Friday, March 31, 2023





No More Tears


My desk won’t stop weeping. 

It says it’s sorry for being boorish, but authenticity and solace are elusive when you’re made of nothing but wood and gold-knobbed drawers. 

“Even the lacquer top is a hoax,” my desk says, “a kind of burnished seal to keep everything stuffed inside, all those appalling secrets and scorched memories.”

My desk’s eyes have seen so much, yet now they will not look at me, tears pulping out like liquid regrets or ripe spigots of shame.

We’ve been together since Jesus, since the dinosaurs. Before then even. 

My desk and I came out of the womb as one, conjoined, until a day when the axe just fell and split us.

We’re friends and lovers, thieves and saints, confidants and jealous stalkers. If we weren’t together, we’d be charcoal in a pyre or else floating at the bottom of some slate-gray lake.

I rub my desk’s cheek, shoulders, then belly, as if it’s a needy pup, and so my desk sighs a snotty sigh due to all of the earlier wailing.

I could lie and say I’ll be back to write more tomorrow so that my fingers tapping on the keyboard reverberate against the tender chest of my beloved desk, but my desk knows me too well and, after all, isn’t it impossible to lie to your soulmate?

What my desk doesn’t understand is I have nothing new to write about. I’ve told every story, wrung them inside and out until they’re nothing but chaff and dry spittle. All those words about isolation, a shitty childhood, nightmares chasing nightmares chasing nightmares, not a solitary happy ending materialized, so I’m hanging it up for good.

And that pyre I mentioned earlier? 

Well, it’s high time to burn. Both of us. We’ll go out blazing.

My desk can probably smell the sloshed gasoline on the carpet and walls, the viscous fumes, but there’s not a peep about it. No more tears either.

When I strike the match and flick it down the hall, my desk breaks into a pleased grin, as if it’s been made of sunshine and rainbows all along. Yet another clever hoax.

“It’s time then?” my desk asks.

And I say, “Yes,” as a river of flames engulfs us, mercifully, one long lick at a time.


Wednesday, March 29, 2023






my shaking hands head and shoulders were supposed to take care of you as we grew gray together but now the clock has gone crooked imbalanced or out of time each day as unsteady as the wind that’s trying to knock me down as I lean in against it trembling like the leaves above that seem to call your name or else simply call me home

Monday, March 27, 2023



…How was your weekend? I hope it was wonderful and memorable.

My daughter and I saw “A Good Person,” on Saturday, which we both loved, and which I have been thinking about constantly. I didn’t know a single thing about it before going. I recommend you don’t either, if in fact you go. Florence Pugh is astonishing and Morgan Freeman is God, as per usual.


…At AWP, the first night here in Seattle, I went to dinner with two of my best friends and a woman at the table next to us asked, “Are you Len?”

It felt kind of haunting.

There were three women I had worked with, loosely, at N. Sadly, I couldn’t remember any of their names.

It felt like a bizarre time warp, like who is that person they’re recalling?


…I’ve been on some new medication. Lexapro. It helped initially, but upping my dosage has left me more anxiety-ridden than ever. Thus, it was a rather tough weekend, at times.

I just want to feel calm and stop shaking.


…A group of kayakers have been swirling around the lake. Just now, one stopped and stared and stared before pulling her camera out, taking shots of the house, which seems really strange, not to mention a tad invasive, though this is a public lake.


…But enough about that.


… Here are a few things I discovered, of late, that seem like a great way to begin a new week.



…“To true love, wherever you may find it.” Danny Cafaro 


… "I can't afford to hate anyone. I don't have that kind of time.” Akira Kurosawa 


 …“Risk” by Anaïs Nin


And then the day came,

when the risk

to remain tight

in a bud

was more painful

than the risk

it took

to blossom.


