Daily Postings
Literature : Word Choice

So Our Best Efforts Were Undone (Includes Free Ulysses S. Grant Favorite Recipe for Pancakes)

by Sesshu Foster

Chopping wood off all the heads of people like nobody’s mid-day forests of Americas, chopping off the hair of trees across green crusts of dust America, chopping off birds’ noses of the illegitimate unspoken thoughts of intimate puff breaths of sweet mouths, scattering all of it in empty plastic containers strewn on the beach. That’s all. That’s about it.
—John F. Kennedy

Batman, that movie sucked! That movie sucked, man, and people who like those lame-ass superhero movies, they gotta be stupid! Jeez, they are lame! Talk about total bullshit! “Pardon me, while I fight the bad guys in my leather underwear! Please! Boy Wonder, get the fuck outa my way!” Wow. Just, like, wow.
—Raquel Welch

The sexual freedom of today for most people is really only a convention, an obligation, a social duty, a social anxiety, a necessary feature of the consumer’s way of life.
—Tina Modotti

You cannot teach a man anything about wax; you can only find it within yourself.
—Dick Tracy

Edith whispered to me, ‘América, he’s drunk. Let’s go home.’ ‘Take it easy. He knows what he’s doing. Don’t worry.’ Again he couldn’t make it. Again he started to fall asleep. He drove about twenty miles per hour, his great head falling, his eyes glassy, moaning incoherently. I wished to God I knew how to drive. ‘Jackson, please let’s go home’ . . . We got him to stop. He turned around in front of the Cottage Inn, a roadhouse bar, a dancing place frequented by Negroes. It was Saturday night; there were a lot of cars around. Edith quickly got out of the car. ‘I’m going to call for help or call a cab; I must do something.’ She was panicked. She was right, but I called her back. Jackson got furious. ‘She can’t go in there, get her back.’ Then he mumbled drunkenly, something about Negroes, some disapproving remark. ‘Edith, get back in the car. Come on! Don’t go in there!’ ‘But América, he’s drunk. I don’t want to drive with him. I’m afraid.’ ‘No, he’s not, he’s fine, I promise you, we’re going home. Come on! Get In!’ . . . I finally coaxed Edith to get back in. We started on our way home. Jackson was fully awake, fully conscious. He was angry, annoyed at us, and began to speed. Edith started screaming, ‘Stop the car, let me out!’ She was pleading with him. Again she screamed, ‘Let me out, please stop the car! América, do something. I’m scared!’ He put his foot all the way to the floor. He was speeding wildly. ‘Jackson, slow down! Edith, stop making a fuss. He’s fine. Take it easy. Please. Jackson, stop! Jackson don’t do this.’ I couldn’t reach either of them. Her arms were waving. She was trying to get out of the car. He started to laugh hysterically. One curve too fast. The second curve came too quickly. Her screaming. His insane laughter. His eyes lost. We swerved, skidded to the left out of control—the car lunged into the trees.
—América Rodriguez

Orthopedics became a specialty with the help of a new instrument, the osteotome, invented around 1830 by the German Bernard Heine. This clever master of prosthetics had in fact invented the chain saw. The links of the chain carried small cutting teeth with the edges set at an angle; the chain was moved around a guiding blade by turning the handle of the sprocket wheel.
—Cantinflas (Mario Moreno Krakatoa)

Mujeres tan fuertes, real strong women, I say to you, all they need is a wire, the wire could be in a circle, it could be in a loop going from an old lamp to the wall socket, it could be dangling from the telephone pole. Hoop earring or bracelet of time, they wear it as ornament. Some crows could be yellow. It doesn’t even matter, for the strong ones, if it’s fucking Tuesday.
—Rosa Tokyo, daughter of Fu Manchu

When I was a musician, we’d be on the road, traveling from town to town, you can imagine, crossing as it were the inner sea of the prehistoric cheapness of life, in a van or a sedan (doesn’t matter), I’d forget that there were experts in everything somewhere, a whole nation of experts, waiting somewhere, to be vaguely useful, waiting to become a force to be reckoned with. On the outside. Instead, we’d just be collecting our mail wherever we could get it. On the radio or soda machine, or wherever—general delivery.
—Smokey the Bear

