Christine Smallwood
Abiquiu, New Mexico, May 2015

Dear Georgia,

The photographs lie. You were no isolate! You managed a well-staffed art world empire from a desert outpost. Your friend Noguchi designed your lamp. You slept alone, but that doesn’t make you a loner.

The thing about administration is that it gives you a way to order your day. I don’t always know what to do first, in the morning.

I hear you learned to drive out here. Maybe next time. The truth is that I don’t like to go that fast. As for the towns, they’re for old people or hippies. Much as I try, I will never be a hippie.

I like you more now that I know you were so rich.


Osama Alomar
Chicago, August 2015
Translated from Arabic by C. J. Collins with the autho

Dear Minerva,

I don’t know how it happened. Do you remember how we met each other at a performance of "Waiting for Godot" at the Al-Hamra? I was holding the playbill. You were carrying a stack of books.

After three months of regular meetings, we decided to get engaged. I bought a bouquet of flowers and put on my best clothes. I went to your family’s house, propelled by an enormous burst of energy, even though I knew that you had had serious disagreements with your mother.

I remember how she opened the door with a coldness that let something of winter’s shivering into my soul. I remember how your father remained throughout the meeting—wordless, taking little sips of his tea. When your mother found out that I was a third-level government functionary, her face became an arctic frown that blew around me with an icy wind. She asked me in a strong voice: “Do you think that you will be able to provide for my daughter with your meager salary?” She refused me because the court of society had sentenced me to hard labor for the crime of poverty. As I went down the steps of your house, I could hear you fighting with her. You were a spring breeze swallowed within seconds by the savagery of winter.

But a new idea began to obsess me day and night: emigration. The thought threw me into a bitter struggle with the weight of your love. What cut me most was your total rejection of the idea.

In the end, reason won a bloody battle over the heart.

We stayed in constant communication by email. I told you about my exile, and you told me about yours, at home among the people closest to you. Thousands of miles separate us, but the scent of your perfume fills the huge city in which I live.

When the revolution began, my heart lit up with a fire unlike any I had known before . . . a special kind of fire, a revolution against oppression and slavery . . . . I swam in an ocean of happiness, drinking its strong, sweet water.

But little by little, the revolution against tyranny became something else . . . the tyrant who had been sleeping in the depths of the ordinary citizen began to wake up, baring his fangs. The country entered the hell of sectarian and civil war through the widest gate. The nation’s severed limbs were mixed up with the severed limbs and heads of its humans. I watched the events from afar, not believing what was happening. When the situation had gone far down the road of chaos and insanity, I came to understand that the enslavement of humans to deadly ideas is far more dangerous than the enslavement of humans to other humans.

The road to the paradise of human dignity is spread with the tongues of hell.

Oh my love . . . since I stopped getting news from you I look for you everywhere . . . asking our common friends . . . in vain. In what direction have the claws of this insane war thrown you? I watch the great ship of humanity steered by oppression, that terrifying black savagery that never tires . . . . The world has enough room for all the dead . . . but not for all the living. Scientific progress serves human backwardness. High technology is in the hands of cave men.

I look for you everywhere. I will send you this message for the hundredth time . . . should I send it by mail or email . . . or put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea?


Young Jean Lee
New York, August 2015

Dear Me,

These are the things that make you feel good.

1.     Sleeping.
2.     Exercising.
3.     Cleaning your home.
4.     Eating things that are good for you.
5.     Doing things that are important to you.
6.     Spending time with people you love.

Stop telling yourself that you’re more fucked-up than you are.


