Monday, May 25, 2015

Green Again

The world is green again. Everywhere the vigor of green roars a universe of limbs and leaves hungry for the golden light of May and fair weather. Ants spill out of the sidewalks. Oars lift and plunge, lift and plunge, lift and plunge. The skin opens to the heat of the sun. I am no less inept, but there is grace within, and philosophies of fluidity in the movements of the air. I hold a mound of lather in the cup of my hand and believe it’s the weight of a moment, a dent in time.
I’m attracted, quite naturally, by levers, buttons, zippers, handles and knobs. Doorknobs especially. I like to open and close things. The illusion, however theatrical, is one of control. All the inventions of the Renaissance  -  printing press, telescope, gunpowder  -  appear to be at my disposal. I own none, yet they exist, tangible and possible, objects with intent. I, meanwhile, have no intent. What I do have are words, folds of air, objects molded in my mouth, shaped by lips and tongue, sauerkraut, trinkets, molecules. Intention? I intend ink.
Thought lives by expedient. Words and metaphors. It is by such apparatus that the tissue of thought is woven. Time and sensation are converted to gabardine. Swansdown, taffeta, jersey. Fustian, felt, and mohair.
Right now I’m wearing a wooden hat and a Platonic Idea.
Because the world is green again and metaphors grow on trees, fresh for the plucking. I would prefer it if it were money, but who expects money to grow on trees, apart from me? If money were metaphorical would it still carry value? But isn’t value itself metaphorical?
No one stands alone. Each identity is an amalgam of history, geography, and choice. Nothing is set in cement. The imagination is a saclike body located at points of friction between moving structures. After each mutation it returns to its original state, the bright orange-brown color in the pigment cells of its skin flashing, dying out, and re-appearing in another place, like sparks in tinder. When placed on a sheet of paper it becomes pallid and colorless, but as a finger moves over its pearly whiteness, it pulsates slowly, in such a way that new adjectives will have to be coined to adequately describe the variation in color, and a camera obscura for the cliff swallows.
Being is a defect in the purity of Non-Being. One can choose to wear such and such a thing, say such and such a thing, do such and such a thing, inhabit a place or idea, but the sole true reality eludes detection. We know it’s there, must be there, but what is it? It’s there in the varying temperatures and appearances of the air, a thing adrift in the thousand fragrances of the air, the presence of an absence, the ephemeral membrane of a gnat-wing, an invisible power (to borrow Shelley’s phrase) visiting this various world as summer winds that creep from flower to flower.
Mutation, atom, thorn. The prick of the real. Pointless, but practical. At least when it comes to occupying a world, straying out of its corners to say hello, look for food, a place to rest and sleep. The clouds above in their constant boiling, never a complete image, a form that thunders here I am, a scorpion, a dragon of heat lightning, the electrical charge of a celestial fusion. We below, morose, forgotten, helping one another to warmth, parcels of splendor, the carpentry of words. The drive of a nail in the fragrance of pine.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quasimodo Go-Go

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Walks among these words
A parabola of despair
Languishes in Euclid, warm
And tense like a truth
Or bar of soap. And here I am
Humming a song of thread
To get it out of my head
I like to hang from a limb
Like an apple and rub
The dribble of juice
From my chin. Properties
Of meaning are tangible
To the mind that hatches
Out of an egg of thought
Think of it, think of an egg
And feel it as I do, round
And white and smooth
In the hand. Detail
Your life in the greenhouse
Tell me what your eyes see
On the inside of your head
Life is often sticky that way
This is why I smell like an erection
Of syntax, a fistful of consonants
And vowels walking in the bones
Of a hunchback. Swinging
Back and forth on a giant bell
Howling my love to the angels

