The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2013

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OCT 2013 Issue

[Untitled Summer Journal Project #10 Revisited]

5/27, Memorial Day

Every summer since the summer I lost my virginity…I’ve wanted to keep a diary, or rather to buy a brandspanking new notebook (a Mead® black marble composition book, “Wide Ruled” like a Homeric epithet) at the beginning of the season to use through to the end, to the perfectly choreographed ends of them both, the season filled with book, the book filled, no, seasoned with words and sand and the ink sunfaded and the pages windblown and stiff from having gotten saltwet and then dry again—though ultimately for reasons mostly related to that mortifying necessity I’ll call “my practice,” I didn’t want to have to buy the thing but to be presented it like as a token of affection by a prospective sexual partner too ridden with tumors to be anything more harmful than prospective and so offering me this token in lieu of sex, or else the dream would be just to find it, a Mead® lying blank by the side of a lane strewn with the marginalia of marshgrass…
This is the, pick a number, tenth summer I’ve done this or tried to do this—all my previous attempts failed within a week, either because I lost the book I’d brokendown and purchased, lost at Custard Hut, or at the Ping & Putt, or because some “entry” had become an “exit,” some line or whatever turned into another more formal or just more formalizable piece of prose, and that project or merely its unrealizable shimmer superseding the impulse, becoming the fake impulse, to record all the petty day to day fucking goldfish shit of my life.

Goals: to be as gay as James Schuyler (1923-1991), as black as Frank O’Hara (1926-1966). They were summer guys.

They knew just how to keep things occasional.



It’s not exactly 5/28. Rather it’s just two minutes 21 22 seconds after I finished the entry I dated “5/27, Memorial Day,” which honest Injun I wrote on 5/27, Memorial Day, beginning around 6PM and so nowhere near “the midnight-blue light that in turning itself inside out. / Offers something strange to the attention, a thing” (J. Ashbery). After namechecking my goals I felt a type of break was required—it felt like tomorrow had to happen right now, and so I made it happen, right now, however I’d like to go back in a telephonebooth timemachine and just note that though Frank and James—the poets named like bank bandits—have been dead so for long, if I’d substituted for their names the names of contemporary poets equally or roughly equally decent nobody would know who I was referring to, or whom, because poetry itself has been dead for so long and I write from the summer of humanity, that vacation interminable in which every day is the same and nothing new happens or even can happen—the Age of TiVo (I don’t really want to be alive anymore, but I don’t not want to be alive anymore either).
Happen. Happen. Happen. “Happen” is a city in Germany, used to be in the Hanseatic League. “Happen” is like a Scandinavian or Nordic verb: to fuck. I happen you, you happen me—we fucking happened.



A beautiful day out, forecasters say. I took a schooner (it was rigged) to a balloon (full of hot air) then hitchhiked while walking—as bad as eating while swimming, or drinking what you’re swimming in—but as no carriages horsed by I had to walk all the way to this saltbox rambler situated precariously atop a bouldered promontory out on the underappreciated far western coast of Massachusetts, which belongs—not just the saltbox but all of Massachusetts’ west coast—to the family Ph., whose daughter, a boyman named I., has become my most probable “fling,” or summer “love interest.” She is one of the most promising young poets of his generation, meaning she has been read by as many as 12 people not paid to read him, most of who or whom have been invited to this class reunion of folks from a barely Ivy League university that rhymes with “Drown.” I have been allotted a topfloor room, a closet actually, where I unpack my “trunks,” spare jeans, two ts, no undies or socks, the present tense.
Sometimes, while reading a novel, I only read novels sometimes, I’ll imagine a Jewish comedian of “the observational humor school,” or a Jewish comedian impersonator of “the observational humor school,” say, “whaaaat’s…gooooing oooon with…novels?”

If I keep writing like this, I’ll never be translated into French, which—I’m just making this up—is particularly unforgiving of exallotriote puns. (“Are you free this weekend?” “Let me check my calembour.”)

Reading list: Tennyson, the Brownings. Brecht. Jerome Rothenberg. David Antin.



