From ON UNIVERSAL BALANCE
...And, having returned home, Nikolay Ivanovich said this to his wife:
“Do not be afraid, Ekaterina Petrovna, and do not worry. Only there isn’t any equilibrium in this life. And the mistake is only off by some kilogram and half for the entire universe, but still, it’s amazing, Ekaterina Petrovna, it is simply remarkable!”
[September 18, 1934]
From Russian Absurd: Daniil Kharms, Selected Writings (Northwestern University Press, World Classics series; officially published on February 17, 2017)
First of all, my apologies for the delay in posting this: I must again excuse myself by repeating that, like so many of us, I've only just returned from DC and the AWP. And so, dear reader, please accept this, my belated Happy St. Valentines's Day wishes to us all: may each of us seek to daily find within ourselves those inner resources that enable us to feel and express our love. Yesterday, I was helped on this occasion, during a particularly difficult personal time and in this unsettling historical moment, by going to see a film with two people I care about very much. While Lion is far from a perfect picture, what else is there in this world that can better evoke in us those cathartic and complex feelings of pity and empathy more than the innocence of a child?
I also wish to say that I had all the relevant selections from the book ready to go before I got on the road, but, to quote E. M. Foster: "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" What I want to tell you about today is an experience of censorship I had with the Russian Absurd, Daniil Kharms Facebook page I had started, intended to promote the book with a series of selections, including the poem that follows here. The response I received to it was: "Your ad wasn't approved because it doesn't follow our Advertising Policies for adult products or services. We don’t allow images or videos that show nudity or cleavage, even if it’s portrayed for artistic or educational reasons." While I appealed the decision repeatedly, including finally to a live person, explaining that the post contained neither nudity, nor cleavage, nor certainly any videos, it got me exactly nowhere.
The situation became only more absurd, when Facebook's response to a prose piece in tomorrow's follow up post, "Daniil Kharms on Spirit," that I thought not only innocuous but genuinely elevated and uplifting was: "Your ad wasn't approved because it calls out to specific user attributes (ex: race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability or medical condition, financial status, membership in a trade union, criminal record, ethnicity, name). Such ads may offend users and lead to high negative sentiment." To make this already far too long introduction shorter: to put it mildly, Kharms, like so many of us today, had a "complicated relationship" with all of mankind, and even with God "himself". I hope you will read on for yourself, and I will only add here the following words from my introduction to the book:
"Humor and horror, Eros and Thanatos, degradation and sadomasochism jostle one another, side-by-side, in these stories and poems. Kafkaesque and Chekhovian situations and motifs from Pushkin and traditional Russian fairy tales are recognizable in Kharms’s sparse prose, yet they appear diseased, stripped down to their bare essentials, as if contorted by the terror of impending arrest and doom." And we might add, "by the terror of love gained and love lost". And now, most of the rest of this, I would like to be in Daniil Kharms's own words.
You can sew. But that’s all bunk.
I’m in love with your pudenda;
it’s moist and smells abundantly.
Another man would peek, let out
a squeak, and, sealing his nose, scram.
And wiping your fluids from his hands
would he return? Oh, what a question;
suddenly, there can be no other.
Your juices are to me sheer joy.
You think my words are an excrescence
but I’m prepared to lick your cunt
without break for breath and swallow
the delicious squim of your mallow
until I begin to burp and grunt.
(Daniil Kharms, 1931)
"Joseph Brodsky once quoted Anna Akhmatova, about an improbable Kharms sentence: 'Only with Kharms could that ever work. Never with anyone else.'" (From Ian Frazier's group review of all the books heretofore available in English translation in The New York Review of Books, which includes his own very personal experience discovering, translating, and failing in the attempt to communicate to Anglophone readers how and why Daniil Kharms's works are "funny".)
From “Thoughts about a Girl”
And when she passes by aflutter,
As if on air, not a word do you utter;
And when with a knowledgeable hand
She makes contact— you understand.
And when she lightly, as though dancing,
Sliding her lovely foot across the floor,
Proceeds to offer her perky breast for
You to kiss— then it is impossible not
To shout out loud and lovingly blow
From her firm breast a dust mote,
And recognize how touching your lips
To her youthful breast is pointless.
January 21, 1935
In every church bell there is spite
In every red ribbon there is fire
In every young woman shivering
In every young man his own steed.
March 20, 1938
Came to the window naked. In the house across the street someone must have taken an exception, the sailor’s widow, I think. A policeman came barging in, with the yard sweeper, and someone else in tow. They declared that I have been disturbing the neighbors across the street from me for over three years already. So I have hung some curtains. What is more appealing to the eye, an old woman wearing nothing but a chemise or a young man, buck-naked? And for whom is it less acceptable to show themselves au naturel?
This was my own "working" version of the book's cover. Being a very visual and concrete person, as I was developing and completing the book, being able to see both the "big picture" and the individual pages helped me in doing so. Here, I had "cut" and reversed what I believed to be a double "wedding portrait" of Daniil Yuvachev and Esther Rousakov. Kharms's first wife, she was the daughter of Jewish Russian-French “expats,” and part of the "reverse immigration" that had returned to Russia after the Revolution.
From the Notebooks. July 27. Who could advise me regarding what I should do? Esther brings with her misfortune. I am being destroyed along with her. What must I do, either divorce her or . . . carry my cross? I was given the choice to avoid this, but I remained dissatisfied, and asked to be united with Esther. I was told yet again, do not be married! But despite “having caught a scare,” I still insisted, I still tied my fate with Esther’s, till death do us part. I myself was to blame for this or, rather, I did it to myself. What has happened to the OBERIU? Everything vanished as soon as Esther became a part of me. Since that time, I have ceased to write as I ought to and have only brought misfortune upon myself from all directions. Is it that I can’t be dependent on women, no matter which one it is? Or is the nature of Esther’s character such that she brought an end to my work? I don’t know. If Esther is filled with sorrow, then how can I possibly let her go....
Kharms developed a highly personal and involved symbology, mostly involving an almost kabbalistic play with the letters of her name (his symbol for her as a whole person was the window). Esther Rusakov (née Ioselevich), was repressed, along with her entire family, in 1936.
Before I enter, I will knock on your window. You will see me in the window. Then I will walk through the door and you will see me in the doorway. Then I will walk into your house and you will recognize me. And I will enter you, and no one, except you, will see me and recognize me.
You will see me in the window.
The woman in the following picture is Alice Poiret, another of "Kharms's women;” both she and his first wife, Esther, have most often been literally cropped out of the few surviving photos of Kharms that have come down to us. Kharms had dedicated a number of poems to Alice, including the following:
[ January 7, 1933]
October 16, 1933
Talent grows, destroying, building.
The sign of stagnation is well-being.
Dear Klavdia Vasilyevna,
You are a remarkable and genuine person! As much as it grieves me not to be able to see you, I won’t be inviting you to the Children’s Theater or to come to my city. How heartwarming it is to know that there still exists one human being animated by dreams! I don’t know what word one can use to express that force which so delights me in you. I usually call it simply p u r i t y. I have been thinking about how wonderful it is, that which is primal...
… I’m genuinely delighted that you take your walks like so, in the Zoological Garden. Especially if you take walks there not just for the sake of walking, but also to observe the animals— I will fall in love with you even more tenderly.
