The mime has stigmata
and that is a problem.
He is not even Catholic
but considered converting.
The wounds first appeared
during a Thursday night show.
It was not Holy Thursday,
but it was wholly sold out.
Though no photos exist,
the memory is fixed:
his palms flat and up,
blood pinking white gloves.
Everyone knew it was not
part of the performance:
his routines include sandwich
making, window washing,
cello playing. No
violence. Afterward, he
burned the gloves, washed
his hands with such force
they were redder than blood.
Someone called the bishop.
He hadn’t worn gloves
in years, asked if he could
borrow the mime’s,
who said he’d burned all
his pairs, convinced cloth
had given him the rash.
They stood together
on the empty stage,
burning beneath the light,
concluding that pantomime
was an essential ingredient
for most professions.
Nick Ripatrazone’s most recent book is The Fine Delight: Postconciliar Catholic Literature (Cascade Books). He is also the author of two books of poetry, Oblations and This Is Not About Birds (Gold Wake Press), and two forthcoming novellas. This Darksome Burn (firthFORTH) and We Will Listen For You (CCM Press). He lives with his wife and twin daughters in New Jersey.
Susan Steinberg’s new fiction collection, SPECTACLE (Graywolf), is a series of linked and formally-inventive short stories told by female narrators who are dealing with catastrophic as well as domestic tragedies.
The narrators of a seemingly singular history convey the stories, but are not (Steinberg says) the same narrator—or at least they weren’t written, if I understand Steinberg, as a continuous narrator. So, in this book the same events in two stories can be changed depending on which unnamed narrator—of roughly the same age, build, hair color, and city of origin as Steinberg—is narrating the SPECTACLE. This structure creates a narrative that overlaps, readdresses, carries over pain and learned approaches, and anxiety—the consummate whole getting higher in fever pitch until disaster and ultimately catharsis are reached.
SPECTACLE is an apt title—because the events of the world, the spectacles, and conflicts make narrators who are strong and clever and aware, unable to escape the pressures that build around them and at times the pressures that fall from above. Steinberg’s narrators are powerful, seductive, wounded, and aware of their roles, their performance of gender, identity, and “self.” They are tough.
SPECTACLE has been praised by the New Yorker, nominated for the year’s O’Connor Prize, and reviewed at Bookslut, Publishers Weekly (starred review), SF Chronicle, and at no shortage of other places where “experimental fiction” is most often passed over, proscribed, verboten!
Why is this book getting unvarying attention? Of course it is many things, none so much I might suggest as important as voice—replete with sex, confession, revelation, and genuine risk.
While Steinberg is not telling the factual truth in these stories, she is doing something crafted with such risqué confession that readers take her stories as factual (I admit I did. Even though I knew “better.” Even though she was my first writing teacher and taught me that fiction is fiction). Readers conflate Steinberg with her narrator(s)—and reading this book you see instantly that this is a position of danger for any writer. Because maybe you can’t make this crazy up. Because there’s risk in really talking about one’s gender. Because it isn’t crazy; it’s genius. It’s truth. These speakers are so solipsistic they lose identity, become universal in their extreme isolation and anxiety—they retain awareness and becoming weaponized in awareness of gender.
This collection can be read as an experimental novel composed of many fictions forming an aggregate and rupturing whole. Here is one you cannot look away from, which implicates the minds and bodies of the readers, which reveals what has remained taboo far too long. These stories are not political, not ideological—they are honest in such a way as to make them threatening and unnerving and difficult to talk about.
LBG: Do you mind if we start with something simple, from right off the cover of your book?
S.M.S: I don’t mind.
LBG: Okay. On the back of the book is this synopsis: “SPECTACLE bears witness to alarming and strange incidents: carnival rides and plane crashes, affairs…and amateur porn, vandalism and petty theft. In these stories, wounded women stand at the edge of disaster and risk it all to speak their sharpest secrets.”
LGB: Is this how you see the book? Is that what the book bears witness to—to strange incidents and wounded women at the edge of disaster? Speaking their sharpest secrets?
S.M.S: The book does contain these specific things: affairs, amateur porn, vandalism, planes crashes, and theft. The book also contains the abstractions you mention: secrets and disaster. But had I written the copy, it likely would have mentioned more technical aspects of the book: semi-colons, fragments, one-sentence paragraphs. I tend to think more about the “how” than the “what” when asked what my work is about. But it’s the back of a book. I think readers want the what.
