Mark Cunningham


At night, the dark blanks in the grid of lights were the hills, which during the day were the only things we could see. He said, “Any point in space is an argument place,” and she disagreed. After we explained that the universe is a constant flux of ricocheting vibrations, it was easy to get the Pentagon to hand over $150 for a screwdriver. Duck, rabbit: life and death may be only points of view, but she doesn’t like to look too long, in case the pattern switches and she can’t get it to switch back.


The people had names so normal—Helen Johnson, Ken Wong—that everybody thought they were hypothetical examples. She waffled: one day she’d speak for everyone, and the next for every one. The slide presentation about the “universal human nervous system” went on so long my right leg went numb from sitting. He explained the Theory of Relativity to us, and from that point on, everything was clear—except that, as Euclid and Buckminster Fuller note, points don’t really exist.


We got together to discuss our report on individuality, and I said whatever she wanted to do was fine with me and she said whatever I wanted to do was fine with her, so we got nothing done. He tries not to think his own blood could drown him. She didn’t dream she was dreaming and then wake up: she woke up and used her watchfulness to try to become more awake, but that was so boring she fell asleep. Dear Prof. James: so the voices in my head are real after all. Our calculations showed there’s no end to the number of false infinities.


Minus one hour for food and a nap, the terrier barked over once a second, over 3,600 times an hour, for eight hours, so it barked over 25,000 times. “It followed, therefore, that there had to be more than one old man and donkey, and indeed the woods were full of them.” Time for yet another “encore presentation” of Why is There Anything Rather than Nothing?

A note from M.C.:

"The term “sort” comes from John Locke’s “sorts of substances,” with our understanding of each substance made of collections of ideas that are “supposed to flow from the particular internal constitution” of the substance (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 2:23:2-3), and from FedEx’s “sort,” the twice daily receiving and routing of packages at airport hubs.

"There are several quotations. In the first [sort], the quotation about “argument place” is from Brion Gysin, as quoted by Laura Hoptman in her essay “Disappearing Act: the Art of Brion Gysin,” though the he and she in my sentence aren’t Gysin and Hoptman. In the second [sort], the quotation about the nervous system is from The Shaman of Prehistory by Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams. In the fourth [sort], the quotation about one old man is from A Natural History of Western Trees by Donald Culross Peattie, on the Cherrystone Juniper. The bit about the dog is a fact."

100 Things I Think About, but Not for Long

Barrettes with Elmo from Sesame Street on them. Whether the red licorice is fresher than the black licorice at the mall’s candy store. Straw cowboy hats with the brims already rolled up to looked used. Fashion boots. Whether there’s any tungsten in the rings of the spiral note pad I use to keep track of gas mileage and oil changes. Whether the bank guard has any tattoos on his arms. The number of staples in the stapler at the first customer work station in the Kinko’s I’m walking past. Pokemon trading cards. Whether anyone sitting in the hospital lobby watches Miami Vice on DVD. Pocket flasks. Where the screw-on tops of plastic soda bottles are made. Cork screws on pocket knives. How many miles the wheels of shopping carts last. Ironing boards. The name of the person who regularly cut Michele Bernstein’s hair. Four-slice toasters. Where the lawyer in the TV commercial buys socks. Spiral pop-up laundry hangers. The name of the town where the person who thought the average wall outlet should have two sockets was born. Paper airplanes, theory and performance of.

What time the person in line behind me at the coffee shop got up this morning. How many gallons of water are in the water tower I can see a mile or so away. Whether the trailer hitch on that Mitsubishi has ever been used. How many slats are in the Venetian blinds of this dentist’s office. Rock-polishing machines. Back scratchers. Number of planks in the red-stained wooden fence in the backyard of the house I just walked past. Headboards for beds. What the prescription is for the glasses the woman sweeping her front porch is wearing. Brandy snifters. How long the signs on the interstate last before they have to be repainted or reprinted or whatever they do to them. Whether they repaint or reprint them. The fashionable length for sideburns among men under 25. Droopy cartoons not made by Tex Avery. How many bubbles are in a square yard of bubble wrap of any size. What the very first joke was. Which Joni Mitchell album is most commonly sold at yard sales. The most commonly sold Joni Mitchell albums at yard sales. The exact number of cans in the recycling bin in the grocery store parking lot. The percentage of ultra-violet rays the lab’s darkened corporate windows block out. Stickers of dolphins in yin-yang patterns.

The exact date—day, month, year—parallel parking was invented. Whether anyone has ever played stick ball on this street. What the T and the R in T & R Steaks are initials for. How many horsepower the gerbil running in its wheel in the pet shop window generates. Whether the first blade of the double-bladed razor really pulls the hair out so the second blade can give you a closer shave. How many display tables are set up at the bridal convention. What René Descartes’ middle name(s) is (are). Paint by number kits with pictures of a castle with a background of snow-covered mountains. Where my high school diploma is. What color the man at the Lowe’s paint counter would call my skin rash. The average time in months before the metal chairs outside the Lebanese restaurant have to be repainted black or replaced. The type of print Fangoria is set in. Frisbee golf. Cross county running. Brut aftershave. Racing stripes on old Camaros. Whether it was cloudy or sunny the day the guy standing behind the plate glass window at the Toyota dealer decided to grow his goatee. Clear plastic bubble umbrellas. Chapstick. Where the models in the New York & Company’s ad were born.

The date of the Fed-Ex delivery truck’s last oil change. How many times a minute that air conditioner in the second floor window drips. Where the woman wrestling her stroller over a break in the sidewalk bought her flip-flops. What the terrier nosing around the crushed Pepsi can pissed on last. The number of hairs that just fell out when I scratched my head. Which vertebra that is that’s so beautiful in the back of that woman’s neck. Where the gifts in Asian Gifts are actually made. Whether or not the twelve-year-old wearing the Spider Man t-shirt can break a board with a karate chop. Riding mowers. Kentucky Fried Chicken’s $1 menu. What I was doing the last time I heard “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. Cottage cheese. Cat’s-eye marbles. Eating outside under big umbrellas. The name of the town where the cinder block was invented. Whether the woman looking at the frames in Hobby Lobby likes Bloody Marys. Kayaks. Butter churns. What the GPA was of the guy wearing the college ring filling his Subaru at the Citgo station. Where the owner got the large Miller Lite banner hanging over the couch I see through the uncurtained sliding glass door.

Wrap-around sunglasses. Radishes. Antique clocks that don’t work set on mantles as decoration. Where the electricity is going in the middle of the three wires stretched across the road. Whether that wire is actually carrying electricity. How often the red bulb flashing on top of the radio tower has to be changed. What the daily rate of beard growth of the mailman going into the Christian bookstore is. How long the “I’m Proud of My Eagle Scout” sicker has been on the back of the blue mini-van. How tall the 68-year-old woman was when she was 14. Romance Book Club editions. Rare stamps from Middle Europe. The NBA after 1980. What kind of trees were used to make the wood chips around that bush. Whether the deli put eggs in the potato salad I’m not ordering. The number of minutes the retired couple has been sitting on the low concrete wall in front of the public library. Whether anyone in line at the ATM is afraid of heights. The model number of my bed. What type egg “egg-shell blue” refers to. How many prickly seed balls are hanging off the branches of the sycamore across the street from the fire station. How many hydrogen atoms each photon passed on the way from the sun to my left forearm.

Otoliths has brought out two books by Mark Cunningham, 80 Beetles and Helicotremors. A chapbook titled Alphabetical Basho is forthcoming on the Beard of Bees site.
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