October 20, 1933
I have studied women for a long time now and can definitively say that I know them with flying colors. First and foremost, a woman likes to be attended to. Let’s say she is standing right in front of you or is about to, and you make it seem as though you’re hearing and seeing nothing, and act like there’s no one else in the room; this inflames female curiosity. And a curious woman is capable of practically anything.
The next time I will intentionally stick my hand deep in my pocket with a quizzical appearance, and the woman will plant her eyes on me, like, what’s going on here? And I will slowly draw out of my pocket some sort of spark plug. Well and good; the trap has been sprung, and the fish is in my net!
One of the principal sources of divergence of human paths is the matter of preference for either skinny or plump women. I propose we reserve alleys in public gardens for quiet strolling, with two-seat benches distributed two meters away from each other; furthermore, thick bushes should be planted between the benches so that those sitting at one bench are not able to see what is happening at another. On these quiet pathways, the following rules must be enforced:
1. Entrance is forbidden to children, both alone and accompanied by a parent.
2. All noise and loud conversation are strictly prohibited.
3. Only one woman may take a seat next to a man, and only one man next to a woman.
4. If the person seated on a bench is resting their hand or some sort of other object on the free seat, you may not join them. Alleys should also be reserved for walking in solitude, with metal armchairs for single people. Between the armchairs, bushes. Entry is forbidden to children; noise and loud conversation are prohibited.
As a rule, pretty women do not stroll around in gardens.
September 28, 1935
One personage, wringing her hands in sorrow, was saying, “What I need is an interest toward life, and not at all money. I am seeking enhancement, not advancement. I need a husband, and not a rich man but a true talent, the director Meyerhold!”
The Sensual Woodsman
When in the distance flashed saws
And the axes had started ringing,
My girlfriends all became dearer.
I’m in love with them ever since.
Oh, girlfriends, my dear girlfriends,
So pleasant to sense you with my hands!
You’re all so smooth! All so solid!
One more wonderful than the next!
It’s so pleasant to touch your breasts,
Brush my lips the length of your legs.
Oh, help me people, dear people.
Oh, help me God, my dear God!
August 24, 1938
From An Obstacle (August 12, 1940) Previously published in Narrative Magazine (free registration required)
Pronin said, “You have very pretty stockings.”
Irina Mazer said, “So you like my stockings?”
Pronin said, “Oh, yes. Very much.” And he ran his hand down her leg....
From A Lecture (1940)
“A woman is the lathe of love.”
And he immediately got punched in the face....
From “The Power of...”
Faol continued: “Take, for example, love. It may be for better or for worse. On the one hand, it is written: you must love . . . but on the other hand, it is said: do not spoil . . . Perhaps it is better not to love after all? But it says: you must love. But if you do love, you will spoil. What to do? Perhaps go ahead and love but in some other way? But then why is it that in all languages, the same word is used to designate both this and the other love? So, this one artist loved his mother and this one plump young girl. And he loved them each differently. He handed over to the girl the larger part of his salary. The mother often starved while the girl ate and drank for three people. The artist’s mother slept in the hallway on the floor, and the girl had at her disposal two very adequate rooms. The girl had four coats and the mother just one. And so, the artist took from his mother her one coat and had it altered into a skirt for the girl. So that, in all respects, the artist spoiled the girl but his own mother he didn’t spoil, but loved her with a pure love. However, he did fear his mother’s death, but the death of the girlfriend he feared not, and when his mother died, the artist cried, and when the girlfriend fell out of a window and also died, the artist didn’t cry but found himself another girlfriend. And so it seems that a mother is prized as one of a kind, as though she were a rare stamp that cannot be replaced with another....”
September 29, 1940
You can read the rest of this powerful late "fiction" in the selection of seven prose pieces I had previously published in International Quarterly.
Daniil Kharms’s second wife, Marina Malich's (Durnovo) memoirs were recorded and published by the literary historian Vladimir Glotser in his book Moi Muzh Daniil Kharms (My Husband Daniil Kharms; available only in Russian).
From the Notebooks. May 26 
Marina stays in bed all day in a foul mood. I love her so very much, but how harrowing it is to be married.
I am tormented by my “sex.” For weeks, and sometimes months, I have not known a woman.
1. There is one purpose to every human life: immortality.
1a. There is one purpose to every human life: achieving immortality.
2. One pursues immortality by continuing his bloodline, another by accomplishing great mortal deeds in order to immortalize one’s name. And only the third leads a righteous and holy life in order to achieve immortality as life eternal.
3. A man has but two interests: the mundane— food, drink, warmth, women, and rest; and the celestial— immortality.
4. All that is earthly is a confirmation of death.
5. There is one straight line upon which all that is mortal lies. And only that which is not plotted on this axis may serve as confirmation of eternity.
6. And for this reason man seeks a deviation from this earthly road and considers it beautiful or brilliant.
And, last but not least:
From Symphony No. 2
...Well, to hell with him. I will tell you about Anna Ignatievna instead.
But to tell you about Anna Ignatievna isn’t so simple. First of all, I know practically nothing about her and, second of all, I just fell off the stool and forgot what I was about to say. Better I tell you about myself.
I am tall in height, not stupid, dress colorfully and with taste, don’t drink, don’t patronize the horses, but do like the ladies. And the ladies do not avoid me. In fact, they love it when I accompany them. Seraphima Izmailovna has invited me time and again over to her place, and Zinaida Yakovlevna also told me that she is always happy to see me. And with Marina Petrovna I had this amusing episode, which is the one I want to tell you about. The episode is really quite ordinary, but still very amusing, because Marina Petrovna turned, owing to me, entirely bald, like the palm of your hand. It happened this way: I came over to Marina Petrovna’s and she “boom!” and turned completely bald. That’s it.
June 9– 11, 1941
"I can’t imagine why, but everyone thinks I’m a genius; but if you ask me, I’m no genius. Just yesterday I was telling them: Please hear me! What sort of a genius am I? And they tell me: What a genius! And I tell them: Well, what kind? But they don’t tell me what kind, they only repeat, genius this and genius that. But if you ask me, I’m no genius at all.
Wherever I go, immediately, they all start whispering and pointing their fingers at me. What’s going on here?! I say. But they don’t
let me utter a word, and any minute now they will lift me up in the air and carry me off on their shoulders."
[Daniil Kharms, 1934– 36]
Just a little over a year and a half ago, I had the great pleasure to blog in these pages for my first time, on the occasion of having edited the Contemporary Russian Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review (Spring 2015). When I wrote David Lehman, almost exactly a year ago now, to tell him that my first full book, Russian Absurd: Daniil Kharms, Selected Writings, was forthcoming early this year from Northwestern University Press, I could not have remotely expected his response, an offer to blog about Kharms and my book, today and for the remainder of this week. And so ... here we are, the book's official release is this Friday, February 17, and I am just back in New York City from yet another overwhelming AWP, this time in Washington, DC that is largely unchanged (other than the construction boom in its Midtown and all the newly gentrified neighborhoods) from that summer of 1984 when, as a budding Sovietologist, I walked every day from my GWU dorm room in Foggy Bottom to my internship at the Georgetown Center for Strategic Studies on 17th and K Street. I had every intention then to pursue a career in the diplomatic service and my special interest was arms control, and though the town is little changed, the world and each one of us in it have been utterly transformed in the space of only several months.
