lap him, pursued
afternoons into colors that lasted
longer for him than for most. But now
nothing will help him recall his dream:
the dark in this room like the sea, the last
thing one sees before impact, the feeling
of falling so fast a stillness takes hold.

It was years in the Army that gave him


insomnia. Since the pilot was discharged,
hes kept a dream diary for those nights
when he wakes at 3:30 a.m.. Mostly he dreams
of fallingnot crashing, but plummeting still
toward the ocean in his plane. Either that
or falling instead toward a street in the suburbs
where, in the bright amber squares of the driveways
at twilight, children lower their heads as if
in prayer, transfixed by the rectangular glow
of cellphones. Tonight he tries hard to remember
details from the dream hes just had,

something to scribble in the brevity codes
he cant seem to unlearn from the War. Something
is needed to equalize this constant
shifting of time zones that rattle his memory,
for he cannot forget the speed at which
light suddenly appears when flying against
170

171

IS THERE SOMEONE ELSE HERE?


Jaime Cortez

home an atlas from a field I knew nothing about.



I have learned that when I am stuck with my work, I need to keep
thinking on it. I need to keep my eyes and ears open. I need to be opportunistic
and supple in my thinking. If I keep doing this, I will find it, whatever it is.

One caveatthe process may take years, but if you seek, as the Bible
says, you shall find.

DiviNation

WHEN I AM deep in my artistic practice, I become that artist. The one who
is distracted. The one who goes to bed thinking of the art and dreams the art.
The one who, in his waking hours, always has a portion of his brain on the
art. When you get good and possessed like this, your eyes become open to
inspiration, you become opportunistic and visually omnivorous, absorbing
and metabolizing all kinds of visual tactics, techniques, sensibilities.

In 2011, I was smitten with reductive charcoal drawing. Removing
charcoal from the paper with an eraser moved me into the world of tones and
helped me escape the beautiful but limiting tyranny of the line in drawing.
I wanted to work in this technique, I loved how it reminded me of the
chiaroscuro effects of my hero painters like Caravaggio and Zurbaran. But
I wanted a project with some kind of conceptual richness. At a Friends of
the Library book sale, I found a scanning electron microscopy atlas of human
organs and tissues. Wow. The microscopy images were a tonal wonderland
with gorgeous thickets and landscapes of organic tissues, cells, and fibers.
Finding that book triggered the DiviNation drawings.
The DiviNation drawings sample found images from the electron
microscopy atlas with compositional elements from classic European
paintings. I am dating myself by saying this, but the drawings constitute a
visual remix tape. The drawings celebrate the powerful visceral effects that
these paintings have on me. These paintings, originally meant to celebrate the
power and wealth of empires, the church, and wealthy patrons, have a history
and politic that runs counter to mine, but they enthrall me nonetheless. They
are like the pop songs I sometimes hear. The songs have misogynistic, violent,
or homophobic lyrics, but the beats are so delicious, the tune so affecting, that
the songs hotwire directly into me neurologically, overriding my brain and
my politics. All of this was possible because I followed my curiosity and took
172

173

Jaime Cortez, Naprapathy


Charcoal on paper, 22 x 30, 2011

174

Jaime Cortez, Visitation


Charcoal on paper, 22 x 30, 2012

175

A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF
ASIAN AMERICA
Geneva Chao

Chapter One: Whats Your Diaspora?


