Namwali Serpell
New York, December 2017

Dear 33 Senanga Road,

How are your bricks holding up? Has dry season dust coated you pink? Has rainy season mud splashed red fingers up your walls? And you, flaky guava tree, so quick to skin yourself, to wince your bark under my nails; you, with that one long limb that I once monkeyed across, that I could now stand beneath and simply reach up and grasp—have you budded green fists yet this season? Do you still await my clamber? Yaw darkbark avocado, with the swing that broke—did they cut you down for making half the garden a shadow? Has the mulberry crawled the rooty path to choke you?

I must not forget you, dear sweet frangipani, of the elephant branches and the glueymilk blood and the whitepetal hands pinched to coral. You stood inside the low garden wall, the perimeters of which my mother, now dead (just dead), lined with flowers—marigolds and violets and a rose bush where twice I met a wry chameleon. What of the big grey rock that jutted vertical from the ground, is it still painted with the unaccountable chessboard? And what of the tree that used to bow over it, the name of which I never learned and which refused my climb by hefting its forks?

It had thin leaves and yellow bell blossoms that were terrible to press. They never stayed yellow no matter how briefly I left them in the folded card between the stacked encyclopedias. The flowers browned as they flattened, and when I slid out the card and unstuck it open, they fractured, looking quite like the browning, breaking pages of the encyclopedias themselves, which were old, very old, and incomplete. I myself tore out the plastic section with the illustrated man that one vivisected by turning each translucent page—digestive, circulatory, reproductive, reproductive. I have been sliced open since, and my mother not so long ago, and we too were splayed across blank backlit pages, and we two then learned the sorrow of the illustrated man, how the riven flesh sticks but doesn’t heal.

House, I know your insides, house. Just like I know the illustrated man’s and my own insides, and my mother’s. I know your rooms and corridors, house. That blueprint is layered with how the light lay on your walls and doors, on glass and mirror, over furniture, across Ba Enela’s ironing board. Some of my knowing comes from the photos in our gummy shuffled albums. But my knowing is inside me, too, how all of our things sat or hung inside you, house—the furniture and curtains and pictures. Or how they did then. I don’t know about now. Last I looked, I couldn’t come in.

No one was home, the gates rudely locked—different gates, not sweeping sisal but shuddering metal—so I could only peek through the gap between them. I confirmed then that your bricks are still white and I saw that you are shockingly small and I caught glimpses of all my trees, or I imagined that I did, because I couldn’t see inside, or inside. I won’t ask you to show me now or tell me in reply, nor will I presume to open you up for these others peering through the gaps between our gates. I will assume, unless otherwise notified, that you still stand there, house, divided and replete and exactly as I remember you, and with my mother inside, and her laughter.



To be published in McSweeney's Quarterly 53

Wayne Koestenbaum
Los Angeles, February 2018

Dear Rock Hudson,

Your essay/conversation/performance is so truly marvelous—L. is right to say that it should be read by anyone who dares to pick up a paintbrush.  To think that such a treasurable source of fag wisdom lay lurking on the fringe of my known world, and that I'd remained in ignorance!  To know that his reservoirs of verbal alabaster (if alabaster were liquid and not "solid") are matched by the high pitch of painterly virtuosity! 

I've been savoring the thick, lurid catalogue....  Smack in the center of the gold is your brilliant essay, with its sage and timely reflections on the inside and outside of art, and of art's non-likeness to Salvation Army tactics, and of art's slippery and elusive relation even to our acts of talking about it, photographing it, cell-phoning it...  The interlude of sea-evocation, field-evocation, in your piece, is magnificently lyrical, the words ("a murky pewter or porpoise," ""pooled like molasses, "shimmer of horizon," and, a bit later, "escape velocity from that sticky black hole") so worthy of Moore and Schuyler!  Pleasing, deliriously so, to see Moore's "A Grave" given pride of place… An essay without disclosures ain't worth reading.  Kiss me, hold me tight.

I fell in love with her want-ad paintings.  "MALE NUDISM is popular among free-thinkers." 

Tonight saw Bette Davis playing two roles in Dead Ringer—a movie I'd seen first as a kid, on Channel 2's Dialing for Dollars, a daytime call-in movie show, California television.  One of the first movies I'd inscribed in my List of Every Movie I've Seen—preceded by Mary Poppins, My Fairy Lady, and I Confess (the latter also offered on the indispensable Dialing for Dollars). 

Still not finished reading Leiris—but I'm near the end.  The slowness:  ambrosial.  Sticky syntax, quicksand. 

I am very happy writing my fables and I am therefore truly honored and moved that you have now read some of them and wished to have a negroni with Marcello.

