Sunday, July 22, 2018


I think of North Dakota and look for a letter from my father. The snow speaks to the trees in powdery whispers. The drawer is overflowing with letters. Manuscripts. Submissions. Rejections. Proofs.
I remember that little lake in the Turtle Mountains. It was too small, too common to have a name. If I had the right words, I could lift it into reality and show it to people. The universe isn’t entirely in my head. There is no boundary that begins and ends at my skull. A skull is just a skull. The stuff inside is amazing, but has its limits, until the limits dissolve, and the universe comes flooding in.
They say the sun is a nuclear reactor fusing hydrogen atoms into helium. I have no reason to doubt that. But isn’t the sun also a star? An angel of heat and light?
I don’t remember the last time I saw a circus poster. That era seems to be over, thank God.
What we have now is more puzzling. People in trances gazing at smartphones. The Great Barrier Reef dying. Oceans dying.
The camber of the road is a tumescence for the rain.
Helicopters and mollusks pursue different objectives, but are otherwise ideas based on common sense, on physics, on extraordinary principles of mathematics.
The odors of summer are different than the odors of winter. The odors of Dakar are different than the odors of Denver.
I know a man named Noah who lives in Denver.
I know a man named Ron who lives in New York.
I see a large Russian woman in a bikini teaching Pythagoras.
Dispersal occurs naturally in locution. The erection of beams, the pouring of cement.
I’ve been following the construction of a building at the base of the hill. It’s a colossal enterprise. Everything carefully measured, carefully placed, hoisted by crane then slowly brought down, men in yellow helmets whistling, signaling, waving.
What is energy, energy is a pile of dirt. I have memories of dirt. Some of them good, some of them bad. Some of them weeds, some of them flowers. I know the smell of dirt, the feel of dirt, the power of dirt. Images of wheat rustling and waving in the hills of the Palouse.
Decomposition is a chief cause of composition. There can be no composition without decomposition. They say the sickly odor of a dead python is what led the Greeks to name the high priestess of Apollo’s Temple at Delphi Pythia. The Pythia was widely credited for her prophecies by being filled by the spirit of the god, or enthusiasmos, from whence comes our word ‘enthusiasm.’
The bowl, any bowl, accommodates space inside and out. The skull is a bowl. The skull is a sphere of bone.
And what is thought? Is it a pin or a nail? Is it a hammer? Is it sod? Is it a clump of dirt?
I think it’s a clam squirting water from its siphon. I think it’s Iceland. I think it’s a package of new underwear. A species of space. Manolo Millares. Materialistic informalism.
Spoons. Metaphors. Latitude. The brain is a forge. But the puddles are upside-down, and the world desires our communion.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ecstasies Of The Forest

There are no pedestrians in the ecstasies of the forest. I give a good shake to a can of lather, press the button and hear the creamy lather hiss into the palm of my hand. It feels soft and wet.
I never know how to display my emotions. Some of them are relatively calm and normal, others are colossal and fierce. Enough, certainly, to frighten people.
Intensity is laudable in a rock star. In real life, people tend to avoid it. Incandescence doesn’t go well with small talk and wheat thins.
Intensity is easily mistaken for madness. And why wouldn’t it be? Is logic calm? Logic does, it seems, tend to be calm.
Fuck logic.
I was a young man in the sixties. Perfect time to attain adulthood. Like A Rolling Stone. Norwegian Wood. Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Four months, a tiny pair of scissors, and a lawn mower are all you really need to produce a meticulous homage to the bacteria colonies that live inside humans. Everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, or else it’s just another Mod Squad, a sitcom involving black volcanic rock and a sloppy array of puppets.
As a kid I watched Gunsmoke and wondered how Matt Dillon always managed to seem so sure of himself. He did not seem to have moral quandaries, ethical dilemmas. And if a conflict did arise, something freakish and unparalleled in the frontier weirdness of the American west, something that wobbled the needle of his moral compass, he consulted Kitty, the wise madam of the Long Branch Saloon who always conducted herself with poise and savvy understanding.  Such a romanticized vision of the American west seems very strange to me now. The frontier is gone, swallowed by Walmart and Amazon.
Consciousness rolls around in my head like an art gallery. I envision my head as a pumpkin with a candle flickering in it. A current without a river.
