American Cheese & Ham: Being Notes Toward a Poetics




1) The idea being that had he died only 60 days later there might have been a moment when the father actually touched the son with physical, pulsing fingers.

2) A deceased genealogy, to be sure.

3) A laxative called HINTERLANDS commonly used in the last mid-century.

4) The plane landed, in fact, only thirteen minutes after departing from Idlewild, in a field northwest of Yonkers.

5) The “expressionistic selbst-portrait” of early 1941 evokes this notion with vibrant colors and languid linear import. While tortured inwardly, she was outwardly exuberant among friends and her long, productive life is evidence of her general well-being and healthy lifestyle.

6) Fastidiously labeled and organized in a Kodak field case box, the photographs date from the late 1940s through the early 1970s and the archive includes 15 items of ephemera and 11 photocopies of hand-drawn portraits, presumably featured in a unique handmade book of harmonograms, created between 1937 and 1938 and comprised of 21 pasted-in drawings (manuscript, photographs, negatives, and other items in near fine condition).

7) Sausage balls, stuffed with cheese and baked, dipped in buttermilk dressing, referred to as “heaven’s amusement” in the local, festival parlance.

8) If not pinochle, Sheepshead. Beer or brandy was the favored beverage combination.

9) All of his records had titles beginning with the letter “P” and so the moniker “Mister P” began to stick after the second Gold Record, in the late 1950’s.

10) A reference to his preference for wind instruments and upright basso continuo, and happily mis-spent negligence.

11) The artist himself was immune to such maladies. Ever upbeat, he was considered an extrovert by those who knew and employed him in his brief 39 year life.

12) Loosely translated: If I had wings like an oyster.


14) Interlingua FAST and COLD Fiesta del Muerte.

15) Legend has it the one time he left the country (a 19 day junket through Durango) he met a young novelist named Jerry and a younger poet named Dave and the trio bought a blanket and drank abundantly, looking for Malcolm Lowry amid the rocky, coastal wreckage.

16) Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His family moved, in 1923, to Lorain, Ohio, and again in 1925, to Detroit, Michigan, where his father changed the family’s name to “Evans”.

17) Chinese globular flute, known as a xun.

18) Known among scholars as sleep’s foul befuddlement.

19) A pseudonym for the mistress of the mayor of New York City at the time, Fiorello H. LaGuardia.

20) The three titles, respectively, that influenced the essay are Windblown Headline On a Dark Pavement, Blurry Woman Gazing Up Smoking, and Empty Snack Bar.

21) The auction catalog entry read as follows: Basil Wolverton – Illustration Original Art (c. 1950s). At first glance, this rarity seems typical of many other Wolverton portraits of distorted faces. The difference is the rendering of the features in detailed layers of airbrush painting, combined with the familiar hard-edged pen-and-ink outlines and layered strands of hair. (Wolverton usually achieved the illusion of texture with pen-line crosshatching.) Signature partially obscured by a thin layer of white watercolor. Circled number, “1,” in one corner. Overall toning. Four small stains or blemishes. Rubber-stamp impressions on back cite two private collections or galleries. Ink and airbrush over graphite on Bristol board. Image area, 14.5″ x 11.5″.




1) Most pointedly astute was bullet point #7, which read in full: Art is limitation.

2) The son of Cuban Jews, he became an invaluable asset during the second transition period, mainly in the areas of research and development, general office maintenance all while he became known for a broad understanding of post-Bop jazz and a lively counterpart to the prevailing angst and bitterness of past employees.

3) Brick cheese and crackers with an occasional tin of sardines or smoked oysters.

4) A recent auction house catalog stated in mock emphasis: The present two lots, sun act star law set age stone hand cut bell time age now foot din and “ddddffffffffffffffffffffff” represent rare examples of the artist’s typed poetry which date from the early 1950’s to the mid 1970’s.

5) Consistently considered by the author himself to be his earliest memory, the late March, 1937 date has been argued at length by scholars since the publication of a clutch of letters submitted to, and subsequently published by The Paris Review only months after the passing of the author. The current consensus is that, despite countless key eye witnesses interviewed and documented, often on film (at least by written consent) agree that a sail boat on a lake in the late winter in Wisconsin would be virtually impossible, so the dream must be just that: a dream and not a memory. Both of the author’s sisters, alive and referenced in the dream itself, were present for “just about every waking moment” from the ages of birth to about 9 years old. The imploring letter to his mother of early March, 1937 cites in passing, a story told by an uncle much later, revolving around the drowning death of a now forgotten family member in Black River Falls in the summer of 1844, around the time Wisconsin became a state.

6) While jazz standards sustained him through this lengthy recuperation, the statistics prove that Domenico Scarlatti was the artist he most admired, with some 600 LP records in a Perspex-glass case engraved with scenes of the Portuguese Court circa 1750, each face featuring engravings of the visage of Maria Madelena Josefa Teresa Barbara and labeled as such in a firm-handed Constantia font, embossed with borders of crimson, in the old fashion.

7) In the fourth form, the young poet told Elaine Reichert he needed glasses too, upon learning that the next day of school would be the first day of school she was seen in public wearing spectacles, and thus, presumably, making apparent her actual status as merely near perfect.

8) 555 sonatas, mostly in what is called binary form.

9) Colloquial euphemism for a lady of the evening, or prostitute.

10) By all accounts, the “accident in Minneapolis” was purely legend. Records indicate that the Pontiac was actually at the service station over the Independence Day holiday, and, to a man, the clan states they never travelled anywhere near Minneapolis as a family.

11) Before the entire region was covered with strip malls and big box behemoths being boisterous, there was an expansive craft store called Accents Unlimited very near where the cousins who gifted several bins of baseball and football cards to the lucky 6 year old. Known for pre-cast ceramic baubles from night lights to busts of Abraham Lincoln, the store featured an early iteration of the paint your own work of art gimmick. Often after picking up baseball cards from his cousins, the family would drop by the shop and purchase a weekend project, enhancing the household’s unlimited accents.

12) The Club 400 closed for business a year after the move from Milwaukee to Brooklyn.

13) Two distressed industrial hotel 25 key mahogany cubby boxes for storage or display shelves. Hand painted number detail and curved ends, found on the street in front of the loft of a SoHo artist.

14) Long held belief among transplants that five years in the city does not qualify a resident for New Yorker status.

15) In brief, the essay proposes modestly that at any given moment a smidge more than 50% of the people surrounding a human being in a crowded environment will be dumb as a box of broken rocks.

16) In addition to the full time hours as secretary to the principal of Morgan Butler Junior High School, the poet’s mother also worked as a concierge at the Avalon Manor and tended bar at the Totem Bowl bowling alley in downtown Waukesha.

17) From a letter dated mysteriously “Montage, 1939,” self-redacted and reading in full: “Dear…Love,” the envelope’s postmark reads 14 August 1965, a Saturday, and one day after his death by anesthesia.

18) Or material culture.

19) Project for a Treatise on All Figures in Three Parts, 1971, Belgium Duck Press, Ambulance Pamphlet #11, New York City, page 26.

20) The letter was unopened.




1) “Sprinkling methodologies like powdered cheese.”

2) One would be hard pressed to name another seamless conflation of street photography and conceptual poetry. The poet himself disavowed the sentiment of the essay as “closer to piss-ant sociology.”

3) The second of four lectures given by the artist, addressing Ferdinand Hodler.

4) The third of four lectures given by the artist, addressing Charles Fort.

5) The fourth of four lectures given by the artist, addressing Christopher Smart.

6) The first of four lectures given by the artist on the topic of Domenico’s brother Pietro Scarlatti.

7) Ibid.

8) American poet John Brooks Wheelright (1897-1940).

9) A shortstop since Little League, he made the wise decision (one of the few of his controversial career) to defer to the incumbent upon arrival in the Bronx, and cede to the first ballot captain’s pre-eminence.

10) A four-piece outfit led by Stan Getz, whom Zoot Sims called “a nice bunch of guys.”

11) The first of three known telegrams sent by the poet, which read in full: “TRAIN ARRIVES TOPEKA 1130AM TUESDAY STOP. IF NOT ON PLATFORM CHECK BAR CAR STOP.

12) Schoenstatt is a place of pilgrimage dedicated to Mother Thrice Admirable, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt. Founded on October 18th, 1914 by Reverend Fr. Joseph Kentenich in Germany close to the city of Koblenz on the Rhine. According to the institution’s literature “people from all over the world are drawn to this Marian Shrine.” A chapter was open at the time of this writing, in Cherry Lane where the extended family is believed to have briefly fallen under the spell of the sect’s “natural peace, beauty and hospitality” which periodically helped them to seek succor in the figure of the Mother Thrice Admirable.

13) The line-up for this LP was Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); James Moody (tenor sax); Eric Gale & George Davis (guitar); Mike Longo (piano); Nate Edmonds (organ); Chuck Rainey & Phil Upchurch (electric bass); Paul West (bass); Otis Finch & David Lee & Bernard Purdie (drums).

14) Also known as mutter chants.

15) Certain parts of the United States of America boast such extravagant rooms, oft (and pompously) tagged The Florida Room.

16) Americana mostly, or so said Harvard Magazine.

17) Stephen Carrie Blumberg, whose “great-grandfather, Moses Zimmerman, a Civil War-era horse trader, reputedly had a collection of junk that included 2,000 used horse collars and 100 buffalo coats. He also owned hundreds of acres of apparently worthless land he had received in trade for horses. That land turned out to be in what is today the Twin Cities–St. Paul and Minneapolis–and the resulting estate provided Blumberg a $72,000-a-year income from a trust.”

18) According to coincident press reports “a campus police officer at Washington State University began carrying out his own investigation. At first Sergeant Huntsberry was concerned only with books missing from his own campus library, but he sent out alerts (one of which made possible the initial arrest). He rightly suspected that the person apprehended at UCLA and Riverside was the thief who had visited his own library. Fingerprints taken at the time of the initial arrest helped him piece together a complete criminal record, which he sent to the FBI. Throughout the investigation, however, the FBI seems to have been unaware of Huntsberry’s work. The Society of American Archivists and the Association of College and Research Libraries were more appreciative. They issued him a commendation for his role in cracking the case.”

19) Usmail & Usnavy, a pair of homosexual twins from Colombia, South America, whose only American exhibition was hailed by none other than the New York Times called “the most audacious debut since the extravagant premiere of Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

20) See Hurst, “First Glimpse of Greatness,” Boy’s Life, March, 1954, pp 39-65.

21) When added together the sum equals the amount of days in the twelve year period it took him to read the book from start to finish.

22) A small printing house called C.W. Hughes in Mechanicville, New York, the population of which has only recently surpassed the 5,000 mark.

23) The original jersey number worn in his first eight seasons with the San Francisco Giants.

24) See Minch, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A RIVER, (Volume III), Thames & Hudson, New York, London, 1931, p 1939.

25) Ibid.

26) An acronym for the short-lived restaurant and tavern Hilltop Inn & Pub, frequented by the poet and his chess club. Now under new ownership, it was owned by the his paternal Uncle Jack, known as the Strongman of Philipsburg in his younger days.

27) See Gooch for pertinent (and at times elaborate to the point of purple) facts and salient figures regarding that strip of Death Avenue long-known for cruising and explained in a fairly cryptic, if at times explicit letter from Ashbery to O’hara.




1) An antiquated formal exercise in Sapphics, considered among the more difficult forms to master.

2) Countered by a distinct disinclination to anything dealing with numbers, the poet considered multi-instrumentalist a more apt term than polymath. The quote, being repeated in most summaries of the poetic (if not artistic and titan of industry) career(s), was in fact “How can I be a polymath when I don’t understand math?”

3) “A man with a history of mental problems, Blumberg wore the same burgundy cardigan, brown plaid shirt and blue jeans through much of his trial. His attorneys portrayed him as a man trapped in the past, fascinated by a Victorian age he had known through stories handed down by his grandmother and aunts. His fixation on the era extended to buying antique underwear from the period, which he reportedly wore for weeks at a time.”

4) Among the symbols used by the Independent Order of Freemasons.

5) See Batchworth CIRCA ARMAGEDDON AND THE LIKE, Ambulance Press, New York, 1971 for a lengthy discussion on the lack of a critical poetic apparatus in contemporary times.

6) Expansive research has been conducted over the centuries, and while a consensus is elusive, most people agree that old paper is better than new paper because it’s old.

7) The third of three known telegrams sent by the dealer, which read in full: “TRAIN ARRIVES JOHNSON CITY 130AM THURSDAY STOP. IF NOT ON PLATFORM CHECK BAR CAR STOP.”




1) The SNAFU was reciprocated upon the next publication Gottlieb undertook, whereupon he and his publisher accidentally mis-spelled the poet’s name in the acknowledgements, much to both poets’ and publisher’s chagrin and eventual realization that it is extremely difficult to initiate a second printing of a book of essays by a poet.

