kristen-stone

Kristen Stone

taking jasmine to anastasia island state park for her 27th birthday

i wait outside the bathroom for you at the state park.
i hang my long frame over the railing. why do we call a body a frame. i use the word without thinking. Real Women Have Curves. i have angles and ankles, nervous hands. i am outside woman and i am okay with that. there is a tension to being a dyke. not a binary tension but something else. one person has to be something else. to wait outside with the picnic. the sky is so big here near the beach, the wind pulls my dirty hair and balloons my windbreaker with the broken zipper, it makes me edgy. the blue and white. i squint and lean my foot on something and stretch absentmindedly. a weak boyfriend.

once somebody called me genderqueer
i didn’t know what they meant. i am a bad butch because i don’t take up space. i am a bad radical because i like for people to have manners. (i am a social worker, which precludes a total rejection of institutions, so i cannot be That Cool.) the tension of being a dyke is something else, not like i imagine heterosexuality. i am the boyfriend because of my short hair and pegged pants and i drive the car when we go places, but i am also the wife, i want the baby and keep the house and lie still so you can fuck me. i mean, fuck me please, with your thick hips and soft white tits and long golden hair. i comb the knots out of it, like a governess or mother. sometimes when you fuck me you wear a harness that looks like stretchy boys’ underwear, with a gaping plastic mouth to hold the cock.

once my therapist called me a lesbian.
at word, i told her. i am not a lesbian; i don’t have gay pride; i identify with shame. not gay shame but being a prude. the only person who knows what i mean by this hates me now. that’s an ugly loneliness.

you come out of the bathroom and i go in.
there should be a separation between couples and maybe it has to do with the bathroom, maybe it has to do with tasks, doors, fluids. bodies at their least cute. the bathroom is damp and loud because there’s a hand dryer. i hate hand dryers and wipe the water off on my pants.

point
i feel outside woman in a metaphysical, melancholy way. i’m not sure if it’s about femininity or the phallus or what. maybe it’s linguistic or psychoanalytic and all women feel this way. i don’t think it’s interesting or relevant or has anything much to do with patriarchy or oppression.  some people will read this and contest my feeling outside woman altogether because so many people are further outside woman but all i can say is this essay is not about that.

this essay is about taking jasmine to the state park on her 27th birthday
which means it’s about the cultural creation of picnics. i like picnics and my father hates them because they are a lot of work. my father is a True Capitalist. i like that it is non-rational to pack up your food and dishes, take them somewhere, eat at a hard picnic table in the wind or sun, and then take it all back home. i have faith in things that are clumsy and must defend themselves. i have faith in things that are non-rational.

counterpoint
i say all this then i think the picnic, like the pastoral, relies on industrialization while setting itself in opposition to it.  you have to make people stay inside all the time for a picnic to make sense, really. so a picnic relies on capitalism even as it seems outside it. we talk around these things lazily, as we squint in the sun and follow the boardwalk over the dunes. sounding uselessly smart is a thing we do without really noticing, like scratching at dandruff or getting up in the night to pee.

we sit on the cold bright sand for awhile and kiss.
in florida you’re not supposed to go in the dunes because of erosion; in michigan you can. this has caused some tension in our relationship, your trying to climb these dunes, here. here, the beach is falling into itself like a toothless mouth. we have hurricanes and the high-rises could fall into the sea. you might step in a hidden clutch of soft turtle eggs. in michigan the dunes are soft white mountains, and in winter the lake-waves freeze into giant boulders on shore.

i need to stop writing about michigan or this essay will never end.

we walk back up the beach, and over the boardwalk, we put the rest of the picnic into my car, we climb a lighthouse, we drive home.

***

Kristen’s recommendation:

Nevada by Imogen Binnie is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, or ever. Maria, Imogen Binnie’s narrator, is a punk trans lady who moved from a small town (Cow Town I think she calls it) to new york city, where she dissociates in and out of her own life. she talks about how her memory does and doesn’t work, she talks about her body, she borrow/steals her ex-girlfriend’s car and goes in a road trip.  There’s been a lot of talk in the last year or so about the girl, the girl on the internet, and sometimes that’s been limiting/limited to a certain kind of girl, which sucks because there are so many girls and girl-stories that are not being represented. i have a giant crush on maria and she is a heartbreaking narrator: unreliable, flippant, casual, funny, devastating, fragile and tough and untouchable. she’s like that cool junior you met the first week of high school. this book feels like that crush, a bruise-y aching feeling.

