Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Brian Allen Carr. His new novel, Opioid, Indiana, is available from Soho Press.


 

This is Carr’s second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 135 on December 30, 2012.

Carr is the author of Sip (Soho Press) and other novellas and story collections, and he has been published in McSweeney’s, Hobart, and The Rumpus. He was the inaugural winner of the Texas Observer short story prize as judged by Larry McMurtry, and the recipient of a Wonderland Book Award. He splits his time between Texas and Indiana, where he writes about engineers and inventors at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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This isn’t a history textbook but history is happening. It was convenient weaving COVID-19 into the narrative of my day-to-day as a universally relatable backdrop but this isn’t like that. The pandemic was and remains tragic but it’s the result of microscopic pathogens that cannot make logical decisions for themselves; what’s happening now in America is the result of millennia of horrors by way of the brains and hearts and hands of humans who have had millennia to witness the harm wrought and vow not to pass the hateful torch on to their offspring. But no such thing happened, the horrors so ingrained they remained fabric, breaking point after breaking point. I was raised in an overwhelmingly white part of a suburb, where parents accused Black kids of infiltrating from an abutting neighborhood to parasitically suckle from the teat of our top notch public school system paid for with our hard-earned tax dollars. I can only recall a single African-American student from elementary school; his house burned down from some appliance gone awry in the garage and everyone knew, even the librarian, who in front of our whole class, treated him with disproportionate cruelty over unreturned Goosebumps. All four elementary schools streamlined into a single middle school and I became friends with Marlon, the funniest kid I’d ever met, so capable of making my gut bust our Geography teacher had to alter the seating arrangement so we’d be as far away from each other as possible, but that was useless, all it took was a single backwards glance, him pulling down his eyelids with his fingers and puffing his cheeks, and I’d once again disrupt the lesson; toward the end of sixth grade, we signed ourselves up to perform improv in the talent show; per audience suggestion, we got on our hands and knees and became cows, we pantomimed chewing some cud, then I made the low-hanging joke that he produced chocolate milk; our peers laughed, shouted more suggestions, and we went on with our act–I’m not sure whether I felt off about it then, or if its offness only comes now, over a decade later, superimposing itself over the memory, but the joke had no basis other than me viewing my friend as my “Black friend.”

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, TNB Poetry has created this space for BIPOC voices to shine. We will be publishing work by Black poets daily.  Black Lives Matter.


Is it a sin I get drunk with home?
That I fall in love so much?
I take dearly shots from the ardor
brewed in the states. I pledge to
serve my nation and bring glory home.

When I was born, no one reminded me
that I’m a helpless bastard; no one
reminded me of the day my stay starts
to due. Not for once has it crossed
my mind to think I’m too convenient
to stay, that I’m but a black-headed
threat to the place I call my home.

the Thursday morning storm in bed
with you while the cat sleeps perched
on his scratching-tree the room’s hot
the fan whirs and we’re draped in my
favorite childhood blanket seventies
pattern orange and brown lines like
heart monitor displays the green-
painted walls and faux-Japanese
writing on the wallpaper border
half-open drawers with clothes
hanging out gum and drool
a makeshift sheet we call the
blinds hanging behind us
gray clouds behind that
the roar of the garbage
truck workers handle
our last week in rain

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Natalie Diaz. Her new poetry collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, is available from Graywolf Press. It is the official June pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club

 

Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. She is 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, a Lannan Literary Fellow and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, a Hodder Fellowship, and a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, as well as being awarded a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Diaz teaches at the Arizona State University Creative Writing MFA program.

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why are you doing a self-interview?

Rich asked that I do a self-interview which really feels kind of weird asking myself or responding to my own questions. But I’m always asking myself questions, so I guess this is a part of a natural process for me.

I was born in a crossfire hurricane…(jumping jack flash – the Rolling Stones)

I’m acting out because I don‘t know who my daddy is,
the name space on my birth certificate says
“bad bitch, missus of mayhem.”
Who lets strangers name their daughter, Katrina?
I’m the bastard of 200 mph counter clockwise
rusted razor, coiled 150 miles wide
and vertical to the sun’s underbelly
ready to strike victim and innocence;
sent here to sever family below kneecap and Medicaid

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, TNB Poetry has created this space for BIPOC voices to shine. We will be publishing work by Black poets daily.  Black Lives Matter.


for N’Jadaka

 

Share? Huh.  Naw, son.  Y’all act like

air is some infinite resource. Some body

gon’ need to make a speedy exit off this

here block. Once, before I knew better, I did

like y’all taught me to do in grade school

when I was lost & walked up to the nearest

cop & asked how a boy could get off. & he

drank me in & said

 

on the tip of my cocked gun, ______.

Redrum

By KnightKrawler

Poem

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, TNB Poetry has created this space for BIPOC voices to shine. We will be publishing work by Black poets daily.  Black Lives Matter.


(This poem dedicates itself to the city of Jacksonville and its astonishingly high murder rate. It’s sad that every time I perform this piece in the hometown, majority of the audience doesn’t even seem to realize that I’m talking about Jacksonville. Hopefully this poem will get to someone that needs to hear it.)

