Saturday, August 17, 2019

Poetry Is A Cruel Public Drug

I hear the development singing. The oats are red and taste of nudity. The flavor of the lobster is gleefully complete in its fuselage. The guides collide in the dark of the cave and find themselves bewildered by the square root of a stray cat. Can anything be truly savored in sleep? The brocade root has never sponsored a juxtaposition like this. I’m polished, towered, and propelled by a language whose gravity smells of opium. I garden cartwheels and leave the handsprings to the administrators. It takes a good break to stir a rub into earth. I consider the hotel and hold it in my hand like a moral. I heave into words this grease that I need to fill a thought with alcoholism. I usurp everything I see that isn’t already detonated by morning. The supposition that something like wisdom exists is a door to our garments. I sit and sputter on the ground hanging bubbles from an emotional velvet. If tuna is my pepper than what is my pepper but a tuna disguised as a saltwater grammar? The gardenias increase my sighs. I have an attitude like a thermostat. I compose some water and play a mean flute. I agree to the fickleness of vowels and hem my phantom cuticles with a ghostly luster. Poetry is a cruel public drug. It needs to be constantly entertained by piles of laundry and beatnik vibrations. Let these waves flow over you. I’m laughing at the paint in my bag. The gravy is anchored in iambic dots like a beautiful fire escape on 14th street. It’s time that time trumpeted its minutes with a horn of golden thunder. Nature is prominent in my reflections and when I walk I can hear the clatter of a million plates. I thrive on the sidewalks of Montmartre. The moonlight is smeared in the silent ovation of stars. I give this stab at meaning a little time to get unmuzzled and find its lips. The tongue is a monstrous organ. Think of what it can do when the lights go out and things turn green in the mind. I urge you to consider entomology as a profession. Let me unpack this thought in the quiet of my room, which is just now turning milky with mohair. This is what I like to do when I can’t afford to do anything else. Which is climbing into me like rubber. I’m engorged. I’m pointing at something in the distance. I see planets. And triangles. And twinkle in my scruples like an instinct.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


I say: a flower! And, out of the oblivion where my voice casts every contour, insofar as it is something other than the known bloom, there arises, musically, the very idea in its mellowness; in other words, what is absent from every bouquet. – Stephane Mallarmé

What is poetry? It’s a thing of vision, tenable clean and wild. It’s engaged splatter. It’s the grace and mesh of infinity. It’s a swollen frog and a character in my personal drama.
It’s the ground in the breath around an ear, the sound of a cloud twisting in the mouth of a thermometer, an Orphic Explanation of the Earth, and is not so much the Great Work intended to summarize the universe - a microcosm where everything would hold - but the hollow of this totality, its reverse, its realized absence, that is to say the power to express everything, and consequently nothing, the presence of a power which is itself subtracted from everything and is expressed by nothing. It’s a pause at the intersection of existence and nothingness, the affirmation of an enigmatic force, a parole for the slobber of the heart. 
Language is steeped in contradiction. It destroys the world in order to create it. The poem becomes a thing, a body, an incarnated power. It gives real presence and material affirmation to language while simultaneously suspending and dismissing it from the world. The density of its sounds is necessary to release the silence that it encloses and which is an expression of nothingness, a void without which it couldn’t be created. Presence is nothing without absence, and vice versa: the perfect crime on an island at night.
When the poet declares: "I imagine, by an ineradicable and doubtless condition of writing that nothing will remain without being uttered," one could judge this claim as being hopelessly naïve. The contradiction at the heart of this project is harsh, it tortures all poetic language, and speculation, which is the daughter of sunlight, and awakens the mouth like coffee. Tree branches spreading space as they spread into space. The stillness in a silver tray. The candle holder encased in wax drippings. The pure silence at the heart of a stone. The scraping of dishes, the lift of the fog, the breaking of sediment in the Badlands with its contrary streaks and hints of bone.
Contradiction is harsh, it tortures all poetic language, as it tormented Mallarme's speculations. Contradiction pushes the poet to seek a direct correspondence between the words and what they mean, to regret the lightness of energy in the word ‘swarm’ and the dark wilderness in the word Mississippi, as if the words, far from distracting us from things, cause the sensuality of language to rise into weight and color and cougars and pumice while simultaneously parodying the foolish clamor with the void at the very core of their endeavor.
So what we have is a bouquet of words. Burst body wax. A place where to moan is to smash the moonlight into stools. Raw was burning in flannel shades of light when the sapphire happened to the magnet broom and it became a motorbike. Remember Capernaum when it was abandoned? It’s like that. Comb your quintessential fire, my friend. The sinking had a claw. The fact was an embalmer. And the melee of a winter moment caused my neck to erupt into ink. And thought. And palm trees at the end of my chips.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thought Bump

