Saturday, September 29, 2012


...Yesterday morning I watched the beaver swim the length of the lake.  There was low-level fog skirting the surface and it was early.

…Yesterday I wrote a story.  It was my 1,000th story/poem in the last three years I’ve been doing this.  I think it was a pretty good piece.  It was a sad love story that made my heart break for the narrator.

…Yesterday I did some submitting.  Not a lot, but some.  Haven’t done that for a while.  I even had the brass to shoot a story off to The New Yorker.  I thought, why not?
It was the story that won 1st place at the PNWA Conference.  It’s not been published anywhere yet.

…Yesterday Xe Sands read my story “Don’t Lie” for Little Fiction and she did a really great job:
…Today I am going to enjoy being alive.  I am going to some wineries and afterward I'll enjoy terrific food. 
I hope you have a wonderful day.
…These are some things I like for the weekend:’

"I write to discover what I know." Flannery O'Connor

"I don’t believe less is more. I believe that more is more. I believe that less is less, fat fat, thin thin and enough is enough." - Stanley Elkin

‎"Babies play until they feel like resting and they rest until they feel like playing and that is the way geniuses move forward... that is the way huge problems are solved." Martha Beck

‎"You children--understand one thing here and now, and it will count for a lot. Don't believe that destiny is anything more than what you can pack into childhood." Rilke Duino

"The best that any of us can hope to do with our writing is to present to the reader a piece of the world, and to do so with honesty and clarity and gratitude." Randall Silvis

"We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic." E.Root

"We want to read about suffering and that writerly genius manistest itself in the evocation of suffering." Tim Parks

"I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul."― Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


...Here are some things I learned this week that you may find interesting, or not:

…Zombie bees have been reported in the Seattle area.  Novice beekeeper Mark Hohn found that his bees are infected with a parasite that causes them to fly at night and lurch around erratically until they die.

…You may or may not be a football fan.  You may or may not have seen the debacle that was Monday Night Football whereby the last play of the game was incorrectly called in Seattle’s favor, thus giving them the win.  That call has generated enormous amounts of vitriolic sentiment regarding the NFL.  Not only that, the call shifted over $200 million in bets where people had picked The Packers to cover the spread.  Lots of people pissed.

…If I could do it all over again, I would choose:
New career: 59%
Same career: 41%

…It’s estimated sales of the new IPhone could add $3 Billion to the US economy by year end.  That’s .25% of the expected growth rate.
Apple sold 7 million phones in the first three days it was offered.

…Because of the poor global economy, Ireland is losing one of its most cherished institutions.  Every single day, a pub closes its doors because it can’t generate enough sales.

…The number of people hunting has increased 33% in the last four years.  Go figure.

…Valid US passports:
2009: 49 million
2011: 110 million

…Highest unemployment rate—12.1% Nevada
Lowest—3.0% North Dakota

…I like these things:

-"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there."
― Henry Miller

-"If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances." Julia Sorel

-"Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, not political legislators who implement change after the fact." William Burroughs

-"Letters are among the most significant memorial anyone can leave behind." van Goethe

Monday, September 24, 2012


…This is a piece I wrote three years ago that was published in Left Hand Waving.  It’s essentially all true.


One of my brothers went to Viet Nam, the other to prison.

My brother mailed sample rations across the country, or at least that’s what we were told.  We had them for dinner one night, each of us kids taking a portion.  It was pasty and dry, like mayonnaise-coated cardboard.  I did my best not to gag.  “See, how’d you like to live on this?” Mother asked.

            Because I’d seen it on the news, I knew soldiers died but I did not believe my brother could be killed.  When I pictured him over there I saw him lying on the ground, a sand bag for a pillow, helmet tipped for shade, smoking a cigarette and ordering privates and sergeants around.  When I saw an actual photograph of him, he was holding a gigantic bullet in both hands, the same way you’d hold a King salmon.  Behind him was a pyramid of identical shells, tall as a person.  In ink at the bottom of the photo it said: D.M.Z. Nam, 1970.

            When he returned he was sullen and odd.  My father told me not to ask any questions.  “It’s not easy being a man,” he said, and in bed that night and most nights that have followed, I wondered about such a statement.

            We met my other brother at the bus station upon his release from prison.  While we were waiting, I got the word terminal stuck in my head because of the greyhound logo on the outside of the building. 

