The sounds are teeming in leaves. The muffin I faucet has pluck. I take the time to fulfill a copperplate there and wax a shoe. It glues pleasure to the images I wife. We organize exploration by hunger. We explore hunger as hunger explores us. This is the stethoscope I prefer. It murmurs with swans, which guide a lonely power through the painting of life in a library. Appliances are watched by ducks. The pool is a languorous dream. It’s effervescent to extend summer under the skin. If structure pokes me I find a bikini and sift it for waterfalls. The idea’s peculiarities make it an orchard whose fruit are the mosaic of books and whose enjoyments are sucked by addicts in attics. It’s prodigal to laugh, crucial to keep the silverware cool at night. Tiger our art at a trouble. Tube this plummet and show our snakes. Glasses it cuts there to cook a vocabulary until it smolders with the pneuma of the dead as they gather around a roaring bonfire. Your knife begs to attack a pimple. Discharge a gratitude then hit escape. My bingo falls and I slap it. Your wings perpetuate inquiry, thus proving the theorem of anomalistical semantics, that a poinsettia is welcome at the horizon, and there will be rent for a feather if the wind is from the east and the feather is from a goose. The right angle is the wrong angle if the hypotenuse rolls through a funhouse germinating conversation. The sparkle at the press teases tweezers into books. The sentence has to be lifted carefully. The lightening underneath it is convulsing with headlines. There’s sand in the parable and dust in your sweater. This is why Pythagoras dreams of ovals and the mathematics is the very sauce of darkness whose fingers uphold the moon. It goes with the groove of the universe undertaking the utterances of electric men. Jimi Hendrix sitting on a stool with an acoustic crowbar. It seems a little nugatory but the equation fulfills the requirements of the radio, which is just now busy with water. The body speeds through its music. The breath carries meaning like a thunderstorm cradled in time. How funny that there’s a plumber on the shore. Is this truly a radio or a box of migrant consciousness? I think it’s mainly all about making a difference and appearing before judges dressed as a cypress and ignoring the ramifications. If a poem doesn’t come as natural as leaves to a tree, it’s better to fry it up and eat it as a burrito.
Monday, September 23, 2019
Sometime in the spring of 1976 I awoke on a beer-soaked couch in a San José apartment. A constellation of flies were buzzing around a big chunk of roasted meat resting on the floor beneath a table. Bits of oyster shell were scattered all over the apartment. I raised my torso and set my feet on the hardwood floor and greeted two of my friends as they – like me – adjusted to the demands of consciousness, and the injunction of a hangover. My body was in pain and demanded restitution for the damages I imposed on it. I remedied this by popping a can of beer open and drinking breakfast.
I’d quit my job at the hospital in Seattle and hit the road for California. I missed the sunshine. I missed the exuberant immoderation and lunacy of my pals to the south, Blake Wilson and Lucas Cole. The fragments of oyster shell on the floor were from Lucas dancing naked to Ravel’s Boléro and clicking the shells like castanets.
There comes a time in one’s mid-twenties when you know deep down the chimeras you’re pursuing are more apt to be sirens of disaster and catastrophe rather than angels of fulfillment. And you decide to either knuckle down and look harder for something stable and commonsensical, get real about life, stop chasing dreams, put your nose to the grindstone, etc. etc., or say to yourself fuck it, life’s short, there’s something finer I can do with my life than routine and money and a wife and kids and a lawn to mow and all that shit. What I want is the glory of creation, the sweetest emotion that ever existed, the joy of making something loud and dangerous and smart and wild, something that brings new vibrations to the collective, puts ideas in people’s heads, and a peacock in the heart.
I wasn’t done with California. There was something down there and I wanted to find that something and make something out of it.
But there really wasn’t much bravado attached to any of this. I felt that I was lost and had made a stupid mistake by quitting a job I liked to come south in pursuit of social phenomena that no longer existed. The collective had morphed from silliness and strawberry fields to earnest endeavor and trying to work the system from within while pursing status and comfort and an 8 ball of coke. Terence McKenna identifies the drugs of capitalism to be coffee, alcohol and cocaine. They energize and help one able to work hours non-stop. Alcohol dulls your sense enough to make it possible to do things that might be contrary to your principles, make friends with people with whom you really have nothing in common, and do things to other people that violate the golden rule.
Alcohol also helped make life palatable when you’re surrounded on all sides by the unpalatable, the tedious, and the implacable. It’s perfect for family get togethers, weddings, funerals, and getting to know one’s coworkers.
