Last Ten



It’s a moment that actually happens to her: she can trace back to how she used to be, she remembers her being afraid of almost everything: walking home by herself at night, being poor and stuck and awkward, being watched by other people, small talk. But it doesn’t happen now and she’s on her own separate plane, no touch nor ounce of fear. She doesn’t care. It’s an amazing thing: meeting someone, making a connection, letting someone talk to you. Corvus ends the conversation with the boy she doesn’t know by getting up, carefully browsing choosing and playing a record, and dancing by herself in the middle of the room. Lost in the thrill of no special occasion, the song beeps in her chest, and Corvus releases. The dance floor lights up, other bodies swarm around, the hardwood floor vibrates beneath her feet to the bass, signals and tingles rise to her brain. The boy watches from the couch a little open-mouthed, as Perry enters the room with two drinks and with Michelle right behind him. Michelle starts dancing like she was already here, surveying the ether. Corvus keeps dancing and touches Michelle’s ear and says, Sometimes, life gives you a moment. Smoothly, she rolls her pupils and barely nods.

That boy over there was trying to flirt with me.

Michelle asks, Which boy?

Perry sits down on the couch next to the boy and lights a cigarette. The music is at a rise, the bodies ahead of them in the neon lit, smoky dark sway bump and grind against each other; Corvus backs up and pushes against Michelle against the vibrating wall. They mouth the chorus together.

The boy says, Hey. What the fuck. He coughs from the cigarette smoke.

Perry leans back on the couch and tries to pull his phone out of his pocket but his pants are too tight. The phone makes a square bulge on the denim and Perry gestures at the shape. He says, Pants are too tight.

The boy says, Dude. We’re inside. He keeps coughing.

Perry says, I live here. This is my house. I pay a mortgage.

The boy says, Okay.

Okay, says Perry. Perry drinks from his cup and looks ahead.

Michelle, close to Corvus’ ear in the fuzzy dark, says, I think that dude is talking to Perry.

The boy rubs his hands together and says, You should be mindful about your guests. He waves away the smoke.

Perry slowly turns his head around and says, I don’t know you. Smoke pours and cycles through his mouth and nostrils.

Aglow, the boy clenches his fists. He tries to lunge at Perry but he is stopped by heavy hands and they hold him down on the couch, heavy hands from heavy men standing up above him. The boy looks up behind him and the men look dead serious, one gripping and digging tighter into his shoulder.

Perry says, See, that’s the thing about privilege.

The boy grimaces in abrupt pain and grips his chest; the men lift him off his seat rather effortlessly, deadpan and serene faces on the both of them. The boy’s feet are off the ground, his shadows are kicking.

Perry says, It makes you feel like the world is for you. And the world is not for you.

The boy mouths, What?

The man with the softer grip says, The world is not for you, son.

They carry him out the back door to the side streets. They open the door with his head. Perry leans back and says, Thanks, to no one in particular. The lights dim. The next song on the record is even louder, and there are more bodies, more stomachs, more legs and thighs. Perry isolates the noises and hears the pop song and the sounds of traffic outside simultaneously. Corvus sways to the couch and leans her head on Perry’s shoulder.

She says, Hi.

He says, Hi.

After two more songs, Corvus closes her eyes, and Michelle walks over, sits close, and rests her head on Corvus’ shoulder, speaking nonsense before passing out almost right away. The wind blows to no end, down to the very last drunk ass guest.

I’ve never seen The Blacklist, but I’m pretty sure what follows accurately describes the program.

The Blacklist is about a man who tailors high-end suits for criminals and/or spies, and he is required to go to prison because of it. It is wrong to tailor high-end suits for criminals and/or spies and if you do so, you will get in trouble and go to prison.

The Blacklist is a program that manages to strike a balance between the celebration of youth and an admiration for all the wonderful things life experience can offer a person. This is a marginally valuable lesson, but because so few even marginally valuable lessons are available to us in our every day lives—from our books to our films to our long-form audio documentaries—it makes The Blacklist one of the most important cultural products of the last few decades.

Every actor on The Blacklist is required to not just use a prop gun at work, but a very real gun at home. And they must discover novel and unexpected uses for said gun. “I shot the cap off a beer bottle instead of twisting it off.” “I forgot my house keys and shot and shot and shot the door until it surrendered and let me in.” “I used the gun to ‘show’ my kids just how much I ‘love’ and ‘cherish’ them.” They are asked to share their “out of the box” gun ideas with one another at a weekly cast meeting that the producers of the program call NBC’S THE BLACKLIST GUNS CHAT. Because of all this home and workplace gun use, the cast members of The Blacklist have an affinity for handguns that matches or surpasses the gun affinity of every cast in the history of television.

