Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Yesterday Roberta and I went to hear a concert given at the Queen Anne Christian Church. A coworker had two extra tickets which he shared with us. Ingrid Matthews played a violin made by Hendrik Jacobs of Amsterdam, Holland, in 1703, and was periodically accompanied by John Lenti who played a theorbo built by Klaus Jacobsen of London, England, in 1985, based on a model by built by Matteo Sellas of Venice, Italy, in 1640. They performed music of the baroque era. This included a Sonata in D minor for violin and continuo by Philipp Friedrich Böddecker, a Partita in A minor for unaccompanied violin by Johan Paul von Westhoff, a Fantasia in B-flat major by Georg Philipp Telemann, a Passacaglia in G minor for unaccompanied violin by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, an Aria from Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel, a Sonata in A minor for unaccompanied violin by Johann Sebastian Bach and a Sonata in D major for violin and continuo by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.
The intricacy of Ingrid Matthew’s playing was nothing less than stupefying. How is it possible to remember so many nuances, so many rapid passages and throbbing vibratos? At one point the violin seemed to be producing two separate sounds simultaneously.
I was greatly amused by Ingrid’s black sequined blouse. It flashed and scintillated while she played and seemed to provide a visual accompaniment to her playing.
I wish I could describe what she played. But I don’t have the vocabulary or knowledge. I’ve never played an instrument. I still don’t know what an octave is. Many people have explained it to me. I’ve looked it up in music books and Wikipedia. But the concept still eludes me. And that’s just an octave. I wouldn’t know an arpeggio if I tripped over one, or the difference between a major and a minor. I’ve seen musicians twist pegs and pluck and strum and cock their ear and twist the pegs and pluck and strum again and again until the tone sounded correct to them. Nothing sounded different to me. They clearly heard something that I did not.
Which is why I’ve never been invited to play for the Rolling Stones or entertain my quiet moments with a song and a little piano playing. I can do none of these things. It’s frustrating. Because I love music.
What I did hear during Ingrid Matthew’s performance were patterns of sound that were pleasing to the ear, intriguing in their complexity and flair, but something far more than that, something less obvious, a phenomenon so fine and transcendent it seemed miraculous that anyone could produce it without levitating. No doubt that’s why musicians always seem different when they’re playing music. They seem transported. Entranced.
My chosen instrument is language. Words. I sense a keen music inherent in language. But I can’t even describe that. I don’t have the words available to tell you what words do when they deliver the goods, crash out of the tyranny of convention to achieve something new, something incandescent and boundless. Something akin to music.


Sunday, February 21, 2016


I recently watched a YouTube video about Willie Nelson’s guitar, the one he plays at every concert, every studio recording, and probably when he’s just hanging loose at home. The guitar is a Martin N20 nylon-string classical acoustic guitar. Nelson named it Trigger, after Roy Roger’s horse. He bought it in 1969 from Shot Jackson, a Nashville guitarist who repaired and sold guitars from a store near the Grand Ole Opry. The instrument is battered beyond belief. The surface, which consists of Sitka spruce, has been gouged with autographs and chafed and smudged and scratched after having been played solidly for forty-seven years. The frets  -  ebony from Gabon or Madagascar inset on a mahogany neck  -  are so worn down they seem more like suggestions than frets. Beside the soundhole under the bridge is another splintery hole, shaped like a crescent moon, or mouth, which the constant flick of Nelson’s pick has created as it brushed past the strings. The instrument looks as fragile as the web some errant spider constructed not long ago on the rear view mirror of our car, as if the tap of a finger would turn the ancient Martin to a pile of dust. What holds this guitar together is a mystery, and yet it produces a very pure and mellow sound, a strong sound.  
Can an object have a soul? Sometimes, the difference between the organic and the non-organic seems negligible. Nelson has played this guitar so often, and with such loving devotion to the music, that the guitar seems to be endowed with its own soul.
