belly speakeasy

I am thinking about animus. voice coiled tight in belly.
the compartment containing the steering apparatus. i know its a problem that I care about penny, dust and freckle almost equally. if i could care less about everything I'd be a much lighter person.

my new ritual is to watch an online morning news show to help anchor my day. at night my insides hurt in the gastrointestinal way and i'm sleepless. I try recalling bicycle rides down Alaska Street, a half attempt at sleep-meditation. instead it makes me melancholy: encounters with ghosts and scribbling poems on furniture. this is not the kind of writing i want to be doing.

instead--the bellyspeak meets an old-timey pen-- a "variation" on my misreading of VENTRAKL, a book I've been meaning to read. what animates. what turns the switch. for me this is body. body and body again. my journal diagrams a new project on body violence: animal puppetry.

(not be confused with my watching project on residual energy).

but today, a body can't be loud enough. maybe because the world doesn't care for a body. named or unnamed. bodies refusing to leave cells. body turned swan. body stitched shut. the body is having less and less affect/effect (on me). when body became territory it became like everything else.


where are my bones.

I’m in the difficult stages of getting-over

straddling lighting and trying to be a good human

If I was as cursed as a dog I’d have an excuse

for not being able to talk properly

my marrows sucked &

I’ve stuck my poetic bones in the oven.

I know I have a leg up on the competition

straddled & hooked around a meaning

I’m using my whole body

to figure this one out.

Come on come on come one inspiration

I can’t just show up to work like this

I am making a book with pages for feathers

The process of getting it together

involves an impossible sort of string like a elf’s beard

I can’t write this poem so I’m going

to braid my hairs.


I’m unable to perform

this right either

Although I am at the brimming part of my thinking

Where I combust at the thought of you.

No poof. No poof.


Most of the dead were young women

Says the radio

Crumpled to death in stamped.



KATE DURBIN where have you been all my life.


i'm trying to be violent. but writing is weak. this is a writer's crisis. and one that i don't want to shrug off with the whole power-of-the-imagination imagination. as in the words must come alive. the imagery must be vivid. writing is a corpse. words are weak. and the image is dangerous & toxic. these are not my sayings, i know.

I'm trying to be violent with my squirrel puppet & i'm getting no where. either she's holding a knife or she's holding a "knife."


Proximal To

also thinking about the body thinking about subject. physical proximity to other getting wrapped up in mental/emotional proximity to the self.

as it were.

i am thinking a lot about how we define things. that is, is it possible to define something in a vacuum? that is, not in relation to something else. no day without night pleasure without pain etc.


this is not a new idea. i just keep thinking about how we define ourselves in relation to other people, and how that varies dependant upon our actual physical proximity to those other people. are we more ourselves being close to the ones we love or being distant? are we more ourselves as a single point - one dimension - out on the grid or are we more ourselves as the confused somewhat compromised part of a line a cube a flesh and blood tree, if you will?

and the difficulty of putting thoughts about this into words. something about all of the semi-relevant terms we have: signifier, signified, referent, reference point, subject, object, place. something also about the way words are necessary in this process of defining and thus being even more trapped by relatives because you can only define words with other words. here are some pictures, then, too.

lizard popsicles

Aimee Bender has a website, and on that website she has writing games.


A small post

one page at a time
pdf. the printer churns
what i must read

I am thinking about the body JT. About what we do to our characters. I tend to tear out the emotional bodies of mine.


Shoot The Freak- Attack on the Body Part II

the body is the sponge and not the sponge. correction. a body is a sponge and not a sponge. thread things together-- writings & ideas flow through a body and come out the other end. the mouth is an asshole of sorts. AR was right when she told us that eating was like shitting backwards. she didn't say it like that but she could have.

somewhere between Piu Piu's Pollo Palace and a frozen pina colada stand, toward the end of the boardwalk on Coney Island, is Shoot the Freak, a game where passersby line up along a wall and take paint ball shots at a cigarette smoking 19 year-old wearing a face mask and torn up jeans. romantic. 3 bucks gets you 5 shots. 5 bucks gets you 15. a boy tells his dad as they part from the crowd, you got him in the head, dad! yea, dad says, and the groin. The Freak in this scenario is not freakish enough. or perhaps too freakish. too unrecognizable from the freaks I'm expecting. Immediately I want to write a book called "Shoot the Freak". The opening paragraph will describe in elaborate detail the colorings and images on the shoddy wooden shield the teen boy is holding as he, pathetically, scurries from wall to wall to avoid getting blasted in "the head" or "the groin". Come on, Freak! Run around! Whirling out from ekphrastic narration to the action at hand, this paragraph will reference, obscurely, the opening of The Illiad. I think.

