Sunday, May 1st, 2016
10:58 pm - National Poetry Month (okay, one day late)
Swan Girls by Theodora Goss

They are so lovely, the wild swan girls:

white wings and absence . . .

1.       How to recognize a swan girl.

She will have delicate wrists.

You will be able to circle her wrists

with your hands. No, don't try it:

you don't hold swan girls, not like that.

Any suggestion of captivity sends them flying

off on white swan wings, or on high heels

across a street or continent.

They can't bear to be caught.

No, look at her wrists: skin over bone, with faint

pinpricks where the pinions go.

2.       How to catch a swan girl.

Feign lack of interest.

Stare off into the distance, at a tree perhaps

or a beach, or the New York skyline.

Turn to her. Be polite, almost too polite.

Ask a question to which she doesn't know the answer.

(Will it snow tomorrow? What are clouds made of?

How do you say eternity in Norwegian?)

Interest her, and keep her interested,

or she will fly off.

3.       How to keep a swan girl.

You can't, not in a house or an apartment,

not in a city, sometimes not even a country.

When she telephones, you will ask, where are you?

When she laughs, it will sound

so far away, and in the background

you will hear waves, or a language you don't understand.

4.       How to marry a swan girl.

Steal her coat of feathers.

This part always goes badly.

5.       How to lose a swan girl.

Wait. Eventually, she will go somewhere else.

If you hide her coat of feathers, she will leave without it.

Wait, you say, but I thought . . . Oh, those old stories?

You didn't believe those, did you?

She knows where to get another, and anyway

she doesn't need wings to fly.

6.       How to mourn a swan girl.

Make a shrine, perhaps on a dresser or small table.

Three swan feathers, a candle, a stone smoothed

by ocean waves. That should do it.

Sit on the sofa. Hold one of the feathers. Cry.

Realize it was inevitable.

Swan girls fly. It's just what they do.

It wasn't you.

7.       How to be a swan girl.

There are no rules the sky is infinite

the world is yours laid out in rivers and mountains

like a great quilt pieced by your grandmother.

She is older than they are.

Her hair is white as snow and covers them

her eyes are bright as stars and when she laughs


You take after her.

Swan girl where will you go?

Everywhere you say and then

everywhere else.

(aaaaand that's 30 poems! Hooray for April, and see you all next year.)

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1:34 pm - National Poetry Month (okay, one day late)
On Loving a Saudi Girl by Carina Yun

After your beloved leaves, you will take
a ten-hour red-eye flight back to America.
At baggage claim, you will wait for your bag
to drop onto the conveyer belt, then drag
the weight of Sultan Ahmed across the terminal–
the soumak rug, candlesticks, and pashmina scarves.
In Istanbul, muezzin will call out five
times a day from the minaret. It's heard
on loudspeaker in every house, and every storefront.
You will wake to morning adhan, not knowing
whether to repent for those moments spent with her.
What is it called when you are wrong to love?
In front of the airport, your mother will find you
soaked with rain. "What happened?" she will ask.
You won't speak. She will spring open your
father's green umbrella and hover.

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Saturday, April 30th, 2016
8:12 pm - National Poetry Month
Seeds by M Sereno

They hide the truth in seeds, you see.

In the black jeweled eyes of the atis. In the slippery throngs of pakwan,

in bitter lanzones watered by my tears when my mother told me

of the tree growing in my belly, nourished on my death.

Swallow a seed and it will sprout within you,

becoming your veins, invading your bones.

Those poets and conquerors knew this. Knew the mouth is an altar.

Centuries later their stories sink into our skin, coiling and uncoiling

as we swallow fables, fleshy pulp of perfect red apples,

a rosy roundness we are taught to dream: ruddy lips,

fairest face, beauty enough to kill for. I did not eat fruit as a child.

I ate summer, storm, the star-strung perfume of night,

spitting out the seeds because I wanted to live.

Then I grew. These days it's difficult to remember

the crack of wood between my teeth: their stories say

all fruits are poisoned, and forests are lies. We repose

in dark of skin and shadow. Oh, I have swallowed

so much fruit my cheeks bulge with the fullness of it, oh

my speech has gorged on this glut of strange language

so I can say, snow, apple, pear with glassy clarity

while my tongue twists on kamias, manggang hilaw, durian.

