Friday, December 20, 2019

Carousing In Parousia

People like the idea of freedom better than actual freedom because actual freedom is terrifying. One is always walking a narrow rope bridge over chasms of Peruvian mystery and the cold of the universe blowing up your ass. This is how I learn. I crack a metaphorical egg and look at the contents and feel around in some art for a council of bones. A goose quill in a Boston attic.  Nothingness in a first aid kit. Burlap sacks entrusted to a hook on the wall. Why is reality always happening to me? I can feel these words make a house of language. I stretch out like a chain of clouds in a king size bed. Sex comes in waves winking slippery ideas like a Florida clitoria.
I’m not hostile to religion. I’m hostile to its dogma, but not its incense. Or hot dogs. Vatican hot dogs are delicious. But expensive: a family from Puglia were recently shocked to get a tab for 132 dollars for three hot dogs, a sandwich, & five sodas at a café on the Via Della Conciliazione. There’s always something. Corruption, overpriced hot dogs, or wading knee-deep in Venice with a Gucci bag. Get to know your inner demon. Shake hands with the darkness. I love the voice of Yvonne Elliman. It’s a religious feeling. But it’s also where the mind finds its energy present to itself in bodily sensation. It feels gold, like a crack in the wall letting the sunlight through.
Nietzsche saw pleasure & pain as a false & unimportant polarity. I see them as chisels. We need to carve some shapes out of the air. Make the invisible visible. Marie Laurencin juggles spheres of color in a corner of the living room. None of us resort to abstraction at times like this. We just sit back & signal one another with winks & nods. Epistemology leads to well-being. Ontology helps us ski. But is oblivion a chasm in the wall, or an energy strutting across my tongue like a drunken prostitute? Is it kosher to curse at life & the universe like Shakespeare’s King Lear, or calmly put everything away & run to the car & wait for the rain to stop? Is reality a toad or a ukulele? I have no idea. I just drop the nouns where they’re most needed & hope for the best.
I don’t know how to feel about mannequins. I want to punch their lights out. Where am I headed with this? I’m a barbarian. There are no stars in this abstraction. Just gloves & candy. The sentence is gathered in mirrors. Each word surges into universes of color. My belt buckle is loud but I admonish nothing. Why would I? The TV expects us to watch it. We give it a try. Its images blaze into us like a Michael Bay movie, convincing us of capitalism. I’m a stranger to this world. So I keep writing. Butterflies tie my shoes while the sky walks around in my head. The surge falls out of my jalopy. No one wants to hear heavy metal this early in the morning. Am I too old to write poetry? I take a romantic position, & crawl toward you loaded with books.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

This Is What We Do

Poets need not enchant the world because the world doesn’t need re-enchantment, but must fight against those who are drying it up with platitudes & rationality. I blow on my fingers & wait for the sun to rise in the east. I believe that feeling can be expanded by toppling the pillars of the Philistine’s temple & that when the rhythms of Bo Diddley meet the investigations of Ludwig Wittgenstein John Keats gets up to dance. Life is mostly just a satori of awkward recognitions. We go from belligerency to apology & hold the door open for parables. Honesty is more entertaining than mirrors, but it’s hard to live with. This is what we do when we talk about the world. We assemble a new reality with rags & chemistry & spill poetry on people.
I’ve got a notebook teeming with irritations. Here comes one now: a body of water clanking toward us in chains of imaginary fish. I see your eyes sifting through all the reasons for ignoring these words & doing something else. I can’t blame you. Eight pounds of language slid out of my mouth as soon as I entered this paragraph & I had no idea what to do with any of it. Should I take it to Goodwill? Paint it red? Feed it pessimism & hamburger? Unsatisfactory. So I sat down & wept tears of antique Andalusian porcelain. I don’t suffer indignities well. Adjusting to life in the 21st century can require a little fortitude & patience. But when I saw my clothes running down the street I decided to inflate myself with 900 pounds of nitrous oxide & float back into the sky.
It seems to me that my mind is separate from the world, but I know that’s wrong. Otherwise, why would I be surrounded by porous external boundaries & otherworldly beings? Reality is mostly peanut butter. Interrelationships and balloons. Peter Green with a piece of cheese in his hair. Terence McKenna is the guy you want to go to for information on psychedelic experience. Also, the essays in Michael McClure’s Meat Science Essays. Planet Earth is a long walk in a blue palace. My stethoscope is pressed against the night. It’s adorably hypnotic. For example, this can be a kitchen if you want. And what is thought? I think it’s a package of new underwear.
Everything manipulates a color today. The urge to make a shape is rivers. I warp into nouns. Jingle them on a highway. The limousine is a naked mind. I extrude a bewildered destination. I’ve painted twelve elves on a bone & appreciate what it is to ooze a valentine in a little butter. I feel iron. The grapes bring us perceptions of another world. If I’m plump when I’m old does it matter? I wash my face with the tears of the moon. I can hear the gallop of horses & arrange my speech according to the emotions I feel below the technology of your breasts. The hammer is defined by its use. But the nails are awakened by chickenpox, & the house is still alive.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Season's Greetings