Immediately, as I write this, I give up hope on the project. And in rivers the self-critique (See, JDH's post about --- writing).

This is how my body experiences the world. I see something I find interesting and my mouth wants to shit out a story, a poem.

[I'm the Freak]

[I'm the Freak]

[I'm the Freak]

next day...

Yes, I'm the Freak. Or, at least, I want to be.

musings on freak "shooting"

1. death-expose the vulnerability of a body (need to make distinction between freakish body and non-freakish body-- and i want to say something like... .... .... all written bodies are monstrous, freakish because they have no physical/tangible substance. they are not bodies but fragments of bodies. flattened out bodies, etc. yikes.)

2. power- and all the post-colonial thinkings on the body as the final (re)source of agency and authority.

3. esthetic- bodily gore can be beautiful. enchanting. grotesque. etc.

4. therapy.

5. ... 6....

written exercise- shoot up the freak to excess. make him fail. revolt.


I think we like animals because they are dumber than us. & we are dumb, dumb, dumber than we know & we smell things on accident not even on purpose. but sometimes we do something smart & have a good old pat about it & have a good old pat with our pet & our cow. probably, we use their spirits in our poetry like we wear outfits. it’s gay.

we went on a trip and I held the steering wheel while you lit your cigarette. it was 1982 & we both had boyfriends. run, run, run in the Mississippi sun. I wrote that silly song under the waterfall. I did not take off my clothes because I wasn’t wearing the good underwear & I didn’t want you to know. but I was right over the border with a broken heart & so wishing I had brought the beer. or a sandwich. or left my cellphone in the corvette. fuck it.

the next day I was in “Breaux Bridge” & everyone was thinking about divorce. I had no idea. but people are absolutely not places. just shut your eyes. because you can imagine, friend, when you & I are sitting on the couch with our backs to the street you are not divorced & I have never kissed a girl. when we are just there, on the couch, it’s real if you keep touching your face like an idiot & getting up to pour the perfect sazerac. but I felt like a domino standing next to other dominos. can you imagine? a whole planet. it was really stupid. but, seriously we only knew time was passing because every now & then I had to use the bathroom & you had to ignore your Aunt. I finally bought a butter dish. my answer is yes. to everything. I ate meat & lived but you were too much of a wuss to get a drive-thru daiquiri.

there was a drunk dude I didn’t know asleep on my porch so we honked the horn twice & drove around the block once & when he was still there I totally freaked out. you’re a really good friend & already I have said too much. I heard him dry heaving outside my window. I took you to the river but I didn’t tell you anything about myself. I said I was a good good girl & shouldn’t we get going? it’s great. I have a recycling bin. there were 300 boxes on my front porch & the whole neighborhood descended on me with box cutters & said let us help you! one man had his hand in his pocket & was touching his weiner while we talked. that totally freaked me out but he brought me a bunch of peppers later to make up for it. & I thought of you, JT & my body is so clean because I showered a bunch & a body is all we have sometimes. like really, just shut your eyes. remember when you told me to dental dam my heart outside that gay bar under the overpass? I was being an asshole & I said, what flavor? when I think of bodies I can’t stop thinking about how sick E.T looks in that bathtub scene. gross. the body makes great movies. I really never write about it that much for how much I think about them all & didn’t do my homework when L.M told me to sit in front of a video camera & watch my face go. I figured that’s someone else’s problem.



I don't have anything very smart to say but if I don't say anything I won't.

I wrote a poem once now twice with a line and then a title that goes: stop drinking stop drinking or you won't


Also there are zombies in the poem.

All that said, there is something worth mentioning about place and moving places and places that move. We're all in the process of this. The having moved and the settling. I went for a bike ride today into the Marigny to check out a coffee shop that might be hiring. On the way there the roads were all in my favor, but on the way back they were one way the wrong way. This seems important. Like: you can't go back. Even short distances. Or you can, but you risk being mowed down by white pick-ups turning left. And also: never retrace your steps. I had a friend in China with this policy and we took many circuitous adventures. It is long and often dusty that way but makes for more of everything.

1. You can't go back
2. Never retrace your steps

And in the meantime it is nice to be in New Orleans now. I look around and I wonder how I'll ever leave this place. But it is one of the moving places and might leave me*. Still, it's nice to think about building a relationship with a place rather than a person. I'm tempted to say it's less dangerous, but see * above.




I want to write a story about being --- without using the words ---, ---, ---, ---, or ---.

Without describing the character's --- or his uncontrollable desire for ---.

What about his fascination with ---? How do I express it without writing a "--- story"?

It seems impossible.

Now that I think about it, most of my stories are technically ---. I don't write about much else.