Me, I just liked being drunk. Goofy. Uninhibited. Disassociated. Extravagant and loquacious. It was right around this period that I first read Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard. I loved that book. Still do. It was highly imaginative and full of bizarre encounters with the supernatural as the central figure – the palm-wine drunkard – embarks on a quest to find the ghost of his palm-wine tapster in Dead’s Town. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I was working for a mailing service in Seattle and was showing my mail route to a young, newly hired man from Nigeria, that I discovered that palm-wine was real: it’s created by the sap of certain species of palm tree, the palmyra, date palm and coconut palms.
I went to San Francisco and spent a week living in a flea-bitten hotel in Cow Hollow. I thought I might want to live in San Francisco. I went looking for a room to rent (there was no way I could afford an apartment), and interviewed with several groups of nice people. The opportunity was there, but I balked. Something didn’t feel right. The dream I was seeking no longer existed. I was chasing ghosts. The beats and San Francisco poetry renaissance of the 50s and early 60s were long over, with no residual effect evident anywhere aside from a few poetry readings as poorly attended as the ones in Seattle; Rolling Stone had moved their headquarters to New York, and although there continued to be something of a hippy culture persisting like mold in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and elsewhere, I’d never cared much for the hippies. They’re instincts were communal, whereas I desired quiet and solitude, and they were daffily anti-intellectual, seeking a ridiculous state of childlike innocence.
I remember going into a Chinese restaurant near the Tenderloin for a bowl of lotus root and pork soup and entering into a friendly conversation with a man who appeared to be a few years older than me, his mid-thirties maybe, who said he’d known Jack Kerouac when he lived in San Francisco. A lot of people in the Bay Area made claims about knowing Kerouac, or Janis Joplin or Grace Slick, and maybe some were true, but so what? What does it mean to know someone?
Kerouac had only been dead for seven years. But dead is dead. Any conversation I’d have with him in the future would be purely imagined and taking place in the confines of my head.
It was some comfort to me that I was now experiencing what he’d experienced when he was adrift and staying in flea-bitten hotels – we were definitely on the same wave-length – but I envied his place in history, the fifties, which, although notorious for its McCarthyism and conformity and xenophobia, offered writers much more publishing opportunities. Despite the introduction of television, people still read a lot, and were more open to literary endeavor. On The Road had first been published by the Viking Press in 1957. Had Kerouac been shopping his manuscript around in the 70s, he would’ve been roundly dismissed by the mainstream publishers and relegated, at best, a small press run of maybe 500 copies. Chances are, he would’ve had a tough time finding readers. Smoking pot and traveling around the country seeking thrills and adventure rather than settle into a job and family were hugely idiosyncratic and fascinating to people in the 50s. It was old hat by the 70s. The highways were still full of long-haired, pot-smoking hitchhikers.
I read Kerouac for his style – the energy and vitality of his words and descriptions – but people tend to read more for content rather than style.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions did well in the 70s, so there was still some margin for eccentricity and idiosyncratic writing, it wasn’t completely dead as it is now, but taste in general ran solidly toward conventional narrative and bland, pedestrian writing. Ken Follet’s Eye of the Needle, Mario Puzo’s Fools Die, and Sidney Sheldon’s A Stranger in the Mirror.
I remember at one point phoning home in Seattle out of loneliness. I’d never done that before, phoned home out of loneliness, just wanting to hear a familiar voice. My dad seemed a little confused as to why I was calling. Had there been reasons before? Requests for money? Maybe I’d misinterpreted the tone in his voice. But he seemed distant, and a little disinterested. I returned to the hotel feeling lonelier.
I returned to San José, spent a few more nights of drunkenness, then headed back to Seattle.
It hit me full force in the car driving up I-5 to Seattle that I’d been chasing a chimera. The entire cultural fabric of the Bay Area had changed quite drastically. The Zeitgeist had adopted new goals, guided – not by the cheerful sagacity of Allen Watts, but the triumphalist egoism of Ayn Rand. The social richness and exhilaration of the 60s had morphed weirdly into a techno-utopian infatuation with artificial intelligence and circuitry. The orchards and high-ceilinged Victorian houses of San Jose were quickly being replaced by the sterile, futuristic architecture that would come to dominate a landscape whose rhythms and energy were tirelessly devoted to the increasing denigration of the human imagination. Hardly anyone noticed that conversations were becoming more impoverished and vapid, or that the spirit of eccentricity had become a trifle more reserved, a trifle more measured, because the promises of instant communication and the universal access to information were not just compelling arguments, they were evangelistic appeals to old Enlightenment ideals of reason and logic. This was how the mind was going to be expanded: not through prayer and incantation, but software and computation. Even legendary psychonaut Timothy Leary had begun to sing the praises of the cybersphere. No one noticed until well into the second decade of the 21st century that the prodigal wonder of the Internet had become a ubiquitous device of thought control.
