Friday, July 31, 2009


I’d passed it before, never looking in, unobtrusive in my boots and foreboding gear.

Hidden amid the side streets of Fardus Square, down a wide, sun flushed alley there, a looted shoe factory sat abandoned. No workers ‘cept three furniture makers, two craftsmen and an upholsterer, who’d adopted an open loading dock to dry freshly varnished chairs. Jigsaws and laves buzzed inside, amber and golden streaks marred the concrete floor like spilled jam, wood dust flew like pollen from the dock door and, on my second patrol of the neighborhood, it was the smell of split cedar that drew me.

I stood, smelling papery images as they shuffled in.

Cords of firewood piled along the side of my parent’s house. Kindling and fresh timber snapping with the soundtrack of the living room, the hearth projecting windy shadows – basswood and birch, hemlock and cotton wood trees – I never thought I’d miss their thick husks shucked off, falling onto the grass to choke the lawnmower. Never thought.

The unimaginable appeal of grass when there is absolutely no hope of growing grass.
I mopped the sweat from the back of my neck. Glove soaked. Face soaked.

Set on the platform, two of the furniture makers worked. I leaned against a taxi, watching them, watching the entrance to the alley where my Humvee idled.

A man and a woman straddled a new sofa like two cowboys branding a calf. One stretched heavy fabric over the frame, the other spit tacks from his mouth into a free hand to make a dotted line of brass, hammering them down with such precision and speed that it seemed like he were a machine made solely for such a thing and there must’ve been dozens of those tacks in his mouth ‘cause he went for his pocket only once. They worked with synchronicity and care, pulling taunt, aligning the tack, hitting exact – the rhythm like freight cars over train tracks.

Boys ran by.
One of them took my hand and, with out saying anything, wrote his name in English on my palm. He smiled and ran.
I tossed them a bottle of water.

The upholsterer flipped the sofa, pulling fabric around the cushion, her arms were lean and fit and tan. The man replenished his mouth with tacks and they set on another row and even though he had nearly no expression I could tell he was happy – happier than most.

The sun and the sun in the alley.
I took off my helmet.

Brad Blauser brings hope to disabled Iraqi chilldren

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Brad Blauser lives in war-torn Baghdad, where he doesn't earn a paycheck and is thousands of miles from his family. But he has no intention of leaving anytime soon.


my haircut in college via Nolen Strals (Double Dagger and Post Typography)

Frank O'Hara on Mad Men season 2

Iraq photo of the day

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cronenberg / Delillo

Lauren Bender, Jamie Gaughran-Perez, & Justin Sirois in Atlantic City


FRIDAY JULY 31, 2009
Mary Miller
Elizabeth Ellen
Andrea Kneeland
Kate Wyer
Barry Graham

(next to bally's - across from memorial)
Kevin Michaels
Timothy Gager
Robert Lopez
Lauren Bender
Joe Salvatore
Timmy Waldron
Jamie Gaughran-Perez
Scott McClanahan
Justin Sirois
Jackie Corley

Curtis Smith
Randall Brown
Amanda Nazario
Lydia Copeland
Erin Pringle
Lane Falcon
More info here:

thanks Draplin


Iraq photo of the day

Shane Jones sells Light Boxes movie rights to Spike Jonze, Ray Tintori

My bud Shane Jones just signed a deal with Spike Jonze and Ray Tintori, director of Death to the Tinman -- now Light Boxes the movie will most likely be made. Everyone is crazy excited. One giant step for indie lit., no doubt. You can still buy copies of Light Boxes from Publishing Genius Press, but they will sell out very soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The prize goes to Frank Sung for this remarkable piece:


life as i

know it

nears a



concern of

kids trying to

lick my daughters




Frank Sung

And the two amazing runners up are Jason Keller and Sophie Erskine, who wil receive copies of MLKNG SCKLS.

