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Maria DamonTake-off: You Diss- Topiary

Maria Damon

When I sit down to write, November 25, 2000, I’m beset by a swarming myriad of diffuse exuberances, agitations, desires, dreads and erotic terrors, the paralysis I once saw in a hare being chased by a fox on the median strip of an airport runway—I was seated in the plane coursing down the runway watching the predatory drama which took place in a faint wash of fresh December snow. The enormous hare froze in place and the fox was bearing down fast but as the plane took off the din and chaotic air disoriented the fox so much that it ran right past the now-statued hare and trotted out onto the runway ...  I’m always both fox and hare—disoriented, paralyzed, acting, reacting, freezing or blindly continuing right past my putative goal to produce some unexpected result.

I had no idea, for example, that when I sat down to write “when I sit down to write” I’d end up writing the fox-on-the-runway memory, which is less than ten years old. I thought I’d write about old ghosts and older desires, and I’m sure that about a hundred or so words into this runway I will.

It strikes me as noteworthy that I’ve continually imagined the description of this exercise as beginning “when you sit down to write” and just this morning—November 25, 2000, after a Thanksgiving in which I was truly grateful to be alive—more details may follow—just this morning as I printed out Nada’s description-cum-urgent-appeal I realize it does not say “when you sit down to write” but rather “during the act of writing...” To what can I attribute this persistent misprision on my part other than the intrusion of that anxiety that makes the gearing-up for sitting-down more of an anticipatory preoccupation than the actual “writing itself” whatever that is? It’s the swarm of ghosts called Mourning, Melancholia, Rage, Perfectionism, Prozac (cognitive impairment), Tug, Undertow to which I’m losing my train; there’s a brain drain in my think tank.

All the drama takes place before I “sit down to write,” before I’m in the duration of the act of writing. But all of this is only provisionally true—some months ago I would have responded differently, I would have said the whole thing was torture, that I’m lucky to put in a sentence a day sometimes when I’m working on certain critical projects. My so-called book for example. At the mention of it my thoughts scatter like buckshot like a flock of gamebirds startled by the shot, I can’t follow a line of flightwords to any logical terminus and my heart flutters with restless irritability in the face of my frenzied inarticulateness. There, now this really is torture, I can’t bear to write those ideas that mean so much to me—the celebration and analysis of quaint “écriture brute” which others find contemptibly mediocre, immersed in prefab sentiment, etc.—newspaper verse, poetry written for funerals by orphaned children—real tearjerkers that make my avant-garde pals puke, cringe and wince, and that outrage my craft-oriented poet friends. How can I “explain” “myself” or my “project” how can I slow this frantic brain-pulse down sufficiently to present the proper context whereby the beautiful fragments of raw words that I tend and cherish can be palatably processed by the “real writers,” “real critics,” etc. The frustration becomes embodied in my windpipe—it’s the body of my father, who turned gold and leaf-like in his last days almost thirty years ago and then on his death his fragile body folded into a fetal ball and moved wholesale into mine, cutting off my larynx right at throat level (redundant?)—he got between me and me, I couldn't talk through him. What if he dissolves and I lose him, at what cost do I write, claim myself unambiguously as a writer? And then there’s the sweet on-the-verge-of boyfriend I repudiated harshly three days after my father died, who later turned out to be a murderer, at what cost do I reclaim that adolescent eroticism in all its enormity? This confession is spilling out clumsily, hurriedly, and I’m not “connecting” with it, possibly because it corresponds too closely to what I thought I was spozed to write, what I see as the psychological underpinnings of a lifelong “writer’s block.” Interesting that I read Nada’s description as an invitation to confession. “You’re so unambiguously a poet,” my college friends would say, “so absolutely a writer, but you don’t write!” And two decades later when I meet the langpos in Louisville, Charles B asks, “Do you write poetry? I know you write criticism poetically, but do you write poetry?” Noyesnoyesno, I try not to think in those genre-divisive terms, but of course I’ve internalized them ho-hum.

Writing “about” the demons and ghosts, Tug, Rage, Undertow and their pals, doesn’t get me anywhere on my travels from dystopia to utopia—from “sitting down to write” to “during the act of writing.” It’s not working, it’s a threadbare narrative that does nothing for me, I’m sick of it, don’t wanna be a victim, don’t wanna acknowledge my oppressors by giving them brainspace and page-space, but there they are (yawn), under the collective rubric called “About.” Rhymes with self-doubt, rhymes with gender, rhymes with not one but two (count ‘em) ex-beaux in the pen for murder, rhymes with silence during sex (o who cares) rhymes with “the walls are thin with fear,” rhymes with blah blah blah and yada yada, warden, yada yada yada. Rhymes with so what? Gotta go now, I’ll come back in a more utopian moment.

So—when I sat down to write today, Novmber 27, 2000, at the café, a former student came up and introduced himself, said he was taking classes from Lucie Brock-Broido and Carolyn Forché, not bad for a kid whose creative writing T.A. here at the U of MN told him he was such a bad poet he should never take another creative writing class. He'd been out East to check out Harvard and B.U. for grad school, after the graduate student in our dept here who was in charge of advising undergrads had told him to forget graduate school, it was impossible to get in and then impossible to get a job if you did get in, and I remember that incident, some years ago his coming to my office almost in tears to tell me this and my saying, don’t ever let anyone piss on your dreams just because they’re having a hard day. He cleans houses to support his poetry habit, it’s great to see him. I kept saying, that was a really fun class you were in, a few years ago, hoping he’d say, yeah you were one of the best teachers I ever had, but he didn’t. Don't you just hate that? Then a recently retired colleague pulls up a chair for a long yak about departmental politics and history, I learn for the first time the deep sexual scandals of the unit I’ve been a part of for 12 years. During this conversation we move to the sunniest window table at the café which becomes available as we get into it—the dept. chair who ran off with the evil principle office staff member, the abject incident that explains why so-n-so is a permanent tenured assistant professor, the controversies around last year's hiring process. All is pleasant, heartfelt and collegial and all keeps me from writing when I sit down to write. Thus after three hours there is no “during the act of writing,” but I knew this would happen and I welcome it.