I found it hard to believe that I’d been so deluded as to think I was going to find the same excitement of 1966 in 1976. We all know about drug addiction, but what about dream addiction?
My return to Seattle felt very different this time. It was clear that the past was now categorically and absolutely the past. It had become a domain accessible only by reflection. And all the distortions that go with rumination and self-questioning. Rooting around in the past is a weird kind of horticulture: tending to memories is like tending to shrubs and flowers. But the garden isn’t a happy backyard sprawl of ground cover flowers and healing plants. It surrounds a mausoleum. It surrounds a space of unreachable moments and imponderable ghosts. These are the woeful abstractions over which I poured time like water, poured fondness and nostalgia, poured attentions I wish I’d given when I’d had the chance. Gardening the mind lacks the comforting reassurance of dirt. But under the hypnosis of driving long distances on a freeway, it can provide perspectives subject to the chromatic nuances of music. If the truth is hard and bitter you can sweeten it with a little coloratura, a little rubato.
I heard a lot of Steve Miller on the way back to Seattle. Mainly, “Fly Like An Eagle.” “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”
Tell me about it.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Distance pulls me toward you. I search for a song I can balance in my mouth like words. Anatomies like sprocket and bungalow. Big emotions like dirt. The mosaic of the day sends me into the shade. The thick air sobs with rain. The harmonica gleams. I try to do my writing outside the parameters of time. It’s subversive. And weirdly Pythagorean. I grant that mathematics is not my greatest strength, but I’m eager to give some of these equations a try. For example, fulfillment is perpendicular to both the velocity of chartreuse and the magnetic field of most mittens. This implies that mittens have a charge parallel to the magnetism of wool and fingers are agile with greeting if they’re kept relatively warm. The wild knock of cognition leads me to believe that thought is waves and the waves are pumped from a well in the overall scheme of being itself. The eyes are illumined from within by a small white candle called the pineal gland. I’m doing life in pallets. The seashore flourishes in epilogues. I fondle the fog. I have a collection of incendiary escalator cubes. They spout remedies and nutmeg. The universe is harnessed in stars. Structure is an open nerve. Flying alters my perspective. I push more vapor toward Corot and cook the paint in theological chatter. I like to drift. I like the general feeling of random movement. This is why I study the laxity of wind. Walking settles my opinion in the wonderful burn of the moment. The symptoms are all shouting pellagra. The brain is wonderful with guesstimates. It’s like a speedometer of poetry whose spectrum is enameled in exhilaration. I jump to ruminate. The fork is more crucial than the spoon when it comes to the thickness of the meat and the embellishments our pathos provides for the gaze of the banana mask. Yes, I’m radical, but aren’t you? I mean, listen to the clank of consciousness across this table. I use a little paper to catch what I can. There’s a dash of strain in the muscularity of my tie and the recklessness of my approach makes the sandwich big with sequel. And here it is, the final result: watch as it trickles down the glass of this incarnation, grasping at heaven.
Monday, September 16, 2019
Whenever I think of 1975 I picture the windshield of a Dodge Dart. I’m parked at a local beach, sitting behind the driver’s wheel, reflecting. Sometimes it has rained and I watch beads of water meander down the window glass and sometimes the sun is out and I gaze at the water of Puget Sound lapping at the rocks. I had returned to Seattle after a very full decade in California. I was looking for a job. More than a job. I was looking for a job I could reasonably stomach well enough to maybe one day get a pension and a gold watch. I had a bachelor’s degree in English, which would be the equivalent of bringing a tennis racket on a climb to the summit of Mount Everest. It was more of a liability than an asset. Many people advised leaving it off of applications.
Sitting in the car staring at water really wasn’t part of my job-hunting strategy. I just liked doing it after driving around asking receptionists for job applications. And so 1975 has become synonymous with sitting behind the wheel of a car without going anywhere.
There was also that unforgettable scene on April 29th, 1975, of the Air America helicopter helping evacuees up a ladder onto the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon shortly before the city fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops broadcast on television, which I watched while lying on the carpeted floor of my parent’s house. My parents were letting me stay in a room downstairs while I looked for work. The scene on the news felt strangely anticlimactic after all the protests and marches of the late sixties and early seventies. It didn’t seem as if the war had come to an end because of public protest, but simply imploded from its own sickeningly immoral goals. One would think thank God, no more war after this, not for a good long while.
And the country did manage to go 26 years without a war. Now we’ve got seven of them, five in Africa and two in the Middle East, and all of them blithely ignored, carried on with minimal news reportage and ignored by an apathetic public walking city streets like zombies, their attentions focused on social media and messaging services, disembodied souls connected by robotic algorithm and flashy screen graphics. Conversation has been replaced by tweets. Society has been atomized into lone individuals fixated on video games and social media, fragmented by tribal animosities fueled by economic decline and propaganda and driven into mummification as office workers sealed away in cubicles performing repetitive, routine tasks of brain-deadening monotony step over used needles and pass by tent cities full of the homeless on their way to and from work.