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Moody Vapor

Vagueness becomes a motion
And fulfills my show as an artist
Beneath a river. Spirits in a bottle
A nude woman squeezing a sponge
Like the careful thread of a wobbly
Is easily exasperated by color and
Dreams tossed at punches sympathetically
In burlesque. The magician is troubled
The impersonal coils into introversion
The Chowder River brings sorrow
To walk with giants. The oysters
Live on a farm. My face emerges in a
Correspondence with Henry Miller
Dear Henry I admire your tenacity
Now look at my face and tell me
About French fries. We whirl
Through exhibitions of metamorphism
Don’t we? And then the spoons chatter
With ghosts. The unfolding of ourselves
Is intriguing. Maturity crumbles like lingcod
Deep-fried in beer batter. The denizens
     of Deadwood
In a milieu of explosive dialogue. Please
Somebody help me. What is this life
The first thing that comes to mind 
Is the sun shining down on a lake
There may be some use in having a picnic
But because it is cool in the Abalone Lounge
We might also consider Kurt Cobain
Playing his guitar in a kitchen cupboard
We all like to jump into the light
When the smell of the lumber is fresh
Pain is sometimes sexual, but is that why
The English Romantics were so fond
Of frilly cuffs and collars? When the skin
Breaks blood appears. That is all I know
And silt at the bottom of a pond

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teeming with Earrings

The afternoon lifted itself into my eyes
As the cannon thundered frogs and whales
Perception is a process involving prepositions
I’m invisible except when I twinkle
At a joke. The big blue bottle
Is excused and the crackle is flipped
Skulk the scribbles O my pretzel
A warrior yells in battle. Unless
Transacted by cantilever. There is a
Brain that enhances hope. Sometimes
A plant and a cloud will percolate
In the Louvre during an attempt
To understand life, mobility, will  
Alchemy triggers the unconscious 
There is a riddle for this and a stove
For making things boil. Attend to the clutch
Crawl through your secrets angling
     for redemption
When the painter’s canvas mouths its picture
Consciousness becomes a construction
Lightning insinuates itself into the head
While I break from the chrysalis and flap
Out of this sentence to get a better view of things
Here comes a pair of experiences
One of which is imaginary and the other
Is stored under pressure in a portable tank
Imagine it’s snowing In Belgium and sitting
     down to a bowl of string
Beans. The cutlery is consummate. The paragraph
     is hugged
By its own words. The stepladder is heavy
Because it, too, is made of words, and each word
Rides a phoneme into a set of dumbbells
This is how some of us wander through our lives
Dragging the past behind us. Tears
Fit the eager sorrow and a dream of earth
Rolls wide-eyed into Bohemia teeming with earrings

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jingled Percolation

My desk flirts with description
It expresses itself as a desk
Doesn’t vary in any way from being
A desk. It’s a desk, simple and plain
But I sense something going on
In my perception of the desk
Something imperfect in my expectation
Of the desk. I need the desk
To write on, to store things, old letters
Legal documents, tape, paper clips, ribbon
If the desk were a horse the desk
Would be a horse. How is it that I slip
So easily into the subjunctive? Can’t I
Accept the desk as a desk? Must I create
Metaphors for the desk to make it
A better desk? A metaphor doesn’t improve
A thing or change a thing it gives it potential
The power to break against the rocks
Of the imagination and personify prayer
Awakened syllables feel alive and blaze
Into idea with shapes and insistence
Consider this afternoon, its apples and
Falling out of your head. Here I am
Painting a window and attracting a crowd
The potato is behaving badly
And I’m humming a song of thread
To go with the things in my head
Meaning seeps through the words
And it’s irritating when all I get
Is whipped cream and spit. Pronouns
Hang like kelp from my brain
Fondling the heart and sparkling
Give the rags a chance. Add
Consonants and stir. The world
Is a ball of rock and aberration
Baked in jingled percolation

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Price of Success

What is success? Wrinkling and buying
Reading palms and predicting ice
I have to think about emotion
As a form of dilation. I want to know more
About yearning and interpretation
Penetrating anything is sensational
And round. The insects scatter
In a saga of unfocussed rage. Hunger
Burns to inspire a pharmaceutical
That conveys vividness and intestines
On a pretty migration to Siberia
I learn by what the plywood rubs
And crawl wherever there is warmth
To be had and death sparkles
Like a chandelier in Louisiana
Baking has a sexual component
Stitched at midnight. These events
Emerge from the steam of a long
Incubation. The mountains cough
And play becomes increasingly hermetic
But if we don’t rob the bank the bank
Will rob us. We must find other means
To stimulate art. Everything, it seems,
Is a paradigm. I blame the string
For its extraordinary presence
My reactions to Renoir keep changing
Into light and dark and Bob Dylan
On a horse. The word ‘wave’ is so divine
I hesitate to use it, but there it is, wave
Feeding wave after wave in succession
Until it all flops down on the sand
Here I am in a bathing suit
Waving to you, throwing an idea at you
Of sand and sky and malleability
In the spirit of English romanticism
Reacting to a tuft of hair

