the collaborative process


Dennis Cooper & David Trinidad

If lucky, you might capture that
elusive flight of ideas which involve you
when you’re “in love” with the chosen one.
One fine day, in other words, your
fleet might come waltzing around
your door. With luck you’ll be looking for what
it implies about truth, beauty, and gratitude—
that kind of stuff. You are my kind
of guy. I am the lucky one. I am
awaiting one sign, or this romanticized look in my eyes
has a way of throwing its dead weight around when
you keep me at arm’s length.
The longer I wait, the more I want you.
I’m in love with you, you big galoot!
Put simply, if I’m allowed to lose total control of myself
for a guy, as if you didn’t know. Don’t go.
1/9/85, NYC, 5:54 p.m.

Process Note:

I was visiting Dennis in New York; we wrote “S.O.S.” in the living room of his
apartment on Twelfth Street (just off of Second Avenue). A few years earlier we’d
written, while driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a poem called “The
Ordeal,” so this was our second—and in my opinion more successful—collaboration.
I don’t think we ever wrote another. The title is from the ABBA song; I’m
sure it came from Dennis, as ABBA was one of his favorite groups. I remember
that we alternated lines, and that Dennis was responsible for the ending, which
I liked, which I still like. “One fine day” in the fourth line had to have come
from me: I was obsessed with 60s girl groups at the time; “One Fine Day” was
a hit by the Chiffons. I also remember that I had a big (ultimately unrequited)
crush on someone in Los Angeles; this kind of wistful energy fueled not only
the poem with Dennis, but many of my own poems from that period as well.

—David Trinidad


What’s the difference between a secret and a concealed door?

A: Secret doors are constructed so that their function as a portal is not immediately obvious; false backs on fireplaces, revolving bookcases, and sliding sections of stonework are examples of this. Concealed doors are just doors hidden by an intervening object, like a tapestry, a stack of boxes, a door covered over with plaster, and so forth.

Dragon Magazine #76, August 1983


A couple of friends and I are planning on taking over our Dungeon Master’s island. So far our plan is working.

Unfortunately, we have encountered some problems. What we want to know is how to spawn orcs? We need an army at the moment.

A: Orcs are mammals and therefore do not spawn. You will have to find some other way to raise your army.

Dragon Magazine #31 Nov. 1979



Microminiaturization leaves enormous spaces to be filled. Disposability of the physical surround has psychological consequences. The example of the child’s anxiety occasioned by the family’s move to a new home may be cited. Everything physical in Paraguay is getting smaller and smaller. Walls thin as a thought, locomotive-substitutes no bigger than ball-point pens. Paraguay, then, has big empty spaces in which men wander, trying to touch something. Preoccupation with skin (on and off, wrinkling, the new skin, pink, fresh, taut) possibly a response to this. Stories about skin, histories of particular skins. But no jokes! Some 700,000 photographs of nuclear events were lost when the great library of Paraguay burned. Particle identification was set back many years. Rather than re-create the former physics, a new physics based on the golden section (proliferation of sections) was constructed. As a system of explanation almost certain to be incorrect it enjoys enormous prestige here.

Donald Barthelme


unique ciphers of violence and desire.

Optimum child-mutilation film. Using assembly kits of atrocity photographs, groups of housewives, students and psychotic patients selected the optimum child-torture victim. Rape and napalm burns remained constant preoccupations, and a wound profile of maximum arousal was constructed. Despite the revulsion expressed by the panels, follow-up surveys of work-proficiency and health patterns indicate substantial benefits. The effects of atrocity films on disturbed children were found to have positive results that indicate similar benefits for the TV public at large. These studies confirm that it is only in terms of a psychosexual module such as provided by the Vietnam war that the United States can enter into a relationship with the world generally characterized by the term ‘love’.

J.G. Ballard


As the theater darkens

a bright light appears on the left side of the screen. The screen lights up.

To be nobody ... On screen shadow of ladder and soldier incinerated by the Hiroshima blast

To be everybody ... Street crowds, riots, panics

To be me ... A beautiful girl and a handsome young man point to selves

To be you ... They point to audience

Hideous hags and old men, lepers, drooling idiots point to themselves and to the audience as they intone ...

To be me

To be you

Command no. 5 ... To be myself

Command no. 6 ... To be others

On screen a narcotics officer is addressing an audience of school boys, spread out in front of him are syringes, kief pipes, samples of heroin, hashish, LSD.

Officer: “Five trips on a drug can be a pleasant and exciting experience...”

On screen young trippers ... “I’m really myself for the first time”

ETC Happy trips ... To be myself ... no. 5 ...


Shot shows a man blowing his head off with a shotgun in his mouth ...

Officer: “Like a 15 year old boy I knew until recently, you could well end up dying in your own spew” ... To be others no. 6 ...

To be an animal ... A lone Wolf Scout ...

