Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pulling Leather

What I’m  trying to say is that if an experience is bent into a sandy beach it might be better presented as a Christmas present than a poem.
Or bicycle.
Me, I like to drink coffee and roll around on the floor until someone scratches my belly.
I ceased worrying about maturity long ago. It didn’t even appear on my radar. I worried about character. Character is a good thing. Character is fundamental. Feeling is paste.
The difference between men and women is milky with ambiguity.
It isn’t always about genitalia. Sometimes it’s a matter of glass slippers and dawdling around a 7-11 at dawn, waiting for Igor and the Count to arrive. There is no behavior that can be described as singularly male or female. What there is, is this: prickly collars, participles, and skin. The push toward absolutes. The anxiety resulting from not finding any absolutes.
Fourteen months after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, a pool brimming with used fuel rods and filled with vast quantities of radioactive cesium still sits on the top floor of a heavily damaged reactor building, covered only with plastic, says the New York Times.
Fuck me.
We all live under the sword of Damocles. The foot of a chair, the back windows with a view, the edge of a table, corals, water, round glass, fish, these are some of the elements casted in this world of strangers. Welcome to the Aquarium!
Mushrooms flourish in the nimble swell of a lollipop brassiere. Accept it as a symptom, a sign of quivering disembodiment, the kind of disease that begins in the ego and ends in the planetarium, where the universe swirls around your head in the form of a million gazillion stars, and spasms of escape from the thralldom of work assume an astronomical urgency.
Disunion of production and consumption is a common enough occurrence. But how does one remain sane and balanced in the midst of all this hallucination?
The cowboys call it Pulling Leather:  holding onto the saddle horn to keep from getting thrown when a horse is bucking.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Indispensable Sculpture Liberation Cloud

The sentence is a device for indulging the cuticles of the crow. The miniscule, the huge, the ugly, the beautiful, the beautifully ugly, the disgustingly beautiful. It is the gargantuan revelation of an abstract interior clarified in coffeehouse butter. Sensations cemented sympathetically in a Pullman raspberry. Iron succeeds in evocation precisely because of this. The same might be said of the stethoscope. It, too, is a device. It, too, yields the heartbeat of a long lost highway. The geography of nerves surrounding a shaker of salt. The weirdness of pain. The glamour of signs refining the havoc of speech.  

It must be supposed that experience is not merely a passively received phenomenon but a creatively structured aggregate of sensation and string. Plaster and incense and the friendly chiaroscuro of caramel locomotives reposing in a Tuscany barn. 

If the predicate appears to assume mass, you must attach it to a subject before it stiffens into refrain, or gravitates into theory.

If the dime were orthogonal, its surface would be velvet.

Time and distance bind the pages of the universe. Processions of words cohere into shadow and thorn.

Talking Lobster, fifty miles ahead, said the sign.

The lobster turned out to be this real fat guy floating in an inner tube with two huge Styrofoam pincers and a bottle of tequila tucked between his legs. But what’s strange is that the guy really did say some pretty stunning things. He said that eyebrows were profligate allegories visiting the forehead with the express purpose of evacuating blood to the nearest fedora.

If you cannot find a fedora, one will be provided.

Sometimes a sentence will have a fragile translucence, like a glass railroad, and plunge forward in a syntax of sheer momentum, the glitter of a locomotive chandelier swarming with ravenous eyes.

Daub is such a lovely word, I will not use it in a sentence, unless it is a sentence of vertical embroidery, like a breakfast tumbled into a kitchen sink and abandoned until afternoon, when someone finally gets around to doing the dishes. The crab abandons its body and flutters into maturity. The sensations are cemented in sympathy and put into circulation. Abstraction’s palette elevates the scene into a drama of doublets and rapiers. What you would hardly expect, this being Wyoming and all.

Here I am in the doorjamb, leaning into the light, like in a Bob Dylan song, when someone leaves in a fit of pique and sorrow and the atmosphere becomes electrically charged, the elation of muscle twisting the bones of a poetry engine into a simulacrum of grace.  

Or the sentence bursts into asphalt, and succeeds at mindful clean singing, coffee tossed to the back of the throat while the morning is still young and beautiful, and the stethoscope sparkles, hanging from the rearview mirror, while a leviathan sixteen wheel rig approaches from behind.

Many sentences can be explained by the art of persuasion, for that’s what life does when it begins to grip the controversy of diagnosis, and the modification of meaning by way of the goldfish propellers, as clarified by the roles in predication.  Good purposes are often served by not tampering with vagueness. Vagueness is not incompatible with precision. A painter with a limited palette can achieve more precise representation by thinning and combining her colors than a mosaic worker can achieve with a variety of tiles, and the skillful superimposing of vaguenesses can persuade even the most dubious that a dollop of bells decrees the advantage of eggplant over the demands of Goya’s monsters.

We discover that the universe is not static, it is expanding.

For further information, contact Guillaume Apollinaire, at Père-Lachaise Cemetery, 15 Boulevard de Ménilmontant.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Lobster Trembles On Its Pedestal

Sometimes I look at all the books in our apartment and wonder what the hell, how did this happen? So few people consider books as anything else than curious antiquities from a bygone era. They’ve become the equivalent of Civil War daguerreotypes. Reading is now done rapidly and indifferently on a computer screen. Intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and aesthetic appreciation for a well-crafted sentence are equally antique. The equivalent of alchemy, falconry, blacksmithing, and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. I feel more like a contemporary of Albertus Magnus than Mark Zuckerberg .

But this isn’t about how old and anachronistic I feel. I’m fascinated by value. What people value. What people consider to be important. Will pay big money for. Take care of. Hone. Polish. Discuss. Boast about. Brandish.

Me, it’s still books. The other day at the doctor’s I grabbed my jacket and Francis Ponge’s Pièces fell out. It went thwack on the floor. My doctor looked down. Pièces, he said. I felt good about that. I’m glad it wasn’t a cell phone. I’m glad it was a book. A French book. About objects. Frogs, washing machines, goats. Olives, wine, swallows. There’s even a piece about the telephone, which he compares to a lobster. “… le homard frémit sur son socle.”

I despise cell phones. They’re the death of solitude. The dignity of what passed for privacy within a public space is gone. People blab about the banalities of their existence as if each were specially ordained by God to go about the surface of the planet spreading the word of their status and privilege. A pram and a dog add to the aggrandizement.

There is nothing to know in all there is to say. It is all void when it comes down to it. Whatever it turns out to be. There is no direct equivalent for the pronoun ‘it’ in Japanese. It may turn out to be nothing. So the sentence, “it’s nothing,” is redundant, at least in Japanese.

