My grandfather’s home is a  three-car garage 2400 square ft blue sanctuary. Purchased in 1984 for $187,000, the dusty chandelier in the foyer is Southern California classy. I remember seeing a picture of my 1st birthday party which was held in its living room: a cake shaped like a Yule log, three maraschino cherry topping – a chocolate frosted chocolate cake. In the faded photos that are usually forgotten inside of the cabinet located along the second floor hallway between the cabinet for last season’s clothes and the cabinet for extra towels we are eating in front of the first big screen television. We celebrate me at the foot of the television. Peanut shells are strewn across the cement in the backyard.

He gathers them from local bars: saves them for the crows. I assume the gardener throws them away sometimes but usually there are thousands of shells choking the grass at any given time; if you leave your shoes on inside the house, he gets apoplectic. Take off your goddamn shoes kid! Shit man, we just had the carpets cleaned. Okay, be cool. He’s a mix of angry salesman and Mexican jazz aficionado. Be cool man.

I am more fascinated by my grandfather than by any other human being I have ever met. He is unconscionably spiteful, unparalleled in generosity, undeniably alcoholic, unmistakably hilarious, and unstoppably hardworking. I have hated him more than anyone in my life, and have loved him more than anyone in my life at varying points. He has a big screen television in his bedroom. His bedroom is off limits to anyone without his expressed permission to enter. He and my grandmother have had separate rooms for as long as I can remember. They have been married for over 50 years. I have seen them kiss only a handful of times.

After he broke his neck he spent two weeks in the hospital. On the first day out, he asked me and my brother in his room: we were to disrobe him and put on his pajamas. He couldn’t do it himself anymore. I was tasked with removing the pants. I was the only one willing to pull off the underwear. He made jokes the whole time; my brother was in heaven. His task came next. Put some fresh underwear on kid, and shut up. Your brother likes it. His penis was much smaller than I expected.

There is one impressive angel statue in his room: it is the oldest in the house which has over 250 angel statues. It is heavy: I’d guess 20 pounds and made of soft stone. Fifteen years ago I broke it. Do not remember how but I still remember watching it fall off the table and cracking in half at the middle. Everyone was very calm. Super glue. All of it. This was my first contact with the substance. We used two tubes and it worked wonderfully: the stone is porous enough inside for it to work wonders. But the crack is still visible. He likes it. Most of the furniture in his room a dark wood.

A large portrait of my family leans against the bottom of his chest of drawers. It is of my grandparents and their two children: both girls. Taken in the late 70s. Everyone has big hair. The TV in his room is always on. He forgets to turn it off when he leaves for work. He saves stacks and stacks of tapes he’s taken of military specials on the history channel. His room is the master bedroom. It is the size of my first apartment, but with a much nicer bathroom and two full length closets with meticulously organized clothes. Many ties in rows, progressing in color: Black to Ash to Forest green to beige. No peacocking. Military grade greens and grays only. All is an ode to the Second World War. He is a fan of the United States Military. There is a heavy jacket in the closet. The heavy jacket is never worn.

It was purchased when he went to Nepal to visit Mt. Everest. He got food poisoning at the base of the mountain. He laughs when he says his Sherpa gave him two sleeping bags. One to replace the other when it would inevitably become soiled. The jacket got him through the nights: he never liked the cold.

In 2003, I am eighteen. I head to my grandparents’ home to do some laundry. My grandfather is fighting with my mother about something. She is nervous and twitching her hands. He calls her a stupid whore, and I lose it. I tell him if he says another goddamned word I will punch him right in the mouth. He laughs. He laughs and tells me to shut the fuck up and get out of his goddamned house. My mom tells me to leave. I am ashamed because I do leave, I do leave and she stays there with his anger. I go and get the only tattoo I will ever receive. My grandfather forgets about the fight the next day, says my tattoo is stupid. He is losing his hair so quickly. Rogaine chestnut brown streaks across the forest green marble countertop. The watery consistency of blood, the smell of oil and burnt tires. His head, all wires and scalp. The first manic-depressive diagnosed in the Herrera family. The depression is hidden in his bedroom: tapes and tapes of documentaries/shades drawn/dirty duvet/yellowing stacks of magazines/heavy wooden drawer of pills/receipts kept from each early afternoon drink session/don’t come in/quietly crying/that angel is so heavy/don’t touch anything/hair gel stained toilet seat/drain clogged with what’s left/old batteries rattle in the drawer/never wears that jacket/no pictures of his father/no pictures of his past/superglued together. The mania is still talked about in hushed whispers: Lynn pushed down the stairs/the affair/broken neck/thousands of dollars of presents/new car for every kid/Disneyland hotel/money/money/money/I love you/I love you/I  love you