Now during the act of writing I am ready to fall in love. A determined unfolding of the unforeseen, the confident crabbed shaping of ink traces on blue-lined notebook paper—fragile boats set asail down blue streams on moseying journeys to themselves, to haven in themselves, to shelter in their own delicate tracings and outside it begins to snow. The snow falls on blue rivulets, the page, the sidewalk, I’m beset with a flurry of side-thoughts—who’s in power, who’s not—is it too hard just to make shapes on the blank expanse, the whole world will be a page soon enough with tracks of etheric detritus marking human endeavor ...  The marvels of oppression marking themselves in sadomasochistic pleasure-practice. To create is to destroy etc., we must labor, stitching and unstitching our lips, hands, eye-skin, to be beautiful and so forth. And what if I overcome my reactiveness, my oppressors, completely? My writing would be fully physical, my body would write a house of jewels as I moved down the sidewalk or the dingy halls of my workplace, there would be no inside no outside unmarked by wonder of colorsound (wait—would there be no marking, or nothing unmarked? no inside and no outside, or no border undecorated? herein lies the tension between spiritual and aesthetic practice), there would be no space between me and me, I’d be a continuum of languagebody practice all the time, all senses revealed in a godhead of continual metamorphosis guided by the snow, the pen, the hearth, the road, the garment, the mendicant sensibility of open writing, tattered resplendent, a translucent golden leaf floating to the frozen ground of being.

Bio: Maria Damon teaches poetry and poetics at the University of Minnesota.  She is the author of The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry (U of Minnesota 1993) and, with Miekal And, co-author of Literature Nation, a poetic hypertext.  She is a member of the National Writers' Union.




Chris Stroffolino

I react to the love poem I have yet to write, putting the course before the heart

The “rea” in front of the “c” of creation

One of the tasks of life, they say, is to find better tasks, tasks that become you better. Doing so, however, can be an obstacle to the other tasks—not just of maintenance and duty that you need to be occupied in. One begins to wonder how far one is now From where one wants to be, what one can better be. This distance may be measured by years and miles But not really convincingly. If one sees how space and time can collapse And the distance between present and ideal dissolve And not necessarily because You’ve duped yourself into wanting what you have Or demonized the ideal to at least begrudge yourself the present That wonders how much it can get accomplished today.

So I begin by reacting to the fact that I spent a good deal of the day (“off”). Writing cover letters and preparing applications for full-time teaching jobs in other places. Too much of the day. I needed to take a break from the kind of concentration it takes, the cares it raises more acutely, the hopes, fears “of all the years,” anxieties, despairs...and allow myself the possibility of Lethean floating, or at least of the kind of self-analysis that, alas, is not yet helpful in helping me land a job as a professional talker/listener...

I’m not really reacting to practicality here; of course I would like it if the job just came and then I could retroactively say it was because I was “being myself,” etc, and that, even today, such miracles can happen. But, more profoundly, I’m not really reacting to practicality because practicality (the practical mode) is a reaction to it, to this, as that just seems like a reaction to the practical reactions, but it came first....

I’m not now going to get into how or why I began writing or how and why what I wrote got to become, or be called, poetry (by some at least, and those who don’t call it poetry ‘like Marjorie Perloff’ don’t know what else to call it). I am also aware that it may be very presumptuous of me to call journal writing more natural than A) Cover letters on the one hand and B) POEMS on the other. I obviously didn’t (don’t?) always feel this way. But I do remember about 10 years ago sending some writing which I called poetry to Laynie Brown and her telling me that it was too much like a journal entry and not enough like poetry and the image of a parent scolding a child, "NOW, EAT YOUR PEAS OF POETRY or you’ll go to bed without any dessert of journal writing,” flashed through my body, an ouch without stilts. And so I react to this taboo, which I find takes many other shapes....

Poetry, or what is called that, shouldn’t be, and can’t be forced (maybe one has to trick oneself, or be tricked by others into writing it, but that isn’t the same as being forced). I think a problem many poets face after publishing at least one book is that in the social world, the fact that you’ve published and performed poems publicly makes you a POET...and what do poets do? Well, write poems of course. This circular logic is fine if one can continue to comfortably contain her or his other interests in that house called poetry, yet few can and many must strain to do so—not that straining is always a bad thing (and the circle may be a spiral). Freedom, sometimes, IS straining for it, while in it.

Sex is a kind of letting go but also seems to require and enjoy muscle contractions. Why “up tight” can mean “everything’s all right.” Yet, when someone recognized as a poet comes to you at a poetry reading or costume party, maybe we shouldn’t ask: Have you written any poetry lately? For in so doing we may (unintentionally of course) become each other’s oppressors, encouraging quantity to supplant quality or what was once a free union to become a social obligation...

So I react to that feeling of obligation. 5 years ago or so I first wrote (but didn’t publish): “Form is something you do for others; content yourself,” and it stuck. Even if I feel now that the style of want I want to make public now differs from the style I was writing when I came up with that aphorism. The two are inseparable of course. Even the most natural (lazy?) modes of writing “have” form and style. & I write this also because I look forward to reacting, or seeming to, react against this

But I have only begun to consider the possibility of journal-like forms, and am far from exhausting them. Nor do I believe that this will necessarily mean that I will come to overcome my oppression more completely than I do now, but I can, at least, I hope, become less and less of an oppressor myself (assuming I have been, or am unknowingly now).

Alan Davies writes, “[W]hen I see an abundance of formal concentration I think, the person who did this is not very comfortable with what they’re saying.”(Candor 130) I disagreed with this when I first read it ten years ago, but now am more prone to agree. Not because I’m more enlightened now than I was then. I was as enlightened then, I just had a different sense of what I felt comfortable with (though I will change a little and/or a lot—tomorrow when I fall in love with Ashbery again). And can’t side with the father over the daughter in Johnny Cash’s version of Cat Stevens,’ “Father and Daughter.” Thus, I react against the idea that I am growing, progressing, regressing, in any way, Even if I have to let myself write “bad poetry” more than I used to to do this....    

I didn’t use the term “oppressors” enough I guess

They are (or can be seen as) social and aesthetic and historical and personal of course

In other words, I cannot deny the perspective in which being successful in the world’s terms won’t make feeling fabulous any better, or even necessarily happen any more frequently. Failures may still reach out to people in ways that are pleasing to all involved. From such an (idealist) perspective, the idea of realizing some more complete freedom from oppression in the future is palpably absurd.

That, of course, that doesn’t stop me from attempting to fight against oppression everywhere. Yet, it seems, that, in poetry or in the kind of writing (or imaginative literature if you must) I term this, it is better to emphasize (if not exactly react to) the extent to which one is responsible for one’s oppression, for the sake of wonder at least....It’s possible that the desire for some more complete freedom from oppression may create, or at least play into, the oppression it is ostensibly against.

So I ask: Do I have to feel I’m helping to free another to let myself be free? Would it be better to just keep my “business” to myself And let others figure it out for themselves, especially if one of them may sing “But he can’t even run his own life. I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine”? Well, I’m not even totally trying to run my own life. It has to run itself to some extent. Will is chance—“a chance encounter You want to avoid/ the inevitable/ so you do/ oh yes you do/ the impossible.” I might as well be completely free, living for today, the so-called present. Even if only in words...