1984: what an exciting year that was for all of us, but especially for those with a keen interest in Russian and East European Studies. In May, the USSR had boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics as payback for the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, all of it, the consequence of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. That war, which would become known as "the Soviet Union's Vietnam," was later thought to have been a major factor in the collapse of the USSR. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev would inherit the helm as the General Secretary of the CPSU, after the deaths of three septuagenerian leaders within the space of three years (Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko) and the rest, as they say, is history. It seemed, then that the collapse of the Russian Empire was imminent, and that the shape of things to come, as predicted by George Orwell in his eponymous novel was farther away than it had ever been throughout that bloodiest of all, our 20th Century. Some had even gone so far as to diagnose the idyllic 90s as "The End of History". But then, just as the 21st Century had dawned, 9/11 happened, followed by perhaps our own second Vietnam, the War in Iraq and, at the end of its first decade, a market collapse that threatened to spawn a second Great Depression, and now, "seemingly" all of a sudden, history has come back, full circle and with a vengeance, to bite us all in the ass.
No one could have predicted even a year ago, when I signed on for this task, that this book would be as timely, cogent, and once again relevant as I had believed it would be when I began work on it ten years ago, and I myself only know this for certain now. As I had written in my introduction: “Covering the entire range between the merely unpleasant, the disturbing, and the hilarious, [Daniil Kharms's] protoexistentialist works succeed in bearing, if only tangentially, remarkable witness to the unspoken and unspeakable reality of life under Stalin.... Getting Kharms, I think, requires cultivating a visceral sense of the sociopolitical-cultural context of the repressions and deprivations of the 1920s and 1930s, and the suppression of Kharms and his immediate circle, the OBERIU ... [who] had assumed, in their generation, the “Slap in the Face of Public Taste” mantle of the Russian Futurists, literally adopting Kazimir Malevich’s encouragement to them as their motto— 'Go and stop progress!'” And so, before proceeding, I must begin my week-long residency here by first briefly establishing the links between the so-called Russian Absurdists and their spiritual and aesthetic "fathers" of the preceding generation, the Russian Futurians (so-called because they wished to distinguish themselves from the nationalistic and militaristic Italian Futurists).
In preparation for doing so, as we approached the turn of the year, in the run up to the Trump Inauguration and the book's official release, having assumed that most if not nearly all of us are also members of Facebook, I had started a Russian Absurd on Facebook book page, as well as a Russian Absurd on Twitter page and a Goodreads page,) where for the foreseeable future, I will continue posting selections from and news about the book, as well as links to "all things Kharmsian," some of which I will also be sharing here in the coming week. For now, I invite you to explore the following links and to join/like, follow, and share the group with your interested friends. I very much look forward to this, our journey together, as I prepare, as it where, to "take this show on the road" and to read from, i.e. "perform the book" to various and varied kinds of audiences. In my design of the book, I had made a very conscious effort to represent, within my own space constraints (280 pages,) as many of the different types of materials present in his notebooks as possible (diary entries, letters, one of his NKVD confessions, etc.) My main purpose in doing so was to pay particular attention to Kharms’s development as a writer over the short span of some decade and a half of his creative life. So that the development I am speaking of become self-apparent, I structured the book to follow as much as possible a strictly chronological order. The chapters that emerged, corresponding roughly to the “Early,” “Middle,” and “Late” periods, could also have been provisionally titled “The Theatre of Cruelty,” “The Theatre of the Absurd,” and “Protoexistentialism.” The brief "biographical sections," taken from Kharms’s notebooks, etc., and interspersed at the beginning and end of every section, were intended to cement a more personal relationship with the author, as well as to establish connections between his creative output and the circumstances and events of his life. I hoped that these "section breaks" would also provide “pacing” and some "breathing room" as it were, as well as a sense of a "life lived," so that these mileposts in Kharms’s biography could be used by the interested reader to map these events -- the initial suppression of the OBERIU (late 1920s), the breakup of his first marriage and his exile to Kursk after his first arrest (1931–32), and the growing desperation of his final years (late 1930s) -- over to his writing. Kharms’s poetry, like the prose that precedes it, likewise arranged chronologically, placed at the end, offers a kind of summation.
David Bulyuk, a world-class painter and the self-proclaimed "Father of Russian Futurism," spent the second half of his long life in the Ukrainian community of NYC's East Village and, among a group of painters, including Arshhile Gorky, in Long Island's Hampton Bays.
Along with Velimir Khlebnikov, whom Roman Jakobson, the father of Structuralist linguistics, had called "perhaps the most important modern poet," no other poet made such a lasting contribution to Russian and World poetry as Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Aleksei Kruchenykh's best known work is the first Russian Futurist Opera, “Victory Over the Sun” (1913,) for which he collaborated with Kazimir Malevich.
The Russian Futurians: A Group Portrait. Vasilisk Gnedov, Igor Severanin (Ego-Futurists), Vasily Kamensky, Elena Guro, Vassily Kandinsky, Nikolai Aseev, Boris Pasternak (Tsetrifuga,) Anatoly Mariengoff (Imaginist), Simeon Kirsanov, et al.
Daniil Kharms (photo gallery) was born on December 29, 1905 and died on February 2, 1942. Today, this one last time, we may celebrate his 111th BIRTHDAY and the 75th anniversary of his DEATH.
As I retell in the introduction to my book, the "Russian Absurdists," the Oberiu (“Obyedenenie Real'nogo Iskusstva” or “Union of Real Art,”) were essentially the second generation of Russian Futurists, and their initial "launching pad," Velimir Khlebnikov and his Zaum' (Za-um, literally”beyond the mind, or the “trans-rational). In that spirit, I'd like to offer you these three very short Kharms poems so close in spirit to Khlebnikov's own miniatures, I believe them to have been intended as homages. Of the section of roughly 50 poems that close the book, many, perhaps most of the others are likewise "in this spirit,” and Daniil Kharms, at least in his poetry, remained a “Khlebnikovian” and a “Budetlyanen” (Khlebnikov's “person of the future”) to the end of his life. The Russian Futurian strategy of epatage, or “shocking the bourgeoisie,” was also at the heart of his personal style: in his dress, his dandyism, and particularly in his early, performative, improvisational, expressionistic theatrical work. (The accompanying photo is Daniil Kharms dressed as one of his personas, his "imaginary older brother".)
A cuckoo sleeps in a tree
A lobster dreams under a rock
In the field lies a shepherdess
And the wind is a two-way street.
In every church bell there is spite
In every red ribbon there is fire
In every young woman shivering
In every young man his own steed
I was watching a slowly eyelid
that was being lazily lifted
and with its lazy glance
circling the affectionate rivers.
[after August 13, 1937]
Everyone knows these days how dangerous it is to swallow stones.
One of my acquaintances even coined an expression for it: “Waisty,” which stands for: “Warning: Stone Inside”. And a good thing too he did that. “Waisty” is easy to remember, and, as soon as it comes up, or you need it for something, you can immediately recall it.
Аnd this friend of mine worked as a fireman, that is, as an engine stoker on a locomotive. First he rode the northern lines, then he served on the Moscow route. And his name was Nikolay Ivanovich Serpukhov, and he smoked his own hand-rolled cigarettes, Rocket brand, 35 kopeks a box, and he’d always say he doesn’t suffer from coughing as bad from them, and the five-ruble ones, he says, they make him gag.
