Category Archives: fiction

Rhyming Review: •The Gargoyle Hunters•

New York’s mood during metamorphosis
The “now” seems particularly cruel
Thus •The Gargoyle Hunters• will begin us
(This is today’s true literary jewel)

The meditations on what New York means
Complete with adolescent adventures
Of a free-range private school nerdy teen
All of which brought back my teen-aged culture

The relegated and crazy mother:
In an informal commune of borders
& the dashing obsessive father
Scavenging & barking out orders

A family painted on black velvet
Of private middle school dilemmas
Puberty and thievery’s strange couplet
Trapping our young Griffin in its clutches

Seeking approval & confederates
A scandalous collaboration’s made
Of two romantic thieving delegates
Who predate architecture’s colonnade

The father’s long term goal, disrupt the son’s
Immature middle school romances though
(But they do infect all the grown up ones)
It turns out we become the man we know

Iconoclastic rev’rence for icons
Is their spiral staircase of DNA
Though their collections give New York lesions
Their compulsions they cannot deny
Personalities’ personal suburbs
Those individuals on the outskirts
Of the mover’s & the shaker’s worlds
Are unfortunately too often hurt

The workers became shock troop of dreams
Marching right across convention’s front lines
To achieve the goals that the dreamer schemes
Little men enabling grand designs

In the end the dream is the loyalty
An all encompassing fidelity
That will become middle-aged pleasantries
Wrapped in older people’s sweet vagaries


*Man Gone Down* by Michael Thomas Haiku Review

*Man Gone Down*
by Michael Thomas
Haiku Review

1. Starting *Man Gone Down*/
Gently riveting to me/
(I “Identify”)/

2. Confronted by youth/
The youth that hides in novels/
With happy sadness/

3. Fiction converges/
With readers’ realities/
History revised/

4. “Strange… to go through life/
A social experiment/
Understanding… Gone”/
#haiku (Thomas 99)

5. “You can tell when someone’s been loved; they don’t question its presence, nor do they despair when it seems to be gone” (Thomas 165).

6. Three hundred pages/
Of fearing his decisions/

7. Protagonist’s life/
Both Virtuous & sinful/
Flirts with disaster/

8. Faithful to his wife/
Staying sober, kind & fair/
When cheating is rife/

9. Crazy decisions/
Like evading a mistress/
Are perfectly right/

10. “I was born a poor/
Black boy of above av[‘]rage/
Intelligence[: CURSE]” /
#haiku (Thomas 216)

11. The Expectations/
Placed upon Smart Black People/
Prove to be unfair/

12. “Representing” Blacks/
Burdens folk who need to live/
Simply for themselves/

13. “Representative/
Man” must undo and fulfill/
All stereotypes/

14. Protagonist can’t/
Simply exist for himself/
He lugs history/

15. Meditative run/
Through the Brooklyn Bridge’s ribs/
Explored though nicely/

16. Digressions of thought:/
Thinking man in thoughtless world/
Explored New York well/

17. Manual labor/
Suspends thinking men in toil/
This book explores that/

18. Texture of labor/
The Psychology of work/
Is rarely explored/

19. The isolation/
Of immigrants languages/
Exposed in this book/

20. Job sites’ loyalties/
Along and across language/
Was a nice detail/

21. Surrendering job/
With a violent outburst/
To keep pride was nice/

22. Swimming under the bridge/
Like a weird aquatic troll/
Strange symbolism/


23. Impossible acts/
Of the damaged superman/
Kept me reading on/

24. When he cheats golfers/
He falls to earth a human/
Though they needed it/

25. Boston backstory:/
Old Friends on the edge expose/
Promise’s burden/

26. He survives for friends/
Not the noble ideas/
Placed upon his skin/


Haiku Review: *The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao*


39. Finished _Oscar_Wao_/
Got lots of thinking to do/
Wish I had loved it/

40. _The_Wonderous_Life_/
Of_Oscar_Wao_ intrigued me/
Because of Oscar/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

41. Stereotypes fail/
To capture real people trapped/
By ethnicity/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

42. Black Latinos can’t/
Publicly Enjoy nerd-dom/
So _Oscar_ was great/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

43. Background Machismo/
Of Dominican Culture/
Was troubling though/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

44. Yunior’s machismo/
Which kept him from happiness/
Struck me as honest/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

45. Lola seemed more sane/
Than the female characters/
Bit too real, really/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

46. Grandmother and mom/
Ybón and Ana performed/
Their #wondrous “roles” well/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

47. I have been #Oscar/
To each of these female “types”/
It’s painfully true/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

48. We #nerds don’t compute/
To “normal” people riding*/
Their #stereotypes/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz *using

49. Living up to “type”/
Hard for “real men” who don’t fit/
“Their” #stereotypes/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

50. These #stereotypes/
Harm AND benefit people/
So we all succumb/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

51. _Oscar_Wao_ said this:/
#Dominicans are much more/
Than #merengue shows/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

52. Though Junot Díaz/
Resurrected #nerds’ great tale/
He hindered his girls/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

53. Women stuck to script/
Of course where #nerds run afoul/
Of culture is #sex/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

54. Yunior’s desperate need/
For sexual approval/
Ruins his life too/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

55. But society/
Notes the #nerd not the #player/
As does _Oscar_Wao_/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

56. I liked _Oscar_Wao_/
But wish we could escape this/
Damned conformity/
#haiku #oscarwao #junotdiaz

Zadie Smith’s *On Beauty* (Summer Read #1)

7/19/12 8:49 pm

Just finished Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Hmm, where to start? We’re on Fire Island and the kids are at Bingo Night (I’ve been journaling in my notebook and writing haiku journals in my two blogs todayeye and wqueens7). I have made this book last altogether too long.