So I guess it’s time for that which looks over previous folly as folly. As if from the perspective of stopped time. But knowing too this is part of the process. And is not really any more clear hearted or loving headed Than the more “heated” moments in the “past” it gazes at. Moments that may have themselves fancied themselves at the time. Clear observers, beautifully lucid (or at least lurid) and only emotional in rapture or enthusiasm: awe. The point is never better, but different. To look at that which looked before. And thus become perhaps that which was being looked at before, the other side. And there’s never just two, but so many it’s easier to see them as one than two.

Always something to react against, I may take the form of you to React against what I see as taking the form of I And I do no more damage to myself, or the world To do this than an apple does by seducing me with its sweetness To get me to eat the nutrients I probably wouldn’t eat Were they in the form of grass, except in rare (clarian) circumstances Of survival, surrounded by the stale of horses, etc....

The past I’m reacting to from one perspective is exactly what I wrote before beginning this, some piece of writing I haven’t shown anybody as of yet—But a while there I thought it was something bigger, some baggage, like “all my past writing” or all my past history and the need or desire to react to that may be overwhelming, an unnecessary burden that implies siding with some imagined other against the self which may be (un)just nature taking its course. A villain even, humourless and self-righteous. But then part of me also wants to react to something I’ve just read, “humour and self-righteousness are mutually exclusive,”(134) a bold dualistic statement by someone who rejects the primacy of dualisms. Yet, even if the choice is not so black and white. And you can’t have one without the other, I lean toward humour Even as I have no proof that this will not seem to others and myself As humorless (only a week later Nada calls me a curmudgeon).

All I know is I feel the same ox (or lingerie) that compelled me to write those “zany, batty” etc. propels me to write this, and I may accept you when you see the continuity (or limits) as well as when you are disappointed with what you see as my radical departure, as I accept myself because I cannot count on readers, and this isn’t necessarily liberating because I was never a slave in writing at least in the first place unless I wanted to be and if I did, and did it for you, then I could only hurt myself, the self that cannot do anything for others if it didn’t, at least for an hour or so, recently do something for itself, for its own sake.

BIO: Chris Stroffolino is the author of Stealer's Wheel (Hard Press, 1999), Light as a Fetter (Situations, 1997) and Oops (Pavement Saw, 1994). Forthcoming is Spin Cycle: Selected Essays (Spuyten Duyvil). He lives in NYC and teaches at Rutgers University and NYU.


Ange MlinkoOppression: An Essay

Ange Mlinko

 The couples on this beautiful late spring day in the park are poignant, a sight to seduce me into thinking everyone’s cared for. I lie back to gaze on the crowns of trees and birds appear in the middle of my field of vision—simply appear—and swoop off to the left, male and female. Soon it dawns on me that all the birds are going in the same direction, as if the turn of the earth were bearing us counterclockwise to Eden.

Teratoma dermoid: a cyst that contains the genetic material of your dead twin.

When I was thirteen I installed rear window defoggers for Northeast Electronics. Electronics has a smell pungent like tomato vines. I was invited into the home of an old man in Brooklyn who just wanted to show me his living room stacked to the ceiling with old WWII submarine radios, shortwaves, speakers, vacuum tubes and circuit boards. On the November morning I was on the overnight train to Tangier from Meknes, in fact probably while dawn was breaking and the train was approaching the outskirts of the city, Paul Bowles died. Climbing up the Rock of Gibraltar there was a pungent smell I thought might be barbary ape pee—but when I rounded the corner I faced a sheer cliff adorned with paper-white narcissus. Alone the blossoms smelled one way; a field of them smelled another. Submarines would get a free ride on the deep countercurrent passing through the Strait; with their engines turned off, Germans evaded the submarine detectors mounted on Gib. When I passed through nearby Malaga on my way from Algeciras to Grenada, I thought of Jane Bowles buried there, but I couldn’t stop to look for her.

My grandfather, who had a workshop of his own in the basement of his rowhome, had hands that smelled of electronics. Like my father, his hands were crosshatched with tiny cuts and smears of oil. Had he, before the war, really been a rich “playboy” and motorcycle racer as my father claimed?


Started beating up some kid in school when he insulted me before a test. Couldn’t pummel him hard enough—he didn’t resist—but I beat up my sister too for some insult, then taking a vacation in a tiny plane a strange girl started telling my father women were inferior to men so I wanted to beat her up too, but couldn’t seem to find her amid all the pina colada drinkers at the resort. I do remember tasting an exquisite margarita.

I was shopping for a shirt in a peculiar little store when I noticed my wallet was missing. I pounced on a girl who had been lurking nearby and throttled her on the floor til she yielded the money. Then I felt kindly toward her.

My mother is chewing my sister out for buying a sofa when we have no money. But instead of a sofa she’s sitting sadly on a big ugly table, metallic with rivets, that she bought at an “antique store.” Trying to be kindly, I interject: “But Mom, it’s not even a sofa.”

It’s winter and I and someone else find a cache of spring flowers. I open a secret cupboard in a wall and find beautiful linens in deep purple, green, and red; silk and velvet. I wonder why my mother has hidden them away. There is a lot of opening closets and cupboards in dreams all night; when I wake up it’s Christmas day.

 There was going to be an orgy. It seemed like a good idea, but when more & more people started being involved I found an excuse to drift away, was delayed, and came back to find it had been broken up by the police. I found a boy who was dreamy and sated and among the ludicrous highlights was he got to shave someone’s head and there were bricklayers’ trowels to smear semen around.

When I woke up I realized this was about my not wanting to go to a poetry conference.


The fruit does not fall far from the tree.

The fuschia does not fall far from the trellis.

The fugue does not fall far from the trencherman.

The fumigant does not fall far from the trestle.

The funeral does not fall far from the tribulation.

The furrier does not fall far from the trillium.

The fuselage does not fall far from the trinket.

The future does not fall far from the triumph.

The gabfest does not fall far from the troika.

The gall does not fall far from the trollop.

The gallimaufry does not fall far from the troubadour.

The galosh does not fall far from the trousseau.

The garage sale does not fall far from the tsunami.

The garret does not fall far from the tuberculin.


Sappho threw herself off a ledge. Yu Xianju was executed for beating her maid to death. The first murder of an intellectual dissident of Islam was of a female poet, Asama bint Marwan, whom Mohammed ordered killed. She had written:“Fucked men of Malik and Nabit and Awf, fucked men of Khazraj, you obey a stranger who does not belong among you.”


