My piece with poet Dolan Morgan for Parallax II, a collection of broadsides published by Singing Saw Press.
I’m a planet among apes”
— Fantastic poet whose name escapes me, recently featured at Picasso Machinery reading series
Oh man. It’s not every day that I receive an uncorrected proof of TWTKCD in the mail. Especially not every day that I receive it in order to bring to a small award ceremony. Okay!
BOUND BY CHANCE: this Saturday from 3-5PM at Ace Hotel New York. Featuring a zine with stories by: Bill Cheng, Myke Cole, Rachel Fershleiser, Roxane Gay, Chelsea Hodson, Edan Lepucki, Thomas Page McBee, Sarah McCarry, Dolan Morgan, Travis J Nichols, Rajesh Parameswaran, Danniel Schoonebeek, and Emma Straub.
More information about the rolling of the multi-sided die here.
Should be fun!
Tom Oristaglio and I made a newspaper. I stole a bunch of lines from old articles about fires in NY and Tom created insane collages from old documents and books. It’s called “New York City Fires” and we will start sharing them on March 21 at Mellow Pages Library.
Future Lawn Ornaments
Our lawns are the faces of our lives. What will our life-faces look like in the future? We may never know, but here I dare to speculate.
Moving toward the future, ever more cities appear. Unfortunately, one common characteristic of the city is: no lawns. Therefore: no lawn ornaments. What can be done about this dilemma? If we place a small home just on the outskirts of the city, facing inward, its lawn stretching forward into the streets, might we not say that the city itself is a lawn ornament? In lieu of being deprived of something, it is instead best to become what you want because, so far as I know, we do have ourselves. Being what we want is having what we want. Making the city into a lawn ornament is giving the city a lawn ornament.
Diet drinks and foods let us enjoy gluttony without being truly gluttonous, and locking ourselves inside houses, behind gates in rooms with thick walls and security cameras, helps us not covet our neighbor’s wife. With the advancement of laboratory-generated tiny black holes, placed on our lawns, we won’t need to covet our neighbor’s possessions or steal anymore – because our tiny black holes will suck our neighbor’s things onto our property by simple laws of physics. Nor will he be able to accuse you of stealing or coveting – because not only his things but also he will be sucked into our black lawn-holes. Also you and everything else. And once you have everything, you won’t be able to covet or steal it anymore.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lawn ornaments are often placed to elicit emotion. Throughout history, however, one emotion has been the primary focus – happiness. In the future, we will not be so narrow minded: we will expand the horizon and scope of lawn ornament emotion technology. Using the power of the seasons, changing rapidly from winter to summer to spring to fall right on our lawns, we may rapidly affect the emotions of ourselves and our neighbors. Having our emotions change so quickly will make us not feel any one of them in particular, but an entirely new blend – much like the spinning spokes of a wheel become one shape the faster they go.
The feeling of being on the edge can add ambition and spark to our lives. For those who want a do-or-die attitude – and those of the future may perish without it – equipping our lawns with unsettling perches, ill placed objects, and potential-energy-rich artifacts will stimulate our adrenaline. In addition, vertigo inducing gases, jagged walkways, and rickety planks above deep lawn chasms may just give you the preparation you need to deal with what the day holds in store. After all, if you can’t make it out the door, you won’t make it out there.
Contamination has never been a stranger to lawns – and it will not be a stranger to the future. Pollutants, bacteria, and disease infect as much as possible. Thus, sterilization via extreme heat will be a necessity. We will bake anything suspicious using lawn autoclaves. Of course, the future’s autoclaves will not be identical to those of today. Vast conductive metal improvements may allow emotional and psychological sterilization to occur as well. Setting our heads on fire on the lawn will be like stepping through the sprinklers: briefly, it helps us forget something worth forgetting. Later we might grow tired of the effect, but we will keep the autoclaves running.
It is said that the moon once collided with a young earth. Billions of years later, the two are divorced from one another – save for the weak bond of the tides. In the future, we may use hooks and pulleys to draw the moon closer to our homes, thus dragging and dredging up water from the ground beneath. The tides will rise not from the ocean but from the earth and soil. Our lawns will be the new coastlines, every house beach-front property. Children and pets may be lost in the undertow of their own homes, but they always wash up somewhere. Get in a barrel, close your eyes, and find out where the lawn tide goes. As well, despite many attempts, surfing will not catch on.
Our lawns will puff up with puss-filled bubbles while cocktail parties make small wagers on when they might pop. Leprosy and scabies will be available online at the same place we buy printer cartridges.