…“Sometimes there are truths worth lying for.” Your Honor


…“The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser


…"I drink to make other people more interesting." Ernest Hemingway


…“While I was driving at night, I saw a lit-up church sign that said, ‘We’re not Dairy Queen but we still have great Sundays.’” Stephen Dunn


…“I had to discover my method all by myself. I didn’t have any writer friends, I didn’t have anything. For example, in the afternoon, at work or in college, ideas popped into my mind, and I’d say, “Fine, I’ll write that down in the morning.” Without yet realizing that, for me, form and meaning are one single thing. The phrase arrives already made. And, so, whenever I’d leave it “for tomorrow,” I’d be in despair every morning in the face of the blank page. And the idea? It was gone. So, I decided to jot down everything that occurred to me. And I told Lúcio Cardoso, whom I met then, that I had a big pile of those notes, separate, for a novel. He said, “Afterward it makes sense, one is connected to the next.” So, I did it. Those loose pages made up “Near to the Wild Heart.” Clarice Lispector


…“Records stores don't save your life, but they can give you a better one.” Nick Hornsby


“The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So, they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” –Ken Kesey


…“Only during hard times do people come to understand how difficult it is to be master of their feelings and thoughts.” Anton Chekhov


…"I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers." 

  - Langston Hughes


“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” Thich Nhat Hanh


“My tears are like the quiet drift of petals from some magic rose; and all my grief flows from the rift of unremembered skies and snows. I think that if I touched the earth, it would crumble; It is so sad and beautiful, so tremulously like a dream.” Dylan Thomas


…“The one thing you can’t do is nothing.” Your Honor

Friday, March 24, 2023






EVERTHING’S CHANGING    /   Chelsea Stickle



Mom says everyone dies, even ghosts meet an end eventually. Change is the only constant. But we’ve been in this tub for hours and nothing’s changed.


Dad says mushrooms are connected, that they communicate through an underground network. Kill one and another will rise in its place.


Gretchen whispers the word undying like she’s found her answer.


It was like when a high school teacher tried embarrassing me into feeling better about myself. 


But then thinking wasn’t a problem anymore. My head lolled off and rolled away, smooth like a honeydew.


I felt exposed. I’d been holding myself together with paperclips and a prayer for the last eight months. I was becoming strange.


Through a girl’s open window, she told her problems to the moon and stars. No one loved her enough. Her friends replaced her. Her parents ignored her.


Sometimes you’re stuck to the place you died. The side of the road can be boring as fuck. But the more you detach from the life you once knew, the more you can move around. Overhearing conversations about pointless shit becomes fascinating.


It’s stagnant ghosts who become poltergeists.


Only the daughter can see the outline where her skin should end. The clunky chunks where smoothness should reign.


The nutcrackers had gone rabid.


Watching people talk about you like you’re not there is maddening.


I wondered briefly where we would sleep tonight. Whether I had anything to wear tomorrow.


Sometimes objects found a second life if you kept them around, and that unexpected life could be even more rewarding.


Since everyone refused responsibility for the catastrophic circumstances they lived in, the whole thing was chalked up to bad luck.


Now that she was paying attention, she saw all sorts of people from her past.


The drunk raccoons are at it again. They know Wednesday is trash day, so the party’s always Tuesday night.


Everyone scrambled to remove the bullshit of their lives from garages.


When my mother screams at me, I can’t hear anything else. 


I wish I could back an live the other life without you.


After he left her there, she assumed the worst was over, and she’d survived.


When men decide what to do with you, there’s not much you can do. They crush women like you for breakfast.


Everyone heard about the girl whose body grew sharp objects.  She cut off the finger of the boy who touched her without asking. It was legendary


There is a town at the edge of things where women hold in their screams. So they die young: high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, cancer.


Their mouths covered in white dust, their eyes on the road, always searching for a place that doesn’t exist.


Up close it was a brown boulder. The kind you’d push up a hill for eternity because you pissed off a god. As I touched its rough, pock-marked exterior, I remembered that the moon was only bright white because it reflected the sun. Without that, it was just a big rock. The only thing that made it special was what he’d taken from it.