The season stuck out like a pulpit. Something had to be done about the patina. And so I went in search of perfume. The libretto rankled with iconoclasm. But the maggots shifted gently in their abstraction. Revulsion is in the mind of the caretaker. Sometimes it helps to duplicate a pity. Nowhere is it written that a newscast must master the slogans of odor. The truth is often so obvious, so glaring, so creamy and unanimous that it makes perspective creak with photographs. Must I always presuppose that the opacity of olives is something vaguely attached to reality, or is reality just a polyamorous demonstration of silverware? That’s when the stationary shop closed. Usury thrived in suede and the outlets turned seismic with zodiacal moss. No one is indifferent to polecats. The landslides are reflexive and good for our intemperance, which is just another way of saying paleontology. And to think the chickens are all nominally symphonic is pure distortion, the kind I like, the kind that sits on your lap huffing and puffing like a ventriloquist.
The flag is succinct as a lollipop, but the nation it serves is ponderous in loops of ribbon. Think of Christmas. Think of trinkets. The toys and shadows of despair. The stencils of tribulation. The mystic bows her head in thought and the judge’s gavel comes down hard on a macadamia nut. Judgements are preponderately gray. Which is to say, the punishment should fit the stenographer. Hysteria is largely subjective, though its trusses are pratfalls of elfin offal. Leather is the snivel of darts. Geometry in a corner solving itself with kleptomania. Cubes are just squares with fat corners and jet-propelled isotopes. The mustache is never just a mustache. It’s also a patronage of food snacking on the upper lip.
The millionaire’s suffix pepper has indicated my shoes. This means hatchets, which are ontologically necessary for decimals. It’s the little things in life that stain our sombrero. I command you to get out of the porthole and do something about the varsity. Inappreciable vapors congregate in the cadence I’m using to suffer the world in general. I do this for the sake of piquancy. The rhythms are modeled on prattle, the kind of resurrection supported by iconoclasts. I’m not domineering but I do like to drive tractors around in pornography and fling humidity at the judges. If your mind is underwater you should learn to sell real estate to the hermit crabs. I’ve had enough of your germination. The Seine was never sentimental. It was always bubbling with vulvas and showed us how to inseminate the afternoon with themes of melodious limbo.
It’s ticklish to spotlight a puny mischance if the geology is listening and the spice is viscous with news. Therefore, I must masticate shale. I shall shatter shale with sentences of sticky convection. The formula cries for guests. Please come to my patina. I grieve for the Pullman whose pumpernickel is floppy. It’s not the democracy that counts it’s the fireside chat. Let me be a trapezoid for the moisture of your hope. The tunnel has been hurled at the painting in my voice. Even the gymnastics will confirm the mutation, especially as it has been introduced by hors d’oeuvres of wry and epigrammatic wiring. The kind that separates light into colors and then walks out of the mouth dressed in words.
Most junk is decent. We just think it’s junk because the encrustations overwhelm the restrictions with preternatural aplomb. Introspection is the refuge of tans. I pray for the corona of the rodeo hog. Theories illumine the cerebellum with wallabies. I feel so waxy when I festoon the mince with nightclubs. Just blow that horn. The decorations will follow, passing through the firmament like overly medicated viceroys.
I want the Christmas trimming to resemble the entrails of a derelict explosion. The smell of paper adds a twist of stoicism.  Even the reptiles are agitated. There are too many taboos. Who needs them? We walk over the lava singing Neil Young songs. The search for joy mutates into a Gila monster. I embrace the silence of the muffin. And then put butter on it. I never fully understood the Futurists. Is it sometimes emptier to say something when nothing needs to be said or more fulfilling to get drunk & acquit oneself of inarticulate demands by falling out of your head? This isn’t the emotion I had in mind, but it’ll do until Bukowski slides down the chimney. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Urban Embolism

I hate driving in Seattle. To say Seattle is overcrowded is a gross understatement. Seattle is insanely overcrowded. There’s no margin of error when you’re out on the road. None. Not a bit. Let your mind wander one critical inch from its focus on all the chaos and impending threats around you and the next sound you’re going to hear is the crunch of metal on metal. You’ve got to be hypervigilant each second of the way. And by hypervigilant I mean wide-wake, jazzed, circumspect, fast on the draw, maybe a little goosed by panic, sweat trickling down your neck. Except, of course, for those many occasions in which you’re stuck in traffic and not moving at all. Frozen in space and time. Your mind and head assaulted by someone’s idea of music: the thump! thump! thump! emanating from the leviathan four-by-four next to you.
I used to enjoy the kind of daydreaming that driving sometimes inspires. The trances induced by the hum of the engine, the music playing on your radio or CD player, the pleasant sensation of having a goal, a direction, a reason to be living your life, grasping the wheel of a car, participating in the general pageantry of piston and gas and that wonderful phenomenon of forward motion called momentum. I love momentum. The only thing I like better than momentum is inertia. But inertia can get old. Momentum hardly ever gets old. It’s the very nature of momentum to present you with something new each moment. Each moment of momentum. Momentum isn’t a moment momentum is a hectic interplay of moments.
I remember when you could travel anywhere in Seattle with relative ease. Rush hour downtown was the closest I ever came to gnarly traffic entanglements and stress. Most days and nights Seattle’s streets could be navigated with broad accommodation and expediency. That disappeared with the incredible affluence that began pouring into Seattle in the mid to late 90s, and then exploded in the new millennial. Seattle’s infrastructure has not kept up with the frenzy of construction undermining civic equilibrium. What was once a relatively easygoing city of pretty parks and funky coffeehouses has become a festering canker of neoliberal rapacity, income inequality, homelessness, rampant corruption and a stressed and crumbling infrastructure.
This is pretty much the norm now in all the coastal cities, perhaps worse in the less affluent cities of the deep south and Midwest and rust belts of New England.
Late Monday afternoon R and I get in the car to go to Best Buy near Northgate to get a new charger cable for my tablet and a new DVD player. The traffic on Mercer is mercifully – and surprisingly – free of traffic. This is most unusual for a weekday afternoon. But then when I make my right onto Aurora – an insanely busy arterial full of stressed, hot-tempered, aggressive drivers – I encounter a tow truck picking up a stalled car, hoisting it up onto a flatbed. This prohibits me from picking up speed and joining the flow of traffic. I have to stop and wait my turn to get into the left lane. I have a bit of luck; there are no immediate cars. I maneuver left and pick up speed and stay safely ahead of the traffic behind me. But then I have another problem. The bus just ahead of me starts without warning to move right. The driver either doesn’t see me or sees me and doesn’t care. I brake and let the bus – an articulated bus – get far enough ahead that he doesn’t force me off the road. And for the third time, I manage to get into the left lane and pick up speed and enter the flow of traffic. The rest of the way is not without its hazards but is otherwise uneventful. We get to Best Buy, make our purchases, and take 105th back to Aurora, make a right on 85th, a left on 15th NW, a right on West Emerson Street and park in the lot in front of the Fisherman’s Terminal. We go to Chinook’s for dinner. The host – a tall young man with long hair done up in a bun – seats us at a table by the window. We prefer sitting at one of the booths, but it’s crowded, so we settle for the table. A few of the boats outside in the marina are festooned in Christmas lights.
It’s nice to relax and eat dinner after the stress of driving. I gaze at the headlights streaming across the Ballard Bridge, take a bite of bread, then shift my attention toward the woman in the booth across from us nursing a newborn while eating dinner. She’s an unusually large woman, as is her bearded husband seated across from her, and the infant is so tiny, swaddled in blankets, oblivious to the circumstances it will one day have to negotiate and occupy. I can’t remember consciousness at that stage of life. What’s to remember? Sleep and hunger. The warmth of a human body. Those things never go away. They just get lost in traffic.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Book Of Winter