Perhaps not so much the billionaire class, with their eyes on Mars and biospheres populated by shiny happy people.
I suck at job hunting. Always have. I’ve always marveled at the ease with which a lot of people manage to find nice jobs with robust salaries. All the manuals and self-help books on the shelves at the bookstores urged looking for something you enjoy doing. Ok, then I should be looking for a job reading and writing books. If not making any money weren’t a problem, that sounded like my kind of career. But I needed food, clothing, and a place to live. That required money, and unless I slapped together a best seller in a week’s time and got it published and reviewed in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, then made into a movie by Martin Scorsese, it wasn’t a realistic option.
After several months of driving from one industry or business to another – including an industrial park in Tukwila – and filling out applications, then driving somewhere where I could sit and gaze out the window and feel whatever solace was to be enjoyed in these intervals at the far margins of stillness in the momentum of time. If I turned the radio on, I was bound to hear one of several songs: “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton, “Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow, “Mandy” by Barry Manilow or “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers. All the music was tame. All the music emanated contentment and well-being. Even songs of heartbreak seemed weirdly subdued and deferential. The turmoil and excitement of the 60s and that triumphant moment of freedom and mud and brother love at Woodstock had been taken down like a tent, neatly folded and put in the trunk of a new car. The world hadn’t changed after all. All the hippies came indoors and decided to make changes from within the power structure. All rationalizations are spun by an evil genius.
I felt very alone. Tom Robbin’s delightful novel Another Roadside Attraction kept me company much of the time. That’s what I wanted to do: write novels. Why not? Were there still enough readers available to make any kind of living at it? In its first four years or so the novel had a very sluggish sales of 2,220 copies. So no, probably not.
Joyce barely eked out a living in the years he wrote Ulysses. Ezra Pound helped him receive financial assistance from the British government, and significant financial and literary support from Harriet Weaver, a political activist and magazine editor.
My stepmother had a friend at University Hospital who helped me get a job in the hospital laundry. I had to work two weeks free as a candy striper, ostensibly to help figure out the structural intricacies of the hospital, learn how to push elevator buttons and gaze humbly at the floor in silence as the gods known as interns sometimes grabbed a ride on the service elevator.
After I was officially hired, I did well. I showed up on time and did my job cheerfully. There’s nothing like months of unemployment to make you feel grateful once you get a job, however modest the duties and position.
I started out folding towels and surgical gowns which I then delivered to the different hospital wings, then moved to the washing machines where I worked with a couple of black guys, Eddie and Rafael. Rafael liked wearing fishnet tank-tops and platform shoes to work, which I found perplexing: we worked on wooden slats designed to let the powdered detergent fall to the concrete below so that the floor didn’t become impossibly slippery, but it was still pretty slippery. This didn’t prevent Rafael from horsing around and play-boxing with me. We’d take jabs and duck and spin on the soapy slats. It was fun. I really liked these two guys. We joked around constantly. The washing machines were gigantic, but there was a space behind them where Eddie would leave a joint of marijuana burning on a shelf-like protrusion on the back of the machine. I got stoned every day for the six months or so I worked there. Not a bad way to spend the work day.
A position as a hospital messenger came up and I got the job. The job was easy: a canister would come shooting down a pneumatic tube with orders in it for items ranging from emesis basins to IV poles. I loved watching those tubes shoot out. I’d be given a cart with all the items arranged on it and take them to their allotted destinations in one wing or another of the hospital. There was a nice rhythm to my day, and at the end of a shift I’d drive home in the Washington drizzle to which I was growing accustomed. The new stage set of my life had switched out palm trees and sunlight for moss and ferns and gray Cimmerian gloom. It was no wonder why coffeehouses were so popular in Seattle.
My first apartment in Seattle was a large studio on Capitol Hill. It had a large kitchen, a spacious living room with a stone fireplace and was directly in front of a bus stop, one of the direct lines to the University District, where I worked. I paid $125 a month.
Capitol Hill had the densest number of apartments in Seattle, and partly as a consequence of that and a consequence of Cornish College of the Arts – where John Cage had taught from 1938 to 1940 – Capitol Hill had a highly diverse and colorful population of students, artists, writers, gays, bohemians, and the early manifestations of punk. I felt completely at home there. It was a nice break from the cybernetic juggernaut of the Bay Area. I was blithely unaware that another giant in the computer industry had been birthed in Albuquerque, New Mexico called Microsoft. It wouldn’t move to Bellevue, Washington until 1979 and so it would be a full decade before anyone in funky Seattle felt the effects of that. This would be a decade of affordability, literacy, community and rock posters stapled to telephone poles.
