in this photo the tree and flowers are posed like your back-up band. the wet earth is a soft stage you’re all standing on. you’re their leader, the singer, dwelling in their sound, about to join in.
[Ruffles papers at the dais]
In conclusion, here at the outset
[group of deaf students applaud]
[group of students wearing shirts that say Jesus Gave me Tinnitus applaud inaudibly]
[group of highly politicized roll-carts roll by, somewhat audibly, as if of their own volition. As though they are operating under their own control. Sentient roll-carts? Some blue, some black, some brown, some green. The roll carts do not have eyes, though they be sentient. Aye]
and so as a lunch-time option, I will suggest, it is of vital importance that snacks be “factored into the equation.”
[A tropical fish, who had been gazing with deep inattention at the square of linoleum floor framed by his idly hanging flippers, now slowly and deliberately looks up at the speaker. His attention has been piqued. What’s this about lunch? Snacks? ]
A snack isn’t what we make it. Even if it is we who have made the snacks. I’ll often make a snack for myself, mid-afternoon, as though a dog left alone at home had the ability to open the fridge, unscrew bottles, spread nut-butters with nut-butter knives…
[A very pink fish is lost in her own reverie. She imagines a chocolate laborador, left home alone, unscrewing a jar of peanut butter, dipping in a long blunt knife, and spreading the peanut butter across three saltine crackers. It is, needless to say, an erotic fantasy. The fish is transmuted into a feline. The feline is transmuted into an unopened tin of sardines. The tin opens itself, with a great deal of volition, and begins snacking upon itself, heartily, its lips — such as they are — smacking.]
And so women. And so men. And so students of the region, who are gathered and fed and assembled and educated here, under these eaves, under this aegis, be-chancelled by this bewitching chancellor–
[The Chancellor, whose name is R. Bowen Loftin, gathers himself up in a great mawkish burst of plumage, then shits himself into a garbage pail; exeunt.]
And so, at the outset, or in conclusion, the class of 1999 now leads you, seniors, graduating class of 2016, into blinkered victory. I hope you’re OK. I hope you all inherit a great deal of money and then squander your inheritance on graduate education and activism and travel and charity. And love. Squander everything for love, my children. Because love is the most pragmatic tool you can wield in the economy into which you’re graduating. And I needn’t remind you that all of your love is concentrated in your genitals.
CAL: Five hours of sleep.
CAL: Three hours of sleep.
[A cool cat swiffs itself across the linoleum, wiping it clean but leaving a trail of black hairs]
CAL: An hour of sleep.
HERA: I’m changing my major. From philosophy to social justice.
CAL: Social justice is a major?
HERA: What I mean is, I’m dropping out of college to become an activist.
HERA: Because reading Henry James all day isn’t helping address income inequality in this country.
CAL: Neither is writing angry blogposts about income inequality. Or standing on the streetcorner arguing with Republicans about income inequality.
HERA: It’s better than nothing. And also you are cynical. Political change in America is possible. People change their minds.
CAL: No they don’t.
HERA: Be serious.
CAL: I am being serious!
HERA: Well, I have to finish cooking and then I need to do some online banking.
CAL: Can I help?
CAL: OK. Let me know if you need help.
HERA: I will.
CAL: Thanks. OK.
HERA: All right.
CAL: See you soon?
HERA: [Does not answer. Performs several online banking tasks. Cooks an arpeggio of salad. Fantasizes about a field mouse turning on a hot spit. Fantasizes about being Cal’s waitress at a fancy restaurant she also owns and is the head chef for. She hands him the menu, her hair in adorable sweaty strands adorning her face. Cal looks down at the menu and reads, half to himself, “Roasted Field Mouse.” Their eyes meet. This is love. This is scintillation. This is mutual attraction. This is Vermont in the 1980s.]
CAL: [Approaches a donut. Purchases it. Eats it in half-furtive bites from his open jacket pocket. Looks down to see he has paws. Big blue CGI family-friendly bear-paws. He has had five hours of sleep. He is perennially, perpetually “on deadline.” He will tell people he’s “on deadline” even if by that he means he needs to go to the pharmacy by this evening or else he’ll be unable to pick up his prescription without re-ordering it.]