But I don’t think the incidents I write are strange. Do you?
Begging for It
by Alex Dimitrov
Four Way Books, April 2013
96 pages / $15.95 Order from Four Way Books
1. I think fantasy is going to kill me and that is ok.
2. I want to fuck a beautiful thing and not get attached.
3. I want to be a twink getting fucked by a twink and the twink I am getting fucked by should be me.
4. Twinks can also get attached.
5. “Before I leave here, I want / to hear my name change in the mouth / of another animal.”
6. Sometimes I wish a boy was a dog so that being in unrequited love w/ the fantasy I create around him would be spiritual and not just a voracious attempt to fill a hole, which I know better than to try and fill with flesh, or worse yet, flesh coated in a fantasy to which the flesh will not conform.
7. At least then I would be feeding a dog.
8. Feeding a dog is spiritual.
9. Getting fucked in the heart is spiritual.
10. It is dangerous to get fucked in the heart, especially if you don’t let the fucker know he is fucking your heart.
11. This kind of omission serves to trick a fucker, who doesn’t want any hearts involved, into fucking your heart and/or tricks you into believing that your heart won’t get fucked.
12. Sometimes you genuinely don’t know you are getting fucked in the heart til it’s over.
13. Another thing that is spiritual is when a poet doesn’t try to bullshit you with language.
14. Alex Dimitrov doesn’t try to bullshit you with language.
15. Alex Dimitrov meets a conceptual poem in the street, takes it home, impales it on a cross covered in Sylvia Plath’s Daddy’s chest hair and says: Let me introduce you to your heart.
16. This review is not about Alex Dimitrov.
April 15th, 2013 / 12:33 pm
Stephanie Barber’s new book, NIGHT MOVES (Publishing Genius), is an exquisite corpse-style collection of YouTube comments on the Bob Seger classic. It is one long epistolary poem comprised of many short poems.
The text at once contains lost youth, a melancholic longing for past loves, as well as the potential for chaos, connection, vitriol and fun within the realm of internet anonymity. NIGHT MOVES also depicts the range of responses that one piece of art can elicit, from fierce loyalty to disdain, deeply personal symbolism to some shit that somebody found by way of 30 Rock. The question of what defines poetry — found, conceptual, or otherwise — and of who can be called a “poet” is never far from the surface. Here are a few excerpts:
To Julie… where ever you are. I STILL remember the first time I saw you in psychology class, 10th grade, spring of “76″. You made the nights move for me 77-78. I will carry those memories in my heart forever, and only stop, with the last beat of my heart….
points all her own sittin way up high… << what does that mean?
I can really relate to this song as I have a daughter that is a product of the “Night Moves” and you can bet that she knows it. She is still working on the “Night Moves” what a Gal!!
NYE – OH NO WERE NOT FAR FROM IT AND AUTUM CAN’T CLOSE IN BEFORE I HAVE U TO LOVE FOREVER!! NO BACK ALLEY TRUSTED WOODS FOR MY BABYGIRL ANY MORE, BECAUSE WE DO HAVE TOO MUCH TO LOSE!! I LOVE YOU !!DADDY!! I’m coming for you soon!! OUR LOVE WILL NEVER END! REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE LIKE THIS SONG ? IM SO GLAD WE WEVE FOUND EACH OTHER ONCE MORE. IM IN LOVE WITH YOU MORE N MORE EACH DAY! (PURE) DADDY
88 people didn’t get any in high school…
Gina will never know the truth
The 60,s from Nam to Woodstock you had to experience it.God Bless America
u gotta loveee bob segar u fag, it seems like you have devoted ur fag life into talkin about bob segar
hell, i’m 81 and i love this song. anyone who was ever young has to choke a little when you hear it. it’s the best anthem of youth ever written
got me knocked up in 84
wtf is a pie in the sky summit?
