Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the end, why I switched majors in college:

" Science never cheered up anyone. The truth about the human situation is just too awful. "

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The first half of my university experience

I got a good letter today, Friday, August 23rd, 1996, from a young stranger named Jeff Mialich, one would guess of Serb of Croat descent, who is majoring in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Jeff says he enjoyed his physics course in high school, and got top grades, but "ever since I have had physics at the university I have had much trouble with it. This was a huge blow to me because I was used to doing well in school. I thought there was nothing I couldn't do if I just wanted it bad enough."

My reply will go like this: "You might want to read the picaresque novel The Adventures of Angle March by Saul Bellow. The epiphany at the end, as I recall, is that we shouldn't be seeking harrowing challenges, but rather tasks we find natural and interesting, tasks we were apparently born to perform.

Friday, December 28, 2012

As a Creative Writing professor

I taught how to be sociable with ink on paper. I told students that when they were writing they should be good dates on blind dates, should show strangers good times.

Alternatively, they should run really nice whorehouses, come one, come all, although they were in fact working in perfect solitude. I said I expected them to do this with nothing but idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and maybe eight punctuation marks, because it wasn't anything that hadn't been done before.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The little things give you away

All you've ever wanted was someone to truly look up to you.

(6 ft underwater, i do)

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Pictures are famous for their humanness, and not for their pictureness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Icon for Hire

you're  only  a  memory;
     this isn't my identity.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

" Crazy "

                     is, I believe, the medical term
when we want to recover
but we don't want to learn.

Keep breaking what's been fixed a thousand times
                & gimme some more of that iodine.

I can't make reality connect -- I push till I have nothing left
But if we want to wake up, why're we still singing these lullabies?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


   I run in circles till I crash -- one day these steps will be my last.
But if we want to wake up, why're we still singing these lullabies?

I say I wanna be happy,
      but I quickly forget.
Will I sabotage all the good I've got left?

     Depression is like a big fur coat;
it's made of dead things but it keeps me warm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The flaw in Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again: Oh boy--they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time! And that thought had a brother: "There are right people to lynch." Who? The people not well connected.

So it goes.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Individual impotence

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,"
"You can never--"
"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Man's ego

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Life of Pi

" I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them--and they leap.

I'll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on.

To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. "

Friday, September 28, 2012

Richard Neville, last human on earth:

A man could get used to anything if he had to.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from the paint on a sign?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The reason we struggle with insecurities is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

It's not the END
that I fear with each breath;
it's LIFE
that scares me to death. . .

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Half of my heart

's got a right mind to tell you
that half of my heart won't do

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Straight out of Brazil

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Found in "The Midnight Disease"

When you are insane, you are busy being insane — all the time. . . When I was crazy, that's all I was.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On ether anesthesia

The veil of eternity was lifted.

The one great truth which underlies all human experience and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim.

As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile, the wise will ponder):
"A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout."

Saturday, July 07, 2012

it's been a Long Day

I'm sorry about the attitude I need to give when I'm with you

but no one else would take this shit from me.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

oh, rob

if it's the same for you, I'll just hang.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

&she knows

she's been here too few years to feel this old.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Can't Forget You

Does it hurt when you breathe, too?
Because it does when I do...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Things Want

You have to let things
Occupy their own space.
This room is small,
But the green settee

Likes to be here.
The big marsh reeds,
Crowding out the slough,
Find the world good.

You have to let things
Be as they are.
Who knows which of us
Deserves the world more?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red Wand

Sometimes I try to make poetry but mostly 
    I try to earn a living. There's something still living
 in every urn, I am sure of it. The ash moves 
       around inside the vase like the magnetic filings that make 
the moustache of Wooly Willy. Maybe a new face counts 
      as reincarnation. The wand says, "I'll be your ostrich,
 if you'll be my swan." In this life, what did I do wrong? 
I think my heart is a magnet too. It attracts anything
 that attracts joy like the summer grasses the swans track through. 
       OMG, how in love I am with joy and with yours—how I know 
that adding to it would only take it further off course, 
      off its precarious center, so for once, I won't touch it.
 I will stand wand-length away—let it 
    glide stupidly on its weightless line, without me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


When you kill it at the edge of the pan, you don't notice
That the egg grows an eye in death.