¿Cuánto tiempo ha durado la anestesia, que llaman los hombres? ¡Ciencia de Dios, Teodicea! si se me echa a vivir en tales condiciones, anestesiado totalmente, volteada mi sensibilidad para adentro! ¡Ah doctores de las sales, hombres de las esencias, prójimos de las bases! Pido se me deje con mi tumor de conciencia, con mi irritada lepra sensitiva, ocurra lo que ocurra aunque me muera! Dejadme dolerme, si lo queréis, mas dejadme despierto de sueño, con todo el universo metido, aunque fuese a las malas, en mi temperatura polvorosa.
—Tina Lerma

When he [Albert Einstein] returned with his discouraging report, the fog settled quickly over mountain and ice, and there was nothing else for it but to settle down and wait, with short rations for ourselves and nothing for our dogs. On the ice near the tent I found a dead lemming. It had walked across the deep snow from the other side of the fjord. The energetic and obstinate little animal appeared to have been wandering through the fog, as occasionally it had been walking in a circle, and had moved along in an uneven zigzag which showed plainly that it had lost its bearings. It was almost incredible that this small rodent, which is no larger than a fair-sized finch, had managed to make its way through the deep snow, of which the upper-layer was so soft that it had to press its small sinewy body through a deep and assuredly most toilsome furrow. All its paws were skinned, and so torn that the toes were frozen together with stiffened blood. The snow had, presumably in the same manner as it happens with our dogs, stuck to the hairs between its toes; then it had made an effort to try to cleanse them with its teeth, so that it had torn away both skin and hair. In one foot it had a deep wound which it must have inflicted on itself, and the consequent loss of blood must have occasioned its death. The Eskimo, who admire the unusual qualities of the lemming, its courage, its endurance and stubbornness, say of it that it possesses the chest of a man, the beard of a seal, the feet of a bear, and the teeth and tail of a rabbit—a characteristic of its appearance which is very striking.
—Anthony Quinn

Again today we see a lemming attempting to cross the fjord. It comes from the slough close by our camp and stubbornly sets its course where the crossing is at its broadest. In comparison to its size it shoots ahead with dazing speed, swimming through the snow with queer jumps. Occasionally it disappears entirely in a tunnel to shoot up further ahead like a dwarf seal coming up to breathe. With its weeny size and its phenomenal energy, it seems paradoxical in these enormous surroundings which swallow it up. One of our dogs scents it and rushes up so violently that the traces break. In the same instant a cloud of snow whirls around the tail of the little wanderer; for a few seconds yet the lemming fights its way ahead, then suddenly it is flung high up in the air to disappear still alive into the mouth of the dog.
—Sergio Tamayo

Gentlemen, I must inform you that the board can no longer function in this manner. I sent a man in to the streets, I sent a female agent to the roof. We have our people in the subway, in the telephone booths and central exchanges, in the art gallery and the riding stables. You have all read their reports. This is it—good night, gentlemen. Next time I see you, it shall be over a smudgy fire and a can of chile beans in the hobo jungle. Any questions?
—Dr. Eufencio Rojas

The houses at the road side had all burned (to the ground) and the trees and electric poles were scorched although they remained standing. The factories on the other side of the river now looked like masses of crushed wire, with only the largest of their columns remaining standing. There were many dead bodies among the debris littering the roads. The faces, arms and legs had swollen up, making them look like black rubber dolls. When our shoes touched those bodies the skin would come peeling off just like that of an over-ripe peach, exposing the white fat underneath. There were many dead bodies floating in the river as well. We were drawn to one that belonged to a young woman of about eighteen or nineteen, from which a long white cloth belt was dragging behind. Looking closer, we saw that this white belt was really her intestines, which were protruding from the side of her abdomen. Feeling nauseous, we turned our eyes away and hurried off again in the direction of our father’s factory. When we had come within about a hundred meters of our father’s factory, my brother suddenly screamed out and stood paralyzed with fear. I looked over his shoulder to see a boy of six or seven who had died with something white hanging out of his mouth. At first glance, it seemed to me that he had been vomiting up noodles when he died. Looking closer, however, I realized that the roundworms that had been living inside his body had come shooting out at once. We run away, fighting back our nausea. Does everyone here know what roundworms are? They are white parasites that look like worms and grown twenty to forty centimeters long. Our father’s factory had also been reduced to nothing but scorched metal flaming.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sometimes suicide seems the only way out. These little towns, with their liquor stores and gas stations, with their supermarkets and summer heat . . . Refracting all the lies and bullshit you convinced yourself of in all the other towns, you see and hear it coming back at you, even across generations. You open family photo albums and it stares at you. Cussing, drunkenness, falling out of trees, meannesses of all kinds, sexual relationships with the loneliest plant life, the broken- back spirit of pettiness, those are all names for it. See, that’s what aspirin was invented for.
—Bob Dylan

