Thursday, December 30, 2010

Memoir in Music

Age 10: The Offspring - Smash (Angry lyrics, lovely noise...)

Age 11-12: Soundtrack to The Crow (Love and pain and killer's poise...)

Age 13: The Roots - Things Fall Apart (Boastful pride as darkness looms...)

Age 14: Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales (Smooth notes soften schoolhouse doom...)

Age 15-16: Modest Mouse - Lonesome Crowded West (Headphones on, alone at last...)

Age 18: Phil and Jimmy - EP (Found: excuse to fail in class...)

Age 20: Ani DiFranco - Out of Range (Understanding woman's scorn...)

Age 22: Paramore - Riot (From the ashes, love reborn...)

Age 23: Imogen Heap - Ellipse (Fountain, liberated, wild...)

Age 24: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue (Purpose-hungry, music-child.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Greenwich Village

When I got sick of my folks I got into Dan's car and we drove all over the place. Dan had this real bad acne. Sometimes he put vaseline on it so the zits would ripen up and he could squeeze them. He was a real good guy.

We drove all the way up to Ohio once. We had a girl with us and she wanted to see the water that went out to the sky. I'm sick of the fucking quarry. She had a cigarette that she kept bringing to her mouth between her thumb and her forefinger. She wore a striped shirt and I could see her nipples rippling in the irregular cotton like the jiggling navels of water balloons. She was beautiful. She made me want to eat glass and rip baby ducks apart. We were taking some pills that Dan had stolen from his mother. When we passed the square, he laughed maniacally and wouldn't turn, even when the girl yanked on his collar and shrieked with her mouth pressed up to his hair. We drove through the night and when we reached the lakes she was asleep, curled up like a dog on the carpet behind the passenger side with her head propped on the leather bucket seat. Her hair was splayed out like a frond. I remember that blond dyed color. It had a brass to it that shone like a copper fan in the dawn glow. It was nice.

We hitchhiked to New York. We got into Greenwich Village and this head trucked up to us. C'mere. He gave us a joint and walked us through street after street. We were both about fifteen. I had on my army jacket and my filthy denim johns. I'd patched them up. An archway rose before us, stark and tan, birdshit cascading off it like icicles. We stepped through the arch into the jangling purse of a war rally. I held a little leather gris-gris bag around my neck with some money in it and a gold watch I'd found on the ground. This bag was stolen by the head. He snapped it from my neck and fell into the spitting banks of crowd with a stag grace at just the same moment that a tear gas bomb sliced the wall just by my ear. The crowd drew from me like I've seen paint draw from salt. I remember the still faces of the hippies. They looked like a river right after a car gets in it.


This week, we'll be celebrating the new year by looking back.

Real memoir, fictive memoir, memoirs of a geisha--spill your guts or someone else's, but irregardless,

Write with guts.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Bird

The bird was dead before I got there.

I looked up at the heavy gray clouds, which were crying for the tiny brown-feathered avian life form that had been snuffed out in a manner unknown to me. I was hiding under a hard yellow plastic chair, trying to keep dry. It was melodramatic of me, and it wasn't stopping the rain from drenching my clothes. I was seven years old, so maybe I just didn't know better.

I studied the bird hard. Did the cold rain kill him? His dead body seemed lonely, just like me.

Rewind two hours. My dad dropped me off at the schoolyard, and neither of us noticed anything strange. I was late, of course, and both the parking lot and playground were empty. My dad gave me a bear hug, and I hopped out of the car wish a wet rubber squish. It had rained the previous night, and puffy coal clouds threatened a second round. I ran with that awkward side-to-side gait peculiar to young kids running quickly under a heavy backpack.

I speed-waddled up to the classroom door. Locked...pupil-free day. This is bad.

That's when it started to rain.

Two hours later, I was under the only shelter I could find. Actually, I think I sought out the hard yellow plastic chair because it seemed to be the most pitiful option, and I felt pretty pitiful. I found the dead bird there -a sparrow perhaps? - laying on his side under the chair, stiff as a board but whole. Did he die from feeling pitiful?

I knew my situation wasn't hopeless. Truth be told, part of me was excited that this unusual thing was happening to me. In my head, I half-hoped that this was the beginning of a magical adventure. I was always hoping during that time that a magical adventure would happen to me. That's probably why I buried the bird.

I carried him in my hand, over to the planter that housed the only tree in the otherwise asphalt playground. My fingers hit the hard earth, and I kept digging until I had a hole big enough for a little bird in the mind of a seven-year-old. I think it was about four inches deep.