[Cal once helped name a craft beer. It’s called PawPrint Blue Stout. He often orders it when he drinks at the Lathe.]
LATER THAT NIGHT, AT THE LATHE
CAL: [His voice thick with the foamy syrup of a fresh PawPrint Blue Stout]: I got five hours of sleep last night.
A: Help! I’m curious when it’s too late.
B: Do you mean you’re curious when it’s too late? Or you’re curious when it’s too late?
B: Calm down. We have an audience [Gestures to the audience.]
A: [Gestures to B’s gesturing]
B: Mocking me?
A: Mocking you?
B: Aleatoric birdsong
A: Harpsichord deathmonk
B: [Holds her tongue]
A: [Peacefully abides within a privileged suffering]
B: [Blows another imaginary deadline]
A: [Participates in careless riffing]
B: [Subscribes to a community newspaper with at least one racist reporter]
A: [Eats a great deal of Japanese bean-crackers]
B: [Watches Daniel Radcliffe rap a Blackalicious song on Jimmy Fallon on YouTube]
A: [Hurts himself with a mental needle]
B: [Farms out some stuff to a Little League of refreshment-and-freelancers]
A: What was your question during the Q&A?
B: I asked if a certain compound phrase the short-fiction writer used in her story was hyphenated
A: Cos you were trying to picture the phrase, how it was printed?
B: It changed the meaning for me, whether it was hyphenated or not
A: What was the phrase? How did a hyphen change its meaning?
B: Well OK It didn’t change it dramatically. Or… even … like… semantically. It was more of an aesthetic thing.
A: Like a blind guy at the opera who wants to know what color are the buttons on the Colonel’s vest
B: Exactly so
A: —B, the colonel’s buttons were orange
B: What sort of orange?
A: Brass— in a child’s imagination
B: Why does a child’s imagination turn brass orange?
A: The child has never seen brass, but the child does have a sense for what brass is, kinda generally, and so his imagination bronzes it
B: Bronzes the brass?
A: The brass is bronzed by the child’s imagination
B: Talking to you feels like passing a school of eels and neckties and their hybrid offspring through an eternal dishwasher: loading it up, running it, sitting near its quiet warmth during the dry cycle, unloading, beginning again with the fresh neckties and eels and their hybrid offspring, loading them in, draping them over the rack, pouring in the detergent, starting it up, sitting down, sliding over during the dry cycle, over and on and on and over again and on. Is what speaking with you today and most days feels like
A: Oh B, My dick is limpid
B: u mean limp?
A: No, limpid, which means “totally clear, un-dark”
B: it’s a bright cock?
A: Right, bright. Filled with natural light
There’s a problem in the garden partition; it’s not the stupid’s fault for being stupid. I don’t try too hard. Failure gathers in the bleaches of my belly. Sara, blending into the evening, marches along the low garden wall, worrying her outfit’s straps while she considers the problem… and Sara wants to know: What problem? And, actually, what partition? When you were with the woman who hired you to check out her typography (in a city, in a women’s room), it bleached me. I made a joke about a person who eats a dinner designed for an animal. “The omnivore’s dilemma: What if you ate Fancy Feast for dinner instead of all that old tuna salad?” I must have understood it as a joke because then I said, “Just kidding.”
DARREN: My favorite kind of music is trust-fund punk.
KARREN: My favorite kind of tunnel is carpal. My favorite academic trend is the linguistic turn
DARREN: like in the 80s?
KARREN: yeah. I felt so good when scholarship took a linguistic turn
DARREN: One time you told me that you thought my blog was really well proofread
KARREN: it is!
DARREN: But I only thought, Ouch! faint praise!
KARREN: what’s faint about well proofed?
DARREN: i want it to be blazing and arresting, not clean
DARREN: who will run the frog hospital?
KARREN: who will boost our followers?
DARREN: Steve Roeggenbuck will run the frog hospital
KARREN: we can’t name our son Ben Smith because he won’t be googleable
DARREN: I didn’t study search-engine optimization in college to help inform what we’re gonna name our son. anyway i thought we were gonna name him derrick?