There isn’t much time left in this mostly arbitrary period of time where I can be described by the number 27 to tell you thanks so much for everything. Yeah, I don’t know which of you you are which is ostensibly the big issue at the center of the author/reader relationship [uncertainty] but you are alive at the same time I am (for now*) and for that I am so very happy. Thank you for your ability to exist alongside of other people because if there was just one of us it’d be over already. I/You need more than the self to create meaning. I/You need another entity to bounce signals off of so that signals can change and get back to us to tell us SOMETHING IS AFOOT and that that something requires us to decenter, to destabilize our narrative, to deconstruct the brain-home we’ve been working on and expand our world to include another concurrent world in which we can not truly be more than the slight change between vibrations sent and vibrations received. This is not to say there isn’t room for metaphysics. This is just to say, that for now, I’m speaking in terms bound to the little bits of data we’ve grown capable of understanding. And in the small pieces we find ourselves, at this point, close enough to feel our hairs prick up to say, in their skinny voice, that something is out there, and it sounds like home.  

I can’t stop reading Patricia Lockwood’s Rape Joke. Published by the Awl this afternoon, the poem is (in terms of poetry, at least) blowing up. It’s received over 6,000 likes. For some context, the 10 previous entries on the Awl’s “Poetry Section” have a cumulative total of 320. This is the most attention I’ve ever seen a new poem get, and that includes the work of the major forces of alt-lit , most of whom have earned a fiercely loyal, communal, and expansive fanbase. As someone with great personal and financial stake in poetry, I have not yet given in to the troll-baiting, thoughtless journalism which claims that poetry is dead or dying. I have been lucky enough to immerse myself in the genre for the past several years, and am confident that there are more talented poets writing and publishing today than ever before. This is, of course, exclusively because of the internet, which has given a stage to styles of work that were either previously ostracized by larger schools of American poetry over the previous several decades, or just plain not born yet. But what gets me truly excited about Lockwood’s poem is that neither hype, youth, or new architecture is responsible for its virality. Raw, human bravery is. Poetry is freedom. Ever since everyone’s favorite Grandpa Walt declared “fuck it, I’m celebrating” poetry has been more or less enjoying a never-ending teenage rebellion. The poem is a space where a writer/reader can get immediately to the vibrating part of existence that deals with big important selves: sex, death, god, nothing, meaning, meaninglessness; poems don’t need to waste any time. As such, poetry continually offers up these insane little representations of the human experience that are undeniably incredible. Lockwood’s poem is the newest of these. A noun killing reflection of a brutal (is there any other kind?) rape, the piece doesn’t let people that still have the capacity for it get away with feeling anything less than empathy. It’s a here-I-am-wasting-time-on-the-internet-oh-what’s-this-rape-joke-what-a-title-ok-ok-oh-oh-god-jesus-christ-almighty sea change happening (for now, at least) every few seconds to a new person that in a several hundred well chosen words changes them from a person that is in a familiar space to a person that is in a space of uncomfortable and immediate connection. It is amazing, incredible, and a very real even if unintentional “shut up” to anyone who is small minded enough to think that poetry’s health depends on its profitability. I hope you experience it right away, and also hope you put it in front of other people you care about.
MYSPACE is the cruellest network, breeding Tom out of the dead land, mixing Orange and blue, stirring Profiles with autoplaying songs. Xanga kept us warm, covering Posts in customizable HTML, feeding Our little lives with semi-regular narratives. Facebook surprised us, coming over from Cambridge With exclusive access for college students; we stopped to register our .edus, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And poked, and tagged stupid pictures drunk CHEZCH DEEZ MUFUKKING TITTAAAYYYSS And when we were graduating, moving to some amorphous city, Portlandish, you tried to explain 4chan And I was frightened. You said, dude, check out this butthole.  It’s, hold on tight. And down we went. In wikipedia, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and watch porn in the winter. How many pop-ups clutch, what penis ads grow Out of yr stale hotmail account? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken urls, where the sun beats, And the dead link gives no shelter, the spam folder no relief, And that russian .mp3 site he told you about is nowhere to be found. Only Limewire is compatable in this version of IE, (Come in and download Bright Eyes under the shadow of this reliable file), And I will show you something different from either Your unclicked notifications at morning striding behind you Or your newsfeed at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of status updates. What’s with this new homepage? “You showed me AIM first a year ago; They called me the AIM girl.” —Yet when we woke up, late, from chatting till 3am, My inbox full, and my eyes wet, I could not Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither Living nor dead, and I knew nothing IRL, the silence. Öd’ und leer das Meer. AskJeeves, famous clairvoyante, Had a shitty algorithm, nevertheless Is known to be the most sentimental SE With a doable series of results Is a page you’ve been looking for, the cat asking for a cheezeburger, (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!) Here is a Bjork video where she’s a Japanese robot The lady of situations. Here is the man with a golf club he pretends is a light saber, And here is the 2-girls 1-cup video, and this shit, Which is unclean, is a lemonparty Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find A RickRoll. Fear death by water. I see crowds of people, posting about the 2004 election. Thank you. If you see dear Mr. Kerry Tell him I forwarded his concession speech myself: One must be so careful these days. Unreal City, Under the promise of a better way to communicate A crowd flowed into Twitter, so many, I had not thought Facebook had undone so many. Tweets, short and simple, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his screen. # up the hill and @Cupertino, To where we kept refreshing With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine. There I saw a new iPhone, and stopped him, crying “Is that the new iPhone? My contract isn’t up for 8 months! That version of OS Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? Or should I wait until they work the bugs out. Oh keep your contacts up to date, that’s friend to men, Or you might have to really talk to them! You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”