for Sean Labrador y Manzano

Jaime Cortez, Simn Jos Antonio de la Santsima Trinidad Bolvar y


Palacios Ponte y Blanco
Charcoal on paper, 22 x 30, 2012

176

Imprisoned and kidnapped by Spanish galleons, my family jumped ship


outside New Orleans just after the Revolutionary War and cozied up to
gators in the Bayous. I am the descendent of Sugar Masters in Hawaii. My
grandfather came to mine gold. My grandfathers came to build the railroads.
My grandmother was one of a select few ethnically appropriate prostitutes
available to miners, masters, railroad workers. My family came to California
to escape oppression. My family came to California to escape famine. My
grandfather was denied the right to testify in court because yellow is Mongol
and Mongol is black. My grandfather was denied citizenship because he
was neither black nor white. Sugar cane. Pineapple. Scabs. Death March.
Churches. Nurseries. Paper sons. My grandfather fought for the U.S. against
Japan. My grandfather was interned. My grandmother was a War Bride. My
grandfather fled the communists for economic reasons. My grandfather
was a persecuted intellectual. My grandfather was a radical dissident. My
grandfather was a farm worker. My grandfather was part of the brain drain.
My grandfather refused to cooperate. My grandmother got us out on a boat.
My grandfather swam from Cambodia. My grandfather was a Buddhahead.
My grandfather fled Vientiane on foot. My grandmother was sponsored by
the church. My grandmother ran a hotel on the Turnpike. My grandmother
ran a restaurant. My grandmother invented Hello Kitty. My grandfather was
a victim of the poll tax. First Wave, Second Wave, Third Wave, New Wave.
Reeducation camps. Educational opportunity. Sojourners. Sriracha.

177

Chapter Two: Flower Drum Song


for Ramey Ko
In the Movie about Me a
play about me a flutter of
a fan a cheongsam a
mystified diplomat a timid
bride a trio of maids
I cant keep all these names
straight why dont you people
get some names Americans
can pronounce but they do
look dainty with their little feet
Being Siamese is not all
threesomes and homesteading,
have some chop suey which
nobodys PoPo would cook
and some General Tso, his
skins so smooth he could be a girl
So smart! So very smart!
cant beat em at math. They
got an extra part of their brain,
Dickie. That so Oscar? Were
gonna show the softer side,
a little bit of heartbreak.
I have to share a room with
a guy named after a ducks
dork. Six demon bag, dont mess
with angry spirits, Chinese people
have a lot of hells.

Chapter Four:
The Future of America
is Chinese Daughters
for Maxine Hong Kingston
because elected inoffensive
because appointed quiet
because affirmed earnest
because believed biddable
because we have no kitchens
because working in fields
because civilized
because unwanted
because aborted
because abandoned
into the circle of axis of the axis of circle are legions of little girls with
manageable hair and high S.A.T. scores infiltrating the ranks of whiteness
turned faintly ecru until nothing remains but an appreciation for calligraphy
and
under the tongue the frenum
attaches a root to words
a membrane cut to free to
forlorn
a flop fish on dry land a
lost bird lost her cage
because a cage is protective
because love sees no color
because my heart is as big as the ocean
because it doesnt fuck with my workout schedule
into the nest of a burrow of
beauteous suburb a wing lost
little bird limps
because global society
because absorbent and reusable
because the Russians were exhausted
strip off the drag
tumble from the rooftop
every maiden ends in masters arms

178

179

Chapter Five: Fuck You and the


Persimmons You Rode in On
for Truong Tran
This is a true story of the mother who raised me who made soup a famous
soup-maker who yelled so fat! so lazy! smack upside the head crying makes
it harder
this is the story of the mother who cut a chunk of her own flesh the mother
who bled the mother whose eyes grew bleary from twilight stitches the mother
who fed armies the mother who plodded along
or a truer story about the mother who knew that cowboy was mocking her
accent and her eyes
a mother who wins poetry competitions in new jersey a mother who drank
too much and sang to the moon
a mother who met father in grad school a mother who went to Wellesley a
mother who seduced FDR a mother whose face launched a thousand ships
a cigarette poster mother a harajuku mother a Baby Phat mother
this is a true story about a mother who never learned to drive after 57 years in
California a mother who died in the old country a mother who carried three
babies on her back a mother whose child was bought for a sack of rice
a mother who first language a mother first word a mother fighting for words
a mother who lost everything a mother who exhausted 800 young lovers and
lived forever
a mother who didnt have sex for seven years a mother who waited for the
telegram a mother who forcefed ferment a mother who disappeared
a mother who marched with Malcolm a mother who held him in her arms
this is the story of a mother whose son was killed by his own CO of a mother
who gave endless KP of a mother who got in the middle of Motor City
this is the story of a mother who declines to be bereaved

180

Truong Tran, Summer Bliss


2014

181

CONTRIBUTORS

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Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts


Theatre-Performance Making (joint degree with
University of Chichester/U.K.)
Writing and Consciousness

Students can complete the 48-unit MFA Programs


through two years of intensive coursework in formats
designed for working adults.

