I was driving my rig over the streets of the world, mostly sleeping days, working nights, my cargo long overdue, no matter, static from the radio, static in a thousand different incomprehensible tongues, the music of the spheres, I sang along with it when for a moment I’d catch a bit of its drift …

The lights of the cities came up on my left, dissolved into blackness on my right, sometimes a glow ahead like a dandelion in space, like a final destination, but then it would fade out and I’d shift down, saying Wha? Wha?, but nothing was there, only the road like a gray tongue upon which snow fell …

Streets like twine, like tape, like old frayed band-aids binding together what was left of the world …

I cruised up and down them, my wheels like thumbs over wax, across the sands of the east, the snows of the west, north no longer north, everywhere was north, it didn’t matter, the wheels, the ribbon, shifting down, driving nights…


February 2, 1942

Every event that ever occurred in a Daniil Kharms prose piece happened in reality on February 2, 1942.

A man fell out of his chair over and over. Another man flew apart in pieces. A dog imitated a policeman with a  flair for operatic arrests. Another policeman, related by marriage to the previous policeman, reported an accident that kept repeating itself, with different characters, in a section of the city frequented by daughters from Obersk, after which the sky slipped into a wallet and the wallet into the back of a woman’s head named Olga.

The nameless woman (only her head was named Olga) entered a world where the only known truth was a cube about the size of  a bread loaf. Blue lines escaped out of the doors of a cinema which every citizen in the city contemplated with a studied indifference. A cherry tree blossomed from the mouth of a banker’s wife. One moment the town was submerged, the next it was reported on the back of a truck on its way to the market where Anton Antonovich was performing with his singing dog, Simon.

All this and more occurred on 2 February 1942, but not the death through inanition of a writer incarcerated in the psychiatric ward of Leningrad Prison No. 1.


Tom Whalen has written for Agni, Asymptote, Brooklyn Rail, Chicago Review, Fiction International, Film Quarterly, Mississippi Review, NANO Fiction, New World Writing, the Washington Post and other publications, including the anthologies The Great American Prose Poem and Sudden Fiction. Whalen’s books include Dolls, a collection of flash fictions, and the novels The President in Her Towers, Roithamer’s Universe, and The Straw That Broke. Whalen teaches film at the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany.

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