The arrival and departure of Youth

It is not in her nature to undo the calculation and reformat the structure of the middle class. Impoverishment is an inclination—yes, yes, a model. A behavior. A principle? No, she would not ever be inclined. She, unlike the timid inclination of the pedestrian, imposed the critical elements of evolution. Once, at one turn, I will depose her, he whispers, now and in general—sweats, cold hands, changing, and indeed, rising heart rate. I have encouraged a crucial and viscous propensity to disobey, she remarks later, in opposition to her initial bravado, but she is dying then, and her hands are warm, moist, and then cold, dry. She is more inclined to reject evolution, perhaps. It is theoretical conjecture, he mumbles, unaware that she teeters, in fact, and she will cascade, fall, plunge—she will evaporate herself, in her skin. To the bed, the dying bed. Cold hands, intensified heart rate. The likelihood of offending, of collapse. To dear to my heart. She wrote, in nuance, a proposition, but it was diagrammed meagerly, furtively, in the study. There are no windows in the study. Ah, she, her own master and dying breast is unlike the catastrophic rise of blasphemy. There is no substitution. The learned squalor, the erect and protruding emblem of creative intellect ponders, wavers, and declines into the vapid sources of despair. The dying bed eclipsed, then, in the overwhelming clamor, the cacophony of youth, now, now apparent, now rising into being and is the only chair, the last chair, the breaking speed into devolution: alas, we aren’t in the distinguished class of the recognized, no, not until the final failure, the pressing issues, the collapse: the inaccurate evaluation of the life, the reversed sense of creation, the undoing of the scientific inquiry. There is no other sense that is more apt in description than this absolute collapse. The feeble failure and abandonment of ideal: we are no longer captivated by our own reasoning, our own selves, our own being. We are no longer human, instead. Now bought and bartered by the eruption of a novel practical awareness, the need is to excuse and there, she is conforming. She is always conforming. They are always in sync with the main tunnels of survival. They are never rebellious. He, still in whisper, no longer sweating, not red like before, reading more sensitive, toward, moving toward, the great bridge into, above, the canyon. The middle class does not hold the ideals of any but the robbed, emasculated, starved. Impoverishment in comfort, even more precise, is an inclination. She is fearful, trapped in a dying bed. He is no longer activated by the premise or the promise of conformity. There is only one trap and it is catching.



Then came the Year of the Dragon. Changes in weather patterns, cloud formations no one had seen. When the I Ching came back it was with symbols we didn't recognize. Everyone thought this was strange. Still we pressed on, single point advancing forward in time -- this was Guy's theory -- "or is time advancing on us?" Angela wanted to know. We all had theories. I had set up shop in the basement to see if I could learn to walk through walls. Research in the behavior of quantum particles suggested it was possible under certain circumstances. But which ones? Angela stopped by with tea. She was worried about me, I could tell from the way she touched my arm. It was a different touch than before. The room was a mess of glassware and unlined paper.

"That's a beautiful photograph."


Time was running out. Meaning: soon there wouldn't be enough money to keep up the project. Guy was practically going bald trying to find donors, but what was sexy last summer had fallen out of fashion. "Explorations into the surface of being are in," he reported sadly. Sad sunset light falling through on his face. "No one wants to walk through walls anymore."

It is true that surfaces seemed sexier than the walking through them... and who can pray at the inner chamber without first loving the outer stone? "Fuck you," Guy said. "Fuck you fuck you fuck you."

We didn't see him after that. I applied for a Master's degree in hand-holding while Angela worked at nights. "My coffee is the best," she said when she came home. "Everyone thinks so."

"I think so, too."

So she made another pot. Eventually got hired to cook for the old folks home at the northernmost tip of the city. It rained a lot but the pay was okay and Angela convinced the higher-ups to take me on as a care-giver. The old folks were happy to have a new care-giver. "The last one hit us with bats," they whispered. It was hard to tell if they were telling the truth or trying to make me feel good. Many hung on to their old ideas, thoroughly unsexy and out of style, though this was once not the case. I listened carefully. Watched them pitch stones across the recreation lake. I even thought about calling Guy with an idea: When an event comes along that changes everything, under certain circumstances can we feel the aftershocks before it happens?

"Bah. When you get older you'll see how time works. In my day we didn't talk about such things. There was a Depression on, you know. You couldn't even buy bread."

Angela made the best tasting soup, everyone agreed. I lost two that first year but that was to be expected. Tried hard, asked good questions. The days moved by more or less evenly, despite reports to the contrary.

The Epicenter

Mary was living in a small apartment at the edge of Manhattan Island. She took walks to the piers and saw the boats slicing up water in the distance and heard the song of gulls and machinery in the air. She needed to rebuild herself, of that she was certain. But how?

When she met Martin, she told him about her walks. He taught her how the island was expanded when the land under the harbor first went for sale by the city to private investors, who bought it with plans to fill it up so it could be turned to valuable real estate. "These men recognized value," he emphasized. The material didn't matter, so they raised the land up by piling sand and scrap construction material and even the carcasses of horses and pigs. Minimal investment for the most value. Mary thought: this may be my better half.

They married in spring in a church downtown. It was a small ceremony and the vows were homemade and Mary and Martin said them to each other with such sincerity and tenderness that some guests cried and others felt strangely like intruders, though everyone agreed the reception was tasteful. I neither cried nor felt uncomfortable, unusual as it was that Martin even invited me, and I spent a good amount of time drinking champagne and wondering why I had let myself cross this particular line when I had been good, that is to say, well-boundaried for many years now. How is it that slipping happens so fast?

