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Sunday, September 11, 2011



Now (more or less)

This cell is torrid and moist, like the city
in which I’ve resided,
the air fatal
with the disease of fear.

I lie flat on bones, staring at holes in the sky,
hard as a ceiling;
let my prison gown rise to expose my withered orchid.
The guards stare, salivate.
I am so chilled with fever, I tremble;
so petrified I turn into an angry stone.

This is a cave. No, this is my city.
No, this is my tomb.

My city burned and I saw edifices disappear, smelled toxic death.
Even the cats wheezed. The day was a stunning Miro blue, clean as
a new sheet, loud with one collective black sigh, the gasp of millions.
As always, the foreign cities were aflame, fields cluttered with mines,
like our minds and hearts.

We lined up at hospitals, waiting to give our blood to the dead.
There was nothing else we could do.
For months, flyers posted on the storefronts displayed faces of the
dead. We could still smell them. Have you seen Marie, George, Michel,
Ali? I memorized their faces. They come to me in nightmares, asking
why? We could do nothing.

I will do anything to escape. Well, almost.


When they brought me to this city it was dark; I could not see
through the black hood. But they forgot to put cotton in my
ears and plug my nose, so I know I was brought to a camp by
a sea or bay, could smell sea, hear waves. Camp --- oh, such
a droll name, reminds me of summers in the Catskills when
I was a child. There I was, gender delicate, so privileged to undergo
summers of fun fun fun with the innocent sadists, those
budding authoritarians in their early twenties, the counselors;
and the kiddies like Tiny Tina, the little curled girls with their
hierarchies of popularity. So I can drink in the smell of girlish
talcum powder in my dreams, revive the Hallmark moments of
childhood: strawberry lipstick, pink pantaloons, finished basements,
and birthday parties on yachts. We Americans have so
many accessories, don’t we; what a bore.

I remember Tiny Tina and Lucky Lulu and the rest of the
flock, age 12. They tied the big, strange, quiet one to the bed,
stripped her, showered her with milk and talcum powder,
poked at her tender, chubby spots, tittered: ominous, girlish
giggles. Too stunned to weep, the strange one covered her eyes
with her hands. I learned later that her uncle had raped her.

I think it was a camp on a bay. But it could be this city, here
wherever I am.

As I was Saying

I am not nor have I ever been. But that’s wrong. There’s no
neither for the nor, no either for the or – simply no choice,
either ho or hum. I am not and I have never been. I am God’s
little acre, passive soil. I dare you to cultivate me: come on,
come on! The bloody rain is falling.
Whether I’m in a camp or a city makes no difference. I could
be diving in Belize. It is all the same in my cave.
But I’ll try anything to crawl my way out of here.
I will convince you:


That is why I’m here, isn’t it? I swear to God never. I am ruled by white
candles, moved by divine destiny. I pledge allegiance to God, the all
merciful, the All. I fi ght for prayers all over the place, vocal prayers in
schools, banks, restaurants, libraries.

My God is sweet, despite the sin of my birth, nearly an abortion, but the
doctor erred. She’d received a call from her father and missed with the
scalpel. My mother nearly bled to death. And so I’m on this planet but
for His Grace, quite the Miracle, my mother said quite frequently, handing
me the sponge-mop, Walmart special. There were so many things to
clean; there are always so many dirty things. A woman’s work is never
done. The hungry angler arises hours before dawn, before the early bird
begins to catch worms. The rapacious angler catches tiny fish amongst
the trophies, fish with mouths that won’t close, like the accused in monolithic
Mafia trials. Of course, to be fair, fi sh mouths can’t close with all the
shit in the oceans. But who gives a shit, anyway?

No no, I have never been an existentialist, heavens forbid. Never ever
even when I had a lover who placed his hand over my mouth so I
wouldn’t utter a sound when I came. When I came, I said thank the Lord
thank the Lord. He –the lover– was an evil existentialist. He wouldn’t let
me say it.

I can’t possibly make anything happen, but I will try, clandestinely, give
it the old college try, hehe, but nothing upsetting or revolutionary, you
understand. Don’t tell them, they’ll misinterpret. Always good to keep
one’s mouth shut. Forget I said this. Better safe than sorry, have faith in
the Lord.

My god is sweet. He’s capitol! And capital! How about yours?


After hours of interrogation, I have nothing to confess, although
it’s possible I have no memories left. Please believe me. I have no

I’ve always loved foie gras, Grey Goose, Gucci Puccis, blue fox
coats, fancy dishwashers, diamonds, and white limos as sleek as
Arabian horses. I am not ashamed.
Even when daddy lost his big job and threw himself out, I loved
the burgundy leather sofa and that ivory statuette of Cupid with
the lampshade hat. I loved so many things in that house I stayed
there much too long. I suppose I wanted more and more and more
– more childhood, more gifts at Christmas, more champagne
and caviar, you know the scoop. They teach you to want. Wanting
is an art. How could I know that my father was suffi cient? Give me
his voice, the lullabies he sang, the adoration in his eyes. I want so
much to go back, sentimental fool that I am. He is dead.
Of course, I was never a Communist. Mother never let me share
my toys. I never give anything away. I can’t live without that Prada
purse. They all have Prada purses.

