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{ managing editor Jennifer Williams non - fiction editor Melissa Sipin fiction editor Margaret Miller poetry editor Ava Rosen incoming editor Rebecca Woolston

Issue 16 • Copyright 2014

ISSN: 1523-4762

readers Megan Brown Zoe Bulick Dakota DeFiore Matthew Elias Jacquelynn Gothard Tasha Keeble Danielle Rubinstein-Towler Linsey Scriven Megan Susman faculty advisor Micheline Marcom

design + layout template: emji spero designer: Melissa Sipin with assistance: Ava Rosen cover art Untitled Cortney Cassidy

580 Split is an annual journal of arts + letters Edited by a revolving staff of graduate students at Mills College, 580 Split aims to publish innovative poetry, prose, and visual art. The journal takes its name from the highway ramps, overpasses, and interchanges near the college. 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94613 You can find submission guidelines at:

https://580split.submittable.com/submit


Mills College

Oakland, 2014


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My Mother, My pool

78

precious, Disappearing photographs of loss

Shawn Rubenfield

Doug Rice

non - fiction

Sunny Suddenly

144

Holy thursday

154

the almost City, an excerpt

/ essay

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Diversions

66

What it is like to be a Muslim Woman, and Why We Know What Freedom is

Sailor Holladay

Hiba Krisht

91

petition for redress Marisa Handler

130

adventure ___: Write it Down

185

on Myth and Mischief

Patrick Gill Melissa R. Sipin

Caren Beilin M. Evelina Galang Keenan Norris

interviews

14 25 51 88 115 137 163

anne Carson Selah Saterstrom laleh Khadivi Cheryl Dunye latasha n. Diggs M. evelina galang nayomi Munaweera

contributor bios

87

197

fiction


poetry

experimental

104 170 174

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Selah Saterstrom

Scores translation interview

on Writing from the exclusion Zone, excerpt

49

iMg series

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from HellagraMS FroM oaKlanD

Andrew West

David Buuck visual art

14 24 42 50 86 90 114 136 162 168 184

Cortney Cassidy justin Carder

84

Four Sonnets

98

Your pillow Was Buzzing, not for june Julia Cohen

Muzzy Moskowitz joshua Duncan

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jaguar average

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the parts of the City in Storage, in place of Damage & War Mischief

jenna Caravello richard Kostelanetz

Jacob Kahn

juliana Wisdom

Jennifer Denrow & Julia Cohen

Jennifer Denrow

eliseo art Silva

129

Mashiated translations

l端端k Honey

159

the Beginning of Bodyguard

Caroline Battle rachel S. espanola

LaTasha N. Diggs Jamie Townsend


from the Editor Jennifer Williams

i believe there is mischief in creativity . I want to surprise myself when

I write. I want to feel under the power of another force, something inside of myself I don’t recognize. Full of spontaneity, not rules, rituals or forms. Art’s job is to turn its nose up at authority and to run away laughing, to offend and criticize and turn inside out. But how do you seek out mischief? You can’t chase after inspiration. Most days when I sit in my chair, trying to chase after something refreshing and true, my writing lands dull on the page. But if I sit still long enough, if I distract myself in the motion of it, if my mind lets up for a moment, something bright and true and catching might sneak in and splash all over my work. In the end, it’s not always the work that is mischievous, but the moment of creation itself. So in choosing submissions, we were loose with our theme. If mischief is something inherent in the process, we wanted to showcase work that was alive with that moment of connection—of creator with creativity. With last year’s Obsession issue, we were especially proud of the interviews with multiple writers, artists, musicians and even scientists— and I didn’t want to leave that behind completely. So we decided to play with the interview and make it into a creative, almost absurd prompt for those willing to participate. We lifted questions from old issues of The Paris Review and sent them, out of context, to a handful of artists. We also solicited experimental prompts meant to inspire readers to create their own responses, their own public actions. Mischief, we have learned, may not be something that you can find directly. But if you cultivate a habitable mindset—one of wonder, one of the present moment, one of obstinance and irreverence—mischief might more readily seek you out.


an Interview with Anne Carson Margaret Miller anne carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living. Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the MacArthur “Genius� Award.

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untitled

Cortney Cassidy

Margaret Miller: anne carson : the “ negotiations � are different

What are the negotiations made when blending poetry and prose together?

for each sentence, I can’t see how to generalize this. A sentence has a thought in it, and the thought requires a certain morphology whether poetic, prosaic or something else: I just follow the thought.

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What role does subversion isn t an end in itself for me, but subversion through finding an accurate way to express a thought imagery, language, etc. play in your writing may often entail refreshing or recreating its process and the works method. you produce? As a writer, how much proust has a much better answer to this than intentionality is there in me. He observes the momentarily impaired what you put on the page and what you leave out? surface of the eye of a person who has just had Do you consider any of a thought she will not tell you, which traces a your writing to involve an fissure in the pupil and disappears back down aesthetic blindness?

its own involuntary depths.

,

,”

What is your odd word originally derived from tom a understanding of term for a common man and so representtomfoolery? Who is one writer or one literary ing behaviour that looks foolish because it is character you find so ordinary. Proust’s Albertine is 100 percent particularly playful? Why? playful, or maybe not, for she is always lying.

However, she is far from ordinary. So much for etymology.

/

Would you describe the thing about playfulness mischief is that as Albertine as more soon as you start talking about, it disappears mischievous than playful, since she’s always lying? like the dew.

Not sure I see much difference between the two, however. Does your question about Albertine pertain to her possible malevolence? If so, I think we never know what she really has in mind. The author veils this.

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Anne Carson


,

Was there a compulsion no i felt no compulsion to continue Geryon, to continue Geryon and but I was bored one day and Currie said, “Why Herakles’ story for your book Red Doc>? not go on with that red winged guy?” So I did.

What is exciting for you letters themselves are interesting right now in Letters?

alphabet, as a concept and a.

,

I like the

,

Are there any artists my friend currie mainly but also hope to do an you would like opera with Laurie Anderson. to work with?

,

What books would you homer and i d get a subscription take with you if you were the island. stranded on the proverbial tropical island?

to LRB on

What advice do you start in the middle . have for young writers?

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on Writing from the Exclusion Zone, excerpt from Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics Selah Saterstrom I. Graphite, aerial, swaths down and sticks to the crossroads. This lumen blooms in fundamental pitch, slides sheen into the slip, toward a gentle slope, in a field, the effervescent lumen transmigrating.

Accrual becomes mattered: stitches congregate into the line. Above, a jagged edge calibrated to past and future ruptures. And inside the area thus created, a smaller version of itself. A memory hardened into future fuels, emanation’s proof, both.

Meanwhile a Biwa Lake Tree matures to fruition. Perfect for animating the winds. Its bouquet is resilient, if pressed upon, it springs back.

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Selah Saterstrom


The lip: eroded as an old hung fang. Walking the plank, the abyss is less dense than imagined. At the edge of its Cadillac wide assed swerving toward the vanishing point we could do as others have done. We could work this lip into land, we could settle the territory. A voice from somewhere we don’t know where says ancient history the story of the twelve tribes I’m bored tell me something I don’t know don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you, this goddamned screwball comedy in which our births map to the thirty-eight slots of a roulette wheel. The story of a tomb-keeper heir to a kingdom though she doesn’t know it. In which Odin hung from an Ash tree. The laborious opera concerning how we came to name the eternal. The glitch in the episodic situating the theme. The exquisite cold of disregard. The disgust of things feral. The shining hatred.

The line emits frequency. Vibrational waves that appear, in some dimensions, as humming chevron patterns. The frequency’s edge feathered through by ten thousand horizontal eyes en-gridding. As if ten thousand glass plates were stacked and everything seen was through the resulting lens. There is only frequency. And the patterns it creates, a dust mote footnoting the invisible. Here is what a fetal heartbeat looks like on a monitor in a county hospital in 1974. The mother carries the picture.

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The line curves as a sweetheart neckline curves. It remembers that a reclining woman breathes. The larger shape is that of a folding fan, if slightly open. In the bottom of each fold, a deep ravine. From one such ravine, a gray emergence, a graphite mound. The reclining woman posits it over her navel, shielding the passage that leads to the text. In the other world everything also exists. But in versions complicated by the softness that dissolution makes. Graphite writes its likeness. The portrait reaches into another hole inside of the one we are in. Erasure saturation is the line lining itself over. The portrait’s hand makes shadow shapes behind the backlit sheet, here is a crow and here is a murder.

Failed punctums as recognized in the old-timey valley of death feeling. Proof that when conditions are conducive, expression unfurls, fern like. Accidents constitute the small town in the Hospitality State. On top of the failed remain, an eco-system thrives. Surrounded by white space, shredded and whipped, clouds in a sticky photograph removed from a crime scene. Can I live here? Is there room for one more? Punctum, one in each eyelid, puncta lacrimalia.

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Selah Saterstrom


A line, plucked, throws up a quivering bouquet. What is at its heart? A line lays next to another made of entirely different material. Connecting these, an illuminated string. All around, the remains of previous lines. One such hovers above the luminous string, its phantom paws touching all the surfaces. What was written there? Dark clouds slide in. How many times can one be consumed? More than once inside the original.

Inside the graphite mound, steaming remains in an array of contrary textures. Above the mound’s toothy opening, weather or angels. They hold moisture and indicate hidden activity. Inside the mound, cavernous chambers extending beneath the sea. Inside the chambers, the old passion plays slinging on a loop. Everything that has ever been. Is there as guts. Without regard to formal invention. Outside, standing on the slope, we admire its silver and handsome qualities. We do not recall that it was this medium that caught the people’s mouths in their last terror shapes. To be under the blinding light of the hand moving back and forth, back and forth, the atmosphere sounds, voices are speaking from the multi-path fading spectrum stream.

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The line has broken into nine parts, which correspond to the nine conditions. The line, broken, lifts its gentle necks to the morning. Emerging from the depthing spot, smeary swans constellate in orchestral precision. Come noon, the lines appear as needles floating in still water. Migration. Down. Silt. The line does not move forward. There is no advancing. There is a sheet of paper so far away that we see it on the big screen, emergent and hemorrhaging, broadcasting star patterns and birth charts.

A raw garnet dug up from earth appears as a piece of burned glass and smells of warm dirt. How did this garnet come to rest here, pinned between sky and sea, a mineral between the here and hereafter? Lines made through the absenting of lines, they suggest their phantom shapes into calligraphy. And someone arrives, a dead poet, she writes in an elegant script a poem about geese. It is a melancholic poem featuring geese, a landscape, and reflections about death How do the deceased live within the blurred calligraphic strokes dependent upon whatever it was we erased? Who was here first? The process of being read, truly read. One day our lines appear in some other’s erasure. The garnet speck poised between sea and sky, the unpolished mineral of previous earths. In those earths there was vegetation, humidity, nakedness.

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Selah Saterstrom


Finally night appears. As a black veil worn in August heat, a wax tablet written upon with an iron nail, a slate for punching out the dots. This is my favorite form of night, graphite seen in moonlight. Below the mountain, a slivered lake. In its surface, future births and deaths, the whole process in the cloud-sea of parts. During the darkest nights what we have erased appears more luminous. What we have erased has power restored. There are times when everything deserves rest and is given permission. There are times when graphite dreams and what has been erased passes its cool hand across a forehead and the fevered child within all things sleeps.

notes This essay was greatly energized by the photographs of Michael Kenna in his series Japan (2003) and Ratcliffe Power Station (2004). Nuclear graphite is specifically manufactured for use as a moderator or reflector within nuclear reactors. Graphite is an important material for the construction of both historical and modern nuclear reactors as it is one of the purest materials manufactured at industrial scale and it retains its properties (including strength) at high temperatures. (Gareth B. Neighbour, Management of Ageing in Graphite Reactor Cores; 2007) “We saw graphite scattered about. Misha asked: “Is that graphite?” I kicked it away. But one of the fighters on the other truck picked it up. “It’s hot,” he said...There was no water…Then those boys…went up to the roof, they went up the ladder ... and I never saw them again.” (Grigorii Khmel, first responder, Chernobyl) It’s like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above it that’s now been taken away and hidden. (Douglas Adams)

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We Were on a terrible Mission that Made no good Sense

Justin Carder

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an Interview with Selah Saterstrom Margaret Miller

selah saterstrom is the author of The Pink Institution, The Meat and Spirit Plan, and, forthcoming, Slab, all published by Coffee House Press. She is also the author of Tiger Goes to the Dogs, a limited edition letterpress project (Nor By Press). She is the Director of Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Margaret Miller: selah saterstrom : all of the novels have their

First off, I’m curious about your forthcoming novel, Slab.What can you tell me about this work and how it differs from your previous two novels, The Pink Institution and The Meat and Spirit Plan? Is this the last book of the trilogy?

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own trajectories-into-form, which is perhaps one way the books differ. This new book Slab began while walking through my mother’s neighborhood for the first time, post-Katrina, and it began with dogs. We had been warned about dogs that had packed up. I didn’t see any packs that day, but did see other dogs. They were dead, fixed in extraordinary ways, or they were specially trained corpse sniffing dogs. The radical arrangements of innumerable (transed out) textures—the scenes of the disaster— necessitated that my relationship with language change (for months: dreams about forked and secret tongues). That particular day, one of these specially trained dogs did locate a corpse. She was a redhead caught in a mess of wooden beams and all manner of debris. Upon learning this I wrote

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down: My name is Tiger and this is the story of how I got my name. Suddenly (immanence!) I was aware of a huge narrative drift. The narratives felt like a kind of light that moved through everything: dislocated, fragmented, deceased, deformed, moving through bodies and paradigms, resonating with laylines of potential. I felt that parts of this drift landed inside of me, which is how the book began. The book’s structure is modeled after a jazz funeral, which begins with mourners and musicians playing dirges, marching the body to the cemetery. After everything is done at the grave and the body is “cut loose,” the music shifts into Dixieland Jazz. During the writing of this book, several loved ones died. So the space of the book, its writing, was a funeral, experienced. When it was finally over, I realized it was also the end of the trilogy.

Can you go into more i ve never been to any place that doesn’t have detail about “narrative narrative drift. I think it can be thin as a layer of the drift”? How do you engage that drift? Do you just start finest dust cut in a pattern of lace that one walks writing? through. Or: a band of hungry ghosts passing over

(while we hold our breath below). Or: the patina on the walls of a whore motel that burned down twenty years ago in New Orleans East. Let’s all make a book called 100 Descriptions of Narrative Drift! There is no way it can’t look or be. It is where the conditions are conducive for it, which is everywhere there is energy. How do you engage that drift? Yes, I think you just start writing, so long as writing doesn’t exclude the always-also happening act of reading.

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Selah Saterstrom


,

You said you had well to say a bit more about secret and forked dreams of “forked and tongues, and maybe this will address some things secret tongues.” I’m wondering, how, especially you bring up… I am interested in the ways trauma with this new work, you or experiences of radical loss hybridize and decided what kind of transfigure our mouths so that we might speak language or “tongue” to let such events, and I believe in listening—deeply and Tiger speak from?

while utilizing many modes of listening—to the logics that issue from the changed mouth. Ear to the seams of emergent post-disaster forms, I sense invitations to engage with paradigms that might address ways to bear and celebrate situations such as uncertainty, for example, and in more profound or congruent ways. I want to attune to such forms and tongues that I might move towards alternative paradigms, ones less dependent on and addicted to suffering and shame. I think writing and all it involves can offer such attunements. And as a writer I feel it is one of my responsibilities: to investigate the oracular pulse points in the medium. The forked or secret tongue might lead to these places, places I want to be.

During my interview i love what anne carson said about mischief as with Anne Carson about you have related it here—as if the word performs mischief, she essentially said: once you say the word itself at the level of the line and within the cosmos mischief, it disappears. Is of the piece/movement, as if this word ‘mischief’ there something lost when is directly linked into the source-keeper of the you name “it”?

crossroads (the trickster/Legba). Or: etymology: the seething and blooming guts. I do believe words (haunted vessels) can do this. I believe words can blink in-and-out like satellites illuminating the farthest outposts of our karma.

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In general, I think things can be lost when we name them (I’m here thinking of semiotics and Lacan, feminist readings of Lacan— Kristeva and Irigaray, to be sure—and the entire subject-placement event). Things are also lost when they are un-named (here I’m thinking of the countless bodies sunk into this blood drenched history). How words appear or don’t…when a word blinks out because it means itself so entirely it reminds that absence is a poignant form of presence—it calls the mind back to seeking an experience of the world beyond the constraints of binary thinking. In The Meat and Spirit Plan “it” wasn’t named because the narrator did not have a way to speak it. The choice to not name “it” had to do with attempting to attune to what the story/visitation necessitated rather than any personal leanings—or even hopes (!)—I may have entertained about “it,” the narrator, or the story. I feel as though writing listening is a big part of everything for me — is more an act of listening an important act, but also a way of being, an and hearing.

orientation. I hope I can be better at it in the future. I am also a reader—of books, debris, everything, including the cards, the business of “fortunes”—and I know that essential to being a good reader is the ability to be a skilled listener… listening, on multiple levels, and all at once. I learned this early, as a girl, from the best card readers in the South. It has proved to be of great

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Selah Saterstrom

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consequence in my life. Somewhere along the way (I think it was while reading Kalidasa in college) I came into a prayer I mumble most days when I wake: let me listen with my ten thousand senses. I think you could replace ‘listen’ for ‘touch’ or ‘taste’ and so on. Maybe ‘listen’ is a stand-in word for a vibration of attunement—a certain quality of presence and engagement (because of course listening is an active experience, one that includes reading/writing…thus the desire to listen better and more). In The Pink thank you for this close reading of the work! Institution, the first section When I began The Pink Institution I believed it was feels loose and unstable. At what point did you energized by my grandfather, and I thought of the acknowledge the novel project as ghost writing: writing in the name of or being of so many voices? for an absent other. He was an extremely dynamic

and unfortunate man, and I adored him. Quickly and violently I realized it was, in fact, a project about the (unrecorded) voices of the women who had orbited him. Orbited, and gone (or persisted) beyond. Towards the end of the novel the “I” that slips into the voice that, turns out, has been telling the story all along, emerges in a more recognizable way. Put another way: the syntactical logic in the book morphs, as it has been doing throughout the book. I think of this narrating voice as a sieve for transgenerational memory. She was always “there” (even before her birth). Which seems to me how memory works—and/or—how it feels to be in a lineage.

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I’m interested in the in graduate school while writing a thesis use of the prefix transand transgenerational on the Gospel of John I realized that words memory. I want to know beginning with ‘trans’ are my guiding words, your connection and words I cannot exhaust. They are such good understanding of a trans space, especially because words. Transubstantiation, transduce, transect, I think when we see the transverse, transfuse, translucent, transcribe, prefix come up, say, in the word “transgender,” translate, transfix, transgender, transmigrate, we don’t really stop and transgress… across across over over beyond realize its meaning; that beyond. trans- represents a sort of Trans is the atmosphere (the place, the liminality. How do you understand the liminal state, the perfume) of Hermes, patron of or the trans- in your own writing or in the process of interpreters and thieves alike, the messenger of writing? the gods, the keeper of the crossroads, Legba,

John’s Christ, hermeneutics. While writing that thesis I also wrote a book of vignettes as a parallel experience and in that book Jesus was either transgendered or desperately trying to become so. Doesn’t that make sense? Yes! It does. Jesus (in all the gospels) certainly troubles the line (to use TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson’s phrase). John tells us that Jesus’ only known act of writing was, in fact, to draw a line, a troubling one (a narrative also involving a woman condemned to being stoned to death for having sex, no less). Though I think my personal interpretation of The Meat and Spirit Plan matters little, I always felt the hero, at least as far as the narrator was concerned, was Night Nurse Charlie, and in my mind, he was transgendered. There is hope, energy, and profound,

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Selah Saterstrom


revealing logics within transgenderedness, and I believe that transgenderdness is here, along with other forms of embodiment, to save us or open our minds/hearts/bodies or to try to. What compels you to what compels me to write about the female write about women, girls, experience (and the generational/matrilineal) or the female experience? Or maybe in a more is my body: this site I am always negotiating, Faulknerian sense, the experiencing, experimenting with. It’s the generational or matrilineal?

spaceship through which this (life/Other bodies) mystery is engaged.

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How do you continue i m turning soon and I’ve been thinking a to see your body as a lot about what this means in terms of being site of negotiation and experimentation in your female in this culture. I do feel my body enters newer work(s)?

the current work in new ways. It wants to risk more on the side of love through new modes of inclusion and manifestations of presence. It demands a kind of recognition and healing it didn’t say, ten years ago. It’s a bit frightening and very exciting.

In The Pink in my first three novels there was this sense Institution, and your of “giving voice”—of trying to offer a kind of other works, you tap into the placement of the microphone to beings who were proliferating “unrecorded” or “ghost” in the margins—I felt these folks through voice.

ancestry, proximity, dreams, correspondences, intuition, and tumbleweed jumbles (narrative drifts!) moving through my space and body. That work often reminded me about making choices, as best I could, on behalf of those voices and what they necessitated (versus my

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hopes, desires, or thoughts about how I thought the narrative in question should unfold). What happens? I don’t know—the conversations complicate, one hopes, in poignant ways. Right now I’m rather obsessed with literally recording voices. Last year I started a recorded interview project in Northern Ireland in which I asked people about their relationship to poverty and making art in [the] “light” of history. I have another interview project in which I ask people to explain their relationship to the word ‘glamour.’ I have hours and hours of recordings for both projects. Asking people about how they feel about ‘glamour’ has been intriguing—it seems like a fairly innocuous question initially, but it has been amazing to see how, in fact, it is a very deep and emotional consideration for people the more they talk about it... More recently, and thanks to my assistant (none other than my eight-year-old niece), I’ve been making ghost recordings. Riley Ann and I go to old graveyards and ask questions at various graves and return home and spend a long time listening to the static and white noise. It’s always a big adventure and involves sodas and chocolate treats. It has been incredible to watch/learn from my niece in terms of how she listens: the joy of listening for something one cannot see! (And one time we did hear a voice on one of those recordings…). This is probably

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Selah Saterstrom


an unorthodox thing to do with a young niece, but that is the kind of babysitter I happen to be.

Lastly, can you describe more your connection to the “crossroads,” especially between the living and the dead? How do you understand such a space in your writing both on a personal and literary level?

the crossroads is the primary symbol of the

spiritual tradition in which I was raised. It’s the place way out of town—on the edge of the edge of the edge. In the South, you go to the crossroads when you are serious about changing something in your life. I just asked a priest friend of mine, Lou Florez, to sum up the crossroads and he said (while laughing), “It’s the place you don’t intend to go, but where you end up…” He added, “…it requires absolute vulnerability and nakedness…and that’s part of why that space can feel so threatening. I always go back to the Greeks and the conception of Eros as the threshold between lack and abundance, it’s the monte, the wild primeval swamp that we all arise from and return to.” I’d note that the deities of the crossroads (Legba, Jesus, Hermes, etc) all also rule divination (“reading”—making narrative; writing). So the crossroads is a writing place...

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My Mother, My Pool Shawn Rubenfield

i was fourteen when i discovered the spot behind the shed. From it, I

could look through a hole in the fence and enjoy a secret view of Holly in the pool. Holly was in eighth grade. She wore a two-piece and had perfectly tiny bumps at the top of her bathing suit. Bobbsey Twins, my mother called them. Bobbsey Twins I wanted to see and squeeze. So when the time was right, I tossed a tennis ball over the fence. Then I went to the gate and asked for it. Holly came over, wet. She laughed, her shoulders fluttering. What was I doing playing with a tennis ball anyway? She tugged at the bottom of her bathing suit, sending little drops of water down her thighs. I thought about taking her in my arms and kissing her on the spot. Instead, I said something about that stupid ball and oh, what a nice pool. And she said: You wanna come in? But of course it wasn’t that easy. It’s cold today, my mother said when I asked for my suit. Who in their right mind would go swimming? You’ll get sick. And then what? You think I’ll miss work to take you to the doctor? You don’t know my mother like I do, but let me tell you: she had talent. She used it to stop me from doing a lot of things. But no way I’d let it work this time. Not with Holly waiting for me in her perfectly tight bikini and her crystal clear pool. I was going. Even if it meant getting sick and walking to the doctor myself. Back at the pool, Holly was sitting on the top step. She asked what took Cortney me so long. My mother, I said, shrugging. I took three steps down Cassidy

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Shawn Rubenfield


and glided into the water. Holly stayed put, occasionally kicking her legs and splashing her feet. Meanwhile, I studied the creases in her bikini— the way her stomach smoothed and bumped and split at her legs. It was about right here that I started growing. Before I go on, I should mention that you might not understand this like I do—the growing thing that is. At fourteen, I was pretty much an expert. In fact, I was seven when I first indulged in these growing situations. My mother worked at a furniture store and so she’d leave me to wander around the showroom. I did so until I found a chair that fit my liking. If no one was around, I would sit backwards and thrust myself into the seat until my dick grew. If I felt daring enough I’d set it free. Then I’d wait for it to settle and start over. This happened on a weekly basis. It only ended when my mother stopped taking me to work. Even at school I couldn’t restrain myself. If I wasn’t sneaking off during playtime, I was sneaking my hands under my desk, walking fingers over my dick and making it rise and fall like castles and empires. In bed was easiest. I would rub myself against the blankets and animals until I’d fall asleep. Then I’d wake to see my shorts gone, and my soldier standing guard right where I left him. But that was just the start. Soon I found other things, better things, and then I found the pool. That spot. That spot where I happened to be standing. The water jetting itself up the bottom of my suit, wrapping around my thighs, hitting the very tip of me—it was unlike anything I had felt before. I wanted to act on it so badly, to take it out, to let it happen, but I couldn’t—not with Holly there. Not with Holly watching. So I did nothing. Until the next day: when I saw Holly and her parents getting into their car. I counted the heads twice to make sure. Then I marched to my baby, not even thinking twice. I just wrestled off my clothes and jumped.