The primary value of my life has been art. It has been a devotion to making objects, or creating phenomena, with no utility outside of their own reason for being. This is an inherently adversarial position in a society so aggressively driven by predatory capitalism and the Protestant work ethic. Both of which I have despised. They were the enemy. I can’t help but feel now that I’m in my mid-60s, utterly useless. I did not derail the corporate juggernaut. I got hoisted by my own petard. If there is consolation, it is this: even in failure there is sometimes fulfillment.

Fulfillment brims with alibi. It can be all sorts of things. A comfortable bed. Codeine for a cold. Baclava. The quality of the light in Reims Cathedral. The taste of rain. Kitties in dream’s afternoon. And anything that can’t be and can and is and isn’t.

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Book Arrivals

This has been a great week for books, awful week for health. I’ve been down with some form of virus. Literally down. This morning I was on the floor for a half hour because of a nosebleed. Too much antihistamine. My nose had dried out so much it fell off. I had to glue it back on. I listened to Patrick Simonin interview Ed Norton at the Cannes film festival while I waited for the glue to dry.
Four books arrived during the week. Rather than wait to review them individually, which would take some months, I thought I’d go ahead and discuss them as a group. That takes a lot of weight off. It doesn’t feel so much like a huge homework assignment. And I can get word out much quicker.
The first to arrive was Brian Lucas’s Circles Matter published by BlazeVOX [books]. This is a relatively slim volume of 94 pages. The poetry is rich in phantasmagoria. Lucas is a neo-surrealist in the manner of Will Alexander and Andrew Joron. His language differs from Alexander’s lexical richness and trance-like splendor. It feels more deliberate, more precise, a little closer to Joron’s highly concentrated word play. Like Joron, Lucas’s poesis seems to have some of its roots in science fiction, two-headed machinic assemblages rotating in all directions.
Lucas constructs worlds “imbued with meaning, and physical dimension,” but with the flavor of phantasm , “images of cities and ghosts,” places outside time, places that aren’t geographic at all but seem “startled out of ordinary mind.”  The Coleridge of “Kubla Kahn” comes to mind, and Tarkovsky’s Stalker, in which Stalker brings two clients to a site known as the Zone, a place that doesn’t appear to be different from the rest of the industrial area in which it’s filmed but seems, nevertheless, imbued with magic, with some ineffable quality of strangeness. It is promised that one’s desires can be fulfilled in the Zone. The Zone, then, serves as a metaphor for the movie itself, or for the circularity of Lucas’s communicating vessels, in which redemption from the despair of the banal and vapid is to be found in the wells of the marvelous.
There is a vigorous eclecticism of form in Circles Matter. It seems ironic that the title has a geometric reference, though it is evident that Lucas is mindful of the circularity of time and space and infinite correlations among things. There are a few prose poems in the collection, but most of the work is presented in short paragraphs à la René Char, or short stanzas with indented margins. Lines are often generously spaced, which promotes a feeling of weightless anticipation. Linearity is ruptured. Lucas doesn’t describe, he manifests. He presents the reader with a world of fantastic scope and color and he does so with conviction. His words have the feel of something real, minerals gathered from the surface of another planet.
I was especially taken with two sentences on page 22: “There are few things more spectacular than a flame. One of them is the impulse to make that flame.” If flame is to be taken as a metaphor for poetry, or for the creative act in general, that impulse is truly mysterious. What, for instance, led the first Cro Magnon artist to bring a flame into a cave to paint bison and horses on its walls?
Dire Straits, poetry by Ed Foster, published by Marsh Hawk Press, arrived in the mail that same day. This is, I believe, Foster’s fifteenth book of poetry.
Foster writes with great economy. His words feel chiseled and dovetailed into place. Like Zukofsky, Foster evinces the meticulous care of a seasoned cabinet maker. But it is out of this economy that he finds the richness that he is looking for. He has been strongly influenced by the poet William Bronk, a fellow New Englander, whose stark, gnomic lines of lucid abstraction play on the dynamic of inner and outer penetrating one another. Foster, who likes the muted registers and stunning clarity of the black and white photography he often includes in his books, is engrossed by the dialectic between art and life and the complexities and ambiguities of human emotion.  This is his strait. His narrows. He doesn’t just articulate ideas, he struggles against them. His poetry has an edgy undercurrent. It doesn’t settle. It searches for where the words begin.
And wouldn’t you know it, who arrives in the mail the next day but William Bronk. Bursts of Light: the collected later poems, edited by David Clippinger, published by Talisman House. Bronk seems to have grown in popularity of late. I see more and more references to him. To me, he is a fascinating mystery. His poetry has the directness of approach I find among the objectivists, and Bronk’s poetry has been compared to Oppen’s in a cogent essay by Henry Weinfield (“The Music of Thought in the Poetry of  George Oppen and William Bronk"), but it is even more stark, the poems don’t hesitate to get right to the point. Nor does Bronk seem at all interested in lyrical affect. I could be totally wrong about this. There is most definitely a prosody according to other sensibilities, and I have seen essays discuss his lyricism online, such as Thomas Lisk’s “William Bronk’s Path Among The Forms," but to my sense the lines are exhilarating precisely because they’re so blithely disencumbered of lyrical apparatus. His poems are bald. So wonderfully bald it’s invigorating. He says everything with such confidence. Maybe that’s because Bronk is one of those old WWII guys. One of those let’s get down to business guys. I think I’m going to really love reading this book. Because I’m  old and I’m tired of obfuscation. I’m tired of affect. Bronk is a welcome tonic.

New Poetry From Spain, edited and translated by Marta Lopez-Luaces, Johnny Lorenz, and Edwin M. Lamboy, also from Talisman House, arrived in the same package with Bronk. I look forward to this because it’s an area I’ve neglected over the years. According to the introduction, by Marta Lopez-Luaces, “This anthology focuses on the poetry written in Spain after 1975. All the poets included were raised under Franco’s dictatorship, which lasted forty years…. the social reality after Franco’s death in 1975 was very different from that in which all of these poets had been raised. A new conception of the self had to emerge after the transition to democracy, and this was expressed in the word of many poets as a liberating, though painful, transformation, a transformation that affected the very concept of language. Naturally, the radical reinvention of language produced a reinvention of self.”

Cupcake Royale, a chapbook of poetry by Sarah Mangold, arrived a few weeks ago. I thought I’d add mention of it at the end as a nice desert. The poems in this collection are modest as cat whiskers, droll as a giant Norwegian rabbit. Mangold does not like to pontificate. Never has. She favors the highly disjunctive, fragmentary lines found among poets such as Ted Berrigan and Tom Raworth. The world is presented as a simultaneity of sensation, a collage of wildly dissociative phenomena. Subjectivity is decentered beyond the margin. Mangold does not seem present. The poetry is not about her. The poetry is available to the eyes in whatever sense you want to take it. I feel nudged, a little, by the choices she has made. She likes the odd and quirky, the neglected and marginal. A cupcake, not a multi-tiered wedding cake.

