Hey friend, what are you up to these days? Me, I’m hanging loose on the bed with a cat digging around for the month of August. August is where I float in my skull like an albatross of grace and beauty. I find minerals in Immanuel Kant. The morality of animals, the Palace of Westminster. And here I am sitting at the end of this sentence eating a tuna sandwich and scribbling words in the Dead Sea mud. When God was finished with the tigers, he made lambs, according to Mr. William Blake, who writes to us from Hercules Road, London, England. Mud likes to hang out in poetry because words like to stir up sediment. The sediment of sentiment is on the bottom. And a clear pool of singing women brings me some feelings in a paragraph. Am I sometimes obstinate? Yes. There are things I will not do. I will not put lipstick on a refrigerator. I have no theories of the organic and the inorganic. But I do have a bowl of molecules undergoing a sequence of reactions that results in pictographs and batteries. I affirm everything with saucepans. Why should it bother anyone if Galileo was being egocentric? He wasn’t. Galileo was being heliocentric. My feelings tell me that innocence is a pulse. How is the value of a feeling determined? I use a piano. I climb into the sky and get a hammer and build something. Let me show you some feelings. This one is blue and this one is walking around in my head twinkling with congeniality. I have to go now and look generously to the spirit within, even if it means dead people glimmer their way into our dimension like Christmas fairies checking in at a Motel Six. Breath and laughter are rubbed together to produce trout. This isn’t surprising. Everyone wants to pull things out of the air that aren’t natural. It leads to enchantment. We must defend what we love. Enthusiasms are rare. Imagination gives you everything. But capitalism wants to take it all away. Do I speak irresponsibly? Very well. I like to go underwater and hear the world when it’s raining. And then pop back up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Heaven isn’t a place. Heaven is the sky in my knee. The rest of my day is a letter postmarked from nowhere.
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Whoever I thought I was, whoever I thought I’ve been all these years, proves more questionable with the passing years. The cells, molecules, atoms, proteins, enzymes that comprise me, this body, are me, but not me. Cells and molecules aren’t personal. This configuration of them is me, but I didn’t configure them. I had nothing to do with it. My father’s sperm, mother’s ovum, the whole idea of sperm and ovum, the whole idea of fingers and thumbs, legs and hands, hair and skull, eyes and nose and ears, aren’t my ideas, I wish they were, it’s fabulous, how all these things work, feet that keep me erect, allow me to run, walk, climb a tree, all this agility, suppleness, structure, all the evolution that led up to this, all the organisms it took to get here, the microbes in my gut, we’re all one happy family, a constellation of goo and sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, glycerol, lymphatic vessels, a symphony of globules and salts, bile pigments and bacteria. And this is me. Which isn’t me. I’m not doing any of it. It’s doing me. It’s being me. All this stuff. All this internal heat in the body comes from the earth. So what is the me in this equation? That sense of self I’ve been pushing around all these years, getting it out of bed to do things, eat, read, ingest, express itself in sounds, in words, the clothes I’ve chosen to wear, that’s me, the choices I’ve made, the choices I continue to make, with the help of chemical activity, the liver, which is the greatest source of internal heat in the body, which begins at breakfast, scrambled eggs, toast with jam. Stimulated peristaltic activity, essential amino acids, enter into the process and give this being, my being, the being that I’m being, energy and satisfaction, a smile because it tastes so good, and makes me warm. Makes me want to get up and write down what it’s doing to me. Making me do. Desire. The dynamic behind everything. Even in one’s so-called twilight years. The desire is there. To keep going. Keep talking. Keep writing. Keep on keeping on. Wear a cardigan. Guffaw. Pour another cup of coffee. Sit down and think. Fly the mind around like a helicopter. Emerge. Come forth. Discharge. Throw something out there. Anchor it on a word and make a web of words. Try to catch a pair of eyes. Another interested mind. Engaged with the same issues. Tissues. Spectacles and textures. Digits and stitches. Trying to get it figured out. Before it goes. While it goes. Being a person, these particular particles, this particularity temporarily holding a position in space, seeking transformation, another note in the performance, this sonata, this regatta, this impregnation of thought in a vertigo of uncertainty. This persistence, this groove scooped out of oblivion, chance, hazard, here now, here in this.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
The first thing you do in a poem is to forget making sense. Life doesn’t make sense, why should a poem? The second thing to do in a poem is to forget you’re writing a poem. You’re not writing a poem. The poem is writing you. The third thing to do in a poem is to go swimming. Go swimming in language. Pick a language, any language, dive in and swim. If you feel wet and immediate you’re in a poem. If you feel tentative and impatient you’re in a doctor’s exam room waiting for a physical. And if you feel wobbly and unimportant you’re either on a bus or sitting on a barstool. In either case, if you’re patient, impatiently patient, patiently impatient, slimy and turbulent, nimble and insecure, dazzled and intertwined, eventually a poem will come into your head and sit down and wait for you to write it: feed it words, bring it into existence. Your job is done. You can take another swig of whiskey in good conscience and set sail another day for the shores of the iconoclastic, the jungles of the skull.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
