Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

Mary Caponegro

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pp. xi-xvi

THERE IS SOMETHING ADDICTIVE about Jennifer Natalya Fink’s novel Bhopal Dance. Its rhythms, its rawness, its alluring form. The gravity of its subject matter. The worst industrial disaster on record serves as a catalyst for this arresting, iconoclastic novel. Its objective is not, as several works of contemporary literature have done, to focus on the victims of the disaster and its direct and devastating effects. It chooses instead to focus on a peripheral effect of this tragedy; i.e. how it galvanizes a group...

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Petting Zoo

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pp. 1-4

I HATE ALL PETS. And even more their owners. Scooping poop, talking ootsie-wootsie, fawning and foofing over hoofs and teeth that would, will, should devour said owner the moment she dies. You pets: you’re pashas, scamming evolution. Hey, look what I got: free eats, free shelter, free noncopulatary affection. Why, you’d trade it all for three hots and a cot. Not even hots: dry food, wet food, Beggin’ Strips, premasticated and eons removed from blood from veins from glorious hunt. Willing woolly prisoners....

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Bhopal Time

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pp. 5-8

YOU WAKE WITH THE CRYING FEELING and you to try to shake it, you shake your head wet doggy-like as if that would help, as if anything would help, you woke too early, right before five, and now it’s ten, and now you’re too sad to speak, to eat, to do anything except—is this wallowing? You’re too depressed to think. To speak, to wallow. There’s no content: just the crying feeling. Swallow. Ian sees you crumpled there in your purple shirt, his shirt actually that you’ve colonized, and he pets your head, you...

Gap of Thirty Years

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Cordelia in Prison

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pp. 11-20

TAKE TOILETS.

You don’t spend your day thinking about the loo, now do you? That’s because you don’t share a bedroom with your bathroom. Try spending the night the day the cold night after in an eight-by-eight with a toilet.

Mine talks, but that doesn’t do anything for the smell. Jerome (that’s his Christian name, for the lion-bitten saint) talks and stinks more than any appliance I’ve ever met. He has only...

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Volks

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pp. 21-30

I’M GOING TO TELL YOU about us the way I would if I were recruiting you. “Telling folks,” we called it, never using so crass a word as “recruiting.” “Folks”: what a cringe-worthy word. Only rich college kids say “folks.”

We were such grumblers. Three years of school and what? Fucking nothing, that’s fucking what, man. Fuck. We loved that word. We were dropouts or hangers-on or postgrads: same difference. Three of us in two rooms. Then three of us in one bed....

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Before That

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pp. 31-38

IT BEGAN BEFORE ALL THAT, when I was squatting in a field outside North Bay Blueberries. I’d been living there since dropping out of university, wondering what the hell. Yup, I was farming blueberries in the wilds of Northern Ontario, and also strawberries and rhubarb. Small peanuts. Puny but juicy fruits. And some subpar squash.

The pumpkin plant replanted itself. I’d ripped it out, thrown it in the mulch pile, because it was covered with a mildewy sort of substance all the books said was fungal and would kill it. The...

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Sexparty!

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pp. 39-46

COME ALL OVER MY FACE.

I like writing that, like thinking of your brows (so scant for a male) arching in rapturous surprise. “Come all over my face”: a porny corny phrase. “All over” is what clinches it. And what would that solve. How do I dig myself out of this uncome covered hole. How do I face it. A cell, a toilet. Jerome. Well. Come all over my face.

The girls always look shocked by it, like they didn’t know...

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Sam Bhopal

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pp. 47-58

IT IS NOT ENOUGH to be the revolution you must be the truth It is not enough to be the truth you must be the light
It is not—

No need to concentrate; Cordelia sees where this is heading. The homemade, vaguely Indian flat bread has a semeny aftertaste. It is not enough, it is not enough. No really, it’s not; she is hungry enough to devour another piece of sperm bread, but there’s no more. The one benefit to kitchen duty at Café du Roi is unlimited...

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Nest of Three

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pp. 59-70

SAM PATEL ISN’T LAUGHING. Sam doesn’t laugh a lot, except when he reads long passages of his bible, Woody Allen’s Without Feathers.

It started with Lenin. Doesn’t everything. Ian snorts. See no, we’re not Marxists; we’re neo-Leninites.

Caren pounces: -ites not -ists, eh? Not to be confused with Mennonites, ha.

Ian reddens. Cordelia quiets. Wills herself shut. Nobody notices. She gathers stillness, stems of it, here: a bouquet. On...

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Portmanteau

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pp. 71-80

OWLISH (ADJ.): A MOTHER EXCITED. Or excised.
I am not exactly a rabbit. I dream my father is the new president, and I beside him stand, the proud and pretty daughter. I am feeling these detailed feelings of patriotism and paternal love I’ve never waking felt.

My dreams are so flat and obvious, nothing to interpret here, just keep hopping, while my waking life is full of portents, symbols, layers rich with meaning to sift through. Actual white rabbits...