Remind me, the next time we speak, to tell you about my dream in which Elaine Stritch had a penis.  Why shouldn't she?  She was living at the Chelsea Hotel.  Where else?

Pat Lawford

Solmaz Sharif
February 2018

Dear Aleph,

You’re correct. Every nation hates
its children. This is a requirement of statehood.

This and empathy.
Empathy means

laying yourself down
in someone else’s chalklines

and snapping a photo. A Chrysler
with four bulletholes

in the rear passenger door
just drove by calmly, signaling

before it turned. Oh, Mrs. Evans,
you’re such a wonderful woman,

said Ethel Rosenberg to the woman
who walked her to the chair.

It was empathy on Evans’s part.
Love on Ethel’s. I am a wonderful woman

more often than I care to admit.
We are going to have

our first woman president.

Tobi Haslett
New York, February 2018

Dear Luca Guadagnino,
You don’t know me, which is fine. But everyone I know has seen your recent film Call Me By Your Name, a fact that—besides being a humiliating indictment of my “milieu”—is proof of your great success. Congratulations, then, on your great success.
But I didn’t know what I was supposed to make of the film, really. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m black, though I’m sure you’ll say that’s not your fault.
Anyway, I really thought I would get it. Though the film has very little to do with the world as we know it, it takes excruciating pains to be, well…culturally specific. And I know that culture! During the Iraq invasion my mother made us start going to Quaker Meeting, so I was, in fact, raised within torturous proximity to smug academics, public radio employees, “spiritual” white atheists—in other words, the Birkenstock Left. The Bumper Sticker Left.

Anyway, because I’m not you and have some sense of proportion and modesty and am prepared to admit that there may be something I’m missing, some throbbing little detail or dense, secret code in need of deciphering, unveiling, explication, exegesis—I’m really trying, here—I wanted to ask you about something in particular. I read somewhere that you littered the film set with things from your own home—a way of sprucing it up, presumably, squirting a bit of hominess into the whole unheimlich affair.
So the baby grand piano—was that yours? Was that your copy of the Heptaméron that the impossibly elegant mother sight-translates from the German?  Did you transplant your own peach trees? If so—what dedication! Were those your sweaty swim trunks, your volleyball net, your preposterously loyal and spookily one-dimensional maid? And if so, is her real name Mafalda, or did you make her change it? Was that your limestone fountain? Let me guess—those Praxiteles sculptures they haul out of the water and admire with precisely the repressive preciousness that dooms the film—you own that! Come on, it’s yours.
With love and curiosity,
P.S. I know someone who knows someone who’s an aging gay academic and is convinced that after Oliver and Elio’s first night together, we’re meant to guess that the shirt crumpled on the floor is smeared with shit and blood. Is that your shirt?

Rahel Aima
Dubai, November 2017

Dear #002259,

Don’t you find it strange when people talk about something cutting like a hot knife through butter, isn’t that phrase a little too warm and weird? And is it weird for you, when you read my letters or my writing, to see these little fragments or phrases resurface, as if it wasn’t enough to tweet them, or say them only to you in the first place?
Warm and weird is how Dubai usually feels to me, but this time round it’s too warm and not weird at all. I’ve been uncomfortably hot all the time, actually, and I feel like I’m going through diasporic menopause. I kept turning the AC down until I hit the maximum of 16°C. It didn’t seem to be working or perhaps it was working too well, because when the repairmen came they said that the coils had frozen up, and don’t turn it down so low again. When I first moved to New York I found myself eyeing a jar of solid coconut oil with extreme suspicion, annoyed that I couldn’t seem to find it in the liquid-not-dubiously-waxy form. Later I saw a person on the internet complain that in Chicago winters, the oil in their hair froze solid, and I have never heard a more convincing argument against diaspora ever since, have you?
Maybe it’s weird outside? Perhaps it’s not tense and jingoistic and instead delightful, in that beautiful way this city intimates post-Westernness and that fever dream of South-South relations that doesn’t turn on the approval of former colonisers? I mean, I’m also wildly projecting, and it’s just a place where people live and work and do their thing, but for the first time it doesn’t feel like I’m in some barzakh or purgatory. And it’s nice (you know, these days I can’t find any higher blushy closed-eyed emojied praise than “nice”) to be in a place which is not diverse but aggressively multiracial, and where almost everyone around you is brown. Luxurious, more than anything else.
You know those American accents where the vowels are so wonderfully louchily stretched out, like the speaker’s been sending them to Pilates four times a week? That’s what these past two weeks being back here feels like. I have been enjoying not leaving the house, avoiding seeing friends, entering into a kind of cosy hibernation where I just read and write (and tweet) all day. There’s a particular timbre of misanthropy particular to returning to the town or city that you grew up in, and I’ve been making the most of that. I’m mostly awake at night, and I’m more quantised to Eastern time than I am when I’m there. It’s just past 6am, and I’ll sleep when I hear the next azan or the sun comes up, whichever arrives first. Sometimes the traffic from the street is too loud, but I always find the morning one, with its reproach that prayer is better than sleep, a little too admonitory anyway. Other people like to talk about airports as spaces of transience or non belonging or always being on the move but for me I feel very much stationary. Slouched at the baggage claim (to sit would be to admit defeat), waiting for my circadian rhythms to arrive.
I always feel like I’m missing out on winter until I actually experience its leading edge, then realise I only like the kind of cold where you can smell the freon.
Warmly if not weirdly,