Mary looked beautiful. That night they tried to make love again as if they were virgins, but Martin was having problems which he said was from all the excitement. He was too in love to make love. They fell asleep and she dreamed her reoccurring dream.

Mary's Dream:

The room fills with blue light and I think to myself, "They're here" and then wonder who they are and how I know this. In groups of three they rise up through the floors and I can't move at all. It is as if I were paralyzed. The fear is so great I can't barely stand it, and I realize it must be a dream but I can't seem to wake myself up. I know there is someone outside the window who can help. They move towards me faster than they should be able to but I have time to make out their blank unblinking eyes in the moonlight and skinny gray shoulders. They have no nipples or sex parts at all. They take the cross from my neck and say they know things about my body and suddenly my

"Mary, Mary, are you alright?"

"Oh oh I was having that nightmare again."

"I know I could tell. You're okay now, you're okay."

And then he held her close and felt very good about what they were doing, and what he had done.

As for me I was seeing less patients, drinking less, and working regularly. The city faintly hummed as I left the gym in the evening for my place at Marble Hill, which was once attached to the body of Manhattan before the river was redirected to making shipping easier Now it is connected to the Bronx. It was not easy to move the river but well worth it, as it helped strengthen New York's status as an epicenter of the world and also a ground zero for progress and yes value, which is why it needed men who would bury horses and pigs in the harbor; and men to keep each other's secrets -- that is my job, and though I do envy Martin and Mary and her long walks by the sea I can't help but think of what's beneath solid ground, and wonder what they're planning to do to each other next.


the string

Instead of watching each of us took a turn trying to influence the vibrating string. it hung suspended in the air for as far as we could see, and though we know that somewhere its two ends were fixed to something larger, this took an act of faith.

I for one had decided to give up materialism in exchange for something with a little more pizzazz.

So Charlie went first:

Charlie's Try

buildings on fire trees on fire and oh my god I don't have enough air we're like fishes down here and the sea is gone she is gone. there are her legs wrapped around me as she pushes her feet into my soles. now and then there are earthquakes, vast swathes of land reorganized by another organizing force other than oh my god oh my heart its shaking everybody run to the basement everybody stand in a doorway tape up the windows don't let the glass shatter and cut you in the eyes--

The string drones on, a low D with the faintest overtone: a minor third.

(Not impressed, really; but I understand Charlie even though it is hard to hear what he is trying to say. Since I gave up materialism, it should be easier to prove I feel alone, to identify -- but I threw out empiricism, too!)

"Let me give it a shot," Laura whispers. She slides under the string and lies down, looking very peaceful. "I am going to focus my intentions."

Laura's Try

I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.I really really want it.

No change. It remains at 73.4 cycles per second, deep and indifferent. I tenderly rub Laura's shoulders as she sits up and wipes the tears away.

(I know, I know, she read it in a book. I have read enough to know how wonderful the ideas are, how hard to hold onto as the days' cargo gets hijacked by the stars, strange dreams. Still, she is beautiful, and I will not let go of love, though it is true I am very bored with all frames full of harmony and balance and radiance...)

Mike's Try

I am four years old. My room fills with blue light and I try to sit up and see but can't move. There are pentagrams under my bed I carved with a dried-out pen to keep me safe. I am a precocious child. Maybe that is why they come for me -- not through the window, like I always feared, but straight on through the walls, hands extended in front of them. Weird hands. Skinny hands. Ugly bony narrow hands. I am seeing their hands from all four corners of my vision and now they are on my and my neck and something shots through my body like electricity and I can tell they are going to take me when something goes wrong. I leap up, the spell is broken, and grab one by the big head and say my Mommy's going to be real mad at you! and push him down. But he just sinks through the floor. Another touches the place between my eyes on my forehead and suddenly my gut drops and my heart freezes up. I see people fighting for water and satellites on fire like stars. I see my parents grow apart and then together and then wither and get taken by wind into the sky. I see a man shaking a weird hand. When I come to I am alone making sounds like insect noises when I mean to say We are in the world to love the world We are in the world to love the world and my pants are on, backwards.

The string develops new nodes as an augmented fifth is born. We applaud, carefully.

My Turn

run run run back to where you came from and let the sun hold your face until you feel that this moment is deep, and wide. where did you come from? garden warm spring eternity of pre-time no clothes and the things of the world where there for you to name. you made of red clay red dirt and every night Dad walks the garden you hear his footsteps and that's when you knew you were in trouble. because the knowledge of good and evil was bitter but good for your teeth. Now you have filed your fangs in the name of getting along and learned to take affection as love and show a little skin now and then, it won't kill you. run run back and there is a river that is not a river which will find you when you are ready to receive it. No use in taking swimming lessons now it's sink or win back what was a missing -- there is a hole in the universe and time keeps rushing into fill it. Don't get caught up in that tide beware the undertoad the elves that live on the other side of life and their friends the mud-children. They will fight for the watermelon forever while your heart over-heats with all the wordless questions mouthed by sad faces and the scientific knowledge that some things which go are Gone. You participate by watching. There is no neutral place to stand.

Mike, Laura and Charlie look at me. I lean back, hearing violins, but there is no way to be sure what they're hearing, or anyone else for that matter.



