Today, I am thankful for the sky, a vast layer that separates us from the infinite abyss beyond. That sky in its insistence and refusal of blue, that allows us to see differently each day, and to continue to see.
I am thankful for the thin layer of clouds and fog hovering above the city buildings, to create an illusion of magic, to allow us to believe, even if just for a moment, that the city we live in can be magical, that this world can support us in so many imperceptible ways.
I’m thankful for the mountains, the rocks and sediments that resonate between the fibers of our being, that absorb and give and receive, stone monuments reaching for the sky, reminding us too, to reach higher.
I am thankful for all of the birds, each and every single one an entire history of inarticulation, open wounds sitting on a wire, the birds that will be here when the world ends, the birds that see everything, the birds that persist, because that is all they know to do, and we, like the birds, persisting with them.
I am thankful for my dogs, the incredible compassion and generosity and empathy that they are capable of, what they can teach us about living, how we are allowed to feel and to be vulnerable and to be ourselves with them.
I am thankful for music and for words. I am thankful that language constantly fails and so that we have poetry, a way in which we can communicate that ignites presence, that allows us to rewrite and guide through intimacy, that, in the patterns of inarticulation we reach for words and therefore towards each other.
From War & War by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes:
I no longer care if I die, said Korin, then, after a long silence, pointed to the nearby flooded quarry: Are those swans?
It was an inexpressibly beautiful, unbelievably tranquil scene he found himself in as he sensed in every cell of his body, sensed it, he explained the next day, rather than saw it, because his eyes were closed, his two arms spread and relaxed, his legs slightly open, comfortable, the lush lawn beneath him softer than any down, light breezes playing about him like delicate hands, and the gentle waves of sunlight as intimate and close as breathing … together with the luxuriant vegetation that enfolded him, the animals drowning in the distant shade, the azure canvas of sky above him, the earth an aromatic mass below, and this thing and that, he said, infinite, endlessly flowing in an as-yet-incomplete harmony yet permanent, immobile, echoing his own permanence and immobility, lying there, stretching, fixed as if by nails in his horizontal, immersed, practically submerged position, as if peace were this dish of dizzying sweetness and he the table, as if such peace and such sweetness really existed, as if there were such a place and such a tranquility, as if such a thing existed, said Korin, as if it were possible.
If there were just one sentence at the end, as far as I’m concerned, dear lady, it could only be that nothing, absolutely nothing made sense, Korin remarked next morning after his usual period of silence, then stared out of the window at the firewalls, the roofs, and the dark threatening clouds in the sky, eventually adding a single sentence: But there are a lot of sentences yet and it has begun to snow.
The film opens with a man awake at midnight, arms cradling a cat, staring at his sleeping wife. Out on the sidewalk, unbeknownst to him, his mistress stares at him through a window.
The film opens with a factory explosion. Rippling flames and a flurry of shrapnel. There’s a second explosion. The camera falls over but keeps filming.
The film opens with a psychiatric patient calmly retelling the history of her illness. Three doctors take notes and make vague sounds of affirmation. One of them is another patient, incognito in a white coat.
The film opens with a city ice cream truck playing Turkey In The Straw on its PA, idling on the sidewalk. A man walks up to the truck and studies the menu. He squints and grabs his bearded jaw, squeezing it a few times as one would check produce for ripeness.
The film opens with a woman talking incessantly at the dinner table. Trivialities, a monologue of the mundane. Her husband can’t get a word in. He casually gets up and walks over to the housecat, then strangles it, silencing his wife.
The film opens with a young woman alone in a room. On the table before her are an arrangement of smartphones, while above her are the bobbing reflections of the touchscreens’ tempered glass. She doesn’t realize she is alone. She looks into the reflection of a phone and begins to talk about herself.
The film opens with a man knelt in bedside prayer. He asks for forgiveness before forcing himself on the woman revealed to be in the bed. Afterwards, he prays again.
The film opens with a man trying, and failing, to describe another man’s eyelashes.
The film opens with a child in the backseat of a car, experiencing a carwash for the first time.
