Friday, December 25, 2020

How To Build A Wordhouse

The wordhouse is made from seven pieces of pottery cut from a single language. The theme is made by combining two pieces of pandemonium and smoothing them out with a little breath and a little silver bell swung slowly back and forth. When placed together, the clauses in a sentence will make a dovetail and the beveled edges of a homily may be included by putting the bevel setting on a cognitive bias and then inflating it until it breaks and shards of nonsense come raining down. This will help distinguish your wordhouse from a word salad. Measure, mark, and cut a turnpike out of a pencil. If you use a pen properly you can make it do wonderful things. You can paint a sheet of paper with syllables. This is called writing. Writing is an important component of the wordhouse. For example, the front and back panels of a paragraph may be used for walls or liposuction. If you make two marks on the bottom of a journey you can be sure to arrive at a destination you hadn’t planned and a reservation you hadn’t made. At this juncture, you add all the parrots and participles you’ll need to create an acoustic environment. Once you discover that the center of things is hollow without a spirit level and an ontology you can proceed to the drill the wordhouse entrance. This will require distinguishing between “personal” identity and “self” identity, an idea well-established in the phenomenological literature – for example, in Husserl’s distinction between the “transcendental ego” and the person – but I will argue that the best wordhouses are made with untreated wordiness underwater with a clear plastic mask and a tube to breathe through. This is caused linguistic relativity & comes with a fork and a massage gun. When the wordhouse is done take a bow and watch the words fly out.  


Monday, December 21, 2020

The Jangle Of Badges

The jangle of badges, sashes and keys draped over the mirror of the big oak bureau in the bedroom when the drawer shuts. The drawers do not go in and out smoothly, always a bit sticky, not a fault of the oak, or carpentry, but the humidity of the northwest climate. Discovering the tonal differences (A major to B flat major) in “Strawberry Fields Forever” are due to splicing and highly sophisticated engineering fifty-four years later. It was originally in C major. Thanks to benign prostatic hyperplasia, my piss goes sideways, due to inadequate pressure. I’ve noticed the way the crows bring their wings in to pick up speed, then spread them out to land, their legs dangling down like landing gear. Learning how to whistle has weirdly become a feature of my life. I whistle to call Louise, the lame crow I feed with unsalted peanuts. She lives close by in our neighborhood. She’s usually there at the corner of Highland and Bigelow when I get there after a walk or run but if she’s not I’ll whistle to let her know I’m there. But I’ve never been very good at whistling. So now I’m trying to get better. And I wonder about the mechanics of it. What happens? What happens is the lips vibrate subtly and so does the air around the lips and inside the mouth and these vibrations cause the air molecules to vibrate and create compressions and depressions in the air, which in turn cause sound waves. A high-pitched sound. A whistle. I look at a world map showing color coded rates of coronavirus. Sweden and the U.S. are the darkest color. The worst. This is disturbing. And to think of the teenage kids I saw this afternoon playing basketball at the grade school playground. About 12 or 13 of them, and only one wearing a mask. This virus is going to be with us a long time. Why do the YouTube algorithms keep coughing up “Whiter Shade Of Pale”? They must think I’m an old hippie. The sad, melancholy hues running from gold to pink in the light of the sky, the random elongations and sketchy borders between air and vapor, clear light and dimmed light in the clouds above a copse of bare-limbed trees, the gentle roll of the hills and powdery, virgin snow in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, a watercolor my father painted in his retirement years living in a cottage by Lake Louise. The odd spectacle I made for two nearby women on the sidewalk jumping up and down, frantically patting my body, shaking out my jacket, after discovering ticks in my clothes while dining in a Chinese restaurant in the little town of Boissevain, Manitoba, Canada, in May, 1997. They must’ve gotten on my clothes when I walked down to relieve myself in an old grove of elm on my grandparent’s old farm. Which was totally gone. House, barn, chicken house, dairy shed, workshop, bunkhouse, even the old flagstones that led up to the house were so utterly gone, so totally vanished, that you couldn’t tell where’d they’d been. Even the foundations were gone. Nothing is wasted in North Dakota. Everything is put to use on the prairie. The sun doesn’t set without someone dusting it off and making sure it’s in good condition for the next day. 