It is so small, it doesn't satisfy
Even the most modest morning appetite.

But it already watches, already stares at your world.
What are its horizons, whose glassy-eyed perspectives?

Does it see time, which moves carelessly through space?
Eyeballs, eyeballs, cracked shells, chaos or order?

Big questions for such a little eye at such an early hour. 
And you – do you really want an answer?

When you sit down, eye to eye, behind a table,
You blind it soon enough with a crust of bread.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


My life has been the poem 

I would have writ, 

But I could not both live 

And utter it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Originally in Chinese

A pot of wine under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, for no friends are near me.
Lifting my cup, I ask the moon to drink a toast.
The moon reflected in my cup, my shadow, and me make three.
Then I sigh for the moon cannot drink,
And my shadow, never saying a word, just goes along with me;
With no other friends here, I can but use these two for company.
In this happy time of Spring, I too must be happy with all around me;
I sit and sing. and it is as if the moon accompanies me;
Then if I dance, it is my shadow that dances along with me.
While still not drunk, I am glad to make Moon and Shadow into friends,
But when I have drunk too much, we all part; yet we remain friends.
Though they have no emotion whatsoever; I can always count on them;
I hope that one day we three will meet again, deep in the Milky Way.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Dickinson

Heart, we will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I love Emily~~

If I can stop one Heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one Life the Aching,
Or cool one Pain,

Or help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again,
I shall not live in Vain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—

Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, Come right up the stairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—till I called
I declare—how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—and
All those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That Blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Get Used To It

Wake up, even Monday the cup's still full,
lettuce rosette-ing up between sandstone scraps
by back steps where ladybugs swarm in
to die or lay eggs, some say, death-march
or birth-march looking about the same.
The rust of barn-sides: different chemical effect
than rust of oak-copse, burning with late fervor
beyond reaped cornfields.

Friday, April 06, 2012

April frigging 6

Meat pies delivered daily from
tuck shop the chalkboard
improvisionally utters to a
chump's eye. Somewhere in
the thick of the grip of the
shit that must be said to be
gotten out of the way. Can I
sit in your lap and watch
kitty videos? No, I have to
go to work. Can I go to
work with you? We can
walk outside together.
Earlier I felt — how's that
radiation going — like
a — I misheard that,
now they are saying
things like "she's a
new girl" — bartender
& medical worker of
other type — I felt
like an old creep making
younger wobbly guys
give me their opinions
on things: "he had all
these great lines! & then
they just kept coming one
after the other & it started
to make me crazy." Look
of indignation on early
morning L train face.
Inside that recreation
a phone rang. I did
not ignore the phone
but I did ignore the call.
This afuturistic handling
of little pads, first aid
for choking, and yet the
company came with dog
& I moved, no, was.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Directions for Lines that will Remain Unfinished

Line to be sewn into a skirt hem
held in my mouth ever since the unraveling

Line beneath a bridge
for years without hope I stretched my arms into the river searching for you

Line to be sent to the cornfield
history is a hallway of leaves.

Line written for electric wires
your voice inside the no history, sitting still

Line for future people
inside the work, only my empty teeth

Line from Maharaj
Presently you are in quietude. Is it on this side of sleep or on the other side?

Line that cannot be read because of its darkness
impossible walk under weight of honey
away from your hands that break me in half

Line addressing President Lincoln
when the handle and blade are gone, what remains
of your axe?