Seth is a surgeon. He operates on part of the brain to remove or implant memories, depending on which service you require. It is a radical technique, very new wave -- "post-medication" Seth calls it. He explains:

"There is for certain people an event or series of events which from their past reach forward and mark their present in uncomfortable or even dangerous ways. The event may not be a problem in and of itself, but there are conditions replicatable in the laboratory which trigger the memory of the event to transform malignantly and metastasize across the body. This ultimately give rise to development of clustered symptoms such as depression or mania, anorexia, and even the so-called Axis II personality disorders, to name a few. In recent history physicians have treated these conditions with an approach that amounts to intrapsychic fire-bombing: flooding the neural pathways with dopamine, preventing the re-uptake of serotonin, and otherwise dosing the body with chemicals that interact with a person in complex, unpredictable ways.

"Do they work? We don't know. Are there harmful effects? It is unclear. What I offer is an alternative to what will surely look to future generations like ECT looks to us: a chance to seize the problem by its roots, and yank it out."

Q: Isn't that just a lobotomy?

Seth scratches his chin. Behind him windows let in the tall Manhattan sky, split by pointed skyscrapers. An airplane moves lazily behind his head.

"It is nothing like it. The prefrontal cortex is left intact; no connections are severed, no brain materials is removed. In fact, the procedure is completely non-invasive."'

Q: Non-invasive surgery? That's impossible.

"Because I am a surgeon, and have worked for many years restoring functions of the brain in stroke and accident victims, it is understandable that you assume the procedure is a form of surgery; and it is true that the word surgery is a useful albeit misleading term for what we do here at the clinic." Seth gestures around him to windows and the walls which hold his library and diplomas.


The Interpretation of Dreams
A Field Guide to Non-Physical Reality
Indikation Und Praxis Cerebroprotektiver Massnahmen in Der Neurochirurgie
The Art of Seduction
Plastic Techniques in Neurosurgery
Atlas Shrugged

"But that is to misunderstand its use as metaphor, which is really what we're working with here. My procedure is no more a surgery than a finger pointing at the moon is in fact the moon. All we do here is metaphor: the scalpel, its blade, the operating table and the incision through the skull that let us in; none have any more body than the memories themselves."

Seth goes through the door and turns right into the operating room. He gestures broadly.

"See? All metaphor."


one (1) chair
one (1) coffee table, low, finished wood
five (5) speakers mounted according to Dolby surround standards
one (1) subwoofer
one (1) ashtray

"Did you know that the brain surgery is perhaps the oldest of the practiced medical arts? No hard evidence exists suggesting a beginning to the practice of other facets of medicine such as pharmacology -- using drugs, chemical and natural ingredients to help a fellow human being. There is ample evidence, however, of brain surgery, dating back to the Neolithic late Stone Age period. Unearthed remains of successful brain operations, as well as surgical implements, were unearthed by archeologists in France, circa 7,000 B.C. And the success rate was remarkable. Pre-Incan civilization used brain surgery as an extensive practice as early as 2,000 B.C. In Paracas, Peru, a desert strip south of Lima, archeologic evidence indicates brain surgery was used extensively -- with inordinate success.

"Brain surgery was also used for both spiritual and magical reasons; often, the practice was limited to kings, priests and the nobility."

He stops and drinks a glass of water.

"But we live in a society built on the promise, if not the realization, of equal opportunity for all. My patients are not kings or priests. They are men and women and yes even children, and they are just like you. They want to walk through their day without falling into a trap set by depression. They want to hold their husbands and wives and hear their voices not as if from the bottom of a well. When they make love they want to feel their partner moving with them in a moment of perfect at-one-ment. They do not need the hands of ghosts reaching for them through the walls. They do not want their bodies to turn against them, serving long-dead masters. They want to live while they can and face the silence of whatever comes next with dignity, and strength. Don't you?"

Q: *** ****. * **** ****** **** ******.

The team has arrived. They are young men and women with intelligent eyes. Seth nods and everyone goes to their place. It is easy to feel cared for. You are a moving point through the present tense. In the room it is dark with the lamp off but for the lit end of the cigarette that is almost, but not quite, like a small orange moon. Did you run, or did they come through the walls anyway? Do you orbit your memories, or do they orbit you?




While Jon is waiting still a virgin and feeling quite unloved, his universe cracked open a little and in came the blue-skinned lizard men to take him away. Right through the window and the walls they slid and covered his mouth with big blue knuckled hands so he couldn't stop them or cry out.

Why does this happen to people? he doesn't ask. He asks instead,

Why is this happening to me?


The scientific community is coming to believe that while the universe may or may not be filled with God's love, it is certainly jam-packed with infinitely small dimensions folded up in every corner of His space. The average person cannot walk, run, or fall through them. It is like trying to teach a circle to imagine a sphere.

If the average person living in three dimensions met someone who lived in only two, he could walk around his flat friend and view him from angles his friend would find literally unimaginable. Likewise, if he were to meet a man living in fully four dimensions, our average person's lungs, heart, brain and other “internal” organs would be perfectly visible, and possibly his average thoughts and feelings, too, even those that that he himself was unaware of.

Why are there so many tiny folded-up holes in God? No scientist to date has asked the question.


But so they took him from his room and through the crack where his fear melted away in the face of overpowering love. Love! It came at him like a swarm of stars descending from the sky. It came like a bear, to eat him up; like a bright blue light; like a smile breaking over his brain. Jon stayed smiling as they took his clothes and chained him up and touched every part of his body with their tools before he ejaculated for the first time and was promptly returned to his bed.