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The day after that, I sat on the porch and studied the movement from the house until the three of them left again. Within seconds, I was naked over the pool. Did you miss me? I asked. Because I missed you. I found opportunities to sneak to that pool all summer. I kept a close eye on the street. I even discovered a place on the couch that had a view of both the TV and Holly’s driveway. If I heard the slam of a car door or the start of an engine, I instinctively ran to the window. The pool was my reason for waking up each morning. I truly, honestly loved it. What it did to me, I mean. But you see where I’m going with this, right? Because like she did with everything else, my mother was taking notice. She’d call me when I came back inside. Come here, she’d say, just for a minute. She’d lean in, and I’d stand head down, eyes closed. She’d take a few whiffs and look me in the eye. Where were you just now? she’d say. Walking, I’d say, or running, or playing basketball. She’d shake her head before I could finish. You’ve been gone for a while, she’d say. All of it walking? I’d nod. So two hours of walking? I’d nod again. I learned that anything I said would lead me closer to the point of no return. She’d test my stare. Then she’d shoo me out of the room. Also, there came a day when watching Holly swim brought my stomach to my knees. It was worse when her father was there. I’d stand beyond the fence and see the water stick to his hairy stomach. I’d follow the curve of that wry smile with my finger. I wanted to kill him. But of course that’s not how it happened. You see, even though I had an escape route planned in the event of an early family return, I had let myself become so distracted one day

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Shawn Rubenfield


that I didn’t hear when the car pulled into the driveway. Suddenly a light in the house turned on, and there he was in the window. I shot from the pool, not just naked, but hard, grabbing my clothes and sprinting to the side of the house. When the front door opened, I waited quietly against the building, covering myself with the clothes, trying to figure out which side he was coming down. There only had to be one leaf, one twig, one rock, anything. My heart sped to astronomical levels. Plus, since the stupid thing was wet, it wouldn’t go down. I poked at it and pushed it but it kept swinging up. Then, by some miracle, I heard a squeak on the other side of the house. I inched to the corner, took a quick look at the yard, and ran home, throwing myself into the shed. But being there got me thinking: if he did in fact see me then surely he’d be talking to my mother. I imagined the two of them with coffee, discussing my fourteen-year-old hard-on. Maybe he had a surveillance system. Maybe he was showing her videos of my naked sprint. Maybe the two of them were watching it on the big screen, following the steady tract of my stiffness in slow motion, laughing. When I finally went inside, I waved to my mother in the living room. I took a quick look at the TV and moved away. She watched me the entire time, but didn’t say a word. I might have gotten lucky then, but my mother liked to have her fun. Next it came as a “summer vacation.” Why else but hope I would suggest a water park—or a hotel with a big pool, a slide, a Jacuzzi—would she ask where I wanted to go? Fourteen years I had never been asked where I wanted to go. I couldn’t even pick the restaurants we went to. She was waiting for me to slip, so she could grab me by the ear and scream: “I knew it! You sick, disgusting child, I knew it all along! Did you really think you could keep something like that hidden again? From your mother? Hidden from me?” It was that talent of hers. But I was catching on. So I told her that I’d rather stay home.

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Why would you want to stay home? she asked. I shrugged. You know, we can go to one of those resorts with the big pools and game rooms, she said. We did something like that a few years back. I think you liked it. There it was. Pools. Big pools. In such a casual tone, nonetheless. I just about decided right then that there actually was a video. I imagined her watching it. Right there. I pictured her drooling. You’d think this caused me to stay away from the pool, but it made me need it more than ever. I knew that my time was running out. So the next day, when I saw my neighbor’s car pull out of the driveway, I strolled outside and went back to the pool. I might not be able to see you for a while, I said regrettably, slowly pulling the shirt over my head. A quick break might be good for both of us. I stepped out of my shorts and underwear. I placed both of them in a neat pile at the three-foot marker. I looked at my clothes and sighed. It’s to protect us, I said. A quick wind blew itself against my body. It pushed blood to all the right places. I looked down and watched my thing stand at attention. The breeze came again, leading the water toward me. And just as I had done all summer, I jumped. I found the spot and it hit me in the same way, with the same force. I was right where I had always been. My hands went straight down, squeezing my dick like a toy. I opened my mouth and swallowed, stretching myself to new distances, lunging forward, taking more and more water into my mouth, swallowing as much as I could because goddamn it I wanted it in me. All of it. Soon, pressure slid down my throat and pushed against the walls of my stomach and I started to jolt. Two more solid thrusts and flurries of ash shot into the water. I took a taste and sank to the floor. When I emerged, I pressed my lips against the surface.

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I lied, I said. I won’t be going anywhere. I’ll be back soon. But how foolish could I have been? How was I supposed to know? It wasn’t until I climbed out of the pool and sat at the edge of the water that I saw it move—the curtain. There was someone watching me from the window. And who else but the very girl that brought me here: Holly. I left right away. But it was too late. She already knew. I sat against the door of my room that night and listened to the sound from the hallway. I picked at my skin carefully, waiting. When nothing came, I was back behind the shed—watching the pool. The second I saw Holly, I called her over. Already she was wet. I tried not to look. Thanks for not saying anything, I said. About what? she asked. About yesterday. There was a long silence. I thought she was going to break it, but she didn’t. Thanks, I said again. I don’t know why you’re thanking me, she said. A few drops of the pool ran down her neck to the split in her chest. I wanted to reach over and take them off her skin, drop by drop. She turned and walked back to the pool and jumped in. I couldn’t bring myself to move. It was my pool, but Holly was wearing it. Holly was in it. I should have known that Holly wouldn’t want to share it. It wasn’t long before I was back in my room. The phone rang six times in two hours. I knew the news was coming, I just didn’t know when. At the seventh call my mother knocked on the door. I’m busy, I said. Come back later. I need to talk to you, she said. I’m busy, I said again. Go away. But she got louder: Open the door. And louder: I mean it. And louder: Now. I slid away from the voice, leaning hard against the far wall. I thought closing my eyes would make it go away, but it didn’t. It never did. She took the knob and made it wiggle. It was like a gun rattling. My

39


fingers were trembling. My eyes were closed. What’s gotten into you? she said. I just want to talk. It’s none of your business, I cried. It has nothing to do with you. Open the door, she said. Open the door. No, I screamed. I won’t let you. Just leave it alone. Go away. Then she told me that I had ten seconds until she called the police. And without giving me a second to object, she started counting: Ten. Nine. Eight— I kept crying. I cried for her to leave me alone. I cried for her to stop. But she kept going. —Seven. Six. Five— I hit my fists against the wall. I cried louder. —Four. Three— Then I wiped my eyes and looked at my hands. I remembered everything else my mother took from me: the baseball mitts, the stuffed animals, the showroom chairs. There was nothing I could do. The pool would be added to the list. Everything important to me was. She was my mother. Even if I knew what her plans were, I couldn’t stop her. The least I could do was hold onto what I had left. When she realized I had stopped screaming, she stopped counting. I inched to the door and put my ear against it. Why do you keep doing this? she said. Why can’t you stop? But how could I tell her? Of course I couldn’t. No. I couldn’t. For the rest of the summer, she locked me in the shed if I went out without asking. She didn’t want to share me. It’s that simple. She was never okay with sharing me. And you know it still doesn’t make sense. Yes, I’m her only boy— yes, I’m her special boy—but she had to know that I wouldn’t be hers forever, right? I mean, now look at me. Now I’m here with you and she’s still in Columbus. That’s life. That’s what life is. You take something. You lose something. Anyway, you said you were from Florida, right? I feel like I’ve been

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Shawn Rubenfield


talking too much because really I want to hear about you. Like, what made you move to New York? Hopefully you don’t have a story like mine. I’ll tell you what: there’s a bar on Bedford that makes a really good vodka tonic. How about we head over there and I’ll get you a drink. Either way, you can tell me all about it.

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untitled

Muzzy Moskowitz

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Diversions Sailor Holladay

the last time i stole from a store was the summer before my senior year of high school. I had just moved in with Darlene, the only woman in my dad’s drug dealing network. She said I could live with her if I took care of her third grader, Brittany. Darlene was a chubby, thirty-something, downwardly mobile musician who not so secretly reveled in having a “nanny”. I was just grateful to leave my family and finally get a chance to play with an American Girls doll. I had read all the American Girls books in elementary school, but had only seen the dolls in catalogs. Brittany had Samantha, my favorite American Girl. Samantha was rich and proper. With her long brown hair and pinafores, she hosted lemonade parties and served cucumber sandwiches on her veranda. Once I got settled into my new place, Darlene wanted to go shopping. “Let’s go to the new Goodwill, today’s their grand opening!” Darlene whooped. I wanted to go, but I didn’t have any money to buy anything. “What’s with the frown, doll?” Darlene asked as we parked. “I’ll get you a couple things for school and you can pay me back by babysitting extra. I’ll buy you ten dollars’ worth of clothes.” Even though this was when Goodwill was still cheap, ten dollars wasn’t enough. I got greedy. I scoured the store for clothes whose tags I could easily switch for yellow, the color tag of the day. Then I could get twice as much. I pried staples from the tags of vintage cardigans and slips and made the switch. It wasn’t until after I got caught I remembered a lady had been following me around encouraging me to check out this

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sweater and that pair of pajamas. As I was pulled into an upstairs office, I wondered why a thrift store had an upstairs office. The cops came. With his hand resting on his hip holster, the head cop barked, “Because you’re seventeen and still a minor, we’re gonna give you the option of going to the Diversions program instead of juvie. It costs a hundred dollars and you have to do community service. If you go this route, this infraction won’t go on your permanent record.” I took it. Darlene paid the hundred dollars. “You can work it off,” she said. “And don’t worry, as long as you don’t tell anyone how I know your family, I’m not gonna tell your parents. I guess I have a teenager now.” The next week there was a meeting with the Diversions coordinator, me, and Darlene, who pretended to be my legal guardian. “Why did you steal clothing, Sailor?” the Diversions coordinator probed. “Because I needed school clothes.” “Well that’s a pity,” her careful eyes looked me up and down. “We have a clothing closet here at the center you are welcome to peruse. In fact, why don’t you go over to it now and see if you can’t find anything.” The Diversions coordinator was Christian in her forest green turtleneck sweater, brocade vest, and long corduroy skirt. The clothing closet was maroon trench coats with fake fur lining and long pleated khaki skirts with buttons all the way down the front. Maybe the coordinator thought if I put those clothes on, I’d become Christian, too. “Now, onto your community service assignment,” the coordinator continued, while I fantasized about new school clothes from The Gap. (I didn’t yet realize that out of my poverty came ingenuity and my own unique style.) “We are going to give you a card that will allow you to collect cans of food from your neighbors. We want you to collect two hundred and fifty cans or boxes of food and bring them back here so we can take them to Bread and Roses. Once you do this, your community

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Sailor Holladay


service will be completed.” Bread and Roses was the soup kitchen I went to as a kid. Well at least I could give back what I had eaten. My room in Darlene’s house was on one side of the tiny attic and Brittany’s was on the other. A really steep staircase separated our two rooms. There was no door or closet and I couldn’t stand up completely on my side, but this was still way better than living in Hawaii with no electricity or refrigeration and swimming in chaos. Soon after I moved in, Darlene started gutting the part of the attic that faced the street, a few feet from where Brittany and I slept. “I found some dead rats up here, so be careful walking around,” Darlene warned, covered in drywall dust. The next day she went to the pound and returned with a giant, frightened cat. “I picked the meanest looking one, he’ll take care of these rats right quick,” Darlene said, sounding convinced. Taking care of the rats is what the cat didn’t do. He hid his scared self in the half-gutted attic, pooping and peeing. On warm days the stench took my room off the list of possible places to hang out. There were six periods at my high school, but I only went to four. I took Brittany to school on the city bus every morning and came in to my school right before second period started. I signed in at the counselor’s office and signed out early, picking Brittany up in the afternoon. The free school lunch was better than my two previous high schools put together. Sure, there were the usual deep fried burritos and limp pieces of damp pizza, but my friends and I knew where the real magic was: the salad bar. Every day featured a different entrée. Monday was Spaghetti Day, Tuesday was Make Your Own Burrito Day. But Wednesday was the best day: Baked Potato Day. We were only allowed to take one potato but I always hid a second one doused in bacon bits and sour cream under my bed of iceberg and ranch. This was my one guaranteed meal of the day and I was going to make it count. Back at home, Darlene was perpetually on the cabbage soup diet. Her moods were dictated by how many other things alongside her

45


cabbage soup she got to eat. Some days she got bananas, some days tomatoes. Her happy days were the all-you-can-eat steak days. My nights were spent adding Darlene’s friends’ kids to the list of people I was responsible for. In the mornings, she lectured me on how much of a burden I was to her kitchen pantry: “You know, I never said I was going to feed you. Where is that money your dad promised me? Are you old enough yet to be on food stamps? You better get some more of those bagels. I’m gonna eat cabbage soup and you kids are gonna eat bagels.” My best friend Jen worked at a bagel shop and gave me bags of the day-old bagels that didn’t sell. By then they were two-day-old bagels. If I cut them in half before freezing them, they toasted easier, so I cut them in half until the crushed garlic covered my fingers in a pungent layer. Sometimes we had jam and butter to spread on them. One night when I was picking up a couple bags as Jen was closing up shop, I asked her the question that had been on my mind: “What if I robbed you one of these nights?” “Robbed me?” Jen asked, looking up from the cream cheese she was stocking. I was surprised she was so surprised. “Yeah, do you think I could get away with it? Would you call the police?” “Well, of course I would. I’d treat you like any other robber. You’d have to have a gun or at least something that made me think it was a gun for me to hand over this money. And you’d have to convince me somehow it wasn’t you,” she said, kind of annoyed. “Oh, well that sounds like too much work,” I said. I never tried to rob the bagel shop. With my canned food collector’s card from Diversions I could now legitimately steal food. My friend Ryan and I found a shopping cart and wheeled it around the neighborhood. We flashed the neighbors my canned food collector card and took their donations making sure we got over 250 items. We filled the cart with cans of tuna, boxes of Hamburger

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Sailor Holladay


Helper and Rice-a-Roni. That night when we got home we made an elaborate Italian dinner with the best items, including all of the jars of artichoke hearts. Sneaking into Darlene’s closet, Ryan and I put on her sequined blouses and fa fa fa’ed over our spaghetti and garlic bread with parmesan while we pined for an official wine bottle collector’s card.

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IMG_0218.JPG Andrew West

line. let! of

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god, above in, lines parallel to: let lines! far, below profusions of, line wilds red: bridges

of the, night: some great crane: park: of this, here. we will say; let go the lights, they cross. be now drawn; to lots, so wondered on

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Andrew West


IMG_0281.JPG

the psychology itself is at fault our professors take attendance and feetprints who valorise the cockbulge as the zeppelin looms who propose to clear an american plate of bangers and mash who fancies thir sideburns are uneven tempora myrto half as much agin dot and go one chasing the gravy around

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pompey Couple Joshua Duncan

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an interview with laleh Khadivi Melissa Sipin and Jennifer Williams

laleh khadivi is author of The Age of Orphans and The Walking. Since

2006 she has taught creative writing at The University of Wisconsin, Madison, Emory University and the University of Santa Clara. Laleh now lives in Northern California where she is at work on the third book of a trilogy that takes place in the near future and the distant past. jenniFer WilliaMS: laleh khadivi : writing the age of orphans , I

There are so many voices in your novels. When you write, is there a crowd in your head? Are they waiting in line? What’s the sensation of writing for so many voices?

had a very intense relationship with Reza, the protagonist. It was so intense that there were times when I needed to take a break, but I did not want to walk away from the book but to stay in the land of the book and with the spirits of the book, to see Reza from another angle. I was so deeply in his skin that it was becoming claustrophobic and because his life is painful, my life was painful. And then I pulled out and I started to think, ‘Okay who sees him, in every stage of his life?’ And the voices just came. Those who witnessed his life. But The Age of Orphans, unlike The Walking, was given to me. I went to the MFA and I worked really hard opening my mind to things that I was uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to. And then when I got ready to write, my

51


mind was really open, and I felt that that book landed in it like a brick. It was almost complete, the voices came in a stream.

jW: Did you start maybe the first semester of my second year? The Age of Orphans I had a sense of what I could put together during your MFA? You said once it was after reading from the ideas I was starting to have about a Faulkner’s “The Bear?” story of a boy who becomes a very unhappy

man. And then there was “The Bear,” which was second semester of the second year and in it was the tone of something that sounded right for the boy that was moving in and out of my imagination and then the whole process began to take shape. Immediately after “The Bear,” I read this really intense book that Ginu Kamani assigned, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. It’s a book about how we are losing the sense of our right brain, because humans are primarily left-brained now, except for musicians and mathematicians, and according to his studies the right brain has gone weak. But the right brain, in the ancient times, Jaynes theorizes, was the place where you would hear the gods. And so then I just put Reza in a world where that part of the brain was really alive, and I too was able to be completely possessed by his voice. And when I sat down I was like, ‘Now I’m going to write his mother— and she came. And ‘Now I’m going to write the boy he kills’—he just came. It wasn’t a crowdedness, it was like everyone showed

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Laleh Khadivi


up when it was their turn and then they went away. Except for the women he raped. They stayed with me for a long time.

.

jW: Writing the that s your job But seeing from the outside protagonist from so many definitely helped. He himself does terrible outside angles seems like a good way to have a balanced things, but you feel bad for him because view of him. terrible things are done to him.

Melissa r. sipin: i think it ’ s impossible for any of the experiences

It seemed like Reza’s trauma carried on to his two sons in The Walking. Can you talk about how we embody trauma, how that comes from family?

that we have that affect us deeply not to get passed down to our children, whether they be joy or trauma. We are just vehicles in which experience goes through, and the kids are receptacles. And they choose either to buy into it and be a slave to it, or they choose to escape it and live different lives in reaction. In Ali and Saladin’s case, there wasn’t that much goodness. If they had been raised by a tribal Kurdish man, their lives would have been totally different. But they were raised by a man whose sense of his self had been split, and so they too carried their own splits.

.

mrs: You said the first i fought for every word I wrote it, thinking book came to you. What that I had a book and it was this weird idea about the second book?

about this Iranian guy who was Saladin but much older driving down Highway 101 and his car breaks down. He goes into a motel and tells the guy at the motel his whole life story. I wrote that whole book and I threw it away and I had to go back and rewrite.

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mrs: What made you you know when it ’ s not good . You know. You throw the book away?

know when it doesn’t talk back to you. Micheline [Marcom] and I laugh because there’s this moment when you’re writing or reading your own work, and you think ‘I’m tired, maybe I’ll go take a nap’—and you know that’s not good. You have to be intoxicated by your work, but in an honest way. And I’m good at seeing it for what it is. I’m not good at the huge picture, but seeing it page by page—‘That’s a good page, that’s not a good page’—the whole thing I can’t see at any one time, which is why a good editor is helpful.

jw: From reading my you ve got to be really raw with yourself. work out loud in class, I get Instead of other classes where people read a sense of what’s working and what’s not. outside of workshop and then the class talks

back to them, the experience of hearing your words being words—if you are a sensitive soul, that’s the most powerful. You know when it hits. You just do.

mrs: You said at the i think the feeling of being at home in a book Litquake panel, “California is really important. And I feel like when I is Always New”: “The lack of stability caused me to find was young the only stable home I had was stability elsewhere,” and it the landscapes of the books I was reading, made you a writer. Can you from Charlotte’s Web to Ramona when I was expound on that? Especially since you moved to over 10 really young. Then I read crappy books, different countries growing and then I read more crappy books, then I up. found my way to good books. I remember

being on a panel with Pico Iyer and he said the English language was his home. And I feel somewhat similarly. It’s my home in the

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sense that it’s this place that I can go to to express myself. And it’s also never-ending. I can never think every thought in English. And I can never write every sentence I want to write. But it’s always there. So it’s expansive and centered, and if I have a little desk with some pieces of paper on it, then I’m okay. My husband wanted to live on a boat for a while, and I had to ask: ‘Is there gonna be a desk? I’m not living [on a boat] if there’s no desk’. An actual physical space to put the papers.

.

.

jw: More and more I’ve that s what books are books are houses Every been coming across the idea house is built totally differently depending of language and writing as architecture, something you on what the function of the house is. I think can enter into. of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment as

a staircase in an apartment building. And your words really have to reflect that.

mrs: I feel like your i think book is like different rooms with different voices.

,

The Age of Orphans was.

.

jw: Did you say oh that s interesting You know, wombs or rooms? handed in The Age of Orphans, MrS: Rooms.

when I it had a chapter written from the perspective of one of Reza’s children in the womb. An editor strongly suggested I get rid of it, and it was edited out.

mrs: Why did she want same reason people say don ’ t write about to get rid of it? dreams . I think on some level there’s a kind

of anti-sensual, anti-ethereal thing at work. We are still operating under the really heavy

55


draperies of realism. And there’s a way to make things beautiful without being Garcia Márquez. jw: Going back i had a dog for twelve years and six months to finding a home in after my son was born, the dog was hit by the English language, I remember you saying that a car. We buried him on a hill behind our in order to feel at home in house. So I now have buried a loved one and a place you either have to had a child in Fairfax, which is a place I do bury your dead or give birth there, and you just had a not identify with at all. And now I’m about baby. How does that idea to leave Fairfax and it feels weird. But that apply to your life now? is always to my mind and my imagination,

a noble space. I’m really good at leaving. But for some reason I feel like I belong in California, because everybody belongs in California. The belonging I think is a little valise I carry with me everywhere, put down wherever I am, and make due with it until somewhere else rears its head. I’ve had the American child and buried the American dog. I’m as American as you are, which is pretty American! It’s the new kind of American.

,

jw: So the belonging yeah i think it has a lot isn’t tied to the place, but it’s a sense of belonging in yourself that is stronger?

to do with the people.

mrs: When I think i think we live in the first generation to about my parents, they experience a sense of multiple belongings. always say the Philippines is “back home.” And yet, as So I do belong here in that way, but I also someone who was born and belong to every place I’ve ever lived. I could raised here, I’ve never known go back to New York and I’d know the this “home.”

subway, because it just doesn’t change. Or I would understand Central Park. So it’s a

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Laleh Khadivi


question of having many senses of belonging, none of them as deep as someone who has lived in the same house their whole life, but different. Someone accused me once, when I was on a panel, they said ‘Oh, but don’t you find this is just another way of saying that you are homeless?’ And I was like, ‘No, actually this is a way of me understanding the world as very homeful. I can live here, I can live here, I’ve lived here, and I’ve lived here. All these places where I’ve lived, slept more than ten nights in a row, are in a way homes. Which is nice.

.

MrS: How do we, as you just have to write the truth Whatever writers who write about a your truth is. The point of literature is not ‘minority’ in the Western sense, sift through all these to make little camps of ethnic identity. The pressures we get from both point of literature is for someone to pick sides? up your book and get the same feeling

that they get when they pick up Tolstoy or Shakespeare or Kawabata. In the sense that they are being moved. The identity politics, we live in them because we are alive now in this moment, but in 100 years no one will understand what we’re talking about. The art has to transcend all of that. You have to get up and above everything that has bruised you in particular and write from a place that is the human, over time. Otherwise it won’t make sense. So the work always has to ring. And then you don’t worry about that other stuff, which is why I get mad when people ask me those questions. I had been on [another] panel at LitQuake a few years ago for Bay Area Iranian Novelists, and someone

57


asked me ‘What do you think the future of the Iranian-American novel is?’ And I said ‘I hope that the Iranian-American novel doesn’t exist tomorrow. I hope that there’s some people who happen to live in the United States and be from other countries who can write whatever the fuck they want and that is the novel that has a future forever’ and the audience was appalled, and so was my friend, who has never asked me to be on a panel again. I just stridently refuse to fall into that camp. I think it’s all time based and time doesn’t really exist, and all that really exists is that deep vibration of the good work. Which I can say for both books, which were interesting and difficult in their own ways, I know that that vibration is there.

.

mrs: How did these my dad told all the stories in the family particular stories of Kurdish I interviewed all of my dad’s brothers men come to you? Your father was Kurdish, right? and sisters. My dad is one of seven, and

eventually eleven after his father remarried. And I was just really curious about what their lives were like. I’m talking to people who are the last bastions of tribal people in the world, and they have a connection to that, so I drove from New York to L.A. over three months and stopped in all the places my aunts and uncles lived. I had a tape recorder—this was not that long ago—and I interviewed them. Then I went to Germany, I have one aunt who lives in Germany and I interviewed her. And I transcribed all those interviews simultaneously from Farsi into

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English. And that was The Age of Orphans, which is why I think it was given. It was given to me in some ways.

.

mrs: How did the you cannot help what you re obsessed by Those symbols, like the cinema things I was obsessed by, I wrote them and the cave, come to your writing? Personally, when without thinking. The writer never thinks I focus on, for example, a of symbols. If you go back to all the people statue of Holy Mary within who you analyzed in high school in your a scene, I know that she English classes, and the symbols, symbols, carries all these connotations in a Philippine sense: symbols—the writers were most likely not colonization, religion, etc. actually thinking about it on that level. It How were you able to write is the image that comes to you and insists the symbols naturally?

about itself in the scene, in the book. The birds I can’t get away from. And people have commented on it. I can’t write without them. They are my grease and my engine. The caves, smoke, sex—you must set places where the power is. I understand something through birds that I wouldn’t without the birds. The cinema is a cave. The cave of our civilization. But when I was writing that, I would not consciously think that. I just knew that this guy liked to go sit in the dark room and dream. So they really live their own lives, you have to let them in.

.

.

jw: I hadn’t thought totally characters are overrated I am a big of it before in writing, but fan of landscape. I like the writers who talking about it now, I see it as inanimate objects and can write the land. The land is huge. And symbols having as much even more than the land—the weather. The autonomy as the characters. writers who can write the life of the weather,

that is the Earth as character, the Cosmos as character. The flesh will get in the story

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whether you want it or not. But the other things, nature, it talks so loud and so hard.

