Volume 1 ~ Issue 1 April 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter from the Editor
Denise Duhamel Stacie Boschma Dara Wier Collin Kelley Jeffrey Conway, Gillian McCain, David Trinidad Michelle Ladwig Brent Goodman Corey Mesler Bobbi Lurie Beth Gylys Jeremy Glazier Cecilia Woloch Taylor Teegarden Dustin Brookshire
Charles Jensen reviews Beth Gyly’s Matchbook
Interview LaureAnne Bosselaar
4 20 22 24 26 41 43 44
ANNA’S DANCE CARD Denise Duhamel
“Can you believe it?” I asked my students. “Do you think it was a suicide? Do you think she was murdered? What about her son dying so young?” They ordered their beers. “What will happen to her baby girl? Isn’t it so Springer Shakespearean?” I turned red when I realized my students weren’t that interested. The MC of Smut Night had a bustier, blond ponytail, and a whip. She reminded me of Anna Nicole. The readers were in jeans and tee shirts, taking last minute looks at their verse.
“The boy’s first obligation is to have the girl’s card filled…” Etiquette, Jr. (1939)
The course of true Loving Care never did run smooth…
The lady doth undress too much, methinks…
#3. HOWARD MARSHALL II On a plane to Houston, I met a man who’d met Marshall at a business seminar a few months before his death. He was wheeled out on a stretcher! I kid you not. The poor old coot couldn’t even sit up without help. Brilliant though, he was still smart as a whip. Marshall, an oil tycoon, met Anna after she’d left Billy in Mexia, TX to work in a topless bar in Houston. She quickly became a popular stripper, and Anna was Marshall’s favorite dancer. When they married, without a prenup, he was 89 and she was 26. After Marshall bought her implants, she’d grown to a 42DD. Did you hear the rumor that Anna used Marshall's frozen sperm to conceive Dannielynn? Then she’d get Marshall’s loot for sure… The two were married only 14 months before Marshall died. His nurses complained that Anna didn’t live with him or visit him when his condition became terminal. The man on the plane said Anna wasn’t at the seminar, though everyone was hoping to get a glimpse of her.
Anna’s ghost: (prologue) Hey, y’all, thanks for the news blitz after my death. I appreciate all of it, even the jokes. Daniel and I sleep late in pink heaven. We just woke Up. It feels a little like we’re still on meth, Doesn’t it Danny? (laughter) It’s true that I ballooned to 224, That I chowed down a bit more than a Guess? model should. I tried to eat only pickles, but then I’d crave instant pud Ding. I hated those Trim Spa shakes—they went down like chalk. Daniel says Hamlet’s father’s ghost opened Act I, Scene IV. I’m so proud of my boy. Hey, up here I can eat stacks of Chips Ahoy Without gaining a pound. Dannielynn Hope, Mama’s blowing you a kiss!
My friend who loves animals says she knew of Anna only because of her work for PETA. Anna had three dogs: a white Maltese, Marilyn; a ShihTzu, Puppy; and her black poodle, Sugar Pie. I knew Sugar Pie from the reality show—he liked to dry hump pillows and teddy bears, so Anna took him to an animal psychiatrist to rid him of his sexual hangups. The psychiatrist prescribed Prozac. Anna appeared in PETA campaign ads against fur, seal slaughtering, and the pet food brand Iams.
#4. THE SANTA ANA ANNAS Drag queens Santa Ana Anna, Eenie Anna, Brown Sugar Anna, and Hot Spicy Anna emulate Anna Nicole for the West Hollywood Halloween Parade on Santa Monica Boulevard in the movie Wasabi Tuna. They are fiercely devoted to her and attempt to rescue Sugar Pie when he is stolen.
Cards from the Northwestern University Archives (19081935) indicate the name or sponsors of certain dances: Commerce Club, Eclectic Ball, Holiday, Teddy Bear Club, Neatawhanta, Military Ball, and Utopia Club.
In Vienna, prospective partners sometimes wanted to secure a waltz, especially a famous waltz such as the "Blue Danube."
When I was in upstate New York, a fan of Anna Nicole Smith told me that her billboard ad for H&M was so seductive that her image caused several car accidents in major European cities.
#5. G. BEN THOMPSON At the time of her death, Anna was living in Horizons, Thompson’s Bahamian mansion. That is where she was filmed pregnant, in clown makeup, pushing a baby carriage with a doll inside, drugged up so much she thought that she’d already given birth. Apparently she’d spent the whole day coloring with a nineyearold, a friend’s daughter who got scared of Anna and wanted to go home. Anna lived at Horizons with Howard K. Stern, who videotaped Anna, suggesting that he was going to sell the footage. Thompson filed suit against Anna, seeking either a $1 million mortgage or her eviction. Anna seemed to have misunder stood and thought the mansion was a gift.
Something is rotten in the state of Demerol…
Oh, I am fortune’s fool!…
I was watching cable news in a Richmond hotel room when an anchorwoman announced that Anna’s will had become public. Though Anna had apparently been supporting Howard K. Stern for the last decade, she made no mention of him inheriting anything and left everything to Daniel (already deceased). In one very odd clause, Smith appears to disinherit future children. This is normally something a man would include in his will if he feared he had illegitimate children. But why would it be in Anna’s will? Was she an egg donor? Did she give a baby up for adoption? Was Howard K. Stern now the excluded trophy wife?
#6. E. PIERCE MARSHALL When she was in her 20’s, Anna’s stepson was in his 60’s. E. Pierce Marshall was furious that she was trying to get his dead father’s money by contesting six wills and seven trusts (all of which stated she was to receive nothing) in a Texas probate court. In 2000, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded Anna 449 million dollars. But in 2001, a Houston judge vacated that award. In 2002, she was granted 88 million dollars, but that decision was reversed in 2004 when the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals deemed her not one of Marshall’s heirs. The Supreme Court decided in 2005 to hear her appeal, which she won unanimously in a 90 vote announced in May of 2006. Anna was granted the right to fight for a share of the estate in federal court per the majority opinion written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Marshall vs. Marshall, 041544. E. Pierce Marshall died a month later at the age of 67. Anna’s court feud with the Marshall family is cited in at least one law school textbook, Wills, Trusts, and Estates.
Shakespeare’s “fool” characters are all clownish in different ways: stupidity (Elbow, Measure for Measure), greed (Shylock, The Merchant of Venice), or jesting (Touchstone, As You Like It). By the end of each play, The Fool’s faults are usually forgiven.
O C.E.O., C.E.O! wherefore art thou C.E.O?…
#7. PRINCE FREDERIC VON ANHALT Though he is married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, he had a tenyear affair with Anna. He even thought that he might be Dannielynn’s father. Anna wanted to be a princess, a star like Zsa Zsa. And Frederic Von Anhalt even wanted to adopt her, but Zsa Zsa wouldn’t sign the papers.
When I was in St. Louis, I said, “Did you know Anna Nicole went by so many names? Vickie Lynn Hogan (her birth name),Vickie Lynn Marshall, Vickie Smith? Anna Nicole was her final name as an exotic dancer, after also stripping as Nikki and Robin. Maybe that’s how she was able to get so many different prescriptions from different docs.” And then another obsessed poet told me: “Not only thatshe used to check into hotels as Mrs. Flintstone.”
Beware the sweeps of March…
#8. LARRY SEIDLIN I should have been writing my students’ letters of recommendation, but when the probate judge Larry Seidlin was mucking it up on TV, I couldn’t get enough. “I’ll just watch to the next commercial,” I kept telling myself, but there were no commercials or if there were commercials, I could switch the channel and find him still yapping away in real time or sound bites. He ran the hearing over the deposition of Anna’s remains like a talk show, complete with sensational irrelevant questions. As lawyers argued where she should be buried, Judge Seidlin said things like “her body is mine now!”—which drove the feminist theorist part of me crazy. Though secretly I was happy he said it as a way to drag smart women into a discussion about Anna with me. Then he broke down on the stand, tears that may have been real or not. The rumor is his performance was calculated, that he was angling to make a splash and get himself a reality show of his own.
When my sister and her husband were in town, we went to Seminole Hard Rock Café Hotel and Casino, the big neon guitar flooding the parking lot with color. We ate overpriced burgers in a TGIF, and then my sister and I danced by the pool to a cover band as our husbands flopped in lounge chairs. It was fun the same way watching Anna’s reality show was fun—we were the only sober dancers, we felt perhaps vaguely superior, the only two women not wearing bedazzled garb, the only two women with our cleavage safely tucked inside our blouses.
When I was in Houston, I asked, “Does anyone know the name of the strip club Anna worked in?”