And so, it once happened that Nikolay Ivanovich found himself in Hotel Europe, in their restaurant. Nikolay Ivanovich sits at his table, and the table over from him is occupied by some foreigners, and they’re gobbling up apples.
And that’s when Nikolay Ivanovich said to himself: “A curious thing,” Nikolay Ivanovich said to himself, “What an enigma the human being is.”
And as soon as he had said this to himself, out of nowhere, before him appears a fairy and says:
“What is it Good Sir that you desire?”
Well, of course, there’s a commotion at the restaurant, like, where did this little damsel suddenly appear from? The foreigners had even stopped stuffing themselves with apples. Nikolai Ivanovich himself caught a good scare and he says, just for the sake of it, to get rid of her:
“Please, forgive me,” he says, “But there is nothing in particular that I need.”
“You don’t understand,” the mysterious damsel says, “I’m what you call a fairy,” she says. “In a single blink of an eye, I can make for you anything you wish. You just give me the word, and I’ll make it happen.”
That’s when Nikolay Ivanovich notices that some sort of a citizen in a gray suit is attentively listening in on their conversation. The maître d’ comes running in through the open doors and behind him, some other character, with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
“What the heck!” Nikolay Ivanovich thinks to himself, “Who the hell knows how this thing will turn out.”
And indeed, no one can understand what is going on. The maître d’ is hopping across the tops, from one table over to another, the foreigners are rolling up all the carpets, and in general, who the hell can tell what’s really going on! Who is capable of what, that is!
Nikolay Ivanovich ran out into the street, forgetting even the hat he’d left behind earlier at the coat check, and he ran out onto LaSalle Street and said to himself: “Waisty! Warning: Stone Inside!” And also: “What haven’t I seen already in this whole wide world!”
And, having returned home, Nikolay Ivanovich said this to his wife:
“Do not be afraid, Ekaterina Petrovna, and do not worry. Only there isn’t any equilibrium in this life. And the mistake is only off by some kilogram and half for the entire universe, but still, it’s amazing, Ekaterina Petrovna, it is simply remarkable!”
[September 18, 1934]
Previously published in B O D Y.
Daniil Kharms was the pen name of Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev (1905–1942). With his friend, the poet Alexander Vvedensky, Kharms cofounded the OBERIU, a group of second-generation Russian Futurist or so-called Absurdist writers active in the 1920s and 1930s. Not permitted to publish his mature work in Stalinist Russia, he survived, for a time, by composing poems for children. At the beginning of World War II, he was arrested (a second time) on the absurd charge of espionage and, feigning insanity to avoid summary execution, starved to death in a psychiatric hospital during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Most of his writings survived only in notebooks, rescued fortuitously from a burned-out building by a friend and fellow OBERIU member, the philosopher Yakov Druskin. His short sketches, illegally circulated in Russia after the war, influenced several generations of underground writers who broke into the mainstream with the fall of the Soviet Union.
Some of the essays, poems, and prose in Russian Absurd: Daniil Kharms, Selected Writings first appeared and may be sampled in B O D Y, Eleven Eleven, (ĕm): A Review of Text and Image 1 (pg. 134-141), Gargoyle 66, Green Mountains Review, Little Star Journal, MAYDAY Magazine, Narrative Magazine, New American Writing 34, Numéro Cinq, Off Course 41, PEN America 12: Correspondences (pg. 100), The International Literary Quarterly 18, and The Literary Review 56.3.
"Reading this book makes me want to put myself in Kharms’s way." – Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story
“Kharms’s obliquely allegorical dark comedies are both mystical and mythic, Daoist and Dadaist, daring and deranging, surrealist and satiric, metaphysical and metafictional. Charting the experience of everyday life in Russia in the 1920s and ’30s, Kharms is an (anti-)Soviet realist. In a world gone mad, Kharms is, ironically, a last refuge of sanity. Alex Cigale’s sparkling translations bring these works into a new life in English.” – Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at U. Penn and author of A Poetics, Girly Man, and Pitch of Poetry
"Absurdism — the ridiculous as a reaction and an alternative to revulsion and resignation before an absurd age." – Alex Cigale, 2015 NEA Fellow in Literary Translation, from the Introduction
N.B. An update: After 22 years at the helm, this past year, founding editor Dan Veach passed the reins of the Atlanta Review, to its new editor, Karen Head, and the magazine is now newly affiliated with Georgia Tech University. In the coming year, I will be editing a Baltic Poetry issue of the magazine (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,) and hope to officially announce it in these pages by the end of this week.
In January of 1974, a five-pound bag of sugar cost 85 cents; by year-end, just in time for the office cookie exchange, the price of the same five-pound bag increased to $2.35. The trend was driven by a complicated combination of geopolitical events, including bad weather that wiped out crops, changes in domestic subsidies, import quotas and tariffs, along with a growing national sweet tooth.
I was aware of the price-hike and the reasons behind it not because I was a preternaturally astute observer of market forces but because I worked after school and on weekends as a cashier for Shop-Rite supermarket in our largely working-class neighborhood. Where there had once been rows of yellow and white Domino sugar bags, shelves were empty. Cereal, candy, bottled juice, cakes and cookies, baking mixes, even TV dinners with their gelatinous desserts, were now out of reach for many customers. With soaring prices, the market behaved as if there were a shortage. Management cut back on inventory and over the course of the year customers who would typically buy one bag of sugar every couple of weeks hoarded it whenever word circulated that another price increase was on the horizon. For a short time, my store rationed sugar at one 5-pound bag per customer. Some families gamed the system by having each spouse and child march through the checkout line alone with a single bag.
For some of us, myself included, it was the best thing that could have happened. At the time, I took my coffee with three teaspoons of sugar and drank a lot of soda. During weekend lunch breaks, a friend and I would share a smoke and to satisfy the inevitable hunger attack that followed would devour a bag of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. There was no combination of sugar and fat that I would turn down.
My consumption of all things sugary had to stop. Over time I weaned myself of sugary drinks and sweetened coffee. It helped that nutritionists were finding an audience for their claims that sugar was detrimental to one’s health. They encouraged consumers to find alternatives, like fresh fruit for dessert and fruit juices or plain water instead of soda. Newspapers and magazines published recipes for sugar-free desserts. The sugar crisis of the ‘70s marked the beginning of my interest in healthy eating.
Alas, in the forty-plus intervening years, sugar and its evil sibling high-fructose corn syrup, continue to be a mainstay of the American diet. You find it in the obvious places but also hidden in processed foods like bottled salad dressings, canned soups, hot dogs, bread, and even in nut butters. While sugar alone has been cited as the cause of obesity and the associated illnesses (heart-disease, diabetes, and certain cancers), Gary Taubes, (The Case Against Sugar Knopf, December 2016) writes in the Wall Street Journal that “the evidence for the hypothesized chain of cause and unfortunate effects—eat sugar, become insulin-resistant, fatter and diabetic and then die prematurely—is ambiguous. It will probably stay that way. The National Institutes of Health have never seen the need for the expensive clinical trials that would be needed for a rigorous study of the issue.”