Ken Okiishi
New York/Ljubljana/Tokyo/Kyoto/New York, August-September 2015

Dear Germany,

There is so much I want to tell you, even though you shatter my mind every time I hear your name or try to form a coherent thought about you. And it feels strange to read and hear your name so much recently, to be reminded of you, so often. To see you simultaneously celebrated as the place that is saving the world and derided as destroying Europe--from all angles, left and right. Remember Greece? I know, it is hard, a few months later, with all of these smiling Syrian refugees and their adoration of, what???, who??? Angela Merkel?? HALLO MAMA?? Who would want that as a Mother? Doesn't anyone remember what she did on television a few months ago to the child of a migrant family who confronted her in perfect German on German immigration policies and the terror of her probable deportation??
I couldn't stop crying, out of shock and outrage when I saw this.
But I do have to admit that I also teared up a little when I saw the press photos of the crowds in Munich cheering the asylum seekers' arrival a few weeks ago. I was on a train to Kyoto from Tokyo, where I had just done a gallery exhibition, and where I am always put under the identitarian microscope.  Somehow it was more intense this time--I was extra sensitive. I cried about those chocolate bars handed to refugee children; I cried because it seemed Germany really had changed--suddenly, magically, overnight.
But I am no longer crying. My skepticism has returned, with images of refugees housed in former concentration camps (really? Dachau??) reminding me that everything isn't necessarily so amazing. The yoyo of German experiments with its brand identity and image politics these days is migraine-inducing to anyone who tries to track it. Broadcast instantaneously all over the globe: Look at that--all those men clutching pictures of Angela Merkel: Germany is AMAZING! All those children with signs saying, "We want Germany." All those lovely Munich people with their charmingly misspelled banner: "Wellcome in Germany." They are so kind, generous, warm, welcoming, etc. These sorts of images would have been seen, internally, in the Germany that I became familiar with over the last few decades, as crass or artificial, in that peculiar way that you, Dear Germany, are so good at maneuvering generally dishonest situations by affirming a supposedly heartfelt, brutal sense of honesty. Or maybe, could this be that we are witnessing something like Angela Merkel's personal struggle ballooning into a German-nation awakening to the potential affective pleasures of globalization? (Everyone knows you just need skilled workers--like millions of them--or the economy will imminently fail. But that is easier said than done, and rather boring to talk about only in economic and population figures. Reprogramming a population raised on countrified notions of in-group and out-group is, of course, rather difficult.)
*                  *                  *
Change to: Dear Berlin?? or at some point say: this letter probably should be addressed "Dear Berlin." But as Berlin in the news has often become shorthand for German policy in general and the place where German policy is decided and sent out from. Less general or more specific? Or are "Berlin" and "Germany" basically the same thing now anyway? At some point, when I was reading this political personification "Berlin" in the news ("Berlin plans for possible Greek euro exit"; "Berlin's eyes on Athens"; "Berlin threatens neighbors over migration"; "Berlin threatens to tighten purse strings on funding for EU's eastern neighbors"), I realized that I strangely recognize this place as the neoliberal bastion that it so vehemently denies having become.  The countercultural atmospheres of the Berlin that intersected with the Berlin that I knew and loved in the 2000s cannot overtake the general thrust of the nation anymore. In the news, the asylum seekers always say they want to end up in the same few cities: Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart... I keep seeing this list, and strangely Berlin is missing. Perhaps it is too close to the probable Neo-Nazi zones? (Or, the more cynically-minded question: Perhaps it is perceived to be too decadent, with too many Jews and Gays, for the Syrian refugees to stomach?)
The racism of a place that is still new to welcoming foreigners, and the luxury problems of rich foreigners on permanent holiday in this "bargain basement" of semi high-quality real estate and places to go out. Reading the New York Times today: "Chancellor Angela Merkel put it this month, 'Those who do not come because of political persecution or war but for economic reasons will not be able to stay.'" I think she is referring only to poor people.
*              *              *
Liebes Deutschland,
So you have finally sort of won the war. You are now economically in control of Europe, with all of these little German-aspirational pockets simulating your provincial shopping-mall style city plans and clinical neo-classical postmodern architectural detailing. Somehow, even Paris starts to look a bit like Manufactum now. You now basically also own the country that has long been one of your favorite vacation spots, where it is always hot during your awful winters. And, only a few months after the image-crisis of the then-looming Grexit, you are also seen as a significant humanitarian nation spearheading the Syrian refugee crisis.
Only a few months ago, let's return to that: you were so rigorously brutal, with no problem looking bad if it served your carefully shielded interests. The ethical questions, the Machiavellian questions of image politics, seemed irrelevant. Your only relationship to images was the crass delusions of tabloids. You were willing to be horrendously ugly and ascetically miserable if it made you financially rich. Vacation was more important than life. You were are so confidently tacky; you were so at ease in brazen, ugly skin.
You were stuck still playing out the horrific clichéd patterns of postwar German identity: Victims are always perpetrators and perpetrators are always, collectively, vehemently and emotionally shielded from blame. Being ashamed is always a legitimate excuse for violent ignorance--and going on vacation. The victim is normally at fault as the general population almost instinctually shields perpetrators from having agency or responsibility. Etc.
In the case of Greece, the extreme German financial benefits of globalization were never seen as having anything to do with Greece's debt crisis. Why should the Bank, even a predatory one, have any sympathy to the borrower, if they can both get paid back by someone else a few times over and have first dibs at buying the borrowers assets at rock bottom prices? It was horrendous, the German image problems three months ago.
But then the Syrians walked across the border.
Did everything change? Did anything change? Who handed out all of those photos of Angela Merkel to the hopeful immigrants? Who handed out supplies to make signs that said, in the colors of the German flag, "We want Germany"??
*              *              *
Liebes Berlin,