I remember seeing, in 1994, a picture of Anna on the cover of New York magazine. It was the “White Trash Nation” issue, and she was squatting in a miniskirt, pigging out on potato chips. Humiliated, she sued the mag azine, claiming a photographer had told her they were going for an “All Americanwoman look” but didn’t use any of the glamorous shots that he took. Instead, New York used a picture the photographer snapped of Anna during a break.
#9. BOBBY TRENDY Bobby Trendy was my least favorite character on Anna Nicole’s reality show. I guess this is where I have to confess that I watched all the episodes, starting in 2002, hummed the theme song, repeated the tag line, “It's not supposed to be funny. It just is," and even tried to get my husband interested on Sunday nights, but he couldn’t stand more than two minutes of it. Though a homosexual interior decorator, Bobby Trendy was so hateful it was almost as though he was a homophobic straight guy parodying an annoying flamboyant femme. Anna hated the designs he came up with for her bedroom, and I did, too. I’m glad he never got really famous.
All that glitz is not golddigging…
Dance cards originated in 18th century, but their use became widespread in 19th century Vienna, especially at the massive balls during Fasching, before Lent.
#10. DR. JOSHUA PERPER As Broward County's chief medical examiner, Perper urged that Anna Nicole have a resting place as soon as possible, trying to speed up the legal wrangling. Her remains were decomposing at a faster than normal rate which made me think how she was the opposite of a saint, whose remains, according to the Catholic church, aren’t supposed to decompose at all.
When I was in Atlanta, I read Philip Kennicott’s Washington Post article, “Anna Nicole Smith Stripped Marriage Of Its Illusions”… When Anna Nicole Smith, married an octogenarian oilrich billionaire, she crossed a line, assuming too high a place in our supposedly mobile society…Society took its revenge, confining her to gossip magazines and scandal sheets, foreclosing her appear ance in the blackandwhite party photos of respectable magazines, where trophy brides appear smiling and dazzling with their balding, sagging, tremendously rich husbands.
To be or not to be thin,that is the question…
#11. HUGH HEFNER Anna was Playboy’s “Playmate of the Month” in May of 1992. She reported her measurements at 36DD2638 and her weight at 140 lbs. When she became “Playmate of the Year” in 1993, her weight was 155. Because of her appearance in Playboy she was hired as a model by Guess? jeans designer Paul Marciano, and later, Layne Bryant. In 1998, she was Crowned Miss Republic of Cuervo Gold.
Is this a Little Debbie Cake which I see before me…
When I was in Poland, I thought I would impress my hosts by saying Anna Nicole Smith died in Hollywood, FL, where I live. It seemed like a great American story. Did you know she was the biggest Playmate ever? I mean, the Playmate who weighed the most? We know, the Poles said, we know. We get Larry King Live here. They were most alarmed by the story Dannielynn’s nanny told—that Anna didn’t want her to overfeed the infant so she could stay skinny and sexy.
Why then tonight let us assay our reality show plotlines…
A few weeks later, I think I figure out why Anna put that mysterious clause in her will. John Soto, a member of the Native American Tohono O'odham Nation, claims that Anna gave birth to a son, Marshall Soto, in 2001. John Soto says he had a love affair with Anna in early 2001, while Smith was vacationing at Paradise Valley's Sanctuary Resort and Spa where he worked, then Anna gained weight to hide the pregnancy. Aha! But then I read on and it just seems too crazy, even by Anna standards…John says he introduced her to Indian fry bread, which she loved. "She'd call my youknowwhat her 'tomahawk,' her 'wooden Indian,' or 'big wampum.' Sometimes she'd ask me to do a war dance naked with this feather from one of her dresses stuck in my baseball cap. I tried to tell her that the Tohono O'odham don't wear feathers, but she didn't care. She thought it was funny, and it turned her on, so I did it, though I have no idea if our people even have a war dance." E!, Greta van Susteren, even Geraldo didn’t cover the story.
#12. D. SHANE GIBSON The Bahamian Immigration Minister had to resign after photos came out showing him and Smith in romantic and intimate poses in Anna’s bed. They were fully dressed, it was all a gag, why even Gibson’s wife was in the room, he said. But he was accused of fasttracking Smith's Bahamian residency application. And that was that.
Some cards listed the dances by name or type, while others provided just the number of each dance. Other times the cards included mottoes or song lyrics.
Cowgirls die many times before their deaths….
#13. D. ALEX DENK First Alex was Anna’s chef, but then became her bodyguard. At the time of her death, he claimed that they’d had a secret twoyear affair and could be the baby’s dad.
The Anna Nicole Show was cancelled in 2004, due to poor ratings, which I guess I could see coming. But still, how could anyone forget Shelly Cloud, Anna’s toothless impoverished cousin? She was Anna’s mirror, her shadow, the woman Anna might have become if she stayed in Mexia, Texas. “Where are the teeth I bought you?” Anna asked Shelly in the fancy restaurant she’d taken her to. Shelly tells Anna how pretty she is, even though this is Anna at her fattest, Anna in her “dry spell,” complaining no one will have sex with her. Shelly wanted money, you could tell, and Anna wanted to get rid of her, the way she wanted to get rid of her past.
“…to be truly popular, a woman must never have to dance all the way around the room with just one man…” The New York Times (1931)
#14. KIMMIE WALTHERS Kimmie was Anna’s purplehaired personal assistant who loved Anna so much she sported a tattoo of her on her butch bicep. Maybe she and Anna were sometimes lovers. Or maybe the flirtations between the two were simply stunts for The Anna Nicole Show.
Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is a play chock full of characters, some of whom are there merely to provide a solid base for the hilarious chaos taking place in Ephesus. Lee Friedlander’s Wasabi Tuna is also a comedy of errors, set in West Hollywood, during Halloween. Two effeminate gays seek out real life gang members in order to style their authentic “street” costumes, trading a Porshe for a lowrider. Other characters include Anna Nicole Smith and her poodle Sugar Pie (playing themselves), the Santa Ana Annas, an Armenian drug dealer, and a group of female martial arts gymnasts. The entering and exiting of so many characters and mistaken identity were the basis of Shakespeare’s famously beloved play. Opening in May of 2004, and showing on only one theater screen, Wasabi Tuna grossed $7,950 in ticket sales.
We are such fluff…As dribbles are made on…
He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a generic hair conditioner…
#15. PATRIK SIMPSON The partner of Pol' Atteu, Patrik designed more than a dozen dresses for Anna before making her burial gown which he described as “overthetop, because it's Anna Nicole." Smith’s body was refrigerated in the Broward County medical examiner's office for exactly three weeks before it was released for burial in the Bahamas. Patrik said of the funeral, "No matter what, we have to get through it with class."
In October 2003, Smith became the spokeswoman for TrimSpa weightloss products, coining the phrase, “TrimSpa, baby.” She lost almost 80 pounds and reemerged into the world of modeling. Smith and TrimSpa Inc. were sued on Feb. 1, 2007, in Los Angeles Superior Court, in a classaction lawsuit alleging the marketing of their weightloss product was false or misleading. According to pictures released on the web, Anna’s “death fridge” contained Slimfast, methadone, and Worcestershire sauce.
Then must you speak…Of one that lov’d not wisely…
#16. LARRY BIRKHEAD A freelance photographer, Larry Birkhead filed a paternity suit after Anna’s death to force DNA testing to prove he indeed was Dannielynn’s biological father. At the time of Anna’s burial, the courts had not yet ruled in his favor. He and Howard K. Stern were each allowed to invite 100 people to the funeral. Their respective guest lists were submitted to Richard Milstein, Dannielynn’s courtappointed guardian, in advance. Anna’s casket was draped with a pink blanket covered with rhinestones, ribbons and feathers.
Until World War I, dance cards for the elite of AustriaHungary were often very elaborate, with some even incorporating precious metal and jewels.
Et tu, Howard?…
#17. HOWARD K. STERN Shortly before their commitment ceremony in the Bahamas, Howard K. Stern and Anna shopped around a concept for a reality show, centered on Anna's quest to find a husband. They pitched it as being similar to "Flavor of Love” or “The Bachelorette.” The program would have gathered men, of different races and ages, vying for Anna. In the final episode, the "winner" would marry her. Howard starred in Anna’s reality show, as her lawyer and confidante, and he appeared in drag in Wasabi Tuna. Howard was listed as Dannielynn’s father on the child’s birth certificate and, according to his lawyer, could barely speak when he phoned him about Anna’s death.
Some scholars believe in Shakespeare there is no true villain, that even the most vile of characters will be penitent by the final act.