I am afraid of forests. I do not know why

the pineapple has a thousand eyes. I do not eat,

except when it is safe. They hide the truth in seeds,

and princesses asleep in glass and sea and thorn

cannot eat—only wait, while dark around them

the night comes alive with aswang. The ones who eat.

My mother warned me, see, see: eat too much truth

to spite your hunger, and that is what you become—

this snake-haired woman shorn in half

grinning as she stretches her long sucking tongue,

lips red with blood of infants and innocent maidens.

But oh mother, oh fruit: to awaken into the pulse-point of night

and glory in all the sharpnesses of taste, to swallow

all fruit and flesh and seed, to nourish forests in limbs

deep as earth, to feast on storm salty-sweet and star-bursting

with stories unpeeled and still dripping with death and womb:

to starve no longer— Oh storytellers, oh fairest princesses.

Let me take this fruit that has killed you.

It was never truly yours. Let me crack it open

bare-handed and sink my teeth into it, drink deep.

They hide the truth in seeds. Look:

how it runs down my fingers, sweet and clear as death,

bitter as history.

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1:48 pm - National Poetry Month
Apotropaic Magic by Margaret Wack

I am the king's daughter slaughtered.

I am a thrall, enthralled, I charm the ocean

into calmness and surcease. I am

a witchwood, hazel woman

smooth as flesh, woven and crafted

and cast from the cliff.

I am a carven queen, a saint,

a pretty thing to bless the ship

with good luck and swift passage.

What do you hope to turn away?

You know that blood must bless the sea,

you people of the shores and crags

and salt-strewn settlements forget slowly:

the ceremony stands: I go before you as a sacrifice

and sink through brine and black water

and plant my feet upon a field

of blue-faced girls who bloom and snarl:

we are your legacy, your lineage, your litany,

the faces that will eat you when you drown.

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Friday, April 29th, 2016
5:02 pm - Smut Swap Recs
I participated in the Smut Swap exchange, which opened last week. And there are tons of great fic to read – you should all check it out!

Here are my favorites – so far! I haven't finished reading through the collection yet, but I wanted to put up some recs before the authors were revealed.

First off, here is the fic written for me:
Other Romantic Verbs (5051 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Leverage
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Alec Hardison/Parker/Eliot Spencer
Additional Tags: Established Relationship, Banter, Porn with Feelings, Dom/sub, Femdom, Begging, Handcuffs, Pegging, Obedience, Lipstick on Men, Trying to Stay Quiet, Roleplay, Praise Kink, Romance, 5+1 Things
Summary: “Love, kisses, snuggles, other romantic verbs.” Five unusual ways Parker, Hardison, and Eliot expressed their love for each other, and one way that was almost normal.
THIS FIC IS SO GOOD. It's incredibly hot, full of all my favorite kinks, and also is really well-written and has lots of nice characterization details. If you have ever seen Leverage, you should totally give this a chance.

[art] something useful (1 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Original Female Character/Original Female Character
Additional Tags: Pirates, Sex With Prisoner, light bondage with heavy chains, Extremely Dubious Consent, Art
Summary: Female Pirate/Female Stowaway - The Captain makes her earn her passage.
Very hot, very NSFW art. Pirate f/f is the best thing!

Not Found in the Official Record (2344 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Martian - All Media Types
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Chris Beck/Mark Watney
Summary: Beck is a slob. Watney is grateful.
A very funny, hot (I feel dumb describing all these recs as "hot", but it's smut swap, of course they are!) first-person story. This does a great job of capturing Watney's voice, and is completely plausible.

Genuflection (4442 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Jesus Christ Superstar - All Media Types
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Jesus Christ/Judas Iscariot
Summary: Judas worships on his knees.
Incredibly hot Jesus/Judas modern AU porn. This is very sexy, but also has interesting things to say about religion and belief and the difference between man and god. I really liked how Judas was characterized, and the ending was heartbreaking – but, of course, exactly what had to happen. Note: archive-locked.

A House Of Nettles (6430 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings - All Media Types, The Silmarillion and other histories of Middle-Earth - J. R. R. Tolkien
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Tar-Míriel/Éowyn
Additional Tags: Cunnilingus, Vaginal Fingering, Slap Slap Kiss, Power Dynamics, Psychological Horror
Summary: Éowyn is not healed. Inside of her, something hungry lives on.
This one is more sad and scary than hot, but it's incredibly well-written and absolutely worth reading. I found this to be an excellent twist on the canon ending. It's just a fantastic slow-build of creepiness and plausibility.

