There is a legend, or story, that Samuel Johnson once had an argument with a bookseller and felled him with a blow, not with a cane but with a book, a folio volume, which makes the anecdote more literary and also testifies to Johnson’s great physical strength, for such manuscripts are difficult to handle, especially in the middle of a fight.

~Professor Jorge Luis Borges


Book launch event coming up in Los Angeles:

Publications coming up with Meat for Tea: Print edition, Dum Dum Zine, Apiary Magazine, Sparkle & Blink, & The Northridge Review.

They gave me my own ‘Reality’ section over at Empty Sink Publishing:

My unorthodox review of Ben Lerner’s Novel ‘Leaving the Atocha Station’ can be found here in the latest Watershed Review:

Also, can’t forget my four poems at:

& two pieces published at:

Finally, I am in the 3rd issue of Tendril Magazine with Alphonse Mucha!

That is all for now. I am performing for Quiet Lightning‘s 4 year anniversary tonight in San Francisco. Thanks for dropping in.

Four Spontaneous Acts of Education Regarding Booksellers

1. In The Confessions of St Augustine the author recalls that one of his greatest lessons came from seeing a man quietly read to himself, in a courtyard in Ostia. Thereby marking the first time in recorded history a man moved his lips to the words on a page, squinting his eyes to a private music better suited to the wrinkles of his body.

It is true that long before the proliferation of books the Greeks and the Romans considered intelligence to be located in the flesh—someplace between the heart and the ‘voicebox,’ rather than in the brain which is silent.

2. On the night Troy was to be sacked, Helen of Sparta—who remains literature’s original and undisputed femme fatale—pranced around the wooden horse in which the Greek commandos were crammed together and—in order to amuse a new boyfriend of hers who was with her at the time—imitated the voices of the wives of the men inside it.  Thereby testing the will of each of the soldiers, circling the great horse a lot like the thunder-storm, homer says, that raged and spoke out also–so that it was difficult to tell who had been more scandalized by Helen’s behavior—the gods or all the men inside the horse who were silent.

3. Remember: 

If there can be lightning so slow and tender that it can kill you, then this is what dying will deprive you of.

This is what I imagine Helen might have said to the soldiers inside the horse, were Helen a poet and not a heartless horse of a bitch herself (Homer’s words).

4. [ Part of this story has been removed, to satisfy certain publication requirements or magazine solicitations ]


Toward a Bookseller’s Glossary of Imaginary Sorrows

In the official Bookseller’s Glossary of Imaginary Sorrows—which is not a real thing although it really really should be—the term prefertilization can be defined as preferring and/or preparing to fertilize (a transitive verb). As in, for instance, what happens when you watch Mexican porn at your work place and, not having had the foresight to set your printer to ‘B&W Only,’ accidentally click ‘Print’ just while your boss is making her rounds. And the two of you are forced to look on as a series of Mexican babies emerge from the printer bearing labels like ‘Oscar-Lucinda Redux’ and ‘Las Papillas’, something you later learn—no thanks Google Translate—is Oaxacan street slang for ‘the little papers.’ Although in the great late bandit tradition of the Cuban Hablaneros, on the other hand—which I also know nothing about, although now I’d really really like to—this phrase means something, let’s just say, entirely different.

As a sort of anecdotal aside, I would like to propose yet another reference point regarding the term prefertilizion. For I feel this is a word that might—or sounds as though it might—refer to the case of a sparkleponie at a Burning Man festival—somebody who has very little in the way of basic survival skills but who makes up for it by being naked pretty much constantly. It occurs to me that this is a term that might also refer to the recent cult phenomenon based in the Czech Republic known as ‘Masturbation and its Discontents’—formally known as MAID—which doesn’t actually exist, although if it did (I gather) it would aim to cast unusual and elaborate obstacles during acts of onanism.

As in, for instance, the first person to gain international recognition for MAID—a man from the English chapter—who successfully masturbated while reciting John Milton’s poem ‘Il Penseroso,’ and who—according to reporter Harry Matthews, not technically present at the time—achieved climax precisely while reading out the line—to the possible confusion and/or delight of an otherwise captive audience—‘While the bee with honied thigh.’