In the morning he woke and remember nothing of his time away, other than a secret wish to be tied and loved, and a reoccuring dream of reptiles.


The snake sheds his skin and rids itself of the Old Life. No more trolling the garden, no more temptation. It is time to be a new snake, in the New Life, which many people have predicted would be exactly the way it is right now. So the wires come and run electricity through his walls. The air fill up with signals. The snake looks at the world with new eyes and sees conscience form from the excess carbon, and participation bloom readily amongst the dry weeds. When Jon is thirty they meet. “I died a little bit each time, you know,” he says. The snake is sympathetic.

“We know,” he says.

“And it's going to happen again.”

“I know.”

“But why me? I just want to understand.”

But it is the wrong question.


The Once Significance

The once insignificance, beckoned with purpose by the ever meandering yet consequential drive, has blossomed and un-become itself. Without loneliness, she only glimpses at the parted desperation that her self is not without stance, shadow, character. There were twenty-five men and women at the conference table and they were not uncivilized. Indeed, they were quite clever, intelligent, eager, and engaged: wit--yes, with far greater abilities, inductive and deductive abilities...far greater. The absolutes, regretably, do not present themselves as peer badges and principled spheres (for, of course, the sphere is quite divine). I was in elapse, embarrassed, cluttered. The once insignificance, by theoretical conjecture, is not undressed and at length discarded in the bathroom stall. No, it is a mark of the humanity, a mark of the life, a cherished addition to the feeble and awesome chance to witness, observe. Observe! Ah, she was shouting to no one, to me? no, no, to no one, to no one in the conference room. The rest, the others, were quite well composed and eager, eager to answer, with brilliance, with purpose, with messages. There is no witness to the life that is not granting significance, hope, duty--even the drab woman, the drab man, catches, snares, ha!, snares the glimpse of the colorful, the magnificient, the significant. There, as against the best of scientific inquiry, heading into storms without hats, gloves, coats, is the character, the truth tester, the unscientific, irrational, principle to exist: to exist!


At length, there were pauses in her eruptions, given time for the other sought men and women to interject to compose to build the sufficient connectors between past and present, between social and spiritual, between the ever living and the ever dying, between--yes, yes, the study to improve the ever lost, the ever forgetful....all that is the life, that is not ever challenging itself to be itself. Ah, the study, the inquiry--the evolved human mind has once, at last (in eager dismissal of the once insignificance) demanded importance of itself. So simple, so ever simple, the decay. A reason to eat herself! she yelled, long past out of breath and sweating and even--though unnoticed by her peers--bleeding.


Do you believe in god? He asks.
I believe the universe exists, she says. But she does not look at him. Not ever.


Far Colder

I am proposed, later, in the afternoon, between the eventual close of the store and the opening of the harbor, the lighting of the gas lamps in districts that have been continually noted, diagrammed as (quite appropriately)—the sprawl. They are, aptly noticed, as one man in painful and remorseful dance, himself an elliptical outline, a shout, an outward urge of betrayal—to commerce, trade, proportions. Both his legs quite ill, cramped, and he, in one quick and feverish motion, refuses, refused, is in refusal. He is yet unstill. I am deposed by poetry, after, and he is yet unstill, one hand unstill—one hand is in static motion, if ever this were (obscene as it must be!) purposeful, possible.

The towns wrap in and out of the basin like the image of the man. My declarations submit the general glare and inconsistency and needlessness of eventual ascension, social ascension. The looming (and, I admit woefully, beautification) is erratic, claiming indecision—needlessness. Without grammatical indecision—yes, yes, without grammatical indecision. The ultimate trajectory is limited and overwhelmed by absence. It is not the arrival of success that is known, predicted. We have no foresight and no awareness of the rise of success. At once it is a perpetual evolution that is only predicted and monitored by fatigue, lack, missing.

There is only ever missing in each pursuit. The rest, the remaining, lie without lack, lay without explosion. To lie, without regret. Alas, our patricide is our technological snowstorm. It is too cold. It is far too cold. It is only ever far too cold.


the river

So there was a river and the river was long and curved like the tail of the snake who is eating itself and that is how life began. I take Tommy to the river and we stand on the shore waving goodbye to the ashes of his father, who bore him, and beat him, and whom he loved. We are waving goodbye to all the fathers never coming back. Down the river, into the snake's mouth, where we all go and so on and so on time is short yes but that night was oh so long. We sat in silence for seven minutes. I felt myself rise up from my body and look down not into our hotel room by the shore but into my life, as if laid out flat like a map but without signs or spots marked X, more like an ocean of shapes formed by the collision of water and waves, and light making faces and places I would go to and see; and light made bodies I would press my own into and the sound of words like crashing waves. I was seventeen years old. A virgin. From that height I looked out on the expanse of what was to come and smiled. Because it looked good. After seven minutes the alarm brought me back to myself without any details of what I had seen. But I remembered the smile. I still do.

