Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just Once or Twice is Enough

If I could get back to you
I would
But fear traps me between its glistening teeth
I was brave before I became aware of any real danger
Didn’t know that cars crumble into scrapnel
That fires melt skin into bubbling liquid
That lightening strikes the ground like a knife from heaven
You know If I could I would find a way to push back that
Thin skin and brave the plane and the train and the ride to
The station make love to you like a bullet meets the flesh
Trapped inside your skin the way all beautiful things tend to
Burn a little at first
Anything worth it’s weight in dirt stings a little at first
I felt your stare like shadows feel the night air
I felt your lips, chapped and red against my cheek
Like records scratch the songs I love onto repeat
I knew your name better than my own once I know
I did love you the way all delicate things should be loved
Covered in rags and kept in the basement
Like babies need a strong hand
I did, cradle your soft skull
I did fear I would drop you
And I did get a lump in my throat
At the sound of your voice
Croak my name
Just once or twice is enough
I love you
If that’s okay
If not, throw it away
Really I just need some kind of confirmation
A simple affidavit
I just need your signature on the dotted line
Autograph your name on my spine
I know the way that feelings lie
The way that lovers lie
The way that all things beautiful eventually die.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Fiction

A short story of mine is being featured at:
Lots of fresh talent. Take a peek!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stopping Place

I was listening to all the words you said
Twisting them around my brain
The way you drink through a shiny twisted straw
I was gargling them around my brain like mouthwash
Sometimes they make sense
And other times I know
I am not the girl in the storefront
Gold and covered in expensive materials
In the best light, on the best day
I walk a little faster than lightening strikes
My lips are less like sandpaper and more like
A musical instrument
A secret whisper I felt against my cheek
I needed to escape into some sort of embrace
Something to muffle out that negative
Thoughts of being parentless of walking this world
Like a lonely ghost
Lorraine Warren came to my school on Friday
To talk about close encounters with the supernatural
I wasn’t able to make it
Too many people that I used to love have dug their heads into the dirt
To sleep forever
Too many things frighten me
So that I become a tiny whisper against cotton sheets
My eyes become an after-thought
My life seems a mystery
A mathematical equation with
No square root
No stopping place
A pencil mark that fades onto white parchment
Somewhere in Mr. and Mrs. Lange’s backyard
When their children were just barely six and ten
A rabbit flew by the window in the den
Into some bushes or out in to the endless field
Perhaps it made it to the highway and got hit by a Ford pickup
Or maybe it’s waiting for me still
Around the bend

Monday, November 15, 2010

Books I've read this year:

I guess all that reading and writing of essays would explain my lack of creative writing. Lately I have not had a day off since I spend my days off from work at school. Next semester will be no different but I am determined to graduate college before I am 30. A lofty task---as I am only taking 2 classes per semester and one over the summer. The good news is that i am now an expert on the pre-Antebellum South and the works of Herman I am a bit of a Shakespeare enthusiast which i never imagined I would be. I guess I am overall very thankful for the oppourtunity to be back in college. Not everyone gets a second chance to do school.

Much love <3

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Everytime I look at ypu

Smoke gets in your eyes
Your lungs contract
Life smacks you in the face
I was wishing for Fantasy Island
Minus the theme-music
I wanted laughter and parties
And white gloves
I was living in a different time-zone
When you shrugged
Death stare
I was a peanut in your throat
I was better-late-than-never
But I was never yours completely
You were naïve and young
Your skin taut over lean thighs
You were focusing on school
And becoming a better person
I was focusing on flipping a clear pipe over and over
Trying not to burn my hands
Mixing powders and applying medicine
Over the cracks in the surface of my skin
I was working on numbing out the bad parts
So life wouldn’t feel so damn horror show scary
I was more alive in your arms than I have ever been
If that is enough for you
Then take it as a panacea
For all the wasted years
Your skin stretches over the places
You make it go
The work you force it into
You know I have never been cruel
Just sometimes less attentive than you would’ve liked
You never owned your own life
Drove a car into the sunset
Just because you could
You were always a slave to something
And this I know is true
My failures brush against me
Every time I look at you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gold Rock Diner--- a little slice of fiction

It’ll always happen when you least expect it. You could be drinking a slurpee from seven-eleven on your porch or ironing a silk blouse for your second cousin twice removed’s anniversary party or it could happen after you were feeding four stray cats in an alleyway that you had named, Gumby, Lotus, Bolt and Chewy or you could be reloading a Smith and Wessen revolving pistol you found wrapped in a pink napkin in the Marilyn Monroe booth of the Gold Rock diner. If it was the last one then you were me.

