coleman dowell, from island people

You drive, walk, eat, look at television, read, and all the while, beyond you and the cozy circle created by your lady around herself and you, like the natural emanations of stars, other lives circle yours, seeds still winged and wind-borne, looking for sympathetic soil. You feel the juices and solids of your body in attempted rearrangement, or, more disturbing, making an effort to create a stillness that approximates death, beyond which the body does become soil, receptive to all wind-borne seeds. In a not especially prolonged stillness, as though no chances could be taken that you might decide to become perpetual motion, words fall out of the air, a random fall from which you might be tempted to make selection, and as you do not move, cannot, a string of words falls onto you, and from you, onto the paper: winter rye greening up, smoothing the old brown earth with a fine new plane: Carpenter Rye, neighbor.

–Coleman Dowell, Island People

now recording observations on tumblr

I made a Tumblr for my field reports. I hope to post there on a more regular basis, while reserving this blog primarily for new fiction, book reviews, and whatever else is not a field report. Like anything, this is subject to change (read: fail) without notice. Those of you on Tumblr please visitI’m still orienting myself and some company would be nice.

publication note

My story “Orbiting” appears in the new issue of Dark Matter, available on ISSUU or in PDF.

the solitudinarian known as l.

The solitudinarian known as L. knew that certain things had already occurred. The distant past held L.’s fascination in a detached way, while the more recent past resembled ash. To extend this so-called ash metaphor further, L.’s memory was a cold fireplace with a few embers catching spark now and again. Sometimes L. stirred the ash with a poker. If a fire caught, L. described the pattern of the flames.

[This questionable metaphor has now run its course.]

What more can be said of L. Work, hobbies, home life, all of this is unworthy of reportage. It’s best to proceed to direct observation.

‘The past is constantly shifting in one’s mind. I relish the opportunity to lend a hand in rearranging what actually happened during any given moment. In writing, the published word is a corpse, stiff and deprived of the ability to reshape itself. The need to fine-tune each piece is a compulsion that should not be suppressed.’

L. announced this in the middle of a meeting at work. When the moderator mentioned the inappropriate nature of the comment, L. stood up and replied:

‘I am unconcerned with the proceedings of this gathering. I wish you would take note of that and desist from inviting me each week. Good day to you.’

L. promptly left the room and returned to the alcove in which sat a machine, a table, and two sets of bookshelves. L. thought about being recreated and destroyed each day. It could not be helped. One must take every opportunity to declaim one’s beliefs. Tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow might bring silence. The uncertainty of what was about to happen at any given moment prevented the completion of any work. Concentration was a myth L. refused to explore.

L.’s supervisor O. now entered the alcove unannounced.

‘The moderator reported your outburst at the meeting this morning.’

‘I despise those meetings. Am I not permitted to speak my mind?’

‘Yes, if it is relevant to matters being discussed.’

‘Relevance is arbitrary.’

O. sighed. ‘Please just try to stay on topic if you choose to speak.’

L. stared at the machine until O. left. The first premonitions of tomorrow’s rebirth filtered into L.’s consciousness. Sundown brought absence, where L. waited in limbo for dawn. Only a few hours to go until the bliss of self-destruction.  Buoyed by the certainty of this coming relief, L. keyed into the machine and began to type.

field report lucky 7

There is full sun and little wind. No cloud cover.

The pedestrian suspension bridge is open. Yesterday it was closed. Criteria for closure unknown, but suspected to be related to wind speed.

Tourists abound on this day in early February, a month not known for its tourist activity.

The habitat islands offer less mystery in the winter, having lost much of their greenery.

A child wearing a leash crosses the street. The leash, dragging on the ground, protrudes from an animal-shaped backpack.

An oversized police officer fiddles with his phone while purporting to guard the building.

Birds observed: several Ring-billed Gulls, a small flock of House Sparrows, and one European Starling. An unimpressive count, but not unusual for this time and place.

the way we walked

They always walked the same way, which was, in fact, the opposite of the way I walked. The one felt strongly about walking that way. The other reported this to me when I inquired as to why they always walked that particular way. She told me that the one felt that way was far superior to the way I walked, although no reason was given that I can recall. So when I began walking with them, I of course walked their way, despite the fact of it going against my natural inclination to walk the other way. Then the one left, not long after I had begun walking with them. She went elsewhere, leaving the two of us on our own. The other and I continued walking. For the most part we continued walking the way they always used to walk, although sometimes we altered course and walked my way. It was strange, the fact of us continuing to walk the way they used to walk. Neither of us felt strongly about that way. From the very start, it had been the one who had imposed her will on the other. By the time I came along, the route was already set in stone. There was no question of whether they would ever walk my way, so I didn’t even bother suggesting it. Eventually it became second nature for me to walk their way. When exiting the door my natural inclination was now to turn left. Even later on, after the other had also gone away and I was alone again, I still found myself turning left, walking against my original inclination, which was either straight ahead or on occasion to the right, but never to the left. While walking, it would sometimes occur to me: ‘I am walking their way, her way, in fact’. She, whom I hadn’t heard from in years, continued to impose her will on me. And when I found myself walking my way, I would sometimes gloat in my mind, thinking, ‘Ha! I am no longer walking her way. I am walking my own way‘, which gave me a sense of satisfaction. This sensation felt strange, though, given that she wasn’t around, nor had she been for years, and in fact I had never felt that strongly about my way versus their way, or more specifically, her way. Naturally there were pros and cons associated with each way, and over the years I pondered at length over the merits and disadvantages of both ways. I never came to a conclusion as to which one was superior. However, after much thought, I did conclude that my occasional negative feeling toward her way originated more from an anti-authoritarian reaction to her insistence on always going that way than from a belief that my way was indeed superior. In fact, I would go so far as to say that she assumed that her way was the only way to go, that in her mind there was literally no other way to go, that my way was in fact dead to her, that it did not even exist, and that if I or the other had ever started walking my way, she would have immediately disavowed the both of us as walking companions, and we would have become as dead to her as my way already was. Still, there was something compelling about her.

the interview

Hello, I’m here for a job interview.

