Did I ever tell you about my love/hate relationship with confessional poetry?


Sometimes I leave my head in the other room.
Sometimes the other room is a few days
by horse away. I once told a man

I’d had a good time at the funeral,
which was true, not knowing the body
in the casket before it had ceased 

to move and what with the sandwiches,
what with the woman to my left 
smelling like she was the motive

of summer as she whispered the Polish names
from a novel in which no bad thing
happened. Usually bad things happen

in novels every chapter, this is how
narrative’s advanced, a prince is born
and a prince gets dysentery and a prince

dies in a revolution with an appetite
for princes. As a child I held my breath 
to break the knees of advancing narrative,

my face turned blue and body collapsed,
my parents looked at their little heap
of boy and loved me despite the evidence.

Even now you could ask that I imagine
a field and instead of poppies waving
blue heads I’d picture a tractor on fire,

smoke and a farmer standing back, resigned
with hands in pockets as if this too
is just a change of season. The other thing 

I get wrong most of the time is caring
about people. For instance: recently blood 
collected in my grandmother where blood

shouldn’t, everything she said came out
like Jiffy Pop on the stove just before
the foil rips, people cried and the hospital

was a factory of indifference and I scurried
home to write a poem about death. This 
is an indication that my head’s not

in the other room but up my ass and that
my soul’s in there with it. I don’t mean
to care less about people than what

people do, and could lie and say
I’ve taken steps to increase my devotion
to the actual limbs that come off and hearts

that stop, so I will. The art
of confession’s to focus attention on what’s
confessed while leaving the secret 

mutations untouched. I once put the hose 
of a vacuum on my penis and turned it 
on. Honesty makes me feel so clean.

—Bob Hicok

“When he visited the Queen of the Belgians, Einstein failed to notice the welcoming party at the railway station and surprised the royal household by arriving on foot, baggage in hand. The Professor and his wife were both bewildered by the barbaric hospitality which overwhelmed them on their earlier visits to this country. They agreed that they must blindly accept whatever occurred to them in this bizarre republic; at a dinner in Cleveland, Mrs. Einstein, shrugging her shoulders at what appeared to be an elegant American eccentricity, ate a bouquet of orchids which she found on what seemed to be a salad plate. Einstein knew things that everybody else was ignorant of, and was ignorant of things that everybody else knew. The name of the richest man in the world meant nothing to him. He used a $1,500 check from the Rockefeller Foundation as a bookmark, lost the book, and could not remember who had sent the check. It took Mrs. Einstein some weeks to clear up the affair and to obtain a duplicate check, which was needed to pay the salary of an assistant.”

From Alva Johnston’s 1933 profile of Albert Einstein

Deb Weidenhamer does it again!


This is what I’ve been saying! So many foreigners who do business here complain about the difficulties as though bureaucracy were a particularly CHINESE problem. In fact, business and bullshit exists everywhere, in every country, at every level. Many of us—and by us I mean habitual expats—get good at living abroad because we start doing it at a young age, but the trade-off is that we lack the grown-up life experiences that would put our difficulties here in perspective. How terrifying it must be to realize that it’s not China that sucks but rather adult life in general! How lucky we are to be able to put off that realization for one, two, three more precious years, imagining an ideal America that we’ll never be able to return to.

“I really like you young people. You dare to dream. We also dared to dream, but we never thought we could make our dreams become reality. And now! Now as soon as you think of it, it’s reality. What don’t you dare to dream of now?”

oh i don’t even know

“The feeling he had nourished and given prominence to was one of thankfulness for his escape: he was like a traveller so grateful for rescue from a dangerous accident that at first he is hardly conscious of his bruises. Now he suddenly felt the latent ache, and realized that after all he had not come off unhurt.”

From Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth

Gubo Kaixilai brought back into the spotlight by this statement by Neil Heywood's mother


She also reveals (as though it were a surprise) that the Heywoods come from a long line of foreigners living in China—“back over four generations,” which, if we think about the timeline of the Revolution and Reform and Opening Up, should be medium impossible. I don’t want to say that the plot has thickened because at this point it’s moving like setting cement, but I do want to say that the plot won’t go away. Now I imagine the whole story unfolding like a thousand-page, multi-generational James Clavell novel—here, Heywood’s great-grandmother and Gu Kailai’s great-grandfather meet when she’s accompanying her husband on a joint wartime engineering survey for the possible building of the Three Gorges Dam; there, the echoes of this impossible and unconsummated love affair lead Gu’s grandmother, the English woman’s lover’s eldest daughter, to smuggle a letter chronicling their suffering during the Cultural Revolution and begging for asylum to the oft-remembered and near-mythical Heywoods; in 1979, Heywood’s mother arrives a moment after her grandmother’s lover expires; from the side of the road near Gu’s ancestral house, little Neil hears the distant mixture of English and Chinese voices, wailing, and little Gu Kailai, ushered out of the house and away from death by her elders, stares at him wide-eyed, neither of them knowing they’d eventually be brought down by the other’s—then, so small—hands. 

The Real Subject [Whir]
Do not alarm yourself, Icould not rest content with moral lectures and continual repetition
like the solar system, Icould not hold my head up, made endlessly to glow
destined for grand ceremonies, Iwas much affected by finding myself sothin and so worndown
(we use theoryto mean it is possible to choose, e.g., why I am just thesize I am)
a million million, acool and mortifying manner — what governsmotions
—Keith Waldrop
Or else this, maybe:
The Plain Sense of Things
After the leaves have fallen, we returnTo a plain sense of things. It is as ifWe had come to an end of the imagination,Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjectiveFor this blank cold, this sadness without cause.The great structure has become a minor house.No turban walks across the lessened floors. 
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.A fantastic effort has failed, a repetitionIn a repetitiousness of men and flies. 
Yet the absence of the imagination hadItself to be imagined. The great pond,The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence 
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all thisHad to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,Required, as a necessity requires.
—Wallace Stevens

The Real Subject [Whir]

Do not alarm yourself, I
could not rest content with 
moral lectures and continual 
repetition

like the solar system, I
could not hold my head up, made 
endlessly to 
glow

destined for grand ceremonies, I
was much affected by finding myself so
thin and so worn
down

(we use theory
to mean it is possible to 
choose, e.g., why I am just the
size I am)

a million million, a
cool and mortifying manner — what 
governs
motions

—Keith Waldrop

Or else this, maybe:

The Plain Sense of Things

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors. 

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies. 

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence 

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

—Wallace Stevens