They should have slept, would have
but had to fight the darkness, had
to build a fire and bathe a man in
other soap’s as good when
the dirt is the skin. Black since
birth, burnt by birth. His father
is not in heaven. No parent
In further tribute to the great Denis Johnson, who died late May, an excerpt from Jesus’ Son:
I’d been working in the emergency room for about three weeks, I guess. This was in 1973, before the summer ended. With nothing to do on the overnight shift but batch the insurance reports from the daytime shifts, I just started wandering around, over to the coronary-care unit, down to the cafeteria, et cetera, looking for Georgie, the orderly, a pretty good friend of mine. He often stole pills from the cabinets.
He was running over the tiled floor of the operating room with a mop. “Are you still doing that?” I said.
“Jesus, there’s a lot of blood here,” he complained.
“Where?” The floor looked clean enough to me.
“What the hell were they doing in here?” he asked me.
“They were performing surgery, Georgie,” I told him.
“There’s so much goop inside of us, man,” he said, “and it all wants to get out.” He leaned his mop against a cabinet.
“What are you crying for?” I didn’t understand. [Read more…]
Consider the parts of speech. In Latin, the verb has up to 120 inflections. In English it never has more than five (e.g., see, sees, saw, seeing, seen) and often it gets by with just three (hit, hits, hitting). Instead of using loads of different verb forms, we use just a few forms but employ them in loads of ways. We need just five inflections to deal with the act of propelling a car — drive, drives, drove, driving, and driven — yet with these we can express quite complex and subtle variations of tense: “I drive to work every day,” “I have been driving since I was sixteen,” “I will have driven 20,000 miles by the end of this year.” This system, for all its ease of use, makes labeling difficult. According to any textbook, the present tense of the verb drive is drive. Every junior high school pupil knows that. Yet if we say, “I used to drive to work but now I don’t,” we are clearly using the present tense drive in a past tense sense. Equally if we say, “I will drive you to work tomorrow,” we are using it in a future sense. And if we say, “I would drive if could afford to,” we are using it in a conditional sense. In fact, almost the only form of sentence in which we cannot use the present tense form of drive is, yes, the present tense. When we need to indicate an action going on right now, we must use the participial form driving. We don’t say, “I drive the car now,” but rather ‘I’m driving the car now.” Not to put too fine a point on it, the labels are largely meaningless. [Read more…]
1949 | 2017
Excerpted from Jesus’ Son
Car Crashing While Hitchhiking
A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping . . . A Cherokee filled with bourbon . . . A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student . . .
And a family from Marshalltown who headonned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri . . .
. . . I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named–the salesman and the Indian and the student–all of whom had given me drugs. At the head of the entrance ramp I waited without hope of a ride. What was the point, even, of rolling up my sleeping bag when I was too wet to be let into anybody’s car? I draped it around me like a cape. The downpour raked the asphalt and gurgled in the ruts. My thoughts zoomed pitifully. The travelling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.
I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way. [Read more…]
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Again last night as we slept,
were falling from the sky.
So many of them–
eyes wide as darkness,
glowing lifeless palms. [Read more…]
by Donika Kelly
When he opens her chest, separates the flat skin
of one breast from the other, breaks the hinge of her ribs,
and begins, slowly, to evacuate her organs, she is silent.
He hollows her like a gourd, places her heart
below her lungs, scrapes the ribs clean of fat
and gristle with his thick fingers. He says, Now you are ready, [Read more…]
From Tree of Smoke
Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed. Seaman Houston and the other two recruits slept while the first reports traveled around the world. There was one small nightspot on the island, a dilapidated club with big revolving fans in the ceiling and one bar and one pinball game; the two marines who ran the club had come by to wake them up and tell them what had happened to the President. The two marines sat with the three sailors on the bunks in the Quonset hut for transient enlisted men, watching the air conditioner drip water into a coffee can and drinking beer. The Armed Forces Network from Subic Bay stayed on through the night, broadcasting bulletins about the unfathomable murder. [Read more…]
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: Have you ever met Warhol?
DAVID BOWIE: Yes, about two years ago I was invited up at the Factory. We got in the lift and went up. When it opened there was a brick wall in front of us. We rapped on the wall and they didn’t believe who we were. So we went back down and back up again till they finally opened the wall and everybody was peering around at each other. That was shortly after the gun incident. [Read more…]
The following day on the skyline to the south they saw clouds of dust that lay across the earth for miles. They rode on, watching the dust until it began to near and the captain raised his hand for a halt and took from his saddlebag his old brass cavalry telescope and uncoupled it and swept it slowly over the land. The sergeant sat his horse beside him and after a while the captain handed him the glass. [Read more…]