Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beck and Palin: sound and fury signify nothing but do great harm

This past weekend's Tea Party Rally in D.C. was shameful.

Yes, Glenn Beck and S. Palin are a) sound and b) fury. Yes, they signify nothing in terms of intelligent content. But they are dangerous in abuse of justice, mercy, kindness, humanity, common sense, inclusiveness, fairness.

Their rally or rather the fact of their rally was painful in its proud disrespect for America's history, which pretty much begins with slavery, not just racism with its ugly discriminations but slavery. The great triumphs in America's history are Abolition of Slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King's success in Civil Rights legislation and his demonstrations of true Christianity.

Glenn Beck and S. Palin make a big and pompous deal of being Christian, though I doubt they begin to delight in that singular spirit that has outlived and rises above organization. The brutality and atrocity done in the name of Jesus have nothing to do with that spirit and everything to do with human pride and greed.

So I suppose I shouldn't say Beck and Palin signify nothing. They signify pride and greed. They distort Christianity (most people do). They distort the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and most ethical underpinnngs to this odd experiment (as it's called), America. Thomas Jefferson, even with his regrettable hypocrisy, would denounce them.

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Hence, the law. As Aristotle said, and I paraphrase, the law habituates us to the good. I'm less interested in the faux-Christianity of the Tea Party than its utter ignorance, cruelty, danger. Using Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday to rally? And to promulgate stupidity and meanness at the Lincoln Memorial. Sad days. The Kindness and Generosity Party, the Do Not Fear, Little Children, Party, the Ethical Thinking Party need to work harder.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rejection, literary

Rejection. Evokes romantic rejection with its singular and universal echoing pain. Also the felt but unknown rejections, you know, back when mother/father/brother/sister, the odd relative, the bully, poverty, sanctimonious wealth, middle-class boredom, warfare, an oppressive right-wing shouting lies had their way with you or some part of you. Their way is to leave tracks on tender parts.

To the chase, Sarah. Both my short story collections were rejected by the University of Georgia Press Flannery O'Connor competition.

The letters (two) arrived Thursday. Note: A typical rejection of one story or one group of poems can sting but I recognize the chump-ness of writing about that. Beginners complain and often stop submitting their work to avoid the ouch. That's being a chump. EVERYONE, except maybe Richard Price (The Wanderers) whose fiction was grabbed up when he was in college, gets rejected.

But man, this rejection is a comment on my writing career. I wondered if it was a message to quit. That competition has rejected my various short story collections more than once. I don't submit every year but I'd say seven or so times. The collection, now collections, varies each year as I add a new story or edit an extant.

This year I folded in each of my two novellas -- A Vote for Ross Perot and From the One End of Heaven, redivided the stories, came up with two books.

On Friday I received an e-mail from a novella competition stating I was almost a runner-up. The publisher had cut the list short because of finances but if someone dropped out (who drops out from getting published?) my novella would be published.

My inclination is to hide or certainly not make my failure public. I'm a writer and what I do is write. And tell the truth unless it's fiction and then an even greater truth (what does that mean?) (emotional?) is required.

It happened. No conclusion offered other than if I don't write what other excuse do I have to be in bed at 9:53 on a lovely Saturday morning. Writing.

The end.

[Pictured: The author with two short story collections awaiting life.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fiction: Approximating Desired Fervency {serialized: Part 2 of 2}

Approximating Desired Fervency {Part 2 of 2}
{Read Part 1, posted August 24, 2010, by clicking HERE.}

". . .Dave nodded as her day’s drama was sifted through her enthusiasm. “Pretty weird.”. . ."

“Georgia O’Keeffe painted those crosses.” Dave handed her a glass of herbal iced tea. “And those cow bones. They’re an entry to another world, a threshold, like you look through the cow pelvis and you’re inside a whole new vision.”

“Well I don’t know what the crosses mean, I mean to me here and now.” Estie toyed with possibilities. Crosses were big stuff. Cow bones, hey, an entry, whatever, but crosses? “They’re an ancient symbol.” She knocked herself out.

“Jung believed in poltergeists and in each person’s connection to tribal times.”

“Like Joseph Campbell.”

“Watered down, Campbell is Jung watered-down.” He reached over to squirt lemon in her tea. “For Freud, the tribe served as a metaphor for aspects and parts of the mind. Our fathers are brothers, but they come from different tribes, don’t you think?”

“I think they date back to a tribe that foraged for nuts and truth.”

Dave dropped the lemon in her glass; a drop splashed on her cheek and he dabbed at it. “Do you think there’s a connection between Dostoyevsky’s compulsive gambling and casinos bringing in money for reservations?” Dave frowned. “See, I don’t know about you as a programmer. How fulfilling can that be?” He wasn’t the first to doubt the satisfactions technology did and didn’t offer. She felt challenged, but decided to wait and see how things turned out before reacting.

The next morning at breakfast Estie said a new direction was needed for the day’s drive. “Oh? Hey, no problem.” Dave balanced a hard-boiled egg on a spoon. It fell on the comforter. He lifted it and started peeling, taking care the shell fell to the cup. Estie took care with her two eggs and two pieces of toast with Knott’s strawberry jam she’d brought from L.A. “Take the road to Madrid.” Dave’s pronunciation of the town’s name was Anglo, Estie told him a bit tersely. “That’s how it’s said: Maa-drid.” Dave defended himself. “Craftspeople live there. They took over a ghost town.”

She tried it. The drive out of Santa Fe took her east and south. She was still in New Mexico: The sky was all over, but the views were less vivid. Madrid was tiny. There was an eerie feel, as if the ghosts wouldn’t leave. Why would they want to? Live people paid good money to live in northern New Mexico. Estie watched a long-hair stain glass, bought a leaded sun in two shades of yellow for Dave to hang in his window. The long-hair escorted her back to the car.

“Those hills are sacred to the Indians.” He pointed to the patches of mountains she’d have on her right driving back to Santa Fe. He was a stoic fellow, maybe a white guy who beat a drum; clearly one who listened to a different drummer. She smiled at his battered VW van: peace symbols, feathers dangling from the rear view mirror and a bumper sticker for the Dead.

“Just keep trucking, man, that’s all you can do.”

