I have considered my work and what manner of story I am able to tell What did I see as eyes witness What did I hear of What did I dream up without meaning to What did I know as lies and keep regardless
Memory is not daguerrotypes You cannot get the past to sit entirely still It will not behave neither do I make any portrait saloon in my mind Fine chairs and brocades for a look of drama and import
My meaning is to capture the wrinkle and clouded eye and stained collar as much as the story And to knife off that which does not serve Leave it for day pigs
My memory does not always obey me even when I prompt him with kicks like a mind were a workshy horse Neither does my knife obey I done my best by my compass I drawn some folk uglier Drawn my favorites more handsome Hair shined more than it were Less tobacco spit crusted on britches Out of manners I have not talked any of outhouses Chamberpots Infants released back into the arms of the lord so soon your heart would burst Who would want such a tale with honest warp Who wants to know what a sadness life is A mind would go soft at the labor of reading Such a vista would fever your brains
none of you are overly waiting by the phone but as in previous years january 1 is a season of wanting to write more, of meaning to write more. you’d think someone who is presently enrolled in a school entirely predicated on the idea of writing if not more at least enough to fill certain vessels would not have to make promises to self/dead media about writing more, but.
i decline to autopsy 2017 like it was a crop of grapes or a superhero movie/licensing opportunity. it was just days, stacked up, just a tree ring without the glory of seeing the whole tree. today has as much to do with yesterday as it does with tomorrow. we have to hunt/butcher/cook our own poignancy and ought to stop looking for it in abstractions and autotexts. even though it sometimes visits those precincts. but (patiently) whatever. i’m not here to have (more) allergic reactions to myself (again)
some notes about underpants: for the past three-plus years, i have been wearing the same 12-15 pairs of duluth trading company underpants. they are as you might imagine a little ragged by now. i ordered a test pair of duluth trading company underpants because they have a commercial that features a little naked fat man and i relate to little naked fat men. this was during a season of my life when i had more (any) disposable income, so the idea of buying a $17 single pair of underpants seemed a permissable extravagance. the first time i wore them was on a one day business trip to boston that happened to be the same day of the manhunt for the marathon bomber. all my appointments were canceled and i just walked around boston for ten hours, looking for open dunkin donuts to get coffee from and pee at, because not much else was open, and there was no way for me to leave boston. i left my hotel early and kind of in one of those rushes that when you stop to consider why you are rushing you realize there is actually no reason for haste but you didn’t actually stop during the rush, you only realized after that there was no reason for you to rush. anyway.
i was in a tizzy so i happened to put my underpants on backwards, and i wore them all day, walking around pretty much the entire time, and i didn’t even notice any discomfort or even like vague backwardness. so i says to myself, these underpants are clearly worth $17 a pair, i ought to invest in more and so i did. from that time, with the sole exception of travel when i forgot to pack underpants and had to buy replacements, i only wore duluth trading company $17 underpants. i bargain-hunted a little and sometimes they were on sale for like $12 a pair if you took advantage of certain discounts but mostly i paid $17 for these underpants. i probably had all told 20ish pairs of them, considering i discarded ones that got ratty and cycled in some new ones in exciting colors (i am quite fond of the kelly green pair and the several merlot pairs).
that is, by my fuzzy math, something like $500 in underpants considering shipping and opportunity costs not withstanding the ecological footprints and truck miles that it took to grow cotton and invent various synthetic fibers and pay the artist for drawing the little naked fat man cartoon. i cannot believe that i spent $500 on underpants over the course of three years but it seems to be the case. if i ever come to you and ask you why i am or have been or will be broke or headed for broke, please remind me about my priorities as i have variously expressed them to you.