2) The first of three known telegraphs sent by the poet, which read in full: “TRAIN ARRIVES TOPEKA 1130AM TUESDAY STOP. IF NOT ON PLATFORM CHECK BAR CAR STOP.”

3) “He also took dozens of elaborate, oversized 15th-Century volumes from the incunabula, the period between 1450 and 1500 after the invention of the printing press.”

4) AKA “Cheesecake or an alley that has a tendency to lead a ball into the strike zone; same as groove.”

5) AKA “Holding Alley” ” an alley that resists hook action; same as stiff alley.”

6) Various electronic resources turned up the following information on the topic: Joe Shlabotnik is a minor-league baseball player who, inexplicably, is greatly admired by Charlie Brown. Joe Shlabotnik is a fictional baseball player featured in the Peanuts comic strip. Shlabotnik was often mentioned as Charlie Brown’s favorite player. Brown spent much of his free time trying to hunt down Joe memorabilia— baseball cards, autographs, personal meetings, and organized a Joe Shlabotnik Fan Club, complete with a newsletter which folded after one issue. Shlabotnik was demoted to the minors after having a .004 batting average over an entire season; his one hit was a bloop single with his team comfortably ahead. His greatest achievements included making spectacular plays on routine fly balls and throwing out a runner who had fallen down between first and second. After being sent down to the Green Grass League (a bush league), Shlabotnik retired as a player and agreed to manage the Waffletown Syrups. Linus van Pelt once invited Shlabotnik to a testimonial dinner for Charlie Brown; unfortunately, the ballplayer got lost en route from his day job at a car wash. Another time he was scheduled to appear at a sports banquet where fans could dine with their favorite athletes (the guest list included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jack Nicklaus, and Peggy Fleming), and Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy bought tickets to sit at Joe’s table. He was the only athlete who didn’t show up, explaining later that he had marked the wrong event, city, and date on his calendar. Charlie Brown never did meet his hero. He never appeared in the strip, but is occasionally mentioned by Charlie Brown as his hero and is part of a couple of plots involving Charlie Brown. In one such plotline, Charlie Brown discovers that Joe is managing the Waffletown Syrups in a location near his camp, so Charlie Brown attends the game and cheers Joe on as he manages. Somehow catching a foul ball, Charlie Brown waits after the game for Joe to sign it only to find out that he’s been fired for calling for a squeeze play with nobody on base.

7) Carnival, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1901, celebrated with the merchandising jewel of 500 free giveaway ceramic beer steins emblazoned with a thirteen point buck in the stylized sanguine chalk of the demographic, of which the poet owned number 10.

8) The lyric in question is from the Canadian laureate’s “Field Commander” sequence, and the specific line is “racial rollercoaster rides and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry.”

9) The syndrome struck many within the short-lived inner circle.

10) While Pound stressed, in his later, bitter years, that poetry was for young men; economic essays, most would agree, are for the birds.

11) Birds of prey, predominantly, appeared routinely around monumental moments. The day he buried his mother “in a stone urn, an enormous barn owl appeared in the tree outside a waiting car, in the tree, in plain sight, just sitting there, at Pine Lawn, that saddest place on planet earth.” Journal #77, n/d.

12) From a handbill by the poet and artist Patrick Allen, bullet #853: All public funerals must provide an accompanying comments section so that the gravediggers know whether to bury the casket upside down or not.

13) Emil Cioran, Romanian philosopher 1911-1995.

14) A partial list of invitees included:  David Markson, Maria Lassnig, William Gaddis, William Gass, Lorinne Neidecker, Arno Schmidt, Vanda Vieira-Schmidt, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly, Louise Bourgeois, Henri Michaux, Willi Baumeister, Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Josef Albers, Bridget Riley, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, Fernand Leger, Max Beckman, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, Karel Appel, Alice Neel, Romare Bearden, David Hockney, Larry Rivers, Philip Guston, Dieter Roth, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Bruce Conner, George Brecht, Lucas Samaras, Ray Johnson, Edward Ruscha, David Wojnarowicz, Jean Tinguely, Joseph Cornell, Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Martin Puryear, Joseph Beuys, Guy Debord, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Carolee Schneemann, though many were already deceased at the time of the pageant.

15) See On the Summits of Despair, Bucarest, 1934.

16) See James R. Mellow “New York Letter,” Art International, vol. CLXXVII, January, 1969, p.53.

17) The pamphlet contained the following treatise: Aim toward less preciousness. Perhaps a little less pride. Too many cohorts can’t get out of their own way. Think they might have the line in, might have the read, might know the subject best among their other peers. Keep that shit to yourself. I’m probably older than you. I’m not a know it all, I just know more than you at any given moment. And the like. Such and such. One hates it when one uses the term one to describe himself or herself to anotherself. Like when a picture dealer tells a prospective client the painting she wants has already been “placed.” Like any picture dealer in New York has ever hung a picture. Some sweaty underpaid beatnik placed the picture. You sold it to the soonest taker. One prefers the term multi-instrumentalist, because it might be a blade, might be an actual photograph, might be a very precious and sentimental, prideful and boisterous “embarking” on bliss known in most circles as a poem, once known among the anointed as “smudging the air with my song.” So one prefers to take another horn to his mouth instead of parse the difference between sculpture and video, torture the carcass of a peach looking for the small meat left on the nut, the scrap of flesh dangling from the spent pit.

18) His father minted coins for a living, and was banished. After being exiled, he criticized most cultural conventions of the city and modeled himself on the rarefied example of Herakles. He believed that virtue was best revealed in action. He used his own simple lifestyle and behavior to lambast the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt and confused society. He had a reputation of sleeping and eating wherever he chose and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself cosmopolitan, and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to any one place. He made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.








Scott Zieher is a poet, artist and co-owner of the contemporary art gallery ZieherSmith with his wife Andrea. His 5th book of poetry was published in 2016 to coincide with a solo exhibition of recent collages at Ampersand Gallery in Portland, Oregon. With AMERICAN CHEESE & HAM, New Theory inaugurates the serial publication of the 6th of Zieher’s proposed 13 volume, book-length poem project, TRISKADEKALOG. He has lived and worked in New York City since 1992.



Our town began as a saltlick for animals. Then the rock salt grew as the salt brine whisked and eventually we came around. The rock salt grew as the salt brine whisked and eventually we learned to plug the subterranean. We learned to manage the animals, the salt laden strata, the limestone.


The north destroyed our salt during war. They cut the fog and thick southern lines with untrained Kentucky horses, through the dense marshes, guns loaded, everything cocked. They cut off the main sources of confederate salt and there went the leather, the just drained animals.

The north built bonfires in our town. The rules of war got broke down with massacre. The dead got robbed and eventually the fog lifted and the hills of our town showed its early victims.


And then we dug wells to push the salt back up. The rock salt grew as the salt brine whisked and eventually we made soaps of our salt and shipped it far.

We came to call it the recovery of salt. Recovery of what deposits deep in our marshes. We embraced our drudging and we lived with the crust on our body and our coats held a cold, white quiet. We sifted through limestone and counted the lines.


We took up tools and built ourselves some nice square homes.

At the end of days, we got home and shook off our coats, discovering the raw materials lugged in the pockets. Our kitchen floors, a surface for all those silver bits of mercury, like broken bullets, jumping in all their deformed joy.


Our salt stopped having meaning when raw. It could only be medicine, a soapy glue, a paper. We designed the jobs that needed done, turned the white muck red and blue, shaped it up and shipped it out.

Our calcium white and reaped. Our soda ash softening the laundry of America. Before we thought to extract the mercury from our water, from the lining of our guts, it was all in a good days work.

We treated our salt and it smelled vaguely sweet in the air. We stood in this air, calloused on the heavy pallets of our loading docks and imagined all the stops on the trip of our muck. Up to 100 pounds per day pounding our microbes into our dirt and our water.


All this to say, we didn’t begin with toxin. We didn’t begin by managing flow. The bad things batting around in our industrial boilers, the electrodes leaking in our pockets and on the floors of our decomposing towers. Things got large scale, combustible, inorganic. Because too often we work backwards. Too often it’s the hindsight we point at, say Well now. Look at that.

This is how an eyesore originates.


This is how a bad day begins. With any number of developing patterns, any number of crosshatched moments, a dam can always break.

And so began that bad day. Mid air, a river-mile over brick and steel, a 30-foot wall of dead white wave, with muck, with the streamy strength of acid, stress fractures and the build up of gas, a pH greater than seven and ten tons of daily mercury descending.

The explosion was mercury, poison water, salt ash. The explosion was the faults in our cells, what collected in our groundwater. The explosion, like a snowfield, the white stew at our house and tree lines, dragging us out by the roots.

We blinked at the sweeping mountain’s organ, our soft shale and siltstones, our limestone bluffs. We blinked at our green gray dirt and yellow. Under our feet, our town the shape of a circle, stretched more to a teardrop.


A bad day gets most terrestrial after one recognizes what the smell really means or why the river looks so dull at high noon.

A bad day gets most terrestrial when it grows into a bad night.

We watched water choke on itself as the sun went down. We rolled around with scratchy lanterns. We plunged, probing the bottom with hooks, in hopes of bodies or voices. But only the sound of wind braided to the sound of debris blubbered up.

Our hunt meant sifting just that bit of our hand through the muck, through fog and slow rain. And in that way we looked for each other. And in that way it wept by bit by bit, all those hard dark minutes.


When the sun rose again we wondered what the furthest into the dark our eyes had gone. Ours was a strange way to realize the no-line of death, to see a love frail and passing.


And after the fails of our river, hundreds of acres got bundled by fence, grass cut off and out of bounds.

We walked wide loops around the dead white blanket, through our alkaline, an obstacle course of pipes, of six-inch trees and brush underneath.

We sorted through the rising fossils to expose a shape we’d know. We sought comfort from trespassers in our waste, the hoppers of our fences. We waited for them and we were ready for them. We grew more alert to our continued, uncontrolled cell division, to the inorganic and organic, the pins and the needles of the hands and the feet. We did our song and our dance around the fence line.

It got still and the stillness had something to tell us.


Still water says difficulty of schooling and spawning. Still factory says the world ain’t our oyster. Still air says the eggs came from the birds all wrong, had no chance even before the cracks. Still fox says they forgot how to hunt all the fucking bunnies.

We told ourselves: No it will not waste us, too. It will not decompose us. It will not take us. No not in that way.


The flood of a broken dam can hold buckets of versions of anything. Any number of griefs, any number of patterns of damaged cells.

That’s the unavoidable design of chance. Chance budged in our tissue, slugged in our words, increasing in concentration with each step of the food chain, in the fisheyes popped and red-rimmed, in the decline of our mussels.


We had no word then nor now for that sort of bad day and bad night. We have no word for how everything merges with bacteria, for that threat in the blood of the heart.


So how do we store the damage in our history? Through which pipe does it go? Under which unwieldy pond? How do we cap our sludge, skim the mercury, bury our debris, hold the weight?

Oh how we do and we do.






Heather Rounds’ debut novel There won the 2011 Emergency Press International Book Award and was published by the Press in 2013. Her poetry and short works of fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including PANK, Big Lucks, Smokelong Quarterly and Atticus Review. Her novella, She Named Him Michael, is forthcoming this year from Ink Press. Visit her at

Everyone’s an Expert


Only a few centuries ago our collective sense of self was completely fixed to what we did for work. And that work was usually desperately tethered to one’s ability to survive in the world. If you were a cobbler, it was probably true that your father was too. And his father before him. Survival and identity were indivisible. The residual proof is in our last names: Cooper; Smith; Farmer; Sawyer; Weaver.

Obviously the Industrial Revolution and the society it bequeathed changed all that. Last I checked no one’s running around with the name Joe Citibank. Storming out of the house after a fight with one’s parents and signing up for improv classes is a 20th century notion. Leaving your banking job to learn how to bake cakes is all 21st century, even if you happened to be a Baker, of the Newport Bakers.

We all know a little more about how the planets move around the cosmic ether than an astronomer in pre-modern France. To the chagrin of my general practitioner, we are all armed with more Web MD information about nasal infections than patients 25 years ago. And I can know more about how bovine encephalopathy affects the American buffalo than any Native American, who could in turn have more heuristic, holistic, and spiritual knowledge of that animal’s condition than I can begin to fathom.

All this available truth has obviously shaped our consciousnesses profoundly. But how? Does access to inherited information give us an inflated sense of expertise? Does the mode of dissemination shape how this information influences society?

Pardon, let me rephrase that last sentence: is the medium the message?

“Yes.” But we knew that already. Anyone reading this probably has at least a basic knowledge of Marshall McCluhan’s warnings about television.

But recently I recognized something more troubling than the passive nature of staring at glowing screens in our current media climate. The superficial similarity between a television and a computer with an internet connection fails to recognize the feeling of agency and democracy that comes with the sense of interactivity and limitless channels. Unlike television, cutting the chord proffers an inflated sense of willfulness and discovery that was unheard of during the golden age of the boob tube. The arguments of the average professor of media studies may have progressed far beyond McCluhan and others, but I still feel as the father of two toddler-sized future citizens that the arguments are pretty much the same: platitudes about passive consumption, lack of exercise, etc..