How many pages is the book of winter? I don’t know, but it proves that I have a fascination for cactus. It’s also why the lettuce is kept moist at the supermarket. Winter isn’t theory. Winter is a cup of real dice, relics of ice, the eerie silence of snowfall. Much of what I know I know from winter. Winter is the book whose dialectic is dipped in propane. Whose language electrifies the nectar at the back of the neck as it undulates up and down the spine, causing lucidity & shock.
Cactus, like winter, is obdurate. Its punch is in its estrangement, its absolute aloofness. The cactus thrives in desolation. Winter thrives in desolation. Lack becomes prodigal. Deprivation becomes abundance. The big holidays are in winter. The desert is quieter and cooler in the winter. There’s less heat and more life in evidence. Desert bighorn butting heads. Black cardinals flitting by.
Cactus needles slow the drying wind. The Sonoran desert toad excretes 5-Methoxydimethyltryptamine. Nothing is ever clear-cut. There’s always paradox, and its younger cousin, irony. Agreement exaggerates disagreement. Discord ignites discourse. Discourse awakens the spirit of intercourse. Which is communion. Which is fusion. Which is legion. Which is cohesion. We find the sugar of exchange is everywhere the forsythia finds its criteria complicit in civet.
I want Christmas this year to drive around whistling a slow desire. We all try to convince the world that our desires are fundamental constituents of matter, such as wax, or crowbars, or the cornfields of Iowa. But really, they’re just bits of bits of sound mediated by turquoise.
The kitchen sink folds into candlelight. I’m going to see if the undertaker is still alive. The novel focuses on the laziness of the snowball. Jelly provides consciousness for the paragraph, which is based on shellac. The abdominals are limestone and float our eyes in a windshield monasticism worthy of Jack Kerouac. The reptiles are agitated, and the reservoir is housing a benevolent pope, who is waving his hand at us. What shall we make of this? The ghost of Marie Laurencin juggles mimosas. The search for ocher offers us Gila monsters and granite. My trajectory opens a chasm in the wall where a peacock struts across Nebraska like nouns in a sentence made of monkeyshines.
Clearly, flakes are sadder than knots. They fall mournfully from a knot of words I’m using to hold the world in place. Our cat has mutated into a perfect copy of Charles Bukowski, and sits in the window muttering “gravity is an invisible force.” This is correct. It is linked to the balm of a divine presence in the animal kingdom. There’s a frog on the kitchen window sill with his mouth wide open. He appears to be singing. But no sound is coming out. Why would it?  It's a ceramic frog. Here’s something else I think about: silk pajamas with a bird’s trachea racing up and down the nucleus of a jalapeño. This causes panties and is shy as a police officer in love with a mammogram.  

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Tyranny In A Thermostat

I hate to break things. Glass, especially. You can never get it all. I find myself picking up tiny pieces of it years after the damn glass hit the floor and shattered into a gazillion sharp bits.
I’m really careful when I wash a glass. I fill it with soapy water and dip the sponge into it and then take the sponge and maneuver it around the rim and the sides of the glass mindfully, delicately, heedfully. I rinse it and put it in the drying rack.
Or sometimes I’ll just rinse the glass and stick it in the dishwasher. The dishwasher is eminently convenient but I’ve got a somewhat troubled relationship with it. It’s new, and like all new things, it doesn’t stay new. When I say new I mean five years. Which really isn’t new. Five years is five years. 1,825 days. 43,800 hours. 63,072,000 minutes.
When we first got it a little blue light at the bottom of the dishwasher used to come on and shine a little blue dot on the floor. I liked that. Blue is such a sad color. I liked that announcement to come in blue, like a note on an electric guitar. Like Stevie Ray Vaughn at the El Macombo.
I’ve got a troubled relationship with all technology. That’s because all technology is infected by capitalism. Everything manufactured these days is compromised by a system of built-in obsolescence. This is done to maximize profit at the expense of the customer. Corporations stopped giving a shit about their customers a long time ago.
Remember flying in the 80s? The leg room? The service? The food? Total shit now. Corporations operate on a premise of sociopathic greed.
Remove accountability from the equation, and you’ve got an all-devouring monster, a bloated enterprise with cockroach CEOs and a minimal amount of service for an extortionate price.
That little blue light on our dishwasher vanished some years ago. The washer still works fine, but the computer is showing signs of confusion. There’s a black panel on the upper rim of the dishwasher door offering a number of options. To the left, we have Fast Wash, Pots & Pans, Normal Wash, Eco, & Quick Rinse. In the middle, we have tiny lights indicating the sequential operation of the washer: Clean, Sanitized, Locked, & Low Rinse.
To the right, we have Hi Temp, Sani Rinse, Air Dry, and Delay Start. And to the immediate right of Delay Start is a circle with an arrow and the word ‘Start.’ None of these options are actual buttons, but respond if pressed with a finger. The dishwasher appears to be functioning as it should with regard to these cycles, but the light for Low Rinse won’t go off. This isn’t a serious problem as yet, but a worrisome sign that the computerized system is on the verge of malfunctioning. This has been a common problem with the washing machine as well.
Life was decidedly simpler – and easier – before computers were installed in everything. I’m not a Luddite. I love electricity and running water. But I’m not a techno-utopian, either. I have a profound distrust of technology that exceeds what is necessary. Technology that controls behavior and draws on resources in the environment that causes ecological mayhem and collapse.
A friend recently espoused that all technology controls behavior. Does it?
Language is a form of technology and it most certainly has a powerful influence on behavior. But influence and control are two separate things. Language can have an insidious affect on one’s attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions. But control? No. There’s always a part of one’s being that is capable of remaining free and clear of the buzz and stain of words. The goo of syntax. The chitin of a sentence and its multiple legs.
Burroughs called language a virus. That suggests that it gets into our DNA and wreaks havoc there, shaping us into victims of state control. The jury is still out on that one.
But computers: no doubt about it. They control.
For example: surveillance. In an April, 2016 article by Glenn Greenwald titled “New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship,” the opening paragraph states that a “newly published study from Oxford’s John Penney provides empirical evidence for a key argument long made by privacy advocates: that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression.”
There are also numerous psychological studies,” he continues, “demonstrating that people who believe they are being watched engage in behavior far more compliant, conformist and submissive than those who believe they are acting without monitoring. That same realization served centuries ago as the foundation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon: that behaviors of large groups of people can be effectively controlled through architectural structures that make it possible for them to be watched at any given moment even though they can never know if they are, in fact, being monitored, thus forcing them to act as if they always are being watched.”
If the increasing blandness of our friends and neighbors has you feeling a little spooked, this could be one reason why. Another might be that they’ve been possessed by some form of alien vegetable.
These are weird times. Unprecedented. The imminent, existential thread of abrupt climate change aside, who could’ve predicted that there would come a time when almost every person you see in the street is gazing fixedly at a handheld computer and walking along as if in a trance, paying minimal attention to their surroundings, nudged quietly by algorithms and psychically neutered by an omniscient leviathan of artificial intelligence.
“There is a reason governments, corporations, and multiple other entities of authority crave surveillance,” Greenwald concludes. “It’s precisely because the possibility of being monitored radically changes individual and collective behavior. Specifically, that possibility breeds fear and fosters collective conformity. That’s always been intuitively clear. Now, there is mounting empirical evidence proving it.”
Or how about the Nest Thermostat? In a recent interview at Science Node, Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, stated “today you can’t buy a thermostat or many other appliances without privacy policies and licensing agreements. The NEST contract says 'if you don’t agree to our surveillance terms, then your thermostat can stop working at any time and we will stop upgrading the device and we have no responsibility for making it work, so you have to sign it.' Then your data goes to dozens or hundreds of third parties, and NEST says it is your problem to read THEIR privacy policies, and so on in an infinite regress. And that’s one thermostat — multiply that by all the devices they want to put in your home. What’s the independent variable? It’s not technology. It’s capitalism.”
Hopeless? Not really. Here’s another quote to throw out there, this one from Bob Marley: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Three Most Exciting Sounds In The World