My job allowed me to chat with people on my daily rounds. I liked that. There was room for playful conversations and repartee. I even managed to get a couple of dates, although one of my dates took a very strange turn. I went out with a woman in her late twenties who just been divorced. We went to Red Robin, a fern-bar that stood high on a bluff overlooking Portage Bay and served killer hamburgers. She asked me why I used such big words all the time, and if I did that to put people down.
I was stunned. What? Put people down? God no! I just like words.
The date did not go as planned.
I decided to hold back on my playful conversations. Or be a little more circumspect when I unloaded big polysyllabic monsters like ‘serendipity’ and ‘gargantuan.’ For some reason, the few people I came across who enjoyed linguistic extravagance were also heavy drinkers. Most of them divorced, lonely, and ready to create havoc.
I discovered a great little used bookstore several blocks south of my apartment called Horizon Books. It occupied an old house with a big porch. The floorboards creaked and the bookcases were arranged by genre with narrow spaces between them. It is here that I discovered two books that would be highly influential for me: The Sonnets, by Ted Berrigan and Great Balls of Fire by Ron Padgett. The two books had been paired together although they were out of alphabetical order. I’m guessing someone must’ve been reading them and put them back on the shelf together. I bought them and brought them home and the poetry inside their covers had a huge impact on the direction my writing took.
The Sonnets was a small thin book whose cover featured a red background with densely patterned rows of black dots. I was intrigued by the structure of these sonnets. Each line had a unique character, sometimes overtly lyrical (“slow kisses on the eyelids of the sea,” “column after column down colonnade of rust”), sometimes blunt and aggressive (“I like to beat people up,” “Too many fucking mosquitoes under the blazing sun,” sometimes quietly intriguing (“Everything turns into writing,” “Each tree is introspection”), and quite often a little bizarre and psychedelic (“Vast orange dreams wed to wakefulness,” “Blood ran like muddy inspiration”). Many of the lines were repeated and recycled in different formations. It made me realize the poem as an object – a machine – with moving parts, and that abrupt non-sequiturs and shifts of idea gave the work an added dimension, a sculptural feel, as if you could walk around the poem and view from the back, like Duchamp’s The Large Glass, or the Cubist sculpture of Lipchitz or Archipenko. It also triggered a flow of free association in which nothing was blocked or encumbered by logic or conventional linearity.
Padgett’s Great Balls Of Fire was just as balls-out full of creative energy as the title suggested. The poems were sometimes conversational and so popping with thoughts and insights that it wasn’t long before my own brain ignited with its cerebral meanderings and adventures. You didn’t have to brace yourself for the great formality and exaltation of words that is found in a lot of poetry and probably one good reason a lot of people don’t like poetry. Nobody likes getting dressed up to go to church. These poems weren’t like that. These poems wore faded jeans and T-shirts. They radiated the lively bop spontaneity Kerouac urged. They had élan. They were fresh and eccentric and full of humor. Oftentimes there was a cartoonish, syntactical silliness to the structure of the lines: “The great shoe prediction sigh clock,” “The lice looked up in astonishment,” “My dog sag knee,” “The genitals run amok.” I loved this stuff. It altered my approach to poetry. Poetry felt much more approachable and pertinent to the actual living I was doing in my life.
I especially liked a long work called “Some Bombs” which was a homophonic translation of poem by Pierre Reverdy. It was hugely liberating. Many of the lines might be perceived as nonsense by the uninformed, but to me they were magnificent millipedes of quirky garrulity. It was a pure way to enjoy language.
The result of these two books was immediate: I wanted to be a New York poet. Not that I wanted to move to New York City. But I could imagine Seattle as a Manhattan of the west. The geography was incidental. The essential thing was the light that got turned on my brain. Reading either of these two books was like feeling the first euphoric glimmer of an amphetamine in the bloodstream. Or Jerry Lee Lewis going nuts on a piano bench.
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Language is born of absence. It creates a substitute for something not present. It’s a game of substitution. I’m writing these words on a desk. The desk is present to me, but not to you, who may be sitting at a desk of your own, or sitting on a bus, or a bench in a city park. But by writing the word ‘desk’ I can create an image of a desk in your mind. It won’t be my desk, but it will be a desk, the desk that you have imagined which will be a different desk with different drawers, different knobs, different legs, a different surface, a different color, a different history, a different weight, a different size and shape. I can bring it within a more palpable range by describing it in detail. And I can achieve this effect in writing with greater facility than in speech because writing affords me the time to think and select all the best characterizations. And this is where we might be able to defeat the negations of absence and make something feel present that isn’t actually present. Its presence will be illusory. But in another sense its presence will also be essential. It will be removed from the empirical realm and raised into a more transcendent realm. The realm of writing, which is a realm of enchantment.