Then again, a grimmer reality might suggest another definition entirely for the term prefertilization—as in, for instance, ‘the first days of Spring, when the ink spills out from the pen of the poet (surprise!) like a kind of waterfall of limpid tears that falls out (I imagine) over his pages like his own outstretched coffin, when there is let’s say so much Spring in the poet’s step, the poet could just about spring himself from the window, or else, alternatively (one hopes) the poet could go and read out a vulgar history of an imaginary word to a well-dressed / well-adjusted / well-behaved and otherwise captive audience—which looks on in rapture or terror or (more likely) absolute fucking bewilderment as the poet walks off stage pulling dumbly on his beard, which could be perhaps—who knows?—a kind of death also.’[1]

[1] At they very least it is, let’s just say for the sake of argument, a transitive verb.

Second Short Talk on Booksellers

In the Confessions of St Augustine, the author recalls that one of his greatest lessons came from seeing a man quietly read to himself, in a courtyard in Ostia. Thereby marking the first time in recorded history a man moved his lips to the words on a page, squinting his eyes to a private music, better suiting themselves to the wrinkles of his body.

Long before the proliferation of books, the Greeks and the Romans considered intelligence to be located in the flesh—someplace between the heart and the ‘voice-box’ (the latter-day larynx/larnax, plural larnaxes), rather than in the brain which is silent.

It is by this very same notion that entire breeds of booksellers today are so anti-intellectual that they refuse to fall in love. I happen to have known a great deal of booksellers in my time, so I feel I should say a few words on the subject before nodding off drunk into the angelic night. Listen. Here is the secret about booksellers:

They have lost all faith in their own words.

Take a closer look, and you will notice that the vast majority of booksellers are little more than a walking poesy of other people’s flowers. Walk in any bookshop almost at random and you are sure to be barraged with a leaky timeworn aggregate of other people’s quotations passed down from on high—usually other sager booksellers—which are then used to commit spontaneous acts of education on windblown travelers, unsuspecting patrons of all variety, and whatever other idiot Bedouins happen to find shelter among the shelves of their fated shop on a Sunday afternoon. 

Surely, it doesn’t bode well that in today’s parlance the German ‘Buch händler’ evokes a certain pleasure to the touch—that a ‘Buchnummer des Verkäufers’ can be loosely translated as ‘that swarthy old Austro-Prussian pederast behind the desk who fondles.’ Or that the word for book in French carries the promise of de-live-ry—with all the smarmy anonymity that no doubt accompanies the ‘working’ order of the Franco-European post.

It is no coincidence that in English, too—no thanks to the patois of American film-noir—the term is sooner associated with crime and punishment: To book someone is to toss them in the slammer; to throw the proverbial book at someone’s head is to rebel quietly against the centralized power so many booksellers lord over the rest of us in their collective raid on the inarticulate.

Back in the early days after Gutenberg, more than one owner of a significant private library made it known that no printed book would ever be in it. Today, it is these are the self-same ‘scholars’—captains of industry, bandits manqué—who not only defend threadbare ideas and intellectual properties like blank canvases hanging in a dusty museum but also go on squeezing no doubt from the wrong end on a tube of toothpaste, refusing to write a word if there no straight lines in their notepads, and—just as Augustine knew first-hand—loving one another without any words.

You might find such men hatching revolutions in the basement of the ivory tower, plotting our future out of their own undifferentiated facts (one day praising Mussolini, for instance, for the fact that his trains were always on time, or Castro for the work he did for the people’s health and education—forgiving Stalin the next for teaching the people to read and write in farmhand, Hitler for bringing Weimar out of its economic quagmire).

If you are lucky you will have the chance to observe these conniving booksellers parading about the streets with a goofy grin on their face like a balloon on a string, sporting their customary taffeta headwear or the once-fashionable pair of open-toe sandals blithely kicked up on their mahogany desk in a spirit of defiance—or cultural authority abuse, depending what side of the desk you happen to fall on.


Yes, and add all this to the fact that most bookshops today look like war bunkers and smell like luxurious water closets, and it is little wonder booksellers no longer know how to love.


For you can trust me when I tell you that such egregious displays of gustatory-olfactory exhibitionism as these are not only designed to rankle genuinely enthusiastic bibliophiles the whole world over. They are meant to mask the fact that most booksellers’ internal chakric machines have long broken down, which accounts for the way those miserable creatures continue to shoot off dagger upon dagger of other people’s words, which only point back in truth to their own flinty little hearts.

