A Letter to Kafka

Sent: Saturday, September 10, 15:7
To: MaxTheKnife <>

Subject: Help!

Hey Max,

I don’t have an add. for your buddy Frank. You think you can get this to him? I need some advice before I really lose it with my parentors (parent + captors).


From: MaxTheKnife <
Sent: Saturday, September 10, 15:17

Subject: FW: Help!


See below. Another one. Where do you find them?


Dear Dr Kafka,

First, I want to tell you what a huge fan I am. Of your work, I mean. I mean, I myself am not a fan or any other type of cooling device. That would be weird, right, if I were something of an electrical appliance, no matter how essential in a hot country. No, what I mean is, your work, it rocks.

I’m totally in awe of just how much you know about stuff. Like, I’m doing biology this year and we’ve looked at some of the things you write about: insects, rodents. I was pretty good at dissecting things, like, say, the lab rat, but didn’t do great on the test because I am an absolute special-needs art student.

Then there’s the whole cardiovascular system. We haven’t got into that too much as yet but I know you’re all about ‘Does this keep me alive? Am I alive? Are you alive? What does it even mean to be alive?’ and I totally get that. Can you just be alive or do you have to do something like jump out a window or get arrested?

I googled you the other day and I saw this thing you wrote and it’s the reason I decided to write to you:

Why are you watching?

Someone must watch, it is said. Someone must be there.

All the sites say you’re not a poet but some people say this is from a poem called ‘At Night’. I know, right? It sounds so GoT/Nightswatch/We-are-the-watchers-on-the-wall. But I’m totally sure this is yours. So this was showing up on posters and t-shirts, so I figure people don’t really know your work too well. Obviously it would only get put on stuff if it was from a poem. Unless it was from a song by somebody like David Bowie. (Oh my god, did you know him? You’re so alike. I bet you knew him, you’re like the same person, swear to God.)

This is what I’ve put together: you’re a lawyer, you write and you were really good at school in subjects that had nothing to do with law. How did you manage all that? Like, where did you find the time? I know you were working out and doing yoga. Your dad, didn’t he make you work in that fancy shop when you were my age? (I’m 15.) I do zero extra-cred. I know, my uni application is going to be a wreck. But you did so much.

Here goes, this is what I wanted to ask: Did you go to homework supervision? Did your parents keep poking into your room to see if you were studying? Because, let me tell you, I made the mistake of my life when I let The Mother come into my room just at the moment I found this really cool button with the watching/being watched thing. She took one look at the screen and even though she didn’t say a word, I know she was thinking this was the answer.

When she isn’t checking up on me, she’s got The Father to keep asking about studying with other kids (read: we’re sending you to homework camp). What am I, eight? Yes Mother, I see you. Why the freaking hell are you watching me? (I’m being hard on her. She almost never sleeps, something to do with her bed.)

This thing about being watched, did it really work for you? Didn’t it make you feel like you were under surveillance? Oh, the terrible crime of taking five seconds to breathe when the assignments are piling up! I’m soooo sorry, Parents, forgive me for blinking. I will tape my eyelashes to my forehead at once. Gods. Sigh.

Should I give in to study group and homework supervision?

Listen, I know a zillion people must write to you for advice but, if you can, hit me up with some ideas about how to get the ‘rents from putting a daughter-cam on their one and only offspring.

Really appreciate it. Oh, by the way, some guy is describing you as the (I kid you not) “poet of shame and despair”. ( Dude, if I wrote poetry that would be me. You should, post haste, get him to take that thing down.



A Letter to Dorothy Parker

Vanity Fair
New York City,

Dear Aunt Dot,

My marriage bed brings me no joy. There: it is said. I cannot take it back and I really hope that when that moment comes (and it will, we both know that), this letter will be safely on its way to you where I have no power over it. That is mainly because even though I have the address of this eminent magazine, I do not believe you actually work on the premises. It is still a kind of triumph to know that for once (for the love of god, at least in this one thing) I am NOT the ONLY ONE who accepts responsibility.

But I stray. My marriage bed. Aunt Dot, it is a great misery. I thought I was alone in this but I once saw something you’d written about a Mrs Guinevere who only ever knelt beside her bed. I understand that. I gather, like myself, Mrs G was both an insomniac and the wife of a man who just couldn’t say ‘no’ to anything that looked like a bargain. Men love to talk about how much they hate shopping but ask them to buy one thing, just one, and you’d think they were contemplating long-term debt forgiveness for struggling African states.

I too kneel beside my bed night after night. What else is there when it is impossible to sleep in it? The husband bought the bed at a scratch-and-dent sale just before we married. I think it pleased him to see himself as a frugal man. This bed. This bed. It has more dents than scratches and what is not dented scratches. Something IS VERY WRONG with the mattress. The bedframe is one of those flimsy do-it-yourself affairs—you know the kind: headboard, footboard, with two wisps of wood you slot into place so the bed pieces now resemble a rectangle. Throw some slats of cheap wood on and there’s your bed. You made it, lie in it. You know how I’m so sure about the cheap, slattiness of the wood? They are what I feel when I lie on the bed. They are not locked or nailed into place so there’s a tendency for them to slip and shift under my weight. Or his.

The tectonic movements aside, there’s the issue of the mattress that something IS VERY WRONG with. It is not exactly lumpy, it’s more like . . . like it’s given up on being a mattress and decided to become an outdoor mat. It is hard but not firm; itchy from the inside out; and, with a will of iron, it REFUSES to stay on the frame. It slides, we slide.

Night after endless night I kneel beside it and try to stabilize it by stuffing towels into all the spaces.

I know this had been a very long letter, and I thank you for your patience. Can you let me know if Mrs G ever found a solution to her bed problem?

In hope,

Bed Head


Dear Bed Head,

She did. She found herself another bed to get into.

Anu Lakhan will write many things and edit everything. She lives in Trinidad and Tobago with an increasing number of animals. Her poetry, short fiction and book reviews have appeared in Bomb MagazineCaribbean BeatThe Caribbean Review of BooksSX SalonWasafiri, among others. She has been writing about food for almost 20  years: a column for Caribbean Beat started it off, followed by a book on Trinidad street food (also series editor for Macmillan’s Caribbean Street Food). The most recent features have been for Explore Parts Unknown, the web companion to Anthony Bourdain’s show.