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Presented by

THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

NINTH LETTER - 2013 -


V A R I E T Y


Y T E I R A V


TABLE OF CONTENTS ACT ONE C&Y stuff

INTERMISSION


ACT Two

ACT three

Poetry stuff

Other stuff

INTERMISSION


CM


YK


INTE MIS\ SION


ER\ \ N


All the

We set them one inside another, like Russian matryoshka, in crates from the Sana Market. The metaphor I want, rather, is a g ut her. How, over breakfast yesterday, she explained the way her body wanted—as all creation craves—a kind of complet dewalk. We, with our boxes barren of fruit, are reduced to the usual clichés. One day you are painting the bedroom & the ne ve is capable of saying is said best in sweat & muscle, I mean. We muscle the knotted table to the truck. Tuck beneath it the he faceted glasses rattle like the somber sounding of vespers. The nested shot glasses—stacked dolls—wobble in their crate li he fills the jugs there anyway. The jugs fill the guests’ goblets. Some flounce in her apron’s bow will be her most remembere om’s many windows. Lord, rescue me from the desire to be loved by you, or any other earthless, cumulus, yacht among the c nderground, with pipsissewa and his nets of sweaty bells. How could you account for our small happiness amid the chandelie ulations of gentleness and she gives in, oh, every time. Now that one can bet on anything—whether Monica Lewinsky or B onder how one handicaps the chicken bingo game, or accounts for Paul the Octopus’ perfect record in choosing World Cup s red-mile freefall, so that the Kaddush blessing would be read by crickets in Palestine, Texas? A blessing on the wine, a bles mpact, & runs his hand over the names scratched in the wood of death row, would find his own engraved there, the last man e was black, & this was a long time ago. The courthouse clock the man looks upon has never worked since. He draws a line be ys, but I almost remember now. This was my last day. The horse pulling the wagon that would take me away. The sunlight he unspoken confessions of our lives, if they can become a call upon our lives, it’s in you that I become closest to human. And their sky graves, their mouths full of stars. I hope the iridescent ruins are a comfort to them, ruins that speak to me of an ondolas moored to each other. I’ve seen the same architecture beneath the skin of wats, of pagodas, listened to the pulse of ra ll the torn names. She asks who will love Solomon Grundy. If Charlie Parker could change Luthor’s life. And all I can do is fl he stars turning Abracadabra: The anus. The star at the base of the human balloon. Close it tight as the sun, then let it unfu se your fingertips, mirrors. See what you’re hiding from yourself. Use spoons to reflect: Your ass, backwards, goes raveling uano, the bats’ own jellicate wallpaper? Read those fewtrils for alphabets and become kahuna. Revere their secret dictatio hem not for their oubliettes alone, but for what they release: Omina. Fortuna. The ways in which you see and might become chatology remains only “he.” Not “the man” or “man” or “men” but Old English, see? Us all, perhaps, though this is not th mbrace your exits, where bloom virginities of every orifice. Where bloom oracles: We are all full of shit. We could choose to ours?) could enter into and speak. We could make a primer. Have you considered: Zero—the shape that comes to mind—in ever silent. How difficult it is to be simple, to see a river and not ask where it runs. How difficult not to think of friends’ voice ons Where? How far? not envy the earliest sign of spring aching in their bones. The current hurtles downriver to blind room ne by one taking turns, guiding each other through the dark with our voices. For the swimmer, the moon is untouchable, elu eces of light reassemble on the current. The line between the current and recurrent