Greetings DEAR READERS: 

Back in 2011, many of us here in Oakland experienced the most active sense of political possibility in our lives. But here it is, 2014, and a lot hasn't changed. If we're "lucky" we have a job, and work too hard and too long. Or our labor is precarious, ready at any point to land us in the reserve army of the unemployed, if we're not already there.

If work (and its future predicate, debt) are still the air we breathe, we at the PLP are asking ourselves what examining our labor might mean for resistance. We were provoked by this quote from Kathi Weeks in her book The Problem With Work:
How might we expose the fundamental structures and dominant values of work--including its temporalities, socialities, hierarchies, and subjectivities--as pressing political phenomena? If why we work, where we work, with whom we work, what we do at work, and how long we work are social arrangements and hence properly political decisions, how might more of this territory be reclaimed as viable terrains of debate and struggle? The problem with work is not just that it monopolizes so much time and energy, but that it also dominates the social and political imaginaries.
We all "do two jobs" (or more) - that is, struggle to support ourselves and our families / communities, and to make writing, to be writers. So what does the terrain of this daily experience feel and look like? What can we learn from it?

So here's to your belated May Day, the day capital loves to mock. 
So here's to checking back in with you, with a  
translated and curated by poet Carlos Soto-Roman; including work from 
Roberto Contreras, Juan Carlos Urtaza, Daniela Acosta, Juan Pablo Pereira, 
Jaime Pinos, Pablo Langlois, and Pablo Soto-Roman.

In addition, this season's offerings include a great  
featuring contributions from the following writers: Paul Ebenkamp, Jeanine Webb, 
Katy Bohinc, Cheena Marie Lo, Ted Rees, Sandra Simonds, Brittany Billmeyer-Finn, 
Jess Heaney, Catherine Theis, Trish Spotts, and Red Tees.

A PDF of the Issue can be viewed and downloaded here
.     .     .     .    .     .     .     .     .

We are the luckiest editors extant, to solicit and then receive such relevant and thoughtful work.

                           yours ever,
                           the PLP

ROBERTO CONTRERAS (Santiago, Chile, 1975), is a writer, teacher, and editor. His work moves across different genres, he has published fiction, poetry and chronicle. Currently he is engaged in research and development of strategies aimed to promote reading in children and youth.



In Chile we work 24/7. We live to work. The Chilean working week of 45 hours is one of the highest in the world, but this doesn’t mean it is a productive time.  What if the goal was to get things done and not this man-hour confinement among four walls, hanging in scaffolding, behind a desk, in front of a cash register or riding a truck? It is hard to think about anything else while we are working. And there is no other work with language than witnessing how text messages fall in a cell phone screen and then typing desperate responses like bottles that are thrown into the sea. Where we should turn our eyes? We owe our hours to the dead time we spend on the public transportation. We stay a lot at the workplace, and the commute back home –at least in Santiago– can take two hours: we get out before dawn and we return by dusk.  The man-hour is underpaid. The gap –that wage difference reflected on the banners displayed on hundreds of demonstrations– is brutal. This is the country of bewilderment. The land of opportunity. A sea view country, that doesn’t hesitate to hit like a tsunami to those who go out every day to get bread for their tables. But man does not live on bread alone.  The four most powerful families (owners of the retail industry, the banks and the mega markets) offer them banks accounts, lines of credit, loans, cash advances, sales on sales, a kind of happiness by installments as a promise of payment implanted by the economic model. We live in the red. The only thing we have left is to look away and then sneak a look, and hear to those who dare to raise their voices. To rehearse Baudelaire’s voyeur, taking a break in the middle of the working day, and walk down the street searching for news about the invisible ones: clerks, laborers, waiters, cashiers, and drivers who, in the less expected day, will cross the Andes to never come back.          

Translated by Carlos Soto-Román and Juan Manuel Silva

JUAN CARLOS URTAZA (1982) is a Chilean writer. He lives at the 13th kilometer of the Route 7 (Carretera Austral, CH-7). He hangs out with street kids and addicts in Puerto Montt. He prefers unknown people and illiterates of good heart instead of critics and linguists.  Outstanding Super Lightweight boxer (63,500 gr.) he has published Knock Out, with the support of the National Council of the Book and Reading, and No hay mano, co-edited by Calabaza del Diablo from Chile and Vox Editores from Bahía Blanca, Argentina. 

They studied complicated careers
those men are now thriving
they don’t use words like crisis, relapse or hangover
they don’t keep sleeping pills or painkillers on their nightstands
and they ask kids
what do they want to be when they grow up

I learnt to waste my time sitting in a chair
watching the flight of an owl
over the heads of a country road
looking how nails and grass grow
or trying to aim a spit into a beer cap

I always knew why you shouldn’t ask
what do you want to be when you grow up

About that, that nobody is going to come to knock your door
neither because of work nor because of love
about that, that days go by imitating themselves slowly and heavily
getting harder like bread
in those corners where neither
laugh nor hunger arrive

where the sun leaves from the veins
of the walls
of the silence’s ink
of a solitary property on a third floor
where nobody comes sometimes a friend
from the tip of the abyss to the crack of the foot
mathematically alone
searching for salt and air

About that, that nobody is going to come when it’s late
between the squares of the parquetry
the lines of the hand
the chalk of the days
the hands of the kids on the walls

About that, that nobody is going to come when it’s late

I lived two years hanging clothes
on an imaginary little square
but the wind of the unfortunates
also dries

Because you can be happy
with little money
with little teeth
with just one woman
in the same town you were born

Translated by Carlos Soto-Román
DANIELA ACOSTA, Journalist, graduated from the University of Chile. In 2010, she published the online version of the book of poems La otra velocidad by La Calle Passy 061 (http://lacallepassy061ediciones.blogspot.com/2010/12/la-otra-velocidad-de-daniela-acosta.html), and in 2011 her short story Resbalín was included in the Anthology Voces -30.  She is a member of the editorial board of Rufián magazine (http://rufianrevista.org/) and she is a co-founder of the website [SIC] Poesía Chilena del Siglo XX  ([SIC] Chilean Poetry from the 20th Century) (http://www.sicpoesiachilena.cl). She lives in Santiago, Chile.

I was looking for a job and then I found a job
And Heaven knows, I'm miserable now

- The Smiths

I have worked handing out flyers and as a waitress. I have worked in a kiosk. I sold lottery tickets in the public transportation (when I was a kid). I worked as a journalist for a newspaper and some magazines. I’ve babysat. I was a teacher, I worked as a teaching assistant, in a call center, in a publishing house, in a cultural center (where I met the woman I’d like to work with forever). I’ve worked as a proofreader in a consulting firm full of ignorant social climbers (the worst by far, so far). I’ve worked as a secretary, as an editor, in a boutique, and as a photographer’s assistant, in independent cultural management, and as a freelance clerk.