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Incognito in Tin

I wake to a shiver and sweat and authorize
Getting out of bed. I find wisdom
In feet, intestines and desire and feel
The need to say something about
The innocence of occurrence and how it
Occurs like a piece of soap, a slippery bar
Of blue sky leaning across Nebraska. We
Curve into this life as happy contrarieties 
Today I’m wearing a fabulous unseemliness
That zips up with a single swift motion
Or zips down if I want to get out into the world
Naked as a chopstick. I fill with the forms
Of life and experiment with words, swerving
Them into the slop of a sentence where
The emotions smell of rain and the asphalt
Of the heart arrives beating away in a body
Hanging upside-down in the darkness
At the break of noon shadows the silver
Spoon and I distill the gloom of the room
Whispering words like ginger and chronicle
Writing is always like this. It starts as a walk
In a house of language and ends by exploding
Into 50 bucks and a labor pain. Today I have forged
The conscience of a piano which only yesterday
Was wood and ivory and dripped abstraction
And now it sits a diagnosis of clouds
Which is the kind of music that occurs
In the sky when the wind becomes a glissando
Wiggling its fingers in the human mind
Do you feel it? I feel the percolation
Of lightning and my cuticles love it
I have a heavy fire to pack
I’m churning inside to thank you
For making me your guide
To the end of this sentence which is
Headed toward Omaha on Interstate 80


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Life in the Qi Lane

A Day Like Today, poetry by Barbara Henning
Negative Capability Press, 2015 

I felt completely at home in this book. Not all books are like that. Not all books provide a haven for the mind, a quiet place of reflection that at once feels warm and candid while maintaining a large, wide-ranging perspective of life. I don’t want to feel hugged by a book, but I do like to feel unguarded and easy, free to wander at will and allow myself the luxury of divagation, aided by the pulse of words in a fluent meander.
The poems in this collection are short, none longer than a single page, presented in neat columns whose line breaks have a pleasantly arbitrary looseness, as if they could be swept up and put into prose. But they’re not. Their construction has a subtle importance: they focus the attention lightly, gracefully, so that non-sequiturs emerge almost imperceptibly. One will be reading about an African man practicing postures preparatory to yoga meditation and then suddenly find oneself reading about “the famous feathered /  dinosaur archaeopteryx” which “seems to have had a penchant /  for fossilizing in painful / positions.” This may not be a good example of the kind of abrupt non-sequiturs lying in wait throughout this collection, but it does serve to illustrate how wide-ranging Henning’s musings can be. First the image of a man with dreadlocks flexing and opening his body to supple exercise followed by the scientific image of an ancient bird in angular disaster. The contrast is sharp yet innocent of contrivance. It seems natural, and invites the mind to further delights of contrast and comparison.
Henning describes her process in a poem titled “Family Economics.” She refers to the poet Edward Dahlberg whose “philo-analytic” mind segues easily into “the mind of his mother, / Lizzy, a lady barber / in Kansas City.” She compares Dahlberg’s fluidity of mind to a “jazz jam session, whatever / here and there, wherever / the mind goes the mind / goes, a lettuce factory / in California where robots / pack boxes beside human / workers.” The latter image seems to be the very opposite of what Henning is talking about, which largely seems to be the point of its surprise. The supple drift of a mind in reverie focused, abruptly, on a line of workers, human and robot, the horrific counterpart of reverie, is deftly apropos. Of course, were I one of those unhappy workers, you can be sure I’d be deep in daydreaming.
Henning’s poems are richly detailed, particularly with domestic items and circumstances, which make a wonderful contrast to the newspaper headlines, computers and iPads and modern technology, and whatever else phenomena happens to be out there in the cosmos which she laces in and out, intertwines, as it were, with the events in her immediate vicinity, however seemingly mundane. Nothing is left out. Nothing even seems to be favored over another but coolly, fluently, flowing through the poem-as-gestalt-mediumistic-cosmic-yoga-machine.
A resident of New York City, the imagery of Henning’s neighborhood is largely urban, traffic whooshing by her window or riding on the subway while nursing a bad cough. It is within her musings and walks within the city that we discover whatever else may be occurring in the world, be it the skin of a fresh pea, rain drops hitting the pavement, arthritic hands of an aging friend and poet, trillions of snowflakes swirling with the wind, or the tentacles of a solar-powered cell-phone charger charging up. Here, for example, is “The Way of Qi:”
Sitting on a bench behind
the Krishna tree, we talk
about how trees know how
to grow in particular directions
so to maintain balance. Three
young men and a woman play
their guitars and a trumpet.
One of them starts singing:
I keep hanging on. We search
on our cells for the songwriter.
Simply Red  -  once a young man
and ten albums later a middle-
aged guy. Under the Krishna
tree my cell rings. A friend has
cirrhosis and hepatitis and
didn’t know it. Follow your
spine with your breath, from
your tailbone to the occipital
ridge of your scull. A spacecraft
is currently speeding toward
a close encounter with Pluto,
and Dr. Stern warns, Get used to
planets unlike Earth ruling.
While writing this poem, I’m
under a cotton sheet with tiny
blue flowers and green polka dots
and the guys upstairs are softly
opening their bed. The cars rev up
mid block and then rush past us. 