Visit Kristen online

Kristen Stone interviews j/j hastain re: mimetic-shameless

 What’s at the bottom of the sea?

 Florence (of Florence+the Machine) would say that a deepest relief is at the bottom of the sea (“Fractured moonlight on the sea/ Reflections still look the same to me/ As before I went under/ And it’s peaceful in the deep/ Cathedral where you cannot breathe…”) and I have to agree with her. After all, she is a genius with those feral dresses and acerbic dancers, with the small warbler (caught (or kept?) in her throat)-vibrato that she has going on. 

Keep reading

The Girl Who Loved a Hand - by Kristen Stone -

The girl who loved a hand loved the hand very much. She would hold the hand at arm’s length and admire its long, bony fingers and delicate wrist and short, nut-shaped nails. Children have dimples where adults have knuckles but this was an adult hand, a ladylike hand, a strong hand, a fist. She would cradle the hand in her lap when she drove and rest it on her cheek while she slept.

Because she had the hand she didn’t want or need a girlfriend, although sometimes she wished the hand was hers, instead of her own hands, she loved the hand but also she wanted to be the hand, she wanted it to be hers because it was the opposite of her. It was complicated.

She didn’t tell anyone about the hand and she lived alone so there was no one to see the hand or ask about it. She kept it in her underwear drawer when it wasn’t with her.

Janice the receptionist at the office where the girl worked often asked the girl if she was lonely. Janice wanted very badly to get married and would show the girl pictures of men that she’d met the night before, on Okcupid.

Janice was the sort of woman the girl thought of as a real adult. Janice wore stockings and pumps and foundation and ate cottage cheese and smoked Virginia Slims. The men Janice met were divorced businessmen or else they were still young or pretending to be, they thought it was still 1999, maybe they listened to Shaggy or Cisqo; they were always white and sometimes had cornrows or dreadlocks or the deep tans of very fair people who spend a lot of time outdoors.

The first kind of man’s profile said he liked fine wine and mature women, and for these dates janice wore one of her two black dresses and crimson lipstick.

The second kind of man’s profile said must be 420 friendly, like to party, DTF, and Janice would wear a pair of jeans from high school that still fit her, and a tank top with glitter on it, and do a smoky eye.

The girl had to ask Janice what DTF meant. Janice was older than the girl but she also made the girl feel very old. Down to…you know! She giggled and the girl smiled politely looking over Janice’s shoulder. The girl thought of the hand, at home nestled among her black briefs and gray socks, which had nothing to do with fucking.

She loved the hand like a lover, like a baby, like a pet. She sucked the hand’s thumb while she was falling asleep. She nibbled the pad of its index finger when she jerked off. She rubbed clockwise circles around the middle finger’s nail when she was nervous. She kissed its bony slender knuckle and tracked the blue veins on the fingers’ back.

Janice was older than the girl but not by much. (Maybe Janice was 30.) This morning janice was talking about a man named Butch who seemed mature (which Janice pronounced ma-tour) but he asked Janice if he could put in in her other hole. The girl felt embarrassed to be having this conversation, but she had the distinct sensation that if she didn’t’t listen to Janice then Janice couldn’’t talk about Butch or the other men to anyone. This made the girl feel both important and tired, extremely tired. Did you? she asked wearily. Janice giggled. No, but I might next time.