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Kill Cute

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pp. 81-94

SAVE THE CUTE, kill the brute. You shall live, O fluffy, you shall die, O scaly, O smelly. The least beastly shall inherit this earth. Those resembling the human baby—hello seal, hi ho puppy—are granted immunity from farm, from table and knife, and invited to overpopulate. Should we mention that the worst offenders are those who neglect—or neglect to even have—their own babies? Shall we discuss the anthropomorphizing, the naming, the misrecognition of brute as babe?...

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Bewilderment

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pp. 95-106

IF WE MAKE IT to 11 a.m., we’ll make it through the day. It’s 4:07 a.m., and I’m feeling like a million bucks. Like anything could happen. Something good could happen to you, today, promised the prominent wife of a televangelist on my childhood blackand-white TV. To you, today, she’d repeat. I stare at my dark cell, waiting. This strange human capacity for optimism. What’s its purpose? The height of unreason, the height of the morning, hi hi high...I’m giggling, and listening to my giggles, audience and...

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Ode to Ian

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pp. 107-112

HOW TO GET THERE from this coal lump so petty and concrete?

I want a million bucks a billion I want it all.

Can women have it all?

The question always already answering itself. Ring ring!

Cheers to you, diamond.

Attachment to things, commodity fetishism that soap smelling of melons and more sludgy and true is this lust for people interchangeable lambent humans burned in this genocide. Which is...

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Ravel

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pp. 113-118

WHAT I CAN TELL YOU is that one minute I was staring deep into her sweater drawers, noting how perfectly aligned each sweater’s edge was with the next, eyes stroking the layers of fabric, feeling the weight of cotton on cashmere on wool, and the next thing we were tearing it all off: sweaters, socks, check-patterned black and purple underwear. I was noticing some orange woven into her turquoise sweater, draped unbuttoned around her shoulders like some expensive college girl in a mail-order catalog. Orange glinting...

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Bhopal, Connecticut

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pp. 119-124

AND NOW THE END. Of we three, this world. You are my violet and I am your plum; you are the smart one and I am dum dumb. A private language of glances and giggles. The night we pooped together, child words and all, outside in a field, under a slice of moon ripped from a Moorish flag. Ian watching, teasing, feigning revulsion, Ian the girl here.

Afterward we made Caren break into the church near Café du Roi, a stolid cinderblock affair. She hated it quietly. Constantly....

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Gas Lust

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pp. 125-132

SOMEWHERE A CHILD RUNS BAREFOOT. The air is not her friend tonight. The wind tears her eyes, rips her clothes, laughs a methyl isocyanate laugh. Somewhere I am green and safe beneath the earth. Somewhere close an owl hoots, a heart sound, in and out. Will we survive our cruelty. Who will thrive on such cruelty.

Cordelia wakes from her nuclear dream. You know, the one where it’s happened. Always it’s the mushroom cloud, the fallout. But it turns out it’s gas....

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Danbury Denouement

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pp. 133-144

THIS IS HOW WE DID IT:

The shredder, the paper, the pens, the Wite-Out, the spray cans full of toxic shit to clear the gummy shit off your screens, the coffee grinds in big white waffle filters. All nest.

Nest inside of nest: bury it in a chair, bury the chairs inside the desks, bury the desks inside the halls, cars. Vroom. Shred the gray polyester floor, it’s already starting in that corner there....

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Birthday

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pp. 145-148

WOKE IN LIGHT. A dusty sea of it. A window, barred. Outside flatlands. Lawn, no hills. Is this Connecticut. Is this a cell. Awake and there are many bulbs, fluorescent. Peach walls—a feminine touch? So little to touch, to feel. Linoleum. Grapenuts cereal and milk. A child’s breakfast. Will they bury me. Will they grow my bones. O daughters of trickle-down pediatrics.

Outside everything harmonizes, trees and sky and air play their parts. My nose swells and considers this and other things....

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Bomb [replay]

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pp. 149-154

SHE IS MOBILE, a machine for flight disassembled on the gray carpet, witnessed by the burgundy walls, by the “art.”

The calamitous O’Keeffe, Caren instantly christened it, framed in pink. The light tan leather couches, expensive yet somehow plasticy looking. A black metal coat hanger alone in a coat closet. Each ordinary office object hateful somehow. Mats by each door, why? Oh—an unanticipated consequence of that egalitarian drive-in parking: mud tracked from suburban yards,...

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We Were Right

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pp. 155-156

DON’T LAUGH. I’m already crumpled in a wastebasket. A wastebasket that I had to work hard to earn. How much more degraded can one owl get?

Hear me out:

See, we were absolutely correct, both in concept and method. Absolute in our correctness; correct in our youthful absoluteness.

The enemy is not the state. The state is just another idiot running around half-blind at dusk. A powerful idiot. Too...

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Bequested

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pp. 157-158

AND THE BEQUEST TO YOU, my stolen daughter, my codfish:

I. Your mother. Skinned. Her body emptied out, naked, alive. Picture it there, scooped out like a pumpkin. How you first knew it, for you were what was scooped.

II. Iraq Wars, I, II, and now III. More sequels than The Godfather. Afghanistan, Afghanistanagain! BP oil spill. Watch those cute little birds getting the black oil washed off them. Chernobyl, duh. Gaza in flames. Gaza again, faster...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 159-160