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Author: Bartleby

tell me

tell me

Tell me would you please
what’s on your mind and in your heart
how the winter feels on your face and hands
what you recall of sunshine from the start,
of days too young to trace out plans.

Tell me if you could
what makes you smile and what’s no good
what you need to be safe and sure
what I could ever say that ever could
make you glad to the core
that we met

Tell me please if there is a way
for me to treat you right.

what can I say?

what can I say?

what can I say?
In this world where I walk alone
through the apple trees planted in their rows
In this place where we’re all shown
something deeper than what we think we know
I would like to talk to you
and tell you how I love your smile
I’d like to only ever do
what was good for you in this while
where I’m a man

NYRB: PL User’s Manual (Interview)

NYRB: PL User’s Manual (Interview)

NYRB: Hi, I’m the New York Review of Books, and I’m joined today by Bartleby Willard and Amble Whistletown, author and editor of Pure Love & User’s Manual. Gentlemen.

Bartleby: Hello!

Amble: Yes!

Amble: Is this really the New York Review of Books?

Bartleby: No! No one reads us. Why would the New York Review of Books get involved.

Amble: To be nice? Do they take charity cases. Do you (to the NYRB) take charity cases?

NYRB: No. This is just pretend. It’s you guys talking to you guys.

Amble: Oh!

Bartleby: Like always.

Amble: Yeah, but I got my hopes up.

Bartleby: Well, leave them on the ground for the moment. (to the NYRB) Ask us some questions!

Amble: Yes, please! Ask us something hard-hitting — so that we squirm in our seats.

NYRB: Very well. How’s the book coming along?

Bartleby: Ow!

Amble: Wow! I wanted a tough question; not a slaughter!

Bartleby: The book is, um.

Amble: Yeah, definitely! It’s, um.

Bartleby: Well, we’ve finished several versions.

Amble: Yeah, and we just finished a read-through with many edits of the first section.

Bartleby: That’s the main section. The rest is replays.

Amble: I don’t know why we didn’t past that most recent read-through.

Bartleby: We were going to go over it once more, but then we didn’t.

Amble: Tomorrow!

Bartleby: Yes, let’s!

NYRB: Great. And then when you publish that most recent version, would you advise people to read it?

Bartleby: Mmmm.

Amble: I dunno.

Bartleby: There’s been disappointments with some of the previous version.

Amble: Yeah, we’ll think we’ve done a pretty good job, and then we read it, and it’s boring.

Bartleby: Yeah.

NYRB: It’s for that reason that most authors don’t publish a book until they are certain it is ready to be read by other people.

Amble: Well, I mean, you’re talking about authors with audiences.

Bartleby: Exactly! Authors with a public. We don’t have that.

Amble: Nope.

NYRB: Pure Love & User’s Manual is unique because it claims to be both Pure Love and a user’s manual for using Pure Love. Tell me, how can a book be Pure Love?

Amble: That’s part of our dilemma.

Bartleby: Our system is we have a notion and then we just go for it.

Amble: We thunder after it.

Bartleby: Right. We chase it while tumbling and flailing about!

Amble: Grrr!

Bartleby: We’re still chasing this one. How can a book be Pure Love? How can a user’s manual for Pure Love also be Pure Love?

Amble: The riddle haunts us.

Bartleby: It beckons!

NYRB: Tell me what you have so far.

[Amble: let’s finish this later]

[Bartleby: Listen: We’ll re-finish the book tomorrow and then do the interview; when it’s fresh in our heads.]




Sometimes a man meets a woman
and feels she’s the only one
and tries to tell her until she knows
how he feels

Such a man in such a time’s
not always right

And sometimes even when he’s right,
she doesn’t feel he’s the only one;
so then he’s still wrong

Sometimes a man meets a woman
and feels she’s the only one
and tries to tell her
but says it
chaotic garbled confused,

Such men on such occasions
usually end up skipping out
the picture as a skip-stone
thrown at an odd angle
will follow the creek
around its bend

Now I’m getting older in the morning light
And the paces take me further from what
I’d wished to say and how I’d longed
to cinch you tight into me,
where I could see
your feelings in your eyes

Now I say,
Now what
should I do?

A man and woman try to know
each other — try to unfold
what they can’t get at alone
into the other

Two work to know
one another,
and what they together are.
Every day they work
to know and love
each other better.

That’s romantic love.

I would do that with you
if that could be right for you.
If that can’t be good for you,
then I’d
follow the creek
around its bend,
skipping out of sight.

Love between two people is a home they build
together from the inside out
A place where their hearts are safe,
where they can be all of what they are

I always meant to find someone I could
build a life with

And since I met you I meant to say
in some nice gentle way
that I would like to know you
always a little better
would like to love you
always a little more
every day



How does one actually make things better?

There’s a wound deep within that undermines one from the inside out.

There are misunderstandings and dishonesties within and between individuals harming their relationships within and between one another and in their organizations.

There are corruptions within individuals and organizations that misdirect desires, energies, goods, words, and deeds.

There are mistakes splitting the nation, undermining real relationship and with it shared government and the efficacy and safety of democracy.

How does one make things better within oneself, between oneself and others, within organizations, within nation states, within the world?

How does one build awareness, clarity, honesty, accuracy, competency, compassion, loving kindness, and shared joy into the underlying structure of individual lives, relationships, and organizations small and large — even to the point of making healthier nation states?