It’s good to have a job. It’s OK. It’s seems to me that it's good that one should contribute to society by doing something beyond personal creativity. I think it's necessary to build community, to belong to society with what you have created, or worked in, in different areas, which is also part of the creative process; let’s say, the artistic creative process. We are not special birds that can’t work, or shouldn’t work, like the rest. I’m talking here of working conditions as an individual that belongs to society, not as a “creative” person. And I do it like any other worker to whom the system prevents from having a life after spending hours dedicated to production.

In Chile, the production system that ties us up to one place for 45 hours on a weekly basis (if we’re “lucky” enough to have a job) leaves us little to no time at all to create, and by that I don’t mean just to write. It doesn’t leave time for leisure either, time to share with family and friends, or to the enjoyment or comfort that everyone deserves. Life, finally. In Chile, work is just a link in the chain of production, and not a space for creation, development, or comradeship.

In this obscenely unequal country, 50% of the workers make less than 251 thousand Chilean pesos a month (that’s like 5 thousand dollars a year) and are heavily indebted. Workdays are neverending, and at least in Santiago where I live, the distances are long and many people must go to the other side of the city to get to work, using a lousy and expensive public transportation system, wasting a couple of hours of their time. On the other hand, the social atomization leads to the majority of the workers   very little to share. If there isn’t a union at the place you work – something that’s very common in Chile, a country that has a lot of anti-union laws and policies– it's also very difficult to participate in any other social organization. That’s why we must fight. And it’s possible. There are many social and community organizations already working, but we still need to get our society out of the existing modes of individualism, elitism and consumerism.

As I work in an office without making great physical efforts,  above all the schedule is the thing that kills me. Like the vast majority of the workers in Chile, I barely have enough time to rest. Hence, wanting to write won't work very well if you don’t have discipline. In fact, I don’t write much. Sometimes I get really excited about certain things, certain images or situations, and I write them down in my notebook. Sometimes I keep thinking about the structure of a story, or a certain character that needs more development, and well, I start writing. Slowly, faster, in paragraphs or by lines, the labor issue occupies a large part of the little writing I’m doing these days.

We just have to steal time on our job (the one that pays the rent) to use it for creative work, to fight, to be able to rethink work as a space for construction, creation, and community.

Translated by Carlos Soto-Román
JUAN PABLO PEREIRA (Santiago, Chile, 1978) is a Chilean poet, translator and poetry reviewer.

I'm a poet, although I work in a civil court of law as a law clerk, or something like that. As far as I understand, a law clerk is a qualified professional worker there, in the States. Here, not so much, or not necessarily: you can find a whole lot of barely literate people in the courts of law around here; these people (mostly nice, hard working people) do most of the menial work. And it's a huge workload: the Chilean civil process is not oral but written, which implies a heavy, Kafka-esque amount of writing on huge, dusty and always-prone-to-fall-apart files, called “expedientes”; this way of doing things goes all the way back to the Inquisition time, no joking.

The writing gets done by people like me. We do not sew (yes, those files are not glued or stapled but sewed) or carry around files. Instead we write a lot: “we” meaning generally people who went to law school but dropped out, or people who are about to earn their degrees (law degrees are annoyingly difficult to get in Chile). We do that work under the guidance and control of a judge. So you can imagine how the writing we do is: dull, archaic, and ritualistic. It also must be as precise and monosemic as possible; of course, it’s all about orders, and orders must be plain and easy to follow.

All of this has consequences. Since I do write a lot at work, to get home and keep on writing can be slightly unheartening in the best of cases, and almost revolting when I have a really bad day (my work can be very, very boring, though this is not always the case; sometimes it can be fun, hard to believe as that is). I read once about a lawyer-poet who gave up naps; I'd love to say I did the same thing (I didn't). At this point, I guess I must clarify something: I went to law school, but never completed all the stuff I was supposed to in order to be a certified lawyer (in the States the equivalent would be to be admitted to the bar or something); I suppose I'll do it, some day. That make me a don't-really-know-what-heck-I-am, and some label-loving people get easily puzzled with me and what I do.

Labels are something you must learn to deal with. In my job I am affectionately treated as a cloud dweller.  Around poets I can feel that funny vibe that is directed to block-headed bureaucrats suspicious of militant petit bourgeoisie (I do not rule out being a bit paranoid here). Of course, I do have to turn off and on some switches inside when I go from one environment to the other, though sometimes I intentionally keep some switches on at the wrong place and time, with hilarious/awkward results. I guess everyone who lives this sort of amphibian life would understand what I mean.

I'm not sure how my work and the poetry I write get along with each other. I don’t write much poetry, although I've written enough to fill a couple of slim books. I do not conceive my poetry as a getaway from my ordinary life, so to speak, nor as an extension of the same. I could understand if someone would look for links between law and literature in what I write, but it's a little shameful to confess that probably won't find any. What I am trying to address is that I am not really able to grasp the connections between such different practices, though I believe they exist and sometimes I’ve even seen or foreseen them.

Of course, the real problem here is if it is sustainable to live like this. My best guess is: probably not. Or more precisely, not if I expect to be a great or even good (literary) writer (I've been told I kind of suck at the judiciary one, too convoluted, etc.). But I can live with that. I like the sense of living in the grey world of routine and (almost) at the same time being able to write/make a poem, in colors or in grey, slightly stained but perhaps meaningful for me or, if in luck, even readable by the others I live and work with.

JAIME PINOS (Santiago, Chile, 1970). Writer, editor, and producer. He has a degree in Literature from Universidad de Chile. He was the editor of the independent press house La Calabaza del Diablo and the editor of the homonymous magazine. He has published the novel Los Bigotes de Mustafá (1997) and the poetry books Criminal (2003) and Almanaque (2010). 

What is money?

Money is everything.

A virus. A poison.

To get money. To swallow money.

To spend money. To shit money. To owe money.
That’s what you live for. That’s life.
An infectious disease.
An epidemic.

A virus penetrating the host cell

and growing inside until it kills it.

Money in the veins.

Money in the heart.

Money is everything.

The common sense. The official language.

Five hundred thousand slot machines in the hoods of the country.