Cupcake Royale was published by above / ground press in Ontario, Canada and can be purchased  via Rob Mclennan, rr #1, Maxville, Ontario, koc 1to. It is $4.00. Which is probably less than a cupcake.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ears Of The Cricket

The ears of the cricket are on its legs, and a voice like opera
Comes out of the fish to resume reconciliation. Pack
The ooze of emotion in a suitcase of poetry
Boxed in dirt, where the yearning is soft
And harsh necessity is willing to abdicate
To a hot delirium if the melody is wearing feathers
Try to think of this as a poem evident in the cloth
Of the moment. This moment, which is perfect
To tell you about bugs. What can we do about bugs?
I find most bugs to be charming, honest, and baritone
I just don’t want to play around with them anymore
My favorite animal is faith itself
And all the questions I have regarding life and death
I believe olives are eyeballs that grow on the limbs
Of martini trees. And then once in a while it rains
Watercolor antlers nudge life into a new idiom
In which the pasta has been chained to a passport
Glistening with environmental sorrow
A dent in the syntax will obliterate the clock
And if you look closely into the heart of the universe
You will see a forest of Peruvian X-rays
Humming in the heat of the jungle
Never scorn a handstand appareled in watermelon
Only yesterday I saw an octopus
Demonstrate vegetable cutters on the waterfront
Which led me to a deeper understanding of tassels
Have you ever photographed a barracuda
With your head? There is a camera of the mind
Where the film is developed by hunger
But you can choose your own chemicals
And step into the experience of yourself
Dawdling in secrets and argyle. The opus grows
Into a cake. The dirt has its own stomach. Toothpicks
Return us to crickets. Where our ears mirror
The appearance of sound in a dead man’s name

Friday, May 11, 2012

Language With A Glaze

Alpha Donut: the Selected Shorter Works by Matvei Yankelevich
United Artists Books, 2012

“In total amusement of what we call / a poem,” writes Matvei Yankelevich, “… the real thing is not visible, just the controlling apparatus.”
So what is the “real thing?” I cannot get the image of a donut hole out of my head. Is it the hole of the doughnut that is real? Is Nothingness the basis of all reality?
It is safe to assume the controlling apparatus is language. It is probably not a lawn mower.

But you never know.
Alpha Donut is a pleasurable read. Yankelevich excels at the deceptively simple, the casual, off-hand sentence that carries a potent charge. The writing is, in fact, quite precise. Its strict attention to economy of statement is masked by a congenial sense of the comic. There is much of the same drollery I find in Ron Padgett, such as the line “Hop hop hop / goes the busy noun / following its chosen subject / around like an angry bee, but more /  like a frightened rabbit.”

Yankelevich writes, also, with the same unconstrained candor as Joe Brainard, and it is evident he has been strongly influenced by the New York School of Poets. His poetry is observational, detailing the everyday, and rampant and all-inclusive, taking in experience and walking it around like a Lippizanner stallion at Madison Square Garden. He enjoys constructing sentences. He enjoys assembling words and making them do odd tricks. “You can go backwards and forwards / with wheels made of water.” “Buster Keaton puts on a poker face and leaps / into oncoming traffic.” “I’m amusing myself with / things like paper, and how it can be / used for this or that.”
It is evident that one of Yankelevich’s chief fascinations is writing itself. Writing as process, writing as representation, writing as dull pain and lofty ideas and signage and frozen conversation. Writing as a theater of the absurd. Writing as a monument in the desert, surrounded by silence. Writing as a vibration between presence and absence. A presence which conceals an absence and an absence which is never quite fully present, chiseled out of air via tongue and ink.
This is a theme he shares with Mallarmé, who evinced a crisis at the core of his work having to do with nothingness, a view of reality as a perpetually unstable, constantly changing continuum hovering between being and non-being. “The more [Mallarmé] had studied individual words,” writes Gordan Millan in his biography of Mallarmé, “repeating them out loud again and again to himself, the more they had gradually seemed to lose their form and meaning, until through the very act of endless repetition he had come to see then for what they essentially were, namely rhythmic vibrations in the air totally devoid of any intrinsic meaning.”
“My work is simply the writing on the page,” Yankelevich confesses. “There is no more depth. Where there is depth it gets too dark to see. Some days I feel like seeing no one. My house is empty; before it could ever be filled with happiness, it accrued emptiness. Cavernous desertion. Desert sorrow. Who even cares what the date happens to be.”
The page is the night sky in reverse: instead of brilliant white stars against a cold black void, we have black words radiating meaning and image against the white of the page.
Which brings me back to the donut. The donut is the perfect image of this. Round, with a hole at the center, full of sugar and insinuation.
The donut is a central resonator which is willed into existence to mark the equivalence of things. The fictive role of language is made obvious by the fragility or arbitrariness of the subject. When the mind is disburdened of calculation, its voyage becomes all that much wider. It is little wonder that the seductions of the unknown are greater than those of the known.
“The wilderness is just another world,” reads the first line of the last stanza of “Twilight Series.”
Forests march through my hair at night.
I wake up with pine needles in my teeth.
I’m a nightwatchman, I was hired by the house.
I am going to shoot those squirrels
the ones that ate my rosebuds
before they got a chance.
Take care,
Take care,
It’s on automatic!

Loss of control is one of the charms of entering into language, even if only in conversation, much less the creation of a literary broadloom. It is, indeed, on automatic. But it still requires tinkering and fuel. The fusion between will and destiny, assembly and experience, is inherently embryonic. The musician can’t make music without sound or instrument. The poet can’t make donuts or blowholes without nouns and diffraction. The bending of waves. The construction of space.

“A little turn of a mysterious screw modifies the microscope of consciousness,” wrote Paul Valéry, “increases the magnification of our attention by its duration, suffices to show us our inner perplexity.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Life As A Series Of Houses (1968-2012)

In 1968 I moved to Arcata, California, and stayed with a friend until I found a trailer for rent in back of a Mexican restaurant. An old Italian man named Rocco was renting it. He was a tiny fellow with a welder’s cap and a drop of snot on the end of his nose that never seemed to fully drop but hang there in mucilaginous defiance. I liked the trailer. It was tiny but quiet. My only neighbors, except for the restaurant, were a herd of cows. I lived there happily for two weeks feasting on William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw until one day the water disappeared. I walked to the water department to see what the deal was and they told me the old man had tapped illegally into the restaurant. I told them I was living there. They shrugged their shoulders. They didn’t give a shit. Rocco broke the law. You’re out of luck kid. Plain and simple.

