Saturday, November 27, 2010

Slapstick Eden

What if the first fruit was a banana, and Eve left the peel lying around?

And what if God, walking by, slipped on the peel and fell, and being unable to admit that the fall was anything but deliberate, has been forced to act like a clown ever since?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

And this above all
I've come to be thankful for
The ungrateful world.

Battlefield Song

Who comes to the battlefield to hear the bones singing?
Tomorrow the birds bear these songs to our wives.
Long are the roads that we left at their doorsteps
And faded the horizons, like our goodbyes.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The seed you planted has refused to sprout. All you have to show for two years of labor is a blank piece of earth, a fertile absence, the ground, diligently watered, turning to mud.

Desperate to know where it all went wrong, you bring a trowel, start to delve. You dig and dig, but all you find is pebbles. Was that the cause? Did you plant stones and dream of growing mountains?

You sow matches in the wind, wait for the sun to come up.

You run frantic with grief. You are in such a hurry to get away you forget to wash your hands.

Twenty years later, in a foreign country, you open your wrinkled palms to the rain, and the smell of home blossoms under your nose.

Monday, November 22, 2010


The juggler is in the marketplace, calling for the knives of murderers, knives that have been used to kill.

One by one they approach him, running quickly out of the shadows and retreating before they can be recognized. Grizzled old men whose hands have lost their blood lust, shy children too innocent to know what they offer, abandoned wives reluctant to let go of that last keepsake, however tainted its past. And who's to say one of these shadowy figures is not in fact a shade, the knife like a flower plucked straight out of its wound?

And the knives! Straight and curved, long and slight, a Babel of blades proving murder multilingual, there being as many ways to kill a man as there are races or creeds. Yet look how easily each knife he receives is added to the act, the steel flashing as it is tossed into the air, taking its place among its brethren in a circuit that grows ever higher, ever more elaborate, until it is difficult to believe that all this is the work of two lone hands.

Then you realize it isn't. At some point the juggler must have passed a knife to another, because they are going back and forth through the crowd now, the blades flickering in the air above you like so many metal dolphins leaping out of the sea. And you are amazed at how many accomplices the juggler has, until you notice that you too are a part of it, and you watch entranced as your fingers reach up and pluck a naked blade out of the air, only to throw it back a second later, catch and release, catch and release, and you feel exhilarated because you are no juggler, because you never dreamed you had this in you, and because you are proud to be part of this, whatever this is, the provenance of the knives already forgotten, mere arcs of steel connecting person to person, hand to hand.

What happens when the show is over? Will he be able to catch them all?

Last Rites

The crop in the field is burnt.
The cricket sings under my bed.
I have filled the buckets with water
And wait for the moon to come.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, November 19, 2010


Not who we dance with, but what we dance around.

Not closeness, but distance made aware of itself. The heartbeat in the next room, eyes meeting in the crowd.

Turn it inside out and every emptiness is an ache. Angles of expectation add up to desire.

We must return to the old savageries. You bring the broken dances, my love. I'll bring the fire.


Just returned from watching a performance by the Zenon Dance Company, the highlight of which was the premiere of luciana achugar's glorious Structures of Feeling, but which also included a mesmerizing performance of a 1992 piece by Susana Tambutti called Like An Octopus - a sort of deconstruction of the tango that is also the inspiration for this post.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


There is a man with a bag full of ashes. There is a man with a bag full of crumbs.

There is a third man with a pocketful of seeds.

There is a bird that could be either a dove or a pigeon, but which believes it is a phoenix and opens its wings to the dawn light.

There is a tree going over its branches, reviewing the blueprint of its choices to see where the sky went wrong.

There is a sliver of ice on your doorstep instead of a newspaper. The war has hardened and shows no sign of melting.

There is a siren instead of a song.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Offering

The sun has traveled a long distance
To lay its bones upon this grave.
I too have nothing but my embrace
To offer the indifferent earth.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, November 12, 2010

The difference between Blogger and Facebook

is that Blogger is based on the assumption that if what you do or say is interesting, people will like you; and Facebook is based on the assumption that if people like you they will find what you do or say interesting.


Reading Zadie Smith's piece on Facebook in the NYRB (on which I may have more to say later), I'm struck again by how much more brilliant Smith is as an essayist than as a novelist.

And I say this as someone who quite enjoys her novels.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


To build a house lay one stone on another.
To make a road just lay them side by side.
For some shall live together as lovers
While others must walk away as friends.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The stupid gardener

plants too many seeds.

No one really needs
a thousand flowers

no matter how sincere
their devotion to the sun;

haphazard as explosions
that do no damage

they are acts of pure sentiment
or failed attempts at speech,

predictable products of their season
and species

that a more discerning hand
would swiftly prune.

It takes a special kind
of stubbornness

to let them all bloom,
to bask content

in these riches
of embarrassment,

each awkward bud granted
its broken ground,

its mouth of air.

A special kind of madness to plant
flowers everywhere,

knowing that one or two
are all that will bear

fruit, all that will last;
to know the futility of the task,

and care enough
not to care.

R.I.P. P. Lal