I think the problem is more subtle.

60.2 percent of household televisions tuned into the final episode of M*A*S*H. That’s a number just too large for one to believe he possesses proprietary information about a Hotlips Hoolihan. The day after that legendary TV moment, one approached the water cooler at the office fully assuming their colleague would share their knowledge about the event. None of what they gleaned from that television program was proprietary; it was all communal.

When my mother recently claimed to have “created” some kind of half food, half decoration that I later found out was cribbed from Pinterest, I jokingly accused her of culinary plagiarism. It didn’t bother her a bit. “That’s where everyone goes to get original ideas,” she said. Her take on the surface was inherently contradictory, and very telling about the effects of internet communities on our sense of individuality. She had found a way to resolve the conflicts between communal and proprietary knowledge, to give her a both a sense of community and of anonymous individuality.

My students regularly tell me about new music they’ve ‘discovered’ on various on-line platforms. Without sinking too deep into semantic quicksand, I hold that it’s hard to discover anything without moving one’s feet. This is how virtual space deceives: it makes one feel like they are running around overturning stones, while they are sitting in a virtual chair with thousands of others. It makes one feel like they’re the first person anywhere. It’s often said that every generation thinks they’ve discovered sex, but until the age of the internet that was still a shared experience.

Private forums of every type coalesce on the internet like celestial bodies in the early universe encouraging and nurturing a sense of unique experience and access. Fine scotch your thing? Single source chocolate? Secret gems of the Lower East Side culinary scene? It’s all yours alone on your laptop.

I’ve given up hoping that the average person will become self-aware and suddenly do inventory of how their aesthetic urges are shaped by media. Who cares if Ogilvy and Mather can buy purchase data to gauge how any individual might feel about a certain brand of SUV? And who cares if my neighbor silently struts about believing what the marketers knew before he made the purchase. And who cares that my friend keeps recommending ‘amazing literature’ that he gets from a book nerd website that he knows I’m a member of too. He gave me the recommendation. Let him imagine he’s a literary lifer on the hunt for the worlds’ most obscure classics, and not analyzing data nine-to-five. If he can’t see the obvious irony that he’s at a day job that removes him practically from a legitimate passion, while simultaneously doing work that hopes to turn passion into predictable fantasy, so what.

However, I have to care when the subject goes from one’s acquired pop delectations to one’s take on politics, which is unfortunately the greatest beneficiary of a general trend of tricking people into feeling expert. I have a friend who’s a political scientist and a national correspondent for a news agency and he regularly complains that the most undedicated citizen at any bar will challenge any fact-based assertion he has about a political position.

Unless your last name is Socialcontract or Policywonk, it might be worth considering for a second that most of your day to day political positions aren’t any more expert than my father’s thoughts about the nickel defense that he read on ESPN. We’re all treading the surface of a regurgitated pool of knowledge and only recognition and humility can save us. The medium is the message once again, and the message is simulated agency. The only way to hear new music will always be to listen to a speaker and get to the roadhouse. And the only way to secure truth is to aerobically probe the real world and one’s own conscience…and maybe to verify those positions for signs of psychopathy much later via available internet medical channels.

It’s fun to consider that the amount of knowledge in the human head has remained pretty constant for the past 25,000 years. But now we are much wider than we are deep, and that’s fine as long as we aren’t fooled into misreading our depth.

The shoemaker in 1683 would’ve claimed to know shoes, and that’s all. That probably sucked for the purposes of good conversation, but it was a pretty good natural bullshit filter. So now that we have access to infinite information it’s probably healthy to not assume every nugget we bite off is as legitimate as the 46 morsels of pure truth about shoemaking possessed by a 14th century cobbler.

One might ask what authority I have, seeing as I’m not in possession of a higher-ed degree in Epistemological Philosophy.

I stripmined the hell out of the philosophy dot com website.






Shane McAdams is writer, curator, artist, and professor splitting his time between studios in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, and Brooklyn, New York. He is a three-time Creative Capital, Andy Warhol Writer’s Grant finalist, and his work has appeared regularly in the Brooklyn Rail since 2002. “Thoughts from Across the Cultural Divide,” his series of writings about bi-coastal commuting appeared regularly in Bad at Sports, and was a source of inspiration for the exhibition “High/Low/Middle” at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in 2015. He is currently a contributor to the Art City section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His artwork has been exhibited at Allegra LaViola Gallery, Marlborough, Chelsea, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Storefront, Bushwick, Scream London, and Artistree in Hong Kong, China, among others, and has been reviewed in Vogue Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Observer, The Huffington Post, and The Village Voice. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and Marian University. His work was most recently included in the exhibitions Super Natural at the Kohler Art Center, in Sheboygan, WI, Beat a Path, at the James Watrous Gallery in Madison, WI, Fault Lines at GP Presents in New York City, and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Wisconsin Museum of Art in January of 2017.

Where All the Elephants Lie Down: Chapter 2


“Shannon, it’s Jim, where are you.”

Shannon holds a cell phone to his face, looks around the yard. “I see a rope of clothesline. A ruffled apron. Pile of cinder blocks. Hammock. Chest of drawers.”

“Okay, you’re in your backyard. Come to the front door and let us in. My mother’s here for her lesson and can stand for only so long.”

In the testicle print apron, Shannon opens to a solemn man, broad in a three piece suit, and a stooped narrow woman with dull eyes.

“Here’s her lesson book, you left off on page five. I’ll be back in two hours.”

Shannon helps her to the piano bench.

“And Shannon.”

He turns to see the man ask the floorboards, “How are you today.”

He considers. “I’m rested.”

“And your face.”

He touches the cuts on his forehead, lips, and cheeks. Shrugs.

The man frowns, but his full charcoal mustache hides it. “I’ll see you soon.”

Shannon walks to the bench, opens the book to page five, Jim’s mother grimaces.

“What the hell is wrong with your floor.” Chalk outlines of bodies upon bodies are traced around the table in a mass grave. A watch alarm beeps, he raises his wrist. BATHROOM CABINET. A door-knock turns Shannon once more and it’s Jim, his sheening striped tie thrown over his shoulder. “How was the lesson.”

“We played Shenandoah,” Jim’s mother bleats, “Twelve goddamn times. It was my favorite as a young twit.” Shannon folds down the music at page ten, helps Jim walk her to the car.

“It’s air-conditioned, she’ll be fine,” Jim says, and they stand by the street sharing a cigarette, as they sometimes do. Shannon pulls the tie from Jim’s lapel, Jim clears his throat.

“I have another paying gig for you.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“I’m having a Sunday brunch in two weeks, and I’d like you at the baby-grand.”

“What’s the repertoire,” and passes the cigarette.

“Something playful, jazzy, light.”


“You’ll need your full suit. Shoes this time.”

Shannon nods without humor.

Jim takes a second drag, hands it back. “Call if you need anything.”

What that anything could be Shannon couldn’t guess and Jim is hoping he won’t. He puts his hand on Shannon’s shoulder, appraising him. “Eat more.”

From their black Mercedes, Jim’s mother waves in the ruffled apron, testicles rubescent in the shamelessly bare summer sun.

Pizza grease pumpkin orange from the folded slice of pie drips down his t-shirt. The weather is ridiculously good—air free from demon heat—sky fearlessly blue, clouds sheer and coy as the finest lingerie. He can think of no one he’d want to sheath in these clouds in order to unsheathe. The couples’ tennis match is just beginning, four men obviously new learners, balls rarely making a decent return across the net. Relaxing against a tree, Shannon chews with the negligence of the unskilled players’ swings. A ball pops over the park fence, lands in doughy thumps by the tree. He grips the glowing fuzz, vaults it back, watches slack-jawed as it flies across the tennis court, over the next fence into the street. The players sulk in uniformity—he frames them into an album cover: “Due to the Color Green” he’d call it.

“Nice arm,” one says with mild esteem.

Shannon stands without thought of the ball—he has a craving for rock’n’roll, and polishes his hair with mozzarella oil on his hands. Maybe he’ll find a band on his way home.

Moving in the roomy body bag of his clothes, his joints feel loose; every porthole resisting for an instant only to roll back into place. The late afternoon sun is bleaching the edges of everything he can see when a golden old Cadillac pulls up beside him.

“HEY SHANNON,” and Shannon doesn’t turn.

Caddy follows at a sinister pace.


Focused forward, he imagines a locomotive headed straight for him, playing chicken with his split lip.


At the car window, a man with paunched ruddy features, state trooper sunglasses, framed by over-brushed brown hair.


Back to the choo choo.


One, then two shiny black tuxedo shoes bounce on the pavement at his feet.


He stares at the shoes as the Cadillac zests away, past the whistling steam engine.

One shoe crammed in his first back pocket, second shoe in the other, he steps to the street cupping his brow to stare down the last of the sun, its hot amber rind unnerving his retinas, his chest pumping like faulty car breaks. This time, he decides, the motherfucker’s gotta go. So he tries not from the bottom, but straight through his rib cage—fingers as one beak—lacerating flesh, in between bone battens and intercostal clatter, until his hand grips his heart. The “fist dipped in blood,” the enigmatic mind fighting always until it doesn’t. It fights his fist now as he strains to pull it out, ribs yawning open for the slow, gory birth. Mounting the spouting organ on his fingers like a baseball eclipsing the sun, his other beaked hand breaks thigh muscle, sliding it aside to grip his femur, yank it free. He swings the bone elliptical to become a bat. Trancing—as a ninja must to imagine he’s already broken the fact of the board with the fiction of his hand and the rumor of his will—Shannon must believe he is not, in fact, the board itself. And throws the heart high, whacks it hard with his femur, splattering blood to the pavement, on his face, in his mouth. His heart flies at the dying light, “And heeeEEEEEEE’s OUTTA HEEEEEEERRRRrrrreeeee.”

It smells like college. Buick halts in the driveway, college boys escape, stampede the flock of children. He swerves behind the smallest girl in boy clothes. She sprints him up the block, five strides ahead, her laughter amorous as before. He’s stronger this time, ready for joy, to run faster, farther. She spins, keeps running. He spins, keeps running. She throws out her arms, falls to her hands, feet slicing air with a cartwheel. He throws himself down, completes the same orbit. They run on, now running in tandem—as she twirls, he twirls, as she jumps to clap her hands he’s already in mid-air, clapping. When she grips her slim hips, his hands are on his own, waggling their pockets, then sprint. Hands reach high, fingers like lit sparklers, craning their heads to howl.

Abruptly she pops to a higher gear, speeding farther, he can’t keep apace. Follow me, she says in his head. Lungs toppling in his chest, he jogs to a stop, her silhouette dimmed to a grease streak. Come back.

As the smudge of her dilates, it shudders; he can feel the tremor in his teeth, behind his eyes, clutching his head with both hands to hold her still, but she’s bleeding out everywhere swelling into life-size—because she’s running back. The joy to prepare for now is her’s, its centrifugal force will rupture him like a pipe bomb—he won’t survive he’s sure of it. The wait to receive her dissolving him, her will alone keeps him standing. She gallops to him, leaps at him, lands on him, a cell phone rings. He presses the sound to his face.

“Um, hey there Shannon, it’s Bill, you at home?”

Shannon rolls his bare back on a stripped mattress. Halogen heat from the ceiling scorching his eyes, he flinches. “In a hallway. Brick walls, institutional white. Many doors.” A ginger centipede flurries by on its batting lashes of legs. “And the walls have eyes,” he groans.

“Okay, well, um, it’s Friday, so I’ll be by with the twins in an hour. You want a ride home?”

“No. I’ll be there.” Phone down, faced smushed to mattress stains stinking of bleach and bread dough, he attentively licks one splatter, then another. Maybe a few more minutes, just a few. Watch beeps. Where the hell are his shoes.

It’s queasiness when the twins arrive. Boys about five or six, stand nearly identical looking at Shannon, who wants to tell Bill Please take them, just take them away.

Bill, though in a business suit, could be a jockey—small-boned and eager, as if on a jittery horse, anxious for the starting bell, the getaway. “What’ll you be practicing?” straightening the boys’ shirts again and again.

“Let’s do scales,” says one.

“And Chopsticks,” says the other, climbing onto the piano bench.

Bill drops cash in an ceramic flower pot Shannon is now noticing atop the piano.

“Ok,” Bill turning to timidly ask the door, “And Shannon how are you,” hands gripping, regripping reins in his pants pockets.

Shannon, flexing jaw, spits an unconvincing, “I’m fine.”

Relieved, “Okay then. Um, I’ll see you in an hour?”

At the high end sits one twin, at the low end the other, straining tiny fingers into rhythm up musical scales. Shannon crosses tightly against his billowing stomach. It’s a marvel to him, their effortless reflex with fragile size. Why would Bill do this, leave such weakness in his care.

Pounding at the door, “Shannon, it’s John Thatcher, let me in.”