The film opens with an american breakfast table. A woman in black saunters up and takes her seat. Very methodically, she pours a coffee, slices a pat of butter, and drops it into the mug. The fat slowly beads on the surface of the coffee.
The film opens with a man struggling to open a thirtyrack of beer. He moves as if in slow motion. The camera lingers on his numerous attempts to puncture the cardboard.
The film opens with a driver waiting for a green light. Through the windshield she sees the pedestrian signal count down the seconds, and watches people cross. When she looks back to the signal, the seconds are counting up.
The film opens with a man pouring a beer into a glass, the foam hissing like tv snow. He tilts an ear to the lip of the glass, as one would with a large conch, and holds it there until the foam reduces.
The film opens with a dim room full of young women all sitting with topped laps, hard white macs balanced on their knees – a 21st century update of the sewing circle. The women are silent. The rapid chatter of plastic keys is the only sound.
The film opens with a train station at rush hour. Commuters in raincoats move down the staircase in an endless surge. One figure attempts to move up the staircase in zigzag motion.
The film opens with one elderly man talking to another on a parkbench. Their conversation flows easily, as old friends’ might. They bid each other farewell, where it’s revealed both are wearing bluetooth earpieces and had been having separate conversations.
The film opens with the pages of a once-soaked, now sun-dried phonebook fluttering on the cement porch of an abandoned house.
The film opens with three women scrubbing blood off a stage and removing overturned folding chairs. They place musical equipment on the stage. Musicians enter. A dance follows.
Derick Dupre lives in Los Angeles and edits The White Elephant. His work has appeared in publications including Sleepingfish, Black Sun Lit, The Fanzine, and Hobart. Visit him at derickdupre.com
William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, NPR, Prelude, Wired, Thought Catalog, Drunk Monkeys, and Voicemail Poems. He won the first-annual “Bureaucratic Writing Contest” hosted by tNY.Press (formerly theNewerYork). He was recently accepted into the Ashbery Home School. @YoDollaBill
I made the mistake of watching Dogtooth right before bed. From the opening scene—blindfold around eyes, stilted car ride conversation, slow opening gate—we know we’re in for something twisted. The tone is stark and brutal, but it’s the stasis of the tone that’s most unsettling. Once the gate closes it’s clear the children are not getting out. The parents obsessively shield them from nearly all outside influences, even reinventing everyday language—phone means ‘salt’, sticker means ‘clothes’, sea means ‘chair’—creating a comical yet creepy distortion of realities. The children begin to entertain themselves in creative ways, but once they get a small taste of the outside world, things get seriously fucked.
Although Hoop Dreams is a documentary that follows the paths of two high school bball stars, it does not require the knowledge, or even interest, in the greatest sport of all time. Complexities regarding race, social class, economics, and politics are brought to the forefront, while exposing the darkness of AAU culture, which essentially begins ranking players at dangerously young ages. The power of Hoop Dreams lies in its ability to confront issues that shoot way beyond the simple (or obsessive) love of a game. The subjects—William Gates and Arthur Agee—are pretty damn lovable, too. I saw this in the theater back in ’94 as a young hoop dreamer and it’s still one of my favorites.
My brother left the room about halfway through the movie to let me watch the second half alone. He’d seen it before. Not to give it away (everyone’s seen this, right?) but the moment with the one-way mirror, the phone—I’ve never sobbed so intensely during a scene in a movie. It really got me, and it was nice to have that moment alone. I don’t know what else to say other than if you somehow missed this masterpiece, I suggest you watch it now, with or without others.
THE BROTHERS SOLOMON
Since really dumb comedies occupy at least half the movies I’ve seen in my life, this list should contain one. I was on tour somewhere in the midwest and the rest of the band flew to the next show on the west coast. My brother was selling merch for us at the time and he and I stayed behind for the drive. We had the entire bus to ourselves when we stopped for the night, one of maybe two or three vehicles occupying the dirt parking lot of a hotel off a highway in Idaho. It seemed like the right time to eat a weed cookie. I rarely ingest weed in any way, and when it was slow to take effect, I decided to eat another. The movie was pretty funny at first but about halfway through I had the most insane laugh attack of my life. As my brother joined in, we paced up and down the bus convulsing. We made it to the end of the movie, but when we went to the hotel to get ready for bed, our room keys didn’t work. We became even more hysterical than before and stood in the empty hallway trying to decide who was more capable of handling the task of interacting with another human being behind the front desk. I’ve seen the movie (sober) since and of course this initial experience is tough to top but it’s still very bizarre and hilarious.
