Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Welcome To My Stupor

The poem crawls across a sheet of paper in search of itself. I use a little introversion to help push it into the world. I serve the severity of my eyes. I try to understand the nature of the picnic in its fullest expression as a form of eating and as a form of sitting on a bench among the harmonies of the physical world. In spite of the naked obscurity of granite, I find the form I need in the formlessness of oblivion. Writing is the ghost of a dead sensation. Writing is a revival of sensation. Writing is a resurrection of ice, from which is derived a great shadow, a discovery of light by star and thunder.
We caress the ghost of ourselves. The ghost of what we could’ve been. The ghost of what we were. The ghost of our teeming past. The ghost of our brooding. The ghost of our prehistory. I was once a blob of protoplasm. I belonged to a beach. I had no identity. Identity came later. It was invented by a pain. A nameless sorrow.
What a stupid thing to say. What can I say. I’m feeling stupid today. This is my stupor. This is my stupefaction. My stratospheric strawberry dereliction.
Call it a fugue. Call it a hammer eating a bowl of goldfish. Call it elemental. Call it damaged by obscurity. Call it flexed by a wave of sleep.
Here comes another wave of hosiery. It must be Friday. I have a pair of wings on each shoulder and a jungle sitting beside me. I think it wants me to feed it something sublime. Isn’t that the way all poetry should begin? With a puddle of words and a cup of tea.
The wrinkle on my lap sparkles like an ambush. Only yesterday I was pasting some hills to a landscape when I heard a train whistle and looked up and saw an angel made of moss challenge a load of laundry. I tried reaching for a remote and felt a sweetening of disposition diffuse throughout the bingo parlor. We chose a more palatable doctrine to follow. Someone got up to play the violin and I felt what seemed like an intention lift me into a newer sensation of valves than I’ve ever felt before. I’m used to dials, round things with numbers on them, degrees, not the full components of life before it began pulling itself through the primordial ooze of a paragraph making its usual exhortations of untethered brass.
How will I be able to explain any of this to the parole board? I see an adjective so aghast at its own fireworks that I can stuff a paper sack full of money and reach the border before sunrise.
Sometimes you can think you’re fooling the language but the language is fooling you. There’s just no way out except to keep your mouth shut. But that doesn’t work either. The exploration will go on with or without you, the poem dragging you with it, dragging you into the places no one goes but madmen and poets, a pair of wings pounding furiously at the air.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Getting Ready To Get Ready

It’s a beautiful summer day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the air is warm. I decide to run the Myrtle Edwards trail that runs along the rocky breakwater beginning at Pier 91 and ends at the Olympic Sculpture Park by Pier 70, a pleasant spot marked by Father and Son, a fountain created by Louise Bourgeois, who also provided the Eye Benches arranged on the plaza between the fountain and the train crossing, black eyeballs carved by Italian stone masons from black Zimbabwe granite, each with a hollow on one side for sitting.
On 15th Avenue West, the AAA building across the street catches my eye. It looks like the paint is peeling. But then I notice it’s a map of the world and all of its continents rendered in white. The last time we paid a visit there R and I were preparing for our trip to Paris in 2013. They sold us a packet of euros so we’d have some cash available when we landed. That came in really handy.
I arrive home at the same time as R. We have dinner and make a run to the library to pick up Season Four of Longmire. We both really like this show. The drama, which takes place in modern day Wyoming, is centered around a man named Walt Longmire who is the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County. He’s an iconic figure, a man cast in the mold of what was once considered to be the ideal of masculinity in American culture. He is tough, taciturn, stoic, unshakable. He appears to have been teleported form the American West of the 1880s. He works closely with a young, thirty-something homicide detective from Philadelphia named Victoria “Vic” Moretti. Feisty, intelligent, witty, passionate and sexy, Vic has a big crush on Walt. There is a recurrent subplot in the series that suggests she is in Wyoming to escape reprisals from the mob back east. She persists in trying to persuade Walt to get his own cell phone.
Lou Diamond Philips plays Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne man who owns and manages a popular bar called The Red Pony, and is Walt’s oldest and closest friend. He plays a crucial role in helping Walt deal with the tribal police of the nearby Indian reservation, with whom both are in frequent conflict. Henry speaks with a peculiar speech mannerism, an atypical clarity in the precision of his diction and grammatical correctness. He avoids elision. He doesn’t say, “I’m here,” or “isn’t this nice.” He says “I am here.” “Is this not nice?” All of it uttered in a meticulously even tone with surgical precision. And often while tending a bar and coping with rowdy drunks. When he answers the Red Pony telephone, he gives the same greeting: “It is a great day at the Red Pony bar and continuous soirée.” He gives the same courtesy to each and every phone caller, even when he’s in the midst of a crisis, argument, or bad mood. In all situations, however worrisome or grave, he navigates chaos with a rigorously controlled aplomb.
Longmire is, in many ways, more than a mere distraction, more than just another crime drama staged in a seemingly changeless American West: the values it espouses are a relief from the evident decay of American culture, which writer Chris Hedges recently described in a recent Truthdig column as nearing collapse:

As a foreign correspondent I covered collapsed societies, including the former Yugoslavia. It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion. All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; political paralysis and stagnation; an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; censorship; the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions. We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs. All I can say is get ready.