He wasn’t wrong. Estie drove back to Santa Fe slowly, noticing now and then an abandoned shack. At least fifty years ago there’d been working mines along this road. A long time before that there were no whites, only Natives. She spotted an entrance to an old mine, a waiting egress to the mountain, and needed to take a look. She didn’t know why she was being so bold, but she remembered yesterday’s quest and defeat.

Walking up the slight grade, Estie reached the blank hole surrounded by decaying scaffolding. She was transfixed; the cave before her was a mystery, and maybe even holy. Holy? Estie thought, “This is a holy mystery, and I don’t even know what that means.” Worried her presence would be construed as a violation, she moved quickly. Had this been a movie, she would have been the first to yell for the heroine to ‘Stop! It doesn’t matter: your mother, your honor, your fiancé—forsake them all. Nothing could be worth the risk.’ But this was her life.

She stepped into the mountain, paused, stepped, paused. This worked seven more times and only that much because her solitary procession became rhythmic. She was deep in the cave. Wherever she looked she saw nothing, the absence of light, and what she felt was the absence of warmth. The air was clammy. Her skin was stuck to its own sweat. Estie stopped being plucky. She swirled, as scared cattle stampede, instinctively. Surrounding her was black: cold, dull, black. Mystery excited fear. She closed her eyes. “What the hell am I doing?” She was alone on the earth. “Bullshit.” Then Estie heard a faint noise, stinging as a bat’s bite. “Yes?” No answer. She couldn’t think of a better question and figured she’d better get moving, and directed herself. “Run.” Estie scraped her arm on deep-freeze stone.

“Stick to Santa Fe tomorrow.” Dave pressed his fingers methodically on the back of her hand that night. “You’re being pursued.”

Her head hurt. “I repudiate that.”

“Could be something in you, could be something beyond you.”

She looked to the ceiling and taunted, “Hello, God, this is Estie. Could you speak up?” Her voice was charged which kept her anxiety at bay. Dave had assumed his ha-ha-big-joke expression.

“God?” Dave abandoned her hand. “My cousin is talking about God? Did you find God in a programming algorithm or in that cave today? I found God in the Moscow train station where Anna Karenina threw herself on the tracks.” Dave’s arms stretched out as if he were Icarus about to take flight. “Nabakov spent an entire class session diagramming the scene.”

“Would he have been scared in the cave?”

“Nabakov could walk in and out of the cave whenever he wanted.” Dave’s arms had humbly lowered. “You’re the one who’s having these experiences, Estie.”

“Yea, but...” But why?

“Yea, but yourself. You’re lucky you know. All this in three days?” He fussed with a julep with fresh mint and rose petals. Dave was more concerned with the accouterment to a drink than the drink itself. “Let a person get in a word edgewise. Let a person have their own thoughts.” He was tired.

“I mean, sure, spooky things are happening, and I know there are big-time powers in the world.” Her learned cousin made Estie feel guilty.

“You say that, but you’re really a cynic. You say your heart stopped? Think about that. When they call New Mexico the land of enchantment, they don’t mean evil.” Dave tapped her third eye; something he’d first done in Tomorrowland when Estie’d asked how Walt Disney thought he could know the future. “At least not the tourist industry. I think something amazing is happening to you.”


“What causes a heart to stop?”

What came to mind was sadness and lack of purpose. Estie who could program her way through a computer’s complications was watching another Estie searching for answers without solving anything. “Hey, Dave, bud, you don’t have to tell me something’s happening.”

Dave looked away as was his custom when his feelings were hurt. Then they were eye-to-eye. “You have a romantic soul, her dear, so do I. Hang in. You’ll be back in at your computer soon, if that’s what you want, but you’ll be thinking about northern New Mexico, trust me.”

“I wouldn’t mind getting laid,” she blurted, deciding she didn’t like lectures at all.

“Segue into the cosmos!”

“Maybe I’m at the merging of sex and religion.”

“So spend your days in bars. Give me a break, Estie, that’s not you.”

Single people with decent jobs, bank accounts, VCRs, reach for the stars for ways to make their lives more complete. They brainstorm, couch hidden desires. Dave knew that. But he asked for his car keys back and went to bed without finishing his julep.

On her last full day in Santa Fe, Estie stayed in sight of civilization. She strolled the plaza, visited a museum and window shopped. She ate a tasty green chile enchilada, had two desserts, flan and chocolate torte with raspberry essence, and trekked up to Canyon Road to see more art galleries and shops. Stumbling on the threshold of a small shop with santos, carved saints, Estie remembered the Miraculous Staircase. Dave had sent her a post card. It was in the oldest church in the U.S.A., next to which had been built a hotel, L.A.-style. The church cost only a quarter to visit. For that price Estie heard a recorded voice boom out the story of the mysterious carpenter who had journeyed to the Southwest and built the stairway. From what she’d seen on the postcard, the circular stair was the kind of curve an engineer would understand, but it amazed the sisters of old. She tried to envision the scene, this stranger appearing as needed, proof positive for the sisters of their good faith.

The recorded, loud narration continued. She half-listened, readying herself to see the stairway. The narrator stopped and Estie enjoyed, in the silence, anticipation of wonder.

“And then the music came over the speaker. It was the ‘Theme from Exodus.’ Sorry, Cousin, but I laughed.” Estie poured herself a margarita from Dave’s Mexican blue glass pitcher and set it back on the floor. “I mean, there I was, ready to believe, and on comes this hokey music. I saw the Israelites trudging up the stairs, all twelve tribes humming ‘this land is yours, God gave this land to yo-o-o-o-u.’”

Dave didn’t join in with her laughter. “What is it you want?”

“Sex, drugs and rock and roll?” Noting Dave’s drawn lips, she quickly added, “Maybe to live in the Middle Ages.”

“See?” He was triumphant. “There was faith in the Middle Ages. The Grail, the Crusades.”

“There was death, the flip-side. Plague. And 100,000 Jews killed as the knights marched through Europe on their way to the Holy Lands.”

Dave brushed his fingers across his wild grass crew cut. “Shit...”

“I’m sorry. There was faith.”

“I think the point of it is to look for the silver lining. It may not be much, but it’s something. You’re looking for something.” Dave’s eyes narrowed to slits. “What are you looking for?”

The liquor felt warm and encouraging; she said, “Drama. Rebirth. A new cast to my life. The kind of thing that happens to characters in novels.”

