Author: Molly Brodak

Moly Brodak is the author of A Little Middle of the Night (University of Iowa Press, 2010) and three chapbooks of poetry. She edits the journal Aesthetix and lives in Atlanta.

Membrane & Totem Pole & Tachyon & Pair


All of the things in his way are the path itself.
The last charnel ground is the laughing one: a ring of vultures
the size of children, static. The body brought chopped
and wrapped in mauve bows. It is no obstacle. In a sick solution

an amoeba secretes a cyst around itself. Thread tracks on the seafloor
show them rolling nowhere for thousands of years. In dreams.

The little crystals in their plasma plunking through the evening.

Just sit here and look. There’s no other way to the whole world.
The cyst wall grows vivid. And more transparent. Things out there,
the men’s bodies, also grow transparent, and no longer symbolize anything else.

Totem Pole

Amoebae house a little genome
with billions more pairs than anyone’s.
Each one a shapeless head.
Each head is winged.

They’ve ordered
this temporary lump,
a federation of actors,
to perform a tiny body.

The fountaining stream
of endoplasm is moved in it
to move it forward and

it is not understood.
The plain eyespot is not understood.
Proof of God and proof of No God.

The back end crumples and the forward
end becomes fragile. It extends its fragility,

otherwise it would not be love.
And will have it cut.

Otherwise it would not be love.
In eating and breathing,
disorder grows somewhere else.
Noise and waste and heat and know-nothingness.
No wonder we lump up in pairs.
An elaborate survivor can’t carry

all of its genes in just one kind of body. Genes
like stories, stories like
there are roads that go

where you couldn’t cope


The barrier wobbles behind him.
The barrier.

He was invisible to it, alert,
not pressing the bad button this time,
not stabbing his alien mood. That was the barrier?

To just not hurt.
Two images of him depart from it,
a redshift and a blueshift, split
self shot in opposite arrows.

A normal morning, a mandorla. Past self
and future self disappearing!
No reason is left.
A reason to live

would so stupefy you
away from the world

By this logic every moment was the barrier.


Funny how, if you could really see it, the bodies are so scared
right before they die, fighting so hard to stay, so hard, and then the moment
they appear in death they are utterly given over to flat joy, without
the body. Funny that they fought. As if they really did like themselves!
Pull one love story out of the deathside and they all come out, and so much
blood: it’s good to let someone chew you up.

You see you weren’t there to begin with. More of a clear rope
thread into animate matter,
into shells, shrines
it visits for a while then burns.
But you forget.

See the wavy grid of interference between

light beams,
hands cupped,
two words,

it’s code-ground where separation is trashed.

And to what do you commit yourself?
A self you scramble to affirm?

Miniature Joys

Miniature Joys

I love a present that is lots of little presents, a mix of new things to open, mini joys, extending the feeling of surprise. In the spirit of the hodgepodge, here are some suggestions for some nice bundles.

The Zine Box from Nieves

Nieves is publishing some of the best weird art zines around, and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones to buy: get the box of all 12 published in 2011 and have no regrets. Includes zines by Noritake, Dennis Tyfus, Stefan Marx, Beni Bischof, Samuli Blatter, Misaki Kawai, Harsh Patel, Ken Kagami, Masanao Hirayama, Christoph Ruckhäberle, Patrick Graf and Miranda July.

I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women

This book is something to live with for a while. It unfolds with seemingly-endless surprise in the best possible way: exactly what literature is supposed to do. Read my extended review here, and see others reviewers’ takes on it as well.

Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels

There are a lot of Joseph Cornell books out there, but this one is unique: it’s a facsimile of one of his most unknown works—a deconstructed French farmer’s manual, reproduced with hand-colored engravings, cutouts, lift-ups, and overlays so the experience of the book is as close to original as possible. Accompanied by a volume of essays and a DVD.

Chapvelope Bundle

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this amazing bundle of bundles from The Offending Adam’s own Chapvelope series. Three bundles of bundles of poetry exist in this world and they should be given to people you love, because this is what love is.

AND while you are busy baking and wrapping presents, you will want to keep handy this page from the music blog Gorilla vs. Bear for a mix of the best mixes from 2012. They are all good and interesting but I especially love the Nicolas Jaar BBC Essential Mix and the Peaking Lights Lucifer Mixtape.

Two Books and a Recipe

Two Books and a Recipe

Those holiday gift guides that just smoosh anything shallow and fancy together aren’t much use to anyone who has a more thoughtful approach to giving things, so I thought I’d try to put some good things together with that in mind. A book couple, one thick and one thin, below, seemed to match perfectly with the the spirit of the recipe I’m offering too—a balance of substance. I like gifts that matter. Gifts that change lives, imagine that! Next week I return with the spirit of the hodgepodge

The new Agnes Martin retrospective, Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances is the best one yet—or ever probably, the most complete and in the nicest physical form. If you know anyone who feels an unshakable imperative to make rather than just consume this book is essential. Beautiful, makes an impressive gift, but also useful, memorable. Martin was an underrated late-midcentury minimalist painter, who (as a testament to her own strange subtlety) considered herself an Abstract Expressionist. Her eerie, pale, gridded color fields have startling conviction, the best kind of minimalism, absorbing and diffusing; Rothko if he had any guts at all. For the last ten years I’ve had a dogeared copy of her book Writings near me, which I occasionally open, even if just to find my all-time favorite sentence in it, “We need more and different flags.” Martin’s writings, especially paired with her clear and direct paintings, are inspiring beyond the regular little (or overblown) urgings of manifestos and craft lessons, actually agitating at times: they make you want to make.

