The idle scribblings of a sentimental surrealist.

Cities Asleep


A city seen
from above
and below
on the mirror
of a lake
murk below
sheen above
white above
green below
on waterline
the city grows


A city
whose borders
grow and shrink
on people
there spending
their time in
their houses


A city
I dreamed of
whose towers
would glisten
like sand on
the beaches
to be swept
away in
tides bearing
ill fortune
ill omens
ill water
I dreamed of
a city
awash in 
the sand.

Awash like
a woman
from shipwreck
and coughing
out water
from her lungs
grateful and 
her feet on
dry land



10 Notorious Literary Slogs That Are Worth the Effort

10 Notorious Literary Slogs That Are Worth the Effort

I can vouch for Infinite JestJRMason & DixonMoby-Dick, and Blood Meridian, found the Faerie Queen a slog myself, and haven’t even opened the other four.

Recommended short story: Flannery O’Connor, “The Lame Shall Enter First”

Recommended Short Story: Donald Barthelme, “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”

I’ll try to do these once a week or so, but no promises.

Signal Clearance

            For a moment, we’re suspended in the air, maybe a mile above the city. The voice tells us we’re waiting for signal clearance. I look down and see cars frozen at a red light like racers waiting for the starting gun. The lake sits a little further, and the voice tells us to look for any suspicious or abandoned packages. Other trains blur by. I wonder what would happen if someone jumped out of one of them, at this height.

            The train lurches and starts up again, and I’m at eye level with power lines, steeples, apartments with “for rent” signs. Close enough to see into people’s windows. The train trundles on, tilts this way, then that way, screeches. The car behind us waves to the left and to the right, held only by cables. Another train zooms past, and I wonder what happens if it loses control and smashes into ours. The voice tells standing passengers not to lean on the doors. Our car’s this big metal hunk, a capsule full of astronauts talking on phones or sleeping, some staring at books and some staring at the map on the wall. The voice reminds us to pay special courtesy for passengers with disabilities. No effort is made to hide the screws that hold the car together. One of them, on a stand that holds the plastic seats, looks a little loose. I imagine the seat coming off and flying at me after a hard turn.
            The wheels squeak as though the track is protesting our presence. We stop. Kids get on. They’re welcomed aboard. The next stop is announced, and the voice prohibits soliciting and gambling, and I see us running off the track and falling upside-down into crowded city streets, pancaking cars, all of us dying on impact. Now the skyscrapers look like stakes. A girl in purple pants and a sweater with leaves on it watches a third train pass in the opposite direction. Two men sitting at other ends of this moving tunnel catch each other’s eyes. A nod is shared between them.
            The train takes another stop. Posters advertise celebrity vanity shows no one will ever watch. The turnstile clicks, the bell rings, the doors close. I take a look at the man who just nodded. He has glasses, floppy hair. He’s talking on a cell phone, his face buried in his fat hands, and he’s got a backpack with him. This man gets off at the next stop and leaves his backpack behind. The other man gets off, too. Just as the doors close, I dart over to the backpack and pick it up. Then I run after the man in blue, forcing my way through the doors. I reach to open it, but my mind swats my hand away. I imagine the backpack exploding, tearing apart the ticket window, sending the rickety station up like fireworks. It’s tempting to set the bag down and run away, but I keep it. The trains rumble above my head, whooshing. People take their tickets from the turnstiles. A woman in a green shirt and blue jeans argues with a black man about the price of her ticket. A man comes up the stairs, a child in one hand and groceries in the other.
            The man in blue stands at the bottom of the stairs. The other man is nowhere to be seen. I hear the train’s squeaks from above and imagine the man in blue pulling out a gun and riddling me with bullets. I imagine myself falling, faster than it happens in the movies, although it happens slowly in my head because they say your brain can make that last moment feel as long as you want it to. The body hits the ground with a thud, meat hitting the slaughterhouse floor. I call the man. He turns. I hand him his backpack. 