To be animals: He joins other wolf scouts playing, laughing, shouting

To be an animal ... Bestial and ugly human behavior ... brawls, disgusting, eating and sex scenes

To be animals ... Cows, sheep and pigs driven to the slaughter house

To be a body

To be bodies

A beautiful body ... a copulating couple ... Cut back and forth and run on seven second loop for several minutes ... scramble at different speeds ... Audience must be made to realize that to be a body is to be bodies ... A body only exists to be other bodies

To be a body ... Death scenes and recordings ... a scramble of last words

To be bodies ... Vista of cemeteries ...

To do it now ... Couple embracing hotter and hotter

To do it now ... A condemned cell ... Condemned man is same actor as lover ... He is led away by the guards screaming and struggling. Cut back and forth between sex scene and man led to execution. Couple in sex scene have an orgasm as the condemned man is hanged, electrocuted, gassed, garroted, shot in the head with a pistol

To do it later ... The couple pull away ... One wants to go out and eat and go to a show or something ... They put on their hats

To do it later ... Warden arrives at condemned cell to tell the prisoner he has a stay of execution

To do it now ... Grim faces in the Pentagon. Strategic is on the way ... Well THIS IS IT ... This sequence cut in with sex scenes and a condemned man led to execution, culminates in execution, orgasm, nuclear explosion ... The condemned lover is a horribly burned survivor

To do it later ... 1920 walk out sequence to “The Sunny Side of the Street” ... A disappointed general turns from the phone to say the president has opened top level hot wire talks with Russia and China ... Condemned man gets another stay of execution

To be an animal ... One lemming busily eating lichen ...

To be animals ... Hordes of lemmings swarming all over each other in mounting hysteria ... A pile of drowned lemmings in front of somebody’s nice little cottage on a Finnish lake where he is methodically going through sex positions with his girl friend. They wake up in a stink of dead lemmings

To be an animal ... Little boy put on a pot

To be animals ... The helpless shitting infant is eaten alive by rats

To stay put ... A man has just been hanged. The doctor steps forward with a stethoscope

To stay down ... Body is carried out with the rope around neck ... naked corpse on the autopsy table ... corpse buried in quick lime

To stay up ... Erect phallus

To stay down ... White man burns off a Negro’s genitals with blow torch ... Theater darkens into the blow torch on the left side of the screen

To stay present

To stay absent

To stay present ... A boy masturbates in front of sex pictures ... Cut to face of white man who is burning off black genitals with blow torch

To stay absent ... Sex phantasies of the boy ... The black slumps dead with genitals burned off and intestines popping out

To stay present ... Boy watches strip tease, intent, fascinated ... A man stands on trap about to be hanged

To stay present ... Sex phantasies of the boy ... “I pronounce this man dead”

To stay present ... Boy whistles at girl in street ... A man's body twists in the electric chair, his leg hairs crackling a blue fire

To stay absent ... Boy sees himself in bed with girl ... Man slumps dead in chair smoke curling from under the hood saliva dripping from his mouth ...

The theater lights up. In the sky a plane over Hiroshima ... Little Boy slides out

To stay present ... The plane, the pilot, the American flag ...

To stay absent ... Theater darkens into atomic blast on screen

Here we see ordinary men and women going about their ordinary everyday jobs and diversions ... subways, streets, buses, trains, airports, stations, waiting rooms, homes, flats, restaurants, offices, factories ... working, eating, playing, defecating, making love

A chorus of voices cuts in RM phrases

To stay up

To stay down

Elevators, airports, stairs, ladders

To stay in

To stay out

Street signs, door signs, people at head of lines admitted to restaurants and theaters

To be myself

To be others

Customs agents check passports, man identifies himself at bank to cash check

To stay present

To stay absent

People watching films, reading, looking at TV ...

A composite of this sound and image track is now run on seven second loop without change for several minutes.

Now cut in the horror pictures

To stay up

To stay down

Elevators, airports, stairs, ladders, hangings, castrations

To stay in

To stay out

Door signs, operation scenes ... doctor tosses bloody tonsils, adenoids, appendix into receptacle

To stay present

To stay absent

People watching film ... ether mask, ether vertigo ... triangles, spheres, rectangles, pyramids, prisms, coils go away and come in regular sequence ... a coil coming in, two coils coming in, three coils coming in ... a coil going away, two coils going away, four going away

A coil straight ahead going away, two coils on the left and right going away. three coils left right and center going away, four coils right left center going away

A coil coming, two coils coming in, three coils coming in, four coils coming in ... spirals of light ... round and round faster, baby eaten by rats, hangings, electrocutions, castrations ...

William S. Burroughs


The Task of the Translator

Around 1916, I decided to apply myself to the study of Oriental literatures. As I was reading with credulous enthusiasm the English translation of a certain Chinese philosopher, I came across this memorable passage: “It matters little to a convict under a death sentence if he has to walk on the edge of precipice; he has already given up on living.” To that phrase, the translator had appended an asterisk, and indicated that his interpretation was to be preferred to that of a rival sinoloist who had rendered the same passage thus: “The servants destroy the works of art so as not to have to pass judgment on their beauty or defects.” At that point, like Paolo and Francesca, I read no further. A mysterious skepticism had crept into my soul.

Jorge Luis Borges
“An English Version of the Oldest Songs in the World” (1938)