  RRA:Purity Challenge    




  RRA:purity pledge    















  via BOMB 


An uneasy crowd gathers in the morning sun and I should live a little more each day. The marks on my arm appear in the cold. In the shed out back, stretched across the big chair, there is a book about the brain opened on my lap. Enough about brains I say to my brain. Press Enter and make vigorous love until you feel less huge and more human. If I had a yard I would abandon washing machines in it then listen to that song that gets me late at night, my friends’ poems circling my head like a flock of yellow finches. I believe in our pets buried in the pines. I beat the hell out of a white handkerchief before waving it. Do you know any horror stories? Every night I tell God one more and like Scheherazade, for this, he keeps putting off my death. – Bianca Stone @biancaston  


  via Elective Affinities  

The New York School

Jimmie Schuyler was a beautiful man. His face was broad and covered entirely with skin. I imagine he liked to smile but found it sometimes painful since he lived in New York so long and was friends with more famous people like John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara and Paul Legault wrote a “memory translation” of Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which won Ashbery a Pulitzer and the National Book Award, and the first time I went to Paul’s apartment in Crown Heights he used his manuscript to prop open the bedroom window so we could smoke pot and not piss off his roommates. When Fence publishes Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 2 by Paul Legault, I wonder what awards he’ll get for it. Barbara Guest is always thrown in the New York School canon by academics because they need a woman to balance that cock-heavy assemblage of mid-century New York poets, I’m sure I’m spelling canon wrong, I admit I know very little about Guest except for a story Leonard Schwartz told me about how just months before Guest died, he interviewed her for his radio show at Evergreen in Olympia and she was still sharp, he said, but she couldn’t remember T.S. Eliot’s name, she kept calling him “that little English boy,” and I’m pretty sure I like Barbara Guest and I’ll never win The National Book Award and Frank O’Hara’s face is not as beautiful as Schuyler’s, though he has the nose of a Roman warrior and this makes him a great poet, I’m sure, and canon worthy.   I remember reading Ted Berrigan’s journals in an old issue of Shiny on one of my first visits to the city. It felt like just the right thing to read as Berrigan was young and writing his own newness to New York and transfiguring its moment’s energy into The Sonnets and I was probably sitting by myself, not dancing—it was past 3am at an East Village Bulgarian club—when some guy who said he was a painter told me he had the keys to Allen Ginsberg’s E. 12th St. apartment. Ginsberg had been dead awhile and Peter Orlovsky recently vacated the apartment, he said, and Orlovsky had smeared shit all over the living room wall before he left. The painter asked me if I wanted to see Orlovsky’s shit and I said no, and I was so dejected when I returned to Portland after that trip, I got off the plane and was on my way back to my apartment when I ran into a guy I want to call James Taylor, because he looked just like James Taylor. When I was 14 James Taylor lent meHowl, and there he was almost 10 years later, he was carrying a guitar and he said now that he was 52 and had lost a bunch of teeth and hair, that when he sang his songs at open mikes people took him seriously.   Maybe it was Eric Baus who told me about the recording of Ceravolo reading one of his later tortured New Jersey Catholic poems as a crackling opera record played in the background and he sat on the edge of his made bed in a stained tank top, leaning into the tape recorder in an elegiac whisper, dispirited by God’s ambivalence, while his kids were grown and out getting fucked up in New York City and Rosemarie hadn’t fucked him in over a year. How I imagine Ceravolo’s recording is so perfect I never felt the need to hear it, though I’m sure it’s up on PennSound, and when I finally moved to New York one of the first people I met was Keith McDermott, who told me he was Joe Brainard’s last boyfriend. He seemed amused when I said I was a poet, and to prove I was a poet I sent him my poem “Earth Took of Earth,” which goes:   I’d feed pieces Of Albertson’s chicken To the chickens in Stead of worms.   Albertson’s chicken Was a kind of chicken Chickens could eat.   Because Albertson’s Chicken could be fed To chickens it was Not really chicken.   I never saw The chickens I fed Chicken in the chicken Department at Albertson’s.   I was named after Joe Albertson. He died. I ate his chicken and When my family was Poor we ate our chickens.   It’s a true story. Keith replied by asking if Mr. Albertson owned the farm I grew up on, and this confused me because I assumed that even if you’re from the East Coast you’ve heard of Albertson’s, it’s a supermarket found all over the West Coast and in parts of the Rockies, and while I didn’t grow up on a farm I have smelled a lot of terrible things in my life. I had to leave the Bernadette Mayer celebration for the publication of Studying Hunger Journals at the Poetry Project because there was so much BO in that room, and I was SURE I was sitting right next to the source of the smell, and I still don’t know who it was or if it was anyone famous or not because I didn’t dare turn my nose or face toward him and it made me so crazy I just left.   