It is said that the three most exciting sounds in the world are the whistle of a train, an anchor chain, and the sound of an airplane engine. These sounds signal that adventure is coming. I don’t have much to add to this, except, perhaps, the sound the air makes near my ear when a crow flies within inches of my head. It’s not just a sound, it’s a sensation, the sound of the air combined with the feeling of air. The crow flies ahead, makes a quick spin around and drops to the ground. I toss her a peanut and the peanut makes a small clicking sound on the sidewalk. I find that exciting. Though maybe not as exciting as the roar of a Saturn 5 rocket lifting into space at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Or a mollusk daydreaming in the surf.
Or the boil of spaghetti noodles.
Or the little puffy sounds the plastic bottle makes when I squeeze it to get the last of the dishwater soap out of it.
I like to jingle when I walk. I also like the sound of adjectives in a forlorn attic.
I understand a chair by sitting in it. It creaks. It’s a modest, peripheral sound, the sound wood makes after it has been occupied in being a chair for many years, and gets old, and has an old man sitting in it.
I feel the great chain of being in my syntax crashing around the soft breast of infinity.
I feel the lift of a powerful emotion. It sounds like the lowing of cattle in a dusty frontier town. There’s been a gunfight. The curtains are drawn on the funeral home. The candles are burning aloud.
Death is a private affair. Grace and energy belong to the realm of the highway. A 300 ton  telescope pivots atop its base, pointing in the direction of Altair, the brightest star in the southwest. I hear flames screaming like ghosts on the sun. All these sounds are in a tug-of-war with prison where all the sounds are metal and steel and men in thought.
Words are the wings of a multicellular fairies. Each time a word is released into the air a long trail of association follows. We can hear the meaning of this clanking behind a laboratory. 
The Burlington Northern goes by at eight. That’s when the coffee mugs rattle and the mirror swings back and forth. It’s loud. And then it’s quiet. And that’s when the moon pours its silence on the world.
Other sounds include the rhythms of Bo Diddley, the drills of Black & Decker, the caprices of Niccolò Paganini & the Greek vase John Keats wrote about.
Which sounds like eternity. The pageant never dies because it is forever locked in marble. These marble men and women tease us out of thought in the same way eternity dazzles us out of ourselves and into the stars.
Which sound like the mind blossoming among its nerves.
This is why I wear blue jewelry to rock concerts and alarm clocks to roller rinks. There are few illusions in life as compelling as Pittsburgh. That’s what hurts the most, the past rising out of a corner of the mouth. Even the drugstore awning is beaded with rain.
I feel better now. I can feel the buried and the abandoned rise into being. I can feel it in the moment that we’re surrounded by language until it weighs like a voice on my eyes.
Art has no need to justify itself. The same snow falling on James Joyce’s Dublin now falls as rain in Seattle. Sounds are impartial. They just happen. Sunlight on a fork, the wobble of a table, a waiter who vanishes into a kitchen, a garage door making weird springy sounds as it is pulled open.
The idea of content still exerts a tyrannical hegemony in the arts, but we’re not going to let that happen here, no sir. This is about sound. And yet people continue to use leaf blowers and power-wash their driveways, which are not only sounds, they’re shitty sounds. We should get rid of those and replace them with the silence of lions.
The tongue is an engine whose torrents are panoramic. What I cannot find in metaphysics I can find in sawdust. Just give me enough time to sort through the meanings of wood and what it intends to do with the embraces of the sky.
The answer, in a nutshell, is time sleeping behind the barn.
Life is messy, yes. And noisy. But I will use life to convey my sense of concertinas, the joy of narrow streets, and dabs of brown which we hurry along into chiaroscuro as if Rembrandt himself were looking over our shoulder and the world was newly informed by the sound of a brush on canvas moving paint, daubing paint, meditating in paint.
We are airports, you and I. Let our planes land. Let our words fill the air with convoys of joy. And let our sinews expand to embrace the accidental nod of radar in our excursions. Lean into the wind. Toss the seagulls a French fry. They sound hungry.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Contemporary Matters

