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Letters From the Hostel Life

Dos tomos de El Capital, 2008, Amadeo Azar
Courtesy the artist and Nora Fisch Arte Contemporáneo

Travels With Nathan

To our knowledge, Ezra Pound never saw a donkey show. Here’s updated cantos for drunk backpackers in Madrid and jerks on the Dead Sea.

El Cineplexxx

I see the city as a whole now,
asleep.
La Paz has a time signature you can taste
because now, it rains—
a desolate, beautiful torrent.
We all sin, we all break down.
We all take our things inside.
I don’t think it’s shallow
to duck into a movie theater, like,
especially when it advertises a
nudie flick,
writ large with subtítulos
and in THX surround sound.
Abroad, pornography
is anthropology,
    Q.  E.
     D.
 

Library of Celsus

Surrounded by empty volumes in Turkey,
just teasing the page with words, ropes stapled to my
eyebrows.
Good—I think of eyebrows, of the weaker vessels.
I regard the noble arcs of the scoundrels,
and the parabolic flight of the mired.
If Nathan puts
mescaline in my Grape Nuts again,
I’m going to punch him in the dick.
 

Guardia Civil

The sentries of Madrid,
dressed as buffoons,
do not carry buffoonish arms.
Honor is their emblem,
this mounted gendarmerie.
But toward them I have a gnawing scorn,
a disdain.
For it is they who put steel to the oiled hair of Lorca,
and it is they who also put the mechanics of death against
my head for doing nothing*
but knocking over some trash cans,
drunk.

*I may have also said something to the effect of, “How can I take you seriously when you are on a horse?” but my Spanish isn’t good enough to take it back.
 

Great Moon

There is an enduring myth
that holds you can see the Great Wall of China
from the moon with
the naked eye.
This myth is a cataract before science,
catapulted as fact before the lonely fall.
You can, however,
behold the moon from the Great Wall
with the naked eye.
There goes Nathan with
his pants down.
“Take a picture, faggot,” he screams.
Either way, I’m glad nobody
is on the moon right now to see this.
 

Père Lachaise

I’m exhausted, communing with
these noble dead.
The site map we bought on the Boulevard de Menilmontant
is a guide to progress
and covered in acid rain.
Frederic Chopin plays the opening to a scherzo,
Marcel Proust chokes on a madeline
and the tattooed sepulcher of Jim Morrison
offers free joints.
The joints aren’t as free as we thought;
they are doors from the living to the dead,
but they’re ours if we can outrun this
stinking knot of hippies.
 

The Dead Sea

We wade out into buoyancy
and she talks of her blunders,
while I drown in her shade,
I am silent.
I learn to listen—the extreme of functioning.
In the Jewish Holy Books,
it is a sin to finish another’s sentence.
To obey God, wherever she roams, slinks, and speaks,
we must disobey ourselves.

“On my oath and the shadows of antiquity,” I say, drifting
toward Jordan,
“I promise to…”
“PUT IT IN HER STINKER!” interrupts Nathan,
bobbing past on a raft.
He didn’t really finish my sentence,  
but the Jewish Holy Books
don’t articulate how to cope
with a garden-variety
asshole.
 

The Girl From Ipanema

“…walks like a samba,
and swings so cool
and sways so gentle…”
At least that’s what I thought.
But what they tell you
at the police station is that
the girl from Ipanema
is actually a ladyboy from Rocinha,
taking lonely people’s wallets
and
causing us to re-examine
preconceived
                       notions
concerning sex and gender roles.
 

Donkey Show

Sometimes when
you’re with Nathan in Tijuana,
he makes you go to  something he calls
a demostración, which
he says is like a “cultural surprise”—and it is.
But they
make you order two drinks and
even those don’t help;
you feel
so
dirty              after
           ward.
 

Described as an “up-and-coming humorist” by Esquire, Tyler Stoddard Smith’s works have been featured in: The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes, The Best American Fantasy, Esquire, Meridian, Opium, Pindeldyboz, Identity Theory, Yankee Pot Roast, Word Riot, Barrellhouse, Monkeybicycle, Johnny America, and McSweeney’s, among others. He is also a regular contributor at The Nervous Breakdown and serves as an associate editor of the online humor site, The Big Jewel. Visit his website. More by Tyler Stoddard Smith