Day Four in the Bomb Shelter
Posted: 5/13/12

The following is an excerpt from the novel in progress , The Land Before Time.

October 27, 2003
         “Happy Humpday...(:-/),” typed Lacey in her status box.  She kept signing in, even though over the last day more and more peoples' buddy icons had been going to “idle” until every single person on her buddy list was idle. She'd tried to sleep, and hadn't been able to for a long time. She'd slept for a long time, and then woke up feeling groggy and awful because there was no coffee and no Adderall. She went to a lot of different websites and then she laid on her back to try to do more situps. She started reading her bitch TA's livejournal. She and her friends had gotten drunk and found the LJ after the TA had reported Lacey for plagarism on her Early Modern Poetry final, and had gotten her put on probation. The TA's name was Sarah, and she dressed like a fatter version of the girls in The Craft. Lacey wished her friends were online so she could copy and paste quotes from the new posts.  There were shitty poems and rants about the USC undergrads.  Lacey said “oh my god” a couple times  to herself. If she'd thought to save her cat Neve from upstairs, at least she could have talked to her.
         “Listen to this Nevey,” she would have said, or “Nevalicious.” She would have read, in Sarah's fat-chick voice, “The most agonizing aspect of the situation is my inability to justify my own dissatisfaction to myself. I'm white, middle class, healthy, and (over)educated, so the feeling of despair is entirely disproportionate, if any degree of "despair" could ever be considered proportionate. The challenge is, how can a being ever understand their own panic? Because that's really what it is, panic. I've joked before about having read too much Camus at a young age, but underneath it is a desire to displace a real anxiety into a structural problem. In other words, assigning the dread of my own finitude to a cheap cultural cliche is a sanitizing act. The feeling of displacement, even though everyone acknowledges it's reality, is still paired with a feeling that one lacks somehow, and therefore with a sense of guilt. I miss the precision with which the Midwest reflects this feeling. I miss Madison. I miss everything. I miss alternatives feelings to the feeling I have right now, ha. Anyway. More papers to grade. More obnoxiously beautiful weather in the morning. More well-formed offspring of celebrities to watch display their ineptitudes and lack of ambition. Teaching The Wasteland tomorrow, at least. Dialectically or not, I'll bring the West's implosion to life, dammit.”
         Then Lacey  imagined petting Neve and reading the next entry, which was a poem. She was beginning to get worse cramps than ever. They felt anxiety-based.
         “There are a million reasons we have come here.
         When I cannot eat, I breathe. When I cannot breathe, I eat.
         Protect your files, they are in harmony,
  t h e  s l e e p i n g  a r e  g r e a t
         you are as ice might be made intoxicating
         and the lies come like milk, but
         I am a violin.
         And I am a hospice.”
         Lacey had to admit there was something she liked about the poem. She scrolled down past the other emotional rant entries till she saw another one she could tell was a poem.  This one had a title, “n 2.” It went,
         “amplitude of slightness

         i fall in eye dark eye
         like the word ambersand
         word darkness
         with no dark

         a motorized sex
         a brain feels like this
         persists thin jarring
         felt under quilt felt
         begun of a thought of
         long marks and
         lasting ill acts