“Smut Night” ended in a tie. A man’s haiku about a stripper slithering upside down on a pole and a woman’s pantoum about tasting her own pussy juice.
two poems by STACIE BOSCHMA THREE SCENES I. She holds my hand while she drives and we are silent for a time, radio off. It's the world that's moving; we are perfectly still. II. She likes my short poems and my long ones she likes me to read them at dusk over evening coffee when she says that my voice blasts like an elephant's across distant plains. A curious compliment. III. We chase the dogs over the hill and down again, laughter and barking breaking the heat of summer until we collapse in a heap at the bottom and a roost of birds shoots away from the trees, this love that startles starlings.
HOW TO START A FIRE First, come at me gently. I've been kissed too many times by lips so vigorous and wet that the necessary fires never could catch. Remember that this universe of ours is a cold place. Heat is not native here. Even the burning suns that occasionally take root die. Warmth is a matter of careful preparation, so come at me slowly. Press your lips against mine with exactly the force it takes to revive a dying ember. Linger, like the breath you push across it. Soon, I will be visible in the darkness and then – only then – let your body be tinder.
three poems by DARA WIER GOD’S MODEST PLAN TO SAVE THE EARTH’S PEOPLE AS SEEN THROUGH A TELESCOPE’S WIDER LENS If it's true all machinery should be able to operate forwards & Backwards, it is true. If I say a candle can't unburn Or an arrow not be leashed what I'm saying is that though I am God, I am not as strong as you say to yourselves I am. I can't undo what I've done. I'm unable to change what I set in Motion so long ago. In addition, you are not my one and only Concern. That is my nature. When I first understood my powers Frankly, I was a little giddy, I admit it, I overdid it. I was alone With no means of support so I quickly lost track of the many Universes I flung into being, probably millions, I really can't Remember, there were so many, I was excited, I didn't think too Much about consequences. And honestly, I lost interest. I found other things to do with my powers. Even now I'm at work On a few projects and I've recently started writing my memoirs. My forte has always been to bring things into existence, and my Mind wanders, and I have no talents in areas of sharp focus. I sympathize, I understand how you might feel an urgency applies To your current circumstances. I did happen to notice when you Blasted down to one quarter inch those big faces you've built in the Mountains, impressive work. I wonder sometimes how you feel About what I've done for you. It's strange to be on the receiving End of so many pleas and prayers and supplications knowing as I do I've written myself out of the picture. Stranger to be thanked For what my hand's never touched. I've never touched a human hand. I've never touched a thing I've made.
AN EXTRA IN EXTRALAND In the supernatural supermarket you pass your days. You pass Monday as a beautiful slavegirl. Have you been waiting in this line since the Stone Age? My cigarette wants a cigarette. Tuesday you pass with the grace of an egret. I've been kicking up dust hoping you'll notice. You're such a broom, I know you like dust. To pretend one's sleeping when one's on a tightrope. As Wednesday passes you pass your woeplate. So concentrated it's impossible to concentrate. What is it you want me to do? Thursday you spend all your time in a pirogue. Now it's Friday, your day to be lavished. If I cover my eyes with your eyes we will vanish.
HEMATOPOEITIC NAVIGATOR You drew blood today you did. What was that for? Are you some kind of real vampire For sure? Looking for a match, looking for a new disease To report or another old one to conceal? We traveled a long way Today before you took out your cunning bloodletting kit. We faced down all the old dowsers at the dump, they wield Their instruments at different times as if they were conducting Music or involved in parttime saberrattling exhibitions for an Invisible jury’s edification. We hunkered down in the sub and let History roll all over us for a good long while. Let’s slow down Now, show our respects and address with sincerity at least Our immense epiphany. You know the one, the one hidden In my blood’s catastrophic reluctance to reveal to you whatever It was you in your disastrous cocktail tatters found lacking.
two poems by COLLIN KELLEY PHYSICAL EDUCATION —for David I push my ass back against him, feel his hand go slack at my throat, subtle shifting of power as he grows hard against my tightywhiteys, settling into unexplored crack, we find empty locker room rhythm. Before the coach returns, he pinballs off the benches, struggles into his tootight Jordache jeans and cable knit sweater, wet head oozing through boxers, a bead of sweat dangling off his nose. I stand there watching, pious in my tshirt and Fruit of the Looms, flaccid and unaroused, lording over his secret desires coaxed out from behind yearold bully screen and tittytwister fingers. In PE he will never look at me again, too busy hiding his sudden boner from the other boys who jeer, call him faggot, and I could save him with one limp wrist, but this is junior high and the smell of blood is in the air.
FIRST BLACKMAIL I picked the movie Absence of Malice, liked the way the title rolled off my tongue, no spite in my heart in 1981. I dragged poor goodietwoshoes Tommy along, my fillin friend after Bruce turned to girls, and we were bored and lost in the plot in 10 minutes, even perky Sally Field couldn't keep our attention. We played video games in the lobby, until two girls caught Tommy's eye, he turned on his Boy Scout charm, like he was going for another badge, seduced them with his Missile Command skills. They giggled and gawked, ran in and out of the theater, played hide and seek until ushers shooed and shushed. Tommy, dying to transcend upbringing, hair on his chest at 13, wanted to finger fuck them, one on each arm, a miniature playboy. When he suggested getting naked in the bathroom, the girls turned red and fled leaving Tommy to rub his tented shorts, and I offered myself as substitute. That’s when Tommy got righteous, his lost religion back with a vengeance, stronger than the need to lose cherry, said he'd tell his mommy I was a pervert, that I'd be banned from his basement and Star Wars toys. I chanted "finger fuck, finger fuck, finger fuck" as I unzipped him in the echoing stall, first blackmail bouncing off the porcelain. We rode home in silence in his parents' station wagon, Tommy wanting to tell, rat out the ungodly, his mouth opening and closing with silent confession, while I hummed along to Linda Ronstadt’s Hurt So Bad on the radio, my lips testing new vocabulary, the way the words absence of malice rolled off my tongue.
excerpt from DESCENT OF THE DOLLS by JEFFREY CONWAY GILLIAN MCCAIN DAVID TRINIDAD Canto Two To settle the poets’ doubts about taking the journey, O’Hara tells of how a blonde starlet appeared to enlist his help. Another blonde, New York poet Gillian McCain, steps in to assist Conway and Trinidad. Inspirationless in the West Village —that line lies pendant for over twelve hours, as doubt and trepidation pillage my will to go on—this journey of ours could take years (three months for one canto!—less than three minutes of film). I turn to powers greater for help, courage, and guidance: Jackie sitting a row in front of us, merely traveling incognito, her annoyance embowered in her wig’s severely sprayed strands; my New York poet Frank O.— is he still here in the darkness with me? Did he leave with a pleasant stranger? O Muses, O high genius, help me now. I start: “Poet, you who are my guide . . . oh let’s be real—what the hell, Frank, allow me to speak plainly—why should I travel into the Valley, into God knows how
many years of ripping this movie (full of campy lines) to shreds as one might rip the wig from the head of a rival?” “Well, Miss Thing, if I have understood,” quips Frank, “your soul has been assailed by fear. That we should have no fear isn’t what keeps us strong; rather, it’s that we should know fear. I’ll tell you what went down—why I’ve come. A lady called to me, so blessed, so dear, that I begged to serve at her command from the moment I saw her topheavy rack. She told of a blessed woman who had come to implore her to go to me and ask if I’d help you out—and that she (said blessed woman) had herself been sent on this task by another! Confused? I confessed that I was too. No biggy though—she was super nice about it all. She was dressed in a bloody maternity top, was filming, she said, a new horror movie. Give up? Sharon Tate—that’s who it was! And the other two (whose silvery images embossed screens of yore): Monroe and Harlow. So with a cast like this, we (meaning you and me) cannot say no.” Dumbfounded, silently nodding to Frank, to the darkness, I intone “Let’s go.” Overwhelmed in Andersonville— it’s been how many weeks since JC sent his “patch” (Phoebese for “passage”)? At least three. Last Saturday, my desperate email to D.A.: “I can’t believe I haven’t written my lines yet . . . “
Litany of excuses: had to finish my book; had to correct galleys of essay coming out in next issue of APR; teach classes; read student poems; plan upcoming trips; etc., etc. “Plus Byron sick in the middle of it all, cramming antibiotics [dolls!] down his poor little throat. Enough of an apology? I plan to write tomorrow; wish me luck. We’ll get this baby moving, won’t we?” The sad thing: now I can’t bug D.A. for his lines, having taken this long to get my own ass in gear. “Not to take pleasure in your busyness,” he writes, “but I’m glad it’s you this time causing the slow down. I was beginning to feel like the fat kid on the relay team, slowing everybody else down.” Confession: there were also those ten episodes of Medium I had to watch (season two’s just out on DVD), not to mention some personal (distracting) stuff involving a man I’m getting to know. In the mean time, our heroine makes her first confession: she knows not one man in the big bad city. I wanted to see if there was anything interesting to say about Martha Washington (probably not). I wanted to compare the beginning of V.O.D. (the book) with V.O.D. (the movie): how the former starts with fire (“an unseasonable hot spell”) and the latter with ice: Anne emerging from a cab in front of the Martha Washington Hotel (From Wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia: “The Martha Washington Hotel is a hotel in New York City that opened on March 2, 1903 as the first hotel exclusively for women. It is at 30 East 30, and originally had 416 rooms. As of 2003, the building still contains a hotel, which calls itself Hotel Thirty Thirty.”) in the midst of a blizzard. (In Phoebe I wrote an elaborate patch about fire and ice—not to be repeated here?) I wanted to mention the hotel at the beginning of The Bell Jar: the Amazon— for women only. And how Plath based that hotel on the Barbizon Hotel for Women. But the merrygoround’s spinning too fast, weird sisters, to even fall down a rabbit hole of hotels for women. Am I committed to this? Am I up for repeating a journey I already acted out in my own life? Guileless poet moves to Manhattan, to “live his dreams,” only to become disillusioned by the ruthless careerism rampant in PoBiz and the Helen Lawsonesque hardness of bards at the top. I even met my very own Lyon Burke— and he was an agent! Well, he was a publicist and editor first. I ended up on dolls (Xanax, for fear of flying) and finally had enough: hightailed it out of town, found refuge in the Midwest. Can be seen, as credits roll, strolling through Chicago snow, swinging a stick. Wait—my guide wants to say something. She stands in the street in front