Running on empty (4078 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Mad Max Series (Movies)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Nux/Max Rockatansky
Additional Tags: Necrophilia, Magical Healing Cock, Dream Sex
Summary: Max likes the kind of company Nux provides; such a light presence on the mind.
Necrophilia is not a kink that I'm particularly into, but I just adored how this fic used it to give the movie a happy ending. I mean, I guess the ending is already kind of happy, but this one is much happier! Really nice writing, and both Max and Nux are excellently characterized.

Prenuptials (4530 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Cala Athmaza/Deret Beshelar/Maia Drazhar
Additional Tags: First Time, First Kiss, Intercrural Sex, Threesome - M/M/M, Threesome, Blow Jobs, Hand Jobs
Summary: Rumors are forever swirling in the Untheileneise Court. On this night, Maia's nohecharei intervene to dispel a particularly vicious one.
HOT. Hot! That's all I have to say about this, really. It's a premise that I've read before, but this author does a particularly good job with it, with lovely, detailed descriptions and a good handle on the action.

The Art of Apologies (6797 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Hamilton - Miranda
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Alexander Hamilton/Thomas Jefferson
Additional Tags: Hate Sex, Asshole Spanking, Dirty Talk, Power Play, Size Kink, Spanking, Face Slapping, Riding Crops
Summary: The truth about their meetings, Hamilton thought, wasn't that he was desperate for the votes Jefferson had provided.
It was the fact that Jefferson was so desperate for him that made Hamilton seek this out again and again. After all, why demand such a personal payment for what had been a simple political transaction?
OH MY GOD. If you enjoy hate-sex at all, you have to read this fic. It is so well-written, funny and hot and perfectly in-character and just yes. YES. Don't miss this one.

New Normal (1830 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Phryne Fisher/Dorothy "Dot" Williams/Jack Robinson/Hugh Collins, Phryne Fisher/Jack Robinson, Hugh Collins/Dorothy "Dot" Williams
Additional Tags: Pegging, Praise Kink, Begging
Summary: Jack tries not to think too hard about why he can't sit down at work. Surely it's because he's been knocked down repeatedly by bank robbers.
This story is, once again, hot, but what I really like about it is how perfectly characterized everyone is. Phryne and Dot particularly are perfectly captured, and it made me laugh out loud to read.

Recommended by Galen and Avicenna (7345 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Elizabeth MacMillan/Original Female Character
Additional Tags: Orgasm Delay/Denial, Praise Kink, Overstimulation, Vibrators
This one is pretty much pure PWP, but hey: sometimes that's what you want! :D It's very readable even if you don't know the canon (and in fact half of the pairing is an OC), so if you have any interest in historical f/f porn, this is a great story. I loved how it encorporated some of the awkward details of real-world sex while still being incredibly hot.

With every waking breath (3480 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Les Misérables - All Media Types
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Javert/Jean Valjean
Additional Tags: Somnophilia
Summary: Javert has always been good at resisting temptation. Until he started sharing a bed with Valjean.
A very sweet story. I really loved the build of emotions here, and how the sex reflected the depth of the relationship.

Shake it off (2273 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Star Wars Original Trilogy
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Lando Calrissian/Han Solo
Additional Tags: Deepthroating, Semi-Public Sex, Hand Jobs, Male Homosociality, treat
Summary: Han is very predictable, something Lando's already come to depend on.
This story is hilarious, and had spot-on characterization. I loved the Lando voice, and the sudden sharp break into deeper emotions at the end.

i'll cut your little heart out (1667 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Female Private Eye/Femme Fatale
Summary: She doesn’t want to feel loved, and you don’t want to love her.
The nice thing about the original fic is that you can just focus on the porn! :D This story has a great noir detective voice, very hot sex, and really made me want more of the characters and the world.

Beneath Three Moons (2933 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Rape/Non-Con
Relationships: Male Hero/Male Villain
Additional Tags: Sex With Prisoner, Interracial Relationship, Science Fiction
Summary: Abandoned for dead on a desolate moon by his people, Jevai 316 discovers an unexpected attraction to his captor, a notorious mercenary and assassin.
Another story that I would happily read a whole novel of! The writing here is fantastic, and I really enjoyed the world-building and interaction of the characters. It's more mild dub-con than rape (Jevai is definitely attracted), if you're worried.

