Monday, December 26, 2016

The Sway of Damaged Weather

Write a coffee so that it feels like wildlife. We sometimes have to distinguish between a feeling and a revelation. One is increasingly sweaty and one involves spurs and rubble. Garden the field of inscrutability before the weather of time petrifies the flowers of philosophy. I have tangled this thought in murmurs of hypnopompic snow. Why, I don’t know. Because the giant has not yet left the field. Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps not. All I know is a that crumpled ball of thought approximately the height of a domestic animal, a cow or donkey, can be an effective substitute for agriculture if it ambles back and forth in a sentence whose merits include an acreage of dark rich soil and a large red barn.
Age is not my friend. I have flexed some steam today. This proves nothing. This proves that I can move an eye through a tear and find another form of weather on the other side.
If I say the opposite of what I mean the result is a black car under a fir tree. But if I say that I can bend the truth the truth will not bend. The result is sad, extravagant, and non-specific. Not entirely a waste of time, no, but hollow and clumsily arabesque. You can use it for smoking fish but not for actual fishing. Actual fishing requires a lure, something slimmer and shinier than truth. Something you can only find within. I can’t say what it is. Your within is not my within, but without a within a within is without a without. A within that is without is not within, but if a within is without than what is within?
Sometimes what is required is not entirely what you may think you need.  This is a circumstance that calls for reflection. The relation between the thing that is named and the name itself can be confusing. Is it a provocation or a conjuration? Is it a proposal or a trajectory? What exactly does it mean to activate the organs of speech, to move the tongue and the lips, to cause a vibration in the larynx, to fill an utterance with breath and set it sailing into the world?
When we say something about something, we make it lie before us, we make it appear. For example: Wyoming. I say I see a lotus in a birdbath and a lotus in a birdbath appears. Saying a thing is seeing a thing. But this has little to do with Wyoming. Wyoming gets up and walks away. Goodbye, Wyoming, it was good to see you.
If I sew what I see the mind considers it seen.
Or sewn. Seen and sewn. Sewn and seen. The needle penetrates the fabric of thought and goes up and down, in and out, creating patterns that contradict the ontology of popcorn.
I probe the surrounding obscurity with a delicate antenna. It’s how I get around, you know? I feel my way, as they say. Anyone who has entered a dark room without knowing where the light switch is knows what it is to feel a wall with one’s hand until the shape of a light switch is discovered beneath one’s fingers. The switch is switched, the light comes on.
Have you ever tried that with a human being, put a few words out there in the course of a conversation to see what they might stir up, to see if a light goes on? The light comes in and we see a landscape of canyons and buttes and Joshua tree desolation.
It’s not easy to elude a wilderness. As soon as we enter a language we enter a wilderness. Evergreens sway in lovely deviation. A spectral agitation anticipates the shape of the propeller. All sweet things that come from the air merit the dance of paregoric in the blood and around the bone. This is a wisdom that comes from the pursuit of beauty. This is a heat heard softly in the murmur of coal.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Twisted Colossus

Today, I would like to build a sentence of breath and sand. I will begin with a principle and end with an oath. If the age demanded a spoon I would give it a rag. But it's full of static and right wing radio stations. The color pink spouts mud from her veins. It’s how the severity of the color black is able to assume an aesthetic that speaks more clearly to our crusade for the towering subtleties of the highway. The sky leans over the horizon and brings out the textures of a more empirical reality than the one we were promised. There are balms for our blisters, theologies for our lotus. The cemetery confirms our anarchy. We draw analogies from the elasticity of pronouns. From one moment to another we do not know if the chisel is a more appropriate tool than the savagery of expectation.
When the jokes turned sour I decided to leave the group and build another sentence. This time I would use sprockets and paint. It was with great anxiety that I approached the canvas of life and began the lactation of coral turnstiles. I pulled some opium from an avenue of dead weather and offered it to the ghosts of hypothesis. They were most helpful. Together we were able to lift the sentence into the air and give it a push. It sailed into meaning where it spread its sails and creaked aloud when the conjunctions scraped against one another in that great mysterious ocean of space and time. 
The buckets are carried by Buddhists. The glue is heavy. Fortunately, most of the gas stations are open. My invocations rush aggressively into the night. The stars pour eternity on the world. The world continues to turn. Turning is eternal. It makes sense.
A patch of cloud walks past the moon. A shiver of bells enlivens a Christmas display. We hear an explosion, then, minutes later, sirens. Shards of glass reflect a ceiling of frescoed cherubs and wildflowers. A stethoscope is pressed against a warm chest.
Isn’t that what we’ve wanted all along, to perceive the reasons for things and events, to move them without the risk of the real and effortlessly understand them?  
Negation, deferred inasmuch as it is born from the abyss, causes the subject to bounce.
Christmas is an entirely different situation, requiring presents and generosity, a sense of community, a little hypocrisy, fakery, diplomacy, netsuke and spices from the netherworld.
Who wouldn’t want to travel in a rocket ship to Mars?
Palm Springs, maybe.
We can land by the side of a pool. The ghost of Bob Hope will greet us at the gate. He will bring us the balm of humor, which resides in the heart, alongside regret, which is cousin to the counselors of pain.
Maybe Bob Hope is a bad example. Maybe pain is a bad example.
Examples of what? They are examples of pain, existence, angst, the open enrollment of everything perceptible, the registration of the universe on our nerves, planets, stars, mezzanines and treadles of spinning potter’s clay. Open enrollment is a euphemism, a misapplied optimism that would also include its opposite, the flip side of the coin, a full spectrum of pain and pleasure and everything in between. There are torques and flywheels, hoists and trajectories. A closer description might be the Twisted Colossus of Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, California, which is a Möbius Loop roller coaster with a zero-g roll and a top gun stall.
The Palace of Pain beggars description. You must have pain, or a memory of pain in order to take its measure. There’s no morality to pain, though one may be provided, given sufficient time for thought and meditation. This is how pain fuels creativity, semantic cartography, and playing the harmonica. Sometimes there are symbols and ikons to help with the process. For example, a legato in a Beethoven violin concerto, or the hot dog rotator at 7-11.
There’s a shrine in the corner of the library. This is where sensations refine themselves into hieroglyphs of voluptuous energy. I could use this as an example, but it’s already in use. We should step away quietly and stand on the porch and listen to the rain.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Miracle in Words

In 2001, in that small interim in time between the death of my father in late August and the collapse of the World Trade Towers on September 11th, my wife Roberta and I enjoyed a long conversation with Philip Lamantia at his apartment in San Francisco’s North Beach area. We talked a lot about Edgar Allan Poe. Philip and I were both fascinated by the dual phenomena of hypnopompic and hypnogogic consciousness, the twilight state of consciousness that occurs just before falling asleep and just as one is coming awake. Of the two, I’ve always had a strong preference for the later. For it is upon that emergence from unconsciousness that my mind is still easy and fluid and not yet caged in logic. Wonderful lines of poetry float through my mind, often strung together in a funny, pixilated syntax, marvelous and strange. I can never remember these wonderful lines, but am always trying to duplicate them, resorting to poetry to coax them into being. Not just any poetry, but the poetry of the weird and aberrant, the visionary and phantasmagoric, the kind of poetry Philip wrote, a work at once exotic and otherworldly and yet fiercely engaged with the world. Not flighty, but tough and marvelous.
The Poe essay Philip was eager to share with us is titled “Marginalia,” which first appeared in Graham’s Magazine, March, 1846. There are two paragraphs in particular that I would like to share with you:  

How very commonly we hear it remarked, that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language. I fancy, rather, that where difficulty in expression is experienced, there is, in the intellect which experiences it, a want either of deliberateness or of method. For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words, with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it:  as I have before observed, the thought is logicalized by the effort at (written) expression.  