There comes a time when the news is too much. Too awful. Too demoralizing. Even the propaganda stinks. The duopoly is corrupt, income inequality is cruel and pharaonic and the  algorithms won’t leave you alone. Energy impels us to run. And so we run. Reality can go on like this all day. Structure is just the howl of ooze. Imagine a polymer. A compelling blob of elegance. Sew a face. Sputter into rock. Then invade Norway. Existence is largely presumption. My hands smell like an emergency room. Penitent, and intent. I don’t want to force a discussion. But everything just dangles in the air like a burst of gunfire. And all the surgeons are drunk.
Call it what you will. Call it contemporary matters. Call it living in the 21st century. Call it surveillance. Call it totalitarianism. Call it dystopia. There are no panaceas, but there are choices. You can meditate, or do push-ups. You can mingle with the air. Each experience is unique. Each brain is a world and each world is a singularity. There is wisdom in the fin of a fish, cartilage in winter and warm words swarming around an ancient emotion. The zeitgeist needs a bath. I once had more expectations than I do now. I feel lost, helpless, sad. The arctic ice is vanishing. This is my Declaration of Symptoms. My shout to the spirits. My circus of words. My tribute to crows. The hardest need to fulfill is meaning. Language is always entertaining. Bring popcorn.
Solitude and society must come together and succeed one another, to be green, to get green, to become green. Because I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. Hold this sentence a minute while I finish it with words. The crust is language, but the inside is totally shiny, and full of voodoo & torrential initiative. Life is a whisper. Take the car, for example: it has four wheels and an engine. This is what is known in phenomenology as Independence Day. That can have many meanings. But the elemental drift of it will sparkle like rails in the Mexican sun when the rattlesnake glides under a rock & solitude becomes aesthetic. Like that barn. The red one, with the horse in front. The mare with fire in her eyes. 
The suppleness of meaning sleeps in the stones of the river. Nearby, we see a cactus, which is a meaning awakening into itself. Rocks enter into definition with the melting of snow. Birds scatter. I sift through my memories to venerate the past. The mood becomes elegiac. I sharpen my jackknife. The autonomy of art requires seclusion. The fat of the thumb is a good place to start. Sand is the place where dirt acquires the language of water. I see in it the nothingness of mind. This is a resource. Insects swarm over the water. Words bombinate in the hive of a paragraph. There is no interior, no exterior. There’s only the blues, twilight hues and the gradual appearance of the stars. A universe sparkling at the edge of thought. Sneeze. And accelerate into oblivion. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Twilight Zone

When you age, life does come to seem like a Twilight Zone episode. I can see Rod Serling off to the side making commentary: look where sits a lone man in a single room. A man surrounded by ghosts. A man nearing the end of his life, still seeking the grail of poetry, the epiphany to end all epiphanies. The drawer is overflowing with letters. Manuscripts. Submissions. Rejections. Proofs. There is no boundary that begins and ends at the human 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, and the division between the visible and the invisible dissolves as the golden light of the sun disappears and the first few stars appear in the sky. This is what we call The Twilight Zone.
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?
Helicopters and mollusks pursue different objectives, but are otherwise ideas based on dispersal, the erection of beams, the pouring of cement. Men in yellow helmets whistling, signaling, waving. It’s a strange world, isn’t it? Who knows how any of us came to be here. We just come out on the stage and say what we have to say and then make our exits with whatever grace and fortitude we can muster when the inevitable arrives.
I was a mollusk once. I flew a helicopter. No arms, no legs, no skill. I flew it because I created a sentence that said I flew it. One minute you’re a mollusk, the next you’re an angel. It’s an endothermic change, a form of sublimation. Chemists use sublimation to purify a substance from its compounds. Poets use sublimation to volatilize the mundane into poetry and enjoy the luxury of detaching its energy from the impurities of a world obsessed with square footage and patio furniture.
It’s simply a matter of will. Whether will is an actuality or not doesn’t matter. If you believe you have will, you have will. You will will. You will it into being. Or at least a fiction, a credible proposition. You might not be able to save Planet Earth from an asteroid or abrupt climate change but you can change a lightbulb or bake some brownies. You surround it with a little narrative and voila! you’ve got the beginnings of a dialectic.
What is energy? Energy is a pile of dirt, fields of wheat rustling and waving in the hills of the Palouse. The landscape expands into buttes and canyons. And since the planet is a sphere, we pack our head with idle thoughts and plywood. With loops. And indirection. And life.
And like anything weird, life needs the endless treadmill of making a living.
Or not.
Making a living: what a strange phrase. As if life required a table saw and a hammer, a 60-volt drill and a bag of nails. All it really takes is a high-wire 1,000 feet above the ground and a T-shirt with a question mark. You’ll make lots of friends. There will be feasts and ceremonies. And somewhere in the background will be a man named Rod Serling standing aloof and crepuscular with a knowing look and a martini. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Meditation On A Hair Brush