I’ve been in a foul mood all day owing to a disruption this morning. The intercom buzzer in our apartment went off at approximately 5:55 a.m. I thought it might be my alarm clock, which is almost as senile as I am. But the buzzer buzzed yet again. And again. I got up to investigate. R was already up. We were both perplexed, and a little afraid of what it might be. Was it a neighbor, someone in our building home from a party, perhaps a little drunk, just then realizing they were missing the key to the building? Or could it be some crazy fuck teeming with demons hoping to gain entry and rob or kill us? The mic on the intercom hasn’t worked in years. Not that it matters. It would be pointless to use it; a person could easily lie, declare an emergency, their car broken down or some other exaggerated tale of misfortune and great urgency, no smartphone, could they use our phone, etc., etc. I went to bed, worried about the intrusion, perplexed, running all sorts of scenarios through my mind, all of them a reminder of what a hellish world we’re now all occupying, a raging pandemic, a collapsing economy, failed institutions, rainforests burning down, the Arctic ice melting, methane bubbling up, a crumbling infrastructure, no ability to trust in anyone or anything any longer, a society that has completely unraveled. It’s a very dark feeling. A very insecure feeling. I squirted a dropper load of CBD/THC in my mouth and went back to bed. Next morning R went out to see if there were any sign or clue of who the person might have been. She discovered six sacks of groceries on our porch, an Amazon delivery. The food was for the people in the house next door. We were amazed at the stupidity of the driver, not just for mistaking two very different numbered addresses, but for buzzing our buzzer three times. Why three times? What was this person expecting? A tip? A funky, half-asleep assurance of acknowledgement and approbation? These guys usually just buzz once and take off. No need to sign for anything. It’s a common sight. Hundreds of deliveries are made every day. But at six in the morning? What the fuck was up with that? Were the people in the house next door having food security issues on a Saturday morning? The city is swarming with delivery trucks, most of them those deep blue Mercedes-Benz vans for Amazon’s Prime customers. I can’t wait for Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drones. What could go wrong? These imperious, unrelenting, technocratic assaults on the dignity of life and a fundamental sense of well-being are another sign as to how fucked up our world has become. Amazon emitted 44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, roughly the same as Denmark. UPS put out 7.5 metric tons. Thanks in part to the pandemic, deliveries – a lot of them grocery items – is now the norm. The “new norm,” as people like to say. I hate that phrase. There’s nothing normal about it whatever. You can’t bullshit your way into a world of new norms and expect the collateral damage to remain safely under the rug. Language can’t alter reality. I wish it could. But here’s another so-called “new norm”: functional illiteracy in the United States is now 43 million. One in five Americans can’t name a single branch of government. Words are wonderful. I love words. But I’m getting increasingly tired of hearing them echo in a black hole of ignorance and brutish indifference.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
A crow got quite angry with us today. He’s a member of the Nob Hill Gang. Or I guess you could call it the Nob Hill Murder. We began doing circles up and down Nob Hill Avenue North and 2nd Avenue North. These are quieter streets, so we don’t have to dodge quite as many people, as we do on our usual route, which follows the crown of Queen Anne Hill, and there’s significantly less traffic, so that when we do encounter anyone on the sidewalk, we can run easily in the street. There’s a dense population of crows on Nob Hill. It may be the same murder that followed us down Bigelow last winter in such numbers it looked with we were being followed by a cloud of black wings. These crows are insatiable. We stop feeding them when our supply of peanuts runs low; we want to save some for the lame crow who comes out when I whistle on Highland Drive. When we stop tossing them peanuts, the crows become all the more persistent. They fly over our heads, coming close enough to feel the rush of their wings. One of them dropped a twig on R’s head. It might have been the same one we encountered later at the top of 2nd Avenue North where it meets Galer. He flew down right in front of us and flapped his wings and chattered angrily at us. R relented and tossed him a peanut. He pounced on it, flew across the street and gobbled it up while his mates cawed raucously. The lame crow didn’t appear today. I think she gets discouraged by all the competition. She has to hobble around on one leg and is a little more vulnerable to attack, though she can be quite feisty. One of the homes we pass on Nob Hill is quite interesting, a lavishly decorated Victorian house with an elaborate Turkish turret upon which is inscribed in large black letters Quo Amplius Eo Amplius, which is Latin, and translates roughly as “Something more beyond plenty.” The interior is just as lavish, chock-a-block with antiques and curiosities from the Victorian era. I call it the Edward Gorey House, though it reminds me more of À rebours, a novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysman published in 1884. The narrative centers on an eccentric, reclusive, ailing aristocrat and aesthete named Des Esseintes, and is mostly an agglomeration of Des Esseintes’s musings on art and religion accompanied by his exquisitely refined descriptions of hyperaesthetic sensory experiences. In his preface for the 1903 edition, Huysmans wrote that it had been his desire to depict a man “soaring upwards into dream, seeking refuge in illusions of extravagant fantasy, living alone, far from his century, among memories of more congenial times, of less base surroundings ... each chapter became the sublimate of a specialism, the refinement of a different art; it became condensed into an essence of jewelry, perfumes, religious and secular literature, of profane music and plain-chant.” The decadent tenor of the book was intended to fly in the face of bourgeois convention; hence the title, À rebours, which is French for “against the current.”