There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language. I use the word fancies at random, and merely because I must use some word; but the idea commonly attached to the term is not even remotely applicable to the shadows of shadows in question. They seem to me rather psychal than intellectual. They arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquillity — when the bodily and mental health are in perfection — and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these “fancies” only when I am upon the very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. I have satisfied myself that this condition exists but for an inappreciable point of time — yet it is crowded with these “shadows of shadows;” and for absolute thought there is demanded time’s endurance.  

This link to Edgar Allan Poe is significant for a variety of reasons, but I would put at the forefront the deep connection to France Poe enjoyed due to the zeal and translations of Charles Baudelaire. It is this self-same taste for the marvelous and strange, for perversity and eccentricities of all shape and color, that a few decades later would help feed the incandescent marvels and phantasmagoria that is French surrealism. And of all American poets, Philip Lamantia is certainly its most manifest example.
Lamantia’s connection with French surrealism began in the early 1940s at a Dali retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Art when Philip was in his early teens. Lamantia describes his odyssey into surrealism in an interview with David Meltzer in San Francisco Beat (2001), in which he shares the following details:  

I was turned on to Surrealism through a great Dali retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA), followed by an equally marvelous exhibition of Miró. Within weeks I had read everything available on Surrealism that I could get from the public library. There wasn't much: David Gascoyne, the premier British Surrealist poet-whose Short Survey of Surrealism was superb-Julien Levy's Surrealism, Georges Lamaître's From Cubism to Surrealism in French Literature(he was teaching at Stanford), and finally, the discovery of the luxurious New York Surrealist review, VVV-two issues edited by Breton and friends-which I found in the tiny but ample no-loan library at the museum. In almost no time I had a dozen poems ready for publication and sent some to View: A Magazine of the Arts, which was edited, in New York, by the only important American poet who was plausibly Surrealist, Charles Henri Ford. In Spring 1943 my poems were featured on one of View's large-format pages. On the cover was a photograph by Man Ray . . . It was just after this that I discovered VVV's whereabouts and sent other poems there to André Breton. He wrote, accepting three poems and requesting a letter from me "clarifying" my relation to Surrealism. Acceptance by the man I fervently believed the most important poet and mind of the century led to my decision to quit school and take off for New York. I arrived in April 1944 in Manhattan . . . (135)  