It was 2001. Right before September. I had just graduated from Art School in downtown New York, and I went to you trying to find the kinship of a distant homeland: you see, I am "half" you. That was the mythology of my childhood. That was the fantasy of my Japanese-American father, that my mother looked best when driving a Volkswagen bug from the sixties. That she looked so right in it; so what she really was; so German.
I really really tried to learn your modularly unnatural grammar, your amazing spontaneous omnibus words. I was also simultaneously trying to make money teaching English--which proved rather unpredictably traumatic. I had been so good at teaching English before moving to Germany. And then everyone started questioning whether this slanty-eyed young English teacher could actually speak English, "correcting" me over and over in unintelligible yet forcefully grunted para-English. This proved devastating to my ability to learn or speak any language for awhile. There was the 4 AM class at the Bayer pharmaceutical factory where a room full of people asked question after question about where I was from and whether or not I really was a native English speaker and the truth was that I must actually be scamming them and where were my parents from and what was my last name. They then attempted to demonstrate, as I tried to continue the day's lesson, how I clearly did not speak English because, as they insisted on showing me over and over, English was not the same as German, so I must be wrong. While this may seem a rather bizarre concept, since it is so unbelievably illogical (that someone must be wrong because they are not the same as you, do not fit into your delusions of authenticity, and are not telling you that everything is the same as you think it is), there is a certain infantile narcissism that unfortunately has been rather basic to contemporary German identity. It is what is both so baffling and terrifying to foreigners in Germany: that these miserable people truly believe the rest of the world should be like them. That there is no subtle difference in the world, only Inland and Ausland.  As if these categories could actually be relevant; as if there could even be such an important thing as "inside" and "outside" this ill-tempered place. It is telling that there is no adequate word in the German language to convey what we mean when we say subtle.  