Now accepting applications


for Fall 2016.
ciis.edu/mfa
Photo credits, clockwise from upper left: Nye Lyn Tho, Anne Bluethenthal &
Dancers, Maia Scott, Nye Lyn Tho, Nye Lyn Tho, Patricia Mazzera, NyeLyn Tho

Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer, video artist, and graphic designer. They

are the author of And Then Entwine: Lesson Plans, Poems, Knots; Is This
January; The Spiderboi Files; and the director of the short film Tom/Trans/Thai,
which has screened in Bangkok, Berlin, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among
other works. The article that accompanies the film, Toms and Zees: Locating
FTM Identity in Thailand, was published in Transgender Studies Quarterly Issue
1.3 (Duke University Press, 2014). They hold an MFA in Writing & Poetics
from Naropa Universitys Jack Kerouac School. A recipient of fellowships
from ComPeung, Djerassi, and Kundiman, they are a former staff writer for
Lantern Review. A previous version of this talk was given at the Sonoma State
University Queer Studies Lecture Series on March 27, 2014.
Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers/ABD Productions initiated the Skywatchers

project four years ago in collaboration with Luggage Store Gallery and
Community Housing Partnership (CHP). The purpose: to engage formerly
homeless residents of the Tenderloin in high quality creative experiences that
illuminate their lives and stories. The CHP residents, too often reduced to
statistical data, become storytellers, co-creators, performers, and audience
membersworking in close collaboration with ABD members and associated
artists. The connectivity, intrinsic to creative collaboration, builds trust and
nurtures the desire for self-efficacy. The humanizing impact of sharing ones
own story, both to be heard and to see that story in a broader social context,
creates the space for participating residents to imagine, and manifest, change.

183

Kathleen Boyle s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Zyzzyva, Crab

Creek Review, Natural Bridge, and many other literary journals. She received
her MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State.
Stephen Bruce , originally from Sacramento, recently moved to Oakland,

where he revels in the flourishing community of East Bay bohemians.


Working in a six-acre Oakland warehouse filled with artist studios, he
now enjoys a closer relationship with many of his clients and the galleries
that represent himwhich once seemed an unattainable dream. Though
he has only been showing work since June of 2006, his acid paintings on
copper have already been seen in TV shows (House, Law & Order LA, Big
Bang Theory, Revenge and Californication), on movie sets (Horrible Bosses,
The Social Network, and The Avengers), and several were selected to decorate
the2008Sunset MagazineIdea House. His work has also garnerednumerous
art festivalaccolades. A member of the San Francisco fine arts organization,
Red Umbrellas, Bruce also serves on its board of directors. He maintains a
studio in Sacramento, and frequently travels around the country for festivals
and installations.

Jaime Cortez is an Oakland-based artist and writer. His art practice

encompasses mixed media, photo, sculpture, installation, and drawing. He


has exhibited his art at the Berkeley Art Museum, the Oakland Museum
of California, The Intersection for the Arts, Galera de la Raza, Southern
Exposure, Martina Johnston Gallery, and the Yerba Buena Center for the
Arts.Jaimes short stories, comics, and essays have appeared in over a dozen
anthologies, including KinderGarde (SPT, 2013), Street Art San Francisco
(Abrams Press, 2009), and the groundbreaking LGBT comic anthology No
Straight Lines (Fantagraphics, 2012). Jaime has given readings and occasional
performances at venues across the Bay Area. He received his MFA from
University of California, Berkeley.
Rosa del Duca grew up in Montana, but now lives in San Leandro with

her husband and cat. Her work has appeared in Cutbank, Grain, River Teeth,
CALYX, and Umbrella Factory. When shes not writing stories and essays
shes making music with her folk band we.are.hunters. or helping crank out
the news at KNTV.

poets. His books in English (translated by Stephen Kessler) includeWritten in


Water(prose poems, City Lights Books, 2005),Desolation of the Chimera(late
poems, White Pine Press, 2009), and Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected
Poems(Black Widow Press, 2015), from which the selection here is taken.

Carolina De Robertis is the internationally bestselling author of The


Invisible Mountain (Vintage Books, 2009), Perla (Vintage Contemporaries,
2011), and The Gods of Tango (forthcoming July 2015). Her novels have been
translated into sixteen languages. She is the recipient of a Fellowship from
the National Endowment for the Arts, Italys Rhegium Julii prize, and other
honors. She lives in Oakland, California with her wife and two children.