Gently, gently, I dropped the bird friend I had never had into the hole and covered him up. I felt that I had done a good deed, that my time when everyone was gone at school had left a story in the black asphalt. I guess it did.

My Dad picked me up at 3:15, and did not seem appropriately horrified that I had been left alone at school all day. I didn't tell him about the bird, but now I can't remember why.

Postapocalyptic Haiku

Ummm... Mom? Dad? Stacy?
Perry? Fred? Steven? HELLLLOOO??
Where is everyone?

One day, everybody's gone.

Hi from the Herkimer Review!

This week, you have the world to yourself.

Write with guts!

Snowstorms, free cars, and zombie apocalpyses,


Friday, December 17, 2010


Along a grey road that cuts through a green world,

you reach across the horizon,

each leaf the same, twisting, circling up.

There is a car, a Chevy from the 70's, perhaps once it was blue.

The creeping blanket has engulfed it mostly, through each window,

across the cab, over the hood, with a pointed tongue, its tip extended, its brown tip.

A house, no longer a home, verdant and abundant, sits sentinel over a field, where cotton was picked and pickles were made.

I lay on the grass and wait for the kudzu to reach me, I wait to forget.

Friday, December 10, 2010

where the ocean begins

Walking on the beach was almost too much. My feet slid all ways on the dry sand on my sandals, and there was too much give under each step. A gouge in my heel was absolutely screaming. The sun damage on my nose gave it a maddening glow. I was too casual in my preparations to spend a whole day at this unforgiving place. Where was I anyway? I scanned, and it looked like drinking and horseshoes were the things to do. Speaking of horseshoes, I had tried the water until a horseshoe crab jabbed its tail into my heel. I don't even know if they do that, and I didn't see it happen, but later I saw a horseshoe crab on the beach and it looked like a devil. Maybe I was in South Carolina, where the beach is long and flat, and the water is warm enough to make you unsure of where your bodily fluids end and the oceans begins.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Its my second winter in Knoxville and
its so goddamn cold that the sparks
they get stuck when they lick copper wire
and im too scared to come (fear of jagged ice sperm)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

potential storms

red soil sand bellows
blustery afternoon filled
agrarian rifts in earth's psyche
the lungs of the earth buried under
weed suppressant plastic
black widows, fire ants, and grubs
waiting to gnaw on next season's roots
incubating under black plastic
warm air meeting cold air in pressure
  clouds; a man named sun
white hair
  clouds; a woman named sun
black hair
white hair and black hair braiding infinitely
the raw face of a vulture
vultures sitting in a group at the edge of a forest
reinterpreting a dream for me i had just reinterpreted
what i had thought were black flies
were then ravens from a distance
what i had thought were ravens from a distance
flying from the privacy of desire to my mouth
were now vultures sitting calmly at the edge of a forest

church mission boy silent and working slow
innocent smooth face pulled skin tight over
the raw bones of a vulture
his head is not buried in the soil but he is silent
wearing a black shirt with abstract insignia
holding the silence of god in his mouth
piercing the earth with his faith and forboding shovel
black helicopter slow in hovering motion
blotting out small farm sounds
grey noise pending questions on canopy of secondary forest
where previously fabricated houses carved into wooded acres
bear the raw face of vultures
a series of familial vultures
massaging me into the soil where i will be wedded and where i will die
down the road from the hospital in which i was born
all of this is joyful and resonates with my birth
i was born of a vulture as a vulture with a raw face
the farm becomes a raw face the farmer a vulture
i must expose my face to the wind in order to eat
my raw vulture face digests the wind and regurgitates
white and black hair infinitely braided
into the sky where a black police helicopter
searches for my ghost running around aimlessly
through empty neighborhoods

a vulture with long white and black braids
wearing a wedding dress at the edge of an old-growth forest
streams whisper the sun behind us and away
cauliflower mushrooms bloom from the billowing roots
of the oldest oaks i have ever embraced
pleading to the sun to love me like she used to
and to forgive me for burying my head in deep lascivious soil

--(posted at the request of) Sean O'Connell 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

At Length Magazine

At Length is an online magazine not affiliated with any particular organization. Here's what it has to say about itself:

At Length is a venue for ambitious, in-depth writing, music, photography, and art that are open to possibilities shorter forms preclude. As a print-friendly online magazine, we create ways for readers, listeners, and viewers to interact with noteworthy long work.