Thank you all who sent in amazing work for this contest.
Here's Brian Allen Carr's official post on the winners. Link.

post(er) for a post(er)

Aaron Draplin over at the completely bad ass Draplin Design Co. of North America said some kind words about the MLKNG SCKLS hard cover. If you haven't checked out his portfoilio and client list, go on over.

draplin dot com
And thanks for the overwhelming deluge of web traffic. Lord!

Iraq photo of the day

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Newlights Press - MLKNG SCKLS broadside

Aaron Cohick of Newlights Press is working on a destroyed/hand manipulated/typeset broadside from this piece in MLKNG SCKLS:

.....Last night I dreamt about a mutt whose tail never learned how to wag, and under a sun that gagged us with heat, the mutt sat stoned with its mouth belching cones of pot smoke. Sometimes the smoke shone orange – sometime it had the texture of keffiyehs. People passed it in the street, not looking between its ears. No one ever pet the mutt. Men on bicycles swerved around it. Cars pulled U-turns. Buses sped by. It was part something, but mostly something else.
.....Its nose was badly burnt.
.....It jiggled like cooked fat.
Needless to say, I can't wait to see what comes of Aaron's tedious craftsmanship.

quotes in my office

We think in generalities, but we live in detail.

Alfred North Whitehead

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

Iraq photo of the day

Monday, July 27, 2009

some clairification - James Jones first novel fellowship 2009


The Hurt Locker

I feel completely unqualified for critiquing The Hurt Locker as a war film as I’ve obviously never gone to war or defused anything other than fights at the various bars I’ve poured drinks at over the years. Calming down a belligerent skinhead is far different from sweating over a 30 pound IED, though they can both get you your face removed. After reading a few reviews that highlighted some very minor faults in the facts, but almost unanimously praised the film (see Tom Rick’s Foreign Policy review here), there’s little I can contribute. Really. Very little.

I can’t boast that it feels completely real or that they nailed the emotional and physical exhaustion of the men – I can’t tell you how well Kathryn Bigelow illustrated the maddening frustration of the soldiers who witness death every day. And there’s even some powerful scene involving Iraqi civilians – children and professors – just trying make the situation livable, just trying to sell some DVDs, but other people on the internet will eventually offer insight about that as well. Not me.

Where the movie does get formulaic, though, it bends just far enough to resist cliché, and this is a strength I can comment on. War movies about people, not war, are some of the best war movies.
Hurt Locker is one hell of an entertaining, well paced movie about huge issues, and you won’t even notice it’s about huge issues until it’s done and you’re sitting on the edge of your bed, setting your alarm, saying, “Shit, that was huge.” Big hole in your exhausted heart huge.

Iraq photo of the day

Weekend Report

More work on Futherest From (working title), Mina drew me a skull, Abita IPA, a book for a beer, invited to love a letter of the alphabet by Nolen Strals, Half Japanese – not what we had in mind, late night pad thai, Mildred the little white spider, 3 cheese TX steakhouse mega mistake from burger hell, maybe the last hurrah at Jamie’s – mega mc & cheese via Beckett Hills, we’re to young to call that one, literary dude bro sleep over, The Hurt Locker (more on that later), no more beer battered anything for me – really – really, an afternoon of Y, The Last Man (so much fun, thank you Jamie), early to bed - missed your text.

Friday, July 24, 2009


for DSF

you have been invited to read
this here poem

& comment on it
in your mind. I’m getting better & better at

ignoring the venom I should be addressing
& sucking out that venom & spitting it

into a little cup by the bed. The cats lick it.
Then they throw up a little. You

have been invited
but the best response is a maybe

because changing your mind is ok

with me

& maybe we will finish
the thing we never really started


Iraq photo of the day

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MLKNG SCKLS hard cover?