Poetry for Philip was far more than artistry. It was alchemical. It was spiritual. It provided what André Breton termed “communicating vessels,” a means to transmute the leaden, soul-suffocating repressions and routines of everyday life into the thrill of the marvelous, the soul-fulfilling wine of the sublime.
In science, communicating vessels refers to a set of vessels of varying shape and size in which a homogeneous fluid will balance out to the same level. In André Breton’s application, communicating vessels refers to the correspondence between our walking life and the realm of dreams. Breton’s view was heavily influenced by Freud. He believed that the desires that are unable to be acted upon or fulfilled during our waking life may be enacted and satisfied in our dreams. I rarely remember my dreams, nor do I take much interest in them, but I very much like the general metaphor of two polarities connected by a transporting medium. According to this view, our waking life, which I take to be associated with humdrum necessity and the tedium of labor (albeit I find this to be a very narrow outlook), is visited by the shadows and chimeras of our unconscious and excite our minds to boundless wandering, what Breton called the “undirected play of thought.” It’s the side of our natures that keep us from becoming automatons, zombies going through all the motions of life without actually living. It’s the combination of dream and reality that results in a heightened awareness which Breton called “surreality.”
Philip remarks later in his interview with David Meltzer that “Poetry is the mean term between the physical basis for imagery and the metaphysical realm of being. This is what connects the affective to the cerebral, the heart to the sensual, and the mental vehicles of reception to the visible and invisible realms of being.”
What drew the three of us so powerfully to the eloquence of Poe’s essay in Philip’s North Beach apartment that summer afternoon in 2001 was Poe’s description of an intermediary state between the poles of conscious and unconscious life, a state in which poetry would emerge with the naturalness of breathing. Problems arise, however, when we attempt to employ a medium that is based almost entirely on rules, on a mutually recognized system that  -  while not always completely logical -  is not unlike the cogs and gears of a machine. Paint is gooey and smears; dance is physical, the play of our bodies in gravity and space; music is unbound by reference to the real world; theatre is masks and illusion; sculpture is rock and clay in three dimensional form, but still and lifeless. Poetry is a panther pacing back and forth in a cage.
“Isn’t this what all poets have aspired to,” Philip remarked in his interview with David Meltzer, “seemingly failing in the attempt but finally achieving a miracle in words.”
Indeed. Listen to it. Immerse your ears in it. Immerse your eyes in it. Bathe your neurons in it. Feel your blood warm with its pulse. Winter birches sway in invisible agitations of air. Words quicken into colloidal living substance. Ink sags with the imagery of passage. Vermilion camaraderies unfold fists of sandstone abstraction. The mind secures a place in heaven. And down it rains in sparkling subtleties of primal warmth.  
Remember geometry class? Remember carrying a sharp metal object called a compass? If not, there’s a marvelous painting of one by William Blake called “The Ancient of Days setting a Compass to the Earth,” rendered in 1794. God is hunched over, long blonde hair and beard blowing to the side, leaning out of the sun holding a compass with a huge, muscular arm. The arm, which parallels his massive, powerful leg, guides the compass with ferocious firmness and precision. The meaning of the painting is blunt: science controls. Technology holds existence in balance. Watch out that it doesn’t get too disproportionately ascendant.
The twilight states between sleeping and waking, or descending into sleep from a state of wakefulness, will have a peculiar effect on the instruments of geometry and science. Imagine Dali’s melting watches, or the jubilant chaos that is Max Ernst’s “L’Ange du Foyer,” (“The Angel of the Home”) and you’ll have an approximation of the enlightening distortions and odd lucidities of unbridled reverie.
Poe was confident that language could be reconfigured and formulated to accommodate these chimeras, that its inherent malleability and charms were sufficient to induce a trance-like frame of mind in which marvels and oddities could be brought to life, envisioned, embodied, ushered onto a sheet of paper. “Now, so entire is my faith in the power of words,” he proclaims, “that, at times, I have believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies such as I have attempted to describe.”
I agree. But first it’s necessary to come to terms with the mechanisms that make language work.
Language is bound by rules. Break the rules, and you cease to make sense. Sense, that is, in the conventional sense. It’s in the nature of the mind to find meaning whenever and wherever it can. A lack of conventionality can excite a remarkable inventiveness, provided that one’s sensibilities are in any way receptive to new experience.
When grammar is torqued and twisted, the words assume a character that is both strange and palpable. Palpable because they’ve ceased being the conveyors of information and occupying a utilitarian function that is virtually invisible and transparent. They’ve become something else: they’ve become objects, startling and strange. What the Russians call ostrenenie: defamiliarization, the artistic technique of presenting common, everyday things in a way that makes them unfamiliar or strange, thereby enhancing the perception of the familiar.
How cool is that?
Earlier in his essay, Poe remarked quite optimistically that “I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language.”
For those of us who might be a little wary to resort to drugs or enter a hypnotic state each time we felt the urge to write, this is good news.
That said, I don’t mean to dismiss drugs altogether. I have memories. I’ve heard stories. I’ve read books. Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, Charles Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises, Michael McClure’s Meat Science Essays, Henri Michaux’s The Major Ordeals of the Mind, and Some Minor Ones.” Drugs are, in their own way, illuminating. When drugs meet language, the result can be as energizing as the Beatles or Little Richard playing rock ‘n roll in Hamburg’s red light district circa 1962. Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom! There’s nothing like a Benzedrine buzz to thwack thwack thwack clickety click click click begin slapping words down in a state of exhilarated immediacy so that life and writing fuse into a bubbling mass of bop spontaneity. Normal syntax, the glue of the ordinary, the mortar of stiff collared Atlantic Monthly rhetoric, the stuff that makes sense, the syntax of ordinary mass and transparent point-making prose, starts doing back-flips and handstands and explodes into protoplasmic bliss. This is language with a pulse.
But that’s Benzedrine. What Poe is talking about bears a much stronger resemblance to opium. I’ve never had opium, just the occasional prescription for codeine or Vicodin, so I can’t speak with any real authority on how these medications influence writing. I know that these pharmaceuticals make me a lot more relaxed and patient and forgiving toward people and the thousand accidents and fucked-upedness of life as it is being lived and shins bumped against the coffee table and parking tickets discovered under the windshield wiper and rude bookstore employees and assholes walking unleashed dogs make you feel small and anxious. Those negative thoughts and feelings might still be there but you’re nicely distanced from them, looking down from a hot air balloon, making observations of cool indifference from an ivory throne of the mind. The mind as it is buoyed by codeine. The mind as it is softly lifted into the heavens by Sister Morphine.
And then there’s booze; booze worked pretty well for Charles Bukowski. Kerouac combined booze with benzies and the result was On the Road. Rollicking, vivid, incandescent prose. The kind of writing that makes you fall in love with words and go crazy with a wild lust to experience the world.
Booze never really worked for me. A couple of beers, a shot of whiskey and a mug of Guinness would have me feeling pretty good for maybe an hour, at most, but I rarely, if ever, felt the inclination to write, and it was never very long before I was shitfaced drunk and slurring my words much less writing anything I would want to claim as my own. The opioids don’t compromise the intellect as devastatingly as alcohol. Not for me, anyway. Reaction to drugs of any kind tends to vary wildly. Me, I’m an opiate guy. Never liked cocaine much. Loved amphetamines, but coming down was excruciating, worse than a hangover from an alcoholic binge.
As for the more exotic drugs, psychedelics and such, I would enter that realm with extreme caution. It has been many decades since I entered the portals of space and time through those doors, but I can state unequivocally that they’re not things to trifle with. I haven’t been tempted to try again. My relationship with reality isn’t what it used to be. Reality itself isn’t what it used to be.
This is what makes Poe’s confidence in language so endearing to those of us who crave a heightened awareness or more buoyant mood. Just the immersion in words alone is a journey of disembodied poetics, a wild ride through that vertiginous zone we call infinite possibility. I feel like one of those Wild West medicine show guys when I start preaching like this, but you really don’t need codeine or opium or even pot to write the kind of language that stirs and rustles in Lethean enchantment. You just need to figure out a way to do it. Because if you’re in an ordinary state of mind that in any way resembles my ordinary state of mind, you’re fucked. Most of the time I’m in a shitty mood. Angst, mortality, climate change, mass extinction, benign prostatic hyperplasia, envies, jealousies, betrayals, rejections, racism, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, a teetering economy and a flatulent fascistic oligarchy are as common to my daily existence as Wisconsin is to cheese or sewage from a poorly maintained septic tank. I call on the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to help me out with this.
I don’t know how they did what they did but I’m pretty sure Emily Dickinson didn’t go out back and smoke a doobie before returning to the kitchen or linen closet to finish her domestic chores. And yet she wrote marvelously, turned language into a distillery for metaphysical insights and a general euphoric buzz.
So then, what is it? What technique do you employ to get the words out there blinking like Christmas tree lights?
I use a number of tricks, including Burrough’s cut-up technique, Tristan Tzara’s cutting out words and putting them in a bag and taking them out one by one, Joycean stream of consciousness, Kerouac’s bop spontaneity, or just sitting down and writing, just doing it, just putting pen to paper, fingers on a keyboard, and begin, word after word, until a sequence forms, any sequence, it doesn’t have to make sense, in fact it’s just the opposite, I don’t especially want it to make sense, I want it to make mayhem, I want chaos, I want a storm, I want to stand high on a cliff like Prospero and make the seas toss. Do that, and consciousness will follow. What consciousness I cannot say, but consciousness, awareness, an altered perception, call it what you want.  



Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Cave

I’m going to take a leap and say that the earliest experience of art was incantatory, an invocation, a calling down, or calling up, of spirits, of a higher power, sky gods, earth gods, ocean gods. It was ritual and prayer. Those guys going into the caves in France and Spain during the Pleistocene, who might have been women, went there for a reason. It was hidden. It was separate from mundane reality. It was removed from the world of hunger and necessity, the world of doing, the world of eating and fire. It was a place of spirits, shadows dancing on calcareous rock, pigments derived from iron oxide and red and yellow ochre, animal fat and bone. Shapes swirled into being from horsehair were creatures rendered in a spirit of imitation but whose animations were the living embassies of the human imagination.
Meaning we are caught between two worlds. The world of the spirit and imagination and the world of hunting and brute survival. The relationship between those two domains have always been a little contentious. Daydreaming doesn’t lead to meat. Ceremony feeds the spirit but not the gut. It takes artistry to make a spear but it’s a different kind of artistry than the artistry that brings animals into grace and being on the undulant irregularities of subterranean rock.
My world has refrigerators in it, computers and clocks, but the cave is still very much with me. When I sit down to write I enter a cave. I enter a realm of darkness in which the light is tentative but the shadows it creates have an eerie autonomy. Poetry comes from the cave, and so do elves and philosopher kings, dragons and ghosts.
It’s Thanksgiving, and raining. I go to pick up Roberta who has just left work and is carrying a bag of groceries. I get in the car. The steering wheel is cold. I start the engine. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 sings “I Shall Be Released” from the Amnesty International Chimes of Freedom tribute album to Bob Dylan. My cave is still in me but has assumed a different form. It’s an amalgam of seeking and penetration, the kind of wandering one does in one’s mind during a time of trauma, in this case the recent election, the ascendancy of Père Ubu to the White House. I try to remind myself that fascism doesn’t have to triumph, there are ways to resist it, and resistance will require a cave. Bears and horses on the stone walls of an inner realm.
Once, on a trip to Oregon with my parents when I was about 14 years old, we joined a tour group and descended by elevator to the bottom of a cave. When we reached the bottom, a guide from the park department lectured us on the features of the cave, its depth, its length, its formation. He shut the lights off to let us experience the full darkness of the cave. It was the first time I saw darkness. It was so emphatically, absolutely black it was penetrating. There is the kind of dark in which we stumble and feel our way around because objects are obscured. This was not that type of dark. This dark seemed alive. It was a thing. It had being. A lit match would’ve torn into its flesh.
One’s sense of self feels peculiar in such darkness. It is purely a sensation. A feeling of self-ness that is based on nothing.
Art that attempts to imitate things is automatically dull. How can it not be? Art that attempts to mimic the processes of nature is a little more interesting. Art that drags itself across the floor like a peanut is goodnatured and lepidopterous. Art made of hot water and sugar blushes with crystal violet. Art produced in caves crushes the fossils of light-headed purport. Art that repairs the mind and heart will find violent houses minted in string smelling of solitary soot. Art that purges and arouses dangerous emotions is fallible and laughing.
Why are artists always stuck with defending art?
There are societies that promote imagination and societies that kill imagination. The societies, such as that of the United States, kill the imagination so that the people will submit to labor at the cheapest possible price.
When you enter a gallery as I have on occasion and see work selling for thousands of dollars sometimes even millions you naturally think holy shit I can do that and then I don’t have to wash dishes or sweep floors or make drinks or dig ditches or give the nightly news anymore. You can slip out of your chains and find a fullness of being immediately available. Right there, under your skin, is a furnace of capillaries and veins, hot red blood finding its way to bonanzas of expanded sensation.
Art became social when it came above ground. When it became gowns and candelabras, investments and spoons. When Norman Rockwell produced red-haired freckle-faced kids getting haircuts by benign elderly men with white hair and wisdom in their back pocket. When Andrew Wyeth painted window curtains and braids and made the world look familiar and safe and put his arm around George W. Bush.
When art becomes social it loses its autonomy. It loses its essential spirit. It serves commerce. It serves the deadening of the imagination. It serves the fashion industry. It serves the rich.
Kitsch, observed Herman Broch, is a turning away from the divine cosmic creation of values. It is resigned to the clever and cute. Jeff Koon’s monster balloon dog mocks the sublime. The sublime is dangerous because it is out of human control. Art stands in opposition to social domination. We descend into the cave in search of those beings and entities that fuel artistic impulse with blue fire, the animal desire to conquer the horizontal world, the speed and grace of the antelope, the strength of the bear, the avatars of spirit. Art keeps itself alive through its resistance to social force. It feeds on the mineral colors of flame-induced creatures. On the contour of rock. On the thick palpable darkness that sleeps in the bone and awakens in the eyes.
Art repels empirical reality. It delights in fluctuations so rapid that they have the invisible blur of the hummingbirds’ wings, the weird aerodynamics of the bumblebee, whose wings are transparent but veined, revealing networks of fragile interrelation, as do the subsonic noises of bats bounced off objects to determine their character and distance. The darkness of a cave is a living body of dark energy, the subterranean medium of labyrinth and hall and moonmilk that envelops our intimacy with the irrationality of the depths, the primal cradle of creativity.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Something Akin to the Soul

All works of art are founded on a certain distance from the lived reality which is represented.
Why? Why is this the case?
Reality is often a drag. Jobs, raising kids, driving in heavy traffic, road rage, corruption and greed in politics, Columbus Day, arthritis, bursitis, appendicitis, conjunctivitis, are all a drag. But they’re not reality. They’re only fractions of reality. Facets, not faucets. Aspects, not aspic.
A distance is needed from reality in its representation by artistic means for that very reason: we don’t know what reality really is. It is largely a matter of perception, largely a matter of opinion, largely a matter of what a group of people agree upon. I mean, if I punch the wall as hard as I can with my fist, it will hurt like hell and I might damage the wall. That’s reality, sure. The pain is real, the wall is real, my fist is real. It is my intention for doing that goes a little awry. Why, you might ask yourself, did that guy just punch the wall? This makes it a form of performance, and without a clear intent, it makes it a perfect form of art. It was done gratuitously to make a point, a point I’m not even sure about, but I do believe we’re on a way to a point, you and me, writer and reader, both participating in the ultimate of all art forms, which is making a paragraph, making it semantic and full of strata, random samples, cubic mass, quantum physics, quarks and bosons, cymbals and symbols, cysts and sisters, grates and graters, garters and gardens, kimonos and pianos, rutabaga, star grass, titlarks, viaducts, viaticum, Via Dolorosa.
We are, it would seem, unavoidably entangled in that which we study. Hard to say just one word without adding a bunch more to support and girder the one stuffed with sound and pushed into space.
Nothing like language and a sequence of words to remind you how interrelated everything is, and diffused with life and lime and light.
I hear a light susurrus of late November wind, the grind and groan of a piece of heavy equipment, the crash of detritus into the maw of a garbage truck. It’s rather dark, but I do see an emergent glow, the day shifting from overcast to scattered clouds, the kind that shred like rags into vapory ephemera and hang in the sky with listless beauty, or get moved by a light wind, and the light of heaven drops down to earth, commingling and interweaving with its sounds. Light shines from the rim of the aluminum foil covering an apple pie and someone tinkers with machinery across the street. Rocks glow. Leaves glow. The cat sleeps on her pillow below a Tiffany lamp.  
Light in itself is something akin to the soul, wrote Johannes Kepler.
Kepler had a penchant for Platonic ecstasy, but it was mingled with a robust skepticism. He wondered why snowflakes fell in the form of six-cornered stars, tufted like feathers, why there were only six planets instead of hundreds, and why these planets all moved in elliptical orbits rather than circles. Some people are like that. They question everything. Some animals are like that, too. Have you ever seen a cow lift her head when a stranger enters her field? I don’t even see tourists do that when I go running down the sidewalk at Kerry Park.
The world isn’t black and white. Very few things make sense.
Our cat is extremely fussy about eating. She loves to eat, but won’t eat unless, before refreshing her bowl, which is some form of metal like chrome, very shiny and flat, I wash it. Then I put it on the breadboard to dollop out some of her favorite food, tuna and pumpkin. The dish gleams in the kitchen light, distorting reflections of the ceiling and light fixtures above.
Where am I going with this?
I feel a need to get something out there, something about art and representation, something about seeing and silence and the occasional need to break that silence and say something about one’s experience in this life.
This afternoon, while out running, I saw a rosebush with three light yellow roses on it, but no leaves. This is winter. It’s cold. Two of the roses were small, but one was large, and healthy. It looked quite robust. How is this possible? Is there any sap still running through those skinny little limbs?
I don’t know. But the point is this: this is a representation. And as such, it’s at a definite remove both in space and time from the roses I saw. Which is better? The representation, or the actuality? I’m going to go with the actuality. Actuality is always better than representation. Try as hard as I can with whatever words I can find to get that actuality across, I will fail.
And I’m trying (to paraphrase Samuel Beckett) to fail as hard as I can.  