I found a room at the Arcata Hotel. It had a tiny sink and a comfortable bed and a desk. I had to share the bathroom, which was down the hall, but I didn’t mind that. I kind of liked walking through the hall wrapped in a towel. The manager was kind and his nine year old son lent me his comic book collection when I came down with the flu.

While visiting friends in San José in the summer of ‘69 I got romantically involved with a young woman named Jacqueline. My old friend David introduced us. The romance brought me back to San José on a permanent basis. We got married  at Jacqueline’s parent’s house in Saratoga. I took time off from school and got a job as a janitor in a tall black building at the Pruneyard Shopping Center.  We rented in a one-bedroom apartment in Los Gatos, which I loved. Los Gatos is a great little town in the foothills of the Santa Cruz  mountains. David, my old roommate, lived in the complex next door. He was within shouting distance. We also worked together, which saved on transportation. It felt like the Honeymooners. I could hear him arguing with his wife, and he could hear me arguing with my wife. One night when David and I went out looking to snag one of those giant wooden spools the telephone company used which made terrific albeit somewhat wobbly coffee tables we encountered a young man with long wavy hair and a waist-length beard who appeared to be higher than a kite and totally lost. We tried to help him, but he never said a word. We gave up and left him to his hallucinations.

In 1971 I went back to school at San  José State. The commute grew tedious, and expensive. We decided to move back down to the city. I hated leaving pretty Los Gatos, but we found a studio apartment in a quiet neighborhood overlooking the thickly wooded ravine that was Guadalupe Creek. This was a cool place, very cozy and green. One entire wall was glass. A group of raccoons came up every night to eat the dog food  we put out for them in large tin bowls. Sometimes I’d be sitting at my desk and feel something watching me. I’d look down and see a raccoon, his hands against the glass, his eyes riveted on me. They seemed pretty friendly, but once, when I moved to pet a raccoon on the head, the animal snarled and bared his teeth. I remember how much that surprised me. Naïve, I know, I know.

In May, 1972, Jackie and I went to Europe and when we returned David’s arm was in a cast. He’d hit the wall in an argument with his wife. He was now on his own. I found myself divorced a few months later. I found a small yellow house on Balbach Street within walking distance of San José State. There was a paint and body shop on the street and a porn theater where Deep Throat played for three consecutive months. Yet, what I remember most about that place, is the Middle Ages. I was taking a class in Middle English. I loved Middle English. I loved Chaucer and the Pearl Poet and Sir Thomas Malory. I hung Breughel prints on the walls of peasants skating and sleeping and making merry in the village square and burned candles and listened a lot to the Pentangles and Fairport Convention. I can’t remember what made me decide to move from that place. That whole part of my life is very hazy. I just remember the soft golden glow of the candle and peasants sitting at big long tables eating and playing music.

In 1973 I lived in a studio apartment for a short while just before I graduated. I dated a woman who pierced my ear and another woman I met in a James Joyce class who dumped me because I had no future. I moved in with a coke dealer in the Santa Cruz mountains. His house was enormous and very modern and beautiful. I took a liking to him. He was scary smart and self-determining and affable. He lived across the street from a very close friend where I’d been spending a lot of time hanging out, talking poetry, drinking wine, and carving wood. The dealer, a former electrical engineer, rented a room to me because he’d been busted and needed the money for his legal expenses. The surroundings were gorgeous, a thick forest of redwood and oak and Pacific madrone, but the dealer liked to stay up late night remodeling, running power tools and arguing with attorneys while his girlfriend clocked endless hours at playing pool. The pool table was right below my room. Click. Click click. Click click click. Click click click clickety click. One night just as I dozed off I was awakened by a circular saw going right next to my head. The coke dealer was working on his deck. His hair was biblically long and he wore a pair of goggles as he worked on his patio utterly oblivious to my presence just a few feet away. It wasn’t long after that that I moved. He was a little suspicious of me since I always turned him down when he offered me a line of coke. I was still a little skittish after my catastrophe on acid. I just drank a lot. He was not terribly sorry to see me go.

In 1975 I moved back to Seattle. I found a spacious studio apartment on 15th Street on Capitol Hill with a huge kitchen and a fireplace. I got a job folding and dispensing towels at University Hospital. I only worked sixteen hours a week. And yet I could afford the studio and have enough left over after groceries and bills for a Guinness at the local watering hole which was called The Canterbury. The studio, which I rented from an Austrian chef, was $125 a month. There was a used bookstore a couple of blocks down the street where I discovered Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan. I stopped writing ballads and began writing poetry à la Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan. I lived inSeattle but imagined myself living in Manhattan on the lower east side.

In 1977 I got a job in the mailroom for the University of Washington which lasted nineteen years. I also got married again.That lasted about nine years. We lived in two apartments, one on Capitol Hill where we had a peeping tom problem with a local sixteen year old boy, another in Wallingford where I almost got arrested while checking the door as I was leaving for work and did not have the correct address on my driver’s license, and rented a small white house in Lake City (where Gary Snyder grew up when Lake City was mostly pig farms), before we bought a house for $69.000 dollars on a nearby street. This was a great little house. It had three bedrooms, one of which I used as a study, but the marriage was tenuous. When it ended, in 1986, I found  myself back on Capitol Hill living in a studio apartment, somewhat dazed and suffering heavily from depression. In 1988 I began to feel better and met a piano tuner. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment  on Roy Street which had a spectacular view of Lake Union. But then that relationship ended and I moved to a one-bedroom on Belmont where I once again assumed a hermetic life style. I quit drinking and began attending AA meetings. 

I really began to enjoy the single life. There was a brief fling with The Girlfriend From Hell in 1990, but apart from that, I looked forward to a life of hermetic tranquility. I was totally fine living alone. I liked living alone. The meetings were going well. I quit smoking. I began running long distances. I had several years of sobriety. I completed my first half-marathon in 1993. Things were stabilizing. A way of life was developing. And then it all changed again.

A young poet named Tom Hunley nominated me for a poetry competition where I met a pretty young poet named Roberta. I was instantly smitten. We both won the poetry competition and began to date. Our first date was a ferry trip to Bremerton and back. We got married on a warm sunny February afternoon in 1993 in the penthouse suite of the Sorrento Hotel. Nineteen  years down the proverbial road I am happy to report we are still happily married and living in a one-bedroom apartment on Queen Anne Hill, not far from the apartment where, as a fourteen year old kid in 1961, I listened to Lonnie Donegan and His Skiffle Group sing Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Over Night. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Life As A Series Of Houses (1950-1968)

The first house I that remember living in was in Golden Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. It was small, but it had a basement, and two bedrooms. My brother and I shared a room. We slept in a bunk. I took the upper bunk. I remember looking out from the window in the living room and watching steam locomotives go by the swamp where I played a lot with my friends. The swamp was full of reeds, which fascinated me. I liked the way they smelled and rustled, and their sword-like shapes, and the ease with which you could build shelters with them. The house in Golden Valley is where I first saw Elvis Presley on television, and Wuthering Heights, with Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon in the lead roles, which made a huge impression on me. I had a crush on a girl in my third grade class named Kathy. I imagined myself in the role of Heathcliff. Kathy liked horses. I asked my father, who was an illustrator by trade, to teach me how to draw horses. I drew horse after horse after horse. And gave them to Kathy. But that’s as far that went. Kathy did not reciprocate. I probably frightened her. I began drawing ships instead. Galleons with ballooning sails and high sterns. I loved the lines of the old ships, the stately bows, the swoop and sweep of the  ropes and spars. 