Highway a trombone. The stir in this velvet is prehistoric. Phantoms in the sluice. Thought bump. As chowder whirls so whirls the world. My requirement goes until plunged into dirt, where it becomes a matter of itself to itself. We furrow it big like an indentation sympathetically floated on a desk. The drive made us greasy. I went along to stick a painted radar on the airplane. I’m a trickle of gray, a doorway slapped with russet. Art is a form of the Absolute Spirit, a phenomenological complement to a revelatory resistance to genetic spreadsheets. The equivalent to birch. A testimony enriched by horn. I’m your talk among antique thumps of tongue on a sentence made of sweat. Personality is the wandering we do in the maps around the property. Your walk is over there where your legs are going. There’s a bite in the visa. A wrinkle reprises the eyes. Flowers are nature’s paraphernalia. They give us a pure understanding of sensuality. A convention is aghast at this. Don’t worry. Your itch is my scratch. Gauze on a seesaw. The prospect from here is yanked from pathos and pounded into habit. There’s this potato to enhance. We can do it with tea. Yesterday the sky was dropped on a tent causing the pigments to increase into sags. But today the trees put everything back. Incense shakes the glass. What is heaven? Music. The cry of ooze from a peat bog. A man walking down a road to greet a woman.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Everything manipulates a color today. The urge to make a shape is tilted. I feel my flight it mirrors the entire sky. Oars for a mindful calliope. The greeting is my vitamin of vocal rivers. I warp into nouns. Jingle them with a highway. The limousine within. I extrude a bewildered air. Abandon roots. I go after my plywood elephant. Pharmaceutical jar that the space milks. What this is is rain. The infinite teeming with opium parables. Blow into thumbs each claw and open door. This exists if it can exist and will exist and existence is incidental and beams are provided for the soap. My embarkation has been remedied by removing its destination. This is a dry public place. I’ve painted your beats on the drums. The address I used was fiddled by twelve elves and a bone. Elbows happen. It’s athletic to appreciate mustard. The artist’s ooze is a valentine to Braque. I’m over the resistance to my intestines. I believe we can endure our expressions if we use a little butter. I feel iron. A gyroscope furnishes my caboose with a spinning ripple of eyes. I grease the goldfish. I’ll never abandon the life of the vineyard. The grapes bring us perceptions of another world. The operations are ordered according to eagerness. If I’m plump when I’m old does it matter if the turpentine is beaten with red sticks or blue? There’s an evasion on the way. I wash my face with the tears of the moon. I feel a mental companionship with dirt. I can hear the gallop of horses and arrange my speech according to the luminous emotions I feel below. The garden is enthralling. The technology rattles and burns and stirs into life. This is by now apparent. The hammer is defined by its utility. But the nails are awakened by a piano. And this generates the words behind the grasp of the current.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Lunar Module

Architecture botch indicates there’s a fountain in my chisel. Piles above that I lobster into audacity like a true hallmark of juice. There’s a bistro bowl which proves that my navigation is revelatory and feudal. Or do I mean futile? What do I mean? I mean dried flowers starved for rage. Strong inclinations fiddled by prayer. And so it begins. I climb into some pathos. The within looks like Colorado. The without looks like Kansas. I rub ghosts out of my mouth. They say visit the artist and be a visceral desk to your relatives. I feel insults in my prophesying, hysterics in my megaphone. I think of decorum as a unit of electrical resistance, an unpredictable voyage in relation to matter and a libido that permeates the river as it walks through itself to empty into France. Wide-eyed heat is a principle cause of blimps. My sense of plurality gets athletic near the fringe. Infrared and henna make it curve into reality where the circus finally finds its algebra in the sawdust of an enthralling energy called into being by a renegade gargoyle. And so I rest, knowing how to jiggle, how to juggle, how to nudge obscurity out of the oboe and into the public realm where the drums go lyrical, promenading in sticks, boom boom boom, fragments of rock notwithstanding, which are mesmerized into density by the breath of angels.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Another Muskmelon