I had never touched a gun until this second. I had never felt the cold metal in my palm, I had never pulled the pin back, I had never reloaded a semi-automatic weapon in my life until now.

My name is Olivia Bakersfield-Stein. I live in a one bedroom apartment in Bloomington, Indiana. I have a pet hamster and a Singer 347. It is blue and white and the package says it is a stylist sewing machine. I am no stylist but I know how to sew an apron. I sew aprons for the craft fair. People have asked if I make a living at this. I have one answer, No. It is one of the many hats I wear.

At night I am a waitress at the Gold Rock Diner. The walls are yellow with giant screen printed black and gold necklaces. There is a machine in the corner with a claw. For one dollar you can navigate the claw in an attempt to make it pick up a prize. The prizes are cheap heart earrings and a Barry Manilow 2 song E.P. Chances are you won’t win. The only person who’s ever won since I’ve worked here was Connie Bradshaw, a seventy-three year old state bingo champ and I’d say she was just lucky. If you told Connie Bradshaw that the woman serving her corn beef hash and fried potatoes would be polishing a gun on her kitchen floor that evening, she’d have told you, you were crazy.

It always happens when you aren’t waiting for it to happen. A watched pot never boils, a stitch in time, saves nine. Scratch the second one. It never happens when you are desperate for excitement. It only happens when you have given up on excitement, when the only thing remotely close to excitement in your life is finishing the last stitch on a gingham apron with a penguin appliqué. Trust me, I know from experience.

As I am polishing the weapon, there comes a knock at my door, first one, then another, then there are five million explosive pounding knocks and I hide the gun in back of the refrigerator (the last place I think anyone would look) before I answer.

He is sweating and his lips are vampire red. His hair is slicked back like a young Marlon Brando and he is wearing the kind of designer clothing I’ve only seen on television. He says, “I’m missing something very important to me and I suspect that you are the one who took it.” I know he’s talking about the gun so I get nervous and lie. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I say. I am still wearing the white dress with buttons, the uniform from the Gold Rock Diner, I cleverly cover my name badge with my palm but the guy thinks I am groping myself and winks at me. “You like to party?” he asks. I laugh. “Do I look like I party?” he laughs now. It is a saccharine laugh from inside his gut. “Did you hear me the first time or do I have to repeat myself?’ he asks. “I don’t party.” I yell. “I want to know if you have something of mine because if that’s the case, I’m going to need it back and I have no time for your girlish seduction.” He said.

”Come in.” I say, “Look around..”

I decided immediately that I would never repeat the details of this event to anyone, not even Harold. Especially not Harold. Since Mom passed, the last thing he needs is to worry about me, Olivia, his half-Jewish, half-sister in Bloomington, Indiana. Plus, I remembered my promise to him, when I moved here, to the apartment facing the alleyway, that I would never open the door to a stranger, especially a man. Especially not a man who suspects I am holding onto a gun I found in the Marilyn Monroe booth of the Gold Rock Diner.

The man with the slicked back hair swept the room with a glance. The glance was far reaching as if he had X-ray vision and his eyes paused a hair too long when they met the refrigerator. I swallowed hard, bit down on my lip and tried with all my might to re-direct his attention.

“How about I make you a cup of my world-famous coffee?” I said

He didn’t answer, just knelt down, peeled back the lace sheet and the hand-stitched rose comforter and looked under my bed, using his right hand to feel around. He came back up, looked me square in the eyes and then down at my chest, where I managed to pull off the plastic name tag that said Olivia. I could feel the pin digging into the palm of my hand which had begun to feel clammy. He continued to stare. I stared back, thinking that if I broke his glance he might think I was dishonest.

“Alright then” he finally said, cutting into the silence with his gravely cigarette stained voice. “I believe you but I must let you know that something very important to me was left somewhere very important to you and if you find that thing which I value so much you must return it to me without haste.”

I nodded, not knowing what else to do. He smiled a slippery smile and I could see that one of his molars was gold and that he had about three black fillings. I liked a man who made oral hygiene a priority and I admired his dedication in hunting down his weapon but I was not about to put an AK 47 in the hands of a stranger. I was not about to give up my second amendment, the right to bear firearms just so some lunatic could have his gun back.

