25 September 2021

Three Poems from "Caesar Salad On the Rocks" by Jeremy Scott

Spastic Urine Contrivances

 

Eyeballs floating in sawmill gravy,

run for the hills, you who eat the

possum and spit out catfish bones,

painful Spinozan particles, waves,

undulate at underlying frequencies.

 

Dragons swim in egg yolks,

for the good of humankind,

only for the sake of macaroni salad

do we forget.

 

Falling tree debris,

spastic urine contrivances,

all a day’s toll,

for the unwieldy jackhammer.


 

Emulsion is My Stage Name

 

Mayonnaise: three parts me,

two parts your mother-in-law, 

emulsion is my stage name.

 

Regress to the womb

and you’ll live coated

in salt water and slime.

 

Obscure windows tell me

their secrets on Holy Week,

but only if I’m wearing a

dress with a nice floral pattern.

 

Wares hocked on the principle

of net returns, candy corn symphony.


 

French Fried Snow Angels

 

Baked in honeydew and clay pots,

we make little French fried snow angels

in our ashes. Consider the principle

that the universe hangs on, taxing the poor,

and you’ll have serendipity.

 

Poach yourself in motor oil,

drive to infinity,

and never forget to call your mother.

 

Jeremy Scott

22 September 2021

An enchanted moment from bee-like autumn by Pawel Markiewicz

the last autumn - bee

just before epiphany

beehive fulfilled?

bee looking at fall

in the beehive – wings

and the timeless dreamed sparks

meek bees as heroes

queen bee in rumination

marvel of buzzing

an autumnal bee

sleeping or awakening - time?

beehive as temple

fall adoration

the bee flying towards star

meek weird tenderness

marvel of beehive

queen bee meets dear apiarist

in loneliness

can you dream of the

bee-like fulfilment in fall

full of moony moon

may the autumn be

the most tender flight of bees

to sweetness of morns!


17 September 2021

Light yrs pass while cosmetics blush by Joshua Martin

i’ll never run a blurb

blob

     settling for a hog

     hugging foregone

     invasion

 

under war stars glittering

beneath a whirring camera cotton candy

 

               buzz saw

               mysterious

               intersections

               attaching themselves to UFO

               brother and sister nail gun

 

before too long

we’ll avenge our barnacles

at least until urges return

sporting military fatigues

behind antiquated tanks

thirsty after microbes

and catching a glimpse

 

 

Joshua Martin

07 September 2021

Two Poems by Laura Carter

Uncertainty

 
The walls were built first, as easily as they could be stood up straight, painted, sealed.

As long as you were aware, you closed your eyes and shut the light out. You grew. It was great.

Then, the light receded, and you were left with yourself, and a few items that you would cherish:

A long stemmed iris. A glass full of wine and cherries. And what else? What else could you need?

I thought of you when I saw these things, you little and working at the drive-thru. I didn’t know.

*

I didn’t know what to give you that would be part of me and that would preserve you.

I can hold you and promise that everything will be okay, but even that isn’t enough at times.

If you need me, don’t fail to call. I want to be there for you. But what can I say about the pain?

Only that the edges don’t stay as they should. All punctum, the loss of smiles. What about you?

*

I want to burrow my face in my hands and weep, but the PTSD overtakes me. It’s all I see for now.

You look at me as if you could keep me from remembering, but I’m not so sure. I never am.

My brain falls into mush. I don’t know what to think. And then I realize all that uncertainty seems.

I hold the lion that cannot speak and find that he is comfortable with me. But what is his name?

*

Name is a name. I can’t help but think that it means little. In the end, we’re all dust and ashes.

I weep into the name; I weep into the pain. There is almost nothing left, no elf, shelf, or kindness.

I can’t see to see, but the lady in front of me is weeping enough for both of us. And not so much.

I color my hair in the underpass. You cry some more, both for me and for you. It’s a tragedy.

*

The walls were slipping down, as easily as a wall can slip. I fell into my body out of the Alpine years.

As you can imagine, it was unruly and wild to have a body at all. What do I do with it? Etc.

As much as I can love it, I can try to hold on within it. What is the beginning of the body, though?

I try to take down my own wall. I hold to it in fever, but I end up getting all the bricks apart. Help.

*

I can’t seem to organize the slats to fit myself. I am only one person in a small world, after all.

But the smallest is not the best, no. I wish the world were bigger, full of people, carefully placed.

So I catch myself up the rails, crawling up to the ceiling, as if I can’t help feeling any different now.

