Friday, May 20, 2022

 

—LOVIN’ YOU’S MY FAVORITE DRUNK

 

…Happy Friday and weekend. What’s on your docket?

 

…I am a news junkie. Always have been, even way back in college. I thought I might major in International Politics, but obviously didn’t.

I have been watching the war in Ukraine with a keen eye. Every day, it seems, the Ukrainian people seem to pull off another astounding miracle in their efforts to thwart “the Invaders.” It’s been one shocking feat (defeat) after another.

How great is it to have a champion like President Zelenskyy? This is a guy who was an actor playing a president who later became president. At the start of the Russian invasion, no one gave him a chance in hell of repelling Putin’s assault. I was right there with those doubters. And look now. He’s a hero for our times. My favorite quotes of his are these two:

The fight is here. I don’t need a ride, I need weapons.” (after President Biden, at the very start of the conflict, offered Zelenskyy safe passage out of Ukraine).

And this: “We need three things: Ammunition. Ammunition. Ammunition.”

What a badass.

So today, and tonight. I will pray for him and all those in Ukraine. You might not believe in prayer, and that’s okay, but maybe, even if you don’t, just whisper some good wishes under your breath for Ukraine today. What can it hurt?

 

…COVID is no fun at all. Just when you think you’re over it, the thing circles back and takes you out at the knees. If I cough anymore, I’m pretty sure the lining in my throat is going to split wide open.

Be safe and get boosted.

 

…Here are some things I like for the weekend: 

 

“It’s important that people know I’m so much more than the bad things that have happened to me.” Nightbirde

  

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” Mary Oliver

 

“Every day will be okay if you find some moments to laugh.” Shay Weintraub

 

“I need a smart car full of valium.” Mike Stobe

 

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.” Sylvia Plath

 

“The world turns, just try to stop it.” Donna Vitucci

 

“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet...maybe we could understand something.” Federico Fellini

 

"People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is - just be a little kinder." Aldous Huxley

 

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." ~Michelangelo

 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart...live in the question.” Rainer Maria Rilke

 

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

 

“You never know what fountain you might be drinking from.” David O’Connor

 

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” Hermann Hesse

 

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” Henry J. M. Nouwen

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

  


ASKEW, by Robert Vaughan

 

 

With his latest book, ASKEW, Robert Vaughan takes his unique talent for writing quirky, inventive and highly evocative prose to a level unparalleled even in today’s elite, prose poetry circles. 

There is simply no one like him.

ASKEW both astounds and skewers the reader, sometimes leaving her/him/they spellbound, breathless and mired in after-thought. Sometimes gasping. Sometimes wounded. Sometimes chuckling nervously. 

There is, perhaps, no author writing today who is able to “land the plane,” or write a last sentence, with such panache as Vaughan.

Here are but two examples, though there are literally dozens upon dozens of others throughout Askew:

 

A story, after all, is a kind of smothering.

 

The longer he swallows her arm, the more possibilities open up.

 

And it’s not only last sentences that Vaughan excels at, but also the ever-important first sentences:

 

Mother was fond of saying I was born during a tornado of light.

 

There are so many people going to the Grand Canyon to die.

 

You’re as loose as a vacant freeway.

 

The night my mother dies we’d watched Solaris at the Quad Cinemas…

 

 One could teach classes, entire semesters, on how to write such utterly compelling first and last sentences from this book. One could, and likely should, teach this book for decades to come. One could, and should, read it over and over again. 

ASKEW is the perfect title for Vaughan’s latest collection because each piece is superbly off-kilter, just as the most fascinating parts of life are. Vaughan takes the mundane and flips it on its head, to wonderful effect.  

He writes about bravery when it’s stuck under the covers, not readily apparent, breathless and wondering what’s next. He writes about fear and failure in ways that humanize not only his characters, but also, we as readers and flawed human beings.

What he never, never does, though, is bore us, let us off the hook, or allow us to know the direction each particular story is headed, which is the very signature of artistic expertise.

To speak specifically of any piece in ASKEW would be to ruin the reader’s chance at achieving a revelatory feeling of wonder and self-discovery—senses that the very best art strives to illuminate in us. 

The plot in these pieces may be pertinent, but the language is so exquisite that it also sidelines our thoughts about narrative arc, which is also a sign of author authority, if not genius.

Simply put, ASKEW is a marvel, and then some—for the reader, for the writer, for those of us who aren’t yet sure who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’re headed.   

Monday, May 16, 2022





 —EVERY DAY’S IMPORTANT, BUT TOMORROW’S A BIG ONE

 

 

Ken

 

I miss you already 

your trembling hands 

that so often 

resembled mine 

you a gentle lion 

no other way to say it 

how you’d hug the whole forest 

and the world would feel it 

like a sudden clutch 

or tender high-pitched sigh  

cacti saluting from afar

Why do we know 

so little about the 

lives of the good ones 

after it’s too late

those we should have 

excavated and examined

so we’d have a pattern or

footprints to step into

a template for being a 

better flawed/fucking human being

I guess what you told us 

this week in that soft garbled 

voice of yours was 

You dumb shit 

what are you doing

The answer is easy and right there

It’s love strong 

It’s hold on while you can

Friday, May 13, 2022

 

—ONE MINUTE YOU’RE HERE, THEN YOU’RE GONE THE NEXT, TURNING INTO STRANGERS LIKE WE’VE NEVER MET

 

…Happy Friday. I hope it’s sunny where you are, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

 

…I’ve been doing a lot of press for my new book. It’s not fun for me, but little by little, I’m maybe getting better at it. Maybe?