Mr. Sandusky

Dear Mr. Sandusky,

Before anything else is said, we would first like to assure you that we hold the work you have done for our institution in the highest of regard, and would therefore feel as though we had lost a profoundly talented colleague should recent events lead us to terminate your employment. As you are doubtless aware, our institution believes in transparency, and you might have been under the impression that your recent decision to release your findings to the press was in accordance with this belief. We regret to inform you that this is incorrect, as we do not believe exaggerations about the work conducted at our institution are worthy of publication. It is not our belief that your motivation was to accuse our institution of any untoward activity, nor do we feel you are the sort who would slander us. We therefore believe that the content of your report was based around confusion. Consider this an attempt on our part to rectify this confusion.
The first case mentioned in your report was that of a James Anderson, who, you were correct to observe, had contracted a rash of certain proportions while using products developed at our institution. While pattern recognition is a positive quality in the hard sciences, and while the connection you drew between this rash and similar rashes from which earlier patients have suffered was a tour de force of pure research, rest assured that your speculations were considered entirely unfounded and in fact rather eccentric by those of us who have read your report. It is common for those who have used the object, such as Mr. Anderson, to develop allergic reactions, as this product is still in experimental stages. He has already been attended to, and we in fact have been assured that neither he nor his family will press charges against our institution. A team of our experts is doing diligent work to solve the problem of the rash, as they would with any problem our institution has encountered or will encounter.
The next concern you raised, while again understandable, again strikes us as perhaps better suited to the realm of yellow journalism than to that of science. As you are doubtless aware, your report made references to certain syllables uttered by a certain Noah Ravelstein. Again, we appreciate the concern for Mr. Ravelstein’s well-being your report expressed; however, our institution believes that the concern was unfounded. Furthermore, while your conclusions about the motivations behind his odd speech might have been regarded as acceptable to publish in the scientific realm four or five hundred years ago, they strike us as outdated and inappropriate for the modern age. The interest in demonology expressed in your report certainly made you stand out, and as you are doubtless aware, our institution prefers our candidates stand out. However, we would prefer it if in the future, you did not connect this knowledge to the products developed by our institution. Mr. Ravelstein’s speech has since normalized.
The final segment of your report dealt with a woman by the name of Jessica Porter. We will grant that this patient was notable for the paleness of her skin. Your description of it as being “translucent” after her use of our product was, in our institution’s opinion, a clear case of poetic license. While you are doubtless aware that this is the sort of creativity our institution admires in its members, we would nonetheless prefer it if your future reports stuck closer to the facts, and would furthermore like to assure you that Ms. Porter is well on her way to recovering from her recent battle with illness, which we assure you was in no way connected with her use of our product.
In conclusion, we have been duly impressed with the work you have done in the past, and we understand that your decision to release the report in question might have been borne out of the humanitarian urge so many of your generation seems to feel. We admire this, and we also admire your work in fields relevant to our institution, including but not limited to your Nobel Prize and the numerous patents for which you have successfully applied. All we wish to do is suggest there are those among us who might not find these credentials so impressive if you were to encounter them in a certain context, and to also make you aware that you risk offending them if you release your report as it stands. We are preparing an alternative report built around the corrections recommended above, and it is our strong suggestion that you inform the press of your error, threaten legal action if they do not retract the report you have released, and provide them with our alternative instead. Understand that, before this bout of unpleasantness, your presence at our institution was much appreciated, and it would be a shame if we had to release you over what we hope will prove to be a trifling matter.

Best wishes,

The management.



Yesterday I went to the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, which had an exhibition on memento mori art. Though the pieces on display were beautiful and captivating, representing how different world cultures react to the eventuality of death, one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was its title, a floor-to-ceiling sign with white block lettering on a black background that simply read “REMEMBER THAT YOU WILL DIE.” The sign beautifully pulled together the idea (and literal meaning) of memento mori in a visually arresting way, and immediately reminded me of one of my favorite passages of Don DeLillo’s Underworld:

We’re all gonna die!”

This cracked him up. He bent from the waist laughing and seemed to be using the mike as a geiger counter, waving it over the floorboards.


And the audience sat there thinking, How real can the crisis be if we’re…

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