Monday, April 24, 2017
A connection at first touch.
What if technology could help
on the stink highway.
Name & name
What is your succulent?
Rarely the one you expect.
Trespass when it comes uninvited:
Artists of the south,
the great glass elevator: the world.
This tableau is positioned to contrast
the man behind the mind.
A sturdy stance and a blurred head,
the more ways to wear,
live your life
Towering sets, ornate costumes,
thanks for finding us.
To evoke a single arc
for an original mix
as spare and unconsoled as anything
overgrown with facial hair,
she makes narratives out of gestures,
half-buried in a mound of sand.
Every spit take and sight gag,
what would that sound like?
Blows the stuffing out of seashells,
the temples of the southern state.
Who purchases a book will receive a rose,
the heart of a puntarelle.
alarm at what they say, shock
like a woke hieroglyph.
Trigger the question
in my childhood bedroom,
smell even better in the future.
I wish my life was that free
with the culture, the attire,
the most precious vehicle
people want to see.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Where to go, what to do. A couple embarks on a marital experiment. They must explain. Let the lipstick fly! Reconciliation, however well meant, turns out to be an elusive ideal. This pre-Depression world is dominated by the wealthy. This show is about stage magic itself.
This is the final performance. This bilingual group slugs through brawny no-wave shows with little concern for personal safety or noise-induced hearing loss. All those women flinging themselves around in great swaths of fabric. It’s a method that can be dissatisfying, when the strangeness and desires turn out to be humdrum. A downcast female figure in profile, walking in low heels—she appears both illuminated by acid-yellow light and bathed in lurid red. Oh, yes, I go there all the time. Master an art that improves every realm of your life. I like things done in an orderly manner. If only everyone could have access to this! The bread would be tasty.
This whole thing of making bronze statues to last five thousand years—if everyone did that, there’d be no space left. Snowmobiling is popular, and people leave their car doors unlocked while they’re at the grocery store. It requires constant vigilance. This is not a drill. He owes it. It’s a magnificent place, with eighteen-foot-high ceilings and a working fireplace. Both crave attention.
It’s outrage of the hour. We’re not sure if we’re middle class. We put all our focus on the wrong problem. Like a giant vac with nine nozzles. The warning is clear. Both apply for a job in management. Can I give you a piece of advice?
We’re these two bug-eyed kids who’ve been told to stick to the conductor like glue. You don’t see the poverty, but it’s there. A kamikaze candidate abandons the usual talking points. In my view. I’m happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody. A cat has value. The whole family is very determined. Intensely secretive and filled with people with Ph.D.s, it has been sensationally profitable. Their brains are almost too strong. They’re just sheep. She reads every story, and calls when there are grammatical errors or typos. Things that she thinks put lead on the target.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
To mark the anniversary, here's my YouTube playlist with all the 49 songs from the book. It's possibly the most random playlist ever, but it will all make sense to my readers.
The opening song of the playlist, by the one and only Sabrina, isn't mentioned in the book directly, but it's an example of Euro disco pop which I do reference as the garish musical wallpaper of my childhood.
The very last song, "Because the Night" by Patti Smith, is the song I sang in Belgrade as NATO missiles were about to strike their first targets on March 24, 1999, when I was 25. Again, my readers find all this completely reasonable.
Monday, March 13, 2017
How refugees escape to safety. She is working on a novel. As if we need data to prove that human reason has its limits! Create something personal for your home with one of these needlepoint kits. He has already rethought the cavernous 808 drums of his city’s sound. It blends the romance between the son of an oyster farmer and the daughter of an aristocrat with a criminal investigation into the disappearance of several tourists. The comic action – set against the backdrop of war and chaos sparked by governmental folly – involves traumas and comas, grief and anguish. Best show on television. Dance music, with its easy beat and ever-expanding appeal, has influenced all kinds of musicians, banging sounds and styles into rigid form while working through new tones in real time. They changed the face of a nation. Who said there’s no more music on television? We’re bringing you art + ideas that inspire and provoke. It is time to rattle the cage. And the cast was charged with obscenity. We’re in the late eighties, with appropriate music cues.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all. Best of the year! Its curiously symmetrical composition has a flattening effect. Opera and dance have a long history as bedfellows, though since the late nineteenth century they have been more or less estranged. The tall man puts on the chignon and the little voice again. According to the legend, the impish goblins like to materialize in dark, humid corners, mostly after dusk, and sometimes when the air moistens with rain. My no. 1 color combination – as featured in my collections dating back to the 1960s and now revisited here in spring 2017. See: museums, monuments and memorials. Catch the blossoms. The month-long celebration of international cultures offers two embassy open houses. We’re familiar with the contours of the story.
A man of few intimates, he often cites acquaintances. We’ve been told that a few of the ticket holders are planning to cause trouble. But I’m a human first.
If nobody comes here, it’s not the land of the free. A dozen or so people show up each day, looking for advice, protection, and a place to sleep. My life here is so hard and dangerous. The accommodations are clean, if rudimentary: creaky wooden floors, clanking radiators, leaky bathrooms, and steel-framed beds. Behold, as I guide our conversation to my narrow area of expertise. The real story, in real time. Does this feel calm? I am going for the unknown. I don’t have enough money in my wallet. More people are making hasty decisions. Is this normal? I always have my own rules, and I can bend them if I want. Like heaven.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
I helped found this Chicago mag back in 2008. It has taught me how to edit serious literary works. It's been introducing me to writers from around the world, and it's teaching me how to code. Volume 8 is up.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
1. At my core, I'm a stranger to passion. I've seen it in others: a passion for soccer or partying, for example. I've messed around with passion myself. Passion is another word for despair.
