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ROBERT DESNOS (1900-1945) was one of the original Surrealists, famous for retrieving poems from a trance state, for his love poems to his wife Youki, and for his self-sacrifice in the French Resistance. He was captured and died of typhus a few days after the liberation of Theresienstadt concentration camp, having survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
I lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.
I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.
You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?
Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.
1928 film “The Starfish” by Man Ray, featuring Alice “Kiki” Prin, Andre de la Riviere, and Robert Desnos
Terezina Concentration Camp, May 1945
I have dreamed so much of you,
Walked so often, talked so often with you,
Loved your shadow so much.
Nothing is left me of you.
Nothing is left of me but a shadow among shadows,
A being a hundred times more shadowy than a shadow,
A shadowy being who comes, and comes again, in your sunlit life.
The tripod is mustard, and it’s rainy.
The famous tower is fruit, and petals falling.
The vertical arm is swaths, and hair warmth.
The aluminum throat is Filipinas, and Arizona dirt.
The window champion is bold, and riffing darling bolt.
Suspicious juniper of gray must, and the general information.
Someone stretched out a marvelous hand.
Back to the streets
The Mission and the revolution, as lived and told by Roberto Vargas
In 1976 and 1977, Mission District residents, in solidarity with the FSLN, began quietly leaving San Francisco to join up with La Frente and pick up the gun in the Sandinista Revolution. Among them were Roberto Vargas and Alejandro Murguía.
“It was very romantic,” says Murguía. “If you grew up in the time after Che’s death, when you had Che’s figure calling for “1,2,3, many Vietnams” and a lot of different armed struggles going on all over Latin America, then it would seem logical, I think, if you were kind of young and crazy, that you would want to participate in some of these situations besides just doing solidarity work or organizing rallies. Also, the coup in Chile crushed our generation’s hope for electoral change in Latin America.”
East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines proudly announces its new El Sereno Station conveniently adjacent to the Red Car trolley line in the median of Huntington Drive abandoned September 30, 1951. Across the street from Lucy’s Market!
APPROVED MESSAGE FROM MOSAIC ROSKALNIKOV, FROM HUMBOLDT COUNTY TO LONG BEACH HE SENDS HIS LOVE
Swiftest flight freer than the sober whiskey of Love faster than a neuron in fact a neuron of a new body itself a lift on East Los Angeles Dirigible Transport Lines! Imagine the clean air, wildhaired rain, sunny radiowaves and spatial networks of Shit That Makes The Engine Run And Exhaust below with pretty lights, parties & the reading of fun fun poems & different states of Being where the flapping wings of birds touch, Long Beach to Huntington Park 20 minutes of the day or 20 days of the minute, they lemme sing up there Chavela Vargas songs like a gun of birth with my eyes of a mushroomcloud and nobody even flinched! & the wind howled throo my pockets & I lost my contents & stepped off that ladder like head first into the day & the sky still on my face & I was ready then to circumnavigate the big walls of empire and day-to-day drabness and my zero credit,
My name is Mosaic Roskalnikov and I approve this message with the taste of posole still on my breath.
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Mail Bag: Letters from Our Many Satisfied Customers
Sir. For this reason and others I commend you. As a regular and multisatisfied user of your cereal products I find my health measurably improved. By 16 at last measure. Such results! For too many years I was reduced to digging holes, hoping to discover therein the solution to your problems. O how the neighbors did object! After much practice and travail it became evident to me and all those dear to me that it is in the nature of holes that they do not contain solutions, or any other things. This is why our elders in their wisdom decided to call them “holes” rather than: “things.” Your groundskeeper tells me that this principle has been the great key to your success. Kudos, sir! From this day on, I expectorate with pride, and thank you for it.
Yours without restraint,
Dear Sir or Madam:
I have lost something important. While traveling in your inflated vehicle, I became confused. It was a pleasant feeling while it lasted, but having since recovered, I find myself dismayed by the price of your tickets, and by the uniforms of your employees, which are repugnant. So much velour! I am told the meals were excellent, but as for me, I did not care for the sensation of landing. Also the aerilons were overstated. I liken you to a bird lacking in feathers, beak, talons, and wings. In some essential birdness. In this and other matters, you defy all expectations. I therefore ask your immediate assistance.
Mrs. Stevedore Ware
Oddfellows Cemetery & Crematorium
Boyle Heights, Alta California
It is my pleasure to inform you that your services are no longer needed. Nor were they ever. Not by me or any of mine. Your organization is a boil on the gallbladder of this nation. Every time I shake out my shoes, there you are.
