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We used to fuck in inclement weather. You liked testing out what you’d learned in high school ecology; that it’s ten degrees warmer under three feet of Michigan snowdrift, that you can hear a hailstorm on the surface of the Superior if you can hold your breath under water long enough. I am just a giant pervert, less inclined towards inconvenience. We pitched tents on a mountainside during a monsoon and the rain on the tarps sounded like hundreds of thousands of pulses, like we were part of one stupendous orgy with everything in nature.

Most sane people go on cross-country bike trips for the bragging rights, or at least the scenery. I wanted to have you on top of a fault line, and when the seismograph complied I was sure, for the first time, that I belonged in this universe. I wanted to scream early Beach Boys songs in avalanche-prone valleys and breathe over the first embers of a wild fire and build us that perfect, blue-eaved house you’ve always talked about, at the mouth of a weak dam and a mile below sea-level. I wanted you to  let the bed frame float off into the street, to hold me against the doorway while the water rose.

The restraining orders were not necessary. It was not about danger and I did not want you dead. I am old now, (never let them tell you that 100 years old is not divisible by 21) and I spend my days toddling over Maryland ice like an infant. The streets are solid winter, and there are no railings. I am just waiting for my feet to go out from under me.

Art is, again, by Mikel Best-Name-Ever Uribetxeberria

tongue.

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It wasn’t so much that he wouldn’t eat it—this beautiful dinner, everything braised and skewered and punctuated with unnecessary herbs, the kind of dinner you feel guilty just being in the same room with, much less stabbing open with Bill’s filigree-handled cutlery. It was that he watched them eat it. (It was that he placed himself in a crushed velvet armchair in the corner of the room, and wove his fingers into a tight knot, and grinned at everyone for the whole two hours, demanding their critique.

“Do you think it was, like, a sex thing?” Joe asked her in the car.

And of course she said that it was, and they speculated about the contents of that guest bedroom he wouldn’t let Joe’s aunt stay in when the Marriott ran out of room for the wedding guests. And he thought how good they were together, how they were the kind of couple who waiters smirked at because their conversations were the sort you’d like to eavesdrop on. He even leaned across the center console and stuck his tongue into her ear, as a gesture of thanks.

She didn’t say anything, but all the while she knew: if he’d been able to probe further, past the shell of her skull, to taste the thought that was blooming just then, an inch deeper in her brain, Joe would have understood Bill. That night, her dreams would be all taste: a spike of Sangiovese as sudden and red as a wound, the absent pearl at the base of an oyster’s small corpse.

Art by Mikel Uribetxeberria, who, incidentally, has the best name in history.

the in-between.

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I do not want to write about women meeting each other on dark streets.

But I have been watching fat people climb mountains on television for three hours, and this is what I have. There is no bottom of me to write from tonight; there is no Blood Meridian or Beloved down there, though I am currently plotting my revenge against the universe for this. I do not want to write about an obese woman chewing pizza and crying; I do not want to write about this exact couch I’ve been sitting on all day, or that other couch in that library that I sat on earlier today, walled in by books I was not reading.

I do not want to write about the in between.

Because I have done the run-away-to-Spain thing, and I have done the sleep-with-a-bunch-of-dudes thing, and I have otherwise arranged my life like a fantastic doll house around me. I am sick of aesthetics; I am sick of courting vertigo, of LSD and ashrams and lying awake, thinking of the dark.

I do not want to write about her rounding the corner, us both with our keys between our knuckles, but that is what has been given me. She was afraid, and I was afraid, and I was the poet on the street that night.

Art by Marc Fischer.

patrick-leger-2I’ve been thinking about you for 15 years now, and about your vinyl-wrapped couch and your tweed upholstered library chair and your bed sheets. And I am not that good at mind control–yet–so I’ll just say it; you should not be sitting when you read this. You should not be eating lunch or scratching yourself wherever, I don’t even want to know, or toggling away to look at pictures of kittens. This is better than kittens, and I am, frankly, insulted.

I’m serious. On your feet.

Really, just because I have never and will never land a touchdown in my underweight-philosophy-major life does not mean that you should not be wearing, like, 10 giant foam fingers and heckling my enemies right now. You should be goddamn head banging to this; you should read it twenty times and then scream along at the page with every word, adding air-guitar riffs when I really kick your ass.

You don’t even do this for Faulkner.

You don’t even do this for James the-twelve-inch-literary-cock Joyce.

You do this for Shakespeare, and I am stupendously jealous, because I want someone to love me enough to be dress up in pantyhose and pretend to be sixteenth century transsexual. I want someone to love me enough to wait for seven hours in the ass cold to hear me say half a word on a loudspeaker six miles of Washington away. I want someone to love me enough to do backflips off of towers of identically-dressed women and fall to the ground in convulsions and take off their clothes in public.

