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Untitled Poems

In by Chris on June 29, 2010 at 9:29 pm

River get on outta here
Go on, shoo
River stop walking into my room
No, go
Go on River

Search for me
In the school of hard-boiled eggs
In my room of thirsty plants
For my singular expedition
Has turned off the path
And might be lost

I’m tenacious!
I never stop!
Proof?
How about my facial hair
Huh?

I got to the next level
In Pokemon
In the 12k
In BMW models
In life!
Percolate, wait, elevate
It’s great, don’t contemplate
Things might complicate
If you think too hard about your fate
So everyone grab your Gameboys!
Next level!

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Steganography

In by Michael on June 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Hi Professor,

Don’t know if you remember me, but I took a computer science class with you in the fall.

For the summer I’m interning at this tech company; it’s going well. It hit the news today that one of our (former) employees is a Russian spy and was arrested yesterday. Not making this up.

But it gets better, and here’s why I’m emailing you. The newspaper article says “They embedded coded texts in ordinary-looking images posted on the Internet,” which I’m almost positive is what you had us do for the steganography assignment you gave us in the fall.

The Wiggle

In by Michael on June 29, 2010 at 12:26 am

In the city of hills, you’ve gotta be smart on your bike if you want to arrive at your destination less than exhausted and dripping with sweat.

From this urban struggle versus the hills comes the infamy of the Wiggle, the flattest path you can take from Market Street to Golden Gate Park. You start going west until it looks less steep to turn and head north, until it looks less steep to turn and head west until it…

I’ve said too much; either you already bike the Wiggle, or you’ve gotta go feel the burn of not knowing it.

Leaving Paris

In by Lara on June 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm

After a hectic move-out, in which I left the Fondation Des Etats Unis at 8:00am but due to traffic and a fussy, rich old woman from Virginia, my shuttle didn’t get me to the airport until 10:15am. The flight was at 11:05 am.

So after jumping the entire security line and passport check, I am not successfully seated on the plane on my way back to the United States for the first time after being abroad for six months.

How do I feel at this moment in time? I suppose I feel profoundly sad, but completely satisfied at the same time. I suppose much like a writer after completing a book he or she has been writing for a period of time. Sad that it’s over, but proud of the journey.

As I filled out the customs declaration form, I felt a tinge of pride as I listed “all countries visited prior to this US arrival.” My travels spilled over the two lines provided, and as I wrote down each one, I had one of those cliché-flashback-slideshow montages you see in films when the character is reflecting over his life or love or whatever. I remembered and felt each and every trip in a matter of milliseconds.

And of course there was Paris. Paris in winter with my crazy host grandmother and a freezing climated I hadn’t felt since leaving Canada when I was seven-years-old. But it was full of exploring with friends, awkwardness as I stumbled in social situations in French, the creamiest, richest, most flavorful cheeses and wines, pastries so beautiful you want to appreciate them for a second before digging in (but only a second), and of course self-discovery and fun. I took a side-trip to Strasbourg and stayed with my friend Emma’s godparents’ family. We ate tarte flambée and visited the modern museum of art. Then another trip to Berlin to visit Ole, celebrate Emma’s birthday, and learn a tad bit of German (ich will essen die menschen). Then the end of the quarter came upon us so fast and without much sun, and it was time to go on our long-awaited spring break trip.

Spain and Morocco with an ideal traveling group – Mark, Harley, Andre, Michael, Emma, Ana, Lucia, and Wyatt. In Madrid, we met up with Michael, who had planned to study abroad there for Spring quarter. There, we encountered a melodramatic, hostile hostel woman who shushed us for whispering in our rooms. We visited the major art museums, had tapas, and Harley, Mark, and Andre just had to go to Taco Bell (even though it was an hour out of their way). Then we met up with Emma in Barcelona. Barcelona brought on sun, an accidental venture into a grunge-striptease club, and lots of good food. And then Morocco where we stayed in Riad hostels and met new friends, experienced the bustle of the medina in Marrakech, camped in the desert with camels and berbers, and visited the cute coastal town of Essaouira and giant industrial city Casablanca.

And suddenly, it was Spring quarter! New home, new Stanford group, and in a way, new Paris. Spring brought on…not nicer weather, but less brutal weather. Nevertheless, we did picnics, spoke more French (contests were involved), and took lots of trips: Avignon, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Drinking, clubbing, adventuring, all of the above were part of our day to day lives…as students? As young adults in Paris? As Americans in Paris?

And now I’m here on this plane. The seemed to go by just as fast as reading the above.