DEAD RIVER ROUGH CUT
I’ll leave you with a Maine classic. It’s a documentary about two best buds that reject the outside world for tarpapers shacks in the middle of the woods. They hunt, fish, trap, log. They also philosophize and tell wacky stories in an accent so thick even a Mainer like myself would benefit from captions. Walter Lane and Bob Wagg form an unusual pair that are equally entertaining and enlightening, making a retreat to the woods seem like a sweet idea. This is the most requested movie at the Maine State Prison.
Nat Baldwin is a writer and musician living in Maine. His fiction has appeared in PANK, Sleepingfish, Timber, Deluge, and Alice Blue. He has released several solo albums, and plays bass in Dirty Projectors. He is currently pursuing a BA in English at the University of Southern Maine.
So this week Billboard released a list of the top 10 best rappers of all time. All time. Obviously a lot of people had issue with this list. Snoop Dogg called it “disrespectful.” And I gotta say, I agree. This list is bullpoop. So here’s my own list. Straight from the Moosh.
- Dr. Moosh
- Mooshie Smalls
- Moosh Dogg
- Ice Moosh
- Mooshy Elliot
- Lil Moosh
the glacier gods slough off hunks of ice
and throw it into the sea at an unprecedented rate
in Greenland, babies wait outside the general store
snug in plastic-bundled strollers
taking peace in the fact that civilization has ended before
the giant foreheads of past worriers crackle under my boot
as I trek across their faces, not remembering the name of their gods
yes, the meteor hurtles toward us, with it’s own god watching over
yes, even the godless space trash has a god
the man cuts across five lanes of traffic
and accidentally introduces his god to the motorcyclist’s god
yes, god in this poem even when we’re weary
From 1934 to 1936 Sheila Watson taught nine grades in a one-room schoolhouse in Dog Creek, on the banks of the Fraser River, in the Cariboo district of British Columbia. A place and time that forms the setting of The Double Hook.
“I sank roots,” Watson said, “that I have never been able to disentangle.”
She wrote the book between 1952 and 1954 in Calgary, Alberta and revised it in Paris from 1956 to 1957.
Watson: “it’s about how people are driven, how if they have no art, how if they have no tradition, how if they have no ritual, they are driven in one of two ways, either towards violence or towards insensibility – if they have no mediating rituals which manifest themselves in what I suppose we call art forms.”
From the epigraph, giving us the title of the book: “He doesn’t know you can’t catch the glory on a hook and hold on to it. That when you fish for the glory you catch the darkness too. That if you hook twice the glory you hook twice the fear.”
The setting is an unnamed community of only a dozen individuals, divided and isolated by their fears and loneliness; their uncertainties, lost and clinging to the parched banks of a winding river running dry in a hot July drought. A place forgone of its own past and outside connections, barren of all traditions and rituals – Sheila Watson’s “art forms”, and all other cultural connections.
“A man can’t peg himself in so tight that nothing can creep through the cracks.”
And so they search still: “I’ve seen Ma standing with the lamp by the fence, she said. Holding it up in broad daylight. I’ve seen her standing looking for something even the birds couldn’t see. Something hid from every living thing. I’ve seen her defying. I’ve seen her take her hat off in the sun at noon, baring her head and asking for the sun to strike her. Holding the lamp and looking where there’s nothing to be found. Nothing but dust.”
This is Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope, founder of Cynicism, with his lamp held high in daylight looking for one good man. It was also Diogenes, who, upon looking over a pile of human bones, was said to say to Alexander the Great, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.”
“One man’s one man and two men or ten men aren’t something else.”
Margret Atwood: “While alive the old lady’s sin had been her refusal to accept life whole, the ‘darkness’ along with the ‘light’, the cyclical processes of Nature as well as man’s structures, houses and straight lines. The ‘something she’d never found’ is her own completeness.” (Margaret Atwood, Survival – A thematic guide to Canadian literature, Toronto: House of Anansi, 1972).