I liked On Beauty because Smith is a consummate novelist, freighting everything with meaning. Each word is simultaneously informative within the story and about life as well. I really love reading good novels (or novels that I like). It reminds me of what is good about life: everything is simultaneously a fact about the world and a symbol to be interpreted.  (That is one of the things I’ve been meaning to write about, the semiotics of life in the world.)

Three points to to start with, first the most personal and idiosyncratic: Adultery. In 93 or 94 I was a reader for Don McQuade’s Cold War Ethnic Literature course at Berkeley and for that class I read Eat a Bowl of Tea. The plot was not adultery per-se,  but  a wife who is raped and continues to have sex with her rapist because her husband is impotent.  Reading that book as I was in my 1st long term relationship was really hard on me emotionally.  I think it was because I was so insecure about having a girlfriend and I was so happy to be living with Linda and to have had a real connection with a  partner, the idea of a marriage not working out “happily ever after” stylee was horrifying. This time the adulterer is a protagonist.  He’s not terribly likeable, nor is his relationship, but their marriage is a huge part of five lives and the idea of even a bad marriage failing upsets me. It isn’t a bad marriage, just a rote one.  I’d imagine it is like every marriage: habit. To disrupt the routine of a family is, to me, for some reason, terrifying. I guess I’m happy about my life and any threat to it is frightening.

Second, and I guess this is related to the adultery plot, SEX. First, his first affair is with a woman whom he has known for thirty years. Claire recalls recalls seducing him without any desire for him or and real understanding of why she did it.  I, somehow, understand that “Imp of the Perverse” that would make you behave horribly and then deal with the consequences.  I am glad I’ve never cheated on Linda and that it has been a while since I did any of those self destructive behaviors that are, as they say in AA, moving towards a drink. Phew!

Claire, the woman of the initial affair, is also described as mega fit in the most unattractive way. She is the opposite of his zaftig African American wife physically, and in some ways intellectually and temperamentally.  He doesn’t like her, he just does it because he can. JERK!  I could see falling into that sort of trap if I didn’t try to keep myself spiritually fit.

Victoria, -Vee-, the daughter of an academic rival who sort of seduces him at her mother’s wake, and was the first love of his oldest son, is described as completely beautiful and composed, but also young and immature.  She “sexts” him and manipulates him into a second encounter, where he sees her ugly side and snaps out of it.  Of course, she is nineteen and he is fifty seven.  She is a student and young woman, and he is a father and professor.  There is no simple “right and wrong” here, but I find it possibly excusable:but finally inexcusable.

Her beauty and stereotypical beauty of youth is a social asset and very glamorous, but inappropriate. I liked this part of the novel. The collapse of visual or two dimensional beauty into something other than an asset worked for me. Like Claire Malcolm, the wirey poetess, the babalicious buppy princess, two forms of fetishized women presented to middle aged men like me, are finally shown to be thin, two dimensional wraiths in inappropriate and unequal power relation relationships.  I like that, and in some ways that was the main gristle of the novel for me. however, I think it could have been handled more economically.

The novel ends with no closure. There is huge growth on the part of Howard, but it is incremental. He doesn’t get everything back (like I wanted), but he does make huge steps towards righting himself to a better, more independent and complete person.

One other little thing that bothered me was that the language wasn’t quite right I admire Smith for trying to leave England, but I was bothered by a few misused words (road).

Well, this is hardly a book review, or  even a cogent assessment of the novel, but it is a good personal account of some of the main parts of the novel from my perspective…

The Glossy Shopping Bag


She hurried up the avenue looking for shelter. The rain, now biblical in intensity, was filling the glossy bag. Her clothes were soaked, but they’d dry. The bag, advertising a Madison Avenue shop in rigid plasticized tag was all that she had left of her image of consumer prowess. The shiny bag with the cotton cord handles represented her dream life which her earnings could not support. She had kept it crisp and undamaged through the weeks of her homelessness, folding it flat as she slept on the F train. When the rain accumulated was a pint even, the handles and the bottom seams simultaneously failed. The city papers, her clean underwear and a water bottle fell to the sidewalk. Her homelessness was laid bare to the doorman who helped her pick up the items. He got her a Gristedes’ bag, helped her organize her belongings, then asked her to move from under the Park Avenue awning he was bound to protect.