In any case, managers beware! There are as many booksellers today as there are wheat-ears in a mummy’s tomb—and there is enough dust in their lungs to be scattered by the four winds of Heaven. I have no clear idea what these last two phrases mean, but it just so happens I stumbled upon them a few moments ago in a rare text about the first booksellers of Rome. Just imagine my delight upon the discovery therein that booksellers once were a sad and meek and underprivileged people—this was the Golden Age in the history of booksellers—who began their ill-fated lives as slaves-cum-scribes, until they eventually worked their way up the ancient (read backward) social ladder (read brownnosers), until they became as precious and indispensable as cooks or scullions.

Which is to say there are far, far too many booksellers.

Which is to say they must be eliminated. Mahalo.

‘Pornografismos’ by G. Cabrera Infante

An original translation of Cuban Slang/poetry presented for the Center of the Arts and Translation Nov. 13th @ The Lab in San Francisco:


So-called Mallarmé, the mis-armed, the maligned, the badly arranged, despite his enormous penetrating wit and his relish for a good parlor-roost, damn near gave his critics a conniption fit over his poem in Old Chicago, where he was indeed very poorly read. But of all the literary cockatoos, it was his Chinese annotator, Señor Pun, an Orientalist—which Singapore claims as their own, although he was in fact born way out in the middle of the Orinoco River—who was single-handedly responsible for riding all the way up Mount Titicaca to assemble the aesthete’s ashes into a vast aviary of mythical proportions, thereby taking advantage of his knowledge of our native Putumayo Indians in the art of braiding their own horse manes, pingachas, their pubic hairs, even their own donkey-tails, which are not the same as pony-tails, if you see what I mean. Of course, his mother was partly responsible for the whole dispute as well, placing as she did the name Stéphane before this so-called man we’ve since come to know as Mallarmé: the maligned, the mis-armed, the badly arranged.


*Endnotes / Performance intro:

Russian author and translator Vladimir Nabokov convinced me for a long time that a translator should come up with a deliberately ugly version of the piece in order to get closer to its original purpose; that a translator should “try to curl up in the author’s arms, on a winter evening–to make up for the fact of his inherent betrayal” (from Lectures on Russian Literature–though I may be misquoting this or making it up entirely).

With Infante, I found this advice uniquely impossible and, quite frankly, wrong. For one thing, the author is not at all easy to curl up to. And this is maybe the central thing that informs my version here: Infante is gruff, plucky, and irreverent. He has a suave Cuban swagger that I don’t need to curl up to even if I wanted to; because it’s so close to my own style and voice anyway. That much is obvious.

Infante is not very easy to make ‘ugly’ either. And that is because the style and the music and the beauty in this poem are the real protagonists of the work–much more important than the sense/meaning/logic. And so I felt that was part of the point here, seeing as how what the author is doing throughout this whole collection, in fact, is exorcising many great writers/thinkers/literary figures by mimicking their style (i.e. the lyrical impressionistic fragmented style of Mallarmé, in this case), and at the same time he is exageratting and parodying those stlyes the better to skewer/assimilate/demythologize them:

Infante is in effect curling up to these other authors but only close enough to where he can punch them across the face, or squeeze their cheeks a little bit at least.

My version very much reflects that privileging of sound over sense–of music over meaning–things like tone or attitude become more important than the sexual puns: for example in the first line, instead of the bit about ‘dispelling/perplexing all those literary cockatuas’, I say—

‘Mallarmé damn near gave his critics a conniption fit’.

Frankly, I found the sexual humor unnecessary to the poem, especially because it’s underlying logic has to do with an outdated homophobia. Even though it may be playful to call Mallarmé and his critics ‘gay’ or pederasts in the very first line of the original work, this is something that is more funny to a Latin American audience to an English-speaking one. Anyway, in my experience as a translator and as a reader, this aspect is not very amusing or profound, or necessary to the bigger more interesting themes of the poem.

Bottom line: I decided to prioritize beauty of the language and attitude (specifically in the style of Mallarmé, Raymond Queneau, and Infante himself.), despite what Nabokov says.