Charles Bernstein said poetry is the flowering of associative thought, and I didn’t think I liked Charles Bernstein until Jamie Townsend told me that quote the other night, as we were writing what will surely become our great collaborative tome, titledRob Halpern Is An Android. Jamie and I never talk about Kenward Elmslie or Maureen Owen but I’ve written a few poems about Alice Notley, who with Ted Berrigan begat two children, Anselm and Edmond, and Anselm Berrigan begat two children with Karen Weiser and I wonder what kind of poets their kids will be, or if instead they’ll become lawyers or tree fellers or waiters or drug addicts or screenwriters. It’s so hard to predict the future, which is why most of us write about the past I LOVE HANNAH WEINER it’s true, the past is more interesting than the future or the present and I can’t remember anything about the movie Pollock. I wish a bald Sigourney Weaver played the part of Jackson Pollock. That would make the film more memorable. I wish every Jackson Pollock was secretly a portrait of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and you could smell in Pollock’s paintings what you imagine Weaver’s skin smells like and Jackson Pollock got the best lot of the Cedar Tavern coterie, his paintings sell for millions and his alcoholism and creativity have been mythologized, but then that’s it, his actual paintings no longer exist, you can’t see them in a space that doesn’t humiliate and demoralize the viewer through cynical displays of institutional power. A Pollock hung in the Met may as well be an oversized cock made of real gold which pisses counterfeit money on anyone who stands within eight feet of it while earning less than $500,000 a year. I always liked Robert Rauschenberg more. It’s strange, the beginning of this poem was all about friendship, and when I started writing about art the poem became about value and I’ve always been a poet, even when I thought I was a painter and I thought all day about Rauschenberg and Jean Debuffet and Joseph Beuys, I was thinking like a poet.   I often wonder about the flirtations between Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley, when Berrigan was visiting faculty at the Iowa Writers Workshop and Notley was so young and full of admiration for the wily New York poet. She must have wanted so badly to be part of the poetic life of New York City, to be filled with the breath and babies of this poet named Ted, who was 11 years her senior, and Berrigan I’m sure loved fucking Notley (they were both Scorpios) and he loved knowing Notley would probably cook him dinner and she’d listen to all his new poems afterward as if she’s hearing the true secrets of the pope’s depravity. Iowa is directly in the middle of the country, and when I went to the Iowa Writers Workshop—that’s right, I really went there—one day Mark Levine performed a close reading of “The Day Lady Died,” and Mark kept repeating the line “I don’t know the people who will feed me” as if it was the most profound thing O’Hara ever wrote, and I sat there wondering if Mark would be a better poet if instead of fucking Jorie Graham he got fucked by Ted Berrigan and most poets don’t have a vision, but I do, it’s clear and conflicted and it’s radiantly directionless.   When I google new york school poetry the fifth result is Thom Donovan’s recipe for writing a New York School poem inJacket2, and I think I use in this poem all 23 of the ingredients Thom listed, except for #7: “something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you.” So maybe MY HANNAH WEINER CHEERLEADER FUCKS ME WITHOUT A CONDOM might work, or maybe I wanna be Rachel Levitsky, I wanna be her girlfriend tonight, and as I walked through Central Park with Thom two Augusts ago I told him everything that was wrong with some job he was about to take over from me, and I paid $5 admission for us to get into the Met (I should have paid less) where Robert Wilson and Philip Glass staged Einstein on the Beach in 1976. It put them $120,000 in debt to rent the opera house for two nights, but it launched their international careers and I continued to complain to Thom about my miseries, which is something I love to do, and Thom told me he could handle whatever pressures the job would present and I thought You’ll find whatever weight will crush you, Thom Donovan, and I was right. After a few months Thom was miserable and I was so glad I never unfriended him because you can’t walk around the city heartbroken and alone, listening to PennSound on your headphones. It’s fine to look through the shitty poetry in the New Yorker while you’re heartbroken on the subway, but no one will believe you if you told them you’re listening to poetry, they’d all assume you’re going to work, heartbroken, listening to The Kinks or Lady Gaga because people know they exist, and they don’t really believe in poetry, they don’t believe anybody does it or reads it and sometimes I think they’re right. Geoff Olsen texts me and asks if I’m going to the Anne Boyer and Macgergor Card reading at the Zinc Bar this afternoon and I text back, “Think i’ll skip it but what are you doing after?” and Geoff Olsen responds that he’s going to see Les Misérables and I text back, “No les puke for me,” and Geoff Olsen responds, “No lesbian puke for you, joseph bradshaw,” and I know poetry exists when I notice I’ve set my phone down on my copy of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.   