Geneva Chao is a poet and translator in Los Angeles. Her book one of us is

Emilia Grace Domnguez is a bilingual poet from Mexico City. She

Luis Cernuda (1902-1963) is one of Spains most revered and influential

wave one of us is shore is forthcoming from Otis Books | Seismicity Editions.


Her translations of Gerard Cartier and Nicolas Tardy are forthcoming from
[lx] press.

Ching-In Chen is author of The Hearts Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009)

and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence


Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011 ). A Kundiman, Lambda
and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations
Arts Foundation writing communities, and was a participant in Sharon
Bridgforths Theatrical Jazz Institute. They have been awarded fellowships
and residencies from Soul Mountain Retreat, Ragdale Foundation, Virginia
Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony, Norman Mailer Center,
and Can Serrat. A community organizer, they have worked in the Asian
American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston. In
Milwaukee, they are cream city reviews editor-in-chief, senior editor of The
Conversant, and serve on the board of Woodland Pattern. chinginchen.com
Carolyn Cooke is the author of three books, The Bostons, Daughters of the

Revolution, and Amor and Psycho. A recipient of the Pen Bingham Prize, Cooke
chairs the MFA programs at California Institute of Integral Studies, where
she also teaches.
184

discovered the power of the written word in the first grade. She has been
published in university literary magazines, including Lumina.

Mindy Eisman worked for many years as a comic book colorist/letterer

and calligrapher. She currently paints in her Mendocino County, California


studio when not weeding the garden. mindyeisman.com.
Neil Freese is a designer, artist, writer, coffee obsessive, and world traveler
who loves baseball, pickles, backpacks, geography, topographic maps,
Japanese stationary stores, orange cats, and tiny mugs. He lives in Berkeley,
California with his wife and daughter. neilfreese.com
Carrie Iverson is a printmaker and glass artist who often combines both

media into multipart installations. She received her BA from Yale University
and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is
in private and public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the
Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), and the Museum of Contemporary
Art (Chicago, IL). She has taught at NorthLands Creative Glass (Scotland),
GlassForum (Norway), Creative Glass (Switzerland and UK), as well as private
studios throughout the US. Her current focus is adapting and translating her
185

extensive knowledge of printmaking processes into glass through research


and experimentation. carrieiverson.com
Michael Janis returned to the United States after a 20-year career as an

architect, most recently in Australia, with a focus on working with glass.


In 2005, Janis became the Co-Director of the Washington Glass School in
Washington, DC. Janis has received numerous awards for his artwork,
including the Florida Art Glass Alliances Emerging Artist Award 2009, and
the Bay Area Glass Institutes 2010 Saxe Fellowship. He was also named a
Rising Star at Wheaton Arts, 2011. His glass artwork was twice featured
in Corning Museum of Glass publication of international glass design, New
Glass Review. Massachusetts Fuller Craft Museum mounted a solo show of
Janis glass panels and sculpture in 2011. His artwork is in the permanent
collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship
in 2012, Janis went to Englands University of Sunderland and taught at the
UKs National Glass Centre where he became an Artist-in-Residence at the
Institute for International Research in Glass (IIRG). American Craft Magazine
featured an extensive profile on Janis work in their April/May 2013 issue. The
James Renwick Alliance named him Distinguished Glass Artist for 2014, and
he presented and lectured about his work at the Smithsonian American Art
Museum in 2014.
Holen Sabrina Kahn was born and raised in New York City and now lives

where the sea meets land at the western edge of Tomales Bay. Her films and
art works have been screened and exhibited widely, most recently at Lincoln
Center, MassMoca, the de Young Museum, Docs DF, Frontline Club, Watch
Docs (Polish Tour), and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival & Tour
(New York, London, Nairobi, Zurich). She has been the recipient of state and
foundation grants, and has held Independent Study Program fellowships at
Yale University and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In the spring of
2015 she will be in residency as a Cy Twombly Fellow at the Virginia Center
for Creative Arts.
Bhanu Kapil teaches through the monster at Naropa Universitys Jack

Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is the author of five books,


most recently Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015), a work built through
performances, encounters and talks in London, Delhi and various regional
capitals of the continental U.S.
Lynne Kaufman is the author of 20 full length plays produced nationally.