I’d known him when I was a baby, but now I was nine, so it took my sister’s cackling to point him out.

            His hands were huge, thick and leathery.  He tousled my hair and squeezed the back of my neck too hard.  When I said, “Ouch,” he slapped me on the head and called me, “Pussy” and my dad chuckled.


            We were pouring cement for the foundation of a new garage.  Ours had burned down.  Arson, the inspectors said. 

            My brothers and I were father’s helpers.  My brothers actually knew what they were doing.  Me, I sat in the dirt, drawing shapes with a broken tree limb.  When my father asked for a tool or for a board to be held while he sawed, I assisted.

            For just an instant, I found myself alone with him.  My stomach juices sluiced, reminding me—as if I needed proof--that I wasn’t brave.  Still Dad and I were by ourselves, so I spat the words out the way you would if you’d just bitten into something spoiled or still alive.

            He stopped what he was doing and gawked.  The sun was out, a boiling hoop.  Grime rimmed my father’s eye sockets.  “Stop your fucking dreaming,” he told me.

            That was thirty years ago.  My brothers live in other places now.  Sometimes I call.  My father lives with a new wife.  Mine tells me to forget.  She says there’s still time to be a writer if I want.


Saturday, September 22, 2012



…I read at The Hugo House on Thursday.  I wasn’t a featured reader or anything, but you could sign up (first 10 got to read after the highlighted guests).
I still get a little nervous.  Wish I didn’t.  But I did well, or so I think.  I try to read every chance I get.

…I finished the finals edits to my novel, “The Break-in Artists” and sent it off to the four agents that requested it at the writer’s conference in July.  Hopefully they won’t have completely forgotten who I am, but it has been a while.
I don’t know what to do next.  If I start writing short stuff, I’ll probably stay in that realm for a long time.  Once you get through writing a novel, you’re almost ready and willing to tackle another.  I’ve run 8 marathons and it’s similar in many respects.  As soon as you know you can actually live through one to completion, you start to scope out another almost instantaneously.

 …I don’t understand why so many people post their political positions on Facebook.  Some of the posts are very…very…what’s the word?  I don’t know.  Maybe “polarizing”?  They criticize a certain party for being way too extreme on a particular issue, but the way they attack that party makes them seem just as bad.

…I think I’m getting fat.  Do you ever worry about that?  I haven’t run or exercised in several months.  I don’t want to be fat or have one of those paunches a lot of men have.  So I guess I should get off my ass and lace up some shoes.

 …There are topless pictures of Kate Middleton out there.  That seems wrong, doesn’t it?  Can’t a person sunbathe topless if they want to?  You probably can’t do that if you’re royalty or famous or a politician.  If you do, well, you’re sort of asking for it.

 …Speaking of nakedness, yesterday police arrested a man on I-5 who was completely naked.  He said his clothes “just kept falling off.”  As if to make matters worse, he punched the officer.
…Here are some things I like:

"We watch movies and TV about heroic acts by soldiers or cops, but maybe that sort of heroism isn’t very relevant to modern reality." Bob Dokes

"Maybe real courage is being willing to get up and face another day, and do honest work to the best of our ability despite knowing that, in all likelihood, we won’t get the recognition or financial reward we deserve."- John F. Groom

 "Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice." Stanley Horowitz

 "For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief." Fernandez de Andrada

"Everything eternal happens in a spare room at 3am."  Ron Akon

"For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief." Fernandez de Andrada

 "Everything eternal happens in a spare room at 3am."

 "Don't feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.” Haruki Murakami

Thursday, September 20, 2012


…Tonight I'm going to a reading at The Hugo House.  It's called "Cheap Beer and Prose."  Last time I was there I read a short piece, "Missing Chance" which was named one of the 50 best online stories of 2009.  It's a little intense and I think the crowd was a little stunned, not because it was good but because they didn't get it.  The story is here under "Words in Print" if you want to check it out.