My friend can’t catch up to me at all. He travels slowly, and then we are both too far apart.

*

Far apart—but how? It’s like we were looking down the wrong hall, in between good and bad.

I wanted to feel it that way, but I couldn’t. I sealed myself around you and wanted to crawl inside.

It was too late for anything else. I didn’t know how to slide out of neutral and becoming a new thing.

But surely there would be answers or naysayers, set apart from the beginning of the scene?

*

There would be, but different than before.

The walls down, all walks taken.

All edges, hence made plain/cut to the bone.

After all, what is at the crux of us? Do we know?

*

We lie there together carefully. It seems almost holy.

But there’s nothing holy in the world, anyway. At all.

Says one girl to her love, slowly and with care, if you hear. 
Says one girl to her love, slowly and with care, if you hear.
Says one girl who has been reading Alan Dugan poems at night. 
 
Says one girl who wants to preserve her own life against the odds. 
The odds are great that she will lose. Will she win again in the next world?

In the next world/next life, someone would appreciate the Icelander in her.

I grew out of every country I visited, said the president to his mistress. Oy veh.

*

Every heart I walked across was the same cri de coeur, over and over again.

It seems the same for us, here, living on the edge of the desert, eating the ether for dinner.

 

The Flower 

 

If you can hold it in your hand, thank the gods for an edge to the petals. Just enough edge for now.

*

Take a deep breath; take in the scent. Write a psalm with the important lessons in mind. But what are those? 

*

I make a list, but it’s not too long. I wonder about the intricacies of country music. That’s all. 

*

I pull out each petal, one at a time. You smile across the table at me wryly. 

*

01 September 2021

READING ALL ALONE AND SOMETIMES SCREAMING TO YOUR FRIENDS, or The Problem of K(no thanks!)wledge by Lard Alec

One day, I’d like to write a short non-fiction book*, probably on education and technology, for reasons I will explain below, that cites and discusses only those essays I’ve taught for first-year college composition classes.

I’ve been teaching for a while, so I should have significant topical breadth and historical range to work with—consider the following: a condescending Brian Williams essay about how kids don’t read newspapers; an obsolete piece of techno-alarmism on Friendster’s effects on relationships; and a nifty four-page Thomas Friedman excerpt extoling, among other things, the “force multipl[ying]” effects of email.

If that weren’t enough, there’s always more just around the bend. Every few years, a new anthology comes along and/or is foisted upon instructors, according to the whims and prejudices of first-year writing directors**, adding to the stockpile of instantly obsolete takes on the breakneck changes of our fracturing world. And while these anthologies sometimes posture as radical departures from the snooze-readers of old, they rarely are, since textbook companies like to work with the most affordable copyrights possible, which means they prefer to put a newish spin on a batch of licensed texts to the sticker shock of content overhaul. This is especially true of literature textbooks, which, after you’ve been doing this a while, seem, in ensuing editions, not just populated by familiar names and faces, but haunted by them. I could, I used to joke, respond to the question “What do you do [for work]?” by saying, “I teach Death of a Salesman for a living.”

First year lit classes, at least where I teach, have been displaced by other modes and agendas. Basically, what used to constitute Comp 101 (expository and research writing) has been stretched on the rack of curriculum reform so that those materials and assignments comprise both Comp 101 and 102. But this just means: more non-fiction readers for me! And two of the most popular topics in these readers are, inevitably, education and technology, for obvious if superficial reasons: everyone in college is at least pretending to get an education and technology is, um, important. Remarkably, there tend to be few if any essays in comp books that synthesize*** ed and tech, which opens the field pretty wide for an aspiring author such as myself.

My motives in this project are twofold: 1) to conduct intellectual vandalism against texts and ideas I disdain and 2) to inventory the wonderless, recursive content of the writing-teacher’s life. But there’s a considerable side benefit to all this: my theoretical book would be only minimally distinct in topic and scope from mega-selling books by Olympian snores like Ezra Klein, David Brooks, and Malcolm Gladwell. The difference between a New York Times columnist turned author and a shitty lunatic engaged in the kind of prank maybe ten people across the country would find funny is, it turns out, exiguous. Or, to put it another way, the mainstream non-fiction bestseller’s MO is simply to extend a banal topic just beyond the mental endzone of first-year writing classes, for readers who just couldn’t get enough of that stuff to begin with. They are, in essence, Comp 103 books.