I was kicking around the idea of making some limited edition hard covers of MLKNG SCKLS and selling them at cost - around $20. Ideally, they'd be signed by Haneen and I, but we're still waiting on her first package of SCKLS to arrive in Cairo. If I get a few people to commit to pre ordering a hard cover edition, I might go ahead with it depending on the quality Lulu can deliver. Thoughts? Comments?
I started on the guts of this project and decided to include six pages from Falcons that actually made it into the final manuscript. It'll be a little bonus for anyone interested in ordering a copy of the hard cover.

Bookmark and Share

Iraq photo of the day

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brian Evenson's Baby Leg

Brian Evenson's Baby Leg is available for preorder from Tyrant Books. Now that's a way to launch a press, man. Only $30. Only 400 copies. Only awesome.

meathead proverbs

I had a gym teacher in elementary school that said "practice doesn't make perfect... perfect practice makes perfect." Weird right? Derry Village Elementary was an odd place with even stranger faculty. The school was situated right down the road from Robert Frost's farm. We were forced to make pilgrimages up the hill for field day and I always thought, man that Frost farmhouse is creepy. We weren't allowed to go in the old place, we just had to practice relay racing in the dandelion dotted fields without getting stung by bees. But "Perfect practice?" Not only is this a sloppy oxymoron, it negates the fact that we all learn from mistakes and that the fear of making mistakes stops most people from creative endeavors in the first place.
I'll even go out on a limb here and state that the most successful athletes are the most creative in their field. They're the individuals who play the game not just harder, but smarter than their opponents. What do I know about sports, though?
Mister gym teach (who I can't remember your name and might have been promoted to Principal*), from now on, during layups and ultimate Frisbee, I say you encourage students to perform the shittiest practice they can -- tripping, flailing, taunting, and, if the situation calls for it, no matter how humiliating it might be for participants and onlookers, group crying. Let your kids make some life changing mistakes today so they can develop into the wise, critical thinkers we need tomorrow.
Dang it.
When did this blog get all preachy. Ok. No more.

Iraq photo of the day

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

all the novels


To celebrate the 60th year of the National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation will present a book-a-day blog on the Fiction winners from 1950 to 2008.

The blog will run from July 7th to September 21st, starting with Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm, ending with Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, and including works by Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Alice McDermott. Discover lesser known but equally talented National Book Award Fiction Winners such as Conrad Richter, Wright Morris, and Robb Forman Dew. Then return here, on September 21st, you will have a chance to select The Best of the National Book Awards Fiction and win two tickets to the 2009 National Book Awards, the first time in its history the Awards will open to a public vote.

Stress, fractures

*another intended scene for Falcons on the Floor


Responsible for endless nights of worry, generating dreadful scenarios – though all imaginary, though all irrational – Yasir agonized more about the missing paper towels than Salim’s farewell letter. The letter was bad enough. It took him days to even read it.

And now Salim was off with Khalil, reckless, big-eared Khalil with his big-shot ideals and big-shot rifles. There was nothing he could do. Yasir snickered at the shadowed living room, useless lamps, and snuffed outlets.

The electricity had shut off. It was almost as if the moment Salim and Khalil left the house, a minute after they closed the door behind them, the electricity snapped dead, smudging the house with silence. This made him feel even more alone. No refrigerator hum or radio static. The ceiling fan unwound to a pathetic halt.

Confined to the sofa, he’d passed out soon after, upright, pillow over his round stomach, but the outside traffic – honking and backfiring and constant banging – racked him awake.

Yasir cranked his head, rubbing his neck as if it might refocus the room.

He coughed into his hand, hernia stabbing with every hack. The wild hairs on his knuckles tickled his nostrils. An itching just above his shoulder blade. Leaning forward, slow, he sucked shallow breathes and stared at his feet, trying not to cough again, trying not to spasm. He looked around the room, the coffee table, rugs. No way to reach the itch.

His water glass rattled from the grumbling of a passing truck. Water rippled around its base. He wished he had the energy to vacuum – almost grateful for the blackout.

