Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Books I Finished Reading in 2015

Here is some information about the books I finished reading in 2015. First I'll present a chronological list of every book, in the order in which I finished each one. Then I'll conclude with a list of the top 10 in terms of quality.

1.) The first book I finished reading in 2015 was Dancing in the Dark by Janet Hobhouse. It came out in 1984, and I think the copy I read was printed then. It was old, anyway. I remember the sentences being very smooth and complex, operating at a level above and beyond most fiction writers. I wondered why this author isn't more famous. She died in the '90s. It's a book about some yuppie couples in New York in the '80s. Highly recommended. I plan to read her other books.

2.) The next book I finished was The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. This one was extremely entertaining. It's a page-turner about a young lesbian and a hetero couple who comes to town and a ruined marriage and a crime and a cover-up of that crime. Also a trial and further romance and drama. I'm being vague because I don't want to give things away. Also, it's British, and it takes place in 1922. Highly recommended. I plan to seek out the author's other books.

3.) Next was yet another novel, The First Bad Man by Miranda July. This one was hilarious and unique. It's about a woman with a lot of frustrations in her life and the younger woman who comes into her life and changes it in profound ways. It's really funny. These are "comic novel" characters, not "serious" characters, but if you're like me and you like a good comic novel, then there you go, this book is for you.

4.) The next book I finished was the second volume of Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative—this volume being subtitled Fredericksburg to Meridian. I finished the first volume in 2014. Reading this trilogy was an immense project for me. It took me nine months, from September 2014 to May 2015. Shelby Foote's credentials as a history writer may have been somewhat suspect. But as a storyteller, there's no one better. So it's a great place to begin reading about the Civil War, but by absolutely no means should it be the end. It inspired me to read a lot of other Civil War books, many by more serious academic historians, some of which even point out things Shelby Foote got wrong. But still, as a detailed overview of the whole arc of the war from start to finish, Foote is definitely worth the time, if you have nine or so months to spare.

5.) Next was Friendship by Emily Gould.

6.) My next book was The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter. Kind of a thin story, with kind of a groaner ending. Will I read another Charles Baxter book? Hard to say.

Numbers 7 and 8 were by people I know, so it's too embarrassing to write about them.

9.) Next was a book of essays, This Is Running for Your Life by Michelle Orange. Very good essays on various topics. Highly recommended.

10.) Next was Under the Skin by Michel Faber, the author of one of my favorites from last year, The Book of Strange New Things. They made a movie of Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson, which I saw in the theater. The projection wasn't great, and I regret not seeing it in a better theater. Anyway, the movie was interesting, but I liked the book a lot better. It's a lot different from the movie. Read the book! And watch the movie, but don't expect the same story that's in the book. In fact, the book and movie are so different, it doesn't matter which one you experience first; one won't spoil the other. This year I plan to read a third Michel Faber book, The Crimson Petal and the White.

11.) Next was a poetry book called New Depths of Deadpan by Michael Gizzi. I've also been reading his Collected Poems, which just came out this year. Very good and exciting poetry.

12.) Another book of poetry.

13.) Next was Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb.

14.) On Memorial Day I finished the third and final volume of the above-mentioned Shelby Foote trilogy, this volume subtitled Red River to Appomattox. I finished it sitting on a rock in a cozy secluded area in the far upper reaches of Central Park.

15.) Next was the latest book by John Ashbery, Breezeway. I'm not sure these are the kind of poems I'd want to read over and over again, like with most of his other work, but there's some good stuff here. It's good to see he's still having fun at his age (88).

16.) After finishing up with Shelby Foote, I went looking for other Civil War books to read. Before I even finished Foote's trilogy, I started reading the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. I read the Penguin edition with an introduction and notes by James M. McPherson. Grant had no literary pretensions whatever and only wrote the book to provide money for his family after he died from the cancer he was suffering from as he wrote. His prose style is plain and simple and supposedly influenced Gertrude Stein. (One odd thing: An awful lot of passive voice is used by him, but it grew on me after a while.) The book only covers his life up through the end of the war; it doesn't cover his presidency (which he wouldn't have had time to write about anyway, since he died just days after completing the manuscript). I'm not sure if this should be the very first book you read about the Civil War, since it helps to have some basic contextual knowledge going in, but it's definitely one you'll want to read eventually.

