Saturday, November 24, 2012

Booked - The Way We Sleep

Hey faithful readers, an essay I wrote on sleep, Catholicism, and death appears here with pieces by fellow Chicagoans Billy Lombardo and Jeffrey Brown plus fun others who you can discover on your own. 
As of now, they're shucking these glossy bad boys for $10 with free shipping. I might  rewrite/remix the heck out of this essay later and release 20 copies as a choose your own adventure zine, but hey, this is a cool book and Curbside Splendor is a grand supporter of Chicago writing. My friends Billy and Frank gave me some heavy editing advice and I'm finally starting to figure out this essay form.

Anyway, I ordered a copy few weeks ago. If you don't need to add another book to your life, I'll show you mine over coffee and you can humor me since this is my first book-thing I've been in.  
As to  the cover, if it were of me, the picture would display --  

  • a frail man child spooning a pillow 
  • drool all over the place 
  • and since I moved, no bed frame, floor mattress 
  • no facial hair and babe less.    
  • but isn't it a pleasing blue? Appearing below, a message from the publishers: 

The Way We Sleep is on Black Friday sale for TEN FREAKIN’ BUCKS (FREE SHIPPING!!!) from Curbside Splendor Publishing this weekend. Jessa Marsh and I are honestly just insanely proud of this thing we’ve been able to put together over the last 2 years with so many creative, talented people, working with friends and making new ones along the way. I know I’m biased on this, but if you’re literary friends or friends who are just into cool stuff, you really can’t go wrong buying this anthology for $10. And you didn’t even have to sleep outside Best Buy all week to get it! Get it today at
The Way We Sleep is on Black Friday sale for TEN FREAKIN’ BUCKS (FREE SHIPPING!!!) from Curbside Splendor Publishing this weekend.Jessa Marsh and I are honestly just insanely proud of this thing we’ve been able to put together over the last 2 years with so many creative, talented people, working with friends and making new ones along the way. I know I’m biased on this, but if you’re literary friends or friends who are just into cool stuff, you really can’t go wrong buying this anthology for $10. And you didn’t even have to sleep outside Best Buy all week to get it! Get it today at

Monday, November 19, 2012

Prose Poem #5

Here is another piece I wrote, this one about 
the neighborhood on 111th and Western.  


The rosary in my Grandma’s hands holds Oh My Gods in the beads: slinks to life on the table, shivers when she turns away.
          My one grandfather is in the cemetery. The other chops ox tail in the kitchen. He has dim eyesight, he has not told me of his friend who suffered from severed head, which Latino parks I am not to visit, or that my oldest uncle’s wife has left him for an Argentine florist. “Infidelity is the risk of the entrepreneur,” my grandfather will say, tapping his union pin. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Last night I saw a new play by Beau O'Reilly, a Chicago playwright and director. My
friend Charlotte drove me. She and I took one of O'Reilly's week-long classes in Iowa
City last summer. He's got one of these immense personalities that fills a room when he
speaks, so we thought it'd be good to see him onstage, as he acts in this recent play.

I've spent many hours on stage, in varying states of consciousness, steadily getting sharper
in recent years. Playing bass in bands, my big thump and crush Fender keeps time with a lot
of musicians named Dan, and many others with single syllable names, Pat, Bobby, Brett, Ben.

My favorite frontmen and the occasional women were probably better with talk than with
song. I hear Tom Waits is like that, but I've never seen him. Once, a band called Horse
threatened to murder the entire front row if another audience kid called the piano player
Napoleon Dynamite again. After the threat, the singer kept whipping people with his mic
cord and made fun of everyone for having the same haircut. It was beautiful.

The play I saw is Evanston, Which is Over There. The TV Guide type summary might read,
"neurotic people enter middle age in Roger's Park," but I don't know what else. There were
two chairs, a small stage, and O'Reilly plays a side bit as an old prostitute who's slept with
Ray Charles and BB King. There are aging musicians, loser sons, Montenegrins, lovers gone
friends. At one point these two ladies double as an elevator; at this my heart had palpitations.

I tried to make sure everyone in my dreamband Krayola acts as a defacto frontman. Our
playing can be staggeringly bad due to tuning and nerves. But everyone has to talk. We
have routines at practice that take a second life on stage. Our music set is so short, I try
to see how long we can go without playing a song. Only five minutes is the answer.