Imagine you’ve got a hot date, a camping trip with someone you’ve recently met with whom you’ve established a warm, exciting rapport, and you’ve done all the planning, picked out a nice spot by a river to set up camp, requested time off from work which has been granted, bought all the right equipment and food, but on the morning you planned to leave and pick up your date you feel a strange desire to go to work. You don’t know why, but virtually against your will, you find yourself with a baffling need to get to your place of employment and get to work. You cancel your date, and off you go to sit at your cubicle and pound away at a keyboard instead of hiking a woodland trail with a romantic partner.
The reason for this odd behavior is due to the implantation in your brain of something called a BMI, a brain-machine interface, currently being developed by Elon Musk’s Neuralink Corporation. Neuralink has hired neuroscientists from various universities to help develop this apparatus, a neural lace of extremely thin threads to be inserted through a vein or artery above the cerebral cortex. The goal is to achieve a “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” Currently, there are neuroprosthetics already in use, allowing disabled people to control their prosthetic arms and legs. Stephan Hawking, who was gradually paralyzed over the decades by a slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, used a computerized interface attached to a cheek muscle that was capable of using pattern recognition to allow him to communicate complex ideas. Elaborate computer algorithms learned to translate binary muscle-twitches into recognizable speech. Although not technically a neural implant, it does show how such devices could be used medically to empower people severely compromised by disease or injury. But the broader use of such devices in the general population have obvious nefarious consequences, particularly in any society already leaning toward a form of corporate totalitarianism.
An article by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek appeared in the July/August issue of Philosophie Magazine from France, “Quand nos cerveaux seront connectés”. The article was translated into French from the English, but I haven’t been able to find the English language version. I did find a recent talk Žižek gave on this subject at the University of Vermont in April, 2019, available on YouTube, but the sound is terrible and the video is frequently and randomly interrupted by ads. The title of the talk, “Hegel in a Wired Brain,” will be available soon in a book. But for now I’ve just got the French article.
Žižek begins the article by questioning the philosophical implications and consequences if such a device is implemented. He describes two stages of development: by plugging a computer into our brain, we can intervene in reality, turn on a TV or change a channel simply by thinking it, turn on a coffee maker or shut off a light. Secondly, we can connect our brain directly with someone else’s brain and transmit our thoughts to them. As he puts it, “if I caress the idea of an intense sexual experience, another individual will be able to share it directly.” Go, Louis C.K.!
This project raises some relevant questions about language and the sanctity of our interior life. Musk believes that our thoughts are independent of language and do not depend on verbalization to be realized, that, in fact, the simplicity and awkwardness of language does as much to distort and fuck them up. Žižek argues that language potentiates the subtlety and richness of our thoughts. He also states, in contradiction to this, that language can reduce the complexity of our thoughts by reducing them to simple words and phrases. Who hasn’t had the experience of trying, unsuccessfully, to find the right word or phrase for a sensation or feeling? And who, at the same time, hasn’t had the delightful experience of finding a thought or feeling enhanced and deepened by language?