Kitchen

In by Lara on June 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I’m back in my kitchen. It feels like home. The spatula dotted with green Christmas trees and red stars feels right in my hand, and as I stir, everything seems to come easy like I never lost that muscle memory. I walk over to the oven with my cake batter. I hope I haven’t lost my touch. My dog is sitting in front of the oven, sleeping, and as I nudge him to move a little, he looks up at me as if to say, “Really? It’s kind of late to be cooking and I just want to sleep, goddamnit.”

Over And Away She Goes

In by Chris on June 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Over and away she goes
Falling head over toes over nose
Giving up hope that anybody might know
The slow Cadillac lights
Fading out into the night
No sight in black shadings
So no more waiting, she goes
Hurricanes could approach
Her doormat of standing is rolled
Ready and full, her flat feet on toes
Towards nothing she knows, she goes
Greeted by headwinds
The din when sight is dim
But a light in her mind
Skims into the expanse
The first slight steps of a dance
The doorjamb is past
At long last, avast, she goes
Over, away, gone

No One Can See Me

In by Chris on June 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I think that the driver sees me, so I step down into the street. Halfway across the crosswalk, I notice he isn’t slowing. Split seconds. I wave at him, then try to run. The car is small, hits me in the knee. I fold into the air, hang, and shatter on the pavement.
Now I find myself outside, and I can see the driver cursing his car for making that funny thudding noise again. I see many things; the pedestrians still waiting for the light chat as if nothing had happened, as if not even my crunched remains were real.

Beyond The Window Frames

In by Chris on June 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm

What wonders await beyond the window frames?
Yesterday the first day I looked out and saw
The streets full of flashes of cars
The strange slowness of park pathways
One high-rise, two church steeples
A city scene unchanging, I thought
And I imagined where I might go to find the next scene
Angles full of meaning

But as I sit still and my nervousness fades into the blue dusk
The window frames relax into the crosswalks beyond
And each changing light is more than the last

Nights wait impatiently
To waft in from beyond the windowpanes
To whisper of secrets

The Poet’s Ecstasy

In by Chris on June 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

And the trees they stood so strong!
And the mountains beyond!
The jagged mountains they stood so powerful.

The landscape swept me up and held me –
Oh how sweet and soft its arms;
And the warmth of the sunset –
Oh sweet warmth of reds and oranges!

Within this sky I stood,
Within the beauty
And within myself.
Oh great beauty of myself.

Oh evergreens your arms,
Like the embrace of titans,
Where my spirit soars out
Into the infinite sublimity!

Oh my love!
Spread into the atmosphere!
Sunset!
Mountaintop!
Lakes!
Horizon!
Oh the power of my existence!
Ohhh!
Ohhhhhhh!
OHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

The Man Who Tried To See At Night

In by Chris on June 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

“For attempting to make daylight at night, you are guilty. Your punishment: to be lashed to the sun for twenty-seven days and nights, to follow it in its revolutions.”
The prisoner with downcast eyes looked up to where a square of light seared through the single courthouse window.
The judge himself heaved thick ropes over the sun and pulled the prisoner up through the atmosphere to serve his fate.
His downcast eyes saw the world those twenty-seven days of luster. By the end of his punishment, he could see dark, underground corners of landscapes he had never dreamed could exist.

Paris, in English, but With French Turns of Phrase.

In by Wyatt on June 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm

And with a jolt, the beginning of the end began. The train docked and we disembarked. It was absolutely necessary to find first a toilet and then recharge the metro pass. The colourful signs cheerfully directed us to a public restroom within the concrete bowels of the station where a bitter, beefy woman declined to either offer the toilets for free or to offer change for a bill, preferring to twist her four chins into an expression of strangled delight after turning away customer after customer without the proper seventy centime in coins. Our bladders were full. So were our wallets. The famous French customer service showed its finest.

After a heated exchange in fluid French capped off with “good day”s so sharp and frosty they could cut slice beer, we moved on. In the station we found eighteen metro pass recharge machines. We found all eighteen of them because not one would accept our foreign credit cards or paper money. We stormed the gates and jumped the metro.

Such it was that the final return to our home away from home had greeted us with malevolence, cold disinterest, and institutionalized lack of empathy. We were uncomfortable from the beasts in our bladders screaming for release, and from the growing dread of feeling unwanted by this city we’d come to love. Commence la crise touristique. Well understand, I didn’t want to exactly be French Parisian. I wanted to be myself in Paris – a Parisian American. An amalgamation of everything I love about my motherland and everything I’d learnt and discovered and uncovered and grown to adore about my surrogate. But at that moment I felt more like an American Tourist in Paris: lost, non-belonging, and rejected.

Step two: the epiphany. The answer. The reassurance. After the initial onslaught of panic about being no more at home in Paris than the first day I hobbled its cobbled streets, came the most terrific and unexpected series of vignettes lasting fully a day that convinced me otherwise, and told me whether or not I made my plane back to the States, I would be at home.