What does “getting ready” mean? It means we’ll be entirely on our own. That isn’t good. Not good at all. It’s not like we’re surrounded by acres of arable land, pretty streams of pure running water, forests full of game, and a community of warm, self-sacrificing people. We live in an urban neighborhood of extreme income inequality, barely any community at all (you’re lucky to encounter the slightest degree of courtesy or civility when you’re just out for a walk), luxury estates owned by faceless sociopaths and a small park that is barely maintained by an egregiously underfunded park department. If there is any “getting ready” to be done, it would be emptying our storage bin and loading it with dried fruit and peanut butter. We might consider moving our money into another currency and putting it in a Swiss bank account. But that won’t solve the problem of roving gangs and the spread of disease, or what might well become the obsolescence of money altogether. The real problems will be those of brute survival: trying to purify water without electricity. Staying warm when winter comes.
Remember the Boy Scout motto? Be prepared. Actually, the full Scout Motto goes like this: “BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.”
You can’t argue with that, though I don’t much care for the word ‘duty.’ Duty generally means assuming a role of subservience at the behest of malevolent forces. As its author, Robert Baden-Powell, a British army officer and founder of the Boy Scouts, further specifies in his 1908 publication Scouting for Boys: “BE PREPARED to die for your country if need be, so that when the moment arrives you may charge home with confidence, not caring whether you are going to be killed or not.”
A willingness to die for one’s country, while sounding nobly self-sacrificing on the surface, generally does not lead anywhere good for anyone. Ask a vet. Read War Is A Racket by Smedley D. Butler.
 “State of readiness” makes sense. It’s possible, at least on some tiny level, to be psychologically prepared for the loss of everything you have grown up with, including all its customs, assumptions, ideologies, rites and beliefs. But how do you prepare for a catastrophe on the level of a sixth mass extinction and the collapse of a powerful, military empire? There are survivalist sites. I guess you could check those out. For example, did you know that a Pringle can be used to create a “cantenna” capable of boosting a Wi-Fi signal from your computer? I don’t believe that that will be of much use, however, if the Internet disappears, which I can only assume will happen if all the energy grids go down and the people that maintain the intricacies of that giant web are all foraging for food and fighting off rabid dogs with tent poles.
Me, I try finding refuge in philosophy.
While I still can.
I read Bergson’s Creative Evolution. He has some interesting things to say about intelligence and instinct. They share a common source. They are complementary to one another and are in opposition to one another. Intelligence is synonymous with invention, the making of tools. He remarks on the technology of his time, the steam locomotive, which had immeasurable consequences on the quality of human life. It is the ability to make tools of the tools themselves and to exponentiate the opportunities available to us to control our environment to our liking. Instinct is the substrate of our intellect. Intelligence doesn’t really manifest itself until whatever action we’re engaged in is somehow blocked or impeded. The void created by the inadequacy of our actions is filled by consciousness. Consciousness is the immanent light representing all the possibilities surrounding a given action. Intelligence is conscious choice, instinct is unconscious, automatic choice. But they’re not polarities. They’re differences in degree. Instinct is reflected outwardly in exact movements and intelligence is reflected inwardly in consciousness.
It is, more or less, a Roy Rogers and Trigger relationship, to quote Dylan’s Tarantula.
Dylan’s tarantula is a large hairy multi-legged thing of words and music walking across my mind in Death Valley Technicolor. It crawls, soothed and soaked in an unpredictable pattern of jackknife wobbles. Breakfast extends to the volume of my skull. Such gazing is redeeming. I have resources in the perturbed ear of a monotonous hunger. I waddle in percolated paintings. The crows all decide to leave. I wear a harmonica inside my derby. It’s butter, so don’t knock it. If you can’t live with garlic you should probably turn off the light and go to bed. Me, I know I can endure certain things. I can endure the sound of the oboe, but there’s not much I can do about Christmas. I’ll embrace a gaudy adjective if I must, but I won’t touch the coordinates. I believe that language must reach maturity by enhancing the candy it was given and roaming the eastern half of California as the velvet river dribbles dollars of sand. Eczema can be cured by turning the nails into an airplane. Time bangs around on the landscape. Fireworks tickle the intelligence of space, which is just now a ship cutting through the ice near Greenland. I don’t know if I should mention it, but if the writing is focused, the grammar gets on its legs and walks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Nipples are simple. They express tenderness. Montgomery glands. Muscle contractions. Areola. The stride of emperors, the fireflies of queens.
The excursion drill does cartwheels. I sigh like a congenial river. An angel trickles a blaze of lotus. It gets to me. I scream at the plug until it bends into a claw. And that’s what I take with me to the party.
I knock. The door opens. I leave all admonition behind and enter with a dream of snow. I envision a chronology of pumps and maintain a rectangular smile. I’m moody, it’s true, but who can say what a hiccup is? It is timeless all the way to the top of the spur. You can feel a visceral summer wrestling itself inside a hint of sponsored gospel.
The future doesn’t look good. But we’ll see what we can do about bringing the saddles and bedrolls to Sweden. If the hedonism is a success, and the tarts careen through our digestive tracts the way they’re supposed to, we can move on from there.
The importance of the Great Chain of Being in eighteenth-century thought is hard to overestimate, but none but the Apaches walked these mountains until the cry of the red hawk could no longer be heard. This was the year of riding through abandoned stations on the riverside line. The moon sat down like a delta, and said nothing, while the puppets lolled around in vowels, clacking like together like consonants at the end of a string.
We wanted to discuss everything then because we could see how it was all interrelated, how the people coming to our shore under a cloud of pessimism and despair had something unique to offer, something paroxysmal and warm.
Nothing feels quite so good as clean sheets right out of the dryer. Or the first hot shower after having a cast on your leg removed.
Hunger sags in a painting of toppled contact. The blossoms clink together like gizzards. Henna flaunts its peculiarities. I operate a little sleep until it hurries away into a cloud of spoons. I think movement is a thrilling steam to press into insight. It will become a reverie, the fabric of a thought for our journey, and permeate the carillon of our translucence, permitting ointment, and herring.
I can mime the butter better if I slouch a little at the picnic table. Nevada is larger than you imagine. The hills go away like swans until the moon plummets from its socket and plops in your glass like a cube of shadows. The cry of a loon echoes Baudelaire.
There is solace in a tray of rope. The road flare reminded me a little of a secretion I once saw come out of a man’s arm and smile like a cringe of embarrassed amber.
More recently, I’ve developed a taste for Barbizon cows.
The road flare widens the night. We collect compliments from the landscape which we put in baskets and then put aside as opinions, or goose bumps. They will come in handy later, when the sun rises, bringing with it a new day, a new mathematics, a new herd of cows.
The reality of lubrication makes me cringe. I wince like a novel of iron, a story of hyperboreal longings and improbable migrations. Reindeer clutter the sticks of the sentence until it goes unconscious and ends in a feeling of fumaroles and driveways, a long slow simmer of Icelandic angst. I feel a vibration in the air and stand back and let it all in: the peculiar noises a garage door makes when it opens and you see Lou Reed sitting in a lawn chair sipping coffee.
Experience is a force for good. Whatever you do in life, experience penmanship. Find a trombone or a stepladder and put some vowels in it. Open a can of paint. Polish a football trophy. Study a bas-relief in the light of our diagnosis, our being thrust into a world hectic with orthography and design, a Dasein, a bubbling string of excellent salt.
Sometimes we sit in the parlor polishing our buttons. The lines of a palomino can be seen to faintly emerge from a sheet of absorbent paper. I drop my gaze onto it to gently coax it into equilibrium, a balance of volume and plume. My nerves fondle the idiosyncrasies of Reykjavik. Seclusion is hot and nutmeg. I find a gardenia by pulling the lob of a warm haunted ear. Steam feels like a natural beginning, a way to enjoy breakfast while floating various ideas in the friendly light of a speedometer, the velocity of another vacillation bedding down in a jar of Vaseline. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Splash Gently