Convenience stores, retail stores, video stores, butcher shops.
Housewives, clerks, senior citizens
playing their last chips in the machines.
The fortune spinning. The money spinning.
Cherries. Pear. Lemon.
The fortune of the poor spinning
in the five hundred thousand slot machines.
Watermelon. Apple. Cherries.

The felling of the forests. 

The glaciers’ destruction.
The repression against the Mapuche people.
All those depredations.

Violence and fear in the large cities.

The face of the workers

in the crowded public transportation
returning home from a day at work
Their gaze.

The smiles of the kids

in the ads of banks and department stores.
The smiles of the famous people
in charity campaigns.

The smile of the President of the Republic.

All of that is money.

Oscar Rojas (44 years old)

was caught last night stealing food
in a supermarket in Lo Prado
he hung himself when the guards were not looking
before the police arrived.

That’s all.

In the center of life

money contemplates itself.

The virus that kills the host cell.

Lemon. Cherries. Cherries.


Translated by Carlos Soto-Román

PABLO LANGLOIS is a Chilean visual artist.  For about 8 years, he’s been working on different devices dealing with the question “Is Art a job?” The scenario he’s been using to display his work is the International Worker’s Day March, every May 1st, in Santiago, Chile. The following flyers, and pictures show some of that work.

Flyers by Pablo Langlois. Pictures by Pablo Soto-Román. Fisheye pictures by Carlos Soto-Román.

PAUL EBENKAMP works at Saint Mary's College and co-curates/edits books of poetry and anthologies with Counterpoint Press. Before these gigs he drove around from 10pm to 4am in a boatlike Chevrolet Lumina delivering bad sushi to Berkeley residents, archived baubles and trinkets of memorabilia in windowless library archives, and mowed large fields with a tractor for cash.



Here, flailing in perfect orbit the world’s

afforded what it’s cost us: widow channels

backed up across what they cancel, first-

vintage-first-glitch where the book blurs shut;

wherein returning all to robocall exhausts

the conjurer, as amps crave wakefulness,

and in between its doubled notes may thrash

our data-fracked white-outs of eyes high

beyond aura and obstacle, redial elided…

Begins with machines will bring us closer

or a stump hulked inside the cord, oxides

learning to sing through the snarl of rooms

purse like leaves from a seed… Begins drivel—

a tic of ethic to this, one world veils the next

until another, soon, arriving in a hatch pattern

that in order to seduce you blooms and turns

its back, remote as the ritual window through

which there’s just glass. A life happens again

and that is enough to unlearn which events

come to pass, until those that don’t start to catch…

In the shape of the world whose occasions

relapse, I can meander mind in hand around

the picky darkness until, funded and culminating,

here’s a language-long crowd of voices not to

be complained to dissembling into dirt like

cursive in the permanent air, wild above waste

and scale – and takes to raving in the killed mirror

we’d used to rake our moods across their mind –

throbs, a throne to go flagrant in – sirens and thickly

lined sums – all of it to avoid one’s business, how

to shamble a way through the day’s ills folding

over and over, forgetfully itself? The world comes

with company, no problem there, since reason’s

already such a purchase: you can shiver wherever

the sun is and raise yourself and never rise. Oh rest

is complex, yes but it trusts us to be these imaginary

brackets on that cloud no single count is right about!

It takes time, I meant to invent another good way in,

but how automatic’s the way back to the actual? As

I grow fleshed out with verbiage – arable, irreparable,

name-and-number-checked by landfill services whose

peregrinations slave a kind of rainfall down my street

which with feckless alacrity never ends – my body,

having said all of the preceding, however errant,

however garrulous, only sort of reforms: half dead to, half

alive for, half coated over, half shown nothing but noise

under moneyed shade, shade that is the subject of

this work, shade that petrifies outside the flood lights,

about to found a company in its figureheaded haste

to get it fated and straight before the seams show.

It’s time to change states. Let’s get out our phones

and capture all things: body and soul, rod and cone –

until no one’s exempt from the telling of time, the nerve

it takes to sound it through so that no one isn’t thinking it’s

too loud in here for it not to be cold out, in cases traceable

to everyone. What the rush is starts somewhere almost

perfectly as unrelated as known. The world occurs,

mainly, as the wait time takes up the whole room. 

JEANINE WEBB is a poet and writer and works in San Diego teaching writing. Her immediately previous job was manual horticultural labor. Her article, "'Weak Intimacy,' Celebrity and Bay Area Poetics" for ON Contemporary Practice's .pdf Archive Series can be found here.


The Poetics of Reverie, Labor and the Drone Imaginary 

Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul. - Bachelard 1

Well maybe, B. But if care is a "labor of stolen time," 2 for most, poetic reverie now is only possible in the service economy in a place of stolen labor-time; plenitude often only exists for the many in open revolt, or in smaller acts of expropriation and sharing.

[The first time I was disciplined at the workplace in grammar school the first workplace of the child was for daydreaming in 2nd grade Apparently I and the others had been imagining the inhabitants of other universes drawing prehistoric mammals sailing to the ends of the world with cannons and other things most common humans do before they are told that they are not poets Or before being told they are in some extra-regrettable cases The problem was of such severity that a conference was called even if the reveries I experienced and not only alone for we the workers often shared Did not materially interfere with the completion of any assigned projects pasting one thing to another thing learning proportion and pilgrims according to secondary geometry coins and bills state capitols and experiencing the cruelty of 'recess' And so it would continue throughout the labor of the rest of our lives]

Meanwhile, the pathologization of daydreaming continues apace.

The psychoanalytic theorist Stephen Frosh asserts that one way postmodernity has affected us is to disintegrate the world and remove most communal reverie from our lives, replacing it with mediated recuperations of spectacle and consumption. 3 Any dream that cannot be monetized is suspect and must be regulated. We become distanced both from reality and from dreaming; this is another way of saying alienation ("no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'”).