I find a parallel in heat. If I turn the heat up in the room on a cold winter day I luxuriate in it. I feel enveloped by a benevolent energy. I ‘m guessing that has a lot more to do with imagination than actuality, but who, when it comes down to it, can speak with final authority on what is living and sentient energy and what is merely an excitation of molecules? What is dead matter and what is a breathing substance? If matter is ultimately and essentially solidified energy, isn’t it possible that the qualities of that energy are not always those opposite to life?
There’s a frontier which art and poetry and music reveal. We enter a zone where the edges of things blur in distinction and presences make themselves evident in sensation, not as dead matter but living phenomena.
Is that crazy? “I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying / And I’m crazy for loving you.”
I don’t have conversations with the furniture. Matter is static. Life is full of animation. Life is animation. The furniture doesn’t mate and reproduce. Not that I know of anyway. I’ve never seen a couch copulate with a table, a chair eat a carpet or a carpet that needed mowing. The ceiling never changes its mind and decides to become a floor. I know the difference between a living organism and a block of concrete. And yet, it’s difficult not to believe that the music that brings an instrument to life doesn’t, over time, invest it with a certain talismanic energy, or like a splintery mouth in a soundboard of Sitka spruce, enrich out of loss what time has vainly claimed.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dry Goods

The operation was a success. A sentence was removed from the mouth of a sarcasm and given new life as a mouthwash. I’ve experienced crowds before, but nothing like this. I’ve never seen so many Dagwoods and Infantas. Plaintiffs in red skirts. Defendants in wet suits. The noise of a misunderstanding burns the agreement down to the ground. The sky cries like a flash of bronze.
Raise the curtains if the chair disappears. I don’t want anyone to see the catharsis dancing on the television. A glass firmament turns into an orange and sinks into the ground like an airport. It’s difficult not to think of all the times that someone got a parking spot just a second or two ahead of me. I get up and go get the Sunday paper. I feel a heavy seacoast glide over me, filling my brain with sour mash and gamy combustion.
Talk throbs. A rumor of limbo explodes into elevators. This is a good thing. It motivates the kettledrum to grow in iron content. I wonder if there are any women named Elizabeth who might be disposed to ride in these elevators. The first thing you need to know about elevators is that they go up and down. Don’t waste your mind on principles. Learn how to press buttons. There’s a cloud that brings power to the local stethoscope and makes it cold and accurate. A thought materializes into an emulsion of text and anoints the paper with a herd of antelopes.
Devotion is easy. It’s not so easy, however, to be reticular or engraved. The sky walks into me and mixes with my blood. It’s time to leap into action. I tremble like a cheap hotel. I rub all the implications with the sleeve of my cardigan. I feel doors open in me, and transfiguration and proprioception.
I feel devotion.
Maybe I was wrong. It’s easy to be devoted. It’s not easy to stay devoted.
Sometimes I will smile for no reason at all and this disturbs people.
Even if it snows, I will try to be outspoken. After a long walk, I feel the sweetness of resignation. The treasure of capitulation. I surrender to the moment and renew my subscription to life. I feel the drift of clay and cannot escape the charm of the dryer. The warmth of the clothes, the speech of the drum. I wait for what remains of the cornhuskers hand lotion to descend to the top of the bottle, which I have turned upside down. I like to feel words prowl through a sentence looking for detachment and distillation. I’m not entirely sure what moves them. Is it imagination, or the propellers of a titanic lyricism? One that both sings and ejaculates.
I think it’s the breath of a fan palm sporting umlauts.
Our perspective is sometimes obscured by too much implication. I get a lift out of elevators and quietly endorse the sprint of structure. Is that too much implication, or just enough implication to get something started? Something like redwoods, or a sanctum sanctorum that is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. Something like spring. Something like prose. Something like a bend sinister percolating dry goods.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Probablities of Gray

Who doesn’t like silk? I like silk. Do you like silk? I climbed out of a deluge yesterday and the first thing I saw was a consonant groaning under the weight of a drumstick. Some of my emotions are tilted and full of ostentation but most of them hide under the bed when the light is turned on. Money is only a rumor. Time is a mildly personal cartwheel. And so I got a job photographing gargoyles in the wild. This required oranges, sedatives, and whistles. I parked my clothes in the garage and went swimming.