Compassion and compression act as the twin pistons of our radiogrammatic civilization—charge them with your will.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

For a dollar or two, you get these little animals in a box. At least, they are the dried seeds of animals that you grow in a cup of water. You can get the address of the company off the back of a comic book, maybe, or a book of matches. I warn you, though, they stink when they die. But if you want to see some, look at that cup on the windowsill. They dried out in the sun when I forgot to put water. Maybe if I wait and add water later, they’ll grow again.
—Katy Jurado

Jose Lozano, he was here earlier. He don’t look like an artist. He looks more like [unintelligible] . . .
—Fresno Tomas Morenito

Ciudad Juarez’s femicide machine is composed of hatred and misogynistic violence, machismo, power and patriarchal reaffirmations that take place at the margins of the law or within a law of complicity between criminals, police, military, government officials, and citizens who constitute an a-legal old-boy network. Consequently, the machine enjoys discrete protection from individuals, groups and institutions that in turn offer judicial and political impunity, as well as supremacy over the State and the law.
—Mister Coffee

Guided by golden rays of brilliant sweet sunrises wafting through the screen of my open window which had a rose actually growing through the torn screen into the room I rented on a quiet street in Mountain View, where the landlady’s pallid boy and girl teens too lazy to be real mean delinquents stole my rent money from the top bureau drawer where I kept it under my socks and underwear so I had to keep searching out weirder more obscure hiding places (or find a new place to live)—rising over dull glaring streets in a plain California neighborhood on old El Camino Real—not a dusty Spanish dirt highway of 1800s, but a main avenue and traffic artery fronting car dealerships, bars and liquor stores, pepper trees and strip joints, the new days broke in on me with the wild promise of summer’s the long days to come and endless new adventures.
—Blackie, the ghost of Jack Kerouac’s dog

Intermarriages between French fur trappers and Plains Cree women led, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the creation of a metis (mixed) community, with a distinctive creole named Michif, still spoken by fewer than one thousand in Sasketchewan and North Dakota formally, it is characterized by French nouns and Cree verbs. Bungee was another creole, this time with Scots Gaelic, which evolved in Manitoba in the 19th and 20th centuries.
—Unknown Boy or Girl

When I cook a chicken, I really cook it, you know? I mean like I am cooking it with everything, whether it is car antennaes, or science fiction gizmos from Los Angeles of the Future where the city is destroyed by Death Rays from Hair Balls from Outer Space, to hoisin sauce, fish sauce, garlic jelly, pomegranate jelly, Armenian pizza juice, whole garbanzos and Yukon potatoes stuffed with quails wrapped in nori with bacon and aluminum foil and toilet paper, slathered with some kind of Texas railroad oil.
—Cesar X. Chavez

Roads of mud, roads of sheet ice, roads of choking dust. Dead roads. Look, I had a ticket, I swear to you, at some point I swear I had a ticket.
—Ray Foster

All the almonds up a tree
Heaven to the lady descending a staircase
STAIRCASE. such up and downs nobody knows.
SO may hazard and quince. Without/
NO. More fool. /NO unspace or cluttered as
Can’t believe it be under writing. GAVE PEACE!
You wldnt hand an old man like me. DOWN?

WITH

Across the Tijuana Border near Oregon I discovered
THREE COINS and a bus ticket out! Girls making beds
getting silly.