17.) Up next was The Hunters by James Salter, inspired by his experience as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. It was his first novel, and the style is pretty much the same style he would use throughout his career. In life, it's important to be a great fighter pilot. And this book tells you why. Highly recommended.

18.) Another Grant-related book, U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth by Joan Waugh. This is an academic study of the ways Grant has been remembered in history and culture. It's part of a recent trend of books that reevaluate Grant and do something to rehabilitate his image, which many would say has been unjustly tarnished over the last century or so.

19.) Next was the highly engaging Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz. This is a journalistic tour around the modern (as of the 1990s) South and explores people's attitudes about various aspects of the Civil War. Timely as ever, what with Confederate flags and memorials very much in the news this year. Highly recommended.

20.) Next up was Don DeLillo's 9/11 novel, Falling Man. Ordinarily I probably wouldn't read a novel about 9/11, but obviously I'll always make an exception for DeLillo, my favorite living (or all-time?) novelist. Being a native New Yorker, as well as a highly perceptive writer about politics in the broad sense, he's as reliable as anyone could be on this topic. Highly recommended.

21.) Next came Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz, a novel from the sixties in the form of transcribed and edited real-life dialogue. Two women and a gay man spend a summer in the Hamptons and talk about their lives. Very witty and frequently hilarious. Highly recommended.

22.) Next we have another Grant book, the iambically titled The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands. I will need to read other Grant biographies to compare this to, but it seemed fine. I learned some things I didn't know before, which is always nice. I have another Grant biography on my shelf that I hear is supposed to be better.

23.) Next up was Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi by Michael B. Ballard. This is the book to read if you want to know about the Vicksburg campaign and don't have enough lives in which to read every book published about every battle in every war. It's probably a bit of a slog for the general reader. Then again, the months-long campaign to take Vicksburg was a slog itself for everyone involved, so it's an appropriate narrative approach.

24.) Next was Mislaid by Nell Zink, which was highly entertaining. You can easily find a summary of the plot on various websites and such.

25.) Next was another Civil War book, The War That Forged a Nation by James McPherson, the preeminent Civil War scholar. It's a collection of essays on various topics. This year I plan to read his classic Battle Cry of Freedom, which is regarded by many as the place to start reading about the Civil War.

26.) Another poetry book!

27.) Last and far from least was Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the biography that inspired a Broadway musical. I had started it several years ago, but I got distracted and put it aside. I started it again this November and finished it yesterday. Highly recommended. It's the book to read about Alexander Hamilton if you don't have multiple lives in which to read every book ever published about Alexander Hamilton.


Okay, here's the Top 10 in terms of quality (but listed in alphabetical order by title, not in order of quality).

Alexander Hamilton
The Civil War (Foote)
Confederates in the Attic
Falling Man
The First Bad Man
Mislaid
The Paying Guests
Personal Memoirs (Grant)
Talk
This Is Running for Your Life

Friday, June 19, 2015

Morbidly Obtuse


Today's students aren't what they used to be. They used to be literally not even, ugh. They attended dog parties. It was all for charity...until it wasn't. The sun blew up.

A new anthem was called for, but never gassed us. My cot collapsed under us. Well, I guess you have to sneak up on the past in order to change it. But shy away from media, both old and new—it's a sort of notorious gown that wears us, pleads us down to shreds.

Hold me closer, tinny stanza. Speak to your financial advisor.

I must confess I'm at a loss for nuance when obliged to enforce my feelings for modern architecture. Half the time I can't even find the bathroom. Not that I like to banter there. I always feel like I'm being punished for someone I didn't do. (That ass and a cup of coffee will buy you a leaky weekend.)

In any case, it's a nice day to polish one's own inevitability, really get it glowing. It looks good on an adjunct professor's soft tissue, like an ejaculation dribbled from the mouth of a marble statesman. No, really! Check it out—a little French cadaver presses "play" on his pistol

and history's hairy eyeball ignites the hay in which we roll, die, etc.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Whipped Syllabub


Dag Hammarskjöld would make a pretty porn name
For a little born-again tornado-chaser. So why not
Bury your boner at sea and eat it too?

(Harass my meatus and I'll have your badge.)
My heart is so fruitless it's a vegetable
But I'm more than a happy toilet accident.

Nor does exposed brick engorge me.
Money rolls off the tongue too sprightly;
Soccer is a symptom of depression.