.

mrs: When I write travel is super helpful It depends on who about Manila, which I you are. Some writers don’t need it. Some haven’t visited since I was 12, I have difficulty creating writers can go there with their mind. I’m a this narrative landscape. really sensitive, present person, and if I sit in How were you able to write a place for ten minutes, I can kind of know about the settings in your novels, like Van, Iran? it. But I wasn’t able to go to Kermanshah

and Van was as close as I could get. And I do think if you can, if you can really afford the luxury of it, and actually if you can’t— it’s part of the life of the artist to go see.

mrs: Were you aware of the writers you loved and the tools they used as you wrote? How they appeared in your own writing? jw: I was especially aware of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying while reading The Age of Orphans. The structure had so many different views.

[faulkner]

gave me the possibility of that .

Faulkner is probably the most influential, and then The Walking was Steinbeck. Steinbeck was huge for that book. I think for every book, you need a lot of books, but you need one that’s like your big book that every time you freak out you go to that book, and you’re like ‘Oh, but they did it, and I’m okay.’

jw: Were you really i was bordering copyright infringement on The aware of Faulkner or other Age of Orphans. You have to be careful. I influences while writing?

am every writer I have read. And I’m not upset with that. Every book is going to have the stain of whoever is turning me on. I don’t write from nothing. No one does. Even if they don’t admit it. As time goes on I give myself over, less and less, to the ecstasy of influence. But in the beginning, it

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was the only way to get the wheels moving. And their voices do come in. Over time, in the edits, you get your voice back in there. You make it all yours. There’s a cinematic sense that comes to me, too, a lot. I remember in The Walking, a lot of the writing for the freight ship came to me in images of men on a sweltering deck, this constant return to the flat space on the ocean. In the end you have to use whatever tools you can to enchant, because writing is that same thing as music, as sports, as painting, which is that very fine tightrope walk between the knowing and the not-knowing, between the sense of understanding and the sense of the plunge. mrs: You were it brought me to the writing world because talking earlier about the films are a collaborative process, and it’s cinematography of a scene— how did making movies not like a collaboration with a band where influence you and bring you you’re all in the same space and you’re all to writing?

making the same vibration. Films are like, you go down with the DP, you shoot, you bring the footage up, then there’s an editor and they do their own thing on their own time—you keep passing the baby, then you have to seduce some producers to give you money and that takes a long time—it was a lot of people. So I went to writing to be by myself, to do something by myself. But what I took with me was all of my experience of setting up shots, then there’s a frame—every shot has edges. And every chapter should have its own edges, and every character in their own way. So I learned a lot about how

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to draw the frame, which is why my chapters are short and dense. I feel like movies and literature are in dialogue. There’s a reason so many movies are based on books. And there is a reason so many works of fiction ignite so many minds that think visually. It’s the same thing, the only thing is in film, you don’t get to imagine what people look like— that’s given to you. I don’t think I would have been a writer if I didn’t like films. jw: What brought there was this story in my family that I always you to writing if you didn’t wanted to know about. And I don’t really consider yourself a writer before then? know the answer to that question—I don’t

know what made me think that I could write it down. I just started to do it. I started to take Berkeley extension writing classes. It was really bizarre. And I was so determined— that was the other thing. I had never wanted to be a writer, I never thought that I had it in me. I can’t spell and I don’t know any of the rules of grammar. I guess I had turned my life over to being beholden to the senses. I had left the professional track, I had been a filmmaker for five years and I was very young and it was really intense. And then I came to do medicine, which I thought would make the world a better place. And I dropped out of med school and my dad was like, ‘You are losing your mind. I’m gonna pay for you to go to therapy’. And I had never been to therapy, and in the Iranian community you go to therapy when you’re ready for the nuthouse. So my dad was like, ‘I’ll pay for five sessions’. So I go to this guy

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and he told me that it was not my job to save the world, which I had thought it was. And in the absence of that responsibility I started doing a lot of yoga, having a lot of sex, working as a cocktail waitress. And then I had all this empty space. I didn’t have any other drive—I wasn’t going to change the prison industrial complex or cure tuberculous. In that empty space the story came. But then I worked really hard every single moment, from the second I decided to apply to grad school, until my son was born. Now, I’m writing a little book that changes every day. A new chapter is written every day. Today’s chapter was called ‘Snot, coming out of my nose all the time.’ One short chapter, few words, very evocative.

,

mrs: Are you still no i really need to start writing it so we can taking a break from the pay for this new house. It’s a dangerous third novel?

thing because I do believe it’s smart, and if I had advice to give young writers it would be try as hard as you can to have a really deep sense of how to keep yourself afloat financially so you can make your work and your work can be itself. That makes it really hard. I’ve seen a lot of my writer friends struggle. And it’s as simple as getting a teaching job or working at the post office, whatever it is that keeps you going. It’s funny in the MFA program how rarely they talk to you guys about the reality of being a writer. Try to let yourself at some point after you finish the MFA to be totally a slave to the work—six months, one year. Do a job that

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takes as little of your brain as possible and see if you can make all these pieces come together, just for a little while. I saw a lot of people leave the MFA program at Mills and go back to their lives thinking they didn’t do anything, when really they just needed another year of paying attention. Have a writing group, have deadlines, make yourself send to a publication once a month or something. Give yourself one more year even if it’s not in an institution. I was shocked at how few people did anything with their MFA. However many thousands of dollars later they just walked away. And then there were a few people who were like ‘No, this is not going to be my life’. And they made it, even if it took them a few years, they made it work for them. And I bet you can tell in your own class—there are some people who have a fire under their ass. mrs: People still think in its moments . But for the most part it has all writing is magic.

the drudgery and loftiness of any job.

jw: Even magic there s some dungeons in writing involves blood, dungeons. offices.

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Laleh Khadivi

. Usually your


from HELLAGRAMS FROM OAKLAND David Buuck

TO TAKE LINEBREAK WITHOUT PERMISSION LINEBREAK WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY OURS LINEBREAK HAVING LABORED FOR IT LINEBREAK WE DON’T WANT LINEBREAK A SEAT AT THE TABLE LINEBREAK WE WANT THE TABLE LINEBREAK FOR KINDLING TO KEEP LINEBREAK THE FIRE TRIMMING THE GAS LINEBREAK WHICH YOU LOB AT US SO LINEBREAK THAT YOU CAN PROTECT LINEBREAK THE TABLE WE BUILT LINEBREAK WITH WOOD FROM THE TREE LINEBREAK THAT’S BEING BURNT AS WE SPEAK OUT LINEBREAK HERE ON THE LAWN LINEBREAK YOU TEND WITH THE FUNDS LINEBREAK SAVED FROM THE CLOSING OF FREE LINEBREAK SCHOOLS FOR THE KIDS LINEBREAK WHO WILL SOON LEARN TO CLIMB LINEBREAK THESE TREES HERE IN WHICH LINEBREAK THE TABLES ARE TURNING DON’T STOP

IF BEING DASH WITH IS THE SHARING DON’T STOP OF A SIMULTANEOUS SPACE DASH TIME THEN DON’T STOP IT INVOLVES A PRESENTATION OF THIS SPACE DASH TIME AS SUCH DON’T STOP IN ORDER TO SAY WE ONE MUST PRESENT THE HERE DON’T STOP AND NOW OF THIS WE DON’T STOP WE CAN SIMPLY BE THE WE UNDERSTOOD DON’T STOP AS A UNIQUE SUBJECT DON’T STOP WE ALWAYS EXPRESSES A PLURALITY DON’T STOP EXPRESSES OUR BEING DON’T STOP DIVIDED AND ENTANGLED DON’T STOP

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What it is Like to be a Muslim Woman, and Why We Know What Freedom Is Hiba Krisht i have keys .

When I moved to the United States around a year ago, it took me several weeks to grasp this. I have keys. I have keys to my own front door and I can open this front door and walk down the street whenever I like. I can walk down the street without being watched through the windows and without anyone calling my parents and telling them their daughter is roaming loose. I can walk down the street, sit down on a bench under a tree, and eat an ice cream cone. Then I can stand up and walk back home. There will be nobody waiting for me at my house to ask me where I have been, refuse to let me in, to call me a liar, to use my walk as renewed incentive to rifle through all of my possessions. Because the simple desire to take a walk cannot but hide something deviant. Because there is no good reason why a woman should want to walk down the street just to walk, and expose herself, her body, to the questioning and consuming eyes of the neighbors and strange men. (No good reason for us, at least, for Muslims, because these are not our values, not our morals, not our traditions. These are not things we can have.) But now I have keys to my front door, and I can open my front door and walk down the street whenever I want to. In the first weeks when I was in the United States, I had so much fear

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and trembling at this freedom. I stayed in my apartment alone during the first couple of days in my new home, and when I did finally venture out, I checked to make sure my keys and ID and wallet were in my purse a thousand times. I wore long, flowing dresses and tied my hair up in a scarf even though it was August and very hot, even though I am an ex-Muslim now, who happens to find no personal value in modesty, even though I was not going out to meet anybody and knew not a single man in town with which to dishonorably consort. Even though I tried to convince myself that in this land it wouldn’t matter if I was. I looked around every corner and checked over my shoulder in case my father was somehow watching, lurking. I still look over my shoulder sometimes. And all this while, and even now, it sometimes feels like I am another person living a distant dream. A phantom woman. A woman who is only pretending to do things and be things that were never hers, that were never her. A woman who feels inauthentic for trying to decide what she is. There is so much talk of what we are not. We are not meant for your consumption, we are not your orientalist dream. This is the discourse surrounding the cultural appropriation of brown women. Clamorous are the voices that say this. But tenuous is the discourse that is willing to discuss what is ours, what we can have, what can be fought for on our behalf if we do not have the means to fight for it ourselves, if it is not already granted to us by our cultural norms. The discourse surrounding cultural appropriation is that when you view what is ours through the lens of your own understanding, you bar us from agency and choice and self-determination. This is always-already an assumption, and you rush in your refusal to judge the concepts of the hijab, the niqab, of gender segregation lest you misunderstand, lest you attempt to be an authority on what you will never be capable of experiencing. You fear violating an unobtainable cultural

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tradition, because to do so would be to violate the human beings that belong to it. Us. Except that we are human subjects, and our cultures belong to us more than we belong to them. It becomes dangerous, too, when talk of what we are not enables the delegitimatization of our voices when we try to speak of what we are, what we can have. When suddenly we become defectors, apostates, and our discourse is discounted as imperialist Western brainwashing. But that discourse is not appropriated, no. We do not appropriate Western values when we endorse and adopt them, because to suggest that a brown woman can take Western ideas and turn them into her own brand of feminism and agency is unthinkable. Instead our discourse is thought of as being a flimsy vapid imitation of the West. It comes as a surprise to some Westerners if and when we end up educated enough to teach white children their own languages, if our English is impeccable, our diction refined, our knowledge of Western identity and gender politics well-formulated. And once accepted, this somehow discredits us as brown women. We are discounted as inauthentic commentators on what was an ever-present issue governing our socialization, our actualization, our politicization because we break out of the bounds of what our culture dictates. And when we are discounted by our cultural leaders and spaces, a fear of cultural appropriation bars us from having a platform from which to speak elsewhere. You, white Westerners, so fear judging. Is it then possible that in order to not judge you are afraid to listen, because you are convinced you will never understand anyway? I invite you to try. Listen. What is it like to be a Muslim woman? What can you learn? What can we teach you? About life, about hope, about freedom? About things all humans conceive of.

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Some nights, I wake up from dreams of Lebanon and think, “I have keys.” Even now, I wake up from nightmares of Lebanon, where my brain frantically puts itself through horrors over-and-again, testing the walls, the phones, the windows, looking for ways out, testing every avenue and niche for survival in case the greatest danger my brain knows to my existence comes back one day in waking. I spend so much time in the dark still that I sometimes cannot believe I am not hallucinating my new life from a dark room in Beirut. I think, “I have my own place. My front door, my key. And I can open the door and walk out into the street? Whenever I want? And I have my papers and my things and my income? And I can just go somewhere. When I want? I can do this?” (Still I question that I can own things, let alone own myself.) My deepest instinct still is that it must be a sick joke. A sick joke that I can…do things? I can be at the library however late I want without panicking and fearing for my safety once I go home? Without knowing the neighbors will call me a whore and my entire family be shamed? I can have people over when the sun is down and some of them can be men and we can play games and eat and drink and talk together and nobody will hurt me because of it? Yes. And if I leave something someplace, I will come back and find it where I left it, unless I moved it myself. And if it’s somewhere else, it is likely I moved it and forgot, and I will not start panicking, wondering where and why and how it was moved. I will not wonder things like: if whoever moved it saw it, did they see that other thing and did they do something with it and what do they know and what do they not know? Even though I am hiding simple things. A tube of mascara. Some lacy underwear just to see what it feels like to wear that. A poem I really love

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written from the persona of the devil. The Diary of Anne Frank. A Salman Rushdie novel a boy in my class gifted to me (double whammy right there). A box of tampons. I can write things without hiding, coding, burying, and stashing them. I can make notes for myself in a notebook that are for my eyes only without fearing anybody reading them and demanding I reveal their meaning. I can have a password on my computer and to my email and facebook accounts that my parents do not know. I can save my contacts under their real names and not under various female pseudonyms. I can keep my texts when I receive them and not instantly erase them. I can take my phone off silent mode and if it vibrates in my pocket I can take it out and answer it or turn it off without having a panic attack and not having to find a reasonable excuse to sneak out of the room without seeming flustered. I can talk on the phone without somebody listening on the other end. I can ignore a phonecall from my father when I am in class or teaching. I can forget my phone in another room and not be asked where I am and with whom, and what I am doing because I missed a call from him. If I spend more than five minutes in the bathroom, nobody will bang on my door demanding to know what I am doing in there. I can shave my legs without being interrogated as to why I’d do such a thing when nobody ever sees them. I can brush my hair and look in the mirror and try on clothes and try to feel like I can manipulate and move and enjoy my body, try to feel pretty, without being interrogated and asked who he is and how long I have been seeing him and what I am doing with him and whether I am a prostitute or pregnant. I can slim down inadvertently or say I am not hungry for dinner without anybody demanding to know why and for whom I am trying to lose weight, and I can gain weight without my body being denigrated as unworthy to be a marital prize. I can shower without being asked why.

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I can smile because I had a good day at work without being forced to explain why I am so happy. I can cry at my empty, robotic life without being forced to explain why I am unhappy. I can have facial expressions. Facial expressions. I can have facial expressions. I can have facial expressions. It has been so hard to train myself to voice my feelings and opinions. To turn my face on. I can sit however I want within my own house without being told that the position my legs are in is immodest. I can stay up late doing work and reading philosophy or browsing online without being forced to go to bed. I can read and use the internet without surveillance and censorship by my family. I can watch a movie without turning it over for examination first. I can sleep when I want, wake when I want, eat when I want or don’t want to. I do not have to pretend to fast and pray. I can prioritize my work over serving other people. Never again will I pull somebody’s socks off and bring them their food and drink on command. I can get up in the middle of the night and use the bathroom or get a drink of water without tiptoeing in terror. I can lock my bedroom door. I can lock the door of my own room. Saying I want to be alone, that I need space, that I do not want to reveal personal information, that I do not choose to answer that question, that it is none of your damn business, that this is my body and I can position it on the furniture however I like, that I do not have to explain to you why I am smiling, that this is my time, that this is my work, this is my mind and I can use it to read and write what I please... I can say these things now.

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I never could before. We never could, before. So many of us cannot, still. This way of living—having to regulate and hide our personalities, our humanity—the tone of our voices, their volume and timbre, the manner in which we sit or stand or walk or speak, whether and when we can leave our homes, how and when we speak to people, what we do and do not read, can and cannot think or express—this way of living is the reality and default for so many of us. We are suppressed beyond imagining. But imagining it is a step. A well-meaning pretense is sometimes held up in the West that it is not possible to meaningfully convey, not through the power of narrative, of words, not through sound and image, what any authentic brown-woman experience could be like. To hold her up as untouchable, give her agency, set her apart, put her above and beyond anybody else’s commentary on her life, her culture, her body—not yours, not yours. Except then, what? What if her own commentary is viewed as not-her-own but something else, despite the semantic contradiction that entails? Then she is doomed to isolation, to living burial, like the infant girls of pre-Islamic Jahiliyyah in Arabia. If her voice happens to be of protest, of discord, of rejection, it is nullified before she can speak. Suddenly she is other to her own culture, and thus inauthentic. And this is my assertion, not a plea: Do not say you fear to misunderstand, because you then tell her that her narrative and testimony is not powerful, does not communicate. And do not tell her that it is not hers as a brown woman, as a woman from her own culture, as a woman bred in the faith that was every element of her life to adulthood. There is a telling Islamic parallel to this paradigm of a once-belonging individual suddenly becoming non-representative. Many Islamic scholars protest that there is no such thing as a true apostate, because for one to have been a Muslim to begin with, one must have understood Islam, and Islam is always-already perfectly unobjectionable. It is a self-referential assertion

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of how the culture of Islam is unapproachable, and any outward criticism leveled at it is based on a failure or inability to understand and belong to it. Unless it is always yours into the infinite future, then it is never yours. Nobody leaves the faith. You cannot defect from what you were never part of. And thus, you cannot speak of and for what you were never part of. Your past is erased, inconsequential, not yours. And yet, punishment for apostasy in Islam is harsh, varying between banishment, social ostracization, and death according to scholarly interpretation. It is a contradiction, for how can a crime inconceivable of even existing have a punishment, let alone one so harsh? Last winter, I composed an email to my father in Lebanon, asking him to let me come back home. To take me back, back into the culture, the family, the stronghold. I wrote that he could put me in a mental institution, or else let me stay between my room and his kitchen, for the next forty years if he wanted me to. But just let me come home. It was the middle of the afternoon when I sat in my bed composing this email and looking at the snow choking up my windows. I almost sent it, but my partner came home early, caught me in the act, and stopped me. He cradled me, put his ear to my lips, and let me close my eyes and rock while I whispered my thoughts to him, while I told him what I am and what I am not because of the damning brand of apostasy: I am awful, I said. I don’t want to be the devilchild who ruined my father’s life, who destroyed him with my shameful whore-body and shameful whore-mouth. He cries every day, I said. He cries every day, and he is tortured and cannot sleep. He is depressed, ashamed, and does not speak of me and does not see old friends anymore in case they ask about me. All because of me, I said, because I am a stupid, horrible person. My partner held my body like a rocking boat and I was not alone when he listened to these things come out of my mouth, and he knew not to appropriate my self-degrading instincts, my impulses to run back to past

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destruction and away from present kindness. He knew not to make them his pain, his hurt, about him. Not if he was to listen. He held my body like an old wooden chair, imprinted upon by so many bodies but itself only a stiff, creaking frame, and listened to my selfdescription as such. I am lonely, I said while he held me. I am afraid, I said, and empty. I can’t write and I can’t teach, I said, I can’t do anything. I want to sleep and not have to care, and if I go home, my father will let me sleep, maybe even forever. He wanted to say “listen to yourself ” but that would not have been listening to me. I said, I just want Baba to hold me and to not hate me and to tell me I’m okay. Because, I said, Baba thinks I am immoral and hideous and stupid and a whore, and I don’t want him to think these things, and what is wrong with me? My partner held me on our bed in our house as I said, if I go home to him and be good, Baba will maybe think I’m okay, and hold me. What did I do to deserve Baba thinking these things about me, and the punishment? Why am I so wrong? Why could he never think I was good at anything? Why was I stupid and a shame to him, always, perverse, always? Deviant. Always? And both our bodies rocked with the overwhelming power of the Stockholm-Syndrome-type thoughts gripping me, thoughts that were not the truest form of me, but were underlying every true form of myself. Knowing with my mind that my thought processes at that heightened moment of existential grief were a product of PTSD, of a twisted conditioning so deep that it has reserves and reserves that continue to bubble up to the surface, despite all learning, all rationality, all nurturing, all care, all love. Despite the love my partner must have, to listen to his brown woman express the strange complexities of what is uniquely her identity. An identity that is neither a monolithic product of a certain culture nor a free-floating

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thing unmolded by the bending power of her upbringing. Let her refer to herself. I have a friend, let us call her Leila, who is beautiful and creative and paints curving, sprawling, impulsive portraits of her favorite philosophers. She moved to the US to begin her PhD this summer. She is also a closet atheist who lives a double life among her Muslim family because she must. Her parents want to call her twice a day, at her home number, to be given details of her new life. When she spoke of this to me, her fears and worries were that such invasiveness would frustrate and hurt her secret boyfriend (an American) and their relationship. This is a story of what it is like to be a Muslim woman: for it be first instinct to put our own frustrations and pains on the back burner, to delegitimatize the pressure we feel and worry more about the discomfort of other people. We worry about how our loved ones, our friends, our employers, our professors will handle the limitations placed on our everyday lives instead of being angry and concerned for ourselves. We are taught that our feelings are of not much consequence, we are taught not to give them heed or space. “I never think about my own frustration, or give it value,� Leila said to me. And yet she is a phenomenally graceful and nuanced thinker, pursuing her PhD in one of the country’s top programs. She is still constrained in allowing herself to refer to herself. Clearly what I have not yet said, in all of this discussion of selfreferentiality, is that this essay is not meant to describe a single representative experience of women in Muslim-majority countries worldwide. I say clearly because Islam is not a monolith and is a manifold, with hundreds of sects and varying interpretations in both scripture and personal practice, and always intermeshed with a background culture, Arabian Peninsula, Levant, North Africa, Desi, Southeast Asia and so on, to form rich and varying new

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cultures. When ‘Muslim’ can be an identity as widely varying as the faces of the women that carry it, as the beliefs of these women, any and all of their stories are stories of what it is like to be a Muslim woman, because their religion and their culture belongs to them individually, and not vice versa. My story is always the story of what it is like to be a Muslim woman. And there is always another story, and it is always important. And some stories are deeper and more pained than others. Because there are Arab and Muslim women of the world who have been and still are trapped between the culture and belief systems they are socialized into and their attempts for self-actualization, who may not have the money and educational resources that Leila and I had and have, who are crippled by poverty, by unjust legislature, who may not have conceptual tools necessary for them to lead meaningful lives in their places of living. And then more. Because the above does not yet touch upon the horrendous physical violence that happens to a not insignificant number of women who dissent to or violate their cultural code of living. But that is heavy, and easy to turn away from. So let us set it aside for a moment and pretend that it doesn’t come hand-in-hand with an obsession with the control of our bodies and our conduct and honor and shame. Even setting that aside, think of what you have listened to—how I have lived, how Leila has lived, and countless others. This is how my sister lives still, my mother, my cousins, my friends. I want to make clear what freedom means to women like us. What it means to have choice. What it means to have choice that is not just a variety of empty options, what it means to have voice that is not retarded by the suppression we live under or by the social costs of our apostasy, by Stockholm Syndrome and trauma. Because many of us can go to school and have jobs like we could in the West, and when we do this, watched, controlled like mannequins, this is not freedom. We have freedoms that are not freedoms, and we can continue to go to school and go to work and be empty robots all the while. We brim with

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chronic hopelessness and self-defeat and empty confusion of striving, striving, to be fulfilled when we are mannequins. And after we escape, or after things change for us? We will spend some time adjusting, processing the fact that we have keys. We will be able to grasp, eventually, what it is like to have freedoms. Some days we will even take them for granted, and if we realize we’ve done so, we will feel a sort of confused resentment at ourselves for forgetting the cost of our pain. Other days, however, we’ll be very aware of our rights. The ridiculous pervasiveness of choice around us will paralyze and confuse us, and we will feel empty, incomplete, as we try to structure and choose what we are, what we have, what we like around a hollowness that always was. Even the simplest of choices can seem desperate. I have had a panic attack choosing pizza toppings when my partner would not take ‘whatever you want’ as an answer for the umpteenth consecutive time. I have been so used to choosing things according to a quick assessment of what other people want, prefer, or require, so that my life around them would be easier, so that they would not hurt me or destroy me. I have been so used to choosing what will make others happy. And I am afraid of becoming capable of being free. I am afraid of transcending my ability to let my trauma and unhappiness consume me. I am afraid that succeeding in pulling together that broken part of me that does not know how to choose, or care, or be, how to quit compulsively faking emotions and detaching— I am afraid of being no longer angry, no longer cognizant of this incredible injustice, being blind to what it means to not to be free. I am afraid of being happy because it might mean I accept and am blind to the constraints upon my freedom. I am afraid of forgetting what it means to be free. I am afraid that once I have freedom, I will no longer understand what freedom is worth and why it is important. This is my reminder.

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Precious, Disappearing Photographs of Loss Doug Rice

years later , she would ask this from him . She would ask for the sound

of rain falling on her soul. She would ask for him to return to her the fury of those dreams that she had neglected. She would ask for emptiness, the kind of desolation that marks flesh. She would ask for him to unleash her earliest memories of being loved, but he would become quiet. He would sit on the edge of their bed and say that he was a coward when he was sober. She would kneel down on her crooked knees beside him, weep some forgotten hopes from her childhood out of her body, crying her way into the manic darkness of the room until she broke and began laughing.

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Doug Rice


clarence stood on the corner of pride and colwell streets listening

to Ai’s voice, looking into her dark eyes. He felt his hands wanting to do something. His feet longing to walk, to make a getaway. Something hot and fierce burned into his lungs and every single bone in his body cracked. Clarence felt his eyes changing, felt a scar forming in those eyes of his, a scar that would never heal. And he heard a voice inside him urging him to clear his throat of his desire for Ai and find other stories, other women, other bodies. But Ai’s beauty paralyzed Clarence. The dark skin of her elbows and the even darker skin of the flesh behind her knees, the insane beauty of her narrow, thin feet, her toes, her hands,

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the palms of her hands. Clarence could not imagine ever seeing beauty comparable to the quiet beauty just resting in the palms of Ai’s hands. If he could have imagined that such beauty existed somewhere else in the world, perhaps then he could have walked down Colwell Street, could have just walked and walked to some other place where there was some other beauty close to Ai’s beauty, maybe he could have walked down Dinwiddie Street to Fifth Avenue to Red’s Bar and found such beauty there. But those delicate strong lines in the skin of Ai’s palms had cut deep into Clarence’s memory, into his heart, into his desire, and kept Clarence standing there. Clarence would never see beauty near the beauty of the palms of Ai’s hands again. Not in this lifetime. That beauty. The way her name felt in his mouth. All this paralyzed Clarence. When he lay beside Ai, when she lay on top of him and he felt the girl weight of her young body on his old body, he forgot the pain of every heartbreak he had ever experienced. The pain of every bone that had ever been broken in his body, the pain of losing his parents, the pain of nearly dying from starvation, all of it just lifted and disappeared into thin air as if none of it, as if nothing bad, had ever happened to him. Ai gave Clarence this. So Clarence stood before her. He stood and waited, unsure of what he was waiting for, of what there was left in the world that a man like him could ever see or know again.