The actor James Spader does not appear in the television program The Blacklist. Instead, there is a thing that looks very much like James Spader. The thing does not speak English—or, in fact, any known human language—even though he appears to on the program. Instead, he makes a series of sounds that approximate English, and the gentle, inviting tone of his voice casts a kind of hypnotic spell on viewers of the program that has led to the collective delusion that he speaks English and that the plots of the program make a reasonable amount of sense.

The Blacklist has a grueling shooting schedule, but everyone who works on it—both in front of and behind the camera—loves that they get to wake up in the morning knowing they are going to spend their day with a group of people they consider not just coworkers, but, really, a kind of family. And family is really important? We spend all our lives in psychic relation to the people we consider our family? We build and destroy all the foundational structures of our lives because of family? WE run screaming from room after room after room to get away from, and into the arms of, family? We buy plots of land and we plant seeds, and we watch those seeds grow, and we harvest the things that have grown in order to feed and care for our family? We froth at the mouth and we rip, tear, and grind with our little red teeth to pulverize into a paste the meat on the bones of the members of our family? Because we love them?

The Blacklist will run for at least 5 seasons.

On my birthday, a guy on TV with a shaved head wearing only a neck brace keeps yelling about Satan. He says Satan is his father and wants him to kill the president and eat his kidneys and find the hole in his blood through which the parasites will come into our world. The guy has a tattoo of a blue square where his pubic hair should be. The media blurs his genitals.

The cops keep telling the guy to lie down on his stomach, then when he does they beat the shit out of him with batons. They taze him seventeen times, until he’s foaming all over everything. His drying blood looks gold instead of brown.

Locked in a closet in the guy’s house they find this tiny girl, age 5, with white hair wrapped up in a trash bag. She has a lisp and a deep voice. Her nipples have been burned off. When asked of her relation to the man, she says, “We are twins, though I am more beautiful, and much more powerful.”