A friend recently asked what I made of the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, and my answer vaguely and awkwardly assumed a situation of immersion. Since then, I’ve been able to work it out verbally a little better and feel that I had the right idea: language is a full immersion in which we find ourselves by losing ourselves, and are in some sense swallowed, some might even argue the whale might be a manifestation of Thomas Hobbe’s leviathan, an immersion in a social dynamic in which we’ve surrendered – consciously or unconsciously – our freedoms to an authority, a ruler or decision of a majority, in exchange for protection of our well-being and remaining rights and the maintenance of social order.
I would hasten to add that poetry – the creative and often subversive use of language – can awaken us to that situation and provide release.
Žižek then asks if our individuality would survive this passage to singularity with artificial intelligence. Currently, the technology – and particularly the social media platforms – have led to feelings of alienation. We create identities online that are distant from our authentic selves, fictions that have the capacity to grow toxic when they’re subject to so much artificial inducement and seduction and trolls and data harvesting and propagandistic control by companies such as Cambridge Analytics.
Elon Musk is quoted as saying that people won’t be able to read our thoughts or access our minds if we don’t want them to. But how, Žižek asks, can he guarantee that this won’t happen? Look at the measures Facebook has taken to protect our privacy. It’s been pretty much nil. This is the problem with techno-utopian fantasies. They’re just that: fantasies.
But what, one wonders, is a thought? The brain – interfaced via neural lace to a computer – is read in the strictest, narrowest sense through the neuronal processes at work in the brain. These aren’t thoughts. These are electrical impulses. How would we even know if our interior being is being surveilled by another? And given a situation similar to the one we have now in which we cannot know for sure if we’re being surveilled, or what is being surveilled, the overall effect is one of inhibition and fearfulness. We find ourselves policing our own thoughts.
In 2002, researchers at New York University and Drexel University, used brain implants to produce “robotic” rats that could be used for rescue missions, video surveillance or detecting explosives. They did this by injecting signals directly into sensory and learning areas of the brain, the parts of the brain that affect what the animal senses and how it behaves. The animals could be controlled by an operator with a laptop computer. One can imagine the legal, moral and ethical ramifications of using this technology on humans. If people are a little freaked out by the tactics of an operation like Cambridge Analytics, imagine how unsettling it would be if a substantial number of people decided to go along with this technology.
And how, one wonders, would this feel? Would an impulse to perform an act feel foreign or natural? How would we know whether our actions and words are ours or are being directed from another source? What would be the consequences of this on our notions of free will?
Andrea Stocco, Assistant Professor the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Learnng and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, follows Žižek’s article with an interesting counterpoint. He argues that we already share our thoughts through language. “Marketing, publicity, poetry and literature,” he counters, “are only different modalities of power that we have available to take control of another mind.” “In a sense, one can say that language is, in itself, a brain-to-brain interface: when we exchange words, we exchange circuits of neuronal activity.”
Which is why I plan to continue writing the weirdest poetry imaginable. My intent isn’t to take control of another mind, but to produce imagery that is so strange and a syntactical behavior that is so disrupted and torqued and misshapen that another mind – happily assuming that anyone would want to spend time playing along with this – wouldn’t be burdened with interpretation or feel nudged or guided to share a certain perspective but liberated by the exhilaration of discovering infinite meanings in a finite medium.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Rhizomatic Time Capsule Babble