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Banana Republic

Surprising frustration at not being able to find the proper envelopes for mailing a book. I tried Bartell drugs; their shelves were empty. No envelopes whatever. Nobody bothers to restock the shelves. I tried Fed Ex. A few envelopes, but none the right size. The selection was sparse. I tried the CVS Pharmacy. They only had business envelopes. I tried the post office. It was crowded, this being a few days away from Christmas. A man, holding several packages, blocked the door. Inside, the line was long and people were jammed together. There was no social distancing, no monitoring of the number of people allowed into the lobby, no protocol whatever. And no envelopes on sale, as there used to be. Almost all the businesses and little restaurants on lower Queen Anne are boarded up and closed. It’s a scene of intense economic devastation. Very unsettling. And the tent cities keep growing, the mounds of garbage higher, the rats and vermin increasing. This is all the result of 40 years of neoliberal economics, beginning with Reagan. The government hardly counts for anything anymore, just a club for scoundrels and greedy mediocrities doing the bidding of their corporate donors. Disgusted, R and I drove to the business district on upper Queen Anne, which is doing a little better, but still struggling. There are far fewer people than usually crowd this district in December. I was able to get my two books sent at the Queen Anne Dispatch, a combination boutique and shipping service. They do a bang-up service. They’re efficient and courteous and they follow all the pandemic guidelines, marking the wooden floor with blue tape for social distancing and requiring customers and employees to wear masks. I walked away feeling a sense of relief that at least one small business is continuing to operate robustly and smoothly. I’ve never seen a society die before. Not this close. Not in a place where I actually lived. I never expected to see such a thing. It’s not unlike watching a human being or any other animal die. Limbs weaken and atrophy, sight dims, hearing goes, memory goes, cognition is disoriented, confused. Dying is a twilight of languishing abilities, an encroaching anemia, people going through motions with no real motivation, no elan, no resolve. But this analogy fails in light of the stupendous wealth that is being looted and funneled to the top tier of society, the obscenely wealthy, Bezos with a net worth of 182.2 billion, Zuckerberg with a net worth of 100.5 billion. Nancy Pelosi, who blocked the stimulus bill of 1.8 trillion, ostensibly so Trump would not be reelected, and which contained enhanced unemployment insurance and a second stimulus check, has an estimated net worth of 180 million. Income inequality is pharaonic. Unreal. I don’t recognize the country anymore. It has become a banana republic akin to Brazil. I remember a past not that distant in time when going out for dinner and a movie was a part of our routine. Streets and sidewalks were busy with commerce. The agora was thriving. Now it’s dead as the splintered plywood covering a store front. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Sparkle Of Candy