We do know with certainty that those whose eat a lot of processed foods are not as healthy as those who don’t and processed foods are where sugar lurks (along with other dubious ingredients). The good news is that the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a change in nutrition labels that will require manufacturers to list how many grams of sugar have been added to a product and what percentage of the recommended daily maximum that represents. Curious minds want to know, everyone else should know.
Read more at the Inquisitive Eater here.
by Carolilna Ebeid
Owing to the general scarcity
of books in the post-Soviet city,
this particular population of library
dwellers, which included the intellectuals,
playwrights, poets, homosexuals,
would pass the same borrowed copy
of the novel among them, the hardback
becoming a familiar / familial
object, they would mark words
with imperative asterisks, underscore
whole paragraphs, each reader insinuating
himself & herself in the coordinates of here
& here in faintest graphite, creasing
the corners of pages where one,
anyone of them, should return.
On May 2, 2013, CNN proleptically ran a news segment in which Henry Kissinger advised Hillary Clinton on the life she may expect to lead after serving as secretary of state. It is an amusing piece not only because of the jokes he and she made but also because of a book published almost secretly in 1974 entitled President Kissinger, a satirical piece of political fiction that I found riveting atthe time. Somehow the poet Andrei Codrescu got hold of some advance copies of the book, in mass-market paperback form, and he gave me two of them.
As I recall the plot, a constutional amendment makes it possible for Kissinger -- born in Germany and therefore ineligible to become president -- to overcome the rule that eliminating foreign-born citiens fom pursung the White House. Teddy Kennedy is Kissinger's vice-president, in charge of domestic affairs, and Kissinger ends up as President of the World, certified as such by the UN General Assembly. The writing of the book is quite ordinary and it depends for its effects entirely on a scenaro that seemed far-fetched but oddly in line with where the nation was in August 1974, the month Richard Nixon resigned as president. I pitched a piece on the book and even interviewed its publisher, Maurice Girodias, but New York magazine, which wanted me to write for them, nixed the idea because of Girodias's chequered career as a sensationalist. It is a pity because as a publishing stunt -- though by no neas as an artistic achievement and as a vision of political paranoia President Kissinger was effective in the way of Oliver Stones's brilliant Oliver Stones's JFK, though nowhere near the artisic success that Stone achieved in the film. -- DL
<<< Washington (CNN) – Former Secy. of State Henry Kissinger gave a very public nod Wednesday night to a 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign – saying that secretaries of state have a good track record of moving into the highest office in the land.
“At least four secretaries of state became president,” the foreign-born Kissinger joked during remarks at the annual Atlantic Council awards dinner in Washington. “And that sort of started focusing my mind even though there was a constitutional provision that prevented me from doing it. I thought up all kinds of schemes to get around that.”
Then, adopting a more serious tone, he continued. “I want to tell Hillary that when she misses the office, when she looks at the histories of secretaries of state, there might be hope for a fulfilling life afterwards.”
Kissinger, himself a former secretary of state, was presenting Clinton with a Distinguished Leadership Award.
for more, inckuding Clinton's response, click here
I was searching through my electronic calendar to see what was coming up on my personal agenda. Without my asking, it reminded me that November 13th has been proclaimed a Day of Mourning – a year to the day since some crazy bastards hopped up on religion and righteousness massacred more than 200, mostly young, people as they ate and drank, danced, chatted and flirted.
My concerns were more immediate than thinking about the moribund past. The past? The inconsequential past is what Today’s Winners say it is. Yes?
Anyhow, Karine and I like the romantic singer song-writer sweet-voiced Katie Melua. Last Spring, I saw she was coming to town in November and, acting on a newly-acquired principle of “acting now is always right action,” bought tickets.
What could possibly go wrong with such long-term planning of a little handholding to songs like “Just like heaven” and “Thank you, Stars” at the gorgeous, famous Olympia concert hall in downtown Paris?
But needs must sometimes; I had forgotten to mention it to Karine until a week before the day, only to discover she was out of town – tickets bought, arrangements made, paying customers waiting.
Since I can barely survive being alone the time of a single night’s sleep and I’d rather lose the money than go to the trouble of re-selling a paid-for ticket, I had to hunt for somebody free to come and who likes mushy music.
At four days and counting, no takers; I’d even asked a nodding acquaintance from the gym!
At this point, Fifi, Karine’s frangine, as they say, naturally came to mind. ‘Though her cultural tastes run to the Velvet Underground, Goth, Heavy Metal and Frida Kahlo, she’s very easily imposed upon.
I called and left a self-pitying message outlining the service she could render, not neglecting to point out how much better something always is when done with a pretty woman.
Mourning? Remembrance of a massacre?
Remembering, let alone talking or writing about the substantial marrow of the November 13th serial mass murders in Paris makes me feel powerlessly angry: I am quite sure that such anger somehow puts me in the power of the murderers and their handlers.
That can’t be good and must be bad for the heart in all senses.
I have no idea of writing about murder or remembering murderers.
I will say, though, that, apart from stirring fear & hatred and anger & cloudy, blood-eyed thoughts, the enduring evil of murder, political or personal, is the un-mendable hole it tears out of the tapestry of daily life: the instrument maker known only by sight, the shy young woman once permanently, silently, perched at the far end of the bar, the roller-skating companion, the nodding-acquaintance, Myriam's neighbor's cousin’s brother-in-law’s sister, their former neighbors...
People may not realize that Nobel Prizes, like other awards, are actively campaigned for. It is as if lobbyists, albeit unpaid ones, were out there petitioning the committee in Stockholm. Here is Gordon Ball's brief for Dylan, which is entitled "I nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize. You’re welcome" and which appears in today's Washington Post. Ball has campaigned for a Nobel for Dylan since 1996. -- DL
For decades I’ve admired the work of Bob Dylan, whom I first saw at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, but it was in August of 1996 that I first wrote the Nobel Committee, nominating Dylan for its literature prize. The idea to do so originated not with me but with two Dylan aficionados in Norway, journalist Reidar Indrebø and attorney Gunnar Lunde, who had recently written Allen Ginsberg about a Nobel for Dylan. Ginsberg’s office then asked if I’d write a nominating letter. (Nominators must be professors of literature or linguistics, past laureates, presidents of national writers’ groups, or members of the Swedish Academy or similar groups.) Over the next few months, several other professors, including Stephen Scobie, Daniel Karlin, and Betsy Bowden, endorsed Dylan for the Nobel. I would go on to nominate Dylan for the next dozen years. This year, he finally won.
In the name of Abe – biblical predecessor
of honest Abe, who freed the slaves,
and also Bobby’s dad -- I stand at your gate
with faith equal to doubt, and I say,
look out kid, no matter what you did,
and incredulity gives way to unconditional surrender.
Abe say “Where do you want this killing done?”
God say “Out on Highway 61.”
God directs traffic,
and young Isaac say it’s all right Ma I’m only bleeding.
And Ma say it’s all right boy I’m only breathing.
And Dad unpack his heart with words like a whore.
Young Isaac ain’t gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
Ike no like the white man boss,
and when stuck inside of Mobile to even the score
he looks at the stream he needs to cross
despite schemes of grinning oilpot oligarch arschloch
who wanna be on the side that’s winning.
So he climbs up to the captain’s tower and does his sinning
and has read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books.