of the Martha Washington, wind whipping cigarette smoke and snow all around her. “Since Jeffery stole David’s idea [David: “Actually, I gave JC permission to use it.”] that the chain of command between Dante’s lovely/heavenly ladies be, in V.O.D., between tragic blonde screen goddesses [David: “Anne, I think it was D.A.’s idea to make Beatrice Sharon Tate.”], I’m left, at this juncture, with little or nothing to say or do. It’s like that poem of mine, ‘The Play’; many times have David and Jeffery had a good belly laugh, at my expense, listening to that godawful recording: me slurring the word ‘soliloquies’ and delivering their favorite line (‘Many boos. Many boos.’) with all the dramatic flair I could muster. Hell, I was drunk and on dolls! I was Neely doing the second act first. I’ll spare you the speeches, prayers, and soliloquies. It’s better with the slur! The point—Oh, what does it matter. It’s an existential kind of thing, trust me. About running, and never catching up. David, take note.” Running and never catching up is the number one cause of doll abuse in North America having come so far beyond rest and relaxation (“hackneyed” “dull”) I’d need these to make the climb even without a Sherpa, let alone an espresso machine (baton twirl) and here I land Miss Tiny Tot of Dallas, Miss Autorama, Queen of the starspangled sandpile
more on the flag, and what it means, later how would you feel if you’d grown up on an army base, high school in Vicenza (Italy) then hitchhiking Ventura Boulevard going to auditions, which was fine once I convinced daddy I was safe in the city that was before he went off to Vietnam, specialty intelligence, so he didn’t get to see me on The Beverly Hillbillies standing in the background, in a black wig, nine times, over the course of one year I’d met a man named Marty (not Melcher) who had agreed to “represent” me no more Coppertone ads or car shows in order to make a huge splash I had to come out of nowhere (which can only happen in private) with the help of voice lessons, Pilates V05 and house arrest, I knew he was right of course but what did I know? A nineteenyearold girl who was still not accustomed to people staring (“get used to it, kid”) but I had something more than that, didn’t I? You can’t deny that at the end I was always “Oh, Sharon? Sharon was such a sweet girl” and Zsa Zsa really meant it, and so did Steve McQueen, and Roger Vadim god, I could go on and on but I’ve spent the afternoon suffering at the hands of the Virgin Megastore hunting for V.O.D. on DVD after a successful 26th Street morning: a vintage black & white (London Mirror dead file) Jayne Mansfield has collapsed!
her legs center stage as two Italian policeman help her up from the ballroom floor to her left is the pedestal of the statuette Jayne had just been awarded for “fostering good relations between Europe and the American continent” and the January 1967 issue of Motion Picture (35 cents) “. . . Barbara Parkins, with hair pulled back like Martha Washington, looked sensational in a blueandwhite tiestriped doublebreasted minidress at the opening of a brandnew dress shoppe called Paraphernalia, which is smack across the street from the Daisy Club. . . .” “Hold on a sec,” Frank says. “What happened to D.A. and Tennessee? Who’s the hot blonde chick who just joined us?” “I’ll introduce you— Frank, this is Gillian, she’s coming along with us into the Valley. And D.A., well, he and his guide had to step out—long story.” Frank takes in what I have to say, gives Ms. McCain the once over twice, then declares: “Let’s get back to this film, Conway.” Anne Welles takes the room key from the old hen at the desk of the Martha Washington, then heads to the bar for a sherry, when a haggard blonde barmaid appears: “Hi hon, what’ll it be?” Anne stares in disbelief. “Say, aren’t you Veronica Lake?” Undone, the waitress takes a seat. “There’s been no relief since that damn reporter discovered me here and wrote that story, dispelling belief
in America’s sex symbols—I’m free now, anyway.” She lights up, takes a puff. “I’m writing my autobiography,” she explains, “and I hope to get enough proceeds to coproduce and star in a low budget horror—with Nazimyth stuff in the storyline.” Anne (appalled): “I’d pay to see that—what’s the title?” “Flesh Feast.” Veronica gets to her feet. “Did you say a sherry?” She shuffles off, arriviste gone bad, dubbed “The Bitch” by costars, sans peekaboo sweep (cut years earlier), artiste supreme who blew herself up before dawn in So Proudly We Hail! to save fellow nurses (Claudette Colbert and Paulette Goddard) from having to perform fellatio on Japanese soldiers, progenitor of two Elizabeths the world came to know: Short (visàvis The Blue Dahlia) and adored Montgomery (I Married A Witch). Goodbye, lovely bombshell, as you begin your final spiral into hepatitis and renal failure (at age fifty). Our Anne is shocked by this tragic metamorphosis. But no less shocked than I to be back in the proverbial saddle— how long has it been? Three long months. Everything happens in threes in this universe (heroines, collaborators, tercets, etc.), so why am I surprised. Three days before the end of January, 2007, I sit at my computer, snow outside the window, fingers cold, unable to recall what I wrote in my last patch, last October. I could simply scroll up and refresh my memory,
but that seems too easy, somehow. I’ve had serious doubts about this project: first, whether it would take off (and mind you we started it over six months ago, on June 13, the day the DVD of Valley was released; I thought that all the planets, like pills, would be lined up, that that would bring us luck), whether we could develop, and stick to, a steady pace; then, when Doug dropped out, how and with whom we might proceed. “It’s a bit like trying to write a novel in verse,” emailed D.A., “and I just don’t think I’m cut out to be a novelist.” Though this was, JC and I both moaned, his idea. “I keep hearing that voice that says ‘sparkle, Neely, sparkle’ and I fear that I’m no sparkler. Meanwhile, I have a few other things that are distracting me, and in fact I’ve been having to take a few dolls now for this ongoing problem with my kidneys.” Maybe he’s our Judy Garland (originally cast as Helen Lawson, then replaced, due to pill popping, after filming began). So be it. We lost Doug, but gained a Gillian Girl! Welcome, weird sister. (JC and I do have good collab karma with Canadian chicks!) I lost more than one Doug since last I wrote: the man, mentioned in my last patch, that I was getting to know. Hit, after five months of dating, the proverbial brick wall. Let’s just say, like D.A., he wanted to but when it came down to it, couldn’t. Then, in the midst of that disappointment, I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in eight years. Instant intimacy: she invited me to visit her and her husband in Denver. So . . . the day after teaching my last class of the fall semester, I
boarded a flight. Enjoyed the beautiful pink sunset during the descent, but knew, upon meeting my friend in baggage claim, that the trip was a mistake. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say it turned out to be my own private Die! Die! My Darling! in Denver. Then, the day before my return flight, a blizzard hit. 22 inches of snow, the airport closed, and me stranded an additional five days, through Christmas, with an obsessivecompulsive control freak who, because I sighed when I heard “The Little Drummer Boy” one too many times, decided I was the Grinch sent to spoil her Christmas. This woman, mind you, owns 200 Christmas CDs. Oh, I said I would spare you the details. Imagine me safely at home, piling every thing I’d bought in Denver—clothes, DVDs (all five seasons of 24, on sale at Best Buy), and a titian bubblecut (this woman, whom I met when she was a Barbie dealer, still has a stall in an antique mall)—in the middle of my living room and performing a purification ceremony with a smoldering sage stick. Imagine smoke circling the doll’s body. And imagine me coming home to learn that Byron, my beloved Cairn terrier, has a tumor in his chest and three to six months to live. He’d turned fifteen the day after Christmas, the day I finally escaped from Denver, completely shut down, with four of that woman’s mediocre chocolate chip cookies, which she’d foisted on me the entire visit, in my carryon bag. What a thud they made when they landed in the trash! Meow! And what does any of this have to do with the movie? Snow is the slender thread I hang this inordinate
weight from. It snows in New York, as Barbara gets out of her cab, goes on her job interview. I was supposed to be in New York this weekend, to read at St. Mark’s with Richard Hell and Eileen Myles, but in shock over the news about Byron, cancelled my trip. Richard generously offered to read some of my poems. Yesterday he emailed a report, said before he read my work, he tried to describe me to the audience: “I said you looked kind of like Johnny Carson but a male model version. Then, realizing a lot of the crowd might well not ever have seen Johnny Carson, I said maybe Greg Kinnear. And that you are a great poet, really great. Further, that you’re way into ALL ABOUT EVE and Barbie dolls.” Richard would be surprised to know that on 12/16/05 I wrote the following in my journal: “Last night I dreamed I was kissing Richard Hell. He kept insisting we were ‘talking.’” Last night, walking Byron, the snow looked like glitter as it fell. A few weeks ago, after learning about Byron’s tumor, I dreamed this: I’m in an auditorium, watching the end credits of a movie. My name is going to be in the credits and I want Doug (the one I dated), who’s in the audience, to see it up on the screen. Diana Ross enters with an entourage. Possibly she’s going to perform. A woman yells: “Take your pills, Diana!” I leave, carrying Byron. As we pass Diana Ross, she meets and pets him. Roman walked out during the credits. When I got home I curled up on the couch with Saperstein (our terrier named after the obgyn in Rosemary’s Baby) & tried to forget his earlier comment: “Is this camp on purpose or camp by chance?”
