Archives for December 2012

What have I become?

“Do something fun with bourbon,” I told the bartender.

Moments later, she presented me with a cocktail she’d made up on the spot: Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and muddled blueberries(!)

It was fantastic.

Raskolnikov — Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 7 and 8


For those who never knew or have forgotten, I’ve been rewriting Crime and Punishment as a verse novel in the style of Eugene Onegin.

Click here for the story up to now.

Here’s the latest ladle of psycho-stroganoff. As before, your candid appraisal would be most welcome. That includes criticism, constructive or otherwise.


Each fateful footfall draws him nearer:
His destination looms ahead,
Its details redrawn larger, clearer.
He counts each step with mounting dread
And racing heart as he retraces
The seven-hundred thirty paces
From his room to… that place’s door.
What seemed an ugly dream before
Now fills imagination’s page
With dialogue… direction… action.
Repulsion yields to the attraction
Of playing that scene on that stage.
Despite his nerves, he can’t reverse.
He mounts the stage; he must rehearse.


Between canal and Sadóvaya,
It rises — the familiar shock:
Higher and higher, layer on layer,
That building hulks above its block.
Within its warrens dwell assorted
Tradespeople; Germans; unsupported
Young ladies…. Now the fading day’s
Rush-hour foot-traffic runs two ways:
Both back and forth; its hot disorder
Swarms two courtyards. Through one yard’s gate,
Into a stairwell, swift and straight,
Unseen by any lurking porter
(Four porters work here… maybe three?),
Slips Rodya, thinking ‘Lucky me!’

Mel Gibson’s Sunset Boulevard?

Mel Gibson’s Sunset Boulevard.

All Sales Final

In which I propose a film.

What Came in the Mail


Christmas in La Mesa, 2012


Shelly’s Catholic

Northern Exposure: Holling sings Ave Maria to Shelly on Christmas Eve.

‘Presepio’, by Joseph Brodsky (translated by Richard Wilbur)

The wise men; Joseph; the tiny infant; Mary;
The cows; the drovers, each with his dromedary;
The hulking shepherds in their sheepskins — they
Have all become toy figures made of clay.

In the cotton-batting snow that’s strewn with glints,
A fire is blazing. You’d like to touch that tinsel
Star with a finger — or all five of them,
As the infant wished to do in Bethlehem.

All this, in Bethlehem, was of greater size.
Yet the clay, round which the drifted cotton lies,
With tinsel overhead, feels good to be
Enacting what we can no longer see.

Now you are huge compared to them, and high
Beyond their ken. Like a midnight passerby
Who finds the pane of some small hut aglow,
You peer from the cosmos at this little show.

There life goes on, although the centuries
Require that some diminish by degrees,
While others grow, like you. The small folk there
Contend with granular snow and icy air,

And the smallest reaches for the breast, and you
Half-wish to clench your eyes, or step into
A different galaxy, in whose wastes there shine
More lights than there are sands in Palestine.

Wilbur, Richard. Anterooms: New Poems and Translations: 35-36. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

Dear Paul Elie,

Has fiction lost its faith? Not quite. Come take a gander!


Matthew Lickona

p.s. Very glad to hear that you’ve got skin in the game these days.

[Thanks to IC for the tip.]

Year in Review

Dear friends the Earth is spinning wildly
While stars collide and comets zing.
The universe, to put it mildly,
Is fucking strange and has a sting.
The beast of Bethlehem is breathing
In our breath, and time is seething
To feel its swirling down the drain,
Derailing like a wayward train.
O Death, your lipstick and mascara
And holiday cards at Christmas time
Can’t hide from us your latest crime—
We see your camera obscura.
O Death, dear friends, let us recall
The painful light that woke us all.

Merry Christmas from the American Nihilist Underground Society

I can’t recall the exact path which led me to these guys, but sometimes the destination really is better than the journey. If, like me, you find Scrooges to be the best entertainment money can’t buy, you might enjoy this anti-Christmas screed. Or at least this excerpt:

Christmas is just another day, and a day in which you can do what you want, as long as you aren’t fooled by the hype of the crowd. Happy are those who never hear Christmas music at all, but happier are those who hear without hearing, and notice the holiday without heeding. Crush Christmas with your awareness of its meaninglessness. There’s no need for despair if you never take it seriously in the first place.

I don’t know which I like more, the one ironic twist too many in the acronym, the overly precious alliteration, or the quasi-biblical intonement of “notice without heeding”.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

“How my friend Maria joined the Sacred Order of the Very 1970s Catholic Social Apocalypse/Baseball Novel.”

The Awl discovers Catholic end-times literature.

