cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (I need coffee)
I broke up with vegetarianism a month ago and I feel better than I have in a LOOONG time. I have mixed feelings about this, but I think the results are inarguable. Just a week in to my more carnivorous lifestyle, I felt like I'd dropped 30 pounds. In truth, it was just the relief of not being bloated and in pain anymore. Remember those commercials about sinus congestion that show how pain distorts body image? Like that.

I don't think I've cut anything out of my diet entirely. I severely restrict tomatoes, beans, and dairy. I've cut back substantially on soy and gluten. And I've been pretty intense about keeping a food journal. I use a free iPhone app, My Fitness Pal, to keep track of what I'm eating and any symptoms. A side benefit is that the app shows me calorie breakdowns and provides nutritional info. It's particularly useful for helping me avoid anemia and its exacerbation of my restless leg syndrome. Unintentionally, I have lost weight, but only about 7 pounds.

The weight loss is interesting because, in addition to changing my diet, I've started taking oral contraceptives again. When I used them in the past, I gained weight. I'm not sure what to credit the difference to. I've changed, the drugs have changed, etc. But I'm relieved not to have to fight unwanted side effects. As for possible positive side effects, my skin is clearing up. As with the weight loss, superficial improvement was not my intention, but I'll take it, as it means one less thing to worry about.

Hubster says, now that I've taken care of the digestive problems, I can schedule a doctor's appointment to address my restless leg syndrome. ...I guess. I feel pretty overwhelmed lately, for no reason I can pinpoint. Maybe it's the depression? I just want to sleep all the time. 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)

Originally published at Stone Telling blog. You can comment here or there.

Our interviewee today is Lisa M. Bradley, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Teratoma Lullaby“. Lisa’s nonfiction essay “Listening to the Lost, Speaking for the Dead: Speculative Elements in the Poetry of Gabriela Mistral” has appeared in the very first issue of Stone Telling, followed by “Litanies in the Dark: The Poetry of Alfonsina Storni” in the second issue. Lisa also had two other pieces of poetry published by us, Embedded (issue 9) and another poem of epic length, “we come together we fall apart” (ST7: the Queer Issue), which was nominated for the Rhysling award and was reprinted in Here, We Cross.




Lisa M. Bradley


Lisa M. Bradley resides in Iowa with her spouse, child, and two cats. She has poetry forthcoming in Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, and In Other Words. The “someone bewitched…more bear than man” in “Teratoma Lullaby” is named Art. Art’s story, “The Pearl in the Oyster and The Oyster Under Glass,” can be found in the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press.

I knew someone bewitched
enchanted, shifted—
more bear than man.
When I told him about my twin
he stroked his paw down my back
so so gently
(lest his invisible claws rip my skin)
and asked if my twin might not be
a sister.

- from Teratoma Lullaby

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem? A friend of mine was participating in Haiku Mondays, and one week her prompt was “teratoma.” I’ve been fascinated with the phenomenon of teratomas since I read Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and the topic lent itself to some stylistic experiments I wanted to try, so I started writing  “Teratoma Lullaby.” I’ve felt at war with my body since childhood, and the invisible illnesses I’ve developed over time have amplified my frustrations. The poem began as an intellectual exercise but quickly morphed into a weird rebus for that sense of not cohering within my self, and the perhaps concomitant desire to excise certain memories and emotions.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time? I come to speculative poetry from a horror background, so yes. Horror is obsessed with the Body, which can be a battleground for competing forces (as in my poem “The Haunted Girl”) or a model of systemic failures (as in “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids”), just to name two modes of body horror. In my work, the Body’s state reflects the Mind’s (“we come together we fall apart”). My characters often inventory the Body out of their desire to impose order (“The Skin-Walker’s Wife” and my Exile novels.)

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem? My grandmother sang the song in “Teratoma Lullaby” to my little sister, to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The metaphasis “Buenos nachos” in place of “buenas noches” is a family joke, though I used it to different effect in the poem.

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about? I had an(other) epic poem appear in Strange Horizons recently: Una Canción de Keys. (I write short poems, too, I really do.) I am also writing a series of blog posts, “Writing Latin@ Characters Well,” that I hope to continue, time and RSI permitting.

ST: Thank you very much, Lisa!

________

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (studying)
Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock

Pope Brock's writing style is perfectly suited to this story of the heyday of American hucksterism. Ebullient and seemingly effortless, his account of "Doctor" J.R. Brinkley, who became a millionaire by performing goat-gland transplants in the 1920s, is wide-ranging and in-depth, replete with period slang and so many wonderful words that don't get used nearly often enough. Brock includes an extensive bibliography, endnotes, and an excellent index. I could've used more signposts indicating the exact timeline of events and more parallel conversions of past and current moneys (Brock might state the doctor's monthly salary but then refer to the modern equivalent as an annual salary), but I suspect the fault there is with me, being as numerically challenged as I am.