Kaitlin Phillips
New York, February 2018

Since you’ve been gone…

I read a book on Rising Signs published in 1963. It said that someone will acquire a taste for me, in my lifetime, “just as some people do for lima beans.” It said I was more likely than any sign to end up in jail.

I read a book on social behavior through the lens of the animal kingdom. The author had some good points. “You don’t see many dolphins running with sharks and you don’t see many cats running with dogs. Most of us don’t like to be around people with whom we have to struggle.

I read a New York Times article about Matthew Barney. His assistant told the reporter: “Matthew Barney hates anything obvious. Like the color red.”

I read that, for lunch, Giacometti ate “two hard-boiled eggs, two slices of cold ham with a piece of bread, two glasses of Beaujolais, and two large cups of coffee.” Two glasses of wine for lunch! And I’m the class alcoholic….

Yesterday I didn’t read anything at all, because I went drinking before therapy even. I sat next to this woman with a paralyzed face at Lucien, she looked like a broken puppet, but she was very upbeat. She makes biscotti for a living. She told me that she got a new Chinese coat on Delancey for $25, and that everyone she knows who’s seen it says exactly the same thing. Now that will look fabulous with your dungarees.

I think my therapist knew I was drunk because he talked for most of our session. He told me a Russian fable about a man who falls in love with a woman wearing a yellow scarf. It’s caught in a tree branch. It was love at first sight. The story went on and on. For like ten minutes the guy is talking to the girl, who can’t seem to untangle herself from the tree. He said the moral of the story is that men need women to save themselves. I asked if the girl was being strangled by the tree. Like this guy had a thing for erotic asphyxiation, and was just watching the girl strangling herself to death, or whatever. He didn’t think that was funny at all…

Then I drank some more, and went to a party at [REDACTED’s] house. A man told me Lucien Smith was mean to him at summer camp. Jeanette Hayes was quoting Confucious, but I can’t remember the quote, only that she said “It’s the one via Madonna via Confucius via Wendy Williams via Madonna.”  [REDACTED] fell down several times drunk, and was really hysterical, forcing everyone to fill out these surveys she’d written herself on little scraps of paper. All the men got: “Where you fat as a child? Yes or no.” Mine said: “Was your mother thinner than you?” Do you think, perhaps, we’re not giving [REDACTED] enough credit? I’m thinking of letting her be friends with us….

Anyway I fly to Paris tomorrow and I’ve been promised a dinner with Houllebecq. I hope it’s like that line from Warhol’s Diaries: “Kitty was drunk and when the Spanish ambassador said a few words she screamed, ‘I CAN’T SPEAK SPANISH.’”

Love you
Justin Allen
New York, December 2017

Z.B. Neale | 14:10 (5 hours ago)

Is it recording? I can’t tell if it’s recording. Hello? Looks like it’s typing.

Z.B. Neale | 14:12 (5 hours ago)

Looks like it sent. It worked! You win, the email works. Also, fuck you for making me use a tablet to contact you.

Z.B. Neale | 15:59 (3 hours ago)

I’m back. This all feels weird. I’m never at my grandparent’s place but they’re the only people I know that use a tablet. Also, hi. You know you’re the only reason I have an email. Your sibling asked me if you live in Hatnaha ‘cause you’re still on email. I go along with it and say the technology where you are stopped advancing in 2000 just like in the comic, and they believe me. They told me how much they miss you. Isn’t that sad? Their sibling gone for a whole year. Your cousin asked me to contact you, they’re still too annoyed to talk to you and I wasn’t about to tell them they’d have to use email, it’s such a process. I had a lot of time to question why I’m doing this while I was making this account, but here I am. You’re whole family misses you, but they know you’ll only respond to me.

Wait, I’m sorry, it’s still funny to me how I can just say.

And it starts a new paragraph.

It’s like.


But on it.