Shades are drawn.

John. Thatcher. Means nothing to Shannon.


Pounding strong enough, doorframe easily splitting—it’s almost theatre, it must be comedy.

Twins look to Shannon, eyes flying-saucer-round.

“SHANNON, YOU PERVERT, YOU MONSTER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY BOYS,” vowels sloshing over consonants all barely bobbing to the surface. He’s throwing his whole body at the locked door.

When had Shannon locked it, does he ever.

Pulling twins off the bench, “We’re going to run now, out through the kitchen.”

“Are we playing tag.”


One lobbed onto his back, the other swung onto his hip, his hand on the back gate breaking its latch as the crunching front door surrenders; then the thunder of discordant chords under vengeance of a bat or a hammer or slat of doorframe. He runs and cannot feel his body, only clawing fingers and clamped limbs—their exceptional will to hold on.

At a park sentineled by statues, the boys slide down, he drops to his knees, fistful of a shirt in each hand. He bows for balance as though all joined in mighty prayer, then scans the playground as he might the heavens for confirmation. Families like rodents chirp on the equipment, through tunnels, over slides. Phone out, a twin stuffed under each arm like a duffle, “Bill, John came for the boys… At the park, with brass men in sheets.”

One twin to Shannon, “They look like lawyers.”

“Who looks like what.”

“You gonna puke, sir?”

And he does.

“Time to renew the restraining. Mandate. Demand. Memo.”

“Order,” Bill wheezes.


At the foot of a brooding bronze man, “I know, I know. What, what did he do.”

“Smashed in the door, and piano.”

“I’m, I’m so sorry to’ve put you in danger. You probably don’t want the police involved.”

He wants to ask Bill, Why monster, why pervert. Leaning in, “John used words—”

With eyes extraterrestrial as his sons’, “Shannon, he’s a bully who’s lost control, he’ll say anything to get me back.” Shannon leans closer. “I’LL HAVE THE PIANO REPLACED,” Jim blurts.

Shannon blinks, crouches to the twins, “I’ll see you next time.”

He had known to use the words restraining… something. Act, action. Restraining Action. Bill had understood him, he had understood him. What had they understood. The words evoke something burdensome, all-embracing. Crack-crack. Knuckles like wood on wood, like a mallet, had declared worse than bad news or a verdict. Thatcher with the doorslat, Thatcher with the bat, Thatcher with the chance given, would he have.

From a saloon across the street, applause burbles out to the chill night air. Inside, a full-figured voice lays about the room, blurring in with shadows of drinkers and their drinks; a calm, commanding voice that pulls him, weakens him against the jukebox to keep upright.

The singer is a slender man tightly swallowed by a red satin gown, hipbones abrupt to the plucks of an electric guitar playing in the background, his box shoulders bracing the spotlight as a street fighter with an honor to defend. His large laced hands grip the mic, gloves rushing up lean biceps, and at his throat, a white pearl choker. His shaved head flashes letters of a tattoo, ear to ear, nape of neck, when turning to wink at the bartender. Mouth is heavy with red syrupy lipstick, beautiful in its demand to be seen. And Shannon wants to press his thumb on that begging mouth, slowly smear it onto the glittered cheek. Lips spread across a gap in the teeth wide enough for a tongue to slide between; Shannon’s tongue in his own teeth as the singer croons to him, “I’ll be your woman, and you can be… mine.”

Ca-lunk of boots close-in behind Shannon, then a voice emerges from a terrain of grime and gravel and the grim will it takes to speak in strong winds. Brim of his cowboy hat divides the rise of purple smoke encircling from the floor.

“You wouldn’t think to look at me,” the man says through an overflowing mustache, pulling out a pack, handing one to Shannon, “But I’ve stood before waterfalls, kings and murderers, saints and little green men. And none of them made me falter or freeze—I spoke with the ease of Socrates! But this one, up there,” points to the singer, “She makes me dumb with desire. I can’t put two sentences together when she looks my way. Times we step out for a smoke, I don’t know what to do, I’m a buffoon with her. Now, why do you suppose that is.” Cigarette behind ear, Shannon considers the sly slopes of the singer, the dark rattle in her voice. “She’s out of your league,” he shrugs.

The man grunts, snorts, cackles in amusement. Tinny click of his lighter bright like tinsel in his dense-footed departure. At the door, a stomp once or twice, then “Son of a bitch.”

Inside, the singer’s shaded eyes water from the sour stench of unwashed denim, her tears compelling patrons to wait—for the next song, and the song beyond that, and the song beyond that. The light holds back the singer until she can no longer stand its arctic stare and steps away. She wants to move with darkness, see in it what she can. Speaking quickly to Shannon, taking his hand, both shiver in the nervous push of last call.

The early periphery of dawn is not so much a color—although a painter would argue otherwise, would have to—but more a droning in the chord of D minor; universe yawning out of one form into another, on its way to something else. Shannon sways in the chord, walking to the curb where stands a hunched and hooded creature, hands old, arthritic. It’s dressed too warmly for a summer sunrise, as though teleported from another world still enduring winter. It pulls around itself a battered grey shawl over a tangerine rain-slicker.

He’s about to step off when she speaks to no one in particular.

“Usually it’s a car accident. It’s a piano falling on your head and you don’t get to watch the meaning of Forever change.”

He looks to her, she does not turn. Her voice is course and steady, a voice that knows unwanted things.

“And like a cartoon angel, you float above what’s left of your life and you cannot choose it, you want none of it. Only desire will keep you alive. The desire will not be your own.”

She steps off the curb, crosses the street, not looking back. Shannon stands gasping.

Minutes pass, perhaps hours, most likely minutes. Watch beeps. He walks uncomprehending through a neighbor’s yard to the back gate. His gate. Broken latch. Twins. John Thatcher. Busted-in door, the goddamn piano. The memory is there. Like himself as a child with his Uncle at the funeral. Parts of his brain had made an agreement, though not binding, for the child looks like the twins, and his Uncle, less a figure than a force of warmth and mercy.

Memory of the break-in is an orchestra of interrupting sounds and images rocketing past each other, finding a new order and now another until escaping the room with the children is no longer Shannon, but the man in the Cadillac, the saloon singer, the old witching woman on the street. The front of his skull aches with activity, passing landmarks to the kitchen where he hears a voice—not the voice of John Thatcher.

“Hi, are you home?” it says uneasy from the front room.

“Who is it.”

“The piano delivery guy.”

Shannon enters to a round man in coveralls.

“Sorry it took a couple days. We don’t deliver on Sunday. Are you Bill Kaplan?”

The new piano, in the same upright design, is darker, more chestnut in stain; glossier, conspicuous in the hypothermic blues and greys of his apartment.

“Are you Bill?”


“Just need a signature,” hands him a clip board and waits, pen raised. Shannon hesitates which hand to reach, takes the pen. At the red arrow he draws an X. And then an O.

“Watch out, you’re bleeding,” looking at Shannon’s hand, “Is it paint?”

Shannon smudges thumb to his finger, then to his tongue. “Lipstick.” Then smears it around his lips, smacking them together.

The man shakes his head, hurries to the front door. “Keep the pen have a nice day.”

Door closes, Shannon’s mouth is ajar. His hands swab the undamaged doorframe, the gleaming new knob. He steps back. No more chalk outlines on the floor but one, beneath his feet. He backs up, distressed to be stepping on it—the shrunken outline, the smallest body, on its side, knees draw up. He crouches down, traces with his fingertips the crescent spine, club feet, the knobby knees, and face without features—silhouette now a blur. Lying down beside it, knees drawn up, face to face with the foggy figure, “Your honor,” hoarsely, “to honor…” he strokes its head, “the visitor, the prophet, the night’s plutonium shore,” hands to his chest, “Quote the raven—” Watch beeps.

Subway car dings, doors close, an over-starched automated voice declaresNext stop is.”  Vessel bolts forward jerking Shannon awake. Travelers across from him look like worn out, well dressed hostages. Must be the early morning office crowd—faces leadened piles of flesh drooping off skulls onto dimpled lids of iced coffee. He imagines reaching out his thumbs to mold their puddy features into something more alarmed and goblin-like; a Goya painting—fingers in each other’s mouths, mid-gargle, lit from below, caught in a moment of terror or glee.

He imagines there would be few misgivings if he slid from the lacquered bench onto the sticky floor of soda spills and dried urine, where he’d crawl around the hostages’ feet and lean like a doting house pet; jowls slathering their leather loafers or sandal straps, hands holding their ankles, nose nuzzling their shins, teeth gnaw kneecaps. He’d sink them down to the gooey ground, taking each by their elbows or haunches and unscroll them like laying out the dead to be reverenced. He’d tell them, “Let’s take a rest.” And then maybe, “I am a flood.” And a wave pool inside him would rise, rock him into the flourish of limbs and quivering chins.

He doesn’t envision a tangle of appendages; rubber soles snared on buttons, face cut on zippered groins. No, it would be a subtle surfing. His face submerged in body caves, smelling the brown rust and yellow salt of their hush-hush… “Shhhhhh” he’d assure them, “The worst suffering is over.” And he’d want from them more than their souls.

There would be sighs, weak smiles, and a dubious onlooker to drag him by the collar up against the wall and hiss, “Look here, friend, just what do you think you’re doing?” He would explain, “I’m forever-ing in here bumping into walls then moving through them rolling on the shiny floor no trace of me I breathe on windows and put my hand on the wet I whisper please find me and the taste the first time I threw-up and couldn’t swallow and had to wash the shiny shiny floor no trace of me lost in the big big big big bed where I lie very still my bones hurt and make me dance beautiful in empty rooms no trace of me there is a lion outside pacing back and forth watching me and writes with its big paw hands it paces for days I like the lion and sometimes show it how I try to pull my face off and I cry lots STOP IT STOP CRYING STOP FOREVER find me before forever does before he comes …”


Opens his eyes, holding a cell phone to his face.

“Shannon, you have to stop this. Calling me. Saying these things.” A woman’s voice.

He’s alone, passenger seat of a parked car, in a neighborhood stippled with maples and gingkos ruffling in the jungle green dark.

“Who is this.”

A bleak silence where breath should be.

“Why don’t you call Sal. He misses you.”

Across is a man’s bearded face in an upstairs window.

“I don’t know any Sal.”

Silence clicks, phone goes dark.

Car door opens, he teeters the block toward a bearded face he’s certain knows him. And passes a willow tree dropping hangman ropes cornrowed with delicate tongues. He takes hold of one, taut between fists, and wraps the branch once, twice around his throat, then reclines back until he’s levitating. Other branches reach down in a ribbon garden, dragging their locks along his face. Usually its a car accident, its a piano on your head and

Rope snaps, he slams to the ground, groaning, almost smiling. The sky is a watching-thing, he ponders. Patient, not hostile, not reluctant. Pulling out a slim tin of cigarettes, he smokes on his back. A lone branch looks as though it’s asking for a drag. He lifts his smoke for the rope to loop it gingerly and pull it to its higher depths of hues.

He never got to see the battered piano. ‘It’s a terrible thing not to have someone unto whom you can unburden yourself. I tell my piano the things I used to tell you. Chopin said that. Had Shannon ever played the gone piano. What had it witnessed. The wreck, and not the story of the wreck. Who said that.

Blowing out the last cable of smoke, his lips stay round and tight, breath narrow, and the loveliest sound buoys out. A Chopin melody. He whistles it like a bird.

Rolling over, he stands, head expanding like a balloon. Why do we have a head at all, he wonders. If life as such is an inventory checking, rechecking itself, why have even a body. Weeping branches rest on his shoulder, he hangs his head. Life as such. And pats the branch. How could I be a monster. His grubby hands rub his face, smearing on tree-soot. Show yourself.

He knocks at the door, a boyish man opens, almost middle-aged. What a finely trimmed face. The beard wears an undershirt fragrant with freesia, his square compact frame like a freshly planted wall.

“Hi, I’m Axel. Welcome,” extending his hand and Shannon doesn’t shake it. How could he—this gesture of lack, of having-been-without, of having been wrong. The man smirks. “Head upstairs.”

Every ledge inside is lined with action figurines, toy weapons, costume masks, a canary colored hazmat suit hanging in the doorway. A hovel. A landfill of nostalgia—days of sticky dishes, maybe weeks; years of political buttons, homemade signs: ‘change smells like tear gas,’ a blow horn between cereal boxes. The beard grins nervously.

“The others aren’t here yet, but you can wait in the game-room. I didn’t catch your name.” He dusts off Shannon’s back, “You a friend of Rick’s?” Shannon looks around, the man hands him goggles, “There’s fully-loaded pellet guns and woah, buddy, steady now.” The man anchors their weaving until both men stop bending. He holds him close and Shannon wants him to. He wants disaster. He slides his face down the floral chest to his knees. The man wears no belt-buckle, Shannon’s face is the belt-buckle. The first time I threw-up and couldnt swallow, the words pass through him like nausea. He wraps his arms around the man’s waist, his cheek so tense on the white cotton belly his scabs resplit and seep.