Autobiography for Class (Draft 2)

Stafford Gregoire


Professor Gregoire

30 April 2012


the shy[1] rebel

Stafford has always had a strange sense of the world. Even in 1st grade he admired the kid who couldn’t do the normal 1st grade assignment, “naming his parents and grandparents and where they were from.” “Tony” was a kid from down the block and his parents and parents were always around our block. They were from Cambridge, the town we lived in, Stafford could have done the assignment for Tony: “my parents and grandparents are from Cambridge, Massachusetts, just like me,” he should have said in Mrs. Pierce’s 1st grade class. Instead he wet himself in front of the class: “Stafford’s hero!” For some perverse reason, ever since then whenever Stafford encountered a “freak” who couldn’t or wouldn’t “behave normally,” he had a new hero. I think that this is because his parents told him to respect people who stood up for themselves, and never to shame children who refused to conform to the norms of society. Ever since then Stafford has elevated people who refused to conform to society. Personally, I think that he elevates eccentric people to defy conformity and make himself more unique.

As soon as Stafford grew up, he left home. Arrogant, he wanted to make his way in the world on his own as a bicycle messenger. He moved to New York City in 1979, just after the city went bankrupt and was allowed to default by the federal government. The crumbling city was perfect for Stafford because “[t]he small community often tolerates eccentricity. The city, on the contrary, rewards it” (Park, cited in Kidder 307). Like yeast in moist flour or hops in a brewery or a bully on a 3rd world police force, Stafford had found his perfect environment. It is a place where he can live the fantasy The Toronto Star reporter Cheney described as “[l]iving by your own skill and animal cunning, like a gladiator in the Roman amphitheatre, surrounded by fat and decadent citizens” (Cheney A1). Of course, that is a young man’s dream of rebellion. And if you look at most of these imaginary heroes of the street, they prefer to keep these fantasies to themselves. So Stafford lived his fantasy life of an urban warrior.


Works Cited

Cheney, P. “Bicycle Couriers in Love with Life on Mean Streets.” Toronto Star, 27 March 1993, A1, A8. Print.

Kidder, Jeffrey. “Appropriating The City: Space, Theory, And Bike Messengers.” Theory & Society 38.3 (2009): 307-328. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.



[1] passive aggressive

Kiko Rides Some More

Seen Riding Over Sunnyside Yards in Late December

There were two men delivering oversized sandwiches on bikes that day, a convoy!

It was a really rough two weeks teaching two classes. I have some exciting, but demanding, administrative work, but I am not really clear on how I feel about all of it.  I should say that I am so tied up in things to do that I cannot see the “meta” of my life.  Or, if you prefer, I can’t see the forest for the trees.  But here is the latest on Kiko, and I did a good hour, or two paragraphs at the end, where he has won the race and some observations. (it started here, and was last published here)

That weekend, when Mike and Kiko rode Croak wasn’t there but Kiko was stronger and more able to use the bike Mike was lending him.  The brakes, gears, ride and fit all became more and more comfortable.  In fact Kiko now realized what a bad fit (and bike) he had on Sra Choi’s bike that he had been riding out to Jamaica and back every day for the last few months.  Bent over the impossibly light “bicicleta de papel” as he had named it in the awkward carnero cuerno (ram-horned) handlebars week after week became more comfortable.  He could feel the resistance that his upright work-bike had been subjecting him to and he looked forward to bending down out of the wind.

One weekend, so convinced of the superiority of the lowered position, he went back home and took the handlebars off of a kids’ “racing bike” he found in a vacant lot and replaced the mountain bars on his bike.  Where was a whole sunday of problems to solve concerning the basket, brakes, grip-shifters, but when he had finished they all -,ore or less- worked.  Of course it looked like the eccentric 3rd world piece of engineering that it was, but Kiko was proud of his handiwork and excited about not having to fight the wind everytime someone wanted bacon and eggs delivered to their home.

That same Monday Croak rolled up with his bolsa mesengero pulled tight across his chest like un bandolero de Pancho Villa and laughed at Kiko’s handiwork. “Man look at that, you look like you’re gonna ride back into the 70s with that time machine!”

“I liking the drop bars so I get me some,” explaining with pride, “the gears and brakes they no fit so well, but I make them work just fine, like new as long as I pull forward when I turn.”  In order to get the new handlebars working he had turned the basket sideways, modified some of the hardware with washers, nuts and bolts, used zip-ties in other places.  The handlebar tape that covered the wires from the ill fitting twist shifters and mountain bike brakes was silver.  Kiko had cut the strips in half so that they wouldn’t gather and bubble, but this had caused lots of threads to form like dashboard  hula dancer’s skirt or science fiction cobwebs.

Croak rode with Kiko until his delivery weaving in and out of traffic.  They rode side-by-side in some cases and one or the other would zip in front when they needed to go single file.  Who would take the lead and who would follow was communicated and agreed upon silently with little more than muscle tenses and shrugs.  In these short rides Kiko learned about drafting and pack riding in ways that years in a club pack can never teach.