I cried bitterly when I got to the part, in his biography, about his death from tuberculosis in Rome. But when I visited the house that preserved his bed, locks of hair, combs, pocket watches, momentoes; when I got to the torrid letters in his own hand in glass cases, and looked at the volume of Shakespeare he had held in his hands and gleaned with his eyes; I felt a certain repulsion. At the cabaret in Berlin, wax sweated into petals at the base of a candle, oily soot puddling like mascara, false eyelashes of a transvestite singing Italian love songs throwing roses on the audience. A gingham kerchief mismatched with floral apron and latex gloves (hausfrau schtick) telling sexual politics jokes, a close shaved meaty man at the light controls somber as the laughing audience of bulldykes from Dusseldorf drank orange juice in the amber chandelier glow under the framed portraits of bewigged & corseted gentry. And the damn plum tree in the front yard where the great poem was written! Wasn’t there more to life than to die “of a bad review” in the popular imagination, then be fawned over by critics at a safe distance, who amplify your death’s awful details for maximum tearjerks? That maudlin critic, biographer, beating me over the head with Keats’ “greatness”! I walked briefly through Hampstead Heath where Fanny Brawne walked by herself after he died. There were swans, a pond dimpling with rain. After that day I couldn’t read the poems any more.


I have always loved encyclopedias. There was a set by my grandfather’s reading chair, and I would plunge into it every time we visited. I could look up “tiger” and get “q.v.”’d toward a half dozen other references. This was before poetry; I was 7 or 8. My other grandfather had the big globe I would pore over; this one had the encyclopedia. He would disappear into the basement where he had a small workroom near the laundry area. He worked on transistors and things there; it was always vague. When I lived in Brooklyn, near the street where the man called me inside to see his roomful of radios, there was an overgrown lot—fenced off—where a rowhome had been demolished. On the chainlink was tied a fresh bouquet of flowers and an anguished note addressed to the deceased. The same objects were attached to the fence every time I passed the place. Someone kept replacing the flowers and note. I wondered what had happened there, and I knew there must be some way to find out. Research skills would have to be honed, a Saturday afternoon would have to be spent at some municipal building searching through files. Unknown territory beckoned. I was always on my way to the library, alone in my enthusiasms.

One Labor Day weekend, while my family vacationed at the Jersey shore, our house burnt down. Most photographs and all the home movies, toys, clothes, and books of my childhood were immolated. Just a few weeks later, as detectives were closing in on the perpetrator (who had let himself in our house in the pre-dawn hours with an ax), my grandfather’s house was set afire and he himself shot (I mean, he shot himself) in the head in his reading chair. It was the first funeral I ever went to and the things that struck me were that I didn’t recognize him in his coffin, and my father shed no tears. But what had happened in the meantime was that I was told “he wanted you to have his encyclopedia” and it was duly bestowed on me, a little water damaged, but useful for school papers and rainy-day q.v.-ing until I went to college where I determined not to stop becoming a poet.

BIO: Ange Mlinko is the author of Matinees (Zoland Books, 1999). She lives in New York City where she edits the St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter.  


Alan SondheimAmong Invisibility

Alan Sondheim

Oppression doesn’t appear for me; in life, yes—in terms of being a Jew, of being 57, of being outspoken, of being elsewhere than modernism/post-modernism. But it doesn’t appear in my writing, in the bearing of the stylus on the page or text. Whatever is reactive or political in my life is by and large outside the text—although I have taken strong textual (and elsewhere) stands against racism, sexism, ageism, anti-semitism, and so on. A number of these texts have been Net-specific, against censorship, corporate inundation, etc. A number of them have been distributed online.

But I am not a victim, and I refuse to be a victim or feel victimized; I refuse to abide an enemy who will dominate me and my work. This is not a position of privilege whatsoever; in fact it is the opposite—working within a culture of oppressions, power, and privilege, and, nonetheless, carving out a territory of unease.

Such unease is not in response to oppression, but to intense self-questioning, sweeping aside any grounds, stances, or foundations that might provide a modicum of inauthentic comfort. In other words, I refuse Heideggerian authenticity; I refuse the proper name; I refuse the aegis of the virtual or the real; I write from anywhere and no place.

I do not have oppressors; I refuse to have oppressors.

I write out of elsewhere, entirely and in its entirety. Instead of ideational oppression, ideological subservience, I produce from the opposite: following paths to the limits, moving beyond them, hurrying on. I refuse ideology or the protocol statement; I opt for continuous movement, investigation.

I refuse.

BIO: Alan Sondheim lives in Brooklyn NY; co-moderates the Cybermind, Wryting, and Cyberculture email lists; edited Being on Line: Net Subjectivity for Lusitania; has a book, .echo, forthcoming from Launch; works in video, theory, and multimedia; and has been collaborating on a series of cdrom videos with dance/language/sexuality. He can be reached at Main URL:  


  Prageeta Sharma


Prageeta Sharma

 There are at least two concerns that occur when I feel sensitive about my writing and where it can go. The trouble occurs when writing happens and isn’t a result of being reactionary. Reacting is a tough word because somewhere inside me it brings me to the “pure” feelings of either envy or desire or both. And desire feels “nicer” than envy. I quit trying to validate envy but try to convert it to something helpful quickly.

This may be just blocking out the world very quickly but I do react to my own small-mindedness or anything that hits on personal limitations. Especially if it brings on paralysis in creativity.

Reacting to oppression may be a theme if I take on the idea that my poetry tries to give voice to protest, but protest of what a poet like myself can’t help but react to: abstract thought over the literal, to inarticulations and unrest, and to the clarity of a confused ideology confounded in boredom. These things then play into gender and race and ultimately get expressed in the poem. I am very ideational (I’ve never used that word before, it’s kind of marvelous!) I like Homi Bhaba’s line about “ironic compromise,” (he talks about mimicry and post-colonial identity, how mimicry is ironic compromise) from his book Location of Culture. I find the poem, for myself, mimics a lot of different kinds of voices—of ironic compromise, playful and troubled. I guess as a way of writing out of meaninglessness for me.

I feel that poetry has stuck me in a place sometimes and rendered me useless so that I am in awe of other kinds of writing for their straight forwardness—anything! Even a painting gets to be straight-forward. Sometimes, poetry makes me feel awkward as a genre but also enriches my life with its awkwardness.

How does one overcome it? I’m not sure what there is to overcome but perhaps there could be a forum on poetry and self-loathing? How does one overcome self-loathing? We may all have at least a little bit of this? This may play again into themes of oppression. I like to think about poetry as Frere talked about education, that poetry isnt about “domesticating but rather liberating” and not to sound too cheesy, but when I react I lose sense of what I think. That in itself can be a big problem for a poet, hence the frenzy into sense-making and worry about the poem’s intentions.

BIO: Prageeta Sharma lives in Brooklyn. She received an MFA from Brown University. Her book Bliss to Fill (subpress books) and chapbook A Just-So Poem (booglit) both came out last year.