We got off the metro in the souk of Chateau Rouge, a mishmash north-African neighborhood tied together with corn-cobs roasting on shopping carts and the sweet smell of fresh Chinese polyester wafting from the honeycomb of discount stores lining hectic boulevards. As I walked through the one-way metro exit gate a large man held up his hand from the other side to say “STOP” and began trying to wrestle his way past me through the doors. Without a second thought, firm yet sympathetic French flew from my mouth telling him to chill out because man, that just doesn’t work, haha. I held my ground and he let me exit, trying his luck with the next guy behind me.

Next, bought a duffel bag in one of the cheapo stores to take back all my new euro clothes. I will look European for months. San Francisco will lap it up.

Then back in the metro to meet a French friend for a farewell lunch. I ask Lara what one is allowed to do to a pickpocket in the metro, can you hit them? Kick them? What if they are young, female, malnourished, and Romanian, like we were warned about months ago during orientation? We agreed it would be generally considered bad taste to throw them in front of the coming train. Doing so would also make it difficult to retrieve your wallet.

We change trains at Denfert, the station that would like to say “in hell” or “hellish”. As the doors open on car three, two girls move to get out. They see Lara’s and my day-trip backpacks and about-face, deciding to stay on the train. In hindsight everything is so clear. The atmosphere felt turgid, tense, and not only because of the poorly ventilated carriage. We get on, and I sit down, look at Lara, I see one of the little girls eyeing Lara’s purse like a snake, I jump up and shout What does she think she’s doing at her in French, Lara grabs the girl’s arm, her comrade bolts and Lara jumps off the train after them, I follow, my heart slamming against my throat, Lara screams, keske tas pris, what did you take, they shout back angrily, foiled, they hadn’t taken anything, yet, and the train is still at the platform behind us, doors open, because it all lasted less than one second, and then they’re gone, penniless. Lara still has her purse and all of her valuables. We get back on the train and sit down, smiling, triumphant, not-so-touristy after all. I ask Lara what the word for “pickpocket” is in French, and in classic French style, the young man sitting next to me pipes up “c’est le meme: c’est pickpocket”.

Parisians are distrustful of strangers, because they live in a hectic, pulsating city with people everywhere waiting to take advantage of them. Thus they will treat you coldly, with méfiance, when you speak to them out of the blue. But there are tricks to the game. A common situation can provide assurance that you are in the same boat as them, not trying to scam them. Thus our stranger friend, who witnessed the whole ordeal, let down his defenses, and we talked in fact, like Americans. But in French.

He said he’d known right off the bat that the two girls were pickpockets. He said that everyone in the train car probably had. But hence comes the second important finding about Parisians: to assert oneself to a stranger is to arrogantly assume you know better than them. Thus Parisians will rarely offer help (though they will be wonderfully helpful once you ask for it – providing they’re not paid to do it, à la our friend at the public toilet). I asked him what one was supposed to do, and he said, well, we did it. I asked him if there was a way to alert the station so others, who may be less alert and Parisian, don’t get pickpocketed. He said no, it would take five minutes for them to put an alert over the loudspeaker and by that time the girls could be anywhere, the alert would be useless.

He played jazz bass and frequents the jazz bar we would later go to that night. He said to look out for a strange little guitarist named Jumping Jeff. Then it was our stop and we got off.

We ate lunch at our friend’s house. At this point I realized I had a friend in Paris who would cook me an elaborate meal and put me up in his home for a month.

After a lazy afternoon of rosé and gentle sunlight filtering through the window, we went to the US embassy for a special event. A private screening of Sex And The City 2. Joking with the French barman about the various chic/chick cocktails featured was as smooth as the drinks themselves. The film however was a colonialist masterpiece of capitalist propaganda, a culture shock like I’d never thought possible to have with one’s home.. All happiness comes with enough money. Having not enough money means you can’t have happiness. Fashion is imperative, luxury is quotidian, the West is absurdly superior to the East, the dream is still alive, and God Bless America. Perhaps this was an inoculation for my flight the next day.

When we emerged, the nearly full moon was sitting on Haussman’s rooftops and the air cooling like a soft white in a tub of ice. Next stop was a jazz cave. Beneath the cobblestones of the Latin Quarter beats swing, blues and bebop in tiny cellars filled with beer, people, and syncopated rhythms. We found the Cave of the Forgotten and submerged ourselves in a six hundred year old basement to watch non other than Jumping Jeff himself purse his face and jiggle as he got jiggy with his solo and melted his guitar into his hands. Outside for some fresh air, a combination of English and French flew around me and a group of French friends, each person speaking in their nonnative tongue about travel and Sweden and herrings.