It pays to hate-fuck an abstraction; tomorrow I'm
Not done reliving. (This poem could use a hobby
Or a broken ATM with absentee parents.) Don't you

Try to silt-shame the same river twice! Do you
Cotton to a sheep's-eye view? Bleed all you want but
A rainbow's beauty's not a black-and-white issue.
    

Monday, June 8, 2015

Between Hard Places


I thought I'd found a perfect darkness
where I could read in peace.

The night that brought the truth home
was revealed to be a false note

in some jokester's hoary melody
dragged out of the fire.

Down deserted streets it slept.
Folded newspapers excommunicated.

I accused a black hole of sucking
at my peril. It was a good day

for getting out of town.
The Swiss know what's up: the Alps,

Herr und Frau, out on a Sunday stroll
with their little foothills.

In America loom erections
like postage rate increases.

Only the post-coital
can save us now.

Dire endings keep me occupied,
but I have what I need:

a few shaggy arias, a steady outcome,
a weakness for a blonde in armor.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Short Goodbye


We took a lot of pride in our druthers. The fat sky
cradled us demotically; in short order
the forest was adjourned. Who lurks there now?
It gets hard to see as night falls

out of favor with the dead. Teased into being,
it begins to warm to your subjectivity
even as mine cools off. Stripped
to its merest identity, a song one once despised
is what one imagines anew
in lieu of an evening's elastic embrace.

That done, one is free to
usurp a throne or two, to open
one's heart for a closer view. Faceless
yet unafraid, I stood hip-deep in your thoughts,
whose train had up and left. Well then, I said,
have a nice life, and a good weekend.
      

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Good News


I heard about your nudity. Congrats! It's a fitting
denouement to our crumbling infrastructure,

petty as a picture. Tossing it aside, I'm all dreamed up
with no lawn to mow. I bought a vacuum

but soon abhorred it. Please to reserve me
a relevant doughnut; it's time

for a new beginning, the last ever.
What an expected surprise! And sorrow!

I'm wearing important underwear now
whose grace knows no natural predator.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Publicity


Nobody puts coleslaw in a corner
(to parade around the obvious).

Allow me to beg the question to differ
right before your eyes:

Who's on first? The whole team,
I'm afraid; looks like the airline

isn't going to reimburse them.
Boy, if there's one thing I hate

it's got to be worth my life, if not my limb—
as when the street presents a face

too timely to turn to in despair,
you feel me? I'm a guy who loves

a clean, unobstructed sight line.
I would marry it in a heartbeat

just to appease its sorry ass, but
nobody wants that kind of publicity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sweet Meteor


In days of dark refrigeration, Sasquatch put on his thinking cap
and that decided me: no more drumhead trials before bath time.

Play instead your violet violin, sweet meteor—it's not the sea,
it's the tranquility. The coast is alive with focus groups,

each one more focused, more fecund, than the last.
Smell what I'm selling? Joyous emissions clog the annals

of common courtesy, worlds away from their former precocity.
Just below the surface, visibility is reduced to begging;

laundry gets lost in the offing. Whatever's left is all that
remains of our misspelled misanthropy. One breath is as

charmed as another, be it bated or belated; you can call me
out to catch mine as fast as my phoned-in departure allows.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Go west or go home; you can't kill the same river twice.
Go on! Be a part of the hair you fear,
you proud stickler—what you digest is what you gestate
for an evening's elastic embrace.

But don't dare the heavens to descend
almost to a man, lest the podcast relieve you
of the comedy gold in what the stork brought to brunch:
That's right, she's Daddy's little fundraiser,

mentor to the stars. Sweep her into your heart
and strip down to your merest identity. Take care
not to doff your concern for questions
that practically ask themselves, warming to your subject

only when you've teased it into being. Wash your hands of it
and set forth on a tourney of discovery;
you win some, you lose more. I've had a blast
despite repeated warnings of exponential poignancy.


We took a lot of pride in our druthers, waiting for
Our nachos and beer to get born. The fat sky
Cradled us mildly; in short order
The forest was adjourned. Who lurks there now?

It gets hard to see as night comes down
And pays for itself. Teased into being,
You begin to warm to your subject
Even as mine cools off.

