Shed

It is never in your best interest

to fashion yourself

in a corset of old dead skin;

shed,

as a sibilant directive,

breathes ceremony

into the places where you ache,

to die, and begin again.

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Everybody’s Got One

I was once asked
to create a safe happy place
to which I could go
during times of distress and turbulence,
and there it was, as it had always been–
a wooden bench set under a streetlamp
in a park at twilight,
no one there,
just me, the bench, the amber lamplight
and soft gauzy twilight, a most harmonious blend
calling up that lucid and favored sense
of serene loneliness,
the ease of dreaming
found and felt within a world
turning slowly, and slower still.
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The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish

(Review of Katya Apekina’s stunning debut novel, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish. )
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again
In the name of nursery rhyme remixology, first let us add the soothing menace of a Pink Floyd soundscape to the tale, and then let us peer into the fragmented disaster that the fallen Humpty has become, and realize that he was never an anthropomorphized egg-man at all, but rather a family incestuously consolidated into a single mutated unit, a dangerously complex and fragile organism that, in breaking apart, becomes its own prospective savior and redeemer. As you keep looking—and you will, because this specific accident has you in its grip, like a shock collar at Sunday mass—you will notice how the congealed blob that comprised Humpty’s interior is slowly disassembling into individual parts: mother, father, two daughters. How each of these exposed selves will react to their blunt individuation, their emergence from a cystic sublet, remains to be seen. And so you watch, and listen, and find yourself drawn into a narrative that is at once familiar and remote. Welcome to family, as modern American gothic, in the half-lit world of Katya Apekina’s The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish.
Katya Apekina's The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish is reviewed at Riot Material MagazineFirst, let me start by saying that Apekina’s debut novel compelled me to do something that I have not done in a very long time: read an entire book, cover to cover, in a single night. There are certain writers who excel at meting out their prose with deceptive flatness, or muted lucidity, which serves to flood the undercurrents with depth-charges and felt-resonance (Raymond Carver and Marguerite Duras being two prime examples). It is the “awesome simplicity,” of which the jazz musician Charles Mingus raved, and which Apekina deftly demonstrates in her rendering of a searing family drama. Subtly weaving together a tapestry of voices and shifting perspectives, the novel centers on two teenage daughters—Edith, sixteen, and Mae, fourteen—who go to live with their dad in New York, after their mother has been hospitalized for a suicide attempt and breakdown. Their dad, about whom Mae has no memories and Edith has a scattered scarcity from her earliest years, is a famous writer and cultural icon, renowned for both his literary legacy and civil rights activism in the 1960s.
Read the full review at Riot Material.
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The Greatest Job on Earth

So much depends
upon a red spiral notebook
opened
to a blank page,
beside
a pen’s barest volition
to longing,
within silence’s meted reign.
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This Word’s Life

Words
are wonderfully illegitimate
and unhurried placeholders
for psychic disturbances
and vagrant quandaries.
To frame it differently–
Using a broken compass
to navigate through a paper town
on a vintage red bicycle
is, in itself, immaculate.
Words, in other words,
make for excellent companions
and marvelous conceptions
upon which worlds are formed,
and found
to be wanting.
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The Honeymooners

Ralph Kramden sweats and sweats, his eyeballs bulging.
Plagued by the notion that he has become a whale, no a rhinoceros, no an inoculated hippo that shows up to birthday parties uninvited.
This visual grotesquerie, reflected to him through the clear mirror of the teapot that Alice had bought home (where did she get it from?) is something he cannot bear.
He begins pacing back and forth, back and forth, in the weathered shoebox of an apartment, wanting to yell, curse, stomp, holler, blame someone or something for this condition which apparently has become him, and he it, it’s murder to know oneself in this way and not be able to shake it off, absolute murder, and the cold beetles of sweat rolling down his back and shoulders and jowls are making everything so much worse, he has been confronted by the purest form of disgust, and if his life were a show, of which he had directorial control, he’d yell CUT, he’d scream CUT and peel off this suit of blubber he was wearing and allow the thin sane man within him to breathe, while rejoicing in the fact that Ralph Kramden, the sweating rhinoceros barge of a hothead was only a person meant to amuse, ha-ha, laugh everyone, it’s just a fat suit designed for your entertainment—I am not him, he is not me—yet this fictional reverie was betrayed when Ralph caught a flickering glimmer of himself, his true self, in the clear mirror of the teapot that Alice had brought home (where the hell did she get it, and more importantly, where was she?)
Anxiously, Ralph opens his window and calls up to his best friend and neighbor—Norton, hey Norton!!—and it is only when speaking the name aloud that revelation hit hard, as if the window had suddenly slammed shut on his head—Alice wasn’t coming back.
There was no more Alice. No more Norton, either. Or Norton’s wife, Trixie. All of them were gone. The schtick which his life had become had reached its conclusion.
He had been left alone, with unbearable reflections, and no one to raise his voice against.
ralph-kramden}-235006-normal
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Laura Palmer