[I have been working since I was 15 moving stacks of paper data packages held in place by thick rubber bands or pushing back sheets water of overflow from the massive pump system as retail aquarist as the frayed wires went unmended on the shop vacs In food service reverie is often impossible to sustain since every moment regarded transaction and any breath taken can result in a yell from boss though barrista-ing one has a split minute during the steam hang-time to wonder so long as the customer is not exacting the care work and affect labor for such jobs boots help with treads back braces and harnesses good secateurs gloves one steals from one's employer to do one's job because the wage is too low and the fertilizing chemicals from the soil change one's breathing and unloading the trucks makes sore at 4 am grading Dreaming can occur during physical labor as one takes the stacks of waste to separate into the compactor mopping the dirty floor stamping tax forms in triplicate for 6 hours But what would the man in the maquiladora or young girl stripping ewaste in Guiyu think of any of this]

We live in an era of a global underclass in which the past and the future are constantly taken from us and sold back to us in false form; the past through capital's erasure of history, and the future through capital's foreclosure of conditions on the present. The present requires nothing less than the expropriation of the past and future, not simply through dreaming but by direct action. What wage-labor under capital attempts to enforce is a kind of drone imaginary, in which the goal is the subject's alienation both from reality and from dreams, a brain harnessed to the wage. Alex Rivera's film "Sleep Dealer" shows this drone imaginary well, a dystopian vision in which the labor of cyber maquiladoras is displaced from their workers' bodies. 5

Some fight hardest out of joy and hatred, and some fight hardest out of pure despair and some fight out of both of these. Dreams deferred don't just dissipate. The memory of them persists; sometimes they explode.

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Word for World is Forest envisions such a world in which a people of reverie, the Althsheans, are exploited and enslaved by human colonists. The aliens' human captors assert that they cannot feel pain and are incapable of revolt. Meanwhile the aliens struggle to understand the exploitative culture of the 'yumens' on their planet:

They make the forest into a dry beach' -- her language had no word for 'desert'--'and call that making things ready for the women? They should have sent the women first. Maybe with them the women do the Great Dreaming, who knows? They are backward, Selver. They are insane.
A people can't be insane.
But they only dream in sleep, you said; if they want to dream waking they take poisons so that the dreams go out of control, you said! How can people be any madder? They don't know the dream-time from the world-time, any more than a baby does. Maybe when they kill a tree they think it will come alive again! 6

For the Althsheans, LeGuin's Vietnam-era poetic dreamers on the Lyre, the songs alone won't suffice; the only way out for reverie given their conditions is a material revolt.

Borges - "Our destiny (unlike the hell of Swedenborg and the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not terrifying because it is unreal; it is terrifying because it is irreversible and iron-bound. Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." 7

And so, B., haunted as we are by the boring white night-gowns of disillusion ("None are green,/Or purple with green rings,/Or green with yellow rings"), we continue to catch tigers in red weather. 8


1.  B's wrong about a lot! O phenomenology. But still! Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Reverie. Reprint of the 1969 ed. published by Grossman Publisher."Beacon paperback." 1971, p. 64.
2.  from "Caring: A Labor of Stolen Time, Pages From a CNA's Notebook," by Jomo in LIES, A Journal of Materialist Feminism, 2012.
3.  Frosh, Stephen. Identity Crisis: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and the Self.  MacMillan Press: London, 1991. Whether or not one subscribes to the Freudian analysis, Frosh's historical analysis is interesting.
4.  Something by some guy with a birthday on Cinco de Mayo. I dunno.
5.  "Sleep Dealer." David Riker and Alex Rivera. Maya Entertainment, 2009.
6.  LeGuin, Ursula K. The Word for World is Forest. Tor: New York, 1972, p. 55.
7.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Selected Non-Fictions, "A New Refutation of Time," Penguin: New York, p. 332.
8.  Stevens, Wallace. "The Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock."

SANDRA SIMONDS is the author of four books of poems including The Glass Box (forthcoming, Saturnalia), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, forthcoming), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Press, 2012) and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Best American Poetry 2014, The American Poetry Review, Fence, and Lana Turner.

I have trained myself to write poetry, to write about poetry, to read poetry deep into the night. These hours confuse me for I am, by nature, a morning person. At night, my mind is fuzzy and the world seems glassed over by some kind of narcotic force so my only hope is to extract a few magic charms from its erotic center of imaginative power. “The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars,” writes Anne Sexton. “May night continue to fall upon the orchestra” writes Andre Breton.
I’ve trained myself to write at night because my children wake me up around 6am. So, the morning hours, the hours when I used to write long ago, the time when I’m most clear-headed, is no longer mine. In the morning, the children ask for bread and butter and water and milk and I have to pick out their clothes for school, put on their socks and shoes and drive them across town and then once they are dropped off, I have to drive from Florida to Georgia where I work as a professor all day and at the end of the day, I drive back from Georgia to Florida to pick up the kids and then make them dinner and read books and sing songs and put them to bed.

This daily routine takes up almost all of my time. There are many nights when the kids don’t want to go to sleep. Sometimes my five-year-old son, Ezekiel, gets up from his bed. “Mommy, I need water,” he says. I tell him that it’s bedtime and that he has to go to sleep. A minute later, “Mommy, I’m scared of the dark. I want to sleep in your bed.” (As I’m revising this now on the morning of 5/8/14, my two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, is saying “up” over and over again because she wants to sit on my lap). This little dance can go on for an hour, sometimes, if I’m unlucky, longer. I put him back to bed. Once he’s asleep Charlotte, begins to cry. She needs milk. Maybe she has a slight fever from a molar coming in. I go to the kitchen and fill her bottle with milk. Maybe I rock her in the rocking chair. Maybe I sing Hush Little Baby. I have sung what seems to be lifetimes of Hush Little Baby. The doctor has told me that she shouldn’t drink milk at night (it could damage her teeth). What do I do? Do I give her the milk so that she might fall asleep or wait for her to stop crying? I feel a sense of guilt for giving her the milk. Just this once, I think. Eventually, both children fall asleep and I am left with some uninterrupted time.

I know that I’m not unique. I know that most of us give up almost all of our time to work, either housework or work outside the home or both. When you read this now you are probably thinking, “I don’t have time to read this” just as when I am writing this now I think “I don’t have time to write this.”

Maybe it’s 9 or 10 at night and I decide that I want to write a poem. Now I imagine all of the dead workers who inhabit this nocturnal realm, who also had almost their entire lives, all of their time stolen from them. Aren’t they a kind of family? I imagine their names and histories. I imagine them as secretaries, and receptionists, and factory workers. One pours me a cup of coffee. And now, you see, I am making a poem.  One tells me not to fall asleep. I name her “Maria.” One might ask, very politely, how my day was. I name her “Sarah.” Sometimes, I cry because I am tired but mostly I don’t because I want to write poetry and I want to write about poetry and I want people to read my poems and I want to read the poems of other people.