Janice, as previously mentioned, had two black dresses. One was the Salvation Army Thrift Store and the other was from TJMaxx. The first dress had originally belonged to the wife of an insurance salesman. He was being given an award for salesman of the year, so they had to go out of town and stay in a hotel. All the children of the honored insurance salesmen were babysat together, in a smaller, less glorious ballroom than the one where the awards were being given. The salesman’s wife, the first owner of Janice’s secondhand date dress, didn’t like the looks of the hotel babysitter, she didn’t trust her, she had druggy eyes. She told her husband so, and he became angry. He was already tense, he threw back Ketel 1 with a quickness she knew well. Then the great indignity: they’d printed his name on the wrong trophy, the one with the insurance saleswoman, in a pleated skirt and lady blazer. His wife left for the third time to check on the children, and that was the last straw. He slapped her, hard, in the face, in the hall. No one saw or heard. Her children were fine. Her marriage was not. She took the dress to the thrift store the following Monday and refused to accompany him on future business trips.

The dress was a little matronly and didn’t fit Janice quite right; the effect was as if she were playing dress-up and unsure whether she was an adult woman or a child.

The other dress, the one with no previous owner,  was assembled in a factory in Bangledesh.

The girl and the hand were about to go to bed when the phone rang. It was Janice. Butch had stood her up. She was at the bar. The bar was actually quite near to the girl’s house, although Janice didn’t know that, because she didn’t know where the girl lived, only that she sometimes rode her bike and sometimes drove her car to the office where they both worked. She had been tired but the phone ringing woke her bright awake. She didn’t remember giving Janice her phone number but she must have because Janice is calling her.

Janice found the girl to be curious. Intriguing, but not in a sexual way. Janice was a woman who liked men and wanted a husband. The girl was just someone Janice talked to at work, a quiet, boyish person Janice could shock with her dating adventures.  Butch can’t come. Something about his ex-wife. Come have a drink with me? I’m already here

The girl considered Janice’s request. She didn’t have any pants on, but that was easily remedied. She looked at the hand lying on the pillow. She felt loyal to the hand. It was not usual to leave the hand and go out again after coming home in the evening. She thought of the hand the way working parents might think about their children, or a person with a dog waiting at home–I already spend so much time away…

Janice sounded sad, although her voice was also manic, and she didn’t know if she could see someone else’s feelings right now, especially Janice who was enthusiastic about everything. Surely janice’s sadness would be loud and knock the girl over and the girl would ask polite questions like she did at work only huger and prolonged, and feel like Janice was sticking in her pores, coming in through the seams in her clothes.  (The girl had read once that medieval people didn’t bathe because they thought the body naturally filled its pores to protect itself, with dirt and wax, and bathing would render them vulnerable. It was disgusting but she understood, when confronted with the force of Janice.) Janice was a gas who filled all available space. The opposite of her. Janice was a glimpse of the kind of girl– woman– she could, impossibly, be or have been.

She patted the hand and put on her pants and walked to the bar to meet Janice.

Janice was having a margarita. Janice hugged the girl and tried to order her a margarita too. The girl said thanks no and asked for a gin and tonic. Since she’d walked to the bar she thought it was okay to have one drink.

She thought she ought to ask about Butch so she did, and Janice told a long story that was not interesting. The girl looked at Janice and tried to imagine being her, or being a girl like her. Janice had on clumpy mascara that made her eyes look like spiders. The girl became worried that Janice would cry and the mascara would run, creating a flood of feelings or inky sticky something that would be so enormous the girl would have to acknowledge it, or help wipe it up. Other people’s feelings made the girl feel unclear, which is why she worked in an office not a school or a hospital or as a counselor, and why she lived alone with a hand and not with other people who may or may not want to kiss her on the mouth.

Janice was wearing the TJMaxx dress, because she’d worn the thrift store dress on the first date. The girl couldn’t tell if Janice was pretty or not because she didn’t often look at other people. She sipped her drink that tasted like Christmas trees and looked at Janice in the face,  Janice’s pores and the way her incisors overlapped her canines a little. Janice chewed a straw even though margaritas didn’t come with a straw. The girl wondered if Janice had asked for a straw specifically or if she was a regular here and they knew to bring her one, the way servers at a fancy restaurant know which important patrons want lime instead of lemon. The girl tried to imagine putting on a black dress and talking to someone she didn’t know in a bar. She couldn’t imagine feeling the air on her thighs or the potential of kissing a stranger.