Here’s the latest, wherein I talk about the book, my career at Nordstrom, and some of the things I’ve struggled with over the years:

 

https://www.spreaker.com/user/www.transformedtraveler.com/len-kuntz


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 

—ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD, AND LORD, LET IT BE THE LAST 

 

Deepfake

 

I keep losing marbles from the jar, as we all do, but my car only knows reverse, back to the trailer with the shysters and succubi, bedrooms turned into torture chambers, where the screams were always stifled by a hairy paw, or a spatula stuck down the throat, and then, out of the blue, last Thursday, my therapist deepfaked into my mother, wearing a blood-splattered blonde wig, her hands gripped on a notebook as if it was the neck of my favorite chicken just before she’d bring the butcher knife down, Dad floating into the room like another atrocity deepfake, the two of them staring at me for years, waiting to hear some fake confession I could never muster.

Monday, May 9, 2022

 
—PLAY SOMETHING WE CAN SING TO, PLAY SOMETHING WE RAISE HELL AND A GLASS TO

 


Flight 366 to Seattle

 

It’s a field of baby’s breath outside the plane window again, each cloud its own trigger. There’s Sis and me curled up fetal and frightened, two anorexic commas lacking a suitable stanza. There’s a lost butterfly. A bloated unicorn long dead. There’s Sis nose-diving off the high board, right wing behind her both flaccid and erect.

And way down below, beneath the fluff and dander, there’s a cotton noose swaying in the gauzy barn light, staring back wide-eyed, just begging us to test the strength of its yarn, its heft, buoyancy and mercy.

Friday, May 6, 2022



 —I WROTE A HUNDRED PAGES BUT I BURNED THEM ALL

 

 

Why I Hate Rocks

 

 

--So, you were nine then?

     --About that, yeah.

--One brother in prison, one in ‘Nam?

     --Yes.

--What year did your parents decide to become nudists?

     --When I was 13, whatever year that was.

--Puberty? Interesting. 

     --Nothing’s interesting anymore.

--And the garage burning down, that was a seminal moment? 

     --What’s it matter? Every year was torched back then.

--No playing the victim here, remember?

     --I was just a witness, scarecrow in a field.

--Ah, yes. Nice analogy. Okay, so what about Pepper, having his voice box taken out? You said his bark sounded like muffled agony.

      --He was a witness, too, but a dog that could no longer testify.

--Did you really try to burn your own home down?

     --It wasn’t a home. It was a trailer.

--Okay, sure, semantics, but did you?

     --Yes, a thousand times in my mind, but no, not really. No.

--Your friend, PR, who bashed in all those car windshields with a crowbar

     --He wasn’t my friend. I didn’t have any. Or one.

--But—

     --Are we almost done?

--I ask the questions.

      --Sure, sure.

--Okay, so you stole things.

     --Yes.

--Squirt guns from a place called 2 Swabbies?

     --Yes.

--And you kept the donations for the March of Dimes Walkathon rather than handing them over?

     --Yes.

--Your father’s Playboy’s?

     --Yes.

--Corn from the very people who employed you in summertime?

     --Yes.

--Nude Polaroids of your mother after her breast augmentation?

      --No, I burned those in the sink of the camper.

--Isn’t that still stealing?

     --I think it’s called burning. You light a match, things tend to turn into fire.

--We can get to that another time.

     --There is no other time.

--You forget that I’m—

     --The one who holds the keys. 

--Okay, let’s get back on track. Let me see. Oh, yes, so, incest, was it—

      --I won’t to talk about that ever.

--But you do understand why you’re here, right?

      --I acted out.

--That’s an interesting way of putting it.

      --Put it wherever you want.

--Okay, so did your father hit your mother often?

      --No, she hit him.

--What?

     --You heard me.

--That’s extraordinary.

     --That’s one way of putting it.

--And she beat you and your siblings?

     --That was just him doing Mom’s bidding, but not me so much. I just watched it all happen.

--What about rocks?

      --What about them?

--The ones you had to collect in a pail and then kneel on for an hour?

     --They hurt. They hurt bad.

--Do you still feel them sometime?

     --No.

--Come on now.

     --I hate rocks.

--Of course you do.

     --You don’t know me.

--I might know you better than you think.

     --I stopped thinking when I turned nine.

 --That’s called ACB. Avoidance Cluster Behavior.

     --Call it whatever you fucking want.

 --Are you angry?

     --No, I’m dead.

--Ah, levity. Touché.

     --Nothing’s funny.

--Oh well, let’s see. Yes, last one. Did you father and brother really rape your sister?

      --We all did.

--Excuse me?

     --We were all there.

--But still—

      --I said, We were all there.

-