In Watson’s narrative, she looks beyond morality tales of Christian redemption and Greek philosophy, reaching back to Native American mythology.
“I don’t know about God, William said. Your god sounds only a step from the Indian’s coyotes.”
“In my mouth is the east wind.
Those who cling to the rocks I will
I will set my paw on the eagle’s nest.”
And later, the coyote calling: “In my mouth is forgetting. In my darkness is rest.”
Watson completed her B. A. in English at the University of British Columbia in 1931, her teaching certificate and Masters of English in 1933.
She taught for several years at a variety of public elementary and high schools before becoming a sessional lecturer at the University of British Columbia in 1948. Upon her return from Paris in 1957, she began her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto under Marshall McLuhan. In 1961, she became a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
In 1941 she married poet and dramatist, Wilfred Watson, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alberta. Upon their deaths in 1998, they were found to own a library of over eight thousand books.
Watson’s post-war Paris was alive with differing intellectual thoughts and reasoning, the back-and-forth of the Marxists and the Existentialists, the rise of Structuralism, the pushing back of Realism by the Modernists.
Le degré zéro de l’écriture (Writing Degree Zero), Roland Barthes, was published in Paris in 1953. Watson was there, 1955 – 1956, editing The Double Hook.
Writing Degree Zero is frame-worked by the understanding that language is historical, style is biological and writing (écriture) is a function, one that, “is always rooted in something beyond language, but develops like a seed, not like a line, it manifests an essence and holds the threat of a secret, it is an anti-communication, it is intimidating.”
Barthes looked for and found that which cannot be seen, that which is harbored beyond language, this “essence” or “seed”; this intention and inspiration that is the touching of what Faulkner called, “be writing”. And it does not matter the school of thought or the place and time a writer comes to us with this, for it to be true, be it Hemingway’s minimalist attempts of truthful Realism, the tightness of Faulkner’s depths housed in his streams of consciousness, Morrison’s connectivity, McCarthy’s explosion of language buoyed by the confinements of his distant objective walls. It’s all the same and coming from the same place—this “seed” or “essence”; this touching of “writing”; this intent and insight of the “self”.
Watson: “When I began the work which became The Double Hook I knew I had to create a total fiction out of experience which was concrete — which defied the clichés imposed on it. I wanted to get rid of reportage, the condescension of omniscience. It wasn’t an act of reconstruction — like going back and saying I remember this — no one I ever knew did or said the things which are done and said. The people and the country and the animals and the plants gave me images for what I wanted to say.”
Barthes: “the writing of Realism is far from being neutral, it is on the contrary loaded with the most spectacular signs of fabrication.”
Watson: “I wanted to fuse the dialogue with the context— the reaching towards speech — the speaking out of silence — out of space.”
Barthes: “Only then can the writer declare himself entirely committed, when his poetic freedom takes its place within a verbal condition whose limits are those of society and not those of a convention on a public.”
If there is one work that best exemplifies Barthes’ point, is it is Sheila Watson’s, The Double Hook. Why? Because it is near flawless in its transcending historical boundaries of language; the narrative societal conventions of style; of marrying form and structure with an “essence”—this intention and inspiration of “self”; of “writing’” that is a mechanism of emotive imagery driving words, that works. It is a blending of action, thought and voice in a manner that renders convention and style pointless—it simply lays them to waste, rendering them obtuse and self-defeating.
But why then, has this little book not broken out from the confinements of Canadian academia and literary studies?
Because Watson was a woman writing in the 1950’s in British Columbia? Because she never again wrote or published another novel? Because it was labeled ‘modern’, the book living outside of accepted commercial standards and forms?
I don’t know.
However, I do know, the book today is still considered to be a work of “modernist” writing. When I first came to it as a study piece in the late eighties it was referred to as being post-modern. Making it today, what? Post-post-modern? And what does this say? About us? About writing today?