There’s a crustacean on the ceiling. I carry my hair around on my head. It’s a good place for hair. It’s not heavy, but it does get messy. I have a brush for such occasions. It has a handle and a forest of bristle. The bristle is bristly. It is steadily stubbly and thistly.
Elsewhere in the world someone may be teetering between life and death on an operating table. The mind hovers over the body watching the surgeon perform his critical work with acute attention.
What is a mood, a mood is a trapeze of the brain. The ghost of an exuberance. The immobility that sometimes occurs on a fast-moving train, or jet, or car on the freeway. It’s an odd serenity. Chimeras visit me in the quiet of the afternoon. The clouds are hungry for wind. The ocean stumbles onto the earth and a pork chop arrives at our table dressed in a tutu.
I have two sets of keys, one for the apartment and mailbox and one for the car. Often, when I think of the membranes and molecules of which I’m composed, it astonishes me that a single coherent identity emerges from that. Meaning isn’t limited to the brain. The mind, any mind, is larger than what appears. The more we think, the more we become immersed in a ruminant murk. The less we think, the more the objects and phenomena of our attention lose their names and become wondrous blossomings of amiable qualia.
The sky walks through my head. The taste of its mushrooms is ghostly and calm.
There are indications everywhere that reality resists the claims of empire. The universe does not necessarily conform to our language. Weather has its own grammar. Morning stirs in the shine of the knife. Consciousness is essentially Gothic. I feel the heat of the sun in my blood. I see an Asia of variability in the puddles of the street. A bee pollinating a mimosa. A shovel breaking the earth. Sunlight breaking in the shallows of a lake. The cinematographic tendencies of perception and thought are everywhere a fugue of blur and clarity, a chiaroscuro of movement amid a simultaneity of time, past, present, and future splayed like a bridge above a river.
I seek the fluidity of clouds. If sandpaper is a parody of Utah, then what is the value of X? Log on log is a logo of blaze. The brighter the fire, the deeper the darkness.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Strange Creature

There are no panaceas, but there are choices. You can meditate, do push-ups, or paint the blue sky yellow. Each experience is unique. Each brain a world, each world a singularity. There is wisdom in the fin of a fish, cartilage in winter, magnetotactic bacteria, grasshoppers sewing the air with the thread of a ferocious monotony. Words swarm around an ancient emotion. The mollusk opens its shell to the greatest degree of expansion, allowing the ocean to shape its shell into spirals. There is so much beauty that even the sensuality of sand appears to be solicitous of something transcendent in us, something like the luster of obsidian enhancing the lectures of the sun.
The zeitgeist needs a bath. There is something clearly wrong with a riot of unbridled consumption on a planet this small, this refined. Can an equation describe a waterfall?
The world is made of language. Biosemiotics. Ecosemiotics. Semiotics-a-go-go.
The alligator carries its text in the texture of its skin. The jelly pretends to be Luxembourg. The octopus is a naked mind. Turns out even bees share our sense of nothingness. So you see, the world is configured by a very soft voice, a feminine impulse toward care and perspective, lips unzipping a sentiment of consanguinity. Interrelationship. Contingency. Balloons.
I love the voice of Yvonne Elliman. Ruth Radelet of the Chromatics.
I once had more expectations than I do now. I feel lost, helpless, sad. The arctic ice is vanishing. Billionaires propose spaceships to Mars. It’s crazy. I need a rattlesnake to convince me of what’s real.
On June 27th, 2018, the temperature of Quriyat, Oman, never went below 108 degrees.
The potato crops in England have failed due to drought.
Drought in England. Rain in Spain. Murcia has had the most rainfall in thirty years, including snow.
Interrelation is the fundamental principle of the universe. But here in the U.S. it’s every man for himself. Look out. Here comes another 4 by 4 with a bad attitude and gun rack.
This is my Declaration of Symptoms. My shout to the spirits. My circus of words. My tribute to crows.
The weight of a thought depends on its density. Each supposition is put forward like a boat. Each word is the fetus of a larger meaning. Kelp, Irish moss, the drool of the sea. Peter Green with a piece of cheese in his hair.
Matter creates its form out of nothingness. A tree isn’t made of wood, a tree is wood.
My hands smell like an emergency room. I push the ghost of analogy into its final adhesion to reality. Emotions are powerful influences in human life. Our language contains innumerable ghosts. We assemble our identities out of bits and pieces of time and history, circumstance and biology, penitence and intent.