I decided it was time to make some changes: find a new sublet, settle down, have a baby. It wouldn’t kill me to take some time off. With my peeps—Frank, Tate, Monroe and Harlow, DT, Anne, and Gillian guided by (channeling?) Jen—I’ve found courage to go deeper into the abyss, let wigs fly and fall where they may: hell or bust. Next stop Bellamy and Bellows, where Anne will vie for a job (with a beige beret atop her head). She’ll see Miss Steinberg, who laments Queenie’s pregnancy from the stairs of a prop balcony. She’ll meet Mr. Bellamy, since there’s no longer any Mr. Bellows, just his nephew Lyon Burke—whose presence is known mainly by the gaggle of does that gather around the watercooler. Anne admits to weak shorthand, then follows Miss S. into the boss’s office, her hat and coat now removed. A oneweek trial is set: starts with contracts to Lawson at theater. Bellamy and Bellows Law Offices Human Resources Department Competency Definitions for all Staff (in alphabetical order) Accountability: takes responsibility for remembering everything and having but one sherry. Clear Communication: speaks in a tone appropriate for a B.A. from Radcliffe. Initiative: will work till midnight some days,
have dinner with the boss and prospective clients. Managing Conflict: deals effectively with unhappy clients, offering fountain pens, relaying obscene messages. Professional Appearance: tries not to be too good looking, wears boxy dresses which emphasize droopy breasts. Trope of the day: snow and freezing rain. It’s still winter, still Chicago, and I’m still crouched at my cold desk. Sunday morning: scrape of snow shovels outside my window. Waiting for the water for my second cup of tea to boil. Already boiling myself. Trope of the day: the double strike: a friend twice betrays, ten years apart, in the same way. This, after two Dougs and the Denver harridan. Woman can’t help herself, must befriend/ defend the monster (her mother) at expense of male friend (her brother); jealousy, resent ment (feels beholden rather than grateful); too narcissistic to have relationships. Trope: She of the pushpull. She of the standins. She of the intimacy falsely professed. This, during one of the toughest losses of my life. Yes, Byron died. Three weeks ago yesterday. He started having seizures, so I had him euthanized at home, on his bed, under cover of night. It was peaceful, and not without a sense of grace. Held his head as he moved from this plane to the next. I’ve been bereft. His last two weeks were amazing: buoyant and robust, he was a pup again (and he had been dragging): except for an occasional cough, I forgot that he was sick. A real gift. No more
walks in the snow (which he liked; I was the one who always complained about the cold). A week or so before he died, we came across, on his morning walk, a pink scarf laying in the snow. I would have kept it, had it not reeked of perfume. Tied it to a fence; took a few days, but someone finally claimed it. What other colors can I give you? Yellow tulips on my purple IKEA table. Pink of Byron’s portrait (painted by my father in May ’98). Red of the couch on which B. curled up at my feet. Anything but the drabness of Barbara’s costume: She of the beige coat, dress, damp mushroom hat. (Flashback to my first job interview: McDonald’s. I was seventeen, still in high school. Got hired, but lasted less than a week.) Purple, yellow, blue, and orange: colors of one of Byron’s throw toys. Pink of that scarf out my window, blowing in the snow. “. . . pinks tending to mauve, blues tinged with frost, greens dabbed with silver, wispy yellows and pale lavenders . . . shadings slightly out of focus, almost fuzzy . . . soft, fluid . . . like a line of free verse.” (“The Quiet Poetry of the New Spring Pastels” Ladies Home Journal, April 1970). In the same issue: “Along Came Joe” by Jacqueline Susann (“When her famous Josephine died, Miss Susann vowed she’d never own another dog. Here she writes about the poodle that changed her mind”); and “The Sharon Tate Murders” by Peter Mass (“This savage, senseless crime brings into sharp focus several unresolved problems posed by contemporary American life—youth, drugs and family relationships”). Two days later: Am I being passiveaggressive— refusing to give up my guest spot? Is that
why I can’t seem to finish this? Advice from Mr. Trinidad—“just jump in and write. Compose the passage in one sitting. Or like John Huston said to Marilyn Monroe during the filming of The Misfits: ‘Just roll the dice, Marilyn, that’s what you’ve done your whole life. . . .’” Okay, here goes: Compare and contrast. Hometowns: Lawrenceville (Anne), Florenceville (me). First job in New York: Bellamy and Bellows (Anne), Smallwood and Stewart (me). Initial residence: The Martha Washington Hotel (Anne), The Gramercy Park Hotel (me). And then of course there’s the “Gillian” connection . . . I was given that name on New Year’s Day, 1966, one month prior to the publication of Valley of the Dolls. Florenceville, where I was born, had originally been called Buttermilk Creek, but was renamed after the war, supposedly as a tribute to Florence Nightingale. With a population of only seven hundred, anonymity was not an option, and that, along with a lack of serotonin and natural light, only contributed to my melancholy. In an attempt to lift my spirits, my father would quote Churchill: Depression follows me like a black dog; and it was true: that depression followed me all the way to New York, eventually finding a cure in pills, poetry and Please Kill Me. So get over yourself, Anne— you weren’t the first girl to make it out without a guide, and you certainly won’t be the last.
two poems by MICHELLE A. LADWIG SORRY Like some great bell, ringing out its daily tone, your one word, sorry, in my brain, spoken as if it could end your guilt. For days the clang in my head, salt on my lips, a haze in my eyes and soon, I understood your fear. Here, this girl prostrating herself across your body, ready to be remade a woman. You knew enough to have my hungry, empty body. I am no virgin deflowered; slitted, embroidered sheet over my wet cunt. I have put knee to ear and whispered now into the ears of many, but that was too much for you: I was an oyster quivering in her beautiful silver shell and all you could do in your fear was firk my heart from its shell, toss it in the trash, and leave, sorry.
THE KEY IS ON THE DRESSER And I’m on all fours, The meaty apples Of my palms, The framework Of my knees bruised by the cheap Synthetic bedding. We are fucking. You’ve stripped my bra from under My Ramone’s tee. You keep your socks On. There are no surprises In this story. We were not the first to Rent this hotel room, cheap Monet above the bed. Still, I climbed into your body, folded My feet in prayer against your hips, Felt you shudder, Let you not love me, Just so I could feel again.
two poems by BRENT GOODMAN [ BY DEFINITION ] To move by elastic force. Something that obscures. Concerned with remote things. An issue of water from the earth. To move in a circular or spiral course. To keep vigil as a devotional exercise. A glazed structure above an opening in a roof for light. The part by which an object is attached to another. An immaterial essence, animating principle, actuating cause. An object that makes an electrical connection with the earth.