“Yes!” Dave looked proud as a parent.

“Okay, I don’t understand, but I feel intense here, kind of Celtic, and I want to do it, feel it, rise out of my own ashes. I can’t do this stuff in L.A.” She believed a buff body was the city’s only redemption.

“And,” Dave demanded, “have you sufficiently approximated your desired fervency?”

Estie sipped the margarita deliberately, tongued the salt, stalled for time, made a mental macro of Dave’s words, beginning with sufficiently and ending with fervency, let it repeat until she felt confident she’d gotten the gist, then plunked down her glass next to the pitcher and demanded, “Are you kidding? With a Hollywood soundtrack as spiritual advisor?” She snorted. “Are you crazy?”

“When I don’t take you seriously, I’m crazy. When I’m serious, I’m crazy. When I’m supportive, I’m crazy. Guess I’m crazy.” Dave shrugged.

God-damned back-and-forth me, she thought. “Let’s take a walk,” she repentantly offered. “We can see one of those sunsets you keep writing me about.”

She believed her cousin Dave to be one of the most easy-going and forgiving humans on earth and she wasn’t wrong; he hugged her and handed her Aunt Jeanette’s throw against the possibility of chill night air, or maybe for comfort. They walked up Camino Cruz Blanca. Estie watched the dust rise as she sloughed along in her sandals; it blanketed her toes. She felt like a kid. “Am I frustrating?”

“Well.” Dave chose his words. “You’ve always been this way. You say you want something, then you push it away when it gets close.”

“I know.”


His voice brought her up, caused her to raise her head. The mountains behind them, the Sangre de Cristos, were bathed in red spun from the sun. Layers of color from an endlessly roiling sun hung over the valley and the mountains to the west. They were in an amphitheater, a vast radiant glen.

“That’s why I left L.A.,” he said. “I was looking for something, not just a career, something.”

“And have you found it?”

“That’s what living in Santa Fe is all about. This place is it. How can you not be spiritual when you have all this to look at?”

“Should I move here?”

“What are you looking for?”

“To wake up feeling happy.”

“Well.” Dave placed his hands on his hips, bent forward slightly and slowly rolled and twisted his trunk to the left. “There are no guarantees for that, ever, that I know. I settle for going to bed happy. I have some power over my attitude.”

“And your dreams can stir up whatever they want to?”

He rolled to the right. “I want them to stir me up.”

“Dave.” She put her hands on her hips. In her case it was arms akimbo rather than Hatha Yoga. “I want to go back to the cross or the cave or the staircase. Would you come with me?”

Dave straightened up. “Estie, it’s not necessarily safe to go places in the back country at night. The old Spanish don’t really want us messing things up.”

“They won’t mess up anything, we’ll just look. Come on, it’s such a beautiful night. And you want me to have an experience. Please.”

“Forget the cave—brrrrr. And the staircase is locked at night. The countryside, north, a cross. A quick look, we’re back here.” Dave capitulated and led the way down Cruz Blanca to his car. Moonlight cloaked the countryside as, an hour later—they agreed they needed more than lime and tequila in their stomachs and heated blue corn tamales—they sped along the back road in Dave’s car, Dave at the wheel. “Keep your eyes open,.” he suggested. “I don’t exactly have cross sites mapped in my mind.”

After winding roads and great silence, in the moonlight, Estie saw one on a rise in the distance. It was short, maybe two feet tall, made of wood as weathered as an abandoned shack, unembellished, a symbol that went beyond the meaning assigned to it. Estie wasn’t Christian-Christian, but she’d studied classical art and listened to classical music, and had a love of faith—not the content but the activity—through the art. “It’s a person, you know, before they used crosses to kill and scare people, it was a person, I’m sure of it, a basic representation of the human, arms outstretched, legs straight. They intersect each other as all things so, eventually. Ah. It means life, not death. But what do I know, I’m just going on my feelings.”

Dave’d stopped the car, and Estie urged him towards the wooden cross; she couldn’t stop talking. “We’re not alone, not anywhere. That’s what scared me about the cave, was that I wasn’t alone, but then ironically, I wanted to be alone at the staircase, but it was all wrong, with the music and what not. I mean, you never have to be alone in L.A. because of the millions of people, literally millions of people, but it’s hard at times, you know. You remember.”

The stark cross loomed before them, oblivious, dark, loaded with love and fears, and wisely, perversely, content to be a source for both. Estie reached out her hand.

“Estie,” Dave whispered, “you don’t touch a cross.”

“How do you know, they sent you to Unitarian Sunday School for a year?”

“They thought I should learn something about world religions.”

“I’m going to touch it, touch it, just...” She touched the cross. Her index finger pressed against the weathered, splintered, gray wood, she had to lean over to do so. There was no Hollywood magic, nor was there any religious anointing. She began debating herself: I’m getting a vision, no I’m not, yes I am, well, maybe I’m getting something, no, yes, and, why did I come here anyway: why come to Santa Fe, to Dave, to the cross. She said: “I did it, Dave, I touched it, I touched the cross.”

His eyes widened and he looked around to see if they were being watched “How does it feel?”

“It’s not a feeling, it’s an action.” Estie reached up and placed her index finger on his third eye, pushing him back towards the car. “Let’s go.”

Then a gunshot. They’d heard gunshots in L.A. They froze, grabbed each other and crouched. They tried to see into the night.

“Do we run, do we stay, and who the hell is shooting at us?” Dave’s voice crouched in his throat.

“I think running is the best choice.” It might not have been but they did it, hustled their way to the car. When they were close, Dave grabbed Estie and shoved her in, then raced around to the driver’s side and threw himself in.

“Start the car.” Estie was pounding on his arm. Dave tried, and of course the engine didn’t turn over, and the engine flooded. All the while, their hearts were racing. The lives of Dostoyevsky, Jung, Georgia O’Keeffe flashed before Dave’s learned eyes. For a brief moment, Estie thought the end of the world had come, that maybe the earth’s fate had been hinging on her, on her believing in something, and here, finally, she’d reached out to faith, and signaled to all the horsepeople of the Apocalypse so they could gallop by. Her brain turned over this way and that. So did the car’s engine. They were back on the road to Santa Fe.

“You know.” Through the window, Estie watched shrubs rush by. “If anyone had wanted to hurt us, they could have.”