Funny thing to do in the morning: brush my hair. Sweep those bristles over my head and put everything into order. Become presentable. Less savage in my appearance.
I like order. To a degree. No need to get carried away. But a little symmetry here and there, a little balance, a little harmony, a little sense of control are good things.
Most control is illusory. But I’ll take whatever I can get. It’s comforting to have a sense of agency. Even if it’s only the agency of hairbrush swept over one’s head.
We live in a universe of such spectacular distances and mysteries that a little thing like doing the dishes can make existence feel a little more meaningful and a little less haphazard. At least I’m not an asteroid, a rock on some arbitrary trajectory. I have skin and blood and legs and arms and a pair of glasses and a mug of coffee and a trajectory that feels somewhat purposeful, a narrative of growth and disappointment, fulfillment and frustration.
Every day’s pageant brings something new. Sometimes a lot of new, sometimes a shade or hue of new. Sometimes I can float through it buoyed by the right amount of insights, percipience, platitudes and drugs. And sometimes it’s overwhelming. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t get a moment of peace. That’s when a hair brush can seem like a solid piece of information, an easy way to put things in order. To put something – anything – in order. Even if it’s just fucking hair.
Life is never any one thing; it’s always a blend, a mingling of having and not having, reachable and unreachable. But there’s always a degree of agency. There’s always at least one option, one alternative available. Sometimes I’m Charles Bukowski. Sometimes I’m Marcel Proust. And surrounding it all is the daily enigma, the daily ambiguities, the churning burbling bubbling brew that is the stew of life, seasoned internally by emotional cacophony.
I never use a comb. Combs get stuck in my hair. I find hygiene in general to be a bit of a nuisance. But you can’t go around looking like a mess. You can, but it doesn’t produce happy results and inspire warm handshakes.
Articles of personal hygiene discovered in ancient graves are often indications of social status. Combs discovered in archeological deposits from the ancient market of York, England, were made of reindeer antlers. Combs were also essential in removing head lice. Thirty years ago, eight of the eleven first-century combs discovered in the Judean desert by the parasitologist Kostas Mumcuoglu and anthropologist Joseph Zias have revealed ten lice and twenty-seven lice eggs hidden in the fine teeth of the combs.
And then there’s the whole question of laundry. But let’s not get into that. I can already begin to feel the tedium permeate the day with its implacable monotony. Monotony can be a pain, but it isn’t always bad. The monotony of a job requiring routine tasks can sometimes create an agreeable trance, as can a long stretch of highway more or less free of traffic.
The mind craves novelty. Sooner or later, the monotony of a job or a long drive will have a dulling, soporific effect on the mind. You’ll need to stop at a greasy spoon just to hear the clatter of silverware and the sizzle of grease on a grill and the muffled intonations of a quiet conversation. God forbid there won’t be kids running around, or a drunk complaining about the eschatology of toast.
What is a trance? Is it anything like a hair brush?
According to Wikipedia, a trance is “an abnormal state of wakefulness in which a person is not self-aware and is either altogether unresponsive to external stimuli (but nevertheless capable of pursuing and realizing an aim) or is selectively responsive in following the directions of the person (if any) who has induced the trance.”
There’s always a part of ourselves not altogether present, not altogether alert to the exigencies and peculiarities of the environment, but in accord with another dimension, another region of indeterminate phenomena. Why is that? It’s a little maladaptive.
“Strange things happen in the mind of man,” observed Paul Bowles in his novel The Spider’s House.No matter what went on outside, the mind forged ahead, manufacturing its own adventures for itself, and who was to know where reality was, inside or out?
Clearly, something is going on. Something sublime. Something like the thunder of a waterfall, even if it’s just a brush, a brush with a brush, I know beauty when I see it. Why is consciousness imbued with thoughts of an elsewhere, as if the ghostly aura surrounding all language provided a sense of presence at the far end of the bar when no one is actually there.
But let’s not get lost in the clouds. I don’t want to spook the cattle. Sometimes a hair brush is just a hair brush. And pulling things out of the air is as simple as speech. A white-feathered dream-catcher in a white Ford sedan. Atmospheres and maps. The solace of fire, the requiems of fog. The glimmer of the Seine in August under the Pont Neuf in Paris on my laptop screen while I wait for the blood to re-enter my leg so that I can get up and get something to drink. And brush this night out of my hair. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Ought Clot

Mouths are for globules, tiny balls of sound. Think of that. Or this. This is fire. Hypothetical elm. Painting armchairs sources it from the voice. Twig bitumens a slosh of the siren. The rain that I babble after meandering. The handlers candle it below the beard declaring plugs. Transcendentally I feel the implications they operate are flaking. I believe the genre imposed glitters below it thickening into theater, like an ion, or lion. A word is like a maple bar I crushed with my mouth. A few trees whose penumbra grumbles above the percussion begin floating around in a bucket of words. The world demanded technique so I got naked and cleaned around it. An orchard extruded from my proverb. I decided to birch the purpose of it with dribble. We are nascent who hammer out an identity and fill it with syndication. Transformation I’ve wedged in my book. The parrots there sheen the circumference with ambit. I await the arabesques. Sift the seeds and eat it there. We’re stirring a perversity machine. Subtlety clouds my strike of Hinduism. Piles through convulsion unraveling a battle fought with sequins. There where the bristles explain the pink beginning of a scalp. We mean there’s a calculus reflected by walking. I’m a voice beside the pallet the stars grant. We stumble around without tasting life. The willows are anarchic if nothing else. I pick the sidewalk on which I itch the least. This whisper cuts through time and touches ground. I rope the sunlight for the mosaic and it changes ought to auks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Did The Vikings Invent Surrealism?