At the same tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii i i i i i i


Also! katkans hatnahanse du . dahi ! xak ika xak du buma du nima . tubi xāk deguns xena-hatnaha . snena fan-fiction-dat ki , ikats xāk du skika , kuganhe dukse gak xinun , come back home! Everyone misses you. I know you believe in what you’re doing. Yeah, sometimes I wanna escape too, when I wanna get rid of the constant debates, when I just wanna be and not have to be something or with someone or fighting. Shit, I’m sick of fighting, infighting, fighting-fighting, this versus that, AfroStatesers verses Revolutionaries, Revolutionaries verses AfroStatesers. White folks denying Reparations ever happened, like really? How? But things are also great. Stable as possible, I guess. Also, you’re still here! You haven’t left, dan mezukse-bek daza . Also, why is there only one computer? Why a computer? And why don’t you check it more? Are you trying to be minimalist, ‘cause if you are that’s really corny, no one’s into that shit except for like, people that were alive when that was a thing.

This email thing makes me feel nostalgic, but for a time I didn’t live, you know that freaks me out. Reminds me of nationalism. And I don’t like talking this much. All these paragraphs make me feel like I’m writing a memoir.

Did you have to move into the wilderness? Was that necessary? Do people speak Hatnahans there? Do they even read the comic? Or know what it is? This email situation even recognizes Hatnahans, which still doesn’t make sense to me, but neither does emailing.

Oh shit! I’m just realizing it starts a new paragraph when I pause for a while. Wild.

Also, I saw on the news today that the old coastal cities are all officially gone. The tallest building’s been submerged, swallowed by the Atlantic. Matter of time. What was the name of that building again?

Also, I should probably ask. Are you haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa a a a a a a a a a a a a a


Naomi Fry
New York


Gary Indiana
New York, December 2017


Justin Vivian Bond
New York, November 2017

A Genuine Fictional Thank You Letter Written to Linda Thompson for Introducing Me at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in February of 2015

Dear Linda,

Greetings from Amsterdam! I've been thinking about you everyday this week and finally this morning I had a minute to sit down, catch my breath, and write you to thank you for the beautiful introduction you gave me for my concert at The Queen Elizabeth Hall.

This is my second attempt to write you because my first attempt was a fail. You see, earlier this morning I was about to go to the Van Gogh Museum when disaster struck.  I was tapping away on my computer when suddenly, and without warning it froze and the entire missive disappeared. In that email I was in the middle of explaining a highfalutin’ scheme I’d come up with about how I was going to bring you one of Vinnie's “Sunflowers" because in my mind a piece of priceless art would be the only way I could truly repay you.  

I'd  heard somewhere around town that they have several extra “Sunflower’s" sitting around in the basement of the museum and I can now tell you it’s true! Evidently he painted 5!!!!! I’d seen the one in the gallery when I was there before so I knew it was pretty big.  I also knew I wouldn't be able to fit it into my suitcase so I resolved to return and get you one of the other, smaller ones.

Fortunately the queen who runs the museum was at my show last night and loved it, natch, so I talked them into letting me in the back entrance.

After a bit of small talk (small talk is one of my grand fortes, as you know) I got it out of him that he's a bit of a sex addict so I skillfully manipulated him into checking his Grindr updates right then and there. (being a straight lady of distinction you may not know that Grindr is a gay hook up site)
While he was trolling the internet looking for love on the people's dime I started nosing around his office and antechamber. After a few minutes search I poked my head into the storage closet and EUREKA! There in the corner leaning up against the wall was a smaller, more manageable, version of the “Sunflowers.” Perfection! I was utterly thrilled because in that instant I could totally picture  them on the yellow wall that I’d seen behind you on your gorgeous profile picture on Facebook.

Ever the practical Taurus I’d brought a pretty big tote bag with me but just as I was about to put the masterpiece into my bag I heard all these crazy noises coming out of the museum head’s office. "Oh Goddess," I thought to myself, “He's a screamer!”  Turns out he had gotten himself onto some porn site and was making an awful racket.  "I'd better get out of here before someone calls security on this loud mouth.” For all I knew this sort of caterwauling came from that office all the time and was no big deal, but I wasn't taking any chances.

I may be practical but I’m also equally forgetful.  What with all the excitement I got so rattled that I sat the painting back down and came bursting out of that closet before I had a chance to put it in my bag.  As much as it pains me to say it, it's a good thing I did because right then a security guard came running into the office just as you-know-who shot a big load right onto the seat of the palazzo pants I was wearing (no big loss, they were from Zara).