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Doug Rice


“ no child knows how important it is to let her mother hear her laughing, not until that child becomes a mother herself. You got to know how much power there is in laughter. Before that, when she still but a child, she thinks that laughter is just laughter. Just a sound. Nothing more. She don’t know what laughter means to a mother, to her mother. When you a child, after it been hot day after day after day, hot so many days you think it never going to be nothing but hot, your skin suffering for rain, and when you do finally hear that first rain of summer, you run yourself outside as fast as you can. You don’t think about it. You just push open that screen door and let it bang shut behind you, your mother be yelling don’t let that door bang like that but you don’t pay her no mind because you running down the steps of your stoop. You run barefoot out there into the world and into the rain, those big drops of rain splashing on the sidewalk, and when you get out there in that falling rain and you feel that hot concrete turning cold under the soles of your feet, you dance, child. Don’t matter how old you are. How young. Don’t matter what no one thinks of you doing that. You sing. You dance. Everything

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else disappear anyways. You throw your hands up into the sky. That moment when you doing that. That moment. That’s when you eternal. You experiencing what it is to be immortal and don’t you let anyone take that from you and don’t you never forget that moment. Never. No matter how much school you go through, no matter how smart you think you are, no matter how rich you think you are because you got money or something. No matter what. You never forget throwing your arms open to the falling rain and dancing barefoot on that sidewalk and laughing so loud your mother heard you all the way around the back of the house in the kitchen. She hear you even with all the windows closed. You don’t ever forget how you felt doing that because that is what life is. That is all life is. Everything else you do in your life, that all for other people. You get a job. You go to school. You doing that for them. You obeying what you have to obey to get on in the world. But this? This you doing out there in that rain, this you doing for your own life. This you doing to create your life. This dancing you doing, getting your skin all wet in the rain, you doing this because you loving your life. You’re not doing it because you were told to do it or for some reward, for someone to say good job and all that, you doing this because you doing it. It’s that simple. And that’s why it matters more than all the other stuff you ever do in your life because this you doing to do it. And that laughter your mother hear you doing out there, that’s the truest gift you ever give her, even when she calling you a fool and saying you going to catch your death of cold. That just a mother’s way of thanking a child for laughing. ‘Cause the best way to ever thank a mother is not by simply saying thank you but by laughing, bursts of laughter. That a true thank you to your mother for her bringing you into this world. And when you grow up and you get that job and you doing all this and that with your life, you best never quit living the life you want to be living. ‘Cause everyone out there is bent on destroying you.”

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Doug Rice


the woman wanted to write the stories of her father’s agitated hands

and fingers onto cracked mirrors, and she wanted to write the stories of his insane breath onto tiny slips of papers, and she wanted to place these slips of paper into children’s books all over the city of Pittsburgh, in every Carnegie Library, in every bookstore. She wanted to crouch down to eye level when she met a child on the streets of Pittsburgh, to smile at the child, to make small talk with the child, and to tell the child how cute she was or he was, and then she wanted to casually slip the story of this man into the palm of the child’s hand. And maps. She wanted to draw pirate maps so that every child in Pittsburgh would know how to travel. Even though she was a girl, she wanted to be king of the pirates. She wanted to rid herself of the roots that this man, that man after man had planted inside her. She wanted to swallow without feeling the pain caused by the bruises inside her throat. All that is beautiful, her mother told her when this woman was so very tiny, a young child, just a breath or two older than an infant, a child wanting milk, but her mother stopped herself. All that is beautiful. Her mother again and again began this one sentence, to give this one sentence to her daughter. It took years before her mother was able to complete that one sentence, to give the whole of the sentence over to her daughter. Late one summer night her mother became quiet and put an end to that sentence.

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Four Sonnets Jacob Kahn Beneath spring, a faint circle magnifying gesture. Beneath fall, a ruptured circumference pouring forth a gallon of moths. No, no, I mean when natures call. In the beginning spoke the party of reducible notion. In the beginning sewed the nominal, the heretical, and the accidental. The difference is a camel is an orange horse. Metonymy says the honey doesn’t leave the hive. Still I see no exit for sight. I see a domain extending. Lower me down on broken horses. You don’t have to know the language to hear the voices going to heaven. Context originates as a parabola over barricaded fields. Our diaspora, baby, converge in blue. Don’t confuse the hope of what hasn’t been done with the substance of what cannot. That is as soon as I build a rawhide of stupid personal inner shit my smile detaches from a fume. So much for the piqued nomenclature of home. Enough situated, & enough said. The sea continuously jerks off. Time refuses to relay time. Sumacs banter, trajectories tendril. Meanwhile a few distant pigs are having a human afternoon.

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Jacob Kahn


Brooding glues. Speaking staples adhesive coordinates to telling it like it is. In my acceptance speech I said oak trees adhere when June is thin. A detailed early makes sense of this dovetailing late. Each passes in the order of Emma, Jim, Alex, indexing prisms, disrupting the index. People cancel people. The upended noise. Should blisters. Delicate blisters of should. I’m never going back to Brooklyn. A whale inside a fortune cookie booms dreams too have to shit. Wake up, ravel west. Alight, comma, & break curfew in the cleft red trees. Bent wings look bronze and expensive at sundown. At sundown we exist in Oregon, in the address of a middleground, in a Jacuzzi or wheat field, a bigger city than the one we began in. First we tour the smoke factory, then the factory tour factory. By tour I mean pursue, & by pursuit constant qualification toward September’s obelisk, a semantic pause, a turning sideways of sensibility. Abiding sensations oscillate; then abiding oscillations begin to sensitize.

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untitled

Jenna Caravello


Sunny Suddenly Caren Beilin

you got better . It was awful. You were always worse! You were in

the bathtub chewing soap or doing coke, or in the bed, feathers in your mouth as if you’d eaten a bird and in the backyard, sobbing. You didn’t sit on the swing. On the ground, sobbing and drinking, your hand enclosed over a bird, killed. You were eating its guts. You were caramelizing its feathers in your drunken mouth. I worsened. The worseness grew all over me and they found me pounding an animal on a stone, the worst kind. Jagged. Really a rock. I had the animal in my teeth then dropped it into my fist. I’d hollowed my fist out, into a hand, and then filled my hollow with that fowl. You were all of the sudden: walking into the kitchen to get an apple. You had: taken off your shirt to take a walk along the bayou. You’d become: an athlete. A boxer. Sponsored by a television program. All of these things... you took me to the bed where you had wallowed, and drank, and killed birds eating guts, and you just tried to cuddle my body: you massaged me. I left in the night! I took an animal. I killed it by the river and let it run like yolk down the bank. An animal is a red egg in a fur bag. I swam. Faster this way, swimming by river, than the use of the road. To get away from you faster. If there is the sun, I said to myself, I promised, if the sun comes, I said, my back kneading and ironing out the minor torrent, and the moon out and jagged I’m sure, but smoothed by my eyes in the many miles of stars and trees, I’ll turn over in this water. I’ll just turn over. I’d rather that than your sudden sun.

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a Brief Interview with Cheryl Dunye Tasha Keeble

cheryl dunye has received numerous national and international honors for her work in film. Dunye wrote, directed and starred in The Watermelon Woman, her first feature film. She has also directed works such as The Owls, Miramax’s My Baby’s Daddy and the HBO Film Stranger Inside. Dunye, a mother of two children, now teaches at California College of the Arts.

The following conversation started casually, over lunch one day in a quiet Thai restaurant in Oakland, November 2013. cheryl dunye : what brings me to the table with tasha keeble to converse

about my work as an African-American lesbian artist/filmmaker? I invented this character, called Fae Richards, the watermelon woman, and made up a whole life for her because there was nobody represented there in history when I looked. What is such a weird paradox is I made up the watermelon woman and people are writing about the phenomenon of what I did—about representation and creating something in the invisible and, again, here I am, invisible in that process. Because nobody ever comes to me, the source who is alive, not dead, to ask what I think about it in the sense of empowerment in the sense of true politics. It goes all the way back to when The Watermelon Woman first came out. I mean they had a Cheryl Dunye conference somewhere and I wasn’t even invited. tasha keeble : wow .

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Cheryl Dunye


cd : everybody ’ s delivering papers and I’m like, where am I in the whole thing? I am sort of at the point where I want to take back the night. How am I going to empower myself in this process? Maybe I need to take responsibility for that piece, and I’m struggling to sustain myself and have the ability to make my own work, and this is a cycle that happens consistently with people who are in the margins in any kind of creative practice. And nobody talks about it. tk : can you speak to the balancing act you’ve had to perform in order

to create freely and also be able to sustain yourself in a practical way? cd : people lean towards selling out —I mean you make your great

piece and you don’t get supported to make any more work like that. And you end up literally as a security guard who everyone points at all the time—oh, you that—oh I saw that film! I think what’s important about my landing and becoming grounded in the Bay Area is the growing visibility around the hyphenated cultural artistic practice—I mean people of color, queer women of color—all these people building community and finding some version of sustainability within that. Not completely. But I don’t need to feel like I’m hustling. tk : when can you stop hustling ? cd : i don ’ t know . I think the solution is in community. I always think

the answer lies in begging, borrowing or stealing. Anything to get the job done. Also, create a support network—folks you can turn to when your own hustle is not enough.

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arverne trolley Station

Richard Kostelanetz


Petition for Redress Marisa Handler

Oxford University Press 198 Madison Ave New York, NY 10016 November 16, 2013

to the editors of the oxford english dictionary : i write with a grievance . That grievance concerns your current definition

of a certain somewhat controversial word. This word is often maligned, and rest assured I am thus sympathetic to your choice, which is both tactful and concise, doubtless the product of careful reflection. Might it not, however, be a little too tactful? As you are aware, words shape our world. Language shapes the brain. And as minds far more erudite than my own have ascertained, language can determine perception. In light of these notions, I submit my petition for redress. The word and definition in question are:

activism : (ac·tiv·ism); /ˈaktəˌvizəm/; noun

political or social change.

1. The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about

In the interest of full disclosure, this morning was the first time I looked the word up. I’ve done a good deal of it, spoken a good deal about

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it, written a good deal about it—but for the first time now I have seen its syllables rendered into sounds; I have weighed the lucid, eminently sensible definition you provide. A key word in this definition—arguably the key word—is vigorous. Vigorous is a startlingly wide-ranging word, it turns out. A word that strides across continents in tattered sandals, a bag filled with flags and tear gas and flyers, bullets and bread slipping from its fingers. Vigorous can look like balaklava-clad Zapatistas or a Tunisian street vendor on fire or children facing fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama. When vigorous is having a bad day—convinced the world is out to get it, that the vast majority is fundamentally, irrevocably flawed—it’s holy war, perhaps in the name of Mammon or God or military might. On a good day, when we are all more or less blunderingly well intentioned, albeit blinded by delusion, it is principled nonviolence. Gandhi named this satyagraha, or “truth force:” literally, the insistence upon truth, in our words, our acts, and most fundamentally, our understanding. Thus this singular word vigorous begs of us a few fundamental questions: Who are we? Who are they? Fundamentally alike, or fundamentally Other? And thence: how do we create change? Yet before I leap to these, allow me to complete my exegesis. I confess I harbor a quarrel with this definition, and it is in regards to its limitations. Political or social change simply won’t do the trick, dear OED. The world is a shrinking splintering snowglobe wired together by spinning digits. A friend recently explained how technology distances even as it enables: a digging stick, he pointed out, puts you a few feet away from the earth. Well, we’ve come several millennia from digging sticks, and we’ve fallen headlong for it, technology. We are addicts craving our next fix, strung out on a virtual circus of information. And as any diligent addict knows, the two prevailing headaches of our times are both global. The first is, yes, the economy. The second (in no particular order) is the earth. And here, noble OED, are my definitions,

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Marisa Handler


admittedly the work of an amateur— The economy: tragic mismanagement of available resources. Currently operating largely as an imaginary bubble in the parallel universe of contemporary economic theory (read: mathematics so sophisticated only a handful of academics comprehend them; or, in layman’s terms, an economy removed from worldly concerns, and divorced entirely from any of the moral order with which Adam Smith, whose primary vocation was moral philosopher, imbued it). Translates, for the vast majority of us, into numbers that either do or do not show up in our bank accounts/mailboxes/palms, whereby they either do or do not pay for the actual things that feed, clothe, and house us. The earth: tiny planet in an expanding universe, the only one thus known to harbor significant life. Very real. As real as the soil in my yard, the air I breathe as I write. As quantifiable as toxins in breastmilk and the Marshall Islands slowly swallowed by the rising Pacific. Ergo: The grossest of a host of ironies is that the ravenous appetites of an oft-imaginary economy are devastating the very real vessel upon which we (and close to another nine million species) depend. And thus, ultimately, devastating us. Or some of us. Other, we hope; vaguely, guiltily. In sum, dear OED, I am lobbying hard here for an overhaul of your definition. Activism is no longer merely political or social. It is global. It has to be. Global in the sense of corporate globalization, globalized economy, global monoculture, global consequences. And the global justice movement. Which brings us back to a few fundamental questions. One of the most powerful demonstrations I have participated in—powerful in the sense of my own felt experience—took place on a weekday at noon in San Francisco. There were around a hundred of us, garbed in crimson fabric. Very slowly, placing our attention carefully upon our feet, we walked through swaths of businesspeople

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and shoppers. At our head was a gorgeously-painted banner of Buddha eyes. In support of our brave friends in Burma, read our signs. May ALL beings be free from suffering. It was October 1st, 2007: the 138th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, and around a week after the historic uprisings in Burma known as the Saffron Revolution. The military junta ruling Burma had dramatically raised the prices of fuel and basic commodities, rendering them prohibitively expensive for most Burmese. In response, fifty thousand monks marched in Rangoon. They held their alms bowls upside down: a powerful message of excommunication to the Tatmadaw, or Burmese armed forces. As they marched, they chanted the Metta (lovingkindness) Sutra: May all human beings be free and happy, may all human beings be free from danger, may all human beings be free from physical and mental suffering; may all human beings be free from fear and anger. In solidarity, we were doing walking meditation down Market Street, the city’s major thoroughfare. It was a beautiful, immensely moving experience to be part of: we were focusing our own energies on cultivating peace, on the strength of inspiration, rather than trying to spread righteous indignation fueled by anger. What struck me most was the response of passers-by. Instead of moving away from us, rejecting flyers, scurrying by—a response to which I had been inured by countless other demonstrations—they came closer. They quieted, curious. They accepted our flyers. They even took photos. Lest I be misunderstood: I believe anger and righteous indignation have their place. As an oft-quoted someone once said, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” But for those of us who intend to be not only vigorous but effective troublemakers, anger cannot be the dominant motivation. When anger shapes a demonstration, it does not draw people in (or when it does, seldom for the right reasons). I have seen too much preaching to the choir, too many actions in which the fun is not meant to be shared. When we talk only to ourselves, are we surprised when nobody appears to be listening?

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Marisa Handler


Gandhi wrote that in order to be effective, civil disobedience needs three ingredients: it must be symbolic, it must be strategic, and it must be principled. Witness the Salt March, often cited as the turning point in the struggle for Indian independence. In the wake of the British declaring a tax on salt, thousands of satyagrahis—activists trained in nonviolence, committed to truth force—marched 200 miles to the sea to perform a highly symbolic act: make their own salt. Photos of line after line of marchers being beaten down by police drew international attention. Thenceforth, the movement for Indian independence unfolded on a global stage. Perhaps the most powerful example of principled nonviolence I have myself observed occurred deep in the Amazon, in a sweltering place reachable only by a shuddering Cessna. In 2004 I went there to write about a community that had thoroughly captivated me: the Sarayacu. The Ecuadorean constitution maintained that while the indigenous peoples owned their land, what lay beneath belonged to the government. But when their land was auctioned off for oil exploitation, the Sarayacu pledged resistance. This community of under 2,000 mounted a months-long nonviolent struggle to prevent oil workers (and the soldiers escorting them) from entering their land. This is no small feat for a people that lives off the land. Their struggle was rooted in their indigenous principles, and every adolescent and adult participated; even mothers and grandmothers held up their traditional spears to keep the oil workers out. The Sarayacu enlisted the support of allies both domestic and global, and ultimately, they won: the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights ruled in their favor against the government of Ecuador. Symbolic, strategic, principled. Still, when I was there, victory was anything but clear. I lived among them for a short time, and I was tremendously impressed with the courage, organization, and discipline of their campaign. About a week in, I interviewed one of their shamans, Atanacio. He spoke of how wealthy and blessed they were, this community that had literally nothing by the way of money.

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He talked about their spirituality, their connection to the land and to their traditions. When I asked him what he thought of the CEO of the corporation trying to drill on their land, he gestured wide, to the jungle around us, the river, the sky. “I think he lives far from real knowledge,” he said. Atanacio’s words changed me, as an activist. It had nothing to do with evil. Nor was it as simple as greed. It did, however, concern a certain distance from the truth. In short, the issue was ignorance. The Buddha said that at the root of all delusion—all our clamorous grasping and fractious antipathies—lies ignorance. And ignorance he defined as essentially a belief in the separate self. Real knowledge, truth force, demonstrators chanting the Metta sutra: these are the ways we make change when no war is holy. These are the ways we troublemake when there is no Other. When there is only Us, and more, albeit different, Us. The headaches are global. They are blinding migraines from which few inhabitants of this planet will escape entirely unscathed (even the 1% have children and grandchildren who breathe, eat, and fall sick). And they arise from precisely what the Buddha called ignorance: a belief in the separate self. A separate self who must fight for limited resources. A separate self who must compete against other separate selves. A separate self who must wield all the might he can muster to fend off the ire of other separate selves. This belief is killing our companions on this planet. It is killing large parts of the planet itself. And ultimately, unless vigorous trouble is made, and made effectively, it will kill us. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that, said Martin Luther King. Hatred cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. How we view who we are determines how we try to change the world. And it is too desperately urgent right now to make change any other way than effectively. Wisely. Creatively. Lovingly. And

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Marisa Handler


optimistically, if optimism is what it takes to see us as fundamentally good, blunderingly well-intentioned, albeit clouded by delusion. For a consciousness rooted in separation cannot drive out a consciousness rooted in separation. Only wise understanding, as the Buddha put it, can do that. To me, wise understanding means seeing all of it. Yes, there’s enough bad news to drive you into fits of rage and despair. But there’s also a global justice movement, and it is indeed vigorous. It looks like Occupy and the Arab Spring and Sarayacu and the Saffron Revolution and Taksim Square. It looks like Sufi dancers wearing gas masks and crimson-robed monks filling the streets of Rangoon. It looks like Yemenis weeping with joy at the advent of democracy and demonstrators holding Zuccotti Park signs in Rome, Madrid, and London. In essence: it looks like Us. Otherwise defined as: real people making real change. So, in closing, dear OED, please accept this petition for redress. I hereby submit my suggested revision:

activism : (ac·tiv·ism); /ˈaktəˌvizəm/; noun

1. global Us recognizing, and thenceforth acting on behalf of, global

Us And if that feels altogether too risqué and avant-garde, I’ll settle for this:

2. the wise and creative employment of strategic means to bring about global change

I am grateful for your serious consideration of this consequential matter. Sincere regards, Marisa Handler

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Your Pillow Was Buzzing Julia Cohen

so I turned it off & here the field’s menu clamps down on a leather wallet. Let’s accompany the worm’s digestion. Let’s fail to patent the palm of the rabbit’s mind. Xeroxed stars, you are lower than the others culprits. Could I be the rabbit on a boat, the one with a clover nose? With grammar of remorse? Distant chatter of radishes & mustard greens. The bedridden shore complicit to green cliffs, your buzzing which is distance itself. Like the sand slacked off leaving me with this ambiguous sea.

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Julia Cohen


Not For June

you’re the month of helmets plankton & termites galore sweep out the kernels for a sunbath your throat full of zinc, let me sand your pity sunglasses like endives protein spasms, we creepers we smelly like a cookie could we headbang our way to a storefront, piety, the back row of the hairnet hour could we fret like earthquaked ants your neck spills into a nest I’m wreathing in the bluebird barracks like hold my wrists like wrestle the lilac from my bonny brain am I always between trees? insect nerd

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Jaguar Average Jennifer Denrow and Julia Cohen

A loose tangerine jaguar flings itself against a tough year, reminds me of spinsters engulfed in a jungle, slapping again. A belief reviewed into dust or: rivered prize morbid opening already dead. Inside the pets our pets tablecloths catch mustard & hearts. How long does it take to get to New Orleans how long is the jump rope hissing back to me. Taken. Taken. Immediately logic has no place in us, in solicitors, in the soldiers holding pages of matter divorced from projects. For weapons. In a way I am discrete in another way nothing discrete can be. Inverted, I miss toughness in the year of the hammer. Regrets heave through summer like the jaguar average. Handy fireplace I lit with the dead I bought this cloud. Pets shame is the form we mess up. It depends. On the reminder. Where it started I would like soldiers in jaguar, mouths speculate this loose soldier. I would love to so invite me.

100 Jennifer Denrow and Julia Cohen


I’m going to read from the jaguar, who is a world when I am small or when the phone rings into years. Don’t you ever ever. Yell. Face again. Karate jaguar. I don’t want it to arrive in pieces or like a shriveled thumb. My face is pornography, an infinite number of trees. Real loud taken. Close to a starting point. I’m giving up arm wrestling because I want to hold the page. I want to depend on instinct but it’s the year of the cerebellum & we all know the body has to wait in the pool. The preventative aspirin. What do I do? I sleep in the fireplace like wax.

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the Parts of the City in Storage Jennifer Denrow

the white winds that carried the lions to the low flowers the estuaries of pale trout slices of rock moved out by the water the broad typhoons

in the interest of weather some eyes of rages

turning melancholically blue the hand-sewn hills over the tiger valley the wide eagle river next to the red sky ranch parallel children on yellow panes of earth in long matrimony the dehydrated air

the horse odyssey

how everything we wanted

it to be

happened inside of us before we arrived and when we arrived we could only experience it as we were then which was different than who we were when we imagined ourselves arriving

102 Jennifer Denrow


In Place of Damage I tried everything. Telling you about the lambs and about the goats and corn telling it in front of you making you the lambs making me the goats making us the corn making us the goats and corn when you said I couldn’t be the goats alone making you hold the goats and corn drawings that were made earlier at sea saying how nothing is particular at sea and remembering how the sea itself is particular on most occasions until you leave and I am folding your shirts in the shape of the ocean so that all of your already folded shirts become boats I bring out your pants to make currents because every relationship needs something private.

War Mischief the war was still there when we woke up we looked at it as we dressed and had breakfast it was in our minds enough it moved through us like Alaskan wilderness it left everything it touched ungreat the flies came in and flew around dancing with each other above your sleeping body they were joined by more flies and soon they covered you

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Scores: an Introduction Ava Rosen

what follows is a series of Fluxus-inspired scores for publication and

performance, as part of our larger theme of mischief. A score is a text-based instruction that prompts action. This term comes from the Fluxus movement and other performance art starting in the 1960s. As both a catalyst for an art piece and an art piece itself, the score expands the notion of art as event and art as text. A score often invites mischief of the performer. There is a sense of freedom about these scores and how they are to be performed. They could take the form of a whistled tune, a dance with strangers, an abandoned note, a trash heap. You may be prompted with an impossible task, inviting extreme interpretation and wild imagining. We have gathered scores from local artists. We now open this section up to you, to take the text off the page and into the biosphere. We invite you to use a medium or form with which you are unfamiliar. We urge you to make mischief on the street, on the internet, in the stacks, underground.

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Happy Hour Tom Committa

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106 Scores

Go into an empty room. Make a list of everything that is in that room. Write this list on the walls. Do not leave the room until you have covered all of the walls with your list.

Abby Crain

Emptiness, No. 1

Invite 10 more people to an art opening that starts at the same time and at the same location as the party. Ask your guests to observe the artistic work that is happening inside the square. Serve them grape juice and red wine. Do not use plastic. The exhibition will last one hour.

part two

Invite 10 people to a party in an empty room. Rope off an eight foot square in this room. Ask your guests to stand inside this square. Serve them sparking water and white wine. Do not use plastic. The party will last one hour.

part one

Emptiness, No. 2


Untitled Eirik Steinhoff

If you see something, say something. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Go ahead, I dare you. Take yourself into a public space of your choosing, preferably one you traverse frequently, and commit to performing this score while there. There’s no rush; in fact, plan on loitering until the seeing and the saying come together. Keep track of how it feels to say the thing you see. Also keep track of how the persons in earshot respond. What do we allow ourselves to see? What do we allow ourselves to say? And what does the saying show us? Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

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preliminary pattern Study Kate Robinson

108 Scores


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preliminary pattern Study Kate Robinson


Scores for Mischief Matt Longabucco

Where is the emphasis of this sentence? Discover it, but make it your secret.

At the exact moment when everything your body’s ever learned, in its long career through sociality, about when the polite time to look away has arrived, arrives, and your body begins in all its hard-earned knowing to look away: don’t look away.

Those hats over there are not going to pass themselves around.

I went low last time. Too fucking low. Did you guys do that to me? Being mischievous? Being mischievous little pups?

Go back in time. All those pumpkins on that porch. Billy’s grabbed one. Listen to him cackle in delight, tossing the pumpkin up, catching it, measuring its heft. He’s about to hurl it at the traffic light gently swinging in the breeze above the deserted street. What are you waiting for? Go get one! Join him!