We need to push back the narrowing of the center. Watson’s book should not still be unsurpassed as a work of “writing”; of narrative possibilities, and it should not still be considered “modern”, that’s absurd, despite, sadly, it being true. And for these reasons, we need to hold it up, saying: yes, this is possible—saying: find this and push; find that touching point that takes us beyond where all the others have once stood.
And certainly, it is not too late to come to the work, look at Melville and Moby Dick, a perfect example of time (sixty-five years) and us needing to catch up to the work, and once we had, what it did for writing.
Read The Double Hook. A book that, although written fifty-six years ago, still reads today as if it were written tomorrow.
Some of my favourite zines and chapbooks of the past few years have been produced by HAG (link to http://hagcollective.tumblr.com/). HAG is Jasmin Risk and Clara Lou’s post post feminist curatorial performance and poetics project. HAG is “problematizing subjectivity” to “a body that does not end at skin” and so many things in between. They are theory but they are theory in glitter and the body.
Being in New Zealand means that I haven’t experienced any of their IRL performances other than through their documentation online and in their publications, but I have all of the zines and chapbooks I could get my hands on – performances turned to materials – both performances in a wider art/theatre sense and in an everyday life sense. I love how they turn the ephemeral into something more permanent whilst also highlighting that ephemerality.
They have been kind enough to include work of mine in their zines and their work has in turn been a big influence on me and my writing! This kind of exchange shows that the communities around zines – whether physical or online – are so important.
Back to HAG, though – this year they have released two new publications – A Green Room is a book you thought you were borrowing which in face you owned (a cross-genre project by Clara Lou on Anne Carson, Anne Sexton and Lauren Berlant) and <<er>> (photographic documentation, panic and relief by Jasmin Risk).
Other work of theirs that I would also recommend checking out if you haven’t already is Jasmin Risk’s There is too much zine series (http://thereistoomuch.bigcartel.com/#_=_) and Clara Lou’s play What Has Been Given Cannot Be Stomached (https://vimeo.com/129686108).
The zine series which included ‘The Cyborg Gaze’ and ‘Ectoplasms’ has featured artists and writers such as Caitlin Hazell, Liv Thurley of The Coven, Hannah Lefeuvre, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Christen Clifford, Dia Felix, Kayla Morse and Samantha Conlon.
If you are interested in feminism, queer theory, poetry, performance and art you will find a lot to love about HAG.
A man and woman say “I love you” while looking into each other’s eyes.
It isn’t her lover the woman sees but the beholding of herself in her lover’s gaze— “I am loved” visible in the relief spread across her face.
In the next episode, it’s discovered the man has cheated.
He asks for forgiveness by demanding it, apologizes, arguing that love is a return to a shared destiny.
For the man, love exists outside human behavior, particularly his own.
The woman isn’t buying it.
Here a pause in the conversation is a seam flowing between them.
What the man doesn’t know is that there is no is, only was.
Now the woman sees that having seen herself being seen as love’s object was erasure of loved other.
A space encountered as being-in-love, it was a first step into the abyss of her heart.
Do we know the relationship is doomed because she returns his gaze or because she doesn’t?
The question becomes its own narrative.
Love, the woman finds, is a language of pauses, stutters, glances, etc., even the ones that have failed to transpire.
If one wants love, she says by her leaving him in a mortuary parking lot, one must accept that it never existed.
Only when one sees one has never loved can that person visualize its shady lanes and endlessly deferred groves.
After years of drifting, a man comes home to find his father in a vegetative state.
One day he wheels his father into an open field.
Is this the field where he was brought to play as a child?
Do memories attach to landscape or does the land displace remembrance?
It’s magic hour and they overlook a body of water the man is unable to notice.
There’s a hint of confession in his posture.
But there’s a sense confession is futile or that there’s nothing to confess.
This nothing is filled with something, and this something is filled with downward glances, choked-back sentiment, etc.
His words cut through the image.
“I’m trying to imagine your half of the conversation,” the man says with the knowledge he’s speaking to an object carrying only the appearance of his father.
This knowledge is visible as a failure of relating, and the image is felt as recursive distance between them.
When the man speaks, it cuts to a shot of his father’s expressionless face.
It’s a face without thought, emotion, time, depth.
I wonder if the man feels his father’s “gaze” as the loss of his father’s gaze. Now the light is leaving the sky.