Len Literary Arts, 2015), and Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis
Cernuda (translation, Black Widow Press). He lives in Santa Cruz, California.
stephenkessler.com
Helen Klonaris is a Bahamian writer who lives in the Bay Area. Her work has

appeared in numerousjournals and anthologies including ProudFlesh, So To


Speak, Calyx, Poui, Lets Tell This Story Properly, and The Racial Imaginary: Writers
and the Life of the Mind. She was recently shortlisted for the Commonwealth
Short Story Prize, and she is co-editor of Writing the Walls Down, an anthology
due out in August 2015 with Trans-Genre Press.
Sean Labrador y Manzano lives on the island off the coast of Oakland,

California, prefers snorkeling or canoeing in Hawaii. He edited the print


journal, Conversations at the Wartime Caf; founded Mixer 2.0, an MFA reading
series every third Thursday of the month at the Cat Club in San Francisco,
and curated the 2015 California Institute of Integral Studies symposium,
Trauma and Catharsis: Performing the Asian Avant-Garde.
Kija Lucas is an artist living and working in San Francisco. Her work

explores ideas of home, family relationships, heritage and inheritance. She


is interested in how seemingly inconsequential moments create changes that
last generations. Lucas received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute
in 2006 and her MFA from Mills College in 2010. Her work has been exhibited
at AlterSpace, California Institute of Integral Studies, Intersection for the
Arts, Luggage Store, Mission Cultural Center, Root Division and other
venues in San Francisco; The Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek; The Asian
Resource Center Gallery and Pro Arts in Oakland; The Headlands Center for
the Arts in Sausalito; The Euphrat Museum in Cupertino; La Sala dErcole/
Hercules Hall in Bologna Italy; and Casa Escorsa in Guadalajara, Mexico. She
has been an artist in Residence at the Wassaic Artist Residency.
Kelly Ludeking has been casting and fabricating metal (aluminum, bronze,

and iron) consistently since graduating from the Minneapolis College of Art
& Design in 1997. He has worked for a range of clients, from large companies
(building larger-than-life sculptures on billboards in Times Square) to small
one-of-a-kind custom furniture pieces for interior designers. Along the way,
he found that he also likes teaching, so he also teaches as much as he can. He
is currently setting up his farm in Iowa to be a studio/classroom in foundry
and fabrication. krlmetals.com

Her awards include Best New Play in San Francisco, Best New Play in
California, NEA Kennedy Center Playwrights Award, and the William Inge
Theater Festival PlaywrightsAward.

Tennae Maki is a weekend writer who works for an architecture firm. She is

Stephen Kessler s latest books are Where Was I? (prose poems, Greenhouse

Monica Mody is the author of Kala Pani (1913 Press, 2013) and two

Review Press, 2015), Need I Say More?: portraits, confessions, reflections (essays, El
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also the archivist for two Brooklyn-based experimental music and sound art
venues.
chapbooks of poetry and cross-genre writing. She has been a recipient of
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theSparksPrizeFellowship at the University of Notre Dame, the Zora Neale


Hurston Scholarship at Naropas Summer Writing Program, and the Toto
Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing.
Larry Narron worked as a window cleaner in San Diego County before

studying English and creative writing at the University of California,


Berkeley, where he attended Joyce Carol Oatess short fiction workshop and
was awarded the Rosenberg Prize in Lyric Poetry. His work has appeared or
is forthcoming in Phoebe, Whiskey Island, Eleven Eleven, Permafrost, Stoneboat,
The Boiler, and other journals. A poetry student in Pacific Universitys lowresidency MFA program, Larry now works as an English tutor at Portland
Community College in Oregon.
Tony Phillips was born in Miami Beach and raised in Rochester, New

York. He received a BA from Trinity College, Connecticut and his BFA and
MFA from Yale Art School. He is Professor Emeritus at the Art Institute of
Chicago, where he has taught since 1969. He has exhibited his paintings and
films widely, and received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships,
as well as other prizes, fellowships and residencies, including the Djerrasi
Foundation, Yaddo, and The MacDowell Colony. When a painting wont do,
he writes.
Judith Raphael : I invented this child based on my youngest granddaughter

and placed the innocent creature in a garden of irises with a background of


a tender green prairie and I went to bed snug or (smug) and happy. When I
awoke, there was a creature, this satyr, his hairy body arching over towards
the child.Tony! I yelled.How could you do this to me?He said he thought it
was an interesting idea.