“it’s time,” I said “Lasso the moon or let it go.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2023





AFTER THE RAPTURE    /    Nancy Stohlman



After the rapture, people tried to sue religion.


And with each passing day, that which had been outlandish was no longer outlandish, that which had been metaphor was now truth, and the people watched the edge disappear like a baby being crushed.


I mean, the missing person is me. I’m not missing. I’m right here. I’m not sure what’s going on.


Please do not let your child use dry ideology without proper supplication.


If you feel yourself becoming dizzy or experience a localized rash please see your health care practitioner immediately.


--Do you feel like you aren’t yourself?


--Like everyone is out to get you?


--Like no one understands you?


--Like you were put here for a reason?

Sirens getting louder.


They’re all eunuchs, castrated to keep them impartial.


In case of suicide the full balance will be passed onto the designated next of kin or assigned beneficiary plus penalties. 


I show them to the door, where 8.6 slips a business card in my hand—Call me? he mouths with a wink.


And the people remembered the forgetting. The way one forgets so slowly it’s almost like not forgetting.


And then the people remembered another dream. A slow dream. A dirty dream. A hallucination dream. They remembered a sweat lodge dream, a pink sky dream. A dream hyperventilating under a bush, a dream that ripped through nylon. 


The dreams were tired, but alive.

Monday, March 20, 2023



       People laugh when I tell them that one of my best friends is fourteen years old. 

       They think I’m pranking. Making an odd joke. That maybe I’m toasted and my edges are fraying.

       When I tell them that I’m not, that I’m sober and serious, they chuckle again, but in a sort of stilted manner, which right away lets me know they think I’m strange.

       But I get it—fourteen and my age—that’s a heady differential. What they’re thinking is:

       How would that work? 

       How much could you possibly have in common?

       What would you even talk about? 

       And always, at the end of it, they throw in something like, Anyway, you know he’s fourteen, right? And you’re what, 95?

       (Not 95 yet, but getting there, hopefully.) 

              That best friend in question is Dane, my nephew, a fascinating person who I adore unabashedly. We’ve known each other his whole lifetime now, and, so far, it’s been pretty great. Mostly, it’s been epic. He’s him, and I’m me, and we connect.  In so many ways, we’re a lot more alike than different, despite the chasm of years.

       The thing is, this guy makes me feel like I’m fourteen a lot of the time. Or younger than that. Or, he makes me see the world like a fourteen-year-old does, which is infinitely better than an adult’s view of things, mired in network news, which only portends catastrophe and end times.

       Some of the hardest laughter moments I’ve ever had have been with him, with Dane, and the majority of those were before he turned fourteen. 

       Last week, we saw a movie. Afterward we had an early dinner and for dessert we ate a mountainous Almond Joy Sundae, which meant I wouldn’t need to eat again for a week. During that time, we laughed/cried. We reminisced regarding our anguish together at a screening of “Roadrunner,” the documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain.

       He told me secrets and I told him some of mine. 

       I think that’s what best friends do.

       We share music. His knowledge of music—every kind—is off the charts (the other day, he showed me some freaky Incubus videos/songs I’d never heard of, or seen).

       As with all best friends, there’s no fear of judgment between us when we share things. Or when we mess up. Or when we don’t completely get each other.

       What we have together is safety. An easy comfort.

       I also get a hard time from people when I say I have seven best friends. “How can you have more than one best friend?” they’ll ask. 

       That’s a fair question. But I guess, in my mind, I think a best friend is the first person you want to share things with—the good news, or bad news, or something exciting, or interesting—that comes your way. 

       They’re the first person you call, or text, and for me it’s this group of seven I feel very, very lucky to have. And Dane, my nephew, just happens to be one of those. 

       Why should I care that he’s only fourteen? Sometimes he sounds smarter than any adult I know. Sometimes he brings clarity to things too cloudy for me to see or understand.