Sooner or later a dream of death will blend with enough syntax to become orthogonal. If this happens, assemble a thyroid. It helps to hop into a little cotton and apply some gravity to a predisposed weight. If the weight isn’t heavy it’s probably an eye. All the flowers cry “hinge.” What is meant by “hinge”?
Everything in life is a door. The rain is a door and the reflections in the puddles are doors. Even the doors of perception are doors. They were the first doors I remembering opening. I must’ve been young when that happened. Quite possibly before I was born. I was dead before I was born. I must’ve been, because I don’t remember being alive. At some point I must’ve opened a door and crawled into life.
Warts aren’t doors but they do make good windows.
I need a good generality to wire a resumé so that it lights up and gets me the kind of job I want. Which is what? Geez, I don’t know. I do enjoy sweeping. The broom and I get into a rhythm I can only describe as a gravitational wave. It feels a little like giving benediction to a participle.
Everything has a structure. Even a puddle has a structure. If it drops below zero your average puddle will succeed easily at becoming ice. If stepped on, it will crack. Things with structure generally crack. But don’t try experimenting with a pillow. You’ll only wind up frustrated and begin writing poetry.
I see most things as a tendency. According to quantum theory, matter doesn’t exist at the subatomic level with any degree of certainty. Rather, it shows tendencies to exist. These tendencies are expressed as probabilities, shoehorns, and cats.
Or waves. Almost everything is a wave of some sort. An energy moving through the water or the fluidity of our lives causing perceptions to roll and swell and flop down on a rock or a stretch of sand, preferably the nice white sand at Carmel, California, where tendencies to do anything or create anything are immense probabilities regaling the mind with regenerative power.
Of course, the probabilities of quantum theory are purely mathematic. These probabilities make waves that oscillate in time and space like the vague uncertainties of hotel accommodations before we arrive at our destination and enter the lobby in our fatigue and rumpled clothing after our ride from the airport in heavy traffic in a foreign city.
Probability waves aren’t like the waves in the ocean on a windy day but are abstract mathematical patterns.
I think of myself as a consortium of waves. Cells and waves. Cells in waves. Events rippling through me creating attitudes and opinions, appetites and tempests.  
Tendency is what permits the waterfront to become a semantic vehicle of treasured moments. Quiet, sad, reflective moments. This makes walking, which is a simultaneity of legs in movement, wander into thought and invite itself to get written down.
As I am now doing. If I rub the cement a certain way it becomes provocatively indefinite. It begins to boil and transmit meanings that I can wrestle into grammar and allow myself to dilate and blast into parallels and comparisons, weighing and distilling, searching for meaning in an aquarium or T-shirt. If I can infringe on the veracity of fingernails for a moment, I would like to offer a murmur of optimism to the absent-mindedness of wool. People call this “wool-gathering.” I see it as a tribute to the color gray. Perhaps I can one day forge a chariot of sparks and withdraw into privacy to enjoy the probabilities of gray. Meanwhile, I’ll just sit and watch the sun as it moves through sky flattering the trees and feeding their leaves a salad of nuclear fusion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Uber Scheisse

I feel like I drifted into the 21st century. I don’t really belong here. I took form in the 20th century. I’m accustomed to electricity and running water, watching movies and shopping for groceries. I would find life without these things very hard. That makes me very twentieth century. Where I go wrong and begin to feel queasy and alien is in the twenty-first century. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a total outcast. I’ve adapted well to some things. I love my new tablet computer. I love Pandora. What I don’t get is the complete and utter shift in values. Or the loss thereof: the erosion of civil liberties, the normalization of drones and surveillance and endless war, the transformation of universities into corporate industries for vocational training, or the zombification of an entire population of people walking trance-like down sidewalks fixated on mobile phones. These are the things that make me dizzy. These are the things that make me feel anxious and ill at ease. And now I can add one more to the list: Uber. Uber is the popular ride company that allows people with smartphones to submit a trip request, which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.