Arpine GrenierWoe to me, a neutral non-zero woe

Arpine Grenier


I have no voice, no language, and even if I had any, what is there to say? That is why I do poetry, abjectly, underscored and simultaneously undercut, as light is trapped (suffers) in the husk of matter. In my dreams I see shapes and colors I cannot describe because they do not exist, humanly that is. Once in a dream I danced an indescribable dance with an indescribable form, and when I write, that is what I am doing, so—

I oppress me, you oppress me, the nakedness behind abundance, talking about poetry, reading poetry, weddings and related showers (but not funerals) oppress me. Such wistful terrain. Intentionality oppresses me, that’s why I was bored with scientific research. Any cooptive element (like nature) or subverting oppresses me. That’s why French director Clare Denis’ recent film, Beau Travail, was exquisite, as it could have easily relied on both, but contained neither. All that threatens my anonymity, that threatens my part golem part godly nature, the archness and brickness of categories and data, the bourgeois, the bohemian, the aristocrat, thought that precedes language, and all that distinguishes between totem and sacrifice, between threshold and boundary, all that oppresses me.

There is a neutral non-zero (cosmic) field out there, and since life is a microcosm within a macrocosm, it seems to be efforting against the latter in order to preserve and maintain itself. Hence, I, by nature, am oppressed to the core, seeking the chaos that sustains the world of languages, stretching and curling with shame and wonder to and fro lamentations and prayer. Being the offspring of a marginalized culture oppresses me, needing an ethmoid process for direction (having lost mine as a human) oppresses me.

The act of writing is always on. One is always en face de X, scraping against deaf matter, reacting to or against the systole and diastole of it with vigor and swagger. If we were to look up the word “oppressed” in Arabic, the dictionary would lead us to the root and related words like press, depress, repress, impress, suppress. Yet, “oppressed” is different. Oppressed people’s voices are muffled because with oppression, the soul and the spirit are implicated. What oppresses me does not occlude either, as I am always in the process of willing you into existence, through language. Love is at play here and is catching. After all, isn’t that how it was in my family? Dad, a genocide survivor and deacon in the church, basically talked to God all his life (at the expense of his children’s well-being). That’s what I do, don’t I? And mom, a housewife, was always keen on cooking/catering but not serving/hosting in the limelight. Isn’t that similar to doing poetry in a world driven by capitalism?

So, if I were a tenured academic with a loving husband and three amazing children (does she exist??), and I had just recently and simultaneously won a Pulitzer and the California Lottery, I would still do poetry yes, but sadly, sadly, the work (act) would suffer, unless of course I latch on to newer oppressions. OK, I won’t dwell on des idées fixes. But it’s hard not to these days while we, vestigial to a biophysically energized living system, may be at the dawn of a techno-driven life force, the panoramic view of which is still inaccessible to our present day vision. What moves or oppresses us has always been flow of energy related. How does energy flow in this new (what we now call artificial) life where code is paramount? Code over-riding code. How will that be for poetry? Meanwhile (I love Nanny Fine reruns), I am eating my pasta, regardless.

BIO: Arpine Konyalian Grenier is a graduate of the American University of Beirut and the MFA Program at Bard College, NY. Her work has appeared in a number of journals including Columbia Poetry Review, Sulfur, The Iowa Review, Phoebe and Situation. She has two published volumes of poetry: St. Gregory's Daughter, University of La Verne Press, 1991, and Whores From Samarkand, Florida Literary Foundation Press, 1993.


Brian Stephans Brian Kim Stefans

Hi Nada,

I intended to write you a nice piece for the How2 forum but haven’t been able to get around to it, and when I try to write something I'm rather stumped. It seems to me that anyone reading my poetry would see that I’m am reacting—perhaps more than responding—to a load of social and personal forces, and if I had any way of describing what these were I would probably not put them in my poems, or at least find an adequate way of not permitting them into my poems. As an Asian American I’ve been expected, several times in the past, to list these forces on some level, and have so far refused simply because I think they are not that interesting, or are far more interesting when I collide them with my interests in art, which is to say poems have always been more interesting to me when they both encourage and denounce this sort of language, of “oppression” and so forth. This sort of language hasn’t seemed that interesting to me personally in an American context, at least, and since I expect most of my poetry to be read in an American context I don’t know how to use the language in them. I think I am of several split identities, actually, which is to say I don’t have a very coherent past, but in any case I think I express this by being rather polyglot in my formal means, hence not having to deal with the discursive ways of expressing whatever it is you, and now I, am writing about.

One thing I can mention: I tend to think that there is a conflict with certain types of ideological thinking and the kind of thinking I find most useful for considerations of art, or poetry in this case. Poets become complicated individuals the more they deal with the problems of words, whereas it appears necessary, for ideology, to simplify individuals in order to create larger coherent patterns. This isn’t to say that poets are more complicated than other people, but that their activities—the writing and publishing of poetry—make visible certain patterns and attitudes in society that would not be visible otherwise, complex and unmediated patterns which can be referred to and analyzed in private. One takes it as a responsibility, when thinking about art, to look at all of these patterns simply because one wants to find “where the good poetry is”—after your adolescence reading about other literary societies and finding faith and excitement in those moments when new verbal patterns are discovered, new content introduced, etc., one becomes addicted to the process and challenges oneself to discover these moments as they are occurring. They are not often occurring, this is true; discoveries are not made with the frequency one’s reading of the moderns or romantics would suggest. But nonetheless, one reads all of the new writing, and in the meantime attains a fairly complex picture of a certain small segment of society, and acquires an image of poetry society as a nexus through which individuals flow, many of whom, because of their engagement with art, have been divorced from the social niche in which one might figure them to have been predestined to fill. It’s this sense of “predestination”—which is a religious term—that I link to ideological thinking that chooses to sacrifice this complex image for the coherent one; it’s not just class or ethnicity, but education and aesthetic motivations. But the zinger is this: that “ideological” thinking is not limited to those poets who might be the most likely suspects, namely those who read literature that is about or which promotes ideological thinking, but that it is often to be found in those who don’t read or write poetry for the reasons I have suggested above, with the hope of breaking things open and complicating one’s sense of literature, complicate it because, once it has become a coherent field, it no longer resembles a place of possibility, of discovery, where the intelligence can run with the antelope. My sense is that even the most conservative writer, provided he or she has a genuine interest in writing poetry, will want to keep this field open, perhaps even “incoherent,” simply because more things happen there. Writers who have no desire of doing this may still end up being good and successful writers, but my guess is that they are missing the chance to acquire knowledge about—perhaps—the future, which of course may just not be very interesting. It’s the difference between reading the conflicting details and reading in large, undifferentiated swaths. I guess my point is that there is one thing that I tend to react against in my work, which is anything that renders this place of poetry less disciplined and focused, but also less complex and dynamic. I want the “field” of poetry to constantly be a place of danger and liveliness; however, with the sort of obscuring of the stage that narrow views of poetry promote (often under the guise of social justice, and often with very good intentions) it becomes no place at all.

