Friday, August 24, 2018

How Fugues Are Born

Nothing is single. Everything is an aggregate. I’m a composite of molecules. The pronoun ‘I,’ which is ‘me,’ am a gathering of atoms whose collective agency creates a sensation of personhood.
How does that happen? I don’t know. It’s like trying to figure out what makes water wet. Where does its wetness come from?
Approximately 99% of the human body is an aggregate of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous. 0.85% consists of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All eleven are necessary for life.
Why is that? Does this mean that if I collect all these elements and put them into a blender and mix them all up really good out pops a baby?
A baby milkshake? A baby Slurpee?
What is it that turns inorganic elements into organic elements? Elements with eyes and ears and legs and arms. Elements with hair. Elements with eyebrows and fingernails and desires and preferences and dislikes and hatreds and loves and passions and wonder.
A sense of awe. Where does awe come from? Is that the missing .05%? And where does awe go when someone uses the adjective awesome in a completely inane and stupid way? Is a true sense of awe disappearing?
I believe so.
What happened to awe? To discover what happened to awe means we have to figure out what consciousness is. What is the overriding sense of being alive that permeates all eleven elements? What is it that gives a sense of importance to being a unique individual? Is there such a thing as a unique individual?
I don’t understand any of this. And I’ve been around a long time. Seventy-one years. In seventy-one years I still haven’t figured out why I’m here, who I am is, who is this ‘I,’ who is me, what am I doing here, why am I writing this, and where will it lead?
R and I walk to Safeway. We’ve been cooped up in our apartment all day and it’s hot, 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The air quality index has been around 185 all day, unhealthy. This is wildfire smoke from eastern Washington, chiefly the Methow Valley and north Cascades. Our apartment is stuffy. We’ve been keeping the windows closed. I fill a sandwich baggie with peanuts for the crows. The walk feels good.
I don’t see many crows. Nevertheless, I toss a few peanuts in the places where I usually find them. Hopefully, they’ll discover and eat them before the rats get to them.
It’s very cool inside Safeway. It’s always quite chilly in there. I’m in the habit of bringing a cardigan when we shop there. Outside, I buy an issue of Real Change from a heavyset black man wearing a chullo. He asks how I’m doing and I say fine, except for the smoke. I noticed that as I said that, he was lighting a cigarette. I’m sure he understood that my reference was to the wildfire smoke and not his cigarette. But then I began to wonder about all the people I saw, manly construction workers, smoking cigarettes. Taking in smoke on a smoky day. It seemed so cavalier. But I can understand it. I once smoked. It’s a powerful addiction, though one I never understood. Cigarettes never made me feel particularly good. They made me feel foggy and listless. But if I didn’t smoke, the craving became almost preternaturally intense. If you were to ask me what, precisely, I craved, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.
Also, a young woman running vigorously up and down a steep flight of steps connecting Galer to Fourth Avenue North. It both puzzled and inspired me. It was exceedingly unwise to be running that vigorously on day when the particulate matter from wildfire smoke was so thick. But she seemed to be doing great, really enjoying herself. The physicality and energy of her being radiated a singular joy. It was Blakean.
August 23rd, on my 71st birthday, the air became better. The air quality index map showed Seattle in the green with a reading of particulate matter at 58. I could go for a run on my birthday.
Later, we went to Chinook’s. I had a birthday coupon. I took my constellation of organs and organelles and sat them down in a booth with a view of fishing boats. Signals of light passed through the lenses of my eye to the retina where photoreceptors called rods and cones converted the information to electrical impulses that my brain interpreted as boats and water. As people strolling by. As two eagles spiraled over Salmon Bay. I could barely see them. But there they were. Slowly turning. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, as Yeats would say.
Home again, we watch Henry V, the fourth play in The Hollow Crown series, with Tom Hiddleston as Henry V. Swords, powerful speeches, blood splattered everywhere. A great play.
11:00 p.m. I finish reading Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind and relax watching some YouTube videos, W.C. Fields exchange digs and insults with a sullen, overweight waitress in a hard-boiled diner. The Rolling Stones, “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” “Cry to Me.” “Monkey,” written by the indie rock group Low and sung by Robert Plant and Patty Griffin.  
I listen again to a nine-minute interview with Georges Bataille on YouTube that fascinates me. The chief subject of the interview is his book Literature and Evil. I’d never made this association before, but intuitively I anticipate what he is about to say, which is that writing, in order to stay interesting, in order not to bore readers, must forefront anguish, must advance things that turn out badly in life, that go sour, that turn to shit. It must break taboos, make transgressions. I’m not sure I agree entirely with this, I believe there is room for ecstasies and raptures, for revelations, for illuminations in the visionary sense of the term explored in Rimbaud’s Illuminations. But I get what he’s talking about. I’m not sure how to put this dynamic in the context of current reality, which is that of a world on the verge of catastrophic extinction.