The man strokes his head, cups his face, inspects the wounds; a man too handsome to take in. His crooked mouth loose and listening, with deeply creased eyes—shiny watchful eyes—patient, not reluctant, not hostile; and the proud oblique scar passing down his entire cheek in the shape of a canoe, paler tick marks hemming it like gunnel bolts where stitches had not held. A once-pummeled face. The piano. Shannon looks away, knowing he’ll never see this man again.

The man lifts him, uncoils the boa of leaves, takes back the goggles. “Maybe you should settle into one of the beanbags.”

Shannon slumps in the electric blue. The man takes out a porcelain saucer, leans against the doorframe and smokes a leftover joint with precious drags, filling the room with tumbleweeds of smoke, while the one dim lamp is carving out a path through the back of Shannon’s eye sockets with its brightness. The buzzing of the turbine in his chest is becoming audible. He pulls on his sleeves, he tries to listen.

“You’re not well, friend. You’re sick with longing.”

“Is that it,” Shannon grumbles, beginning to sweat.

The man extends the joint, Shannon waves it off.

“Where’s your fidelity,” the man asks, sparking the lighter.

“My what.”

“To what are you faithful.”

“Like, to a person.”

“No.” He sucks the smoke deep, coughs it out. “Sometimes you don’t know what until you’ve betrayed it. You feel like you’re dying, and then you know you’ve found it; it’s already found you.”

“What will it want from me.”


The man sucks deeper, squinting. Then blows out the entire dustbowl. “And then it’s no longer the what but the how. How do you honor it, how does it want you to.”

“Why must we,” Shannon winces.

“Why doesn’t matter, we make that part up. The what makes us up. And we tribute it without reward or reciprocity, even if it means damnation. That’s fidelity.”

Shannon is desperate not to claw his own face off, “Am I double damned if I don’t know.”

“Many don’t. But watch them, they live their lives by it.”

Shannon looks to his hands, filthy and clammy. The man notices. His sermon continues.

“After the cleansing, praying, spells and exorcisms, after the gutting, cutting and years of treatment, the bond is there, ugly, aching still. You’ll be sick, mentally ill with longing for it, to be rid of it. Yet you’ll defend it with your life because your life is nothing without it. It’s madness. It’s why you’re here, why you’re anywhere.”

“But I’m not here.”

The man blows out, looking cross. “How’s that.”

“What if I told you I won’t remember this in the morning.”

“I’ll remember for you.”

“I won’t remember you,” Shannon growls.

The man looks hurt. “Because you’re not here?”

Here is an unknown quantity. How can we possibly know what it does and does not account for.”

The man straightens, drops the butt, glowers.

“And all that sentimental bullshit you just blew up my ass, you sound like a boy scout spreading gossip at a campfire. You think I want fairytales—I WANT TO KNOW WHO DID THIS,” hand encircling his face. Instantly his eyes clench shut, face flattens, voice blank, “There’s indifference in me so deep you’ll mistake it as understanding, for it needs no conversion, seeks no argument. You’ll mistake it as strength and swagger. It will be conspiracy, I will be dreaded.”

“What are you doing.”

“SPREADING GOSSIP,” Shannon glares, eyes twitching with rising temperature.

The man kneels to the beanbag, “What substance are you on, friend.”

“I have no substance.”

“So where are you.”

“In the eye of the beholder.”

“Then you ARE here.”


Holding down Shannon’s fists, “I’ve got you.”

“Then take me with you, far as you can.”

“Shhhhhh, friend. Whoever you are, whatever’s happened, the worst suffering is over.”

“No, friend,” teeth hissing, damp forehead to forehead, “It wants everything.”

Outside, summer wind is picking up dirt and leaves, scent and sound, carrying it all to the next block over, to the block beyond that, and the block beyond that. The weak light in the game room burns hopeful until the man can no longer stand its faithfulness and puts it out. He wants to see with darkness, do in it what he can. Moving quickly, taking Shannon’s hand, both shiver in the starless tenement heat.

The Buick halts in the driveway, college kids dart into the gang of children who flee. He goes straight for the smallest girl in boy clothes, she sprints him up the block, five strides ahead. The distance between condenses quickly and the sense is to lift her and scatter her into noise, to rise and fall at the command of her rapture. She sharps a left turn through honeysuckle. He leaps, close behind, but already she’s across the lawn at the stoop of a house. “Follow me!” she calls. “NO,” he calls back “DON’T GO IN, IT ISN’T SAFE.” She springs past the threshold. “NO,” he vaults at the door. Past the frame his body drops, plummeting into a crater. He clings to the doorframe pulling himself to stand. “COME BACK,” he yells, “DON’T LEAVE ME.” He tugs off one shoe, into the blackness he flings it. No sound. The other shoe is hurled across the cavity. Nothing. He lets go of the doorframe, falling forward like a domino struck.

Spasming from sleep against impact, he turns over, engulfs his face in pillow. He is home, in bed, somehow. He wants never to leave it. He wants to shackle himself—here; announce himself in its unknown quantity: account for ME.

The aroma of her hits him first. Apple juice and jasmine. His eyes can barely open on her face, small in the lamp light—black eyes shining, cruel and curious and much too close.

“I’m hungry,” she grumbles with a low silver-plated voice. Then tromps to the kitchen—her dark hair tangled and bounceless, her loose boy clothes wrinkled—five strides ahead.






Kat Mandeville graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, is finishing her PhD in Philosophy & Critical Thought at the European Graduate School, and with Atropos Press has published her Master’s Thesis, Seduction into Life, Revelation with Strangers: Could Ettinger’s Matrixial Borderspace Answer Badiou’s Call for a New Philosophical Tradition? She’s published two books of poetry, with various poems published in various journals. She lives in New York City.

The Jamboree Journal


June 30, 1937

Subscriptions Available. Eleven Issues for Fifty Cents.


Fellow Scouts: Today we are celebrating our twenty-seventh anniversary. From one end of the country to another we are taking stock of what has been accomplished during all these years and paying a deeply felt and well deserved tribute to the ideals of Scouting.

Hail! Hail! Scouting Spirit, Best in the Land!

Hail! Hail! Scouting Spirit, Loyal We Stand!


Never until now has the United States seen a juvenile mass migration comparable to the famed crusade of the thirteenth century.

10 miles of piping brings a million gallons of water to the 350-acre encampment that stretches from the Washington Monument to Arlington Park.


What is Scouting? Scouting is the process of making real men out of real boys. It ensures good citizenship. The Boy Scout Movement healthfully and sanely offsets the disadvantages which civilization has caused.

The Boy Scouts want to help boys, upon leaving school, escape the evils of “blind alley” occupations; that is, such work that gives a boy a mere wage for the moment, but leaves him stranded without any trade or handicraft to pursue when he is a man, and so send him as a recruit to the great army of the unemployed, and what is worse, the unemployable.

700,000 Juvenile Delinquents in America


The Scouting Movement is not military in thought, form, or spirit. The uniform, the patrol, the troop, and the drill are not military tactics; they are for unity and harmony, and developing the spirit that the boys learn in Scouting.

Prevention is recognized as better and less expensive than the cure. The Boy Scout Movement takes boys at that time of life when they are beset with the new and bewildering experiences of adolescence and diverts their thoughts to wholesome and worthwhile activities. Our character building movement has done much in many cities to diminish the problem of juvenile delinquency.

Not one penny of Federal money, of any sort, has been made available. This entire affair is financed by the 25,000 Scouts and Scouters in attendance.


“It is a regulated system of spending, based on sound banking policy, to aide boys in wisely appropriating their money for the entire period of their stay away from home. Each Scout is issued an account book and may spend no more that two dollars per day.”

7:00, Reveille. 7:45, Breakfast. 12:30, Lunch. 18:00, Dinner. 20:30, Campfires. 22:00, Taps.

Scouts can attend lectures describing how Social Security works and watch films documenting the construction of the Boulder Damn.

10,000 tents. 200 tons of food daily. 1000 refrigerator units. 25,000 quarts of milk. 70,000 eggs for breakfast. 100,000 flapjacks. 15,000 pounds of meat. 4000 pounds of sugar and butter. 2000 garbage cans.

 We Are Prepared.

Hail! Hail! Scouting Spirit.

Hail! Hail! Hail!

July 1, 1937

Do a Good Turn Daily


A scout from Cleveland was injured by a buzz saw prior to leaving for the Jamboree. He severed two tendons but made the trip despite his injury.


While storm clouds gather far across the sea

Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free

Let’s all be grateful for a land so fair

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

More than three thousand scouts formed a human flag at the base of the Washington Monument.


A campfire is an opportunity for storytelling and having a good time, but it is an occasion for serious reflection as well. Colonel Roosevelt, eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, concluded the evening with a few important words of advice,

“You are going to run into a lot of people who will try to persuade you that wrong is right, who will tell you that there is going to be a brave new world where all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins. They are lying. The rights and wrongs have been the same for two thousand years. Decency will always be decency, and everyone of us here knows what is right and what is wrong. Scouting braces us, it stiffens our backbone so we will stand up and do what is right.”

From the mountains, to the prairies

To the oceans white with foam,


Correspondents from Time, Life, and the New Yorker magazines are covering the event, in addition to newspaper reporters from seventy-three American cities. Broadcasters, including CBS and NBC, will provide daily radio coverage for the duration of the event. The curiosity and anticipation surrounding the Jamboree suggests that the Scouting Movement has become a very real and tangible part of our national life.

Hardware to Swap: 100 skillets, coals shovels, and spoons.

Arkansas Scouts trade cottonseed.

God Bless America, my home sweet home,

God Bless America, my home sweet home.


Very few scouts gathered here at the Jamboree would know the location of the Brule Sioux Indian Village if asked. The truth of the situation is that it is well isolated from the rest of the contingents. You will find it at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street.

The first person you’ll meet there is Mr. Ralph Hubbarb. He is one of the best-known Indian lore experts and showmen in the country. Year after year he has gone to different Indian reservations and danced with their tribesmen to learn more perfectly their dances.

Before the end of the week, Mr. Hubbarb hopes to train 500 Indian dancers. The Sioux Village contains 150 chief headdresses, costumes for 300 scouts, and enough gallons of paint to make any boy look like a red skin.


“Even though personal contact is impossible, we are proud this sad fate of ours is not a hindrance in our ability to render service to the community.”

Homeruns by Joe DiMaggio and Tony Lazzeri enabled the New York Yankees to nose out the Washington Senators, 5-4.


President Roosevelt will throw out the first ball Wednesday at the All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium.

July 2, 1937

Pass Me On to a Friend

If the entire population of Scout City stood shoulder-to-shoulder, the khaki-colored column would stand 32 miles long.


In General Camp Headquarters, a committee of six men, representing the various executive departments of the Jamboree camp, witnessed the ceremonies and spoke over the air on a 35-station radio hook-up to hundreds of thousands of Scouts and Scouters who are unable to attend the Jamboree.

I love to tell the story

Of unseen things above

Scranton Scouts adorn themselves with coal miner lamps. Portland Scouts identify the City of Roses by painting rose designs on their tents.

I love to tell the story

Because I now tis true

It satisfies my longings

As nothing else can do.


Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, Herbert Allen, of Charter Oak, Calif., and a member of Troop No. 11, Section J, is believed to be one of the largest Eagle Scouts in America. Herbert wears size 14, triple E shoes and, in all, is a very husky Scout. As he went through the Department of Justice, many thought he’d surely become a policeman.


Designed to depict the progress of Scouting in the United States, the “Cavalcade of Scouting” will consist of three more evening pageants, presented by Scouts from other regions of the United States. The arena shows will be staged on July 2, 3, and 5. The first was given last night.

I love to tell the story

More wonderful it seems

Than all the golden fancies

Of all our golden dreams.

Scout “specialties” include bullwhip cracking, boxing, lariat spinning, baton spinning, flint and steel fire making, first aide, and pillow fights of course.


“On Dec. 21, 1620, the first party of Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock to combine themselves together into a civil body, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.”

With these words entered Scouts portraying Gov. William Bradford, Miles Standish, John Alden, a band of Indians, and 400 costumed Pilgrims. All prayed for a moment and departed.

Action—Enter from east and west gates, large party of Puritan men, women, and children to music of an old Protestant hymn, including John Winthrop and party of about 20, the Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont groups. They gather in the center of a field and sit down for preaching by Rev. John Cotton who carries on in pantomime. Later, two Puritan groups of 12 each erect various forms of old Puritan punishments and demonstrate. Standing and sitting stocks. Dunking stool. Cat-of-nine tails. Burning witches, etc.

The Colonization of New England. Spirit of ’76. The Industrialization of New England. New England of Yesterday. New Englanders of Tomorrow.

I love to tell the story

For some have never heard

The message of salvation

From God’s own holy Word.

