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By Benjamin Smith and Jake Kinstler

Note: this is a performance piece that I co-wrote as part of a collaborative reading series. It is written so that it can be read backwards or forwards; i.e., starting with either prose section, rearranging the dialogue as appropriate.

Our Forefathers Are Dead

        The snow fell on the living and the dead. Gabriel blinked: the mourners dressed in black, the lover going to the grave, the namesake in the novella. His words had been locked into place, black type on yellowing pages. His father had loved literature, he had died once too. At his funeral Gabriel had worn a blue tie. Today his tie was red, though it was hidden behind his black suit coat and overcoat. Father Flanagan addressed the mourners.

        –As we now bury our dear departed, he said, we must remember that death is not an end, but a passageway into a new, more complete form of life. He was interrupted by a fit of coughing that doubled him over. He straightened his back and looked at the crowd as if nothing had happened. Where she is now, there is no suffering.


CALLIOPE. Abba, abba, praise Him, I will join them both on high. I will see them again and meet my maker. I will walk hand in hand with Him and know him. I will see His face and they will be there with me in spirit, as I will be with them. It won’t be very long til this short life shall end. I will never weep again. I will.


URANIA. You’re already dead.  You’re dead and nothing happened. You’re a boxed up corpse with no one to hold your hand.  Except me, I guess, but good luck with that.


CALLIOPE. Could it be true? Eloi Eloi, lama sabachthani? Yahweh has gone the way of the old gods. Unless it is you… you, the serpent, the deceiver, the Father of Lies. Get thee behind me! I could not be dead because this is not paradise; I must be alive because nothing has changed.


URANIA. Or your capacity to notice change died with you.  Think about it: I’m certainly still alive, no serpent here.  Process of elimination says…


BOTH. The end is the beginning is the end again. Speak what you think, but only as soon as you think it, before it becomes impure. When you die, lay quietly to rest. Do not go gentle into that good night. Do not be quick to anger. Fools rush in. Leningradulations! You have, at last, discovered the meaning of life and death. So they tell you, so you believe. This is nothing more than a living half-truth.


CALLIOPE. What is the other half of a half-life? What is the tail side of a heads up? What is the outside of an inside? These and all other questions.


URANIA. What do you remember about half-lives?  And do we have to share this box forever?


CALLIOPE. Nothing lasts forever, as one person once said. Nothing is real, as another person once said. Nothing, as every person said once. Me, as every person always said. Us, as every person never said.


URANIA. No matter that I’m alive: what about next time?  Or the time after that?  This is no state to spend one’s time in.


Our Forefathers Are Alive

Assume quasi-static and slowly varying like those last few years together. Assume perfectly elastic bodies moving through a vacuum. Ignore the snow.  Assume X is both positive and real.  Assume a frictionless plane extending in every direction, though you stood beside each other and watched the sun set over a curved horizon.  Assume there exists a solution.  Assume your theories are correct even if you’d prefer the opposite, even when they mean you’ll never see her again, nor your father.  Assume statistical significance only when X ≥ .05 regardless of how well you remember her, or how often you forget.  Ignore Doctor Flanagan’s stare.


–We both know how long she was deprived of oxygen, Gabe, he said, but she could wake up fine next week.  She could wake up impaired next year.  Or.  He coughed into his hand.  What we do know is that she isn’t suffering


Portrait of an Ambulance Stuck in Traffic


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Siren lights were flashing but of course we couldn’t just move. Maybe they should call it a traffic peanut butter instead, but in any case, they weren’t going anywhere with all four tires gummed up. Christ! Our breaths were caught in our throats, you could feel the tension in the air like a fairy in a spider web, the arachnids licking their chops and tying their kerchiefs behind their cephalothoraxes. She (the fairy), was hanging over him, thrashing desperately but only tangling herself further in the sticky strands, his breaths growing shallower and shallower and shallower. Ole Finnegan sure took a tumble now didn’t he, from lively stirring song onto a flat printed page… albeit a page springing with life and twisted with many a meaning, the doors of possibility thrown open before him. All his dear friends were gathered around him there, panicking, praying, and fading. He doesn’t hear you, he whispered, and He never did.