KARREN: like oil derrick?
DARREN: Like derek jeter?
KARREN: you’re embarrassing me. Have we gotten everything on our list?
DARREN: we still need salt-breath
[they turn down aisle 9, where the salt-breath is stocked]
DARREN: here’s the salt breath
KARREN [selecting a less-expensive brand]: let’s get this kind. that kind is eleven dollars!
DARREN: OK. I like this brand tho
KARREN: 11 dollars!
DARREN: OK, get the cheaper kind, but it’s not as salty. Or as breathy. It tastes like evaporated seaweed milk
KARREN: kan we talk about theater and radio and improvisation and the experience of reading plays or reading radio drama scripts
DARREN: darling i’d prefer not to in the supermarket. can it wait till we get home?
KARREN: I dunno. did you hear annie baker on WTF?
DARREN: yes. a fine reminder that self-deprecation can sound 100 times more self-involved than self-aggrandizement
KARREN: or you mean that self-deprecation can just be another form of self-aggrandizement
DARREN: that’s a finer way to put it
KARREN: do we like these Deep Noodles?
DARREN: I’ve never tried them
[tosses the Deep Noodles with nonchalance into the brimming cart]
[a loud trust-fund punk song begins playing on the supermarket stereo]
KARREN: but Baker was sharp and charming in that interview
DARREN: i know. it was just when they were talking about the Pulitzer that it bummed me out
KARREN: what if I’m more interested in writing dialogue that’s read on the page than I am writing something that’ll be performed?
DARREN: watching tv or film, the only time i’m conscious of the writing is after the fact. i only think “that was well written” once it’s over. as opposed to obviously reading a novel or a poem where every sentence is another opportunity to evaluate — and consciously appreciate — the writing
KARREN: sure because the writing is submerged in film or tv or theater — you have so much else to evaluate first — the performance, the images, the sound
DARREN: why don’t more people publish novels in dialogue?
KARREN: Because they have to feed their families.
[Throws a vegan suckling pig shrink-wrapped in hot-pink plastic into the cart, which buckles and implodes]
—Really wish I was a peace activist right now.
—Why, for the tax breaks?
—Peace activists get special tax breaks?
—I thought they did. Maybe they don’t.
—I don’t think they do. I think the biggest perk to being a peace activist is occasional free lentil soup from potlucks.
—That sounds pretty yummy.
—It is! Garam masala and roasted carrots, yum.
—I know, so yummy.
—And all that shit is vegan.
—I know! Yum.
—Although can I make a confession the other day at Paul’s I had some of this frittata?
—So yummy though. The olives were from Israel.
—So should we talk about these poems?
—OK. Let’s start with yours.
—Oh no! [Laughter]
—Your poems are amazing.
—No they’re not.
—They are! They’re like Rilke.
—Shut up! I’ve actually never read Rilke.
—Read his poems. They’re amazing!
—I know OK!
—I have constructive criticism. All the raven imagery is bullshit.
—I know, I already cut those parts.
—Oh really OK well I don’t have any other comments actually so now let’s talk about mine.
—OK. My main thing was I don’t like poems about rape.
—Wait, did you get that my poem wasn’t about sexual assault?
—The poem is about rape, or Brassica napus, a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family).
—Fuck, I actually read the poem over the weekend at my mom’s cabin which doesn’t have internet so I couldn’t look it up!
—You couldn’t look it up on your phone?
—You’re right, I should have. I’m sorry.