“Writing heightens consciousness,” wrote Walter J. Ong in Orality and Literacy. “Alienation from a natural milieu can be good for us…
…and indeed is in many ways essential for full human life. To live and to understand fully, we need not only proximity but also distance. This writing provides for consciousness as nothing else does…Writing is often regarded at first as an instrument of secret and magic power. Traces of this early attitude toward writing can still show etymologically: the Middle English ‘grammarye’ or grammar, referring to book-learning, came to mean occult or magical lore, and through one Scottish dialectical form has emerged in our present English vocabulary as ‘glamor’ (spell-casting power). ‘Glamor girls’ are grammar girls…By separating the knower from the known, writing makes possible increasingly articulate introspectivity, opening the psyche as never before not only to the external objective world quite distinct form itself but also to the interior self against whom the objective world is set. Writing makes possible the great introspective religious traditions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam…
The highly interiorized stages of consciousness in which the individual is not so immersed unconsciously in communal structures are stages which, it appears, consciousness would never reach without writing. The interaction between the orality that all human beings are born into and the technology of writing, which no one is born into, touches the depths of the psyche. Ontogenetically and phylogenetically, it is the oral word that first illuminates consciousness with articulate language, that first divides subject and predicate and then relates them to one another, and that ties human beings to one another in society. Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well. It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons. Writing is consciousness-raising.
Writing is how I feel about paper. Infinity gets a tan. My neck slips through a fog of thought to my head, which rides on my shoulders, enjoying the ride thought the living room, and eventually outside, where all the people endure the great adventure of being, some with smiles, some with frowns, some with the flaming gauze of sunset in their eyes, some with conversation and some in assembly making points and demonstrations.
I enjoy driving, which is also a form of writing, because it’s phenomenological and metaphorical all at once and I have to look around and see what other people are doing and then make decisions based on the decisions of the other drivers while making deft maneuvers and bringing up things from the past and making hollow cylinders of thought roll around in my brain while I wait for the light to change.
Which is not at all like writing I don’t know why I wrote that. Sometimes it just feels good to put one word after another and see what might happen if I add a little salt and smokestack lightning. I want to bring the roots of my reverie tree to a fat canopy of leafage and savagery by eating the sun. And then grow another way out. Another murmuring gestation. Another deformation. Another meditation. Another blow to the empire.
The claws stroke away at the moon. I swoon daily. Benevolence has a scarlet beauty, a quintessentially Friday mouth. And so I move my gelatin arm making words appear that might one day steal away into elsewhere.
And this causes sexual arousal, which is hawks circling in a sky. An unpredictable laundry. The feeling of thirst when it’s first quenched. A dream explained at a kitchen table.
Monday, September 9, 2019
I frequently find myself drawn to the obscure. Not that I don’t like clarity. I like clarity. I want to be clear about clarity. I never met an ice cube I didn’t like. Though I prefer my beverages without it. I like ice in the abstract. I like the idea of ice. I like the actuality of ice. The structure of ice. The stillness of ice. The medium of ice. The iciness of ice.
Ice is a hexagonal structure which resembles a beehive, composed of layers of slightly crumpled hexagons, which is not only a delightful image, but clear, and drips a little, in the heat of my imagination. Many of the physical properties of water and ice are controlled by the formation of hydrogen bonds between adjacent oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The bonds, like all bonds, are sensitive to temperature. As water cools below 4°C, the hydrogen bonds adjust to hold the negatively charged oxygen atoms apart. This produces a crystal lattice commonly known as 'ice,’ which is easier to say than “crystal lattice,” especially if you slip up during a figure skating competition. You wouldn’t want to get to your feet and say, fuck me, I slipped on a shitload of crystal lattices.
Ice floats because it’s about 9% less dense than liquid water.
Hope floats because it was a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr. and got an audience score of 72% at Rotten Tomatoes.
Although the information surrounding ice is slippery and hard to grasp, the data bites with clarity and freezes into cubes of sound called words.
Still ponds in forests fascinate me. I like to gaze at the silt on the bottom, the branches and debris of the forest reposing in insane clarity, the tiny shadow of a Jesus bug scampering over the surface of the pond projected below through the uncannily pellucid water and over extraordinary precisions of silt.
I like haikus, accident reports and the murmur of summer rain.
But I also like mysteries and obscurity. I like looking at physics equations on blackboards. I don’t understand them. They have no meaning for me. But they do have meaning. I could look into it if I wanted. And discover things. Frictional force. Uniform circular motion. Momentum. Impulse. Torque. Kinetic energy. Things that are unclear at first but then burst with clarity.