ultimately they are fine underpants. i needed to wear underpants every single day, and they were there for me, almost every single day. i have weirdly fond memories for this particular brand of underpants (the naked guy, discussions of the naked guy with interested parties, the story about the boston manhunt day, the weird self-narrativizing as a person who has a mock-occult preference in underwears which somehow produced meaning in my life). i also helped my dear friend paint what was to become my godson’s nursery and got a little smudge of off white paint on the back waistband of one of the blue pairs of the underpants and i’ll be god damned if i haven’t found that particular pair of underpants to contain if not good luck, something akin to spiritual advil that reduces swelling in my sense of self and my own need to control the affairs of the world. i am actively preemptively upset about the day that i don’t have those underpants and i kind of want to make artwork out of them but i feel like i’d be wakeboarding pretty close to jagged rocks of self-regard masquerading as expression, says the guy who is 850 words into a story about his underwear
anyway, i have been lately and pretty much since achieving my majority sort of cloistered inside my own skull and heart and genitals more often than i ought to be, and so it is not any surprise to you or to myself that i have vested the outer upholsteries of said skull etc with disposable sanctitude, which is how we wound up here. in an effort to honor these cloisters by demolishing them, i have decided to in stages decommission my fleet of duluth trading co underpants and replace them with just like normal, republican cloth coat underpants, but not even that sanctimonious, not trying to clothe myself in camels hair and eat locusts (protein source of the future).
also, and this paragraph here is really closer to my small bruised heart than i was prepared to let you go when i started writing this, I read this article about how people are getting rich writing mattress reviews so i jokingly said to myself what if i got rich writing underpants reviews and there is nothing i like so much as taking jokes too far to the point of spiting myself and others and so, here is the first installment of my underpants reviews.
regular old fruit of the loom underpants purchased from kmart in middleburg hts ohio november 2017 because i forgot to pack my regular underwear while traveling:
four pairs for $12 or something like that. the royal blue and the gray pairs are totally good underpants and i like that they have this little thin band of thread that keeps the little stubby legs of the boxer brief from getting all blown out. the two pairs that are print patterned are definitely, inexplicably smaller than their two siblings or at least fit differently or my body mutates into a different size when confronted with my mind’s decision to wear patterned underwear. i get the distinct sense that these guys, all four of them, are going to age poorly and get all nubby and fall apart way sooner than i might like given my modest investment in them.
uniqlo underpants purchased in santa monica california december 2017 because i got excited about the idea of a more activist underpants consumption profile they were $5 each and they are AMAZING. it’s like wearing the really nice sheets you might get to sleep in if you stayed at a nice hotel or were a guest in the home of a rich person. salient critique: they’re almost too smooth to the point of they slip off my ass a little, no matter how tightly i cinch my belt and purposefully tuck my t-shirt in concert. this might be a criticism more of the shape of my ass than the underpants themselves. i wasn’t fond of the colors. i wish they were brighter and i wouldn’t have been mad at some contrast piping on the pee flap/elastic etc. they’re boxer briefs (maybe i should have said earlier, all of these underpants are boxer briefs) but there’s no elastic on the leg hole, which i think was the right move here. the fabric verges on too smooth at times, but i forgive these underpants for not real-time monitoring my changing moods about fabric texture.
TK “pact” lifestyle brand underwear purchased off an instagram ad i saw right after i got my monthly paycheck and i (incorrectly) felt rich enough to buy two pairs of underpants for $20
I literally am wearing these for the first time right now so I will have to get back to you
i’m not sure what (more) i need to do to monetize this idea but i think you can probably safely bet your IRA account that i will never come anywhere near doing it. but the journey is the destination, even if you start the journey by explicitly forsaking the idea of reaching anywhere.
observed: woman on a phone call via bluetooth, whispering mostly, as follows: oh no … nope … no … over the winter? … hell no no uh uh … like that?
“CASH 4 SMELLS”
New Orleans May 2017 Old car in old garage worked on by old people everything is filthy except for the car which has a doubly spotless white novelty place reading ASK ME TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY GRANDCHILDREN
Haleyville, AL site of the first 911 call
1: What’s your last name
2: [says last name]
1: with a D?
