The Adventures of Little Willy
Yet dread flies to sudden rapture when he drops his guard and lets the calling in and follows it where it takes him, to an elaborate, specialized physical world of special preservatives and boosters and enhancers, compounds that only a chemist could understand, all capable of God knows what; a sheer verbal universe with a language unto itself, its own way of spelling the names of its brandz and produx—Huggies, Jell-O, Drano, Nexxus, Gas-X, Durex, Zantac, Ex-Lax, Renuzit, and, at the head of one aisle, a special on Cheez-Its—and its own way of giving special meanings to ordinary words—Pampers, Depend, Resolve, Glad, Glade, Gentle Glide, and Joy—or which frees itself from conventional meanings and creates its own; a whole new culture, or cultures, or a multitude of cultures, with styles ranging from the delicate and floral and herbal to the unabashedly ramped up, with signs and pictures that point in all directions.
I live between those who live in the neighborhoods of poverty and violence by the bay and those who can afford to live peaceably in the hills, near the business district, the center of town. But I have no place here. The city in which we all live belongs to none of us, and the gangs who roam the streets can claim only a spirit of derision that keeps the rest of us inside.
The piece is loosely influenced by Elliot Carter’s Night Fantasies, for piano solo, about which he says:
Night Fantasies is a piano piece of continuously changing moods, suggesting the fleeting thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind during a period of wakefulness at night. The quiet, nocturnal evocation with which it begins and returns occasionally, is suddenly broken by a flight series of short phrases that emerge and disappear. This episode is followed by many others of contrasting characters and lengths that sometimes break in abruptly and, at other times, develop smoothly out of what has gone before. The work culminates in a loud, obsessive, periodic repetition of an emphatic chord that, as it dies away, brings the work to its conclusion. In this score, I wanted to capture the fanciful, changeable quality of our inner life at a time when it is not dominated by strong directive intentions or desires. . . .
Appeared in New Novel Review 4.1 (Fall 1996)
The Russian Student
The Russian student stands before him at ease, but the way a soldier might without letting down his guard, or if not a soldier someone used to similar work. He’s smiling, a slight upward turn, but the instructor sees it is not a smile he wears but a flexible part of his stance, coolly set to shift into a next move.
In the Garden
The news is not news. We have been bombing the shit out of the Iraqis for over a month. The deadline approaches for invasion, 9:00 here, noon in Washington, some other time in the Gulf, soon to pass. Rumors of last minute negotiations. Nothing will come of either. Bush won’t give this war up—he needs it. But he won’t commit troops as long as he can keep up the aerial attacks. And it has been a clean, pretty war for us, the U.S., from what we see on the tube. Vast stretches of desert sands, the floral splendor of night raids over Baghdad—the bombing will continue. We will keep bombing until there isn’t anything left. This way we maintain world order.
Appeared in Numéro Cinq, Vol. VI, No. 3, March 2015
Pillar of Salt
We have all lost touch with the Greeks.
Or the Romans.
Or the Christians or the Jews.
Appeared in The South Carolina Review 32, No. 2 (Spring 2000)
We can create cities, virtual cities.
We can create virtual cities on a hill.
We can create worlds, virtual worlds.
We can walk in them.
We can talk in them.
We can create virtual communities and people them with our virtual selves—
He watches her ascend, seemingly weightless, her bare feet soundless on the carpet, her shift ascending like a spirit.
O Newton! With the range of your intelligence and the sublime nature of your Genius, you have defined the shape of the earth; I have conceived the idea of enveloping you with your discovery. That is as it were to envelop you in your own self.
Boullée says about his cenotaph in a treatise.
Newtonian physics still works and explains most of our lives day to day. But the cenotaph was never built because the monument was, practically, unfeasible. Boullée was a visionary.