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A post from the ACM archives.


from ACM 48

Swearing by Effingham

by Jason Koo


Effingham, IL, let’s just let it all out.
    Sometimes you need to call a fucking ham
a fucking ham. As I drive home past
        your road signs toward the tranquillizer

of Thanksgiving dinner, I think
    of Effinghamians effing this and effing that
while shifting in line at the post office
        as the one clerk not on lunch break

chats to the matron with the fifteen
    badly taped packages about her daughter’s
improving performance in AP Chem,
        but what a whelp of joy and vindication

would I let out were I to see 5 miles
    to Fuckingham, what an eternal chorus
of honks and Fuck yeahs! would a sign
        like that elicit from the purgatorial stream

of interstate travelers, many of whom
    may, like me, have spent the past 300 miles
kicking a love in their brains
        astonished at the swift toggle
between tenderness and fuck you.
    One moment, caresses and reconciliation,
the next, meatloaf to the beloved’s face.
        Sometimes you need to know you’re not

alone, that for your rage there’s a Fuckingham Palace.
    Effing Manganese, effing Tungsten,
effing Zirconium, which one of you
        elements is responsible for the seething

in the fluid of my eyes? I shake my head
    and clear, shake my head and clear,
and for a moment see the peacefulness of fields
        gently laid with light

but soon the film of her is there again.
    Once she was a lens. Once, a bridge to each
of the weeds. Effingham, I salute the muffling
        of your name, the comic elegance

of so much restraint, as if you were slipping
    onto the punches of tongues large aqua-blue mittens,
in an earlier life I may have enjoyed
        a certain camaraderie in your bleachers,

booing your effing quarterback fumbling
    the effing snap, or asking what a man has to do
to get some effing fries up in this place;
        but now I need a city to carry the rawer

sound in my chest, the hate concocting
    a whole new slew of vowels, where to unleash
such nasty words as I mull might not bruise
        other ears but be gratifying and returned

with thanks.

* * *

Jason Koo is the author of Man on Extremely Small Island (C&R Press, 2009). Visit his website at


THE ACM ARCHIVE: Lina ramona Vitkauskas

from ACM 48

Accidental Spousal Murder

by Lina ramona Vitkauskas


The husband is sick of his wife because she is a nag and other reasons that we will not mention here. So he plots to have her killed by a hitman. The hitman is paid a pretty penny to erase the Mrs. from existence, but as he watches her for the right moment to execute her, day by day, he is entranced by her idiosyncrasies, subtle gestures — her gentle ways hypnotize him. He falls deeply, madly in love with her, unbeknownst to the husband. One night, when she is alone in the house, the husband plans “this will be the night”. He urges the hitman to strike. The husband has it all planned out: he will walk in after the “break-in” he has planned with the hitman, when she is “accidentally” killed during a “routine” burglary. The hitman knows what he must do, even though he must kill his one true love, the woman who has struck his heart so. He enters the room where she is reading…and she turns around. He has a gun to his head and pleads with her to allow him to take his own life, as he could not bear to harm her, the woman he has watched for one week, the object of his every desire and meaning of his existence. He also cannot bear the shame he would endure among his hitman peers if it ever were to leak he fell in love with his subject. As the hitman begs her for his own life, she runs to him and falls into his arms, confessing she has known all along that her husband hired him, admits she, too, has hired a hitman to kill her husband’s hitman, but that she has fallen in love with him, her husband’s hitman, through intensive-week-long surveillance tapes and photos. The wife’s hitman appears in the shadows to kill the husband’s hitman. When the husband cannot get a hold of his hitman via cell-phone (text message) he panics and returns early thinking the plan has been aborted.   

THE ACM ARCHIVE: Kathleen Rooney

from ACM 48

For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs

by Kathleen Rooney


All the world loves a parade, and I am the girl in charge of ours.

I want to live in Whitman’s America. I want my America “still all in the making.” I want it “a promise, a possible something.” I want it “an idea, a forecast, a prophecy.”

Instead, I live in Orwell’s world. Where “people are imprisoned for years without trial,” and “The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled.” Where “swindles and perversions” abound. Where “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. I placed an online order for kazoos while Iraq did. Nero was an emperor. I was a Senate Aide.

I’d been assigned the task of getting our supplies in order for a politician’s most important parade date: the 4th of July. Independence Day.

The Declaration of Independence says, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

That summer, the summer of 2006, I’d pledged my fortune to working as the Assistant Internship Coordinator in the Chicago office of Richard J. Durbin, D-IL.