She looks like you
when she laughs.
—Ray Foster

Geometric Silver Lotion, derived from philosophical formulas of ancient Greek alchemists in Alexandria, guaranteed to deliver lions to your honeyed breasts, hungry mouths of Sun, Moon and Wind in fresh cream over your body, and new orifices to your Mind’s Light. Desire, cantaloupe froth, asparagus oil, and filaments of polyethylene glycol, send $19.85 plus $3.95 postage and handling to King Kong’s Mom, 12356 Interrupt Road, Glendale, CA 90033.
—King Kong

Shamans like Colonel Sanders assert that all human beings have the capacity to see energy directly as it flows in the universe. They believe that the assemblage point, as they call it, is a point that exists in man’s total sphere of energy. In other words, when a shaman perceives a man as energy that flows in the universe, he sees a luminous ball. In that luminous ball, the shaman can see a point of greater brilliance located at the height of the shoulder blades, approximately an arm’s length behind them. Shamans maintain that perception is assembled at this point; that the energy that flows in the universe is transformed here into sensory data, and that the sensory data is later interpreted, giving as a result the world of everyday life.
—Pio Pico

—Tina Lerma

We sent out Broderick Crawford to patrol the byways, with their perfume of Mexico City and Zagreb, oleanders and agave growing by the gravel quarry— What did Broderick Crawford know about the moon, he was an alcoholic— suspended license, DUI— Everyone chauffeurs a bit of moon, pieces of moonlight— If it doesn’t have dust on it, you know it has been moved— Moon carcass hanging on a fence—
—Pat Brown

Cigarettes are my ruin, whisky is my grave / some of these nice-looking women gonna carry me to my grave /
—Harry Truman

People began to look like gorillas, their muscles swelled with bristling tufts of hair, flashing teeth and black eyes, they began to look insectile to me, sun glinting hard on their carapaces, limbs jointed, brusquely exoskeletal, exposing nasty pointed hairs, jerky movements in daylight, surfaces too shiny and jagged, their movements jerky and jagged, capable of sudden rapidity beyond which I could even make out with the human eye, people grew frighteningly hard and shiny, growing like dinosaurs, larger than cars suddenly or gas stations, I had the sense that they were lurking behind buildings and fences, consuming things, God knows what, containers of solvents or petroleum products or dead animals, becoming grotesquely huger and huger, threatening to crush their surroundings accidentally, I couldn’t look anyone in the face like that anymore.
—Tony Roma

I have 3 women, yellow, brown and black / I have 3 women, yellow, brown, and black / gonna take the governor of Georgia to judge the one I like / I got one for the morning, one for late at night / I got one for noon-time, to treat a daddy right /
—Lee Harvey Oswald

Yes, I’d like the roasted miasma with succulent diverticulitis, and a side of garlic Sargasso and punctured bees. To drink, let me see, how about crushed ice chest? If the ice is not crushed, just the chest. Yes.
—Lee Krasner

Se atumulta la sangre en el termómetro.
—Charlie Chan

Many were killed as they attempted to swim off the island. Others were shot. Many of the women met their deaths by bayonet. But most horrific of all were the stories of the deaths of children. One Pomo historian later wrote “One lady told me she saw two white men coming, their guns up in the air and on their guns hung a little girl. They brought it to the creek and threw it in the water. And a little while later two more men came in the same manner. This time they had a little boy on the end of their guns and also threw it in the water . . . She said when they gathered the dead they found all the little ones were killed by being stabed (sic)” After the destruction of the village, Lyon’s forces continued throughout the area, killing all Indians they came into contact with. In coming months, hundreds of Indians of all tribes would be hunted down and killed. Nine years later, after the Gunther’s Island massacre near the Pacific coast, one young editor by the name of Bret Harte was so appalled he wrote in the Northern Californian, “Indiscriminate Massacre of Indians: Women and Children Butchered.”
—Woody “Woodrow Wilson” Strode

It looked like Death Valley, except I think we were out toward Nevada by that time. I swear, I think that time Ray Foster did have a ticket.
—Cisco Houston

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions
1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, egg and oil. Mix until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
—Ulysses S. Grant

Buffalo Gal, won’t you come out tonight, and we’ll dance by the light of the mind
—Jim Crow