Uber, unlike taxi companies and mass transit, doesn’t have to answer to a higher authority. Uber doesn’t have to abide by the rules and regulations that protect consumers and workers from criminality. Uber operators don’t have to file for licenses, adhere to fixed rate standards, or comply with other county and state regulations that determine when and how a for-hire car can be booked. This seems anarchical to me in a way that erodes values of fair play and respect for people in general. Uber defaults on any responsibility for the way their drivers (and there really is no “their” in this scenario since drivers act as their own agents with no oversight) abuse passengers, female passengers especially, groping, bullying, or raping them. All Uber does is “deactivate” any driver accused of criminal activity. This behavior seems uniquely fitted to the new millennium in which everything is for profit and nothing is valued.
Value is vague, I know, a vague word, a value can be a goody buy at Goodwill but it also means honoring honesty, compassion, courtesy, or at least pretending to honor these things. Whether values are subjective psychological states or objective states of the world I will leave to the axiologists. My own feeling is that value is intrinsic and exists within the mind, that value is a matter of perception, a quality of attention. Money is good not because it is intrinsically good but because it leads to other things which are intrinsically good. But isn’t it possible to bypass money and discover the value of things without money? Doesn’t money enslave as much as it endows?
The taxi drivers are protesting Uber in France. Vigorously. For the last few years, almost since Uber got off the ground, they have blocked roads, burned tires, and attacked drivers who they thought were working for Uber. The French high court, the “Cour de cassation,” created the Loi  Thévenoud (Thévenoud Law) which prohibits chauffeured vehicles other than taxis to charge a per-kilometer fee, to practice “electronic roaming” (the use of a smarphone app that shows the location of nearby available vehicles to potential customers in real-time) and making it a requirement that, when a ride is over, the chauffeured vehicle returns to its home base or a place where they’re authorized to park. This concession to the taxi drivers so pissed off the Uber drivers that today (February 8, 2016) the Uber drivers protested by blocking access to Roissy Charles de Gaule airport. France has a very high unemployment rate. For a lot of people, turning oneself into a taxi service is the only means to making a livable wage. The overall conflict seems uniquely fitted to the neo-liberal forces of the millennium. It’s dog against dog, the vulgarization of the commons into a theatre for gladiatorial conflict. Human interaction has been degraded into cheating, self-aggrandizement, and nail salons.
Here in Seattle, little has been heard from the taxi drivers, although city councilwoman Kshama Sawant has been a very vocal supporter of both taxi and Uber drivers to the have right to unionize, and it is thanks largely to her efforts that Seattle has become the first city to grant for-hire drivers the right to form collective bargaining units, including employees of Uber. “The so-called sharing economy is nothing new,” Sawant said. “It is not innovative. Ever since sharecropping, the sharing economy has meant sharing in one direction; that is workers have the privilege of sharing what they produce with their bosses. And just like in the past, these workers have to take out loans to buy a car to use for work and then they are trapped by debt into the sharing economy.”
1980, the year John Lennon was murdered by gunshot in the lobby of the Dakota hotel in Manhattan, and Reagan was elected president, was the year I saw everything change for the worse. It’s when I began seeing a spike in the homeless population. Consumerism, which was considered toxic in the late 60s, became a national obsession. Wealth was openly flaunted. Things became very Roman. Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech” of 1979 was mocked and vilified. Reagan’s “Good Morning America,” which could be translated as “Greed is Good,” became the true national anthem.
In the next twenty years technocracy exploded and became the empire it is today, beginning in Silicon Valley (which was still perfumed with orchards and canneries when I lived there in the late 60s) and now here in Seattle. Seattle is now such a different city than the one I moved to in 1975 I feel like I moved to an entirely different geographical location, a city so removed from Seattle’s former unassuming architecture and humble eccentricities it more resembles Santa Barbara or San Diego with its glitzy skyscrapers, sky-rocketing real estate and burgeoning homeless population. The general consensus of neo-liberalism and technocracy are so alien to me that I feel like I’m the occupant of a dystopic city invented by a demented science-fiction writer. But it’s not fiction. Not fiction at all.