One of the reasons Brinkley was so successful was that he exploited radio like no one before or perhaps even after. In the 1920s, radio stations were such a new and marvelous medium, few folks could conceive of "polluting the airwaves" with advertising. But Brinkley was the most ambitious of those greedy few, and when the FCC kicked him off American airwaves, he established a border blaster in Mexico that, at one million watts, was the most powerful in the world. So powerful, it invaded phone lines and Canadian radio broadcasts. Brinkley could be heard in Alaska, Finland, and the Java Seas! While peddling his colored water and "rejuvenation" procedures, Brinkley inadvertently changed the music scene, introducing listeners worldwide to country music and Tejano.

Brinkley's bogus promises of endless rejuvenation, although entertaining in themselves, triggered provocative philosophical considerations. People worried about the fate of introspective poetry: What would become of the sonnet if poets weren't sublimating angst over their mortality? Insurance companies fretted over their soon-to-be-defunct actuarial tables: one company even told a client who had a monkey-gland transplant: "...you are younger today than you were when you signed the contract...In view of this fundamental change we find ourselves obliged to cancel the contract with you."

Brinkley's adversary was Morris Fishbein, quackbuster extraordinaire of the American Medical Association. Brock characterizes their decades-long game of cat 'n' rat with a term used by military strategists, "replication." The idea, new to me, is that over time, great opponents become more and more alike, though neither would ever admit it. I recognize this thesis-antithesis-synthesis process from the Cold War, and from Nietzsche's quote about looking into the abyss. I hope it's not happening to the characters in my WiP. *frets*

The last bit too good not to note is from Brock's epilogue, wherein he demonstrates the similarities between Brinkley and his clients' obsessions with current, equally desperate youth-pursuits:

"In 2001 a form of bovine collagen was blamed for an outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, a potentially lethal disorder linked to mad cow disease, yet this did nothing to slow the stampede for fuller lips and smoother skin. 'Most women find the prospect of dying wrinkled a lot worse than the prospect of dying of dementia from collagen.'"

Sticking goat and monkey nuts in *our* nuts? That's insane. But how about injecting our faces with botulism and sticking cow tissue in our wrinkles? 



 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)

As part of today's research, I googled "types of noses." In 1852, George Jabet attempted to exhaustively catalogue the various kinds of human noses with Notes on Noses. Jabet lists seven types of noses: Roman/aquiline, Greek, Greco-Roman, Cogitative, Jewish, Snub and Celestial. (Celestial!) Obviously, Jabet's study was limited, not just in the way of examples, as he acknowledges in his preface, but also by his racial/ethnic obliviousness. Still, the book is fascinating and often amusing, with illos and geometry. So far my favorite part is the chapter titled "How to Get a Cogitative Nose."



"It is a great and prevalent mistake to imagine that a Cogitative mind (and Nose) is to be acquired by reading alone. It is almost certain that, as books multiply, Cogitative Minds decrease, for how is a man to think, if all his thinking is done for him?"


Modern readers might wonder, for that matter, how women might ever acquire such a sought-after nose. (Snip, snip!)


More recently (2011), Professor Abraham Tamir wrote in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery that there are actually 14 types of noses. The snub, the Duchess (e.g., Kate Middleton),  the fleshy, the hawk, the Mirren, Greek, aquiliine, Roman, Rumpole, celestial, Lenin, Redknapp, Nixon, and the Tara. I confess an attraction to the Greek and aquiline noses on men. But this catalog also suffers from glaring omissions, and worse, perpetuates the same kind of personality predictions Jabet offered over a century ago.


My nose is, I think, snub. According to Simon Brown, author of The Secrets of Face Reading, "People with this type of nose are often quick-witted and more street-wise than your average person. They react quickly — sometimes too quickly, which can sometimes lead to aggression." Which, except for the temper part, is all wrong. I have the reactions of a turtle and the street smarts of an armadillo.


How about you? What kind of nose do you have? What kinds of noses do you find attractive on other people? What, if anything, do you think noses "mean"?


~~


cafenowhere: close-up photo of gray cat with big yellow eyes (claire)
 Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett

The premise of this nonfiction popsci book is that all animals, including humans, have survival instincts that can backfire in response to "supernormal" stimulus. For example, the beta fighting fish that attacks its reflection in a mirror, needlessly expending energy (at the least) while perhaps overlooking real intruders or even hurting itself. Unfortunately, unlike the hapless animals in the clutches of manipulative scientists, humans create their own supernormal stimuli, to our widespread detriment.