He slipped a business card into my sweaty hand (the one I wasn’t jabbing with the name-pin) and closed the door crisply behind him without a word. I peered out the window and watched a black Cadillac peel out of the alleyway as the cat’s ears perked up in interest.
I locked the door in a hurry and looked down at the black card with gold lettering that read:

He didn’t look like an Alvin to me, nor did he appear to be someone in the “Upholstery business” but I couldn’t imagine that someone would go to the trouble of creating business cards for a phony business so I took it at face value. Still, I had no intention of returning the gun.

Monday, October 18, 2010

one in a sequence of poems for my Daddy

Hands rough from carrying carburetors’ upstairs and down
A flannel shirt , ripped at the sides
Your face is the most perfect face in the world
Because it is mine
Looking back at me
An expression only we know
Your body mends itself
In dramatic ways
Once, in the garage you dropped an engine
On your chest
Tucked underneath
You broke some ribs
And you had black-purple bruises
Up and down your rib cage
You were my hero
Once I scared the living shit out of you
(That’s a lie)
I lived to scare the living shit out of you
You weren’t scared of anyone, you said once
You were good enough at Tai Chi to create
The force in your hands
You could feel it
It was like static you said
But you were scared of me
Your nineteen-year old daughter
Hugging turns—watching the car ricochet
Around tight bends like a bullet, like a nervous butterfly
You couldn’t speak to my eyes
I couldn’t see then—that your face was mine
I could barricade my heart like there was a world war
And you were the enemy
But you were never an enemy to me
You’d look into my steel face
Your eyes glossy, trying to be stone instead of water
You told me I was going to kill myself
And you blamed yourself
Because I lived in a world of steel train
And cocaine…I lived in the back room of a strip club’
Sometimes I bled from unknown cuts
Sometimes you said it was better then
To forget I ever existed
Your voice hoarse from Fordham to Pelham Parkway
From the days you lived downstairs from David Peel
And worked in a garage owned by the Italian mob
And petted the kind of dogs that rip a man’s flesh from head to toenail
You fed them steak and smiled
People could always see the kindness behind your eyes
Even though you were rough and tattered on the outside
You never walked out on me
Even when my mother bit the color out from under your cheeks
And you were pallid white and a little
Too tired to try and figure out the algebraic equation
Of a broken family
You put me together
Let me blow my nose on the sleeve of your corduroy shirt
I knew then that you loved me like no one else ever would
My father---the best part of me
When you called the other day you said
You were proud—that I made it out
Of the hole I had been living in
Learned to be an actual human
You said I was okay now…
You didn’t have to worry anymore
You weren’t scared of me
And I felt suddenly brave
But still terrified to be without you
The love that sits in the back of my solarplexis
When nothing else is there
The thing that wakes me up
Tells me to say my prayers
And never touch another drop
Of drizzling Heineken
And I won’t

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New poem

Slumped over in cars
You are still on the circuit
And you continue to lie
Like a napkin in his lap
Halfway on fire but sometimes
Barely moving
I wanted to feel electric
I wanted to claw my way up his leg
Feral but maybe could be tamed
A man who can’t stop running
Looks happy go-lucky
But really he’s dumbstruck and tortured
By his own legs
Caught in a spoke
And still on fire
Let’s get to the crux of the matter’
You taste like burnt cigarettes
And you writhe in your own spoiled clothes
Your sweat is pounding through the sheets
You get wet and make a mess of his backseat
I was looking through the barrel of a gun
But could never find the trigger
Except between my legs
And everyone else was having more fun than me
I make faces, shake the dirt off your jeans
I am crooked and a little bit jealous
Of the conquests you seem to collect
My fangs have dulled with age
But I can still take a bite out of your heart
Like an apple, the juices drip down my cheek
I was staring at you in the backseat
Aggravated at the speed of my lips
How slow it seems before they find the words
You were black beauty, snow white
And I was green with envy
Wanted to put a stop to the pop
Of your knee caps against the cement
Wanted a little more pain inside my own brittle bones

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dessa Rose by any other name...