Stripped to its merest identity, what you digest
Is what you gestate in lieu of an evening's
Elastic embrace. That done, you're free
To usurp a throne or two. I held out

My heart for the public to view.
Faceless and afraid, I stood lost in your thought,
Whose train had just up and left. Well then, I said,
Have a nice life, and a good weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Smell You Later


Better shove off. It's time to flush beauty
from incredulity's redoubt. Good luck

doesn't apply here, let alone matriculate.
Professor Pleasure's gone away; rainbows

scared him, blasting in through windows,
introducing all new semen spray—

a single serving will light up the coast for a day
or so. Yes, the universe picked your nose

and that's impregnable, but you asked for
nothing less. Don't we all, before we go?

Monday, May 18, 2015

In Your Absence


It's always sex o'clock somewhere.
In honor of my outsider status
I present you with medicine
conceived in liberty, swallowed
in 3-D. That'll set the swan song swinging
if anything will; they say it's a cozy time
to be alive, and they would know
who know how to drive.

Heat, stern wife to humidity, is moving
upon us, will question us shortly.
Quick, tell me again about your gag reflex.
Presently I'll belly up and
snooze, squeezed in among archaic torsos.
Far away, across the street, it's Saturday night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cave of Else


Light up and seal a cloud in your maw
While in the free meal there's an outrage
Falling all over a hard-on in season

Isn't it better than piano notes on a prayer
Glued to a chair or a cure for zero
Mentions in minutes out of gloom writhing high

Now take some stabs and harass a leaf
Until it's a splendor unequaled, the pride
Of a mountain in the prime of wife

Under whose coat the sun's painted on
This little wonder is proud to pump
Agreeably with or without a cause

You'll never hear the end of before
We become a cave of else rocked back
On a new can-do attachment

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Noses in Spring


Her souped-up mirror shines
A little death in my ear
The size of a wish list;
There's no mall for that, no rat-

Faced amnesiac or
Furry friend to fend off
The curb of your slurp
(Do you know where your lips are?)

A city grows noses in spring
To bait your ennui
So fap to it or lose it, up a tree
Without a poodle

Don't gimme that
Charley-horse whinny
You know what fear brought:
A calendar home in disrepair

Whose teeth flunked out and got
Freaky on the god channel—
Oh yeah man, He was mad calm
And très debonair

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Song


The deep red laugh of morning is lost
on the afternoon's hollowed-out shadow

souped up like a grave to make you
yawn and neighbor no further feather—

Don't buy that bull, go place an order
for whatever juices the sun applauds

in your voice's amnesia's endeavor.
Smother your echo in wet cement,

there to be merrily, merrily loved by
the dawn's early vocab forever.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cloud Pleaser


Not every cloud is a pun to be unmasked
over the heads of unreliable witnesses.
Tell it to the sweetheart, judge. We're talking
weird of my couch's intransigence—

its question bedevils the hottest verb action
for whose sake one takes a walk
blind eyes shed fingerprints on.

Reduced to a skeleton mutiny, let's creep
out the wind no end, reading roughshod
all the way to the riverbank; let's defend
our pain from prick militias—

our bunker of saviors is kinda funny,
is indeed what makes the bomb so horny.

Forget money: I house my identity in my kiss,
asleep in the right direction, though I know
my freedom to see so makes me a meat
mistake, crying into my smile's hand.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

POEM


Speech opens up finally, a rescue
worth risking—small blues find

their material. Nonsense is a bath
a body holds in its measure,

holding out a little for failures
I'm not seeing through.

Now begins to seem nothing less
than a call to smell forgettable

as questions rise on the move
my form makes from man to lunatic.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Operative Word


There was a free way of thinking I read about
but never acted on, opting out for love
of the operative word that resides
wherever it's never found.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Require Dreading


Feeling symbolic, my "I" is entangled in
ephemera, trailing it down the avenue

where the afternoon isn't absolving.
Nervously the wind wonders why

nothing I can see feels necessary.
The sun is obvious as a birth; what

follows me home is sheer malice,
held to be holy. As soon as it goes

I'll examine what's left of me, then
that'll be that: another day relieved

of importance, sent into exile from
all the words I'm afraid to know.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It Took Forever to Get Here


And here is where the ground is soaked
with a new kind of estrangement.

Maybe it was foolish to resist
the air's living ear—

obtaining a slice of its aura is a privilege
limited to those "in the know."

Those in the snow just ignore it, focus instead
on their lines of credit.

We do like a bit of cuteness, so long as it
doesn't abscond with our language too literally.