I was born the same year Paul Thek made a list of all the possible people in his life who might love him unconditionally and forever. There were a lot of NOs on Thek’s list. Robert Wilson and Peter Hujar are two I remember. The only YES, I think, was Susan Sontag, who Thek hadn’t spoken with in over a decade. I can’t imagine taking such a bleak inventory. The closest I come is when I write the names of my friends and the people I don’t know in my poems, as I sit and wait for another call or text to summon the transformation of this totally ordinary and idle afternoon, though I don’t need to write YES or NO beside Eileen Myles or Bethany Ides or Jamie Townsend or Tim Dlugos or anyone because love renews our static names, and I can be Joseph “Paul Thek” Bradshaw and add as many friends to my poem as I wish, and each name is both YES and NO, and together we’ll never think of anything horrible ever again YES and NO and I’ll never be lonely YES and NO with you so close YES and NO and six Google searches related to the New York School are new york school johnand poetry twentieth century english poetry and new york school district and new york law school and language poetryand confessional poetry.   In the Encyclopedia of the New York School Poets the entry on Ed Sanders’ pseudo-memoir, Tales of Beatnik Glory, which is set in the Lower East Side of the 1960s, it says Sanders creates “a kaleidoscopic vision of the era of affordable housing, burgeoning radicalism, and idealistic social discovery.” Is it sad that our era has none of these things? Is it confounding that poetry is still written, and so much of it? I’ve already written over 2,000 words in this poem and it’s not even done, so I guess it doesn’t matter that I can’t afford to live in New York forever and my friend Andy Stallings in New Orleans just sent me a poem called “To Paul Legault in New York” and Andy’s never been to New York or to Paul’s bedroom, and he must be unhappy in New Orleans because he ends the poem like this:   You don’t have to go far to feel the good air all around you crashing blossoms fooled by false spring who   cares how brief I’d give anything now to get fooled for awhile like that   I think I know what Andy means. That feeling of false spring, when the thing you so badly crave will disappoint you and you know it, yet your desire continues and you can’t contain it—it’s like friendship. If you’re my friend, I can smile for a long time at you but you won’t see my smile, you’ll only see its afterimage: my lips’ broken circle remains a moment, hanging among the echoes of my teeth and you don’t know what to do with this image, so you tend to forget I know how to smile—and yet you’re still so kind to me. When I read this to Jamie, he said I should include the part about how I was reading Ashbery’s “The Skaters,” when I dropped the pen I was absently twitching through my boredom. I set the book facedown and picked up my pen. Pausing, I looked at the book on the desk and thought, “I’m not gonna pick that up again,” so there it’s been for the past three weeks, the foundation for what’s become a lopsided tower of John Wieners’ Selected Poems and Telephone Books’ anthology The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare (I couldn’t stop laughing through Rachel Blau Duplessis’ reading of her piece at the launch party, though I don’t think it was supposed to be funny) and the draft of “The New York School” I read to Jamie and my copy of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer and the Green Integer edition of Andre Breton’s Earthlight and Benjamin Paul Blood’s The Poetical Alphabet and Grave of Lightand a scattered halo of empty Nicorette wrappers surrounds the whole fragile and unconsciously constructed edifice.   Would I ever fuck John Giorno? Not a chance, no matter how many times that octogenarian Buddhist platitude guru begged for it. But I fuck Jack Spicer constantly. Frank O’Hara thought Jack Spicer was ugly, but I don’t. Around the time I ran into James Taylor in Portland, I had a dream (Spicer says this is a false thing to say in a poem) that Spicer grabbed me by the back of my neck, and with his fingers he plugged my nostrils and my mouth, and he covered my eyes and leaned into my ear and whispered, “I have your holes.” Spicer’s been inside me ever since, and my hands are not my hands, and when I’m eating I don’t know who is feeding me, but I know what I’m consuming: a ½ cup of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup provides 20% of my Daily Value of Sodium and 20% of my Potassium and 7% of my Total Carbohydrates and 4% of my Fiber and 8% of my Vitamin A and 10% of my Vitamin C and 4% of my Iron and I like Ted Greenwald’s poem that goes:   one foot in the other world the other foot in the other world   because the other world is where I find my friends.   Ian Dreiblatt just texted, “standing on the union st bridge, watching a dolphin flop round the putrid frigid gowanus. my heart’s just like that dolphin. la la la my one voice my other &c.” I’m so glad I receive these messages from the other world, and I’m sure Jack Spicer has something to do with Ian’s heart dying as he watches, an astral double to a wayward dolphin. And though it’s something that happens to all of us, isn’t it still so beautiful? A disoriented dolphin swims into Brooklyn to die on this frigid January evening, as I breathe in the glittering air and know it’s both good and false, and I know that when I go out later tonight, when my body follows my feet into another world, I’ll remember Ian’s dying heart and I’ll remember my own dying heart, and I’ll remember my phone so I can text my friends to let them know it’s OK they’re running late, I’ll busy myself by negotiating with eight million people the remainder of the oxygen pumping through our thinning flopping blood, and while I wait I’ll text my other friends in their other worlds in New Orleans and Portland and Kansas City and Philly and Berkeley and Toronto and Seattle and Jersey. I wonder if their hearts are dying too.
– Joseph Bradshaw, who as far as I can tell, does not have a twitter


