The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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DEC 22–JAN 23 Issue



In the war between tree and rock
Wind and water are winning
And fire remains a player

Sun has a role as well
As two other kinds of light

Raven and chipmunk impact negligible
None knows what matters man


The way dreams evaporate
In the moment the light enters curtains
Those who were there are gone
Even recalling who no longer possible

Though sometimes the trace returns
And you remember twilight or elation
That someone knew who you were
In the absence of any way to re-open the safe once locked

Stacking little boxes inside bigger boxes
Creating disorder out of perfection
Art is what makes everything worthwhile
That and small children

Though I’ve none of my own and have
To borrow from relatives
Everyone says we ourselves are but the morning dew
But the babies are not a dream


If he hadn’t died then, after the war he would have gotten a Buick dealership
If he hadn’t died now, she could have seen him again
If she hadn’t died then, she would have moved to the newly built Watergate apartments
If he hadn’t died then, he wouldn’t have founded his own firm
If the book had been published, he would have stayed in school
If there had been a letter from her, they would have married
If they didn’t marry, they would have never seen each other again
If she had only known, she would have done it differently
If she had been paying attention, she wouldn’t have had the accident
If the financing had been easier, they would have bought the house
If he had insisted, they would have had children
If he had lived, he wouldn’t have become a schoolteacher
If it didn’t snow, they wouldn’t have been stuck
If he got the fellowship, he wouldn’t have left the country
If he didn’t leave the country, they wouldn’t have met
If he had the Buick dealership, the sons would have inherited
If she had seen him again, they would have quarreled
If they married, eventually they would have divorced
If they had children, what sorrows
If the children grew up, they would have moved away
If he hadn’t had the operation, he would have lived
If they never saw each other again, they would still have remembered each other
If they had kids, they would have needed a big house
If he had been paying attention, he wouldn’t have hit the tree
If he stayed in school, he never would have been rich
If his book had been published, nothing would have changed
If she didn’t break her leg, she would have become a star

1* In a given line, first and second pronouns do not always refer to the same person, though sometimes they do.


The world is a dangerous place.
Unknown dangers everywhere.
Known dangers everywhere.
Nobody can be trusted until proven trustworthy.
Nobody can be proven trustworthy.
There are many crazy people.
“There’s a lot of bastards out there.”
They must be avoided.
Walk on the other side of the street.

Memory weakens and fades.
The sense of smell is gone.
Perpetual heartburn.
Back pain everlasting.
Nothing tastes good.
Everything costs too much.
Nobody is at work anymore.
Nothing works right.
It’s all a bunch of lies.
It just doesn’t make sense.
I have already lost three inches and gained five pounds.


The Marx Brothers are entirely about immigrants. Monkey Business and A Night at the
each include major encounters with customs and immigration officials. Groucho
and Chico are totally stereotypical Jew and Italian respectively, though I should
acknowledge that W.C. Fields is a stereotypical WASP. Harpo is that stranger speaking
no known language; who knows from whence he came? Back to Groucho – unkempt
Jewish money seducing WASP probity, i.e., Margot Dumont. Zeppo, romantic lead in
the earlier films, is always prevented by some obscure force behind parental
disapproval from marrying the girl of his dreams – they may say it’s because he has no
money or job or he’s just some wacko tenor, but it’s clearly really because he’s one of

When Groucho said he wouldn’t want to be a member of club that would have someone
like him as a member, I believe he was referring to the phenomenon of Jewish country
and city clubs, established in response to the consistent blackballing of Jewish
businessmen and professionals of means from the more elevated and prestigious city
and country clubs throughout the country – this is the teens, twenties and thirties that
I’m talking about. After the war, I suppose, at least for them, it changed.


I should be proud to be known as an author, and I have an ardent ambition for literary
fame; for of all possessions I should imagine literary fame to be the most valuable.

She’s simply having a good time with the latest musician a la mode, but I’m the one
with the money, so she’ll be back.

The very music to which the young people danced was calculated to arouse rather than
suppress desire.

I don’t say this to offend you, but of young men who have studied I have never found
one who had so few ideas as you.


I have endured more than I ever did.

I asked her if she knew what they called a puppy’s mother.

Language becomes a game, playfully exploited to entertain or persuade, but not to
express a truth that may not even exist.

It is benevolent to allow me to sit and hear you.


When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble upon some
particular perception or other.

There’s no such thing as theory. You just have to listen. Pleasure is the rule.

Young scholars and priests know all that perfectly. For my own part I am but a very
ignored fellow.

To speak English one must place the tongue between the teeth, and I have lost my teeth.


When of thee I think, into my little self I timid shrink.

This business will not last, this extravagance of thought and money is abnormal; it is
bound to be, with General Electric selling where it is today.

In a wild freak of youthful extravagance, I entertained the audience prodigiously by
imitating the lowing of a cow.

We can be strong and smart at the same time.


He has nothing of that stiffness and pedantry which is too often found in professors.

It was my Emerson, who I believe is one of the greatest men ever produced by this
nation, certainly by Harvard.

I was, I say, a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social and
cheerful demeanor, capable of attachment but little susceptible of enmity, and of great
moderation in all my passions.

We now recognize the behaviors as neurological disorders but to him they were
frightening symptoms of incipient madness.


I never catch myself at any time without a perception.

Then he found himself accepted, even lionized, by a circle that, while bourgeois in
lifestyle, was artistically open and progressive.

He could think nothing better of his disorder than that it had a tendency to insanity, and
without great care might possibly terminate in the deprivation of his rational faculties.

If you annoy me, I shall have to crush you.


They’re all mentally sick, these musicians, said Maeterlinck.

That was a reminiscence of the old ballad of Chevy Chase.

I did everything I could to dislike the piece.

His great greedy heart, and unspeakable chaos of thoughts.


You had no pleasure in life and your religion was dark, yet you was gay, and sung. You
are a fine fellow. You fight bravely.

Observe that part of a beautiful woman where she is perhaps the most beautiful, about
the neck and breasts.

We all want more, bigger, harder, higher, stronger.

A bed laid smooth and soft is a great luxury.


When Johnson met Boswell, he had already lived five years longer than Ted Berrigan.

When walking his behavior seemed even more baffling.

The not very helpful example of a man who was perfectly normal in every way except
that he believed he was made of glass.

He was intelligent and fond of reading, but always something of a dilettante.


Who wants to know they will be the last person to teach a seminar on Tennyson?

In our globalizing world, we have come to realize that migration, innovation, and
creativity are fundamentally interconnected.

The sickness of delay and this curious need to never finish.

It’s clear we are entering what had been enemy territory.


Simon Schuchat

Simon Schuchat is the author of several long-out-of-print volumes of poetry.  His translations of Moscow conceptualist poet Dmitri Prigov, Soviet Texts, came out from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2020.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

All Issues