Dave gripped the wheel.

“So they just don’t want us back. I shouldn’t have touched the cross.”

Dave rubbed his forehead where Estie’d touched him. “No, they don’t want us here.”

“You’re probably right.” She was from L.A., the center of the world, and assumed she belonged everywhere. “But that’s too bad, because this is the first time I felt, I don’t know, connected. A Native American wouldn’t have shot, we weren’t on their land.”

Dave looked down at her. “Oh?”

“We weren’t on a reservation. You think an Indian shot at us?” Estie squinted at the countryside.

“I, I don’t think an Indian shot at us, I think it could have been anyone, I think it could have been someone with Spanish blood, a penitente, that sort.”

“White people have been known to pack guns. Maybe it was a realtor. Now I can see why people find this place so spiritual.”

“Because of the danger?” Dave glanced to the rear view mirror. “Sometimes I think there’s a knife over this city. There’s a racial divide.”

Her adrenaline kept pumping, and it took a while to calm down. Once home, Dave made her a cup of Sleepytime tea and asked if she minded him turning on his tiny TV. It sounded good to her; artificial colors and foolish laughter were just what she needed. They laughed at the stupidity of their hometown, at sit-coms, and serialized movies about stressed-out Americans. Finally, they felt revived and safe. Dave turned off the set. They were tucked in. Dave asked how she was doing.

“Good, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

“What’s that?”

“Following through.”

“Not letting yourself stay so sarcastic you keep yourself outside of everything.” He asked if she thought she’d get religion.

“Not like some people,” she replied. “I’m not meaning to be sarcastic,” she hurriedly added.

“We need something, we’re not above it.” He giggled. “The problem is where to get it.”

“Uh...” Estie fell asleep before she could complete her thought. In the morning, she wasn’t necessarily happy, so much as crammed full of conjecture. There actually was more to life than what she’d been living, but of course, she knew that when she left L.A. She’d known that for years. She wasn’t sure what to do about it, but, as she looked down at the Southwest on her flight home, she scribbled on a postcard to mail to Dave from LAX, using a pen she found at the bottom of her pack. The pen was stamped with her employer’s logo. Estie clicked it a few times, then, quickly, without thinking, scrawled, “Beauty and mystery are entering my life.”

"Approximating Desired Fervency" by Sarah Sarai was published in South Dakota Review in 2003.
Artwork from http://watercolorblog.artistsnetwork.com/content/binary/hp-window.jpg

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fiction: Approximating Desired Fervency {a northern New Mexico short story, serialized}

Approximating Desired Fervency
{Part 1. Read Part 2, posted August 25, 2010, by clicking HERE.}

When Estie visited her cousin Dave in Santa Fe where he was studying professional massage, they talked some about their parents, the usual, how her father hooked up a speaker in the bathroom so he could bathe to arias from Aida. How Dave’s father wrote letters to the L.A. Times’ editor evangelizing that employment of logic could solve the city’s multiple problems. The cousins also talked about Dave’s upcoming career as a masseuse and Estie’s promotion at the data processing plant, as she called it, really, the tech division of a small corp. Before Santa Fe, Dave chopped vegetables in a restaurant in West Hollywood, and, as always, read in his spare time. His move surprised Estie, but didn’t astound her; Dave was a person of parts, she thought. The day Estie was promoted project director of her unit, she phoned Dave, a normal course of events. “Visit, visit,” Dave pleaded, writing ‘Grocery List for Estie’s Imminent Arrival’ on the back of a yoga class schedule. “It’s just a few hours by plane—we’ll celebrate.”

Estie doodled a giant flame and encased it in a heavy square. She figured this meant she had inner aspirations in storage. After the two hung up, she scratched arrows pointing the way out. But she was guessing.

In Santa Fe, Estie shared Dave’s room and bath in the back of a thick adobe house. Dave was in the final phases of Swedish massage exams before he went on to psychic and acupoint; he was busy. He gave her his car keys, bid her explore and report nightly. She set out to enjoy the spare rapture of the high desert.

The first day she drove north. The aspens with their precise leaves, green, flanked the ski basin. Light breezes swept through trees whose leaves snapped and shimmered with delicacy. Near Abiquiu she saw long, steady stripes of mesa and sky. She rode the highway to Taos, skirting the plaza and heading for the pueblo and surrounding country. As she drove, Estie discovered she had a set of gut muscles that started and fluttered at the sight of full skies and burnt earth.

That evening Dave suggested her next day’s destination. “Why don’t you try the back road, Estie?” It was nice to see him again, Estie thought, tall, skinny, pale, blonde Dave with his angular face always looking apologetic, like he owed you money, but couldn’t repay it just yet. Her hair was black. Dave complained that Estie kept it cut like a monk’s cowl, but readily admitted her prominent nose gave her face great character.

Dave and Estie were sipping sangria while lying on the same jumble of blankets and quilts of Dave’s boyhood, teenage, college and working life. Dave didn’t have a couch and his futon provided the abode’s only means of lateral comfort. For Estie, Dave layered two camping mats on the floor and on top of those spread flowered sheets and the magenta comforter their great aunt Jeanette crocheted.

“The back road going north.” Dave pointed to the Auto Club Triptik unfolded on top of two pillows. “You’ll see some amazing churches.”

“Churches?” Was he breaking with family tradition again? she wondered.

“They’re strong. And you’ll get a feel for the penitentes.”

“Local rock band?”

“The old Spanish in the back hills. With secret rites. They’re Catholic and then some.”

“Since when are you Catholic?”

“They are. It’s part of the land, Estie. Try the back road.” Dave squiggled a snaky line on the pitcher. “It’s not about religion, it’s about New Mexico, it’s about not being in L.A.”

She’d missed her instructive cousin since his move. “Think you’ll stay in Santa Fe?” She plucked an orange slice from the pitcher and picked out two seeds. Dave watched her for a while, studied her, actually, like Estie was a painting of herself rather than herself in flesh.

“It’s special and people who live here know it. Drive around more, you’ll see.” He tapped her prominent nose. “Maybe you’ll move here.”

“And do what?” She was struck by Dave talking religion. What would his father think? Why didn’t she have a religion? she wondered.

Using words only, Dave and Estie tucked each other in, a feat not entirely possible yet always recommended when the two parties complain they’re pooped; Dave turned out the light. Estie was restless and perked up when Dave started speaking.

