Jennifer is sitting alone, nursing a 7UP and squinting across a dim, smoky motel lounge at her mother. It's a Thursday night around ten o'clock, and Mallory's already had three Black Russians and a vodka tonic. The effect of this combination is that Jennifer's 43-year-old mother—a woman who works in a bank and wears expensive tailored suits and strings of pearls, who speaks in a low, carefully modulated voice about stock options at the breakfast table—is sliding around a dance floor with a drunk man from the bar, his arms knotted around her waist and his face buried in her neck.
To ride on these cars is always an adventure. Since we are in war-time, the drivers are men unfit for active service: cripples and hunchbacks. So they have the spirit of the devil in them. The ride becomes a steeple-chase. Hurray! we have leapt in a clear jump over the canal bridges—now for the four-lane corner. With a shriek and a trail of sparks we are clear again. To be sure, a tram often leaps the rails—but what matter!
I started worrying about my ride home right after Dr. Thursgard told me I could put my bra and shirt back on. I didn't know it would happen so fast. Deke had driven me to the office and made sure I was signed in and sat with me in the waiting room for twenty minutes, but then he left to go get his wooling shears sharpened.
Violet eased back behind an imitation palm tree, wedging open a slit in the branches with her fingers. Just the mention of a lie detector made her squirm, almost like she had worms crawling in and out of holes in her chest, but this extractor thing, ripping truth from bowels, that was another matter entirely. She had studied polygraphs, fretting for years over how to fool one in case she was ever confronted by one. According to Sloan, the assistant librarian at the city library, lie detectors were nothing but junk science. He had given her a book, The Polygraph: Lies You Tell, The Lies You're Told, and she had studied it, even practiced the countermeasures. Lie detectors were fallible. She was pretty sure she could beat one of those if it ever came to that.
Admittedly, I should have been more dubious at the outset. But Monty had so few achievements to celebrate that I felt obligated to attend the commencement, or whatever it was he had called it.
"It's not a graduation," Carla, Monty's girlfriend, said. "That's probably what he told you, but that's not what it is."
The summer I was ten we had a terrible heat wave. You could hear the transformers exploding on the other side of the tracks. Old people were dying in their sleep. Everyone was afraid the weed men wouldn't come and we would all be devoured by weeds. I had more faith. Nothing stoked the fire of a weed man's soul like a battle with the elements. I'll never forget the time I saw a weed man working in a thunderstorm, water up to his ankles, lightning felling trees a hundred yards away, and the weed man oblivious to all but the weeds.
Any reader who believes the suburbs to be a cultural and spiritual wasteland will have their prejudices confirmed. And yet, Cusk's great talent as a writer is to complicate these tired notions and make them fresh and engaging. Her Desperate Housewives are not stereotypes, but unique and sympathetic characters. Cusk is masterful at capturing the ordinary moments of family life.
The etching on the stall door said "I want to suck your kneecap!!"
There were exclamation points behind kneecap. The writing was in drunken cursive or 5th-grader cursive or drunken 5th-grader cursive. It was difficult to decipher.
I looked down at my knees, bent and peaking out of my khaki shorts. They were grubby and the skin was peeling in half-moon shapes.
Fulfilling the promise of his early work, Angel's new book is characterized by deep consciousness, the rigors of his syntax anchoring his voice. His new poems exemplify what is true of the rest of his work collected here as he summons Self, human presence, from the collision of worldly details. If we exist in the noise of body, and commerce, and community, Angel's work captures sublimated landscapes of deep feeling and spiritual incident.
I can say honestly that Kate Moss and I have never been friends. Even when young, vulnerable, and with loads of cultural literacy while perusing slinky images splayed in Vogue and Cosmo, I simply couldn't have picked Kate Moss from a line-up. I'm not even sure I'd want to, even today. And yet Unbound & Branded has given me a different Kate Moss. A Kate Moss who can "tear down the wall," "peel back the universe," "spend your whole paycheck on yourself," and even, "tell the boss / to fuck off."
Might some young Einstein not re-fuse this bleak-appointed nucleus,
Retool its quarks, by Bunsen's blue-tongued flame, into Florida?