He no get where he got because of his looks.
He’s on the pavement talking about the government,
and he knows something’s happening but he don’t know what it is.
A strange man, Mr. Jones. Isaac Jones that is.
-- David Lehman
We are disoriented. Cubs fans are used to moving on to football by October. Our association with baseball in the fall has usually been looking over someone’s shoulder at a TV in a bar asking, “Who’s playing? Oh yeah? What’s the score?”
This year is all new. That’s because not only are the Cubs still playing on October 15th, but they have a really good chance of winning. Honest. I would not have said that through eight innings on Tuesday night. None of us would have. No, despite 103 regular season victories, we were thinking 1969 when the Cubs blew a 9 1/2 game lead in September. We were thinking 1984 when they were up two zip and got swept by the Padres in San Diego. We were thinking 1989 when San Francisco made easy work of them in the NLCS and 2003 when Steve Bartman seemed a latter day manifestation of Billy Sianis’s goat or 2015 when the New York Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS. Now we are thinking, “Maybe, just maybe.”
That’s because Tuesday night the Cubs scored 4 runs in the 9th inning in a come from behind playoff victory over the San Francisco Giants. The Chicago National League baseball club had never done that in its 140 year history. In fact, now listen to this, no one had. No major league team in post season history had ever come from behind to score 4 runs in the 9th to win. Sorry to be repetitious. I could say it over and over again.
How did they do it? With children. Twenty-four-year-old Willson Contreras in his first half season in the majors drove in the tying run, and twenty-three-year-old Javier Baez in his first full major league season -- who is not only a wonderful baseball player but a gymnast and magician as well (look for his highlight film on YouTube in which he slides over, around, under and through tags, and in the field reaches behind himself in mid-air to tag out the other guy who can’t believe it until he sees the replay later) -- got the game-winning hit, and twenty-five year old Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a perfect seventh. And that is not to mention 22-year-old-shortstop Addison Russell who looks like a fawn and may be the team’s best all-around player, or 24-year-old-Jorge Soler who got so excited earlier in the year that he jumped out of the dugout and ran the bases with a teammate who had hit a homer, or 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber who wrecked his knee in the third game of the season going all-out to catch a ball in the outfield and is lying in wait for the 2017 National League, or 24-year-old Kris Bryant and gray beard Anthony Rizzo (he’s 27) who are vying for NL MVP honors or the best starting rotation in baseball or hired gun closer Aroldis Chapman who threw 13 pitches Tuesday not one of which was less than a hundred miles an hour to strike out the Giants in the 9th.
Wow! This is such fun. So much in fact that I didn’t mind at all not using the ticket my kids bought me for game five between the Cubs and Giants at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Nope. In fact, it was the very best baseball game I never saw.
-- Peter Ferry
Everything about this album cover was so exquisitely congruent with the historical moment! I recall seeing it for the first time: the slush, the girl, her boots, and most especially the VW van. Bob as a specific identity in the picture was almost irrelevant. It could have been anybody (except me.) But the way he's looking down...the bulge...his look of pleasant surprise. Yes, he's getting a boner, or already has one. As well
he might! Keep it up, Bob! "One more cup of coffee before I go....."
I write as one who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1980 with the possible exception of 2004. This is not to claim special powers of prophecy for myself. Rather it is the result of a mathematical algorithm based on statistical analyses of each of the past twenty-five election cycles, taking into account the peculiarities of a system in which it is altogether possible that a candidate who wins the popular vote may yet lose the election due to the disproportionate power of states as tabulated by the so-called electoral college or, in extremely rare cases, the Supreme Court.
A value-neutral approach to presidential cycles indicates a perhaps surprising tendency on the part of the electorate. In brief, this tendency manifests itself as a loyalty to certain states of the union -- California, for example, as the most populous state, which has given us Nixon and Reagan, and Texas, as the "lone star" state, home of LBJ and George W. Bush..
According to the statistical formula devised by Peat Marwick, confirmed by Pete Runnels, and corroborated by Peter Campbell, with modifications introduced by pundits Arthur Buchwald and George Gordon, the state that is due, indeed overdue, to host the next president is the state of New York, which has not been represented in the White House since the three-plus terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945).
The Roosevelt aura won him four elections but led to a backlash against the Empire State, which helps account for the defeat of Thomas Dewey in 1948 and the inability of Nelson Rockefeller to get himself nominated, as by rights he should have been, in 1964. The emergence of William Miller as the GOP's VP candidate in 1964 and Geraldine Ferraro as the Democrats' VP candidate in 1984, does little to assuage the feelings of New Yorkers who have come to resent Massachusetts as the home state of one recent president (Kennedy), two presidential nominees (Dukakis, Romney), and the Boston Red Sox. But denizens of the Big Apple need worry no more.
According to the rule of four-year recurrence, New York's comeback is inevitable. It is therefore an utter certainty that the next president of the United States will be a New Yorker whether by birth or by choice.
I am willing to bet a large amount of money on this prediction though I suspect that the logic behind my reasoning, if grasped in good faith by the Tattaglias and Barzini, will allow for no dissent.
Although the algorithm is the intellectual property of the Santino Foundation and cannot be revealed on penalty of a lawsuit, I will say that the principle of the four-year term, divided by the hundred years in a century, results invariably in a ratio of one to four. Ohio had its Taft and Harding, and now it is New York's turn to bring home the bacon. As Ira Gershwin put it, there's a boat that's leaving soon for New York.
NB: Minnesota, home of near-miss candidate Humphrey and landslide loser with dignity Mondale, may well be next in line, though Arizona (Goldwater, McCain) will put up a furious fight four years hence.
-- David Lehman
The essence of the rivalry between the Orioles and the Yankees revealed itself last night. Tense, cerebral, nail-biting, four-hour pitching duels have defined their contests over the past three decades. Add managers Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi into the mix, two of the game's great tacticians and you're in for a satisfying nine course movable feast.
In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. With the count full, Gausman uncorked a mid-80s splitter that dove to the bottom of the strike zone. Starlin Castro couldn't hold up and swung at ball four. The game hung in the balance and Castro had the chance to alter it. Brian McCann hit a fly ball to deep center for the final out.
In the bottom of the inning, an error by the rookie right fielder Aaron Judge on a Chris Davis single allowed Mark Trumbo to score from second base.
Sabathia brilliantly worked the edges last night. He relies on location to confuse the hitters -- extending them little-by-little into his zones. He mixes speeds and locations and then sneaks fastballs by hitters. It's difficult to pick up the ball because of his mammoth presence and his ability to hide the pill. He has great success against Baltimore but he made one mistake. In the fifth with two out, Sabathia left a ball up and in the middle of the plate for Adam Jones, who connected for his 26th home run.
Writers often talk about persona. Pitchers are no different. Since losing his Kent Tekulve spectacles and growing a goatee, Kevin Gausman is on a streak of nineteen scoreless innings. He no longer grooves ninety-five mile an hour fastballs down the middle of the plate. His ball bends and darts as it reaches the hitter.
Both teams played solid defense and O's third baseman Manny Machado once again flashed his prowess on a ball hit by Brett Gardner. Orioles closer Zach Britton notched his 42nd consecutive save in preserving the win.