The problem that’s been nagging me is the usual one: meaning. How to find meaning, how to maintain meaning, how to deepen meaning, how to destroy meaning, how to create meaning. Why this obsession with meaning? The question answers itself. The more elusive meaning becomes, the more obsessed I become in its search. This is how fugues are born.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Simmer Of Simulation

I like food. Who doesn’t? What’s not to like about food?
Some people like everything. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, beetroot, cabbage.
Not me. Not yet. My preferences lean toward pasta: fettucine, spaghetti, tortellini, penne, rigatoni. Preferably with meatballs.
At the moment, there is all kind of food in the local grocery stores. But that may change soon. I’m hearing reports of further ice melt in the arctic. That isn’t good. This is an indication that temperatures will rise globally destroying crops and habitat.
How will our populations react when there’s no food available? People do not react well to this. We’re facing a terrifying situation.
Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about illusion. I love illusion. Though I also hate it a little, too. Because it’s illusion, and people often use illusion to hide themselves from ugly truths that could use some mitigation, some alteration.
There’s nothing illusory about an illusion except the illusion itself. It’s a bubble with chandeliers. It’s a Disneyland of the soul. Remember childhood?
I’m assuming that everyone had a pleasant childhood. A lot of people didn’t. I apologize for my presumption.
Let’s not fool ourselves (though fooling oneself is at the heart of illusion) illusion can hurt. Illusions of worth based on commodity are toxic.
Jean Baudrillard famously argued that the commodification of everything is powerfully alienating. Illusions of self-worth or public esteem based on what, and how much, you own. Never mind what you did to own it, what you did or do or didn’t do to own it. What matters is owning it. Land, houses, cars, politicians. You can be an exquisite maker of speeches, a shamanic spirit à la Terence McKenna, giving tremendous insights, mind-boggling, paradigm-shifting illuminations of colossal import, all of it embedded in gorgeous, voluptuous sentences and phrases, and none of this, not a bit of it, will matter if you’re poor, or even just modestly situated with a two-bedroom cottage and a rattle-trap car.
But if you own a number of luxury cars and live in a mansion with thirty-four bathrooms with golden faucets and handmade Italian tiles, people will hang on your every burp and fart.
Also, don’t forget, people love mediocrity. Don’t get too smart. Don’t be too eloquent. If you don’t dumb it down a little, people will throw tomatoes at you.
And goop. People love goop.
Goop and simulation. Simulacra. The simulation of goop. People love “worlds.” Places of artifice and amusement. Mirrors, selfies, reality TV. Christmas. Pumpkin spice latté. Jesus riding a triceratops.
Simulation has, according to Baudrillard, replaced the real: “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal… It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real.”
Celebrities are the inhabitants, the true replicants, of the hyperreal. Our current president is a hyperreality of a blonde Aryan comb-over that looks like the hood of a car, a terminally fake tan that makes his bloated face appear orange, and a flagrantly pornographic relationship with women. He likes fast food, doesn’t read, and worships money. I can’t think of a more perfect president for the United States in its current manifestation.
Paradoxically, simulation has killed illusion. “Illusion is no longer possible,” says Baudrillard, “because the real is no longer possible.”
Reality itself is too obvious to be true. Nothing is entirely explicit without becoming implicit. Meaning has imploded. There is no meaning. There’s information, we live in a world inundated with information. When the capacity for reflection has been undermined, when the triumph of anti-intellectualism is so final that a book is a cause for embarrassment if it’s discovered in somebody’s home, information assumes the form of an anarchic, ongoing fiction, a sensationalized pablum of electronic banality. Information proliferates like toxic algae on the surface of a dying ocean. There is more and more information and less and less meaning.
I crave the illusion of meaning. I crave the illusion of transcendence, of a public, or at least a tiny fragment of the public, that continue to appreciate art. Real art. Art in its most intense, most subversive, most imaginary form. This is a futile ideal. It’s like hoping for a spaceship and a habitable exoplanet to move to. The public is told what to like. Not overtly. It’s subtler than that. But with the right trickery in the popular media – the superficial patter, the toothy grins - the herd instinct kicks in and the next thing you know the art museum of a major city is featuring a miserable hack like Andrew Wyeth.
Public taste follows the line of least resistance. People are lazy, especially when it comes to anything the requires sacrificing a sense of normality.
“This is what implosion signifies,” Baudrillard elaborates. “The absorption of one pole into another, the short-circuiting between poles of every differential system of meaning.” There is no longer a mediating power between one reality and another. The medium and the message have, at last, homogenized. They are one and the same.