A writer friend today said, “Oh I could never drink a cup of coffee past 5pm because I would stay up all night!” I admit to feeling a little bit superior. For I have become the kind heroic writer who can stay up until night becomes the wispy, pinkish, layered sky of the Tallahassee morning. And now I have created a problem for myself because if I become the heroine of my own romantic narrative, and if the writing  I am creating from this space is good, it must mean that  it doesn’t matter if it is created from this space, and that the adverse or favorable conditions in which a piece of writing was produced can be separated, finally, from the piece of writing itself. And yet, we intuitively know from our experience as women, mothers, as poor people, as people of color, that this is not true, that the conditions in which we write have everything to do with the kinds of poems that we make. We write poems about giving birth, poverty, race, surveillance, the police state and so on because they are intimately connected to our experiences as people who are struggling to live in this world and it is from these experiences. As Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich have argued before us, we must draw our experiences in order to fully inhabit as well as challenge our subjectivity. When someone claims that the conditions in which a poem are created are irrelevant to the poems itself, we know, from our own life experiences and from our poems that come from them, that have become rich from them, that this must be wrong.

When did it happen, that these night hours became a dominion of uninterrupted time? When will it happen that these hours will become chopped up, halved, quartered, split into eighths dissected and deranged by the contemporary imposition of work-time-space? At least for now, provisionally, I have some part of the night to myself. I doubt it will last long.

Night and her strange visions! Night and her strange visions of strangeness! How could we allow poetry to ever be transformed into labor in the same way that going to a job and getting a paycheck and having to pay rent to our masters is labor? I’d like to echo and agree very much with Andew Joron’s talk here where “jobs not jail” is turned into “JOBS ARE JAIL”.

So in our political struggles, many of us position ourselves against labor. But I also like the idea of positioning ourselves against a certain kind of poetry and certain institutions of poetry that continuously threaten to turn poetry writing into a job, and then, when they don’t have to pay you anymore because they know you will write for free, an unpaid internship.

To say that poetry isn’t a job is to simultaneously acknowledge that certain kinds of poems can be forces that speak against political oppression, through their ambiguities, images, sounds, patterns, assertions, thinking, imaginative landscapes and emancipatory desires. Poems remind us that the world is not our world. How can we navigate our thinking and imagination beyond the limits of the surface if we do not recognize the symbolic constellation and historical struggles that exist in the impossible space / time that can only be made, manifested and demanded within the language of the poem?  Breton again: “Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything.”
TED REES has worked as a legal researcher, model, barista, teaching assistant, music journalist, brand representative, camp counselor, radio station manager, booking coordinator, desk clerk, landscaper, and dog walker. He has never smelled better. 

from Endless/Revolt

Elasticity foregone, I am halted in steam distillation swirlings,
 the brutal certainty of mercury vapor. So tethered to swell repetitions,
footfall scrapes on my retinal dagger tips,
boundless conflagration of axis and atlas billowing
into occasion's corpse. Fuck it,

the pipeline I prefigured isn't mine. My cool reserves false,
a shadow arcs to the upper right. Its stoicism bristles
viewing the sublimation of snow heaped along the tracks
severing the valley. Spruce bleeds my hands, a continuous trickle
making its way further in, to the rut's end and a thicket, season barbed.

Jaw vibrating allegro in the ever­mounting glass tract,
at issue is my glistening in pseudoscorpion litter and viola odorata,
an undocumented stabbing related by fabulist neuronal fires
sparked by clean lines' aggression and interrelation.

The eternal lure is cabin­like, or half of a yellow wood structure unroofed,
an economy of feet following back paths' contortions along charred detritus,
around logistical curves, over the suckle of does at riverbank.

Allowed at one of my doors is a taking, abscission's toll small
sullying decoration's absence and the lappings of dogs.
Another forgives slickenings and turds, a scape loosed
by lack of jingle­jangle combined with rubber on cement,
dead engine revs.

So delirium sits on my face in imploring weather.
I can dig it, though, as rustication placates my taste
for alkaloids shagged in blank and icy wine chugs
through lava caverns. There is also the unforgiving
crystalline nose of a burg in higher altitudes, a purling
over stones, chatter in blue beginnings of flame.
Choking on it, how ringing the bells.


The preceding poems are part of a larger sequence investigating the oppositional relations between my wage labor and my actual desires, whether they have become real or not. Mostly not, as such is the case for most of us in this late capitalist matrix. My frustration grows daily, but my desire to feed myself is a constant, too.

All have been written through or borrowed from sentiments and images contained in the songs that Lee Ranaldo wrote and crooned for the band Sonic Youth.
KATY BOHINC's first job was at Patterson's Fruit Farm in Cuyahoga County, Ohio at age 13.  She received $4.25 an hour because farm labor was not required to be paid minimum wage (nor to be "above age").  She made donuts and came home with red marks on her arms from the lard jumping up from the fryer, but she got to bring lots of broken donuts to school for friends to eat.  Else, Fisher's Tavern busing tables, Old Navy folding clothes & staring at the white walls of the dressing room, Cutco selling knives, summer camp watching children, in Beijing teaching English, and myriad restaurants, particularly Clydes of Georgetown throughout college where she worked every weekend occasionally serving her college classmates on Friday nights (fun).  All of her most important work has been unpaid, including activist work in China and poetic labor in the United States.  She currently very much benefits from the relative comfort of a cube in the field of marketing.  She admittedly adheres to the unorthodox position of preferring the open hypocrisy of the commercial world to the hidden hypocrisy of academia.

You know, it’s a weird thing, us poets. We have this crazy existential crisis around what we do to make money. See “Kill List” reaction. Like somehow how much money we have or don’t is what makes us good or bad poets or good or bad people. And this, is sorta to blame on the historical record. We all learn in school that poets have always been bohemian poor people who rose out of the ground like unicorns somehow never really working to give us these magic tomes of amazing. I dunno. There are a lot of examples of poverty conditions leading to great writing, but we seem to always forget the examples of those who came from money or those who worked or anything else. And how horrible poverty is. On the flip side, I think those who don’t have MFAs because they couldn’t afford them sometimes feel like only the ivy league students get the glory and screw that. I don’t really know what the reality is – like if the ivy league people have any more true success in terms of writing better poetry. Certainly they get more of the resources. But as for a shiny degree actually conferring better writing capacity, I think that is not something anybody can say with a straight face.

Also, we write these poems about how reality is unstructured, and certainly the path of the poet should not be structured either, right? Like there is some kind of right way to be a poet? No. So, arguably, the challenge we all have is to maximize time to spend on poetry, minimize effort on making money, and maximize the x factor. X factor being whatever makes your mojo. Some people write well in comfort, some in bed, some in chaos, some in new environments, some in contact with people, some in solitude, whatever. That’s your thing to figure out and choose.