A colorful “finale of flags” brought the show to a close. Every boy on the field stood at attention and unfurled small flags while the large United States and troop flags were carried on the raised platform and dipped before the President’s box.


Sunny Land Council, Troop 15, Section L, just received 100 more gators from their home in Florida for trading purposes. Scoutmaster Yarn said the first batch of 40 traded like hotcakes.

July 3, 1937

Be Prepared

Arizonians bring Navajo rugs. Suffolk County Scouts trade oyster shells.

The youngest Eagle Scout at Tent City is believed to be Vic Kebler. He is 14 years old, stands 4 feet 6 inches tall, and weighs 85 pounds.


Action—Then comes Ponce de Leon in search of the Fountain of Youth. He, a decrepit old man, finds our primitive natives, trades and travels among them. Beginning with episode #3, he observes through field glasses, from a rustic tower placed at a vantage point, the progress of America as it began in the south, which involves Religion, Education, Industry, Travel, Recreation, and Scouting. With the progress of our land, Ponce de Leon becomes youthfully inspired with each episode.

Push northward.

Etc. Etc.

No. Luck.


Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,

Old times there are not forgotten.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Scouting adventure in the United States was depicted in another scene. “Prompted by the urge of adventure and seeking wider opportunities, 107 settlers, directed by Sir Walter, landed on the shores of North Carolina. This Raleigh Colony was eventually lost and later Raleigh lost his head,” the announcer said.

The first steam ship is launched in Savannah.


At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers demonstrated the successful flight of their air ship.


Then hoe it down and scratch your gravel

To Dixie Land I’m bound to travel.

The episode climaxed with a loud and enthusiastic burst of patriotism. The entire program was set in a Southern cotton field, and was featured by the singing of a troop of southern Scouts and Scouters.

The scene opened on a little cabin in a cotton field. The powerful Arena floodlights then flashed on a group of old Negroes, who entered the scene. More than 1200 boys from Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama paraded across the field and all performers joined in southern songs.


The program moved swiftly through southern history until the present when Ponce de Leon became a young man. He was an Eagle Scout on the threshold of citizenship, and joined in the salute of the flag with thousands of other American Scouts.

In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand,

To live and die in Dixie.


Coast Guard officials are convinced Amelia Earhart and Captain Fred Noonan, her navigator, have been forced down at sea. They added, however, that the Lockheed aircraft she is flying around the world could float indefinitely on a calm sea.

 July 4, 1937

A Youth Movement Void of Bigotry and Suspicion

Scouts from Yakima, WA., presented a large piece of rare, petrified ginko to President Roosevelt.


Troop 4, Region 12, Santa Monica, has within its boundaries two live rattlesnakes, one of which is of an unusual red variety. These reptiles may be viewed with perfect safety as they are well enclosed behind wire cages.


The Racine, Wisconsin crack drum and bugle corp. performed a brilliant concert immediately preceding the pageant.

Action—This scene portrays Western VA., as the road over which thousands of emigrants poured into Kentucky and the old Northwest territory, on horseback, on foot, with pack animals, by water, etc., and also portrays the claim of Virginia to all territory laying westward of the Mississippi River.

500 pioneer men, women, and children. 50 colonial citizens. 300 hundred Scouts. 400 Indian Warriors.

How often at night when the heavens are bright

With the light from the glittering stars

Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed

If their glory exceeds that of ours.


This scene was one of the most picturesque in the entire pageant. Hundreds of Scouts built a group of pioneering towers and pitched a pattern-work of tents and shelters of every description.

When the pioneer display was finished hundreds of other Scouts surrounded the Arena and put on a skillful display of signaling, wood-chopping, bandaging, and fire by flint and steel.

Afterwards, a beautiful Indian village sprang up on the Arena floor while scores of brilliantly costumed Indians sang and danced in a demonstration personally directed by Ralph Hubbarb.

Action—This scene shows the Ohio Company in action with the opening of a land grant office, making grants to former Revolutionary soldiers. A log stockade, a log house, bridges, etc. are constructed, ending in an old-fashioned “Hoe Down” dance.


The Red Man was pressed from this part of the west,

He’s likely no more to return,

To the banks of the Red River, where seldom if ever,

Their flickering campfires burn.

 Paul Bunyan, the mythical lumbering giant, was represented by a group of mammoth articles, reported to have been used by him while in the Middle West.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota.


A “Jamboree Circus” ensued, with United States flags massed in the center of the field. Marching from the East end to the West end of the Arena, each state made its appearance in solid columns, eight abreast. Following each state flag were famous state characters, such as Daniel Boone, Mark Twain, General Custer, Charles Lindbergh, hillbillies, Ozark mountaineers, miners, farmers, and Indian chiefs.

Action—This scene presents an Indian council fire, a war dance, and a short skirmish with pioneers. Plenty of liveliness and color.


Oh home, home on the Range,

Where the deer and the antelope play,

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

And the skies are not cloudy all day.

 Francis Perkins, Secretary of Labor, in an open letter declared that sit-down strikes are illegal and “unsuited to the temperaments and conditions of our modern life in this country.”


Chances for the rescue of Amelia Earhart, wife of George Palmer Putnam, an Honorary Scout, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, diminished yesterday when storms turned a Navy boat away from the search, leaving only a Coast Guard cutter to continue its discouraging quest in the South Pacific.

July 5, 1937

Patriotism is not a way of voting. It is a way of living.

161 Years

Visit All of Uncle Sam’s Workshops!

U.S Customs House. U.S Navy Yard. US. Post Office. Department of State. Department of War. Department of Navy. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Internal Revenue Service.

“Rich boys and poor boys meet as equals in the Scout uniform. The khaki shirts give the boys a better chance of self-expression. The uniform is something that reaches fundamentally not into Scouting alone, but into the very heart of the American people.”


The Jamboree’s Grand National Convocation, the purpose of which was to objectify the allegiance of the Boy Scouts to the religious principals which undergrid their national life, was held last night, July 4.

Over 26,000 Scouts and Scouters convened at the base of the Washington Monument in the greatest assembly of youth in the history of the nation.

God of our fathers, known of old

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Keep our country from violence, discord, and every evil. Grant to the President of the United States health and prosperity and wisdom to meet his great tasks. To those who guide this great Movement give the abundance of Thy strength and courage and understanding, that the youth of this country may grow in strength and in righteousness.


Rabbi Isreal Goldstein, of the Congregation B’Nai Jershurum, in New York City spoke for the Jewish Committee on Scouting:

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and contrite heart.

“The men of 1776 who laid out the pattern of our government might well have expected that by 1937 the whole world would accept as axiomatic and commonplace that which they in their time held to be self-evident truths. Alas, for the world of 1937 that there are still powerful nations who in the mechanical arts belong to the twentieth century but who in the art of political and moral idealism and in the art of achieving peace and brotherhood belong to the dark ages of the past!”


Dr. William C. Covert spoke for the Protestant Committee on Scouting:

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headlands sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

“Recall what you have seen in this arena during the past few evenings. The Scout program especially recognizes the courageous moral stamina in the personal life and characters of those who felled our forests, opened our prairies and pushed our frontiers into the Pacific Ocean. These are memories too noble, too heroic, and too essential to our higher national life ever to be forgotten. The courage, the fortitude, the hardships of these pioneers and foundation builders represent moral elements of human character we sorely need presently. We rejoice, therefore, that they play so large a part in the Scout program of today.”

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law—


Honorable Daniel C. Roper, Secretary of Commerce in President Roosevelt’s Cabinet, brought us a message paying tribute to the religious forces of our national life:

“Someone, sometime ago, asked me if I thought the world was going to get out of this trouble. I said, ‘There is no doubt about our getting out on paper and in treaties, but the point is: Can we stay out?’ The only way in which we can stay out, young men, is to practice the principles for which you stand and which are founded in the virtues taught by religion. We will never be able to stay out of the great conflicts of the world until we practice the creed that you profess, a creed based upon genuine, bona fide religious cooperation among all churches of the world.

When you return to your homes, I ask you to talk your doctrine, spread your doctrine, and save humanity. The practice of your doctrine in worldwide fashion is the only hope of the world. God bless you and God speed you in your great work.”

For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

And guarding, calls not thee to guard

For frantic boast and foolish word—

The ceremonies were concluded at 8:45 p.m.

“America, the Beautiful.” “Anchors Away.” “The Star Spangled Banner.” “Taps.”

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!


British leaders reminded a tense Europe yesterday that Britain is rearming to compel respect for her rights and interests and that violation of the territorial integrity of Spain and free access to the Mediterranean, included in those interests, would not be tolerated.

 July 6, 1937

Be an Empire Builder


An unusual privilege was afforded Scott Jimmy Blackmare, White River Council, Bloomington. The privilege was a swim in the mirror pool by the Lincoln Memorial. While riding a two-wheeled steed, he was unceremoniously dumped into this beautiful body of water—bicycle and all.

Regional executives emphasized high camp morale. “There has been little sickness and very few accidents.”


The National Jamboree’s “Cavalcade of Scouting” was brought to a brilliant conclusion in the Washington Monument Arena last night when more than 4000 scouts retold the settlement of the West in the final show of the series.

Introductory Theme—“Westward Ho” has been the mystic expression that has challenged the courageous ones who would build a physical empire where “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” would be guaranteed to every citizen and has intrigued adventurous youth from the time of the sailing of Columbus to the present moment.


An important feature of the program was the huge camping and pioneering scene in which the Arena was filled with covered wagons, teepees, log cabins, towers, Indians and Cowboys, and 2500 Scouts making it look like a ten-ring circus.

Another scene began as a terrific explosion rent the air, and the field was strewn with injured persons, whereupon Scout first-aide crews rushed onto the field, showing what they would have done had a catastrophe such as this occurred today.


Some of them even shot six-shooters loaded with blanks as they circled the Arena. More of the Texas cowboys staged an Indian skirmish, which was immediately followed by groups of whip-crackers and rope-spinners “doing their stuff.”

Action—Then came the first great march of the covered wagons when the Mormons first trekked into the fertile lands above the Great Salt Lake, and there in spite of untold hardships wrought another empire, and another culture, but the stream of pioneers, with all their earthly good, continued to follow the sun into the West.

One of the outstanding scenes of this episode was an Indian dance, with more than 100 Indians from Idaho and Oregon participating. Indians in costume entered from the west gate and built flint and steel fires on the Arena floor.

“Those ferocious first inhabitants of the southwest did not easily yield their hunting grounds to the encroaching civilization, but they left and still maintain a beauty of design, symmetry, and dance that few civilizations have excelled.”

Montana. Idaho. New Mexico. Arizona. Texas. Oklahoma. Utah. Nevada. Colorado. Wyoming. California. Oregon. Washington.

Action—The Indians of Arizona give us examples of their dance, which is interrupted by the landing of Sir Francis Drake, quickly followed by the march of Spanish conquistadors from Mexico and fur traders from the Rocky Mountains.


Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark, historic explorers of the Northwest Territory, were portrayed in a short description of their journeys along the Pacific coast.

Captain Lewis said, “Friends, it is pleasant for me to be here with you tonight. A century has passed since I first beheld the great Northwest. I call to you, now, to witness with me the change that is coming.”

In the final episode, the fertile valleys of the inland states are developed and become populated, challenging the westward march. A new empire is thus built, out of which arises Scouting.

By the blazing council fire’s light, we have met in comradeship tonight,

Round about the whispering trees, guard our golden memories,

And so before we close our eyes in sleep

Let us pledge each other that we’ll keep

Scouting friendships strong and deep,

Until we meet again.

 The President would not comment on a recent speech delivered by Labor Secretary Francis Perkins. An ash from the President’s cigarette fell on his chin. He brushed it away and continued smoking.

June 9, 1937

Combating the Boy Problem


A 22-minute drive along Constitution Avenue yesterday by President Roosevelt etched the thrill of a lifetime into the hearts of 26,000 khaki-clad Boy Scouts, participating in the Grand National Review, one of the outstanding features of the 10-day Jamboree, which ends today.

Two miles of Boy Scouts, facing each other on the heat-blistered roadway, eight deep, roared wildly when the screeching sirens of motorcycle police heralded the arrival of President Roosevelt, Honorary President of the Boy Scouts, and his White House entourage which included nationally known Boy Scout leaders.

Action—The Presidential party moved out of the cool green of the White House at 10:20 A.M. The cars moved by Mansion Place to Pennsylvania Avenue and then on to H Street. From there the procession moved to Massachusetts Avenue and then New Jersey Avenue, where the “stationary parade” began.


Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. James Roosevelt, his son. George E. Allen, Commissioner of the District of Columbia. Members of the President’s Cabinet and military aides.

Nervous youngsters adjusted cameras to photograph the President. Few remembered to complete the mechanical process, so emotionally overcome were they.

Many boys carried metal canteens on their belts, filled with water to refresh their parched throats. One youthful scout, both legs in a rigid cast, smiled his greeting to the President from the wheelchair where he sat.