Turns out civil servants in Campsterdam aren't supposed to be on porn sights while they're working so the museum director shame-facedly slammed his computer shut before the security guys could see what was going on and proceeded to throw me under the bus by leading them to believe that I had given him the hairy eyeball and he couldn't resist my overtures (who could, right?.) They were convinced they had caught us in flagrante delicto, like I was some cheap showbiz trash who couldn’t keep their hands off him.  As if!!!

This imagined scene made those security guards all kinds of nervous and fidgety so they escorted me out of the museum before I could slip the “Sunflowers" into my bag. Once we were out on the street they told me I was banned for life from the Van Gogh Museum.  Can't you imagine the humiliation?  Ha! Like I care. (slow exhalation of cheap French cigarette) Clearly those Van Gogh's are a dime a dozen.

Anyway, I tell you all of this for one reason and one reason only:  because I feel terrible knowing I'll never really be able to thank you enough.  Now that I've "blown" my chance to steal you a Van Gogh I don’t know what I’ll do. But please know that  if I had actually been successful I honestly don’t even think that would have been enough to convey my gratitude.

As a Jack AND Jill of all trades I will be grateful to you and love you forever!!!!

On second thought, I'm back in London tomorrow, would you like me to go and try for a Warhol at The National Portrait Gallery?  I know some of the higher ups there too.

See you soon! 

Massive Love, 

Joe Westmoreland
New York, December 2017

Doug —
Long time no write. I finally have a chance to write you a long overdue letter. It’s been hard to write since my thumb tendon snapped and I had hand surgery. That happened this fall in between losing Earl and Buster, so I’ve been a bit of a wreck. Every time I’ve started to write you a letter, or sit quiet for a moment, I get all weepy. Then my fingers won’t hit the right keys from tears and my fucked up fingers. I’ve been writing in my journal so hopefully I’ve left most of the mushy sentimental stuff there. There’s lots to catch up with you. I’ve been feeling much better so I’m getting out and socializing more. For so long I’ve been a bit of a hermit. After thirty years here, I’ve turned into a grumpy ol’ New Yorker. It’s funny, considering how I used to be so excited about everything going on and was out all the time. These days I’m happy to stay home and sit and read or listen to the radio while I space out.

I’m trying to think what to tell you that we haven’t texted or emailed about. Like I said, it’s been really hard getting over losing Buster and Earl. They were 12 1/2 and had been together since birth. They only left our apartment to go to the vet, which until recently was once a year at the most. They were huge cats, almost 20 pounds each. Bigger than a lot of dogs. Earl was 18 pounds and in June he started losing weight. By August he’d lost 6 pounds. He went from being fat to skinny. I thought he had hyper-thyroid problems which older cats get. I figured I’d be giving him pills and maybe IV fluids for a few years. I took him to the vet and after a lot of tests and a few trips back and forth, they told me he had lymphoma of the small intestines. The vet, Dr. Love, said he had probably two weeks to three months left. Since he’d already been sick for a while, it turned out he had two more weeks. It seemed to happen so fast. I had treatment options of everything from doing nothing to sending him to “cat cancer camp” where he’d get IV chemo Mon-Fri and I’d bring him home for the weekend. This would be for a month or six-weeks. The thought of that horrified me. When I was on chemo I swore I’d never put one of my pets on it. Cats can figure out a lot of things, but I don’t think they’d understand why I’d do that to them. After Charlie and Lori told me I’d be nuts to do any kind of chemo, I agreed to put him on steroids. That increased his appetite and gave him some energy. He was jumping up on the kitchen counter and table until a few days before he died. He got really weak and the day we took him to the vet to be “put down” (weird term) he could barely lift his head. He wasn’t in pain, just got thinner and weaker. Lori went with me and stayed next to me while Dr. Love gave Earl his final injections. It was heart-breaking.

Buster hated being alone after Earl died. He’d already had a big knot of a mass removed from his shoulder in the spring and had arthritis in his lower spine. When Charlie’s home he spends most of his time glued to his video monitor. He blocks out the world and wasn’t much company for Buster. Charlie told me that when I’d go out, Buster would sit by the door and meow really loud until I came home.