Am currently reading Dessa Rose and am becoming more and more interested in understanding our sordid American past. I do not seek to understand the slave trade to unearth the reason behind such inhumane brutality or to find a rationale in the way it made the Southern economy of the 19th century thrive. I am reading it, because I want to fully understand the things that weren't spoken about in any of the history classes I was forced to attend. What I am becoming aware of are atrocities so brutal that it is difficult to comprehend that humans were capable of torturing one another in such unfathomably evil ways. Knowing that America, a country that has gained recognition for its supposed freedom, has allowed such awful things to happen on its soil makes me profoundly sad. I hope to be able to smash racism but I know I cannot do it alone. Perhaps while I am at it...someone who will join in and help me smash patriarchy as well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Metal Mags

I saw MetalMags at BAR in New Haven over two years ago but sometimes I still get this song stuck in my head. I think she is one of the gems of the East Coast who should get more credit for her creativity and non-conformity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

For what it's worth...

I've been drinking seltzer with lime slices in it and find it to be quite refreshing. In other news I am back in school for another (hopefully productive) semester as one of the oldest under-grads I know. I am taking Chemistry and African-American Literature and have started reading "Incidents of a Slave Girl" by Harret Jacobs which has floored me. I suppose every caucasian person has experienced some form of "white-guilt" at one time or another. I must confess that although I was always aware of the atrocities of slavery, I had never read such a personal and heart-wrenching memoir detailing the horrific everyday life of a woman born into slavery. It got me thinking about the theory of the "invisable backpack" which is basically a metaphor for the unspoken priviliges that white people experience simply as result of their skin tone. I also began thinking a lot about a study I read about prejudice and how deeply it is engrained in the human psyche :,8599,1870408,00.html
It scared me that people who consider themselves not to be racist behave in a manner that is anything but when tested. I think we all hope to be open-minded but it is important not just to be a humanitarian "in theory" but also in pratice.

Peace love and rock n roll
Zoe A.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I don’t believe in 25
The magic happens at 16 and possibly 17
a quick flash from a disposable camera and then it’s over
left-over Chinese food and spilt milk
this is what I will leave you with
when I leave your house
the crumbs on your fire-escape
a trail to nowhere in particular

If someone had warned me that I would wake up
And suddenly feel old before my time
In a car in the middle of the highway
Bumps and clanks me around
And I am so far from the womb I came from
So far from the shrill cries of teenage angst
And whatever it is you people do nowadays

Once I wondered if I’d grow up to be a brighter bulb
And platinum bombshell queen of the underground
I grew up scared
I was a tiny scratch on your record
A whisper in the trees
A voice so hoarse and soft
Only your flesh knows the words
Your mouth cannot fathom

I told her that she’d begin to grow up
Just like me
If she made all the right mistakes
The ones with boys in cars
And the ones where she picks up the wrong thing
Smokes something
I knew there’d come a time
Where she’d wake up with a buzz
In her ears
It would seem
But the flicker is gone
And the static remains
Adjusting the bunny-ears on an old television
Nothing makes sense
Everything would fall like white snow
On a black screen
One day she’d wake up—thirty
With bills to pay and an unclean kitchen
One day she’d learn to pray
Hard and fast
Wake up in a pant—
“God grant me the serenity…”
One day she’d wake up in a haze of
Soup cans and one word answers
But nothing can be explained
Or solved or fathomed with one word

I was always my mother’s daughter
Her skin- alabaster white
I’d always aim to please
Bend and twist to suit her needs
I’d lay flat on the floor if she needed to walk over me
Once I wrote the melodies
You play on repeat in your heart
An over-used music box that knows the song
Slightly off key and a little bit delayed
My mother is magic and too big to fit inside a poem
Or a hallmark card
She is black boots and eyeliner
She is brash and spectacular
She knows all the answers
And she is nothing like me
Scared and shy, pretending to be

-Z.A. 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New poems at 3am magazine

Two poems of mine are up at 3AM MAGAZINE---


Saturday, July 17, 2010

I lost my best-friend--the most beloved dog in the world

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

Sasha "Goonie" Lee- 2001-2010

Goonie was my beloved doggy daughter. Her hobbies included sleeping, chasing lizards, eating hotdogs, barking loudly being cute and cuddling with her family. She leaves behind Papa Lee, Mama Lee, Zoe Lee and Tatie Lee. She was the light of our lives-- the best dog ever. She will be greatly missed. We love you Goonie and we'll see you in heaven.