  via Steve Roggenbuck  
Professional kind-person Liz Chereskin tagged me to participate in “The Next Big Thing” project, in which writers answer a few questions about either their forthcoming book (if they’re fancy) or working manuscripts (if they’re me). Because I’m still waiting on a publisher to be like sure wtf I’ll make your dreams come true lol, I will be discussing my manuscript, Rapid Cycling.  For purposes of Oprah’s The Secret, I will be referring to my manuscript as a “future-book.”
  What is the working title of the future-book? Rapid Cycling It’s not a working title. It’s the title. I’m very confident about this.   Where did the idea come from for the future-book? A few Aprils ago my brother called me from California and told me she was in the hospital again   What genre does your book fall under? Poetry   What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? I have no idea, and am worried this would make a bad movie.   What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? This dirt needs disturbing   How long did it take you to write the first draft of the future-book? The first draft was bad and it took me a year. The second draft was bad and it took a couple months. 5+ drafts later it’s still getting there and it has been way over two years now.   Who or what inspired you to write this future-book? The time God spoke to me when I was driving and promised me I wasn’t evil + I once overheard my grandfather talking to himself and the voice he was talking to was a very young version of me and he was sweetly telling this voice/me that he really loved it + The feeling I got when a homeless man with a huge bloody gash on his face asked me if he was beautiful + The bathroom T and I hid in during the bad year + The devil + The terrible process of losing a faith + The sound of trees + My wife   What else about your future-book might pique the reader’s interest? I was told by one of the best poets alive right now and a personal hero of mine that one of the manuscript’s central poems needed to be thrown out or completely reworked so instead of doing that I made it longer and named the book after it BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL.   Will your future-book be self-published or represented by an agency? Certainly.   My tagged writers for next Wednesday are: Tara Boswell Luke Laubhan Tom Novak
I’m not at AWP so i’m live tweeting it for you until I get tired/am at work/in transit Follow along @raulralvarez #awp13
1/       It’s only a tantrum, I promise. Santa Ana Juvenile Court for the third time for the same charge California Penal Code 288b: lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor  without the use of force For tile floor I don’t really mind showing knuckles, the beautiful gray judge scratches the space between her eyes. I wonder if she frowns   at flourishes of violence—my father rubs his hands and shifts his tongue and it’s only a tantrum   Has it been five minutes already? Before the bone chips on its own wipe the red onto my dress pants   like a grown man—       2/       How many times did this happen?           Standing above me his arms crossed tight pressed shirt trapped light reflecting   my lower body beneath the table.   I wanted him to say with the voice of a man who believed in God   you are a predator    A pen snapped in my left hand, thick blue the shape of blood or the living room when Thomas says I forgive you so I push myself awake       3/       I need a therapist on the list someone the county trusts enough to handle this   quietly.   I found one close by who took my parents’ insurance. The fifty dollar co-pay wasn’t bad. My grandfather was generous. I picked a guy named Tucker Jordan because his name reminded me of a precocious baby I had been a minor so I could still be saved. He recommended group therapy with adult offenders who shared a lot with me I couldn’t swallow my fingernails fast enough When I finally met with Tucker alone       4/       I’m so sorry       5/       The other day I checked my criminal record and found Case Number LG37816: Moving Violation—One way street; driving against traffic—02/14/2005 Bail Forfeited—Traffic School Not Completed The other charge was stricken from my record a few years ago you’d never know about it if I didn’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my eyes—   still. The sound of trees       6/       sleep paralysis—   when the mind is awake but the body isn’t   a weight on my chest   the laying on of hands   I focus on breathing and the thing is   I’m prone to hallucinations   you in the corner of it/mouth open   whispering the sound of trees   I’ll emphasize guilt if that’s possible   It’s hard to write I   It’s hard to write please    It’s hard to write touch   try to make it hurt = slowly   not that   it doesn’t matter   once you told me not to   stop once you told me stop   trying to make me happy   you were the nicest in a white dress with the taste of chocolate   limbs to bless and trees to bless with holes and dirt and hiding       7/      