Janice talked and talked. She had so many things to say! The girl couldn’t talk that much even if she tried very, very hard. The girl lost the thread of Janice and then Janice was talking about her childhood. Janice was born very far away, in England, because her father was in the military. Then she lived in Oklahoma. The girl decided to ask a question because the idea of Oklahoma was interesting to her, she’d never been there. What color is Oklahoma? she wanted to know.

Janice thought for no seconds. Red, very red, they loved Romney, big time, but I stay out of politics.

That wasn’t what the girl meant but it would be hard to explain what she meant, when you are driving and you cross a state line and the color scheme, imperceptibly, shifts. Ohio for instance is gold and yellow, except the cities which are gray. Tennessee is sun-filtered green and almost silver like a brand new faucet. You get a feeling when you drive into another state that if you lived there you would be different, under that sky you could be like a person in a book instead of a person with ugly and meaningless belongings and a twelve dollar haircut. Maybe if you lived in another place you would still have a twelve dollar haircut, but it would mean something.

Janice is the sort of person who mostly likes to talk but occasionally she would ask the girl a question. Did you grow up here? The girl said yes which was slightly true.

Janice asked the girl if she went to college and what she studied. She tells Janice, and this is true and it surprises her, that she studied early childhood education. Right after college she was working at a daycare and sometimes the mothers would be late. They would have to stay until the mothers came, and all the other daycare workers would be resentful, because they wanted to get home to their own kids and to smoke cigarettes and take off their shoes and bras, which are small goals for the end of the day, the girl didn’t begrudge them wanting to go home. One time a mother didn’t come and six o’clock came, which was the time they were supposed to leave, then 6:30, and still the mother didn’t come, and Miss Betsy said she “had to do it”so she called child services, even though the girl said she would stay with the little girl who was left, until her mother came, so Miss Betsy could go home. Miss Betsy said something rude about the little girl’s mother, rude and racist, and implied that she was a sex worker, and that she shouldn’t have children if she was going to act “like that.” The girl disagreed with Miss Betsy but she didn’t say anything, because Miss Betsy frightened her, and child services came and took the little girl.  They said they had a “nice family” she could stay with “until her mommy came back,” and the little girl was crying silently and the girl could see all her teeth like white buttons in the back of her mouth.  The girl was sitting in quiet shock and horror, frozen at the tiny table that she always smashed her knees on.

Then the little girl was gone and Miss Betsy had to stay late to fill out a “Child Protective Services Incident Report” and the girl was putting away all the crayons and spraying the tables with dilute bleach that burned her nose, so they were still there, anyway, when the little girl’s mother came, out of breath and full of apologies she practiced on her way there. When she didn’t see her child and Miss Betsy told her what she’d done, the mother fell to her knees and moaned a terrible noise and looked at the girl, directly in the eye, and said Why did you let her do that like they were on the same team.

The next day the girl applied for 5 jobs, all at offices, and had been working in an office ever since. She had never told anyone that story, not even her Aunt Sandy who called her every Sunday afternoon to ask about her week as if anything had happened. She told her aunt the children gave her a headache and too many colds and she’d found a better paying job.

She didn’t mean to tell Janice the story and telling it made her feel, not exhausted, but like she was interesting to Janice. Janice says, Wow. The girl surprises herself again by saying, I mean it was pretty heartbreaking.

She never called to make sure the woman got her little girl back, which she could have, because she had privileges working in a daycare, she could get information from child services. She kept thinking she would call the next day, or the day after, because talking on the telephone terrified her, and then she couldn’t remember the little girl’s last name, or she told herself she would need to know the little girl’s birthdate, or a case number or something. She could have even called Miss Betsy to ask but she hated Miss Betsy and the thought of talking to her make her palms tremble.

Janice is looking at her like she’s never seen a person tell a secret before, a long, openfaced look. She slurps her margarita through the chewed straw and the girl wishes she would look away. The girl realizes Janice is drunk. Her knees are open and the girl can see delicate blue and purple veins on Janice’s thighs. She wonders if she is drunk too but doesn’t think she is. She thinks about going home to bed and then she says it, I would like to go home now, and Janice says she will walk her home and she tries to decline but Janice is insistent, she wants to stretch her legs and have a cigarette anyway, so they close their tabs and walk into the humid night.