We moved from the house in Golden Valley shortly after I turned ten. I last saw the house in 2000 on a short trip to Minneapolis. The neighborhood hadn’t changed. It was exactly the same as I had remembered it. Except for the swamp, which was now thickly wooded. And the grade school I had attended was boarded up. Roberta and I parked our rental on the side of the street and got out to gaze around. A woman came out on the porch between the entry door and the garage. I was tempted to introduce myself and ask for a tour. But I was too shy. I regret that now. My father had glued some phosphorescent stars to the ceiling of our bedroom. They would shine as soon as the light went out. I wondered if they were still there.

We moved to a house in Fridley, high on a wooded bank overlooking the Mississippi. My father installed plastic tubing in the concrete floor of the basement so that the floor was always warm. I thought that was ingenious. I played a lot by the river. The carp fascinated me. On warm sunny days they would move into the shallows by the shore and languish there in some sort of stupor. There were also a lot of frogs and snakes and snapping turtles. The turtles liked to get up on rocks and sun themselves. I made friends with a girl named Valerie. We went off into the reeds once and showed one another our private parts. Sexuality was quietly, subtly emerging. I could feel it, but had no way to describe what I was experiencing, and no adult had explained its mysteries as yet. I do remember how good I felt when Valerie sat on my lap.

Shortly after I turned 12 in 1959 my father got a job as an illustrator at Boeing and we moved to Seattle. We lived in an L-shaped house in Bellevue, but I have no feeling for that house. It’s as if we never actually lived there. My parents got divorced that year and that probably had a lot to do with that. My mother moved us out of the Bellevue house and for the next few years we lived in a lot of different places. The chronology is scrambled. I think the first place was a large, two-bedroom apartment on the steep slope of Queen Anne Avenue North that my mother found after finding a secretarial job in downtown Seattle. While the custody battle raged, my brother and I lived with our mother. I attended ninth grade at Queen Anne High School and watched the Space Needle get built from my drafting class on the third floor. The teacher, a wiry little man in a constant state of anxiety, was a crab. Never happy with my screwdrivers. Always finding fault with everything I drew. He gave me no encouragement. Same with the Latin teacher, an enormous harridan in late middle-age with absolutely no sense of humor, or warmth or patience or tolerance. I think she hated teaching. Or loved Latin and teaching Latin and hated any student for not learning or respecting it properly. Latin did not appeal to me. I did not like the way it sounded. All the words sounded like the names of diseases or tedious legalities. No wonder they called it a dead language. I cannot remember what motivated me to take the class. The high school has since become a condo building and I see it every day. I live but a few blocks away and pass it on one of my favorite running courses. I frequently wonder who might be living in my old Latin class, which was on the lower level, wrapped in old stone.

A few months later my mother married a commercial photographer named Carl and we lived in a large house in Tacoma that had a stucco exterior and a balcony that looked like it was a cheesy prop from Romeo and Juliet. Eventually, we found ourselves living in a two bedroom apartment. I have a vivid memory of reading Kon Tiki in that bedroom.

Meanwhile, my father found digs in a cottage by Lake Burien. This place was remarkable for the huge windmill on the property, which you passed in the driveway, a lengthy dirt road, and the fishing net pinned to the ceiling, full of glass fishing balls from Japan. The folk movement was getting big and I remember listening to a lot of Kingston Trio. I liked the vigor of the Kingston Trio, especially the humorous and somewhat macabre song about the man that gets trapped for life under the streets of Boston on the M.T.A. because of a sudden fare increase. My brother and I didn’t actually live there, we only spent weekends, but I felt a connection with that house. It was the kind of house I would have loved living in had I been a bachelor. A highpoint to one of our visits came in the form of a box-kite my dad put together. He was inordinately excited by the aeronautical properties of this unorthodox form of kite. And it did go high. One afternoon  a sedan with two men appeared, officials from  Sea-Tac airport. The kite was in the flight path of the jets. We hadn’t seen any jets, but had to assume their concern was serious. They issued their warning with the gravity of F.B.I. men. Hell, they may have been F.B.I.

My dad wasn’t there long. He married a coworker named Georgia who had four children, two of them young adults who no longer lived at home. My dad got custody and my brother and I went to live with him and his new family in a two-level stucco house in Seattle’s Ravenna district. I never felt connected with that house, although a lot of important developments in my life took place there. That’s where I lived when the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Animals all appeared. I turned fifteen and life changed radically. I discovered alcohol, which I loved, and began smoking cigarettes. I read Aldous Huxley and developed a keen interest in hallucinogenic drugs.

I shared an upstairs room with my stepbrother Mike for a short time. I liked Mike, who was a grade ahead of me in school and very handsome and mature for his age. At age sixteen he looked twenty-four or twenty-five and got into bars easily. Getting alcohol was never a problem. Mike was one of the coolest people in school, one of the coolest people I had ever met, witty, cynical, shrewd. But I never felt at ease around him. I was slow to develop. Mike had a five o’clock shadow at three in the afternoon. I had no reason to shave at all until I turned eighteen, and discovered sufficient fuzz to squirt some lather on my face and scrape it with a razor. More importantly, I could not attain the level of Mike’s success with the ladies, or his popularity, or general hedonistic cool. He was like a blend of Elvis Presley and Hugh Hefner. He made me feel horribly inadequate. A hopeless geek.  There were no Beatles, as yet, to provide an alternate model of cool for misfits like me. I wasn’t gay, I liked girls, but I could tell there was something in me that did not conform to the usual model of the American male at the time.

It was while living in the Ravenna house that I learned to drive, went on my first date (a rock concert that included Dick and DeeDee on the bill), and bought a small motorcycle, a Zundap. It only had a little 125 cc engine, but it got me around, mainly over the hill to Winderemere, a posh neighborhood by Lake Washington where I hung out with a group of wild kids that enjoyed partying and the new music coming out of the radio, House of the Rising Sun, You Really Got Me, Can’t Buy Me Love, She’s Not There, It’s All Over Now. Fantastic stuff.