Baudrillard calls for a “pataphysics of simulacra.” I’m not sure what he means by that, but it sounds good. “…only a pataphysics of simulacra can remove us from the system’s strategy of simulation and the impasse of death in which it imprisons us.”
Pataphysics, a term coined by the French writer Alfred Jarry, is “the science of imaginary solutions.” It’s a branch of philosophy that examines imaginary phenomena that exists in a world beyond metaphysics.”
Everything, in Pataphysical terms, is a unique event with its own singular laws. It insists on a universe of exceptions. Homogenization cannot exist in such a universe. Imitation is quintessentially imaginary, and therefore impossible. Imitation cannot be imitated. The inimitable is illimitable.
Pataphysics sounds great, sign me up, I’m all for it, but I’m not entirely sure a science of imaginary solutions is what I want to be relying upon when my stomach starts growling. Imaginary solutions don’t go very far in the real – that is to say the un-simulated – world. The world of food. The world of fruit. The world of meat. The world of wheat and rice and fennel and mint and avocado. My fantasies extend outward toward other planets these days. Because this one is about to go tits up. Geronimo got it right when he said: "When the last tree has been felled, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then finally we will know that money isn’t meant for eating.” 

Thursday, August 16, 2018


David Hume promulgated the idea that the fact of ourselves is only a bundle of things brought back from daily experience and patched together for a time. It disassembles as easily as it’s assembled. Selfhood is a potpourri of herbs gathered in the meadow of the quotidian. We teem with a collection of ideas and sensations that alter pattern like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope. Our time of birth, the culture into which we born, its period of history, our very species are all matters of happenstance. I could’ve been a spider or a crow for all that matters. I reached the fullest blossoming of the person I’d be carrying around in its various guises during the 60s. That would include being atomized by a strong dose of LSD and immersing myself in Led Zeppelin. And oh yes, an afternoon spent with Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. Roaring creeks and cataracts of language all upsidedown and strange. My head became juicy and my hand busy writing words of nothing, because nothing means nothing, and that adds up to nothingness, which is noumena front and center, and chipmunks and bears. Later, I learned that what I desire is not always good and that what I avoid is not always that bad. 
I used to make great sandwiches for work. One sandwich was composed of thin slices of corned beef or ham slathered with butter and adorned with lettuce and pickles for maximum juiciness. The other sandwich was all peanut butter and butter and strawberry jam. They were delicious and made the work day slightly more palatable. I see this now as a species of jurisprudence, or trying to keep my head on straight, which is a circulation of fluids, and a tongue for injecting or projecting liquids.
Mornings I wake up with a sense of dread, that awful feeling that not only can anything be done to save the planet, it’s too late, stop industry and we lose the haze of pollution diffused over the globe so that the sun’s rays hit us directly and raise the temperature by one degree Celsius thus killing off everything, but nothing can be done to even raise a general awareness of how dire the situation is. And I go on scribbling poetry which is just fucking weird.
Well, why not, as they say. There’s a kind of providence to weirdness. It’s a superpower with a soft light and a present participle.
Since the future is scary I spend a lot of time mulling the past. I picture John Fogerty sitting at a kitchen table working out the lyrics to songs in a seedy apartment. “Green River.” “Fortunate Son.” “Born on the Bayou.” “Run Through the Jungle.”
The present isn’t so great either. Seattle has become a city of sociopaths, narcissists and nail salons. But there are things you eke out of the present moment to make it pyrotechnic and less pustular. Light a candle and study the undulation of the flame. The scent. The melt of wax.
Pain is an awakening. Emotional pain especially. What divining rod do you use to find reality? To find what is of value? I use pain. Sonatas of blood, the grammar of bones.
If it’s raining I stab gravity with an umbrella.
Moo is the sound cows make and is the Japanese word for nothingness. Life doesn’t have a meaning and that’s its ultimate meaning. I like to sit and listen to whatever sounds are out there. A blue jay, a crow, a power saw, someone hammering nails. I’ve attained that age when nothing matters because I’ll be dead soon. My biggest worry is the loss of electricity and running water. The paper towels in the kitchen window.
Who is this person I see every day looking back at me from the mirror?
We live in an age of gigantic egos. We deploy them like dirigibles. I can’t tell you how a television works but I know an abyss when I see one. I know that the catastrophic existential impacts of the 21st century are unprecedented for our species. That truth isn’t something you can squirt from a garden hose. Most food is literal, but sometimes it’s sublime. Sometimes a truffle can lighten your troubles. Narrative involves an ego. Drop the ego, and the narrative keeps rolling, but it’s less linear, less encumbered. It expands into vineyards. Heat and Hollywood.  
