Essays

Hamlet

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The players have come to Elsinore and just rehearsed extem­poraneously at Hamlet’s request Aeneas’ recounting of Priam’s slaughter. Here Hamlet is building resolve for his own action, the settling of his father’s murder, and the players have given him an idea. Yet as much he is putting on a show himself, doubting himself and reveling in that doubt, and, quite frankly, hamming it up. Hamlet is one of the best known characters in all of literature: the sublime, noble youth standing up against so much obvious wrong is universally seductive. But he also gives us a mask for our own indulgences, an excuse to cut loose with our own madness.


Appeared in TriQuarterly, Winter/Spring 2016 (Issue 149)

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Under the Rainbow

Later in the game another instrument was created, the synthetic CDO. A synthetic CDO is a bond comprised of CDSs, layered and rated like the others. Let me get the words in: a synthetic Collateral Debt Obligation is a bond which is made of Credit Default Swaps. Synthetic most intrigues me—as if CDO isn’t artificial enough. The term implodes on itself in its oblique attempts at a concept. Try to make some kind of mental picture from those words—I can’t, and I confess here is where I get dizzy.

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Gloriously Pointless

The essay will be personal and pointless, though perhaps not gloriously so. If it serves any purpose, it might be to encourage readers, as many as can, to write about the experiences that move them, and about the people they share them with, and about where they put them in the world, to find ways to preserve all these before they are lost. There may be a larger point in that.

Appeared in Numéro Cinq, Vol. I, No. 2, March 2010

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What It’s Like Where I Live

Appeared in Numéro Cinq, Vol. I, No. 1, February 2010

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Above the Roofs of Paris, A Non-Memoir

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Any country where I am not bored is a country that teaches me nothing.

Albert Camus, “Death in the Soul”

Appeared in Fourth Genre, 17:1, Spring 2015

Available at JSTOR and Project Muse

Bill

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It is only by projecting our hearts and minds into the world, and whatever else we can think to project, then looking at what is returned that we have a sense of what the world might be worth. But it is only by testing the world, and ourselves, and doubting both, that we have any sense what we might be worth.

Heart of Darkness

. . . I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist—obviously—in the sunshine.

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

I kind of picked up the thumbs-up from the kids in Al Hillah. Whenever I get into a photo, I never know what to do with my hands, so I probably have a thumbs-up because it’s just something that automatically happens. Like when you get into a photo you want to smile.

 Sabrina Harman

Appeared in Numéro Cinq,  January 2017

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Autumn Rhythm

arsmaller

I think I might yet discover a way to join the moments and trace a plot, gain a perspective that aligns and explains, that I might reach some understanding, yet discover my place in the world, make a connection of life past with life present and whatever lies ahead—

Or at least, at last, find a way to put that memory behind me.

But fear I will fall into another descent from which there may be no escape.

Every glance, every essay risks a small death that flits above the greater.

In the thirty-five years since I only know I do not know how I fit in a world I do not understand or where I belong in a country I no longer recognize, a country that eternally renews itself unrecognizable ways.

But my brother, before the Pollock, looks composed and engaged, all there.

Maybe from the depths, de profundis, release, a revelation—

Of what?

Appeared in Web Conjunctions, November 17, 2015

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Paris in Black and White / 1973-74

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He still stares at me after forty years, the man holding the rope, with a look that even at this poor resolution can only be violation. And the woman with the lithe body, seemingly naked in her light-colored tights, frozen in the moment of lifting a knee and raising both arms in air, preparing for flight, for ecstasy, or for some other abandon, still has her back to me, as does the man beside her, touching, guiding, helping in some way.

Appeared in Numéro Cinq, November 2015

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Completing the Mies van der Rohe Brick Country House, An Odyssey

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A brick is an obdurate object of ambiguity that hovers between idea and matter, between life and death. Its texture can be smoothed to glide our touch or left rough and abrade. It can be molded into even shapes for consistent construction or made uneven, presenting individual challenges each time one is laid in a course. The hues can be made consistent, offering an even appearance, or they can vary from one brick to another, presenting more individual challenges. But while it can come close to an ideal oblong shape, it never attains perfection, and it can as much be said that it approaches perfection as it resists it. A brick has the right heft for throwing through a window in revolt. It can also be stacked to encase one solidly. Its color takes on that of blood and the earth from which it is made, or both inseparably combined. Whether it preserves blood or shows it spilled, whether it reveals decay or stalls it—these questions cannot be answered. In spite of its ambiguity, however, we are always aware, in mind and in hand, of its touch, of its mass and weight, of its presence.

Appeared in Numéro Cinq, May 2016

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Housing for the Rest of Us, A Non-Manifesto

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It is Minoru Yamasaki’s misfortune that the two buildings he is best known for, the World Trade Center and the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex, are best known for their collapse. The World Trade Center, or its site, has attained the status of a shrine, so reflection upon its design and influence will have to be postponed for another time. Postmodern apologist Charles Jencks hailed the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe as the death—prematurely—of Modernism, and critical smoke from that debate still lingers. In both cases, however, the major factors that led to their destruction came from influences outside the buildings, not within, from design flaws in the larger world. And many of the same forces that shaped Pruitt-Igoe, social and economic, direct the design of homes for most of us today and determine where we live and how well.

Appeared in Numéro Cinq, October 2016

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