My dad and Georgia decided to move to the south of Seattle, to an upper class neighborhood called Normandy Park. This was a large house, five bedrooms and a spacious basement. I would come to spend many years there, off and on, and think of it as a true family home.

My mother, meanwhile, had moved to the Bay Area in California. Hurray for me. I couldn’t wait to get to California. San Francisco had become the unofficial mecca for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, and to my mind it was enmeshed with everything wonderful and exciting in life. My mother was extremely rigid about such things and her view of modern culture and politics was harsh and narrow. I think she may well have guessed my real enthusiasm for coming to visit her in the summer of 1965. I think it was her husband Carl, who had left photography and begun selling used cars, that persuaded her to go to the Bay Area. It was definitely not her milieu. There tensions between my mother and I that sometimes took palpable form, such as the day she coerced me into visiting the Navy recruiting center. I had no desire to join the Navy, but went to appease her, and nodded politely while the guy at the recruiting center told me about all the advantages of being in the Navy. He did not mention Vietnam. A car wash job my mother and Carl pushed me into had equally dismal results. I did it four or five days to keep her off my back, but I hated the job. It was mind-numbingly dull, and offered no future whatever, although, admittedly, I had no ambitions at the time. Outside of taking hallucinogenic drugs, that is. In retrospect, I can see what my true ambition was. I wanted to become a shaman. I wanted to explore other worlds, new vistas of perception, the invisible realms that surrounded us, find the extraordinary in the ordinary and put it into words. I wanted to bring rock ‘n roll  into poetry, the way Bob Dylan had. Could that be a job? How much did shamans make? Somehow, California seemed like the best of all possible places to pursue shamanistic activities.

And there were models: Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Michael McClure. They weren’t exactly shamans, they were poets, but they definitely weren’t safe, orthodox members of the canon like Robert Frost or Allen Tate. They were wild denim-angels, colorful outsiders, and  made it possible for me to envision what I wanted to be. And they seemed to gravitate to San Francisco.

But I did not make it to California right away. I took a detour. On New Year’s Eve, 1965, after spending six months working as a factotum in a White Center funeral home, I got beat up at a party. The beating left me with an acute feeling of low self-esteem. My grandparents had offered a $500 bond if I went to college in Grand Forks, North Dakota, so I boarded a train and headed to the plains in the dead of winter. I remember large, taciturn men wearing astrakhan hats as we approached Minot and I got off to smoke a cigarette in subzero temperatures.

I made friends with a dorm mate named Sern Kjelberg. When the semester ended, he and I drove out to the west coast together in his black ’55 Chevrolet sedan.  We stopped to visit the farm where he grew up in Stanley. It was a farm similar to the farm on which my father grew up. Water drawn into the kitchen by a water pump. Outhouse. Windmill creaking. Smell of sage. Magpies on old weathered fence posts. The melancholy sound of the whip-poor-will.

Sern and I spent a few weeks in Seattle than headed down to San José. We found a small, one-bedroom apartment close to San José City College which we shared with another roommate, a tall, quiet young man from Corpus Cristi, Texas, named Jerry. Jerry was the first of us to drop acid. I was immensely jealous. We smoked marijuana together, but I never liked marijuana. It made me feel claustrophobic, as if I were underwater. Everything seemed muzzy, skittish, and solipsistic. And I didn’t like the paranoia. The most ordinary statement could seem freighted with nefarious meaning. I liked amphetamines, Benzadrine and Dexadrine. They made me alert and euphoric. I bought Benzadrine inhalers and cut the inner cotton cylinder, which was soaked in Benzadrine, into three or four sections, which I then swallowed. There wasn’t much to say about the apartment. It was dingy, had a cold linoleum floor, a kitchen too tiny to actually make a meal, and no view whatever. We did nothing to decorate or furnish it, outside of the mattresses we slept on. Someone contributed a record player and I remember many nights lighting a candle and listening to the Beatle’s Rubber Soul of Donovan’s Fairytale or Another Side Of Bob Dylan. I also liked The Fugs and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.

I finally got hold of some acid, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and took it seven times afterwards, all within a period of about six months. The last time was horrible. The acid was extraordinarily powerful. I felt ghostly, disembodied, a cloud of atoms, nothing more. The panic was unendurable. I ended up having my buddies take me  to my mother’s (a wrong move) in order to have someone register me into the hospital. She was naturally freaked out. The bill for the emergency room and Thorazn went to my dad, who refused to pay it. My mother ended up paying it. I felt bad about that. But I was beset by far too much anxiety to worry about it. I felt like my life, such as I had known it, was over.

I returned to Seattle. Didn’t even take the time to drop out of school. A friend, and English professor named Richard Christian, kindly took over the paperwork and got me officially unregistered for that semester. Otherwise, I imagine I would have gotten straight Fs.

I stayed with my dad in Normandy Park. I couldn’t stand my stepmother, a harsh, bitter, constantly carping woman who made no attempt to hide her favoritism toward her own kids, and she hated me. She had an uncanny facility for sowing dissension.The atmosphere was tense. But the house had a basement where I could take refuge, and smoke. My dad smoked a pipe so smoking in the basement was permitted. My father also liked woodworking and painting so the basement always smelled of lacquer and varnish and paint thinner. I had frequent headaches from it. Another reason I decided to become a writer rather than an artist.

I worked at Boeing. I got a job in a plant near the Duwamish scraping excess metal from little plane parts. I think they were mostly ashtrays. The job lasted until June. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I quit, and took off for California again.

I stayed with a friend’s family in Santa Clara for several months, then my professor friend Richard Christian found me a berth on a bus somewhere out in the hinterlands of San José. I paid $10 bucks a month to an eccentric pot dealer for the use of a bed. There were three other guys on the bus. The landlord  (or buslord) let us use the kitchen and bathroom in the house he shared with his wife. I rode into San José City College with the other guys, who were also taking classes there. I remember frigid autumn mornings walking back and forth between the house and the bus with a toothbrush and a towel. Then, one morning, utterly without warning, a note was posted on the door of the house telling us to get vacate the bus, and get off the property. To this day I don’t know what the hell caused that. Either did the other guys.

We found a house to share in Willow Glen, a pretty neighborhood near downtown San Jose’. It was around this time a girl I was dating introduced me to her friend David Springmeyer, who was attending San José City College and looking for a roommate. I got together with David and his girlfriend and we went to a pizza place and ate pizza and drank beer. We drank a lot of beer. I realized how much I missed and enjoyed alcohol. David and I shared an apartment for a little over a year very close to San José City College, an easy walk past orchards and a soccer field that always seemed full of drunken starlings. He and I shared very similar tastes in music, such as The Doors and Steppenwolf and Traffic, and he introduced me to some artists I might not otherwise have appreciated without his enthusiasm, such as Taj Mahal and Laura Nero.