Did the Vikings invent surrealism? In a word, no. Far from it. Viking culture was brutal, every bit as violent and cruel as all the stereotypes: gruff, beetle-browed, muscular men sailing dragon-prowed longships intent on plundering the riches of neighboring countries and territories. But here is where all the contradictions begin; as savage and inhuman as they were in battle and plunder, they produced wonderful art, elaborate wood carvings and delicate metalwork, intricate interlacing patterns and fabulous beasts, and most notably fantastically beautiful ships as perfect for sailing on the open sea as they were for navigating the banks and shoals of rivers.
Their literary culture was renown for its wit and lively description, its vivid narratives and striking images. It was an oral culture, requiring a prodigious memory and rhythms and sonorities powerful enough to endure in the breath of its scalds.
The bulk of what we know of the details of Viking lore is captured in two main books: the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. The material in the Poetic Edda was garnered from anonymous sources in the thirteenth century, who drew from an even older source called the Codex Regius, an Icelandic codex in which many old Norse poems are preserved. The production of the Prose Edda is thanks to a thirteenth century Icelandic chieftain named Snorri Sturluson. The Poetic Edda, sometimes referred to as the Elder Edda, is the older of the two. The Prose Edda, a.k.a. Younger Edda, is considered the fullest and most detailed source of Norse Mythology.
The two Eddas are filled with stories of treachery, trickery, cunning and betrayal. Competition and strength are main obsessions, as is wisdom. All the gods and heroes of these tales crave wisdom as much as strength and prowess in battle. Odin, the chief god of Norse Mythology, ventured to the mystical Well of Urd at the base of Yggdrasil, an immense ash tree that held the cosmos together, its branches spreading over all the world, its three central roots spreading very far apart; one was among Aesir, the pantheon of the Norse gods; a second was among the frost giants where Ginnungagap – the primordial void – once was; and the third reached down to Niflheim, meaning “World of Mist,” and is a realm of primordial ice and cold. “Under the root that goes to the frost giants was the Well of Mimir. Wisdom and intelligence were hidden there, and Mimir was the name of the well’s owner. He was full of wisdom because he drank the water from the Well of Urd from the Gjallarhorn.” Gjallarhorn was just that: a horn, a loud sounding or yelling – as in ‘gjallar’ – horn.
This is where Odin shows up, looking for wisdom. I’m not entirely sure what the Viking conception of wisdom happened to be, but it seems to be associated with intelligence in general, not necessarily our narrower conception of prudence and sound judgement. Nevertheless, it seems odd and not a little contradictory that a people so thrilled and gratified by slashing people to bits for their gold and silver would treasure this thing called wisdom. Viking wisdom, as it is described in the lays and sagas, is associated with dominance, skill in weaponry, and survival.
Ayn Rand would’ve loved Viking culture; her conception of wisdom is completely in sync with Viking predation. The Vikings, like Miss Rand, were not known for their empathy and compassion. They obsessed over wealth and the heroic feats of individuals exalted far and above their communities. Compassion is a weakness. Going berserk with an ax or sword and setting an English village afire after raping all its women, killing all its men and running off with all its accumulated wealth is a worthy goal, enough to make any Wall Street banker or hedge fund investor nut in his pants.
That said, Odin was jonesing for some wisdom, so much so that he gouged out one of his eyes and gave it to Mimir as a pledge, and got his wisdom on. Whatever wisdom meant to the Vikings, and however I may be distorting their conception of it, it was quite definitely a highly valued asset.
Wisdom was not a prominent goal of the surrealists. If anything, wisdom would be an obstacle to an agenda far more nourished by the irrational, by the unconscious and dreams. So why would this notion even flit across my brain? Aligning Viking culture with surrealist preoccupations is like setting up a wedding between John Wayne and Patti Smith. The incongruities are stunning.
And yet there are parallels and flashes, here and there, of highly imaginative conception, ideas that are absolutely in harmony with surrealist manias.
Vikings loved battle. The surrealists, despite their many arguments and occasional fistfights, were not particularly fond of war, but war was crucial to the birth of surrealism. When André Breton was doing his military service in a neurological ward in Nantes he met a young soldier named Jacques Vaché, who was being treated for shrapnel wounds. They hit it off, and after Jacques returned to the battlefield they maintained a correspondence. Vachés letters collected during this period – most of them written to friends and family – have been published in a book called Lettres de Guerre (Letters of War). Vachés’s letters were written in wretched circumstances, the trenches of the first World War, muddy, bloody, cadavers everywhere, bombs exploding, machine gun fire raking the ground and mowing down soldiers on both sides. He wrote hastily - directly to the point - with an abundance of irreverent, anti-militaristic humor, or ‘umour,’as he liked to spell it. There are frequent requests for clothing and food (the French army was very poorly supplied) including insightful asides as to the uses he puts these items and actualizing the day-to-day reality of trench warfare. Vaché had no literary ambition, yet he wrote in a style of great detail and riveting precision, creating a virtual hyperreality that intensifies the imagination. The effect is dynamic, and telegraphic: there’s an ongoing juxtaposition of unrelated events which creates a form of collage, all of it fueled by the adrenalin of war. The excitement is palpable. It’s no wonder that this seeded the way for Breton’s innovative approach to poetry.
One finds the same effect in the work of Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars, who were also involved in the first World War. One can’t help but see a connection between war and poetry, not that this should serve as a recommendation for aspiring young poets to go to war. But the energy war fuels is also evident in the Viking sagas.
Viking poetry as a whole has more in common with the objectivists than the surrealists; the lines, rhythms, and imagery are extremely compact, extremely direct and lucid. But there are moments of great imaginative force, energies that transcend the mundane and create riddles of cosmic proportion. One of these is an item called Gleipnir.
Gleipnir is the fetter that holds a giant ravenous wolf named Fenrir from devouring the entire world. It is made of six items: the sound of a cat’s footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish and the spittle of a bird. These are sometimes described as six impossible things, but there’s nothing impossible about the sinews of a bear, the spittle of a bird, or the beard of a woman. They’re just extremely rare and – particularly in the case of the bear’s sinews – extremely difficult to procure. The breath of a fish, the roots of a mountain (roots in a botanical and not a geological context) and the sound of a cat’s paws on the ground enter the realm of surrealism.
The language of surrealism, according to Peter Stockwell in his book The Language of Surrealism, “has a connected double function: it operates in the everyday waking world and it operates in the inner world of dream, the irrational, and the marvelous.” It’s a language embodied in psychic experience and which aims for a convulsive, striking, unfamiliar beauty. Gleipnir easily satisfies all these qualities.
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was fascinated by Gleipnir. He read into gleipnir a form of imaginative power that could so hold us in its spell that – taken in a more negative sense – could describe metaphorically how we become prisoners of our own mind, obsessed with irrational interpretations of subjective experience, trapped by phantom, non-existent beliefs and judgments. “And so am I, while the whole world cannot bind me,” he observed, "yet bound and raving in my chains, and I am bound by a chain that is unreal and that yet is the only thing that can hold; just as the chain…

…that the Fenrir wolf was bound with was braided of things which did not exist (can be elaborated), and which still was the only chain that was able to hold that monster, thus am I bound in the unreal and yet real chains of my dark imagination.

This is an opposite tact to the surrealist conception of language, which is a poesis of liberation, but the idea that ideas can restrict and restrain is a theme running throughout the surrealist project. They used language as a hatchet to break those bonds rather than use it to bind and inhibit.
In a narrative titled “Sigurd the Volsung” included in the Prose Edda, a Viking blacksmith named Regin travels to Thjod to work for King Hjalprek. He forges a sword so sharp that when the legendary hero Sigurd – the slayer of Fenrir- lowered it into running water “it sliced through a tuft of wool carried by the current against the sword’s edge.”  Sigurd digs a pit under the path used by the wolf Fenrir, lowered himself into it and as Fenrir crawled toward the river for a drink Sigurd thrust his sword into him, killing him instantly. Regin then “came forward and said that Sigurd had killed his brother.” “As settlement between him and Sigurd, he asked Sigurd to take Fafnir’s heart and roast it on the fire.”