Mother died in that house. She said the locks were broken; she
couldn’t possibly open the doors. They found her in bed with the
family gems scattered all over the bedclothes, sparkling like babies’
tears. Most of them were fake, it turned out. It usually happens
that way.


I tell you I swear I will not make waves, never made them. Those who
accuse me are lying.


Exhibit A
When M ravaged P in the ladies room, I was hiding in a stall and
heard everything.
When P begged me to testify I said no, what are you thinking?
I support the company. My testimony would hurt the company. M is not
expendable; you are, I said. I said Sorry, life is tough, gotta take the bad
with the good tomorrow is another day forget about it, life is short, gotta
catch the worm catch the worm, bye and may God be with you.

Exhibit B
When the important news reporter wanted to interview me about
financial discrepancies in the company’s auditing reports, I said B &
Y are squeaky clean how can you suggest otherwise. Can you prove
that B and Y are in hiding somewhere in South America? No, you can’t,
I said the phone records have been cooked by the liberals, goodbye no
further comments.

Exhibit C
When G & G could no longer sublet their apartment because of my
co-ops’s new policy, they appealed to me, unemployed and broke,
they claimed. I’m a good citizen, on the board, president
for 16 years, a no nonsense type of person. One must take control
to defend one’s property; one must be decisive. So the residents always
elect me and I have my obligations. Accordingly, I said no
way to G & G, we can’t have transients living here, have to control
the comings and goings, too bad for you can always sell. There’s a
real estate agent on our Board, you know. While we sympathize, we
can’t possibly make an exception, when in Rome do as the Romans do
make haste while the sun shines redo your resumes, tough luck. I am
protecting my investment, mine all mine. I shall not waver. No

Exhibit D
When they started coming for the foreigners, I closed my curtains.
My neighbors and I shut our doors. We refused the children.
They were crying. It was not for us to decide what was best for
the community. We spoke in whispers and cooked big chickens.
We played Frank Sinatra to snuff the irritating sound of the
gunshots and wailing, wrote to our politicians to get rid of the
local porn shop.

Exhibit E
When Billy said I want to fight for democracy, I didn’t think I’d
be staring at a face without eyes, six months later. I said this is
our team and you are right the President said so. Make us proud,
Billy. Make us safe. I knew my duty. It is a mother’s lot to sacrifice
everything for her children, and her children’s lot to defend their
mothers from savages. That is what I know. That is what I was

We go about our routines, as usual, but we know they are coming and
there is nothing we can do. Our skin is bound so tight we are suffocating.
We sigh. We gasp. We close our eyes, rely on our faith.
We do.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Insurrection" in LIT magazine

My satirical, apocalyptic tale, "Insurrection," may be found in LIT, in case you can find or subscribe to this literary journal from The New School.

LIT magazine

Friday, August 26, 2011

Literary Review - John Sutherland on The World of Others: From Quotations to Culture

John Sutherland


The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture
By Gary Saul Morson (Yale University Press 352pp £20)

Academics like me are skilled users of Never heard of it? Ask the nearest undergraduate and watch their cheek blanch. Turnitin is the trade's leading 'plagiarism detector'. You upload the student's essay or dissertation and it's checked against trillions of words and phrases in seconds. Irritatingly, however, Turnitin turns in a lot of zombie quotes. Say, for example, a student opens an essay thus:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Dickens, well aware that he lived in neither the best nor the worst of times, was more tolerant than his Vanityfairean rival of 'great men'. For Thackeray no man was a hero to his valet.

The detector is quite likely to claim six hits here. Should the conscientious student have appended footnotes citing Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Ecclesiastes, John Bunyan, Carlyle, Goethe?

We think of our use of language as 'fluency'. There are, however, congealed lumps floating in it and, if we look beneath the surface, often more lumps than liquidity. Put another way, most language is pre-owned. The previous owners are, as Gary Morson instructs us, often worth knowing about. Take, for example (not one of Morson's examples), the indisputably most famous and quoted line in English literature, 'To be, or not to be, that is the question'.

Most theatregoers would think the sentence spit new. But should they also go to a performance of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus they would hear the following in the hero's magnificent opening soliloquy, in which he resolves to sell his soul: 'Bid Oncaym├Žon farewell, Galen come'. The Greek Oncaym├Žon transliterates as 'being and not being'. Where is Faustus a professor of philosophy? The University of Wittenberg. Where is Hamlet a student of philosophy? The University of - you guessed it. 'To be or not to be' is not a deeply original thought but a hackneyed sophomoric seminar topic. Hamlet is not thinking, he's quoting. ........................

(access the entire article here:

Literary Review - John Sutherland on <i>The World of Others: From Quotations to Culture</i>

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CAConrad's upcoming events: poetry chapbook contest...

The deadline for MadHat Press's first chapbook contest is fast approaching. Details are here on our judge's blog:

CAConrad's upcoming events: poetry chapbook contest...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tell Delta: Union Busting Won't Fly

There aren't many choices for "reasonably" priced flights out of Asheville to major cities like NYC. Only one non-stop -- from Delta. Do we really want to travel all day to get to NYC? So Delta and not all that savory US Air have the monopoly of flights that won't cost an absurd amount of money and won't necessitate multiple stops.

So hey, we should all protest Delta's union-busting maneuvers. Those of us who rely on their service should protest in front of airports. Those of us who don't, should also protest online and off. Starting at:

Tell Delta: Union Busting Won't Fly