As for an MFA, I didn’t do one and I probably wouldn’t even if someone gave me money. Is that terrible? If I had time/money to take two-three years to do whatever, I would move to an island and write full-time and read books and email with friends all over the world. I still believe in the 1920’s trend where travel was the condition of the great writer. Something about the cultural contrast always seemed like an amazing teacher to me. And I believe in the merit of labor. One needs some busy work. It’s like the Jesuits. They would study for like, a decade. And then they would put down their pens and papers and books and go work in the fields for two years to “come back down to earth.” The lesson is that plain old labor is good for lofty thinkers.

I have dear dear friends who tell me “go get an MFA, it’s good for your career.” (I hate to say this,but they are usually Capricorns, and they have never been poets.) But honestly, if that’s what poetic acclaim is, a university degree, then I don’t want it. I’ll figure out how to make it on my own. That’s just me. But I wanted to say it. I wanted to say there are reasons beyond pragmatic ones to do or not do an MFA. And there are many ways to study outside of the walls of the academy, and it’s on us to recognize all those various ways and honor them. The fact is that higher education, particularly in our caste system of a degree platform, may control the center of distribution but no system has a monopoly on beauty and we have to fight against that interpretation because I think, actually, that art’s survival depends on it, that there be no right or wrong way to go about being a writer. MFAs are amazing but I think it is important they not be the only way.

Now if you want to talk about what kind of person a poet is, like Mao for example wrote some poetry that some people liked and does that count as great poetry when he killed arguably 60 to 120 million people? Now that, is a tricky question. The morality of the individual and how it reflects – or doesn’t- on the work they produce. Alice Notley wrote “you are not a good poet because you are not a good person”. So this, also figures into the navigation of money sources. And, I think this is why there is some honest admiration given to those who don’t get a “proper day job”, because doing so often means making compromises, sometimes moral, about one’s goodness or one’s way to make art. That said, those who devoted everything and didn’t make a back-up plan don’t necessarily ever get any recognition from anybody! And of course in a fair world they deserve it the most. Well damn, I have to say I think if someone who read and wrote all their lives with very little dies and no one notices it’s the community’s fault. Because academia damn sure doesn’t care about the not well off, or anybody who didn’t play by its rules. And it’s our job to refer the best up to the historians – such is the system of the current world. So, my words are almost up, and obviously the poetry community is not perfect, but I really do think it is one of the most wonderful things existing in this country because it gives a lot of people from tons of different paths the opportunity to get out there and do it. Just go to some readings. And that is truly a precious, precious thing.

CHEENA MARIE LO lives and works in Oakland. They have worked as an art curator, an ice cream scooper, a line cook, a workshop facilitator, an unpaid intern, an administrative assistant, and as an award-winning competitive barista. They currently work at Mills College.

Two months ago I started working full-time at the liberal arts college where I got my MFA. Transitioning into this job during the Spring semester means that I have been working directly with prospective students who have just been accepted to the MFA program, having conversations about the program, about financial aid, about what students do after the MFA. I have to explain that this particular program is one you will likely take on debt for, that many students work while going to school to help cover some of their costs, that they go on to do a variety of different things after
he program. It is hard to explain to students thinking of taking on the debt that the outcomes are largely immaterial, that the work people find after the program can look one million different ways.

Is it unprofessional to talk about how I spent the morning talking to a debt collector who refused to accept any payments less than $1000 a month towards my defaulted student loan? That for two years after graduate school I pieced together part-time work in cafes and restaurants to pay my rent? That it’s hard to see my friends, who also happen to be some of my favorite artists, now that we’re no longer in school because we’re all so busy at our jobs, working hard to make ends meet while making time for the other, more important work?

How to speak about these real, material outcomes?

The job I have right now consists of e-mails, spreadsheets, mostly. Staff meeting on Mondays, Department meeting once a month, meetings with prospective students visiting campus throughout the year, some events every now and then. 6.98 hours per day, often more. Sometimes I go on vacation, a few minutes snuck away on campus to go for a walk alone or to meet up with a friend who also works at the college. A vacation from work at work.

But oh, the other work between the work: the writing group, the reading series, the journal we’re trying to get off the ground, the open letter to the blog, the show for the Queer Arts Festival, the fundraising, the interview, the manuscript, the submissions, the meetings that turn into dinner, the dinners that turn into projects, the projects that turn into a container for spending more time together, the readings in the living rooms and bookstores and community spaces, the bar after the readings in the living rooms and bookstores and community spaces, the navigating of community formations, the mapping, the collaborations.

This work will not pay off my debt or stop debt collectors from calling.

I am often tired.

But these are the things I feel inside of my body.

They can’t be measured by money, or pitched as an outcome. Sitting in a room with my friends who are also poets and makers. Inviting strangers into our living room to listen to poetry. Trading work back and forth, the other work done between the work. Spending a Sunday reading a friend’s manuscript in between slowly stirring a sauce that needs to be simmered for hours, a meal that will last us the week. The ease with which Taylor and I laugh together, how’s Tessa’s eyes crinkle at the sides when she smiles, talks on the porch with Brittany, Zoe’s ideas, Zach’s inflection, Kate’s boundlessness, friends that span time and state lines. Loving them all the way through.

CATHERINE THEIS is a Provost Fellow at USC. She is the author of The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Books, 2011). She’s been paid to slice turkey very thinly, take tickets, edit, teach, write, and edit again. When asked about her favorite job, she says, “A ticket taker. Yeah, I’ve been a ticket taker at three different places—the beach, an outdoor music venue, and the movies. My favorite part is letting people in who don’t have tickets.” 

 Labor Is A Fountain I Can’t Follow

I wake up from a 20-minute nap. The metal bench is comfortable. I think this the prettiest courtyard on campus, though there are lots. I peel two Christmas oranges. The sun’s hot. It’s November, and I love southern California. Yeah, I really do like Los Angeles—call me crazy & drape me in flowers. Luckily, the library had the DVD I need to watch for my Moby Dick class: Pola X. I still have a lot of food in my tote bag. I can hang out on campus for the entire day, if I wanted to. I know where the showers are, and where I can find free coffee. All Streams Reach...is all I can read off the fountain right now.

At the end of last summer, I left my job as a Senior Editor at a major corporation in Chicago. I was happy to go. I worked for 5 years in a department called Brand Compliance. The summer before last, I took an unpaid leave from that job. I didn’t want to work, and I didn’t want to write, I wanted to do nothing. I wanted to go to the beach and read. When I first floated the idea of a sabbatical to my VP, he nearly fell off his chair. “If I give this to you, will you promise to come back?” he asked me.