The lawn is often a place of relaxation. In the future, we will maximize this property with magnets. Placed strategically on our lawns, superconducting materials will make our leisure time even easier. Simply put on your polarized suit and let the forces of nature propel you about the lawn, bouncing from magnet to magnet, limp as a rag doll. Flopping like a fish with our eyes closed and our arms open will be better than any lawn chair. If planned accurately, this may make simple yard maintenance easier. With even greater precision and mathematical ingenuity, one might enter into the lawn magnet track and never have to make a decision again.
We cannot always rely on our bodies. Legs give out, lungs get tired, and muscles ache. Just as much, the brain can be strained and have difficulty functioning at peak levels. In that lawns are also meant to be a reflection of who we are, macroscopic webs of our neuro-transmitters will be popular lawn fixtures. When we are depressed, we will know that our brain is not functioning well or producing enough dopamine, and we will then stand on the lawn suckling from our neural replicas while lightning bolts and chemical reactions spill all around us. As we drain our neural facsimile of serotonin and dopamine, we will ignore the fact that this enormous deaf, mute, and blind version of ourselves grows ever more depressed the happier we get. We will be left to wonder what makes the dopamine levels rise when we are done – what could possibly make it happy again?
As the population grows, it will be more difficult to weed out who is worthwhile and who is not. Billions upon billions of people will cross our paths – how are we to know who we should interact with and who we should avoid? Booby traps. Only the worthy will pass the battery of physical tests and clever traps you plant on the way to your home. Crossing the lawn will be a testament to intelligence, character, and eventual intimacy. It will be imperative that we get to know each other before we enter one another’s homes. As we gain empathy and understanding for another person, we will be better equipped to dodge the spikes and hop the pits of their lawns.If on your way to see a friend, you find yourself hanging from a tree by your ankle, dangling on a rope, you will have to ask yourself: how well do I really know this person? Of course, some will prematurely barrel through all the trap doors and rocks just to gain a small understanding of other people. You can learn a lot about a person by the traps they set, and lying at the bottom of a well covered by over-sized palm fronds – you will.
The Place Where Rooms Go When No One Is In Them
Once it is finally proven exactly where rooms go to when no one is in them, to what place they descend or ascend or waft to, we will hone in on its location through sonar triangulation and open a connection to it. On our lawns, slits in the air will look in on the expanse where empty rooms arrive, and we will watch them come and go. Bedrooms and dining rooms, ball rooms and conference rooms – all of them will pass through. Some rooms will never arrive in this place, while others will remain almost permanently.
Traditional Japanese theater will make its way to our lawns, slithering across the Pacific like an eel over rice. When most of the land mass of earth has floated away into space, only our lawns will remain, held down by the weight of their ornaments. Kabuki dancers will find sanctuary there in front of our homes, looking toward the sky where states and nations float like little moons. Cloth flowing and makeup running, they will dance for no one, they will dance for us.
Synthetic meats woven from cotton and terrycloth will be the norm in the future. As these “meats” will never spoil, they can be kept for extended periods of time. They will need no refrigeration and no protection from the elements. As such, delis across the nation will go under, their cases left on street corners and behind dumpsters. Deli workers will roam the night, looking for cold cuts to hawk or fresh produce to mingle. Once their cases are grabbed up by homeowners and inevitably used as lawn ornaments, the deli workers will appear like zombies behind them, smiling and as if from nowhere. Some will say it is out of pity or charity that they are left alone, but the truth is that the Deli workers will me immovable. They will be timid at first, but will gain confidence. Soon they will bring a barbecue to grill imaginary lemon and Cajun chicken, then a soup display and a magazine rack. Just to pass the time, or out of awkward silences and uncomfortable glances, people will pretend to be customers, taking their time ordering from a list of sandwiches that will never be made. Eventually, the delis will blow away, much like a fog.
Bury them in the bushes and wait for teeth
When we begin to populate the oceans, careening across the surface in our floating cities, we will trawl the ocean floor with enormous continent sized nets. Some excess catches will be dispersed to the poor and needy, but much of it will be bought up by homeowners for their waterfront lawns. Grilled and drenched in garlic butter, thyme-sprinkled jumbo shrimps will be scattered across the green grass of our yards like a delicious brush fire. In the middle of the night, we will wander out onto our lawns, gobbling up the ornaments while we rock gently with the tide.