The thing that hath been and at the exact same time the words of the Preacher the son of David which were before us and turneth about unto the north. I have seen all the works from my backpack rap, crap, yap-yap, yackety-yack and ever since Bill Clinton was still in office for the wack while I’m masterfully constructing this masterpiece. According to his circuits I attempt these lyrical acrobat stunts while I’m practicing unto the place from whence the rivers come my pen’ll go off when I half-cock it. All things are full of labour packing a mack in the back of that which is crooked cannot be made straight and the wind returneth again. What profit hath a man? The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing, see, this is new, I am come to great estate, it whirleth about continually while I got a laptop in my back pocket, vanity of vanities, and another generation cometh. I’m an MC still as honest, neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come, rappers are having a rough time period with Monica Lewinski feeling on his nutsack so the sun also ariseth of wisdom and knowledge, this flippity, dippity-hippity hip-hop the wind goeth toward the south over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half. There is no remembrance of former things and vexation of spirit with those that shall come after yet the sea is not full syllables, skill-a-holic (kill ’em all with) but for me to rap like a computer must be in my genes, you don’t really wanna get into a pissing match before me in Jerusalem, all is vanity, all the rivers run into the sea and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, my heart had great experience, vanity of vanities, man cannot utter it. I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem, thither they return again, it is that which shall be of all his labour that are done under the sun and search out by wisdom and made a living and a killing off it, here’s a Maxi-Pad, I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit and the sun goeth down and is there any thing whereof it may be said? Feel my wrath of attack, how could I not blow, all I do is drop “F” bombs, only realized it was ironic, I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo and, behold, all is vanity and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. Got a fat knot from that rap profit and I gave my heart to seek, I was signed to aftermath after the fact saith the Preacher for in much wisdom is much grief. This sore travail hath God given and that which is done with this rappity-rap concerning all things that are done under heaven than all they that have been king in Jerusalem it hath been already of old time but the earth abideth for ever and to know madness and folly it’s actually disastrously bad which he taketh under the sun? And there is no new thing under the sun and have gotten more wisdom and I’ll still be able to break a motherfuckin’ table but as rude and as indecent as all hell and hasteth to his place where he arose is that which shall be done one generation passeth away and I gave my heart to know wisdom to the sons of man to be exercised therewith as the one dieth. A time to embrace and the spirit of the beast, immortality like I have got a time to weep that they themselves are beasts for that which befalleth the sons of men, well, to be truthful the blueprint’s but for a man to rejoice and a time to hate. Basically boy you’re never gonna be capable, and all turn to dust again, inspired enough to one day grow up, all go unto one place, a time to mourn off a plank and can find out the work that God maketh ’til I walk a flock of flames you fags think it’s all a game and God requireth that which is past and a time to refrain from embracing and also that every man and moreover I saw under the sun that which hath been is now only a Hall of Fame I’ll be inducted in is the alcohol of fame. I said in mine heart I know that there is no good in them, blow up, and being in a position and a time to sew, little gay looking boy in their heart so that no man. For there is a time there that goeth upward, a time to rend into the motherfuckin’ Rock n’ that goeth downward to the earth, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, a time to keep silence concerning the estate of the sons of men and a time of peace and burst in a ball of flames. Me, I’m a product of Rakim, a time to cast away stones for who shall bring him to see and take place looking boy, and a time to die roll Hall of Fame, even though I walk in the church on the wall of shame should eat and drink. I know that whatsoever God doeth, a time to get and a time to gather stones together, to every thing there is a season, and to do good in his life and did nothing but shoot for the moon since that’s all they say looking boy, befalleth beasts and a time to dance, what shall be after him, git out my face looking boy and enjoy the good of all his labour. A time to plant wherefore I perceive from the beginning to the end for every purpose and for every work to meet Run-D.M.C. and induct them and a time to cast away, you’re witnessing a mass-occur like you’re watching a church gathering, that wickedness was there, and a time to every purpose under the heaven nor any thing taken from it hey, looking boy, what d’you say looking boy that there is nothing better Lakim Shabazz, 2Pac, N-W-A., Cube, hey, Doc, Ren it is the gift of God and that they might see a time to keep and the place of righteousness and a time to laugh simply rage and youthful exuberance a time to love oy vey, that boy’s gay everybody loves to root for a nuisance and a time to speak so dieth the other he hath made every thing beautiful and that which is to be hath already been all are of the dust that worketh and a time to build up now. I lead a New School full of students, MC’s get taken to school with this music so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast, a time to be born, tell me what in the fuck are you thinking, the place of judgment and a “way to go” from your label every day looking boy, that iniquity was there you get a thumbs up, pat on the back Yella, Eazy, thank you, they got Slim and a time to heal, a time to break down, hit the earth like an asteroid, what profit hath he in that wherein he laboureth, nothing can be put to it, and a time to lose that God might manifest them which God hath given and God doeth it, it shall be for ever who knoweth the spirit of man than that a man should rejoice in his own works of keeping up with the same pace looking boy, ’cause even one thing befalleth them. I have seen the travail for all is vanity in his time. Also he hath set the world a time to kill for that is his portion to the sons of men, a time of war and a time to pluck up that which is planted, to be exercised in it ’cause I use it as a vehicle to ‘bus the rhyme.’ I said in mine heart that men should fear before him never asked nobody for shit I get a “hell yeah” from Dre looking boy yea they have all one breath everybody want the key and the secret to rap so gay I can barely say it with a ‘straight’ face looking boy and I’mma work for everything I have.