It wasn’t until I typed this poem up that I noticed ‘skull’ was spelled ‘scull.’ Is that intentional, a pun on ‘skull’  (the skull as a scull, a small light racing boat) or a typo. Either way, I like it.

I had to look up the word ‘qi’ on Wikipedia. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

In traditional Chinese culture, qi (more precisely , also chi, ch’i, or ki) is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “natural energy,” “life force,” or “energy flow.” Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath,” “air,” or “gas.” Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, prana in the Hindu religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, ruah in Hebrew culture, and vital energy in Western philosophy… Elements of the qi concept can also be found in Western popular culture, for example “The Force” in Star Wars. Notions in the West of energeia, élan vital, or “vitalism” are purported to be similar. The etymological explanation for the form of the qi logogram (or chi) in the traditional form is “steam rising from rice as it cooks.” The earliest way of writing qi consisted of three wavy lines, used to represent one’s breath seen on a cold day.
And who is Dr. Stern? It sounds like somebody from a Bob Dylan song. Dr. Stern, it appears, is S. Alan Stern, an American planetary scientist and principal investigator of the New Horizon mission to Pluto and the Chief Scientist at Moon Express.
Henning is right about Simply Red (actually the name of the popular 80s English band, whose lead singer was red-headed Mick Hucknall). Mick Hucknall is now 54 years old. He’s still got his red hair, which he keeps long and wavy, but his face has all the sags and wrinkles that come with that age. I was pleasantly surprised to discover him on the Amnesty International compilation of Dylan covers on which Hucknall sings “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” which originally appeared on Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde.
I also like the way Henning plays “Krishna tree” off the usual seasonal “Christmas Tree.”
A Day Like Today is divided into five sections. All four seasons are represented as Henning travels through the year. Winter has two sections. The collection begins with winter and ends with winter.
In “Up Early Peddling,” the first poem of the book, we find Henning “peddling against / the wind, swerving around / trucks and cars unloading / beer and children.” That image serves metaphorically to register the tenor of the collection, the quick aberrations, the day-to-day struggles, the spontaneity and funny synchronicities of any given day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Moonbeams Become a Highway

When moonbeams become a highway
To laughter the universe bubbles  
Its misdemeanors in fern. Rain
Bangs against the retina of a swan
And elbows the world over become
Shampoo balloons. The drool of a pen
Arches the spine of a dragon’s back. The
DNA of tinfoil is crinkled and enigmatic
But gets its identity from a chicken   
It wraps in description. Explore
A paragraph with heat and noise
Derelict in transparency. Feel the air
In revolution. A globe is revealed
In inexplicable attendance. There is a pill
For this that escalates thought. It’s similar
To a blaze of crackling language 
That gets its energy from a pantomime
Of war. It’s a plump morning after all
And the candy is serious. We get set
For the maintenance and care
Of personality. Twilight is labial, an arcade
For the expression of air. It’s always a joy
To crunch in the night in the snow
Of existence and feel the validity
Of Wednesday. Reverie is an horizon
Whose embroidery of energy and form
Mitigates a mosquito bite. The parabolic
Goldfish that passes back and forth in its bowl
Inhabits a gaze as primal as light. You can see it
In its eyes. The blithe ignorance of glass
And the listless momentum of the fish
In its gloom of gold. Is there a value here?
What is its price? Because the corollaries
Are so odd we can’t do anything but mull
The obvious in exhalations of ice 