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Scores


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Untitled Sarah Fontaine

KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND ASK THEM IF THEY WILL MAKE YOU A SLOPPY JOE. KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND ASK THEM WHERE THE BEST LAUNDROMAT IS. KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND ASK THEM IF THEY HAVE ADVICE FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH FRUIT FLIES. KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND SAY: DO YOU WANT TO RECEIVE SOME MONEY. THIS IS A MONEY GIVEAWAY. ASK THEM IF THEY WANT $5. ASK THEM IF THEY WANT $10. ASK THEM IF THEY WANT $20. TELL THEM: THIS IS A CHARITY FOR THE RICH. KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND THANK THEM FOR BEING RICH. TELL THEM: THANK YOU FOR BEING RICH. KNOCK ON THE DOOR OF A RICH PERSON AND READ THEM TENNESSEE WILLIAM’S ESSAY, “THE CATASTROPHE OF SUCCESS.” READ IT SLOWLY AND CRY IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT. READ IT EVEN IF THEY CLOSE THE DOOR.


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Scores

Dinner Music appetizer: Say everything you’re thinking

1st course: Take it all back 2nd course: Say everything you’re thinking dessert: Take it all back

to be hummed from 9am to 5pm ||: m’hm :|| Tom Committa

Office Music


Critical Music question

the hierarchical relationship between artist (supposed superior) and audience (supposed subordinate) that is reinforced by the imperative mood

while using the imperative mood.

Sing the USA PATRIOT ACT to your nearest surveillance.

Guerrilla Opera 113


untitled

Juliana Wisdom

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Cristina GarcĂ­a


an interview with latasha n. Diggs Margaret Miller with assistance from Megan Susman

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs works with words, sound, video and bodies. She has been published in Ploughshares, jubilat, Fence, LA Review, Palabra, and Black Renaissance Noir, among others. She is the recipient of several awards; including Cave Canem, New York Foundation for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The Laundromat Project, and Millay Colony. She, along with Greg Tate, are the editors of yoYO/SO4 Magazine. Her poetry collection, TwERK, was recently published by Belladonna*. Margaret Miller: latasha n . diggs : it happened during a phone Why Twerk for the conversation with Douglas Kearney who

name of your first book?

designed the book cover. We were joking around with book titles, having fun and Doug said “twerk” and I said “that’s it!” It made sense. The term itself has been around for over 20 years and yes, it is associated with the dance, a dance much older than 20. At one point, it was a term used in the black gay communities. It is that conjoining of words (and dance) alongside all of this stuff that is happening in the book. It is a level of discomfort and joy with dance; dances that are underground but popular amongst a group of people. The book is about the physicality and dance of languages. These languages and vernaculars and idioms

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and dialects are granting me permission to explore and to see what I deem as a multilingual America. I don’t believe North America is monolingual. Now there is a population within the United States that is terribly monolingual. Monolingualism in the States translates to me as the U.S. being the minority in a global context. Listen. It’s being spoken right beside you. The corner of my block isn’t monolingual. It is multilingual.

,

mm: Can you talk well i do attempt to write in these languages about your performances (I fail often). I’m referring here to projects and how you capture the bombardment of language? with composers and choreographers I’ve

worked with who are Hungarian-Gypsy, Dutch Caribbean, Austrian, and Maori. Whatever it is, there’s curiosity, boredom and improvisation. I’ve worked as an electronic musician and as a vocalist in bands and the constant question that I have with myself has to do with improvisation. For me, combining the electronics, vocal manipulations with language, with video, makes sense. It is about how not to get bored with my shit. I also want to challenge the audience a little bit with how I hear things. Some folks do not believe I can hear all these languages at my corner. But I do. Maybe that’s just my ear. To be introduced to what I find is a utopia of cultures and languages that I have some association with or am curious about. For now, I am invested in the initial invitation, to be okay with not understanding exactly what’s being said. I

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LaTasha N. Diggs


think we’re used to wanting to understand everything. It’s okay not to understand. I consider myself not fluent in English. To be born in the states means English is—I guess—my first language, right? But for whatever reason, I am not fluent and I am okay with not understanding English most of the time. There are different Englishes. What is it that I do in performance and in this book? I want you to be uncomfortable but at the same time allow yourself to not fully understand what’s going on. It’s all good. megan susman: when i think of fluency , how it is presented

Can I ask you about what you think fluency is?

in applications, fluency is when you can comprehend the language insomuch that you can speak it, you can converse in it, and you can write in it. Your ability to engage in daily conversations within that language. This is how it has been presented to me whenever I look at documents asking: how fluent are you?

“ .

,”

ms: I think it’s an in the case with mr popo hollers at jynx I was interesting discussion tickled at the idea of Mr. Popo trying to pick because your work does so much of a marriage between up Jynx. Both of them are from two different so many different languages. mangas: Mr. Popo’s from Dragonball Z, and mm: Extending

that to the cultural reappropriations, I thought it was interesting in Twerk that you have a whole section called “Anime.” Can you talk about this idea of pop culture and art?

Jynx is from Pokémon, but a couple years ago a children’s book author wrote an essay about the appropriation of black minstrel characters in Japanese manga, both of them being exactly that. As a result, the illustrators for those two cartoons started to modify their features, and the modification

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of their features actually made them less coonish and yet, hyper-coonish. Mr. Popo went from having big lips to little tiny lips but everyone knew what it was suggesting. I looked at that as an opportunity. Let’s play around with Japanese culture appropriating black minstrel culture from America, but re-appropriate these two black characters to then flesh out blackface from within the States and connect it to the Netherlands’ Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Let the voice of Mr. Popo be in third person because in the Japanese versions, he speaks in third person. In the American version he doesn’t speak in third person. How a black character referring to oneself in third is inherently connected to the caricature of the black body in West Culture, in old Hollywood. I did not want the poem to be a critique. I wanted to lay it out there and have the reader think about it. Figure it out on their own. Translate. I wanted to allow Mr. Popo to be what he was illustrated to be. mm: I was thinking what i choose to translate about the idea of translation to mistranslate. in Twerk specifically, because of the fact that you use multiple languages and it seems like it involves erasure and what you choose to capture.

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LaTasha N. Diggs

and what I choose


.

.

mm: Exactly. Can sometimes content often times beauty often you talk about the idea of times sound In the process, sometimes translation? What it means one word in a particular language will to you? Some people think there’s a singular way of determine what the poem is going to be thinking about translation, about and from there it becomes a bit of but I don’t think it’s a singular thing at all. a patchwork of finding another word that

.

sounds nice beside it. Or surprising myself

ms: Or translation with a word against that word or what

falls on a binary of you translating for content, or translating for beauty, for example. There’s two different things that happen there.

makes an interesting visual, like the poem “cucumber”. I didn’t envision the poem to be about fishermen and caterpillars. The sound of the words determined the subject. Is the poem itself a literal translation? Not particularly. I’m stacking the words up against each other. Sometimes there might be a grammar structure that I might know about that particular language. Sometimes I’ll use the suffix of that language and paste it onto a word from another language just to be obnoxious or because I’m curious to hear it. It is part of the mistranslation I guess. I want you to look at the beauty, the sound, and maybe the meaning later on.

.

ms: How important good question I think it depends on the poem. is mistranslation to your It really does. I can’t say that mistranslation work? Or is everything just inherently mistranslated is used throughout. anyway?

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-

-

ms: How have these ichi ban and ni ban themes moved throughout has always been your work? Has it changed?

. The interest in language

there. But I would say particularly with Ichi-Ban and Ni-Ban, they were written largely in English, and many of the poems were largely narrative and about my neighborhood and family. The curiosity with language was still there. Just younger. I self-published them on an inprint I called Mandate of Heaven Press. So it’s an earlier version of me fascinated with ideologies. I had a short-lived minor in East Asian studies. Then came the irony of naming the books in Japanese with Spanish subtitles. Imperial China at one point was invaded by Japan and I’m fusing it with Nuyorican Spanglish. I’m a crackhead. Or is it just very black of me to mashup something like that? My third chapbook, Manuel is Destroying My Bathroom, was published by Belladonna. I think there might have been one or two macaronics in there. That was when I was attempting to find a legitimate definition for what I do.

ms: What is a a macaronic is a form of poetry that came out macaronic?

120 LaTasha N. Diggs

of Europe a very long time ago. The verse would utilize multiple languages; using one language to basically build and dictate the grammar. Often the form was used as a form of satire or pun. When I was introduced to the term, I said, “Oh, that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing macaronics.” That said, the more I was working on my stuff, I did not think of it as macaronic anymore. It might be in


the tradition but is it a European tradition? Nah. I did not study previous examples from Europe. I do remember finding a group of folks online who focused on macaronics, reached out to them, sent them one of my early poems and got no response. So I cannot really speak on the European tradition. That said, I’m not doing some new shit. In these various journeys through languages—multiple languages—there is a subtext that is very rooted in the Black Arts Movement; that is very rooted in the Nuyorican Literary movement. They are in the backdrop; they want to be in conversation with someone like Clarence Major, who has a book which he wrote in Zuni and English. It is in conversation with someone like Victor Hernandez Cruz who is considered the first to write in Spanglish. They are and want to be in conversation with Hip Hop. These poems I wrote are thinking a lot about identity politics. They are thinking a lot about the urban landscape. They are thinking about how pop culture transforms us. They are thinking about personal shit. There are several in the book. It’s not this separate far off thing. There is still a conversation with my personal genealogy.

!

.

mm: Do you want the boom that s it There was this woman at a readers to succumb to the reading who said “I don’t...how...I don’t fact that they are not gonna comprehend everything and know what you want me to do with this.” I just delve into the sound? want you to try. “But I can’t read this. This

is not in English.” I was like, you can read it.

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“How? I mean, I don’t know these words.” I know it must have taken you a minute to figure out how to sound out ‘idiosyncratic’. That’s supposed to be English, right? It probably took all of us a minute to sound it out, so why not with another language? I mispronounce a ton of English words daily! That is all I can ask you to do. Engage it. Don’t shut down.

.

mm: Do you think all i don t think all poetry does that There are poetry presents some sense definitely some poets who I respect and I of resistance to the reader? I always feel on the outskirts love and are endearing friends, and I will with poetry. I don’t know tell them, “I read your book and I don’t when, or sometimes how, to know what you’re talking about... you make delve in.

me feel so dumb... I feel like I need to get a doctorate to understand what you’re doing with this book.” But I love them for that challenge. I return to these books because they challenge me. There are particular books written by friends of mine and folks I don’t know personally, where the engagement is very inviting. What am I saying here? I’m pausing because I’m thinking about my godmother in Brazil, Mae Regina. I gave her a copy of my book. This woman doesn’t speak English. She was really happy to get the book. And she opened up the book to “mungkin (mencintai) mungkin” which is written in Malay, Japanese, and two other languages. She knows Spanish, but just a little bit. This woman is in her 70’s. She sat there and began to read it aloud. She didn’t stop and look at me and say, “What do you want me to do with this?” She just sat there

122 LaTasha N. Diggs


and she took her time. She read this poem out loud. She sounded out each word. So I don’t think the book is difficult because I’m like, a 70-year-old Brazilian woman can open it up and open it to a poem that is written partly in Malay, and just kinda, let it exist that way. This book isn’t difficult if you allow it to be heard through your own voice. Fuck it. It’s a coloring book if that makes you step through the door.

.

mm: Why do you think arizona I think it’s the history of this we have such a need for country. The conversations, the back and comprehension? Or this desire to know what this forth. When we go as early as the 1800s means and not just sit there or as recent as 2006, did the policies that and be like—? emerged during the late 70s and early

80s to promote English-only help us with comprehension? I think the history of this country has basically made us believe we are superior (to a certain degree), when in fact we’re not. Anti-bilingualism is a joke. We are not encouraged to know a second language as much as we are not encouraged to have a passport.

.

ms: Speaking to let s go to the spanish first Having grown the idea of language, up in Harlem, my classmates were African the geography of your neighborhood block contains American, Puerto Rican and Dominican. a global population and then Spanish I heard all the time, not just there’s you yourself within with my friends, but at the bodegas, the the global population. You Laundromats, on buses, in the train were exposed to a lot of languages, but how did you stations. The bodegas were ran by Puerto learn these languages? How Ricans, later by Dominicans. That’s the did you learn Japanese? How Spanish part. The Cherokee, I began did you learn Spanish?

learning when I was around 17. Maybe

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16. I am part Cherokee or to be politically correct, my mom is of Cherokee ancestry. So that’s how I came to know Cherokee. My math teacher and homeroom teacher in high school were of Cherokee ancestry and I babysat their kids. They introduced me to the language and culture. The Japanese came out of my interest in Asian culture. I grew up on Karate movies. Kung Fu movies to be correct. From there it went wild. I studied Japanese for about a year. Playing around with the Spanish and the Japanese sounded a bit like Portuguese. Some of the languages have personal stories connected to them and some are purely out of my interest in language. At one point I began collecting phrasebooks. With Tagalog, I had a best friend who is Filipina. When I picked up the Malay, I did not immediately recognize the relationship between Malay and Tagalog. They share the same language group if I can remember. But I heard the sound first. I did not recognize the sound as familiar until later. I’m learning Maori song because someone has invited me to. Then comes the hard question I ask myself. What’s the point? What am I doing? Is this wrong? And I start asking myself because the appropriation term keeps on fluttering up. Is this appropriation? I think it is. Is this that form of appropriation often viewed through a negative lens? No, I don’t think so. When somebody asks me, how do I select these languages, there is the sound that attracts me, but then there’s also the

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idea of cooking. If it does not taste good in my mouth, I don’t use it. With as many phrasebooks as I have at home, I don’t use all of them because something is not sounding right or something does not connect to me personally.

.

mm: Would you say it depends on the poem Like “The Golden that you emphasize sound Shovels,” they came randomly one week. more in your writing process when you’re thinking about Someone asked me to submit some golden sitting down to start a shovels. My process when engaging any poem? What’s your usual type of form is to make it fit my brain. process?

There’s poets who are formalists, are all about form, sestinas galore, and the only way I can engage a form is if I complicate it with my interest in language. One aspect of the golden shovel is picking a line from a previously written poem. I picked several and headed to my phrasebooks looking for something to spark. Oh, “bacche ka potra” in Urdu/Hindi means “nappy.” What type of nappy? So the poem not only becomes about “nappy” but translating the word nappy through multiple cultures and geographies because I don’t speak Urdu/Hindi. It is not so much the sound then, but rather about trying to find what exactly does that word mean for me.

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mm: One last question: the tower of babel . There’s an early, very early

I was really interested that your collection starts out with a quote from Genesis: “the earth was of one language and one speech.” I thought, yes, this totally works against the collection and with it. The contradiction allows this idea of multilingualism being sort of “one speech.” But I was curious of that use and how you see it play out in Twerk.

126 LaTasha N. Diggs

moment for me watching Ron Perlman play the role of Salvatore the hunchback in Name of the Rose, a film adaptation of the book which I’ve yet to complete. Sean Connery was the monk detective and Christian Slater was the young monk apprentice who gets lucky with a peasant girl that’s being pimped out by the monks. But Ron Perlman is most memorable to me because he spoke in a Babel-ish language in one scene. He speaks it and Christian Slater is at a lost. The hunchback murmurs something else which Sean Connery’s character understood. Sean Connery turned around and repeated it. It called the hunchback’s bluff because in his head, he had invented this language he assumed no one would truly listen to. So then Christian Slater says, “What language was he speaking?” And Connery says, “All and none.” The book is all and none. It’s none if you decide that I’m not speaking any language at all. It is all if you pay attention. About the Tower of Babel: I love the story because it was another moment for me. It’s connected to Perlman. He’s speaking the language at that very second “language” becomes “languages.” When a second later no one could understand each other and had to just wander around to find another person that could understand them. The very second everything went “phoosh.” One second, you can understand me and I can understand you within this swirl


of glottals and slurs and clicks and long vowels. What do we do with this? Yeah, that’s the moment things got disrupted. And lovely. The choosing of these languages? I go with ear and heart. I’m attracted to mainly indigenous and oceanic. It’s also the question of what nationhood means to me in the states, where I don’t feel my national identity is completely American, but on another level, very American. I am American but I don’t feel it because as an African American I did not choose to be an American, historically. We are still to a certain degree, a stateless people. We are still a flagless people in terms of language. We cannot trace directly what might be considered a mother tongue. Where’s the language justice? Maybe what makes me defiant of this marker is what makes me American? The questioning itself allows me to explore what the possibilities are of not a mother tongue, but auntie tongues. What tongues I am related to.

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untitled

Muzzy Moskowitz

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Mashiated translations LaTasha N. Diggs

Ole dey long Ah tyga kept kam’in een an out. Da rose tree trimma woz fallin’ inna ruin an Bruck-up arms, legs, an chairs wr Cryin’ a di skai Even dow da tyga holoholo, Der nuh place to put each o Da bruck-up arms, legs an chairs. Dem ah lost pon dea places Dem ah howled like meok an wind. Dem ah keep howlin’ Creakin’ against di sky.

— translation of tiger by Kazuko Shiraishi

tyga

tick

— translation of Flea by Kazuko Shiraishi

Ai ah suküyã Ai di world’s numba one son of a bitch Ai tek revenge fo wullay luv. Ah priti popolo wahine shi ah vexed. Meks stink eye, pouts, jook Talk stink an fine mi. So Ai decide fo kill hr Ai deliberately reach out Perlix mai sharp polished petties fo hr. Den mi pleasure begins to kam Keepin’ out o sight a da risk o mi life, Ai it suk awl ap kwik. Onolicious. Ai suck hr blood an gawn. Ai ah ol sadistic tick.

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Adventure _____: Write It Down Patrick Gill

For Santa Cruz and all those who escaped and all those who continue to revel in it.

if your eyes are closed for long enough , your breathing concentrated

on the tip of your nose; if you feel all through yourself somehow both full and empty, then seeing on the inside of your eyelids the scene before you—the undulating water made jagged on old pieces of the cliff, the cliff itself, and the tuft of grass slipping out from under you. If you do all this without thinking it’s all this, you’re no longer on the lip of the gutter. You’re in Davenport, a few miles up Highway 1 from that curb on Cedar and Elm where you are actually standing. Or wherever your own cliffs and bluffs are. You are breathing the coolest, softest air. You step, with the hope that the street isn’t busy, that your double check for a puddle was thorough enough. Off. Adventure 5: Stand on a curb for long enough that you believe you are on a cliff, step off said curb/cliff. I want to say it was 5, it might have been later. Maybe 17. I was 17. So was Jenny. Was Jordy 16? Call him 16. This was our Adventure list. Born of a summer night, sweat out by some of my first cups of coffee, those inspired jitters; mingled with Jenny’s innate wonder, forged in Jordy’s desire to do anything that sounded hard and poetic. We were on the deck of Pergs, Café Pergolisi, smoking side even though we didn’t smoke, Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, California. I don’t know when it was

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exactly hatched that summer, the penultimate to The Final Santa Cruz Summer, but I know it had to be at Pergs. We were there almost every night—that’s why we needed the list. It had to be the summer because Jenny was there, not down the bay at school. That was one of my reasons for the list. Every moment I had with my best friend I wanted to mean something. I wanted it to be big, bright, any kind of adventure. That way when we were apart, feeling alone, we had stronger memories to chew on. Jenny, Jordy and I were enrapurted by the concept of quest, spoken with a tangible roughness to complement how light it felt in our mouths. We had come to see our lives as mundane, stripped down to just a schedule and the transit between. School during the year, sports or band year round, home; even our free time became dominated by the same spots: Pergolisi, Streetlight Records, the back of the 418 Project, Taqueria Vallarta, Saturn Cafe. That might have just been me, with this burden of boredom, that might have just been for a week, or a month, but I know I felt it deeply—a need for change, a new texture and sound. I wanted to feel something I knew I had felt before, but in a way entirely refreshing and inventive. Adventure. If it was written it was by and on our own tongues, to be catalouged you know, when you had time; in the future you had time because in the moment you were too busy doing everything. We first attacked the same old places but with delightful recklessness. New records, new foods, new drinks. Pile on the steak cut fries, the mint chip shakes, the metal mixing in on tapes (my wagon could only play tapes) with the Velvet Underground, with the Shins, with Billie’s “Gloomy Sunday” and the Blood Brother’s “Love Ryhmes with Hideous Car Wreck”. Even the same car rides seemed like cutting through unmapped land, as long as this sense of expedition stuck. When we found new places: the cove beyond Panther Beach, the dahlia stand off Jenny’s road—hell, the neighborhood around Jenny’s place, the ravines and hills around my house, and shortcuts to downtown on our old bikes, we just couldn’t

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stop smiling. Adventure 23: Explore all day. One night we ate cake on the back of a whale statue. We revisited it twice a week just for fun. Adventure 22: Visit the Whale. We went down to the Lagoon with our friends who got drunk, they lit boxes on fire and set them out into the water. We had to sink them before they reached the dry grass shore. Adventure 25: Do something dangerous. We walked across the Lost Boys Bridge, an old train trestle, at night with our eyes closed, went to parties in the Beach Flats where our older friends lived, we ran a ruckus with our eyes open and teeth bared. After my 18th birthday, I scrounged up the cash for a deposit and subsequent billable hours on a tattoo. Adventure 30: Get a tattoo (at least one of us). I say scrounged because over a month and a half I quietly withdrew cash, hiding it in one of my rosary boxes in my sock drawer. This meant no mystery charges to FU TATTOO for my parents to find, and enough time for me to really think about what I was doing. A crude drawing of a rocket ship, the words of Sylvia Plath, “I am, I am, I am, children.” My tattoo is all primary colors and sentiment, emblazoned in a place rarely seen, incognito to all but myself and future lovers. Besides Franny and Jenny, who tagged along for my first tattoo, holding my hand all the way. Jenny giggled, because she knew I thought the tattoo artist was attractive, and he spent an hour and a half artfully groping and etching on my thigh. We all were always going to be children. The Adventure List was something the three of us contributed to, to be completed before we left Santa Cruz. That last caveat was lost as the list grew, in size and plausibility. Adventure 24: Find the love of your life. Adventure 26: Eat something and realize this is the best of that kind of edible thing in the world, promptly proclaim such to everyone within that establishment. We didn’t all have to be together to complete them; others like Erin, Franny, Amber, Brian, Shantel, Elliot could join. They could help us think up adventures, too. The list just wasn’t theirs; it was ours. This caused brows to furrow and reticent agreements to what we described as epic journeys. Those faded, the need for excitement

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became understood, maybe a little sliver of envy achieved, but we were all too busy to notice it. My mother says we were egged on by the twilight of our time in high school, as well as the piercing and exhilarating fear of the new places where we would move soon after graduation. I forgot how completely spot on a mother’s judgement can be. In the height of the adventures, Jenny and I were about to leave, Jordy still had a year of high school to dream. Looking back, this was the underpinning of the list, getting things in before getting free, proving we were worth the glorious futures we envisioned for ourselves. We wanted to escape our hum-drum hometown, by proving we could make the most out of it. As if youth could be droll, as if the City of Freaks we were born into could be boring—a college town with a collective anarchistic streak, chickens and pigeons raised in the backyard, survivors of the hippie movement who reincarnated into yuppies, burnouts who still believed in love, big wave surfers, chill longboarders and brats on short boards—all with their sun bleached hair tucked into the trucker hats, public art and people who became public art—the pink man and Morgani the great, the largest contingency of Black Rock City Citizens, that’s people who go to Burning Man for the uninitiated, drunks, punks, metalhead and roots rockers, moms and dads who didn’t want you to make mistakes like they did, and at least one American Idol finalist. That was all a bore. Because when you’re born in the sideshow and you think everyone’s a freak, what’s the excitement in that? The Adventure List even followed me briefly to Chicago. I remember walking through Lincoln Park after classes, yelling over the phone “I DON’T WANT TO MEET MY POTENTIAL FUTURE CHILD!” at Jenny. Adventure 52: Donate to a sperm bank, check in years later, see if any child was made using your stuff and track them down. I was yelling while passing a guy I had been quietly nurturing a crush on. I never followed up on that crush or sperm donation. The list didn’t last long after we all moved. Our friendships withstood the fizzle, but now, now

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we don’t really talk. We are celestial bodies fresh-settled into the cosmic phase called the twenties; in a Saturnian arc across the nation: we are at the bay, the lake, and the island. We moved from a town to cities, like kids who grew up feeling different were supposed to: Oakland, Chicago, Brooklyn. Start over in a new place, this time more honestly, I think that was on each of our private lists. Falling apart wasn’t. I think I had the most to do with that. I am wretched with returning calls and texts. I have the habits of a ghost. I can appear when summoned strongly enough; I’m good for a simple and occasional séance, but I’m disturbingly comfortable with the seclusion of my apartment. What can I say, every home needs a haunt. There was never anything of grand importance on the Adventure List. The pomp was in the performance. Our actions, intended and completed, could be separated into the ideal and the ordinary with tinsel. I can draw though, from these moments and those spun from that guttural need for excitement, a sense of pride. I was the only one to step forward and give my information to the park ranger, after Jordy and I, with a pack of other kids, went up Empire Grade to have a bonfire and play guitar at the edge of the ancient woods. I painted firey sillouettes of women, portraits of monsters, David Bowie with the body of an owl, and Joni Mitchell in a tree. I made sculptures of desiccated conch shells and left them around the city for people to take, because art is all of ours. I drew slaps and tagged positive graffiti up and down the side streets. I was the driver: of a car full of acid heads, of a car full of drunks, of a car full of scream-singing sober friends, and of a guy who spat in my face and called me a “N****R LOVING FAGGOT ASS”, while he was so high, and subsequently violent, on 2-CI that he had to be restrained with duct tape. I am strong, I am valiant for that matter, and can be incredible in some moments. I am worthy of the glorious future I now live, ready to cut through the grids of this city like the northern branch of the river, to be one of many that vibrate the divisions through the voluminous and vibrant

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action that is being in community. So why do I consistently ask myself, what am I doing with this life? I go to work, I go home, I go online, try to write, maybe I’ll go out, if I’m not opening at work tomorrow. Heavy is the feeling of spectral lament. It’s time to make another list, maybe this time on my own. Maybe with the friends and family I’ve made out here. I could call Jenny, text Jordy, message both of them. We’ll make a list together again, this time written. Maybe I chicken out, like I always do. Maybe I’ll surprise us all, myself included. No matter what, I need that feeling back. That hard and poetic, that wonder, that inspired jitter.