Everything becomes silent before a storm. That’s where we’re at now. Hanging on till the next minute. As always. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Three Lines By Hölderlin

Heilige Gefäße sind die Dichter,
Worin des Lebens Wein, der Geist
Der Helden sich aufbewahrt.

I became very intrigued with the above little poem by Friedrich Hölderlin's recently. I neither speak nor read German, but I wanted to present it in German because Hölderlin chose his words very carefully, and I wanted to come to know them in their original German. Words have a very specific meaning in German and are key to unlocking its essence. As the Japanese man who appears at the end of the movie Paterson puts it, “poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.”
There are a number of online German to English dictionaries to help unravel the meaning of this deceptively simple poem. There’s an entire philosophy – Weltanschauung – packed into the stratification of these words.
No matter how small of a word or what language is involved, each word has an evolution that corresponds to a particular range of perceptions and orientations and attitudes within the domain of human experience. “Speech,” observed the linguist Edward Sapir, “is a human activity that varies without assignable limit as we pass from social group to social group, because it is a purely historical heritage of the group, the product of long-continued social usage. It varies as all creative effort varies – not as consciously, perhaps, but none the less as truly as do the religions, the beliefs, the customs, and the arts of different peoples.”
So: heilige Gefäß. What’s that? Heilige Gefäß means “holy vessel.” Vessel in the sense of glass, or cup. A receptacle. Something that holds, that contains. Why holy? Because of the content, the substance (though in this case more like an energy, a noumena) of what it contains.
“Sind die Dicter.” This translates roughly as “are the poets.” Poets are holy vessels. Who didn’t know that? Poets are holy because…why? What makes poets holy? The nature of their endeavor, which is one of transcendence, of attaining the sublime. The nature of their work, which is alchemical. The goal of the poet is to take the base ores of everyday experience and transmute them into gold. Into the giddy exhilaration of autonomous innovation.
Poets are receivers. Transducers. Antennae. The cosmological energies that comprise the universe find a human voice among poets. Some of these energies are benign and some of these energies have a more destructive impulse. Violence and beauty do not uncommonly repulse one another. Au contraire.
When Christ tore through the temple of the moneychangers he was behaving like a poet.
What’s a “moneychanger?” they’re like hedge fund investors. Bankers. Assholes who think strictly in terms of money and how rich they can make themselves no matter how many lives are capsized and made miserable in the process.
The Bible got it right: you cannot both serve God and Mammon.
Poets tend, as a rule, to be a little averse to the whole business of making money, though not entirely as a matter of principle. They’re not very good at it for one thing: the market for books of poetry is less than robust. Writing poetry does very little to twist the combinatorial lock on the bank vault. It’s a dubious investment. The wealth poets are after is speculative, but not in the sense of finance. More in the sense of divinatory, conjectural, phantasmagoric.
Poets don’t make money at poetry because poetry isn’t merchandise. There’s no demand for poetry. There’s plenty of it to go around, but few - and I do mean few - people want it. They can do without it, thank you very much.
So why does anyone bother to write it? Good question. Everyone will have their own reason. My addiction began with Arthur Rimbaud. “The Drunken Boat.” I like being drunk. I especially like being drunk on language, because there’s essentially no hangover, and the side effects are relatively minor: a tendency to buy more books than you need, a tendency to chatter, a tendency to use polysyllabic words.
“Worin des Lebens Wein.” “Wherein the wine of life.” The “wine of life” suggests a heady brew of euphoria, intensity, elation and intellectual exultation. Pretty much the same phenomena as I was discussing above, with one important exception: all experience, even bad experience, serves the inventive mind of the poet.
Much of life is shit. Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a whole lot of pain in life. Loss, rejection, grief, frustration, fear, anxiety, despair, confusion, meaningless toil. But if, like a poet, you can take these experiences and torque and twist the language until something different emerges - a transcendent glory, a sense of grace, a liberating fumarole of blistering invective - you’re doing good, my friend.
Poets have a great knack for getting drunk. The way they feel about life is cosmic. It’s very large and dizzying. Open-ended. Infinite. “Energy,” said Blake, “is eternal delight.”
“Geist.” This is important. Geist, in German, means both mind and spirit, as in the word ‘zeitgeist,’ or “time spirit.” English makes a distinction between mind and spirit. This is where a translation of the German into English might trip up a bit. Geist also means ghost. Ghost, mind, and spirit are fused into the one word: geist. Important to keep that in mind.
Der Helden sich aufbewahrt. This is where things get really tricky. Der helden means “the hero.” The poet, as has already been suggested, cuts a heroic figure. The poet is also a bit of a tragic figure, a bit like the fool of the Tarot cards. ‘Sich” is a reflexive pronoun meaning ‘themselves.”