The apartment was small, only one bedroom, which David kindly let me have, along with the top mattress to his bed. He slept on the bottom mattress. He also gave me a card table to use as a desk. I still remember it. It wobbled, like all card tables do, but supported my manual Royal typewriter and ever-present copy of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Illuminations, I believe, would remain my true home in the coming decades. If it is possible to find a home in one’s own skull, a mental habitation, a sanctum sanctorum of the mind, then Rimbaud’s spectacular prose poetry was that place. Whenever I opened its pages and my eyes began to absorb his words, I felt at home. I felt like I had a place in the universe. A destiny. A structure. An energy I could inhabit.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Strolling Is Trolling

This is an exercise based on Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” prompt. I used the same subject/predicate structure, but wondered what might ensue if I used different verbs. I chose verbs at random and took it from there, using the verb to produce a reflection, generally something personal. The first verb was ‘stir.’ The final verb was ‘inspire.’

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I like stirring sugar into my tea. I use a chopstick. The restaurant where we usually go for Chinese food never provides spoons. But they do offer chopsticks. I use the chopstick. It doesn’t do the job as effectively as a spoon, but it works. The sugar dissolves into the tea instead of lying on the bottom.

Whenever I hear the word ‘tumble,’ I think of the Beatles. I had a tumbling class in high school in 1963, when the Beatles were first heard on U.S. radio. We used to mock them. Their sound was so girlish and effervescent. The Beatles committed the cardinal sin of rock ‘n roll: they were cheerful. There is simply no such thing as cheerful rock ‘n roll. But I could be wrong. I was wrong. It wasn’t much longer that I fully embraced the Beatles. But by then they had come out with Rubber Soul and had ceased sounding so cheerful. In fact, a lot of their songs were tinged with malaise. Nowhere Man. Norwegian Wood. Help.

That scene of Tom Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai is enthralling.

Who doesn’t love splashing water? Several days ago, when Roberta and I were out running on the asphalt paved path at Myrtle Edwards Park on the shore of Elliott Bay, it was extremely windy. Waves were being buffeted against the rocks and a flock of seagulls hovered over them in a state of evident excitement. I assumed there must be a school of smelt or salmon beneath the waves. We stopped to watch them and noticed the heads of a number of seals emerge and disappear. The sound of the water is lovely. So quiet. It contrasted wonderfully with the screech of the seagulls, which sounded like insane laughter.

I have never once greased a wheel or an axle in my life. I am simply not given to mechanical things. I chose writing as a profession because it’s relatively clean.

I have never stolen anything from anyone, although I could confess to time theft. There have been many occasions in the past when I shirked work at a job, hung out in a basement reading a book or enjoyed a long, vigorous conversation with a fellow employee instead of doing some actual work.

I have huge respect for fellow poets. There are so few rewards when it comes to writing poetry. People generally regard you as a fool. Though as anyone who has attempted to write a poem knows, it’s hard. It’s really hard to write a good poem. One of those poems that hits the brain like a line of Merck cocaine. Ignites a firework display in your neurons. That’s a lot easier to do with an electric guitar and a good drummer than a handful of words, let me tell you.

I dislike bending over to pick something up. I have to do a lot of bending when I visit Suzzallo library at the University of Washington because in order to pay the guard at the underground parking lot I have to open the door of our Subaru so that I can lean out far enough to get my hand into my back pocket to pull out my wallet. This process must be repeated when I put my wallet back into my back pocket. That constitutes a lot of bending for me.

Hanging from anything is fun. Unless you’re hanging from a rope all night on the side of a cliff. Though I suppose the rigors of the sport would be fun for you in a deeper sense. The thrill of imminent death. The adversities of the weather. The novelty of your position.

There are so many needs in life: food, shelter, sex, companionship. I frequently wonder if art is a need. I know a lot of people who would instantly and vigorously argue yes, of course, art is a need. It’s a spiritual need. It is the need for transcendence. But I’m not so sure. One of the things I like best about art is that it’s not needed. It’s superfluous. It really doesn’t serve any purpose. That appeals to me because, deep down, I’m pissed off at the whole set up. And art is seditious. It says, fuck you forces that be. Fuck you forces that brought me into this life. I’m going to enjoy something that has nothing whatever to do with my survival. Something that is simply exciting. Sensual. Uplifting in a goofy, inexplicable way.

The word ‘progress’ doesn’t do much for me. Either as a noun or a verb. I prefer to say move rather than say progress. I don’t say: I’m  progressing to the store to get some crackers. I say I’m going to the store to get some crackers. Progress has a clunky feeling because of all those dry, textbook articles about so-called human progress. Human progress is destroying the planet.

I love strolling. Just aimlessly ambling along. Looking at things in a detached but absorbed kind of way. Taking the world in at my leisure. Strolling is trolling for abalones of pure amusement.

How often do I feel the need to clutch something? I don’t remember that last time I clutched something. Did I clutch my mug of coffee this morning? I’m not sure that’s clutching. Not clutching in the proper sense of clutching. I held it carefully but not firmly. Firm enough to keep it in my hand, but not so firm that I could say I was clutching it. I’ve never, for instance, clutched a gun. If I had need of a gun, if I was in that sort of situation, I would definitely be clutching it.

I’ve never punched anyone. I’ve been punched, but never even punched back. I blame movies for this. I have the fear that if I ever punched anyone, they would fall and hit their head on a rock or andiron and  die. Then I’d be up for murder. One minute you’re pissed, then next you’re on trial. For fucking murder.

I do a lot of sifting, but this is not the sifting of a gold miner . This is the sifting of research and writing. Sifting details. Sifting words.

I’m fascinated by heat, the way it quickens things, makes them sizzle and bounce, turn brown or black, makes them churn or bubble, boil or simmer. And yet I am not really into cooking. I guess I could be. But I’m not. Couldn’t say why. I’m just not into it.