Golden West Minibike Sales and Service 4U
Toluca Lake, California
To Whom It May Concern,
I have often imagined floating above the Cinco Puntos carnitas and masa emporium on Brooklyn Avenue. Sixty feet above it more or less, and on a cloudy, breezeless day. This for reasons of my own. The flight path of your zeppelin transport line has robbed me of those dreams. I commend you for your hubris, but otherwise withhold all praise.
In bitter appreciation, bereft,
Mathilde Revista-Semanal, esq.
Monterey Park, CA
I have not yet had the occasion to enjoy your product, but I hear it is “pretty good.” I write to inform you of an investment opportunity that you will not wish to pass up. I am myself an inventor of a patented meteorological gust-creation mechanism that produces the finest and densest gusts of any machine now on the market. My competitors’ gusts do not stand comparison. Mine are speculative, feather-guided and potentially localizable. Being intelligent gentlemen, I am sure you are already fervently engaged in imagining the advantages the possession of my latest model (the PassingWind X-2000®) would confer upon your enterprise. Particularly when your inflatable dirigible vehicles hover, in all apparent innocence, above the prancing ponies of the Santa Anita hippodrome. If you wish to discuss this opportunity in greater detail, I can be found nightly in the last booth but one on the right (directly beneath the dart board) at the Solemn Sailor Basement Bar & Lounge on Eastern Avenue. I will be wearing a false mustache. Please make no mention of it.
sand and stones, my heart explodes,
I commend you! In all my years, your Genuine East Los Angeles Dirigibles are the most delicious fried delectables I have yet encountered. So delicate and with a perfect puff of sweetness. Will you send nutritional information chart? SASE enclosed for your convenience, minus stamp. Hence SAE.
my very best,
Amanda (from bingo night)
It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that I cannot accept your generous campaign contribution, which exceeds the limits specified under state and federal law. Also I have no use for so much helium. What were you thinking? See official certificate of appreciation, enclosed.
yours in service,
City of Los Angeles
My father, who is ill-disposed as far as fingers go, has asked me to write to you to express his appreciation. Perhaps he did not ask in so many words, not explicitly, but I am sure he would not frown on the endeavor. “Those dirigible fellows,” he likes to say. Frequently he says this. He never finishes the sentence. It’s always just, “Those dirigible fellows,” but I can assure you that his tone is one of great respect and admiration, as if the mere thought of you has elevated his existence to such heights as you daily traverse in the exercise of your labors. This tone is easily distinguishable from, for instance, the one he employs when referring to me, his only living child. “That shit-eyed son of mine,” is another of his favorites. Usually followed by a hocking sound. I imagine these two utterances as two great mountains, between which stretches a valley, a sort of dusky bog really, in which my father, fingerless, spends his days. Hocking. Up to his neck in it. The bastard. I thought you’d like to know.
1. because the belly grows out
2. because cars go everywhere
3. because tomatoes might say a lot
4. because one thing and then another
5. because some are whales
6. because of indecent colors
7. because of laughing
8. because of finishing
9. because of the ones who went before us
THE GOLD FOIL PEELING
THE MECHANICS OF SEXUAL
WHEN THE GAS STATION WAS BURNING
TO THIS DATE MORE THAN
WHEN I LOOKED DOWN
1939 – 1941
THEN IN THE THIRD TRIMESTER
CATHOLIC, SHE SAID
SAID THAT, I DON’T KNOW
WE RAN ACROSS THE STREET
FIRED INTO APPROACHING CARS
SWIRLING LACE OF BUBBLY
The sun went down in an orange band across the blue horizon. The ocean blue as the sky, on the cracked cliff at Davenport I watched. Swells rolled into the cove, washing over the sand, breaking against high conglomerate rocky benches, spraying shining pools across the rock. Just inside the cove, a single tooth three stories tall, a pointed fang of black rock, stood against the spray. The Monterey headlands far to the south jutted out far from the bay like an island, separated by mist from the Salinas valley. Below, the kelp matted in a thick purplish dark wrack rose at points here and there from the water like the heads of sea lions, as if peering out, as the swells rolled in and crashed in bubbly lace pools of foam, spreading coronas of bubbles in the backwash. And the surf itself turned a tarry chocolaty brown by dense kelp, went inky black as the sun became a red orange fireball on the ocean and sank. And I recalled the last bit of a dream I had on awakening to morning sun: Tom Agawa in New York City on a summer’s day, offering me his cell phone across the table of a sidewalk cafe. “Here,” he said, “Lali’s trying to get ahold of you.”
For Adolfo Guzman Lopez’s review of this reading, see http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/commentary/movie-miento/hand-30308.html
A hand came out of the sky and folded the origami. An octopus floated out of the clouds and enfolded the East L.A. dirigible. A shadow came out of the corner and slipped over the gaze. A mist drifted off the vegetation and crumpled over the feeling. The expectation creased the surface opening the bent perspective.