Hills are hammers of raw umber. Sleep in the charcoal. Morals are confronted by forefinger, not ribbon. The subatomic world is more like cardboard. Electrons are bound to the nuclei of card sharps by festive decorations and the weird energy of bugs. What is rational is mistaken for guns. We skip doing the dishes and bend the warehouse trinkets into regions of space and time. This creates a sense of peripheral exultation and scrap metal mustangs. The grievances of subjectivity redeemed by lacuna. Overflowing stereophonic broomstick thumps.
Infrared mink ceremony. Laughter at bangs. Packs of junta. Unfold the cartwheel. Excerpts generate your stem. And then it operates like dark.
Blue rumor. Gluttonous stud supplied with implausible melodies. Give falling a finger. My vernacular joins the piano. Elephant aerodrome. Flowers sifted among leeches. Grieve below the scattering. I expect the bulbs to bobble.
Tangible delectation. Luminous glass nipple in a roan coat. Summer flows by and deposits a film of pollen on our windshield. Your French trumpeted perception and became a little postulate, which we named Stephen, and raised like a tiny device of lips and arms. The table bounced like consciousness. And was cookies and lips symbolically colloidal. Enthusiastic can also mean milk and eggs. Airplanes ply the invention of candy. The playhouse is shameful. It extends into space and lingers, like a Ferris wheel on the coast of Zanzibar.
Fire trek. Creosote. We’re sawdust, alpaca. I am the swans of a murdered mouth. Clay mongrels. Grebes. Nerves. Reach for caramel. In the right circumstances, laziness is nonindustrial cunning.
Generate gifts where a chip came off. And then stupor, jiggled with chlorophyll. Listen to the solace of lines, the meat of the poem, which is similar to an éclair, or a piece of furniture. Theorems drooling congeniality. The force of skulls. Yell. Scream at the embassy. Breakfast flavors that pull you into your mouth. Swim in a myth and twinkle. Appear to be official, or at least inaccessible. Embark on a long voyage. Haul in a net of weird animals. Fulminate, hiss like the mad alchemy of pumpernickel.
Is your heart a washing machine or a runway?
Bar clatter. Innocent moose. Opulent embroidery. Crime debris shoveled into a courtroom. Ablution spoon. Lounge of pullulating drinks. Rascal incarnated in a movie about taffeta planets.
Bistro smells. Groaning extraverted portraits rendered in energetic failure. I maneuver the flavor of sand. The canvas honors its shapes by talking to eternity. Eternity answers with Rembrandt.
Candles are a testimony done backward, to satisfy a little wrinkle of character.
Brush with almonds.
There is a deviation that can escape the determination of elbows and yet slosh around in the wrist like the metaphysics of angels. That sort of thing. The jaw is an example. Howl of a silver buckle. The sublime thrust of a master sergeant and corresponding eyebrows.
Mutable running gray form that embodies the strings of a kiss. And that’s called a lipid, and is primeval.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dipping The Eyes