Monday, November 7, 2016

Phantom Cry

Heidy heidy hi. Heidy heidy ho. Listen to the chop of delicatessen Joe. Chick chunk plunk and a bumpety bump bump. Snip. Snap. Snoop. Holy befuddlement of the cheese grater. Little slices of Choctaw stump. Sioux City bristle on a fallible yarn. Dwarf star croak. Buckthorn buffalo clambake cracker. Cavefish bicycle bloom. Word salad fricassee. Feed these words your mind. Feed it rhyme. Feed it wine. Feed it a chair and a table and a Venetian blind. Feed it philosophy and blood. Employ the graceful stride of Yul Brynner. Impressionism deathwatch lamb. Deploy a reference. Gather hay. Murder snow. Squash the languor of comprehension into lush confusion. Seed the air. Grow a pack. Hang a sound of kitchen words. Excite the crisis of silence. Construction rains ash let’s crash through it. Go for a tangential stroll. I abandoned the palette and went straight to autumn. Antique smack of the moonlight reflection. I guzzle an eager beat. Exult in cardboard. Shatter the potato mirror. Glaze your denim. Enamel a configurational myth. Do it with an oat leg. Unpredictable salvation cinnamon. Caress your flutter. Euclid’s sting is close to a square. Paint this swell with heft and passion. The weight of the pumpkin chops into pulp. Cartwheels control the materiality of the Fauve octagon. Oblige me to arrive flowing through your buttons. Siege bread. Subtlety’s port exceeds the envy of earth. Trek glue. I steadily persuade my moccasin onto my foot. Fix this dynamic. The slide of my mouth occurs to a dish. The mirror spins listening. Let’s exchange streams. Exemplify absence with pharmaceuticals. Bubbles guide my hand across the paper. This is my impersonal predicament sternum. Punchbag veins. Red eyeball inside a white skull. The zipper’s reach mingles with a collar stud. My eyes grapple with a strangled coat. Vowels remedied the lost consonant. Drop and bend. Grope cod opened in jingles. Ask the escalator. Sensation’s hymn thrums through the Alleghenies. Unprecedented adaptation in slouched despair. Secrete wire. Gray enhances the sting of the tongue. Let it happen. Let it all happen. Happen and happen. See it all urged into change. Every antique knife. Every abandoned affection. Hear it cry. My phantom cry.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Mystery of the Golf Tee