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girl with Camera

Eliseo Art Silva

136 Cristina GarcĂ­a


an interview with M. evelina galang Melissa R. Sipin

Author of Her Wild American Self (Coffee House Press, 1996) and One Tribe (New Issues Press, 2006), m . evelina galang teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Miami and is core faculty and a board member for VONA/Voices. She is the recipient of the 2004 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards Advancing Human Rights, the 2004 AWP Prize in the Novel, and the 2007 Global Filipino Award in Literature. As the Fulbright Senior Scholar in the Philippines in 2002, she has been researching surviving WWII comfort women, endearingly called the lolas (grandmothers), since 1998. Editor of the anthology, Scream Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, 2003), she recently finished penning Lolas’ House: Women Living With War, a nonfiction book of essays. The following is a conversation on her new novel, Angel de la Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery (Coffee House Press, 2013), and Galang’s research with the surviving lolas.

MeliSSa r. Sipin: m . evelina galang : oh wow . that ’ s wild . I never

As I finished the book, my body began to shake and convulse. It was because of the stories of the lolas. I wanted to vomit. I had to ask myself: why was my body revolting?

expected that for a response!

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How did Angel’s voice it s really about that combination of —well, it’s come to you? Lola Ani’s? Inay’s? They were so different so funny that I would say ‘research,’ but it and yet the same; how did really is—even though fiction is fiction, it’s these characters invade your based on certain kinds of emotive truths, space?

but there’s also this pretty strong amount of research that goes into it. And I don’t mean factual research or historical research, but living in a world where you’re a listener. Where the writer is an observer. Where a writer can sit in a room and observe and let people be who people are, and then finding a way to translate that onto the page. And the other part of it is imagination: asking, what if ? You always hear writers asking: what if ? There’s even a book of writing exercises called, What If ? The whole idea is that we’re asking that very question.

Lola Ani struck me as her voice is a voice that comes from part so strong, especially when research part being with the lolas, hearing Angel asked her: “Why aren’t you angry?” She was their stories, and watching them in action, always giving, feeding the seeing how they are bigger than the lolas as they protested; she issue. They have been raped and abused was always there for others.

,

repeatedly, and they have lost family members, they have been shamed, they have been ostracized for years. But, so many of the women I have met are not victims. They are just not. They don’t have time to be victims. They were silenced for 50 years, and in those 50 years, many of them were raising families. You know what I mean? There was no time [to be a victim]. And in some ways, they were like Inay—there is no time to grieve [after losing

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I felt like even the landscape had a voice, a character. The landscape was so alive. People always tell me: more details, details, details of Manila. But I haven’t been back since I was 12.

your husband], to feel sorry for yourself, you just have to do what you have to do to keep everybody together. And that’s Inay. Inay came from, in part, watching strong women around me and also asking: what would you do if you lost the love of your life, but you have all these other lives you were responsible for? What great lengths [would you commit] to keep them together? And for her, that was her green-card marriage with Manong Jack. I wrote this spin-off story that isn’t in the novel. There’s this moment that’s off the page, and I always say: sometimes you’ve got to write stuff that doesn’t end up in the book. you know , that ’ s why journals can be very, very helpful. Or those kind of free writes where you are asked to recall things through sensory details—the first kiss, the first taste of santol [fruit], the feel of the atmosphere, the look of the light of a room, a window, or the temperature. Those are the details I’m constantly taking note of. If you are a writer who wants to write about landscape, place, and time, you have to be observant. You have to be present. If you are present, you can take note of color, sound, details. You have to constantly be on watch, on guard, and it’s why I jokingly say: careful what you say in front of me. It might end up in my writing. I haven’t lived in Chicago for almost 20 years. But those scenes in those

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neighborhoods are vivid to me: they are “me” remembering Chicago, they are “me” remembering winter. I’ve lived in Miami now for more than 10 years. This is my landscape now. When I sit down and I think about Chicago, it’s actually a great opportunity to reignite memory, to bring back the sensory details of that time, and to use it in a way that’s going to support the story. There’s nothing worse than when people set up landscape. When it’s like landscape landscape landscape and it has nothing to do with the narrative. I think the other component is when you do landscape, it becomes an important part of the narrative, it’s supporting character, it’s supporting conflict; it’s integral to what’s happening—you almost don’t notice that it’s actually there.

?

I felt like the land and how can the land not remember Especially also embodied so much with Filipino culture and history and the trauma. It felt like the land remembered. whole attention to the land as being sacred,

and to anitos [spirits] living on the land. You don’t just pass through somebody’s property. You say: excuse me. You ask permission.

Right, you say: tabi tabi exactly po [may I pass, sir]?

. Because the land is part of the story. ,

There was so much it s the only reason to tell the stories you love throughout this book, know? The comfort women themselves say too. Did the love help you write through the pain of the the reason why they go through the trauma comfort women’s stories? of telling and retelling their stories is for

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the next generation; it’s so that it won’t ever happen again. It’s for the love of the girls who are coming. The only reason to tell these stories is because of love, and the only way that these stories can make any sense is if they are told in the context of love. Out of context, it would just be one violent act after another, and also there would be no way to redeem anything if there was not love. And love comes from different places, at different levels, and for different reasons. I think it’s also, again, part of that research I’ve been doing and this understanding that I’ve been coming to as I’ve worked with the survivors, who were first victims, then survivors, then heroines, and now teachers. It’s all part of that healing process. You can’t heal unless you open up your heart and you’re vulnerable and you allow love to take place. You allow yourself to feel loss.

,

.

Lastly, what was the it s very different i think I’m trained as a difference between writing fiction writer. You think that writing is this novel and the essays on the lolas? It seems, at such a brave act, but it’s also very safe—you least to me, when you write it on a piece of paper, type it up on a write nonfiction, you are screen, and you can leave it. You can say: oh, witnessing this trauma, and in fiction, you are filling up I didn’t do that! Right? But, in fact, I think the empty spaces. So, it’s a that fiction helps to do the same thing [as little bit different—there’s nonfiction]. this veil.

But, the practice of writing this novel and those essays were, in fact, very different. I feel like there is a responsibility that comes with being a witness to these stories. If somebody is going to be silent

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for 50 years, and then they’re going to speak, and they speak to you—you want to make sure that you get it right, you want to make sure that you honor the stories. And also, there’s that part of me that wants to make sure they’re not confused. Memory brings with it revision and subjectivity. I worked with 15 women very closely and I interviewed most of them at least twice if not three or four times, going over their testimonies in different ways. So, there was the gathering of the work, and that could be very taxing on the body and the spirit. They go through it, experience the trauma, relive it, every time they tell it. Then you start to go through it. And you have to have a kind of distance so you don’t take on their stuff. You’re supposed to be just a witness. But at the same time, when it comes to writing you need to be aware of what you’re doing. Be respectful of it and honor it in a way that does not dramatize it, does not inflate it, does not dismiss it; there’s a fine balance you have to walk. When I was writing the essays—the book is in its second or third draft now— especially in the initial drafting, my body would fatigue. I would get tired in two hours. Everything in my body would turn off. I would literally have to lie down, chill out, go meditate, workout, go see a dumb movie. I would have to step away because I couldn’t take it. Literally, my body could not take it. But when I write fiction, I could sit down on a Friday night and I could go all

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the way to Sunday night, barely getting up for bathroom breaks. I would forget to eat. I would become so immersed in the story, which I think I did with this novel. So, one of the biggest differences was just my physical reaction to the essays verses the novel. And the second, I think, there was a burden. I felt so committed and devoted not just to the lolas and their stories, but I’d grown attached to their movement and their fight for justice. There’s this constant balance and responsibility as a writer, and it’s almost like a burden. It is a burden. But writing the novel was quite freeing, it was liberating, and even though it was about painful stuff, it was joyful. It was getting at the same material but not having that burden I feel with the essays. The novel did not have the same kind of responsibility, and yet it does many of the same things that the essays are trying to do: to get at the essence of the experiences of the comfort women and to talk about the struggle for social justice. And that is ongoing and it still has not been addressed.

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Holy Thursday M. Evelina Galang

joslin massaged lola gi ’ s forearm , ran her thumb through the thick of

the old lady’s yellow skin. The wrinkles were fine. And there were constellations of freckles—little moons and stars and planets that dipped and turned around the bend of the elbow. Lola Gi closed her eyes. “I used to take care of my Lola Lola in just the same way, you know,” Lola Gigi said. “I had strong little hands like yours.” The old woman mewed like an alley cat. “When you get old, every little thing hurts, Nini.” Joslin pressed down but not too hard. She liked to imagine Lola Gi was her grandmother. The child’s skin had been kissed by the sun and washed in the sea almost every day. Her dark fingers moved fast, kneading the arm over and over. “Ganito, po?” “Perfect, Nini. I love you best.” Joslin’s parents were the caretakers of the Mayor’s house, a mansion that stood at the top of their little fishing village. Just below the threestory house, the sea roared in spurts. The Mayor’s children were grown and living in America so the only people in the house were Joslin and her little brothers, Washington and Edison, her parents, the Mayor, his wife, and his mother Lola Gigi. Joslin was too little to cook, but she was quick and ran errands for her mother, went fishing with her father, and after school, she was always allowed to go into Lola Gigi’s bedroom to sit in air conditioning and watch the telenovelas from Korea.

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“Look at her throwing herself at him,” Lola Gi said, pointing to the pouty white-faced lawyer. “She should have more dignity.” The whole thing was dubbed in Tagalog. The voices of Filipino actors and actresses whined over the unemotional bass of the Korean characters. “Pero, La, tingnan mo—gwapo yan. They call him Romeo.” Joslin’s mother took a wet hand-towel and bathed Lola G, starting right at the top of the old woman’s forehead and washing down the nape of her neck, gently rubbing at the bony shoulders and the sunken dib-dib just under her duster. “Ikaw naman,” Lola Gi said. “Smart women don’t need men like that, no matter how handsome.” The sun was high and the room was hot, even with the noisy window air con. Joslin looked up at her mother. The washcloth swabbed at the nub where Lola Gi’s foot once was. Joslin craned her neck just a little when she got to the other leg, infected where the toes used to be. Downstairs the door creaked open and Mrs. Mayor was singing, “Hello! Hello!” She plodded up the stairs and called, “Bring my tsinelas, Joslin!” Lola Gi closed her eyes. She rolled her body away from the door, and pulled the covers up to her neck. “Joslin!” called Mrs. Mayor, “Where are my tsinelas?” Mrs. Mayor stumbled right into the room, talking quick like a commercial interrupting the telanovela. She turned the screen off, turned the air con off, pulled the curtains shut. “Wasting electricity.” “M’am it’s too hot,” said Joslin’s mother. “Kawawa naman si Lola.” “So draw the drapes and turn off all these appliances and when the sun goes down it will be cool.” She peered over Lola Gi’s shoulder, pulling the sheet taut as if she cared. Lola Gi winked at Joslin, put her finger to her lips. “Mama, you sleeping? Let me see, Dora, what are you doing?” Mrs. Mayor looked at the infected foot. “Put the wet towel on it.”

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“But M’am the doctora said…” “Doctora, doctora. What does she know? Let’s keep the foot moist and see how God will fix it. Joslin, my slippers, anak. How many times must I ask?” Joslin ran from the room and across the narra wood floors, in search of Mrs. Mayor’s bamboo slippers. When the sun began to slip down into the sea, the Mayor entered the house and an orange glow spilled all over, painting the dark furniture and its ornate carvings—the daybed with its thousand pillows, the two narra wood thrones before a giant wall of ancestors. Throughout the top floor, the wide-open windows invited the evening light, the branches from the trees, and the wind. Joslin set the dining room table, counting the silverware in her hands, but now and then, she’d watch the Mayor standing at Lola Gi’s door, watching his mother sleep. He stood there until the sunlight set. He stood like he was standing at the beautiful stained glass window in the corner of their church in town, studying the lines and colors, the shape of Mama Mary and her arms, holding up her son, the only one, lying dead in her arms. After a while he called out to her. “Ma, kamusta ka?” His shoulders drooped and his voice was small. She probably doesn’t hear him, Joslin thinks. Her hearing is not so good. “Ma! Gising ka? It’s me, Sonny boy. How was your day?” If she doesn’t answer you, she is sleeping, Joslin thinks. She only pretends with Mrs. Mayor. You, she loves. At night, curled next to her brothers on a cot just outside the kitchen, Joslin dreamed of aswang creeping out from under the beds of the house, feeding on the blood of Mrs. Mayor. The wife had eyes that glowed Jello-green, she schemed with all the witches, found ways to make Lola Gi’s life miserable. Joslin hated her. Joslin wished her dead.

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She opened all the windows wider; she invited the moon to come in and drink all the evil out of the house. She asked the angels to hover over Lola G. “She is old,” Joslin said in her dream. “She can’t fight for herself, and Mrs. Mayor is an aswang.” When she woke, her mother was holding her and wiping the tears from Joslin’s eyes. Edison and Washington growled like wild pigs to slaughter. The moonlight was everywhere. “Dream lang, anak,” her mother said. “Wake up. Okay ka. Dream lang.” She couldn’t distinguish the day from night. She couldn’t tell if her mother’s arms were real. It took her a while to feel the kisses on her forehead. “Ina,” she told her mother now. “We have to help Lola G.” “Shhh, anak. We help her every day.” Joslin’s wailing burst from the walls. She was lost and the only one who saw what was happening. Out in the streets, the bedroom lights broke open like stars, one at a time, wondering where the cries were coming from. “From the Mayor’s house,” said a neighbor. “From the kitchen,” whispered a child. And in the morning, the Mayor spoke with Joslin’s father. Told him that he would have to control his daughter. “It’s not that we mind her crying,” said the Mayor, “But the whole village can hear her.” “O’po,” answered her father. The whole village heard and knew. Joslin and her brothers were just climbing out of the motorboat when the Americana stepped out of the van. The children ran up the hill to see her long legs, her thin white arms and a pair of sunglasses sitting so big on her tiny nose, Joslin figured she had to be a movie star. “She so large,” said Washington. “Do you think she’s a man?” “No, stupid,” she told him. “She’s American. Americans are gigantic from all the vegetables they eat. I hear she eats no meat. Gulay lang.”

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She was not too pretty to be a man. Erika, the town transvestite, was glamorous in his blonde wig and thick pancake makeup, but his colors were brighter than the Americana, more glittery and flashy. Come to think of it, Erika was skinnier than the Americana. She was round and Joslin could tell, soft. She wore no makeup, save a little bit of lip balm. Not a man. “Who is she?” asked Edison. “Pinsan ni Mayor,” said Washington. “Daughter of Lola Letty,” Joslin said. Edison’s small brown face stared at her blankly: “you remember, she was the Lola from Chicago, the one who married the man from Davao?” “Oh, she’s pretty too,” Washington said. “Chinese eyes. Remember her visit last year?” “Aha,” said Joslin. She thought about that Americana who was much smaller than this Americana, but white like her and elegant and old. “She is the daughter of that one.” The Americana was as tall as the palm trees, lifting shopping bags and other supot out of the back of the Mayor’s van. The children watched her from just behind the wheel of a red pickup truck, their feet still sandy and wet from the dagat. Over their shoulders they rested three fish they had caught. “Will she stay long?” asked Edison. “Will she swim with us?” Joslin handed the fish to her brothers. “Take these to Ina,” she ordered them. “I’m going to help.” When the Mayor saw Joslin running from behind the truck he waved her over. “Help Ate bring her bags up,” he said. “Be careful not to fall.” The Americana squatted down to meet Joslin eye to eye. “So beautiful,” she said. “And look at this little sundress! So sweet. Ano ang pangalan mo?” Her words were broken up, like shells that had been crushed and

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scattered in the sand. “Joslin, po,” the little girl answered. “Sige, Joslin, take me to my Auntie Gigi.” “Si Lola?” “Take her, but don’t wake Lola Gi up, Joslin,” said the Mayor. Americana barreled into the room with her arms out, calling, “Auntie Gigi, it’s me!” Then, to Joslin’s surprise, Americana crawled into the bed and kissed her Auntie’s face. “Auntie Gigi,” whispered the Americana, “it’s me your namesake, your Gina, it’s me.” She pulled Lola Gi’s hair off the forehead and kissed there too. The old woman’s eyes were shut tight like she was in a deep sleep and maybe dreaming. But even this did not stop Americana. And when the old woman opened her eyes and saw Americana’s face shining over her like a full moon, the old woman cracked a smile. A smile! She took Americana’s face into her bony hands and pulled her to her and kissed her back. And then she snapped her head back and said, “Ha!” She pinched the Americana’s skinny arm. “Auntie!” Lola Gi made a face, pouted, pinched Americana again. “Didn’t I tell you?” “I tried! There’s no one!” “Didn’t you promise me?” Lola Gi pulled away and then to Joslin she said, “I told her to settle down. She says, O’po. And then she comes back. Walang asawa. You are not a dalaga anymore, Gina.” “I am not an old maid either,” laughed Americana. “Auntie,” she said, running her hands up and down the old lola, kissing her hands and laughing. “No one marries in the States.” Americana leaned over the bed and from her supot she revealed a handful of chocolates covered in shiny gold tinsel. “Your favorite,” Americana said, unwrapping a piece. Lola Gi winked at her then and opened her mouth and stuck her tongue out. Americana laid a piece of chocolate there as if it were the Host itself.

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Lola Gigi smiled big and wide, her false teeth sparkling in the afternoon light. “I love you best, my girl. I love you best.” “Po,” Joslin said, “Lola Gi is not supposed to eat sugar.” “Silly girl,” Americana said, placing a chocolate in Joslin’s hand. “Now and then. It’s not going to kill her.” The cocoa melted in Joslin’s mouth and filled her up with sweetness, but all she could taste was bitter. She loves me best, Joslin thought. She loves me. Ina fixed Lola Gi’s tray of lugaw, the broth so transparent there seemed to be no trace of rice, of fish, ginger or kamatis. She placed a tasa of calmansi juice and a little saucer of pills on the saucer on the tray. She finished off the tray with a little flower vase. Americana was looking over Ina’s shoulders. “Wow. That’s a lot of medication. Does she need all that?” “For the pain, po. For the infection in the foot.” “And those pink ones?” “For the diabetes.” “Once a day?” “Three times, po.” Outside, the children were parading in the streets. A big bass drum and horns and little bells. Holy Thursday, school was getting out. The whole town was getting ready for the Last Supper. In the middle of the parade, twelve disciples, and a man to play Jesus. Americana turned to the open backdoor, high above the street, and waved at the parade. “Are those your boys?” she asked Ina. Washington and Edison were in a kazoo band, waving their arms to the sky, jumping up high as if to leap to the window. Ina called to them and when the two were not looking, Mrs. Mayor came to the kitchen and took the tray to Lola Gi. Joslin followed the Mayor’s wife, as she always did. She studied Mrs. Mayor’s crooked back, the way it snaked up her shirt and turned

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in circles back down her spine. She stood in the hallway, just far enough away to see Mrs. Mayor placing the tray down on Lola Gi’s dressing table, swiping the saucer of medicine and tossing the pills into her purse. “Come on, Mama, wake up!” said Mrs. Mayor, “Let me subu you this lugaw.” She placed a tissue under Lola Gi’s chin, and carefully, she spooned the soup up to the old woman’s lips. Lola Gi refused to open her mouth. “Please, Mama, you need your strength.” She pried the old woman’s lips open and shoved the spoon in fast. Lola Gi spat the food out, spewed rice all over Mrs. Mayor’s silk white dress. “Dora!” called Mrs. Mayor. “There’s been an accident!” After siesta that day, Americana slipped back into Lola Gi’s room and the two of them made tsimis, spinning stories of all the aunts and uncles, of the lolas and lolos and all the cousins they called family. The television sat cold, the telenovelas silenced. Joslin watched from a porch window, just across from Lola Gi’s bedroom. What about Romeo, thought Joslin. Doesn’t she want to know? Americana was always touching Lola. Always bending down to kiss her hand. She was a tease. All afternoon their voices rose up and down, teetering like the cicadas in the trees. At sundown, the Mayor stood at the door, watching as he always did. Silent. He didn’t interrupt them. He let them whisper to one another. He let them fall asleep, lying in the bed like that. He watched them and from where Joslin sat, she saw that he was crying. When the priest arrived that night, to put his cool hand on Lola Gi’s head, to bless her and pray with her, to give her a taste of the Host, Americana sat on a chair, holding Lola’s hand. Mrs. Mayor closed her eyes; chanted Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be louder than the priest. Her voice carried high above the clatter of the children bouncing basketballs on the streets, rattled through the house like a lost set of marbles. Everyone closed their eyes.

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Sitting on the balcony, Mrs. Mayor entertained the priest and the Americana. Joslin served them miniature rice cakes with sweet orange soda, pretended she wasn’t listening. She could see Lola Gi in her bedroom, head back and stirring, pain welling up and releasing from her in little moans. “I don’t know what to do,” said Mrs. Mayor, “It’s good that you come every day. My husband’s heart breaks every time he enters this house. We are grieving already, you know.” “Her heart seems strong,” the priest said, “her faith, too. What do the doctors say?” “Malapit na,” she whispered, leaning over her dessert plate. “Death is near.” Americana answered fast, “Not true. I spent all day with her today. She was fine—all things considered.” Not true, thinks Joslin. Not true. You mean old witch. You aswang. Not true. Because it was Holy Thursday, the whole town stayed awake, making preparations for Good Friday. Joslin and the Americana walked the priest back to the cathedral through the village where the houses were on hills and the streets wound in lazy loops. The women in the church had already begun singing and the voices called to them. All night they would sing to Jesus, the Lord. Keep him company as they washed his full-sized body, lying in the glass casket. He was made of the same stuff as dolls, but large with wounds in his hands, his feet and side. Tonight was the night of His suffering and all the town’s women would sing to him. Tonight the moon was nearly full. They arrived just as they were pulling the Lord out of the glass casket, pulling him by his bloody feet. The church smelled of rosewater and each of the dozen women were busy washing the legs and the arms and the torso, swabbing each wound with the holiest water. They dressed him in a purple garment. They zipped his pants and buttoned up the

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coat. If he weren’t dead already, he’d die of heat, thought Joslin. The oldest manang, Charing, brought the special Christ wig out of its box— blond like Erika’s but long and full of ringlets—and placed it carefully on his head. She kissed Jesus’ cheek. Joslin sat in a pew next to Americana, watching her head bowed and swaying, watching her breath move in and out of her chest. The shoulders were caved downward. She placed her brown hand on Americana’s back. She patted her. She rubbed her smooth arm. Americana sighed. Joslin saw the tears coming down. She closed her eyes and said a prayer. If I tell you, she wondered, would you save her? Joslin thought about it all night long, through the prayers of the town women, through the dawn when the two walked back to the house, followed by stray kittens and errant chickens. She took Americana’s hand; she led her up the stairs, and into Lola Gi’s bedroom. And there the Mayor’s wife stood, over the old woman’s bed, her body rocking as if pushed by the wind, her voice humming low, her hands gripping the old woman where her feet used to be.

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The Almost City , an excerpt Keenan Norris

eddie had never actually joined a gang , let alone become gang-active.

There was, though, that beautiful neck tattoo: Welcome to the world of teenage overcompensation when tripping through a blue South Central neighborhood. He liked to tell himself that it had been a bad night out in L.A., and that his friends and the liquor made him do it. But really he was just drunk off his fifteen-year-old insecurities. Even before the skin healed, even before the ink perpetually marked him, he figured it was probably the wrong thing to have done. Later, he knew it could go by no name but his natural stupidity. That tat misrepresented him thereafter, an eyesore etched into his skin. But it went back way before the tat, back to the beginning. Eddie was born prematurely. A small infant, he grew into a short, narrow, slightly built boy. It was one of those hopeless things about oneself that held no chance of change. He would always be the Richard runt. Even as a child he had known that outside a miracle, there was no way he would ever be big and strong. He knew he would not get very far in life if he had to power his way through it. Eddie was no football player, unlike his uncles, who had torn up opposing high school teams from Louisiana to Las Vegas. He was no jock sporting muscles in places that regular people didn’t even know muscles existed. And he would never, ever be a street thug throwing his bulk around on rough corners. His body was from his mother, a pretty woman’s thin body, a beautiful girl’s fragile form. His mother had fitted that body into a cheerleader’s outfit in high school and into a tight summer dress the day she met Mr. Richard. And despite the man’s size, it was his mother Eddie

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Keenan Norris


took after, almost as if each moment more he spent in her presence without his father was an impact that burrowed into his body and shaped him to her design. For years, he expected his Richard family frame to come bursting out of his puny form, for his ribs to expand and his shoulders to broaden and each bit of extra space to fill in with thick muscle. But it never happened. He could eat from sunrise till the coyotes started calling after dark and he would still have a chest that would make his shirts fall in and cling, instead of ride out and expand just to contain him. He would still have rails for wrists down which the luxury watches he liked to buy would slip as if coated with butter. The remorseless desert nights bereft of even the slightest humidity were bad for him; without any breaker of muscle or fat, the cold simply had its way with him in the dark. He was often ill as a child and in a state of general recovery as a man. The outrageously muscular body of the archetypal Big Black Man is a flourish of the visual arts and literature, a subject, one way or another of endless American media and social science, whereas the unimposing, lank, thin, little black man is a nonsubject. And Eddie felt this public nullity every day. Sometimes he felt plain non-existent out in the world. From his mother, he had the fine beautiful facial features that made women take notice of him even as a teenager, not because they wanted him but because they wanted his eyelashes and the precise line of his cheekbones and his regal aquiline nose and the luxury of his pillow-plush lips for their own. Even as a man, he was more showpiece than object of real desire. When he would let his hair grow out into a dense natural and his beard flank his face on both sides they would swat at his shoulders and say things like “Boy, now you know you didn’t go and…” “Why you do that for, Eddie? You know I like it clean-cut.” For years, all he wanted was a face that spoke power and roughness. He liked his beard and his hair unkempt and shaggy. He wanted his shoulders to grow into mountain ranges of muscle and the veins to fly out like thick spider webs along the striated sinews of his arms. He wanted the large, deep, space-taking chest and stomach that every man in his family seemed to have

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by birthright but that by that terrible mistake of birth had not come down to him. Then one day he realized that no protein shake or workout regimen would change the basic nature of his physique and that compensating for it by letting his face go rough and rugged with pockets of half-dreadlocked and clumped and patched hair would only take away what little advantage he had to begin with. In other words, he realized that women loved him and that that love and those women were the only market that mattered. All those barrel-chested brothers really wanted was the female attention that he had dodged and avoided as if it were femininity itself. That desire was at the core of their muscular façades, and it was something he already had. That want was at the core of the market itself, driving them to buy cars and fancy watches and better apartments and finer homes. And the women themselves told him what they wanted all the time, in those close, private conversations that he had up until then mistaken as stunted relationships, half-assed friendships that never found their way into sex. Now he realized that when he listened and participated in the slow, patient, eye-meeting way that they wanted him to, that he could have sex where and when and with whom he wanted, and that that wasn’t even near the half. Sex became as nothing. He sensed a world beyond lust and the desires of people, where social approval or avoidance or disregard was only symbolic of a greater competition; that this other something itself alone was truly the controlling factor in his town and probably far, far beyond San Suerte. This was how Eddie decided to go into business. Then there was Missy Hart, Missy Melissa Hart. If he had had good sense, he reflected once he was a few thousand miles away, he would never have gone as far with her as he ended up going. It wasn’t that she was white that was the problem, it had to do with something more than surface deep: it was that vulnerability that he sensed in her, that softness and sadness that tinged everything about her. When she told him about herself and why she’d moved from Riverside and how lonely it could be for her in her new neighborhood, Eddie couldn’t help but sympathize.