I knew I was in trouble on p.2, when Barrett uses chickens as an example of instincts gone wrong: "A hen lays eggs day after day as a farmer removes them for human breakfasts...Not a single chick hatches but she never gives up trying." But of course, from Still Life with Chickens, I know egg laying is more akin to ovulating than procreating. Only very "broody" chickens think every egg is a baby--and then they're happy to sit on golfballs, too. Barrett might just as well say, "Oh poor Lisa, every month she menstruates but she never gives up trying." Uh...no, not trying.

So I knew I'd have to be on the lookout for other unexamined assumptions or superficial interpretations, which I promptly got in Chapter 3: Sex for Dummies. A subsection is headed with a quote from Joseph Slade: "Saying that pornography creates a desire for ...trashy sex is like saying McDonald's creates a desire for salty, greasy meat. Hugh Hefner did not invent the American fetish for women with large breasts...merely exploited a taste already well-established." Wow. Just...wow. So women are like meat, and women with large breasts are like salty, greasy meat. Thanks.

The fact that Barrett uses such a quote without commentary is alarming. In fact, it serves as a blaring klaxon to warn the reader about the breezy discussion of the relationship between porn and rape a few pages later. Barrett cites several studies that deny any relationship between the two. She gives particular attention to a study of Japan, which found a decline in reported rapes despite the coincident increase in porn. "Japan has the highest rate of depiction of rape in porn but less actual rape than most of the West."
 
One can't help but wonder if rapes would have declined faster had the porn not been present at all, how women's rights have changed during that same time period in Japan, if Japanese women are more or less inclined to report rape in the current culture, if less violent but perhaps more insidious forms of rape go unreported....? Except, it seems, Barrett can help but wonder. None of these questions are addressed, and the endnotes are simple bibliographic entries lacking any analysis.
 
J asked why I continued reading if I was so annoyed by p.31. "Because," I  said, "I can read through her biases." Also, it's a very quick, easy read and the actual science of ethology, or sociobiology, is interesting. Chapter 4, Too Cute, was especially interesting to me, as it deals with how humans "read" cuteness and feel a strong pull toward neotenous characteristics (infantile features carried into adulthood). Barrett quotes Konrad Lorenz on the Kewpie doll, which "represented 'the maximum possible exaggeration of the proportions between cranium and face which our perception can tolerate without switching our response from the sweet baby to that elicited by the eerie monster.'" I wonder what Lorenz would've thought of Cabbage Patch Dolls, which I frequently heard described as "so ugly they're cute." There's also a really adroit look at the evolution of teddy bears and the Japanese culture of kawaii.
 
Barrett focuses on our instincts toward sex, cuteness, food, defense, socializing, and puzzles. If you have an interest in how those instincts can go wrong or be manipulated by advertisers, I'd advise reading Chapters 1 and 2, then skipping over to your instinct of choice. Although that's probably my instinct toward instant gratification talking. ;)

~~   

Excisions

Jun. 28th, 2011 11:11 am
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)

For [livejournal.com profile] dawtheminstrel , who's been thinking about first lines lately, a small poem by Suzanne Buffam, from her collection, The Irrationalist:
 
 
On First Lines

The first line should pry up
a little corner of the soul

as the first ray of daylight
pries open the sleeper's lids.
 
~~
 
All I have lately is bits and pieces. I think maybe I'm background processing, because these pieces don't even want to be cobbled into poems. I'm not complaining, just sayin'. ;)

~~

I read a small collection of prose poems titled How to Take Yourself Apart / How to Make Yourself Anew, by Aaron Burch. I liked the whole book, even when it repeated itself, because each new piece added a worthwhile crease in its obsessive map. One piece stood out for me, because it resonated with my experience of translating poetry from Spanish to English. This excerpt comes from the How To section of the book:
 
How to...Draw diagrams of explanation. Use detail, be intricate; don't let uncertainty excuse lack of specificity. Once complete, destroy, dismantle, disassemble. Erase, rip, cut, break it into pieces. Copy each small piece onto your body...Tie yourself in knots.
 
~~
 
I found this picture of Jensen Ackles on tumblr and thought it was interesting that I immediately recognized him, despite the alterations. (Actually, my exact thoughts were more like, "He's pretty even in pieces!" and "Gawd, how is he even real?!")
 
black and white photo of jensen ackles, disassembled, rearranged, measured
 
I  downloaded the image because it reminds me of how my main character Heidi sees people, the way she takes other people's pictures and chops, crops, magnifies, outlines, rearranges faces until they make sense to her.
 
~~
 
On a walk with Tweetie last week, we spotted two black-winged damselflies with electric-blue bodies. They're called Ebony Jewelwings. Doesn't that sound like a character from a kid's fantasy show? Supposedly another name for damselflies is "devil's darning needles." Of course anything remotely exciting in nature gets slammed with a satanic association: the devil beats his wife; dust devil; devil's claw...
 