this song makes me so nostalgic it actually hurts
Me too man, me too
NIGHT MOVES is a strange combination of dusty Polaroid-old and lol-contemporary. It also presents an intersection between universality and pop, and the ways that pop culture can summon universal emotions or be, in itself, a shared experience. I don’t think this book would have worked so well had it centered around Rhiannon, Dream On, Show Me the Way, Slow Ride, Dream Weaver, Carry On Wayward Son, or any other classic from the same year. There is an inherent nostalgia in the song Night Moves, an awareness of itself aging, of “autumn closing in,” which makes it a catalyst for worshipful confessions from the lovers and hilarious takedowns from the haters. I asked Barber, a Baltimore filmmaker whose work has been screened at MOMA and The Tate Modern, some questions:
Young ones, can you tell me when pizza came to be emblematic of all that is free & joyous & alive in American (and perhaps Canadian) culture? I mean, ppl always loved pizza. Pizza was v big in my day too. But there is such a proliferation of pizzapoems & pizzatweets & pizzaposts & pizzamemes & pizzagifs & cyber pizza rolls, that this momentum: 1. Eclipses the potential for any other food (say, Oreos) to gain any footing (which is fine) (but interesting). 2. Leaves me to wonder if everyone who claims to be obsessed w pizza is truly obsessed w pizza or if they are obsessed w the idea of pizza/the pizza movement/pizza as symbolic of something higher, a utopian ideal, anarchy, an eternal youthful freedom. I feel abt the pizza insurgency the way I did when I had to google the word “trill.” Same with the whole “Dad” thing. Help me.
should they may
be could you would
she called me up in
may and thought
she should but I would
not. can I may
could you might
then we fight —
he said should she
would she could but
which they might
and she could see there
only what she looked at
which was not there.
New York based Sophia Le Fraga holds a B.A. in Linguistics and Poetry from New York University. Her poetry has appeared in Lambda Literary Review’s Poetry Spotlight, The Broome Street Review, and Lemon Hound, among other publications. It has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, and in 2011, throughout Berlin. Her chapbook I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE INTERNET is out now, and her book of Whitman erasures, Song of Me and Myself is forthcoming.
This poem was inspired by The Hanged Man card of the tarot deck.
from Fugitives of Speech
the trees fanned out around Mallender
as Sheer had described them
during his concussion-induced study session
in the woods behind his house
here too the branches wavered without the weight
of their leaves Mallender couldn’t focus
his eyes upon them maybe they weren’t entirely trees
too ephemeral milky black a few shades thick enough
not to be pure apparitions more like a neuron
diluted in the foggy ocean of the sky
the base of the tree
unconnected to the very earth
flickered in tune to the wind
which drew Mallender
plodding in one direction
a feint blue light
pulsed through the persuasively permanent
when Mallender came to a circular clearing
he arrived also with the knowledge that his journey
had been long and full of peril
though he hadn’t experienced that interim
must have been a leap in time
as a jellyfish’s body fluctuates in the sea
translucent blue vespers shimmered in the area
cleared of trees
metal appendages detached from a body
that remained connected by the pale blue aura
it all floated in the shape of a body making an X
a body mid jumping jack not unlike Davinci’s
Virtuvian man that Mallender’s mother had on bookplates
in her Audubon books from the 70′s
the entire body spun making the blue fan out
into a sphere perfect except
for slight delineations call them borderlines
between each spinning section of the body
The legs separated from the sphere
and came at Mallender like a sliced blue tomato
the blue disappeared into the legs and immediately
the metal could take any shape it wished
not as fluid as T-1000 but more imaginative
and without the one-track-violent mind
the living metal sliced itself into silver byzantine halos
hovering slowly and developing wings
the accoutrements of angels without bodies
filling but not overwhelming the grey sky
the arms next detached themselves
from the still spinning
but increasingly piecemeal sphere
in front of Mallender they became a lathe and spun
and carved themselves into an obelisk bearing the hexagram
Mallender had cast for himself so recently
not just an obelisk but a sort of chimney shrouding the sky
with another sky from grey to green to hazel
next the head lowered itself to Mallender
the hair spread out as it had before at Whitney Park
rivers untangling from each other below
the half angels and golden brown sky
not simply rivers arbitrarily distributed
they spelled out words in luscious cursive
which Mallender could not read
though he knew the message vital to him
riverwriting show me the riverwriting he yelled
in response the final segment the torso approached him
the metal condensed itself into a chrome pomegranate
the seeds floating in air sprouting into
those wilting as fast as they bloomed
into blue herons that paced
and trumpeted silently into the air
the vision for all its chaotic happenings
maintained an un-earthly rhythm
the herons’ awkward steps always in line with one another
the halos spun around Mallender with the rhythm
of a torsion pendulum on an anniversary clock
the rivers sang
and in a flash without thunder
Diana stood before Mallender
just her the hazel sky and the trees
she was looking at him with respect but not love
as she had at Havland pond
from the trees still inky black
came a single note an ah
voices of the young and old male and female
it helped release Diana’s nature from this machine
Diana dispersed as the sky had from the obelisk
the trees turned green the chrome steel body
stood at attention with a blank stare on its flawless featureless face
but still Mallender’s affections for this husk of metal and energy
did not change
Ben Pease is a poet and visual artist with degrees from Emerson College and Columbia University. He hails from Ludlow, MA, the setting for his next book, Fugitives of Speech. He is an assistant professor at ASA College in New York City.