Smoking cigarettes has short-term health benefits - Sci-Tech

Smoking cigarettes has short-term health benefits - Sci-Tech

This article interested me and gave me hope that I can both quit smoking one day while still enjoying the current short-term benefits.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Reveling in your tragedy
I found myself a crisis that fit
Seven year itch
I am finally breathing okay
I swear—smoke another cigarette baby
I know they’ll find a cure
For cancer or whatever else ails you, my dear
We duck down low
Fearing the apocalypse
Cuddled up in sheets
I wake up breathing fire and screaming
I wake up to the shrill sound of the alarm
I wake up with a time bomb in my chest
And I’m not sure how or when it will explode

We woke up so mad the other day
Your eyes were still wet from the night before
You were crying in your sleep
And I feel nothing but
The time bomb
In my chest
Tick tock ticking away
The days when you were mine
I kept you like a shell, right next to my ear—
Your breath , the ocean

You were so wild once—
Thought you’d met the calmer version of me
The one with the fangs
I keep locked up
Sweet talk the blues into my
Sweet talk the death kiss out of me

I was trying to get in touch with my old-self
The one I liked
The one who wrote poems and dyed her hair black
I wanted to write her a letter
I wanted to tell her to “get back—get back”—beatles style
I wanted to beat her up and tell her she’d end up with grey hair and gingivitis
But I began to feel sorry for her—
All the unrequited love—she feels
So sober and way less lovedrunk than expected
All the cobwebs that appear in place of her eyes
All the sorrow and the rainclouds in her heart
The princess telephone that no one answers
The way her hands feel for something in the dark
The way she will clutch at things that disappear
The way she will suck on poisonous fruit
The way her eyes will grow too tired
The heaving heaviness of her

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Loving me some Melville

Below is a paper I wrote during my Melville seminar that I thought might be worth posting. If you've read Bartleby...I'd be curious to know what you think...