Leftover food hardened around him. The kahi that Khalil brought sat for hours on the coffee table, crusting hard to their tray in the dry heat. As delicious as they looked, Yasir refused to indulge and, sick of looking at them, he lifted the tray to the kitchen where he finally banished them to the trash. One of the sugary pastries bounced onto the floor. He couldn’t bend to pick it up.

Bribing me with doughnuts, he thought, disrespectful boy. Arrogant. Big-shot Fedayeen wanna-be.

He remember the first time he’d seen the newspaper photo of the Mercenaries hanging from the bridge and Khalil’s big face in the middle of everything like it was some wild street party.

Disrespectful. Arrogant. Dangerous. Salim should have nothing to do with him. Bringing me kahi. Trying to sweeten me up. Bringing nothing, but trouble. And they left the house in such a hurry.

Why had Salim taken the paper towels?

Yasir hadn’t noticed until he stood from the couch, hand on his abdomen, hernia needling. And he stumbled to the kitchen, his sweating hand holding onto whatever support it could find, the other balancing the tray. Sweat pimpled above his eyebrows.

Yasir knew it was a bad habit, wasting paper towels to blot his sweaty forehead, the sweat that crept down like spider legs, but what else to use? He wasn’t going to climb the stairs all the way to the bathroom just to wipe his forehead. Whatever rag lying around the kitchen had been used to mop mysterious puddles, their funk steamed rancid on countertops before they made it to wash. Climbing the stairs would create more sweat, anyway. It made no sense.

Sometimes he used his shirt sleeve. Once, a sock that sat on the back of the sofa. He decided to never do that again.

But why not take a cloth towel?
There was half a roll left.

It was noon. His head was a hot air balloon.
Yasir turned off the coffee machine and recycled the remaining coffee from his mug back into the pot for later. No need to refrigerate. He shuffled, braced against the stove.

Protruding painfully, his hernia pulsed in the fatty deposits of this abdomen and a lump, now palpable, transmitted lightening to every receptive nerve in its network. Limping, he inched to the sink where the paper towel rack hung under the cabinet. Droplets covered his face like flecked paint; the bravest drop rocked like a ball bearing at the tip of his nose.
Yasir soaked them up with his sleeve.

And there it was. He might’ve missed the letter entirely if he hadn’t been searching for something to wipe his head and he gave the letter a skeptical expression before lifting it with jellied hands. Salim’s, no doubt. A crisp business envelope. Not a crinkle or blemish or crease. Why the formality? Why the envelope? Lifting it to the light, the type bled through, Salim’s signature too.

Yasir let his eyelids stutter shut and he tilted his head back, resisting a tremble. Without looking, he slid his thumb under the paper lip, peeled apart glue and fiber and unfolded the letter, but kept his eyes on the ceiling where he could stay ignorant for just a few seconds longer.
Cracks webbed the plaster, stress fractures.

And he let the letter creep, still folded, back to the cool laminate countertop.
Was Salim hurt? Bleeding?

Another truck passed by the house, scaring the windows. Echoes moved the room. Worms in his irises, starry shocks of light. My love, Yasir thought, battling his own breath, my boy, and then he forced himself not to think at all.

Iraq photo of the day

Monday, July 20, 2009

Falcons is a contending finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship

Falcons on the Floor has been accepted out of nearly 700 submitted manuscripts for the final round of the 2009 James Jones First Novel Fellowship making it a semi-finalist.

* I have a related post about previously published poetry and short story collections here. Link.

Thank you Haneen, Lauren, Christy, Michael, Joe, and Jamie for getting me to this point.

Orlando Report

My parents are the best, waiting for the run to hush, 4 Kristals with cheese! this place is a Dream, Sirios, Red Lobster is pretty good (who knew?), BFG on the beach, fortunes from robots, Obama to tax individuals’ CO2 output, sliders and sliders, St. Augustine, the fountain of youth, 600 year old tree, a fort, an old bit, Milk, Birds of Prey sanctuary, Lauren Bender brands herself on the PT Cruiser’s customized exhaust pipes, downtown Orlando is like hanging out in a outdoor Spencer’s Gifts, budget photos in the photo booth, lets end this vacation at Applebee’s!