All of this has become pure EU, German-hegemonic ideology at this point: the German people blindly hold up this false division between inside and outside to generally shield themselves from acknowledging the parasitic traps of the German financial system that everyone in Europe, Germans included, is beholden too. Xenophobia as distraction from pointing the finger in the right direction. Xenophobia as antidepressant.
So, dearest Germany, in the special harsh way you treat everyone, not just foreigners, this may not seem like a big deal to you. These are the tough chips dealt by life, so deal with it.  It is true that I, as a young English teacher in Berlin, started lying that I was born in New York City, since the glamour of that overtook my potentially confusing foreign appearance: a positive exoticism overtook a negative one. When you are in the business of language-teaching, you are in the business of knowledge and authenticity: I had to accept this. And this tactic worked particularly well with lonely middle-aged single women with a tiny but of income to spare on private English lessons and big dreams of visiting the big apple. Where did you grow up? The East Village? That must have been wonderful. But you are Japanese--oh, your father is from Hawaii? I've always wanted to go to Hawaii. It must be very nice there. etc I was able to pay my share of the rent; eat 3 Euro fried rice from Schmeckt und Billig; and go out at night sometimes. Ahhhhh-- La Vie Bohème of Berlin in the early 2000s...
But back to the business of knowledge and authenticity: This is where, dearest Germany, you really fuck people up.
(As I mentioned in one of the previous drafts of this letter, we all know what Chancellor Merkel is willing to say on TV to the child of a hopeful immigrant, currently in migration limbo, who addressed her in perfect German about her life dreams in Germany that will be thwarted when she faces deportation with her family. None of the positive press images of hopeful refugee immigrants clutching official images of Merkel can wipe away this lived image with the child. It is burned into my mind forever. And I remember when I googled it--and watched, in the middle of the night, in bed. And I cried not because I felt political empathy for this brilliant and heroic child; not because I identified with her; but because I identified with the brazen way you were treating her. Loosely translated, you actually said that it didn't matter that she was a human standing in front of you, but that if you said "Yes, you can all come," then everyone from Africa would think they could come too. To the face of a migrant child, in a room full of children, recorded, on television, you are willing to utter this outrageously xenophobic morass of free-associations. And a month later you are welcoming tens of thousands of refugees from somewhere else? This is what it feels like to be treated in a certain feign-confused and distanced way when asking for a simple loaf of Landbrot each morning in a Berlin bakery--and learning to swallow that ritual of arbitrary alienation.
That's what happens, why your hegemony is so successful, reconstitutive and destructive at the same time. Anyone within it who is structurally disadvantaged by it gets angry, even rebels, so brilliantly and strategically puts emotional life on display--but eventually gives in and gives up to it. To you. There is no flexibility, on a micro or macro level. There is no human feeling, no sense of the social, only the inputs and outputs of data and the machinations of sets of rules. There are only the clichés of your national identity, which must be continuously re-inscribed and broadcast. You have finally managed to find a productive scapegoating system within international law that has the benefits of both the external and internal colonization: whereas projecting all your troubles on the Jews of Europe had famously disastrous consequences, you have learned from your post-WWII partial colonizers, the USA, that scapegoats must be omnidirectional. (And that you can't directly kill people, especially if they have outside sympathizers.) Whatever scapegoated group has to be able to absorb both good and bad qualities; be mobilized and/or shut down at any time; they have to be local mythologies and internationally accepted statistics at the same time; they have to be part of daily conversation but not physically present enough to create human empathy; all complex feelings must be eradicated, since those are too difficult to manipulate; and, unlike what you did with the partially enacted genocide of European Jews, many of the scapegoated group must eventually agree with your take on them and eventually cross over, must want to become the negative image of "them": the negation of the negation produces a new subjectivity. Finally, there will be "good" hybrid cultural Germans again. A German-Greek colonial-style identity is not so far off, in your strategy. (Strangely, it is the fulfillment of Hitler's and Heidegger's fantasy life as well.)
So with Greece, they will first appreciate the newly well-functioning airports, managed by Frankfurt's Fraport. (Never mind, and always forget, that Germany has failed to build an airport in Berlin due to its own internal mafia-style corruption and endemic bureaucratic communication disasters; always forget that the ICE train is always late and may even break-down mid-route; always forget that the trains in Germany are rarely on time). Then the international elite community will visit the experimental communications interface Documenta, and see how, in fact, Germans are radically open minded. (Everyone in Greece should have been paying attention with careful scrutiny to predict that a neo-liberal colonization of Greece was underway when a Polish-born curator was approved to head a Documenta in Greece. In typical German political style, it offers a perfect Left-Right coalition: German guilt re: Poland offers a perfect example of cultural ambassador of the imagined success of former-east former-west unification to the new neo-colony who will educate them to the unresolvability of cultural contradictions displayed in constantly shifting prismatic constellations of endless undecidability. Perhaps Adam, who, all sarcasm aside, is actually a brilliant curator, will present a Trojan horse. Perhaps it will be like the famous Danish artist of Vietnamese extraction. It will be an even more perfect falsely successful and elaborate example of the imagined success of a brand new, united and multicultural Europe. Perhaps it will be like the USA in the 1980s and 90s. And as all minoritarian Americans who grew up in the shadow of the system of tokenism that emerged during this time know almost instinctually, the gravy train of elite status does not automatically create structural redistributions of power among the general population; it more often than not simply makes mildly more diverse dinner parties. It is an important step in the process; but only if the chosen elites continue a political labor within these dinner party conversations and in then do something about it. Tokenism also, as we now also instinctually know, can create blockades and in-fighting, as the power gained by the few can be seen as easily threatened and precariously sustained.)
Oh, dear Germany, how far astray you make me go to say everything I have to say to you. How disorganized my thoughts become every time I try to think about you--to figure out why I hate you so much, and why I even care that I hate you so much. How shrewd a political method it is to make the outsiders so confused that they can't even formulate coherent thoughts. Oh, dear Germany.
The emergence of "Mama Merkel" is perhaps the most brilliant of your recent confusion tactics. How can it be that the same Chancellor, who very publically stated that "multiculturalism has utterly failed" only a few years ago, is now your living Statue of Liberty? Now, whatever your diverse or un-diverse opinions of individual streams of multicultural ideology may be, it is actually rather impossible to claim that multiculturalism ever really happened in a place where basically only people with "German blood" had the right to vote until very recently. What? Huh? You might say. Is that even possible?
One of my brighter days in Berlin--when I finally felt connected in my alienation--was a conference at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (next door to Merkel's office) a few years ago. One of the culminating moments was when a young political activist who had just given a presentation raised the question if multiculturalism had ever actually occurred in Germany. His evidence? Until the law change in 1999 that granted partial Jus Soli citizenship rights for certain individuals born in Germany, the population living in Germany with guest-worker status and/or parents or grand-parents with guest-worker status and no German "blood" in the family line, had no voting rights, and becoming a citizen was made prohibitively complicated, confusing and/or expensive. (And, it should be added here, that it is still, to this day, unclear whether the prohibition on dual citizenship for non-EU (read between the lines: non-white) citizens is intentionally or just out of ignorance a blockade to gaining voting rights.)
This basic right: the right to vote. How amazing that no one had ever told me about this--that we were living among people who had not been given the right to vote on fundamentally racist grounds. That we were living among people who had lived their entire lives in Germany, but who were not allowed, as a right, the most basic way of participating in a democratic society until very recently. Voting rights, it seemed, to this American, were an issue that ended in the 1960s! That Mama Merkel, the leader of Europe and supposed hero of the refugee crisis, could be the same person who thought that multiculturalism had existed (and failed) in a country where people without German "blood" were unlikely to have been able to vote for most of the multicultural "experiment," should be particularly alarming.
So, dearest Germany, liebes Deutschland, dear Berlin, whatever.
What happens when we all become, as financialized entities on the global stage, a little bit Deutsch? Like the way Americans, through bourgeois-revolutionary transference of political philosophy, all became a little bit French in the late 18th century; or how all Americans are, as the first-generation conceptual artist Adrian Piper has brilliantly insisted since her "first high school biology term paper in genetics in 1962" until her "public announcement of her retirement from being 'black' in 2012," all Americans are racially mixed--meaning, the concept of race is an outmoded and simultaneously pernicious and aggressively re-inscribed fiction. Liebes Deutschland, it would be wonderful if the same could be said of the concept of race in your Europe as well. How many of your even-progressive citizens have told me at a dinner party that you do not, in contemporary Germany, have problems of racism as "we" do in America or as "they" do in France; how wonderful it must be to be blind to racism when migration is mistaken for immigration, and all of this is still a brutally new reality to you. How wonderful it must feel to welcome refugees spontaneously and suddenly, to feel the global swell of joy that Germany has finally become a welcoming and wonderful and happy global place. How great it must feel to be so blissfully naive in magical thinking.
Could there be a "German dream," with all of the problems and aspirations of the "American Dream"? It's pretty amazing how this "dream" ideology, that is so thoroughly problematized within American discourse that it bring yawns and eye-rolls if anyone brings it up in earnest, could feel so new and naive and fresh in Germany.
Dear Berlin,
Good luck.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
Ken Okiishi
Cecilia Corrigan
New York, November 2014

