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I.

What cruel trick is this?
To wake up with a switch flipped,
a mental miracle turned curse
for better or worse a brain war
and I am on the front line
screaming for peace.

Do not say the words will come with time
or maybe never for a poem.
They are mine, they are mine
what rewiring took place
will be undone.

II.

Start with the death.
There is always a death.
The death of skin beneath silver,
of eyes under emptiness,
of possibility.
But how to finish?
With death.
There is always a death.

ElizaFactorAfter reading Love Maps, Joe Weisberg says he finally understands women.

Yes. You, too, can understand women for only $15.

 

Does Joe’s wife agree about him understanding women? 

No, but that’s just Joe’s wife.

 

Why do people get married in the first place?

I don’t know. Why do we fall in love? Why do we bomb each other, or stab people we love/don’t love/could love in the heart? My son, who is considered nonverbal by the experts and tabulators of our world, still taught himself how to say: Why do we do?   

LoveMapsThe funeral parlor is indeed in a strip mall. A single-story stucco with a shoe store attached to one side and an office-supply place on the other. Sarah parks the car and sits behind the wheel, staring at the double doors of the funeral parlor, not wanting to go in. Twenty percent to Tori. Twenty percent to this Philip Clark. Sixty percent to Conningsby’s biological family. What does any of that mean? As if you can prove your claim by the mass of ash you carry around. She imagines the funeral director standing by a table, and on the table is a scale—an old-fashioned, double-plated one, like the scales of justice. He’s wearing a butcher’s apron over his undertaker’s black, and he’s scooping Conningsby’s ashes onto the plate, his glasses halfway down his nose, frowning, shaking his head in holy disgust.

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It wasn’t too long ago that I thought undergoing chemo, again, would be the worst thing that could happen to me. I endured the first round a little under two years ago in the wake of a breast cancer diagnosis, the chemo infused through a medically inserted port just under my collarbone. Since then, I’ve had a lumpectomy, the port removed, radiation, recurrence, a double mastectomy with reconstruction, a hysterectomy, another recurrence, and another surgery. And in a few days I’ll be undergoing chemo once more, and I’m actually anxious to get started because, of course, chemo isn’t the worst thing. A particularly stubborn kind of cancer that keeps popping up again is. So on my last chemo-free weekend for the next several months, my husband, Joe, and I dropped my daughters off at my mom’s and bought tickets to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Jeremy Hawkins 3Reluctantly conducting this interview with Jeremy Hawkins is Waring Wax, one of the main characters in Hawkins’ new novel, The Last Days of Video. Wax is the rude, misanthropic, binge-drinking owner of Star Video, the embattled video store at the center of the novel. He is 45 years old with shaggy salt-and-pepper hair, grungy in dress and grooming, and today, as always, not in a very good mood.

Waring meets Jeremy at a bar. Jeremy is a foot taller than Waring, with a full red beard and an out-too-late-last-night pallor. They sit at the bar, side by side, and order beers. A long silence ensues. Finally Waring begins…

 

xtx_cicero

NOAH CICERO:  I finished your book and loved it.

Thanks for giving me a copy, I’m going to read Ben’s now.

I’m lying on a couch being really lazy, writing this.  I feel so lazy lately, I think it’s because I’m going off my medication, Seroquel XR, it basically causes me to sleep 10 hours a night, so I can’t even work a 40-hour week.  I factually don’t have enough energy to do it.  I can’t wake up before 8 a.m., and I can’t work the late shift without worrying about the stupid pill. All because I got really into Buddhism and meditate now and feel happy and okay with everything, so maybe I rewired myself and can go on.

Here are some questions:

tmbtpcover2035 E Turney, Phoenix, December 31st, 1999—

The turn of the millennium and I am with my father, his wife, and her eldest son. I have swallowed five valium and have been drinking straight whiskey while we all watch Dick Clark on the television. For weeks, the world has been anticipating some kind of Y2K madness to occur. As soon as the clock strikes midnight I go outside into the street and light a joint and start to yell “WHERE IS YOUR JESUS NOW? WHERE IS THE END OF THE WORLD? WHERE ARE YOUR DAUGHTERS TO TAKE ME TO HEAVEN?” and people start yelling back at me as I pull on the joint and my father’s wife’s eldest son comes outside and just stares at me. I extend my hand and offer the joint—which is dusted, as always—and he just shakes his head and goes back inside.

shd_bio

 

Have we met before?

I’ve seen you around.

 

What’s it feel like to see pictures of your book in people’s social media feeds?

Like the first mug of coffee of the day.

 

What was it like to work with Michael J. Seidlinger and Civil Coping Mechanisms? I heard that dude never sleeps.