Pause for a Greek sandwich, stuffed fat with gyro chicken slowly spattering as it rotates on its spit, flinging grease onto the halogen construction lamps above, which, after years sitting in this spot have come to resemble gyros themselves, languidly drip the fat back down from their plastic housing onto the meat.

Bar Dix offers homemade sangria rich with cinnamon and thick with hunks of fresh orange. It’s only a walk away, and is the quintessential Parisian bar. The sign out front broke lifetimes ago, and has been replaced by the chalk scribble “Bar 10”. The bar is about the size of an ensuite bathroom, with crumbling walls and affectionate graffiti on everything. It seems like the barman was born in there. It’s closing soon, but it’s less uptight about the 1am curfew than anywhere else. An anachronistic digital jukebox bleats out French oldschool hits. We’re the only ones in here now.

When it finally grates its grille closed we leave and head to the streets. A simple bench on the side of the road proves to be the perfect spot to chat about life and humanity and perfection and meanness and the future.

But finally, we must leave. My friend uses his French ATM card and linked bank account to fulfill my one last wish in Paris – to ride the velibs, the public bicycles, home after a long night (my American account doesn’t work, and I had given up hope). I speed through the deserted orange streets, in a blur, in a dream, and am suddenly at the Seine with it bridges, at the Louvre with its pyramids, at Concorde with its fountains, and up up up up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe. A glory ride around the biggest, wildest round-a-bout I’ve ever seen on a gifted bike in the pristine night staring up at the symbolic gateway to the city. Then I park my velib at a station right next to my place and approach my front door.

It is 3am, a warm night. The new door code doesn’t work, and I’m unable to get in. I have a key in my pocket, but that’s for the inner doors. I panic. I have to repack and leave first thing in the morning! I text my host mum who is currently vacationing somewhere in the Alps, hoping she won’t forever hate me for waking her up at this hour. I call Lara frantically looking for reassurance and a solution. Without even my requesting it Lara’s jumped into a cab. As I wait for her I walk around – that bike ride made me thirsty, parched even, and I go into the first bar and ask the barman for a glass of water that I know he is obliged to give. I explain my peculiar situation, he grunts. C’est la vie.

Lara comes to my rescue like a fairy, like a genie, like a veritable personification of generosity from across the city; and my host brother emerges from behind the locked door and lets us into the building. I’m in! I’m home! I’m safe, I’ll catch the plane after all. Dommage.

As I let Lara out the 5am sky turns sapphire. I step into the elevator on the way back up, and a suited, politico looking gentleman steps in with me, bodyguards in tow. I recognize him from his stance – he’s our elusive next-door neighbour who I’d been wanting to bump into the whole quarter – the French Minister for Something. I comment that it’s so early right now that it’s bizarre we’re both up – except that for me, it’s actually just late. I haven’t slept, I explain. Such a life has become normal. He looks at me with a bemused smile that says he feels me, but that his reasons for skipping sleep were a little more work-related, and wishes me a good morning.

I hit my bed and crash. As I freefall into sleep I wonder at that perfect end to my frolic in Paris. I came here wanting to learn French but keep my tone of voice; I came here wanting to find the friendly behind the detached in strangers; I came here wanting to find a second home, where I knew the ins and outs and tricks of the trade; I came here wanting to become a French American composite; I came here wanting crisis and solution. In this day, I found it all.

Fin.

Too Many Books

In by Michael on June 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm

You know that pile of books you have? The ones you haven’t gotten around to reading yet?

Breathe deep, don’t get defensive; we all have that same pile, and we know we’ll read them someday (just not today). They catch your eye from time to time and remind you they exist, yet you continue to let them sit there collecting dust but not fingerprints.

This is where I come in. I’m a book babysitter. For no cost to you, I will come to your house, accept your books, take them home, read them for you, and return them. Call me.

My Bike Ride to Work

In by Michael on June 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Past the fastfood joints and the 24 hour fitness spots. Past the discount stores where you can buy an outfit for $4 and the coffee shops where a cappuccino goes for the same price. Past the donut shops and Chinese restaurants and the Mexican fruit vendors. Past the hobos playing chess and the tourists discovering the city for the first time. Past the cute girls on cute bikes and the gay pride rainbow flags flying gay and proud. Past the garbage and the garbage men who can’t keep up. Past the business men and art students and whoevers doing whatever.

Our Apartment

In by Michael on June 22, 2010 at 12:56 am

Sweet home (849A) Alabama.

Everything checks out- the place is dope. The outside is orange and funky. The inside is clean and bright.

There’s a garden and a grill. I found my keys under the mat. Yours are waiting on the kitchen table.

We have a machine that washes our dishes.

The wireless works nicely. I haven’t checked on the cable tv.

There are comfy bunk beds now. The landlord’s swapping in regular beds soon.