Finding Bartleby, the Scrivener among the Absurd: Reading with the Heart Rather than the Mind.
In the short story, Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville, readers encounter a character whose actions cannot be quantified in any logical manner. Bartleby is at first a very conscientious worker who rarely takes a break even to eat. When the lawyer asks for Bartleby’s assistance in a very routine examination of a short document, Bartleby replies in what is to become a repeated maxim throughout the work, “I’d prefer not to” (Melville 11) Bartleby, who appears never to leave the law office nor to eat, eventually gives up writing entirely in order to stare vainly at the wall. Although the lawyer becomes perturbed at Bartleby’s lack of action, the lawyer is unable to reprimand him or demand that he leave the premises. Realizing that Bartleby is not in want of money as he has a large stash in his desk and seems to require neither nourishment nor companionship to survive (at least until his untimely death in prison), the lawyer realizes that he cannot bribe Bartleby to work or to leave. In addition, the lawyer appears to be dumbstruck by Bartleby’s ability to “do nothing” which seems a paradox in terms. As we observe Bartleby’s idiosyncratic actions as described by the lawyer, we, like the lawyer are unable to posit any reason for his strange behavior. Since this story fits seamlessly into the Absurdist Literature genre, it is necessary to present a working definition for the term to further explore how Melville employs the use of absurdism and how that affects the reader.
[Absurdism] is applied to a number of works in drama and prose fiction which have in common the view that the human condition is essentially absurd, and that this condition can be adequately represented only in works of literature that are themselves absurd. (Abrams and Harpham 4)
Using this definition as a starting point, we can explore the effect that an absurd character has on the storyline as well as the way a reader reacts to them. Furthermore, we, as readers can learn to accept the “unknown” and “unexplainable” rather than hopelessly trying to understand the characters. By doing so we may be able to unearth philosophical gems and glean a better understanding of the nuances of absurdist literature instead of vainly attempting to make sense of the “incompressible.”
When the lawyer initially introduces, Bartleby to the reader in what appears to be a preamble to the actual narrative that follows, he lets the reader know almost immediately that, “Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from original sources, and in this case those are very small.” (Melville 4) If we heed the underlying warning from our narrator (a warning he, himself disobeys), we can read this story without the nagging desire to explain Bartleby’s unusual behavior. Unfortunately, we as readers cannot process any information that is not provided by our narrator and as a result are forced to see events through his eyes. His opinion, whether reliable or unreliable, indelibly shapes the way we view characters and their actions. From the very first time that Bartleby is asked to attend to the simple task of examining a document for the lawyer, he declines, citing, “I’d prefer not to” (Melville 11) as the only reason. The reader is at once taken with the idea that an employee would speak so brazenly to an employer, especially when they have just recently been hired. Human beings innately desire an explanation for anything out of the ordinary, so a reader’s automatic response is predominately a logical one, speckled intermittently with emotion. Taking our cues from the narrator, we respond much the way he does, “Prefer not to,’ echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride, ‘What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here- take it,’ and I thrust it towards him.” (Melville 11) The lawyer’s incredulous response to what appears to be defiant behavior on the part of Bartleby is not dissimilar to the reaction of the reader. We want a reason. We want to know exactly why Bartleby is refusing to do such a simple task. We, like the lawyer become increasingly agitated by the Bartleby’s repetition of the phrase, “I’d prefer not to.” (Melville 11) We at once make the decision to side with the lawyer since Bartleby gives us no adequate reason to dismiss the assignment. The lawyer goes on to describe Bartley’s countenance and ponder his own dilemma,
Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises…… This is very strange, thought I. What had one best do? (Melville 11)
Since we are unable to determine that Bartleby’s refusal is a form of impudence, we cannot become enraged at his failure to comply. This causes us to feel a crippling sense of confusion as we try to make sense of the absurd situation. Like the lawyer, what we so desperately seek as readers and as humans is to find some way to compartmentalize Bartleby that allows us to understand him. We want to take pity on him but we cannot because we do not understand his plight. We want to like him. We want to view his refusal to do work as a protest against an unjust capitalist society but we cannot since so evidence has been offered that this is the reason he has refused to work. We would even like to hate him: to view his failure to comply with his boss as the mark of an angry and selfish person who refuses to be a “team-player” and provide his needed services but again we cannot since no evidence points to that being the case. Like the boss, we find ourselves dumbstruck, in a futile attempt to understand this absurd character.
Although at first Bartleby appears to tirelessly work engage in work, he appears not to engage in any of the normal activities required to sustain life. “I observed that he never went to dinner; indeed that he never went anywhere.” (Melville 13). As we watch the lawyer attempt to make sense of Bartleby’s strangeness, we take the cue to do the same,
He lives then, on ginger-nuts, thought I; never eats dinner, properly speaking; he must be a vegetarian then, but no; he never eats even vegetables, he eats nothing but ginger-nuts. My mind then ran on the reveries concerning the probably effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on ginger-nuts……. Was Bartleby hot and spicy? Not at all. Ginger, then, had no effect upon Bartleby. Probably he preferred it should have none. (Melville 13)