“Aufbehwahrt” means “kept,” and is from the present tense “aufbewhahren,” which means to store, or keep in a safe place. The poet conserves the sacred. This is what makes the poet extraordinary and heroic. This is particularly true of our current historical period. Humankind is in dire straits. Four hundred years or so of intense industrial and technological commerce have permanently destroyed the ecologies that human beings and countless other species require to live on this planet. Because it’s just the one planet. We don’t have another planet to hop onto when this one goes berserk, as it has already begun doing.
Poets resist these general trends toward endless accumulation and technological answers for all of life’s complexities and needs. And they often do so in financial distress, working at humiliating jobs or (if they’re lucky) lucrative and prestigious teaching positions. Universities provide haven, but they’re still a few steps away from full membership in mainstream society.
I don’t blame science and technology. But it’s clear that a one-sided obsession with these things to the exclusion of the holy and non-commercial has put things way out of balance. If people become obsessed with these things, other more important things will be neglected. Things like real wealth. The vitality of language. Community.
I like money, but I have never understood what it is to have an exclusive obsession with money. Money is not real. Money is not real wealth. Real wealth is available resources: respirable air, drinkable water, food security.
Money is a form of language, but as a tool of capitalism, it does more to harm community and destroy real wealth. That’s the irony. Money can make you poor. Capital can be a disaster. And it has been. Just look around you. The floods, the draughts, the stressed and overpopulated infrastructures, the wars, the depletion of aquifers and lakes and rivers, the acidification of the oceans, the calamity of plastic choking those same stressed-out oceans.
Unchecked capitalism is toxic. It’s a hazard for everyone except sociopaths. But its lures aren’t easily dismissed. The thrill of a luxury sports car or all the time in the world to cruise the Adriatic in a private yacht with an unlimited supply of haute cuisine are temptations for the shallow. But enough money to never worry about adequate health care? That’s tough to avoid. A lot of people will be willing – to one degree or another – to compromise their values if it means they and their children will have access to health care and a good education. And who can blame them?
Resisting these forces is the task of the poet. It’s like a priesthood. The role of the poet is shamanistic. It’s also a role that most people in western culture look down upon as the province of silly bohemians or elitist academicians comfortably ensconced in ivory towers.
That’s what Hölderlin is getting at: the conservation of a sense of the sacred is a heroic task. The poet is up against some very powerful enemies, not the least of which is Wall Street. Another is indifference. And still another is literalism, the inability to see interrelationships, to get beyond the one-dimensional.
So what, then, might Hölderlin’s words look like in English? One translation might be: Poets are holy vessels, / in which the wine of life, the spirit / of heroes is kept. This gets the basic idea across. But it’s not the same. I’m in the shower, but I can’t seem to get that raincoat off. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018


I don’t entirely understand Kierkegaard on despair, but I understand despair. I know how it operates, how it breeds and propagates, how it unbolts the door of monsters and lets chaos loose. But let’s not dwell on that.
I solder the elements of a strange equation. The universe always seeks balance. I’m working on it. I’m building a chassis. I’m dwelling in a realm of dyspeptic substitution.
Whatever gets you through the night, right?
There’s a bend in the river and as we come around we see a volcano in eruption. Flames and billowing black smoke vomiting into heaven.
What can I say? Even candy has details.
Psilocybin is in a misty state. Two hundred teeth chase me down the street. The Blue Angels roar over Seattle. They fly crazily low. You can feel the thrust of their engines shriek and vibrate in your bones.
The spirit of contradiction is difficult to transmit. But it can be done. The branch declares its connection to the trunk, the trunk to the roots, the roots to leaves, the leaves to the sky.
Music gives us hope. But I don’t know if hope is a good thing these days. I don’t always like reality, it can be pretty disturbing, but I need to know its features, I need to define its condition and shape in order to craft a response. The right response. The response most apt to sustain a modicum of comfort.
Is Iggy Pop our man? Is he the guy that’s going to keep us going, give us traction? It won’t be Mick Jagger, as freakishly athletic as he remains in his 70s. He’s just too happy. Grinning all the time. How can you trust anyone that grins all the time? Or tries to sell you a Cadillac Escalade during the Superbowl, à la Bob Dylan?
I’m biology, the same as a tidepool. The same as a seriously overweight philosopher from West Texas defending Derrida with a western drawl.
Some people, myself included, gravitate toward friction. It calls for a diagnosis.
What becomes of a sense of distance under the influence of psilocybin?
Oil knocks on the door. I open the door and Mr. Oil hands me a wad of blood-stained money. That’s no way to go. Let’s back up. Let’s return to the cave. Hand prints on a wall of rock. Phantoms in a shell of wick and animal fat.