2: with a P [spells last name]
1: That’s … that’s Sanskrit … that means something in Sanskrit
2: It’s a Czech name
1: [not fazed at all, keeps talking about what it means in sanskrit]
January Cleveland dunkin donuts
“Reincarnated as a parking lot”
Cleveland winter face: Looking like a pet went to the bathroom in the house and or you have bad indigestion
Nice older middle aged people having polite catchup conversation They ran out of sports to talk about and went quiet
Carrion birds adusting their feathers like poorly fitting funeral suits never much worn
calmly stepping aside to let my car through, returning to the roadkill in the mirror
How the handsome man can mislead
Lamar ave outside Memphis
Low slung pregnant pitbull chilling on the tarmac of the gas station
man in a grease stained polo buying Gatorade and condoms
stopped to use the bathroom in Clines Corners New Mexico, the grass was a pale mint
Prices on signs like holy temperatures
Stumpy red mesas squinting into the morning sun with me
Cows finding the shade cast by a casino billboard
cleveland june 2017: totally professional looking middle-aged lady wearing nice clothes and pristine air jordans fast asleep in a chair outside this coffee shop at 11 am. little kid selling candy walks past and she wakes up and produces a cigarette from somewhere in her hair
nashville may 2017: putting my bike back on my car after attending a triple-A baseball game. i had parked the accord in front of A Around The Clock Bonding (in the twilight-length shadow cast down the hill by the TN state capitol) i parked there because there was a dude from the bail bond place tailgating, or maybe just grilling, on a tiny stumpy grill in the tiny parking lot and i felt like a sort of smog of domesticity, felt the implication that the grilling bail bond guy might be hanging out all night so my car would have company. anyway i ride my bike the wrong way on some one way streets across some active train tracks past barstruants then back to the interchangeable bail bonding district dribbling out of every large legal facility. i left the game a little early because i wanted to get to this motel an hour north of nashville but i wound up stopping at the wrong motel anyway. the hassled, fried looking dudes finish parking and one of them kind of reels out of the truck and says are you from ohio where in ohio i’m from mansfield and i said yeah dude Mans Vegas I’ve been there and Cleveland I’m from Cleveland and he said the roads up there are seriously and I’ve never and They’re super fucked up Like for real and he was straightening out a bushel of five or six loose cigarettes and his eyes seemed to roll like billiard balls but he nodded soberly and went into A Around The Clock Bonding and I drove to Cave City. Omaha Storm Chasers 8, Nashville Sounds 3 (11) WP Bobby Parnell LP Simon Castro
idea: exercise to the point of spiritual exhaustion every day
to do list with one uncrossed item:
pretty detailed handwritten directions to offsite parking at ATL airport
Eric Ravilious made pottery?
some scrabble scores
some library call numbers
a bunch of to do lists with the same thing over and over again moving up and down depending on how long i have been putting it off
intermittent proof that i am working on writing and not just pretending to be in graduate school
I have got a dispatch for you Horse lathered and rider panting hard enough to bust hearts from haste
Here is the dispatch
This world has got manure for brains
Our skulls is dunged lavishly Spaded carefully all over uncleared stumps and bankrupts and exploded boats and houses what fell down before you even sat in them a single day Our Cleveland is composted more lavish than royal palaces
I wonder how much skulldung they have got up in London Paris and Philadelphia I would like to see every corner of the world weigh out the manure in our beanpots and seen who had the biggest heap
Permit me to news-paper for you scenes what convey the brawny uncouth odors smoking from our ears
As soon as we Americans had got the slipperiest of holds on the working what a steam engine could do we turned them to our two great pastimes The making of money and thickheaded behavior Steam lent herself to both eagerly Steam factories set to the making of durables And steamed boats was near to ideal suited for both moneygetting and idiocy
For a long summer season of the mind the clean brushed young swells seemed to drop from trees in Cleveland And the coem of fall knocked the idea of racing steam boats into each one of their meager brains They did not lose their purses any come in the descent from the arbor But soon enough they would dump out those pocketbooks on the fitting out of a Lake Erie steamed boat
These boats looked the same to their masters as man and wife come to share one aspect across their two persons All were tall lank Decked out in what you would call the haberdashings for a boat Decks tidier than a childs heart Timbermasts raked back swinging Inkstain flags enough to be the making of a thousand diapers Diapering for every large and small rearquarters of strangers what come off the canal Their Inkstain colors brighter than any fruit or fowl you seen in nature No red cardinalbird Blue summer sky or Whitewashed bones could beat the colors of the Inkstain flags you seen on a steamboat ripping down lake Erie