First there is the sunglass kiosk and then the sunglass kiosk II. Then there is ABC Toys. Then you begin to see a line. You wonder from where and to where. It is the Build-A-Bear line so you get on in, really scoop up onto it. You are behind a woman with two children who is behind a woman with two children who is behind a man with one child who is behind two young men who are giggling and holding hands who is behind you don’t know because you can’t see that far. You have no children, you are alone, you will build this bear alone. You sidle against the display window at ABC Toys, creeping. You creep. You fucking creep! Finally you get just inside and loud Disney music wafts into you, embalming your consciousness with its lyrics, somehow instructing you, as it goes, to have already learned every word at some other time, just for the purpose of being able to know it now. The way murderers say they were listening to this or that song, that the song made them do it—-in this case, the Disney song makes you do it, makes you be it. Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat. Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete. A scruffy pock-marked boy of maybe 20 stands at the front of the store ringing a giant bell. He is wearing a red apron with a red tutu sewn onto it. You look around and every single employee of the Build-A-Bear store—-and they are legion—-is wearing the same red apron/tutu combo. The boy with the bell is holding in his other hand a plush giraffe on a leash, and the giraffe is wearing roller skates and a tutu. Immigrants and teenagers walk by holding cups of Orange Julius and bags from Aeropostale and the bell-boy clangs at them, yelling at them that they know they want it, they know they want to build their bear-y own bear. First they look puzzled, and then amused, and then pensive, as though they are considering the validity of the accusation—-maybe they do want it, maybe this is exactly what they want—-and one or two actually do a kind of aw-shucks about-face and get in the line that grows ever and inexplicably longer. An employee comes at me with a clipboard. What would I give if I could live out of these waters? What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand? She asks if I’ve selected my bear. She tells me about the different bears at their different price points. She waves her hand along the wall of bears, some of which aren’t bears at all, but cats, puppies, dinosaurs, and ponies. I choose from the cheapest range of bears, a teddy bear that looks the most like a drawing of a teddy bear, which is how you know something is real. Smell or sound, the girl asks me. What, I don’t understand, I tell her. Do you want it to have a smell or make a sound? I shiver along with the music—-betcha on land, they’d understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters—-and then say no, neither, and then say, no, both. She hands me a plastic square to speak into. Record something for your bear to say. Oh no, I say. Oh no, oh no. She asks if that’s what I want or if I was just practicing and I say that’s what I want. I get a cardboard air freshener cutout shaped like a bear to stuff inside my bear and the scent is “eucalyptus” otherwise known as rancid lip gloss. This is terrible, I think. This is the most devastating bear on earth, which of course has been the goal all along, to build the most devastating bear on earth. The people behind me are impatient. It is important to note that they are not children. They know, unlike me, exactly how to build a bear, and that is why they are here. I am here precisely because I don’t know. There should be two lines, as there should be two lines for life. What’s a fire and why does it—-what’s the word—-burn? Soon—-not soon at all—-I am in front of a great whirring machine. Inside a riot of frothy stuffing spins, powered by, impossibly, a foot-pedal. A long nozzle pokes out of the machine. A girl seated by the nozzle jams it into my hollow bear and tells me to push down on the pedal. What earthly violence is this. It is too late for me to get out of line. I step on the pedal and my bear-sac starts to resemble a real fake bear. You’re doing it, the seated girl tells me. You’re building your bear all by yourself. I blink a little at the boldness of her lie but I jam my foot down on the pedal, harder, more sure of myself. The climax is happening all around me—-when’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above? Out of the sea, wish I could be, part of that world—-and we finish all at the same time, Ariel and my bear and me. The girl tells me to take a satin red heart from the bin. She tells me to rub it on my ears for secrets and on my mouth for whispers and on my heart for luv and on my feet for giggles. I stand there holding the heart, waiting for the next song to come on. It’s hard to hide in the din following her instructions, the line behind me growing hostile. Do it, somebody yells, a man. Do it, do it, a few people start chanting. I have no choice. The line is in charge now. I rub the heart all over my face and body, and hand it to the girl who takes it with a look that says, I made you do that, and stuffs it into the stuffing along with the sound and the smell, and then sews the spine of the bear together with nothing more than an ordinary needle and thread, no gimmick or machine, as though suddenly we were on the prairie and she were darning my sock. I am now in the back of the store where amidst the many racks of teddy bear clothes are tables set up in front of mirrors, “dressing rooms” for my bear, because we have been sent out of Eden and the bear’s awareness of its own nakedness is a new problem for both of us. A non-Disney song has started playing. I pick out shorts and a t-shirt that says “Best Friends” and I carefully dress my bear, trying to ignore how good it feels to do this. Then I sit at one of the naming computers and fill out my bear’s birth certificate. The woman at the next computer has fallen asleep, the keyboard pushed aside to make room for the moat of McDonald’s wrappers surrounding the castle formed by her head in her elegantly curled arms. I name the bear my own name.


each word carries this chorus of opinions inside

I think too much so I touch the table

it overflows

it runs wild on you


my facebook feed is 85 percent videos of cute animals

based on my preference to only engage with posts

that include cute animals
next year it will be 95 percent


I will not know what any of my loved ones are doing

based on my engagement preferences


what the fuck

truly dead

fuck you internet


everyone forgets

about everything

on purpose


the way this life comes for us

in slow strides

with confidence

that one day it will slice right through

no hurry

it is coming for you

I don’t need your permission, to have a love affair or write poetry based on the skeleton of your life. Everywhere in the world crazy people do crazy shit worse than me falling a little bit in love, worse than you telling me not to stop, worse than the transgressional fictions you make up in your head while the rest of us go to work, while the rest of us burn our babies and our college diplomas working menial jobs and condemn the Greeks for their lack of skill in managing debt.

Eat your pizza by the water’s edge and talk your fucked-up grammar, the desert will take us all back in the end, the desert speaks to us from heaven telling us our punishment for living is being beautiful.

We’re not bad people, you and I. We aren’t sitting on leather sofas shopping for expensive tuxedos and red dresses to wear to award shows. We don’t honor well-educated architects for the rebuilding of shitty little ramshackle houses once inhabited by artists.

We always sit in the back, you and I. We always remark about how great it would be if we liked techno music, if we had friends who would just leave us the fuck alone to eat our eggs and write our poetry, about how much we hate sitting in the back and trendy haircuts that remind us of Seattle. Or New York.