I like the idea of vast domains of knowledge and experience that not only exceed my personal comprehension, but are universally enigmatic and shrouded in mystery, like the dark matter that puzzles astrophysicists, or the water spouting out of the mouths of gargoyles.
There’s a species of poetry that has enormous appeal. Poems such as those by Stephane Mallarmé or Louis Zukofsky whose word joinings suggest far more than what’s on the page and do more to excite a mental energy alert to a growing multiplicity of association rather than cohere into a single meaning. I like that tantalizing obscurity, that enticing combination of clarity and shadow, like the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt, that conceals and reveals simultaneously.
Tonight, there was a big thunderstorm, claps of thunder every few seconds and heavy rain. Our cat sat in the window, riveted. Spellbound. I don’t know what, exactly, was going on in her mind, but it’s clear she was fascinated and trying to figure out what was happening. It’s that quality of attention I find so desirable, particularly in aesthetic experience. I want to be a cat in the window during a thunderstorm every minute of the day. Enraptured. Ensorcelled. Mesmerized. Maybe a little frightened.
The sublime is supposed to be scary. Before the word 'awesome' was emptied of meaning, it meant "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear." Now, of course, it just means ‘cool.’ "I like your hat, dude. It's awesome." "You got married? Awesome."
The world needs to be re-enchanted. Whatever strange physics equations Wall Street is using to keep its financial scheming afloat when it's so obvious that real wealth - the purity of our air and water, the health of our oceans and forests - is being depleted, have, nevertheless, a strange fascination for me. I have to admire the madness and hallucinatory vigor of it. What compelling hallucinations! Money is a form of language. Paper and numbers are ascribed a certain monetary value, and that value – which is strictly numerical – reflects what is valued in the culture. Paying for something is a form of communication. I want that. Here’s this, these numbers, I’m giving you in exchange for that thing I want. That hotel room in Honolulu. That doctor to look at my foot. That house. That car. That ride in the sky.
What sells easily? What hardly sells at all? Cars, computers, tickets to a basketball game or rock concert sell robustly. Even the mindfulness movement has been coopted and marketed. So much for transcendence.
Poetry is the hardest sell of all. Why is that? It takes work on the part of the reader. It can’t be consumed right away like a can of soda or bag of potato chips or flashy rock stars on a stage at Coachella. It takes an investment of time and energy and a certain quality of attention. A willingness to work all day at splitting a coconut. A coconut of words. A coconut of participles and ink.
Isn't this what I've wanted language to do? Create spirits of air, à la Prospero, and inflate them with nitrous oxide and rum. Lose control. And stand back to enjoy the delirium.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
There’s cod below the cracked harness. I’m luminous to my shoes and eager to fly a button. I would like to discuss my gravity this autumn. It’s a very weighted topic. I put the emphasis on a dollop of Wednesday, and swim toward the card game using a vocabulary of arms and feet. If I swamp the boat, turn the fireworks toward the symphony as they attempt to find their fugue. I spit shadows at a facsimile of bone. I’m not entirely reckless but I am open to spinning around with you. Let’s assemble some reality with lines stolen from Dante. Look at the words glitter as they assume shapes of bubbling declension. Sweep the panic under a guitar twang. Later, when we unearth the pallet, we can envy Africa and its mighty flowers. It’s never been like this before. That is to say, I’m haunted this year by a paper cow. I boil my words in a cauldron of verse. I curl into a towering seclusion and shave my reticence with a nebular cricket. The pulse of Céret is in its milk and cookies. The parlor pitches forward with conversation and Proust appears entangled in adjectives. Iron makes me happy. But it’s oblivion that pays the rent. I feel hung up and I don’t know why. I keep finding oars and oarlocks in my catch. I’m ordering some feathers from Oaxaca and committing myself to a bag of nails and a pack of Quetzalcoatl.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
I’m grotesquely shameless. And haunted by a paper cow. How do I interpret this scribbling? I curl up into a towering solitude and begin stimulating forgetfulness with a pillow and a dream.
I awake and open my eyes and consciousness floods into my head. The damage done to our planet is catastrophic and irreversible. It’s not an easy thing to realize. All the words glitter and I ponder their shape. But there’s nothing words can do. It’s like squeezing a sponge. Nothing comes out but what went in. Thinking is a strange activity. I’m the ghost that haunts myself. I carry a lavender barometer and watch mutations take place in a paragraph teeming with equations and crows.
When we returned home the other day there was a man standing on a stepladder eating blackberries. The sweet play of hemlock branches in the breeze. I felt the vibrations of a distant star and got out of the car with a song in my heart and a new temperature to feel unearthed from the treasures of the past.