Bio: Brian Kim Stefans lives in Brooklyn, New York. His book of poems, Angry Penguins, was published in 2000 by Harry Tankoos Books, along with a reprint of Gulf(1998). Free Space Comix (Roof) appeared in 1998. Visual poetry, including a Flash poem “The Dreamlife of Letters,” can be found at, and his site, Arras, is at


Adeena Karasick

Writing through the grapheme as social commodity

Adeena Karasick





Writing through the grapheme as social commodity

On the outskirts of an utterance,
in the phrasal interface of enfolding inflexions,

i am oppressed by the grapheme as social commodity, as a historical, political tool of reference. Oppressed by the rigors of definition; by its codification impinged by its ideological functioning. Oppressed by the societal impetus to forget that this language i play is tied to my voice, my body; to materiality, and participates in an elaborate syllabary, fancily flounced in fussy clusters.

i am oppressed by the notion to understand the world by what it is, or by what it is not, by dissimilarity, difference rather than by diffusion, liquification; a production of effects — i am oppressed with how my language need not always engender sense but sometimes desire. That it should decode the decoding, when i am just wanting to catch not the meaning, but the production of meaning, how it is operating, functioning as a desemanticized sediment seizures.
In fuzzy torrents of dissolution—

—in spite of its meaning, in spite of its message. wanting to fasten on to its tenuous details, traits, traces, erasures, specters, hauntings. i want to embrace

states of desire carried by the passage of words, one succeeding another. a passage that is not real and does not lead to proper sense; to an essence or a truth but so that i can govern myself as a hybridized, syncretic morass, a mélé of intentions functioning

as silent and infetisimal procedures/secret practices where rationality opens into itself, applies itself to an awareness of the flow of the process of detail of specifics onto the body, onto laughter, space and the archetecture of intentionality/the machinery of failure and disgust, of dissonance, dysfunction//between the rattled ought of bulging rubbish sifted in atrocity, misery.

i am not in the business of giving information, recovering history or planning the future, but investigating a graphematic historicity that spans a Jewish position of exile and vagrancy, nomadicism, a semiotics of yada-yada hoodoo you do campy go-go pop cultural vocative votives, motives mutants, my surface is disturbed and hums in an epistemic interzone of pursed

                        interstices. A purring surface
                       of perky insertions

And when i appear 
as a heteroglossy and overproduced fontophiliac, a
flurry of probity strobes,

in the frilly pellicule of strappable meaning,

my moistened tinctures weave the suave gauze

(of saucy swagger aggregates),

and gather in soakable vocables glistening in a sticky dickey tuktuk dichtung tongue suck spurs, a locus of imbrogliatic static and the isosceles sauce of sissy fit surfaces, the solace sonambulance of a sassy fascicle dripping

with impossible responsibility.

And, i am oppressed by my own need to still vogue with subjectivity, ethnicity, gender in terms of spectral contingencies, retranslated as lexicological disparities and am increasingly concerned with these explosions of the arbitrary, the struggle of intimacy and separation, cleaving and disjunction.

And as i construct myself as a temporary agency of access and escape, i am not freaked out that i am outside of authority, power; freaked out that i am an abject monstrous cipher that will not be heard—Because, as an invaginated chiasmus, i am always cut off and into frilly fraught conduits. And, this does not make me dystopically obsolete, silent, absent. My subaltern speaks, murmurs, whispers, shrieks and giggles & provides a spatial imaginary, a provisionary shelter that houses a complex of intensity flows of enfolded services, surfaces, souflées of appropriate thinking. And as deplorable functions placate in pliant landscapes, syllaborate sites, my morphing grammar gloms hotly and yields a spatio-subjectification that is not passé, out-moded or unique but focuses on urban behaviors, outfitted in

vagrancy and nomadicism, the shifting sense of homelessness. a hyper-marginalized  a multiperspectival praxis that infinitely sublets from a libidial geopoetic graphematrix because

i am always lost

between nations, genders, structures, systems, and inhabit an economimesis masticating. My locus is a lexemic elixir where space feeds off of, feeds into a plaisir/re-plaised in hyperspatial interplays. My constructs are slippery, perforated, permeable; liminal toponymies inscribed in immanence, disappearance, division, elision, bondage and divisibility. And i am writing in reaction to how the home lies in homilies homonyma, synonyma, mnemonyma, how it instead produces an unlivability, a no-pace which reeks of demolition and desire. Built of old and worn out references, tacky-ass subsects, an itchy osculum, kickass calyx of 10,000 maniacs, 1,000 plateaus.

and i am oppressed by the madness of the workability of systems and normative lyrical pieties when i just want to play inside a cumulative glottis colossus—the sultry mulch of languata mutata monstrously articulated in detours, economies of sweeping, drainage, sewage.  i am oppressed by my own [sic] romantic ideality of how i really just want to crawl inside these letters and live there. Inside the swirling, curling pericope a-go-go. In sweet lush curvatures, glomming yonder in the heaving lapsus, in luminous shivers. Their dangling angles wet and inviting, enfolding into scarred struggles and silences insinuated in swollen motives, sexing one upon another, into their velvety hardness thrusting in pursed slur streams, in lissome drifts throbbing in the ache of lexicon curls quilled callings; caressing in the crush of gutted swells wrested in the burning in slackened ashes damaged in exclusion, obstruction,

And as i imprint myself upon the lattice tain silica contours (counters), the kinky concourse of a relentless ipseity illeity allays

in a language of stilled hope and deception; the untranslatability
of the foamy transgression of desire driving itself into an invag(ue)inated chiasmos languing for escape; into a language, an idiom, not a dialect, but dia-illogic graphematic matrices, mattresses
saturated with excretions --

a throbbing impetus mounting in desire and the agony of the residue of an intention drawing closer in an economy of a “push-me-pull-ya” palimpsested in

the verbal effusion of labial maybes, my heaving lapsus stressed by plosive slopes pilfering in liquid collusion, i am asking what is my “Delivery range” How far does it travel? And in what instances? Who is it effecting and how? What are Today’s Specials? And how long will they last?

