FIND ME in Washington, D.C. over the next few days:
tomorrow: Thursday (9th), 6pm: YesYes Books & Vinyl present BRILLIANT VOICES: I’ll be reading with Hanif Willis-Aburraquib, Raena Shirali, Justin Philip Reed, Khadijah Queen & more. Come to rm. 207 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
Saturday (11th), 2pm: I will be signing MEET ME HERE AT DAWN at the YesYes Books AWP book fair table, 397/399.
Come say hi.
If you want to find me & you cannot, hit me on twitter: @sophieklahr
i live on a corner in a big apartment building, and a few days ago and three corners away, at 11 in the morning, a girl was shot point blank. there’s no way that i didn’t hear the shot, in that moment, and didn’t hear the sirens; i am almost always home. and when i heard about the shooting, i realized — yeah, i heard it. and i thought, when i heard the shot: that’s a gun. and thought nothing of it. i don’t remember hearing sirens, but i must have.
where i grew up, we heard shots all the time. a police firing range was down in the valley (our house was at the top of a hill), and the shots weren’t far away. there were shots ringing out on the other side of the hill too, not police. i remember only once, as a teenager, feeling that i heard a gun close by, heard a shot and a car shrieking up the hill… i was walking the dog, and hit the ground, and the car went by. i remember it, but maybe i also imagined it. this is just how it goes with me and memories. i remember the morning at a stoplight, on the way to school, when the light was red and there was someone dead, covered up, behind police tape. and then the light turned green, and we went to school.
when i drove down my street this morning, not thinking to avoid the corner (should i have avoided the corner?), there were kids where she died, maybe teenagers. flowers, candles. kids just standing there. i’d heard about it only by word of mouth, last night. hadn’t read any news, but did today: the media only says that the girl was 23.”killer still at large.” i feel fairly certain that it wasn’t random. but why should i feel certain of anything?
almost ten years ago, i moved to a neighborhood in my hometown – wilkinsburg -which people jokingly called “we’ll-kill-yinz-burg.” my dad printed out a map when i moved in: a bird’s eye view, little dots marking all the places in my new neighborhood where shootings had happened. my apartment was in an old victorian house, and a dealer and his girlfriend lived on the third floor, hung out on the our porch with a muscular and sharp-eyed pit bull who was never quite soothed, and i was cool with them, and they were cool with me. outside my kitchen window was the parking lot for the church of the deaf, and every sunday i watched crowds of fluttering hands talking to one another about… about who knows. their lives. faith. potlucks. their children. i was never scared in wilkinsburg. someone once threw a brick at my car, cracked the windshield in the night. just kids. it was 2008, and when obama won, the neighborhood was full of music and cheers, and full of shots.
so what do i have to say about guns? i don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said. it is strange to know the sound, for the sound to light up a single space in my mind, then flicker out. when i think back now on hearing the shot, i know that i registered it as odd: the single shot. but registering the fact in the moment did nothing. carried nowhere. strange for the sound to mean almost nothing. last night around 11, as i walked up to my apartment, i walked by two kids in a dark part of the street, one leaning on a bike. “god bless america,” one said to me as i walked by, and i said nothing. what could i say?
MEET ME HERE AT DAWN is officially in the world, available via YesYes Books.
If you are interested in reviewing the book, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I am compiling a reviewer list for my press. If you are a musician/band interested in doing an evening with me in your city this spring, please get in touch & we’ll discuss possibilities.
in my dream, i walk briskly along the streets of my neighborhood with fenced yards and open driveways. groups of ravens on the ground are not startled by my presence. half on the sidewalks, some in driveways. they pay no attention to me; they seem to be waiting for something on their own time, though in each group i see a few ravens in a type of scuffle, and realize that in each group, there is a wounded one. the ravens both peck and nudge at the wounded one, and it is hard to tell if what they do is hurt or help. but i am walking so quickly, carried not quite of my own accord down the street. then, in one yard, a giant moa. its ancient neck is not fully feathered as it should be, but rather has dark sinewy skin revealed. sharp eyes, 9, 10 feet tall, all muscle. people in the house seem to be chatting about it but not threatened. i cross the street away from it, backing away from the open driveway where it stands, and it watches me.
in my dream, the flooring of the studio in the barn is shaky. i have gone into the room meaning to get a rocking chair, to carry into the kitchen, but i realize that each of the boards is being held down by something: if the room were not cluttered with stuff, then the loose and uneven boards would falter and fall. it is not clear if they are at all held in. i report this, but it is not noted to be of much concern. a schedule is being explained to a newcomer. the afternoons are now for work as well. until 6pm, it is noted. i will stay with you for one month, someone tells me.
last night had a dream that I found my cat Bridget, dead for 3 years now, sleeping under a pile of chairs somewhere. in the dream, at first, seeing her at a bit of a distance I thought she was dead, but she made warm sounds when i approached. i was so surprised that i hurried off somewhere to get her a bowl of food, and when i came back, to place the bowl (of cheese?) close to where she was curled half-sleeping, i saw a bowl of cat food had been left there and remembered–in the dream–that i had been there recently, in another dream, and left the cat food. i was ashamed somehow that I’d left the food there for so long — not that long, but long enough to have the edges of the meat curled in that slightly burnt-looking way, and three flies quietly eating from the side of the dish. i whisked the whole thing away and replaced it with the dish i’d just brought, which Bridget roused herself towards, making little smacking sounds as she ate up the new food, the happy cat sounds, and i was petting her, sitting beside her as she ate. and i woke then, just a little, remembering inside the same moment that she was dead, that now was now, and also feeling the distinct warmth of a cat curled against me, the way she used to sleep on the pillow beside my head, and in the moment of half-waking i knew she wasn’t there, but thought i can keep this feeling, the small circular space of warmth beside me.
fell back asleep then. into a dream about snow, and games, something disruptive. trouble driving. all that snow. i am tired of addicts, i thought to myself, or said aloud in the dream.
it happens sometimes: i am somewhere in a dream, and remember suddenly, inside the dream, that i have been to this particular place in a dream before. i don’t know what it means, if it means anything. it means i am not so convinced all this is real, I suppose. the sickness and the fear. the melting and the traffic. the mountains. the wells. the fields. the copper colored dog sleeping in the sun on the driveway across the street. his happy barking suddenly at a boy beside the fence. since the time i have moved to los angeles, sometimes i think i am dead, and that this is all some other dream. i have thought it more than once. it isn’t a sad feeling; the feeling doesn’t create any different action. i still go to grocery store, buy the mangos on sale, call my parents, go to dance class, take my medicine. maybe it means i have a sense that reality is very thin. maybe it is part of why i collect stones and feathers and interesting pieces of bark. part of why bark is interesting at all. sometimes i am claustrophobic at home. last week, it seemed that there were photographs of fetuses all over the internet, and i had to leave the house. i got on the subway, with no plan really, and went downtown to the bookstore. downtown los angeles feels like another planet. it is part of what i like about los angeles — a hundred different cities inside a web, threaded together. downtown is dirty and busy and abandoned and full of religion and bustle and students and jewelry and music pouring out onto the street. i stood on the street and ate an apple, cradling a heavy paper bag of books i’d just bought and listened to an amish choir of two dozen singing a hymn, and felt happy. maybe it was because, for a moment, i stopped thinking and was just there, on the street, in the sun, listening.
a poem from carl phillips posted to twitter, in response to the election.
here, also by phillips, a very important new essay : “the politics of mere being”