The (secret) anatomy of a tear

It’s mainly a matter of respectability, that’s the first thing to remember. There are he tears and she tears. There are tears of the drunkard and there are tears of a caged animal sweating out its last will and testament over a little bit of spilt grain/sour milk/beer/a jar of pickles (the moment before it becomes a child).

Let’s say it happens sometimes you burst out crying without my knowing why, a libidinal melancholy. The kind of crying-fit where your rib cage tenses up, your whole body vibrates like it’s empty or wants to thank you for being hollow and useful for something after all these years – it’s about goddamn time, what took you so long?

They say Dostoevsky used to weep this way, shamelessly out of proportion with his body, apropos of nothing. His wife and servants claimed that whenever the samovar of tea was too mild by the time he reached for it, his manuscript would be flooded with a vale of tears; and that he was okay with this, much of the time. They say that those around him were in fact so moved by his abrupt and unprompted weeping that when he smiled (‘with the heavy heart of an injured lion’) or when he laughed (‘like a camel in heat who is allergic to the desert’), they said that he should go back to crying instead, that his face better suited the role of his body with wrinkles, that his hair would stand on end just like the hairs of those around him—also standing, like the time he was released from prison, returning to Moscow for the first time in eight years to greet his family who hardly remembered him, those who were left anyway. (I may be misremembering this slightly.)

When some people cry it’s a disturbed system. Their first reaction is to break down that way in a primal lament, don’t ask me why. I guess sometimes such tears are a pejorative manifestation, tears on the border between ethics and aesthetics. Those kind of tears can be difficult to come by—by this I mean the tears of Heraclitus, tears of the Philosopher-King; or the way the Scythians used to cry whenever a child was born, greeting death on the other hand with jubilation.

Let’s take such a simple idea as the desire to improve, to become better. Is it a natural human instinct or is it the result of early conditioning? Crocodiles, king crabs, eagles, do not evolve and yet they seem perfectly content with their humble status. And many human beings enjoy a quiet existence without feeling themselves obliged to expand or develop.

The Greeks as a rule never cried in their plays. Not much in real life either. One idea about this is that they just didn’t have any reason to. For them, everything came from without, happened by fate. It wasn’t until man became responsible for his own actions and destiny that the pathological element came into play.

The Russians, of course, brought all this to a choleric passion; ‘If there is any value in man’s having some nobility’, said Pushkin, ‘it is in this: that one is capable of being touched to the point of tears in the midst of Nature—in a fine breeze or storm; in an erotic relationship; even in the bitter recognition that Fate has, alas, given you two big thumbs down.’ (I might be making this up entirely.)

Most of Chekhov’s characters weep, and most of them die, sometimes in the same sentence, so that it’s all muddled together, so that even when it seems they are weeping they are actually just having a sneeze at a concert or at the theater or some other joyous occasion that ends up in a tragedy of howling proportions.

Anyway, the Slavs claimed the greatest ill that can befall humanity is excessively happy people, and for a long time the literature of the world has not disagreed with them. One exception is in the East, whose novels have resisted the urge to cry for so many centuries perhaps because they are an older, wiser civilization, perhaps because they are surrounded by cherry blossoms for five months out of the year and so many statues of the Buddha’s disciples smiling at the sun, almost to the point of blindness, deep in contemplation of their own navels.

Let’s say you don’t understand anything about it, except that it’s convulsive and has to do with a lot of exaggerated confusion over a little bit of nothing. What can a man expect after all from a world he isn’t apart of, knowing nothing of people except that he never will? What are the chances for someone who’s already dwelled so far in the depths of solitude that even being with himself could no longer be considered company? So alright, more than once no one was there with you but Time, stirring up the dullest water. So she didn’t have the slightest idea what she wanted. Time the old fuck, surest and purest form of doom. A little bit of nothing, I said, a libidinal melancholy. What’s a tear, after all, but a kiss on the stake of Time that’s no longer there?

It is also true that the East has a valuable track record with Reason, which the rest of us (after Dostoevsky and perhaps as far back as Schiller and Goethe) prefer to view, at least for an instant and through a puddle of tears, our nerves all a-quiver like a red-capped mushroom lurking in the birches, precious as stalks of grass in a field of wheat, or as light and fragrant as quicksilver, a fresh spring cabbage—but anyway, I should stop here before I grow too emotional and lose your respect, whatever that means.