And so but Tommy and I wave goodbye and his father's ashes are carried down the length of the river into the mouth of the snake, whose scales lay out flat like a map and on each is marked the life of every one of us, we who are to be eaten and shed, eaten and shed, from the snake for whom nothing is ever lost so long as there is hunger and the promise of satisfaction. Yes it hurts, but how bright the water shines, how wonderful the sound of all these waves...

the boat and the woman, entry level

Timid, as in she was timid—no, coy, as in she was coy: the fractured skull of the man in the car was—inadequate, as in undetailed: the fractured skull of the korean man in the honda civic—revised, re-appropriated: the funding of the new budget—vague, it is the same budget, there are unlikely to be new funds—timid, as in, she was timid. I remember she was inappropriate, vague, timid, coy, but never Korean. It was my unequivocal memory. My fine memory. We were sailing about in her dinghy, it was a dinghy, no more than a telephone pole for a mast—telephone poles are quite heavy, no, I was not a sailor, not much of a sailor, it was a boat, a small boat, a dinghy? Yes, yes, quite right. She was steering, she was commanding, controlling the eventual course of the boat. Her spelling was subpar, poor, terrible, bad. Her spelling was bad and she was disheveled: yes, messy, eating crackers and cheese—no, not cheese—unmemorable, tasteless, icky (?)—she was eating crackers and wine—used, overused, the whore on the street was used (but compensated, poorly compensated, no, no, compensated poorly, unable to achieve her goals adequately so she met her goals inadequately, even still, errs, more likely, underpaid). Yes, finally, the boat, the small boat, the craft, was listing, listing to the right, starboard, the naval right and she was eating, crackers and beans (!!) beans!!—oh, quite memorable, unlike the cheese and certainly unlike wine, delightful, odd, a character, as in eating beans (?).

The ship, eventually, as is with most of these types of things, sank, went to the bottom of the sea. etc. I saved these poetic explosions, these tempting and piercing investigations into the soul of god, of man, of importance! I kept them. There was, is, very often becomes, important times to claim recognition. I clamored about in hiding for weeks, shaving my ankles, the oddest place for hair to grow, not fiction, not character, like a slob, like dirty clothes and crumbs make hair grow on my ankles, yes, personality, disdain. The inside of my lungs, hollowed out like a log, no, no, like a canoe, no, no, like a cage, no, a cage is hollow. It was hollow. This was the explaining part not the composing part. We were composing, compositing, experiences, treading back and forth up and down the river in our little boat. I should have adhered to her liking, to her insistence, to her advances, but I had hair on my ankles? Vague, again, timid, nice character, obsession, catchy, neat, awesomely neat, but not developed, underdeveloped like bolivia is underdeveloped, like she, the young lass, is still young and undeveloped, not mature, not mentally mature, not physically mature—no, not she in the boat, she in the boat is mature. This is not a time for misunderstandings, obsessions, allusions. I have none. Not of those. We had not determined the course of action for the person, for the navigator—but he was surely well equipped to have many odd character flaws (?) no, character additions, that we could more than likely take advantage of, vault into the next level of creation, of mastery. She too, like him, was certain to have many such habits, routines, much like eating beans, crackers and beans. Yes, she was certain to master these things. These back and forth things.

Otherwise, they were just in the boat. And the boat sank. And she was timid and coy. And vague, yes, timid and coy and vague. And he was a brute.


And just as if I had given up God, I was suddenly, perfectly, alone.

In my pocket: 60 minute cassette tape of a hypnosis session with an abductee. He remembers how at age five, fifteen, and forty he was taken up into their ship; how they entered his body at every orifice.

See? There is no stopping the alien from coming in to take us apart.

Like at birth the doctor reached in and took me out. If hypnotized, could I remember? "I am swimming in the ocean when starts to erupt. I don't want to leave, but I can't move, I can't stop it. I scream but no one listens. Slowly a bright light fills my eyes that is like nothing I have seen. Air forces itself down my lungs as a gloved hand slices me at my stomach and I am overcome with the feeling that I am suddenly very alone."

Tonight the train is full of strange vibrations. It is after the party; the cassette player has clicked off and the names and faces of an hour ago are powerless against the vast flatlands of the city. They hit the yellow lights and industrial parks like rain hits a mountain. And these thoughts -- who is responsible for them? When he cut the cord the doctor sealed me off in this body until it is time for the outside to come back in. Then I will travel as if by beam of light up into their ship, to be examined for whatever parts God needs to keep running. Then there will be no loneliness as I am scattered back into the ocean, along with my parents and my sisters, and all the other adbuctees, forever at work pushing out the next new thing into the world.

Until then these thoughts, this body -- they are mine.


Q&A Session with the Candidates

Q: Why are these days so hard?

Candidate 1:

Often I am asked, "What kind of weather should we expect this week?" Or, "Those clouds look menacing... will it rain?" In my heart, I feel deep sorrow that I do not know. America is a large nation, full of complicated climates and micro-climates. Tobacco farmers are starving for rain while the Florida coasters lose their homes to flood. I wish I could look every last man, woman, and child worried about what may fall on them from the sky and say: No, not you. Not today. But then I would be no more than a preacher who promise an equal exchange of today's hardship for tomorrow's paradise. Instead, I am running for the position of President. I will try my best to tell the truth.

Q: Tell us about the economy.

Candidate 2:

You are the people of the greatest nation on Earth. And while I greatly respect the viewpoint and words my opponent uses as she speaks of climate change and the perils of prognosticating, I also want to assure the American people that no fluctuation, no seemingly random ebb and flow of foreign design will affect how we spend our money here at home. We will spend it as we please.