Great balls of silence! Check out the abs on that soda.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Future You


refused to dematerialize. How hungry was the mnemonic
morning after—it came spilling in from every window

irreverently. It was more than the mere doing
of an uncouth youth; it was a need to exist

allusively. It fizzled out, then promptly retraced
its steps into the blackboard eraser in which

this dream is embedded: We're having a drink in a bar,
as friends, but when I turn away, you silently slip

your arm around my waist. Shocked awake,
I'm a character again, artificially unsavory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

East of Pluto


Amid the sky's deregulation, my passivity began to be indulged in. To find footing solid enough to read by seemed a too moony pursuit for words. Not that we weary agents of biology minded, not at all. In fact we liked it that way, the way of all flesh. I almost got famous adapting it for the screen. 

Watch out! Reviews are rolling in, and they don't look good for authenticity, to name but one disappointment among the many we, the unofficially bereaved, occupied in memory of adolescent appetizer days. Beige was a popular color that year, as usual; practically every state recognized it, took it under its wing. Then,

in a flash and a puff of smoke, an anonymous source erected a chocolate abatis in front of a grand piano army—to dignify our heavenly anarchy, some felt. But not all! "You may already be unborn," announced the imperial press release. At once we fell to bedding each other, languidly but rigorously, like writing a paper. No one ordered us to, we just took the liberty.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Perilous Night


In the movies, the Wurlitzer seduces the howitzer,
but how often does real life redeem this?

I've been told to limit my remarks on this topic;
they all but swallow themselves, anyhow.

No wonder word-peddlers more notorious than I
are "wont" to "ply" their "wares" in my "vicinity."

It's not unreasonable to dismiss them as mere actors,
sad strivers with no more relevance to

our scrambled lives than the cloud I halved
and exposed for your viewing pleasure

one fine morning, long ago. Still, it never
hurt anyone to call for a stiff drink to go

along with a proportionately stiffer breeze.
You must sit as still as you can then,

yet take care never to get anywhere
in regard to the big questions:

The chicken is reluctant to surrender
documents the egg deems essential to its case.

Once again, without consulting me,
dusk is out the door, getting busy.

My thought-bubbles gurgle. Time is ticked off.
In some suburban driveway, a dog parks.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Watchful Whispering


Feminize the clock if it needs it, then inhale.

Later on (the best time of day), we'll have other
bodacious disarmaments to look forward to:

doodled maps of digital neuropathies
raised up as art.
                             And with pleasures like those,
who needs signature moves? This question begs itself

not to linger too long in the threshold between us;
no need to fear another untenable sleep
from which to wake into a catastrophe

different from the one you'd hoped would compose you.

No, all the time in the world doesn't begin
to enclose such a stubborn infinity. Yes,
                                               
reinforcements are on the way, memories
marching to a tune as urgent as a feather

floating on the atom-scattering breeze
that sent your unbound biography scudding away.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From the mile of your eye 
subtract the getting warmer. 

If it feels stupid, it seems like
nowhere you can join me into. 


I want to make something for you:
clean air too scrubbed through, 


living as another home
returned us. Only for

the world do we covet
tersely ungainly tunes.
The Itch


I sat drinking sadness at an outdoor cafe
In philosophical Europe
The ogre of love approached my table
It had four legs (the table)

I wasn't in the mood for a lecture
Having just attended one
On the subject of microtelepathy
(The reading of tiny minds)

Also I had an itch the size of a couch
Whose location I couldn't place
So just to be safe
I scratched my whole body

"Let me guess, it didn't work"
Said the ogre, loving all over me
"Let me scratch you . . . metaphorically"
I wasn't in the mood for metaphor

So I put on the scowl of the century
And left before the ogre
Could say any words to me
In terms of wisdom or whatever

At that point I was ready
For another madcap adventure
But then I decided
That would be "pushing it"

Instead I just walked and felt existential

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Headache Fastener Thingy Wasn't Working Scarily


This new you's a pylon of agriculture—
Elegant twine Tuesday perimeter
Sealed "bent knock five" truce oldie
Sap nod. Truck lover black sand whisper?
Nothing the roof can say "can do"
Or further very hospital legwarmer
Transition team cupcake. You're

Jousting a lost sheep madrigal platform
Flagged as a stuck bloom,
Motion sickness Broadway rapier saxophone.