I do this for you, and I want you to love me enough to do stand up.

Art by Patrick Leger

ben-grace

There were no three bearded women in the wilderness, or ides of march circled red on my calendar, or really, any general harbingers of doom. The whole thing was pretty awkwardly staged, my life. Someone should have assumed some directorial responsiblity.

Cause see, I left you in April, and since then, I have not been hounded by ghosts. In the stage left and right of my 20/20 periphery, I cannot see children in gossamer stirring; I will not exit, pursued by a man in a rented bear suit who took four sips of Goldschlager before stepping out beneath the lights and roaring.

I call you drunk at four in the morning, begging for a hex. I tell you, I’m sorry, but the apholstery on the bar stool next to mine was orange vinyl and I could not stand that.

This would be easier if your parents had given you some asshole name like Oberon or Donalbain. This would be easier if when you answered, you did not humor me. Next time, yell blackout. That is generally what I do, anyway.


Art by Ben Grace.

darren-hostetter1

Sometimes, I like to think about Immanuel Kant going to the doctor’s office, of the sweat in tiny stars along his giant forehead as the doctor presses a stethoscope to the pale swell of his chest. My fantasies about Pascal are slightly sexier; he is usually eating an enormous grapefruit in his underwear, usually around four in the morning while his valet is still asleep. David Hume is obviously walking next to a lake, but I mostly imagine the moment when he stops thinking about The Treatise on Human Nature and realizes he has to piss. In my head, he has very delicate hands, and hooks two fingers around his belt buckle and thinks on it hard.

I don’t allow myself to think about Kierkegaard much, because when I do he’s usually naked and that’s just so damn obvious. When I think about Montaigne, I just get ridiculous: I imagine the two of us under his fleur-de-lis patterned canopy bed, daring each other to hold our breath until we black out. When I come to, he is peering at me over his cape, black velvet stretched across his nose like a geisha fan. What did you see? He whispers. I saw a lot of colors, and Macchu Picchu I think.

Art is by Darren Hostetter. Also, this one is old but what you do you expect from me? I’m writing a senior thesis and there is so much awesome Japanese candy in my kitchen that just needs to be eaten. Think of these as my greatest hits album, except no one cares enough yet for me to have a greatest hits album. Yet.

Li Wei

There is an explanation for all of this.

I know that you said there was a no-pets policy, and yeah, I should have assumed that meant a no-howler-monkey policy too. I know that it was not okay to construct a ten foot waterfall in the basement; I have a little common sense, thank you very much.

But she has been sick for months now, and even when I draw maps of the planet on her head when she’s asleep, I cannot make her laugh. The smile sticks in her throat and her eyes water and bulge, the whites yellowed and spangled with new veins. I had to take drastic measures.

There was a lake in Cozumel that she loved when she was five, and I still remember the asterix of her body when she jumped off the falls, the water a flat, green sheet of paper she just had to interrupt. There were pictures to aid in the reproduction, too, but mostly I am an amazing big-sister queen with the panoramic memory to end all panoramic memories. You do not know how damn hard it was to ship in all that sand, much less convince my Mexican janitors to lend me their kids for the day, but I did it. It was enough to turn on that jungle sounds loop and push her into the water, say Hannah, here you are.

Art by Li Wei, who uses no photo manipulation and who I am basically wholly obsessed with.

Patrick Leger

I wouldn’t say it’s exactly like being a werewolf, but its close. There are mornings when I wake up and find my teeth too long in my mouth and my sheets smeared brown with a midnight nosebleed. I prowl and snap and massacre whole freezers full of hot pockets in literal seconds. I do not give a fuck. Werewolves do not give a fuck.

And then suddenly, I do. Suddenly, a mirror sneaks into my periphery and for one fantastic second I see myself like a specimen under glass and I think, That girl is the finest fucking motherfucker in the fucking world. Even before I know its me, I want to be her, and then subsequently clone her at least twelve times so I can look at her from all possible angles always. I would start wars for her if I were burly and Greek and a dude; I would throw rare orchids at her feet so they never touched the floor of my horrible apartment.

Then I realize it is me, and I notice some things. The board-flat nose that classical painters tend to freak out over but I’ve never really liked; the ketchup stains all over whatever white thing I am an inevitably wearing because I can’t keep more than 20% of my food in my mouth when I eat; the fat parts; the bone-stabbing-out parts; the teeth that are already turning canine, yellowing.

There is no good way to talk about being a beautiful woman because no women are beautiful. We are beasts until the chandelier light baptizes us; then, we are simply hunted.

Art by Patrick Leger.