It’s 5 minutes by foot to Mexican food and 5 minutes by bike to Dolores Park.

It even came with a boombox and a blender.

America

In by Michael on June 22, 2010 at 12:42 am

Back home in America.

Where a coffee’s a coffee, money looks like money, waiters act like waiters, on-time is on-time, big cities have tall buildings, meters and grams are miles and pounds, police and ambulance sirens sound like there’s an actual emergency, everyone’s a foreigner, plugs fit in the outlet, streets are paved not cobble stoned, pop music is local, sweat pants are an option, Coke is cheaper than beer, public bathrooms are free, salads are accepted and so is being fat, websites end in .com, and a cross-country trip takes weeks not hours.

It’s nice to be back everybody.

Curio

In by Chris on June 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Every day Curio saw squirrels run up and down the ragged trunks of the forest. Where do they live? he wondered. On a fall day when the evergreens were anchoring themselves and their new-grown needles for the long winter ahead, he climbed into the heights of a fir tree, following the scrabblings of a small gray squirrel. There it was, a little hole in the cleft between two branches. For hours he watched the squirrel in its nest. When he finally looked away he lost his breath. Expanses of ancient forest spread below him in evergreen hillsides like motionless waves.

Dream At The Office

In by Chris on June 19, 2010 at 10:54 pm

He dreamed of hands calloused, back aching. The broilers and fences to be repaired. In here, a plastic ramp propped up his feet and his chair swiveled. Two hours and he hadn’t moved. He leaned back to stretch, heard a vertebrae pop. Outside it looked sunny, but maybe getting windy. In his dream, the weather and the seasons beyond were tied into his bones like hunger after a sunrise morning. It sounded nice, natural. Some day, when he was through this document and had lived his time in this city. The horizons of his soul were ready for country air.

Game Seven

In by Chris on June 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Pa never drinks. But when the Lakers went up on the Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, he was on the verge. I could tell. His friends were all screaming and shouting every time the ball moved, and then the game was over and his beloved Celtics, the Celtics he had once skipped school to see, had lost. For the first time, I saw resignation in Pa’s eyes, and he cracked open a cold one. The first swig went down slow like a tear from a lesser man. My shock was soon overcome by the commiseration we shared.

The Hill Where The Bobcat Waits

In by Chris on June 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm

In the bushes on the crown of the hill, that’s where her grandmother told her the family treasure was. She went alone, barely tall enough to see through the grasses. Towards the top a wet wind came up; the blue sun did not warm her.

She crawled beneath a tangle of thorny weeds. A low hiss sounded, and a branch caught her hair. A movement. The thicket held her in place, and suddenly there before her was a bobcat. She trembled, for her grandmother had not warned her.

“Please don’t come.” The bobcat approached her with its slant eyes unblinking.

Where Have We Diverged

In by Chris on June 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm

He came into his brother’s cabin with his mind full,
top-heavy as
a ship with its crew
all in the rigging.
It wasn’t until late that night, after talk
of parents
of friends
of stories
that his own ideas started to cry out for release. He spoke slower then,
as if his words could be grenades
and his brother,
sensing war,
would begin to dig trenches.
They were different people, with different outlooks.
So his silences spoke
where his words might go.
His silences stumbled,
he felt them lame
and his brain ran away.
They talked together all night.

Lucky And Unlucky

In by Chris on June 15, 2010 at 11:45 pm

The sidewalk is a trampoline. The sidewalk is a snake. The sidewalk bounces us along, eats us up, and whistles. We are Mexican jumping beans. We are snake eyes. We are lucky and unlucky and we always get to roll again. The bus driver said hello when I got on board but let me off without a second glance. This city hurts me. It deserts me and it inspires me. The alcoholics are the good guys and the cops are evil, though I’m told it’s sometimes the other way around. What to do next? Where to go? Who really knows?

Mr. Todd And The Kids

In by Chris on June 14, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Every month or so Mr. Todd would stop class in the middle. “You know,” he would say, “I don’t have the mind for Rousseau right now. It’s time for a break. Can’t keep grinding the mind away day after day.”
The kids, those that were awake, agreed. They started getting antsy.
When this happened Mr. Todd never had a plan, he just knew he couldn’t possibly be bothered to think any more. “We’ll try again tomorrow or next week,” he would say.
By then the kids would be wide awake, whispering to each other and imagining the sunny day outside.

Invocation

In by Chris on June 11, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Sirens made Carlton think of Kelsey. He could barely hear any noise from the forty-ninth story, but how the red and blue ran up the walls up towards his empty window made him remember how she scraped her knee in Germany.

Kelsey was off in New York. She thought of Carlton only when bookmobiles passed or when she whiffed glazed donuts. Then she’d get all longing for him and think of the time they accidentally danced when they weren’t even supposed to.

