Saintly Acts of the Unchosen


Bonny Finberg on Radio Joy. Soundscape by Berni Simons.
Original photo by Ira Cohen.

Publisher’s Weekly said Bonny Finberg’s work in “Best American Erotica 1996” exudes a stunning sensual sensibility;” her story collection, “How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era” was published by Sisyphus Press and she has recently finished her first novel, “Kali’s Day.” Her work appears in, among many other print and online literary journals, Evergreen Review, four Unbearables Anthologies (Autonomedia, NY), A Gathering of the Tribes, Lost and Found: New York Stories from Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and Bee Hive, In Paris, she has contributed to Le Purple Journal, Van Gogh’s Ear, and Upstairs at Duroc. She has been translated into French, Hungarian and Japanese.

saintly-acts-2I’m interested in giving my imagination free range the way a child does before she is cognizant of something called “imagination”— a separate state from some other thing called “reality.” Writing is a form of hallucination, an almost schizophrenic state, where one’s ties with reality are somewhat loosened, maybe a little bit like losing your mind, though with a degree of control and, ideally unconscious sense of place within the larger context of literature. I spend a lot of time sitting at windows looking at the street below. Right now I can see the street as well as a bank of windows, all of which have no curtains. I like symmetry in some things and not others. I prefer a state of peaceful contrasts where there is acceptance and coexistence, to a state of conflict, or disequilibrium. I see conflict all around. This street and the windows across the boulevard, like all streets and windows, generally repeat a cycle of contrasts rather than conflicts. Loud flashes of tension sometimes appear on the street, while the psychological violence and redemption that occur inside rooms are mostly done in the dark.


As if every parenthetical event becomes strung together into a series of potential last moments. As if every parenthetical thought becomes a link in a chain of one parenthetical event. No one on the street, the park, cool and wet leaved, barricaded after midnight. Someone scales the barrier and walks slowly down the path, past the fountain, through the arch. He turns from the window, squeezed between the steering wheel and the bales of rolled newspapers in the passenger seat. It’s Monday night. He checks the weather in Thursday’s paper. It’s October. That’s really all the weather report he needs.

There’s a FAST gas and fuel convenience store in Georgia that he can never go back to. Dark almond eyes keep floating up like a Magic 8 ball. He picked him up at a corner in Chattanooga at 3:15pm three weeks ago today. Only wanted to go to Trenton, he said. But there they were, somewhere outside Atlanta. It didn’t occur to him that the kid’s pothead was filled with warm chocolate chip cookies. He did what he had to and did what he did.

There’s no one in the street. He’s been trying to sleep, but his eyes keep popping open. It isn’t that he’s sitting up. He learned a long time ago that when the body craves deep sleep it finds you however you wait. It’s something about the change of seasons that always unnerves him. The wind and moisture are exciting though they smell of death. It’s like those wakes he had to witness as a boy, drunk on death, laughing, and the gray corpse in the next room, his mother hated his father’s drinking and her lying there, unable to do or say anything while he drank himself into a final stupor before his final collision with a semi.

Fuck history. If he had his choice he’d be in Mexico. That’s where he started off for, but somehow ended up back East on his way to his sister in Springfield. He hasn’t spoken to her in eight years, owes her money for this forty-year old box on wheels, conveniently portable, comfortably outfitted with what matters, which isn’t much.He’ll have to tell her something. She may even have some shit around.

The park is surrounded by a big university and its Wild West atmosphere. It’s like the World Drug Trade Center—he laughs at his own joke—college freshman just let loose in New York Fuckin’ City. The past is invented by those who lived it. He knows this as well as anyone who’s grown up in a big family. His brother, James, remembers their father as lapsed nobility, spawned from an old industrialist family whose patriarch paved the sidewalks of New York in bluestone. His brother still maintains the myth—the renegade father who played quarterback for Notre Dame, became a society photographer, and married his first wife, who avenged his womanizing by bisecting his ties and circumcising the tongues from his Italian shoes before throwing him out. Months later he picked up their mother at a bar in Yonkers. All he remembers is a brute, the wife-beater given to drunken rages, words that could eviscerate. Other things he folds away into something like a blanket, whose damp heat keeps a part of him always fighting gravity. The secret self, somewhere between dog and human, lays there, blunted by darkness until it rears up and whines in his ear. What he usually tells it is, “let’s not talk about that,” like an exhausted warning to a German shepherd. But his inner canine can be insistent, begging at the dinner table.

So he has to go burn off steam sometimes. That’s all it is. 
He picks up a Dunkin’ Donuts bag next to the clutch and pulls out white gym socks.

That one in Georgia—Wow, that was something wasn’t it?

Shuddup. That one was different.

He was a sweet assed little…

Those eyes…


The way he looked at me…


And his mouth…his mouth was…



He throws the socks back in the bag and takes it to the corner trashcan and finds a MacDonald’s container with a half-eaten fish sandwich. If the weather is good tomorrow he might just drive up to see his sister. He finishes the sandwich and puts his hand in his pocket. There’s a dollar and some change. He’s still hungry.

Pepe Loco Moco is a cheap tortilla place on MacDougal Street. He goes there sometimes for 99c tacos, and to watch the glinting belly button rings. Freshmen boys are always hovering around these anatomical displays like clammy flies. Fresh Men, the tang of dorm funk. It isn’t too late. He can still get something to eat.



Published by Sisyphys Press Chapbook Series #20

Cover art by Yuko Otomo

© Bonny Finberg 2005

To order a copy email


5-guys-&-finbergOn February 25th of 2006, Bonny Finberg came to the Bowery Poetry Club to present selections from her new chapbook, How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era. As these 12 stories are all written from the male point of view, she employed the distinctive voices of five New York writers to do the reading. In the spirit of reciprocity, she also read short pieces from each of their work, and ended by reading one of her own stories. This result in its entirety is now available on a limited edition DVD.

5 guys reading Finberg are Bob Holman, Carl Watson, Steve Dalachinsky, Hal Sirowitz and Edgar Oliver.

Photographed and edited by Leonard Abrams.
DVD cover design by R. Shapira

To order a copy email


Comments are closed.