As a PhD student, I get paid roughly 1/3 of what I used to make as a Senior Editor, but earn more money than your average adjunct instructor, which I’ve never been. I made that choice a long time ago when I graduated MFA school. I desperately wanted to teach, but I couldn’t swallow not getting paid for my work, so I declined those meager jobs. I don’t do things just for love. My fellowship is fantastic, and I thank the universe every day for the chance to be around other talented thinkers and writers. I’m in heaven. I often wonder if my gratefulness today is because of the incredible wear & tear my 9 to 5 job inflicted on my body, and on my psyche. (The first 3 years were fine.) I still spend the same amount of time writing, but my voice has changed, along with the form. I’m writing an infinitely long serial poem. Now I clock my leisure like I used to clock my corporate editing. It’s on the same timekeeping system, just the column opposite. Everyone should know how to use both columns.

“It’s a curse!” I told this woman at a party once in Venice when I explained I was a poet. “I’m a poet, too. I’m a poet on the inside,” she explained to me. “So, what are you on the outside?” I asked. We didn’t talk much after that. It didn’t really bother me that much.

My family will tell you I’m contrary. Being a poet is the closest thing I can think of to feeling free. I like moving to new places. I’m in need of constant calibration. I’ll do anything to an extreme. And then do the reverse. I don’t mind working in corporate America if I know I can leave. I don’t mind misunderstanding my academic colleagues as a motion of mind. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase. I don’t mind changing the shares of my 401k portfolio. I’m private and I’m public, but I’m always on the outside. Everything is labored. I want to be paid! I want money! I dream infinity signs, but live awake in poems. My invisible second job? I smile at people. I compliment people, I offer them a drink. I try not to complain. Sometimes I cry, so you know I’m human. I’m in a trance, so let me be in it.

My ideal working life? Wouldn’t it be great if all us poets could share jobs on a rotating basis, within and outside of the Academy/Corporate America? (This would cut down on corruption on both sides.) The market will never go away, so can’t we just work it? Wouldn’t it be nice to spend three consecutive years teaching literature, then transfer to a company on the stock exchange in need of a poet’s vision, then spend a year helping to raise a baby, then transfer back to the same university at the sixth year only to teach philosophy or book arts or poetry? Like Camus’ Sisyphus, I’m smiling.

RED TEES is a confused, wayward fellow. He enjoys drinking fine wine, listening to acid house, and eating Pop-Tarts.

I lived on a street where the waft of wet garbage and crack and meth bloomed horrible through the air. I lived on the state’s dime and occasional paper offerings from temporary gigs. I lived on poetry books and theoretical texts that would be given to me or that I would steal. I lived on my rickety faltering laptop, slowly working through poems and collaborative processes and arrangements for reading what I was writing. I lived on the sounds of Swans and Stars of the Lid and Skitsystem and E-40. I lived on and on with my partner and my friends, punks and poets and artists spread on both sides of the Bay and across the continent.

And then, suddenly, I was thrust into a new position. I was given a job in an industry that I knew little about, but by a company within this particular industry that seemed to value the idea of hiring working artists as its representatives. The company’s website quoted Baudrillard and Whitman. The prospect of wage slavery had never seemed so erudite, so imbued with intellectual rigor.

Of course, much of this rigor just disguises one facet of marketing products to a certain audience, a bourgeois, highly-educated class of people. The company aligns itself with arts and cultural institutions, and in doing so, creates unorthodox venues for shifting product into users’ hands. Employees are encouraged to attend art and literary events, sometimes for reasons that are completely lost to me; before it was dismantled, all were encouraged to visit or look at the website for Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument, a project intended to serve as a revolutionary meeting space to engage in art, community aesthetics, and politics. The contradictions inherent in such encouragement— “Do take the time from your busy work schedule to visit a space dedicated to the man who developed the Marxist theory of cultural hegemony”— are truly confounding.
Perhaps, though, this is part of what life under capitalist labor is now about: increasing contradiction, and the acceptance of such as normative.

And so, I have learned to accept. I accept that I work a luxury-goods retail job, with excellent perks, which include fancy dinners, boutique chocolates, wine tastings, exceptional hourly wages, and many other trappings of a life that I could never lead, whether I wanted to or not. Meanwhile, when I’m not at work, I accept that I live in a 14-foot U-Haul box truck that my partner and I have converted into a functional RV, and which is usually parked next to our friends’ warehouse space. I accept that in the truck, you’ll find something like a trapper’s cabin— jars of spices and food, funny wooden shelves, a derelict sink. You’ll also find a collection of books that run the gamut from anarchist theory and practice to hermeneutics to surrealist poetry from Martinique. And I accept that the warehouse space that is our neighbor houses a group of artists and punks who are equally versed in Marxist dialectics and the finer points of Romeo Void’s discography.

Sometimes, it is difficult to accept the contradictions, and sometimes I can accept them with such facility that they hardly seem like contradictions any longer. They are just the conditions under which most of us live, quietly working, plotting, dreaming, and thinking towards the day when such conditions will no longer exist, whether that day arrives in the form of ecological disaster or glorious riotous tumult or any or all of the other possibilities. While a life without contradictions would be boring to a lethargic point, when the condition of contradictions isn’t an imposition of capitalism— that will be a day when I won’t have to think about what I just wrote, because I’ll know exactly how I feel. And that will be just fine.
TRISH SPOTTS grew up in a small town. She never put her roots down. Daddy always kept moving, so she did too.

it had the charm [for her] which any broken ground, any mimic rock and ravine, have for the eyes that rest habitually on the level –George Eliot (from The Mill On The Floss)


as an arc
without plan climbs
just at an angle

an unassuming charm
we might say “slope” but not quite “rise”
we might say “bank” but not quite “pitch”
as if laxness was
a highlight

no one wants to talk about

the bookmark
from the seaside bookstore
where the book was bought

how it remains
so the picking up & finding one’s place again
touches back
some day when the pressure pushed
far to the edges

culminating with the clerk wedging said bookmark
between pages 78 & 79

& off one goes

with the level edge of the earth slinking back
from the horizon

there is a trick to holding the knife
getting behind the joint
so the muscle has nothing left to hold

my landlord, Jeff
my neighbor, a foreclosed home

the feral cat
wants to come inside
which is the opposite of everything
we know.

an irreverent and humorous attitude, combined with polished graphics and professional design

simulates the gag reflex
we're not short on sunshine
but long
to be pixilated
to make up the weft
along with the other square
while a bank of elevators shift gray to grey
silently rising
& gliding back down

listening to Spanish language podcasts
From Scotland

how many windows
have you open
right now?

view all
& off one goes


I thought how I would talk about my mutation
how each night
I would press it
in hopes
it would go

I thought how I would arrange mirrors
so I could see it
from angles
gross angles

and after a longer sorrow than could ever be imagined
ending, it was as if these grim facts oozed
pure biography

how it easily pooled
eroding into a sore

here I mean
in the basic sense


Down-turned trumpets
arrive, depart, & mourn
in the same bloom.