Not a single object can be described. Not fully. Not completely. Not so that its essence can be entirely transmitted. The words are too clumsy.
So why even try?
Well, you’ve got to try. I mean if it’s important to you to do that.
Nobody’s going to give a shit. Most people avoid reality. It’s the sensible thing to do. Reality hurts. You start going after essences and you’ll find that out soon enough. Just a warning. That’s all.
That said, describe something. Describe a cat. Not cats in general. Not the species. A biologist can do that. A particular cat.
My cat is a black and white female. She has a patch of white on her nose, white paws, and a patch of white on her belly. Her fur feels smooth. She loves receiving and showing affection. She loves licking my hand. As soon as I begin stroking her she’ll begin licking my hand. She will sometimes lick my eyelids in order to get me awake to feed her. She loves to eat. She’s obsessed with eating. She was eight pounds when we brought her home. And she weighs eleven. She’s an indoor cat so she doesn’t get exercise hunting, but we do try to play with her. One never knows whether she is genuinely hungry or wanting to eat out of boredom. It’s a dilemma. She begs constantly. She’s good at it. She will sit by her bowl and look at you pleadingly. She will rub against your legs. She will reach up and claw your pants. She will break you down.
That’s one way to describe her. Here’s another: my cat is a subtle contrarian with gray-blue fur and volcanic eyes. Her teeth are bright as lunar shadows and her legs are as solid as mahogany doors in a best-seller about the Pyrenees. She likes to play with bean coupons and distresses the carpentry of meaning with the hard laughter of the undertaker. She can balance a table on her tongue and thunders like a hippopotamus in a coconut tree. Her claws are like foundry commas and her breath is as fragrant as a souk in Tunisia.
A person is not just the sum of the chemicals in their brain. Sometimes it takes a Ferris Wheel to draw the correct conclusion about life.
That includes cats, but it might also refer to the act or manner in which objects or animals are perceived. Some believe that the sole object of perception is the thing-in-itself. Others believe that a realistic lure isn’t a lure that looks exactly like what fish are eating, but features a pattern that has a general match for what fish are eating. Religions are more like trees; they have multiple branches and roots that go deep into the unconscious, finding nourishment among worms and darkness.
Desire is the best way to come to know reality. Illusion is its sad consolation prize. Utopias generally lead to disaster. Avoid isms. Isms are prisons.
The way to what is most near to us is the longest and the most difficult.
Said Heidegger.
The margin constrains the circle.
Said Anne-Marie Albiach.
Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction.
Said Francis Picabia.
Life is that which, undertaken, oscillates between wakefulness and dream. There is no reason for life to be hollow or terrible, but sometimes it can be raw and horizontal. I entered life as I found it, visceral and wet and surrounded by Minneapolis. Later, I discovered secretion and oysters. I sat under a piano and wore a cowboy hat.
The kiwis came later, with fecundation and sunglasses. That's why I often feel the urge to paint. The realism of plumbing leaves me no alternative but to use black for the microscope and blue and white for the birds on the ceiling. I can no longer behave like a vestibule. I must percolate violins. I must rush to the zoo. I must paint the guitar with reminiscence. I must drive the crisis to a drugstore. I must use geometry. I must introduce you to coconut.
It’s not often I feel luminous. But when I do, I pin a gardenia in my lapel.
There’s a door of ice hinged with silver that opens to the gnarled spectacle of wanting and a room in which the body finds its bones and flesh. I'll open it and see if the room I imagine is also the one I'm already sitting in. I like my chair, even if it’s torn, and the reality of it that supports my illusions, which are tufted with the upholstery of the troika, and creaks with infinity. These are just shadows, but the algae are real, and the machines in the sand are words, the gears pulling my life into the tinkling of the chandeliers. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Don't Wake The Dog