Dear Members of the Fellowship Committee,

It is with great pleasure that I write a letter in support of Ellen Green’s candidacy for the Eli Rorschach School of Public Policy and Genetic Studies. Ellen was my lab assistant for three semesters, and distinguished herself with her promptness, attention to detail, and near-encyclopedic knowledge of her field. I believe her enrollment in the Rorschach program would not only expand her developing career path, but enrich the experience of her fellow students and the institution as a whole.

Ellen is what we call a real natural biopsy tech. Her ability to calm frightened subjects is unparalleled, and it is because of her excellence in this area that I repeatedly asked her to join me on late night tissue extraction processing sessions. Ellen is able to handle a high-volume workload. She consistently met or surpassed all weekly biopsy extraction requirements (including customer satisfaction, cell volume and recovery time), and her attire left nothing to be desired.

As I’m sure you know, when it comes to biopsy extraction, it’s not just about competence, it’s about believing in the work with ones heart and soul. And if ever there was a true believer, it’s Ellen… It was a chilly autumn morning,  and I was enjoying my morning cigarette outside the biopsy lab. Ellen skidded to a stop on her Schwinn, uncharacteristically tardy.

“Ellen,” I said, “what gives?”
She looked at me blankly, and murmured something about a dream.
“Tell me about it” I commanded.
Ellen said she’d been lying on her couch drinking a Vitamin Water and watching Orphan Black. Next thing she knew she and I lived together in a duplex apartment on the top floor of a building in a place that looked like Paris and San Francisco (cities symbolizing Ellen’s professional anxieties about remaining abreast of Silicon valley biotech innovations, as well as a healthy respect for the dangers of mercury poisoning). The top floor of our duplex had huge windows which looked into the skylight of the building next door, an elegant structure that had once been a mosque which had been converted into a private residence, (this symbolizes the growing corporate sponsorship of research facilities).  There was a large atrium in the center of the building, which had a long rectangular pool with fountains in its center, and potted palm trees standing around the periphery of the courtyard, between columns (this detail symbolizes nothing relating to biotech but shows Ellen’s great taste in interior design).

Ellen was invited by the neighbors with the atrium on some sort of tour and she went over (I seem to drop out of the dream narrative at this point, I suppose I stayed home for some reason).
 The people who lived there were all very good-looking, particularly the woman leading the tour, (I’m not sure why this detail was relevant, but Ellen mentioned it), who was very tall and pale with light blonde hair and red lips (probably symbolizing a patient suffering from anemia).