before dad’s second marriage she was still sick when T and I stayed over on the weekends in little hands down the shirt I’m sleeping it’s okay sweetie every little piece is asleep is asleep a year’s worth of skin might heal better if we told them I packed my room when church got out two men made me write it on a green sheet of paper sign your name  so many adjectives later a court date in the mail — probation +150 hours + mandatory therapy + a restraining order + test to see if I was attracted to children = I passed or whatever means not attracted to children the psychologist said sexually normal a red lollipop and I could show the results to my family in a couple hundred weekends

      8/       The only words God said =   You love people Raulie    Always HE but I could be wrong   Seven years since then   So loud because the radio was on   Can’t take more counting   The last time I pushed her   When the voice got really deep inside I started to cry   Hope death = that  

Figure 1: Breakfast Nook Angel

One (of a set) of two trumpet wielding wooden angels. Young / cherubic in appearance. Big cheeks (particularly effective for blowing trumpet). Faces East. His West-facing companion is one of the most used angels in the house; my grandfather prefers that we place all mail underneath its foot. While that angel collects mail, this one collects change/keys/miscellany. One arm extends towards a window situated immediately Northward. Outside this window is the cement slab on which my grandfather feeds the crows. The angel’s hand extends towards these crows, in a gesture of both acknowledgement and fear. The crows do not notice the angel, the window being highly tinted and difficult to see through. The effect of the tinting on this window is to give the world a weakly steeped chamomile tea coloring: faintly ochre/it weakens the intensity of any natural light. There are four angels with trumpets in the home. In Revelations (The Revelations of St. John) seven angels with trumpets will sound seven plagues upon the earth (in addition to the breaking of the seven seals and the pouring of the seven bowls).