We’re drawn to the unknown but afraid to enter its domain. Let’s dive into our store of secrets and share those. Some songs sound the geology of anguish. Metallica on Mars. A representation of warmth strolls through a metaphor and comes out the other side making a convocation of fire. I want to meditate a while on heat. I find it difficult to let go of things. I need someone or something to teach me how to let go of things. For example, that lampshade in the closet for which we do not own a lamp. The sky is gray and the hills are derelict. Sooner or later one must accept death. Even when breakfast begins to taste like a glockenspiel. It’s so difficult to avoid eating meat. But think of the dragonfly. They ability to see instantly through a thicket and formulate a path that will bring it in a flash to its prey.
Me, I try to find old friends on the Internet. I come up empty. What happened to them? Are they still living?
Consider the aerodynamic qualities of the wasp. How does that not dazzle you with its genius?
Each atom of my body owes its existence to earth. Acetylene anticipates the properties of a wanton realism.
Using only a palette of English grammar, can you explain why the violin is sometimes called a fiddle?
Adjectives produced by fever are black and bald. Why would anyone dream of living on Mars? Who or what created the universe?
The faucet is a fugue of chrome.
I stare at the dog-tie embedded in a concrete column at Safeway while R goes inside to buy a bag of peanuts we can feed to the crows. It’s a simple shape, a courtesy to customers, an anchor for dogs.
I think of dwarfs in a goldmine. Working the earth in the dark. Outside, sunlight hugs the earth. I can endure almost anything but a utopia.
The worst thing you can invent in a dystopia is a utopia. It just makes things worse. But if it’s already worst can it become worse? Can worse be worst?
Seasoning can be tricky. Watch that you don’t use too much basil. It can make your food bitter and unpalatable.
It’s cruel to awaken the dead. Don’t do that.
A blue whale can dive to a depth of 2,500 feet in two minutes. Try doing that.
These are the words that milk the moon and puzzle the sense.
A certain number of women have found me insupportable over the years. This may be one reason why. Words parade on a sheet of paper and I clap my hands and urge them on. Each time I open a book I feel the vibrations of the void stream through my nerves. The long heat of life, the brief heat of gratification.
Trying gratifying the world with words instead of money.
Do you see what I mean? Is this why my shampoo hasn’t been foaming up on my head as usual?
A chromatic frog hops across my mind and reminds me that my bureau drawer is full of socks and underwear. Thank you, frog. Thank you, world. Thank you, universe.
Writing poetry is weird.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Words As Cubes In A Tray Of Abstraction

Ice implies preservation. Freezing things inactivates microbes. Bacteria, yeasts, molds. It also means preserving the polar ice cap, which stabilizes the jet stream, which stabilizes the climate, which insures the growth of food crops. We’re losing the ice at the north pole. I write during a period of immense crisis. Not that words preserve anything. Words aren’t ice. Words refer to ice. Stand in for ice. They are not ice. But they could be. If imagined as such, these words could be hard translucent cubes that clink in your glass. But they won’t save the world. Nothing can save the world now but Superman. And a colossal quantity of ice.
Yesterday I discovered a city of elves beneath the bed. It’s nothing unusual. I find strange things under our bed all the time. I find everything except what I’m looking for.
Does fragility awaken a sense of beauty? Yes, I believe it does. Beauty is often fragile. But to what extent does frailty create beauty? It’s generally hue and nuance that dazzle the eyes with beauty. But aren’t mountains beautiful? Are mountains frail? There’s often frailty in the mountains, but the mountains aren’t frail. Mountains are enduring. Mountains are sublime.
A lot of experience eludes words. There just aren’t words for certain perceptions and feelings. There may be whole dimensions of experience and physical laws that puzzle our grammar and sounds. Our own biology may have limits to what we can and cannot experience. And yet I keep putting words down, putting words out there, pushing words forward, trying to sound what’s out there, what new thing, what new perception, what new insight might save us from imminent peril, might save us from ourselves.
If ice didn’t exist, but a cube of words, a paragraph described ice so perfectly that it created an idea of it, we could say that ice had a potential for existence. Can we say the same of gods and angels?
I like writing paragraphs that cohere around a thought, a motif thematic as mushroom. Paragraphs full of anger and sunlight. Methane embedded in permafrost.
I like the idea of words lifting things. Lions, lips, solutions. Lift your lips and say distend. Timber. Vivacious.
What would you do if a foreign language followed you home? Would you give it a bowl of milk and a pat on the back? Would you try to speak and understand it and ride it around the room?
You could knit a gallant canary.
Here’s a whisper of something knocking on your brain. What is it? Georges Braque rattling a shape at a palette of paint.
I keep seeing a pair of socks at the end of the bed. A colony of meaning floating in the room. Music on my earphones. “No Stars,” sung by Rebekah Del Rio.