A Question of Time (2402 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Major Character Death
Relationships: Female Sacrifice/Goddess
Additional Tags: Death Fetish, Knifeplay, Blood Kink, Religious Icons, Explicit Sexual Content, Blood and Violence, Horror
Summary: Tai lives and dies to serve her goddess.
I'd describe this as less porn and more simply a horror story, but it's really good. The writing is beautiful and creepy and awful, and it gave me shivers. I loved the resolution.

Misery Acquaints (10660 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Hateful Eight (2015)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Chris Mannix/Marquis Warren
Additional Tags: Post-Canon, Explicit Sexual Content, Racist Language, Period-Typical Racism, Homophobic Language, Internalized Homophobia, Explicit Language, Canon-Typical Violence, Blood, Blow Jobs, Dubiously Consensual Blow Jobs, Intercrural Sex, Gunplay, Anal Sex, Spit As Lube, First Time, Scars, Sharing a Bed, Consent Play, Humiliation, Verbal Humiliation, Enemies to Lovers, Intentionally Bad Spelling & Grammar
Summary: It wasn't the start of a beautiful friendship.
This fic is SO GOOD. SO GOOD. It's probably my favorite of the collection – other than my own gift, of course! :D – which is surprising because I never, never would have seen myself shipping this pairing. But this story makes their coming together so completely believable: the voices and the description and the kinks are all perfectly well-suited to the canon, the writing is amazingly good, it's a nice long slow-build, and just I love it love it love it. It's a fantastically well-done story.

Did anybody else participate in this exchange? What stories are you guys enjoying?

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4:57 pm - National Poetry Month
Black Ships Burning by Jennifer Crow

No way home--you know this
when flames stain the wine-dark sea.
You watch the past blaze
against Ilium's sands;
the glow illuminates
the stunned faces of your comrades.
This is how kings roll the dice:
not with bones, but lives
of men. Sea spray or tears,
salt touches your mouth,
and the gulls laugh overhead
like the distant gods.
Tomorrow blood will run
down your blade
and the hot, rank scent of death
will cling to you in the night
while the captains count their spoils.
You knew glory once, when
Aeolus's winds snarled your hair
and waves creaked beneath the bow
of your ship. Athena's eye watched you--
but no more. Her painted wards
warp and bubble in the heat,
and you stand godless on the beach
watching fires paint the clouded night.

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Thursday, April 28th, 2016
3:43 pm - National Poetry Month
Church Going by Philip Larkin

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

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Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
3:09 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské. God, this book is terrible. It's partly a mystery novel – it opens with the murder of a young woman, and most of the plot centers around figuring out who killed her and why, complete with police detectives and the dead woman's innocent neighbor who only now realizes that they could have been lovers – but it has much grander pretensions than that, wanting to comment on the nature of religion and mental health and love and good and evil.

If only the author had any thoughts on said topics worth sharing.

The religious issue is the worst, in my opinion. Miské clearly wants to make some grand statement about how fundamentalists of all religions are the same, and how cynical opportunists take advantage of the faithful, but he doesn't seem to know anything about the religions he depicts. The setting of the novel is the 19th arrondissement of Paris, a neighborhood buzzing with Hasidic Jews and Salafist Muslims, and it eventually turns out that the murdered woman was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, which turns out to be central to the murder. (As a side note, I continually found the depiction of the Jehovah's Witnesses as a sinister global cult to be unintentionally hilarious. I mean, I get that Miské wanted some Christian fundamentalists to round out his religious parallel, but there are so many worse Christian cults than the Jehovah's Witnesses. They're practically affable in comparison to the Westboro Baptists or, hell, any random Quiverfull or hard-core Born Again church.) Miské continually makes mistakes in his depictions of these religions; the worst was probably when he described a Jewish woman who wanted to learn more about her religion turning to the Bible. And okay, let's give him the benefit of the doubt that that might just be a bad translation from the original French. He still doesn't really seem to have any understanding of what would drive a person to become so religious, and at the resolution of the book (spoilers, I guess, but who cares) all of his fundamentalist characters easily accept that their superiors were just using them as part of a drug ring. There's no crises of faith here, whether accepting it or losing it. And ultimately none of it matters, because all of the religions turn out to be nothing more than a red herring.