The man tries to locate his father in his father’s face.
He shrugs, fidgets, rearranges as if to escape his corporeality.
This makes his paralysis more pronounced as he moves his eyes over a body of water no longer visible in the dark.
A man tells his story.
He is the living consequence not of the events he describes, the filmmaker suggests, but of the failure of his testimony to articulate that experience.
Stopping his camera at chimney crack or stand of pine, the director approaches and reapproaches the structures at the heart of his subject.
But we’ve grown tired of such well-made silences.
What lives between “I am looking for a man” and “I am looking at him” dies in the gaping humility of the frame.
Mounting the image as negative space, it resolves here and there into a white-haired man on a sofa in some European capitol, early 1980s.
Cutting now to a railcar pushing through unsinister Polish countryside.
Now to a rabbit jumping through a perimeter fence barbed as Winter 1941.
Adam Fagin‘s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Fence, VOLT, and other places. He has a chapbook out from Little Red Leaves called T’s Alphabet. Another chapbook, THE SKY IS A HOWLING WILDERNESS BUT IT CAN’T HOWL WITH HEAVEN, will be out soon from Called Back Books.
The texts and automated calls came at 3 A.M. Something odd and quite alarming was happening. Ethan was jarred awake from a serene dream about waterfalls and a mountain top cabin. The dream was so ornate and so real that it lingered for a bit as he read the words, a bit of water seeming to crest into froth in the corners of his room then away.
You don’t have to / take long / You can crawl / back into an old skin / Only you have to know / that you’re human / You can write / the wrong name on the insides of your eyelids / You can see in the dark / if you wait long enough / Some friends get different skins / You can pan by / all the ways we talk on different days and forget / that the humor is all in your eyes / that this is all scripted / shadows never misalign / If you bend your hands / you can be a kind of bird / a black moth / You can name yourself / That Moment When A Friend Is A Toddler And Is Going Into The Ball Pit And Looks Back At You Remembering This And Says In A Grown Up Voice ‘Balls Deep’ And You Go ‘Nah’ / Or you could go with the name / Tobacco Isn’t Bad For You, It’s Capitalism That Gives You Cancer / Better yet call up your girlfriend / Lightning Is Karma’s Electric Fingers / tell her that your skin is too tight and needs to go somewhere else / Tell her that you only smoke because your uncle / The Cool One / got you a cool pipe and it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain and this skin itches in all the right places and will she itch it probably not so you should call your uncle / The Cool One / and tell him thank you for the pipe / that it’s a really cool pipe / Tell yourself that you’ll just step out of this skin real quick and nail it up on your door / trying to be something that is not / human / But this is implication / watching / some film in front of your eyes / and what is movement but a string of memories / not yet folding / into moving pictures / You don’t call your uncle / The Cool One / You don’t crawl into one of the mouths / exit into another mouth / You just stand there not saying anything for so long you close / your mouth around all the names of silence until you fill up into a cloud and float above the earth.
Everett Warner spends his time trying to be a wolf. His words are at or are forthcoming at Rust + Moth, Axolotl, Chicago Literati, and other places. He is the Fiction Editor for Noble/Gas Qrtly. He thinks everything should be blue, and can be found on Twitter @danielwolfer.
Image Credit: Everyday Emily
It’s just a dog biscuit
she takes from my hand
and bows, lies down, chews
reverently, not missing a crumb
with her tongue, puts her paws
together, lies there staring at me.
Tom Todaro is a poet, actor, and folk artist living in Duluth, GA, near Atlanta. He self-published his first book, Complete Confetti, last year.
When I was around six years old, this and Three Amigos were my favorite movies. I think this combination was integral to the formation of my personality – goth-lite, with some idiotic 14-year-old boy humor thrown in. I used to get nightmares from just about any movie as a kid but for some reason this one didn’t bother me.
Keanu Reeves is smoking hot in this. He looks so good as a hessian. I want to buy him. Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper are perfect in this too. I love that Dystopia features clips from the movie in their album Human = Garbage. It’s difficult to sample movie clips in music and not have it sound stupid but Dystopia managed to pull it off.