trembles, fraught with whirlpools; our arrowed at the waterline, its warmth above, the slick algae below, the tug of the eddy pressing against the stone. What mov chen breeze all over my body. The fatigue I feel halfway across the distance, my feet dangling into cooler water, the moon o e empty. Still, there is a you that travels well on rough seas, pressing into and parting the water of your own reflection, a sk he live and dead loads, buoyancy and displac ments, support intervals, beams of varying thickness and weight. The bottom o hrough the water that is my body and the water that is not, enough, not enough and the skin in between. Asleep with arms gainst the lichen on the boards, the gray sky breaking apart in the wake of a thrush. But no, that is not how people leave one ody becoming a knife and then disappearing. Not that anyone ever asked, but I’ve spent most of June tucked in a case of a go on’t trust the snippy motherfuckers; that, plus I’ve read a couple hundred pages of your work this summer and think, or thi ying to connect the throblessness of a midnight wasps’ nest to something metaphysical— a mind approaching death or God say I spend my nights hopscotching from velvet pocket to velvet pocket, whining from the heat, the lint, the ladder scratch sex, unless we are fortunate enough to actually end up having it, and then it’s baseball stats and where did I put down my lig ering how far we are from getting the technology they used on Quantum Leap, and say we did, and some suave, pompadoure nse of expectation 157 cock-blocking his enjoyment—and that somehow invited the shag carpet where I plopped each wee hinks they’ll be there someday: knuckle-deep in love- making, picturing a perm-broken mother, a father buzzing through th amn thing once night turns over to her cooler cheek. All day long, sun rupturing around magnolias and rain-starved garde ebris the yard provides and build a chewed gumball of a home. It’s rare that I see largesse, still, I do find, in most of all livi ng-felled pile of tree branches, inside the papery, larval gray, inside the rattle of a moped, inside the phosphorescent haunt r me, the woman who, right now, has both my pillows nestled underneath her knees. And yet, for whatever reason, in this s . Each time I try not to pay attention to what I might as well call the flesh, I end up covering it. Might as well force myself to ttleness rises. I’m not alone enough, alive enough, to hold the brunette undoings edelweissing from the sleeves of the magno es dangle just a little bit over their sweat-nibbled waistlines. God knows how much they want it. When the morning up an d love to sing. In season five, midway through, episodes eight through ten, Dr. Beckett leaps into Louisiana, 1966, to save a g rty-second president, beating out Perot and Bush. Episode after episode, I watched Sam and Al give themselves over to the ry flakes like horse glue, and the six million viewers agreed it needed a grant of amnesty. In this one, though, Sam hung his ghed, swept up Abigail, and they gave us a fade to black. We filled in the blanks with sex, safe, commercial, sex. 1992— the as killed two years later at his prison toilet, bludgeoned with a cut-off broomstick), the year that gave us Right Said Fred, an n, moved on from you. The other two decades you’ve missed, the millennium’s too- dull turning over, double zeroes hanging esert—the sick of time has never changed, the episodes repeating in the ether. Now, the haze of time is too removed, and all t om the porch of my apartment. Since then, I’ve moved in with a woman, saved a dog from euthanasia, read some books, had s ack home, which is and isn’t true, the home part, I mean. Dad remarried; Mom put the house on the market, sold it, hit a high ou died, the next sensation was like hearing a screen- door you recognize from childhood swing open and whack against the b