This poem was inspired by The Chariot card of the tarot deck.
Pulling the Sun
Once, drunk on an island in the south of France
at a dinner party
a woman read my cards.
She didn’t speak any English.
Simone’s mom translated for me.
I wavered on a precipice
watching her lay each card down.
I looked unhinged into her low stream of French.
Her voice was amazing.
Full of calorific heat. She pushed coals
around my feet, pounding, her teeth
crooked in a fabulous smile.
Her hands were soft, multiplying rapidly,
gesturing through a veil
of incredible wine.
She set a video camera beside us.
She was making a documentary.
I felt like a female Great White shark
mating in the near-soporific effect
of a feeding frenzy.
I was riding a tiny horse
out of a sunflower field.
The whole feng shui of the house fluttered
around me. The sun sunk and died in my arms.
It’s something to do with your mother, she began.
And a bone-china teacup floated
in front of face and cracked
there’s too much at stake.
The body, the brain,
the liquor of the past
pouring in like a tonic.
In the middle of nowhere
the brain is more meaningful.
Some days I forget where I am.
I feel nothing. I know
I watch the sea admonish the people within it.
I’m enormous from eating
in rooms of attractive European conversations
I can’t partake in.
Simone like a ten foot tall Amazon warrior holding my hand through the void.
I could hear a phone ringing off in the distance.
A swift single shot. Everything was hitting
home. Knowledge was
idiosyncratic. Somewhat retained.
The woman was the new girlfriend of the uncle.
He stood a little on the side, fatalistic, troubled
when his face wasn’t in league with hers.
He didn’t get along with the family.
The mother had just died suddenly the weeks before.
The girlfriend walked around
like a black haired shaman, nonplussed with a camera.
Mid-fifties in dark red lipstick.
We communicated all night via outside sources.
When she looked at me
I wanted to be cast down
into the subjective feeling of helplessness.
I was reading a lot of Yeats at the time.
Imagined that I would bicycle lusciously through the South of France.
But my hair stood up on my arms in the wind.
A hologram in the middle of a culturally rich environment.
It was a kind of foreign breakdown.
An untranslatable doom.
She pulled The Sun,
enveloped in accurate lunacy.
My lips were stained various shades of mauve.
I couldn’t see myself as something
living. I was intellectually outside of the conversation.
She spoke long melodic prophecies, thus interpreted.
She hit a nerve.
I eventually passed out on the settee.
Bianca Stone is the author of several poetry chapbooks, including I Saw The Devil With HIs Needlework (Argos Books), and an ongoing poetry-comic series from Factory Hollow Press. She is the illustrator of Antigonick, a collaboration with Anne Carson (New Directions), and her poems have appeared in such magazines as Conduit, Tin House, and APR. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
This poem was inspired by The Sun card of the tarot deck.