Will we let decisions made overseas by men we have never met stop us from pursuing Jefferson's sacred happiness? Yes, the days are hard. The American soul struggles. But the American soul is very much alive, though sometimes it takes careful searching to find it. There may come a time when you wake up with a feeling in your head a little like static, and you will wonder: how long must I suffer this way? If that is you, if you are somewhere out there in the crowd today, I say this: you are not alone. Get out of your house, get into the streets and allow yourself to be surrounded by your compatriots. You will find them everywhere, in the malls and in the clothing stores, buying sodas and newspapers from the corner stores and fruit from the market. I believe that you will find what you are looking for there. If I am elected President, I will make it my personal mission to preserve that opportunity at any cost, for the souls of all Americans.

Q: What about love?

Candidate 1:

It is difficult. My opponent speaks of souls and the marketplace, of community and happiness. But surely he must know that to love in America means to be owned, and that true love occurs between two adults committed to respecting, protecting, and understanding the other soul in their possession.

So often the American people wake up with a head full -- as my opponent stated so well -- static, and their hearts are scared. Someone sometime has told them a lie and they are beginning to wonder: Am I really alone? Believe me, my fellow Americans, I speak as a candidate who represents experience, who has clawed her way through terrible dreams only to wake up alone in the dark. If only I could promise: no more! But tonight the sun will go down, and another stricken soul will go out into the bright lights and give itself to the first person who looks in its direction. The rest we know: my opponent, so fond of statistic, has told us of broken families, of adultery, of how many turn to drugs and alcohol and are lost forever.

He never asks what they medicate themselves for. He never looks at the wound. He may not know how.

If elected President of the United States, I will look at the wound.

Q: How could we ever trust you?

Candidate 2:

You don't have to choose. The choice comes from inside you. When you feel that feeling -- you know the feeling, I don't have to describe for any of my fellow citizens the sensation of hope -- then you will know that it is a new day in America. The nightmares my opponent mentions (and one can't help but wonder what kind of leader suffers from terrible dreams!) are over. More than an era of good feelings, it is an Era of The Good Feeling, Jefferson's feeling: happiness. And when you start to feel hope that yes, I deserve this, my family deserves this, my neighbors and friends and strangers deserve this, then you will know who to trust.

Candidate 1:

There is much work for us to do. Somewhere in America the soul is sleeping and we must wake it up. When the TV is too loud and the words lose their meaning, we must wake it up. When the streets become bedrooms for runaways and veterans, we must wake it up. When the skyscrapers our grandparents built resemble jagged teeth; when the last headphone has shut up and the credits slide off the screen; and the party ends and it is time to go home; when we are at last alone in the silence between our thoughts and we look up to a sky covered in thick, speechless clouds, we must wake it up.

It is indeed a new day in America. If elected President, we will go out and wake it up together.

Better bring a raincoat.



My mother and my father and I are eating as slabs of concrete advance on the north shore of Long Island. The coast guard are first alerted when the lighthouse off Huntington Bay reports that the lights of Stamford are no longer visible. It is a perfectly clear night. All subsequent communication attempts fail.

We have a family meeting. "Something is going on here, and I don't like it," my father says. "Does anyone else feel this? Feel like there is something wrong?" My mother looks at me. I look at her, and then away.

"Yes. It definitely feels like something is wrong," I say.


Once I dreamt that I was watching my father lying on our front lawn at night. I look through the window and wave, but he doesn't see me. His eyes are fixed on the sky. I thought to myself: How good it is to see him like this! I felt his blood in mine, and understood why I believed that looking beholds the world into being. Then he bolted upright. "Did you see him? Get that son of a bitch!" The burglar alarm went off and we raced through the house, all the while him waving a baseball bat and saying, "Don't let him get away!" Finally we turned down the last hallway into the master bedroom, where we saw the body of his father, laid out on the floor, with the figure of my grandmother hunched over him, tearing out her hair. Saying, "You were too late... you were too late..."


As the low rumble gets louder, families peer nervously from their windows into the darkness. The sound is reported to the police, who, unsure of what to do, dispatch a vehicle to the shore. The officers stand at the edge of the beach, listening to the treble of evening waves and a deep, uneven roar coming from somewhere offshore. "Can''t see the lighthouse tonight," one says. They keep looking. "I can't even see Connecticut," says the other. He is thinking that the moon isn't reflected in the water when his eyes adjust and for a moment thinks the ocean has reared up in a single, massive wave. And then the air in front of their faces turns to stone, and there is no time to realize or cry out as the concrete hits the shore and they are gone.

"What should we do about it?" my mother asks.

"Someone has got to say something," my father says. We do not move. The radio is on in the kitchen and I can hear a DJ say, "The greatest hits of the 70s, 80s, and today." In the corner of the room is the shrine to Buster, my father's favorite dog. In a past life my father believes he was a boxer dog, like Buster. His pictures are arranged on the floor around the spot where the finally died, cancer in his stomach. My father wrote on an index card, "Here was Buster, loyal & strong. He was a good dog."

"Maybe we should turn on the TV," I say, and then I hear a low rumbling coming from the south side of the house.


Jennifer is at college. She paints beautiful pictures of people who like trees, people who look like tigers, and people with light in their hair. But when I think of her, she is still a little girl, bent over a patch of interesting grass, or investigating a family of pillbugs. On the day she turned five, my mother threw her a costume party. Jennifer dressed as a spotted dog. When everyone had left, and it was time to take off the costume, she refused. Started to cry. My mother, unsure of what to do, eventually shrugged. And that is how Jennifer dressed as a dog for one whole year.