Iraq photo of the day

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Orlando with Bender

Off to Orlando with Lauren Bender. The illustration above accurately represents what happened to us last year and most likely what will occur this year. Posts here will be sparse for the next few days. M-80s, Cuban food, skittering lizards, and lazy pool lounging abounds.

reading for The Signal

I'm reading (recording) for The Signal this evening.
Any requests?

Iraq photo of the day

Monday, July 13, 2009


the 2nd SCKLS contest has three more prizes

Weekend Report

Whartscape begins, cutest smug horse ever, Blue Leader!, nervous - a little, love it when you call me punim, one giant roach, ruffled bird’s nest hovering above the bed, fearing the sunrise, I’ll trade you sweet corn cakes eggs Benedict and grits and coffee for…, the Featherproof crew is radical, Scorch Atlas looks utterly incredible, talking signatures and offset with kick ass designer Zach Dodson, kitten poop on my forearm, Michael Kimball gives knee advice, Blake Butler’s clumpy beer crotch, Dogfish Head spiced rum, garden hose suicide, the noble John Eaton, I do wish I could text you all night, Double Dagger gets better and better, Dan Deacon’s interpretive dance/dance-off/relay races are brilliant (audience as medium), gorgonzola and pineapple pizza, Beam Blackout.

Iraq photo of the day

Friday, July 10, 2009

MLKNG SCKLS contest # 2!

Man, this is cool.
I love it when strangers do amazingly generous things for me.
Brian Allen Carr received a second copy of MLKNG SCKLS and he's holding a contest. The prize includes his extra copy and PLUS Amelia Gray's AM/PM, Larry Fondation's Unintended Consequences, and a year's subscription to Boulevard Magazine.

I just contacted Brian and I'm going to throw in M. Magnus' Verb Sap, Rod Smith's Fear the Sky, and Ric Royer's There Were One and It Was Two.


Iraq photo of the day

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brookings - Large-scale returns in Iraq



At the risk of one day being accused of cronyism, Bret McCabe has won the MLKNG SCKLS, Six Day in Fallujah contest. I picked his entry anonymously, I assure you. Congrats, sir.

Iraq photo of the day

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fall(ing) Out

Some people have gotten deadly serious about the best game of 2008.

House of Saddam

I plowed through most of this series last night and I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. All the events and facts seem tediously researched and the acting is convincing enough, but there's something generic in the execution. Or maybe elements are too exaggerated. Uday Saddam Hussayn is exceptionally cruel and brash, but nearly catoonish as he arrogantly polishes his cowboy boots while the Iraqi army retreats from Kuwait. You never get a real sense of Baghdad as most of the series is shot indoors and stock footage is spliced in to make the sets feel larger. There's a whole lot of mob-style family drama, but that is accurate to the story of Saddam Hussayn - the man was a straight thug. The whole thing feels very Sopranos.
Time and budget restraints probably kept the producers from fleshing out some of the nuances that would make this one of the most interesting stories of any modern dictator, but what can you really do with such little time? Overall, it is an ambitious series and the four hours you'll send in Saddam's house is well worth it. Just watch your back when you get up for that next beer, Habibi.

Iraq photo of the day

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Death's Head (Flayed Head)," 1944 bronze - Pablo Picasso

Very Mike Mignola of you, Pablo.

Adam Robinson and Justin Sirois...

might eat Taco Salad tomorrow.
Or some chicken thing Adam's mom taught him to make.

Whartscape and Featherproof Dollar Store Summer Tour

It will be interesting to see how these two events share the same building on Saturday.

Aaron Burch, Blake Butler, Zach Dodson, Amelia Gray, Mary Hamilton, Jac Jemc, Caroline Picard Featuring: Lauren Bender, Michael Kimball, Adam Robinson, Joseph Young

Iraq photo of the day