Judith Rechter is a writer who lives in Santa Monica, California. Her poetry

has appeared in Beyond Baroque Magazine, West Word, and Sinister Wisdom. Her
work is anthologized in No More Masks! (Anchor, 1973) and What I Want From
You: Voices of Lesbian East Bay Poets (Raw Art Press, 2009). Her latest poetry
book is Wild West (Raw Art Press, 2007).
Margaret Rhee is the author of Yellow (Tinfish Press, 2011) and co-editor of

Here is a Pen: An Anthology of Kundiman West Coast Poets.

Nathan Sandberg is an artist and educator living and working in Portland,

Oregon. His primary material is glass, although his installations commonly


make use of other materials, such as wood, metal and concrete. Aside from
relentlessly producing artwork, he has made a name for himself as one of
the top kiln-glass educators teaching today. When he cant be found in his
studio, where he focuses on kilncast glass, he can be found presenting fresh,
innovative curriculum at a wide range of studios, schools and art centers
around the globe. nathansandberg.com
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Jeremy Scidmore earned a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of

Chicago and later returned to SAIC to study arts administration and policy.
While in Chicago, he owned and managed a public glass-arts resource
center, collaborated with youth arts educators, completed private and public
sculptural and architectural art commissions, and taught glassblowing and
kiln-forming. Scidmore currently directs and manages his own teaching
and fabrication studio, IV Designs, based in Oakland, California, as well as
maintaining his personal studio practice. jeremyscidmore.com
Cindy Shearer is a professor in the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary

Arts and the MFA in Writing and Consciousness programs at California


Institute of Integral Studies. She is a writer, text/image artist, and curator.
This fall, she curated The Landscape of Memories, an exhibit of multiple
mediums andmemory boxes,for the town of Danville, California.
Kal Spelletich scours junkyards and dumpsters for industrial items to

which technology can be reapplied. Kal teaches, lectures, and exhibits all
over the world. His latest work involves experimenting with bio-morphic
inputs that trigger machines and robots to provide viewers with a real-life
experience. He believes in Frankensteins monsters haunted words to its
maker: You are my creator, but I am your master.
Pireeni Sundaralingam is co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of

Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (U. Arkansas Press, 2010),


and winner of both the PEN Oakland and Northern California Book
Awards.Born in Sri Lanka, her poetry has been published in over 20 journals
and magazines, including Ploughshares and The Progressive,translated into five
languages, and featured inanthologies such asAmnesty Internationals Fire
in the Soul: 100 poems for Human Rights (New Internationalist, 2009).
Aimee Suzara is a Filipino-American poet, playwright, and performer

whose mission is to create poetic and theatrical work about race, gender, and
the body to provoke dialogue and social change. Suzara has graced stages
nationally, from Florida to Washington with her dynamic spoken word.
Her debut poetry book, Souvenir (WordTech Editions 2014) was lauded as a
powerful meditation on history and the legacies of race, family and identity,
(David Mura), and her poems appear in numerous journals, including
Phatitude and Kartika Review. Her performance work has been supported
by the National Endowment for the Arts and the East Bay Community
Foundation. She is also the recipient of a YBCAway award for the 2013-2014
season, and her work has been selected for the One Minute Play Festival,
Playground, APAture, and Utah Arts Festival, and staged at the Berkeley
Repertory Theater, CounterPULSE, and others. Luis J Rodriguez has said,
Aimee Suzara is a deep chronicler of our hopes, dreams, pains, and future.
We need these poems more than ever. aimeesuzara.net.

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Shruti Swamy lives and writes in San Franciscos Tenderloin. Her work has

appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Agni, The Kenyon Review, Boston Review,
and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar Colleges 50th W.K. Rose Fellow,
and in 2015, Shruti was a Kundiman Fiction Fellow. She has been awarded
residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts and Hedgebrook.
Tim Stapleton is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow living in