GROCERIES 1. She carts coffee filters thinking them paper puritan hats for her Pekinese. 2. Mistakes chocolate hearts for invitations to the theatre. 3. Jackknives her personal mobility vehicle in the soup aisle to honor Andy Warhol. 4. The overhead always speaks in 3rd person. 5. A slim stocker boy turns deaf when she calls him son. 6. She empties her everydays onto the zippered black conveyor, scans her coupon purse for expiration. 7. Wonders out loud just how much she might have saved.
a poem by COREY MESLER You Tube Sometimes the reflection off the TV is enough. Sometimes I have to turn it on. Wait. I wanted to talk about your skin. How close it was to me once. How my mouth sought you. I wanted to say something about the gift of your body. That was long ago. Sometimes I forget when the light is this way, a sickly purple, like a bruise, like the last episode where the hero dies. Sometimes these reflections are enough. Wait. I wanted to say something about dust, about your skin.
two poems by BOBBI LURIE ADMONITIONS BEFORE DINNER PARTY We must render them such Must not dent the fender when we leave Must wear our best turquoise dress Must paint our beauty with great cause Must pause at the landing Drape the fabric of the skirt around the sleeve Must have the door opened as we enter Must leave an impression Must dream of sex Must smother our lover with promises Must not promise anything Must keep our hands to ourselves Must make our possessions possess us Must salt our tears to gain attention Must feign heroism Must seek redemption from an audience Must relieve ourselves in easy chairs Must hide our spears unless pushed to the edge Must find the edge to stand against Must erase ourselves with prayers of consolation Must blame our mistakes on bad influences Must sigh openly Must take each tragedy in hand Must squeeze it tight Must seek consolation Must drag it out of them
FACING HUMAN CRUELTY LIKE A FEAST The other girls have pretty dresses / lovely bodies. My body has been beaten bloody. I can only love men who die in prison, Are orphans or burn victims. I work on a locked ward with psychopaths So that those who suffer most might know me well. When I can't sleep, fearful of the next plot in this text, This poison swallowed like a life, Only the small places of love become Like planets encircling me.
three poems by BETH GYLYS UNNECESSARY HOLES Dave, in Chicago, hasn’t called for two weeks, and my furnace is being moved from beneath to above. Men huff to the attic with saws, with flashlights, in the crawlspace on bellies, outside on ladders, shoving tubes into tunnels, linking cords through drilled gaps. I am out of my mind with dust everywhere— even the cats—their fur all grit and powder—look like the ghosts of cats. Something like smoke puffs when they land. A saw blade sinks into the ceiling and chunks of plaster and pebbles fly. I haven’t met Chicago Dave, but I will surely love him if he calls soon. Internet dating: you ride imagined couplings the way a kid in Atlanta dreams he sleds down a snow bank: fast and pure white and nobody’s crying with cold hands. In my house, heat soon blasts from above, and descending from the floor, passages leading to nowhere— the new furnace a silver alien thrumming above my head, its gleaming arms stretched taut and breathing fire.
THE GLASS BALL Across the room, the young man, son of our host, smokes and hums, rocking in a chair to the slow rise and fall of acoustic guitar, his long hair pulled away from a face both soft and strong. Almost man, almost boy, he seems to balance there to something we can’t see, and from his mouth rise perfect rings, one after another, through the open window. We guests watch, talk quietly, our glasses still halffull of champagne. This is the moment before someone rises to take a dish to the sink, before the first moves to say goodnight. It’s the moment you would like to keep safe in a glass ball—the contented faces blurred by sleep—to shake and watch the silver bits of confetti as they glitter dizzyingly down.
SLIPPERY SUBJECT Last week when you said I tasted of butter, or was it yesterday, after I took off my shirt when you were busy typing a memo, or was it that time you begged me not to leave you, the day you promised to swing by and see me? I waited hours naked in my bathrobe, a rubber ball bouncing against pavement somewhere outside, my throat fisting. I want to ask, but you aren’t here; it’s never today my dishtowel and your damp gravyboat. I reach for you, you’re elsewhere: at the deli buying bologna sandwiches, or on the playground, the kids’ batman kite serpentining the sky, or from a distance you’re walking, leather bag slung across one shoulder, or was I seeing myself, yesterday, or any day, my amber earrings swinging with light, how we kissed hidden behind that car, was it you or did I brush my own lips wet against a window, shining with trees?
three poems by JEREMY GLAZIER A JOKEY THING* E. M. Forster tosses some manuscripts into the fire, ca. 1960s He claimed a craftsman's dissatisfaction had destroyed them, their innuendo gay and warm. (Warm? they were positively flaming.) What could have possibly been the harm in closeting them in decadeslong seclusion like Maurice? At least then some future generation, sufficiently free from the moral strongarm of Victorian England and the ugly swarm of McCarthyism in America, might consider them for publication. One such story was just a jokey thingan impetuous whirl of hormones and delicious disaster. But surely that biting desire is something each of us has known: some little tale of eight bored boys going camping (you know what happens!), or of a girl who thought that two young men were always fighting next door, when in fact they were making love.
* In the 1960s, E. M. Forster asked his friend Joe Ackerley to help him destroy a number of unpublished stories on homosexual themes, much to the dismay of other friends. This poem refracts key phrases borrowed directly from Forster's diary and Ackerley's correspondence, drawn from Forster, E. M. The Life To Come and Other Stories. Ed. Oliver Stallybrass. New York: Norton, 1972.
CIRCUIT PARTY Beautiful boys with glistening skin, their eyes aglaze with ecstasy, wait for the night to come full circuit, barechested and thrusting to a rhythm. If their eyes are aglaze with ecstasy, their hearts and minds are ablaze with love, barechested and thrusting to a rhythm they won't remember in the morning. Their hearts and minds indeed blaze with love, or what they think of as love. But they won't remember in the morning the things they whisper to one another. What they think of as love is the pulse they feel beneath the music. The things they whisper to one another on the dance floor shimmer just out of reach. What is that pulse they feel beneath the music? Something primitive, that keeps them moving. On the dance floor, shimmering just out of reach, they somehow understand what is to come. Something primitive keeps us moving, like beautiful boys with glistening skin. Somehow we too understand what is. Come. Wait for the night to come full circuit.
THE BIRTH OF ATHENA, OR PAS DE CHANCE As if the mere forethought were not enough the wrack, the wreck, the ruin, Troy undone (his wife no doubt pleased as Punch)he'd run into an old flame who'd given him a rough time over their ill affair. He hoped to God she wasn't pregnant. And then this splitting headache.... Bad enough he'd had to fake the orgasm! He hadn't even shot his wad, for Christ's sake, and here she was already asking for alimony, a paternity test. His head was throbbing. He needed to get some rest. This is it, he thought: An aneurism. His skull began to crack, and he swayed, unsteady, as a goddess, fully armored, sprang from the schism.
four poems by CECILIA WOLOCH POSTCARD TO LISA, WITH LISA, FROM METRO LINE 1 No one had seen him before he fell, but we saw the man fall. To his knees in the aisle of the train. Then face down, as if in prayer, forehead pressed to the filthy floor. Someone gasped. Someone called out, Monsieur! Monsieur? Someone tried to lift him up, but he lurched and fell back the other way. Backwards, hitting the back of his head. That's when we saw the gash in his scalp. Was it a fresh wound or a scar? There was no blood. He did not seem drunk. A neatlydressed, darkskinned man, though the cuffs of his trousers were frayed. Someone tumbled him into a seat and he sat there and would not or could not speak. I reached over and pulled the alarm. The doors slid open but no one came. I leapt from the car and ran down the quai and rapped at the glass conductor's cage. The conductor was standing inside, in darkness, watching the scene on a little screen. I could not think of what to say in French. Un homme. Il est tombe. And then he was standing over the dazed man, naming the stations of the metro, asking where the man wanted to go. But the man wouldn't talk; his eyes stayed closed A clochard stepped into the car, drunk and smelling of vomit and piss. He started yelling —– trying to help? The other passengers cleared a path. Some had just sat there all along. A young girl clipping her fingernails furiously, clippings falling into her lap. The dazed man was taken out onto the quai. Still not speaking. The train pulled away. The clochard had stayed on board, now he was filling the car with his stench. Someone leaned over my seat and whispered (in English), This doesn't happen here that much.
RETURN And entering into a new love as into a mirror ... —Akhmatova When he stepped toward me, when he crossed out of that darkness — shadow still — a kind of gleaming moving near, and then more near, a shape I knew, and when he stood before me, finally, I stepped, too, toward the sky of it, the night around us, warm, and let my head fall to his chest, and made no bones about my joy.
