- Fiction, Reading, Writing

From the Archives: However Many Sayings to Live and Die By, by Robert Lopez

Happy birthday, Robert Lopez! Celebrate by reading Lopez’s “However Many Sayings to Live and Die By,” which we published in 2020, and which was subsequently selected for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions 2021! Follow that by reading “The Future Home of the Wymans,” which we published in 2019, and “Say No More,” which we published this year in Big Other’s Puerto Rican Writers Folio: A Hauntology. And cap it off by listening to our podcast interview with Lopez.


What Not to Do, How Not to Live

Don’t get born, don’t be a person, don’t get born as a person to a family of people. Don’t be black or white or brown and don’t be short or fat or skinny. Don’t be a brother or sister or cousin or uncle or mother or father. Don’t go to school or get a job or consult with colleagues or attend meetings. Never sit at a table where other people are already seated.


A Church by Daylight

The sky is not up in the sky and the moon is no longer the moon and there are no trees or dogs or electric fans or kitchenware and there is no daylight savings time because there is no daylight to save.


What’s Not on the Radio

The song isn’t on the radio because there is no song, the same as there is no radio. If there were a song it would be a slow blues or shuffle, probably in E major, probably called Milk-Cow Blues. There would be no person in the song as subject or object, no milk or cow mentioned in the lyrics, just as there would be no one playing the song and no one singing the song. Perhaps there would be the memory of a song, something like a faint echo barely audible, but there will be no one to remember or hear it.


Some Other Metal Than Earth

There might still be dirt and air and mountains but it doesn’t seem possible if there’s no sky up in the sky or no moon hanging in the middle of it. Just as carrots don’t seem possible though they grow in the same dirt. But the dirt carrots grow in is called soil and there’s likely no soil. There’s no way to differentiate dirt from soil, if there is a difference. There’s no optimal time to grow carrots in either dirt or soil because there are no seasons. There’s no fall and no spring, which is what’s best for carrots, but carrots need fertilizer and there’s probably no fertilizer.


The World Must Be Peopled

Go to a place called Road and try to make a life there. Learn a trade. Be a plumber like the guy in that movie or an electrician like the guy in that other movie or be a carpenter like Jesus even though people say that Jesus couldn’t have been a carpenter because there was a paucity of trees in Galilee so he must’ve been a mason.


The Gun Is Where Any Could Find It

You live in America so there are guns. Always have your guns with you, take them with you to school and to work and to the movies and to the mall and to the barber or beauty shop. Have a gun for your right hand and a gun for your left hand and keep one tucked inside a boot or shoe. Only a certain kind of person looks at a lower-case r and sees a gun. Always be that kind of person.


  • Robert Lopez is the author of five books of which the most recent are Good People and All Back Full. He's taught at the New School, Columbia University, Pratt Institute. Syracuse University, and the Solstice Low-Res MFA Program of Pine Manor College.

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