THE LAST FIVE CENTURIES WERE UNEVENTFUL
The last five centuries were uneventful
the stitches that melted
from my ripped open cunt
tasted like mint and changed color
when I peed
I peed with the door open
because this is bounty
the universe has a fat lip
we put every cock from China
inside it and splash
in the slippery oriental jizz
you feel like seppakuing because your butthole is unretractable
you feel like seppakuing because your butthole is too determined
you feel like seppakuing because one time a man was rejected by a woman
she said, You’re creepy
and he got a gun
and wrote a manifesto
against bikram yoga
against women with great bodies
against women who want to have babies with other men
against women who want to have babies with men who are not allowed to be part of their lives after they have the baby
against women who know they are good looking
against women who have died for knowing they are good looking
against women who loved women and mocked men for jerking off to the idea of a woman touching a woman
I have jerked off to the idea of a man
jerking off to the idea of a woman touching a woman
and that idea bought a samurai sword from ebay
I wanted to have a baby
I wanted to carry my baby to term
I wanted to have milk oozing from my tits
I wanted to have bigger tits than the tits I have now
I wanted to drink my own milk and breastfeed myself
I wanted to breastfeed my mother and tell her I love her
I wanted to miscarry a baby by falling down the stairs
I wanted to toast to my own miscarriage with breast milk from my tits
I wanted to have bigger tits without having a baby
I wanted you to tell me I’m the reason why the world is going to hell
I wanted to give you the hell you said I was capable of creating
no one really cares but you do and I do
we take the relics of entire countries
and trash them in the sea
when we dive for the past
we find unearthed thoughts
the fertility of what you think could one day be
is just the honest desire to be remembered after you’re dead
so much that you focus on how to be great
so much that you focus on how to be new
so much that you forget to love your father
so much that you forget to love your mother
so much that you forget to love your children
so much that you forget to love your pets
so much that you would forsake the barren godforsaken twice
farted sea which gave rise to the queen and her queenly farts
and her princely kingdom
where she once told you and I and our children to fear everything
and we did
and we lived like that
and we still live that
and we still know nothing
hiding our big dreams in the invisible centers of roses
where we feel big and round and ready
JENNY ZHANG is the author of the poetry collection, Dear Jenny, We Are All Find (Octopus Books, 2012.) She writes for teenage girls at Rookie magazine, and teaches high school students in the Bronx. You can find her at www.jennybagel.com
This poem was inspired by The Empress card of the tarot deck.
I was quiet
As I went
Down the road
By the ocean
I was quiet
Or I wasn’t
You didn’t know me
You didn’t care
I was a unicorn
On a lonely road
And the sky
Was green, pink
Lonely yellow stars
Hung by the balustrades
And the moon was gel-like
Petty, and forgotten
Did we kiss, or fuck
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know anymore
I know the blue
Of the evening
And that the moon lit its face
On my road
What I’ve come to look for
I don’t see
What I’ve come to find
I don’t see anymore
Still you walk
Ten steps ahead of me
In the foreground
I can almost see
Will you turn around
Will you turn around
No you do not care
How I wander
All the things
The other time
When the sky was mist
I don’t want
I don’t want
I don’t want anymore
Dorothea Lasky is the author of Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all out from Wave Books. She can be found online here: www.birdinsnow.com.
This poem was inspired by The Hermit card of the tarot deck
Elsa, IT’S OKAY. CRYING On The Bathroom Floor Is
Elsa, IT’S OKAY. CRYING on the bath-
room floor is a RIGHT of passage. You will
PRESS YOUR CHEEK against the bathroom tile and
find comfort in that irony. You will REPLAY THE
THINGS he said to you in those first 2 weeks
of dating. You will REMEMBER YOUR PLANS
to go to ———— together. IT WILL
FEEL like a condom on your heart. You
will DO THIS at least 17 times be-
fore you turn 35. EVERY TIME hurt-
ing will be different. You will EAT ONLY
WAFFLES and hope you lose twelve pounds. This is
a ritual YOU WILL CALL HEARTBREAK.
IT WILL DESTROY YOU LIKE NOTHING ELSE COULD.
Elsa When You Are Single This World Is
Elsa when you are single this world
is so amazing. It’s like an enor-
mous penis. It PAYS ATTENTION. Your
nipples harden just thinking about it.
Everyone wants your vagina. Your nail
polish changes color according to
your emotions. Elsa when you are
single it never rains. You can get away
with the things girls do in public bathrooms.
Do you miss me, Elsa? My best ideas
with you come when I’m brushing my teeth. I
wouldn’t worry about it. Instead spend
your time building syllabi, buying
wedding clothes. Wiping bug guts from walls.