…Here are some things I learned this week.  You might find a few interesting:

…Percentage of men who say their friends would feel bad for them if they knew how much they actually make -26
Women -17

…Percentage of people who would take a pay cut for a more flexible work schedule -42

…Chances that your boss is a woman -3 in 10

…In 2011, percentage of men who said they’d prefer to work for a man -26%
In 1975 -63%

…Percentage of business travelers who are men -77

…Average length of a job interview -40 minutes

…According to hiring managers the most common mistake job applicants make during an interview is –Talking too much

…46% of resumes contain false information about employment history, education, or references

…Percentage of office employees who work in a cubicle -70

…Median Salaries for the following:
Sales Manager -$101,000
Astronomer -$95,000
Management Consultant -$78,000
Web Developer -$77,000
Special Ed Teacher -$53,000

…Free School Lunches per Year:
2000 -13 Million
2011 -18.3 Million

Monday, September 17, 2012


…I’m just back from a boy's weekend in Las Vegas.  Now it feels like I need to sleep for a week.
Las Vegas is a strange place.  It’s a bit like someone dropped acid and decided to build a Technicolor theme-parked city.  They're pyramids, pirate ships, circuses, Eiffel Towers, a Statue of Liberty, not to mention ads for strip clubs everywhere you look, and even if you don’t look.
Mostly it's fun to people watch.
It's good to be hope.  Wish me luck on re-entry.

…This is something that I wrote which appeared in the first Issue of the print journal Gigantic Sequins:

Sketch Marks


She says she has a new diet, that she will only eat words from now on.  I say, “Worms?” but she corrects me.  She fills her bowl with adjectives.  She floods her plate with plurals connoting paganism.  Or maybe she means plagiarism.  I get so jealous.  She is one of a kind.


            I am lines and glyphs and a face full of folded things.  I walk on stumpy stilts.  I need a cause to fight for.  You told me once, “I believe in you.”  People used to think the world was flat and now such a notion seems silly insanity.  If you place your hand here, dip a finger into its gooey center and have a taste, you might be able to understand me.


            My trachea is a leaky boat spilling saltwater as well as my secret impulses.  These, they bob and throb beside bluewater veins and slippery shells, fragile but not yet broken.

                                                          The Dead Sea

            She laid me down in a bed, in a bath of oily holy water stole from foreign soil.  I felt compromised.  My eyelids reflected on the surface, looked like unshut doors, windows left open for lurking burglars wearing gloves so as not to leave prints.  When I dream now I mostly float.  The salt is briny but it brings me luck.


One omen is that Mother hums now, a feline, a heater, a planet twisting wrong in its dark orbit.  She irons shirts and underwear.  Her hair is frosted, her lids glossy lime.  There was a time so long ago, when I was maybe an embryo, that she needed me.


Today I woke and learned that I can no longer speak.  My tongue is gone.  My mouth is a hole, a rictus, a well.  Drop a penny down to hear the splatter.  Make a wish for me, please.

                                               My Confessions    

These words are my organs, pulsing and spilling sloppy over my skins and blank pages and choruses.  I have urges that frighten me.  Lean your head here and try not to tremble.


His breath tells stories, glories, never boring but always lethal.  The stains on his striped overalls are permanent.  They are.   


I have possessions I want to share, little origami items with prophecies stuffed inside.  When I try eating them, they show up the next day, dry and smearless.  I wish I could find a person in need.  I wish I wish.  I wish I were more like my possessions: clearly written and meaningful.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

 ...Hey Hi.  I hope your week is going swimmingly.  Here are some things I learned:

…The lawyer for a suburban Albany, NY strip club argue before the state’s Supreme Court that its lap dancers are entitled to the tax exemption that ballet and artistic performances enjoy.
The state wants $300,000 in back taxes from the club called “Night Moves.”

…Things that make us feel guilty:
39% -Wasting food
27% -Leaving lights on when I leave a room
27% -Wasting water
22% -Not unplugging electronics
21% -Not recycling

…Percentage of men who consider themselves “innovators” in the bedroom

…Adele’s album, “21” just passed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” staying in the top 10 for 79 weeks.
It should pass US sales of 10 million copies by next month, a rare feat any time, but especially in these days when albums rarely sell even a million.
Only 108 albums have ever sold more 10 million copies.

…The cost of a 30 second ad during the Super bowl is $3.8 million, and that's not counting production of the ad.

…Will you be able to retire before age 65?
1997 -50% said Yes
2012 -34% said Yes

…During the 1970s, an average of 290 major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers occurred annually in the United States. By the 1990s, that had fallen to about 35 per year. And in 2009, there were no more than five.

…Oprah was named the top money entertainment earner last year after raking in $167 million.  Yep, $167 million in a solitary year.