Figure 2: Living Room Angel

This angel is troubling. The body a circuit of bundled metal cloaked in a billowy white suit. Sharing traits with a traditional Franciscan frock, a fallout jumper, and hammer pants. The face is terrifyingly CGI: approximately human. The angel has an electrical cable that unfurls from the backside and kisses an extension cord wrapped around the legs of a cherry-wood settee. When you flip a switch (also on the backside) the body lights up – arms and head move in tiny concentric half circles, and the garland in its hands moves. The gears that churn within the body cavity make a sound: a splinter burst thicket Without the small wings on the back of this angel, it would be a white, white child.

Figure 3: Kitchen Counter Angel

In the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, this angel attracts small creatures (birds). The angel is concerned with the world/implicated in it. Innocence typified. A smooth stone texture. Very cold to the touch. Wings meet at its coccyx, provide a cushion for the very uncomfortably rendered pillar in which it sits. Female. This angel sits between the oven/broiler (both new) and the dual-sink. My grandmother is the only one who does any cooking at home, therefore this angel is particularly her own guardian. At thanksgiving, my grandmother gets up at 4am and makes a 25+ pound turkey for AT MAXIMUM 7 people (usually 5). This results in an average of 3.5-5 pounds of turkey per person. We never eat that much turkey. This angel is a particular favorite of mine. I appreciate how impossibly awkward its legs are coordinated. One meets the other at a 90 degree angle, foot to calf. The second bends at a 45 degree angle to the ground, the tips of the toes straining to meet the ground, bent backwards. I am not aware of a Biblical passage (adjusted for Apocrypha) wherein angels interact with birds (or any non-human creature). When Christ was baptized the figure of a dove descended from heaven, and the voice of God recognized Christ as his son.

Figure 4: Kitchen Counter Angel II (Precious Moments Collection)

Precious Moments: Figurine conglomerate specializing in bisque porcelain. This figure is oddly and brashly orange. Sick/Sunburnt. Brings out the BLUE of the carpet (oh Raulie don’t you love the new carpet!*) It looks terra cotta but is very smooth. It is extremely heavy as well. You could knock out an attacker with it, or use it tenderize meat (grab by the neck, it’s not to thick). It isn’t actually an angel, but a little girl with butterflies all over her. The butterfly on her back is positioned to resemble a pair of wings though, so my grandmother thought it was an angel. She still insists that it is an angel, and since the home is her domain, she gets to decide what constitutes the angelic. Here are some things she has referred to as angels:
  1. Myself
  2. Thomas (my brother)
  3. Ralph (husband… he only gets this categorization when he is in a good/charitable mood)
  4. Sasha (family cat: 2007 – present)
  5. Tahti (family cat: 1997-2007)
  6. Wookie (family cat: 1985-1996)
  7. Sales (Nordstrom, Macys, Crate and Barrel, Lexus)
This is the only angel in the home that is wearing a full head covering. The angel sometimes suffers from the spray of the sink, if the person at the sink is overzealous with chrome spray nozzle. It is able to cope with the water in the same way I was able to cope with my baptism as a child. I was allegedly “silent as a sweet angel” according to my grandmother upon being accepted into the kingdom of God by the attending priest. I wore a flowing white garment and large, conical hat. The effect was somewhere between a baby Pope and baby Klansman. My grandmother is no longer Catholic, being converted to a protestant Christianity soon after the baptism of my younger brother. His baptism was much less quiet. He could not fit into my white “papal” garment, so he wore a tiny, short sleeved white shirt with red bow tie and black dress shorts. His shorts were held in place by comically large black suspenders. You can catalogue my grandmother’s conversion by looking at the nature of the angels she collected before and after her severance with the Catholic church. Catholic era angels are generally made from stone, and are more traditionally rendered. Protestant angels are cartoonishly humanized and sometimes “jaunty” in nature. They are also frequently mechanized. * I do not.
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© Raul Rafael Alvarez