I’ll say it again: I’m not against technology. Cutting and pasting on a computer is a lot easier than retyping entire pages. I enjoy the convenience of Google and Wikipedia. I used to think that technology was chiefly responsible for the intellectual laziness of my fellow citizens and their obsession with material goods. But after a trip to France in 2013 I realized that this is not the case. Not at all. The French have the same technology. They just choose to use it with far greater discretion. The French still value books and art and conversation. Of all the hundreds of bistros and restaurants I passed, each with a large outdoor patio, I didn’t see one person alone with a laptop. Everyone was enjoying a conversation or reading a book or magazine.
The United States has a had a long history of anti-intellectualism and hostility toward abstract thought as opposed to hard pragmatic git-er-done solutions. Americans are hardwired to be hardwired. Some of us, however, opted out at an early age. I was fifteen when I very consciously decided to dedicate myself to art and thought and altered states of consciousness. Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception was a seminal influence.
Over the years I’ve met a few other people extraordinary for their devotion to non-material values. Poetry in particular. The fact that there still exist people who can get excited about making something that lacks even the materiality of a painting or the immediate sensuality of dance and music, that someone can work privately, work earnestly with combinations of joy and frustration to make a poem, a thing without thingness, a thing in celebration of thingness, things of the intellect, dreamed things, invented things, is amazing. Some of these people have jobs and may not be desperate for money, but some of these people have made a conscious decision to devote themselves to this baffling and demanding art, this magnificently mutinous revelry of words. Is that not strange?


Sunday, February 7, 2016


My charge is being a horse. My hunger is nucleation. My drapery is a simple shout toward punctuation. My providence is a photogenic king deepened in ecstasy aboard a Greyhound destined for Tuscaloosa. I am the rascal that stipples in raw peppered light while falling forward toward a haunted thud of grammatical flies. I am a hill in a calendar for the year 1852.
Buffalo Bill discusses his comb with a mons pubis. The landscape is infinite in a flower. I fasten a pumpernickel across a flap of swollen scenery. Max Jacob manipulates clay around the cook. A book is born from his puffs of steam.
I am a monster so riotous in nouns that a blister haunts a delay in glass. I garden a Möbius star beside a surgical color and produce a whisper of sails by strumming a gas station flint.
I am a dimension tied together with string floating a lovely propane in a pool of musical wax.
I’m a phonograph playing a 45 so fractious that it seeps a glaze of rock mountain jelly. We watch the drums. My yearning pins a blaze to the wilderness. We lift endeavor along the middle groove and lean into barcaroles.
Riddles happen when glue happens. We scratch the skin to mark our talk.
Incense is what so gleefully incentivizes a hit song during dispatch that it crumples the fire in a grandfather clock. Sirens stretch exhibiting suction and ooze.
There is a pressure that grows around gravity and is called a vortex.
The concept of brightness eludes itself. My arm occurs and obscures a lobster I hold in orchidaceous emotion. There is a greenhouse where my rock emerges and pushes an array of potatoes up through the dirt of a thousand intentions and cuts the sky into pieces of time. I agree to the use of turpentine but pound the milk for a better performance. I don’t like to navigate unless I have wings, or at least a bone I can pull into music and sigh.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Occurrence of Sadness and Glass

Whatever phantom slides through you pay it no mind. The dead are everywhere. It takes effort to fully occupy a living body. Each experience is an egg to break, the glop of its yolk spilling out as one glistening nucleus. It’s finding that nucleus that’s difficult.
Age is a thorny plant. Look for a hiatus, a rupture in the fabric of time, and occupy that. It’s easiest to find those places in art. Places which are non-places because they don’t exist in linear time or three-dimensional space.
If you fold a piece of tin into a placenta you will acquire a Technicolor hammer. It won’t be a real hammer, a hammer that you can use to pound nails. It will be a metaphorical hammer, a hammer that you can use to build similes. A house like a grape. A hat like an artichoke.
I see two eyes in the rain. Later, I see the sky lying on the ground. I pick it up. I tie it into three hundred knots and exchange it for a pair of boots and a birch canoe. This is the sort of thing you can do in language that you cannot do in normal life.