This city has developed…a taste for something
The more it drinks…
The more it wants…
No matter what…spirit you crave for
You drink enough…it gets you drunk

There was a girl…that read a book
And for this…the girl was shot
This did not…begin the tragedy
But it made us…stop and watch

 

Nat is pregnant. Nothing remarkable is happening to my body besides the fact I’ve gotten fatter. We’re all used to that now. This started well before the virus. It’s her body where things are happening: my pregnant wife. There is a 6-inch boy-to-be somersaulting inside of her right now. That’s my kid in there. Life. 

 

We’ve been quarantining with my parents for over two months. Two months is how long it takes to be in a room watching a movie together, hear your father fart and have no one feel the need to remark on it. I could cry, or at least mist up, probably, if I kept really thinking about it. The closeness. All of us on pause from the inertia of before, with nowhere to be, in a room watching something dumb. Remember, we’re all going to (you know what)

 

We garden too, me and my dad. Dig out dirt from under a pile of dead leaves. Worms are a black gold bellwether. That’s what he mutters when I pitch some good looking soil into the barrel as he sifts through for rocks. Black gold. Black gold. We take turns wheelbarrowing the stuff to the little, planting square. Pick up speed with the barrel on the approach to the little hill. Watch out for the lilies, son. We plant rows of breakfast radishes that the deer won’t eat.

 

Dad grew a pandemic goatee. 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Brady Hammes. His debut novel, The Resolutions, is available from Ballantine Books.

 
Hammes lives in Los Angeles by way of Colorado and Iowa. His short stories have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, The Rattling Wall, and Harper Perennial’s Forty Stories Anthology.

He’s also an Emmy-Award winning documentary film editor whose most recent project, Tom vs. Time—about NFL quarterback Tom Brady—won a 2018 Sports Emmy. Before that, he edited the feature film Social Animals, which had its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW film festival. For more of Brady’s documentary work, please visit range-la.com.

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The chants grow loud, loud, louder
Echoing like waves throughout the masses, crying out for change.
The thumping in my chest,
a metronome for the lyrics
of the People drumming down these streets.

/no justice, no peace/

No, there will be no backing down,
no staying quiet,
no staying stagnant,
no staying complacent.

 

He asked me if I made it home okay in such a caring, fatherly tone I got turned on. We met in a writing workshop. He critiqued one of my stories by saying, “You’re very good at individuating based on the desires of other people.” The night before, we got drunk together at a bar near a reading with a thrown together group of acquaintances, and now he was closing in on me in the corner kitchen of another reading inside someone’s Bushwick apartment. I told him, “Yeah, I got home fine” and not “I spent two hours walking around Brooklyn near-blackout last night alone, took blurry pictures of buildings on my phone, and then masturbated about you until I fell asleep at 6AM.” I noticed him staring at me as I walked back to my seat to watch the rest of the reading. When I left he texted me, Where did you go? I couldn’t believe it. 

 

I read Paradise by Donald Barthelme as an excuse to text him. Then I bought the Harold Brodkey book of short stories he recommended right after. The first edition hardcover with a ripped jacket was $7 at The Strand.

 

I’m a sucker for ‘Innocence.’ I read it as a kind of metaphor for the reader/writer relationship, he texted me.

 

I read the story immediately. It is explicit sex for 30 pages. It is hot. I overlooked the narrator’s misogyny and the laughably written female dialogue because I loved the weirdness of the prose. There are times the oral sex pushes past the point of consent. He wants to give his girlfriend her first orgasm and she’s afraid to have it. Right before she comes he says she’s Good

 

We met at the Family Forever Noodle House in Riverhead in 1983. Does the name ring a bell? Despite the suburban setting, in those days it was not actually a place for families, nor was it family-owned or owned by someone who had a family. A series of divorces and emancipations convinced the original owners to sell, and all communal feelings went with them. By our time it was the good-for-nothing sort of eatery, a shrug of a building, kept up without a semblance of pride, with walls once white turned gray-green from monthly fumigation. More ambitious and expanding establishments shouldered us from either side, and sometimes so aggressively I thought I could hear a voice behind the walls ordering others to push. I might have preferred to work in one of those places, with their handshakes and napkins and general rule of respect, but then who knows what that would have meant for me. 

I worked behind the counter, U-shaped, if you remember, with a cold metallic surface in which one could find their reflection, at least where it was clean and not dented from customers reminding us of their absent meals. There were twelve stools around the counter, and most were put together so poorly by Mr. Davies—the cross-eyed owner who knew nothing about noodles, knew nothing about any cuisine, as far as I could tell, and who never had a family and bought the place so he could ruin it for everybody that did—that they consistently tipped one way or another when someone sat down. One was drilled into the floor a foot and a half from the counter, and whoever sat there had to count on themselves to balance their meals. It also happened to be in the direct path of the restroom. Of course, this was all to Mr. Davies’ liking, and not only did he refuse the simple work of unscrewing the stool from the floor and bringing it in, he even laughed at those who sat there and threatened not to serve them. But enough about Mr. Davies, the cross-eyed owner who never had a family and still has none. 

Why a Black man can’t breathe
In the land his ancestors
Built
Barehanded, chained, cuffed,
Brutalized, enslaved,
I won’t understand.
Knee on his neck, saying “I can’t breathe”
I. Can’t. Breathe.
The proverbial knee
Of white supremacy