Oh miracle of something!
Whatever you are,
Please,
Bring us back together!
We are lonely
In our apartments!

Sounds Like A Migraine, But We’d Best Have An MRI

In by Chris on June 11, 2010 at 9:03 am

A numbness started in my fingertips and spread into my hand. Soon the right half of my lips had the same sensation, and I could feel it move slowly back into my gums and then around onto my tongue.

Later, at dinner, my eyebrows started hurting and when I tried to tell a story, I couldn’t remember what the right words were. I said “shark” instead of “water” and “boat” instead of “squid”.

A line of bright crosshatch later appeared in my right eye. My mind functioned, and I found it absurd and fearful that I should remain observant throughout.

Why Licensed to Ill Might Be the Best Rap Album Ever

In by Michael on June 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm

The facts: it’s by the Beastie Boys, 3 middle class Brooklyn Jews, and it’s the biggest-selling rap album of the 80’s.

It shows the value of not giving a fuck. They don’t care about conveying an image they aren’t. They rap about what they know about – White Castle burgers, porno mags, bein’ hated and confront-ated, and the right to party. You won’t find them faking it in a single line. Their beats are the same way, original stuff made out of whatever sounded good at the time – rock music samples and their voices and blaring bass and xylophones.

Amelia

In by Michael on June 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I’ve been living with this lady, Amelia, in Spain for the past quarter. She cooks all of my food. Her Spanish rice is beyond words so I won’t try. She’s lived in the same neighborhood her whole life but she’s travelled all over Spain. She has a sharp sense of humor that I love. One day I got home from school and she had organized absolutely everything in my room, including safely stowing away my condoms in my retainer case. She’d rather wait for a bus than walk 3 blocks. She thinks she’s too old to travel but she isn’t.

The Music

In by Michael on June 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

38.7 days.

That’s the length of my music library, start to finish.

I can show you the winding canals of indie rock. I’ll take you on a tour of hip-hop from its scrappy beginnings to stuff that doesn’t come out until next month. We’ll put on some electronic and pump the bass until your heart beat matches the music. I’ll show you the 60’s without ever opening a history book.

If it’s rainy, I have music for that. If you’re having a barbeque, I have music for that. If you’re tired of listening to music, I have music for that.

Vices

In by Lara on June 9, 2010 at 12:58 am

She knew that after this moment, she would never feel the same ever again. And it wasn’t because of the sex or the booze or the assortment of technicolor pills scattered on her coffee-stained coffee table. Or maybe this was everything. What was this “cleaning up” thing supposed to do anyway? She didn’t believe that it was even possible to be quote-unquote clean this day in age. Well, what it came down to is that her future husband-to-be did believe it was possible, and not in this moment, but after—that was what was important.

She snorted a line.

“You’d make a good lawyer.”

In by Michael on June 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm

“You’d make a good lawyer.”

The only people who ever tell me that a) are older than me and b) have just lost an argument with me.

You say it like I’m a kid: “It’s remarkable that you construct effective arguments on the fly. You could do something with that someday.” Listen bitch, I know. What you’re really saying is you’d pay me hundreds of dollars an hour to do what comes naturally to me. And that I just reasoned you into a corner where the most constructive thing you could say is a backhanded compliment unrelated to the topic at hand.

Portland’s Architect

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:57 pm

His studio is scattered with brightly colored drawings of bridges and buildings. The proportions aren’t always quite right, and though he’s entered many architectural competitions, none of his ideas have been made into a physical reality. He does it because he loves it. All his buildings are covered in solar panels and all his bridges have parks built into them. His head is full of ideas, and for each idea he has had there is a sketch or a miniature model lying somewhere in the studio. Though he knows no building contractors, in his studio Portland grows bright and green.

Abandoned Bandit

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

She was probably a bandit lying in abandonment beneath the highway’s shoulder. Her hair filled with grass and a bent knife held in her left hand. We watched her in fascination as she rolled over to smudge her other cheek with tar-stained gravel.

She would not look at us. Scouring her pockets, we found nothing. Ants crawled from the tops of her torn boots and she held her hair across her eyes.

We left her there a monument to the highways crossing our great nation, another piece of trash discarded and dirtied on the smoothed route from here to destination.

Slumped Shoulders

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

He was a tall man, heart full of plum pits. Under his jacket was a worn collared shirt, and under that a yellowed tank top. His shoes were new but his shoulders were slumped.
At the supermarket, he read each label entirely before setting something in his basket. The checkout lady knew him. “Would you like a bag for your labels sir?” The joke passed him. Later in the car he would think about it.
His path unfolded through stop signs and crosswalks. He thought of dive-bombers as he drove. Each hour his watch beeped from inside the glove box.