Music soothes the lonely. Though it also helps to be palpated occasionally. Massaged by someone.
The signals of night are naked and strange. I consider living in Senegal. It’s a nice fantasy involving warm, friendly people and walking down streets of lively activity and the scents of a thousand different flowers and foods. The fragrance of tea, the pungency of garlic.
My body likes to float. Whose body doesn’t feel good floating? Making and drinking coffee in weightless conditions is quite difficult, but it can be done.
Biology has a face of papyrus. It’s ancient and holy. Yet no one is satisfied. I hear the constant sound of construction.
You know that feeling you get when you shove a shovel into the ground? It’s a rich sensation. Sometimes it’s a matter of planting something and sometimes it’s a matter of burying something. The context can be a broad range of things. But the actual sensation of sinking steel into the dirt is a divination of subterranean forces. Worms and roots. This is the world in its rawest form. Not even the chronology of a bottle or the sound of thunder has the force of a worm seeking direction in a sudden exposure to cold and light.
The great, wonderful physicality of the sun. Those constant explosions. Day after day.
My neighbor pounds the dirt. He’s putting in a patio.
I choose my words carefully. Amphetamines are pretty. I have an antique disposition. The habit of doing dishes. I can be shrewdly obtuse or obtusely shrewd. Each life is a novel. The narration might change from day to day. It’s an ongoing project.
I think of the thousands of juices and liquids that compose the functioning of my biology and wonder how it is that the amalgam of all these cells and membranes has found a story to pursue, a shore to explore.
What place is this? It’s a place of dislocation, a grave unreality. Yet some of it remains real. Pain in my right arm from a dislocated shoulder. Pain in my heart from a dislocated country. That country for old men in the Yeats poem. The young in one another’s arms, birds in the trees. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Wildness Of Spoons

Wash the locomotive in Anchorage. Power the rattan in plywood. Hum pounds of gluttonous learning. My wallet extrudes flowers. Interior abstractions hustle my face to you. I’m the chowder inside the drum. Enrich the paraffin by incursion. Dachshund jar of adjectives. Harden the tumble taxi. Skim the abandoned steam. Throw and emerge and verify. Butter the nascent dream. Manipulate the crackle cream. Elegance sends its assembly. The myth of the jug stove is available to you in indiscriminate octaves. The moon rises congenial as papier collé. I mourn the wrap club. The sophisticated skidoodle dump. Shiver the slouch paint. I ship my mark in drops. I exclaim a public crack. My map explains the trek by pylons and cups. I spin the weather and burst. Choke and squeeze the strings to a resonance that we can remember. I need to feel to fit you. I grasp the hammer to amplify the probability of bolts. Tangle the details in glaze. Attract a climate and give it to a saga. Soliciting secretes you into building an argument and pioneering the new despair. Are you ready for the Hinduism ablution drill? I embark in chains and squirt. The red soubriquet velvet is my gift to translucence. I’m suitably clumsy and soothed by intercourse. The boat ripples with hunger. Pound the dollars into purchase. Events are the narrative stream. A block of power crashes through itself. The stimulus that is algebra has been approved by epoxy. Maturity grumbles in its pronouns. The buffalo are pungent and their poetry is flaming. I’m focused on a naked crowd of grass. I believe in the wildness of spoons. A whisper emerges and cuts the air into consonants. Vowels move them into fact. 

Friday, August 3, 2018


Hammer the triangle and cut it into songs. Indispensable henna. Polish the melody. Recruit the rhythm from a resilience written as turpentine. Fiddle with a little wisdom. Widen and flow. Branch into subtleties. Ride a hormone. I have smooth skidoodle arms. You need them to lift the symmetry around here. Meanwhile, I continue my search for Paris. A mineral Baudelaire that expands into birch. My aim is improved by flipping the wood into motels with lovely blue beds. I ache all afternoon trying to absorb the idea of signs. Isn’t there something semantic about a giraffe? What is the world trying to tell us? Do we truly belong here? Swimming soothes my tools. I abhor the stethoscope but not the hand that holds it. The fingers are a little overdeveloped. They glow like glue. I see motion in the window and something perturbing the flowers. The wind. Birds. Explosions along the fence. The gardenia simmers in its beauty. The clash of meanings is more than a little hypothetical. I answer the clasp on my shirt with a burning alchemy of creamery butter. I freely employ the string. The music is a mosaic of melody and anvils. I squeeze the wind and it drops like a word. Needs energize my craving for knowledge. The planet has an engine whose properties are marked in the firmament as a ghostly mutation of secret things. Redemptions that crash around us like chains. Granite folds the sky into dimes of shiny supposition. Each of us impels a fantasy, a thicker eyebrow than venison. Wander into Hinduism and enhance the drums. Clench what you clench, clutch what you clutch. Clenching and clutching is what we do when we listen to the newer dimensions stream into our probability theories. The candles are all cracked. It happens. It has something to do with light, and singing, and hitting a tambourine. What do you believe? I believe the interior of a word is fur.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Odor Plume

The wind takes what it wants and deposits it elsewhere. Whoever has owned a flying carpet is familiar with this effect. You don’t always go where you want to go. You don’t always arrive at the destination you had in mind. Movement is sometimes a joy, sometimes a great exposition. A 10,000-pound tractor in Harding County South Dakota sitting in 14-inch high crested wheat grass was hoisted straight into the air by a tornado and deposited, in pieces, a mile and a half away in Montana. This would tend to indicate a presence in the air, a movement whose predilections are as capricious as they are enigmatic.