2. Commitment is what I know more intimately. I recognized it even as a child whenever I saw pensioners playing bocce or chess in the street. On that patch of dirt in the otherwise leafy park, heavy balls hardly moving, the players were calm and focused. On that folding table covered with a plastic tablecloth with a garish floral pattern, the only pattern the chess players saw was the checkered board and black and beige figures. That has always made sense to me.
3. Even though I only began teaching part-time at the age of 28, and full-time at 38, it's the line of work I knew I'd fall into one way or another. As I write this, I'm 42.
4. For the first 14 years as a teacher, every August, I'd write my syllabi and get excited about the semester to come. I knew my syllabi were fiction, a fantasy of a meticulously charted and (about to be) perfectly executed plan to help a group of strangers, teenagers who had just become adults, take control of language. I'd feel like teaching is my passion. This August, that feeling is finally gone.
5. For most of us, being a teacher involves thinking about teaching non-stop. That thinking is usually not in the forefront: it's more like a quiet but incessant background hum, like the sound of traffic behind closed windows and doors. I used to resent that.
6. For most of us, being a teacher involves knowing what your balance of money and time will be only one semester at a time. If there's enough money, that means you've strung together three or more part-time teaching jobs and will be able to pay for your health insurance, but will have no time to read anything other than student papers nor write anything other than feedback for those papers. (This is a problem when reading compelling books and writing the best work you can is the source of your mental balance.) If there's enough time, it means instant ramen and no health insurance. (The two can be a lethal combination.) I used to fear both scenarios.
7. This August, I feel no excitement, resentment, or fear. In their place, there's detachment.
8. What's the difference between resignation and detachment? In resignation, I'm frustrated and desperate. My ego is wrapped up with my day job, and it's never even remotely satisfied. At the same time, I plunge into a hobby—in my case it's neither a spectator sport nor partying, but that doesn't matter—with passion bordering on desperation.
9. But in detachment, I'm able to do my day job competently, and commit to my work of reading and writing and music with a sense of calm and focus. There might be a hum going on in the background: folders of papers, appointments and trainings, several work inboxes full of emails, ideas for future classroom activities, thoughts about the state of higher ed. So be it. Every day, I plug in my guitar with no other reason but to play it. I put lines on a page with no other reason but to convey images and ideas in a way that surprises me. I open a book for no reason but to experience images and ideas I am not able to convey myself.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
In my brain, there is a video file. If I hit play, I see two married couples--my parents one of the couples--and a single dude in a car. (I wasn't there; my brain simply filed away a story I heard as a child.) My dad is driving, the single dude is in the passenger seat. In the back seat: my mom, her friend, and her friend's husband, also a close friend. They're crossing a bridge after an evening out. It's a broad, gorgeous concrete bridge over the Danube, somewhere in the Pannonian part of Yugoslavia. As they're driving across the empty bridge in the middle of the night circa summertime 1978, the radio is playing an old-timey, waltzy song. My dad pulls over, opens the door to the small Fiat-ish car (but made in Yugoslavia and thus called simply Fitcho), and the song spills and trickles all over the concrete bridge like syrup in a 3/4 time signature. On cue they all exit the car, and my mom's friend and my dad begin waltzing all around the car.
The brain file is a reworking of a story nobody remembers. But I remember my dad telling that story and commenting how the single dude--a foreign friend, it turns out--who was hanging out with them was a bit shocked that two friends of the opposite sex who were not married to each other would hold each other and dance. The foreign friend had came to Yugoslavia from another country to study. He had to learn the language from scratch in order to become an engineer. He made friends, such as my parents and their friends. But he never drank and never danced with a girl. My dad and his friend danced to show him that it wasn't a big deal. I remember that story and I remember feeling embarrassed for my parents and their assumptions about this foreign friend, who I hadn't even suspected, for a long time, was a foreign friend, since I had little concept of countries. But, having learned he was a guest in "our" country, my gut told me it just wasn't proper host-like behavior for my parents and their friends to make assumptions and try to educate their friend who had just obtained his medical or engineering degree.
This friend was, I understand that now, from one of the Arabic countries that had joined the Non-Alignment Movement, along with Yugoslavia, India, Indonesia, Ghana, and Egypt, back in the 60s. Instead of studying in his own country or in the West, he ended up in Yugoslavia. Perhaps he later married a Yugoslav and stayed in the country. Or perhaps he settled back in his homeland. Or found a third country. Perhaps he had to flee and become a refugee in 1991 or 1992 or 1995 or 1999. Or 2016.
Perhaps he remembers that evening on the bridge, that waltz, the feeling of lightheadedness, the laughter, the certainty of a bright future in the summer night. Perhaps he remembers looking up at the sky, at all the same constellations he'd see back in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria. (I still don't know where he was from. I was too young to grasp geography back in the 70s.) Perhaps he remembers his provincial, well-meaning friends dancing on the bridge, and perhaps he remembers his punk rock friends in Belgrade jumping around to this crazy record called "Non-Alignment Pact" by Pere Ubu that was new at the time. They sang:
I wanna make a deal with you girl
And get it signed by the heads of state
I wanna make a deal with you girl
Be recognized round the world
It's my nonalignment pact
At night I can see the stars on fire
I can see the world in flames