Thousands of Washington citizens stood on the sidewalk to witness the Review, forming a pattern work of white and blue against the darker khaki. Government employees in several buildings stood on the steps of their offices to cheer the Chief Executive.

Action—At 23rd Street the Review ended, and the President’s car turned off toward the White House. On East Executive Avenue the President turned in and was rushed into the Presidential Mansion. The clock read 10:56.

Troop 16, Section T, from Lexington, Kentucky, brought along two stretchers “for possible fatalities.” There were no fatalities, although ice cream vendors did a thriving business.


There is hardly a Scout in camp today who can coherently recount the emotional reaction he underwent as he saw for the first time his 26,000 brother Scouts lined up along a single highway; as he heard the approach of the President’s party; Secret Servicemen on foot and on the running boards of autos; mobile radio broadcasting equipment; hundreds of news photographers and scores of news reporters—all weaving a story that can never be retold; the story of 26,000 boys who saw their President together.


No brawls, no arrests, no riot calls!

There are 120 special trains leaving every few minutes from Union Station. The Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green Specials are returning to New England. The Royal Mountain Flyer, Paul Bunyan Flyer, and Gopher Flyer are already heading west.

No disease! No deaths!

We are not only a social agency, but we are also a business. In 1937, membership has risen 5.6 %, thus tallying 1,602,777 boys.

The voices the boys heard were not of shouting dictators. Rather it was the still voices and spirits of Washington and Lincoln that were among them. You sensed it. It gave meaning to it. That’s why the Jamboree came to Washington. For no other place could do what it did in that respect.

“The time, effort, and money invested in Scouting is paying and will continue to pay big dividends in the character of our future American generations and in the American leadership we need,” stated by Representative N.M. Mason of the 12th District, Illinois.






Ernest Loesser is the author of Touched by Lightning and Road Film, both being collections of obituaries, news reports, and other prose poems. He earned his B.A. in Journalism at NYU and an M.A. in English at Texas A&M University. “The Jamboree Journal” is excerpted from his novel-in-progress, The Boy Problem. He lives in New Jersey.

The Nordic Model: Behind the Hype


Although happiness, in all its variants, is considered a purely subjective feeling, it’s widely accepted that a happy life involves maximizing feelings of joy and minimizing feelings of pain. In the words of Steve Maraboli, the much quoted, slightly clichéd author, “Happiness is a state of mind, a choice, a way of living; it is not something to be achieved, it is something to be experienced.” Happiness, in its truest form, is much more than a transient moment of joy. It’s an inner quality, a mental or emotional state of well-being that affects our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The World Happiness Index is, in its own words, “a landmark survey of the state of global happiness.” Measuring a nation’s happiness based on a principle called “overall well-being,” the 2015 WHI examined 158 countries and studied a variety of important information, including financial stability, life expectancy and gender equality. Interestingly, of the top 5 happiest countries in the world, four were Nordic: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway. Just in case you were wondering, Sweden, the home of ABBA, strikingly tall blondes and flat pack furniture, was in 10th place, the U.S. three places behind in 13th, while the U.K. found itself in 23rd place.

The Nordic nations have one prominent supporter in Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s answer to Doc Brown. If elected president, Sanders was keen to introduce a number of controversial policies, and the utopian socialist’s idea of a Nordic-styled America is perhaps the most contentious of them all. Ever the divisive figure, though his supporters lavish him with praise, those in diametric opposition ridicule and question his political acumen. Donald Trump, the maniacal demagogue who continuously refers to himself in the third person, labelled Bernie “Crazy,” while Hillary repeatedly reminded Sanders that “the U.S. is not Denmark.” Sanders, at 74 years of age, finds himself being treated like a kind-hearted, slightly naïve granddad. “Sure, Bernie. That Nordic model sounds great, now go sit in the corner and watch TV.”

Is Sanders’ infatuation justified?

By offering both high living standards and low income disparity, the Nordic countries are as intriguing as they are innovative. When U.S. presidential nominees aren’t name-calling and defending the size of their manhood, they occasionally focus on the ever increasing gap between the rich and poor. Scandinavia, which boasts a unique combination of free market capitalism and social benefits, is regularly cited by many scholars as a role model for other developed nations to follow, the U.S included. The promotion of private ownership, free markets and free trade, not to mention open access to public services such as free education and universal healthcare, played a major role in the economic expansion of the Nordic countries.1 With secure public pension plans and low levels of political corruption, the Scandinavian region possesses two of the rarest things imaginable, guaranteed retirement plans and politicial transparency. In fact, according to Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, out of 176 participating countries, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway ranked as four of the five least corrupt.

Although the Scandinavian countries offer free health care, job stability and paid vacation, the happiness reports can be very misleading. Each September, as a veil of darkness descends over the Nordic region, not lifting again until April, people ready themselves for copious amounts of snow, freezing cold temperatures, and limited daylight. In Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm, night can fall as early as 2:00 p.m. and last until 9:00 a.m. the following morning. At winter’s peak, daytime seems to bring an incrementally lighter shade of gray. The further north you go, unsurprisingly, daylight becomes even more elusive. In Kiruna, for example, the northernmost town in Sweden, situated in the province of Lapland, the sun never rises around the winter solstice, which runs from December 18th to December 23rd inclusive. (Maybe this is one of the reasons Sweden finds itself in 10th place and not in the top 5.)

Living in perpetual darkness for so many months certainly sounds like a daunting, fear-inducing prospect, prompting one to ask: “People of Scandinavia, how and why are you so damn happy?” For all the region’s benefits, a paradox seems to exist, where happiness and high rates of unhappiness reportedly co-exist. While we hear countless reports praising the Nordic nations, we rarely hear about the drawbacks associated with living in the region. We hear very little about mental illness and prescription drug dependencies, because, after all, how can you market the Nordic dream if nightmarish elements exist?

 Why so SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms during the winter months.2 Characterized by symptoms such as lowered mood, fatigue and decreased energy, SAD is classified as a subtype of bipolar or major depressive disorder, with some individuals also experiencing weight gain and hypersomnia.3 Sun exposure to the skin is our most effective and most neglected source of vitamin D, and low serum levels of vitamin D can lead to depression in otherwise healthy individuals.4 When asked why SAD is so prevalent in Scandinavia, experts regularly cite a lack of sunlight, but some geneticists disagree, referring instead to something called the genetic vulnerability hypothesis. Homogeneous populations within the region seem to be more vulnerable to symptoms of SAD, and the study of genetic factors in the etiology of the ailment have suggested a familial contribution, with reports stating that between 13% and 17% of first degree relatives are affected by SAD.5 This is significantly higher than the average U.S. rate.

Currently leading the way in happiness surveys, Denmark is a country that seems to embody the very notion of equality, “seems” being the operative word. Plagued by high rates of alcoholism, Denmark finds itself ranked second in the world for the consumption of antidepressant medication.6 An international study from Kings College London – in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) – found that 60 percent more Danish children take antidepressants today than a decade ago. Dr. CJ Bachmann and nine other academics collated eight years worth of research. The objective of this study was to assess recent trends in antidepressant use in youth using data extracted from regional and national databases of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The findings, calculated and stratified by age, sex, and subclass of drug, found Denmark to have the highest relative growth of dependency, especially amongst 15-19 year olds. SSRIs, or serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors, appear to be the drug of choice. A class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressants in Denmark,7 and the efficacy of SSRIs in mild or moderate cases of depression has been widely disputed. Meta analyses of short duration randomized clinical trials have established that SSRI use is directly related to a higher risk of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents.8 The Danish Centre for Health Technology Assessment, or DACEHTA, states that the prevalence of depression in the southernmost of the Nordic countries has increased from 2.0 to 5.0% and is now considered a public health problem.9

Denmark finds itself plagued by a prescription drug crisis, however, the sub-polar nation of Iceland – with a population of just 323,000 – finds itself in an even more precarious position. According to a recent OECD report, Iceland has the highest rate of antidepressant use in the world. The world financial crisis of 2008 actually began on this isolated, homogenous island, leaving The Alþingi, the national parliament of Iceland, in a state of disarray. The financial implosion left citizens in an unprecedented state of uncertainty. David Oddsson, Iceland’s former bank governor and prime minister, oversaw the privatization of Iceland’s banks. His Reaganesque approach to banking helped create a new, wealthy elite, with this select few exercising great political and financial power. Through rampant cronyism and sheer ignorance, the banking sector was always destined for disaster, and in October of 2008 the doomsday clock struck midnight. Prime Minister Geir Haarde addressed the citizens of Iceland, telling them what they already knew, that the tiny nation was on the brink of bankruptcy.

People were angry, and protestors took to the streets. In stark contrast to the U.S., Icelandic prosecutors made two decisions that helped the country regain some semblance of balance. Firstly, they decided to let the banks go bust. Funding assistance was denied to banks like Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbanki, and this refusal saw all three go into receivership instead. With their boards replaced, the failed banks were restructured in order to avoid a credit crunch. Secondly, justice was served.

December 21st, 2015 saw the former CEO of Glitnir bank become the 29th senior Icelandic banker to receive a prison sentence for crimes relating to the crash. The District Court of Reykjavík sentenced Lárus Welding to five years for his role in market manipulation and the abuse of fiduciary duties. (Notably, in relation to the financial crisis, not a single senior banking official in the U.S. has been jailed for illegal activities.) In a financial sense, Iceland is the model of recovery, however, according to the OECD’s “Health at a Glance 2015” report, the country with the highest divorce rate in Europe is still suffering, albeit in a more intangible manner. Ranking first amongst the countries surveyed for antidepressant usage, Iceland now faces a new crisis. A country of sharp contrasts, the volcanic island is a place where fire and ice co-exist, where long, dark winters are offset by the summer’s midnight sun, and where dark feelings of melancholy are offset by prescription drugs.

For every 1,000 people in Iceland, the report states, 118 are taking antidepressants on a daily basis. The aforementioned Denmark, with a rate of 96 per thousand, is in second place, while Portugal, with 88 per thousand, sits in third. Between 2010 and 2015, according to the OECD report, an additional 47 people per thousand in Iceland began taking antidepressants. A separate study examined trends in depression and anxiety amongst Icelandic adolescents, and found that the number of adolescents visiting healthcare specialists is rising on an annual basis.10

Out of all the Nordic nations, Iceland has the highest level of antidepressant sales. The Nordic Committee on Social Policy, or NOMESCO is responsible for the co-ordination of the health statistics in the Nordic countries, and a 2014 report of theirs focused on prescription drug use in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. The statistical committee examined the daily dosage rates per 1000 inhabitants of the five countries. Iceland was in first place with 117.7, Sweden with 84.3 and Norway with 56.1.11

 Why does Iceland suffer from a prescription drug problem?

 A study carried out by Sigurdsson, Olafsdottir, and Gottfredsson12 attempted to answer this question. They concluded that the reason for high usage stemmed from a “perceived effectiveness” mindset. Furthermore, according to the study, limited access to counselling and other professional services only serves to encourage people to seek out other avenues of treatment. A follow-up study also concluded that Iceland’s increase in antidepressants had – and will continue to have – no positive impact on public health, and in the absence of therapeutic alternatives, dependency on antidepressants is expected to grow exponentially.13

With insufficient access to professional services and a trigger-happy prescription culture, the Nordic countries, rightly commended for their solid welfare policies, are failing to confront an evolving epidemic. Problematic drug use stemming from a lack of social and psychiatric aid threatens the fabric of Scandinavian society, and that is no exaggeration. Although many are quick to praise the Nordic nations, it is disingenuous of people in the know to conveniently ignore such a glaring issue.

 Combatting The Problem

Shortly after assembling a task force made up of representatives from several ministries, the Icelandic government announced plans to introduce a prescription drug prevention scheme. The Minister of Health defined quantifiable targets, with the main focus on restricting access to prescription medication, protecting groups at risk from the damaging effects of drug abuse, preventing young people from developing dangerous habits, and ensuring that those who have a history of abuse or addiction have access to continuous, professional assistance.

Furthermore, the government began working on the “2020 initiative,” basically a blueprint for the future, which developed through dialogue and collaboration between hundreds of residents, academics and healthcare professionals throughout the country.

The 2020 initiative is a broad policy statement, and seeks to create an efficient economy and society. It includes plans for investments in healthcare and the development of world-class infrastructures, all in the hope of creating more employment opportunities. The policies are broad and all encompassing, with a major focus on strengthening the education system and providing children with greater opportunities to avoid mental health issues.

By acknowledging the fact that quality of life revolves around, among other things, the welfare of individuals and high levels of mental and physical wellbeing, Icelandic officials are striving to create a more informed, harmonious country. It is important to remember, as the policy stresses, that these government policies are being introduced slowly and methodically. In the words of Frank Zappa, “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible,” and with this special emphasis on prescription drug abuse, nutrition, exercise, and mental health, Iceland is most definitely moving in the right direction.