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Ok Mr. Guru I’m ready now I’m ready to find now ready ready ready to be in the now soak in the now stretch my whole body out in the nowness of the now now is a noun but is it is now a noun now is a noun but it’s also an adverb a ripple a trill a paroxysm in time a sausage in a grill a nucleus with a shiny thesis the thesis of now which even now has already slipped away it slipped away as soon as I wrote the word now. I know the future isn’t real I get it it hasn’t happened yet whatever is going to happen isn’t real because it hasn’t occurred hasn’t commenced hasn’t emerged hasn’t cropped up broken apart materialized transpired perspired backfired retired inquired or gone haywire it’s just a thought an imagined event that may happen may not happen will most likely happen in a way I didn’t expect and so yes I get it there’s no reality there but isn’t it in some way apprehended doesn’t it have contours that can be reasonably predicted and doesn’t that make it at least a little real? And the past is even harder to overcome because there are things that happened things occurred concurred whispered in the dark yelled across a fence pounded on a door argued with passion argued with subtlety mistakes made awful things said terrible actions taken regrets made remorse stinging like iodine on a cut a constant ache in the brain a deep irreversible frustration how are these things not real they have real emotional depth and resonance the images aren’t hallucinated they may be distorted there is that no memory is without its distortions its magnifications its mistranslations but still it’s there swimming back and forth in the aquarium of the brain monstrous speculations climbing up and down the spine and spitting their black ugly ink in the accepting moistness and convolutions of the brain. Who wouldn’t love to ditch all that see it dissolve in a moment of enlightenment it’s not real none of it not like this fork on the counter this sock on the floor this blanket on the bed this song in my head this endless pursuit for forgiveness and peace. So where is it this wonderful sanctity this elusive now the power of now the ambience of now how would I know if I’m there ensconced squarely in the now the nonlinear now the juicy loosey-goosey now can I be immersed in it without knowing I’m immersed in it was it here long enough for me to know it was here or did it just pass by without a hint without a mind to fuel it bring it fully into existence toss an anchor out and keep it here keep it close and singing like a parakeet in a cage a cat on the lap a talismanic energy staving off death and loss and tragedy? Is it a matter of focus? This is silly. This is going nowhere. It’s not like looking for a rare butterfly. It’s like looking straight in the eye of time and seeing out the other side which just slid into the next moment which is happening now this very second unraveling in the aftermath of the first thing to come into your mind.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
R and I work out a new route for our run/walk. We’re fatigued from having to zigzag from sidewalk to sidewalk, dodge people constantly, many of them without masks, many of them in groups, blithely oblivious to the insidious, asymptomatic virus undermining world economies and crushing equilibrium. What used to be fun is now a stressful gauntlet. We plan a route that takes us up and down the quieter streets. My Achilles tendinopathy continues to dog my heel so I use the interval timer, five minutes running, five minutes walking, which I wear on my wrist like a watch with an elastic band. The digits have worn away, but I can still feel it vibrate when the five minutes is up. There are a lot of crows. They come swooping over our heads to get our attention and land a few feet ahead, awaiting their peanut. As we proceed down 2rd Avenue North R digs into her bag of unsalted peanuts and finds the set of house keys we spent hours looking for just as we were about the go to bed nestled among the peanuts. We decide to keep our running and walking confined to a space of a few residential blocks, avoiding the more popular routes on McGraw and 7th Avenue West, with its panoramic view of the Olympics. There is no snow on the Olympics, which is very strange. They’re normally capped in snow throughout the year. Now they look more like a range of mountains in Arizona, or New Mexico. The decision to confine ourselves to these quieter streets pays off; there are far fewer people to dodge, not as many cars traveling the streets. When we reach the corner of Highland and Bigelow I whistle and a few minutes later the lame crow appears with her two family members. I toss them some