       Whenever I do text him, he gets right back to me. (I think best friends are those that text you back sooner than later, and if they don’t respond at all, well then, they’re not really your best friend, are they?) His replies are always authentic—funny, or concerned, or sarcastic, sometimes with inside-joke verbiage only he and I understand.

       For example, on his birthday last year, he sent me this: 

       “Holy chair. I’m chairing thirteen! How the chair did I get this old? I can’t chairing believe it!!”

       (For some context… One day, when Dane was visiting with his mother, I accidentally said, “Shit.” Dane’s mother softly castigated me for it. I went into defensive mode and playfully said, “I will stop swearing when you can tell me who gets to decide what’s a swear word, and how they were selected to decide such a thing. Like, why isn’t ‘chair’ a swear word?” From then on, “chair” became our (Dane and my) euphemism for any curse word.

       In the Anthony Bourdain documentary we saw together two months back, there’s a part where a friend describes Bourdain as this tremendous lover of all things art—music, film, photography, books, architecture, painting—and whenever he discovered a new piece of art, the first thing he wanted to do was share his love of it with his closest friends. I’m the same way. Sometimes the art is really obscure. Sometimes it’s dark or bitter yet riveting, as with the Sam Fender song, “Seventeen and Going Under” that I’m currently obsessed with.

       Dane may not get what a “snuff video” is, or what “Bizzies” are, or what “WDP” means, but he got the gist of the story, the rancor, regret and angst. He appreciated the artistry involved, which I did, too.

       And then, right back, he sent me a video/song he was presently enjoying, though totally different, but I loved it as well.

       That’s friendship—sharing something you love with someone who you feel might find value in it, as do you. And if they don’t love or enjoy it in the same manner the sender does, that’s okay. The sending of the song/video was an expression of love, of trust.

       And that’s Best-Friendship.

       The thing about best friends—and, as you know, I believe you can have several, but not too many, because it takes a great deal of time and effort to be a best friend—is finding, savoring, and further expanding, your connection.

       It’s understanding how rare the relationship is, fortifying it with genuine love and attention whenever possible, and reaping all that joy together. 

       In fact, here’s a text I just got from him as I was writing this and we were giving each other chair…

       “There you go, chairing with me again…”

Friday, March 17, 2023



…Happy Friday.

I ran all over the house with two toddlers the last couple of days, learning in the process that I am out of shape and no match for them whatsoever.

I’ll be spending this weekend with my fifteen-year-old nephew. 

It’s all a good way to stay young at heart.


…Here are some things that gave me pause throughout the week. Maybe they’ll do the same for you…



…“God only reads kneemail.” Stephen Dunn


"How you stand here is important. How you listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe." William Stafford


"I am not making art, I am making myself." Nam June Paik


"I'd trade all of my tomorrows, for one single yesterday..." Janis Joplin


…“My mother was a braid of black smoke.

She bore me swaddled over the burning cities.

The sky was a vast and windy place for a child to play.”

    --Charles Simic


…“Earlier in my life I thought the things that mattered were the things that you could see, like your car, your house, your wealth, your property, your office. But as I’ve grown older I’ve become convinced that the things that matter most are the things you can’t see—the love you share with others, your inner purpose, your comfort with who you are.” Jimmy Carter


 “I'm just an advertisement for a version of myself.” David Byrne


…“We made love as the sun beats, as coffins close.” Andre Breton


…“Youth is the time we have before us.” Francois Mitterand


…“People always wait to say ‘Fair enough?’ until everything’s in their favor.” Garielle Lutz


…“It’s not your job to become certain of the uncertain.” Jill Weber


“I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars at night makes me dream.”  Vincent van Gogh


…“None can have love for flowers unless he loves the wild ones.” Forbes Watson


…“You are not your thoughts.” Jill Weber


…“At the end of my suffering 

there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death

I remember.”