What would I say in my education and technology book? Probably that technology is disrupting the ways we learn and causing us to learn not only the wrong things, but the right things (reading) in the wrong ways (on scary internet computers). What should we do about this? Take some time to retreat from our handheld space-phones, join some bowling leagues, travel, chop wood, go on carriage rides, play football with no helmets, memorize Shakespeare, and vote for Mondale. If kids want to learn about the world, they can check out an atlas from their local lending library. If they want to have long-distance relationships, they can learn to scream.

The trick would be disguising the fact that my source materials hail from 800-page soporific doorstops called like READING, WRITING, THINKING or THE READING READER****. I could thereafter present myself as a sober navigator of the very best that’s been thought and said about education and technology, boinging around from Sherry Turkle to Thomas Friedman to Richard Rodriguez and back again, pretending some mix of serendipity and argumentative progress. The book would no doubt resolve in some simplification of dubious, un-replicated, and meretricious neuroscience that I gravely misunderstand much to my own benefit. I would call the book READING ALL ALONE AND SOMETIMES SCREAMING TO YOUR FRIENDS.

Einstein, I guess, said that “Goethe was the last person to know everything.” But Goethe didn’t teach comp, so how could he? However, Einstein does bring up a good point. It was once possible to act like you knew everything without sounding like Cliff Claven. (But, then again, what did Goethe know about, say, Japan? My guess is…next to nothing). The first-year composition reader is, if not entirely overrun by theme, constructed as though it’s the first book a young adult will want to read if they wish to someday know everything. This is the fatuous but misleading architecture of these books, which tend to offer snapshots of big if tenuous ideas, as though to say, “There’s more where that came from”—while more just means more…Thomas Freidman. Such meager and fun-less intellectual scavenger hunts offer little benefit to the student, but what happens to the instructor when they work and think primarily about these 101 texts, when they live, that is, in the banality of permanent introduction? Comp teachers, especially the busy and tired, live out this experiment every day, drawing on vanishing reserves of prior schooling and knowledge, as essays about FOMO replace footnotes in their yellowing theses. 

I don’t worry about this too much, since, as I’ve explained before, I’m mostly made up of couch-potato bullshit from the 80s and 90s. Not one of the thousands of books I’ve read could ever spackle over my fundamental media-drenched brain flaws. I’m quite over the utopian prospects of self-education and self-improvement. There are certain words I’ve looked up dozens and dozens of times (I’m too vain to furnish examples), and which I will have to look up for the rest of my life if I want to know, for a day or two at a time, what they mean. Those are just the breaks. But there is a deeper disfigurement, an erosion of self and soul that derives from teaching and thinking about bland faux-serious think pieces*****, year after year, which must be confronted. Forgetting these wan texts and their tepid ideas, weirdly, is not an option. They crowd around; they hover over real ideas and impose their simplicities. Great books on ed and tech inevitably remind me of bad-to-mediocre 101 articles about the same things. 

It must be nice to get rich off explainer-ese oversimplifications of trendy social science, to write a book so forcefully unobjectionable that it one day gets excerpted in some hopeless anthology meant for students who can read but would rather not (Neil Postman, one of the better 101 authors you’re likely to encounter, calls this “aliteracy”). But that’s not my fate. In fact, it’s hard to imagine ever writing a book, since I’ve forsworn self-assigned homework and prefer, by a wide margin, farting around. But the temptation to use writing as defacement is strong. I’d like to chew up the gum of the 101 cannon and stick its gross denatured corpus under the desk of history for at least one future schmuck in the back of the class to stickily discover. Lazy as I am, I’ll probably just watch the clock and daydream about the time when school is over for good, waiting for that last bell to ring, and wondering if that is what I really want.

__________

* Perhaps under a different pseudonym.
** The real problem here is the compulsory textbook—those assigned to instructors by micro-managing senior personnel.
*** Which is odd, since synthesis is a prominent modality, or type of essay, presented and dissected in many of these books.
**** These things cost a fortune btw. One of the worst I ever used, a customized MacMillan composition textbook, 1/3rd the size of the original, went for 100 dollars. Its inhouse nickname, thanks to yours truly, was The Dogshit Reader.
***** The essays I have in mind tend to bother me in one of three ways: they 1) burnish their reactionary elitist disdain for mass cultural changes with techno alarmist nostalgic intellectual handwringing or 2) take a stupidly optimistic stance toward technological change or 3) blame some social ill on cognitive shortcomings and/or technological change while ignoring or downplaying corrupt capitalist influences on said social ill.