Charlie tried to calm him down and gave him treats and food. Buster would eat it then go back to the door and wait. I tried to stay home as much as I could thinking he’d get over Earl eventually. One day, two months after Earl died, it rained a lot which caused Buster’s arthritis to flare up. His back got worse and worse. He started limping and then late that day, his hind legs went out. He had to pull himself along with his front legs. It was the opposite of Earl’s death, Buster was in a lot of pain and very alert. It was excruciating to watch. Picking him up hurt his back, so I sat with him, massaged him, put a heat pad on him. We went to the vet Friday afternoon before Halloween (the next Tuesday). The vet gave him a pain injection and increased his pain meds and gave me an anti-inflammatory. He slept for almost 24 hours after that injection. Then Saturday night,the pain meds wore off and couldn’t get comfortable and stopped eating or drinking any water. He kept moving to different spots around the front room. In the middle of the night, he started panting and breathing out of his mouth. Monday morning I took him to the vet as soon as they opened. Dr. Love put him in an oxygen box and he got better. She told me to go home and rest and come back in the afternoon. We’d already had “the talk” about putting him down if she couldn’t fix him. I just wanted him to stop hurting. She said she’d call about 3:00. It was Noon. I stopped and had coffee on the way home. I got home at1:00 and my phone rang when I was shutting the front door. It was Dr. Love. Buster got worse after they took him off oxygen. I went back over to the vet.

Everyone I knew was working. Charlie, Lori, Tony. So, it was Dr. Love and me. She brought Buster in and he couldn’t even hold his head up. I wrapped my right arm around him and he rested his cheek on my forearm. The vet gave him his injection and I could immediately feel his body relax. He’d been fighting for so long, it felt like a huge relief, a major sigh. The weird thing is when cats are euthanized their eyes don’t shut. They look like they’re staring off across the room. Dr. Love closed Buster’s eyes and wrapped him in a big dark blue towel. The clinic was going to send him out to be cremated so she picked him up and took him down the hall. I was too upset to take his carrying case home. The front desk clerk said I could get it when I picked up his ashes. I just couldn’t walk down 8th Avenue with an empty carrying case.

Okay. I’ll stop with the cat deaths. After one thing — all this was going on while your mother was dying. I can only imagine how hard that was, much more intense than my guys. And you were having a gallery show opening at the same time! It’s amazing that you made it through that. Such an intense time!!

SO — what else? Charlie has had a big year. He had a show at MOMA, was in the Venice Biennale, and he finished and showed his 3-D dance video that he’s been working on for the last year and a half. I’d seen clips of it and watched him editing it, but hadn’t seen the entire video until two weeks ago when it was at BAM. He sold out his shows, Wednesday-Saturday. He’s happy about it all, but has already moved on to being stressed out about his next project, an installation in Zurich in February..

Since I haven’t had to be home to take care of the cats, and since I feel better after changing my diet, I’ve been going out more. I’ve seen gallery shows, went to a few holiday parties, and saw a couple of silly drag shows. Lady Bunny’s “Christmas Leftovers” was really funny. She got some deep gut laughs out of me which I needed. This is kind of stupid to say, but laughing makes me feel better. I know, it’s obvious but true. Lori took me to see Justin Vivian Bond’s Christmas show which had me laughing, too. V sang some midwestern church songs that I haven’t heard since I was a kid, only V sang them in a way that made Jesus really sexy! One song was about asking Jesus to come inside me. Hot Jesus.

Andre is getting good year-end reviews for his album. Afropunk’s website put it in their top 15 black rock albums of the year. “Strange Currency”, KMUW radio’s website, put him at #1 on their Year’s Best Album’s list. Above some of my other favorites of the year like Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, St. Vincent, The National, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. That’s exciting! By the way, he’s going by “Dre” now. There’s a 2-part Huff Post interview with him (I’ll send you the link) where the interviewer goes from calling him Andre to Dre. I was a bit confused at first. Katherine said she’s been calling him Dre for a while now. Who knew? I’ll send you the links to the interview and the Best Of lists. Andre, Eileen, and Charlie are getting attention now after years of plugging away and working non-stop. It’s great to see.

The only other big thing I’ve been doing is going to occupational therapy for my hand. My right thumb tendon snapped in two and the surgeon had to move a tendon from my ring finger to my thumb. My occupational therapist (OT) is teaching me to re-train my hand and my brain to use the new tendon on my thumb. When I do my finger exercises, often my ring finger will move when I’m trying to move my thumb. And other times my thumb will move when I’m trying to move my ring finger. It’s amazing how intricate the hand is with all the tendons, nerves, muscles and bones.

I’ll tell you more about that in another letter. Hopefully it won’t take me as long to write you as it has getting this letter to you. I’ve babbled more than I planned so I’m going to stop now. I hope you’re well. So sorry again about your mother. The good news is the hurricanes didn’t hit New Orleans and Baton Rouge this year. The bayous around you didn’t flood like they have recently. That’s a huge relief. Ok, enough already. I’m stopping.