Watch this interview with her for an example. She’s wrong about some things, sure, but she makes making feel important again.

This book’s counterpoint is Louise Glück’s new collected works, Poems 1962—2012. Maybe you are the creative person, maybe even a poet, and there is that supportive family member/spouse/friend who is sort of interested in reading more poetry? For me this is my mom; she loves Mary Oliver but doesn’t know where to go from there. An anthology or small bit of someone is not helpful, I think; a whole scope of poems rattles them all together for a kind of depth and sense that can’t come otherwise. Glück is personable but also says big things, big real ideas that lesser poets seem to avoid only because they have given up on them. This range of work proves how a poet might not give up, and we are richer for it.

And for this aesthetic pairing, here’s a recipe for you to make. Listen to me: this is how to make fudge. It’s such a perfect, stunning and simple gift, so do it up; any recipe that calls for marshmallow fluff or condensed milk is not actually fudge, just sweet firm goo.

The problem with fudge, I have discovered after much testing, is the chocolate. It interrupts the bond between the pure fat of cream and the suspension matrix of sugar heated to soft-ball stage. The wrong humidity, or slight temperature changes, or particular mix of ingredients in the chocolate you use, and your fudge is runny, or chalky, or grainy or flakes up. So, make vanilla fudge. It’s foolproof. It’s fantastic. In a lot of recipes, using a real vanilla bean can be a huge waste if the flavor is going to be lost under a lot of other stuff, but this is the perfect use for one—the flavor and even slight texture of the vanilla beans will be appreciated. Top with all the chocolate you want and have the best of both worlds.

Tuxedo Fudge

Tuxedo Fudge Recipe by Molly Brodak

1 ½ c. heavy cream
3 c. sugar
¼ c. light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp cold butter, sliced into thin pats
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/3 c toasted, salted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Line a 8×8 or 9×9 square pan with nonstick foil. When the fudge is cool, you’ll be able to lift it right out of the pan to cut neatly.

The best nuts for this fudge are hazelnuts, and the best hazelnuts are the ones you toast yourself. Test for yourself the difference between raw and toasted hazelnuts—the flavor is unbelievably different, so don’t skip this step! Toast them for about 25-30 minutes in a low oven, 275, stirring often, then peel skins off immediately by rubbing the batch in a clean dishcloth. Chop very coarsely and sprinkle with sea salt while still warm.

Mix together the cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring constantly over med-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to a boil, stop stirring when mixture boils. Reduce heat to low and cover pot with a lid, allow to boil for 3 minutes. Remove lid and clip in your thermometer. Boil until temperature reaches 237 degrees (or 239 if it is extremely humid/raining out). Turn off the heat, do not move the saucepan. Once the boiling has died down, place the thin pats of butter on the surface so they will melt and prevent the surface from drying out. Allow to cool to 110 degrees, which can take up to an hour and a half. Do not move or bump or touch the pot as it cools.

Once at 110 degrees, stir the mix as fast as possible with a wooden spoon, slowing after a few minutes. When the mix turns thick and less shiny, add vanilla and vanilla bean scrapings, pour immediately into prepared pan. Allow to cool completely. Chop and melt the chocolate and spread over the cooled fudge, adding hazelnuts immediately. Cut when cool and store in an airtight container.

Scenes of Monastic Life & Detail & Lock the Theater

Scenes of Monastic Life

Under the plaster, sharp planes of sides, slim portals, fields
shift still, as if thinking too hard about their color:

paleness and subsequently long inscriptions below.
A space distorts space. Cyan walls recede into gestures,

unconscious gorges, painted in colors he knew people hated.
Like cadet blue, Camaro yellow, so on, which is to say he had Ethics;

he had one intelligible hand and one injured hand.
In one language and out the other. He left some hands around.
One was used years later to redraw a head on a monk. Waiting,

robed in smoke, a few people will stand in for hundreds.
There’s no other way. Which is fine.

So he painted in his abandoning of the painting. In vague, straight orange,
there is only background, this earth, his mind, even everyone: background.
There is simply not enough of me to say it right. Unfinished,

a god flies towards the wall. An image is a refusal of all else.
Even its inscription: orando e lavorando through prayer and work
pe(r)fetamente l’a(c)cidia it is possible
to overcome sloth


A painting is whether you can finish it.
Any ribcage has the same story:
keep looking—

Meaning, the celery-green sea is beyond what’s necessary
and the off-castle is the utterance of repeating mountains.
An ox and a mule kneel flatly, with resentment.

Faith feels like acid until you are all gone.
So the white ships come close enough.
The sky is absent.

There is no answer:
a hundred leaves stand in for a million, in suspense,
in ferocious grids, begun long before you looked.

Lock the Theater

—because the plagued folk
might just rush the stage, for the clean world.

Panic being the opposite of language, on which
the animal floats in a man, astonished by its own extravagance.

There, one man seems fine:
the awful one, over-draped, gesturing to a space past

the Ark, dissolving as a thin wind lifts under the color,
where a crow eats right out in the open.

There are hands on his ankles.
Propping or pulling.