Then Janice comes in the girl’s house and the girl offers Janice a glass of water and she realizes janice is Very Drunk and that if she were a normal girl having a Very Drunk friend in her living room would be normal. In the spirit of pretending to be normal and also in the spirit of avoiding catastrophe she tells Janice she should stay over instead of going back to the bar and getting in her car and driving back across town. Janice says no I’m fine, really I’m fine several times as if it’s a thing she’s used to saying.

The girl thinks about calling Janice a taxi but she wants to see what will happen, if she pretends to be a normal girl in her late twenties who went out for a drink with a friend and then the friend stayed over because she drank too much. Normal girls often drink too much, the girl knows, because some of the other girls in the office talk about their weekday hangovers, in the bathroom or over coffee or when they go out for Subway at noon. She gets her sleeping bag out for Janice and shows her where the bathroom is and says goodnight and goes to bed.

The hand is under her pillow and she slips her hand under there to lace her fingers in the hand’s fingers. Is she worried the hand feels jealous or neglected? No, not really, she doesn’t ascribe feelings to the hand like that. She wants to think about the night, about Janice, about telling Janice about the daycare. She feels disappointed in herself but also excited, she wonders if it will happen again and if she wants it to, telling Janice things. She feels wasted and empty, she feels post-organismic, used up and sticky, like she’d shown the soft belly and now it couldn’t be untold.

In a dream or maybe just her sleep she feels a weight on the bed, a thick ghost or another person. She moves a little closer to the weight and it moves closer to her and puts a heavy arm over her hip. It is not comfortable but there is something nice about it.

In the morning Janice is gone, and so is the hand. 

Blog Tour

I was tagged by Kristen Stone.

1. What are you working on? 

My first full-length collection, Mysterious Acts by My People, was published in March of this year (2014), and my second collection, which also served as my doctoral dissertation, is also scheduled to be published, which is very exciting, but it leaves me, for the first time in over a decade, without some major project at which I am plugging away. I think in terms of books, so without a book-length project, I feel aimless. Though I have a series I’m writing right now, what I call my Jenny Boully poems, because the idea came out of a conversation with her, and they center around the slippery nature of memory, as well as everyday life as a queer with chronic illness that means I spend almost every day in pain. How does that pain impact my daily life? These domestic details (so often the realm of “women’s work) become insurmountable when there is so much pain, and I live alone, so there’s not another person to make tea or walk the dog. I’m interested in the way that pain, in the words of Elaine Scarry, "shatters language” and how it influences memory. 

2. How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre? 

I dislike this question, because one of the most important things I must do to protect my work is to avoid comparison. There will always be people better or worse. There will always be someone else who got a poem on the same topic published before you. I could come up with a reason you should buy my book instead of another book if you only have $15 to spend on books, but if that were truly the case, I’d be likely to just give you my book, and recommend one of the fine contributors to Adrienne, the literary journal I edit.

I will say that while there are many wonderful poets writing about experiences of disability, there are not as many writing about being fat. In the project I reference above, I’m also invested in capturing the quotidian experience of a fat faab person who is daily assaulted with others’ opinions of my body. Every single time I went to the supermarket when I lived in Utah, someone told me their opinion on the items in my cart regardless of what those items were. They felt entitled to do this because fat bodies, especially fat faab bodies, are considered available for others’ public scrutiny and contempt. Especially when I am walking with a cane and dare to be fat in pubic and more visibly disabled (not to mention queer), I face an onslaught of abusive behavior, and I try to record that and challenge it in my poems. I find the queer world, and the poetry world, and especially the academic world, to be profoundly fat phobic, so much so that I’ve had workshop leaders tell me, when I wrote poems about my body, that they were disgusted, and wasn’t that my intention? (No.)