Some nights, I've looked at the crowd with shame and grief, but afterward people ask us
back. I think because of our banter. But I never think about acting and I am a bad, bad
dancer. Still, I would like to write a short play if an idea ever came. Part of me also
wants to drink coffee in Roger's Park on quiet intersections or drink beer on dates near
the lake. I get these Chicago fantasies in my head and I can't shake them out.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let it Sink + Red Eye

When I served coffee I'd grab a red eye for the crossword then ditch
the paper in the trash. Once The Hallow were in it and I grabbed that
one for posterity. Inside, one of the guys in our group gave a miserable
interview talking aboutus as if we were an 80s hair metal act,
throwing pizza or some BS I'd never do, the sort of reasons I don't get
into band culture anymore.

Anyway, at school we have this unit on Transcendentalism -- Thoreau
and Emerson. It lasts about a day or two or three. Not even a unit, really
a few lessons to show some American Lit roots before starting Huck 
Finn. So Thoreau is critical of news, he thinks most of it is redundant
gossip, "just stick to what's happening in your town or on your block,"
that kind of thing, and be suspicious of 24 hour news coverage. So we
were looking at red eye's and  I saw my zines were on page two, next
to a runway lady and a bottle of wine. It was a nice little moment, the
type of thing that would've blown my mind at 17.

When I think of my audience, I think it is myself in 2003, or maybe
my friends Ruby or Ben. I did not make it to the karaoke event, and
I have not printed any of these zines in a few months. I must get my
act together and move on this attention, at least in a casual presence
around-town kind of way, like that Clash song, "City of the Dead,"
when Joe Strummer quotes Johnny Thunders, "You should get to
know your town/just like I know mine." 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prose Poem #4

Below is Carl Sandburg's "Wilderness." I am typing this from Sandburg Court, an
apartment complex in Chicago, how about that. There is a rough sketch of him in
the security office by an elevator I take, but I can't see any other note of this place
being his namesake.

Anyhow, this is a longer one, I guess. But Sandburg's phrasing is always evocative
of bodies and primal things, so reading him moves quickly. His sense of balance
with these paired "A & B," "sniff and guess" moments is great. I feel like he had a
slim secret dictionary full of power words when he wrote. Check out "The Mob,"
too, if you like this one.
                                        *                  *                * 


There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red 
tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this 
wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will 
not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I 
pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and 
take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and 
loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for 
eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the 
sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will 
not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates 
… I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with 
porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … 
before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … 
yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here 
are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and 
blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … 
ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting
—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle 
flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights 
among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird 
warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles 
in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the 
blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the 
mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony 
head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a 
man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother 
and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to 
God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and 
no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from 
the wilderness.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Practice Space Art

Here is a picture I drew at practice after thinking about The Beatles for a while.
"All My Lovin" was on my mind. I changed the words to "I'm So Sleepy," with
a standard variation as follows. "I sleep at home everyday/when I'm at home I'm 
asleep/baby I'm so sleepy/with you" etc. Eventually I put the word boogers in 
there. Not sure why, but it seemed to fit. Then I changed the band name. Here is 
a photo of John Lennon of The Boogers performing on the Ed Sullivan show. 

As a side note, most items on the bulletin board at the practice space are defaced in
a week, and few items last more than for teen days; this picture has been up for a 
month. The only vandalism is some genitalia added to Lennon, which, you 
know, whatever. Rock and Roll. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prose Poem #3

Here is a short thing I wrote about a CD release party in 2005. A guy bit me, and I scared coworkers.

 "My Education"

            Bobby the night engineer would call at 4am to confide things. “I do not like my job,” “Whiskey leaves a bad smell.” 
            Once he told me he'd been thinking of faking his death. I asked how. 
            “It will look like an overdose…” he whispered. 
            “People will believe it,” I said. 
This, the year of my education. I learned to stop kissing my boss, be fearful of the Halsted street police who struck me in their cars and mourned the death of tsars, and soon after I lost my limp Bobby returned to become our shitty Lazarus, threw a revival party in October. Everyone came. Leaves hopping from trees made us cinematic. Denim boys smoking outside with neck tattoos made me nervous. As I ascended the stairs I heard a thud, and I arrived in time to see everything begin.
“That’s no way to treat a lady!” – the last thing Greg said before his nose was shattered, a milk carton exploded against Bobby’s chest, a man with a swallow on his throat bit my thumb while friends leaked through the window onto neighboring roofs. This went on for some time.

Prose Poem #2

Here is another prose poem, this one by Charles Simic, a Serbian-American poet
who grew up next to a slaughterhouse. His collection The World Doesn't End is
tiny and glorious. The untitled piece posted below has the great absence of context,
just this shimmy from moment to moment.

(I used a line from this untitled poem to end one of my own, which I'll post tomorrow.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prose Poem #1

A form I like to play with is the prose poem. One teacher I had said it was a haunted house, a poem story, or a weird box. These things are true in that context is cut, things always take on this spooky "how did it happen" quality. I think from this Thursday to next, all my posts will be prose poems. Or maybe, maybe each Thursday I write one. It's hard to say.