glass of wine’s abrupt buckling. Or better—a broken lease. We label his life by room. You, we say, will make do just fine wit teness he couldn’t give. Kitchen, fragile. Forget the Christmas in Tahoe. Her shy peeing post- coitum. Carry your life to t ext you are a stack of dinner plates waiting to break. You are better off single. Et cetera. This language is never enough. Wh e seeds of sweet- corn & kale like taking the planet’s last rations for the new & fallow moon colony I want to define his life a ike they are dancing Tokens of white stones. A servant girl arranges them as an open hand atop a hill. Bats fly up from the we ed gesture, not that far-off hill’s bold salute to a dim star, not her taking her time snuffing out the candles in each of the lo clouds god of heaven and going up. I have a god and he tells me we all go out, and even better we go to fungus and live in tunne ers, with all that caviar on your chin? Her body with the doors flung open. Lying down next to her and sin. I perform the ca Big Bird will be mentioned in a presidential debate, or whether one’s own son will grow up to play for Manchester United soccer winners. What were the odds that the diary of the first Israeli astronaut would survive the Columbia explosion & hu ssing on the blood that would be shed. Or the odds that a man who visits a courthouse in Gonzalez a hundred miles from t n hung in the town? What were the odds Albert Howard was guilty? Don’t ask, the man is told when he asks of his namesak etween the name in the wood & his own. Now Albert Howard is looking at the courthouse with different eyes. It’s strange, through the red dust clouding up from the street. The chime of the clock striking the hour. If it’s our vulnerabilities that a d like humans, I look up to the skies for my origin, for my mother & father adrift beyond the Archer & Bull, my parents asle n after beyond the end. And it’s only in my own weakness that I see again the frailty of Lois’s skeleton, the bones like ghost ain on the roof of the telephone booth because I have no one to call. Find I am unworded, until I tear the phone book in half fly her above the clouds. Listen to the rainbeat quicken beneath her skin. Hear the gasp from her cirrus mouth, at the stars, url: Crepe paper, the spiraling heart of the pipecleaner flower. Do you know what to do? Pry open that shopworn diary. Eas g outward like an expanding universe. Have you considered musce dae, the soft and smooth innumerable droppings of mic ons until, like all things, the secrets reorder the order of your language. Make those soft, inward labyrinths your own. Kno e. Parousia. That moment in which the body feels least heavy, most quiet, uncalmably calm. Consider: Between scatology an he point. The point is this: We can take in language from either end and make language understood—again, from either en o make this space in us so small no digit, no wind, no x could ever pass through. Or we could open a world any finger or tong n its most common, most practical functions makes everything the same as or equal to itself. above her, at the dead, who a es in the gossip of river and stones. How difficult to hear geese overhead in late winter and not imagine in their cries the que ms. The recurrent water of the eddy doubles back, healing itself, waking. We swam at night to the boulder in the fast curren usive on the water. For the one on shore guiding him, he swims across the moon, swims the moon’s darknesses. The shatter r bodies like dropped sticks crossed and recrossed, pulled under and resurfaced almost untouched. The stone’s waist worn an ves beneath, what passes around us? All that time, the boulder yielding, losing itself, worn to pieces, passing bit by bit on t on a smooth, passing surface; friends silent now, gone, or missing, carried on a current, almost out of reach: you fear that y kin boat sailing toward luck. Because we cannot know, because the future has a way of inviting itself, the shipwright weig of the boat we ride to deep water, pitched like a roof— let the seams be true. We dissolve on the water like snow, light leaki crossed in the neighbor’s green canoe, gladiolus blossoms falling into lake fog in a slow rain. Or naked at the dock’s edge, sk another. Not in a gentle drift through a fragrant veil. Not in the graceful arc of a dive— though, it was kind of like that, yo ood gin binge, considering a wasps’ nest buttoned between the alcove and the windowsill, for no better reason than the fac ink I think, you’d find my quasi-philosophizing respectable enough, just by the looks of it (I’m like that, yes). And though I d or the soul— I’m stuck at throb, and how, an hour ago, I put a nipple in my mouth I’d not exactly wanted there, which isn h of seams. Too often, I’ve blamed you for how I justify my distance toward intimacy. When you wrote that all we think abo ghter, I believed you. Tonight, when she pulled on the hairs I wish I didn’t have on my back, I couldn’t help myself from wo ed physicist morphed, right then, his DNA with mine, if he’d feel any more connected to the situation, coming into it with ek to watch that show to finger a wormhole into my memory, the carpet my mother cried over the day we moved in. No o he fifteen clicks the neighbor’s siphoned cable offered him. I swear, there is a nest outside. A nest exists that doesn’t do a go en boxes where basil, mint and rosemary go to die, wasps, those gilded, fire-pronged shit-bits, bring back whatever colorle ing things, some childish prankster posturing to prove that living matters most. But not tonight. Tonight, inside the ligh t of a street- light, all I see is death. And yes, I love the woman who I tasted earlier, the woman who unbuckled her love’s b stillness, it isn’t her I’m scared of, but the soft despair surrounding her, the curl of its minked vowels, how much I need to lo o hold my breath until I can’t ignore any longer the bronzing locust drones, the brick by brick mentality of gnats before the olia in such a way I’ll care what happens to them. I’d rather leave sense-making for couples sleeping, spooned where their be nd hits its jackknife switch, they’ll want it then. God knows I’m not alone enough for anything to matter. I’ll hold my breat girl named Abigail from a lynching. These aired the weeks before Thanksgiving, 1992, the same month Bill Clinton became t invention of a second, parallel, clean-coated history. Undoing the noose and yoke of what actually happened. The sick of hi s honor, fell in lust, and spent three episodes building up to a stairway scene, a second of indecision mastered when he gave i year Bush Sr. puked on the prime minister of Japan’s lap, the year Dahmer’s “episodes” of malfeasance were found guilty ( nd the 100th episode of COPS aired on FOX. All this less than six months after Time, that unquestioned authority of movi over bank notes like the eyes of a dull god, the terror and the terror and the terror, the graves flag-draped and yawning in t the good shows have died six different times, episodic in their graven failures. Over a year has passed since I began this missi sex, slept, ate, moved out, ignored dozens of phone calls from my family and friends, and gone to work. In June, I spent a mon hschooler with her Ford, got hooked on Xanax, broke her heart a couple times. Mr. Nemerov, Howard, here’s hoping that, aft bricks, sending the wasps that nested in the porch light fixture aswirl. And that you stepped inside, smelled good food cooki