“Dostoyevsky was a compulsive gambler, did you know that Estie?”

Estie was accustomed to Dave’s sundry ramblings. She flashed on a mental image of a Russian with a long gray beard, in a tunic, playing the ponies, shouting, “Come on, Little Trotsky, come on.”

“His publisher Stellovsky was holding him to a contract that stipulated Fyodor had to produce a new novel or else the publisher would own everything Dostoyevsky wrote for the next nine years and not have to pay the great writer one penny.”

She berated all publishers for sucking blood.

“Meanwhile Fyodor lost at the roulette wheel and also lost his mistress Polina Suslova to a South American. Salvador—”

“Dali?” Sometimes, in truth, Estie had just a little trouble with lectures.

“Or El Salvador?” Then, “Estie.” Then silence, then, “You’ve made me forget.” Before Estie could apologize, he resumed. “Anyway, Dostoyevsky hired a stenographer to take dictation of his next work and fell in love with her.”

“Anna Dostoyevsky.”

Estie saw the outline of Dave’s form bolt upright. “Are you guessing?”

Not by a long shot. “Mom read her autobiography for her Women Behind the Men class. There was a picture of her on the cover. She looked like Aunt Becca. Russian, plump. They’ve got cold winters there.”

“I always think I have something to tell you and you always end up telling me something.” Dave plopped back down, muttering, not mad, pleased to be muttering. Next thing Estie knew, he was snoring. She was awake for hours, wondering if Anna Dostoyevsky would want to be a computer programmer, or even married to a computer programmer.

The next morning Estie drove north past New Mexico churches, each a solid sweep of adobe. There was no one in the dry countryside once she was out of the small towns. She saw an occasional cross, as free and random as sagebrush in the earth. So natural were the crosses planted in the New Mexico soil, by the penitentes, she assumed, she likened individual variance to nature—as species of wildflowers may differ. But they weren’t wildflowers, they were crosses.

Sighting one solitary cross which looked like it had sprung from the high desert, like its presence was part of some higher plan, she parked her car on the dirt shoulder and walked in. The sky was blue—the clouds were white—the earth was red. Estie had never before seen so clearly the drama of a land and had difficulty keeping her body whole as she tugged at piñon to maintain a stride. A bird dipped into the horizon. Its flight was clear and directed and the already perfect elements had to make room. She was mesmerized by the bird’s sweepings and became dizzy, letting go of the sticky branch. The cross was near. She strove for it and missed sight of a gully before her. She slipped and fell. The fall was short, the bruises surface, but the jolt was sudden and shook a moment’s worth of life out of her. Shaken out of her senses, she came to her senses.

“Dave, what do you think?” Estie laughed as Dave surveyed her skewed presence and heard of her venture. “The cross, the fall. I feel like an English major—Let’s see how many symbols we can find in this story, class.” She’d spread out her bedding and was sitting on top, her back against an adobe wall.

Dave nodded as her day’s drama was sifted through her enthusiasm. “Pretty weird.” He sniffed at a plastic container he’d pulled from his fridge and smiled. “Maybe your spill is a reflection on your soul not being ready. How can anyone who lives in L.A. ready their soul?”

“Ready it for what?” . . .

{Story is continued in the next posting, 8/25/10. CLICK HERE.}

"Approximating Desired Fervency" by Sarah Sarai was published in South Dakota Review in 2003.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Poem: The Bridge

The Bridge

Birth is the last exit.
Return: It means answer
it means summary it
means account. Down
the elastic outlet to a
life too elastic to control.
Soon a wisp entering
white tunnel glowing.

In Madison Square
greens on a wavelength
with browns arranged
by orders of sobering
joy – the squirrel’s
disregard for mortality
as she darts seeking and
sequestering so tomorrow
is not empty so today
is well-spent in late
autumn’s sentient light.

Sarah Sarai, pub. in Terrain.org
and included in The Future Is Happy

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Poem: Long Distance. Resistance to writing ugly.

My mother's willfulness was Oedipan. She ignored prophecies of body, medicine, reality, certainties. Mom was a Christian Scientist whose drawn-out death was unlovely.

Miracles are just that, unexpected, hoped for, not planned, not to be counted on. For twenty years she counted on one. She finally got an operation and lived, secluded, another ten years.

For long and longer I have been reluctant to talk or write about her, the family's, thirty-year epic. I don't always come out great in the story and it doesn't always bring out the best in me as a poet. Quite possibly I want sympathy, which suggests self-pity. I resist because the visuals aren't pleasant. A week ago I thought of Kaddish. Of course. Ginsberg describes Naomi, his mother, in all states. It's been done and should be.

In terms of poety, especially with my mother, especially but not exclusively, I am partal to abundance of heart moving the lines, as in "Six, Seven Strawberries."

Long Distance

Thursday I talk with my mom.
She’s answered the phone:
she's receptive;
has lain on her side
to hear the ring.

She says she and Pop walked Manhattan
for years: Wall Street, Harlem, parks.

I ask how she’s doing. “They feed me.
Nice food, water each day.
The meals are delicious.”

Again. “How'’re you doing?”
I’m proud I ask twice.
“It got worse. My face twisted
last month, I can’t leave my room.”

She's had operations.

“Makes me cry, Mom.”


Her face melts, hardens, melts.

Friday, I’m lost in Tribeca.
Heat bonds to my skin
like a man I shouldn’t love.

Mom’s in L.A.
She lies on her back
feeling its skin

by Sarah Sarai, pub. in Red Peter,
and included in The Future Is Happy.

Erratum regarding cat ownership.

Readers: My post of Friday, August 20, 2010 entitled "This life: My 3,000 Loving Arms comes through on its promise; also Louise Brooks qua cat" incorrectly stated the ownership of "cat."

The photographer of "cat" is indeed Jonathan Morse, but he ("cat") is not of the Morse household. He ("cat") is a store cat.

According to Professor Morse, "He ["cat"] lives at the store where I buy cat food." Holding his (Morse's) Meerschaum at a particularly wry angle, the academic (Morse) added, "And yes, I said he. The store is in a respectable neighborhood, but this cat does spend a certain amount of time trying out the mascara."

