Scoundrel Time

A Prescriptive Identity? Not My Birthright.

  Identity. I searched for it my entire life. When I thought I had it in my clutches, the slippery creature learned how to evade me; my identity changed directions, it multiplied, it forced me to look...

Listening in a Post-Brexit (Post-Election) World

  John Berger died on January 2 at age 90. An art critic, novelist, and left-leaning thinker, he’s loved by me also for Photocopies, a book of short portraits that are like sketches in words: informal...

Post-Election, With the Mothers in the Zombie Parking Lot

They have not arrived. You are waiting for them. The parking lot is dark and it is November, so your arms feel hard and fragile in the cold. It is nine o’clock, and you are all gathering here to send your...

American Patriot: A Portfolio

Poems by Jim Daniels, Photographs by Charlee Brodsky   Size Matters Imagine singing “Oh, say, can you see” to a flag you can’t see. That’s what graduate students at the University...

“In the increasingly convincing darkness / The words become palpable…" —John Ashbery

“Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.” —Grace Paley

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The Mothers on the Wall

Stant pavidae in muris matres oculisque sequuntur Pulveream nubem et fulgentes aere catervas. -AENEID VIII 590-1 The fearful mothers standing on the wall, the cloud of dust they follow with their eyes: millennia pass, and nothing’s changed at all of...

Artists Dying

  The first time I saw an artist dying onstage, I was a kid. I went to see Rahsaan Roland Kirk at the Village Gate. The great saxophonist, composer, and vocalist had recently suffered a stroke. His body was non-existent inside a rumpled tuxedo...

Here

Where do you put the anger and the fear? Hand them over. Here. What do you do with the uncertainty? Pass it to me. The sadness, the foreboding, all the rest? I bare my breast. The blustering threats, the dark and stormy skies? Look into my eyes...

Isolated Splendor

I was aping Mussolini in a pizzeria when the American I fell for called me an asshole, not an overreaction in Roma, the city responsible for romantics like Caligula and Berlusconi. Later that night, soccer hooligans attacked the riot cops, the...

Laughing at the Demagogues

It’s become predictable—though still, I hope, not normal—that a Saturday Night Live skit will be followed by an angry tweet from the new President, using words like “unwatchable” and “not funny.” If these silly overreactions at times seem like part...

Not Breathing Yet: In Response to the Election

I am eighteen years old, lying on my bed doing my homework, when my two-year-old nephew begins his seizure. He came into my room an hour before, fussy and red-faced, and fell asleep behind me, pressed tight against me for comfort. The heat emanating...

Note from a Mother

My middle child is fascinated by his ethnicity. He looks the most Ecuadorian with his dark almond eyes and wide nose. He stretches his arm next to mine to see the contrast of his brown skin against my white. He teaches his younger brother to say...

The Future Is a Ceiling of Impossible Water

I was driving in a rented yellow convertible through the desert, near the eastern border of California. A bright spring morning: overhead, the sky was brilliant and blue, like a ceiling of impossible water. My forehead was damp. My hair was wild. My...

Disappointment

Remember, remember, the eighth of November; of gunpowder, treason and plot.[1] Benjamin, do you recall sixteen years ago how we sat all night before the black-and-white Great Wall television set (with its hues of light green on a warped electronic...

Depending on How You Look at It

In the weeks before Donald Trump became president of the United States, I travelled to Greece to volunteer and distribute some $35,000 in donations that a group of us from North Carolina had collected for humanitarian relief for refugees. These...

Welcome to My Highway

It was her last day, the last hours she’d spend a full night in that box. The gel on her chapped hands, the roar of traffic from the E-ZPass lanes. Was she ever really here? In a matter of time even the memory of the tollbooth would lose the smell...

Square Fictions

Around the time of the election, I started writing mostly square fictions about the president-elect. It began with one a day, then went to two, then three, then more. They were short because he has (we are told by many who know him) a small...

Shuffle Off

There was a time where I was breaking a lot of things I’d fixed, which is to say I was wasting second chances. I smoked myself right out of a position when the regional manager caught me puffing in the stockroom. Then when I found a job at a...

We Need a New Story

A few years ago, a writer friend gave me a bracelet that had a charm on it that said “stories save our souls.” I loved that phrase so much that I began to use it—and a variation (“stories save our lives”) when I signed books. I knew it was true...

I Lift My Lamp

  From the Oxford English Dictionary, digital edition. Asylum. < Latin asȳlum, < Greek ἄσῡλον refuge, sanctuary, neuter of adjective ἄσῡλος inviolable. 1. A sanctuary or inviolable place of refuge and protection for criminals and debtors...

Still Life w/ Gay Lil’ Patriots

yu so fun so danger so smoke so ready 2 deady [next stop: F I R E W O R K S spend $ & get &z off] we bubble buy blame bead up the sky w blood [the libertree thirsty & i wonder what this b 2 me] as yr local majikal hapahaole mite say a...

Murillo’s Saint Catherine, c. 1650

–Hospital de los Venerables, Sevilla She stares with a bearing – experience having brought her soul this far – and lifts a frond, one kind of sword, in one hand, effortless. In the other, clutched to her, the silver plated sword of her own...