[The oven’s electronic timer beeps, signaling the “ontological arrival” of the “popovers”]
That’d be funny if the guy who said to you “that’d be funny if” in the cafe naked next to your workshirt in San Francisco, the dairy caffeine cafe with the watercolor timestamp art on sale for the wall next to the Green Giant, the jolly fellow near the bathrooms at Ritual Coffee Roasters had a handbill in his pocket that said Remember That Time? And his smile would resemble (in the poems by the coffeeshop poets of the neighborhood) a Trademark Symbol, and in his pocket a kangaroo-shaped playbill would reveal an idea like wouldn’t it be funny you know how when you work from home you invariably inhale sheets of graham crackers (apologies to Kevin Moffett, and or baby carrots,) over the sink, fuck it there’s nothing left in the fridge boiling veggie dogs just because you’re at home and the only stress outlet is to turn your face into a compostable sink disposal, well the funny wouldn’t it be if watch there’s a hip coffee shop like Roasters, but it’s got a fridge and a microwave and a bunch of free food that when you get stressed out you just go up and eat? Plus a separate normal pastry display with normal pastries for sale that all the people with dignity still pay money for and get on ceramic plates, but in a separate part of the cafe there’s a dirty fridge with leftover Thai food and frozen veggie pups and cantaloupe beans and whatever else that people who get a terrifying work-email at 4 p.m. just go hose-happy on blasting the babka till it’s gone.
Trundling up the path, snowy silence, bullshit poems alight on branches like proper ravens. Fatman lost in the zendo can’t even feel the stringcheese in his fleece’s breast pocket. An elipsis travels up and down the length of your cock, why the fuck are your daughters reating my erotc poetry blog… scratch that… nyc pastries + flowers
feeling free in the zendo a professional lifeguard reads the blurbs on the back of your self-published book at the self-funded book release party craftily, hilariously putting his empty plastic wine glass in his breast pocket. Mallarme reference TK, he reads aloud, having flipped to a page at random. “Oh fuck,” you say, “is that actually in there?” Taking the book to look, you see that your placeholder text has accidentally made it into print, you’d meant to insert a Mallarme reference here but I guess you never got around to it… “Fuck,” you say again, handing the book back to the guest, who wears an eyepatch and has a fake parrot sewn to his shoulder and teeters as if wearing a pegleg though looking down it’s true he has two sturdy legs overhung with slate chinos. “Pity the placeholder,” no-one says. The next song comes on shuffle and it begins with an accellerated secular church bell, the kind that bongs the time in stately patient bongs but the clever electronic musician has accellerated the bongs so it seems to be chiming 4,000 o’clock and it’s driving you wild with pleasure, to hear this now, and the embarrassing Mallarme TK gaffe feels decades old and already celebrated as a hilarious and ultimately instructive gaffe. A mewling toddler does not say, “Gaffe Giraffe,” but she does do something specific revealing that there are toddlers at the book event TK TK. A breast presses against the window, begging to be let inside the gallery. A red-breasted titmouse flutters its paws next to the tiny DVD console. A duste mote reveals itself to be hilariously in tune with the matter at hand, I mean with the Remains of the Day, I mean with the Remains of the DVD, I mean with the reina, the queen, my darling. Hate and hope in equal measure suffuse the air above the plate of sandwiches, sandwiches which have tried so hard to be here and succeed, mostly, except looking again at them they seem mostly gone, where do sandwiches go at parties like this? I saw people eating sandwiches but that seems unconnected to the absent, devastated, crumb-strewn plaza near the greasy checkboard mom flannel plane that is what some once called That Table. My nephew is here, his name is Aristotle said an obese cartoon calico cat. I got string cheese in my pockets, Aristotle said. He moved his elbows and knees like he was composing a filigree’d poem for his aunts. He had spent most of the party in the basement behind a piano participating in a jam session with Needles, the drummer, who performed using eggbeaters instead of drumsticks; Palimpsest, on bass, who didn’t know what any of the knobs on the amp were for beyond the main volume control, but still managed to fiddle with them between every song, giving him a different sound each time, playing literally hundreds of different notes throughout the course of the evening, but in which order he played the notes I’m sure you had to be there to know, and of course P. Raichport, tenure-track professor of fiction at Lathe University at Kansas City, who is so clearly based on a real person that even the dimples in her cellulite seem to spell a constellation of ciphers that you can rearrange and glyph and wait what who is that based on no one actually OK nevermind