Those what rode on the steamed racers did their best to match with those colors Womenfolk armored in a wildflower garden of calicoes under great laced bonnets like the prettiest single cloud dancing The menfolk were only a step behind in costumes Great sharplined suitclothes under fresh straw with ribbons what a boss Catholic priest would have been sheepish under
Put all that in your minds eye and set the folks to chatter and gay laughter Then set it to slashing across Gods great washbasin five miles or more in an hour You had got the general sense of what a steamed boat race done to an imagination
Now of course I am speaking to you of the general s__brains of my Cleveland and you are chiding me Medium Son It is true that diapers would be more useful than a flag And yes boats have more sober uses than racing but people have got to have some type of idiocy to look on Otherwise the river of days were grim paddling How will this come to a true s___brainedness
Let me complete my thoughts about the steamed boats if you would not mind
disclaimer: it’s 1836, big son can talk to wolves, the wolves pretty much just swear at him, the inkstain is the united states, the narrator is big son’s brother
Big Son he rode out often some like an explorer in search of navigable waters He werent canoeing after the passages to the Orient or the cities of Cibola but for something to do with himself Some significance to prop him up Big Son were not much for contemplation He did not do well in quiet reflection or solitaire On these cutting outs he were often riding out to talk with the wolfs He cared for them after a time Cared for the socials
Now one such instance Big Son come back from the wolfs smiling Even the bay were grinning He told that the time of this occurence he were faced off with a special bold and cussed wolf Not content to whisper contemnation from the safety of the shadows But to step out into Big Sons clearing and denounce him in the open Saying in his wolf way F this and F yours and G D your Inkstain America and such I never heard any wolf speak so it is down to the honor of Big Son as to whether any of this were ever said or heard or drunk up into a dream
My brother he said I seen the line of civilization marching across the land like a great leech as wide as half the world.. But more inspiring more democratic than regular leeches This were the very jaws and teeth of the inkstain and it left back a type of slime or grease after it And he told how as it come forth everything went more orderly, more likely behind the earth come greener and trees stood up military dress The leafs got themselves more orderly
My brother said then right in the mist of a terrible wolf sermon the line of the Inkstain The big long leech swept over that creature and his whole aspect temperanced The wolf seen the light of mans reason Said to Big Son Mister I must apology for my nature I am a wolf I cannot do any other wise but I do appreciate coming into your Inkstain keenly The wolfs teeth cleaned up Gone from piss yellow to hotel linen And that wolf he danced off back to his proper place in the cheek of the wood Where Big Son could hear his curses take on a more cheerful tune Still curses and scabrous but more in the type of a proud drunk boast than the Dog Dockstatter line of talk
Big Son even in the teeth of such portents he had an eye for another interview To know if the big leech of the Inkstain herself had any talking in it Now that she were burst out of inside the maps and minds of her citizens So he rode out after the sweeping line of civilization and barked Hallo.. Hallo.. How do you do.. My compliments Fine to be here in the cool of the woods and out of the sun.. and other bowing and scraping He turned the big bay up to where the Inkstain trucked westward He and the bay danced between trees along the very frontier Half in a nation and half out And he felt a worm up his backbone Like a wash of whiskey but nothing in his mind at all Although his eyes did blink some He said he called out to that Inkstain And all he heard back was his own words But scrambled some like light off broken glass
mostly putting this here as a proof of life shot for myself when i go back and ask what was august 2016 like
August I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to get an MFA in creative writing. I lived in a house in a graveyard across the river from campus. The first month was lost in novelty and huffing the rich scents of the one-time middle-four-figures stipend the university gave us to get set up in Alabama. I abandoned a lot of materiel when I left Cleveland at the end of July, silently essential implements like vacuum cleaners and incidental furniture, after abandoning a lot of material in Brooklyn. In leaving two places within one year, I abandoned or never occupied a sense of complete belonging. Not knowing where in the grocery store reside the things you want. More knowing where in the place you live reside the people and vortices that sustain you. It’s easy enough to proceed without a sense of belonging although it is also easy enough to drive a car until it runs out of gas.