Line to be run over by a lawn mower
afraid of everything and to be of no use.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Half-Hearted Sonnet

He'd left his belt. She
followed him and
threw it in the street.
Wine: kisses: snake: end

of their story. Be-
gin again, under-
stand what happened; de-
spite that battered

feeling, it will have been
worth it; better to
have etc…
(—not to have been born

at all
— Schopenhauer.)
But, soft! Enter tears.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This Deepening Takes Place Again

What if everything
were revealed: where I was
last night. You, etc. The rain
is coming down like salad.
My sister's hair
reminds me of my sister
so much I can't
stop looking. Who am I
to have arms? On the plane
one short dream:
a baby so small
it wasn't even human,
just a bouquet
of light with wise
cellular eyes. If losing me
is the worst thing to happen,
your life is still a good life

Monday, April 02, 2012

here is little Effie's head
whose brains are made of gingerbread
when the judgement day comes
God will find six crumbs

stooping by the coffinlid
waiting for something to rise
as the other somethings did--
you imagine His surprise

bellowing through the general noise
Where is Effie who was dead?
--to God in a tiny voice,
i am may the first crumb said

whereupon its fellow five
crumbs chuckled as if they were alive
and number two took up the song,
might i'm called and did no wrong

cried the third crumb, i am should
and this is my little sister could
and our big brother who is would
don't punish us for we were good;

and the last crumb with some shame
whispered unto God, my name
is must and with the others i've
been Effie who isn't alive

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Kicking off National Poetry Month

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Invented, cont

There's a cinematic end; I picture it just right—
             Having trouble with the right words
There's something good I've missed; something I can't find—
Do you believe me now?
Can you see it in my eyes?

Friday, March 30, 2012


You're always in my head
You're just what I wanted
I live in constant debt
                 to feel you
i n v e n t e d.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Soon

"I understand I wasn't part of the plan; a dollar short, a minute early—but I am your man."

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Don't spend your whole life holding on.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Answer: "Write Like a Motherfucker."

Dear Elissa Bassist,

When I was 29 I had a chalkboard in my living room. It was one of those two-sided wooden A-frames that stand on their own and fold flat. On one side of the chalkboard I wrote, “The first product of self-knowledge is humility,” Flannery O’Connor and on the other side I wrote, “She sat and thought of only one thing, of her mother holding and holding onto their hands,” Eudora Welty.

The quote by Eudora Welty is from her novel The Optimist’s Daughter, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972. It was a book I read again and again and that line about the woman who sat thinking of only one thing was at the heart of the reason why. I sat like that too. Thinking of only one thing. One thing that was actually two things pressed together, like the back-to-back quotes on my chalkboard: how much I missed my mother and how the only way I could bear to live without her was to write a book. My book. The one that I’d known was in me since way before I knew people like me could have books inside of them. The one I felt pulsing in my chest like a second heart, formless and unimaginable until my mother died, and there it was, the plot revealed, the story I couldn’t live without telling. My debut.

Rumpus Advice Column Question

Dear Sugar,

I write like a girl. I write about my lady life experiences, and that usually comes out as unfiltered emotion, unrequited love, and eventual discussion of my vagina as metaphor. And that’s when I can write, which doesn’t happen to be true anymore.

Right now, I am a pathetic and confused young woman of 26, a writer who can’t write. I am up late asking you a question, really questioning myself. I’ve sat here, at my desk, for hours, mentally immobile. I look up people I used to love and wonder why they never loved me. I lie facedown on my bed and feel scared. I get up, go to the computer, feel worse.

David Foster Wallace called himself a failed writer at 28. Several months ago, when depression hooked its teeth into me, I complained to my then-boyfriend about how I’ll never be as good as Wallace; he screamed at me on Guerrero Street in San Francisco, “STOP IT. HE KILLED HIMSELF, ELISSA. I HOPE TO GOD YOU ARE NEVER LIKE HIM.”

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"When I don't write, I feel like shit."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The words of a sculptor

What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Elegy on Toy Piano

The injured gazelle falls behind the
herd. One last wild enjambment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Life on the Mississippi

Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a 'break' that ripples above some deadly disease. Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Its The Only One Youve Got

Your mistakes do not define you now;
they tell you who you're not.