We mourned and the Mayor gave the eulogy, in which he indicted the ambulance for its tardiness that, he said, cost Ole Finnegan his life, with the approving roars of the funeral mob drowning out the pleas and protests of the Paramedics. Put them in prison, he shouted to the people prodding the air with pitchforks. Someone mentioned execution and soon everyone was calling for crucifixion. Still the paramedics protested, but the mob could not be dissuaded, and at the Mayor’s behest three towering titans were raised in the city square with the final date set for Holy Thursday.

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On the Sandy Hook Tragedy


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The nation mourns today with the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left twenty-eight people dead, twenty of whom were students at the school. This is only the latest in a long line of mass shootings over the course of the past several years: the shooting at a Dark Knight Rises screening this past summer, the shooting in Tucson, Arizona last January that injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the 2009 rampage at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas by a deranged Army psychiatrist. Cleary, something must be done. The U.S. government offers the following plan, designed to prevent further national tragedies to gun violence while preserving the Constitutional freedoms treasured by all Americans.


Firstly, it is important to remember that it is not guns that kill people, but people who kill people. The Second Amendment of the American Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms, and each American has the right to protect him or herself from potential threats. I propose that we introduce more guns into our schools. By slashing the budget of the Bureau of Education and disbanding teachers’ unions, we will be able to provide every student in America with a gun, which they will be required to carry on their persons at all times when in school. If only the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook Elementary School had been armed, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.


In addition to providing guns to America’s schoolchildren, it is also vitally important that they be given to the nation’s mentally ill. As these Americans possess mental factions that are working at less than full capacity, it is essential that they are provided with the best protection possible. Therefore, each and every mentally ill American shall be provided with an automatic handgun. These weapons shall be paid for through cuts to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Though it is the right of every American to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Constitution, the United States government does not propose that guns be provided to known criminals, illegal immigrants, recipients of federal aid, or others who have proven themselves to be unworthy of freedom. As a result, the United States government will deploy forces to states which have, in recent years, been the sites of horrific sites of gun violence, such as Colorado, Texas, and Connecticut. Though military action may seem like an extreme measure, it is necessary to curtail this recent crop of national tragedies. The United States government asks for the support of its citizens in its attempts to curtail the violence in these rogue states.


With these actions taken, the only remaining course of action is prayer to our Almighty God. As it says in our nation’s Constitution, “He is the way, the truth, and the light,” and we must turn to Him in this time of national tragedy, as we do in all times of tragedy, for His ways are just, and He will give us rest.

Exorcising Helen


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Note: I’d almost forgotten I had this blog. I suppose I can post some new stuff.


“Release me, Helen,

You stonehearted bitch through whom great Troy

Was laid waste –

Your charms can no longer seize my head.

I have seen past your platinum mask,

Your true face, your true figure.

My mind is mine, and only mine own.”


Such I told her silently,

In a whisper that could not force itself through my lips,

And in my throat such terms

Folded and died.

The will of the gods and the Fates has decreed:

You will escape the clutches of the destruction you caused

Merely by your existence,

While I am damned to wander forever,

Alone without a home.

A Murder Ballad


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It was unbearably hot outside, even at night, and the heat followed them wherever they went. Extreme temperatures may not have been uncommon or unexpected – especially not in this part of the country at this time of the year – but they still took their toll on the energy levels of the campers, at least until the sun disappeared over the horizon, after which the moonlight and stars instilled in them a new, demonic kind of energy, crackling through the air with sinister purpose.

They hissed her name but she still took the time to close the cabin door as quietly as possible, lest she wake and incur the wrath of some counselor whose mind was so bogged down with scripture she had forgotten the fiery passion that burns in the bellies of youth. Hers burnt now, thinking about a smile and laugh that was waiting for her on the other end of the night.