I’ve galvanized the tonic in order to indicate the flow of kelp. The waves come in. The waves go out. Magic eludes its own tinsel. As my dives go deeper, the stones at the bottom become brighter. These hectic strains I’ve thrown at the canvas will make better sense once the mud begins to shine. The wind turns and skitters away. The hem of a gull argues with the stern of the boat. I find a whisper of reminiscence crying in the shadows. I smell destiny in the rattle of the east.
There’s a trigger that I can pull, but that would lead to some nasty repercussions. The corollaries are violent enough. My fatigue is palpable. The words are vertical. I withdraw into coral and twinkle. The book embodies stratification. The geology is alive. My drum resembles a winter dance. I feel that there is a certain focus to be painted into neglect. Thought is kerosene. If I can swim into your eyes I can explain everything. A puddle is nothing like a hat but it will brake for children. No depth attains the surface without getting a little messy.
Language is an event, not a potato chip. If the ovation is thin it may also be extruded by a swarm of carbohydrates. For example, I go get the laundry out of the dryer. I pull it all out and feel its warmth and communion. It’s mostly underwear, T-shirts, and socks. I find a little pointy plastic object. It’s white and looks like a tiny rocket ship. I wonder what the hell it is. What does this thing have to do with clothes? Is it a pin, some sort of fastener? Should I toss it? We share the washer and dryer with three other units. What if it’s important and someone comes asking for it? Should I put it somewhere where someone can see it and reclaim it? Where would that be? On top of the dryer? One of the shelves behind the sink? It’s so small. I can’t decide if this little doohickey is important or not. I can’t decide if it’s important or not because I don’t know what it is. I bring it in with the clothes. My mind spins. What the fuck is this thing? I fold the clothes. Then I realize what it is: it’s a golf tee. There are two golfers in the building. I toss it.
And so you see, this is how the world comes to be discovered. We find shapes, we define them by their function, and give them a name. Things without a function are harder to define. Some things aren’t even things. They’re ideas. Perceptions. Intuitions. Clues.
How do you describe vision to the blind?
How do you describe a ball in the realm of the square?
How do you know when something is music or just plain noise?
Music unbuttons the air. I can smell the invocations of Gilgamesh.
Death hunts for wrinkles. We feed it bones and revolutions. I try to unite examples of clothes and instinct. It amuses the sparrows to see versions of water blown by the wind. It’s a big world with a lot of bananas and arguments on it. The blue tears of my sorrows are tilted to show the rotation of the planet. Sometimes my personality explodes out of my body. People get hurt. I try to make amends and decorate the future with French doors. The animals frolic. We sit and sew our clothes together.
I sense the grandeur of salt, whose events are peripheral to the elevation of taste. The recruitment of cantatas endures. The cylinders of the palace pump up and down. I flow beside the noise. Thousands of jellyfish wash ashore. The straw is sufficient unto itself. My faith burgeons before I can decide to linger in the wilderness or not. Faith in what I cannot say. All that I know is that if I gaze behind the curtains I may be able to identify what it is that keeps walking around in my blood looking for resolution.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Life is an enigma. No one knows what it is, where it comes from, what to do with it. Sleep and reproduction are partial solutions. But what can one do about diphthongs, or feverfew?
Wildcats roam the cotton fields. I find myself in revolt against nearly everything. Where does it come from? This agitation. This beard of hinges. This flow of arms.
There is the sparkle of literature everywhere. It helps. A form of thick syntax rolls toward the end of the sentence and explodes into Weltanschauung.
The earth smells rich. It’s an unmistakable odor. I and the world are two, yet we are one. I can tell. Because the coffee is locally roasted, and if we can suspend thought for a moment we can also provide rides, games and food concessions.
I need new shoes. The soles are getting worn. This is a sign of determination. The transcendentalist’s desire for something more is understandable, but for now, new shoes will fit the bill.
Consider the lilies. Here is where we find spars and mistletoe. I hear someone singing. My head explodes. Hey now, don’t dream it’s over. Even if a stiffened grammar drops dead there’s still a certain feeling in the breeze, the way the cypress leans into the land, distressing the ocean, which really doesn’t give a shit, it’s just there, waves rolling in, smash splash tumble tumble froth shine, then roll out again.
The smell of desire informs us that we must look in the right places for a solution to custard.
The circus taught me how to throw knives. Conversation taught me how to construct graphs and charts. In the end, the most important thing you can do for yourself is finish reading this sentence.
There now: was that so bad?
My book is bleeding. The one over there, bubbling on the coffee table. It’s a book about how to think. It says that thinking is frisky. You know? Like hydroelectricity.
Or plums.
We hammer our denim into instruments of anonymity. Then we walk around. It feels anonymous, like streaks of cirrus sprawling against a China blue sky as the glow of dawn attaches itself to the mountains.
What do we mean when we talk of home? My hands left imprints in the carpet after doing push-ups. Home is where the heart is, so they say. Nobody mentions the kidneys, or dialysis machine, or Hillary Clinton grinning at you on a plasma television.
I stand among cans of paint lost in reflection. I imagine the Phantom of the Opera languishing in chiaroscuro behind stage. Someone asks if I found everything I was looking for. I can’t remember what I was looking for. Was it Clipper Ship Blue or Benton Harbor?
I’ve never been very good at math, but that never held me back from creating equations in words, things like fingers and pizza deliveries.
Ever since it was washed, the throw rug in the hallway has had a tendency to bunch up in the middle. It drives me nuts. I just thought I’d mention that before the dead rise and the Age of Reason reaches its final end as a dirty hot dog and a crumpled shako.
Which reminds me. I’d like to tour Belgium one day.
I walk among giants. Keats, Shelley, Ginsberg, Dylan.
Emily Dickinson.
I inhabit poetry like a drummer inhabits drums, the streets of Céret abandoned to moonlight, the local bus steeped in a mythology of its own.  I thought of the river, how quietly it moved. How like a swan it moved through my mind.
The poem on the page is petulant. The smell of sawdust flavors its words. I’m captivated by your interior heaven. A reflection blossoms and is approved by my head, where it seems to live, and garner respect. We believe it’s haunted, my head. It could be. It’s full of ghosts.
Is your reality my reality? Consider the dream of the collar stud. A prodigious stirring shook the cemetery ground. It rained. We dried ourselves by the fire. Have you ever met someone so vaporous you could slide your hand through them?
Life is hard enough without making things more difficult, and yet it is precisely these kinds of judgments made privately and weighed publicly  -  or weighed privately and made publicly  -  that gives presumption its sweet taste and heady aroma.
I will sometimes find a daub of red on a daub of blue and feel taut and itchy as if a surge of life were stretched across my willingness to experience life.
And sigh.
Yesterday at our favorite Mexican restaurant there was a fly in the window. I couldn’t hear a word it said. Or even if it said anything. It just seemed focused on the glass. On getting out. On finding release. Welcome. Welcome my friend to Planet Earth.
I wonder about this urge, this desire to put words together. What does it ultimately lead to? I wonder what this activity would feel like if it actually made money. Give a big kiss to Missouri. I’ve never been there. That’s one reason I write. Another is that moment in a gift shop when you realize you’re the only one there and you’re just passing time you have no plans to buy anything of the silly items they’ve got on display and self-consciousness sets in, do I look suspicious you wonder, does the clerk think I’m here to shoplift?
The idea that anything can happen is exhilarating. The poem leans toward purple. Prince waiting for a prescription, riding a mountain bike in a Minnesota parking lot. Let’s drop anchor. Let’s take a look at what’s out there. What’s really out there.
The staircase hugs its own shape. Autumn gleefully does its thing. The train goes by. It has purpose. Can I include your dream? Your dream of the train? It’s so sweet, the way you open a jar of strawberry jam. There are many instances in life in which measurement does not apply.
My hammer speaks German. Did I mention that? The highway argues with the landscape. Volcanos spew fire, meteors streak the sky. There are many of us who seek transformation. Nothing happens by itself. I try hard to find meaning in everything. I never met an armchair I didn’t like. Life is a problem solved by fable. Make something up. Tell a story about picking leaves up one by one in the window well. You will know the right story by its trajectory. You will know the grammar of shoes by walking in them.
The poem complains of too much alliteration. The big bearded borborygmic Bolshevik wore a big blue bolo tie. Royal rutilant ruffles remedied the mangy echo. We stood aghast in the bathroom. Bright lights big city lights going to my head. Even the mirror has a pulse.
Wyoming flies out of my mouth. What can I say? I’m attracted to antique stores. Genetics in the heat. I always say, each of my failures is a huge success. Angst is good. Don’t scare it away. Don’t brush it off the table. You’ve got to hold on. Just hold on. Grab something if it helps. Write something down. Make it talk. Make it swim. Make it bleed.
Our knives gleam in the bloom of day. I see the potential of water just by moving the oars. And I move ahead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Phantom Cry