The sparkle of candy in a Parmigiano Reggiano jar. Snickers. Milky Way. Three Musketeers. Twix. The winter solstice approaches. Darkness comes early, daylight comes late. Sitting in the car, parked near Bartell drugs, upper deck of the parking lot, very cold day, reading Ponge, seeing how long I can go before turning on the heater, which means turning on the engine, in the minutes before R arrives and we go to the Mail Box on upper Queen Anne to mail copies of Mingled Yarn to friends. I wet my index finger in the laundry room sink to rub the small amount of lint from the dryer filter. I used to wet it a bit with my tongue but I don’t do that now that Covid is here. Every time I hear Jimi Hendrix play it sounds like the whole universe is coming out of his guitar. Resting my arm next to the Bluetooth radio on the filing cabinet so that I get better reception while trying to fall asleep to Antonín Dvorák’s Piano Quintet in A, Op.81, B.155. What is it to think? It is to fill the brain with uproar. The weight of the sun is impossible to calculate because weight is relative to local gravity, and since the sun is its own source of local gravity, it doesn’t sit on something else, and cannot be landed and sold at the local fish market. This is the ovum I meant when I said ovoid. The poem is the scrotum of the spoken. The sentence is the semen of the semantic. The staunch is the probe of the good. The cat’s claws penetrating my jeans as she tries to pull me out of my chair to give her some food. Some feeling has returned to the patch of skin on my right knee. I must’ve pinched a nerve while doing deep-knee bends with ten-pound weights. I don’t mind saying that I’m a little edgy these days. What’s wrong with edgy? I like edgy movies, edgy poetry, edgy art, and edgy ravines. Edgy: “meaning ‘tense and irritable’ is attested by 1837, perhaps from the notion of being on the edge, at the point of doing something irrational.” [Online Etymology Dictionary]. Or, simply, ‘edge.’ “O, who can hold a fire in his hand by thinking on the frosty Caucasus, or cloy the hungry edge of appetite by bare imagination of a feast.” I love these lines from Shakespeare’s Richard II. It’s a precognitive criticism – albeit unintentional – of the simplistic message of the premise of cognitive behavioral therapy that changing one’s outlook or attitude about a situation will defuse it of irrationality and bring you into a state of well-being. Which is total bullshit. But if it does help people, who am I to criticize it? Words can paint reality. They can’t change reality. But if someone can alter their perception by altering the language they use to describe their experience of the world and the people in it, isn’t that a valid indication that some form of magic is occurring? Isn’t the interphase between language and reality as ambient and penetrating as air? “Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, and breath of life, I have no life to breathe what thou hast said to me,” Gertrude tells Hamlet. Who gets up and drags Polonius out of the room. “This counselor is now most still, most secret, and most grave, who was in life a foolish prating knave.” So much for language. Worry, apprehension, rumination. What’s it all about? Nothing. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

My Secret Pen Pal

What if I let it be known that I’ve been enjoying a heavy correspondence with Queen Elizabeth my entire life? We began the correspondence on the very day she was coronated. February 6th, 1952. I was four years old and working as a bartender in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  “Dear John,” she wrote, “I’m so pleased to become queen of this this sceptered isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars. I wore a beautiful dress of white satin embroidered with the symbols of England. I don’t know how many times my hand was kissed. It’s sopping wet. I’ll probably get the flu.” “I’m so happy for you,” I wrote back. “I broke up a fight today. Had a bottle of whiskey smashed over my head. I love you. I hate you. I do not know who you are.” “Dear John, what is it to be indifferent, neutral, I don’t understand indifference, is it heroin, what is it? Here it is 1955, and I’m already tired of being Queen of England. Most of the time I’m pumped, excited, I write, I discharge, I indicate and exhibit, it feels athletic to be engaged, involved, to point things out to the idiots in parliament. But why? It makes no difference. They don’t lesson. I’m just a lousy figurehead.” “Dear Liz, I know what you mean. I’m so tired of breaking up barroom fights. Who are we, really? Take our titles away and we’re just beings in quest of fulfillment and meaning. I’m fascinated, for example, by what is inside and what is outside. Where does the inside begin and where does the outside end?” “Dear John, I feel better today, I just knighted the Beatles. Do you like their music? They’re such silly little men.” “Dear Liz, how do you weigh the world? I use a little rumination, a broom, and a can of whipped cream. We got a new jukebox today. It’s got some Beatles songs on it. And it’s coin-operated. I think the Beatles are fine. But I prefer the Stones.” “Dear John, well I do, too. I prefer the Stones. But don’t tell anyone.” “Dear Liz, I hope we can meet one day. What’s Prince Philip like? Is he a good guy? Does he treat you right? Thank you for asking about my new study. I do most of my writing at an old oak desk. It has a flap that is pulled down for a writing surface. For a long time I had assumed the desk was a relic from the late 19th century and a life on the prairie that had lately been the province of the Assiniboine and Chippewa and endless herds of buffalo but there is a large hollow space inside where a Philco radio was housed. Darkness and sympathy are interwoven with light and joy on the plains of Wyoming. If I think of thoughts as clouds that would imply that the mind is a sky. But what is that? And where? The sky itself has no location. The mind has no location. At what point can one say that one is in the sky? At what altitude? There are phenomena that cannot be described as crowbars or soap. Neuroscientists say that intelligence is really about dealing with uncertainty and infinite possibilities. The human brain has about 86 billion neurons and that each neuron can have tens of thousands of synapses, which puts potential connections and communications between neurons into the trillions.” “Dear John, Yes, I would have to agree. There are few certainties in life. Princess Di was just here. I’m actually quite fond of her, but she always acts as if I don’t. I don’t understand people anymore. It’s not easy wearing the crown of a former world power. But oh, that reminds me. I was so happy to receive the Tennessee whiskey you sent. It’s been a real life saver lately. Philip caught me doing my Janis Joplin impressions in front of a mirror. Very embarrassing.” “Dear Liz, you know you got it if it makes you feel good. I bought a drill today. I hung that picture of you sitting on the throne in that lovely pink dress. You look so dignified, so royal! But we know what you’ve been up to, you naughty minx! There’s always a chair for you here at the Acrobatic Mule.”