The Miracle of Birth
Soon, genetically engineering and producing offspring will be safer, more accurate, and – most importantly – more common. In time, it will be the preferred method, leaving traditional birth behind with bloodletting and rock lobotomies. It will also render useless the Miracle of birth – which will have no place to go, wandering about forests and valleys like a specter, dejected and abandoned. Handy craftsman will briefly helm the Miracle into a usable tool, birthing wood from trees, and nails from hammers. Placed on our lawns, the Miracle of birth will generate objects from nothing, will replicate stereos, chairs, and sprinklers. Yet, we will tire of this Miracle and throw it away. We will see it in the night pecking timidly through our trash and making a nuisance of itself. Old women will shew it away with broomsticks, and strong men will set traps and douse neighborhoods with noxious sprays and tinctures. Animals will go missing, socks will be lost. The Miracle of birth will be under the bed, behind the door, in the closet, its teeth slowly rattling.
As technology gets better, we get worse. Soon cars will drive themselves and food will unwrap itself, hop in the oven, and saunter to your plate – all while you rest in a chair that reclines as the chair, not you, deems necessary. We forget fire and how to make it. Robots know and machines, but not us. We will be in the dark. Our fascination with it thus returns. We will try to understand it again. Like Boyscouts, we’ll huddle on our lawns with sticks and brush, trying to get it right, becoming superstitious with determination. When we reinvent fire, though, it will be different – colder, more distant. Us and fire, we sleep in separate rooms.
The world only gets faster. Transportation, communication, and everything else will whiz about at enormous speeds and with great precision. We too will careen through towns and cities from job to home and store to store, buying and working and cooking and talking at thousands of miles per hour, our cheeks stretched to full capacity. For a moment’s respite, we will fly by and desperately cling to our lawn hook, holding us in place to enjoy no motion. All around us the world will zip by. We need only open our mouths to be fed, our eyes to be entertained, and our arms to be loved. Everything comes to us instantly – and then leaves us just as quickly, our orifices open, empty and still.
Some societies and cities will grow ever smaller, shrinking their people down as well. Our cities will rest on protons, buildings reaching through atoms and into the field of electrons. Glorious views of the atomic horizon will be an ever present tourist attraction for miniature cities. We will place all numbers of elementary particles on our lawns, chief among them being the gluon. This massless particle inspires us – it only slightly exists and is its own antimatter. On our lawns we will both sit and stand, walk and run – all at the same time, and also none of those things. We will hit our wives and caress their cheeks, but in actuality we will only do one and just as much neither. We will make mistakes, irreversible, that never actually occur. We will take no responsibility and we will take all. In the future, we become massless, our own nemeses, and also our only friends in a field of blackness – and of course, neither. We won’t know who or what we are, but that’s what holds things together, tight and almost trembling.
Thousands of people will congregate on lawns to copulate, one couple atop another, shimmying and shuffling like snakes or larva rolling up a fleshy embankment. Like sea weed, the tower of people interlocked and undulating will sway in the breeze, a fine human mist spraying out over the homes, bodies falling here and there, hair splayed out like spilled sauce, toes curling, legs flailing. The fog descends over lowlands, a fertile monsoon blanketing the plains, and the crops are harvested for teeth.
Repression isn’t easy, and managing it successfully requires hired guns with impeccable aim. The things we try to forget will hover about our homes waiting to attack. Bad relationships, sexual confusion, regrets, addictions – all eventually storm our houses, climbing the ducts and drains, scampering across the gutters and up through the plumbing, then into our heads as dreams or tingling. We can’t arm ourselves enough. But snipers can: they don’t know from our memory – and they won’t mind killing it. And what a relief it will be to see our memories dying on the lawn, trapped and wheezing. It’s nice at least just to know where they are.
Children will cut through the fabric of space and time with candy and streamers, diving in through a sandbox. We will follow them and stand on the outside of everything. Our new cities beyond the cloth of existence will roll outward in all directions – people, buildings, and shopping malls spiraling inward, forward, backwards and through one another, wrapped around strings of enormous space and endless time. Men will chase women around the curve of the universe barefoot and screaming forever, and we will tether our dogs to all places, leashes strung around the thick trunk of everything. Manufacturing moguls will manage to mass produce it, selling for cheap. Our lawns will be littered with used up everythings, put aside out of boredom or apathy like used condoms or orange peels. There are better things to do.
Explorers head out on safari, digging deeper into the most unknown places on Earth with rifles and cannons and lasers and bombs. Lives will be lost and many hardships endured, yet they find nothing. Determined, they hunt it down and capture it. Ankles wrapped in twine, nothing will be dragged by its spindly legs back to the civilized world and displayed on museum tours around the globe. It will be all the rage to venture into the wilderness with a rented guide, rifle in hand, and seek out nothing. Like deer-head mounts and stuffed birds, tourists display their nothings as trophy kills, adorned with gold plaques – and set majestically on the lawn as a symbol of their power.