I like to imagine the damselfly singing: "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste..."
 
~~ 
cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)
~


midnight ku
pristine as the moon
gone by morning


For the first time in a long while, I had one of those middle-of-the-night brainstorms. Not surprisingly, it was during my manic swing on that Deceptively Good Day. I lay there in bed and marvelled at this perfect haiku I'd discovered. "Should I get up and write it down?" I wondered. "Nah, I've gotten better at remembering, and if I indulge this mania once, I'll be popping up all night."

Sure enough, that poem was long gone by morning. So I wrote this one instead. :)

~

Yesterday was Steve McQueen's birthday! The King of Cool would've been 81 years old, had he not died in 1980 from cancer. A few of my favorite photos of McQueen:



Honestly? I think it's the socks. :)



I'm a sucker for a good dad.



Steve, making breakfast look damn irresistible. (1970)
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)

Did nobody "get" Jennifer's Body?

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
~

your cramped hands relax
around wrenches and drills, but
never around me


~

And as a bonus, an excerpt from a poem by Michael Gluck, translated by Rosanna Warren:


leave your tool-hand
in the week's glove
open your other hand


~

Solubility

Aug. 11th, 2010 11:25 am
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (neon sign)
~

like mercury blobs
they struggle to merge
blood + air
inside + out
saturating the border
obliterating this thin membrane
of skin and self

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
~

Velvet avalanche:
peaches slow soft tumble from
the young stocker's hands
into a produce pyramid.
Watched, the boy blushes
past his armor of piercings,
impatient for hands
to forget "gentle."

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
~

She wore a dress of fire
She burned too hot to look at
I removed my face in obeisance
it was melting anyway

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)
* Your body is not the enemy. She's gotten you this far, right? So give her a break.

* You cannot punch a child. No matter how sick you are of kids asking Tweetie if she's wearing boys' clothes/shoes or if she's a boy or a girl. (Although, George Clooney on a cracker, what the fuck is up with that? 1, she's so clearly a girl and 2, what does it matter if she's a boy or a girl? are they going to treat her that differently, and if so, DUDE!) Never mind. You cannot punch a child.

* Everything will get done, and in time enough. You are awesome. You have a heart so big it could crush this town. (Thank you, Tom Petty.)

ETA:

* It's not sane how angry you get when "sugar skull" is used as a descriptor for things that are neither made of sugar nor in the form of a skull. Just LET IT GO.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)


~

As he approached
she fell
like Alice, but less interesting
down past the single-engine Cessna
past the coasting turkey vultures
below the corona of tree tops
through dragonfly traffic
and leggy grasses
past bumblebees
in clover
and finally
into her
own body.

She blinked up at him and frowned.
~


In other news, I will miss being a prime number.

~

Pretties

Jul. 9th, 2010 01:45 pm
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (O rly)


~

Boys lined up on the lawn
blue-sky eyes
bright and menacing
sit in wait, elbows on knees, arms crossed,
ready to pass judgment
on passersby.
My girlfriend looks back and laughs
triggers their picket-fence smiles.
She tugs on my skirt and says
they're the prettiest protest in town.

~

The Inspiration )

Terce

Jul. 1st, 2010 01:13 pm
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (love)
~

church bells and bus farts
echo off the quad
unheeded
there is no mass I need
no place that I must be
but worshipping at the portal
of your sloe eyes
receiving ministry from your
stained-map hands

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
~

His jaw beveled
but his eyes soft
he guides his bike with the patience
of an empty riverbed.

He has smoothed the broken arrows of his brow
He has filed down the angles of his heart
He has slowed himself to sleep

because he knows his own strength.

~
cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)


~

Fingers tingling,
I caress the air above
my lover.
Magnets in my nails coax moans
past his lip-ring, tease polarities.


~

The Inspiration )
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)


~

My high school Spanish
hardly helps, merely sketches
this client's desires.
Algo pesado.
He points at rhino, anchor, tree
and rolls up his sleeve.
My hands say Hold up!
My head shakes I don't understand.
"But which one?" I ask.
No me importa.
He sits in the chair. No mas
quiero que no se mueva.
"No...entiendo,"
the bastion of my senior year
less helpful here.
He closes his eyes--
Quiero que recuerde su lugar--
and goes Zen Mexican.
I blink.
"Rhino it is then."



~

Burn

Jun. 4th, 2010 11:11 am
cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)


~

He'd been popping RedHots
and he hadn't shaved that day
and every sticky kiss bestowed
a sneaky burn radius,
needle-pricks all around
that injected acute awareness
into this persecuted skin:
I kiss you here
but I bless you here and here and here...
like lava sparks piercing a pond.

~

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