The writing itself is a mix of stream of consciousness and postmodern literary nonsense, such that it's often not quite clear what's really happening and what's a fantasy. This is exacerbated by the fact that multiple male characters have violent misogynistic fantasies, which the narration seems to treat as hey, just one of those guy things, no big deal:
“It’s like there’s this knot tying together my father’s death, my mother’s madness and the murder of that girl at the warehouse . . . Everything’s lumped together in my throat . . . It’s like this thing that won’t go away. Like all the images that have filled my mind for so long. It was my father who died, for fuck’s sake, so why do I always picture myself killing women?”
“I see. What did they do wrong, these women?”
“Oh fucking hell!”

This plot detail is never resolved, by the way, it just seems to magically disappear once this character falls in love.

Or here's an entirely different character:
A young woman in a dark skirt emerges from the storeroom, her flip-flops clacking on the black and white concrete floor. She looks at him for a moment before speaking.
“Yes, sir, what would you like?”
To take you from behind back there in the storeroom – you pushed up against the beer crates and me fucking you up the arse. Not dry, oh no. I want to work it in with your saliva on my fingers.
“A Chinese beer, please. A large one. And some prawn crackers.”
“Take a seat, sir.”
Laura’s murder seems to have opened a very deep fault line, bringing him closer to the magma within, the lava of inner confusion. The elaborate crime scene, the potency of the imagery created by the killer . . . It was all speaking directly to his unconscious mind.
With a sigh Jean leans back in his chair and takes a long gulp, his eyes half-closed. Violence. His boyhood cruelty comes back to him. Toasting ants. The time he beat the hell out of a cat he had trapped in a cemetery with his friend Jérémie simply to let off steam. [...] SMASH IT BATTER IT

Which reminds me! Arab Jazz also chooses random words and passages to suddenly shift into an all-caps, oversized, centered font. Because there's nothing like dumb orthographic tricks to emphasize how ~deep~ your writing is.

The writing is awful, the plot is stupid, the attempted insights fail miserably: in short, don't bother. This book has fantastic reviews, which completly baffles me. But I guess if the very existence of Muslims rapping in French is a shocking new concept to you, reading this probably would seem exciting.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

Baumgartner’s Bombay by Anita Desai. Baumgartner is a German Jew growing up in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s. But wait: this is not – not exactly, not quite – a novel about the Holocaust. Instead Baumgartner leaves Germany before things get too bad, and takes a job in Calcutta. Eventually 1947 approaches, and in the riots and violence that led up to Partition, he leaves Calcutta too, ending up in Bombay.

This is not a novel about either of those tragedies. Instead it's a novel about a man who is forever isolated, forever an outsider, cut off from the community that even tragedy, at least, would engender. In Berlin he is not a German because he's a Jew. In Calcutta during WWII (still a British colony then, remember) he is considered an foreign national due to his German citizenship – but of course, he's not really that either. Afterwards he's a foreigner but not a Britisher, unable to take either the Hindu or the Muslim side during the Independence movement and Partition. Finally he is caught up in a small, random act of violence, killed by a petty thief and quickly forgotten by his neighbors and acquaintances (not really a spoiler since this happens on page one, and then the rest of the novel is told in flashback).

I've been meaning to read this book for literally years, since it's often recommended as one of the classics of Indian fiction, but despite searching I only managed to find a copy recently. After waiting so long to read it, it's not at all what I expected. It's a small short book, a quiet book, about a small, passionless life defined more by what it lacks than what it holds. The writing is lovely and the arc is a deep sort of sadness; it's got a mono no aware feel (wrong culture, I know), the beauty of loss and the wistfulness of impermanence. But I'd expected something grander, something more about The Meaning of India. And that's just not this book. It is worth reading though, at least if you want to feel sad for an afternoon.

What are you currently reading?
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, #13 in the Discworld series. I'd considered skipping this book on my reread – not because I don't like it, but because I love it too much. And therefore have reread it so many times that I was worried I'd worn out the appeal, and needed to let it rest for a few more years before I went back to it.

Obviously I decided to go ahead and read it regardless of the risk, and you guys. I'm so glad I did. I love this book just as much as I always have, and it's still the best thing ever.

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1:09 pm - National Poetry Month
On Reading Edna St. Vincent Millay by Carina Yun

I think about the morning's muezzin
waking me at four-thirty, his song
solemn, I'd stumble out of bed

and bend my knees on the soumak
rug not knowing whether to repent
for those mornings spent under

the fragrance of her umber hair,
the Turkish paper sprawled over us
as she read, or the mornings waking

to the smell of thick coffee,
poured into a ceramic mug painted
with her celadon eyes; it seems

her eyes follow me on deserted walks
over the Galata Bridge, the fisherman's
line pulling beside the fence, a trapped fish,

I wouldn't ever know why she threw
her pearls into the sea, I should have
forgotten her already, but her eyes,

I miss them, her breath I miss,
how to think of those days, as now,
when Millay describes the knots

that bound her beneath the earth's
soil, and the sounds of renewed rainfall
beating on the thatched roof.