"It's an earthquake," my father says. "Everyone, get to the basement!" The floor is shaking as we rush down the hall. The radio falls from the counter. Dishes from the table lurch and shatter on the floor. When we get to the bottom of the stairs, my father locks and bars the basement door. "You never know what's out there," he says. "Turn on the TV."

"It's nothing but static."

"What about the other stations?"

"Nothing, there's nothing on any of them." We sit on the old couch, smelling of mildew. The TV is small, with a dial to change the station and a VCR. In the corner are a pile of VHS tapes, and some of Jennifer's old paintings and sculptures. A sunflower. A pig with wings. The rumbling is not as loud down here, though somehow I can feel it getting more intense above us. It is punctured by sharp cracks.

"Are those gunshots?" my mother asks.

"I don't know..."

"What should we do?"

"We just have to wait and see what happens."

"Do you think we're safe down here?"

"I think so," my father says.

"I'm scared," whispers my mother. My father starts to put his arms around her, and then pulls back.

"I have an idea," he says. He goes over to the pile of tapes and pulls out one. "Let's get out minds on something else." He holds it up.

"Oh, Richie, I hate that movie," my mother says.

"It's his favorite."

"I know but -- can't we watch something else?"

"The rest are old home movies," my father says. "At least this will keep us occupied. Besides, Adam likes it, right?"

"I do."

"You know what they say, right?"

"Of course."

We say the line together. My father laughs. We watch together and he turns up the volume as the sounds of helicopters and gunfire travel around the room and join the sound from up above, like a wave slowly crashing on the house above our heads. But my father is right, and soon we are lost in the world flickering on the walls and the paintings and across our faces. Even my mother gets into it. And when the line comes up, we all say it together, laughing, and I wish Jennifer were here with us, and Buster too, because it really is a good line.


Exercise #3


Burned and mutilated bodies hung over the bridge, this is the world my mother lives in. Born in 1947, decade of gas and ovens, she spent most of her life cooking rice and chicken. My father chewed and spoke. Had her swap places at the dinner table after they moved houses, so her back was to the window.

"I don't want a stray bullet hitting me when I'm eating."


Over the Euphrates, meaning "well" and "flow" or "to move forward", men strung up the four Blackwater employees. The Prophet Muhammed said that it will come to pass the the river will dry up to unveil a mountain of gold, for which people will fight. Ninety-nine out of one hundred will die, and every man among them will say:

"Perhaps I may be the only one to remain alive."


Through the empty living room in the formerly pink house on Drohan Avenue, my mother moves in her nightgown to kitchen. She takes a sip of soda. I know her habits. I came from her body. It is her face I half see in the mirror, pushing up from underneath mine. The stray bullet didn't come, but the closet in the bathroom is full of anti-aging creams and ways to smooth wrinkles away. She wakes at 4AM every morning to exercise. General Hospital taped from the morning before. Lips moving, voices mute.

I can't connect the dots. It is as if the answer to every grieving mother's question were marked out by the position of the stars in the night sky. If only someone could read it for her. 5f the President could take out his pen and draw the bold lines that say something to put out the fire that threatens to turn the heart to ash. Century of a mound of shoes, of wires on the sons' genitals, of Blackwater's counter-suit against the mothers of lost children. They did not have to tell them anything. My mother was born in the middle of the 20th century, before the bullets came for JFK and MLK, on the south shore of Long Island. She decided she could not live in the world if she was going to be fat. She resolved not to eat. Her brother says he saw her cooking cheese on a fork over the gas oven, when she thought no one was looking. Behind the creams are the laxatives. Because hunger is inevitable, and no matter what the prophets say we will never be like the angels, who do not shit or swear or worry themselves thin to the bone, who do not have to hold out at the edge of starvation.

Who do not have children.


Exercise #2

Janine: Was I acting like an asshole for that conversation?

Stacey: I don't remember. You were like that all holiday season.

Janine: Every time we talked?

Stacey: Not every time.

Janine: And I said I was sorry. I was just fucking nuts, and I know it. But she didn't have to go on like that.

Stacey: She was thinking she could relate to you.

Janine: I know, she said, I just think of how it was when me and Carlos broke up, and then I multiply it by four thousand, and maybe that's a bit how you're feeling. But she doesn't even fucking know, you know? She can't. You don't know unless it happens to you. God forbid it does, to her, or you, or anyone.

Stacey: I know, she said because it's both like you're never going to see the person again. I mean, break ups are fucked up, even if they're mutual, they're so fucked. But with him, I mean, God...

Janine: She said, Gone is gone. But Carlos is still out there somewhere, you know? Fuck. I know I was wrong, but you got to admit: she was talking shit about him, saying oh you make him out like he was saint, but everyone makes mistakes, and he made big mistakes--

Stacey: What was she talking about?

Janine: I mean, he did what he had to do... you know... but come on, he wasn't fucking around, he was there for me, he had a good heart--

Carol: Watch your language.

Janine: Excuse me?

Carol: There are other people on this train.

Janine: Yeah, and they aren't saying anything, are they? Mind your fucking business.

Carol: It is my business when you're swearing and everyone can hear it

Janine: Well they why are you the only giving me shit? Anyway, what was I saying.

Stacey: I don't know.

Janine: Maybe I should just swear more.

Stacey: Yeah, totally.