It turned out all the people living there were half dinosaur half vampires, and the woman with the blonde hair had invited people on a tour to play games where she would kill and eat them. Ellen was extremely attracted to the woman and hoped the woman would kill her, yet also wanted to survive and escape. At one point, the woman brought eveyone into the atrium. She sat down next to the fountain atrium and asked if anyone wanted to try and run across the courtyard to try to escape. A fat man ran across, and the woman transformed into a creature with long claws and fangs and, as the man screamed, jumped on him and clawed his guts out as the blood spurted upwards from his body in an aesthetic echo of the water spurting upwards from the nearby fountain. This clearly symbolizes the eroticized attachment to sacrifice which motivates any true medical professional. Ellen’s subconscious is so commited to the pursuit of scientific truth combined with bedside manner, that she managed to historicize the problem of faith versus science one character: this blonde dinosaur. That woman represents science’s Satan’s own performatively parodic tendencies re: the crucifix and the Lord’s tongue, both of which Satan turned inside out as a way of punking the Lord about his top most important projects, kind of pointing out that it’s all a fundamentally subjective thing really—trying to determine the ultimate reality behind a set of empirical data, because the arbitrary nature of systems of measurement really undermines any connection between systematized observation and a priori statements about a universally shared reality. At this point Ellen woke up, aroused and terrified.

I regularly received unsolicited praise from study subjects commending Ellen's outstanding level of service, professionalism, and follow-through. Ellen is a hardworking, top-performing biotech professional. She has my highest recommendation, and I am happy to furnish more details if you would like additional information. If I can be of any more assistance in your consideration of this exemplary candidate, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or email.


F. M. Gold, M.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Quinn Latimer
Athens, Greece, November 2015

Dear S.,

I meant to write to B., but then stopped, thought better of it, addressed myself to your letter only. Naturally. Hey. A storm woke us in the middle of the night, lightning slashing through the blue shutters; we’ve spread all the soaked outdoor cushions in the sun outside to dry, an audience for the animals in the pasture below, and the sea below that. Small comma of the bay, etc. Despite this current elevation, I’ve felt very below lately—not learning from below, as it goes, just a bit lower than the (pale blue) surface of everything. A loose lagoon, as P. swears, laughing. At the printer last week, the Greek technicians of the large German machines wore t-shirts with “print_your_senses” stenciled across the back. There might have been a hashtag; there was definitely an underscore. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do now, for you. Naturally. A typography, its elopement, some refinement, etc. Didn’t JB write: “Perhaps you will get a letter every day. On some days the need to write lodges itself in my throat like a cry that must be uttered.” Then: “I am so wily and feminine that I could live by your side for a lifetime and deceive you afresh each day. But I will have no truck with feminine wiles. I know how they can absorb the hours of the day.” So she did, they can. The hours of the day are my present concern, my subject, too. Naturally. Across the sea, in our new city, bank closures and the repetition of elections, like a perfect set stretching into the blue distance—long cab rides as we circle demonstrations. In our old city—nothing. I don’t think about it. Not even its banks, holding—that famously private withheld—the spoils of war and finance and suffering. The connection is clear but how to draw it (without sentiment). Over the hill, our secular view, light crowning the church—first a flag, then a place of worship. Colonies can have colonies too. Staring at images of protest across Europe all summer, first in the street then in my small office, the strange steeple of austerity’s A carrying each pale banner higher. Outside, the anarchists gathering in the twilight, dragging their historical A into the center of the narrow street like the garbage cans, and then the lighters, and then the historical fires. We make plans to stay in or go out. Etymology arrives, as always: The anarchist’s letter comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία—anarchia. The ἀ meaning “not, without”; ἀρχή meaning “ruler, leader, authority.” Without leaders. Not letters. Yours I chose today for its sense of the snake, the slip. Your slippery leadership. Not state. More soon, and to B. too.


Eliot Weinberger
New York, November 2015

Dear Negar– Many thanks for inviting me to contribute to Divine Deadlines. I’m afraid I’m incapable of writing an epistolary fiction and would be embarrassed to offer an actual letter of mine for display. So I thought I’d simply “forward” you something. It’s the last known letter written by the poet John Clare, dated March 8, 1860, and sent from the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where Clare spent the last twenty-three years of his life. (There is no punctuation, as he believed that it is a form of slavery.) much love-- Eliot

Dear Sir I am in a Madhouse & quite forget your Name or who you are You must excuse me for I have nothing to communicate or tell of & why I am shut up I dont know I have nothing to say so I conclude Yours respectfully John Clare
Harry Burke
New York, November 2015

For ___

l♡ve letters

Well a) i’m dependent on you

b) luh u

c) i miss uuu

d) i luhh uuu

b negotiates with a

a is like, hey

bb go away


love’s no a-c-a-bidet.