Last week I went out to our storage locker in the laundry room and got out a box of old letters. Opening that box is always a little like opening a time capsule. Many of the letters date back to the mid to late sixties, a time when people took delight in writing actual letters. Many of the letters were from friends my own age or younger, fifteen to twenty-one. In each case I was impressed with the vigor and enjoyment with which they wrote, the fullness of expression, the attention to clarity and grammar. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that level of creativity and willingness to share shine so brightly through a body of words. It testified instantly as to how much has been lost over the years thanks, in large measure, to digital technology.
There was a packet of letters from my first wife, most of them dating from the winter of 1969, which she must’ve written when she was nineteen or twenty, in which she declared, profusely and repeatedly, her love for me. There was also a large envelope dating from a few years later, in 1975, from my closest friend at the time. I opened it. It was divorce papers, and a note, unexpectedly warm and friendly in tone, explaining that I didn’t need to do anything, unless I chose to challenge it, which I hadn’t. Why she’d used my friend’s return address I don’t know. Maybe she was between addresses. According to the dates, we hadn’t been together for not quite three years. I had to wonder how I’d managed to fuck that up so quickly.
I rearranged everything so it would fit back in the box and returned the time capsule to the storage bin.
Today (Saturday) I watch a YouTube video by Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith who discusses the disastrous condition of ice in the arctic. Beckwith’s right hand rests on a black cat named Shackleton who is sleeping on a chair. Behind Beckwith is a large fern and some other potted plants, a basket of woven grasses, a large chart positioned on an easel illustrating the interconnection of phenomena associated with abrupt climate change (greenhouse gases, fires, extreme weather floods and droughts, crops fail, all hell breaks loose) and a stack of books with titles like Fingerprints of the Gods, The Power of the Sea, Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail And Why We Believe Them Anyway, and Antarctica: The Global Warning by Sebastian Copeland and Leonardo Di Caprio. Beckwith is wearing a blazer with a light blue shirt and a dark gray tie imprinted with mathematical equations.
“We know that the Arctic sea ice is rapidly vanishing,” Beckwith declares, “but the big question is how long will this take? When will we have the first blue ocean event? Is it going to happen this year? Is it going to happen next year? What are the time frames?”
Beckwith goes on to say that by 2022 or 2023 the likelihood of a blue ocean event is extremely high. There are a lot of probabilities. It depends on regional weather patterns in the Arctic. The melting of sea ice from above depends on temperatures above the sea ice and melting from below which depends on the water temperature below the ice, which are greatly influenced by the influx of water from the Pacific through the Bering Strait and also through the Atlantic.
The cyclone of 2012 did a lot of damage, chewing up sea ice through accelerated wave action and by bringing warmer water up from the depths. Beckwith refers to a number of charts and graphs at the online Polar Science Center recording the health of sea ice, which has been steadily and rapidly declining since 1979.
What will happen when the Arctic sea ice is gone? The albedo effect will be gone and the ocean will begin absorbing much more solar energy, which will have a dramatic impact on the jet stream and climate patterns. It will be pretty much chaos. Extreme hurricanes and tornados and floods and draughts and vanishing glaciers. Rivers in France have already dried up. Parts of the Doubs river, whose source is in the western Jura Mountains and which runs through eastern France, have dried up leaving behind rocks and hundreds of dead fish. Le Garde, which runs past Nimes in the south of France, has also dried up. Fisherman have been trying to save the fish dying in the Rhone, whose waters have been deoxygenated due to the sever heat wave this summer. It was 108℉ in Paris several days ago.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. I go pick R up from work. A homeless man leans against the wall of Bartell Drugstore, his backpack next to him. I pass a Hispanic man outside the supermarket holding a sign that says he has four children and lost his job because he lacked the right papers. I give him a dollar. He thanks me warmly.
We go to the library atop Queen Anne hill. I pick up Retaking the Universe: William Burroughs in the Age of Globalization which I got through the interlibrary loan service and R picks up the DVD Can You Ever Forgive Me, about the author Lee Israel and her attempt to revitalize her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights such as Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. Israel (played brilliantly by Melissa McCarthy) not only mimics their sensibilities and personality, but improves on it. But that’s really just the surface story. The real story is about how dumbed down our society has become, a postliterate virtually illiterate society obsessed with celebrity and the cult of personality. Israel is a truly gifted and disciplined writer. She lives in poverty – unable to pay her vet bills for a very sick cat, her closest companion – in an apartment riddled with flies while the author Tom Clancy, a red-baiting blockbuster author catering to the audience with high-testosterone action sequences and cheesy plot devices and making frequent public appearances to market himself, makes three million a year.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. I begin the first chapter in Retaking the Universe titled “Shift Coordinate Points: William S. Burroughs and Contemporary Theory” by Allen Hibbard and come across a paragraph I really like: “The image of rhizomatic thinking is the bulb or tuber; the rhizome follows principles of ‘connection and heterogeneity,’ ‘multiplicity’ and ‘asignifying rupture’… Burroughs’s own books have this rhizomatic quality. They are…

…arranged rather than plotted. They do not operate according to the logic of conventional narratives (though, as many critics have noted, the later works have more of a narrative thread). There is always an element of spontaneity and surprise, with radical shifts from one point to another, from one character to another, without warning, thus challenging the simple notion of one singular ‘logic.’ What we have, then, is simply juxtaposition: one element placed beside another, if not randomly, at least not wholly and inviolably dependent on that which came before: thus the potential for radical change.

9:15 p.m. I pop a beignet in my mouth and listen to Jimi Hendrix turn his guitar into a machine gun.