Pockets are inherently metaphoric. If I reach far enough into myself, I can bring out a crystal. I can show you a clam squirting water from its siphon. Psilocybin opens the cage. The hardest need to fulfill is meaning. Does a goldfish in a bowl aboard a ship feel the movement of the ship?
Language is a strange creature. Bring popcorn.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

This Thing I'm Doing

Time to write simply now, simple like Beckett, Beckett in his elder years. I want Beckett’s craggy old face, the eighty-something Beckett, a face of crags and crabs and wrinkles and runnels and ruts. The eyes of a hawk. The bristle of a thistle. The riddle of a scribble. Rumple of a shuffle. Simple dimples. Pickled ripples. Giggly tinkles. Piano keys in olive sonatas, refractive galactic galvanic octaves, emotions in notes, phrases in stages. Words in herds. Herd heard by the ears in an acoustic chew stick. The ear of the seer is here to hear. The stick is to chew. The chew is to strew the stew to the throat. And what’s a way to say swallow.
Time is a slime in the grime of a dime. A penny is plenty if you have more than twenty and a nickel to trickle into a meter when the cost of a space is softly and calmly valid. A salad of curb and chrome and asphalt and verb. A verb is either a noun phrase or a blaze of Motown. A verb is a word that expresses being and what does it do it does nothing if there’s nothing to do. Otherwise a verb must work its way forward through a sentence undulating in the nudity of a moment.
Change is either something that alters or is a gob of metal in the hand.
The modern quarter is 75% copper and 25% nickel. The profile of George Washington is on the obverse. An eagle is on the reverse. E Pluribus Unum is inscribed above its head. Why an eagle? Why not a pigeon? A sparrow? A turkey? A robin? A crow? A heron? A pterodactyl? A spondee? A trochee? An anapest?
I believe the image that best serves the object at hand is a dirigible. A fissionable pyramidal cetacean of the air. You might picture it as a hat, or a half sister named Render.
This can be a kitchen if you want.
Or a ramble through the ways and trays of life as it throbs in utter effusion.
When the whisper is whispered the engine is in session.
Let’s call it an explanation, a duration, a flotation, an elation of quartz. A piece of existence hard as a rock and soft as a sock. A piercing, a dispersing. An inquiry. A diary.
Let’s call this, this thing I’m doing, this activity, let’s call it a search. I’m looking for something. Not water, not a book, certainly not a job, nothing so simple, nothing so satisfying, nothing so brutally obvious. Let’s avoid the obvious. The obvious hides what it reveals. The  obvious is obviously oblivious to its own obviation. The secret secretes a sequel.
It is the transcendent that we want. That push toward the upper realm, as if we could lift ourselves up by our bootstraps and walk right into the sky and sit down on a cloud. Say hi to the sun. Caress the moon. Harness the stars to a slow religion. I’m happy with that solution. Call it ablution. Substitution. The world in writing. The world in letters. In feathers and sweaters. Would it appear as if I were more concerned with words than what the words designate? The meaning is not outside these words, but in these words, humming and drumming, whistling and bristling, bubbly like a pie, a dough containing cherries, a circumference of air, a radius of crust, an approximation of pi, intermediaries, libraries and wood.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Adventures On The High Concrete

Yesterday, I went to Big 5 in Ballard to buy a new pair of running shoes. The heels of the old pair had worn out considerably. When that happens, my knees start to hurt. Big 5 is a big sporting goods store. They sell everything from fishing rods to shotguns to inflatable kayaks. Every time I pay them a visit, there seem to be fewer employees than the previous time. A lot of retail stores have gone out of business. Half of the retail spaces at any given strip mall are empty, the windows full of “for lease” signs. Seattle is too expensive. You must either be a nail salon appealing to the vanity of trophy wives and/or IT geniuses seeking the grail of singularity, or a coffeehouse serving beverages expertly engineered with precise amounts of steamed milk and vanilla extract. Like San Francisco and New York City, Seattle has become a city of assholes.