September Grandma died, went home for funeral. Got depressed re: alien corn, general feeling that life was a new pair of shoes that did not entirely fit. Participatory ethnography of bad habits, old and new. Continued making new friends. Wondered whether I was too old for any/all of this, determined that I had no practical options re reversing direction of space-time. Which led me to October.
October Officiated wedding of friends. Basked in radiant practical operative love. Self-lectured about being in school to write and to put own ass in gear re personal implementations of telos re caulking seams in sense of self.
November Like October but with Thanksgiving. Attempts at writing and being human continued with typical rate of success.
December Stressed over emerging demands of grad school (it turns out you can’t just poke at a weird bunch of fiction and then get a graduate degree at the end, you have to do some actual thinking and working). Met emerging demands after some whining.
I wrote 30 postcards to my mother for her 60th birthday. My sister sent the other 30.
For three days I went to New Orleans. As I walked past a washeteria on Prytania Street, a man in a green shirt said a pinched high sweet accent “You can go on and do what you want but when we get you, this is what we’re going to do to your ass.” He wasn’t talking to me. New Orleans is broken/fixed, bones peeking through skin, beautiful/ugly &c. I want to go there again and fail to see everything again. I saw the jaw bone of a hog killed in self-defense by two Confederate soldiers near Port Hudson, Louisiana. I saw Jefferson Davis’s robe and slippers, and a crown of thorns that the Pope made by hand for the ex president of the Confederacy. I saw a hologram fridge magnet that showed Robert E. Lee knelt in prayer. I ate banh mi in a bleak strip mall. I lost $1 in a video poker machine in a cafe where I got Vietnamese iced coffee that tasted like butane. During the Vietnamese food interlude I received and transmitted information on the phone about my mother being in the hospital with abdominal pain, just two days after she turned sixty.
I drove back to Alabama and packed up my stuff in the graveyard house. For four days I looked after three old black dogs, aged 14, 14, and 12 years respectively. Dogs this old take very short walks. Sometimes dogs this old stop in the middle of very short walks and look at you with their rheumy eyes. I frequently ascribe human-wise thoughts to the expressions of dogs. When these dogs stopped in the middle of walks their eyes said I forgot what we were talking about.
The civil authorities of Western Alabama, even in the relative congestion of Tuscaloosa, have austere ideas about streetlight placement. On the dawn walks the sun pushed up behind the broad prairie of chain retail to the east of town/university and the sun helped me see where I was going and more importantly it helped me see the dog poop I was duty bound to collect per social norms. In the hasty December dusk, that same sun hurried out toward Mississippi. So I walked the black dogs in the dark. I had to bring my cellphone on the walks, to use its flashlight to discover the poops of my charges. Otherwise I went to the gym and watched Netflix and ate at Waffle House. The first time I went to Waffle House a strung-out lady came in at 6 am and asked for plastic bags. I finished dog-sitting and moved all my stuff into a new apartment which coincidentally is very close to the Waffle House. I subsequently ate there a second time, the third time in my life to date.
I drove back to Ohio in stages. I saw my sister and her family. I shopped at Ikea with money I would probably have done better to save. I drove on to Cleveland and looked at newspapers from 1836.
In 1917, you are born, a fine baby. Really the only thing wrong with you is the third eye.
The midwife says Oh that’s just a baby eye, we used to see those all the time before they put iodide in the salt. What a hoot.
Your mother is reassured by this.
Your father takes a short performative breath and asks Will we be charged extra for the third eye. He says that No one asked if we wanted a third eye.
The midwife says No it’s cool, the baby eye is free. It’s like baby fat. It will just melt away, close up by the time the kiddo is 12 or 13. Sometimes before they’re 10. Everything they see through it will be forgotten. It will even disappear from any properly formatteddigital photos. If you do choose to have an oil painting or sculpture made of the child, that won’t update automatically. You’ll have to bring it in and in all likelihood it’ll be out of warranty.
So it does cost extra, your father says with a thin vinegary smile.