Sigurd roasted the heart, and when he thought it was cooked, he touched it with his finger to find out if it was still raw. The boiling juice from the heart ran on to his finger, scalding it, and he stuck his finger into his mouth. When the heart’s blood ran to his tongue, he suddenly understood the speech of birds.

This story bears a remarkable affinity to the fables of André Breton’s Poisson soluble (Soluble Fish), and many other surrealist stories.
The Vikings may not have invented surrealism, anymore than they invented the predations of neoliberal economics destroying the communities and working class of the world, but the affinities are there. Cultural paradigms come and go, but the forces of the imagination are as universal as fire, as elemental as water, and as fabulous as the speech of birds. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Nature Of Here

Words go through my eyes making my thoughts fat and glittery. I think of water. I think of soap. I don’t even know why I should care. My glasses climb my head babbling in mute softness. The lenses are public but the frame is leeward of a nascent headache. This means declaration has eight grounds on which to fricassee. There’s a sky above my head engaged in electricity. Does the sky begin at the ground or at a higher elevation? What would that elevation be? I think this sentence is a wedge of ground. Dirt swimming with worms.
Words. Discharge and flowers. The spin behind everything operates by beard. I can feel a prairie occurring below my chin. My neck is a tunnel of sunlight. My hue is ruminant. My theme is inordinate.
Willow is one form of prayer, rocketry is another. Rock-a-Billy is more like dogs. We’re all apparitions, really, freely emotional handsprings in sheer armchairs. Bubbles in books.
Coffee, in its myriad guises, is often quite jolly in its blackness. Benzedrine is more like parakeets, nervous and colorful. The flowers of anonymity blossom in vermicelli. They smell of the predawn werewolf on a runway in Prague. That is to say raw and desperate. Preternatural, like an ivory guitar played by a miscreant anguish.
I like tea that sends its embrace in songbirds. Shake your hips baby. If I insinuate butter better there’ll be gurgling and splashing when our inner tube race begins in earnest.
Earnest, Tennessee is a sentence assembled in quiet meditation by a crew of elves on the ceiling of a dead ant.
Pretzels are ideas. The hibachi confirms the taste of bruises when the sauna is looped in social vanadium. It’s a metal I wear in undertones of topaz after I get dressed in the auditorium.
There’s so much sloshing when I do this that the whole reason gets sewn in gold thread, which leaves me feeling weighty and a trifle oligarchic. Is it a good feeling? I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe feelings anymore. There are so many of them. Even my intestines get confused. The architecture of liberty is convoluted. Emotions sparkle with the catastrophe of existence, wet and heavy as the Spanish spoken by a wheeze of wallpaper.
Your arm is my rudder. Don’t tease the toad. The toad is thought incarnate. It must hop where it wants, gain favors from the infinitives of consciousness.
What’s this brothel up to, anyway? Is it pretending to be poem or something? Watch that toad, will you, before it gets into all those similes of wool and pilgrimage I keep by the door.
I search for the heat of emergency, urgency, luxuries like analysis and gloves. Disappointment hardens the mop. Mahogany accepts the ethos of neon. It’s a joy to drift around in your bones. There are deviations that slap the ceiling with signification. The circus is constrained to do without houseplants and string. They make do with sawdust and weddings. 
This is a crack drooling with variegation. The currents bring us pleasure. The depth is understanding. The waves are full of fish. My veins are crawling with verdure. The circumstance is classic. The warpaint is sanitary. The ink is piercing, like the rain in Scandinavia.
Think of this as an enigma spitting words. Sputtering. Spotlighting. Sprouting.
When does the Louvre open?
I’m ready. Ready to make a mosaic with sand.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Flowering Of Subjectivity

You could say poetry is impertinent, futile, vain and narcissistic, a little louche and outmoded, and it would be true, it would be legitimate and veridical, perhaps a little quizzical. But so what? Who didn’t know that at that beginning? Before it all turned into a dystopic, despotic empire of derelict strip malls and opioid addiction. The president is a clown and the vice president is a refrigerator. So then here comes some poetry, awkwardly handling things in the gift shop, inappropriately flirting, farting on the sly, furtively avoiding eye contact. Is someone cooking broccoli? Is there life on Mars? Will there be adequate water in the future? What is the first word to come into your mind when I say California? There are endless cups of coffee in fairyland. But few know the way. It’s principally a matter of smashing all the taboos and finding a good friend.
What’s to become of this world? The sun rises from behind the mountains. Our laptops converge on parsley. Our goulash, sagacious and hot, is a tub of intense semantic activity, a veritable slop of unabashed solipsism. I keep all my paraphernalia in my valise. I forgot the significance of the pig. I forget everything. The shape in the stone is calling to me. Its prophecies fold over me in waves. A violent wind blows over the water. I’m authorized to say what I want. I’ve got the history of Norway engraved on my belt. Consciousness rolls around in my head like a barrel of sodium. The universe tastes like energy, a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference ambles by on a pseudopodium. Go, go, go. Go pseudopodium.
Our poetry is deformed because the world is deformed. It begins with extreme winds and ends with a bonfire. Words are apparitions. I can’t explain their behavior. But I love the shape of propellers. I envision Karl Marx in the British Library, twirling a pencil and thinking in a vein alien to Hegel. Capitalist avarice is just a form of premature senility. Nothing I want ever adds up to a coherent picture of Memphis. It was the insistence on dialectical equilibrium in Hegel’s hermeneutic which has the most immediate and controversial impact on Sun Studio. We call this The Flowering of Subjectivity. It happened when Elvis met John Keats in a dream.
I like collecting clouds. I pull them out of the sky, fold them up and slide them onto closet hangers. Everything gets soaked when the clouds bust open and start to rain. I just pick the rain up and fold it and stick it in a drawer of rainbows. I’ve got a horse, a mannequin and a doughnut. I’ve got a Bluetooth radio, a bedroom lamp with a three-way bulb, and a compulsion to describe the ineffable. Let these words tickle your ears with thoughts of paradise. Everything here is a lie, of course, which makes it all completely true. The universe walks around in my head looking for a place to sit down. Is there a language that can describe this? I’m working on it.