What makes trust possible? What makes people feel secure and safe enough to risk standing up within themselves and living for love? And what background is required for giving to be as effective as possible — for gifts to be well-received and -used?

Children of the Dawn

Children of the Dawn

It was long ago. I scarcely recall it. And what I recall is vague, sketched out in thick shapes and rough feels, and voices — not what was said, but just the cadence and pitch of voices connected to hands and arms that dressed and hefted and moved me. They carried us through the dark cold night and the day was so hot as we climbed — us kids in little rucksacks on their broad backs — up the criss-crossing dust-and-pebble paths, stones and scrub bush on the slope-sides. But on the top; where the air was thin and the sky a blue infinite dropped over mountain, valley, forest, jungle — all spotted with fields of mist; it was too cold. It was cold because it was so high in the sky and it was cold because it was nighttime in a desert environment, where the air doesn’t hold moisture. Our ankles were bound together. Our wrists too. We sat there on stone thrones as the night fell, groggy with some sweet drug. But I; something went wrong; the drug didn’t happen; it didn’t matter, really; the cold was drug enough — see how the stick bug, caught out in the cold night, see how it slows, see how its blood freezes, see how it turns into the air, into the cold air. That’s how it became with me. I became the cold air and whatever had been my heart and my thought evaporated into the cold cold air. I watched my mind and heart and body say goodbye. A few days before, I’d been playing with my friends on the green mountain sides. I didn’t understand why this was asked of me, done to me; I still don’t.

DACA speech

DACA speech

Can we find ten Republican senators willing to vote for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers? Can we find ten Republican senators willing to go to their constituents and say, “Yes, I refused to use 600,000 people as bargaining chips. I stuck up for them.” Or at least to say, “Yes, I didn’t want to throw out all those years of mutual investment and over one billion dollars in economic activity. Don’t forget: We already paid for them to go through to the twelfth grade, worked with them as they made it through college, and then continued the partnership as they began careers in this country — the only one many of them know, especially since DACA rules have prevented the majority from visiting their country’s of origin.” Can’t we find ten Republican senators willing to vote on a path to citizenship for the Dreamers without entangling that very specialized and pressing (given the fact that it is likely that the Supreme Court will probably soon rule DACA out of existence) issue with the larger — admittedly less clearcut — immigration issue? Can’t we find ten Republican senators willing to help 600,000 Americans in all but the paperwork — whose only crime was being huddled as small, sleep-eyed, confused children into trucks by their friends and family, and then making a life, making friends, joining communities, getting educated, finding work, being people here?

I don’t know what to say, America. The polls show you don’t want this to happen, but can you find enough of a national conscious to do something now, while there’s yet a chance?

A nation is more than a government, more than borders, more than an economy encased in a military. A nation is a society, a nation is a people, a nation is a set of values. What are our values? And can we politically agree upon what we as a people already agree on? Or do we just sit by and watch the unfolding of something that we as a group recognize to be obviously both cruel and (for both the overall economy and the health of local communities and individual businesses) stupid?

But the demise of DACA is not immediate, and it is only extremely likely — not yet a certainty. So then what? Nothing happens. The Republicans take over the House. The matter is appealed to the US Supreme Court. The conservative court almost certainly rules DACA illegal. Can we expect the Republican House to act? Maybe. Probably not without demanding all kinds of unrelated concessions. And today we have a Democratic House and Senate. We just need ten Republicans whose constituents would reward rather than punish them for refusing to use 600,000 of their fellow (for all they can tell: many will be surprised who from their office and community disappear if DACA is undone) Americans as pawns. Can’t we do that? Aren’t there enough people in red states willing to ask for that? Enough people in red states ready to expect the right thing from their representatives?

Anyway, the world is full of essays. The world is full of noise. The world is full of strident opinions. But this isn’t even like that. This is something we already agree on that common decency bid us act on now, while there’s a good chance to stop torturing 600,000 people. Because picture that: since you were three, you have lived and went to school and found a job and worked and made a life in this country; and you never know how much longer before you’re told you’re not welcome, you can’t work, can’t support yourself or your children, can’t even stay, have to go somewhere that you’ve never known — have not even ever been allowed to visit. That’s no way to live, and expecting people to live like that is no way to behave.



I never wrote anyone so many love letters.
Never even close.
I kept feeling that I needed to know you, connect with you.
I thought it must be real, but then I seemed to make no progress, so I thought it must be just in my head, but then I felt again a special something between us, and so I thought again maybe it’s real.
And on and on for a long time.

Now that it’s all gone wrong, what do I think?, what do I feel?
I think I should’ve taken the opportunity to ask if you ever wanted to get to know me.
That would’ve been nice for both of us.
To have someone gently show his interest is nice.
You could’ve said yes or no and we would’ve known each other further or not, but either way, the essential friendship between us would’ve remained intact. And it would’ve been good.
But instead I threw all my confusions and complications at you.
And that wasn’t nice and wasn’t good and didn’t go well.
I feel sick, sorry, broken, alone, confused.

What’s to be done?
I don’t know.
It would seem there’s nothing to be done — no way to get back to OK.
But please know that when I add up everything inside of me, I find that my feelings for you are more genuine than all my confusions and complications.

I wish I could go back in time and give you a nice little, “What do you think? Me and you? A thought worth pursuing?” And then listen and accept whatever you said. But I can’t go back in time.

I am sorry I didn’t do this right.
I regret it more than I can say.