If there’s coffee inside that samovar a fake smile — more of a wince
If Plato if Platonic if there’s a Platonic sort of Platoish Plato vibe here
Fussy sugar bowl, heaped high with hepatitis
Paul “Fussy” Titus and I had a motocross moment together, piggybacked on an amusement, then there came a “gift from the chef”
Rapeseed and hemlock, Vance put a quarter in the free jukebox, the bartender’s face as he watched Vance was a scrim of novelty fake puke,
My father in law’s gastroenteritis flared up on Halloween, just as my favorite writer‘s hard drive failed on the upper east side, while he was stuck somewhere waiting for the A, C, E
My impish sister registered a Twitter account for my grandfather’s pacemaker. @Peacemakerzz
I hoped we cancelled that order before it shipped
Plain song plain wrapper, Barnes and Noble’s / shawarmas in love
ex girlfriend knows bounds
perfect wife brushes an elegant lock of the universe from her eyes
probably gave myself type two diabetes eating leftover Halloween candy
I think she went to Yale
Pressure pretty labial twilight; a hangover in the Metreon is worth two in the Bush administration
My ambition is to eat the rest of this candy and then an hour later eat a hearty normal dinner. His ambition seemed to be to write a masterful novel
The worst kind of writer is a brilliant one; necessary is a euphemism for working-class, intelligence is overrated and superabundant among men and women. If you think most people are stupid I think you’re a part of the problem; Hey these leggings aren’t going to wear themselves, buddy:
A shapeshifting Native American shaman enrolled in our MFA program this afternoon! I can’t wait to read his poems. His name is Bear-Leg. I saw his driver’s license–it said Bear-Leg Alan Cheuse.
—Here, you don’t have a job?
—No, I’m all alone, on a computer not hooked up to the internet, drinking a craft beer out of a can, composing an email to you.
—It’s almost like we’re having a beer together.
—How are your studies?
—You mean the life of the mind?
—How is your life?
—My mind hurts.
—How is your salad duty?
—I’ve been making bad salads. Bag salads.
—How is your girlfriend?
—I had a dream that she died.
—But she’s alive?
—She’s working on a new translation of Émile Zola’s Germinal (1885). It’s an experimental translation where she takes liberties with the text. Instead of mineworkers, her version of the novel centers around a group of flowers.
—Is there any other kind?
—The flowers take place in an election year and the gummy part of my car’s tyres.
—Huh. I think Uncle’s gone into one of his Tish-rages again, Paulice–
—Right. Grab the corduroy. A wide wale will be wanted for tonight. Oh, hush, Uncle; please don’t. Stop fussing. It’s Auld Hallow’s Ween, for aunt grable’s sake. We musn’t brackish the whoolinancy — I mean the whoolery.
—Genre’s got a beer-boner for stoners tonight, Barbara. Barbara.
—I can’t tell if you want this exclamation mark.
—I don’t want just any exclamation point, Mark. [Pause, applause.] I want yours. [Renewed, sustained applause. A child is born.]
—This boner’s gone free.
—Now that you’re a dad, and a city councilman, you mustn’t post pseudohomoerotic flash fiction on your blog. You must only post outspoken 5 point rejections of Romney’s 5 point plan and so forth.
—You remind me of the news.
—The fuzzy part with no skin.
—That’s called the Purloined Lettuce. [A mouth.] I am studying Botany with your Aunt.
—My nude aunt?
—I have a newborn baby. A child. I haven’t slept. No longer drink coffee. Go Tigers.
— I expect you’ll want to tell me about your craft beer in a can, now.
—Yes. I bought it at the supermarket with some hummus and the halloween candy. Came in a six pack just like a set of Diet Dr. Pepper, but in fact it’s an intensely hoppy microbrew from Whole Foods, Colorado!
—Durango. That candy’s not vegan
—Let’s get personal. I know writing on your blog makes you miss San Francisco.
—Of course. Who doesn’t? But the thing San Francisco doesn’t know is that I took all my shit with me to Missouri so I still have it so if I want to look at my shit like my books or the only one person I love more than anything
—Hang on, there are trick or treaters at the door. [Inaudible] [Audible] [Inaudible]. Fucker just took my last Krackel. [Pause.] Nice costume… What are you?
[Doug Liman, director of Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jumper (2008), and Fair Game (2010), walks in with Studio Monitors around his neck. Curtain.]