“Alice!” Mona hissed again, her eyes flashing with mingled excitement and fear. “Come on! We’re already late.” Mona was right, of course, like when three years ago she had told them that they needed to quiet down unless they wanted to get caught, but the girls laughed and ignored her and continued their gossip by the light of flashlights and cell phones, and when Miss Patricia (never Pat) had come in she had screamed until her face had turned purple, and as if that wasn’t bad enough Mr. Bodett had talked to them the next day about obedience, with Patricia never Pat standing behind him with her arms crossed and her mouth a thin line, perfectly still. Still, she was Mona, and Alice’s step slowed almost on its own as she darted away from the door, smiling to herself. Continue reading

An Update

No writing this time — however, I am close to finishing the first draft of the longer work earlier alluded to… so close, in fact, that I may finish it after I post this. This should mean more posts soon, both excerpts from the novella and some new material (short stories and such).



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Another one from the scrapbooks. The primary reason that I haven’t really been posting any “new” stuff (or recently written, at least — it’s all new to you) is because I’ve been working on a longer work and that takes up all of my writing time. I plan on posting some excerpts once it’s nearer completion.

Instead of thinking that it’s something

Know that it’s everything.


One spine broken

Among many fresh



Mothers covering children’s eyes

This body isn’t on a TV screen.


The writer flew

Until the ground stopped him

One spine broken

Many bloody.


In his scrapbooks:



They tell something no one knows.


The shelves watch over him.

You can’t judge a book by its cover,

But the cover of a book will judge you.

In My Time of Dyin’


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Note: An experimental poem I wrote while reading Finnegans Wake around this time last year. Oddly, upon reading it now, it has a different meaning than I had in mind when I wrote it. I take this as a good sign.

Sweet soft Golden

(crowds of people, enormous, gathered together to applaud and celebrate YOU, the individual, the abstract concept, all that glitters, they present you with forty-two, everything that you’ve ever wished for is there because everyone, Vico takes a bow and shakes a plow [odd for him] and takes the time only to point out the circular shape of clocks and the cogs that make them tick, things, so many)

Forty, Go to

(fragments of glass shards, 2, goodly only as those presented us see fit, the lonely Solid Rock upon which is perched the Rowan Oak, sunken sand, worry not my good man the British Royal Navy remains here at your personal disposal, Like Your Cock if You Have One, she is, my mother, is is was, if is is was, if is was is, and Other Stories, all presented by yours truly, in our time [or His], 9, goodly poems, That really is quite a lot, Quite really, Alot)

La la, la la la la.

Softly spoken slipping

(Her another, him, if there were enough in the first cup then there would have been, Do you think the President masturbates?, Who hasn’t?, Q: Which Presidents have masturbated while in the White House?, A: None, if we don’t think about it!, he also stands naked [though that’s been touched on], Head of State minus Head becomes of State, comes head, splits state, is was is, is is is, Don’t Stop thinking, Tomorrow born Yesterday, Trouble everyday Americans, my fellow comrades, rise for the flag salute, no, no, none)

Bright shining bright

Windy, I’m home,

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,

(So that’s that’s that’s that’s that, eureka, bleeding black pens, what did you hope to accomplish?, What I have is mine for so long but I can’t give it away, I do do, Slipping)

Good morning!

Zappa and Zimmerman


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Note: Upon doing some rudimentary (Wikipedia) research, I found that I had unwittingly taken some poetic license in the second stanza. I kept it, however, because I felt that Caesar served his purpose as a symbol, and because poetic license tends to be acceptable in poetry.


A December day cold and snowy in the age of sweatbands synthesizers Ronald Reagan saw

Two men of musical genius meet one and another to conceivably embark on an odyssey of sound.

On his doorstep, the other jacketless open-shirted and standing still like an apparition of imagination,

Inside at the piano with hair like Einstein and humming with the cadences of Shakespeare;

The man with the mustache, fingers tobacco-stained and string-scarred listening to himself remembering How does it feel,

So much penned consciously and unconsciously valiant revolutionary efforts of sound, heard never enough by everyone, who needs it.

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