Still a little footsore after yesterday’s awesome four-mile walking tour of Manhattan guided by Kathleen Rooney, author of the delightful LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK. Starting downtown at Delmonico’s, first opened in 1837, Kathleen took us on a winding route through the Village and midtown to spots that her lead character visits on her titular stroll–the site of the old World Trade Center, the Nabisco factory that is now Chelsea Market, Penn Station, and finally Macy’s. Some 10,700 steps and this was only half of Lillian’s peramble.

People who don’t read fiction often characterize it as frivolous and as some kind of escape from the world, which it isn’t inherently, nor does it need to be. I’ve learned as much about the world and the people in it—and their motivations—from fiction as I have from nonfiction. Fiction is often a much-needed step back that gives you the distance to see things more clearly; it’s very often better at explaining why events happened as opposed to just what happened. And if a reader believes that everything in non fiction or history is just objectively true, I don’t really know what to tell them, except that at least in fiction, the choice of what perspective and bias to tell a given story from—which is always a deliberate choice—is foregrounded and clear.
—  Kathleen Rooney

–Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney

Three blondes get stuck in a broken elevator. It’s an experi-
ence they’ll never forget. A joke doesn’t have an author per
se. But some bards are better than others. The blondes are
ready to be done with their burgeoning welter of misery.
They punch out “P.S. I Love You” in Morse code on the
emergency call button. The first blonde sees herself as the
source of all trouble. The second has never felt so alone.



The master is laconic, but his paintings talk. Rather, Loulou the Pomeranian corrects himself, the master was laconic. Now especially that Magritte has gone, Loulou walks back and forth before the pictures, listening to them whisper, missing his dead master. He wishes for more songs upon their upright piano, more pretty evenly matched games of chess.

Blood will tell. The voice of blood. This image confesses a tree with a cylindrical cupboard for a trunk, containing a white globe and a house with a lamp lit in every room. The illumination makes Loulou feel less gloomy. Georgette is still here, and they still have their house.

Loulou pricks his ears toward the call of blood, and hears the years to come coming: their old apartment in Jette will become a house-museum, stuffed – like this tree – with beautiful stuff. Loulou himself – or the last Loulou Georgette possesses when she dies, too, some twenty years hence – will also be stuffed, his dog-body filled with taxidermical stuffing. He will rest unmoving, white fur puffed, atop an empty bed.

The master’s eyes are closed forever, never again to peer at the peerless blue of his paintings’ skies, never again to hear the sound of small bells, his beloved grelots. Loulou remembers how, when he was a puppy, he thought the clappers inside the spheres must be the bells’ hearts, and how when he artlessly admitted this, Georgette and the master had laughed and laughed – not at, but with him – and ruffled the fur at the scruff of his neck.

Gaston Bachelard said, “Miniature is one of the refuges of greatness.” Naturally, Lou-Lou is biased, but he is inclined to agree: concentration and potency. The house-museum will be a small one, naturally, but somehow it will suggest enigmatic measurements. Each night, curtains will hide what is of no earthly use.

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Co-editor of The Selected Writings of René Magritte, forthcoming from Alma Books next year, she is also the author of seven books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including, most recently, the novel O, Democracy! (2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (2012). With Elisa Gabbert, she is the author of the poetry collection That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008) and the chapbook The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go (Hyacinth Girl, 2013). She lives in Chicago with her husband, the writer Martin Seay, and teaches at DePaul. 

Kathleen Rooney is wearing a mactaggart vintage Joan of Arc pendant with customized chain affixed with beads and a mactaggart brass chain mill studded ring.

When the end of a song “fades to black,” it goes on that way forever, you just can’t hear it. Which is kind of like dying in your sleep, vs. flying off a cliff and exploding.

I am expected to say something, but have nothing to say. I could try fill lyrics—"doo n’ doo n’ doo doo" and “hey hey, my my"—but that would probably be wrong; what works in song rarely works in life.