In the face of an epic
I whet the point
of each Dorrito
         cracked in half
like a home

         a fiction / a fever
confusing a billboard for the setting sun.

In olden times
I’d be old
so I’ll act as I were
noxious & scatological

grim in the face of trees that limb like cathedrals
babes that coo

re: hours
rush fast as the faucet
& jumble
with names for things

we do & do not know


gunshots, sirens, milestones, & horchata

A cranium
young enough to be sewn

I approach
with a step-daughter smile
by officious dander

(I see a pagoda!   
---again, I go grim)

the cresting edges
out of becoming
not back into –

the spines of my lips
a grin
I grow into

that is to say,
you are plentiful, rich, and wide.
If you acknowledge time as it is
in your present:
crapping in your garden,
sleeping on your couch
you are in love!

while I am drinking
tequila I am
thinking about
more tequila

while I am eating bacon
fry more bacon!

Keep in mind: these are lag times.

We are going to walk
shackled by this frowny-
faced thesis
across a map

frickin A
I go grim

trying to differentiate the world’s desire
from the desire to summit
the world
or dirty work in the double negative
feeling wild
large & unshorned
the work

a sham
a curt


the punch line was
“eat me
in your fucking canoe”
and the new yorkers

BRITTANY BILLMEYER-FINN is a poet living in Oakland. She has worked at various small retail businesses as a vintage, DIY & consignment shopgirl. She has worked in various volunteer, unpaid & stipened jobs in community organizing, teaching assistantships, research assistantships & high school creative writing workshop facilitation.

The Poethical Shopgirl

The kind of agency that has a chance of mattering in today’s world can thrive only in a culture of acknowledged complexity, only in contexts of long-range collaborative projects that bring together multiple modes of engagement—intuition, imagination, cognition…The more complex things are, the less certain theoutcome but also the more room for the play of the mind for inventing ourselves out of the mess.
                                                      -Joan Retallack, The Poethical Wager

When my friends and I discuss our utopia I imagine land and clean air, making clothes from curtains, reading in the chicken coop and swimming with the pigs like the stories my grandmother has told me of her time as a young girl in Indiana. This desire is fleeting and then returns. The dream doesn’t match our skill sets. It lives inside ourselves separately and then closer to one another as we react to the things that are hard about being present, here.

In reality, we live in little apartments under highway overpasses where trucks shake our homes as they rumble overhead. We share homes that have gardens or don’t, or have cranky neighbors below us that bang their ceilings to shake our floors, or queer friendly homes with vegan kitchens, green and pink swirls painted on the walls. Many of us moved here from various places, myself from Michigan, to go to grad school, to get our MFA. We have all graduated now. Our homes at times transform into community sites where we host readings and workshops, healing spaces of friendship, collaboration and magic. Our homes too are places where we hide. We hide from each other, from poetry, from micro aggressions, from poor time management, from our desires and failures.

Often, our hang outs are really meetings: editing each other’s books; planning our next reading; unpacking our dissolving community projects; creating new ones. Most of our jobs fall under the category of customer service: working the front desk; slinging brunch; coffee; pizza or myself, resale clothing. We talk often about work, about our writing practices, about how we wish for more time rather than more money and how this isn’t always true. I cannot write their embodied reality how love, inspiration, improvisation, passion, care, tenderness, arousal, anger, regret, resentment, anxiety, stress, trauma, healing and hope exists inside each one’s body presently or in an embodied history. I write “we,” to remind myself that I am not alone. That my work intersects with them and theirs. That part of my poetic labor is imagining the utopia, building it on site, being where we are together as people, friends, collaborators, community and dismantling it again and again.

To get to work, I take the 24 to the 13 get off at Park turn onto Mountain Blvd. and find myself in Montclair an affluent town in the hills of Oakland. It is 10:45 a.m. I count in the cash, windex the counters as women cluster outside eating cookies from the bakery next door. They wait for me to flip the open sign and let them inside the store. I feel simultaneously resentful of their waiting and just a little bit powerful watching them wait for me to let them inside.

 I know what the customer wants from me. It is a familiarity. They want to know about my “bohemian lifestyle,” they want to ask questions about my “lesbian relationship” and “poet identity.” I become a character in their daily life that dresses them and give them a “retail experience.” They ask me questions about what queer means…and it is safe to ask because I am cis gender because I am white, my hair in a bun on top of my head and because of my passing the dirt under my fingernails, the hair in my armpits and on my legs becomes part of the performance, which is simultaneously me: the poet; the queer; the approachable shopgirl…how I can be their favorite by difference.

I have workshop with a group of writers once a week, most of whom I graduated with from Mills. The workshop grew out of our desire to have a non-institutional space in which to structure our work /our selves inside of the thing. It feels easier on my body somehow.

Sometimes we workshop each others’ works in progress, usually we eat, occasionally there is beer and wine, sometimes a puppy dog, sometimes we write together doing a warm up exquisite corpse or pulling a tarot card from The Collective Tarot deck to write through. I pull Strength, “We live in a broken system, and we frequently have to use broken tactics in order to survive. If we don’t want to acknowledge we’re compromising our beliefs, we usually pay, in some form, to let someone else compromise for us.”

Unpacking “the mess” and writing my poetic labor becomes mundane in its day to day relation to immaterial definitions of work. My agency is something inside of my circumstance first. The various names I might give it hold mostly privileged categories or perhaps a mobius strip of privilege: white; middle/upper class upbringing; cis gender; queer; femme; feminist; institutionally educated; monogamous; midwestern; community organizer; ally; shopgirl.

How part of the immaterial work I uphold in my heart and at times in my hands is that of mundane subversion…maybe. A friend writes, “I have blind spots, but I am working to sweep out that internalized oppressor everyday.” Perhaps, “the mess” of which we might invent ourselves out of is inside the body. Perhaps it is an intangible currency. Perhaps it is the various categorizations and assigned values of capitalism. Perhaps it is the abject identity. If I am the/a mess I carry it inside my body to each home, to each site. This embodiment works to create something with skin. Something for the work to live inside of during daily encounters of which I am on one side of its trajectory. It is the unknowability of what happens next even inside of the messy sameness the both-ness at work, here.