Erratum update: I didn't "talk" to Morse but copied his written comment; I made up the Meerschaum.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This life: My 3,000 Loving Arms comes through on its promise; also Louise Brooks qua cat

I haven't added a posting here since Monday; let me explain. "This life" is promised in the tagline of My 3,000 Loving Arms, and that's what you'll get today.

Monday I met with a job specialist to see about getting me back to full-time work with benefits. Uphill. Tuesday through Thursday I got (very) lucky and worked, three whole days in a row, proofreading at an ad agency. My networking months past paid off.

You must realize that with the exception of my four or so years of adjunct teaching here, my jobs in New York City have kept ridiculously rich people rich. At a variety of giant financial institutions, infamous trading companies and banks, and ad agencies serving them, I've done my little bit by copyediting, moving commas and correcting spelling.

It's where I've landed, despite efforts in other directions. Nevertheless, observing how the world is run fascinates. A Pulitzer-nominated playwright friend, with great politics, leads a life parallel to mine and agrees we're granted a rare perspective. Notoriously, academics isn't a safe zone. Is there one?

Love of poetry (just reread some Lorca); excitement about fiction (reading Jian Rong's Wolf Totem, translated from Chinese); new stories I'm writing; friends; sky sun clouds trees Central Park museums the Internet strong legs and a love of walking. And the occasional photo-bearing e-mail from poet and professor Jonathan Morse, a man of two muses, Hawaiin flora and his cat ("Hommage a Louise Brooks" pictured).

It's a life.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Poem: Everyday I Write God a Letter by Way Of Maintaining Connection & Lessening Rage

One friend will not discuss politics or religion on social networking sites. I navigate both with a sense I'm fighting for something beyond me. Not so with two other topics, the value of M.F.A. programs and valuations of specific writers or lists of "best" and "worst."

After the latter two debates I often feel small and petty. More often than not I'm airing a grudge, and grudges need excorcsm not a clothesline.

A blog may be a clothesline equivalent, true. Then again (in reference to this poem, especially Part 2), a writing friend, Toby, assessed it as being about becoming a writer. The title is the thing, or a thing.

Part 1 of 2 Parts: Every Day I Write God a Letter
by Way Of Maintaining Connection & Lessening Rage

Dear God: Txs for letting me think
I was returning to the source
by going to Sarah Lawrence
for an MFA in
Now we say “my” MFA as if
it were a credit card or young child–
I charged new linens on
my Visa –or– my David
is such a good eater.
Source because I was born here in
New York
where Uncle David
wrote the Times about
what to call citizens of the new country
(“Israelians”) and
Uncle Norman’s milk route
trailed opium dens in
Why aren’t there more skinny people
with big personalities?
Again, txs for that MFA in

Part 2 of 2 Parts: Background to “Every Day I Write
God a Letter by Way Of Maintaining Connection & Lessening Rage”

Louis Simpson
is one of my favorite poets
though when I tell people
they say “Who?” and
Louis Simpson shrugs
“I told you so.”

1995My first craft class in
graduate school, the prof.
stepped away from me.
“I’m no scholar.” Later,
“I’m not paid to talk to you.”
I made her nervous though
I’m not sure I like being
close to me, myself.
Grad. school was different for her.
“It’s one of your girls!”
That her mentor’s wife,
maybe shouting up the stairway.
I’m not a one of anyone’s
girls type of girl, which
explains me taking a step
away from myself, myself.
She talked about
conscience or privilege:
something alive in hearts of
New York City’s tenured poets,
about side-stepping, no, stepping over,
the homeless after a movie
with friends. Again
she looked at me and to this day
I swear I saw guilt. I was 47.

1993-1995My reading was tailored,
me living a few blocks from
Seattle’s poetry bookstore.
Keats Rilke Dickinson
and so on were assumed and
Simpson I’d discovered
on my own in ‘85.
“Herons and Water Lilies”
in The Kenyon Review.
I spent a lot of years wondering
if I wasn’t likely to end up
a guru like Charlie.
I wasn’t writing poetry in 1985.
When I took to Bill Knott
the bookstore owners’ hearts swelled.
They’d been to Iowa.
It would be careless to list
more names but impossible to
leave off Shirley Kaufman
on her elephant or Dan Pagis
surviving in his brain.
Bill Knott sent hand-made chapbooks.
I’ve lost affection for suffering.
When the bookstore owners
heard I was going to grad. school
they pressed Jean Valentine on me.
When I’d told them I was thinking about
it they’d asked “Why?”

1996Craft in poetry but I was in fiction.
One night at a rare event
where faculty had to mix,
my dept. head looked me
damn straight in my eyes.
“What do you think about this?”
You. She walked away before
I could answer.
It’s been hard to keep this stuff in.

2007St. Vincent’s Hospital
ran a post-9/11 meditationand
acupuncture clinic, and once
I unloaded to a guy there.
“And she walked away
before I could say a word.”
“Harsh.” He was her student
at a different college.
“A lot of people have trouble
with her. She has mother issues.”

1973My mother got a little
black knob on her chin.
A dermatologist
could burn it off in a flash.
Mom was a Christian Scientist.
Twenty yrs. later
she was tricked into
an operation.
Those twenty years
cancer grew over half her face,
slow mold under bandaids.
After the operation
Mom looked like someone
took a hammer to
one cheekbone.
Things evened out over the next
ten years.
She was blackballed by
Christian Scientists
for getting the operation.
No one visited her.
No C.S. rest home would admit her.
Thank god. Imagine rooms of
sad and untreated old people.

1949-Life is impacted resentments
historic earned and useless.
To navigate, detach from fury.
Forgive. The monster will return.
Begin begin begin.

I lost poetry for quite a while.
Clever and angry, sidestepped
indifference and wrath.
Got my heart back maybe four years ago.

2008Writing fiction
finally became a form of meditation.
It’s the laptop, cafes, blocking out
noises, right?
What else can I learn that will sustain
word-flow and release me
to grow wild and natural.

Neither wild nor natural.

by Sarah Sarai
Included in The Future Is Happy, available at Amazon and Small Press Distribution.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poem: Windows scare me. "they h-h-h-hover and rub their pantyhose wings"


from the site: http://oudmusic.wordpress.com/
 "Windows scare me." qualifies as an excerpt. It's from my novel {unpublished and looking} The To-Do List Manifesto.  I dedicated the poem to the heroine, Sandy Rees, and one of the oddfellow seekers in the book, Wm. Budd Philbertson, when I included it in my poetry collection, The Future Is Happy.