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Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
11:28 am - National Poetry Month
Not With Flowers by Deepthi Gopal

The honeysuckle that you did not love

will twine its tourniquet around your grave, engrave

its own story in the space where yours belongs, seep

through every crack and crevice till even the stone

forgets your name; the hummingbirds will visit

but they will not care for you. I write this to you

because when I'm done I will be carried out to sea,

poured into the river’s mouth in a torrent of benedictions,

and you, buried weed-choked, will never hold me.

I write this to you in defence of the green growing things.

I write this to you to fill the spaces you left in your wake

where the honeysuckle once grew.

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Monday, April 25th, 2016
11:51 pm - National Poetry Month
Inland by Edna St Vincent Millay

People that build their houses inland,
   People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
   Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
   Tons of water striking the shore,—
What do they long for, as I long for
   One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
   Spanking the boats at the harbour’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for,—
   Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
   Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning,—
   One salt taste of the sea once more?

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3:43 pm
The Liar's Charm by Gillian Daniels

Cleave logic in two with your tongue.

Sharpen lies into fancy letter openers with scrolled brass handles.

Your head can think of a way to make a thing not what it seems.

It’s so good at fooling you, why not use it to carve reality into your

own liking.

Start small.

Tell him he is beautiful.

Tell her she is brave.

Repeat these things until they are not observations

but truth.

Turn her into a warring, fierce thing.

Make him blush.

Shape them with the sound of your breath between your teeth.

When you have remade them into what you want them to be,

push your powers further.

Explain to friends of friends you won the lottery once but it was all stolen.

Tell the police officer you have never sped before in your life,

this is your first time being pulled over for anything

except when you were small and shoplifted a can of Crisco without your

mother's notice.

Make sure to describe your mother's chill anger in detail.

Learn how to cut.

Tell the woman at the airport your flight hasn’t been canceled, what's

wrong with her?

Say, "The next round of drinks is on me," and leave right after.

Tell him he's ugly.

Tell her you always knew she was a coward.


Spells, once cast, break easily

no matter the silver sheen in your mouth.

Carve the illusion with care because the lie that breaks

slices the liar with her own tongue,

opens her up like a false love letter with a real heart inside it.

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Sunday, April 24th, 2016
2:26 pm - National Poetry Month
Storm by Ellen Bryant Voigt

one minute a slender pine indistinguishable from the others

the next its trunk horizontal still green the jagged stump

a nest for the flickers

one minute high wind and rain the skies

lit up the next a few bright winking stars the lashing of the brook

one minute an exaltation in the apple trees the shadblow trees

the next white trash on the ground new birds

or the same birds crowding the feeder

one minute the children were sleeping in their beds

you got sick you got well you got sick

the lilac bush we planted is a tree the cat creeps past

with something in her mouth she’s hurrying down to where

the culvert overflowed one minute bright yellow

marsh marigolds springing up the next

the farmer sweeps them into his bales of hay

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Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
8:38 pm - National Poetry Month
After the Changeling Incantation by John Philip Johnson

To become a goose 

had seemed important, earlier,

when he made the change. 

A gray goose for some reason, fat, 

with the ability to lift above

the archers' arrows,

fly past the leafless autumn trees, 

and cross the bowl of the mountain valley, 

beyond those far peaks. 

There was a mission—

to get something,

or to return with someone— 

some reason to be a goose

other than just gooseness, 

other than filling your wings with sky—

Hands drop the wand; 

feathers cannot pick it up.

We forget when we change

we become something else. 

Things mean differently.

He circled the great alpine woods, 

forgetting. There, below, 

knotted in the trees,

were the plottings of men, 

creatures like little gods, 

with their endless violence upon things.

They make such noise. They wail and bleed.

It is no place for a goose.

It is no place for one who can find

north and south within his body

and know which one to choose.

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Friday, April 22nd, 2016
2:13 pm - National Poetry Month
Winter by Kahlil Gibran

Come close to me, oh companion of my full life;
Come close to me and let not Winter’s touch
Enter between us. Sit by me before the hearth,
For fire is the only fruit of Winter.