Falling down is a maniacally brilliant sensation if it’s done correctly. Of course, it has to be a complete accident. How do you plan an accident? You don’t. Accidents plan you.
If writing happens by accident the words will overflow their margins and tumble over the rocks of an imagined envy. For example, how old is Robert Redford? Sip the elegance of cider from a crystal glass and answer quickly. The answer is a red dream with a savory tang crawling across a piece of paper weeping tears of iron. This has nothing whatever to do with Robert Redford and so it is correct.
If I’m being excessively resplendent it’s because life is full of headlights and syllables. Life cries effervescence at the disciplinarians. We bring our more serene behavior to the bank and feed it money. The walls echo with my criticism. Money is too complex, too sentimental. Money should be serious, like dereliction.
Cézanne stirs a lot of emotion. I throb like a monster to see such color, such shape. I dream of a museum full of steam and sorcery. I see a Blob with a voice and meanings which froth into Kuiper belts of astronomical vertebrae. I have a neck full of light and an arm full of circulation. Each time something sublime happens I glitter like an area code.
Large ambiguities rescue us from idealism. It feels pervasive, like a pumpkin. I walk down the road looking for a job. I specialize in irritation. I wear gloves of oak and an alternating current. I get a job folding napkins into whispers. I stumble over a sentence teeming with words and fold it into a beautiful collision. This involves tuna, honeysuckle, and a tiny fork. My lobster eyes pull a world of color out of a solitary potato. This is how things are done around here. Circularly. There are things that cry for diameter and circumference and a little cherry pi.  
Emotion is a cherry whose charm murmurs sociability. That’s what emotion is for, largely. The sky hammers the ground with rain and thunder. And at the end of the day, the sky drags the night over the mountains, the train starts to roll, and social instincts awaken the occurrence of sadness and glass.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Life on other Planets

People frequently ask me what life is like on other planets. I answer that it depends on the individual planet. And, to be honest, I’ve never been to another planet. I don’t know why people make that assumption about me. Maybe it’s the trinkets on my sleeve, or the monkey that follows me everywhere. His name is Lorenzo and he once played Calpurnia in a production of Julius Caesar. As for the box under my arm, it contains a pound of legal documents. People are so sensitive these days. You never know when you’re going to offend someone.
I don’t know what to say about gravity. It’s a grave situation. It keeps me in place. Things like that. If you get engaged to a staircase it’s best to take it step by step. My intentions are solid maple. Fireworks need no introduction but the asphalt is always a little demure and as soon as the stars appear one can begin to annotate one’s personal injuries. This is why so many painters love to travel and create new relationships with color. There is nothing so inexplicable as a personal injury or soybean. There’s a moment during the day when a door opens in the tide-pool and the stadiums recede into the distance. It’s at times like that that the refrigerator makes total sense.
But what about Cincinnati you ask. I don’t know. I’ve never been there either. But of course I can always imagine a Cincinnati. I see a place full of wheelchairs and whistles, beaks and bones, crowbars and puddles. Throw in a few pugilists and sideboards and you’ve got Cincinnati. If you turn around and look at it from a side angle you can see that it’s longer than your average belt and behaves like a boat when it’s put in water. Which is to say it lingers. And although that proves nothing, I hold in my arms a basket of intriguing laundry. Can you guess whose it is? I can’t either. Life is full of surprises. Sometimes it’s not what you know but what you don’t know that gives life its charm and meaning.
A few see the world as an impressive array of decorations, while others see it as a dimple in time. One does not necessarily rule out the other. As for me, I like to come at things slowly, gracefully, tossing aside crusade after crusade as I go. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to sit down and listen to Bach. It’s like holding the stars in your hand and smelling Pangaea. I like to feel the sky rub against my wings. If the images associated with the personality of aluminum fall into a bowl of pronouns the result can be totally anonymous unless it’s protected by a house. The jungle does somersaults not because any flowers are implicated but because the rhythm requires a pomegranate. The symposium aside, we had more fun in the lobby when waffles were served the following morning. Do you see what I’m getting at? That’s right: France uses a different asphalt than the United States. It’s more like trigonometry than fiction.
And yes, life truly is different on other planets.