3. Why do you write what you do? 

I am trying to not only record my life (though very few of my poems are autobiographical in the way most people assume they are), but also to make sense of it, and forge connections with others. The relationships I’ve built with fellow artists mean everything to me, and it is my favorite part of being an editor. I write to connect with other people, but also, I am trying to create art. I think there is a difference (not a hierarchy, necessarily, but a difference) between being a writer, being an author, and being an artist. You can be all of those things, but not everyone aspires to art. Not everyone wants to be published. I do. I am trying to create art when I write, rather than merely entertain. My press, Sibling Rivalry Press, has the motto “to disturb and enrapture.” I want to make people uncomfortable. I want to make them laugh sometimes, cry more often, and feel moved in some way. I want you to want to look away, but be unable to do so.

4. How does your writing process work?

I keep a notebook in which I record and paste in anything that inspires me, anything that intrigues me, disturbs me, enraptures me. Quotes from others’ writing, a turn of phrase from a TV show, or the experience of being deeply in pain in public. (I write about that a lot.) I write a poem a day, though I should really say I write a draft daily. My rule for myself is that I must scratch out 10 lines. I write a lot of letters (I have over 30 pen pals!), and that has actually made me a more diligent poet as well. I have a sign on my wall that reads “Art before dishes,” which reminds me to always prioritize my work. I frequently write more than 10 lines a day, but I think it’s important to, as Melanie Rae Thon says, “touch the project daily.” The writing process is also very visual for me. I see how I want the poem to look on the page before I write, and it’s a matter of sculpting the words into place. Being an editor has changed the way I think about this, as well, knowing how much effort goes into getting every word placed perfectly in a journal. 

Mostly I read, though. Right now I’m reading Heroines by Kate Zambreno, Depression: A Public Feeling by Ann Cvetkovich, and Kristen Stone's The Story of Ruth and Eliza.

I tag: J.P. Howard, Sossity Chiricuzio, and Arisa White. (all Adrienne contributors!)

Spanking the Dead Girl's Dolls - by Kristen Stone -

(A story remembered or told through a haze: the fancy little girl room filled with pastel textures. A frilly bedspread. Did she have a canopy? You are sure she had a canopy.  You think you remember the window with its lacy curtains that looks out to the curving black road, but that’s a fiction)

*

Gretchen is at Madeline Whitehead’s house playing dolls. Long, elaborate games, with orphans and school teachers, traveling merchants and peddlers. Madeline has more dolls than anybody: Cabbage Patch dolls, American Girl dolls, cheap hollow plastic babies from the drug store. They are piled next to Madeline’s bed in the cradle she slept in when she was a baby.

One day, Madeline Whitehead spanked one of the dolls. Put it on her lap and lifted up its ruffled skirt to deliver a few bored slaps to its cotton bottom. Maybe she said something obvious like: you are a very bad little girl.

After that sometimes they spank all the dolls. They’ve been naughty, the whole school of them: plastic and polyester swimming, the limbs tangle and press into one another. They can’t keep their hands to themselves. They are rude. They won’t drink their milk. (Nobody ever makes Gretchen drink her milk but, she pushes that thought aside.) It’s not exactly to hurt them but to expose them. A small token of shame, a sting. For a minor infraction through their clothes, but when they are very bad, on their bare skin. Dolls don’t have skin, but it is pretend.

What Gretchen really wants, though, is to be the bad girl. But she is a reserved child and do not touch or ask to be touched. Does Madeline realize Gretchen’s interest in spanking is outside the story? It exists for itself, the sensation. She does not know what it means, this thrill.

*

Madeline Whitehead is a dead girl now. She died coming home from a party in eleventh grade, crashed her car and died in a ditch, drunk. The rumor that spread through the suburbs like lice was that she had asked her dad to come pick her up, and he wouldn’t. The first kid Gretchen knew who died.

Gretchen went to the horrible funeral.  All the mean girls from the other high school were there. All the mean girls in their short skirts and mascara applied thick and spidery so it would run. They wore high heels which sank into the soft earth at the park near the river. Some of them held teddy bears or bright cards they’d made. Gretchen hated how they made a show of crying, of missing someone they hadn’t liked.

Madeline Whitehead is a dead girl, and it frightened Gretchen to see Madeline’s mother at the funeral, on drugs and falling over. More people just kept coming up to her, as if to see how broken she was. Some neighbor, drunk on vicarious grief, held her up and slipped her pills.