Big love - 

James Yeh
New York, February 2018


I write this from Bushwick; in two weeks I’m off to Williamsburg, in two more Crown Heights. It’s disruptive if consistently fascinating, trying on all these new lives. (The Crown Heights basement makes it ten since July.) Not that I have room to complain, only be grateful: The other morning, instead of working, I sank into the L-shaped couch, relishing my last days here, sans roommates, a state that I have only rarely achieved in the city, or life. How peaceful—and productive. You get spoiled living alone; we should all be so lucky to get spoiled every now and then. Someone asked if I’ve been rooting around people’s medicine cabinets, but because I am either too boring or afraid (or both), I’ve abstained. Anyway, these are friends or friends of friends we’re talking about. Instead, what I’ve stumbled into learning is what they don’t have, whether it’s a lack of plants, Tupperware, or olive oil. These investigations, such as they are, taking place while I prepare meals, mostly seem to signify lives outside this act, which has its own signifiers (not needing to cook or not having the time or inclination), which is then brought full-circle by my extended presence, there in their homes, my invisible, generous, enviable hosts passing their winters in LA or Singapore or Europe as I water their plants (for those with plants) or feed the cat, suspended in a purgatory of thankfulness, jealousy, and wonder (that is, life) till I can return to my actual apartment, with its abundance of roommates and train noise.

Meanwhile, I’ve been embracing my new life as not only a person with a car in New York, but a guy with a truck. Naturally the truck, a hand-me-down from my father, has come in handy with the moving. But more than that, I could have never imagined myself becoming so enamored with the vehicle, along with truck-related fragments of culture: plotting out excursions to Walter De Maria’s Truck Trilogy at Dia:Beacon, jotting down quotes from books I have lying around. (Two from this morning: “In winter Death runs snow tires on his truck” [Frank Stanford] and “soft Southern truck talk” [Frank O’Hara].) Despite how almost exclusively white and male (and apparently Frank-filled) this realm of truckdom has proved, I’ve found the process to be oddly regenerative—it’s winnowed things down for me into something manageable.

When I mentioned my new occupation (or preoccupation) to a new curator acquaintance, she called it upcycling. I said I hadn’t heard of that and she said it was like recycling but with upcycling, you keep the original form and give the object a new (higher) value and use. “It’s a buzzword, it’s big,” she assured me, “use it, embrace it.” I said it sounded like she really liked the word and she waved her hand around disapprovingly, as if to signal that was the wrong way to look at it. “It’ll increase the value of your piece,” she promised, and so here we are.

Otherwise, I’ve been using this time as an opportunity to, among other things, become a regular at this café that is also a used bookstore that is also a bar (and is, incidentally, where I write you from, from a shared corner table with someone I have just met and who, over a span of ten minutes or so, I have learned: a] slept with my former boss and b] took over his lease after he got back with his ex. Is this what dating—and/or housing—in New York is like now?). It’s getting dark outside; the no-laptops-after-eight-PM rule is nearly in effect. At first this prohibition irked me. But now, three weeks later, I think it’s healthy to turn off every now and again. Another positive concerning underemployment. To return to O’Hara again, or O’Hara’s friend: “Work interrupts life.” But if we must work—and work we must—let mine be out of an office, and not make me bored, or have to lie. Nor use laptops after eight.

House-sittingly yours,


Fiona Duncan
Los Angeles, November 2017

Are you there, God?
It’s me Fifi.

Henry told me that, “You’ve to say your prayers out loud, or write them out, ideally by hand.”

He told me a lotta lies though.

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Emily’s been in the hospital for 45 days. Monique’s armpits are rashing hot pink; she’s out of work, she’s being evicted, her Nonna’s dying, and she’s dreaming of Tim, who suicided. I feel like I’ll never love a man that way again. I’ve started selling my underwear. I’m supposed to wear them all day then I trade them, pairs I don’t like anyway, for just enough cash to make the trip to Santa Monica worth it. Then I go to kundalini to let go of what I just did.

I reread everything I write out loud.

I’m so sad. I’ve been trying to abide. I meditate and pray, I eat well, I rarely drink, I’ve pretty much quit smoking, and I give: attention, care, warm meals, and whatever change happens to be on my person, if someone asks. I’ve kept a budget for three years. I budget down to the dollar. I budget for the bus. The red on my budget is blooming, as I keep having to borrow money from good men to make rent.

And I know I’m more talented than ever.

Terence McKenna says, “God loves the doubters.”

Well thank God cause that’s me!!

I believe that prayer works, not necessary as wish fulfillment, but as intention setting, prioritizing amidst the infinite, and as a means to still the nervous system, to let the body heal itself, as it’s evolved to do, while cultivating the courage of mind I need to do what I need to do.

I believe that pleasure is a right, and in ecstasy as a catharsis (a release of pain; the root of passion is pati as in suffering).

I believe that all religions have at some uncorrupted point pointed to the same thing.