The teacher's assignment: Stop making sense.
No problem; all along, we've only been half-baking sense.
29 June 2007
Today is ten days, which are one week and three days, of the Omer
Be compassionate for no reason
because you live in the middle of a sentence
at any point suspended…
26 June 2007
If you love the sky as you become vastness, blue is no longer
a color separate from expanse. You have only to remember
to enter this aerial sanctuary.
I should be sorry to transport myself so carelessly.
Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast…
13 August 2007
It is found in everything given,
that the parts of our everything
are more than ever less in form
and only more in number.
In 1972 Stephen Hawking postulated the existence of bone-crushing black holes where nothing could escape, not even a gizzard, or light. Hawking has changed his mind. Now he proposes that information can escape, a radiation of a peculiar sort, one that can transmit bursts of black light like a Britney Spears concert.
Because his penis was there in my hand as a butter knife would have been in my hand if I was about to butter bread. I wasn't about to butter bread or say no but I was happy nonetheless. It was a little weapon, a toy.
What was it like?
It was like he wouldn't listen to me but listening to me the way our father would listen to us with his eyes closed nodding yay ya, yay ya.
The fisherman threatens to climb philodendrons with daisy cutters. Threatens to mount his motorbike barebacked. Ursula emerges from behind stacked bricks. Like hyenas they thrash in ghetto-rage.
24 July 2007
For weeks, the visiting priest raged about the love of Cain and the sins of Adam
while, on break at the drugstore, I read letters to the editors of pornographic magazines.
So many young and horny housewives, so many sodomized waitresses!
High, I climbed Jim Corder's roof and watched his older sister skinny-dip.
17 June 2007
Somehow, my organs are ordered and operating. But I always carry this
briefcase in my right hand.
8 June 2007
A patrolman approaches. I pull a seam of sod underneath
the picnic table and hide the stash I was given. All of the milled
wood is rotten. The boardwalk is dark and spongy.
halo of flame
is another, sudden wall. Outside the barn's
now lit follicle, you are face down
as if you had fallen without instruction.
5 June 2007
Panic-lodger, flush in the rafters. I didn't realize
I had been watched so well. The faces
my mother used to make
down at me…
Watched the dark come on, landing on rooftops, the civility of apartment windows & streetlights emerging with it, accompanying it like some harmony, which could only be imagined, or painted, by a Whistler, say, as far away from Lowell as he could get…
10 July 2007
I wish I could make you come
near, not worrying about fish or what your father
might think about the size of whatever's in anyone's pants. Our skin
peeling back like winter's slow walk across a continent.
In the morning my face wears wrinkles. Pants face. Sleepy pants. Face of demonic possession and lack of caffeine. God then is the sound of the faucet, the coffee dripping.
11 August 2007
I wanted to tell you there are mushrooms
sprouting from my toes
You said you were going to mow the lawn
I wanted to tell you there is a foot of snow
outside of Miami in the summer
I saw the story of a man with a condition
called the Capgras delusion who believed
all his loved ones were carbon-copy imposters.
He wasn't frightened; he didn't think his parents
were reptiles in rubber suits or Iagos…
19 July 2007
In the living room is the built-in weather
from the air conditioner. The walls are
swollen in certain places away from her
reach. In the absence of miracles, the pot
simmers a new husband in the oven.
Wrinkled new red body, startling in the empty air, once blanketed
by mother flesh, now swaddled tight in an imitating blanket.
Unlike the dress her mother wore, with long lace
sleeves and buttoned to the neck, a polite dress,
hers has a scoop neck not too low, filmy
fabric swaying with each step, a not too tight dress…
The minutes were read and we dealt with all at hand: the Club tea, Wright and his "Black Boy," alms to the poor, and the Urban League's request that all Negroes stay away from the State Fair.
15 August 2007
We huddled in the fallout beneath the house
like we'd done each time before.
My brother and me.
The bass droned long enough for him
to unbutton my jeans.
Don't judge me if I love wine
if I like fire
when it's alive.