All the running shoes are mounted on the wall. Some are on sale. I look for those. My preferred brand has been Saucony, but my last shoes have been crummy. The insoles slide up and the fabric wears out too soon and my toes poke through. I choose a pair of Skechers. The sole is thick and solid with a distinct tread. I look for a clerk to go in the back room and find me a pair in size 12. Sizes in shoes vary wildly. There’s no such thing as a standard size anymore. For years, I’d worn a size ten. Then ten became absurdly too small. I felt like a maiden of the Song Dynasty hobbling daintily about with bound feet. Now I generally go for a size 12. The one clerk I’ve seen so far in the store who was standing conveniently in the shoe section has disappeared. I spot him in the gun section helping a man select a hunting rifle. I go to the counter and ask if there’s a clerk who can help me. The young woman gets on a mike and requests a clerk for the shoe section. I return to the shoe section and a young man appears from behind the door to the storeroom. I ask for a pair of the shoe I’m holding in a size 12. He returns with a size 12. They’re way too big. I feel like I’m wearing a cruise ship. I find another clerk and ask for a size 11. He disappears with a whoosh behind the swinging door and reappears with a size 11. They’re a tad too big, but I prefer that to a snug fit because my feet swell when I run. Half of my toenails are black. It’s easier to adjust to a shoe that is a tad too big than a shoe that is too tight.
On our way back to our car, R tells me that she spotted a couple of tweakers enter the store and ask where the golf putters were kept. I just got a glimpse of a scrawny old guy with a lot of white hair leaping out of the universe of his head who reminded me of the Ozark hillbillies cartoonist Al Capp used to draw for the Sunday comics, a series called L’il Abner. Daisie Mae Yokum, who was always scantily clad in a polka-dot peasant blouse and a cropped skirt, was a voluptuous knockout. She was madly in love with L’il Abner, who did everything he could to avoid her romantic advances and remain single. Oh how I envied L’il Abner. R’s theory about the tweakers is that once they lose themselves in the golf section they’ll find something to shoplift to sell later for drugs. Considering how few employees were available for help, my guess is that they’ll have a fairly easy time lifting flashlights and Sherpa boots. Unless, of course, they’re on the level and wandered out of a parallel universe of Sunday comics to go shopping for golf putters. I’ve learned over time not to invest too heavily in any of my judgments. I’d make a terrible security guard. But in this instance I’d lean toward R’s assessment.
Shoplifting has been on the rise in Seattle, which isn’t surprising, considering the astronomical increase in rents and the consequent rise in homelessness. Seattle ranks number 6 among U.S. cities for property crime. Income inequality in Seattle is pharaonic. Despair hangs in the air like a listless cloud of methane while IT workers stroll desultorily from their podments in glitzy glass and steel South Lake Union to a cubicle at Facebook or Amazon or Google.
After dinner and a movie (Gravity, with Sandra Bullock, one of our favorites) I watch a short video on YouTube in which Sam Mitchell from Austin, Texas interviews writer James Howard Kunstler. They share a couch in Kunstler’s living room in upstate New York, Kunstler in a pair of shorts, Mitchell in a colorful shirt and bulky cargo pants, his little dog Sancho cozily ensconced between them. Kunstler describes how the Internet has decimated the profession of journalism. Most things on the internet are free. No one pays more for writing, be it journalism, fiction, book reviews, movies reviews, music reviews, travelogues or articles on art and history. He once received advances for as much as $250,000 which provided him with a living so that he could pursue his career of writing. He could travel, do research, and eat. Unless you’re a celebrity or a former politician on the lecture circuit, the days of getting paid for one’s writing are over. This partly explains why the writing on the Internet is generally pretty lousy, fraught with shallow, poorly elaborated ideas, bad grammar and misspelled words. It’s a language junkyard. And while it’s evident that the Internet and digitalized media has played a pivotal role in this train-wreck, the neoliberal assault on education has also been a powerfully erosive force. It’s rare to find a capable, enthusiastic reader anymore. In a culture incapable of critical thinking and deep reflection, writing has ceased to have any value. You could probably rob a bank by threatening to read a passage from Proust.
The following day, I take my new shoes for a maiden voyage, a short, three-mile run around the top of Queen Anne hill. The shoes feel clunky and there’s a lot of margin between my feet and the interior of the shoe. I may have gone a tad too big. But I can always wear an extra pair of socks to get a snugger fit. And my feet do swell during the run. What feels oddest about the shoes are the heels; they’re very pronounced. The shoes have a very high stern. This feels good. I’m getting the proper support for that quirkiness in my anatomy, that tendency to pronate and come down hard on my heel. But for a while, it’s going to feel like I’ve got a pair of Spanish galleons on my feet.