HOUSE In the house of bequietandsleep In the house of no apples and sharpened knives In the house where your father would not come to live if your mother died or your mother, your father In the house of fat bees falling into the wine swatted midswoon in their lust for flowers In the house of cut flowers, cut green at their throats and stripped of their petals, breath by breath In the house like a narrow box tilted askew in which we were shaken like broken toys In the house of the doll of our lord the unkind In the house of shutupandlockthedoors and only one door to the world, one to sky
KNOWN You’ve cut your hair, I said, and, Yes, you smiled and let me put my hand to the nape of your neck. There is cruelty in all of us, too, but in some it has lain down awhile to be soothed. To be soothed, once, I asked you to hold me and all night you lay with your arms outstretched. And when we had woken enough to be calm, the kiss of forgiveness still warm in our mouths, it was a new year. Bare trees. All our lives.
a poem by TAYLOR TEEGARDEN OFF TO ALZHEIMER’S RANCH She sees horses now; cowboys call to her at night. Memories gallop faster. Father lets her go. Unbridled, Mother trots away.
three poems by DUSTIN BROOKSHIRE MISSING NAMES I. I'm irritated by those people who overuse the word Christian when using it to describe themselves— the same ones who spell Jesus HATE. II. Home from church she's on the phone; quickly, she moves from praying for others to talking about them. Her phone’s hot like a whore’s bed on half off day. I wonder which uses her mouth more, which one sins more, my aunt or a whore. III. He's gay; she’s better than that. Her sin smells sweeter than his. The Christmas card she mailed was addressed only to her nephew leaving of the name of his boyfriend of six years. The Christmas card he sent back left off his uncle’s name. She didn’t get his statement; she prayed over that card. IV. She's on the phone talking about her Christmas card ordeal. Not once does she use the words gay or, heaven forbid, boyfriend. That's why she takes so long to tell her pain, her strife, her story. She's doing the tango around the issue even though no one taught her the tango— it's a sin to dance that close.
V. Gay. Boyfriend. If she can't handle those words she’d shit a brick if she had to say the name of the shot I drank last weekend. Cowboy cocksucker, say it auntie. VI. She'll pray for him tonight and for me I'm sure; she knows my truth but makes it her own shameful secret, makes a martyr of herself this way, But I hate to tell her the world already knows, and the sign on the martyr office reads try again later. I know she prays to a God who has favorites, loves some more than others, He's definitely not the God I learned about as a child. While she's on her knees praying to him I want to smile, walk away, and say— Kiss this.
HARSHER MAKES ME COME* Peter was desperate. He hadn't had sex, all he really wanted was to fuck. His former lover liked to send memos: "We slept together and I made you come our bodies blending in a fleshy wave, but I want a man whose body makes mine hum. I hope you come to see that, that's what counts." He imagines her greeting him at the door in nothing horny and forgiving. "Maybe I was insensitive," he thought, "but I need a harsher kind of love, to hear a woman call my name out as we come."
*“Harsher Makes Me Come” is a found poem. Lines were taken from the following poems by Beth Gylys to create it: "Success,” "Hard Luck,” "Ghost and Aspirations,” "Not an Affair, A Sestina,” "Preference,” and "Personal.”
AUNT WITH A MISSION "Have you asked God to forgive your sin?" she asks with no love in her eyes, "His power can change you back again." Battles over the BIBLE, with her, I can't win; she prefers I live a lie. "Have you asked God to forgive your sin?" Her quest is stronger because we're kin. My being gay makes her cry, "His power can change back again." I see she wears her crucifix pin, her cross to bear until she dies. "Have you asked God to forgive your sin?" Disgusted by my attraction to men she tells me I must, I must try— "His power can change you back again." "Satan has him. Where did it begin?" words from mouth, to Heaven they fly, "Have you asked God to forgive your sin? His power can change you back again."
LaureAnne Bosselaar is the author of Artémis, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, Small Gods of Grief, and A New Hunger which was selected as an ALA Notable Book in 2008. She is also the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She has edited four anthologies and translated poems by de Coninck with her husband Kurt Brown. She’s a busy poet! I could go on and on about her brilliance and accolades; however, I will instead move closer to the reason why you’ve clicked on this page, the interview.
Photo by Greg Gimpelevich
An Interview with LaureAnne Bosselaar
As you read the interview, please know that this interview was conducted via email during two specific time frames. It is important to note this as items mentioned in the interview might have already happened—I apologize for this; however, it was such an honor for me to do this interview that I didn’t want to change anything.
October/November 2007 DB: First of all, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. I adore your work, so I'm quite excited about interviewing you! You published A New Hunger this year. Did you do any traveling to promote the book? Any traveling coming up? LAB: Dustin... thanks for your sweet words about my work. By the way, there’s a very positive review by David Rigsbee of my book you might want to look at in another wonderful Atlantabased online review: the Cortland Review So, to answer your first question: Yes, A New Hunger came out in Ausable’s Spring 2007 books, along with TungHui Hu’s Mine, and Pamela Alexander’s Slow Fire. I’m happy to say my book is going into a second printing. I did travel a bit to promote the book, mainly on the East Coast (Boston, Ma, and a few readings in Connecticut and Pennsylvania) and also read at two Writers’ Conferences where I taught. During February I will be the McEver Chair in Poetry at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and I will probably give some readings in the Atlanta region.
DB: Congrats on the second printing! I think my favorite poem from the collection is "Garage Sale." "For the kind of song only morning / can slap on lovestained sheets / that's what I sold my mother's / bed for. the one she died in. Sold it / for a song." That's an ending that shakes and slaps the reader. You have a talent for what I call the "slap ending." How do you write such endings? LAB: Oddly enough, I very often write those ‘closing’ lines somewhere in the poem during the first drafts; and it’s during the revision process —I revise maniacally — that I realize they should be around, or at, the end of the poem. I then shuffle lines, delete some, add some, and work on the poem’s structure to create the necessary tension so that the closure, tonally, feels like one. In “Garage Sale” the lines you quote were in the exact middle of the poem — which was twice as long. In this case, I deleted everything following those lines — and that was that. But it’s not always that easy. Short poems are the most difficult to write for me — and I keep going back to poets like Charles Simic, Thomas Lux, Jane Kenyon and Tomas Tranströmer (among others) to learn how to write shorter poems. I also learned a lot from the Flemish poet Herman de Coninck: he is a master of the short, deceptively simple poem. But I’m still struggling to apply what I learn from those poets to my own work. (Kurt Brown, my husband, and I translated Herman de Coninck’s poems in English — the book is called The Plural of Happiness, Selected Poems of Herman de Coninck) I’m a great fan of his work. DB: Atlanta in 2008 we'll have to go out in the "gayborhood" and enjoy a glass a wine. Are you excited about coming to Tech? Have any thoughts on the direction you'll take with your workshop? LAB: I’ll gladly accept your invitation! I have a particular love for little “hole in the wall’ restaurants — so if you know of a good, authentic Southern’ cookin’ place, I’d love some suggestions! I am exited to come to Georgia Tech indeed. I very much look forward to my visit, and teaching there. I’ll also visit some local high schools, and hope to get some students hooked on contemporary poets they might not know. I just finished reading the first book of a poet living in Kentucky that I find truly amazing: Sister, by Nickole Brown. I also recently read books by Maurice Manning which I love very much. These are just two authors who recently made my heart beat a little faster. As for the direction I’ll take for my workshop — I think I’ll focus on revision. All the ways one can revise a poem without the help of workshop participants or a mentor. Many of my exstudents told me they liked this particular focus, because once they were no longer in a class or workshop, they found it hard to revise their poems on their own. So that might be my focus — but I’ll also teach or address all sorts of elements of craft while looking at the poems in workshop.