In the novel it's written by Wm. Budd's neighbor, Bitsey O'Shannessey. This poem is a bit of an oddity, a nightmare, appropriate to character and novel, and for that I like it.

Windows scare me.

{by Bitsey O'Shannessey}

for Sandy Rees and Wm. Budd Philbertson

no curtains!
who watches?
what will it take to lift me carry me
to the ship?
I’m alone & hid.
they will cop whatever they want, those forces.
my toys; my panties.
aliens laughing. ha ha!
stretch that mask, Mr. Martian, it fits my face perfect.
ratty wool blanket covers window this week, parents dead.
I am shielded from their Keene saucer eyes.
half a chipped China face snaps off.
they watch me on the couch
eating and sleeping
and watching them on TV. so many movies,
they are out there. they h-h-h-hover
and rub their pantyhose wings
so a fine crackle pops
the window like a run.

dang, they’re here.
brown wool blanket scratches curtain rod
as I grab it. Jesus H., they’re hauling me to the ship
parked by the snow peas and basil; they’re bony,
translucent; got bodies, heed physics, like me.

three-foot fingers squeeze my chest. “Ouch!”
the vaginal inspection a reminder:
a doc at County General bunched my white gown
and ripped
to examine an upper arm bruise.
this here inspection is as pacific
as a small stroke.
I hear an oud, do a belly dance,
hum wildly like I’m feverish
and happy.
minions of the planet from afar
wheel me to the door, saturate my cells
with light. and then,

but my folks still dead. still hid.
the windows have changed their color
from night to day. I paint friendly people
like snowflake stencils on the panes.

Sarah Sarai; included in The Future Is Happy, BlazeVOX [books], 2009, available at Amazon and Small Press Distribution.

And for more information on The To-Do List Manifesto, click on the title.

Picture link: http://oudmusic.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/oud2.jpg
or to learn more in general about the oud, a very cool instrument, exotic if you're not a world music person:  http://oudmusic.files.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poem: Hockney at Bellevue . . . "the promise of love's eternal blank comfort"

Hockney at Bellevue

There’s all kinds of ways to
enter one of

Hockney’s pools, to
part the cerulean acrylic,

become California,
no longer dream young men

in radiant absence but
engage perfections of skin

and promise of
love eternal’s blank comfort,

including this way, in winter
3,000 miles away and

over a sludge of feta and

life's indistinct landscape
not thrilled with

its inability to be simply
necessary (without

a pallid cuisine of industrial
vistas, no inside, no

hospital, no chance to see
humanity restored by

experts reconstructing
pools of human flesh).

Sarah Sarai, pub. in Parthenon West Review, 2010.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Lists & Their Makers Ignore: the fact of bounding enthusiasm (for the written word)

It's easy to get snagged on personalities, cliques and even worse, seeming cliques—we perceive as one voice, one mind and exclusionary. Whether or not we think John Ashbery is the icing on the cake on the silver platter on the gleaming groaning sideboard on the waxed parquet flooring of literature, he's a good poet. I read him. I admire him greatly. I read many poets and admire them greatly, the living the dead the obscure the forgotten the neglected the famous.

Sunday I posted a Huffington Post slide-show on 15 overly praised writers. Fine and well. I could add another 15 to the list, as could anyone, but won't. In consideration of the slow accumulation of my soul embracing all good and comforting all bad (and weakened by that latter effort) I choose to notice—notice—the fact of bounding enthusiasm.

It's almost easy; I was born loving literature; not a struggle against my surroundings; still a little strange, strange. My mom wanted to write and I am one generation closer to being a writer. I add my little bit in honor of her.

Whatever our share, wherever we fall on lists, writing is a gift and as all gifts do, partakes of the divine, the divine being the sum total, the whole that's greater than the parts.

Writers and their willing readers are messengers. How can it not be so. Poets, you're messengers. Fiction writers, you're messengers. Essayists, you're messengers.

While lists of 15 most overrated writers are inevitable and not entirely reprehensible—it can be annoying to see favorites overlooked—what must be noted and is too often ignored are the wings, fluttery and phosphorescent, every writer has. How can there be a conference of the birds if the birds can't fly?

We must not lose sight of our joint and silly enthusiasm for the word. It offers focus and distraction, hope and terror, joy. I'm way beyond thinking I write because "I have no choice." I don't, true. At my last job (from which I was laid off)--I realized for the zillionth time, before being laid off, that upkeep and rent preclude art.

I was willing to write four hours on Sunday mornings and devote the rest of the week to Work and its attendant activities (sleep, laundry, tidying, friends). After I was laid off I wondered if it wasn't a meant-to-be gift—a bit more time to write. Yes it was a gift; not necessarily meant to be, but a gift nonetheless.

I'm all over the place as I often am in these postings. Sorry about that; it's a side effect of free association. Another side effect of free association is associating with The Ancient Association of Free Associators—of being a writer and loving the path, something far more important than any list.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Poem: First Appearance of the Angel Evelyn (& the Rapture, Mom, movies)

If there'd been a sign-up table in the theater lobby when I saw The Exorcist (opening day, without warning of what the movie was about), I'd be a Catholic.

Damn, I love movies.

Eighteen years later when I saw Michael Tolkin's The Rapture, starring Mimi Rogers (who once married Tom Cruise, in itself scary), I was similarly swept away--not religiously but in psyche.

Tolkin's version of the Apocalypse stays close to the Bible. The Four Horsemen gallop along despite flying boulders and natural disasters. It's set in my L.A.--funky, as opposed to glossy--and nearby barren desert.

So I was living in Seattle; my friend dropped me off; I went upstairs to my apartment and wrote.

I was reacting to much including two biggies: My mother, with whom my relationship was so intensely complicated; and Los Angeles, ditto. My mom's name is Evelyn. When she was a little girl she had polio.

"The First Appearance of the Angel Evelyn" is an "early" poem, written in my first or second year of poeming; it was my first published poem. Howard Junker, editor of
ZYZZYVA, and John Marshall, co-proprietor of Open Books and author of Meaning a Cloud
, 1997 Field Poetry Prize made suggestions. By the way, mother was indeed religious, Christian, but not literal in interpretation; at all.