This one comes from the Frenchman Charles Baudelaire, who famously looks pissed off and deranged in all of his portraits, which is true of his life, though he did have portraits made of himself, so maybe things could have been worse. Still, there is nothing worse than telling people their lives are not tricky.

Click on this fellow to read him. You may need to steal him off your screen and enlarge, or else hit "command+" to zoom.

I am a Barecelonan

I try to draw a little. I keep thinking, draw more, take an art class, get better at things, but I know there's no time for that. I like Joan Miro's monsters and people, so I bought a book of his lithographs. I figure drawing isn't my thing, so forget it, I'll just draw as he does and see what happens in a few years. My goal is to have an interesting tiger.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Busses and More Busses

To get a new apartment, I had to grab my old receipt. I'm staying with my aunt, and my aunt lives in Old Town and the receipt sits in my dresser drawer in Pilsen. Because he distrusts banks, my landlord (who hates being called my landlord) only takes cash.

The guys at Chase bank love this, they love the absurd wads of bills I have to take out and draw smilies all over the envelop, "Good Luck!!!"

So I get there, puff around the big shell old printer's shop space, see my brephs twirling around under a naked bulb like a boy detective in some noir episode, only I'm not a boy, I'm 27, and too old to be living in heatless and dark spaces, at least if I'm a salary pulling teacher.

After a stout at Skylark and a little grading, it's back north on the Halsted #8. Tonight I'm one of these guys who throws his bike on the front of the bus. Once things start rolling, the seats fill. I'm reading The Sandman comic series. Three yoga women in their thirties are talking about their boyfriends. A man with immaculate hair and nice glasses has it all together. I think about getting my hair under control like that. I feel like the rickety glasses in my coat pocket.

A yoga woman next  to me looks into my comic. I want to go to sleep so bad.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Respond to Me

Over the weekend, I have responded to writing composed by every one of my students. What do the numbers say?

  • They like to use the words "society," "very," and "truly."
  • They are not always merciful with use of the paragraph break.
  • Commas come and commas go.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Yelper of the Week

Hi Jim, 
We wanted to let you know that we've removed your reviews of Earth Pups Dog Care, Londo Mondo, and China Night Cafe. Our Support team has determined that they fall outside our Content Guidelines ( because they lack a firsthand customer experience.  
We hope you will continue to participate on Yelp, while keeping in mind our Content Guidelines.

4/5 Stars, Earth Pup Dog Care
Around 6:30 am I woke up confused. I kept having my friends 
stuck in my dreams like stubborn nails. But I didn't put them 
there, so who did? I keep thinking that my mind should be under 
my control. And that I should have serious dreams during the 
week about getting work done - not of warm weather or 
wandering without purpose and seeing movies impulsively. 
Because I keep having these frivolous dreams, and because it 
is October, I can't help but feel that I might be possessed, or 
under some spell, like the 1422 witches of France, 
bad at play and emotionally delayed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Uppers, The Downers

I was hungry and confused and it was raining. At the cafe I used to work at the tables crammed full with study dates. I was drinking decaf coffee and getting upset about it, it was bothering me how I couldn't sit in my red brick apartment and do anything. It's so dark and cold, and I uncaffeinated.

I got some beer and hamburger at the bar place across from the coffee place, and then the server smiled at me a bunch, but I thought, Come on, Jim, servers always smile, it's their job, and she kept dropping by, this lady, maybe she was a student at UIC or something, maybe from nearby, a Mexican woman in her 20s, I'm not obsessed I'm just saying.

But really because I'm Irish I am obsessed because over all those mornings on the Western bus, all those cool Mexican kids we never hung out with who had better taste in music and cooler haircuts, I was only ever friends with the guys, but almost could've been with their sisters, because we were all Catholic and had that hard crucifix connection.

I thought about all this while I was eating alone, sifting through a pile of papers, feeling older than my age like I was looking into this dusty future of me in this blandness drifting off the map, just getting withery and working this bell curve forever, then the Depeche Mode song started playing, "Everything Counts," everything counts in large amounts they kept saying, which is when my bill arrived, there was a smiley face on it, Everything counts in large amounts, I said, signed it and left, I wanted to stay and see, but I live with my aunt and I'm in shambles this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Weather

What Next

So the sun is shining blindingly but I can sort of see.
It’s like looking at Mandela’s moral beauty.
The dying leaves are sizzling on the trees
In a shirtsleeves summer breeze.

But daylight saving is over.
And gaveling the courtroom to order with a four-leaf clover
Is over. And it’s altogether November.
And the Pellegrino bubbles rise to the surface and dismember.