Yell

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I stand in the darkness where two shadows cross and begin to yell. My voice grows hoarser as my yell drags out, but I do not run out of breath. For minutes the gravel depths flow out of me and into the night. My knees feel weak and my head floats off into lightness. The pigeons grow accustomed to the noise and peak over the gutters high above. Hours pass and the streetlights are replaced by sunlight; still the yell comes. My ears become numb. My whole being is wrapped into that yell, until finally it fades into a groan.

Things That Seem Profound At The Moment

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm

When we imagine stories, we don’t seek to find examples for truths we believe in, but create instead our own mini-truths.

Since the entire truth would encompass everything everywhere, our search for the truth is futile; instead we approach the truth by expanding our minds.

The truth lurks everywhere. Even in experiencing things that are false we might grow in our comprehension of the truth.

My leg itches.

We’re naturally communicative. When we have an idea that opens our perception to new channels of thinking, we feel we must either tell someone else or write it down for later.

Heavenly Duties

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm

The priest skipped his tea and evening hour of reading. He went straight towards his straw-filled bed, where he collapsed without a sound. The day had sucked the vigor out of him. In the morning he had spoken of helicopters at mass. After, while the people rearranged the chapel for a wedding he was to perform that evening, he had been summoned by a whisper to a house on the periphery of town, where a dying woman talked to him as if she had never talked to a human before. After, at the wedding the applause lasted for several minutes.

No Food Or Drink In The Library

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:11 pm

The librarian came in furious and snatched the student’s half-eaten banana.

“I’ve told you and your whole class! No food! No water!” The student stood, and the librarian jabbed his forefinger into his chest. “Leave this library! I will not have you making a mess!”

The student said quietly, “Please don’t touch me.” Five days in the library had worn his mind and patience down.

The librarian shoved him towards the door, and the student grabbed him by the front of his shirt. He held the smaller man up against a wall. “Don’t try to tell me what to do.”

Talking

In by Chris on June 7, 2010 at 10:11 pm

“I’m craving something that tastes so good it could have won a blue ribbon.”
“Watch your step.”
“The set-up seems intuitive, but I can’t seem to figure out what to do next.”
“The other day I saw a plane do an emergency landing in a field.”
“Where do you find these?”
“It reminds me of what Lucy said in the Wizard of Oz.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Certainly.”
“How about Nancy Pelosi? Or Donald Duck?”
“Or how about this, we split it half and half.”
“I saw you walk by the other day.”
“That hairpiece looks so great on you!”

Bad Writing

In by Michael on June 7, 2010 at 5:24 am

This is bad writing. These words don’t add up to 100. They waste the reader’s time; the writer’s too. I’m changing the oil and this is the old gunk that needs to go. I’ve got more important things to write, and this is my dirty dirty practice run, though I’d be lying if I said it was a draft; none of this will be in the finished product. This bad writing is repetitive and goes nowhere and you’ll catch writer’s block just by reading it.

Done. Phew. The fear of bad writing is a sham. That wasn’t scary at all.

Madrid

In by Michael on June 7, 2010 at 4:52 am

The security guard in the Metro has his shirt halfway unbuttoned, with a small jesus piece resting in his grey chest hair. It matches his wedding ring. He flirts with his coworker, the lady selling the tickets. When I ask her, a woman beautiful for her age, for a receipt, she says that this station doesn’t do that, and she isn’t sure why. At the train platform, a couple on a bench protests social standards of public decency.

I’ve seen this before. The days blend together, and when I’ve been up all night in the city, today is still yesterday.

Cutchum

In by Chris on June 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Cookles and sprocklets. When I was young I had a puppy. I named it Leotard. It changed from a puppy into a dog, so I renamed it Carnivar. That dog I had for many years, until something went terribly wrong. Blunderbush. How many moonscapes did I cry in? But I was young then. Sometime later I found a kitten in a roof’s gutter, though I hate cats. I named it Porcelainpine. It tried to learn to fly, and I gained a certain respect for it. Barnababy, juckle. What’s a pet anyway? Throw names at them; sometimes they retrieve. Othertimes, no.

pompidou

In by Wyatt on June 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I left with a numb buttcheek after chilling 45 minutes on the stone floor bumming internet. Hopped on a metro that was steamier than a hammam, then folded down the flip-up chair in a full train car. It’s okay because I’m a cripple. While everyone else pondered their existence in the Moroccan Baths tour of the Paris underground, I slept retardedly until I was woken by a fat man’s fart an inch from my nostril. Quelle chance, my stop.

Got home, passed out. Three hours later woke up high, hungover. Hadn’t smoked or drunk, culprit: nap. Now to start work.