And I believe that you can find writings to reify any and all of your beliefs. And if not, you can write.

Jac texted me: “Our goal is to create a language without othering.”

She’s also suffering, and I don’t know what to do.

I’m so angry.

Lord can you hear me ??

I didn’t get sober because I think substances are sin, though they might be. I got sober cause sobriety started to be the most stimulating. Alcohol, weed, and psilocybin, which I used to ingest regularly, felt like they were dulling my system.

I love being sober because now I know.

I know the serpentine energy that comes after I’ve locked eyes in long liquid talk with a famous rock star. I know the relief I feel when someone else cooks for me. I know the cool of real writing and the implosive warmth that still scares me in its imagined scarcity of someone sitting in front me and sending me love. We make drugs to manufacture these highs. When you get there without them, there’s no come down.

I should say I was raised Atheist. “There’s nothing else, no after this consciousness. You are matter.” That’s my father.

I've a crush on a doctor. A real doctor. Can you imagine! Of course, you know everything.

I know everything.

I needed to get sober because I want to help. Because escapism was killing me. Because I can’t afford to not be. Sometimes I feel envious of rich kids who’re always out. They go openings before dinners, and to shows, parties, and after-parties, cars called in between. By sober, I don’t mean nothing. I love mescal and red wine with bolognese, cigarettes when I want to burn someone, and contact highs. I budget one night out every 10 days. I shouldn’t say I’m abstaining, I should say what I’m doing. I’ve been learning how to read minds, how to shift the energy in a room, and how to stay healthy, and in my own body, while the people around me are melting, breaking out, disappearing, and crying for help. I used to cry suicide when I just wanted a hug. Now I know how to let the pain beat inside of me until it becomes ecstasy and then I’ve got all this energy… I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it... It’s dangerously abundant.

I left Dasha’s yesterday wondering, “Did we pick the losing side?” She’s also a socialist, low-key—high-key, she’s also a class-act whore.

Why, God, does this current world of ours seem to reward selfishness, ignorance, narcissism, greed, theft, violence, and the worst: banality.

“I picture guillotining rich people all the time,” Dasha said. Me too.

So our reward is laughter, solidarity, good looks. But you know I want more than that. I want Emily healed and dancing again. I want Monique luscious and Noo calm and Jac to have a home and [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. (I still believe in privacy.) Have that doctor call me! Abolish money! And if you can’t, I’d love at least a bit of it, just enough to grow a lemon tree, have a baby by 33, and throw dinner parties…
I’ve been told I don’t ask for enough, that that’s my problem: “You need to be more demanding.”

I think that’s the thing I hate the most about our economic system—the job on top of the job of creativity—the job of asking for money. Can’t it just be given? Isn’t it obvious? Clearly, I’ve unlocked my genius.

Gratefully yours,
Forever and always.


Jahmal B. Golden
New York, February 2018

Letter to Nameless #25


Dear You,

I try desperately to forget the ways I betrayed myself through treading carelessly on You.

My friends still remember meeting You and how you looked at me in a gross drugged stupor, how a child does when it’s caught in a lie. I’m not sure if you were lying to me when you comforted my spiraling, equally intoxicated. You make shitty jokes, I laugh because I imagine what your mouth tastes like.

You, I proceeded because you left the door open for me. I wish I knew you well during the summer so I clammer to the sun in your desk drawer, the fire I distinguished in thirst with my tongue. You took off your shirt so that I could wear it once. This is how it started.

Time had passed and I began dreaming of your escape for you. Dismembered by what I knew I should and shouldn’t do - I took the mile you offered without wondering how little You actually had to offer. I gorged myself on that arm's length, that instant relief - asking if I could hang my coat where You hung yours.

I stepped on your cat when I left that morning. I stayed in bed for two days after thinking of how broken and needy I must be. I lost 10 pounds while I knew you. My breasts grew fuller. My skin got thinner. In some weird way, I began to see You in my reflection.

You, I’m writing because it’s what I do when I have things to say that someone won’t understand. Seldom do I think of what I’d say if I saw you alone in a field, but I know that I would set fire to every innocent thing if I chose to blame you for what happened. My mirrors concave in horrible ways when I think about admitting it. My hands shake as I drag my claws into my inner thighs but I dig straight lines.

I write on paper what I the water couldn’t hold. I am sorry that what was never whole is surely to frayed to reconnect now. I will admit that I lusted after your heat because I knew it was in reach. I knew that you were possible and I fixed my fangs to hunger for just You. Only You.

My one regret, I buried inside of you when last we kissed.

I was reigning when I had you.

I hope the flame I left burns timelessly inside of you.

In the name of November,
your temptress,


Darren Bader
New York


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