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“I’m sad, man. You know what I mean, Eddie?” “It’s all in yo eyes, you ain’t even gotta tell me how it is. I can see it.” But she did tell him how it was: She raised her blouse the first time he met her and she told him to stand behind her so that he could see how off-angle her body curved. Where her bra straps closed her in, her spine veered twenty percent away from its natural center, which, as scoliosis spines went, was easy enough work. She had had to sit with a board behind her back as a child to keep the curve from enlarging. And that board had done its duty: the twenty percent never became any worse than that and at times it even straightened a little more toward normalcy. She was no misbegotten hunchback, but only somewhat off from her center, yet just that twenty percent turn represented all the other wrong turns her life had taken before she had had a chance to crawl out of her crib. The parents she was born to weren’t fit to raise pigeons, let alone little children. Her father was a meth fiend, her mother an ex-user. Momma Hart quit cold turkey without the help of a recovery program, but in place of the drugs she developed different addictions: the beds had to be made with military care, the dishes could never, ever, under no circumstances be left in the sink and Melissa had to come home from school at exactly 3:30PM or call no later than 3:25PM to explain her soon to be late self, or there would be problems. It was only a matter of time before tension built. Melissa described the times when the tension broke, the arguments, the fights. Momma Hart was a small woman, a thinner, curve-less, raw-boned anti-mother figure, whereas her daughter’s gravity-defiant arch from torso to waist and the jutting plateau at the end of the arch and the hour-glass shape that her hips cut might as well have birthed the ancestors. But being smaller-framed than her daughter only made Momma Hart that much fiercer when she dealt with Melissa. She still had every rusty razor that she had used to cut dope and pills and was not above threatening her child with those tools. Moving to San Suerte was good for the girl. The threats and fights were problems of the past. The family she was living with now was safe, if strange. None were white, all were black or black mixed with Mexican. Her

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blood-relation to any of them was questionable at best; but at least there were no deadly weapons involved. Melissa hated violence. She spoke about violence and something entered her voice, a quivering off-kilter fear. Eddie, who might as well have been Dr. King compared to Momma Hart or some of the men around the way, was so gentle with her she wondered how he had survived a quarter-century in the hood. Eddie didn’t know why he combined so easily with Melissa, but the fact was he did. It was, maybe, something to do with her story or something about her spine, its frail, fractured nuance. He had finally, one quiet lonely night, invited Melissa over to his place and had had sex with her there, making love to her with a gentle deference usually bestowed upon virgins. He remembered, now, how he had made a show of undressing her, treating her nakedness like revelation. It was sweet and delicate. He remembered not wanting to damage her. Then there was a moment, an understanding, a request that passed silently between them and he was suddenly diving into the girl with all the fierce meaningless energy that the body possesses. He was, in that instant, living through his physicality, coming desperate and surprised to the powerless knowledge of himself as nothing but his body. He moved her forcefully, totally, and made her moan and shake at her limitpoint between crazed need and violation. And afterward, when he’d come and collapsed and then come again into consciousness through the haze of sleep and fatigue and swirling feeling, he wasn’t able to account for what had coursed through his mind into his body and into hers.

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the Beginning of Bodyguard Jamie Townsend

it opens with an articulation of all the time we spent learning to dance alone in our apartments , the dream like Duncan’s Torso , extending out exponentially away from domestic space to stellar myth & beyond dear subject , our song & death exist concurrent where love can fail at the absolute limit of the physical your failure became our failure to insist on only vocals nothing more than crack…vibrato… crystal…MKULTRA , the shame for so long to have been so completely singular in a space beyond capacity , like no writing , the pen floats to powder

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the busted voice , the female hustla ill-defined ‘The Homosexual in Society’ shine buried inside these questions of sacrifice , expenditure , Bruce Boone talks about the parasitic act of translation , a constant need of mouths eating out a ring of nerves withered away the great wager of intimacy the sense we choose to sing one another or at the least fill a cavity , our romantic climax interceding in this heat where fruit sweetens past the point of rot & tonguing at the pits Whitney i’ve waited to name you thinking sparkle maybe necessitates a harder core its dependence like the density of a star center a thrall cast across your chest upon which

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we continually lay ourselves great queen of love of an oscillating uni verse again resurrected a hemorrhoid inflamed as a potential child bruising all the parts of us we soldier to carry on or the Dollywood of my heart’s neon overflow so complicit in the economy of wonder or law i love the contrast of imagining an inverse tide like back wash rolling in a more nuanced cipher to read what you’re made of like blood radiating in occulted honeymoon where i’m gathered up and carried away

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nape

L端端k Honey

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Rikki Ducornet

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a Brief interview with nayomi Munaweera Melissa R. Sipin

nayomi munaweera ’ s debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, was

initially published in South Asia and will be released in the U.S. in Fall 2014 by St. Martin’s Press. It was long-listed for the Man Asia Prize, short-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia. She lives in Oakland, California.

melissa r . sipin : you said in interviews that it took you five years to

finish your first book—how was that process? Authenticity and authority were concepts you were well aware of: how did these two concepts drive you to finish the book? nayomi munaweera : i think i had the seeds of this book in my brain

long before I started writing. The idea of being a writer was as exotic to me as the idea of being an astronaut. Nobody I knew was either so I ignored the yearning to write for years and went about getting a PhD in English Literature. I got as far as the dissertation before the idea of writing fiction refused to be ignored anymore. I just could not write the academic tone that the Ph.D. required. I wanted (needed?) to write this book instead. I left my program in Southern California and got a part-time job teaching at a community college in the Bay Area and spent all my spare time reading and writing. I didn’t let myself think about publication because that seemed like an impossible dream. The important thing was to write. It was difficult—there was a lot of research I had to do about

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some very grim things, the war, suicide bombings, the Tigers, etc. A particularly terrible thing happens to one of my characters. I needed to do a lot of research to know what that would feel like, what the effects of it would be on her. That was one of the hardest parts to write. I’ve had readers tell me that parts of the book made them cry. I know exactly which parts these are because I cried while I wrote them. But I think this is the most beautiful place, when the words slip under the skin and make us feel deep, profound, sometimes painful things. As you said, it took five years to write this book. It took another five years to find a publisher. It was a long journey but I think that more than anything this is what is required of writers: endurance and some clumsy sort of faith that telling the story (if only to yourself) is valuable in itself. ms : i remember you said at a litquake panel , “You don’t talk about trauma when you’re living trauma.” What can silence do to a community, to an individual, to a marriage, a country trying to heal? How does one counter it? nm : i really do love silence . I like it to be quiet when I write, no music

for me, I spend time meditating, etc. These are the kinds of silences that are necessary and can be deeply restorative. But as you said, silence can also be a killer. When I was growing up in Nigeria, we would go back to Sri Lanka for a month every year and I saw how my relatives lived with the war all around them. They talked obsessively around it, the rising price of food, the bus bombings, etc., but there was no vocabulary around how trauma might be affecting people, how trust and safety were being eroded, what it does to one’s psyche to see the footage of a Sinhala village after a Tiger attack or the remnants of a suicide bombing. I don’t think people could have talked about these things. They just needed to get on with life and try to survive. Talking about trauma, processing grief—these were luxuries they couldn’t afford. But there are effects to this silence, the damage goes underground, it

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seethes, it waits, and eventually it will erupt in some way. I think it’s the writer’s particular job to break these silences, to try and articulate what is difficult to articulate. It is absolutely necessary that someone try to tell the story; this is a way those that have gone through the experience can start to think about their own experience and understand that it has value. ms : i fell in love with the house in the book and that blue room—the

house based on your childhood home in Colombo. I would love to talk about that idea of “writing home”: how has living and growing up in different countries (Sri Lanka, Nigeria and the U.S.) affected your life as a writer? When you returned “home” (both literally, the house of your childhood, and figuratively, your motherland), how was your writing affected? nm : home is a funny , difficult , shifting thing for the immigrant.

These days my home is very much the Bay Area because I feel most myself here—I have the freedom here to live in a way I create. My life would be way more prescribed in Sri Lanka due to gender, and in other parts of America due to race. Additionally my loved ones live here so this is home now. The ancestral house I was born into and left in 1976 when we moved from Sri Lanka to Nigeria was the one I was thinking of when I was writing Island. It is where a lot of the first part of the book is staged. It was lost to my family for most of the war years. So I was thinking about it nostalgically while I was in America. The house and the country were in some way equated for me. Both of them felt very far away to me. Then after twenty-five years we regained the house. When I went back in 2013 for the book launch, I was able to live there by myself for two months. It was also there that I got a phone call from New York saying that my book had sold in America. So there was this absolutely strange feeling of homecoming and a sense of my life arriving full circle. And yet I was lonely in Sri Lanka, I was separated from my partner

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and the community I had spent years developing in the Bay and that felt isolating. I think as an immigrant and someone who has spent a childhood living in various places, home is a shifting thing, there are parts of you that are at home in different places. For a writer this is a powerful thing because it lets you take on different voices, different perspectives more easily. Joyce Carol Oates once said something like, “I am a glass of water. I don’t have a personality when I am alone.” I think she meant that she takes on the tint of whatever is around her and this is an important skill as a writer—you can’t be too fixed, in thought or place, you have to absorb what is around As for how it’s changed my writing, I think the main thing is this book allowed me to come to some sort of understanding of the war (as much as is possible for me at least). I think this is why we write—to work out our obsessions—and my obsession with this particular topic has been exhausted. My next book that I’m in the process of editing is a completely different beast and it’s exciting to have a whole different palette to consider. ms : i have been struggling with the idea that only “ uplifting ” stories

can heal those lost and broken. After writing this book that dispels the silence, what are your thoughts about writing these kinds of stories? nm : this is a common muzzle people attempt to put on the artist. If

you’re writing about pain you are ignoring the good things about the community, you’re painting a bad picture of “your people” to the world, etc.—this is a response very much connected to the question of silence. But trauma doesn’t go away just because it’s not talked about. It burrows deeper under the skin turning necrotic, infecting the surrounding area and psychically killing the smiling host. I’ve had a similar angry response to my book. At my launch in Sri Lanka the editor of a government-backed newspaper showed up and lambasted me. He accused me of being from abroad not knowing

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anything about the country because I didn’t grow up there. He was right—I was from abroad—this doesn’t mean that I didn’t have the right to tell this story my way. He later wrote a review vociferously attacking the book (which it was clear he hadn’t read). He called me a “cheerleader from L.A.” which was rather humorous. He said that I should be handed over to the military to see what they would do with me, which was rather not humorous. I was living in Sri Lanka alone at that point and I spent that week listening for a banging on the door in the night. Journalist and activists were and are disappeared in Sri Lanka for questioning the government’s version of the truth. It became very clear very quickly that the powers that be were unhappy that the book existed (I very much doubt they had actually read it). I was scared that week but I’m lucky—I have that magic thing—an American passport. I am a writer in diaspora and this gives me a great deal of power. From this position I do think we have to sing the song of pain—it just is way more powerful than the other songs. ms : lastly , the book ends on an hopeful beat . This isn’t really a question,

but more of a thanks. nm : at the end of the day for me , the trauma isn’t the end of the story. You learn to deal with it in the ways you can and for me the primary way has been in the writing. It has absolutely saved my life in too many ways to count.

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You May also like... Caroline Battle the following was a two-week long interactive installation. Visitors

were invited to inhabit the space and move and take as they wished. Focusing on the cycle and life of materials, the exhibition examined the essentiality of change, and both the anxiety and pleasure it can cause. Also, guests got free gifts wrapped in Xerox copies made by the artist.

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Experimental Translation: an Introduction what follows is a series of experimental translations. We sent a

description of this year’s magazine theme in Russian to our first participant, Nico Vassilakis. We encouraged him to translate based on sound, on mood, on visuals— anything other than meaning. Nico’s poem was subsequently translated by Ali Fenlon, and Ali’s poem by Bianca Stone. We placed the poems in reverse chronological order.

Being Beside Myself is Comforting Bianca Stone I’m going to survey the damage. If you can beg, you can talk. It’s true, if you carry on breathing, it only makes the begging all the more difficult. And anyway, when standing beside you, I’m really beside myself, saying What the fuck is wrong with this universe that we can’t take off our clothes and get on with it without shuddering. Last night I dreamed I was explaining to my mother

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about the way I cooked my own turkey. That I almost forgot to remove the little heart and liver; that I tied the legs together with bailing twine and rubbed it with rosemary. You never cook anything long enough, was all she said. Which made me think of the way you used to listen carefully like a house no one lives in anymore. It’s one way to beg the universe to speak. I keep doing creepy things like running my hands through the air and saying I’m right here. I keep dragging your face out of its mansion of hair and loving it all over again.

Beside Myself Ali Fenlon

So this is the damage, you begged me, please just talk. It was true when I said, breathing— it only makes me weaker. And beside you, I’m beside myself, saying just go no don’t. That’s when I begin to shudder, hear a shoulder, turning away from me, and I know I just know you’ve turned and walked out.

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Even in my dreams it’s hard to trust you, to trust you won’t laugh, or to know that you’ll stay. I can’t separate what’s incomplete from the respect you once quote had for me. So this separation brings me nearer to sedation, and what I repeat to the mirror is practice in wasted anticipation— show him you’re coy, show the broken hearted boy, show him some smile, say it’s just I’m real shy. Eventually I’ll find myself in a daytime dream of the both of us, but this time I’m there, I’m viewing it outside myself. Beside you, I turn and smile, and I’m cradling your face. You lean back in, run your fingers through my hair. Remind me just to breathe, just to speak, just to continue being there.

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Untitled Nico Vassilakis

Cut shoe my knee So’s Brie me senior toot re ask Who douche Nicky Heh, rack a shoe Yang knee cig Dakar harp rose car needy zoom mah med zee used tits sienna’s pre teen pre Cairo Tragi-ettes ún mimeo Prius tú veneer Let me see it toe tap coo-ette hah-rose hafitsa’s dirty Shh stow ten niche cereal my eighty diety nob say united pre slice a inya tree’s salve near iris heat, eh Spoke of steel las hear creek ave. vas heak anti key re row iffy ammo my utta zeem nazva that a pross Ultra pud diet gore deaf knee, ah

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Experimental Interview: an Introduction what follows is a series of generative exercises. We lifted interview

questions from The Paris Review and numbered them, then asked writers and artists to a pick a handful of random numbers and respond to the questions as truthfully or untruthfully as they liked.

No. 1 Christian Filardo but when do we enter the realm of myth?

Entering the realm of myth happens upon stepping outside, everything outside is foreign and can be whatever you imagine it to be. Ultimately, dragons could be real we just haven’t seen any yet. If everyone was to step outside at the same time maybe we could see a dragon. imagine if you had written all these books without narrative—it might have amounted to a sum of forbidding theories.

The narratives are my way of saying, “this is my story.” Without them I could have never gone to West Africa or met Princess Diana at age four. It seems that my credit as an extra in Cameron’s Titanic would have not happened either. a passion he transferred to you?

James transferred a number of passions to me. One being his love of tiramisu, the man can’t get enough of the custard. On the set of Avatar he ate at least three of the dessert a day. Mind you he had shot a cameo

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for the dish but it was later cut, you can find it in the DVD extras, in 3D. what was your ph.d about?

For my PhD I found myself in Papa New Guinea studying the egg of the Raggiana Bird of Paradise. While the bird was beautiful I had a hard time fiddling about with the little egg. It turns out it is quite hard to get your hand in the nest of one of the foot-long nightmares. Matilda, the female bird I was pestering on the daily, didn’t like me much. Alas, she croaked upon my leaving, maybe I was wrong about her? did you have access to books?

I had access to some books during my stay in Papa New Guinea. However, I had more access to Wired Magazine. I learned how to charge my gadgets while in the rainforest. Using the sun to power your iPod can be difficult. Sometimes the world just doesn’t want you to listen to Pearl Jam. did you ever have any prior experience in prawn farming that led you to believe that you might have success in this venture?

Being a prawn farmer’s son I assumed I would have much success in future endeavors related to prawns. The creatures are so ready to eat. Sometimes I stick my hands in dirt and imagine the little freaks crawling up my arms and into my mouth. Prawns are good steamed, and I really like peppered prawns. The way they serve them at Asian buffets. Did I mention I like Asian buffets? have you any idea why?

Why do I like Asian buffets? It’s simple really, because in America they offer a wide variety of Asian food, but can also offer pizza or donuts. How can you go wrong with that? Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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No. 11 Jennifer Denrow

do you mean predator?

I did, but then I wasn’t sure what I meant. What did Japan call Taiwan when it ruled the Island? That’s more what I was I was thinking of. Though predator works. you have said that levi-strauss was afraid of the notion.

Yes, I did, but that’s not what I meant exactly. I guess I was referring more to the company of werewolves that hide inside my eyes and when I look at things and don’t know what they are, I imagine they are werewolves which is always getting me into trouble. imagine if you had written all these books without narrative—it might have amounted to a sum of forbidding theories.

It might have, though no one can be sure. Certainly I can’t be sure. I advise uncertainty in all cases, especially regarding theories—and these forbidding theories that you mention are the most important to be uncertain about due to their nature. a passion he transferred to you?

It was dark. He had nice eyes. I looked at them until everything transferred to me. Yes, even passion. But I did the best I could to keep it separate from the other emotions I was having at the time, which were mostly guilt for having accepted all the passion.

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when did the mask come off?

After that. In Nice, France. I was devoted to a belief then. Nothing was entire. I ate toast at 4:00 every day. I could feel the mask inside me even when she wasn’t around. I tended to it carefully. It became part of my belief. I asked no one about it. it was a bottle thrown into the ocean.

The ocean is one of my favorite subjects. It contains the sea and chemistry. I watch my mind become the ocean when I’m near it. I watch for as long as possible. I take notes, too. When I’m away from the ocean I memorize what I feel like so I can communicate in more logical forms with the water when it’s before me again. Everything is about feeling when there is the ocean. what’s the play about?

It’s about a lead singer. He was in the band the Clonetones. He was very shy once. Everything he accepted about himself wasn’t right. He was a shy herd.

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No. III Julia Cohen

do you fear death?

Yes. I feel embarrassed to admit this and I know I have friends who are not afraid. I know we’re overpopulated. I know I probably destroy the earth more than create anything of worth to balance it out. I know that I’ve not existed for much longer than I’ve ever existed. But I utterly fear death. I hate the idea that I won’t know what happens. Or that when we finally run out of clean water and the poor get sick of buying water from the rich who poisoned our natural resources, I won’t be there for the revolution. a passion he transferred to you?

I try not to let men transfer anything to me. did you have access to books?

I wish I had access to my own books right now. They’re in storage in Denver. The only books I brought with me to Chicago are my Gertrude Steins. They are stacked in the corner of my bedroom, waiting to be reunited with the rest. Recently I’ve acquired Laura Goldstein’s & Catherine Meng’s new books. did simon and schuster come to your defense?

I didn’t need them to defend me.

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did you ever have any prior experience in prawn farming that led you to believe that you might have success in this venture?

I’ve had experience crabbing and clamming. Clamming entails chucking stones at other stones during low tide and looking for the clamsquirt to fly up. Then, you have to furiously dig where you saw the squirt because this means the clam has closed up and is burrowing under the sand. But you also have to make sure your trowel does not break their shells. So dig furiously and gently and then toss the caught clams in a bucket. I spent many summers crabbing with my parents and brother in Rhode Island. They were obsessed with blue crabs. To catch them we’d need to first get some chicken and leave it in the sun to rot. The stinkier the better. Seeing the pieces of chicken heating in the sun was always the sign that we’d be crabbing soon. We used a giant metal canoe, nets, and sticks or fishing rods with rancid chicken dangling from them. My brother and I always acted like it was disgusting and we didn’t want to go crabbing. But we did. We’d pack plums, sandwiches, napkins, and ginger ale into a cooler. Strap the canoe on the car, and head to the nearest location where my parents had heard about a blue crab sighting. We’d spend the day floating in inlets, patiently holding the rods and the nets, waiting for the crabs to grab them with their claws. It’s tricky. They have to grab on tight, then we’d lift them a few inches in the air, swoop the net under their blue bodies, and snap them up. My parents would boil them for dinner. I don’t think I ever ate one; I was in it for the languorous hunt. The salt and the plums. So the answer to this question is No. But you can always bring your used prawns to my prawnshop.

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No. IV Mathias Svalina

is there a noticeably large proportion of beautiful girls there?

The play is about how you fall down when a key is seen, how you buy groceries simply to accomplishment something, how your legs are more your own than a film’s, how small talk lingers where any part of the body, closely examined, looks like a butt. Noticability is not to be shot with a shotgun. It is one rung of a hamburger bun four centuries thick. And me, you, the girls, we all declare our parts as a beautyspectrum. is there any sort of fraternity of writers now?

You can cradle many things in the arms of a dying welder. It is your job to cradle many things. As in, what I read I give birth to aneurismly, prudentially. And then in the dark, that spiderweb spanning the door to the back porch, the only thing the owner of the house told us not to destroy, you destroy that spiderweb. did you ever have any prior experience in prawn farming that led you to believe that you might have success in this venture?

You make success whiff of Tuesday. Like, Did you check the drawer? Which drawer? Like, You made the type of joke you would make & you are you. The salad bar is mostly chocolate pudding & while you do like chocolate pudding you do not like chocolate pudding from a salad bar & so racist epithets are all that’s left to ingest on a night like this, the moon on your ass, a cold-call collection of receipts in your fist, the

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radio playing a recording of Ben E. King singing “Stand By Me” made long after his death—you have this emptiness experience is always trying to fill with its own translucent & deodorizing bile. did you make a lot of money?

You render landscape unpalacable with the wide teeth of your yearning. You are as wide as all the dollar bills made meaningful. And so one dollar could be considered a lot, a lottery, latent, lot 5, out where the songs refuse any end that could result from something as stupid as structure. When you money the camera the camera lingers on the single & unsettlingly fly-like hair surfacing from your throat’s roast beefiest spot. have you any idea why?

You hide the creek behind you so that for anyone to see the creek they must be behind you. You record the frogs that sing all night & the next night listen to the recording of the frogs while looking at the night sky under which the same frogs are singing nearly the same song. After lunch, to see if you have anything in your teeth, you look at the photos of you on the internet. You log in to see if anyone has ever not yet met you again. life magazine claims that you once lived on a barge hauling rocks from poughkeepsie to jones beach. is this true?

You shape the day how coughing does when one needs only not to cough. What I mean to say is that I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. I only wanted to one time see you laughing. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain. Purple rain, purple rain. Purple rain, purple rain. Purple rain, purple rain. You have so many burdens affixed to you: one for every hurt a body can’t heal.

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No. V Turner Capehart Canty

your own books are in a way tributes to great poets and storytellers. are there a few writers who accompany you always?

The first name that comes to mind is Hesiod; specifically his work Work and Days stays with me. His placement of himself beneath nature, and his patience with his craft is fascinating to me. Also Homer, since my Great-Grandfather was named after him. What other poets are there that lived in a time that literally could be described as their age? Maybe the Dadaists‌ I don’t know. are you yourself considered by some italians as reactionary?

At the moment I cannot answer that question accurately seeing as I’m not allowed back into the country because of an unpaid fine I received for train hopping. My former singing partner and literary accomplice, Ricardo Draco, has assured me that the present administration will blow over and Berlusconi will eventually return to power and pardon whatever nonsense has been leveled against me. I myself feel politics are a joke in Italy. If I do go back I would prefer to avoid them and instead try my hand at sailing. did simon and schuster come to your defense?

No. After the lawsuit, my audiobook on the gastrointestinal tract of elephants was pulled because of its potential danger to infants and the elderly. When I tried to contact Simon and Schuster I was given an address in Los Gatos, California, about an hour south from where I live. I drove down only to find a typical suburban neighborhood, without an office building or industrial park in sight. The address they

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had provided was one of a split-level ranch style home with seemingly no affiliation to the publisher at all. On the lawn a man who looked to be about 35, dressed in black sweats and a San Jose Sharks hat, was smoking cigarettes and hosing down his Chevy Blazer in the sun. After he finished with the Blazer he began cleaning his Jet Ski until eventually a woman who appeared to be his mother came out and began yelling hysterically. At which point I left the premises. I haven’t tried to contact Simon and Schuster since. did you ever have any prior experience in prawn farming that led you to believe that you might have success in this venture?