I've pigeonholed myself as a --- writer, maybe because one must have a "gimmick" or a "project" in order to be accepted into a particular niche within the literary community.

From within this niche, one's work is expected to pay homage with subtle or overt references to previous works from others within this niche. Let's call this litcest.

Litcest is compulsory. Your writing becomes little more than a series of referents to ideas that hardly excite you after the first or second draft.

You forget altogether that these ideas are not your own, and yet they feel somehow foreign, like your older brother's hand-me-downs.

The litcest becomes second nature; you hardly recognize that you're doing it, until the draft in your hand is a litany of ideas you admire and hate--personal and foreign--because they were never yours to begin with.

So that when you try to write something fresh or refreshing--so that you can sleep better or wake up knowing that today is unique because the writing is not as dull as it was yesterday--you realize that you are and will always be a --- writer.

Fuck ---.

How do I tell an un--- story? Is anything un--- now?


attack on the body- Part 1

My current employers are really concerned with my insides. And my outsides. Mostly, they want to make sure I'm not one big sack of germs that will infect their precious kids. I don't totally blame them since the world has always (to some extent or another) been concerned with cleanliness or the appearance there of. But I exaggerate. I know they are really concerned with general health and well-being.

But really, I'm talking about HIV and Tuberculosis and Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas-- which if you haven't read, you should. particularly JD and LTW whose own work on bodies is related to Butler's.

Yesterday, while waiting for the results of my TB test, I finished reading Scorch Atlas. And it's hard not to have a visceral reaction to Butler's collection of shorts- all of which depict "the end" of times. His world is fantastic and creepy, filled with gnats the size of fists and eye sockets gone sour from too much sun. It's disgusting and nightmarish. On the level of craft, even the "topography" of the sentences is disorienting. Words are wrenched from their meanings and often turned into awkward verb-like things. All very uncomfortable. Hard to read. Almost in-human.

After all the depiction of sickness and infection in the novel, it was a sudden and odd relief to be told I don't have Tuberculosis. (Side note: the nurse shot me an eye-roll when I inanely emitted a 'woo hoo! to the results) My body was safe. My body was clean. No odd bumps or discolorations in my intestines. No swollen glands. Crooked bones. No milky nostrils. No bristly skin patches. Or soggy gums. My body was clean. My body was safe. Amongst the patients waiting for their results--the clinic serves (mostly) under served, impoverished individuals who are at high risk for infectious diseases--I could think only of the cleanliness of my own body. I couldn't even bring myself to pick up and read the free magazines for people living with HIV, lest someone think I have HIV. Yes, totally & utterly shameful. Despicable. I was inexplicably hyperphobic about disease.

And now, my a la Mel question: Why are we as writers and artists so interested in putting our bodies in positions of disease and violence?

In my own work, I have sewn into my face, my body and those of my characters. Butler's most haunting image, for me, is that of a woman (a mother) holding a hammer to her belly, her blood-eyes piercing her on-lookers. The violence against bodies is so common in our work. Our characters are beaten, raped, abused, tortured, disfigured, etc. And these are just the physical tortures. In a world where disease and sickness is everywhere and the pressure to keep the body clean is pervasive is writing about the ill body a form of resistance? a form of escape? what is it with the attack on the body whether as metaphor or aesthetic?



The chord progressions (I think they’re called) in the New Pornographers’ ‘Letter from an Occupant’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ are the same. I did not discover this on my own but someone showed me.

It’s just like a tempo thing and now I can’t even remember the chords to tell you but I think it’s wonderful. And how humans really aren’t that bright and how a certain combination of sounds makes us happy or very sad. Like rhyming too. Eric Clapton was so cool at being sad. Cool enough to steal George Harrison’s wife.

I’ve been drinking a lot of lime Gatorade (Elvis’s favorite) and waking up without my car. The sunlight is shorter and more thoughtful. I stole a dog and walked it and felt cooler outside. I am possessed by three songs right now and soon I am going to throw a party in Spanish town. I wrote a much smarter thing for this blog and then I hated it so I decided to write a dumber one. Also, I’m having problems with boundaries, like I’m in love with Neko Case and would like to runaway with her but how can I find her if she’s so famous and Canadian? (actually, I looked it up and she was born here)

This post was about theft and sincerity and conversation. It was meant to be about Billy Collins too, but I’m glad it’s not anymore because I am crashing with three girls who walk around in their underwear and open the fridge, and sometimes it is interesting and mysterious and sometimes it is not but it > Billy Collins right now. Now I think it is about place and adventure. Music. Girls…

What is more useful (also, see necessary): feeling or thinking? What will make our poetry very bad?