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Hope Is A Ghost

Today, I would like to build a lotus of anarchy. It should be easy. But it won’t let me. I’ve tried everything, including analogies drawn from the savagery of expectation. The prepositions scrape against one another creating Buddhism. Here he comes again: the ghost of Bob Hope. Why Bob Hope? I was more of a Bill Hicks fan. And I love Maria Bamford. Who remains very much alive. This is where refined sensibilities step away quietly and stand on the porch and listen to the rain. Another steel beam is added to the lotus, which looks down and laughs. And no, it’s not a real lotus. Nor is it a UFO. It feels unaccountable, like TV. Life is an enigma. No one knows what it is, where it comes from, what to do with it. A bunch of syntax rolls toward the end of the sentence and explodes into pronouns. I hear someone singing. The smell of desire rolls over us like a handful of fingers making pizza deliveries. Which reminds me. I’d like to tour Sardinia one day. History creates so many unrealities we need candy to remind us of what’s truly important, what is substantial from what is fiction. The staircase hugs its shape, step by step. Who is that coming down to greet us? Is it Mr. Hope? Have you ever met someone so vaporous you could slide your hand through them? Life is hard enough without making things more difficult, and & yet it is certain crazy emergencies that surge up & down our spines will sometimes create a willingness to experience life. And sigh. Yesterday there was a fly in the window. I couldn’t hear a word it said. It was engrossed on getting out. Welcome. Welcome my friend to Planet Earth. Give a big kiss to Missouri. The idea that anything can happen is exhilarating. All the borders are imaginary and all the rivers are stories. We see Prince waiting for a prescription, riding a mountain bike in a Minneapolis parking lot. Let’s drop anchor right here. I want to see what’s really out there. Autumn gleefully does its thing, falling off of the trees and destroying any pretense to the meaning of summer, which has failed us once again. The train goes by. The poem picks up on it and glories in the clickety-clack of alliteration. Here it is: the lotus at last. It looks like a Bolshevik wearing a bolo tie. Nothing ever turns out the way we expect it. So go ahead. Make something up. Who’s going to know the difference?  Besides Bob.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Zombie Seaweed Sewing Kit