Although it ends with a humorous pun on Bartleby’s “catch phrase”, the purpose of such a passage is to help the reader to make the mental leap from trying to understand Bartleby to accepting his unfathomable absurdity. Although it is easy to misread such a passage and like the lawyer, continue in the futile attempt to dissect the motives behind Bartleby’s odd actions, it is important to instead listen to the subtle clues that Melville is giving us that, yes Bartleby is an absurd character and that his actions, although thought provoking and maddening, cannot be explained.
If there is no explanation available to interpret Bartleby’s “motdus oprandi”, then what is the point of reading Bartleby, the Scrivener? The goal of reading any medium which employs the principles necessary to be deemed “absurdist fiction”, is one much more closely linked to idea of process rather than seeking a finite result. Rather, than reading Bartleby, the Scrivner in an attempt to extract meaning, one can only seek to evaluate the feelings they experience as a reader such as anger and confusion and push past them into the unknown. One can only posit that the meaning of such texts is inextricably linked with the theory of absurdism. Understanding that the characters, much like real human beings cannot be so easily boxed into categories is a key element to experiencing rather than understanding the story. Reading Bartleby, the Scrivener as an absurdist piece of fiction allows the reader to explore their own feelings, attitudes, and theories about human nature and offers the reader a rare opportunity to learn more about themselves.
Some reactions that readers are likely to experience when reading, Bartleby, the Scrivener are annoyance, anger, and exasperation toward both Bartleby and the lawyer. We are angry with Bartleby, because he is an absurdist character and thus is incomprehensible. Although Bartleby’s role in the story is a foil character whose purpose is to contrast the lawyer and thus highlight the lawyer’s attitudes and opinions, we fail to glean any pertinent information with which to evaluate Bartleby’s character so his motives remain a mystery throughout the work. What irritates the reader aside from the vagueness of Bartleby’s character is the disappointing lack of action that the lawyer takes in response to Bartleby’s uncooperative behavior. What the reader wants is to see Bartleby confronted for his failure to complete the tasks that are asked of him. What we receive from the lawyer instead is a futile attempt to justify Bartleby’s behavior coupled with the same frustration we feel as readers. After the lawyer moves his office to a new location rather than confront Bartleby and Bartleby is then sent to prison for loitering in the same location where the occupancy has been filled by a new law office, the lawyer continues to try and explain Bartleby’s odd behavior. After Bartleby’s subsequent death from starvation in prison, the lawyer still grasps for means to understand his strange employee and shares them with the equally baffled reader:
But ere parting with the reader, let me say, that if this little narrative has sufficiently interested him, to awaken curiosity as to who Bartleby was, and what manner of life he led prior to the present narrator’s making his acquaintance, I can only reply, that in such curiosity I fully share, but am wholly unable to gratify it…..But inasmuch as this vague report has not been without a strange suggestive interest to me, however sad, it may prove the same with some others; and so I will briefly mention it. The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington, from which he had been suddenly removed by a change of administration. (Melville 34)
At this point, we assume as the lawyer does that Bartleby was removed from his former position and that is how he came to seek employment with the lawyer. The lawyer feels guilty because in moving his office to a new location, a similar change in administration occurred which led Bartleby to be thrown in jail. Upon hearing the rumor of Bartleby’s past, the lawyer remarked, “I cannot adequately express the emotions which seize me.” (Melville 34) Throughout the work the lawyer’s emotions tend to mirror our own as readers. Perhaps this was Melville’s intention when writing the story. Without them, we would have no way of adequately interpreting even our own emotions toward Bartleby.
Readers of Bartleby must make an effort to ward off the rational part of them that seeks explanations and resolutions and instead embrace a less cerebral approach to reading. Of course it is necessary to acknowledge one’s frustration as they read Bartleby. Reading absurdist fiction in this manner is taking a leap of faith and is not a simple task. Asking someone to read in this manner is comparable to trying to convince an atheist that there is a God. Human-beings are fond of logic and do not enjoy the unexplainable cognitive-dissonance that reading absurdist fiction entails. Readers of absurdist fiction, like those who believe in religion must learn to tune-out the part of their brain that seeks logical explanations and must instead begin to read using only their emotions. After reading this story, one will not have gained a better understanding of Bartleby as a character nor will they feel that the lawyer has come to understand his former employee’s psyche with any clarity. Instead, a reader will have experienced the appropriate emotions: anger, confusion, anguish and perhaps even had a laugh or two at the absurdity of the situation. Ultimately the reader will come away with a better understanding of the way they think and view the world. Perhaps a reader will see that they believe in the capitalist ideals that suggest that one should receive monetary remuneration only if they work for it. Perhaps a reader will question in a philosophical manner why they have been brainwashed by a capitalist theory of work ethic. It is also plausible that the reader will feel a burning envy, wishing like Bartleby, they too could “do nothing” and get paid for it. A reader may also ponder the prospect that “doing nothing” is even a philosophical possibility. There are a myriad of ways that a reader can glean meaningful insights about human nature by reading Bartleby, the Scrivener the way all absudist fiction is intended to be read; without attempting to theorize or understand the work on a cognitive level. Instead, readers must seek only to experience the situations on an emotional level. Any attempt to make sense of the story will be futile and detrimental to the reader’s experience.