Oh, are you.

Yes, I was called in. I have an appointment.

Hmph. I doubt that.

Excuse me?

That’s not how we work. We don’t call people in. We don’t do that.

But I received a message. It said to come in. Today. This morning.

Who was the message from.

I don’t know. Some person.

Does this person have a name.

I don’t remember. I deleted the message. Isn’t there an appointment schedule you can check? Or maybe there is someone else I can speak with?

I’m afraid not. Just me here today. And there is no appointment schedule because, as I said, we don’t call people in. We’re not that kind of place. We don’t work that way.

But you are hiring…

We might be looking to fill a position, yes. It’s a possibility. Not my specific area, mind you, but I’ve heard things, you know, in the hallways.

Well, this is confusing. Should I come back then? Is there a time today when someone who might know more about this will be around?

It’s difficult for me to say. After all, I don’t want to make an empty promise. I don’t want to say, ‘Yes, come back at 1 o’clock,’ only to disappoint you if no one is here.

Oh, well, should I come back at 1 then?

Did it sound like you should come back at 1?

I’m not sure. Maybe?

No one will be here at 1. That was just an example.

Fine. Then when will someone else be here? Perhaps someone more helpful.

Are you saying I’m not helpful.

More helpful. I said more helpful. I understand this isn’t your specialty, but I am interested in the job and would like to follow through on the interview.

What interview. I told you, we don’t do that. We don’t hold interviews.

Okay, fine. I’m leaving now. Maybe I will try back again later when someone else is around.

Good luck with that. Have a nice day.

[front door closes]

[coworker enters from stage left, sits down]

Was that the applicant leaving?


I see. Have you made a decision?

Let’s just say the position is still open.

Any particular reason why? We can’t delay hiring much longer.

Well, you know what they say…some people just don’t interview well at all.

Hmm. Yes, I have heard that. Fine, then. Will you call the next one on the list? And make sure to enter the appointment in the schedule this time so I know when to be here.

I certainly will.

shorted-out bulbs on a monday morning

The hallway went dark.  Everything went darkfor a moment, a momentous moment spent staring at the backs of our eyelids. Shaking off our daydreams, we stared into the room, together, at the three lamps. Triad of light, aligned in a triangular position, pointed out against the darkness. In certain circles, the shape is known as a Power Triangle. Someone higher up came along, cautious, feeling through the darkness, drawn into the light cast by the lamps. Hello, we greeted. Wh-what are you doing, it stammered. Well, clearly we’re looking at the lamps, see, we replied. It was a natural response, given the circumstances, with the Power Triangle so boldly presenting itself, after all, and the three points of light sallying forth into the darkness. But we grew worried. What if it was an Inspector, we thought. Without speaking a word, instead sending our thoughts to each other via the usual flickering of eyelids, we concurred on a plan to shrink back into the Radiance of Shadows, that consciousness-obscuring aural bath we’d befriended some time ago. Goodbye, Inspector, we intoned at the appointed time as the Power Triangle pulsed with light and we were ushered away back into our daydreams, and the hallway flooded with light, scorching the Inspector to cinders before it could complete its required inspection. Sure, just a matter of daily rounds for it, but this, this was our livelihood, after all, and who are they to strip it from us all simply because the higher-ups need a better story to tell.

belated lists for 2014

Happy New Year! Here are my belated lists of favorite books read and music listened to in 2014. Neither list is in any particular order. My reading slowed down in autumn when I took on Reiner Stach’s Kafka biographies. They ended up being my top favorites for the year, reminding me once again of my love for a good literary biography. As for music, it wasn’t a big year for new discoveries, but plenty of indulging in old favorites and a few newer passions from recent years. I tend to listen to music seasonally, so not all of these are in rotation year-round. I also plan to post a list of favorite films for the year, but that will take some extra time to compile as I don’t always make notes of what I watch.


Completed reads: 72
Abandoned reads: 4

1. Kafka: The Decisive Years by Reiner Stach
2. Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach
3. The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels by Agota Kristof
4. To Whom It May Concern by Raymond Federman
5. The Will to Sickness by Gerhard Roth
6. Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertész
7. Yes by Thomas Bernhard
8. It Then by Danielle Collobert
9. Selected Poems of René Char by René Char
10. Life, End of by Christine Brooke-Rose
11. I Am Lazarus: Stories by Anna Kavan
12. Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet
13. Mauve Desert by Nicole Brossard
14. Song of the West: Selected Poems by Georg Trakl
15. A Schoolboy’s Diary and Other Stories by Robert Walser


1. The Smiths
2. The Cure
3. Swans
4. Grails
5. Nadja
6. Jesu
7. Om
8. Lycia
9. Caudal
10. Boards of Canada
11. Gravenhurst (thanks, Dan; RIP Nick Talbot)
12. Nick Drake (mostly Pink Moon)
13. Skinny Puppy (mostly Remission, Bites, Rabies, & The Singles Collect)
14. Front Line Assembly (mostly The Initial Command & State of Mind)
15. Slowdive, with Low [live show with JFaunt ♥]
16. Helicon’s 29th Annual Winter Solstice Concert [live show]
17. Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass, with Chester River Runoff [live show]

triviality of trivialities

Erased from As a Matter of Course (1894) by Annie Payson Call

Erased from As a Matter of Course (1894) by Annie Payson Call

[click image to enlarge]

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