At the Keyboard in Majorca

Between November 8, 1838 and February 13, 1839, Frederic Chopin accompanied George Sand and her two children Solange and Maurice to Majorca to restore his failing health. Met with a growing animosity by the Majorcan natives who soon realized this couple was not married, Chopin and Sand were forced to take up residence in an abandoned Carthusian monastery on the island outside the town of Valldemossa. Considered one of his most productive periods of composition, these three months on Majorca yielded some of Chopin’s most exquisite compositions – including his best preludes, ballades and polonaises.

Where monks had once intoned their Easter Mass
With bells, Majorca’s foggy winter
Now counsels death in secret briefs with night
Against my living. Summer lost its bloom
As rest and music crossed on purpose
This irony of island dreams in sand:
She comes…she goes – it’s all that’s blowing
Through dark and dampened corners of my soul.
Too young to grow so old… I learned to please
My mother first, then pater, sister,
(Dear sister!) teachers… one by one, at last
Until my mistress music mastered
The heart: prelude, ballade, and polonaise –
So adulation served as mentor,
But even praises faded …. Warsaw’s fight
Had failed to wake the world; with throaty doom
The cannonade would sing cacophonous
Sonatas. Fate had raped our motherland
Again – her children’s blood was flowing
As Europe shoved her into history’s hole.
Now all I feel is waste, decay, disease –
In falling rain, the themes will fester
And burst at last – I break into the past
With keys both black and white, sequestered
Upon Majorcan shores. The natives pass
My window, trading rumor’s banter
In sharpened tones. The beaches’ major white
Dissolves in minor grey and clocks presume
Their price upon the daily purchase
Of time. I watch the waves beyond the strand,
The force of bloodless rhythm’s slowing.
The built momentum crashes like the bell
That once had rung to tell the Angelus –
Such tolling faith, not mine to foster,
Bespoke the grace Carthusians had amassed
And Majorcan flocks had pastured.
The only faith I have is that which loss
Can save. The past and future splinter
My heart, now martyr red, now ghostly white…
Oh, Poland, look what you and I’ve become!
Our exiled souls forever trespass
No matter where we go! I make no stand
Except for music’s honor, owing
My pledge to eight and eighty* muses who’ll
Invite my touch while pledging bond’s release
By perfect fifths. I’ve often missed there
By eighths, by flats, a second slow, a quarter fast…
Ill-timed too, all this talk of bastard
And mistress… Gossip, Valldemossa! Crass
Invidiousness, prying slander
Well suit your vatic ruins. Pallid white
The bones you dust with lies your tongues exhume.
But Amandine, Solange and Maurice
(You, your children, inmates all), you hand
To me the Christmas flowers growing
In summer rebellion against our cruel
And tragic winter. Florid fantasies,
Would come to me that way too, cluster
Like fingers playing on the wind and blessed
With tunes of azure, crimson, mustard….
Arriving in November, making less
Of doctor’s orders, more for splendor,
We picnicked on the shingle. Nights we’d fight,
Then love at dawn– or flee the breakfast room
To watch the terns dissect a porpoise
That beached the night before. I understand
How life is gone when love is going…
Such suns are brief that shadows can console –
Such burdens end when lashing out with keys
Can turn the dexterous by sinister
Conveyance. Cast as life’s iconoclast,
Romance remains a craft that’s mastered
The same as any art: Our last embrace,
I kissed your hands. “The hands of an enchanter,”
I said. Such little ironies excite
Your heart beyond the tethered metronome –
Your heart, so wry, sublime and heartless…
I’d feel my fingertips caressing sand –
My heart would seek amendment, knowing
Its constitution broke in Paris, full
Of grief and emptying spleen with restless cause
Upon the parchment’s alabaster:
The marshaled clefs and staffs became the grist
Of detonating strings that roistered
For revolution! Flashing bolts caress
The strike! As I grow frail and gaunter,
These keys will fit a final iron gate,
Unlocking sound against – beyond – the tomb.


*Chopin’s beloved Pleyel which he had with him on Majorca had only 85 keys (missing the bottom A, A-minor and B keys found on most grand pianos., but please allow for poetic license.

‘I am the rod to their lightning.’

In the December 2012 issue of Poetry Magazine, Mary Karr takes a crack at writing a poem in the voice of Our Lady.

On the Shelf


At Auntie’s Books in Spokane

Transgression: my idea for a Tarantino-style exploitation pic

Nazi doctor, famed for his research and insight into anatomy (gleaned, of course, by doing horrible things to Jewish prisoners while they are still alive). Trouble is, he is a homosexual, which will not do for a proper Nazi. But the authorities find him too valuable to remove, so they restrict his contact/research to female prisoners. And lo and behold, he actually falls in love with one of them. And she – it seems – loves him in return. So what does our doctor do? He goes all Frankenstein on her, bending his talents and understanding of anatomy to the effort of making her into a him. A doomed romance, with something to offend everyone!

What Came in the Mail


Of course, I’ll be reading it on the Kindle, though.

Off the Shelf

Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub Redux!


(Of course, I’ll be reading it on the Kindle this time around.)