I sort of used River’s Edge as an emotional talisman when I was writing Black Cloud – I wanted to make something that was running-full-speed-toward-a-brick-wall level numb. Out of the Blue functions in the same way, I think. (It also stars Dennis Hopper.) I think these movies encapsulate why I don’t understand the youth of today. There’s no unadulterated rage in their hearts.
No Direction Home
When I was ~24, I was in an inadvisable relationship. Our favorite thing to do was sit around and take synthetic opiates and drink wine and watch every single rock doc we could find on Netflix. It sort of mirrored my freshman and sophomore years in high school, where I liked sitting around and smoking weed and reading every rock biography they carried at Barnes & Noble. This is my favorite rock doc of that time, or, at the very least, is the one I watched most often. The funny thing is I can’t really remember anything about the movie, other than the fact that I found it really soothing.
I don’t even know if I really like this movie so much as I enjoy its aesthetic. I’m not really into acts of violence or psychological trauma, but other than that I want to live in a world that looks like this.
I just watched this movie for the first time a couple nights ago so I guess I’m technically cheating by including it. But I really loved it! Grace Kelly saves the day, and Katy Jurado is the one who put her up to it – the two women are the true heroes. You could take the movie apart and say that it is problematic – how predictable it is that the blond is the chaste Quaker while Jurado plays the part of the slutty Mexican woman – and I agree, but I like that it is clear that the women end up being the heroes not for some political reason, like “Hey you know what we need to do? Create some strong female leads,” which makes it feel genuinely subversive. Attempts at social equality are never subversive when done as a marketing scheme.
Juliet Escoria is the author of Black Cloud (CCM/Emily Books, 2014) and Witch Hunt (Lazy Fascist, 2016).
I wear dead skin,
That of male privilege
I am beyond
Remember me as king
Powered by ancient ghosts
Slave of a thousand years
I must feast
Skin-I must pierce
I am made of Earth
As my blood fills the sky
Sins of the last thousand years
Are lashed onto trees
Under this spell
I search for treasure and find pleasure
I will bathe in blood
And beg forgiveness
Because I need to stay human
I am the sun
Dark creature that haunts every fantasy
He walks towards the sun
A lost soul
With his shadow by his side
The universe is empty
Yet his shadow is bright
Closer to the sun
His body begins to expand
With heat and magnetism
Fusing million atoms together
Generating a new strand
His shadow was young
Being miles away from him
His genetic material,
Divides after cell division
the world seems microscopic
And the darkness was vast
Time was infinite
Mysterious vagabond grabs his shadow
Puncturing its windpipe
Both began to bleed
Unable to speak
Unable to breathe
Christopher Anthony Velasco is a mixed-media artist and secret poet working in Los Angeles. His photography and collage pieces explore the urban landscape, public and private space, and questions of identity. He received his bachelor of fine arts in photography and media from California Institute of the Arts in 2010, and he has also studied at Art Center College of Design and East Los Angeles College.
In Skin Horse the apocalypse is ever-present. Just as Revelation literally reveals the cultural anxieties of first millennium Christians and their fears of impending apocalypse so too Skin Horse is an apocalyptic text for our times.
One way in which Revelation is called to mind is through an abject erotics that runs through Skin Horse. This allows for the centrality of those subjects that would usually be ‘radically excluded’ or ‘jettisoned’ (in the words of psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1984)) from erotic discourse. These subjects range from the barely recognisably human (corpses) to non-mammalian, alien life forms (lizard, squids). Near the beginning of the poem there is a highly sexualised, cultic moment that combines an erotics of death with polymorphous sexuality:
This is a collaboration between three writers who are excavating through writing. This is one of many sections to come as we tangle and untangle our histories.
I keep cleaning the rooms, sifting through you, a way to keep you alive. I like to think you are floating in our air. I wiped the dust from your frame yesterday and looked at your face. I realized I hadn’t seen you in a long time. That I kept you blurry in my memory. Maybe not wanting or not able to build the structure of your face. How do we put a body back together again?