Hear that? They like reeeeaaaaally long forms. Despite that fact, they've recently published some gorgeous poetry and some impish and well-written prose. Check out especially Jee Leong Koh's ghazal sequence "A Lover's Recourse": so elegant.

They'll be accepting submissions January through March.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Tubers and fruits I will leave for the bears.
To lettuce I give the kabosh.
Who the fuck cares for persimmons or pears?
I only want to eat squash.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Was a Naked Man

I was a naked man,
running circuits around a booming piano,
painting my bedsheets with apple juice,
finding shells under the life guard tower,
with a naked woman.

Now I am a big boy,
and I wear clothes.
The clothes look great,
If I do say so myself,
But I miss the naked man.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Twice upon a Time in an Alley

I once saw a naked man. No, twice. The same one, in public, in the same spot, at the same time of day, several days apart.

Live here long enough and you're bound to come across a naked guy or two, you might say. Par for the course when you live in an urban environment such as this one. Ok, I'll give you that, one time. But when it happens again under nearly identical circumstances, one appreciates the rapidly diminished odds of such a thing occurring and begins to wonder about the backstory leading up to this chance double meeting.

Here's how it happened (both times): I was walking down the street on my way to the parking structure when I happened to glance to my left, across the street and down an alley, and there he was - a naked man rummaging through a dumpster. "Hey, look at that," I thought, "a naked guy in an alley rummaging through a dumpster. Now there's something you don't see every day and surely never will again. Los Angeles. Poor bloke." Startled, amused, sympathetic, I moved along. A thing like that does tend to stick with a body for awhile, though. It was a naked man in public, after all. So, the next time I happened to be walking that same way to the same parking structure at the same time of day it occurred to me that, "Oh yeah this is where I saw that naked guy, right ... over ... there." And there he was again, rummaging.

What had been a rather pedestrian footnote to my week the first time around was now a cosmic omen of great import! My mind was beset with a flood of questions and theories. Had he been naked in the interim? When was the last time he had, in fact, worn clothes - had it perhaps been years? If not a perennial nudist, how had he managed to lose his clothes again so quickly? Or was it just a daily routine of his - while others clock in and clock out, day in and day out, does this man every day at 6 PM remove his garments and go for a stroll?

It may have been a glitch in the Matrix. He may have been a Terminator, sent back in time on a mission! There may have been two identical model Terminators sent back in time - the first one to kill and the second one to protect! I saw no telltale electrical discharge craters, however. Perhaps he was a CIA operative in constant need of shifting his identity and that dumpster was his drop, where every day he would find a new passport, a dossier and a fresh set of clothes. A rationale I often turn to when I see something I don't understand is that I've found an alien, stranded on our planet, in search of fuel to power his spacecraft off this rock.

Surely, the true explanation must be a much sadder one. In that instant, it wasn't among those that rushed to the front of my mind. I'd done what I believe all people to be quite adept at doing and I'd overlaid reality with much more desirable and bearable scenarios. A necessary adaptation if one insists on being sentient; a defense mechanism for awareness. Unable to cope with the chaos, at times, imposing order instead and seeking reinforcement from ourselves for our vision of how it is and ought to be out there. The creative voice in our head reassures the observational one not to panic - the two are still more or less in accord and are in no imminent danger of canceling one another out. You know, all that stuff.

I hope John Connor is safe.

Monday, November 22, 2010


The way you are is perfect
Naked, raw, indisposed
Soft like purple feathers
Safe like chocolate silk
Hold your hair, your face, your hips
Love you till the end
Naked as we came
And still, we put on our snow jackets so that we stay warm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The skins we'd splayed whipped
from their nylon cords. We dropped
the cliffs and buggered out; the tent
was lost. Black ropes of sky
swayed from our ears like kelp. Our steps
made pits and waned and fell
and waned and fell and were undone.
I jumped
the rise; when I got up, there you were,
white as time. Then
sharks sang in my guts, unchanged,
unphased, ten billion years.

Black mussel, I've been silent, but I have not been
unseen. Inside the sea-green husk,
things have been
going on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Nearly Naked Man

Why have you worn shoes in the shower?
It was a choice you made upon realizing that you forgot your sandals...
an easy choice, given the amount of foot traffic in this locker room...
an easy choice, after learning the hard way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brian R. Young --In Praise of the Cow

Star watcher, source of the Milky Way, unflinching gazer,
you are The Thinker not carved by human tools,
the patient mother and father, the worrier of cud, the muller.