Heidy heidy hi. Heidy heidy ho. Listen to the chop of delicatessen Joe. Chick chunk plunk and a bumpety bump bump. Snip. Snap. Snoop. Holy befuddlement of the cheese grater. Little slices of Choctaw stump. Sioux City bristle on a fallible yarn. Dwarf star croak. Buckthorn buffalo clambake cracker. Cavefish bicycle bloom. Word salad fricassee. Feed these words your mind. Feed it rhyme. Feed it wine. Feed it a chair and a table and a Venetian blind. Feed it philosophy and blood. Employ the graceful stride of Yul Brynner. Impressionism deathwatch lamb. Deploy a reference. Gather hay. Murder snow. Squash the languor of comprehension into lush confusion. Seed the air. Grow a pack. Hang a sound of kitchen words. Excite the crisis of silence. Construction rains ash let’s crash through it. Go for a tangential stroll. I abandoned the palette and went straight to autumn. Antique smack of the moonlight reflection. I guzzle an eager beat. Exult in cardboard. Shatter the potato mirror. Glaze your denim. Enamel a configurational myth. Do it with an oat leg. Unpredictable salvation cinnamon. Caress your flutter. Euclid’s sting is close to a square. Paint this swell with heft and passion. The weight of the pumpkin chops into pulp. Cartwheels control the materiality of the Fauve octagon. Oblige me to arrive flowing through your buttons. Siege bread. Subtlety’s port exceeds the envy of earth. Trek glue. I steadily persuade my moccasin onto my foot. Fix this dynamic. The slide of my mouth occurs to a dish. The mirror spins listening. Let’s exchange streams. Exemplify absence with pharmaceuticals. Bubbles guide my hand across the paper. This is my impersonal predicament sternum. Punchbag veins. Red eyeball inside a white skull. The zipper’s reach mingles with a collar stud. My eyes grapple with a strangled coat. Vowels remedied the lost consonant. Drop and bend. Grope cod opened in jingles. Ask the escalator. Sensation’s hymn thrums through the Alleghenies. Unprecedented adaptation in slouched despair. Secrete wire. Gray enhances the sting of the tongue. Let it happen. Let it all happen. Happen and happen. See it all urged into change. Every antique knife. Every abandoned affection. Hear it cry. My phantom cry.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wild Einstein

My innocence has been pierced by deceit. Nothing new there, eh? I struggle with my scruples all the time. Who doesn’t like going to bed? I mean, come on. If language is an hallucination, then cactus beards the desert sky as the philodendron fills the dendrites of a finger as it rises and falls.
Metaphors deform the sink. I’m ready for just about anything.
The Jolly Green Giant smashes a teacup in rage. The clitoris purrs and is properly deified. An arm moves. Jewelry clanks like a thermostat. The deeper angst of meaninglessness and bewilderment is transmuted into the desire to accomplish, to triumph over insipidity.
Bubbles of meaning flow from my fingers. I scatter the ashes of worry on the waves of enlightenment. I’ve got a reason now to like overalls.
Anguish blurs vision. Logic doesn’t do that, but it doesn’t go that far anyway. I want to name this wine Wild Einstein. It involves the immediacy of steam, the seductions of chocolate, the embrace of drama, the push toward dreams.
I sat on the bed with my left leg tucked under my right leg and listened to Bob Dylan sing “Not Dark Yet.” “I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes. Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear. It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’there.”
I’d like to visit Greece one day. I’d like to see the Parthenon at dusk. That philosophical mood in the air just as the sun beds down on the horizon, disappearing bit by bit until the stars brighten and the night brings its ideas of infinity to bear down on the sad cold ground of planet earth.
Nothing in mathematics is ever literal. The rock is literal, but the river is not. Whatever happened to the idea of virtue? Why is it always so dark in here? I say: the more pockets, the better. You can never have enough pockets. What if you find writing on a bone and have nowhere to put it? Pockets make us marsupial and friendly.
Envy is the bitter fruit of dissatisfaction. Certain things invite touch, others not so much.
I mounted my horse and mused under the Sonoran sun. Cactus relates the hidden resources of the desert. I can understand that. What I can’t understand is twine. Is it string? Is it rope? What is it?
And please, tell me, whatever happened to the bill of rights? Habeas corpus? Free speech? Elvis Presley?
There’s your democracy, crawling into a skull. The plot has been sliding toward punk rock. There’s nothing quite so beautiful as the legendary mud disease. The theorem of plums stumbles out of a wild sorrow. All the clichés about old age are true. You get cranky. You don’t understand things.
A capable individuality sometimes capsizes in outrage.
There’s no formula for raw experience. Experience is experience. Hearing, seeing, touching, feeling. Mistakes occur. The buzzing we thought was coming from the Comcast box turned out to be my Gymboss Interval Timer vibrating on top of the bookcase.
The real basis of life is what? a blob of protoplasm? I would like to explore this jelly further. I can do that merely by living. Think of me as a blob of protoplasm with fingers and thumbs. Hair. Complexion. Feet. Walking from room to room. Opening and closing the refrigerator. What do we do for food if the economy collapses and food disappears from the grocery store and the dollars in my pocket are worthless paper? Life will be hard to support. But there will always be 7-11, right? 7-11 is as old as Rome. Did Julius Caesar shop at 7-11? Did Hannibal water his elephants at a 7-11 after he crossed the Alps?
The 7-11 closest to us closed up. Boarded its windows. That’s not a good sign.
I grew a beard once. Nothing in my life changed significantly. I didn’t become another person. I stayed the same person, but with a beard. Which I had to maintain with a pair of hedge clippers.
If something doesn’t work, sprinkle a few vowels on it. I need emotion in order to say something. Emotion grows big out of vowels. Consonants give it dignity. Even when I had to get up in the middle of The Magnificent Seven I maintained my dignity and when I came back Denzel Washington was taking a bite out of the heart of a deer.
Morning blends with the river. A staircase walks through itself. Energy divided by the speed of light squared equals licorice. On the other hand the truth of the cruet is unassailable and definitive. No table should be without one. The table alone is impressive. Or should we toast the CD player? The harmonica holds a long blue note proving that everything is sad and lonely. People are sometimes so introverted they pop open when you least expect it and fill the room with butterflies.
If you cut a word in half, does a meaning spill out?
How might I describe this world? I would say it’s the graffiti of a two-stringed guitar. A drawer full of socks. A young man named James Newel Osterberg growing up in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He insisted on being a musician. His father, a high school teacher, stood in the doorway, blocking his exit, then realizing the futility of it, moved aside and let James Newel Osterberg enter the world to become Iggy Pop.
Salvation doesn’t always come in a box. The realities revealed in drama are more than emotional luxuries. They provide insights into our own dilemmas.
Which is one way to look at it.
Another is to follow the pornography of odor to its ultimate conclusion.
Snow falls on the fields of Minnesota. The ecstasies of the staircase result in pearls. Darkness lowers its tapestry of stars and headlights. The subtleties of life converse with a loaf of pumpernickel. They exist in order to teach us something. Something about compote, and compound eyes.
Folding laundry in Hollywood. The coagulation of blood. Fred Astaire sitting in a chair tapping his feet. The movement of snakes, the wetness of veins, the vertigo at the top of the tower.
The sound of salvation in the rocking trees.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Debris of Pain