To my friends:)

xxx heartstops xxx

(♡_Forever, yours_♡)

I'm happy and sad I'm here.


Elizabeth Rubin
New York, November 2015

Dear Gregory,
I believe that R. sent you a breast believing it belonged to Room Service in Greece.
Actually it belonged to me and I'd like it back if you don't mind. You can put it in your trash bin and I will collect it.
Thank you kindly,
Mary Gaitskill
New York, November 2015

Dear Negar: Knight Landesman forwarded to me your letter about letters. The thing is, I'm not sure what you want. I don't have actual letters I've sent to people because....I sent them. I do have some letters from other people, but I wonder if its legal to publish them. Maybe a rejection letter from the Atlantic? Or are you including emails? I have emails I've sent, but don't want to publish anything personal. I did read the "letter" from Eileen Myles; that didn't seem personal, but I don't write imaginary things  o people unless I am going crazy with love for them and can't actually write to them, so I write some demented thing I know I won't send, to just let off the steam. I would not want to publish something like that either. I'm just thinking as I write  here and it seems like I don't have anything you would be able to use. But perhaps I'm not clear on what you want. Is that the case? Best, Mary
Sophia Al Maria
Cape Town, South Africa, November 2015

Sorry to hail you by our siblinghood. I hope I don’t sound like some cringy convert down at the mosque exclaiming ‘!أختى’, but in a few seconds you’ll think I’m not any better than them because I am writing to you now with conversion motives heavy on my <3.

Sis, please refrain from rolling your head around your eyes in exasperation. At least for the length of this letter. Purdy pleez?

OK. Now I know for a Musli-‘meh’ you’re quite the pope fan. As an irreligious reprobate, I have to admit his infernal talking of the sense causes me to have the ocassional hyper-empathy attacks scrolling through fuckyeahpopefrancis.tumblr.

So let me start with his recent encyclical about climate change.

In it he quotes a canticle by Saint Francis of Assisi about sister earth. Then the pope calls us humans out for our treatment of her - “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her-”

Now my little sister-mother. I’m going to nag. You live two blocks from the railroad tracks with two fresh progeny. They are the most exquisite sprogs I have ever seen and I love them more than memory.

When we were kids we used to put coin on those tracks for smashing, little copper rain puddles on hot-rolled steel. A few kids from our school died at junctions in the valley. Each tragedy brought stricter safety measures. More chain link fences, more lights, more power. But now the big metal cat scratch dragging through the middle of the place is one of the main thoroughfares for Canadian oil and coal trains going south. And no one seems to give a rat’s ass as Amtrak passenger trains have to make way for huge fuel comets rocketing through with their bellies full of seep.

It. Is. Madness.

I remember the first time I saw one of those open topped coal monsters with the mounds of rough black glitter piled to overflowing. It was 50 + cars long. Took more than a minute to pass. And that was recent. Like, 2013.

But you’d already become so accustomed you didn’t even notice it was a new thing. It had been illegal for coal to roll through since mom was a kid in the 50s. But Turtle already knew the difference between a Sounder commuter car and the rusty cylindrical oil tanks. Just like she could already open your phone and call me on the FaceTime before you figured out the thing. You grew exasperated when I asked if you were worried. Turtle’s ok but Jazz Baby’s so little, all that air pollution can’t be good for him. It’s hard to get you to grok the reasons why you should care…as a mama or as an asthmatic or whatever. And if you won’t sign the damn letters to your local representatives I send you - even as a favor – please at least move a few blocks away from the track.

Because if one of those oil tank trains derailed near you (and it’s only a matter of time before one does as the state prepares to triple the fossil fuel traffic by 2018) you would be vaporized. There is a seaside town in Turkey called Zonguldak. Not so very far from where your “primary and secondary spawn”s father was born. The people there are protesting. Protesting because their children are downwind of two big coal factories and it’s affecting their health.

They’re protesting. Why aren’t you? Have you really been so sedated by your suburban mall dreamscape that you can’t feel outraged? It’s like you’ve been defanged by America in a haze of pinterest boards and craft supply shops. I’ve watched you go from being a teenager resentful of the way your young husband was arrested after 9/11 and working with Somali refugees to being fearful about Syrians being granted entry to the US. So with all due love and affection sister, I still wish I could cuff you hard upside the head so you’d wake up. Be active. Quit feeding your kids GMO crap from Costco. You’ve made improvements and I’m impressed. But I wish I could see you get angry about something other than an offhand comment by a cashier at Fred Myers or homeless people in the park. I wish I could send you this letter.