What would your fancy people think of me if they knew I came from Alabama, that I still come from Alabama every time I have one goddamned gin and tonic.

Alabama will never leave me, not even when I meet ruddy-cheeked men from Scotland, or fuck just the right man who never bitches and never follows me around to make sure I eat my eggs and don’t fuck the help.

I don’t want to talk to the giant Scotsman today. I don’t want to fall in love, not even with you, not even a little bit, not even to be a well-trained writer. Not even for the chance to leave Alabama behind forever.

How you put coins on my eyes before I ever get the chance to die. That’s not love. My corpse, breathing, on tile-cracked desert ground, your knee on my neck. Tuco, Angel Eyes in your fingers, lifting the silver discs, laying them back down. Your mouth telling me, “stay dead”.

The metal feels like butterflies against my lids, but I don’t tell you that because I can’t breathe because your knee.

Because I don’t want you to receive anything of beauty from me.

I have been face-down Bobbie Kristina Brown in a bathtub for a decade.

I’m inside a compression. It’s sweat sock hot. A heated wet smell. Both sides pushing in and me running out of room.

I am laundry.

I am silver-wrapped ugly. Fingers inside me. Wound-filling flash mob, cowboy boots stomped into my stomach in front of a brand name coffee shop until a guy named Brad cloaks me with his obesity against the sidewalk.

I love feeling smaller.

Remove the coins. Lay them on my tongue.

For me to swallow.

For I am not dead.

i. adult acne

this is bullshit,
is what I think
this is not
how I thought it would be

ii. american exceptionalism

you get up
you put your pants on
you become better

iii. new york

sad people
doing beautiful things
with their own hands

iv. light

in any crowded room
i am dying

Lenny called. He’s an old friend, worthy of trust, is involved in multiple areas of inquiry. We decided to meet at a diner that evening. It takes ten minutes to get there from my house, and ten minutes from Lenny’s. The diner is the equidistant point.

At five after five I showed up. I looked around the empty parking lot and planned how I would go inside, use the bathroom, find a seat with a view of the door, order coffee, wait.

At five thirty-five I had to discharge urine again because of all the coffee. My cup was empty but I put a napkin over the top to protect it while I was gone.

Lenny arrived around five fifty.

“I need to implement time management strategies,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. I didn’t ask for specifics.

Before we were able to order, he turned pale, dropped his coffee cup, and slid out of his chair onto the floor.

I said Lenny’s name. “What?” he said. I asked if he was conscious. I told him we needed to go to the hospital.

Another customer helped me support Lenny on the way to my car. I took Lenny to the hospital because I wanted us to be relieved when the doctors found nothing wrong with him. I drove him myself because an ambulance would have been expensive.

At the hospital, Lenny insisted on walking without aid or coercion.

The hospital’s intake was swift. I had to wait several hours without reading material before they made a pronouncement.

A syncoptic episode, a bout of dizziness, an untraceable blip of the central nervous system––sudden, meaningless, an inconvenience of little consequence.

Lenny offered to drive us back to the diner to get his car. I didn’t see any harm in it, since the possibility of him losing consciousness again was the same as ever. It was nerve-wracking with him behind the wheel though. He drove for a few minutes then announced, against all logic, a shortcut that deviated from any number of more direct routes. No one was on the road except for a motorcyclist. He wore a loose-fitting purple t-shirt, inflated and rendered non-functional by wind. Sunburn would have been a danger during the day.

The man on the motorcycle wasn’t wearing a helmet. I wasn’t sure whether he slowed down to match our speed or Lenny accelerated to match his, after which I was unsure whether he (the motorcyclist) maintained a speed consistent with ours or if Lenny, etc. The motorcyclist turned his head to look into our vehicle.

I told Lenny to slow down. Lenny said “What?” I mentioned that the man on the motorcycle was behaving strangely. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and looked prepared to do something unpredictable.

Lenny said “I’m late all the time because my internal chronometer is discombobulated.”

When we got back to the diner parking lot, Lenny’s car was gone. The lot was empty.

Instead of the missing car I found myself thinking about the motorcyclist, what his intentions had been. I wondered if he had wanted to do something to us, to tell us something, or if he had been preparing to do something unpredictable.

His unhelmeted head rotating toward us, in my mind.

“Did you ever play the fainting game in school?” Lenny said. I asked him what it was and he said it involved hyperventilating and falling down for fun.

I thought about two adjacent subway cars ready to depart in opposite directions and the initial moment of uncertainty as to who is moving. I assumed Lenny’s car had been stolen or towed. It was also possible, I considered, that we were in the wrong lot.