Action chaps decide FedEx blasphemy,
Ample deft switchgrass organization pig
"Begin the Beguine"? Alamo doubts it.
Ankle floe deletes its mention,
Says "comebacks are a tough ape
Several pedestals" on the buddy system of
Panic dressing, floor shine lepers now
Sketching who's. Another monster's record
Keeps juice to help snag holy knack
Friendship, lady opines green, solider.
To Graze Her Dazzle



Smitten sagas spring sweetly 
forth on leggy lips 
as a worthy writher's eyebrows 
darken with kink. 

She's combed out 
the willies to welcome 
my prick and me.

She bowls shyly as
a wet swastika when
we lumberjack each other, 
no lotion like our homecoming. 

We munch a manifesto, 
delicate as the skirt
over a glans's xenophobia.

If I stepped out of her 
glory I would smother 
all and sundry.
LATER THAT SAME EVENING


It made me sick to wander in
my name, the little bugger.

It suits any indication. Catapults
were used to no effect. The

light I liked was too, too bright
as if this really were a music

venue, slide behind and move
in time to what they play

what is news you might recall
what's nice in weather hides.
Slightly grown-up and itchy these testimonies
are gathered, newsy drools stoppered—a lax

audience deemed unnecessary at this
olfactory miscarriage. Faithless sketches evade

late gropes fashioned from postal slogans
the skyline took caress of, a bent dazzle had.

In the moron the platitude gave up.
Respecting that isn't hard. I'd cream

permissible retail, ministry airship belch
unavailable, so a smut try to fix on.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Breaking Emergency


Our view of the Alps presented itself
like an orangutan's inflamed pudenda.

Downwind of all that, a sad last gasp
of the galaxy's huge agenda

stood as a monument to our works.
My imaginary wife put it this way:

"Let's ditch this morbid atmosphere
and hitch a ride with Paul Revere."

I could see her point, and many others.
I saw the point of basketball, and of hoop earrings,

and how the two are related—how nice!
Then I surfaced from the jellied sea of time,

only to be reborn as an electron on the lam.
Thanks for that are due on Monday, so come

here and help me get down and debunked
before my faculties expel me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ways Away


Early one evening we parted company
at a junction of diverging dialects.

Forgetting how to speak wasn't easy
until the speeding traffic did it for us.

Assured of death's promise to endorse
the remainder of our happiness,

we strode into perfect silence.
Tomorrow's static turned erratic.

Its weather, childlike, was barely credible;
it taught us dissipation, indelible.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Marigold


I found a little feather
It had a strange name
I think it was "Donny"
I ate it and thought about clouds
At the bottom of Lake Michigan
That is where clouds originate
One time I tried originating at the bottom of Lake Michigan
But it didn't work
I came out looking like a rheumy eye

Unfortunate lake! On the other hand I did
End up meeting on its surface
A beautiful and talented young stranger
Whose specialty was growing
Flowers out of ship decks
I picked out a marigold
And handed it to her
She informed me it was a dandelion

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ideology


Tickle your ideology; you never know what mutant futures may come tumbling out. To wit: A woman polishes off a banana post-apocalyptically. She wants what it represents (success in business). Yes, it's tempting to insert one's own innocence into this ribald narrative, but that's when the death of history wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and cries, "Tag! You're it."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nothing


A selfless plunge into desuetude is a form of self-defense, but try explaining that to your desire to be used. Nothing matters, so it might as well matter anyway. This is why solitude eludes me when I'm alone; longing my way out of time, I'm yoked to its endearments. Memory won't shut up, but its echo says what I want to hear.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Second Thought


One unreliable minute later, the captive disquiet
I was nursing a little too lovingly for mixed company
took a breather—took it too far, in fact, before any
new feeling like home could be brought to bear.

A swelling of dead-eyed absence began to tell,
in tones of majestic indifference, the origin story
of our smoothed-over tacit agreement, abandoned
when duty called to say I love you. How artless

the whole thing was, remember? It was beyond nature,
lacking only an answer to what might have been but wasn't
reeled in in time or pulled from the proper context to be.
So there you were, clutching a highly specific detail,

under orders to keep moving. Stumbling on this torrid scene,
or slinking away from it (same difference), one may yet
see the point of its deliberately flimsy construction,
the beauty of a forgetfully imminent collapse.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hurricane Placenta


Rinse a nonstick Neanderthal and watch his head get examined
per the advice of a statuesque actuary, duly hirsute,

aboveboard to the utmost, almost a lamppost. But wait—
I didn't say "Simon says." I did hold my head high

in a last-ditch chipmunk's boudoir ambience; my
fever was beached there, whipped into wrinkles by

decisive greenery, a climate curated in a belief no
soon-to-be-jizzed-on jam band was more than sweet

revenge for. The bachelorette was out of smokes—sad enough
in happier times, downright laundered to shreds in these.