The lessons of life are relatively easy. Eat well, keep warm, get plenty of sleep. Try to get along with people. It’s easier to avoid people, so if you can do that, that would be the ideal thing, but if you’ve got to be around people, it’s hard, I know, but try not to kill anyone.
Above all, pay attention. Notice things. Care for things. Love animals, they have to put up with human beings.
Most everything in life is easy to figure out. Religion can be a tough nut to crack. Watch out for that one. What none of us really expected was to have a front row seat for the sixth mass extinction and the death of a planet. That’s a bit of a surprise.
I hate giving advice. I’m not really cut out for that kind of role. I’m just saying things to say things. Saying things is fun. It’s fun to say things. Saying say is fun and so are guffawing and duplication.
It’s somber to guide a milkweed through a forest of prepositions. But it’s good to have lots of soap. Snow transforms the world. I’m an inveterate homebody so when I see snow out the window I can’t wait to get outside and cease being an inveterate homebody. Maybe I’m not so inveterate. Just an ordinary homebody waiting for some snow to come along and urge me into the public sphere.
Life can also be thorny. I should mention that. It can hurt. Painful things include romance, paper cuts, and war. Avoid war. At all costs. Avoid war and those who endorse and begin wars.
I no longer have any family. Parents are all gone. What has taken its place is a feeling of detachment, of being untethered. The burden of one’s-self is lightened. When there are fewer people around to mirror your being, to reflect your image back to you, which is going to be highly distorted, that’s inevitable, you’re left with a distorted view of yourself. Quite often, that’s not good. If you pay attention to the Buddhists, you’ll eventually discover the true self is not-self, or anatta. There is no essential self, no core at the center of one’s being that is permanent and unchanging. There is just a bubble, and bubbles pop.
I blow soap bubbles for our cat. She likes to sit and watch as the glistening little spheres come drifting down to the floor where they repose for a few seconds before popping.
What does it take to produce a fact? Verifiability: whether the item at hand can be demonstrated to correspond to reality. For this, you need witnesses. Reliable witnesses.
But what the hell, let’s take a chance, fill a thermos full of coffee, and go to Mars.
How does one weigh a thought? Do thoughts have substance?
Thoughts are waves. They capsize canoes and lead to languishing under willows in lonely English meadows waiting for inspiration to bring us food and silverware. It’s good to be around water, especially when it’s deep and still. This is where reflection takes place. Ideas emerge. The horse is saddled. There is a reckoning to resolve. An experiment to conduct. And so once again thinking causes microcosms to roll around in the head like coconuts.
It’s difficult to be honest, particularly with one's-self. But if you can pull it off, you will solve the problem of people. People don’t like being around honest people. Honesty hurts.
But why say that? Why should honesty hurt? Aren’t there occasions when honesty opens the eyes to something that feels good? I’m sure that happens. But no instance presently emerges to confirm it.
I want to be open to things. I want to be open to the world. But that comes with a price. It helps to be numb. Numbness costs money, and leads to addiction. So be careful. Be careful being numb.
Do you have a favorite tool? I’m partial to the shovel. It’s good for burying things.
Books, on the other hand, bring back the dead. We hear the bells of Notre Dame, we see a cowboy riding through a stand of cactus, we feel the emotions of emperors, we smell the freshly ploughed dirt on a Nebraska farm in 1882.
Technically, heat is an excitation of molecules, but the sensation is something entirely different. It’s one think to analyze the phenomenon of heat and another to feel it.
Follow the parabola of an idea across a sheet of paper and you’ll discover a pot of gold in your cerebral cortex. We can go onto the parlor and discuss this. I think we may be on to something, don’t you? Something light. Something drifting slowly through the air. Empty inside. Shiny outside. A bubble. Drifting down. Reposing. Thinly. Delicately.
What is the interaction between the body and the mind? They are one and the same.
Or not.
Maybe the relationship is based on interrelation with the world at large. Would it make sense for a mind to be confined to the head? No.
It makes sense to find a living dynamic in stone. A dollop of morning unrolling on the ground. The voyage begins with a single scooter. The organ can make music but the object itself is not music. This is the lesson of pipes.
And air. At my age it’s easy to sift through the ashes and find something worth saving. What did I learn in life? I’m not sure. It’s temporary, I can tell you that. Closets are weird. Houses are expensive. Diseases are dismal. Outlines are powerful tools. Fiddles are actually violins. The doors of perception may be opened by psilocybin, but don’t wake the dog.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Elevations are funny. We always associate them with things that are noble and good, even though there is nothing that can demonstrate that empirically. Elevation, in and of itself, is just a height above a given level. The level could be anything: the sea, my chair, the floor. However, as soon as one refers to an elevation, images of the sublime appear: clouds at the top of a mountain, a rocket leaving Earth's atmosphere. The gods on Mount Olympus. The view of Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower. These are all things evocative of exhilaration, exaltation, magnificence.
Take Baudelaire. His poem “Elevation.”

Above the ponds, above the valleys,
Mountains, woods, clouds, seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ethers,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

My spirit, you move with agility,
And, like a good swimmer enraptured in the waves,
You gleefully furrow the profound immensity
With an indescribable and male determination.