He doesn’t sleep, he hires people to sleep for him and siphons the resting molecules from their cloud accounts to recharge himself. Working with CCM was a dream. Great people, great work, great press. From the moment we came together to do the book, I felt safe and honored and like I was working with a press that understood what I was trying to do and gave me the room to do it.

heart photoAnne is the goofy but sensitive friend, remember?—think Annie Hall/ Keaton—who goes with me to chick-flicks now, the ones You can’t abide, where they turn us to sappy crybabies, but we’re cool with that because girls are born knowing our genetic duty to share life’s triumphs/ wretched tragedies, though for a change of pace we jumped into our Sarandon outfits –breast-clingy blouses & kinky metal & sooty mascara & blood-red lipstick—for The Rocky Horror Picture Show where we strutted our stuff in a dark midnight theater shouting bits of dialogue  (**My high is low**I’m dressed up with no place to go**And all I know is I’m at the start of a pretty big downer**) with kindred spirits, passed a flask of Crown Royale and in the stark light of day I said, Who am I? because I used to know, now I don’t.

Better-to-have-loved-and-lost than loved You forever and I should take out a full-page ad in the WSJ:  “Thanks a million  – You – for bailing so I don’t have to feign shock & awe one more time at that bulging ‘S’ on your ripped-up, grey-faded Superman thong.”

head

Jillian Lauren first caught my eye at a book launch party in Downtown Los Angeles. A mutual acquaintance introduced us, and the next thing I knew, we were in deep conversation about living and writing in LA, adoption, marriage and interfaith families. I felt an immediate kinship. Raised Jewish by a mother who had converted, I resonated with her story of adoption into a Jewish family and then marrying a Christian guy. The next day I told my sister in Chicago about our talk. She sensed my affinity for Jillian’s story and sent me her memoir.

ShyaScanlon2014List ten things that scare you about being an author.

Being bad. Being stupid. Being unworthy. Being unread. Being misunderstood. Being irrelevant. Being out of my depth. Being overlooked. Being complacent. Being bad.

 

That’s nine.

One counts twice. One is two things.

 

Speaking of being bad, the early reviews of The Guild of Saint Cooper seem pretty mixed. Do you think they’re fair?

Of course.

 

You tend to be kind of long-winded in interviews but I’m not getting that here.

I usually become loquacious when I’m nervous because I try to cover up the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing.

1426784423085Day 9

 

Russell drove us up 65th to Phinney Ridge, his white stomach stuffed behind the wheel of the quick blue convertible Porsche. He accelerated over the cross streets, and Alice, who’d flagged us down outside her parents’ house, made girlish sounds as she floated, momentarily, above the tiny back seat while Russell leered at her in the rearview mirror. He’d shown up unannounced that morning, had simply pulled up and honked out front until I came to the door. Two minutes later I’d been convinced to “see something.” We crested Phinney, dodged left, and leapt into the air on our way down the other side.

“Are we in a hurry?” I asked.

“Try to be alive,” he shouted over the buzz of the car’s high revving engine. “You will be dead soon enough!”

This sounded familiar. I tried to remember who’d said it, and watched Green Lake disappear behind the trees as we fell back to its level.

“I’m fine here,” said Alice, and the car stopped more quickly than I would have thought possible.

Find-the-GoodRecently, I was asked to write a short essay describing one piece of wisdom to live by. I thought about it but did not have a brief, easy answer. I have made enough mistakes in my life to fill a whole bookshelf of dos and don’ts. My friend John works as an investigator in the public defender’s office but is a poet. That is probably why he managed to distill all his fatherly hopes and dreams into two rules for his only child: “Be nice to the dog and don’t do meth.” His son turned out kind, clear-eyed, and he graduated from a good college.

Lende, HeatherHow does one get to be an obituary writer in a small Alaskan town?

If the local newspaper editor hires a new reporter who rubs some folks the wrong way, and one of them is old and dying and says she won’t let him write her obituary, but suggests the nice woman—me—who writes the Duly Noted column (as in Bev Jones traveled to Hawaii to spend a week with daughter Ashley…And yes, the names are in bold face) could do it, and she does, that’s as good a way as any. That’s how I began writing obituaries, and I still do them.

it was not so much the warm wine
honey or maybe berry
or a gloved hand tucked into
pocket, jacket, or something or other
fire eaters, towers flaming orangey
it was a brick breaching
cracked and crackling, burgeon loaf of bread and head of people
if the bridge were to tumble
someone would find, much later, my black leather glove
or a plucked eye from bat or rat
it could even be from pigeon or raven
water swallows a fogged frog

croaking into the neck of a wine bottle