First Appearance of the Angel Evelyn

When the trumpets blow,
I will see her, the angel Evelyn,
lifted on a cloud,
air-jet transporting her
to heights. Pleasure is slight,
perfection interpreted.
She wants to be healed.

Please, grant her
that rare sex
that doesn't start
when it begins or end
when it is over.

Little Evelyn, soon an angel,
one maimed leg, I weep
to see it, the slight
drag of her right foot.

Sarah Sarai, pub. in

& included in
The Future Is Happy, available at
Amazon and Small Press Distribution.

An earlier posting also mentioned but didn't include full text of this poem:
My 3,000 Loving Arms: Delirious Feminism

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When a Friend Is Jealous of a Friend

Does everyone want to write?

I connected with an acquaintance from way back and was gratified to discover more commonality between us now, so many years after college (she was a year ahead).

She'd always had money--and although to me, middle class comfort seems like "money," she had more money than middle class students and still does. She'd also raised two aware and charming sons, now in their twenties, and devoted much time to charitable activities and traveling. And lived in one of the country's coveted beautiful spots.

While I might be inclined to feel a little silly by comparison, having lived my outsider life--no money, no kids--I didn't. For one, I know I've lived the life I was meant to, not so much in the sense of there being a Divine plan (there is, but it's misunderstood; no divinity planned for abomination to women and children; for war or oil spills) as the odd beauty of everything making sense as I look back.

So, the point of this posting? Is that I e-mailed my friend of many possessions, a beautiful home, world-traveling, children, good works, and she responded, "I envy you"--in relation to my writing poetry and having published a book.

She'd even read the book (The Future Is Happy) twice.

I don't know what to say or think. Or feel. Envy, like the other deadlies is both a waste of time and an inevitability insofar as, well, we're human. And I'm not using her honest admission as a springboard for thoughts about Sarah Sarai as a wonder. It's not about that.

It occurs to me I could follow up and ask if she writes, or what she meant, although I worry that's an indelicate probe into sensitivities. That one statement--of a moment--doesn't define my friend or our friendship. It was said (written); and I continue to consider its impact, relevance, meaning, compliment, implicit anger, recognition.

Though I do wonder if more people want to write than want to paint, make music, dance . . . Please feel free to comment here or contact me otherwise if you have any thoughts on that.

Peace and art to all.

Painting by Al Zahraa Sulaiman.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Commentary on catsitting which involves neither sitting on nor being sat upon by cats

Weekends lately have been about the cats. Not all about the cats, but as I'm paid for feedage and careage while my friend of two cats heads home to family I've been highly focused.

Until I finally realized I could lose the intensity regarding their psychological well being. What I realized this past weekend was: The cats are catlike. When cats are catlike they are like cats. Cats are cats and don't need Kitty Mozart Genius Meow Einstein videos. They don't care about the fate of the Democrats in the November election or post-colonial literary theory. They're not even feminists!

Cats like string. Cats like empty boxes. Two weeks ago I brought them a double-bag from Trader Joe's. Two brown bags, the kind with handles, one inside the other. A total hit! First there was the cat-need to explore the vast cave of bag.

The vast cave of bag worried me. What if Willow and Squirrel couldn't make their way back? Come back, dear Willow! Oh return, sweet Squirrel! I was projecting my frailties onto them. Their whiskers somewhat resembling giant roach antennae soon peeked out along with little cat noses.

By this past weekend the double-bag was a landmass with rugged topography like pleateaus or steppes. During the week of becatment it had collapsed and couldn't be crawled into; was a stiff version of a lumpy couch.

There was debate rousing and hissing between Squirrel and Willow as to which was allowed the bag. I suggested a timeshare but they prefered to catlike argue and catlike reach stalemates.

What the cats want from me is simple: Kibble. Water. I'm not sure how much they connect me with a clean cat box but they get it anyway. There is always petting of cat necks and cat tummies, plus playtime with the nearly chewed-to-oblivion burlap mouse on the end of a long string. I swing it and the cats leap. I'm the song that makes the whole world sing.

Squirrel and Willow are cats.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Morse, poet, photographer, academic, Hawaiian.

TV commentary: Entourage on its last legs

Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard

I noticed a little attention paid to a previous posting on my miracle at housing court. I suspect it was the word entourage that, at least in part, pulled in a few more readers.

entourage consisted of two subtle-thinking and gorgeous attorneys (see My 3,000 Loving Arms: Spinoza in Housing Court). The other entourage, these days, is on HBO. I've checked out several years of the series from the library. At first I enjoyed watching, despite its being based on the Hollywood entourage of former rocker Mark Walberg, a.k.a. Markie Mark, who was publicly and privately racist. He claims to have recanted.

Rex Lee as Lloyd the assistant and Jeremy Piven as Ari the agent boss are so much fun to watch with their outsized and dead on characterizations. The boys themselves, the four guys who came up in Queens and now live the Hollywood life are cute.

However the day-to-days of this entourage include nothing to indicate any contact with brain stimulation. As hall-monitory as this may sound, not one of the entourage ever does anything to choose to use the mind, and it seems a fair representation of the rocker, rapper, movie star life.

Hey. I smoked marijuana through the seventies. I also read. This group, especially in the most recent season, simply smokes dope, prowls somewhat inefficiently for babes and watches t.v. That's it. They are so boring to watch.

Soooooooo boring.

Am I judgmental? I'm okay with that. TV is often mindless and that's good. Married with Children (for example) was a silly series but I loved it and never felt the characters' boredom. They were too busy being frustrated, opinionated and scheming.

I have lifetimes of bad karma to work off. Even this one life of mine has revealed me as rich with bad attitude. The point is to keep trying for something better. Hall monitory plus sinful Christian-y? Could be.

Still, HBO's Entourage has devolved into a spineless lowest common, and it didn't start out with high marks in attention to women, something I avoided mentioning up front (although when one of the few women in the series is a smart professional, like Debbie Mazur as publicist, she's allowed to be that--allowed by audience and entourage).

In the name of being entertained, I am willing to overlook many a questionable attitude. Ya gotta. Comedy's rarely about the pure (well, except Keaton and Gleason fighting with themselves). Huh. Maybe it's always about the pure in an impure world. I gotta think about that. I do know this: The impurities of boredom are too much for me.