What's needed on the record's an omission of whatever
one is, in ham-handed retrospect, most proud to regret.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Unforced Marches


Destiny tends to ship out before it shapes up,
leaving nothing to chance, least of all the
harrowing stares one can't help disowning
in the natural course of a drowsy commute.

The end is insight, that fatuous old news.
Any leftover magic you'd like to unload
may cost more than mobilizing in support of
your least ideal metric of success is worth
once your silence's essential truth is exploded.

Now there's a freak accident I can get behind,
miming an act of footsie as I go; all night I
imagine myself into a more flattering forecast
spun out in lieu of a sight best left unseen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sucked Dust


Relax while you can, married to a good score
for yielding temporality, durably alone
in palpably overripe malaise—
the kindest ever, according to a pleasure
I never heard of until it pleased the court
to drink from a tainted well, the better to
surprise us, getting a jump on our own
escalating drama, the sheer scale
of which was nearly embalming,
yet gave hope to the frowning millions
asleep in their cribs. Word came
that slipping under the prevailing
wind went a panoply of colorless fears.
All new motion was suspended, sold off
in harmonic virulence, the pretty past
setting out to prove itself; enter the
shattered class and take a seat.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Books I Finished in January


Dancing in the Dark by Janet Hobhouse. This one is about yuppies in New York in the early eighties. It was published in '83, so I trust its faithfulness to the zeitgeist it depicts—more, that is, than I would trust a book written about that time now, decades later. The sentences are incredibly sharp and smooth, by which I mean they articulate highly nuanced and complex ideas in clear ways, not a word too many or too few. The author is a master observer of interpersonal relations. The characters are richly drawn and have what I value most in characters: specific individuality. Hobhouse seems to be largely forgotten now, which is a shame. If she hadn't died, she'd still be alive today. Her final, unfinished novel, The Furies, is available from NYRB Classics, and it's on my to-read list.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. This is a suspenseful, intense page-turner about whose plot I won't say too much, because it's fun to discover the whole thing gradually as you go along. Basically, this young woman and her widowed mother in 1922 London decide to rent out part of their house to help pay off accumulating debts. A young, vibrant couple moves in. Trouble ensues. That's all you need to know for now. Just read it. A reader faster than I will probably devour it in two or three days.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July. I've been a fan of July's since the day I saw Me and You and Everyone We Know at its NYC premiere at the IFC Center—and then saw July herself taking questions from the audience afterward. This is her first novel. I was into it from page one. I don't want to say much about this plot either, for the same reason mentioned above. The main reason to read this book? It's very funny and strange. It has a lot of quotable lines. (Which I won't quote here, since it's better to come upon them yourself.) Not just funny, it's touching in a very idiosyncratic, non-sappy way. It sort of reminded me of a Todd Solondz movie, but less bleak.

Friendship by Emily Gould. I've now read two Emily Gould books, for some reason. I actually kind of enjoyed her memoir, but this novel, not so much. It would be an unfair oversimplification to say that it's partly a book about a snarky former gossip blogger who loses everything and then, by the end of the book, learns valuable life lessons about humility by volunteering at a soup kitchen. But yeah, that is partly what it's about. Mainly, it's about the friendship of two young women of the educated middle-class persuasion in New York circa now. I truly, unironically, unabashedly am fascinated and intrigued by such subject matter, despite what you may assume, but when the prose—especially the dialogue—is as lackluster and unimaginative as in this book, my interest fades.

The thing is, though, I know that if I were to write a novel, I would be prone to the same flaws. I'd write something that sounded a lot like this book, probably. Which is why I hesitate to criticize. I think part of why I finished this book at all was the ego boost it afforded me in relation to my own writing. For a would-be writer, there's something heartening about other writers' mediocrity. If this mediocre novel got published, then even I might have a chance!