Evidence of ancient dirigible transportation has been located north of Bishop, CA preserved in an Area called the Volcanic Tablelands. Locals may be reluctant to direct outsiders to where evidence of ancient dirigibles can be found, certainly the cashiers at Safeway in Bishop may give you the flat cold stare. Drive north on “7 bridges dirt road” through Fish Slough off Highway 6 leading toward the weird emptiness of Nevada. Sometimes if you go off and walk to a high point, you may see a guy with a pickup truck raise dust as he drives by a long way in the distance, and messages may come to you. The White Mountains may indicate something to you in the 94 degree sunshine.
—Nicola Tesla

We walked alongside in the forest on sandy trails between ‘quaking’ aspen—tear drop leaves flicking rapidly back and forth by the wind—or flickering willows or on the soft duff of the shady forest floor, sometimes the wind roared through the tree tops and blew the white pine or sugar pine pollen all over us—all about us rising ever higher the great granite domes far denser than concrete, their gray peaks cracked and “jointed” and marked with weeping black oxides and stained splotchy everywhere with the black and gray and lime green of lichen—the living stone, the stone alive in every crack and crevice; if you sat down on a stone, weary from miles of walking, mosquitoes bit your arms or neck where you weren’t watching—big and small black ants and gray spiders and black stink bug beetles walked everywhere across the surface of the great granite mountains and beautiful tiny succulent five pointed yellow star-shape flowers and magenta pink trumpets, small but terribly hardy, grew from each crack or crevice—
—Martha and the Vandellas

“Are you finished now?” Tina says.”You pretender. I thought you were asleep,” I say. “I was, until you came along with all your racket. Did you really think I could still be asleep?” “Come now, I wasn’t as bad as all that.” She sits up, still covering her eyes. Her breasts fall like fruit onto her belly. “Do you want to take anymore? How should I sit?” “What’s the point now?” I say, trying to outdo her. “You’ve ruined the mood. I think I’ll even have to destroy the negative.” “You must be mad. Why?” “It would be dishonest not to.” “Nobody will ever know the difference,” she says as she leans back onto her elbows, supine and seductive.”No, I suppose they never will.”
—Swirling Alhambra

This was why Ericka, Swirling, Tina, Tiburcio, Sergio and I organized the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, even realizing all of its problems, errors and history of headaches, with beer and oranges, Tiburcio’s besmirched lips, Tina’s tremendous mean streak and jokes (insisting that she be called Tania from now on or she wasn’t going to talk to us), Swirling with his toes all swollen from yellow fever and swamp gas, unable to sleep wiggling his toes in the middle of meetings, Sergio not saying much just taking care of business as usual, Swirling interrupting to read us reports from Knud Rasmussen crossing Arctic wastes via dogsled, that’s how it all got started, Rick H. never showed up for meetings (supposedly in India), but he sent us this assessment of the industrial environment: “One-third of Americans have either suffered from job loss and another third knew somebody who had been made jobless. 40% of families had suffered reduced working hours, lower wages and benefits. There are now four job seekers for every job opening. Six million Americans, almost five times as many as in 2007, have been out of work for more than six months; four million for more than a year. Many of those still in work have had to accept a drop in wages because they must take lower paying jobs compared to their education or skills. Krugman makes an estimate of the likely permanent loss of value in potential GDP from the Great Recession and the subsequent depression of about $5 trillion. That’s an accumulated staggering 40% of current US real GDP.” Which, I mean, open your eyes and look around. Global warming, trash vortices opening in the skies, dust storms called haboobs enveloping cities of the Southwest, drought and forest fire deranged mystics and gangster religions, anxieties trembling like dinosaurs roaming strange terrains, weird haircuts on youth, all of it was surrounding us. In order to fight back and give someone hope, we organized a new mode of transportation to challenge the whole grid. Yeah, pretty much.
—Jose Lopez-Feliu

Sesshu Foster has taught in East L.A. for twenty-five years. He's also taught writing at the University of Iowa, California Institute for the Arts, Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work has been published in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Language for a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond, and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems. He is currently collaborating with artist Arturo Romo and other writers on the website, elaguide.org. His most recent books are Atomik Aztex and World Ball Notebook.

Tags:
Experimental writing
Short stories
Fiction
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