In a vocabulary constabulary
In the simulation of the cumulous


Bio:Adeena Karasick is a poet/essayist/cultural theorist and performance artist; and the author of four books of poetry and poetic theory, Dyssemia Sleaze (Talonbooks, 2000), Genrecide (Talonbooks, 1996), Mêmewars (Talonbooks, 1994), and The Empress Has No Closure (Talonbooks, 1992). She has performed worldwide and regularly publishes articles, reviews and dialogues on contemporary poetry, poetics and cultural/semiotic theory. Her debut video, Alphabet City, won the 1999 Edgewise Electrolit Videopoem Festival’s People’s Choice Award, and her new book, The Arugula Fugues is forthcoming from Zasterle Press, 2001. Adeena lives, writes and teaches in New York City.





David Hess

I Brake for Misanthropes (or, Where’s the Feng Shui?)

by David Hess




I do know that if I were to describe what goes through my mind when I write I’d be ceaselessly ridiculed and no one would ever speak to me again.     — Jennifer Moxley

Oppression in writing begins with the chair. The one I currently occupy is uncomfortable. There is a better one a few feet away but I sit on this unforgiving tuffet because its seat height is adjustable. The low height is crucial because the keyboard rests on a comfortable, felt-lined pull-out drawer that is not much higher than my knees. I sacrifice legroom for nearness to the keyboard. The cheap office chair has a plywood seat on which crummy fabric is glued or stapled and out of which two bolts stick, into my ass cheeks. So I have to sit on the edge of the seat as if I am completely and utterly absorbed in what I’m writing. That is why I have to make my writing so exciting.

I constantly have trouble trying to find a comfortable position in which to write. This could be the reason why my essays are so angry. I write essays sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen, which is uncomfortable—especially when I have to work with a bad mouse, which was often the case last year before I got this computer. In conversation John Wieners said he stopped writing because his typewriter broke. Fortunately, I write poems while sitting or lying just about anywhere—“Lying is ecstasy,” Tzara said—and I accomplish this with a pen and some pieces of paper. That way, nobody can stop me. And if the muses are in the house, I zone out or get into the zone, whichever. Hours pass and uncomfortable sensations come and go, including hunger, loneliness, fatigue, various unclassifiable pangs and lusts and so on. As everyone knows, poetry allows pain to be reincarnated as pleasure. When I write essays, however, I frequently have to stand up and take a break, check references, call my lawyer/personal trainer, change socks and so on. This exacerbates the situation, especially when you are pressed for time and there are two bolts lying in wait to board your caboose.

This is a hard question to answer. But I am interested. I am interested in this. What I’m writing. The words. All of them. Other stuff, too. Like language. Each time I hear the word “language” my mouth waters. My latest effort is called The Pavlovian Poems. See, in order to be a real Cyberpoet you have to be a robot, because they’re immortal. Pay no attention to that mosquito behind the curtain.

Dawns now are out of touch
The sun simply has not kept up

Birds frankly are behind the times
Their nests parade a trail of crimes

Whales know not the benefits of massage
Spiders have webs but few a heated garage

Hair removal for fleas has not gone over well
Stock options for lice, who could ever sell?

Hyenas seem to laugh regardless of their ride
Lack of an umbrella breaks no mushroom’s stride

The universe could perish without a proper funeral
Pity to the tornado that never had a tuna roll.

I like poetry because it can create and destroy time. That’s why it’s magical. Time appears and disappears in the poem and you get to watch and listen to it happen. You get to caress all kinds of moments the poet has arranged for you in the room of the poem, and if they’re good, the moments let you be the match that strikes them and ignites as they pass. I love writing because it’s simultaneously a discovery and a remembrance. Poetry isn’t for those trying to forget or avoid the inevitable. Things come back to me suddenly when I write—fears, hopes, loves, angers, truths. They introduce me to their new friends. Sometimes we don’t get along, even though we’re all family.

Practically speaking, time is the biggest challenge I face when writing. I lose time when I have to clean up the mess on the monitor screen that results from reading Miekal And’s Sustainable Hyperkulture: the conservation of the anarchist spirit-state, which says if we “[maintain] a consciousness of infinite hypertextural links between all information, the fragmentation & oppression of our daily lives can be reordered into a meaningful globally oriented lifestyle,” and ends as such: “To sustain the info/action/object dialectic, bury your roots deep into the global information matrix &....” Sometimes I take ellipses too literally and end up spewing a few chunks myself.

Worst of all is when I can’t get to the mess before it dries. Then I have to discontinue writing essays altogether. This means I won’t be able to finish my paper, “The Use of the Suffix ‘Scapes’ in Contemporary Critical Discourse” to be presented at the “Media in the Age of Information” conference at Southern Guam University in the spring, or be able to complete my thesis on the Post-Human Diasporic for the Body/Sex/Reynolds Wrap forum at Acme State Tech in St. Pentiumberg next summer. No more nanoreviews on “Honk If You'’re Modern” bumper sticker chapbooks from the latest Carpe Phdiems to emerge from the Bay Area armored poetics ice cream truck writing program after a year’s residency at Two-Scoops-of-Black-Mountain-Mint-on-a-Post-1989-Waffle-Cone Seminary where lectures were given on the 31 flavors of 20th century avant-garde formations. Whenever I face these circumstances I begin drafting lists of principles, helpful reminders and warnings to tape to my wall. Here is a sample:









Get Ready to Mumble!

It’s Author-o-Lysis Time

The Doxic is Toxic

Don’t Groom the Hy-Bride

When in Doubt, Use the Collagerator

Codifying Desire Kills

Your Poetics is Played Out

From the Soaking Wet Monogrammed Paper Towels of Marginality, Squeeze the Cologne of Cultural Capital

The avant-garde is dead. There’s no need to fret. What we want is a release from the game of necessity, or at least to reach a point when desire and necessity are no longer at war with each other. In one of his essays, Stevens speaks of that “radiant and productive atmosphere” in which poets and their imaginations move. In this ambience everything is a friend of poetry until proven otherwise, each thing and occurrence a possible vehicle with the next poem’s cargo. Disasters are DISASTERS and nothing more. Death is another character on the stage of life. Stevens’ argument is basic: poetry is not reactive with regard to oppression or beauty or anything else. Rarely does art that has any longevity come from the attempt to formulate a radical aesthetic program whose goal is to serve some project of opposition. Of course, there are uses of the ephemeral, and the avant-garde has made good use of them. But the point, here illustrated by a musician, remains:

When I was in high school, I wanted to rebel against the Izod-shirt preppie mentality, so I’d never wear any of those clothes. But by doing that, I gave that style the power to dictate what I liked and didn’t like. The same thing can happen in music; there are things to rebel against, but we can’t let them dictate our reaction. Don’t pay any attention to it. Hold true to your vision.

Or flaunt your anachronism, whet your confusion. May the muses return, way past their curfew, reeking of spirits from the sweet unknown—the stench of poetry.