Robert Plant screaming I can hear it calling me back home in Arcata, California, 1969.
These aren’t the explosives I ordered but they’ll do for the moment.
No edge, however sharp or dull, can escape itself. Sometime you just have to take that leap into the unknown. And the final version of that will be dying. Which goes on all the time. And nobody comes back to talk about it. I find this strange. And more than a little frustrating.
Last week a waitress brought me a blackberry cobbler with a single candle in it. And this taught me something about gratitude.
Sometimes I say things that are the opposite of what I feel. And that leaves me feeling constricted like a shrunken head in control of nothing but soup. A renunciation of instinct can only take you so far. What matters is sincerity. The music of the spheres. Ecology and tea. And that’s when it’s calling me back home.
I don’t understand the universe. Who brought it here? And where is here? Is here here or somewhere else?
The painters arrived without warning and stomped around in their shoes painting walls that didn’t need painting. They left chewed gum on the sidewalk and buzzsaws in my brain.
Desire is a light. It will show you the way. But you have to let yourself feel it. If you don’t feel it it will feel you and cause havoc to reign. Or dullness and indifference to assume alloys of silver and jade. Beauty is elusive. You can see it without seeing it and feel it without feeling it. But in the end, you’ll find everything hemmed with dark matter and subatomic particles coughing up record players.
It’s nice to see vinyl making a comeback.
This is the life I lead: a joker in an irrational orbit still trying to unveil chaos to see how the ratatouille might improve with a little more sage and hallucination. As Karen Carpenter used to say, the money is in the basement. The point of almond isn’t ecstasy it’s motocross. The Being for whom Being is a question is a whereabouts not a will-o-the-wisp.
Shall I just come out and say it? I love the smell of rain.
Sunday, September 1, 2019
Pornographic cows dance on a pinhead. It’s always a little sad to go live in the woods alone. I’m haunted by a thriftless multiplicity of wallpaper roses. I run to the moon and back. Who needs airplanes when you’ve got verisimilitude? I pay little attention to mold. What is it that flowers by your pumpkin? I spend most of my time itching, scratching, clearing my throat, and blowing my nose. This is how our biology speaks to us.
An apparition of death wades into my life pulsing with insects. I try to find a little peace within myself. The kerosene is drawn up through the wick by capillary action. Revolution boils in the heart of a tiger. The world walks into my head and sits down.
What do you want? I want peace. I’m all hung up and I don’t know why. I’ve got a notebook teeming with imaginary solutions. But its alternatives are dysfunctional and indistinct. Sensory nerves, motor nerves, afferent nerves, efferent nerves. Oh, to be an armchair clamp! A canvas splashed with equations. Cézanne peppered with the vapor of language.
My nose is in a state of chronic irritation. There’s always something. If it’s not wildfire smoke it’s a flat tire. What can I do with this can of automobile paint? I’m going inside and making like I don’t exist. No problem can affect me if I don’t give it tortillas and maidenhood.
I’ve tried assembling a little reality with rags and chemistry. And now a body of water clanks around in chains of imaginary fish.
I see your eyes sifting all the reasons as to why it’s important to learn how to draw.
The sun is still learning to shine. Does time truly exist? Or is it more like a feather crashing on the sand? This is proof that nudity exists. No society is so bad, so maladapted, so poorly guided that you can’t go around naked occasionally spilling poetry on people.
Welcome to the Theatre of Benevolent Chairs.
Why is there a giraffe on your shoulder?
There are tigers in my breath. We all need to escape ourselves. Even my scrotum itches. I sit by the side of the road sobbing. Let’s create birds together. Let’s create a sound around drunken Germans. Should I just come out and say it? The sawdust flower is red. It’s important to share your passions with others. Farming is one possibility. I remember my father driving to Denver with a crow in the backseat. Later, when I was an adult, the smell of the garage confused me. What made it smell that way? Was it grime? Gardening tools? Sacks of fertilizer? An armadillo with a pink nose sipping coffee and belching and listening to Bob Dylan?
I was raised in a greenhouse on Titan. When I was born eight pounds of language slid out of my mouth. Schools of tuna repeated this miracle underwater. This is why God created sleep.
Thinking is a strange activity. It’s like sipping a luminous beverage in somebody’s basement and hearing someone cough in another room. I’ve attached a piece of gravity to my lip. This will make everything a little quieter when I begin to rub some words together to create a fire. I will answer all of your questions with a powdered donut and get up and walk back into the sky.
I don’t suffer indignities well. But when I saw my clothes running down the street without me in them, I decided to take action and inflate myself with the helium of the absurd. And floated to the ceiling on a raft of trembling sound.