peanuts and we cross Bigelow to look at the big chunks of Chinese chestnut tree lying by the stump where they formed a trunk just a few hours ago. 24 trees are slated to come down on Bigelow, many of them dating back to the 1880s. They’ve all succumbed to disease and the stresses of climate change. You can see hollowed out areas in the center of the wooden slabs, evidence of disease. The Chinese chestnuts were once so numerous on Bigelow, their branches arched over the street, creating a tunnel. Most have already been replaced by oak and cherry trees. We shower and have dinner, Greek pasta. Afterward, we watch a documentary on Netflix about the discovery of mummified animals – including a lion cub – in the Saqqara necropolis about 20 miles south of Cairo. Some of the tombs date back to the First Dynasty, 4500 BC. The skeleton of a high-ranking priest named Wahtye who served under King Neferirkare Kakai during the Fifth Dynasty was found along with the skeletal remains of his family, his mother Meretmin, his wife Weretptha, his sons Seshemnefer, Kaiemakhnetier, Sebaib and a daughter named Seket. Tired from last night’s search for the house keys in our apartment, I keep drowsing off. I awake to see men crawling in and out of pits and shafts, dusting off artifacts, little statuettes, speculating on the scene unfolding before them, my eyes opening and closing as it seems I peer out of my own tomb, the plethora of ancient epiphanies and skeletal regrets winking like flashes of gold in the effulgent darkness, then sink back into voluptuous calm, “half in love with easeful death.” And I think of the silhouette of the clipper ship on a cornerstone of the retirement community on 4th Avenue North. Why a ship? Maybe it’s a metaphor. The people in there are close to passing over, as they say, euphemistically. And isn’t a death a voyage?
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Bright, sunny but cold October afternoon. We’re going down 2nd Avenue North being followed by a woman on a smartphone talking loudly at the top of her lungs. She’s walking fast. We can’t shake her. This isn’t uncommon. I encounter at least one to two people talking loudly on a smartphone, though sometimes in a conversation with a walking partner. The loudness is what gets me. Why so loud? It occurs to me that these people are so terrified of solitude that they feel the need to fill the space around them with the sound of their voice. They’re terrified of what’s inside them. What’s inside them is nothing. They’re hollow. If it weren’t for their remodeling projects and baby carriers and home security systems they’d have nothing whatever to talk about. At least this is my theory, take it or leave it. Down on 9th Avenue West we spot an orb web with a spider at its center. We’re captivated by it. The web is on a median divider with a stop sign and a few shrubs. The spider has anchored one part of the web to a small flowering plant and the other end to the top of the stop sign. I wonder which end she began first. I would guess the stop sign; she waited for a breeze to blow her to the shrub. Then, when she established her two anchor points, she began her web. I imagine there’s a good amount of thinking involved. Planning, strategizing, scheming. The web is protected from the traffic while at the same time taking advantage of the open space to catch whatever stray bugs come flying through. We come to a section of road where a city crew had done some repair on a sewer or gas line and covered it with cement. There were a set of tracks in it. We looked at the tracks and tried putting together an identity based on the tread and shape and shoe size. The tread was light and tightly patterned. There weren’t running shoes. They were designed for casual walking. They were small, about a size 6. We guessed it must’ve been a teenager. The toes came to a point, so we surmised a feminine identity. A young teenage girl. Did she do it on purpose? Or was she lost in thought, listening to music on a headset, or gazing at a smartphone? Our narrative fell short. We needed a better tracker. We imagined an expert putting an entire identity together based simply on the tread imprinted in this cement. Which is, really when you come down to it, a form of reading. Signs in the dirt. Signs in the sand. Signs in cement. Nearer to home we travel down the little trail through Bhy Kracke park. R’s blue jay puts in an appearance. R tosses her a peanut, which she pounces on immediately and flies off to bury it somewhere. Everything is a sign of something, it seems. Though clouds, I think, are a different story. No intent, nothing deliberate, just the drift of vapor, serendipity of form, illiteracy of air, blowing nowhere in particular.