This series is the exact opposite of what happened last week in New York when the Yanks took the first two games. American League East teams spend so much time trying to beat each other, they often lose touch with the rest of baseball where the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Mets and Nationals lie in wait.
The Orioles gained a game in the Wildcard hunt and crept closer to the division leading Blue Jays.
Only 30,000 fans showed up last night and much has been written including this screed by Thom Loverro in the Washington Times as to why fans aren't going to Oriole games this year. Was it last year's riots that led to the first Major League baseball game ever in any empty stadium? Are the Orioles bad marketers? Are tickets too expensive? It made me recall a moment in Fenway Park during the 1990 playoffs when the Red Sox pulled Roger Clemens after six innings and a one-run lead. Fans headed for the exits. They knew how bad their bullpen was.
There were enough people there for me to hear the boos directed at Mark Teixeira, the Severna Park native and Mt. St. Joe grad who spurned the Orioles offer in 2009. That's now lasted seven years. It's a fickle city--a place where former Oriole pitcher turned Yankee Mike Mussina is referred to as Judas on message boards.
The last two nights, Oriole pitching has shutout the Yankees. Going back to last Sunday's game, the Yankees haven't scored a run against the Orioles in 27 innings. The last time that happened to the Bombers was in 1973. Oriole starters have been untouchable. The lack of off season moves in the pitching department is a sore spot with O's fans but it's being dealt with.
According to some, Baltimore has always been "a football town with a baseball problem." Legendary manager Earl Weaver was jealous of the city's love for the Colts. Take the poet Moira Egan who hails from Baltimore. Moira and I were born in the same hospital only months apart. Our fathers ran the streets of West Baltimore together during the late '50s. She happens to be in town this weekend from Rome, Italy--attending a wedding and partaking in crab feasts.
"I'm more of a football gal, but when I home, I get the O's report every morning," she writes.
"He needed an axe handle, so he took that bat and made one."
Katy Evans-Bush is a New York-born poet and blogger who has spent most of her life in London. Author of two collections with Salt Publishing, her latest book is Forgive the Language, a collection of essays published by Penned in the Margins. Find her at baroqueinhackney.com
Thank you, Katy.
Watching the greenish-brown waters swirl and swell beneath the Pont au change, perchance to carry off a selfie-snapping tourist, does certainly capture the imagination of some. However, it is not the rising waters below (ici-bas), but the lowering clouds above (là-haut) that have captured imaginations in this famous Somewhat Luminous City on the Seine.
Let’s keep in mind that in Paris, one can make a good economic case for unemployment as opposed to working. In short, life ain’t bad. Also, getting a good photo of some things is really a challenge. One has to weigh carefully the trouble of being forced to trouble yourself to get an arresting image against continuing your promenade de dimanche with Karine, who just happened to be in an, ah, uneasy mood…
What is sinister news in Paris, therefore, isn’t the same as in, say, Kinshasha or Raquaa or Beijing. Strikes, for example, are mostly unrealizable threats made by comfy-looking union bureaucrats.
Actual work stoppages or picket lines or slowdowns touch small numbers of poorly-selected but generally helpless strategic targets. They are generally carried out by relatively well-paid, tenured public services-workers. These men - and they are virtually all men - use an antique rhetoric of insurrection and social-incendiarism that is mostly directed at sympathizing left-wing politicians. And while they do manage to truly harass segments of the more public-services dependent and suburban population, other than disappointing people hopeful for change and provoking hours of bilious TV-yelling matches, they are pointless.
True, many staff at the famous museums along the Seine, as well as maintenance and emergency personnel, will be working overtime to ensure that absolutely nothing will happen. Some may actually have to cancel their girls’ night out or put off the postponed visit to an aging and rebarbative relative. So far, they’ve been successful in holding back the possibility of real problems. Just today, the experts say, the rivers are falling back to more manageable levels.
But, really, it’s not the fate of waterproof storage along the Seine or strikes that are getting people worked up, or, rather, down. It’s the the overcast and rain, which is really tough to live with and really very difficult to take as an action photo.
The weather has been mostly cool, grey and rainy since at least January 1st, I believe. It sure seems like it, anyhow. That’s what counts for us. We don’t care a bit if you think it’s frivolous; we’ve got the Seine for soaking heads. Keep it in mind and get on with your selfie.
It has rained so pitilessly during this particularly interminable period since the first of June that I personally have lost three (3) umbrellas and have felt obliged to buy a fourth (4th). I have got so used to smelling like a wet dog that I have not used the foolish thing, in spite of the constant spitting and spluttering of the sky.
Karine is typical when she says, “Mais, mon Tracy, c’est le mois de juin!” That’s it. In June, for pity’s sake, short sleeves and floofy skirts are normal; hoodies and muddy sneakers are an abomination.
I have, personally, witnessed hats on people who weren’t getting married or in some religious movement or another.
However, good news is here. At 6 pm today, June 5, at the corner of rue des Pyrénées and rue de l’Ermitage, the sun poked out of the clouds and illuminated a whole square of asphalt in front of the gym. To the great delight of his little family, the customers at the café on the corner and myself, a man burst into a comic but quite sincere version of the halleluiah chorus.
Météo France to Paris: The worst is over! Halleluiah!
Pourvu que ça dure! ;-
- Tracy Danison
Freedom - Better Now
Better far— from all I see—
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be?
Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I'm led
Lingering until I'm dead
Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees
Better than a heart attack
or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being black
Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know
Better than the bloody stain
on some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pane
Better calling death to come
than to die another dumb,
muted victim in the slum
Better than of this prison rot
if there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot
Better for my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Less it cool with ancient age
Better violent for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie
Better now that I say my sooth
I’m gonna die demanding Truth
While I’m still akin to youth
Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn.
-- Muhammad Ali
Trochaic theory, the political forecasting system based on poetic metrics, which correctly predicted Obama's presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, has shortened the odds on Bernie Sanders -- if, and it's a big if, the Sandman gets the Democratic party nomination. The reason: his name conforms to the double trochee pattern that has reliably given us an array of chief executives including Andrew Jackson, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon.
The odds of presidential triumph shorten further if the candidate's first and last name alliterate (e.g. Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan). But it is probably too late for Bernie to change his name to Sandy. While deeply critical of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the Brooklyn-born Sanders remains a Zionist ("Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do") who scores high on the "Jew You" test devised by a team of experts including Larry David, Sarah Silverman, and University of Vermont professor Richard Sugarman. His favorite poet would be Yehuda Amichai if he had a favorite poet and were at liberty to disclose the name.
Hilary Clinton merits an asterisk if only because the two major precedents for her name are those of Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln -- in both cases a dactyl before a trochee. Astrological analysis sees the likelihood of war following such an ascendant. But maybe that's just talk. If Clinton were to consider an "Abraham Clinton" ad campaign, with an actress playing Hillary in the role of Honest Abe, she would gain ten points in some polls. Deliberate mispellings of her last name (Clitnon), common in right-wing supermarket tabloids, are bound to backfire.
The monosyllabicTed Cruz doth lose unless, like George Bush he faces an opponent who shortens his name to the same thump thump (2000) or a hapless chap on water skis (2004) The triumph of the first George Bush against Michael Dukakis in 1988 remains an aberrant case that is usually explained (a) as an expression of satisfaction with the Reagan administration, (b) proof that a picture (Dukakis in tank with helmet) is worth a thousand words, and (c) the insertion of two middle initials in Mr. Bush's name, ostensibly to distinguish the 41st from the 43rd US president, but with attendant metrical mischief.