That morning, I’d learned from the Chicago Tribune that the day I purchased several dozen two-tone red-and-brass kazoos with threaded caps, replaceable resonators, and deluxe tuning was the same day that “a surge of bombings ripped across [Baghdad] and its surrounding provinces killing at least 40 people.” Among the dead were the two-man crew of CBS television news correspondent Kimberly Dozier, along with their Iraqi translator and an American soldier.

Ghastly attacks. But what could I do except bracket that, and point and click? Enter the Chief of Staff’s credit card number? Make sure the instruments arrived in plenty of time? Printing out the receipt from Kazoobie, Inc., I stared at the Chief of Staff’s platinum Visa and wondered out loud how the fuck I’d gotten there.


THE ACM ARCHIVE: Kathy Acker Interview

From ACM #30: A Conversation with Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker

With six earrings in each ear, tattoos from shoulder to shoulder and down her back (she dedicated her 1988 Empire of the Senseless to her tattooist), and narrow blonde ridges of hair striping an almost shaved scalp, Kathy Acker's very appearance suggests artifice. The briefest reflection tells us that's exactly as it should be, for her work, as much as that of any major contemporary, is a logical extension of the meta-fictional interests of past decades, reminding us that fiction is, above all, artifice--a human construction entirely different from ordinary business--while asking at the same time just how well we think we know anything. Talking to her, though, is another story.

Diminutive, distinctly New York, down-to-earth, intelligent, Acker is casually forthcoming. She laughs easily, considers the questions, answers directly. You could be talking to almost any middle-class urban American--except for the experiences themselves, which brush the exotic as much as her fiction (she did work in Manhattan sex shows when she was younger, rides a motorcycle, and hangs out with rock-and-rollers as she approaches fifty, for instance). And of course, the novels themselves--she's at work on her twelfth. This conversation with the "bad girl" of the literary intellectuals took place over dinner in Chicago after an address by Carlos Fuentes opened an October 1994 conference about "The Artist in Society" in which she participated.--Paul Ashley and Barry Silesky

ACM: First I wanted to ask about Kathy Goes to Haiti--You said earlier that you wrote that book as a joke.

KA: Well, I did kind of. That was one of my earliest books. I did an edition with Bob Kushner. It was beautiful, it was just all design. I think we only made a hundred copies. Bob gave them to some bookstore in New York and they sold out in a month. It was a beautiful book. Bob had done these erotic drawings, and it was just stunning. And that's how the book really should be. But Grove Press wouldn't publish it that way because they said the drawings would take away from my literary reputation. I said, I don't have a literary reputation [laughs]. But they wouldn't do it


From ACM #20: Poetry


The Artist

by Paul Hoover


It was a busy day at the taxidermist's.
People were bringing in bodies so fast,
the artist couldn't keep up.
He had to make up rules.
One, they had to be dead,
Since around two o'clock this strange thing happened.
Two, only two of a species -- per customer, that is.
Three, they couldn't be people.
You couldn't bring in a person
and put him on a counter.
Two crocodiles stuck from two shopping bags.
Where did they get these things?
The artist thought it was strange,
but he was not the judge.
He was to make that snowy owl
blink a permanent eye.
His was to make that bobcat stalk
on top of a TV set.
Hard to get these deer to stand,
harder still to make them listen.
Illusion was a powerful thing,
but so was dough-ray-me.
Then a lady brought in two mice
and wanted pepper shakers.
The scarf was tight on her head;
she was wearing heavy shades.
When she walked away, the artist saw
the bottom half was a man.
The strange thing was, he said all week,
she came and went in a taxi.

THE ACM ARCHIVE: David Sedaris

From ACM #20: The New Music

Anita O'Day was recently interviewed on the radio, on one of the stations I am fond of. She was hooked on drugs for years but claims to have kicked the habit. She told the interviewer that she had taken drugs because she had felt like taking drugs. Then, when she no longer felt like it, she went off to Hawaii where she was a stranger to drug salesmen. She sounded drunk to me. She said, "My name's O'Day and that's pig latin for money, honey, and plenty of it." She must have been drunk to ramble on like that. She claimed that her record company is managed and financed by her dog. Drunk.

It turns out that Anita O'Day is missing her uvula, that sack of flesh that hangs from the rear of most everyone's palate. Hers was accidentally removed during a childhood tonsillectomy. She was young then and has adjusted, made quite a name for herself.