Speak to me of the glory of your heart, for
That is greater than the shrieking elements
Beyond our door.
Bind the door and seal the transoms, for the
Angry countenance of the heaven depresses my
Spirit, and the face of our snow-laden fields
Makes my soul cry.

Feed the lamp with oil and let it not dim, and
Place it by you, so I can read with tears what
Your life with me has written upon your face.

Bring Autumn’s wine. Let us drink and sing the
Song of remembrance to Spring’s carefree sowing,
And Summer’s watchful tending, and Autumn’s
Reward in harvest.

Come close to me, oh beloved of my soul; the
Fire is cooling and fleeing under the ashes.
Embrace me, for I fear loneliness; the lamp is
Dim, and the wine which we pressed is closing
Our eyes. Let us look upon each other before
They are shut.
Find me with your arms and embrace me; let
Slumber then embrace our souls as one.
Kiss me, my beloved, for Winter has stolen
All but our moving lips.

You are close by me, My Forever.
How deep and wide will be the ocean of Slumber,
And how recent was the dawn!

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Thursday, April 21st, 2016
7:44 pm - National Poetry Month
October 18, 1990 by Michael Broder

God loves an expiration date. —Jason Schneiderman

Best when used

before date stamped on top,

sell-by date,

freshness date,

date of my diagnosis,

my spoilage.

I was better used before, safer.

But 10 years post-expiration,

you found me on a shelf,

intriguing, older

dating someone else.

You deemed me a safe emotional bet:

hypochondria would protect you,

you could never love a disease vector,

sustain such high risk.

But the heart doesn’t work that way,

and we were each other’s bashert,

the Jewish version of Zeus’s scales,

tossed dice.

Loving me, you had no choice

but to make good use of my infection.

You took it like a height to be defended,

built walls around it,

turrets, aimed your guns.

I knew you thought love would declaw you,

tenderness soften your edge,

or that you were Eurydice,

always disappearing

when a man looked at you over his shoulder.

But this time it was you who risked looking back,

took the chance you’d be the one

to emerge from love’s underworld alone.

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Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
4:25 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
Song Yet Sung by James McBride. A novel set in the 1850s in eastern Maryland, an area of swamps and uncharted rivers and rough living. Liz Spocott is the main character, a runaway slave who has visions of the future. Because of this, she is regarded as incredibly important by most of the other characters, who include Amber, a slave who falls in love with Liz; Patty Cannon, a vicious slave stealer who wants revenge on Liz for escaping from her hold; Denwood, another slave hunter – though one with a bit of a code of honor – who has been hired by Liz's master to track her down; the Blacksmith, the local leader of the Underground Railroad; and the Woolman, a feral black man who has been living isolated in the nearby woods for so long that he's forgotten how to speak English; plus an entire crowd of secondary characters. The book starts off with a bang but loses pace in the middle, wandering around aimlessly for a while until the dozens of plot threads come together for an energetic ending. I have to admit that I did get bored in the middle, but the ending was good enough to make up for it.

There's a strong thread of magic realism here, most obviously in Liz's visions (which are recognizable to the reader, though Liz and the other characters mostly don't understand what she's seeing). The functioning of the Underground Railroad is depicted as so intricate that it comes off as magical as well – complete with complex passwords, secret signals, morse code, spies, costumes, and more. My understanding is that most historians think it tended to be much simpler, but of course a secret code – and especially one that was illegal and/or likely to get you lynched – is exactly the sort of thing that doesn't get written down, so who knows. And, as McBride points out in his afterword, it's a great opportunity to indulge in a little fantasy. But there's real history here as well; Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King Jr don't actually appear on page, but Liz's story reflects each of them in significant ways.

The writing is beautiful, particularly the descriptions of the landscape, and the questions of good and evil, freedom and bondage, are very well done. The characterizations could be deeper, but overall I enjoyed the book.

What are you currently reading?
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské. You guys, this book is terrible. Weird post-modern writing style where I'm not even sure what is happening half the time, plus violent misogynistic fantasies from most of the male characters, plus apparently the bad guy is going to turn out to be the Jehovah's Witnesses, which keeps making me laugh. Also – this is petty – but the author does not seem to understand the geography of Brooklyn. If I wasn't reading this for NetGalley and thus need to come up with a review, I would have put it back by page two.