Gretchen hated everyone at the funeral but she especially hated the neighbor. The neighbor could go home to her children, irritating but intact, her husband with his stuffy cotton underwear, the humid shoes that he kicks off at the door. The man smell that rises from his body when he unbuttons his work shirt. How he stands there for a few minutes in socks and underwear, a whole person, boring and solid, terrible but here. 

kickstarter.com
Birds of Lace 2014 Letterpress Chapbooks & Broadsides

Birds of Lace will publish four chapbooks with accompanying letterpress broadsides and a portfolio of letterpress broadsides in 2014.

If you’re looking to throw a little change towards a poetry-related cause (it’s national poetry month, after all!!!) there’s none better than Birds of Lace. Gina Abelkop published my first chapbook in 2011 and she’s an amazing, tireless champion for innovative work by women and LGBTQ people. Plus, she’s expanding into broadsides this year! 

Danika reviews The Story of Ruth and Eliza // self/help/work/book by Kristen Stone

Danika reviews The Story of Ruth and Eliza // self/help/work/book by Kristen Stone

The Story of Ruth and Eliza // self/help/work/book by Kristen Stone is a double-sided chapbook, with one side being the novella The Story of Ruth and Eliza and the other side the poem self/help/work/book. The poem is eight pages and has to do with abusive relationships. It’s fragmented, and it’s unclear which segments are connected, but they come together to establish a discomfiting mood, and…

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An interview with Kristen Stone at Entropy

“i live in a small town in the south– a town that i love dearly– so my community is diverse in a different way than it would be if I lived in a big city where there was a big queer community, or where i could exist mainly within a writing community, where i might know more people in their mid/late 20s with arts degrees. so i feel really grateful for that, even though sometimes things don’t translate from experimental writing to the helping professions. i definitely have creative and queer and artistic friends, i’m not saying i don’t! my IRL life is rich and interesting and challenging in ways that it would not be if i could exist in writing and art bubble, i think, though.”

“We, underage, were refused entrance to the House of Leather. Instead, read Best Lesbian Erotica 2003. Which was available for purchase at the local corporate bookstore chain. In the Gay/Lesbian/New Age/Native American aisle.

*

I hid it in my camera bag, a leathery gift from my dead grandfather, in the closet. As if to incubate. The book started to smell like wood and dust, like my grandfather’s house. Each time I opened it though the stories were the same.

*

She had since gone to college. I would send her e-mails about the book. People don’t really do this, do they? She wrote back telling me not to worry. She fell in love, she broke her arm, she fell in love again. She would see me at Thanksgiving. (Signed with a sideways heart.)”

- It would make your day approximately 98% better if you went to read excerpts from Kristen Stone’s amazing Domestication Handbook, here.

“An education in electricity and green things”

by Kristen Stone

1.

Cathy is holding a kid between her knees. Its head is trapped in a special box. She is holding a hot thing which is buzzing. She is pressing it into the goat’s head. It is making a sound. It is screaming.

(The goat book reassures: it’s quick, humane, and painless. The goat could tear an eye out. Disbudding protects them from nature. Just playing is dangerous, with horns. How would you build a hay manger or a stanchion? )

Cathy presses the tip at an angle into the raw head meat. I’m sorry, sweetheart. The barn is full of smoke. The smoke smells like an airbag. Diesel and gunpowder and singed hair.

2.

They go outside for the first time. They are three weeks old. The world brightened and grew. The world was contained by white mesh, which holds a spark harnessed by a small solar panel on the side of the barn.

Cathy says, yes children, touch it with your nose. They jump back. They cluster in the soft green middle. There are ugly red holes in their heads, where the horns would have grown. The hair is singed around the craters, which reach down to their skulls. They don’t know that they look tortured.

We teach them to drink water, holding our wet hands to their soft mouths. They suckle. (A soft ache.)

We carry them out under our arms. Two at a time they scramble.

Learn sunlight. Rumen. Learn grass. Learn to go back into the barn the same way you came out.