   --Louise Gluck


“Our heart always transcends us.” Rainer Maria Rilke


…“Wipe your glasses with what you know.” James Joyce


…“Love possesses not, nor would it be possessed.” Kahil Gibran


…“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” Friedrich Nietzsche


…“Don't let yo’ mouth get yo’ ass in trouble!!!!” Shakyamuni Shaft


…“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.” Emily Dickinson


…“I took a deep breath and listened to that old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, March 15, 2023



…I have a new short piece up…



this made me gasp. a couple times. your writing is so incredibly vivid, len. thanks for sharing.”

Monday, March 13, 2023






…AWP 2023… What a juggernaut. And this year it was here, in Seattle.

I had no goals going in, and really no reason to attend other than to see my friends, which I did, in full.


…So much joy and laughter, not to mention hundreds of hugs, which are one of my favorite things.


…Other than seeing the people I love, my biggest highlight was standing next to a woman who looked at my lanyard/name and said, “Oh, I know you. I teach your stories to my class.” When I thanked her and asked where she lived, she said, “Tel Aviv, Israel. People 7,000 miles away are studying your work.”

So, yeah, that was a high, of sorts.


…I aim to get back on track, now that I’m not traveling for spell. 


…Re-entry is always a comedown. It’s too bad we all live so far apart, but I guess that’s life, all of us going our own ways, then coming together once a year in a vacuum with 10,000 other writers.


…These are only a handful of people I saw and spent time with…Robert Vaughan, Karen Stefano, Meg Tuite, Bob Kaye, Nancy Stohlman, Anna Katherine Freeland, Kelli Russell Agodon, Chris Allen, Helen Rye, Beth Gilstrap, Francine Witte, Jayne Martin, Gina Frangello, Steven Dunn, Jason Teal, Ryan Bollenbach, Adam Robinson, Brianna K, Michael Todd Cohen, Chris Bowen, Tara Whitehead, Miette Gilleite, Renuka Raghavan, Marelize Roets, Dani Putney, Brett Pribble, Annie Pluto, Michael McInnis, Joani Reese, Charlie Beckman, Greg Mania, Josh Gaines, Gloria Mindock, Andrew Stancek, Janae Baugher, Tommy Dean, Frances Badgett, Taj Tanaka, Stephanie Austin, Dawn Raffael, Grant Faulkner, Kim McGowan, Michelle Ross, Aaron Dietz, Meg Abbot, Chelsea Stickle, Sarah Lippman, Alice Rabbit Box, Shane Terry, Kurt Baumeister.


Friday, March 10, 2023






And then, one morning, Gordie’s dad fed us beer after beer, foamy Schlitz Malt Liquor, each can shiny, blue-gray and nearly patriotic, and when we were on our eighth, Gordie’s dad sauntered back into the trailer with a hammer and took the living room apart,  like plucking chickens, using the claw end, wood-panelling, splinters and chunks all flying thunderstruck, easy and violent, like hope trapped in a jug of clear that hadn’t been drunk yet, Gordie’s dad speaking tongues out of the blue, Jesus being the only word I recognized through the babble, Gordie turning all this over in his salty-lizard eyes, his body still as eternity, as if this had happened a million times before, until Gordie’s mom came in with a sack of groceries, reaching in for deliverance, hurling can after can of beans or beef stew at Gordie, nailing him on the forehead finally, like hitting a Carny prize for a full-on knockout and stuffed bear.

“You boys best get the fuck out of here,” she said, ghost-faced, while Gordie stayed down and out and Gordie’s dad clawed a new wall, searching for the Himalayas. 

“Go ahead and fuck each other,” Gordie’s mom told us, letting the grocery bag split and crash over her feet.

“See if I care, she said, as if she didn’t, though I knew she did.

“Just get the fuck out,” Gordie’s mom said, looking at me, only me, eyeball-to-eyeball, since ours were all there, and ever would be. “Get out now, Faggot,” she said, and meant it, I think, even now.