Our interpretations of this world are often overstated and misleading. What can anyone say? Nobody understands this planet. Nobody understands this life. If they did, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Thanks to the many heat engines that comprise civilization and its emissions of methane and carbon dioxide, the atmosphere is a complete mess, jets streams meandering in tropospheric chaos creating climactic havoc all over the planet, drought in England, murderous heat waves in Japan, forest fires in Sweden, tornados of fire in northern California. Typhoons, monsoons, hurricanes and cyclones howling through our cities like merciless banshees. Crops failing, the sea rising, the ice sheets of Antarctica tumbling into the sea. Greenland will soon be green again. The Arctic Sea a deep blue where the ice once deflected the rays of the sun back into space. That heat will be added to the oven that is now our planet.
We fucked up. Royally. Has there ever been a species this misguided? This wrong-headed? This stupefyingly myopic?
How did we lose our way? Did we ever know the way? Is too much consciousness too little consciousness? Is walking erect with a big head bobbing around not actually the silliest permutation to ever emerge from the goop of polymers that brought us here?
Bees have learned far better ways to inhabit the world and navigate. They use dance and magnetism. We use needles and glass. Latitude and longitude. Bees use pheromones and ultraviolet. Cognitive maps.
We use Rand McNally atlases. Roadside museums and postcard racks.
We have very little in our language that actually conforms to reality, whatever reality is. We have nothing in our vocabulary that links directly to the phenomena oscillating through our nerves and aggregating into the appropriate words, the right syntax, the right grammatical machinery to convey the ontology of a chrysanthemum. The disconnect is abyssal. We have nothing as expansive as echo location. Nothing as informative as odor. Nothing as illuminating as a waggle dance.
We invent Gods. We devise religions. We create philosophies and customs.   
We use mobile phones to buy drugs, pesticides to grow biofuel.
Bees use associative learning. Bees pair stimuli together to form three-dimensional models of the world. Bees abstract orientation or symmetry and integrate it into a global representation.
Our methods are empirical, heavy on technology. Sextants, astrolabes, ring dials, chronometers. Our understanding of the world requires satellites. Global Positioning System. Automatic Radar Plotting Aid. Electronic Chart Display and Information System. Long Range Identification and Tracking.
Bees have figured things out abstractly. They’ve evolved the honey of cognition into cells of active memory.
Sleep will sometimes carry us to distant places and leave us there until the tides of consciousness rise and we awaken to a new life, or an old life with a new interpretation, something like Petula Clark singing “La Nuit n’en finit plus.”
The pendulum, meanwhile, swings back and forth. A biography trembles with seagulls. Sandy eyelids judge the Salvation Army to be full of goodwill.
Flannel deepens our sense of tincture, how juicily the light of the chandeliers enchants the luster of music.
Wherever you go, there you are. My sentiment regarding cartilage is generally allegorical, as it should be. Allegory and bone are the fundaments of this narrative we call life. They structure narratives of illusion and truth. Plato’s cave. Orwell’s Animal Farm. The oranges are hypothetical, but we sense that their juices intend a communication of elves and algebra.
I may appear a little irrational at times, a bit unkempt, a little delirious, but I know a hawk from a handsaw when the winds are southerly.
I was thrown into this life like everyone else by a set of circumstances unique to the time in which I entered this world. War was one, the splitting of the atom another. Bombers, uniforms, raging dictators. The film footage suggested that humanity had gone insane. But we had television to comfort us. If you want to call Howdy Doody comforting.
Whatever life may be about, it’s certainly interesting. Percussion stirs the air. A rhinoceros adorned in rubies stands in the Kenyan rain.
Ghosts bring us the soft light of other dimensions. Our speech thickens into wax, malleable transparencies that will sustain a small flame of listening cognition. Whatever consciousness is, it’s been having a good swim in our heads. Our eyes shine all afternoon, renewed by the smell of rain.