The Clumsy Goat

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Once upon a time there was a very clumsy mountain goat. He felt bad about himself because while all of his cousins were running up and down mountains, he had to go slowly or else he would fall.

One day he played tag with his cousins. Before long, he was it. As he chased a younger goat, for the first time he forgot himself and felt free, as if he didn’t have a body. The rocks passed right under him.

Until his foot hit a loose rock and he tumbled down the entire hillside, crying before he hit the bottom.

Trippy Space Alien

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

This story is about a trippy space alien with cowboy boots. I say he is trippy for two reasons. First of all, humans trip out when they see his perfectly reflective and somehow pulsating body. Mostly, though, he is trippy because he is wearing cowboy boots, and he is not a cowboy. They always make him fall flat on his face-like area.

Well, if that isn’t an introduction to make you curious, then I don’t know what is. The trippy space alien with cowboy boots is sitting next to me and he seems pretty curious, though it’s hard to tell.

Anticlimax

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

The wife cried distraughtly then shouted at the husband. He reacted by grabbing the fire poker. The baby had crawled to the door and the dog whimpered with its tail down. Outside they could still hear the cars diving past desperately.

At that moment the scene was ready, the play built to a climax.

Instead a bird flew to the windowsill. Perhaps it was a bat. With wings folded, it watched until the scene folded into itself and smoothed back to normalcy. The wife began to cry again, the husband threw down the poker, and the baby spoke in gibberish.

Late Night Miracle

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Every time I try to stay awake late into the night, something bizarre occurs. Tonight I hid in a library until every hunched-over librarian had left and then sat before the great windows writing something I imagined to be full of fantasy. When my mind began hallucinating, I heard keys in the door. A small man walked in behind me and flipped on the lights. “Excuse me,” he said, and walked around in front of me. He had a tube strapped to his back and he began to vacuum the corners of the window. After thirty seconds, he disappeared.

Points Of Contact

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 1:25 am

Knee to carpet.
Elbow to mattress.
Glasses to bridge of the nose.
Hairs to arms.
Toes to floor.
Shirt to shoulders.
Spine to skull.
Hip to air.
Teeth to sockets.
Femur to vertical.
Palm to thigh.
Earlobe to cheek.
Forehead to forward.
Knee to blanket.
Waist to blanket.
Hair to scalp.
Vertebrae to vertebrae.
Thumb to forefinger.
Hand to air.
Teeth to lip.
Shirt to skin.
Underwear to hips.
Fingers to hair.
Shoulder to ear.
Thigh to stomach.
Heart to mind.
Heel to ankle.
Rib to rib.
Wrist to bed sheet.
Eyes to up.
Stomach to liver.
Chin to air.

Endings

In by Chris on June 4, 2010 at 1:25 am

Instead of nostalgic endings we dive away from one another
Towards lunch restaurants, or distant cities
Whose bridged rivers connect and divide us.

In the morning the vans come
And our hugs are the ritual
Of kicking the dust off of sandal soles,
Of trading beneath ourselves one earth for another.

If it is an abrupt event, so much the better,
For the morning heat spreads through the streets
Like nothing ever happens,
Like seasons cycle outside of passion or meaning.

Goodbye to friends once again;
The end sneaks up on us roughly,
It passes and again we must begin.

Steeple Hang

In by Chris on June 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm

He ended up hanging from the metal cross atop the steeple with the breeze riffling through his half-unbuttoned shirt. The rusty iron cut into his palms as yelled for help. But anyone who might have stopped by that old church was out at the river, for it was a baptismal Sunday and a new baby had been born.

He was not a desperate man, nor a heathen. For all the knuckled awkwardness of the situation, his mind was balanced. It’s an unfortunate, silly thing, he thought, then opened his mouth and ululated for help again. The quiet afternoon answered.

Class

In by Chris on June 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm

When those fat cats were in there and the shower curtain divided the first class passengers from the average joe, Kelly’s domain was ready. Hair in bun and back a rod, she turned those comfy seaters into a clique of the classiest humans. Fingers waved desires and Kelly gravely answered them. Eyeglasses sat low on noses like connoisseurs. Conversation was limited to throaty matters.

But boy, when they were out of the tube, Kelly whooped it up with the main cabin attendants. She joked, she did impressions, she did it all with a grin and her rigid back long gone.

The Watery Night

In by Chris on June 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm

The waves have their sing song, ever-content way of moving.
I can’t wash myself over wide beaches, so I walk instead,
Straight as if my steps were the spokes of a wheel.
My narrow track winds before me and behind
And throws me ever over my head and back to my feet again
In the sort of spiraling motion that will someday leave me a dot.
My corkscrew into the watery night will leave hardly a ripple.
So if the world is an ocean, or the night hides the earth,
My path winds itself upon buttresses felt more than glimpsed.