All posts tagged: October

In Heat


Translated from the Spanish by HEATHER HOUDE

It’s the last day of school, and I get home with butterflies in my stomach. My mouth already tastes like summer, like heat outside and air conditioning inside, like the darkness of my cave, like cloister and crypt. I turn on the television and change the channel, change the channel, one to the next, discovering the lineup for the beginning of the end of the week, the beginning of my three-month rest, the beginning of a new wave of televised hunger, the same that ensues from another year of school.

In Heat

The Tiger



When the Tiger slinks around the house, she leaves behind chess sets and violins and dictionaries that swirl above our heads like birds. Her orange fur disappears from corners and her ink-stained footprints press against the floor, and it is through these moments that we know she is watching us.

Her presence is a pause; she appears the same way commas appear in sentences, bringing a brief moment of silence before the day continues. 

The Tiger

Friday Reads: October 2022


As the weather gets cooler and rainier, you may find yourself looking to spend time indoors with a good book and a steaming cup of tea. In this installment of Fridays Reads, we bring you exciting book recommendations from two of our volunteer readers, which dwell on dark, absurd, and solitary experiences. 

Image of Caren Beilin's book cover: an expressionist painting of a girl and a cat wearing green.

Caren Beilin’s Revenge of the Scapegoat, recommended by Grace Ezra (reader)

“The sun develops as it ends. The color gets so stabby.”

Hard and luminous, Revenge of the Scapegoat scowls as the reader delights. Beilin has set out to examine the expression, cultivation, and inheritance of the scapegoat’s situation, not shying away from the unyielding responsibility of the role. Not only is this novel undoubtedly accomplished, Revenge of the Scapegoat had me laughing myself feral.

Beilin’s narrator, Iris, is working as an adjunct at an arts college while toiling with her husband, Joe (an alcoholic who insists that the road to sobriety has been paved by microdosing heroin) and a recent diagnosis of autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis at only thirty-six years old. Her two feet seem to be most affected by the pain, affectionately named Bouvard and Pécuchet after the title characters of Flaubert’s posthumous novel (“the only one lit majors and bookstore owners read”). Iris’s chummy feet quickly become major characters in the story; they exercise dignity and concern as well as good humor. The two fall into asides about history and literature, compelling the reader to group the pair with the other eccentric artists that make Revenge of the Scapegoat such a gratifying indulgence in the absurd.

I haven’t even gotten to the part of the book that thrills and sets the story to motion. Iris receives a collection of letters written to her by her father in which he ascribes heaps of cyclical family trauma to her. The first time that she received these letters was when she was a teenager, though Beilin makes it clear that the inauguration of the family scapegoat happens in childhood. Iris (as alter ego “Vivitrix”) clears off to the Pennsylvania countryside, where she’s employed by a stirring gallerist and apathetic widow, Caroline, and her “Heathcliffish” son, Matthew. There are also heart-stepping cows, but I’ll save all of that magic for the actual read.

Revenge of the Scapegoat was a transference for me: not an escape, but that rare book that takes you somewhere completely new, strange, and fantastic. It would normally be a big ask for a book to take me “in that fetid twilight marinade refusing suicide barking at peaches in a pact with the unrevealed,” but for Beilin, she can serve it up with potency and pleasure.


Image of the cover of Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading, writing on plain, beige background with the words, "a novel by the author of Lolita" at the bottom.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading, recommended by Tyler Hayes (reader)

“I have no desires, save the desire to express myself—in defiance of all the world’s muteness.” 

Invitation by Vladimir Nabokov follows the surreal—but not unfamiliar—events following the trial and indictment of one Cincinnatus C., an intelligent but quiet man. While imprisoned with him, we meet laconic guards, pernicious spies, and even butterflies. We learn that he has been charged with nothing more than “gnostical turpitude,” and that the punishment is death by decapitation. 

In the end, Nabokov’s achievement here is in dispelling the notion that we can transcend absurd performance—let alone find joy—in the presence of those who don’t understand us. His deployment of incisive, subtle duplicity, which manifests as both humor and pathos, is virtually unmatched at this word count. Read it as both cause and cure for solitude.

Friday Reads: October 2022

Past and Future on Rapa Nui


Image of fields and rocks on Rapa Nui.

The morning was clear and the colors vivid: yellow brush, white ocean froth against cobalt sky. In front of me, dense gray volcanic stone appeared to consume the light. I stood in salty mist before an altar on the north coast of Rapa Nui, Easter Island. A single toppled moai lay in violent chunks on the ground. At 9:00 a.m. the sun still hovered tight at the horizon. Rapa Nui, which is part of Chile 2,300 miles away, is kept closer to mainland time than by geographical rights it should be. The sun rises gray and sticky at 8:30 in the morning, and sets late, too. This is not the only disorienting thing about Rapa Nui, but rather the most objective example. 

Past and Future on Rapa Nui


Winner of the 2021 DISQUIET Prize for Poetry



The pidgin form of ‘to be’1 

A young child, I was privy to hearing this word
in my household, around my uncle and his friends 
reminiscent of his schoolboy youth.
A part of a pidgin I could never participate in
for fear that the broken English might
have too much of an essence, might
tarnish my own English.
They would not let me code switch
thinking the pidgin would overtake me


Dispellations: Manomaya Kosha



You can’t defeat nature, you can only
work with it. Just as speculating
                           on a perpetrator’s motives                                 —sex as
                           power, power as hard exercise
                           of a phantom sense 
                           of impotence,
                           blah, blah, blah—is trackless, so too is
asking what does it want,                  it wants
far less than you or I could 
ever envision
                            in our least released 
                            lives. It means no harm. 
                            It needs a warm
                            host. We invoke genre to accommodate 
                            events terrible and intimate,
          to give fleshly narrative to cataclysms
          of globular dimension—                            private/public,                        macro/micro
          —samskara, samskara, these fictions sizzling through 
                                                                            the World Wide Gap,
                                                                            racist, replicant, and species-specific.

Dispellations: Manomaya Kosha




It’s like knowing there’s
a house on fire and only
you  have  the  key,  but
there’s  no  address,  the
streets   keep   changing
numbers,   and   if   you
don’t  make  it  in  time,
everybody   inside   dies.
Even   the   houseplants.
You  never  make  it  in
time.    I still   like   my
brain.    This    feels   as
impossible   as    crown
shyness, but it’s true—I
feel  its  lure flash like a
camera bulb sometimes,
the magic  and the grief
like two  rivers  necking
where they meet.