Through my heart smell-stakes drive
so blow on rare breezes, set aglow
a hazy yesterday or two, refurnish
my soul’s room with reveries anew,
evaporate time for another second,
distance is nothing but a trinket
smoldering in memory’s near-furnace


BIO: David Hess lives in St. Louis. His interests include poetry, writing, criticism, book collecting and literature.



Cole Heinowitz


Reflex Judaism

Cole Heinowitz







Disbelief in the sex act should be taken as a clue
when the hour comes to wrest myself off from the vice
grips of drama and magic, bearing in mind that this
operation conceals the history wherein the logical
structure of words invents physicality. Why are these
steps not more fully documented to date? Because
causality is humbling and a bastard relativism has
become the last bastion of hubris. “Losing myself
becomes the self-help scrim from behind which the key
grips beneficently generate the script. The actors,
nevertheless, remain heroes, because they are
perennially forced by audience cat-calls to go on
stage before the scripts have been completed. The
key-grips and the audience learn about their own
motivations by watching the actors’ struggle. This is
the primary thrust of the drama. Depending on the
actors’ awareness of their role as whipping boys, the
play vacillates between tragedy and comedy.

Satyr Play:
Seductive description conceals its rhetorical
ambitions from itself. The bristling mariner, for
example, might overflow: “My glass-blowing days  were
filled with ruby hope, but the spleen that drove my
gentle creations soon demanded physical catastrophe,
and I made for the teat of the sea, salt biscuit,
‘fire away,’ and cod,” without realizing that he is
reaching out to take and not to offer. In the back of
his mind, he awaits the hybrid stroke of validation.
The contagion of pleasure, likewise, is fooling no one
but itself, sporting its documentary impulse through
the breamy chills toward godless unknown shore
alongside the brave sailor. But occasionally, through
leisure, cuts a nerve, call it gout-conscience arising
from a chipped tooth in the mirror. The mirror seeps
genetic material into the inspecting ego, causing it
to cast its glance backward toward the history it is
now altering; and in pursuit of the glass balloon,
teleology generously unfolds its concept of love, even
among the buffoons.

Act I:
My mother was all men and my father was a limitless
series of individuals. As a result, the disdain that
logic shows for performance and the bragging posture
that performance uses to defraud logic fill me with
self-loathing. (In the heavy darkness of joint
and I made for the teat of the sea, salt biscuit,
custody, archetypes are handed reverentially from
obstetrician to junkie as a desperate ploy to discover
mortar in rancid basement nooks.) My name is called
and I enter the small examination room, aware that
science is a great word retiring into the comfortable

textures of meat. On the monitor appears my seething,
stippled and monochrome fetus growing in the spot
where someone penetrated me with the foreskin they
were using as a driving school cheat-sheet. The
geometry behind city planning through the pylons of
the parking structure records a similar tranvesticism.
On a self-redemption binge, I cry to the useful: “Feed
of my flesh and drink of my blood.” Love must be kept
close to its nucleus if grammar is to be preserved.

Act II:
Cued by blender etiquette to the ballast of Darwinian
intelligence, I chalk one up for the family tree. Just
beyond the view from the kitchen window, semiotic play
loots its own commercial district in an attempt to
gain critical leverage over relations of power, then
flees the scene. Roused by the noise, I leave the bed,
hoping to fuck demographic trends in the public
schools to a stand with my new narrative loyalties.
Meanwhile, taking refuge in the vegetable garden,
semiotic play despairs, realizing that his only true
enemy has been realism, not reality. By sundown, I
have agreed to take him on as a temporary replacement
for the analytic structure of my domestic grooming
lifestyle, and immediately he sets to work employing
trial and error procedures to the problem of the patio
renovations. Following a circular slash and burn
pattern, the new floorplan endows weary arrival with
the emotion of decency and saddles the well-adjusted
citizen with the privacy of self-scrutiny. Breathing
techniques for orgasm prolongation diagram and parse
their last world order, collapsing back exhausted into
their original neighborhood fencing strategies

But what if grammar could be preserved through
digression and love could maintain shape outside its
nest? (We all have a droplet-shaped memory of
selflessness living inside us—it is what we assail in
the form of terrestrial enemies. This is why, when we
vanquish those enemies and are basking in the
after-glow, we die by a slow implosion perceptible
only to perfect strangers.) Due to lung damage in the
retrench to forcep out the piebald romance of
imagination, illness became a prohibitive force in my
social life. I flagellate myself with my own
body odor in order to redeem absentee locker room
pranks from hospital-side, thus defecting from
imagination to the side of history. In this way, I
join among the beard wives promenading in front of
the showers, lending credence to the reproductive
capacity of regional accent sequencing and
long-distance causality splicing. From within the
piles of booty, discarded in a surgeon’s haste, whore
cells begin to differentiate inside the legalized
junk-shooting gallery and family is rediscovered
camping at the site of its long-lost bottom line.

Act III, the final act:
The Misanthropic Avenger enters, carrying the
byproduct created by all human interaction at arm’s
length in a paper bag. By now, I know better than to
try coaxing him unawares into key divulgences by
chatting about how paper bags have fallen out of use
in lunchroom scenarios. At the same time, all too
aware of how my slow yield to home owning was
converted into a senior citizens’ mating ritual, I
address him with an outpouring of silence. Point made,
system gets an adrenaline high and immediately starts
in on tomb excavations for the new language. This
time, we hit mortar and disembark. On the queu,
purse-strap snippers barter Asian genomes for Latino
accents, generating a surplus of questions regarding
the location of the taxis, y todo el mundo me piensa
una fúente de informaciûn since my maxi-pad
adjustments mimic the ball-nestling of the
street-shiny throngs—stooped, idling, and pressing in
vernacular norms, hopes for the mutilated community.

Awaiting the full-court dining privileges of her
imaginary community, the restoration of human decency
retrofitted, staunched, primped, and eventually
entered its decadence. Relaxation abilities do mark a
certain criterion for intelligence, but weigh this
against the memory of wisdom being awarded to the
indolent as a consolation prize for youthful
accomplishments in olfactory detective work.
Flexibility, by its connotation of absence, is the
defensive line par excellence, and those who turn
omnivore with a smile during famine are always viewed
as traitors because they obscure the line between
winning and losing.


BIO: Cole Heinowitz was born and raised in San Diego, California, but currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island. She is pursuing a doctorate in comparative literature and teaches literature and Spanish language courses at Brown University. Her first book, Daily Chimera, and her forthcoming book, The Dream Life of Anger, are published by Incommunicado Press. Her poetry and essays have also appeared in Proliferation, Mirage, and Revista Hispánica Moderna.



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