You are the choir of gently humming mills,
the thunder cloud, the observer
of the sun as it falls and rises.

You are exposed to the elements, yet impervious.
You are the restless chorus the crickets ignore.
Blessed giver of fecundity, it was you

who conceived the first numbers—one
and two—it was you who kept count—one two,
one two—of the steps, and though others

have gone on to count higher, it is you
who keeps the first numbers
for when they return. Your heart

of iron knows they will. You are
the cliffs by the ocean of clover.

Weave Magazine

Steven Barthelme : Nice Boy

"But," I said, slow, "we didn't order a thousand rabbits." Irresolute, uncertain. People push me around. I remembered a voice, a shabby man in Boston, my boss, saying, when he fired me, "You're a nice boy, Nick. But you're slow."

"They're bunnies," the skinny guy said. He had the brown clothes, the brown truck. "Everyone likes bunnies. For one rabbit, we sell six bunnies. Sign here." He tapped his clipboard with the pen. They were hopping on each other, pinkish, on my porch, crowding the door, open a few inches. The lawn was covered with them, you couldn't see the grass. I kicked one back with my boot.

The guy gave me a look. "That one has a heart condition," he said, and touched his chest. "He can't take much stress." I looked at his name, above his pocket, embroidered: N. But when I looked again, it said: Nikolai. It's my name, I thought.

No, I thought. I said, "What's this, this forty dollars down here?"

"I mowed your lawn," he said. "Look. Don't give me a hard time. We have people for people who give us a hard time." Gestured toward his truck.

There's nobody in that goddamn truck, I thought. I grabbed his throat. "Look," I said, pressing with my thumbs. "I just want you to like me, to think well of me."

But rabbits were streaming past me into my living room. The brown guy started coughing, choking, jerking, and then his eyes rolled back and he fell, ripped from my hand. Dead. My God. I hadn't meant to— He was threatening me, bullying me, with rabbits I didn't order, work I didn't hire. You could see the lawn now, he had mowed it.

Two shadowy people in the brown clothes were coming up the walk. Out by the truck a dozen more, loitering. Oh, Jesus.

"What have you done to your brother?" my mother said, in the shorts and khaki shirt. She held an iron plugged into a fat orange extension cord which rose across the yard, over the house across the street, and out of sight. My father stood there with a flat expression.

I looked down at the dead man. It was Andy, my brother.

Mother pushed the iron at me. Steam was blowing out of it, out of the arc of little holes. Why doesn't she offer me the handle? I thought. Her expression wasn't motherly. "Well, hurry up," she said. "You want him to die?"

My father was whispering to a rabbit on his shoulder. Inside the house rabbits had arranged themselves in three impossibly straight rows on the floor, the seat and back of the couch, murmuring like in a theater before the movie. Others milled around on the carpet making wrinkly faces. Maybe two dozen left in the yard.

I knelt down with the iron. I imagined myself floating in my brother's bloodstream pressing junk back against the walls of his arteries or veins or whatever I was in, crying. The dark blood raced along, carrying me with it, thick and sour-tasting.

"Jesus Christ, not that way," my father said. "Do you want to burn him?" He grabbed the iron from my hand, like always, and drew it gently back and forth over the body, the iron moving like a toy boat riding the bathwater, in slow motion, beautiful, in the expert way my father had done everything his whole life long. Everything stopped.

My brother opened his eyes, stood up uncertainly, an expression blooming on his face.

Rabbits hopped over each other, cheering, in that humming way that rabbits cheer. "Stop that hopulating," my father said, fiercely, but the rabbits ignored him, went right on cheering. Andy, smiling. I was cheering, too. I am a nice boy, but I'm slow.

Gulf Stream #3

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Call for Submissions

The Superstition Review, Arizona State University's literary magazine, want submissions for their spring edition.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

--Frank O’Hara, from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, 1971.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Harpur Palate

HARPUR PALATE is currently seeking submissions for our Summer 2011 theme issue: UNDERGROUND.

We are looking for fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction that takes us into the subterranean. We want to see the underbelly of the world. We want to see its roots. Go deep-sea diving, spelunking, into the depths of the mind. Dig up something for us, mark the envelope and submission "Underground Theme Issue" and send it to:

Harpur Palate
English Dept.
Binghamton University
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000

Prose or Nonfiction: Send anywhere from 250–8000 words
Poetry: 3–5 poems totaling no more than 10 pages
Sorry, no email submissions.