Words propagate like blood on my sleeve. Consider the hum that sleeps in the heart. Our chowder of insinuation. A magic belt of thin drawings is haunted by the grace of witness. I’m milked for falling. Heaven’s dots chime through the centuries. I’m slammed into fireworks with sour folds of convolution. A paper constellation to occur must twinkle fields of description. Pleasure imagines pulling us into Baudelaire. Ok. I need a copy of my ears. I’m the rocks that hop into paper. Light is a monstrous sky. I bake with railroads. I wear indigo that a brain decorates in algebra. I carry fluttered raspberries. I’m tense like Byzantium. The radio fingernails cooked the ganglions of an apparition. I saw it all happen in my wrinkles. Idleness is a gift. Here I am painting by shoes. The weather sits beside me. I listen to a berry. It tells me meaning is delicate things. The interior is badly carried until the end of the day when it slops out of the door. I slapped it to happen. Velocity murders distance. This is how Iceland has its variations. When we’re alone the sounds have a structure that might be called music. I think of kelp. A brass bell in a courtroom. The basement of a tattoo on somebody’s arm. It enlarges in the sag of time. I’m learning to lean on banishment and not exclude it but magnetize it all the way to Wisconsin where I can fill it with pickles and watch it climb the walls and dance on the ceiling. A berry is so many things. It liberates cork. It bristles with thorns and is a cause of conversation. I’m a social being. Any day now a glamour will thud on my gloves and convince me that towels are cooperative. Don’t worry. This is just imagery. The keys cry to say that copper is what my adjectives require if everything else continues to be Pythagorean and naked. Naked, yes, but naked in an abstract, Dubliner kind of way, drawing on the past and awakening syllables of fire in order to warm the room a little. Change in a blaze shatters into reality and is so appealing it energizes the consonants. I like to paper palpability. This is infinite in camaraderie. Thrust your eyes into this sentence. I do that every morning and it makes me cardboard. I gurgle anguish. Bubbles punctuate a house to powder and yardsticks perform by semantic obstetrics. We know that. We also know that to be a simple man isn’t as easy as it seems. The climate confuses lightning with turnstiles. But I don’t. I know a turnstile when I turn one. It’s in squeezing your subtleties that I find the enticements of the hearth. Infinity dangles from your fingers. Corot drifts through a fly. I flip to expand it. Time collapses on life and bleeds sandstone. It granites our world as a hothouse gauze rides a beard to Scotland. The war ends. The castle climbs into itself. The emptinesses are filled at last. I saw this was going to happen and so I wrote it as consciousness culminated in mountains. Dishwashing does this. Writing is, after all, the debris of pain.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


I think of my father in October. His birthday is in October (October 24th). He passed away in late August of 2001, a few days after my birthday and a few days before the collapse of the World Trade Towers on September 11th, and so this period of early fall, this transition from summer into the first whisperings of winter, is associated appropriately with death and transformation. The mood is there, the chill is there, the skulls and pumpkins are there. Kerouac’s Dr. Sax. Macbeth’s cackling witches. Enraged villagers driving Frankenstein’s monster into a windmill with torches and pitchforks.
Donald Trump’s Aryan hair and bloated orange face sneering in arrogance.
Hillary Clinton’s toothy rictus as she points to a billionaire contributor at a rally.
It’s a very strange time of year. Like the body of the dead crow we saw this afternoon, feathers splayed, body mangled. What killed it? It’s rare to see dead birds. And why is that? Why is it so rare to see the corpses of birds? You’d think there’d be hundreds.
In the Lushootseed language of the Puget Sound Salish people, October is known as the month when many leaves fall. Their sense of time was sensual, observational, not abstract. Time itself is a mystery. There’s nothing about time that doesn’t puzzle me. Why does it move forward? If the universe is eternal, why should there be a sense of forwardness, of chronology?
Seasons are easy. Those are big changes. None, however, affect my mood quite as much as fall. The very word  - fall -  says it all. It’s a falling. But it’s also a rising.  
What baffles me every October is not just the bittersweet memories surrounding my father but the feeling of exuberance and vitality. Where does that come from?
Maybe it’s that bracing vigor in the air, that vitalizing chill that begins imbuing the heat of summer with slow, insinuating degrees. It’s more of a suggestion at first, an evolving awareness, an emergent realization supporting a melodic progression, a visceral substratum like the bass line in “Something” by the Beatles. It’s a paradox: the low is uplifting, the opaque is illuminating.
Or maybe I just think too much. It’s getting cold. It’s a fact. Summer is ending. Shit. I begin wearing long-sleeved shirts for my runs. By the end of October, I’ll be adding wool gloves and a wool hat to my gear. October is the one month in which seasonal changes are evident. There’s still a bit of summer left at the beginning of October but by the end of October it gets earnestly bitingly cold and the trees are bedraggled with at least half of the leaves still hanging on but turning yellowish and dry as old parchment for the poetry of elves.
Whenever I wonder why things exist and try to imagine things not existing I realize that it’s impossible for nothing to exist. It’s impossible to imagine nothing existing. I mean nothing. You can’t. You would have to imagine a universe without space or time or gravity or worms or kayaks. Nothing. Not even space. How can there not be space? And this is an October thought.
“Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys was released in October, 1966. Fifty years ago.
“The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel was originally recorded in October, 1964. It was a commercial failure. It wasn’t until it was remixed in the spring of 1965, re-released, and by January of 1966 had become a major hit. I remember hearing it on the train I took from Seattle to Minot, North Dakota with a black eye and Hamlet on my mind.
These are the sort of reflections that stir up late in life. Hit songs from 50 years ago. Hit songs from a time when I was young and experimenting with drugs and discovering writers and artists and expanding my mind and feeling a combination of excitement and fear and frustration and joy.
Those days turned crinkly and yellow and fell from the tree of my spring. I’m in my winter now. The winter of my discontent, to give it a Shakespearean ring. Believe me, discontent is no exaggeration. I stand in relation to discontent as discontent stands in relation to full, forward-tilting unabridged rage. There are gradations of discontent on a daily basis running from irritable to furious, crotchety to raving crazy mad. Picture King Lear in rags in the middle of a lightning storm shaking his fist at the heavens and daring them to blow harder blow harder you fuckers blow harder.
That’s me.
Why is it some old people are jolly and some old people (like me) are embodiments of gloom?
Life did not turn out the way I had hoped. No sir.
But why dwell on that? Diverge, my friend, diverge. Turn the wheel. Go off the road. Go elsewhere. Travel into the secret cities of October. The graveyards, the junkyards, the backyards. The piles of raked leaves. The crunchy sound beneath your feet when you walk at the side of the road. The scrape of leaves, the speech of leaves, the leaving of leaves.
Think of a chestnut in mid-October and the size of its trunk and the tangle of its limbs and the sheer stubbornness of its persistence to exist. 
This is my October tree with a few scraggly leaves and owls and ghosts and a fat full moon glowing through the limbs.