After rereading I realize that I can’t.
Ugga mugga.

Anicka Yi
New York, December 2015


I'm gone. Such sad words to wake up to. I knew you would be gone before you finally were but I've been on lonely island lately not able to get into pleasure pattern of friend time. Sorry there wasn't more effort on my part to say farewell. Shit. It's been revolving coagulated states with me this August. The body's moving, the mind is too but the spirit just can't break down the proteins of this reality. I have spiritual IBS. Sadness hijacks everything about me, masking itself as ennui or listless monotony. What's worse is the paradox of necessity right now- your former best friend can't help you get over losing said former best friend. The rational logic of intimate relations and inevitable consequence absolutely sucks. The more one loved, the more one is denied, the more one is erased. I hate pain that keeps good people down.

Thinking of leaving my therapist. She has a coldness to her that leaves me feeling like a pulled weed, usually at the end of our sessions. Is warmth not a menu option with your therapist? I want empathy from her. Not getting it enough. Also, my initial concern was that she is too young. She looks to be my age. Can she know what lies ahead? Maybe that's why I'm so wound up this month. Last month our relationship really suffered from my being away and missing appointments.

So that's me. Sorry. Had to dump my goods on the table. Scanner darkly. What about your state? Is France agreeing with you so far? I'm reading Madame Bovary again. She's so irritating in theory but infinitely relatable. Perhaps I dove into the book as a way to commemorate you and where you are now. The ability to read for pleasure right now I am so grateful. It's #2 on list of what I look forward to in a day. What books do you intend to read? There must be decent vegetarian options for you at meal time. Why did I say that as though you would eat at a school canteen everyday? Guess I was picturing an open planned Modernist cafe in slabs of grey concrete where all the residents would get together leaving their hometown selves behind.

[An aside: You were in my dream this morning. I would ask how you are doing, but as of seven a.m. you were tumbling over two square red cushions in a rectangular grassy plot surrounded by brick walls in my unusual dream. The setting was a back/graveyard in some northern region. I think I was doing somersaults too. The problem was with a team of turtles a few feet from us, apparently we were interfering with their construction site. They were assiduously erecting a miniature reptile telecommunications network- telephone poles, cellular satellites, broad band cables. there was even squeak of a mini casino too I think. These bright red cushions cast a gravitational spell on us, because we kept falling each time the cushions moved. The turtles were not happy with us. In the dream you were kind of upset with me at one point - for reasons lost now; it may have been that you fell over the cushions because i tripped you, but not on purpose. then we laughed at the turtles. The dream was not unpleasant. I witnessed our fondness for bent sinister humor, which I hope neither of us have appeased or tamed. I have no idea what to make of this dream, but your visit was hilarious. Yes the turtles are mobilizing, self-organizing, horizontalizing- as the vanguard party leaders message board find new host in southern surfer shutter motor mouther. But let's stay calm by not troping the T, or something rhetorically retarded as this. The graffiti on the wall in my dream read: I am not turtle. I am dynamite.]

Concretely yours,

Dorothea Lasky
New York, December 2015 r

Dear Eric,

You are the friend who has the balls to say to me: you are too tired to have enemies right
Maybe this is because we know each other so well, that the concept of a personal enemy
is a kind of luxury
That is when you don't want to engage in the fight but is the next step to peace
You are my only friend
I don’t know what peace is
And who am I to say
Do I have the gall really to line up my petty enemies and for what
Or maybe they really crossed me
I mean have you thought of that
To the tune of money, time
Have you thought of those things
Or maybe the accumulation of enemies is a kind of resistance to what it means to not
have any
You don’t have enemies
People like you
And they should
You’re the most wonderful person I ever met
What is it like to write into the space where no one is competing with your time
I know you don’t know either
I now am at this place
Where I pay for my time
To have no one talking
But then am I really just the show
Is the whole thing really at fault
Or was it me all along
I know I am at this place
Where a person throwing me a little crumb to keep me quiet
Seems besides the point
When I can go into the quiet and find better than that
The secrets that the enemy knows about me
What is the really broad elixir
That we take and it clears the blood
And if I don’t have the noise of him
Will I find my own strong music
You don’t answer me
You sit and then you say
You don’t stare
Out the window there is the strange green pig
And the enemy has left
He isn’t at the window any longer
I assumed he might linger a bit
But he found something else to pet
When I first met you the poem was about the spaces between the gills
Now the poem is our life
When I said why bother this is just a life I will watch die again
You said no you are not watching something unravel, but begin
She lived
Dear Eric sometimes I say these are my many things help me my brother
And you say these things are not important
And you reach inside me and pull out the world

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