         hide under first
         waking and my
         trys to force time
         back again.
         here lies wasted little it”
         Lacey liked that poem a little less than the first one. She clicked on the comments box. There were three, all just “*,” and all from the same person. She clicked on their name to link to their live journal. The livejournal that came up had a black background with white text. She scrolled down really quickly and saw from the way the lines were all really short that it must all be poems. She started reading them. A lot of the lines seemed like they might be quotes, because they were so random. She tried googling “A rose with a name / And that name is Arthur Miller,” but the only result was the same livejournal. Then she tried googling “Oh WOW! What a community you have here./ I am overwhelmed and grateful more than I can / possibly say. By the time I made it today / I was armed with so many questions and felt that I / was no longer completely lost at sea, but / had been thrown a lovely raft to cling!” because it seemed like it might be a quote from a message board, but it didn't have any results, just a bunch of different blogs and stuff. She closed the window with the poems because it was annoying her. They made no  fucking sense.
         She stood up and was like, “Aaaaah!” screaming. It was a combination of things: one obviously being trapped underground and having her mind and body freak out because of withdrawal, and now on top of that she was annoyed by Wiccan Fat Dyke Sarah and her x_etiolated_x  friend's pretentious little code.  She walked to the wall and turned around and was thinking“Is that what poetry geniuses do? Write retarded sentences that don't make any fucking sense and then indent wherever and erase half the words?”
         She went back online and looked up x_etiolated_x's live journal again. She clicked on the comments box for one of the poems. The comment said “Flarfy, no?” What the fuck was flarfy? Lacey googled “flarfy.” The Google browser asked “Did you mean, 'flarf?'” and she clicked yes.  There was a blog called Flarf and she clicked it and read some of the poems. They really, really sucked. She hit the back button to the search results. She read some poems on a blog called Lime Tree and they were a little bit better, but not by much. It was like something an autistic four year old would write. “This has to be a joke,” thought Lacey, even more pissed off than before.  She googled “jokes poems.” She read some results for that and the joke poems were all old fashioned and rhymed. She googled “rhyming poems.” The top result was about how poems had to rhyme in the past, and didn't have to anymore. She googled “rhyming poems, types of.”
         She kept reading stuff about poetry, and lost track of time. Her mouth was dry and her head hurt a lot.  She wouldn't have done it except what else was there to do down there? She got easily obsessed without her Adderall.  She kept clicking more and more links. She made herself the rule that she always had to have exactly five browser windows open. She read some blogs about the topics, and then she went to the most official looking site,, and started clicking on each link on their blogroll. It felt as if  with each link she clicked through, she was  getting further from the shelter and closer to beating Sarah and x_etiolated_x, deciphering their blogs for what they were: just a lame code which she, Lacey could completely figure out with just one day of googling. Lacey felt her natural intelligence get hard inside her like an organ she'd never known she had.  She clicked this one link which led to a blogger account with a nice peach background. It was a link which was called I remember/je me souviens “I remember, having yesterday heard of Maurice Blanchot's death last Thursday, that Blanchot begins his last work, L'instant de ma mort (1994), with the words "Je me souviens:" "I remember a young man -- a man still young -- prevented from dying by death itself -- and perhaps the error of injustice." Blanchot tells the story, in what is an exquisitely rare autobiographical moment -- of his hairsbreadth escape from being shot by a Nazi officer and his squad. For him that escape was also the instant of his death: all else, everything later, was posthumous, or at least written under the sign of the death that should have been his then. He describes the extraordinary lightness he experienced at the moment, a lightness which told him everything and nothing. Whatever else it did, it enabled the extraordinary body of literature which followed for the next fifty years, and which for me is among the most significant work I have ever read. I mourn him -- not lighthearted but lighter at heart for having read him.” Her eyes went to the search browser and her thin fingers typed m a u r i c e b l a n c h o t. She read a wikipedia page about the man who was a French writer and had died on February 20. She read some excerpts of his stuff, which was simple and easy to read. Her eyes are brown because Lacey is played by Emma Caulfield, who also played Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a reformed demon.  She went back to x_etiolated_x's livejournal and read it with new eyes. She saw now that these girls (for they really were no more than young girls playing with their educations,) were just forcing their adolescent pangs through some basic knowledge of syntactical innovation and abstract expressionist imagery. Lacey could see that there was some knowledge linking the allusions to the illusions, there was no denying a modicum of knowledge. But the execution of the ideas couldn't save the fact that the concepts weren't reflective or self-aware. At a glance, it was maudlin language poetry ripoffs, and nothing more. She drew a deep breath. Her body had become much more attractive. Her breasts were larger, and she lost the strained, aged-early look of a 22 year old anorexic. Her hand goes to her cheek as her face softens, she is forgiving Sarah suddenly, recognizing that the agony of self-important lyricism must make it very difficult to deal with those who dismiss the pursuit of poetry entirely. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy dies at one point, goes to hell, and then comes back, a forever-changed young woman, much like the strange situation Christmas Halloween finds himself in at this very same time.

NEXT (Mayor Michael Nutter)

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Kate Kraczon

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