It is however pertinent to note that the metrical makeup of "Michael Dukakis" resembles that of Barack Obama except that, luckily for Barry, his first name scans as an iamb not a trochee and so he escapes the Dukakis ignominy.
Of John Kasich, it may be said that his best hope is to add a middle initial, preferably F, and launch an "all the way with JFK" campaign, but that would cost a huge amount of money and the candidate would dismiss the idea in line with his no-nonsense Ohioan personality. The relative fates of the governors of Ohio and Michigan during this primary season fall into their own pattern -- the many seasons when the Buckeyes trounced the Wolverines by three touchdowns and went on to a bowl game.
As to the one person I seem to have left out, I would reiterate that a simple syllabic extension of his last name -- from Trump to Trumpet -- would make all the difference. -- DL
The following is a starting point for anyone willing to understand the plight of immigrants in this country better. For anyone that is interested in our humanity. I believe that if everyone read these books, signed up for the authors'/websites' newsletters, friend-requested artists/writers, followed them on Instagram/tumbler/twitter; we would not have such a strong anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. I truly believe that when we begin to listen to each other, we understand each other. We understand why we do things, how we might help each other through them, and we begin to care about each other’s happiness.
The following is a list of first-hand accounts from immigrants, or accounts written by children of immigrants. It's important that we tell our own stories and that we read the stories from the mouths of immigrants.
And anything by Reyna Grande
Poetry of Resistance: Poets Responding to SB-1070 and Xenophobia, Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodriguez
And a forthcoming undocumented anthology edited by Sonia Guiñansaca, look for it. Look for anything she does over at: http://soniaguinansaca.com/
Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza's Dignidad Rebelde Collective
And these helpful organizations:
Again, these are only the beginning in understanding the 12 million undocumented individuals in this country. Spread the word. Let's talk to each other via our art, writings, posts. Let's understand each other and treat each other with respect. Also feel free to add any other suggestions in the comment section. Thank you for reading.
“Why didn’t you take me with you? Why didn’t you come back sooner?” Someone-We-Love remembers these questions perfectly. Her daughter, Maria, was searching for an explanation. At 14, she couldn’t quite understand why her mom had left.
In the four and a half years that Someone-We-Love had been away, Maria dropped out of school twice. The first time, right after her mom’s departure, Maria stopped going to school for a few weeks. The second time, the year before Someone-We-Love returned, she dropped out for an entire year.
I asked Someone-We-Love why she thought Maria had done this, “because she missed me. And also, I think it was difficult for Maria to accept I had a daughter with Carlos.”
Someone-We-Love gave birth to Ana a year before she migrated back to El Salvador. Of course, she told Maria the moment she found out. Which was around the same time she dropped out of school for a year.
“Maria grew even more distant. I understood her struggle, so I tried to talk her through it, but also give her space. It was difficult for me. I wanted to be happy with Carlos. I wanted Maria to be happy.”
Before Ana turned two, Someone-We-Love boarded the ICE plane with her second daughter, Ana, in her arms. Ana’s father, Carlos, doesn’t have documentation, so he had to stay in California.
“Carlos was so afraid that he didn’t want to come into the airport. We said goodbye outside.” Someone-We-Love told Carlos that she would be back soon. Two or three years maximum.
“My plan was to convince Maria to come to this country with me. I returned for the quinceañera, yes, but I wanted her to be here with me.” But, someone-We-Love didn’t count on the strong bond Maria had formed with her Abuelita Nelly—Someone-We-Love’s mother.
“‘How can I leave her here? Who’s going to take care of Abuelita Nelly now that all her daughters have left?’ Hearing my daughter Maria tell me this, really broke my heart.” Someone-We-Love started to cry.
She explained to me that she felt pulled in all directions. She felt terrible to leave her mother behind. She felt terrible to leave her daughter Maria behind. She felt guilty for wanting to take Maria away, for wanting to leave her mother, Nelly, alone again.
“I didn’t know what to do.”
On top of the difficulties she faced with her family, Someone-We-Love’s hometown continued to get more and more dangerous. When she returned, she was afraid to sell pupusas again. She had to depend on Carlos sending money. And on top of all of that, Ana was born with hyperthyroidism, which meant she needed special medication to control her growth. If she didn’t get the right dose, it could put her development in jeopardy.
Someone-We-Love stayed in El Salvador until 2013. Close to three years, before she had to return to California.
“Ana’s hyperthyroidism was the main reason why we came back. I didn’t want to leave Maria again. I begged her to come with us. I did. But she didn’t want to.”
Maria said she couldn’t leave her real mom behind. Just remembering this detail hurt Someone-We-Love. She couldn’t hold back the tears.
Someone-We-Love had to migrate to California by land again. By then, Ana was old enough to take a plane on her own. She flew with a flight attendant and her father picked her up from the airport. But since her mother was not a citizen, she had to take the long way to California.
“The second try took a little longer. Five weeks.” Someone-We-Love tells me about her time at the border, “we had crossed the river and gotten to the van. But once in the van, La Migra put their lights on and wanted to stop the van. The driver told us to get ready to jump out, that he was gonna slow the van down and everyone, even himself, was gonna run out. I’m not the coyote ok? He repeated. Then we all ran.”
The first time she crossed, she didn’t have any trouble, but this time, she was caught in December 2013. By then, ICE had a new policy. They were letting immigrants come into the country for a month, but they had to report back to the immigration court within that month in order to hear their verdict. Someone-We-Love like many immigrants decided to not report back to the court and by default became undocumented and deportable.
I ask her why she didn’t report back. “Because everyone knows that they don’t listen to you and simply deport you.”
Someone-We-Love is correct. She was made to sign a document without knowing what she was signing. She never got a lawyer. She never got a translator. No one told her what to do besides signing that document that told her to report back in a month.
The date when Someone-We-Love crossed into the US is a month before the Obama administration’s cut-off date for an all-out deportation of anyone who crossed after January 1, 2014. Which means that anyone, mother or child, who crossed after that date, is going to get deported, without a hearing, without being granted refugee status.
In Someone-We-Love’s hometown, just last month, they shot a referee at the soccer fields because he made the wrong call to the wrong person. He was shot point-blank at 2 pm. These incidents are occurring all over the country and if they’re not murdered, people are disappearing. Last year, they found a mass grave in the bay that surrounds Someone-We-Love’s hometown. They couldn’t identify who the people were. Everyone knows not to venture into other neighborhoods during the day and no one can safely walk at night. “Things are worse. And I’m scared Maria is still over there.”
According to USA Today, El Salvador’s murder rate for 2015 was 104 people per 100,000, which is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years.
“It’s a civil war again,” Someone-We-Love says. But it seems no one is calling it what it is because if the U.S. government called it a war, Someone-We-Love, and the 100,000 plus families fleeing, would be called refugees. But they are not. So every time Someone-We-Love comes to work at this café, she’s scared she will not see her daughter Ana again. She’s constantly watching the back door.
“If they come, I know to run.” She tells me. But she shouldn’t have to be afraid. Her daughter Ana shouldn’t have to be afraid of her mother getting deported.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.