Fly far away from these morbid miasmas;
Go, purify yourself in the rarefied air
And drink, like a pure and divine liquor,
The clear fire that fills the crystalline spaces.

Leave behind the troubles and vast chagrins
That bear down on the murkiness of existence,
Happy is the one who can hurl themselves
Into the serene and luminous zones with a single vigorous wing!

The one whose thoughts, like swallows,
Swoop to the skies in sheer freedom,
-       Who hover over life, and effortlessly understand
The language of flowers and other mute things!

Baudelaire’s elevation has little to do with altitude. It’s all attitude. The euphoria is palpable. This is a clear mental state. There’s an exhilarating sense of power enhanced by an exquisite sense of being, giddily and freshly unshackled from the burdens and murk of everyday existence. The experience he’s presenting is elemental, waves, wings, the language of mute things, things with a language all their own, the language of space, the language of air, the language of zones outside the tiny parameters of our miasmic subjectivity. Enveloped in this rapture, the sky becomes a “divine liquor.” You can feel the poem’s energy trying to break free of itself and become a thing as elemental and primary as the experiences it describes.
I was eighteen when I first encountered this poem. It blew my mind. I hadn’t connected with anything that deeply before. Bob Dylan’s music and lyrics had had a profound effect on my direction, but this poem spoke to me at a very deep level. I wasn’t a happy adolescent. Few are. In U.S. culture, once you graduate from high school, you’re either off to college or the start of a soul-killing, brain-deadening job. I also had the specter of the draft and the Vietnam war casting a menacing shadow over me.
I later discovered in Baudelaire a hatred for the mediocrities and stupidities of the western culture bourgeoisie. I had a taste for the exotic, a powerful appetite for spiritual and metaphysical adventures, ambrosial, rarefied indulgences that ran counter to the withering literalness and pragmatic obsessions of what the German sociologist Max Weber described in the title of a singularly insightful book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Nietzsche, too, enjoyed a singular obsession with elevation. Unlike Baudelaire, who sought elevation in wine and hashish, in sexual freedom, in sublime, otherworldly pleasures and a contrarian aesthetic, Nietzsche looks for elevation in suffering, in great suffering. There’s a bit of that in Baudelaire as well, an acute fascination with the exquisite tortures of maladjustment and chronic dissatisfaction, but in Nietzsche the suffering is Olympian:

The discipline of suffering, of GREAT suffering--know ye not that it is only THIS discipline that has produced all the elevations of humanity hitherto? The tension of soul in misfortune which communicates to it its energy, its shuddering in view of rack and ruin, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, and exploiting misfortune, and whatever depth, mystery, disguise, spirit, artifice, or greatness has been bestowed upon the soul--has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?

In chemistry, it’s called sublimation: it occurs when a substance goes directly from a solid to a gaseous state without passing through an intermediate liquid state. One minute you’re a brick, the next you’re an angel. It’s an endothermic change in that the substance absorbs sufficient heat from its surroundings to volatilize. Chemists use sublimation to purify a substance from its compounds. Poets use it to volatilize into poetry and its cheerful luxury of detaching from the impurities of a world obsessed with money.
I prefer the idea of sublimation to elevation. I’m afraid of heights. I don’t see any mountain climbing in my future. I will not be leaping off of a cliff in one of the fjord of Norway in a webbed suit with a parachute to be opened at the last possible minute. I believe this is called BASE jumping, and while it’s looks like a total adrenalin rush, it also looks totally insane. I will be staying at home in my chair, attaining elevations by way of metaphor, which is a form of sublimation requiring words, a brilliant capacity for play, and the craftiness of a Houdini to unshackle the chains keeping me here.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Soup Du Jour