Poetry


Turtles, heroine, wastebaskets, jars, dead birds, and more Artillery, shells, explosions, telephone, and mailboxes galore Chimps, science, brains, butts, cabin, lake, people, and cars Murder, scotch, coffee, beer, witchcraft, and stars Lilacs, nature, butterflies, eagles, smoke, fire and tambourines Underwear, cigarette butts, hair, golf pencils, and beans Dried fruit, rose petals, rocks, swamp leaves, and weeds Boulders, flags, razors, pain killers, balloons, and corned beef Bandanas, blackberries, poppy seed, fungus, bells, and deer Caviar, cracked glass, russian dolls, rabbits, hawks, and chandeliers Shot glasses, wine glasses, canoes, knives, and spoons Pipe cleaners, goblets, bows, candles, stones, and moons Big bird, clock, horses, gin, basil, chewed gum, turkey, and a truck But really, I could probably give less of a fuck.


Turtles, heroine, wastebaskets, jars, dead birds, and more Artillery, shells, explosions, telephone, and mailboxes galore Chimps, science, brains, butts, cabin, lake, people, and cars Murder, scotch, coffee, beer, witchcraft, and stars Lilacs, nature, butterflies, eagles, smoke, fire and tambourines Underwear, cigarette butts, hair, golf pencils, and beans Dried fruit, rose petals, rocks, swamp leaves, and weeds Boulders, flags, razors, pain killers, balloons, and corned beef Bandanas, blackberries, poppy seed, fungus, bells, and deer Caviar, cracked glass, russian dolls, rabbits, hawks, and chandeliers Shot glasses, wine glasses, canoes, knives, and spoons Pipe cleaners, goblets, bows, candles, stones, and moons Big bird, clock, horses, gin, basil, chewed gum, turkey, and a truck But really, I couldn’t give less of a fuck.


THE PAST IS GONE


THE PRESENT IS HERE


THE FUTURE IS SCARY


KINDA


THAT’s

Deep Some

SHIT


INTERMISSION


FIRESUPE RHOTFIR ESUPERH OTFIRES UPERHO TFIRESUP ERHOTFI RESUPER HOTFIRE SUPERH OTFIRES UPERHO TFIRESUP ERHOTFI RESUPER


CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA TCATC


ATCAT CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA TCATC ATCAT CATCA


N O O N E K N O W S I T A L L


‘Merica


SO HA


APPY


GO TIM


OOD MES


LOL


NO


k. bye


Plan B