“Clapboard.” When I first encountered this word—driving up to it in a 1949 Studebaker of the mind—I knew it had something to do with planks, with a house made out of planks, but I couldn’t shake the thought—couldn’t shake the image, really—of my arrival at some “cottage,” or “bungalow,” and everyone there so happy to have me, the house itself so happy to have me that it applauds, it claps its boards together, and keeps clapping its boards together until even the rickety porch gives me a standing ovation.
No phoneservice. Slingshot paintings from dunetop—gobs of cadmiums yellow, orange, and red, fitted in a thong (of leather), tugged to tension then, loosed at the horizon. Tree rings—cross-sections of trees felled “organically” by offseason storms—playing on the turntable, old growths playing long, saplings short, oak deep, birch tinny. House rules: BBQ indoors only, one towel MUST be shared.

Reading list: why is it that with painters and sculptors and composers and musicians who otherwise have great taste when you go to their homes and particularly to their summer houses the only novels they have on their shelves are by Jonathan Franzen? and why is it that when it comes to poetry all they have if anything are bilingual anthologies of like Chileans or Argentinians or Mexicans? I want to read an obscure book of stories or like mythical tales by Yonatan Franzen, the Israeli mystical dissident, I want sonnets by Gionatan Franzenetti, the Italian “bard,” or stochastic aleatoric whatever processural verse by Ioannis Franzenopoulos, the Greek “laureate.” The Infinite Jest of the Finite, ca. ninth century, by Dawood Faisal Warraq.

I. still hasn’t shown yet. S/He was supposed to have been here, tomorrow. I still haven’t met the other habitués guests. For a long time they used to go to bed early? For a long time they went to bed early? I’m trying to translate and they’re playing a plasmascreen version of Twister, but the multicolored circles instead of indicating foot or hand placement are, a few of them, landmines, or IEDs (not birthcontrol, but Improvised Explosive Devices), and when least expected, explode. I think they also happen (fuck). The people, I mean. The people happen to fuck multicoloristically in circles. I just stay closeted and read by the light of the jarred fireflies they leave for me by the door with my quinoa and Diet Cokes. Daily. They take the dead flies away and replenish my quinoa and Diet Cokes. They know, they must know, that I am writing my greatness…

So gorgeous, so natively healthy and gorgeous, in their “trunks.” The elephants. The penises.

“Did you swim the lake?” Is it my fault that I’ve always taken that euphemistically?

I have never “swum the lake”/“swam the lake”? which?

Swem came from Sweden,

with a PhD. in breeding.

Swom came from Norway,

with a wife and kid on the way.

Neither Swem nor Swom were any bit gay.

But life’s a continuum fleeting.

They met in New England,

and worked shucking clams at a shack

and worked shucking clams at a shack

The shack was called “Olde England Fry Shack.” They earned, not including split tips, $10/hour.

Black people are inherently superior to white people, if only because they can’t tan. That’s why I won’t come down (telling myself), I’m going to sit right here at this right here window and refuse to come down until I see a black person (been looking).

I’m not just a member of the Stickyfinicky Tribe, I’m the chief. They call me Closeted-with-Plaids.

I hear black people, but in the movies.



Season’s almost over. I’ve named each day’s surviving flies “Creeley,” and all the dead ones “Olson,” which, name-recognitionwise, is pushing it.
I’m left a fullfructose, all cornsyrupy, Coke, which tells me that the casts must’ve rotated, the sides must’ve switched. A backpack full of Cap’n Crunch, dry, with a Post-It note stuck, “is this your backpack????” Then I am left alone, all of my flies die, and everything is as dark as the inside of a plunger, coming down.



Labor Day weekend (too lazy to pin the date). Next time I’m outside Macy’s (34th Street & Bway) on the eve of Xmas Eve and somebody says something like, “Merry, merry,” I’m going to say, “Season’s almost over,” I swear.

Something I wanted to
tell you or somebody’s
nature wanted for description
so badly it changed
Pens ranged from blue
to black like peaches
nectarines apricots pithy lists
The notebook was a
MacBook Pro—$1499 loaded.

This summer I sweated the I off the I key, so had to fill it in with pen, and while coloring it blueblack the document that happened to be open, this one, read IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII.

There was traffic heading back to the city, and by city I mean Hartford, CT. Not sure I left the door unlocked and flame on, definitely left the mirrors on. Better arrive before you leave. Best leave before you arrive.


Joshua Cohen

Joshua Cohen is the author of Four New Messages, Witz, A Heaven Of Others, Cadenza For The Schneidermann Violin Concerto, and others. He lives in Brooklyn.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2013

All Issues