Portland, Oregon. He has been a professional Scenic Designer for 36 years,


worked with Oregons Regional Arts & Culture Council as a liaison to
Social Services, and taught Theatre courses for Willamette University,
Central Washington University, Lewis & Clark College, and Slippery
Rock University. Tims paintings have been exhibited in Huntington, West
Virginia, with The Kentucky Arts Commission, at the Cranbrook Academy
of Art in Michigan, the Mina Dresden Gallery and California Institute of
Integral Studies in San Francisco. His short stories and poetry have been
published by Inkwater Press, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel Literary Journal, and
online by Four and Twenty: a Short Form Literary Journal, The Verse Marauder,
and Im From Driftwood. His autobiographical play, Leaning on the Everlasting
Arms, has been performed throughout the Pacific Northwest. A native of
Kentucky, Tim holds an MFA in Creative Inquiry.
Tim Tate is Co-Founder of the Washington Glass School and Studio. Tims

work is in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including


the Smithsonians American Art Museum and the Mint Museum. He was
the subject of several articles in American Style, American Craft, and Sculpture
magazines, as well as the Washington Post and Times newspaper reviews. He
was also the 2010 recipient of the $35,000 Virginia Groot Foundation award
for sculpture. He taught in Istanbul in 2007 and at Penland School on several
occasions. In 2009, he received an award from the Museum of American
Glass in New Jersey as one of the Rising Stars of the 21st Century. He
received his Fulbright Award from Sunderland, University in England in
2012. He is also the founder of Glass Secessionism. Tim shows his work at
numerous international art fairs, such as Art Basel, Switzerland, Art Miami,
SOFA and Frieze, London.

of the Black Panther Party; and the intersections between contemporary


photographic practice and representational pluralism. ciis.edu/arts
Ronaldo V. Wilson , PhD, is the author ofNarrative of the Life of the Brown

Boy and the White Man(University of Pittsburgh, 2008), winner of the 2007
Cave Canem Poetry Prize, andPoems 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 books are Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose,
Other (Counterpath Press, 2015) andLucy 72(1913 Press, 2015). Co-founder of
the Black Took Collective, Wilson is an Associate Professor of Poetry, Fiction
and Literature in the Literature Department at University of California,
Santa Cruz.
Wilson and Natalie Zimmerman s projects explore
individual, social, and ecological imaginaries, often at key points of crisis
ortransformation. They operate as a collectiveengaging many subjects and
collaborators through their studio, Social Satisfactionand haveproduced
works across multiple disciplines and media. Their projects and films have
been presented in diverse contexts, including: Sigmund Freud Museum
(Vienna), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York City), the de
Young Museum (San Francisco), Cinema Politica Network (Canada), and
Irans Independent News Broadcaster, Press TV. They are currently affiliate
artists at the Headlands Center for the Arts, where they are in production
on their film, Oceania: Encounters on the Edgea poetic documentary that
spans opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean in search of what ties our seemingly
fragmented histories, disparate experiences, and fates together.
Michael

Deirdre Visser is Curator of The Arts at CIIS. As curator and educator,

she strives to promote pluralism in the arts, to support artists in the creation
of new work, and to foster dynamic and critical dialogues within and across
communities that propose integrative approaches to the urgent questions
we collectively face. Her exhibitions, publications, and public programming
with The Arts at CIIS have connected history to the present, both ethically
and strategically, to look for common themes and engage historical context
in a deeper understanding of the present. She has mounted exhibitions and
convened public dialogues about such topics as the representation of African
American men; the history of the Chicano Movement and the ways it
informs the work of young Chicana artists across California today; the legacy

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Mission at Tenth is a publication of


California Institute of Integral Studies

FEATURING
Natalie Zimmerman Michael Wilson Ronaldo V. Wilson Deirdre Visser
Truong Tran Tim Tate Shruti Swamy Aimee Suzara Pireeni Sundaralingam
Tim Stapleton Kal Spelletich Cindy Shearer Jeremy Scidmore Nathan
Sandberg Margaret Rhee Judith Rechter Jai Arun Ravine Judith Raphael
Tony Phillips Larry Narron Monica Mody Tennae Maki Kija Lucas Kelly
Ludeking Sean Labrador Y Manzano Helen Klonaris Stephen Kessler
Lynne Kaufman Bhanu Kapil Holen S. Kahn Michael Janis Carrie Iverson
Neil Freese Mindy Eisman Emilia Grace Domnguez Rosa del Duca
Carolina De Robertis Jaime Cortez Ching-In Chen Geneva Chao Luis
Cernuda Stephen Bruce Kathleen Boyle Anne Bluethenthal

Spring 2016 | Volume 6


missionattenth.com
$10