Carol: You're a real bitch--

Janine: Oh my God, don't swear on the train! Everyone can hear! What the fuck is wrong with you?

Carol: You are, you're a bitch, and you're both spoiled brats.

Stacey: Excuse me?

Janine: Oh fuck you, mind your own business. I'll say it all I want. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Stacey: What's wrong with her?

Janine: Yeah, you better move. Jesus. I forgot what I was saying.

You were saying how it isn't like the situation with Carlos at all.

Janine: Right, right... I mean, I know I was an asshole to her, but I just couldn't handle the way she was talking, like she could relate.

You can't unless it happens to you.

Janine: God forbid.

Though it will, unless you go first.

Janine: But she didn't have to talk shit. You got to admit, she was talking shit about him--

Stacey: I don't remember, really.

Mark: The thing is, I get the feeling she did it because of who they are. If they were black girls, she wouldn't have said anything.

I felt that way, too.

Mark: So it wasn't about decency then. It was fear. And that's a way bigger problem than these two taking advantage of the way things are.

Janine: It's been better since Christmas is over. But you know, it's still hard.

Stacey: I know, I mean, I can't imagine.

Mark: Or she needed to feel in control. And she sees these two white girls, and to her, they're not a threat. But if had been black girls, talking loud, swearing, you think she would tell them to keep their voices down? Have you ever seen anyone do that?

There have been times I wanted to say something, but didn't.

Mark: And sometimes I've even looked over at an older black woman, someone who looks like she could be their mother's age, and hoped that she'd say something.

Stacey: He had a real good heart.

Janine: I know.

Mark: Before they came on the train, I heard her say shut up, under her breath, when those women were talking in Chinese so loudly.

I heard it, too.

Janine: It's hard to relate.

Stacey: She was just trying though because she loves you.

Janine: I know. I'm sorry about everything I was saying. I didn't want to be an asshole.

No one does.

Mark: To me, it's all just noise anyway. You have to just filter it out, or else...

Janine: I miss him so much.

Stacey: I know. Gone is gone, but, you know...

It goes on.

Mark: And I'm getting off here. Hey, have a good fucking day.

Stacey: You move on.

Counting Cardboard Sheep

They are ghosts. Someone, sometime, has unplugged them and their warm bodies have gone cold.

Nothing pisses me off more than ghosts.

"Stop haunting the back of the room!" I slam my hand on the desk. For a moment, one almost looks me in the eye before pulling down his red knitted hat over his face. He scurries away, in and out of the walls. "Fucking ghosts," I say.


Unnamed Democratic Candidate #1, Getting Ready for Bed:

Bathroom is dark. Flip the switch and then the sink, the mirror. Make-up washed off. Ah. Here is the face the cameras don't see. The clock in the dark bedroom says it is late. Spouse already asleep. Brush teeth, check teeth, floss, rinse. Beyond the clothed curtain is the view from the hotel, high in the air. The network of city lights as a constellation. The road that is Orion's belt. Myself in the mirror the moment before the light goes off.


"What did you think of the speech?"


I have serious questions about anyone who chooses to spend their time with ghosts. The ghosts don't mind, of course; you can ask them whatever you want, the only thing they response to is sound. So it is your tone that matters more. If you are interested in talking with ghost (why would you be?) it is best to keep your voice down, and frequency low. Like this:

"Yeah that speech was pretty good"




See? Got all three of them that time. Just don't overdue it -- repetitive, predictable sound is the easier to filter out.


Due to their porous nature, ghosts can hold liquids for up to fifteen minutes before having to release it back to physical world, which may explain why they like drinking so much.


What the Candidate Thinks Immediately Before Falling Asleep:

there were sheep in the meadow electric green crayola or blue I tasted and it was like wax and then got sick at whose birthday? john w, john w something must be somewhere now watching well he won't be for so long I wish there was something else to wear these sheepskin wool sweater so itchy my skin ah keep scratching gotta sleep soon 1 2 3 sheep under what a big moon! but what do they look like like cardboard cut-outs going baah each time they jump over the fence thats 4 5 6 over the moon landing off screen he planted the flag one big leap 7 8 space and stars so dark forever and ever and ever and then


The ghosts are old enough to vote. It has been a long and arduous campaign; month of low frequency waves punctuated by the proper mix of distortion and noise. They are sufficiently rallied -- in corners of the subway car, underwater, huddled in groups of 2s and 3s. The ghosts and I are halfway to the island when the car rattles to a halt. There is a sound like an explosion. And then the lights go out.

You might think they are unconcerned, but I know ghosts; they are scared shitless.

I emit some low amplitude jokes, just to take the edge off, but one floats to the car next door and says, "Oh fuck, it's on fire." Everyone tries to make their way the other direction, but when I slide open the heavy doors, I can see the smoke and realize that the train is burning from both ends. The ghosts go crazy.

What do we do

What do we do

What do we do

and I am saying "Calm down everyone! We just need a plan..." while outside the train and past the tunnel walls floats all the water of the East River--

What do we do

"Listen up! Listen! " The fire is now pressed against both ends of the car. "If someone would just listen, and concentrate--" but they are flitting back and forth through the smoke and each other, if only they would listen maybe but what do we do and the fire comes through and I am thinking something something important remembering as the smoke fills my lungs something about something about the moon a giant leap sea green or blue he spat it out if only I could find the words we could say it once and for all everything would be perfectly clear in small steps we'd have a chance but what do we do what do we do what do we