DB: Who are some of the poets you love? Who are some of the ones you are reading now? LAB: There are so many poets that I love, and love returning to — and I fear I’ll forget some. But, let’s say that right now, on the little table next to my reading chair there is a pile of books, plus a few more on the floor next to the table! So I’ll just list the authors: Joe Millar, Tomas Trantrömer, Brian Patten, A. Van Jordan, Jorge Luis Borges, Michael Chitwood, Tracy K. Smith, Chase Twichell (my editor at Ausable!), Tania Rochelle, Rigoberto Gonzales, Michael Waters, April Ossman, and David Lawrence. And a Dutch novel by Kristien Hemmerechts. Then, of course, there are those books that are never far from me, and to which I return to over and over again: Larry Levis, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Baudelaire, Louis Aragon, Dorianne Laux, Kim Addonizio, Charles Simic, Kimiko Hahn, Thomas Lux, Adelia Prado, Rilke, Whitman, the novelists Michel Tournier, Jonathan Lethem and more. I also love to read new authors, first or second books: that’s where I feel the energy is — and I often make some wonderful discoveries, like the remarkable book Teeth, by Aracelis Girmay, for example, and Nickole Brown’s Sister that I mentioned before. Or Meg Kearney’s work. I also very much enjoy reading books that have a different esthetic than my work: the poignant, quirky poems by Martha Rhodes, the breathless, expansive poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis, the musical, fabulous poems by Tim Seibles. I could go on and on, of course — and each month new books land on my table, or night table... DB: Tania Rochelle is an Atlanta poet; I like her first book KARAOKE FUNERAL especially the poem "Valet Parking at the Salvation Army" because it has a "slap ending" like your poem, "Garage Sale." All this drives me to think Addonizio's "fuck poem.” Have you read that poem by Addonizio? LAB: I have read all of Kim Addonizio’s book, and Tania Rochelle’s book: I admire both poets greatly and am happy to say they are also friends of mine. And by the way, for some of your readers who might live in the Palm Beach area in Florida: Kim Addonizio will teach a workshop at the Fourth Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival and will give a public reading there also. That conference is, in my opinion, one of the best in the country. And there will be some exceptional poets participating this year, for more information go to: http://www.palmbeachpoetryfestival.org .
January/February 2008 DB: I wish there was a recording of the reading that you gave on Feb. 17, at Java Monkey in Decatur. You were phenomenal; your poem selection was amazing. I could
listen to read "Garage Sale" and "Radiator" repeatedly. Collin and I have decided that we are going to have to build a shrine in your honor. LAB: Sweet of you! You know, I had a wonderful time at Java Monkey, thanks to your kind invitation/recommendation Dustin! What an amazing, supportive, enthusiastic and talented crowd and one feels so immediately welcomed and included. Some of the poets who read at the open mike blew me away: I was happy to be part of that evening... It’s a reading series I’ll recommend to my friends if/when they visit Atlanta. DB: You mentioned a reading series you started titled “Anybody But Me” while featuring at Java. Will share details on this series and what inspired you to create it? LAB: Yes, I wanted to start a reading series where egos and selfpromotion would, for one evening, be left at the door, and be replaced by the desire to share poetry “just for the sake of it.” The rule is this: come read one or two poems you love, NOT written by you. That’s all. So many friends told me it was a wonderful idea, and eagerly came to read and share their favorite poem. The three events I organized were a total success. Unfortunately I had to stop the series because I was away too much this fall and winter, but I very much intend to continue this series. It was wonderful to see many people who come to readings and are not poets love to finally be able to share their passion with the audience. Because on those nights, a “famous” poet is on the same level as someone who has not published yet or never written a poem. What they have in common is the love to share and celebrate poetry. That’s the kind of reading/evening that I adore! DB: What is your advice for someone who wants to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing concentrating in poetry? LAB: I would say pursue that goal with total dedication ONLY if becoming a poet or making poetry a major part of your life is your dream. If that’s the case, here’s my advice: find out what poets you love, then find out where they teach and apply to those programs, whether they’re Graduate Studies MFA Programs or Low Residency Programs. I know that three of the poets I wanted to work with taught at Warren Wilson, so that was my first choice. And I was lucky enough to be accepted at that program. But I had 2nd and 3rd choices where other poets taught that I loved just as much. It’s the reputation of the poet professors/teachers/mentors that counts, much more than the reputation or name of the college or university... DB: This is one of my favorite questions to ask poets: What four books do you recommend for poets? LAB: Ahhh there is no universal, absolute answer to that, I think. I can only speak for myself. I’d say bring a very comprehensive anthology of World Poetry, also the
Contemporary American Poetry (Ed by Poulin/Waters), then the complete works of your two favorite poets... Today, for me, I’d take with me the complete works of Larry Levis, and Thomax Lux – whose new book God Particles is just out… But as you know, we need different poets for different moments in our lives. A few years ago I couldn’t live without reading Rainer Maria Rilke, or Louis Aragon every day. In a few years it might be Komunjakaa or Goethe, Szymborska or Rigoberto Gonzales. That’s the beauty of poetry: you never, ever run out of discovering a new poet or poem that speaks to you exactly the way you need it to! How lucky can we be…
THE BLURB Charles Jensen reviews Beth Gylys’s Matchbook It seems certain that for as long as people have known loneliness, they’ve sought to alleviate it through small ads that summarize their needs, interests, and desires—in as few words as possible to allow for greater variety per column inch of pricey newspaper real estate. The ultimately poetic task of distilling one’s self into the smallest amount of language possible is the primary conceit of Beth Gylys’s handsome new chapbook Matchbook, in which twenty five diverse and divergent voices call out to unknown lovers, both seen and imagined. Divided into smaller but familiar sections, “Men Seeking Women,” “Women Seeking Men,” “Men Seeking Men,” “Women Seeking Women,” and “I Saw You,” the book explores our ideas of love and sexual desire, but first and foremost, it asks questions about why and how much we, as people, need each other. Gylys smartly connects the conventions of the personal ad with one of the briefest and most succinct poetic forms—the sonnet—and, with the precision of a newspaper editor, squeezes each voice into just fourteen lines. Most often the language feels authentic, torn directly from the back pages of free weekly papers, and Gylys does an exceptional job of making each voice distinct and realistic. Only the occasional endrhyme draws attention to the form and the venue for these pieces, such as juxtaposing “I like warm beer and psychedelic rock” with “I used to have a band called Crusty Jock.” (“ISO Undertaker’s Daughter”) But even here, the awkwardness of the form creates the kind of frisky humor you’d be apt to see in a posting of this kind, one that begins with “I don’t do beaches, romance, or dinners out. / If that’s what you want, call the other ads.” The speakers range from an amputeed Vietnam Vet who promises “one hell of a footrub” to a “darkskinned, proud, and made of curves” soul sister seeking same. Along the way, we meet the matrimonially unfulfilled husbands who “want to want again,” a lonely woman who misses her late father and wants “to love / someone the way he loved my mom.” Gylys’s poems pierce into the essential risks of these lives and recognizes that people are often at their most honest when they are mostly anonymous, confessing to acts of fetish or disarming emotional appeals. And part of the pleasure of reading the book is the having unfettered access to the private lives of people we pass on sidewalks, in our
offices, at the movies. “I took / the Eltrain into town last week and watched / a man you might have been,” writes a woman under the title “My Psychic Saw You in Her Crystal Ball.” If we could peer inside each other’s hearts as easily as we read this book, it would take the disasters out of dating and the unhappy endings out of the American divorce rate. All these voices are only asking for one small thing—a chance at happiness—and Gylys imbues each of them with a formal authority over their own lives. Other high points of the collection include “Filthy Rich ISO French Maid,” which begins I hope to find an aproned girl in heels, seamed stockings, small cap pinned neatly in her hair— for fun and pleasure. A twentyish au pair who’ll tie me up and dust me, serve me meals, who sprinkles “C’est la vie” and “S’il vous plait,” in casual conversation. In bed I’ll be “Mon cher”—make her cry: “Mon Dieu!” and “Oui!” It’s hard to resist the urge to connect him with the speaker of “You Smell of Money” in the Women Seeking Men section, who states, “I like a man who brings me presents: flowers / and pearls, a diamond studded watch, furs, / a lamp from Tiffany’s—a man who showers / the one he loves with everything that stirs / her pleasure.” Even authentic details are added to what a conventional newspaper would consider “Alternative Lifestyles”: The gay man who writes “I Don’t Like Judy Garland” bemoans the fact that, because of it, “My friends all think I’m straight, / except the ones I’ve slept with,” while “No More Toasters” wants a “butch and proudly out” partner because “I’ve qualified for three [toasters], enough / to keep me brownedged for a lifetime.” Adding another layer of pleasure to the work is the gorgeous printing and binding of the collection by La Vita Poetica Press. The limited edition of 200 is handstitched with red and gold threads and features red and gold marbled end sheets that make the poems seem more intimate and, without disparaging them, precious. The cover itself folds over like a matchbook cover, with the front piece tucking under a flap, held in place by a small piece of Velcro. Entering the collection this way, past all the small yet essential accoutrements, shows this publisher has great care for the work put out by the press, enlivening and honoring the content through careful design. A quick but enjoyable read, Matchbook bridges two forms by uniting their language. The restricted assertions of the personal ad meet the regulation and convention of the sonnet with grace, revealing there is a revionary use of the Confessional mode. Like these voices, Gylys’s work is sometimes naughty, sometimes nice, and always, always hopeful.
Published on Mar 26, 2009