The life of the hero is worth less than the force that runs through his body. We faint. We are stripped, purified. The act of self-sacrifice arrives without reflection. There is no time to think. It's the impulse that counts. We act, then think. Reflections feed our inadequacies. They have the stubborn power of obsessions. Exactly as in reality, where  - if all we manage to do is maximize our profit  - we miss a dimension and a deeper sense to our life.
There is more to beauty than sausage. One example might be everything in Japan. Another might be cake. Lately, a lot of people have been asking about the Caravaggio in the lobby.
What can I say? What do you want me to tell you? That I met the Beatles?
I didn’t. The reality principle caught me off guard. I met The Rolling Stones instead. They seemed to like me. They let me pick up the baby goat and use him for a photobooth prop. Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end. And then Brian was found floating face down in his swimming pool and the world shimmered with the refracted light of a setting sun.
Death is at the bottom of everything. Cabbage, moss, carpentry, water polo.
I open my eyes and see stained glass. I close them and see the moon. Coffee walks through my blood sprinkling diamonds and agitation. Vagrancy blends deviation with philosophy. It must. Otherwise, it's just savage equations of rust and fornication, barns and manure, legs in continuous motion, colossal insecurities, molecular blizzards, long roads and stony detachment.
You can approach this world from different angles, but one way or another, you must find a direction, a goal, however illusory, and let it guide you through the murk of feeling, the hum of neurons.
The thing with cauliflower is that there is often another smell in the kitchen, which could be just about anything, cheese, wine, salami, bacon. It is here that the neurons become active and create impressions of a reality that has not yet remembered what it does, or what it’s supposed to be about, if anything, who knows what an appetite might become if it gets what it wants. People want different things, so that there is darkness and thunder, and then the picture gets murky. Anything out there could be talking your language. It could be pain, an introspection, a seed. Seeds are the matter that express that. You know? That simple way to say lamb, to say faith in natural things, to say nothing, to say please share my umbrella. If the illusion is pretty, use plaster, pin a little fire in the stove.
I like to sow the air with clocks and infrastructure. How about you? What are you up to? Me, I’m sitting here riding up and down on the windshield wipers. It’s a mechanical pleasure, like crawling into some music and caressing all the gentle facts relating to the impertinence of art during a time of crisis.
Creating anything is to go on talking. Philosophy is being a dog in different colors. Unlike literature, which is a pleasure that should not be spoiled by studying it, I see in philosophy a phenomenological struggle with the difficulty at hand where one can maneuver -  however clumsily - without damaging the questions. Once the objective is attained, we find a void. Here is where it begins. The feeling in meaning and being.
You can get it wrong and still think it’s alright. But that’s ok. We can work it out. I found a way to loosen the vice. And so I tell stories to make up for the fact that I hadn’t been told about it and that I almost burst out of this illusion in the name of an ideal, an unnamable energy, which caused me to be hunted as a rebel and made me lose almost all my friends. At the cost of these very painful ruptures, I got rid of the powerful mental hold that had been exercised on me. So if there is indeed a transcendent experience of self, must it always spur us to exceed our limits in such manner? Or does it mysteriously come to inhabit them? Invest them without abolishing them?
I don’t know, but the soup sure is good. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Origin Of The World