The tracks will lay themselves – and trains will come from all directions dumping dumbfounded strangers on our lawns. They put on our clothes and eat our food, hug our children, kiss our husbands and wives. Scared and confused, we board trains and buses as well – leaving our homes behind only to arrive on a stranger’s lawn – where we assume the responsibilities of their life. We will move with the traffic, like fish, from house to house and life to life trying on the shoes of everyone in town. Every time we slip on a new shoe, we expect it to feel different, but it won’t – because it’s the foot that feels, and the feet don’t change with the shoe.
Purchased as dried flakes and bagged air tight, Castro will be brought home and sprinkled into the soil. He sprouts up in early Spring and blossoms by May. Watering him, he will grow up to fifteen feet tall – with toes stretching and spreading hundreds more into the ground. Harvesting him, we shear off his beard and boil it down into a fine reduction of hair and dirt. We sew him into sweaters and hats. We wear him and dry him on the line.
Wireless networks will fill the atmosphere so thickly that fish float from the water and into the air, breathing information – emails and pornography borne through blood red gills. Rainbow trouts will flock about our lawns – where we put them in our mouths, letting them whisper stock market tips and slip coupons into our throats.
The freedom to choose may be located on the back of our neck – like a mole grown inwards. Not needing it anymore, it will be removed and planted as if a nut or kernel, then maintained like a bonsai tree, delicately trimmed and nourished. When it blooms in spring, decisions sprout from its branches, unmade and worthless. We will look at the decisions we didn’t make, the ones that have fallen there on our grass, drying out and crunching beneath our feet, and we will wonder how we ever could have done a thing like that. But we never did, really – it was the tree throughout.
Someday, we will no longer need to breath. When we are done with it, we will place breathing on the lawn. Lingering, it makes a song there, a waltz. Or a tango? We will clasp hands and dance, with our breath all around us, like the smell of freshly cut grass.
In the future, the permafrost of northern nations will creep across the globe in trucks and vans. We will stare into the horizon as they come up along the highways in droves like caterpillars draped on asphalt branches, locusts tiredly crawling to a new home. The world will unravel around us – trees splaying and shattering into the wind, the dirt and soil wafting off in cloudy tufts, rocks rolling wildly into the East – and we will feel our bodies exchanging molecules with the sun, with the neighbors, with the dog shit on the slowly warping sidewalk. The permafrost trucks will dump their loads onto our fading lawns just as our homes burst open and disperse in chunks of wood and piping. The grass beneath our feet will blow in rhythm with our hair until both are gone, forgotten. We will step onto the permafrost at the moment our world tapers off to a final point, like a tricycle falling from the edge of something no longer seen, and we will stand there as it melts forever, as it permanently releases methane into an atmosphere that struggles to remain.
Michael Seidlinger has put together an insane preview of upcoming indie press releases. I’m excited to be listed among so many authors I admire, and am super thankful to Eric Nelson for sharing some kind words about what I’ve been doing. Woohoo!
A lot of magazines charge a reading fee for a writer’s work to be vetted for publication. I’ve decided to charge a reading fee for magazines to consider my currently available work for publication.
people say things about my book
“Between the moment you lose something and the moment you realize it has been lost is That’s When the Knives Come Down. In the spirit of Donald Barthelme, Dolan Morgan queers the every day and leaves a sinister domestic scene behind.”
— Catherine Lacey, author of No One Is Ever Missing
“The stories that comprise That’s When the Knives Come Down are unpredictable, wry, seductive, and breathtaking. The mysteries here are not metaphors, and Dolan Morgan’s worlds are not created in the service of our humdrum one. These places shimmer, expand, contract, blur, and somehow remain whole all the while.”
— Nelly Reifler, author of Elect H. Mouse State Judge
“That’s When the Knives Come Down is a series of broken parables, of roundabout answers to questions nobody asked, of dreams you can’t quite remember but felt so strongly about while you were having them. We are lucky to have these elusive things here, now, on paper, in front of us. Also, it’s funny.”
— Russ Woods, author of Wolf Doctors
“Dolan Morgan’s stories in That’s When the Knives Come Down are finely wrought puzzles of humor and grief and the absurd. Read them and feel fortified.”
— Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife
“The multiple worlds Dolan Morgan creates sit atop a shifting, slippery, unpredictable darkness, one that means you’d better not get used to getting used to anything in these devilishly clever stories.”
— Amber Sparks, author of May We Shed These Human Bodies
“Dolan Morgan has the might of a unique voice, and there aren’t nearly as many of those as you’d think based on book blurbs. But believe this blurb. Those who do not will be dumber for it and not know why.”
— Robb Todd, author of Steal Me for Your Stories