What I’m trying to say is, there is always a piece missing. Your ashes have been mixed and separated and moved and there are bits of dust that have gotten away and I think about this movement of the dead often. The trails you have left. The ashes of others in the air, maybe even you, it was only the day before. Tiny bits resting on the printed fabric book bag they put your box in. They were everywhere and I thought we had to leave. Get on the plane, get away from this place, the grayness was suffocating and the barren slow passing of time would kill us all. This madness of grief. I was searching for you, along the stretches of road, but I knew you weren’t there. You were in the front seat, wrapped in your box with a name tag and everything. I thought of the people working at the crematorium, wondered who would ever want a job like that. The arrangement of the lost, the attempt at organizing a life after a cataclysmic puncture. Do they always smell like burnt flesh? Does the person who placed the body in the oven see its loved ones? What might that feel like, to look in the eyes and know you were the last person to see the body of their lost one? What kinds of secrets do they witness? How many spirits follow them around?
It is amazing to me, how structures hold together when everything else refuses. How our bodies continue to pump blood and breathe air when we are no longer capable of doing anything but lying on the floor.
To dream of you. To dream of a before. Of a time when this was never going to be part of our story.
There is also the girl, the woman. Looking to wane into ghost. Is she all of us. Is she the soft periphery that haunts us. Moves like a sheet hanging in the air between us. The her that is returning to baby. To child. I will hold her in the pit of a peach, to hear her speak a name. The hollow i’ve dug in search of your answers, are faulty at the rib. The blue myth wrapping her away from the family around her, pulling her wide, pulling her quiet face from the collar of a black and white photograph. A return to sepia, to skin.
She is my child, my memory making up stories. She is a return to the thread that began this story. She is a small boy left burning in the fire. She is a man standing at the edge of the earth, bound in water.
Here is where I dream of you. Now that the autumn has come and you have been gone for three years. Why your last words to me, haunt me. And by last, I mean the last words I can remember. You spoke to me for a year after these words fell like sand into my hands. Your moment of clarity and only I was there. The un-daughter, the niece, the sister, the never-mother. You said, you were ready. Then you touched the air, touched something that seemed to slide down over your body. Until the the static of the radio and your blood still thick in the vein, was all I could hear.
I could no longer,
This stillness of the morning allows me to think of you and all our moments. The slow etching into each other’s lives. I’m confused sometimes in the hazy moments after sleep, thinking I am in the apartment we all shared, that I will hear you in the other room, that you will emerge and see me and say good morning in between your soft singing. We hear songs on the radio that we think you would’ve liked, so we play them over and over. Turn the volume up without saying anything to each other. We are thinking of you and I like to imagine your face and the sound of your voice if you could have ever known this song and played it as you got ready for work.
I have a recording of you saying happy birthday to me. Thank you, forever. I should tell you that most days I am too afraid to listen to it. Too afraid to recognize your voice, maybe it’s better to let the memory age at the edges just a little. To hear your breath. But sometimes, late at night, when I am driving on the freeway, alone in my car I play your message and turn the volume up as loud as I can and your voice fills me so that for those moments I cannot even hear myself.
I don’t care about my birthday anymore. It is too close to your death.
I wonder if you ever listened to my old voicemails. If you ever had late-night moments like I do when you miss the sound of me. If you held onto my words and the moments that surrounded them. I admit that even as recent as a week ago, I played your old messages. Lights off, just before bed. I snuggled up next to your voice. Wishing I could feel the warmth of your body now, these years later. Your arm around me. The last time I saw you, your arm was around her. I slipped past the both of you. I don’t think you saw me.
In the recordings, you sound so youthful and full of boyish joy. Unashamed giddiness. Recklessly in love. “Hi babe. Hello beautiful. I can’t wait to see you. I love you.” Fragments of love captured in these short sound bites. These tears.
Find the ghost inside this echo, she says. The shrapnel from your war. I assume your body, lean in close to find you in an eye, in a knuckle, in the wedge of a wrinkle. The suture is a place for entering blood memories.
Wet alfalfa, the rooster’s timing so off that we wake before it calls day, the plastic amber light we filtered through your broaches. You are the last of our storytellers, you are the
last to know that I look like my father, carry his rage, his tongue hinged like fault lines in the earth.
Waiting to give way.