There is a rumor that Laura Palmer’s going to be at the dance.
While you don’t know her personally, all you can think about is the exquisite mystique of her corpse, and how her live voice, on a tape loop, kept repeating—So … you wanna fuck the prom queen?
Just the faintest tickle of the idea that Laura Palmer, THE Laura Palmer might breeze into the school auditorium, and perhaps stand only ten feet away from where you are standing, you holding a plastic cup filled with cherry punch, dressed in a suit that was your brother’s, god rest his soul . . . Laura, could I get you a glass of punch? (good, in your head, you didn’t stutter or stammer when propositioning Laura).
You suddenly realize that cherry punch is leaking from a hole in the bottom of your cup, and onto your new shoes, as you tip the cup horizontally which unfortunately sends the entirety of your cherry punch splash-spilling onto the tiled floor. The cherry punch now pooling around your shoes reminds you of cartoon blood, and you remain transfixed by this grotesque effect until, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a figure, crowned in a baroque silver tiara,  and wearing a  white ruffled blouse and tight-fitting blue denim jeans, walking backwards through the doorway. She seems to be rewinding at a spasmodic, off-kilter pace, toward you.
You cannot understand the words coming out of her mouth, as they sound as if they are being gargled, and are being spoken forward, away from you, with the girl continuing to rewind, and you locked in a pause, awaiting her targeted arrival.
When she gets to you and wheels around, as if she were wearing roller skates, it is the smile that you can bear least, and how its presence, what you might call its inadmissible entry in a forest with no moon, causes you to look down at the mess you’ve made, and please god, tell me why anyone would serve cartoon blood at a high school dance?

Laura_Palmer,_the_Queen_Of_Hearts

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Happy Days

In this episode of Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli, Fonzie, The Fonz, slaps Richie, hard, across the face. Void of context, we don’t know why.
Richie’s jaw drops. He is in shock. He holds his hand against his crimsoned cheek. Richie careens out of time, out of character. He tells Arthur Fonzarelli, the Fonz, Fonzie, that he’s made a big mistake and he would be really sorry, did he know who he just slapped? You’ve just slapped someone who was a child-star, remember Mayberry motherfucker, and I’m gonna go on and become a bigtime director who makes lots and lots of films, Backdraft and Born on the Fourth of July and Apollo 13, all kinds of films, I’m gonna be the shit, and you, what are you gonna be doing Fonz?
When Richie—stranded somewhere between the character, Richie, and Ron Howard, the actor playing Richie—is done with his rant, the rest of his face has joined his cheek in blazing crimson. Henry Winkler, a.k.a., The Fonz, Arthur Fonzarelli, Fonzie, is baffled, and looks around, as if trying to pick up the feel of a gag. Was he on Candid Camera? Yet everyone looks as baffled as he does, an awkward quiet thickening the air. One of the cameramen coughs.
Ron Howard/Richie storms off the set, muttering something heated under his breath. The Fonz, still not sure what to do, defaults to his signature move—thumbs jacked up and out, like a jazzy hitchhiker, as he mouthgrooves—Ayyyyy! The live studio audience applauds. Or it is canned applause. It is hard to tell the difference.

Fonzie

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Twilight Room of One’s Own

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THE LAST FURIES
In this lyrical and speculative mosaic novel, enter the fractured worlds of an actress, playwright, and immortal poet, whose legend and influence create an energetic web, equal parts love triangle and haunted house of mirrors. At the bated edge of dream and revelation, spanning New York, Mexico, and a twilight Bardo realm, each of the characters—Viola, Evie and Arturo—undertake metamorphic journeys through the interior hinterlands of the psyche, in their quest for home and spiritual reckoning. Mythology, pop culture, cinema, theater, and sorcery dwell in the multi-chambered heart of the mutable narrative, which includes Joan of Arc, a suicide cult, the Arcana of the Tarot, vaudeville remixes, shamanic alchemy, and a mystical radio whose bandwidth covers all of time, space and history. Re-seed your sense of wonder and the marvelous, as you step into the shadowy labyrinth that is The Last Furies.
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Straight Outta Brooklyn

Urban slice-of-life in this live reading from my novel, No Man’s Brooklyn, at last November’s Prose Month event.
NO MAN’S BROOKLYN:
From the valentine boneyards of working-class Brooklyn, comes a tale of first love, lost innocence, tragedy, and forgiveness.
Daniel Trovato, having left his native Bensonhurst years ago to start a new life in L.A., is recently sober and enjoying cult success through his Sworn Witness series of graphic novels. When he receives word that his childhood love, Anya, the girl to whose absence he has remained faithful, has died from an overdose, he is compelled to return home. It is there that he will walk through the ghostly twilight of an unfinished past, and revisit both the romantic lore and shadow-life of his childhood. The enduring torch he’s carried for Anya, “the girl from nowhere,” who was found in a trashcan and adopted by a Russian family; the hazy circumstances of his mother’s suicide when he was fourteen; glacial estrangement from his father; the street-and-concrete joys, follies and rawness of an urban boyhood. Ultimately, No Man’s Brooklyn is about the mythic journey we take to meet our core self, and a lyrical testament to the words of Dylan Thomas: “The memories of childhood have no order, and no end.”
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