Since half of you don’t even live in Baton Rouge anymore I can write about secret places. If you still live in BR I will take you to secret places. It’s what I have to write about before anything else. I thought I was leaving a city but now I have a second chance to be here and it seems important to me in ways I do not understand.

This place that I went to outside BR, in Sunshine, LA, is called Roberto’s on River Road. First, me and Kevin went with Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ and blew his speakers listening to ‘A Man Needs a Maid.’ (omg, do you know this song?) My speakers are already blown. I do not remember what I was listening to. And you can drive on the levee. Did you know you can drive on the levee?? I would like to drive the levee all the way to New Orleans. I heard this is possible but not straight forward so you have to ask someone who knows.

The second time I went to Roberto’s I went by myself because it made sense and not only do they have amazing po’boys and remoulade, you have to take River Road to get there. I mean, it’s a total shack with old yellow paint and the tables have paper on them which is so fun if you bring a pen and draw pictures for the waitresses who are all ethereals. There is also a string of white lights. There are two strings of white lights.

I took seabird, my station wagon, and I felt free and sad in my car that holds mostly everything I own and you don’t have to drive very far at all to see a cow with three tiny white birds balancing on its head.


Drive the Cutesy Out!

When I was 6 or 7, my dad and I used up a quite a lot of blank paper drawing various ingenious ways for the 7-Up Dot guy to be maimed and killed. You remember the 7-Up Dot? Part of the 80s/90s marketing phenomenon of using cartoon-type mascots to sell anything. Sunglasses. A certain detached cool attitude.

Raisins? Turn them into a rock band.
Ritz crackers? Turn them into weird moon-surfing junkies.
Toothpaste? Wasn't there something about a moon-faced character?

I can't remember them all, but I'm pretty sure Henry Selick (of Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline directing fame) is responsible for the Ritz ads.

Anyway, what I'm talking about here is the primal urge to destroy all things cute and bubbly. How many Barbies have been put in sexually compromised positions or been decapitated? Like McD's hamburgers served, billions and billions.

Have you seen the Happy Tree Friends?

Anyway, I think the urge to destroy the cloying and the cute comes from both an innate sadist dark humor place, but also the need to balance.

Actually, back that up. I was going to go on about how we use the extreme opposite (violence) of extreme cuteness to return to a middle ground. But that's stupid.

What we're really doing is torquing the cuteness in another twisted direction. Making it more extreme. Trying to find the cliff to drive off of instead of safely braking and returning to normal cruising speed.

In honor of bolstering cutesiness with violence/mayhem, here's a classic reimagined.

Don't you just love the cinema?


draftings & scaffoldings

i don't have a desk. this makes me a little bit mad. because who needs a desk to write. i mean how spoiled of me. and what a convenient excuse for not writing. but also because i really love desks. big old desks with drawers. simple drafting tables. this is one part writerly impulse and two parts office supplies fanatic. i love paper clips, colored paper. empty notebooks. felt-tip pens. etc.

this all gets me thinking about process. and what I call the writer's process. For the most part, I have been institutionalized to think of writing as a process. one in which the writer drafts and drafts and drafts and draft and after time and revision and peer feedback a final product comes about. with my younger students, we had a paper-clipping system that helped them see how revision and editing is part of writing. for my college students, this process was more flexible. but it definitely included multiple visions/revisions/versions.

i'm wondering about the writing process. and how some poetry teacher from long ago told me my poems were too much scaffolding and not enough writing. at first I nodded and thanked her. it did make sense. lots of my work began with random or odd beginnings, and down the middle of the page i began talking about "what i really wanted to talk about." this makes sense. this still makes sense. my job as a writer (an editor) was to seek out the scaffolds and tear them down from the final product. or to cut the poem in half. or to find the one line in the writing that "works" and start a new poem. or...

i am supposed to strip down my writing. like a banana. like a lover. and get to the meat of/from the text.

[ in a more thoughtful post, perhaps I'll write about how the writing process perhaps mimics the ideology that nothing (should) come easily. there must be work/process involved. writing, among other things, must be labored. ]

my recent concerns with "the writing process" come from a blog discussion on genre-hygiene. they also come from my deskless situation. revision creates cleaner/clearer writing. writing that has been cleaned up. i know i've used that term with my students-- and my writing teachers have used that with me. I've had my sentences cleaned up with a comb. and, I will admit, it does make the writing more pleasant. but what is this impulse and where does it come from?

Certainly there are distinctions between academic, creative, group writing-- etc. The type of writing that goes in your journal, the type that goes on a blog or in a book. But it certainly seems that the more public the writing, the more the need to clean it up. brush its teeth, and so on.

not sure where I'm going with this. thoughts...

I'd write more but i need to go take a shower. ha.ha.

first stuff