  1. Torben M. Andersen, Bengt Holmström, Seppo Honkapohja, Sixten Korkman, Hans Tson Söderström, Juhana Vartiainen. The Nordic Model – Embracing globalization and sharing risks (2012),
  2. Oginska, Halszka, and Katarzyna Oginska-Bruchal. “Chronotype And Personality Factors Of Predisposition To Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Chronobiology International: The Journal Of Biological & Medical Rhythm Research 31.4 (2014).
  3. Michalak EE, Wilkinson C, Dowrick C, Wilkinson G. Seasonal affective disorder: prevalence, detection and current treatment in North Wales. British Journal of Psychiatry (2001).
  4. Roecklein, K. A.; Rohan, K. J. (2005). “Seasonal affective disorder: An overview and update.” Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township))
  5. Sher L. (2001). Genetic studies of seasonal affective disorder and seasonality.
  6. Hagle, W. (2015). “The World’s Happiest Countries Take the Most Antidepressants.” Opposing Views,
  7. Fournier JC, DeRubeis RJ, Hollon SD, Dimidjian S, Amsterdam JD, Shelton RC, Fawcett J (January 2010). “Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity.”
  8. Levenson M, Holland C (2011). “Statistical Evaluation of Suicidality in Adults Treated with Antidepressants.”
  9. Directorate of Health Health and Well-Being [in Icelandic] (2012). Available from:
  10. Vilhelmsson, A. (2013). Depression and antidepressants: a Nordic perspective. Frontiers in Public Health.
  11. NOMESCO (2014). Health Statistics in the Nordic Countries 2014. Copenhagen: Nordic Medico Statistical Committee.
  12. Sigurdsson, E., Olafsdottir, T., & Gottfredsson, M. (2012). Public views on antidepressant treatment: Lessons from a national survey. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry.
  13. Helgason T, Tómasson H, Zoëga T. Antidepressants and public health in Iceland. Time series analysis of national data. Br J Psychiatry (2014).






A totally unknown internet phenomenon, John Glynn is a man full of contradictions. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, he works as a lecturer. When he’s not working or stunt doubling for Zach Efron, he enjoys playing sports, doing a little research, and listening to music. As an Irishman, he struggles with an addiction to Guinness and potatoes, perpetuating the stereotype in the process.



Off for long drive or a smoke, up

and out the door where you leave me

seeking, lonely for a spot

soft but not

spoiled, not fuzz

of unseemly growth, not brat

like catlike laze the lack

of work. No. Less a

push than a pull and road

-weary doesn’t count, I said



Soft is not puffed

up tough to escort me home

after I close the store each

night alone, menacing to scare

off possible predators in the dark. (There’s

tenderness there, sure,

and I know how

hard you work, could work

for me.)


I don’t mean shoulder torn from

shoveling snow; I do not

mean the ways a body goes

weak with time, with age, with

-out assent, like how you cannot

carry a tune, no use in battling

the stream. Like how we wilt. We

will but in the time until, give

me lush-spots scared-and-sacred spots miss-

me-on-that-shift walked-away-but-still-

smelled-me thoughts I want will drink it up.






Laura Eppinger graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 2008 with a degree in Journalism, and she’s been writing creatively ever since. She’s the blog editor at Newfound Journal. Her full publication list lives here:

“The Quotation in Question”: Followed by Anticlimactic Admission of Actual Topic


“An epigraph you wish you’d written.”

-By Someone You Are Not


A sweeping generalization. Some grudging refinement. And then there’s the field in which to situate the topic. Leading scholars are mentioned who said these things, several of whom you pretend to know. One or two others you’ve slept with and have to include since they might read this and you don’t want them to think you’re hurt even though they never call let alone send flowers. But other people, too. (A parenthetical compliment phrased as assessment of perspicacity regarding the intellectual merit of an article written by the cutest, regardless of category, never hurt anyone.) In an unconscious act of transference both syntactical and psychoanalytic, a slightly rocky segue ensues, some things your dissertation director told you, which after all these years you realize are actually true. Then some other things you heard were said at the conference keynote—which you would have attended if (a) departmental travel funding had not been eviscerated and you were forced to skip the conference or (b) you attended conference but not keynote, going instead to see your cousin, who lives in the conference city (with whippets! in that tiny apartment!). Brisk assessment of the situation as it currently stands. No mention of whippets. The pinpointing of a lacuna, a contradiction parading as a paradox, or flat-out mistake. An expression of mild horror that this situation could have gone so long unrecognized. Passed among us unremarked. It’s amazing, really. We’re lucky to have gotten out alive. The promise to remedy all that here and now. This is your thesis. State in no uncertain terms not just that you will prove it but how.

But not quite yet. There is work to be done. Groundwork need be laid. The fact that it is startling no one has read the book that not only makes the abovementioned clear but provides the solution—so a diagnosis and a cure are proffered simultaneously. But the latter is to be taken slowly. Don’t rush it. Slowly, slowly. Even more slowly. Christ almighty, you’d think you were being paid by the word for this thing. Or at all. Paid, that is. Well, maybe it will matter when you come up for promotion. Has the correct question been posed? Or was that question rhetorical? Do any of these things matter?

Therefore a reference to a philosopher that has a lateral relation to the topic. If French, en français; mais auf Deutsch, translate it. Lass es doch von jemand anderem uebersetzen. (Or get someone to translate it for you.) The ungrammatical use of “thinking” as a transitive verb is now advisable. A coy set of references designed to suggest you know the material better than the philosopher, and would crush them in a debate but for the fact that they are dead.

The return to the text, diagnostic and curative. Contextual application of details, many of which are relevant, some that you just can’t let go of, and one of which you’ll discover, via a letter written three months later to the editor, is completely untrue. Who knew that anyone in Palmerston North even read this thing? Who lives in Palmerston North? Where is Palmerston North? Is that a rhetorical question? Upon further consideration. No. Enough with the ambiguity already.

The continuation of a point lesser thinkers would have left alone. This (Palmerston North) may explain why they (future-letter-sender/know-it-all) are (is) reading this journal. They[1] probably have a lifetime subscription and have it delivered to their house, not satisfied with getting it online, for free, through the institutional library, like everyone else. Probably this, probably that. But one thing is certain: You are never going to be invited to give a talk at (in?) Palmerston North. The future implications regarding this particular subtopic have yet to be fully assessed. A reference to the French Revolution.

The recent use of a colon[2] for the first time in the course of the body of the piece—rather than the title, where it is numbingly obligatory—occasions a pun. (This is done as an aside. Perhaps a reference to eschatology appears at the end.) One reflects or perhaps refracts a characteristic and yet illuminating detail.  The question of exemplarity is debated; both sides of the issue are entertained. You are not an unreasonable sort. If the detail is anomalous, it is so because it is actually indicative. If the detail is indexical, it is so because the rhetorical ice would be too thin otherwise. In the case of the former, one suggests the possibility of a paradigm shift. In the case of the latter, take your medicine like a good girl. Skate along, little one.

Segue is thereby achieved. Despite the cloudy forecast, bleakness notwithstanding, and casting care to the metaphorical if not pathetically fallacious winds, hope shines through. On the horizon is “the quotation in question”! And at long last, following several especially subordinate clauses, each meant to build suspense, yet, sneaky little bastards that they are, probably doing precisely the opposite, the correct use of a colon:

This—the antecedent here is the quotation in question, obviously—you really do need to either keep up, or slow down. Fine. Start again. This is in a block quote, untethered at long last from its surrounding quotation marks and romping like a happy lamb in lush fields—themselves comprised (metonymically or is it synecdochally?) of verdant hillsides and heaps, positively heaps, of rampion—of the original text in order to give further context to the use of the quotation in question. The quotation in question is deployed freely—unleashed, to mix metaphors (lamb-wise)—in this arcadia by the unwitting (other, shepherdess-like, a guileless sort, they said) writer whose wares, epitomized by the romping quotation in question, have been touted[3] (the phraseological misapplication of ware-touting will forever remain with you [the critic, who now appears, ostensibly to provide guidance], in a self-serving [literally] inside joke which no one else is going to get; and why should they [with another bracketed critical statement, now framing the point, almost (again) literally, it is worth pointing out, in a way that would have made you famous if it were the 1980s], when you [the critic, again, duh] barely do?). But even as fragments are overused by critics, they are excusable in prose written by other people. If that’s the word for them. Maybe just people. In any case, the main thing is not to end either parenthetically (or on a point needing bracketing [if you (the critic) can help it (bracketing)]). So the block quote containing the quotation in question continues for another sentence. Or two.

Energized by the use of a voice at once your own and not your own, but there is really no substitute, i.e., none, for the buzz attendant upon the transcription of someone else’s words—try it sometime; the writing just flows—you attempt to follow up, to keep up that “lamb-romping.” The mis-employment of non-“quotation”‘s might even crop up, along with another pun. This clearly over-compensatory pun and/or “mis-employment of non-‘quotation'” could appear cavalier, or maybe even as a desperate attempt to keep up the energy level you would have if you had written “the quotation in question” in the first place, but on the other hand a level-headed but nonetheless sprightly spirit of assessment could hover over the “quotation”-laden proceedings subsequent to the block quote containing “the quotation in question.” Either way, Houston we have a problem. It clearly exceeds even as it is heralded by the (recently noticed) shift between present and conditional tenses. Way worse. You didn’t write “the quotation in question.”[4] Neither puckish nor Puck, the pastoral spirit conjured up[5] even with spatial references[6] demanding endnotes,[7] lots of them,[8] coming at you with increasing frequency[9] is shot all to hell. This “spirit of assessment”—quoting your (critical) self doesn’t even help—contains and comprises more criticism. Wolf, sheep; someone get me an axe. Whither “the quotation in question”? It’s like “the quotation in question” never even fucking happened.

Follow up immediately with another block quote from a little later in the [other] text. It’s likely too brief to merit being set qua block quote by house style standards [four lines], but you [the critic] can deal with the [schmuck] editor later.

This does the trick. Closure is within sight. Neither linger nor dither. An objective stance is resumed. A calm spirit of assessment demonstrating critical prowess is advisable. Lucidity is key. To this end a clear restatement of the thesis. Brief rendering of trajectory followed and point made. Some slight basking, just a wee bit. The modest proposal of attendant realignments in the field would not be going too far. If this is indeed the case, are further questions to be entertained? It is likely so.

[1] See above.

[2] See above.

[3] See above.

[4] See above.

[5] See above.

[6] See above.

[7] See above.

[8] See above.

[9] See above.






Jessica Burstein is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Washington. Her writing has appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education—which included her “Sex and the Conference” as one of 23 essays in its 50th Year Anniversary Anthology—and a number of scholarly journals. She is the author of Cold Modernism: Literature, Fashion, Art, and has written the chapter on visual art in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Culture (2014). She has also, one may gather, edited for quite some time.

Santa Claus


In my 3rd lifetime or incarnation

I was once a moth,

and a velvet addict,

which started the tradition

of getting stoned in the mornings.

Which reminds me of

Operation Barbarossa,

when things got out of hand

on the eastern front,

but before they did,

imagine the flat steppe.

Flat land,

flat sky,

level plains with ankle length


and the occasional small peasant hut.

Perfect for the Nazi war machine.

They won decisive victory after decisive victory

early that summer,

but they soon realized,

that after advancing many miles for 3 weeks and choking on dust,

given the vastness of Russia

that things still looked exactly the same.

It was like being on the same stage

repeating the same scene

with the same props all the time.

It would end with them mortally wounded

on their backs

thrashing on the ground

like long tailed lizards.

I am back home

and homesick.

My soul is fried

on the outside of an Egg’s shell,

the Eurasian Steppe

which I’ve never seen

seems much more familiar.

The punishment shits the crime,

the history of the

vegetable kingdom,

a package of soft flesh

and drunken disorder.

Life shuddered and shook

and smoked and eventually


a rude protrusion

called hope,

that ends up on either the guillotine block

or becomes a smoking barrel,

triggering excess saliva in the mouth.

A stage between death

and resurrection.

Even the silent nighttime

leaves me estranged,

not even the darkness will embrace me.

Do not be disgusted by cockroaches,

try and get over the repulsion,

sit with them and talk

calmly and patiently.

You will discover they are not

very different from us,

and both parties will agree

to war or peace.

But who knows really what lurks in

the hearts and minds

of men and cockroaches?

Merry, bearded, red Santa Claus!

But I would rather put on

a nurse’s uniform,

and inject all with

the apocalypse

in small and equal doses.






Kamal Abu-Husayn is a Beirut-dwelling, Egg-worshipping Turkey. Would rather rub noses than shake hands, hates Santa, and is already weary of the next war he’ll be forced to live through, if he survives this one, of course. He sells surreal estate for a living, and managed to release a collection of poems in 2010 under the title of Bingo’s Bedtime Book, hopes to publish another volume soon: The Egg Laying Manual.

Cover Image, Issue Three

Eric Yahnker Selfie Preservation


“Selfie Preservation,” 2015, pastel on paper (39.5” x 39.5”). Eric Yahnker. Courtesy of the artist.