Sunday, May 3, 2015

In the Drool of Twilight

I like to gather shadows, anything
Perception is a process, shuffleboard
In the basement of a dark bar
Whipped cream maps ambient webs
I concoct a climate that shatters into reality
And hatches a bakery. I feel my feelings
As they thicken and glow. I ride a green train
Whose eyebrows are effervescent diversions
Of hair. You don’t expect this from trains
This is why I smell like a suitcase and go
For those really big metaphors, like Manhattan
Whose ceilings are clandestine residues
Of consciousness exploded out of time
And space. And now it’s time to break
Into abstraction and tell you about cloth
And how it becomes clothing, even
When you’re not looking. Take a look
At Picasso painting in his underwear
Some people go for algebra, but me
I like denim and silk. Money is lousy
With sophistication but it doesn’t serve
My purposes at the moment. I’m laboring
To make a point, which is coughing
While the dictionary explodes
I don’t believe in water
I experience water. Dear Skin
I like your touch and openness   
But where shall I put my paddle
When the paddling is done?
Identity hangs in the mind of the identifier
The rest of this poem is flailing around
In its own diversions. This is serious
Is that a door in your head? Or a bas-relief
Comet churning in a washing machine?
Blood is where it should be and Asia
Is genial with a thousand themes
In the drool of twilight

Friday, May 1, 2015


It’s true. I won’t deny it. I own a hammer. I have access to a hammer. It reposes on the upper shelf of my toolbox. I know it’s a hammer because it has all the requisite qualities belonging to a hammer. Weight, volume, density, shape of a hammer. The face, eye, cheek, and claw of a hammer. I failed to specify that detail. Yes. It’s a claw hammer. These are the traits of the hammer. This particular hammer. The hammer that I own. The hammer that I occasionally use. This substantive, this text, this article of wood and iron. This claw hammer. Which is to be distinguished from other hammers. The ball-peen hammer, for instance, or the framing hammer or stonemason’s hammer or joiner’s hammer, which is a small hammer with a square face and cross pein and a hickory shaft. No. This is a claw hammer. The claw is pivotal to the description of this hammer. The actuality of this hammer. Action, adage, and entelechy of this hammer.
Are the things of this world but shadows of a higher reality? The hammer does not provide an answer. It’s only a tool, a dumb shape which could smash my glasses if I brought it down heavily on them. But why would I want to smash my glasses? No reason at all. But if the need arose, I could smash them. The hammer is subject to my will. This is the destiny of all tools. Their shapes and qualities emerge from a vein of function. They’re designed by use. Like fingers. Which are vagaries of bone employed in the dexterous operations of holding, gripping, scratching, squeezing, touching, fondling, shaking, writing, and pounding a hammer.
The hammer is like no other thing in this world. Comparison eludes it. It’s not a meatball. It’s not a memory or a runway. It has nothing in common with a cello. I cannot hang a picture with a cello. I cannot build a birdhouse with a cello. Comparison only dilutes the hammer. The adequacy, adaptability, and tangibility of the hammer.
If I say “I am hammering this point home” the meaning of my import should be grasped in the spirit with which it is given. If I tarry, if I’m tedious, if I delay too long in my meditation of the hammer, that is not the fault of the hammer.
If I say “I am hammered” it might be assumed that I’ve consumed a great deal of alcohol and my coordination, articulation, and cognitive abilities have been noticeably altered. That, in fact, I may have the appearance of someone who has experienced a sharp blow to the head and whose spinning eyes and dispersal of stars might indicate a less than ideal apprehension of the world. But let me be among the first to say, in my defense, that I am not hammered. No. Not in the least. Screwed, maybe, flummoxed, most likely, but not hammered, not non compos mentis.
If I had a purpose for the hammer I would demonstrate the various uses of this hammer. I might pull a nail from a two-by-four, a bent, rusted nail, that would require sufficient effort that the effectiveness of the claw on the hammer could be illustrated. But there is no nail calling out to be tugged, like Ariel, from the narrow crevice of a tree. Nothing bent. Nothing rusted. Somewhere in the future, yes. Certainly. At some point in the future I will go to my toolbox and open it and lift the hammer out of it and go to my destination to fulfill the destiny of the hammer. And that will be a good thing. A fulfilling, achieving, and pounding thing. The hammer awakened, at last, from its sleep.