I am insufficiently inspired. What inspires me is the desire to get high. Stimulated. My mood altered. Euphoria. Buoyancy. Thrills. This is what makes me want to write. Put words by words and see what happens. It’s a great kind of chemistry. The explosions are intellectual. No hands are burned, no glasses broken. Yet control is illusory. There is no actual control. And that’s what makes it so wonderful. You never know what’s going to happen. You don’t even know what’s possible. Or impossible. All the perturbations are glorious.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry As A Form Of Existential Filibuster

My face is in labor it’s giving birth to a nose
And a washcloth which reminds me it’s time to write a poem
In praise of memory and return the ankle
I borrowed from someone last night in Costa Rica
Which is odd since I’ve never been to Costa Rica
As for memory let us say it is a giraffe
With its head above the clouds and glistening from the rain
There is a chromosomal syntax that remembers how
To create living beings inflammations of words
The color of desire. I live in a zip code
So full of pathos that even the boat propellers weep
With oil and a huge blue star emerges on the horizon
Soaked in quicksilver blisters. Words soaked in meaning
Engender caterwauls of humid light. Sometimes I can feel the air
Has the ability to decipher itself as a form of glass
Tarantula tapdancing on a thin blue line
Of turmoil. The mind of a ghost can pull a thought
Through the breath of a clarinet and come back out
As a particle of meaning wounded by quiet. One day I hope
To understand reality with the same level of intimacy
As the interrelatedness of all living things. The way a vase
Sits on a table paying attention to itself
Is truly remarkable. I can distill a parable
Or two out of this rhythm right away
And have it delivered on your doorstep tomorrow
By two o’clock, which is my favorite hour
Of day. Meanwhile I need to talk to the tailor
About his appendix. The fusion of electrons
Inside the scrotum of a bank manager
Create red giants of wallpaper that are scandalously
Similar to the curtains in a New Hamphsire motel
Off Highway 89. No one knows why. But this is the
Generosity of art. It shows the world
At one with itself, even when performing its magic
In the scrotum of a bank manager. Many philosophers
Postulate a plurality of modes of being. It would be
Quite misleading to give the impression that
All of those philosophers who thought minds
And their activities have something to do
With the existence of works of art
Also thought that this means that works of art
Were somehow less real than, say, moonlight. Idealists
Invert this hierarchy. Reality is built with teacups.  
This is why creative expression takes place in a cosmochemical
Igloo called Divertimento, and is tied to the laws of poesy.
I want to inhabit your chemicals. Because it amuses me
To do so and I feel circumstances in my legs
That sometimes cause me to dance. I have a warm eye
And a red rag, and with these things I will start a plywood garden
And bear the armada of my lips to you. There is the thinness of
To consider, and large azaleas consommate as paper
Creating a paradise of curbs and kayaks. The mountains
Are bigger than your laundry. You must study walking
In the underworld. Colors are notoriously unreliable
But you can always catch an elevator
In which to sing a Steve Winwood song
Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune something
To make us all happy. If a sound is working then it must
Flare into garlic and bring us hope and curlicues.
The splended blue talents of the yucca
Might be considered to be a poem
And it is grand to do so. This is me
Kissing your jewelry. I am assuming that your avocado
Fits my eyes. My face is unanimous in its arteries
And hre comes my nose guided by an earthquake
If only to smell your pantry and come to fruition
In an old house in Texas thermodynamic as dirt.
Poetry is sometimes so blatantly autonomous
It will never win a prize. The fetus sweats
Among its doorknobs, and when the arcades of the chest open
The delirium is enough to sustain a belief in tenderness.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Xanadu Redux

To say that there is a possible world in which Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in Nether Stowey and wrote some of his principle works is to say that our actual worlds are such that it could have happened that he did. The laws of nature that once obtained in Nether Stowey are the same laws of nature that obtain in Seattle. There are, of course, significant differences. But these are social and cultural differences, not differences pertaining to universal physical laws such as gravity or retail.  

If thinking in general is to be understood in terms of possible worlds and grapefruit, then it makes sense to decorate our rooms with pictures and decorate our minds with surf and sand. Or whatever else may make itself available to our perceptions. The crackle of a fire on the beach, the sizzle of burned marshmallows or hot dog meat. One finds the ego totally absorbed in the work, an aura of vigorous decadence.The explosion of a marshmallow that has received too much heat.

Do you feel it, though? A profound dissatisfaction at the core of this? It is plain that reflective consciousness goes far beyond this curious and limited subject-matter. We can think of impossibilities. I can imagine a pocket full of Tuinol, or Valium, or gumdrops. I can imagine the anatomy of an angel. I can feel the muscle and skin and the feathers of the wings. The skin feels soft, like silk. The muscle is deep and apparent. The feathers are prayers.

I can have thoughts that go beyond Seattle. Possible worlds can be real as mushrooms. Impossible worlds can answer needs that we can barely articulate.

Thinking, in a general sense, is the meat of propositions. We perceive, we feel, we propose. The proposals are, in some sense, the chemistry of the street, the feeling of the pavement beneath our feet, the great round world coming out of our throats in the form of words. Concepts and propositions. Chitchat and postulation. Judgments and canoes. Opinions and derisions. Fecundations and  Xanadus. Exemptions and conferrals. Predictions and conceits.

And wonderful sorrow. If you’re going to think, think about boxing. Don’t pull punches. It’s one thing to get hit down. It’s another to get back up.

Life hurts. Love hurts. Shit in general hurts.

Poetry is just the outer crust of an inner prodigality. It has nothing causally to do with, say, Metro tickets. Abstract objects are not swimming pools. They are not things in space and time. They’re more like the glimmer of light in a swimming pool.

So much for the bare idea. Can we get a better view of things by marrying Queen Elizabeth? And which Queen Elizabeth?

If we try to conceive of a suitable relation between abstract thinking and the neural processes, we discover a poetry of bright things, blossoms and Studebakers, and conversations among birds.
Neuroscience is not an a priori discipline. Coleridge, I feel, is a radical absence. We all belong in Xanadu. Xanadu is curiously obtainable. But at a price. You probably won’t be able to hold a job at Boeing or Microsoft. I say this as a warning to you potential Coleridges out there in poetry land. When you get into the a priori, you’re getting into some pretty potent stew. And I don’t mean Mulligan.

It is not just that we need a new sort of relationship between thought and neural process for the purpose of escaping Boeing or Microsoft. We must learn to grasp our reflections and shake them into music. I think of how personal relations become fire. People dancing hard and hungry in dance clubs, thrilling caresses, hypothetical empires, stellar Parisian ceilings squirting hatchets of peppermint amnesia.

To talk of someone thinking with her eyes closed as being in a world of thought calls a realm of imagery into our minds that harnesses the intellect to a narrative muscularity. Impulses become conquests. Ecstasies become inquiries. Lips create contraptions of seductive ache and singularity.

A representation can make you smile, or peremptorily order a pizza. I don’t know what to say about track-and-field. A doctrine can either make you giddy or unbecoming. These are the instances of the written or spoken words that litter our lives and make us crazy with feelings. Texts are processes rather than products, mind you. 

There is a kind of winter in our breath when we manufacture lies, but there comes a summer when we can no longer help ourselves, when the impulse to speak is too strong, too giddy, too wild, and abstractions assume a physical presence. It is then that we must learn how to structure our thoughts according to a blueprint formulated in our sleep.

Mold rivets out of dreams. Drink the milk of paradise.