The right song at the wrong time, or the wrong song at the right time? I’m drunk, I know it by heart, and my misery spirits me up like a bag in a gust.

In this state of mind, I can’t decide: Am I more angry w/ myself when I find angry music funny, or more angry w/ music when I find it sounds like a beer commercial.

The trick to classical music is to imagine it’s the extrinsic soundtrack to your day. You can’t hear it, but the audience can.

Waltz time corresponds to the rhythm of sweeping the cellar. The minuet is getting your picture taken w/ someone famous. The gavotte corresponds to laughing too hard and falling off the balcony.

Music always fails in execution—better to read sheet music. When subjects "listened” to Mozart’s Requiem on paper during a brain scan their auditory cortex caught fire.

The symphony was so engaging because the conductor’s hand-written note at the top of the second movement read Live bunnies! Running loose!

What if I’m never walking through the woods alone and hear an incomprehensibly exquisite music?

If I have to go, I want music to murder me like a death star galaxy: in a deadly jet of radiation and heat.

In come the violins—giant crickets using their back legs like kindling.


Please join us for the fourth installment (EAR EATER #21) of ARTIFICIAL EAR:

DESPERATE COMMERCE exists between entities who outlast friends and rivals. Work that pares itself down because it has to, or expands beyond all boundaries because it knows how to ask the wrong questions.

‘There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.’
—Benjamin Franklin

‘Since, however, it is impossible, by circulation alone, to account for the conversion of money into capital, for the formation of surplus value, it would appear, that merchants‘ capital is an impossibility, so long as equivalents are exchanged; that, therefore, it can only have its origin in the two-fold advantage gained, over both the selling and the buying producers, by the merchant who parasitically shoves himself in between them. It is in this sense that Franklin says, ―war is robbery, commerce is generally cheating.’
—Karl Marx, Das Kapital

Katherine Harvath
Tim Kinsella*
Sarah Mendelsohn
Kathleen Rooney
Fred Schmidt-Arenales

Free / Drink donations appreciated

*Due to illness, Tim canceled his performance. We are working to reschedule him for a future AE.

The biggest mistake of your life walks into a bar. Height bestows a certain specialness and he is just tall enough to qualify as special. As usual, he attracts more attention than you. But don’t be scared—everyone’s creative, at least when they’re drunk. When you were five you were practically an artistic genius. You were also powered by positive emotion and social connection. You’ve traded emotions for emoticons. How many people can happily long to be alone? How long can you be alone and happy? You wish you had thrown all his stuff in the ocean. You’ve never even been to the ocean. Even though it’s free, and always will be.
—  “The One About Regrets,” by Kathleen Rooney & Elisa Gabbert
Robinson Walks Museum Mile

by Kathleen Rooney

the ideal city building itself in his brain.
Is this mile magnificent? He’s lived here

a while, but the mile feels unreal. Robinson’s
training himself to act blasé. Do museums

amuse me? Yes, but not today. Would he
like to be in one? Of course. Why not?

An object of value with canvas wings,
an unchanging face in a gilt frame, arranged–

thoughtless, guilt-free, & preserved
for eternity. Robinson doesn’t want tobe

exceptional. he knows he is. he wants to be
perceived exceptional. Trains plunge by, steam

rising from the greats. Sing, muse! of a man
ill-met at the Met. A man on his lunch break,

heading for heartbreak, a break-up with Time.
A break-up with time? Feeling filled with ice,

the way you chill a glass, Robinson passes
the National Academy. He craves a sense

of belonging, not to always be longing. To be
standing in a doorway, incredibly kissable,

not waiting at the four-way, eminently missable.
Is this mile magnanimous? He wants it

unanimous: that this is his kind of town–
up & down & including Brooklyn. The sky

is clearing, but the isolations sticks.
Robinson’s not sure what a camera obscura

is for, but he thinks he should have
his portrait done with one. Faces

blur as he heads toward the Frick.
Something used to photograph the obscure.