…After suffering its biggest loss ever, Hewlett-Packard announced plans to cut 29,000 jobs in the US.

…The average annual public school teacher salary has risen from $44,655 in 2001 to $56,643 in 2011.

…This summer was the third-hottest on record.  Last summer was the second-hottest.

…In just the last four years, 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico due to drug violence.

…Percentage of adults who smoke:
2008: 20.4%
2011: 18.9%

Percentage of US births to unmarried females:
1990: 28%
2101: 40.8%

…I like these:

"An artist is always alone---if he's an artist. Actually, what an artist needs is loneliness." Henry Miller

"The manner in which it is given is worth more than the gift." Pierre Corneille

"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald

"In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you." Tolstoy

"We all die in the middle of something." Roman Payne

"I'm less attracted to the stoic. I'm more attracted to the floridly psychotic." --David Milch

"It seems to me that I will always be happy in the place that I am not." Paul Auster

"Poetry is as exact a science as geometry." Flaubert

"Eventually, we all sustain injuries.  Realizing this, Mike decided it was easier to speak to people who had never existed at all." Nick McDonell, "The Third Brother"


Sunday, September 9, 2012


…How was your weekend?  My was quite fun.
Also, I had three things appear in the print journal out of NYC, UCity Review.
Here they are:

The Strength of Water

            Not rain, but a shower, hot water pelting my skin like agitated chicks pecking, pecking insistently and urgently, and for a moment, as I’ve trained myself to do, I picture myself bathed in white light, hold radiance among this halo of grace and safety, with the moist smell of baked bread and slathered butter, sounds of a choir singing about salvation, the swish of their robes like secret whispers of hope, and when in that moment I have given myself away to a world as light as angels themselves, a hammed rips my arms shoulders back, black pain indiscriminate, everywhere, then back to the real world and the middle school shower and Brian Bickman and boys cackling, some pointing, saying, “It looks like an earthquake,” about my back, my skin where the bruises sat like mildewed splotches, and I knew they knew but still I said, “I fell.  My brother did it.  I wrestled a bear in the woods.”  I blathered on while involuntarily touching each tender spot, sparking a flame of pain, like a purple firework, and a memory came, the taste of bile and blood, and with that, quite miraculously, the taste of forgiveness in the form of water after the boys had gone, water when I tried to clean myself, water when I dunked under it and vowed to be new, to be strong and true, to give grace, pledging to be a man of peace one day.

I Can Be Your Sweat-Stained Shirts

I can be your witness,
the frost on your windshield that you
 like to scrape just to hear the sound.
I can be your black exhaust,
 your sweat-stained shirts and

I can strip the sheets
 and take your temperature,
ladle broth into your mouth
 and look away when you swallow.

I have already heard your confession,
 that off-kilter yodel
tamped tight inside a pillow,
as frail as the blank batting of your eyes.

And, yes, of course,
 of course I could duct tape all your doors at the seams,
  hoist black sails across your windows,
   sit and listen as you recite all your reasons,
but there’s one thing I won’t do,
 can’t do,
never in a million years,
 and that’s
let you leave me.


            “You can’t be a girl,” I told my brother, “it’s not scary.”
            “You ever try walking in high heels?”
            He had a point.  Besides, it didn’t make sense to use our lawn job money to buy costumes.  Halloween came once a year and we weren’t dumb or rich enough to be wasteful.
            At the first houses I was embarrassed.  My brother’s lipstick and mascara were perfectly applied, but too colorful.  He’d made himself a macaw, a Madame.
            I got used to it, even though Mrs. Fitzgerald slammed the door on us and Bobby Graham’s mom called my brother a hideous freak.
            “You’re not getting as much candy as me,” I said.
            And it was true.
            But at home he got even.  Still wearing a dress and nylons, he pinned my wrists to the ground and gave me Chinese torture until I cried.  Years later it was he who cried as he told me his plans.  I put my arms around him.  I held him strong.  “It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “Then I’ll just love you like a sister.” 


Friday, September 7, 2012


I finished editing my novel.
I took Nike’s advice.  Yes, I bore down, and just did it. 
I think I’ve written a pretty good book, or at least an entertaining one.
Now, writing wise, I’m not sure what to do next.  It’s been months since I’ve written anything short.  My mind is glued to the longer format.
Sure, I’ll send the novel out, but I need to write.  The only question is what?