These Elsa poems were inspired by The Star card of the tarot deck
I Wanted To Write It For You
Someone has written it lightly in dark paint.
Did you come here to be with yourself?
Did you finish that day you couldn’t begin?
That’s not what was written but what I came to ask.
I wanted to live with you.
I wanted to know where you leave yourself
and who you live inside.
Someone has written it lightly in dark paint.
I wanted to call you, I wanted to hear
just you. Talking. To me.
I wanted to see your mouth move.
I wanted to write you.
A novel, no letter.
Do you understand?
I wanted to write
without a beginning or end.
I wanted to write just the love part for you.
Someone has written it lightly in dark paint.
Above a window. Near a fire escape.
Because we have no escape
I wanted to write it.
Someone has written it lightly in dark paint
like I wanted to write it for you.
Just the love part.
That’s the only thing I wanted to write.
That’s what it says. Above a window.
Framed by a fire escape.
That’s what someone has written.
Just the love part.
There’s no plot. Nothing happens.
Nothing will happen in this poem.
Nothing much happens in life.
Nothing worth knowing about really.
Just the love part.
No beginning or end.
I wanted to write it for you.
Alex Dimitrov’s first book of poems, Begging for It, will be published by Four Way Books in March 2013. He is the founder of Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in New York City. Dimitrov’s poems have been published in The Yale Review, The Kenyon Review, Slate, Poetry Daily, Tin House, Boston Review, and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize in 2011. He is also the author of American Boys, an e-chapbook published by Floating Wolf Quarterly in 2012. Dimitrov works at the Academy of American Poets, teaches creative writing at Rutgers University, and frequently writes for Poets & Writers.
I Wanted To Write It For You was inspired by The Lovers card of the tarot deck.
by Ben Mirov
Octopus Books, 2012
95 pages / $12.00 buy from SPD
A shamanic healer in San Francisco, who charges way more money than $12 USD, says we are always every age we have ever been. She promises to heal us of the behaviors that once protected us, at 3 and 8 and 13, but now no longer serve us. She will heal us with repeated sessions in which she asks ‘who is talking?’ and ‘what age is that person?’
For $12 USD, Ben Mirov’s HIDER ROSER provides direct textual access to this sort of temporal and spatial inquiry. You can keep it in your bag. You can have it all the time. What’s more, the poet reveals his own story (or the story of a mirror character) (or many mirror characters) (who is talking who is talking?) reducing the feelings of aloneness we may experience on our own trips. He gives us his eyeball, still wet. He gives us his ID. I read this book during a week of bad panic attacks, or “death lite” as I like to call them. I felt understood by Mirov’s book. “If your wolf gets too heavy / don’t pop the flares,” he advises. “No one will rescue you. You are the rescue team.”
Simultaneous threads of fear and acceptance run through these poems. The speaker watches himself disintegrate. The Self and its idea of who and what it is are not solid. Yet in knowing that he lacks the power to stop the fracture, Mirov’s speaker possesses the wisdom to embrace the dissolution.
November 16th, 2012 / 1:21 pm
A paper cutout-style animated video by Dan Lichtenberg adapted from Diana Salier’s poem WHAT I SAY WHEN YOU ASK WHAT I’M UP TO, from her new book LETTERS FROM ROBOTS.
I wrote a blurb for every story in the new issue of New York Tyrant.
Luke Goebel guest-edited this issue and dedicated it to his brother, who passed away last year. The quality of the writing in here is killer. Sometimes when a journal has so many big names it’s all b-sides. But everybody brought it. Also, most of these pieces contend in some way with the dual burdens of the physical body and family, so the issue as a whole feels like a unified fantasy of escape from a packed boiler room.
Also there is a release party this Friday at KGB Bar in NYC. There will be an open bar from 8-10 PM and no readings.
“Amber, Freckled” by Cooper Renner
Renner’s terse prose dissolve the notion of the fixed self in a surreal, genderless kitchen. Kill your family.
“Clyde Roy” by Brandon Hobson
Whose body is this? That is the question Clyde Roy and so many of us face. Readers who want out of themselves will identify with this story. Kill your family.
untitled drawing by Atticus Lish
On looseleaf paper, Lish portrays a baby who gives his mother more sexual pleasure than her husband. Kill your husband.