Do You Like Boats?

Dig homemade: Since tabling with my arts collective at San Francisco’s Alternative Press Expo, I’ve been reading a lot of zines and unsortable small-press. What are two of my dear favorites, you ask?

Nine Ways to Disappear by Lilli Carr??–lovable quiet people transforming and becoming strangers in their own lives, drawn loose-jointedly and set in worlds Cortazar’s or Kafka’s–

–and I Hate This Part of Texas, the warm, pessimistic perzine of John the New Orleans gardener, bike-repair teacher, and “Drag From Beyond the Grave” performer (candle-burning cupcakes tied to his head!), writing on race, queer issues, and the fear of death.

If you’re going to say it, why say it in a zine? To this reader, zines are a thrill for how their form requires that any idea (flight or daydream, eulogy or outcry) fit in a world of stolen copies, mail trades, house parties, paper reams, and long-neck staplers. Why not make it yourself? The best zines move me for feeling local, temporary, ambitious and deeply felt, without signifiers of fame or received gestures toward posterity. They’re things to be read, in the best way, in a day.

"Doris"'s desk
"Doris"'s desk

And speaking of little presses: in St. Louis this weekend, I read with the Swiss-Army-gift poet and moviemaker Kate Greenstreet, whose new book from Ahsahta, The Last 4 Things, knocked me down and made me heartsick. Greenstreet’s poetic voice is plain and chipped-away-feeling. As intimate particulars and unpredictable breaks pile up in the book, the voice earns authority: “Luckily, our souls don’t need protection.” “Do you like boats? I see you around boats.” “We were falling but we didn’t hit.”

The book’s eponymous first half relates dreams (fields, burning houses) and regrets which build over the sequence to incorporate childhood, death, and the–hold your breath–spiritual path. Or path meaning persistent habit. One poem ends

We were climbing but
because we had the rakes,

we had to stop every little while and
do some raking.

And one prose poem starts

Each tone, each color, has a different vibration. Everything was getting darker, “dimensional.” A woman came here once and fell. To her knees–it was a Sunday, I’ll never forget it. In those days, I was very small. I knew my own grief to be so small, nobody could find it. In winter, just the pilings, ropes; ice in black water, “as seen.”

And, really quickly: did I mention the wind’s so crazy tonight it’s turning my apartment backward? when the big tree rattles by the window, the door across the apartment crackles in its frame.