Prawn farming was a bit of a new thing for me. I had been prawn wading since I was a child in Florida. It was easy then to walk barefoot through a marsh at night and carry a glow-stick to get the prawns to follow you. I remember the light shining through their translucent bodies. Once my family and I moved inland I forgot all about the prawns until I needed to find work after my student loans began to pile up. I knew I had a knack for trapping the prawns, but it took some courage to try and get them to follow my commands. To be good at prawn farming you must first master prawn showings, in which your trained prawns perform acts of trust thereby displaying their intelligence and willingness to submit to human desire. Prawns can’t be forced into this. It’s not like turning Geese into foie gras. They must be convinced of you as their worldly guide. Only then can you truly begin capturing them and flash freezing them for the open market. I guess I always knew I had the patience for prawns, I didn’t know I would be as successful as I have been though. have you seen the cave of forgotten dreams by werner herzog?

I saw it, but not in 3D. 3D movies give me a headache. I like his older stuff the most, like the one about the auctioneers or the skier. Cave of Forgotten Dreams seems like it was made to be an in-flight movie.

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aswang

Rachel Sipin Espanola

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on Myth and Mischief Melissa R. Sipin

art is a lie that tells the truth. — Pablo Picasso the thing about playfulness/mischief is that as soon as you start talking about it, it disappears like the dew. — Anne Carson

the stories i have to tell aren ’ t exactly true , but they aren’t exactly false either. Between the two of us, my até was the trickster. Growing up, my older sister spun lies to scare me: she salted snails, made me carry the shells as they crawled onto my palms, slimy and writhing in silence, and told me fairies were born from their burnt hides. They could grant us wishes, she said. Once, I wished for freckles just like hers, tiny, starpeppered dots across her nose and cheeks, and she laughed at me. We sat between the veranda’s chipped pillars as the sun set behind our backs, our lola’s growing banyan trees swaying in the distance. She took another snail and salted it again, pouring the grains into the shell, and I wished a second time, then a third, praying Hail Mary for the snails’ deaths. The wishes never came true. But I always believed her anyways. She was the mischievous one, my sister, my até, but I thought her tongue was truth—even if she made up the rules as she went. In front

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of our father, lola, uncles, and aunties, she was sweet, princess-like, a perfect lady. Whenever she saw them, she took their hands, raised them to her forehead, and they would bless her: bless, bless, bless. But to me, and the rest of my cousins, she controlled us: get me water, get me ice, it’s too cold, throw away the ice. She would steal our lola’s mannequin heads for her wigs in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, and paint their faces black, red, and the darkest of browns, puncturing their eye sockets with her brush, their mouths oozing with makeshift blood. In the morning, she jumped on my bed, mannequin in hand, and yelled: Aswang! Tik! Tik! Tik! I’m going to eat you! I always cried. I remember these memories like an old film replaying on a big screen. I don’t know whether or not I’ve dramatized them over the years, added or subtracted to them, but I did just what my sister used to do: make up stories. This was my sister’s way of making art: through lies. Her mischief, past and present. Pushing me to cry or laugh and making up the thresholds as we grew up. Retelling these memories to me and adding or subtracting every time. In retrospect, we were a family of tricksters, always “on the road,” always wandering—we must have moved over ten times in the same city before my até reached 12 and I reached 10. Our father was in and out of jobs, dealing with his failures by telling us jokes about gay men who wanted to be serenas, mermaids. Our lola, our loving tyrant who placed chained locks on the outside of our rooms, was on a constant search for a new place when we couldn’t pay the rent. Art, our only tool of expression, was the constant in our lives. My sister and I turned to art, to making up stories, to drawing when our worlds collided. We took our pens and colored pencils and bright markers and scribbled on anything we could touch, whether it was the church program, our math homework, newspaper ads, child’s menu, ivory dressers, stacks of

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journals, or the makeshift birthday cards we would gift our father. On everything we touched, monsters, tricksters, gods, demi-gods, spirits, duwendes, and aswangs came to life. We made up stories from our cartoons about perfect families with a mom and dad, even though our birth mother disappeared with a man who sold Toyotas after I turned one. As we moved, and moved again, we slowly began to lose everything. We would always pack up the house, lose an item here and then, unpack, and begin again, collecting and collecting until we had to move again, packing and losing until we lost count, until we lost our stolen mannequin heads who smelled of paint and looked like fetus-eating demons, our colored pencils, our drawings, our makeshift dreams. She was my mirror. I copied everything she said, moved, quit. When she stopped going to piano lessons, I followed suit. When she picked up painting, I did so, too. When she wore demi-skirts, powdered her cheeks red, penciled dark charcoal lines on her eyes, I copied. She was my double, my savior, the beautiful, cinnamon-shaded dalaga, the woman on a brink of an awakening who I wanted to become. Eventually, she locked me out. She separated me from her friends. She picked up smoking, kissed boys, climbed out the window in the middle of the night, told me to lie for her. She slipped away from me. As the years went on, I ran to books, hiding in the school’s library during recess or camping in the library across the street as we awaited our father to pick us up after his late shifts. Books led me to myths, to storytelling, to tricksters who acted just like my sister: the Coyote, Prometheus, Hermes, Eshu, Krishna, and Loki. It even led me to a thin book called Até, goddess of mischief and ruin and delusions. I remember running to my sister sitting in the main library’s hall, her back bent over her books and papers stacked in front of her, all of her drawings. I plopped the book in front of her and said: “Até, I’ve finally found you!” My sister, the goddess of mischief. She laughed, shook her head. “She actually looks like you. Not me.” She went back to drawing. I

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fell into the seat across from her, defeated. “Don’t act so pouty. Why not make up your own story about her,” she asked, not looking up. I shifted in my seat, gazing up to the ceiling and then back to my sister. “You mean, I can actually make up stories, too? Like you?” She nodded and handed me a pen and paper. “Here,” she said. “What if this goddess wasn’t Greek but pinay? Make it up as you go. Name her, ‘até,’ an older sister to someone. Have fun. Make up a story.” I didn’t know it back then, but this was the day I actually found myself, my own calling. Reading myth after myth made me obsessed with books, with tricksters and their tricks, their stories, their storytelling. That day, a seed was planted in me: with my pen, I wrote my first short story, a reinterpretation of Até’s fall from grace, with a father who wasn’t Zeus but instead resembled my own: a man with the whitest skin bleached from papaya soap and a stomach as large as Buddha’s. That day so long ago, when I scribbled across my notepad in a fury, I realized that maybe I really was just like my sister: a storyteller, a trickster, too. mischief as art : the boundary crosser

Myths are only stories, and stories are only lies, and lies are all we have. — Michael Chabon The word “mischief ” comes from the Old French word, meschief, which means “misfortune,” and meschever, which means “to end badly.” Its etymology is vulgar and negative, and even its Greek goddess represents that: she rules the realms of mischief, delusion, ruin and folly,

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epitomizing heroes’ pride that often leads to their downfalls or death. Take the Oxford American Dictionary’s definition, which narrows the negative etymology: 1. Playful misbehavior or troublemaking, esp. in children: she’ll make sure Danny doesn’t get into mischief. 2. Playfulness that is intended to tease, mock, or create trouble: her eyes twinkled with irrepressible mischief. 3. Harm or trouble caused by someone or something: she was bent on making mischief. 4. Archaic: a person responsible for harm or annoyance. But maybe this thinking is too narrow. When I think about mischief and its relation to art, I am brought to the stories of the Trickster, the One who perpetrates the lie, who embodies the multitude of stories from culture to culture, continent to continent, old age to modern times. Lewis Hyde said in Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art: “in short, trickster is a boundary crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce” (7). The trickster was there to draw the line between good and evil, possible and impossible, becoming the boundary, the disquiet, the mythos and pathos combined. Across the ages, the Trickster embodied everything we were afraid of but pulled towards, they are the “mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox” (Hyde 7). They drew the lines of what was right or wrong, moral or amoral, sacred or profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead—the Trickster disrupted conventions, fixed ideas, and forced “realities” to fall apart. When mischief was paired with art, with oral storytelling and folklore, the Trickster became the TricksterTransformer-Culture Hero (Hyde 7), and his sacred complexity

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saturated all cultures: Hermes is called mechaniota in Homeric Greek, which translates as trickster; the West African trickster Legba is also called Aflakete, which means, “I have tricked you”; and the Winnebago Indian figure called Wakdjunkaga means, “the tricky one” (Hyde 7). In this way, as Nietzsche would say, art is mischief: it is a metaphysical activity forcing us to see in a way that we wouldn’t have seen. It disrupts what posits itself as “real” or “natural” or “good,” and at the same time, it necessarily doesn’t have to: the gods were always mischievous for no reason—for play, for making it up as they went. There is Eshu from West Africa, fire-stealing Prometheus from Greece, gender-bending Loki from Netherlands. How did Eshu trick you? As the spirit of chaos and trickery, he is a difficult teacher. In one of his patakis [stories of faith], he wore a red-and-black hat. One village could only see the red; the other could only see the black. The villages squabbled over the true color of Eshu’s hat: was it red or black? In some patakis, the villages annihilate each other and Eshu walks away into the sunset saying, “Bringing strife is my greatest joy.” In others, he rebukes the villages, who were on the edge of destruction, teaching them the extremity of their closed mindedness. There is the story of Prometheus and his rebellion against the gods of Olympus. He steals fire for humans, teaching them to care for themselves. There is Loki, who tricks and steals but also gave birth to Sleipnir as a female mare. I could recount the tricksters in so many more cultures: Krishna from India, the Monkey King from China, Red Riding Hood’s Wolf and the Erlking from European fairy tales, the Coyote from North America, and the shameless, exhibitionist goddess, Ama No Uzume, from Japan, who lured the sun goddess out of the dark cave by removing her kimono and revealing her naked body. Ama brought life back to earth. In my own culture, there is the shape-shifting, vampire-like Aswang from the Philippines, who eats fetuses with her long tongue and tricks men to become aswangs when they bite her back. There are the landowning spirits, Duwende, who you must ask to pass their territory, lest

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they release their mischievous fury or good luck: Tabi tabi po, you say, may I pass, dear sir? If you don’t, my lola and até warned, they would make you sick with the flu, the cold, and they’ll even break your arm. When I broke my arm in the first grade by falling off the unfenced side of a baseball stand, my lola blamed the Duwende of the wood panels: “You didn’t ask them to play Follow the Leader,” she said gravely. These tricksters had one thing in common: they broke boundaries, made boundaries, taught humankind how to care for themselves, how to live. The biggest trickster in the Western world is the Devil in Christianity. According to Hyde, the Devil is the one mischievous demigod who isn’t a Trickster: “If the spiritual world is dominated by a single high god opposed by a single embodiment of evil, then the ancient trickster disappears” (10). But when we think of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Devil embodies the sense of evil that is beyond G-d and his goodness: he is duplicitous, a double to G-d’s mightiness, a mirror to a higher power, a king of words. His goodness was tainted; his being wasn’t binary or complementary to G-d’s goodness. He’s complicated and haunted like humans. Mischievous. By tricking Adam and Eve, he creates: he pushes them out into another realm—he shifts that earthy realm of in-betweenness, morphing the Garden of Eden into the land between heaven and hell. He is “at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator. He knows neither good nor evil yet he is responsible for both.” (Hyde 10). It is the Trickster’s job to erase illusions, to push the shadows out of the cave into the light, to draw up the line between heaven and earth. It is why they’ve held so much power throughout the ages, and why they are created. In the Philippines, priestesses called babaylans were healers, shamans of the matriarchal communities before Spanish colonization. According to Marianita C. Villariba, sociologist and anthropologist, “a babaylan is a specialist in the fields of culture, religion, medicine and all kinds of theoretical knowledge about the phenomenon of nature.” They were the ones who led, who “interceded for the community and individuals,”

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they were those who “served.” But when the Spanish came, colonized the islands for 333 years, they took the babaylans’ names and transformed them into the Aswang: “Anthropologist Alicia Magos [said] in effort to spread Catholicism in the Philippines, the early Spanish Catholic clerics maligned the ‘pagan and demonic’ indigenous women priests by calling them Aswang, a god of evil. It was a perfect religious-military tool for conquering other cultures” (Reyes 76). Like tricky Prometheus who steals fire from the gods to give to the people, the Aswang story “teaches people how to behave” (Hyde 12). The trickster cannot live without his mirrors, his duplicities, his counterparts. The Aswang wouldn’t be the Aswang without her colonizers, as Hermes “cannot be rightly imagined without the more serious Apollo whose cattle he steals” (Hyde 13). It is the Trickster who determines the boundaries to be disturbed, disrupted. It is why we tell stories, why we engage in mythmaking, in mischiefmaking. When I look at the stories I tell about my sister, whether they are true or false, I know I am exhibiting that “old trickster spirit.” the practice of art : disturb the peace

I will end on this last story: I told those who helped me research for this essay to write a one-page story on a memory of mischief. I knew I was asking for too much. As Anne Carson said: say mischief and it’s gone like the dew. But when I coincided the practice of art and mischief, my mind took me immediately to myth-making, and the words saturated my head: “shape-shifters, cultural heroes, civil disobedience, and shamelessness, death and wonderment.” When my staff shared their mischief stories, we realized we had to ask: who are the modern tricksters today? What is the value of myth-making? Of mischief-making in story? We came back to the deconstruction of moralities, of disrupting and erasing and moving the illusions, the shadows of the cave. I think of my sister and the stories I made up about her, calling her até, my own goddess of mischief. Then I remember James Baldwin’s call to all

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artisans: “Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.” Writers, storytellers, art-makers are the Tricksters of today’s world. We are, as Hyde warmly says, “keeping with trickster’s spirits” (14). But beyond that, beyond my own mischief-making and memories of my sister laughing at the dying snails or shape-shifting my grandmother’s mannequin wigs into zombies, these playful stories grounded me in that sacred space of holding onto things. As we moved from house to house, lost object after object, grew out of our dalaga bodies—that inbetween moment—into the bodies of women, the things that held us together were the oral storytelling of our own lives. This is why I invite you, dear reader, to begin your own process of mischief, of play, of erasure, and disturbance. As I end this essay with the memories of my sister salting snails and the mannequin head staring at me like the Aswang, I took apart the words of my own and my fellow writers, fashioning a found poem out of our mischievous memories. I hope you enjoy it, and will make one of your own.

notes 1. 2.

Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art by Lewis Hyde. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 17, 2010). Diwata by Barbara Jane Reyes. Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (August 31, 2010).

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STOP MAKING SENSE Melissa R. Sipin with Megan Brown, Tasha Keeble and Danielle Rubinstein-Towler

the problem wasn’t that we lacked obsession when deep in conversation with a flock of ducks montana bizarre breaking agitate agitate agitate we endeavored to come up with a story we developed a tendency to wander the private life, at least in our experience: we’ve come to montana to kill and shoot a bear a high-school graduation present—salting snails, making wishes growing up topsy-turvy, we marched through alice’s wonderland we started with four hundred, that’s eight hundred feet marching to the same drum beat occupy agitate oakland to san francisco’s financial district our parents collectively sighed hung their heads for three nights ten minutes by the lake immersed with ducks but we, we marched downtown running around the wood-chipped veranda mischief is a complex word: wait for it break

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into the freelance market sticking my nose in everyone’s business: mischievous like dalagas dancing in-between a sexual awakening girls becoming women, women becoming flocks we’d given our lives to a small company to add to our losses: the CEO only visited us twice and so, we walked

and we heard the military jets

their supersonic engines scorching the blue sky the oligarchs’ war machines and newspapers and television stations and billions of dollars

is this what democracy looks like?

flocks of ducks?

running away in the middle of three nights to a lake covered with banyan trees to a house we stumbled in, covered with dirt and other things they contacted someone for a security system the contractors are coming like snails dying quietly or a slain bear on a mantle its meat eaten by volunteers moth alice flame wonderland agitate montana we never understood this connotation behind mischief: say it it’s gone.

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CONTRIBUTOR BIOS

caroline battle was born in Silver Spring, MD. She earned her BA in Art

and Art History from the University of Maryland, College Park and her MFA in Printmaking from Arizona State University in 2013. She currently lives and works in Baltimore, MD.

caren beilin ’s fiction chapbook, Americans, Guests, Or Us, is available

from DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press. Her novel, The University Of Pennsylvania, is a finalist in the Fence Prose Prize and the winner of Noemi Press’s Book Award for Fiction, and will be published in 2014. She is from Philadelphia. david buuck lives in Oakland, CA. He is the founder of BARGE, the Bay Area Research Group in Enviro-aesthetics, and cofounder and editor of Tripwire, a journal of poetics. turner capehart canty was born in Florida and raised in Montana and the Pacific Northwest. He currently works as an editor for Omnidawn Publishing and at a bakery. His poetry can be found in Fence, the Oval, and Cedilla. His musical-spatial arguments can be found at turnercapehart1.bandcamp.com. jenna caravello is an artist living in Chicago. Invariably taking years

to finish a new animated film, she also runs a video production label called Dikarya and makes music videos for Chicago musicians that can be found on Fader, Impose, and Noisey webpages. justin carder is a painter, editor, and amateur carpenter. He is a cofounder


of the Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics in Fort Bragg, CA and the sole proprietor of E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore & Wolfman Home Repair. He has a faint dueling scar on his chin. cortney cassidy is a visual designer, artist, photographer, musician, etc. in Oakland, CA. She is one half of CCOOLL, a part-time design studio focused on collaborative projects with a community of internet friends. cortneycassidy.com, ccooll.us julia cohen is the author of two poetry books, Triggermoon Triggermoon

from Black Lawrence Press, and most recently, Collateral Light, from Brooklyn Arts Press. A collection of nonfiction, I Was Not Born, releases this fall from Noemi Press. Her work appears in journals like jubilat, New American Writing, Banango Street, and DIAGRAM. She just moved to Chicago.

tom comitta is a writer and multimedia artist living in Oakland, CA. From 2011-12, he co-composed and co-conducted nine operas with SF Guerrilla Opera. Currently he teaches multimedia writing at Glen Park Elementary and runs calmaplombprombombbalm.com. Books include The Story of the Dot (sp, 2013) and â—Ż (Ugly Ducking, 2013). abby crain is an Oakland, CA based artist who makes anti-dances and other structures for performance. www.abbycrain.net jennifer denrow is the author of two chapbooks: A Knee for a Life

(Horse Less Press, 2010) and From California, On (Brave Men Press, 2010). She currently lives in Colorado and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Denver. latasha n . nevada diggs works with words, beads, sound and video. She is the author of TwERK (Belladonna, 2013). Her poetry has been published in Ploughshares, jubilat, Fence, Rattapallax, Nocturnes, Palabra, and LA Review.


joshua duncan , an independent New Orleans based artist, studied at Memphis College of Art, where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration in 2011. Joshua is inspired by aesthetic moments that transcend time to connect all of humanity together. rachel sipin espanola is a visual artist who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada,

with her husband and two children.

ali fenlon lives in Champaign, Illinois, where she is a graduate student

in Library & Information Science at the University of Illinois.

christian filardo : Last night I had a dream that I got fired from my

job because I wasn’t allowed to sell computers naked. My boss told me that he felt a lot of regret for having to let me go, but administration couldn’t have a naked man representing student affairs in that way. It’s hard to believe that I am just another artist living paycheck to paycheck to pursue his “dreams.”

sarah fontaine is an artist-in-residence at Ruth Asawa School of The Arts. She asks questions, hosts lectures, publishes books and a magazine, Actually People Quarterly, at the Carville Annex in San Francisco, CA. m . evelina galang teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program

at the University of Miami and is core faculty and a board member for VONA/Voices.

patrick gill writes & performs with the saltiness of the sea and the sweetness of homemade pie. He is cofounder and editor of In Our Words: An Online Salon for Queers & Co. and producer for LGBTQueer storytelling night, “Word Is Out,” formerly “All The Writers I Know.” marisa handler is the author of the award-winning memoir Loyal to

the Sky, and her essays, fiction, journalism and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. She earned her MFA in fiction from the Iowa

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Writers’ Workshop, and has received multiple fellowships in Creative Writing, including a Fulbright. She teaches both fiction and nonfiction at Mills, CIIS, and Stanford. Marisa is also a performing and recording singer-songwriter. More at www.marisahandler.com. sailor holladay is a writer and textile artist whose work has appeared

in Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, Gay Genius Comics, The Encyclopedia Project Vol. F-K, the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival, Colony Collapse Disorder Radio, Enough.org, Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class, and elsewhere.

lüük honey of Anacortes, WA is an internationally recognized and acclaimed poet, lithographic printmaker and co-songwriter of the music group, SiLM. His art and music fathoms a deep curiosity for the mythic beauty and chaos in nature, the mystic poetry of human relations, and the search for belief in one’s self. “Listen Within” by SiLM will be released independently in 2014. jacob kahn was born and raised in Salt Lake City. Since 2008, he has ˜

lived in Missoula, Montana, where he writes and stumbles and now works in the public schools. He also collaborates with artist, Jack Metcalf, on one-night-only art spectacles or “encounters,” which is to say participatory/performative art experiences.

richard kostelanetz ’s work appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. hiba krisht is an MFA candidate at Indiana University. Her work

appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mizna, and the Evergreen Review among others. She is a recipient of the


2013 JoAnn Athanas Memorial Award in literature from the National Society of Arts and Letters. matt longabucco is the author of the chapbook, Everybody Suffers: The Selected Poems of Juan García Madero (O’Clock Press 2014). Other work has appeared recently in Aufgabe, Parkett, and The Brooklyn Rail. He is the Friday Night Series coordinator at the Poetry Project. muzzy moskowitz is a boy from rural Pennsylvania currently residing in Oakland CA. When he is not producing small comics and illustrations, he enjoys playing music with his friends and editing his internet dating profile. Currently, Muzz has no official website, but look out for his work at your local zinestand. keenan norris ’ s novel Brother and Sister won the 2012 James D. Houston

Award. Keenan also edited a great collection of interviews, articles, and essays titled Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape.

doug rice is the author of Between Appear And Disappear, Dream

Memoirs Of A Fabulist, Das Heilige Buch Der Stille, Blood Of Mugwump, and other books of fiction, memoir, and photography. His work has been translated into five languages and has been published in numerous anthologies and journals.

kate robinson is a poet and intermedia book artist living in Oakland

where she co-curates the Manifest Series and creates artists’ books as Manifest Press. Kate is the 2014 Mills Book Art Teaching Fellow, and coordinates outreach and curriculum for Pushing Margins, an art and writing camp for LGBTQQIAA youth.

shawn rubenfeld ’s writing has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, theNewerYork, Kentucky: Poets of Place, The Westchester Review, and Chronogram, among others. A native New Yorker, he is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Idaho, where he teaches courses


on rhetoric and creative writing, and served as Managing Editor of the literary journal Fugue. selah saterstrom is the author of The Pink Institution, The Meat And Spirit Plan, and, forthcoming, SLAB, all published by Coffee House Press. She is also the author of Tiger Goes To The Dogs, a limited edition letterpress project (Nor By Press). She is the Director of Creative Writing at the University of Denver. eliseo art silva studied at the National Art Center in the Philippines,

Otis College of Art and Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art, where he received an MFA. He has exhibited his work throughout California, New York, Hawaii, and the Philippines. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and Philadelphia, PA.

melissa r . sipin is a writer from Carson, California. She won First Place

in the 2013 Glimmer Train Fiction Open. Her writing is published or forthcoming in Glimmer Train Stories, Kweli Journal, and The Bakery, among others. She blogs at www.msipin.com.

eirik steinhoff ’s antinomian pamphlet, ‘A Fiery Flying Roule,’ will be

bound into a book by Station Hill Press later this year, which frees him to work on an assembly of essays tentatively titled That Which Does Not Fit The Measure.

bianca stone is a poet and visual artist. She is the author of several

chapbooks, most recently I Saw The Devil With His Needlework (Argos Books), and the poetry-comic I Want To Open The Mouth God Gave You, Beautiful Mutant (Factory Hollow Press). Stone is the editor of Monk Books, a small press that publishes limited-edition chapbooks of poetry and art, and is also a regular contributor for The Poetry Blog. Her poems have appeared in such magazines as Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, Crazyhorse, and Tin House. Stone collaborated with Anne Carson on Antigonick (2012), a new kind of comic book and translation. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their cat.


mathias svalina is an American poet. He has won fellowships and awards from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Iowa Review, and New Michigan Press. His poems have been published in journals such as American Letters & Commentary, The Boston Review, Gulf Coast, and jubilat. He also co-edits Octopus Magazine and Octopus Books with Zachary Schomburg. He is a native of Chicago, Illinois. jamie townsend is the managing editor of Aufgabe, and Elderly, an

emergent hub of ebullience and disgust. He is author of STRAP/HALO (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs; 2011), Matryoshka (LRL Textile Editions; 2011), and THE DOME (Ixnay Press; 2011), as well as the forthcoming longplayer SHADE (Elis Press, 2014).

nico vassilakis works both textually and visually with alphabet. His book Moments Notice was recently published by Luna Bisonte Prods. The parts of letters you regard as useless are busy, very busy. andrew west was born in Kansas City, MO and has lived much of his life in and around that city. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas. The poems included in this issue are part of a longer series entitled, “At Home, In Kansas City.” juliana wisdom is a San Francisco, CA based artist. Her work combines

glass, fibers, and found objects to create imagined yet reminiscent tools and artifacts. She received her BFA from the University of Washington in 2010, and was an Emerging Artist in Residence at Pilchuck Glass School in 2012. www.julianawisdom.com


580 SPLIT was designed by melissa sipin (with assistance from ava rosen). emji spero designed the template using Minion Pro for body text and Knockout for titling. This journal was offset printed by 1984 printing, womenowned and operated, on 100% recycled papers with soy-based, zero-VOC cmyk inks, recycled black ink, and animal-free book binding, 2014. oakland , california

580 Split Issue 16 - Mischief (2014)  

The Mischief Issue: Interviews with Anne Carson, Selah Saterstrom, Laleh Khadavi, Cheryl Dunye, and more. New work by Shawn Rubenfield, Do...

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