…The Republican and Democratic Conventions are over.
I actually enjoyed watching them.  Does that sound sick?  Does that make me sick?
I’ve always loved politics.  When I was a young boy I thought I wanted to be president.  (True story.  True embarrassing story): I even made little cutout posters and Scotch-taped them to every wall around our trailer—“Len for President of the United States.” 
In a rare acquiescence, my parents humored me and let the faux posters stand for a day or so. 
After college, I clerked at a law firm.  It wasn’t what I thought it would be.  No romantic “Truth and Justice,” just billing hours and foreclosing on people’s homes.  I became pretty disheartened and decided to forgo law school, being a lawyer, getting into politics.
Besides, I had too many skeletons in my closet even back then.
But I still follow politics closely.  A friend of mine says it doesn’t make any difference which party is in office, that it doesn’t even matter who the president is.  I disagree.
But enough of that…

…Here are some things I like:

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." Robert Brault

"Happiness is often the result of being too busy to be miserable." Robert Zimmerman

"I always say to students, give me four pages a day, every day.  That's three or four hundred thousand words a year.  Most of that will be bilge, but the rest…?  It will save your life!" Ray Bradbury

"There is a sense of exhilaration that comes from facing head-on the hard truths and saying, 'We will never give up. We will never capitulate. It might take a long time, but we will find a way to prevail'." Jim Collins

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


…Last night I saw the beaver swimming home across the lake after what I presume was another hard day’s work for him.  He’s quite a large animal, about the size of healthy Labrador.

…I’m just 75 pages from finishing an edit of my YA novel, “The Break-in Artists.”  I keep encountering clumps of writing that are either pretty good or pretty lousy. 
I think I tend to over-write sometimes.

…Here’s a story that appears in the latest print issue of Santa Fe Literary Review:

                                         In and Out of the Womb

            The guilt is real and so is her hatred for this thing she’s created.  In her lap it sits, a loaf, a swaddled globe warming the tops of her thighs, weighing less than a cat, not a worthwhile thought inside its bald head.

            Aww, she looks just like you.

            She has David’s nose.

            What a little bundle of joy!

            You’re so blessed.

            Cursed is how she feels.  Since the birth, a kind of asthma has leeched into her system, making it hard to breathe, as if a cape of 1,000 sand bags has been lobbed over her shoulders and chest.  It takes too much effort to see, to taste, to scratch her cheek or pick her nose.  Her tongue is swollen so thick it might as well be a python.  Her eyes are dry chick peas.

            Had she wanted this baby in the first place?  How did it happen, how did today become this day, bleak and oppressive despite Indian summer outside, the sun obscenely bright?

            And why had they named the child Maya?  It’s an exotic name, ethnic-sounding, ridiculous now that she allows herself time to ruminate over the four letters.  The moniker Maya and the gurgling-thing-stuffed-in-cotton Maya have nothing in common.  One suggests mystique and bronze skin, the other doom and pasty cottage cheese.

            “What are you doing here?” she says to the smelly lump in her lap, or to herself, she is not sure.  “Why have you failed me so?”

            The baby’s chocolate pupils search the air, as if for a streaking starling, then speak.  Ca-Coo,” it says.

            The woman sees through the infant through the floor through earth.  She sees herself, age eight putting up construction paper posters with her name then, FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  But next she is nine years old, the posters are gone and she is staggering down the hall, knocking photographs off the wall.  Once she makes it to her bedroom, she locks the door, but on the other side wolves are laughing, then cannon blasts that shake the door until a bolt pops free, teaching her then and forever that doors are really not meant to be open or closed, that nothing can be hidden or protected because innocence is just an idea, a heartless hoax.

            She’s read news stories about women who leave their newborns on porches, toss them into dumpsters.  She’s not about to do that.

            Instead she takes Maya, puts her in the bassinet.

            She pours water into a kettle, puts it on a red-coiled stove, dumps dry pasta noodles into the hissing liquid, stirs. 

            When he comes home she will kiss her husband and tell David it was a good day.  She’ll repeat this routine for the years to come.  But when Maya and the other female children she will have are old enough she will share the dark secret so that they might know it is normal—this dead sensation—so they won’t, like her, feel trapped inside the dark womb.