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3:05 pm - National Poetry Month
Written by Himself by Gregory Pardlo

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet

whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;

I was born across the river where I

was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,

broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though

it please you, through no fault of my own,

pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.

I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.

I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.

I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,

air drifting like spirits and old windows.

I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;

I was an index of first lines when I was born.

I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying

ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born

to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was

born with a prologue of references, pursued

by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing

off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.

I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;

I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
8:27 pm - National Poetry Month
From Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his Way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer...
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life...
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion...
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

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2:35 pm - National Poetry Month
Over and Over Stitch by Jorie Graham

Late in the season the world digs in, the fat blossoms
hold still for just a moment longer.   
Nothing looks satisfied,
but there is no real reason to move on much further:
this isn’t a bad place;   
why not pretend

we wished for it?
The bushes have learned to live with their haunches.   
The hydrangea is resigned
to its pale and inconclusive utterances.
Towards the end of the season
it is not bad

to have the body. To have experienced joy
as the mere lifting of hunger   
is not to have known it   
less. The tobacco leaves   
don’t mind being removed
to the long racks—all uses are astounding

to the used.
There are moments in our lives which, threaded, give us heaven—
noon, for instance, or all the single victories
of gravity, or the kudzu vine,
most delicate of manias,
which has pressed its luck

this far this season.
It shines a gloating green.
Its edges darken with impatience, a kind of wind.
Nothing again will ever be this easy, lives
being snatched up like dropped stitches, the dry stalks of daylilies   
marking a stillness we can’t keep.

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Monday, April 18th, 2016
3:14 pm - National Poetry Month
On Death, Without Exaggeration by Wislawa Szymborska

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

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Thursday, April 14th, 2016
2:23 pm - National Poetry Month
The Gardener by Rabindranath Tagore

Who are you, reader, reading my poems a hundred years hence?
I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the
spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
Open your doors and look abroad.
From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the
vanished flowers of a hundred years before.
In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang
one spring morning, sending its glad voice across a hundred

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Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
9:02 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky. I'm very into microhistories – books focused on a specific topic or single event – and Kurlansky is one of the best known authors of them, with his book Salt probably the best-known microhistory of them all. In this book, he takes on paper, which he defines very narrowly: "a very thin layer of randomly woven fibers", which excludes papyrus, parchment, vellum, and other materials that I'd thought were basically the same thing. Now I know better! And then of course there are all the paper-adjacent developments to cover: written language itself, numbers, printing, books, art (from watercolors to woodblocks to lithographs to photography), ink, newspapers, and even the American Revolution (after all, The Stamp Act was pretty important!). Kurlansky covers paper from prehistory through the Industrial Revolution right up to the modern day, where a trend for hand-made paper is pushing back against the last few centuries of machine-made.

Unfortunately I didn't think this book was quite as fun as the previous books by Kurlansky I've read. Still, it was interesting, and I particularly liked Kurlansky's repeated arguments against technological determinism – the idea that new technologies change society. Instead, as Kurlansky clearly shows, society changes first, and new technologies develop in response. At a time when people can't stop decrying the terrifying oncoming consequences of texting or email or facebook, it's nice to be reminded that people have been prophesying the exact same doom since the dawn of history.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

What are you currently reading?
Song Yet Sung by James McBride. A novel about escaping slaves, chosen mostly because of my intense obsession with Underground. (BY THE WAY HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN WATCHING THIS SHOW?? IT'S SO GOOD!)

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5:32 pm - National Poetry Month
Emancipation by Elizabeth Alexander

Corncob constellation,
Oyster shell, drawstring pouch, dry bones.

Gris gris in the rafters.
Hoodoo in the sleeping nook.
Mojo in Linda Brent’s crawlspace.

Nineteenth century corncob cosmogram
set on the dirt floor, beneath the slant roof,
left intact the afternoon
that someone came and told those slaves

“We’re free.”

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Monday, April 11th, 2016
8:01 pm
Drum by Rumi. Translation by Coleman Barks.

In this drumbeat moment of red flowers opening
and grapes being crushed,
the soul and luminous clarity sit together.

All desire wants is a taste of you,
two small villages in a mountain valley
where everyone longs for presence.

We start to step up.
A step appears.

You say, I am more compassionate
than your mother and father.

I make medicine out of your pain.
From your chimney smoke I shape new constellations.

I tell everything, but I do not say it,
because my friend, it is better
your secret be spoken by you.

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