The jabber at our table is useful. It collects our empty coordinates and gives them an echo amid the stains of time. We all have coordinates. Coordinates are things that you feed geometry to make it silky and otherworldly. Apothems, trapezoids, hot dogs. Giovanni Piranesi understood this. The cleavage of the rhombohedron is an aboriginal glimpse at the idiosyncrasies of life in an eyebrow, the way it is dreamed, and the way it is compounded into corkscrews of hair.
Do fat clothes make you look thinner? I don’t think so. But nature abhors a vacuum and so I squirt bricks at a seesaw. This causes an immediate terracotta, a kind of cringe that teleports moods of amber to a nice quiet corner in the Louvre.
It should be obvious. I yearn to grow a neck as mighty as the potato. Nails aren’t apparitions. Nor are they worlds. They’re just nails, instruments for holding lumber together in a glorious cohesion. So yeah, I guess that does make them worlds of a sort. But what isn’t a world? A dollar isn’t a world. It’s only a dollar. A million dollars is a world, but a very bad world. It’s more of a milieu than a world, a place where orchids bloom in private conservatories and a hibachi rusts on the porch as a young woman weeps from a broken heart and a hairy lout and movie producer waters his grass during a drought.
I can make more than one noise. There is a pain on each page that thinks it's a boat.
I’m not against strikes. Far from it. I stand next to the potatoes with a bottle of nitroglycerin in one hand a prayer in the other. Life doesn’t have to be sloppy, just sturdy. There is a way to articulate a grievance quite effectively with a few sparkling generalities sprinkled about the room and a little fanaticism to make it stick. You can go ahead and sag if you want, just lean back and let the jukebox selections wash over you.
But enough about fencing. What about happenings and such? Whatever happened to them? People squirming through inner tubes, or going for random walks in Amsterdam. I think I what I need right now is a little momentum and a big bowl of gravity.
Pretzels. Ocarinas. Waterfalls.
The arrival of spots expresses a break in the continuity of the climatological record. The grumble of bubbles arouses the shores of Denmark. A mermaid sits on a rock combing her hair. The fishing tackle crawls out of the dormitory clapping its signatures. We find a painter and the landscape begins to make sense as a form of analgesic, heroin or rainforest.  
The knowledge of velvet is a difficult cage to open. That’s what made the Fauves so crazy. How do you ad lib a vulva? Here it is, take a look. As you can see, the origin of the world alternates between convulsion and steam. Time may be ugly, but it’s never trivial.
All those folds, all those membranes. Life evolves in so many interesting directions. Clams, camels, kangaroos, infusoria. Tiny aquatic animals and leopards prowling stealthily through the jungle. What is the color of ooze? Let’s just call it henna and go on our way.
The thermometer does this all the time: clank by in its shadows, showing us temperatures that never existed until you scribbled the calculus of stucco on the blackboard. That made some sense, but it was too late to clink glasses with royalty. The army changed its clothes and became a crowd of individual shapes. And that’s when everything else happened, and the enamel burst our expectations, causing Spanish and horseshoes. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Am I peremptory? Have I ever been peremptory? What does it feel like to be peremptory? Does a certain emotion lead to an outbreak of peremptoriness? Does it require a certain mood? I’m guessing yes, it does require a certain mood, but I’m not in a peremptory mood. I have nothing peremptory to say. Except this: benediction arrives in an exhalation of breath.
It has never introduced me to taking a dance class. None of my shirts are ruffled, but that does not mean I'm not dazzled by the locomotive moving through my blood, or the idiocy of hallucination, or any stimulus that leads to the exploration of dials.
Yesterday I painted the two little sides at each end of our bedroom window. It began in the abstract: a paintbrush moving paint over a surface. Then the details piled on. I had to clean the surfaces with bleach because something dark and mold-like had appeared in the seal between the wood and the aluminum frame of the window. That required a small stepladder and the sports section of the newspaper. I hate the smell of bleach. It reminds me of everything that is harsh and toxic and unnatural in the world, even when it’s a chemical that purportedly makes the world safe for us, rids it of pesky microbes and molds, and provides a basis for good, clean living.
I sanded a little. I scraped. I bought a little brush for six bucks and dipped it in the paint, an oil-based paint left over from another project, I hate oil-based paint, it doesn’t dissolve in water, and it wants to travel anywhere, it has a genius for getting on everything, clothes, rug, cats. I had to mind the door and not let the cat in, who, of course, is obsessed with getting into the room and seeing what was going on, cats have to know everything, that’s the nature of cats, investigate, explore, scrutinize.
I frequently have thoughts about things that don’t add up to anything. Vast, vagrant thoughts of nothing. Mighty galleons of nonsense adrift in an ocean of beautiful pink vapor. Those are my best thoughts. X equals X to the power of X. Implausible occurrences of thirst. A young woman playing a violin under a honey locust.
Bergson had an interesting notion of time and identity as pearls on a string. Moments are pearls. The string is the continuity of time connecting the click and volatility of our moods.
A Wednesday in late April, beautiful sunny day, I watch a Foss tug press against the bow of the Golden Ioanari, a bulk carrier docking at Pier 86 for a load of grain. A group of men on the dock of the pier are shouting up at a group of men at the bow of the ship, who in turn shout instructions down to the tug. The men on the dock need more slack in the rope between the ship and the dock. The tug nudges the ship ever so slightly toward the dock and the rope slackens enough for the men on the dock to wrap it around the bollard.
Is time a homogenous medium, or more like a fish-tank room divider?
History is mostly wigs.
Item in the French news today about Uganda accepting refugees from South Sudan and giving them a parcel of earth and encouraging them to integrate into the population. The refugees are able to grow food and build homes and enjoy freedom. Approximately 1.5 million have arrived so far. Uganda is receiving humanitarian aid from the UN to help with the situation. I see a man working hard to break what is a very hard soil in order to grow a crop of peanuts. Women gather around a well, taking turns at the pump. A schoolroom is packed with children as a single teacher holds an object before them and asks what it is called in English.
The world is ravenous for meaning. Its landscapes are slapped by draught and heat. When one stops to consider a rose, the soul expands.
It makes one wonder. What does the dark side of psychedelia look like? I see fancy bags of water walking around sucking acetylene popsicles. Phosphorous camels glowing out of a gray fog. Newspaper taxis. Tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Utah, basically. Only with methane lakes and pressurized clocks telling time as a form of mental construction involving TV dinners and exasperated housewives.
We keep forgetting the world is alive. It needs our attention. The steeples are charming but the washcloths are gifts of geometric advice. Steep them in water and they give us their counsel in silent humility. There is sometimes the clatter of activity in the kitchen. That would be the washcloth telling its story of magic and shame.
It’s true that washcloths normally don’t spout their inner being, however much you twist and squeeze it, but inner experience can never be completely divided from the external world. The internal and the external are married in the jelly of this world, this marbled sphere of marmalade, this roiling ball of turmoil, this jewel mounted in the cold vacuum of space. Science, said Heidegger, doesn’t think.
Ouch. What do you think he meant by that?
There’s a lot to be said for science, but it does tend to put all the emphasis on practical experiment and natural law. The mind is a fountain, falling up, then showering down into its own reflections. Natural laws don’t really enter the picture, except as cherubs taking a piss, or water wheels powering a river uphill. There are diphthongs to consider, and towels. Confession is good, though chocolate is better. Language is its own disaster, creating worlds at the drop of a hat, or meandering into novels, delicatessens and military parades. The occasion requires fiber, anything with a special viewpoint, or cows. We’re fortunate to be this indeterminate. The ratchet works by increment, applying leverage as the device is turned in the desired direction. But that’s not what this is about. This is about adhesion, dissimilar particles clinging to one another, intermolecular forces coming together for meaningful change, or crystallizing a perception in the form of a tangible gestalt, a pulp with a hairy pit, or mango.
Each morning, the cold air on Philip Whalen’s shaved head woke him before alarm clock. Skin is the first response to the headlines of heaven.
The second is the tremble of a cobweb.