There is an energy in the head demanding kingdoms. Begin with that. Put a blot on a piece of paper and the mind will make something of it. The mind craves meaning. And sacks of blood. This is the embryo. Which is a dynamic of feathers and string. Who doesn’t like garlic? Conversation will often reveal the world. The essential thing is to develop a spine and walk. It is not the world but being in the world that pulls ourselves into ourselves. Write a sentence that feels like hypnopompic snow. A cow or donkey can be a sentence happening in a large red barn. Wheels, for instance, or an airplane passing overhead. Or the great slow water of life moving toward inexorable immersion in the ocean. Carve a pumpkin. Words like doing things. Beatles songs sung together at a picnic table. This could be you. For some people, this is a good adjective. But for others it’s just puzzling. It’s a good idea to keep some poetry around. There’s more to life than carbohydrates. Poetry is another dimension. Time may fold back on itself like a West African river. In other words, a dragon eating its own tail. This is where mathematics gets crunchy. It should be obvious to anyone that potato chips are coalitions of wine and informality. There are chemicals are involved in the perception of space. If you need a little quiet at the airport the bar isn’t too crowded. Get your laptop out. If you’re famous this might be more of a problem. You may have to use the rest room. In any case, remember: Bohemia is erratic and puzzling. If you want a good look at Bohemia, peer through this tangle of blackberry vines. Watch for the thorns, the unexpected traumas, the taste of shadows drooling into abstraction. If, at the outset of time and space, you said nothing at all, you would be correct. Thoughts weigh nothing. But be careful. Conjuration is a tricky game. It can lead to camels, zombies, and seaweed. Being is ineffable. Incalculable and incomprehensible. Thinking is the rhythm of being and its fires on the eve of great battles. The artist is not an army but seduces and captures pain with the precision of an insect, which will be used later to put these things within a specific context. The world is granite, the skin is soft, and Philippe Petit walks on a 26-foot-long cable 1,350 feet above the streets of lower Manhattan. I’m not going to say that life is hard. That’s too easy. Life is a heat. Energy and whistles, scabbards and magnetism. Meaning feeds the mind but not the gut. This is why angels are often equipped with sewing kits. My first instinct in all things is to buy a load of dirt at Home Depot. We need to be grounded. We need the sensation of keys. There are thousands of variables, asteroids and scents of incense. The narrative begins boiling. I know this feeling. It’s called Arizona. It attracts thieves and rebels. Spinoza saw God as nature itself. And why not? Glowing photophores on a squid are signals that we aren’t in Kansas anymore. We’re in Portugal. Drinking wine with Fernando Pessoa. Daydreaming doesn't lead to meat. But it will feed the walls of an inner realm. The darkness is alive radiant and lepidopterous it crawls around the eyes and gives them a big upgrade. Later, when we’ve gotten to know one another a little better, I will show you my favorite feeling, which is the weightlessness of nitrous oxide. Mania defines the moment. It gets all over everything. Why not put it in a novel?


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Dribs And Drabs

That zone of cool air by the kitchen window with the blinds down, the window panel open just a bit to prevent condensation from running down the glass and ruining the window sill. It’s a pleasant sensation, a reminder of the cold outside, the warmth inside. Warmth of the cat on my lap. The whump sound in the overhead vent above the stove whenever I heat a pot of water, the heat causing molecular expansion. It always startles me at first. I never expect it, even though I’ve heard it numerous times. The steam rising from the hot water I poured into the frying pan to loosen the carbonized matter on the sides from tonight’s dinner of chicken and stuffing. The steam rises into the air of the kitchen like an ephemeral guest. It disappears so quickly. It’s not even a guest. It’s not even a ghost. It’s just steam. My metaphors unravel. They don’t stick. I like the way the water fans out from the spoon when I rinse it. I get out of bed to go to the bathroom and wonder why Athena (our cat) is sitting on the floor staring at the wall. Then I realize it’s the night splint I’ve been using for Achilles tendinopathy. Perceptions are often unreliable. Which is why I really like the quote from yesterday’s episode of the Finnish crime drama on Netflix Bordertown: presumption prevents us from seeing the actuality of things. Amazement at the crow who – when I tossed a peanut his way – caught it in his beak. The sudden urge to sing Christmas carols while having a bowel movement. The difficulty of removing the twine left on the hook that attaches to the chain that attaches to the little cage in which R puts a cube of suet for the small birds to feed on. I poked at it with the sharp blade of a box cutter and it finally came off. Animals – squirrels or rats or racoons – gnaw through the twine until the little cage falls to the ground and they can work the little cage door open and run off with the suet. We have a harder time finding a good low branch to hang the cage from since the tree was trimmed last summer. Ideally, the branch should be low enough to reach without a ladder, or risking a nasty fall into the rockery below, but high enough so that the birds don’t feel threatened. I read that the Psyche asteroid, which is roughly the same length as Massachusetts, is mostly made of iron and nickel, and that it’s worth is estimated to be about $10,000 quadrillion. The three-way bulb in the bedroom lamp burned out, and since the overhead light provides inadequate light for reading, even with the lamp with its two bulbs to the right side of the bed by the Sangean Bluetooth radio, I put on a headlamp for reading, which is comprised of a flexible headband and a little white light. Every time I glance at my image in the closet mirror across the room from the end of the bed, it looks like a man (my face is obscured by the light) wearing a crown with a magical jewel.