Works Cited
Abrams, M.H. and Geoffery Galt Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 9th. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009.
Melville, Herman. "Bartleby, The Scrivener." McCall, Dan. Melville's Short Novels. Ed. Dan McCall. 1st. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2002. 3-34.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

But you Can

You can’t fall in love
And I don’t know any other way
Except falling
It is most comfortable
For me to land on my back
To roll over and crawl
Back to bed

It is easier for me to just go back to sleep
To forget your persuasive stare
to crawl into a perfect sleep
and nestle for days

to live in the wreckage of past loves
to mourn my old self
it is much easier, you’ll see
than what I have chosen

to take you on
wrap my head
around a new tone of voice
wrap my legs around a new torso
learn to breath a new shallow
become a fixture in your bedroom
the walls of your mind
it is much easier for me to
lie flat on my back
in my own room
to dream up a perfect made-up love affair
that will never burn me
or take me prisoner

but I have placed you under my tongue
like a razorblade
So even if I can’t feel you anymore
I know you’re still there
a tiny paper cut I am apt to dip in vinegar
A tiny bruise
I will not stop touching
because I have let you touch me

If you cannot fall in love
I should just fall out of bed
fall off my horse mid-gallop
fall into someone else’s lap
like a clumsy napkin

Be someone else’s main course
and stop being your side dish

But there is a place for you
still there is a place for you
between my tongue and cheek
an after thought
an awkward fumble in a parked car
a perfectly rounded sigh
a half full-cup I haven’t tipped over yet

and you are soft-skin and a perfect open mouthed kiss
you are driving away
before I’m half-way out of the car
you are waving from down the street
you are moving forward
you are not even looking back.

Monday, May 31, 2010

For better or for liverwurst

Summer is a cock-tease
She wants me on all fours
Bound in leather
But she won’t deliver
Won’t deliver
I sit down because I can’t get up
Moving your bones
Is like plate tectonics
Some won’t shift without breaking
I think about you more than
What is healthy and normal
For one human to think of another
You are an extension of my limbs
If I move too fast you might break off entirely
Become the Asia to my North America
Too far
Or worse
Impossible to get to

In the other room I thought I heard you say
But nothing’s okay
We aren’t meant to be autonomous
Your skin should have been stapled to mine at birth
I think you are too fucking far away and no car can take me there
And none of the lights guide us home
You don’t burn out like an electric lamp
Instead you start an exquisite fire in the
Coldest depths of my cerebral cortex
That is all I know
The doors shut at five and they don’t open back up until 9 am
In the fake light of our perfect life
I have learned to make exceptions
I’ve got back taxes
And you wear a frown the color of the deepest bruise
A hurt that stains the counters and spills onto my shoes
You are toxic and I am rubbing the poison off with
An immaculate white glove

Monday, May 24, 2010

help-I'm alive- my heart keeps beating like a hammer

Almost three years sober
And I am still learning
How to keep my head above water
To feel the spark I felt after my first sip
Of Jack Daniels, the rush I know,
If I drank enough I would spin
Like the skirt of a Flamenco dancer
But I could keep from falling down
If I knew just the right amount,
Just the right recipe for success
The spark in his eye, seeing me
When I felt like no one
Made me feel like something

Self-esteem and loveless dancing
Tragedy and the art of deception
Are all man-made words,
I pull the threads out and unravel
The sweater of my life
All the pink threads that were supposed to lead
Me somewhere
I am fragile and these red lines on maps
Give me panic attacks
If I could go wherever I wanted
I’d never come back
But uncertainty makes me nauseous
And still I don’t want to know what
Is true
I believe in your skin like tissue
All the femurs and fissures beneath
All seem make-believe
But I wanted to see them
To know if you were real

You are electric but still falling apart
The stuffing falling from your ears
I try to push it back in.
I am lost and confused
All the ledges seem daunting
Every night comes without warning
My skin is tracing paper
My eyes are wet
You don’t know how to read the maps
In my skin
The quiet sighs I make when I am sleeping
You don’t know how to solve
The algebra in my face
The lipstick marks on the cups
Can stay
I am pacing in slow motion around our apartment
It took only a few hours to watch everything
If I were prettier
If I had more degrees
If I could look you in the eye
Like a viper, ready
To attack at any moment
How would you react?
I have no tact but you consume
Me and suspend me into belief.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I never really had to get this song to feel alot of things when I hear it

Ice baby,
I saw your girlfriend and she was
eating her fingers like they're just another meal
but she waits there
in the levee wash she's
mixin' cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar

My eyes stick to all the shiny robes
you wear on the protein delta strip
in abandoned house but i will wait there
i'll be waiting forever...
i'm waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting...

Minerals, ice deposit daily, drop off
the first shiny robe
i've got a lot of things i want to sell, but
not here, babe-- you took them all

every time i sit around i find i'm shot
every time i sit around i find i'm shot
every time i turn around i find
every time i sit around i find
every time
you're my... summer babe
summer babe

broken record

Just regurgitating information
Just the hum of my heart like a slow fan coming to a crashing halt
I feel boring an overtired
and slightly catatonic; want to blame it on the jet lag,
the song in my heart is a broken, skipping record
the song in my heart isn't a song of thirty
and I am desperate for a solution
to time's hand on my chest like a steal grate
Why don't you find me irresistible?
What are you resisting.